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~ Becoming a Master ~

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Little Miss Firebright, Jan 1, 2018.

?

Does anyone use this site to read fanfiction? Roll call to see if this is worthwhile.

  1. ....I'm here, aren't I?

    6 vote(s)
    85.7%
  2. No, I like lying on polls.

    1 vote(s)
    14.3%

  1. Note for Serebii Users:

    I don't really use this site much, but I'm sure to check back periodically. I personally think it's easier to read stories on Fanfiction, but it is personal preference. The link to my profile can be found in my signature.

    Chapter 1: Burning Skies


    Disclaimer: I own nothing, and have no rights. Welcome to Fanfiction! ^.^

    Author's Note:

    As some of you know, this is a rewrite of a very old fanfiction from 2011. The first version was nearly complete, but I couldn't bring myself to finish it, because by the end my writing was almost publication worthy, and the beginning was newbie trash. It sat alone for a few years, and in mid 2016 I decided to rewrite the entire story from scratch. It has taken a while, but I don't regret the extra effort. I needed practical experience, and I did like the story itself, even if the writing was no longer up to my standards.

    That practice has paid off.

    This isn't perfect. Of course not. But experience has raised this story quality to a level I've deemed acceptable. I can honestly say I like my own story, and the flawed personalities of the characters within it. One day I will be a real author, and my practice writing this story will be the reason for it.

    The people who have left me tips and encouragement in reviews are responsible for quite a bit of my growth and motivation. Thank you all. I truly appreciate it. Getting any kind of attention makes me smile, even if I try not to care about review count.

    For those who read the original, the story lines are the same. There are minor changes, but I did my best to stay true to the original structure. Feel free to ask questions, or just sit back and enjoy the new version.

    This story is rated T for some instances of violence and emotional trauma. I like writing battles, which is a large part of the reason I chose to play in this universe. There is no sexually explicit content, no drug or alcohol abuse, or even swearing. (Hell is used descriptively like three times.) I have also been informed that my villains are nightmarish. Personally, the only one I consider a nightmare is my first villain, featured in this chapter. I know his mind too well, and I shudder to think from his point of view when I need to write as him. If a story is only as good as its villain is evil, this one has serious potential.

    That's all I have to say for now. Thank you for reading. And I promise the story makes more sense in Chapter 2. I sort of throw you guys into the middle of things without much explanation in Chapter 1, haha!

    ~Little Miss Firebright


    ~o~

    The sky burned.

    An inferno of flames engulfed everything he knew and held dear, yet all he could see was the sky above, stained crimson by firelight. He didn’t need to look at the burning buildings of his childhood home, or at the familiar people fleeing the town, which had so quickly turned into a crematorium. He knew they were there. He looked at the sky instead, thoughts searing in his mind.

    They said that when a man died, his life played in his mind, showing all the good and bad he had accomplished in his time on Earth. The life he saw at that moment filled him with despair. Such a monster he had been. Good intentions could never wipe out all the evils he had committed. All the mistakes he’d made. He had quite a bit to answer for.

    Indigo Nightwalker looked at the sky, and realized this was his reward.

    His mistakes scorched through his mind, blackening his happy memories with branding scars. He wished Riza hadn’t been a target, and he hadn’t been a fool. They could have lived a simple, happy, uncomplicated life, far from death and bloodshed. He could have been Indigo, and she could have been Riza. The Nightwalker and the Queen of Darkness would have been nothing more than a bad dream.

    That was what he had really been fighting for. Not for kingdoms, or good, or even for power. It had always been her – just her.

    And he had lost her, as surely as his own life was nearing its end. People ran past him without even seeming to notice the fallen boy bleeding out in the middle of the street. Indigo didn’t mind. His hand found the source of the blood loss at his side, coming away crimson and warm. He laughed quietly, enjoying the irony in a strange way.

    It was the site of the stab wound killing him slowly. Ironic that her hand was the one which had dealt the fatal blow. Fitting, almost. He probably deserved it.

    He couldn’t stand anymore. There was nothing to do but wait. He found he didn’t mind, oddly enough. Death was easier than facing the consequences of his decisions.

    A boot came to rest by the side of his head, and Indigo made an effort to see the face that went with it. His muscles didn’t want to obey. He looked anyways, turning his head slightly to the right. Indigo wasn’t surprised to see the one man he never wanted to see again. Why should the universe reward him?

    His eyes were as black as pitch, and yet they seemed to shine with victory. Perhaps it was merely the reflection of the flames he had ignited, that made those eyes gleam. Maybe it was the screams haunting the red night that brought an expression of serenity to his handsome face. Doctor Camellia smiled, a cruel, deliberate thing, as he took in Indigo’s predicament.

    “Well now,” he said thoughtfully, ignoring the destruction around him. “Isn’t this fortunate?” The roar of a Charizard echoed through the streets, as a winged shadow burst over them, spraying deadly flames onto already burning structures. Somewhere, a child was wailing.

    Disgust filled Indigo’s heart at the sight of Doctor Camellia’s bone pale skin, contrasted sharply by his midnight black hair. It was a face he’d learned to hate even more than himself.

    “You should really…consider a tan,” he managed to bite out through his terrible tiredness, surprising himself with his defiance. Apparently Indigo really would be sarcastic until the end. “People will mistake you for a vampire looking like that.”

    The man ‘tsked’ disapprovingly. “Is that any way to talk to your murderer? I expect better from you, Nightwalker.”

    “Then again,” Indigo continued, considering the matter. “You probably can’t tan. I bet you just look like a ripe tomato if you venture out from your cave. I honestly would pay to see that-

    His words broke off, replaced by a strangled gasp, as Doctor Camellia’s boot ground purposefully into the stab wound in his abdomen. Red hot sparks streaked through his mind. His vision went dark at the edges. Indigo gasped for air at the agony of it.

    "Save your words," his enemy advised, black eyes soft and gloating. "You don't have much time." He looked at the burning city as if it were a beautiful sunset. "You did your absolute best, I’m sure. None of it matters now. Your love has surely fled the city by now, your allies scattered to the wind. There is no one to save you. And my favorite part – you’ll live just long enough to see everything you love burn into ash. Your story is finished, forever, Indigo Nightwalker.”

    “And here I was hoping for a sequel. I wonder if they’ll give my money back at the door,” Indigo wondered out loud, viciously refusing to take the conversation seriously in his last, petty revenge.

    He was right though. Indigo had failed. Failed so completely it was hard to think about. How had things gone so wrong?

    Maybe it had been a mistake, trying to control Entei. He had practically given the Legend to his enemy after all. His biggest regret was leaving Riza behind. She would have to continue the fight alone.

    “Do you want to know my secret?” Doctor Camellia asked, sitting cross legged on the ground next to him, as though the city weren’t burning around them. “I confess, I’ve somewhat missed my chance to monologue. It almost seems too late at this point. Better late than never I suppose.”

    “You’re actually a woman?” Indigo guessed, his voice weak. The blackness was edging in farther and farther at the corners of his eyes. He wished he had someone he actually liked by his side, at the end. “I find myself unsurprised.”

    “My name,” Doctor Camellia said simply, ignoring his snarkiness entirely. “Is Tero Akkarin.”

    It was amazing how easily the pieces fit into place with that one small piece of information. Everything Doctor Camellia had done, everything he’d sworn to accomplish, it all made perfect, grotesque sense. His real name changed everything.

    It was so perfect, Indigo was a little ashamed for not having seen it sooner. The puzzle was complete.

    “Hey,” Indigo called, as Tero stood, turning his back on him easily. “I have…a favor to ask!”

    The monster looked back, raising an eyebrow at the strange request. Indigo fought the blackness, struggling to stay awake for just a moment longer. “Promise me,” he gasped, his voice harsh. “Promise…you won’t hurt her anymore. You got what you wanted. Leave Riza alone. There is no reason to kill her now.”

    “Oh Indigo,” Tero sighed, crouching down so he could be heard more easily. “I’m going to cut her fingers off one by one when I find her. I’ll crush her eyes and burn her flesh until even you wouldn’t recognize that pretty face of hers anymore. I plan to torture Riza Calariam until she doesn’t even remember her own name, much less yours. And I’m going to do it for no reason, except to make you suffer more in your last moments on Earth.”

    He stood smoothly while Indigo gaped on the ground, sheer horror making his mind run cold. By the time he found his voice, Tero Akkarin, better known as Doctor Camellia, was walking at an unhurried pace down the wide dirt street, while civilians burned and buildings collapsed around him. “Monster,” Indigo gasped out, as his vision narrowed to nearly nothing. The Charizard made another pass at his hometown, igniting everything that moved. Somewhere, far off, Indigo heard the unmistakable roar of Entei.

    “You MONSTER!” he howled, unable to express his fury with anything stronger than a scream.

    His last moment came then, with his heart filled with grief and guilt, as his home burned all around him.

    ~o~

    The fires burned well into the night. Most of the inhabitants of Karraket were long gone, fleeing the blaze and the wrath of Entei. What was left over was a scorched husk of a town, blackened timbers glowing the sullen, shifting red of coals, while fires still raged wherever wood remained. Only one being moved through the wide stone streets, heedless of the destruction. A cool mist swirled around it, a welcome relief to the crackling air. Steam hissed wherever it touched the scorching earth.

    Cold blue eyes regarded the body in the middle of the street. The fires had not touched the boy in question, thanks to the width of the street. His skin was red and cracked from the heat on one side of his face. His hair was a blue so dark it looked black in the night. He had died with an expression of frustration etched stubbornly on his strong features.

    Suicune stood over the boy for an indefinite amount of time. An icy cool wind danced around its mane, soothing rather than aggravating the shimmering coals of the city. The cries of Entei had long faded from the air, as the King of Fire left the town to burn.

    At last, Suicune threw its head back, howling a song which spoke of ice and clear water. Wind rushed from the north, and it began to rain on the shattered city, and the body of the boy. Steam hissed from the ruins. Cold drops ran down his face almost like tears. The heavens opened, and the fires retreated, washing the blood from the streets.

    Suicune lowered its head, meeting the gaze of the woman who stood over the boys’ body. She alone seemed to be untouched by the flames. She had hair as dark as ochre, down around her shoulders, framing a face that looked better suited to laughter than the serious expression it wore. Her eyes were a clear a blue as Suicune’s own. Her dress didn’t move the same direction as the wind.

    She didn’t say a single word, as the rain passed through her. Silence reigned as the deluge turned the gutters into streams. She closed her eyes as though she were making a desperate wish.

    The woman disappeared, leaving Suicune with the boy once more.

    ~o~

    Thunder boomed overhead. The rafters creaked, and dust and dried herb leaves drifted down like snow. The old woman swore loudly and creatively, stuffing materials and books into her already too large pack.

    She was by no means ancient. In fact, she was only in her forties. But the woman’s once vibrant pink hair had faded to a pale imitation of its former glory, and deep, disapproving lines made her appear prematurely aged. Her hands were a mess of veins and wrinkles, with fingernails like stone. She might not have appeared so old if she smiled. But her expression was rigid, a permanent grimace of irritation which seemed etched onto her face.

    Kaya Acadia was not a pleasant person. Anyone who had visited her for a remedy or a treatment could attest to that, after witnessing her abominable bedside manner. But they kept coming, because she was first rate at what she did.

    And they would always come. Assuming anyone had lived through the night.

    The rain had cleared some of the black smog in the air of Karraket, but Kaya cursed it anyways. She would not be able to leave the house tonight. Her daughters’ condition was bad. She couldn’t travel by their open cart in the rain. At least there was little danger of the fires spreading in the sudden deluge.

    She was forced to stay, when most of the other inhabitants had fled. Luckily for all involved, Kaya’s clinic was on the boundary of town, and had managed to avoid the flames. The old woman was taking no chances however. All her valuables, and quite a few less valuable trinkets made their way into her oversized bag, ready to be whisked away at the slightest hint of danger.

    “Curse that stupid boy,” she hissed as she grabbed a bouquet of Payapa leaves, stuffing them into the pack violently. “All his fault,” she muttered under her breath, “-couldn’t leave well enough alone. Just had to try and be a hero, and look where it got him? Bravery runs in the entire family, and that’s why they’re all dead. Not like me, and my little clan of cowards. We’ll survive long after the heroes die!”

    Her rant was interrupted by the shutters flying open, and cold wind howled through the frame, scattering papers and knocking a pair of glasses onto the floor. Kaya swore again, and this time it was so colorful she felt a little vindicated. The storm was picking up outside. She struggled to grab the edges of the flapping shutters.

    That was when she saw the woman standing in the rain. Kaya’s heart nearly stopped in her chest, meeting those cold blue eyes.

    It was impossible!

    She stumbled to the door, her limp hindering her movements, and threw it open to the storm. Wind howled with savage joy around her, but she didn’t as much as pause.

    There was a body on her doorstep. The rain had plastered his hair down against his forehead. His features were as recognizable as they were painfully reminiscent. Kaya’s heart twisted with pain. She looked back out at the storm, but the woman from before was gone. Suicune stood where she had been, coldly beautiful despite the rain.

    “I can’t help him!” Kaya shouted angrily, despite the fact that a Legend stood before her. She rarely got the chance to scream at all powerful beings. She didn’t intend to let the chance go to waste. Her emotions were raw; more because of the woman who had reminded her of the past than the corpse at her feet. “He’s beyond human help! I can’t save him, do you understand? What’s more, this traitor doesn’t deserve to live!”

    Suicune simply looked at her. Only its mane moved, flowing against the wind serenely.

    “I wouldn’t help him even if he were alive!” Kaya continued stubbornly. “Do you know what this boy has done? This whole disaster is his fault! It’s his fault, and you can’t shame me into thinking otherwise!”

    The rain pattered down, and Suicune turned to walk away. Kaya fell to her knees, holding her arms tight across her stomach. “I won’t be held responsible for this,” she whispered angrily. “If this backfires, I will not hear of it being my fault!”

    She brought the boy inside, closing the door behind her against the storm, and the figure she had seen earlier. Kaya muttered to herself the whole time, as she dragged Indigo to the middle of the room. She didn’t bother being careful. “This won’t work,” she assured herself. “It really shouldn’t anyways. I’ll just have to bury him tomorrow, and invite Mazarine to his funeral. She’ll probably cry, and we can all move on. That would be best.”

    “And anyways,” she continued, as she pried up a dusty floorboard. “I’m not doing him any favors. Even if this does, by some slim chance work, he’ll probably hate me for it.” The thought cheered the sour woman greatly. She reached into the cubbyhole beneath the floorboard, and pulled out the only object within. It was a Poké Ball, rusty and discolored, held shut with miniature chains. Kaya took the tiny key from its chain around her neck, twisting it in the locks three times. The chains slithered to the ground, clanking with protest.

    She took a deep breath to steady herself. It took some effort to turn the knob on top of the sphere. Flakes of rust coated her fingers as she struggled with it. Finally, the knob was off, and she tossed the sphere into the air. Scarlet light burst free, lighting up the house, as the Pokémon within was freed for the first time in nearly twenty years.

    Cream colored tails tipped with saffron whipped through the air as the light faded. The lean figure of the fox was undiminished by the ages. It was hard to believe the beautiful Pokémon was older than Halladen itself, but it became a little easier when one looked into her scornful crimson eyes.

    Kaya,” the Ninetales greeted, her voice echoing sonorously directly into the woman’s mind. “It’s been quite some time. You’ve grown ugly.”

    “And you’ve grown as rude as your trainer once was,” Kaya snapped with irritation. “Nivalis!”

    Amusement sparked in the pupiless eyes of the ancient fox. “Why have you released me, healer? Do you intend to inflict my wrath upon this world once more?

    “Not yet I don’t,” Kaya said churlishly. She did not intend to release Nivalis. She might not like the world, but she did not intend to see it destroyed. “A mutual friend has requested a favor. Do you recognize the boy?”

    Nivalis stepped daintily over the messy floor, peering with curiosity at the stubborn face below her. She didn’t speak for a long time.

    He looks like his father,” she complained, distaste coloring her voice. “I never liked him. It seems the boy has committed quite a few serious crimes. I can see the fog around his soul…yes, there is darkness within him. He could have become a monster. He nearly did. I only wish I had been present before his death, to properly destroy him.”

    Kaya grimaced. “I thought you might say that.” She took a deep breath, preparing herself. “In fact, I think you’re absolutely right. Indigo should be forced to suffer. Death is too easy. Let him work for redemption. Layla has already given her blessing!”

    Nivalis snapped her empty red eyes up Kaya’s face. She half hoped the fox would say it was impossible, and could not be done, but the expression those eyes took on could only be called glee. Kaya saw the vindictive joy her words had caused, and felt a little sick. Nivalis threw back her head and laughed.

    It seems the old woman has some sense left in her after all!” the Ninetales laughed. “Yes…let the boy burn. He will live. But not here. He will be forced to exist with his pain until he understands the true nature of caring, and strength. Until then…he will never be able to return. What a wonderful idea!”

    Yes, Indigo might well hate her for this. Nivalis was famous after all.

    Her former friend’s Pokémon had cursed hundreds of souls. Each one was unique. It often drove her victims mad.

    The chances he would succeed in breaking whatever curse she chose to lay were slim. But if he did manage it…

    If the boy breaks my curse, only then will he be allowed a second chance to defeat his enemy,” Nivalis crooned, as thunder cracked outside. “If he fails, his soul is mine forever. A fitting fate for the traitor. I must thank you for allowing this, Kaya Acadia. I haven’t had such fun in decades!

    Her eyes burned with searing scarlet light, turning to the boy who had betrayed a kingdom.

    Light shone around the corpse of Indigo Nightwalker, deepening the curling shadows of nine tails on the walls and ceiling. He shuddered once, as if jolted with electricity, his lips parting with a silent scream, as the lights grew brighter, rising in the air as bubbles of shining luminescence from his skin.

    He disappeared with a crack of thunder, and Suicune howled a mournful song from the smoldering ruins of Karraket. The faint smell of citrus blossoms tinged the air where he had been.

    The Ninetales threw back her head and laughed with utter exhilaration, and cruel, vindictive pleasure. Kaya turned her face away from the dark stain on her floor.

    A second chance. How laughable. Even if he did return, what could he do to stop the King of Fire? It was ridiculous to think Indigo could ever be their salvation from an enemy who had forced a nation to its knees. If he was their one hope, Kaya thought savagely, they were all going to die.

    Outside, their kingdom lay fallen. The only princess had been forced to flee for her life, a Legendary rampaged unchecked through their cities, and a living nightmare had risen to claim the throne of Halladen.

    They needed a miracle. It seemed they’d been unlucky enough to get Indigo Nightwalker instead.

    ~o~
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  2. Chapter 2: Future Winds

    Disclaimer: I don't own Pokemon, but the voices in my head have excellent takeover plans.

    ~o~

    Author's Note:

    I've noticed many people on Fanfiction dot net have strong opinions about capitalizing Pokemon species. I've seen it go both ways, but for this story I will be following the grammar rules set by the games. The official English translation always capitalizes Pokemon names, Berries, Types, and references to Legendaries, along with a few others. While I do take some artistic liberties with the game and anime mechanics, which will be outlined later, I do try to honor the source material. I also chose to follow several mechanics which exist in the games, in order to give the story a clear set of rules, and to limit my characters properly.

    Also, if you happen to stumble across typos or errors...please tell me...at this point I am physically incapable of seeing them. Thanks for reading!

    ~o~

    Where am I?

    A Pidgey called through the sun dappled leaves. Indigo opened his eyes. He was sprawled across a bed of moss, staring into a sky broken only by aspen branches. It smelled of a summer rain.

    The sky was blue. He was vaguely surprised. He felt as if there was something he was forgetting. The thought nagged at him irritatingly. Why was the sky blue? He knew full well how childish the question was, and yet the answer seemed important. But why wouldn't it be blue?

    Something was missing. He felt strange. Disconnected from his body almost. The leaves whispered above, louder than he'd ever heard before, though the breeze was faint. His side ached. The pain was rapidly fading, shrinking ever smaller, until it was gone.

    Indigo's eyes went wide as he noticed the bubbles of light rising serenely from the ground around him, each shining with their own little glow. They spiraled upwards into the dancing aspen leaves, dissipating high above. Indigo was surrounded by light. It shone from his skin, and danced in the slight wind like faerie dust. It was utterly magical.

    "Gah!" Indigo shrieked in a girly voice, brushing frantically at his glowing arm with one hand as though it were covered in germs. He was not supposed to glow! He was at least ninety percent sure of it! His efforts were in vain, as the little bubbles of light continued to rise from the glowing circle in the moss, and his skin continued to shine with gold and silver. It smelled like citrus blossoms.

    That scent was what made Indigo realize what was missing. The smell of smoke which had so pervaded the air the last time he'd breathed it was utterly and completely gone. The burning sky was blue.

    He didn't know how much time had gone by. Or how on earth he was still alive for that matter.

    It was then he saw a figure through the growing light. The wispy form of a Ninetales stared at him evenly, her tails waving behind her. She looked as though she were made of white fire, completely translucent, except for her scarlet, burning eyes.

    "Where am I?" Indigo demanded, hardly knowing why he was bothering to speak to a Pokémon. "Am I dead? Is Riza-"

    "The Princess lives," the Ninetales said coldly, her voice echoing deep into his mind. Her mouth didn't move in the slightest. Indigo jumped when she actually spoke back. "You have more important things to worry about…"

    "There isn't anything more important!" Indigo insisted, struggling to stand. His legs wouldn't work. He couldn't so much as move them. True worry set in, as he realized he was stuck. "What's happening?"

    "A punishment," the Ninetales spoke into his mind, without a hint of mercy. "You've been cursed, Indigo Nightwalker. I merely came to watch."

    "Watch what?" Indigo said warily. He'd had some experience with curses in the past. If this was anything like that, he could be in real trouble.

    He didn't ask what he was being punished for. The dark shadows of his heart already knew the answer. It was the one thing he was certain of, when everything else in his mind was a question.

    The Ninetale's eyes gleamed with anticipation. "Justice," she proclaimed, her voice like a thunderclap against his senses. In an instant, he was in agony, as his bones broke one by one, writhing, and boiling just under the surface. He could hear the pops and cracks, and Indigo couldn't help his sudden scream. Fighting back the pain did nothing. The Ninetales watched with satisfaction as he contorted.

    "Normally my victims are unconscious. Your crimes demand a crueler fate. I would have let you burn for what you've done…but then, perhaps this is better. Your curse will be as long as your sins are black. The lessons you've learned in the past must be forgotten, and the truth must take their place. Strength and kindness are what you lack. Forget everything you know about the two concepts. Maybe, just maybe, you'll be able to learn the truth about human nature. Only then will you be permitted to fight Tero of the Burning Shadows once more, and regain what you've lost."

    He heard all this through the bone cracking pain, and didn't comprehend. The silver and gold lights sang, rising faster as the smell of citrus blossoms grew stronger. Indigo shouted, and the sound changed as he did, growing rougher and dark. Shooting pain, worse than the rest, sprung from his palms.

    Indigo looked down in time to see the steel spikes burst from the backs of his hands. His chest cracked, and he felt rather than saw the metal drive out of his skin. The light overcame him then. The circle on the moss grew as bright as noonday, shooting a pillar of iridescence high into the blue sky above.

    "Your curse will be this," the Ninetales intoned. "Until you learn the true meaning of strength, and kindness, you will be trapped in this form, and in this time. Fail and you will never be able to return home. Tero of the Burning Shadows will enslave the land you love, and kill your precious love."

    "You've been given a small chance to set things right…assuming that a fool such as yourself is capable of breaking my curse. If you ever choose to give up on your quest, I will claim your soul for my own, and end your miserable existence. Know me as Nivalis, the White Nightmare, and the Bane of Sin. I am the only being capable of removing this curse from your soul. Call my name thrice to end your quest once and for all."

    The light burst from his form as though repelled. The Lucario that had taken the place of Indigo looked stunned from his seat on the moss. "Wait," he called out, his new, rough voice surprising him. He was grateful he could speak at all. "This time? Where exactly am I? What am I? How can I possibly break a curse in time to help Riza?"

    Nivalis laughed scornfully, baring white fangs. "Don't worry about that. Time will not flow the same speed if you do manage to break free. You will appear in your original time exactly when you need to, whether it takes you a single year or a millennia to escape from my curse. I'm sure you'll figure out the rest yourself!"

    "I said wait!" Indigo snarled, the noise surprising him. He leapt for the fox, but his legs were not responding correctly. The ghostly form of the fox dissipated into smoke, and Indigo fell flat on his face.

    He sat up gingerly, holding his injured nose with irritation. The forest clearing was empty save himself. The situation sank in slowly in his disbelieving mind.

    This was not a dream.

    And worse, infinitely worse, Indigo was completely alone. He didn't even know where he was. He would have to accomplish this task entirely by himself.

    Indigo slammed his fist into the earth angrily. The resulting 'crack' surprised him with its force. He hit the ground again with more savagery. He felt no better. He realized his entire body was shaking.

    Kindness and strength. Just vague enough to mean practically anything. Lovely.

    He clenched his new fist, still gleaming ever so faintly gold. He forced himself to gather his thoughts, taking a deep breath for the first time. Indigo stood, wobbling dangerously as he attempted to use his new muscles. He balanced carefully before he was able to find a position he could stand in. In the least, he was no longer in pain.

    He was also no longer human. Words could not describe how strange it was.

    Indigo didn't know what to do. He hadn't the faintest notion of where to start. It all seemed so unreal. As if he would wake up at any moment, and be back in time, right before his last mistake. He'd never wanted anything so badly in his life.

    There was one, single ray of hope.

    Indigo was imprisoned in another time, in a strange form, with no one to help him return home but himself.

    But he was alive. And while he was alive, there was a chance he could still set things right.

    A second chance.

    His mind calmed then, as the last of the gold shine faded from his fur. He was standing easily now that he had stopped trying to hold a human posture.

    He could do this. He only had to break a Ninetale's curse. How hard could it possibly be?

    He found his resolve, and Indigo's blue human eyes bled into savage scarlet.

    ~o~

    Princess Riza ran blindly through the night, branches snagging at her outstretched hands and the edges of her clothes, tearing skin and cloth alike. It wasn't that she didn't care about the pain. She did, in fact, and yet she found she could not stop herself from running. And so the little stinging pains continued, as she put more and more distance between herself and the burning town behind her.

    Her parents were dead. Her kingdom had been savaged. Tero Akkarin, as she knew his name to be, had taken control of Entei, and would soon take her country. She had been painted as a monster to her people. She knew she could never reclaim the throne alone, and yet there was no one who would support her after the events of the night. There were plenty of reasons for her to be crushed. Her tears could have come from any number of life shattering turns of events.

    And yet she cried for an entirely different reason. Princess Riza Calariam wept for the death of her best friend, the one she had loved most. She knew it didn't make rational sense. Indigo had inadvertently caused quite a bit of the trouble she was now in. In fact, he might have even had something to do with her the death of her father.

    She didn't believe it. She couldn't.

    But Indigo was dead, and she would never know the truth.

    Riza cried, and even though she would be killed if she was found, she screamed out loud, her voice raw and filled with the agony of her soul. Her cry echoed through the thick branches of the Whispermist forest. No one was around to answer. No one heard, save the Pokémon who held vigil through the long nights. Even these did not make a sound, merely watching her flight deeper and deeper into the woods.

    Finally she could run no more. Riza fell to her knees, staining her pretty white dress, and sobbed into her hands. She had run from an inferno, but the clouds gathering in the distance were lowering the temperature rapidly. The rain would be fortunate. It would also be too late. The air was cold on her heat cracked skin.

    She wasn't quite as alone as she thought. Eyes regarded the weeping girl from the shadows in the trees, their number growing slowly. The clouds broke over the sky above, and her little clearing was flooded with moonlight which caressed her bare arms. The wind seemed to sigh, brushing through her long golden hair, which hung in long waves. When she stood, it reached her waist. On her knees, hunched over in pain as she was, her hair made a shroud around her, touching the ground.

    It would have made a pretty picture, the image of a girl weeping along in the midst of the ancient trees. It seemed as though nothing dared break the silence around her broken voice.

    Mocking laughter shattered the peace, sounding purposefully through the trees. Riza's tears slowed, and she looked up with beautiful amethyst eyes. "Who's there?" she called, her voice faltering and cracked. She saw no one in the trees, save a few darting shadows. She jumped when the voice sounded right behind her.

    "Who's there?" the cruel voice mocked in imitation. "I'm all alone, so I'm crying like a child! Boohoo, someone save me!" A chorus of laughter greeted this statement, as Riza whirled, finding the clearing empty save herself. She looked at the trees warily, her hand unconsciously moving to the sword tied on to the golden belt of her dress.

    "I can't believe that this is the fabled Princess of Halladen," another voice sneered, seeming to come from all around her at once. "She's so weak! Look at that, she's actually got tears on her face!"

    "I bet she's crying about the boy who was here a while back. That dark one, who dared to love her. I wonder if he's reached the gates of hell yet. I hear it's toasty this time of year." This joke elicited more laughter, screeching and raucous. Anger touched Riza's eyes at the mention of Indigo.

    "Show yourselves!" she commanded, wiping the tears from her pale cheeks. She drew her sword with a hiss of metal, and the blade gleamed silver in the moonlight.

    "Didn't you hear? The boy isn't dead. From what I hear…he had the bad luck to run into Nivalis. Poor, poor Indigo, cursed for all eternity. Unless he can break free, Riza will never see him again. I don't know what he sees in her. Look at her, sniveling like a brat! Is she really the chosen one?"

    "Indigo lives?" Riza breathed, hardly daring to hope. "Are you certain?"

    "It's either her, or the other girl," the answer came, ignoring Riza entirely. "Who can say for sure? This girl is the Queen though, no doubts there. We have our work cut out for us, making her strong enough to fight the King of Fire. I'm not certain it can done."

    The shadows detached from the darkness as the voice spoke, oozing out of the night like a poison. Riza caught her breath as Ghost Pokémon took shape around her, floating through the mist seeping from the earth. She looked up, and more ghosts filled the air above her, shifting shadows that blocked out the moon. A Mismagius materialized in front of the Princess, her yellow tinged eyes devouring her.

    "Or perhaps," the Mismagius hissed, her breath as cold as death on Riza's skin. "We should simply eat the girl, and be done with it!" A chorus of murmuring assent whispered through the assembled ghosts. Riza tried and failed to count them all. She had never seen so many ghosts before. There were species she didn't recognize among the usual Misdreavus and Ghastly who haunted the forest traditionally. Grey, hooded specters looked out through masks of bone with a single eye, glowing scarlet, and larger behemoths stood like statues in the sudden mist just on the fringes of her clearing, plated with grey and taller than she was. Doll-like ghosts laughed quietly through mouths sewn shut, with yellow cords resembling a zipper, floating near a lone creature in a tattered rag which almost resembled a Pikachu. Blue candle-flame burned coldly on the ground from the wicks of wax Pokémon with secretive smiles. Small wooden ghosts with child-like eyes peered at her through the others, and with a start, Riza realized some of the trees were watching her with crimson eyes.

    Riza felt colder than she ever had before. Goosebumps broke out on her skin, as the blood rapidly drained from her face. The swirls etched into the skin of her arms and face bled as black as ink, writhing slightly under the surface.

    But Riza Calariam was nobody's meal. She stood straight as the ghosts chattered amongst themselves, ignoring the air which was as cold as death, and the swirling miasma. "Silence!" she shouted, her voice like a thunderclap. And to her slight astonishment, the ghosts obeyed. The Whispermist forest was as quiet as a grave, as every single Ghost Pokémon turned their attention to the former Princess of Halladen.

    She felt a slight thrill at the speed of their obedience, but quashed it quickly. "You," she commanded, turning to the Mismagius who had spoken of eating her. "What is your name?"

    "Lilith," the Mismagius hissed darkly, as though contemplating an attack.

    "Lilith," Riza repeated, tasting the word. "What has happened to Indigo?"

    "Were you not listening?" the Mismagius mocked. "He is cursed. We all felt it. He has been sent to another time, where his morals will be tested. You can expect no help from him."

    Hope blossomed in her chest. Riza didn't let it show on her face. "Why are you here? All of you? Why come to me?"

    "Mistress," a Haunter spoke, floating forward. "You may call me Sepira. We are here to help. You are the Queen of Night, our chosen one. Whether or not you are the chosen one of mankind matters little to us. We pledge our service to you, in your fight against the King of Fire."

    "Not so fast," a Spiritomb growled in a deep baritone. "She is just a little girl. A human no less. She is pampered and weak. She is unsuited for the task."

    "Grave, you should not speak so," the Haunter called Sepira snapped. "See the darkness in her heart! She will make a fine Queen." Arguments broke out all around, as ghosts took sides on the matter.

    As they spoke, something hardened in Riza's heart. Her tears had long dried. Riza raised her gleaming sword, and sliced through her thick golden hair right at the base of her neck, using her other hand to hold it steady. The arguing Pokémon shut up. Riza flung the locks of shining blonde to the cold earth, taking advantage of the sudden lull to speak once more. Her head felt strangely light.

    "Listen here," she snarled, the fury in her voice surprising even her. "As of today I am no longer the Princess of Halladen. My home has been taken from me, and my friends killed, and I am not in the mood for your bickering. You want to eat me? Fine. All I ask is that you wait until my revenge is complete. Tero Akkarin has committed crimes that I cannot and will not ignore. The earth has run red with the blood of innocents, and I propose to add to it with his corpse. I don't care if you help me…just stay out of my way until the job is done!"

    Silence reigned as the hundreds of ghosts regarded the furious human girl in the center of the clearing. Her speech had left her breathing deep, as she glared at each and every ghost who met her gaze. Lilith spoke first, her yellow eyes gleaming.

    "All hail the Queen," she whispered sensually, a murmur which was taken up by every ghost, one by one.

    "Fine then," Riza said, sheathing her sword angrily. "Where do we start?"

    She wasn't surprised at all to hear the Pokémon speak. Tero Akkarin had once saved her life, using his horrific science. Pokémon Eggs had been used to create the medicine, and she had been able to hear them ever since.

    There had been other effects as well. The dark swirls under her skin twisted, like living tattoos. Riza gritted her teeth, and buried her pain deep within her heart.

    ~o~
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  3. Chapter 3: Sweet Irony

    Disclaimer: Pokemon? Yeah, I own it. Like, ten versions! No I don't own the franchise. Sorry.

    ~o~

    The first goal Indigo had was to discover strength.

    Nivalis had been intentionally obscure as to what this could mean. She had spoken of human nature. How laughable…that she had turned him into a Lucario to learn how to be human! Indigo found he did not appreciate the joke.

    But despite having the distinct and unsettling feeling he was grasping at mist in the shadows with his quest, when it came to strength, he knew of only one place to begin.

    Indigo trained in battle, until his new limbs were as familiar to him as the ones he'd been born with. He stopped noticing he could hear the voices of Pokémon. In fact, it was the voices of people that began to make him jump. He felt disconnected from humanity in a way he'd never before experienced, even back when he'd been committing crimes for the King of Fire. Many days he abandoned the idea of speaking altogether.

    He grew strong on the victories and losses against the wild Pokémon and wandering trainers who strayed too far into the territory which quickly became known as his. As time went on, the losses came farther apart. He had found power in his new form, and with it came strength and stamina the likes of which he had never experienced as a human.

    But by far the greatest perk of his curse was in his eyes.

    He had nearly fallen over from shock the first time he'd managed to use his new ability. He had broken the connection immediately, of course, and it was days before he managed to repeat the fluke. Indigo had a splitting headache from the effort, but he didn't care in the slightest.

    Because he had a second sight, that let him see the life force of the earth itself. Veins of silvery light connected the earth to the trees, and even the wind. Living beings shone brilliant blue to his new eyes, beacons of emotion that could be seen in fog or darkness…or even through solid objects. The world spun into grey and blue, and he could see in every direction at once. He could even direct his vision farther, and see ahead for miles.

    All Indigo had to do was close his eyes, and he could see everything.

    But some lessons were learned the difficult way. Sometimes, it was better not to see.

    He had been in the future nearly a month before he discovered just how far he'd been thrown. Indigo had been exploring the reaches of the mountainous region he'd found himself in, half wondering if he would ever find a city at all, when he was nearly run down by a car.

    His new reflexes saved him. Indigo had stepped onto the road without thought, and only barely leapt out of the way as the hulking metal monstrosity came roaring around the blind curve. The driver yelled obscenities out the window as he hurtled away. Shaken didn't come close to describing what Indigo felt. And now that he'd glimpsed it, it seemed there were new horrors wherever he looked…

    The strange, high tech Poké Balls the wandering trainers used. The silver creations streaking across the sky, belching clouds in their wake. Even the stars were dimmer than they had been at home. He hadn't thought anything of it, had barely even noticed, until he saw his first city since being cursed.

    Lights shone from every corner, and blazed from the windows of clean cut homes. Neon signs glared from storefronts, and people stared at shining devices in their hands. The whole city seemed to be a beacon, and the pollution from the constant hum of electricity was dimming the heavens. People were everywhere, wearing strange clothes, and using new words he'd never heard, like 'laptop', and 'donut'. The metal vehicles spat poison into the air, which went unnoticed by all.

    Indigo had retreated to the forest on the mountainside, badly traumatized by the extreme changes to the world. No one seemed to be in fear either. It was as though the entire war he had devoted his life to fighting and his struggle to defeat an evil king had never even happened. It was as though he didn't exist. Like none of it had ever existed.

    Like he was chasing a dream of a forgotten land, and a story no one remembered, its characters all long dead. Except, it seemed, for him.

    It had taken a long time to get past. Indigo found he could only stave off the depression with one thing. He trained like his very existence depended on it, his mind focused on one thing, and one thing alone.

    He would get stronger. He would break this curse, and return to the world he knew as home. Though he might be living in this time, he would never truly belong to it. He would not be staying. The thought brought him comfort.

    Sometimes, trainers sought him out, intending to capture him. Indigo fought them all off, filled with the proud knowledge that only the strongest would be able to succeed. The more he won, the stronger the trainers who came for him became. This suited Indigo just fine.

    One day, he told himself, he would meet a trainer who was truly the best. Surely that person could teach him strength beyond what he could learn by himself. And though he didn't particularly want to belong to another person, if it meant returning to his reality, Indigo would do anything.

    The nightmares of his final battle continued every time he slept, and he dreamed he was drowning in blood and fire.

    It was an excellent motivator.

    A year passed, while Indigo burned slowly from the inside out, in a world he didn't recognize or understand.

    ~o~

    It was morning in Pewter City. Light broke over the silhouette of Mount Moon on the horizon, spilling a fresh palette of colors over the waking city. Rock Pokémon rumbled irritably, shaking off the morning dew as though it were abhorrent; living statues coming to life in the dawn. Pidgey chased each other across the sky, greeting the new day.

    It would have been peaceful, if it weren't for the commotion at the local Pokémon Center.

    "Did you hear?"

    "I heard he's a legend."

    "Coming to Pewter any minute now…"

    Groups of trainers of all ages stood in the chilled autumn morning, huddled into groups, chatting animatedly with each other. Their breath misted the air, and more than one person was wearing a coat, arms crossed against the cold. And yet, no one seemed bothered by the temperature, or the hour of the morning.

    "Didn't he save an entire town from a rampaging Dragonite?" a blonde girl in a pink, tasseled hat whispered to her friend, cheeks flushed with cold. "He did it single-handedly to boot!"

    "We don't get celebrities passing through often," her friend, an auburn haired girl in a dark leather jacket agreed. "It's always newbies fresh out of Viridian Forest. But this guy, he has some serious power. I don't think there's a single person here who can match him."

    "What about Terry? Weren't you telling me last week he was the strongest trainer you'd ever met?" the blonde girl demanded, as though personally offended. Her eyes were a startling shade of fuchsia.

    "Come off it, Bells, we both know Terry's good. But we have to face the facts, and admit pure talent is no match for the experience this guy has. I mean, you know what he is, right? He's a hero, travelling around the Kanto and Johto regions, hunting down powerful Pokémon who are threatening people. He's probably locked away more psychopathic Pokémon than the police!"

    "But why's he coming here?" Isabella demanded. "There aren't any rogue Pokémon, right? He could be in the Seafoam caves hunting down that mysterious Froslass, or searching for the powerful Gengar rumored to be in Lavender town. It just doesn't make sense, Rachel!"

    "Maybe he's after the Lucario in the mountains," Rachel said seriously. "The one no one's been able to catch. He probably needs strong partners, since he's always taking down rogue monsters…funny thing, too, I heard that Lucario can talk."

    "No way," Isabella protested, smacking her friends arm. "I definitely would have heard that one! Last I heard, it could shoot lasers out of its eyes and fly!"

    "Bells, you're an idiot," Rachel said finally, in response to her friend's passionate speech. Murmuring broke out among the assembled trainers. Both girls looked up, as a lone trainer made his way towards the Pokémon Center. The whispering ceased when the man looked up.

    The newcomer was built strong, all lean muscle, and long limbs. His skin was surprisingly pale, considering the rumors of his extensive travel, and his mussed hair was blond. He looked quite surprised to see the large group of people staring so intently at him. The skin of his arm was scarred in three stripes, as though he had once been slashed by a massive claw.

    "Hello," the proclaimed hero said awkwardly, his orange eyes widening with surprise. "It's…nice to meet you all?"

    "Karo Asuna," Isabella breathed in reverence. "In the flesh!"

    No one spoke. Everyone, it seemed, was too busy staring at the trainer who had just entered the city. "Right then," he said after a beat. "I guess I'll just…"

    Not a single person moved as he walked past them, towards the doors of the Pokémon center. "Hey!" a voice broke out from the crowd. "Hang on a sec."

    Isabella and Rachel turned at the voice. A boy had detached himself from the crowd. His spiked black hair was instantly recognizable, as was the flash in his eyes. He walked past the hushed onlookers, and held out his hand. "Terry Slade," he introduced himself, not bothering with a preamble. "I already know who you are."

    "A pleasure," Karo said, a little surprised. He took the boys hand, shaking it firmly. The two regarded each other for what seemed like a long time, before Terry dropped his hand. He walked back to his small group of friends, which consisted of three taller boys, a girl with a shock of red hair, and a pretty blunette. The tension in the air seemed to break then, and it seemed like everyone wanted to talk to Karo.

    "Can I get an autograph?" Isabella called, but there were too many people in front of her, all clambering to introduce themselves and ask for the same.

    It took quite a while for the hubbub to die down. The man of the hour, Karo Asuna, seemed a little abashed at all the attention he was receiving. He had been asked for a handshake at least twenty times, following the example set by Terry, and the lobby of the Pokémon Center was filled with chattering trainers, as they moved inside.

    Finally, Nurse Joy had had enough.

    "Unless you all have Pokémon to be healed, or need to book a room, you can go outside!" she said forcefully, her hands on her hips. There was quite a bit of grumbling, but finally, the majority of the group filtered away. A few of the more stubborn trainers stayed, mutinously sitting in armchairs, but keeping their voices down at least.

    "Honestly!" the magenta haired Nurse said with exasperation. "You'd think the Champion of Kanto had come to visit! I hope nobody gave you too much trouble?" She was addressing the man with orange eyes.

    "Oh, no really, it's fine," Karo said, waving off the concerns of the healer. "I get this sometimes, ever since my name made it on television. I'm not anything special. I just deal with the more difficult cases sometimes."

    "I wouldn't say that," Nurse Joy said, softening a little in response to this humble attitude. "I heard a lot about what happened in Blackthorn City. Lots of people got hurt by the rogue Dragonite. It was a good thing you showed up and locked that menace away. It's always so sad when a Pokémon goes wild like that, but we don't have much choice when it does. Pokémon who are a danger to people need to be dealt with, like it or not."

    "My partner, Alakazam, did the hard work," Karo said gently, with a self-conscious smile. "I don't know where I'd be without him. If you don't mind, Miss Joy…could I book a room for a few nights?"

    Of course, there were some still trainers looking at him. Some were more subtle than others. The blonde Isabella was peering suspiciously over the edge of a couch, her eyes just peeking over the fabric. The other girl, Rachel, was sitting on the couch normally, ignoring her friend's antics.

    "I just have one question," she said, facing the other direction as though determined to prove she was more normal than the girl next to her. "How on earth did everyone in Pewter seem to know Karo Asuna was coming to town? It's a little creepy if you ask me."

    "Ben's older sister in Celadon knows everything," Isabella explained, never taking her eyes off her target. "She tracks celebrities or something. I think her name is Allison. Ah! He's coming this way!"

    The eyes of every person remaining in the lobby turned as Karo approached. Even Terry looked up, ignoring the blue haired girl who appeared to be telling him a story. He did blink a few times when he saw the girl glaring distrustfully at him over the edge of a couch, but didn't comment.

    "I suppose a few of you have figured out why I'm here," the blond trainer said hesitantly. Up close he looked like a lead of television show, with rumpled hair and a boyish face. His appearance would have been complete with a set of glasses. "In fact, I just wanted to be clear on that matter, so I don't step on anyone's toes. I came following rumors of a rogue Lucario in the mountains. From what I've heard, it fights like every battle is a life or death situation…and so far, no trainer has been able to capture it. I'm here to try."

    Murmurs broke out after this speech. Terry didn't react, other than to stare at Karo coldly.

    "Wait!" Isabella exclaimed, popping up from her supposed hiding place, pointing a finger at the surprised celebrity. "Wh-what if someone else wanted to catch it first? Maybe someone has been wanting to for a while! And besides, that person might be stronger than you are!"

    Karo blinked. "Are you talking about yourself, young lady?" Rachel sniggered at this, and Isabella blushed.

    "Well no," she admitted, feeling the weight of all the eyes in the room. She rallied herself, regaining her train of thought. "Terry does though! And he could definitely beat you, no matter what!"

    Absolute silence fell in the wake of Isabella's passionate words. Tension hung thick in the air, and it seemed like everyone held their breath as Karo faced Terry once more.

    "Is this true?" he asked simply.

    Terry glared as though considering refusing to answer. "And if it is?" he said at last, dark eyes flashing.

    Karo laughed, and more than one person jumped at the sound after the tense atmosphere. "That's perfect," he said, genuinely. "Absolutely wonderful. In fact, I was just about to ask if someone else wanted to try first."

    "I've travelled every corner of this continent, searching for powerful Pokémon. As such, I always enjoy seeing the powerful partners of local trainers. I'm willing to stand back and wait, while any local who wants to capture this Lucario attempts to do so. I will take my turn only after everyone who thinks they're up to the challenge has tried."

    "And if one of use catches it?" Terry asked, leaning forward despite himself.

    Karo smiled.

    "If someone succeeds in capturing the Lucario, they will have a choice. They can either keep the Lucario for themselves…or, they can trade it to me, for any one of my own Pokémon, with the exception of my Alakazam."

    Speculative whispers broke out in the lobby, which was slowly filling up with people again as the ones who had left smuggled themselves back inside. "Seems too good to be true," Rachel commented, suspiciously. "What's in this bet for you?"

    Karo merely held out his hands, as if to show there was no trick. "I get the opportunity to see the local talent, and witness a spectacular battle in the process. What's the downside?"

    Terry stood, casually defiant. "You're on. I'll show you…how a true trainer does battle!"

    ~o~

    The expedition to capture the wild Lucario was set to noon the next day, and there was nothing to do but wait. Word spread quickly. More than one battle broke out in the training fields throughout the city, as trainers fought to prove they were strong enough to go. It was an unspoken agreement that no weak trainers would be trying their luck in Karo's wager. No one wanted to show him anything but Pewters best. Quite a few who would have joined for the chance at one of Karo's powerful Pokémon bowed out due to defeats before it was time to leave. It seemed that people could talk of nothing else.

    It was surprisingly easy, considering the hubbub, for Karo to slip out of the city to the surrounding woods later that day.

    He threw a Poke all casually into the shaded air, catching it easily after it had released a massive winged Pokémon. He had gone farther into the woods than he normally would have for good reason. Not a soul would be around to hear.

    Branches cracked above, and leaves fell to the ground like snow. Karo Asuna didn't seem to care. He sat down on the ground, completely relaxed, as the wind from the Pokémon's wings stirred the grass.

    "I hope you appreciate this exercise session," Karo said conversationally, tilting his head back to catch some of the light filtering through the forest canopy. More branches snapped like gunshots, and a tree groaned as it fell to the earth. A flock of Pidgey took off, screeching wildly.

    Frantic cries filled the forest. One of the Pidgey hadn't been quite fast enough. A brutal snap silenced the creature, and a single wing hit the ground by Karo's feet. Bits and pieces followed, torn rather than bitten. Karo heard the rush of wind as his partner took off once again, flying low, below the branches.

    "It's not easy, hiding like this. With any luck, we'll be in Unova by next year, after we hunt down our next target. No one knows us there. I'll have to be more careful not to end up on television again." He mused this out loud, and a shadow passed over him. The earth shook as the Pokémon landed. Karo opened his orange eyes lazily.

    "Isn't that right, Dragonite?"

    The dragon Pokémon was immense at just over seven feet tall, plated in thick yellow hide. Teal wings that looked too small for flight snapped inward as the Dragonite lifted its head. It may have been a mental defect that made the monsters eyes so empty and cruel. Brightly colored blood stood out against the pale Pokémon's claws and hide.

    There was no blood near the Dragonites jaws. It never killed to eat. Ironically, the killer enjoyed eating berries far more than flesh.

    The demon of Blackthorn city roared, and Karo grinned against the pounding blast of noise. "Be patient, dear! You'll draw attention. Be good, and we may have some fun tomorrow. There will be at least a few trainers travelling into the mountains with me. It wouldn't be so strange if one of them got lost…the wilderness can be so dangerous after all."

    The Dragonite flexed its wings, leaping off the ground once more. More trees fell to its crushing claws as it vented weeks of pent up energy. The crashes had driven the wild Pokémon into hiding. It was a fortunate thing, for them at least.

    "I wonder if Lucario will be strong." Karo mused out loud, half to his Dragonite, half to himself. "It might be worth adding to the team. I only take the best however, and if it doesn't make the cut…well, you can have it, if that happens. We'll have to find someplace isolated. Can't have anyone hearing it die after all."

    He laughed then, as his Dragonite found a Pokémon in hiding, laughed at how easily people were fooled, and how easy it was to play the hero.

    Neither saw the wide eyes watching from the brush, filled with absolute bone wrenching horror, or heard the thundering heartbeat. The watcher froze, barely daring to breathe. It was only hours later, long after Karo had gone, that they were able to stand.

    ~o~

    Fire sang in Indigo's blood. He moved so smoothly it was almost a dance, bobbing and weaving between the sporadic bursts of flames shot his way by a tiny Flareon. His breathing was labored, and his crimson eyes tightly shut. It took every ounce of focus he had to stay one step ahead of his opponent.

    Aura swirled through the battlefield, moving moments before the players on it, allowing Indigo a half second to react to attacks that had not yet began. He threw his upper body backward to avoid a bursting fireball which singed his ears, and twisted into a roll to the side as the Flareon slashed at him with wicked claws.

    The trainers came in groups, sometimes. It had never been a problem to him. Many trainers weren't willing to fight to the last Pokémon this high in the mountains, and on top of that, the ones who came in groups were usually weaker than the solo trainers. This time was different.

    Indigo couldn't remember the last time he had been pushed this far.

    "Flamethrower, Pyre!"

    His opponent was a teenage boy in a dark red jacket, with spiked black hair which unevenly framed his flashing eyes. His friends had called him 'Terry'. He was by far the most skilled trainer Indigo had ever faced in the future.

    Indigo skipped to the side of the deadly burst of flames, barely avoiding the scorching attack. The small Flareon responsible for the inferno tensed, baring her tiny fangs in a hiss. The battlefield was covered in black scorch marks and gouges from this battle and the others Indigo had fought before.

    Four trainers he had fought before Terry, four battles he had won mercilessly. And yet this trainer, with his cool demeanor and harsh fighting style was wearing him down, attack by attack, Pokémon by Pokémon. Indigo was in awe. It was all he could do to keep up.

    If he followed the pattern of the others, Terry would keep one Pokémon in reserve. Which meant this one was the last Indigo had to defeat. One more blow from that fire, and he would lose. He knew it in his bones, and in the testament of the adrenaline sharpening every movement he made. If he lost, he had found the one.

    Could this boy be the one to teach him 'strength'?

    Smoke hung in a haze around the battlefield, and Indigo realized that had been part of the plan all along. The endless barrage of fire attacks had been a trap, tiring him out while laying the perfect trap. He was struggling to breathe. His Aura vision darkened. One way or another, this battle was nearly over. Even as he thought it, Indigo lowered his center of gravity, his right arm stretched forward in a fighting stance.

    "Pyre, Fire blast!" Terry shouted. The Flareon leapt off the ground, scarlet flames spilling from the edges of her mouth as the furnace in her small body boiled over.

    Indigo raised his arms into position just as the Flareon came into range, black shadows gathering in a storm around his palms. He released his Dark Pulse at the same moment the Fire Blast roared from the smoke.

    The two attacks exploded in scarlet and midnight with a booming roar which blocked out all other sounds. The resulting shockwave was powerful enough to clear the smoke from the battlefield, shaking the leaves on the trees.

    When the blast cleared, the Flareon lay limply on the ground, knocked back to her trainer's feet. Indigo panted heavily, his arms hanging tiredly by his side.

    He straightened with a satisfied smirk, opening his eyes and breaking the connection with his Aura vision. So he wasn't the one after all.

    A roar came from the group of trainers after it sank in that Terry had lost. Chaos reigned, until a man with blonde hair and an easy stride stood up from the sidelines.

    "That was incredible," he said simply. "Terry, that Flareon of yours is something amazing. Lucille, your Tyranitar is nothing to sneeze at either, but the double fighting weakness…" he seemed to gather himself, addressing the group of trainers once more. "I am honored I was able to see so many talented trainers try their luck in capturing this Lucario. It is with no regrets that I take the battlefield myself…"

    Murmuring broke out among the five as a dark haired girl walked forward hesitantly, her eyes turned resolutely down to the ground. Indigo hadn't even noticed her. Apparently, her presence had been all but forgotten by everyone.

    Karo blinked. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name? Were you going to battle the Lucario as well?"

    The girl didn't speak. She didn't even look up. Her shoulders were hunched, as though she could barely stand to be in the center of attention at all. After a long, awkward pause, Karo spoke again.

    "I did say anyone could try. Go on then."

    "Does she even have a Pokémon?" one girl hissed quietly, barely audible even with his enhanced hearing, as the girl hesitantly moved to the end of the battlefield. "Who let her come?" Terry said nothing in response to this, although Indigo rather thought he agreed.

    He was indescribably tired. The last battle especially had taken a lot out of him. Indigo was tempted to simply leave. He studied his new opponent, his sharp crimson eyes missing nothing.

    She was an average height, with light skin. She wore beat up jeans and a short sleeved white shirt. Her hair was her most distinguishing feature, as black as night, worn long over her shoulders. She carried a beat up yellow backpack which looked like it had been around for the better part of a decade. She had one Poké Ball, and one only at her belt, with strange markings.

    It didn't seem worth it. He was truly tempted to leave. The girl looked up as she took her position, finally, and Indigo's heart gave a painful lurch as though someone had stabbed him.

    Her eyes shone violet, the exact shade Riza's had been. As an emotion near agony ripped through him, those eyes filled with a quiet determination.

    She took a deep breath, as though readying herself. When she spoke, her voice was cracked and quiet, as though with disuse.

    And yet the effect her words had was incredible.

    "Go, Master Ball!"

    ~o~
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  4. Chapter 4: The Mask of a Monster

    Disclaimer: If I owned Pokemon there's a good chance Quagsires would rule the world.

    ~o~

    Author's Note:

    Yes, the Master Ball is a point which bothers a lot of you. I do actually give an extremely good reason for why she has such a thing, and it worked into the plot of the story rather nicely later on...but honestly, I did write this when I was little and inexperienced, and just found it really funny when I first began writing.

    I did make an effort to keep the basics of the story the same. Couldn't change this one. Roll your eyes, sigh with aggravation, and continue on. Sorry again. ;^^

    ~Little Miss Firebright

    ~o~

    If the cursed warrior had been just a little faster, he might have avoided the Master Ball entirely.

    Indigo instinctively tried to dodge, but he had lost a second of time to sheer surprise. The sphere caught him in the shoulder, and light exploded from inside like a sun. Indigo's widening eyes were engulfed with the light as warmth tore up his form, binding him completely. It felt almost like chains, shackles of energy which paralyzed his muscles and bound his very aura.

    This was hardly the first time someone had tried to catch him. But Indigo had always been able to break free. This was like trying to escape gravity!

    He couldn't be brought down like this!

    "No!" he snarled into the light desperately, dawning realization filling his heart even as his muscles struggled still. He couldn't escape this. It simply wasn't possible. With one, final effort, he released every ounce of aura he had, shouting out in frustration. It exploded into shimmering blue that tried to push back the relentless tide of violet.

    For an instant, he thought he'd won. But it was already far too late. His blue aura was swallowed up by pure light, and Indigo saw no more.

    The Master Ball let out a hollow click, and finally went still in the grass.

    The silence was heavy. The girl who had thrown the Master Ball was breathing fast. She spun on one heel, facing the other trainers, her gaze on Karo as though waiting for something.

    Shouts broke out from the four trainers who had been defeated first, furious words lost in a jumble as everyone spoke at once. Terry Slade alone was quiet, his eyes wide with what might have been surprise. The girl flinched horribly at the onslaught, but did not move or speak. She was shaking. It looked as though she wanted nothing more than to hide.

    The angry tirade faded, as the gathered trainers became aware of another sound, which had started out quietly, gaining volume. And then, everyone was looking at Karo, their voices failing one by one.

    Karo Asuna was laughing, hunched over and clutching his arms, as though it was the funniest thing he had ever seen. He straightened up, wiping away a tear with one hand. "What is your name?" he addressed the girl once more, and his voice was different, no longer polite, and reserved.

    Again, the girl did not answer, and Terry spoke finally. "Her name is Violet," he said quietly. "Violet Hikari." Something haunted flashed in her amethyst eyes as her name was spoken aloud. She alone did not appear surprised by Karo's seeming change in personality.

    "Violet," Karo crooned, tasting the name. "That was clever. I'm in shock. It's almost a shame, really. If Lucario weren't so strong, I might be tempted to let that stand…but I digress. Alakazam!" The girl flinched at his sudden yell, as the Pokémon materialized from its Poké Ball. Karo's orange eyes were wild and cruel, like his grin, completely uninhibited.

    "I had intended to take the Lucario regardless of who captured it," Karo informed them, dropping all pretense. "As a bonus, I was going to take any powerful Pokémon in this group. That's why I organized this little adventure. The best part is, it doesn't matter if I tell you all this. Alakazam, alter their memories of today's events!"

    He had the air of someone who had given the particular order many times before. Not one person had enough time to react, before the Alakazam unleashed a psychic blast which tore through each trainer in a wave. Every one of them collapsed to the ground like a marionette with its strings cut.

    Karo couldn't help but smile. "The girl will have to die, to break her ownership with the Master Ball. But I suppose you're going to try and stop me?"

    Terry Slade stood slowly, breathing hard, as though he were in pain. Four bodies lay behind him, unconscious. Karo seemed almost impressed.

    "Your mind is strong, to withstand a memory wipe from my Alakazam. Do you really intend to fight me? After you lost the majority of your team to Lucario?"

    Terry didn't respond, but his eyes flickered over to Violet.

    She pulled herself to her hands and knees, brushing dirt from her cheek with the back of one hand, her breath coming fast. She stood shakily, holding one arm.

    If anything Karo's smile grew wider.

    "Two of you? That is a surprise. But it hardly matters." He pulled another sphere from his belt as he spoke, nonchalantly, as though he were commenting on the weather. "Kabutops, cut off her head."

    Terry shouted for her to run, as the Pokémon materialized from the Poké Ball, slashing at the dark haired girl with a dull grey scythe. She jerked her head backwards just in time, and the blade sliced cleanly through the tips of her hair. Her eyes widened as the killing blow missed by bare inches. She could feel the wind from its passing.

    She stepped back at once, avoiding the second slash with an instant to spare. Violet slid her yellow backpack off her shoulder as she moved. The Kabutops surprise when she threw the backpack was enough to gain her another moment, even though her supposed weapon missed, landing instead at Terry's feet.

    She then did the only sensible thing for the situation; turned on her heel and ran, sprinting through the clearing. She leaned down to grab the Master Ball in the grass as she passed, escaping to the trees with the Kabutops streaking after her.

    Karo's eyes flashed angrily at her flight. She could run surprisingly fast. "Make sure the job gets done, Arcanine," he snarled, releasing a third Pokémon onto the field. He froze as a clattering sound came from behind him.

    Violet's backpack was shaking, as though something inside were trying to get out. Light burst from the cracks in the bag, and Karo raised an arm to shield his face instinctively as something exploded outwards.

    Five Abra broke out of the light, teleporting to the fallen trainers. One by one, they touched the unconscious people, teleporting away with a 'crack'. Karo's Arcanine leapt for the nearest, snapping it up with powerful jaws. The Abra fainted with a pained cry, before it was able to do anything.

    "That girl!" Karo said with surprised rage, as the children were sent to safety. "She couldn't have planned…but how could she have known? It isn't possible. Is the girl psychic?"

    The Poké Balls containing the Abra were made of new, shining metal. There was not a single scratch or smudge. Obviously they had been recently captured. Additionally, they were also working under clear orders from Violet as well – to bring everyone to safety.

    Only five Abra. But six trainers. Had she intended to fight him alone, after sending the others to safety? Could she have been banking on the strength of the one Pokémon she carried with her?

    Impossible. His strength was well known. Surely she could not have been planning to defeat him with a single Pokémon? That socially crippled little girl who hadn't even been able to say her own name? And yet, doubt had crossed his mind, and Karo began to wonder if Kabutops would be coming back at all.

    "I'm not sure," Terry said quietly, straightening after inspecting the bag he'd been thrown. "Not that I'm complaining."

    Unless one of those Abra had been intended for her…and Violet had planned on leaving one trainer behind. One powerful trainer, who had the potential to, if not defeat him, at least slow him down until reinforcements arrived.

    Terry's Flareon snarled her fury by his side, baring her fangs at the massive Arcanine, her wounds gone. Because the yellow backpack was filled to the brim with healing items by the dozens.

    Terry's eyes burned with anger as he healed his team. "What were you saying just now…about me not being able to fight?"

    Karo's face had just an instant to show his shock before the Flareon attacked, fire billowing from her mouth, stopping the Arcanine from bounding into the forest after Violet. Terry released a Gothitelle without missing a beat, a Pokémon he had not used against the Lucario earlier. She attacked Alakazam without hesitation, her Psychic power tinged orange.

    If Arcanine had not reacted so quickly, and knocked out the fifth Abra before it could teleport to Violet, it would have meant destruction, Karo realized, as he forced his attention away from the woods, and turned to battle. The trainers who had accompanied him were all talented, the best of the rookie class.

    But the elite of Pewter lay in the mighty Rock type gym, and in the unyielding ranks of the Police force. If a group of those trainers came after him, even the strength of his team of psychopathic monsters would fail. He had always known that. It was the sole reason he kept his ambitions a secret. If word got out what he had done with all the monsters he had supposedly turned in for confinement…if people knew he had been keeping them for himself…

    Lance himself would come for him. The thought turned Karo's blood as cold as ice.

    But hope was not yet lost. That girl had clearly not been planning on his Alakazam's memory wipe. The trainers who had been sent away had already been given fake memories. Each one thought Karo had captured the Lucario. They even had memories of returning to Pewter. None of them would suspect a thing. He had relied on memory wipes to steal each and every one of his partners, with the exception of his late mother's Alakazam.

    Help would not be coming. Terry would undoubtedly fall before long. He had already gauged the boys' strength, and found it promising, but not enough to defeat him.

    Which meant the only thing standing in his way was Violet, and her unknown partner. He had already fallen for one of her tricks. He would not be underestimating her for a second time. He no longer knew if his Kabutops alone would be a match for her. All he had to do was find a way to get her to come to him.

    It would probably be overkill. But, it was better to be certain after all.

    He was not worried about Terry healing his Pokémon every time they fainted. Because healing items only worked on the living, and he was not battling for sport.

    ~o~

    Violet had never run for her life before. She found it was completely different than running for a competition, or fun. Her blood felt like it was on fire. Each muscle in her legs seemed to scream with protest, and yet she doubted she could have stopped if she'd wanted to. Adrenaline spurred her forward, and though she knew she wasn't slow, the sounds of pursuit were never far behind.

    Faster. The thought drove her onward, as her lungs burned with each gasp of air. She had to go faster!

    She turned sharply to the right just as the Kabutops matched her speed, avoiding the whistling scythe which smashed into a tree instead, showering her with splinters. Her heart pounded hot in her ears, and Violet found herself wondering if perhaps she had been an absolute idiot to try and outmatch Karo Asuna.

    She could have done nothing. That had been an option. After seeing firsthand Karo's cruelty and sheer strength in the forest, she had been shamefully tempted to do just that. She didn't know why she had chosen to act. Violet Hikari was no hero. She already knew that.

    She had known a hero, two years ago. And because of her, he was dead. What she was doing now was merely a cheap imitation of what she thought he might have done in the same situation.

    Not that her plan was going well, Violet thought grimly, as her feet pounded out a drumbeat on the earth. The Kabutops had needed a few precious moments to free its blade-like forearm from the trunk of the tree. She no longer heard it behind her, and that made Violet more afraid than anything else.

    She had tried going to the police, but a combination of the impossibility of her claim, and the fact that she had barely been able to speak a word worked against her. In the end she was sent away, leaving Violet feeling like an utter failure for not being able to string two sentences together clearly. If she were more confident, if she hadn't felt like she was being crushed under a rock the entire time she told her story, all of this could have been avoided. If anyone died, the blame rested with her.

    The Master Ball in her hand was shaking violently, as though the wounded Lucario were trying to escape. She held it clamped shut, gritting her teeth as she wondered just how much of the situation he was able to sense. But fighting was not an option. The Lucario was wounded and exhausted; she doubted he would be able to take on such a high level Kabutops in its state. As for her other Pokémon, well…

    Violet bit her lip. She wasn't ready to make a stand. Not here. She needed to lose the Kabutops, or everything would be over.

    She hadn't heard her pursuer in quite some time, actually. Violet slowed, her breathing labored. All her senses were on high alert, as she finally came to a stop, giving her muscles a brief reprieve. She had been running towards the river, taking the easier downward slope rather than moving higher into the mountains. She could hear its distant roar somewhere ahead of her.

    The Master Ball's shaking slowed, and stopped altogether. The girl listened, and heard nothing at all out of the ordinary. She never even saw the Kabutops, dropping down from the thick branches overhead, without so much as a sound.

    She did feel it, as the scythe cut deep into her left shoulder, severing both skin and muscle, but stopping at bone. Violet shrieked, and her left arm fell uselessly to her side, somehow no longer responding to the commands she gave it. She jerked away, nearly falling to the ground as the blade was yanked out, and moved automatically away, half stumbling over her own feet in her haste to escape.

    Kabutops stood still, letting her stumble a short distance away before it struck again, cleaving a neat slice in her right calf. The wound was shallow. It was just deep enough to bleed. The prehistoric Pokémon darted in front of her, advancing slowly as the dark haired girl limped backwards. It seemed to be enjoying itself.

    It was playing with her, Violet realized with a sickened jolt. Who knew how long it would be before the Kabutops tired of cutting her up and finished the job?

    She was going to die. Alone in the woods, without putting up a fight at all. She hoped the Lucario would have the sense to wait until the Kabutops left before breaking free. No sense in two of them dying after all.

    As if he had heard her thoughts, the Master Ball shook again, so violently she nearly lost hold of it. Violet held it tightly shut with her one good hand, took a deep breath, and did the only thing she could think of.

    She dove into the wall of thorns growing thickly between the forest and the rock face of the mountains, clinging to the stone like a massive, green-black spider's web. She heard the Kabutops angry protest behind her, and narrowly avoided another slash from those wicked blades. She could not think for the pain, as she wormed her way through the vines spiked with tough thorns, which tore little gouges and scratches into every inch of her they could reach. One of her shoes was left behind to the snatching thorns, and the Kabutops was left behind the wall of angry foliage.

    Violet hit stone before she had gone more than five feet into the tangle growth. She turned, crouched down in the small clear space which had blessedly formed in the back of the vines, holding the Master Ball tightly to her stomach with her right arm. She realized she was crying, hunched over as the Kabutops slashed at the vines, clearing away more and more of them to get to where she hid. The thorns did nothing to the hard exoskeleton of the Kabutops. She could see the glint in its yellow eyes as it realized just how trapped she was.

    "Hey," Violet said, her voice shaking, addressing the shaking sphere held tight by her arm. With no other person around to hear, her words came out unbroken. "Hey, it's going to be okay, alright? I-I promise. So don't be afraid. Everything is going to be just fine. All you have to do is wait a little while after…I'm sorry…we never got to formally meet. I've heard the stories you know. About how you fight. I heard other stories too, about how alone you've been, and how sad you seemed. Can I tell you one of my own stories?"

    She closed her violet eyes, and more tears fell down her dirt smudged cheeks. The Kabutops hacked through a particularly thick vine, after getting its scythe caught in a tangle of springy green. It wouldn't be too long before it broke through. "Once upon a time," she breathed, ignoring the sounds of breaking branches. "There was a girl who wanted to be a hero. She wanted it more than anything else in the world. She wasn't good at a lot of things. And she got bullied a lot as a kid. She heard a lot about how she could never be something strong…and after a while, the girl started to believe it, just a little. She shut herself away, and forgot what it felt like to believe in herself."

    The Master Ball was still. Violet relaxed her arm just a little, and tried hard not to cry. The tears only came harder, and her voice shook. "And then one day, she met a boy who was stronger than anyone, and kinder too. He took the girls hand, and she began to believe she could be strong too, like he was. Little by little, she learned how to be kind, and the pain left her heart. But then, something terrible happened, and she was left alone. She fell into darkness, and locked herself away once more. It seemed like the end of her story. But even though she felt like she was drowning, still the girl dreamed, daring to hope that she could be a hero, someday…"

    Violet clenched her eyes shut, and could not say any more through the raw emotions in her throat, her back pressed against the rock face among the thicket. As her words died, so did the sound of slashing blades. She opened her eyes at last. The Kabutops was perfectly still, its wedge shaped head held high as though listening for something. And then, to Violet's great astonishment, the Kabutops darted away, leaving her alone in the thorns.

    She barely dared to believe her good fortune. Violet stood, shakily, her head and shoulders ducked to avoid more contact with the stinging thorns. And after what felt like an eternity, she moved again, pushing through the thick spiked vines with much greater care than she had before. She was unable to avoid them all entirely. By the time she broke through, she had acquired more little cuts, mostly centered on her arms. She was breathing hard. And even though she could hardly walk, no lithe forms broke out of the bushes, or dropped down from the trees.

    The sun was setting quickly. Violet looked towards the lights of the city, miles away, and turned instead towards the river she could still hear. The captive Lucario was quiet once more. She focused on each step, doing her best to ignore the cutting pains demanding attention all over her body. When she reached the waters' edge, Violet changed direction, walking upstream.

    She didn't have far to go before she came to the waterfall.

    The river widened into a great basin, surrounded on three sides by towering grey stone, pockmarked by time and clinging vines. The water here was unfathomably deep, stained a dark blue by the failing light. The waterfall itself roared in an unbroken sheet of white, making the indigo depths hiss and boil on contact, and filling the entire basin with a fine mist. When the sun rose every morning, the falls were filled with shattering rainbows.

    Violet had to edge along a narrow stone pathway just to enter the basin, threatening to slip into the river with every step. She clipped the Lucario's Master Ball to her belt so she could steady herself against the stone. She had the steps memorized, but still she was grateful the sun had not yet disappeared. She shuddered to think of traversing this particular path in the dark.

    It was almost too perfect, the way nature had designed this particular place. Granite stones broke out of the water at regular intervals around both edges of the basin, creating a path all the way to the pounding wall of water. The center of the pool was unbroken and pristine.

    Violet took a deep breath, and ignoring that she only had one arm to steady herself with, leapt for the first stone. She hit hard, immediately falling to her knees. She took a moment, before she stood again, determination gracing her lithe features.

    She got the hang of the jumps as she went, nearly slipping into the water on two separate occasions. She made it to the last stone just as the twilight set in, making it nearly impossible to see. The final step broke out of the cliff face itself, curving underneath and behind the waterfall's curtain. Violet used her hand as a guide, scraping her fingers along the rough stone as the roar became a solid wall of sound.

    The cave behind the falls was Violet's favorite place in the world. She sank to the ground gratefully, finally allowing herself a moment to rest on the cold stone. The cavern was the size of a house, perfectly hidden behind the curtain of water. Tunnels extended deep into the mountains farther in, housing Paras colonies, and more than one cloud of Zubat made their homes in the domed passageways.

    The main cavern was empty, with the exception of Violet. A small chest of supplies was tucked against one corner, next to the sleeping bag she used on occasion. A fishing pole was propped up against the wall, next to a small bait box and a framed picture of her mother, who she didn't remember. Violet didn't live in the cave. But she much preferred to spend time here than her empty home in Pewter city.

    There was another picture, at the bottom of the chest. Violet never, ever took it out.

    She stood wearily after a long rest that wasn't long enough, making her way to her supplies. She drained an entire bottle of water in one go, and used the next to moisten a clean rag. She winced as she wiped the blood and dirt off her arms and face. She needed medical attention. But she knew how dangerous the mountains could be at night. It was better to wait until morning to set out for Pewter.

    She thought of Terry, and wondered how the battle had turned out. She was too tired to give the topic much thought. Violet made a sling for her left arm with an extra shirt, tightening the knot with her teeth. The bleeding had stopped, after soaking most of the fabric down her side, but the pain remained as a sharp ache. She set the Master Ball on the ground in front of her. It shook immediately, and the flash of light from its release lit up the cavern.

    When the light faded, Violet saw her Lucario for the first time since his capture. He would be with her through thick and thin, and eventually, if she could win his trust, they would be friends and partners. The bond between a trainer and Pokémon was precious, and first impressions were important.

    "You stupid idiot," the Lucario deadpanned, glaring at her as though she had brain damage. "What were you thinking, foolish female? Or do you even have a brain in the first place?"

    "I'm sorry…what?" Violet stuttered, with utter shock evident in her tone. "Um. You can talk? With…real words?"

    "No, that would be ridiculous," her new Lucario said, his voice dripping sarcasm. "Did you get hit on the head? Dropped a few times as a baby perhaps? Of course I can talk."

    "That is not a nice thing to say!" Violet gasped, trying to think of a clever comeback. It was important she prove to her new Pokémon she was competent, and that she would not allow him to walk all over her. True partners had to be equal, as Daniel had always told her. "You should speak manners with…words... dangit," Violet finished under her breath with chagrin.

    The Lucario did not grace that with a response, instead looking at her with heavy, unspoken judgement. She laughed, holding out a hand, and dropping all ideas of asserting herself. "Let's start again, okay? My name is Violet. It's a pleasure to meet you."

    "You nearly died," the Lucario said flatly, ignoring her outstretched hand, and her introduction entirely. "Is brain damage a common affliction in the area? I could have helped. Instead you kept me imprisoned in that…that…" he seemed unable to find words to describe what he felt towards the Master Ball laying on the stone next to him, glaring at it as though it were poisonous. "Thing," he finished, insufficiently. "Kabutops would never have been a match for me."

    "I saved your life!" Violet protested, a little stung at her sacrifice being taken in such a way. "That Kabutops is at least level fifty, and it almost certainly would have killed you in your current state, type disadvantage or not…"

    "You don't even know me," the Lucario growled, not bothering to refute her analysis of the situation. "And if you did…you would have been happy to see me die. I'm not someone worth protecting. If you had any brains at all, you would have saved yourself. In the very least, I could have been a distraction." He seemed to consider for a moment before he spoke again. "That being said, I'm not convinced I would have lost," the Lucario finished, somewhat irritably.

    "You're wrong about everything," Violet said, grinning happily despite herself. She felt relieved; almost giddy. It could have had something to do with her state of exhaustion. The Lucario seemed taken aback by her reaction. As her smile grew, she could see his suspicions about her supposed brain damage growing stronger.

    "I'm glad I saved you," Violet said by way of explanation. "I can see it you know. That you have a good heart. After talking with you, I'm sure of it. It's nice to make your acquaintance, Mr. Lucario."

    He regarded her in silence after her speech, as she rummaged around in the wooden chest for bandage rolls. He seemed to be on the verge of speaking, to remind her he had spent the last few minutes insulting her, or maybe to challenge her naïve attitude. But the words never came, and somehow it seemed they were not meant to. Something deep inside him cracked. A memory, of someone he'd thought long dead, made itself known once more.

    He remembered a naïve fool of a boy, who had once dreamed of heroism.

    She had just started on her left arm when he took the roll from her, wrapping the bandage far more deftly than she could have with her one hand. He did not respond to her surprised thank you, never even looking at her face. It wasn't a meaningful gesture. It was automatic, the urge to fix what was broken. But for a moment, that ghost of a memory felt a little more solid. As though that simple act of helping made his past a little easier to bear.

    He was probably trying to make something of nothing at all.

    "My name is Indigo," the Lucario said finally, after the worst of her injuries had been bound. "Call me Mr. Lucario again and I'll throw you in a river."

    ~o~

    It was easy to lose himself in thought in the darkness. The constant roar of the waterfall helped. After a while it became background noise, almost relaxing. Indigo sat against the stone wall of the hidden cavern with his eyes closed. Anyone who saw him would think he was asleep. In fact, sleep was the farthest thing from Indigo's mind.

    The girl named Violet had long since fallen into fitful slumber not long after he'd finished staunching her wounds, even though he was sure she was in terrible pain. She had offered him the sleeping bag she was now gingerly laid out across. Indigo was still affronted at the thought. As if he could let a girl sleep on the ground…and an injured one no less! That she had even asked was an insult to his very being.

    He didn't understand her motivations at all. Maybe it was because he hadn't spoken to another person in such a long time. But no, even in his own time he couldn't recall meeting anyone quite as painfully selfless as Violet appeared to be. Her attitude towards sacrifice bordered on insanity. She had consistently put him first, despite the fact that they were complete strangers.

    It almost seemed like she was trying to atone for something. The thought was unsettling. What could a girl like Violet have to make up for which would require her to try so very hard?

    Most often, he remembered the words she had given him so easily. As though it were as obvious as daylight. The thought continued to enter his mind, like a whisper, no matter how many times he shut it out.

    You have a good heart.

    He didn't deserve those words. She didn't know him at all, or she would never speak so. If this naïve girl knew what he'd done, no matter how good his reasons were, she would curse him for the monster he was. He half considered waking her, and telling her everything that had happened, if only to see her expression change to one of fear and revulsion. The idea was a bitter one.

    He had turned to darkness trying to save the one he loved, and fallen so far he could no longer see the light. He had only realized how tight a grip his enemy had on his soul when it was far too late to escape. Indigo had become something horrifying, bloodstained, and without mercy. In other words, something weak, and unworthy of the love he'd been given in return.

    Violet was a child, who knew nothing of darkness and evil. She could only say such things because of ignorance, he consoled himself. The notion that she believed in him was utterly ridiculous.

    I can see it you know. That you have a good heart.

    Indigo clenched his fist, opening his scarlet eyes in a sudden fit of irritation. What did she know? Her opinion could not be trusted. It was laughable. Her actions were madness. And anyways, he consoled himself, if she had any sense at all she would have fought the Kabutops using her Pokémon.

    She had a second Pokémon with her, besides himself. He could sense a faint Aura from the minimized sphere in her pocket. Violet could have fought, and instead nearly died. He couldn't think of a reason to do such a thing. Why not at least try and battle? Why not use her healthy partner to fight, even if she had been afraid to send out him?

    Somewhat mollified after his assessment, Indigo relaxed. He couldn't help but wonder what kind of Pokémon Violet had captured before himself.

    After all, her second Pokémon had been captured in the same type of Poké Ball she had used on him. He could sense the strange energy, identical to the sensation he could feel from his own prison. What kind of Pokémon could warrant capture using the proclaimed 'Master Ball', but be unsuitable for battle?

    What kind of trainer could she possibly be? Did she even have what it took to fight?

    And yet, she had outwitted the man named Karo with surprising skill. Her strategy had been sound, judging by what he had seen with his Aura vision from inside the Master Ball. She had filled in the gaps of what had happened earlier. It had nearly worked. Indigo would never have thought such a girl would be capable of that level of strategic theory. He half wondered where she had learned.

    But one interesting trick did not mean she was strong enough to be his equal. If anything, he would be better off with the boy, Terry. He had lost, but it had been painfully close. And if he had chosen to use his final Pokémon instead of holding one in reserve… Indigo knew very well he could have fallen. Terry had powerful Pokémon who had been raised with a high level of skill. They seemed to trust him. Indigo knew they could learn a lot from each other.

    And then there was the third option. Indigo opened his eyes, even though the night was dark, hating himself for even considering it.

    Violet's voice had been shaking when she told him what she'd seen of the man Karo. How he had been capturing child killers and Pokémon who were clearly mad, using them to gain incredible strength. She had related how Dragonite had behaved, ripping, and tearing apart the helpless low level Pokémon in the area.

    But he was strong. Undoubtedly the strongest of the three. And on a team of monsters, Indigo would fit right in. The thought made him sick, but he could not refute the truth. The man who had attempted to murder the girl Violet was by far his best chance at 'strength'.

    He didn't know if he could do it. Once already he had made the choice to walk down that path, and it had nearly destroyed a kingdom. He didn't want to do it. Even if he could convince Violet to let him go, even if he could convince Karo not to kill her in exchange for his own servitude, he did not want to. He knew full well how difficult it was to come back from such a choice.

    Karo Asuna was nothing, nothing at all, compared to Tero of the Burning Shadows. He might be able to handle it. Perhaps he could simply use the monster to gain 'strength', and not be touched by the evil. After all, hadn't he seen what true evil looked like? Could he be strong enough to immerse himself in darkness, and come out of it the same person he had been before? Perhaps that was what he needed to prove he could do, in order to break his curse.

    Indigo stood carefully, making little noise so as not to wake the girl. It almost seemed redundant considering the proximity of the waterfall. He paced in the darkness of the cave, in front of the silvery sheen of the cascading wall of water, glowing faintly with the light of the moon outside. He stood at the edge, where the rock fell away to frosted foam, and looked where his own reflection should have been on the surface.

    He could see nothing. The moon made the wall of water into a faint light source, and Indigo stood in darkness. His reflection could not be seen, even though he knew he was there. He existed in shadow, unseen and unimportant. As he had always been. It didn't mean anything really; not being able to see his own reflection. But despair gripped his heart all the same, as though this were a sign.

    It was like he didn't even exist. He was fighting so hard, and there was not a single person on the earth who could relate to his quest. He was out of place, and so very alone. He had never known what it felt like, to be really, truly alone. Suddenly furious, Indigo struck the wall of water with an iron fist laced with Aura, blowing a gash in the falls that exposed the basin beyond for one brief moment.

    And then the waterfall closed over the gap, roaring peacefully as though nothing had happened.

    Indigo let his arm drop, ignoring that it shook. He had to face the facts. Getting home was his biggest priority. Karo Asuna might well be his only chance. He was a monster, but he was also undeniably strong. And wasn't that all that mattered?

    He stood still, enduring the self-hatred he felt in perfect silence, as though he were made of marble. He was fighting utterly alone. Kind words from a stranger did not change that. His mission remained unchanged.

    The moment his resolution took shape, his conscience rebelled, violently and without hope of winning. He knew what choice he had to make. But still part of him fought, because it had to fight, before such a choice was set in stone. He'd felt such confliction before. But every time he chose what he knew was wrong, it became a little bit easier to suppress his conscience. One day, he wouldn't feel anything.

    The pain faded, and his muscles relaxed slowly, letting go bit by bit. The echoes of his rebellion died like the last rays of the setting sun, and he knew without doubt that his choice was both wrong and necessary. To fight a monster, one had to become a monster. And in the end, wasn't he one already? Darkness was on his side. He could only look at the light from afar, squinting to see, even as it burned him.

    He was Indigo Nightwalker, and he had no reflection.

    When he opened his scarlet eyes, he found himself looking into the silvery curtain of water, and wearily he let go of a small hope he could barely define in the first place. Violet's words had stopped echoing in his mind. He barely remembered her presence, in the darkness both literal and metaphorical. And strangely, he couldn't quite remember Riza's face, except as vague impressions of bravery.

    He would join Karo Asuna, leaving Violet behind. And he would become strong.

    A whispered word made him turn with surprise, his ears pricking at the one little sound. He had forgotten he was not alone. A moment of stillness was all it took to realize the girl remained asleep, and had not witnessed the moment of his decision. She had spoken in her sleep, one quiet little whisper, an unconscious breath. He hadn't quite made it out. As he waited, she spoke again.

    "Sorry," Violet whispered, so faintly he had to strain to catch it over the roar of the falls, even with his enhanced hearing. "I'm so sorry…killed…"

    He waited in perfect stillness, listening intently, but the dark haired slip of a girl did not speak again, falling back into fitful silence. What on earth could she have been dreaming about?

    He dismissed her words as nothing more than a nightmare, and cast one last look at the waterfall before turning back to the cave. And froze.

    It had been his imagination. It had to have been.

    Indigo turned back to the wall of water so carefully it would have been comical, were it not for the expression on his suddenly still face. He was tense, as though expecting an attack, his muscles bracing for an impact which never came. His scarlet eyes were worried, almost afraid.

    He only knew because he could see them. Ever so faintly, Indigo saw a Lucario reflected back at him, broken by the texture of the water, but undeniably there. He was afraid if he moved, it would disappear, and so he stood like a statue, hardly daring to believe what his vision was telling him.

    Gradually, the silvery curtain of water went dark, and he saw himself as clearly as he would in a looking glass, down to the stunned expression on his features. The boiling water at his feet appeared as black as ink, hissing as though afraid of the change. He couldn't have defined the upheaval of emotion in his chest if he'd wanted to.

    It took a long time for him to realize there was light behind him, which was turning the water into a mirror.

    Indigo turned slowly, half unwilling to look away from that one small, insignificant sign he was still a part of the story, and faced the light. The sight was more than he had bargained for. The cavern hidden behind the raging falls glowed with the hues of the ocean, ranging from pale green to the deepest darkest shades of blue, the colors shifting like candlelight and auroras across the grey stone. The light was as stunning as it was impossible. Indigo stared as though witnessing creation, incapable of looking away or even breathing.

    His mind put together what he saw even as he was stunned. The light shone from the moss which carpeted the throat of the cave, leading deeper down. He hadn't even noticed it before. It was impossible not to see it now. The moss glowed in shifting greens, and treacherous blue, littered with tiny points which glittered like silver stars, hanging off the edges of the climbing plant like dew.

    Pokémon moved from the depths of the cave, moving near silently across the padded moss, which transformed the bare rock into a surface that looked like fluffy clouds. Rust red claws snipped carefully at the luminescence, trimming the long ends with precision. Tiny mushrooms adorned the backs of the Paras. They didn't seem to notice him at all, as they tended the glowing garden, climbing the shining moss up the walls and even onto the carpeted ceiling without fear. As he watched, two Paras squabbled over how long a particular growth of moss should be cut, gesturing wildly. All the while the vivid shifting lights played over the still Lucario, painting him in the hues of the earth and sea.

    "Pretty, isn't it?" Violet said in a hushed voice, her eyes glowing in a different way as she watched. He jumped at the sound of her voice, breaking out of his reverie. He had not noticed her wake, although it was hardly surprising considering the light. The expression on her face was of wonder, as though seeing the world for the first time. "Almost like magic."

    Indigo looked away from her expression, regarding the beautiful manifestation of nature before him. "What is it?" he asked finally, his voice low, as though afraid the noise would scare away the light. He wondered how far down the cavern the glowing moss grew. Maybe it lined the interior of the entire network below them, lighting it up with living fire.

    "I don't know the name. I've tried to come up with a good one, but nothing seems to fit. The moss is tended by the Paras and the Parasect every night. And every night, the cavern glows. It's safe to stay out here, on the stone, but they'll attack if you try and enter the depths when the moss is alight like that. I think the glowing leads somewhere, deep in the labyrinth, but it's impossible to follow the path in the daytime. The entire cave is filled with moss, and the normal stuff looks just like the glowing version when the sun is up. I can't help but wonder where it leads…or what could be at the end. Maybe I'll never know."

    "It almost sounds like you don't want to find out," Indigo observed quietly. "It only lights up at night? Even though the cave must be dark inside?"

    "That's right," Violet confirmed, laughing quietly at the absurdity of it. "The dark isn't what causes the glowing, or else all of it would shine further down. It's only turns on at night, defying little things like logic." She fell silent, watching the beautiful show with an air of serenity which defied the horrors she'd faced bare hours ago. And for once, his inner struggles went quiet as well, and Indigo simply sank to the ground to watch the unexpected and ethereal lights.

    It had only been because the light behind him shone stronger than the moonlight outside the falls. Seeing his reflection had not been a sign. It was easily explained by science. And yet, he found he didn't care. He simply sat and watched, as the Paras tended the bioluminescent moss, witnessing the beauty before him without qualm. He continued to watch long after Violet fell back into slumber, his thoughts, for once, still, and ignoring the reflections behind him.

    ~o~

    Smoke rose lazily from the pockmarked earth, tainting the air with the scent of chemical rust. Acidic poison hissed and bubbled from the clumps of grass, turning them slowly brown and liquefying the dripping edges of the plant matter. If the battlefield had been damaged before, now it resembled the site of a biohazard waste zone.

    Bones gleamed white from where they stuck out of an oozing mass of black. Scraping noises periodically filled the air, as Karo's Dragonite tore a shallow grave into the mountain clearing. The sound was grating, like steel grinding against stone. The man responsible for the carnage seemed almost bored.

    "You could dig a little faster," he complained half-heartedly. He threw a Poké Ball into the air, so badly damaged the top had a gaping hole, surrounded by fractures. It no longer contained a Pokémon anyways. Karo caught the broken sphere with his left hand, throwing it up again, but higher this time. "Or, here's a thought, eat them? It's ridiculous for you to be such a devout vegetarian. It would save a lot of time, and would undoubtedly cost less."

    The scraping sounds continued uninterrupted. Karo sighed, giving up. He pocketed the Poké Ball and stood, stretching his arms out, stepping carefully over one of the more dangerous looking piles of toxic gunk.

    Alakazam sat cross-legged in midair over the battlefield, eyes screwed shut tightly with concentration. The twin metal spoons quivered in front of its pointed, antique gold face, humming slightly as power was channeled through them. The space around the Alakazam rippled with distortion, shining ever so faintly. It was the only light source in the clearing, fighting off the dark.

    It was sending a telepathic 'message', spread out for three miles in every direction. A subtle impression, just strong enough to be subconscious. Wait out the night. It would be difficult to find the girl in the dark anyhow. While Violet's mind was strong enough to handle a direct assault, a quiet whisper would be able to change her without her even realizing it. He wouldn't have to go out looking for her. And she would remain close by until his preparations were complete.

    Layered on the outside edges of the telepathic bubble was a second message, simpler than the first. Stay away. No human being would enter the radius while the message was being broadcast, unless they were already inside. It was a neat little trick. It was a simple counter measure, to ensure privacy until the situation was resolved.

    Until Violet Hikari was dead. And she would die, no mistake.

    He had used Alakazam to call back his Kabutops mid battle with the boy, Terry. His opponent had been talented. Karo had needed reinforcements. Since Violet's strength was a complete unknown, he had also been unwilling to risk losing a partner to her, especially when he was not present to give the ancient killer orders in battle.

    It had been a good call, summoning Kabutops. After all, it had been able to attack Terry himself from behind during the battle. The boys Pokémon had fought bravely, but without their trainer, they had fallen quickly as well. It had been the turning point in what was proving to be a bitter match.

    The orange eyed man smiled, as he came to a stop in front of the prone body in the grass. Terry Slade had seen better days. He lay on his stomach, exposing the long, shallow slash which extended from his right hip to his left shoulder blade, tearing his shirt nearly in two. A dark purple bruise marred the left side of his face, centered on his temple and cheekbone.

    His chest rose and fell sporadically, his breath whispering in and out of his lungs. Kabutops had not struck deep enough to kill, only to wound. It had taken a blow to the head to render the boy unconscious.

    Arcanine had been sent alone to guard the pass leading into Pewter City. If by some chance Violet did make it out of the range of Alakazam's telepathic field, it was his insurance she would not be able to tell his story. Arcanine was a talented hunter. She would not have time to shout, let alone release a Pokémon, if it caught her unawares.

    So much trouble for one little girl. He half hoped she would at least put up a fight. Otherwise, it would all seem so pointless. Maybe he would take her other Pokémon in addition to the Lucario, if only to get something out of it.

    Karo Asuna looked up at the brilliant tapestry of the sky, admiring the gleaming dusting of silver which adorned the rich blanket of black above. A faint breeze tousled his waved blonde hair, and he wondered what it would sound like when that introverted freak of a girl screamed.

    ~o~
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  5. Chapter 5: A Hero's Dream

    Disclaimer: Why am I still doing these you ask, when it is clear I own nothing? I have it under control. I can quit whenever I want to!

    ~o~

    Indigo dreamed of home that night. Not the version of home alight with hatred and death, but the warm, peaceful place it had been before everything. He remembered summer days, and the smell of sunflower fields, the taste of buttered corn, and the way the sky lit up scarlet on the eve of night. Then there was a smile, filled with warm acceptance and love. Riza had always been like that. Her strength had been the kind that lifted up everyone around her, and made them feel strong too.

    It was the first time he'd dreamt of something happy since being cursed. The sensation lingered as he hovered on the edge of sleep. Reality came back to him slowly, crushing and cold, and Indigo discovered the nightmares had been a blessing compared to this.

    Somehow in the year of nightmares, he'd encased his heart in a shell, protecting himself from the feeling of being happy. He'd felt the pain was something expected, deserved even, but remembering being happy was too much for him to bear. Something had cracked in the events of the day before. He had felt like 'Indigo' again. And his traitorous heart was clinging to the sensation.

    It hurt so very badly. His soul cried out for the pain of it. The ghost of Riza's smile haunted his thoughts. He had been so careful not to think of it. So much for that.

    Oh, but he would have done anything for her.

    He sat up gingerly, the chilled air of the morning clearing his mind. The cold helped ground him back in the present. The light was grey, filtered through the sheet of water. It was early morning. He had barely slept, and yet somehow he felt restless, the urge to move overtaking him. Indigo stood, forcing his stiff limbs into motion.

    Violet was asleep still. Dark smudges adorned the pale skin under her closed eyes; her black hair was tangled with the waxy leaves of the thorn bush she had so recklessly used as protection. The white bandage binding her arms was splotched with a muddy red brown. He tried hard not to feel guilty.

    It wasn't as though he knew the girl well anyways. She would be fine. He would go with Karo Asuna only on the condition that Violet lived. She would be better off without him around anyways. Indigo knew he should leave now, while the girl still slept. He stood, tense, as he debated internally.

    He should at least make certain she made it to a hospital safely.

    But she could always return him to that infernal Master Ball if she figured out what he was planning. It was better not to give her the chance.

    After an endless moment caught between the two sides, Indigo sighed irritably. He bent down before he could think too much about it, and pulled the blanket Violet had thrown off at some point in the night back up to her chin, hiding the bandages from view. He didn't feel much better.

    He wondered for the hundredth time if he was making the right choice. Indigo turned to the path leading around the falls, away from the injured girl and his abandoned Master Ball, and told himself he was only leaving to get some air. He nearly believed it.

    Indigo jumped neatly onto the first of the flat grey stones lining the walls of the basin in a perfect semi-circle. The waterfall hid the cave so perfectly he would not have known it existed had he not been inside. The center of the pool was a deep sapphire blue, disturbed only by the current of the falls. He wondered how deep the water was. It seemed possible, somehow, looking at that dark blue, that it went down forever, hiding impossible creatures and ancient ruins.

    He shook his head fiercely, ridding it of such strange thoughts.

    He leapt easily from stone to stone, each one jutting high enough out of the water to be dry. By the time he'd completed the half circle to the exit, his limbs had loosened, warmed by the exercise. The river cut through the stone walls surrounding the basin, and Indigo found he could only avoid a dunking by edging around the thin lip of the cliff. The path was narrow. The rock faces on either side of the river abruptly angled down the moment he left the basin, meeting the ground some twenty feet forward.

    The mountains were beautiful in the early morning. He had been utterly incapable of appreciating it when he'd been human. The cold of early morning had clouded his impressions before, making him view the outdoors with abject irritation. As a Lucario, he simply didn't feel the cold the same way. The iron spikes in his fists and chest were the only exception, seeming to absorb the chill.

    Indigo closed his eyes, and the forest melted into silvery blues, blurred at the edges and breathtakingly beautiful. The four appendages under his ears rose as the Aura swirled around him. He wasn't looking for anything in particular. He cast his vision out, watching the world careen forward as though he were at a full sprint, despite staying perfectly still. Eventually, his extended vision stopped moving abruptly, as he reached the limits of how far he could see forward. Fierce longing filled him, touched with exasperation at having found his limits yet again. It was reluctantly that Indigo opened his scarlet eyes.

    To find himself staring into the blank, dead gaze of the Kabutops.

    Stretching his vision forward had made him blind to what was directly in front of him.

    Indigo struck without thinking, the pale blue Aura fire bursting into existence around his palm, his center of gravity lowering automatically into a fighting stance. The Kabutops tilted to the side to avoid the blow, slicing upwards with the chipped sickle adorning its arm, hissing in a primordial language with surprise. Indigo's second strike shot towards the Kabutops bronze, wedge shaped head, only to be blocked by the twin blade arms, hastily crossed in front of its empty eyes. Aura spilled from the edges of Indigo's palms as he strained to break through, pushing the scythes inches closer to the monsters head.

    "We did not come to fight," the Kabutops hissed in a slithering rasp, the words heavily accented, as though speaking in its second tongue. It paused, as though reconsidering its words. "We did not come to fight you," it amended.

    Indigo broke off his attack, standing back warily as the Kabutops straightened from the clash. "Explain," he growled darkly, fury emanating off him in waves as Violet's scream echoed fresh in his memory. He could still hear the cracking thorns, and the broken story of a terrified girl, filtered through the mechanical hum of the Master Ball. The Kabutops seemed unaffected by his anger, staring at him with an oily blankness.

    "You've come for Violet," Indigo said quietly, in the wake of the killer's silence. "To finish what you began. You have come to kill her."

    He didn't get the chance to hear the response of the Kabutops. Indigo doubled over, clutching his head as though in agony, as a high pitched keening made his vision shake, echoing from somewhere inside his head. It hurt, in the same way headaches and exhaustion hurt. The static faded, and he saw a different kind of vision than he was used to.

    He saw Karo Asuna, standing demurely in the sunny clearing, as if he had been transported there in an instant. The image blurred and refocused; it was a psychic message, broadcast over a large area.

    "Hello, Violet," Karo began, his voice crackling as though filtered through a Poké Ball. "We need to speak. But first, why don't you listen for a while? Let me tell you what's going to happen in the next hour. I'm sure you'll find it interesting…"

    Indigo struggled to break free of the psychic transmission, straining with all his might and mind to regain his sight. It was never a good thing, being trapped in a telepathic field. His sight blurred between the water slicked rocks of the river bank and Karo's faintly smiling expression.

    He could not break free completely. It wasn't much, but it was just enough to see the Kabutops was no longer in front of him.

    Violet was in danger. She was either sleeping, or trapped in the psychic message, unable to even see the enemy coming for her. Horror filled his heart at the thought of that girl being murdered in cold blood, and the feeling was so powerful it took his breath away.

    Right then, he knew Karo Asuna would never allow her to live. His optimistic ideas of a bargain were nothing more than a fantasy. The revelation was not as surprising as it ought to have been.

    He did not know this girl. And yet, he did not want her to die. He had seen too much death. And for an instant, Indigo longed fiercely for a future where he did not have to be a monster. Was it worth returning to his time if he had to walk down that road again? At once, he was unsure of the answer.

    "Your escape to Pewter City has been cut off. Your friend has been defeated. If you do not obey my instructions to the letter, he will die. It would be a shame for such a talented trainer to be killed, don't you agree? If you can be brave, you can save his life. All you have to do is listen to me…"

    Indigo had heard promises like that before. For an instant, Karo's face changed in Indigo's mind, his orange eyes flickering into coldest black, quietly amused. They were honey sweet lies, delivered in such a way Violet would feel she had no choice, like she had to do whatever he said, or else people would die! He knew exactly what that felt like, how trapped it could make someone feel!

    Indigo stopped fighting the psychic transmission. He stilled his mind and body, inhaling a deep, calming breath. And for the first time, he set his own problems aside completely. This wasn't about him right now.

    Because curse or not, he couldn't watch someone else be forced to play a madman's sick game. Not if he could do anything to stop it!

    Aura exploded from his fur in a shimmering burst, his toes lifting off the ground for an instant, his eyes glowing icy blue. The Psychic power binding his sight dissipated into thin air with a hiss. Karo's lazily arrogant expression faded, leaving Indigo breathing hard with the effort he'd expended, but mercifully freed.

    He spun on one heel and activated his extra sight in the same instant, sprinting with Aura enhanced strength towards Violet's cavern, and the Kabutops swimming under the falls. His feet flew, barely touching the rock before throwing him forward another step, back to the stone basin, and the encircling steps. These he took two at a time, using every ounce of speed he had.

    He could still feel Karo's message being played. It hummed against his ears, a constant presence. Alakazam must have been relaying it to the entire area at once. Now that he had broken free of it once, it was much easier to block out. Every human and Pokémon within Alakazam's range was probably seeing the same thing, trapped until the message ended.

    Everything, except for Kabutops. Perhaps it had been trained just for such an occasion.

    The Kabutops slipped under the falls, swimming with its sickles pressed tightly to its sides almost like a fish. Its wedge shaped head broke the surface on the other side silently, as it slipped out of the water in a fluid motion. Water dripped in rivulets down its sleek carapace, pooling in dark puddles on the already damp stone. It focused in on Violet in an instant, kneeling stock still against the wall, her eyes frozen wide open.

    Before it had a chance to strike at the unarmed girl, the boy turned Lucario struck it like a meteor from the side, with a double handed Force Palm delivered out of a full sprint. Light flooded the cavern as the energy from the blow exploded outwards. The force was enough that the shell armor plating the primordial Pokémon cracked across the chest, and Indigo's bones creaked under the immense pressure. His shout of fury echoed around the cavern, and the Kabutops was sent flying into the opposite wall, which it hit with a dull thwack, dislodging a rain of rock dust from the ceiling.

    Indigo straightened, his arms and eyes glowing with aura light in the dim cave, fury adding steel to his gaze. "I think not," he snarled, straightening his stance sharply. A quick look at Violet confirmed his fears. She remained motionless, her beautiful eyes unseeing, completely unaware of the world around her.

    Movement caught his attention. The Kabutops dragged itself off the ground in broken movements, never looking away from Indigo as it regained its feet. "Foolish decision," it hissed savagely, and Indigo barely had time to register his shock that the Kabutops could still fight before it struck, with speed which belied reason, slashing downwards with one scythe which glowed dull orange. Indigo caught the blade between his palms, the light reflecting in his surprised eyes at the sheer strength of the attack.

    The blade inched closer to his head relentlessly until it was bare inches away. It was all Indigo could do to hold the Brick Break attack at bay. The ground cracked under his feet, and for the first time Indigo realized just how strong Karo's Pokémon truly was. He dove to the side, narrowly avoiding losing an ear, and the blow carved a deep furrow into the stone, as though it were made of butter. Indigo rolled, regaining his footing just as the Kabutops darted towards him.

    This time Indigo's reflexes were faster, as his muscles warmed, and his instincts kicked in. He countered the Brick Break with a Force Palm, the two Fighting type moves cancelling each other out. He swept out one leg, dropping low in a fluid motion, kicking out the Kabutops footing. He kept his momentum, spinning completely back around and rising to a stand all at once. Darkness shrieked around his palms, and Indigo fired a Dark Pulse without missing a beat. The Kabutops rolled swiftly, just avoiding the blow, balancing on its hind legs and the tips of its scythes.

    The next moment couldn't have been longer than a heartbeat or two, but to Indigo it felt stretched out, every second an eternity. The Kabutops shifted its glance almost imperceptibly towards Violet, hesitating ever so slightly. The waterfall roared in the background, as several things happened at once. The Kabutops lifted its flashing scythe arms just as Indigo moved forward, his feet scraping against bare stone. And then the Kabutops slammed its scythes against the stone, force rippling out in an invisible wave Indigo could feel in the air as it passed through him.

    Triggering a massive Earthquake on the battlefield inside the mouth of a cave.

    Indigo felt like he was moving through tar, trying to force his muscles to work as quickly as his adrenaline filled mind. He spun on the tip of his foot just as the stone shattered into canyons radiating from the Kabutops scythes, and pushed off into the air a split second before the ground under his feet convulsed. Boulders crashed down from the roof of the cave almost in slow motion.

    Violet did not see or respond to the danger, kneeling perfectly still with her back held rigidly straight. He landed in front of her just as the deadly rain of rock would have hit, slamming his fists together hurriedly. Force exploded outwards into a perfect bubble around them both, and the shield was barraged by broken rock and boulders, each impact rippling the surface of his Protect. Indigo strained with all his might to hold up the shield against the avalanche until it finally died down.

    He lowered his arms, breathing heavily from the strain as the bubble vanished, leaving both of them unharmed.

    Only to choke as the unsharpened back edge of a scythe slammed against his throat, pinning him to the stone wall behind him. His eyes flew wide with surprise as he fought in vain to draw in a breath.

    The Kabutops regarded him without mercy or remorse. "We would have left you alive," it hissed in an accented rasp. "You could have been one of us! One of the strong!" It raised its second scythe, and it shone dark orange briefly before the dull end slammed into Indigo's stomach like a hammer. Pain exploded from the site of the attack, and air was a long forgotten dream. Stars and sparks shot across his vision. Indigo would have cried out, if he could have. "Instead you will die as you are now," the Kabutops gloated. "Weak! Pitiable!" It accented the stabbing words with two more Brick Break attacks delivered in the same spot, and Indigo could not think through the agony.

    The Kabutops leaned in closer, as Indigo fought the darkness closing in on his sight. "When we are finished with you, we will kill the girl," it promised in a whispering slither. "It will be slow. We will not be called back a second time. This cave will echo with her screams, as punishment for defying our Master. She would not be the first to meet such a fate."

    Indigo struggled to speak, but the pressure of the Kabutops arm against his windpipe was too strong. It laughed at his struggles, a strange clacking laugh. "Speak!" it commanded, lessening its hold ever so slightly. "Your last words, warrior!"

    His throat was on fire as blood surged through it, finally reaching his brain uninterrupted again. He spoke in a rough growl, as though recovering from a bad cold, every word inordinately painful.

    "Your breath smells like fish," he managed harshly. The Kabutops had only a second to register its surprise at his word choice, before Indigo's shaking hand slammed against its already cracked chest plate with a desperate, full strength Force Palm. Aura surged through him, strengthening the blow. And the Kabutops was sent careening for the second time, hurtling back through the wall of water as though hit by a comet, splashing down straight in the middle of the basin.

    He activated his Aura vision in a second, not taking any chances of being caught off guard again. He saw the Kabutops sink in the waters back first, dark liquid seeping from the cracks in its armor. A long, tense moment passed. And then the light flickered back into the Kabutops eyes, and horror flooded through him as it turned in the water, swimming rather than sinking. Just what was this thing?

    He hastily sank back into a battle stance, his mind working in overdrive as he struggled to come up with a strategy that would allow him to finally defeat this monster, as the Kabutops neared the surface.

    If Indigo had been looking, he might have seen the dark shape spiraling up from the depths of the basin.

    He didn't even notice the seven hundred pound Gyarados until it snapped the Kabutops up with massive, battle scarred jaws, breaking the surface of the basin with its extra momentum until most of its nearly thirty foot long body broke into the air. Indigo watched, hardly believing the evidence of his own eyes. Thick scar tissue marred the deep blue scales of the monstrous serpent in regular slashes, a testament to countless battles fought and survived. Moss clung to the ridges on its spine. It hung suspended for only a moment, before crashing back into the basin, diving far below the surface, taking the Kabutops with it.

    He saw then how far down the basin really went. It was a deep well, opening up into a massive underground reservoir far below the surface. Vents in the submerged cliff walls appeared to connect to the same cave system he was at the mouth of. The entire basin swum with Magikarp who fled to small niches in the walls as the Gyarados plunged past them in a sinewy rush, only hesitantly venturing back into open water once the danger had passed.

    Indigo wondered what could have stirred a Gyarados of such size from the depths of the subterranean lake. He remembered the Earthquake attack from earlier in flashes, and understood.

    It took a moment to register what had just happened. Indigo opened his stunned scarlet eyes, ridding himself of the vision of what lay beneath the surface of the waterfall basin. He fell to his knees, his muscles finally giving out. He deflected two more falling stones with a Force Palm, loosened by the battle and only now breaking free, before they could strike him and Violet, before lowering his arm, shuddering as he was wracked by a painful bout of coughing.

    "Indigo?" Violet whispered, as though breaking out of a trance. "What happened here?"

    "Now she wakes up," Indigo complained. "Be quiet for a moment." She complied, her face going ashen as she took in the state of the cave. Indigo focused on breathing. The pain in his abdomen faded slowly. And Indigo remembered what had to be done.

    He stood painfully, trying not to let the damage show. "We're leaving," he said harshly, his tone leaving no room for argument. "I'm taking you to Pewter city, and we will let the authorities handle things from here. This situation is too dangerous."

    "We can't!" Violet protested, her eyes wide. "Karo, he…if I don't go to him, he'll-!"

    "Let me venture a guess," Indigo said dryly. "Karo is offering you a chance to save the boy, Terry. If you go and give yourself up to him willingly, without getting outside help, he will spare Terry's life, who will most likely be forced to undergo a more powerful memory wipe to prevent Karo's secret from getting out. He has promised in exchange for your life, no one else will have to die. Am I missing anything?"

    Violet was silent. He felt numb, completely unsurprised he had guessed correctly. It was what Tero would have asked as well.

    "Men like that do not honor their promises," Indigo continued with quiet weariness. "He'll kill Terry anyways. This way, you at least might survive. Listen to reason, Violet. Kabutops was here, trying to attack you again. No doubt there are more of his Pokémon prowling the woods nearby. Karo will go back on his word, and kill both you and the boy."

    "He's going to die," Violet whispered, ever so quietly, her voice childlike. "It would be my fault."

    "No," Indigo refuted her instantly. "No matter what that man said, it would not be your fault. Karo Asuna will deal the killing blow, and so Karo Asuna will be at fault. Never let a man who deals with terror and death make you feel guilt over his actions. Allowing him to control your emotions means he wins. I have seen it before."

    Violet could hear the truth in his words. He saw her struggle against it anyways. She seemed to find her resolve in an instant, standing up to face him directly.

    His Master Ball held in her outstretched hand. Shock coursed through him as he met her despairing amethyst eyes, so similar to Riza's.

    "You don't understand," she said unsteadily, and he could not help but notice how difficult it seemed to be for her to stand. "It isn't just Terry. If I don't go, he'll send his entire team to destroy Pewter city. I have thirty minutes to make it back to the clearing. If I don't, innocent people will pay the price. I can't let that happen!"

    "And you think you can stop him?" Indigo demanded, trying to ignore the sudden fear he felt, faced with his prison again. If she returned him to the Master Ball, he would be unable to help, unable to reason with her. It was likely he would be forced to watch his new trainer die from within its confining walls. Like he had nearly done last night. "He will kill you, you idiot girl! Is your life worth so little to you?"

    "I have to try!" she shouted, her normally quiet voice reverberating through the cave. "Don't you get it? Even if I did try and get back to Pewter city, even if I did run away, it would take me at least an hour! Terry would die, and Karo's team would be teleported into the city long before I made it to warn anyone!"

    "There are plenty of powerful trainers within the city!" Indigo shouted back hoarsely, finally losing his temper. "They will stop him!"

    "And how many would die before they did?" Violet demanded. "Dragonite alone could kill twenty before anyone managed to bring it down. And Karo has others like it. The cost is too high. But if I go, only one person will die, only one…"

    Indigo was already shaking his head, but the truth of what she was saying was sinking in.

    If Violet tried to escape, Karo faced exposure for what he was. And if he was going to be exposed anyways, why not attack first, destroy as many as possible? It made a twisted sort of sense. But if Violet gave herself up, and if Terry's mind was rewritten, he would be free to continue exactly as he had been, with none the wiser.

    The deaths would not be Violet's fault. But she would give her life to stop them anyways. This idiotic, possibly brain damaged, and incredibly brave girl would do whatever she could to save everyone. He was stunned into silence for a moment. Because he never would have guessed she could be so strong in the face of such an impossible choice.

    He watched her without speaking, as her outstretched hand shook, and she nearly lost her balance. She was breathing hard; not from exertion, but from the pain of her wounds. And something in Indigo's heart broke, because this was the girl he had considered abandoning bare hours ago. He set his paw over the Master Ball, covering her hand.

    "Then let me go instead," he said simply. "I will fight Karo, and stop him. Nobody will die this day."

    She seemed to be on the verge of speaking, to argue or break down, but the words caught in her throat, and despair warred with the desire to hope in her shadowed eyes. Indigo waited, every muscle in his body tense, as she wavered.

    "Wait here for twenty minutes. If I can't beat him, only then should you give yourself up," Indigo continued, as she hesitated, taking advantage of the lull. "There is no harm in allowing me to try." Her hand held tight to the Master Ball under his paw, shaking with indecision, constantly on the verge of pressing the button and trapping him inside.

    "Trust me, Violet," Indigo begged roughly. "We are partners now. You have done more than enough, and fought harder than anyone could have expected you to. Leave the rest to me. I will not let you down."

    Violet dropped the Master Ball with a jerky movement, and sank back to the ground with a moan. She sobbed with fear, pain, or exhaustion, or some combination of the three, sobbed like a child, and Indigo released a shuddering breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. He felt the urge to kick the Master Ball away, but resisted it. She would not attempt to stop him now.

    "Can your other Pokémon fight?" Indigo asked simply, because he had to know. Violet shook her head mutely, and the little bit of hope he'd had of not having to fight alone died. He did not question her assessment. "Then I will go alone. Do not worry about me. Everything is going to be fine."

    She continued to sob, and Indigo rested his paw on top of her mussed black hair. And confronted by this wounded, crying girl, the cursed warrior realized he'd found something very strong indeed.

    "Wait for me here. I will return when it is finished."

    ~o~
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  6. Chapter 6: Fight or Die

    Disclaimer: An epidemic is currently spreading around Fanfiction dot net called the 'Mary Sue Plague'. Save yourself and your loved ones from inadvertently spreading this disease, by writing flawed characters who aren't universally liked by everyone. Thank you.

    ~o~

    Authors Note: As some of you may have noticed, I've been letting Pokemon use latent abilities without it being one of their four moves. (Yes I'm following the four move rule. I like the limitations it places on my characters, and how options during fights aren't virtually immeasurable due to massive move pools. Without it, things are just messy...) So you'll see Flying Pokemon able to fly without the HM, or Water Pokemon swim without Surf, and so on. A few other examples include Psychic Pokemon being able to use telepathy, and create psychic barriers without actually knowing a specific move for it, Ghost Pokemon passing through walls and possessing things, and so on. I thought I'd lay it out clearly to avoid any confusion later. Thanks for reading!

    ~o~

    Karo Asuna sat reclined in the long grass, his face tilted up to catch the warm rays of the rising sun. He looked completely relaxed to the outside observer. In fact, his heartbeat betrayed his tension. He couldn't help being worried, even if it would never show. He hadn't been put in such a position before.

    Part of him was almost scared. He had worked hard to keep his activities completely secret, using memory alteration, deceit, and even blackmail. It was almost possible his careful machinations would all be useless after today. Everything depended on Violet, a rogue element, and he did not like that.

    Of course she would give herself up, he consoled himself. She had tried so hard to save everyone, betraying herself as the classic hero wannabe type. He'd seen it before. It happened often, in this world where even children could become strong using Pokémon. Preteens and teenagers would challenge villains and organizations on their own, never even thinking of involving adults, reckless and arrogant.

    Sometimes, they even succeeded. But not all of those unprepared children had happy endings to their heroism. Karo's fears melted away as he remembered others he had dealt with successfully, and his relaxed pose became more than an act.

    "She'll stop you."

    Karo inclined his head to the side at the sound of that declaration, turning his unsettling orange gaze on the bloodied wreck lying stomach down on the ground. "Who?" he asked, his voice nonchalant.

    He was surprised Terry had any fight left in him at all. Alakazam's message had woken him from his fevered slumber, as it had certainly woken Violet as well. But Terry Slade was in bad condition. His back had stopped bleeding badly, but the open gash seeped clear liquid, the edges bright red and puckered. His temple was bruised, and blood matted his spiked hair. He couldn't even lift his head from the ground, but still Terry grinned at him beneath the blood and grime, his eyes certain.

    "Violet," he said in response, his voice rasping. "It's been two years…I've been wondering if she would ever wake up, after that day. You don't know…no one does...who would ever guess after all?" He broke off, coughing violently. Karo's smile froze as he spoke.

    "What are you talking about?" he demanded suspiciously. "Two years since what?"

    Terry barked out a laugh after his coughing stopped. "Violet Hikari," he said, pronouncing the name carefully. "That guy always said one day everyone would know the name. He had such faith in her. I looked up to him back then…I really hated her, you know? It seems childish now, but I couldn't stand that a girl like that was his pride. I worked so hard, so one day I could beat him in battle, so I could make him acknowledge me. After Saffron though…nothing was the same…"

    Karo wasn't smiling anymore. He stood, looking down on the beaten trainer. "You would do well to answer my question clearly," he said with deadly coldness. "What do you know of that girl?"

    "I've been keeping an eye on her," Terry continued, ignoring Karo's threatening tone. "As a favor to that guy. I always thought if I got strong enough it would prove once and for all…he should have focused on me from the beginning…"

    Karo slammed his heel into Terry's injured back, grinding it down into the broken flesh. He was rewarded by an agonized scream which barely sounded human. "You. Will. ANSWER!" he shouted, his temper breaking free finally. Terry's shout turned into laughter as his breath returned, taking Karo aback with surprise.

    "Something changed. For her to start building a team, after all this time…she's waking up. And her enemy is you!"

    "I've changed my mind," Karo announced, taking a Poké Ball from his belt. "There isn't a good reason to leave you alive. And to think I was being generous before, offering to wipe your mind completely, leaving you an amnesiac. I shouldn't be so nice. It's bad for business."

    Light flashed, forming into an Aerodactyl that unfolded its massive wings, blocking the light of the sun. Karo looked at the bleeding genius dispassionately. "Kill him," he ordered chillingly.

    The Aerodactyl opened its jaws wide, in a parody of a grin, baring needle sharp fangs. "Go ahead," the boy spat, eyes flashing defiance. "Do it."

    A furious voice interrupted them. "Not another move," the Lucario snarled, and Karo whirled, having completely forgotten he was expecting company.

    His Aerodactyl's eyes never left the injured trainer at its feet, staring hungrily as if entranced by the smell of blood. Karo's arrogant smile returned. "That was faster than I expected," he admitted. His brow furrowed as he took in the empty space behind the Lucario. "Where is she?"

    "Violet still has time before your deadline," the Lucario deadpanned, shifting one foot forward as he lowered his center of gravity. "Why don't I keep you company?" The four black appendages under his ears rose into the air with a snap as he closed his eyes. Power boomed from the bipedal Pokémon, tingling against Karo's skin even from the distance. Bits of grass and rock rose into the air around the Lucario's feet, clearly outlining the whirling sphere of Aura surrounding it.

    "So, it's like that is it?" Karo mused out loud. "You truly believe you can beat me all on your own?"

    "I will," the Lucario responded simply, as though it were a truth so clear it was etched into the earth. "Because I cannot lose, I will. I realized something, after beating your Kabutops." Karo flinched as though struck at this new piece of information. His Kabutops had lost to a freshly captured Pokémon?!

    "What is that?" Karo asked, faking nonchalance to hide his shock.

    "You are weak," the Lucario stated, his words striking like stones. "You capture powerful monsters, murderers, and rejects, building a team of the worst kinds of beings, thinking evil will make you strong. But it's nothing more than a shield. You are trying to prove your strength by hiding behind killers, to disguise the fact that you are something pitiable and sick! Coward! Killing will not make you strong! It only shows how desperate you are to hide your own broken soul!"

    The blood drained from Karo's face in anger, and his lips pressed tight with fury. "You…" he clenched his shaking hand, the depth of his sudden hatred surprising even him. "Just what do YOU know?!"

    Aerodactyl finally turned, albeit reluctantly, at the obvious fury in its trainers voice. It roared with a cavernous bellow, taking flight into the morning air. It circled once, as if in anticipation, and the Lucario tensed as it prepared to do battle. But Karo did not immediately give his Pokémon orders.

    Those words brought back memories he didn't want to relive. But for a moment, Karo couldn't stop them.

    He could never remember his father's face entirely. His eyes remained in shadow, long forgotten, but that arrogant slash of mouth, ugly and hard would never leave his mind. Neither would the broken sobs of his step mother, the only person who'd ever cared for him. "Weak piece of crap. Just what would a dumb whore like you know? Huh?! You and my idiot son have been making fun of me behind my back again! Admit it!" Karo remembered throwing himself on his father's Houndoom, trying to stop it from attacking his step mother and her Kadabra, remembered blinding pain in his arm as it was slashed open. And then a scream of defiance, followed by shattering glass and a thud.

    "Hey. Hey, say something! Julie?"

    "It's your fault. If you hadn't gotten in the way, I never would have done it! It's your fault! I'll kill you!"

    He remembered the sound it made, when his fathers' knees hit the ground, and he fell on his back like a stone. His step-mothers newly evolved Alakazam had lowered its spoon, as the Houndoom fled with fear, looking at the bruised and beaten ten year old with cold sable eyes. The moment she had died, Kadabra had belonged to him. It evolved to protect him, responding to the thoughts in his head. Karo had fled, fearing retribution from the police, but no one ever came.

    He wasn't the same helpless child he'd been all those years ago. Karo's face twisted into an ugly expression. And all at once, he decided he would kill this Lucario after all.

    ~o~

    Indigo had forgotten what it felt like, to really fight for something. In the past, he'd given everything he had to fight against Tero Akkarin. He felt like a different person when he had a reason to fight. Someone stronger and braver than Indigo Nightwalker, someone who could not lose.

    A hero. That's what he felt like. But this time was different than it had been on the night of his doomed battle. This time, Indigo knew fear. He had fought and lost once before, and he knew it could happen again. Because losing was a possibility, Indigo would have to try harder, fight longer, and give everything he had to give to this one struggle. Failure was an option, and that was why success was worth fighting for.

    The power surging through his fists intensified, and Indigo closed his eyes.

    Aerodactyl roared a wordless challenge from the sky above, as it hovered right in front of the sun. Karo shouted battle orders, and the Aerodactyl fell into a dive almost in slow motion. Indigo took a deep breath, and released it slowly, centering himself.

    Two translucent crescent blades broke free from the Aerodactyl's wings as it passed over Indigo, pulling back into the air from its dive. He stepped to the side neatly, letting the Air Slash carve twin furrows into the ground. The Aerodactyl roared again, surging towards him with another attack on its wings, shimmering faintly like heat distortion. Indigo breathed in deep once more, and gathered power in his lungs. His Dragon Pulse tore from his mouth in a tornado of screaming blue, knocking the Air Slash away, and battering the Aerodactyl backwards.

    His attack hadn't hit full on, weakened by distance, and Aerodactyl certainly wasn't coming down anytime soon. Indigo needed altitude. Except he couldn't fly. At all. Why couldn't his curse have involved wings?

    Before the next Air Slash came, Indigo darted into the trees, and the cover they offered. He heard snapping wood and was showered by falling leaves as the Aerodactyl attacked the trees, and the quick glimpses it got of him below. After a minute of silence, the attacks stopped, and the forest was silent.

    The Aerodactyl circled warily, watching for any sign of its enemy, unconsciously dropping lower to the treetops, its shadow rippling over the leaves as though on water.

    It didn't react fast enough when Indigo leapt with Aura enhanced strength from the top branches of an ancient cottonwood, gaining just enough height to attack. He waited for a tense second, until he was as high as was going to get. He met the Aerodactyl's eyes for a brief moment. And shouted a Dragon Pulse at full strength, the sheer destructive force shooting him backwards in the air even as it exploded against the Aerodactyl's stomach like a cannon.

    Wind shrieked around his ears as he fell backwards. Indigo spun in midair, as the ground of the clearing rushed up to meet him, and he suddenly wished fiercely that he'd had a plan for what to do after trying to learn to fly.

    An Air Slash hit him across the back, and Indigo choked in pain. The ground rushed up to meet him in a blur, when his momentum reversed, as the Aerodactyl caught his leg in its jaws, carrying him back to the sky, dropping him again without breaking flight.

    Indigo prepared to use Protect, expecting another Air Slash. But the move he expected never came, as the Aerodactyl stretched its wings out, glowing scarlet in the sky above like a beacon, Aura stretching in tendrils to connect to the earth. Chunks of ground and rock broke free, trailing roots and dirt. Ancient Power struck him from below with enough force it felt like his spine would break. Darkness edged in on his vision in the aftermath of that first blow, and he saw the Aerodactyl diving towards him with bared fangs.

    Indigo pushed off the stone that had struck him with a second to spare, as the Aerodactyl crushed the stone in its jaws like it was made of brittle glass. He landed on another one of the floating chunks of ground, using the Ancient Power like stepping stones.

    He grabbed onto the flying Aerodactyl's neck, swinging himself onto its back in a fluid motion. It was like trying to stay on a piece of wood in the ocean being tossed around by a typhoon. The Aerodactyl convulsed furiously, trying to dislodge the Lucario on its back, as Indigo held on with his legs and one arm, using the other to pummel the ancient Pokémon with Force Palms, hitting the same spot over and over again.

    Karo shouted orders below that Indigo could not hear, and the Aerodactyl tucked in its wings, falling like a stone as it corkscrewed towards the ground. The momentum was too much. Indigo was ripped from the Aerodactyl's back, getting in one last Force Palm before falling once more. And as he fell, Indigo shouted his defiance with a Dragon Pulse which struck the Aerodactyl right at the base of one of its newly unfurled wings. It shrieked with pain, and Indigo hit the ground hard.

    The dust cleared from his impact, and Indigo's Protect broke around him, a circular crater marking the impression of the defensive move. His breathing was labored. Indigo finally opened his eyes, giving himself a small break from channeling all his energy into his Aura vision. The Aerodactyl keened above him, circling lower and lower, clearly struggling to use its left wing. It landed heavily on the ground, keeping the injured wing half open carefully.

    It seemed to forget its pain then, as its eyes snapped over to Indigo, the cause of the injury. Indigo could feel the cold rage billowing off it like wind, and chills inadvertently shot down his spine. Because this battle was not over, even if the Aerodactyl was grounded. He gathered himself, and darted forward, attacking the wounded monster head on.

    He reactivated his Aura vision, narrowly avoiding the snapping jaws of the Aerodactyl as he tried to get in close enough to attack. He leapt in the air to avoid the tail swinging towards him from behind without looking, and used a Dragon Pulse both to attack, and to push himself backwards, out of range of a slash from its right wing.

    He flipped in the air before landing, pushing himself off the ground immediately to attack again. The Aerodactyl bared its fangs, and a jet stream of blue fire edged with crimson seared from its throat, scorching the earth in a line in front of him, forcing Indigo to jump backwards to avoid it. He tensed as chunks of stone broke out of the ground again, using Force Palms to deflect the barrage of Ancient Power. He dropped into a roll to dodge a one winged Air Slash, barely avoiding the attack.

    All in the few seconds since he attacked the grounded beast.

    Midnight blue flames boiled in the Aerodactyl's throat behind bared fangs, and instead of retreating, Indigo dashed forward impulsively, his survival instinct screaming against the move.

    He dove forward into a roll, avoiding the cauldron hot burst of flames by bare inches. He regained his footing underneath the Aerodactyl's head, slamming a Force Palm into the underside of its flaming jaws. They snapped shut with a sickening crack, and the Dragon Breath attack was cut off inside.

    Indigo barely had time to move out of the way as the Aerodactyl crumpled to the earth, black smoke seeping from between its teeth.

    One down. Indigo turned to face Karo, meeting his stunned gaze without flinching. It took the man a moment to recover.

    "Such a partner you would have made," the monster said finally, seeming almost wistful. "It's almost a shame you're going to die here today. Almost."

    "I'm not here to talk," Indigo growled, moving one foot backwards to fall into a fighting stance. "Release your next killer, and I'll avenge every person they've ever hurt, here and now."

    Karo smiled almost sadly, returning the fallen Aerodactyl to its Poké Ball. "You are welcome to try it. Alakazam!"

    Indigo moved the moment the Alakazam burst from its Poké Ball, darkness spinning around his iron fists. Dark Pulse surged towards the golden Alakazam in a midnight wave edged with violet, trailing a sound like hollow screams. Aura gave his opponent away, as it Teleported to the left to dodge.

    Where it was hit by a second Dark Pulse, fired before the Alakazam had even Teleported in the first place. Smoke rose lazily from Indigo's palms, and he grinned despite the fact that he was fighting for both his life and Violet's.

    Shadows swirled around his palms once more, and Indigo dashed forward almost faster than the eye could follow, attacking the Alakazam with black coated fists, using the Dark Pulse to strengthen his blows rather than releasing it. The Alakazam dodged each punch quickly, with speed belying its frame. It raised one spoon between them, and Indigo froze, his Dark Pulse coated fist held inches in front of the Alakazam's head, unable to move.

    The spoon quivered madly, and the Psychic that had him frozen knocked him back into the air like a rag doll. Indigo released the Dark Pulse without missing more than a beat, which the Alakazam deflected with a Shadow Ball, releasing Indigo from its psychic power. He landed in a crouch, slamming his fists together to form a Protect an instant before it was hit with another Psychic. The shield rippled like mad, but held.

    Indigo saw the blue ghost of an Alakazam teleport behind him a full two seconds before the Pokémon used the move with his Aura vision, already moving with a Dark Pulse at the ready. He fired the pulse where the Alakazam was going to be, and heard the attack connect with a boom.

    The dust and shadows cleared, and Indigo was faced with a grinning Arcanine, teeth bared, the Alakazam right behind it, completely unharmed.

    "I never said this was a one on one battle," Karo drawled from the sidelines. "Arcanine, you got back here faster than even I expected. I'm impressed."

    As Karo spoke, Alakazam raised both spoons in the air, bending them both with its mind, and Indigo shouted with pain. The shadows disappeared from his fists, and Indigo could not summon them again. Dark Pulse was disabled, and he was facing two opponents instead of one. Lovely.

    Karo must have summoned Arcanine with Alakazam's telepathic abilities, like he had called back Kabutops the night before.

    He cursed himself for not paying enough attention to his surroundings. This was the second time he'd been caught unawares by one of Karo's Pokémon, all because he was focusing too much on something else with his Aura vision. Perhaps he was relying on it too heavily.

    But if he stopped, he would lose. Indigo gritted his teeth, ignoring the pounding of his head as he forced himself to keep the flow of Aura strong in his mind, raising his fists in a challenge, refusing to be daunted.

    Fire exploded around the Arcanine in a burning cloak, and it bounded towards him with unnatural speed. Indigo barely had time to react, even with his Aura vision.

    Alakazam sat cross legged in midair, using Calm Mind while Indigo was occupied with Arcanines Flare Blitz. He cursed as he noticed, dashing forward to use a Dragon Pulse on the Psychic type.

    His attack connected, doing less damage because of the Special Defense spike. Alakazam caught him in a Psychic, holding him trapped inches above the ground. The Arcanine used Howl behind him, raising its Attack.

    They were using each other to raise their own stats, and Indigo couldn't do a thing about it. The Alakazam released the struggling Lucario from its Psychic, as Arcanine struck him from behind with another Flare Blitz. The fire hurt worse than any other attack today, and Indigo cursed the weakness in the small part of his brain which wasn't screaming with the need to stop the pain.

    The Flare Blitz hurt, but it had the double effect of knocking him directly into the path of Alakazam's Shadow Ball. Indigo used Protect in the nick of time, and the purple ball bounced off his shield into the blue sky above. He landed heavily, skidding back through the grass.

    As the Arcanine Howled once more, and Alakazam used another Calm Mind.

    The tiniest bit of fear set in his heart as Indigo realized just how difficult victory was going to be under these circumstances.

    Indigo leapt to the side just before he would have been caught by another Psychic, ducking quickly to avoid a Crunch from Arcanine immediately afterwards. He slammed a Force Palm into the Arcanines fur covered chest, knocking it briefly off its feet, and turned to fire a Dragon Pulse at Alakazam mid Calm Mind. It barely seemed to hurt the bronze Psychic type at all.

    Karo Asuna laughed from the sidelines, pausing in giving orders to enjoy Indigo's pain. "You cannot beat this!" he gloated, as Alakazam read his mind for another attack. From the start of the battle, Karo had only given verbal orders to Arcanine, letting Alakazam take instruction directly from its masters' mind. He was confident, as though he knew he could not lose.

    And Indigo was afraid he might be right.

    "Give up, Lucario," Karo crooned. "Let the girl die. It will be so much easier. She's just one person. People die every day. What difference does one more life make?"

    "It makes all the difference in the world," Indigo retorted. "This world is made up of individuals, not statistics. Those who ignore that deny their own value. We are all one life, one person, and that matters."

    He took advantage of the lull to check the Aura of his two opponents. Alakazam was far more wounded than the Arcanine, having taken several direct blows. Its Aura was also much more strongly connected to Karo's own. Indigo felt the Disable breaking slowly. But the Arcanine would definitely get in the way if he attempted to use it again, and he would be in the exact same situation all over again.

    And then Indigo had an idea.

    He dashed forward, skipping around the Arcanine as it tried snapping at him, and fired a Dark Pulse directly at Karo Asuna.

    He saw Karo's smile fade, as the darkness of the incoming attack reflected in his orange eyes.

    And Alakazam teleported directly in front of him, taking the full force of the critical blow for its trainer. It fell to the ground almost in slow motion, revealing Karo's stunned expression as it fainted. Indigo had a bare moment to enjoy his victory.

    "You…" Karo said in a deathly quiet whisper. His voice rose to a shout. "You'll pay for that!"

    Arcanine used Howl, mirroring the shout of its master, red energy streaming around it as its Attack rose yet again. Indigo spun to face the Fire type, and was knocked backwards by a blow he never even saw, his eyes flying open with surprise.

    He shot backwards like a bullet, his mind going blank with shock, but before he even slowed down or hit the ground, he was hit again from the opposite direction, by a second Extreme Speed which nearly snapped him in two. Wind howled around him as he was rocketed the other direction, and Indigo felt his strength fading. He simply couldn't take another hit like that.

    If he was going to go down, it would be fighting. He felt the knowledge that he was going to lose this battle burning in his chest, and turned to face the third Extreme Speed he knew was coming.

    Arcanine appeared in front of him again as though it simply appeared for the third consecutive blow. And using the momentum from his own movement, and Arcanines third Extreme Speed, Indigo struck out with a Force Palm using all his remaining strength, hitting the Arcanine head on. The force was incredible. The Arcanine howled, this time with pain, careening backwards.

    Indigo shouted too, his voice rough with agony, his right arm snapped from the blow, and radiating burning heat.

    It took them both a moment to even think of fighting again. And then the Arcanine shook itself, keening pathetically from the injury, as Karo yelled furious orders at it. Fire burst around its canine form, and it barreled forward with another Flare Blitz attack.

    Indigo pushed his own pain away desperately, firing a Dragon Pulse directly towards the Arcanine barreling towards him, the blue cyclone hitting the flames and breaking off to the sides, as it powered through the attack, coming at him with strength he could not stop.

    Indigo broke off the Dragon Pulse when he realized it wasn't going to work, diving to the side. He rolled onto his broken arm, and cried out with the sharp pain. He came up in a crouch, breathing heavily, unable to use his Aura Vision, and barely able to see clearly at all.

    Arcanine Howled for the final time, and Indigo could feel the power rushing off it in the air, making his hair stand on end and adrenaline pound through his veins. Fire burst around the Arcanine one last time, and Indigo knew he could not dodge it again.

    He stood wearily as the Arcanine ate up the ground between them in three bounding strides, holding his broken arm with his left. His resolve had nearly burned away in the battle. Indigo simply felt tired.

    He wanted nothing more than for this to be over. But this was also a point he was familiar with. His actions now, when he was beaten and weak, whether or not he could work through that, would determine the outcome. He didn't know if he could. But he would try.

    Indigo breathed in deep, rushing forward to meet the giant inferno covered Arcanine directly.

    He skidded beneath the Arcanine in a slide, the fire burning him, and released a Dragon Pulse upwards as he did so, blowing the Arcanine off its feet, taking the flames mercifully away from him.

    He heard rather than saw the massive splintering crash, as the already wounded Arcanine broke a tree nearly in half. Indigo lay on the ground, taking a few seconds just to breathe, as he wondered if he could get up again. He pulled himself up gingerly, using his uninjured arm to brace himself against the ground.

    Indigo stood, ignoring the fact that he was shaking all over, not even looking at the unconscious Arcanine in a heap at the edge of the clearing, smoke curling from its fur. He met Karo's eyes squarely, and raised his unbroken arm in a clear gesture.

    Come on then.

    Karo's eyes went wide with surprise at Indigo's willingness to continue the fight. The blonde trainer returned his Arcanine without a word, with a dented Great Ball etched with a childlike signature which read 'Max'. Neither spoke for a long moment.

    And Karo smiled. He walked over to Violet's beaten yellow bag nonchalantly, and removed a strange cream container filled with vivid green liquid. He tossed it at Indigo's feet.

    "Heal yourself," Karo instructed, his smile unchanged. "You're going to need it."

    "Why?" Indigo asked, genuinely surprised, suspicion thick in his voice. The bottle could be poison for all he knew.

    "I want to show you…true power," Karo said with easy arrogance. "You are strong. I will not deny it. Heal yourself now, or you will die here. Violet's time limit is almost up. Let's make the most of the minutes we have left."

    Indigo had just taken out four of Karo's partners. He only had one remaining that Indigo could sense. And yet he was willing to return him to full strength, and fight him with his final Pokémon?

    He didn't like it. Something was off. But Indigo didn't have much of a choice. He bent down, picking up the bottle which read 'Full Restore' in neat letters, spraying the fine green mist onto his broken arm. He could feel the bone knitting back together, as sweet coolness spread through the pained heat of his arm. Indigo's eyes went wide with surprise at how effective the modern medicine was.

    He'd eaten several wild Sitrus berries on the way here to restore his strength after fighting Kabutops. But their healing was nowhere near this powerful, or this fast acting. His burned flesh healed quickly, and Indigo felt his headache recede, as his strength returned in full.

    He let the bottle drop, filled with power anew. Aura surged around him in a sphere of whirling strength as he flexed his mind experimentally, and his eyes shone icy blue. Indigo grinned. Not poison then. "You'll regret that," he promised, and meant it. His opponent was arrogant, and it would be his downfall.

    "We'll see about that," Karo smiled. He tossed a sphere lazily into the air. "Dragonite!"

    Indigo had always thought Dragonite seemed almost comical in appearance. This one was no exception. It was large and yellow, with ludicrously tiny wings sprouting from its upper back. Twin antennae curled from a bulbous and oddly shaped head. The entire thing looked like it was made of modeling clay by a five year old.

    So why then, did those empty eyes give him such chills?

    "Dragon Dance, Dragonite," Karo deadpanned. He sat cross legged on the ground almost lazily, leaning back on his palms. Terry lay beside him, having fallen back into fevered unconsciousness during the battle.

    Indigo was not about to let the dragon set up. He buried his irritation at not being taken seriously by his opponent, and sprinted forward, a Dragon Pulse shrieking from his gaping mouth. The Dragonite flexed, a swirling tornado of red haze and lightning erupting around it as it raised both Attack and Speed. Dragon Pulse struck it dead on in a powerful blow, and Indigo felt a thrill of success.

    Before the smoke could clear, Dragonite burst through it faster than Indigo could see, much less react to, scaled claws wrapped in a stranglehold around his throat. Indigo pulled at those arms instinctively as his air was cut off, to no avail. His feet hung nearly a foot off the ground as the Dragonite lifted him as easily as it would a rag doll.

    "Sky Drop," Karo ordered nonchalantly, yawning hugely. "Don't kill him on the first blow."

    Indigo's scarlet eyes widened with shock. Dragonite grabbed his head with one clawed appendage, letting go of his throat, and his stomach dropped out as they rocketed upwards faster than he had ever travelled before. He cried out, feeling like his skull would be crushed, a Dragon Pulse careening wildly from his mouth, missing its target and searing off into the vast blue sky.

    Indigo could see with one eye through the claws of the Dragonite, as the light blue of the sky deepened to a darker blue as they soared impossibly high, could feel the sudden icy chill of the air, which he could no longer breathe easily. The ground was nothing more than a patchwork of mountains and cities. For the first time, Indigo saw over the peak of Mount Moon, and the tiny little town nestled between lakes and running water beyond it. The world was laid bare, small, and inconsequential below. A spiral stream of water vapor hung in the path of the Dragonites sudden ascension, carried along with them after breaking through cloud.

    They finally reached a peak, hung for a brief moment in that aerial world of cold and wind, completely weightless. And then Dragonite dropped like a stone, beating its wings twice in powerful bursts to send them flying even faster down than they'd gone on the way up. Air howled around them, seeming to try and stop their progress. And as the mountains rushed back to meet them, two shockwaves exploded from their dive, booming outwards, and distorting the clouds.

    Indigo was very certain he was going to die. Thoughts of counterattacking were nowhere to be found in his panic filled mind, as sheer terror took over. His skull felt like it would be broken in half by the vice grip of those claws, and if it wasn't, he was sure his spine would break instead. And that wasn't even considering how hard he was going to hit the ground at this speed!

    He had a moment to say his goodbyes in his mind as he prepared to be an Indigo shaped crater in the mountains above Pewter city. But a few hundred feet above the earth, the Dragonite snapped its wings outward, slowing their momentum to a speeding car rather than a world shattering meteorite. The boom from their impact was still enough to knock leaves from the trees.

    Indigo couldn't move for a long moment after the attack. The dust cleared, and Dragonite was hovering almost lazily in the air above him, as if wondering if it was over already.

    "Do you understand, Lucario?" Karo Asuna asked, seeming just as unworried as his Pokémon. Indigo noticed he'd taken out a book. "This battle was over the moment you stepped out to face me. This is why I never healed my other Pokémon. I didn't need to. I thought I would allow you to try, at least, before your death."

    Indigo had always hated when his opponents spoke words like that.

    But the numbness in his limbs was making it difficult to be angry. He knew pain was coming, but he seemed to be in shock.

    Indigo stood shakily, blood trickling from the indents those claws had made in his skull. He felt dizzy, before remembering he had to breathe. The air helped, as his mind cleared, and the pain trickled in from every part of his body.

    And despite being hit with his Dragon Pulse earlier, the Dragonite seemed completely unharmed.

    It took Indigo a long moment to make his decision.

    He settled back into a fighting stance, ignoring his shaking arms, closing his eyes, both to activate his Aura Vision, and to stop the blood from dripping into them. The four appendages under his ears rose into the air, defying gravity.

    "Very well then," Karo said softly.

    Dragon Pulse tore from Indigo's mouth, bursting against the Dragonites chest. It seemed to be as effective as a stream of water, breaking off to the sides like it was nothing at all. The Dragonite turned in midair, its tail glowing metallic silver and slammed him across the clearing as if he were nothing at all. Indigo hit the ground twice in his flight, before digging his paw into the ground to arrest his momentum, tearing a dark furrow in the already singed grass. He fired another Dragon Pulse towards the large yellow Pokémon, missing as it seemed to appear above him once more.

    "Outrage!" Karo commanded, and scarlet energy streaked around the Dragonite almost like fire. Its eyes glowed red, and Indigo rolled to the side an instant before those claws slammed down into his chest.

    They hit the ground instead, and cracks tore open the clearing, yawning wide enough to swallow someone whole. Indigo couldn't tell how deep they went.

    Another Dragon Pulse hit the rampaging monster dead on, the sheer power burning Indigo's throat raw as he used the attack again. He didn't dare use any other move. Anything less than super effective would get him killed. He might get killed anyways. The Dragonite batted at the supposedly super effective attack as though it were an irritating fly, bursting towards him faster than the speed of sound.

    Indigo's Protect was just in time. It was pounded so hard down from above, the circular bubble made a hole in the ground nearly as deep as Indigo was tall. And as it broke, he found himself staring out of the grave he'd just created for himself into the empty eyes of an unstoppable murderous dragon.

    He shouted another Dragon Pulse directly upwards, and the Dragonite surged through it to grab him once more. It didn't even bother flying upwards again, instead opting to throw Indigo like a doll into the forest.

    Luckily, his fall was broken by a tree. When that snapped, it was stopped by another one.

    He picked himself up just in time to see the red energy fade from the Dragonite's eyes, replaced by a confused, dull expression. Karo tossed a Persim Berry to his Pokémon, and its gaze became clear once more. It looked at Indigo, and he felt like his heart might stop.

    For a brief moment, Indigo considered running away. Karo seemed to notice. The smirk on his face said what Indigo already knew.

    Go ahead. We'll catch you anyways.

    He no longer wondered how Terry had lost. He was shocked the boy had been able to put up a fight at all.

    He lost count of the blows he took after that. Dragonite didn't seem to be trying to knock him out, hitting him instead with consecutive Iron Tail attacks, which while painful, were not enough to send him into oblivion. He thought he fought back, during that haze of sharp pain and crushed muscle, but he wasn't completely certain. He couldn't seem to grasp the memories all the way.

    He bounced off the earth in the center of the clearing, skidding on his side to a stop. He coughed harshly, hacking up blood. And then Indigo lifted himself to his knees with one hand, and from there to his feet. He couldn't open one eye all the way. He was certain he'd broken some ribs. Karo was no longer smiling.

    "Why do you still fight?" he demanded, as though he truly wanted to know. "It's completely hopeless! Dragonite is invincible. Are you still honestly thinking you could win?"

    Indigo wondered the same thing.

    "I'm going to kill you," Karo promised, as Dragonite slammed Indigo back into the ground with an Iron Tail. He cried out with pain, and Karo continued. "I considered bringing you with me in the beginning, but to be honest this whole trip to Pewter has been a serious liability. I'm going to wipe my tracks and disappear for a while. I'll kill that simpering little teenager, Violet, and Terry too. I think I'll release an Abomasnow with a taste for blondes into the city, a few weeks from now...for good measure. I'll feel a little better if there are a few more deaths. Retribution, since I was put in such a bad position, even if it was only for a few hours."

    Indigo dragged himself to his feet again, without knowing why. The iron spike in his left paw was nearly ripped out, hanging off like a broken nail, dripping with red. Every inch of him was bruised under his fur.

    Indigo raised his right arm, lowering his center of gravity to fight. He managed to activate his Aura vision on the second try, though it blurred horribly. Dragonite's Aura was completely black, something Indigo had never seen before.

    Here he was, about to lose the vital battle for a second time.

    He was quite a failure as a hero. He never could seem to do it right.

    Guilt burned wearily through his chest, and Indigo hoped Violet had run somewhere far away. He'd tried so hard to save her, so he could convince himself he was still on the right side. He might've been better off if he'd run away too. Somehow he was glad he hadn't however.

    Thoughts of his promise to Violet brought nothing but bitterness to his heart. What more could he do at this point? Bleed on his enemy?

    Indigo realized he was tilting dangerously to the side, and only just righted himself. Karo laughed at him.

    He wasn't much of a hero. But Indigo could at least attempt to land one last blow. He grasped at that one small goal, promising himself he could rest if he only did that much more. Aura surged around his legs, strengthening his battered muscles, and Indigo dashed forward, towards the dark Aura of the Dragonite.

    He stopped worrying about the types of moves, only focused on landing something, anything at all. A Dark Pulse surged from his fists, hitting the Dragonite across the chest. It didn't seem to notice, grabbing his arm.

    Just one more.

    As it lifted him to throw across the battlefield once more, Indigo struck out with a Force Palm, hitting the Dragonites shoulder. It threw him anyways, and he saw stars when he struck the ground. Still Indigo got up.

    Just one more attack!

    A Dragon Pulse ripped from his throat, and it burned from being used so many times before. The Dragonite stepped carefully to the side, over a crack in the earth, not caring as the attack glanced off its hide anyways.

    Indigo gathered every ounce of strength he had left, which didn't seem to be much. Aura swirled around him in a cloud, seeming to grow stronger the more damage he took. It was powerful, and alive, in a way he could never explain, connecting him to the heartbeat of the planet itself.

    One last attack.

    Indigo opened his eyes, and they shone brilliant blue, glowing with the strength of his soul. He could no longer use Dragon Pulse, but his body seemed to know exactly what to do, without him knowing how. Swirling Aura condensed itself into a whirling sphere of power, mirroring the blue of the sky, taking shape between his palms. Indigo shouted his defiance in a wordless cry, and the Aura Sphere took off like a bullet, spinning and dancing in a ball of pure energy, trailing sparks of silver which shimmered like stars.

    And as the attack careened towards the Dragonite, making its shadows grow black and huge behind it, Indigo's opponent did something entirely unexpected.

    Its eyes grew just a fraction wider, as if surprised to see the whirling shooting star rocketing towards it.

    And for the first time, the Dragonite dodged in earnest, surging up into the sky with a powerful burst of its deceptively small wings.

    Too late, as the Aura Sphere curved upwards to follow the Dragonite as if drawn to the blackness of its being. It hit with a sound like fireworks and gunpowder, and a shockwave radiated out over the area, bending the trees until they groaned.

    The Dragonite fell from the sky almost in slow motion. At the same moment, Indigo was drained of power so completely he could no longer stand. He fell to his knees, as though his muscles had turned to water.

    A small part of his brain noted that he had won. Indigo was past caring.

    And then the Dragonite hit the earth, and tremors radiated outwards from its impact. All was silent, as the sound of its collision echoed in the mountains and faded away slowly.

    And then Karo laughed, that horrible laugh, bending over double as if it were the funniest thing on the planet. Indigo glanced up at him wearily, wondering if he had the energy for a snarky comment. He decided he had better things to use his brains energy for, like breathing, and not dying. He waited, knowing Karo would tell him why he was laughing anyways, whether he wanted him to or not.

    "I never thought that…never, in my wildest hopes... It's partially my Dragonites fault. It doesn't feel pain you see, so it simply doesn't care enough to dodge. It can make it difficult to gauge how badly damaged it is in battle. It's rarely an issue, since so few things can actually manage to knock it out."

    He was being praised. How nice. Indigo wondered if he would get a ribbon of some kind.

    "But it doesn't matter, you see," Karo said, grinning like a madman. "It doesn't matter…not even a little bit."

    And he pulled out a Poké Ball as black as pitch from his bag, scarred with jagged red lines.

    That got Indigo's attention. He hadn't sensed another Pokémon. Even now, he couldn't feel anything coming from the strange sphere.

    But the air felt colder somehow. Even the sun seemed a little less bright.

    He couldn't fight anymore. Indigo had done everything he could. He wasn't enough to finish this battle on his own, just like he hadn't been enough to stop Tero alone. Alone he was strong, but never strong enough.

    Karo's words were carelessly arrogant, as if he had been waiting for this all along. "With this, everything ends. Not just you. But everything. Prepare yourself for death, and for the end of this corner of Kanto. You truly were a worthy opponent, Lucario."

    Before Karo could release his Pokémon from the strange black sphere, sound erupted all around them. Indigo looked up at the sky with surprise, taking in the circle of strange metal machines with whirling rotors keeping them in the air. Ropes swung down from each, and uniformed people slid down them in lines, taking up positions all around the clearing.

    "Karo Asuna!" a female voice boomed, as if amplified a thousand times. A blue haired woman in a uniform was the source, from high above, speaking through a white cone. "Drop the Poké Ball and put your hands in the air! I repeat! Put your hands in the air!"

    Indigo had never seen anything like this, in all his time in the future. He'd avoided signs of this changed time, avoided the strange machines and inventions he didn't understand. He could only stare, completely stunned. How had something so loud snuck up on them?

    He got his answer when he noticed the Xatu in each hovering machines, wings outstretched. They had blocked the sound from the spinning blades with psychic barriers, until they were right on top of their target.

    Karo Asuna couldn't have looked more stunned if he'd been stabbed out of the blue. He froze completely.

    Office Jenny repeated her orders, and red dots converged on Karo's face and chest. Indigo didn't understand, but Karo seemed to.

    And looking into his orange eyes, for the briefest moment, Indigo thought he was going to release his Pokémon anyways, and rain down the destruction he had promised.

    And then the black Poké Ball slipped from the tips of his fingers, falling to the grass below. Karo put his hands up in a clear gesture of surrender, falling to his knees. Figures in black uniforms bound his hands with metal cuffs, taking control of the situation.

    And all the while, Karo stared at Indigo alone, his expression unreadable.

    One of the officers noticed Indigo, and the clear signs of terrible injury. "You there! Get this Pokémon some medical attention. Terry Slade needs to be airlifted to Pewter for immediate emergency care. See if there are any other injured Pokémon in the area! Let's move people!"

    "No," Indigo managed, his mind failing him slowly. He could hardly speak, but still he tried. The officer seemed shocked to hear him speak out loud. They said something Indigo couldn't make out past the roaring in his ears. He continued stubbornly. "Violet. You have to go get Violet. She's still…"

    They didn't seem to understand what he was saying. But Indigo could not hold out any longer. His vision failed him entirely, and he fell into blissful unconsciousness.

    ~o~
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  7. Chapter 7: Present Tense

    Disclaimer: I do not own Pokemon, despite several failed conquest plans.

    ~o~

    The doors to the interrogation room hadn't opened in hours.

    The single lightbulb burning over the steel table flickered, throwing wild shadows as it swung back and forth under its dented tin hood. A harsh clang echoed around the concrete walls as the metal chair Jenny had been sitting in crashed to the floor, nearly drowning out the sound of an open handed slap.

    She breathed hard, sweat beading around her temples. She stood bent over, one hand supporting her weight on the table between herself and her suspect, the other held partially open, still stinging from striking skin. She had finally lost her temper. It had been a long time coming. She was the Captain of the Special Division of Kanto's Police Force. She had interrogated Pokémon Hunters, smugglers, bandits, leaders of criminal organizations, and hundreds of others in her years of active service.

    She had never once thought she would have to interrogate a man she had counted as a friend.

    The stranger with Karo Asuna's face smiled, his eyes in shadow, face still turned from the blow she'd given him. His skin stung red across his left cheek. He looked up at her with a distantly superior expression, one she had never seen before that day, and now recognized with a sick feeling as his true self. He spat out blood to the side, from where his cheek had been cut on his teeth.

    His voice was a drawl, carefully controlled. "Temper, temper," he said, looking up at her nonchalantly despite the chains around his wrists and ankles. As if he was the one in control. "You really shouldn't get so worked up…it isn't good for your health…"

    "I'll ask again," Commander Jenny said in a clipped tone, carefully tempered. Her spare hand clenched into a fist as she slid photographs in a line where her prisoner could see them clearly. "Anna Belmont. Rosalind Stryker. Max Smith." Three faces, only one easily recognizable. "These three trainers owned Pokémon found in your possession before their deaths. Anna Belmont was killed by her Abomasnow two years ago, which subsequently went missing. It was found in your PC box. Rosalind Stryker captured a rogue Aerodactyl in Sinnoh, with the intent to turn it in to the authorities, after it nearly killed her younger brother. Both went missing shortly afterwards. Her corpse was found a year later, her throat cut. That same Aerodactyl was in your party. Max Smith. A child of ten years old, who adopted a Growlithe who had been abused. After his death, deemed accidental, the same Pokémon went berserk, and was captured by you. You then reported you had executed the Pokémon, believing it beyond redemption."

    Her voice became something hard and dangerous as she spoke of the final victim, the child whose death had been her first case. The day she'd been introduced to Karo Asuna. She'd thought he was a shining hero, a kind and strong warrior who caught the bad guys. They'd worked together several times since, including the battle at Blackthorn City. "Max Smiths case has been reopened, and evidence has been found to suggest his death was not an accident. It was murder. Someone killed him, and his death made his powerful partner, since evolved into an Arcanine, snap into mindless rage. An Arcanine which you now own. We believe you killed all three of these trainers, and others besides. We believe you have been building a team of monsters, with an unknown purpose. Among them is the Dragonite which wreaked havoc on Blackthorn City."

    "I believe you are wasting my time," Karo drawled. "I won't be here long anyways. You'll see."

    "And then…" Commander Jenny said quietly, deadly. "There is the matter of the Dark One."

    Karo smiled serenely. "My dear, I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about. May I have some water? I'm parched."

    The urge to slap him again rose up in her throat, but Commander Jenny fought it down. "We'll have our answers," she promised. "And you're not going anywhere."

    ~o~

    The cursed Lucario woke up to the smell of chemicals. His limbs felt strangely lethargic, as if the commands his brain was sending just weren't being recognized. Bright white light burned his senses, even behind closed eyes, and it was with a sick jolt of primal horror that Indigo realized his arms were bound.

    His reaction was instinctive and violent, as he recognized he was in some kind of laboratory, and could not move correctly. Aura enhanced strength broke the strange restraints around his right arm, and Indigo thrashed wildly. He didn't have a plan for escape so much as an innate need to move, to do something, even if he didn't understand exactly what kind of danger he was in. He heard shouting, filtered as though through deep water, and arms tried to hold him down. Indigo's scarlet eyes flew open, and the light was so blinding it sent a stab of pain through his mind.

    He could see people through a haze of white, could hear them speaking, trying to calm him down, as he squinted through half closed eyes, his ears swiveling wildly as they read every bombarding sound in the room.

    "-increase the dosage, he can't be moving around-!"

    Indigo tried to snarl out a warning or a threat, daring the voice to even try it, but the sound which came from his throat didn't resemble human speech. And though he fought against the restraining arms, his body was weaker than it ought to have been. Numbness spread in a cloying river down his left arm, spreading and spreading until he couldn't feel much of anything at all, but Indigo was not going to sleep again, not until he knew where he was, they wouldn't get him so easily-

    The next thing Indigo heard was the snap of a closing book.

    He was too tired to move. The restraints were gone, and he recognized that he was lying down on a soft surface. He still felt strangely numb, disconnected from himself even. When he opened his eyes, the room was blessedly darker, save the lamp burning with a tinny electric drone in the corner. It hurt his eyes, and Indigo closed them instinctively. He tried again a few moments later, warily squinting around the room.

    It was still painful, but he could see. Indigo's heart slowed down a little, reassured by the simple victory.

    "Finally awake I see. You've been out for a while. A week, give or take. Gave the nurses a scare yesterday too, trying to break all your stitches. No, don't try and stand. No one is going to hurt you, so just listen for a minute, ok? My name is Teala. I help at the Pokémon Center sometimes. Just take a minute before you try and talk, alright? I heard you could."

    Perhaps it was the calm of her voice, but Indigo found himself listening to her words. The wariness building in his arms faded away. He could still smell chemicals, and tubes sprung from his arm, but Indigo's head was clear enough now that he recognized his surroundings.

    Not a laboratory. A hospital. His old fears of Tero's lab faded back into memory, and Indigo let out a ragged breath he hadn't known he'd been holding.

    It was nothing more than a nightmare from his past. Nothing here could hurt him.

    His fear laid to rest, Indigo found his voice, albeit rougher than the last time he'd used it. "Where is Violet?"

    The woman named Teala smiled, setting her book down on the small end table. "Your new trainer, if reports are accurate. Miss Hikari is alive and well." Something in Indigo's chest relaxed at her words. "She's made quite a remarkable recovery. She'll have some new scars, but no lasting damage. She's quite a girl, if even half of the stories flying around are true."

    "Stories?" Indigo asked, finding sentences with fewer words were easier to manage. The light had stopped hurting his vision as much, although his eyes still watered furiously.

    "That she outwitted a serial killer. Saved the lives of the other rookies whose memories were wiped. Saved you, and survived an encounter with a Kabutops without using a single Pokémon. Risked her life to save Terry Slade. Other reports are less likely real, including the ones where she uses newly discovered psychic abilities to mind crush Karo, and shoot lasers out of her eyes. I don't know who keeps spreading these rumors about eye lasers. They've been popular all the same. There is one story I know is true though."

    "You probably don't know why help arrived when it did. Allow me to fill in the gaps. During your battle with Karo Asuna, Miss Hikari tried to get help. Alakazam's psychic barrier prevented her from using her Poketch to call the authorities, so she attempted to…she attempted to climb high enough to be above the barrier. The trees in the mountains aren't difficult to climb, but of course, your trainer only had the use of one of her arms."

    His breath caught in his throat. Of course she had done something brave and reckless and stupid, the moment he had turned away. He didn't understand the term 'Poketch'. But the context was clear. She had been trying to get help.

    The blue haired woman continued. "It wouldn't have worked, if Alakazam hadn't been knocked out. The field went higher than she could have climbed. But it was, and she was able to make a call. And if she hadn't been so high up, she never would have gotten video footage of Dragonite carrying you up into the atmosphere and back down. It was the video which convinced the Police Force she was telling the truth. They knew if the Dragonite was the same as the one from Blackthorn, if there was even a chance her report was accurate, action had to be taken. The rest you know."

    "You both did incredible work. But either one of you would have failed on your own. I think you and Violet will work well together. After all, it was only because the two of you fought for the same cause that this battle was won at all."

    Indigo had more questions. But his head was pounding, and even if he didn't understand what a 'video' was, Violet was safe. It was all that mattered for now.

    Indigo closed his eyes with relief, and after a few minutes of silence, Teala stood, turning off the lamp as she left him alone to sleep.

    ~o~

    Violet breathed heavily, her hands supporting her weight on her knees as she hunched over in the darkened room. She heard movement from the brightly lit hallway and froze, stilling her lungs and thoughts until she heard them walk away.

    "I could've sworn I saw her come this way…maybe she-"

    The voices faded as their sources moved farther away, and Violet breathed out a sigh of relief. She took her baseball hat off her head, letting her long dark hair spill out over her shoulders in a straight wave. She stood up, ignoring the aching persisting in her legs despite the week it had been since the incident with Karo Asuna.

    Her arms were wrapped tight with white medical bandages down to her fingers and under her loose blue T-shirt, chosen for the ease of dressing rather than style. Her legs had fared better, but Violet would not be doing any running for a while. Black sweatpants hid the remainder of the bandages, and hung long over her beat up tennis shoes. All in all, she looked like a badly dressed mummy, but Violet didn't care quite as much as she should have.

    Word had somehow gotten out she was being released today. And if there was one thing Violet did not handle well, it was crowds. Or questions. Crowds and questions were a lethal combination for the shy girl, and she had been in hiding all day long.

    "Of course I could just leave the Pokémon Center and hide at home, but no…I just had to wait for Indigo to be released too…" Violet muttered to herself. She let out a heartfelt sigh, and for the first time, looked around the dark room she'd ducked into. The thick shaded curtains at the windows blocked nearly all the daylight that should have flooded the room, leaving her with nothing but vague impressions of furniture-like shapes. She heard a steady beeping, strangely familiar. She groped at the wall for a long minute before she found the light switch. She flicked it on, and the room buzzed with electricity.

    Violet turned around and nearly jumped out of her skin when she realized she had not been alone after all. Terry Slade sat propped up in his hospital bed, looking at her with a cold expression in complete and utter silence.

    He didn't look good. His spiked black hair was broken by a bandage wrapped around his head, to cover one eye and his cheekbone. His right arm was encased in a thick plaster cast, resting at his side, with a pulse oximeter clipped onto one finger. An IV stand hung with clear liquid in bags on his left, which dripped leisurely into tubes running to his left arm. He was only sitting up at all because of the pillows propping him up like a doll. A monitor at his side announced his heartbeat with little beeps, the source of the sound she'd heard before. His injuries had been considerably worse than her own. Despite this, his face betrayed no discomfort. His only visible eye was hard, regarding her with an almost hollow intensity.

    "S-sorry!" Violet stammered out, her face going red as she reached for the doorknob. She didn't question why he had been sitting alone in the dark. She'd heard what had happened to him, to his team in the battle against Karo.

    "Stay," Terry commanded, cutting off her hurried exit. Violet froze mid-movement, and turned away from the door. She stared at the clean white floor resolutely, completely at a loss for what to say.

    The seconds dragged on, until Terry spoke again, plainly irritated. "If you don't say something, I'm going to throw one of my pillows at you. Speak, Violet, I know you can. Don't pull your mute routine with me."

    "Sorry," she apologized again, her voice barely a whisper. She paused again, unsure what to say or do. She settled for taking a seat on the lone chair near his bedside, staring resolutely into her hands. Terry waited, without turning to her. The constant beep of the heart rate monitor calmed her a little, and she found her voice. "What are you going to do next?"

    He seemed to understand what she was really saying without her having to elaborate. He closed his eye, and his voice was a little harsher when he spoke next. "I'm going to Lavender Town to bury my team. They deserve a proper sendoff. My Flareon alone is expected to make a full recovery. She will accompany me when I'm released."

    "I-I see." Violet said, clenching her hands tight. He had control of his voice, his expression, and yet grief was written into every line of Terry Slade, from his tense jawline to the tight fist of his left hand. "I'm…I'm just so…"

    "Apologize one more time, and I won't be the only one in a hospital bed," Terry threatened with a snap. "This wasn't your fault. You did not do this. Stop sniveling and act like the trainer you are. I can't stand it when girls cry over nothing."

    "I wasn't crying!" Violet protested, which was only half true since she had been about to do just that.

    Terry snorted, not buying her story. "So. You're training Pokémon again. When did that change? I thought you were done…after what you did in Saffron City."

    Violet recoiled as if she'd been shot. She sat up straight, her face ashen as she stared at Terry Slade with obvious panic. He laughed, quietly and without humor, and Violet was sure her heart had stopped.

    "That's right, I know you were involved. I was at the Dojo that day. I remember everything. Don't worry, I'll keep my mouth shut. But in exchange, I want a favor. It's simple, really. What do you say?"

    "What kind of favor?" Violet was tense, as though afraid of the answer. She was wary, as if afraid someone else was listening in. She did not like having such a conversation in a public building. Terry turned to look at her then for the first time since she'd taken a seat.

    "I want you to challenge Pewter Gym, and get out of this town. You've been moping around silent as the grave for two years now. This is all the mourning time you get. You have talent, Violet. Use it. Be the trainer he always knew you could be. Go out there and become a Pokémon Master…in my place you have to be the best. I never will now."

    "You could still-" Violet protested instantly, but he cut her off with a snarl.

    "No, I won't," Terry said savagely. "I'm through being a competitive trainer, Violet, I'm just done. Me and Pyre are going to travel Kanto, just the two of us. I can't do it anymore, not after-!"

    He took a deep breath to collect himself before continuing, and his voice was rough. "You have to do it. And I know you'll try. Because he made you promise the exact same thing, didn't he? For both of our sakes…you've got to carry on in our places. Swear it to me, on your life. If you don't, I'll tell everyone what you did, two years ago…of that you have my word…"

    She swallowed. It wasn't like she had much choice in the matter.

    She couldn't help but wonder how much he actually knew.

    "I promise," Violet whispered, her voice small.

    ~o~

    Indigo had fought demons and kings in his lifetime. He'd awoken Legendaries on his quest to power, dared to try and control them, and nearly destroyed the world itself trying to save one single girl, a girl who was strong enough to conquer nations in her own right. He was a warrior forged in blood and battle, hardened by grief and guilt, and even now was desperately trying to beat destiny at its own game so he could return to his home land. He'd done many things which could be considered extraordinary.

    But while Indigo was skilled at fighting battles, recovering from them was unbearably boring.

    "Hold still," Nurse Joy instructed patiently, and Indigo's squirming stopped. He growled low in his throat, studiously not looking at what the pink haired healer was doing. His head hurt. Not from the pounding migraine he'd suffered with since morning, which had thankfully faded, but from trying to take in all the strange machinery he'd seen all day long in the high tech facility.

    There were machines for everything from lighting up rooms to polishing floors in this strange place called a Pokémon Center. Monitors quipped out his heart rate, scanners took images of his skeleton, and he'd heard rumors of a box that reheated food on a spinning plate. Strangest of all was the 'television' which displayed stories, only to maddeningly switch to useless advertisements about completely uninteresting products the moment things got exciting. Indigo suspected it was a type of torture device.

    He'd mumbled traitorously throughout the entire check-up process, which seemed to include nothing but being asked to move various limbs and explain how they felt, while bright little lights were flashed in his eyes, and his temperature was taken. He felt fine, as he'd explained countless times, and all this fuss really wasn't necessary, because he could take it just fine from here thank you very much…

    But even he couldn't argue with the plaster cast on his arm, which needed to come off now Blissey had finished knitting the bone back together. Apparently Full Restores were not intended to treat snapped bones, and could in fact cause them to heal wrong.

    Indigo stopped growling, reminding himself that the mild mannered woman next to him had been the one to re-break his bone in the first place, so it could be set properly. It would not do to anger her. All the same, his entire body went tense at the sound of the vibrating saw in her hands humming to life, his ears turning to face the sound even as he went stiff.

    "This won't hurt a bit," Nurse Joy promised in the pretty, kind tone one uses right before hurting someone. "Just hold still, and we'll have this cast off in no time."

    Plaster flew in a fine little cloud of dust as the screeching saw made truly horrifying sounds as it tore through the cast on his right arm. Indigo tried not to be a drama queen about the entire situation. After all, the smiling nurse from the future was only using an evil vibrating saw of death on his newly healed arm, there was nothing to worry about…

    Or, his mind supplied helpfully, maybe she was trying to kill him.

    "There now, that didn't take long!" Nurse Joy quipped happily, holding the two halves of his cast a few minutes later. "The saw doesn't actually cut, it vibrates from side to side, breaking apart the plaster. That way there's no danger of being injured."

    Indigo rather wished she had mentioned that earlier, from his spot huddled over in the corner, a dark cloud hanging over him as he tried to regain his bravery. Nurse Joy continued in her positive sing-song voice. "Well then, everything else looks good! If you're sure you're feeling better, we can release you into Miss Hikari's care. Just remember to change the bandages, and follow up with a Nurse in a week or so to gauge your progress. Don't tear any stitches either. Just take it easy for a while, and you'll be just fine."

    Indigo nodded politely, trying to appear compliant and obedient, despite his intention to disregard every complicated instruction the Nurse gave him the moment he was free of this evil place with its 'television' and 'microwaves'. He was sure he could figure things out on his own.

    After what seemed like ages, Indigo was allowed to walk out on his own two feet, denying the offer of a wheelchair with indignation. He tried to look like he was the picture of calm, even though everything he saw was strange and otherworldly. Even the floor was a new material, something cool and smooth, but not stone. It felt strange on his padded feet after a year of living in the mountains.

    He waited for ten long minutes in the foyer of the Pokémon Center, ignoring the furtive looks and whispers from trainers nearby, growing increasingly wound up as the desire to simply leave grew stronger. He wondered where Violet could be.

    Finally, Indigo had had enough. He stood from the comfortable chair he'd chosen, casting his senses out for Violet's presence. He ignored all the people he did not know who were staring, stalking past them all and walking out the clear doors of the Pokémon Center.

    The clean air calmed him. Indigo didn't dare use his Aura Vision. Some instinct warned him he wouldn't be able to do so for a while, and that trying would be a bad idea.

    But he could still sense enough Aura to get a general direction. Indigo turned to the left sharply, walking down the path leading to the woods, following the faint sense of 'Violet', the only Aura familiar to him in this town. He didn't know what he was going to say when he found her. He barely knew the girl after all. But everything had been so strange recently, and he clung to the idea of finding familiar ground, even if it was simply talking to the girl who had fought by his side.

    Her Aura led him into the forest surrounding the base of the mountains. He felt no sense of danger. If anything, Indigo felt more at home here than he ever could in a hospital.

    All the same, he couldn't help but wonder why Violet would come out here alone. Did she even have a Pokémon with her? He would have to take care of his new trainer, since it seemed she was incapable of doing so herself!

    He hopped down a small rise, landing in soft green grass littered with the first fall leaves. The wind danced through the trees, playing a soft music one could only hear if they were listening, and it was through the filtered gold light of the sun that Indigo found Violet.

    His new trainer stood facing away from him, her head bowed as if in prayer. She was in a small clearing filled with burnt orange wildflowers reaching upwards for the sunlight playing through the changing leaves. Three small mounds were arranged in front of her, each one marked with a makeshift cross made out of fallen branches, made of freshly turned over dirt and adorned with bright bouquets of mountain blooms. The wind tugged through her straight black hair, hanging past her shoulder blades, and the girls arms fell to her sides, wrapped in clean white bandages.

    She turned, and caught sight of him standing there, and smiled a little sheepishly, reaching up a hand to stop her dark hair from flying into her face. Indigo padded over to her side without a word, getting a better look at the three little graves for the Pidgey Karo had killed a week prior. He didn't have any clever words to say in response to that one little act of beauty, and so Indigo said nothing at all, standing with Violet in silence as the mountains sang a requiem of wind and dancing leaves for the three Pokémon who lay fallen.

    Finally Violet let out a deep breath, turning to face him properly. He was struck again by her brilliantly colored eyes, and the strength behind them when she spoke.

    "I know we didn't meet under the best of circumstances. I didn't really fight fair when I caught you either. So, Indigo? This is me asking, from the heart. Would you like to be my partner from now on?"

    She looked so earnest, her dainty features the picture of sincerity. Indigo knew if he refused her, she would release him without question. He could find a stronger trainer, someone who could teach him the values required to break his curse once and for all.

    Someone better than her. With more than one, as yet unknown Pokémon too weak to battle. Who could lift more than fifty pounds without snapping in two, and didn't need his help.

    And he smiled at the absurdity of the thought. "I could live with that," he said simply.

    Because at the end of the day, he wouldn't have won without her. And maybe, just maybe, he needed help sometimes too.

    ~o~

    Split into two, because apparently '70,000 characters is excessive' and I need to 'shorten it for the good of humanity' XD Chapter 7.5 will be up immediately.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  8. Chapter 7.5: Because Chapter 7 was too long

    ~o~

    Kanto's Indigo League challenge was set up so beginning trainers could battle local gym leaders from any town, and stand a fighting chance. After official registration, trainers could battle any of the eight main gyms in the region and see Pokémon ranging from level 9 to 14. After winning their first gym badge, the next gym leader would use a different set of Pokémon to reflect their opponents' skill level. After obtaining four gym badges, the sets used by gym leaders would increase in power significantly, setting the bar for serious trainers to advance in the ranks. The system was in place so trainers would be forced to grow significantly throughout their journey. By the final gym, leaders used a borderline Elite Four level team. Of the thousands who attempted the challenge to qualify for the Pokémon League Tournament, comparatively few passed, and were able to enter the world famous event.

    Pewter Gym was known far and wide as a mountain to conquer for trainers from every part of the world. Brock's rock solid reputation along with his knack for an impenetrable defense had earned the gym its place among Kanto's finest. In fact, it was so well known, many trainers were unwilling to take the challenge after collecting their first four gym badges, because of the power increase they would face from its leader, making it nearly unbeatable.

    Brock's gym was popular as a first badge because of this. No matter how difficult his Rock type Pokémon could be to the bug catchers and newbies straight from Viridian, they all kept trying, because it would be far easier to beat him when he was using his zero badge Pokémon team than it would be with even one other badge under their belt.

    Indigo needed no such advantage, as a powerful warrior with superior typing and experience battling wild Rock types in the mountains. It was possible he would have been capable of sweeping Brock's team even if Violet had three or four badges already.

    Normally, that is.

    By the time Violet and Indigo walked out of the gym, it was late in the afternoon. Her Lucario had his arms crossed in front of his chest, his eyes closed as if fighting back a headache. The bandages wrapped around his fists were ragged and stained with dirt from striking living stone, and he walked with a slight limp. Violet's face was stained scarlet from a furious blush, as she held a gleaming metal badge in her hands, and tried to ignore the raucous laughter still coming from inside the gym.

    "We won. That is all that matters," Indigo growled, as if trying to convince himself. He shot a glare back into the gym as the doors shut, muffling the laughing within. "He didn't have to laugh that hard," he added on, a little grumpily. Once Brock got started laughing, it was nearly impossible to stop him. "I thought we did well, considering."

    Violet continued walking mutely, and Indigo wondered if someone could blush hard enough to die. If so, Violet was in grave danger.

    It wasn't that she had been bad at battling. In fact, after she found her voice, she had done well, giving Indigo instructions for battle he would not have considered himself. If he had been anywhere near full strength, he wouldn't have needed any help whatsoever.

    Showing up covered in bandages hadn't been a great start to the match. Brock had asked about five times if the two of them were sure about battling. Indigo remembered how arrogant he had felt, how certain of victory he had been. After all, as Violet had explained, Brock would be using incredibly weak Pokémon since she had not yet earned any 'badges', weak Pokémon with a type disadvantage no less. And despite her warnings that Brock was still a force to be reckoned with, no matter how low leveled his Pokémon were, Indigo simply hadn't taken the threat seriously.

    He'd scoffed at the Onix Brock had begun with, one of the smallest specimens he'd ever seen, obviously below level ten. He'd knocked it out with a single blow.

    Which had been fine, until the 'small' 18 foot Onix fainted right on top of him. Brock's mouth had been twitching towards a grin as he recalled his fallen partner, freeing Indigo from his newly formed crater.

    Things had gone downhill from there.

    "And besides," Indigo continued, when Violet didn't say anything. "He was a powerful trainer. As you said, there is no shame in having trouble battling such an experienced veteran. I'm sure this kind of thing happens all the time."

    Geodude had been next. Indigo had summoned all his strength for his first hit, determined not to do something embarrassing in front of his new trainer again, to prove his strength in battle. He remembered glowing with Aura-light, blue spectral flames whirling around his palm as he delivered a blow equivalent to the ones he had used against the Kabutops on the poor, under leveled Rock Pokémon.

    He remembered hitting a Protect bubble as solid as a steel door, and pain shattering up his newly healed arm, remembered hunching over as he tried to pretend it didn't hurt as badly as if he'd set his own arm on fire, while Violet shouted encouragement at him. Geodude had waited until he stood to fight once more, before deciding to tuck in its stony little arms, and spin towards him like a deranged little playing ball made of rock.

    Indigo had jumped over the Rollout attack, letting the Geodude fly past him. He landed with all the easy grace of a ninja, before turning to his opponent once more with clear disdain for the tiny Geodudes' aptitude in battle evident in how deliberately slow Indigo moved. Injuring him on a Protect was a lucky shot after all. Indigo was not worried as he faced the direction Geodude had flown.

    Only to have his legs taken out from underneath him by the same Rollout attack, which had changed direction after missing the first time, and to fall flat on his nose.

    He also wished he'd known earlier that Gyro Ball hit faster and harder on opponents stronger than the user, after the little Geodude hit him so hard in the stomach stars flew across his vision.

    He'd knocked the evil little stone puppet out with a Dragon Pulse which was a tad stronger than it needed to be to cover his embarrassment, gouging a long hole in the stone habitat of the gym.

    Finally, they had faced Brock's third and final Pokémon, a Larvitar that looked like it had a bad attitude. Indigo had struck fast, with a Force Palm intended to finish the battle before it began, and had hit dirt as the tiny little Pokémon burrowed underneath the bedrock battlefield. He jumped to one of the stone spikes adorning the simulated terrain, avoiding the attack cleanly, at Violet's instruction. He'd fired a Dark Pulse at the earthy-green reptilian Pokémon as it came out of the ground, only to miss as the deceptively small creature created a massive Sandstorm in the gym at Brock's behest.

    Indigo hadn't been able to see anything through the wild winds whipping sand in a violent stream all through the large room, and while the sand didn't hurt him the same way it would a non-Steel type, his vision was horribly obscured. He could barely hear Violet's shouted instructions through the gale.

    One hit was all it would take to win, and yet Larvitar evaded him in the consecutive Sandstorm attacks for a good twenty minutes, hiding behind Substitutes and a fully stacked Double Team, along with what Violet had suspected was the Hidden Ability Sand Veil, as it chewed on Leftovers to regain HP. The boy turned Lucario would have dearly loved to be able to use his Aura Vision, but his overuse of the technique a week earlier had pushed the ability to its limits. He was stuck with regular old boring vision like everyone else, and he hated it. The battle consisted of Indigo running around practically blind hitting all the fake Larvitar images from the Double Team he could find with increasingly angry Force Palm attacks, as the real one used Dig every other turn to hide.

    In the end, Larvitar fell asleep among the craggy terrain, bored of waiting for Indigo to find it. The Sandstorm died down without the Pokémon to keep it up, and a furiously embarrassed Indigo had knocked it out cleanly in a futile effort to regain some dignity.

    Brock laughed the entire time, never even seeming to pause for air. He hadn't been able to speak as he handed Violet her badge, struggling to rein in his fits of humor until she had accepted the mark of having defeated him in battle. When she thanked him and left the main room, the powerful Gym Leader known for his rock solid demeanor resumed laughing so hard his aides had thought he was going to need medical attention.

    "R-right," Violet said finally, her voice small as she broke her silence. "And even low leveled Gym Pokémon have TM moves a lot of the time, or even Egg moves, so they're different from fresh caught wild Pokémon…"

    "Completely different," Indigo agreed immediately. "On a completely different level. Gym leaders truly are a force to be reckoned with. It takes a true master to best one in battle."

    A group of kids no more than 11 years old chose that moment to walk past. "Yeah, I beat Brock no problem," a tiny blonde girl with pigtails said offhand to her friends. "My new Lotad had a cold and we still kicked butt. You'd have to be a real loser to have problems beating him." She laughed, showing off her gleaming Boulder Badge in a cute pink badge case with the words "Hello Skitty" drawn on it in bubble letters, to the appreciation of her classmates.

    Indigo glared at the unknowing children as they continued down the path. "That child is a practitioner of witchcraft. It is possible she sold her soul for power. We should exorcise her just to be safe."

    His dark haired companion grinned at his assessment. Violet sat cross legged at the base of a large oak tree, the leaves just beginning to turn russet, and Indigo felt a little better having lightened the mood. He sat down next to her as she pressed the Boulder Badge into the octagonal indent in her new badge case, admiring the shine. She'd chosen a pretty, white case after registering at the Pokémon Center as an official entry to the Pokémon League challenge, with a raised jagged line striking from one corner to the next like lightning, all polished plastic and new grey foam. She snapped the case shut, tucking it into her oversized yellow backpack, and laughed despite herself.

    "We kind of sucked, didn't we?" she giggled. "Remember how you tripped on the Larvitar in the middle of the last matchup?"

    "Which wouldn't have happened if I could see properly," Indigo growled, crossing his arms. "My Aura Vision would have made the battle go quite differently." Violet only laughed, and Indigo smiled a little ruefully, supposing he could take things a little more lightly. It had been an interesting beginning to their partnership after all. Brock's Pokémon were well trained, despite being so under leveled, and had some solid strategic move sets.

    And the next Gym Leader would be stronger still. Hope sparked in Indigo's chest along with a newfound determination. He'd been getting bored in the mountains. Travelling with Violet would no doubt help him in his quest for strength. He looked forward to the challenge.

    Indigo hadn't known about the little parks in Pewter City, having avoided the signs of civilization like the plague for much of his time in the future, but Violet was well familiar with the local training grounds. There were three dirt battlefields in the center of the secluded area, surrounded by stone benches and large trees, which showed signs of daily use. Old white lines marked off the rectangular fields, with spots for the trainers to stand at either end. A chill breeze carried aurulent leaves in drifting spirals across the small park, through the yellowing grass which grew long at the bases of tree trunks. The two of them sat facing the mostly empty parks, content simply to rest for the moment.

    "Where'd you learn Protect?" Violet wanted to know, offhandedly curious.

    "A travelling trainer about half a year ago used an item called a 'TM' to teach it to me in exchange for directions out of the mountains," Indigo said absently, remembering the encounter. "I learned Dragon Pulse from a specialist move tutor interested in studying wild Lucario, although he left shortly afterwards. I learned Dark Pulse by watching and copying another Lucario about three months ago. I'm still not as good at the move as I could be. Force Palm I've known from the start of my-"

    Indigo bit off his words hurriedly. He'd almost revealed how short a time he'd been a Lucario, something he simply could not do. Violet would undoubtedly have questions which would be difficult for him to answer.

    Luckily, she hadn't noticed his slip. Violet frowned, tapping at the small device with a look of concentration on her face. "Hold on…you defeated Karo with an Aura Sphere, right? Indigo…this says you don't know Aura Sphere. Poketchs are really accurate, so it's weird. Although all Lucario's learn Aura Sphere eventually, it can vary a lot by individual. How did you do it?"

    "I do not know," Indigo said honestly. "Does it matter?"

    It did matter apparently, and Indigo took his place on the battlefield. It took three failed Aura Sphere's which exploded in increasingly creative ways before Violet called an end to the training, stating that Indigo was going to hurt himself. He breathed hard, completely exhausted from simply making the effort to use the technique he'd called upon in his hour of need, and admitted she might be right.

    He could not use Aura Sphere. On top of that, he was still capable of using all four of his other moves. Violet could explain it no better than he could. They finally agreed it must have been an adrenaline rush super power, which one would hear about occasionally in stories. Indigo was content to leave it at that, although he was a little wistful for the incredible power he'd wielded using the attack.

    A question had been nagging at him all day. Indigo shot his new trainer a look, wondering if it was alright to ask.

    Violet had her knees tucked up to her chest, leaning back against the craggy bark of the tree as she watched a practice battle at the end of the park. Her eyes followed the battle between two rookies, on the farthest field from them, gauging strengths and weaknesses, openings and mistakes, and from the brightness of her gaze, he knew she missed nothing.

    The girl who had nearly outwitted Karo Asuna all on her own. A girl who clearly had an extensive knowledge on being a Pokémon trainer.

    And yet was unknown by the other rookies in town. Whose shyness around human beings was nearly crippling. A girl who carried only one, single Pokémon, which she admitted was not strong enough to use in battle. A girl who, despite her increasingly obvious skill, had never earned even a single gym badge.

    "How long have you been a trainer, Violet?" Indigo asked.

    Maybe he imagined the tenseness in her arms, as she hugged her legs a little closer. Or maybe it was just the cold breeze blowing faintly on her skin. She didn't look at him when she answered, following the battle instead. "A few months. Most trainers start about age ten, but I…well, my dad forbade me from starting until sixteen. He wanted me to finish school, make something of my life, but all I've ever wanted was to be a trainer. I was going to start anyways, a few years back, but…things didn't work out, and I moved here."

    "Your father cares for your well-being," Indigo noted.

    Violet smiled, but it was a little sad. "He's distant," she admitted. "Even now, he lives in Saffron, even though we have a house here too. I live here by myself. My mom was a trainer, one of the best, but she died on a mission to save Kanto when I was little. I don't remember her much. My dad was dead set against me following the same path as her. But I never changed my mind, and he sent me a present on my sixteenth birthday a few months back with trainer essentials, including a Poketch, some supplies, and some rare Poké Balls. I used one of them to catch you, actually."

    "The Master Ball," Indigo said, remembering the name. "Or as I like to call it, complete cheating."

    "Not just one," Violet admitted. "Master Balls are incredibly rare. There are maybe thirty in the whole world. But my dad is an executive for the company which creates them, Silph Co., and he has a lot of pull. He gave me three. I used one on you to stop Karo, since I doubted I'd be able to win against you without it, and Karo would not reveal himself if he captured you on his own. And I used one other, to capture the most incredible Pokémon I've ever encountered."

    That got Indigo's attention. "More incredible than me? Are you certain?" The more he heard about Violet's mystery Pokémon the more intrigued he became. Just what could it be? "I am quite impressive after all. I speak and everything."

    The trainers at the end of the park had finished their battle, and shook hands before parting ways. Violet turned to Indigo with a smile on her face. "Would you like to meet him? My starter, I mean? You two are going to be partners from now on after all!"

    "I would like that very much," Indigo said feelingly, his curiosity getting the better of him. He stood, ignoring the aching in his legs from last weeks' battle, and offered Violet a hand. She took it, and he pulled her to her feet.

    She took a deep breath as though preparing herself. "Right then!" she said, clapping her hands together. "Let's do this! Try not to get jealous, alright? After all, my starter is going to be stronger than you before long!"

    Her grand pronouncement made, Violet threw her first Master Ball in an arc in the air. Golden light spilled from the deep purple sphere in a glittering halo so bright Indigo had to hold out an arm to shield his vision. The light stretched into a shining shape, shattering off in a rain of glittering sparks after Violet's prized starter was released.

    Indigo hadn't known what he expected. His eyes went wide with absolute shock at what he was witnessing.

    The Pokémon had gleaming scarlet scales, the shade of a blood red ruby, polished to a gemstone finish. Its pectoral fins were as white as driven snow, and as crisp as a fresh paper fan, held out from its beautiful red body like butterfly wings. The aquatic beauty had long golden whiskers, and a dorsal fin adorning its perfectly arched spine.

    The gleaming fish stretched out its pectoral fins, posing in midair as the remaining golden light from the Master Ball gleamed off its flawless form in an effervescent spotlight of fabulousness. Violet's smile was angelic, as she sighed with absolute bliss.

    The Magikarp fell onto its side on the dirt, flopping around happily as it stained its crimson scales with dust. "Karp karp, Magikarp," the useless fish proclaimed monotonously.

    "Isn't he beautiful?" Violet sighed again happily, leaning down to pat her Magikarps head. "His name is Mr. Fin. Say hello to Indigo, Mr. Fin! Indigo? Is something wrong?"

    "A Magikarp," Indigo groaned, hunched over in very real pain, his arms supported against a tree as he tried not to fall over. "She owns a Magikarp. And it's her starter!"

    "You know, it's not good for you to bang your head on trees repeatedly like that," Violet said, a little miffed as she watched Indigo mutter to himself. "Besides, Mr. Fin isn't a normal Magikarp. He's special."

    "Special needs?" Indigo guessed, not even joking as he glared at the oversized fish Violet had described as the most incredible Pokémon in the world bare moments ago. "A special dinner? E-special-ly ugly?"

    Violet gasped in indignation, hugging her starter close to her chest. "You take that back! Mr. Fin is the most gorgeous Magikarp in the entire world! Just look at him!"

    "It's a Magikarp, Violet," Indigo deadpanned. "And I'd rather not look at it. It offends my eyes."

    "He," Violet said, stressing the word, "is a better starter than most trainers could dream of. Mr. Fin is rare, especially to competitive trainers. This little beauty took me three weeks to catch after the first time he escaped my fishing line, but I never gave up. You're a Pokémon, you wouldn't understand."

    "Try me," Indigo said flatly, staring dubiously at the brightly colored Magikarp. He was more than a little offended Violet prized that horrible thing over him, but tried not to let it show. Dear Arceus, she was serious!

    "He's special because of where I caught him," Violet explained, taking a little case out of her backpack. She removed a small blue cube shaped candy, and fed it to her eager Magikarp. "Mr. Fin lives in the waterfall basin we hid in last week. Normally, Magikarp can't live in areas with fast moving water, because their fins aren't strong enough to carry them back upstream. The basin though…it's filled with Magikarp. More than you'd ever expect to see. That's because a trainer, I don't know who, released their Gyarados into the basin. Two Gyarados, a male and a female. I've seen them both."

    "So?" Indigo said impatiently. "Even if the Magikarp were sired by a trainers Pokémon, they still grew up in the wild. They have no advantages."

    But Violet was shaking her head. "They do, though. Because those two Gyarados? They were definitely from a high end breeder. Pokémon breeders can use items to pass on certain traits from parent Pokémon to eggs, and end up with stronger offspring than you'd see in the wild. It's called IV training. The idea is to breed Pokémon with high IVs, which is short for Individual Values, in each of the six categories, HP, Speed, Attack, Special Attack, Defense, and Special Defense, and end up with stronger children."

    Indigo's head hurt, but he was following what Violet was saying so far. "The two released Gyarados were IV trained then?"

    "Definitely," Violet grinned. "And better yet, the mom has a collar made of Destiny Knot still around her neck. Which means any of her eggs will have a greater chance of inheriting at least five IV's from her and the sire. My Poketch has an app which shows a Pokémon's IV stats. Mom's got four perfect IV's, and the dad's got three. They were probably rejects from a breeder going for a full set of perfect IV's, and got released after said breeder got a Magikarp with a perfect set."

    "You're telling me every Magikarp able to remain in the basin has at least a few of these perfect IV's," Indigo realized. "Otherwise, they would have been swept downstream the first time they swam too far up, and got caught in the current." The Lucario's eyes went wide. "How many of these perfect IV's does your starter have exactly?" he said warily, reappraising the harmless looking fish in front of him.

    Violet's grin grew more pronounced. "Mr. Fin has a perfect set of six," she said proudly, practically glowing. "If I'd bought him, he would have cost me a house. And he's beautiful on top of that! He's truly the most perfect Magikarp in existence. Normal Poké Balls didn't work on him, and after he escaped the first time, I didn't take any chances when I reeled him in again. Now he's mine forever."

    "These IV's aren't something that can be learned then, a Pokémon must be born with them, correct?" Indigo sighed, kneading his temples. Violet nodded happily, feeding Mr. Fin another blue block. "And they influence how strong a Pokémon can get by a large margin?" Another nod. Indigo glared at the fish in front of him, which was preening as if it knew it was perfect.

    Indigo's next words were from the heart. "IV training takes all the fun out of training Pokémon."

    "It's not bad once you learn the rules," Violet said, giving him an understanding look. "It's confusing at first though. Took me ages. EV training goes hand in hand with it, but it's not so difficult. Want to see what you have?"

    "Why not," Indigo sighed, sitting down next to the proclaimed most perfect Magikarp in the world, which was admittedly a little prettier than normal Magikarps. Violet took a strange red device from her pocket, snapping it open. He jumped when a blue wave of light scanned him, before the mini machine beeped.

    "Hey, not bad," Violet said appreciatively, reading the glowing blue screen. "One perfect IV, in Special Attack, and your Defense isn't bad either. Special Defense is average, and your Attack is low for a Lucario, but everything looks good. I can work with stats like these."

    Indigo glowed a little at the praise. "Of course you're no Mr. Fin," Violet continued, and Indigo blanched with irritation. "But you're already a capable battler on top of your stats, so you've got a leg up."

    "Hear that, fish? I'm the stronger one, don't forget it. And I am lecturing a Magikarp." Indigo sighed, as the Magikarp flopped happy circles around him in the dirt, apparently just fine with being out of water. And despite the fact that Indigo could understand the speech of Pokémon, Mr. Fin said nothing but 'Karp, karp', completely satisfied with the world.

    Indigo couldn't prove anything, but he thought the Magikarp could be making fun of him.

    He hunched over, fighting back his sudden smile. The whole situation was just so ridiculous.

    "Indigo?" Violet asked, leaning over with concern. "Are you alright?"

    He couldn't help it. Indigo laughed, really truly laughed for the very first time since he'd been cursed, laughed at the utter absurdity of his new partner, at his farce of a battle against Brock, and at the idea of learning an ancient definition of 'strength' from a teenage girl with crippling anxiety.

    But most of all, Indigo laughed with sheer wonder, because he had never once thought he would be able to do so again after losing his entire world.

    Violet seemed to understand the sentiment without him explaining, and when their eyes met, she grinned too, matching him as if it were all a great big joke only the two of them understood. She laughed along, her voice as sweet as a bell, and Mr. Fin flopped circles around the two of them, marring his glass-like scales in the dirt with happiness, as if glad to be included.

    By the time his laughter faded, Indigo was left grinning, feeling light and happy in a way he'd forgotten in the past year, cleansed inwardly of the many little hurts he hadn't truly appreciated until they were gone. And he marveled at how beautiful the world could truly be.

    The sky was painted with claret tones by the time they were ready to leave. And, exhausted by the outing, and with both of their mostly healed injuries beginning to ache in earnest, the two new friends decided to call it a day.

    ~o~

    He was alone, for the first time in a long while, although he knew he was being watched. Security cameras peered into his cell, giving Karo the feeling of being watched constantly. He looked into them straight, as though he were meeting the eyes of the people on the other side of the video feed. He couldn't move much anyways. His arms were bound behind his back in a straitjacket, immobilizing him completely. Even his ankles were cuffed, making movement nearly impossible.

    He was only just holding himself together. He hated them. All the people who watched him, who dared to belittle his existence, all those who looked at him with pity and revulsion, he hated each and every one of them with an ugly, seething rage.

    But most of all, he hated Violet. The thought of her was enough to make him want to kill. Hatred allowed him to keep his controlled appearance, though he wanted nothing more than to scream at all the faces that looked at him and demanded answers.

    He felt no such emotion towards the Lucario, surprisingly. Perhaps it was because he had lost in a straight fight against the warrior that he didn't curse what the Pokémon had done to him. The Lucario was strong, and had fought well, and Karo did not hate him for that reason.

    Losing to a warrior was a minor insult, compared to being unmade by a pathetic little moron with a Master Ball. It made him furious. He replayed fantasies in his mind repeatedly, of killing her, torturing her, making her bleed. It helped him keep his face composed during the endless rounds of interrogation. Her screams echoed fresh in his mind, and Karo couldn't pick a favorite method of ending her life.

    It was only fantasy of course. Karo had never killed anyone with his own hands after all. He didn't like the idea of doing things on his own. He much preferred using his Pokémon to kill. He didn't think death was enough for her. His ideas became more creative, as the hours dragged on, until he knew exactly what he wanted to do to her.

    He wanted her to suffer. To fight and lose, and die knowing she was worth nothing. Killing her immediately would be simpler, but he wasn't satisfied with the idea alone. Violet needed to be put in a situation she could never get out of. Something which would kill her. And if the Lucario got dragged along, so be it.

    Once he decided on the perfect plan, the lights overhead flickered. It wasn't much, but Karo's eyes lingered on the bulb.

    And he smiled, slow and sure.

    He only regretted he wouldn't have time to draw out her pain personally.

    ~o~

    Indigo hadn't known her reaction to his confession would be so severe. If he had, he might have kept his silence. Violet was looking at him with an expression which could only be called horror, her skin pale as all the blood rushed out of her face. She looked shaken, as if the ground had just fallen out from beneath her feet.

    "Indigo," she whispered finally, her face ashen. "Are you telling me the truth? Honestly?"

    He hesitated, wondering if he could take back what he had said and pass it off as a joke of some kind, but somehow, he knew she would not buy it. He nodded instead, keeping his words simple. "Yes."

    His new trainer looked like she'd been punched in the gut. "I never would have guessed…I mean, I knew you didn't know much about modern life, but I…how is that even possible? It isn't right!"

    She pointed to the plate of donuts on display inside the window of the bakery, baked to perfection and covered in sprinkles and powdered sugar. "You mean to tell me you've never eaten a donut before?!" she demanded, as though he had committed some heinous crime.

    "I do not understand why this is such a big deal," Indigo scoffed, looking dubiously at the mound of sugary confections. "They are simply pastries."

    "S-simply-!" Violet broke off, unable to convey her shock at hearing such blasphemy. "Donuts are not just pastries! Donuts are the single greatest food existing in this world! Living in the mountains your whole life is no excuse for never having eaten a donut!"

    Her Lucario sighed, seeming to make a conscious effort to reappraise the donuts as if to appease her. "They look nice," he amended dutifully. "I like the one with the small colored dots as adornment."

    "Indigo," Violet said slowly. "Did you mean sprinkles? You've never…even heard of…"

    Indigo yelped with surprise when she grabbed his wrist, immediately pulling him inside the glass doors of the bakery. A brass bell tinkled merrily as the doors opened, announcing their entrance. Violet didn't even pause, walking straight up to the counter of the mostly empty store. She pulled out a gleaming silver card from her wallet, and thrust it at the employee manning the registers, who looked a little stunned to see the two battered looking customers march straight up to his counter.

    Violet's shy manner was nowhere to be seen as she glared at the employee, her eyes flashing. He gulped visibly, as if wondering how to react. "H-How can I help you?" He tripped over a stutter, seeming taken aback by his quiet regular storming up to his counter as if she intended to fight him then and there with her tiny fists.

    "Give me two of every donut you have!"

    A quick, professional swipe of the card later, the teenager behind the counter loaded up brown boxes with donuts by the dozens, in such an array of colors and shapes that Indigo couldn't help but stare. Violet nodded with satisfaction at the expression on his face, stowing her rarely used credit card in her bag.

    She handed the rather impressive stack of boxes to Indigo, and stalked out the door without a word, letting him catch up to her as she turned down the street. "Wait here!" she instructed, ducking into a convenience store as she left him by a bench.

    When she came out a few minutes later, she carried a few plastic grocery bags filled with an odd assortment of items, but Violet wasn't finished yet. The PokeMart was next, and the attendant called out a cheery, "Come again soon!" as Violet exited the store.

    Indigo shot her startled looks over the stack of donut boxes he struggled to keep them steady, as if wondering what on earth he should say, but Violet ignored him, muttering under her breath instead. "Never eaten a donut…honestly, how completely…can't possibly let him live like this…"

    Eventually her new partner seemed to make the decision to keep his silence, which lasted all the way up to Violet's front door.

    The small computer screen next to her polished black door flickered to life when she stepped onto the welcome mat. A blue wave of light scanned her up and down, and a green light flickered on. "Violet Hikari," she announced without missing a beat. "And one guest."

    The voice recognition software unlocked the door. It swung open, and Violet stalked in without another word, ignoring the absolute shock on her new Lucario's face. Lights flickered on without her touching a single switch as she walked down the main hallway, illuminating portraits and paintings adorning the grey walls. She went straight to the kitchen, dumping her bags on the massive stone island in the center of the room as big as some houses, as the main lights flared to life above the kitchen.

    She heard the front door shut, and finally turned to her stunned friend. She took the boxes of precious donuts from him, before he could drop them, and set them on the countertop. "Activate all lighting," Violet said in a clear command, her voice echoing in the ridiculously huge room.

    Every electric bulb in the kitchen flared into immediate splendor, flaring up like miniature suns, lighting up the gleaming stone countertops, and the lamps around the table. Fluorescent bulbs lit up the kitchen, in a more professional clean light, leaving no room for shadows in the neat space. The row of circular bulbs set into the ceiling above the mantle in the dining room directly adjacent the room flicked on, separated from the kitchen by a long counter rather than a wall. Ceiling fans in the dining room whirled lazily, made of a dark hardwood engraved with abstract nature scenes, illuminating the table with a warm cheery glow. A gas fireplace burst into flames under a maple wood mantle, lending an easy ambience to the space.

    That wasn't all. Violet watched the flickering array of emotions on Indigo's face without comment as the rest of the kitchen turned on.

    A cheery robotic voice asked if the two of them needed anything, seeming to come from the glowing blue panel in the fridge. Similar panels adorned many of the appliances, like the one on the front door.

    The dishwasher let out a chime and a small cloud of steam as if announcing its contents were clean, popping open to reveal gleaming white plates and bowls arranged neatly on plastic coated racks. Metallic arms popped out of round ports, stacking the dishes as they put them into cupboards and drawers alike with a mechanized efficiency.

    A small television turned on in the upper corner of the kitchen, tuned into a competitive battling arena, currently showing the fight between a Gallade and a Swampert, both clear experts. The camera angles swooped and turned, catching every second of the action.

    The heating system in the house chose that moment to turn on, humming happily as it blew hot gusts of air from vents set in the floor.

    It was too much for Indigo. His pupils were dilated to pinpricks, under hyper alert ears. Her stunned partner fell back with surprise as her little circular vacuum whisked past on the tile in its quest for dust and dirt, and he landed on his tail, on the verge of passing out completely from sheer sensory overload.

    Violet took advantage of the fact that his mouth was hanging open to insert a donut in it, a soft white powdered variety filled with red jam. He chewed automatically, catching onto the donut with one hand so it would not fall. She was gratified to see the look of dawning wonder on the Lucario's face as he experienced his very first donut.

    The look turned to a glare after she took a picture with a disposable camera from the grocery bags on the counter, the flash startling him. Violet only grinned, glad to have the moment on film.

    "We're having a slumber party," she announced, selecting a donut for herself, a white cake donut with sprinkle-filled frosting and a thick cream center. "I'll teach you all about the secrets of life, and donuts, which are more important. I'll answer any questions you have. It's alright if you don't know everything about modern society, because that's what I'm here for! We're friends, so don't hesitate to ask, alright?"

    Indigo didn't say a word. He swallowed his bite of donut, looking completely lost, and Violet's eyebrows pinched together with worry. She leaned down, concerned. "Is this too much? I'm sorry, I should have warned you."

    He seemed to gather himself at her concern, blinking twice as if clearing his eyes. "The donut is helping," he admitted, looking considerably less shaken. "Are there more jelly filled varieties?"

    Violet smiled, simple and sincere, and showed him which donuts were superior to others, while her Lucario followed her explanations with interest.

    It was a good night.

    Once he began asking, Indigo had many questions. She told him about airplanes and PC boxes, computers and television, along with electric ovens, colored lightbulbs, ventilation, digital music, the internet, Poketchs, telephones, and radio stations, along with a hundred other things. He was especially interested in kitchen appliances, despite his apologetic admission that he did not know much about cooking. She showed him everything in her kitchen, including things she barely even knew she had, much less used. The two of the puzzled over a strange rotating waffle iron with triangular segments instead of grooves, eventually deciding it was meant for cooking sandwiches. He was awed by the genius of the refrigerator and the microwave, despite claiming the latter hurt his head when it was on. The rows of donuts disappeared with regularity, as both of them ate themselves sick on sugared heaven.

    After he'd studied every inch of the kitchen, Indigo requested he be allowed to try and cook them some real food before they overdosed on cinnamon twists and eclairs.

    Violet lent him a white apron, and sat demurely at the high backed stools lining the granite countertop, trying and failing to keep a grin off her lips at his serious expression as he tried to remember which of the spatulas was best for flipping eggs, and how to work the can opener. She offered advice occasionally, which he took with varying degrees of grace depending on what he'd been stuck on. He argued with the robotic matrix that came with the house whenever it offered helpful advice, or informed him his current stove settings were in danger of turning his meal into charcoal. Violet turned it off when it seemed the two would come to blows over the proper way to slice cheese. She struggled not to laugh when the toaster scared the mighty warrior into jumping nearly three feet in the air with a shocked yelp.

    By the time Indigo was finished with his hard earned meal, it was well after midnight, but neither of them seemed to mind. Violet set the ridiculously huge table with places for two at the end. And despite his claims that he couldn't cook, the omelets he'd managed to make were delicious, if a little lopsided. Canned peach slices sat in little glass bowls as a side dish, slippery and endlessly sweet. She couldn't help but wonder where he'd ever cooked before, since he was a Lucario from the mountains. Violet drank soda, which Indigo claimed was witchcraft, sticking with water for himself.

    "If I eat any more, I will explode," her Lucario warned her, and she couldn't help but agree. They put away the donuts, and Violet turned on the robotic matrix in the house to clean their dishes for them.

    She ignored Indigo's claim that he could sleep on the roof, and pulled him downstairs to the cozy home theatre room she never used. It was filled to the brim with soft love sacs and poly blend pillows, alongside oversized couches and plushie Poké Balls. A large Snorlax plush took up the corner of the room, nearly as big as the real thing, but made of cotton and fluff, made for sleeping.

    The expression on his face made it all worth it.

    She told him about the bath in the other room, and went upstairs herself to clean the dirt and blood she simply hadn't been able to properly wash off in the tiny hospital shower. Her arm was working better than it had been last time she'd showered. The team of Blissey at the Pokémon Center had healed the slash which had nearly cut her shoulder in two into a thick pink scar. It was sore, but that was all, and Violet was grateful beyond words for healing Pokémon. She ached, and was happy for it, because it meant she was alive. She put on soft pajamas decorated with Psyducks, a matching long shirt and comfy pants, and brushed the ridiculous amounts of sugar off her teeth.

    When she returned downstairs, Indigo had long finished his bath, apparently having taken only a few minutes. He'd spent his remaining time rearranging the plushie Pokémon in the room into a miniature army, little button eyed Plusle and Minun facing off against a horde of Hydreigon and Salamence, their fierce claws made of felt.

    She grinned, and threw a Master Ball plushie at him with a battle cry, hitting her new Lucario square in the face. His eye twitched, and war began. Pillows flew, and the two battered each other with soft fluff, until Violet laughed so hard she could not continue, surrendering gracefully to her triumphant partner.

    It was only after they had both settled down that they realized how much the movement had strained their respective wounds, albeit mostly healed, and decided to not do anything else. It had been a long day for them both.

    Violet yawned huge. "We should get some sleep, don't you think?"

    "That sounds perfect," Indigo agreed fervently. "After all, tomorrow we start our journey across this continent."

    Violet groaned, covering her face with a pillow. "Or you know, we could rest for a week or so. Sleep in, finish the donuts, and maybe train a little…"

    "That could work," Indigo admitted, sounding a little relieved. "We did defeat a psychopath a short time ago. A break seems like a reasonable thing to ask."

    Violet smiled, hugging her pillow close, her dark hair mussed from the fight. She yawned again, her pretty eyes slipping closed. Her words slurred. "Then it's settled. We got off to a tough start, but everything will be easier from here. Let's get healed up and get some rest. Good night, Indigo."

    With that, the two of them fell asleep, surrounded by plushie Pokémon and comfy pillows, insulated in the underground theatre room, resolved to start a new journey together. The room was designed to be nearly soundproof, so movies could be played loudly without disturbing the rest of the house. It had the double effect of making it nearly impossible to hear what was going on outside the room.

    As such, neither Violet nor Indigo heard the wail of the emergency evacuation alarm blaring through Pewter City, rising and falling in an undulating siren over the sleeping houses.

    They missed the sound of the explosion that ripped apart the Police Station, half a city away.

    The electric grid went down a few minutes later, choking off the alarms, and spreading panic as those woken by them realized part of the city was on fire.

    And with the alarms disabled, and no one else home, neither of them heard the front door opening with a click.

    Karo Asuna smiled, almost sadly, and shut the door behind him quietly.

    ~o~
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  9. Chapter 8: The Madness Within

    Disclaimer: I do not own Pokemon, or a gold plated jet. Yeah, I know, disappointing on both counts.

    ~o~

    Moonlight glinted off Karo Asuna's face as he walked through the silent house, his Alakazam by his side. He walked slowly, though he knew he had little time to spare.

    Shattered cuffs hung off his chafed wrists. Broken metal links hissed against the tile from the chains that had been encircling his ankles. The straitjacket had been disposed of, replaced with a dark coat with a high collar. Alakazam's perception field had been enough to make him unnoticeable, so passerby had simply looked past him as he walked down the streets, away from the burning police station.

    His other Pokémon had been euthanized, as he quickly discovered. His Alakazam had been among them.

    But of all his partners, his Alakazam had been with him the longest. He had known this was a possibility from the start, and had been building up his partners' immunity to the lethal dose used by the police force since he'd begun capturing monsters, nearly ten years ago. The Psychic Pokémon could easily alter the minds of those who took away its body, just enough that they believed it dead. He had never thought he would have to use his failsafe.

    He was not glad to be alive and free, not anything but grim, and filled with dark purpose. Karo Asuna had been filled with hate and rage for days now, and his current state of mind was less destructive, although just as focused; a simmering bed of white-hot coals, rather than an exploding volcano.

    He was alone, save his shadow, his beloved mothers Alakazam. He needed new partners, and to disappear entirely.

    After tonight, no one would ever see him again.

    Or, he mused inwardly, Violet Hikari.

    He checked all the rooms on the main level and found nothing of interest, save one locked door. Alakazam stretched forth one hand, glowing violent gold as it broke the lock with its mind. But inside was empty, save for newspaper clippings on a table of a two year old obituary, and a book titled, "Gardevoir's Soul: The Black Hole Last Resort".

    He left, turning down the dark stairwell, moving easily by the faint glow emanating from Alakazam's pewter spoons, until he found her.

    She looked even younger than he remembered. Her black hair was mussed, covering part of her vulnerable features as she slept. She wore matching blue pajamas decorated with Psyducks. He noted all this dispassionately through the light cast by Alakazam, leaning down to brush her hair away from her face.

    Before he touched her, a new source of light flared into life. Karo had just enough time to see the furious snarl on the Lucario's face, illuminated by the silver-blue flames wreathing its spiked paws, and jerked backwards before the blow would have connected to his temple.

    The light from Alakazam's spoons guttered out, plunging the room into sudden darkness. Karo stumbled backwards, the scene lit up by strobe light flashes of Aura-fire every time the Lucario struck out with its palms in fury. He stumbled back, avoiding the blows by inches, as the light gave him camera flash images of the black and blue Steel type as it did its very best to kill him.

    And then his back hit the wall.

    The Lucario had him by his throat in an instant, lifting him with ease, and his Aura-fire burned, burned cold against his pale skin.

    "Give me a reason," the Lucario snarled in a harsh snap, and for the briefest moment, Karo could have sworn its eyes were blue instead of scarlet. The dark markings on its face were striking in the glow of the ethereal light, like a black mask. Its grip tightened until the blood felt trapped in his head, and breathing was a struggle. "I dare you."

    Karo couldn't have spoken if he'd tried. Instead he smiled, if such a savagely vicious expression could be called such, as he pointed back towards the sleeping girl with one finger.

    And at the Alakazam touching her forehead, shining motes of light flickering in a swirl around them both.

    The pressure around his throat disappeared in an instant.

    "No!" the Lucario shouted, diving for the teleporting duo. A sunburst of white shone from the two in a blinding explosion of pure light, casting the Lucario's shadow against the wall in stark relief.

    When the light faded, all three of them were gone.

    Karo rubbed his throat, and waited. Alakazam returned with a crack from the place it had been captured originally, the bipedal bronze Pokémon shining with leftover energy. The voice that echoed in his mind was monotonous, but familiar.

    "It is done."

    "Then it is time for us to leave," Karo murmured. "I for one am sick of this town. It's a pity we couldn't do more than set a few buildings on fire, and murder one entitled little girl and her talking pet." The pressure in his chest eased, and Karo laughed, quietly at first, letting loose his true feelings for what felt like the first time in forever. Alakazam waited until his mirth had faded.

    Karo looked at the place the unsuspecting girl had been, true contentment filling his orange eyes. "Have fun in Cerulean Cave, Violet Hikari. We won't be meeting again."

    ~o~

    Teleportation was like being pulled deep underwater by an unseen force. Pressure built around Indigo until he felt he would be crushed by the power, and then, in an instant, it was gone. He hit cold, craggy stone in complete darkness.

    Alakazam was the only thing he could see, as it glowed faintly gold in the otherwise pitch black cavern, and Indigo was on his feet in an instant, cold fury making his paws burst into pale blue aura-light. "Get away from her!" the boy turned Lucario snarled with inhuman rage, hurling a pulsing black wave at the bronze hued Psychic. The Dark Pulse screamed through the shadows, somehow darker than even the night, edged with shattering violet lightning.

    The wave hit the Alakazam like a curved scythe, hurling it away from his unconscious friend with a booming thunder crack.

    As the powerful Psychic hurtled through the air, its pewter spoons flashed, bending cleanly in two. And a glowing golden power outlined Violet's form, pulling her sharply to the slide across the ground.

    The flash was enough for Indigo to see that the ground was black stone, veined with blue-green crystal.

    Ground which ended in a yawning chasm bare feet from his trainer, who was being dragged over the edge by psychic power.

    Indigo swore, diving for her instead of attacking again, his paws scraping across black stone. He caught her wrist as she slipped over the side, straining with every muscle in his body to prevent her fall.

    Violet's eyes fluttered open as she was pulled from her slumber. "Indigo?" she whispered, still on the edge of sleep. She woke to find herself hanging off a cliff in darkness instead of at home surrounded by comfy pillows, and shrieked like any normal person would do, jolting as if she'd been shocked.

    "I've got you!" Indigo gasped, hoping he was telling her the truth. "Hang on!" Aura strengthened his muscles into steel, and he pulled the slight girl over the rim of the chasm. She breathed in quick gasps, resting on her hands and knees, her pretty eyes open wide with shock.

    "What…what…is this a dream?" she gasped, shaken beyond words.

    "I wish," Indigo growled, as his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness enough to make out her features. His night vision was better than hers would be. He filled her in with quick sentences, every sense on alert in the dark. The Alakazam was nowhere to be seen, and Indigo knew it had taken its chance to teleport away and escape. Violet listened in silence until he was finished, catching her breath.

    "You have got to be kidding me," she said finally. "Where are we?"

    "I don't know," Indigo admitted. "A cave."

    "Got anything else?"

    "It is a dark cave," Indigo supplied helpfully. "There are many rocks. Also a cliff."

    "This doesn't make sense," Violet whispered, getting to her feet. "Why send us here? Wherever here is? If Karo escaped, why not just…"

    She trailed off, not finishing the thought that had already crossed both their minds. "I do not know," Indigo said quietly, rising as well. "But we are lucky to be alive. We should leave this place immediately."

    "I know most of the caves in Kanto," Violet said, squinting as her human eyes adjusted slowly to the blackness. "If we're still in Kanto that is." She stamped her foot on the ground, and the slap echoed. "This isn't Diglett Cave, or we'd be standing on loose packed earth." She took a deep breath. "Hello?" she shouted at the top of her lungs, making her Lucario jump.

    Hello….hello…the cave echoed back, and silence fell deep upon them once more. Violet's voice was in a whisper as the sound faded slowly. "Someone would have heard if we were in Mount Moon. It always has plenty of travelers, since it connects Pewter and Cerulean."

    "It's a start," Indigo encouraged. "What does that leave?"

    Violet closed her eyes, her forehead screwing up as she thought. "I can't smell seawater, so this can't be the Seafoam Islands. That narrows it down to two. The darkness means this could be the Rock Tunnel, but doesn't rule out Victory Road. We're in one of those two."

    She opened her eyes. "That's good news. Victory Road is patrolled by rangers regularly, to rescue those who couldn't make it through. Rock Tunnel is scary, but it's also filled with weak Pokémon, so we can get out if we're there…"

    Violet felt her way carefully to the wall as she spoke, testing the ground with her foot to make certain she wasn't about to step off another surprise ravine. Her pale hand brushed the outgrowth of crystal embedded into the stone, and it flared into immediate splendor, glowing a brilliant blue. It started a chain reaction, as light rippled through all the crystals in the black stone, fading slowly as they illuminated the massive cavern.

    The light lingered in the crystal, motes of flickering blue and green turning each of the clear jagged stones into nightlights. Indigo watched the reaction with interest, taking note of the shape of the room they were in.

    "Does that narrow it down to one?" he asked curiously, wondering if such displays were common in 'Kanto'. Violet's face had gone completely ashen. "Violet?" he inquired.

    "Yes, I know where we are," she whispered with a curiously blank expression. "This is Cerulean Cave. And we are going to die here."

    That got his attention. "It cannot be so bad," he refuted her instantly, shaking his head. "We will get out. Karo's mistake was leaving us alone. We'll think of something. Are there passerby in the cave?"

    "It's forbidden," Violet said numbly, as though her mind were far away, retreating to some dark corner inside of her. "No one comes here. It's too dangerous. It's illegal to come here actually…because if anyone came here who wasn't at the level of the Elite Four of Kanto, they would almost certainly die."

    Violet had already told him of the famed Elite Four. Powerful trainers whose strength defied imagination, the leaders of the country of Kanto, led by the one known as 'Champion'. They were the best of the best, the goal all serious trainers strove to overcome, and each and every one of them was stronger than any gym leader.

    "If only the Elite Four can come here, Violet," Indigo said slowly, piecing it together in his mind. "How is it you recognize this place?"

    She seemed to gather herself in response to his question. "Because," she said simply, looking him directly in the eyes. "I've been here, once before. With my best friend, Daniel. I'm not as strong as the Elite Four. I'm nowhere close. But he…he was incredible. So incredible that, a few years back, everyone knew his name. He battled Karen of the Elite Four in an unofficial field match, and he was able to win. She brought him here, as a reward, and he even convinced her to allow me to tag along…"

    Indigo hadn't gotten this much information about Violet's past before. He carefully filed the information, especially the name Daniel, which she'd spoken so reluctantly, for later thought. "You weren't a trainer at that point, correct?"

    She shook her head no. "I was just there to see. I was safe, with a member of the Elite Four and him there with me. But what I saw…what you'll see yourself, soon enough…oh Indigo, this place is a nightmare. The Elite Four monitors this place personally, since no ranger would be strong enough to manage the task. I couldn't forget, after I saw this place, the madness within."

    She took a ragged breath, as though trying to keep her voice from shaking, and Indigo could sense fear emanating from her normally warm aura. "I've grown up watching battles, but I've never seen anything like the Pokémon here. All I could do was watch as the two of them fought off wild Pokémon who defied imagination. Even Da-…even he had problems facing some of them, and he was the best trainer I've ever met!

    "Just what are you saying?"

    "To put it to scale? Every Pokémon here is at least as strong as any of those on Karo's team. There are no weak Pokémon in Cerulean Cave. And there are thousands that call this place home."

    Both fell quiet, as they listened to the unmistakable sounds of Pokémon moving in the depths of the cave, far off cries made unidentifiable by distance, slithering rasps, and the beating of wings.

    Indigo gathered himself first, shaking his head roughly to clear it. "Alright," he growled, his scarlet eyes composed. "What do we do?"

    "We don't do anything!" Violet gasped, true panic beginning to set in. "Oh Indigo, we're dead already, we just haven't realized it all the way yet!"

    "No," Indigo said firmly. "I refuse to believe we cannot get out of this. We did not nearly lose our lives to defeat a psychopathic serial killer with a team of monsters to be killed by a cave. What supplies do we have?"

    Violet emptied the pockets of her pale blue Psyduck print pajama pants, making a small pile on the black stone, illuminated by the faintly glowing crystal jutting out of the wall nearest them.

    It wasn't much.

    She had a half dead battery, a broken stick of bubble gum, and Mr. Fin's Master Ball, which had been minimized in her pocket. On top of that, they had the lengths of bandages which had been binding Indigo's arm, and holding Violet's shoulder in one place while it healed fully.

    Essentially, they would have to fight their way out of a cave filled with horrifying monsters without food, water, or supplies. They were both barely healed from grievous injuries. Indigo was still unable to use his Aura Vision to navigate. On the bright side, they had a battery and a Magikarp with delusions of grandeur on their team.

    "Thank goodness this isn't going to be too easy," Indigo grumbled. "It might injure my pride if I thought the universe wasn't out to get me."

    Violet was still looking shaken, casting fearful looks into the darkness beyond the crystalline glow as if afraid something was going to leap out at their throats. They weren't going to get very far if she could not pull herself together. Indigo knew the situation was bad. And shy little girl or not, he needed her operating at a hundred percent. "Don't look so glum," Indigo said cheerfully, sounding far more nonchalant than he felt. "After all, we're in an empty part of the cave, aren't we? What's the worst that could happen?"

    As if on cue, the ground shook under their feet in an ominous growl.

    "You…did not just say that," Violet groaned, stuffing the gum and the battery back in her pocket along with Mr. Fins Master Ball. "Never, never, say that! We're definitely going to die now!"

    Her sentence was drowned out by the roar of an avalanche of rock, as the stony ground under their feet vibrated like a bass drum. Crashing, colliding roars filled the cavern, like stone clashing against stone, as a hoard of biolithic creatures rampaged through the large archway leading further into the cave. Crystals lit up in miniature flares, lighting the scene, as the Rhyhorn herd barreled into the cave, their stony limbs crashing against the black stone in a staccato rhythm.

    It was impossible to describe the sheer force of the sound. It was a physical sensation, a rumble vibrating in his bones, a shattering and all-encompassing avalanche of noise.

    But the sound was nothing compared to the fact that any one of those Rhyhorn could squish Indigo and Violet like bugs.

    Any one of the fifty Rhyhorn who had chosen that moment to stampede through that particular cavern, where the two very squishable partners were currently standing.

    Indigo slipped into battle mode, sliding his left foot back as he relaxed into a warrior's position. He had seen Rhyhorn plenty of times before. A well timed Force Palm or two could in the least deter the living stone creatures-

    Every Pokémon here is at least as strong as any of those on Karo's team.

    Indigo hesitated, his muscles jerking as he remembered her words, and the level of strength his opponent had possessed.

    And looking at the stampede, Indigo felt a jolt of true fear.

    He set it aside, positioning himself in front of Violet, and held out an arm in a clear gesture of challenge as a herd of super powered Rhyhorn hurtled towards them both, showing no signs of stopping.

    ~o~

    On Violet's tenth birthday, Daniel Knight took her into the field for the very first time. She'd been gloomy all day, despite trying so hard to smile. Because even though it was her birthday, it was also the day she should have begun her Pokémon journey. She'd tried to be alright, to show a brave face, but she couldn't help the sadness deep in her chest. She'd laughed her way through a small party with Daniels family, nodded politely at her father's gift, delivered via his secretary, and eaten herself sick on a birthday cake made of stacked donuts, and then gone home, where she could let her smile drop. No one was home. Her dad was working late. She'd gone up to her room and pulled out her worn book on the species of Kanto, the pages littered with graffiti notes and her top favorite names for each Pokémon, and, since no one could see, she'd let herself cry.

    A knock at her window surprised her. She'd wiped away her tears hurriedly, and opened the glass to see the then twelve year old Daniel hovering outside her third floor window on his Pidgeot. He'd held out a hand, a familiar grin on his face, and an unmistakable challenge in his striking golden eyes. And even though she knew it was against the rules, and if caught, she would get in more trouble than she'd ever been in before, Violet had taken his hand, and leapt through the window to his Pidgeots back. She still remembered how her heart had pounded as Pidgeot soared through the skies of Kanto, how she'd clutched her arms around his waist so tightly he'd complained she was trying to kill him, and how quickly the night fell, blanketing the cold sky in stars. They wandered the grassy region for an hour or so, laughing and pointing out wild Pokémon, and Violet had not been afraid, because Daniel was with her.

    And then, at the edge of a still lake, he'd hushed her laughter, and told her to stay perfectly still. She'd obeyed immediately, falling silent.

    They came through the white ash and birch trees, fiery manes chasing shadows from the night, prancing easily between each other with bodies as pale as the full moon reflected on the lake. The Rapidash herd spilled out from the forest to the lakes edge, each one a flaming beacon in the night, with intelligent eyes which shone like hot embers. There were hundreds in the herd; brash, newly evolved youngsters challenging others with razor sharp horns, baby Ponyta huddled with cautious eyes near their mothers, and wizened elders with burned down manes. She'd stared with impossibly huge eyes at the flaming spectacle, unable to speak even if she wanted to. Daniel had nudged her, pointing to the largest Rapidash in the herd. She clutched his arm, as the Rapidash took notice of them. It had tossed its head, cantering over to their location, bringing half the herd with it.

    She hadn't been able to breathe, as the herd of Rapidash surrounded them in a loose circle, their presence alone heating up the air to the temperature of mid-summer. Their leader was a head taller than any of the others, with a long, jagged horn which looked as though the end had snapped in battle, and long white scars marring its coat. The flames of his mane burned crimson and gold.

    "You take care of this," Daniel had whispered, his voice laced with laughter at the look of utter betrayal she gave him in her panic. She'd never battled before, only watched. She was certain he was making fun of her, on her birthday no less, certain she was about to make a fool of herself trying to win a battle she knew Daniel could handle on his own. But instead of giving her a Poké Ball containing one of his partners, Daniel Knight had rummaged through his pack, and given her a red skinned apple, and pushed her towards the battle scarred leader of the Rapidash herd. She'd never been as terrified as she was then, approaching the Pokémon taller than most people. She'd held out the apple with both hands, her eyes as huge as saucers, absolutely sure she was about to die.

    The Rapidash had leaned down his horned head, as though bowing, taking the apple from her hands with care. And then, he'd reared up on his hind legs, letting out a high pitched whinny, as Violet fell on her backside with shock. But the Rapidash simply spun on its hind legs, cantering through the herd, her offering accepted. The herd took motion, racing through the night as one being, moving with such speed their manes flew out like shooting stars behind them, as each attempted to outdo the others. They'd watched them go, until finally, Daniel had offered her a hand up.

    "Being a trainer isn't all about battling," he'd told her simply, as the calls of the fire types disappeared. "It's about understanding Pokémon. Brute force will only get you so far. A true trainer knows that to fight alongside Pokémon, you need to know their hearts. Happy birthday, Violet."

    That night had been her best birthday present. She remembered, as the Rhyhorn herd rushed towards them in the pale light of the crystals. As Indigo stood in front of her, preparing to battle an opponent he could not possibly defeat, for her sake. As she realized this time, she was the trainer.

    "No!" Violet shouted, over the roar of clashing rock. She grabbed Indigo's hand with her own, pulling him forward, towards the stampede. "Follow my lead!"

    "What are you doing?" Indigo shouted, his voice nearly drowned out by the stampede, as Violet pulled them into a full sprint.

    She reached her top speed maybe twenty feet from the front wall of Rhyhorn, her heart pounding a painful rhythm in her chest that had nothing to do with running. She let go of Indigo's hand, hoping he would follow what she was doing, and ignoring the little voice in the back of her mind screaming 'idiot' at her.

    The section of cave they had teleported into had only one exit, provided you didn't count the chasm replacing the left wall, dropping off into nothing. The Rhyhorn didn't seem to know, or care, that they were running straight towards a solid stone wall at full tilt. They spread out ever so slightly as they ran, their herd stretching from the wall to the edge of the chasm, stampeding down the hall-like cavern, with Violet and Indigo between them and solid rock.

    Violet charged the lead Rhyhorn head on, screaming half in challenge and half in bone numbing terror. And right before they would have collided, squishing her into a Violet-shaped smear on the floor, she jumped to the right, dodging the straight moving Rhyhorn. Behind her, she heard Indigo curse as he did the same, bobbing and weaving through the stampede.

    "Rhyhorn are fast, strong, and nearly impossible to stop once they get moving," Daniel said through her memories, tossing a Poké Ball lazily up into the air one summer day. "In fact, they don't stop until they hit something strong enough to stop them. But they're also dumb as a rock, and they can't turn at all. That's where your advantage lies. They only move straight, which makes them predictable."

    Stampedes with other species were dangerous in their unpredictability. Tauros would have weaved through each other like water; meaning it would have been nearly impossible to know if the creature you were facing was going to swerve out of the blue. Rhyhorn on the other hand would only barrel straight forward.

    Which meant dodging them was possible, if you had enough forward momentum to leap any significant distance to either side. In theory. Probably.

    Violet's scream was drowned out by the noise entirely, as she dodged through the Rhyhorn stampede, Indigo following just behind her. He caught up, running beside her, as a Rhyhorn the size of a small steamroller barreled towards them. She jumped left, and Indigo leapt right, dodging cleanly. He pivoted where she couldn't see, jumping over another Rhyhorn with a freaking front flip, landing at her side once more, just in time to scoop her up and leap with aura-enhanced strength over the last of the herd. He set her down carefully, and Violet's breath came in gasps, adrenaline pumping lightning through her veins.

    "That was utterly insane," Indigo informed her, equal parts furious and impressed. "Never do that again." The Rhyhorn struck the far wall in waves with a sound like crashing thunder, the boom knocking dust loose from the ceiling. They shook their heads roughly once, and ambled around peacefully, as though nothing had happened at all. Violet brushed her mussed dark hair away from her face and laughed breathlessly, relief and adrenaline making her giddy.

    "We can't win by fighting. There are too many powerful Pokémon here. We need to avoid battles at all costs, and focus on getting through the cave," Violet explained, her eyes fever bright with the realization that they hadn't died. "I think you were right. We can't give up hope. If we do, it means we'll lose before we even begin."

    Her smile faded, as a thick growling rumbled from directly behind her, somewhere in the dark cavern the Rhyhorn had come from. Indigo moved immediately, putting himself between her and the unknown cavern, his ears perked furiously for even the smallest sound, every muscle tensed as though ready for battle.

    "What's in there?" Violet asked in a small voice, peering into the darkness.

    "I do not know," Indigo admitted, his eyes closed to hear a little better. "My Aura Vision is still burned out. I can sense a little, but it's easier to read someone I know than an unnamed enemy. There are many, and they are strong." He took a deep breath, as though steeling himself, before looking at her steadily. "That's the only way out. We have to go through there, or else stay in this cavern forever with those Rhyhorn."

    She looked at the herd of Rhyhorn at the other end of the cavern, which were currently engaged in striking each other with their massive stony heads in a distorted game of bumper cars. "Let's go then," she whispered, her blood running cold. "No sense in waiting for them to decide to include us in the game."

    Indigo walked into the darkness without another word. He lifted one spiked paw, and it burst into wispy, ethereal aura-light, pushing the shadows back in a clean circle around them. Violet hung close, her hand grasped tightly around Mr. Fin's Master Ball; as if it would do her any good. The air grew hot. There were no crystals to light their way in this particular section of cave. She threw a look backwards, just as the ghostly luminescence radiating from the crystals behind them faded, giving the impression there was no way back.

    Indigo held out an arm, stopping her. His ears swiveled wildly, as he picked up words and phrases from the growling which erupted all around them in a slow, suspicious rumble. "We haven't come to fight!" he called out into the darkness. "I swear to you, we mean no harm!"

    In response to his words, the grumbling undertone of speech faded entirely, until there was nothing but silence.

    A dark shape struck from the shadows, moving like a bullet. The projectile hit Indigo's outstretched paw with a crack. He cried out, and the aura-light disappeared as he clutched his injured limb, plunging them into complete pitch black.

    Violet felt her heart beat jolt in her chest. She clapped her hands to her ears as a bone-chilling screech of metal on stone pierced the air, like fingernails on chalkboard; if they were rusted iron fingernails on a chalkboard made of broken plates. Red fire-glow lit up the opposite end of the blackness, as a whirling horn drill bit through stone until magma bled out into the cavern in a tide of blood-red molten rock. Violet flinched as more drilling erupted around them, and new pools of glittering lava burst from the stone, each conflagration marking a circle around the two of them.

    Through the shifting, flickering light of the crimson lava, Violet and Indigo got their first look at the Pokémon that called this part of Cerulean Cave home. They stood on two feet, armored in thick grey plates of hide, each craggy creature sporting a tough, drill shaped horn on their foreheads. The lava clinging in flecks to their thick skins didn't seem to bother them in the slightest. Some of them even stood in the lava, in bowl shaped nests lining the spherical cavern the size of a soccer stadium.

    The lack of the caves normal crystalline lighting system was explained by the fragments of glass-like shards on the ground. The Rhydon had shattered them, either to test the strength of their horns, or to make the veins of lava easier to find, which warmed their nests. Deep holes bored into the rock suggested underground habitats as well. As she watched, a Rhydon burst from the stone, bringing a rush of magma to the surface with it. It stood, shaking the molten stone from its hide as though it were water, ambling over to the side.

    The cave itself didn't have much volcanic activity. The Rhydon had drilled down until they found veins of lava, cultivating them with tunnels to move closer to the surface. From there, it was easy to break open the top layers of cooled off rock, exposing fresh lava beneath.

    Violet jumped back from a few drops of molten rock hurriedly as two geysers of lava exploded upwards in a rush, cooling quickly into red hot pillars standing on either end of a throne of black rock. A massive Rhydon slumped in the throne, a crown of jagged black obsidian hanging crooked over its glaring crimson eyes, filmed over with age. It opened its mouth, growling out a low stream of speech with the timbre of a command, addressing Indigo.

    "We offer no challenge," Indigo repeated firmly, and to his credit he never once flinched as the circle of Rhydon rumbled. Their horns spun in a high pitched whine, as if in warning, each of the overpowered Rhydon staring at the intruders through the light of crimson lava with suspicion. Violet tried to stand tall, but her hands shook.

    The King of the Rhydon spoke again, standing half out of this throne with a visible effort. At its snarling words, the droning whine of the drills grew louder, as the Rhydon became agitated.

    "Indigo?" Violet whispered, her face ashen.

    "They think we're here to capture them, or steal their treasures," Indigo explained in a rush, without looking at her. "Their King claims since I am with a human, I must be subservient, acting on orders. They believe humans lie, cheat and steal, and are utterly without honor. Therefore, I also am believed to be a liar, simply because I am a captive of you." He spoke the last words with amusement.

    The King slammed his massive forearm down on his throne, crushing the stone like it was made of hard cheese, and Violet made a 'meep' sound, her eyes frozen wide. He snarled out a rant, punctuated by a thick coughing that belched up black ash, sweeping his arm out in a gesture of defiance over the increasingly furious Rhydon horde. Indigo stepped forward quickly, portraying a façade of confident strength.

    "Your majesty claims humans lie," Indigo interrupted, much to the anger of the watching monsters. "I am far from disagreement. They are terrible creatures."

    "Indigo!" Violet hissed, casting fearful looks at the Rhydon as they focused on her with accusing scarlet eyes.

    Her Lucario turned his head to the side just enough for her to see him wink.

    "They're awful cheats, cowards, and quite frankly they smell bad," he continued with a disparaging sigh. "There's nothing good about them. Especially this one. I was an esteemed warrior in my territory, when she captured me without a battle in a magical sphere that cannot be escaped from. And even though she is stupid, and doesn't eat well, it is now my job to protect her. It is most unfortunate, but I am coping."

    The angry rumbles faded, becoming sympathetic, and Violet's face burned with embarrassment. The King cast a speculative look at Violet, offering a suggestion in a low grumbling tone.

    "While I thank your majesty for the offer, I'm afraid my duty is clear. I must babysit this smelly human until such a day comes when I am released," Indigo sighed. "It is only honorable, since I was captured, magic Poké Ball or no. I must help her get out of this cave, and your territory, since she is my responsibility now. I ask that we be allowed to continue on, without quarrel. Any directions would also be much appreciated, since my human will get hungry soon if not fed regularly."

    The King of the Rhydon blinked once at them, and then burst into gales of bellowing laughter, which was taken up by all the others in the cave. He made a gesture, and two bulky bodyguards drilled down a wall, which looked as if it had been recently formed from lava, revealing a path out. Crystals twinkled beyond, wafting in relatively fresh air into the overheated room.

    Violet's cheeks burned scarlet as they walked through the line of suddenly sympathetic Rhydon towards the exit, trying to look harmless in her blue duck pajamas with her dark hair hiding her face. They had to stop twice for Indigo to shake paws with Rhydon, or occasionally get a pat on the back. Just before the exit, a Rhydon rumbled a sentence to Indigo, handing him a tattered brown knapsack, which he accepted graciously. They stepped into the hallway, and the two bodyguard Rhydon remade the wall with globs of half cooled lava they handled like play dough.

    She waited until the wall was reformed, as Indigo touched a dimly glowing crystal to make it burst back into full light. "I am not smelly," she insisted firmly. Indigo's mouth twitched.

    "Of course you're not," he assured, pushing the brown bag at her. "The Rhydon claimed a human left that bag here five or ten years ago or so. There might be something useful in it."

    Two of the pockets had been torn out of the rough fabric bag, but the inside was whole. There were two rock hard granola bars, a canteen of putrid water, and three potions, only one of which was full. Violet shook out the dust, chucked the empty potions, and emptied the brackish green water from the canteen, before screwing the lid back on. She swung the bag onto her back by the one intact strap, glad to have at least one tool.

    "This path leads to a large cavern up ahead," Indigo instructed, pointing ahead of them. "Until we reach the room with a river, we shouldn't turn into any of the side paths. After that we're on our own."

    Violet's breathing was slowing down to a normal pace, bringing extra shakiness along with it. She tried to focus. "Right," she said, walking with care on the stone with her bare feet. "Let's get going."

    "Violet," Indigo started, falling into step behind her. He seemed almost hesitant to speak. "We will get out of this. You have my word."

    He couldn't guarantee that, a voice in her head whispered. Violet pushed the thought aside. She sighed, looking at her Lucario through her dark fringe of hair. "Look, I know this isn't…good. But at least we're not alone, right?"

    Indigo smiled ruefully, seeming relieved at her assessment. He opened his mouth, as though to say something cool sounding in reply, when a glob of pink goo fell onto his head. "Gah!" he yelped instead, as the goo laughed helplessly, covering his eyes with its slimy pink arms.

    "Ditto!" the creature quipped happily. Indigo batted at the creature, trying to rip it from his head futilely. The Ditto simply reformed itself around his head and reaching arms, impossible to grab onto, and latched on tight.

    "This is not funny!" Indigo insisted sharply, as Violet's initial shock turned into smothered giggles. "Stop your silly laughter and help me, stupid girl!" The Ditto on his head mimicked his hand movements with an air of pretend regality, posing like a goo-shaped supermodel, and Violet laughed behind the hands clasped over her mouth.

    "H-hey, little Ditto," Violet choked through her mirth. "Can I have my friend back?"

    The Ditto thought for a moment, and then shook its head 'no'. It wiggled and did the wave with its pink tendril arms, swaying on the enraged Lucario's head happily. "I see," Violet said, still struggling to contain her giggles. "I'll trade for him then. Here!" She presented the Ditto with her gift with a flourish, as though presenting a diamond, or a donut.

    "Half a stick of gum?" Indigo complained, scraping enough Ditto away from his eyes to be able to see. "Is that all I'm worth to you?"

    The Ditto apparently considered the gum to be more valuable than Indigo. It regarded its gift with surprise, as though not sure what to do with it, as it squelched off of Indigo's head. Violet explained what it was, and wondered if giving bubble gum to something that looked like bubble gum was cannibalism. If so, it didn't bother the Ditto in the slightest.

    "We should move on," Indigo said tensely, shooting glances at the shadows above. "Do we knock out the Ditto?"

    "It's harmless," Violet cooed, tickling the creature as it chewed loudly. She straightened, her hand curling around Mr. Fins Master Ball as if for reassurance. "You're right though. Let's get going. Goodbye, little one!"

    They left the Ditto on the blackened stone, looking surprised to see them go, and ventured into the heart of Cerulean Cave.

    ~o~
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  10. Chapter 9: Armor of Bone

    Disclaimer: The only Pokemon I own is a terrible pink OC recolor of a Charmander, DO NOT STEAL!

    Authors Note: Remember, you can also read this story on Fanfiction dot net. Guest reviews and PM's are always welcome, and I'm far more likely to see comments posted there. More chapters may also be available on Fanfiction, since my posting here is experimental so far. Thanks for reading! ~Little Miss Firebright


    ~o~

    It didn't take long for Indigo to realize what his new trainer meant when she said this cave was the most dangerous place in Kanto.

    He hadn't wanted to admit things stronger than him existed. He'd consoled himself after fighting Karo by telling himself the man was an exception, far stronger than the average. And after all, hadn't he defeated most of his team all by himself? He'd been evading capture for an entire year, including the period of a few months he hadn't known how to battle at all as a Lucario. He'd grown arrogant without realizing it, thinking he was special.

    Even now, it had taken getting knocked out by a single Dynamic Punch from a disdainful Machoke for Indigo to realize he was still an amateur at the art of battle. He'd ignored Violet's order to stay away, thinking he couldn't lose to a Pokémon who wasn't fully evolved. The next thing he remembered was the bitter taste of a Revive seed, which Violet had found along the way. He'd spent the next five minutes coughing up blood.

    Items littered the cave, if you knew where to look. Before long Violet's bag grew heavier with abandoned bottles of medicine; Full Restores, Max Elixirs, and PP Ups. She found three Rare Candies, giving them all to Indigo to eat immediately, a Dusk Stone, and two glittering Nuggets of gold. Indigo wondered why there were so many rare items left abandoned and unused, and decided it was better not to think of what had happened to their previous owners.

    But more surprising than anything was the skill his trainer possessed.

    Ever since he'd met Violet, Indigo had been taken off guard again and again by the things she did. As it turned out, he had never seen her true abilities until now, when they needed it most. He would have been killed a hundred times over had it not been for Violets incredible knowledge of so many varying species of Pokémon.

    Their path led them through twisting corkscrews of ink-black stone, lit by the shining aquamarine crystals jutting from the walls. Tunnels and natural halls connected the larger caverns, which were, more often than not, inhabited by families of wild Pokémon. Species tended to group up, sometimes altering specific caverns to suit their needs. They were territorial, powerful, and struck first, asking questions later.

    "Hold your breath," Violet whispered, staring with intent amethyst eyes into a cavern reeking of the putrid smell of flesh rotting off the bone. It was warmer than most caves, more like a jungle or a greenhouse than an underground habitat. Thick vines which almost looked like roots dangled down from the broken ceiling, housing shifting plants with poisonous green spots on vivid yellow bodies. "Don't breathe in, no matter what. The smell alone will knock us out if we aren't careful."

    "You know what's causing that?" Indigo managed to say, clenching his hands tightly over his sensitive nose. The pale girl nodded, pointing a finger at the scarlet blooms lining the cavern, mottled with deep crimson and flecks of ivory. As Indigo watched, one of the flowers shifted slightly; each and every one was a Pokémon. His eyes widened with realization.

    "They're Gloom," Violet explained. "And if you think the smell is bad now, wait until they feel endangered. When they release the toxins in the flowers pistil, the rank odor can be smelled from a mile away. This close, it would knock us out instantly. And if we fall asleep in that nest, I don't think we'd ever get out again.

    Indigo shuddered, trying to imagine a scent worse than the repulsive rot assaulting them now. He followed Violet as she stepped into the humid air of the Gloom nest, sucking in as deep a breath as he could manage of the rancid perfume of the dead. The two battered partners walked slowly through the scarlet garden, moving carefully between the sleeping, sentient flowers.

    Violet pointed out the exit, hidden behind low hanging roots, and they escaped the nest without incident, gratefully breathing in the still rotten air, having made it through the worst without waking a single Gloom. Violet had laughed breathlessly, her eyes shining.

    They'd taken directions from a suspiciously helpful Marowak after Indigo defeated it in a one on one battle between caverns, and been told they couldn't get out until after they passed through the Magneton horde, wherever that was. Violet had wandered around seemingly aimlessly, doubling back and taking new routes, much to Indigo's growing irritation, as he fought back a whining in his ears which was getting steadily worse. He'd been at the point of snapping just before they rounded the corner to a room filled with static electricity, and dry as a bone.

    At his look of surprise, Violet had tapped her ears. "Magneton cause earaches the closer you get to them," she explained, as if it were something everyone ought to know. He'd stared at her incredulously as she walked away, and shaken his head with a bemusement.

    The labyrinth was riddled with rivers which glowed faintly blue due to the crystals beneath the surface. Twice they crossed over the twisting currents to reach a new tunnel in the black stone, though Violet had difficulty swimming with her left arm still so sore. He tried to help her as much as he could. Once, she stopped him from entering the water, pointing out the spiraling currents whipping against each other across the surface. "That's a Seadra territory battle," she said matter of factly. "You do not want to get caught in one of those. Take it from someone who knows." She touched her right arm as though remembering some past injury.

    They waited by the side of the river until the currents died away, leaving the surface crystal clear once more. Indigo jerked, realizing they were being watched by a blue Pokémon with an odd expression, hidden in the shadows. He grabbed Violets arm, not daring to speak, but she took one glance at the pained looking creature and rolled her eyes.

    "Wobbufett don't attack first under any circumstances," she said in a bored tone, ignoring it entirely as she stood. Despite her assurances, Indigo kept a wary eye on the odd Pokémon until they were out of sight.

    They'd come to a large room lit by violet crystals, with a deep blue pool of water in the exact center of the floor, lit from below by shimmering glass, and surrounded by mounds of broken rock. It seemed empty. Indigo and Violet had walked carefully inside, checking for the enemies they knew had to be there. Violet had moved to fill her canteen in the pool, kicking a rock by mistake. It landed in the water with a hiss of acrid steam, melting into blackened slag on contact. Shadows flitted across the surface, and Indigo had grabbed her arm, pointing up.

    Venomoth fluttered lazily near the ceiling of the cathedral cavern, bumping against the glowing crystals adorning the roof in shining splendor. The swarm was slow moving, with many of the poisonous creatures clinging to the walls, their dust-scaled wings tucking in close as they surveyed the room with glimmering beady eyes; far too intelligent for comfort. Their antennae twitched lazily, their segmented bodies covered in a fine purple fuzz. Webbing held sticky white eggs to the sides of the stone, hundreds of them grouped so close together they made a single mass, tended by the fluttering Venomoth with the most shockingly purple wings.

    Violet had taken a single step back, her breath catching in her throat as she stared with wide eyes at the massive swarm, and brushed against a crystal barely jutting from the rock. It was enough to start a chain reaction, lighting up every crystal on the floor, and the entire swarm of deadly moths took flight, attracted to the light below. They flew down like a living tornado, their fragile wings beating a soft current into the stagnant air. Glittering dust fell from those wings, and Violet shouted out a warning. Indigo took the hint, covering them both with a Protect to stop the first onslaught. The Venomoth didn't seem to care about them, instead bumping into the glowing crystals fondly, spreading their deadly glitter into the air in a cloud of beautiful, effervescent death.

    Dark winged Venomoth gathered around the pool, filling it with deep purple scale dust, and Indigo noticed in the new light that the broken shards of rock mounded around the acrid lake were bones, piles, and piles of them. The pool was a trap, an inviting source of water which killed any who touched the surface. The victims fed the horde of Venomoth, their bodily fluids sucked dry by hundreds of monstrous insects.

    Indigo looked all around, and realized they were surrounded. There was no way to escape the cavern without getting touched by the Venomoth dust. He could not keep up the Protect for long. He didn't have any ideas or clever tricks and they had no time.

    "Venomoth with dark wings are deadly poison," Violet said by his side, reciting as though from memory, her eyes tracking the few creatures with the darkest purple wings. "Venomoth with light wings cause minor paralysis." Many more of the creatures were light colored, pale grey-violet, making up most of the swarm.

    Indigo looked at Violet. A moment of communication passed between them, and Indigo let the Protect drop.

    They walked slowly to avoid attention, holding hands so as not to get separated. They tried not to inhale deeply, though the dust only needed skin contact to affect them. The light dust gathered on Violet's skin and hair, and frosted Indigo's fur like snow, spreading numbing lethargy wherever it touched. Every time a Venomoth flew near with wings as dark as midnight, Indigo threw out his will, forming a Protect bubble around them both.

    By the time they passed through the archway to freedom, neither of them could move properly. They collapsed outside the cavern filled with Venomoth as the paralysis faded slowly, limp on the ground but alive. It took half hour for them to be able to move again, during which time a curious Raichu had prodded Violet's face experimentally, and shocked Indigo once to see if he was alive, before leaving.

    On and on it went. They battled only when there was no other alternative, traversing the cave with luck, skill, and occasional 'tactical retreats', which sounded better than 'running away like five year olds'. Indigo fought, Violet strategized, and between the two of them, against all odds, they were alive. They collected new scratches and bruises. Violet nearly lost an eye to a Golbats fangs, leaving her with a long slash through her left eyebrow. Indigo fought often enough that he tasted blood in his mouth, and his fists ached from striking his opponents.

    And yet, somewhere in between battling side by side for their lives in a cave filled to the brim with demons incarnate, Indigo realized he was having fun.

    He couldn't explain it. They were clearly fighting for their lives. And yet, Indigo felt better than he had in ages. He hadn't noticed how many of his emotions had been suppressed to the point of nonexistence since being cursed, until they began to come back.

    "Watch, how the wild human stalks her prey," he said seriously, watching Violet with mock caution. "She is careful, deadly…but wait! Her opponent is unexpectedly powerful! Will she be able to win?"

    Violet glared at him with exasperation as she tried to bite the rock hard granola bar, without much success. They had stopped in a small niche hidden from sight in order to rest and take inventory on their gathered items. Indigo continued with growing amusement at her plight. "If only the human had food which was easier to eat, like granite, or maybe some nice bedrock, she would fare better…"

    "I will throw this at you," Violet warned, brandishing her granola bar like a weapon.

    Indigo flinched back with pretend fear. "I don't want to get a concussion. I yield to your greater weaponry, supreme leader."

    "You're in an awfully good mood," Violet noted, grinning despite herself. She used her left hand with care, after getting hit by a stray attack earlier. Indigo tried not to notice.

    "Nothing like fighting for your life to bring out a sense of irony," Indigo agreed, flashing her a grin. He leaned back against the polished stone wall languidly, tucking his paws behind his ears. "In other ironic news, the girl with a Magikarp for a starter seems to actually know what she's doing, much to my shock..."

    She went pink in the light of the crystals. "I know a little," she muttered, turning her attention back to her granola bar.

    Indigo scoffed. "More than a little. I know quite a bit about Pokémon species myself, and even I'm shocked by the details you know. If I didn't know better, I'd say you had a psychic gift."

    "I don't!" Violet shouted, turning to him with panicked eyes. Her face went red at her outburst, and her next words were hushed, an apology. "Sorry, I just…don't like psychics much."

    He spoke after a beat. "It's not as though I blame you." She continued to look away, clearly uncomfortable. Indigo wondered why she felt so strongly about psychics. He continued, in an attempt to distract her. "Extra abilities in people can be terrifying. I knew a man once who could control fire."

    It did the trick. Violet looked up with surprise, her discomfort disappearing. "Without Pokémon?"

    "In a manner of speaking," Indigo admitted, warming to his story. He didn't let himself remember the details of what he had seen the power do, but explaining it was simple enough. "He was born without abilities, a normal child. He was taken away at a young age by a mad man, along with his older sister. Experimentation gave the boy power, and took the life of his sibling. He could create, manipulate, and extinguish fire at will. He grew to be the most terrifying man I've ever encountered."

    Tero Akkarin, the King of Fire. Indigo still remembered his face perfectly, down to every cruel detail. Thinking of him always made Indigo remember the smell of smoke, and the sound of screams. His was the kind of face that haunted nightmares.

    "What kind of experiments?" Violet asked in a hushed voice, intrigued despite herself, the same way people were when asking about gruesome hospital patients.

    Indigo smiled, knowing his answer would drive her curiosity through the roof. "Experiments with Pokémon Eggs. The mad man created a drug from the embryotic fluid found in various species of eggs which could infuse human beings with some of the abilities of Pokémon. Few of the test subjects survived. Even fewer retained their sanity. He called it the-"

    "The Pokémon Experiment," Violet finished for him, matter-of-factly

    Indigo stared.

    Violet blushed a little more. "It's from the tales of Halladen, right? My mom used to read it to me when I was little. It's all I really remember of her. You could have told me it was just a story before-hand. I actually believed you for a second there."

    Indigo bolted upright as if she'd shocked him with a live wire. Halladen. To hear that name, spoken so casually on her lips! And though the memories of being human flooded through him, Indigo had never looked less human as he did right then. Lucario stood rigid above her with jolting scarlet eyes, his steel-spiked paws clenched and sparking wildly with erratic aura. "What do you know of Halladen?" Indigo Nightwalker demanded intensely, an emotion almost like fear coloring his speech. He had not spoken the name of his home in so very long. It felt unfamiliar, a taste long forgotten in his mouth.

    Violet went ashen at his sudden intensity, stammering over her words. "I-it's a story…about a princess who lived long ago. Indigo, it's not real. It's only a story…"

    He had scared her. Indigo forced himself to soften his tone, past the emotion scorching its way through his suddenly attentive mind. "Violet, it is important. Please…what story do you speak of?"

    Before she could answer, a slithering, scraping rasp echoed ominously from the tunnel beside them.

    Violet and Indigo exchanged a look. Violet gathered their items into her rucksack without a word as Indigo stood at alert, peering around the corner of their hidden niche with one eye.

    "What-" Violet began in a whisper, cut off by Indigo's slashing gesture. He listened with closed eyes, his ears twitching slightly at every noise, and then-

    Hissing uncurled from the darkness, like rain on leaves, or steam escaping from a pipe, seemingly without source. It sent cold chills shuddering down his spine.

    The Arbok slithered past their hideaway with fluidity, snaking its scaled body in an undulating dance across the stone, moving with startling speed for its size. Its hooded wedge shaped head came first, held low to the ground, with a poison-pink tongue flickering between gleaming bone fangs, tasting the stale air in front of it curiously, followed by a long, sinuous body covered in tightly packed purple scales.

    And then more body.

    And more.

    The nearly eighteen foot long Arboks tail tapered down to a point and slid out of view. Every muscle in Indigo's body had frozen, adrenaline spiking his heartrate up and up, a clear reaction to the presence of a predator. He'd forgotten to breathe. He did so, forcing his brain to begin working once more.

    The Arbok had come from the same direction they had. Which meant to continue, they would likely have to face it.

    "Violet?" he asked in the quietest hush he could manage, though he was fairly certain they were long out of earshot.

    "Arbok," Violet recited quietly, staring at the place the snake had been. "Capable of crushing steel in its coiled embrace. Once Arbok sets its eyes on prey, it never gives up the chase. They are ruthless, without mercy, and are one of the most horrifying predators in all of Kanto, second only to Gyarados. But if it's only one, we can take it."

    As if in answer to her statement, more hisses echoed darkly from the tunnel, a mind numbing symphony that shuddered through Indigo's bones, growing in number and volume until the cave rang. The rasp of scales on stone grew louder, and a tide of Arbok swam through the tunnel, covering the ground in a writhing carpet of deadly, tree sized snakes.

    Indigo reminded himself to rebuke Violet for tempting fate with a statement like that. This time it hadn't been his fault, a fact he intended to point out the moment they weren't in life threatening danger.

    It took two full minutes for the horde of Arbok to pass by entirely. They weren't in a hurry, twisting leisurely around each other, somehow still moving with a fluid grace despite their pace. They ranged in size mostly from about ten feet to a whopping thirteen, ranging in thickness and color considerably by individual, especially the vivid patterns adorning their flared hoods. Smaller, darting shapes twisted nervously near the edges of the horde, pale colored Ekans with darting tongues and lightning fast reflexes. As they watched, an Arbok twisted around like a whip, biting an Ekans in two, swallowing it in two gulps between its unhinged jaws, before continuing as though nothing had happened. And mixed in with the horde of already unusually large snakes, a few creatures stirred which could only be called 'monsters'; Arbok thick enough to swallow a man whole, whose length exceeded mere imagination, moved slowly and unhurriedly in the midst of the cannibalistic tangle of predators.

    They stayed in hiding for a good half hour to be certain they were in the clear. Eventually the two decided one of them would check the path ahead, and ascertain which way the Arbok had gone. Violet introduced him to a game called rock paper scissors, which he lost, leaving him with the terrifying task of recon.

    He slipped back into their hidden niche ten minutes later, shaking his head at Violet's expectant look. "They're in the cavern straight ahead," he announced grimly. "It doesn't seem as though they're going anywhere either. What's more, there don't seem to be any paths around their nest. Have any ideas, brilliant leader?"

    "Not a good one," Violet admitted in a whisper, already filled with dread.

    She told him.

    "You are correct, the plan is terrible," Indigo said bluntly. He sighed, kneading his forehead. "It does not seem as though we have much choice, however…"

    "Arbok don't have good night vision," Violet explained in a hush, as they crept down the tunnel, carefully checking the nooks and crannies between stalagmites. "-or good vision at all, really. They use their sense of smell, and hearing, along with the ability to sense temperature changes in the air. Which means if we don't smell like prey, we won't be eaten like prey."

    She grinned with triumph, pulling a long clear sheet from between two standing stones, which crackled like plastic but reeked like reptilian oil to Indigo's heightened senses. It was hollow and partially opaque, flaring out at the top in an oversized hood, still faintly marked with the hypnotic pattern of the snake it had belonged to. Violet seemed pleased. "If the Arbok use this tunnel a lot, it makes sense there would be leftover skin. Arbok never stop growing after all. This one can be yours."

    Indigo caught the long, pliable skin some Arbok had shed, trying not to shudder at the texture. "There is one problem with this plan," he began, as Violet searched for another whole skin between rocks. "The Arbok didn't seem to have any problems with eating each other."

    Her purple eyes were solemn. "Don't think about that too much."

    Indigo let out a shuddering breath, and swung the Arbok skin over his shoulders like a cloak, pulling the hood down over his scarlet eyes. The smell of snake assaulted his nose, an acrid oily scent that was somehow as dry as sand. He turned to Violet, who was in similar garb, her own snake skin shielding her in a ghostly shroud which reminded him eerily of a corpse.

    "From here on, do not speak. Move slowly, avoid attracting attention, and do not under any circumstances put yourself in unnecessary danger. If it comes to a fight, run as fast as you can, and leave me behind to buy you time," Indigo instructed, clearing his mind of anything but the mission at hand. He hesitated before adding on. "Be careful, Violet. If you die, I'll never repay you for those donuts."

    She laughed quietly, nervous. "If we pull this off, we'll make hiss-story."

    Indigo glared at her in sincere disgust. "Forget everything I just said."

    Violet laughed harder, her eyes dancing.

    And the two of them faced the yawning mouth of the Arbok den, and all that lay within. Violet inhaled deeply. When she breathed out, she stepped forward, hunching down low under the thick shed skin of the Arbok. Indigo followed slowly, his hood pulled down low over his nose, and they entered the lair of venomous snakes.

    The light was dim in the low ceilinged room, barely illuminating the faintly concave floor. It was too low for either of them to stand up straight in some places, but stretched out horizontally in either direction for some distance; it was claustrophobic, more tomb-like than any cavern they had yet encountered. Shallow bowls were carved into the sides of the cavern like honeycombs, inhabited by thick bodied snakes lounging carelessly inside. Looped purple coils hung out of the bowls, and from within, glittering red eyes shone from the darkness. The low ceiling was broken in a few places, yawning upwards in steep cliffs which stretched higher than they could see. As Indigo watched, an Arbok stretched up the entire length of its body to reach something high above, balancing easily on the last ten inches of its tail as if it were nothing.

    Every surface of the cavern was covered in writhing, massive snakes. Indigo didn't have to look at Violet to know all the blood had just drained from her face. He rather shared the sentiment. Why did it have to be Arbok? He could have handled things if it had been a nice swarm of Jumpluff, or Butterfree, but no. He got giant cannibalistic Arbok instead.

    If Indigo ever got to speak with Fate, they were going to have some serious words.

    There was no choice but to move forward, as they had in so many caverns so far. Indigo cast out his senses, not bothering to count the Arbok. The action resulted in an agonizing stab of pain through the front of his brain; the result of trying to use his burned out Aura senses. He gritted his teeth and kept up the effort. If he had used his eyes, he suspected the pain alone would send him into darkness. It worked, to an extent. The Arbok glowed faintly blue and silver, the colors of a soul, just bright enough that he knew he wouldn't step on someone's tail by accident.

    The cast off Arbok skins hissed against the smooth stone floor, worn perfectly smooth by years of wear. It was different from the sound the live Arbok made when they moved, but not by enough to get them in immediate trouble. His heart pounded in his chest as they moved forward, every sense on screaming alert as the blood rushed hot through his head. He picked his way through the mounds of sleeping Arbok carefully, inching around a particularly large creature, stuffed full as if it had just eaten. As Indigo watched, its stomach moved and writhed, pushing uselessly against the iron muscles of the snake.

    He felt sick. Whatever it had eaten was still alive. The Arbok stared at him lazily through half hooded eyes, too full to move. Indigo fought back a gulp, moving carefully away, Violet right behind him. It watched them go without interest, before lowering its wedge-shaped head to sleep.

    They were lucky. Most of the Arbok had settled down after an apparently successful hunting trip, and now lay about lazily, stuffed full to near comas. They weren't on alert. After all, what stupid creature would dare come into their territory? It was practically suicide. Indigo stepped over a large tail gingerly, letting the excess skin slide behind him with a cringe, but the creature did not seem to notice anything amiss. Indigo felt a near overwhelming surge of relief.

    Violet had been right. The Arbok couldn't see them clearly, and their scent was masked perfectly. His relief turned to a thrill of triumph, because it was working! Movement on the ceiling caught his attention, and Indigo looked up.

    A Ditto hung upside down, glued to the stone like sap, waving happily at him. Indigo couldn't believe his eyes. It couldn't be the same Ditto as before, could it?

    The Ditto made a rude gesture with its jelly arms, proving it was, indeed, the same Ditto, chewing its gum happily, before blowing the largest bubble Indigo had ever seen.

    He felt like his heart stopped. Indigo gestured frantically at the Ditto to stop, trying to convey that if it continued, it would die, to no avail. The bubble popped loud in the near silence, spattering the Arbok below with bits of drool and sticky gum, to a chorus of enraged hisses. The Arbok nearest Indigo raised its pointed head, flaring out its hood menacingly as it locked its heartless gaze on the Ditto, swaying back and forth menacingly.

    "It is the fool," the Arbok hissed venomously, literal poison dripping from the ends of its jagged fangs. "This time, we kill it!" The battle cry was taken up by the entire cavern of deadly snakes, roused to anger by the apparently infamous Ditto, which was currently waving its butt at them gleefully. Indigo tensed, moving closer to Violet as they tried not to gather attention to themselves.

    The Ditto plopped down from the ceiling to avoid a barrage of glowing purple needles, transforming in midair in the midst of a front flip, stretching out into a taller shape with familiar features. The Ditto-turned Violet grinned with a saucy smile, flipping its hair back. "Man, you guys suck! All Arbok are weak compared to me, the great chewy-gum-girl! Bahahahaha!"

    Indigo could feel his eye twitching. Surely this was some bizarre nightmare. The fastest Arbok struck at fake-Violets feet, who jumped into the air with far greater agility than the real thing possessed, laughing as though it were the funniest thing in the world. She landed in a crouch, melting into goo to avoid another lightning fast strike aimed at her head. The Arbok swarmed, poison coated fangs bared as a menacing hissing filled the cavern, striking at where the Ditto had been as one. The deadly barrage lasted little more than five seconds. Indigo's blood ran cold at their terrifying speed.

    When the Arbok stopped their barrage, there was no trace of the Ditto.

    "I ate it!" One Arbok crowed proudly, flaring its brilliantly patterned hood, before being savagely bitten by another Arbok.

    "You did not Karakan! It was my tail you struck!"

    "It is gone Randak, surely that means it is eaten!" Another Arbok hissed reasonably. "The fool would surely not be able to escape all of us."

    "It grows bolder, coming here directly. Shahararok's eldest child last saw it in the domain of the aging Rhydon King."

    "Tarok is a fool, entering his territory! But the King grows old, and soon our hordes will reclaim what is ours..."

    "Wait," a booming voice called out, and the largest Arbok Indigo had seen yet slithered out of the darkness. The behemoth was textured with slashing scars across its midnight purple scales, including the vibrantly patterned blooms of striking color adorning its flared hood, like a screaming face. More terrifying than that was the bones the creature wore like armor, clamped down over its hood and tail in a grotesque shield. The Arboks eyes glittered from beneath the skull of the larger Arbok it had apparently killed, gleaming crimson in a Glare attack.

    The Arbok who met his gaze shrunk down, lowering their heads in a clear gesture of deference. Whispers hissed through the cavern; a name, repeated over and over again. "Mandatharak. Mandatharak rises." Indigo heard Violet's heartbeat spike at the size of the Arbok. He cast a worried glance at her, pulling the skin further over his face. She couldn't understand what was being said. The situation was bad. They needed to leave. Indigo gestured at her, and they began edging through the cavern once more. The Arbok didn't seem to notice, all their attention on their leader.

    Mandatharak raised his body up, until his hood winked hypnotically nearly seven feet off the ground, entrancing all who saw it into silence. There was still plenty of tail still on the ground, wrapped in its grotesque bone armor. His voice boomed, a deep slithering rasp that shuddered through the air. "It lives," Mandatharak hissed, his eyes gleaming scarlet with anger. "It lives, and hides among us! Find the fool, and tear it into bloody meat! It hides as one of us!"

    "Go," Indigo hissed under his breath, pushing Violet towards what he sincerely hoped was the exit to the cave, a yawning crack in the wall forty feet away. The Arbok hissed in an odd, whistling rush that was eerily hollow, like whistling on a flute of bone; they tasted the air with forked tongues, swaying back and forth suspiciously as they regarded each other. Until at least three sets of gleaming eyes turned towards the slightly off smell that was Indigo and Violet. "Go!" Indigo raised his paws from underneath the Arbok skin cloak, firing a Dark Pulse which struck four Arbok. Confusion spread, along with guttural snarls of anger, and Indigo fired again, at the ceiling. Rocks broke free, raining down on the Arbok horde in a painful shower of stones.

    Violet screamed from behind him, and Indigo spun to see the false skin ripped from her shoulders by an Arboks fangs, as it immobilized her in its crushing coils. Cries of anticipatory victory rose up among the Arbok horde, as the one who had captured her prepared to strike the fatal blow. "No!" Indigo howled, tearing free of his own Arbok skin, Aura making his voice boom louder than normal. Silver shone from his eyes, and he fired a Dark Pulse into the air in a thunder burst of sound, gathering the attention of all the Arbok in the cavern.

    "She is not the one you seek!" Indigo shouted, his voice piercing in the sudden silence as Aura swirled in a sparking cloud around him. "Release her immediately!"

    Mandatharak moved through the crowd of Arbok, his gaze flickering from Indigo to Violet, tasting their scents with his flickering tongue. He didn't turn; every Pokémon in the cavern moved from his path on reflex, leaving a path clear between them. "You smell like a human," the King of the Arbok rasped eerily; the screaming face pattern on his hood swayed as he moved, and Indigo felt himself growing dizzy. His resolve faltered, and Indigo had trouble remembering to breathe.

    Mandatharak laughed, a chilling sound, slithering circles around him, his coils tightening ever so slowly. Indigo didn't resist, struggling to fight the illusion he'd been placed under, until it was far too late. Mandatharak spoke again, a resonating hiss behind his head. "One of you is the fool. The other…dinner. Would you care to find out which is which?" His disjointed jaw opened wide enough to swallow him whole, saliva hanging in strands between his purposefully serrated teeth.

    The threat was enough to break him from his paralysis. Indigo tore one hand free of the binding coils, firing a one handed Force Palm directly into Mandatharak's throat. The pressure increased around him rather than abating, crushing him inward until Indigo felt as though his bones would snap. "Foolish," Mandatharak hissed, moving his scarred head around to look Indigo in the eyes from beneath his mask of bone. He paused. "But not the fool, who surely would have changed when threatened. Can there really be another so stupid as to enter here?"

    "Unfortunately, yes," Indigo admitted through choking breaths. "I admit…it is not the wisest life decision I have ever made. All the same…" His paw clenched into a fist, bursting into brilliant Aura flame, mirroring the sudden shining in his furious eyes. He pointed his flaming fist directly at the armored King of the Arbok's head, a clear threat. His voice was steadier when he spoke next. "Touch one hair on her head, and I swear, this day will be your last."

    Mandatharak laughed with his whole body, throwing back his head with mirth, and the watching Arbok joined him, chuckling with dark amusement. "You?" Mandatharak sneered, twisting tighter. "Would destroy me? With what army do you propose to accomplish this task?"

    "Armies are overrated." Indigo met the Arbok's eyes as he spoke, his words ringing truth. "Anyone can kill a King, if they are in the right place at the right time. Any fool."

    Mandatharak shrieked with inhumane fury as the Ditto creeping along the ceiling landed on his armored head, covering his vision with pink goo. His crushing embrace loosened a fraction, and it was enough for Indigo to pull himself free, leaping to the cool stone floor in a crouch. He rolled on impact, breaking into a single-minded sprint towards Violet. The gathered Arbok weren't willing to cooperate. They struck, a hundred giant snakes in the near dark, the only light appearing to emanate from their hypnotic hoods and gleaming scarlet eyes.

    There wasn't time to strategize, or even to think. Indigo moved on sheer instinct, dodging and weaving between blows and striking fangs dripping with acidic venom. His attacks lit up the dark in brief flashes of Aura light. He ducked down low to avoid a crunching blow which would have crushed his head like an egg, striking upwards with his outstretched palm to snap another Arboks jaw shut, breaking its teeth. He leapt high, landing on a snakes head, and pushing himself off in an arc over the den of snakes.

    He saw a hundred jaws open wide below him, glowing with neon violet light. Indigo's eyes widened a fraction of an inch before the barrage of Acid Spray and Poison Sting attacks overwhelmed him in a toxic spray of liquid death.

    Indigo burst from the noxious cloud of floating poison mist left behind by the attacks, laughing giddily. "Poison immunity, anyone?" he crowed with elation, to an enraged chorus of hisses. He hit the ground again, unleashing a Dark Pulse in a wave, pushing the nearest snakes back.

    He didn't see the Ekans, a pale creature with large, cold eyes duck beneath the blow, coiling around his legs in a restricting embrace. The Arbok let out a collective hiss of triumph that was half snarl, leaning in with anticipation and bared incisors. Indigo flinched, his heartrate spiking as the Ekans grinned wide, showing its small teeth poking out of pink gums.

    "Hold," Mandatharak ferociously snarled, halting the Arboks killing strike. They swayed menacingly in place, a perfect circle around him. The Ekans released his legs, slithering into the crowd, and Indigo turned warily, not wanting his back vulnerable to any of the snakes. Mandatharak laughed heartily, the sound catching deep in his throat.

    He jerked his head, throwing a shape into the circle with Indigo. His heart thudded. The slime was unrecognizable as a Pokémon, broken into pathetic globs which hissed and steamed from the purple venom infusing it. Even as Indigo watched, the globs quivered feebly, trying to come back together into a Ditto. Mandatharak's eyes glittered. "Eat it," he commanded.

    Before he had finished speaking, the Arbok struck with a cry of savage joy, gobbling up the Ditto with snapping fangs into their gullets. Indigo was frozen in place, sheer terror taking hold of him. He knew then that if the Arbok struck at him like that, he would fare little better than the odd Ditto had done. The fear of dying did wonders for his thinking process.

    The Arbok would kill him, poison immunity or not. He was surrounded. Violet had been ensnared, and stood no chance of escaping on her own.

    If he didn't think of something, they were both going to be ripped to shreds.

    Democracy had worked for them a few times already in Cerulean Cave. When that failed, they usually went with their backup plan, which involved a lot of running. Since that wasn't an option, Indigo's only hope was to talk their way free, or buy time until another course of action was available.

    "Let us go," Indigo said fiercely, his stance relaxed, determined not to show weakness in front of the predators. To do so would be death. "We do not seek to harm you, or your kin. My trainer and I seek only to pass through in peace, and escape this cavern. We offer no insult. Let us pass unharmed."

    Mandatharak's eyes gleamed in the darkness. "You claim you offer no insult. You also claim…you do not seek to harm us?" The Arbok loomed high, his intense fury unmistakable. "Your words themselves are an insult! As if you, a human's pet, could ever harm one of us! In all the sections of this cursed cave, we alone are the strongest! If a mother cannot protect her eggs, we eat both them and her after each birth! Only the children able to survive life as an Ekans and evolve are welcomed into our den…and even then, only the strongest survive to adulthood! The weak become food for the strong, becoming our energy. In this way, they too can be strong, as a part of us! There are no sick, no weak, and no small Arbok in our den. If any here could lose to you, we would have eaten them long ago!"

    The Arbok's King finished his proclamation by snapping his thick tail against the stone like a whip, cracking the surface, glaring at Indigo beneath his mask of aged bone with a paralytic scarlet gaze. His anger was replaced by something else; a dark humor that was as treacherous as it was poisonous, and shivers ran up Indigo's spine. He cast his eyes around at the tightly packed circle of Arbok; there was no opening, no escape.

    He had misjudged the pride of the King, and now they both might die for it!

    Violet couldn't understand what was being said. Her breath came fast, her eyes panicked in an ashen face, darting her gaze fearfully between their enemies. The Arbok who'd captured her watched with a hungry gaze, saliva dripping in long strands from the edges of its sharpened fangs to the stone floor below. The coils wrapped around her body were too tight - he could see her skin beginning to bruise.

    He pushed his anger down, letting out all his pride and fury with a long breath.

    He met Mandatharak's eyes evenly, and wished his fear were as easy to let go of as his anger. "You are correct," he admitted, feeling cold and sick as he spoke. "I have offered you insult, and for that, I apologize. But she has done nothing wrong. Let Violet go, and I will stay in her place."

    "No-!"

    Violet's immediate protest was drowned out by the uproar Indigo's words sparked, as Arbok cried out in anger or agreement in a fierce cacophony. Indigo tried not to flinch, his gaze never leaving their Kings, as he watched the creature of nightmare consider his request. Another slam of his tail against stone brought deafening silence over the den.

    Mandatharak's next words were icy, and deathly quiet. Bone scraped on stone as he slithered forward, moving slowly in a circle all around Indigo; not trapping him in coils, but rather to judge him speculatively. Indigo didn't move, ignoring the instinct to follow the Arbok with his eyes. It was a slow circuit. Mandatharak moved his wedge shaped head in close, his scent alone setting every fear reflex in Indigo's body on high alert. When he spoke, his breath smelled of freshly spilled blood, gusting hot between long, serrated teeth.

    "Bow to me," Mandatharak hissed. "Apologize for your rudeness. Pay for her life in blood, and the girl will walk free."

    "Do you swear?" Indigo demanded hoarsely, his heart pounding painfully fast in his chest. He knew Mandatharak could hear it.

    The King of the Arbok bared his fangs in a cruel grin. The tortured face marking his hood quivered. "I swear it."

    Indigo fell to his knees, bowing his forehead low to the ground. "Forgive me, great one," he choked out in a voice thick with a remorse which was all too easy to fake. "I am lowly compared to your strength, and spoke out of turn. I offer you my life in return for hers, so that my blood may become your strength. Great Mandatharak, King of the Arbok, accept my sincere apologies."

    After an eternity of silence, Mandatharak spoke. "Raise your head," he rasped. Indigo did so warily. He got to his feet. A sound from behind made him turn; the Arbok holding Violet loosened its coils, and she fell to the ground, unable to stand. She whispered his name once, staring at him with an expression near agony.

    Something in Indigo's chest loosened. One of them at least would walk free. He found he didn't regret having to lower his pride to such a level, if it meant he would not be responsible for yet another death.

    "Kill her," Mandatharak ordered chillingly, and Indigo's heart stopped.

    "No, don't-!" the boy turned Lucario shouted, diving forward with an outstretched paw.

    She turned towards her captor at his words in an instinctive jerk, and the blow aimed for her pale neck struck her raised left arm instead. The long twin incisors of the Arbok pierced through her soft human skin, through muscle and tendon, breaking out the other side of her forearm with a spray of venom and blood. Her scream was piercing and terrible, and the watching Arbok laughed with sharp amusement. Indigo's leap was cut short by the crushing coils of an Arbok, which trapped the struggling Lucario easily. Mandatharak laughed as well, booming.

    "Did you think it would be that easy?" he demanded, slithering in another languid circle around Indigo's struggling form. The Arbok that bit Violet retracted its fangs, eliciting another pained cry from the human girl. "That I would honor a promise made to prey?" He snapped his powerful tail like a whip, striking Violet hard across the ribs. She skidded across the floor, gasping between wracking coughs which spattered the floor with blood. Mandatharak loomed his head over Indigo with a savage, predatory gaze.

    "You were wrong."

    Indigo struggled uselessly around the iron coils of his captor, unable to move so much as an inch, his eyes on Violet's prone form. She had stopped moving altogether.

    It wouldn't end like this.

    Indigo's eyes shone with violent silver, rage adding strength to his limbs.

    It couldn't!

    As if in response to his desperate determination, the Arbok's stomach writhed as though its insides were boiling. It gave one surprised snarl, and the entire snake exploded from within into gobbets of white meat. Roaring filled the cavern in a cacophony of pure sound, somehow low and shrieking all at once, as a shadow reared triumphantly from the corpse of the Arbok.

    The Ditto turned Dragonite opened its mouth, and a Hyper Beam hot enough to melt bone exploded outwards in a super nova of light and sound, sweeping over the surprised Arbok with shimmering golden destruction, hitting all those remotely close to Violet Hikari.

    It had to have escaped death by hiding its main body inside of a single Arbok, and transformed from the inside. Part of Indigo's mind processed the information, but most of him simply did not care. He ran, scooping the gasping girl up in his arms as he went, and bolted straight for the exit at the end of the cavern. Turmoil reigned, as the Dragonite struck again, cracking the bone armor of Mandatharak with a well-placed Iron Tail.

    But their escape did not go entirely unnoticed.

    A few enraged Arbok saw their flight, and hissed with hatred and bloodlust, striking at the wounded pair with slashing fangs and deadly intent. Indigo did his best to avoid the blows, but was unable to do so entirely. An Arbok ripped into his tail with wicked fangs, tearing a bloody gouge in his flesh. Indigo nearly lost his balance, just managing to keep his feet.

    They reached the end of the cavern just as the rest of the Arbok horde turned on them, hundreds of monsters straight from nightmare intent on sucking the blood from their hearts. At Mandatharak's enraged cry, they flooded in a rush of sinew and muscle after them, sliding with frightening speed over the worn smooth stone. Indigo lost his balance as the ground trembled beneath his feet, tightening his grip around Violet just before he would have dropped her.

    Dragonite had landed between them and the horde of Arbok. They rushed forward heedlessly, their bloodlust making the predators fearless of death. Indigo knew they couldn't outrun them all. And there in that dark cavern, Indigo Nightwalker resigned himself to an early death.

    The Ditto melted down into a smaller shape, human sized, and Indigo wondered belatedly what it was doing. Not that it really mattered at this point. He didn't recognize the person standing before him. The Ditto had replicated itself into a man, built lean and strong, who stood with an air of confidence and strength which could not be missed. He was dressed in well-fitting dark clothing, with a cloak that spun in the slight currents of air. His hair was fiery red.

    But as one, the Arbok recoiled as if they'd been struck, staring with absolute fear at the shape before them. They stopped their advance, hissing uneasily.

    "Go now," the transformed Ditto said in a voice surprisingly clear and calm for its frame. "I will slow them down. For her. Not you."

    Indigo nodded with surprised thanks, his scarlet eyes wide. He stood before Violet could protest, running down the dark passageway as the sounds of battle broke out behind them.

    "You will not escape us!" Mandatharak roared, his voice echoing powerfully through the tunnels. "No matter how far you run, we will never forgive, or forget this! Count your remaining minutes of life, for they shall be your last!"

    Indigo didn't bother responding. He ran faster, Violet clutched in his arms, and prayed the Ditto would be able to buy them enough time to escape.

    Somewhere above the sounds of a bitter battle, Mandatharak laughed chillingly. The sound haunted them, seeming to chase after his very footsteps.

    ~o~
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  11. Chapter 10: Clash of Monsters

    Disclaimer: I do not even own this disclaimer, not that I would ever want to. Just look at it. Honestly.

    ~o~

    Cerulean Cave had been a place of danger before, but now it had become a promise of death, and a race against the clock. Both of them had collected injuries in their desperate flight. They continued to face all the normal perils of Cerulean Cave, but now they did so while also being hunted by the elite predators in the Arbok den.

    Indigo coughed harshly into his paw, his vision horribly skewed, his breath rasping harshly in his battered lungs. Violet stood carefully at the corner they'd ducked behind, listening for their pursuers. After a long minute, she relaxed, breathing a sigh of relief as Indigo recovered slowly, shaking from exertion. She held out a hand, leaning down towards him. He looked at her through the eye which wasn't swollen shut, and took her hand, letting the slight girl help him back to his feet.

    They'd wandered into a Sandslash nest by mistake, and had been forced to fight while running. There had been no end to them, burrowing creatures made of spikes, and wicked claws, bursting from the earth to strike at their enemies unprotected feet. Violet had collected a long slash in her left calf, shallow but lengthy, despite him carrying his shoe-less trainer when the number of Sandslash attacking them had broken a hundred. Indigo had fared little better than she had. He breathed, and focused on standing still while his trainer sprayed a warm fizz of green plasma onto the worst of his injuries. After the Full Restore was gone, he felt considerably better, and was able to open both eyes.

    "Did we lose them?" Violet asked in a whisper tinged with pain. Her arm was swollen and bruised, oozing blood from the four puncture wounds which simply would not clot all the way. Her veins were colored dark, arcing patterns up to her shoulder like growing roots, growing slowly longer. She was as pale as snow, covered in a sheen of sweat under the smudges of dirt and blood. Her eyelids drooped tiredly.

    Violet Hikari could not last much longer, and Indigo knew it. They needed to get out, and they needed to do it immediately. He peered down the tunnel carefully, a long, straight path with no branching catacombs, and allowed himself to relax marginally. "We are alone, for now," he surmised. "It will not last long. Our enemies will follow the scent of blood. In the least we'll be able to see them coming, but we need to move."

    "C-could we rest for just a minute?" Violet panted, her normally vibrant eyes dull under her fringe of black hair. Indigo's heart constricted, but he hesitated for a moment, casting another glance down the tunnel.

    "One minute," Indigo agreed finally. He sat next to her as she sank to the ground, keeping the tunnel in easy sight.

    "Can I ask you a question?" Violet asked after her breathing had slowed somewhat. Indigo glanced at her with trepidation, but nodded his head once, curtly. She spoke. "Why is it so important to you? The story about Halladen?"

    He hadn't been expecting that. "It is only a story, as you said," Indigo said shortly, not turning his head all the way when he responded. "I should not have overreacted earlier. It is nothing."

    He couldn't tell her. Violet was just now beginning to trust him. And if she knew anything, anything at all about his involvement with that particular story, their new friendship would crumble like dust. He didn't want that to happen, at any cost.

    Her eyes narrowed. "You're lying," Violet breathed suspiciously. "But why?"

    He met her eyes squarely, his face betraying no signs of deception. "I am not lying," he said firmly. "Put the matter from your mind, please. My interest in Halladen is long in the past. It has no bearing on the now."

    "So you did care about the story, at one point?" Violet persisted. Indigo's ears jerked, and he was on his feet in a flash, pulling her along with him, his heart pounding, just as an Arbok lunged from underneath the ground, razor sharp fangs bared in a grin of dark victory, striking the point Indigo had been in a moment earlier. He fired a Dragon Pulse that blasted the snake back down the tunnel. It landed on its back, where it writhed until its hood flared open at them both, the hypnotic curls of dark gold and scarlet swirling in a nauseating pattern. Indigo looked away hurriedly before he could be caught under the spell, cursing his own stupidity as he ran, pulling Violet behind him.

    Most of Cerulean Cave was composed of worn black stone. But this tunnel, this one place, had been inhabited by Sandslash. The entire floor was loose, ground to sand by slashing claws so the spiny creatures could make their nests. It made it easy for them to tunnel about, unseen.

    The Arbok could tunnel in the sand just as easily. He'd been watching the path above, without ever thinking of what could be coming from them below. Healing items didn't do much for an exhausted mind. Indigo was running out of strength, running from a powerful pack of motivated predators, and eventually one his mistakes would be their last.

    The triumphant calls of the Arbok echoed behind them, as the rest of the pack caught their trail. Violet stumbled as their footing changed back to stone, and Indigo swung her into his arms without missing a stride, focusing Aura to his burning legs single mindedly. The Arbok chasing them burst from the black sand, slithering with lightning speed onto the stone behind them. Indigo jumped neatly to avoid a lunging strike aimed at his feet, crying out as another strike glanced off his left arm, gouging a slash into his muscle. He turned quickly at the fork in the cavern, and another Arbok slammed into the wall, unable to reverse its forward momentum with such ease.

    Indigo felt a thrill of triumph as the gap between them widened, and he put on a fresh burst of speed, crystals lightning up in a flare at his passage. They were fast, but he was faster!

    He had no sooner completed the thought when he noticed the light beginning to dull. The luminescence of the crystals was marred by thick cracks, and a coating of black ash. The floor became smoother as he ran, as though it had been blasted by fire. The air changed as well, somehow smelling electric and alive, with a tinge of explosive powder, like fireworks.

    Broken spherical shell littered the edges of the tunnel, in cracked, rusted red, and dull white, around further signs of explosion damage, and with a horrible realization, Indigo knew exactly what they were running into.

    Violet saw it too. Her hands gripped his arm tighter.

    Behind them was a lethal den of predatory Arbok, intent on ripping them limb from limb and drinking the blood from their hearts. And ahead of them was a gathering of Electrode, living bombs, who exploded with the slightest provocation, annihilating anything remotely close by. And judging by the increasingly obvious damage to the walls, there were many.

    "Indigo, keep running, and don't stop no matter what," Violet instructed with more calm than he felt. She closed her bag tightly, tying the straps to prevent anything from falling out, and grabbed an object from her pocket, holding it tightly in her hands. Their slope changed to a slight incline, and Indigo gritted his teeth as he ran, his heart pounding a frantic rhythm in his chest, because really, did he have a choice?

    The incline ended with a looming black archway, lit only barely by the shattered crystal which flickered feebly under their coatings of oily ash. The electricity in the air grew stronger, a tingling force against his fur, the static jumping in little sparks between his skin and the metal spikes in his paws.

    The Arbok laughed behind them, Indigo gritted his teeth, and jumped into darkness with all his strength.

    They hung in the air for a long moment, suspended above the bowl shaped cavern, lit from below by the faint electric blue shine from the gathering of Electrode. They were asleep, or in the least dormant, but Indigo knew it didn't matter. The slightest touch would set them off, starting a chain reaction which would end in their deaths.

    Indigo landed in a powerful crouch between two of the shining Electrode, pushing off with all his strength in another leap towards the opposite mouth of the small cavern. The Arbok slid easily between the glowing spheres, avoiding each and every Electrode with ease, gaining quickly on the two of them with the growing excitement of a predator right before they capture their prey.

    Indigo landed hard on the lip of the opposite ledge, and Violet twisted in his arms, throwing the half dead battery behind them in a long arc. It sparked once in the air with blue lightning, reacting with the static electricity which hung like a cloud in the cavern.

    And the darkness exploded with a burning white light. Sound roared a thundering explosion in a wave, hitting Indigo's Protect bubble in the same instant it was formed, blasting the sphere like a cannon through the tunnel ahead of them in a gout of searing, shining energy which encompassed everything. Indigo screamed his defiance, every fiber of his being focused on holding the bubble for as long as possible, against the pounding force of a massive explosion. Violet screamed along with him, clenching her hands over her ears, eyes shut tight against the supernova of light. Their Protect hit a stony outcropping in the tunnel, smashing through it as if it were soft pine, and sending a stab of agony through Indigo's brain. They burst out of the tunnel into another large cavern, by far the largest they had seen so far. Indigo's Protect dissolved, crackling into shining dust, and Violet slipped out of his arms.

    He hurtled through the air, blind for the light, disoriented, and with a roaring in his ears that blocked out all sound, as the heat from the edges of the explosion burned him. The spikes in his fists and heart glowed red-hot, and Indigo could not think for the pain, until the heat was extinguished by a blessedly cool submersion into deep water. The cool sapped the burning from his skin, and he felt a long moment of intense relief, somewhere past the ringing migraine in his mind.

    He opened his eyes underwater, blinking the spots from his vision furiously as he looked for Violet. Rocks and debris showered the water, casting long bubble trails from the surface, remnants of the explosion. A shape rocketed past the surface, long and sinewy, and Indigo jerked as he saw the dark profile of an Arbok.

    It turned in the water, revealing only half of the Arboks head was intact, blackened, and melted, staring sightlessly in the water. The other half of its skull was seared bare all the way to the cracked bone, and the entire length of the snake was nothing, but a burned spine held together by strips of cooked meat.

    Indigo recoiled with disgust and nausea, looking for any sign of Violet with growing alarm. He had landed in the water, but if she hadn't been so lucky…if that frail human girl had hit stone

    He saw her limp profile in the water, and he felt a surge of overwhelming relief. She wasn't moving, hanging motionlessly under the water in her Psyduck pajamas, her dark hair fanned out in a veil over her face. Indigo ignored the urge to breathe, striking out a pace to reach her side.

    He never saw the shape spiraling out of the depths of the river, with gaping, fang lined jaws under cold empty eyes.

    Not until another chunk of Arbok blasted into the water between him and his trainer, and was caught up immediately in the crushing jaws of the largest Gyarados Indigo had ever seen in his life. Its head alone was the size of a car, made of thick plated bone, and armored with scales the size of war shields. The behemoth must have lived a hundred years to reach such a size, so large it could swallow another Gyarados whole. It crunched once, snapping the Arboks corpse in two, tearing into the sections with savagery. It ate another snake as it flew into the water, biting with such speed the Arbok wouldn't have survived even if it had been alive still. It peered through the depths with perfectly flat eyes the size of small tables, reflecting orange in the light.

    And fixed its gaze on Violet's unconscious form.

    Indigo grabbed a sharp spiny ridge on the Gyarados tail by sheer reflex, hitting the scales repeatedly with Force Palms that lit up the water with Aura-light, desperation lending his blows strength.

    The Gyarados didn't even seem to notice. It flicked its tail with such strength Indigo's hold was ripped free, the rigid scaly fin cutting Indigo's palm wide open. Its tail slammed into the Lucario with the force of a pounding wave as it undulated through the water towards his trainer, shooting him free of the water entirely.

    Indigo hit the stone wall with a wet thwack, sliding to the ground limply as his consciousness faded, and the water boiled with froth.

    ~o~

    Violet didn't remember hitting the water. Her memories blanked out from the moment Indigo's Protect had burst until right then, what could have been seconds or years later for all the help her sense of recall was giving her. She was underwater. The roaring had left a high pitched ringing in her ears that whined incessantly like a whistle, beating out a painful pattern in her head. Moving seemed like it should probably be important. For some reason, she couldn't find it in herself to care overly much. Why should she move?

    Her lungs gave her a rather pointed answer. Violet's eyes snapped open as her fingers twitched.

    She was underwater.

    Panic set in, and Violet righted herself. Bubbles escaped her lips. The ringing became an unbroken keen, getting louder, a rushing noise right behind her.

    Violet turned in the water just in time to see the gaping maw of a monstrous sea serpent, yawning wide enough with its unhinged, fang lined jaws to swallow a man whole, careening towards her with powerful flicks of its tail. Terror set in, instinctive and powerful, and it took every ounce of willpower in her body not to scream the air out of her lungs. She kicked out with a futile effort, trying to angle her body out of danger, when the Gyarados ate her whole.

    Darkness reigned supreme in the Gyarados's cavernous throat. Water currents slammed Violet against the slick muscled mass of the serpents' body. She held her head in a fetal position, struggling not to breathe in the blood-soaked water. Her lungs burned like fire, and sheer terror engulfed the girl who had just been eaten alive. The currents shifted as the Gyarados swallowed.

    No. She couldn't die here. Her mind screamed the words against the stark reality she found herself in, but what could she do? What could anyone do in a situation like this? Even with the lightning strike of adrenaline that pumped through her brain, she came up with no answer. There was no air, and Indigo was nowhere to be seen. That thought alone brought the frightened girl comfort, because at least he might have made it out alive.

    Her bag bumped against her thigh, and Violet's eyes opened with a flash of inspiration. Her fingers tore at the clasp in the darkness, panic hindering rather than helping her coordination. When she finally got it open, her consciousness had already started to fade, blackening reality at the fringes.

    Her numb fingers closed around a metallic sphere within the bag, and light exploded outwards in a wave of yellow which blinded her momentarily. The pressure around her vanished, as cool currents of water brushed against her skin.

    The Ultra Ball in her hands shook violently, and Violet dropped it like it was too hot to touch. She had captured the Gyarados from the inside, but only temporarily. She couldn't see. She didn't know which way up was, but she kicked her legs feebly anyways, blindly struggling for the faint promise of air.

    Light exploded behind her again, along with a furious roar that vibrated the water itself as the Gyarados broke free of its surprise confinement, shrieking its lust for revenge.

    The strength in her limbs faded, and she found herself giving up. Violet Hikari had tried her best.

    The last bubbles of air escaped her mouth as she breathed out a sigh, almost of relief, as the Gyarados fixed its hungry gaze on her once again. She closed her eyes, resigning herself to the end.

    She didn't even notice the small burst of light from her pocket.

    The Gyarados stopped its howling, hanging still in the water as it listened intently to the Pokémon between him and his meal. No one else could understand the nameless bond between the two members of the same family, albeit from very different upbringings, or the communication that passed between them. And while the small were often food, sheer bravery made the Gyarados stop, and listen.

    After a long moment, the behemoth bowed its head once, touching foreheads with the comparatively tiny red Magikarp facing it down to rescue his trainer.

    With a flick of its white fan-shaped tail, the Gyarados was gone, spiraling back into the darkness of Cerulean River. Mr. Fin bumped Violet's limp body towards the surface, his little fins swishing madly, determination gracing his round eyes. She didn't react when they broke the surface, and her starter pushed her through the water towards the shore, between the flaming ruins of the last of the debris from the explosion.

    Indigo was there, kneeling at the side of the river with grief etched into his features. His eyes opened with surprise when the two of them reached the outcropping, and dawn broke over the Lucario's face. He pulled Violet from the water, pounding the water from her lungs until she coughed and spluttered, breathing in through her raw throat like she had never expected to do so again. Mr. Fin wagged his fins happily, keeping himself level in the water, as Indigo stroked Violets back while she remembered how to inhale properly, wordless relief in his scarlet eyes.

    "Thank you," Indigo said roughly, holding back traces of tears. "Thank you."

    "Karp karp," Mr. Fin responded blandly, and disappeared back into the Master Ball in Violet's pocket.

    "I-Indigo-" the girl gasped, breaking off to cough violently, water streaming from her mouth and nose. She drew in a shuddering breath, resisting the urge to sob. Her hair clung to the sides of her pale face; her Psyduck pajamas were plastered to her skin, chilling her to the bone. She shuddered from head to toe, unable to stop even if she'd wanted to. Her Lucario rubbed circles on her back patiently, and without judgement.

    "Do not speak," he begged in response to her broken sentence. "There is nothing that needs to be said so urgently that you should focus on anything other than being okay."

    It was good advice. Violet shut up, inhaling through her nose; it hurt less than gasping through her mouth, though her throat was raw anyways. She was crying, over her soaked skin. Violet brushed the tears away hurriedly. Indigo pretended not to notice, taking a sudden interest in the wall; she felt a surge of gratitude.

    Her shoulder ached terribly. She hadn't noticed until she'd accomplished more important things, like not drowning, that she was in a considerable amount of pain. The strap of her bag had twisted sharply around one shoulder, somehow managing to stay on in the struggle. She reached up and groped at it with numb fingers to relieve the pressure, before Indigo took over, freeing the twisted knot with a few deft tugs. It fell to the ground, river water seeping from the seams of the battered fabric, and Violet sighed with relief.

    A wave of horrible tiredness hit her like a train. Violet hunched over, her scattered mind trying to fight the onslaught. Her vision went entirely black for several heartbeats, before the dark receded like the tide.

    "There's something you need to know," Violet said, without looking Indigo in the eyes. "I haven't been…completely honest with you."

    "To be fair, neither have I," the Lucario admitted after a long beat, not a trace of seriousness in his tone. "Is this the part where we confess our mistakes because we're probably going to die? Let me go first - I'm a time traveler with a terrible past."

    Violet laughed shakily, caught off guard by his dry humor in the face of danger. "Is that right?" she chuckled wearily. "Mine isn't that good. I'm just a coward. I tried…to be a hero once…I tried, but I…"

    The words blocked themselves in her throat, and Violet could not speak through her sudden grief. "That wasn't what I was going to tell you," she admitted, changing the subject. She rolled what was left of her sleeve up to her shoulder, revealing the Arboks bite completely.

    Indigo couldn't look away from the wound, sickness in his eyes. "I didn't tell you this, but I know what this venom does," Violet admitted quietly. "Arbok venom is slow. It debilitates the prey, weakens it, so the Arbok can hunt it down. But untreated it's lethal, eventually. There are markers when it gets close. I've been keeping track of them. Tiredness, muscle aches, blurred vision… and I know what comes next."

    Violet let out a sad, tired smile. "I'm going to fall asleep, and I won't wake up again. If that happens, you'll have to leave me behind to have any chance of getting out."

    "We're getting out together. Which means we need to get moving, before that can happen," Indigo replied grimly, accepting her assessment without question. He slung the waterlogged pack over his shoulders, holding out a hand for Violet. She took it numbly, and Lucario pulled her to her feet; she stumbled immediately, one ankle giving out beneath her.

    When had she hurt her leg? Violet tried to remember, but her brain was fuzzy. She honestly couldn't remember.

    She never hit the ground. Indigo caught her, supporting under her shoulder like a crutch. She yawned tiredly.

    "Have you gotten fatter?" Indigo asked innocently. Violet's eyes flew open with indignation.

    "I have not!" she protested, her tiredness receding. Indigo had the gall to laugh, albeit quietly. Her eyes narrowed. "Trying to keep me awake is fine, but there is a line!" she insisted.

    "You may need to lay off the donuts for a time," Indigo replied seriously, and Violet blanched with horror. She found herself smiling at the banter.

    "I donut think so," she retorted, grinning at the disgust on Indigo's face.

    "If I'd known you liked puns before I agreed to travel with you, I would have run screaming," her Lucario informed her dryly. "I suppose I'm stuck with you now." She heard a drawn out sigh, and resisted the urge to smack him.

    It felt good, making jokes. All at once, she felt like crying. Indigo gave her a questioning look at her silence.

    "I'm just not used to this," the young girl admitted. "I haven't had anyone to make jokes with in a long time."

    "You are not the only one," Indigo admitted after a beat. He stood up straight, holding her arm as he supported her shoulder. Both of them stiffened at the sound of echoing cries from the far end of the cavern, growing louder. They exchanged a glance.

    More Arbok were coming. Only the fastest had been caught by the blast. It wasn't over yet.

    "Let's get going," Indigo suggested. "We're nearly there. Probably, anyways."

    The first of the deadly Arbok slid out of the smoke of the Electrode den, and witnessed the broken remains of their kin splattered across the floor in globs of smoking gore. A howling shriek of rage followed them, taken up by the remainder of the predators in a bone-chilling chorus of murderous intent. The surged forward, a wave of unstoppable venomous serpents, who wanted nothing more than to feast on their flesh.

    They swam in the wide river as easily as they whispered over stone, with their hooded heads held high over the dark water, fixed with hypnotic intensity on their prey.

    The fastest Arbok neared the edge of the river, fangs bared wide with a hiss of anticipation, and then-

    It disappeared, pulled beneath the waves in a surge of pink foam.

    It was enough to give the other Arbok pause. And then another let out a gurgling shriek, snapped off partway.

    Gyarados breached the water with a whistling roar which reverberated through the cavern, looming thirty feet above the surface, striking at the nearest living Arbok with a vicious lightning speed which defied imagination, its crushing jaws snapping the creature out of the water around its middle. The Arboks head and tail splashed back into the water, twitching spastically as it tried to bite even in death.

    The Arbok struck with venomous fangs the length of a human hand, glowing violet in the dark, latching onto the sections between the Gyarados's thick armor plated scales. It was a minor inconvenience to the Gyarados, who batted them away with powerful flicks of its tail, crushing Arbok every time they moved within its considerable range. It was stronger, but the Arbok outnumbered it thirty to one. The battle was terrible and violent. The swirling water ran dark.

    Violet did not care. She limped through the upwards slanting tunnel, supported by Indigo, as the sounds of a brutal battle echoed from the cavern behind them. Their progress was slow, but it was there. And for the first time, there was a trace of fresh air in the dankness of Cerulean Cave. A surge of hope washed over her. At this rate, they might really make it.

    The faint light emanating from the turquoise crystals turned off, plunging them into darkness.

    Oh, that could not be good.

    Before she had even finished the thought, Indigo was ripped away from her side with a startled yelp. Flashes of aura fire flared, revealing little of the shadows who attacked them.

    And then darkness.

    ~o~
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  12. Chapter 10.5 - Because this fic is freaking long

    ~o~

    "Indigo?" Violet called out timidly, standing on one foot in the black emptiness, her wide eyes completely blind. Silence greeted her ominously.

    Soft hissing oozed from the tunnel behind her, along with the slithering rasp of scales on stone. Violet's heart thudded erratically with a jolt of fear. "Indigo," she gasped, as something caught her midsentence around her leg, pulling her feet out from underneath her. She screamed as something dragged her up the tunnel, trying to shield her head from the stony ground as best she could, kicking futilely at the iron strength of her attacker. Her flailing foot hit something soft and covered in fur, and an enraged shriek followed, as her leg was dropped. Violet scrambled hastily away, though she couldn't see where she was going - and froze.

    Going back would mean facing the Arbok.

    Something clamped over her mouth, cutting off her instinctive shriek, and she was lifted from the ground by what felt like hands in hot leather mittens, hurtling through the tunnel blindly. They were fast, whatever they were, with a thick, musty stink, and snorting, snuffling breaths. They chattered in short syllabled gibberish, seeming to argue as they ran, needing no light, and never so much as missing a step. Violet let out a whimper, closing her eyes tight as she prayed for the best.

    She didn't have to wait long for her kidnappers to reach their destination. The smell hit her first, cloyingly warm, almost a physical assault on her senses. Sounds echoed strangely, as if they'd entered another large room, batting the sounds of chattering and high, controlled screeches from wall to wall.

    She screamed with shock when she was thrown through the air out of the blue, falling towards the ground without any idea of when she would hit it. Something caught her ankle, arresting her momentum, so she was dangling from one foot, and then dropped her without warning. She hit soft earth with a thud, groaning as she got to her hands and knees.

    Another thud to her side caught her attention. Violet groped forward blindly until her hands touched metal, tracing a spike. "Indigo!" Violet whispered, shaking his shoulder. "This is not a great time to be unconscious!"

    No response. Her heart stopped, until she realized his shoulder rose and fell; he was breathing, at least.

    The chattering in the cavern stopped all at once with frightening synchronization, as though someone had hit pause on reality.

    The unmistakable shrieking hiss of the enraged Arbok rang into the silence, which turned to screams of anger. Violet froze, an automatic reaction to the sound of something that could kill her. Her brain kicked into overdrive. She fumbled for the straps on the pack still tied to Indigo's shoulder until it was free, searching by feel. Her hands touched a diamond shaped seed, a few degrees warmer than her own skin, and yanked it out with a thrill of success. Pokémon screeched in the dark, a cacophony which only served to make her shaking hands steady.

    She put the seed in Indigo's mouth, cracking it with her thumb the way Daniel had once shown her how to do. The Revive broke, spilling shimmering green life energy back into her battered partner. He jerked like he'd been shocked, sitting up groggily, half ready to fight despite not knowing what was going on.

    "Shhhh," Violet hissed, cutting off the beginning of his loud question. Her Lucario shut up, moving closer as if to reassure himself she was there. She was already searching for another item, glad beyond words Cerulean Cave had so many abandoned things lying around. She sprayed a Full Restore over Indigo thoroughly, filling the air with the balmy tang of rain and eucalyptus, until the bottle ran empty.

    She had two Full Restores remaining, a Max Elixir, and one Ultra Ball, along with many other miscellaneous items that wouldn't do her much good in battle.

    Whatever was coming, they would be ready for it. She sprayed the Max Elixir she'd been saving on Indigo as well, sensing this might well be their final stand.

    She lifted her head as light flared above them, shielding her pale face with a hand at the brilliance.

    Balls of fire shot across the top of the prison pit like meteors, trailing golden red embers, lighting primeval torches which loomed over the rim ominously until each one flared into steady splendor. Shadows stood in a circle around the prison, low bodied creatures glaring with fierce eyes, reflecting the light of the flames. As she watched, one of the sturdy Pokémon punched forward with a wiry, muscled arm encircled by bands of dull iron, and the fire encircling its leathery paws flew forward in another meteor burst of light, streaking across the circle to light the last oil cloth wrapped torch with fire.

    Somewhere, drums began to pound, in a deep bass rhythm like a heartbeat. The chattering speech reached a crescendo.

    And Mandatharak himself reared his head over the edge of the pit, grinning with hunger and barely controlled anticipation, his eyes glowing crimson beneath his visor of ancient bone. A long slash stretched across his hood, breaking the screaming face markings in half. Water dripped from his deep purple scales.

    But the water couldn't hide the fresh crimson blood dripping from the ends of his serrated fangs, or the satisfaction of his stance. He practically glowed with it. Violet's own blood ran cold as she imagined what kind of strength something would have to possess to defeat a Gyarados of that size.

    She had underestimated the strength of the King of the Arbok.

    A Primeape spoke, clearly addressing all who listened, and Indigo translated. "They are bargaining with the Arbok horde for our lives. They claim we are honorably captured, and Mandatharak has no claim over us any longer. It seems the Primeape wish to have a representative who can speak to the human guardians on their behalf, get them special privileges, and the like. They believe you can do this."

    Mandatharak waited until the Primeape's rant was over before speaking, his hissing words dripping with dark suggestion.

    "And him?" Violet asked, afraid to ask.

    "Mandatharak wants to eat us," Indigo confirmed grimly. "He's offering a trade; free passage in the lower tunnels in exchange for the two of us, and reports of any sightings of the Ditto. I suppose the tricky thing survived again."

    "He won't hold up his end of the bargain!" Violet whispered urgently, remembering what Indigo had described to her of the Arbok Kings betrayal. "He won't, they can't listen to him!"

    "There isn't much we can do, Violet." Lucario said grimly, his voice hushed. "Except await their judgement on our fate. If we argue, we could set off the Primeape's anger, and turn them against us."

    Violet stood up immediately, breathing in deep. "I-I object!" she shouted, out of the pit they were being held prisoner in. Her voice cracked, and her throat was raw, but she managed to get enough volume to be noticed.

    Silence fell again over the Primeape and the Arbok at her outburst. "What are you doing?" Indigo hissed, and Violet ignored him. She gathered her courage, standing tall, albeit with all her weight on a single foot.

    "The King of the Arbok does not honor his word!" Violet's voice rang out clear. "He will take what is offered, and do whatever he pleases afterwards! Do not listen to the lies of a…an overgrown purple noodle!"

    The Primeape laughed as one, full bellied laughs that had them hunched over, and the small group of Arbok tensed with cold hate.

    She really hoped this worked.

    "Any luck with the Mankey training?"

    Violet groaned with sheer frustration as Daniel plopped down beside her, a grin on his face. She was covered in what she sincerely hoped was just dirt, and bruised from head to toe. He peeled a Nanab berry skin from her hair, tossing it to the ground.

    "I just don't know what to do!" she had complained, burying her face in her arms. "Nothing makes them happy! Nothing! I gave them fresh water after they refused to train, and they dumped it on my head. Then they got mad I was soaking wet, and threw fruit at me, and then they were furious I had 'stolen' their fruit, even though I bought it for them in the first place! They hate me!"

    "The Mankey don't hate you, Vie," Daniel soothed, tossing her a cloth from his bag to clean her face. "They hate everything. Which is completely different."

    "I don't appreciate the distinction," twelve year old Violet muttered, glaring evilly at the glob of fruit that had somehow gotten inside her tennis shoes and squished between her toes.

    "What I mean is, they're gonna be furious no matter what you do. Trying to appease them is no good, you'll just give yourself a headache, and end up looking like a human eggplant. Use their anger. Channel it towards what you want them to do. If they hate training, make them hate losing even more. If they get mad over being given the wrong fruit, tell them their opponent chose the fruit on purpose, knowing it tastes bad. Redirect that furious energy, and nothing in this world will be able to stand in its path."

    Violet thought about it. "And if they hurl mud at my hair?"

    "Get used to the extra showers," Daniel suggested. "And keep your mouth closed if you can help it. Trust me on that one. Experience."

    The memory faded like mist. Violet stood in the deep pit surrounded by smoldering torches dripping flaming drops of tar, soaking wet in blue pajamas, her striking eyes the only fierce thing about her. "My name is Violet Hikari, and I can speak to the other humans on your behalf. My Lucario will translate between our languages. We can help! More than the lying King of the Arbok can, anyways!"

    The Primeape screamed with anger at her proclamation, incensed beyond words. The leapt up and down in their anger, arguing amongst themselves using their fists and feet. One Primeape hurled its fist into another's nose, breaking it messily, and another kicked a Mankey all the way across the prison pit. None of the Primeape seemed to think this was unusual. Violet let out a 'meep' sound, her eyes going huge at the sudden burst of super-violence.

    Indigo's gaze twitched between Primeape hurriedly, his ears flickering at each sound. "They are furious you dared to open your mouth, and that you are wearing the color blue. They also want your eyes to be smaller, since they are too large, and think you should be at least a head taller to be their representative." He stopped, listening intently to the chatter. "Some of them agree with you about Mandatharak. Some of them want to throw….er, dirt at us, but more of them want to see if you can live up to your statement. Also there's a lot of amusement over that noodle comment, which actually seems to be helping…"

    "As long as they're more furious with the Arbok than us, we're good to go!" Violet whispered with hushed triumph. "Primeape and Arbok are about as different as species can get, but they have one thing in common. Once they set their eyes on a victim, they'll never stop trying to destroy them. We need to turn them against each other. Mandatharak's not an idiot. He knows the Primeape are strong enough to put up a fight, or he'd never bargain in the first place. Which means…"

    "If the Primeape attack, they might win. The Arbok are seriously outnumbered, and their ranks have been thinned quite a bit already from the Electrode nest," Indigo realized. "If the Primeape agree we're worth protecting, they might just save us from being eaten alive."

    Mandatharak hissed in an oily whisper, silencing the Primeape with barely any effort. They listened, while Indigo translated for her behalf. "The human girl is weak and dying, already injected with our venom. She will soon perish, leaving you with no representative. Surely it is better to have my favor than the use of a tool who will soon be dead?"

    Violet tried to speak again, but the cacophony of simian jabbering drowned her out entirely. The Primeape fought and argued violently, and more and more of them gestured with furious jabs at her.

    A surge of fatigue hit her hard, and Violet swayed with a moan, nearly falling over. Indigo caught her, supporting her weight with his own, his concerned questions blurring together as though he were speaking underwater. She could feel her heart beating in her head, echoing the pounding in her enflamed arm which pulsed in time, lethargic and heavy.

    The Primeape screamed in a chorus of fury, as Violet blinked tiredly, trying to focus through the fog in her mind. Indigo was shouting something, refuting a statement with increasing urgency.

    "-she's tired, and needs help! We can still speak with the humans on your behalf, but she needs to see a doctor first-!"

    The drums beat out louder, pounding mercilessly against her senses, and a 'crack' of wood on stone echoed throughout the cavern like thunder. She looked up, and saw a Primeape on a pedestal of stone, a staff twice as tall as he was in one hand, commanding utter silence. He lifted the staff in the air with a cry, which was immediately taken up by all the Primeape in a chorus.

    "They say we are to stand trial before their 'Shihan', to decide our fate. I think they mean their leader, but the terminology is unclear. We must convince them Violet, or they will hand us over to Mandatharak without hesitation-!"

    The Primeape surged down the sheer walls of the prison pit, their feet finding footholds where there should have been none, moving as efficiently over a vertical surface as a horizontal one. Indigo tensed, standing closer to her protectively; it didn't matter, as the Primeape slung them into the air and over their shoulders with ease, tearing them apart.

    Violet felt a surge of nausea at their sudden movement, squeezing her eyes shut as she was passed between Primeape like an oddly shaped football. She held her injured arm close, to minimize the chances of it being grabbed, curling into a protective ball. She was dumped unceremoniously on the ground with a thump, and Violet opened her eyes blearily, pushing herself to her knees with one arm.

    Furious snarling caught her attention; Indigo struggled against the Primeape futilely, despite the fact that five of them were restraining him. He seemed to be contemplating grabbing her and running, if the glances he shot towards the far off tunnels were any indication. They shoved him to a sitting position without compunction, and he turned with a silvery glint of aura shining in his eyes.

    A brawny Primeape covered in shaggy tan fur stepped forward, throwing a punch which could flip a car with a fist the size of Indigo's entire head, stopping the blow half an inch from the edge of the Lucario's nose. The wind blew his fur flat against his skull, and Indigo froze instantly. The Primeape ambled away like nothing had happened, and Indigo sat meekly next to Violet, all thoughts of running apparently banished.

    The Primeape screeched appreciatively, beating their fists against their bodies; some of them hung effortlessly from low hanging roots in the ceiling by a single hand or foot, baby Mankey clinging to their thick fur. Violet and Indigo were seated in the center of a rectangular battlefield, suspiciously similar to the kind used in the outside world, in front of a grand staircase hewn out of the midnight black stone of Cerulean Cave. There was a single cave at the top, carefully avoided by the other Primeape, and swept clean of all debris.

    The hair in the back of her neck prickled, and Violet didn't have to turn around to know Mandatharak was behind them, on the other end of the field, staring with hunger at their unprotected spines.

    "Please tell me you have a plan," Indigo asked, sensing it as well. "Mandatharak makes good points. It is very likely the Primeape will see the rationality in his demands."

    "That's it!" Violet exclaimed in a hush, turning to Indigo with new light in her eyes. "Indigo, don't you see? Primeape are only smart when they aren't angry. Their IQ drops by half when they feel a surge of overwhelming rage. And I bet the Shihan is the angriest Primeape of them all!"

    "If we make their leader angry, he will stop listening to reason and do essentially whatever he wants," Indigo summarized, thinking over the plan. "And what if he wants to turn us into custom punching bags?"

    "I never said it was a perfect plan," Violet responded defensively.

    Three meteor bursts of flames burst from the cave; Fire Punch attacks, used as a show of strength. The Primeape roared, beating out a pounding bass rhythm on heavy leather drums decorated with colored rocks and tassels, and one cracked Boulder Badge. Three of the larger Pokémon approached the stairs, bowing low as they spoke in a guttural tongue.

    "They are explaining the situation," Indigo translated in a low tone. "And asking for his wise council. It is a choice, between the Arbok Kings demands, and the promise of a delegate to speak to the Shadow of Dragons on their behalf, whoever that is.

    Mandatharak spoke in an accented rasp, slamming his tail on the stone to gain attention, appealing to the shadowed cave, and the brutal leader of the Primeape within. "Mandatharak promises peace between their territories, and passage in the tunnels normally controlled by Arbok. He claims there is nothing we can offer of value, and that you will soon die without help." His voice cracked on the word.

    "I'm not sure what we can offer," Violet admitted in the midst of a huge yawn. "What on earth could the Primeape want from the outside? And can it really rival the promise that their tribe members won't be killed by Arbok? Not that Mandatharak is likely to honor his word…"

    "We don't have to have the more rational argument, so long as we turn the Shihan's anger towards the Arbok instead of us," Indigo reminded her grimly, his scarlet eyes scanning the gathered brutes, who were growing increasingly bad tempered. "Say something that will anger him, even if it doesn't make sense. His intelligence depends on his mental state, right?"

    Arguments broke free, growing increasingly heated; in the midst of it all, the Shihan of the Primeape moved forward into the light. Every argument stopped, as the entire cavern of infuriated battle-loving brutes fell silent with awe. The pounding of drums was the only sound, a deep boom in a rhythm like a massive echoing heartbeat.

    The Shihan was of average height, and shockingly well-groomed compared to the shaggy creatures that called him master. His thick fur was carefully brushed, with a twirled moustache bushing out from beneath his snout-like nose. He wore a gleaming black top-hat perched upon his head, and an immaculate pair of white shirt cuffs over his iron wristbands, completed by the black bow tie pinned to his fur. He tapped the end of his black cane against the stone sagely, the light gleaming off what appeared to be an actual monocle over one eye.

    Violet and Indigo stared.

    "H-he has introduced himself as Sējizaru," Indigo choked out, completely blindsided, as the bow-tie clad Primeape spoke in a pompous voice. "Shihan of the Saru Dojo, conqueror of the Weepinbell, and…apparently he ate forty bunches of fruit once, not sure why that's included in his title…he wants you to speak Violet, to make your case against Mandatharak. He's using vocabulary beyond what I know, so I'm guessing based on context…show-off."

    Sējizaru turned to Violet expectantly, leaning against his white topped black cane leisurely. It took her a moment to find her voice. She stood shakily, her vision skewing as the venom in her veins threatened to send her into dark red unconsciousness. "My name is Violet. I'm a human…um…and I think you have a very nice cave…"

    "Violet, focus!" Indigo hissed with alarm, and she gathered herself, digging her fingernails into her palm until the pain sharpened her mind.

    "But this cave could be better! You need things, from the outside world, like…like decorative tapestries, and cool statues! As a human, I can get these things from the outside, and send them in. Mandatharak wants his cave to be prettier than yours, and it is for this reason he seeks to kill us!"

    Sējizaru listened to her story attentively, nodding twice. He spoke again, as Indigo translated as best he could.

    "It is true our dwelling lacks a certain degree of sophistication, which is a lamentable occurrence; however, your inference that the Arbok King seeks to inflict lethal harm upon you and your pet in order to prevent this cavern from becoming more glamorous than his own is utter nonsense, since he was attempting to kill you before we ever met! In fact, this makes me wonder if a delegate as obviously lacking in mental abilities such as yourself would in fact be of any value, or if you would only be a detriment to our cause in elevating our particular way of life. What say you in response?"

    "Um," Violet stammered, caught off guard once more. "I-I can speak to the other humans on your behalf, and obtain items, and other things…I-I heard that was something you wanted?" she finished rather lamely.

    Indigo spoke again, mirroring the words of the dapper Primeape. "Indeed, indeed it is, young Mukyu! However, what we desire is not tapestries, or statues, but something of far greater value. We seek the legendary item worshipped by human-kind, that phenomenal delicacy known far and wide with a whisper of reverence. Long have our kind desired it, after hearing tales from one of our brothers who was deigned to taste it, as a gift from the Shidoshi known as Bruno! It is perfection itself, eaten cold or hot, and can be eaten easily with our hands! That, young Mukyu, is the gift we seek! I believe the Shidoshi referred to it as 'Peetzah'."

    Indigo looked more and more confused the longer Sējizaru spoke, and when he finished translating, Violet turned to him to explain. "Pizza is delicious, but not super good for you, made of cheese and tomato sauce. Usually has lots of toppings." She stopped at the look on his face. "You okay?"

    "I am fine," Indigo replied automatically. "I'm mildly concerned with the blatant worshipping of junk food in this story however."

    "The Pizza!" Sējizaru exclaimed, raising his hands in the air as if gesturing towards an unseen gleaming beacon of godliness, utter devotion on his pig-nosed face, as Indigo deciphered his speech. "It is perfection itself! But no matter how hard we try, we are unable to create this delicacy using the materials found in this wretched cave! Only a human can craft it, and only a human can bring it unto us! Obtaining it must take a human of considerable skill, for surely something so transcendent can only be reached through an epic quest! That, young Mukyu, is what we ask of you today!"

    The Primeape cheered, howling their agreement wildly. The cavern rang with it, all the way to the high domed ceiling, hung with root-like vines, woven together to create spherical nests with small doorways. Bunches of some strange, tubular fruit grew in ripe bunches from the thick roots, a variety Violet had never seen before, colored brilliant blue with spots of soft pink dappled near the base. The great drums boomed, some larger than boulders, tied onto the craggy stone walls with thick vine, loud enough the air thrummed with a physical vibration. Now that she was paying attention, she noticed the engravings in the black staircase appeared to be slices of pepperoni pizza. Primeape back flipped in excitement; some of them danced around smoldering fire pits, chanting what Violet suspected was 'all hail the pizza' in their own language.

    All this because Bruno of the Elite Four had apparently given a Primeape a slice of cold pizza who knew how long ago.

    "I-I can do that!" Violet shouted with wide eyes, shooting her hand in the air as though expecting to be called on. "Pizza, no problem!" Could it really be so easy? Life in exchange for pizza? Sējizaru gestured with his cane, silencing the Primeape, staring at her with frozen anticipation to better hear her response.

    Violet struck a pose, grinning cheekily. "That request is a 'pizza' cake! When it comes to getting pizza, my skill can't be 'topped'! Just leave it to me!"

    Indigo groaned, hitting his forehead with one palm as the Primeape broke into even more raucous cheering, hurling Fire Punch bursts into the air like a twenty one gun salute, raining scarlet embers down on the stone.

    A convulsed detonation shook the ceiling, sending all the Primeape without a firm hold flying downwards, to cries of alarm and fear. Mandatharak closed his gaping jaws, as globs of putrid purple poison dripped from the Gunk Shot he'd fired at the roof, hissing as they ate neat holes straight through the solid bedrock into oblivion. Poison fog steamed from the holes, wreathing the bone-plated King of the Arbok in a deadly veil of gleaming toxic mist. He laughed chillingly, and the dissonant sound cut through the screams of the Primeape like butter, able to be heard by everyone without needing to be loud.

    One of the nine Arbok at his tail slithered forward, a screaming baby Mankey held protectively in its jaws; completely unharmed, but trapped in the disjointed vice-like cage of its fangs. Mandatharak's blood red eyes glittered menacingly. "I propose a counter offer. Give us the girl, and her freakish pet, or it will mean war between our kinds, from here until eternity. That is all."

    Indigo finished his translation grimly as the gathered Primeape broke into undisguised hatred, seething with a rage so powerful it was almost a physical force, held back only by the cries of the captive baby. The tension in the cave was nearly tangible, as though the smallest move could set everything off into sudden, horrible violence.

    Mandatharak didn't seem to care. He swayed across the stone, nearing Indigo and Violet, his hypnotic hood pulsing with illusion as he hissed out his dark promises. "Come now, Sējizaru. Have I not always been a friend to you? Did I not fight with you against the Kadabra scourge that threatened to destroy us both? I am your ally…your comrade even. Would you risk crossing me, one who has never done you harm, in exchange for human filth? See reasonI implore you…"

    The tortured scream of his hood undulated, strange colors oozing from the edges in hypnotic rhythm, and Violet stared, unable to remember what she had been doing in the first place. Somewhere, her sanity was screaming a warning at her, beating at the confines of her mind.

    "He lies!" Indigo shouted, breaking her free of her reverie, shocking everyone in the cavern, who had been hanging on Mandatharak's every poisonous word. "Listen to sweet promises if you desire…but never forget that they issue from jaws stained in blood, while a captive child screams for freedom at his back! He will turn on you, the moment your head is faced away!"

    Sējizaru spoke, rapping his cane sharply against the stone, issuing a question at the King the Arbok, who seemed taken aback. His eyes narrowed into slits, and he issued a curt command to his follower, who reluctantly opened his jaws, spilling the baby Mankey onto the ground unharmed. It dove for freedom, taken in by the larger Primeape protectively.

    Every living thing in the cavern waited tensely as Mandatharak turned to Sējizaru, awaiting his judgement. Violet's heart was in her throat, her hands balled up tight.

    Sējizaru shrugged.

    "The King offer us no harm. It is as he says. Reasonably speaking, he has never offered insult, or attacked outside his own territory. Even now, he has released the child, and speaks with rationality, and should therefore be listened to. If he ever does attack, as the Iron-Shodan warrior claims, we will destroy him utterly and without hesitation. Though it is terribly depressing, I'm afraid the grand pizza quest will have to wait until the next humans enter our cavern…"

    Sējizaru turned away as he spoke, deep in thought, as Mandatharak cried out a call of dark triumph, leaping for Violet's throat with fevered eyes.

    Indigo stepped forward, pivoting on one foot to stand in front of her, as Violet stepped back, reaching into her brown bag. Her Lucario raised both palms, firing a double handed Force Palm into Mandatharak's scaled throat, as Violet turned, throwing an Ultra Ball at Sējizaru in a perfect pitch, hitting the back of his furry head.

    Mandatharak flew backwards, skidding on stone, as Sējizaru disappeared into golden light. The Arbok righted himself nearly instantly, baring his fangs in a disjointed grin wide enough to swallow them whole, saliva hanging in red strands between his serrated teeth. The Ultra Ball didn't even shake once, immediately breaking open, releasing the Shihan of the Primeape.

    The suddenly, irrationally furious Shihan of the Primeape. The veins on his arms bulged as inhuman outrage flared like an inferno in his enraged eyes. The power that burst from his shaggy body was powerful enough to send a literal wave of energy through the cavern, blowing Violet's hair back, and cracking his perfectly gentlemanly monocle.

    "Great plan, make him want to kill us himself!" Indigo snarled with a tone of true fear, staring at the increasingly buff Primeape whose biceps were literally getting bigger as his rage fueled some weird chemical reaction within. Violet ignored him, standing firm as she pointed an accusing finger at Mandatharak with her whole arm outstretched.

    Remember, Vie, a Primeape's intelligence plummets by half when they feel a surge of overwhelming anger…

    "He threw that!" she accused deliberately, pointing at the armless King of the Arbok in front of a large crowd of powerful Primeape.

    "You can't be serious," Indigo deadpanned on reflex at her side, and she wondered just whose side he was on anyways. The Primeape den exploded with bloodthirsty shrieks of rage in a cacophony so loud it had physical force. Both Violet and Indigo slapped their hands over their ears amidst a surge of instinctive terror.

    The furious, but increasingly less intelligent Primeape screamed with rage, charging forward with mindless abandon, pummeling any snake they could lay their fists on with a berserker's fury, completely ignoring them both in favor of the Arbok. The brawl was as sudden as it was violent, and the cries of the surprised snakes were drowned out by howling simians, and the sounds of fists on scales.

    Mandatharak reared back, his fangs elongating into daggers as they shone with poisonous light, but before he could strike any Primeape, Sējizaru himself slammed into the top of his head with a double footed kick which shattered the mask of bone into splinters, and ricocheted the Kings skull against the stone. Before the dazed Arbok could recover, Sējizaru struck with crushing strength, his blows raining down on Mandatharak with lightning speed.

    Some of the Primeape had actually seen Violet throw the Ultra ball. Their anger blinded them to little details like whose fault it actually was, since there was a fight at hand, and a furious mob to join. The Arbok fought with venom and fangs, but sheer numbers turned the tide of battle, and despite their superior power, they were losing.

    "By Layla's blood," Indigo swore, unable to tear his eyes away from the mosh pit of fighting types currently doing their best to smear the Arbok into pulp. Violet tugged at his arm.

    "Let's go, while they're distracted," she urged. "It could take days for them to calm down, and we won't get any sense out of them until then. If we get out, I'll do my best to convince someone to deliver pizza down here…"

    Indigo couldn't seem to stop staring. "Let's go," Violet repeated urgently, pulling at her Lucario's arm.

    Her heart thudded sharply in her chest; she could hear nothing but roaring in her ears. Violet felt like her soul had been cut off from her body, like she could see and feel, but not move, as a surge of warm lethargy oozed through her veins. Her bleeding arm was on fire with crackling agony.

    Indigo turned, worry on his face, which turned quickly into panic as her vision tilted harshly to the side.

    She knew it when she hit stone, though by then Violet Hikari was far from being able to care, as the Arbok's venom finally overtook her. She descended into searing unconsciousness, her heartbeat thundering as loud as a drum in the echoing confines of her mind.

    ~o~

    Authors Note: I used several martial arts terms in this chapter. For those curious, translations are as follows.

    Shihan (Sējizaru): The 'Teacher of Teachers', one whose wisdom and fighting abilities are nearly unmatched. One who can see the hidden potential in those he meets at a glance, and assess their strength levels accurately.

    Shodan (Indigo): A First Degree Black Belt. Indigo is referred to as the Iron-Shodan Warrior, a clear indicator of respect. His skills are considerable, but he is nowhere near the highest level Black Belt, unlike many of the Primeape.

    Mukyu (Violet): No Level, or Red Belt. Someone clearly not trained in martial arts in the slightest. (Haha!)

    Shidoshi (Bruno): Director. While not an official teacher, the Shidoshi is referred to with the utmost respect. This is probably due to his mastery over Fighting Types.

    **Other Notes**

    The name Sējizaru is a play on the Japanese name for Primeape, Okorizaru, which originally means 'Angry Monkey'. Sējizaru translates roughly to 'Sage Monkey', reflecting his gentlemanly demeanor.

    'Saru Dojo' roughly translates to Monkey Dojo. Yeah, I know, real original.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  13. Chapter 11: Cursed Destiny

    Disclaimer: I am not, in fact, the supreme overlord of the internet. Yeah, sorry to crush your dreams.

    ~o~

    One room in Cerulean Cave had no exits or entrances whatsoever. It was large, roughly the size of a human apartment complex, shaped like a long silo, with one pillar of stone in the center, shining under the faint spotlight of a massive inverted Aura-crystal growing upside down from the ceiling. There were no stairs to the top of the pillar, no easy way to get there at all, and yet a figure stood on the peak, with closed eyes.

    "You have come," the figure said, without turning around, as a new presence entered his cave. They had teleported in – it was really the only way. Few knew it existed, much less how to enter. A Poké Ball flashed, and the boy's partner disappeared.

    "I caught wind of a disturbance a few hours ago. I thought I'd check in and see if you knew anything."

    The figure almost laughed at that. The crystals adorning the ebony stone blazed into splendor, each and every one reflecting a scene from the past few hours in Cerulean Cave. They starred two individuals, a pale girl with determined lilac eyes, and a lengthy sheet of straight black hair, and a powerful Lucario who fought as though he'd never forgotten what it felt like to lose. Hundreds of clips played in the shimmering facets of the crystals, showing the two battling, talking, and travelling. The larger crystals moved in slow motion; nightmare images of a bone armored Arbok dripping with blood, a Gyarados spiraling towards the girl with jaws gaping wide, and a stampede of Rhyhorn. One showed the girl being bitten through her entire arm, and the look of sheer desperate panic on her Lucario's face when it happened; the crystals could not transmit sound, but her scream was just as excruciating as it would have been in person.

    "I see everything," Mewtwo observed, his answer transmitted directly into his guests mind. "Nothing in this cave escapes my notice. Not a cursed human…or, for that matter, a fallen hero." The Legend paused, and all the images froze onto Violet's face. Mewtwo's eyes narrowed slightly. "But which is which? There is more going on here than meets the eye…"

    "I'll say," Red swore, pulling the brim of his hat to better see the reflected scenes. "How did a trainer end up in here in the first place? The entrance is blocked off. My 'alarm system' would have alerted me if anyone had tampered with it."

    The crystals flickered, and the images vanished, leaving the aquamarine stones pristine once more. "Perhaps, it is for the best," Mewtwo said at last, finally turning to face the former Champion of Kanto. "Perhaps those two should meet their end in this cave."

    "Not on my watch," Red retorted, his tone leaving no room for disagreement. It was too easy, sometimes, to forget the savior of Kanto was barely seventeen, a child by any standard. "Where are they now?"

    "Near the end," Mewtwo intoned, and the crystals shone, each and every one showing the same image from a slightly different angle. The Lucario ran through the empty black tunnels, a limp body held in his arms; her veins were stained with blue-black bruising, almost like roots, growing up the left side of her face to cradle one eye in spindled darkness. Her breathing was shallow, barely whispering the hair hanging near her mouth. The Lucario was speaking, keeping up a desperate flow of words to the dying girl he held.

    "In more ways than one, it would seem." Movement caught his attention. Red was already walking away, back towards the crystal he had teleported in on. "It is best not to interfere in the fate of humans. It may be best to leave them be."

    "It may be the way of legends to stand back and watch the world unfold. I've never understood all that fate and destiny talk anyways…if a trainer is in trouble, I'm gonna save them, end of story. That is my way."

    "Is that why you ran to Mount Silver? Your region needed you then."

    That was enough to give the boy pause. "Back then, I was just a kid. I'd just saved Kanto from Team Rocket, and everyone wanted me to…to fix everything they'd broken. But I knew I was still human, and no ten year old kid knows how to rebuild the economy, or repair so much hurt. Lance is the hero of Kanto, he always was. Born to lead, born for greatness…but that wasn't me. At my heart, I was never a Champion, or a leader. I am, and always will be, a trainer first. Maybe one day I'll be ready to stand at the head of the Elite Four; I might just take back my Championship. But I need to become better as a person first. Strength in battle is not all a Champion needs to lead a region."

    "You were a good enough person to save me, if I recall."

    Red didn't answer, and he knew it was useless to press him. Not that he cared much whether or not the boy became Champion once more. It would not change him in the eyes of his friends. "I can bring you as far as the inner gate. From there you may attempt to find them, if you wish. They are currently in the dead zone, empty of all wild Pokémon. Whether or not they make it out of the final maze will be up to them…"

    "Thank you," Red murmured. "The last labyrinth is dangerous, even empty. A Lucario should have no problem seeing the path ahead however."

    "I sense a terrible injury within the Lucario. His aura pathways are burned out – it is unlikely he can mold enough aura to enhance his vision. But that is no true Lucario."

    "I swear, you're unbearably cryptic on purpose," Red complained, narrowing his onyx eyes beneath the red brim of his hat. "What exactly is that supposed to mean?"

    Mewtwo's expression didn't change, but his tone became ever so slightly amused. "Exactly what it sounds like. That isn't a Lucario. He is human…and under an extraordinarily powerful curse. Stronger, in fact, than any I've ever witnessed. It would take a being of unspeakable power to wield such terrible strength."

    It was rare for a human to be cursed into a Pokémon. Almost unheard of, really. Perhaps it warranted looking further into his destiny.

    Mewtwo spoke again, after a moment of thought. He spoke with finality. "Do not save them."

    Red's surprise made his words sharp. "Why not?"

    ~o~

    He didn't care that history was repeating itself. He didn't think about how death and pain seemed to follow him like a plague, or how the people around him always seemed to get hurt. Everything Indigo cared about right then was in his arms.

    "If you die, I won't have anyone to teach me about donuts," the Lucario said, a little desperately. The comatose girl in his arms did not respond. He could hear the slowing thump of her heartbeat with his enhanced hearing, past the howling wind of his passage, as he ran with every ounce of speed he could push into his screaming legs. She had nearly woken a few times in response to his words, and so Indigo spoke, desperately trying to keep the closest thing he had to a friend alive.

    "You swore you would show me a 'movie' when we had some time. Are you going to back down on me, girl? I've never seen one, remember? You claimed it was the greatest tragedy in this world since the invention of crop-top sweaters…whatever those are. It can't be worse than the tragedy of being caught by a rookie with a Magikarp, now can it? I still think it's ugly! Do you hear that, you ridiculous human? Your starter isn't fit to be dinner, much less my predecessor!"

    Violet was as silent as the grave; some of her hair fell over her ashen face. Her breathing was shallow, and uneven.

    Indigo fought down the sudden surge of grief that twisted his heart.

    It wasn't fair.

    He had finally found someone to laugh with. Someone who made lame jokes, and was unbearably shy around humans, and ate far too much sugar. Who was a brilliant strategist, a capable battler, and an expert in so many unexpected fields. Someone who had saved his life more times than he could count today alone. A girl who had faced insurmountable odds, fighting through her own terror and agony, and had been able to make the choice to die in order to save others, a trait which he knew wasn't as common as people believed.

    One ridiculous trainer, who made him feel like he still mattered.

    Like he was still human.

    "You cannot die," Indigo begged in a broken growl, his arms tightening through the sudden pain in his heart. "Please, Violet, I beg of you…wake up!"

    The black tunnel went blurry with unshed tears. He had not seen a single Pokémon since leaving the Primeape den, or the slightest sign of life. And yet, the tunnels were never-ending. They all looked the same, twisting and branching into each other. He didn't know if he was going the right direction; he could have been running back into the depths of the cave for all he knew. Indigo kept moving, because stopping would feel like the end.

    He turned a corner, skidding to a stop as he reached a dead-end, the path ahead blocked off by massive growths of cerulean crystal. His legs were shaking with fatigue. How much longer could he keep this up? Violet's time could run out any minute now, and he didn't even know how far the exit was, much less which direction to go.

    If only he could see the exit. If only his aura vision weren't damaged, if only-

    But then again, he realized despondently, did it really matter at this point?

    He set Violet carefully down on the ground, brushing her ebony hair back from her face.

    Indigo closed his scarlet eyes, forcing the Aura in his body to move through the aching spot behind his eyes. He felt it connect, flaring to life as the appendages beneath his large ears quivered once, rising spastically into the air-

    The next thing he knew, he was on the ground, white lights burning his vision with destructive force while a high pitched keening echoed in his ears. Someone was shouting. He realized it was him, just as he broke the connection in a panic.

    The relief was immediate, and the feeling of having molten metal poured onto his brain ebbed away with each heartbeat, until he could pull in a gasping breath.

    He had seen nothing.

    Not even a glimmer of the path ahead.

    He shouted again, a raw howl of frustration, clutching his head in his spiked paws.

    He was utterly useless! So tired he could barely stand, so weak he couldn't save one girl! She needed him. A living, breathing being needed him, and he was unable to help! Poor Violet, having such a useless protector around. Maybe she would be better off with her Magikarp after all!

    He cast a weary look at Violet, wondering which path he should try next. Maybe he could simply break the crystals barring the way and continue on this one. But was it even the right path? He had no way of knowing.

    It took him several long seconds to realize Violet Hikari had stopped breathing.

    "Hey," he said roughly, getting to his knees. "Hey! You can't give up here. Do you hear me? You can't just give up!"

    No response at all. Her head hung limply against the stone, all the color drained from her face. All except for the swollen black veins tracing a pattern up her neck, which were darker than night.

    His legs didn't want to move anymore. He half crawled to her side, shaking her shoulder desperately. No, no, no. This couldn't happen. "Violet!" Indigo called, the denial in his heart slowly giving way to the crushing reality before his eyes.

    And despite the undeniable fact that his Aura system was damaged, Indigo put both his palms over her chest, one on top of the other, and channeled a surge of blue energy directly into her heart. She jolted, as though she'd been shocked by lightning.

    The pain was immediate; his muscles screamed with it, searing him alive from the inside out, but Indigo Nightwalker gritted his teeth and waited out the swelling tide of torment until it passed.

    "Not today," Indigo snarled to thin air, his palms shining with another flare of Aura-light. The agony made it hard to breath. He delivered another pulse into her chest, and Violet jerked again. "Do you hear me universe? You can't have her! Not today, or any other day!" With that he gathered Aura into his eyes once more, trying to force his Aura Vision to manifest. The resulting torture blacked out his vision entirely for the next few seconds, and he heard himself screaming.

    His vision came back slowly, the darkness receding, but it was strangely blurry. It felt like someone had set his veins on fire behind his eyes.

    Another pulse of life energy to her heart, another stab of agony. He laughed, a raw, humorless sound, because what did it matter? It wasn't as though he could get her out, even if her heart magically did restart. She needed a doctor, or a miracle.

    He tried to activate his Aura Vision for the third time, and the pain doubled from what it had been before, receding twice as slowly. He brushed away the tears from his fur roughly; his paw came away stained with crimson. Blood dripped from his nose as well. He could even feel it trickling from his ears.

    He slumped over Violet's body, real tears mixing with the blood dripping from his eyes, fighting back the sobs heaving from his chest.

    "I'm sorry…you had to meet me. If it weren't for me, you'd be-" his voice failed him, and Indigo broke off, a different kind of agony burning his eyes.

    If he had never come here, if he'd died in the past like he'd been meant to do all along, Violet would never have been pulled into this. She would have lived a happy, normal life, free of the nightmares which seemed to follow him like a cloud.

    Tero Akkarin's cruel smile flashed once before his eyes, a reminder that this was the second time he'd lost what he cared for most.

    "I never told you. I'm human, Violet, did you know that? I'm the traitor from the tales of Halladen, the boy who tried to save the kingdom, and failed. I'm the reason the King of Fire won. I was cursed for my crimes, exiled to the future. I never told you because I was afraid you would turn your back on me. I didn't want to see the fear in your eyes, the pity…do you know how hard it is, to admit you failed? I wanted…for you to see me as a hero. Not some pitiful reject, who couldn't even stop one mad king. You made me want to be a hero again."

    She didn't respond, and he could not look at her face. Her silence was all the answer he needed. The weight of his failures felt like it would crush him, and for the first time since being cursed, Indigo felt true despair. The world didn't need him. No one did. Even if he returned to the past, he would only fail a second time. Tero was too strong to be defeated, and it was entirely his fault.

    The world would have been a better place if Indigo had never been born.

    "I call on thee, White Nightmare," Indigo intoned, speaking to the thin air which seemed to grow warmer at his words. "Nivalis. Isn't this what you wanted? To punish me for what I've done? For whatever harm I've caused, I'm sorry, do you hear me fox? I tried to do what I thought was right, and people paid with their lives for it. I'm sorry I made so many terrible mistakes…but please…don't let Violet be another one. Save her! She is only a girl who has never seen war, but she does not deserve to die!"

    Heavy silence met his plea, and Indigo cried, broken sobs that felt like they would tear him apart, with no one to see but the darkness. His exhaustion hit him hard; he hunched over her body, with an agony no less real for being in his heart rather than his flesh, and sobbed. Warriors weren't supposed to cry. He was far past the point of caring about what he was supposed to be.

    His tears dripped on Violet's pale face, slipping down her skin like rain.

    And shone with a silvery light, seeping into her skin like liquid moonlight. He jerked with surprise, pulling away, uncomprehendingly. The path of his tears shone with a faint light, barely visible against her skin. Light hung in the air between them in glimmering silver stars, drifting serenely towards Violet Hikari, seeming to lift from the tears on his fur in little shining motes of white that defied gravity.

    The glittering lights brushed her skin, disappearing below the surface, where they continued to shine, until Violet glowed with ethereal beauty. The dark venom bruising her veins hissed and smoked, shrinking away until her skin was clear once more. More of the motes of diamond-dust stars gathered around her swelled arm, piercing the infected site in a swarm of healing light. The venom dissipated into dark mist, rising from her skin in a purple cloud, until her wounds ran with clean blood, no infection to be seen. Her arm looked normal, with the exception of the clean puncture wounds, which had already begun to heal.

    And as the venom dissipated, Indigo heard the thump of her heartbeat in her chest begin again. Her lungs rose and fell, and his friend sighed in her sleep.

    "Violet?" Indigo croaked, his voice breaking. She breathed in response, and it was the most perfect thing she could have said. He cried for a different reason, overwhelmed by a mix of emotions that was indescribable, tears of relief so powerful they seemed to come from his soul itself. He didn't understand what had happened. Had Pokémon tears always held such power?

    He didn't care. If the light could have been Nivalis, answering his desperate plea, or a mysterious phenomenon for all he knew. All that mattered was he'd been given a second chance, and they weren't done yet.

    "I won't let this go to waste," Indigo swore to his unconscious friend, his voice harsh from crying. "We're getting out of this, and I'll see to it personally that you fulfill your dreams. The Pokémon League doesn't stand a chance!"

    His Aura flared in response to his conviction, despite the fact that he still had no idea how to get out of the cave. And to his utter surprise, the crystals barring their path flared brighter as well, like miniature suns. He yelped, caught off guard, and the light vanished entirely.

    Indigo set one paw on the cool surface of the blue crystals hesitantly, making the diamond glow faintly from within with soft blue light.

    Blue light which was very similar to the Aura flames he had wielded so many times before.

    Hardly daring to hope, Indigo gathered Aura to his palms, carefully so as not to injure himself again.

    The crystal exploded into brilliant splendor, shining like a beacon in the dark, casting his shadow in stark relief behind him. All the crystals were connected, each and every one, and now, Indigo was connected with them. He could feel the strange cool fire of Aura pulsing through the cave, shining in response to the Aura's that came close to them, lighting the entire dark cavern with living luminescence. Energy hummed like electricity through his bones, spreading a cool relief which eased his aching wounds. He opened his scarlet eyes with wonder, breaking the connection.

    The crystals were Aura sensitive.

    Activating his Aura Vision took too much energy – trying to force it into existence was impossible after over-using it against the orange-eyed nightmare. But if he could use the crystals to help…if he could use just enough energy to see through the pathway between them-!

    Indigo focused his will, placing both hands over the crystals, and was engulfed with white brilliance as it flared into life.

    Visions rushed over him, flashes of cave and darkness, images from every crystal in Cerulean Cave played in a sequence as though he were rushing past them like the wind. He saw everything; hidden nests, strange fruit growing from vines without sunlight, even a roaring waterfall lit by gleaming cyan crystals from behind. And stretching out, farther than Indigo would have thought possible, a massive tree grew in the sunlight in a contained ecosystem the likes of which he had never seen, dotted by the same crystals that grew in the cave. For an instant, he thought he sensed a laughing pink presence flitting through the crystals themselves, and then it was gone as quickly as it had come.

    He also saw, with perfect clarity, that the cavern broke into the surface in a twisting path which would take less than ten minutes to traverse.

    Hope was like a drug, giving him strength he hadn't known he still had. He clung to the bright feeling in his chest with wild abandon, as though afraid it would fly away from him once more.

    The cursed Lucario gathered his newfound strength into his black spiked paw, and struck the crystals barring the way with his palm. They shattered, but did not fall apart, a fine web of jagged cracks marring their shine like a frozen ripple. Another Force Palm destroyed the crystals in a fine rain of diamond dust that chimed when it hit the stone, each fragment still shining faintly from within with sky-blue fire.

    The path held firm in his mind, Indigo ran, Violet held carefully in his arms.

    He didn't know why there weren't any wild Pokémon in this last maze, and frankly he didn't feel like wasting any brain power on figuring it out. They had done it. Nothing was left to stand in their way, except a few twists and turns – and one hidden passage behind a large crystal, which he seriously doubted he would have found on his own. It was a tight squeeze, holding Violet, and then they were on their way.

    Twice he touched the crystals once more, reaffirming their course.

    He had to hand it to Karo, the man had truly tried to send them to their deaths. Too bad he'd underestimated the girl with her incredible partner, the Magikarp, and a talking Lucario who had never battled until a year ago. It was completely laughable! The King of Fire would have annihilated the pretentious blonde man in a single heartbeat, with both hands tied behind his back. The future really needed to work on the quality of its villains.

    His heart soared as they entered the final cavern, the last hurdle, finally, in the massive labyrinth that was Cerulean Cave. Sweet air assaulted his senses, a blissful change after the mustiness he'd grown used to underground, smelling of sunshine and leaves, and the tang of autumn. The entrance stood open to the outside, spreading actual sunlight onto the black stone. A large boulder was pushed off to the side, as though it had been used to previously block off the exit, gouging scrape marks marking its path.

    Indigo took one step forward; the moment he did, power such as he'd never felt before pressed down on him as though gravity had increased ten-fold, a crushing weight like the bottom of the ocean floor. The pressure felt like it would churn his bones into dust, and Indigo fell to his knees with a cry, struggling not to drop Violet. His head was bowed as though in penance, and it was all he could do to raise it slightly; just enough to see what lay before.

    A tailed figure hung in the air half shrouded in darkness, with eyes that gleamed with brilliant blue in the shadows, silhouetted by the sun, which gleamed tantalizingly just behind the final obstacle in his path.

    The strange creature raised one hand with three spherical fingers, clenching them into a fist. It glowed once with brilliant cerulean light, outlined with Psychic energy, and the horrible pressure doubled, forcing his head down once more. His grip slackened, and Violet tumbled to the stone, rolling a slight distance away; he barely noticed.

    "What are you?" Indigo ground out with a strangled cry, his forehead nearly touching the cold black stone of the cavern. He couldn't move. He could barely think. Never had Indigo seen anything so powerful…it defied imagination!

    A flick of the creatures' wrist sent Indigo slamming into a wall; he cracked his skull against the stone, and then the stone cracked in a spider-web of chasms around him, crushed by the same Psychic pressure. The creatures' gleaming eyes narrowed into cold blue slits behind his outstretched arm, and broken shards of rock floated into the air as though gravity itself were being affected by the insane power. The warm sunlight shining through the open exit faded, as it were being pushed back from the darkness of Cerulean Cave.

    "You are pitiful. Do you truly believe a boy like you can protect anyone?"

    "Why are you doing this?" Indigo snarled, forcing his scarlet eyes to stay open, to keep his enemy in sight like his instincts screamed at him to do. His sight blurred and refocused radically, black creeping in from the edges. Was this why he hadn't seen any other Pokémon since leaving the Primeape's cavern? Because this thing wouldn't allow them to venture so close to the exit?

    The creature smiled.

    "To teach you a lesson."

    The pressure lightened just enough that it was no longer a struggle to see.

    Violet hung in the air beside the Psychic, her arms outstretched as though she'd been crucified, outlined by cerulean light. Indigo fought the power restraining him with everything he had.

    "Let her go-!"

    "That is not for you to decide," the Psychic cut him off calmly. "… human boy."

    That got his attention.

    "What is it you want from me?" Indigo asked in a quieter voice, fearing the answer he might receive. A Psychic so powerful to recognize his curse was a force to be reckoned with. Indigo no longer had any doubts that he was in the presence of a Legendary, god-like beings shrouded in mystery, who wielded the powers of the universe itself; some even possessed the ability to re-stich time and space, and write new laws of reality on a whim.

    "Know me, human, for I am Mewtwo, the second incarnation of the Origin, the ancestor of life itself. This cave is my domain, the creatures within my subjects. I see you for what you are. Not a true hero, but a liar pretending at the title. She isn't your friend. You care nothing for her, except as a damsel to protect, so your own guilt is eased."

    "That isn't true," Indigo snarled, caught off guard. "What would you know? Violet is my friend!"

    "And if she knew what you were? Do you truly believe this so called friend of yours would accept you, if she knew you were under a curse?"

    "How would you know?" Indigo snapped, the legends words striking a nerve deep within. Could she? "Cease your riddles, and tell me why you are here!"

    Mewtwo lowered his arm, and Indigo fell to the ground, landing in an easy crouch, his scarlet eyes blazing. He straightened slowly, every muscle tense, his senses on full alert.

    "I'm here to do you a favor. I was born of science, and yet, my power allows me see the fabric of destiny itself. Prophecies hang over you like a cloud, human boy, past, present, and future…more than perhaps you know of. I see your curse like a storm cloud, whispers of ghostly shade from your association with the long fabled Queen of Darkness, the curse of hatred from Entei, and even the gift of the Ninetales, which protects you even now."

    "If you're talking about Nivalis, you're dead wrong," Indigo growled impatiently. "That particular Ninetales would burn me alive before giving me any gift!"

    "The string that is your destiny is entangled with many others. And yet, if your path continues on its present course, it could spell disaster for this world. Do not worry – I am not here to harm you, or you would already be dead. I have shown you my strength only to force you to pay attention to my counsel."

    "Have you ever heard of writing a letter to get someone's attention? Some nice stationary goes a long way." Indigo griped, glaring at the legend with everything he had, since fighting would be incredibly stupid. He settled for sarcasm instead. "Not that I don't understand why you didn't. It must be difficult to write around that massive ego."

    Mewtwo's eyes narrowed. "…you are mocking me. But you will listen. This is for your own good."

    "Yeah, well, you should have thought of that before throwing me into a wall. Has it occurred to you that I would not listen? Especially after you kidnapped my friend?"

    "You do not comprehend. Humans rarely do," Mewtwo mused. "I shall put it simply. You must return to your time. It is not a question of atonement, or vengeance…or even of the lives left behind. It is essential you return. For the sake of the world, you must break your curse, Indigo Nightwalker. You were only a pawn, in a battle stretching long before your birth, and controlled by forces more powerful than you realize, even now…the battle for your ancient land cannot be lost. Do you understand now?"

    "I was going to do that anyways!" Indigo ground out, his eyes flashing with rage. "I don't see why you care! Tero Akkarin has been dead for centuries…why would you care about my fight? This has nothing to do with you!"

    "It has to do with all life. This future you see before you is in limbo. It can still be destroyed. Time and space are stretched, bent around your curse, and the fate of reincarnation itself is in question. I regret that I cannot help you further than this. The demon known as Tero Akkarin, the King of Fire, must be stopped, before all is lost. My warning is simple, cursed warrior. Prepare yourself. The coming battle will be beyond anything you have seen before. The legends will war, and your role may turn the tide…or doom those you love most. But you are not ready. Prepare, and once you are strong enough to break free of this curse, only then can you fulfill your destiny."

    "I don't understand, Tero already got everything he wanted! What more could he be planning? The fate of the world…one man cannot destroy the world, no matter how strong he is!" Indigo protested, his mind reeling. This was too much. He only wanted to return home to right his wrongs…it couldn't be that the war wasn't over yet!

    "One man cannot," Mewtwo agreed. "He couldn't have reached that point without you."

    Indigo flinched horribly as that sunk in, and his legs felt weak. He sank to the ground, as though he were being crushed, as the weight he'd carried the past year became infinitely heavier. "Then stop it," the lone warrior begged, his voice hoarse. "I'm not enough. Whatever he's planning, stop it. A being like you should have no problems with this fight!"

    But Mewtwo shook its head. "I can do nothing more. It is not my place to interfere with destiny. I can only prepare you to face battle on a new scale, and inform you that you are correct. You aren't enough. You never will be. Alone, that is." As he spoke, he lowered Violet's form to the ground at Indigo's feet. She hadn't woken, her breathing steady and deep. Mewtwo's psychic power brushed the hair from her face. "You are not alone. This is true in both the past and present. Your mistake was to take everything upon yourself, every burden, and battle alike. Learn from that mistake. Do not forget your friends."

    "My battles are dangerous," Indigo whispered, remembering his past pain. "I don't want anyone I love to be hurt."

    "Trust those who care for you. Trust them to fight, and to experience pain, and even to die. Some battles are worth the lives of good people. That is the nature of struggle. This is all I can tell you, for now."

    In an instant, Mewtwo was gone, leaving without the slightest trace he'd been there at all. Indigo lowered his head, tears threatening him again, badly shaken by the cryptic warnings of a Legendary. His shoulders shook, and Indigo breathed deep, struggling to regain his composure, as he allowed himself a minute to rest. He gathered his strength, as his pain faded slowly.

    "Who are you?" Indigo asked quietly, not looking up.

    After a pause, the figure standing just outside the cave moved into view, ducking his head so his hat didn't get caught on the low entrance. A Pikachu dashed around his ankles, and hopped from the wall to the boys shoulder in an easy movement, looking at Indigo with curiosity. The newcomer moved towards him, taking a seat off to one side. "You can call me Red."

    "Are you Mewtwo's trainer?" Indigo enquired, appraising the well-built young man as he fed a treat to the Pikachu on his shoulder. His ebony hair stuck out under his red baseball hat; his eyes were intense, as though he had seen everything the world had to offer, and bested all his foes. Indigo felt his aura returning simply from sitting near the strange boy.

    Red grinned, not looking at him as he scratched between his Pikachu's ears fondly. "I was once. That was a long time ago. Sorry for the whole cryptic destiny speech, I'm afraid he insisted it was necessary. Can't tell you how many of those I've had to sit through. You did well to make it this far…you and your trainer."

    Indigo stood, carefully lifting Violet into his arms once more. He couldn't rest yet. There was still one more thing he had to do. Red looked up at him, as though taking his measure. "Cerulean City is close. It's visible from the cave. If you'd like, I can bring you both there on my Pidgeot," he offered.

    Indigo thought about it, and shook his head once. "We made it here together. I want to bring her to safety with my own arms. Thank you, for the offer…but this is something I need to do." He held her tighter, and knew despite his tiredness that he could never drop her.

    Red seemed to understand, smiling faintly as he stood as well. "I get that. There is one more thing. Not a command, or a warning, but plain advice, from someone who knows a bit on the subject of redemption. The first step is to forgive yourself for not being perfect. Whatever happened, whatever you've done, you need to forgive yourself before you can ever grow. If you can manage that, the rest will be easier."

    "Thanks," Indigo said tiredly, managing a crooked grin. "Random stranger I just met."

    Red's eyes twinkled, and he stepped aside as Indigo carried Violet Hikari out of Cerulean Cave once and for all.

    ~o~
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  14. Chapter 12: His Dark Confession

    Disclaimer: For those of you thinking that maybe THIS time I'll suddenly own Pokemon, I have some bad news…

    ~o~

    The sun threw rainbows into the sky above the light layer of mist hanging over the valley. Rivers arced through the grass, deeply blue, and unfamiliar mountains rose into the heavens, blurred by distance. A glittering city lay nestled between rivers and plains, a jewel hidden by nature and water.

    Cerulean City.

    Indigo jumped off the ridge, landing lightly on the padded grass. A sloping hill lay between him and the first river, and beyond that was the edge of the city itself. He squinted and blinked into the light through half hooded eyes, unaccustomed to the brightness of the sun. It was early morning; the sun hung low in the sky, painting the horizon with a spill of vibrant pink light.

    Morning, again. They'd been in Cerulean Cave for more than a day. Time seemed to be stopped in the dark caverns of the mysterious dungeon. It was strange to think the sun had continued on its path; that somewhere, while they were in mortal danger, others had been enjoying a beautiful autumn day.

    Violet was breathing steadily, seeming peaceful in the light, despite her battered, stained pajamas, and the slash through her left eyebrow from a Golbats fang. His desperate tears had seemed to do the trick with healing the worst of her injuries, although he couldn't help but worry that she had not yet woken from her slumber. He would bring her to other humans, and they would care for the remainder of her injuries. The worst of the danger had passed.

    But there was still one thing Indigo needed to check.

    He cleared his throat in the chilled air, with no one but the sky and the long grass swaying in the wind to hear him, and spoke loudly. "We're safe now. There is absolutely nothing, nothing at all that could go wrong at this exact moment in time. How dangerous could it possibly be to walk to that city over there? What's the worst that could happen? We're not going to die. I don't believe it's possible for anything to endanger us right now. In fact, I dare the universe to strike us down with something unlikely, such as a meteor or a lightning bolt, or some other ridiculous plot twist which has no business existing in real life!"

    The serene hillside did not answer. No flaming chunks of rock tore through the sky, no chasms opened up beneath their feet, and not a single conveniently timed monster chose that exact moment to jump out and try to eat them. Indigo smiled with satisfaction, and his tenseness faded as he truly relaxed for the first time since leaving the cave. Whatever powers controlled the universe had evidently decided to leave them alone for the time being.

    He felt a surge of slightly vindictive smugness, as he chose a path down the grassy hillside. How many people had challenged karma, and not been immediately killed? Indigo and Violet had been through a horrible ordeal, and he felt it only right the universe owe them for a change. It only seemed fair. Besides, if anything was going to attack them, it would have been right after his challenge to the universe itself, if previous experience was anything to go by.

    They really were out of danger.

    A flock of Pidgey chose that moment to burst from a nearby tree in a screaming cacophony, their wings beating out a storm against the air.

    It took Indigo a minute to compose himself as they flew past in a rush, after he'd jumped so instinctively he'd tripped on landing, barely managing to hold onto Violet, with a sound like a high pitched yelp. He stood gingerly, very glad no one had been around to see that. His face burned as he carried his trainer to Cerulean City, grumbling under his breath.

    He saw no one at all on his path downwards, save a few cautious Sandshrew skulking in their sandy nests, which burrowed quickly away upon seeing the battle-scarred warrior.

    In fact, it was almost too quiet. He couldn't help but feel as though there should be at least a few people this near the city. A large bridge made of planks of polished pine stretched out towards the cape, completely empty. Indigo walked over it curiously, wondering where on earth everyone was. He hopped down the stairs at the edge of the bridge, and was greeted by a cheerful sign in a burbling water fountain which read: 'Welcome to Cerulean City! Fall in love with our beautiful aquatic paradise!' Jets of water jumped and spun over the cornflower blue sign, which stood in the middle of a small pool. Goldeen darted beneath the surface with silky fins between white lilies and spiked reeds.

    The fountain reminded him how parched his throat was. Indigo pressed the need down, instead casting his eyes out for the red roof of a Pokémon Center. He padded down the wide empty streets, past abandoned benches and locked stores, not a soul in sight. The city truly was beautiful. Deep trenches cobbled with bright mosaics cut beside the glittering granite walkways, redirecting crystal clear water through the city, filled with brightly colored Water types. The manmade rivers ran deep, occasionally connecting to dancing fountains in the center of large pavilions surrounded by cheerful store fronts. Seaking leapt out of the water in shining arcs, chasing the burbling jets of water.

    The Pokémon Center was in the epicenter of the city, behind a massive oval reflecting pool made of midnight stone. A seamless glass aquarium rose high above the surface of the mirrored glass of the dark water, connected to the deep reservoirs maintained beneath the city. As Indigo watched, a Gyarados spiraled up into the tank, casting a watery shadow over him. Jagged crystals lined the reflecting pool in the hues of frozen wind and winter skies. Indigo wondered if the crystals and stone had come from Cerulean Cave. He paced around the edge of the monument, as Violet shifted in her sleep.

    It was only when Indigo reached the front doors of the Pokémon Center that he realized the inside was dark.

    He shifted one arm just enough to pull at the door without setting Violet down. It rattled and stuck. Indigo frowned. He could see no one inside. Surely a hospital would not lock its doors so?

    Indigo began to regret his earlier challenge to the universe. But someone had to be inside. And he wasn't about to turn around. He growled with irritation, narrowing his scarlet eyes.

    Dragon Pulse howled from his gaping mouth, blasting the fragile doors into jagged splinters of glass with a whirling vortex of lightning blue energy. Cracks broke along the entire length of the glass fronted Pokémon Center like fault lines. Indigo stepped through the hole he had blasted irritably, choosing his steps with care between the shards of glass, his ears perked for any sound. The main room was empty as well, abandoned, and dark. He reached the center of the room, beginning to wonder if he'd made a mistake coming here.

    Sirens exploded around him in a wailing scream as metal doors slammed down where the glass had been with concussive crashes, locking down the Pokémon Center with him trapped inside. Red lights whirled above the screeching alarms, bathing the dark room in flashes of scarlet.

    More flashes of light accompanied by the metallic song of bursting Poké Balls lit up the sides of the room, and in an instant Indigo and Violet were far from alone. Looming shadows growled ominously with heads that nearly reached the ceiling, and predatory eyes gleamed in the dark. A Jolteon nearest him hissed with bared fangs, blue lightning crackling madly between the jagged yellow spikes of its fur as its eyes gleamed with electricity. Pokémon surrounded them, in front of the grim trainers who had been waiting out of sight.

    "Wait!"

    Indigo gritted his teeth, his eyes impossibly wide as he shifted his gaze between Pokémon, one foot already shifted back. The blaring alarm was agony to his ears, impossible to ignore. They were surrounded. His brain shut down, giving him nothing at all in the way of a plan.

    A magenta haired woman stepped forward past the line of Pokémon hesitantly, her gaze wary. Her Latias trilled worriedly at her advance, held back only by the Nurses outstretched hand.

    Nurse Joy's look changed to one of shock.

    The battle-scarred Lucario covered in slashes and wounds held out the comatose girl in shredded, bloodstained clothes, in the shifting red glare of the emergency alarms. "Please," he begged, his scarlet eyes pleading. Tracks of dark blood marked his fur in streaks from his eyes and ears, barely beginning to dry. Violet appeared so still in his arms she could have been mistaken for a corpse, as pale as death.

    "Help us!"

    ~o~

    Karo Asuna's escape had turned into an international incident.

    News stations played his story over and over again, going through all his alleged crimes, past history, and pretend heroics, obsessively covering every detail of the story that shocked the region to its core. The hero turned monster had become a sensation. It seemed people could talk of nothing else. And amidst the bombshell of his traitorous tale, Violet's own role had not been forgotten.

    " -in the aftermath of the incident in Pewter City, it was discovered that Miss Violet Hikari, the trainer responsible for Karo's exposure, had gone missing. Signs of breaking and entering were discovered in her family home, the estate of a high ranking board member of Silph Co. Her whereabouts, along with those of alleged murderer Karo Asuna, are currently unknown. Some speculate Miss Hikari has been taken captive or killed. The police declined to comment on this theory, stating nothing can be said with certainty until further evidence is collected. Following the events of their sister city, Cerulean is currently on lockdown, until it is verified that the fugitive serial killer is no longer in the area. Stay tuned for a live report from our researchers on location, later in the afternoon…"

    "The city is in a state of emergency. Most of the citizens are in the maintenance tunnels, which are used to channel the water systems throughout the city without turning Cerulean into a swamp. Of course, some trainers had Pokémon in the Center for treatment. They refused to leave. Everyone was on edge before you two arrived. Which explains your…less than positive greeting."

    Indigo did not look at the girl explaining the situation, though he listened intently. He watched the TV instead, his sharp eyes missing no details. It had been five hours since Violet's admittance into the ER. Indigo's own injuries had been far less severe. An hour and a half with a powerful Blissey had been enough to heal the worst of his injuries.

    But, as the nurse had informed him, the damage to his Aura pathways was more serious. It was beyond her power to heal instantly. She had given him a few light Aura exercises to use, along with a prescription for time and rest. He'd slept fitfully for a few hours, but could not rest easy with his trainers' fate in question. Indigo hated waiting.

    He had opted to find answers instead, and worked up the courage to speak to a trainer in the Pokémon Center to fill in the gaps. He had discovered she was staying for her partner, a Roselia, to be healed from powerful burn wounds, courtesy of a Charizard's breath.

    "Everyone was so shocked when you two showed up! It's been less than two days! It takes at least three to make it here from Pewter, even if you hurry. And you two were so beat up to boot! Your trainer is named Violet Hikari, right? And you're the Lucario Karo was trying to catch in the mountains? I know all about it. It's all over the news!"

    Her powder blue hair was pulled back into a braided bow, with twin ribbons of hair which hung like silk down to her slim waist. She wore a baggy black pants decorated with a wide blue stripe, and a tight fitting tank top under a green vest the same shade as her moss green eyes. A stylish brown leather belt held a satchel for Poké Balls. Her oversized combat boots were the same heavy material, but rough with frequent use. The girl wore fingerless black gloves decorated with white roses. She smiled, tilting her head as he finally turned to look at her, her eyes mischievous behind the long bangs framing her face.

    Indigo did not smile back. He wasn't trying to be unfriendly. He did not feel like banter. Surely Violet would be just fine?

    "I am," the Lucario confirmed at last. It was not this trainers fault he was worried. It would not kill him to make small talk. "You may call me Indigo."

    "My name is Lila Hanada," she beamed. "And these are my partners, Delcatty and Riolu! We're from the Hoenn region. My Milotic is entering Ceruleans' Beauty of the Deep Pageant in three weeks. I hope it doesn't get cancelled with the lockdown. With any luck things will get cleared up in time."

    "Nyaow!" Delcatty purred in greeting, rubbing her head against Indigo's leg. The small Riolu hid behind Lila's leg, peering at him dangerously with familiar scarlet eyes. He tried to pretend it wasn't a shock, seeing a smaller version of his cursed form. He had never actually seen a Riolu before. Indigo glanced towards the door leading to the operating room despite himself.

    Lila frowned. "You're probably worried about your trainer, huh? What happened to her? But…if you don't want to talk about it, that's okay too."

    "She was bitten by a sixteen foot Arbok," Indigo said tonelessly, his eyes flat. Lila flinched with sympathy. She fed a Poke block to her Delcatty, her lips pursed.

    The inner rooms of the Pokémon Center were lit and operational. It was impossible to move all the injured or sick Pokémon during the lockdown of Cerulean City. But the Pokémon Center was a perfect target for Karo Asuna, with its large supply of medicine, and rare Pokémon. Trainers had waited in the darkened entryway for just that reason; to protect the most likely target, in the event Karo did come to Cerulean. They had found Indigo instead.

    "What's she like?" Lila wanted to know.

    "Incredible," Indigo responded immediately. "And stupid. She makes extremely lame puns, and is easily one of the best people I've ever met. That girl is destined for greatness, and I intend to help her on her path with all my strength. And she will be fine."

    "I'm sure she will be," Lila Hanada assured him. She fed her Delcatty another Poke block, and it purred with pleasure, twisting languidly in her lap. "Did you know, I heard a rumor about Arbok venom? It makes people fall asleep, so they can be captured easier!"

    "I already know that," Indigo growled, getting impatient. He stood, pacing back and forth if only to not be sitting still any longer. "Their hoods hypnotize and enthrall, and their eyes gleam like blood to paralyze foes. Arbok's venom is lethal, if untreated in time."

    "That's not all though!" Lila continued, oblivious to his irritation. "Didn't you know? Victims of Arbok venom only look like they're asleep. They can hear everything around them, through a dream-like haze. Who knows? Maybe your trainer heard all the commotion earlier when you broke into the Pokémon Center."

    Indigo stared at her.

    Lila blinked. "Did…I say something wrong? H-hey!"

    Indigo spun, stalking towards the door, blood roaring past his ears. He pushed it open, snapping the lock without noticing. The darkened halls of the Pokémon Center were empty, and he instinctively turned towards the room which would take him outside.

    Lila was calling after him, frantic. "Y-you can't go outside! Karo Asuna could be in the area, are you insane?"

    Indigo didn't even hear her. The only thing he could hear was his own voice, a broken memory.

    I never told you. I'm human, Violet, did you know that?

    If she had been able to hear, she knew. He knew then he could never face her if she found out, could never look her in the eye as an equal if she knew the truth!

    If Violet Hikari ever looked at him, and was truly afraid of what she saw…

    I'm the traitor from the tales of Halladen, the boy who tried to save the kingdom, and failed. I'm the reason the King of Fire won.

    It would be too much to bear.

    Indigo shook his head in denial, his paws moving faster on the tiled floor until he was running full tilt. The girl from Hoenn called after him through the gaping doorway.

    Indigo ran, as the red light above the operating room flickered to vibrant green.

    ~o~

    Indigo Nightwalker had once been a naïve hero who tried to do the right thing: fight the good fight, defeat the bad guys, and never even consider becoming like his enemies. He'd blindly turned away from evil, trusting in his friends. He had truly believed in what he did. He had truly believed there was nothing that could justify darkness.

    Things had been easier back then. Indigo and Riza were 'good', and their enemies were 'evil'. Light and dark were as separate and distinguishable as night and day, and he never once thought of crossing that line.

    Until the day he did.

    Tero Akkarin had made him an offer, one Indigo could not refuse. And even though he rebelled in his heart, in the end Indigo was still doing the bidding of his greatest enemy.

    Everything spiraled down after that. He kept telling himself he was doing the right thing, and he was never truly on his enemy's side. Like it made it any better, when the ends began to justify the means. Like it hurt any less when others began to pay the price for his actions. Indigo had clung desperately to the shreds of his humanity, even as they began to fade away into memory.

    Indigo learned too late that evil was born inside the hearts of those doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Darkness didn't corrupt through brute force, but through little decisions which seemed all too easy to make one by one. Good intentions didn't matter when people burned because of them.

    There was no warning when your soul turned black.

    The late afternoon sun burned merrily in the pale blue sky above, not quite dispersing the bitter chill of autumn. A breeze played through the changing leaves, scattering little scraps of vibrant red and gold through the air like embers. The cobbled stones were cool under his padded feet, as Indigo paced back and forth, heedless of his surroundings. The city was empty anyways.

    Which left Indigo plenty of time to think, where no one would interrupt him. There was just one question which mattered, and his answer would decide everything.

    If Violet had heard his confession, what exactly was he going to do next?

    The thought of facing her made him want to run and hide. It was cowardly and he knew it. It would be so much easier if things could just remain as they were now. Their friendship was new, but it had been forged in fire and blood. They had fought together, confronted death together, and done everything possible to keep each other alive. They had each seen what the other was made of, down to the core, and that kind of bond would never go away. It was why they had survived.

    And it was why Indigo could not run away, when a bare month ago he would have done so without hesitation. She deserved better than that. In the very least, he would explain himself.

    If she had heard him. There was always the possibility she hadn't. And anyways, a small voice in his heart whispered, would it really be so terrible to ask for a small piece of happiness, after all he had gone through? Even if it was based on a lie?

    The thought comforted him. There was always the chance things could remain as they were now, without his past ruining their new friendship. And if she hadn't heard his confession, he saw no reason to tell her anything at all. He would continue to try and break his curse, and be Violet's friend until he managed. Who knew how long that could take anyways?

    Satisfied with his conclusion, Indigo let out a deep breath, opening his scarlet eyes. The barren streets were almost eerie. It was like a ghost town.

    He cursed himself for the thought. Indigo despised ghosts. Surely no self-respecting ghost would be caught in the light of day, however.

    His large ears pricked at a sound; a crash of metal, and the chirping trill of bird Pokémon, from two blocks away. Indigo padded down the streets curiously, listening intently for further sound. It was likely nothing. No one was walking the streets. The city was empty.

    Evacuated, just in case Karo Asuna was nearby.

    Another harsh clang greeted his thought, and dust flew from around the corner of an empty bakery, accompanied by a harsh yip of pain.

    His response was immediate. Indigo broke into a run towards the sound, his heart pounding as his black padded paws struck against the pavement. He skidded to a stop at the mouth of the road, every sense on high alert. His brain worked in overdrive. His enemy might be in the area. Karo Asuna would not be getting away from him again! The very thought sent a surge of furious Aura crackling down his arms all the way to the spiked points jutting from his paws.

    He stopped, staring into the mouth of the road.

    It was not Karo. Nor was the intruder a ghost. And he realized he would prefer a mass murdering psychopath or a literal spirit of the undead to the horrible sight before his eyes.

    A Lucario stood before him, an exact mirror of himself. If, of course, his nose was roughly twice its normal size, and as lumpy as a squash. A gleeful flock of Spearow were pecking at the Lucario in turns, as the mighty hero of aura fell to one knee dramatically in pretend pain.

    Indigo's glare could have burned something alive as he recognized the unmistakable Aura of a Ditto. Or to be more precise, the Ditto. The one being he had sincerely hoped to never see again.

    The Ditto caught sight of him in the midst of its act. It seemed to be pantomiming Indigo himself, in a scenario where Indigo was being beaten by a level three Spearow. It blinked once, as if surprised to see him. "Hello," the Ditto said happily, in his voice, but with the tone of a bubbly schoolgirl.

    Indigo's scarlet eyes shone brilliant silver with a surge of Aura. Power crackled up and down his arms, and his voice was a snarl of rage. "You."

    "Not hello?" the Ditto tried again, cocking its head to the side in confusion, as if it had no idea why Indigo was so furious. The Spearow pecking the imposter stopped at Indigo's appearance, perching on the Ditto/Lucario's shoulder instead, looking between them quizzically. Fake Indigo stage whispered, "he has anger management issues," more than loud enough for the real thing to hear.

    Indigo's fists clenched with fury as the silver aura in his eyes shone brighter. "I do not have anger management issues!" he snarled with obvious anger, his voice striking like a whip. "You nearly got Violet killed!"

    The Ditto had been in the Arbok den with them. Violet and Indigo had attempted to sneak through the cavern underneath the shed skins of the enormous vipers to go undetected. It had nearly worked. Until a certain Ditto had shown up, and decided to wake the entire cavern of sleeping serpents by popping a massive bubble made of gum.

    Ditto seemed appalled at his statement, putting one paw to its spiked heart in indignation. "Ditto would never hurt the Great One!" it protested, seeming hurt. "She changed our life! Ditto owes her a debt of gratitude! Ditto had no idea she was in the snake pit with the stupid warrior! Otherwise Ditto would have waited until the Great One was gone to irritate the entertaining and murder-hungry Poison King! Surely it is stupid warriors fault for bringing the Great One into danger, not Ditto's."

    "She gave you half a stick of gum and laughed when you did the wave," Indigo deadpanned. "Is that the debt you are referring to?"

    "Yes."

    "That's stupid!" Indigo growled immediately, pointing accusingly at the Ditto. "What kind of creature swears a life debt to a human for something like that?"

    The Ditto seemed smug he had gotten a rise out of Indigo. "Stupid warrior is jealous of the strength of our bond. He wouldn't understand."

    A surge of irritation rushed through him. Indigo's eye twitched. "I do not have time for this," he decided, turning away. "Violet isn't awake anyhow, so go play elsewhere. And although I understand it may be against your nature, please try not to do anything idiotic in the meantime. In fact, why don't you go back to Cerulean Cave so I don't have to see you again?"

    The Ditto's scarlet eyes narrowed. "Ditto is not stupid. Ditto is a genius."

    "Ditto is an idiot," Indigo deadpanned. "And immature, and quite frankly, not as powerful as I am. So why don't you go play your silly games, and leave those of us with actual problems alone? Besides, Violet needs strong partners to achieve her dream. The Pokémon League is no place for childish pranksters such as yourself."

    Indigo felt a little vindicated after venting some of his anger on the ridiculous creature. He turned away deliberately, prepared to walk away and never think of the Ditto again.

    Violet's voice surprised him, enough that his head whipped around. The girl he faced was the same as the one who'd first faced the Ditto, long before her blue pajamas had been torn to ribbons. "What is the Pokémon League?" Ditto said hesitantly, in Violet's unsure voice.

    Indigos eyes narrowed, as his trainers' visage sent a stab of hurt through his chest. "A competition," he said reluctantly, as though the words were pried out of him individually. "To prove a trainers skill, and their partners' power. To even enter, she would need eight gym badges from the top type specialists in all of Kanto. Frankly, I think her Magikarp would be of more use than you. Even if it never evolved."

    Violet's mouth dropped open in an 'O' of outrage, her eyes sparking furiously. For once, the Ditto was speechless.

    Indigo smirked, before turning on his heel to walk away, feeling a little better than he had before.

    ~o~

    A long walk did little to soothe his troubled mind. Eventually, Indigo knew it was time to go back to the Pokémon Center, and face all the uncomfortable possibilities that lay within. He had to return, to find out if Violet had truly heard his dark confession, and if he was going to look into her eyes and see disgust and fear for what he was. The thought made each step harder to take, as though he were walking through deep water that was slowly crushing him, but he continued, because he also had to know if she was ever going to wake up again at all.

    He found himself bargaining with the universe, deep within his heart. "Even if it means she will hate me, please, at least let her wake up," Indigo prayed, half afraid his wish would come true, and equally as terrified it wouldn't, and that she would be gone forever.

    He had to face the truth, once and for all.

    But once he re-entered the Pokémon Center, he saw no harm in looking around a little. Surely there was no need for him to return immediately to that cursed waiting room. He was already doing so well just to return at all. He felt he deserved a little more time, since he'd come halfway already.

    Indigo turned abruptly to the opposite wing of the Pokémon Center, telling himself it would be good to know about exits on the other side of the building. Just in case Karo decided to attack, and they needed to know their options for tactical retreats. It was a completely valid excuse, and he was in no way stalling. He held the thought firmly in his mind as he paced down the hallways of the hospital.

    Indigo nodded to the two trainers standing watch outside a door whose edges shone with light, and pushed it open. News of his arrival had spread quickly. The two did not question him as he entered the room beyond.

    The humidity hit him first. The entire room smelled of purified water and the bitter tang of salt. Motors hummed, and water burbled, creating an odd ambience. The floor was tiled with white squares of polished marbled, interspersed with dull iron drains, and slick with a fine mist of water. The walls of the room were glass; massive tanks of ultramarine water, of varying sizes and shapes, soaring up in the high ceilinged space to a second story. Pokémon swam within, peering at Indigo with inquisitive aquatic eyes, many of which he had no names for.

    A girl stood in the hospitals aquarium, turned away from him, and surveying the massive tanks. She wore long jeans that hugged the curves of her legs and flared slightly at the bottoms, fading artfully from a deep azure into stormy white, and a pale, high collared jacket, lined with cobalt blue at the hems. Her bright orange hair was fiery against the blues, and cropped short at her chin, where it stuck out rebelliously. Her hands were on her hips as she tilted her head back to follow a sleek, snowy creature in the water. The Pokémon she was watching spun lazily with fins like white silk, spiraling up and up. She turned, and noticed Indigo, blinking with surprise.

    "I did not mean to intrude," Indigo said quickly, before she could speak. "I was just…" he trailed off, unsure of how to answer. "Are you a nurse here?"

    Because the room was part of the hospital, which apparently specialized in the treatment of Water Pokémon, he noticed. Many of the tanks held solitary Pokémon in tanks lightly tinted by medication. He saw a Golduck leaning out of a circular glass pool with gauze bound to its shoulder, and a Poliwag with an artificial plastic tail. The Dewgong in the cold blue tank taking up the far wall had white bandaging wrapped tightly around her back, nearly invisible against her slick white skin, and curved scar tissue around the base of her vicious horn.

    The girl blinked once, and laughed heartily as though surprised. "I'm no nurse! The name's Misty. I'm a Gym Leader here at Cerulean City. I specialize in Water Pokémon. I've gotta say, I heard you could talk, but speaking to a Pokémon face to face is something else! Makes me wonder what my own Pokémon would say if they could speak to me directly, you know?"

    The disgruntled looking Golduck in the circular pool glared at the red-head. "Her cooking is terrible. Charcoal does not count as 'flavor'. Tell her to make me a kelp sandwich."

    "I'm sure they would say you are a wonderful trainer," Indigo said hastily, as Misty turned to look inquisitively at her Pokémon. "I have heard much of the strength of this regions Gym Leaders. I'm certain you are no exception."

    "Wow, you're a flatterer, huh?" Misty laughed again, seeming pleased. "But then again what's true is true! I am exceptional after all! Haha!"

    She was not a humble person, Indigo decided.

    Sound caught his attention from a small box propped up on a table, playing the same news story from before. Indigo flinched horribly when the TV shifted to a picture of Karo's grim face, taken after his initial arrest. His orange eyes were sunken, and dark with murderous anger, and his blond hair was unkempt. It was a stark contrast to the clean cut man who had first appeared in Pewter City.

    "I met him before all this, you know," Misty confided quietly, her gaze following his as the television showed an aerial clip of the Police Station burning in the night. "I worked with the police force to apprehend a Pokémon known as the Corpse Doll, known for luring kids into deep water, and posing their bodies as if they were still alive after it drowned them. We searched and searched the lake the killings happened near, since all evidence pointed to a Water type Pokémon with the ability to grab a person and drag them under…but every time we thought we'd figured it out, another death occurred. Karo was the one who realized the Pokémon wasn't in the lake water at all, it was hiding in the mud beneath the lake. We captured the Marshtomp less than a day later, and found its stash of trophies near the nest."

    Indigo's stomach twisted with revulsion at the story, and Misty's eyes went tight with understanding. "There are a lot of scary things in this world," she admitted, turning back to the television. "And the thing is, they don't stop existing just because we don't want to think about them. That's why the world needs heroes, who can look at all the horrible, black evil that exists beyond what people want to see, and do something to stop it from happening again. I thought Karo was one of those heroes. I'm sad to realize I was wrong."

    Indigo was quiet, watching the moving pictures flash across the screen, thinking of how true her words were. He had seen evil. And he wished he could forget. He was no hero.

    "-and now, a special live report from Cerulean City itself," said a voice from the television, amidst a burst of crackling static. The voice became more clear as an image of the streets of the city appeared, centered on a woman with forest green hair pulled back tightly into a bun with a single lock of hair hanging down the left side of her face. She held a microphone in front of her expensive business suit. "My name is Susan Summers, bringing you this report from the city on lockdown. The streets are barren, with most of the population in the tunnels beneath the city. Serial killer Karo Asuna is still at large, and as yet, we have no information on his whereabouts. All we can do now is wait, and hope the madman is far away from this beautiful paradise. Information has been scarce, but we now bring you a live update from the famed Gym Leader of Cerulean City, Misty…"

    Indigo looked sharply at the red haired Gym Leader standing right next to him, who looked equally confused.

    "Thank you Susan," an identical girl said on camera, her sea-green eyes flashing. "This tragedy isn't something this city will easily forget. There's something important I'd like to say, to all of Kanto, on behalf of my gym."

    "Oh no," Indigo breathed, his pupils dilating with realization, as Misty spoke beside him, a spark of anger in her tone.

    "What on earth-!"

    …as the Misty on screen arched her back and let out a terrifically loud fart on live national television.

    You could have heard a pin drop in the sudden silence that ensued.

    "I-I'm sorry, you were saying?" The ever professional Susan Summers managed, as her cameraman tried desperately to stifle a bout of giggling. The fake Misty took a deep, satisfied breath, plugged her nose, crossed her eyes, and farted again.

    Indigo's eye was twitching as he stared with wide eyed disbelief at the small television, as the camera shook and went black after a hurried order from the news reporter to cut the feed.

    The Ditto had gone too far this time. He was going to make it wish it had never left Cerulean Cave in the first place!

    His own rage was considerable, but next to Misty's, it was a spark compared to a raging inferno. Killing intent surged from her in a storm of white-hot rage so powerful Indigo could see her burning scarlet aura even without his soul vision. The Lucario took a step back, quite rationally afraid of that insane anger.

    He would teach the Ditto a lesson, but if Misty caught up to it first, the consequences could be the stuff of nightmares. Unless he went with her, and hopefully dispelled some of her anger.

    "I know that Ditto. I can help," Indigo said quickly, as she spun on one heel stalking to the door with fire in her eyes and a belt full of powerful Pokémon at her waist. "We are not friends," Indigo defended hurriedly as her laser-hot glare turned to him. "In fact, we don't get along at all. But I may be able to assist you in…whatever it is you intend to do," he finished somewhat lamely.

    "When I'm through with that creature, there'll be nothing left but a smear on the wall!" Misty snarled with volcanic rage, fire flashing in her sea-green eyes. "Come if you want, but don't you dare get in my way!"

    Indigo swallowed, and obeyed, as she stalked out of the aquarium, her steps slapping against the tile.

    The Ditto had been bad enough contained in a relatively small cave. Indigo shuddered to think of what that particular Ditto could accomplish in a rampage across Kanto. It had to be stopped. The situation could get serious.

    It was a crisis after all. Violet would have to wait. Indigo pretended he wasn't a little relieved, and followed the dangerously angry Gym Leader into the abandoned city.

    ~o~
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  15. Chapter 13: The All-Powerful Prankster

    Disclaimer: Your disclaimer is now loading. If it does not appear within thirty seconds, refresh the page, or try another player. Thank you for your patience.

    ~o~

    It was easy to find the news team. Luckily, they were still in the main plaza of Cerulean, surrounded by field equipment, complete with tripods and backup generators for their cameras, all of which could be stored compactly in the long black duffel bags on the ground. Only three people made up the small crew; two men who worked the equipment, and Susan Summers, a famous reporter who had taken third in the Pokémon League challenge in her teens. She was armed with six custom made Poké Balls, with sleek silver bases, and topped with matte black.

    He'd been hesitant to ask the enraged water princess anything in her current state of murderous intent, but he couldn't help being curious. It didn't seem normal for a news team to come to a city on red alert. Her explanation was brief, delivered in clipped sentences, as her flashing green eyes stared straight ahead, clearly thinking of other things.

    Of course, with the threat of a powerful psychopath in the area, only a small, elite team would be sent for media coverage. Indigo had no doubt the unassuming cameraman, and the other red-haired man present were equally skilled.

    The man with the camera held over his left shoulder caught sight of Misty first, and turned away with muffled laughter; his shoulders shook. Susan Summers followed his gaze; her piercing mauve eyes narrowed poisonously on sight of Misty. Her slender hand moved immediately to the sophisticated spheres at her waist, her left foot shifting backwards into a fighting stance.

    "Wait," Indigo said hastily, putting himself in between the two elite women with his arms outstretched in a restraining gesture, as Misty's hand went to her Poké Balls as well. "There is no need for violence. This is all a misunderstanding."

    "I'm not here for you," Misty snarled, her eyes a sea of molten green fire. "Let's keep this brief. That was not me. It was a Ditto with a particularly childish sense of humor, and I am not in the mood for a longer explanation!"

    "You expect us to believe that?" Susan demanded with incredulity. Her demeanor was different than the controlled woman Indigo had seen on the 'T.V', which he still thought of as witchcraft. "This is just like when I won a Cascade Badge from your older sister, you tomboyish, irksome-!"

    "I. Was. Nine!" Misty ground out in a rage, her slender hands clenching into violent fists. "Are you seriously comparing one whoopee cushion to farting on national television in the wake of a tragedy?"

    "So you admit your guilt!"

    "Enough!" Indigo shouted, aura making his voice boom. The two women went silent, glaring at each other over his outstretched arms, as though they intended burn the other to a crisp with nothing but their gaze. He took advantage of the lull. "First. Misty is telling the truth. There truly is a Ditto causing havoc. I can verify I was with the real thing the whole time your interview was being played."

    "Ha!" Misty declared, pointing an arm triumphantly at the reporter, whose eyes narrowed, even as her hand fell further away from her sleek Poké Balls.

    "You," Susan Summers said, in her low, melodic voice, appraising the battle scarred Lucario before her. "Are you the rumored talking Lucario who defeated Karo?"

    "No, it was one of the other talking Lucario's in the area," Indigo said dryly. "Of course it was me. Violet is here too, if you were wondering. Karo broke into her house after his escape with his Alakazam, and sent us both into Cerulean Cave, with the intent to cause our brutal and lengthy deaths. We survived. Which is a long story, involving a shockingly courageous Magikarp, donuts, and a Primeape clan that worships pizza, none of which is important right now. We need to explain on your 'television' that Misty was impersonated, and soon."

    "Say I believe you two," Susan said, her mauve eyes shifting between them speculatively. "Say there is a Ditto. It wouldn't be enough to explain the situation. The whole world was watching. Unless the Ditto is caught on camera in indisputable proof it was impersonating Misty, people will draw their own conclusions. The hurt and anger this region is feeling is going to focus on Misty. That level of public backlash could destroy her career permanently."

    "I have a plan," Misty snarled. "It involves catching Ditto, and beating it to a pulp. Any questions?"

    "A brutish and badly thought out plan, which wouldn't solve anything but letting Kanto see you beat up a helpless Pokémon on live television, minutes after your last 'incident'," Susan Summers pointed out dryly, arching a perfectly manicured eyebrow. "If this Ditto does exist…you would need to get it on camera, transforming either into you, or from you into something else. Unless that happens, no one will believe your story."

    Misty seemed to rein in her anger a little. "Yeah, alright. We can split up, and-"

    "I'm not going anywhere," the reporter interrupted. "As I still have a story to run. I can't be going off on a wild tangent in the middle of my job."

    "We'll find the Ditto," Indigo broke in, a plan forming in his mind. "It doesn't care about power, only the potential for pranks. If we let it slip that the news is looking for Misty to get another statement, it won't be able to resist turning into her again, and coming right back here. After that, we just need to get it to turn into something else on camera, and the problem will be solved. This isn't just for Misty. The Ditto made an absolute mockery of a serious situation, and that cannot go unpunished."

    Susan seemed to be weighing her options. "Alright," she finally consented. "For Kanto, I'll at least stay in the area. But I have a condition for my cooperation. I want an exclusive statement from the Lucario, whether you two succeed in tricking the Ditto or not. Is that agreeable?"

    "Yes!" Misty said exuberantly, giving the reporter a cheeky thumbs up with a saucy grin. "We'll do it!"

    "Glad to see I have so much say in the matter," Indigo grumbled, folding his arms petulantly. He had gotten pulled into a ridiculous situation. Surely Violet would be-

    He broke off the thought hurriedly, shaking his head to clear it of such thoughts.

    I won't worry about her until this is resolved, Indigo swore to himself. He took a deep, calming breath, and opened his scarlet eyes. "Here's what we need to do."

    ~o~

    Indigo landed on the roof of the building in a crouch, his scarlet eyes half closed as he cast his senses out over the empty city. The stone roof was cold under his black paws; his large ears were tuned to every noise, every brush of wind, and every soft burble of water in range of his enhanced hearing. He paused only momentarily before leaping again, over a wide gap between rooftops that plummeted to the ground below, landing in a flawless roll on the next rooftop, before leaping to the next, and the next after that. He had begun on the outskirts of the city, working his way inwards in a spiral, always listening, perfectly in tune with the song of silence that hung over Cerulean like a silver cloud.

    Their final plan had been simple.

    Susan Summers, begrudgingly willing to help on the promise of a statement from the famous talking Lucario, agreed to record a fake newscast, where she stated they were interested in speaking to 'Misty' once more. Her cameraman, whose name was apparently Tevin, claimed he could rig the clip to play in Cerulean City only, with the equipment from the Pokémon Center. No one else would see the fake newscast, and the Ditto would almost certainly be watching, to see how its prank had been received. And once it knew there was still fun to be had, it practically guaranteed that the Ditto would turn into Misty once more.

    Indigo's job was easy. Find the Ditto, and 'accidentally' let it slip where the camera crew was going to be. After that, all he had to do was try to stop the Ditto from going, which would practically ensure it went right away, and without suspecting a trap to boot.

    The real Misty would be waiting, out of sight, until the Ditto arrived. She would appear with her imposter on camera, proving there was a double, and force it to transform in battle. Her reputation would be saved, and everything would end well.

    And while it wasn't completely necessary for him to pummel the Ditto to a pulp, it would certainly help sell the act that he didn't want the Ditto to go back on camera. Really, it would be for the greater good. He was doing the world a favor.

    He had one advantage, and one alone in his search. The city was abandoned; as empty as it ever would be, and meant it would be far easier to find one errant prankster.

    And in an abandoned city, searching for an aura which was familiar to him would be child's play. He still couldn't see, couldn't cast his eyes out to the unknown horizon. But Indigo Nightwalker could sense aura, even if it was only a little. One wisp of familiarity was all it would take, and he would know his enemy, no matter what form it took.

    It was a game now, and one Indigo was determined to win. The Ditto couldn't hide from him!

    He stilled his breathing, and calmed his mind, and ran towards a wall at full tilt. His paws left the ground in a running jump, and hit the vertical surface, before he pushed off with aura enhanced force. The Lucario back-flipped in midair, catching onto the protruding edge of a particularly tall building with one paw, continuing the momentum to flip himself over the edge of the building, and onto the roof. He landed on his feet, half crouched, now two stories higher than he had been on the last rooftop.

    His eyes widened as a blast of sound hit him from behind in a bass rumble, surging over Cerulean City in a wave. It boomed like thunder, in a sound so deep it thrummed in his very bones, pulsing like a heartbeat, and far too deliberate to be a sound from nature. He turned to face the source of the pounding music, a bare quarter mile from his perch.

    The source of the thumping, repetitive music was a domed building that soared high into the sky, lined with gleaming windows, with a roof made of panels of glass which ranged from sea green down to navy blue in a gradient. A stylized rain drop was etched into stark relief in the white stone face of the building, overtop words which read 'CERULEAN GYM' in bold lettering.

    Speakers on the sides of the gym blared a pounding pulse of music, a barrage of sound with no words, music which was felt rather than heard. The fountains in front of the beautiful gym spun and danced in rhythm, brightly colored lights making the jets of water run with beautiful color, able to be seen despite the light of the day.

    It would seem the Ditto wasn't trying to hide after all.

    In fact, it appeared to be laying a challenge at his feet.

    Indigo gave a feral grin, sliding down a drainpipe with one spiked paw until his feet hit ground. In a few minutes, he stood before the double arched doors of the famed Cerulean Gym, prepared for battle with no trainer by his side.

    He pushed open the doors, and strode inside the brightly lit gym with purpose, casting his limited aura senses out in a sphere around him.

    The doors slammed shut behind him, part of an automated system, and Indigo turned at the noise. The speakers continued to blare, but above them, a voice spoke over the intercoms, projected throughout Cerulean Gym.

    "Hello there!" Misty's voice crowed, issuing from the black speakers set in the corners of the gym. Indigo didn't stop moving as she spoke, moving through the wide halls of the gym as he followed the faint wisp of aura he knew to be the Dittos. "You may be wondering why I've called you here today! The answer is…no reason in particular! Hahaha! I can do anything, and what's more, you can't stop me!"

    "We'll see," Indigo responded quietly, though he knew the Ditto could not hear. The walls of the gym were thick plated glass, with massive intricate aquariums beyond; the entire building doubled as a habitat for more species of Pokémon than Indigo could name. Coral reefs the size of houses were home to brightly colored plant life, as schools of pale aquatic creatures moved through the natural tank in groups, some sporting fantastic coloring and jeweled bodies. One pale pink creature with silken skin slipped through the artificial waters, the ends of its brilliant fins fading to deep purple; its tail had twin white stripes, topped with a circular purple fluke.

    The lights flickered on in a sequence as he walked down those mysterious halls, lighting just enough of the path ahead for him to proceed. All the while, the fake Misty spoke on the intercom.

    "The more I think about it, the more your bad attitude bothers me. Can't you just lighten up a little? It wouldn't hurt to smile once in a while, tell a good pun…you know, the essentials of life! The Great One deserves better than you. So I've decided to give the Great One what she desires most! A lifetime supply of this amazing thing called 'pasta', and as many gym badges as she wants! I found roughly two hundred in this gym. I'm sure she will love them."

    The ornate double doors in front of him were gilded with gleaming bronze, made of deep blue glass carved with mysterious runes; it looked like something from an ancient shipwreck, or an underwater civilization. They spoke of majesty and power, and when Indigo opened them, he was unsurprised to see the battlefield beyond, in a room lined with high bleachers for spectators to sit. The entire back wall of the battlefield was another aquarium, housing Pokémon so massive it defied imagination. Their shadows rippled across the battlefield, a deep pool of water with concrete 'islands' dotting the surface.

    "Cause you see," Misty grinned, from the high throne overlooking the watery battlefield like a high dive. She spoke into a strange device which broadcasted her voice throughout the gym. "I'm absolutely brilliant! An awesomely incredible mastermind! And you can't stop me!"

    She leapt from the throne with easy abandon, completely fearless of the nearly thirty foot drop between herself and the floor, in a move that made even Indigo's heart stop for a moment.

    And in the midst of a flip, Misty transformed, exploding outwards into a dark shape with outstretched wings, and a Dragonite barrel rolled towards Indigo with a Hyper Beam in its jaws, a shower of golden embers trailing in a spiral in its wake. The incredible power shrieked from the dragon in an almighty laser of burning golden light, evaporating the still water of the battlefield into hissing steam where it struck; the water boiled with sudden heat, raised from room temperature to scalding in an instant.

    Indigo leapt to the right, landing on a concrete island the size of a small table with one paw, pushing himself off into the air a moment later; the Hyper Beam passed underneath him on its course, the heat so intense it was like a volcano had opened up beneath him.

    "I for one am sick of Dragonites," he declared with fervor, firing a Dragon Pulse in the next breath. Dragonites couldn't move after using Hyper Beam, and this one was no exception. It hovered in midair as if in pain-

    …and melted down into a blue creature with long ears and a bubble topped tail. Dragon Pulse scattered to the sides as though it was nothing but air, doing no damage whatsoever to the strange creature. "Azumarill!" the creature declared.

    What!

    Indigo dodged the Hydro Pump shooting from the small Azumarill's mouth, firing another Dragon Pulse on reflex. Again, the blow did nothing. It was if the water Pokémon had some kind of immunity to dragon moves, something he had never heard of before.

    And while Dragonites had to wait after using Hyper Beam, it seemed like Dittos could simply turn into something else to avoid any lag whatsoever-!

    Indigo's scarlet eyes narrowed with irritation as he landed in a controlled skid on another concrete island, and the Ditto turned into Misty once more specifically to laugh at him, pulling down her lower eyelid and sticking out her tongue.

    "Do you even know why I'm here?" Indigo asked crossly, ignoring as 'Misty' started making childish faces. He hadn't gotten a chance to set the trap yet. "Or care for that matter?"

    The Ditto thought about it. "No," it said.

    Murderous irritation surged through him, and Indigo fought down the urge to snarl. He could fight monsters and demons with perfect sincerity, matching their dark will with his own resolve, and call it 'battle'. Fighting against this Ditto felt more like arguing with a three year old about why they needed to wear pants. "I'm here," Indigo snarled with effort, trying to sound sincere. "To stop you from going back on live television and making a fool of yourself wearing Misty's face. If you want to cause more trouble, you'll have to go through me!"

    "What is a television," Ditto deadpanned, cocking its head to the side inquisitively. "And a 'Misty'?"

    Speaking to the Ditto was bad for Indigo's blood pressure. "You don't even know?" he burst, resisting the urge to break something. "You ignorant, childish creature, you truly don't realize what you've done? Misty is the woman you are transformed into at this very moment! And television is a way to broadcast a scene so it can be seen by everyone in this country, and record it for the future! Everyone knows that!"

    He hadn't known about television until Violet had explained it to him around a mouthful of powdered donut, a fact he chose not to mention.

    "Oh!" the Ditto exclaimed, its sea-green eyes flashing as it understood. "The magic-box-thing! Why did stupid warrior not just say so? That is where Ditto saw this 'Misty's image in the first place, earlier today!"

    And the transformed Gym Leader grinned with an evil, mischievous glint in her eyes. When the Ditto spoke again, it had slipped back into the cadence of 'Misty', referring to itself as 'I' instead of its natural 'Ditto'. "I think I'll have some more fun. And didn't you say…you'd try to stop me?"

    "I'm not going to try to stop you," Indigo promised, feeling a surge of success as the Ditto took the bait completely. "I will. You'll never make it to the main square of Cerulean City in front of the Gyarados Statue!"

    Since he had to make his effort look realistic anyways…surely no one would complain if he gave this fight his all?

    Indigo dashed forward with both arms stretched out behind him, silver-blue aura swirling around him with a hum of power, leaping easily between the islands of stone dotting the watery battlefield. Before reaching the Ditto, Indigo pushed off into the air, bringing back one palm as power surged around his arm, prepared to hit the Ditto with all the force of his jump behind it. He shouted a war cry, his Force Palm thrusting forward to where the Gym Leader stood-

    -and hit cold mist, as the Ditto broke apart into water vapor, which he passed through harmlessly.

    Indigo had just enough time to realize the Ditto could turn into non-living forms as well, before it reformed behind him into a Machoke, and punched his unprotected back like a meteor, slamming Indigo so hard into the concrete island it cracked in two, and his ribcage felt as though it had been crushed. He tasted blood. The Lucario rolled to the side more on instinct than anything else, barely avoiding being hit with a crushing double footed kick from the grey-skinned behemoth, in a blow which crushed the concrete into rubble, as though it were made of soft cookie.

    He regained a small foothold in the instant before the entire island collapsed, pushing off in the nick of time to land on another island. Indigo whirled back to face his opponent upon landing, a Dragon Pulse howling from his gaping mouth in an awesome vortex of stormy blue. It blew the Ditto/Machoke, who had been in the middle of another attack, out of the air like a doll, smashing it into the deep blue water.

    A bone trembling roar which was somehow deep and high pitched at the same time boomed in the enclosed gym, and a serpent burst out of the deep pool, faded blue scales piercing the boiling water into the air, stretching endlessly up. A mirror of the Gyarados from Cerulean Cave shrieked with bone-trembling fury, its shadow blocking the bright lights above; Indigo was plunged into sudden darkness.

    "That is incredibly unfair," he muttered under his breath, settling into a fighting stance, as his heart pounded harder in his chest and adrenaline spiked through his veins. The massive sea-serpent struck with jaws wide enough to swallow a car, saliva hanging in strands between cracked, bone fangs, longer than he was tall.

    He lowered his center of gravity, slipping his left foot back, with his right arm extended outwards. And took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

    The gaping maw of the Gyarados grew wider, its reverberating shriek howling over Indigo like a thunderclap, death and rage incarnate, and Indigo bounded forward, leaping into that cavernous mouth before those teeth closed around him. Its jaws snapped shut with finality, plunging him into complete darkness.

    Indigo didn't need to see. He didn't need to aim. He gathered all his strength to his iron fists, slamming a double-handed force palm down at the muscled walls of the Gyarados, and felt the blow connect. A shockwave radiated from the place he had struck, rippling through the serpents flesh. He slapped his hands tight over his ears as the Gyarados bellowed with sudden pain, the sheer force of the sound a physical agony to his enhanced hearing. He was screaming along with the Gyarados; he only knew because his throat was raw. Any sound he made was drowned out entirely.

    A Dark Pulse exploded outwards in the midst of his cry, slamming into the inside of the Gyarados in a wave of void energy. The hot air and darkness disappeared as one, and Indigo landed back first in the still hot gym pool, as the Ditto transformed…

    …into a Raichu, silhouetted by the lights above. Its long tail whipped through the air, the lightning bolt shaped tip glowing with yellow crackling energy. Deadly bolts of lightning rained from above, streaking down to pierce the water. It lit up with greenish light as long webs of lightning darted across the surface.

    The Raichu dropped, flipping in midair as it transformed, back into Violet's form. She landed on a concrete island in a crouch, watching as the surface of the pool became still once more.

    It was only a long moment later that Indigo pulled himself over the edge of another island, breathing heavily as though badly injured.

    He'd avoided the worst of the damage from the Thunder by forming a Protect bubble an instant after the attack struck. He had also badly underestimated his opponent. He took a moment to catch his breath, pulling himself to his knees with effort, lightning still crackling in little bursts between the spikes jutting from his paws to his fur.

    Two hits. He had only taken two hits, and already he had been pushed this far. Indigo struggled to breathe, and reminded himself of the one thing he'd been trying to forget. The Ditto, though a stupid, childish, prankster, was still from Cerulean Cave. And there were no weak Pokémon in Cerulean Cave.

    But his job wasn't to win. It was to make it seem like he'd tried to win. His mission was simple. Convince the Ditto to return to live television, as Misty, by trying desperately to stop it from doing so. Everything was going well.

    "Want to see something ugly?" the Ditto said, and then transformed into Indigo.

    And anyways, he thought grimly, regaining his feet. He wasn't finished quite yet!

    He met the Ditto head on, his palms shining with Force Palm, as he struck forward with all his might. His double mirrored his move, hitting the side of his wrist to deflect the blow to the side, but Indigo was already moving to counter with a double footed kick, which struck the other Lucario's second Force Palm. He pushed off in the same motion, flipping backwards to avoid the Dragon Pulse that careened from the Ditto's mouth, rolling to the side to fire a Dark Pulse from his outstretched paws.

    They traded blows, equally matched, and Indigo's brain went into overdrive.

    Think. It must have a weakness.

    The Ditto had so far transformed into Pokémon from Cerulean Cave, Violet and himself, and Misty. It had admitted to seeing Misty on a television in the Gym. It had probably seen an Azumarill in one of the habitats either in the gym, or somewhere in the city itself. Since the Ditto had never been outside of Cerulean Cave before today, it wasn't likely to know many other forms.

    Think. There had also been Dragonite, and the scarlet haired man from the Arbok den.

    The fake Lucario used a small burst of Aura to push off the ground with one paw, increasing its physical strength with willpower the same way Indigo had done several times throughout the fight, and he finally had an idea.

    It did have a weakness.

    Because the only Lucario it had ever seen…was himself!

    Indigo let out a battle cry, shining with a silver glow as he gathered Aura around himself like a cloud. The appendages under his ears quivered and rose, as Indigo closed his crimson eyes. He acted quickly, not allowing himself to think about the move, because if he did-

    Indigo shouted with raw agony as the familiar searing burning erupted somewhere just behind his eyes, as he tried to activate his Aura vision.

    The Ditto shouted too, its voice rough with surprise, as it copied his move.

    He could barely move, barely think through the pain.

    But then, that had been the plan. Indigo dashed forward, forcing himself to move through the searing pain, to fight.

    Because even if they looked the same, and had the same physical form, Indigo's will could not be copied by a mere imposter. Indigo and injury were old friends. He had experienced pain, over and over and over again, and he knew how to work through it. The Ditto did not.

    Before it could recover, before he had fully recovered, Indigo slapped both palms over the Dittos ears with all his power, blowing out its sensitive eardrums while simultaneously landing two Force Palms on the shocked imposter.

    The Ditto shrieked with many voices at once, transforming wildly from shape to shape to escape the pain, shifting erratically from Indigo to Misty to Rhydon in the space of a few breaths; he saw a Raichu, a Marowak, a Kingler, and for a brief instant, a bone-armored Arbok that sent chills down his spine. Indigo stumbled back, not wanting to be hit by any of the new transformations, trying to calm his pounding heart as he prepared to face whatever was coming for him next…

    The agonized Ditto's cries deepened into a draconic bellow as it melted into a Dragonite once more, turning to fire a gleaming golden Hyper Beam directly at the glass wall of the tank lining the back wall of the gym. Cracks shattered in thick lines as the immense pressure from the water made the wall groan, and the fissures widen, as hissing streams of water seared through the corners.

    Indigo's eye had time to twitch once before the glass exploded, and a sea of water flooded the gym room in a roar of surging force. At once he was underwater, buffeted like a doll in every direction, helpless against the oncoming tide, blind and deaf to all but the roaring of the oceans wrath, and the cold blue darkness. And in that moment, while the rushing water sapped the heat from his bones, Indigo realized he'd forgotten to take a deep breath beforehand.

    His lungs burned. Indigo fought to orient himself as the tidal force of the water ebbed and swayed, kicking desperately towards the faint, filtered light from above. He almost didn't make it, while the creeping unconsciousness edged in around his vision; his head broke the surface, and Indigo gasped for air, coughing out water.

    The gyms doors were apparently designed to withstand water pressure. The explosion of the tank, and subsequent flooding, had been contained to the battle room itself; there was barely twenty feet between the water level and the previously high ceiling. Water still gushed from the yawning cracks in the tanks wall, but it had slowed considerably, as the water level evened out between the tank and the gym. The power flickered out with a crack, as an emergency system shut down all electricity flow, plunging the room into darkness.

    And as Indigo floated alone in the deep, dark water, he became aware of hundreds of sets of gleaming eyes, watching him from just above the surface of the water.

    With a sick feeling, Indigo remembered the tank had been filled to the brim with Water Pokémon, who apparently had decided the upset of their home was his fault.

    And somewhere among them was a powerful Ditto that could be using any of their shapes, who bore a grudge against him…

    Rumbles and echoing growls filled the dark gym, and Indigo braced himself to fight.

    ~o~

    Nearly an hour later, the battered Lucario walked down the streets of Cerulean City, soaking wet, and with a pronounced limp. He ached. The healers had done an excellent job with his wounds from Cerulean Cave, but Indigo doubted their intention had been for him to get into trouble again immediately. He felt like he'd been trodden upon by a herd of wild Snorlax. Was herd the right word? Maybe a 'Slumber' of wild Snorlax, or perhaps a 'Diabetes'. He couldn't guess the time, although the searing sun was still high in the sky. The heat felt good against his chilled fur.

    He was also in an extremely bad mood. He stalked down the street irritably; his scarlet eyes glared daggers at the Pidgey that dared to sing in his presence. He hadn't won against the horde, but he had knocked enough of the lower level attackers out to convince the others to leave him be. He had eventually figured out how to get to, and open, a high window, escaping into the outside world.

    And somewhere in the middle of everything, he'd lost the Ditto.

    He supposed he'd better check in with Misty to see if their plan had worked, although things were likely over by now. Indigo sighed, turning towards the main plaza, thinking of nothing but a comfortable place to sleep for a while. He heard her voice ahead, talking animatedly with the cameraman.

    He rounded the corner, and froze.

    "Hey, glad you finally showed up!" Tevin, the cameraman said, eating a pastry of some kind as though they weren't in a city on lockdown. "We were getting worried. Any luck flushing out that Ditto?"

    Indigo couldn't speak, his eyes frozen wide, as he stared at the satisfied smile on Misty's face. Tevin continued, oblivious to his shock. "Yeah, we heard the explosion at the gym a while back. Misty here went to investigate, but I guess it turned out to be nothing, huh? We've been waiting here, but it doesn't look like that Ditto is going to show up for the trap."

    "You," Indigo breathed, staring with disbelief. "But how did you…"

    "Wow, I guess that Ditto outsmarted us!" Misty said with a sigh, shrugging her shoulders. "It must be pretty clever, to pull something like that off, don't you think?"

    Her aura was as unmistakable as it was infuriating; somehow, the Ditto had replaced Misty, doing who knew what to the real thing. And without the real Misty to appear side by side with the fake, their plan was going up in flames.

    Unless he could make the Ditto transform on his own!

    Indigo fought down a snarl, preparing to fight, but the fake Gym Leader only grinned, her hand resting on the six Poké Balls at her waist. And Indigo froze, furiously thinking through his options.

    Somehow, the Ditto had not only prevented Misty from returning from the gym, it had stolen her powerful team of Water Pokémon. If it led a Gym Leaders team in battle against him, it would never have to transform. He remembered in flashes the strength of Brock, even with weak partners. He was exhausted. His limbs shook, and Indigo knew down to his core he could not defeat Misty's entire team in his present state.

    And he lowered the arm he'd half raised to fight. He didn't know what to do. Attacking her would be useless. He would be destroyed by Misty's team. The Ditto would never fall for their trick now that it knew about it. Indigo didn't know what to do.

    "Why don't you go search for the Ditto?" Misty suggested, turning away. "I'll stay here, for now."

    Indigo did not have much choice. He spun stiffly, his steps automatic, completely and utterly out of ideas. He didn't know what to do next. What could he do, in a situation like this?

    But if he didn't do something, an even worse tragedy could occur, with 'Misty' in front of a camera once more. Indigo shuddered to think of what Ditto would do, especially now that it knew what a camera was, and that they'd tried to trick it before.

    He stopped in his tracks, as they only answer there was lit upon his thoughts like a beacon, as obvious as daylight. He closed his eyes, fighting against it, because he wasn't ready, and there was no other way.

    But he couldn't do this on his own.

    And if anyone knew how to stop a rampaging Ditto, it was Violet Hikari.

    ~o~
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  16. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

    I suppose I should say welcome to the forums, then? I'm not really sure if you'll be paying attention at all, but nontheless, I'm here. I must preface this by saying that I'm very much aware that this version is the "secondary upload," as the one on FFN is currently sitting over 30 chapters, hence why these are getting put up so quickly. However, I'm not a big fan of FFN site on the whole, so I will be leaving my thoughts here. You're free to look at them or ignore them; whatever suits your fancy.

    Let me start off with the fact that I'm aware of the idea of Poké-morph stories (that's what they're called, right?). I know they have a significant fandom and I know that Lucario is pretty much the undisputed number one target for these kinds of things (with Zoroark also ranking up there). I am a fan of the Lucario/Riolu family but no full well how overhyped they are and that there's a bit of a hatedom with them. Didn't really effect my enjoyment of this. Nor did my overall lack of experience with this type of story. The trainer elements that are added in probably helped out with that.

    You may get disagreements from others, but your prose and narration is extraordinarily vivid. I could make the argument that you may go a bit overboard with the metaphorical descriptions of settings or attacks used by different Pokémon. But, frankly, I found it wonderfully dynamic and not extremely pretentious. It made me feel like I'm reading some sort of fantasy story or pouring hours into an RPG, and so I have to commend you for that. Our main duo are also charismatic and have strong, entertaining personalities that have me invested in their personal quests, and rooting for them to overcome what looks like pretty bad odds, at the moment.

    With that said, there are some things that strike me as a bit odd, and I do mention them in my chapter thoughts below. For starters, I really am not sure how seriously you want your readers to be taking this. There's a lot of gruesome scenes and the threat of death constantly lingering over our protagonists, but there are so many moments of anime or action movie-like witty banter or deadpan snarking that it's very hard for me to take it seriously. And just some of the premises seem like they leaped out of a Saturday morning cartoon. By the time I caught up and finished all those thoughts, I was treating this more as a comedy fic. Which is fine if that's what you're going for, I suppose. Not helping in that regard are, in fact, Indigo and Violet. Because both of them seem to do complete 180s in personality following the initial confrontation with Karo. Indigo suddenly lets his silly side show through, turning from a brooding, anger-ridden individual to a more typical male, teenage anime protagonist. Violet likewise goes from, well, a shrinking violet to a personable and affable little dork with Pokédex-like knowledge. It happened so quickly it caught me by surprise.

    The other issue there is that, at the moment, I'm just sort of trusting you that the stuff Indigo did during his human life was bad and worthy of loathing, because no details have been given in that regard. And since this whole story's framed around the idea of redemption quest, it would be really nice to have gotten an idea of what, specifically, he needs to atone for. How did he muck things up and allow Tero to basically seize power. What did he do to fail the Princess, exactly? Any detail would've got a long way toward giving me a more concrete sense of the kind of guy Indigo was, so I could go more invested in seeing him change. If that makes sense.

    Anyway, I've got thoughts on the chapters I've read, which I've spoilered b/c page stretching is a thing:
    [SPOIL]Ch 1
    The opening demonstrates strong prose. There's a lot of well-written evocative descriptions (though for personal reasons I was unhappy with the holocaust allegories in the opening paragraph). You definitely get the sense that everything's gone to hell and a handbasket in this scenario. Though there's the lingering of mystery of what exactly Indigo did that's so bad, and who this killer of his really is. But I suppose that's coming later. If anything, some of the narration seemed very grandiose at times. Especially when talking about Tero. It just seemed like it got very bombastic.

    That extends into the rest of things too. You go to great lengths to give Suicune this almost regal bearing about them, while Nivalis seems like some sort of witch laying (I guess) a hex that's going to turn Indigo into a Pokémon for this redemption story of sorts. It's certainly curious, though I can't help but feel like I'd be more invested if I even had a slight clue as to what it was the Indigo did wrong. Even if it's just a bit of information to be expounded on later. Betrayal is a bit too vague for my liking.

    Ch 2
    I know that plenty of folks can get peeved by a lack of communication in situations like this first scene. But it works out in your case because Nivalis is deliberately being as unhelpful as possible, because she seems rather spiteful and vindictive. Again, I'm not entirely sure what's causing her to act so aggrevated, and I think that disconnect makes me feel like something's missing. If she was sealed in a Poké Ball for 20 years (and evidently Indigo has no idea who she is) then why does she seem to relish in seeing him suffer? An explanation would've been appreciated.

    Again, the narration is very vivid. You give thise whole transformation tidbit an ethereal, high-fantasy feel to it. I know these kinds of stories are popular with a certain community, so I wouldn't know how this ranks, since I've never read any others. But, yeah, it's very magical and like something you'd see in Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts. Which only gets stronger in the following part with all the ghost-types, because "darkness in your heart" is pretty much ripped right out of those games. At the very least we're given some insight into our villain(?), and yeah, experimenting with Pokémon Eggs sounds like pretty nasty stuff. But it's still on the vague side for me.

    Ch 3
    Exposition to give us a sense of time skip. Again, given how strong (I think?) your prose is, it doesn't feel obnoxious or a slog to read. And it allows for Indigo to get "up to snuff" relatively quickly. While I think it might have been interesting to see him initially struggle to, well, survive as a Lucario (I'm going to assume he hunted/ate/whatever just fine) and interact with the other Pokémon in the forest. But I can also appreciate cutting out the fluff and getting right into things. And it would seem that the world he's emerged into is Kanto as we generally know and love it. Which definitely surprised me with how magic and myth-oriented the opening 2 chapters were.

    And this is how a single Pokémon species becomes "overrated" and gets a hype backlash to boot. :V

    Speaking of sudden changes, cue plucky group of young trainers because I guess this is also a trainer fic? Makes sense to me. The only one who threw me off a bit was Terry. Because I'm not sure you really made it clear to me that he had any desire to catch Indigo until he was peer pressued into it. Unless that's the case, in which case, he should've called out Bella and Rachel for opening their big mouths. And then it turns out Karo's nice guy routine is a cover up. Which, caught me off guard for a second, until I looked back and it seemed he was just a bit too polite for my liking, and I'm paranoid enough for that to raise red flags. The brief battle scene also offered up some nice descriptions, leading into a bit of a cliffhanger/twist ending. I mean, that really seemed to come out of left field.

    Ch 4
    Lot more action happening here. We get Violet's official introduction, with the tease of some possible psychic powers, and a lot of frantic activity as Karo lets his true colors show. It's certainly surprisingly vicious but then agan, given the opening chapter, I suppose I shouldn't be all that surprised with the tone here. Though I think some of the narration which has Karo thinking "here's how this could be bad for me," was just added for the sake of informing the reader. It may just work to leave that out and let us assume Karo's worried about getting stopped, especially if Violet's running to get help.

    I have mixed opinions of the following scene. There was a lot of dynamic action with Violet's evasive maneuvers against the Kabutops. And those were very fun to see, especially mixed in with Indigo's desperate attempts to try and get out so he could battle. On the other hand, the bit where she kind of starts muttering to the Master Ball about, what I'm assuming is her life's story, in a shaky voice to boot, didn't really hit the mark for me. Yes, she was kind of staring death in the face and all that jazz, but it seemed a bit odd for someone who'd been relatively mute up until that point.

    And this is something I'm just personally iffy on. I know levels are important in the games. But if you're going to explicitly have them in a story, I'd really like an explanation as to how they work in your world. Sure, maybe a Pokédex can tell you what level a Pokémon is. But what does "level" entail. Age? Strength? Some arbitrary measurement of battle experience? As it stands, it just sucks me out of the story a bit. ^^;

    The following scene is mostly just another big tease. Sure, there's this possibility that Indigo will run off, but his sudden fascination with that one little bit of sleep talk that Violet engaged in. Again, my problem here is that I'm just being told by the narration that "Indigo's a baaaaaaad dude. Believe me," and am just sort of forced to accept that and go on with it. Which makes it a bit hard to care about his personal mental struggle. It's certainly well-written and evocative in its descriptions, which still serves to make it entertaining. It's just hard to get invested b/c I don't have a full grasp on the stakes.

    Ch 5
    Initially I was going to have the same issue with this chapter as I did with the Indigo scene toward the end of the last one. Because it felt like an extension. But that's tossed aside in favor of an extended Lucario vs. Kabutops scene. It's very action-packed and quite thrilling to read. The attacks all seemed to pack a certain level of punch, hitting in very specific places and leaving collateral landscape damage when they failed. Thinds are described very vividly, not simply "this attack did this thing," if that make sense. I also liked the aftershocks made by the earthquake, and how Indigo's forced to deal with that, and the giant Gyarados swallowing up the Kabutops (brought up the Lake of Rage for me).

    Which then leads to the heated argument b/w Violet and Indigo and, yeesh, Violet's trying really hard for martyrdom status but Indigo's trying to not let that happen, which is nice. Despite the narration's stern attempt to tell us he's an awful, miserable person.

    Ch 6
    So, unlike Nivalis keeping things from Indigo earlier, Terry not really giving Karo a straight answer did rub me the wrong way. Because it does just seem like it's being vague for the sake of being vague and propping up the mystery. Similarly, having Indigo giving Karo a "this is the reason you suck" speech feel really ham-fisted in there, considering how you've been tearing Indigo down in the narration through the entire story. I think I'd have personally gotten more out of the scene if Indigo had essentially seen his human self in Karo, and was ashamed as a result of that. As it could have made for a nice bit of introspection, compared to the self-loathing he'd been doing the last few chapters. But that's just me, I guess.

    The action is a lot more interesting and engaging for me. There are some really creative stuff here; though more critical readers might find it a bit hard to believe (especially if they're not the biggest fans of Lucario and think it's overhyped). In particular, I got a big kick out of Indigo using the Ancient Power attack as stepping stones to mount the Aerodactyl and pummel it into submission. The next part with the tag-teaming Arcanine and Alakazam was also clever, as was the follow up in which Indigo decided "screw it" and tried to take Karo. But that's where my willing suspension of disbelief kind of reach its end. I get it; rule of cool's a thing. And Karo's stand against the Arcanine was cool. But I really don't see how he should've survived. Karo choosing to heal him is even more ridiculous, and pretty much children's cartoon show levels of villain stupidity there. The crux of that being Dragonite falling to, of all things, Aura Sphere. Which it resists. Like, I know it's supposed to be a super awesome moment, but it feel flat because you opted to have it debut on a flying-type. XP

    Ch 7
    I'm going to admit, having a stranger tell Indigo he and Violet make a great team is a bit... unusual, in my mind. Especially since they didn't really do anything together. The explanation of what Violet ended up doing was nice, but I'd have preferred Indigo mentally realizing that she had been trying to take action the entire time. Think it would've had more of an oomph that way. I liked the sentimentality in the following scene. And here was in instance where it's okay that Violet and Terry were super-vague in describing what happened in Saffron. Becuase they both already know what happened, so they don't need to explain it just for the sake of the reader. And, actually, I think the part at the end, where he agrees to go with Violet, works much better. Especially because of that ending line, which seems more like he's the one thinking it.

    Ch 7.5
    I think I wound up liking the gym battle being relayed in a sort of flashback type manner. I couldn't exactly tell you why, but I think it added to the comedic effect you were going for. It allowed your typically grandiose narration to dip more into a snarkier aspect, that made me laugh a bit. Especially Indigo getting flattened by that Onix. I love me some slapstick, even in darker fics like this one. And some of the lines were pure gold, like this one:
    Still iffy on the levels, since they seem entirely arbitrary. And I'm equally iffy on the reveal that the Aura Sphere was, in fact, some sort of eleventh hour superpower instead of properly learning the move. Coupling that with the fact that it was used against a flying-type really ends up blunting that feeling for me. :/

    As for the following bits, I got a real big laugh out of that bait-and-switch with the Magikarp. Like, holy cow. Violet is actually an absolute dork and I'm totally fine with that. Especially if some of it winds up rubbing off on Indigo (and it has, because his depressing demeanor seems to have completely gone away, almost a bit too quickly). On the other hand, casually having a Lucario (who is relatively knew to his body) discussing game mechanics like individual stats and IVs is just... jarring. Not gonna lie, while I like seeing game mechanics pop up in stories (being that I do a bit of that myself), the actual stats might be a bit too much, and suck me out of things. Especially because it makes Violet sound like she's a competitive battler and Indigo's just one of those casual players and arrrgh, my head hurts now. @.@

    But yeah, Violet's a total dweeb, and I now love her for it. Even if she's channeling Homer Simpson a bit too much with all that donut stuff. That said, the ending stuff was charming. It is a little abrupt and does seem to give me this feeling that they went from skeptical of one another to "Hooray! Friendship!" in a very short amount of time. But, to be fair, they were in a life-threatening situation and I think you handle it good enough in the narration to make it believable.

    Ch 8
    Cripes, Karo's got a vendetta doesn't he. Though, why he doesn't just try to kill her straight up and instead sends her to Mewtwo's hidey hole (come on, we all know what Cerulean Cave is) is something I really don't understand. Nevertheless, it's back into action after the previous two breather chapters. And a stampede offers up a very different predicament than what Indigo previous dealt with. Just note:
    *Tauros

    And the following bit with the Rhydon was, again, kind of funny. Since Lucario tend to be characterized as "noble to a fault," the idea of seeing one lie for the sake of protecting its trainer is clever and made me smile. In some manner of speaking, I guess you could say Indigo's repaying Violet for her timely calling of the police on Mt. Moon.

    Ch 9
    I've a bit of an issue with the beginning here. Namely in that in might've been nice to get a more concrete example of Violet's "true abilities," to make the stuff about it being life-saving for Indigo more believable. Especially since Violet engages in some moments of what I'm calling "Dex speak," where a character seems to have encyclopedic knowledge of Pokémon and shares it for the audience. On the bright side, though, you do make this cave trek feel like, well, a trek. Lots of rugged terrain and a sense of claustrophobia. And the couple of instances of wild Pokémon shown in their natural habitats felt like something out of a nature documentary. Indigo's whackier antics here (like the nature documentary) still strike me as... off. Just because it's such a sudden and drastic change from what we originally saw of him.

    On the other hand, it's nice to get a clearer picture of Tero and what he did. Though, given the time period Indigo seems to be from, his use of the word embryonic (you said "embryotic," which I don't believe is correct) seems too, 21st century modern medicine for him to know. But the following part with the Arbok horde was very chilling and suspenseful. It seems like Indigo is trying to channel some of his own life, but is failing spectacularly. And it's a sight to be hold, for sure, since his previous decisions led to his curse.

    Ch 10
    My goodness. There's certainly a huge amout of action going on with this arc, so to speak. Some might say it could be exhausting. But, it's very entertaining. The fact that there are a bunch of Arbok in an old cave gives me Indiana Jones vibes, but then we have a whole mess of explosions like we're in an action thriller. Complete with a splash down entry! And then we have the Gyarados, which is somehow dealt with by using a Poké Ball while inside its mouth (absolutely crazy, but I suppose it could technically work). The one thing that struck me as odd was the "confessing" bit, since I had gotten the impression that Indigo had already let slip he was a bit displaced in time, so to speak. And the joking seemed like a really sharp bit of mood dissonance, considering how dire the situation ended up being.

    Ch 10.5
    I'm going to strongly recommend that, if you're going to lapse into a memory like the one Violet has, right in the middle of the scene, you try to do something to differentiate it from the scene proper, like putting in italics. Because it threw me off a bit, since there's no real transition into the flashback. But, the overall events happening here scream Saturday morning cartoon levels of ridiculousness. There's a tense atmosphere to be had for sure, but it's mitigated by the Primeapes' desires for pizza, and how they're so easily tricked by Violet in the end. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it. Like, it's really silly, and given the way the last two chapters were, it's a pretty sudden swerve. But I still enjoyed it. So, I don't know. @.@

    Ch 11
    Huzzah! Mewtwo appears. Oh, wait, Mewtwo's actually working with Red? Huh. I haven't read too many Pokémon fics, but your take on Mewtwo is relatively more tepid than the other ones I've seen. Not saying that's necessarily a bad thing. He's still very stoic and him being cryptic seems right in-line with his super-terse personality. Of course he does end up meeting Indigo and slipping into his generally nastier, angry demeanor, and flaunting his power in his usual "I'm better than everyone" way. Which is fine by me. It's just weird seeing Mewtwo (of all Legendaries) being the one to talk about fate and destiny. It's unique, I think. He tends to be the last Legendary I'd think of to take up that mantle, because he's so terse and generally averse to any company, human or Pokémon.

    That said, the other part of this chapter involves, well, Violet dying and getting brought back from the brink, Mewtwo Strikes Back-style. For lack of a better description. It's given very vivid detail and you can kind of feel the hoplessness and despair as things set in. It's just, some of Indigo's lines seem so ridiculously cheesy and, again, cartoonish that they strike me as a bit off for what you were going for. I swear, I can't tell how to take this story sometimes, and that can drive me a bit crazy. XP

    Ch 12
    Nurse Joy has a Latias. I mean, yeah, that one Gym Inspector Joy in the anime had one. But, seriously? I'm a huge Latias fan, but I'm calling baloney on that one! :p

    I like the use of Lila (who has some great taste in Pokémon, by the way, b/c Milotics are awesome) as a means to framing the fact that Indigo may have very well confessed the truth of his backstory to Violet. Although, again, I swear this had happened at an earlier point and that, while she was taken aback, she had kind of run with it anyway. It's setting things up for what's sure to be a bit of an awkward conversation and, while I was expecting to that to end up happening, we end up sort of in a comic relief detour because Ditto's back and nuttier than a squirrel. Misty's got all her tomboyish persona here and I thought the bit with her Golduck was pretty cute. I like the little bit of ego you've given her, though it was kind of weird seing Indigo just interact so casually with her. XP

    Ch 13
    I'd like to start out by saying this effectively and efficiently summarizes how erratic and zig-zagging the tone of this story can be sometimes. Arguably, Indigo's a bit too self-aware and leaning on the fourth wall, here (actually I swear he straight up broke it in an earlier chapter).

    The battle itself is certainly lightning-paced and dynamic, with Ditto switch so fluidly between a whole bunch of different forms that you can just feel how quickly Indigo is getting overwhelmed. I mean, yeah, he sort of holds his own. But he definitely doesn't do the best job at it, and you can see his frustration growing and growing until eventually he ends up humiliated in a pool. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen! The last scene wound up catching me by surprise. I didn't think the next arc would involve a hyperactive Ditto going off-the-rails. It's definitely more zany that the caves, but there's still a lot of damage being done here.[/SPOIL]
     

  17. Response to Ambyssin:
    I truly enjoy critiques and feedback, and as such, your review of the story so far has had me grinning like an idiot for like ten minutes now. My family thinks I'm insane. The Joker is jealous of my smile. These are all things I'm alright with.

    I'm aware this story isn't perfect. (It's the first thing I've ever written, I'm not THAT full of myself.) Nonetheless, I appreciate your mixture of praise and honest criticisms, including two mistakes I never would have caught, since I've edited those chapters plenty before and missed them completely. This story has done wonders for my writing ability, especially with descriptions. (Spoiler alert: I sucked before.) The tone being erratic isn't a comment I've ever heard before, so I'm glad you pointed it out. That's more a reflection of my own personality than anything intentional. No matter the situation, I'm a firm believer in never forgetting how to laugh. And yes...this is cheesy and anime-esque...if you think this is bad, that quality never goes away. XD

    I would answer a few of your questions regarding certain chapter specific reviews, but...I don't know how to do that spoiler thing. Hm. Well, without giving spoilers to anyone who hasn't read this far, I can say this:

    Indigo's vague 'badness' is all explained later, including how someone who is so obviously noble could make such horrible mistakes in the first place. This doesn't give you much right now, and it isn't intended to. Since the story is explained later, I felt giving too many details would lessen the impact of his backstory as a whole. Controlling the flow of information is intentional, but I apologize if this makes it annoying to identify with. Redemption is the counterpoint of this story, but the theme is the dynamic between Indigo and Violet with their two vastly contradicting personalities. Answers will come. But the story is improved with Indigo's pain obscured, until he is able to speak of it himself. Also, it's too late for me to change it, so I'll defend my decision retroactively, haha!

    ....I just realized this, but my formatting gets cleared when I post here. Flashbacks are usually italicized. Gah...going back to fix all that will be a huge pain...why cant it just transfer over...well, I should definitely go do that. Wish me luck, I may die.

    EDIT: With the forum changes, this problem no longer exists. I'm currently updating my chapters to reflect minor edits, and copying and pasting doesn't get rid of my italics any more. Woohoo! :)


    Thank you for reading. That goes for anyone looking at these words, and especially Ambyssin for the lovely critique. Honestly, when I get nothing but *update soon* and *this is good* I just die a little inside. It doesn't feel honest when others praise my story without restraint, since mistakes exist, and I know it better than anyone. Hearing about them makes me a better writer. And if someone flat out hates my stories and has very good reasons, I only cry for a little while. (Just kidding.) But flat out hatred has happened, and I improved, along with the stories I get to share. If everyone liked a story I wrote, I could be certain that it wasn't good enough to catch the attention of someone worth telling it to.

    Without further ado, Chapter 14
    ~Little Miss Firebright

    ~o~

    Chapter 14: A 'Pun'ishing Defeat


    Disclaimer: You will find intense battles, terrible puns, and fantastic Magikarps within this story. In other stories, you might find something else, like bears. Why risk it?

    ~o~

    The steady beep of the monitor was what finally woke her.

    It took a long time. Her head was fuzzy, and her body felt heavy and lethargic. But slowly, her mind focused on that repetitive beeping, becoming clearer and clearer, until Violet realized she was listening to the monitoring of her own heart. She opened her eyes halfway; her breathing echoed strangely, because of the plastic mask pressed over her mouth and nose, filled with mist. Her heart beat faster; the monitor kept time, beeping at a quicker pace, as her thoughts cleared, and memories flowed out of the darkness of her unconscious.

    Memories of Cerulean Cave, of Indigo, coupled with the dawning realization that she was alive and well.

    She struggled to sit, seemingly tangled in tubes and an unfamiliar piece of clothing, and wrapped in constricting bandages down both arms, indescribably weak and tired. She took off the soft plastic mask, lifting the straps carefully over her tangled hair, and took a moment just to breathe, orientating herself. She was deliciously numb – probably a result of the painkillers pumped into her bloodstream – and completely parched.

    But still she sighed with contentment, happiness coursing through her like its own drug. Alive, and without any kind of crisis to deal with, all Violet intended to do was rest for the next eternity or two. She was sure Indigo would agree.

    "Violet!" Indigo opened the door to her emergency care room, soaking wet and with what looked like a piece of kelp plastered to one ear. "There is trouble."

    Violet gave him a disparaging look. Of course there was. He began pacing before she could speak, his words fast and clipped; he avoided her eyes, almost as though he were afraid.

    "I am…glad that you are awake. Very glad. But before you say anything, there is…I mean…" he broke off as though frustrated, finally looking at her with scorching crimson eyes. "I need your help. Please, whatever you think of me, set it aside for a little while, just until we can resolve this situation. If you never want to see me afterwards, I'll understand, I swear, just please…can we not speak of Cerulean Cave until a little later?"

    Violet blinked. "Okay?"

    Relief filled his gaze, and he let out a breath as though the world had fallen off his shoulders. "Thank you," he said roughly. "There is a powerful and possibly unstoppable Ditto causing havoc, with consequences that could destroy the career of a Gym Leader, and have repercussions across all of Kanto…no, across the world. It must be stopped. I shall give you a moment to dress."

    Violet's eye twitched. Her head hurt. She blinked tiredly, fighting the urge to yawn. "Ask someone else."

    His eyes burned. "I need you," he insisted. "No one else will suffice."

    Violet groaned. "Water," she insisted, her tone brooking no argument. "Then we'll see."

    Indigo disappeared around the corner, and Violet sat, blinking sleepily as she came to grips with reality. She was still sitting groggily in her room when Indigo returned. He pressed the cold glass into her hands; she raised it to her cracked lips, swallowing with care. Her throat hurt. The water helped, though it didn't make her thirst disappear entirely. She finished the glass, and took a deep breath. Indigo was waiting, somewhat impatiently.

    She sighed. "I'll need a change of clothes," she consented finally, and her Lucario's eyes flashed with victory. He was already half out the door when she called out, "nothing pink! Or stolen!" Where was he intending to get clothes anyways?

    Violet realized she didn't know where they were. It was disorienting. She pressed a hand to her forehead, and focused on breathing, and wondered how she could convince Indigo she wasn't the right person for the job – whatever it was they were doing! She was toying with ideas of mutiny when he returned, nearly ten minutes later, a modest set of clothing folded in his arms.

    "I borrowed these from a girl I met earlier," Indigo explained, looking at the clothing as though unsure about its suitability. "She appears to be a similar size, and assured me such attire is…normal, for a trainer. Violet?" He caught the expression on her face, and set the clothes down on the edge of the bed. He stood near her, looking unsure. "I'm sorry…I want nothing more than to allow you to rest, I swear. I realize it isn't easy to act when your body wants to rest." He seemed to remember something, and opened the small bag that had been with the clothes. "I also brought these."

    Her Lucario produced Mr. Fins Master Ball, a hairbrush, and a fresh sandwich wrapped in plastic. There were more small items in the bag, including a mirror and basic cosmetic supplies. It appeared to be a trainer's travel kit.

    "Your fish is alright," he explained quickly, before she could speak. "I thought you would want to know, even if it is a useless insult to humanity. And I just thought, with your arm still healing, perhaps it would be difficult to brush your hair, and that perhaps I could assist in this one small matter…if you wouldn't mind that is. We do have a little time, at least."

    Her expression softened. "Ok," she said in a quiet voice. "What's going on?"

    Indigo filled her in with clipped sentences while she ate the deliciously soft sandwich, teasing the tangles out of her long hair while he spoke. He was shockingly good at it; he worked his way up from the tips of her midnight locks, holding it with one paw while he brushed with the other. She wondered where on earth a Lucario had learned to brush long hair, and chalked it up to one of the many mysteries that seemed to surround Indigo.

    By the time he finished with his story, she was feeling considerably better, if a little light headed. She washed her face in the sink of the connecting bathroom, and changed from the hospital gown into the clothes Indigo had borrowed. Her new attire was simple; a black tee shirt, worn under a midnight blue leather jacket, and a pair of matching black pants, with decorative blue circles lining the left side of her leg from ankle to waist.

    It was a little loose, but fit well enough. She was grateful, since it was easier to put on. The jacket especially was just relaxed enough not to chafe her bandaged arms, though she still moved with care. Violet surveyed her appearance in the mirror above the sink. Her face was paler than usual; her cheeks were flushed from the towel. It made her purple eyes seem fever bright. Violet reached up, peeling the white bandage off her dark eyebrow carefully, revealing the slash from the Golbats fang which just missed her eye.

    She pulled her silken hair out from under her borrowed leather jacket, letting it fall around her shoulders, and brushed her long side swept bangs to the right. Violet barely recognized herself. The girl in the mirror stood tall, with new strength in her shoulders, a level and unyielding gaze, and a slashing cut through one eyebrow.

    And despite her tiredness, in fresh clothing, and with some food and water in her, Violet felt like she could actually do something to help. She took a deep breath to steady herself, promising herself she would rest as soon as possible, and went out to face Indigo.

    He had been right about one thing. She did know what to do. The Ditto had a fatal weakness, and she could win. For Misty, for Kanto, and for Indigo, she could win.

    "I've got an idea," Violet said, walking with more confidence than she felt, her lilac eyes determined. "For it to work, we need to challenge 'Misty' to a battle, on live television." Indigo blinked twice, caught off guard. And Violet smiled, as though she had a joke she wasn't sharing, her mood lightening abruptly. "Here's what we need to do!"

    ~o~

    The sun had begun its descent down the vast expanse of sky by the time the two of them reached Cerulean Square. Violet stepped out first, walking with unspoken strength in her step and steel in her eyes, as the slight breeze twirled through her pitch black hair, Indigo a few steps behind. Susan Summers eyes flickered with recognition, followed closely by confusion; the question on her breath was cut off by a quick shake of Indigo's head. She fell silent, watching with a piercing gaze as the jigsaw pieces placed themselves in her mind.

    She looked at 'Misty', and realization spread across her features. With a quick gesture to her assistant, the camera began to play, trained on Indigo and Violet, and the false gym leader standing before them.

    "I'm here for a battle," Violet declared, meeting the imposters gaze without hesitation. "My name is Violet Hikari. And I'm here to defeat you." Her voice was steady, and her eyes clear, but Indigo's eyes saw right through her act, catching the tremor in her hands. She was barefoot – they'd forgotten about shoes. Indigo had carried her this far, letting his weakened trainer reserve her strength for this one act. She was playing her part well.

    But still. The Lucario knew she couldn't keep it up for long before she would need rest. Everything was riding on this. They only had one shot left. And he couldn't help but wonder if she would be able to pull this off.

    "If it's gym badges you want, I could just…" Misty began, her hand reaching into the blue bag at her waist automatically, but Violet cut her off steadily.

    "Without a battle, gym badges aren't worth anything. It isn't the item that has value, but the hard work and skill that goes into earning them. Wouldn't you agree?"

    "Alright," Misty blinked, seeming pleasantly surprised. "Let's play! I have to warn you though, I'm pretty incredible! Beating me won't be so easy!"

    The Ditto sounded exactly like Misty, and Indigo doubted it was an act. He hadn't realized how similar their pride was until now. He made a mental note to never mention the similarity to Misty, in case she killed him with her bare hands.

    "I can do it!" Violet smiled, sincerity ringing out in her clear voice. "Because I have a powerful and dependable partner on my side, I can do anything! Mr. Fin! This is all up to you!"

    She threw her Master Ball in a long arc in the air, releasing her Magikarp in a golden shower of light. Mr. Fin posed grandly in midair, his fins outstretched, and his eyes closed, arching his body fabulously in the light, before hitting the ground, where he flopped uselessly. "Karp, Karp Magikarp!"

    "What's the matter?" Violet grinned, at the surprised expression on Misty's face. "Do you think this strategy is a little 'fishy'? I think this will balance the 'scales'! You know what they say, 'Karp-ay' Diem!"

    Misty beamed happily, and Indigo's eye twitched with irritation; he had to resist the urge to groan. He could feel Susan Summers glaring at him without looking, as if to ask what exactly he thought this would accomplish, and avoided her gaze in favor of watching the battle at hand.

    "So what exactly is the plan?"

    Violet had taken a deep breath, cradled in his arms as he carried his exhausted trainer through Cerulean City. She'd explained in a quick voice, focusing on stilling the tremors in her arms. "Dittos can take the form and abilities of anything they remember. Most Dittos have a pretty terrible memory, and can only change into something directly in front of them. This one has demonstrated the ability to change into many different forms, making it a serious threat. But all Dittos have one, single weakness."

    "And that is?"

    Violet smiled. "They lose their transformation abilities…when they laugh! We have to make the Ditto laugh so hard it can't hold its transformation anymore! If we can do that, the battle will be ours!"

    "I see," Indigo said thoughtfully. Such a strategy had never occurred to him before. "In that case, I will…"

    He broke off on seeing the severe skepticism on her face. "I can be funny!" he insisted, and her skeptical expression grew stronger. "I am known to be quite hilarious."

    "That may be the funniest thing you've ever said," Violet retorted, and his eye twitched.

    "And I suppose you think puns are funny?"

    "Puns are hilarious. You'll see! This will totally work, probably!"

    The Fake Misty released her first Pokémon, a deep purple Starmie with a gleaming scarlet core to the field. A geyser poured from the tip of its star shaped arms, rocketing up into the clear blue sky, and clouds boiled outward, as rain poured from the heavens, in one of the most impressive Rain Dance attacks Indigo had ever seen. In moments the square was doused with raindrops, darkening the concrete and turning the gutters into streams.

    Violet had incredible faith in her starter Pokémon, the 'all-powerful' Mr. Fin. And perhaps, Indigo thought, as the Magikarp prepared to battle a Gym Leaders Pokémon, this battle would be funny. To him, at least. It would be gratifying to see the Magikarp lose.

    "Attack, Starmie!" Misty ordered with a manic smile, as the rain soaked her fire-hued hair, battle-fever flashing in her sea green eyes. Her Starmie whirled like a throwing star, spinning towards Mr. Fin in a deadly, bladed attack, as the Magikarp flopped happily in the new puddles on the concrete.

    Violet grinned. "Splash attack, Mr. Fin! Let's show them what we're made of!"

    Mr. Fin slapped his white tail onto the concrete, shooting upwards like a rocket as the Splash propelled him high into the rain drenched sky. The Starmie's Rapid Spin attack whirled right underneath, missing the Magikarp entirely. Mr. Fin arced high, posing at the height of its flight with its fins stretched out like wings; he flipped in midair twice as he descended, smacking the Starmie staring in confusion at it directly in the face.

    She posed dramatically, extending one arm out in a flourish as lightning boomed above. "Now, 'Fin'-ish him! Tackle attack!"

    "It knows more than one move? I'm in shock," Indigo said, as the Magikarp tackled the Starmie, which seemed to be honestly confused as to why it was battling a Magikarp in the first place. Violet grinned.

    "Do you know why Mr. Fin knows two moves?" Violet asked. "It's because I caught him with a 'tackle' box, ehehehe. It was a 'reel' challenge, and I'm not 'fishing' for compliments. As soon as I saw him, I was 'hooked'!"

    Indigo's glare was as dry as sand, but Misty's lips were twitching with amusement, as if holding back giggles.

    It was working!

    Mr. Fin Splashed out of the way of a Hydro Pump, skipping on the watery field like a stone, taking the opportunity for a different pose between each skip like a fishy supermodel. He pouted his pink fishy mouth with sultry eyes, posed with one white fin on its hip, and the other on its head, and flicked his tail out like he just didn't care.

    "Y-you won't defeat me so easily!" Misty insisted, her lips quivering as laughter bubbled up in her throat. "Starmie, what are you doing? Defeat them!"

    Starmie seemed to have realized Misty wasn't quite right, and didn't move, staring with confusion at the being it thought was its trainer. Violet took advantage of the lull for more pun-based attacks.

    "Don't you mean, 'water' you doing? I 'sea' what you did there! Mr. Fin, do the wave!" Violet ordered with a flourish, and her Magikarp wiggled around as best as a Magikarp could, looking utterly ridiculous as it crossed its eyes and waggled its long golden whiskers.

    Misty laughed, and her form wavered a bit. She caught herself instantly, clenching her fists tight, eyes narrowing. "Starmie, use Hydro Pump, now!" she commanded, and the Starmie seemed to snap out of its confusion, focusing in on Mr. Fin once more.

    "And now, for the coup de grace," Violet said quietly, as the Starmie released a massive torrent of water directly towards the helpless Mr. Fin. Her Magikarp dodged with another powerful Splash attack, landing in the pool of water surrounding the Gyarados statue in the fountain, and Violet took a deep breath.

    "Mr. Fin, give us your best impression of Indigo in battle!"

    Mr. Fin's eyes became steely and determined, and power seemed to rush in around him as his resolve strengthened. He burst out of the fountain in a powerful arc, gleaming water splashing out in front of the massive stone Gyarados in a fan-

    -and hit the concrete of the square, flopping around in useless circles as though brain damaged, before dramatically pretending to die.

    Misty busted up laughing, gales and gales of it that had her hunched over with glee. "T-that was perfect! He looks exactly like that, hahahaha!"

    The girl continued to laugh, and her form melted down into a blob of hysterical pink goo, which quaked with high pitched giggles, completely helpless. Violet lowered her outstretched arm, her smile turning soft. She walked over to the Ditto, picking it up carefully before turning to face the camera, and the stunned Susan Summers.

    She bowed deeply, the giggling Ditto in her arms. "This Ditto was the Misty you all saw earlier today. I'd like to apologize for its actions on air. Please know that the real Misty had nothing to do with its shenanigans. This little guy has no trainer to teach it right from wrong, but I'm sure it never would have wanted to cause such a scene."

    Indigo doubted that was true with every fiber of his being.

    "And do you have a statement for us regarding the capture and subsequent escape of Karo Asuna?" Susan Summers asked, stretching out the microphone in her left hand, her professional demeanor firmly back in place. "You are the same Violet, aren't you?"

    Violet's eyes flashed. "I am. Karo Asuna is a monster, make no mistake of that. But he isn't invincible. He was exposed through the combined efforts of ordinary trainers and Pokémon, like Terry Slade, and my own partner, Indigo. He may be out there right now…but he will be caught again! Because Karo now fights alone. But all of Kanto stands as one!"

    ~o~

    Things returned to normal in Cerulean City soon after that. Misty was found tied up in a closet in the gym, furiously angry, but unharmed. The Elite Four of Kanto, along with their fearless Champion, Lance, swept the area personally, and the lockdown was ended. Karo was nowhere to be found, seemingly vanished into thin air. Any other day, Indigo would have gone to see the famed leaders of the country for himself, but he found he simply didn't care. He had more important things to worry about; mainly his recovering trainer Violet, who he'd decided required snacks and attention in order to make a full recovery.

    The Ditto had disappeared again, and Indigo was constantly on edge, half expecting it to pop out from every corner with a bad pun, or another disaster in the making.

    But, he mused, as he snuck into the Pokémon Center through a high window, a white box held carefully in his arms, it wasn't all bad. It had been two blissfully boring weeks since those events after all. Indigo found he was enjoying the break.

    The Pokémon Center had a decent security system, complete with robotic cameras that swiveled in the halls. Indigo crouched in darkness, peering out from behind a corner carefully, watching the camera turn, and counting the beats between each rotation. He narrowed his eyes with concentration, his legs tense.

    When the camera began turning away once more, the Lucario dashed forward in a burst of speed strengthened by aura, running as low to the ground as he could manage. He tucked his ears down as an afterthought, skidding beneath the camera, and out of sight, where he caught his breath, planning his next move.

    When the camera turned to scan the other end of the hall, Indigo dashed forward again, ducking into the hall branching to the left, bare instants before the camera rotated serenely back. He checked inside the box carefully, sighing with relief when its contents were undamaged by his flight.

    His own wounds were feeling considerably better. Indigo felt better than he had in ages. Even his Aura vision was recovering, albeit slowly. He was much stronger than he'd been before meeting Violet – he could feel it in every step he took. Cerulean Cave had done wonders for his power levels, even if he had spent most of his time there running away from monsters and trying not to die. He would complete his quest in no time at all at this rate!

    His oversized ears pricked at a slight sound – footsteps, coming from down the hall. Indigo gritted his teeth, closing the cardboard box as he sprang into motion once more. Two girls walked down the hall, chatting amiably with a Nurse. They passed right by Indigo, hiding in the dark indent between the wall and a vending machine, the white box sitting unnoticed on top of the machine. He slipped out of the tiny space after they'd passed, retrieving the box, and dashing down the hall once more; a perfect ninja intent on his mission.

    His goal in sight, Indigo put on a final burst of speed, avoiding being seen by yet another camera, and skidding to a stop in front of the creature guarding his destination. The round Chansey glared at him; tension sparked between the two as Indigo appraised the guardian before him.

    He reached into the pouch tied at his waist, retrieving a golden dessert in plastic foil, known by the humans as a 'Twinkie'. He passed it to the Chansey without a word. The pink Pokémon opened the package, sniffing the contents as if to verify their authenticity, before nodding once, and stepping to the side, his bribe accepted.

    Indigo felt a thrill of victory, ducking into the room beyond. He closed the door behind him. "Hello, Violet," he said by way of greeting, unable to help a faint smile when he saw her.

    Violet beamed upon seeing him, sitting cross-legged in her bed in a pair of new pajamas, a pencil in one hand, and a half finished drawing on the covers. The room was a little nicer than the one she'd been in before – it wasn't an intensive care space, but an actual room, one of the many available for travelling trainers to rent in the extraordinarily useful Pokémon Center. Although Violet had recovered considerably, the nurses had insisted she remain on the premises until her healing was complete. They seemed to have some insane notion that she would get into trouble the instant she left their Pokémon Center, which Indigo thought unreasonable. After all, what could possibly go wrong now?

    "I brought you a present," Indigo announced, stepping forward with his prize. "An illegal present. Which the Nurses would kill me for giving you." He set the fragile box on the bed, opening it to reveal his gift.

    Violet's eyes sparkled with bliss, and she gasped with sheer happiness. "Donuts! For me? Thank you!"

    Indigo grinned with satisfaction at her obvious pleasure, taking a seat on the edge of her bed as she took a huge bite out of a powdery donut. He had earned the money for his present by doing odd jobs around Cerulean City while she was stuck within the Pokémon Center. The almighty Nurse Joy had expressly forbidden her patient to eat junk food until she was completely recovered from her traumatic wounds, forcing Indigo to drastic measures. It had been completely worth it. He watched her eat, completely content with the world.

    His gaze caught the sketchbook lying on the covers of the cushy bed. He picked it up carefully, his eyes widening when he saw the half-finished drawing coming to life on the white canvas, drawn in bold lines and deliberate shading. "Violet, this is…" he began, amazement coloring his voice. "Truly terrible. I've never seen anything so bad in my life. Is that a Pidgey, or a loaf of bread with wings? Honestly, woman."

    She snatched the sketchbook away with a huff of exasperation. "It is a Ho-oh," she said, enunciating every word separately. "The Rainbow Pokémon. And I think it's beautiful. If I had colored pencils it would be easier to tell."

    "I suppose you are correct," Indigo sighed. "It is a pity, I've always wanted to see a loaf of rainbow bread flying through the sky. Some dreams are never meant to be."

    Violets pencil bounced off the side of his head, and Indigo grinned light heartedly. He leaned back, completely content with the world, while Violet launched into a happy explanation of Ho-oh's abilities, and the lore surrounding it.

    "It's said that Ho-oh only appears to the pure of heart, and that it lives at the end of a vast rainbow. It embodies life, and reincarnation, and has been known to resurrect those who died unfairly. Ho-oh is served by its three guardian beasts, Raikou, Suicune, and Entei. Rumor has it that the beasts were once Vaporeon, Flareon, and Jolteon, before being killed in the burning Brass Tower in Johto. Ho-oh brought them back to life, as Legendaries. That was a little over 150 years ago. The funny thing is, the Legendary beasts have been noted in history as far back as a thousand years! A lot of people think Ho-oh has created the three guardians from fallen Pokémon many times in the past, with an unknown purpose."

    He kept his silence, though he knew more than she did in regards to Entei. He'd once tried to control the beast using an ancient artifact, in an attempt to gain power. Entei's will had been too strong; a raging volcano of fury and burning hatred that he'd been helpless to fight. He'd been such a fool.

    It felt odd, remembering his past war while sitting on a cozy bed, eating donuts with a girl from the peaceful future. Making jokes, having a friend, being happy…it almost seemed wrong. Like he wasn't supposed to be happy. Or even allowed. Perhaps he didn't deserve such a thing.

    Violet finished off her donut with blissful contentment, smiling happily. He stared at her in thoughtful silence, his expression unreadable. It was like she didn't have a care in the world. Violet didn't seem to remember anything at all.

    His paw clenched. At first, he'd been so relieved. Then…he'd found himself wishing she had heard his confession. At least that way, he'd know for certain how she'd react. Instead, he was caught in limbo, always wondering, and too cowardly to speak up again.

    "Hey, earth to Indigo!"

    He blinked, focusing on her once more. "Sorry," he replied automatically. "You were saying?"

    "Zoned out again," Violet sighed. "You've been doing that a lot lately. Is something on your mind?"

    "Nothing. I've just been distracted," the Lucario lied easily, and Violet shrugged, choosing her third donut.

    Perhaps he wanted to tell her because he knew she would turn away from him forever. Perhaps Indigo felt like he deserved to be punished, to live unhappily while under his curse. It was a curse after all. But there he was, too afraid to make that choice, too cowardly to accept his well-deserved punishment, clinging to a single human connection as though it were a life-line.

    He would never actually do it. Indigo sighed faintly, looking out the window of the room into the fading light of day.

    "The nurses say we can head out soon. My arms are much better, and the after effects of the venom are finally gone. And your Aura Vision is healing up nicely, thanks to all that extra physical therapy! I think we should work on some training after we get out, to prepare for fighting Misty. Battles against water Pokémon are way different than normal after all. Maybe you could learn from-"

    "I've been lying to you from day one," Indigo interrupted, not looking at her when he spoke. Her words trailed off, the thought dying on her lips. He could feel her staring at him.

    He stood, pacing furiously at the foot of the large bed, unable to look at her, his movements rough and jerky. He desperately wanted to stop talking, but his mouth moved without permission from his brain, spilling words out from the darkest shadows of his heart.

    "I'm not who you think I am, Violet. You think I'm this brave, heroic creature, but I'm not. I'm a liar, and a coward, a weak fool who has done nothing but make mistakes from the moment he was born. And I've been lying to you. I'm human, or I was. I realize that doesn't make sense…but it's true! I was human, and a fool, the traitor from that story about Halladen, the one who ruined everything. I never thought that things would…I tried, but I…"

    He found he could not continue, and broke off, as what he'd just done began to sink in. He'd never been so afraid in his life, and his words began again, desperately filling the silence before she could speak. "I'm sorry. I didn't know how to tell you. Please know it was never my intention to deceive you, and that I understand…whatever you think of me, I understand, there won't be any hard feelings, or…I thought you should know. I'm living under a curse. I died in the past, but that wasn't punishment enough for my betrayal. I was cursed to lose my humanity, exiled to a future I did not understand…but now, after meeting you, its stopped feeling like a curse, and more like a second chance…but still I-!"

    "Indigo."

    Her voice caught him, stilling the raging sea of his heart before he drowned in his desperate confessions, and he couldn't speak through the sudden tightness in his throat. The boy turned Lucario looked at her finally, absolute terror and hopelessness in his eyes as he waited for the justice he knew was coming.

    "Don't look at me," she whispered quietly, with perfect sincerity and finality, and Indigo flinched, unable to hide how much that hurt-

    "…with that expression on your face," Violet finished, sounding pained. She unfolded her legs and stood, pulling the stunned Lucario into a hug, holding him tightly. She didn't let go, and his arms shook. He stood like a statue, every muscle completely tense, tears gathering in his crimson eyes. She was so warm. He could feel the ice in his chest melting, along with all his terrible fears and guilt, and for a person who had been in pain for so very long, it was too much. His rigid posture relaxed, like the crutches of pain he'd carried for so long had been kicked away, and Indigo discovered he'd never lost the ability to feel after all, only forgotten. His head slumped down on her shoulder, his arms tightening around her back, shocking even himself with the strength of his tears.

    She didn't say anything at all, and she didn't need to. Indigo cried, finally giving voice to the pain which had eaten at him for more than a year, unable to hold back his grief. Violet rubbed circles on his back, hugging him carefully so as not to get impaled by the steel spike in his chest, until his surge of emotion had run its course.

    She pulled back, keeping hold of one paw, steering him towards the edge of the bed, taking a seat next to him. Violet reached for the box, selecting a glazed donut and pressing it into his paws. "Eat," she commanded, her tone brooking no argument, and Indigo did so numbly. He chewed the soft pastry, and the sweetness was almost a shock. She'd given him her favorite kind. He finished it quickly, surprising himself with how much he'd needed it. Violet watched, nodding with satisfaction once he was finished.

    She didn't seem angry, or even surprised, and the pieces began to come together in his mind. "You knew," he said quietly, and somehow, he wasn't surprised either. "You've known since Cerulean Cave."

    Violet smiled sadly, but shook her head. "I remember bits and pieces, but I wasn't asleep during your confession. My heart…for just a minute, it was…" she stopped for a moment, and took a shuddering breath, suppressing her reaction. "A few days after I woke up, Mewtwo showed me a vision of everything that happened, without saying why. Indigo…you tried so hard to save me. I knew you'd tell me the truth when you were ready."

    "What comes next?" Indigo asked tonelessly, although oddly enough, he didn't care. Violet beamed, her smile lighting up her expression like the sun.

    "Now, we figure out how to break your curse! There's a lot of work to do, but we can figure it out together! I've been reading up on curses that turn people into Pokémon, especially ones involving Ninetales, and I really think it's doable! Of course, you'll need to tell me what the conditions are, cause they're always different, but if it wasn't possible, the curse couldn't have been laid on you in the first place, according to this research article I read online. After that, you can fix everything that went wrong! Indigo?" she blinked, catching the expression on his face. "Is something wrong?"

    "You would help me?" he asked quietly, a flicker of hope coming to life behind layers of worn apathy. He'd prepared himself for rejection, for agony, his just punishment…

    But Indigo found he hadn't been prepared to face kindness.

    Violet blinked her lilac eyes. "Of course! That's what friends are for, right? I'll be sad when you go, but who knows how long that could be? I'll be by your side, no matter what. This is important to you, so it's important to me too, okay?"

    His heart clenched, and Indigo stood again, shaking his head while he paced restlessly. "No. You don't understand…how bad it was. That fairy tale book didn't tell you much of anything. I did things that I can't forgive, that no one could forgive. I'm no hero, Violet."

    "I don't believe that," she refuted. "Not for one second."

    "You should."

    "So, tell me," Violet said simply, as if it were that easy. "It doesn't have to be all at once. Little by little, tell me your story, without leaving out anything. And let me decide, ok?"

    He stopped pacing, thinking it over. He'd already come this far. "Alright," he consented finally. "I'll tell you. After we leave Cerulean…I'll share my story. From the beginning. If you'd like."

    "Alright," she agreed, seeming to understand his need for delay. "Let's get healed up, and rest for a while. There's no rush. Besides…we've got a Gym battle to get ready for!"

    ~o~
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  18. Chapter 15: The Beauty of the Deep

    Disclaimer 2: Revenge of the Disclaimer

    In the many decades since the last disclaimer, the author has come to grips with the fact that she does not own this franchise. But now, a new disclaimer has arrived, claiming to be the son of the previous disclaimer! How will the author cope? Stay tuned, for the exciting conclusion…

    ~o~

    The crowd roared with wild applause in the circular stadium, their cheers nearly drowning out the cheerful narrator, even through the advanced sound system. Cerulean City was famous for its Gym, but its aquatic performance shows were nearly legendary, attracting tourists and competitors from across the entire world. It was easy to see why.

    The circular stadium was at the center of Cerulean Gym, beneath the glass dome stained with the ever-changing hues of the ocean. Seating lined every side of the stadium, stretching high up towards the glass ceiling, and every seat was filled. Cameras flew through the air, topped with sets of spinning blades, broadcasting the event worldwide, and displaying close-ups on the widescreen monitors placed around the room. The crowd's cheers were ecstatic; parents called out encouragements for their favorite performances, and kids waved little souvenir flags decorated with Water Pokémon.

    The four sections of the stadium were broken by glittering waterfalls sliding down brightly patterned mosaics, which served as both decoration and air conditioning, falling into the circular moat at the base surrounding the performance aquarium. Goldeen splashed in the moat, fighting over pellets of food dropped into the water by kids above, courtesy of small quarter dispensers. The performance aquarium itself soared high in the center of the stadium, completely aboveground, so everyone could see beneath the cerulean waves.

    "Welcome one, welcome all…to Cerulean Cities world famous event, the Beauty of the Deep Pageant!" the beautiful announcer exclaimed, standing without fear on another hovering platform, talking animatedly into a microphone. "We're back from commercial after a stunning performance by Miss Lila Hanada, and her Milotic! Lila hails from the exotic Hoenn region, in the wetland near Fortree City! She and Milotic grew up together, dreaming of stardom…and they've certainly earned their place in the stars today! Let's give it up for their beautiful combo, making its debut on our very own stage in Cerulean City!"

    The crowd went wild with cheering, and the blue-haired girl blushed, waving to the cameras behind her Milotic. She returned the beautiful serpent to its Dive Ball, decorated with seals from the Sinnoh region. The metal platform she stood on lowered down the side of the tank to the ground, and the lighting changed. The floodlights illuminating the tank plunged off, as spotlights from the ceiling scanned over the crowd.

    "We've officially entered the midpoint in our competition! Our judges will be tallying up the scores for the second round, so hang tight! In the meantime, we've prepared some half-time entertainment, so sit back, and enjoy the show!"

    A performer in a silly suit bowed theatrically to the crowd, mimicked by his Dewgong to the side. He whirled to look at the white creature, but it turned away, pretending it hadn't done anything, and the crowd laughed. Their comedy act kept the audience entertained, especially once the Dewgong stole her trainers red clown nose and began pretending to be a person.

    Not everyone was so at ease. Violet gripped the pleats in her dress, hidden in shadow within the tunnel contestants used to enter the area. Her ebony hair was down, like usual, but today it was interspersed with waves and curls, and decorated with a deep blue ribbon clip on the left. Her white dress was ankle length, fitting in tight from her capped sleeves to her waist, where it flared out dramatically into a cut fitting for a princess, decorated with a bold blue accent from waist to hem the same shade as her ribbon. A long sash fit seamlessly around her waist, trailing nearly to her ankles, its long edges fading from deep blue to indigo. She even wore a little makeup, though her cheeks were so flushed already she hadn't bothered with blush. Long white gloves completed her look, and helped hide her shaking hands.

    "I can't do this," she whispered with horror. "I can't believe I agreed to it. This…is all your fault!"

    "Don't be a baby," Indigo growled at her side, his arms folded as he watched the show with interest. "You were on television a few weeks ago, and you never once complained. This is no different."

    "Last time I was drugged up on painkillers! And I was so exhausted, I never even thought about the fact that I was on TV!" Violet protested, her amethyst eyes frantic. "Indigo, I don't do things like this! I'm definitely going to die! Or faint! Or faint into the water and drown!"

    "Don't be ridiculous," Indigo snorted. "If you fall into the water, I'll rescue you. And laugh. From here until eternity. Actually, that's not a bad plan…"

    "You aren't helping!" Violet wailed, covering her face with her hands. The crowd went quiet as the comedy routine ended, and the performers took their final bows, waving to the crowd. The blonde announcer spoke again.

    "And now, we've got a special treat for you! Say hello to our own Gym Leader, the tomboyish mermaid, Misty!" The crowd applauded wildly as Misty rose to the top of the performance tank on the elevator, waving cheekily to her adoring fans. "Misty is our pride and joy, the jewel of Cerulean City! And because of that, we've decided to honor the trainer who restored her reputation on live television, by airing her gym battle as part two of our half time show! You all know her, you've seen her fantastically funny Magikarp…please welcome, Miss Violet Hikari!"

    "Come on," Indigo insisted, pushing his blushing trainer out into the stadium. She nearly fell, catching herself just in the nick of time. She walked to the metal platform, flushing furiously, as the crowd applauded their entrance, interspersed by cheers, Indigo just behind her. He stood by her side as the metal platform hummed, bringing them dizzyingly high into the air. It reached a stop at the edge of the water, and Misty smirked at them from the other side of the pool, dressed only in a white and blue swimsuit beneath her long sleeved jacket, arms folded confidently.

    Violet's eyes were frozen wide. She thought she really might faint, and forced herself not to look down at the ground far below. Indigo touched her arm, speaking in a low growl only she could hear. "Focus, Violet. The battle is all that matters. Forget everything else, and focus."

    In a flash, Daniel Knight spoke through her memories, a ghost of the past standing just behind her, his hands on her shoulders. "In battle, for just a few minutes, all your problems will melt away. There isn't any heartache, or jealousy, or pain. Let the world fade…there is nothing except this moment. When your heart beats in time with your partners, nothing else matters…"

    "Miss Hikari just began her official Pokémon Journey, and has collected one gym badge from Pewter City. Per official Pokémon League rules, Misty must use a set of no more than three Pokémon, ranging in level from 15 to 25, since this will be her opponents second badge! Miss Hikari has no restrictions on level, and can use up to six Pokémon, though neither trainer will be permitted the use of healing items. A referee will be monitoring the match, which will be limited to ten minutes. With no further ado, let the battle begin!"

    The surface of the pool surged as trapdoors at the bottom of the tank sprang open, releasing buoyant islands made of high density foam, which burst above the water and settled, swaying slightly in place. The water-slick islands weren't anchored down, and would move during the battle; a perfect hazard for a water gym, while still providing space for other types of Pokémon to stand on.

    "Let's have a good match!" Misty called out, shifting one foot forward as she threw a Net ball high into the air with an elegant underhand toss. With a flash, and a flickering image of a web, her Surskit burst into the stadium, flipping twice before landing on the surface of the water, swaying back and forth as if warming up.

    "Just breathe," Daniel whispered.

    Violet took a deep breath. Her brilliant eyes snapped open, and the ghost of her best friend faded away. "Fight, Indigo!" she shouted, stretching out one arm as her Lucario leapt onto the nearest island, aura crackling around his arms, and power gleaming in his gaze.

    The crowd cheered wildly as all the lighting focused on the makeshift battlefield, and Misty's Surskit dashed forward, skimming on top of the water with unreal speed. It feinted and darted in close, leaping back just in time to avoid Indigo's Dark Pulse, an iridescent Bubblebeam bursting from its mouth, and exploding against Indigo's crossed arms. He shook off the weak blow, bracing his feet on the slick surface of the swaying island to fire a Dragon Pulse in a sweeping wave across the water, bare inches behind the speeding Surskit.

    Her heart beat strongly in her chest, and Violet was grateful for the bright lights; they hid the crowd from her view. She could do this. "One blow will finish things! Dark Pulse, Indigo!"

    "Not so easily!" Misty swore, as her Surskit dodged again, riding the waves thrown by the Dark Pulse with apparent ease. "Surskit, Agility! Follow it up with Bubble Beam!"

    The speedy little Pokémon skittered over the surface even quicker than it had before, barely a blur on the water. Indigo went tense, his eyes trying to follow its movements and watching for an opening. The Surskit leapt into the air, shining bubbles shooting towards him in a stream, meeting his howling Dragon Pulse head on.

    The two attacks clashed, and the bubbles shattered into mist, one by one, as Indigo's shrieking Dragon Pulse tore through the weaker attack. The explosion from the two strikes whipped Violet's hair back, spraying both her and Misty with a fine spray, and hiding the field from view.

    Surskit burst out of the mist, skating on the water in a bee-line directly towards Indigo, shining with golden energy. He had been watching the wrong place. The Lucario's eyes went wide, and suddenly he was shining with odd golden energy as well! It tore out of his chest, and a much smaller sphere burst out of the Surskit, into two shining balls that merged in midair, before splitting up equally, and shooting back into the two competitors.

    The crowd roared, and the announcer had to fight to be heard over them. "Power Split! This move adds both Pokémon's Attack and Special Attack together, and shares the combined power equally between them! This move is a classic strategy for Gym Leaders, since it allows their weaker teams to fight against powerful opponents on a more equal stage! How will Lucario cope with being so weakened?"

    Violet gritted her teeth, her eyes flashing. "Indigo use Dark Pulse for long range offense, but try to get in close using the islands! Then, finish it with Force Palm!"

    "Understood!" he shouted, leaping powerfully from his island to another nearby, landing in a crouch as it skidded backwards from his momentum. The Surskit danced on the waves, ducking between and behind the concealing water, as the surface became agitated, firing quick bursts of Bubble Beams at every opening, and keeping Indigo at a distance. He leapt between islands, firing Dark Pulse in midair, always just an instant behind the speedy Surskit, using Aura to propel himself farther and faster.

    Think. There had to be a better way to hit their tricky opponent. Indigo's eyes flashed with an idea, in the same moment Violet's did. "Indigo, the islands-!"

    "I've got it!" The Lucario shouted. He landed on a swaying island, nearly slipping off on the slick foam, and fired a howling Dragon Pulse low to the surface of the water. It slammed into another island, shooting it across the waves like a Frisbee, where it slammed into the surprised Surskit, knocking it back to Misty's feet unconscious. The audience went wild with applause and cheers, and Violet smiled, shocking herself by having fun.

    "Return, Surskit! You fought well today," Misty said, recalling the dazed water type to its Net Ball. She took a deep breath, as though steadying herself, and her eyes snapped open, a cheeky grin spreading across her face. Misty dropped a Dive ball into the water. "Don't get ahead of yourself! You haven't beaten me just yet!"

    A bright flash lit up the water, and a dark shape spiraled under the waves, hidden by the lights glittering off the surface. Indigo couldn't see it any better than Violet, but he could sense it, moving silently beneath the water. He waited tensely, waited until it was close to where he stood – and struck fast, with a Dragon Pulse fired down into the depths! The shadow writhed, bursting up to the surface in a rush of thick fangs and unblinking eyes, latching onto Indigo's leg with powerful jaws.

    He shouted with rough pain, completely shocked by how much that hurt, and the announcer spoke up again over the audience with a gasp. "-Super Fang! This move takes away half the opponents HP, no matter what stats both Pokémon have! It's rare for a Huntail to learn this move, but certain tutors can pull off the task! As expected of Misty-!"

    The announcers words were drowned out as Indigo was dragged beneath the surface of the water by the unnerving Huntail, leaving a trail of bubbles in his wake. Indigo had remembered to breathe before-hand, thanks to his experiences fighting the Ditto. He struck at the slick bodied creature with Force Palm, and just missed as his leg was released. Luminescent spots shone eerily on the Huntail's body, beneath thick orange plates adorning its powerful spine, and when it turned to bare its wide, disjointed fangs, those spots gleamed brilliantly. A horrible Screech filled the water as the Huntail shrieked, like nails scraping down a chalkboard, and Indigo slammed his paws over his ears in an effort to drown it out. His eyes gleamed silver with aura, and Indigo opened his mouth to fire a Dragon Pulse…

    And the Huntail struck again, lightning fast, slamming into him in a glancing blow as it spiraled through the water. Bubbles escaped his mouth as Indigo cried out, pain spiking from his left shoulder, as he took the Sucker Punch blow, whirling to strike the Huntail in the same instant with a Force Palm that slammed into its slimy hide. It wailed with surprise in an eerie, undulating howl, and a scarlet aura burst around its serpentine form, reflecting red in Indigo's eyes.

    Fury filled him a white-hot rage, so sudden and intense Indigo's fists clenched with anger, and his Aura spiked with near hatred, but he couldn't tell where the Huntail was, and surely things weren't normally so blurry…

    "And Swagger lands!" the announcer crowed above the surface of the water, while cameras projected the underwater battle onto the giant screen monitors circling the stadium. "Confused, and underwater, with an opponent that uses Sucker Punch to strike first whenever he tries to use an attack…and unable to hear the orders of his trainer to boot! What will the challengers do?"

    Violet didn't miss a beat. "Return Indigo!" she called out, recalling her Lucario from underwater. She switched Master balls, pitching it into the air above the pool. "Mr. Fin, time to shine!"

    The crowd oohed, and the pretty blonde announcer girl spoke again, as all the flat screens switched to Mr. Fin. "Now folks, we've seen some incredible water type Pokémon in this event, including a rare shiny Greninja, a Primarina from the Alola region, and a dazzling array of the most beautiful and rare water Pokémon this world has to offer! After all that, a Magikarp may seem like a letdown…"

    "But look at how unbelievably gorgeous that Magikarp is! I've never seen anything like it! Wow!" the announcer squealed happily, and the audience roared its approval, as the fantastic Mr. Fin basked in the glow, splashing down into the water with easy grace. Violet shouted for her starter to use Tackle attack, her eyes shining with battle-fever, and Mr. Fin streaked through the waves, slamming into the Huntail's side. The Huntail rallied, striking with a Super Fang attack, followed quickly by another Sucker Punch as Mr. Fin prepared another Tackle, glancing off his crimson hued scales. Mr. Fin's final Tackle attack barreled into the Huntail, hitting it right between the eyes, and sending the already weakened serpent into darkness.

    Mr. Fin burst out of the water, flipping twice happily as it bathed in the cheers of its adoring fans, and Misty grinned as she recalled her Huntail. She removed her final partner from her belt, encased in a gleaming Luxury ball, releasing a bronze Staryu with a flaming red gemstone to the stage. She didn't miss an instant. "Staryu, use Double Team!"

    "Mr. Fin, Tackle attack!" Violet responded. "Aim for the red stone to do the most damage!"

    "Karp!" Mr. Fin agreed, his eyes narrowing with concentration. He swam furiously through the water, leaping out to strike the Staryu with all his strength, hitting one of the doubles instead, which faded away. Mr. Fin hit the water, rebounding with a Splash attack to change direction, and tackled another of the fake Staryu's. He dove deep after missing the real thing once more, turning underwater to streak towards the surface-

    "Swift, Staryu!" Misty shouted, as Mr. Fin broke the shining surface, and her Staryu shone with radiant light, as shooting stars burst from its gemstone, slamming into the airborne Magikarp before it could land a hit. Mr. Fin went down, knocked out by the glittering stream of stars, to Violet's dismay; Misty smirked audaciously, striking a victory pose with a wink.

    "Once more then," Violet said, gritting her teeth as she recalled Mr. Fin. He'd gained valuable battle experience, at least. She'd forgotten her nervousness somewhere along the way, forgotten everything but the fight at hand, and her opponents smirking grin. "Fight, Indigo!"

    Her Lucario shook his head roughly, making his oversized ears sway, as his confusion broke. He glared at Misty, almost offended, as if confusion were playing dirty. He slammed his fists together in front of his cream colored torso, Aura crackling in a surge between his spiked fists as he prepared to fight. He sprinted forward, leaping off the edge of the foam island, a battle cry snarling between his fangs, as he closed the distance between himself and the bronze Staryu.

    "Alright, Staryu, it's time for our ultimate combo! Whirlpool!" Misty commanded, breaking into a smile of true enjoyment. Her Staryu lifted one wedge arm high, as if pointing at the ceiling, as Misty did the same.

    And the water began to move, whirling slowly at first, picking up speed as it transformed the entire stage into a vortex of pulverizing power. The Whirlpool turned the harmless tank into a maelstrom of crushing, near vertical walls of surging water, dotted by the foam islands which spun helplessly around. Indigo held onto one such island with all his strength, his legs in the air as he struggled not to let go. The bottom of the whirlpool was narrow and twisting, nearly reaching the bottom of the huge performance tank. The Staryu balanced easily on an island, as if it had done this many times before.

    "Not good!" Violet gasped, shielding her face from the spraying mist with one arm, as Indigo was able to crawl to all fours, balancing on his foam island before he was ripped off. Super Fang had already lowered Indigo's HP to less than half, and he'd taken more hits after that. Even weak blows would add up, and his Defense, Attack, and Special Attack had all been significantly lowered as well. Indigo wouldn't be able to maneuver, or aim properly until the Whirlpool subsided…assuming he was able to stay on top of his island at all!

    The dark haired girl let out a breath. Gym Leaders fought on a scale of their own. She had to remember that.

    Misty wasn't finished yet. "Staryu, use Double Team, then blast him with Swift!" Her voice was amplified, courtesy of the small microphone to the side of her jaw.

    Violet wasn't about to be left behind. "Indigo, get to your feet, but keep your center of balance low! You can steer the island by leaning! Use your Aura Vision, find the real Staryu!" Her voice was loud enough to be heard as well, courtesy of her own small microphone.

    Staryu broke into a dozen copies, each of which made another dozen copies, leaping off the islands into the Whirlpool without fear, using Rapid Spin to whirl through the living wall of water like razor saws. Shimmering yellow stars spun in great rivers from each scarlet gem adorning the Staryu's, and in moments the whirlpool had been transformed into a glittering nebula of certain death, with Indigo at the center of it all. He stood carefully, one foot at a time, wobbling a bit as he used his outstretched arms to center himself.

    The flurries of sparkling stars gushed through the whirlpool in rivers, shining galaxies in the cerulean water, and all of them streaked towards Indigo with flawless accuracy. The Lucario gritted his teeth, keeping his center low, and found that Violet had been right about steering. He leaned sharply to the right, forcing the river of Swift to change course as it chased him through the waves, and then quickly left, until stars nipped at his heels as he rode the momentum of the vortex of a surging sea. Staryu's whirled on every side, shifting imposters that spun like tops, but Indigo ignored all of them, calming his mind.

    He closed his eyes, and saw everything.

    The whirlpool spun with silver and grey, each Staryu a glowing beacon of blue amidst a quicksilver sea, while a surge of bursting energy crackled at his heels in effervescent white. His trainer far above shone like a supernova, a brilliant light that surpassed all others, rivaled only by Misty's fiery passion and will.

    And on the other end of the whirlpool, one Staryu shone brighter than the others, hanging back as it fired more Swift attacks to join the flurry at his heels…

    Indigo whirled around the walls of the vortex, closing in on the true Staryu, a battle cry in his throat, his fur ablaze with radiant Aura. The Swifts began to eat away large chunks of the high density foam behind him, searing, and melting, as they leapt hungrily for his legs. The audience went quiet, the tension swelling as the spectators held their breath in anticipation, and Indigo surfed closer and closer, firing Dark Pulses behind him with both arms to increase his speed, the boiling tide of Swift hot on his heels…

    Indigo let out a shout amplified by Aura, leaping off the island just as the Swift river chewed it to melting chunks of foam, his paw outstretched for a Force Palm as he burst towards the one real Staryu amongst the hundreds of imposters. He hit the Staryu with the full strength of his Force Palm, but grabbed it in the same attack, throwing the Staryu behind him as he slammed his fists together to form a Protect bubble. The tidal surge of Swifts exploded into fireworks, little stars careening outwards with twirling tails and exploding into hundreds of brilliant nova flares of light, shattering against his Protect, and blasting the Staryu out of the water towards the high ceiling above.

    Indigo's Protect bubble broke as the Whirlpool collapsed, and he caught another foam island with one paw as the water roared back into place, letting it carry him to the surface on top of the tank once more. He pulled himself onto the swaying island, breathing heavily, as the water convulsed beneath him.

    The Staryu finally fell, hitting another island like a meteor, completely dazed and unconscious. "-she's done it!" the announcer howled, nearly drowned out by the thundering crowd. "Violet Hikari takes the match! She's won her Cascade Badge!" Violet seemed stunned, her arm dropping as she realized the battle was over. Her cheeks were flushed pink under bright eyes, as her adrenaline faded. Indigo grinned with contentment, sitting down cross-legged on his swaying island as the audience went wild.

    Misty couldn't keep the smile off her face, though she seemed a little rueful as she returned her Staryu, and walked without fear around the small pathway encircling the rim of the high walled tank. She reached Violet, and waited for the cacophony to die down, still grinning. She spoke, knowing it was far too loud for the crowd to hear her, even with her microphone, words for Violet alone. "It takes some doing to beat my all-out offensive strategies. I'll admit that you're skilled. You did great! You and your Pokémon!"

    The thunderous applause finally died down, and Misty stepped forward, lifting Violets hand high into the air. "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the newest conqueror of Cerulean Gym!"

    ~o~

    Hours later, long after the pageant had officially come to a close, and many of the performers had gone home, Violet sat alone in a lounge hall used by participants. She kicked her heels, humming happily, a smile on her lips, perched on a long green divan strewn with cushy pillows pushed against one wall. A burbling indoor fountain was the centerpiece for the lounge hall, made entirely of sea green glass. A glittering crystal chandelier hung high above the fountain, where Mr. Fin splashed happily.

    She'd had fun! So much fun, she already wanted to live it over again! Violet grinned, though only Mr. Fin was in the room to see. Cerulean Gym was, above everything, a performance venue, though it also housed intricate aquariums and aquatic habitats. Even this room, which was used by performers to unwind, was glamorous. Veined white marble tiled the floor, and polished stone pillars soared to the ceiling, interspersed with intricate crystalline chandeliers. Framed pictures cut across one wall, showing past winners of events housed in Cerulean Gym. Among them was an old photograph of a five year old Misty with rebellious orange hair and a red life jacket; the proud winner of the Junior Aquatic Chariot Race.

    After the event had concluded, Misty tracked her down. She'd given Violet the TM for Water Pulse, and congratulated her on the win, before being interrupted by a phone call. She'd turned away to take the call, and asked Violet if she wouldn't mind staying for a while, once she was finished.

    "Eh? But why?"

    Misty had just winked. "Just trust me. You'll see!"

    Which was why she was hanging around Cerulean Gym after the conclusion of the Beauty of the Deep Pageant, in an admittedly cushy room. She stared at her new Cascade Badge, a metal blue raindrop, and her smile turned soft as she ran her fingers over the smooth surface.

    "How long are you planning on staring at that?" Indigo asked dryly, coming back into the room after a sandwich run, to find her still entranced by the glossy badge in her hands as if in shock. "I only ask so I can plan my schedule accordingly. I'm afraid I don't already have 'stare at an inanimate object for hours on end' written in."

    "I never would have done something like this before we met," she breathed, staring at the gleaming gym badge in her palms. "I think I've come really far, but…I couldn't tell you the exact moment I changed, you know? No, changed isn't right…maybe I've grown up, just a bit. It's all thanks to you, Indigo."

    "I am quite fantastic," Indigo agreed, taking a seat beside her. "Although," he continued, almost sulkily, glaring at the indoor fountain where was Mr. Fin preening, "I didn't get any prizes." A beautiful orange rosette centered with a stylized ruby scale adorned Mr. Fin's fishy head, similar to a Contest ribbon, with two trailing tan braids similar to the Magikarps barbell whiskers. White lace crested above the silk, starched into the same shape as a fanned white tail.

    Violet beamed, taking a break from staring at her badge to stare at Mr. Fin instead. Indigo did not think it was an improvement. "He got an honorable mention! 'Most Beautiful Magikarp' has a nice ring to it! But I think the event committee has been planning this since they offered me the live battle, since they already had a ribbon made. He did fight really hard to help Misty after all, and Cerulean got some great publicity right before their pageant."

    "I helped also. And yet, I do not possess an overly-fancy ribbon. Which is not at all cool."

    Violet thought about it, and placed her decorative hair ribbon on Indigo's head. She knighted him with her pointer finger, grinning at his dry look, which didn't quite hide his amusement. "I dub thee Sir Indigo, with the title: Best talking Lucario from the past…probably!"

    "I'm flattered," he said dryly, though he didn't seem completely displeased by his award, or the somewhat girly ribbon. "There must have been hundreds of applicants for that award."

    "It was very close," Violet agreed solemnly. "I almost went with another Lucario, but you came out ahead. I offer my most sincere congratulations." She looked away, seeming a little sad. "It's weird, but…I kind of miss the Ditto, you know? I keep hoping it will show up again out of the blue, so we can get to know each other better. Don't you think that'd be great?"

    "No," Indigo deadpanned flatly, with no hesitation. "And now you've jinxed us. Look at what you've done."

    "That's ridiculous!" Violet protested immediately, pursing her lips. "Well…probably, anyways. You don't really think that it would come back, do you?"

    The door clicked, and both of them turned. The man who entered was dressed in a well-fitting blue uniform laced with orange stripes and a pair of sturdy, well-worn boots. His scarlet hair was spiked, and he moved with an air of pride and strength; a dark cape lined with crimson-red rippled down his back. He saw Indigo and Violet, and his deep brown eyes flashed with recognition. He raised a hand in greeting, as if about to speak, but Indigo beat him to it.

    "You!" Lucario snarled, eyes blazing with ferocity as he bolted to his feet, diving in a reckless full body tackle towards Lance the Dragon Master, Champion of Kanto.

    A Dragonite slammed Indigo's head to the ground in a flash, baring its fangs as it rumbled aggressively with a deep bass growl. He froze beneath the dragon's claws, holding perfectly still as its hot breath gusted on his fur.

    Lance stood straighter, arching an eyebrow, and Violet rushed forward, nearly tripping as she apologized hurriedly. "Sorry! Sorry, he mistook you for…someone…else…" she straightened, her words dying off, as Violet realized who was in front of her. "Hello," she whispered numbly with impossibly huge eyes, her face ashen. She felt suddenly dizzy, as though she might faint. Violet was only half sure her heart was still beating at all.

    "Perhaps we should sit down," the Champion suggested mildly. "We have much to discuss." He strode forward, his cape billowing behind him, making a quick gesture with two fingers to his Dragonite. It released Indigo, but continued watching him with unrelenting suspicion, as if prepared to remove his head at the slightest provocation.

    Indigo and Violet looked at each other. And moved to obey. Indigo stood, dusting himself off, as Violet hesitantly followed in Lance's wake, her expression frozen with shock. The Champion walked straight to a small table with high legged stools near the other end of the room, one of many that were arranged near a small beverage station. He didn't turn back even once to see if they followed, his course steady and unhurried. He took a seat as Violet reached him, staring at the shell-shocked girl before him with an unfathomable expression on his face.

    "What exactly is this about?" Indigo asked warily, standing behind Violet as she chose a seat, crossing his arms obstinately. He didn't sit, opting instead to stand in judgement of this new stranger, not nearly as easy to win over as Violet. "And who on earth are you?"

    If Lance was surprised to hear Indigo speak, he didn't show it. He responded with all the respect he would show another human being, as if it were completely normal to speak with a Lucario. "My name is Lance, current Champion of both the Johto and Kanto regions. I specialize in Dragon Pokémon, the most powerful and indestructible type of Pokémon who walk this earth. You must be Indigo. I've heard much about you and your trainer these past weeks. I felt it was high time for a face to face meeting."

    "What for?" Indigo narrowed his eyes stubbornly, though his stance shifted as he recognized the authority of the man before him. Violet stared, frozen, completely mute; she looked like a doll in a pretty dress, unmoving and wide eyed. He continued, refusing to be impressed. "You should be looking for Karo Asuna."

    "The Elite Four are more than equal to the task," Lance responded simply, unruffled by Lucario's attitude. "Though I'll be joining them again shortly." He paused, shifting an object in the crook of his arm carefully; neither of them had noticed it before. The mysterious thing was covered in a deep blue shroud, similar in color to the Champions uniform. Lance twirled another cloth into a thick rope, tying it into a circle with a knot, and placed the object in the resulting nest on the table top with deliberation.

    "We had planned to thank the both of you anyways, after exposing a serial murderer who was deep within our justice system. All the members of the Elite Four contributed some useful items, taking into account your status as a rookie trainer. They should serve you well on your journey to come."

    He handed Violet a silver TM case, and a small red bag with a rectangular shape, and many pockets. "The case contains four TM's from each member of the Elite Four, including myself. We chose our favorites, so expect bias! That travel case contains a good variety of rare and interesting items ranging from around the world…though most of them are held items for Pokémon, with various effects. We included ten each of all the specialty Poké Balls from Johto, Hoenn, and Sinnoh as well. It may seem a little overdone, but rare items tend to accumulate once a trainer has reached a certain level, which is especially true for the Elite Four. Certainly more than we could ever use! It is our hope that you will find them useful going forward. On behalf of the League…no, of the entire region, we thank the two of you for your bravery and sacrifice in dealing with a dangerous and unstable killer. We would be remiss not to recognize your incredible bravery."

    "T-thank you," Violet stuttered, finding her voice as she bowed her head hurriedly. "I-it wasn't really anything I did, Indigo was the brave one, and Terry too..."

    "My trainer is too modest, since it was her brilliant strategy which exposed Karo in the first place," Indigo cut in easily, glaring at her. "And her idiotic bravery which convinced a complete outsider like me to intervene at all. Your gifts are well deserved, even if Violet does not comprehend her value. She is nothing short of brilliant. I saw it in Cerulean Cave, over and over again. You would do well to train hard, Dragon Master, since the two of us will surpass even you someday."

    "I-Indigo!" Violet protested, blushing a deep red in embarrassment at his unbridled praise, looking like a human tomato. Indigo had relaxed a little, seeming mollified by the Champions recognition of her abilities.

    "Which brings us to our second order of business." Lance steepled his long fingers, the expression on his face impossible to read. "Cerulean Cave. It is without the slightest doubt one of the most dangerous places on earth. I'll be blunt, Violet – you two should have died. The fact that you didn't is an absolute testament to your tactical skill, and bond with your Pokémon. It is my belief that you deserve this, as well…"

    The Champion reached forward, and the shroud hiding the mystery object cascaded down like water, pooling on the tabletop, to reveal an oblong egg, resting steadily in the thick loop of fabric. Its satiny surface was jet blue, with two thick stripes of periwinkle encircling both ends. The top of the egg bore a striking yellow blaze in the shape of a many-pointed star. It hummed ever so faintly, a physical presence in the room, and Violet stared, unable to tear her eyes from it.

    "This hatchling will be powerful, and strong-willed, as is the nature of the ever-obstinate Dragon type. It is fortunate dragons are both hard to find, and raise, since few trainers are up to the task of commanding them, and fewer still possess the self-control needed to use their strength wisely. That being said, should you manage to earn its respect, there will be no superior ally in battle…nor a more dependable friend. Violet Hikari, I believe you are up to the challenge of raising this dragonet well. I took personal responsibility in breeding this egg for battle; raise it well, young trainer."

    "I…" Words failed her, and Violet caught her breath, overcome by emotion. "I will. Thank you, sir. I'll definitely raise it properly!"

    "I expect nothing less," Lance said, smiling faintly. He covered the leathery egg once more with its royal blue shroud, specially made so it trapped heat. "Finding a young rookie with the potential to be a dragon tamer is rare. I've caught word of another girl in Kanto who's been training dragons particularly well. Perhaps your paths will cross in your journey. In the meantime, I sincerely wish you the best."

    Indigo was skeptical. "This seems like over the top bribery to make us forget we almost died in your secret death cave," he observed.

    "Consider it a thank you. You two managed to peak Red's interest as well. He was completely out of contact for a while, and when he returned, he requested I pass along this as well." The Champion produced his final gift; it was an elegant necklace with a long silver chain, a single circular pendant serving as decoration. The celeste blue gemstone seemed almost to dance with silver grey light, ethereal flames trapped in glittering crystal.

    Violet and Indigo stared. To both of their surprise, Lance held out the necklace to Indigo. "For you," he said, ignoring their confusion. "Red was very clear this was meant for your hands. I'm sure its purpose will become clear with time. And while I've enjoyed our chat, I'm afraid it's time I took my leave."

    Violet stood, hurriedly offering another thanks, her awestruck gratitude knowing no bounds, while Indigo peered at the girly necklace he'd been given, as Lance rose to stand by his Dragonite. The Champion of Kanto held out a hand for Violet to shake, and approval tightened his expression at the strength of her grip.

    "If there's anything you need, feel free to ask," Lance said gravely, holding his grip with her a second longer, meeting her eyes squarely. "You saved countless individuals who would have been Karo's future victims. Those people will live on with their families and friends, never knowing the fate you saved them from. On behalf of all the children who could have been orphaned, the wives who would be widows, and the loved ones who will not have to bury their friends, I thank you, Violet Hikari, and Indigo. For your sacrifice, your bravery, and all the pain you both endured, thank you both. It was not in vain."

    The Champion turned to leave, his cape snapping around him at his purposeful stride, Dragonite hovering behind him like a shadow. "Um," Violet called out, her eyes lighting up as if remembering something. Lance turned his head in acknowledgement. The beautiful girl flushed, her hands clenching in the voluminous fabric of her white skirt, her demeanor heartfelt and serious. She bit her lip. "T-there is one thing…"

    ~o~

    Lance padded through utter darkness, his boots scraping against the ground with each echoing step. He walked alone, without a single Pokémon by his side, and yet, the creatures in the dark did not strike, hanging back in wary huddles of fear. He could sense their presence, could see the occasional white gleaming of ferocious eyes, but paid them no mind. Nothing here dared to harm the man known as the Shadow of Dragons.

    He stopped, tossing an Ultra ball into the heavy blackness. A golden flash burst in a star above his head, and a blue dragon soared with near supersonic speeds around the cavern, lighting atavistic torches with its searing fiery breath, the wind howling in its wake. The dragon landed powerfully by its master, cracking the stone as it bared white fangs, embers shining deep in its throat.

    The cavern revealed in the light was huge, with ceilings that soared high, hanging thick with heavy roots, which crept down the walls and across the floor. Carvings decorated the stone walls, a history as shown by the inhabitants of the cave, depicting grand battles and valiant feats of bravery. The newest of the carvings depicted a girl and her Lucario, facing off against a horrific Arbok, whose eyes were colored in with real blood that dripped down the stone, and later, that same Arbok fleeing the cavern while chased by hundreds of creatures.

    The silence in the cavern was nearly tangible, as the inhabitants waited with pounding hearts for his next move. Lance sighed, running his fingers through his spiked hair, and set a large stack of thin boxes on the ground. He flipped open the top box with one finger, and the delicious scent of hot pepperoni pizza filled the cavern. "Enjoy," he said simply, turning as he walked away.

    The cavern exploded with raucous cheering as Primeape spilled out of hiding by the hundreds, from nooks and crannies he hadn't known existed, pounding their fists against their chests with glee as they howled happily. Lance saw two Primeape with tears streaming down their faces embrace each other, looking at the pizza with rapture. Primeape who already had slices in their paws danced in circles around the precious boxes, chanting exuberantly, practically in tears themselves.

    Lance made a mental note to have a talk with Bruno about sharing food with wild Pokémon as he left the cavern, unbothered by the partying Primeape, some of whom had started a conga line. And on the far wall, they had already begun carving a new monument, depicting a larger than life Violet with her hands stretched over her head, a giant shining slice of pizza hovering above her palms, as Primeape cheered around her ankles.

    ~o~
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  19. Chapter 16: Days Gone By

    Disclaimer: I totally own Pokemon. Yup, all of it. You can totally believe me.

    Alright, no I don't.

    ~o~

    Indigo looked out over the windswept plains, as a breeze danced through his blue fur, his posture relaxed and carefree from his perfect lounging spot on a hill. The vast expanse of plain stretched as far as the eye could see, fading out to kiss the distant blue horizon; the sky seemed endless, streaked with a few wispy streams of high flying clouds.

    If he looked behind him, he would see the mountain range to the northwest, which barricaded Pewter and Cerulean, a perfect boundary between Kanto, and the region further above which had once been known as Halladen. Violet and Indigo had travelled far in the space of a few days, making it to a plain between routes 5 and 10. The misty spires of Lavender Town could be seen peeking above the distant line of the horizon. Bare stone mountains thrust into the soaring sky to the north east, unmarked by grass or trees, the defiant terra-cotta spires of Rock Tunnel. Violet had spent the last morning pointing out landmarks, and thoroughly enjoying the beautiful autumn day.

    Indigo heard Violet calling his name, his scarlet eyes darting in the direction her voice had come from. He lay down in the long grass, hidden from view by the swaying fronds, until she had passed by, further down the swell of the hill. He closed his eyes deliberately, arranging his arms behind his head comfortably, and ignored the voice in his head he vaguely recognized as his conscience.

    She had been terribly considerate, his conscience protested to his stubborn mind. Violet had not brought up Halladen since they left Cerulean City, nearly three days prior. She was being kind; clearly she was giving him space, to begin his confession of his own accord, without being pushy or demanding. She was being so considerate, it almost irritated him. The pressure of his gnawing guilt was not going away. It wouldn't until he spoke to her about his feelings, and was open, and honest about the weakness he carried inside his heart.

    Knowing he would feel better after he told her his past did not make it any easier to confess. Indigo rolled over in the long grass churlishly, his large ear pressed into his upper arm, pretending he didn't hear her. It would make things easier on him if she were just a little more selfish, or rude…any flaw, really, would make him feel better about admitting his own shortcomings. But no – she had been nothing but polite and warmhearted. It was really starting to annoy him.

    He wasn't being fair, and he knew it. Indigo opened his eyes, listening half-heartedly to a wild Pokémon rustling the grass somewhere nearby. His past had been violent, dangerous, and filled with unexpected evils. He had done his best to cope, but Indigo knew he had made serious mistakes. What could a girl like Violet know about tragedy and guilt?

    A shadow blocked his sunlight. Indigo looked up to see his trainer glaring down at him with exasperation, her hands at her trim waist. Her long black hair hung around her dainty features in a loose wave, accenting her bright violet eyes. Her left eyebrow was broken by a white scar, from a slash that had nearly taken her vision, but her face was otherwise unmarked. Her normally soft mouth was pressed into a firm line, as she glared at the Lucario lying nonchalantly in the long, waving grass.

    "Hello," Indigo said, unperturbed by her displeasure. "Care to join me?"

    "I've been looking for you for ages!" Violet complained, her nose scrunching as she pouted at him. "Didn't you hear me?"

    "I've been napping," Indigo lied easily, lounging back into the hillside as though he hadn't a care in the world. "It's quite lovely out here. I especially like how nothing has tried to kill us in ages. I find it's a huge bonus to travelling."

    Violet let out her breath in a huff, though her eyes softened, forgiving him with ease. She sat next to him in the long grass, enjoying the view as the breeze danced through her silken hair. He almost wished she'd lost her temper at him – it was a vain hope. Violet rarely displayed her temper, always taking time to consider both sides before she reacted to anything. It was one of the qualities he liked about her. In his current mood, it irritated him, seemingly without cause.

    "It is a pretty day," Violet admitted, a soft smile gracing the bow of her lips. "Look, you can see Lavender Town on the horizon – we should make it there within a few days. There's no gym, but it's a gorgeous town. My mom liked it there. Dad always said it brought her peace to visit the memorial tower, and pay her respects to the spirits of the dead. It was called Pokémon Tower. It's a pity they renovated it. It's a radio station now, and most of the memorials were moved underground. You can see it from here. See the tallest spire?"

    "If there is no gym, there isn't much point in going there," Indigo quipped, purposefully not looking when she pointed. "You claim you want to help me break my curse, but you don't seem to understand how important it is to me. I won't get any stronger from visiting a silly ghost town."

    Violet frowned, lowering her arm, as she took in his attitude. "It isn't pointless," she insisted, her forehead creasing. "Weren't you the one who wanted to take a break from the action for a while? We've been getting a lot of training done, and even you have to admit our teamwork has improved. The journey has been good for us."

    "We took a long enough break in Cerulean City," Indigo added, somewhat stubbornly. "There isn't any reason to continue taking it easy. Unless you're afraid you won't be able to handle it."

    "That's not true," Violet complained, looking hurt. "I know breaking your curse is important, I really do. If that means taking on tougher battles, I'm sure we'll both be fine. Although…" she broke off, casting a look at him behind the curtain of her hair. "It might be a little easier to help if I knew exactly why you were cursed in the first place…"

    Indigo stood abruptly, fighting back an instinctive guttural snarl, pacing up the hill. "Indigo!" Violet called out in a complaint, scrambling to her feet to catch up. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have-"

    "Stop. Apologizing," Indigo growled, whirling to face her with gleaming scarlet eyes. "As far as I'm concerned, I am not obligated to tell you anything, especially since you appear to have no interest in assisting me in my quest for power. If we're not going to a gym, this whole partnership is useless-"

    "That isn't fair," Violet insisted, her eyebrows scrunching together. "What's gotten into you? This isn't like you, Indigo-"

    "And what would you know of me?" Indigo demanded, his temper spiking in a blaze of misdirected fury. "We met less than two months ago! You don't know me, human girl, you never did! You seem to have a hero complex you're projecting onto me, and it's beyond naïve; you seem to think I'm some shining knight, like that dead friend of yours you hate to speak about. You forget I'm not him, Violet!"

    Her glare turned icy, cold dripping like sleet from her words, and Indigo knew he'd finally pushed her too far. "I already know you aren't Daniel. He would never be so unreasonable. I don't know why you're being so unfair! I'm trying to help, Indigo!"

    "Fine," he continued churlishly, crossing his arms tight, not letting her see the guilt his actions were causing on his face. "Then help. Where is the closest gym?"

    It was like a door slammed over her expression, all emotion disappearing behind a mask. "Saffron City," she said quietly, as though the words were poison. "You aren't ready to face Sabrina. I'm not either. She's…not a good person. We shouldn't go there."

    He narrowed his eyes at that. "I don't care what kind of person she is. A battle is a battle. And as it turns out, I've changed my mind about telling you my story. If you are so unwilling to bring me to another gym, I see no reason to tell you anything at all."

    He turned on his heel to leave, and this time, she didn't call after him.

    His steps were quick, tense, as anger and guilt flooded him, because he knew he shouldn't have forced his anger at himself on her, until he was running, fury pushing him farther and faster as his blood pounded through his veins in a rush, and his breath ached raggedly in his throat. Indigo ran until his limbs screamed at him to stop, long after he'd entered the yawning forest that bordered the vast plain, nearly half an hour later.

    His arms shook. Indigo ceased his sprint, pacing instead, feeling horribly cold as his adrenaline faded, on the edge of a babbling river that wound through the meandering forest. He paced with jerky movements, hating his aching inhuman limbs, the unfamiliar tailed shadow on the earth behind him, and most of all, himself.

    He had been mean to her. He felt awful; cold guilt leeched anger from his heart until he felt sick. Violet believed in him, and he had rewarded her faith with harsh words, and a bad attitude, and worst of all, he still felt angry, for no reason at all. It isn't her fault, it isn't her fault, he reminded himself, controlling his breathing as he ran a hand over his angular face. He slumped, sitting on the riverbank with a sigh of frustration, finally allowing his exhausted body to rest. He watched the light glinting off the turbulent water in silence as the sun moved across the sky, trying to work up the courage to admit he'd been wrong. Finally, he stood with resignation, unable to stall any longer, as he turned back towards the small camp they'd set up earlier that day.

    Indigo padded through the forest, opting to walk instead of run, further prolonging his return. The forest was humming with life, inquisitive Pokémon peering at him from treetops and bushes, curious about the stranger in their midst. Indigo paid them no mind, walking in a straight line towards the edge of the great plain, as sunset painted the forest with fiery hues, and eventually dimmed into nebulous darkness. As a human he would have been blind, but Indigo saw nearly as well in the faint glow of the moon as he did at daybreak. He followed the faint sense of 'Violet' unerringly, not even needing his Aura vision to sense her presence nearby.

    He hesitated in the shadows bordering the small camp, hidden by the darkness edging the fire lit clearing. Violet was sitting cross-legged by the small fire, her navy blue Dragon's egg resting before her in a makeshift nest of loose sand, warmed by the flames. He would have been worried, placing the unborn dragonet so close to the fire, but Violet knew considerably more than he did. She probably knew what kind of baby would hatch from the egg, something he had yet to figure out, and had already determined how best to care for it. Mr. Fin's Master Ball lay at her side, within easy reach. She stroked the egg with one hand, staring despondently at a picture held in the other.

    "It's warm out tonight," Indigo said quietly, moving into the light. Violet jumped, caught off guard with a squeak, instinctively moving the picture face down as she turned to him with wide eyes. She flushed a little, scooting to the side to make room for Indigo to sit.

    "Indigo!" she said, struggling to regain her composure. "Yeah, it is warm! Thank goodness, I can't stand cold weather. Guess I'd better get an actual coat before it starts snowing, huh?" She trailed off, a bit awkwardly, when Indigo didn't respond, biting her lip.

    "Is that your friend?" Indigo asked, keeping his tone mild as he acknowledged the photograph. Violet's beaten up backpack lay off to one side, filled with her belongings from Pewter City. Terry Slade had stopped by Cerulean during their recovery, and returned her bag without a word, after it was released from evidence lockup by the authorities. With it had been her blue hat, which she rarely wore, and the photo of Daniel she never looked at, taken from her secret base in the Shimmermoss Cavern behind the waterfall.

    Violet hesitated, turning the photo face up once more, her expression unreadable. "Yeah," she acknowledged, a little sadly. "I don't have many pictures of him. I wish I'd taken more."

    "May I?" Indigo asked without machination, and Violet handed him the worn photograph. She rested her chin on her hands, staring into the fire, as Indigo got his first look at his trainer's former best friend.

    Daniel was well-built, an athletic boy with a conspirators grin and dancing golden eyes. He stood next to a much younger Violet, caught in the act of mussing her shoulder length ebony hair, to her obvious complaint; she glared at her friend with ferocity, her forehead scrunched up, in the middle of some chiding remark, not even looking at the camera. He had windswept hair framing his roguish grin, in a deep, glossy brown, and evenly tanned skin. His laughing eyes looked directly into the camera lens, as he made a peace sign with his left hand, filled with natural confidence. A Gardevoir stood behind them, tittering into her hands. The three were framed by a deep blue expanse of sky, somewhere in the wilds of Kanto.

    "His full name is Daniel Knight. I was an only child, but he had a lot of siblings. His house was never boring. Mr. and Mrs. Knight practically raised me, since Dad was always working. My happiest memories took place in their home. That picture is three years old, give or take…I was thirteen at the time."

    "How did he die?" Indigo asked quietly, for the first time. He thought she wasn't going to answer him at first. She shifted, hugging her knees to her chest, and Indigo noticed she'd taken off her shoes; her toes scrunched up in the sand. When she spoke her voice was quiet.

    "He got hit with an attack in the middle of a battle. I was there, but I couldn't…" she broke off with obvious pain, her arms tightening around her legs. "That was two years ago, in Saffron City. I couldn't stay there, not after…I went to Pewter City to live after his funeral. I never really made any friends there…I guess I didn't want to. Until I met you, I barely spoke to anyone at all."

    "I'm sorry," Indigo said, and meant it from the bottom of his heart. He returned the photo, and she tucked it into her yellow backpack without a word. The shifting fire light played over her face, half hidden by her hair, and Indigo was struck with a horrible realization that sent cold rushing down his gut, and a stab of true pain through his chest. "You've been crying," Indigo whispered hopelessly, his guilt multiplying until he felt as though he could drown in it. "By Layla's blood…Violet, I'm sorry, I truly am. I was terribly unfair earlier, but please know it had nothing to do with you. I've been moody and irritable, and I took it out on you instead of dealing with it properly. I am the world's dumbest idiot."

    Violet shook her head, her hair hiding her face completely, refuting his words. "No, no, it wasn't your fault…I just remembered some stuff I shouldn't have, and it made me sad. It's good that I'm sad…cause it means I'll never forget him. I just wish that…things could have been different, that's all-!"

    Her shoulders shook, and Indigo knew she was crying again in earnest. He swore under his breath, casting his eyes out at the camp. He rose swiftly, making a quick circuit of their belongings, snagging a few items as he passed. He draped a camp blanket over her shoulders, and pressed a small pack of tissues into her hands. "Thank you," she murmured, her voice muffled as she pulled the blanket around her chin. She stared moodily into the flames, tears spilling from her eyes, red-nosed but strangely cozy looking, like an adorable animal wrapped in an over-large towel.

    Indigo didn't know what to say, so he moved quickly instead, keeping himself occupied by putting a pot over the fire, making a batch of hot chocolate with expert precision. To his surprise, Indigo found he truly enjoyed cooking, even simple things. It was something he'd never really had an interest in before meeting Violet. He watched the bubbling pot of cocoa intently, stirring it occasionally with a wooden spoon, glad that Violet's definition of 'travel essentials' had included hot cocoa. He shaved off a few thin sheets of actual chocolate from a bar in her bag, adding them to the instant mix. He still felt terrible, as he poured the cocoa into two metal cups. He handed one to Violet wordlessly; she took it, her tears having run their course, though she kept the blanket huddled around her shoulders.

    "I'm sorry," she whispered, sipping from her cup and not looking at him. "I haven't cried over him in a long time."

    "Violet, you never need to be sorry for having a heart," Indigo refuted her simply, taking a seat once more. "It means you're still alive. And we're not going to Saffron City. I'm truly sorry to have brought you pain. I'm a bit out of practice when it comes to dealing with people…as you've no doubt noticed."

    "Me too," Violet laughed. She hiccupped, and flushed bright red, looking as though she wanted to melt into her blanket, and Indigo chuckled. "It isn't funny," she insisted, hiccupping again in the middle of her sentence to his amusement. She sipped her steaming drink haughtily. "But you're wrong. I think it's time I stopped running away. Besides, there's someone in Saffron City I need to go back for. It's…sort of a long story."

    "I understand those," Indigo acknowledged, looking at his inhuman paws with chagrin. "And speaking of…if you aren't too tired, that is…there's one I've promised to tell, if you'd like to listen."

    Her head snapped up, and Violet looked at him with wide, and suddenly alert eyes. "I'm not tired," she breathed earnestly. "I can listen for a while."

    "I won't finish the whole thing in one sitting," Indigo warned her, narrowing his eyes. "…but I can get through about half, I'd say. Things start out well, but don't expect them to stay that way."

    Violet smiled, a simple expression of happiness that warmed even his heart with its purity. She turned towards him expectantly, arranging her dragon egg in her lap beneath its warm self-heated blanket, making herself comfortable. Indigo's mouth twitched at how seriously he was being taken, and wondered if he could even tell his story properly.

    But then, beginnings were easy, and it wasn't hard to speak of how everything had started. Things had been simpler. He'd been a little naïve, and a lot farther out of his depth than he'd realized at the time. And remembering those beautiful spring days, before everything had literally burned down around him, was more of a comfort than he'd realized.

    If he began with those days, started the story at the very beginning instead of confessing his darkest moments right away…if he explained everything properly, sparing no details, perhaps he could bear it.

    Indigo looked into the cheerful flames of the campfire, and began.

    "It was about spring, when things began. I was seventeen years old. My mother raised me herself, but passed away the year prior due to an illness. I lived alone, but the people of my city were my family. They were moms' friends, and after she died, they were aunts and uncles, a huge extended family that I took for granted. I lived in a town called Karraket, over three hundred years ago. Things were peaceful, before he showed up…"

    ~o~
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  20. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

    So, before I start the review proper, I should tell you that there's a forum help guide/FAQ topic right here. It can tell you everything you need to know about posting here. It sounds like you're just using the quick reply feature at the bottom of the page, but hitting "Go Advanced" will pull up the more advanced reply window, which also lets you preview your posts. All you need to do to spoiler something is put spoiler tags around them.

    HTML:
    [SPOIL]Your text here[/SPOIL]
    But, yeah, just consult that topic. It's got all the how-to's in it.

    Ch 14
    *sees chapter title* We're gonna have fun with this one!

    I dunno. Considering how the opening chapter went, hearing Indigo say this feels... absurdly cheesy. Like, he's seen a bunch of death and destruction. And after everything in Cerulean Cave he's acting like Ditto's some sort of Kaiju. I just don't buy it, personally. Unless he's being overdramatic, in which case it might do to add in something to that effect.

    Violet's plan is interesting. Probably not for the reasons intended, though. It just brought to mind Cipher Admin Venus from Colosseum. Laughter as a weakness also makes me think of some sort of children's story book, but I can't remember which one specifically. But it's even better that Indigo's calling out such an asinine plan.

    oh my god

    oh my god

    oh my god

    I think the kicker there was the Indigo impression. Just, after seeing how over-the-top the Ditto battle was previously, seeing this absolute trainwreck (complete with Mr. Fin stopping to pose like he was Sonic the Hedgehog doing homing attacks) made me laugh. But there's some mood whiplash from there. And it's nice to see Violet accepting everything, even if the reasoning is a bid shoddy (b/c Mewtwo showing up just because he could screams coming out of left field). However, the narration implies time has passed, so she's had some time to think things over. There's also the promise of finally learning stuff about Indigo; which would be most welcome. And then Ho-Oh. I know Ho-Oh's not part of the confessional bit, but given its relation to the Sacred Beasts (and their appearance at the start of this thing), I have a sneaking suspicion Ho-Oh has a role to play in this story outside of being a terrible art project.

    Ch 15
    Oh boy, Violet has stage fright. Shame on you, Indigo, that's not how you work up a quiet girl's confidence. You're the worst Companion Cube ever. :p

    I was wondering what sort of trick Misty would be using to level the playing field, so to speak. And Power Split is definitely a clever method. Though Indigo should still have much higher defense compared to Surskit. But then Huntail comes in with a Super Fang and takes the wind out of Indigo's first victory. And there's actually a switch out, to boot. Feel like a lot of trainer battles don't actually do that. Though, again, seeing a Magikarp getting hyped up is just... so weird. So very, very weird. Go, Godkarp, I guess? *waves flag*

    Wait, it actually takes out the Huntail? Um, okay then. The last battle's certainly the most... spectacular. Giant whirlpool with Double Team clones standing all around it and Indigo bursting through it and shielding himself from an ensuing fireworks display. It's quite over-the-top. Almost like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry. But I'll take it as a good thing.

    And then suddenly Lance! Who comes baring... way too many presents, if I'm honest. I don't know, I'm conflicted because it seems like a massive power boost for Violet, as far as her team goes. Those TM's are probably quite good, I'm willing to bet the egg is a Dratini (an Extreme Speed Dratini?), and I swear Red's gift is a Key Stone (or Lucarionite?). But, on the other hand, it's about time they actually reward a little girl who helps them out greatly (because that barely happens in the games proper until Gen VII, and even then it's sketchy). And your Lance is pretty in-character with how stoic it is. Especially his Dragonite dope smacking Indigo. That was great.

    Ch 16
    Well, things get more emotional here, that's for sure. I'm going to say Indigo was a bit... irrational at the start of the chapter. Given the way the fifteenth chapter ended, it seems a bit jarring for him to snap back into this angry, impatient version of himself. Because it had seemed like the Cerulean experience had humbled him a bit. I think you might've done with some sort of statement, either at the end of last chapter or the beginning of this one, saying what Violet's plan is and Indigo getting a bit upset that it doesn't involve going right to the gym. Because, as it reads, it's kind of like he's throwing a petulent little temper tantrum. Violet seems like the more mature one in their argument, with Indigo storming off. And then it lapses into a bit of self-loathing. It's interesting to see the part with Daniel, to be sure. But, I think there may have been better ways to introduce it than having Indigo fly off the handle and come back to a crying Violet. It just seemed a bit too out of left field for me, personally speaking. Especially since it now seems like he's back to playing his past close to his vest, so to speak.
     

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