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~ Choice and Consequence ~

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by purple_drake, Feb 20, 2007.

  1. purple_drake

    purple_drake E/GL obsessed

    A/N: Gah. I wish someone would find the cure for procrastination, maybe this would've been out sooner :p

    So. Welcome, one and all, to the rewrite of 'Choice and Consequence'. I'm assuming that anyone here has already read the prequel, Heart of the Magma, and if you haven't, you'd better get to it - it's pretty much required reading. You probably could get away with not reading it if you really wanted to, but it provides a *lot* of background info.

    Disclaimers are also the same as HotM - I don't own Pokemon (obviously) and I credit Coronis with some of the manga-based names.

    (3/08/08): This story's rating has been upped to PG-15, mostly for language, but if anyone has anything to say about the rating at any time, feel free.

    And now, on we go.



    I hate him. I hate them. What they’re doing is wrong; it will come to nothing but chaos. They worship death, they worship sorrow, they worship—

    —the fire, the land, they worship blazing anger, fury, instead of cool reason, instead of calmness. They can fight it all they want, but it won’t change the facts: that all life depends on water, on the ocean, without it—

    —we would all be destroyed, because there would be no life without the land. It’s where we live, it’s what supports us, it gives us food and shelter and comfort. But the ocean… all it does is take life, without form, without meaning, all it does is kill…

    …they talk like the land is a living thing, like it watches over us and makes sure we’re provided for, but the truth is that it doesn’t care. It takes away what we need most when we need it, makes its forms difficult to travel, hard to farm. The ocean’s moods may change, but the land is unfeeling. He’s—

    —insane, to think that the world can survive on water; insane to think—

    —that they could actually succeed. That’s why—

    —I have to stop him, no matter what. Because his dream is foolish.

    Because it would kill us all.
    Last edited: May 29, 2009
  2. purple_drake

    purple_drake E/GL obsessed

    ~ I ~


    Huh? Ross turned, startled, water sloshing against the streamlined hull of his boat at his aborted motion to pole off from the cobblestone-lined edge of the canal. Absently he brushed at his hair, the long wings of his fringe threatening to lash in his eyes with the crisp breeze that ruffled his red-and-white shirt and dark trousers.

    A moment later he grinned; down the footpath he saw his friend Keegan dodging the morning pedestrians with muttered, breathless apologies, her sneakers pounding on the flagstones and cherry-blonde hair bouncing around her neck, her firestone pendant flashing in the sun. At her heels an orange-and-black growlithe bounded happily, the white tufts of fur on his head and beneath his chin rustling in the wind, and behind him—panting, small paws beating the stone relentlessly—was a brown eevee, looking bedraggled and tired.

    “Well, hurry up then!” Ross called out cheerfully, stilling the gentle rock of his boat with the slim pole he had in one hand, flicking up the round brim of his hat with the other.

    Minutes later he pushed off the edge again with a scrape of wood on stone, Keegan stretching her legs out beneath the slatted seats before her with a groan at her aching muscles, her face still red with exertion. At her side, the growlithe had his bright paws on the edge, shaggy head peering down into the clear water, and the eevee was sprawled, wheezing almost theatrically, on the seat ahead of her trainer, short legs outstretched.

    The breeze was even cooler on the water but not uncomfortably so, refreshing them as it caught their clothes and fur, and Keegan let out a long breath, visibly relaxing on the short bench. “So, to what do I owe your company?” Ross asked brightly as he poled the boat along with smooth motions.

    “Three guesses,” Keegan muttered belligerently, leaning back on her elbows with her bangs shading her eyes.

    Ross winced in understanding. “Ah. My company is preferable to your foster parents’.” It wasn’t a question, so Keegan’s only answer was a snort that made both her pokémon flick their ears towards her in knowingness and frustration.

    Everyone who knew Keegan and her family knew the problems that she and her guardians had. They were very protective people and she had a tendency to be reckless; as a result they clashed with each other on a great many issues, especially where the ocean was concerned. Keegan, having been found adrift quite aways from Alto Mare after a particularly violent storm, had an acute phobia for being in deep water. Living on a floating city as they did, most of the recreational activities were aquatic, and therein lay the problem.

    “So what’s up?”

    “Another three guesses, and this time the first two don’t count.”

    Ah again. “The water chariot race.” Ross sighed, expertly steering the boat down a flooded alleyway, the tall stone buildings looming above them, casting shadows as the sunlight gleamed over the graceful steel railings arcing over the passage and along the empty balustrades above. “They said no.”

    Keegan’s lips twisted in frustration and resentment, her blue eyes tracking the swell of the water against the craft’s bow over her eevee’s furry back. “It’s not fair. Are they trying to keep me from having a life?”

    Another stroke, water rippling in the wake of the pole. “They’re trying to keep you from getting hurt.”

    “They’re overdoing it.” Keegan snarled angrily, then grimaced, regretting it almost immediately. Nice going, dummy, yell at the only person who’ll listen to you. “Sorry,” she muttered, sitting up and wrapping her arms around herself in the prevalent chill of the back-alleys, her sleeveless white top and grey jacket not quite shielding her from the temperature.

    “Mmm.” was Ross’ only answer, accepting her apology and encouraging her to continue. Keegan honestly didn’t know what she’d do without him; there was only so much she could rant to Hazel and Firefoot, after all, and whenever she talked to Simon she felt he always had that ‘you know they doing it for your benefit’ look in his eyes.

    “Eebui?” The former tumbled off her perch to crawl onto Keegan’s lap, black eyes huge with concern, and the girl wound her fingers into her long brown fur.

    “It’s just…” Keegan let herself trail off, her thoughts churning, stomach still tight with anger directed at her foster parents. “They never let me do anything.” She hugged the fox-like pokémon, breathing in the fresh scent of her pelt, feeling the soothing rumble of her purring beneath her arms. “I know I don’t like water and all, but I live on a damned floating city. I gotta work up a resistance to it sometime, you know? Sure, the open ocean still freaks me out, but this is different. Surfing is… it’s…” She bit her lip, not sure how, exactly, surfing was different to other water-based sports but knowing it was.

    “It’s all about control,” Ross supplied quietly, and Keegan perked up, nodding her head so fiercely that she jostled Hazel.

    “That’s it. I can control it. Swimming and boating you’re at the mercy of the waves, but surfing it’s you, your chariot and your pokémon.” Her eyes went dark and she gripped the heavy pendant at her throat, feeling its comforting warmth, red light flickering in its depths.

    Ross felt he should say something, but didn’t know what; instead he settled for another “Mmm”, his strokes long and even, shadows dappling over them as they coasted beneath another of the wrought-iron arches and back into the sunlight of an open canal.

    For a long time they were all silent, enjoying the brisk wind, the lap of water on the smooth hull and the glide of the other boats as they passed, the soft chatter of voices—both human and pokémon—on the broad cobbled streets.

    “Ross…” Keegan spoke up finally, head bowed, stroking Hazel almost absently.


    “Can I…” she faltered, hesitant, as though what she was about to ask was beyond the lines of friendship, and with a sudden twist of his stomach Ross thought he knew what she was going to say. When she confirmed his suspicions it was in a rush of words, turning half around to watch him out of the corner of her eye. “Can I borrow Wailmer and take your place in the water chariot race tomorrow?”

    Even though he was half expecting it Ross’ chest clenched, and for a few moments he said nothing, the wide brim of his hat shading his face. It wasn’t that he was especially looking forward to the race—although he was, you could almost say that chariot-racing was his vice—it was that, in some ways, he agreed with Keegan’s parents. He did think they should let her off a little more than they did, but disobeying them in such a way wouldn’t help the situation.

    Keegan apparently took his silence for refusal, because she turned around fully, her blue eyes wide and anxious. “I mean—I know you practice a lot for them and you want to redeem your loss from the open race a while back—but it’s not like it won’t come again and you’ve got so many of the pendants we can hardly see the walls of your room anymore—” Her tone was quick, babbling, almost… desperate.

    It was that, more than anything, which decided him, that and the mental image of her whipped-puppy expression if he really did rebuff her. He sighed, wishing—not for the first time—that he had the strength to say no.

    “Alright,” he conceded, and the way that her face lit up beneath her red-blonde hair, a beam spreading across her thin features, her eyes sparkling, almost made it all worth it right then and there.

    * * *​

    When the next day came Keegan was abuzz with energy, feeling drained and tired from a sleep interrupted by excitement and worry but still far too hyped to be brought down by it for long.

    Even worse was the fact that Miriam expected her to help in the library that morning—the books needed constant care to make sure the salt water didn’t damage them. That meant that Keegan had to face her guardians with an appropriately disappointed expression when her stomach was twisting itself into knots out of excitement and fear that they would discover her plans.

    A part of her did suggest that perhaps she explain and tell them she was entered, and perhaps manage to convince them to let her enter by virtue of obligation, but she squashed it.

    They wouldn’t let me. They’d never let me do something so ‘reckless’ and ‘irresponsible’. They’re so afraid of me getting hurt that they barely even let me breathe

    It was going to be close, at any rate. They needed to get to the library, then Keegan needed to get away for a few minutes to escape, then she needed to fight the crowd to the starting location—the races were popular, and the canals were always packed—so she didn’t have all that much time.

    Fortunately she was in the middle of emptying out some boxes from the back room; that meant she could turn on the television to make it sound like she was in there, sneak out the window and be gone. Miriam wasn’t likely to check on her all that often, and by the time she did, it would be too late.

    So deep was she in laying her plans that Keegan hardly even noticed when the reached the broad marble steps of the library, leading in a shallow slope right down to the water front. The wide canal was already speckled with a few bystanders, lingering in the shade of the few small trees nearby, since the race would pass through that point.

    In fact, she didn’t notice anything until Miriam’s concerned voice interrupted her thoughts. “Keegan…”

    Keegan jumped, startled, and lifted her head to meet Miriam’s worried brown eyes. The woman had paused in the motion of opening the tall doors, but Keegan hadn’t been paying attention. “Uh huh?” she asked, trying not to look guilty and feeling even more so with Firefoot and Hazel pressing up against her bare legs.

    For a moment Miriam just looked at her, her plump face framed by short brown curls. “You know we’re not trying to hurt you,” she said quietly, and Keegan’s stomach clenched with familiar, tired aggravation.

    Why does this keep coming up? she thought wearily. I just want it all to be over. I’m tired of fighting. Maybe when they see I can handle myself they’ll stop trying to restrict me so much.

    “I know,” she answered instead, not entirely sure how convincing she sounded.

    It must have been good enough, though, because Miriam only regarded her for a moment more before giving a short nod, her cheeks dimpling with a tiny smile. “I’m sure you’ll find plenty of time to watch Ross on the local channel anyway, hmm?” she teased, and Keegan went red.

    “Of course I will,” she answered, determinedly not responding to the jibe. Ross was only her friend, but Miriam and her uncle Simon kidded her relentlessly about the fact that her closest human companion was a guy.

    Unwillingly she trailed her chuckling foster mother into the mosaic floor of the entryway before departing and making her way through the looming shelves to the tiny storeroom right in the back, her pokémon at her heels. Once there she closed the wooden door and leaned back against it, taking deep breaths against nausea, shutting her eyes and trying to will away the stuffiness of the room. Oh, I wish I hadn’t had breakfast.

    She felt Firefoot’s weight against the backs of her legs and took comfort in it, his long fur tickling her skin.

    Right. I can do this. Another deep breath.

    “Eebuu.” Gracefully Hazel leapt onto the low cabinet just across the way, squeezed against the wall between boxes and shelves, and pawed at the small antique TV, which flickered to life. The sound made Keegan’s eyes flutter open and she swallowed.

    “Okay. Let’s go.”

    As one unit they moved to the high, round window on the outside wall, paws and shoes soft on the faded carpet. Keegan heaved Firefoot up to the top of the rickety bookcase in front of it, steadying the shelves until the growlithe had nosed open the latch and moved onto the round windowsill. Hazel was next, following Firefoot onto the slight ledge ringing the building just outside, and Keegan came last, pulling the window closed behind her, feeling a glimmer of amusement as she imagined Miriam entering the office to find it empty, with no sign of how she had left.

    Okay, so Miriam probably wouldn’t wonder, but it was a funny image, and Keegan needed the distraction. Badly.

    Within seconds they were all back on cobblestone, in the shadow of the buildings and with the damp of the canal alongside, hurrying down the narrow lane towards the open street ahead.

    Behind them, the television blared to an empty room.

    Anxiously Ross scanned the multi-coloured crowd, absently giving his wailmer more slack when the rubbery round pokémon tugged impatiently on the leash, eager to be off. It’s almost time… if she’s not here soon… he trailed off, not sure how to the end the sentence before his subconscious decided for him.

    If she’s not here soon, maybe it was for the best.

    Violently he shook his head, his long bangs flapping around his face. Can’t think like that. She’s already feeling oppressed, what’ll she do if she finds out I half agree with them?

    A deep, echoing rumble from Wailmer made Ross turn, and to his relief he saw Firefoot bound out of the crush of the people, tongue lolling happily. Hazel squeezed her way past two legs, looking ruffled, with Keegan on her heels, muttered apologies on the girl’s lips.

    Keegan’s shoes were off almost before she’d reached the brown-haired young man, and he pressed a hand to her shoulder, leaning in to whisper, “Good luck,” as he pushed the handle into her hands, backing away from the edge before he had a chance to register or act upon the lingering pang of doubt.

    If he had seen Keegan’s face right then, he might have pulled out after all. Oh God, I can’t believe I’m going to do this…

    Gingerly she stepped onto the slick, streamlined chariot, the black matting rough beneath her bare feet, and almost tipped over there and then as the vessel rocked. Her heart leapt to her throat and her arms windmilled slightly as she fought to keep her balance, splashing water up the curb; but Wailmer knew his stuff, gently pulling the line taut until she could steady herself.

    Before she knew it she was at the starting banner, staring down into the clear water, at the smooth bottom fragmented by the gentle waves. I really am doing this.

    I think I should have thought about this more…

    No way. If you’d thought about it, you would’ve backed out. Coward.

    She took a deep, steadying breath, feeling the insane urge to giggle at her internal monologue. That was how she always worked things out: as though there was two of her.

    Right now one was saying she was insane and that she wasn’t so prideful as to pull out.

    The other was revelling at the cool breeze in her plaited hair, at the gentle rock of the chariot, the slight twinges of satisfaction when she kept her balance easily. I’m sticking with my decision. I’m going to find out just how good I am. That’s good. It has to be good, right?

    If only her foster parents knew that Ross had been teaching her to surf. All at night, of course, so no one would know, and far away from their house; and of course it wasn’t anywhere near at racing speed, but still. She had learned. She knew what she was doing.

    That’s right. I know what to do. Everything’s going to be fine. Fleetingly she touched her pendant for good luck, casting a sidelong glance at the crowd, where she caught Ross’ bright red-and-white shirt in the front and an equally bright orange-and-black figure sitting restlessly next to a brown one at her friend’s feet.

    The xatu crowed.

    Keegan’s heart leapt.

    With an abrupt surge they were in motion, Keegan’s plaited hair lashing in the wind, her breath caught away by the speed and chill of the spray which drenched her, the chariot vibrating beneath her feet as the sidelines flashed past on either side. Oh God I’m going to fall I can’t believe I’m doing this—

    The chariot wobbled and her stomach twisted, automatically moving to compensate and losing speed as someone cut in front of her. Don’t think. Don’t think. Just do it.

    She regained her balance, her skin already numbed by the damp chill and the resistance of the air, her ears filled with the distant roar of wind and cheers. Ahead the dimmed entrance into the alleys loomed, and in an instant they swept into the cool shade, casting splashes of water up against grey stone as they passed in a flash of gleaming red and yellow.

    Humming absently, Miriam picked up the stack of old books she’d just sorted from the shelves, groaning a little under their weight. She had to check them regularly; the older books were more susceptible to the dampness of the salt air, so once they passed a certain age they had to be shipped to the library on the mainland. It was Keegan’s job to pack and unpack boxes—she seemed to enjoy being secreted away where no one could see her, surrounded by the smell of paper.

    I can just take a gander at the television while I’m there, too, Miriam mused, weaving her way expertly among the narrow paths of the main library. Simon said Marlin was going to enter this race. What those men see in it, I’ll never know… but I suppose it’s better than gambling on those ponyta races on the mainland…

    As she came to the door she heard the tinny sound of the TV and smiled, her suspicions confirmed. Keegan never missed watching a race if she could help it; Miriam had given up trying to get her interested in something else. She’s worse than that confounded brother-in-law of mine. Little fox indeed. Using her elbow, she managed to lever open the door, expecting to catch her foster daughter darting guiltily towards an open box to pretend that she hadn’t been slacking off to watch the race.

    What she saw was an empty room.

    Startled, for a moment she just blinked around, automatically moving to set the pile of books down on the round table in the centre of the cluttered study.

    “—definitely some fierce competition in the ranks today, perhaps due to former champion Ross’ last-minute withdrawal. Now we’ve got neighbourhood favourites vying to snatch up the title he finally lost in the open race just two months ago, but his replacement’s turning out to be fair competitor herself…”

    What? Ross withdrew?
    Miriam whirled towards the television, the mystery of Keegan’s disappearance momentarily forgotten. Everyone knew how much Ross loved the water chariot races.

    What she saw made her freeze with shock, her eyes widening incredulously as the camera zoomed in on the contestant who had apparently taken Ross’ place. Even as distorted with spray as the image was, the lashing blonde hair, denim shorts and cut-off shirt were all too recognisable.


    As she watched, the chariots sped around a tight corner, throwing up water, the riders leaning in on the turn. Keegan hauled on the leash, turning sharply and then drawing in the opposite direction with enough speed to cut in front of the person not far in front of her, making the seadra pull back in alarm and sending its trainer head-over-heels into the water.

    She’s pretty good, Miriam noted numbly, in some distant corner of her mind which understood—you didn’t live on a floating city without picking up some kind of an appreciation for aquatic sports, after all, no matter how much she bemoaned it.

    But the rest of her—most of her—was clenched in fear and disbelief. Oh, God, she’s afraid of water, she’s going so fast, what happens if she falls or hits her head or one of them runs over her—

    They say that karma has a sense of humour, but laughter was the last thing on Miriam’s mind when, to her horror, she saw the grainy image of her foster daughter meet briefly with the curb. The vessel was sent spinning out of control, rocking violently and throwing a stumbling Keegan off, right into the deepest centre of the wide canal.

    Keegan’s hand was dead, her arm was aching, her ears were numb, her feet chafed, her legs stiff and her entire body exhilarated as she burst out of the final closed alley, the sun a flash of warmth that was lost in the prevalent cold of the wind beating against her. We’re in the last stretch, come on, we can do this!

    Squinting through the spray and lash of hair in her eyes she could see the figure of another competitor just in front of her and to the right, a young man in whose wake she’d been riding for half the race. I’ll have to take care of that.

    As they approached a turn she pulled on the leash, guiding Wailmer to cut the corner as near as she dared, and her feet tickled with vibrations as the chariot scraped the edge.

    But she didn’t have time to be afraid of unbalancing, because that was when she leaned in the opposite direction, the chariot dipping in the backwash of water, the weight of air pushing her down as they cut in front of the scaly seadra’s nose. Keegan just caught the seahorse’s surprised expression before they pulled ahead, her spare arm jerking in the air as she strove to catch her balance from the stunt, her heart pounding in her throat and cheeks aching from her fixed, exultant grin.

    Final turn, there we go, then it’s up the home stretch—

    There were still people in front of her but she was having far too much fun to care, even though her body was itchy with the salt and wind and complaining against the drag of air resistance.

    She hadn’t quite gotten her stability back before the bend was right there, closer than she’d thought it was, and with a muffled oath she pulled on the leash to turn—

    Too fast!

    The chariot slanted, threatening to dump her against the ledge, and she desperately tried to correct herself. Obediently Wailmer swerved away from the edge, but as a result of the speed and angle the chariot careened back across the water, its curved side hitting the corner.

    The chariot was sent spinning out of control into the middle of the channel and the leash wrenched out of Keegan’s hand, making her world tilt. For a moment all she could see was sky, the mat rough beneath her feet and arms windmilling wildly as she instinctively fought to keep her balance, but it was too late. She hit the water with a jolting blow that made her gasp, swallowing liquid, and then it all closed over her head, her body dragged down by fatigue and shock.

    A second later panic kicked in. OhGodcan’tbreathecan’tbreathecan’tbreathe—

    She thrashed, terrified, clutching at the light which shone in fragmented swirls on the surface, buffeted by the underwater backlash of passing chariots. Goingtodiedon’tletmedrown—

    Something blue and round came up beneath her, bumping against her suddenly. Wordlessly she shrieked, clawing at whatever was there, unable to realize that it was just Wailmer, patiently absorbing her assault and trying to nudge her towards the surface, but her flaying about just sent her further away from the pokémon.

    There was a soundless whump of water, casting them apart; then something strong gripped her around her shoulders, pulling her upwards until her head broke the surface with a sobbing gasp. One hand instinctively seized a muscular arm with an iron grip, held tightly against a broad chest and alternatively coughing and crying. Her ears rang distantly with shouts and cheers, her body numbed and exhausted from adrenaline rush. By the time they’d reached the side—how had that happened?—she had calmed down to huge, shaky breaths.

    “Keegan!” Ross was suddenly there, pushing through the crowd, his brown eyes worried as she gripped the side, revelling in the solid feel of crumbly stone against her thin body. Hazel all but danced in front of her, keening anxiously, her white ruff looking bedraggled in the dampness.

    “Here you go, little fox,” a familiar voice grunted, and abruptly hands heaved her up and over the edge as she scrambled for the cobblestone. Ross caught her, already wrapping a faded towel around her trembling shoulders, Firefoot whining deep in his throat as he licked her salty arm. Dazedly Keegan looked towards the canal in time to see a bearded bear of a man haul himself onto the sidewalk with a grunt, his blue tank top clinging to him wetly and water pouring off him with tiny splashes.

    Marlin, she registered dimly. Hazily she noted the overturned chariot bobbing in the centre of the canal, Wailmer’s round top visible over the edge of the curb, and the lithe blue golduck sitting on a second upright blue-and-green chariot, still with harness straps across its chest.

    That’s when everything that had happened sank in, and she looked numbly around at the few concerned onlookers, at the distant, cheering crowd near the tall banner some distance up the way, vaguely listening to Ross’ platitudes and self-recriminations.

    Oh. I’m going to be in so much trouble.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2008
  3. purple_drake

    purple_drake E/GL obsessed

    Keegan was sitting at the kitchen table with her head lowered miserably, her wet hair hanging limply around her thin face, loosened by the wind from its plait, half curled on the chair. She was still a little damp, but when Firefoot had dolefully dragged her favourite blanket down from her room she hadn’t passed up its comfort, wrapping herself up in it and drawing her legs up to her chest. It was a deep purple, with a woven filigree border of silver tangled around the same-coloured silhouettes of the many existing gym badges, and it’d been a present for her first birthday on Alto Mare.

    Firefoot had settled himself on the tiled floor beside her wooden chair, nestled in the folds that draped to the ground, while Hazel was sitting on the table, alternatively glancing towards the slightly rickety stairs leading to the second floor and watching her mistress. Peter and Miriam were up there now, talking to decide her fate.

    Well, maybe that was a little overdramatic, but Keegan felt she deserved being dramatic. Her life was one big drama and always had been, from the time that Pete and Simon had discovered her floating in the ocean to when she’d woken up with no memory of who she was and with only her firestone pendant—and Hazel—to her name, to now, restricted by her foster parents based on some stupid idea that she couldn’t handle herself.

    I was handling myself just fine, she fumed without much heat at all, too tired and despondent to work up the energy.

    Right up until you fell in the water, the other part of herself which held no illusions pointed out, and Keegan laid her head miserably on her knees.

    Oh, shut up, was all she could think of to say. I don’t want to hear it. I’m tired of hearing it. I just want to get out…

    Oh, stop being so self-pitying. You knew what the consequences would be when you entered. You didn’t actually expect to
    win, did you?

    Keegan sniffled, making Hazel’s ears flick worriedly and Firefoot look up with a whine deep in his throat. Well, no, but it would’ve been nice. Would’ve made the punishment easier to bear.

    Oh, I get it. So as long as you get something good out of it you’re fine, but as soon as the slightest bad thing happens, you give up, is that right?

    Keegan twitched. She was not giving up… was she? She just wanted to rest a little… rest from all the fights and accusations and resistances…

    “But I’m the one who’s resisting, aren’t I?” she whispered.

    “Bubui,” Hazel mewed dismally, pawing at her blonde hair, curling with the damp as it dried.

    “Do you think I should just give in, Hazel?” Keegan asked without moving, her arms wrapped around her legs and face half obscured by soft fabric of the blanket. “Stop arguing, and just accept that I’m never going to get anywhere?”


    Hazel’s reply was so loud that it made Keegan jump, looking up at her bristling eevee with wide eyes. “Is that a no?” the girl asked shakily, and Hazel’s ears flapped as she stamped the tabletop firmly with one paw.

    “Graawll…” A glance down at Firefoot showed his usually dopey-eyed expression was one of earnest seriousness, and despite herself Keegan smiled; wanly, perhaps, but truly.

    That’s a no.

    Feeling a little calmer with such steadfast support behind her, Keegan glanced back towards the stairs, the light from the globe in the middle of the ceiling casting shadows over her face. The door beneath the stairs which opened onto the street was closed, but she knew it was getting nearer to sunset because of the glass sliding doors behind her, leading out onto the boat-deck. They lived on the very edge of the city, so their house was half on the water.

    It wasn’t long after the race had ended then did Miriam storm up the pavement, furious and terrified, and it was that obvious terror which made Keegan want to curl up and die with guilt, especially when Miriam fussed and cried over her first rather than chew her out.

    Ross had wanted to come back with her to take some of the blame, but Keegan wouldn’t let him; it was her idea, her fault, and she didn’t think she could bear having what promised to be the biggest row they’d ever had in front of her best friend.

    Marlin had come, though, maybe to give witness, maybe to give damnation, but it didn’t matter and he hadn’t stayed long, just talking quietly to Pete for a few minutes before leaving.

    Ross had managed to tell her—while Miriam was thanking the bearded fisherman fervently—that as soon as Marlin had seen her he’d fallen back and stayed on her tail for the whole of the race, even though he’d had plenty of opportunities to pass and possibly take the lead.

    The knowledge only made her feel guiltier.

    Guilt is going to get you nowhere, that voice spoke up again, the one that Ross had affectionately dubbed ‘the little fox’ when she’d told him about it. It was the one which always encouraged her to do reckless or sneaky things, which, she assumed, was what earned her the nickname in the first place. You made your decision, and Marlin made his. Just be glad he was there and get over it.

    That’s right,
    Keegan realized with a blink. I made my decision. I stuck with it. Even though I’m going to cop so much from Miriam and Pete, I’m willing to deal with the consequences. How can that be bad? It’s hard, maybe, but not bad.

    You’re learning.

    Hazel’s ear twitched and a second later Keegan heard the sound of a door closing softly upstairs, followed by two pairs of footsteps. She took a deep, slightly shaky breath, uncurling herself from the chair and stretching her deadened limbs, letting the blanket fall against the back.

    It was bad. I was scared. But it could have been worse, and now I know my limits for sure. I don’t want to fight. I’ll handle this like an adult, and maybe they’ll see…

    But when her foster parents reached the first floor, Keegan found herself unable to look either of them in the eye, instead staring down at the rough wood of the table.

    “Keegan,” Pete said in his quiet voice, and the girl flinched, gripping the edges of the seat. “We want you to know that we’re disappointed. We thought you had more sense than that, and we trusted you—”

    Excuse me? “You never did!” Keegan blurted, her head snapping up before she remembered her vow to handle this like an adult and clapped a hand over her mouth. “Sorry,” she whispered, her stomach twisting when she saw Miriam’s shocked, tearful expression, her face red with crying.

    Pete just looked tired, his face lined and roughened with years of sailing, and the purple aipom sitting on his shoulder cocked his head, throwing a warning look at an alert Hazel. “We trusted you,” Pete repeated, “To know your limits and to trust that we know what’s best for you—”

    Keegan couldn’t help it. “But I don’t!” she burst out, and Miriam flinched before Keegan realized what it sounded like. “I mean my limits,” the girl added quickly, managing to force her voice into a lower tone. “How can I ever know what my limits are unless I test them first?” Pete frowned and opened his mouth to answer, his aipom staring, but Keegan took a deep breath and rushed on before he could do so. “You say you trust me, but you’ve never given me a chance to see what I can do. All we know is that I’m scared of water because of something that happened a long time ago—how am I meant to know if I can handle myself now unless I do something about it?”

    “But you didn’t!” Miriam said shrilly. “Marlin said you were panicking—drowning—you could have died, Keegan, you would have died if he hadn’t been there!”

    “But now I know,” Keegan said passionately. “Now I know what I can and can’t do, instead of just assuming that things are the same as they were!”

    “Keegan,” Pete said quietly in That Voice, the one which proved that he was the dominant one of the marriage, no matter how controlling Miriam appeared to be. “If you know what your limits are, then what do you intend to do about them?”

    Keegan fell silent, staring in his direction in thought but not at him, which brought the aipom into view, his tail whisking this way and that behind Pete’s back. “I… would…”

    “Would you continue to do reckless things, like riding in the chariot races, even though it’s clear how dangerous it is?”

    Keegan’s cheeks flamed before she could stop them, because that’s exactly what she had in mind. She didn’t want to just sit down and accept that she had a fear, she wanted to conquer it.

    Pete nodded. “I see.”

    “But what’s so wrong about that?” Keegan demanded, a lump beginning to start in her throat. She thought she’d be doing so well at keeping herself calm, but she was beginning to lose it. This was going to turn out like all those other times. “What’s wrong… with wanting to get over something?”

    “It’s too dangerous, little fox!” Miriam cried, gripping her husband’s arm tightly as though for support, and Keegan felt a flash of anger at the nickname.

    Don’t call me that—you’re not my parents—you don’t have to right—

    Swiftly the girl clamped down on her instinctive, furious response, swallowing hard against frustrated tears.

    “You can’t go out looking for danger, that just makes you foolish!” The woman’s voice turned pleading, watery, and Pete patted her plump hand reassuringly.

    “It’s that fact which proves you’re not mature enough to make those kinds of decisions for yourself,” he said grimly.

    “That’s not true!” Keegan leaped out of the chair, making it squeal on the tiles and Firefoot jump up in surprise before it tumbled over him. “It’s—it’s different! It’s—”

    It’s a matter of opinion, ‘little fox’ supplied. That is, if you have the skill and power to keep it from being dangerous.

    Which I don’t,
    Keegan realized with dawning horror that Miriam was right. How could she race chariots if she couldn’t handle herself when something did go wrong?

    But how can I learn to handle myself unless I race chariots?

    “It’s not just a matter of maturity,” Pete cut off whatever she was going to babble next—and not even she knew what she was going to say—“But a matter of rules. You disobeyed. You always disobey, Keegan, you always go where you’re not supposed to. Remember when you tried to climb the library to clean off the windows in the attic?”


    “And what about using Simon’s fishing sloop without permission? If you’d asked, you’d have known it needed repairs.”

    “I just—”

    “Or the time you wanted to see the police training their growlithe? You almost got burned!”

    “But I didn’t!” Keegan exploded, furious, knowing that she’d probably just destroyed any credibility she might have gained in the beginning but unable to care. “I didn’t, I can’t believe you’re still going on about those things, you never let me do anything because you always think that you know best! Well, what about me?”

    “What about us?” Miriam whispered, staring at her with wide, wet eyes. “What about the people who worry about you when you almost get hurt?”

    “I’m sorry, little fox, but we’re grounding you until further notice,” Peter said quietly, but with authority.

    “Don’t call me that!” Keegan screamed, her fists clenched at her sides and tears spilling down her cheeks, knowing she was being irrational, too far gone to stop. “Don’t call me that if that’s not what you want me to be! You just want me to be some perfect daughter who’ll do whatever you say, but I’m not! I’m not like that and I’m not your daughter!”

    With that she snatched the blanket off the chair, making it topple with a crash, and fled up the stairs, Hazel and Firefoot following after her with twin keens of distress.

    Keegan lay staring up at the slanted wooden ceiling of her room, hugging her pillow to her chest, half swathed in the folds of her blanket. Firefoot was a warm, panting weight against her side and she could hear Hazel purring in her ear, curled around her head in a tangle of blonde hair.

    The girl felt completely wrung out and exhausted, and her eyes itched from crying so much. She wanted to sleep, but at the same time didn’t; what she really wanted was to do something, something to end all this.

    “I can leave,” she whispered, and Firefoot lifted his head from his paws, his ears flickering forward at the sound of her voice. “I can leave, and that way I can find out what’s going on with me.” She pushed herself up, still clutching her pillow to her lap, but her eyes now roaming the postered walls of the room as she thought. “I mean, plenty of kids go out on pokémon journeys, right? And they’re usually younger than I am. It wouldn’t be so different. And maybe it’s time to go. I’m not happy here anymore. I’m not happy not knowing…”

    Her hand drifted up to clench around the soothing weight of her firestone pendant, her eyes alighting upon the poster at the foot of her bed: an image of most of the Legendaries against a cliff-side seascape, with waves crashing on the rock, an image she’d always associated the most with freedom.

    I’m not happy not remembering.

    With an abrupt movement that signalled she’d made her decision she swung her legs off the bed, opening the door to the battered wardrobe just behind the entrance and grabbing her roomy shoulder bag off the handle. “I can’t take a lot of stuff, but if we leave anything behind we’ll be able to buy them once we out to a port,” she said quickly, half thinking, half needing to get her tension out. I can’t believe I’m doing this.

    “There should be one or two more ferries due to leave this evening, it’s not very dark yet, but we’ll have to hurry…” With practised swiftness she folded up her blanket and stuffed it into the bottom, followed by several changes of clothes and other necessities.

    Hazel and Firefoot had already caught on; within a few minutes the bag was full of the supplies they needed and Keegan was dressed in something more substantial for travelling.

    One last thing.

    She went to the low bookshelf slung across the wall opposite her bed, right beneath the long window that led out onto the street, and pulled her favourite magazines haphazardly from the ledge, spreading them out on the floor.

    I have enough room for some of them. Wish I didn’t need to leave most of them behind…

    And she wanted something to look at on the ferry to avoid looking at the ocean; it was going to be hard enough, boarding a ship, but she thought that she might be just tired enough to do it, as long as she didn’t think about it too much. It was the morning after she was worried about.

    But first she had to choose which issues of her Pokémon Journal collection she wanted to take.

    Most of them were about the Elites; she loved reading about them, not their scandals and lives like other magazines wrote about all celebrities, but their battles, their pokémon, their achievements.

    The first one was easy enough: the bonus issue on Lance the Indigo Champion. Although Keegan didn’t want to be a Pokémon Master herself, the fact that someone could reach to those kinds of heights gave her something to aspire to.

    And, if she wanted to be honest, she was a big fan for other reasons too.

    “Grrlth,” Firefoot nudged another glossy magazine over to her with a whine, and after a hesitant moment of flipping through it Keegan added it to the pile.

    Wallace hadn’t always been the Evergrande Champion, but he had taken over after Steven retired, so that meant he had to be good, right?

    And besides, he’s really philosophical. It’s like he knows all the answers. I’m having a bit of trouble with that right now…

    The last two were more difficult, but eventually she decided one of them should be the volume about Flannery. The young woman had come under a lot of fire when she became gym leader, despite the fact that her grandfather had been a member of the Elite Four in his day. It was just that a lot of people didn’t think she was competent enough for the job.

    Keegan had followed the story in every article she could find. Flannery did seem a bit bumbling and uncertain, but she was still willing and determined to do what she loved, and Keegan couldn’t help but admire her for that.

    Then she looked around at her collection in dismay, completely out of ideas. She didn’t have issues on all the Elites—although she had been planning to collect them—but the ones she had were so interesting. How was she supposed to choose between them?

    I suppose I can just take three, she thought dismally, picking one up randomly and flicking through the pages.

    Then something caught her eye and she hastily flipped backwards to where she’d seen it, coming to a brightly-coloured article and scanning through it.

    ‘—said that despite his expertise in ghost pokémon, Morty has his own special psychic ability. This, which he calls the power of ‘far seeing’, enables him to seek objects, pokémon or people and gain an impression of where they are or what condition they’re in…’

    The article went on, but Keegan’s heart skipped a beat.

    He can find things—lost things—he can point me where to go—

    Hurriedly she put the magazine on the top of the pile and stuffed them into the side of her bag; she’d finish reading the article later, but for now she had to hurry.

    And now she was filled with a new sense of excitement, of urgency; she couldn’t wait to get to Ecruteak, because finally she had something to look for, something to work towards.

    “Sorry about this, Firefoot,” she apologised, lifting his pokéball and returning him in a beam of red light just as he whined his acquiescence. Straightening up, Keegan shrank the pokéball and returned it to her belt, slinging her bag over her shoulder with a slight groan at its unexpected weight. Then she moved to the narrow window and turned the latch to push it open…

    But it didn’t move.

    For a moment Keegan stared. You’ve got to be kidding. She rattled it, shoved it, but nothing happened. If she hadn’t felt so exhausted she probably would have cried again; as it was she felt her chest getting tight. “What… how did they find out?”

    Hazel didn’t even get a chance to answer what could have been a rhetorical question, because that’s when the door opened with a creak and Keegan whirled around, eyes wide and wild, automatically hiding her bag behind her back.

    Simon stood for a moment in the doorway, taking in her guilty, defiant face, her clothes, the magazines still scattered on the floor.

    Then his brown eyes locked on hers and he moved into the room, shutting the door behind him with a click. “Marlin saw you,” he said quietly in his deep, grating voice, not seeming intimidating at all despite his thickly muscled arms, his sleeveless shirt making them seem even bigger than they were. “When you snuck out last week. He was coming by to my place for the evening.”

    “Oh.” Keegan said in a small voice, completely unable to think of anything to say.

    She had a habit of slipping out at night and wandering the streets of Alto Mare to look at the stars or learn how to ride chariots from Ross. She knew Peter and Miriam did what they did because they cared about her, but that didn’t stop her from feeling confined. Being out at night, when the city was empty, helped alleviate her frustration.

    “You were really going to leave,” Simon said, his tone a thick vein of several things Keegan couldn’t recognise, and she nodded mutely.

    He smiled. “Good.”

    There was stunned silence as Keegan gaped at him, and he grinned at her expression. “I never agreed with their way of raising you. You’ve got too much spunk. You’ve always learned by making mistakes; that’s just the way you are, just like doing everything in their power to stop those mistakes from happening at all is the way my brother and Miriam is. You were never going to be happy just staying here, but they’re too focussed on trying to control you to realize it.”

    “What do I do?” Keegan asked in a small voice, clutching her bag to her side, Hazel huddled supportively at her legs.

    Simon held out his hand, revealing the tarnished key resting on his palm. After a beat of surprise Keegan took it, used it, feeling a rush of relief when the window opened. When she tried to return the key to Simon he refused, instead holding out a pokégear device which looked small in his big hand. “Call,” he said simply when she clipped it to her belt, slipping the key into one of the bag’s side pockets. “Sometime, when you feel ready.”

    “I will,” Keegan promised, but he wasn’t done yet, forcing a thick wad of notes and a ticket into her hand as she turned to leave.

    “This’ll take you to Cianwood, it’s closest,” he told her. “There’s one last ferry leaving, but you’ll have to hurry.”

    I can’t believe he’s doing all this, Keegan thought numbly, staring at the ticket, the money scrunched up in her other hand. I always thought he was on their side.

    Her daze shattered and she threw her arms around him, hugging him tightly. She was speechless with gratitude, her eyes turning wet, her throat clogged, but Simon seemed to understand, giving her a fond squeeze back. “You know they love you, little fox,” he rumbled quietly, and she nodded against his chest.

    “I know.” She pulled back and wiped her eyes, stuffing the money and the ticket into her bag as Hazel jumped up on the sill, giving a mew of farewell to the fisherman. “Goodbye, Simon.”

    Keegan scrambled out the window into the narrow alley and onto the eaves of the window below, Hazel grabbing the strap of her bag with her teeth and riding it expertly as her mistress hitched it up onto her shoulder. Without looking back, the girl clambered like an aipom down the gutter and scuttled down the street, unaware that Simon’s burly frame was filling the backlit window, watching her as she disappeared around the corner.

    I can’t leave just yet, she thought desperately, a stitch already beginning to jab into her side as she ran down the cobblestone, illuminated yellow by the setting sun. Hazel bounded at her heels, struggling to keep up but not complaining, having dropped off her impromptu ride as soon as they reached the ground. Although I’ll have to be quick—the ferry’ll need to leave the harbour before full dark.

    She didn’t want to have to explain to Ross’ dad what she was doing up at this hour, dressed like she was going on an excursion, and Ross’ balcony happened to overhang the canal in which he moored his boat; but the building in question was easy to climb and Keegan had scaled it dozens of times when she wanted to visit without their parents knowing.

    It was this technique that she used when she reached his house, chilled and shivering slightly despite the long sleeves of her top and her exertions. Within minutes she’d dropped down onto the small terrace, bathed in the yellow glow of Ross’ bedroom light, and rapped at the window, her face numbed by the breeze. Instantly Ross looked up from the book he was reading and tossed it aside, opening the glass door.

    He took in Hazel, standing on the wrought-iron balustrade, and Keegan’s bag over her shoulder. “You’re leaving,” he said, sounding regretful and withdrawn, but not questioning.

    Keegan nodded, swallowing hard against the lost expression in his brown eyes. “I have to hurry—there’s only one more ferry and I have to catch it. I’m sorry, I really am, I just—I can’t stay here—”

    Ross shook his head as though to clear it, his bangs flapping, and continued to stare at her. “I was so afraid—” he started, then cut off and took a deep, shaky breath before starting again. “I was so afraid when I saw you go into the water. And I thought—if something happened it would be my fault, because I’d let you race.”

    “That’s not true,” Keegan protested, sounding a little shrill. “I was the one who shouldn’t have asked, I was the one who entered, even though I know I’m scared of water.”

    Ross shook his head again, but this time he had a tiny smile on his lips. “Keegan,” he said with strange gentleness. “It may have been stupid, but it was also brave. You were scared and you did it anyway, because you felt you had something to prove.” Keegan flushed, and Hazel purred loudly in consensus.

    “But I couldn’t help thinking,” Ross continued. “I thought that I’d never feel so frightened about something in my life. But then I remembered… I remembered what kind of a person you are. You’re too different from your foster parents, Keegan, and I knew sooner or later something was going to give. I knew you were going to leave, only then I wouldn’t be there to help you. Even if I didn’t even do such a great job of it last time.”

    Oh, Ross!

    Keegan threw herself forward and hugged him tightly around the neck. “Don’t say that,” she said fiercely, trying not to cry. “You were great. I really needed today to happen, and you were the best friend anyone could have. I’ll miss you heaps.” Ross embraced her back, and she stayed there as long as she dared, knowing that once they parted she’d be turning away from the last remnant of her life in Alto Mare. There’d be nothing else to hold her back.

    But it was something she had to do.

    Finally she pulled back and gave him a shaky grin. “We’ll be okay,” she promised. “Haze and Firefoot will look after me.”

    “Bubui!” Hazel echoed in agreement, fluffing her tail proudly.

    Ross just smiled fondly. “I know you will,” he said simply, before giving her a slight push towards the railing. “Now get going, you have to hurry, remember?”

    Keegan backed away towards the bit of sloping roof she’d used to move onto the balcony, giving a slight wave before she disappeared past the eaves, Hazel a moving shadow at her feet.

    And then she was gone.

    Simon waited patiently on Keegan’s bed, leaning back against the wall with his head pillowed by his thick arms, staring absently at the ceiling. He knew that sooner or later Miriam would come in to try and apologise, to reconcile things, and he thought it was better that she wasn’t faced with an empty room.

    An hour and a half after Keegan had first left, not long before full night set in, he had heard the distant horn of the ferry as it departed. Something in his chest had clenched, both with hope that she’d made it before it went and a fear that he’d done the wrong thing.

    Then he remembered the look in her eyes when he held out the key, like she’d been shut in a cell all her life and just been let out to see the sky; like a treasure box, locked for ages, had just been opened.

    She needed this.

    When he heard tentative footsteps pause by the door, he was ready.

    Miriam hesitated, one hand on the knob, debating the wisdom of entering so soon after their argument; but she hated disagreements, she couldn’t stand the thought of being on the outs with someone she loved.

    And besides, when she thought back on it, she was a little proud of the way Keegan had handled herself at first—she’d tried not to yell or interrupt, and she’d said what she felt, and what she said had some merit. But in the end it just wasn’t enough, and she lost control, wasn’t able to hold on to her temper… she just wasn’t ready…

    Cautiously Miriam knocked. “Keegan?” she called, opening the door slowly to give the fox a chance to reject her entrance, but there was no answer.

    And so, for the second time that day, Miriam entered a room which was empty of the girl she’d raised as her own.

    Dismayed, having definite flashbacks to that morning, Miriam surveyed the cramped, cluttered little area, eventually coming to a rest on Simon, sitting facing her on Keegan’s rumpled bed.

    Miriam’s heart lurched. What’s going on?

    “Where—where’s Keegan?” she asked, bewildered and apprehensive, and then even more so at the serious expression on Simon’s face.

    His answer was one that made her entire chest clench and her world go rocketing out of control.

    “I let her go.” he said simply.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2008
  4. Frosted Heavens

    Frosted Heavens Crystallized Wind

    Great fic you have here^-^

    you probably don't know me bcause I never commented on any of your fics(but I read all of them, with the exception 'Brother my Brother') so I came hurrying towards this re-write of choice and consequence(it's such a fitting title, if I may say so)

    anyway, Keegan in such an adorable personna, having a phobia with being in deep water is probably a result from the storm that nearly drowned her(and killed Hank) and that she floated in the sea, close to Altomare. Her pokemon are cute as well, Hazel is so cute(people may think that it is a cliched starter, but I think it just has to be in a fic as great as this one) she's a present from


    huh? Now, I think you mentioned how she got Firefoot in your first version but I couldn't spot it in this one, but I think it's that place where she almost got burned huh? what was it again? I forgot>___<

    I'm happy Ross is such a good(and probably only) friend to Keegan, to let her go(as a friend, not the guy with the key, I think it was Simon), practice surfing with her, letting her tke his place in the chariot race, and so on^-^ and the sooooooooooooo overprotective parents is a nice return(although here they don't let the main character go)

    anyway, I adore this fic too much so I'm gonna stay reading this(that makes the fic count that I review 3^-^) good luck with this great fic and keep up the AWESOME work^-^

    see ya

    Electric Soul Fairy
  5. SnoringFrog

    SnoringFrog I kill my characters

    IT'S FINALLY BACK!!! KEEGAN!!! I haven't even read the story yet, but when I saw the title on the frist page, I completely flipped out. I thought you'd abandoned this. This story ((well, the prequel first, which immediately led me to this)) is the reason I registered at Serebii ((believe it or not, I still have your avatar from back then ingrained in my memory)). I'm happier than words can describe to see it back, now I need to stop typing this so I can actually read it again. *runs to reread HotM before starting C&C*

    Okay, finished finally. Don't realy have much to say. I loved it, but I already knew I would. I'm really glad you didn't abandon this, it was gone so long I wasn't sure what to think anymore.
  6. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    How can this have such a low rating as it does? It’s just criminal. :(

    Anyway, I’m glad to see this back again, because it’s good as frell. Characters especially; they’re nicely realized, and I can sympathize with all of them and where they’re coming from. Don’t get me wrong, though—even though I understand her foster parents’ views as well as hers, I am glad that Keegan got out of there at last. :D

    Speaking of Keegan, I just love her little internal dialogues; they’re quite entertaining to read. You really do a great job of getting into her head.

    The chariot race scene was terrific, and so was Keegan’s argument with Pete and Miriam. The latter particularly shines due to the great handling of character emotions and dialogue.

    Other highlights:

    Gorgeous. ^^

    “That Voice”. XD I love it.

    A great, powerful moment.

    I’ve got to agree with her there. X3
  7. purple_drake

    purple_drake E/GL obsessed

    Whoo, I am getting so lazy with regards to replying to people ^.^;; my bad! Sorry if my replies are a little confusing, my computer's copy and paste doesn't work, so I can't quote you for reference.

    electric soul fairy: Wow, you've read all my fics? ^.^ That made my day, thank you! I have a habit of closet reading myself, so I know you mean ;)

    I agree that cliched pokemon aren't necessarily a bad thing if they're written well; it annoys me when people dislike a fic on the basis on the pokemon being ones they believe are overused. I just use ones I like or think fit the character, OU or not.

    No, I didn't mention where she got Firefoot in this one, mostly because the story behind that was weak in the original copy and I wanted to change it, but didn't know what to change it to. Still don't, but I didn't find a good place to add in that info anyway, so it gives me a bit of time to figure it out :p

    Thanks again, and don't worry, I just can't give up on my stories, even if it takes me months to get a chapter out ^.^

    SnoringFrog: Whee, you're here! *glomps* ^.^ I'm sorry I made you think it was abandoned - I'm terrible when it comes to actually finishing stories, because I find things wrong and want to go back and rewrite them. Now I've got the experience behind me of actually finishing a chaptered story (a non-pokemon one), I feel safer in being able to get through another. Might take me a while, but I'll get there ;)

    I think you told me that you registered for my story the first time you reviewed, way back when ^.^ I still have trouble believing that, even after all this time - it's one of the nicest compliments I can think of! As a matter of curiosity, what *was* my avatar back then? I can't remember :p

    I'm really glad you enjoyed reading HotM a second time - I liked it a lot more once I'd done the rewrite too, and somehow knowing what's going to happen makes it even sadder. Hank is pretty awesome, isn't he? ^.^ I have got to write that AU.

    Oh, in your review for HotM, you mentioned a fear at one point that Hazel would've gotten too close to Keegan's firestone - I was afraid of the same thing in that scene, but in the anime, in the episode where Ash gets the oppurtunity to evolve Pikachu, Pikachu knocks the stone out of his hand with its tail. You'd think that would be enough to evolve it, but it didn't; so I figure there's got to be at least a little bit of conscious decision involved, as long as the stone isn't directly applied for long periods of time or something.

    That's my excuse, anyway :p

    Sike Saner: Hewwo! *waves* ^.^ nice to see you here! I agree, it's criminal ;) lol, actually, I've stopped paying attention to the star ratings except out of perverted curiosity. They're too easily biased, so I just ignore them. Thanks for the vote of confidence, though ^.^

    I'm a lot more pleased with the character interactions now, compared to what they were before - rereading over the old copy, it seems so much more forced than it does now. And what with Keegan actually falling into the water, I figure her parents have more than enough reason to freak out as opposed to the over-reactions of before :p

    Her internal dialogues are from semi-personal experience ;) I tend to talk to myself like that when I'm trying to psych myself into doing something, believe it or not :p

    Thanks a ton ^.^ I'm glad you like. I agree with her too, I'm a big fan of the Champions for lots of reasons ;) but anyone who looks at my sig could probably guess that *cough* so Keegan's fangirlishness is almost totally mine. *looks sheepish* And, well, I figure a teenage girl in the world of pokemon is gonna have to crush on someone, so I may as well make it someone I can easily rant about ;)
  8. SnoringFrog

    SnoringFrog I kill my characters

    It was may sitting on a rock or soemthing, with a faded picture of herself in the background, gazing at the sky, if I remember correctly. I'll see if I can find the actual pic and then I'll edit it into this post.
  9. jirachiman876

    jirachiman876 The King of Kirby

    PD!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yay!!!!!!!!! You finally put this back up. I do remember her going to Kanto in the last one and it seems now like she's going to Johto. Just speculation. I like how you changed it if you did. Pretty much the same as last time i read this cept I thought she won last time. I don't remember tis been at least a year. *glares at PD* Anway great chap and I can't wait to be reading chaps of this every friday and saturday. *hates that his internet is being cut off druing the week and sunday. Tisn't fair* Anyway, i got a lot of mistakes to give ya. I know you remember me doing this all the time no???

    that ‘you know they doing it for your benefit’
    I think it needs to be either they're or they are

    library the clean off the windows in the attic?”
    to clean not the clean I think

    to buy them once we out to a port,” she said quickly
    get out or go out

    With practised swiftness she folded up her
    Now we get to the spelling mistakes!!! You need to work on this. Practiced no s.

    Keegan couldn’t recognise
    You got the hard part of the word but the s is a z

    but they’re too focussed on trying to control you
    only on s in focused. ^^
    I would love to beta your chaps if tis okies with you. Cause I wanna read these so much i wanna read em before anyone else. And along with the fact that I will be having trouble getting to serebii to read the chaps so an e-mailed chap will be much better than a chap i can't read. ^^; ANyway, good chap and i hope to read more soon.
    jirachiman out ;385;
    PS: I was actually gonna get to the other chaps i was supposed to read/review first but I saw this and i was like "I'm going here first, the others can wait" Sorry Scrap, chibi, and or Saber.
  10. purple_drake

    purple_drake E/GL obsessed

    Jirachiman! Hi. :p

    Yup, she did go to Kanto in the first one, but she went to Johto first. That hasn't changed. And no, the first several chapters are pretty much the same as before in generalized terms, with some exceptions - although you're right, Keegan did win the contest last time. *ducks and hides from glare* sorry! Please don't eat me!

    *coughs* anyway. Those first three mistakes just goes to show: you really can reread a chapter too many times :p thanks for that.

    As for the others, they're not actually mistakes. :p I'm from Australia, so the spellcheck I use in MSW is the Aussie one. Technically, all the words I used are correct.

    Although, in the case of 'practise/practice', according to my Aussie spellcheck, they mean slightly different things. 'Practise' is more to do with the action or application (such as what Keegan is doing: she has done it before) while 'practice' is the act of rehearsing or preparation, if all that makes sense.

    Thanks for the offer ^.^;; but I think I'll pass. I'm a bit too random in my writing to get a beta, because there's no telling when they'd get the chapters so it wouldn't be fair on them, and it ties me down to the constraints of another person. I'm not really a team player... I like to be able to post on my own time :p sorry.

    I suppose you could sort of count my sister as my beta, since she's reading the chapters before they get onto the forums and she's already caught some things I've missed... it helps that we live in the same house. :p

    Although I am flattered CaC came out on top of your list of priorities ;)
  11. purple_drake

    purple_drake E/GL obsessed

    A/N: I'm so sorry. There is really no excuse for this not being up earlier, especially since it's been finished (aside from minor edits) since before the first chapter was posted. It just never happened, for various reasons. I won't get into them, because most of them aren't much more than excuses and not very good ones at that, so without wasting any more time...

    Oh, yeah. From about this point on you'll probably notice that the pokemon sometimes refer to themselves in weird ways; that's deliberate, I'm sort of experimenting with self-context, so tell me how it works.

    ~ II ~


    Keegan closed her eyes and took a deep breath, huddling deeper into herself in an attempt at comfort. At her side, Firefoot whined and pawed at her hands, which were clutching one of her Pokémon Journal magazines so tightly that she was crinkling the page. “Right,” the girl smiled shakily, turning her attention to the article she’d been reading aloud in an attempt to forget about the sway of the boat on the waves, the fact that beneath them, there was nothing but deep water.

    Oh God.

    “ ‘It is said that Flannery favours strength and power over strategy,’ ” she read on hurriedly to force bad thoughts away. “ ‘A fact which she herself confesses to. ‘I love using fire,’ she admits. ‘There’s something beautiful about it. And besides, the hallmark move of the Lavaridge gym is Overheat; I guess you could say that I just like advertising my gym pride!’ ”

    Keegan stopped to smile down at the eager growlithe, his thick orange fur tousled by the wind that swept down the bow of the ship. “Is that an attack you’d like to learn, Firefoot?”

    The pup shook his head, making the white ruff beneath his chin waver. “Really?” Keegan asked, surprised. “I’ve heard it’s pretty powerful. Is there another one you like better, then?”

    “Graalth,” Firefoot answered, blinking up at her dopily, and Keegan couldn’t help but laugh. He acted so clueless, it never ceased to make her feel better.

    “Hey, we’re comin’ up on the Whirl Islands!”

    “Eebui buu!”

    Hazel’s call came almost at the same time as the boy’s, sounding just as excited, and a second later the eevee came tearing across the deck, prancing impatiently around in front of her mistress.

    Keegan laughed again. It wasn’t often that Hazel acted so playful. “Okay, okay, I guess I can handle coming to see. Just don’t get your hopes up.”

    “Buu bui!” Hazel mewed, tugging at Keegan’s sleeve as the girl got up a little unsteadily, her legs numbed with sitting down for so long.

    “I’m coming, I’m coming!”

    Keegan stuffed the magazine back into her bag, slinging it onto her shoulder and wrapping her jacket around herself against the wind, resolutely not thinking about the wide expanse of ocean. Come on, I’ve lived on a floating city, I’m used to seeing the sea.

    Just not with only a thin plating of steel between me and it…

    She reached the rail, gripping it tightly and shading her eyes from her fringe as it whipped around her forehead. “Where am I looking?” she asked anyone who was willing to answer.

    “Over there!” A young boy with dark hair pointed happily, standing on the lower rails with his green shirt and shorts tugged by the breeze. Keegan looked and saw distant, rocky crags rising from the ocean, made hazy by spray and mist. “They’re really small, but people still live there, all ‘cept on these rocks we’re about t’go past. They’re on the lowest edge of the grouping,” the boy explained confidently, his open face glowing with such animation that Keegan couldn’t dwell on her fear for long and smiled at him.

    “You know a lot about them.”

    He grinned back, showing a space between his teeth where he was missing one. “Me and my ma live in Cianwood, and we visit my cousins on the Islands,” he said proudly. “We were just visiting my gran’parents in Alto Mare, so now we’re going back home.”

    “Grawlth, grawll!” Firefoot barked suddenly, squirming his head through the railings with his ears cocked forward towards the rocks.

    “Bui!” Hazel keened, echoing him, but her reaction was different; instead of standing up with interest, she hunkering down against Keegan’s leg, seeming almost fearful.


    Keegan looked back towards the Islands, wondering what on Earth had gotten into them. They were closer, now, and under the grey clouds the waves battered relentlessly against the sharp cliffs, the shadows looking more menacing than they might have under a sunny sky.

    One of them moved.

    “What was that?” Keegan demanded, leaning forward as though it would help her see better, squinting against the spray and wind. Firefoot stood alert, ears up and tail fluffed out, and Hazel was riveted to the cliffs in a faint, fearful awe.

    “I didn’t see properly—” the boy began, but he was cut off by a long cry echoing out from the crags, sending a shiver down Keegan’s spine. It resonated eerily, deep, full and melodious, and behind her Keegan heard some startled exclamations.

    The silhouette they’d been watching rose up on long, slender wings, shadows sliding over glossy silver hide which could have been either feathers or fur, or both, a strange mixture of beast and bird.

    Keegan drew in a sharp breath, heard the boy’s reverent gasp beside her, but before they could get a proper glimpse the pokémon dived back into the ocean like an arrow, stray sunlight glinting off the rows of blue fins on its back. The spray rose and fell, pattering across the bay like fleeting raindrops.

    “Did you see that?” the boy asked in a hushed, wondering voice, and Keegan nodded dumbly.

    “That was—that was Lugia, wasn’t it?”

    “Yeah… we just saw a lugia…”

    Excited chattering came from behind them, and Keegan turned slightly to see several of the other passengers speaking in animated rushes to each other, pointing towards the southern rim of the Whirl Islands.

    “This is the best vacation ever,” the boy said feverishly as he stared out at the rocks, his eyes glittering with unsuppressed joy, and Keegan had no answer but to follow his gaze in awed silence, Hazel’s purr vibrating against her legs and Firefoot’s ruff drifting on the quiet breeze.

    * * *​

    Oh, idiot idiot idiot! Keegan berated herself as she ran, her shoes pounding on the footpath and sides aching. When they made it into port she’d dawdled along the beach for a while, not feeling any hurry to get anywhere and still wanting to absorb the wonder of the afternoon. Before she knew it, it had started getting dark, and she didn’t know whether the Pokémon Centre had a curfew or not.

    Firefoot bounded at her heels, his bright orange fur like a beacon in the gloom, while overhead the streetlamps had already flickered on, soft in the twilight and casting shadows over the fronts of the buildings to either side. Hazel was already tucked securely inside her pokéball, but Firefoot knew what Pokémon Centres smelled like and Keegan was hoping he’d be able to lead her to it, seeing as the directions the boy that afternoon had given her were rambling at best.

    They rounded a corner and Firefoot barked, but Keegan had already seen the glass-walled buildings, the huge ‘P’ over the sliding doors illuminated red and the main hall inside brightly lit. Keegan could see through the windows that there were still trainers lingering, gathered around the leafy pot plants in the centre, chatting on the comfortable benches arrayed the sides. “Oh, brilliant—”

    The twin doors slid apart with a slight hiss as Keegan and Firefoot approached, both of them slowing to a walk on the threshold, the growlithe panting like an engine and the girl with one hand clamped to her aching side, her legs wobbly with fatigue. “Oooh, I need to sit down,” she groaned, and Firefoot echoed her feeling with a huff of exhaustion, splaying down on his belly right in the middle of the entrance and wheezing exaggeratedly.

    There was a giggle from the front desk, and both mistress and pokémon looked up to see the town’s Nurse Joy shaking with laughter at their expressions, her twin looped pigtails quivering. “I’m sorry,” she apologised through her hand, still looking amused. “Your growlithe just looked so funny.”

    “Yeah, he’s a regular comedian,” Keegan muttered with a grin, nudging him with her toe, and he huffed at her with wounded eyes. “Oh, don’t look at me like that,” Keegan blew at him in response, making her fringe flutter, and bounced his pokéball down to return him in a flash of light.

    “Hello, and welcome to the Pokémon Centre,” Nurse Joy smiled, giving her a tiny wave. “I haven’t seen you around before, so you must have just come in.”

    “Hi,” Keegan lifted her hand in response, grinning sheepishly with her cheeks a bit red with embarrassment at her loud entrance. “And yes, I did, just this afternoon. From Alto Mare.”

    “Alto Mare,” Joy repeated as she reached out to take the pokéballs Keegan had offered her, her eyebrows shooting upward. “You passed the Whirl Islands, then. Is it true you saw a lugia on your way past?”

    They know about that already? Keegan was amazed. “It’s true,” the girl confirmed, unable to keep from beaming. She didn’t notice when several trainers nearby stopped to listen avidly, nor that not far away in a corner, a burly, clean-shaven man with hard eyes and dark green hair paused, lowering the receiver at his ear thoughtfully.

    “I’ll call you back,” he said at the screen and hung up, moving closer to the counter unnoticed.

    “It was amazing,” Keegan said, eyes sparkling. “We only caught it for a moment before it dived into the water, but the sound it made was almost like music.”

    “Where exactly did you see it?” the man interrupted, making Keegan jump and spin around, startled, one hand clutching automatically at her chest. His thick eyebrows overshadowed narrow, calculating eyes which blazed with triumph, making Keegan feel abruptly cold, her cheeks flushing when she realized how loud she’d been talking.

    “Some— somewhere on the rocks,” she stammered. “I don’t know—I only knew where we saw it because someone told me—”

    “But you weren’t the only one,” the man persisted, and Keegan shook her head wordlessly, unnerved. She was even more so when the man grinned. “Thanks, girl. You just saved me a long wait and a lotta research.” And he turned away, hurrying out of the Pokémon Centre and into impending darkness.

    “Um…” Keegan was left standing looking after him, face hot with embarrassment at a few of the envious looks one or two of the trainers were throwing her, feeling awkward and very much on display.

    “I wonder if he’s a Legendary hunter,” Joy mused, setting Keegan’s pokéballs into the broad device just behind the smooth counter. “Sounds as though he was expecting to be looking for a while.”

    “He was creepy,” Keegan muttered, the afternoon’s euphoria crashing to a halt on the realization that she hadn’t liked the look in that man’s eyes at all and wishing, not for the first time, that she’d learned to keep her mouth shut.

    * * *​

    Keegan was wandering along the rocky seaside, the surf pounding against the breaker to her side and the wind making her ponytailed hair lash violently. For a moment she wished for the sandy beaches of Cianwood, before remembering that half of the sand had actually been rock, and besides, she didn’t really mind clambering over boulders that much.

    She was in Olivine, having arrived that morning. At first glance the portside city seemed grim because of its hideously rocky shore, even though the grey clouds had cleared up some overnight; but once inside the land cleared into gentle grassy knolls on the road towards Ecruteak.

    Keegan liked climbing, so when she got the chance she had checked out the shoreline which led right to the tall cliffs on the far east of the city. She was alone, for once, since Firefoot had received a barb in the nose after harrying a tentacool and Hazel had been curled up asleep on Keegan’s borrowed bed when the girl impulsively decided to go for a walk.

    A bit of solitude was nice; she felt bad putting the two in their pokéballs just so she could feel alone, and she’d spent so much time recently cooped up on ferries that she needed a bit of space.

    There were several battles going on, made tricky by the uneven ground, and she’d even been challenged once. She freaked out at the mere thought of it until she’d realized she had the perfect excuse and declined, feeling guilty as the disappointed boy turned away.

    By the time dark had begun to fall she had reached the cliffs and was beginning to feel chilled by the wind. My hair is going to take forever to brush when I get back, she thought despondently as she turned around, hugging herself for warmth, her cheeks numbed.

    It was only then that she saw it, so focused she’d been on picking her way without getting too wet or slipping. The rocks led inland right up to a thick wood of tangled trees and undergrowth, and towering over that was a half-finished construction. There was a road cutting through the foliage, overrun by weeds which suggested it had been a while since building had stopped.

    Keegan hesitated, wondering what was in there and what it was, and cast a quick glance at the sky. It wasn’t too dark yet, and she could always walk along the verge to make speed if it got too late—it wasn’t nearly as rocky there.

    Impulsively she decided, turning to walk up the dirt pathway, which she could now see was too thin to have been used for trucks. They probably came in another way.

    It was a relief to be out of the constant wind; she hadn’t realized how much it was beginning to annoy her. At least in Alto Mare the buildings served to break it up, taking off its edge unless you were on the city border.

    She came to a tall wire fence, the gate padlocked, the construction sign still in fairly good shape but beginning to rust around the edges. After a bit of searching she found a hole in the fence, where the wire had come away from the bar, and managed to slip through with only a graze of metal across her shoulders and tugging in her hair.

    After that Keegan just wandered, kicking up debris and crumbling bricks, dusty mortar billowing around her shoes and powdering her jeans white. Wild pokémon darted away into hiding whenever she came near, birds fluttering around the lofty struts, jutting silently up into the cloudy sky. Once she saw a murkrow nesting, looking down at her suspiciously as she passed beneath the pylon. There was even some equipment left: a crane with its winch still extended, the chain clinking gently in the eerie breeze, and various rusted tools littered the base of the partitions.

    Wonder what this place was going to be? Keegan mused, glancing up and around at part of what might have been a foyer, spacious and hollow with arching struts overhead, reaching across one side like giant claws. It all seemed so empty.

    At least, it was, before she heard the echo of a kicked stone and a very human curse, and automatically shrank behind a mostly-built—if skeletal—wall. If not for the stillness of the surroundings she might not have heard them at all, and it was well for her that she did, even as she wished she’d brought Hazel along after all.

    A figure strolled out from behind the battered stretch of brick and steel, a man dressed in an enveloping black uniform, a dark cap low over his face, shading his eyes. His white gloves seemed almost incongruous with the rest of the uniform, and as he turned to something behind him—someone, because Keegan could still hear a person swearing and it certainly wasn’t him—she saw the letter ‘R’ emblazoned in dark red on the front.

    She went cold. Anyone who wasn’t living under a rock knew that symbol. Team Rocket. Oh God, I’m in a bloody abandoned construction yard with Team Rocket

    “Where do we put it?”

    Keegan jumped at the abrupt, grumpy-sounding voice, her heart suddenly lodged in her throat and beating as fast as a yanma’s wings, making her feel sick with nausea and find it difficult to breathe.

    Don’t think about it—they don’t know you’re here, they can’t know you’re here, they’ll do something—but if you panic much more you’ll make a sound and they’ll know—hide and seek and capture the flag, remember playing them with the others? You’re good at hiding, good at not being found, because you can stay still, still like a rattata under a pidgeot’s shadow—

    The first man was looking around, now, and she froze, averting her gaze so she could look at him only through the corner of her eyes—she remembered reading somewhere that predators could sense when they were being watched, and Team Rocket were nothing if not predators.

    He shrugged. “Put it anywhere,” he said impatiently. “They’ll find it, no one comes here anyway except punk kids, and it’s too cold for that.”

    Keegan watched covertly, forcing herself to take slow, deep breaths, her knuckles white because she was gripping a steel bar so tightly, her legs rigid with tension and feet beginning to go numb from the uncomfortable crouch she was in.

    “I don’t get it,” the younger-sounding man grumbled, following his partner into the girl’s view, aside from a rogue pylon which reached across the top of the opening and half-obscured his upper body. “All this cloak and dagger stuff. Why can’t we just pass it on face-to-face? This is a waste of time.”

    “Security,” the other man said shortly, hands on hips, glancing around at the decrepit construction disinterestedly. For all his haste he didn’t really seem to be in a hurry to find a hiding place for… whatever they had. “After the Lake of Rage incident, the Triad and the Elite Trio judged it best to keep all parts of an operation separate.”

    Lake of Rage? What happened there? Keegan wondered, turning her head slightly to get a better view. She could almost pretend she was back in Alto Mare, watching from the rooftops as Firefoot tried to catch her scent or Ross and Wailmer patrolled a canal she needed to pass.

    The younger agent shoved against a broken concrete block at his feet, crouching and stuffing a small bundle inside it.

    “Took your time,” the older man muttered belligerently, his arms crossed with impatience and irritation. “The ferry needs to leave in a few hours and we need to get out of here before the pickup.”

    The second agent straightened, brushing off his dusty hands, and although Keegan couldn’t see his face under the brim of his cap she could tell from his stiff movements that he was annoyed. “Then why didn’t you do it,” he snapped back. “And saved me the trouble of coming out here.”

    A snort was his reply. “That’s what rookies like you are for. Let’s go.”

    Keegan watched breathlessly as they turned and vanished back the way they’d come, but the girl didn’t move. For long moments she just waited, completely frozen and neck aching, her heart fluttering in her chest with apprehension until she was absolutely sure they were gone.

    It was only then that she peeked out, eyes scanning the now silent yard for a moment before alighting upon the innocent-looking block of concrete. Capture the flag, ‘anything goes’ style.

    The wry thought flitted through her head before she could stop it, because that’s what it felt like: a rather different, somewhat more dangerous version of the game. Her curious, competitive nature surfaced, and before she stopped to think she scuttled like a nervy fox across the half-finished floor to the block, looking about one last time before pulling out the bundle. Target achieved…

    The dark, nondescript drawstring bag was no bigger than her fist; it could have been dropped by anyone, used for anything. Swiftly, well aware of her place and the deepening twilight, she opened it up and shook out the contents, wrapped in a piece of soft cloth. Flipping aside leaves of fabric impatiently with the hand still gripping the bag, the object was revealed: a strange, faceted crystal.

    Deep within its centre was a swirl of rainbow colours, but the outside surface was pure white. It was warm and seemed to vibrate slightly, almost humming. Keegan examined it closely, fascinated by the smoothness of the faces, the comforting weight in her palm. Like her pendant, it had a soothing charm to it. Wonder what it is and what the Rockets want it for?

    But she’d lingered too long. Her ears caught the sound of the fence jingling and Keegan automatically shrank back into the shadows, darting carefully through the littered tower interior. Moving with restrained urgency, she was already through the fence and halfway back to Olivine’s Pokémon Centre before she realized that, true to the form of the game, she still had her ‘flag’ clutched in her hand.

    “Oh, what am I going to do?” Keegan gripped her hair with both hands and tugged fitfully at her bangs in frustration and dread, staring down at the crystalline object lying innocently on its nest of fabric in the middle of her borrowed bed. Hazel was examining the gem curiously, crouched on the blanket with her tail swishing this way and that, but Firefoot was just staring disapprovingly at his mistress, an effect offset by the bandage fixed securely over his nose.

    Keegan caught his expression and stopped, looking back at him through her raised arms. “What?! I was trying not to panic and got… a little… carried away… when I was imagining I was playing a game. I didn’t mean to take it!”

    With a depressed huff she slumped down on the mattress beside the crystal, making it bounce up and hit Hazel on the snout.

    “Bii!” Hazel bristled, her nose twitching furiously, and Keegan smiled wanly.

    “Sorry.” With a heavy sigh Firefoot padded up and licked her hand consolingly, whining gently, and Keegan absently petted him on the head, ruffling his orange fur. “I thought about taking it to the police station,” she continued thinking aloud, her gaze turning to the darkness outside the Pokémon Centre, the window reflecting the light of the room and preventing her from seeing out. It made the bedroom seem contained, like a tiny little world all on its own where she was safe from black-clad figures.

    She shivered. On the other hand…

    “But then I thought, when they realize it’s gone, they’ll be watching in case someone turns it in,” she finished miserably.

    And as soon as I do… shark bait.

    Firefoot wuffed, leaping onto the bed, and Keegan threw her arms around him, burying her face in his fur at the same time that Hazel mewed and clambered onto her lap, purring with all her might.

    For a few moments Keegan let herself pretend that she hadn’t just had a run-in with a very infamous, very dangerous criminal organisation, that she was back in her room on Alto Mare where things like that just didn’t happen, that she’d only had a fight with her foster parents and her pokémon were comforting her.

    But I don’t want to be back there either. Not yet. I only just got away.

    The girl drew back, slightly surprised to find a lump in her throat and her eyes burning. With a swipe at her face she set Hazel aside, picking the crystal up, wrapping it, dropping it back in its pouch and striding over to her bag near the dresser beneath the window to stow it in the very depths of her belongings. “There,” she said with as much confidence as she could muster. “Now it’s dealt with. We’ll just take it with us and give it to someone we can trust, when we meet someone we can trust.”

    “Buu,” Hazel purred, and the matter was settled.

    For now.

    * * *​

    About a week out from Olivine, Keegan discovered something.

    She had a lousy sense of direction.

    Her pokégear had an automatic mapping system on it, which was lucky because she hadn’t really thought through what items she’d need beyond the things she already had in her room and so hadn’t brought a map of her own. On the other hand, the screen was so small it made it difficult to make out the details, so she still got confused as to which direction she had to take.

    At first the road had been broad and easy to follow, but not long after that she passed out of farming land and into forest, where there were fewer Pokémon Centres and no apparent camping sites.

    Not that her first night of camping had been spectacularly pleasant anyway, since she didn’t have a sleeping bag, pillow, or any kind of bedding aside from her blanket. Luckily she had the ability to sleep pretty much anywhere, even on the hard ground, but that wasn’t the biggest problem.

    It was the night sounds. She kept on thinking something would sneak up on her, or that she’d wake up to find a spinarak on her face, or discover a meowth had raided her bag. Finally she’d just let Firefoot out to stand guard, rationalising that at least he could sleep all day in his pokéball.

    He hadn’t seemed to mind, and she found it comforting to have his weight by her side, knowing she wasn’t alone; so she’d started letting Hazel out too, even during the day. All they had was each other, so why shouldn’t they spend time together?

    Keegan found herself even gladder for their company when, somehow, she lost the trail. It was Firefoot who picked up the smell of a man passing by, a trainer himself who’d been camping out to look for meowth in the woods and was able to direct her to the nearest town.

    Unfortunately it wasn’t the first time it happened. There were three towns on the way to Ecruteak, and somehow she managed to lose her way to all of them.

    The eeriest thing was that recently she kept hearing this strange humming, or chanting, or maybe both, but it never caught up to her. Though, sometimes she’d wake up to find it was because Firefoot had just loosed an Ember on some random pokémon, even if they were usually gone before she saw them.

    And, of course, I just can’t catch a break, Keegan thought to herself disgustedly as she fought through one particularly dense bush with one hand, gripping her pokégear in the other and scowling at the monitor. She wasn’t exactly sure how far from Ecruteak she was, but it couldn’t be much more than a day or two.

    Gah, I’m going to seriously need some cleaning up after this… I don’t know what the hell I was thinking!

    …well, yes, I do. And…

    She smiled suddenly, looking down at the blipping marker which showed her position, being relayed by one of Silph’s satellites.

    …and it’s fun. It’s boring, and it’s hard, and it’s uncomfortable sometimes, but I’ve never felt so free in my life. I don’t have any time limits and no expectations, no worries…

    Her stomach gurgled.

    …except to make sure to buy enough food to last until I reach the next town…

    Okay, so there were lots of things she had to think about that she hadn’t considered before she’d left Alto Mare, but the Joy in Cianwood had cottoned onto the fact she was new to travelling somehow—must be ‘Joy intuition’—because the evening she’d gotten into town the nurse had taken her aside and calmly explained everything she needed to know, giving her a traveller’s pocket-guide to take along in case she forgot something.

    That thing is probably that most important thing I own right now.

    Wonder what Firefoot and Hazel would say if they heard that?

    Something rustled in the bushes and Keegan jumped. She whirled around, her heart leaping up to her mouth, unable to banish sudden images of black-uniformed men descending down on her, even two weeks after Olivine.

    Two weeks… already two weeks!

    Her instincts were changing, she saw, noting with a little bit of pride that her hand had flown automatically to Hazel’s pokéball. Something shiny flashed in a beam of light forcing its way through the canopy, and a magnemite hovered out of the bushes. With a relieved sigh Keegan lowered her hand, reattaching the pokégear to her belt. She’d have to move carefully if she wanted to avoid angering the thing; she had the bruises to prove it was a good idea, though how the hell was she supposed to know that furret were that fast?

    She’d been warned that the woods near Ecruteak on the road to Olivine were filled with the electric pokémon during the daytime, but for the most part she’d managed to avoid the deep woods and stayed near the river, which meant she’d seen more flesh-and-blood pokémon than the steel-types.

    “Maa…ne… miiie…” The magnemite’s single eye was heavily lidded and the curving magnets at its sides drooped lazily, the pokémon swaying gently, floating low to the ground. On a human the posture might have meant intoxication; on a pokémon it just seemed… odd.

    But it means I might be able to get away easier.

    Keegan took a cautious step back as the magnemite approached relentlessly, weaving unsteadily in a way that made Keegan revise her opinion. Seems drunk to me… like Simon after a binge night.

    She quickly decided she wanted no part in the matter of a drunken pokémon, and turned slightly so she could sidle away but still keep an eye on it.

    Except she found that somehow more of them had gotten behind her, and they were acting in much the same way as the first, and some of them were sparking, and oh God but this wasn’t what she’d wanted when she’d wondered why she hadn’t seen any until now.

    Her stomach twisted at the sight of them all, more of them parting the bushes as they came nearer. There are so many!

    She snatched up Firefoot’s pokéball and released him, the fiery dog appearing prepped and ready for battle in a flash of red light. The magnemite just wove around him as though he were an obstacle like the trees and foliage.

    For a moment Keegan stared, caught between humour at his baffled expression and trepidation at their numbers; then she jumped as she felt something brush against her, and looked down to find one of the gleaming pokémon pressed against her bag, eye closed blissfully. “Firefoot, a little help!” she yelped, shaking it off frantically and clutching her bag closer, beginning to feel oppressed.

    I think I was just lucky before, if this is how crowded it is in the woods!

    All at once she was awash with heat, yelping again as Firefoot’s Ember swirled past her shoulder and flinching away. “Ow!” She banged her head on the hard round body of one of the pokémon, automatically swatting at it. “Firefoot, please aim in another direction! Use Flamethrower to clear us a path!”

    Firefoot wuffed an apology and for a moment Keegan felt guilty—she had asked for help, and at least he’d just used Ember, but it was still too close and she was beginning to feel distinctly grumpy.

    At least they aren’t actually attacking, she thought irritably, throwing off one of the electric pokémon, which had been clinging to her bag, and ducking beneath another. Or else I’d be extra crispy!

    Oh God… that could actually happen… I could actually end up as a smoking shell…

    Yup, that was definitely panic she was feeling now.

    Fortunately it was then that Firefoot had managed to discern the best opening for escape. He opened his mouth wide, showing off his canines as fire roiled deep in his throat, setting loose a toned-down stream of blazing flames. It was still near enough to be uncomfortably hot, but the fire licking over the steel bodies of the magnemite seemed to jolt them to their senses—until Firefoot closed his jaws, swallowing the last of the Flamethrower before a tree or bush caught fire.

    “Hurry!” Keegan seized the opportunity, dodging past a confused-looking pokémon—what the? That’s a mareep! What’s that doing here?—and fleeing through the momentary path swathed through the swarm of animals, the leaves and foliage charred and smoking, Firefoot loping after her.

    Behind them, several bewildered magnemite (as well as a two voltorb, a pikachu and a blinking mareep) floated off, burns seared across their steel, fur and wool singed. The rest, their eyes once again drooping dopily, followed an unseen trail left by the girl.

    Keegan jumped over a log, a stitch already growing in her side and her bag dragging at her shoulder. She could still hear the creepy chant of the magnemite behind her, interspersed with the occasional bleat, squeal or squeak from various other electric pokémon. At least now she knew what she’d been hearing as she travelled, and what Firefoot had been scaring off at night.

    Although I have to wonder if they deliberately waited until they could overwhelm me! she thought desperately, yanking her foot out of a raichu’s grasp as it stumbled out of the bushes and reached for her ankle, looking totally wasted.

    No, they couldn’t have… none of them are acting right!

    “What—the hell’s—their problem?!” she gasped to Firefoot, just because she was confused as hell and wanted to share it. The growlithe let out something between a bark and a whine, completely unhelpful but unable to offer anything else when he was too focussed on running to speak.

    Abruptly the woods ended and Keegan skidded to a halt at the edge of a low cliff, making dust billow. Her rubbery legs almost made her tumble, but at the last minute she managed to catch herself, though she was gasping too fast to actually take deep breaths and she could taste blood in the back of her throat from running too hard for too long. Down below, the woods were pressed to the side of the crag, and in the distance, looming over the forest, was the Tin Tower.

    Brilliant, we’ve found Ecruteak. The ‘little fox’ noted calmly in some weird corner of her mind which could still focus on random things aside from the immediate problem.

    “Oh great,” Keegan groaned breathlessly, clutching at her side, wanting nothing more than to just collapse where she was. The cliff was little more than thirty feet tall, but by the time she’d climbed halfway down the magnemite were sure to be on her, and after that there was no way she’d be able to maintain her descent.

    Although it would get me away from the others—I didn’t know so many different electric pokémon lived together so closely—

    Firefoot turned and set his paws resolutely, head lowered and fur bristling in preparation for a battle even though his flanks were heaving from the run.

    “There’s too many,” Keegan choked out, scanning the cliff edge anxiously, fighting down that annoying, incipient panic. “They’ll—they’ll swamp you.”

    Something to do, something to do, something to do—c’mon, there’s gotta be something—

    Firefoot snarled and Keegan spun about at the sound, stopping in shock and touching her pendant as though in prayer. The magnemite seemed to fill the air; she hadn’t realized there were so many, not with all the undergrowth in the way. Everywhere she looked there was another, some with burns from Firefoot’s previous attack, all with the same dopey look, though scattered among the wall of steel were occasional flashes of red or yellow or pink.

    Keegan took a deep, shaky breath, knowing they had the type advantage but the magnemite had numbers. As long as they didn’t attack outright she was sure she would be fine, and none of them seemed inclined to do that. “Alright,” she said as calmly as she could manage, though her voice still quivered ever so slightly. Her face was pale, but when she remembered how terrified she’d been that evening, when she’d gone for a walk in an abandoned construction site and wandered right into something out of a crime film, she knew she could handle this.

    Her mind was presenting facts in a steady litany to calm her down; they weren’t attacking, they didn’t want to, she didn’t need to defeat them, not all of them, just clear a path, and she could do that…

    “Use Flame Wheel,” Keegan ordered.

    With a wuff and a snap of his jaws Firefoot leapt into a full run, his fur blazing and paws leaving a trail of fire behind him. The hot air around him crackled, the speed making it cone around him into a fiery shield. He ploughed through the magnemite, scattering them to either side. Some, their steel blackened by fire and eyes widening to show some glimmer of reasoning, vanished back into the trees.

    But most ignored the attack, and continued to approach Keegan mindlessly.

    At the edge of the woods Firefoot skidded into a sharp turn, launching himself towards them with twin puffs of dust from his paws as he charged back through, almost stepping on a pikachu as he went. The pokémon didn’t even try to avoid him, hypnotised by something neither Keegan nor Firefoot could see or guess.

    Bursting through the outer edge of the swarm, the growlithe slewed to a halt before Keegan with a billow of dust and chink of pebbles, snow-white tail and ruff fluttering in the air.

    He couldn’t see well, no growlithe could, but he could still smell metal and some fur and sparks of electric wool, could still smell his fire and his mistress’ fear, her confusion. Her determination.

    Why are you acting like this? he wanted to bark, but he knew they wouldn’t answer; he could smell it on them, could smell that there was something controlling them like that burning liquid humans liked to drink.

    <<source…>> they hummed, and to Firefoot’s blurry vision the grey mass in front of them shifted, coming nearer. He snarled warningly, his fur still blazing with the remnants of his previous attack, even though he knew they wouldn’t answer, feeling almost guilty that he had to attack them when they obviously had no idea what was happening.

    But if this one doesn’t, they’ll swarm the Mistress. And that is something this one cannot let happen.

    It was then that the matter was taken completely out of his loyal paws.

    A roar echoed through the woods, making Keegan jump and almost drop Hazel’s pokéball, which she’d just raised to activate. Something tore past her, so close that Keegan felt its weight in the passing and staggered, her shoes slipping on the gravel and making her fall with a hard blow that sparked pain in her elbows.

    She looked up in time to see lightning swelling in a wave of crackling bolts through the wall of pokémon, the ground scored with deep furrows from the attack. Keegan flinched and one hand clenched automatically over the long, pearly-white scars which marked her other arm as some of it lashed out towards her with snaps of electricity, making her skin prickle with goosebumps and her hair frizz, her muscles jolting faintly once or twice though the static was absorbed into the rocky ground before dangerous levels reached her.

    Oh God, what the hell’s going on…?

    Shaking, cringing with every dying crackle, Keegan recoiled from the scene, pressed against Firefoot’s side as the growlithe took her weight protectively. Finally there was silence and Keegan dared to look up through her clinging bangs to see the magnemite picking themselves up dazedly and retreating into the trees, wavering uncertainly.

    They’re… going? What happened?

    Then a snarl caught her attention, and Keegan just barely had time to move, just barely registered Firefoot’s urgent push against her shoulder, before a bolt of lightning slammed down on the rock where she’d been. The ground crumbled in swells of dust, the earth shaking as a piece of the cliff dissolved into rubble.

    Keegan grazed her elbows as she skidded to a halt on her side, confused, frightened, completely bewildered as she stared with a white face at the lithe, yellow-and-black striped pokémon that stood before her, sparks of electricity flashed over and around the dark thundercloud on its back.

    “Wha— what—” she stammered, and the pokémon snarled furiously, its mask-like visage making it seem even more terrifying, its red eyes narrowed with anger at some unknown slight. With a thunderous bark it leapt at her, but Keegan was moving without any notion of actually ordering her body to do so, legs pumping to send her scrabbling across broken and seared ground.

    In the same instant Firefoot howled wrathfully, launching himself at the beast and slamming into it with enough force to make it stumble as it landed. The growlithe pup rebounded off wiry muscles, landing sprawled in the dust near Keegan. Scuttling closer as he shook his head dazedly, Keegan lifted his pokéball, intending to return him and run, because the beast had regained its balance and was looking back towards her.

    Instead she automatically flinched away as Firefoot, eyes blazing, leapt for her. His fangs grazed red lines on her throat, knocking her over as he tore the firestone pendant from her neck, the chain snapping with only a mark to show for its presence.

    White light rippled over his matted fur, unseen bruises engulfed in the thickening of his orange coat, and a magnificent snowy-white mane swelled over his head and shoulders. Keegan rolled to her side and watched, stunned and astonished, as white tufts flared back from his growing paws. Then the light faded, revealing a fiery dog whose size and majesty rivalled that of the beast arrayed before him.

    Firefoot lowered his head, fur bristling, and growled as the now dim pendant slipped from his mouth and dropped to the ground with a chink. The beast ducked its head in something like respect or acknowledgement but snarled a warning back, the cloud sparking fitfully in preparation for an attack.

    Keegan just had time to grab her pendant before Firefoot’s jaws closed on her arm, urgently drawing her up and making her stumble back with an insistent toss of his head. Keegan grabbed his shoulders to steady herself, hands burying in thick orange fur and half falling on him when her balance failed.

    And then suddenly they were moving, the wind almost knocked out of her as Firefoot abruptly darted to the side, dodging a thunderbolt that blistered the ground where they’d been. When they landed again Keegan was almost floored as her feet hit ground, but now she knew what he wanted and just managed to get a leg half over his back as he jumped clear of the beast’s flashing, full-bodied attack, the yellow-and-black pokémon skidding to a halt with a growl.

    Keegan nearly fell off again as they stopped, but then she managed to catch her balance and position herself properly. The instant Firefoot felt her weight he was gone, turning tail and hurtling into the woods, avoiding a snap of powerful jaws that caught only air, his paws thudding on the ground and muscles working, trees streaking past as they fled.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2008
  12. Frosted Heavens

    Frosted Heavens Crystallized Wind


    that was intense!! Ooh, this chapter has soo many things to make me like it, good work Purple-drake^-^I like your descriptions and everything, I can't believe you can describe every scene so well, I'm so jealous^-^

    Ooh the first part is the trip on the boat, good work describing her fears of the deep waters(very deep^-^) and trying to distract herself from it^-^Firefoot is cool again, completely clueless makes him utterly loveable and also having no appreciation for the move Overheat from Flannery(the magazine was written well and I was totally sure it was Flannery who answered the questions.

    Second part is between Cianwood and Olivine^-^ Nurse Joy was great, her laughing over the completely tired out Firefoot, teehee, makes me want to lie down too, but I have to review^-^

    It was great in Olivine too, although I don't exactly know what place it was, you know where she found her 'flag'(I liked the description of thinking her it was a game^-^) was that battletower or something. anyway, nice part here too, next part is my favorite.

    third part in woods between Ecruteak and Olivine. Great as well, she really has a lousy sense or direction (or no sense of direction). I think I know why all the electric pokemon acted so weird, this was in the previous version as well huh? I think that glimmer, rainbow-light stone-thingie is the cause (what you dubbed, her 'flag')

    And Raikou makes it appearance^-^too bad that Firefoot evolves soo soon as I love him in his puppy form (Yeah! Growlithes). Oh well, the cuteness is gone but the coolness makes up for it, that puppy sure is fast in his evolved form.

    Purple-Drake, you once again blew me away with your mighty chapterskills, hope to see the other one sooner than this one(BUT DON'T RUSH IT!!!!!)


    Aimi Hanako
  13. Hahahabvc87

    Hahahabvc87 Always watching...

    ...omg. OMG! I can't actually believe it's back!

    This was one of the first fan-fictions that I read back when I first started, and it was already on hiatus then. Keegan's story about Maxie, "little fox" and all that seems like a very distant memory now - one that would have long been forgotten had not it been for an obscure bookmark and a link in Sike Saner's sig!

    A review will be edited in slightly later; right now I have to do some research on drugs. Won't be long!
  14. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    *shudder* Abandoned construction sites are creepy. They just are. Also creepy is a horde of seemingly hypnotized Electric-types that won’t stop following you. It really is a scary thought, being swarmed by creatures whose powers at least can give you an unpleasant little shock, and at worst can freaking stop your heart and fry you. Brrr, definitely creepy.

    I like creepy. :D

    And hooray for Firefoot’s evolution. ^^ That’s cool that he thought to do that, that he recognized the Fire Stone pendant for what it was and made use of it.

    Which reminds me: When Keegan asked him if he’d be interested in learning Overheat, and he seemed to indicate that he was more interested in a different attack, I wonder what that attack was?

    Oh, and one more Firefoot note: I loved the image of him getting himself stung by a Tentacool; that was priceless. And the bandage on his nose! Very cute. ^^

    Other highlights:

    XD I love it when someone gets accidentally bonked on the face by something.

    What indeed. XD Again, I just love the little things that go through her mind.
  15. jirachiman876

    jirachiman876 The King of Kirby

    OOO yes the druged Magnemites. I remember those. So much better a second time round really. I liked it. It's really so much better than the first one and that was even pretty good. I can't wait till we get so farther in the fic. I sadly don't remember the plot very well yet buut I'm sure i will after a while so no worries there. Anyway, great chap there PD hope to read more soon too. Not like the last one. ^^
    jirachiman out ;385;
  16. purple_drake

    purple_drake E/GL obsessed

    Whoops, sorry for the delay on review replies ^.^;; laziness is a bad habit, I know.

    Aimi Hanako: Or should I keep that as 'electric soul fairy'? ;) either way, hi again! *waves*

    Don't be jealous ^.^ the very first copy of HotM was fairly sparse in description; that's a skill I learned right here on these forums, so just goes to show ;) anyone could learn it.

    The ironic thing about the magazine is that I don't even like magazines :p give me a good book any day. But I do love Flannery, I think she's an awesome character (then again, I love all of the gym leaders, so...)

    And yup, you got it right - it was the battle tower :p I figured it'd be one of those places that Keegan would just love to explore, and in the first copy I needed some extra space between the seeing of Lugia and the meeting with Raikou (or Entei, as it was in the original), so I decided a little side-adventure would put some distance between them. I didn't expect it to turn into an adventure all on its own!

    As for the electric pokemon... *zips up and winks* all you people who read the original will know, but for any new readers...

    I was a little disappointed that we didn't get more of Firefoot as a growlithe too :p but when I was revamping the plotline he growled at me and refused to let go of the oppurtunity. *shrugs* when the characters take control like that, what can you do? At least his personality mostly stays the same :p

    Don't worry ;) the next chapter's already written, though I still do want to space it out a little (just perhaps not as long as the last time...).

    Thanks again ^.^

    Hahahabvc87: Wow, I seem to have more readers than I thought o_O so many old readers that I didn't even know I had are coming back! ^.^ well, hi! I'm glad you found your way back and I hope you enjoy the new version :p ah, research... the staple of university assignments... *shudders* good luck with that.

    Sike Saner: Hehhehheh, have to agree with you :p very creepy. I'm glad you thought so; even though I wasn't consciously trying to make it creepy, per se, I did make a conscious effort for Keegan to realize the danger she was in both times. I mean, heck, who wouldn't be scared? In the anime Ash-co seem to just dive in and not be much scared at all, or if they are, it's only briefly. I figure if something like that happened to a relatively normal person - who, worse luck, isn't even a trainer - it'd have to have some effect.

    Everybody loves Firefoot ;) even me. :p He really is smarter than he acts, isn't he? I characterise him as so dopey most of the time - like a stereotypical dog - that it made me feel guilty. So maybe he's not the brains of the operation (that'd be Hazel) but he's not dumb either.

    Heh ^.^;; as for the attacks, I have no idea. I just thought it'd be stereotypical for a fire pokemon to want to learn such a powerful attack, and decided Firefoot would be different. Now you've got me thinking :p when you think about it, Overheat is a rather uncontrolled attack... at least with Flamethrower you can choose it's direction. Hmm...

    Thank you, thank you ^.^ and I'm flattered to be linked in your sig, too. Seeya 'round! ^.^

    jirachiman: Dun worry, I'll try not to leave it hang for a month again ^.^;; ooh, I'm so bad.

    Yup, it'll all come back to yah :p I can't wait 'til we're into new material either; right now I'm flipping between my old and new versions so I know what I'm doing and to catch anything in the original that would work in the new. Half the time it just feels like I'm rewriting stuff that's already there @.@ it can get a little tedious after a while, but ah well, what can yah do?
  17. purple_drake

    purple_drake E/GL obsessed

    A/N: So here I am again, almost... a month... later. *sweatdrops* I should just stop making promises.

    ~ III ~


    Her face was chilled by the night air, her legs hurt from being clasped around Firefoot’s belly and the chafing of her jeans, her hands were stiff from clutching his mane and her butt felt like it was made of lead. She was exhausted, she was hungry, and right then and there she would have kissed Miriam’s feet if she could just use her old bed for a night.

    Getting hit by electricity always makes people feel tired, she thought wearily, her mind rambling to different topics because she was just too far gone to concentrate. Electricity was just one of the subjects she’d gone over—twice—in God-knows-how-long. I wasn’t hit, exactly, but I was damned… damned close quite a few times there.

    The mere thought of it made her stomach want to rebel, so she swallowed hard and leaned over Firefoot’s back, half trying to keep a grip on herself and half wishing the arcanine’s constant, flowing movement wasn’t keeping her from sleeping.

    Well, technically it wasn’t, except she knew she’d fall off if she fell asleep, since she’d never ridden an arcanine before and Firefoot had never carried someone, so neither of them would be able to keep her balance.

    It was a testament to how tired she was that she hadn’t even noticed they’d entered Ecruteak until Firefoot stopped in front of the Pokémon Centre’s sliding glass doors, almost making her fall anyway from the unexpected halt. For a moment she stared at the darkened windows, but then Firefoot gave her a little jolt and she slid off his back with a groan at her aching muscles and the burning in her thighs, feeling bowlegged and unsteady on the unmoving ground.

    After their confrontation with that lightning pokémon Firefoot had headed straight for the city without stopping, even though it was further away than the Tin Tower seemed to suggest and by the time they got there—Keegan checked her pokégear clock blearily—it was 3:30am in the morning. Which meant she’d been riding for the better part of thirteen hours. No wonder her butt was sore.

    But Keegan, once her mind had caught up on the events and she’d managed to stop shaking long enough to think straight, hadn’t wanted to risk staying the night in the woods with that… thing… around, so she wasn’t going to complain. Much. There was also the fact that Firefoot hadn’t shown any inclination at stopping—despite the fact that he was now panting like a steam engine—so he must’ve known something she didn’t and agreed it would be a bad idea.

    For the moment she put aside the question of why the hell the pokémon had attacked her straight after saving her, and focussed only on getting to a nice, warm bed in a nice, safe room.

    Although, she did feel guilty for waking Nurse Joy up at this hour, but when she saw the lights flicker on inside the timber-built Centre and the pink-haired woman coming to answer her hammering, Keegan couldn’t help feeling a surge of sweet and utter relief.

    “Wha—” Joy started, stifling a yawn, as the doors slid open, and then her eyes widened as she caught sight of Keegan. “My goodness!” she exclaimed, stepping out of the way to let Keegan stumble inside, Firefoot nearby in case she needed to lean on him.

    I must really look a mess, Keegan thought with strange bemusement as Nurse Joy tugged her gently towards one of the orange-cushioned couches, gesturing to a sleepy-eyed chansey who had just emerged from the back room with her nurse’s cap askew.

    “What happened?” Joy asked anxiously, sitting Keegan down and snatching up a folded cloth that another of the round pink pokémon had just held out to her, pressing it to Keegan’s arm. It was only then that the girl realized she’d scraped herself on a rock somewhere, leaving a long red graze almost from her elbow to her shoulder.

    “Got mobbed by pokémon,” Keegan answered slightly dazedly, absently scratching Firefoot’s huge head when he tried to climb onto the couch with her, whining encouragingly.

    “Must have been a lot of pokémon!” Joy commented sympathetically.

    For some strange reason Keegan found that incredibly funny. She started laughing and couldn’t stop, even though the sound grew hysterical within moments and soon turned to tears. “Shock,” Joy murmured to herself, steadying the girl as she was wracked with giggles, struggling to breathe.

    Keegan wasn’t aware of much after that. All she really knew is that somehow she’d been cleaned up, her injuries tended to, Firefoot was at some point returned to his pokéball and then taken for a rest, and she was firmly led up the stairs and to a spare room where she sank down into a completely exhausted sleep hardly before her head had hit the pillow.

    * * *

    Keegan stood at the base of the cobblestone steps, staring up the path towards the many-tiered Tin Tower, half obscured by the tall wooden blockade around it aside from the open, canopied gates at the height of the stairs. The path and fence were surrounded on all sides by lofty trees, obstructing her view of Ecruteak, and the clear sky was already beginning to dim slightly.

    Latias, but the night comes in quickly in these parts.

    It was early evening, nearly a week after Keegan had gotten into the city. Although Keegan was a fairly active girl, there was only so much she could take before she just wanted to lie in bed for a couple of days. She thought it had been bad for the first week when her feet and legs burned every time she moved, unused to the constant exertion of walking; this was so much worse.

    The ride had left her inner thighs chafed to bleeding point, although she hadn’t realised it until the morning (or rather, afternoon) after when she peeled off her pyjama pants and almost torn off one of the bandages when it got stuck to the material. It had been humiliating to realise that Nurse Joy had taken care of her while she was out of it—it had taken her two days to stop blushing every time she saw the woman—but it was probably better than being awake for it.

    Not that she’d escaped from that fate either. Nurse Joy had come up to check on her and promptly given her a stern talking to about riding for so long when she was so inexperienced. Then she’d sat her down, helped her change the bandages, given her a crash course on what was in a first-aid kit (as well as recommending a store from which to buy one) and confined her to the Pokémon Centre for at least four days.

    Keegan had felt too horrible to complain, although her heart clenched with excitement every time she remembered that she was in Ecruteak, that she was where she wanted to be, and that here was a man who might just be able to tell her something about how she’d come to be in Alto Mare in the first place.

    On the other hand, it had also given her plenty of time to think about the strange lightning pokémon who had attacked her. In the aftermath, she knew that incident had been even more frightening than that night in the construction yard.

    She could truly have died. It had wanted her to die.

    And that scared her, more than anything, made her feel panicky, until she resorted to simply pushing the memory away and trying to pretend it didn’t exist.

    By the time she felt well enough to get up and around, she was so jittery that she just wanted to talk to Morty and get out of the city, the city so close to where that thing had been.

    So she’d decided to take a walk around town to test her muscles, but also to get the chain of her pendant repaired and buy a treat for Firefoot for his evolution. She hadn’t wanted to get a first-aid kit at first, simply because it was a reminder, but the storekeeper had been helpful and she had reluctantly purchased a small portable bag which she’d been able to clip to her belt until she got back to the Centre.

    After that she had headed for the gym, but when she found it, it was to discover that Morty wasn’t there. One of the students told her he was often at the Tin Tower, an area sacred to Ecruteak, and by then Keegan was so wound up that she decided she’d go check it out anyway. She wanted—needed—to do something, and it felt soothing to be wandering around an old-world city such as Ecruteak, so filled with timber buildings, with such beautiful architecture.

    And more… there were people around, wandering in marketplaces, around houses, on the footpaths and working in gardens. She felt safe out in the open, in the daylight, where there were others around—like no pokémon would dare touch her there, nor any black-uniformed men waiting to steal back what she had taken.

    All that meant that hours had passed, which meant it was getting later and Morty probably wouldn’t help her out anyway, at least not until morning. Still, Keegan didn’t want to go back to the Pokémon Centre just yet. She’d just found the way to the Tin Tower, maybe she could look around a bit first? She needed something to lift her spirits, so if she couldn’t find Morty, maybe a bit of exploring would do.

    It looks so old… and the view at the top is probably amazing!

    She needed a distraction right now.

    So she gathered herself, walking cautiously up the steps, her ponytailed hair caught by the slight breeze that sailed through the forest avenue. When she reached the top there was no one around the small courtyard before the entrance, and no one answered when she called. She approached the high wooden doors and opened them guardedly, peeking into a large room with a smooth wooden floor and absolutely no decorations whatsoever.

    Or at least that’s what she thought until she saw the quartet of brass bells, tethered with red cord to an ornate metal frame in each corner. Still, they were the only things the room boasted, aside from broad windows and a staircase opposite the entrance. So that’s where Keegan went, following the consecutives steps up, taking deep breaths of the musty, wood-scented air, rubbing the smooth, polished timber of the rail. Each room was the same, with bare wooden walls and the huge, shining bells, and vaguely she hoped that the pinnacle would be slightly different.

    When she did find a room that differed from the others, it wasn’t by much and it wasn’t the highest point; there was still one last staircase.

    The room was as empty as the others but instead of brass bells they were silver. For a moment Keegan stared at them, wondering whether they were real silver or not, and when she touched one gently she was slightly surprised to find the smooth metal cool in the warmth of the Tower.

    Then she heard soft, near-inaudible footsteps and, heart lurching guiltily, whirled around just in time to catch someone coming down the staircase.

    They saw each other at virtually the same time. The first expression to pass over the young man’s features was surprise, while the first thing to go through Keegan’s mind was appreciation, taking in his appearance in a second: medium height, slender, with sky-blue eyes and a sculpted face.

    It was only a moment. Then both of them recovered and Keegan opened her mouth to apologise or explain, her cheeks pink with embarrassment at being caught out where she wasn’t sure she was meant to be by someone she definitely would have preferred to view from afar to avoid making a fool of herself—especially considering that she was wearing her ratty track pants and still looked like someone had taken a stick to her.

    She hadn’t even managed to say anything, however, before his eyes flashed angrily behind the lock of brown hair falling across his face and a pokéball was in his hand, gleaming in the rays of the setting sun through the slitted windows.

    “Who are you?” he demanded aggressively, moving down the stairs with a billow of the white cape over his shoulders, the pokéball expanded between his fingers.

    Nice to look at, but damn he’s intimidating—

    “I’m Keegan, I was just looking for the gym leader and one of the students said he might be up here,” the girl blurted out hurriedly, backing away from his piercing glare and barely keeping herself from responding by going for her own pokémon. “I didn’t mean to intrude.”

    “Morty’s not here,” the young man said shortly, still eyeing her suspiciously, fingering his pokéball. “And neither should you be. This is private property.”

    “I’m sorry,” Keegan said quickly, her cheeks flushing with guilty embarrassment at the chastisement. “I just—there was no one at the gates, and no one answered when I called, so I thought—”

    “Then you thought wrong,” the young man interrupted, but to Keegan’s relief he minimized the pokéball and tucked it back away somewhere into his purple suit.

    And that was when Keegan’s mind kicked into overdrive and her own suspicion dawned. Okay, so now I know that I’m not meant to be here, but what about him? “What are you doing here, anyway?” she dared cautiously, inwardly wincing at her unintentionally accusing tone.

    “My name is Eusine, not ‘you’, and I happen to have permission,” the stranger snapped irritably, briefly brushing the lock of hair out of his eyes. “But that’s a distinction you don’t.”

    Well so-rry! “It’s not my fault!” Keegan flared at his dismissive tone. “No one ever said anything about this being private property!”

    Eusine stared, and Keegan flushed deeper. Oh boy, there you go, making an idiot of yourself again…

    “It’s surrounded by walls and trees on all sides!” he said finally, sounding disbelieving. “What else could it be?”

    Oh. Keegan fell silent, practically feeling her cheeks burn hot enough to fry an egg. “I didn’t think of that,” she said in a small voice, staring down at her scuffed shoes as he looked at her incredulously.

    “You see a building surrounded by walls and it doesn’t occur to you that it might be private? What kind of a girl are you?”

    Keegan was just wondering that herself, though she’d never really thought about walls before. Obviously she’d never consider running rampant in someone’s house without permission, but a place like this or the Alto Mare library, in the open, a place that everyone pretty much knows and no one seems to explicitly own, a public location, how could she ever consider that going there might be trespassing?

    “But how do I know that you really do have permission?” she tried again, more quietly and less belligerently without looking at him. Her face was quite hot enough, thank you.

    “You don’t,” was the simple, stern answer.

    She glanced up through her bangs, shuffling uncomfortably, to see him tapping his gloved fingers impatiently on his crossed arms. “Well, then—”

    He sighed in exasperation. “Do you always question authority or am I just the lucky one?”

    Keegan flinched, hearing echoes of Pete and Miriam’s words in her head, and smiled a little sheepishly. “Um, always, pretty much. I just—I’d leave, but how do I know you’re really meant to be here?”

    He looked at her again, with those piercing eyes which Keegan felt like were looking right through her, and her cheeks went red again. At least this time he doesn’t look angry, she thought, shifting uneasily and chewing her lip. On the contrary; it was like he was studying her, so instead she began to feel like she was under glass. What was worse was the fact that she couldn’t read him at all, so she had no idea what he was thinking.

    “I’ll go down with you,” he said finally. “And I happen to know where Morty is, so I’ll take you to him. That way you’ll know I’m what I say I am, and you won’t have a reason to go wandering where you’re not supposed to. Done?”

    Keegan blinked, momentarily surprised at his offer and the fact that his tone had softened to something that was almost friendliness, before realizing exactly what he’d said. Her eyes widened and she grinned broadly. “Really? Thanks!”

    “Good,” Eusine said briskly. “But you’d better hurry up, because I’ve still got research to do up here and Morty only gave me today to do it.”

    “Oh.” Keegan followed as he moved to the stairs downward, casting a single, curious glance at the way up before the floor rose around her and obscured her view. She turned back to the front, struggling to keep up while hiding the burn of her still-sore muscles. “What’re you researching?”

    Eusine looked at her with the same measuring expression that he had before as they passed through the next floor, the slitted windowsills tinted gold by the impending sunset. “Legendaries,” he admitted at last. “I’m looking for one of the Legendaries. Ecruteak is the seat of Johto’s myths and legends, so I come here to do my research. Now as for you,” And though his tone was calculating he had, to her relief, looked away, because it was damn hard not to feel put on the spot when someone as handsome as he was staring at you, especially with that intense gaze of his. “Why are you after Morty? You don’t look like a particularly strong trainer, so it can’t be a battle.”

    “I’m not,” Keegan confessed, finally giving in to jogging a bit so she could keep up with his quick, long-legged stride. She winced as her legs complained, drawing her attention from his almost derisively amused tone at the thought of someone challenging the gym leader. “I read that he can see things from far away. I came to see if he could help me find someone.” She wouldn’t normally have explained that much, because the subject was very personal to her, but he was helping her and, as they said, turnabout was fair play.

    “I see.” was all the answer she received, but instead of making her feel relieved it just made her wonder what he was thinking.

    After that they walked in silence, Keegan feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious. She had absolutely no idea what to say and he seemed so deep in thought that she didn’t want to disturb him. Instead she bore the situation stoically, even though she’d always hated the quiet when there were other people around to talk to, and instead focussed on what she planned to do afterward, depending on what Morty was able to tell her.

    So when her companion abruptly stopped, throwing out a hand which she almost banged into, she jumped with surprise. “Wha—” she began, but he shushed her, his gaze not focussed on anything in particular as though he was listening to something.

    Apparently he wasn’t as out of it as I thought. Keegan’s chest clenched with apprehension and she took a deep breath to ease it, closing her eyes to do the same.

    It took a moment before she heard anything, but when she did her eyes flew open and she tensed, her lips drawn tightly shut as though to retract any sound she might make, spoken or not.

    There was someone down there—several someones—and judging by Eusine’s reaction they weren’t supposed to be there either.

    He already had a pokéball ready and expanded, and after only a second’s hesitation Keegan did the same, picking Firefoot’s pokéball out and clutching it with an unsteady hand. This is a game, she told herself firmly before fear could get too deep a grip on her, briefly touching her pendant for luck. Last man standing. The only difference is that we’re allowed to use pokémon, and we even played it like that sometimes, to up the teams.

    So with another deep breath she followed after her companion’s flicking white cape, absently impressed with the quiet of his footsteps. Well, if he’s a Legendary hunter…

    “Is there a sign at the front of the Tower which says ‘anyone can come in and enjoy themselves’, or is this just my unlucky day?”

    You’ve got to be kidding. Keegan only just managed to keep herself from putting her head in her hands, stopping short at the height of the steps not far behind Eusine. Giving them warning is a bad idea, idiot!

    The darkly clad trio in the next room whirled around in surprise at his abrupt, irritable voice, all of them diving for their pokéballs with a speed that suggested special training. Keegan swore she heard Eusine mutter, “Well that answers that question,” as he called out his pokémon, only a beat or two ahead of the intruders.

    A female alakazam materialized on the bottom step, the dark brown armour on her forearms, torso and knees seeming to absorb what light still came through the windows. Barely a moment later she was faced with an oval-bodied azumarill, its ears cocked and eyes hard, but the alakazam had already raised her spoons. With a sweeping gesture of the silver utensils the blue-and-white pokémon was sent flying back into the orange-haired woman that was its trainer hardly before its feet had touched floor.

    Both of them hit the wall and tumbled to the ground with twin thuds, gasping for breath, but before Alakazam could do the same to the others a second pokémon was deposited on the floor, red shell gleaming in the fading light and eyes glaring at Alakazam from beneath the shadow of a yellow star-shaped crest.

    Oh ****—crawdaunt are part dark— Keegan’s stomach lurched with recognition and she darted as far as she could down the steps, shoving past a surprised Eusine as Alakazam narrowed her gaze, her eyes flashing a bright, cerulean blue, and gestured once at the crab-like pokémon with a spoon. For a second the crawdaunt shone the same colour; then the aura was dispelled with an almost audible snap, leaving no effect whatsoever.

    “Ahlaa?” Alakazam’s eyes widened in horror, but before Crawdaunt could retaliate it was knocked aside by a muscular, bright orange-and-black figure.

    With a toss of his white-maned head Firefoot drove the crawdaunt back across the room, the crab’s trainer jumping aside to avoid it, almost tripping, and the water pokémon trying desperately using its stubby back legs to halt its skid before it crashed back into the azumarill which had just staggered to its feet.

    “A fire pokémon,” the third intruder spat in disgust as he lifted a pokéball of his own, his brown hair peeking out from beneath a navy-coloured bandanna with a strange white emblem imprinted on the front.

    What is that? Keegan managed to wonder.

    “Bubblebeam!” the woman snarled angrily, crouched by the wall and clutching her shoulder where she’d landed badly.

    “Zurii!” Azumarill pounced on Crawdaunt’s tall head, firing a rapid stream of bubbles not towards Firefoot or Alakazam, but up at Eusine and Keegan, unprotected on the stairs.

    Without thinking Keegan slipped through the rails, where she’d been crouching to drop Firefoot’s pokéball down the side of the stairs, and let herself fall, hitting the floor hard as the bubbles exploded against the wooden entrance to the next floor. Ow… Keegan staggered to her feet, her knees wobbly from the shock of the landing and her heart pounding down low in her ribs with adrenaline, her thoughts scattered on the wind of instinctive action. She looked up with enough time to see a second Bubblebeam headed off by a Lightscreen from Alakazam, each blow causing the transparent surface of the barrier to fizz.

    “Thundershock!” Keegan heard Eusine shout, and felt a surge of relief that he was all right a second before she realized what he’d said.

    Oh God, he’s got to be kidding!

    He wasn’t. With an undignified yelp Keegan ducked beneath the stairs, her hair already frizzing up from the static, having definite flashbacks to the day before. Lightning crackled overhead, aimed for the crawdaunt as the azumarill skittered thoughtlessly out of the way.

    There was a flash of red, the light forming into a shapeless figure in front of Crawdaunt a second before the lightning hit.

    And then dispersed, revealing a slimy blob of a pokémon, its blue fur slick and expression untroubled.

    Quagsire, Keegan recognised though the slats, for much the same reason she had the crawdaunt—Alto Mare being on the border between Johto and Hoenn, and a city of water to boot, she knew pretty much every pokémon of that type through sheer osmosis.

    But that knowledge didn’t help her much now, except to feel a mixture of dread and relief. Electrical attacks would be useless as long as the intruders had a ground-type to absorb them, but that meant that Eusine wasn’t likely to try to use electricity again, right?

    But we can’t use our best attacks for fear of damaging the Tower, either! she realized, stomach clenching with the thought that those damned electric attacks were probably their best bet.

    Arrcth!” The familiar howl interrupted her thoughts, ringing throughout the close-aired chamber, and Keegan’s heart jumped.


    The stairs shuddered as the arcanine bounced off them in a splash of water, landing sprawled to the other side, and Keegan scrambled beneath the steps to check on him, hurriedly squeezing out as much of his sodden fur as she could. Growing up on Alto Mare meant he was a little more resistant to the liquid than was usual for a fire pokémon, but still…

    We can’t go on like this. Electric attacks are the best chance we’ve got, although if we could just get rid of the crawdaunt instead… either way… “See if you can get rid of the quagsire,” she said through gritted teeth as the arcanine staggered back up, shaking himself slightly and looking bedraggled. “We need those lightning attacks to get through!”

    Firefoot’s ears twitched in agreement; then, a second later, his head jerked slightly to the side in response to a command Keegan didn’t hear properly. Abruptly he jumped towards her, knocking her aside in time to avoid a shadowy pincer as it pounded the floor, leaving cracks in the wood. “Take Down,” Keegan gasped blindly, her elbows smarting from where she’d landed on them and unable to see past Firefoot’s bulk and the stairs.

    “Arrcnnn,” Firefoot snarled and was gone, giving Keegan a chance to lever herself up and see what the hell was happening.

    She caught Firefoot’s full-bodied collision with the quagsire, throwing them both to the side just in time to evade the crackling Thundershock which scorched the crawdaunt’s gleaming shell.

    She saw Alakazam’s spoons whirl in her hands, directing a rainbow-coloured shaft of energy towards the azumarill, sending the blue-and-white pokémon cartwheeling across floor. It crashed into the still-dazed and sparking crawdaunt, both of them tumbling back to land in a heap of stubby limbs and pincers.

    Firefoot skidded to a halt, having just barely managed to land on his feet after being thrown by the supple quagsire, his body heaving with pants.

    For a split second there was a lull as the intruders’ pokémon tried to recover themselves, Keegan’s mind racing for what to do next, praying she didn’t clash with Eusine’s orders.

    Then there was a roar of breath-stealing wind and something blew itself up the stairs to Keegan’s left, something encircled by eerie, swirling red and yellow lights which made her eyes hurt, humming a high, steady note which made it difficult to think.

    What’s going on?

    She suddenly felt so alone, and it was so dark, so hard to see anything aside from the scarlet-tinged globes. There were enemies around, she could feel them—

    Something thudded beside her and Keegan flinched away, her heart suddenly pounding with terror, but before she could escape she was wrenched around, pulled away from the fascinating dance of circles and against something warm and breathing.

    “Don’t look at it,” someone breathed sharply in her ear when she tried instinctively to struggle, and a hand came down over her eyes. “It’s Confuse Ray!”

    Confuse Ray. A more effective form of Supersonic. It’s dangerous because it can make your pokémon turn on you unintentionally…

    What? When did I read that?

    Keegan’s mind cleared and she went still, finding her hand gripping someone’s sleeve, leaning against their chest, turned away from the buzz and panicked shouts she could hear somewhere out in the middle of the room. Her arms prickled with goosebumps when the pitch faltered for a second before turning up even higher, making her ears ache and a chill run down her spine. “Hypnosis,” Eusine’s voice sounded somewhere not far overhead, and that was when Keegan realized that he was the one holding her.

    She didn’t need to see to know her face had just gone as red as Firefoot’s fur.

    Her heart lurched. “Firefoot!” she gasped, automatically trying to pull away. For a moment a startled Eusine resisted; then the humming stopped and there were multiple thuds as bodies hit the floor.

    Keegan was up the instant Eusine let her go, but her knees buckled and she staggered, her vision swirling with the pound of a head-rush as she caught herself on the side of the stairs.

    “Eusine, everything all right?” an unfamiliar voice asked calmly over several sets of footfalls as she blinked rapidly to get rid of the white burn of dizziness in front of her eyes.

    “Just peachy,” Eusine answered, and a part of Keegan laughed at his grumpy tone.

    I guess he just ran out of time for his research.

    Keegan’s vision finally cleared enough for her to see, but the first thing in sight was a purple-bodied gengar, floating over the unconscious bodies of the intruders with a wide, red-eyed grin. Keegan shuddered and turned away to find Firefoot sprawled on the other side of the stairs, his ribs rising and falling steadily in sleep, and she returned him, relieved that he seemed to be okay.

    “Who is this?” someone asked, their sharp tone catching Keegan’s attention, and the girl spun around to look at the newcomers.

    One of them had longish yellow hair, held back by a blue headband, and half-lidded eyes which made him look somehow laidback, as though nothing could faze him. Morty, she identified him instantly, feeling her stomach drop to her knees. Great, he’s not gonna want to help me at all now he knows I was trespassing.

    Three more were monks, clad in brown robes and of varying sizes and ages. One of them was scowling at her suspiciously under thick eyebrows which contrasted with his thin face, so she guessed that he was the one who’d asked the question.

    The final member of the party was Officer Jenny, her blue hair tucked securely under her cap as she moved around the room to place the intruders’ pokémon back in their pokéballs and take details, her keen eyes studying the area as Gengar followed with leering interest.

    “A customer,” Eusine said briskly and with a hint of dryness. “You’d better tell the students not to send people up here looking for you, Morty.”

    “Sorry,” Keegan apologised quickly, abashed. “I didn’t mean to.”

    Eusine snorted but thankfully didn’t say anything, not about that anyway, and his continued explanation turned attention away from her. At least, until Officer Jenny looked up at her a few moments later, one hand tapping a pencil against the notebook she had in her hand. “So you just walked up and into the Tower?” the woman asked with something between suspicion and disapproval.

    “There was no one in the courtyard,” Keegan said nervously, sliding down the stairwell’s post to sit on the bottom slat. “And I called to make sure, so I could ask, but no one answered.”

    “We were all in the shrine-house in the back at the time,” Morty said grimly, as much to Officer Jenny as to Keegan. “We got a warning note this afternoon saying that someone was going to steal some of the artefacts the monks keep back there.”

    “There’s nothing really of value in the Tower itself except the bells,” Eusine added, throwing Morty a frown to show that he didn’t appreciate being kept out of the loop. “And they’re of value more for historical reasons, so they’d be useless to sell. There’d be no reason to come in here. Or not much of one, at any rate.”

    “Obviously those guys disagree,” Keegan murmured with a vague wave at the uniformed intruders, letting her head drop tiredly against the rail. Now that the battle was over she was beginning to feel a little tired again, as well as on edge because of all the surprises and sore because at some point she’d stretched the graze on her arm to the point of weeping. I wonder if Eusine would have found them if I hadn’t disturbed him?

    “Well, they don’t have any ID,” Jenny was muttering almost to herself, examining the three compact hang-gliders resting in the corner. “Except this.” She held out a scrap of black material to them, imprinted with the same emblem that had been on the intruders’ bandannas, only this time in blue. In the centre was a circle, while at the bottom were two short lines, with a third at the top, making it look vaguely like an ‘A’.

    Keegan shrugged her ignorance when the policewoman looked at her in query. “Can I go?” she asked in a small voice while she had Jenny’s attention as Morty took the cloth, fingering it absently and studying the symbol.

    “No,” Officer Jenny told her sternly. “I need to get a statement from you.”

    Bugger, Keegan thought, disappointed. She really, really wanted some alone-time to talk to Hazel, to make sure Firefoot was okay, and just be able to keep out of big occurrences in general. Is it always like this, or am I just the lucky one?

    In the end she and Eusine went off with Jenny to the police station first, leaving Morty and the monks to look over the Tower and keep watch over the intruders until Jenny could send in some people to pick them up. It took a couple of hours for Jenny to speak to them both to her satisfaction, during which Keegan got tired of telling the same short story over and over again, all the while wishing she was gone.

    Or that it was morning, either way, because just before they’d left Morty had told her to meet him at the gym the next day so he could give her a reading. The thought that she was so close made her heart flare with hope and her mind resign to the fact that she probably wouldn’t be getting much sleep that night.

    She turned out to be right. She made it back to the Pokémon Centre in plenty of time before curfew, giving her a chance to make plans with Hazel. Or it would have, if the eevee hadn’t been so put out that she didn’t get in on the action that evening that she kept on turning away whenever Keegan tried to speak to her.

    But despite the fact that she slept badly Keegan was true to her nature and arose early, while the horizon was still green with the dawn. Ecruteak was just waking up by the time she got out of the Centre, bidding Nurse Joy a decently cheerful farewell as she went with all her possessions in hand and pokémon cleared for battle, but as she reached the timber-built gym her steps slowed with uncertainty.

    He’s probably not awake yet, she realized with dismay. I always get up earlier than Haze and Firefoot, and even Miriam sometimes.

    A second later she grimaced, feeling a pang of guilt that she hadn’t thought about her foster mother in ages and wondering briefly how she was doing. I hope she never finds out about the whole… um, getting attacked thing. She’d kill me.

    …bad thoughts.
    She forced her mind away from them and refocussed on the gym in front of her. Well, at least I can check… Cautiously Keegan tested the heavy doors, peeking in when they proved to be unlocked. All she saw was a dim, wide-spaced arena, with timber bleachers set at the walls to either side, flanked by the same slitted windows that the Tower had possessed.

    “Well, are you going in or not?” a familiar voice snapped from behind her, and Keegan jumped, her heart rebounding off her ribs and leaping up to her throat as she whirled around.

    “Don’t do that!” she gasped, clutching at her chest and shuddering. God, for a moment there I thought— “And besides, weren’t you the one telling me about walls and private property?”

    “And weren’t you the one ignoring them?” Eusine asked, raising one slender eyebrow and looking faintly amused before pushing past and entering himself, the blonde-haired girl trailing guiltily in his wake. “Morty!” the caped young man called stridently as he moved across the tamped dirt of the arena towards a shadowed doorway Keegan could now make out at the opposite end of the room.

    A second later Morty came through the entrance, flipping aside the dark cloth which draped in front of the door, his blue-and-yellow shirt looking bright in the gloom. “Early riser?” he asked with a slight grin, and Keegan smiled back sheepishly.

    “Sorry,” she offered, but Morty just waved a hand in dismissal and got straight to the point.

    “Eusine said you wanted some help in finding someone. Can you give me a description? Or do you have something they once owned?”

    “Um…” Keegan fingered her pendant and shifted uncomfortably, wondering how much she should say. “I—I don’t know what they look like, or what their name is, or… well, anything.” She swallowed hard, steeling herself to say aloud something her family rarely did, partly out of sympathy for her plight and partly because half the time it seemed like a dream that she actually had the condition. “You see, I—I have amnesia. I can’t remember anything from before I was ten years old, and I’ve lived with foster parents since then.”

    Eusine’s eyebrows shot skyward in surprise, but Morty just nodded in thoughtful understanding, and Keegan let out a shaky breath, her legs feeling unsteady. Damn, but I haven’t said that out loud in far too long. “Um, my pendant,” She tugged on the dimmed firestone, fumbling with the chain to take it off. “It’s one of the only things I had on me when I was found, so…” she drifted off as she held it out uncertainly, feeling strangely vulnerable when Morty accepted it.

    “Before I do anything,” The gym leader looked at her seriously, the pendant’s chain draping over his fist. “I should warn you that since it’s been so long since you received this, I might not be able to See much. And if I do, it might not be to your liking. Too much might have changed.”

    Unable to speak through her suddenly dry mouth, Keegan just nodded, hugging herself around the waist and feeling unexpectedly chilled despite the light jacket she wore. I didn’t think he might not be able to see anything…

    Reassured she understood, Morty pressed the index and middle fingers of his right hand firmly to his forehead and closed his eyes, gripping the pendant tightly. After a moment Keegan felt a slight prickle, similar to when Alakazam had been using Psychic or Gengar had used Hypnosis, only on a much lower scale. “Your arcanine used this to evolve itself,” the gym leader observed idly, not really seeming to expect a reply, though the girl nodded again anyway, her gaze riveted to him tensely.

    Skilfully Morty expanded the scope of his vision, searching for someone he knew could well be too far away even for him to see. Or simply not exist anymore.

    And then… flashes.

    —a man with red hair, tall and dignified, dressed in crimson and black—

    Or is that grey?
    Morty wondered, relaying this out loud. “But I can’t see his face, there’s too much shadow…”

    It was more than that; the image was flickering, unstable, like the distance between them was simply too great. Probably in another region, then; most of Johto is within my Sight.

    A second later the emotion hit him, and he almost gasped out loud. The depth of this man’s passion was incredible, and as clear as the image was hazy. There wasn’t much interpretation needed with a feeling as apparent as that. “He’s the one who gave this pendant to you… and it was given with a great deal of love.”

    Come on, give me a little more than that… He strained himself as far as he could, making his temples throb slightly with the effort, but he was sure there was something else to find and he hated to leave the girl with so little, considering he was probably her only lead.

    The vision changed slightly, the background shifting from obscure shadow into sputtering flames set against the roaring crash of surf.

    “There’s fire behind him, but there’s water too.”

    Keegan couldn’t restrain a sigh upon hearing that. Fire and water. Fire and water. Why is everything fire and water? Damn ocean.

    Morty was silent for a few moments longer before opening his eyes with a rapid blink, lowering his hand. “That’s it. I’m afraid this man is too far for me to see anything detailed, so he’s probably in another region. But judging by what I felt… I’d say it’s a good bet he’s your father.”

    Keegan’s eyes blurred unexpectedly as she accepted the pendant back, her chest clenching tightly with the lump in her throat, and she had to take a deep breath, and then another, to keep from breaking down right then and there. My father. I had—I have a father, and he loved me, and he gave me my pendant.

    “Thanks,” she managed to whisper, brushing distractedly at her eyes even as her cheeks went pink with embarrassment at being seen like this. “But I— I’m not sure where to start looking—”

    “Fire and water sound like pretty good leads to me,” Eusine said with apparent disinterest, looking away and examining the arena like a referee just before an important match. “There are fire and water gyms in both Kanto and Hoenn. Maybe he’s in one of those places.”

    Feeling a swell of gratitude towards the young man for his discretion, Keegan took another deep breath, managing to swallow down the obstruction, forcing back tears. At least until I get somewhere private. “I suppose those are as good as any place to start.”

    “I’d suggest you make the fire gyms a priority,” Eusine added with a slight tilt of his shoulders, as though to acknowledge her comment. “Considering that he was wearing red. Mono-type trainers often like to dress the part.”

    “It’d be easiest to go to Kanto first from here,” Morty suggested, absently rubbing his temple with one hand while ignoring Eusine’s ironic tone and the shift eyes in his direction, an indication of a discussion that Keegan hadn’t been part of. “It’s nearer, for one. Plus you can take the Magnet Train from Goldenrod right into Saffron, and then a ferry to Slateport from Vermillion. Otherwise it’s a lot more running around.”

    And a lot more time on the sea, Keegan thought with an inward grimace. It sounded like she’d be on ferries for the rest of her life at the rate she was going.

    To distract herself from that unwelcome thought she reached into her bag, looking for her wallet. “Um, I heard that you do readings for a living, so… how much do I owe you?”

    Looking slightly surprised and but not ungrateful, Morty named his price and waited patiently as Keegan pawed through her bag, muttering curses under her breath. She finally found her purse in one of the side pockets, nestled in amongst the wad of cash Simon had given her, perhaps half of which she still had. Meals at the Pokémon Centre were cheaper for trainers, boarding was free, and she’d been sleeping outside a lot. Most of what was gone she’d used to pay for the ticket to Olivine.

    “Finally,” she muttered to herself as she took out the notes to get at her purse, stuffing them back into the pocket a second later.

    She looked up to find both Morty and Eusine staring at her. “Uh…”

    “You carry around that much plain cash?” Eusine demanded incredulously, and Keegan felt her face heat up.

    “It was a present,” she protested. “And I don’t have a bank account. How else am I supposed to pay for things?”

    “Usually that’s what parents of any kind are for,” Morty said dryly.

    Yeah… ‘usually’ being the operative word there.

    “Well…” Keegan ducked her head and shuffled her feet, plucking timidly at the loose threads on the edges of her purse. “I kind of… ran away from home.”

    Eusine snorted and she twitched, glancing up at him. “You have pokégear, don’t you?” he asked in a tone of voice which suggested he was talking to a child.

    Keegan stared blankly. “So?”

    Once again, Eusine looked at her as though she were mad, the same way he had the night before when asking her if she didn’t consider walled off areas to be private property. “Didn’t anyone explain to you how it works?”

    “I was… kind of in a hurry at the time,” Keegan protested. “And my uncle wasn’t exactly supposed to be giving it to me.”

    Eusine sighed. “Pokémon training,” the purple-suited young man began long-sufferingly, completely ignoring Morty, who allowed his friend to explain with an amused twist of his lips. “Is considered a casual profession. Trainers who have no other source of income are given a small allowance by the Pokémon Association. Don’t tell me you don’t have the payment card for your pokégear.”

    The what? Keegan blinked. She remembered rifling through the pokégear’s instructions and reading about the cards. Simon had given her one each of the map and radio cards, but they had been the only ones there.

    Apparently her confusion showed on her face, because, to her mortification, Eusine closed his eyes and slapped his forehead with a disbelieving groan as a grin crawled across Morty’s face, the gym leader’s shoulders beginning to shake with silent laughter.

    “Nurse Joy in Cianwood sat me down to explain all that stuff,” Keegan objected, flushing, as a still-chuckling Morty turned around and strode back towards the door he’d initially arrived through. “If there was such a thing, how come she didn’t mention it?” She left note of the fact that Joy had asked if Keegan already knew how to use her pokégear, which the girl had thought she did, so they hadn’t really covered that.

    “She probably assumed you already had it,” Eusine said with great exasperation. “Usually when trainers start travelling they have their finances worked out first.”

    “I didn’t know, how was I meant to have known?” Keegan complained, but despite herself she could feel a grin tugging at her lips. Morty’s laughter was infectious. “And I couldn’t exactly go up and ask my foster parents to lend me money, I had to sneak out on them before they’d let me go anywhere!”

    Eusine shook his head and lifted his eyes upward as though to say ‘spare me’. “Just listen, I don’t want to have to explain this twice. With the payment card you get a certain amount of money a week, usually enough for the more basic supplies. If you leave it go, it accumulates. The card is your credit ID, so don’t ever lose it, otherwise you won’t be able to withdraw anything, and for your account to be activated you need to take it to a Pokémon Centre, so do that as soon as you can.”

    “Gotcha,” Keegan muttered, peeling away the amount she knew she owed Morty from inside her purse as the gym leader reappeared with a flick of the dark curtain. Upon his approach, still looking deeply amused, he held out a thin card the same shape and size as the ones Keegan had found already inserted into the pokégear when she got it.

    She swapped him for his fee, not feeling nearly as embarrassed as she thought she would. “Do I need to pay you for that as well?” she asked wryly, but Morty just shook his head with a laugh.

    “Just explain where you got it and Nurse Joy will credit you to your account,” he told her. “Most Pokémon Centres and gyms carry a few of them for emergencies—you’d be surprised at how many new trainers forget how important money is. Right, Eusine?”

    Slyly he looked sidelong at his friend, and Eusine spluttered indignantly. “I got my card on time!”

    “Yes, from my sensei,” Morty said dryly. “A month after you first left home.”

    A month! At least I haven’t been gone for quite that long yet! Keegan covered her mouth with one hand to hide her smile, her shoulders shaking in an imitation of Morty a few moments ago as Eusine protested.

    So it was that the girl left the gym with a stitch from trying to stifle her laughter, leaving behind two good-naturedly arguing friends and feeling more light-hearted than she had in the nearly four weeks since she’d first left Alto Mare.

    * * *​

    A/N: Unfortunately, the next chapter isn't finished yet, so I have no idea when it'll be up. I will make an effort for it not to be too long... I will, really!
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2008
  18. jirachiman876

    jirachiman876 The King of Kirby

    Yay PD!!! You finally got out a chapter. i've been waiting for this for a while. I really liked it. It was pretty new cause i remember her going around Burnt Tower instead of tin Tower. O well. ^^;
    Anyway, great chapter. Loved it like I always do. It was so much better than the first one I can see the improvements on it. A lot more thoughts of Keegan show along with the improvement of your dialogue and description. It's a very nice peice of work you have here. ^^ I did find 3 mistakes that I'll point out.

    up a folded cloth that another of the round pink pokémon
    this little bit is weird and probably needs to be reworked a little. I'd take out of the cause it makes a little more sense in the sentence.

    the girl blurted out hurriedly, backing
    It's spelled hurredly

    myths and legends, so I come here to do
    Came not come. needed to be in past tense here.
    other than that it was a great chap and I can't wait to read the new adventure of Keegan cause it seems it's traveling in a comepletely new way than what it was last time. It's like I'm reading a whole new fic. ^^
    jirachiman out ;385;
  19. Ryano Ra

    Ryano Ra Verdant Vitality

    o_o *looks around nervously* O_O *bites nails*

    I am very sorry it took me ages to get here...I've been caught up with playing too many video games, school, and writing myself. XD *laughs nervously* As many have said, the story is much more improved, and I actually love Keegan. For some reason, she seems...more mature and intelligent, unlike in the original version. I dunno. Maybe it was too many of these white-cheddar crackers I have been consuming since breakfast. x_o;; I love your writing and this this truely reflects why I still stay a dedicated fan and close friend of yours. ^^ Also, not to mention I love your word choices; they are perfect and help mold the chapters together. *envies* I love Keegan's new attitude and character and I can't wait for the fourth chapter!
  20. purple_drake

    purple_drake E/GL obsessed

    jirachiman: o_O not sure where you got the Burnt Tower thing from; it's always been the Tin Tower :p ah well.

    Thanks for pointing those things out, but they're... not really mistakes ^.^;;

    The first one I can see how you might think the sentence is a bit choppy, but if I took out 'of the' then it would change the meaning of the sentence. 'Of the' implies a pokemon we've already seen before; a plain 'another round pink pokemon' suggests that it's not a Chansey, it's completely different pokemon which happens to be round and pink.

    The second... that was a bit of a 'what the', I have to admit. 'Hurred' is indeed a word according to my Word processor, but it didn't come up in the dictionary; in fact the closest word I found was 'hurr', which is a sound. 'Hurriedly' is the act of moving swiftly, which is what I wanted; I'm not sure why you'd think otherwise.

    As for the last one, normally you'd be right, but as far as the games and anime imply (and probably the manga as well, it's been a while since I read that volume) Eusine is a regular visitor of Ecruteak. 'Came' would imply he only went there that once; 'come' implies he has done so before and will do so again.

    So as you see, there is method in my madness *winks* but thanks for caring enough to point them out ^.^

    Ryano: *glomps* finally! ^.^ hewwo! It's okay ;) I know what it's like to get caught up in things. One of my friends is close to tearing her hair out (or my head off, probably) because I take so long in betaing her stories for the same reason.

    I'm glad you're liking her more ^.^ I actually like her a whole lot more than I did in the original version - truth to tell, I really disliked her then. 'Hate' is a bit strong, but it was close. Funny how things change ^.^

    The fourth chapter... eheh... *chews lip* I can't make any promises (we all know how well I deliver on those) but it's not finished yet, and I'm kinda caught up in the Yu Yu Hakusho fandom... on the other hand, I do really want to get it done... I'll do mah best! ^.^ Thanks for reviewing, even if it did take a while.

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