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Fleur Noir

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Ysavvryl, Mar 1, 2014.

  1. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Chapter 6: Bugs and Stars

    Save for the Route 6 incident, my first year at the Lumiose Magic Academy ended well. I had good grades, not the top (because in my homeroom alone, the top grade average was contested between Trevor and Serena) but better than I expected. I went back to Vaniville for summer break and was glad to spend good time with my parents again. However, my parents were busily employed. I ended up spending several days with just their Pokemon and mine, much like past summers. But I didn't have the option to go visit Gran, so I soon got bored. Dad suggested that I look for a temporary job around Vaniville, but I soon found a more interesting option a bit further north from Aquacorde, in Santalune.

    At the bus station, Calem checked the newspaper clipping for the address he needed. But on walking a couple of blocks down the colorful old town, it quickly became apparent that he didn't need the address. There was one large building with a semitrailer parked in front of it. The building had been made to fit into this community, but it had an air of newness that the rest he saw did not. In a couple of weeks, this place was going to open as an official Kalos Pokemon League Gym.

    Outside of the building, he found a few other kids and a number of Pokemon waiting around a woman. Most of the Pokemon there were Bug type, Calem noted. Then a Bug Gym? He didn't have a Bug Pokemon, although for the first part of this, he probably didn't need one. The woman, after looking over a clipboard, looked at the group. “Okay, anybody else needs to sign up for the job?”

    “I'd like to,” Calem called, hurrying over to them. “Sorry for being late.”

    She smiled kindly. She had pale brown hair tied up in a ponytail and dressed more like she was out for a hike than setting up a gym. “You're just in time, actually. Okay then, my name is Viola, soon to be the Gym Leader here. What's your name?”

    “Calem,” he said, stopping as some of the others parted to let him in the group. “Nice to meet you.”

    “You too. Do you have the application letter as it was in the ad?” He nodded and handed it over, leading her to copy a few lines on her clipboard. But one point made her raise her eyebrows. “You're from LMA? Oh dear, I don't think I have the forms for their interns yet.”

    He shook his head. “No, that's fine. I don't think I need to be doing that yet.”

    She laughed gently. “Oh yes, I see. Anyhow, looks good, so welcome to the crew.” She looked over them in case of another latecomer. “Okay then, the basic structure of the gym is up, but we need to put everything else in place, prepare some set pieces, test the challenge structures, run test battles, and many other small tasks. Let the Pokemon handle the heavy lifting and... let's see...”

    That first day, he got assigned to help paint the entrance room with a few other kids. Over the next few days, he helped with more painting, assisted with carpeting the entrance room, created a few sculptures that resembled giant leaves, helped to test the weight capacity of a path of spider webbing, and battled a few times with the other assistants to make sure the Gym was ready. A lot of it was tough work, but they only had to work a few hours a day. And Viola would work alongside them, chatting in a friendly way and making sure the tasks weren't drudgery.

    -+-

    One day, Calem got a surprise when Swift evolved into a Frogadier during some test battles. She didn't change all that much at first; she grew a little larger, refined her look, changed her basic stance. After the work was over, he took her out to Route 22 to see how she performed more out in the open. She was getting quicker and stronger.

    He had all of his Pokemon out as usual. Mortan was hiding among some flowers, keeping an eye on Percival. The Honedge was keeping to the shadows of trees rather than joining in. Having gotten him back a couple days ago, Calem knew he should do something to make Percival feel more comfortable with having them as friends. He wasn't sure what, other than just having him around and treating him like the others. His father had said that some Pokemon just needed more time to adjust to being in a Trainer's party; it might be a case like that.

    On the other hand, the Furfrou was happily running along the footpath, eager to join battles and get other Pokemon to race him. Calem had the Furfrou race against Swift. The canine Pokemon rushed along in one continuous motion, in a straight line. Opposing him, Swift could make impressively agile bounds, but not actually run. She opted to use a jagged path, landing among grasses that just covered her. At the point where the two of them turned around, she hopped out and landed right in the Furfrou's path. He fumbled immediately in trying not to trip over her, allowing her an extra few seconds to turn and jump back. Swift won.

    “That was a clever bit of trickery,” Calem told them, then came over and petted the Furfrou. “But it was trickery in the end, so don't let it get you down. You could've won that.”

    The Furfrou barked and licked his face, making him laugh. At that point, someone nearby said, “Your Furfrou's looking a bit rough. How does it even see with its fur like that?”

    He looked over and saw someone familiar. “Oh, h-hello Serena,” he said. To hide his bashfulness, he turned back to the Furfrou and lifted the fur from his eyes. “I was wondering that myself, but he doesn't seem to have much trouble. I don't think he looks bad.”

    Serena came closer, taking hold of the Furfrou's fur and running it through her fingers. “Maybe to the average person, but a Furfrou admirer would find him quite shaggy.”

    “I have wondered if I should get his fur cut, if only to keep him cool as the summer gets hot,” Calem said. “I know I've seen an ad for a groomer in Vaniville.”

    “You'd best make sure that the groomer is able to handle a Furfrou,” Serena said. “And once you start trimming them, their fur grows out quickly. You'd have to get it done at least once a week, preferably twice.”

    “That much? Seriously? I didn't know that when I got him.” And that was something to be concerned about. If a groomer might need extra training to deal with a Furfrou (which it sounded like from her explanation), then it would probably cost extra too. And this job was due to end soon.

    “If you battle regularly, you should be able to handle the costs,” she said, almost reading his mind.

    “I have been battling, but I'm not getting much for it directly,” he said. When she gave him a puzzled look, he explained about how he was helping out in the new Gym.

    That seemed to impress her. “Oh, you're helping out Viola? That's great; I’ve seen her battle a few times and I’m sure she could give you some interesting tips. Mostly if you... oh, do you have a Bug typed Pokemon?” She glanced around at his Pokemon that were hanging out nearby.

    “No, I'm just helping her set up after all,” Calem said.

    “You'd get better experience if you kept working with her after the Gym opened, and for that,” Serena smiled at some idea she had. “Actually, I knew about Furfrous since I was thinking about training one myself for a while. It would be different to have to raise one while also keeping attentive to its appearance. So how about we trade? I picked up a Pinsir recently, but I don't think I’ll actually be using her. If I do decide on using a Bug Pokemon, I’ve got another in mind.”

    A Pinsir? He couldn't think immediately of what that Pokemon was. But working as a Gym Trainer could be interesting too. And he knew that he could trust the Furfrou's care to Serena. Calem nodded. “All right, that sounds good.” They handled the trade there so that the Furfrou left with Serena as she went east and the Pinsir Nibbles stayed Calem.

    To his surprise, Nibbles was as tall as he was, not including the Pinsir's barbed pincers which curved over her head. She was definitely bigger than him, with a wide carapace and sturdy legs. Calem tried her out in a few battles, using what he knew about Bug types to decide which ones to keep her out in.

    The next person to walk by and talk to him was actually Viola. “Oh hey, you've got a charming new addition,” she said happily, coming into the tall grass to join them.

    “She's good, although I'm not sure about charming,” Calem said, making her laugh. “One of my friends came by earlier; she traded me the Pinsir here for my Furfrou.”

    “That's a wonderful thing to do, trade Pokemon among friends,” Viola said. “I used to do that a lot when I was a teenager. Are you re-thinking about staying on for the rest of summer?”

    “Yeah, although is one enough?” he asked, rubbing his head.

    She nodded. “Sure, that'd be fine. Since you're a relatively new Trainer, I’d only assign you to the low level challenges. But if you want to add a second, that would help you out. All you'd need to do is go into Santalune Forest and pick up a Scatterbug there. Scatterbug is an easy Pokemon to start with, but it can still become effective if you put the effort into it. If you decide to not focus on Bug types like me, then it's no trouble to release one back into the forest. Some other Pokemon, you really don't want to let back into the wild if you've trained them far enough. They start to depend on humans and can't make it in the wild as well.”

    “How do you know which ones are which?” Calem asked.

    Viola thought about it, then shrugged. “Well, it's hard to say. Asking someone like myself, who knows a lot about particular kinds, is best, but I can only judge the fitness and well-being of Bug types. As far as I know, there isn't anybody who'd know about every Pokemon out there and there are some Bug Pokemon that even I don't know much about.” She looked around, then nodded. “Hey Calem, do you know why I chose to have my Gym here? I'm actually from Lumiose and I've been traveling all around Kalos and neighboring regions since I was old enough.”

    “Is it because of Santalune Forest?” Calem asked. “The one time I went in there, I did see a lot of Bug Pokemon.”

    “That's a small reason, but the big reason is over there. See?” She pointed to a nearby mountain. While other mountains could be seen on clear days, they were all far off on the horizon. Only hills and the flat plains around Lumiose were near this one. “On that mountain lies Victory Road.”

    “Really?” Calem asked, looking over the mountain closer. There was an impressive building at a crossroads between Route 22 going east and another path going north and up the mountain. Trees and distance made it hard to make out much else about it.

    Viola nodded. “Yup. There's two castles up there. One is ancient and mostly in ruins, possibly the oldest castle structure still in Kalos. According to legends, the king that built it there had such authority over the land that he was sometimes considered a god. Even those that refused to accept him as such recognized that he had a divine aura, enough to sway the true gods. The other castle was built about fifty years ago by the Pokemon League as their final stage. Kalos no longer has a king, but the regional champions, whether in Pokemon training or magic, are often treated like royalty. I love that.”

    “Then you made sure that you had the Gym closest to the champion's castle?”

    She giggled. “Yes.” She held her hands close together. “By thirty feet! See, Snowbelle is on the other side of this route and there's a Gym there that's been established for a long time, the longest in the Kalos league currently. So when you come to either one of our gyms, you can get a glimpse of your ultimate goal just beyond your reach. I'm waiting on him to come over and tease me for making my gym closer than his.”

    Calem laughed. “Shouldn't be too long, I would think. Maybe on opening day?”

    “Maybe. Hey, do you plan on taking the League challenge at some point?”

    “I'm not sure about that,” he said with a shrug. He knew some kids his age were enthusiastic about battles, even claiming that being a trainer meant that one couldn't honorably turn down a battle. But he'd never felt as excited about it as others seemed to feel. “Maybe later when I know better what I'm doing.”

    I may have told her that, but it didn't stop her from trying to get me interested. Viola seemed that way with everyone; she said her hobby and passion was photography, and it was obvious from her Gym and office that it was so. Yet she was also passionate about Pokemon battling, encouraging those who lost and feeling happy for those who won, even against her. She said that you can tell a lot about a person and their Pokemon in battle. At the time, I thought it was some kind of talent I didn't have. I had more fun in activities that weren't battles.

    Still, I did as she recommended: I caught a Scatterbug and spent the rest of the summer as a trainer of Santalune Gym. Scatterbug was a good Pokemon and grew quickly, to the point where I was soon battling Vivillon against those seeking their badges, up to the fourth (making me the youngest Trainer of that group). But I found myself getting more attached to Nibbles the Pinsir that Serena had given me. Maybe it was because of her. Maybe it was because Mortan said that Vivillon didn't have the intelligence to speak well but Nibbles did, so I could learn about her easier. At any rate, once the summer ended, I let that Vivillon go after Viola got some pictures of it for me. Mortan said that he seemed as happy to be free as he was with me, so I guess he would think well of me.

    But even being in a job where I was running Pokemon battles nearly every day, it didn't really click for me until late in the summer. If you know of me, you probably know what I’m talking about: the time I took the magic challenge of the Santalune Gym without even trying the training badge.


    -+-

    “Calem, it's for you,” his father said, handing him the house phone. “It's your boss.”

    “All right,” he said, taking the phone. “Hello Viola.”

    “Hi Calem!” she said cheerfully. “I hope I’m not disrupting anything.”

    “No, it's fine. What is it?” He saw Mortan land his flower on top of the phone's base, examining it.

    “Would you mind coming in later than you usually do tomorrow? About two o'clock. It's for something special, as if you work normally, you're going to have to quit early because of it.”

    “It depends. What do you want me do to?”

    “I want you to take my magic challenge.” She sounded serious about it too.

    Calem thought about immediately declining. But, she should know he wasn't that interested now. Did she have a reason behind this request? “Why? I've only completed one year at the magic school, so I don't know if I'm ready for something like that.”

    “It's fine, don't worry about the difficulty. The requirements for the first proof of magic are easy. After all, the main thing I'd be looking for is seeing how you cast in the heat of battle. I've already seen you use weather-manipulation spells in battle, which is more than enough to pass the first proof. I just can't give it to you unless you make a formal challenge. And, I would really like a first proof challenge to happen tomorrow because I'm at a loss for ideas for the other challenge.”

    That was reassuring, but, “What other challenge?”

    “Well, I got a call earlier asking for a reservation for an eighth proof challenge tomorrow, at two o'clock. The training badge challenges aren't that tough to plan for, since the league is fine if you do straight battles for any level. I'm still working on what I want for my proof of magic challenges, though, and haven't gotten around to the eighth.”

    “And I come into this how?” Viola explained her idea on how to handle it until she had something better. With the reassurance that he should be capable of his first level challenge, Calem agreed to help out. He then said goodbye to her and disconnected the call. But he didn't put the phone back immediately as Mortan was still sitting there. “Something bugging you?”

    “A little,” the Flabebe said. He turned his head as Calem's father came back into the room, so floated over to Calem's shoulder to add, “I don't like the phone. I can't hear what the other person is saying.”

    “That's how I feel when you talk to other Pokemon,” Calem pointed out.

    He blushed. “Oh, right, sorry. I suppose neither of us can help it. What are we gonna do?”

    “We're gonna do something a little crazy tomorrow,” he said. Which meant that he had to explain to his now curious parents, but they were happy to hear of it.

    The next day, he arrived in Santalune a few minutes before two and hurried to the gym. There was a camera crew there, something that he should have anticipated. Most people weren't interested in watching a low level proof challenge, but as the higher levels happened less often, this eighth level challenge at a new gym was sure to get regional attention. He went to meet Viola in her office and chatted with her until another gym trainer came to tell them that the other challenger was here.

    She was a beautiful woman. Although she was here for battle, she was dressed as elegantly as a movie star at a gala event. Her outfit was even themed for this gym, with a red, black, and white dress that resembled the patterns on a Ledian. She had platinum blond hair that was left loose, save for two braids at the front which were tied around at the back. But as he'd heard, this was normal for her. Diantha was a movie star, after a breakout role in a blockbuster movie that made her known worldwide. She stood out in this crowd like a glamorous goddess, even though everyone else dressed well for this occasion too. Calem had decided to wear his school uniform today instead of trying to find something else formal, which seemed quite modest compared to others..

    “Welcome to Santalune, Miss Diantha,” Viola said warmly, treating her as friendly as she treated everyone else. “It's good to see you here.”

    “Thanks Viola,” Diantha said, shaking her hand in a dainty manner. “And congratulations on being picked as a Gym Leader. I've been hearing good things about you.”

    Viola smiled in a humble way. “I'm just doing what I love, like always. And you're here for your eighth proof of magic in the Kalos League. This is going to be fun! Are you ready?”

    “Ready and raring to go,” she said, giving a glance at the Pokemon accompanying her, an equally elegant Gardevoir. “What do you need me to do?”

    “We'll get to that when we get inside, but first,” she nodded to Calem, who stepped forward to her side. “You'll be working with this young man, Calem. He's here for his first proof, and you two are going to be taking the same test. Come in and see.” She then went inside the Gym ahead of them.

    Diantha paused a moment to consider him. “Together, huh? This should be interesting. Good to meet you Calem.” She offered a handshake, which he accepted.

    “Good to meet you too, Diantha,” he said, his heart beating a little faster at meeting someone so famous and beautiful. It hadn't really sunk in until that moment what he'd be doing today. But, he was here for a challenge; he'd need to keep his mind on that.

    Followed by the camera crew, Calem and Diantha went inside and took the elevator down to the lowest level in the Gym. Normally, challengers would be taking on Viola on the middle level, where the giant spiderweb labyrinth hung. This was a special match and required a special setting. Down here, there was a flat floor where a giant game board had been painted. Black and gold squares alternated between the entrance area and the battle area on the opposite side.

    “Oh, a chess challenge?” Diantha asked immediately, her eyes gleaming. “Those are always fun.”

    Viola smiled. “Yes, you've got it. But with a twist this time.” She paused a moment, partly because the film crew was getting into position. This would be broadcast later. Once they had signaled their readiness, she continued. “As you may know, the chess challenge is a regular one for proof of magic on higher levels. The magician must cross the board one square at a time as the Trainer piece, while Pokemon are placed in other positions. Battles will only occur when two pieces compete over a square, but unlike the game, whichever piece wins claims the square. I'll have my Pokemon opposing your progress and the Pokemon you have still on the board will be allowed in your battle against me. It's a test of obedience, trust, and strategy. However, normally the high level challenger would be the one on the board. But not today. Calem will be the one to cross the board, and Diantha must control the game.”

    “Oh really?” Diantha said. “A young magician would be more vulnerable to a challenge like this... but I suppose it is more like the game itself.”

    Viola nodded. “That's right. Calem, you just have to obey her instructions and battle me when you cross the whole board. Diantha, you'll need to choose the Pokemon on the challenger side from your own Pokemon and Calem's, place them, and then make sure that he can cross the board safely with his Pokemon still available for his challenge. Calem has to be in the trainer position, but that's the only set piece. You'll also be battling me, although you get the choice of going before or after Calem if successful.”

    “Oo, now this is interesting,” Diantha said, seeming like she was having fun already. “Are you ready, Calem?”

    He nodded. “Yeah, I am.”

    “Good, then you two discuss what you've got, and I'll be waiting on the other side,” Viola said, then headed across the board. Once there, she used a spell that caused a shimmer to appear on the board. Probably something to enforce the rules.

    Diantha turned to him. “Okay, I’ll need to know what Pokemon you have and what you're all capable of. And, you're a student of LMA?”

    “I’ve only passed my first year,” he said, then answered her questions on his team and himself.

    After she had her information, she paused to think. “Okay, so... normally in this kind of challenge, you'd put your strongest Pokemon in the god's position so they can quickly move across the board. Also, we've got to consider that at least some of her Pokemon will be of a level appropriate to the eighth proof and thus yours won't be capable of matching them. So I think... oh, but there's a risk of losing Pokemon for the main battle to this. What Pokemon in particular do you want working with you against Viola?”

    “I was thinking that my Frogadier and Vivillon would work best,” he said. Any of them would be fine, he felt, but Vivillon probably had the best chance.

    In regular games of chess, the pawn pieces were usually represented by first stage Pokemon, with the other pieces being fully evolved Pokemon and a god in the position next to the trainer. However, Diantha put mostly her Pokemon in the pawn positions, with the other positions filled by Calem's and a few that Viola let them borrow to fill out the board. The god position was held by Diantha's Tyrantrum.

    Once the game got started, it soon became clear what she was doing. Her Pokemon were stronger and thus better able to handle their opponent Pokemon even though their moves were limited. If another piece came to challenge them for their square, they had a better chance of winning the ensuing duel. On the other hand, if one of his Pokemon got in a dangerous position, Diantha could get them away sooner because they moved more freely. She didn't even order Calem to move until the big threats on the board were taken out. Diantha lost her Gardevoir after it had to deal with four duels, but they completed the game without losing any of Calem's Pokemon.

    Viola clapped her hands, dismissing the enchantment on the board. “All right, you've won! So then, who'll be my first opponent?”

    “I’ll take that offer,” Diantha said, crossing over the board. Their battle took some time, and was spectacular to watch in person. Observing them both, Calem wondered if he could become that good in magic battles.

    After the battle, Viola congratulated Diantha on her win, saying, “This proof shows that you use magic not just for yourself, but to help others and allow them to do things that they wouldn't be capable of on their own.” Then she invited Calem into the battle arena. “Okay, for your first proof of magic, you need to show your skills in battle and magic. There are three ways to win here: defeat the three Pokemon I have, take me out of the battle, or last for five minutes. However, a win will not guarantee that you earn the proof, and a loss might not mean that you don't earn it. The only way to know for sure is to just jump into it and see how you do. Are you ready?”

    If the requirement for the first proof was simply being able to cast under pressure as she suggested, that made sense. “I'm ready.”

    And that was how I got my first proof of magic, after only one year of study. Frankly, it was a freebie in my case as I had met the requirement just last summer in order to get into the academy. Still, I wouldn't have thought to even try if it wasn't for Viola and Diantha. Viola's naturally friendly, and sharper than one would expect. She told me later that she was happy the chance came up, because she knew I wouldn't go for the proof myself even though I had good potential. I'm glad she looked out for me like that.

    And Diantha definitely wasn't expecting to be helping another there. She took up the role without hesitation, though. I had thought that those who focused on Pokemon battles were thinking of their own glory. It seemed that way from a lot of the skilled battlers I had met previously, like the battle club snobs at the academy who saw people that weren't concerned about battles as lazy. When I was younger, my dad, who had tried to make a living as a battler, was rather distant and I didn't like him because of it. Then he got in an accident in a battle and nearly died. He spent months at home in recovery, during which time we got closer.

    I remember him saying towards the end of his recovery, “I thought that being a winner would make everyone admire me and solve my problems, but when I won, I only felt jealous eyes watching me. So I thought I had to win bigger, and my unease only grew. Huh, but here I’ve got your admiration for not doing much of anything, and I feel happier than I’ve been in a long time.” That was part of why I had never been enthusiastic about battles when I was younger.

    Am I getting off subject? Or is it all part of the story you wanted? Ha, sorry. Anyhow... working with Viola was just a job, a lucky one where I got to hang out with my Pokemon a lot every day. But watching her battle Diantha, that was inspiring. Here were two ladies of differing charms, very different from the image I had of serious trainers, and they were battling in a way that was more like lighthearted chatter of a new friendship. Even their Pokemon were playful about it, pushing each other's limits without worry of fainting in defeat. They must have been confident that they'd be healed up by their Trainers right after battle, so any pain was temporary. And I thought, 'I’d like to be a Trainer like that, if I ever got into battling.' It'd be some time before I really got motivated, but that memory stayed with me when I did.

    -+-

    Lesson 5: Social Studies (Kalos Pokemon League)


    Pokemon battle organizations have come and gone throughout the history of Kalos. Some were government-sponsored, such as the Order of the White Shield, a group of human knights who kept a lifelong Pokemon partner to protect the country and king. Others were social groups, such as the exclusive club connected to what is now called the Battle Chateau. Still others were focused more on the common people, such as the Pokemon Rangers that once made a living by training their Pokemon and themselves to protect people from a tyrannical king and wild Pokemon.

    The Pokemon League came to Kalos as part of a worldwide movement after the devastation of the Great War caused the collapse of many existing orders and governments. It was meant as a way to turn Pokemon battles into a sport rather than a method of war and was hugely successful at that. Much of today's stability and prosperity can be attributed to organizations such as the League that were driven to create and inspire a more peaceful world.

    The League has a global set of rules and regulations, but each region is allowed some individuality to keep with their cultural standing and beliefs. In Kalos, there are two separate paths to take within the Pokemon League as a challenge. The standard path is the Training Badge challenge. Trainers gather a team of Pokemon, no more than six, to battle against established master trainers who set a certain level of difficulty based on how many badges the challenger has earned. Trainers may give orders or use healing items, but may not participate beyond this, either directly or indirectly. In contrast, the secondary path is the Proof of Magic challenge, which requires that the trainer participate directly in battle alongside their Pokemon. The trainer in such a challenge must be capable of using magic and must cooperate with their Pokemon in order to challenge a master of magic. As with the Training Badge challenge, the gym leader must be capable of giving varying difficulties of battle based on how many proofs the challenger has.

    Each gym within the Kalos League must be capable of providing challenges for both paths. However, it is possible, and in some cases advisable, for a gym to have two leaders if the master of one challenge cannot provide an adequate obstacle for the other. Over the years, it has also become expected, although not required, that the gym leader be a community leader, offering assistance to others when needed and doing what they can to keep their community safe and thriving.

    Lesson 6: Extra- Chess Moves


    Trainer/Human piece- One per side. This piece can only move one square at a time, in any direction. Taking the opponent's Trainer out results in a checkmate, winning the game.

    God piece- One per side. This piece can move in a straight line along as many squares as the player wishes unless another piece is in the way. One of the easiest ways of telling where a particular chess set comes from is based on which pair of gods are used. Common pairs include Xerneas and Yveltal (Kalos), Reshiram and Zekrom (Unova), Palkia and Dialga (Sinnoh), Groudon and Kyogre (Hoenn), and Lugia and Ho-oh (Johto, sometimes Kanto).

    Scout- Two per side. This piece can move diagonally along any number of squares unless another piece is in the way. The Scout is most often a fully-evolved Pokemon capable of flight.

    Attacker- Two per side. This piece moves two squares in one direction, then three squares in a perpendicular direction. The Attacker is most often a fully-evolved Pokemon known for having great strength.

    Defender- Two per side. This piece moves in any direction but diagonal along any number of squares unless another piece is in the way. The Defender is most often a fully-evolved Pokemon known for toughness.

    Pawns- Eight per side. This piece can only move one square forward at a time. Some games allow pawns to move two squares on their first move. Pawns are usually common or first stage Pokemon, sometimes being lower forms of the more powerful pieces.
     
  2. Interesting variation on chess, there. Scout = Bishop, Attacker = Knight, Defender = Rook and God = Queen? with Trainer = King. Hmm.

    And there's Diantha on her way to the League. I always got the impression she'd been the champion for a very long time myself, but there you go.
     
  3. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Chapter 7: The Miracle Eye

    As soon as Calem entered the classroom, Sycamore got his attention. “Hey Calem, congratulations on getting your first proof,” he said with a grin. “Do you have the pin on your badge?”

    “Thanks,” he said, smiling back. “I put the pin on my bag; wasn't sure where else to put it.”

    “Aw, but it's school tradition,” the professor said, getting out of his seat and coming over. As part of the school dress code, he wore the badge on his shirt (since it was summer and they wouldn't be wearing the jackets). “Ever notice that the badge has eight stars when most of the school logos don't? It's for the proof of magic pins. Here, it'd go on the bottom right one.”

    “Oh, I see.” He removed the pin from the strap of his school bag and got it onto the first star of the badge. It was a small pin, but it fit on the badge nicely.

    “That's better,” Sycamore said, beaming. “Usually don't see those on second year students; excellent work! I saw the match on TV.”

    “Well it was only because of Diantha that it was,” Calem said. “She was amazing to see in person.”

    He nodded as he headed back to behind the teacher's desk. “So I've heard. I've talked with her on many occasions, but haven't seen her battle in person myself. But now that she has eight proofs, we're waiting on the announcement of when she's going to try for the championship. We'll definitely be watching when she does.”

    And we did. There was a half day of school called when the day and time was announced so anyone who wanted could watch it live. Sycamore somehow got a large screen TV into our homeroom and all of us second year students watched in there, then had a pizza party afterwards. It was a close and exciting match. While I was watching, I wasn't sure if I should be rooting for Diantha, who'd help me win my first proof, or Richard, who had helped me out greatly with my Honedge. Diantha won and Richard accepted the loss with the dignity of a gentleman; it came to him naturally. It added to the respect and admiration I felt towards both of them. And, I became aware in my thoughts that I wanted to be a person like them. They were both stars in my eyes.

    -+-

    My second year of school was relatively quiet. I don't remember much except being busy with school activities, keeping up with Lysandre's requirements, and hanging out with my friends. But there were three events that are very important to me in contrast.

    As first year students, we had seen many of the traditions of Lumiose Magic Academy going on around us, but we only had to participate in a few. Once we became second-year students, we were expected to become more involved. One tradition involved a statue which stood as a gateway challenge. Sycamore told us about it in October: the official battle club of the school wouldn't accept new members unless they could properly interpret and perform a ritual involving the statue. And since my two newest heroes were both expert Pokemon battlers, I wanted to be involved.

    Serena solved it the day that Sycamore told us about it. I never heard the full story, but I still believe that she already knew about it from her father and was just waiting for the official word. It took me until early December until I solved it. Which was still pretty early compared to average even though Serena had already beaten me to it.


    It was snowing that evening, with big puffs of white drifting down quietly to coat everything around. As there was no wind, it was nice to be walking outside in warm clothes. Some of the students stuck to their school colors, but Calem wore a dark blue winter coat as he liked the color better. Surprisingly, only Swift really didn't like the cold out of his group. She was tolerating it better this winter, which was good as he liked to let them run around outside. He thought Nibbles might not like it, but the Pinsir was having fun with it, trying to nip snowflakes in the air. And Mortan stuck close to him as always. He may have evolved back into a Floette recently, but he still sat easily on Calem's shoulder.

    “It's kinda weird, because the Flabebe that Trevor had really didn't like the cold this morning,” Calem said as he walked to the statue. He could see and hear other students walking or playing in the small park by their school, but they were far enough away that they could safely talk as long as they kept quiet.

    “I don't notice it as much,” Mortan said. “Maybe I just have thick skin, after the cold environments that I've been in before. Though, I wouldn't like it if it got much colder; I still prefer the sun. Is that the one?”

    “Yeah, this is it,” Calem said, stopping at the statue. It appeared to be a mysterious astrolabe, a skeleton of a sphere that held many concentric rings. The rings were tilted at various angles, shifting slowly so that it appeared still but was a little different every day. Each ring held gemstones of various colors and clarity. In the center of it, there was a golden orb that gave off soft clicks. It was easier to hear the snow fall than it was to hear the possibly mechanical device there. When asked about it, Sycamore admitted that no one on campus knew what its exact purpose was.

    “I want to look at it,” the Floette said, flitting over to perch on the astrolabe's outer structure instead.

    “Sure,” Calem said, going over to a plaque.

    The small sign was old, but not as old as the device. On the metal stand, there was a badge for the battle club locked into place. Getting it out was the challenge for joining. The plaque itself read, 'Victoria Globe – a mysterious object dating back to the first era of Kalos royalty. Survived due to belief of being a divine artifact, but may be a man-made mechanical device. Current use by the Lumiose Magic Academy: Craft a rainbow to prove your skills.'

    “It's broken,” Mortan said. “Good.”

    “Is it?” When Calem looked over it, each piece seemed whole and maintained despite being out in the elements. “The central part?”

    Mortan nodded. “I suppose you could use it for measuring the power of spells, even for different kinds of spells. But that's not its intended use.”

    “Then what is its intended use?” he asked as Mortan came back to him.

    He pulled the stem of his flower close and looked down, considering if he should say anything. Thankfully, he did. “It was called a miracle eye if you were using it, a terror eye if you had to face it.” He sighed. “It's a weapon of war. As you might guess, it's difficult to make, not easy to learn. But if you knew how to use a miracle eye, one person could become equal to an army of a thousand. It's better that it stays broken, just something pretty to look at. Its history is probably quite ugly.”

    “Miracle Eye? Isn't that some kind of Pokemon move?” He couldn't recall immediately what it did.

    Mortan knew. “Yeah, one to bypass a Psychic null status. It has the same name. But this... um, I could show you.” He floated up to meet Calem eye to eye. There was something like a static charge between them, the boy noticed. At the moment it should have zapped them, he found himself recalling a memory that he'd never experienced. It took a moment to adjust, since it was from the floaty point of view of a Floette. That made the person he was watching seem enormous in comparison.



    “We're fine, ''''', we're fine.” His voice was gentle as he brought his hand underneath the Floette.

    “Siiiii,” he replied, letting himself collapse into his friend's palm. But he still clung tight to his flower, making it tremble.

    The man had a powerful appearance; rumor had it that he could crush rocks with his bare hands without using magic. But he knew no harm from this young man, only kindness. He brought his hand and the Pokemon in it closer to his face. “We're protected.” And that was true; a barely visible shield surrounded them. Thanks to the gleaming golden globe rotating on the ground, the shield would take many hits for them before breaking down. “But they also have a miracle eye, hmm...”

    He had seen that. The other wizard using a miracle eye was scary. On using theirs to look over the enemy lines, they had seen him laughing and talking of making the streets of Lumiose turn red with blood. Dd they have to be here? “Chiii pira fowa,” the Floette said sadly. Where were the days when they could relax in a field of flowers?

    “I told you that you could stay behind,” he said. “I wish you had. Don't worry; I'll protect you. I have to protect everyone, and tonight, when they don't know that I'm here... their miracle eye seems shoddy, and he's been drinking heavily. Then... hold still.” He knelt down by the golden device, preparing his attack.

    In a moment, the miracle eye gave them a view of the foe's camp once more. His friend used aura of the miracle eye to assist in his casting; the device moved quicker to compensate. He used his other hand to aim according to the vision, then, “Lavaburst.” A shimmer of gold and red fired out of their protective shell. Normally that spell could only be used within fifty yards of the caster. The miracle eye allowed them to fire the spell out of range of their normal sight. The shot pierced the other miracle eye's shield in a weak spot and erupted on contact with the device. In destroying that weapon, it blasted the enemy camp with the force of five regular Lavabursts, not one.

    They watched the ensuing destruction and chaos for half a minute before deciding on what to do next. The Floette thought it was scary. But, scarier if the same thing would happen to them.



    “Was that your old friend, the king?” Calem asked.

    Mortan nodded. “Yeah. He and I knew how to use them because he knew how to make them. I didn't like that about him for a little while. But I found out that he had reasons, and hoped that he didn't have to use one again. It wasn't the first option.” He looked back down at the miracle eye. “I think you're right about the colors not mattering as long as you have the range.”

    “Best thing to do would be try,” he said, observing the device. According to the riddle, he believed that he needed spells of seven different aura types. Perhaps it was to make sure members knew a certain amount before starting.

    “Oh, but there's some aura in it that doesn't match,” Mortan said, hurriedly as if he'd gotten distracted in talking about the device. “But whatever it is, it's been made to keep hidden. Be careful.”

    He nodded and raised his hands in preparation. Seven spells. Bubble, which Swift had used before picking up Water Pulse. Fairy Wind and Vine Whip, which he got from Mortan. Metal Sound, which was from Percival. Finally, Ember and Heal, which was something they used in class, and Wide Guard, which he'd known for some time. Parts of the miracle eye lit up as he cast spells on it; water, fairy, grass, steel, fire, heal, normal, that should work. Once it had energy from the seven spells, it activated a newer part of the device which released the club badge on the post.

    However, it never hit the ground. What appeared to be a spot of thick violet fog emerged from the miracle eye and snatched the badge. Large cartoonish eyes popped up, followed by a grin. The Gastly then rushed off. “Hey!” Calem called, running after the Pokemon. Why did it steal his badge? If he had to, he could fight it with Percival. Although, he'd rather not. The Honedge was wary of fighting a lot, worried that his demons would return.

    The Gastly weaved around like he was moving lazily, even though Calem was sprinting after it. It even paused for a moment to look back. However, that was the moment that Calem caught up, so he tried to grab it. Being made of gas and tiny particles, he could barely get a hold of it and fell face-first into the snow on top of it. The Gastly got away by moving right through him, a feeling between handling a plant with small prickles and breathing near a car with a bad engine. Something pressed against his chest, but dropped back down. It was the club badge.

    “That's a rather primitive way to catch a Pokemon,” a girl nearby said in amusement. But not just any girl; it had to be Serena who saw him like this. Feeling his face get warm in embarrassment, Calem grabbed the badge and got himself onto his knees. Also there was Lysandre, of all people; the large man had an expression of watching an idiot mess up and disapproving, something he didn't usually have for Calem.

    “I wasn't trying to,” Calem said, standing up and brushing snow off his coat and pants. Maybe if he didn't look right at them, they wouldn't notice how embarrassed he was. It would help if he didn't feel suddenly ill, though.

    “Gaaaa gwa hah,” the Gastly said, still grinning.

    “I got this for the battle club,” he held the badge up to his chest, “but then this guy stole it before I could pick it up.”

    “I suppose the proof is enough to chase after,” Lysandre said, coming closer to put a hand on Calem's shoulder. “Here, let me take care of that poisoning.” A warm sensation came from him as the Antidote took effect.

    “Thanks sir,” Calem said. But then, these two seemed like they had been talking to each other. “And sorry to interrupt. I didn't know you two knew each other.”

    “Not all that well,” Serena said. “But we have had some interesting discussions today.”

    Lysandre gave a nod. “There were some students who wanted to make a support group for Team Flare, so I came to visit their meeting. There are some legal reasons we can't make them official, but I have no issue with them helping out. I met her there.”

    “Then you're involved with Team Flare?” Calem asked Serena.

    She shrugged. “I'd like to be, but I'm not old enough. I mean, if it wasn't for the membership restrictions, who wouldn't want to be? They're looking for practical and permanent solutions to many environmental and social problems, and they've done nothing but good. You'd have to be heartless not to worry about what's going on right in our homeland.”

    “Well if you'll excuse me, I need to be getting back to my lab,” Lysandre said. “You kids have got a good thing going; keep at it. Good day.”

    “Bye Mr. de Kalos,” Serena called as he walked off through the snow. She looked back at Calem, then the Gastly. “Huh, so you'll be in the battle club now? Well this is Yorick. He makes himself a pest at the gym and the auditorium, so I’m not surprised that he tried to steal the badge from you. I gotta run; got studying to do at the library. See you tomorrow, Calem.”

    “See you then, Serena,” he said, putting the badge in his pocket. Almost immediately, Yorick came closer to him, sniffing. Calem stepped back and held up his hands. “Hey, I earned the badge. Why don't you want me to keep it?”

    Yorick snickered, making his gaseous body ripple. “Actually, he's not interested in the badge anymore,” Mortan said. “But he is interested in you, I guess based on when he passed through you. He wants to know how you are connected to Yveltal.”

    Glancing aside, Calem saw that Serena must be out of hearing. But he still lowered his voice. “I nearly died on the day I moved to Kalos, that's how. But nothing more than that, as far as I know.”

    The Gastly lost his grin for a moment; the serious look was odd on one of his kind. Then Yorick said something that made Mortan tremble and nearly fall of Calem's shoulder. “Wh-what? I don't think that's involved... oh, you saw it somewhere? Well good. I didn't want to get back into that again.”

    “What're you two talking about?” Calem asked. When the Floette sighed, he put a hand up to the shoulder Mortan was on. “I don't mean to bother you, sorry. I was just curious.”

    Mortan moved to Calem's hand, the expression on his tiny face sad. “What he said was, 'Glitter and shine lovely Kalos, show me your dark and bloody heart'. It's part of a poem that he thought of when he was in contact with you.”

    “How would that connect to me, or Yveltal?” he wondered. “Is it because he's a god that ends up killing a lot of people and Pokemon? But still not much connection to me.”

    “Kind of,” Mortan said, shifting his flower. “Ask your teacher about it. He might know something.” Yorick then grinned again, chuckling. “Oh, and, Yorick seems to want to join us. He spooks me more than Percival, but I guess he would help.”

    A mischievous Pokemon... but then, he did like the Gastly line and always considered getting one. “Sure, I don't mind. But why do I make you think of something with such a dark tone?”

    After hearing his response, Mortan slowly said, “Because you're like that too? Brilliant and pure on the outside, but then something dark lurks within? Uh, I don't know what he means by that; I haven't noticed anything I'd call dark about you. Might just be your brief contact with Yveltal and what I did to save you; that kind of thing tends to leave a mark on a person's soul.” Yorick snickered at that.

    “I don't think it really fits me,” Calem said.

    On Monday during morning homeroom, Calem planned on asking about the poem. Professor Sycamore was cheerful and energetic as always, a mug of coffee one of the local cafes on his desk (but not the same cafe as the previous week). “Finals are next week, so most of your classes will be reviewing material for the tests,” he said. “I’ll let you study most of this and next week, unless there's something else any of you wish to discuss. So, anything for today?” A few of them raised their hands, so he pointed, seemingly picking at random. “Then... Calem?”

    “Actually, I had a line of poetry I wanted to ask you about,” he said.

    Sycamore grinned. “Hah, excellent! We can claim that our class is being cultural then, brownie points for us all.” Some of the students laughed at the way he said it. “Poetry's not one of my stronger areas, but I'll give it a shot.”

    “It's something that just stuck with me, but I couldn’t get the full poem out of the one who recited it,” Calem said, trying not to look at Mortan on his desk. “It was something like, 'Glitter and shine lovely Kalos, show me your dark and bloody heart.'”

    He put a hand on his cheek and closed his eyes. “Ah, that line causes a shiver up my spine every time I hear that. Yes, I know that one, one of the few poems I know in full.”

    “That sounds creepy,” Shauna said, shuddering.

    Tierno nodded. “Yeah, I don't think I've ever heard anyone call Kalos dark and bloody before.”

    “It makes sense when you know more about our history,” Sycamore said, serious now. He looked at them, considering something. “Kalos is a lovely place these days; I love it. But even its most ardent fans like me have to admit that there have been a great many wars in our past. That's what the poem is about. Here, I can recite the full thing; it's not very long:”

    Glitter and shine lovely Kalos,
    Show me your dark and bloody heart.
    Golden mask to hide a face of fear,
    Silver words to soften a tale of hate.
    Live in the moment, the past hurts,
    Life is cruel, and death is instant

    Yveltal's wings cover the sky.


    “Hmm?” Mortan asked, fortunately sounding enough like a normal Pokemon that no one else paid attention to his confused reaction.

    “Why remember a dismal poem like that?” another girl in their class asked.

    Sycamore smiled a little. “I know, not very cheerful is it? But, the poem is a statement on the region's history. You might learn some of what it means in future classes, or maybe if you go exploring around the academy. In one of the lesser traveled halls, it's been on the wall for decades, even when I was a student here. But if you find it, well, be careful of going further. What's down there is not for the faint of heart.”

    Sycamore didn't give a direct answer that morning, but the reason he knew the poem was because of the place on campus, something I wouldn't come across until much later. Mortan said that the version of the poem he knew was different. However, he still wasn't ready to talk about it.


    -+-

    Another incident in my second year was quite a scary one, yet I believe that if it had not happened, I wouldn't have done all the things I would do in years to come. It was in early April, a day when the weather was so nice that my friends and I decided to go skating through the smaller streets of Lumiose. As a general rule, it's a safe city. But some of the back streets and alleys can be dangerous.

    The city always felt alive. No matter when one looked over the streets, be it the crowds of midday or the quiet of after midnight, there was always something going on, always lights glowing invitingly somewhere. From the water channels along several streets to the stone pavement, from the leafy trees to the tall steel tower in the center, elements that seemed diverse managed to blend into a beautiful whole. And when the sky was so sunny and blue like it was now, caught between rain showers, it was hard to resist going out to enjoy it all.

    “Let's go on a race around North and South Boulevard!” Shauna suggested, pumping her arms up so fast that her skates pushed her back. Her Litleo hopped out of the way and carried on grooming.

    “Oooh, that's going to take too long,” Tierno complained. “And we'll all be pooped.”

    “Well then we can go to a cafe for drinks,” she said. “It'd be something awesome we can tell people about later!”

    “I don't know if I'd be able to make it all that way,” Trevor said.

    “I'd rather just have a relaxing skate today,” Serena said. “Though I wouldn't mind competing like that on another day.”

    “Hey, you three live around here, but I haven't seen where you guys live yet,” Calem said. “I mean, you pointed them out a while back, but we didn't go visit. How about we do that? We might surprise your families.”

    “Oh yeah, mine wouldn't mind that,” Tierno said. “It'd be a good snack break.”

    Trevor put his hand to his chin. “Mine aren't in Lumiose at the moment,” he said. “But I suppose I could bring you in and show you around if you want. Not that there's much to see.”

    “I think my dad's working, but mom should be home,” Shauna said. “Okay, that's fun too. Let's go! We can take a shortcut down that way.”

    The shortcut turned out to be a narrow path between tall stone buildings. While paved, the area was dingy and dirty, not cleaned as often as the main streets. They had to go single-file for the most part, although Shauna and Trevor were still small enough that they could move around in the group. After a turn, all they could see were the buildings and a smidgen of sky. The alley led to an oddly-shaped opening where four buildings sitting at different angles didn't quite meet, where a group of people could probably meet in secret.

    And a group happened to be meeting there, all adults. The three men and one woman wouldn't stand out much if they were out on the crowded streets; they were dressed like normal residents. But it didn't take long for the encounter to turn abnormal. “Hey kids, get out of here,” the woman said. “We're with Team Flare; you don't need to be poking around here.”

    Immediately, Serena frowned and put her hands on her hips. “You are not with Team Flare. You don't have their stylish suits.”

    “Don't be ridiculous,” one of the men said. “Do you think people wear the same clothes every day?”

    “But you'd be wearing it if you were on Flare business,” she said.

    “Hey, we just need to pass through here,” Calem said, glancing at Shauna. She nodded and pointed out the way they needed to go. “We'll just go, if you don't mind.”

    “We do mind,” the woman said, moving to block the path they needed to head through.

    “What if we had them help us?” another woman said, appearing from the alleyway they had come from. She put a hand on Trevor, who had tried to back up to keep out of the confrontation. “The price he has set on admission is absurd, but we might wrangle some with them.”

    Calem started to feel worried, even scared. Shauna had her hands clenched close to her chest, shivering and glancing around for some opening (but the adults were blocking or close to blocking the exits to this little spot). Having an attempt to skate off only make him slip and fall tighter in her grasp, Trevor was wide-eyed and pale; Tierno too even if he was free. However, Serena only seemed angered. “Don't be ridiculous,” she said in a scolding tone. “I know Lysandre and he wouldn't let criminals join his group. Let him go.”

    “It might be a little extreme,” the first woman said, putting a hand on her chin and thinking. “We could at least confiscate their Pokemon if we don't mean to keep these kids.”

    “What?” Calem asked, now feeling angry himself. He was in the Battle Club; maybe not that great (he still couldn't beat Serena), but he might be able to give them a shot at getting out. “No way! I'd rather fight you myself rather than let you take any of us, my friends or our Pokemon.”

    “Really?” one of the men asked skeptically, smiling in confidence.

    “Meh, but we'll beat you in a Pokemon battle before that,” Serena said. And with that, they ended up in a Pokemon battle, Calem with Serena against the first woman and one of the men. But the woman in back still had a hold on Trevor...

    Calem tried to focus on the battle while he considered how they might be able to get him free. Fortunately, his Pokemon were performing extraordinarily well today. They seemed to grasp the danger of the situation and put forth all their effort, even defeating a couple Pokemon that Calem didn't think would go down easily. On the other hand, Serena's Braixen seemed aloof as always, following orders and not seeming worried. It got knocked out before the battle was over.

    “What a day to leave my smaller Pokemon behind,” Serena grumbled, clenching a fist at her side. She seemed to consider the other Pokeball she had, probably her Rhyperior.

    Before she could release it, something darted out of one of the other alleyways and knocked over the largest man there. It turned out to be a Lucario, who stepped on top of the man and looked at him sternly. There was a chance. “Teirno, Shauna, get out and get help!” Calem called. The two quickly skated out past the fallen man. “Serena, you...”

    “No, I'm going to see these losers cut down,” she said, clutching a bracelet and using it to focus a spell on Percival, who was currently handling his two opponents readily.

    “You're overestimating yourselves, little girl,” the woman said, scowling at them.

    Seeing that the two of them weren't running, the Lucario gave a threatening look to the men not involved, then dashed into the battle to fight alongside Percival. Once Serena had her boosting spell on the Honedge, she decided to cast it on the Lucario too. Calem gave orders to the two Pokemon, although he had to rely on the Lucario's judgment as he didn't know what it was capable of. Then he glanced back at Trevor again. The younger boy was crying with his face scrunched up. His Espurr was standing a few feet from them, still and also seeming worried. It was at that point that Calem felt a tingle race up his spine. It seemed like a surge of aura, but he only really felt aura clearly in the rain.

    He looked back at the battle and saw that the Lucario had knocked out one of the Pokemon, the last that the man had. Percival was able to finish off the other. Good. Before the woman could pull out another or order her colleagues to attack, Calem gave orders again, “You two, get Trevor away from her!”

    The Lucario was quick to respond, rushing past Calem and Serena to punch the woman in the arm. She cursed and let go of Trevor with one hand. While the Lucario worked on getting the boy fully free, Percival came over and whipped his sash around the woman, pulling her away and weakening her. But the red Honedge let go of her a moment before she fainted.

    “Mya!” the Espurr said, hurrying over to Trevor's side. Calem ran over there too, ignoring the other woman's orders for them to stop. If he could feel Trevor's aura without rain, it had to be a bad situation. Maybe if they could channel it into a harmless spell... but how did he get Trevor to focus on casting like this? Their magic teacher had mentioned spells with multiple users, but little about how one would connect aura to manage it.

    There was a ring of metal nearby; Percival was hovering lower, looking at him like he understood something. The Honedge closed his eyes, making his blade shine. After a second, Calem felt like he had been struck by a powerful wave. But it wasn't wet at all; it was Trevor's problematic aura, building in response to his fright. He also heard something like someone was crying fretfully. 'What is this? Why us? Let me go...'

    'You were let go,' Calem thought. To that, Trevor stilled and looked up at him. 'Calm down; I want to try something.'

    'I will let it be done,' a deep voice-thought from Percival added. 'Reveal your senses.'

    'Senses? Oh...' Right, his senses did intensify in the rain. Calem call the aura to a point in front of himself; the pull was more powerful than he was used to, but it reacted all the same. Using that point as a pen and the aura as ink, he wrote invisible runes in the air. He spelled out the runic form of Rain Dance.

    Normally, he would add something like a dance move to make sure the spell went off; it was still difficult to handle. But that didn't matter with the power at hand. The runes dissolved and winds whipped up around them. After the area dimmed considerably, rain descended. It was nothing like any other time he'd cast it. This rain was intense, falling thickly and stinging as it made contact with bare skin. There was even mist building near the ground. The thing that mattered most, though, was that it worked. It put enough of a dent in Trevor's aura that he managed to calm down and take control of it himself, releasing excess with sparks that made his hands appear to glow pink.

    Percival cut off their connection and Calem got up, focusing on what he felt in this powerful rain. That was nearly as overwhelming as the aura had been, as this magically induced rain was spread wide and strong. He could probably give accurate measurements and assessments of all the buildings within two blocks of this spot, not to mention what people were trying to get out of this sudden squall. However, he narrowed his attention down to the area close by, where the threat was.

    The second woman was harmless for the moment; when she woke back up, she'd be unable to cast anything for the rest of the day due to the contact with Percival. The first woman and the man who'd fought with her had no more Pokemon, but they could both use magic and could be dangerous still. The other two men couldn't use magic, but their strength could still be a threat. Down the alley that the Lucario had come from, someone was racing towards them as if on skates, a powerful caster along with another Lucario. Tierno and Shauna weren't too far from that person, following cautiously but worried about them. Trevor could probably cast now, if he felt up to it. The Lucario was ready for another fight; he wasn't going to give up, and neither was Percival and what other Pokemon Calem had.

    However, there were two other things that seemed significant. One, Serena's aura was stronger than he'd noticed before, with some unfamiliar runes tied into it. She'd always had those different runes, even back when he'd sensed her aura in their first battle, but they had increased dramatically. Two, there was some kind of magical device down the alleyway that they had wanted to go down. It was complex and strong, with a feeling that was like watching a good horror movie or an awful nightmare.

    “And lastly, how dare you order your Pokemon to attack someone!” the first woman shouted, looking furious.

    “It's excusable to get a friend free,” Calem said. “Sorry, I didn't hear all of that, but you have no idea what disaster we narrowly escaped. And I will still fight you if you really want after losing.” With the rain going strong, he felt that he had a good enough edge to attempt taking on an adult. She wasn't of rank to be a witch, he could tell. Serena would be a good help, so it'd mostly be a matter of making sure Trevor was fine.

    “Hah, leave it to me!” a third woman said, skating in with her second Lucario and crashing straight into the first woman. She got knocked to the ground, but the skater acted like it was barely a bump. The newcomer had the body of a serious athlete, with a helmet and various guards that might help her in a fist fight. “Trying to kidnap kids and Pokemon, huh? I ain't letting you get away with that.”

    The man by her decided to stay on the ground, feeling that it was safer than challenging this woman. The other man left standing started to back up, but with a whistle, she sent her second Lucario to incapacitate him. Seeing that the one who'd taken Trevor would be down for a while, the first Lucario went to join them, intimidating the others to stay where they were.

    “Oh, Korrina?” Serena asked, then smiled. “Hah, thanks! We could've handled them, but you're quicker.”

    “Now don't be too daring, Miss Serena,” Korrina said, putting a hand on her hip. “I know you're strong, but this could've been tragedy, I can see. And this rain's gonna make it hard to skate. Who cast this, anyhow? I've never seen one this powerful, not even from Siebold.”

    “That was Calem here,” Serena said.

    “Not exactly,” he said. “My Honedge linked me and Trevor up to make it stronger.”

    “Still, that's impressive spell work,” Korrina said, nodding. “Now that you know who you're threatening, I mean, these talented young mages and the princess of the battle chateau, are you gonna give up or do we have to rough you up some more?”

    “Fine, we give up,” the woman said. “But you all are going to get in a lot of trouble with Team Flare.”

    “You are not with Team Flare, and I can make sure that you're absolutely not,” Serena insisted.

    “Are we going to call the police?” Calem asked. “There's something dangerous down that alleyway that they were trying to protect.”

    By the time the police arrived to collect the group, the rain had lightened and fused into the normal shower that was supposed to come a couple hours later. Over in the other alleyway, they found a strange machine sitting a few feet from a doorway. It rendered inactive in the rain, but Calem's senses told him that it could be repaired to work. Much of it was hard to decipher, but there was a keyboard and display screen on one side, as well as a transmitting antenna on top. Close to it, there was a broken handcart. It seemed familiar, but Calem wasn't sure of it.

    “I've seen something like that before,” Korrina said, sounding worried. “It's...” she glanced at them, then gave a small smile to Calem. “Well, given your Honedge and name, I think I heard about you from Richard. I don't know if you've heard, but they found out what was driving the Honedge bonkers on Route 6. It was a device almost exactly like this, sending out aura signals that only those Pokemon could sense. It gave them nightmares and dark thoughts alongside their own; I'm sure you know it's taken a lot to soothe their nerves after that.”

    He nodded, feeling a chill as he recalled it. “Right, Percival here is still nervous from time to time. I think it is one of those; it gives me a bad feeling sensing it.” Thankfully it hadn't been active; it would have messed up his thoughts again, or even called back that faceless man.

    “But in the middle of Lumiose?” Korrina mused. “It doesn't have to be tuned to Honedge, could torment any Pokemon, or even humans I guess. This really could have been a tragedy; it's lucky that you kids stumbled on them trying to move it. I hear it was made by some mad machinist named Xerosic, but they never caught him for the Route 6 incident. Could be his work again. So how are you sensing it?”

    He shrugged. “It's the rain. I can't quite explain it, but I sense more things when it's raining.”

    “Um,” Trevor said, shifting shyly.

    “You have an idea?” Calem asked, trying to encourage him.

    He rubbed his head. “Sort of. When we were connected for a bit while the rain was going on, I sensed it too. Your awareness was greatly intensified when it started raining, giving you more information than a person should know through normal senses. But it seems like it's shallow, like it should be a part of something more. It's like the rain is a key and you haven't unlocked everything yet.”

    “I've heard of that,” Korrina said, to their surprise. “Now, don't look at me like that. I dunno what to call it, but I've read stories about people who used rain, mist, or bodies of water to their advantage like that. There was a really enigmatic assassin back in the Great War days who would only attack when it was rainy or foggy, but he would devastate the Kalos home forces. I happened to be thinking about it the other day because I heard they were gonna make a movie of his downfall to Miss Roselia, of all the heroes of that time.”

    That was interesting. “Really? I hadn't heard about that from her.” When she looked surprised, he said, “I'm a descendant of hers; I knew her for quite a while and she told me lots of stories. But not about an assassin like that. Maybe she thought it would scare me as a kid.”

    “Could be. Huh, you really are interesting.”

    “So how'd you come by us?” Calem asked.

    “It was Neo's doing,” she said, looking at the Lucario who had first helped them out. He was now standing close to Serena, nuzzling her hand (Serena was trying not to be obvious about petting him in response). Korrina smiled. “Hah, seems like he's really warmed up to you. Kinda shocking; he usually takes a long time to be friendly with anybody, even me. Anyhow, the other fellow with me is Leo, his twin brother, but they're like day and night. We were heading to the academy you go to, actually, cause one of the teachers wants to talk with me about something. I'm gonna be late for that, but whatever. Neo was following along nicely, but then he bolted down the alleyway and we had to go chase him down. Then it started to rain, and I ran into your other two friends getting away from there... well I couldn't keep myself out of it, really.”

    “Thanks for the help,” Calem said, nodding.

    “No problem,” Korrina said. “Honor of a gym leader, you know. Though you three were handling yourselves well. Getting a Pokemon to link aura between two of you and him, and everything else you did.”

    “It was necessary,” Trevor said, but then turned pink as he nearly admitted what happened. He glanced aside. “Um, but... I did notice something else. You don't cast like Ms Talonflame taught us to. You know, forming the rune letters, then filling them in with aura and breaking them? You just wrote the letters directly with aura and turn it into the spell.”

    Calem chuckled. “Yeah, and that's gotten me in trouble because she can tell I'm not using the spelling method. But that's how I've always cast spells; seems a waste to use the extra steps.”

    Trevor scratched his head. “You know, um, that makes sense to me. I think I could cast things the same way, now that I've seen you do it. And, it seems easier.”

    “What, no it doesn't,” Serena said. “How do you keep the rune letters clean and not get them to transform into something else?”

    “Just the same as a pencil, I guess,” Calem said.

    “That is an odd way to do it, but I know people who cast that way too,” Korrina said. “Like you said, they prefer to cut out the steps other people need. But, it's usually folks who've had some experience, not novices. Heh, but then I'm glad to have met you kids; you ought to really excel with what skills you have.”

    While we were waiting on the police to say that we could leave, after they had questioned us, I realized what it was that I wanted to be doing with magic: protecting others. My friends, my Pokemon, others I hardly knew; it didn't matter, as I wanted to help them feel safe. It certainly worked for those who had been there. My friends and I grew closer as they knew they could rely on me and I wanted to make sure they were safe. And Mortan later told me that my Pokemon had heard and felt my determination to protect them, even to put myself in harm's way for them. As a result, their loyalty to me because stronger.

    -+-

    Lesson 7: Basic of Magic (3)


    There is no one proper way to cast spells. With as diverse as world cultures and societies have been, many different methods of making use of aura have come about based on what the spellcasters knew and believed about magic. Some methods are simple, requiring nothing more than the caster. Other methods are more involved, requiring special items and steps. For most spells, the method actually used does not matter. Exceptions are, in most cases, special uses of magic that cannot be mimicked through normal methods.

    At Lumiose Magic Academy, as well as many other modern magic schools, the first and primary method of casting is the spelling method. It is a simple and flexible method that works well for education as well as basic magic casting. Using it requires knowledge of a runic alphabet, of which there are several that are widely used throughout the world. It is not required to know all the pieces of a runic alphabet, as they contain dozens or even hundreds of symbols describing particular effects of magic. However, taking the time to learn such exensive alphabets makes the magic user capable of a wider range of spells, rather than a limited pool of familiar ones.

    There are four steps to the spelling method.

    1. Focus. The caster must make a conscious connection to their aura, often referred to as holding it. Some casters are able to do this automatically, making this the simplest step. Others may find it hard to actually connect and is where many fail in magic entirely. Such trouble can often be lesssened through the use of a focus object. Students are often taught with wands for this purpose, as the items can also help in following steps, but jewelry or paper charms can also be effective focus objects.

    2. Spell. The caster must describe the spell they wish to cast using runic letters. It's often described as writing the letters in the air in the caster's mind, although students are encouraged to spell with wands to better grasp it.

    3. Ink. After the form of the spell in runes is in the caster's mind, he or she uses the aura they've connected with to color or ink in the spell word. At this stage, there is often a resistance from the aura as the energy is not easy to change consciously. This, along with the first step, is where many have difficulty. Aura prefers to be formless and if step two was carried out improperly, it might 'bleed' and change the runes, thus changing the effects of the spell.

    4. Break. Once aura has been formed cleanly into the rune letters, the caster then breaks the word, releasing the aura to take the form that the spell word described. If using a wand, the caster can slash the instrument through the word to do so. Often the shortest step, but it can cause a spell to fizzle or misfire if mistakes were made in other steps.
     
  4. Huh, you're splitting the Protagonist flags between Serena and Calem. On one hand, Calem has the game character's background, but on the other Serena's got Lysandre's attention and has attracted the attention of one of Korrina's Lucario. Interesting.

    Speaking of Korrina, actually seeing her is a nice change, given the way she's the most plot-relevant Gym Leader in a game where said Gym Leader is one (Although the way she just vanishes after the battle on the Tower of Mastery was annoying). Then again, given that most FF.N X/Y fics are false-start Calem/Serena shipfests...
     
  5. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Chapter 8: A Haunting to Remember

    Shauna steadily grew more determined to be memorable through that year. She didn't have the smarts and pure power of Trevor, or the odd skills of Tierno or myself, or the prestigious heritage and battle prowess of Serena. But she had enthusiasm, seemingly boundless energy, and a cheerful demeanor that won her many friends (even if many of us would admit that she could be tiring and annoying at times). She got on the cheerleading squad and the student event committee, giving her all to making others excited about memorable events. In our close circle, she kept suggesting doing ambitious and sometimes crazy things 'for the memories'. On the very last day of our second year, before all of us headed out separately for summer vacation, she had yet another idea to spring on us.

    "Then what are we going to do today?" Tierno asked.

    Serena didn't look impressed. "I thought you all would have planned something, with all the talk of staying behind one more night."

    "I think Shauna has an idea," Calem said, noting the eagerness on her face.

    "Hoo boy," Serena said quietly, lowering her head.

    "It's gonna be great!" Shauna said, jumping in place. "Let's go out to Route 14 and visit the haunted house!"

    "A haunted house?" Tierno asked, nervous yet interested at the same time.

    She nodded. "Yeah, I've been hearing a lot about it for a long time, and always wanted to see it myself. It's not like those staged ones; it's a real haunted house, out in the woods down a path few people go. Nobody's lived there for years, but people say that you still see activity going on there."

    "If it's an abandoned house, it might be wild Pokemon wandering around inside," Serena said, not impressed.

    "But at nights, sometimes they see lights inside," Shauna said, trying to sound spooky and miming a scary Pokemon. "Or they hear a scream from the house, but when they look, there's nobody inside."

    "Again, a Pokemon could do that," Serena said, crossing her arms over her chest. "Especially Ghost Pokemon."

    "In that case, I have two that can blend in and spook the wild Pokemon back," Calem said. "Who knows? We might even find some uncommon Pokemon around such a place."

    "Hey, that could be fun," Tierno said. "And we'd be together, so it won't be as scary."

    "I've heard of it too," Trevor said. "And wanted to see the truth of it. If we pack something for supper, we should be able to make it up there and back before dark."

    Shauna grinned, "Yeah! I want to stay after dark sometime! But the dorm supervisors are expecting us to be back tonight, so we won't be able to this time."

    "Well I'm not interested," Serena said. "Besides, the Flare Club is having one more meeting later on and I promised I'd be there for that. I won't be able to do anything that requires going out of the city."

    Although it was a pity that she wouldn't go with them, the rest agreed with Shauna's suggestion. Calem decided to pack along a first aid kit and a flashlight, just in case, while the others got things they wanted to take (like Trevor's camera). They took their skates and stopped by a shop along the way to pick up sandwiches, chips, Pokemon food, and drinks for their picnic meal, then headed out of Lumiose and into what was known by locals as the Nature Trail. Along the way, Shauna and Trevor told them about spooky events that supposedly happened around the house, while Teirno and Calem tried to guess what would be there.

    Outside of the immense stone arch that made up the gate out of the city, they came across a wooden bridge across a small stream. Past that, there was a dirt path through an old playground. It had a covered tower with a slide, a merry-go-round, some bouncy Pokemon rides, a few swings, a pair of picnic tables, and a few benches. However, the equipment looked old and the little park was still. No one else was in sight. When Calem tugged the merry-go-round a bit, the paint flaked off on his hand and the ride creaked. "This is already kind of spooky," he said.

    "It looks sad to me," Shauna said. "I wonder why nobody's fixed it up."

    "Yeah, it could be nice," Tierno said.

    "Well there aren't many homes close to this gate," Trevor pointed out. "So there won't be many visitors."

    "Surprising that they built it here, then," Calem said. Since it wasn't their goal, they headed down a hill into the thickly wooded area past the old park.

    The leaves overhead soon blocked out most of the sun, giving the area dim and dappled appearance. There were a great many sounds around them, Pokemon and animals that were there but mostly unseen. Looking up at the trees, Calem noticed that the branches were often twisted and crooked. It wasn't so bad with the summer foliage disguising it, but it made him think that it would give a creepy atmosphere in late fall and winter. As it was now, it was rather pretty.

    At first, they had no trouble skating along the dirt paths. Then they ran into marshy conditions. The ground shone reflectively in spots, betraying spots of swampy mud instead of solid ground. Even the path became soggy, leading them to take off their skates so as not to get the wheels too muddy. Signs warned of hidden pits of bog; Pokemon rangers in their red uniforms were seen patrolling the route.

    "We might have to find a way to wash our shoes and skates before we get back to the dorms," Calem said as they entered a clearing in the marsh woods. Several paths lead away from it, one with a sign stating that it led to the next town, Laverre.

    "Yeah, they might not like us making muddy prints on the last day," Shauna agreed. "It should be around here, but I'm not sure which way to go. Definitely not the north path, but which one?"

    "We could split up and check the others out a little," Teirno suggested, but then was interrupted by a little shriek from a Pokemon.

    It turned out to be Mortan, having floated away from Calem's shoulder. The Floette had his flower stem held tight to his chest. "I'll catch up to you in a bit," Calem said, then chased after Mortan through muddy grounds. "What's wrong? You haven't gotten scared like this before."

    "I-I'm not scared," he mumbled. Once the other three kids went off to peer down side paths for the house, the Floette came closer to him. "Maybe a little. I feel..."

    "What do you feel?" he asked after a moment.

    "Bindings of an oath," Mortan said, now sounding sad. "I think... where you're going is on the western path. But if you go there, I can't follow."

    "Should we avoid it?" Maybe there was something dangerous there, although he wondered why only Mortan reacted. Trevor's Meowstic didn't seem concerned.

    He lowered his flower over his shoulder. "It might sound silly, but since I can't go, I want you to go. Um, be brave and observe things carefully before jumping to conclusions. Tell me about it later."

    "Will you tell me why later too?" Calem asked.

    "Once you're away from the school and we can be alone," Mortan said.

    He nodded, hoping he would keep his word. "All right." He then released Percival from his ball. "But you two stick together, just in case."

    Percival gave his version of a nod, leaning forward from his usual upright stance. "Okay, thank you," Mortan said, a little embarrassed.

    Just then, Shauna ran back in from the west path. "Hey guys! It's over here! Come on!" When Calem came over, she asked, "What's up with Mortan?"

    His friends didn't know about the Floette's ability to speak. "He doesn't want to go further down this path, it seems, and I don't want to force him. I left my Honedge with him."

    "Oh, so it has to be real if a Pokemon gets nervous," Shauna said, excited.

    "I hope that's not a bad sign," Trevor said as he, Tierno, and a couple of their Pokemon jogged over.

    "Not all of them are nervous, so we should be okay," Calem said, leading the way.

    Before long, they saw the old house rumored to be truly haunted and not just a Ghost Pokemon haunt. It was struggling to stand against the woods, with vines growing up its walls and leaves strewn across its bowed ceiling. At one point, it may have been a tall and elegant cabin, hidden just off the path for someone who wanted to be away but not too far away. Now the windows were cracked, the patio was crumbling, the faded paint was in patches, and the door was almost entirely missing. Pieces of acorns, nuts, and twigs were strewn near the entrance, so there probably was some Pokemon nesting inside. Branches stretched overhead; if any of them fell, it could be the end of this place. On the rooftop, some kind of avian Pokemon perched and watched them. It was sooty black, very round, and seemed to only have one eye.

    "It certainly looks appropriate," Teirno suggested. "Like a place you'd see in a movie."

    "It looks like it could fall apart at any minute," Trevor said. "I don't think we should eat inside."

    Shauna seemed disappointed. "Yeah. That's a pity. Well maybe we can get into Laverre for a picnic; I hear it's a really pretty place. Let's go check out the inside."

    The inside of the house was just as abandoned as the outside. A kitchen and mudroom sat on either side of the entrance; there were dishes around the sink and magnets on the fridge. On the floor, their muddy prints joined dozens more from Pokemon and other visitors. The surfaces were covered in dirt and dust, with even more evidence of inhabiting Pokemon. No humans had lived in this place for a long time.

    Past the kitchen counters, the house opened up into a grand living room. It was a tall space, with the high ceiling making the room feel bigger. The furniture was battered, bitten, and threadbare, the grimy colors bare hints of how they must have looked once. On the floor, there were scraps of a former carpet and, off by the east wall, a large pile of rags and old clothes. There was an old television set with a cracked screen sitting on a dusty shelf. On the back wall, there was a fireplace with ashes strewn in a wide arch around it and a wide door that led to further rooms.

    "Wow, I wonder what happened here," Shauna said in a hushed voice.

    "It still looks dangerous," Trevor said, eying a long crack in the wall.

    With little warning, the pile of rags began to grow. Long white hair became distinguishable from the rest of the mess and red eyes appeared on a rough face. Calem's friends screamed and ran off to leave. Recalling Mortan's words, Calem forced himself to stay in place until he knew what it was. Rather, who this was. It was some man, wearing ratty patched clothing that didn't fit quite right. He was sitting on the floor and looking Calem eye to eye. Once he began to stand, it became clear that this was no ordinary person. He was twice the height Calem was and he wasn't even standing straight. Something about him seemed old, perhaps just the clothing, but the lack of facial hair made him seem young at the same time.

    "We're sorry to disturb you, sir," he said, trying to be polite. "We thought this place was abandoned and nobody lived here."

    There was a moment where nothing was said. Then the giant said, in a deep hoarse voice, "Nobody does."

    Then was this some homeless man? A normal traveler wouldn't have such poor clothing. But then, he must not have been in Lumiose, since he'd be noticed and gossiped about. "Oh. Well I hope we didn't bother you much." The man just looked at him, his expression undecipherable.

    "Calem?" Shauna called back in, worried. But once she saw the giant, she got curious and came back inside, soon followed by Tierno and Trevor. "Who's this?"

    "I think it's okay," Calem said, still watching the man. "Well I'm Calem, and these are my friends, Shauna, Tierno, and the little guy's Trevor. We came because we heard this place was haunted."

    "There's no restless spirits, just restless imaginations of visitors," the giant said. "Kids like you shouldn't be in a rundown place like this; it could fall apart at any time."

    "But then you shouldn't be here either, huh mister?" Shauna asked, concerned for him.

    "Eh," he said, shrugging. "I'd be fine. Hmm, but if you came back... fine, poke around if you want, but be careful touching things and don't question it if I tell you to leave."

    "Oh, thanks sir," Calem said, nodding. "What do we call you?"

    That caused him pause, as if he hadn't expected anyone to ask for his name. "Jack," he said after a few moments.

    Since Jack said that he could warn them of danger, they went ahead and looked around in other rooms. But beyond simply being an old house abandoned to nature, there wasn't much interesting about it. There were hints as to past residents, like names carved crookedly into wood and faded photographs. A couple of rooms, including the living room, had bookshelves with yellowed books and mostly broken knickknacks. Some of the beds still had blankets and pillows, now in disarray with Pokemon fur and feathers left on them.

    On hearing a thump, Calem came back into the living room where Jack had sat back down, lost in thought. The Pokemon they had seen on the roof was now inside, apparently having squeezed down the chimney. Even more ashes were spread on the floor, especially when it shook itself and caused a miniature black cloud around it. Past the sooty black, he started to see its natural colors.

    "Is this one yours?" Calem asked. "It needs a bath badly."

    "Yes, it's a friend," Jack said, looking over at it. "I didn't tell you to clean out the chimney, especially not like that."

    "Cuuuruururu glii," the Pokemon replied.

    "How messy," Shauna said, smiling as she came in. "Hey, is there any running water in here? I don't think the swamp water is gonna help him."

    Jack shook his head, getting back up. "No, but... there's a bathtub in one of the bathrooms. I just, have trouble doing work with my hands."

    "We can handle it if there's a way to get water," Calem offered.

    "Thank you, on his behalf," Jack said, then went down the hall to find the bathtub. There, he held a hand out and cast a spell that caused it to half fill with water. A lemon scent wafted up from soapy foam. "It's a sort that won't damage his feathers as much."

    "Ooo, cool!" Shauna said, her excitement startling Jack. "How do you do that? We're learning magic, but I didn't think you could get a specific kind of water through spells."

    After a moment where his face briefly flushed pink, Jack replied, "If you're learning... it's too complicated. It should do for the task."

    The next few minutes were spent in a cheerful mess trying to get the Pokemon clean. The bird was mostly cooperative, getting into the tub at Jack's gesture and mostly holding still while Calem and Shauna tried to wash the ashes off. But he was so dirty that the water quickly turned black and they still couldn't see his full coloration. Jack had to transport the water outside (with another spell he wouldn't explain) and resummon fresh water, twice. By then, Teirno and Trevor had peeked in curiously from the hall, but with the two of them, Jack, and the Pokemon in there, the bathroom was packed. In the end, they revealed a Sigilyph whose feathers were dim with water, but a great deal cleaner than it had been. They brought him back into the main room, where the other two boys had found some old brooms to sweep a fair portion of the ashes and dirt outside the doorless entrance.

    "That was the dirtiest floor I've ever swept," Teirno said, rubbing ash off (and across) his face. Trevor sneezed in agreement.

    But it was somewhat clean, enough that the Sigilyph wouldn't get ashy and dirty again while it rested on the floor to dry off. In the meantime, a Golurk appeared from somewhere (where had it been hiding? It was nearly as huge as Jack) and watched them quietly out of the way. Jack looked over the two Pokemon, then bowed his head. "Thank you, kids. Unexpected kindness is always a blessing."

    "No problem," Shauna said. "You've got to treat your Pokemon right."

    "Yes... yes of course," Jack said, although he seemed sad.

    "It's been good meeting you," Calem said. "But we've got to get back to Lumiose. They'll get worried if we don't show up at the school dorms by sundown."

    "You'd best get back on the road then. You've made it a good day." He wasn't smiling, but something about his words seemed to carry great weight.

    Once they found Mortan and Percival again, they headed through the marshy area and had a late supper over at the old park. They got back into Lumiose and found that the gatehouse did have an outdoors faucet where they could rinse the mud, grass, and ash off their shoes and skates. After a visit to the bathroom to wash the ashes and dust off the rest of themselves, they got back to the dorms just as the sun was disappearing below the horizon.

    He didn't get a chance to speak with Mortan about what had happened until the next evening, after the bus ride home and the day he spent with his parents. In his bedroom with the door shut, he told the Floette about the visit they'd had with Jack. "I don't think he was a bad guy, but I'm not sure of anything about him," he said at the end. "He was slow about a lot."

    "He's probably troubled by his conditions," Mortan said, sad again. He even had his flower lying on the bedside table, with just one hand on it. "Depression can make it difficult to do anything and slow anybody down."

    "Is that it?" He put his hands on his knees, watching the Pokemon. His others were in the room too, attentive to varying degrees (except Nibbles, who was already asleep in the corner). "You seem to have a lot of insight into that person."

    The Floette closed his eyes and curled up, for a little bit seeming like he wouldn't say anything. Percival spoke up, causing him to lift his head and sigh. "Yes, I did say I'd explain... that person, his name isn't Jack. He probably gave it to you not wanting to reveal who he is, if you would believe it. His name is AZ."

    Almost recognizing it, Calem tried to recall where he'd heard it. "Odd name... seems like I should know who it is, though."

    Mortan picked up his flower and hugged the stem. "You're not a native of Kalos and your history classes haven't touched that time period yet. Aleksander Zachariah de Kalos, usually shortened to AZ, was once a great king. He was my friend before I became a servant of the gods."

    That startled him when it clicked in his mind. "Kalos... wait, isn't that the name of one of the ancient kings of Kalos, like, thousands of years ago?"

    "Around three thousand years ago, maybe a bit more," Mortan said. "That's who you met in that house."

    "Three thousand... but how is he still alive? How are you still alive, for that matter?" He knew that his Floette was mysterious and unusual, but he hadn't counted on him being that old too.

    "A curse for using forbidden magic," Mortan said. "And why... why I swore an oath not to see him again until his heart fully changed, working for the gods in the meantime. I mean, I'm happy that you don't think that he's a bad guy. He isn't; I still believe in him. But he made a very grave and bad decision. People assume AZ died, although legends tell that he has no grave because they never found his body. However, they couldn't find him because he faded from public view and deteriorated from what the image they held of him was."

    "I certainly wouldn't have guessed that he'd be a king," Calem said, still having some trouble connecting a disheveled probably depressed homeless man to an ancient and powerful king. Although, he did have that unusual spell for calling on a tubful of water suitable for washing a feathered Pokemon. Mortan still seemed sad, so Calem decided to see if it would cheer him up by asking, "How did you get to be a friend to a king?"

    "I met him when he was still a prince, but even that was lucky," Mortan said. "Those days I remember fondly."

    "Do you mind talking about them?"

    That did make Mortan smile. "Uh, well... no, if you want me to."
     
  6. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Chapter 9: Mortan's Story (one of three)

    Mortan didn't tell me all of his memories at once. But every evening that summer, he told me a little more about his early days knowing AZ as a prince. He seemed quite fond of it, but mentioning his friend as a king often made him sad. So I let him talk about his friend as a prince most often.

    There was a sweet smell on the wind; the young Flabebe had never smelled anything quite like it. It wasn't quite like nectar, but still sweet and a bit like nuts. Floating against the wind was hard, but he did it to find the source of the scent. It came from near a human man, which made him have second thoughts about checking it out. But the deliciousness lured him closer.

    Turning his white lily to pause, he could see that the smell came from what looked to be peanuts with an odd shiny crinkle instead of a smooth surface. The man had a little bag of them as a snack. The Flabebe had had a peanut the other day, but it hadn't been sweet like these smelled. What was the difference? He drifted into the man's sight. "Um, are you a nice person?" he asked.

    The man noticed him and widened his brown eyes in surprise. "Wow, you're so tiny," he said, amazed by it. He brought his hand up, so the Flabebe floated near it. He wasn't quite ready to land on the human. "I've never seen a Pokemon so small. Oh, but you're not bad for it. You're interesting. Huh, do others make fun of you for being tiny like they do for me being big?"

    "Nuh-uh," the Flabebe said, shaking his head. "I'm supposed to be tiny. You don't look big, not for a human. You're supposed to be big."

    "You're lucky," the man said. Then, he put his bag in his lap to take a peanut and offer it to him. "Here, want to share a snack? Although for you, it looks like it would be a meal."

    "Yay, you are nice!" he said, delighted as he took the peanut. Taking a bite of it, he found that it had honey dried on the outside. It tasted wonderful, a lot better than a regular peanut.

    He wouldn't figure out until weeks later that this man was actually a child.

    -+-

    Specifically, AZ was nine years old but already the size of a grown man. He was being tutored in a country estate over the summer along with his normal-sized seven year old brother and a group of other children who seemed to be important. When they were released for a few hours of play, AZ would often come out to eat a snack, like the honey-roasted peanuts, or dried fruit, or crackers, or even some cookies if the kids were lucky.

    He tried to play with the other children, but it never worked out well. Even his brother Leon got in on it, shouting, "Aah, the ogre is gonna eat us!" and run away shrieking (in delight) with the other kids. AZ would get upset by that, sometimes crying. As it kept happening, he grew more reluctant to play with the others, preferring instead to go eat his snack among the flowers. The Flabebe got to know when the kids would come out, so he nearly always met with AZ to share a snack.

    And when AZ was crying, the Flabebe would twirl around in the air and sing, trying to cheer him up. "They're meanies, you're nice," he sang, coming over and patting AZ on the cheek. That usually made him smile. He would sit down, share his snack, talk about the lessons they had that day.

    "I like studying, unlike most of them," AZ said today. "That's why I usually go in before them. Besides, I've got important studies to follow, more than they learn. I need to be a great man, like my father."

    "I think you're great!" he said, smiling and hoping that would let the human know how he felt.

    Sometimes AZ got back inside to do more studying, but other times, like today, the teacher watching would stop him. "You've got to be playing to keep healthy, AZ," he said. "At least go run around for a bit, get some physical activity in." So AZ would go run around the field, away from the other kids. The Flabebe found it fun trying to keep up with him, using the wind to keep adrift.

    It was tiring too. AZ caught the Flabebe in his palm after they'd been running fifteen minutes or so. "It's got to be harder for a tiny creature like you to follow," he said. "But that means you're my friend, doesn't it? You don't care how hard it is."

    "I care about you because you share yummy food!" he said cheerfully, although he also found himself liking the running and talking too. Maybe they were friends like that.

    The rumble of thunder came from the sky, making the Flabebe tense. "I think there's going to be a storm tonight," AZ said, looking up at the clouds. "I hope you have a good shelter against that..." Then he shook his head and looked down at him. "But I'd be worried. Hey, why don't you come inside with me? Then you can keep nice and dry."

    "Oo, that sounds good," he said, nodding. So AZ carried him back to the house they were all staying in.

    It was a huge space to the Flabebe, even with the walls closing it in. And there were so many interesting things to see: pictures on the wall, soft and hard looking floors, flowers in pretty containers, interesting carvings in a strangely white wood handrail on the stairs. There were even windows that had material that was really hard to see, because they could see right through it. With all this and those different snacks, humans were really creative creatures.

    AZ brought him into the library, a room that was filled with many items called books. The books were filled with thin white leaves that had many black lines printed on them. While it didn't make any sense to the Flabebe, AZ started reading aloud while looking at the book. Did it have all that information just on the one page? How did one decipher it? He was curious and tried to watch along to figure the lines out.

    "What's that Pokemon doing in here?" a woman asked, pausing by AZ's table.

    "Um, it's a friend of mine," AZ said. "We usually meet outside, but I heard thunder and I wanted to keep him out of the storm tonight."

    "Wild Pokemon can usually handle themselves."

    "I wanna stay with AZ!" the Flabebe whined, dropping down the stamen he held and thinking of hiding in a bud.

    She smiled. "Aw. You are really kind to Pokemon, AZ. If it's your friend, I suppose..." She patted her pocket, looking for something. "Hmm, I don't think I have it now. But I can get something that will bond you both together. It'll always be able to follow you then."

    "That'd be great," AZ said, feeling glad. "Thank you, mother. I'm just not sure what it is; I've seen a few others like it, but I know this one because he always has a white lily."

    "That's the best way to tell the difference," she said, nodding. "This is a Flabebe, a tiny flower fairy. They keep their flower for their whole lives; it never fades or wilts. We see lots of them in this area around spring and summer, but they're so little that you might never see them."

    From that night on, the Flabebe stayed with AZ as his closest Pokemon friend.

    -+-

    During fall, AZ, his brother Leon, and their mother had to return to the walled city of Lumiose where they lived most of the year. A great many Pokemon were there on the trip: a team of Tauros to pull the carriage, Aigislash and Furfrous to guard them, an Alakazam to keep watch. He was just a Flabebe, but he came too, not wanting to part from his dear friend. Leon tried to tease AZ for having a girly flower Pokemon, but AZ was getting better about resisting that. After all, they were friends and AZ wanted to keep it that way.

    Even when it meant arguing with his father about keeping him. "But you wanted me to start befriending some Pokemon to keep close to me," AZ said. "This one has been following me all summer and I want to start with him."

    "I was thinking something more befitting of our family," the king said. "There's a few eggs I have that you could start with; they'd be good and strong."

    "The Flabebe is good too," he insisted. "I don't know how strong he'll be, but I'll make sure he's the best he can be."

    "Well," he hesitated, looking at the Flabebe. "It just doesn't seem to fit you. Maybe for a princess, but you're the heir to the crown and you need impressive Pokemon to back that up."

    "Dear, it's fine," the queen said gently, putting a hand on her husband's arm. "It is the first Pokemon friend that he has made and he's really well-behaved. I think we shouldn't stand between them; he might even surprise us."

    "You believe it will work?" the king asked her.

    "May I keep him?" AZ asked.

    The king considered it, then nodded. "Certainly. As you said, we're not sure how he'll end up and you'll probably have a few others to make a strong Pokemon retinue. Make the best of what you have."

    "I would've stayed here with you no matter what," the Flabebe said, twirling around inside his lily.

    -+-

    When other children his age began to grow to adult size, AZ continued growing beyond that. It made him stand out in the castle. No one, not even his family, was as big as he was. After he knocked over a grandfather clock that hardly anyone else could move, his mother said, "We need to get someone to train you in the fighting arts."

    "But I've already studied magic," AZ said, using a spell to pick the clock back up and patch it until a proper repair job could be done. "And I'm supposed to be continuing my governing studies." All those studies kept AZ busy every day; the tutors said that he learned fast, while the Flabebe was still trying to figure out how to decipher human writing.

    "You don't need to be a boxing champion or something like that," the queen said. "You just need to learn to restrain the strength you have and be more aware of yourself." And with that, he got boxing lessons added to his busy schedule. He never had a day off, only a couple of hours where he could relax and spend with his Flabebe friend.

    But AZ didn't seem to mind that. Keeping busy learning things got him praise and satisfaction, while trying to socialize got him wary looks, insulting remarks, and fearful caution.

    -+-

    "I am a proud defender," the Furfrou said. "Very proud, fight well. But the prince is so strong, in his arms, in his legs, in his aura, in his mind. He could beat me. How do I defend someone like that?"

    "But isn't it your job to defend the royal family?" the Flabebe asked. "And fight for them?"

    "Prince is strong, how could he need me?" the Furfrou repeated.

    "Argh, he can't always fight alone, you know," he said, angered. "Well fine, if you're going to be a coward about it."

    "Not a coward!" the Furfrou barked.

    "But you're afraid of being around AZ."

    "Leon needs more protection. I fight for him."

    "Well this was a waste," the Flabebe muttered, floating away. He'd been trying to encourage other Pokemon to work with AZ so that he had a really impressive retinue (he wasn't quite sure what that was, but it seemed to be a group of Pokemon that stuck with the king and protected him). But so many of them were either afraid of the huge child or were like this, not feeling like they'd be needed.

    Somehow, they had to get this to work.

    -+-

    The city of Lumiose was a really impressive example of what humans could do. They had built many buildings close together for protection, some of them enormous. They even made stone walls stand tall and hold lots of space. Inside those structures, humans and Pokemon lived together with many of the wondrous things that humans made.

    But it wasn't all nice. There weren't as many flowers, for one. What flowers were there were usually confined to vases, pots, bins, or enclosed gardens. For another thing, the city could be quite dirty. The castle maids would often be seen sweeping and mopping the floors, but the dirt would return once someone walked in from outside. Even the air was dirty with smoke, dust, and other itty bitty particles.

    AZ called his name. "Drink something, please. I put some drops on the petals to help."

    He was curled up in the center of his flower, but tried to make himself stir for AZ. It looked like his whole body hurt, so he couldn't keep himself on the stamen or keep his flower afloat. He made a pitiful murmur, dragging himself over to drink some of the water. Because AZ was worried about him, he studied in his room to keep an eye on the Flabebe.

    That evening, his father came to visit. "Is he doing any better?"

    "No, he just keeps sleeping," AZ said. "I give him some water when it looks like he's stirring, but he doesn't always drink it."

    The king pulled another chair closer, to talk with him. "The Pokemon healer will be along later to check up on him again. But it could just be that he's not well adapted to the city air; he always gets a little sick in the winter."

    "If I could stay in the countryside all year, I'd do it so he stays healthy." After all, the air was cleaner around the estate where he had found the Flabebe.

    "You know, I had plans to build a second castle outside the city," the king said, musing on something. "I thought it'd be nice to have a summer castle and a winter castle. There's still plans for it floating around in the library somewhere; I was making it really beautiful to surprise your mother, but then things fell through."

    "Could it be built, where he could live in cleaner air?" AZ asked, hopeful.

    "Well there's some trouble with where to put it now." He put his hand on his chin. "We have to consider the lords on our lands and the kings of other lands; building a new castle could be seen as a threat to other kingdoms or encroaching on the rights of the lords."

    "But you're the king of this land, accepted by the gods. Don't they have to follow you?"

    "In an ideal world, they would," the king admitted. "But in reality, there are many things that can lead anyone to turn against a king, even divinely appointed. Greed, love, ambition, different views of justice... you've seen the reports of the eastern lands, haven't you? People revolted against their kings because they felt oppressed in taxes and laws. The same could happen here in Lumiose if we're not mindful." He then began a lecture on the different alliances and rivalries among the nobility and royalty of the lands around theirs.

    AZ listened attentively, if occasionally glancing at the weak Flabebe to make sure he didn't need more water droplets. At the end of it, he said, "An awful lot of that seems like petty reasons to fights. Just because two families have fought for generations doesn't mean that they have to keep fighting forever."

    "Hatred can be tough to let go of," the king said. "We've built up a good secure base here in Lumiose and things are mostly peaceful among our people. I'd like to see you carry on that unity in the future."

    But later that evening, when the king had left, the Pokemon overheard his friend to say, "Those people fighting are making those they protect suffer for their own rivalries and desires. I wonder if I could make them stop when I'm king. Although, I'd just be happy if we could be in a place where you didn't have to suffer."

    -+-

    One day when AZ was thirteen, he was mistaken for his father and nearly lost his right to rule.

    He and his Flabebe were in the the practice hall that the knights used for training battles. By this point, the prince had found a few other Pokemon who didn't mind being with him: a Doublade and a Gible. They were all in combat training, even the Flabebe who wasn't as powerful as the others. They'd make a good team with AZ, who was turning out to be quite good at fighting as well. Although, he still preferred studying books and learning what he would need to know as a king.

    "This is a Strike Eye," one of the knights told him as the boy was taking a break. He had gotten interested in a palm-sized mechanical device; it was covered in gold, but part of it was a stone eye. "It extends the range and amount of targets at which one can cast a spell. Not that accurate unless you practice with it relentlessly, but it helps to have a distance caster in large battles."

    "If it's an eye, shouldn't it help with accuracy instead of range?" AZ asked.

    "Well that's what the machinists were trying to do," the knight said, putting the Strike Eye back on its shelf. "Sometimes accidental advances are just as important as intentional ones."

    A voice cut through the practice hall, disrupting nearly everyone. "Quit yanking my chain around!" a foppish young man said.

    "If you want a challenge, this is the place," the servant with him said, not letting himself be intimidated by the visitor.

    "Did I not make myself clear?" the visitor asked in annoyance. "I don't mean against ordinary people."

    "I think that's the king of some of the lands west of here," AZ said quietly. "Father received a painting of him with a message that he was going to make the greatest kingdom of all." And his ambitions had stopped the construction of the castle outside of Lumiose by luring the lord of that land to his allegiance, much to AZ's displeasure.

    "Sounds ridiculous," the knight near him said.

    "What I mean is that I want a courtly battle against one of royal blood," the visitor demanded.

    "There is one such person here," the servant said, pointing towards AZ.

    A courtly battle against the one that wouldn't let him live out in the countryside with his Flabebe? AZ didn't mind that; he wouldn't want to start an actual fight with this person, after all. But there might be something to help out... "Could I borrow the Strike Eye?" AZ asked.

    "Sure thing," the knight said, taking it back off the shelf and handing it to him. "Standard activation, you know."

    "Right."

    Just then, the visiting king called out to him. "Hello, it took a while to track you down, fellow," he said, smiling broadly. "I sent an offer for a battle only we could have. Are you ready to give your answer on my challenge? Fielding three Pokemon and ourselves at once, until the human or all the Pokemon are defeated, to show our true talents and leadership."

    "All right, I'll take that challenge," AZ said, thinking that it would be good to have a Pokemon battle with someone other than his usual practice opponents. Plus this seemed to be a social battle, nothing serious.

    The seriousness of the challenge didn't come out until after AZ won. It was easier than it first seemed. While the visiting king had Pokemon that were all evolved more than his, they were all dragons and the Flabebe had always been particularly good in the rare battle with dragons. He even got the energy to evolve into a Floette at the end of it; he sang happily and twirled in his new form, making AZ smile warmly. Having the Strike Eye to cast protection spells over all of his Pokemon rather than just one had helped as well.

    However, something mysterious happened at that moment: a glowing orb, like a dark rainbow, appeared near the visitor and shattered. It immediately reformed itself, but stole six rings from him. "In accordance to our agreement, when you fight a battle against royalty, the winner takes the loser's divine right to rule. You have lost, thus your right to rule has been revoked. Because your right to rule has been revoked, this agreement also comes to an end. I hope you are satisfied." There was a soft chuckle at the end, then the rings were tossed with the orb to AZ.

    "What?!" the visitor said, angered. "You, you cheated! You must have! No one could take my dragons down so easily!" He ran at AZ, pulling out a dagger to attack.

    The Floette tried to blind the man so he couldn't attack, but he passed right by the little fairy. AZ didn't feel worried, though. He'd been training himself for such things. At the right moment, he stepped out of the way and punched the man in the shoulder, knocking him to the ground. "Prince AZ!" one of the knights called, him and others running to support him.

    "It's fine," he said, going over to the visitor. Pinning him down with one hand on his shoulder, he took the dagger from him and tossed it aside. He still hadn't taken the rings, which were floating to follow him.

    "P-prince?" the visitor asked, looking up at him. "I thought the princes here were boys."

    "We are," AZ said, used to that. The knights began to secure the man for arrest.

    Later on, his father got upset over what happened. "You shouldn't have let AZ fight that greedy idiot!" he scolded the servant. "I wasn't going to fight him until I knew more of his boon."

    "I'm sorry, your majesty," the servant said, bowing apologetically again. "I did what I could, and I didn't think it would hurt. And he won, so..."

    "It's good fortune that he did, but it could have been big trouble if he'd lost," the king said. Eventually, he fired the servant.

    Meanwhile, AZ and his Floette had been sitting in the room, listening to them and examining the rings. Each ring had a small signet, different signs that corresponded to different lands close to the Kalos kingdom. There was even one for Genosage, a place that AZ had read about; it seemed far away, farther than he'd ever traveled. While the signets would shimmer when AZ touched them, the rings would not stay on his finger. They didn't react at all to the Floette.

    When the servant was gone, the king paced around the room, rubbing his forehead and muttering. "I'm sorry, father," AZ said. "I didn't know there was anything at stake during that battle."

    "Be more careful before you accept another challenge," his father said, coming over to him. "Especially if anything about titles, nobility, or royalty comes up. I'm glad you won but... this could be trouble."

    "What can I do to make it right?" AZ asked, feeling uneasy. He had done something wrong and it should be fixed. After all, he would need to be making no mistakes when he became a king.

    His father put his hands over his mouth, not looking at him. He sighed, then sat in a chair. "AZ... do you know what you won in that battle?"

    "The rings, although I don't seem to be fit for them somehow," he said, taking one and looking at it. "They don't look too small, but they keep jumping off."

    He took one and, unlike the Floette, managed to keep a hold of it. However, the signet on it didn't shimmer. In contrast, Melchior de Kalos had two rings that looked much like the ones here, which shimmered on his fingers. "These signet rings are royal proofs. Owning and wearing one shows that you have the allowance of the gods to rule your land. You have just won kingship of six kingdoms today." He put the ring down. "But you have not taken the appropriate trials for a king in these lands, thus while you own the rings and the land, you can't wear them and rule."

    Proof of royalty... and that visitor had owned six. "Then, somehow he was able to win five of these in Pokemon battles, and was trying to steal our kingdom with the same tactic?"

    The king nodded. "Yes. A dirty tactic; given what you and others witnessed, I would say that when he took the trials, he was given a boon and asked for the power to do so. Still, that boon was his undoing. He was winning kingdoms with alarming speed, which had me worried when he wrote me the original challenge, but all it took was one loss to lose it all. If he had won against you, then he would not have won our kingdom, but he would have taken your inheritance. Possibly, it's hard to tell."

    "I see; that was a mistake."

    "That is why you should be careful," his father said. "But don't feel bad on it. We should be grateful and thank the gods that you succeeded."

    "And my Pokemon here," AZ said, tapping the Floette's lily and making him giggle. He was the only one allowed to touch the flower. "I couldn't have done it without him."

    He smiled and nodded. "Of course. Well, I wanted to hold off on sending you, but now that you have those rings and the ruler of those people is in our dungeon, you should head to the dwelling of the gods and take the trials of royalty. Then you would officially become king of those lands. Still, I hope you do not mind working with me to learn; there is still much you need to know."

    "I'd feel better with your help," AZ said, smiling.

    "Good, then we'll need to prepare your trip to the southeastern forest, where you'll find the dwelling of Xerneas. After that, further east lies the dwelling of Yveltal. These two will give you trials of their own choosing to see if you're worthy. They may offer you a boon, but if they do, be careful what you ask for. The man you defeated today chose to gain power quickly, and he lost it all in an instant."

    -+-

    The trials that his friend was going through were things that the Floette didn't understand. Good thing AZ was so smart, then. He had to think through things, so the small Pokemon kept watch for trouble. Mostly, he had to keep the other two Pokemon from bugging AZ, but sometimes he had to call their attention to trouble from wild Pokemon. This forest was thick and confusing.

    At the moment, they had stopped between trials after coming across an injured Chespin. AZ stopped and talked gently to it, until it allowed them close enough for the prince to use a healing spell on it. The Chespin ran off afterward, but it had looked better. "I wouldn't want too many people to learn fighting magic," AZ pondered aloud. "But if I could teach more people how to heal with magic, I would. It would help everyone."

    A Pokemon's voice came from close behind the Floette. "It could help, but it could hurt," it said. "Healing without knowing what is wrong can cause more torment."

    "Wh-what?" the Floette asked, spinning in place. "Healing helps."

    "But it can be turned to hurt," the Pokemon said, sounding amused. It appeared as little more than an orb of rainbow light, but that spot held a potent aura. This being was powerful. "I sense a warm and kind heart from this child... is that true?"

    The Floette nodded. "Yes, absolutely! AZ is great; he's my best friend. He takes good care of me when I'm sick and believes in me when others think I look weak."

    The orb moved closer. Too close; the Floette drifted back to a more comfortable space. That made the orb bob up and down. "That's good; I like it when humans are nice to those kin to me. Hmm hmm hmm... so what do you do for him?"

    "I help him, and fight for him. But mostly, I make sure he's happy, cheer him up when he feels sad or worn out." He twirled his flower a little. "He's always busy and has so much to learn, but no matter how good he is, some people are still mean to him. I want him to be happy no matter how many people try being mean."

    The Pokemon there chuckled. "Really really? You have a monumental task, then. He's in a position where everyone will look up to him but not all of them will love him for it. Many could hate him for it, if he makes enough mistakes. Or even if he doesn't make a mistake. It could be a fruitless thankless task."

    "No it won't be," he said, feeling angered. "He calls me his best friend too."

    "What are you angry about?" AZ asked, turning in concern at the sound of his voice.

    The Pokemon making the orb laughed, then whirled around them at a dizzying speed. Then it settled a few feet from them and expanded instantly into a Pokemon that was taller than AZ. Mostly in his iridescent antlers; Xerneas appeared quite powerful and quick, even without considering the divine aura he was surrounded with. "You're all being tested, even when you don't realize it," he said in the human language, shaking his head in a playful manner. "Ah, child who looks like a man, I've been waiting for you. You've been doing well," AZ looked hopeful at that. "Or maybe not. It's not over, not quite. But close. Haha, you are here early, aren't you? I like you, though. You have a good soul and are kind to Pokemon. Is that enough to be a king? Hmm, we'll have to see." Then he moved in a flash of light, appearing beside AZ. "Do you have any wishes, prince?"

    "No," AZ said. They had settled on this as a safe answer, to prevent something like what had happened to the king he had defeated.

    Xerneas seemed surprised at that and nosed AZ's shoulder. "No wishes? Are you sure?"

    "I'm sure."

    "Really truly sure? That there's nothing you would want but can't quite accomplish on your own, or are not sure how to do?"

    That made AZ hesitate. "Well... I want my Floette to be healthier, but I'm sure he'll be fine when we can finish the second castle and move out of the city air. And I would like to see people stop fighting each other. Pokemon battles for sport are okay, since it's fun for all parties. But all these little wars between little kingdoms seems so pointless."

    "Well that's selfless of you," Xerneas said. "You might be able to accomplish both those wishes on your own. Might. The first is simple enough when you move, the second... could be tough to do cleanly."

    "I could stop people from fighting?" AZ asked, intrigued.

    "Certainly." He prodded AZ's hand. "You have the signets from lands that have been squabbling, but once they answer to you as king, they won't have as much of a reason to be fighting, right?" He darted away, although his movements were impossible to see again. "There are many kingdoms in the land that I run through, but what if it were all one big kingdom? From the eastern mountains to the western mountains, from the southern sea to the northern sea... if it was one kingdom, then who would fight? And even if they did fight, they would have to answer to the one in authority. Think about it." Xerneas then darted off into the trees, leaving them to finish AZ's trials.

    -+-

    The forest that Xerneas lived in was confusing, but the Floette felt like he'd rather be there than on this mountaintop where Yveltal resided. At least the forest was green and full of life. This mountain was sharp and dangerous, wrapped up in a chilly wind. They followed a trail that the locals had been reluctant to let AZ and his Pokemon go up. Apparently, few members of royalty had actually gone up the mountain in recent years, the last one in their memory being AZ's father Melchior. But AZ insisted that he had to honor both gods, so was allowed to ascend.

    The trail itself was of decent size for humans, but sometimes it ran alongside steep drops and cliffs. They heard some rocks tumbling while they walked, grateful they weren't falling near them. For the Floette, the wind was the worst of it. It kept trying to grab his flower and fling him far from AZ. Eventually, AZ had the little Pokemon stay in the pocket of his jacket so that he wouldn't be blown away.

    At the top of the mountain, they came upon Yveltal's nest, where the god watched over the lands in all directions. He was not impressed. "Past your appearance, you are not yet a man," he said, a shadowy aura surrounding his body so that it was difficult to see his form. But there seemed to be black and red feathers when he moved his wings. "Almost, but still too young to be taking on such responsibility."

    "My father will be helping me," AZ said.

    Yveltal grumbled for a moment. "For how long? I could tell you, but I won't. I will say that you have passed my trials, save for the last only I can give. Not that it matters; your race has deemed my approval not as necessary. They don't understand as they want to forget death. You have Xerneas' approval?"

    "Yes," AZ said.

    "Did he give you a boon of any sort? You have to be careful with him."

    "Actually, he said that he would teach me further in magic than any human has yet gone, so that I can be a great king." It was a generous offer, they had all thought. After all, how many got to learn directly from a god?

    "What?!" Yveltal asked, standing taller as if alarmed. When he next spoke, his voice was a growl, "He's going to teach you?"

    "Yes, your holiness," AZ said, going formal to sound calm. But the Floette was close enough to notice his fear. What was this about?

    "What is he up to?" Yveltal muttered. "Making sure I was awake at the same time, being too generous, now teaching this child king? I don't like this one bit."

    AZ glanced at his Pokemon, lastly looking at the Floette in his pocket. But the Pokemon were confused too. "That doesn't sound like trouble," AZ said.

    "A lot of trouble doesn't come as you mortals expect it," Yveltal said, calming down. "And Xerneas... he considers everything to be a game where any entertaining result is worthwhile, no matter what the participants think. Maybe what he will teach you will help you out, but it may also cause you grief in the end. Hmph. Well if he is offering that, then I offer this." Four black feathers then appeared in front of AZ, with a thin stripe of red along the shaft. "Should you call my name while holding one of these feathers, I will come to your side. For a question, for assistance, what help you deem necessary. Each feather is only good for one summoning, so be sure that you really need me before you call."

    "I'm not sure how I'd use them, but thank you," AZ said, accepting the feathers. The Floette wasn't sure what they would be useful for either. Why call on death itself?
     
  7. Huh, somehow I missed this last week. So, AZ's doing his hobo impression then?

    And on this chapter, Xerneas looks to be up to something. Well, fairies (Or perhaps more appropriately, Faeries) are ultimately tricksters in their legends. Fitting that the Fairy Legendary should have a similar attitude...
     
  8. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Chapter 10: On Being a Doll

    That second summer, I was caught by the same problem of not having much to do while my parents were away. Serena's family did own the house next door, but they were rarely in. I thought of working at Viola's gym again, but she had no openings posted. At first, I helped out with my parent's garden and read some of the books they had again. It was while I was doing the gardening work that I got a suggestion from a chance encounter.

    Calem had his Pokemon out with him while he did garden work. Percival was hiding out in the shadow of the rock walls surrounding the yard, while Yorick had fun lurking in the ground and snatching up pests off the plants. Surprisingly, Nibbles turned out pretty good at helping with the weeds. Once Calem showed the Pinsir which plants were supposed to be there, she happily set about to pulling out the ones that weren't. Mortan snacked on a few aphids from a climbing rose, then went hunting around town for insects that would also eat them.

    “Hello, mind if I come in?” a woman asked, standing outside the gateless opening in the stone wall. It took a moment, but then Calem recognized who it was. She was dressed in a simple yellow sundress with a ruffled green jacket, a lot simpler attire than he was used to seeing her in.

    “Hello Diantha,” he said, getting up and brushing some dirt off his hands. “It should be okay, although my parents are away at work right now.”

    “Hmm, maybe I'll come back later,” she said, coming up the path. Her eyebrows raised as she got close. “Oh? I have a feeling I should know you... wait, I'll get it...” She glanced around at the Pokemon with him, in particular the Honedge and Pinsir. Then she clapped her hands and smiled. “Ah, you're the one I worked with in the Santalune gym challenge. Calem, right?”

    He smiled. “That's right. I'd shake your hand, but I've been doing garden work.”

    She laughed. “How gracious. That's fine.” She looked back at the house. “I was curious about this place, actually. Funny thing meeting you here. Then you live here?”

    “That's right,” he said, nodding. “I know a bit about the house, actually. What about it?”

    “Well, someone famous once lived here,” Diantha said, putting a hand to her cheek. “Have you heard about Miss Roselia? She was an unusual but great heroine of the Great War many years ago.”

    Hearing that made him feel happy. “Yeah, I know her. I mean, knew her. She's my great-grandmother, and I inherited this house from her.”

    Brightening, she turned to him. “Oh my goodness, really?” When he nodded, she squealed in delight. “That's simply amazing! I mean, it was sad to hear that she had passed away outside of Kalos when she's still loved here. But I hadn't expected to find her family back here in these lands.”

    “I still miss her some,” Calem said. “We were actually close, as I visited Gran daily for much of my life. But I know she wouldn't want me to be sad thinking about her.”

    “Certainly,” Diantha said, touching his shoulder. “But then I would be delighted to talk with you about her! You see, I've recently been cast to play her in an upcoming movie. I've been doing all I can to get into the role, from reading her book, and here I came looking for the house she lived in. Hmm, but if you knew her like that, would you happen to be the one she dedicated the book to?”

    He nodded. “I think so, but she made me swear that I wouldn't read it until I turned seventeen. That was how she was about a lot of her stories; she tell them to me but then say that she couldn't continue until I was older. It usually made her laugh and I'd have to pester her into telling something else.”

    That made her laugh. “You were a lucky kid. I would have been delighted to talk with her, so I hope that I can portray her well.”

    Since they could be talking for a while, Calem went ahead and invited Diantha inside, washing up the dirt off his hands before offering to get a snack with her. It was good to hear about the movie; he wondered if he'd be able to see it or if it was one of those things he'd need to wait a few years for. Either way, he wanted to see it eventually, when it got made.

    Somehow, they ended up talking about what Calem was doing this summer. “I liked working at the gym last summer and I thought about working at another. But since Viola wasn't looking for gym trainers, I'd have to make a longer commute anywhere.”

    “Some places you could get to easily with the light rail system,” Diantha said. “Now considering your current Pokemon, you're a bit stuck in that there's no gym for their aura type. Except for... there is a Fairy gym, and I think she is looking for help this summer.”

    “There's already a fairy gym?” Calem asked, curious. “I thought the classification had just been accepted.”

    She nodded. “Yes; it's got quite a story behind it too. See, Valerie originally came in as the Psychic type leader in Laverre, but she mostly used Fairy Pokemon misclassified as Psychic. That led to a lot of headaches for challengers as we couldn't rely on established information. Then Olympia challenged Valerie for the right to have the Psychic gym and won, primarily due to the fact that she used actual Psychics. Although at the time, she couldn't use that fact to get the gym title. Valerie had a good reputation as a leader despite her unusual Pokemon, so she took the unclaimed Normal gym title as it didn't require much shuffling of her teams to do so.”

    “But a lot of Fairy types were misclassified as Normal types too,” Calem said.

    “Exactly, so she was still a stumbling block to many. Then Augustine came around with his research and, after spending some time examining the gym Pokemon, identified them all as Fairy types. Valerie considered his information and eventually agreed with him, but then she didn't like that she'd been misrepresenting herself without realizing it. While his data was still under review, she put in a request to be identified as a Fairy gym leader. Much of the debate happened before I took over as champion, but I hear from Richard that it was quite an argument because the classification wasn't yet official. But the moment it did go official, Valerie's request was accepted.”

    “But if she's worked with them for that long, she'd surely know more about them,” Calem said. “I got some information from the professor, but working there would be nice. Laverre's the town just north of Lumiose, right?”

    “Right. Although, you do have to follow the particular rules of her gym. I don't think she often takes boys as gym trainers, but we might be able to convince her.”

    -+-

    The particular rule was that trainers at the Laverre gym had to wear costumes designed and made by Valerie. The gym, sitting in front of a magnificent old tree, had been built to resemble an elegant dollhouse and all of the gym trainers had to look like elegant dolls to fit in. On realizing that, Calem had second thoughts about working there. He hadn't tried to be that adventurous with fashion yet. However, he had to admit that the girls there did look like pretty dolls and Valerie said that she would design something suitable for a boy if he worked there.

    “I think you could be quite cute, since you still have a bit of a childish look to your face,” she said. Valerie looked especially like a fairy doll, with her dramatic brown eyes and delicate pink wings attached to the back of her Victorian era clothes. “But the main thing to consider is why you want to work at my gym for the summer. Would you tell me about that?”

    “I'm hoping to learn about Fairy Pokemon by working more with them and watching some battles,” Calem said. “I have one myself, a Floette, and I do have Professor Sycamore as my homeroom teacher at Lumiose Magic Academy. But I think seeing how more of them act and battle in person, I'd know better.”

    “I have noticed that your Floette is well cared for,” Valerie said. “If rather unusual.”

    “Yeah, everyone comments on his flower,” he said. Mortan was currently sitting on a vase, his black lily contrasting greatly with the white and blue flowers behind him.

    Surprisingly, Valerie shook her head. “Most Flabebe choose certain types and colors of flowers, true, but I have seen several with flowers outside their usual range. What I mean is, his aura is like no other Pokemon that I've ever seen, male Floettes are extremely rare sights, and his name is significant. Why did you name him that?”

    Calem hesitated on answering that. He couldn't say that Mortan had given that as his name. On the vase, the Floette hid behind his flower's stem and hung his head. “I... I really can't say. There was an accident when I got him, and my Frogadier when she was a Froakie. I don't remember naming either of them, as they were already registered to the Pokeballs.”

    “Does he know any unusual moves or skills?”

    “Actually, yes, but they come up with gibberish in the Pokeball data. He's reluctant to use them, so I've never seen them for myself.” That was a lie, though; he'd seen one of them when they'd been at Route 6 near Parfum Palace. Specifically, Mortan had said that things would have to be dire to require them. Sometimes he wondered if it had anything to do with how he should have died, but thinking on that too long made Calem uneasy.

    “Then he is a truly special Pokemon,” Valerie said. “We may never know for certain, but if he doesn't wish to reveal it, we shouldn't press the issue.”

    In the end, she decided to hire him. After taking measurements for his uniform, Valerie told him to return in three days with his school uniform, just in case her work took longer than expected.

    -+-

    Like Viola, Valerie preferred for him to have two Pokemon of the Gym's type. She offered him a Pokemon to borrow for the summer, perhaps to keep if they got along. “I gave it some thought and, considering how you want to learn, I decided on giving you a Pokemon of two aura types, one Fairy and one to match one of your others, so you could compare how they overlap. This young lady here is a Mawile, a Steel Fairy Pokemon. I've been calling her Starlet, since her kind can be surprisingly good actors.”

    “Hello Starlet,” Calem said. They were in a room not normally seen by visitors of the gym, the basement area where gym Pokemon owned by Valerie lived. It was as pretty as the rest of the gym, if a little more fantastic with all of its glittering crystals and mushroom themed furnishings. Around the room, at least a dozen Pokemon were out playing around. A Floette with a yellow daisy was trying to get Mortan to play with her, but he was trying to keep serious.

    As for Starlet, Calem wasn't familiar with Mawiles, but her stance and expression seemed so haughty that he didn't think he was mistaking it for something else. She had a slim brown body with fur that seemed to spread out like a dress, hiding rather sturdy large feet underneath. Her dark brown eyes regarded him with some doubt, seeming to say that she would only work with him because Valerie said so. But most noticeable was her secondary jaw, a huge steel grin that sprouted from the top of her head and seemed larger than the rest of her body. “Maahhff,” she said softly from her smaller mouth while her larger mouth clacked its many steel teeth.

    “She seems very proud,” Calem said.

    Valerie smiled. “Oh yes, she is. After you work today, you might want to take her back home and fight some wild Pokemon with her and the rest of your Pokemon, and try to prove your worth to her. She should cooperate, though. If not, we'll arrange another Pokemon to work with you. Now, would you wait here a moment? I have the main piece of your costume done but we need to see if it needs adjustments. Excuse me; I'll be back in a minute.” She then went into another room.

    For a moment, Calem looked around the room to see the Pokemon there. There was one he barely recognized as a Dedenne that was bouncing around on a mushroom cushion, while a Marill nearby watched him cautiously. Past them, there was a Gardevoir that was slowly dancing around and singing a lullaby. He spotted a small Ralts in the Gardevoir's arms, one that had blue fringe where a couple other Ralts playing nearby had green fringe. That was curious, but he wasn't sure he wanted to approach them without Valerie around.

    Deciding to sit down as that would make him more on eye level with Starlet, he tried talking to the Mawile. “Were you thinking that you wouldn't be working with a boy?”

    Starlet muttered, which Mortan translated as, “She thought she'd be staying in Valerie's team.” When the Mawaile widened her eyes, he drifted down (followed by the other Floette). “Yes, I can talk with humans. But I'm only allowed to speak to Calem right now, so it won't be easy to get a message to anyone else.” She spoke again, annoying Mortan. “It's the rules and really, none of them should know. Him finding out was a mistake, but it turned out well so far. He's a good one.... no that's not why! He is thirteen, but he's a good boy.”

    “What does my age have to do with anything?” he asked.

    “She wanted to know if you were only working here for the girls,” Mortan said.

    “Then you're right, that's not a reason,” Calem said, although he felt a little embarrassed. “I mean, I’m sure they're nice, but... I do kind of like one girl, but she won't be here, I’m pretty sure of it.”

    Starlet chuckled at that, but they couldn't talk further as Valerie came back into the room. Calem went into the bathroom to try the uniform on. Her current liking was for classy Victorian pieces, some of which were familiar if fancier than he usually saw, others he barely knew about. One thing he did like was that she had made his in colors he liked, blue and white. While it was different from what he was used to, he thought it still looked nice. She did have to make adjustments, so his first day at Laverre gym as a trainer was spent in his school uniform instead.

    -+-

    I thought I wouldn't see her, but one of my more memorable days working in the Laverre Gym was the day Serena showed up. Although, it was about far more than just her.


    “Geez, is brute force your strategy?” Calem asked, using the gym network to alert Valerie that Serena had defeated him. “Coming in for your first badge with your Rhyperior, Braxien, and that Aurora Pokemon.”

    “Aurorus,” she said, smiling. “And why not use tremendous strength? It's certainly effective. Though if you really want to see brute strength, you ought to be here when I come in for the proof later.”

    “I don't think Valerie would call me in on that,” Calem said. He knew a couple of Fairy spells, but didn't think that was enough for use as part of a proof of magic challenge.

    “That's a pity,” Serena said. Was she disappointed? Maybe she did think highly of him. But before he could get his hopes up, she went on to say, “Not that you'd be at your best in a magic battle here and now. You've got such an interesting talent but it's so underdeveloped; I'd like to battle you in a magic duel sometime when you'd be more than a speed bump.”

    “Well sorry I couldn't have had a started way ahead like you,” Calem grumbled, looking away as his face got warm. “We've been working hard.”

    “Unevenly with as many Pokemon as you have,” she said, lost in her own thoughts. “Maybe it looks that way to you, but I've got a lot of ground to cover still to get where I want. Anyhow, have fun being a doll; it was certainly a sweet surprise.” She smiled at him, then headed off to one of the teleport pads that would lead to another room of the gym.

    Calem revived Starlet and Mortan, releasing them back into the room to wait with him. “She could've been nicer about that.”

    Yorick popped out of a vase, grumbling too. “Really?” Mortan asked. “He says that she was a jerk.”

    “Yeah,” Calem said, starting to pace around. “I wish I knew if she was being more honest like that or when she's nicer. Did she really have to call me a speed bump? Her Pokemon are like fighting machines, unbelievably strong. I wonder how she trains them to be like that.”

    Starlet didn't seem happy either. “No kidding,” Mortan said. “They blew us away. Of course, her Pokemon seem to do that with everyone; I've never seen her lose. Then again, I don't know...” he paused, then looked down at the floor.

    He stopped and looked at one of the paintings on the wall, of a castle on a mountaintop. “I don't see what she would have to worry about. She was born with every advantage and she's at the top of our grade, the battle club... but I wish that I could actually impress her once and get her respect.”

    “Um, Calem?” Mortan interrupted, sounding nervous.

    Taking a moment to push aside his feeling of shame, he turned to his Pokemon. “What's wrong?”

    “Something's...” he tilted his head, as if listening to something, “going to happen. Something bad. Could we go down to the Pokemon habitat? I think we should go.”

    He walked back over to the tablet that kept watch over what was going on in the gym. “Well I shouldn't leave my post, but...” he checked the guest log again. “Looks like I've fought all three challengers that are in. I'll see if I can take a break.” He put in the request. Moments later, Valerie approved of it and he went to uncover a hidden teleport panel that would take him to the basement level. It would cover itself back up so none of the challengers could get in.

    Since it was a busy afternoon, there were few Pokemon down here. That made it easier to hear the small anxious gasps in the room. Over on a mushroom that many of the Pokemon here would use to nap on, he found a familiar blue-fringed Ralts trembling as he lay there. Calem knew that this Pokemon had been sickly since he had hatched. When he would come in to work, he would usually find the Ralts' mother holding him and singing to calm him down.

    “He's in really bad shape today,” Calem said, touching his head gently. He was shivering and sweating, his skin too warm. “I'm not sure what to do, but Valerie...”

    “She can't do anything,” Mortan said, sitting on the mushroom. “This hatchling, he's going to die soon.” The Floette sighed and put his flower down across his lap.

    “Are you sure?” Calem asked, feeling a shiver of fright.

    He nodded. “There's no mistake.”

    “When he's alone except for us?” He looked around, but only his own Pokemon were down here. Looking at Yorick, he knew that the Gastly could get through the building quickest. But the Pokemon here didn't like him and with news like this, it didn't seem best. “Swift? Can you make it up to Valerie's room and tell her Gardevoir about this? I think she at least should be here.”

    Swift gave a confident croak and hopped off to the teleport pad area. “She might make it in time, depending on what they're doing,” Mortan said, watching her go. Then he looked back at the young Ralts. “I wish I could do something, but... I already broke the rules recently and this is no accident. I couldn't do anything about his illness. Although, with all that he's suffered, and would suffer if he survived, maybe it's for the best.”

    “That's a horrible thought,” Calem said. The Ralts seemed to be shaking harder and his murmurs were getting fearful. Had he heard? Or did he know himself? Whichever it was, Calem didn't like leaving him to be scared like that. He wasn't sure if it was right, but hoping to calm the Ralts' anxiety at least, he picked the small Pokemon up. He was lighter than expected, but his trembles forced Calem to use both arms to keep him secure.

    “Be careful,” Mortan said, while the other Pokemon looked on in worry.

    “I will be,” Calem said. The Ralts opened his eyes and looked up at him uncertainly. Since he wanted to comfort the dying Pokemon as best he could until his mother got here, Calem tried to hum the song that the Gardevoir was always singing. The Pokemon wasn't sure what to make of him at first, but once he got the tune right, the Ralts relaxed and closed his eyes.

    Not long after, the Gardevoir mother came out of the teleport area, looking to them anxiously. “Sura gaa dea.”

    “Oh, sorry,” Calem said, going over to her and handing her the Ralts. “He was scared and I was trying to help.”

    Fortunately, she didn't act hostile to him. She was soon rocking her child and singing to him softly. Mortan had hovered up to Calem's side. “She's glad that we were here to comfort him, actually. She would understand your intentions without asking.”

    Calem offered the Floette a hand to land on. “Does this happen to you often?”

    Mortan landed there, setting his flower low again. “Yeah. You spend long enough in his presence, and you'll get to know. But it's usually cases like this, when there's not much that can be done.”

    “Have you tried to do something about it, like you did with me?”

    “Not since the first few years I was a servant,” he said, hanging his head. “And one time was a horrible mistake; I ended up causing much more suffering to the one I was trying to help. So I stopped trying until I came across you. At the time, I was getting frustrated. Deaths I had to watch, and my oath still keeping me from AZ when I know he suffered, I felt helpless and I didn't want to watch another unfortunate death. Although, so far I don't see much bad coming out of you surviving that.” He paused, then looked over to the Gardevoir. He spoke softer, “This, though... the poor child is lucky to have lived this long, but I don't think that fortunate with the pain he's been in.”

    The Gardevoir was still singing, but she wasn't swaying now. Letting Mortan take back to the air, Calem went over to her. “Do you want me to get Valerie?”

    The Gardevoir shook her head, even though she was crying. Calem put a hand on her shoulder and ended up giving her a hug. She cried for quite a while.

    When Valerie came into the room, Calem was by the Gardevoir, who was sitting against the wall and still holding onto her child. Valerie came over and talked with the Gardevoir for several minutes. It took some convincing to get her to let go of the Ralts, during which Valerie told Calem to go find the challengers still in the gym because she wouldn't be holding any more battles for the rest of the day.

    He found Serena in a top floor room. “Hey, sorry to tell you, but the gym's going to close early today.”

    “What for?” she asked, frowning. “It's very inconsiderate; it should remain open until active challengers are done.”

    “It's an emergency,” he said. “There's been a death among the gym Pokemon and we need to take care of them.”

    That chilled her. “Oh, I see. In battle?” When he shook his head, she seemed relieved. “Ah, well it's still a sad thing. I'll come back in a few days then. My condolences go out to her. But... this is the leader's room, right?”

    “Yeah, she's usually here.”

    “Good,” she said, then went to leave through the exit teleporter.

    Calem headed back downstairs, to help the other gym trainers with cleaning and closing up the gym for the day. His Pokemon helped too; surprisingly, Starlet was more cooperative than usual. When he was downstairs making sure the other Pokemon were okay, Valerie came beside him without his notice. “I'll handle them,” she said.

    Tensing at the surprise, he turned to her, then relaxed and nodded. “Okay. How's the Gardevoir doing?”

    “I think she knew what would happen, but she'll be grieving for a while,” she said, seeming sad herself. “Thank you for sending your Pokemon up to get her. I was a little surprised to see her go off with your Frogadier, but I was also dealing with a challenger.” She paused, glancing around. “Was it... your Floette that alerted you to the situation?”

    How did she know? “Um, yes,” he said, scratching his head. “He was acting a bit odd and once we got on break, he came right to the Ralts. He seemed to be suffering and scared, so I had to send for his mother. How did you know that?”

    “His name means little death,” Valerie said, in her usual gentle voice. “I would not condemn him for it, but there is a superstition in Kalos about the Flabebe and Floette Pokemon. It is said that the flower of the first wild one you see in spring is a significant sign. Some of it is silly nonsense, changing meanings over time, but the black one never does. A Floette with a black flower means that someone nearby will die. That's because, there is only one Floette with a black flower and that is Mortan, the servant of Yveltal.”

    “I hadn't heard that,” Calem said, worried about Mortan. “How many people know about that?”

    “Not many, I imagine,” she said to his relief. “It's part of a tragic tale that is often left out when it's told. Yet on seeing him, I feel no curse nor any ill-intentions. Don't let it change how you feel about him. Take good care of Mortan and maybe, he can get a happy ending after all.”

    “I hope so, but I have the feeling that it'd take more than I could give him,” he said. At the very least, he knew to really make Mortan happy, he'd need to find a way to dissolve that oath he had. Which meant finding Jack again, one way or another. “I'll try to make him happy for now.”

    Valerie let him borrow a book that had the story in it, then dismissed him for the day. It was still early, though, and the train back to Vaniville wouldn't arrive for some time. Although he wasn't sure what to do for now, he ended up walking towards the station outside of town while talking quietly to Mortan. He told him about what Valerie had said.

    “So she knew,” Mortan said. “I thought she might, with the way she watched me. Then you'll be finding out what happened back then.” He seemed regretful.

    “Are you okay with that?” Calem asked. He was curious, but didn't want to trouble his Pokemon.

    “You should read it,” he said. “You'd find out eventually, I mean, ummm,” he glanced around, then floated off. “S-sorry! I have to... you know.” Then he took off.

    “Mortan?” Calem asked, then realized what it meant. Although, looking around the street didn't find that person. He went to the train station, wondering if Jack would be over there.

    But before finding him, he found Serena again. She was being greeted by a group of girls that, at least a few of them, also went to the academy in Lumiose. “Hey, how's our winner doing?” one of them said cheerfully to her. “Got your first badge to glory now?”

    “No, not yet,” Serena said as she hugged her friend. “It's such a pain, but I got right to the leader's room and she wasn't there. And a couple minutes later, I get word that they're closing down the gym for a few days!”

    “How awful!”

    “Maybe she's afraid of you coming there,” another girl said, making the group laugh.

    “No, it's sillier than that,” Serena said. “A Pokemon died and they're being all dramatic about it.”

    “It is not silly,” Calem said in anger. “The Pokemon are really upset about it; they're not going to want to battle for a while.”

    She glanced at him, then shrugged. “If you spoil your Pokemon, I suppose they wouldn't.”

    “Oh, are you one of Valerie's dolls?” another girl asked, grinning in amusement. “You do look adorable dressed up like that.”

    “They would be the sort to give into them like that,” a third said.

    “It's being mindful of their feelings, not spoiling them,” Calem said.

    “Whatever,” Serena said. “Come on, we've got plenty of time to shop here now.” The others agreed and went with her.

    “I thought you'd be more considerate,” Calem said, more to himself.

    Someone still heard; Jack had somehow approached without being noticed yet. “A beautiful face can come with an ugly mind,” he said. “I've seen that more than I'd like.”

    “Oh, it's you Jack,” he said, putting a hand to his chest. “You scared me a bit; I hadn't noticed you.”

    “Sorry,” he said.

    “One of those girls is my friend,” he said, looking back to where they had gone. “I'm surprised; she's usually not like that around us. Maybe it's just being around the other girls.”

    “In that case, you might try to be a good influence on her. It might work. Just keep in mind, it might not.”

    “I hope that'll help,” Calem said.

    “What were they saying, about a Pokemon who died?” he asked, seeming genuinely concerned.

    Well, Calem thought, it might help make a friend out of him. So he told him about the Ralts who had been born sickly, and how he had died and left his mother Gardevoir in grief. “I don't know those two Pokemon well, but seeing them like that would break anyone's heart. Well, I think anyone.”

    “I agree,” Jack said, making some sign with his hands. “May the child's soul rest in peace, separate from his pain.”

    Calem nodded, then got an idea. “I hope that's true. It's affecting my Pokemon too. I mean, my Floette took off and I need to find him before I head back home.”

    As he thought, that got Jack's interest. “Oh... you have one of them?”

    “Yes. I mean, it shouldn't be that hard; Mortan has a black flower, so he'll stand out unless he's hiding really well. He's got a melancholic mood most of the time; I'll have to keep a better eye on him once I do find him.”

    The giant's eye's widened in recognition, which Calem tried to not notice obviously. Maybe he would know that his old friend had unusual abilities now, maybe not. But he didn't bring up the truth quite yet. “Ah... yes, that's a good idea.” He put a hand to his chin, worried again. “You should find him soon. Oh, but, you might not be interested, but I'm still staying at that old house outside of town. If you'd like to visit sometime, I'd be glad to see you.”

    Good, exactly what he hoped for. He smiled. “Sure, I'll do that. I live in Vaniville, but I'm working up here this summer. If I have some time after work, I'll drop in on you. Thanks.”

    “No, thank you,” Jack said, nodding. “And take good care of your Pokemon.”

    “Of course.” He released Percival, Yorick, Nibbles, and Starlet, as Swift was hanging by his side as usual. “Okay guys, we need to find Mortan. And Yorick, don't scare him this time.”

    “Awwww,” Yorick sighed, then gave a nod and floated off.

    “See you later, Jack,” Calem said, waving as he went back into town.

    And so for the rest of that summer, I often visited Jack at that old house. Mortan still wouldn't come near the house because of his oath against AZ, but both of them accepted it at the time and would ask about each other. I wasn't sure what was needed to break the oath, but I hoped that if I got the trust of both of them, one or the other would mention something.

    It was slow work. One problem was that even when I stated school again, I had to go out of my way to visit him at that old house. But even at times when I could visit often, AZ was a difficult person to connect to. He'd been wandering around alone for thousands of years after all, rarely keeping contact with anyone. Some days I'd get lucky and he'd be comfortable conversing, but other days he didn't want to say or do anything. However, I did notice that he slowly worked on the house, repairing the structure so that it was safer to be in. Just knowing that I had his dear Floette sparked a little hope in him and he tried to keep my friendship because of it.
     
  9. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    I am just not very chatty on this story, am I? Well it's got a lot to tell on its own. I did make up the name Mortan, but it should mean 'little death' from 'mort' being death and '-an' being a name ending usually adding little.

    @scizorstrike: I am trying to update every Friday, like usual. Also, I love the fae and many stories surrounding them. No surprise then that Xerneas is very much a classic fae over modern interpretations of fairy. Starlet, who is gonna be sticking with Calem, also has a bit of fae to her (and you could say Yorick does too, lol).
     
  10. Huh. Well, Serena's certainly doing herself no favors in this story (First she's dumb enough to start listening to Lysandre, now she's apparently insensitive enough to start talking like that about the Gym pokemon. ) Not to mention she has the huge advantage of both having had magic lessons from the previous Champion (That or private tutoring, or possible both) and is using Pokemon that may or may not be trained by her.

    Hmm. Yorick, the Gastly? I'd say that's less "Ye Olde Fae" and more "Troll".
     
  11. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Chapter 11: Mortan's Story (three of three)

    The book that Valerie had let me borrow was full of many old legends of Kalos, often about their royalty. And of them, the oldest was the story of how AZ and Mortan became cursed by the gods. At the time I learned it, I was still treating AZ as Jack, while Mortan could be brought to tears at any reminder of the tale. But I learned details of it from them little by little over the years, which is how I can tell a far richer version than anyone else of this time.

    -+-

    'A long time ago, there was a king who had a Pokemon that he loved dearly, treating him as he would his own child. He lived in a time of great instability, seeking to bring law and peace to lands that had long been in conflict. Using great intellect, incredible machines, and his own immense power, he brought the divergent lands under one rule. But he took no pride in conquering like he did. Indeed, he was happiest when he got a peaceful afternoon with his beloved Pokemon.'

    'But not all were happy with him. His own brother, driven by jealousy and greed, came to lead a large number of dissidents. He dragged the kingdom into civil war, more violent and organized than all the strife that had come before. Believing that no one should be exempt from justice, the king fought against his brother's army. His loyal Pokemon followed him into the war and was lost to it.'

    -+-

    AZ was busy dealing with some lords who lived at the edges of Kalos, something that usually bored the Floette. His friend would be fine handling those meetings, he knew. After all, who would argue against him? AZ knew the secrets of magic and machines, he was strong, and most of all, he was a true giant among humans and towered over them all. Even so, he had a good heart and didn't like hurting others, so he'd be working to end their conflicts and bring peace to all of his people.

    Since they could be at it for a while, the Floette floated down the golden halls of this palace, playing his own games. See how close he could float along the floor without touching it, startling the servants going to and fro, dancing with his image in a huge mirror, there was lots to do! Or he could go out to the beautiful garden that AZ had made just for him and play in the flowers that grew year round. Although there were also flowers inside to play with.

    The Floette drifted by a room that had its door almost closed and heard voices coming from inside. Familiar voices too: the queen and the king's brother. What were they doing? Planning a surprise? Curious, the Floette slipped through the barely open door, careful with pulling his flower through. He slipped over to a vase of flowers and examined the lily. There was a little damage on the white petals, so he set about to fixing that.

    "I would like to be remembered as the one who inspired this exquisite palace," the queen Mercia said, sitting on a pretty couch. She was wearing a rather constricting outfit that, while it looked nice, made her get tired easily. "It suits me. But it's that intolerable little fairy that inspired the palace, not me!"

    "He's always spoiled that Pokemon terribly," Leonidas said. "I never got what he sees in it."

    Unseen among the regular lilies, the Floette frowned. "If you hadn't been mean to him all the time, he'd be nicer to you," he muttered, still working on his flower.

    "But it does give him a weakness," he went on to say.

    Mercia fanned herself. "No kidding. There are times when I think it gets treated better than me. Get a hold of it and you have control of his heart."

    "Maybe I ought to just avoid you two for now," the Floette said to himself. He didn't want to cause AZ trouble.

    "I would have built a beautiful palace for you," Leonidas said, stopping his pacing to sit by her. "I mean, what's the use of building one for a Pokemon? They won't be able to appreciate it. On the other hand, lovely Mercia, you deserve a setting as exquisite as yourself."

    She laughed warmly, leaning over to kiss him. Disgusted at that, the Floette left the vase to slip back out of the room. "Sooner or later, I'm going to figure out how to tell him about you two," he said. It put him in a bad mood for the rest of the day, which was a pity since the weather was so nice.

    "Why would you do this?" his voice was filled with pain and desperation. He didn't want this to be real.

    "You only married me for my family's lands! And you have no idea how to be a good husband; your brother is a much better man that you are." Her voice was filled with malice, grown in silence for five years. It had turned to hatred too great to bear alone.

    "Don't hate me for this," the Pokemon quietly said. The truth had to come to light, but it made him feel terrible to be the one who brought it out of the dark.

    That night, the Floette stayed in AZ's room; Mercia had left the palace already. The king wouldn't sleep, too overcome with grief and heartache. While he was usually able to cheer up his friend, the Floette found it impossible to dry his tears that night. Instead, he stayed close, sharing his sorrow.

    -+-

    AZ was torn, his arms crossed over his chest as he observed the battlefield in the predawn light. They were getting down to the last minute before this decision would come too late to be of use. However, it was something he knew would be effective and did not want to do.

    Not wanting to cause him trouble, the Floette tugged at his shirt. "Hey, I'll go," he said, knowing that their familiarity with each other would let his friend know what he wanted. "It's scary, but like you said, this would best end fast."

    Giving one last sigh, AZ nodded. "All right. If you're fine with it... captain, go take the other miracle eye to the hill. I'll run the one here, and my Floette with handle the other. He's capable and won't harm our men."

    A few hours later, the battle was raging all over this field. The other side had started with a miracle eye too, but it seemed AZ had taken it out. The Floette was having a harder time finding targets; he had to switch over to targeted spells to take out individuals, as larger spells might catch the king's army as well. Although uncertain of who would be best to take out, he tried to target the soldiers that had fancier uniforms. They tended to be leaders.

    And then an attack came from behind, something pounding at the shield of the miracle eye. Startled, the Floette pulled his mind away from the miracle eye. But not soon enough, as a Weezing exploded and destroyed the shield protecting him. Following behind it was a Dragalge who quickly moved in and knocked him out.

    When the Floette woke up, he found himself inside of a wire cage. The man who had captured him was handling it roughly, jostling it while he walked. Not only that, but the Weezing had been revived and followed closely. Sometimes it breathed on the Floette, making him feel ill.

    He was brought into a tent and set down on a table. "We found this Pokemon working a miracle eye, but they had a second one. At least we got it captured; it would be an asset."

    Another man leaned down and looked at him. Recognizing his face immediately, the Floette frowned at Prince Leonidas. "I hate you," he said. "You hurt AZ; he's not happy to be fighting you."

    "He is an asset, but don't put him on a miracle eye," Leonidas said, smiling darkly. "This Pokemon is special to AZ; it will make an excellent prisoner."

    -+-

    'Several years passed with the king's Pokemon held captive by his brother. He had been reluctant to come against his brother, but this situation changed the king's mind. He fought against his brother's army more severely, always seeking to find his Pokemon and end the war. However, the king's brother kept the captive Pokemon under great security and secrecy, knowing that it was his best weapon.'

    'But in time, the secret was broken and a team of knights trusted greatly by the king broke into the rival army's secret base and rescued the king's Pokemon. However, it was already too late. They could only return the Pokemon to the king in a tiny box.'

    -+-

    For some time, AZ didn't know what to think. His heart felt like someone had drained it empty and crushed it for good measure. He couldn't find the energy to do things, couldn't care about the war still ravaging the kingdom he had built. The only thing that mattered was his dearest friend. Many times, he found himself remembering more innocent times, spent with his Floette and his parents. But they were all gone now, taken cruelly from the world with AZ, the most powerful man in the region, helpless to do anything about it. It was cruelest with the tiny flower fairy; he had done nothing wrong, but his flower was now darkened and his body would no longer float in the breeze.

    "What happened to him?"

    "It seems he was held captive in a poorly cleaned cage. He died of starvation."

    And his own brother had done this to him. Leonidas had destroyed the kingdom that AZ had carefully built. He had shattered the peace and stability that he had always wanted. He had even stolen his wife and feelings of personal security; Mercia already had born a child to Leonidas, none to AZ. But worst of all, he had neglected the Floette and left him to die, probably pining for AZ and wishing for the old days when they were together as well.

    Then he finally felt something again: rage. "He will suffer for this," AZ said, alone on his throne. "I will destroy his works in return."

    -+-

    'Most of all, the king wanted his friend back. He would do anything to bring the Pokemon back to life. And thus, he delved into the dark heart of forbidden magic and machinery. Giving his army orders to crush his brother's forces, he built a machine to recreate the divine miracle of life. But such a machine required great power. He attained this power by sacrificing the lives of dozens of unlucky Pokemon and prisoners, stealing their life to bestow it to his Pokemon. And with this machine, his Pokemon was revived.'

    -+-

    Maybe he would never be free of this cage?

    No, no he couldn't think about that. The Floette shivered and kept wishing for AZ to come rescue him. He had to keep hoping. He had to stay alive. He had to... alive? A cold darkness slipped into his mind and he realized that he had died. He cried out in fear, his heart racing. Wait, his heart? So was he dead, or was he alive?

    "'''''! Wake up, '''''. It's okay, you're with me again."

    "AZ?" he said, afraid it was just a dream voice. He'd heard it before, but then woke back up to his prison. The Floette opened his eyes.

    There were no bars keeping him prisoner. No stench of neglect and mustiness either. Instead, there was the familiar reassuring scent of his friend, and the warmth of a large hand underneath him. AZ smiled down at him. He seemed older than the Floette remembered, thin and grubby as if he hadn't taken care of himself well.

    But they were together again. "AZ, oh thank the gods!" he said, clutching his friend's thumb. Tears came to his eyes and he didn't want to let go. "It's been horrible; I thought I was going to die."

    "I'm never going to let you out of my sight again," AZ said, smiling and almost about to cry himself. "I'll keep you safe. You're the only one who's never betrayed me."

    "What happened?" the Floette asked, sniffing and glancing around. There was a strange light surrounding them, an eerie violet-pink that seemed entirely supernatural. Glancing down past AZ's hand, he saw a floor made of crystal filled with that light. The floor was shaped like a large petal, almost like his lily's petals. And right next to AZ, there was a tall crystal that emitted the light, as well as a potent aura of life. It gave him a feeling that reminded him of Xerneas' forest.

    And then Xerneas himself appeared. "Hah, brilliant piece of work, o great king," he said with odd enthusiasm. "You have done something that no other has been able to match. I knew that you'd be the ideal student. Believe me, you and that little one have nothing to fear from Death anymore."

    "I couldn't have done it without you, Master Xerneas," AZ said. He brought his free hand up, clenching it slowly. A feather appeared in that hand, an ominous black feather fringed with red. "But I'm not done yet. Those who have broken the laws of the world and this kingdom... they must be punished."

    "I'm eager to see what comes of it," Xerneas said.

    On the other hand, the Floette began to feel uneasy. Something wasn't right here; the light of this giant flower did not feel right. "AZ? What are you doing?"

    -+-

    'He stretched the limits of his mind and body to give life back to his beloved Pokemon, creating a miracle that has never been seen again. But despite his efforts, the success did not quell the rage or hatred in his heart. The king could not forgive those who would hurt his Pokemon. With the darkness in his heart clouding his mind, he blamed everyone around them for the pain they had suffered. No one was innocent.'

    'To punish the world for letting his Pokemon die, he took the machine that had given life and gave it a new purpose: the ultimate weapon which would bring an end to the long war by destroying everything. He did not care that he had become a force of destruction. All that mattered was having his Pokemon back. More were sacrificed to power the machine that brought death to even more.'

    'The revived Pokemon watched this in horror, realizing that the first sacrifices had been to bring it back to life. Unable to accept this, the Pokemon left the man, swearing that it would not return. This eternal Pokemon was then taken in by the gods, to serve them in penance for the crimes committed by the king.'

    -+-

    AZ had already called on Yveltal thrice, to answer a question twice and to fight a battle once. With the fourth feather, Yveltal appeared without delay. The god of death did not look well; his eyes were weary and his aura felt weakened. "You've called on me at a poor time," he said, his words lacking energy. "But I will do what I can..." he then took notice of his surroundings, including Xerneas standing on one of the crystal petals. "Wait, what's going on here?"

    "Oh, we're just making history," Xerneas said. "And you're going to help us." He laughed while his antlers shone. Yveltal started to fight back, but then AZ gripped the feather and helped to restrain him.

    "What're you doing?" the Floette asked, concerned. He tried to float after them, but the sight of his flower startled him. Pausing to hold it down, he found that the petals were no longer a pristine white like they had once been. They weren't even browned and wrinkled like they had gotten in the cage, when he'd been too weak to fix them. Instead, his flower was now a shadowy black, with thin streaks of red along the edges. And, it resembled this machine far too much for his liking. "What is this?" he cried out, trying to fix it like he should be able to. But the flower remained black.

    While he was fussing over that, AZ worked on the machine. He called out the Floette's name. "Come over here, we don't want to be on it for this," he said.

    He drifted over to his friend. Xerneas was waiting by him, ready to run off. "Would you please explain what's going on here?" the Floette asked. "Why did you capture Yveltal like that? It's a cruel thing to do."

    "He'll get over it," Xerneas said, delighted by the events. "I'm sure the end result of all this will be spectacular enough that all will be forgiven. Haha, I can't wait."

    "That doesn't explain anything," the Floette pointed out.

    "Okay, let's go," AZ said, making sure the Floette was there. Then he led the way to a nearby hill for a better view.

    Xerneas followed, so the Floette had to fly close to them to keep up. "Do you know what's happened, hmm? You died. Really! An hour ago, your body was nothing more than a corpse with a wilted flower. But AZ created this beautiful machine that brought you back to life! I mean sure, it took the lives of a bunch of others, but like I said, you need never fear death again."

    "Huh? he... He killed others so I could live?" The Floette shuddered. No wonder his flower was black now; the corruption of stolen life made it like that. And did it smell like blood? It should.

    "Certainly did," Xerneas said, as if the sin was of no concern to him. "And it was spectacular, let me tell you. Of course, it had to be done. Miracles aren't cheap and death spirits like Yveltal don't make things easy. But AZ really went the extra mile on this machine, and I've got to see it to the finish."

    The Floette felt like collapsing out of the air, but that would make him land on Xerneas. "How can you be so happy about it? You're the god of life. Why would you let someone kill for power?"

    "Make no doubt about it, I am the god of life," the stag said, shaking his antlers proudly. "I can create anything if I have the energy. And, there has to be room for new creations too. All living creatures require some space, whether it's great big creatures like AZ here or little bitty ones like you. So a few lives are lost, no big deal. I can just make more to replace them. Oh ho, and this is going to be great! Yveltal's due to drop any time now as it is, as the war is growing weary. We're just, oh, hurrying the process along. I'm going to have so much I can do in coming years!"

    "Are you crazy?" the Floette asked in horror. Xerneas just laughed.

    This was wrong, very wrong. But the Floette's protests went unheeded. The powerful machine that had brought him back to life was now being turned to death. He went to AZ seeking reassurance... but he saw the hatred in his eyes. No longer was he the gentle giant that wanted all the conflicts to cease so people could live in peace. Now he sought to destroy everyone around them, deeming them all guilty and unworthy of forgiveness.

    "I don't want to be a part of this evil!" the Floette shouted.

    That startled AZ. For the first time, he knew exactly what the Pokemon was saying. "What? ''''''?"

    His black flower shook with rage. "I helped you because everybody was being mean to you. But now you've done worse than that to mean and nice people alike. I'm leaving and I'm not coming back."

    "Wait, don't go!" AZ now looked frightened, desperate again. "I brought you back so that we could always be together. Losing you was the most painful thing in my life."

    "I smell like the blood lost by innocents," the Floette said. "That's the price you paid. I can't accept that... you became worse than mean, you're evil.. I swear, I'm not coming back to you until you lose that corruption." Then he brought up a strong wind to blow him away, not heeding AZ's calls.

    Several hours later, the Floette was lost. He didn't know where he had ended up; this place was dark and cold. He shuddered and cried, alone again.

    But not for long. A beak that could easily crush his flower and body nudged him. "Little one..."

    He looked up into Yveltal's eyes, terrified.

    "You will be alone for a long time," Yveltal said. "Not even I can kill you at this time. What are you going to do?"

    "I, I don't know," the Floette said. He hadn't thought that far ahead, or even this far ahead. He just knew that he couldn't stay with AZ after what he witnessed, not without being corrupted himself.

    "Your soul is bound to myself and Xerneas now," the god said. "Stay with me."

    "Bu-but what about AZ? I wish I could help him, but..."

    Yveltal raised his head and shook it. "Your words have taken root. You will not be able to approach him. He has to find salvation for himself." As that caused the Floette to start sobbing again, Yveltal leaned over and nudged him again. "But if you still wish to help pay for the weight of his sins, accept that you are a servant of the gods. There is still danger and in your condition, you may suffer more than ever without any chance of relief. I will protect you from such things as long as you stay with me."

    "Yes, I will serve you," the Floette said, feeling that it would be foolish not to accept the god's protection. His old name was taken away from him, replaced with a new one: Mortan.

    -+-

    'Day after day passed, but they were never to meet. Eventually, the king became a mere shell of a man, condemned to wander forever by the light of the weapon...'

    'And a Pokémon that also wanders eternally...'

    'This is the curse they wrought themselves.'
     
  12. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    I like the way they tell AZ's story; it's simple but still emotional. Even the version here from the book, which I adapted from the game, has way more words in it. Part 2 of this backstory won't come for a while, though.
     
  13. An image is worth a thousand words; AZ's backstory proved that one for sure.

    Honestly, that's one of the most emotional scenes in the entire series, along with N at the end of BW1 and some of the MD2 scenes.
     
  14. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Chapter 12: Psionics

    My third year at LMA was marked by schoolwork. It was a very busy year, but nothing much important to this story occurred. Something I studied was important: my Psionics class. At the end of my second year, when I talked with Professor Sycamore about what I wanted to take as an optional class, he recommended the study of supernatural mental abilities in humans. For a long time, they were known as psychics, able to perform feats with the powers of their minds, things magic wasn't entirely capable of: telepathy, precognition, and so on. We felt that my enhanced state of awareness in rainy conditions was related.

    My father was not happy with that.


    "Why didn't we hear about that sooner?" Shawn asked, oddly sharp.

    There was a second of silence at the dinner table as Calem was startled and Mary grew concerned. "Well I hadn't talked about my class schedule yet," he told his dad, puzzled at the reaction. "The professor thinks it would help and..."

    "It could cause a lot of trouble," he said with a frown. "Leaving that part to someone else, who doesn't know what could happen, is an invitation to disaster."

    "I don't think it's that bad," Calem said. Compared to what Trevor was capable of, enhanced awareness was practically harmless.

    "If you study it much further, it will get bad," Shawn said.

    "Why don't you just tell him?" Mary said, putting a hand on her husband's arm. "He'll have to know sooner or later, better before than after the fact."

    His father sighed, looking down at the table. "Fine. It would have been easier if you hadn't started studying magic. But once you start, well... we have to be careful. The rain awareness is only a shallow portion of the power in our family. If you stay there like I've tried to, then you're fine. But studying that magic further will become a curse; its true purpose is to kill others. If you use the deeper parts of this magic, you could turn into a monster."

    "I'd turn into a Pokemon?" Calem asked. It seemed like an odd curse, although not one he'd want to activate.

    Shaun shook his head. "No, you'd turn into something far worse. You've seen one before: the faceless monsters. Studying psychic powers could let you understand the rain awareness better, true. It could also unlock the path to the deadlier abilities we're both capable of. Don't even try to understand them and you should stay safe."

    "But humans aren't capable of natural magic like Pokemon," he said, recalling some of his magic lessons. "Why do we have this talent? Or curse, if it develops?"

    "I wish I could tell you," he said. "But unfortunately, this is a hereditary power and there is a disconnect from our family source. In particular, related to Gran."

    "What about her?"

    Shawn tapped the table, marking out an imaginary family tree. "It's not from her. This power appears to be strictly from father to son, as my aunts and uncles have no affinity to rain. Rather... I passed it to you, it was passed to me by my father... and his father was not the man that Gran married in Unova. He was actually born in Kalos and adopted by a family here. Once she got married, she asked for permission and was able to bring him over to Unova. We're not entirely sure who my father's father is. There's suspicions I have, but we could never get her to talk about it and now there's no way to ask her. My father never studied magic, so his power didn't develop beyond feeling more alert in the rain. I did study magic, but Gran insisted that I be careful and..." he snapped his fingers, "certain events convinced me to go with her advice. So we don't know all that much, just that it will get deadly if developed."

    "But how do you even know that without having studied it?" Calem asked.

    "I know it for certain and I won't be convinced that it's not," Shawn said. "I should speak with your Psionics teacher then. He or she should be warned to be careful what objects you use while trying to develop and understand it."

    -+-

    Despite my father's worries, Psionics turned out to be a really hard class for me. True psychics with psionic abilities were uncommon, so LMA only had one class for them. All grade levels would meet in the same class; the teacher, Mr. Tarin, would give lectures some days and have us practice on others. For third-years like myself who had just joined, we had a lot to catch up on in the basics to study with the rest of the class. I managed to learn the facts and theories as I listened to him, read the class books, and watched others practice. But when it came to actual practice, the fact that I couldn't do anything except when it was rainy or foggy really limited me. My typical Psionics class for the first couple of years went something like this.

    "It's Tuesday, so the entrance should be close to here," Calem murmured to himself, running his hand across a wall. It felt solid here, but somewhere it should be fake.

    Certain classes, including Psionics, were taught in a special classroom: the Star Gazer room in the library. It was built to absorb unusual energies and brainwaves that often appeared when psychic abilities were used. If it was an ordinary room, the students' work could disrupt those trying to study or work in the surrounding area. But since it wasn't an ordinary room, it did not have an ordinary entrance. The door was normally hidden behind a weak illusion spell that any naturally talented in psychic powers would notice it. Not only that, but the door tended to move from day to day. Calem knew where the classroom was, but he had trouble locating the entrance more often than not.

    Eventually, his hand found empty space that he was able to pass through. The classroom beyond was larger than it seemed and eccentric, perhaps fitting for those who taught and trained there. The walls were painted a dark blue, with diagrams in gold and white which were often referred to in lessons. Sometimes, black curtains would cover over the diagrams or the storage space in back. The lights could be as bright as any other classroom in the academy or dimmed for atmosphere (or helping the students focus). Sometimes it had normal school desks; sometimes it had low round tables they would sit around on cushions. It could change subtly or drastically from class to class.

    It was set up with the low tables today, with equipment that suggested today would be mostly practice. That was disappointing. By now, the teacher, Mr. Tarin, had excused him from practice unless told otherwise. Calem went over to the back to take one of the books kept in this room to study. Looking over the titles, he considered that he'd have to start another report soon, the main way he was going to earn points needed to pass this class since he couldn't readily practice. There was a guide to symbols found in divination, so he decided to take that for his next report.

    When all the students arrived, Mr. Tarin shut the door and assigned them to work on their individual studied. He would go from table to table: checking on progress, answering questions, pointing out and correcting errors, and generally making sure no one was doing anything dangerous. Calem was on a couch by one of the walls, so the teacher sat by him in time. "What've you got your eye on now?"

    "Symbolism in divination," Calem said, keeping his voice low. It was important not to disrupt others who might send an object telekinetically flying if they lost focus. Or worse. "Although just looking at the table of contents, I see that it's a much broader subject than I thought."

    Mr. Tarin nodded. "Yes. Some symbols have meanings that remain similar throughout the world, but others have many different meanings based on methodology and region. And even then, sometimes the symbolism is particular to the diviner and the subject. It's still important."

    "Why do these messages have to be done with symbols and riddles?" Calem asked "People use it to find truth and answers, but I can't see much use in an answer you have to interpret correctly first."

    "There's a few reasons for that. For one thing, it takes a lot of effort on the diviner's part to tap into the spiritual forces they seek for answers. They can reduce the amount of energy they use by accepting a symbolic answer instead. A second reason is that sometimes the source they ask is one of the gods who happens to be asleep, and thus receiving a clear message would be improbable. A third reason is that the source might be a god who likes riddles and mischief; always need to be careful trusting their messages. And there's other reasons, but it's usually one of those three."

    While he explained it, Calem couldn't help but think, "Sounds like a lot of trouble, almost like you could find answers quicker through other methods."

    Mr. Tarin smiled and put a hand up to block his words further. "Sometimes it is. But there is a sense of theatrics that a lot of people like in divination. A good number of diviners use their skills more for entertainment than serious reasons." He put his hand down, then added, "Symbolism is a big part of psionics, though. You've seen it, how often I tell students to use their imagination to work their powers."

    "Hasn't helped me, but seems to help some others," Calem said. He tapped his head. "When it rains, I just know things, like I get information through the water somehow."

    "Water typically doesn't convey information, not without enchantments or preparations," Mr. Tarin said. "Spell casting is about symbols as well, when you get down to it. The runes we use are treated as letters in most cases, but letters are symbols as well." He got up. "Here, we can drop in on some of the older students. You might see how they use symbolism, which will help you understand that book better."

    "All right," Calem said, getting up and following him over to one of the tables.

    There were two girls and a guy at the table already. One girl had a pendulum with an eye-catching jewel on the end, the guy had a shallow bowl with some peach-colored sand settled in the bottom, while the second girl seemed to be helping the other two. "Something up?" the second girl asked.

    "You know Calem, right? One of the third year students. Would you demonstrate your divination practices for him?"

    "Sure, no problem," she said. "What should we read?"

    "How about why he can't use his abilities?" the girl with the pendulum said. "I've been curious about that."

    "I can't use them outside of specific weather conditions right now," Calem said.

    "But if you can identify that condition and what might be causing that limitation, that would be interesting," Mr. Tarin said.

    "Do you know why?" the girl with the pendulum said, starting to swing it in a circular pattern.

    "Possibly," he said with a smile.

    "That is pretty weird, that it depends on the weather," the girl without anything said. She got up, silently getting the other girl to swap seats with her. That put her next to Calem. "Do you have different powers depending on weather?"

    "I don't think so, just the one," he said.

    "Huh, well I can't think of why that would be. Here, hold out your hands, palms up; that's always my best method of reading people."

    The girl with the pendulum had her eyes closed now, chanting something under her breath. Calem followed the instructions of the other girl. After examining several lines on his palms, she held her hands flat, palm down over his. He could tell that she was doing something with aura as their hands were not quite touching, probably reading his. She held that for a minute, then began writing something on a piece of paper at the same time as the other girl did the same.

    "Could you come over here for a moment?" the other boy said. "I had to wait for the sand to settle down anyhow." When he was there, the boy handed him a small packet of handwipes. "Wipe your hands down, dry them on the white towel, then submerge your preferred hand in the water, down to the sand. Take some of it, then let it fall back the water. The green towel's to dry your hand off."

    "This seems like an involved method," Calem said while he made sure his hands were clean.

    He shrugged. "Hey, the other methods I know involve throwing bones or dissecting chickens."

    "You've dissected chickens for this class?" he asked before following the other instructions.

    "Well not in class, since the school won't let us," he said, smiling. "My family raises chickens, so when we need to kill one, we use it for divining too."

    "I would never want to learn that skill," the girl with the pendulum said, making the other girl laugh. She had to cover her mouth and try not to be loud a second later.

    Once Calem had taken some of the sand and let it slide back in the water, the older boy watched how it clouded up and settled down. "Let's wait a moment for him to read his work," Mr. Tarin said.

    It took a little while, during which the boy with the bowl put his hand to his mouth. "Well... this is odd. But I suppose the circumstances are odd too."

    "What do you three have for why Calem can't practice in class?" Mr. Tarin said. "Use what you've seen and interpret it."

    "The growth lines on his palm suggest that his magic has yet to come out," the palm reader said. "It shows the classic signs of a late bloomer; lines related to aura have a thin portion for longer than most people."

    "I don't think it's his magic since he seems fine outside this class," the pendulum reader said. "On the question of why he can't practice, I did see an unripened fruit. It is prepared, but is unsuitable outside of ideal conditions. Something should cause the power to ripen, although I was unclear on if it was time, practice, or an outside trigger."

    Lastly, the water diviner said, "Immature power? It could be that, but I think his power will grow in stages. As of now, he can only use his abilities when water is visible in the air, when there is some sort of precipitation such as rain, fog, or snow. It was interesting that your aura only sharpened when the water was falling from your fingers, but soon faded. In that time, I saw a step pyramid. Your power is at its basest level right now, only a foundation. If you find the key to moving up to the next step, it may become easier to use your baseline ability without the precipitation, and your next ability will only be usable in precipitation instead."

    "A power in stages?" the palm reader asked. "I'm not sure how to read that in someone's palm, but it seems like there should be something."

    "Actually, it doesn't work well in snow, but it does work in rain and fog," Calem said, letting her check his palm again.

    "That's what I've been able to determine as well," Mr. Tarin said. "The power you have is at its lowest level right now and until there's some trigger, either in maturing further, practice, or something else, it won't develop to its next level. It's not enough to keep you from magic, but you're not using magic at your fullest potential. Unfortunately, we don't have enough information to determine what will happen when this power develops."

    "It'll require a different divination or just finding out on my own, huh?" Calem asked. "There's not many I can ask about it, and they haven't told me much so far."

    "So then, what were you three able to determine what his power is?" Mr. Tarin asked.

    "Well besides the unripened fruit, I saw some odd symbols," the pendulum reader said when the palm reader hesitated. "They were encircled together, so they're related but I don't know if I can read them straight. One was a foot, the other was a dagger, and the third, um," she drew it on a part of her notebook paper, then tore it off to pass it over. "I'm not sure what to make of that. I thought it was wings but then the wing symbol I normally see isn't like this."

    "That's what I saw too," the palm reader said, showing her notes. It was the same: a circle around a foot, and dagger, and something that had a round top and a long jagged extension that seemed like it could be wings. "And I thought, those aren't normal symbols. They mean something together. Normally I'd say it has something to do with trying to run from strife, but confronting it would allow one to triumph, but I had a gut feeling that wasn't quite it."

    "What was the orientation on the symbols?" their teacher asked, looking over the illustration.

    "The wing thing on top," the palm reader said. The pendulum reader nodded with her.

    "That's a cowl," the water diviner said. "It would normally be a symbol of death or subterfuge, depending on context. And the foot is an anklet. It isn't the symbols that are important, it's the symbolic items: cowl, dagger, and anklet."

    "What makes you think that?" the palm reader asked.

    "I saw the same thing," he said. "But I saw the items on a table in a familiar context. There's been a few times when I've helped my grandmother do a divination on a haunted location. Sometimes you get a vision of a book, a bell, and a candle on a table. She says that's a sign that there's a ghost who must be cast out by a priest or someone of similar talents."

    "The book, bell, and candle are symbolic items of priest," Mr. Tarin said. "One of ceremonies using those items are the old excommunications, casting someone out of a church and community. The same procedure can work on some ghosts."

    The water diviner nodded. "Right. So these three items are related to some profession that he has a natural talent in." He shrugged. "Although I have no idea what profession that is."

    "Oh, you know, that almost reminds me of something I read now," the pendulum reader said. "But what was it? It was in a book of scary stories, I remember that. Maybe I should find that book for you."

    "What profession would call for a cowl, dagger, and anklet?" Calem asked, coming up with a blank.

    "Do either of your parents use those things for work?" the pendulum reader asked.

    He shook his head. "My mom works as a cook, so she might use knives, but she rarely wears jewelry because of that. And my dad has done a lot of jobs over the years, but I can't think of anything like that."

    "Well you've found where I got stuck too when I was looking into Calem," Mr. Tarin said. "And I'm not sure what those items would be for. A cowl and dagger, one might think for a thief, but I don't see where the anklet would come in."

    "I hope my power's not just for stealing things," Calem said. Remembering his father's warning that the ability could turn deadly, he wondered if it was an assassin. But he wouldn't like a job like that. "Although maybe it's a magic anklet that helps them walk quietly?"

    "That makes sense, since a priest's tools usually end up being enchanted just in being used as they are," the water diviner said.

    "So what can you do?" the palm reader asked.

    He thought over the material he'd been reading. "It's... I get increased awareness of my surroundings and I can sense things from aura. I've been able to identify objects that I'd otherwise know nothing about as long as it's in the rain or fog and within reasonable distance from me. I can even interpret runes affecting others and read spells as they're being cast, so I can dodge them readily. In battle club, the other students won't accept challenges from me on rainy days because they know it'll be tough to hit me."

    "So you're already in battle club, but your full magic potential hasn't come out yet?" the palm reader asked, glancing at his hands. He nodded and let her look at one again. "Well... looks like that is right. Huh, I wonder what you'd be able to do later on if observation skills are your base."

    "I already want to get some scanners near you when the conditions are right," Mr. Tarin said. "Although since we can't schedule the rain, we might have to go somewhere else and let you summon it yourself."

    -+-

    Because the rain kept coming on days that weren't during the Tuesday and Thursday Psionics class, eventually Mr. Tarin had us meet in a battle room in the gym so that I could be accurately measured and practice. I didn't mind doing this in front of the rest of the class, since I had watched all of them give demonstrations before. Although some of them might have minded, since he made sure they had to come along by making it a lecture day.

    The LMA gymnasium had a indoor court for various sports and a swimming pool on the ground level. Down in the basement, there were four rooms that were used for Pokemon battles so that other areas of the school weren't tied up or damaged by such classes. They were made with all kinds of moves in mind, from having the structures strengthened and regularly maintained against moves like Earthquake to drains in the floor so there was no problem with him calling rain indoors. And like the Star Gazer room, it was made to safely manage aura energy; the advantage here was that there were no items that would be damaged like in the library.

    The students and some of their Pokemon were gathered on the bleachers at the side, as it was the only place in the room to sit off the floor. For the purpose of today's lesson, Calem had been asked to have Percival and Yorick out. The latter had recently evolved into a Haunter, so he had an arm around Calem's neck and hung there to watch. All of the students had been warned that today's lesson could be wet, so most of them had rain jackets, hats, or umbrellas at hand. Although Calem never minded his clothes being damp, he wore a hooded jacket already.

    "Any of you who pursue careers in psionics, one of your basic skills must be detection and identification of energy," Mr. Tarin started off with. "And it isn't just being able to sense aura that counts. Aura is only one form of energy; psionic abilities can be detected apart from aura, enchantments can be detected apart from native magic, Pokemon aura will differ from human aura, even ghostly auras will differ from others. Some of you already have the ability to do this. Others of you will need to learn detection and identification, or learn to use a device that can do so for you.

    "For today's lecture, we are going to focus on a computer program that is capable of detecting various energies. It can identify characteristics of that energy, but in order to effectively use such programs, you need to learn to interpret their results." Using a projector on a nearby wall, he showed them the program's interface, then had various students and Pokemon enter the program's detection area. The energy was displayed in a picture in many different colors; they didn't resemble who was in front of it, but Calem saw the resemblance to what he felt when his power was active. Beside the picture, there was a number of readings which were all different kinds of numbers. Only a few were obvious, like identifications of an energy's type.

    Mr. Tarin used the Pokemon to demonstrate how the numbers differed. Part of the reason he wanted the Honedge and Haunter were because they triggered sections that normally only came on for ghosts. Apparently Ghost Pokemon had a low ghostly presence, but it was those extra forms of energy that made them what they were.

    Then, it was his turn. "Okay, Calem, let's get you up here."

    "All right," he said, getting off the bench and going into the battle square where the detector was aimed. As he walked in, his presence in the picture was very dim, nearly blending into the background aura. Some of the students widened their eyes or murmured at this.

    Mr. Tarin nodded; it seemed that he'd seen this before. "Now Calem here has an interesting presence. You see, this is almost how an ordinary person with no psionic energy or magical abilities would appear. I say almost because his presence is actually on the low side, not quite average."

    "Then you're just a person studying psionics instead of using it?" one of the guys asked.

    "Not exactly," Calem said.

    "Right, he's actually doing quite well in his magic classes. I want all of you to take another look at the status area. Notice anything we haven't seen with the rest today?"

    Another student said, "There's that button that popped up, the one that looks like a knot."

    "Yes, that is a sign of power being restrained. It normally comes up when a sealed object or location is scanned. It's unusual to run into a person bearing a seal." Mr. Tarin clicked on the seal button, but the information wasn't even available to the program. "Normally this sub-menu would allow us to determine what kind of seal it is, so we'd know how to break it. Seal identification is not that simple, and this one isn't in the computer's database." He moved it back to the main screen, then took an item and tossed it to Calem. It had a dark blue gleam on the screen and was readily identified as an item enchanted by Water. "Now fortunately, we are aware of what undoes the seal, either partially or fully. But unfortunately, it requires rain, so you'll want to put on your jackets if you want your uniform to stay dry. Calem, that's a Damp Rock which will extend the time your Rain Dance is active."

    "That's handy," he said, rolling the oval-shaped rock in his hand. It had a porous surface, like pumice, but didn't feel as dry as pumice would.

    "Right, we can see how it works better," Mr. Tarin said, putting on his own jacket and then placing an anti-water shield around the computer. "And I'll warn you all: I haven't even seen what comes up when he's in the rain, so this'll be interesting. Whenever you're ready."

    "When all of you are," Calem replied, glancing over his classmates who were closing bags or putting things on. Once they seemed ready, he focused on the Damp Rock and twirled around to cast Rain Dance. There was a flash of the Water aura as he cast the spell, and then the air dimmed as slightly warm rain fell steadily within the room.

    And his image immediately vanished from the detector program's screen, appearing as little more than a black silhouette with the dark blue of the Damp Rock floating. "Well that's new," Mr. Tarin said, walking into the detector's range as well. He showed up just fine.

    "I don't notice him now," one of the other students, who was blind save for seeing aura. "That's really spooky, there's just an absence of anything where he was."

    "I'm still here," Calem said to him. "I hadn't known that it did that."

    The blind student put his hand to his chin. "And you make it spookier by talking." Some of the others chuckled.

    "Sorry, I don't mean to scare," Calem said. Although, now that his awareness was up, he could sense how the boy's eyes were dead. That was spooky too.

    By then, Tarin was back at the computer, reviewing the numbers. The seal button was still there, surprisingly, and its sub-menu still gave no information on him. "Your aura is doing an incredible job at making you undetectable, except in the fact that detecting nothing is a sign that something's going on. I was hoping we could learn more to help you understand your power like this, but if the computer isn't going to detect anything, there's not a lot that we can do. You said that your main use of this was to know what is going on around you, even if you don't know yourself in normal conditions?"

    He nodded. "Right."

    "All right. In that case, I'm going to have you put on a blindfold and some headphones. These headphones will cancel out all sound except for that which comes from speakers from a headgear I have. We'll be asking you some questions that way. Also, those of you who do know about detection and identification already should try getting information off him too."

    Aware that the Damp Rock could make his rain last for fifteen minutes and he'd know a minute before it ended, Calem agreed to be blindfolded and made deaf. It only made his aura sense come through more focused, letting him tell exactly what his classmates were doing and how they were feeling. It was nice when they were impressed, with things like tossing the rock to another accurately and catching it easily upon return. But then there were others who, even with their unusual gifts, thought that this was too strange. Monstrous even, especially the blind one, because people didn't have their auras go blank to detection just because of rain.

    It didn't occur to him until later, outside of class, that he had experienced another being who was undetectable by aura in rain: that faceless man he had met on Route 6, the one his father still wouldn't tell him about.

    -+-

    That picture? Where'd you get it?

    Hmm, yes, I remember that. I don't remember when exactly it happened. It was either the end of first semester or second that third year... no, it had to be second because Yorick's a Haunter. I don't think it's very important... well, but it is one of my favorite memories and it won't take long to tell. Okay, one evening I was in the common room of the boys dorm with my Pokemon because Yorick had been teasing Tierno when he was trying to study in our room. He'd always teased the students around him, so it wasn't easy to break him of that even when he joined me willingly.


    "Before we met, only you would have gotten in trouble for what you did," Calem told the Haunter, hoping this might work. "But now you'll get all of us in trouble if you're too much of a pest."

    The Haunter's smile didn't fade as he replied. Mortan hit his head against his flower's stem in annoyance. "He says he'll just be more careful not to be caught. That's missing the point. You need to learn more civility as you belong to a Trainer."

    "That, and maybe getting a new hobby," Calem said. "Though I'm not sure what to suggest as a replacement to keep your clever mind occupied."

    Yorick chuckled, pleased even as he was being chided. There was a tug at Calem's elbow, so he looked over to see that Starlet had come over. The Mawile handed him a ball of pink yarn. "Where'd you get that?" Mortan asked. She pointed over at a basket by the couch that, for some reason, had a number of yarn balls inside.

    "And what is that doing here?" Calem wondered aloud, taking the yarn. "Maybe one of the other guys left it on accident. Or.. wait, that label's for the art rooms. Must be borrowing it for a craft, or that class competition." Many school events would feature some kind of competition between homerooms, to complete some task or make part of the festivities. The closest one he could think of was for the even-numbered grades, as the last had been for odd-numbers like his own.

    "Well you do have nice hands now," Mortan said to Yorick. "You could take up some kind of knitting or yarn work if you wanted."

    Calem tossed the yarn and caught it again; his Pinsir noticed immediately and came over, curious. However, he tossed it to the Haunter instead. "Yeah, you probably could. What do you think?"

    "Haaa ooo?" Yorick asked, catching the yarn and looking it over quizzically.

    Mortan went over and tugged at an end. "Here. Although you might want to watch someone before trying yourself."

    Yorick cooed in glee as he took the end of yarn and began unwinding a bit. He drifted off, wrapping it around his fingers while figuring it out. While Calem watched him for a second, Nibbles nudged him, still curious about the yarn. "Well whoever borrowed this isn't here, so I'm sure we can borrow one or two for a bit," he said, taking a yellow yarn ball out of the basket. "Here, catch," he said, tossing it to her. The Pinsir didn't have large appendages, but he thought she might be able to get it with her pincers. Instead, she batted it back at him. "Hey!"

    Unexpectedly, Mortan gave a laugh at that. He soon put his hand over his mouth. "Well if you have fun doing that, nothing wrong with it," he said, a bit bashful.

    "Nothing wrong at all," Calem said, soon batting the yarn back and forth with Nibbles. Starlet watched from the side, quite interested. Whenever the yarn ball went astray, Swift showed up from wherever she was hiding and got it back on course. Then Calem tossed it to Starlet. She was startled as it hit her metal jaw, but then lunged forward to grab it off the ground. From that point on, she was in on the game too.

    Mortan struggled to keep a straight face while watching. Eventually though, he laughed again as the Mawile was trying grip the yarn with her paws instead of her metal jaw. With a smirk, she threw it right at him, knocking him back a foot in the air and making Swift pop back out to make sure the yarn didn't hit the ground. "Watch it," Mortan said, trying to be indignant but then laughing again.

    "Yeah, that yarn weighs more than he does," Calem said, smiling. "He couldn't catch it."

    "I can too, if I wanted," the Floette insisted.

    "Then here," Calem said, catching it from Nibbles and tossing it to Mortan.

    "Hah!" The air around him warped slightly, like haze on a humid day. Mortan caught the yarn ball through telekinesis, then hurled it past Calem and the couch he was sitting on. That got them to all look that way... and see what Yorick had done with his yarn ball. And probably two dozen others.

    "Yorick!" Calem said, getting off the couch and going over there. "What... why'd you do that to him?"

    Yorick rubbed his hands together and cackled. Meanwhile, Percival sighed. Somehow, he'd been caught up in a web of yarn crisscrossing across his blade, hilt, tassel, and sheath. With the varying lengths knotted together and hooked onto various objects in the common room, the Honedge was left strung up in midair trying very hard not to fray or cut the yarn.

    He expected to hear Mortan interpreting as usual. Instead, there was the click of a camera. "Whoa, how'd this happen?" Trevor asked.

    "I have no idea," Calem said. "And I'm not sure how we're getting him out of it either, not without cutting him out."

    And wouldn't you know it, Trevor had recently learned how to get Ghost Pokemon to show up clearly in photographs. Thankfully, we managed to get Percival loose and the yarn raveled up again. Those who found out about it at the time thought it was funny even though I worried for a bit about getting in trouble for it.

    My mom did get after me a few times for such yarn ball games later on, but my Pokemon really enjoy it.
     
  15. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Yeah, Calem's dad is named Shaun and I'm not gonna change that just because there's already a Shauna in it. This chapter has lots of hints on what's to come.

    If I had kept up on my drawing, I would've drawn a picture for that last scene. I love that yarn mini-game in Pokémon Amie. It's quite addictive and the reason why so many of my Pokémon had full hearts in Amie. the Berry picker mini-game was okay, but I'm not too fond of puzzles so I never got far with that one. And Super Trainer took some time to get used to, but it can be fun too.
     
  16. Secrets are... not revealed but hinted at, Calem gets some information on his own power (Although, you'd think that his father would have at least told him something by now) and shenanigans are had.

    And that yarn game really is addictive isn't it? I have to admit, I've maxed out the score counter in the unlimited version more than once...
     
  17. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Chapter 13: Glitter and Shine, Lovely Kalos

    My third summer in Kalos, I didn't have a regular job. Instead, I went on various trips with my friends. There wasn't much of an actual plan. Sometimes one or more of us would have to go home for a family event, sometimes all of us spent an entire day talking and figuring out where to go. If we needed money, we'd battle other Trainers or find some errand to run. I have a lot of fond memories of that time, treasures I'll always have. Like the time we crashed Serena's sixteenth birthday party.

    “I can't believe we're actually doing this,” Calem muttered. 'This' being attempting to sneak into Parfum Palace with Shauna, Tierno, and Trevor while dressed up clowns in order to get into a fancy party they had not been invited to. Each of the clown outfits had their own quirk, and it so happened that his costume came with sparkly bunny ears.

    “It's so crazy it has to work,” Shauna insisted, keeping her voice low while they made their way through a garden of hedge mazes. Her clown costume included kitty ears and a tail.

    “Well we've gotten this far, so no point going back,” Trevor added, shifting the feathered cap he wore. He and Tierno had lucked out in appearance, as Tierno has a headband with antlers on it. So how did Calem end up dressed like a bunny?

    This had all started almost a month ago at the end of the school year. On a day when they didn't have much to do in homeroom, the class started talking about what they were going to do over the summer. “There's supposed to be some really cool ghosts over at this old broken down hotel outside of Lumiose,” Shauna said. “Since I'm thirteen, my parents don't mind me traveling on my own during the summer, so I'm gonna look into that!”

    “You're always chasing after ghost stories,” Tierno said. “And most of them turn out to be only Ghost Pokemon or old wrecks.”

    “Yeah, but I'm sure I'll find a real ghost someday,” she said.

    Trevor laughed a little. “One would think that you'd raise the dead with all the ruckus you bring everywhere.”

    “You'd think,” Shauna said, tossing her hair and making others laugh. She grinned at that.

    “I heard that there were some interesting stone formations over near Genosage,” Calem said. “I thought about seeing that for myself. Or maybe going to the beaches on that side of Kalos.”

    “Oh man, those are great places to go,” Tierno said, nodding. “My family used to spend summers on the coast; there's so much to do over there. Plus I heard they've opened up a cave where you can find fossils and gems.”

    “That'd be like work, but it'd be fun because then you'd have gems to make jewelry with!” Shauna said, intrigued by this idea too. “You should come with us too, Serena!”

    “I have to pass, sorry,” she said. “I'll be focusing on my Pokemon League credentials, so between challenging gyms and training my Pokemon, the only time I'll have to spare is already taken by my birthday party at Parfum Palace.”

    “Wow, you're having a birthday party there?” one of the other girls in class asked, impressed. “I've heard it's one of the most beautiful buildings in Kalos.”

    “Yes, and it's family tradition to hold a party there for certain birthdays,” Serena said. Despite that, she didn't invite any of them there to the party.

    A week later, when he met back up with Shauna and Tierno to discuss their travels (as Trevor was twelve and his family didn't want him out on his own with his condition), the subject of the party came up quickly. “I think we should go,” Shauna said.

    “But she didn't send us any invitations,” Tierno pointed out, disappointed. “You'd think she would have, since we're her friends.”

    “She's not been much of one lately,” Calem said. “She didn't even stop those other girls from making fun of you, Shauna.”

    “Well she apologized for it later,” Shauna said, not seeming all that hurt. “I think she wants us to come and that's why she told us about it. She's been trying real hard this year to stay looking cool, but I room with her, so I've heard her fussing over who she should hang out with to maintain her social appearance, and about how she's trying to be like all these great people like her dad but thinks she comes up short, or even debating on what classes she should take in order to get into some kind of exclusive apprenticeship that she really wants. I try to tell her not to worry about it and have fun instead, but she keeps trying hard to get liked by people that I don't think are her friends. So we should crash the party and show her what real friends do!”

    “Based on how some of them argue so much and then keep trying to be friends for appearances, yeah, that doesn't really seem like being friends,” Calem said, relenting to her. There was some truth in that. He had seen Serena complain about another girl who was using her to advance in popularity, but then when Calem told her that didn't seem right, Serena apparently couldn't deny the girl or her reputation and popularity might be wrecked. From the sound of her voice, that was something akin to the end of the world if she lost that, which he didn't really understand. And the next week, Serena and the other girl were denying ever liking each other for whatever reasoning went into popularity.

    “But what kind of present should we bring her?” Tierno asked. “I never know what to get her since it seems like she could get anything she wanted and I could never afford that.”

    “I was thinking we'd do something only we could do, like give her a song!” Shauna suggested.

    Calem wasn't too sure about his ability in singing, but Shauna promised that she'd write something easy. Since it was from all of them, they talked Trevor's parents into letting him come along for the party crashing. Then they wanted to all their Pokemon involved in the singing too, which was quite a group involving two Floettes, a Frogadier, a Chespin, a Meowstic, a Crawdaunt, a Honedge, a Pinsir, a Haunter, a Mawile, a Spinda, a Swirlix, a Fletchling, and a Litleo. Calem wasn't sure they could get all the Pokemon and themselves ready in time, but that turned out to be what Tierno's knack was.

    Since he had to do more practice singing to come close to the others, Calem often spent time with Tierno and the Pokemon. It was just as amazing to watch him plan as it was to see him perform. Tierno would talk to the performing Pokemon for a little while, observing how they moved and communicated naturally, and then he knew exactly what it should do to get the end result Shauna wanted. Like how Percival spoke exclusively in metallic tones and Starlet could speak with or without them depending on her mood. Or how Nibbles could making a humming drone with her hidden wings or clicks and snaps with her pincers, but didn't make as much noise as the others.

    Or even the differences between the Floettes. “Mortan's really quiet and hesitant to sing,” Tierno said while considering the two. “But Coco is the chattiest of all our Pokemon and she'll sing on her own. If we do use Mortan, I’ll probably have him in the rhythm or base melody. Coco's fine with a lead part for a celebration song, but I don't think Mortan would fit a noticeable part unless it was something somber. Which is odd for a Floette, but I can imagine him doing really well making people cry at a song.”

    “I would like to cheer him up more often, but it's kind of how he is too,” Calem said, sitting on a low wall in the park where they were practicing. Their Pokemon were wandering around until Tierno called on them, so he tried to keep an eye on those at the edges, especially Yorick, as much as possible.

    “Well we've got enough cheerful and energetic Pokemon that it should be fine for this performance,” Tierno said. “I wonder if she'll have her Pokemon out and about; I may have to consider them joining in in conducting them.”

    “How'd you figure out how to conduct Pokemon in music?” Calem asked. It was something he'd been curious about for a long time, since he'd first met these three friends. “I know people who have trouble just directing Pokemon in battle, but this has got to be harder.”

    Tierno rubbed his head. “Ah, actually I find this far easier than trying to lead them in battle. I get so nervous about getting my Pokemon hurt that it's hard for me to keep up with the battle. But then this, everyone has fun with it so it just comes to me. Oh, you might not believe this, but when it was a little kid, I was really sick for several years. There were points where I had trouble just eating and so I got to be little more than skin and bones.”

    “That's horrible,” Calem said. And truly hard to picture given Tierno now. The two of them were about the same age with Calem being older by a few months, but Tierno was larger than he was. He was hesitant to call his friend fat, because he actually had a fair bit of muscle too and could keep up with the rest of them on skating and biking trips. Although, he or Trevor would be the first to get tired and Tierno could stand to lose some of the flab.

    “Yeah, it was, but I got through it all,” Tierno said, his voice positive as usual. “And one of the things that helped me was music. I was always borrowing CDs and albums to have something new to listen to. And I got to where I could sing anything I'd heard; I wanted to dance too because I admired dancers even more, but it was tough for a long time. After a while, I noticed some Fletchlings that would be near my window when I had my music on, so I tried to coax them to sing along. And wouldn't you know it, it worked! It's always easiest with Fletchlings, I find, but I've been able to get more and more Pokemon to sing along.”

    Calem smiled. “So out of something terrible, you managed to do something amazing? That's great. Are you planning on going along with Shauna when she becomes a music star?”

    “You bet!” Tierno said. “We'd get Trevs in on it too, but he gets nervous around big crowds and so far he really only does the Pokeflute which doesn't always work out with our style. Still, I think he could become big too if he gets control of his aura disability and becomes braver. We bring him into our performances hoping to help him get over that stage fright.”

    “I think you're doing pretty well,” Calem said.

    He ended up having to spend so much time practicing that he didn't get to help Shauna plan the act as much as he would have liked. This ended up in the small disaster of the costumes she got for all of them. “Since we're gonna have lots of Pokemon, I thought we should look like cheerful Pokemon clowns!” she said as she pulled out clown suits in silver and pastel colors.

    “Really?” Calem asked, not sure he wanted to be seen wearing those. Especially not by someone like Serena.

    “Shouldn't you have asked us first?” Trevor asked, looking over the felt cap covered in white and peach feathers that Shauna had handed him right off the bat. “I mean, it's a bit embarrassing...”

    “No, it'll be fun, I promise!” Shauna said, then handed Calem a headband that had sparkly white bunny ears on it.

    “Your idea of fun or ours?” Calem asked. Although at that point, they only had one day before the party, not enough to return the costumes and find something else. So they went with it, hoping that even if they ended up making her laugh, they could make Serena's party more memorable and try to get her to be less uptight. After all, it'd be hard to take anything serious with costumes like these.

    Now here it was, the day of Serena's birthday party. The four of them had arrived at the lawn of Parfum Palace to discover that they were checking invitations at the gate instead of further inside. Fortunately, Mortan had an idea. He whispered to Calem that there should be a servant's entrance in back near the garden, if things were as he thought they were. Calem suggested to the others that they walk around the fence and sure enough, after nearly twenty minutes getting around the huge brick and iron fence, they found a back entrance that had a padlock that Shauna was able to pick. When Tierno asked her where she had learned to pick locks and why, she just said, “Always be prepared!” with a smile.

    The hedge maze garden was quite a task to navigate. The bushes were thick, growing well above their heads in nearly manicured formations. Occasionally, they would come upon small flower gardens hidden away in the labyrinths, with gorgeous plants and outdoor furnishings. “Oh, they did a really nice job on this place, I can tell already,” Mortan said quietly on Calem's shoulder. “This isn't the palace, I know, since it burned down centuries ago... still, so many memories.”

    As much as he would have liked to say something about that, Calem didn't want to draw attention to such a conversation with his friends around. He gave a slight nod and kept following Shauna and Trevor as they debated how to get through this place fastest. And since that was taking up so much time, he eventually had several of his Pokemon hover over the hedges and try to gauge the path out from that viewpoint.

    Eventually, they came out to stand in front of a white stone statue of a large dragon god, where a straight path showed that following the central path would have been easier than sneaking around. Past the statue, there was a stone bridge that arched over a large pond stretching across the back of the palace. Other statues and fountains were within the pond, making the back as impressive a sight as the front. The massive doors on the other side of the bridge had been left open, making it easy for them to get inside.

    The inside of the palace was as grandiose and lavish as the outside. Or even more so: the walls gleamed a rich yellow gold, the floors were polished so well that they could see their reflections in them. Nothing inside was ordinary as even the most mundane of furnishings like chairs and light fixtures were so elaborate or ornate that it seemed they properly belonged in a museum. Statues and paintings lined the halls, while they occasionally got glimpses of servants dressed as formally as they had been in the Battle Chateau.

    “This is incredible,” Trevor said, caught amazed as the rest of them for a moment. “Then, um, where would the party be?”

    “The ballroom should be in the hall to your right, second door on the left past the entrance hall,” Mortan said quietly.

    And he turned out to be correct, which the others deduced by it being where music was coming from. There were a fair number of people inside, all dressed in lavish if old-fashioned attire. Looking on, Calem wondered if this ballroom looked like this when it used to be used by royalty. He did note something odd: for being a girl's sixteenth birthday party, there weren't many teenagers there. It was mostly adults with a few other teens mingling around. All the teens fit in with the regally dressed adults; their group would be the ones to stand out once they went inside, even compared to the modestly dressed servants. They'd stand out even if they weren't Pokemon-themed clowns.

    “There she is,” Calem said, pointing Serena out to the rest. Like always, she out-dazzled everyone else there. Today, she had her hair done up in elaborate braids and beautiful antique hairpins. Her dress was worthy of belonging to a princess, a fanciful elaborate piece of pink and white that seemed like it might be heavy and warm even if it was cute. She wore dainty white gloves and two necklaces, one having a heart-shaped locket and the other being a strand of white pearls. She was talking politely to an older woman, but also seemed bored.

    “Great, then this is it,” Shauna said, bringing her hands up to her chest. “Everybody ready?”

    “Ready for anything,” Calem said, with the other two boys nodding.

    “All right, then we'll go in, and get singing while everyone's still surprised enough that they won't stop us,” she said, then bounded into the room and forced them to move quickly to keep up. Fortunately, the small instrumental group that had been playing the music was between songs as Shauna called out, “Hey Serena! We've got a wonderful birthday surprise for you!”

    Everyone was staring at them; Calem tried not to look too embarrassed, so he checked on his Pokemon as he had the most of their group. They seemed to be waiting on the signal to start, even Yorick who was putting off being distracted to join in. Meanwhile, Serena looked shocked to see them there, probably more so because of their costumes. “Oh... my...” she said, her hand near her mouth.

    “We wrote and made a special musical number for the occasion, so here you go!” Shauna said, then turned to find Tierno and nod at him. And thus their song began.

    It was unlike any other song Calem had experienced before, much less participated in. They had such a wide range of participants, from Pokemon who would sing as part of their normal everyday life like the Fletchling to Pokemon who usually weren't thought of connected to such cheery numbers like Percival and the Meowstic Merlin. And even among the four of them, Calem had hardly any experience singing in front of others, while Shauna and Tierno both wanted to get into musical careers. Thankfully, his part wasn't that hard and their number went on without much of a problem.

    There was some laughter and applause when they were done, although the most enthusiastic response came from Grace, Serena's mother. “Yeah, that's exactly what we needed to liven this party up!” she said, coming over and giving them high-fives. “Nicely done, kids.”

    “Yes, that was quite unexpected,” Serena said, smiling in amusement. “But it was wonderful, really, thank you.”

    “I wanted to have Pokemon races on the front lawn and lane, but the old guy who owns this place is such a wet towel,” Grace added. “Come on and stick around, although first you have to tell us how you got in here.”

    With that permission approved by Serena (although not quite by the owner once he heard how they got in), they were able to stick around and talk with her. “I was just about to see if I could go out in the gardens because it is a bit of a drag in here, if you're pardon me for saying so,” Serena told them. “But you know, family traditions and all that, had to invite certain folks even if I hardly ever see them.”

    “Like those far-flung aunts and uncles that you only see every five or so years, but you always get Christmas cards from them?” Calem asked. “Sometimes I don't see how my parents keep track of them all.”

    She nodded. “It gets bad when you're talking about third cousin twice removed or something like that. Like if you put together the family trees of everyone in this room, there'd be people who were five pages away because they couldn't all fit on one as your last common ancestor was three hundred years ago, but invite them anyhow. That's how it is between me and Lord Owain de Kalos, the man who properly owns Parfum Palace. Then I found out just today that Lysandre is Owain's nephew, so he showed up for a bit. He didn't have an invitation either, but there's nobody in the room that would deny him coming by. Apparently he's due to inherit the palace, unless Owain does something silly like will it to his Furfrou.” She frowned. “Which is entirely possible, I realize now that I've talked to him for a little while.”

    “Wasn't the original of this place built for a Pokemon?” Calem asked. When Serena gave him a curious look, he shrugged. “Something I read somewhere.”

    “Legends say that it was,” Serena said, thinking, then moving towards the exit of the ballroom. “Come here, I can show you something about it if you're interested.”

    “Sure,” Teirno said. Since Serena seemed familiar with the place, they all left with her into the hall just outside of the ballroom.

    She stopped them in front of a large portrait of a king and queen that Calem recognized as being the same from the memories Mortan would show him sometimes. He was a large man, with thick short blond hair that had probably natural highlights of red in it. His green eyes were quite piercing, giving him an intelligent and observant air; the fact that he was larger than anything else in the portrait might be a hint at his power or his actual appearance. At his side, there was a gorgeous woman who would have been greatly admired even today. She wore ribbons of lace and pearls in her dark blue hair; her skin was fair and smooth, completely unblemished by any flaws. Beside them, there was a table that had a vase of various flowers in it. But, a single white lily was out of the vase; a Floette was napping on the table while clinging to his flower.

    “This is AZ, the great king from the golden age of Kalos' birth,” Serena said. “As well as his wife for a few years, Queen Mercia. Parfum Palace was built as the second replica of their country palace; there was one castle they had in Lumiose which no one's quite sure what it looked like, as well as the mountain palace AZ built as a defense in the worst times of war they lived through. The ruins of that place lie at the foot of League Headquarters, actually. Some legends say that the country palace was built as a wedding gift to Mercia, but others said his gift was actually the Crystal Clock at Anistar, while this place was built because the Lumiose palace made one of his Pokemon sick too often. See?” She pointed out the Floette.

    “Hey, that's a Floette,” Trevor said. “Wow... so this guy is your ancestor?”

    She shook her head. “No, we don't think he had any children. Although, I think we are descended from Mercia; she eventually left AZ and married his brother Leonidas instead, and my family most definitely goes back to him. It's either her or his second wife.”

    “Wow, I don't think I could trace my family history back further than my grandparents,” Shauna said, impressed.

    “It's weird, but this portrait of AZ makes me think that I've seen him before,” Tierno said. “Or maybe just someone who looks like him. Weird.”

    “Yeah,” Calem said, although he knew who it was that Tierno couldn't think of. “Lysandre's family has the same claim, right? I've heard it anyhow.”

    Serena nodded. “Yes, but like I said, our family branches have been separated for quite a while.” She touched the pearl necklace she had, smiling. “Oh, Lysandre even came with a gift; he got me this necklace, see. And they're real pearls too, gathered from wild oysters instead of farm-raised ones. It was so sweet of him.”

    “I think that's weird,” Calem said. And creepy too; a grown man who was probably in his forties giving a teenaged girl a pearl necklace when she wasn't directly related to him? Maybe if he'd been closer to her age and her boyfriend, maybe it'd be fine then.

    That just made her laugh. “What, you hadn't heard? It's a tradition to give a girl a pearl necklace on her sixteenth birthday. My father thought about doing that, but they got me the locket instead, saying that I could put what picture I want in it. Though I haven't found one I like for it yet.”

    “Ooo, yeah, it looks like one you'd put a picture of you and your boyfriend in,” Shauna said. “If you were dating anyone.”

    “That's what my mom said too,” Serena said, still happy about it. “She can be so silly at times, but I wouldn't trade her for any other mother.”

    “Mine's the same way,” Calem said. “What're you going to be doing after this?”

    She put her hand to her cheek. “Well, my next goal is to beat Grant; the trainer badges shouldn't be quite as much trouble after I pass him, although magic proofs won't be that simple.”

    “But you have a whole load of those badges and proofs already,” Shauna said.

    “I wouldn't call three each a whole load,” she said. “That's just getting started.”

    “Well we plan on going that way, so why don't you travel with us?” she asked. “There's so much we could do along the way! Especially once we get to the beach.”

    “It's not that far from here,” Serena said. “Just a long hike down route 7 and through the mountain caves. In fact, Grant's gym is in the caves.”

    “But it'd be more fun with friends than just with your Pokemon, right?” Calem asked.

    She hesitated on answering, which let her father interrupt their conversation. “I think they've got a good idea,” Richard said.

    “Dad?” she asked, puzzled that he'd come out of the ballroom too.

    He smiled and nodded. “Don't want to waste your youth, after all. Sometimes I worry that I made you too serious. There's no time limit on your goals, after all, and I don't think the Tower of Mastery is going to be open until next summer. You might as well spend the summer having fun because they'd certainly keep strict restriction on your activities if you made it.”

    “I guess so,” Serena said, and that was how she wound up joining them on their travels through Kalos.

    -+-

    The southwestern beaches of Kalos were gorgeous. Golden sandy beaches ran along the shimmering sea, cliffs stretched far into the brilliant sunny skies, wild Pokemon of many different kinds went about their lives in a carefree manner. Even the summer crowds added to the wonder of it all: the people playing volleyball, those holding Pokemon battles, joggers, sunbathers, swimmers, families... it was a happy time to spend with others, to enjoy life.

    “Wonder when the girls are going to come back,” Calem wondered to himself, standing on the warm beach with his sandals in hand.

    They weren't planning on swimming today, just playing on the beach, but still decided to shop in Ambrette for more beach-appropriate clothes. Being in a good mood, Serena had challenged them all to pick things that were outside their normal color schemes. So no pinks for Shauna, no blacks for Tierno... no dark blue for Calem, which was a disappointment, but if it got Serena out of her usual black and red that seemed so much like Team Flare's colors, he agreed to the challenge. After some time in a boutique with Tierno, Calem had picked out an orange shirt that had a print of a rather fierce looking Mawile, along with khaki shorts that went to his knees. He kept some sunglasses because of the brightness, but decided to go barefoot for a while because it felt nice.

    Then he spotted them coming down the wide stairs from the aquarium. Tilting his sunglasses down to see the color a little better, it seemed that Shauna hadn't gone too far from her usual colors as she was wearing a purple sleeveless shirt with a white skirt. But Serena had taken it to heart. She was now wearing a sundress with a soft green and white checker pattern. Somehow, she'd also found a green beret that matched it, along with a white ribbon bow on the hat.

    “That's really cute on her,” Calem said quietly. Then he waved and called to them, “Hey, over here! Our group's gotten a little bigger now!”

    “Oh has it?” Serena asked, coming over with Shauna.

    “There you are!” Trevor called, running over towards Calem to wait on the girls too. “Hi!”

    “Hey Trevor, you came too!” Shauna said, grinning and running the rest of the distance. Serena laughed and followed suit.

    The younger boy nodded. “Yeah, my parents agreed to come out here for the afternoon. Although my mom's still caught up in work, at least we got to join you. Wow, you both look nice.”

    “Thanks,” Serena said, smiling. “You missed on another fashion game. You seem to have done nicely this time, Calem.”

    “It didn't take too long,” he said, rubbing his head and grinning.

    The day seemed to go by in a flash: there were a few Pokemon matches had, and building of a large sandcastle, and lots of talking. It seemed like all too soon when Trevor's parents called them over to get dinner somewhere in town. “We'll have to find a place now if we're going to catch a train back to Lumiose before dark,” his father said.

    “I know a nice place,” Trevor's mother said. “It'll be our treat.”

    “Aw, thanks Janet,” Tierno said.

    “I wish the day hadn't ended this fast,” Trevor said, trying to smile but disappointed to be reminded that he'd be going back home with them.

    “Can't stop the sun, not even by magic,” his father said. “But you know, we've been talking, about how you're all good kids. We don't want you going out on your own so far, Trevor. But if you promise to stick with your friends and they agree to watch over you, we'll let you go with them this summer.”

    “Really, I can?” Trevor asked, surprised enough that he nearly backed into his Meowstic. Merlin just patted his shoulder.

    “We won't let anything happen to him,” Calem said. “Right guys?”

    Serena nodded. “Yes, certainly, he'll be safe with us.”

    “Thanks, I promise I'll be with them,” Trevor said happily, hugging his mother and then his father.

    “Oh, but we should get a photo of you kids before we head back to town,” his mother said, bringing out the camera that Trevor usually had. So the five of them all gathered in a laughing happy group (with Serena putting herself right by Calem, in part because they were the two tallest there) for a picture.

    -+-

    Running through the enormously tall grass was fun. Unlike the soft lush grass in front of Parfum Palace, this field on Route 16 was drier, more like paper. That made it rattle as he made his way through it. He caught glimpses of Pokemon as he passed through, his own playing around too or wild ones observing them. He spotted one Pokemon that looked like a mournful ghost hiding in an old stump. Since it was crouched down trying to hide, Calem let the Phantump be.

    “Now which way out of here?” he mumbled to himself. For once, Mortan wasn't with him. He'd found a nice patch of purple flowers, so Calem had let him stay there as he liked. Since he could see nothing but the green and tan grass all around him, patches of black dirt beneath his feet, the Phantump, and bits of the clear blue sky overhead, it was a hard time getting his orientation. But if he kept going forward, he was bound to come out some time, right?

    Before long, he came across Yorick. The Haunter made an exaggerate look of surprise, making it look like his jaw dropped a foot. Calem laughed, but Yorick soon put a finger to his lips and grinned. Waving for him to follow, he led him through the grass and right to the edge, at a point where Serena seemed to be hiding. She was sitting on the ground and seemed to be playing some video game, right near a rustic wooden fence that blocked off the side of a steep drop. A waterfall tumbled down into a river not too far ahead. Coming to his side, Yorick tapped Calem's shoulder, then pointed him to Serena with a look of mischief.

    Well, why not? Calem smiled and nodded, then quietly stepped out of the grass. Serena didn't seem to notice him, so he stepped further out of her possible view and approached her. "Hey Serena!” he shouted once he was about a foot from her.

    She yelped, dropping her tablet and trying to get up and turn around, only to fall backwards in doing so. Yorick went into hysterics, racing around the area in delight. When Calem laughed, her face turned pink and she frowned. “Geez, don't listen to that crazy Haunter! I thought you had more sense.”

    “I thought we were supposed to be enjoying a day outside, not playing video games,” he said, but went over and offered her a hand up.

    She took it, but then turned her attention to brushing dirt off her skirt. “It's not a game. Well, okay, it kind of is, but it's not at the same time.” Then she grabbed her tablet and made sure it was fine.

    “What do you mean by that?” Calem asked, trying to peek at it. He caught a glimpse of a stadium and what looked to be a Wailord.

    “It's an app called Super Training,” she said, doing something with it. “Do you remember Clemont? One of the seventh year students in Battle Club, he challenged my Dad a while ago in the Trainer's League challenge and won, but he wasn't even able to get past Siebold in the magic challenge.”

    “Yeah, but I can't say I knew him well,” he said, coming up with a blank on what Clemont looked like. Wasn't he a blond kid? He did remember that battle against Richard, since Clemont had made use of quite a few Electric aura Pokemon.

    Shutting down the program, she set her tablet in her bag and finally looked at him. “He was a nerd, but really smart and worth knowing. He was kind of like Trevor is, in that he started at LMA before most kids do. Anyhow, he spent his last few years developing the Super Training program to take advantage of the fact that Pokeballs store Pokemon as digital information. It makes it so that you can put your Pokemon through virtual reality training and it works just as well as real life training. Well, almost, you don't want to put a Pokemon exclusively trained in Super Training in a challenging battle right off, as they don't really level up or evolve as a result. But they will start out stronger, so I'm putting a Phantump I just caught through some rounds, to see how he is and if I want to add him to my team.”

    “That sounds cool, but why not just bring him out and play with him for a while?” Calem said, waving Yorick back to his side. “It is a beautiful day and this place is gorgeous. I mean, just look over that fence; that is some seriously beautiful countryside over there, and even when you see bits of Laverre, it fits in and looks so amazing from up here.”

    Serena chuckled. “You're sounding like Professor Sycamore now.”

    “Well Kalos is a great place,” he said. “I'll agree with him on that. Come on, bring out your Pokemon too and let them run around. I've hardly seen them except in battles. How can you be friends with them if you don't spend time with them?”

    She rolled her eyes at that. “Come on, people who say that bonding with your Pokemon is important are just excusing a lack in training ability. I spend good time with my Pokemon too and treat them fairly.”

    While Calem wondered about that, he wasn't sure if it was a good thing to bring up. He didn't want to be arguing with his friends at this time. But maybe if he teased her about it... “Oh, I get it. You're just afraid that people will find out what Pokemon you're using and use that to their advantage. Right?”

    “I'm not afraid, especially not of something as silly as that,” Serena said. “Although it is sensible to keep your roster rotated so people aren't quite sure. It's just, I'd make better use of this time doing the Super Training and finding some people to battle than letting them be lazy and lie about in the sun, or go around scaring folks for no good reason.” Yorick cackled at that.

    “Are you sure that's a better use of your time?” Calem asked, tilting his head. “It's like what Shauna's going on about all the time. Do you want to remember this summer as nothing but a serious of battles you can't really remember because they weren't worth remembering? Or would you rather look back and say, 'wow that was crazy, but it was so much fun'?”

    “Well I don't know how much simple memories can help me get to where I want to be,” she said.

    I did manage to tease her into letting them out for a little while that day, but they were really serious, even a bit uncertain of why they were being let out then. That just made it easier for Yorick to tease and irritate them. Eventually one of them knocked him out, but once I revived him, he was still pleased about it.
     
  18. And there's that "Being friends with your Pokemon is for losers" attitude. And apparently letting people get away with bullying Shauna. Sheesh. Serena's really doing herself no favors here.
     
  19. Ga'Hooleone

    Ga'Hooleone Who's laughing now?

    oh hey. I like the way you've divided the role of the main character between both Calem and Serena, as well as the implementation of magic: that would be a really nice addition to the actual games.

    PM list please.
     
  20. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Chapter 14: Show Me Your Dark and Bloody Heart


    We went all over Kalos that summer. After spending a week at the beach, we took a train back to Lumiose in order to go find the lost hotel that Shauna wanted to find. There were Ghost Pokemon, but no real ghosts... although we did run into a bunch of punks who turned out rather nice; they taught us some skating tricks once we told them that we liked skating. Then we dropped in on Jack, which happened to be the first time Serena met him. She was wary at first, but was nice to him. After a few hours, he told us to go back to enjoying our summer rather than spending time in his gloomy presence, but I know he was much less gloomy than usual because we did visit.

    Then we passed through Route 13 to get a view of some amazing power plants; couldn't get inside, but it was fun trying to help Serena catch a Gible, only for it to end up with Shauna instead. And she wouldn't let it go, so Serena finally said she'd find another dragon. Because she was interested in the Tower of Mastery, she had us hike past Coumarine and a lively Gogoat ranch to go see it. But as her father had said, it was closed to the public and we had to move on.

    Our summer was winding down, but I still wanted to see the monoliths at Geosenge. We passed through Reflecting Cave to get there, which was a cool adventure on its own. But you want to know about the actions of Team Flare... and yes, it was during that summer that people started to suspect that something big was coming, all because of what happened in Geosenge while we were there. And honestly, it wouldn't have happened if we had decided to go somewhere else.


    It was hard to believe, but the sky was dark when they finally got to the western exit of Reflecting Cave. While the day had been exciting, they were all tired as they walked up to the gate of Geosenge Town. “Do you think we could find a place to stay tonight here?” Shauna said. “I like camping and all, but it'd be nice to sleep inside again.”

    “There's inns in a lot of towns, so I imagine there's one here,” Calem said.

    Serena nodded. “It actually has several really nice ones; I've stayed in this town before. In fact, I can think of one that should let us take care of our laundry too. It's on the other side of town, but the view is quite lov... ah, what was that?” she asked, pausing and putting her hand on the arch.

    'That' had been a sudden shifting, as if the the path they were walking on had been shaken without warning. But it was clearly more than that; a church bell somewhere in town rang out noisily, while loose items outside tumbled over. It didn't last long, thankfully. “Was that an earthquake?” Shauna asked.

    “Huh, was that...?” Mortan said quietly by Calem's ear. He floated out in front of him, looking around the area.

    “Had to have been,” Trevor said, looking Merlin. The Meowstic had his dark blue fur fluffed out in fright. “It's all right, calm down Merlin. Although, it is strange that you'd react like this.”

    “Was it just that?” Calem asked, gripping his head. He'd never been in a natural earthquake before, but hadn't expected it to be as disorienting as it was. But then, feeling something that seemed so immovable as the ground move without warning would be strange. It was different from experiencing someone using a quake-like spell.

    Different enough that most of the Pokemon with them, not just Merlin, were agitated by the quake. It took some time to calm them down. But as they were about to go find the inn Serena knew about, Calem realized that Mortan had disappeared from the group. After making sure where the inn was, he let the others go check in while he searched for the Floette.

    But as night overtook Geosenge, there wasn't a sign of Mortan anywhere.

    -+-

    “Mortan?” Calem walked slowly through Geosenge's dirt paths, trying to find the missing Pokemon. “Were you called back? I thought there would be more warning.” After all, he didn't own Mortan like he did Swift and the others. He was just borrowing him from Yveltal for... what reason was it again? To see what resulted of saving him. But it hadn't turned bad, he thought. His close call with death hadn't been like the Ralts he'd watched over once.

    Geosenge looked strange in this light. The sky was an orange-pink from the rising sun meeting a cloudy sky, enough to shut off the automated lights but not enough to see clearly by. Even stranger, the ground was covered in a violet mist that was slowly growing thicker. It was so early that he didn't see anyone else walking around. At the moment, he was coming close to a trio of stones that stood in the center of town. They could be ordinary stone, but seeing them in this light made them seem supernatural.

    Or, was it early? Something didn't seem right. Calem recalled the earthquake from yesterday, wondering again what about it startled the Pokemon so badly. He should know simply by asking Mortan... but Mortan was missing. Calem had to find him; he felt a strong feeling that something wasn't right here and they needed to get going. Maybe he should've woken up his friends, but his worry over Mortan persisted.

    There was a heady scent in the air, he realized. It had a mix of bitter and sweet that felt so wrong. Dangerous? Yes, it was dangerous, it was something about this mist, it was about that earthquake... all of it. But what? “Mortan! Geez, how am I supposed to find a flower in this mist... oh wait, of course.” He looked up at the clouds and cast Rain Dance to heighten his awareness. Why hadn't he thought of that sooner? The rain should let him feel Mortan quicker than looking for him.

    But what he sensed wasn't his Pokemon, or a quiet town... or anything that should be here, anything that he could see with his eyes. When he sensed was death, saturating the area with the mist. The dangerous mist appeared with death; being within its grasp would cause death. Then... was everyone else dead?

    Before his mind could become overwhelmed by that horror, he caught something else in the rain: dream aura. He was dreaming, so it wasn't clear if this feeling of death was real or not. But looking at the stones, which had seemed strange and supernatural before... blood was trickling down them, evidence of murder.

    He wasn't alone either. Once he knew that, he turned around and found someone he hadn't wanted to encounter again, even in a dream. “You felt a connection to this place, didn't you?” the faceless man said. “It's not our handiwork, but I felt the connection too. It is a power of death; we have a power of death. That is why you came.”

    “That's not...” Calem started to say, but then he found himself doubting that. Why had he wanted to come here in the first place? The monoliths had sounded interesting, but was that alone enough to explain why?

    Snapping his hand to his chest, the faceless man made a glowing dagger appear. With a fiery glow, he carved out an unusual rune in the air. “Let me make my point another way,” he said, then flung the dagger at him.

    Calem stepped out of the path of the fire dagger readily. Maybe this was a dream, but he still felt strongly that he didn't want that dagger touching him. Or the next two that the faceless man summoned, one of air aura and one of rock aura. But he wasn't able to escape the next attack... which came not from the faceless man, but from the three stones. They each latched a chain onto him, then began to drag him within their circle. The violet mist was gathering there, so thick that he knew going in there would be instantly fatal. Even in a dream?

    This was just a nightmare, he shouldn't be able to die. But he had a feeling that the faceless man was truly there, as was whatever other power of death that was trying to overtake him. Afraid that this was all too real, Calem pulled back on the chains, trying to maintain his ground. It worked for a second, but the pull of the stones was stronger. The chains were glowing with power... just like the daggers. A chain of air, a chain of grass, a chain of steel. Which meant if he got the daggers...

    They were lying in the ground now, just within reach. He grabbed the handle of the fire dagger and, after a second's thought, used it to cut the chain of steel. Once that let go of him, the air dagger took care of the grass chain and the rock dagger took care of the air chain. That was actually simple (although his heart was still racing from fear).

    “Your fear will die soon enough,” the faceless man said. “It will die sooner once you take death into your own hands. The rune you now know summons your higher senses at will, not just in the rain. Use it to know your targets. Use it to kill those near you.”

    “No, I wouldn't,” Calem said, but then whispers came from all around him. Kill them. Death is the key. Kill them. And when he looked out into the misty town of Genosage, he could tell that there were others out there. It wasn't just one faceless man... it was many of them, wishing for him to kill.

    “No, I won't,” Calem said, finding it hard to speak. The dream began to dim and his awareness changed to reality, of waking up in an inn in Genosage. For a few minutes, he found that he couldn't move except to open his eyes and see the first rays of dawn streaming in through the window. But they were still whispering to him, kill.

    He ended up shaking and quietly crying by the time he was entirely awake. He sat up in the bed, but found that Trevor and Tierno were still asleep. For a moment, it seemed fortunate since he'd be embarrassed to be caught waking up in tears. But then a powerful impulse cut through his mind, one that wanted to follow through on the dream and bring death into the waking world.

    Calem left the room to take a shower, trying to think of anything but what he'd just dreamed about. But that still led to a problem. Mortan wasn't back and he wasn't sure if he should go looking now. And those whispers clung to his mind; they wouldn't shut up until he killed. Or would they? Something had to stop them. He dug his fingernails into his scalp, even as he realized it was a futile gesture.

    When he got out of the shower and was getting dressed, there was a disruption to the whispers. What had caused that? He quickly put on the rest of his clothes and thought of that rune from the dream. Summon his higher senses without rain... he cast it and, just as the faceless man said, he became very aware of this hotel room, what was going on in the hall and the room the girls were staying in, what the conditions were outside. Most disturbing of all, Calem found information of how he could kill those nearby with what was in the room. But he wouldn't. He didn't want to.

    Don't think of that, he chided himself. What caused that disruption? He sensed a clash of power out in the hallway, Percival against... something. That was strange, since the Honedge never wanted to start fights. He was afraid of getting addicted to violence. Leaving the room, he saw that it was only Percival out there. He was in a battle-ready stance, the eyes on his hilt darting around trying to find whatever he was fighting. Seeing Calem come out, the red Honedge backed up towards him, reaching his consciousness out to Calem's mind. While it would have been frightening to come from any other Honedge, Calem nodded, knowing he was trying to communicate.

    You could kill that Pokemon by piercing its eye and tearing the sash, both actions not just one.

    “No,” Calem murmured.

    Right then, Percival stopped trying to connect and turned to fight. Red sparks flew off his blade and that disruption hit Calem again. The ringing metallic sounds he made seemed determined, like he would be gritting his teeth in the effort if he could. After a moment, the sparks seemed to envelope him in a white light. Was that an evolution glow?

    It was. Percival the Doublade emerged with two swords instead of one, still struggling against the connection between Calem and the faceless men. If he was going to that much effort, then Calem felt he should do something to help. But what? Before he could think of anything, Percival managed to win his struggle. His swords dropped in the air and he sounded like he was breathing heavily.

    Calem walked around Percival to look in him the eyes. “Percival, thank you. I don't know what that was, but it was terrifying.”

    Percival crooned, then finally managed to connect to him. 'Something tried to possess you in your sleep. I know not what it was either. It was scary, but, I had to do all I could to stop it. Sorry if I troubled you.'

    “You don't need to apologize,” he said, smiling and, after a moment in which Percival seemed okay with it, patted him on one hilt. “You did well.”

    'I think we should leave this place and not come back,' Percival said.

    “We have to figure out where Mortan went first. But yes, I think coming here was a bad idea.”

    -+-

    About mid-morning, Calem met with his friends and all of their Pokemon in the middle of Geosenge. Those three stones were right there. By the light of the summer morning, they weren't nearly as strange as they'd been in his dream. There were a few other people in the area, some of them in the red suits Team Flare members wore when they were being active. “Anybody find him?” Calem asked his friends, although it didn't seem so.

    “I checked some gardens, but didn't see his flower anywhere,” Shauna said, worried too. “You sure you didn't lose him in the cave? It was a little confusing for a while.”

    “No, I know I saw him right as that earthquake happened,” Calem said.

    “Why don’t you use your rain ability to find him?” Trevor asked, glancing away from the stones. He was touching one, but it didn't seem to bother him at all. “At this rate, it might be the best way, plus there's clouds anyhow so people wont' think it's strange.”

    Feeling a sense of dread, he said, “I know, but... something about this place makes me uneasy. Like what I might sense if there was rain.”

    “What is it, then?” Serena asked.

    “I don't know,” Calem said, not wanted to admit about feeling death like he had. They were having so much fun on this summer vacation that he didn't want to scare them in telling them what he might have done.

    “Hey kids, you should keep clear of this area,” one of the men there said. He wasn't wearing the red suit, but it looked suspiciously similar. Being a crisp white with fine red lines in places, it didn't seem like the kind of outfit one would normally wear to work outside in. “We're conducting an investigation here and we don't need the interference.”

    “Oh, is this the initiative into better historical sites and less tourist-centered commerce?” Serena asked. “Odd site to choose.”

    “How do you know about that?” he asked.

    “Learned about it through the Flare Club at LMA,” she said, although the rest of them didn't know about it.

    He nodded. “I see. Then yes, we're here for that. Geosenge isn't too bad, but the tourism sector has been showing more interest in this place. After all, no one knows why these stones are here and mysteries attract many. We're working to preserve and research the site, not break it down or fill it with trash.”

    “It'd be good enough if you could keep litter away, that's for sure,” Tierno said.

    Calem found himself looking at the stones in thought. In doing so, he noticed something sparkle at the top of the nearest one. “You don't know what these are for?”

    “There's lot's of theories,” the man said. “Someone tried to convince me that it was some kind of calender, but I had to ask, are we sure there's an exact number of stones to match the days? And then these three here out of alignment with the rest, which are in perfectly straight rows and columns, so there's some other reason behind them. Although, I’m not sure what would explain it. Possibly some ritual site, like a church I think.”

    They didn't know. But then why was he so certain that his dream had a kernel of truth? That it had something to do with death. Maybe just because it affected him so much. The sparkle caught his eye again. Normally he didn't think himself as obsessive, but it bugged him seeing it there, like having an itch on his back where he couldn't reach it. “If you're cleaning up stuff, what's that up there?”

    “Huh?” The others looked up and saw the sparkle too. “Didn't notice that before. Definitely doesn't belong there, so we should do something about it. Hey, who has the stepladder?” The man went over to the other Flare members.

    This included a woman who was also dressed differently... differently from the group and differently from anyone Calem had ever seen outside of cheesy sci-fi movies. She had a dress that gleamed like metal, skin tight around the torso but flared out in a perfect ring at the bottom hem. Not only that, but she has matching boots and a blue visor that completely covered her eyes. When one of the others fetched the sparkling item off the top of the stone and tossed it down, she caught it.

    A line of light swept across the visor as she looked at the item. “Looks like a charm bracelet, but I can't read what it's enchanted to do,” she said.

    Shauna laughed. “That's weird! How'd a charm bracelet get up there?”

    “You're right, how did it get up there just now?” the woman in the visor said, fiddling with something at the side of her device. “It... it wasn't there... fifteen minutes ago when I made the more recent recordings.” She looked at it again. “Hmm, I wonder...” she started to put it on her wrist.

    “Maybe someone's playing a prank?” Tierno suggested, right before there was a loud snap as the bracelet refused to attach to her and flew out of her hands.

    Followed by a second snap as it went right for Calem's left ankle and secured itself there. “Ow, what was that?” he asked, kneeling down to get a better look at it.

    “Picky,” the woman said, scanning him with her visor now.

    The bracelet, or anklet rather, was made of a slim silver chain. As it was on him, he couldn't see a way to take it off as it appeared to be one continuous string of tiny links. Three silver charms were attached to it: the first one he saw looked like a foot, then there was a dagger... and the third one which was more vague, but he recalled immediately from the Psionics class as being a cowl. Then, this was an anklet that was meant for him, one of three items in a set.

    “Oo, what is it?” Shauna asked, fascinated and leaning down to see it.

    Calem didn't answer, as he felt frozen with fright at recognition of something else. The faceless man he had met twice now had been wearing a cowl, both times using a dagger... he hadn't noticed an anklet, but this was so small that it could easily be missed. It had appeared because it was being given to him... as recognition of progress in a power that was meant to kill...

    Someone there was going to die, he realized. And it might not just be one. “Get away from those stones!” he shouted, getting back onto his feet.

    His friends and the Pokemon there took a few steps away, thankfully, more out of surprise than actual caution. The woman with the visor tilted her head as she walked closer to him. But the man in the white suit, pausing as he was coming down the ladder, he wasn't quick enough. There was little more than a gurgle as a dagger to his throat ended his life. When his body hit the ground, there was the faceless man standing inside the stones.

    “Similar powers resonate,” the faceless man said, pointing his bloodied dagger at Calem as the other Flare members scrambled to get away. Then a bolt of lightning blinded and deafened everyone. Despite that, Calem could still hear the faceless man speaking. “It's not quite enough to awaken what sleeps here. But if we give it enough blood, it just might come back to life.”

    And it was like he was dreaming again; there was no mist but the air was filled with an odd light that showed blood trickling down the stones. Blood saturated the ground too, as if a massacre had occurred here. The people who had been around, save for Calem and the faceless man, all seemed to be shadows of themselves. They were all reacting to the unexpected murder, in shock, horror, or in the case of the woman with the visor a strange detachment. Even stranger, a shadow seemed to fall out of Calem, as if his body had collapsed.

    “Welcome to the world of spirits,” the faceless man said. “Although you've been here before, it seems.”

    “What's going on?” Calem asked, fear moving his thoughts faster then caution, which tried to remind him of his father's warning not to trust this monster.

    He tossed his dagger at Calem, but not to hit him. Instead, it dropped to the ground with its handle closest. “I’m supposed to be teaching you of our legacy, especially since your cowardly father won't. But as you are, it's going to be nothing but a struggle. You need to lose your fear of death and take command of it instead.”

    “I’m not going to be killing anyone,” Calem said. But just as in his dream, he started to hear whispers from the other ones.

    With a small pop, Swift arrived, in full color rather than a shadowy form. She was soon followed by Percival, who had a hold on Nibbles, and Yorick, who had a hold of Starlet. “Calem, how'd you...?” the Frogadier started to ask, but then went tense as she realized he wasn't alone. “...get... here... again?”

    “This place looks so much more like a dump on this side,” Starlet said, her voice as snobby as he always thought she'd be. But even she seemed wary, making sure that her steel jaw was between the rest of her body and the faceless man.

    “How'd you get here?” Calem asked, trying to block out the whispers.

    The faceless man chuckled, causing a chill in all of them. “Ghosts of all sorts can always reach this side if they want, even bring others over alive if they dare. And your Swift here has a connection to darkness too, albeit not directly to death like us. She could be just as deadly, though. That is, once you start killing.”

    “Y-you're not supposed to listen to this one, remember?” Percival said. The Doublade struggled to be brave now that he could see his opponent.

    “We won't let you hurt Calem,” Swift said, lowering her stance and preparing to fight.

    “I have no intention of hurting him,” the faceless man said. Not having human expressions, it was hard to tell how much he meant that. “But it most likely will happen over the course of training. No, what you should be worried about is if Calem is going to let you live.” But it was possible to see him smirk, just slightly. “You followed him over here. That means you're capable of dying here. Calem, kill them.”

    “You're talking complete nonsense,” Starlet said. “He wouldn't kill us.”

    “Are you absolutely certain of that?” the faceless man asked, pointing to him.

    Calem was trying his hardest to deny that he would. He had no reason to kill off any Pokemon, much less his own. But he found that he couldn't speak. The whispers were clawing their way into his mind, stirring up that horrific impulse to kill again. He didn't want to kill... or did he? It felt so real, and strong, and the dagger was still right there within reach and he knew he could take out at least one of them before they could properly react... but he didn't want to do it. While Calem tried to convince himself of that, his body shook under the pressure of the struggle in his mind.

    “Calem, snap out of it,” Swift said. She believed in him. There was some doubt in the others... maybe even her as he failed to reply or do anything. Percival seemed to be trying to find that connection again, but this situation where he wasn't alone was making him panic.

    Then a fierce cry broke through Calem's mind, blocking out the whispers entirely. Powerful wings stirred the air and right as the faceless man shouted a curse, there was the thundering sound of a spell striking him down. Finding himself on his knees, Calem looked up to see that the faceless man was pinned beneath black thorns. There were two more Pokemon in this realm of spirits now. One was a figure so imposing that it could be nothing less than a god, the dark raptor of death Yveltal. The other was much smaller; Mortan descended down to join Calem's other Pokemon.

    “Boy, do you desire to cause death?” Yveltal said in a harsh tone that far exceeded the strictest teacher Calem had ever met.

    “No,” Calem said, his voice weak. That didn't feel good enough, so he spoke up, “No, I would never kill, except those voices..”

    “Then it's not your will that would drive you to kill,” Yveltal stated, toning down his strictness some. “You devoted Pokemon have nothing to fear from him. But you do need to fear the will that has tried to overtake his. I've only driven it off temporarily; it lies in his blood and has no source in me, so not even my divine power can free him.”

    “So he could still kill us?” Percival asked, quivering. “But we can't do anything about it because it's even beyond you?”

    “You can help if you have the bravery to stay with him in spite of the danger. This is a battle of wills, after all. Your bonds can strengthen his to fight better.”

    “But why am I fighting this will that wants me to kill even my friends?” Calem asked, calming a little from the struggle. “What is this all about? There's people who know, but they won't even tell me the name of those, those monsters.”

    Yveltal snorted. “Monsters? You're fighting the curse of your bloodline. You, descended from a deadly clan, a family without a homeland, a family that passed down the art of murder, assassins who were feared as little was known about them but their mastery, humans who have killed gods and innocents alike... you were born an Asari even as the name was not bestowed on you. Should you take the life of another, any other, the black markings of the curse will appear on you. If you die marked as such, you will become one of the Asari monsters, just like this one.”

    “That's my family legacy?” Calem asked, feeling like his blood had turned cold. He didn't want to believe it. But, he felt certain that it was the truth. It would be why his father didn't want to talk about it.

    “It is,” the god said. “You are a monster just as much as they are, just not awakened to that power. And yet, you are also a human as much as any of them once were. It is passed from father to son relentlessly. Many generations before you have struggled with this because somewhere far back in the Asari line, there is one whose hatred and cruelty became so powerful that it still overcomes his descendants. It is his will, in the end, that consumes the will of others and will try to consume yours. It is a will so powerful that it even influences my servants.”

    “I didn't realize it until yesterday,” Mortan said, bashfully hiding behind his flower.

    “Shush,” Yveltal said, but with a gentleness that was almost fatherly. “The moment is past; we must deal with the results. Now Calem, I am not all-knowing, nor all-powerful. I know I am vulnerable to the power of the Asari, even if I know not how they took down other gods. But what I know of your situation tells me that as you have found the Asari anklet and one rune, it would be best if you learn about your family's history and abilities. It will give you better grounds to fight the Asari will. And yet in order to learn, you will have to fight the Asari will over and over again, so that you do not kill and get lost to it.”

    “His father wouldn't teach him,” Swift said. “I thought it was nonsense then and it seems worse now to choose ignorance.”

    “Ignorance would work if he still knew nothing at all about it,” Yveltal said. “But not now.”

    “What do you know about my family?” Calem said.

    “Hmph. It may be better for you to learn some things elsewhere. I can tell you about the last Asari I dealt with. Heinrich was once an ordinary boy like you, born in another land. But then he learned that his bloodline was cursed, that the Asari will would drive him to kill someone he loved to break his will, or it would trick him into passing the curse onto his son so they could focus on him until he came to kill his father for choosing what they saw as cowardice. Heinrich decided he wanted none of that and opted to kill himself.

    “That backfired entirely. He was still taking a life but the curse of the Asari bloodline would not let him die until it could fully claim him. Not only did he survive the attempt, but he was driven insane by it, killing off his family and neighbors before regional authorities captured him. But their land was at war with ours, so they chained him up and brought him here, only letting him loose to kill their enemies here.

    “It would have been the end for anyone else, their mind crushed to nothing more than a psychotic killer who viewed the world through a broken will. But when I met him, he was remarkably stable and partially in control of himself. By using his connection to death, he tracked me down as I was beginning to awaken to the war around me and made sure that I stayed asleep. All he asked for in return was the willpower to keep himself from killing anymore, so that he did not end up killing a young woman he was in love with. I told him that if he could keep me asleep when war claimed so much death, then he could keep himself from killing long enough to give himself up to my land's authorities for execution.

    “And that's what he did. Unfortunately, the Asari will was strong enough to protect his unborn child from my notice, so my chance to end the line entirely was missed. And yet... it has come to my notice that his child did not join the Asari upon his death. There are those who escape this curse, even if it forces them to continue it. Isn't that right, Heinrich?”

    At this point, Calem realized that the faceless man, the Asari, had managed to escape the thorns that Yveltal had trapped him in. Even without a proper face, he could tell that his demeanor had changed. Heinrich Asari looked at them silently for a moment, then vanished. For some reason, he was going to leave them be.

    It caused Calem to realize something. “Wait, that's... my great-grandfather?” He found it hard to connect Gran, such a lively and loving person, to this creature that had been so ruthless around him. But the stories matched up far too well.

    “Yes, and he is a good example of how powerful the Asari will can be on both sides,” Yveltal said. “He may be your enemy, but he can be your ally at the same time. I hope this information will be valuable to you. But I should not linger near you too long. Similar powers can resonate; death can awaken death, which I don't want to happen at this time. Mortan, continue to follow Calem for the time being.”

    “Is that all right?” Mortan asked.

    “I know better than to leave any Asari unwatched in my land once I know he's there, especially when he's still unmarked by the curse. And now that you're aware of their will, I believe you are capable of knowing when it's focusing on him again. I trust your judgment for now. Good luck, to all of you, but especially Calem Asari.” Then Yveltal left, simultaneously sending them all out of the realm of spirits.

    It was not as simple as coming over had been, as Calem found himself lying on the ground. The blue-haired woman with the visor was kneeling by him. “Ah, here he comes around,” she said. “I told you it probably wasn't permanent.”

    “Calem, what happened to you?” Shauna asked.

    Before he could say that he wasn't entirely sure, more of what to tell them than what that was all about, the woman said, “Be patient. I hear that unless you're used to such out of body experiences, it's not easy to find your orientation once back in a physical body. Could one of you get him a soda or coffee, or something to make him more alert.”

    “I’ll go do that,” Serena said, going off to find somewhere to buy a drink.

    “I think we should get away from those stones,” Calem said, his voice coming out weaker than he expect. “It's... messing with them could turn out bad, I think.”

    “I wouldn't give such a judgment now,” the woman said. “But given this unusual occurrence, I agree that reanalysis of gathered data is the wisest course for this day. Also, I’d like to ask you some questions about what you experienced once we've taken care of our loss. I believe you know something important to us.”

    It wasn't just her that wanted to ask him questions. The police were already there too, starting to close off the area to figure out what had just happened. Fortunately, once he told them that his experience after the freak lightning bolt was nightmarish, the police officer didn't question him further. Calem thought that was peculiar. Certainly if he hadn't been through it, he would have wanted to know about the person that the faceless man had pointed at and forced into the realm of spirits. The others had seen him, but apparently they hadn't understood him like Calem had.

    “Maybe we should check out of town for now and do something more fun to get your mind off that,” Shauna said once the officer was leaving them.

    “Yeah, it's probably better to forget about it, like any bad dream,” Trevor said.

    Forget? There were parts he'd like to forget but he knew he wouldn't be able to, no matter what he tried. “I don't know if it'd be that easy,” he said.

    “But hey, at least Mortan came back,” Shauna said.

    “Eellii,” Mortan said in a tone of concern. Since he'd been around Trevor's Floette Coco enough, he was better at pretending normalcy.

    “He must've been worried too,” she said.

    However, there was one person who didn't let him go with just that explanation: the Flare woman with the visor. Her name, he found out, was Mable. When he told her that the experience was nightmarish and he didn't want to talk about it, she gave him a long hard look. At least, it seemed that way. It was hard to tell with that visor covering a third of her face.

    “Yeah, so we'll just be leaving town now,” Serena said firmly, trying to get her to listen.

    “No, I would like an explanation of certain abnormalities I’ve recorded,” Mable said. “For instance, at this very moment, there is a force that originates with none of us that is trying to keep us from discussing what Calem saw on the other side. It's quite potent; if my computer did not detect it, I would have fallen for it myself. Another reason I wish to know is that while I was observing you, you showed signs of being in contact with a divine being. If it is connected to this site, I need to know about it for our research into this place's mysteries.”

    “Maybe it's just common courtesy that we don't want to make him talk about whatever was clearly bad over there?” Serena said, annoyed that the scientist was pushing the issue when the police hadn't.

    “Or the divine being might not want him to talk, if they agreed to something,” Trevor pointed out.

    “No, it's another force altogether,” she said. “These numbers don't lie.”

    In hearing their discussion and having some time to cool down (and some coffee to clear his head), Calem had figured out what to say in case of this. “Maybe they don't, but I don't want to tell anyone else about what happened until I can talk with my parents about it. It's a personal problem and I don't want to go into it right now with people I don't know.” Or people that could very well have died today. “And really, don't mess around with this place too much. The stones can stay and look impressive, sure, but doing anything more than that with them will only bring you grief.”

    “That statement will be taken under consideration,” Mable said, then agreed to let them go for the time being.

    When they had got past the field of monoliths to the town of Cyllage, Calem asked to be alone to use his holocaster to call his father. He half-expected him to get angry again, but he told him about all that had happened, even the pushes to kill. Because based on what Yveltal said, he would have dealt with the same pressure.

    But Shawn didn't get angry. Instead, he was worried, putting his hand to his cheek and trying to think of some way out of this. “I see. Yes, we are of the Asari family, but Gran made sure to give us her surname instead. Not that it could change things, but she tried.”

    “Then what else do you know?” Calem asked. “Yveltal seems to think it's more dangerous to avoid knowing now.”

    He bit his lip, then looked down. “Calem... the problem is, you know more than I do now. My grandfather died before my father was born and we're not sure how much he told Gran. And, my father... well, when I was first pushed by the Asari will, he believed he could do something to stop it and left home one day. I missed him a lot and their presence was powerful, but I resisted because of what he'd told me. Then a couple months later, we got word that he'd died in Kalos. The thing is, I already knew because I'd seen his death, like that dream you had last night. One of the Asari spirits murdered him. Whatever he was trying to do to stop them, they didn't let up on me. At least, not until I met Mary and ended up marrying her.”

    “He didn't join the Asari spirits, though,” Calem told him. Still, hearing this made him feel sick.

    “That's good to know,” Shawn said, relieved. “And... don't take this the wrong way, but we never planned on having children, not with knowing what would happen. We took measures not to, and you can guess how well that went. So I don't really know what to do now. Except, I don't want to leave you alone to face this like I had to.”

    For a moment, he felt a strong anger that his father was so incompetent about this. Mortan drifted into the holocaster's field, looking concerned. “Niii,” he said, tapping his head.

    Then he could detect the Asari will now, which really wanted him to hate his dad. “Um, dad?” He was having some trouble looking at the holocaster camera, but he made himself. “I... I appreciate that, but I don't think I should come back home right now. They want to punish you for failing to teach me like they wanted; they want me to kill you.”

    Shawn was quiet, then rubbed his eyes. Was he crying? “I see. Yes, that's probably for the best. We'll need to talk to your teacher sometime before school starts; he might be able to help. Calem, your mother and I love you greatly. If I could do anything to get them disconnected to you, I would. I just don't know what to do now. Oh, but... I suppose I should send that to you.”

    “Send what?” Calem asked, his throat tense as he tried not to be crying either.

    “The cowl. I've never seen the anklet myself, but you have it. The cowl somehow got mailed to your grandfather when he was your age. At least, we think it's the cowl as it's in a locked box that neither of us have been able to open; the Asari spirits seem to be saying that it is. There's one more item, some kind of weapon.”

    “A dagger,” he reminded him.

    Shaun nodded. “Right, the dagger. The last letter I got from your grandfather was about it. He said that his father, Heinrich Asari, did not have a grave. However, he was memorialized somewhere in Kalos and the dagger was located there. Even being here, I'm not sure where he meant. But you've traveled around Kalos, so you might have a better idea of where.”

    “Not really, but I know some people I could ask,” Calem said. “I'm sorry. I don't want to do this, but more than that, I don't want to end up killing you both. I don't want to kill anyone.”

    “I know. But it can be beat Be strong, Calem. And it's not like you'll never hear from us again. We'll keep in contact.”

    “Thank you, Dad.” While he did feel conflicted over how he'd not told him any of this until he'd run into the Asari himself, Calem felt it was more important to remember that he loved them. Dwelling too long on the anger would only lead him to doing something unforgivable..
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2014

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