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The Bonds That Break (PG-13)

Blueysicle

Master Procratinator
Though Miror B. couldn’t see the object anymore, he quickly figured out what it was. It felt like the entire island was about to erupt as sudden tremors began to throw off Miror B.s’ footing. Each quake felt closer and closer until Miror B. turned to face the source. It leaped off one of the several cliffs about and landed a few yards away from Miror B.. The surrounding earth cracked and shattered at the impact, and Miror B. finally lost his balance at the shock wave beneath his feet.

However, he quickly regained his firm stance and got the chance to behold the monstrous Pokemon before him. It was a stout, reptilian beast that seemed to be the host for a tropical plant. Even when on all fours, it could glare at Miror B. with bright red eyes without having to look up or down. Its mouth was just as wide as his head, from which a deafening bellow erupted. The Pokemon rustled the plant on its back violently and pugnaciously. The plant itself was a large flowering variety, composed of square, pink petals sprouting from a round trunk with giant, rectangular leaves surrounding it.

It wasn't long after the Venusaur made its appearance did the elevator open its doors for someone else. Terran came staggering out with his right arm wrapped around his chest. "I told you... that... I won't let you... leave this island..." His voice was shaking just as much as his body, sounding labored. Despite the weakness that his voice held, his tone was strong enough in anger to make up for it.

"You're still conscious? Wow. I have to say, I'm honestly surprised. Still, no doubt I broke a rib or two." Miror B. said with his hand on his hip.

He then looked back at the Venusaur, his blue eyes ablaze with wonder and admiration. "But I love your choice of Pokemon! I mean, Grass-types are an instant recipe for grooviness! Though..." Miror B. scanned the area around Terran, disappointedly confused. "...don't tell me this is the only Pokemon you brought with you?"

Terran chuckled humorlessly, "One Pokemon... is all I need to stop you."

"Awfully overconfident aren't we?" Miror B.s’ awe over Terrans’ Venusaur quickly faded. He returned the laugh, reached for all six Poke Balls, and placed them between his fingers. "Personally, I don't feel like waiting for a bunch of peons that are too weak to be any fun to arrive. But I suppose I can play with you for a little while."

Miror B. hit the button on the Poke Balls with the side of his fingers, enlarging them. Since he had written the names of each Pokemon, except Kiki, on the capsules, all he needed to do was glance at them to know which five to toss in front of the Venusaur and which one to hold back for a second.

Even when his five Ludicolo burst out of their Poke Balls, they continued spinning in the same manner the capsules did in mid-air. They rotated in the air as if doing a cannonball during a synchronized swimming act. Only when the rocky earth was threatening them with natural daggers, the Ludicolo seemed to sense its approach and straightened their legs. They didn't stay on the ground for long before they were back in the air again. All five of them bounced off the ground and made a frontward flip in unison, landing firmly in front of the Venusaur with their right hands stretched out towards it. "Luu di!"

Miror B. didn't bother tossing the sixth Poke Ball along with the Ludicolo, but rather let the energy form by his side. The moment Kiki grew conscious again, she spotted the Venusaur and was like an internal fire was ignited. Her claws began clicking in rapid succession. She thrust them forward and drew them back several times, all while emitting a rough hiss in order to make herself look even more threatening.

Miror B. slid himself in front of Kiki before she had the chance to jump in the fray. "Oh no, little one. You may have that boundless energy, but you're no where near ready to fight!"

She still was quite set on fighting, as she scuttled back and forth, stretching her legs upwards in a vain attempt to elevate herself closer to Miror B.s’ height. Kikis’ protesting pincer snapping and pumped movements certainly had the energy and the ambition, but it was evident to Miror B. that it lacked the power he needed at the moment.

"You just stand by and watch how it's done, okay?"

Seeing the Krabby control her violent impulses, although reluctantly, Miror B. turned back to the issue at hand. Terran was still trembling at the throbbing pain in his chest, but he seemed to be just as fired up as Kiki. Although in a different way. "You coward! You're too afraid that you'll lose that you can't battle me one-on-one?!" His words suggested that they were meant for yelling, but instead came out in the form of a furious growl whose volume was weakened through his grit teeth.

Miror B. barely heard his pathetic show of anger. But once he was able to make it out, his already abysmal approval of Terran plummeted further. "So wait... You're an admin of Cipher, and yet you're ranting about cheating?" Once Miror B. was able to control his laughter, he shot forward a mischievous grin. "Sorry, but I don't play fair."

Miror B. could tell the Ludicolo could barely contain themselves; he could feel their overflowing vigor even from a distance. Soon, Miror B. found he couldn't keep back his excitement either. He twirled around jubilantly, halting suddenly with his finger pointed at the Venusaur. "I feel a tiny bit guilty doing this to such a gorgeous Pokemon. But Lulu? Didi? Give that lovely thing a taste of your Bullet Seed!"

The two female Ludicolo hopped forward and reached for the thick brown husk attached to their lotus hat, so precise of each other it was as if their minds were connected. After sticking their hands inside it, both of them pulled out a cluster of minute, pointed seeds. Popping them in their mouths like candy, Lulu and Didi heaved a huge breath from their nostrils. Giving each other some distance quickly as they still inhaled air, they positioned themselves facing the Venusaur in a flank formation. Instead of exhaling the way the oxygen came, Lulu and Didi used it to spit out the seeds like machine guns.

Most of the seeds bounced off the Venusaurs’ warty skin. Yet, some of them were able to sink in, though not too deeply. It took a little over a minute for Lulus’ and Didis’ supply of seeds to be depleted.

Once the barrage had ended, a deep roar matching the volume of a volcanic eruption exploded out of the Venusaur. The growls mixed in with it indicated fury and annoyance, as opposed to agonizing shrieks.

The Venusaur stomped its two forelegs wildly, shaking off any of the seeds that poked in its skin. Once the stomps had been calmed, the pinnately lobed leaves stretched and bent itself like extra limbs. They pulled themselves back and like a ballista, launched a flurry of sickle-shaped leaflets.

Lulu and Didi took the brunt of most of them, though some of the other three were hit as well. Despite the Ludicolos’ constant movements, they were unable to dodge the majority of the leaves. Miror B. saw their beautiful coats sliced off in places, making it horribly uneven as a whole. Not only that, but the cuts inflicted began to show up, creating a disgusting combination of scarlet and two shades of golden brown.

One would think that Miror B. would've been overcome with rage seeing the "ideal Pokemon" dishonored in such a way. Though that emotion was rare, it certainly wasn't impossible. But knowing his Ludicolos’ abilities and having complete trust in them, all he did was smile.

Miror B. felt like he was looking at his reflection, seeing Terran unimpressed with him. "Five-on-one or not, you'll never beat me using weak attacks like that!" He glanced at his Venusaur, who wasn't at all threatened either. "Raff, show him what I mean. Frenzy Plant!"

Miror B. looked into the Venusaurs’ eyes and saw his pupils shrink until they became difficult to see. He reared up, making himself look even more massive and monstrous. Sounding like a vicious beast ambushing its prey from the bushes, two giant vines burst out from under Raff’s leaves. Just as the leaves were similar to extra limbs, the pale green vines armored with thick thorns appeared to be additional heads. They loomed over Raff's head like two great serpents, arched over with their broad tips focused on the Ludicolo.

The towering monster slowly tipped forward at first, but picked up speed as he descended to the ground. Both Miror B. and the Ludicolo felt double tremors; first when Raff's feet slammed into the earth, and then an even greater one when the two vines crashed and bore into the solid layer of rock. They tunneled through the ground almost endlessly, giving Miror B. and the quintet a true perspective of how long they really were. The thorns turned the vines into drills, slicing and breaking down rock as they advanced into the earth.

All of Raff's opponents surveyed the ground in confusion after they regained their balance from the tremors. They weren't stupid. They knew the vines were under their feet and that they would erupt below them at any moment. They just didn't know where it would happen. Miror B. was clueless about it as well. Even Kiki searched for where the vines might strike from behind Miror B..

For a moment, everything was silent. The bubbling from the crater could clearly be heard from the foot of the volcano. The wind howled behind Miror B. and the Ludicolo, whispering ominously. The tune was grim and hollow. It was the kind of music they abhorred, yet anticipated.

In ways good and bad, the silence didn't last.

The loose pebbles clattered close to Luco milliseconds before the silence shattered. Miror B. saw a flash of dreadful realization in his wide eyes, something he though was nonexistent in Ludicolo. His species was the definition of "the bright side", and knowing that escape was impossible and pain was inevitable was unlike them.

The rock beneath Luco exploded as one vine burst through. The rounded tip of the vine missed, but the thorns hooked into Lucos' flesh, dragging him up with the plant. The young Ludicolo struggled to break free, which only made the spikes to deeper. Even if he could escape, the drop would be a long one. And it was only getting longer.

A second explosion suddenly boomed in Miror B.s’ ears. The other vine sped at Luco at a forty-five degree angle like the earth wasn't an obstacle at all. This time, the head of the vine connected, bashing into Lucos’ stomach. The impact ripped Luco from the thorns, inducing an unworldly shriek of anguish. It was abruptly silenced when the vice forced him into the solid rock wall. The scream was suddenly replaced with a gurgling cough that created a sick feeling in Miror B.s’ stomach.

Miror B. took his eyes off Luco, though only briefly. They wandered over to Terran, seeing not a similar emotion to what Miror B. felt, but an indifferent one.

His stomach only got sicker.

It didn't even take an order for the other Ludicolo to spring to the foot of the cliff as Luco tumbled down. Just in the nick of time, Luco landed in the adults' hands before he could hit the ground.

They gently lowered their arms, setting Luco down. Lulu held his head in one hand with her other on his heart. Miror B. couldn't hear her speak to her son, as her whispers were too soft. The other three were just as concerned, as they stood around Luco in a circle with part of their senses focused on Raff.

And for good reason too. While the false impression was given that the Ludicolo were only paying attention to their comrade, Raff took the opportunity to strike. A single vine shot towards Didi, Coco, and Lolo while they were partially preoccupied.

Didi and Lolo sensed the oncoming attack immediately. Both of their cheeks appeared to inflate like balloons, swelling with water that they had stored in their bodies. When their mouths were filled to its capacity, they were forced to expel it in the form of a torrent that appeared to be the aqueous twin of Raffs' vines.

But in a contest of power, the Frenzy Plant easily won over the Hydro Pumps. The vine effortlessly crashed through both of the Ludicolos' attacks, reducing them to nothing but a sparkling, scattered cloud of dewdrops.

The vine missed Didi and Lolo, though it seemed to be on purpose. Coco, being slow to react to danger, was only starting to prepare his attack when Raff struck him in the side. Like Luco before him, one of the vine' teeth caught onto his skin, dragging him across the sharp ground. When the vine stretched as far as it could, it twisted itself to pin Coco to the earth with the rocks poking at his stomach.

The situation appeared to create a dilemma for Lulu. She appeared to be torn between staying at Lucos' side, or trying to free her mate from the spiky prison. She swiveled her head frantically between Coco, her teammates, and Luco. Uncertainty spreading through her, she turned to Miror B., pleading for advice.

Miror B. thought about it quickly, knowing time was precious. He gave Lulu his orders by pointing his finger at Luco. Lolo and Didi were right there by Coco. If Lulu left to help them, who would be by Lucos' side?

Didi and Lolo read Miror B.s’ hand signals and didn't waste a second in trying to rescue Coco. They sped towards him with their retractable claws visible and held in the air.

As fast as a bullet and with the power of a giant fist, the second vine punched into Didi, forcing her to slam into Lolo. The swift jab acted like the spring in a pinball machine; it sent both Ludicolo flying past Miror B. and the boat. Like the way the boat made the trip to the island, Didi and Lolo skipped across the water like pebbles.

Coco watched it all happen helplessly. Unlike Luco, he knew that trying to escape on his own would only make things worse, so he instead remained motionless. But that still couldn't have made his situation feel any better.

Miror B. could also feel pangs of guilt during the entire scene. He knew he had a vicious kick that could easily injure another person with little effort. But that still in no way could amount to a Pokemon’s power. Therefore, aside from giving orders, there wasn't much he could do during a battle.

The vine that struck Didi and Lolo slithered back to Raff, disappearing under his leaves. The other one that was holding Coco in place began to snap back too. As it retreated, the thorns dashed against Cocos’ skin, shredding down and flesh, and spun his in place. After the vine was hidden from view, Coco remained still as if he were still immobilized. He took short, raspy breaths, restraining a painful moan in the process.

Miror B. surveyed the carnage around him. The scene was something that he expected the other side to be in. Two were barely hanging on by a thread, two more he couldn't even see, and only one was for the most part unscathed.

Miror B. knew better than anybody how resilient Ludicolo were.

But despite his faith in them, he couldn't help but harbor resentment towards him enemy.

Miror B. took his focus off of the grim bloodshed and decided to do something about it. "Lulu! Is Luco going to be okay?" Lulu nodded and squeaked in response with actual confirmation, not denial. Trusting her, Miror B. tilted his head at the rock wall. "Sit him up over there."

As Lulu did as he said, Miror B. saw Coco sit up on his own initiative. He doubted that Coco heard him speak to Lulu. Coco wasn’t a very attentive one, always in the midst of a daydream, even in battles.

Still, the slow-to-react Ludicolo cringed at every movement, despite his gingerly actions. Most of his energy gone, Coco sat up with his head lowered. Though the slight twitches inching his head upward suggested a will to continue.

Confidence in Lulu, Coco, and Luco, Miror B. turned to the part of the sea were Didi and Lolo blasted into. He called their names. His yell echoed in the breeze with no response. For a few seconds, Miror B.s’ heart was sucked further up his throat with each breath.

His briefly irregular breathing calmed down when two spouts of water spat up from the horizon. Miror B. knew in the back of his mind that Didi and Lolo were perfectly fine. Being sent into their own element, he knew no harm could come from that.

Miror B.s’ Ludicolo weren't the only ones who were exhausted. Raff himself was out of breath. His gargantuan mouth hung open, blasting deep, putrid breaths from the dark, internal cave. The stench was carried to Miror B. and his eyes were forced to expel tears when it met his nose. It seemed that even the Venusaur’s odor leaked poison, as Miror B. gagged when the sharp smell hung in the air around him.

Raff’s short legs began to give way to the lack of energy. They collapsed under the great pressure, causing the great monster to lie on his stomach.

Miror B. smirked cleverly. The extreme energy that Raff used to pull off Frenzy Plant exploited a weakness that Miror B. was more than happy to use to his advantage. Knowing that a Venusaur couldn’t lay on its stomach for long due to its girth, he realized he had a limited amount of time. But he still had more than enough to stall.

“You underestimated me, didn’t you?” Terran smiled, boosting his own ego. Ironically, he was also helping Miror B. along with his plan.

“Actually, yes,” Miror B. had no issue with admitting. His words began to flow from that point on, like there was no detours or roadblocks between his mind and mouth, “You didn’t think I knew that Bullet Seed was a weak attack? My posse is capable of far more than that. But what fun is using their most powerful move right off the bat? There’s no enjoyment in ending a battle a minute after it started!”

“Using such a weak attack is just part of the way I like to fight. The way it usually works is that while we’re using the least of our ability, my opponent will be using the most of their ability. But no matter how hard they try, they still can’t come close to having an inkling of a chance of beating me! To me, there are few more priceless sights than that!”

“Though... After seeing what your Venusaur did to my Ludicolo...” Miror B. looked at the bloodshed again. The sight of his pride and joy covered in crimson caused him to undergo an unusual change. His face contorted in a way that his nature tried to resist. But it was no use. His teeth pressed together in the manner that was opposite to the way he usually did. His eyebrows crunched up like the way the rest of his face did. The look he gave Terran was no longer one of mocking pity, but of pure seriousness.

“I’m done playing with you!”

Terran sensed the rage in his voice, beginning to back up. Miror B. thought that at least he wasn’t so much of a fool as to think was joking. Because Miror B. intended to show him what happens when he stopped clowning around.

But in order to do so, Miror B. knew his Ludicolo needed energy. And the perfect way to get that was right in their grasp. “Lulu! Rain Dance!”

A glimmer of the excitement that would come from showing off her skills shone in Lulu’s eyes. She lifted up one of her stumpy legs and brought it back down quickly. The same was done for the other one. The motion was repeated several times. The down shaking and the rapid stomping of her feet became an allusion to the pitter-patter of rain. Lulu’s energy pulsed upwards into the clouds. The more heart Lulu put into the routine, the thicker the airborne moisture became.

Terran sensed it. Miror B. sensed it. Raff felt it coming as well. The half-unconscious Ludicolo also anticipated it. The two trainers and the Venusaur lifted their heads and stared at the sky. Lulu’s mimicry of raindrops echoed in their ears as they waited for the real thing.

Lulu stopped. Her two arms shot straight out like lightening.

And then the thunder clapped.

The time between the boom and the downpour was almost nonexistent. Billions of droplets drenched the dry island. Plumes of steam paired with a hiss were created by the barrage on the lava.

The giant, globular mass of hair on Miror B.s’ head absorbed the rain like a sponge, causing it to become even heavier. But he didn’t really pay attention to that. The cool water carrying a fresh scent was refreshing as opposed to the bone-dry heat.

Miror B., however, wasn’t the only one feeling refreshed.

Terran brought his head back down from directly facing the rain. He wiped his face dry, though it became a futile effort within a few seconds. Water dripped down from stray strands of hair in his face, so he brushed them away from his eyes.

That’s when they widened from shock.

Miror B. could see it happen from behind, so he naturally assumed Terran had an even better view. They both saw the blood on Lucos’ and Cocos’ down wash away like watercolors. However, there was no more being expelled. Even more to Terrans’ surprise, the gashes in their skin was beginning to scab over right in front of him.

As the Ludicolo shakily lifted themselves both onto their feet and in consciousness, Miror B. grinned. “Don’t tell me you don’t know what happens to a Ludicolo in the rain! Well! I’ll have you know that they are fabulous healers!” His brags were timed perfectly; the rainwater collected in the Ludicolos’ hats, but was quickly soaked up to be used for strength. Before long, both of them were able to look Raff square in the eye like they did at the beginning of the battle.

Miror B.s’ plan came together quickly. Both he and Terran heard Didis’ and Lolos’ determined cries and glanced in their direction. The twin Ludicolo swiftly sped towards shore using the butterfly stroke. Their arms rotated through the water at a speed where they appeared as a green blur. Behind their rapid kicks were not only blasts of water being shot up by their legs, but a growing wave rolling behind them.

Once close enough to shore, Lolo and Didi leapt straight up out of the ocean. The Rain Dance-powered wave pulled itself up with them. The Ludicolo landed on top of the wave like it was a solid surface. They rode it towards shore at an accelerating speed and increasing height with a surfer's stance.

"Lulu! Get an Ice Beam ready!" Miror B. ordered swiftly as the wave drew closer.

Precipitation filled the air, both in the form of rain and haste. The generated tidal wave approached the battlefield rapidly. Realizing that everything had to be timed perfectly, Lulus’ cheeks quickly inflated like Didis’ and Lolos’ did earlier. Her breaths were visible and thin, caused by her falling body temperature.

Even Terran and Raff were quick in their actions. Per Terrans’ orders, Raff reared up on his hind legs again with the vines prepared for attack. The futile intent, as Miror B. saw it, was to counter the Surf technique with his Frenzy Plant.

Both the twin Ludicolo and the Venusaur braced themselves for impact. Like it was at Didi and Lolo's will, the wave dove down at Raff. The mass of water crashed down on him as if a liquid-filled bomb struck him. The mist that was caused by the blast obscured Miror B.s’ view of the action.

Lulu opened her mouth and shot the shining, whitish blue ray into the mist. Though he couldn't see what was going on, Miror B. could hear the light crackling of the water turning to ice. Eventually, he could see the waves freezing in place even as they were still moving. When the mist cleared, Miror B. gazed at the end result: a sparkling piece of scenery composed of slippery slopes and curves as well as jagged icicles that made the rocks look dull.

In the middle of the uneven sheet of ice, Raff was locked in place by frozen shackles. He struggled and squirmed to get free, but his legs were too deep into the ice. In addition large icicles jabbed at Raff's skin from all angles, immobilizing him further. Even his vines were covered in a layer of frost, frozen stiff.

Though Lulu's breaths were deep and just starting to become invisible again, she kept her body moving using several dance steps that she had learned. Though exhausting herself further when she was clearly tired might've appeared foolish, Miror B. knew otherwise. Being a non-Ice-type, Lulu's body wasn't made for such frigid attacks. Therefore, unless she wanted her heart to stop, she needed to make sure her body temperature wasn't low for long.

Didi and Lolo slid off the ice, spinning across it in the process. Though they couldn't heal themselves in the same manner as Luco and Coco could, they still were the most able-bodied Ludicolo at the moment. They bounced back and forth between feet, itching to jump back into the action.

Miror B. didn’t hesitate to give them what they wanted. “Coco and Luco need energy! I need you two to carry them over to the Venusaur! Lulu, you just stay put and rest for a moment, darling.”

Lulu nodded, not terribly disappointed to stand by for the moment as she jogged in place.

Didi and Lolo hopped over to Coco and Luco, urging them to get on their backs with encouraging squeaks. Their hands acting as leverage, Didi and Lolo hoisted father and son onto their shoulders with great care.

Before they dashed off, Miror B. quickly spoke to them with a smile, “Now you’re sure you’re up to it?”

Coco and Luco gingerly looked at their trainer, still reeling from the Frenzy Plant. But despite their condition, their optimism hadn’t disappeared a bit. They returned the grin with their thumbs held up. “Co lo!”

Miror B. felt their high spirits reach him. Their cheerfulness was just what he needed to get back into his regular attitude. The anger he previously had dissolved, indicated by the widening of his smile. “All right! Let’s do this!”

At a moments notice, Didi and Lolo sprang back onto the fluted ice rink. With Coco and Luco hanging on by their caps, they skated across the ice with both grace and speed. Flawlessly dodging the areas with icy stalagmites and sliding up the frozen waves, the trip to Raff didn’t take long. The twin split up as they approached the Venusaur, stopping at opposite sides. Lolo halted abruptly with an impish snicker, deliberately causing ice and slush to fly into Terrans’ face.

Unimpressed and irate, Terran flung the slush off him with his hand. He scowled at the Ludicolo, but the look turned confused as Luco and Coco protracted their claws. “What the...”

Though Miror B. saw that they had a good idea of what the next step in the plan was, he couldn’t help but to shout out the order, “Now! Giga Drain!”

Luco and Coco thrust their claws into Raff, much to his protest. But he didn’t squirm and roar inside his frozen prison for long. A fluorescent green aura appeared around Luco and Cocos’ hands. Rings of the same color pulsed into them from across Raff’s body. The energy could be seen traveling up Lucos’ and Cocos’ arms and spreading through their own bodies. With every pulse, they became more vigorous and robust. The wounds they had received earlier were healing at an even faster rate until they disappeared completely. Over time, they looked like they had just entered the battle.

The Giga Drain was having the opposite effect on Raff, however. The pulses entering the Ludicolo was his own energy leaving him. The tropical plant on his back began to wither; the fresh green leaves became a crisp, dry brown, and the petals of the bright pink flower began to droop. Raff’s blue-green skin was also deprived of nutrients, as it turned to a sickly pale yellow. The Venusaur became devoid of health, as his breaths were as ragged as Terrans' and he hung limply in his prison, not even making an attempt to escape.

Terran stood by in horror, watching his Pokemon being drained of all his liveliness. He grit his teeth in the same manner as Miror B. did and hissed, "Dammit! Stop... Stop it! You... can't face me head on?!"

Due to the spirits he saw in his Ludicolo, Miror B. found it in himself to laugh at Terran again, "Hypocrite! Weren't you the one to have your Venusaur immobilize my Ludicolo?"

Terran only got angrier at the comment. With violent intentions, he attempted to rush at Miror B.. But he didn't get far. Instead of moving forward, he stayed in one spot as he began to lose his balance. When he regained his posture after flailing his free arm, he looked down and saw way. The Surf and Ice Beam combination not only froze Raff in place, but it also bound his feet to the ground.

Once Coco and Luco were done with their vampirish attack, they leaped off Didis' and Lolo's backs, not needing the physical support anymore. Acting like they were never attacked by the Frenzy Plant, Coco and Luco glided back to Miror B. with their comrades.

The entire squad of Ludicolo stood before Miror B., anxious to fight again. Lucos' and Cocos' wounds were fully healed thanks to Raff, and Lulu's body was back to normal after the Ice Beam. Everyone in full health and spirits again gave them the drive to win the battle.

That contagious feeling took effect on Miror B. as well. As if he was a Ludicolo himself, the rain gave him the energy to aim for victory and think of nothing else. "I hope you guys are as pumped and ready as I am!"

The Ludicolo all responded with shout of gusto. Unable to hold themselves in, all five of them forced water to well up in their mouths in preparation for a combined Hydro Pump.

Sensing the oncoming attack, Terran urged Raff to take action as well, "Raff! Quick! Break yourself out of there!"

But all Terran received was an ailing moan. His eyes barely open, Raff just stared at the Ludicolo, aware of his impending doom. Miror B. could see in his fatigued eyes and his drawn-out, obstinate groans that he didn't want to give up so easily. But there really wasn't any other choice.

Their mouths pushing the limit to how much water they could hold, short stream began to spurt out of the Ludicolos' bills. Miror B. shot his finger at Raff and shouted his cheerful order before the water capacity was exceeded, "Hydro Pump!"

Before the aqueous explosion came, Miror B. heard a terrified curse come out of Terran.

Carrying the speed and force of a cannonball, the five torrents fused into one and shot at Raff. One giant burst of water held enough force to punch through the solid ice when the tropical monster couldn't. Within a blink of an eye, the frozen shackles shattered like glass. The rush of water broke Raff out of his prison, only for him to be trapped again. The Venusaur was pressed into the rock wall, causing parts of it to fracture at the impact. For an amount of time that felt longer than it really was, Raff was pinned between the stone and the pressured water, any of the screams he might've made being muffled out by the torrent. The Ludicolos' supply of water constantly being replenished by the rain, the combined Hydro Pump didn't let up for a long time.

When the Ludicolo finally eased up on their attack, it wasn't because they were exhausted. Rather, it was because they evidently grew bored. Raff was no longer any fun in his near-unconscious state, the quintet unanimously decided to end the battle.

The remains of the powered-down Hydro Pump splashing to the ground, Raff was once again visible. He crashed back to the ground, lying motionless on his stomach in a red, diluted puddle. Streams of the same color trickled down from all over his body.

“RAFF!” Terran, to Miror B.s' surprise, screamed in the most horrified and worried manner. He desperately struggled and squirmed to free his feet as if the Hydro Pump was turning on him. But instead of breaking his feet out of the ice, he unintentionally pulled himself out of his boots. Slamming on his chest, an agonizing holler erupted from him on impact. Even though his injury kept him immobilized, Terran still tried to reach to Raff in some form. “Raff... Say something!”

Raff grunted weakly in order to assuage Terrans' fears, but was still as immobile as his trainer was. Even the will to fight was gone; he never had so much as a whim to stand up as he slipped into unconsciousness.

While the opposite side was struggling to hang on and defeat the pain, Miror B. and his Ludicolo couldn’t be any different. All five Ludicolo danced with joy, the sensation of victory energizing them. They sang a brief, sunny tune together as their way of rewarding themselves. Even Miror B. couldn’t hold himself back in their celebration. He took it upon himself to join in on the congratulations. Laughing ecstatically, he rubbed the two nearest Ludicolos’ caps with his knuckles in a friendly way.

“B*****D!”

Miror B. stopped celebrating for a moment to turn to Terran. While the warmth among Miror B.s' team was growing, the animosity in Terran also grew. Anger radiated from the vindictive admin after having salt rubbed into his wounds in such a way. He struggled to his feet on his wobbly legs. Terran once again appeared to have that aggressive drive set on tearing Miror B. limb from limb. Foolishly and vehemently, he started to run at his opponent, defying physical limitations and vengeance flaring in his eyes.

But no sooner had he got up was he back to ground. Not learning the first time, Terran slipped on the ice and hit his chest against it again. The same howl burst from him, this time, paired with tears forcing their way out of his eyes.

“Tsk. You’ll just kill yourself by doing that. Miror B. chuckled at his patheticness, seeing no threat in him, “But I wouldn’t worry too much! I’m sure somebody will come by before you die of blood loss!”

Miror B. joyfully returned his Ludicolo to their Poke Balls, immensely proud of them. Though there were points in the battle where he had reached his boiling point, the end result was more than enough to make him happy again.

He reached for Kiki's Poke Ball as he snickered at her condition. The Krabby was tipped over on her back, claws and legs outstretched, and a mass of bubbles spitting out of her mouth. The poor thing! The excitement of the battle must’ve been too much for her! Miror B. sent her back into the comfort of her capsule, not even having to step foot into battle to faint.

Once all of his Pokemon were back into their Poke Balls, Miror B. held his hand up to Terran, waved, and smiled. “Later!”

Ignoring Terrans’ demands that he stop, Miror B. cheerfully jogged to the boat. Miror B. really didn’t feel like going back for him. And even if he did, Terran would just kill him afterwards anyway.

Unlike most of his enemies, the peon in the boat was incredibly compliant to Miror B.s' order, and he never even had to say anything. The peon begged Miror B. not to hurt him before hurling himself into the ocean.

The boat that he admired from the start all to himself now, Miror B. jumped in and started it up. The timing, Miror B. figured, was perfect. The rain was gradually stopping and before long, the island would become hot again. After seeing Terrans' stamina, he probably would have done a number to Miror B. if the ice wasn’t an obstacle, which would’ve been the case had he stayed there much longer.

Once the boat warmed up, Miror B. didn’t waste a second in speeding off away from the horribly bleak island. The two things he couldn’t stand, depression and heat, were embodied into the hunk of rock to the extreme. For all Miror B. cared, he wouldn’t mind never having to go there again.

Miror B., as eager as he was to get back to Gateon Port, zipped across the ocean as fast as the boat could handle. A sense of exhilaration came from the dangerously fast speeds he was going. His foot didn't lift up a bit from the tight hold it had against the pedal for the longest time. If it wasn't for his sunglasses, he was sure that the wind slashing at his face and the mist flying up from the surface would've made it hard to keep his eyes open. The roaring sound of the engine filled his ears...

...as well as something else.

Through most of the return trip, Miror B. kept hearing a strange sound that he perceived as something rolling and hitting the walls of the boat. He initially ignored it and went on with his joyride. But eventually, the continuous sound became too annoying to bear any longer.

Miror B. finally gave in and slowed down the boat. He figured that he was far enough away from Citadark Isle to no longer be in danger of Cipher peons. When the boat came to a full stop, he searched the floor for whatever was making that excruciating noise. There wasn't much stored on the boat as far as he could see when he first got on, so he couldn't imagine what on earth it was. The waves rolling past raised and lowered the boat in a constant rhythm. The motions caused the noise to continue, and in the silence, helped Miror B. find its location.

Eventually, he saw the object roll towards him, hitting his feet. The source of the noise turned out to be nothing more than a stray Poke Ball. “Ah. It must’ve slipped off my belt.” Not seeing it as a big deal anymore, he picked up the Poke Ball and tried to reattach it to his belt.

The confusion started when Miror B. found that there was no free room on his belt.

Raising an eyebrow, Miror B., thinking that he had to be imagining things, counted the Poke Balls on his waist. There was no mistake about it, though. He possessed six Poke Balls attached to him, and then there was that one in his hand. The only thing Miror B. could think of about its origin was that the peon driving the boat dropped it in his haste.

A cheerful smile quickly formed and gave way to an equally delighted laugh. The day just had to have been made for him. First he got Kiki, then he got to show off his skills as a trainer, which was always fun. And now a Poke Ball just appeared before him like fate left it there on purpose. Miror B. was tempted to open up the Poke Ball to see its contents, but decided against it. He had no idea whether it was a Pokemon that he could easily picture himself with, or one that could sink the boat in an instant. But the mystery of it just made the situation even more fun.

Slipping the newly found Poke Ball into a pocket in his vest, Miror B. had no qualms about waiting until later to see the Pokemons’ identity. After all, if the saying about seeing a red sunset had any truth to it, then waiting wasn’t too bad of an idea to him.


The hell... A Cipher Admin that cares about his Pokemon!? When will the blasphamy end?!

Master Blastoise: Thank you! Heh, though I got to say I never expected my fic to be a source of inspiration for anything. ^_^

And you're on the list~
 
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Blueysicle

Master Procratinator
TGB: Miror B. was kickass to begin with. D:

But I'm really glad that you enjoyed the battle. I was honestly afraid I didn't do it right, it being the first real battle of the fic. (Unless you count me skimming the Michael vs. Greevil/Michael vs. Eldes fights. And Ardos vs. Zook could barely be considered a battle.) So hopefully, I won't be so nervous to do the more epic fights in the future, especially the Admin battles.
 
Blueysicle, this was such a great chapter. A few highlights.

"Yes, but the sea around it isn't dangerous anymore. All the computers and machines are broken, except for the elevators."

"Whoa... wait. You're saying that a machine made all those awful storms?!" Miror B. leaned forward, with a hint of disbelief in his eyes that began to sparkle like his glittery sunglasses. When the peon nodded his head, Miror B. couldn't help but shout out in amazement, "Awesome! That's so cool! And it's genius too! Looks like Cipher wasn't as stupid as I thought! Though... of course, that little brat managed to find his way there and kick the crap out of your former boss..."

This part is a nice discription of how many people got to Citadark isle even after the second Shadow incident (I just can't believe it didn't became a well known fact a machine made those waves after Cipher was beaten).

the volcanoes' crater and the orange rivers draining it. But it wasn't the deadly coastline nor the flames bursting out of the lava that caught Miror B.s’ eyes. Rather, it was the shining, silver globe sitting above the crater, reflecting the blazing light erupting below it. "Holy crap! That looks like... like..."

An irritated, annoyed sigh burst out of the peon's mouth, as if he was hinting at hidden desires to inflict bodily harm upon Miror B., "A disco ball?"

"Yes!" Miror B.s’ optimistically predictable nature caused the peon to hit it on the spot. "Damn! Not only have you guys gotten smarter after the first Shadow Incident, but you've gotten more fashionable too! I mean, look at that! That's pure artistic brillance right there!"

LOL A disco ball(it should be painted red at one side),really This part was IMO one of the best of the whole fic so far.

"By the way," the peon suddenly interrupted the thrill that thinking about future events gave Miror B., "Everything that's about to happen is to remain confidential."

"And if I don't...?"

"I'll hunt you down and kill you."

Nice conversation to be in.(sacasm)

"What's your number?"

"Twenty-two, sir."

Miror B. heard the man swear quickly to himself before continuing in a slightly harsher tone, "Where the hell is seventeen? Because you are certainly not the peon I sent."

In my fic I had the exact same idea for numbers(security reasons). I mean does there is anyone that could remember something like 100 names?

"And of course, you'll have your choice of any Shadow Pokemon you help us produce." Terran continued his offer, evidently confident that he had just sealed the deal.

But on the contrary, it did just the opposite. "Shadow Pokemon? As in the singular form?"

Terran gave a short sigh, "Alright, two Shadow Pokemon."

Miror B. didn't show any signs of being impressed at Terrans’ negotiation.

"Then three!"

The silence still didn't break.

Terran stepped back a few paces, negatively amazed at Miror B.s’ suddenly unimpressionable attitude. He finally burst out, releasing the annoyance he kept pent up, "The hell... How many Shadow Pokemon do you want?!"

"Quite a few, actually." Miror B. answered, grinning even though he was awfully disappointed.

More than three Shadow Pokemon only Eldes and Greevil had that amount. They must make an awful lot of them.

Without a seconds’ warning, Miror B. put that fast-motion skills he had disciplined his lanky body into handling to a more violent use. He suddenly dropped himself to the floor, landing on his right hand. Before Twenty-Two had a fraction of a second to react, Miror B. spun himself using his hand as an axis and switching between his left at just the right moment. His legs were outstretched and hooked Twenty-two into the spinning trap. Terran didn’t have much time to respond either, as Miror B. released Twenty-two with just as much force as he caught him in the trap in the first place. Twenty-two was flung at Terran hard enough to send both of them a considerable distance away and to force a red cough to spurt out of Terrans’ mouth.

Once Miror B. slowed the spinning down a notch, he jumped back onto his feet. The dizziness factor didn’t amount to much; his body was used to routines of that sort.

So that's why folly and Trudly are afraid of Miror B. He just uses this move on Trudly and sends them both flying of the lighthouse.

The battle was the best part but at a few times I lost track of what name was which Ludicolo.

I wonder what pokemon is in that seventh Poke ball.

Conclusion: It was really worth the waiting and i'm really going to wait again.
;009;;009;;009;
 
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Blueysicle

Master Procratinator
Master Blastoise:

In my fic I had the exact same idea for numbers(security reasons). I mean does there is anyone that could remember something like 100 names?

True. It would be kinda hard for me to come up with names for every god damn Cipher peon that appears only once or twice- I mean for Terran to remember them all. XP

Though, the truth is Terran actually doesn't have a lot of peons. When Cipher disbanded a year prior to the storyline, Ardos managed to only get a relative few to come with him. So not only is there a shortage of Shadow Pokemon, but a shortage of recruits as well.

But geez, calling somebody by a number? Lot of people or not, that does seem kinda insulting. I mean can you imagine how those peons must feel? Sorta of dehumanized and considered a tool rather than a person, don't ya think?

Nope. I'm not shamelessy hinting at anything. Not at all.

More than three Shadow Pokemon only Eldes and Greevil had that amount. They must make an awful lot of them.

They may have in XD, but Michael snagged them all. Terran mentioned that they only have about fifteen at the moment in Chapter Four, remember? Hence why he's so stressed out.

So that's why folly and Trudly aren't very bright, Miror B. just uses this move on trudly and sends them flying of the lighthouse.

XD Ah, but I wouldn't dismiss Trudly and Folly as stupid so quickly. Believe it or not, both of them are actually pretty smart in their own right.

I know, hard to believe considering that Trudly would get confused at fourth grade math problems and Folly has as much common sense as a rock. :p But I suppose it also depends on what you consider intelligence to be.

The battle was the best part but at a few times I lost track of what name was which Ludicolo.

The sad thing is, so did I. XD While writing the chapter, I actually had to go back a few times to remember which Ludicolo was doing what.

Appreciate your comments. Thanks~
 

Blueysicle

Master Procratinator
I'm sorry for delaying this for so long. Schoolwork pretty much ate up most of my free time. Still, this should've been up LONG before now.

So without further ado, Chapter Eight!

Chapter Eight: The Faceless Phantom

Time only seemed to move fast when something good was happening. When the present was full of events that made him wish that he could just press a fast-forward button in order to get on with his life, time was practically at a standstill.

But when he was staring at the long hand of the clock on the wall, waiting for it to hit the six, things went even slower.

The teen swiveled his head back and forth between his middle-aged science teacher and the clock impatiently. He had received enough lectures from him throughout the year, and he didn't need anymore. So he made sure to look him in the face periodically just to give him the impression that he was paying attention. Although he didn't feel he was missing anything important from his teacher's speech, as it was just another rant on how hard everyone will have it the next year in high school.

He waited nervously for the next few seconds to pass. One more jerk from the long hand and he could run out of the middle school for the last time and embrace freedom. Come on... Come on...

The hand finally clicked into place and the shrill bell promptly rang through the school. The entire class simultaneously stood up and began to swarm towards the door as the teacher wrapped up his lecture, "Have a good vacation, class! Good luck next year!"

The teen, being in the far corner of the back row of desks, was the last one to run for the door. He had to wait a little longer for the mass of kids to get out of his way, but before long, there was enough space to burst out of the room at top speed.

"Michael!"

He froze in place in the doorway. Michael cringed at the sharpness of his teacher's tone. He turned his head around and moaned, "Yeah?"

The teacher sat back down at his desk. "We were going to discuss your final exam, remember?"

Michael raised his eyebrow, confused and anxious to just leave. "Wha...? You never told me-"

"Did you read the comments I wrote?"

"Comments?" Michael muttered to himself. He sat his backpack down on the floor and quickly rummaged through the mass of papers crammed into it. He didn't really look the test over when he got it. The moment he saw the giant sixty-five in thick red ink on the front page, he shoved it into his backpack so he wouldn't have to look at it again.

It took a while before he spotted the test in the compressed pile. He pulled it out, almost ripping it in the process. Michael flipped through the pages until he saw written in the same-colored ink, "See me after class."

Michael looked up at the teacher, sighing in a defeated manner. He dragged a nearby chair to the teacher's desk and dropped himself angrily in the seat.

"You didn't study, did you?" the teacher guessed while adjusting his glasses.

"No." Michael exasperatedly groaned.

"Why not? I've told you before that the reason you're almost failing my class is because you're not putting enough effort into it."

"Yeah, well... I had other work to do." Michael muttered without a thought. His answer was an automatic reaction, even though he knew full well it was the farthest thing from the truth.

The teacher seemed rather skeptical, seeing right through Michael. "What other work were you doing?"

Michael fidgeted a little in his seat before answering lowly, "Stuff."

The teacher sighed, "Michael..." He took off his glasses and rubbed the lens with a handkerchief before putting them back on and speaking again, "You dodged a bullet this year. You've passed in enough of my assignments to keep yourself from failing. But it won't be this easy to pass next year, especially if you keep up your current study habits..."

At that point, Michael's mind automatically shut out what his teacher was saying. Come on... Just let me out of this damn place already! There's nothing I can do to change my grade now! What's the point of this stupid speech!? I was told the same thing at the end of elementary school and nothing changed!

"Michael, are you listening to me?"

"Huh?" Michael was suddenly jolted back into the real world, "Uh yeah. I'm listening!"

The teacher was silent for a while, appearing to think about his next words as he leaned back in his seat. Michael hoped that the next thing to come out of his mouth would be "go home." But instead, the teacher sat back up and looked Michael square in the eyes. "Be honest with me. Are you bored with my class?"

"Yes!" Michael finally blurted out the truth. Words containing what he held inside of him about science class flowed out of his mouth, "I mean, when am I ever gonna use any of this crap? Never, that's when! C'mon! Just 'cause I live with scientists doesn't mean I like science!"

Soon after Michael ended his tirade, he cringed at what he just said. After that kind of rant, Michael was almost certain that his teacher was going to get him into some sort of trouble. Starting next year off with detention, calling his mother and getting grounded for the rest of summer vacation, Michael slid down in his seat just thinking about it.

However, the teacher seemed completely unfazed. Instead of yelling back, he shook the pen in his hand as he pointed it at Michael. "Back when I first started teaching almost twenty-four years ago, I had a student very much like you," He leaned back in his seat again and appeared to be trying his best to remember details. "He was an absolutely brilliant boy, but he was failing my class. At the end of his eighth-grade year, I asked why he didn't put any effort into his work even though I knew he could do it. He told me that he had no interest in school period."

"I also knew that he loved to have Pokemon battles. So do you know what I told him?" the teacher asked. Michael shook his head. "I told him that from that point on, he should try to connect and apply the knowledge he learned in school to battling. There's so much more to Pokemon battles than just two Pokemon delivering blows. Their biology, environment, psychology, things that will more and likely be covered in your high school career. If the primary problem was interest, then the solution was as simple as finding these kinds of relations in what he were interested in."

The teacher moved his chair forward and gave Michael that stern look that told him that he had better be listening to what he was about to say. "Four years later he came back here for a visit. The same student that failed my class because he had no interest in the material graduated high school at the top of his class."

Michael's eyes widened at first due to disbelief, and then narrowed for the same reason. He's got to be lying. No way in hell can anyone go from failing to coming out on top like that!

"He said he took my advice and had been getting A's ever since." The teacher ended his story and remained silent for a while, as if waiting for Michael to say something. When he didn't, the teacher started back up again, "Now, I know that you also love Pokemon battles. So the best advice I can give you is the same advice I gave that student of mine years ago. You're not stupid, Michael. I know you can succeed in school if you put in the effort and relate it to the things you love."

Michael still stayed quiet with his eyes on the floor. He did his best to hold himself back from making either a skeptical comment that would get him into even more trouble or something corny just to make the teacher happy.

"On that note, have a good summer vacation."

Michael swiftly raised his head and stood up. He was caught off guard again, expecting the teacher's speech to go on for much longer. "Uh... yeah! You too!"

Michael began to run for the door again. But before he could even reach top speed, the teacher added another comment to stop Michael abruptly, "Remember what I said, okay?"

"Alright, I will." Michael blurted out a corny response that he'd probably forget within a week. At that point, he was willing to say anything to get on with vacation.

Michael regained his speed and quickly rushed through the empty halls lined with lockers. The only sound that could be heard in the emptiness was the echo of his rapid steps hitting the tiled floor.

As he approached the stairs, Michael began to slow down. When he did, he happened to take a glance out the giant, round window overlooking the yard in front of the school. Outside a line of yellow, black-striped buses were flowing out of the oval-shaped stretch of road, including the one Michael was supposed to take.

"Crap!" Michael spat out loud. He hurriedly dashed down the stairs, even jumping to skip a few steps. His sneakers gave out a high-pitched squeal as he skid around the corner. Michael burst through the doors and sprinted across the lawn.

But by the time he reached the road, all of the buses had left school property.

He saw them in the distance leaving behind a cloud of exhaust gas and dust. The area was left a place vacant of people, with the exception of Michael standing alone, watching the minute line of yellow on the horizon, boiling from frustration.

"Dammit!" Michael shouted in the empty space as he kicked a pebble into the road. The other pebbles nearby followed suit as Michael imagined them as tiny figures of his teachers' head. "This is his damn fault!"

Michael flung off his backpack to the middle of the yard. He threw himself against a nearby statue and slid down it, taking a few moments to gather himself.

He looked up at the statue in an attempt to calm down. Michael assumed that the statue had some kind of symbolic meaning. But if it did, he thought it must have been irony; it was a wooden statue of a tree. But it wasn't the leafless tree that caught most of Michael's attention when he saw it for the first time two years ago. Rather, it was the disproportionately large figure of a man sitting between the two thickest branches. However, the figure was incredibly undetailed, despite being the most prominent part of the statue. Its head was merely a round orb. No eyes, no nose, no mouth, not even the thinnest strand of hair could be found. The figure had stumpy appendages for hands and feet, and it was completely bare of clothing.

The scene was silent in the sense that Michael couldn't hear any human interference. There were no cars going by or other students chatting like there usually were. Now all he could hear was the rustling of the leaves in the nearby forest. The yard had an unusual lonely air, as the only souls in it were Michael and a flockless Wingull that recently perched on the statue.

Michael peered at the bird above him while it stared back at him with its beady eyes. It was a small Pokemon with mostly white feathers covering its streamlined body. Some of its tail feathers had been colored blue as well as a band-like marking on each of its roughly rectangular wings. The Wingulls' black-tipped beak was thick and almost half as long as its body.

Michael shot a glare at the lone bird, distrustful of it after having unpleasant experiences with flocks of Wingull overhead. "You better not crap on me."

The Wingull gave a short cry in response. Though its consistent staring suggested indifference to Michael's threat, it eventually spread its wings and caught a current of wind. Its wings too weak to efficiently pull of the flying mechanism like other birds, the blasts of air dictated the Wingull's direction. The current brought it to the roof of the school. Michael saw it as a speck perched at such a distance, but he could still tell it was watching.

A little disturbed by the Wingull's watchful eyes, Michael stood up. He looked at the emptiness again and then at the nearby woods. Seeing few other options, he sighed, "Guess I'm walking."

* * *

The quiet, vacant air of the mostly conifer forest was broken by a coarse string of language. With very few sentient beings present in the woods, Michael felt free to express his frustration by grumbling every swear word he knew. Every pebble that he saw was flung across the dirt road by a swift kick.

This is so stupid... I hate walking! Michael thought as he kept himself busy by grinding the soil beneath his sneakers. I wouldn't have to deal with this crap if he'd just let me catch the bus instead of holding me up with some stupid lecture.

Michael looked ahead in the midst of his inner ranting. The stretch of dirt road appeared endless to somebody that was trudging along with no idea how close he was to home. He had traveled on the road before, but that had always been while speeding by on his hover-scooter. Therefore, Michael never really paid much attention to physical features near the road. There usually wasn't anything strikingly different anyways. The only thing that could honestly tell Michael how close he was to home was a fork where the north road lead to the Pokemon HQ Lab, and the southeast one lead to the eccentric Dr. Kaminko's manor. And Michael had no idea how far away that was.

Still irate, Michael kicked up clouds of dust into the air as he walked. Shortly after one cloud shot up, a deep sneeze erupted from the bushes. A swear sharply burst from Michael's mouth and he promptly jumped and landed on the rocky ground in shock. What the hell was that?!

Michael shot his line of sight into the bushes along the road. A green, reptilian body with a hint of insectoid features emerged from the foliage. His eyes met Michael's through the red orbs shielding them. His long, curious gaze at the boy froze him in place, afraid to make any movements.

What's a Flygon doing here?! I saw some Vibrava in the desert the other day... But I didn't think they'd evolve again and come here of all places! Michael's mind began to race furiously while he kept a close eye on the desert species of Pokemon. What am I going to do?! That thing could kill me in an instant! I don't have my Pokemon with me, and there's no way in hell I could outrun a Flygon!

The Flygon stretched his neck towards Michael. He sniffed Michael over thoroughly while he was too paralyzed to run away. The Flygon eventually lowered his head so he was at eye level with Michael. Michael promptly clamped his eyes shut. He shivered in place as he could feel the Flygon's breath against his face.

All of a sudden, Michael felt a long forked tongue lick his face. He coughed and groaned as the saliva dripped down from the tip of his nose. After wiping his face dry with his sleeve, Michael opened his eyes back up.

Contrary to Michael's first impression, the Flygon's face indicated a friendly and gentle disposition instead of hostility. Michael laughed weakly, still nervous about the large Pokemon, despite his docile demeanor. He shakily lifted his hand and lightly rubbed the Flygon's muzzle. "H... Heheh... S...See? We understand each other now! S...so... p...promise not to eat me, 'kay?"

The Flygon grunted in response. Michael began to let go of his nerves and gradually lifted himself off the ground.

After Michael had stood up with his hand still on the Flygon's muzzle, he happened to look to his left side. The sight of the Flygon's ragged and battered wings and the scars criss-crossed across his back stole Michael's breath. Michael quickly withdrew his hand from the Flygon and backed up, almost stumbling back to the ground. I know those scars!

Reluctantly, Michael move delicately to take a peek of the Flygon's right side. Michael backed up even further, holding his hand over his mouth to stifle any shout of shock that might burst out.

The atmosphere became silent, laced with morbid anticipation. Michael's face mirrored the dark, cold feeling; it was half-frightened, half-loathing. His stare was locked on the red-haired, pale-skinned man sitting back against his Flygon.

Crap!

Michael froze in place. His heart was beating faster than he could count. The sight of that man petrified him to the core. Michael wanted to make a break for it and run as fast as he could, but was too afraid he'd be noticed and caught.

Michael knew him from a year ago, but now wished he could leave those memories in the past. Cold and indifferent, the Cipher Admin named Eldes was almost everything Michael hated about Cipher embodied in one person. Even when he first met him before he knew his line of work, Eldes came across in such a way to Michael. And that was when he was trying to look friendly. That act was hard to buy, Michael could recall, as the whole thing sounded forced and rushed. But that was the nature of such people that worked for Cipher, they were all deceitful liars.

His prolonged stare at Eldes made Michael realize something. Michael took a closer look at the man with a Ninjask perched on his shoulder. Eldes body seemed to be in a relaxed position with his head pointed downwards. As Michael crept a few inches closer, he could see that behind his black shades was a pair of closed eyes.

Michael sighed, a little more relieved. Phew. He's asleep. With the nervousness ebbing away, Michael's state of mind was more fitting to think about the current situation. But why the hell is he here?! I thought he was in jail!

The Flygon, Dasn, tilted his head while Michael began to back up. He's come after me... I know it! Michael positioned himself so that his knees were bent. His eyes were fixed on Eldes, who was still unaware of his presence. I can't just walk away and ignore him! My Pokemon aren't with me, but it's either take him down now or let him kill me when I least expect it!

Michael gulped and closed his eyes. Without a second though, Michael blindly rushed towards Eldes and rammed his head into the side of his chest.

A short yell burst out of Eldes on impact. Michael's attempt to tackle Eldes into the ground was foiled, as Dasn spun around at the sound and promptly snatched Michael by the collar of his vest. He held Michael in the air, placed him at eye level, and snorted at him. Michael immediately began to flail and scream to rip himself free from the Flygon's claws.

While under the restraint of the Flygon, the Ninjask that was previously on her trainer's shoulder fluttered angrily over to Michael. She hissed and screeched in Michael's face until his ears went numb. Even then, she was adamant about tormenting Michael every second while her partner held him in place.

Ria suddenly paused and hovered in mid-air. A groan coming from a few feet away was enough to take her attention off the boy that attacked her and her trainer. Michael shifted his attention as well, taking his focus off the trouble right in front of his face to the trouble lifting itself off the ground.

Eldes slowly stood up with a flat, static attitude. He didn't act angry, surprised, or frightened. All he did was brush off the dirt that stuck on his hair and robe after skidding across the ground. He did so calmly, yet dully and indifferently.

He began to turn around and look at his attacker. Michael's thoughts began to rub by him again like a movie playing three times the speed if it was on fast forward. He froze at the morbid images of Eldes seeing him then thoughtlessly ordering his Pokemon to tear him limb from limb. And then he would fall back asleep without a care in the world while Dasn gnawed at what was left of Michael's teenage body.

But once Michael entered Eldes' sight, he didn't know what to expect anymore.

The moment Eldes looked into the familiar face, Michael saw his usually half-closed eyes open fully. It all happened within a split second, but that was enough time for Michael to witness the most emotion he had ever seen in that man's face. Even so, there wasn't much of it that Michael could see. There was pure shock, that Michael could tell. But if there was anything else in the Eldes' eyes behind those black shades, it was subtle enough that Michael couldn't find it.

Eldes' face was quick to revert to its usual emotionless state, however. Both Michael and Eldes were frozen in place. Both stared at each other, and both remained in an awkward silence.

Michael used the silence to think of an escape plan, since his plan to fight back didn't go so well. His plan to was thought up quickly and simple: Run for it! But no matter how much he squirmed, kicked and punched at Dasn, the Pokemon's grip remained unfazed and tight. "Let... me... GO!"

Eldes finally turned his head after staying in the same position for well over a minute. "Dasn," Eldes said in his signature monotone voice. The Flygon glanced at him and seemed to understand Eldes perfectly even though only one word was uttered. Dasn gently lowered his arm and released him claws from Michael's collar.

When Michael's feet hit the ground, he tumbled backwards away from Dasn. He started to lift himself back up while beginning to run away. But in his blind rush, he bumped into Ria floating in front of him. She screeched even louder than before as if the light touch had the force of a wrecking ball. Ria buzzed shrilly while she was close enough to Michael's face that he could make out the fine details of her exoskeleton.

"Ria," Eldes called in the same manner as he did to Dasn.

Ria wasn't hesitant in obeying her trainer, but insisted on getting her point across to Michael. She scowled and spat a sharp shriek at him before fluttering back to Eldes in a tilted position. She was careful to keep the movements of her charred wing to a minimum, relying almost solely on her other wing. Once she perched on Eldes' should, she still leered at Michael and flapped her wings in an intimidating manner.

Though it was unlikely either Dasn or Ria would pose a threat under Eldes' orders, Michael's instinct to run faded. He felt more compelled to stay put more than anything. The thoughts that he had when he first saw Eldes a few minutes prior returned. To run away and act as if such a dangerous criminal wasn't there was suddenly idiotic and cowardly.

There was another moment of awkwardness. It seemed like Eldes hadn't the faintest clue as to what to say. Michael, on the other hand, impulsively blurted out the first thing that came to his mind in the silence: "What the hell do you want?!"

Eldes was still unresponsive. The angle of the light piercing through the canopy rendered Eldes' sunglasses as a solid black bar over his eyes, making it impossible for Michael to tell if he was even still looking at him or not. But he had the suspicion that he wasn't, considering that he had his head tilted slightly toward the ground.

Michael became a little impatient at Eldes ignoring him like he was nothing. He had no qualms about chastising Eldes on whatever he could think of, and planned to do so until he could extort an answer out of him.

"I've already thrashed you once! You come back for more, or something?! Are you too stupid to realize that you're not gonna beat me?!" Michael spat out at Eldes' silence like an automated machine. He backed up while continuing his tirade without ever processing a comment through his head first. "I know why you're here. You're still sore about losing to me! You're ****** because I ruined all your plans on Cipher! And you want to get back at me for it!"

Eldes shifted his position slightly. He didn't seem insulted by Michael's comments, or even remotely fazed. He simply looked at Michael with his cardboard eyes and tonelessly said, "I don't have any ill intent"

"Bull," Michael sharply replied, "An escaped convict doesn't just walk around the woods near somebody's home for the hell of it!"

"I didn't escape."

Michael's jaw promptly dropped. "What?!" He was deeply astonished and taken aback. Michael could barely believe that Eldes could make an obviously false and unbelievable statement with a perfectly straight face, and expect him to fall for it. In the absurdity of it all, Michael began to laugh, "Do you honestly think that I'm gonna believe that?! Seriously, come on! Who in their right mind would let a dangerous criminal waltz out of jail with no damn reason?!"

Eldes slightly turned his head and sighed dryly, "You would be surprised."

Michael stared at Eldes in an almost blank way. He began to think this was some absurd and strange dream he was having, much like the ones he had when he had eaten sugary products right before bedtime. He half expected himself to suddenly wake up, sit up in his bed, and try to more some kind of sense out of what just happened.

But when he realized what he heard was not part of a dream that made no sense, but a part of real life that made no sense, he began to stammer before bursting out with, "Are you kidding me?!" Michael scowled at Eldes, a bit insult at him for taking him as a fool. "How stupid do you think I am? You think I can't tell that you're just spouting out crap?!"

Eldes seemed persistent and flatly insisted that his obvious lies were the truth, "I'm not ly-"

"Look just shut up, okay?" Michael sharply interrupted Eldes. As much as it felt good to release this kind of steam, he became tired of Eldes seeing him as some kind of idiot and unusually sick fighting.

Michael began to turn away and leave, but before doing so, he glared at Eldes and warned him sternly, "You're damn lucky I don't have my Pokemon with me. But next time I will! So you better hope I never see your face again!"

Michael could've sworn he saw Eldes cringe at his comment.

But even though it would've brought some satisfaction to him to know that he scared Eldes out of attacking him, Michael didn't think much about it. His only concern at the moment was going home. He turned his back on the Admin and his two watchful Pokemon and started to focus back on getting to the HQ Lab.

"You don't forgive very easily, do you?"

The quiet, almost inaudible voice behind Michael broke his focus and caused him to turn around. He snorted and gruffly spat, "To someone like you? You bet I don't forgive easy."

Eldes turned his head away slightly, still tilted towards the earth. In turn, Michael turned his back towards the path and continued his fast pace. Before he got far away enough that anything that Eldes did was out of his hearing range, Michael rolled his eyes when he heard the man give a sigh.

Acting like he was hurt just to make Michael feel bad... It caused Michael to give a sigh of his own, albeit a cynical and annoyed one. That just proved to Michael that Eldes thought he was an idiot if he though he would be fooled by some phony display of emotions. Cipher Admins, or anyone involved with the organization, didn't have emotions. They didn't have empathy, morality, or humanity. All they had was bloodlust and greed.

Michael knew that from experience.

* * *

Michael dragged his feet along the ground. Somehow, the distance from Gateon Port to the Lab seemed much greater when he wasn't riding his scooter.

He trudged along the road, his legs heavy and his back aching from his backpack. The shady pine trees proved some relief from the beating sun. Yet the shade didn't make much difference when the humid air stuck to his skin.

Not only was the atmosphere uncomfortable, but Michael was beginning to get bored. While he kept his line of sight straight ahead until he saw the lab, he was fiddling with a twig he snapped off of a branch by the side of the road and dribbled a large pebble between his feet for the past half-mile.

When the white, rounded building with a single, large window covering the lobby and a floating image of a Poke Ball on the roof, Michael checked his wristwatch. 3:10. Michael groaned. Usually the trip home on the bus took an hour. Being forty minutes late didn't give him a good feeling. Mom's gonna have a fit.

Once Michael stepped foot in the driveway, he found that his prediction was dead-on.

His mother, Lily, was anxiously looking down the dirt path on the stone steps in front of the lab. Once she saw Michael's face, her expression suggested that she wanted to hug Michael and smack him at the same time. "Michael!"

Lily ran down the steps as fast as she could on her high heels. The moment she met Michael, she quickly embraced him before gripping his shoulders and scowling at him sternly, "Where have you been?! I was just about to go down to Gateon Port to find you myself!"

Michael dropped his head. He hated looking into Lily's face when she was angry with him like that. "I missed the bus, so I walked home."

Lily took one of her hands off of Michael's shoulder and placed her fingers on the middle of her forehead. "You should've called me first! I would've come down and picked you up!" Lily looked at Michael even more fiercely than before. "What if somebody had attacked you while you were alone like that? You wouldn't have been able to protect yourself!"

"I've traveled alone loads of times and I turned out just fine!" Michael protested, forming the bravery to look directly in his mother's face.

"Those times you had your Pokemon with you!"

"That doesn't make any difference!"

"It makes all the difference!" Lily's stare became even tighter and firmer on Michael. "When you're wandering around in the countryside, especially in a region like this, having a Pokemon with you could mean the difference between life or death!"

Michael lowered his head back down. For a little while, nothing was said. When Michael couldn't think of anything to say, Lily spoke up, "This is your first and only warning. Don't you ever leave school like that without letting me know ahead of time. And even so, make sure you always have your Pokemon with you. Got it?"

"Yeah..." Michael muttered.

"Good." Lily finally ended ranting about things that were already done and over with. Sighing quietly in relief, Michael followed his mother into the building.

They entered through the side door, which led them into the section where the majority of Lab's employees lived. On Michael's left was the entrance to a small lounge, which in turn led to Michael's and his sister's rooms. Michael at the moment didn't feel like going into his room just to drop his backpack off and come back to go to the larger lounge upstairs, he simply tossed it next to the wall.

Michael dashed after his mother in the cylindrical elevator down the hall. He stumbled in, barely making it before the glass doors slide shut. Once Lily pressed the up button, pressured air from below the disc-shaped platform pushed it up the tube. When the second floor was reached, the platform latched into place while the air pressure died down. With the platform held firmly by the mechanical parts on the side of the tube grasping it, both Michael and Lily left the elevator and entered the larger lounge.

The lounge, much larger than the one on the first floor, was empty when Michael and Lily went in. Usually the lounge was filled with Lab employees sitting at the round tables fussing over whatever was on the television at the time. Michael took a look at the screen. All that was on was an odd ONBS report about some man that spent "thirty years crankin' gears," and how there was some kind of conspiracy about it. So it was no surprise to Michael that no one was interested in being in the lounge while it was on.

Instead of sitting down, Michael went straight to the refrigerator. He pulled out a fizzy bottle of Chesto soda, unscrewed the cap and began to lift it towards his mouth.

"Use a glass!" Lily interrupted Michael, stopping him before the bottle could even come close to his lips. Michael clamped his eyes shut briefly and moaned.

As Michael rummaged irately through the cupboards for a glass, Lily spoke up casually, "So how was school?"

"Fine."

"Did you learn anything?"

"Nope."

Finding a glass that was the right size for him, Michael set it down on the counter and poured the blue liquid in it. He took it with him to the table Lily was sitting at and sat down opposite of her.

As Michael started to guzzle down the soda, Lily seemed set on initiating a conversation, “So how did you do on your science test?”

The soda that was halfway down his throat shot back up. Michael quickly slapped his hand over his mouth to keep himself from spewing soda all over the table. Carbonated bubbles fizzed in his nose. He swallowed the soda in his mouth and began coughing furiously.

Once Michael caught his breath, he stammered nervously, “H...How...How did you know I had a test?”

Lily groaned a little under her breath and said in a slightly annoyed tone, “Eklei told me.”

Lily’s annoyance quickly carried over to Michael. That damn snitch! Why can’t he just keep his trap shut? Michael hid his frustration with the overly talkative pest and rapidly improvised his speech, “Uh... yeah. I did good.”

“Mm? Let me see it.” Lily cynically asked.

Michael’s thoughts raced quicker. It wasn’t often that he had to spit out sentences at such a fast rate so much in one day. But if he had to do so to keep himself out of deep trouble, then that was that. “Well, you see... I lost it.”

“You lost it?!” Lily leaned her head forward in a disbelieving manner.

Michael knew he needed to explain himself. He didn’t give much thought into his story. His only care was that it offered some kind of explanation. “So I had my test in my hand, right? I just wanted to get home, so I really didn’t bother to put it in my backpack. But anyways, I went outside to wait for the bus. And you know how hard the wind was blowing, right? Well, while I was waiting the wind blew it clean out of my hand! So I ran after it, but the wind kept blowing it away from me. Eventually, the wind blew it far enough that I didn’t have a chance of getting it back. Then when I turned around, I saw that the buses had already left! So then I decided to walk home.”

They stared at each other for a long time after Michael ended his story. Lily held her hand on her forehead again and shook it. “Michael...”

Michael slurped up the remaining soda in his glass. Stupid Eklei... He just had to go and blab to Mom like that.

Michael promptly sat up in his seat. He quickly took his lips off the glass and frantically swiveled his head. “Uh, Mom? Where is Eklei, by the way?”

“Hmm?” Lily lifted her head up. “If I remember correctly, I think I saw him heading to your room.”

“Crap!” Michael swiftly rose from his seat and dashed out of the lounge without another word. He rushed into the elevator and jammed his finger against the down button, though, unfortunately, doing so didn’t make it go any faster.

Once the doors slid open, Michael hurriedly ran down the hall. He skidded across the floor as he made a sharp turn towards his room. When the first set of doors opened, he ran even faster. He desperately bounded across the small lounge towards his room’s door.

He quickly opened the door to find just what he expected, and dreaded, at his computer.

Continued...
 

Blueysicle

Master Procratinator
In front of the desktop computer staring at the login screen, was a floating hunk of rock. This rock, however, was smoothly carved into the shape of the crescent moon. Looking like it was made out of fragments of the moon itself, the strange rock was dappled with miniature craters. Between the curved points of its crescent form was an odd protrusion that resembled a beak. Though its physical form was made entirely out of stone, it was not an inanimate figure. A pair of deep red eyes with stretched oval pupils positioned in opposite sides of its body proved that it was a sentient being. These eyes, unaware of Michael’s presence, were focused solely on the screen in front of it.

The Pokemon had no hands to speak of, but was still fully capable using the keyboard. Using a psychic energy, the same energy that it used to levitate, the creature was able to press the keys, forming a sequence of asterisks to appear in a text box.

The moment Michael realized what Eklei was doing, he lunged at him, though his weight made him impossible to move. Still, Michael tried to push him away from the computer despite his efforts being fruitless. Eventually, with most of his strength exhausted, Michael simply crouched to the ground and pulled the plug to the computer.

As Michael stood up, the screen on the computer narrowed until nothing but blackness was left. Eklei floated backwards as his eyes widened at the screen suddenly disappearing. He glanced over at Michael, who was panting heavily, and shouted, “Hey! I was using that!”

The voice Eklei spoke in was very ambiguous. If a total stranger had just heard Eklei’s voice while not knowing what he was, Michael could imagine that person would not be able to tell if he was a male or a female, despite that Eklei was, in fact, genderless.

Michael stumbled over to his bed and fell down on it. He stared at the ceiling as he tried to catch his breath. “Dammit... Eklei! How many times do I have to tell you not to use my computer?!”

Eklei lowered himself to the ground swiftly, slamming his bottom on the floor, which was his way of displaying anger. “And what, may I ask, is so terrible about that?”

Michael scowled right back at his Lunatone with the same exact emotion, “‘Cause I’ve seen the kind of things you do on my computer and I could get in a lot, lot of trouble for it!”

Eklei’s mood rapidly changed from anger to bewilderment. He started at Michael, genuinely confused at what Michael was talking about. “Why would that get you in trouble?”

Michael couldn’t find the words to say. To Michael, Eklei was an amazing Pokemon. Unfortunately for Michael, Eklei was an amazing Pokemon in all the wrong ways.

Michael dropped his head heavily on the sheets. He groaned and moaned exasperatedly while repeatedly banging his head against the mattress.

In the midst of his venting, Michael began to hear noises coming from his closet. Lifting his head up, Michael curiously looked at the door and listened more carefully, incase he was imagining things. Within less than a few seconds, the banging noise started back up again, along with the door looking like something was going to burst through it. Michael, without a thought rushed over to the door. He tried to turn the knob, but no matter which way he turned it, it wouldn’t budge. He turned the lock on the knob and then flung the closet door open, where his Vaporeon came flying.

She crashed into Michael, slamming both of them onto the messy floor. The Vaporeon shook her head and gathered herself from the collision, but then licked her trainers face once she realized whom she landed on. But her mood shifted once she saw Eklei hovering nearby. She immediately hopped off Michael’s stomach, bared her teeth, and spat and hissed at the Lunatone.

Michael sat up once he had gathered himself after Autumn suddenly jumped on him like that. He saw Autumn spitting at the innocent-eyed Eklei, and it didn’t take long for Michael to put two and two together. “You locked her in the closet?!”

She was attacking me while I was trying to turn on the computer!” Eklei defended himself, his telepathic voice full of confidence that he was doing no wrong.

Michael wanted to slap his hand on his forehead, much like his mother had done minutes before. “I don’t blame her! She was probably trying to keep you from indulging in that sick crap of yours!” He hissed his words through a snarl, getting tired of yelling for the day.

Eklei tilted his body in a slanted position. “I’d hardly call it ‘sick crap’...”

Michael walked past his two Pokemon, sighing. He patted Autumn’s head, who seemed to understand his subtle message to calm down. She reluctantly loosened her fierce posture, took her eyes off Eklei, and curled up on her own bed on the other side of the room.

“Just drop it...” Michael groaned exasperatingly as he started to head out of the room.

In his brief argument with Eklei over the inappropriate usage of his computer, Michael had forgotten all about his science test in his backpack. Suddenly remembering the exam that knocked over its fair share of dominoes for the day, Michael ran outside for his backpack before Lily had the chance to rummage through it. When he grabbed it just outside the small lounge, he ended up starting another argument with Eklei had followed him outside, “Why couldn’t you keep quiet about my test?”

It was supposed to be a secret?” Eklei asked, almost surprised. Sometimes, Michael wondered whether Eklei was really acting innocent or if he was just that naive.

Yeah! I only told you, like, five times not to tell anyone I had that test!” Michael stealthily walked back into the small lounge, careful to no attract any attention. As the doors closed behind him, he searched through his backpack for the test. Once he found it, he turned to Eklei and his voice dropped to a whisper as he ran the test through the nearby paper shredder, “This time, it’s gonna stay a secret, right?”

So now it’s a secret? Okay! Gotcha!” Eklei gave his word, though Michael wondered how long he’d remember it.

Luck shone on Michael for once that day, as the test was reduced to ribbons just before somebody walked in. Michael jumped up in surprise, and no sooner had he done that, Eklei gave person entering a jolt of his own, “GOOD AFTERNOON PROFESSOR!”

The director of the Lab, Professor Krane, flinched violently at the obnoxious Lunatone suddenly screaming in his face. The coffee cup he was holding nearly shook out of his hands, but instead splattered coffee all over his white lab coat.

The shaggy-haired professor looked down at his stained coat once he had the chance to calm down. His already narrow eyes clamped shut at the giant mass of creamy brown stuck to the fabric. Michael could tell he was irritated; there was no doubt about that. But that was it. In all the years Michael had known Krane, which was his entire life, he had never seen him mad. Annoyed maybe. But never truly angry.

Michael had heard the employees in their daily gossip period once say that the temperament of Michael’s father had rubbed off on Krane.

“Good... afternoon Eklei...” Krane did his best to be polite while being annoyed at the same time.

Eklei floated closer to Krane. If Krane had not backed up, Eklei would’ve came close enough that his beak would’ve poked at Krane’s chest. Eklei swiftly spun ninety-degrees so that a single eye was eyeballing the stain on Krane’s lab coat. “Wow... That’s a big stain! How clumsy!”

Krane kept his mouth shut, even though Michael bet he wanted to say something. Michael did too, but he was having a much tougher time keeping it back than Krane was.

Professor, do you know why Lunatone have beaks?” Eklei popped a completely unrelated question on Krane.

“Erm... not... really...” Krane, a little taken aback by the randomness, didn’t seem too interested in striking up a conversation with Eklei. Instead, he turned to Michael. “Oh! Mi-”

Me neither!” Krane barely began to speak before Eklei burst in. At this point, both Michael and Krane know that a rant was inevitable, and almost nothing would stop Eklei now. “Really! Why do we have them? Lunatone don’t eat or breathe and we don’t need primitive vocal cords to speak like humans do. Lunatone don’t get to do a whole lot you carbon-based life forms do. But that’s because we don’t need to do all those things! Take Zubats for instance. They don’t need to see, so they don’t have eyes! But why do Golbats have eyes then? The cave doesn’t get any lighter just because they evolved! It’s a mystery. You know what else is a mystery? Why are Lunatone shaped the way we are? Why are we shaped like the moon of all things? Then again, why are Staryu shaped like stars? Actually, they’re not really shaped like stars. Stars aren’t like pointy like Staryu are. They’re actually round, big, hot, and gassy. Speaking of gas, I heard Koffing are highly explosive...”

Michael and Krane stared. Dumbfounded. Michael had heard that there were apparently seven levels of hell. But he and Krane just found an eighth one hovering in mid-air, blathering. They slowly turned their heads to each other, eyes widened, jaws hanging, and their faces generally saying, “What is this horror?”

Michael mouthed the word “run” to Krane desperately. Krane nodded with absolutely no hesitation. With Eklei absorbed in his own tirade, Krane made a mad dash out of the room. Michael, fearing that he’d be mentally scarred if he stayed any longer, began to follow.

“...I don’t particularly like Mudkips. They just seem so dim-witted and stupid and...,” Eklei abruptly stopped, causing Michael to stop as well. Michael feared he had been caught, but Eklei seemed to be swiveling himself around, looking for Krane instead. “Is this a game of hide-and-seek? I love that game! What should I count to?”

“Five-thousand.” Michael said shortly with his eyebrows lowered on an unimpressed face.

Great! I’ll get started!” Eklei naively took the bait and began counting while Michael made his getaway.

Michael had plenty of time before Eklei realized he was being fooled or actually got to five-thousand. Still, he ended up running out of the room and to the elevator. The sooner he could get the sound of Eklei’s voice out of his head, the better.

Krane was right where Michael thought he’d be: in the large lounge on the second floor. He had already put on a clean lab coat and made himself another cup of coffee that he was sipping at the table. Krane looked up at Michael and eagerly motioned for him to sit down.

The professor looked around anxiously as Michael pulled up a chair. “Eklei... isn’t following you, is he?”

“Nah. I took care of him.” Michael said a little deviously, “He’s gonna be busy for a while.”

Krane seemed just as relieved as Michael was. He sighed and his face became less tense. Though Krane didn’t necessarily hate Eklei, he just wasn’t the type that would want to associate with him. At least that was one thing about Krane Michael could relate to. Still, Krane found it hard to truly hate anyone. That emotion, however, was certainly present in Michael.

“You had me worried there, Michael! I was afraid something happened to you when you didn’t come home!” Krane finally got the chance to express his fears. While there was genuine concern in his voice, Michael caught a hint of a laugh.

Michael though, wasn’t in the mood for laughing things off. He gave a deep, heavy sigh, “Look, Mom gave me this speech already...”

“I know, I know. I was just letting you know I was worried.” Krane held his palm up in a slightly defensive manner, but still retaining his mild nature.

“Well, can we just drop the whole subject then? It’s really getting on my nerves.” Michael pleaded, as he just wanted to get on with his summer vacation.

“As a matter of fact, there is something of a completely different matter I’ve been meaning to discuss with you.” Krane finished the rest of the coffee in his cup as he brought up the subject.

Michael suspiciously brought his eyes to Krane’s face. Did Krane find out about his failing science exam? Perhaps he had discovered the subject of Eklei’s virtual escapades?

Worse, did he figure out that details of Michael’s victory over Cipher were far from the truth?

He wouldn’t know that... I didn’t tell anyone how close I came to losing! But... what if Eklei blabbed?! He’s the only one who knows that could possibly tell anyone about it! Crap! What am I gonna do? I can’t let anyone know about that! It’s so humiliating!

“Michael? Did you hear me?”

Michael jumped in his seat for the second time that day. He had been so caught up in his own paranoia that he tuned out everything else. “Wha...? Sorry. I sorta zoned out for a sec.”

"Well," Krane calmly repeated himself, "I was pointing out that you have almost eighty Pokemon that you snagged from Cipher. I understand that such a large amount of Pokemon is difficult to handle. So, I was asking if you, well, would like to give some of them away."

Michael became relaxed quickly. He didn't know what to say, but he did consider Krane's proposition. The six Pokemon Michael chose for his party was enough of an oddball cast to handle. Multiplied by almost thirteen, the task of taking care of all those Pokemon was the equivalent of having a Gorebyss suck out his internal organs while he was still alive. It was torture. Sure, the Lab's staff was always there to help, but they still didn’t do much justice. Feeding the Pokemon, cleaning the Pokemon, cleaning up after the Pokemon... Many a beautiful weekend was wasted in such a manner. The more Michael thought about it, the more eager he became about the offer. At that point, if it meant getting rid of all that stress, Michael would go as far as selling his soul to Giratina himself.

Krane took note of Michael's silence. He tried to give reasons to consider his proposal, even though he didn't need to, "I... understand that just giving Pokemon away sounds a little extraneous. But if it’s a matter of finding good homes that's making you worried, then we can handle that. There are several employees in this very building that don't have Pokemon that would surely love to have even just one. There are even more people in Orre that want Pokemon that cannot afford to import any nor travel to Poke Spots. And in that case, we would take great measures to make one-hundred-twenty percent certain that they will be in kind and able hands."

Krane sat up in his seat and moved a little closer to the table. "I will admit, when I was thinking of this a while back I was worried about the same thing. However, I realized that here, a Pokemon in a group of almost eighty isn't getting the individual attention that they need that they would get by a trainer with a team of six or less. That way, the Pokemon would not only be meeting its physical needs, but also the specialized love and care that someone that is truly dedicated would. And that, in turn, would do wonders to help these Pokemon move on from their abusive pasts."

Michael didn't listen to too much of what Krane said. To him, it was overkill. He had already been convinced to be in favor of the idea; there wasn't much reason to go on about it.

Before Michael spoke up, Krane felt that needed to add more on the subject, "Plus, I'm sure Jovi would be thrilled to have a few of your Pokemon too."

Suddenly, Michael wasn't so sure about the idea. The idea of trusting Jovi with one of his Pokemon, that was. He sunk down in his seat. He could see it clearly: Jovi playing with a Salamence -a living death-trap- and it turning around and snapping her in half like a toothpick. "Yeah... but Jovi... She already has two Pokemon! And besides... she's not old enough..."

"Well, legally, her Plusle and Minun are your mother's. And her tenth birthday isn’t that far away. By the time she looks through the Pokemon and decides on one, she'll be old enough to legally own it!" Krane countered, but with a good-hearted laugh, "Besides, you got Autumn before you turned ten. Although, the reasoning was a little different."

An unconsciously trained instinct in Michael kicked in. His pupils dilated, his fists clenched to the point where his palms stung from his nails jabbing into them. The mere mention of Autumn's origin triggered a show of hatred in his face and a whole sequence of memories.

Six years wore out memories, that were to be expected. But it was the way the pictures in his head were aged that was upsetting to Michael. Several parts were still fairly clear, as clear as six-year-old memories could be. That brisk fall day with the reddened leaves dancing in the air and the tiny Eevee chasing them... that wasn't hard to remember. But then there was Michael receiving the Eevee. When he looked back on it, it looked like was taking the Poke Ball from a ghostly specter.

The man he idolized so much... the one he wanted to be like, the one whom he wanted to inherit battling prowess from appeared as a foggy silhouette of a person. It couldn't have just been age that wore out his memory. That disturbing image of the faceless phantom handing Michael the Poke Ball was present just days after the afternoon where the eavesdropped news ruined everything.

Michael ran the pictures through his head with audio. "I know you're not quite ten yet. But your birthday is in a couple months and I wanted to give you this before I leave, just incase I don't get back in time." The words were there, but there was no voice.

No voice. No face. No name. No identity.

One memory led to another. Words led to more words. And with each, Michael's rage grew.

"But why? Why would somebody plant explosives in his boat?"

"Cipher must've heard about the Purification Chamber somehow... And as massive and fiery as the explosion was, there was no way he could've survived it."

"Dad..."

The room became nearly silent with Michael subtle growling being the sound. Krane heard this and promptly lowered his head. "I... I'm so sorry... I didn't mean... to upset you..."

Michael turned away. He wasn't interested in hearing Krane's apology. After all those years, he should've known by then how bitter the subject was. "Whatever."

He stood up from the table and sulked to the door. Michael felt like being alone at that moment instead of listening to other people's sympathies. When he was faced with something like that, the best thing he felt he could do was lie on his bed in his room with the lights off and windows closed and just forget about everything. Talking about it he knew would just drag out the pain.

No sooner had Michael stood up did Lily burst into the room. She had the same shaken, frazzled look that she did when Michael saw in the driveway looking for him. "Where's Jovi?! Have either of you seen her?!"

Michael shook his head. "Nope." He didn't think much of it at first. He figured that his little sister was playing hide-and-seek with her usual partner.

But when Michael brought it up, Lily replied with a sense of immense worry, "I talked to Adon already... He said that they weren't playing at that moment!"

Krane was quick to sense Lily's anxiety. He went over to and put his hand on her shoulder. "Calm down, calm down. Let's think about this for a moment. Where did you see her last?"

Lily took deep breaths. She seemed to become a little less distressed, but was still clearly troubled.

To see his mother like this was distressing in its own way to Michael. She was usually levelheaded and composed in times of stress. It was only when the stress centered around the well-being of her family did she act like that.

"I... saw her go outside to play about thirty minutes ago. I went to check on her and I couldn't find her!" Lily explained as calmly to Krane as she could under the situation.

Michael suddenly froze up. Out of the blue, he remembered that Eldes was still most likely in the area, which by then, could be closer to home than he was before. That maniac! He could've gotten at Jovi!

"If... if you want... I could head over to Dr. Kaminko's to... you know... see if she's anywhere over there..." Michael, while the thought of Jovi being attacked by a convicted criminal hung in his head, stammered to make an excuse to look for him.

"You would?! Oh Michael... I would really appreciate it if you did that for me!" Lily sighed, he state becoming more comfortable as she put her trust in Michael.

Without another word, Michael darted out of the lounge and down the elevator to his room. Thinking about what Eldes could possibly do to a helpless little girl both frightened and enraged Michael. Damn it! You know you can't touch me, so you go after my sister instead?!

Anger flaring, Michael ran though the small lounge, not even making an attempt to dodge Eklei, still loudly counting. Michael brushed past Eklei, causing him to spin in place. He heard the Lunatone say something while he was startled in such a way, but Michael simply ignored him and rushed into his room.

The first thing Michael did was practically jam his hands into a messy pile of assorted things on the floor, desperately searching for the gear he needed to take on somebody as dangerous as Eldes. Autumn, interrupted from a nap, lifted her head wearily and watched Michael flip his room upside down.

"C'mon girl! Get up! Jovi could be in trouble!" Michael hastily ordered Autumn as the pile of things was spread across the room.

Autumn wasted no time getting up. As soon as she heard about Jovi's possible plight, a fierce vigor in her visibly began working its way through the Vaporeon. She aggressively pawed the floor and raised her mermaid-like tail straight in the air, which was her way of getting pumped for battle.

Michael nodded his head in approval, a little relieved that at least one of his Pokemon was ready to fight for him no matter what. "That's the spirit, girl! Now... where's my belt?!"

Michael scanned the spread out mess for the belt he kept his Pokemon team's Poke Balls on. When he saw the strip of leather with Poke Balls attached to team, Michael swiftly grabbed it and returned Autumn to her ball. As he latched Autumn's Poke Ball back onto his belt, he took Eklei's off and rushed out of his room.

Eklei was still in the same spot, waiting for Michael to come back out with a baffled look in his eyes. "Whoa whoa! What's the rush?!"

Michael didn't have the time to answer him and just simply put Eklei back in the blue ball with two small, red nubs on the top. He dashed out of the building and jumped off the fenced ledge the Lab sat on. Barely landing on his feet, Michael ran down the dirt path curving around the Lab, ending with a tiny wooden shed on the edge of the forest.

Michael swung open the shed door, revealing the white scooter modified into a hovering vehicle that he had received for his thirteenth birthday. It was too small for almost anyone else to ride, but it was perfect for him. The handlebars were just right for his arm length and the soft, rectangular brown seat was the right size for him to sit on. The front of the scooter was shielded with a piece of metal slightly curved at the bottom.

Michael immediately hopped on the scooter and turned it on, causing the rounded hover panel in the middle of the vehicle to lift it from the ground. Tilting slightly backwards, the hover panel pushed the scooter out of the shed as Michael pushed his foot against the pedal.

He was about to push his foot down even harder to pick up speed, but slowed down when he saw his mother, noticeably calmed down, waiting for him on the steps. “Michael! Do you have your Pokemon with you?”

Michael nodded and showed Lily the full belt at his waist. “Yeah, I remembered!”

“Good,” Lily nodded back. “Me and Professor Krane are going to look around the Lab incase Jovi is still around here. Go straight to Dr. Kaminko’s and come straight back if you find her.”

Michael, already set on doing what Lily told him, stepped on the pedal and began to speed along the road. But once again, he was stopped before he could do so. “And Michael?”

The panic and stress in him increasing, Michael turned around and looked at Lily with a hasty face started to drip with sweat. “Yeah?”

Lily smiled briefly. “Thank you again.”

Any other time, Michael would’ve melted at the praise and faithful look in Lily’s face. But knowing that a deranged man could have his sister at that very moment, Michael didn’t have time accept Lily’s trust in him like he usually would. He simply held up his hand, waved it minutely, and gave a weak smile before setting off.

As Michael drove down the road, it appeared as his vision was flashing as he sped through small areas of sunlight and then went back into the shadows almost rhythmically. For once, he paid attention to the scenery around him. He knew that if he saw the red-robed man on the side of the road, there wasn’t going to be much to stop him from ramming the front of the scooter into him.

You had better hope that I’m wrong! Michael screamed in his head, as the roar of the hover panel at work would drown out anything he said. He clenched his teeth as he kept a vicious eye out for Eldes. If you lay one hand on Jovi, there won’t be anything holding me back!

And this time, there won’t be any running!




I should've named this chapter "Irony", because it just reeks of it.

Speaking of irony, I really do have a Lunatone named Eklei on my FireRed game. The ironic part? That Eklei has a Modest nature. XD
 

The Great Butler

Hush, keep it down
This was well worth the wait, especially for the crazy Lunatone. That was just great.

Seems things are getting more intense. Could a revelation to Michael be coming soon?
 

Blueysicle

Master Procratinator
TGB:

This was well worth the wait, especially for the crazy Lunatone. That was just great.

Haha, I'm glad Eklei came out well. Though I was a little afraid some poor reader's brain would implode at his rant... XP

Seems things are getting more intense. Could a revelation to Michael be coming soon?

If by a "revelation" you mean Michael finding out Eldes' identity...

I'm afraid that won't come for a long, long time.

Which judging from my current pace, will be about thirty years from now.
 

The Great Butler

Hush, keep it down
TGB:

Haha, I'm glad Eklei came out well. Though I was a little afraid some poor reader's brain would implode at his rant... XP

Have you ever heard of the anime Shigofumi: Stories of Last Letter? There is a character in it---named Kanaka---who is JUST LIKE Eklei.
 
I herd you liek Lunatonez.(just had to do it)

I'm late I know but I couldn't find the time.

now for the real review.
Great chapter. finally we see Eldes again. Eklei reminds me of myself. I like being the centre of attention while talking and sometimes I just can't stop talking even when there's no one listening. No way he must give away some pokémon he snagged!(definatly keep Salamence and/or Dragonite) But I like how you criticise the box system, I mean how could a pokémon be put inside a computer and just stay there without food or something to drink?
I'm not picky at mistakes in grammar and so I'm not going over your story and look for them(not that I think you made any)

That's all.
Master Blastoise.
;009;;009;;009;

Edit: You just got yourself sigged.
 
Last edited:

Blueysicle

Master Procratinator
TGB:

Have you ever heard of the anime Shigofumi: Stories of Last Letter? There is a character in it---named Kanaka---who is JUST LIKE Eklei.

Nope, never heard of it. But now you have me intrigued.

Master Blastoise:

I'm late I know but I couldn't find the time.

Ah! I was wondering where you went off to. But it's no problem. I find it hard to get in some free time lately, myself.

Eklei reminds me of myself. I like being the centre of attention while talking and sometimes I just can't stop talking even when there's no one listening.

I find it amazing that anyone can relate to that psychotic hunk of moon stone...

Er-hem! Uh, yes... well... next comment?

No way he must give away some pokémon he snagged!(definatly keep Salamence and/or Dragonite)

Oh, I'm sure Michael won't give away those two very easily. Yes. Very, VERY sure. ;)

Besides, Krane was more or less referring to the less-experienced and tamer Pokemon that Michael snagged. Because if I was a beginning trainer with no experience, I certainly wouldn't want to start with a Snorlax that could kill me with the flick of its pinky finger.

But I like how you criticise the box system, I mean how could a pokémon be put inside a computer and just stay there without food or something to drink?

I also love it how a Pokemon could be beaten to a bloody pulp, but once it comes out of the PC, everything's all fine and dandy. Magic computers, I'm telling ya.

Thanks for the comment. :D
 

Blueysicle

Master Procratinator
Top of the morning good people of SPPF! How was everyones' TBTB-free year?

Okay okay, joking aside, yes I know. I know that I seriously need to smacked across the head several dozen times for putting this off for so long. Part of it was because of stress and part of it was because of little motivation. But these past few days I've been pumped more than ever to finish this chapter.

So here it is! After nearly a year, here's Chapter Nine!

Also, be warned that there is some strong language. That being said, it should be fairly obvious who appears in this chapter.

Chapter Nine: Pride

Something about that part of the woods always made Michael’s skin crawl.
Perhaps it was the sudden appearance of leafless trees whose bark was as black as charcoal. Maybe it was the strange phenomenon of dark clouds always hovering over the area, despite it being sunny and clear elsewhere.

Whatever it was, it never gave Michael a good feeling. He had been there several times before, but he could never shake that foreboding sense.

His scooter came to a stop near the entrance to the creepy manor sitting in the middle of that ominous place. Parking the scooter against the weathered, brown wall, Michael crept anxiously to the gothic-style gate. He peeked into the mostly stone courtyard with the fountain with a Groudon figure in the middle through the bars of the gate. There was no one to be seen, but he had learned all too well that the manor was never left unguarded.

Michael took a deep breath and ran his hand across the Poké Balls on his belt nervously. He didn’t take his hand off of them as he opened the creaky gate and braved into manor territory.

He hesitated a while, staring at the mansion that looked like it was pulled out of a horror movie. The walls were made from an off-white stone material. From the edge of the wooden, pointed roof downwards along the façade were black stains built up over the years. From a distance, it almost looked like some kind of substance was leaking from the roof. On opposite sides on the top of the roof were two rods with electrodes attached to them. The electrodes crackled as electricity danced along the metal orb.

Gripping his belt, Michael crept across the courtyard. His senses were heightened, ready to react to the faintest sound or the tiniest movement. He knew that the chances that he was alone were slim. He anticipated, or rather, expected the presence of someone else.

Michael stopped for a moment and gulped. I can’t stay here long. I just got to see if Jovi’s here. And if she’s not, I got to get the hell out and find that maniac before it’s too late. He began to quicken his pace. Damn it Jovi… I really hope I’m not wasting time being here!

Michael still stayed alert while he increased his speed. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a familiar face sneaking up on him. Still in the bad mood he had when he left, this appearance was all it took to annoy him. Michael spun around fiercely and looked the person in the face before an ambush could be executed.

The man that stood before Michael was rather small, even shorter than Michael. He wore a white lab coat, much like Kranes’, and a yellow bow tie. His blue hair was parted in such a way that it was almost entirely on his right side. But what Michael always found bizarre was the glasses that had a spiral shape right on the lens. When Michael thought about it, the crazy look it gave Chobin did seem quite fitting.

Even though Michael recognized Chobin, Chobin didn’t seem to recognize Michael. He glared at Michael as if he was a complete stranger trespassing with sinister intents. This was a bad habit of Chobins’ which Michael had experienced upon their first meeting. That habit had persisted through all of their meetings, which Michael was frankly growing tired of.

“You! Who are you?!” Chobins’ dysfunctional memory showed its effect once again to Michael. Chobin did his best to look threatening by scowling and grasping the Poké Ball in his hand tightly. But after being in the same situation several times before, it was hard for Michael to take Chobin seriously anymore. “As Chobin is not expecting company today, it is evident that you are an unauthorized presence. Considering the multitude of magnificent inventions crafted by the insurmountable Dr. Kaminko within the manor, Chobin has come to the conclusion that you are –indeed- a burglar! Chobin has no respect for burglars!”

“Chobin! It’s me! Michael!” Michael moaned, deeply vexed, as he tried to refresh Chobins’ memory.

But his attempt was fruitless, which didn’t surprise him very much. Chobin only became more infuriated and disgusted than before. “You fiend! How dare you impersonate the great Michael! Enough! Chobin will tolerate no more! Chobin will teach this burglar a lesson!”

Chobin threw the Poké Ball he had in his hand forward. The Poké Ball released a small Grass-type Pokémon. Its head was in the shape of a blooming sunflower. The Pokémon’s eyes were narrow and curved, which were fixed on Michael as its head bobbed and swayed on its long neck. Its body resembled a plant stock, although it was more rounded than straight. The thick leaves on both sides served as arms, and its two-toed feet was a vague allusion to roots.

Michaels' patience had worn thin. He still didn’t see Chobin or his Sunflora as a threat, but they were quickly becoming an annoyance. “Dammit! I don’t have time for this!” Michael, impatient and irked, grabbed one of his own Poké Balls at random and threw it in front of him.

Unfortunately, that Poké Ball Autumns’, who was the worst possible Pokémon on Michaels’ team to face the Sunflora. That wasn’t because water Pokémon like Autumn had a disadvantage against Grass-types. Rather, it was for a completely different reason.

The Sunflora didn’t have temporary amnesia like his trainer did, as it didn’t take long for him to recognize the Vaporeon. His face turned pale with dread, not only knowing the prowess Autumn had, but also one of her bad habits.

Autumns’ expression immediately switched from a serious zest for battle to a playful glimmer in her eyes. Her mermaid-like tail swished back and forth. Her black eyes were fixed on and almost enchanted by the Sunfloras’ leafy arms. Those green, thick leaves triggered an irresistible response that stemmed back to her childhood.

Both Pokémon lost all their will to fight. Autumn began to lower herself into a crouching position and the Sunflora desperately looked for a hiding place to run to. Once Autumn sprang forward, the terrified Sunflora dashed across the courtyard with and the speed he could muster. The poor Pokémon was on the verge of tears as he let out a shrill, high-pitched scream.

The Sunflora swerved around the fountain and made several sharp turns as he tried to lose Autumn. But the Vaporeon was simply too fast for him. Before long, Autumn had closed the distance between her and her target and made her move. She leapt at the Sunflora, landing all four paws on his back. The Sunflora was pinned to the ground, screaming and squirming to try to free himself. But it was no use, as Autumn was far too heavy to throw off. Therefore, the pitiful Sunflora was left helpless as Autumn playfully swatted and nipped at his leaves.

Michael watched the whole scene unfold with his palm on his face. “Autumn! Don’t play with him!”

Chobin was echoing the same exact sentiments, “No, no! Sunflora is not to be playing with the burglars’ Pokémon!”

Chobin went from frantic and panicked over the battles’ undoing to enraged when he faced Michael again. But that emotion just as quickly switched to another one: confusion. He leaned his head forward and adjusted his swirly glasses. “Chobin is investigating the burglary subject further,” Michael heard him mutter to himself, “and has come to the conclusion that said subject is neither a burglar nor a Michael impersonator. It is –in fact- the real Michael! Chobin wonders why Michael didn’t speak up earlier.

Michael scowled, still frustrated and unimpressed with Chobin. “I did!”
Michael glanced over at Autumn and the Sunflora. Autumn was still having fun with the Sunfloras’ leaves, much to his dismay. Embarrassed, Michael sighed and returned Autumn to her Poké Ball. It didn’t take long for the Sunflora to realize that Autumn wasn’t on his back anymore. Once he did, he swiveled his head nervously. When the Sunflora saw that Autumn was nowhere to be seen, he sat up and wiped his forehead dry, relived.

“Look Chobin, I’ve gotta make this quick,” Michael anxiously latched Autumns’ Poké Ball to his belt, “Is Jovi here?”

“Michaels’ little sister? She is most certainly here, much to Chobins’ annoyance…” Chobin groaned, seemingly at the mention of the often uninvited guest.

All of Michaels’ morbid premonitions dissipated at Chobins’ information. He let out a relieved breath as he began to calm down. He became noticeably less tense as he relaxed himself. Jovi was alright and he didn’t need to worry. Knowing that –thankfully- all of that foreboding Michael had was false, he saw no harm in taking his time.

“Chobin wishes Michael would do something to prevent his little sister from trespassing so frequently. Though… Chobin realizes that such an attempt would most likely prove fruitless,” Chobin continued spilling his feelings of irritation to Michael, even though the teen was quick to zone out.
“Nevertheless, Chobin requests that Michaels’ little sister not bother Chobin, now of all times. Chobin finds it extremely difficult to keep an eye on an overcurious girl and the manor in Dr. Kaminkos’ absence simultaneously.”

Chobins’ last sentence was enough to break Michael out of his daze. He quickly jerked his head so he was looking directly in Chobins’ face. Michael backed up a little, unsure whether or not she heard Chobin correctly, “Dr. Kaminko… left the manor?! I… Is he feeling okay?!”

“Oh, most certainly,” Chobin replied, but not doing much to relieve the shock Michael had over the normally reclusive doctor, “Dr. Kaminko left to tend to some business elsewhere. Usually, the doctor leaves Chobin to do such errands. Evidently, however, the task is something that only his greatness can achieve. Therefore, he has left Chobin with the glorious honor of being responsible for his manor while he’s gone.”

Michael wasn’t too interested in what “great errand” Dr. Kaminko had left to do. Then again, knowing the oddities of the doctors’ character, Michael wasn’t sure if he wanted to know.

Even if he was curious, Michael would’ve been interrupted. He heard the sound of footsteps behind him, followed by a familiar, childish voice, “Big brother! What are you doing here?”

Michael swiftly turned around. The little blue-haired girl with rosy cheeks was standing on the steps in front of the manors’ entrance. Like she was clueless about Michaels’ worries, she innocently ran down the steps to Michael.

Michaels’ expression brightened at the sight of his sister. He approached her with a small smile on his face. “I came here looking for you.” While he was no longer under the extreme pressure that he felt before, he did think of the worry he had over Jovi. “Do you gotta do that Jovi; leave home so dang unannounced all the time?”

Jovi looked confused for a moment, but suddenly came to a realization. “Oh! Jovi didn’t tell Mommy?!” Her cheeks grew redder than they already were as she smiled sheepishly. “Jovi… kinda forgot.”

Michael slapped his forehead. His relief was quickly overshadowed by irritation. After both he and Lily worried themselves close to death over the matter, finding out it was all caused by Jovi forgetting to let anyone know where she was going made Michael want to smash his head into the wall.

“Look, can we just leave already? Mom will blow up at me again if we don’t get home soon.” Michael, annoyed and tired from all the days’ events, just wanted to go home.

Jovi looked a little annoyed herself. She crossed her arms and gave a slight pout. Michael wasn’t surprised at her attitude, knowing her overwhelming attachment to the place.

Although it didn’t take long for Jovis’ mood to completely change. She looked at Michael with a feeling of excitement and awe shining in her eyes, “But big brother should really come here more often! Jovi found lots of neat stuff that the doctor made in the manor! Jovi doesn’t know what they are or what they do, but they’re still really cool! But there was something in there that Chobin wouldn’t let Jovi see, because Chobin’s a big meanie.”

“And for very good reason!” Chobin loudly broke in, “Chobin cannot be letting little girls –or anyone for that matter- be seeing ‘Chobins’ Super Secret Project!’”

“‘Chobins’ Super Secret Project?’ What the heck is that?” Michael asked more cynically than curiously.

“Chobin cannot tell you! If Chobin was to tell you, it would no longer be ‘Chobins’ Super Secret Project!’ It would just be ‘Chobins’ Project!’ And that sounds nowhere near as exciting!” Chobin went into a zealous, and somewhat defensive, outburst.

Michael backed up slightly, almost like Chobins’ weirdness was contagious. “Uh… yeah. Whatever,” He quickly took his mind off of the strange scientist and focused it back on Jovi. “Look, lets’ just get back home, alright?”

“Okay!” Jovi cheerfully answered Michael as she promptly ran towards the scooter. She stopped for a brief moment to wave goodbye to Chobin. “Bye Chobin! Jovi will be back soon!”

Chobin looked much less pleased. A look of utter dread swept across his face. “Oh… That’s… wonderful.” Chobin swiftly looked at Michael with a little bit of nervousness. “Can you please do something about her?” he said quietly.

Michael began to follow Jovi to the scooter, but he kept his head turned towards Chobin. He whispered to him, being careful to not let Jovi hear him, “I can’t make you any promises.”

Michael waved goodbye to Chobin as he ran past the gates. He found Jovi already sitting on the back seat of the scooter, suddenly looking just as eager to go home as he was. Starting up his scooter, getting home and relaxing was the only thing on his mind. With that though in his head, he sped out of the gloomy section of the woods and into the sunnier one.

* * *​

His fears were assuaged, but he still felt uneasy.

Michaels’ eyes were on the road, but his mind wandered in other places. He had Jovi behind him, her arms wrapped around his waist as he drove down the forest path. But even her safety didn’t keep him from feeling insecure. There was still something gnawing at his conscious.

That feeling eventually caused him to park the scooter at the junction branching off to the Lab and Gateon Port. He tapped his fingers on the handle while staring straight at the ground. He had already made the decision to ask Jovi about what he feared shortly after leaving the manor. Now –for once- he spent the time gazing at the gritty road choosing his words carefully. Michael knew how big Jovis’ mouth was, and the last thing he wanted was Jovi to spread information about what happened earlier that day.

Michael took a deep breath and loosened his grip on the handle. “Hey Jovi,” He paused for a moment, still unsure about what he was going to say, “Did you… see anybody on the way here?”

Michael turned his head slightly in order to look Jovi in the face. He could see a hint of confusion in her childishly innocent eyes as she answered him, “Nope.”

He was a little surprised, but also a bit disbelieving. He decided to press her further, “You sure? You didn’t see anyone?”

“Uh-uh. Jovi didn’t see anyone,” Jovi shook her head and then tilted it slightly, “Why?”

Michael swiftly turned around to face the road instead of Jovi so she wouldn’t see the look insecurity on his face. “Err… um, no reason.”
Even though he had a hard time believe Jovi, he felt much more relaxed. While he was certainly glad that Jovi was alright, he still couldn’t but feel a bit frustrated over the whole situation. “Really though, Jovi. You can’t just go out alone like that! What if somebody was there and attacked you?”

Jovi quickly went from completely innocent and naïve to suddenly annoyed and defensive. She narrowed her eyes a little as she immediately defended herself from Michael, “Jovi didn’t go alone! See!” She turned around, unhooked the two Poké Balls containing her Plusle and Minun from her belt and held them an inch away from Michaels’ face. “She brought Pluplu and Mimi with her!”

Michael rolled his eyes. “Oh yeah. Like they’ll be any good against… like, a Flygon or something.”

Jovi remained quiet for a little while. But Michael could tell by her silence that she was contemplating a comeback. “Well… Jovi heard that big brother went all the way from school to home with his Pokémon!”
Michael snapped his head around. He glared at his little sister, who taunted him with her childish eavesdropping. He was caught off guard and had to recover quickly. “W…Well I’m different! Do you really think anyone would even think to attack me after thrashing Cipher the way I did? Look, everyone in Orre knows that if they mess with me, they’ll get a sound as- err, butt-whooping.” He caught himself just in time, as he knew Jovi would tattle on him if he said so much as, “damn”.

Michael boosted his ego enough to compensate from the insecurity caused by Jovis’ retort. But she didn’t seem to exactly buy it. “Nuh-uh! If some big, scary guy jumped out at big brother, he’d run away scared!”

“I would not!” Michael spat, “‘Cause I’m not scared of anything!”

Jovi still didn’t buy it. She pointed at something behind Michael and said,
“Not even that ghost behind big brother?”

For a split second, Michael broke out in a cold sweat. His face turned pale and his throat became dry and airy. He hated ghosts. It didn’t matter if it was a B-movie ghost in a white bed sheet or a Ghost-type Pokémon; all things ethereal earned his eternal loathing. He would become petrified by the mere mention of a ghost. Michael wasn’t sure where that phobia came from. The only reason he could possibly give was a vague memory of a nightmare shortly after his father died of a ghost attacking him while he was in bed.

Michael gulped to try to relive his dry throat. “D…Don’t be silly,” he stammered, “There… There’s no ghost!”

“Yuh-uh!” Jovi squealed, “Look!”

Michael began to grow irritated, “Oh cut it out! You’re just saying that to fool with me!”

“Jovi is not! If big brother would just look, he’d see that Jovi’s right!”
He heaved a big sigh and rolled his eyes. “All right, fine. I’ll play along with your stupid game! Just to prove to you that there is no…”

Michael turned his head confidently where Jovi was pointing, with the intent of proving her wrong. He expected to face the road and see only the road, then more and likely listen to Jovi giggling about how gullible he was.

What he didn’t expect was to stare into a floating, empty skull with a glowing red orb wobbling inside it.

“…GHOST!”

With a high-pitched scream and color-drained face, Michael tumbled off of his scooter at the sight of the miniature Grim Reaper. Resisting all temptation to freeze on the spot, he frantically crawled backwards to escape the Duskull. But as the ball of evil hovering directly over him matched Michaels’ panicked pace, Michael moved his shaking legs faster as the Duskull came closer until his back hit the truck of a tree. Terrified and backed into a corner, Michael began to flail his arms wildly in a vain hope that the ghost would be more scared than he was. “GETAWAYGETAWAYGETAWAY!”

But the Duskull managed to avoid each hysterical attack, swiftly dodging them with its smooth, fluid movements through the air. It effortlessly evaded Michaels’ assault, swerving, diving, and staring at something. Before long, the Duskull zeroed in on what it was truly interested in and dove towards Michaels’ belt.

The instant Michael felt a tug at his belt with all his Poké Balls attached he didn’t hesitate to swing his fist at the thieving Duskull. It felt like punching a ball of cloth at first, but he drew back his hand in pain when his fist smashed against the Duskulls’ bone mask. Michael immediately grasped his throbbing red hand with his other one, all while hissing through his clenched teeth.

The Duskull wasn’t in pain like Michael, but it was certainly stunned. It tumbled backwards in the air at the blow, hanging in place for a moment. It took a few seconds for it to come to its senses, but it had an infuriated scowl on its face when it did. The Duskull glared at Michael with its sleeve-like arm held against the area of impact and then swiftly fled back into the forest.

Once the Duskull disappeared into the woods, Michael was able to get back on his feet. Still grasping his bruised hand, he glared back into the forest with eyes that were now filled with anger instead of fear. “Stupid ghost…” he spat. He shook his hand in the air while wincing in pain and growling out loud, “Dangit!”

Jovi watched the entire ordeal from the safety of the scooter, calm, unfazed, and with the hint of a smile on her face. When Michael turned around to look her in the face, the slight smile evolved into a childish grin. She rocked back and forth slightly and sung triumphantly, “Jovi said soooo!”

Michael, however, was in no mood for her games. He bitterly narrowed his eyes and sharply hissed, “Aw, shut up, Jovi!”

Michael was never the kind of person to keep his emotions locked up. Demonstrating this, he sent stones flying along the road with swift kicks followed by a short, furious shout. He hated being made to look like a fool. He hated showing weakness and his fears for other people to see. And the more he thought about it, the fiercer he stomped the ground and the larger the dust cloud in front of him got.

“BIG BROTHER!”

The abrupt, shill sound of Jovis’ terrified voice was enough to snap Michael out of his tantrum. Pulling a random Poké Ball from his belt, a he wasted no time in rushing to Jovi. Instinctively, he guarded Jovi by standing in front of her and pointed his Poké Ball like a weapon at what she was screaming at.

The protective and enraged look in Michaels’ eyes was enough to strike terror into the offender. He immediately fell backwards at Michaels’ non-verbal threat. All of a sudden, the one that made Jovi cry for her big brother became twice as scared as she was.

“H… He tried to steal Jovis’ Pokémon!” Jovi shakily cried, pointing her finger at the thief while safely behind Michael.

When Jovi spoke, Michael lost a bit of his concentration. As the anger and instinct to shield Jovi from harm began to calm down, he became less blind to who he was facing. He slightly lowered his arm to get a better look at the culprit. His scowl began to loosen as he looked over the shivering sunny-blond whom never once lifted his gaze over his blue shades to look Michael in the eyes.

Michael the recognized the trembling figure on the verge of tears. “You?!” He lowered his arm even further. The sight of Folly alone made his heart sink. Knowing that only half of a full threat was cowering in front of him, Michaels’ face flooded with apprehension. He cautiously turned his head, looking for the other half. “Where’s…”

Before he could finish, he heard the swift, yet heavy, sound of footsteps behind him. Michael tried to react as soon as he heard them, but he was far too slow. In an instant, Michael felt two feet jump on his back. By the time he realized what was going on, the weight of the person that ambushed him had already pushed him to the ground. Michaels’ face was forced into the gravel while long nails were stabbing at his scalp. Even though the ambusher was light for his size, Michael was completely unable to move. As if her needed convincing to stay put, he felt cold, sharp metal touching the back of his neck, which made every inch of his body lock up.

He still wanted to get up and free himself, but the knife against his skin paralyzed him with fear. A chill went down his spine when an icy threat was delivered to his ears through a quiet, yet sharp hiss, “Ya must hate your life an awful lot if ya were even thinkin’ ‘bout hurtin’ him. ‘Cause if ya wanna die dat badly, I can certainly help ya out.”

Michael stayed like that for a while, both unable and unwilling to move. And Trudlys’ familiar, rough voice only gave him more reason to stay down. He had put him into a position where he was completely defenseless, unable to reach for his Poké Balls, or do much with the one he had in his hand. But knowing Trudly, Michael knew that this tactic wasn’t below him.

However, it almost seemed like Trudly was unaware of who he attacked in his blind rush. Nothing but Jovi yelling at Trudly to leave her big brother alone could be heard; both Trudly and Michael remained silent.
After several moments of Trudly not realizing who Michael was, Michael heard him give an exclamation in the form of a growl. At that moment, Michael felt his spiky hair being yanked to the point where his head was being lifted from the ground. The pressure on his back disappeared as heard Trudly jump off of him. Then before he knew it, Michael was skidding across the rocky ground.

The instant Michael realized that he wasn’t restrained anymore, he promptly stood up and furiously wiped the dirt and pebbles off of his face. He spun around to face the dirty blond, all while clenching a Poké Ball.

Both glared at each other with narrow, fiery eyes. The two remained motionless, cautious, and distrustful of one another. Not the model of calmness, Trudly was visibly irritated. He ground his teeth with the same intensity as his boot grinding the earth beneath it, and both of his fists were clenched into a tight ball. Michael wanted to get the same point across and was constantly trying to exceed Trudlys’ visible signs of anger.

The air was left to mix with the raging auras. The silence became laced with distrust and disdain, and neither Folly nor Jovi dared to break it.

Finally, Trudly interrupted the flow of silent malice between him and Michael. “What da hell are ya doin’ here?”

Trudlys’ question didn’t break Michaels’ anger. On the contrary, it only intensified it. “What the hell are you doing here?” Michael stepped forward, no longer afraid of Trudly. “What were you trying to pull?! What were you doing?! Were you just waiting for someone to rob?!” He pulled his Poké Ball into sight. “Well I got news for you! You picked the wrong person!”

Trudly, however, wasn’t fazed by Michaels’ threats. He simply stood there with an unimpressed look on his face and stuffed his hands in his pockets.

When Michael had stopped talking, a gray mass peeked over Trudlys’ shoulder. When he saw the red eye glaring at him grudgingly, Michael immediately recognized it as the Duskull. At that instant, Michael wasn’t as brave anymore. The tough front Michael put up quickly dissolved. He jumped back at the sight of the Duskull and gave a shrill scream.

Trudly reached behind his shoulder and massaged the side of Spooks’ head. He gave a small laugh with a smile as he shook his head. As Spook disappeared behind his shoulder, content with the attention given to him by his trainer, Trudly turned his head towards Michael. He chuckled slightly again and said with a mocking voice, “All it took was dat lil’ ghost to scare ya, huh? I saw how ya were cryin’ earlier; ya don’t fool me for a second.”

After Spook was out of sight, Michaels’ phobia became unnoticeable again. He scowled at Trudly, and his sharp tone of voice fed his annoyance, “You didn’t answer my question! What did you guys think you were going to do to my little sister?!”

The intensity and anger in the hiss was meant to show the duo that he wasn’t to be messed around with. But Trudlys’ hostile and aggressive nature made him resistant to such a tone. The unfazed look on his face proved that Michael –to his dismay- wasn’t a threat in Trudlys’ eyes. Trudly didn’t seem to be taking him seriously, and Follys’ head was hanging too low to even see a reaction.

Finally, Michael could see emotion forming in Trudlys’ face. But it wasn’t the kind of emotion that stroked Michaels’ ego. Instead of fear, Michael could see flames of anger sparking again in his eyes. He gave Michael the kind of stare that let him know that he meant business. “And what da hell did ya think ya were gonna do to Folly?”

Trudly was done playing games. Michael could sense that with every small -yet fierce- step he took towards him. The snowballing rage grew every second, which was enough for Michael to become nervous enough to back up.

“Had ya lil’ brat if a sister kept still ‘n quiet like she was supposed to, all day would’ve happened were a couple of Pokémon stolen, and dat would’ve been da end of it.” Trudlys’ face contorted into a furious scowl, one that would put an Ursaring to shame. “But instead, ya decide to not play it safe, ‘n ya go and threaten Folly.”

“And what?! Let my sisters’ Pokémon get stolen?!” Michael burst out.

“What da hell ya getting’ so p*ssed ‘bout, Mr. Black Pot? Ya do da same goddamn thing all da time.” Trudly retorted mockingly.

Michael was momentarily silenced. But he didn’t want Trudly of all people to be putting him on his level. Michael was about to explain that his situation was different, but Trudly began speaking again.

“I honestly don’t care what kind of excuse ya have. As far as I’m concerned, anyone stupid enough to intercept on robbery deserves to get their *** kicked.” Trudly shamelessly and nonchalantly defended his and Follys’ crime.

His eyes regained their raging intensity tenfold. Trudly suddenly became the most intimidating and protective Michael’s ever seen him. “If ya ever lay your hands on Folly, I’ll mangle ‘em along with da rest of your body!

Michaels’ face turned colorless. Sweat was soaking both his face and his palms. His slippery hands struggled to keep a hold of the Poké Ball as they trembled. Michael knew well enough that Trudly was just the kind of person to carry out such a threat. He had heard of his violent fits of rage before, but he had never seen one. Michael wanted to keep it that way.
His nervous eyes darted over to Jovi. She also was frightened, but she showed it more than Michael. Even at the distance Michael was from her, he could see her shaking in place. Her eyes as well reflected fear, but she regardless kept them fixed on Trudly.

Trudly eventually noticed what Jovi was doing. He turned his head to look Jovi in the eyes, which was enough to make Jovi nearly jump out her seat. His eyes narrowed and he spat sharply, “What da hell ya starin’ at?”

His icy words caused Jovi to be even more mortified of him. She lowered her head to avoid looking at the antagonistic look on his face. She began to speak up, but in a tiny, trembling voice, “Y… You say lots of m… mean things to big brother. An… And you swear a lot…”

Trudly was quiet for a moment. That silence told Michael that he didn’t take Jovi very seriously either. He rolled his eyes, turned away, and shortly said, “I don’t give a sh*t.”

Ignoring Jovi and her shocked expression from that point on, Trudly turned back to Michael, “How long do ya really think ya can test our patience? Neither me nor Folly has done jack **** to ya! But from day one ya haven’t done anythin’ but cause trouble!”

“And I was supposed to ignore all those Shadow Pokémon you guys had?!” Michael retorted feeling a little less intimidated.

“I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout da Shadow Pokémon!” Trudly snapped back bitterly and somewhat grudgingly, “Ya screwed us over in worse ways than snaggin’ Pokémon!”

Michael wasn’t sure what to make of what Trudly just said. He clenched his teeth both in confusion and anger. He had no idea what he was being accused of, and began to hate Trudly even more for that reason. “What? I haven’t done anything but snag Pokémon from your boss! What the hell did I do to you?!”

Trudly looked distant for a little while. He was unresponsive as he stared at nothing in particular, more focused on thoughts than sights. For those few seconds, Trudly retained his bitter face. But every now and then, a flash of a different emotion would appear on his face; hatred, frustration, worry, and to Michael’s surprise, sadness.

Eventually, Trudly snapped himself out of his reflective state. He lowered his head and sighed, “Nothin’. Jus’ drop it.”

Michael, however, was not about to accept Trudlys’ decision to let the subject die so easily. “No! Tell me what I di-”

“I said drop it!”

The roar and biting ferocity of Trudlys’ sudden burst of rage was finally enough to cause Michael to get the message. He flinched and silenced himself immediately. He hated to turn down a fight and let criminals like Trudly and Folly walk away, but in the back of his mind, his conscience pleaded for him to not instigate Trudly any further.

The intensity of Trudlys’ demand made Jovi frightened as well. She hid behind Michael, only daring to reveal enough of her face to be able to watch Trudly walk away.

“Folly. Let’s go.” Trudly said while making a prompting hand gesture at him.

Folly, who was still in the same spot Michael found him in, stumbled slowly and gingerly onto his feet. His legs, especially his left one, wobbled like a newborn Ponyta trying to stand for the first time. When he finally did get his balance, Folly winced in pain as he hobbled alongside Trudly.

As Michael watched the pair walk past him, he began to think about something he noticed earlier, but had other things on his mind. Something seemed… different about Folly. When Michael saw him for the first time in almost a year, something did not seem quite right about him. Although he was not as hostile and violent as Trudly, he was no saint by any stretch of the imagination. He was more than crafty and unpredictable enough to be considered a threat.

But just a few minutes prior, Michael had noticed that some kind of extreme change had taken place. Folly was suddenly timid and faint-hearted, contrary to the Folly he met just the following year.
Whatever had happened, it wasn’t much of a concern to Michael. What went on in their lives was not Michaels’ problem, and he felt no need to get involved.

He only concern at that moment was going home. As the two thieves headed in the opposite direction, Michael was getting ready to head back to the Lab. It was starting to get late and he knew that his mother would have a conniption before long.

“Now what was all this yelling I heard?”

Michael swiveled his head in the direction of the voice. Jovi looked along with Michael, not knowing what to expect anymore. Trudly turned his head too, but more slowly and in an irritated manner. And Folly froze in place with a violent tremble.

Without him noticing, Michael saw that the lanky figure with the wobbly hair had been walking in his direction. Now he stood in place, with a confused and disappointed look on his face.

“Oh, do you really need to be in such a bad mood all the time? You being in a bad mood puts me in a bad mood and that’s no fun!” Miror B. complained with upward slanting eyebrows and a hand on his hip. But refusing to stay negative for long, he grinned and pointed at Trudlys’ face, “It’s those glasses! It’s because you’re always seeing red! Why don’t you take them off and cheer up a little?”

Trudly didn’t look very enthusiastic about his boss’ suggestion and he certainly didn’t give the impression that he was going to followed it. Not amused, he flatly said, “Yeah. I’ll do dat next time.”

Jovi peeked at the strange man interestingly, but she made sure not to expose herself too much. She stared at him for a moment, before whispering in Michaels’ ear, “Why does that man have a Voltorb on his head?”

Michael was taken aback by the question. At first, he felt annoyed at such a stupid question. But he quickly realized that it wasn’t that difficult for anyone to mistake the mass on Miror B.s’ head for a Voltorb. “That’s his hair.”

Miror B., with his selective sense of sight, had completely overlooked Michael. Trudly seemed to hope it would stay that way, but no Michael. Part of him wanted to go home as quickly as possible. But a stronger, more dominant part of him was itching for a fight. He had no desire to fight Chobin, Trudly, or Folly; they were far below his skill level and a waste of time. But now an irresistible lust for battle overtook his mind, pushing away his thoughts of going home. He had fought Miror B. several times before and won, but he was still strong enough to be worth his time.

Keeping silent was about to be impossible for Michael when his aggression was fighting a winning battle against his calmer side. He wasn’t about to let Miror B. ignore him and walk away. He was strongly inclined to make Miror B. aware of his presence, but soon Michael found that he didn’t need to.

Miror B., diverting his attention away from Trudly and Folly, began to look in Michaels’ direction. For a moment, Miror B. was yet again clueless as to who was standing right in front of him. He was looking directly at Michael, but it didn’t seem to register immediately in Miror B.s’ head who he was.
The blank stare on Miror B.s’ face only made Michael even madder and more impatient with every passing second. That naïve and apparently forgetful look tested Michaels’ patience, turning his battle-hungry smile into an annoyed frown.

All of a sudden, a flash of recognition flooded Miror B.s’ face. He nearly fell backwards and his eyes looked like they were about to pop out from surprise. “YOU?!”

Michael was also about to fall over, but out of disbelief rather than shock. “It took you that long?!”

Miror B. regained his posture but still looked like he was caught completely off-guard. “Ohhh… What are you doing here?!” he whined, “This just ruins my day! I never want to have to deal with you, let alone today of all days!”

“What’re you so worried about? Got something to hide?” Michael questioned him suspiciously. Miror B. had always given him an apprehensive feeling, like there was something always up his purple sleeve. He was anxious for a battle with him, but he knew better than to trust that Miror B. wouldn’t pull anything dirty.

Miror B. seemed insulted by the comment and he quickly lost his rattled feeling. “Oh, so I can’t take a walk now without you insisting that I’m doing something wrong?”

A small, devious smile formed on Michaels’ face. His thumb moved over the button in the middle of the Poké Ball and his arm swayed back and forth. He was leading Miror B. right where he wanted him. “If you say you’re so innocent, prove it.”

Miror B., however, was not as gullible as he had hoped. His expression didn’t change from insulted to aggressive; he didn’t seem to be interested in fighting Michael. He stepped back, shook his head and hands, and laughed humorlessly, “Oh no! I’m not as stupid as you think, boy! I know a losing battle when I see one! Losing to you over and over isn’t fun! And I’m not about to fight a boring battle!” He glanced at Trudly and Folly, looking anxious to leave. “Boys! Let’s get out of here before today gets any worse!”

Without a word, the two henchmen followed their boss’ command and began to follow him out of the forest. Neither of them seemed to have any objections, and if they did, they didn’t look like they wanted to voice them. Trudly and Folly walked at a slow pace past Michael with Trudly leading. Whether he was keeping that pace to let Folly walk at a comfortable speed or to keep a distance from their boss, Michael couldn’t tell.

But Michael wasn’t about to let them walk away so easily. His head was swimming with thoughts, desperately looking for something to say. His lust for fighting wasn’t something that he could deny easily. This was a desire he had to fulfill one way or another.

“Well, battling with those stupid Ludicolo would be boring!”

The comment was loud and mocking enough to catch Miror B.s’ fading interest. He stopped dead in his tracks, cringing at the same time. Miror B. turned his head enough for Michael to see his expression. The jolly, cheerful, and foolish expression he usually wore was nowhere to be found. His unusual pacifism he displayed earlier was entirely inverted. Miror B. was more than insulted. He was furious. His clenched teeth and intensely furrowed brows combined formed an intimidating expression, which made Michael rethink his actions for a moment.

Stupid?!” Miror B. hissed through his teeth. In an instant, he seized two Poké Balls from his belt, grasping them hard enough to make the veins in his hands visible. “Let’s see how stupid they are when they rip your head off!”

His sudden explosion led to Miror B. violently flinging the Poké Balls in Michaels’ direction. The force and speed of Miror B.s’ enraged throw suggested that he was aiming to hit Michael.

But he fell short of his target. The balls landed a couple yards away from him; the two halves cracked open when they hit the ground. The red energy burst forth from the inside of the balls, forming the two nearly identical silhouettes. Eventually, the energy took physical form and became the twin Ludicolo, Didi and Lolo. In nearly perfect synchronization, both Ludicolo leapt in the air and landed firmly without faltering. They stomped the ground in unison, displaying their zeal and readiness for battle. “Luu di!”

Michaels’ heart leapt for a moment. He expected Miror B. be angry at his comment; after all, that was his intention. But he didn’t expect Miror B. to be enraged. Before he came to his senses, Michael was scared that he had induced a murderous rage in Miror B. and that he had made a huge mistake in doing so.

Regardless, Miror B. had played right into Michaels’ hand by sending out his Ludicolo. A smirk spread across his face. Now that Miror B. had done exactly what he wanted, Michael finally got the chance to used the power he and been threatening to use all day.

He quickly threw two Poké Balls in front of the Ludicolo before they had a chance to attack him directly. Both of them burst open at the same time, and materialized at the same time.

Once of them was a rather small, bipedal creature. Its body looked docile and meek; tiny feet hidden beneath a thick mass of dull yellow leg hair, flimsy arms ending with clawless hands, and a face with huge red eyes and the impression that it was absolutely harmless.

An enemy paying attention to only those details wouldn’t have taken the Pokémon seriously at all. However, one feature of the Pokémon would completely erase that notion. Hanging from the back of the Pokémons’ head were two massive horns. Theset of horns were bigger than the Pokémon itself.

The “horns” however, did not look much like horns at all. Both were wide across until they ended at a thin tip. One horn was placed on the top of the other at an angle, leaving space in between the two. The edges were lined with triangular branches that resembled a set of flesh-tearing teeth. The horns were a dark gray color, with a single pale yellow, circular spot on the top horn. What in reality was a complicated set of horns appeared to be a giant, carnivorous maw.

The false mouth was as hard and heavy as steel, but the Mawile was able to swing it around like it was weightless. The Mawile had so much control over the movement of his horns that he was able to move each horn independently of each other. Doing so made the “jaws” open wide and snap shut with incredible pressure.

The Mawile turned his back on the Ludicolo so that his horns were facing them. But he also made that move for another reason. Hunter always had an aloof and distant attitude. No matter whom it was he hated to look others in the face, further highlighting his lonely personality. It even applied to Michael, whom Hunter was by no means on bad terms with.

The other appeared to be nothing but a ball of thick, brown quills. This was how the Pokémon almost always appeared to others. Like Hunter, she also hated to make eye-contact with others. But while Hunters’ case was more out of insecurity, hers was out of fear. Incredibly timid, she kept herself curled into a ball to avoid looking at anyone directly. Only occasionally would she poke her tan-brown shrew-like face and the two sharp claws on each hand out into the open. The Sandslash did just that as she entered the battle, quickly evaluating the enemy with her slanted black eyes before tucking her head back in.

Michael had initially named his Sandslash Screwball because of the curving and tricky rolling attacks she would use in battle. But he found after seeing her tight in her ball even when there was no threat that her name fit in more ways than one.

Both his Pokémon were out and ready to fight. Michael had already prepared himself mentally for battle and was brimming with energy. Hunter and Screwball were at a large disadvantage against the Water and Grass-type Ludicolo. But Michael was nevertheless confident that he would win. He had faced Miror B. several times before. He was entirely sure that he could beat him again, even with his weakest Pokémon.

Even though Michael was looking straight ahead at the twin Ludicolo, he briefly shifted his focus to something he saw out of the corner of his eye. When Miror B. burst into a rage at Michael, Michael saw Folly suddenly shield his head with his arms and fall to his knees. He was crouched over defensively and –even from the distance between them- Michael could see him shivering.

As soon as Folly crumbled into such a state, Michael saw Trudly kneeled down beside him and tried to calm him down. It almost looked like he was consoling him. Michael was a bit surprised to see Trudly –of all people- act so softly.

But Michael wasn’t very interested in whatever was going on with the men and quickly turned his attention back to Miror B. He still looked clearly enraged. But Michael noticed that after a while, Miror B.s’ expression seemed to calm down. Gradually, the muscles in his face loosened up as the anger ebbed away. Within seconds, Miror B. went from steaming mad to bewildered.

Then, all of a sudden, it seemed as if Miror B. had put the pieces of the situation together. He jumped back a little before throwing arm forward, pointing straight at Michael. The anger flooded back in his face, but in the form of annoyance, rather than intense rage. “Ooh, you! You really do know how to push my buttons!”

Michael gave a short laugh, affirming the game he was playing. But Miror B. wasn’t so sure about joining in. He pawed the ground, grumbled and groaned a little, and looked conflicted overall. “Oh… I really don’t want to fight you, but…”

His Ludicolo were unsure of the situation too. They were no longer in their fighting position. Instead, they had turned their back to Michaels’ Pokémon and faced their trainer. It was as if they were also confused and were waiting for confirmation on whether they were really going to fight or not.

Michaels’ Pokemon weren’t immune either. The silence and inactivity made Hunter swing his horns back and forth out of boredom. It had also made Screwball impatient and confused, so much that she resorted to loosening herself enough to take a quick peek at what was going on.

Miror B. was standing there arguing internally with himself for so long that Michael was about ready to order his Pokémon to attack the Ludicolo before he could recall them. But after much deliberation on Miror B.s’ part, he had finally seemed to make up his mind. “Didi! Lolo! Make this quick and don’t play around with him!”

Both Ludicolo spun around and squeaked excitedly in response. Without any hesitation, they dashed straight towards their opponents with their retractable claws out.

Continued...
 

Blueysicle

Master Procratinator
Michaels’ grin spread wider, finally getting the chance to release his pent up energy. He was more than ready to fight, and had already had a strategy in his head. “All right guys! Let’s do this! Screwball! Get a Rollout started! Hunter! Smash your horns at them when they come in!”

Michaels’ Pokémon were also prepared and ready for battle, as not a second was wasted after the commands were given. Screwball began to roll around in her ball, eventually moving away from her starting position and rolling in wide circles to gain momentum. Hunter swung his horns back and forth even wider than before, getting ready to swing them at the Ludicolo when the time was right. He even turned himself slightly to keep an eye on the Ludicolos’ movements.

But the Ludicolo were also fast thinkers, and reacted to Michaels’ strategy right away. They split up from each other, Didi going left and Lolo going right, but still targeting Hunter. They were moving far too much apart from another. Hunter could attack two enemies if they were close to each other, but the distance between the twins made such a move impossible. He could attack one of the Ludicolo, but he would still be leaving himself wide open for the other one to attack him.

Michael realized this, but he knew that such a scenario was now inevitable. Hunter wasn’t fast on his legs, so avoiding them wasn’t an option. The best he could do was attack one of them, and hope that Hunters’ reflexes were fast enough to block himself from the other. “Get the one of the left!”

Hunter both prepared his attack and braced himself. As Didi drew near, he swung his heavy horns at the Ludicolo, his whole body spinning in the process. But just in time, Didi ducked to the ground as Hunters’ horns swung right over her. She was quick to get back on her fight and take advantage of Hunters’ being left defenseless after his failed attack. Didi dashed towards Hunters’ front side and slapped her hands together right in front of his face.

Hunter recoiled at the sudden sound; he was distracted just long enough to not realize that Lolo was quickly approaching him. Michael yelled his name to warn him, but by then he was too late. Lolos’ claws raked at the Mawiles’ soft, unprotected, flesh; not even his thick fur could shield him. The yellow fur that did not fly off as Lolo sliced at him was quickly becoming dyed red.

The frenzied slashes at his flesh were enough to snap Hunter out of his temporary daze. Relying on instinct and ignoring the pain, he quickly swung his horns at Lolo. Such an attack with little preparation meant that it lacked its normal power to break even bricks. But it was still enough to knock Lolo away from him and cease his assault.

Lolo skidded across the ground, far away enough to keep his claws out of range. Michael knew that Didi and Lolo would probably not be able to perform that technique again in that battle. Hunter wasn’t likely to be surprised by Didi like that again, as his senses were fine tuned to their movements even more than when the battle began.

Didi, as if realizing this, ran away from Hunter to keep herself from being hit too. She ran over to Lolo, checking on him to make sure he was okay. Lolo sat up, rubbing the area of impact while scowling at the Mawile.

“Hunter, are you alright?” Michael asked him, concerned as he watched Hunter keep one of his hands over his cuts.

Hunter nodded to keep Michael from worrying, but he failed to hide the winces he made at the sharp pain.

Michael kept part of his attention on his Mawile, and the other part on Screwball. While the Ludicolo were focused solely on Hunter, Screwball was picking up speed and power at a fast rate. She appeared as a brown blur as she raced along the path. The timing was just right to launch her attack, “Now Screwball!”

Even while spinning at such a fast speed, she heard Michaels’ order. She took a wide turn, altering her path so that the Ludicolo were in the way. Screwball couldn’t see her enemies, but her acute hearing and sense of smell allowed her to lock on to them. Throwing dust into the air in the process, Screwball tore across the ground straight at the Ludicolo.

“Get out of the way!” Miror B. realized what Screwball was doing just while he still had enough time to warn his unsuspecting Ludicolo.

Didi, being evidently sharp-minded, was the first to react to her trainers’ call. Before Lolo could react, Didi grabbed his hands and pulled him out of the way of the Sandslash that could have easily sliced them like a buzz saw.

Screwball buzzed right past them, but she seemed to realize that she missed her mark. She turned around and spun in place for a moment, kicking up another cloud of dirt. Then she took off again at the Ludicolo, just as swiftly as her first attempt.

Didi and Lolo kept an eye on her so they could react to her charges. The duo pulled each other out of the way and jumped over the ball of quills as she stubbornly zoomed back and forth. But she was getting faster with every passing second, and the Ludicolo together was a big target. Even as quick as the pair was, Screwball would exceed their speed before long.

Knowing full well of that fact, Miror B. came up with a plan to make it harder for Screwball, “Didi! Focus on the Mawile! Lolo! Get that nasty Sandslash out of the way!”

The Ludicolo immediately acted on the command. Lolo hoisted his sisters’ legs in his palms and tossed her in the air towards Hunter. Didi readied her attack even in midair. A look of deep concentration came over her face, one that Michael recognized. He knew at once what she was doing. She was channeling energy into her fists, so much that electricity crackled along the back of her hand. Before long, those little sparks completely surrounded her hands, creating a bright, electric aura.

Michael knew very well that any Pokémon that could channel fire, ice, or electric energy and localize it in their fists were not to be taken lightly. Hunter knew very well himself, but Michael made sure to remind him of that fact, “Block it! Don’t let her hit you directly!”

Hunter did just that. He moved his wide horns directly in front of Didi before she could strike her body. The horns absorbed the impact, even the electricity running from Didis’ fists. His horns were not only made to crush even the toughest material, but to protect a Mawile from attacks, even doing so much as keeping energy from traveling to the body and harming it.

Didi recoiled in pain for a second from punching the hard horns. But she was quick to continue her assault. She swung her fists from all angles possible, and Hunter swung his horns to match her movements. Each party tried to inflict damage to the other, but Didis’ quickness and Hunters’ superior blocking skills turned the match into a stalemate.

Lolo was having an equally tough time with Screwball. Already, Michael could see a few cuts from Screwball grazing him. But from seeing how clearly energetic Lolo was in his dodges and the furious swipes of his claws, Michael could tell that Lolo had yet to be hit directly. Screwball couldn’t keep up such a momentum forever. She had to inflict major damage to Lolo before long, or else she would grow tired and leave herself defenseless.

Miror B. furrowed his eyebrows slightly, growing frustrated with how the battle was not proceeding as quickly as he hoped. He was becoming clearly impatient, and when grew impatient, Michael knew that’s when Miror B. took things up a notch.

When Lolo came close to where Miror B. was standing, he called to him, “Show it some real power Lolo! Hydro Pump!”

Lolo nodded all while jumping and dancing around Screwball. He hesitated a little, not unleashing the attack as soon as he was ordered. But Michael caught on quick to what he was doing. His Vaporeon knew Hydro Pump as well, and Michael knew that such a powerful attack expended a lot of energy. He realized that no sensible Pokémon would use such a technique lightly, and would most likely conserve it as much as they could. Therefore, he figured out that Lolo was probably waiting for the right moment to use the move.

After a long time of running and hopping around, he finally had that moment. Lolo stood facing Hunter in the background, and Screwball rushing at him in the foreground. Lolo squeaked at Didi, most likely telling her to move out of the way.

Didi responded to her brother by jumping out of the way of both Lolo and Hunters’ swings. She ran off fast enough so Hunter couldn’t catch up to her and to keep him in Lolos’ line of fire.

Lolos’ cheeks swelled with water. He struggled to hold it all in until the right moment. Small squirts of water spat out of his beak as he waited for Screwball to be in the perfect place. He needed to get it right. If he did, he would knock Screwball into Hunter, and take both of them out of battle.

Michael needed to prevent that.

His mind raced to come up with a plan. But things were moving too quickly. Screwball couldn’t stop now. Hunter was too slow to dodge. It seemed like things were playing right into Miror B.s’ hands.

And Miror B. grinned triumphantly knowing that.

“Now Lolo!”

“Watch out!”

A torrent of water burst from Lolos’ mouth, with Screwball right in the way.

The blast of water was short, but it was enough to reverse Screwballs’ direction. She was pushed backwards, heading straight for Hunter.

Instinct was the only thing Hunter could rely on in such a situation. The moment he saw Screwball flying towards him, he automatically swung his horns.

She struck the hard, metal-like horns in mid-swing. The hard quills protected Screwball herself. But the force caused a few to crack and fracture. The vibrating sound of Screwball hitting the horns rang through the air. Like a baseball bat hitting a ball, Screwball was sent flying back to where she was initially…

…straight at Lolo.

His eyes widened and his jaw dropped. Lolo realized that his plan went wrong. But by then, it was too late to do anything about it.
The balled-up Sandslash smashed into the Ludicolos’ chest, knocking him backwards. The quills slashed his down and skin, causing the tips of the quills to be wet with his blood. Screwball rolled off of Lolo as he fell to the ground, unconscious.

Lolo!” Didi screamed as she watched the whole scene unfold. Instantly ignoring Hunter, she rushed over to her brother, yelling his name. She held his head up and shook his body, trying to revive him. But Lolo was completely unresponsive and knocked out cold.

Screwball came to a halt a few feet away from Lolo. As she stopped, she uncurled herself, revealing her full body. She had a dizzy and pained look in her eyes as she stumbled to her two-clawed feet. But she was only able to take a couple of uneasy steps before she lost her balance and collapsed back to the ground.

Hunter saw her fall to the ground in her daze. Concern over his usual partner in battle immediately swept over his face. He looked like he wanted to rush to her and check on her condition, but he seemed reluctant and only took a few steps. He learned through the battle that Didi could react extremely quickly, faster than he could ever hope to. It was as if he was scared to move enough to get Didis’ attention, so any move that he did make was very small and quiet.

Michael could hardly believe what he just saw. He had expected Lolos’ move to work perfectly, but he never expected that Hunter could cause it to backfire the way it did. He felt a little less tense than he was a minute ago, but he still wasn’t relaxed after watching the effect on Screwball. He wasn’t worried about her broken quills; they’ve gotten broken in battle before and they grow back easily. But the odd Sandslash only uncurled herself completely either when the battle required drastic measures or when her energy had completely been used up. Seeing as how Screwball was lying in one spot and not moving, Michael knew the latter was probably the case.

He whispered to Hunter to not worry and stay put while he returned Screwball to her Poké Ball. He tried to do so as quietly as he could without alerting the attention of Miror B. or Didi.

Miror B., on the other hand, didn’t keep as quiet. The moment Lolo was knocked out, he erupted into a full-blown panic. The color in his face drained completely and he could barely keep himself still and calm. He tightly grasped part of his huge hair as he nervously jumped back and forth. “Aah! Lolo! Get up! Get up!”

Didi, attentive as always, spotted Hunter as he moved from his original position. Rage filled her eyes at the sight of Mawile. With her fists clenched and a scowl on her face, she quickly stood up and rushed at Hunter, screaming at him with every step.

Hunter saw Didi coming at him, but instead of fighting back, he braced himself by moving his horns in front of him and clamping his eyes shut. He could barely touch Didi before, and it was as if he knew that there wasn’t much he could do to stop her in her rage.

Michael had to think quickly, or else Hunter would be left at the mercy of the furious Ludicolo. His hands quickly ran across his belt, scrambling to find a Pokémon that was fast enough to stop Didi. He grabbed one and swiftly threw it on the field.

The Ludicolo was rapidly approaching Hunter; every inch she came closer to him made him tense up even more. For a moment, a sense of hopelessness swept across the Mawile.

The sound of swift footsteps not of the Ludicolos’ made Hunter crack one of his eyes open. At that moment, a red blur shot towards Didi. The blur was the two red claws of a Breloom swiftly making its’ way to the enemy. The clenched claws punched Didi in her side, carrying enough force to cause her to skid across the ground, far away from Hunter.

Both Hunter and Michael gave a relieved sigh at Pogos’ quickness. Without a second though, Pogo stood in between Hunter and Didi, shielding him. He hopped back and forth sideways while making short, threatening jabs at the air in Didis’ direction.

Didi grasped her side, cringing in pain a little. She stared at the opposition for a moment before standing up. Even though she was outnumbered, she didn’t look any less aggressive. Rather, she clenched her fists back up and prepared to attack again.

“Didi! Wait!” the sharp call of Miror B. was the only thing that made Didi stop in her steps. She turned her head towards him reluctantly, her desire to fight more apparently strong. But she didn’t make the mistake of relaxing and periodically looked back at Pogo and Hunter.

Miror B. explained his command to her further, with a small scowl on his face, “It’s not going to do a bit of good to attack them one-on-two. If you really want to avenge Lolo, then don’t be foolish by doing it alone!”
Didi remained motionless and unresponsive for a few seconds. But then she gave a small sigh, loosened her fists, and conceded to her trainers’ words. She turned back to the Breloom and Mawile, ready to defend herself if need be, but she stood her ground and would not go back on the offense.

Miror B. turned back to Michael, a small smile signaling his quick mood change. “You caught me off guard! Here I was thinking that there was no way your Pokémon could guard itself from Lolos’ attack, but here you proved me wrong!” His smile turned into a full grin as he laughed, “I had nearly forgotten that I got some new Pokémon on my side. And what better time than now to test their strength?”

New Pokémon? Michael thought. He knew that whenever Miror B. got a new Pokémon, it was never a good sign. Nevertheless, he quickly shook that feeling off.

Miror B. grabbed a Poké Ball and enlarged in his hand. Excited and anxious, he drew his arm back and tossed it in front of him. “All right whoever-you-are! Let’s see what you got!”

The ball cracked open, revealing a rather small, but stocky Pokémon. It was covered in a mass of dark blue fur with a small creamy white spot on that began on its chest and went to its lower jaw. The fur was especially thick and long around its waist; so much so that its legs were completely hidden under the hair with its’ round feet barely sticking out. It had short arms and small hands with tiny fingers. The Pokémon had pointy, triangular ears that stood straight up from its round face. Its’ lower jaw was a bit pronounced, with two sharp teeth sticking out.

Michael recognized the species of the Pokémon immediately. He remembered seeing a Munchlax before under the ownership of an herbalist in Gateon Port. Still, Sinnoh-native Pokémon were rather rare in Orre, which made him wonder how on earth someone like Miror B. could possibly get a hold of such a Pokémon.

He didn’t think much of it at first, but Michael kept having the nagging feeling that something was not quite right. Miror B. obtaining such a Pokémon so suddenly like that usually meant it was stolen. In the past, the previous owner was almost always a Cipher member, and the Pokémon was a Shadow Pokémon.

But that couldn’t be the case this time. Michael had both caused Cipher to disband and destroyed their Shadow Pokémon factory. There was no way that anyone would have the means to create another Shadow Pokémon. Michael was entirely sure that he did the job of burying Cipher once and for all; a new Shadow Pokémon was impossible.

Still, there was something rather unnerving about the Munchlax. Most Pokémon entering battle taunted the enemy or did something to prepare itself to fight. But the Munchlax stood motionless, simply staring at the opposition with its oval eyes. It didn’t even give off the tiniest trace of emotion. From a distance, it didn’t even look like it was even alive.

Michael shook his head back and forth in an attempt to bring him to his senses. Cut it out! Stop thinking like that! Just because it’s weird doesn’t mean anything! He needed to put his focus back on the battle and push his paranoia into the back of his mind.

Miror B. didn’t seem to take much notice of the strangeness that the Munchlax had, however. Instead, his eyes sparkled with awe enough to rival his glittery glasses. “Ooh! It’s so cute! And fluffy! It just oozes grooviness!”

He danced in place in excitement with a huge, cheerful grin on his face. But all of a sudden, he paused and the grin disappeared. “But I don’t know anything about how a Munchlax battles…” Miror B. crossed his arms and tapped one of his platform shoes, trying to think of a strategy. Eventually, he grew too flustered and simply blurted out, “Oh, I don’t have the time to play a guessing game! You, Munchlax! Just do whatever you’re capable of!”

Even though the Munchlax was motionless upon its introduction into battle, it was automatic in its response. Not even a moment passed before it threw its arm back. Almost looking like it was throwing something at Pogo Mawile, it swiftly swung its arm forward.

Michael watched the Munchlax closely, but he never saw anything leave its’ hands. For a moment, Pogo, Hunter, and even Didi looked confused at what exactly the Munchlax was doing.

That moment didn’t last long.

Suddenly, both Hunter and Pogo were knocked backwards. They stayed on their feet and didn’t look like they had been severely damaged, but both were nevertheless clenching their teeth in pain.

Michael, perplexed at what hit them, still craned his neck back and forth to try to find any wounds on them. But there were no bruises, cuts, or even the smallest trace of blood. The attack itself was invisible, and the after-effects were apparently invisible as well.

The entire group in the vicinity of the battle watched the last move made by the Munchlax in confusion. Even Jovi, Trudly, and Folly, who had enough sense to put themselves at a fair distance from the fighting Pokémon, weren’t sure of what just happened.

Michael tried to think of possible solutions to the mystery. But as hard as he tried, he just couldn’t make sense of the situation. He didn’t know much about Munchlax, but he knew that their evolution, Snorlax, mainly specialized in physical attacks. If the same was true for Munchlax, then it would’ve normally attacked Pogo and Hunter directly. Even if the attack was a Special-type technique, it should’ve been visible.

Maybe it made some kind of a shock wave? Michael though that at first, but he quickly shook that idea. Even though both Pogo and Hunter were hit simultaneously, but if the attack was a true wave, then everyone else should’ve been affected. The attack was capable of damaging two Pokémon at once, but it was… controlled somehow.

It all sounded too familiar. Michael could recall seeing a similar technique before. But he didn’t want to believe that one and the one that the Munchlax used were the same. Even though he denied it over and over in his head, he still couldn’t help but utter the moves’ name in a low, grave whisper, “Shadow Wave…”

“‘Shadow Wave?’” Miror B. repeated, even though Michael had tried his best to keep quiet. Miror B. stood in silence for a while, mulling over Michaels’ words.

Then, a sudden realization swept over Miror B. His face turned into a ghostly pale, and eyes illustrated a feeling of absolute panic. “****!” He frantically searched for the Munchlaxs’ Poké Ball and quickly and anxiously returned it. He began to back up, about ready to take off at any moment. “I know what’s going on! If you think I’m going to stick around just so you can take my new Pokémon away, you’re sorely mistaken! Shadow Pokémon or not, I’m about to let you ruin the future of Team Miror for the umpteenth time! I…”

Miror B. halted his rant abruptly, seemingly to stare at something. Michael couldn’t figure out what he was so fascinated at until he realized that Miror B. was looking straight at his arm, “You don’t have your Snag Machine on…”

Michael hasn’t worn his Snag Machine in over a year. That was because he didn’t need to wear it anymore. He once managed to obtain a complete list of Shadow Pokémon with eighty-three of them in total. Once he snagged the last one, he stopped wearing the Snag Machine since no longer served any use.

He never thought that he would need it again. He counted exactly eighty-three Pokémon on that list. No more, no less. How another one could possibly exist he just couldn’t figure out.

As much he wanted to deny that he missed a Shadow Pokémon, all evidence was pointing to that possibility. The emotionless attitude and the invisible attacks were just too similar to the characteristics of the Shadow Pokémon.

The only explanation that Michael could think of was that the Munchlax was accidentally left out of the list. It was the only thing that made since, since Michael knew that no one would even dare to create another Shadow Pokémon after what he did to Cipher. Nevertheless, Michael wanted to find out just for sure, “Where’d you get that Pokémon?!”

“What?! That’s none of your business! I’m not going to tell you!” Miror B. yelled back, insulted.

Michael groaned, frustrated and impatient with his enemy. If the Munchlax was truly a Shadow Pokémon, then he couldn’t be wasting time by asking questions to somebody that would never give him an answer. Even if he didn’t have his Snag Machine with him anymore, he couldn’t let Miror B. keep that Munchlax. “Listen. You’re either going to give me that Pokémon willingly or…” Michael pointed to his two Pokémon, who were ready to burst into action. “They take it from you by force.”

Didi took Michaels’ threat seriously and began to head towards Pogo and Hunter with her claws out, heedless of her trainers’ orders. But Miror B. stopped her again, although with a calmer tone of voice, “Now wait a minute Didi.”

Miror B. didn’t seem the least bit threatened by Michael, which made him feel rather uneasy. He smiled deviously and said, “Now how about this, boy? I keep the Pokémon and you leave me alone about it!”

“What?! Stop joking around!” Michael snarled at Miror B.s’ insults at his intelligence.

“Ohoho! I’m not joking!” Miror B. laughed mischievously, waving his finger back and forth, “You see, I don’t think you want me doing what I will do if you take it from me!”

Michael sweated a little at Miror B.s’ words. There wasn’t much he could do as far as physical forced was concerned. But Michael was still worried about what Miror B. had up his sleeve. He was a tricky and scheming man, and Michael was scared of what he could do to him.

Jovi and Trudly were also interested in what Miror B. had planned. Jovi however, was more anxious and scared over what was going to happen; she quivered in place as she hid behind the scooter. Trudly cocked his eyebrow as he reclined on a tree, almost skeptical of his boss’ threats. Folly however, didn’t seem to be interested in whatever was about to unfold, as he kept his head down.

“Hmm? Still don’t get it?” Miror B. asked mockingly. He smiled and laughed as he began to pace back and forth, tossing the Munchlaxs’ Poké Ball in the air. “Well then! Let me tell you something very interesting I heard yesterday!”

Miror B. stopped moving to look Michael square in the face, “Remember a year ago when you beat Ciphers’ Grand Master? If I recall correctly, you told everyone in Orre that you trounced him! Destroyed him! Beat him into the ground!” Miror B. smirked, with a hint of vindictiveness. “But I heard that wasn’t the case at all!”

Michaels’ throat grew dry and his breath grew ragged. No… How… How could he know?!

“You see, what I heard was that the battle was far from the landslide you described it to be! You barely won! The only reason you came out on the victorious side was all because of dumb luck!” Miror B. laughed loudly, as if he was trying to announce to the whole forest of his knowledge, “You truly are a piece of work! You could’ve told everyone that you simply won, and everyone would be content with that. But instead, you decide to stretch the truth just to stroke your oversized ego! You really are quite proud, are you, you little arrogant brat!”

Michaels’ face was drenched with his own sweat and his heart was pounding loud enough that he could hear it over his shaking breaths. “D…Damn it… Shut up…”

He nervously turned his head towards Jovi, who was looking at her big brother with confused and shocked eyes. She stared at him, like she didn’t want to believe what she just heard. “Big brother…? He’s… lying… right big brother?”

Michael kept silent. He turned his head away from Jovi. He just couldn’t look her in the eyes and tell her that Miror B. was wrong. After hearing her ask him that the way she did, he felt too dirty and ashamed to say anything.

But he still saw out of the corner of his eye Jovi looking at him, disappointed and struggling to keep her eyes dry.

Miror B. seemed to relish the friction forming between Michael and his sister. He chuckled and said, “I can see your sister isn’t quite happy about that. So honestly, why should anyone have to hear that and suffer the same way?”

Michael lifted up his head up slightly, to hear what Miror B. had to say now. Part of him didn’t want to listen to him anymore, but the other was still open to whatever Miror B. had to offer.

“So how about this? I keep the Shadow Pokémon and I’ll keep quiet about your dirty little secret. If you want it, then I’ll be more than happy to hand it over. But I’ll run off and tell everyone I see about what I just told you. And even if you have the balls to attack me right here and now, I can still run away a hell of a lot faster than you, so it would be a waste of time to even try.”

Michael’s eyes widened at Miror B.s’ proposal. While it didn’t surprise him that he would pull something so dirty, Michael was still shocked that he would offer him such a mean, nasty deal.

He stood silently, trying to soak in the situation. He needed the Shadow Pokémon. He didn’t care how the Shadow Munchlax came to be anymore. It needed to be purified and that was that. Ever since he first donned the Snag Machine a year ago, he felt he was obligated to obtain and purify any Shadow Pokémon that he came across.

But if Miror B. revealed to everyone that he lied, what would everyone think of him? Being so close to losing was an embarrassment in the first place, but he felt that no one would ever let him live down lying about it if they found out? He could almost see Lily and Prof. Krane hearing the information, then looking at Michael with disappointed look in their faces that they expected better of him and that he should be ashamed.

He couldn’t stand going through that. He buried his head in his hands at the thought of everyone he befriended and loved throwing all that into the back of their mind and labeling him as a dirty liar.

Jovi saw Michael struggling with such a decision and yelled to him, trying to convince him to give up his pride, all while fighting back tears, “It’s okay! Jovi still thinks big brother is the best trainer she knows! Jovi won’t be mad! Mommy and the Professor won’t be mad either!”

Michaels’ knees felt like they were about to collapse under such pressure. Either way, he would suffer the consequences. If he accepted the Munchlax, everyone would see him as a proud, arrogant liar. But if he played into Miror B.s’ hand and let him get away, he would have to live with the fact that he let a Shadow Pokémon get away.

He looked at his two Pokémon who were also facing him, doing so much as to turn their attention away from Didi just to try to convince him to not be proud. They stared at him, waiting for him to give an answer, the answer they seemed to be hoping for; they both appeared to know that purifying a Shadow Pokémon had priority over other peoples’ conception of Michael.

But still, Michael fought with himself over and over, and he just couldn’t bear to live with such a stigma for the rest of his life. It was just one Shadow Pokémon. It never had to happen; he never had to tell anyone he knew of it. He could even tell everyone that he was never offered such a chance to obtain the Munchlax and that there were no means of taking it from Miror B. The failure to obtain a Shadow Pokémon was a lot less jarring and tarnishing than the revelation that he couldn’t bear to be seen as anything less than an outstanding trainer.

Michael began to step back. He unlatched Pogo and Hunters' Poké Balls and returned them. He clamped his eyes shut and dropped his head.

Jovi saw him resign himself. She stared at Michael with her mouth open, disbelieving and shocked. Even with Michaels’ heartbeat banging in his ears, he heard her whisper, “Big brother…”

Trudly shook his head in disbelief at Michaels’ decision with a humorless laugh. Even Folly was shocked enough that his head lifted up slightly at the situation.

Miror B. was the only one smiling. He grinned triumphantly, and appeared proud of all things. After years of losing to Michael, it seemed like he finally won.

But within a split second, that win was hanging on a thread.

The sound of a quick fluttering of wings approached the area. Before anyone could get the chance to see what it was, it lowered itself low enough to grab the Munchlaxs’ Poké Ball right out of Miror B.s’ hand and take off with it.

Miror B. didn’t seem to notice the thief at first, but it didn’t take long for him to notice his Poké Ball was gone. He closed and opened his fist a few times before truly realizing that the ball was no longer there. He swiftly swiveled his head to face his empty hand and screamed, “Aaaaah! Where’d it go?!”

All heads in the vicinity turned their heads to the tree that the thief landed in. The Ninjask with a single black wing perched herself on a branch with the Poké Ball firmly in her claws.

For that moment, Michaels’ previous thoughts were discarded in exchange for Rias’ appearance, “Dammit! That idiot… Does he really have the nerve to come back here?!”

Miror B. immediately reacted with an explosive anger. He quickly rushed to the trunk of the tree and yelled up to Ria, “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?! Give that back!”

He did so even though Ria scowled right back at him and began to vibrate her wings and buzz like she usually did when she was annoyed. But for Miror B., accepting a loss so easily was unthinkable. Miror B. even did as much as kick the tree, even though it did no good.

He snarled at the Ninjask and turned to Didi, all of his cheerfulness entirely gone. “Didi! Take care of it!”

Didi nodded, itching for action. She reached into the husk at the top of her cap, pulled a bunch of seeds out and spat them at Ria like a machine gun.

The individual seeds looked like blurs to Michael. But despite that, the Ninjask reacted instantaneously and slashed her claws at the seeds at such a fast speed that they also appeared as blurs. When she paused, all the seeds dropped to ground in halves, not a single one making contact.

Didi almost tripped over backwards at the sight of such speed. She had dominated most of the incomplete battle with her quick reaction-time. Seeing a Pokémon who was even better at that caused her to stare upon the unfazed Ninjask in utter disbelief.

Even Miror B. was shocked at Rias’ speed. Throughout the many times Michael battled Miror B., he quickly found out that Didi was his fastest Ludicolo. As if Miror B. realized that Didi couldn’t match Rias’ speed, especially after taking hits from Pogo and Hunter, he returned Didi to her Poké Ball.

But before Miror B. could get the chance to draw another ball out, the Ninjask turned her head down the path. She took off gingerly, high enough so that no one could touch her. She only lowered her elevation when she approached the red-haired man that had been standing there without anyone noticing.

Eldes took the Poké Ball from Ria before she perched on his shoulder. He then turned his head towards Miror B. and began to walk towards him like he wasn’t a threat at all. Even as tall as Eldes was, he still had to look up at Miror B.. But he did so without showing an ounce of emotion. “Was that your Shadow Pokémon?”

Miror B. raised his eyebrows at the sudden appearance of the strange man, and didn’t seem to take him any more seriously as Eldes did of him. “What?! Who the hell are you?!”

Eldes didn’t answer his question. Instead, he said to him flatly, “Please come with me.”

“Who do you think you are?! Give me back my Pokémon and buzz off!” Miror B. didn’t feel like playing with Eldes, and made no effort to conceal such feelings.

But if Eldes was trying to conceal his feelings, he was doing a great job of it. He simply stared at Miror B. with the same static and dull look on his face, completely unaffected.

Perhaps he had a reason to not be threatened by Miror B.. Its’ green color effectively hiding it, Eldes’ Flygon walked out the woods calmly, and with the same unthreatened sentiment of his trainer, approached Miror B. and gently, but tightly, grabbed him by the neck collar. Dasn lifted Miror B. up in the air, not giving Miror B. the choice of complying with Eldes’ command.

Miror B. kicked and punched at the Flygon desperately the moment his feet left the ground. Even though Michael heard that his kicks were rather strong, they still couldn’t even make the Flygon flinch. Nevertheless, he still pounded at Dasns’ tough hide, “Damn it, you son of a b*tch! Put me down!”

Dasn turned towards Miror B.s’ henchmen, apparently knowing that they were working for the one who announced just minutes prior that he had a Shadow Pokémon. They watched the actions of Eldes’ two Pokémon with their mouths agape, like they had thought their boss’ win was sealed.

Neither of them wanted to give themselves in, however; Trudly shouted a, “Run!” to Folly as they frantically stood up and began to take off. But even though Dasn was a big Pokémon, he was by no means slow. It only took a few steps for him to close the gap between him and the fleeing men, and grabbed the neck collars of Folly in his other hand and Trudlys’ in his mouth, making an effort not to harm them like he did with their boss.

With the three outlaws secure, albeit kicking and screaming, Eldes began to walk up to Michael. But Michael took the initiative to approach him himself by stomping up to the man in a hostile manner. “What do you think you’re doing here?! I thought I told you to stay out of my sight!”

Even though Michael bared his teeth and furrowed his eyebrows to intimidate Eldes, he looked back at him with his usual half-closed eyes and generally uncaring attitude. “I’m just going to turn these three in.”

“I don’t care what the hell you’re doing with those idiots! I told you that if you ever turn up here again, I’ll kick your a**! I got five Pokémon that are more than capable of fighting right now against your two! Who do you think is gonna win?!” Michael snapped back at him.

Eldes held one of his hands up defensively. “Please, I have no intention of fighting anyone.”

Initially, Michael was ready to ignore Eldes’ plea. But after the battle with Miror B. and what happened afterwards, he began to rethink his plan. Michael wasn’t really sure anymore if he or his team were really in fighting shape as he just claimed they were after everything that happened.

Still, he didn’t tone down the intensity of his hostility to Eldes. He shot out his hand and snarled, “Give me the Poké Ball! I’m not going to let you waltz away with a Shadow Pokémon!”

Eldes didn’t do anything but look at Michaels’ outstretched hand for a while. When that moment passed, he stretched his own hand out and lightly placed the Munchlaxs’ ball in Michaels’. “I’m sorry.”

Michael snorted and snatched away the Poké Ball. “Yeah, you should be.”

Michael began to turn around with the Munchlax secure, but he still kept a close eye on Eldes. He knew that he couldn’t be trusted in the least bit. He may have been acting calm, gentle, and submissive now, but Michael was sure that if he let down his guard for even the slightest moment, Eldes wouldn’t hesitate to launch his attack.

The man didn’t make a move even as Michael started to turn away, but Michael did hear Eldes speak to him quietly, “Your sister's right. I don’t think anyone would’ve been mad at you.”

Michael snapped back around. He instantly knew what Eldes was talking about; he wouldn’t have been surprised if he had watched the whole battle beginning to end. Although his comment was shrouded in the disguise of a piece of advice, Michael took it as an insult. “Shut up!”

Now that Eldes was there and he wasn’t defenseless anymore, Michael began to think of what to do with him. He ground his sneaker across the ground trying to figure out something. He could send out all of his Pokémon at once at him and get him out of the picture. But even though Eldes was severely outnumbered, he was unsure if that would be a wise course of action. There was no way that Michael could let Eldes go free, that was for sure. “Look. I can’t in good conscience let you walk away! I’m not taking my eyes off of you! You can tell me that story about being given a second chance by your prison all you want and I’m still not going to believe any of it! I’m taking you back to the Lab so the police can throw you back where you belong!”

For the second time that day, a look of shock suddenly appeared on Eldes’ face. He bent his head back a little at Michaels’ announcement and gave a small exclamation in the form of a quick gasp. This time however, Michael could find a trace of fear in his face. “The… Pokémon HQ Lab?” His voice shook very slightly, but it was still obvious when compared to his normal, monotonous speaking pattern.

“Yeah. That’s right. And if you try anything funny, you can bet my Pokémon will be all over your *** in a second.” Michael spat at him as he turned around completely. “Problem?”

Eldes was unresponsive at first, but he eventually answered Michael without the emotions of shock or fear and in an even smaller voice than before, “No. There isn’t.”

Michael walked back to the scooter with Eldes in tow, swiveling his head back distrustfully every now and then to make sure Eldes didn’t try to pull anything. As he came close to the scooter, he looked Jovi, who had her back turned to him and her arms crossed. Michael tried to get her attention, but the most that she did was turn her head enough for Michael to see the angry and betrayed look on her face before turning back around.

He was reminded of the reason Jovi was suddenly so upset. His stomach nearly flopped upside down; just thinking about it made him feel a little sick inside. No matter what he would’ve done, Michael wouldn’t leave unscathed. He thought that letting Miror B. keep that one Shadow Pokémon and never speaking of it again would avoid such a letdown among his friends and family. But in Jovis’ case, that plan turned out to be a total failure.

He was forced to push those thoughts away for the moment. He needed to get home now for more reasons than before. He drove slowly enough to keep Eldes and Dasn carrying the three men that had by that point given up close and to react if any of them tried to escape. Michael wasn’t going to let any of them get away for their crimes. And as long as he had the power to do so, he wouldn’t let them have that chance.

* * *​

Lily sat on the front steps of the Lab, staring anxiously into the forest path. She sighed and looked up to the orange sky; the sun was setting now and it was getting late. Michael had been gone for far too long and she couldn’t stop thinking of the worst possible scenarios.

She stood up and tried to calm herself down. Lily had the faith and trust in Michael that he wouldn’t waste time and be gone longer than what was necessary. Still, she began to worry if something had happened to Michael, if he needed help, and what she could do.

Just as she began to panic like she did earlier in the day, Lily saw movement in the path. Without wasting a moment, she ran closer to get a better look. Erasing all of her fears and worries, she saw Michael on his scooter with Jovi riding on the back. The moment the scooter stopped, Jovi jumped off and ran as fast as she could towards Lily, crying, “Mommy!” Lily bent down quickly to embrace her daughter, relieved beyond comprehension that she was perfectly safe. Jovi hugged her just as tightly and didn’t let up for the longest time.

Lily lifted her head up to thank Michael for bringing her back. But before she had the chance, she noticed two other figures behind Michael. One was a large Dragon-type Pokémon holding an odd man in clothes from the disco era and an enormous afro and two grisly-looking men in their late teens. The other was a straight-faced, red-haired man in an elaborate robe that stretched beyond his knees.

Lily started to stand up a little at the sight of the unfamiliar figures and looked at them warily. Michael seemed to be fully aware of their presence, as he gave a sheepish smile as Lily looked in their direction.

“H… Hi Mom. I… uh, brought company…”



In the immortal words of Kel, "Aww... Here it goes!"

Anyone that feels like Michael needs a good smack in the face is free to do so. Well, as much as you could to a fictional character, that is.

So yeah. If you haven't figured it out, the Shadow Munchlax is the Pokemon that Miror B. found in the Poke Ball when he left Citadark Isle. Originally, I had planned the first Shadow Pokemon to appear in the present story to be a Clefairy. But after thinking it over a lot, I decided to change my mind. Why, I'm not telling you.

As far as when Chapter Ten will be up, just keep in mind that I'm going to college next week. So I probably won't have a lot of time to write it. When I do, I'll try to get as much done as possible.
 

The Great Butler

Hush, keep it down
Good content, but a little off grammar wise. Methinks you should have checked it over a few more times first.

Great chapter though! I have to admit I was a little rusty since it's been so long, but I caught up quickly. Anything with Miror B. is win, and the way you wrote his henchmen was too.

I think stuff is about to happen with Eldes now...
 

Blueysicle

Master Procratinator
TGB:

Good content, but a little off grammar wise. Methinks you should have checked it over a few more times first.

Ah, yeah. Not that I'm trying to make any excuses, but this was the first chapter in a while that Umbreevee/LoffyGlu didn't beta it for me. I thought I was well enough to go on my own, but eh. :/

Although I did catch some errors (Especially with formatting.) right after I posted it. I tried to fix them, but for some reason, I kept getting an error message and that made me go, "FFFFFFF".

I think stuff is about to happen with Eldes now...

"Stuff" would be understating it a little.

Oh yes. Before I forget... See that nice, shiny looking banner in my sig? Umbreevee/LoffyGlu made it for me. You should all thank her by licking the floor clean as she walks by.
 

LadyMiir

Nat. Dex COMPLETE!!!
I love Colosseum fics, and yours is quite good. I always liked Eldes. ^^ Great work!
 

Blueysicle

Master Procratinator
...I could apologize for being late to this again, but I'm afraid you guys are kind of sick of it by now... Regardless, I'm really, really sorry. I'm not going into reasons why I haven't updated; we'd be here all day if I did that.

So yeah. This chapter contains a bit of swearing and... Nightmare Fuel, so to say. So just try not to read this before going to bed. I might overestimating it, though. But I still thought I would warn you anyways.

And I realize the font is weird. My word processor currently hates me.

Chapter Ten: Doors Closed Shut

[FONT=&quot]He stared at the ceiling as he lied on his back. He shouldn’t have been doing this. There was work to be done, and lying there wouldn’t finish any of it. He knew what he had been told. He needed to take it easy and get plenty of rest. But the thought of all that work just waiting for him outside his bedroom door wouldn’t leave him alone. It had been nagging at his mind all day. And now that the sun had set, he felt guilty not doing anything, even if he had a legitimate excuse. [/FONT]
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His first attempt to sit up just forced him back down on the sheets again. It didn’t take much for the pain in his broken rib to be agitated. He tried again, but this time he went slowly and gingerly, doing his best to avoid as much pain as possible.
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He managed to sit up on the second try, but it was inevitable that he would feel a least some stinging. He cringed as he moved his legs carefully to the side of his bed. If he could barely sit without causing pain to shoot from his chest, he wasn’t sure if he could go as far to stand up and walk.
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“That son of b***h… This is all that idiots’ fault…” Terran groaned as he clamped his eyes shut as his broken rib constantly reminded him of what happened the previous day. It had gone so smoothly until Miror B. decided to be picky and greedy.
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Terran took a few breaths to calm and relax himself before he tried standing up. It took him a long time before he could prepare himself physically to even make an attempt at getting on his feet. He planted his hands on the side of the bed and used them to help him balance. As he lifted himself off of the bed, he cringed and ground his teeth when the pressure was put on his chest.
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His legs wobbled when he was finally able to get himself standing. Terrans’ arms quickly went from the side of the bed to the wall to keep himself from falling over. He took one off carefully to grab his leather jacket hanging on the bed post. He slipped his arms into the sleeves, held the sides of the coat and then tugged on them to straighten it out.
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He stared at the door on the other side of the wall for a while, preparing himself again. Once he felt that he could make it without instigating too much pain, Terran slowly lifted his hand away from the wall and took small steps towards the door.
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With every step he took, his attempts to numb himself withered away. He took deep breathes to try to calm the feeling, but that ended up only intensifying the pain. Terran grit his teeth and moaned, his steps growing bigger and quicker.
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Once he was in arms reach of the doorknob, he shot his arm out and seized it. He pulled himself closer and then stood still before opening the door. His idea to lessen the pain didn’t quite work out like he planned. He had to take another moment to calm himself down before moving forward.
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Terran turned the doorknob and slowly pushed open the door to his office. Once he had opened up enough room between the door and wall, he staggered out of his room and began to head for his desk.
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The last time he was at his desk, he had a whole messy pile of papers waiting to be filled out with statistics. But when he was close enough to his desk to see, all of them were missing. Panic suddenly shot through Terran. As quickly as his body would let him, he hurried to the desk and frantically searched for them. He threw open every drawer until he found a stack of papers neatly placed in one of them.
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Once he managed to calm himself down, he took a closer look at the papers. Picking up one that he knew that he hadn’t filled out yet, he saw that it had been completed. Puzzled, he set that one aside and began pulling the others out of the drawer. They were all done.
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Terran began to ask himself how that was possible, until he noticed the handwriting. It had a rather neat style and was very familiar to Terran. When he realized whom the writing belonged to, he set the papers down and gave a weak sigh.
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Not too long after he did so, Terran saw the door to his office crack open. The person opening it made sure to do it quietly as he sneaked in. He slowly opened the door enough to squeeze himself through and began to turn around to shut it.
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But as he was doing so, he caught a glimpse of Terran watching him and suddenly jumped backwards. The Cipher Peon’s breathing shook from shock, apparently not expecting his boss to actually be in his office. “S…Sir! You should be in bed! You have to take it easy!”
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Terran didn’t reply to the peons’ worry and was much more concerned that someone would hear him, as he was being so loud. “Good Mew, will you shut the damn door?!”
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The peon fumbled for the knob quickly and shut the door before immediately focusing his worry back on Terran. “You need to relax for these next few days, sir. Your wounds aren’t going to heal otherwise. Don’t worry about paperwork, sir. I can handle it. Just please take it easy.”
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“I’m fine. Don’t worry about me so much.” Terran said sharply, but he tried to hold back enough bite from making its way into his comment to calm the peon down. He could tell he was starting to panic over his well-being, and panic was the last thing Terran needed.
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Terran flipped through the papers in his hand again and said more calmly, “I figured it was you who did this,” He stopped looking through them and set them back on the desk. He looked back at the peon sternly, bitterness from the day before swelling up again. “So tell me. Is this your way of apologizing?”
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The peon flinched the moment Terran had said that. Terran could only see the bottom half of his face with the helmet on, but he could see it was flushed with guilt and embarrassment. The peon fidgeted anxiously in place, as if he was struggling to find something to say in his defense. “I…I’m sorry, sir… I… I made a mistake. I just… overindulged a little.”
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“‘A little?’” Terran spat back. Even though he couldn’t see them through the peons’ visors, Terran knew where his eyes were and focused his scowl on them. “God dammit Roy! I’ve told you this time and time again! Moderate yourself! You know how little it takes for you to get completely wasted! And if you hadn’t yesterday you might have been able to stop that b*****d!”
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Roy was visibly taken aback by the harshness of Terrans’ lecture and hung his head shamefully. The embarrassment in his face was still glaringly obvious, and made Terran stop himself from saying anything further for a moment. Both of them were quiet for a while until Terran spoke up again, but in a much calmer tone, “I honestly don’t care if you drink on your own time. But you know your limits, so stop trying to push them!”
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Roy was still cringing at Terrans’ words and didn’t move his head up when he said at a barely audible volume, “I’m sorry, sir…”
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Terran gave a sigh, willing to drop the matter. But being reminded of the previous day had brought back his anger towards Miror B.. He clenched one of his fists while digging at his desk with his nails. “I almost had him… If that b*****d hadn’t decided that he was too freaking special for just one Shadow Pokémon, I wouldn’t be in this position!”
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Terran saw Roy lift his head back up at his venting, and looked like he was about to calm him down again. “Well, yes… But I know that you sent Commander Delta off to look for some Pokémon. Maybe that will turn out differently!”
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“Hmph. I wouldn’t speak too soon. I haven’t heard a damn thing from him since I sent him off.” Terran grumbled, not expecting the outlook to be anything but pessimistic. Terran sent his second-in-command to a nearby island in hopes of seeing stronger Pokémon. The island had no human population, so he figured that the Pokémon there might have grown to be stronger than ones that lived around towns. Terran knew that the more secluded an area was from people, the more likely the Pokémon are to be powerful. But he was well aware of the chances that the Pokémon might be just as weak as the species that lived around his present location. Then again, Terran also knew that in his position, strength wasn’t the main concern.
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But Roy insisted on being optimistic and still tried to cheer Terran up. He moved a little closer as he gave a small laugh, “Well, you also have to figure, sir, that it hasn’t even been a day yet. He’ll probably have something to report after the three days you gave him is up. I guess these things just take a little bit of time.”
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Despite his efforts, Terran was not in the mood to receive Roy’s optimism well. The pent up stress finally exploding, Terran snapped back at him, “I don’t have time! What the hell do you want me to do?! Wait until Ardos sends someone to point a gun at my head?!”
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Once again, Roy’s face lost a little bit of color at Terrans’ shouts. But while the last time he appeared to expect a degree of harshness in Terrans’ tone, this time he seemed to be utterly shocked that Terran would snap the way he did. Roy backed up even further than his original position, as if he feared what would happen if he didn’t keep his distance.
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Seeing how stunned and almost frightened Roy was at him, Terran began to let go of his anger a little. If anyone else reacted in a similar manner, it would’ve only fueled the flames and make Terran even madder. But watching Roys’ reaction, it made him feel a bit guilty.
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Terran lowered his head onto his hand, making sure that his hand blocked his sight as he couldn’t even bring himself to make eye contact with Roy after his outburst. He began to talk again, but made sure that his voice was much softer, “Listen. I know you mean well and that I should take it easy and relax. But under these circumstances, relaxing just isn’t an option.”
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“Do… you want to be alone for a while, sir?” was Roys’ only response, spoken in a quiet voice.
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“Yeah…” Terran replied, still not looking at him directly.
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Immediately heeding his orders, Roy began to leave the room. But before Roy got the chance to open the door, Terran suddenly grumbled quietly, but still loud enough for Roy to pick it up, “Thanks anyways, though.”
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To Terran’s surprise, Roy reacted to his comment. Almost expecting Roy to ignore him bitterly and leave, he instead turned around and bowed his head slightly.
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Once Roy had left the room, Terran leaned back in chair and groaned while staring at the ceiling. “Dammit… He’s right. I’ve got to calm myself the hell down.”
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He tried to think positively like Roy had been trying to make him do for the past few minutes, but every attempt to do so ended up being defeated. With so much sitting on his shoulders at the moment, Terran just couldn’t ease the stress. There were just too many things that Ardos could, and would, come down on him for. Just thinking about it made Terran even more uneasy.
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However, Terran still tried to take what Roy said to heart. He looked at the filled-out paperwork again, realizing that the work he was worrying about so much wasn’t on his shoulders anymore. He still didn’t feel right going back to bed when he felt so distressed about work. But he knew that he couldn’t make the stress go away if his physical and mental health failed anyways.
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He stayed in his seat for a moment before reluctantly standing up. Terran headed back to his room, but he stopped halfway, still unsure if it was the right thing to be doing. He shook it off quickly, though. Even if it was for a short amount of time, he needed to relax, calm himself, and release some of the stress that had been building in him for such a long time.
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[FONT=&quot]* * *[/FONT]​
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Roy was neither a newcomer nor unfamiliar with his current job. Back when Cipher was at full force a year prior, he worked for an Admin named Gorigan. There, all he did was manage and monitor the machinery that mass-produced Shadow Pokémon. While he did have a hand in making the Shadow Pokémon, the machines did the process themselves. He never really got directly involved, unlike some of the senior peons that were around when Ciphers’ technology was less advanced.
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But those machines were quite expensive to make, and the only reason they had them was because Cipher was so rich at the time. Now that the machinery was destroyed and the funding gone, they had no choice but to revert back to old technology and create Shadow Pokémon by hand. When the Shadow Pokémon was made at the Cipher Key Lair, the technology was so advanced that the Shadowfication could be done while the Pokémon were still in their Poké Balls. But without that technology, Roy and the other peons could no longer play such an indirect role anymore.
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The very first time Roy had to do the Shadowfication process the old way, he couldn’t sleep for days. The screaming, the struggling, the complete madness; those images replayed itself over and over in his head. Those thoughts would refuse to leave him alone. It was as if some part of his conscience was trying to suffocate him, torture him with those images, all while whispering in his ear, “You had a part in this.”
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But after a while, those thoughts began to disappear. Those nagging thoughts of guilt could only last so long after doing the procedure several times. It had almost been a year since the first time he did it and also since the last time he was left staring at the ceiling with wide eyes and an agape mouth, unable to fall asleep.
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He walked into the lab where the process was to be done. It was a rather simple place. It had a large table in the middle of the room, big enough to hold most Pokémon as long as long as they weren’t too big. The shelves were packed with the chemicals that they needed; it wasn’t unusual for there to be bottles sitting on the sideboards because there was no room up above. There was a door in the back of the room leading to where the Pokémon were stored. The floors used to be shiny and smooth when the place was first built, but it had been marred over time with scratches and claw marks. The room was usually dimly lit, barely giving off enough light so that he could see what he was doing, although it did set up a rather appropriate atmosphere.
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When he walked in, he found another peon still in the room. Over time, Roy had gotten good at recognizing people just by their lower facial features, as no one ever took off their helmets at work. He could tell solely by looking at his pointed chin, lack of facial hair, and the perpetually sullen expression who he was. “Oh, Tom. Just the person I was looking for.”
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Tom only slightly lifted his head up, not even bothering to make eye contact. “Why? Are you my relief?” He said flatly.
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“Yep.”
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Taking a deep breath, Tom began to walk rather carefully –though not to the extent Terran had to- to where Roy thought was out of the room. Instead, he stopped right in front of Roy, close enough for him to see through his visors and into his unimpressed eyes. “So, Roy. Where were you last night?”
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Roy stepped back a little to try to widen the distance between him and Tom. He still looked him in the eyes, but he knew well enough to keep his composure. Toms’ constantly cynical and critical attitude had earned him a reputation where Roy worked. He tried to avoid him as much as possible for that reason, but there wasn’t much he could do now in the position he was in. All Roy could do was try to be polite as usual and not to instigate him any further. “I’m sorry. Terran already talked to me about this.”
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Tom simply gave a short laugh. Barely trying to hide his ire, he sharply said to Roy, “Yeah. I noticed that your wrist looked a little red coming in.”
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The biting comment dug at Roys’ patience with Tom, but he did his best to hide every ounce of annoyance with his co-worker boiling inside him. He knew better than to come back with his own retort. Roy realized that with people like Tom, saying anything further will just drag things on. Roy wasn’t interested in fighting with anyone, so he just kept his calm.
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Tom looked like he wanted to say something further, but surprisingly bit his tongue over the matter. Instead, he changed the subject, but still kept his sharp tone, “The others are getting the next Pokémon. Have fun.” Tom then left the room, not even making an effort to avoid bumping into Roys’ shoulder on the way out.
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The shove didn’t hurt since his uniforms’ armor shielded him, but it irritated Roy enough to give a very slight scowl at Tom before he closed the door. However, Roy didn’t have long for his emotions towards the man to boil any further. No sooner had Tom left the room, did a female peon barge through the storage room door.
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The peon was panting slightly, as if she had just been doing physical work. The moment she saw Roy, she quickly caught her breath and said, “Hey! We need help! This one’s being stubborn!”
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Roy quickly rushed into the storage room, forgetting about the comments made just moments ago for the time being. He went inside the room to find a male peon yanking on a leash, trying to drag the struggling Pokémon into the lab.
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The green, lizard-like Pokémon with a red zigzag pattern on its stomach was rather small, but it was still evidently strong enough to give both peons trouble. Even though its long arms ending with tiny claws were bound to its back, it still managed to stand its ground with short legs and small feet. Its tail, which was curled up in a spiral, was twitching constantly, as if it was showing how distressed it was. The Pokémons’ small black eyes, which were circled by a yellow pattern that started at its lips and curved its way to the ridges on the top of its head, were squeezed shut.
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Roy and the female peon ran over to the male peon and grabbed the leash. All three of them pulled as hard as they could, but the Kecleon dragged itself backwards to prevent them from making progress. When their technique was proving to fail, Roy decided to turn it up a notch. He wasn’t physically strong, but he put as much strength as he had to get the Kecleon to move. The other two peons, following his lead, did the same and began to haul the Kecleon in the lab.
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Eventually, the Kecleon seemed to give up and collapsed on the ground. The three peons let up on their pressure, as it became much easier to pull the Pokémon inside. But as if it suddenly brought out more resolve to not let Roy and the others win, the Kecleon suddenly scrambled onto its feet, lunged at the doorway, and clamped its mouth on the edge of the wall.
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The Kecleon caught Roy and the other peons off guard; they thought that they had finally overpowered the lizard. Regaining their posture, they began to yank on the leash again, but the Kecleon held tightly onto the wall with its teeth to the point where Roy could start to see blood trickle out of its mouth. The male peon swore and ran over to the Kecleon, grabbed both the top and bottom of its mouth with his fingers, and tried to pry it off the wall.
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The peon struggled for a while, as the Kecleon obstinately refused to budge. “God dammit! This thing isn’t going to let go!” He took a deep breath and tried again. Roy could see the sweat run down the peons face as he pulled harder and harder on the Kecleons’ mouth.
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Eventually, Roy could see the Kecleons’ lips parting. Before he knew it, the peon and the Kecleon flew backwards, as the peon pulled it away from the wall before it could bite onto again. The peon pinned the Kecleon to the ground while it still squirmed and struggled to get away.
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Both Roy and the female peon ran over to the male peon and all three picked the Kecleon up. They made sure they had such a tight hold on the Kecleon so that it had no chance to get away, realizing that giving it any kind of freedom to move was not going to make things easy.
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They lifted the Kecleon onto the table, pinning it down again once it was on. Roy and the others still kept a hold of the lizard, but they finally got a chance to catch their breath. Roy hated it when the Pokémon were that stubborn. When they had resigned themselves and gave up, it made Roys’ job much easier. But when they acted like the Kecleon, the job normally free of the need for physical strength become incredibly taxing. It was just one more thing that made Roy thankful for the job that he had back at the Lair.
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Still, he knew that he should not have been complaining much. The job paid a rather good amount of money and gave out good benefits to the workers. Even though he liked his job at the Lair much better, Roy was well aware that he needed to be thankful for even still having a job on Cipher. Most of the people that worked for Cipher were either arrested or fled a year ago. Considering that he could have very well been one of those people, Roy knew that he was in no position to whine.
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Once Roy had rested for a few seconds, he took his hands off of the Kecleon and ran quickly to the shelves before the Pokémon tried to overpower his colleagues. He grabbed the necessary items, a bottle filled with a dark purple liquid and a syringe, and rushed back to the table. The liquid had already been measured out to the exact amount needed, so the only thing Roy needed to do was to put it into the syringe and keep the Kecleon still long enough for him to find a vein to inject it into.
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The other two peons continued to hold down the Kecleons’ body while Roy held its left arm was scanning it. Once he had found a suitable spot, he poked the needle through the Pokémons’ skin, causing it to give out a shrill cry. As Roy injected the liquid into the Kecleons’ bloodstream, it convulsed and struggled even harder than before. The peons were fully expecting this, as every Pokémon they worked on had the same reaction.
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The liquid caused a Pokémon to become a Shadow Pokémon by working its way to the brain and altering the way it thinks. The process took about three days to fully complete, which in the meantime it would cause the Pokémon to go insane and uncontrollable until it finally calmed down at the end.
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Once the purple liquid was fully injected, he ran back to the shelves to grab some sedative. If the Kecleon was conscious through the entire three days, its violent actions would just snowball and become unmanageable. Therefore, it was important that Roy give the sedative to it before the chaos got its chance to start.
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However, the sedative only lasted for slightly more than half a day, and Roy was reminded of that fact barely moments after he had finished administering it to the Kecleon. All of a sudden, an ungodly, high-pitched shriek erupted from the storage room. The screech was constant, it sounded like whatever was making it didn’t even stop to take a breath. The sound jumped Roy for a moment, but it didn’t frighten him much anymore. He was used to hearing that sort of sound, and it was more or less a notice that it was time for another part of the job than anything.
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All three peons looked at each other, as if they were checking to see if anyone was willing to do it; someone other than themselves, of course. It was as if they were trying to send each other a telepathic message saying, “I’m not doing it. You do it.”
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Nothing was said for a few moments. Eventually, as there were no offers and the other two peons began to stare at Roy, he finally got the message. He sighed, letting a very small bit of a groan slip its way through, “I’ll go calm it down.”
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He opened up the storage room door only to be greeted with a shrill assault on his ears. The helmet encasing his ears did nothing to filter out the screams and made them ring regardless. Along with the shrieks, Roy could also the cage the source was in banging, making it easy to pinpoint its location.
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Roy walked over to a wall of cages reaching to the ceiling. Most of them were small enough so they he could pick one up with his hand, but a few were large enough that a full-grown man could fit inside. Very rarely did Cipher ever get a Pokémon that was too big to be held in the room while still awaiting a new owner. However, for the Pokémon that had already been Shadowfied, the cages were not enough to contain them. In order to keep them under control, the Pokémon were kept inside their Poké Balls until the process had run its course. The cages were only there as a backup.
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However, when the sedative wore off, the Pokémon could easily break out of its Poké Ball, regardless of how strong the Ball itself is. It would be useless to try to get them back in unless they were given another dose of sedative, which was exactly what Roy had to do at that moment.
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He knelt down to the bottom row of cages to find the Pokémon that was causing the noise. It was a small, cute little Pokémon, one that Roy would expect most beginning trainers in another region to carry with them. The Pokémon had big brown eyes surrounded by a black marking that made it look like it was wearing a mask. Its body was covered in layers of bristly fur that alternated in a beige-brown pattern until it ended in a bushy tail. Aptly named, the Zigzagoon didn’t seem to have a straight line on its body; almost every feature was made up with zigzags.
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The Zigzagoon that was before Roy was about halfway through the Shadowification process. Any Pokémon at this point was highly unstable and Roy needed to take care if it was to calm it down. It was still screeching despite its voice becoming rather hoarse at that point. The moment that Roy appeared, it was as if the screaming intensified. The Zigzagoon was wildly thrashing around its cage; it didn’t even seem to be aiming at anything in particular. When it took notice of Roy it began to be a bit more consistent in its rampage and started ramming itself and clawing at the bars. But the rabid, mad look its eyes were still there and its attacks were still mostly random and just as vicious.
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Eventually, the Zigzagoon had stopped attacking its surroundings and turned its insanity on itself. Even though its claws on its feet were not large and could barely dent any decently-powered Pokémon, they were still strong enough that the Zigzagoon used them to slash at its body. It tumbled back and forth, knocking itself against the walls of the cage as it tried to tear itself apart. It began to sink its teeth into any part of its body that it could reach, ripping at flesh and causing fur to fly up in the air. Both its teeth and its claws were becoming soaked in its own blood, but it still continued to slash and bite itself with no signs of stopping.
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The Zigzagoon obviously wasn’t going to stay still on its own long enough for Roy to inject it with sedative. Even as small and relatively weak as it was, it was too dangerous and wild for Roy to pick up with his own hands as well. He reached for his belt and unlatched a Poké Ball, realizing that he would need some help.
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His Poké Ball split open and sent out a small Pokémon next to the cage. Most of its yellow body was encased in a round, red shell with openings large enough for the Pokémon to squeeze its extremities out of. The four holes on the side of the shell allowed its tentacle-like legs to stick out, while the one on top let the Shuckle fit its head and neck through.
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It blinked with its beady black eyes a few times, not quite sure what was going on. However, it didn’t long for it to understand the situation when it took notice of the screeching Zigzagoon in front of it. Startled, the Shuckle began to tuck itself back into its shell, despite of the iron bars separating the two Pokémon.
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“Come on. I need you to hold it down so I can inject it.” Roy, seeing his Shuckles’ timid reaction to the Zigzagoon, tried to prod it to do what he wanted.
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The Shuckle tucked its head further into its shell, but reluctantly extended its tentacles towards the cage. Its eyes were barely visible as it peeked out of the hole, bracing itself when the Zigzagoon would come at it.
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Roy unlatched the locks on the on the cage, then jumped out of the Zigzagoons’ line of sight the moment he flung the door open. Like he expected, the Zigzagoons’ rabid eyes locked onto Roys’ Shuckle and lunged at it. Once the frenzied Pokémon was within the Shuckles’ range, it wrapped its rubbery tentacles around its body, immobilizing it as much as possible. Even though it couldn’t move much, the Zigzagoon bit and slashed at the Shuckles’ tentacles. The Shuckle clamped its eyes shut as it endured the Zigzagoons’ attacks and tucked its head completely into its shell. It pulled the Zigzagoon closer to the shell, as if it was daring it to focus its attacks on that. It did just as the Shuckle expected, and starting raking at the shell instead of its fleshy legs. No matter how much the Zigzagoon raked at the Shuckle, nothing it did come even close to denting its impenetrable shell.
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Once it felt a little more comfortable, the Shuckle moved the position of its tentacles to immobilize its legs. The Zigzagoon still tried –and failed- to sink its teeth into the harder-than-rock shell, but it could no longer use its claws.
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With the Zigzagoon wrapped by his Shuckle and its focus taken off of him, Roy saw his chance. He found the spot where the Zigzagoons’ fur had been shaven off to allow the peons to find and vein and quickly injected the sedative before it took notice of him.
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The Zigzagoon howled in pain at the shot and began to thrash around. Roy jumped back nervously; even though his Shuckle had a tight grip on it, he could picture the Zigzagoon breaking loose and coming after him. He may have had armor on, but he knew that the Zigzagoon was liable to go after any of the few exposed parts on his body, namely the lower half of his face. Roy had heard horror stories of such attacks happening to other peons in the past, and he didn’t want to take any risks.
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“Okay…” Roy caught his breath once he felt he was safe, “Just keep it wrapped up until the sedative kicks in. Then put it back in its cage.”
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The Shuckle kept its grip, following its trainers’ orders, but Roy could hear an uneasy moan echoing inside its shell.
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“Come on. You’ve done it lots of times before. It’s nothing new. You can handle it.” Roy tried to instill some confidence into his Pokémon. But with the Shuckle still refusing to stretch its head back out, he wasn’t sure if it worked or not.
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Before Roy left the room, he grabbed a Poké Ball for the Kecleon for when it went unconscious. He looked back at the cages; most of them were completely empty. The Zigzagoon was one of only a few that had been Shadowfied in recent times. Even the addition of the Kecleon wasn’t much of a significant gain.
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Such a slow rate was the norm ever since Terran became an Admin and was placed in charge of the Shadowfication operations. Roy understood that the state of the process was enough to make anyone with that kind of position unconfident. But in the past few months, Roy had seen Terrans’ insecurity steadily increase as the production rate went down. With such a string of shortcomings, even Roy had begun to feel unsure of himself. As he witnessed Terran eat himself alive over stress, Roy began to wonder if there really was anything he could do to help.
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Roy caught himself in that state of mind and tried to snap out of it. He knew that he couldn’t doubt himself, now of all times. Even if he felt that there wasn’t much he could do, he needed to at least try. He realized that the efforts of one peon alone were a drop in the bucket, but he still couldn’t use that as an excuse to resign himself when things were so dire. Roy didn’t care if his efforts were little and overall meaningless at that point, as long as it did something to relive his boss of the stress piling on his shoulders.
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After a moment of boosting his confidence, Roy felt ready to continue on. He had heard that about six rock-types were currently awaiting Shadowfication, so he knew it was going to be a long day.
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[FONT=&quot]* * *[/FONT]​
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The moment he was out of the room, Roy went to the nearest wall and leaned himself on it. He took a few deep breaths; the hallway was much less stuffy than the small lab, especially after being cooped up in there for hours. He could feel the sweat building up inside of his helmet and was tempted to take it off. Roy stopped himself at the last second, as he reminded himself that he could get himself in trouble for taking off any part of his uniform at work.
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He didn’t know what time it was, but he figured it was probably late by now. The few Pokémon that he worked on after the Kecleon were so time-consuming and tedious that he lost track of time. Out of all the species of Pokémon in the world, rock and steel-types were the ones he hated to Shadowfy the most. Luckily, no steel-types were involved this time, but the rock-types weren’t much better. It was so difficult to find a vein to inject the fluid into them when they were covered with shells, scales, or even skin that was made out of rock. And that was only if they had a bloodstream at all. In the case of the latter, special measures would have to be taken, and he was thankful that he didn’t have to.
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Roy figured that by this hour, he had gone way past his shift. He usually didn’t mind doing overtime, but today he was exhausted. He wanted to make sure though, and began to peek back into the lab to check the clock.
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He pushed himself away from the wall and dragged himself across the hall. When he got halfway across, he suddenly felt someone run into his side.
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Roy nearly tumbled over, but he managed to keep his footing. The same could not be said for the one who rammed into him, however. The other peon was knocked onto the floor, with a folder of papers flying all around him. The peon shakily lifted his head, and began to apologize profusely, “I…I’m so sorry! I di…did…didn’t…”
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“It’s alright. It was just an accident. Here.” Roy tried to calm the stuttering peon down as he bent down to gather the papers that were settling on the floor.
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His words helped a little, but the peon was still visibly nervous. Roy looked at the peon a little more closely. The name avoided him for a moment, but he eventually found it. The peons’ name was Terry. Roy wasn’t well acquainted with him, but he did know who he was. The impression that Roy got was that Terry was more or less the shy type and didn’t actively mingle with other people. But his behavior at that moment baffled Roy a little. While he was certainly a rather meek person, Roy never saw Terry so nervous and twitchy before.
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Roy gathered a pile of the papers and handed them back to Terry, who quickly accepted them. Terry got onto his feet and looked ready to run off again. He spouted out a quick, almost unintelligible, “Thank you!” and began to dash across the hall.
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“Are… Are you alright?” Roy stopped him before he could get too far.
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Terry nearly tripped over again when Roy spoke, but he managed to stay standing that time. He turned around and hastily stuttered, “I-I-I’m fine! I’m fine! Don’t worry a…about me!”
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But something was still rubbing Roy the wrong way. Terry claimed that he was alright, but Roy couldn’t believe him when he was acting so jittery and when his face –or at least what Roy could see of it- looked so colorless. “Are you sure? You don’t look so good…”
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Terry appeared to get ready to dash off again, but it seemed to Roy that he had second thoughts about doing so. He saw him bite his lip and quickly look around him before running back to Roy. “Can… I talk to you? I need to get something off my chest. It’s been eating me alive all day…”

Continued...
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Blueysicle

Master Procratinator
[FONT=&quot]Roy figured as much. There was just no way that somebody with a sudden change of behavior like that had a clear conscience. He looked into Terrys’ face, which had the look of someone that knew that they made a mistake. But he also saw the look of someone that seriously needed someone to talk to. That didn’t take much to convince Roy to listen to him. He gave a weak smile and said, “Sure. It’s probably not as bad as you think. What’s the matter?”[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]
Terry scanned the area again, and then pulled Roy further down the hall away from any rooms. He seemed to be incredibly insecure of his surroundings, as he checked them several more times before dropping into a whisper, “You’ve got to swear that you won’t tell anyone about this, especially Terran!”
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Roy held back for a moment. He wasn’t sure if he could keep such a promise. Deliberately keeping something from Terran would not only make him feel guilty, but it could land him in trouble as well. But thinking about it again, Roy swallowed his pride and agreed to keep Terrys’ secret.
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After Roy confirmed that no one else would know, Terry caught his breath and told his story, “Yesterday I went with Terran and Tom to Citadark Isle to meet that Miror B. guy. I drove the boat there to drop Terran off and to pick up Miror B. with Tom. When Miror B. met with Terran, he didn’t like his conditions or something like that. Miror B. attacked Terran and Tom and then tried to get away. Terran managed to catch up with him, though. Terran used his Venusaur, but it got wiped out by Miror B.s’ Ludicolo. You have no idea how strong they were! Even if Terran brought his other Pokémon with him, I don’t know if they would be able to hold up against them!”
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Terry paused for a moment, as if he was reluctant to go any further. But then he seemed to gather up the courage to continue on, “After Miror B. beat Terran, he started to run towards me. I didn’t know what he was planning to do with me, but I saw how terrifying that man was. I couldn’t take any chances! I jumped off the boat and let Miror B. steal it!”
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Roy gave a small laugh. He knew that Terry was probably overreacting to a relatively minor situation. “Well, it couldn’t be helped. After all, if he was as strong as you said he was, there probably wasn’t much you could do to stop him. Besides, if Terran was really that mad about it, he would’ve said something long before now. See? I said that it probably wasn’t as bad as y-”
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“That’s not it!” Terry interrupted Roy sharply. Roy was taken aback by such an outburst, coming from somebody that’s normally so quiet.
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Roy kept quiet from that point on, and allowed Terry to finish. But then all of a sudden, Terry switched from irritable to on the verge of tears. His face grew red as he struggled to hold his emotions in. “When I got back here, I noticed that… that…”
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Terry paused for a moment. He dropped his head into his hands, overwhelmed by his distress. Roy took a small step forward, about to try to console him, when he gathered himself up and again and spurted out with, “My Shadow Pokémon! I couldn’t find it!”
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Roys’ face became pale.
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“It wasn’t on my belt; it wasn’t in my locker, my bags, my room, anywhere! It wasn’t anywhere! The only thing I could think of was that I dropped it when I was driving the boat! And if I did, that means that psycho has it!” Terry spoke faster and faster, descending into a full blown panic. He held his hands on the sides of his head and shook it back and forth. He also began to breathe much heavier and his tone of voice made it clear he was choking back tears. Evidently, telling Roy about his inner worries only intensified the stress, not alleviate it.
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Roy fell backwards toward the wall. He remained absolutely silent as he stared at the ceiling. Roy could hear his heart pounding and could feel himself breaking out into a cold sweat. He broke the silence with a shaky voice, “This is bad…”
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He wasn’t expecting Terrys’ problem to be this serious. When Terry said that he needed to get something off his chest, Roy thought he was talking about a minor issue. But what Terry had just told him could prove disastrous. If a Shadow Pokémon fell into the wrong hands, there was no doubt in Roys’ mind that word of its existence would get out. Since Cipher was the only one that had the knowledge of how to make Shadow Pokémon, all suspicions would gravitate towards it. Cipher was able to successfully remain hidden and maintain the public thought that they were destroyed for about a year. For people to find out that Cipher is still alive so early and at a point when it’s so fragile would be catastrophic.
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Roy knew that he had made a promise and had followed a code of keeping them all his life, but this situation was far too dire. “I…I’m sorry… I can’t keep this a secret…”
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The moment Roy said that, Terry shot his head up. Before Roy had even the slightest chance or thought to tell someone, Terry lunged at him and pinned him against the wall. Tears were fully streaming down his face at this moment as he slammed Roy at the wall over and over, “No! You can’t! You promised! You promised me! If Terran finds out what I did, he’ll kill me! And if he doesn’t, the Grand Master will send someone that will! I don’t want to die, Roy! Please! You can’t tell anyone!”
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Roy stared at Terry, both in shock and with a feeling of uncertainty. His desperate pleading struck a chord with Roy; chances were that the punishment would be equal to the severity of the mistake. Roy couldn’t bear the thought of being a part of someones’ death. It would haunt him for the rest of his life if he knowingly did such a thing.
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However, keeping such a secret would haunt Roy as well. If he told Terran about it now, things might not be as bad overall than if he found out about it on his own. Ciphers’ higher-ranked members might be able to do something about the loose Shadow Pokémon situation. They could undergo a recovery operation to retrieve the Pokémon before the public knows about it and eliminate the problem before it gets the chance to spread. All that was preventing Ciphers’ potential downfall was a few words from Roy to Terran.
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Roy fought in his head over the two options. Both would end up plaguing his mind for months or years to come and both had painful ramifications. Regardless of what he chose to do, he knew that he wasn’t going to win.
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“Move! Move! Out of the way!”
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The sudden shouting coming from down the hall broke Roys’ thoughts. It startled Terry enough to loosen his grip on Roy, giving him the ability to move again. Roy spun his head towards the direction of the sound and saw a large group of peons rushing towards them. They sprinted right past Roy and Terry, almost knocking into them in the process.
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The group looked frantic and uneasy as they ran by. Roy could tell just by the anxious air they were emitting that something was wrong. He managed to stop a straggler by quickly shouting, “What’s going on?”
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The peon lagging behind turned around to face Roy, but continued to move by walking backwards as he spoke, “Two of the peons that were with Commander Delta just came back!”
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As the peon immediately ran off to catch up with others, Roys’ thoughts became even more muddled. He recalled that Terran said that the group should be gone for at least three days. Why anyone should be coming back so early was beyond Roy. But the fact that they did come back was not giving him a very good feeling.
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Something wasn’t right, so Roy began to follow the other peons to see what was going on. But he stopped himself for a moment and looked back at Terry. Terry hadn’t budged an inch and still stared at Roy with that desperate expression on his face. The sudden commotion had distracted Roy, but evidently Terrys’ worries didn’t leave his mind for a second.
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Roy wanted to say something to him, but he just couldn’t figure out what. He still wasn’t sure what to do about this unwinnable situation. Eventually, Roy couldn’t bear thinking about it any longer; he clamped his eyes shut and ran as fast as he could down the hall without looking back.
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He realized that pushing the situation into the back of his head for the moment was irresponsible. But he just couldn’t bring himself to face this problem head-on. It would end up so painfully no matter what he did, so he figured that the best thing he could do for now was forget it ever happened.
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Eventually Roy caught up to the other peons and followed them to the main entrance of the building. It seemed like every peon on duty except Terry was standing in front of the door, all wanting to know what was happening as well. The group was so large and dense that Roy could barely see anything past a few feet away. It didn’t help that most other peons were taller than him, either.
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All of a sudden, Roy heard the doors open, and the group erupted into an uproar. Tired of standing on his tiptoes trying to get a glimpse of the action, Roy managed to squeeze himself through the crowd. Once he pushed through, he saw two peons collapsed on the ground. They didn’t seem to be hurt physically, but their skin was absolutely colorless and they were trembling enough that even those farther away from them took notice.
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One of their helmets was a bit slanted, giving Roy a clear glimpse of his eyes. He seemed to be staring off into the distance, as if he was preoccupied with something other than the present moment. It appeared that the peon was reliving in his head something that had happened to him. Whatever it was, it made the peons’ eyes fill with pure horror and dread just by the thought of it alone.
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For a while, not a single person in the crowd budged. It was as if no one was sure what to do in this situation. Something was clearly troubling the two peons, but it seemed like nobody felt that they could do anything. Even Roy was afraid to try to do something. He felt confident in helping people with minor problems, but the aura that the two peons in front of him were emitting gave Roy the feeling that whatever happened was not minor.
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Eventually, someone in the crowd swallowed their pride and stepped forward to help them out. The peon sat the other two up against the door, and tried to prod them into speaking about what happened, “Are you guys alright? What happened? Where are the others?”
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The entire crowd grew silent, all wanting to hear what they had to say. Nothing came out of either of them for quite some time. The peon that asked them about it sat there with them patiently, silently encouraging them to speak.
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All of a sudden, Roy heard a quiet sob come from one of the peons. But with the area as silent as it was, the cry echoed in the hall. The peon dropped his head and held it in his shaky heads for a moment before lifting it back up. He looked up at the crowd, who were watching him intently, and began to choke back enough tears to be able to speak.

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[FONT=&quot]* * *[/FONT]​
[FONT=&quot]
Sleep was not coming very easily to Terran. He did manage to fall into a light sleep at a few points, but it was nowhere near the kind that he should have been getting. With so many thoughts swimming around in his mind, Terran was unable to even doze off.
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Terran rolled over on his side and pulled the sheets over his head. Just shut up and stop thinking about it. He berated his overactive mind. Terran tried desperately to quiet his thoughts to the level of silence that the building seemed to have all night.
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[FONT=&quot]
SSSSSSIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRRRRR!”
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[FONT=&quot]
Terrans’ eyes shot open as felt the shrill voice piece his eardrums. He groaned and seized the nearest pillow and pressed it against his ears to drown out the noise. Not at this god damn hour! Go the hell away!
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[FONT=&quot]
Despite his efforts to go deaf, Terran heard the door to his office slam open followed by a frantic pounding at his bedroom door. “SIR, WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP!
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[FONT=&quot]
It didn’t take long for Terran to recognize the screaming voice outside. The panicky tone, the insistence on calling Terran “sir”, and the fact that he’s the only peon he knows that has the courage to run into his room unannounced gave Terran more than enough flags that it was Roy beating at the door.
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Eventually, Terran had enough. He threw off the sheet and stumbled over to the door. Swinging it open, he held a furious scowl at Roy, whose face was also red. Terran massaged his forehead with his fingers, trying his hardest to keep his cool. “Right now, my chest feels like it’s on fire. It sucks and I’m in a horrible mood because of it. Do you really want to piss me off further by giving me a migraine?!”
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[FONT=&quot]
However, it was as if Terrans’ words fell on deaf ears. Roys’ panicked expression didn’t falter in the least bit. “S…Sir! C…C…Co…” Roy stammered in a much quieter tone, but was gasping too heavily to form anything close to a coherent sentence.
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“For the love of… Roy, calm the hell down and breathe for a moment!” Terran snapped harshly at Roy, hardly in the mood for something like that at the current hour.
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Roy grabbed the side of the doorway and did as Terran said. He coughed a few times as he tried to catch his breath, but quickly calmed down enough to talk normally. Just before Roy began to speak, Terran saw a flash of a forlorn and terrified expression on his face. Even for someone that worries like Roy, the emotion that Terran saw –especially at such a caliber- was highly uncharacteristic of him.
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“Sir… Two of the peons that were with Commander Delta just came back.” Roy, once he calmed down, said with the same disheartened emotion that was on his face.
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“What?!” Terran sharply growled, increasing the volume of his own voice. “Nobody is supposed to be back for another two days! Why the hell is anyone back?! Does Commander Delta know about this?!”
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[FONT=&quot]
Roy suddenly began shaking in place. He hesitated to speak for a while. Not because he was exhausted, but it seemed to be because he had trouble finding the courage to say it. Eventually, he found the minimal amount of courage necessary and whispered, “He’s dead.”
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Just those two words alone were enough to send Terrans’ heart rate speeding. All the red color in his face that Terran had built up over the last few minutes suddenly disappeared. “What…”
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[FONT=&quot]
Terran leaned against the side of the doorway and stared at ceiling. He couldn’t believe it. To lose his Commander was unthinkable. It was impossible, it couldn’t be happening. Terran tried denying it as much as he could, but it was no use. He glanced back at Roy, and the look on his face was genuine. Roy wouldn’t lie to him, especially not about something like this.
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[FONT=&quot]
But he still couldn’t come to terms with the situation. Terran may not have connected with Commander Delta well, but he knew better than to get on his bad side. Even though Terran was higher ranked, he found the Commander incredibly intimidating and he was no pushover by any stretch of the imagination. How could he, of all people, get himself killed? Especially when he knew how important the mission was and how little room there was to mess up. Losing a peon is bad enough, but losing a Commander when there’s so much trouble brewing is even worse.
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[FONT=&quot]
The last thought sparked another anxiety in Terrans’ mind. He turned his head back to Roy, and asked with his own voice starting to tremble now, “I sent eight other peons with him. Where are they?”
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[FONT=&quot]
Roy flinched at his question and dropped his head. He didn’t even make eye contact with Terran when he said under his breath, “They’re dead too.”
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[FONT=&quot]
At that, Terran went from leaning against the doorway to sliding down it onto the floor. Even the pain coming from his ribs couldn’t amount to the pain that he felt from the impact of Roys’ words. He held his hands against his temples before grasping at the short part of his hair. Nothing made sense. It wasn’t real. It was all just some horrible dream he was having. He didn’t even care that he was starting to slip back into denial. He just couldn’t deal with it. Losing so many lives like this… he didn’t know what to think anymore.
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[FONT=&quot]
“What happened?” Terran groaned as he tried -and was failing- to accept the situation.
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[FONT=&quot]
Roy didn’t reply. Whether he heard him or not, Terran had grown thin on his patience and was in no mood to wait for a reply. “Well?!”
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[FONT=&quot]
“I’m… I’m sorry, sir! They didn’t say anything else!” Roy frantically apologized, “They’re horribly shaken up. It took them a long time just to be able to say what I just told you, sir…”
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[FONT=&quot]
Terran took small, short breaths as he struggled to lift himself back up. Roy began to step forward to help, but Terran held his hand up to stop him. He staggered over to his desk and pulled his chair out. He gingerly lowered himself in it and sat down. Terran rested his head in his hands and quietly gave an order, “Go get them and bring them back here.”
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[FONT=&quot]
“Yes sir.” Roy bowed his head and ran out of the room.
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[FONT=&quot]
Once Roy left, Terran was alone to allow the information to truly sink in. What am I going to do? I’ve never had to deal with anything like this before. As his thoughts about the situation began to consume his head, they also jabbed and assaulted his conscience. Damn it… If I hadn’t sent them to that island in the first place, no one would’ve died! It’s all my god-damned fault… How could I let this happen?!
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[FONT=&quot]
The only thing that managed to break Terrans’ wild thought process was the sound of the doors opening up again. He looked up and saw the two peons that Roy spoke of stumble in and fall straight to the floor. They placed their heads on the ground, completely unable to look Terran in the face as they hysterically sobbed, “We’re sorry sir! We’re sorry! It wasn’t our fault! Please don’t kill us! Please…”
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[FONT=&quot]
“Both of you calm down. I’m not going to kill you. I just want to know what happened.” Terran weakly sighed as he tried to bring them to their senses.
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[FONT=&quot]
Both seemed to be hesitant to recall anything about the events. Roy, who had followed them in, appeared to doubt that they would speak up as well.
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[FONT=&quot]
To both Terran and Roys’ surprise, one of the peons stood on his knees, fought back tears, and stammered, “We…We were with C-Commander Delta when it happened. We were catching Pokémon like you told us to. It was in the middle of the day, but the forest on the island was incredibly dense and dark. We couldn’t see much of anything… Then, while we were heading back to base with the Commander…”
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[FONT=&quot]
The first peon suddenly broke down emotionally and couldn’t talk any further. Seeing his partners’ bout of courage earlier, the second peon followed suit and took his place, “Some… Something ambushed us…”
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[FONT=&quot]
“And what was this ‘thing’?” Terran prodded them to elaborate.
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[FONT=&quot]
“I don’t know! I don’t what it was!” the second peon answered, “It… jumped from the bushes beside us… and landed on the Commander. I-I-It started… started to rip the Commander apart!”
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[FONT=&quot]
Terrans’ eyes widened. “Ripped… apart?”
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[FONT=&quot]
At this point, both peons’ eyes were welling up with tears. The first one recovered himself enough to be able to tell a bit more to Terran, “I’ve never seen anything so vicious… It just came straight out of nowhere started to rip the Commander to shreds… I… It was so strong… It tore his limbs apart and threw him around like he was nothing…”
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The second peon took over once again, “That thing… it was just so mindless too! It must’ve killed the Commander long before it actually stopped attacking him. I don’t think it even noticed us, it was just so focused on Commander Delta!”
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“We ran away before it figured out that we were there. When we got back to camp…” the first peon started, but was unable to finish. Terran could see his eyes widen with terror behind his visors. Roy, who –like Terran- was visibly horrified by their story, appeared to dread what was about to come next.
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“Everyone…” the first peon, trembling, continued reluctantly, “…was dead. They looked like the same thing happened to them too! Some of them… were impaled and skewered with these… huge thorns of some sort! They were completely butchered; it didn’t even look like their armor stopped that monster at all!”
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“And I’m going to assume that you left the island shortly after, right?” Terran, uneasy from their story, questioned them.
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Both of them nodded. “It was probably following us,” the second peon said, “Just by watching it attack Commander Delta, we could tell that it was out to kill. We knew that if we stayed, it would hunt us down no matter how much we ran.”
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Terran slouched down in his seat and dropped his head into his hands again. Sweat was pouring straight down his face as he stared straight at the floor with horror-struck eyes. The more he tried to put together an image in his head from their descriptions, the more he shook with terror.
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However, he also became more and more furious as well. With clenched teeth, he lifted his head back up and snarled, “Things like this are the exact reason why you have Pokémon with you! Why the hell didn’t you use them to stop that thing instead of letting it kill people?!”
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“We’re sorry, sir! It’s just that… we were afraid if it noticed us getting ready to attack it, it might have come at us before we got the chance!” the first peon fell back to the ground and desperately plead his case.
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Terran still couldn’t accept that. He had a hard time believing that the monster they spoke of was that quick-minded. However, he forced himself to let it go and tried to get more answers out of the peons, “Did you at least see what it looked like?”
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“It was too dark to make out much of anything. I couldn’t tell what it was.” the second peon repeated himself.
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“But… I could see a few details…” the other peon began to attempt to describe the creature, “It was… big; about as large as a full-grown man. I think it might’ve been dark-colored. And it had... rows of these horrifyingly sharp teeth; more than what should have been possible!”
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That’s not much to go on.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] Terran thought to himself. Off the top of his head, he couldn’t think of anything he knew of that fitted that description.[/FONT]
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After that, it appeared to Terran that the two peons had nothing else to say about the matter. He figured that he had probably put them through enough just by making them recall something so traumatic. “You two are dismissed. Take a week off to recover.”
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The two wobbled as they stood up and bowed to Terran weakly before dragging themselves towards the door opened for them by Roy. When they left, the air was silent, but still laced with the horror that they spoke of. Everything that he was just told, all those details, it still didn’t quite sink into Terrans’ head.
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One thing was clear though: this turn of events made the current situation even worse. It was bad enough that some of his subordinates were just slaughtered. But when Terran was as shorthanded as he was, this just worsened things. Having no Commander to assist him was probably going to prove disastrous as well.
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At that moment, a thought suddenly ignited in Terrans’ mind. He couldn’t afford to go for long without a Commander and needed to fix the problem as soon as possible. Such a solution came to him, but he wasn’t sure about it. But he knew that he couldn’t think that way during such a crisis and threw his insecurities away, even if it was just for a moment.
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He swallowed his pride and made up his mind. He looked at Roy and called his name. Roy immediately responded and ran in front of his desk. “Yes sir?”
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“Listen. There’s something I want to ask you,” Terran began, but hesitated for a moment. He shook it off again before he could change his mind and continued, “You realize that with Commander Delta gone, I’m not going to be able handle operations around here by myself. So, I was wondering… Would you be interested in accepting a promotion to Commander?”
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Roy jumped backwards at the question. Immediately, Terran could see his face turn red with sweat forming on it. “S-S-Sir?! I…I…” he stuttered as he was thrown into another state of nervousness.
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“Please, don’t be so damn indecisive. Not now of all times.” Terran groaned, needing an answer soon.
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Roy dropped his head, beginning to question himself. Terran was growing more and more frustrated when he read Roys’ face and figured out what was going on in his head. Terran already had his own insecurities to deal with; he couldn’t afford to contend with someone else’s.
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“Sir, I…” Roy mumbled under his breath as his confidence began to plummet. But then Terran saw a sudden flash of optimism appear in Roys’ face when he finally managed to reassure himself. When he forced his self-confidence levels to skyrocket, Roy straightened his posture and exclaimed in a clear voice, “Sir, I would be honored!”
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Relieved to see that he made up his mind, Terran gave a relaxed sigh and hid a small smile behind his joined hands held in front of his face. He reached into a smaller drawer in his desk and pulled out a ring with a small, single key dangling from it. He tossed it to Roy. “Three rooms down the hall on the left there’s a room that key opens. There should be an extra uniform in there.”
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Roy nodded and begun to dash out of the room. Still clearly nervous, he fumbled for the knob for a while before actually getting a hold of it. Once he managed to get out, Terran saw him take off faster than he had ever seen before not a moment after shutting the door.
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[FONT=&quot]* * *[/FONT]​
[FONT=&quot]
As if the day hadn’t been confusing enough.
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There was just so much happening Roy didn’t know what to think anymore. His head was being flooded with more events than what he was capable of handle at once. But one stuck out in particular and made itself the most prominent.
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Me?! A Commander?! [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Never had the slightest thought of climbing so high on the latter occurred to Roy since the day he joined Cipher. He simply couldn’t fathom it. Roy had such a hard time picturing himself as a Commander that he began to wonder if it he was even experiencing reality or not. [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]
No matter how hard Roy tried, he was unable to see how Terran could see him as Commander material. But he grit his teeth and forced himself to accept it. No, I can’t be complaining about this! I have to have confidence in myself! If I keep thinking this way, then I’ll just waste the trust Terran has in me!
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With that resolve, Roy increased his already fast pace towards the room Terran spoke of. It didn’t take him long to reach it and unlock its door.
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Roy stepped inside and turned on the lights. All around him were spare Cipher peon uniforms in various sizes for both males and females. In the middle of the several rows of peon outfits was a pathway leading to the back of the room. Taking quick steps down the path, he reached the end of it and was greeted with the uniform he came there for.
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Roy shook nervously as he looked up at the uniform. Just with its appearance alone the uniform emitted a tense air that reached to Roy even from a distance. Regardless of how intimidating it was, Roy took a deep breath and grabbed the outfit that was now his own.

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[FONT=&quot]* * *[/FONT]​
[FONT=&quot]
The sound of Terrans’ fingers tapping on his desk echoed in the now-empty room. He knew that Roy hadn’t been gone for long, but any capacity for patience he previously had diminished in the past few minutes.
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As he waited, he replayed the peons’ description of the event in his head, but it still seemed all too surreal. An entire group of peons plus a Commander slaughtered by a lone monster… it just didn’t seem possible. Terran couldn’t fathom anything being that stealthy and powerful to do such a thing. Even if it was a previously unknown species of Pokémon, that many people on the island should have been able to take it down. He couldn’t make any sense of it.
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The thought of going back and capturing the beast flashed through his head very briefly, but his mind was quick to tear that idea apart. It wouldn’t be worth it. As powerful of a beast as he heard it was, it just wasn’t worth the blood of anymore of his subordinates. Terran could never find it in himself to throw away other peoples’ lives like that.
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His thought process was interrupted by the sound of the front door opening. Terran slightly lifted his head up to meet the person coming in.
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He knew full well it was Roy, but he would never have been able to tell if he had not known about the change in uniform ahead of time. The new Commander was completely concealed by a black robe; beginning at his neck and stretching all the way down to the floor to the point where it dragged at his feet.
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Covering his head was an eerie mask. The center was what appeared to be a large, perfectly round eye in a perpetual stare with its beady iris. The “eye” was surrounded by a shiny black ring. The ring branched off at the top briefly before suddenly curving to the left to create a semicircle. The mask resembled a strange Pokémon Terran had heard of called an “Unown”, but the shape itself reminded him especially of the letter, “D”.
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The uniform was overall meant to conceal and cover every inch of the wearers’ body, and it worked well. Not a patch of skin, the fainted trace of his face, or a single hair was exposed. Anything that could be used in the slightest to identify a person was totally hidden. The entire outfit gave off an air of both anonymity and a chilling feeling at the same time.
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Still, Terran could see though the uniform enough to be able to read some of Roys’ emotions. He saw that the bottom half of outfit trembled slightly, as if his legs were shaking inside. It was subtle at first, but the anxiousness became completely and utterly obvious when Roy began to walk, stepped on a bit of the cloth, and fell straight on the floor. Terrans’ hands made their way to his forehead and slightly covered his eyes again as he groaned exasperatedly under his breath. Did I really make the right choice?
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Roy stumbled to his feet, and began to stammer, “I’m sorry s-” He paused himself all of a sudden when he heard his own voice. His voice was suddenly distorted and low pitched, in contrast to the mild and soft tone that he spoke with before. He must have heard the old Commander Delta speak before, but it had apparently come to a shock to hear himself sound like that.
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“Well… Commander Delta was a rather large person and you’re not exactly big yourself…” Terran sighed lightly as he looked over how grossly oversized the uniform was for Roy, “Just try to keep from tripping over yourself and looking ridiculous until a uniform your size is made.”
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Roy didn’t answer him right away. He stood there silent for a while before he said, “Sir… I don’t quite understand. Why do I need to wear this? Everyone here knows who I am; it’s not as if I’m trying to hide it.
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“Listen,” Terran prepared himself for a lecture, “Admins like me don’t get out and do outside missions very often. Unless the situation is extremely dire, we stay put right where we are and run things in our individual facilities. Commanders, on the other hand, do. Part of your job is to lead these outside missions and invariably come in contact with other people. Not to mention that you’ll masquerade yourself as a normal member of the local community and gather whatever useful information you can. Since you’re far more likely to be confronted by the locals and anyone that’s attempting to get in our way, your identity needs to be hidden a hell of a lot more than the Admins that usually don’t face such problems. If our enemies and opponents know who you are, that could cause a lot of trouble. And the uniform you’re wearing right now is meant to prevent that. Understand?”
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Yes sir…” Roy replied half-heartedly, staring straight at the floor the entire time. Terran recognized that emotion, even when his face was hidden; a sudden jolt of uncertainty had made its way through Roy again. He scowled sharply at him, something that Roy took notice of quickly and waved his hands defensively. “I’m sorry! I…I’m sorry if I appear to be ungrateful… I’m not; I really do appreciate this opportunity. It’s just that… well, I…
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“Don’t tell me that you’re doubting yourself again!” Terran spat at him, “I’m not exactly Ardos’ favorite. When it comes to employment, I get stuck with the lowest-ranked and weakest peons that this company has! You however, are a hell of a lot different than them! So stop feeling sorry for yourself and accept it!”
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Terran heard a very slight trace of an exclamation make it through the voice distorter in his mask. It silenced him for the moment, and his head lifted up a little. But nevertheless, Terran could still feel a bit of unease coming from Roy. He figured that Roy did have every reason to be nervous about such a sudden promotion, but it still worried Terran a little.
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“That’s all for the moment. You’re dismissed.” Terran muttered, yet made it loud enough to reach Roy, “I wouldn’t go too far away, though. I’ll probably have to call you back here shortly.”
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It took a while for Roy to react, as if he was still preoccupied with something else. When he did respond, he simply nodded and began to leave, even going as far to omit saying “sir”. He walked out of the room slowly; part of it was probably to avoid tripping over the dragging cloth again, but Terran felt that it was also out anxiety. Terran was beginning to wonder if any of what he just said reached him or not.
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The moment he left, Terran’s head made its way quickly to the desk. He tapped his forehead a few times against the wood, groaning with every impact. I guess that confidence he had a while ago was a temporary boost… Good Mew, I don’t need this; I really don’t need this…
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It seemed like nothing was going right for Terran lately. In his mind, it was like whoever was running the universe was bored and decided to make his work life hell just for the sheer amusement. That was the only explanation for the parade of bad luck that he could think of.
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Terran sat up a little and forced out a laugh, “I’m overreacting… Anybody in his position would be nervous. It’s normal. He’s not the type to dwell on things. He’ll get over it. It’ll all be fine.”
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He tried to smile a little to reassure himself, but that notion was quickly aborted. The frown he was wearing before came right back accompanied with a sigh. Forcibly injecting optimism into his attitude didn’t work like he wanted it to.
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“Damn it… What the hell am I going to do…?”
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[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Before anyone says it, no. The monster described by the peons is not Zoroark. I had planned this chapter out long before 5th Generation was even on the horizon.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]
Originally, I didn't plan for Roy to even be a major character of any sort. He was supposed to be a nameless peon that would appear once and never again. Of course, my ideas do drastically change over the years. The whole Commander position is a fairly recent idea of mine as well.

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X-ice654

Angry Dawn is Angry
THIS IS AMAZING. Just finished reading all the chapters and all I can say is I really want to see how this plays out.
If you are starting a PM list could you add me to it?
 
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