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The Child of Thorns - A Platinum story.

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by TheAlpar, Aug 14, 2016.

  1. Firaga Metagross

    Firaga Metagross Auferstanden Aus Ruinen

    This is a fun (maybe not fun for them!) chapter. I enjoyed the temporary shift to the horror genre, as I think that you executed a solid horror chapter. While it felt a little on the short side, the scenes were sufficiently spooky. I'm intrigued as to where the scene with Barry is going to end up, as it seemed like you're building up to something regarding Inyssa's family. The chapter as a whole is a pretty fun diversion that makes us of the Chateau and Rotom.

    The fact that this chapter feels a little like filler is my only real gripe. Having Inyssa capture Rotom is a plot point and not everything needs to be plot railroad, but overall, it feels like this chapter could be taken out of the work and it wouldn't be missing much. Just something to think about.
     
  2. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    Well, this is a fun spooky interlude! I think I had an inkling the Chateau rotom was going to be involved from the fact that, well, there's canonically a rotom here, and when Inyssa started to smell fried electronics that cemented it for me. Rotom is a strange one; its primary type is electric, rather than ghost, so I'm sort of undecided on how I feel about it possessing Inyssa. I guess I wouldn't have said that was a thing it could do, but there's definitely room for various interpretations there, so it's not really an issue.

    I do think it would be a little more effective to not say that Barry falls down on Inyssa at the end of her section of narration; that way, you could end with the line where she closes her eyes and waits for the end and have it be this really tense hanging thread that only gets resolved when we cut to Barry deciding on his (incredibly foolhardy) plan to drop through the ceiling. (Side note: I really like that this is what he comes up with; it's so similar to Inyssa's 'jump out of a window' plan, which he himself said was ridiculous, and it helps to build up that sense of how similar they are, underneath Inyssa's insistence that she is really nothing like Barry in the slightest.)

    It looks like the elemental plates are involved, huh. It's been a while since I saw them made use of in fic; in fact, I think I've only ever seen them thoroughly explored once before, quite a long time ago, and that story made quite heavy use of their weird magical powers. From the effect that the spooky plate had on the rotom possessing Inyssa, it looks like these weird powers might be a plot point here, too. Like, going by what we've seen already, weird powers are most certainly within this fic's purview, so I'll be interested to see how that thing develops.

    And there's a lovely heartwarming moment to end with, too! Very nice. I like a good companionable silence like that; the relationship between Niss and Barry is developing really nicely. They're such kids, and I mean that in the best possible way. You just want to see things turn out well for them, the poor dorks.

    Anyway, here are some typos and things:

    There should be a 'together' there after 'glued' – 'glue' is one of those verbs that always needs to have like an auxiliary preposition come after it, whether that be 'to' (for gluing something to something else) or 'up' (as in gumming something up with globs of sticky stuff). I don't know if that's the correct terminology. Possibly I'm not qualified to be giving this level of grammatical advice.

    This is an easy mistake to make – that should be 'was that', not 'were those'; it's difficult to explain why, exactly, but I think it has to do with the fact that technically Barry is talking about an encounter (a singular thing) and not the pokémon that made it up (which are obviously plural subjects). I'm not sure of that, but I am sure that it should be 'was that'. Sorry I don't quite have the technical nous to explain it properly. D:

    That should be 'Gastly', rather than 'Ghastly'.

    This structure is technically correct, but it reads much more naturally to not insert an adverb in between the subject and the verb – so like, 'Unconsciously, he grabbed Inyssa's hand' or 'She raised her wrist lazily to his face'.

    I can't quite tell if you're using 'She chastised him' as a dialogue attribution there. If you are, that should be a comma after 'this', and no capital S on 'she'. If not, never mind!

    That semicolon should either be a comma or a dash.

    'He' shouldn't be capitalised here.

    The opposite of 'existent' is 'nonexistent', rather than 'unexistent'.

    That should be 'in' rather than 'on'.

    That should be 'to' rather than 'towards'.

    Here, Niss refers to the rotom as both 'he' and 'it'; she should stick with one or the other for the sake of consistency.

    That should be 'lay', rather than 'laid' – 'laid' is the passive form, 'lay' is active.

    But yeah! Exciting stuff. Relatively little plot developments here, but as far as ways to move your characters on to the next stop on their journey go, this is a pretty cool one! Ghost stories are a good tonal fit for this fic, I think, and I feel like as a kind of journeyfic, you can get away with these kind of side episodes that don't directly advance the main story as long as they're fun and they fit, which this does. Journeys aren't always very focused affairs, after all. As usual, I'll be looking forward to your next chapter!
     
  3. TheAlpar

    TheAlpar Journey Enthusiast

    To Firaga: Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed this spooky side-adventure and all the hijinks in it :D oh and don't worry, this was far from a filler chapter. I hope you'll see why in the future ;)

    To Cutlerine: Once again thank you so, so much for your help with editing and stuff, you really are a miracle worker. You're absolutely right in that the first transition would work better if I didn't spoil Barry falling from the ceiling, so I took that out. I always wanted to explore the idea of the elemental plates and the whole myth territory of Sinnoh more, so there will be lots of that. Also I'm really glad you enjoy Niss and Barry being dumb and going on ill-advised adventures together, because that's most of the charm of this early part of the fic :D I love them too, and I can't wait for you to see how they develop.


    With that said, let's hop into the next chapter. I'm really sorry for the delay; I'll try to be more consistent with posting in the future.

    ------------------------------------

    Chapter 13: Strain
    After falling on top of a very sturdy table and almost breaking his spine, the last thing Barry needed was to walk a mile uphill. Alas, with their only path back blocked by a mountain of rubble, they had no choice but to proceed ahead.

    Every step he took felt as if someone had exchanged his spinal cord with a burning iron rod, and the fact that he was covered in the dust raised by the Chateau's collapse didn't give him a very pristine look. His left arm was wrapped around Niss' shoulder, who had adamantly forced her aid on him, not letting him walk a single step on his own in fear of hurting himself more. She seemed to be struggling with part of another person's weight on her shoulders, but she hadn't complained once.

    The hidden grotto behind the house led to a small, narrow path which ran up the hills at the east of Eterna City. The map didn't show it for some reason, and according to Niss' guess it should take them to the mountain path right past Route 206, letting them enter the city while bypassing any security around it.

    As the minutes passed, Barry tried to subtly show Niss that he was getting better, putting more force into his steps and walking proudly, even though it hurt a lot. It wasn't that he didn't enjoy being so close to her, but he felt bad letting her do all the work when it came to their journey. After all she had gone through in the past days, he felt the need to step up to her somewhat. Not literally, because he could barely stand, but it was time he took things seriously. He wouldn't get to be Champion by letting Niss babysit him.

    "Yeah, that's right..." he told himself, not realizing he was talking out loud.

    "Wanna include me in your private talk with yourself?" Niss said at his side, breathing heavily. "What are you thinking about?"

    "Oh, nothing. Just thinking how great it'll be when I kick your butt atop Victory Road and become the Champion. That kinda thing"

    Niss shot him an icy look, sweat forming on her forehead.

    "I could just leave you here, you know." She tried to sound nonchalant, though the exhaustion and effort made it difficult. "It would be easy, and no one would ever find you. Would be a nice way to get rid of a competitor for the throne."

    "...Fair enough."

    After a few more minutes they arrived at the top of the mountain path. Below them lay the distant shapes of Eterna City's buildings and houses, flashes of green and maroon mixed together with a tinge of yellow making it look like some kind of painting. A gust of wind hit him in the face and ruffled his hair, reinvigorating him with every breath he took. Below them. the dark stone of the mountain tilted down slightly, circling around the city in a path that would have been impossible to see unless one were looking from above.

    "At least Metchi didn't lie about this," Niss said, relief clear in her tone. "We should take a break now, the downward path might hurt your back."

    "What? No!" He jumped out of her arms and stood up as straight as he could. "Trust me, I'm as healthy as a Tauros. I could keep walking for hours. Heck, I could run for hours!"

    "No you couldn't," she said, succinctly. "But if you say so, let's keep going."

    He jumped down toward the base of the path, the pain from the impact almost making him pass out. Next to him Niss landed gracefully, while trying to clean dust off her red coat.

    "I can't wait until our Starly evolve and can carry us around," he said, trying to distract her from his poor condition. "Flying with dad's Salamance was awesome; I want to do that with my Pokemon too."

    "I wouldn't count on that soon, on my end at least." Niss sighed. "I haven't been able to train Steven lately. He's not feeling too well after... what happened in the Windworks."

    He mentally cursed himself for bringing up that loaded topic. He looked around, trying to change the subject, but he couldn't think of much.

    "Sorry, I shouldn't have brought it up," Niss smiled weakly. "We've been through enough **** already, we should think positively."

    "Yeah! Like the next Gym!" He smiled cheerfully. "Man I'm so excited, you're finally gonna see me fight. Though I don't know what type they use."

    "Grass, according to the guide inside the Pokétch," she said. "The leader is named Gardenia I think."

    "Wow, talk about applying for the job you're made for," he said, and Niss had to stiffle a laugh. "Grass is really easy though, it has a ton of weaknesses."

    "You shouldn't base your Pokemon choice just on types," she warned him. "You need to put more thought into it if you want to be the Champion."

    "Oh yeah? Then let me try to guess your team." He stroked his chin and frowned as if he were in deep thought. "Shadi, Steven and... Enma maybe? Wow, that was hard to figure out."

    Niss looked away, pouting. "You don't know me. I could use... uh..." She bit her lip, considering her options. "Well... my new ghost buddy might be strong enough to surpass the type disadvantage."

    Barry felt his stomach drop at the mention of that... thing. Images of that pale girl and the stone tablet she'd given him flashed through his mind, and for a moment he could've sworn he heard a distant gust of wind. He shook his head and tried to reply.

    "You haven't named him yet?"

    There was a pause before Niss answered.

    "I'm not sure about it. I just... I don't know how I feel about having that thing in my team. I don't even know what it is! And the Pokédex has no information about it either."

    "Then it has to be a super rare Pokemon!" he offered. "Maybe a legendary, even."

    "Wohoo, lucky me." She raised both hands and wiggled them. "Must be the shittiest legendary ever. I'll probably just ask Rowan about it later. He might know something about him."

    There was silence as they continued walking downhill toward Eterna City. Both avoided the other's gaze, trying to ignore the Donphan in the room.

    "So..." Barry crossed his arms, trying to appear casual. "Do you... wanna talk about what happened back there?"

    "Not now," she replied, shoulders dropped. "Just... too much **** at once. Let me rest before we discuss Murder Ghost Funhouse again."

    "Wow, how long did it take you to come up with that amazing name?" he spat back, feeling a hint of irritation.

    "**** off."

    The path became narrower as they approached the bottom of the mountain, the enormous shadows of the walls around them hiding their presence. Barry could hear Niss' breathing get shallower, and he could swear she was walking faster than before as the dark swallowed the path; the same thing that had happened the last time they entered a cave. He did his best to ignore it and kept the pace with her, wanting nothing more than to get to the city and throw himself at the first bed he found.

    His body almost cried in relief when rays of sunlight hit him in the face as the hillside finally opened up. They emerged from the east near Route 211, close to the vegetable fields which rested behind some of the buildings of the city, which obscured them almost completely.

    "No wonder no one knows about this place," Niss commented, breathing heavily.

    With utmost care they sneaked through the sides of the buildings, trying to get as few eyes on them as possible. Once they emerged into one of the side streets they were relieved to see that there was no security around, only a few civilians doing their last stroll through the place before the sun went down. Niss grabbed him by the arm and they both started walking south, trying to locate the Pokemon Center before anyone noticed them.

    Barry couldn't stop looking around, admiring the beautiful architecture of the city. Most of the houses were built on what appeared to be a mix of cobblestone and ancient rock, although they didn't look as old as those in Sandgem. The town still had a very traditional feeling to it. The colors around them were mostly cold; blues and greens and soft yellows which gave the place a very relaxed look, almost like the city itself was part of the nature around it. He was beginning to feel like himself more with every step he took, his bright smile returning to his face as he remembered the reason he set out in his journey, the wonders of the world being reward enough for him.

    He turned to say something to Niss but found her looking at something in the distance, eyes narrowed.

    "The hell is that?" She pointed south, beyond one of the old houses, and Barry got on his toes to see it more easily.

    His eyes set on what appeared to be a towering shape of bronze, standing out above everything around it. The floor beneath it was elevated, with shiny marble steps leading up to it. The statue stood proud at about eight feet tall, its imposing shape seemingly attracting everyone's eyes to it, or at least theirs and the few people in the streets around it.

    Without thinking, he walked toward the statue, the pain on his back disappearing to the back of his mind. He couldn't get his eyes off the bronze of the statue, and as he came within within arm's reach he could feel something stirring behind his eyes.

    He stopped just a feet away from it, slowly shaking that feeling away and placing a hand against his temple. What... had just happened? He heard Niss stopping at his side, her eyes also set on the statue. It had the appearance of a dragon, with robust wings growing from its back and something which appeared to be armor covering the body, with big, strong extremities; arms raised towards the sky.

    "It looks like a Pokemon," she whispered, eyes narrowed, "but I have no idea which."

    He got closer and tried to read the inscription on the lower part of it, but the silver of it was extremely old, and the words on it had vanished a long time ago. The people around him, including Niss, were simply admiring the statue for its beauty, but something inside Barry told him there was something more there, he couldn't exactly tell what, but...

    "Such pitiable, misunderstood praise."

    His heart jumped at the sound of that voice, coming from the other side of the statue. He and Niss exchanged a knowing look, her face paling as realization hit her. As they looked over the towering shape of bronze they noticed another man staring up at the statue, hands behind his back.

    "Time and space, intertwined in a spiral around Sinnoh." He kept talking to himself, seemingly not noticing them. "These Pokemon, revered not for logic, but for fear. To think that this beauty is tainted by such unnecessary emotions, it truly is a shame." He closed his eyes for a moment, and Barry felt like time began to move again. "Wait for me, Dialga and Palkia. I shall weave your powers into a new, better world."

    His eyes opened slowly, and his sight shifted towards them. Sharp pain flared in his chest as the icy grey of his eyes fell on him.

    "Pardon me." He spoke slowly, his voice akin to white noise, a continuous line of sound. "Stand aside."

    He walked between them, once again leaving them breathless as he dissapeared toward the growing darkness of the now still city. The noise around them suddenly returned, and Barry could breathe again. He felt Niss' fingers wrap around his, and when he looked down at her he noticed her face paler than ever.

    "It... it was him," she whispered, lower lip trembling. "The man in the lake."

    "Cyrus." The name sprouted from his mouth like poison. "What's he doing here? Does he just go around saying stuff like that near kids?"

    Niss was standing still, her eyes still set on the place the man had disappeared to.

    "I don't know and I don't want to find out either," she said. "Let's not worry about that; he's probably just a creep."

    Barry heard her, but he didn't move an inch. He approached the statue, his hand gracing the metal in front of him, as if looking for something. He felt like he was being called to.

    "Uh... Barry?" he heard Niss' voice behind him, almost distant. "What are you doing?"

    He didn't respond. His fingers grazed the cold metal as he moved them from the Pokemon's shoulder down toward its chest. Something inside his pocket felt heavy, though he didn't worry about it at the moment. The bronze started feeling warmer and warmer as his fingers got close to the spot he was looking for. Finally he laid his hands on top of the core at the middle of the Pokemon's chest, and the moment he touched it he knew it was made of a different material, a lot rougher and colder than the bronze covering its body. Without thinking he grabbed the edges and pulled the stone rectangle out.

    "You broke it!" Niss' voice took him out of his trance, and he turned around to see her horrified face.

    "No I didn't," he replied, voice unusually low. "This wasn't part of the statue."

    She got closer and peered at what Barry held in the palm of his hand. A piece of square stone, flat and tinted in dark red, its sides engraved with strange symbols. Much like the one he'd found back at the Old Chateau.

    "Isn't it just like that thing you got from... the house?" Niss was clearly about to mention the ghost girl, but she stopped herself. "What was it called? The Specter Plate?"

    He nodded weakly, feeling the piece of rock with his fingers, "Yeah, seems like it. They both look the same and have those words written on them."

    "Too bad we can't read them," Niss sighed. "Who knows what these things are, maybe we could sell them to a museum or something."

    Barry paused, then slowly looked up at Niss, brow furrowed.

    "What do you mean?" he asked , incredulous. "Is it too dark to read it or something?"

    Niss gave him the exact same puzzled look, and a smile formed on her face.

    "Unless you know the language it's written in..." She let out a laugh. "I mean, you did know morse code so who knows."

    "You mean Sinnohan? Yeah I'm pretty sure I can read that," he spat back, not understanding Niss' sudden sarcastic tone.

    Her smile faded, and slowly she opened her eyes, lower lip trembling. "W... are you serious? You can actually read those scribbles?"

    Barry was completely lost. What did she mean by scribbles? The words were clear as day, almost like they were written on a white piece of paper. He took the other plate out of his pocket and held both of them in front of him, confirming that he could indeed read both.

    "May this fourteenth key grant Him the blood of dragons, imbued with infinite potential." Once again he heard a distant gust of wind as he spoke. "That's what the one we got from the statue says, as for the other one..." He raised the other plate. "May this thirteenth key grant Him the peace of death, imbued with second chances."

    As soon as he stopped talking, he felt a heavy silence set in around them. Confused, he turned to look at Niss and froze at her expression. Her face was pale as that of a corpse, and her eyes were wide and full of shock. The strenge feeling behind his eyes suddenly disappeared, and Niss let out a gasp.

    "What is it?" he asked, afraid that something was wrong with him.

    "Y... your eyes," she whispered. "No... no, it's nothing, I must be way too tired." She placed a palm against her face, and took a deep breath. "Dear god, I really need to collect myself. I feel like I'm going crazy."

    Barry put a hand on her shoulder. She'd been acting weird ever since they had entered that mansion, and that hadn't stopped after they escaped either. He wanted to say something, but he wasn't sure what, giving the current circumstances.

    "We should go to the Pokemon Center," he proposed, forming a warm smile. "I think we've been through enough trouble today."

    A voice that wasn't Niss' answered him.

    "I agree completely."

    Oh... crap.

    They turned around in unison toward the familiar voice, panic clear in their expressions. Sarah stood behind them, arms crossed and face like that of a furious Ursaring.

    "I've been looking for you two." She spoke every word slowly, as if trying to hold back her anger. "Pokemon Center. Now. We need to talk."

    -----------------------------------------------
    Not a single word was said as they walked toward the Pokemon Center, the sun finally disappearing behind the mountains, the only lights illuminating the path being those of the lanterns at the sides of the street. In front of him, his mother moved swiftly, her pale hands clenched into fists and the sound of her steps echoing inside his head. He felt an oppressive anxiety making its way up from his stomach, and one look at Niss told him that she was as scared as he was. Sarah was not the kind of woman one wanted to anger.

    The doors of the red building opened for them as they approached, the warm light inside filling him with something like relief, and the smell of fresh food making his stomach growl. He saw his mother stop momentarily, looking around the entire lobby, and then walking straight towards one of the nearby tables, where another woman was sitting. Barry's stomach made a small turn at the sight of her, and he felt his face getting slightly hot. Her hair was short and orange, with small streaks of black beneath it, and her bored eyes were a beautiful dark honey. She wore what appeared to be a green poncho which didn't cover her midriff, and her bright orange pants were very worn out and torn around the knees.

    "I'm sorry for making you wait, Gardenia." Sarah's tone was cold and to the point, her eyes almost obscured by her dark hair. "I ran into my son and her friend on the way."

    Something in the back of Barry's mind lit up. Gardenia? The name sounded familiar.

    "Seems your efforts paid off, in one aspect at least." Gardenia relaxed back into her chair, lazily smiling at the older woman. "Finally found the little sprouts, eh? They seem like a couple of troublemakers, no wonder they made you work so hard."

    "Wait, was that a plant pun?" he couldn't help but ask, and as soon as he did realization dawned on him. "Oh! You're the Gym leader, right? The one with the weird name?"

    Niss facepalmed, letting out a sigh. "Oh my god..."

    "The one and only, my pal." She rested the back of her head on her palms, looking as relaxed as a Slakoth. "You're Sarah's and Palmer's son, and that behind you must be Dawn Jr, second edition." She laughed at her own joke. "Nice to meet ya', I've heard of the two of you."

    "Y... you have?" Niss asked.

    "What are you doing hanging out with mom?" he added, trying to avoid his mother's flaring gaze for as long as possible.

    "Sarah and I have been in contact for quite some time now," Gardenia replied between yawns. "She's pretty much the only Association member I can stand, and we've been working together on that whole bridge business." She sighed. "We've made some progress but it's still a long way to go methinks. Haven't had to work this hard since I became a Gym leader, but helping investigations is in my contract, so what can I do, right?"

    "Yes, quite." Sarah pushed her glasses up, her lips thin and pale. "Gardenia, would you mind giving us some space? I need to have a talk with them. We will review the police's documents tomorrow."

    "Jeez..." Gardenia stood up and threw her hands up in the air, stretching like a Glameow. Barry tried really hard not to stare at the way her poncho was lifted up, revealing the woman's midriff. "Sorry kids, hope she doesn't scold you that much. I'll be in my Gym all day tomorrow, so feel free to come by."

    She made a peace sign with her fingers as she left the Pokemon Center, leaving them alone with Sarah. Neither of them said anything for a while, until his mother finally sat down where Gardenia was previously and looked at them with a glare which could've paralyzed a Salamance. Without saying a word both kids sat down at the other side of the table, waiting. Sarah leaned back into her chair, closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. When she opened them again they had lost part of the anger behind them, now only reflecting something akin to sadness.

    "What were you two thinking?"

    Her words hit him like a hammer. He was expecting her to yell at him, but somehow her disappointed tone was more hurtful than anything he could've prepared for. He glanced at his friend, who was similarly speechless, a drop of sweat running down her face.

    "Do you know how worried I was?" Her shoulders dropped as she spoke, all semblances of rage disappearing from her face. "After I heard what happened in Floaroma I dropped my assignments immediately and had Palmer fly me there, but you were nowhere to be found. Then a couple hours ago I get a report that someone saw a massive cloud of dust and smoke rise up from Eterna Forest, and once they approached it they told me the Old Chateau had collapsed on itself, possibly due to someone's intervention." She made emphasis on that last word. "I want you to explain me what happened."

    She crossed her arms, and waited. Barry opened his mouth to respond, but Niss managed to cut him out.

    "It was my fault." Her words came out garbled, as if she wanted to get them out as fast as possible, "I convinced Barry to follow me through Eterna Forest, and I went alone to fight those Galactic thugs. He didn't have anything to do with it."

    "What!? No, that's bullcrap!" Barry slammed a hand on the table. "I would've followed you to fight those creeps if I knew, and we both decided to go throught the forest!"

    "You were just following me because I gave you no choice," she spat back, tone sour.

    "Screw you!" he yelled, startling his friend, "I'm not your sidekick Niss, I'm a trainer like you! My decisions are my own, and if I want to go with you to do something dangerous that's because I do actually want that, because I like being around you!" He didn't realize the people around him could hear him, although he wouldn't have cared either way. "Stop blaming yourself for both of us. If we both act like idiots then we should share the blame, that's how this works!"

    Niss raised her eyes to meet his, and he could see a trace of wetness in them. She bit her lip and clinched her fists, not saying another word. Sarah cleared her throat as to get their attention.

    "Well, I see there's also plenty you two should talk about," For the first time Barry could make up a hint of a smile in her voice. "I'm glad to hear that you know what you did wrong, but that doesn't mean I can simply ignore it. You do realize that if anyone but me had found out about this, they would be required to take away your trainer card, right? You would not be able to participate in the League Challenge until you both cleared your names, which could take months," she explained, and could see the horror in their faces. "I will not turn you in, but I need you to understand that if it happens again, my hands are tied. I need you to promise me you will not do something so reckless again."

    Barry could hear a Or if you do, don't get caught, in her voice, though he decided not to comment on it. They both nodded, heads low. Sarah then looked at Niss, and put one of her hands on top of hers.

    "Inyssa, I know that I'm in no position to tell you what to do." Her tone was soft as she spoke. "But I want you to know that I do care about you as if you were my daughter. Please, don't put yourself in that kind of danger anymore."

    Niss didn't say a word, simply looking away from Sarah as if she wanted to ignore everything around her.

    "You are your own person and you don't have to live up to anyone's image. You're both already great trainers, and you'll only improve with time. I'm already proud of both of you."

    Barry's eyes began to sting, and next to him he could see a small shine behind the shadows covering Niss' eyes. His friend opened her mouth and spoke, her voice barely above a whisper.

    "Can I go book a room? I'm really tired," she tried to say as plainly as possible, her voice breaking slightly.

    Sarah took two things out of her pocket, one of them being a key, and the other a square piece of paper. "I already did that for you. I was also told to give this to you. Your mother sent you a letter."

    She handed both objects to her, and Niss grabbed them weakly, her eyes moving towards the wax stamp in the front of the envelope which showed her family's symbol. She stared at it for a few seconds, until she finally saved it and the key in the pocket of her coat.

    "Thanks." She said, barely any force in her voice. "I'll go to my room now."

    "Have a good night. Tomorrow I'll escort both of you to the gym if you want."

    She simply nodded, and without much fanfare she got up and walked toward one of the staircases heading to her new room. Barry was left alone with his mother, not knowing exactly what to say to make the situation less awkward.

    "Mom... I..." He paused, trying to form the words. "...Sorry."

    "As long as you've learned your lesson..."

    "It really wasn't her fault, mom," he insisted. "I just wanted us to be on equal footing, I didn't want to leave her alone."

    "I understand." Sarah nodded. "Inyssa has her family's fire inside her. Her father was the same, as were Johanna and Shadi, although in a different manner of course. And I just need to look at your father to understand why you did what you did. You two are like flame and spark, and the entire world around you is made of gunpowder."

    He couldn't help but smile, remembering what had happened at the Chateau. "Well... you're not wrong."

    His mother put both hands in the table, and with difficulty she helped herself up, exhaustion reflected in her eyes.

    "I have to go back to work now." She scowled at the prospect. "But I'll be back in the morning to see how you're both doing." She walked towards him and put her hand on top of his head, ruffling his hair. "Take care, alright? I would sleep better at night knowing that you're not in trouble the moment you're out of my sight."

    Barry smiled brightly at her, and put both arms around her. Sarah returned the hug with twice the strenght and planted a kiss on top of his head.

    "I love you. Stay safe, and help each other."

    -----------------------------------------------
    Almost an hour later Barry was laying on his bed, eyes set on the roof and mind restless. In a chair next to him were his orange and white jacket and his green scarf, waving with the wind from the open window like the leaves outside. After a hot meal and a cold shower the pain on his back had almost completely disappeared, now only a numb feeling. He thought he'd be asleep the moment his head hit the pillow, but something was keeping him awake, the thoughts inside his head overpowering his exhaustion.

    He reached with one hand to his pocket and retrieved both strange plates he'd gotten recently. Something told him there was a certain significance to them, like a riddle hiding an answer that he couldn't quite reach yet. The strange girl in the Chateau, the strange feeling when he approached that statue, the way Niss reacted to him reading aloud the inscriptions... something was off, and he couldn't quite put his finger on it.

    A knock on his door got him out of his trance, as he put the plates back in his pocket and looked towards the dark wooden frame. Before he had time to respond the door opened and through it appeared the shape of Niss, the light at the other side illuminating everything but her face. She was missing her usual coat and hat, her short hair freely covering part of her face.

    "Niss!" he yelped, surprised by her sudden appearance. "What are you doing here?"

    "I couldn't really sleep." He heard the smile in her voice as she approached him. "And I wanted to see how you were doing."

    She walked towards the chair close to his bed, throwing his things on top of the nearby table before sitting on it

    "Rough day, huh?" she sighed, smiling. "Man, how embarrassing. Between the Chateau and your mother I've been handed around like a ragdoll."

    Barry didn't exactly know what to say, and he felt like he shouldn't interrupt. Niss stood silent for a few seconds, and then began to speak again.

    "Sorry for what I said before." Her head hung low. "I didn't want to imply that I didn't respect you as an equal or anything. I just... didn't want you to get in trouble with Sarah."

    "Oh... yeah, don't worry about it." Barry waved his hand and tried to smile. "I got a bit emotional too."

    "Sometimes I feel like our friendship revolves around us trying to out-stupid each other and then blaming ourselves for it."

    "I think that's what it's always been about," he said. "But that's what fuels our amazing adventures! Come on Niss, I've gotten more fun out of these past few days than everything we did back in Twinleaf. And I have you to thank for that."

    The light coming from outside illuminated Niss' eyes, and he could see the warmth in them.

    "Yeah, I guess we've been part of some strange stuff. The whole Chateau incident was sort of like that horror movie we saw that time when we were kids. The one with the poltergeist in the kitchen, remember?"

    "Oh yeah! You mean Pastrygeist!" He smiled, memories of them watching the movie together on Niss' couch flooding his mind. "Yeah it was kind of like that, except we were missing the food puns."

    "Well, our journey is still young, so who knows."

    They couldn't help but laugh, which sent pain rippling through Barry's back. After a few seconds Inyssa got up, eyes still set on him.

    "So, we're cool?"

    "Yeah... we're cool," he replied, giving her a thumbs up.

    "Great, then get ready for tomorrow, because it's time we get our second badge."

    She began to make her way towards the exit of the room, and stopped just before putting her hand on the doorknob. She stood there, considering her words, and finally turned towards Barry.

    "You know..." she whispered, choosing her words carefully, "being around you, going in dumb adventures together, it reminds me of why I chose to be a trainer rather than anything else." Her voice was warm and clear, and it made the knot inside Barry's chest disappear. "I guess what I'm trying to say is... thanks. For putting up with me."

    And before he had a chance to respond Niss walked out of the door, her face tinted red. The boy stood there, laying on the bed and repeating her words in his head. His lips slowly curved into a smile.

    A few minutes later he was sleeping soundly, like a Snorlax.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2018
  4. TheAlpar

    TheAlpar Journey Enthusiast

    Chapter 14: Guilt and Flowers.


    Not sooner had the sun risen through the east that Inyssa set foot on the door of Eterna City's Gym, posture rigid as steel and eyes brimming with determination.

    She inhaled the sharp, cold air around her and the sweet scent of her ivory cotton scarf, freshly washed that morning of all the dirt and soot which had clung to it ever since the Chateau's collapse. She felt something poking her in the forehead. Steven's tiny legs were adjusting his body while he was on top of her hat, the wind from the north threatening to topple him backwards. To her left and right stood Shadi, her thick mustache shivering with the morning's cold, and Enma, his body steaming and the flame on his tail burning brightly. Behind her, she could barely hear Barry's breathing, and when she turned around she found him in the same state she'd seen him since they had left the Pokemon Center; chin up and hands clenched into fists. His smile was thin and pale, stretched across his face in the same way Sarah's always was. His body was still but she could almost feel the electricity coming from his pores, a good night's sleep apparently being enough to restore the boy to his usual overexcited state.

    She smiled back, the dryness in her lips hurting slightly, and she felt her heart starting to beat faster.

    "Last time this didn't go as expected." She broke the silence, inadvertently delaying their entrance to the establishment. "But this place does seem to have an actual Gym Leader, so I say we mark this as our official first test in the Sinnoh League."

    He nodded, arms crossed."Back in Oreburgh we didn't even give each other points after our battles. How's the score right now?"

    "Forty six to forty four." She allowed herself a coy smile, which she made sure Barry could see. "I'm winning."

    "Well, I'm feeling lucky today. Whoever has the least fainted Pokemon at the end of the battle wins a point. If you lose the fight, you lose a point. Sounds good?"

    A simple nod was her only response, and after another moment of hesitation her hands moved towards both sides of the door, pushing them aside. The path ahead opened up to a mess of green and browns, with ocassional different colors adorning what appeared to be a mix between an in-door park and a winter garden. Unlike Floaroma, the place didn't have an overpowering smell, but a subtle citric scent which danced around them like mist, complementing the cold wind. As she walked through the dirt road beneath her feet, her gaze moved between the flora of the place: camellias, winterberries and witch hazels created a mix of colors that were quite pleasant to the sight, so much that she started walking slower just to appreciate their beauty. Unfortunately, Barry protested by clashing his head against her back, in a similar way to when they were kids.

    "Come on Niss! We already smelled flowers in Floaroma, let's go fight the Gym Leader!" he yelled, and next to him Enma nodded energetically.

    She shot them an icy look and reluctantly moved forward until the beautiful garden was behind her and the second door towards the actual Gym was at hand's reach. Once again she walked through, and at the other side she found the place they had gotten into so much trouble trying to find. The room was twice as big as Oreburgh's arena, the steps at the side shining brightly below the sunlight, and the sand beneath her feet covering every inch of the battlefield. A few kids and teenagers were scattered through the place, either talking to each other or training their grass Pokemon. In the exact middle of the place stood Gardenia and Sarah, the only two adults that could be seen around.

    "Mom! When did you get here?" She felt her body being jerked forward as Barry almost jumped on top of her to get a better view. "We didn't find you when we woke up so we though you were working!"

    Sarah's turn was sudden, her body freezing for a fraction of a second before her eyes moved towards them with the speed of a Ninjask. Inyssa could see a glimpse of surprise in her face, altough it only lasted a second before she relaxed her guard, her lips forming a relieved smile. She appeared to be on edge, ready to jump to action at a moment's notice. Dark bags adorned the underside of her eyes, revealing just how little sleep the woman had gotten the night before.

    "Barry... Inyssa..." She spoke in a low, raspy tone, and behind her Gardenia winked at both of them. "Good morning, I wasn't expecting you until twelve at least."

    "Is everything okay?" Inyssa asked.

    "Yes, don't worry about me." She raised a hand, showing a thin smile. "We were simply discussing town matters."

    "Still working on that terrorism case," said Gardenia, both hands on her hips. "We haven't got much info on those Galactic guys, but there's some weird stuff going on around here. A couple citizens have been missing, and Pokemon all over the place are acting strange. We had to deal with some violent cases last night."

    Sarah scowled at her. "Gardenia, they don't need to hear that."

    "Right, right, sorry." She smiled nervously, wiping her palms on the fabric of her pants. "Aaaanyways, it's nice to finally met you two, I've been waiting for ya." She moved her gaze from the kids to Inyssa's Pokemon. "I see you already got your companions ready."

    "We didn't want to wait in line for our fight," Inyssa admitted, trying to imbue her voice with as much confidence as possible. "And we figured it'd be better for your reputation if as few people as possible saw you lose against two children."

    Gardenia's eyes sparked with either amusement or irritation, perhaps a mix of both. She approached the kids, her cinnamon hair waving with the wind coming from the open roof of the arena, and with a simple movement of her hand she produced a shiny, Green Pokeball.

    "Oh I like these kids," she whispered, and Inyssa noticed Barry's slight blush at her side. "Alright sprouts, how many badges do you have? I wanna make sure I get a proper fight; I might be a gardener but tending to flowers and plants ain't the only thing I'm good at."

    "We have one badge, miss... I mean Gardenia!" Barry replied, his voice an octave higher than usual.

    "Yeah, we got it from Grumpy McFossilFace," Inyssa added. "Also you already used that sprout pun last night."

    "Ah, you must have fought against Roark," she nodded. "I can see how that would drop your spirits a bit. Poor kid's not really made for the job, is he. But don't you worry, I'll make sure you get your time's worth here!" She punched the palm of her own hand, eyebrows raising and eyes full of fire.

    Inyssa couldn't help but feel weirded out by the woman's changing behaviour. She'd seemed so chill and relaxed back in the Pokemon Center.

    "We're ready when you are."

    "Actually... before we start, I have a proposition for you two." She told them while spinning her Pokeball on her index finger. "As long as Sarah doesn't mind if I bend the Association rules a little bit."

    "Pretend I'm not here," said the woman.

    "Perfect! Alright you two, listen carefully. League regulations set three Pokemon as the maximum I can use against trainers with five badges or less, but that doesn't sound very fun, does it? And since you both seem to know each other..." A devious smile formed on her lips. "What do you think about a double battle? Both of you against me, four Pokemon on each side. That way I can really see what you kids are made of."

    The idea caught both of them off guard. Inyssa stood there, weakly stomping her feet in the ground, her eyebrows knit. But before she had time to consider it, Barry's voice boomed at her side, almost deafening her.

    "Oh my gosh, can we do that!?" She hadn't seen Barry so excited since he'd gotten that Snorlax plushy from her on his last birthday. "You're on! Right, Niss!?"

    She shrugged. "Fine by me."

    Gardenia needed to hear no more. With a simple smile she turned around and started walking towards the other side of the arena, ordering her students to clear the field as she passed through. Sarah shot them a warm look and headed towards the stands.

    "Guess that means we can only use two Pokemon each." She whispered, biting her finger. "Sorry Enma, but you'll have to stay out of this one."

    Enma's flame shot up until it was twice its size, and from his flaring eyes and the fact he was showing his teeth at her she guessed he wasn't too happy about her decision.

    "You've already gotten a ton of experience these past days," she said. "Your other teammates need to fight once in a while too."

    Enma simply spat at his side, crossing his arms and looking away from her. She figured that was the best possible reaction she was going to get from him, so she took it. Turning towards Barry she found him lost in thought.

    "Do you mind telling me what Pokemon are you going to use?" she asked him, bringing him back to reality.

    "And ruin the surprise? Come on Niss, you know me better than that," he said, grabbing a Pokeball from his belt. "Trust me, I've got an amazing idea, probably the best I've ever come up with! You'll absolutely die of shock."

    She shrugged, and figured that she would find out eventually. Without another word they walked towards the designated ring for challengers, and before a minute passed the arena had been completely cleared. At the stands on the side were a couple spectators, mostly Gym students. Gardenia's voice filled the stadium, with a booming sound like that of a sport's commentator.

    "This will be our first battle of the day so y'all better pay attention, you might learn something for once!" She bellowed to her students on the stands. "Barry Paladino, Inyssa Dawn, are you two ready?"

    "Yes we are, Miss Gardenia!" Barry yelled, his voice cracking from excitedness.

    "Bring it!" Inyssa yelled.

    "In that case, today's Gym battle..." She threw her hand up, pointing at the sky. "...oficially begins!"

    Inyssa closed her eyes for a moment, and for the first time in days she felt perfectly in place. All her worries about what had happened recently disappeared from her mind and she felt the wild beating of her heart warming up her entire body. She allowed herself a simple smile; that was exactly the feeling she'd been looking for, what she had been seeking for so long. She clenched her right fist, and once she opened her eyes she pointed directly at Gardenia, voice shaking with enthusiasm.

    "Shadi, I choose you!"

    The Kricketune jumped into action, her thin scythes glistening beneath the sunlight. Gardenia took two Pokeballs from her poncho and threw them into the air, the light from them materializing into two somewhat familiar Pokemon. One of them was the same green tortoise she'd seen with Lucas, while the other one was a taller, graceful figure with two roses instead of hands whom Inyssa recognized as Bret's evolution. The Turtwig and Roselia stood still, waiting.

    "Ohh I'm so pumped!" Barry yelled next to her, and with as much force as possible he threw his Pokeball into the air. "Go, Kitsune!"

    That piqued Inyssa's interest, and she set her sight directly on the shape appearing next to Shadi, excited to see what new Pokemon Barry had managed to catch. The pulsing light turned into a small, yellow and brown fox with thin arms and legs and slanted, almost completely closed eyes. The creature's butt hit the floor as soon as he appeared, and the bobbing of his head told her that he wanted nothing more than to be left alone so he could go back to sleep.

    "An Abra," she whispered, not believing what she was seeing. "Are you serious!? You're going to use an Abra in a Gym battle!?" Her arms were slightly trembling, and she felt a strong urge to put her hands around his neck. "What is wrong with you?"

    Barry simply smiled, not being fazed by her rage, and pointed at his Pokemon.

    "Quick, jump onto Shadi's back!" he ordered.

    The Abra turned around to look at him, and with a deep sigh he did as he was told, lazily grabbing onto the bug's back with his thin arms. Inyssa's mouth hung open, her brain trying to determine just what the hell was Barry thinking. Abra were useless in battle, the only move they knew was...

    A light lit up in her head, and she couldn't help but laugh. Barry's expression turned smug as he stroked his chin, staring at her expectedly.

    "Turtwig, use Curse!" Gardenia yelled from the other side of the arena. "Roselia, Razor Leaf!"

    The tortoise planted his four feet firmly on the ground, and a pulsing, dark energy began to glow around him, making him heavier and stronger. Meanwhile the rose Pokemon put both her buds forward and with a ragged scream they began to glow, expelling wave after wave of sharp, knife like petals towards them. Barry simply gave her a side look, urging her to do the honors.

    "Shadi, use Fury Cutter on Roselia!" she yelled.

    "Kitsune, Teleport!" Barry followed.

    Shadi brandished her two scythes, which began to glow with a pale, maroon energy. The razor petals were still advancing towards them, but the moment before they hit both Pokemon blinked out of existence in an almost imperceptible flash of purple. Gardenia's eyes went wide. A pop was heard as they materialized behind Roselia, who was too slow to react to the incoming attack. Inyssa was only able to hear the impact as the rose Pokemon went flying through the arena, landing face first onto the sand.

    "Turtwig, they're close to you! Bite them!" Gardenia ordered.

    Turtwig nodded and ran towards his opponents, maw opened wide. However his previous attack had rendered him too slow, and before he could reach them they teleported once again, slipping through his jaws. Roselia was still trying to get up, her body shaking from the previous attack, when Shadi appeared behind her and with another arc of her scythe sent her up ten feet towards the roof, the power of her attack increasing the more she used it.

    "Finish her off!" Inyssa yelled, fists clenched.

    The air pressurized around Shadi and Abra, and with another violet flash they appeared on top of their victim, the Kricketune's scythe contracting as far back as possible. Inyssa had to look away as the impact sent Roselia downwards like a cannonball, raising clouds of sand around her body as she went completely limp. At the other side of the arena, Gardenia froze for a moment. Her mouth went from being slightly open to forming a fiery smile.

    "Oh hell yes," she said, her voice only a whisper. "That was a pretty nifty strategy. I can tell you two ain't gonna disappoint me." She returned Roselia to her Pokeball, and immediatly took another one from her poncho. "But I'm afraid that won't work again. Go, Cherrim!"

    Her new Pokemon appeared in the field next to Turtwig, light turning into what appeared to be a purple flower bud with two tiny legs. Inyssa couldn't even see a face or arms on it.

    "The hell is that?" she whispered, narrowing her eyes. "I've never seen that Pokemon, it's kind of like a lame version of Bret."

    "Looks super weak," Barry concluded. "Just focus on the Turtwig! Come on, before he has time to buff himself even more."

    Inyssa thought about it for a second, her eyes still set on that strange Pokemon. Gardenia wouldn't have sent it if he wasn't useful, but then again what could something so small do to them? She decided to go with Barry's plan. For now the tortoise was the clear target to attack.

    "Fury Cutter again!" she ordered, a speck of doubt in her voice.

    Shadi brandished her scythes once more, and being the fourth time she used the same attack the energy emanating from them began to shake the ground beneath her. The Kricketune set her eyes on her opponent, and with a small jump she pushed herself towards him.

    "Turtwig, Sunny Day, before she reaches you!" Gardenia shouted.

    Turtwig raised his head towards the sky, and with a deep roar he gathered energy in a small, grey ball inside his maw, launching it upwards with extreme force. Inyssa couldn't help but follow its trajectory as it flew through the clouds above, disappearing above them. For a short moment nothing happened, and she entertained the idea that the attack had failed, but before she got her hopes up the sky started clearing, all the clouds above the stadium parting and letting space free for strong rays of sunlight to fall into the arena.

    Which didn't particularly help the Turtwig as Shadi and Kitsune teleported in front of him and wrecked him with a single hit, his body flying backwards and almost breaking the stone of the wall. He landed with a deaf thomp and altough that had been the strongest slash from Shadi yet, the small Pokemon wasn't unconcious yet due to his fortified defenses. She was about to order another attack when Barry interrupted her.

    "Whoa, what's that thing doing!?"

    Furrowing her brow, she looked at what Barry was pointing at. The petals on the Cherrim's body were slowly opening, dark purple turning into a pale pink as he revealed his true form, two tiny pink arms coming out from inside the bud and finally showing his round, cute face. Inyssa stood in shock for a few seconds, head leaned to the side.

    "Do you like this cutie over here?" Gardenia asked, smug smile on her face. "Cherrim's ability lets him change his form when under strong sunlight, and it gives him a whole lotta speed and power!" she explained, arms crossed and pride clear in her voice. "Oh and trust me, that's not the only trick this little guy has..."

    Barry and Inyssa exchanged a worried look. She mentally cursed their lack of experience and her mind began to race trying to think of the possible implications of Gardenia's words. Whatever she meant with that, it didn't matter. As long as they had that powerful teleport combo on their side they had everything under control.

    "Fury Cutter one more time!" she yelled, wanting to get it over with as soon as possible.

    "I already told you that won't work again," Gardenia replied, voice firm. "Cherrim, Solar Beam!"

    The woman greatly enjoyed the look of horror on their faces as they realized what they'd walked into. Inyssa's heart dropped as she witnessed the flower Pokemon slowly raising from the floor upwards, a tremendous amount of solar energy gathering around his body until he looked like a miniature sun. She wanted to yell to Shadi to hurry and attack immediatly, but it was too late even before the words left her mouth.

    The flash of light blinded her. Even without being able to see anything she felt the tremor in her bones while the ground of the arena shook violently as if an earthquake were happening under them. Dust covered the entire place, extending towards them like mist, and she had to force her vision to finally find their Pokemon.

    Both Shadi and Kitsune laid on the sand, face down. The Abra was completely still, unconscious, while her Pokemon was weakly trying to get up, her resistance to grass moves being the only reason she was still standing. Her red body was covered in burn marks and a few drops of blood fell to the ground under her.

    Of course... how could she forget about Solar Beam? It was one of the strongest grass moves in existence, and while it usually took a long time to charge, under such strong sunlight that disadvantage had completely disappeared.

    "That... was amazing!" Barry spoke with a thin voice, a huge smile on his face. "Niss did you see that? I've never seen that attack in real life, it looked just like one of those cool attacks in anime!"

    "Barry, shut up!" She snapped at him, her brain still trying to come up with a strategy. "Listen, do you have your Buizel?"

    "Huh? Oh, yeah." He took one of his newest Pokeballs from his belt. "But he's water type, I don't think he'll get much done here."

    "Just trust me." She approached him, and whispered something in his ear. "... did you get that?"

    He nodded, and pointed Kitsune's Pokeball towards his body. "Yeah! That sounds like a good plan." The small fox Pokemon came back to him, and he threw the new one towards the field. "Razen, come out!"

    The Buizel materialized on the field, arms crossed. His resolve seemed to falter at the sight of what he had to face, but only for a moment.

    Inyssa looked at Shadi, who had just finished getting up and was now breathing deeply and unevenly, barely conscious. She thought her plan through three more times, and while she admitted it wasn't perfect they really didn't have that many choices.

    "Wow, thanks for bringing my Cherrim a free snack there, boy!" Gardenia shouted from the other side. "Solar Beam one more time!"

    Once again the flower Pokemon flew upwards, his body glistening with the energy of the sun. Inyssa bit her lip, she had no time to think anymore.

    "Shadi, use Fury cutter, but don't attack anyone!" The words felt crazy coming out of her mouth, and her Pokemon's expression told her she shared the sentiment. "Just trust me, charge the attack and turn towards your partner!"

    The Kricketune did as she was told, and only with a bit of hesitation she turned towards Razen, putting her scythe hands in front of her in an X shape. Being the fifth time she used the attack consecutively the power was stronger than ever, so much that Shadi was having problem containing it in her body.

    "Razen, it's your turn," Barry told his Pokemon, "Water Gun at Shadi!"

    The Buizel inhaled deeply before expelling a small torrent of water from his mouth toward his partner. Inyssa couldn't help but smile at Gardenia's bewildered expression, and she mentally crossed her fingers for this to work. The moment Razen's attack hit Shadi the water started dissipating, turning to steam due to the incredible amount of energy in her scythes. A cloud of mist rose from her exhausted body and filled the entire stadium, blocking everyone's view and rising towards the open roof, where it hid the light of the sun and cancelled Cherrim's attack.

    "Oh you clever little shits." Gardenia whispered, not being able to contain a laugh. "Nice, very nice."

    The light disappeared from the Cherrim's body. The flower Pokemon fell to the ground and painfully started to squirm, not being able to contain his true form anymore. The petals behind his head started contracting once again until it fully covered his body, now making him look the same as when he had come out of his Pokeball.

    "Shadi quick, attack them before the steam dissolves!" Inyssa ordered.

    Only half concious and with ragged breath the Kricketune turned towards the Cherrim and Turtwig. The power from her previous attack was still on her scythes, and without moving an inch she formed an X once again, and took a deep breath. Mist gathered around her feet like a tiny hurricane and pressure started bulding in her hands.

    "That... doesn't look like Fury Cutter," Barry leaned forward, furrowed brow.

    "It's not." Inyssa lifted her chin and let out a small chuckle. "It's X-Scissor."

    Shadi looked backwards once, and her eyes met with Inyssa's. She could see her mustache twitching into a weak smile, pride shining in her eyes. She didn't understand Pokemon language, but Inyssa could see a Thanks in that gaze. Without hesitating the Kricketune slashed the air in front of her, and a cross shaped projectile of green energy flew towards Gardenia's Pokemon, leaving a trail of sand on its path. Cherrim and Turtwig desperately tried to run away, but they were too slow and the attack too powerful. The impact raised another cloud of dust as both Pokemon hit the ground, not being able to fight anymore.

    In the midst of those moments Inyssa could swear she heard a weak, proud laugh coming from Shadi, just before her body collapsed. She put a hand on her chest, a warm feeling growing inside her, and walking towards her she pointed at her with her Pokeball.

    "You did so, so well," she whispered, her nose crinkling. "Good job."

    "Oh man!" Gardenia raised both arms to the sky, and to Inyssa it seemed like she was enjoying the battle a little too much. "Gotta admit, it's been a while since I had to fight this hard against a couple of children. You two are wonderful, I'm kinda sad this is almost over!" She returned both Pokemon to their respective balls, and with a bit of fanfare took the last one out of her pocket. "But this has gone on for too long and I do have other challengers, so I'm afraid I'll have to cut this short."

    Gardenia punched the air in front of her, Pokeball in hand, and it opened up on a flash of light which dropped to the floor, forming an unfamiliar shape. Her last Pokemon was almost as tall as her, slim and shiny green, with white hair and what looked like two rose bouquets on his hands. His mouth was covered with a green bandana and a red scarf was tied around his neck, flowing with the cold wind. He looked quite similar to the Roselia she'd summoned before, but just different enough to raise Inyssa's suspicions.

    "Say hello to Roserade." Gardenia introduced her Pokemon, raising her head and forming a thin smile. "He will be ending this battle now."

    Inyssa froze for a second, not sure of what to do. If that thing was Roselia's evolution then it meant it was a fully evolved Pokemon, and she remembered too well what happened the last time she faced against one of those. Her eyes drifted upwards to her hat, where Steven was still sitting, a nervous expression on his tiny face. She was planning on using him for this battle, but now...

    The small bird Pokemon hadn't evolved yet, something he should've done already according to her estimates. He was too weak to fight something like that, and she knew that if that thing got a single hit on Barry's Buizel the water Pokemon would be defeated instantly. Maybe she could use Enma just this once, she thought. She would have time to train Steven later, she didn't have to...

    She felt the weight of Shadi's Pokeball in her hand, and she looked down toward it. She remembered how weak she had been when Inyssa found her at the door of that Pokemon Center. If she'd never given her a chance, would she have become as strong as she was now?

    "Steven, it's your turn," she said. "Are you up for it?"

    She heard Enma's hmph behind her, but she decided to ignore it. Steven awkwardly shifted his body a couple times, and finally jumped off her hat, extending his wings and flying towards the arena, his eyebrows knit together in worry. She felt a knot in her stomach, still not sure if she was making the right choice, but it was too late to back down now.

    "Our best bet is rushing that thing as fast as possible," she told both Pokemon and Barry, attempting to sound more confident than she was. "Use Aerial Ace!"

    "Razen, Aqua Jet!" Barry joined her scream, fist punching forward.

    The Buizel moved like lightning, blurring into a smear as he rushed to attack the Roserade. As he let out a scream his body was fully covered in a mantle of water, and before his opponent had time to dodge he launched himself at his stomach, toppling him backwards and making him lose his balance. Above them Steven soared to their location, his wings sharp as knives. The impact finally managed to knock the Roserade down to the floor, where he let out a low sigh of pain, receiving only moderate damage from those attacks.

    "One attack that never misses and another one that always strikes first," Gardenia spoke under her breath. "Well, I think I know which one I should take care of first. Roserade, use Energy Ball on the Starly!"

    Roserade stood up almost instantly, his tiny legs dancing through the sand beneath him like a ballerina. He raised the hand that contained the blue roses and pointed it towards Steven; a vibrant, pulsing orb of green energy formed in front of him, easily twice the size as the target of such attack. The bird Pokemon watched this and started flying in circles around the arena, panic dictating his actions. But the Roserade was calm, and without moving an inch he aimed at a particular spot in the air, and fired.

    Inyssa stared, her eyes opened wide as the ball of energy made direct contact, exploding upon touch with Steven's body and blowing him out of the sky. His wings lost strength and he dived towards the left extreme of the arena, falling onto the floor. Her brain took a couple seconds to register what had happened, and part of her hoped that she would see her Pokemon stand up defiantly like Shadi had. But the Starly was motionless, only his chest moving up and down slowly, mirroring his irregular breathing.

    "Holy... oh my gosh," Barry whispered at her side, his lower lip trembling. "But... shouldn't he resist that attack? Energy Ball is grass type, right?"

    She didn't answer, not that she would've been able to. She could feel ice in her throat and a shiver in her spine as the realization came to her.

    She'd lost the fight.

    "Don't worry Niss, I'll avenge him!" Barry tried to reassure her, and immediatly turned towards the fight. "Razen, Aqua Jet again!"

    But Inyssa wasn't paying attention. With weakness weighing her down she slowly raised the hand with Steven's Pokeball in it and returned him to it. She stared directly at it, the sounds of the fight booming around her, and she couldn't help but feel a pint of irritation. No, she thought, Steven wasn't at fault for that, she was the one who had sent him to a losing battle. But then again, she had thought that type advantage would tip the scale in his favor, and she could have never imagined he would go down so easily against an attack he resisted. Shame crept up on her at the thought of how angry she felt, and she mentally cursed herself for it. She would not put the blame of her failures on anyone else, even if...

    She chased all thoughts away from inside her head and saved the Pokeball in her belt, turning towards the battle once more. To her surprise the Buizel was still holding his own against the powerful grass Pokemon, his quick feet being only barely enough for him to avoid most of his attacks.

    "Alright this isn't working, I think we need a change of strategy," Gardenia spoke to herself, a hand on her chin. "Use Grass Knot on him!"

    The Roserade put both hands against the sand. The ground shook, and all around the Buizel it broke apart, dozens of small vines slithering towards him. It was sudden enough to catch him off guard, and one of the vines grabbed him by the ankle, grounding him. Three others soon followed, spiraling around his torso and his other leg, inmovilizing him completely. Without needing orders the Roserade aimed his free hand towards Razen and shot another Energy Ball. The attack flew at him like a cannonball.

    "Razen, Sonic Boom on the vines!" Barry screamed, rushing his words.

    The Buizel allowed himself a coy smile as he spun, his two tails glistening with power and cutting all the vines binding him. With only moments to spare he inhaled deeply, shooting a torrent of water into the ground, propelling himself high enough to avoid the Energy Ball, which kept traveling forward and dissipated into the air.

    "That was so sick!" Barry jumped in place excitedly. "Aqua Jet one more time!"

    In mid air the Buizel set his eyes on his opponent, and with a powerful slap of his tails he boosted himself towards him, his body covering itself once more with water. The Roserade tried to side-step it but Razen had much more control over his trajectory thanks to gravity being on his side, and with a powerful impact he hit the grass Pokemon directly in the stomach, burying part of him in the sand. Inyssa feared he would get up any moment and destroy the Buizel, but Roserade's body stood still, now unconcious.

    A few seconds of silence passed, and then the sound of clapping filled the arena, the people in the stands cheering and yelling at Barry and his Pokemon for achieving victory. Gardenia contemplated the result for a moment, and after returning her last Pokemon to his ball she started walking towards them, a proud smile on her face.

    "I... I did it!" Barry yelled in a high pitched voice. "Niss! Niss did you see that? I won! I won with type disadvantage against Gardenia!"

    She forced herself to give Barry a smile which didn't extend to her eyes. She wanted to be happy for him, she wanted to go towards him and give him a hug, but her mind was elsewhere. The image of failure danced inside her head, becoming more prominent the more she tried not to think about it.

    "That was amazing," she said, voice plain. "Good job, Barry."

    A persistent clap approached them, and they both turned around to see Gardenia and Sarah near them, the first with a reddish face and breathing quickly, and the other one calm and reassuring, her expression that of pride.

    "I can't thank you kids enough for that." The Gym leader performed a short bow, only half sarcastically. "That was intense! It's been a long time since I got such a challenge from novice trainers. I can still feel my heart throbbing in my chest!" She put both hands on her face, eyes closed and a blush on her cheeks. Inyssa and Barry almost took a step back out of concern alone. Was she a different person from the Gardenia they'd met last night?

    "Yes... quite." Sarah coughed, slightly perplexed by her partner's behaviour. "A very impressive display, I have to say."

    Inyssa had to supress a laugh at the sight of that, and after giving Barry a side glance their eyes met, and she was pretty sure they had a brief mental conversation.

    She's hot, Barry's body language seemed to say.

    Hell yeah she is, Inyssa's eyes replied.

    Gardenia finally composed herself; slightly ashamed she approached both trainers, and with a flick of her wrist she took something from her poncho.

    "As proof of your mastery over this establishment, I hereby... uh..." She frowned. "Damn, I forgot the speech I was supposed to say. Anyway, here are your Forest Badges."

    She handed them both a small, metal emblem with the shape of three rhombuses stuck together, emerald stones filling the insides of them, making them look like trees. The badge sat on Inyssa's right hand, feeling a lot heavier than it was.

    "But I lost the battle," she couldn't help to say, a knot in her stomach. "Maybe I shouldn't..."

    "Don't be ridiculous!" Gardenia's yell made her jump in place. "A double battle is a pact between two trainers, and if one of them wins, then both of them do. You pulled your weight wonderfully at the start of the battle. Hell, your Kricketune took out three of my Pokemon!" she yelled with a decisive tone. "And while your Starly went down quickly, his Aerial Ace was still paramount to this victory."

    "Yeah Niss, come on! I couldn't have done it without you," Barry gave her back a pat strong enough to sting. "Also I'm now tied with you on points, so it wouldn't be benefitial for me if you fought her again and won."

    She adjusted her hat, slightly misplaced by Barry's enthusiastic pat, and tried to hide a smile. Her thoughts were still cloudy and dark, but she figured she'd have time to figure them out later. Now it was time to celebrate.

    "Thanks," she whispered, voice barely audible.

    Sarah put her hands together, smiling widely, "This definitely deserves a prize for both of you. I have a few hours free so we might as well take advantage of that. How does a meal on the Smokey Camerupt sound? We can order a nice barbeque, and if you get bored the Game Corner is only a block away."

    "Damn, that sounds good," Gardenia whispered, eyes going wide. "Mind if I join you later? After I get through my work shift of course."

    "Yeah! That sounds great mom!" Barry bumped her on the shoulder, laugh on his eyes. "Right Niss?"

    Inyssa closed her eyes for a moment, allowing herself a weak smile.

    "Yeah, that would be lovel..."

    The ground shook beneath her. Only a little bit, a simple burr which escalated from the sand beneath her to her feet, and then through her entire body. She froze for a second, mouth still open, and looked up to the people around her. Both Sarah and Gardenia blinked confusedly, and next to her Barry had stopped moving in place.

    "What was that?" Sarah spoke, her voice cracking slightly. "Did you feel..."

    She felt the explosion in her bones before she heard it. The resulting force of it caught her off guard, making her fall backwards towards the sand. She felt the vibrations in the floor beneath her hands and the powerful sound deafened her for a moment, throwing her mind into disarray. Screams rung around her as the kids in the Gym started to yell and the lights of the floor turned off, now only the sunlight above them lighting the place. A hand grabbed her by the shoulder and helped her up, her eyes still spinning. When she could see clearly once more Barry's face appeared in front of hers, his previous smile gone and replaced with an expression of fear.

    "What the ****!?" she heard Gardenia scream in front of her.

    "What was that?" Sarah's face appeared at her side, contorted into a mask of confusion and anxiety. "It felt like..." her voice slowly dissipated as she looked upwards, eyes opening as wide as they could."Oh no..."

    Inyssa followed her eyes, and she couldn't help but gasp at the sight. From the open roof of the arena she could see a dark pillar of smoke being carried by the wind, coming from the north of town. It looked eerily similar to the one she'd seen when she was flying towards Floaroma. A myriad of images and colors flashed in her eyes, from the pink of Metchi's hair to the cold red of Mars' eyes, back in the Windworks. The rational part of her mind told her there was no way it was happening again, they would not be stupid enough to attack Eterna City while both the Association's police and the Gym leader were nearby, it was probably just an unrelated incident.

    "Galactic..." The word came out of her mouth without her realizing it, disappearing into the commotion around her.

    Her body moved on its own and Inyssa ran towards the exit as fast as she could, her mind a hurricane of thoughts and Sarah's worried scream ringing in her ears.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2018
  5. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    Oof. I'm really behind, aren't I? Sorry, with all the recent activity I guess I completely missed these last couple of updates! Anyway, I'm here now, let's get caught up. And it's straight back into trouble with these two idiot kids, huh. I was thinking that falling through a floor wouldn't be something that Barry could just shrug off. D: Like, the ceilings in houses like the Old Chateau are high, you know? Fortunately, it doesn't seem like there's any lasting damage there (or at least, it doesn't seem that way yet); I guess Barry's still young and bouncy.

    And another plate, so soon! I guess I kinda should've expected that, given that that's where the Draco Plate is in-game, and you've stuck very closely to the game so far, but somehow I wasn't.

    Another thing that's kind of surprising: the way that it's Barry who's collecting these plates and potentially become infused with their mysterious powers, rather than Niss. That's interesting to me; I'm always fascinated when our main protagonist is a sidekick rather than the hero, and there's potential for Niss to slide into that role, I think. Or not. It's still a little unclear to me quite what this is building up to, but I'm enjoying the build-up all the same.

    More generally, the developing relationship between her and Barry is great, too; all those little touches, like the shared oh crap she's hot moment when they're looking at Gardenia exhilarating in the battle, or their realisation that they're basically just out-stupiding each other, add up really nicely. You do a great job of filling your reader half with parental disapproval and half with, like, parental pride.

    I like the scene with Sarah, too – this is exactly the kind of thing that should come with some kind of parental reaction, especially given that it's a great big deal that probably made the news and also that Sarah is the kind of person who would absolutely find out about this stuff and come investigating. There are two things about it that strike me as sort of odd, though: one, they never explain the Old Chateau thing, which, since she's already figured out it has to do with them, I would have thought she'd have pressed harder on; two, the letter from Inyssa's mother (unless I'm missing something) just kinda vanishes after that. Even if she's choosing to forget about it and not read it, I feel like a line or two saying that she can't face opening it right now wouldn't go amiss, just to show that the story hasn't forgotten about it completely.

    I also like the double battle. A good fic battle focuses on the pokémon as living, moving creatures in a way that the games can't represent, and that really happens here! There's a lot of teamwork and combination attacks, and all that good stuff that a double battle gives you licence to explore. It's fun, too, to see a gym leader who's really into it in a way that Roark wasn't, and is actually trying to put on a good show for both the challengers and the spectators, and to push her challengers right to the limits of their ability. Excellent stuff.

    And then … well, then Inyssa just runs off straight back into trouble. It hasn't even been twenty-four hours since someone last tried to kill her, and she's got an Association cop and a gym leader to turn to, but she still just sprints directly in the direction most likely to result in her death. That's so her.

    Okay, as usual, a few notes I made as I read through:

    Missing a C in 'succinctly'.

    That looks like a typo for 'utmost'.

    That should be 'its'.

    This comes up twice – later on, you say there's a 'pint of wetness' in Inyssa's eyes. I feel like you may be confusing this word with another; a pint is a measure of liquid, and it's a much bigger one than would fit in an eye. Not sure what word you might mean instead, though.

    Normally, this position is referred to as having your hands behind your back, rather than arms; that one might be a translation thing, I think.

    Not an error, but like, this was the point at which I fell in love with your Gardenia. Anyone who says my pal unironically is kind of awesome in my book, if in a really dorky way.

    That comma after 'voice' should be a full stop.

    This is a way of phrasing it that doesn't quite make grammatical sense for reasons that I find hard to articulate – I think it might be a word order issue? Something like 'I've been handed around like a ragdoll' would work. Sorry I can't be more specific! D:

    Two things here. One, this isn't quite grammatical; you could say 'freshly washed that morning of all the dirt and soot', or 'with all the dirt and soot etc. freshly washed off that morning'. Two, the past participle of 'cling' is 'clung', rather than 'clinged'; it's just one of those odd irregular verbs.

    Missing a full stop at the end here. Also, that should be 'We', rather than 'We've'.

    'Ya' doesn't need an apostrophe.

    There should be a comma here after 'job'.

    Not an error, but it's just occurred to me that Palmer's full name is Palmer Paladino, which, sheesh, his parents were a bit mean, huh?

    When titles are attached directly to names, like here, they're capitalised. So this would be 'Miss Gardenia'.

    'Disappeared' has one S and two Ps. This crops up a few times; ctrl+F should find them all.

    That should be 'onto' – you jump into things if you're going inside them, like if you're jumping into a hole, but onto things if you're landing on top of them, as on someone's back.

    Missing an 'on' between 'focus' and 'the'.

    'On top of' denotes something resting on something else – like a book on a shelf. Unless the stadium is really, really tall, I think what you want is 'above', which denotes anything that is generally upwards of another thing.

    That should be 'Kitsune's' here.

    'It's' should be capitalised here. Also, X-Scissor has a hyphen in it.

    A sneer is a facial expression; you can see it, but you can't hear it. Maybe you mean a harrumph or a hmph or something like that, which is a noise you might make while sneering?

    More preposition confusion here. 'Lodged' takes 'in', so you could say 'he lodged himself in his stomach', but I think maybe what you meant was more like 'he launched himself at his stomach'? In which case, yeah, 'at' is okay, as 'launch' takes 'at'.

    More irregular verbs! The past participle of 'creep' is 'crept'.

    'She' should be capitalised here.

    And it shouldn't be capitalised here.

    That should be a comma, rather than a full stop. Also wow, Gardenia, way to just invite yourself to this thing that didn't involve you.

    Again, 'she' shouldn't be capitalised here.

    'Eerily' has only one L in it.

    Yeah! A really fun couple of chapters. I liked these a lot!
     
  6. TheAlpar

    TheAlpar Journey Enthusiast

    To Cutlerine: Thank you so much once again for your amazing feedback!!!! I'm really glad you enjoy Niss and Barry's relationship, they are pretty much the focus of the fic and it makes me happy to see people having those feelings toward them. As for the letter Niss got, don't you worry, it'll come into play soon :D all your feedback was super nice <3 I'm glad you like Gardenia too, she's feisty. Also once again thank you for all the corrections, they are life savers.

    Now, on to the next chapter.

    ------------------------------------

    Chapter 15: Galactic Trouble
    In the most remote, far back part of her mind Inyssa felt lucky that her legs started moving on their own. Her mind was currently struggling between a myriad of different emotions that would've frozen her if she were actually thinking about what her body was doing.

    Once again the pillar of smoke had gotten in her way, erasing all the warmth she'd been feeling back in the Gym. But now she knew what it meant, she knew what that augur that was attached to, the name which clung to her chest and burnt her from the inside. Galactic.

    Her vision was blurry, though she didn't know if it was due to the speed at which she was running towards that smoke or the strong, uniform beating of her heart. She closed her eyes for a second and saw her face, Mars' face, grinning at her the same way she'd done it back in the Windworks. Those cold red eyes and those thin lips that couldn't have created a warm smile if she were forced to. She felt that chill again, that debilitating, all-consuming fear that Mars instilled in her that time. Like cold poison running through her veins, paralyzing her limbs and stealing her breath.

    But there was something else too. Pulsing, growing from her heart outwards, like an ember being fanned by a light breeze. It started to boil inside her, a white, furious flame which heated her entire body and burnt the fear away, chasing it to the back of her mind where it would not interfere with her current plan of action.

    She would find her, she decided, and she would break that stupid tiny nose of hers. Perhaps a few other things too, if the opportunity presented itself to her. The thought made her smile, or at the very least twitch the corner of her lips slightly upwards. She was going to make her feel the same thing she felt back then, she was going to...

    Her legs stopped, feet sliding on the floor beneath her and almost making her fall. Her body was jerked backwards, an iron grip grabbing her by the right arm and nearly dislocating her shoulder again. The air inside her lungs escaped as she came back to reality, and with a confused expression she turned around to see Sarah, face red and eyes spelling out a clear Don't even think about it.

    Behind her appeared Barry, hair ruffled and cheeks red. Inyssa opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out. She felt a painful stab in her chest and she suddenly realized she needed to breathe. Closing her eyes she inhaled as quickly as possible, her legs burning and the beat of her heart resounding in her ears.

    Right, she thought to herself, I'm as fit as a Snorlax.

    "Let... me go," she said between gasps.

    "No. Absolutely not." Sarah squeezed her arm painfully. "You're both going back to the Pokemon Center while I take care of this."

    She looked at Barry, who was staring at both of them full of doubt, the fear of his mother slightly overpowering his desire to help her. She frowned at him.

    "It's... it's them. Team Galactic," she explained, voice slightly high pitched. "I have to go."

    "We don't know that," said Sarah. "And even if that were the case..."

    A beeping sound filled the air, coming from Sarah's wrist. Everyone's attention was drawn to the Pokétch as she lifted it up and answered the call.

    "Sarah, we need your assistance north of town!" It was a grumbling voice, panic clear in its tone. "There was an explosion in the Energy Research Lab, three blocks behind the Pokemon Center! We believe it might be Team Galactic's doing!"

    Sarah would've facepalmed if her hands weren't busy already.

    "Great timing, jackass," she whispered to herself before she put the Pokétch close to her mouth. "Sarah Paladino here! Transmitting on all Association frequencies; any agents in Eterna City must head directly to the building where the explosion took place. Don't do anything until I arrive, I'm already on my way!"

    Inyssa stared daggers at Barry's mother, her expression a mix between See? I told you so and Can you just let me go already? There's a redhead who needs to be punched in the face, though it was unclear if Sarah picked up on the nuances of her gaze or not.

    "It's too dangerous," Sarah told her. "Let us take care of it; we'll apprehend them."

    "I know what they look like, I can identify one of their leaders!" she tried to explain. "And I can help with my Pokemon if they want to start a fight."

    "I'm not letting you go near terrorists Inyssa! How do you think I'd feel if something were to happen to you?" The woman put both hands on her shoulders, and she immediately recoiled. "Please, let this go. Don't go near these people, it won't accomplish anything."

    "They killed my Pokemon!" Her scream rang through the entire street, hurting her throat. "And you want me to just let it go!? **** that!"

    Silence fell on them as Inyssa and Sarah stared each other down, gazes firm and unwavering. She would never admit it, but she was struggling not to shake under the look on the woman's face. It continued for about five seconds before Barry spoke.

    "Okay, let's all calm down." He raised both hands and Inyssa almost laughed at the ridiculousness of him being the one to say that. Almost. "Mom, you had a lot of people here in town, right? There's no way they'll be a problem for you, so if we go with you it's gonna be safe for us!"

    "Even then..." Sarah barely got those words out before being interrupted.

    "Sarah, please!" Inyssa begged, all semblances of pride going out the window. "I... I have to go. I have to prove that I'm not scared of them. I have to..." She couldn't find the words, and for a moment she felt the fear come back. "I... I have to..."

    Sarah looked at her with a raised eyebrow, her lips a thin line.

    "You will both stay behind me. At all times." She pointed first at Barry, and then at her. She was talking slowly and clearly. "And you will obey every order I give you. If you don't then I swear to god I will rip your trainer cards in half myself. Understood?"

    They both nodded energetically.

    "Follow me."

    ----------------------------------
    The question in her mind just before they reached the building was How the hell do these two have so much stamina? Sarah and Barry ran through the streets like two Tauros, as fast and elegant as she was slow and awkward. By the time they arrived at the crime scene she could feel her heart beating like a drum inside her chest, while the two Paladinos hadn't even broken a sweat.

    The laboratory was half a street wide and two stories tall, being mostly glass and a few foundations of stone and steel. On top of the roof was a giant, square sign with the strange logo of the Energy Research Lab; a yellow, angular G with black borders. It would've been a cool building were it not for the giant, smoking hole in the middle of it.

    Where the door should've been now lay only a freshly created entrance thanks to the previous explosion. Bricks and pieces of glass adorned the front of it and it was impossible to see inside due to the slowly dissipating smoke coming out of it. Sarah took a single glance at the place, and immediately went towards the side of the lab, where six people were waiting. They were all dressed in similarly blue outfits with thick clothing and even a bulletproof vest around them. Sarah addressed the one who was closest to her, a short man with black hair.

    "Where is everyone else?" she asked, hands behind her back.

    "They're on their way, miss!" The man gave her a salute, tone nervous. "But they will not arrive for at least fifteen minutes."

    "We don't have time to wait for them," she said. "We'll have to go inside with the people we have now. These two..." She pointed at Inyssa and Barry. "...will follow behind us and help if needed. Our numbers should be enough to find and apprehend any culprits without trouble.

    "Two of you will stay out here to make sure no one exits or enters the place," she continued, and then looked at two of the armed people in front of her. One of them was a tall, fit man with brown hair and a shadow of a beard, while the other one was a short, dark haired girl with a big frown on her face. "Kyle, Zofia, that's you. Everyone else will follow me inside."

    "Yes sir!" Kyle yelled, a speck of sarcasm in his voice.

    "Fine by me," Zofia whispered under her breath, crossing her arms.

    "Alright, we're moving in." Sarah turned towards the ruined building, an indescribable look on her face. "Let's go!"

    ----------------------------------
    Inyssa had to cover her mouth as they passed through the wall of smoke at the building's entrance, the smell of soot and ash and whatever chemical engineers used to keep bricks together making her nose itch. Barry followed at her right, his fingers tapping the side of his pants quickly as if the boy needed to expel his energy some way. In front of her all she could see was Sarah and her four companions as they slowly walked forward, their hands firmly grasping some heavy looking black pistols.

    Her heart made a jump when she felt everyone in front of her stopping, their steps coming to a sudden but unanimous halt. She waited for a few seconds until finally Sarah spoke, her voice tinted with confusion.

    "What is this?" she whispered.

    She had to force her vision between two people to see what was the problem, Barry resting his hands on top of her shoulders, trying to do the same. The room they walked into seemed like a normal office lobby, various sofas and chairs at the side walls, a small but elegant fountain in the middle and the receptionist's table at the other end of it. It looked awfully familiar to the Windworks, Inyssa thought, and she tried not to let that fact fill her mind with fear again. Her eyes kept exploring the room, until she finally found what had surprised everyone. Near the elevators and the staircases leading to the different rooms were three bodies laying on the floor, completely immobile.

    They were Galactic grunts. There was no question about it, they were all wearing that same stupid body suit which made them look like rejected space men.

    Barry let out a breathy Huh?. "Wait, why are they on the floor? Weren't they the ones who made that explosion?"

    "I wonder..." Sarah whispered. "All the debris and glass seems to be on the inside of the building, which would indicate that the explosion came from the outside. Perhaps someone trying to forcefully enter..."

    Inyssa stared at the place, her mind working overtime trying to think of the possibilities. If Team Galactic was already inside before the explosion happened, then who caused it?

    "I don't understand… where are all the scientists?" Sarah asked herself, her brow furrowed. "The trail of bodies seems to go down." She pointed towards the staircase at the other extreme of the room, which led to what Inyssa imagined would be the basement. "We'll explore there first. Everyone stay close to each other!"

    She felt everyone's stomps inside her head as they advanced, a nervous feeling growing in her chest and making her hands tremble. She was not alone, she had to remind herself. There were five trained professionals in front of her, not to mention Barry at her side, his bright almond eyes giving her the strength she needed. She had no reason to be scared; even if Mars was somewhere around, not even she would have a chance to hurt her again. She felt a shiver in her stomach, in the exact place Mars had buried her fist that time, but she forced herself to ignore it.

    The steps were made of pure stone, and the railways at the side felt cold and painful to the touch. She started biting her lip as they went down, feeling it dry, and she really wished the beating of her heart would stop being so honest about how she felt. Didn't it know she had a reputation to uphold?

    "I hear something," Sarah whispered, although it was enough to almost make Inyssa jump. "Someone's talking down there. Quick."

    The end of the staircase opened up to a narrow hallway heading to another huge room, so they all had to squeeze through to pass, the bodies of the people in front of her completely blocking her vision. She could see both sides of the door laying on the floor, their metal frames bent into strange shapes as if someone had bent them with their own hands.

    Sarah was right, but only partly. What they thought were whispers slowly started to sound like whimpers and moans as they approached the giant room, Inyssa's teeth shaking from the sound. When they finally crossed to the other side, she almost couldn't believe what she saw.

    The room was enormous, easily the size of a small cathedral. Concrete and metal covered the walls and ceiling, and the look of it told Inyssa that the place wasn't meant to be seen by people not working there. A couple feet from them the floor turned into a wide metal bridge, under which lay a jungle of wires and cables running towards the gigantic machine at the other side of the room. From afar she could clearly see it, standing at least ten feet tall and glowing with a strange white light. Two people were standing close to it, their shapes that of a young woman and an old man, and next to them was a large Pokemon that she couldn't see quite clearly. But that wasn't what caught her attention. In the middle of the bridge, hands on the floor and slightly panting, was another person. A familiar girl, tall and with pink hair falling to her shoulders. Inyssa's heart made a slight jump at the sight of her.

    "Metchi!?" Her voice betrayed her, making everyone on the room turn towards them.

    "Whoa! What is she doing here!?" Barry's voice followed, having to almost jump on top of one of Sarah's coworkers to see her properly.

    The girl slowly turned her head towards them, and Inyssa would've laughed at her horrified expression if she weren't on the floor and bleeding.

    She let out a chuckle that sounded like a sob. "Oh great, it's you two."

    With one hand she helped herself to her feet, the other one holding her own stomach, where blood was slowly running through her fingers. The cloth around it was stained in red, and from the looks of it the wound seemed somewhat serious. Behind her lay the unconscious body of a Scyther, the blade on its left arm stained with the girl's blood.

    Looking up, her eyes set on the three figures next to the strange machine, two of which were facing their way. One of them was a woman, tall and slim, wearing the same body suit Mars had when she encountered her, minus the short skirt. Her hair was dark purple, long and being held by two crescent shaped buns, and her lips were painted maroon. Her hands were set on her wide hips, quickly tapping her fingers on them, and her expression was that of someone dealing with a slight, annoying inconvenience. Behind her stood a short man with a hunchback and grey, colorless hair who was currently typing something on the keyboard at the base of the machine, and to his right there was that Pokemon that she could now identify as an Alakazam. His slim arms were extended forward towards them, two giant spoons on his hands and his eyes glowing blue.

    Barry didn't waste a second. He broke formation and ran toward Metchi, kneeling next to her.

    "What happened to you?" he asked, his hands moving around as if he didn't know what to do. "Are you okay? Wow that's a lot of blood."

    "Smooth," Inyssa followed him with caution, her eyes still set on the Galactic people in front of them.

    Sarah let out an annoyed sigh, and with a flick of her hand she ordered her agents to keep their eyes on the targets, ready to fire. She walked towards Metchi and the kids, her gaze cold and calculating.

    "Do you two know this girl?" she asked, as if she expected the entire room to listen to her. "Who are you? What happened here?"

    Metchi stood still, head tilted to the side and expression unreadable. She heard everyone's questions slowly, and after a few seconds finally opened her mouth.

    "I need a ****ing smoke," she whispered, eyes almost closed.

    The strange woman at the other side of the room stomped her foot on the ground, cheeks turning red.

    "Yeah Metchi, why don't you tell them everything you filthy narc!" Her voice wavered between volumes as if she were slightly drunk. "Are these your new friends you betrayed us for!?"

    Metchi simply gave the woman a look Inyssa wouldn't have liked to be on the receiving end of.

    "I hate you," she stated plainly, "I hate you so much."

    Sarah raised her hand with an open palm, and suddenly all her agents drew their guns and pointed them at the purple haired woman. Her eyes were tired and cold and Inyssa could see she was not joking around.

    "I assume you two belong to Team Galactic..." she said, hand still raised, "I will need you to come here with your hands behind your head. You are charged with acts of terrorism, theft and murder, and you will be judged by the Sinnoh League Association. Give up willingly or we will be forced to make you."

    "Are you... serious?" Metchi helped herself up with Barry's aid, and Inyssa couldn't tell if she was angry or just in a lot of pain. "Just shoot them! You have them right here!"

    "That is not how it works." Sarah spat back at her, surprised by the girl's nerve. "I can't use lethal force unless certain conditions..."

    "They're going to get away!" she bellowed, desperation clear in her eyes. "Jupiter's just buying time until they can teleport out of here, and if Charon gets all that energy they're..."

    "Stop spilling our plans you piece of ****!" the woman Inyssa assumed was Jupiter screamed. "See? It's exactly that kind of attitude that earned you being slashed in the stomach!"

    "Okay, that's enough, I'm done with this." Sarah took a step forward, and extended her hand towards the two strangers. "Bring those two to me!"

    The four agents in front of Inyssa advanced towards them with swift steps, weapons at the side of their bodies even though their postures told her that they were ready to shoot at a moment's notice. She barely had time to think about the possibility of releasing one of her Pokemon to help when a purple flash filled the room. The first person to get to the other side of the bridge stopped to a halt, his body being momentarily paralyzed as he flew backwards through the room, landing a few feet back. Another one soon followed, and the other two agents simply stopped, fearful.

    "There's... a barrier there," Metchi had to put her right arm around Barry's neck as to not fall again, while her left was covering her abdomen. The boy was struggling with trying to keep her on her feet. "The Alakazam put it... just before you arrived."

    "And you couldn't have told us before because..." Sarah frowned, the veins in her neck now slightly visible.

    "Hey leave me alone, I'm bleeding out over here," Metchi complained, hand still covered in red. "Besides, I told you idiots to shoot them didn't I?"

    "I already told you!" Sarah lowered her gun, face turning red. "I can't shoot at civilians unless..."

    "Fine! You want a ****ing incentive!?" She leaned so strongly on Barry that the boy's face started to get pale. "Then look at what's behind the damn machine!"

    Everyone's heads turned towards the Galactic commanders, silence forcing its way into the room for a few seconds. Jupiter froze at everyone's gaze, a drop of sweat running down her forehead.

    "Ah, ****," she whispered.

    Inyssa set foot on the metal bridge, trying to get a better look at it. It was hard to make out, due to the machine's impressive frame and the light it was emitting covering most of what was behind it. But it almost looked like... grates? Metal grilles covered the opposite wall entirely, and for a moment she thought it might have been used to cool down the machine, but the bars seemed to be... shaking. She forced her vision, furrowing her brow a bit to make up what was behind them. Tiny shapes, all of different colors. They were moving, squirming and...

    Her shoulders dropped as she realized what was behind those bars. She could see a tiny, furry arm hopelessly attempting to escape with almost vacant strength.

    "Oh my goodness." Sarah's tone gave her chills, a mix of shock, disbelief and a terrible, cold rage.

    "Are those Pokemon!?" Barry yelled at the top of his lungs, eyes opened wide. He almost dropped Metchi to the ground.

    Inyssa could only nod, any other form of communication being impossible for her at the moment. She could make up the appearances of many different Pokemon behind those cages, and with every one she identified the flame in her stomach grew, swallowing her whole. A Clefairy was holding tight to the metal trapping her, meekly attempting to shake it open; a pale Growlithe lay on his stomach, his weeping cries turning her veins to ice. Gloom, Vulpix, Pikachu and even a couple Eevee all adorned the back of the machine like a twisted painting, its canvas that of the sinister machine which was glowing menacingly. Strange cables were attached to different parts of the Pokemon's bodies.

    Just when anger was about to take her over and force her to say some less than flattering things to Jupiter, all the Pokemon in the cages started glowing. Their forms surrounded themselves with a blinding white light as their bodies started to expand slowly. Inyssa couldn't help but form a minuscule smile at the sight of that. They were evolving, they were going to escape and...

    An electric buzz resounded through the room and the Pokemon started screaming. A debilitating, screeching sound which froze her body and bounced inside her head, forcing her to block her ears with her hands. The powerful glow dissipated slowly as the Pokemon turned back to their original forms, collapsing onto the floor of their cages once more, their breathing ragged and their bodies shaking.

    "Well... this is certainly awkward..." Jupiter scratched her cheek. "Uh... Charon? How long until we can get out of here?"

    The old man behind her stopped operating the machine for a moment, and with a side glance he gave the woman an irritated look, his thick half moon glasses covering part of his eyes.

    "A couple more minutes," he stated, voice low and raspy. "Stop interrupting me, this is extremely delicate equipment!"

    What took Inyssa out of her stupor was a slight movement at the side of her hip. One of her Pokeballs attached to her belt shook strongly, as if what was inside were attempting to escape. A simple glance told her that said Pokeball belonged to that strange ghost Pokemon she'd caught recently. But she had no time to worry about that; without missing a beat she looked once more towards the Galactic commanders.

    "What are you doing to them!?" The scream came out of her mouth without her realizing, her throat hurting from the effort.

    "They're... forcing them to evolve with evolutionary stones." Metchi's voice carried a sort of sad acceptance, as if that answer didn't surprise her at all. "And they're stopping the process by hurting them. They want... the energy..."

    Inyssa's stomach revolted at the sound of that, her insides turning into mush and making her want to vomit. But in the back of her mind something came to light; a memory, something she'd heard from those Galactic idiots just when she had started her journey. Back in Jubilife, those documents that they'd tried to steal from Rowan, didn't they entail something about this? The energy that Pokemon released when they evolved... she started connecting the dots in her head, and the picture she created wasn't a very pretty one.

    "Disgusting..." Sarah's voice took her out of her thoughts, her tone that of disbelief. "Listen to me! Release those Pokemon immediately and give yourselves up! This is your last chance before I open fire!" She yelled with enough force to even startle Inyssa, although from Jupiter's expression she wasn't as intimidated as nervous.

    "Yeah! Let them go before we kick your butt!" Barry took a Pokeball from his pocket.

    Inyssa took a deep breath, trying to contain the fire inside her body. She was trying with all her might not to run directly towards that Jupiter woman and punch her in the face, which wouldn't have worked for a variety of reasons. She had to be pragmatic, she'd get her chance eventually. Her hands went to her oldest Pokeball and she held it in front of her, clenching her hand around it strongly.

    "Return those Pokemon to the people they belong to!" she yelled. "And also tell me where that ***** Mars is!"

    "Inyssa!" Sarah turned her head towards her, a horrified look on her face. "Language!"

    "What!?" she protested. "Am I being too rude to the terrorists!?"

    Jupiter tapped her fingers on her temple, biting her lip and switching her gaze between everyone in the room. She seemed more annoyed than scared, and the older guy behind her didn't even flinch at their words.

    "Look, we'll take this energy and after that we'll let these Pokemon go, if that makes you feel better." She spoke jovially, as if she were offering an amazing deal. "Oh, and as for Mars? I have no idea where she is, which I am grateful for. Trust me, if I knew I'd tell you immediately, that way either you or her would die and I'm honestly fine with both those options."

    Inyssa's jaw was completely clenched, her teeth hurting from the pressure. How could someone speak so casually about something so horrible? Those Pokemon... were they missing their trainers? Were their trainers even alive? She didn't doubt Team Galactic would be willing to kill someone to take their Pokemon, not after meeting their commanders. The thought almost made her choke from rage, and without hesitation she threw her Pokeball into the air, the light coming out of it quickly materializing into Enma. Barry quickly did the same and released Pedri from his, the penguin Pokemon appearing in front of him ready to fight. Enma shot her a glare full of disdain.

    "Look, I know you're an idiot and you're mad about not getting to fight the Gym Leader, but this is really not the time!" She pointed with one hand towards the machine. "I need you to help me with that!"

    Enma lazily turned his body until he could see what was behind those cages, and once he realized it his cocky smiled completely disappeared, being replaced with a mix of surprise and rage.

    "Exactly," she nodded, sharing her Pokemon's anger. "Use Ember on that barrier, we have to get to those two!"

    "Pedri, Bubble Beam!" Barry ordered next to her, Metchi's arm still around his shoulder.

    Both Pokemon attacked together, torrents of their own elements traveling through the air directly at the Alakazam. The impact shook the basement they were in and part of the barrier seemed to pale for a second, but it immediately returned to its full force. Inyssa frowned; they would need more power than that.

    Sarah's scream rung through the room, "Everyone, shoot at the same time!"

    The four agents nodded energetically, and with one smooth movement they followed their leader's example, now five guns aimed directly at the barrier separating them from the two Galactic commanders.

    "Keep attacking!" Inyssa and Barry ordered at the same time.

    Pedri and Enma shot once again walls of fire and water, converging together at their target's location. Around them five shots were heard, slightly hurting Inyssa's ears, but she didn't care. The immense power of their assault almost dissipated the barrier, but the Alakazam managed to keep it up. The psychic Pokemon's face was twisted into an expression of pain as he desperately tried to keep them out. Behind him she could see Jupiter's breathing become heavy, and her eyes widen.

    "Charon! I'm not ****ing joking!" Her voice was tinted with desperation as she put a hand on the old man's shoulder. "Just get the energy we have now and let's get out!"

    "Agh, insolent child!" She heard his raspy, nasal voice through the noise of the gunshots and Pokemon attacks. "We can't until the vessel is completely filled. I already told you, I only need one more minute!"

    "We might not have a minute you old ****!" she complained, both hands clenched into fists.

    Inyssa felt that strange shake in her belt once again, and when she looked down it was still that one Pokeball. Did that ghost Pokemon want to come out? She could certainly use the power, but she wasn't sure if he would obey her at all. What if he made everything worse? She looked again toward the barrier, where Alakazam was still holding his own against the barrage of attacks they were throwing at him. She didn't have a choice, if they didn't hurry those two would escape, and she wouldn't let that happen. With fierce determination she took the Pokeball from her belt and threw it into the air, only then realizing she hadn't given that thing a name.

    "Attack that Alakazam... uhh... Hao!" She would have time to regret that name later. "Use some... electric attack, I guess!"

    The ghost Pokemon's strange form appeared in mid air, crackles of electricity jutting out of his body. For the first time since they arrived the old man operating the machine stopped, his arms frozen for a moment as he heard that unique clicking sound. He turned around slowly, eyes wide, and when he set eyes on that thing Inyssa could swear he almost had a heart attack.

    "Rotom!?" His voice lost all semblance of calmness it previously held. "How... when did you...!?"

    She couldn't help but be confused at the man's words, and everyone else stopped for a moment too, their gazes switching between the ghost Pokemon and him. Hao simply opened his mouth, and from it came a horrible, daunting sound that one could hardly qualify as a roar. Pulses of electricity filled the room as the Pokemon yelled with all its might, forcing everyone to back away from it.

    "What the hell is that!?" Jupiter yelled, voice high pitched.

    "Curses! Jupiter, quickly, help me seal the vessel!" With a jerk of his body he turned around towards the machine once more, his arms shaking. "Darn brat, where did she find the… no, it doesn't matter. We must get all the energy cooled down before..."

    His words were interrupted by a loud crackling sound as the ghost Pokemon began buzzing, his body vibrating as the air around him turned into electricity. With another astounding roar he fired a bolt of lightning at the barrier, the light from the impact momentarily blinding Inyssa. With a deaf scream she covered her face with her palms, her eyes burning. By the time she was able to open them again her vision was slightly blurry, but even then she saw Hao wasn't there anymore. She turned her head around, everyone close to her still getting their bearings, and when she looked towards Jupiter she noticed the psychic barrier was still there.

    It happened gradually. First one of the cables under the bridge exploded, sending sparks everywhere and forcing Inyssa and Sarah to back up. Soon followed another and another until the floor under the metal bridge was sending electricity everywhere, making it impossible to pass through. Then the lights started flickering above, as if the power were about to go off. And then he appeared.

    The main screen at the front of the machine changed. From a myriad of numbers and grids which she couldn't possibly hope to understand it changed to a single, still image. The ghost Pokemon's eyes appeared on the other side of that screen, that piercing blue staring down everyone in the room. For a single, still moment the image didn't move, until Hao blinked, and a huge, white smile formed beneath his eyes.

    The screen exploded.

    "****!" Jupiter jumped back from the machine, glass falling around her. "What is that!? What's going on!?"

    A simple blip sound resonated through room as all the cages behind the machine opened up, releasing its prisoners. With desperation a wave of Pokemon started flowing from it, screeching and running towards the exit as they tried to avoid the electrified bridge. She saw a couple Eevee and a Pikachu run past her and toward the staircases.

    "No! Not now!" Charon's face was red, his lips trembling and his hands in his hair. "Jupiter, seal the vessel! We'll take what we can get!"

    "Uh... yeah, about that..." Jupiter's eyes were fixed in the machine. "The vessel is..."

    Inyssa's eyes set on the machine's core, that strange metallic ball which was glowing with a blinding white energy. She couldn't see what was different until she realized it was much brighter than before, to the point where she could barely see the people in front of it. She could feel it too, almost taste it. A powerful, oppresive force flowing from the machine towards her, its intensity growing with every second that passed.

    "Something is overflowing the vessel's capacity!" Jupiter rushed towards the machine's controls, desperately hitting the keys. "I can't shut it off! It's going to melt down!"

    "Take the core off! Quickly!" Charon tried to help his partner, but a jolt of electricity sent him backwards as soon as he approached the machine. "Agh! I can't get close to it, you have to retrieve the vessel before it's too late!"

    "I can't, all the controls are locked! That stupid Pokemon is inside the machine!" Jupiter lifted one of her legs and started kicking the panel in front of it. "Stop! Exploding! You! ****!"

    Inyssa couldn't move. She simply witnessed as those strange events happened in front of her, no idea how to react to them. Should she attack them? Help them? What did she mean the core was locked? She looked down at Enma, who was as dumbfounded as she was, and then to Barry and Metchi, the latter of which was barely conscious.

    "Charon, this thing is going to explode any second now!" Jupiter said, her voice filled with a grim realization. "We have to teleport away now!"

    "We can't! If we go back with our hands empty the boss will..."

    "I don't give a **** what he thinks!" yelled Jupiter. "I didn't bust my ass off getting two degrees in theoretical physics to die in a dump like this! Alakazam, teleport us to the base!"

    Inyssa's body reacted at the sight of Jupiter dragging Charon towards the psychic Pokemon, ready to escape. Her legs moved once again on their own, but this time she was stopped before her stupidity could take off. Sarah's hand gripped hers and stopped her on her tracks.

    "We have to clear this place!" She yelled, not only to her but to everyone else. "If that thing is really about to blow up..."

    "NO!" The scream made everyone jump, and made Inyssa momentarily forget about her rage. Metchi took a step forward, a strange strength imbuing her as her eyes were set on the Galactic commanders. "I'm not letting you go again!"

    "Wait you can't...!" Barry tried to grab her once again but the girl slapped his hand away, a terrifying expression on her face.

    "Don't touch me!" she yelled. "I'm not gonna wait here for those two to escape, not after what I went through to find them!"

    She ran forward, her feet moving swiftly considering the wound on her stomach. Inyssa wasn't sure if it was her imagination but she could swear there was some sort of golden glow surrounding her, and when she looked up at her eyes her heart froze. That gold, that exact same color she'd seen back then, and recently behind Barry's eyes. She opened her mouth to say something, but before she had the chance Metchi threw herself forward.

    She wanted to scream at her, call her an idiot for heading toward an electrified path even though she'd tried the same only seconds ago. But to her amazement Metchi simply ran through the bridge, the electricity bouncing off her as if she were wearing a rubber suit. She reached Jupiter and Charon the moment they grabbed onto the Alakazam; they both put their hands on the Pokemon's shoulders, and a purple glow surrounded them as they started to dissipate. But the pink haired girl was determined, and her hand managed to grab on to his mustache just in time. All four of them vanished into thin air.

    She wanted to do something, but once again she felt Sarah's grip on her, the woman's face filled with worry. She looked up and witnessed as the core's light grew more and more powerful, until it was painful to look at it. Inyssa could feel disaster in it.

    "Everyone, run towards the exit!" Sarah commanded, her voice filled with desperation and her eyes set on her and Barry. "Quick, before...!"

    The entire world shook. Darkness swallowed everything.

    Inyssa's breath escaped her lungs, her body paralyzed and her limbs unable to move. It felt like a light vacuum, as if the opposite of thunder had struck the room. Time had stopped, she could not feel the beating of her heart or the sound of everyone in her ears. Only shadows covering her eyes, and death's hand closing around her neck.

    And then she heard it. The voice, shapeless, toneless, not a sound but simply words being implanted in her mind. She felt them clearly as crystal, her brain deciphering the soundless meaning behind it.

    Only this time. Try to stay out of trouble, will you, Niss?

    Her mind turned off, and her body fell into nothingness.

    ----------------------------------
    When her consciousness came back it felt like she had woken up from the dead. Her muscles jolted into being awake, eyes opening quickly and lungs filling with air. Her body was cold, or at least half of it. More specifically the half that she now realized was laying on the cement floor under her. She moved her fingers first, making sure she was indeed alive, and a pint of joy sparked inside her as she felt the twitch of her muscles in her hand. Her back hurt a bit and the arm she was resting on was asleep, but other than that she felt fine. Definitely not burnt like she expected from that explosion.

    Her eyes moved in the small cone in front of her. Her vision was blurry, but it was slowly focusing. A shape was in front of her, tall and imposing. Behind her she could hear the crackling of fire and smoke. Almost a minute passed before she could see clearly again.

    The shape had moved back, now barely at the edge of her vision. And yet she could make up her details clearly, not believing what she was currently seeing. The woman at the other side of the street was at least six feet tall, slim and graceful, wearing a black winter attire, a belt full of Pokeballs resting on her hips. Her gaze moved up slowly and she set her eyes on the woman's face, entranced by it. She was beautiful; even in her strange mental state that was the only word she could think to describe her. Her hair was long, reaching towards her knees and making it look like a coat of sunshine all over her. The gold of it covered part of her body and the entirety of her right eye, her left one staring directly at her, pale lips curved into a simple smile. Inyssa wanted to speak to her, reach her and meet her, but before she could say anything she felt a hand on her shoulder.

    "Hey kid! You awake?"

    Gardenia's voice shock her back into reality. She blinked slowly, and when she opened her eyes again the strange woman had disappeared. She felt her body being dragged upwards by the Gym Leader's arms, until she was now sitting on the floor, her head spinning.

    "Ugh... what... happened?"

    "No freaking clue. I came back from leading my students to safety and I find... well, this." Gardenia pointed with her head to her right.

    Inyssa followed her with her eyes, and what she saw at the other side of the street would have shocked her if she weren't so confused already. The building they were previously in had completely collapsed, now only a mountain of rubble and dust where before had stood such a proud place. She heard stomps coming toward her, Sarah and Barry walking their way, the boy having a huge smile on his face.

    "Niss, you're okay!" He got on his knees and put his hand around her, almost throwing her to the floor again.

    "H...hey Barry." She returned his hug, in no condition to be embarrassed at the moment. "And... Sarah. What happened?"

    "I'm... not sure." The woman's voice was pale and brittle. "We were there and then... we were not. We all woke up outside the building after that machine leveled the place."

    She could tell there was something more to it; Sarah's breathing was heavy and she noted that her hands were slightly shaking.

    "What else happened?" she asked, no time to be courteous.

    Sarah took her time to respond, and Inyssa could see both Barry and Gardenia bite their lips.

    "We were the only ones who were teleported out."

    She didn't understand what was wrong with that, that was a good thing, right? Sure, it was confusing but it was better than...

    She opened her eyes wide, realization coming to her.

    "What about those Galactic grunts? The ones who were there when we entered."

    "They... were there when it happened," Sarah looked down. "They're trying to uncover their bodies from the rubble now, but they only found two, and they were both..."

    Inyssa didn't need to hear the rest of it. Dead. That was the word Sarah tried to avoid, even though there was really no way around it. Death wasn't polite, after all, it took and took and took without feeling an ounce of remorse.

    "Listen... Barry, Inyssa," Sarah whispered. "I talked with my superiors a few minutes ago. There's going to be a full force investigation around this town, they said they're even sending one of the Elite Four to help..."

    Inyssa couldn't help but gasp at the sound of that. A member of the Elite Four? Even after all the strange stuff that had happened, it still surprised her. One of the four strongest trainers in the region, bar the Champion of course, and all because of those clowns from Team Galactic.

    "If you don't want to be stuck here, I'd recommend you get all your belongings and move towards the next route as soon as possible. I'd love to have you around here, but as soon as the investigation starts the town will be locked down for at least two weeks."

    "We can't wait that long," Barry nodded, putting his hand on Inyssa's shoulders. "Um... Niss, you okay? Should we..."

    She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Her mind was a mess, millions of thoughts flying around her head and making her dizzy. But there was no time for that right now.

    "Yeah, I'm fine," she helped herself to her feet with difficulty. "Where should we go next?"

    "Hearthome is the next city with a Gym Leader in it," Sarah explained. "There is no safer place for the both of you than that city. A very good friend of mine lives there; I'll make sure to tell her that you'll be coming."

    Inyssa nodded, trying to push her confusion and exhaustion to the back of her mind. "Sounds good."

    "I'll make sure you get all the equipment you need before you head out." Sarah showed them a tired smile. "You'll have to cross part of Mount Coronet, after all."

    Mount Coronet. The word formed an image in her mind, one that gave her vertigo just thinking about it. The tallest mountain in Sinnoh, dividing the entire region in half. She knew they wouldn't have to cross the thick of it, but it was still going to be a challenge.

    She guessed she would have a couple of intense days in front of her. Perfect for distracting her and not think about anything.

    "Awesome," she said, voice emotionless. "Let's get going then."
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2018
  7. Firaga Metagross

    Firaga Metagross Auferstanden Aus Ruinen

    Oh wow I've been really remiss about reviewing, but I'm glad you're still posting here!

    Chap. 14

    The double battle's a pretty cool change of pace as far as gym battles go. Seeing Barry and Inyessa team up for something was a treat. Inyssa moping after winning because she "lost" really seems like her.

    God they're such teenagers I love it

    Chap. 15

    This chapter is real heavy on the plot and intrigue and definitely held my attention the longest. As a nitpick, Sarah seems like perhaps too much of a pushover for someone who's ostensibly a professional with command of a small number of armed soldiers. I understand that Nissa and Barry need to be in the building for the plot, but honestly having them just sneak in or join separately somehow would work better.

    Jesus Christ

    Same, Inyssa, Same.
     
  8. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    This is an interesting one! I'm surprised Sarah caved and let them join her on the dangerous mission as easily as that; she seems much too aggressively sensible to do something like that. I guess she has a weakness for that particular kind of emotional appeal, and that Inyssa and Barry were able to work on that. Also surprised that she encourages them to leave town at the end of the chapter. Like, after all the trouble they've got themselves into, their repeated run-ins with Galactic, their constant getting into life-or-death situations, I'd kind of expect that she'd want to put her foot down and say nope, please don't go running off again. Presumably she really, really trusts in the friend she has in Hearthome.

    Anyway, obviously that rotom Inyssa caught comes in handy here, in a situation where there's both a big machine to play with and also Charon, who of course has history with rotom, if not necessarily with the Chateau rotom in particular. (I mean, I guess the fact that you only find one rotom in Sinnoh is supposed to imply that it is that rotom, as seems to be the case in this story, but like, correlation and causation and all that.)

    Something that did strike me as a bit odd was the fact that apparently none of the Association people had pokémon with them. Like it's something that strikes me as really useful in their line of work; enforcement and crisis response is definitely a career where it'd be helpful to have pokémon with you – particularly in situations like this, where their opponents have partners with superpowers and therefore a substantial advantage over people who only have conventional firearms. It's especially odd given that Inyssa and Barry end up taking the lead when it comes to breaking down the barrier.

    And a mysterious stranger with unusually long blonde hair that keeps getting in her face, huh. There's definitely at least one major Sinnoh character who fits that description – and who does indeed make an appearance in Eterna at this point in the story. Interesting stuff! I look forward to seeing how that develops. And the magic powers thing appears to be developing too, huh. The gold light is shared between Metchi and Barry. Looks like Niss is starting to put some things together!

    Finally, as usual, here are some typos and other nitpicks that I wrote down as I read through:

    'All-consuming' should be hyphenated, as it's being used to modify 'fear'.

    You could say it's a 'grumbling' voice, I guess, but not a 'grumbled' one. Also, 'grumbling' and 'panic' are kind of weird to use to describe the same voice – grumbling is a grouchy kind of thing, but a calm one, and not something that someone who's panicking can manage.

    That should be a comma, rather than a full stop.

    I think that might be intended as 'an', rather than 'and'.

    You don't need that second 'in', which is only making things awkward – 'bury' does often take 'in', but it doesn't have to. I think I can kind of partially see some kind of rule here that would tell you when to use 'in' and when not, but I'm not quite good enough at grammar to tell you how it works, sorry. D: All I can be sure of is that it's not needed here.

    'Them' is plural, but 'lip' is singular – they need to agree, so either Inyssa needs to bite her lips, or she needs to feel it dry. I think it'd be weird to feel a single lip dry, though, so maybe the first one is the better option.

    'Her' needs to be capitalised here, since it's not a dialogue attribution connected to “Metchi!?” Also, that should be in the room.

    That should be 'lay' – 'laid' is the intransitive version, that is to say, the form of the verb that you do to something. That's … not a very clear explanation, sorry, so here's a better example: the Scyther lay behind her (with 'lie' being an action that it performs), but Metchi laid it down there (with 'lie' being an action that she did to the Scyther).

    There should be a comma after 'up' here. Also, 'set' seems like an odd choice of word; I think it might work a bit better to say her eyes were caught by the three figures, or that they alighted on them, or something like that.

    I've not come across the phrase 'on the other part of' before; the phrase is usually 'on the receiving end of'.

    'Spilling out' seems to be a fusion of 'spilling' and 'spelling out' – one or the other of these would be fine, but this combination doesn't strike me as something someone would actually say. Also, 'the' shouldn't be capitalised, as the bit of narration here is a dialogue attribution.

    That should be 'its', rather than 'it's'.

    That should be a full stop and a closing quotation mark, rather than a comma and a full stop.

    'She' shouldn't be capitalised here.

    I think 'oppressive' would make more sense than 'oppressing' here – the former is the usual adjectival form of 'oppress', while 'oppressing' is mostly reserved for the verb form.

    Normally you say that you take a degree in something, rather than on it; I think Jupiter would probably be saying 'in' here.

    'Imminent' seems an odd choice of word – the explosion has already happened at this point in time, so maybe this is meant to show how Inyssa thought of the explosion just before it happened? I guess maybe that's it.

    Sometimes 'after all' has a comma before it and sometimes not – like, if something was thought to be one thing but turns out to be something else, it tends to not have one, but in sentences like this, where something previously known is being confirmed, it does have one. In this case, I think it should have one – and also that that comma after 'all' should be a semicolon, given that it joins two complete sentences.

    That comma should be a full stop.

    Anyway, things are definitely ramping up a bit, huh! Lots of stuff going on, and lots of threads starting to develop a bit further. I'll be looking forward to the next chapter!
     
  9. TheAlpar

    TheAlpar Journey Enthusiast

    To Firaga: Thank you so much for your comments and support! I'm really glad you liked the double battle, it was one of my favorite to write so far. And I'm also glad you enjoy Niss and Barry :D as for Sarah's decision... well, I'm sure you'll see the answer to your question in the future soon.

    To Cutlerine: You're the best once again <3 thank you so much. I can't confirm or deny any of the speculations you did in your comment but... let's just say all of that will get an answer soon enough. And yes, Sarah does trust her friend in Hearthome quite a bit :D as for the reason no one in her squad carry Pokemon... well, we'll get to that later. Once again thank you so much!!

    On to the next chapter:

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    Chapter 16: The Middle Sibling

    Metchi was broken, the world fractured into a million pieces in front of her. Her eyes were wide open and yet she could see nothing except the shattered sky above, black spots filling her vision and slowly covering her body in what she imagined was a blanket of dark.

    Wind carried her, she felt herself flying atop something, perhaps her own Pokemon? Whatever it was it brushed against her arms and legs, tickling her almost to the point of laughter. And why wouldn't she laugh? She adored flying more than anything else. In the back in her mind a flash of images came to her, from the first time she got to ride Lyserg, back when she still lived in Hoenn. Soaring high above the sapphire blue of the ocean, flocks of Wingulls keeping her company as she visited every part of the region, from Petalburg to Sootopolis. Warmth filled her chest as the images of her journeys passed in front of her like a strange movie. Back when she still had a home. Back when her flying hadn't been restricted by those invisible chains around her.

    Back then, when the word Galactic hadn't meant anything to her.

    The warmth inside her started burning, turning her insides into scorched black as she remembered. Why did she have to? Dreaming was fine, dreaming didn't hurt and it let her forget everything, even if only for a short time. She parted her lips, swollen and dry and bloody, and tried to draw a breath. She wasn't able to. She willed her limbs to move, barely being able to drag them from the floor below her towards her chest, and frantically tapped at her ribcage as if she could rip it open and force air into it. When her vision started getting blurry and her temples burned she felt that familiar heat behind her eyes, and the knot in her chest dissolved slowly, allowing her to breathe again.

    Slow, methodical gasps came as her chest rose up and down. Her mind started catching up after that, and after a few seconds of staring blankly at the sky above she realized what she mistook for cracks in her vision were simply the leaves of the tree she was laying under. And the tickling in her legs and arms appeared to be the grass below her which she would've found embarrassing if she weren't in such a daze.

    Where are we?

    With difficulty she bobbed her head to the side, cheek landing on the soft grass and eyes barely focusing on the landscape around her. The floor curved downwards the more it got away from her and in the horizon she could see the blurry shape of Eterna city, far below where she was. How'd she gotten there? She closed her eyes and saw that flash of purple again, the one she'd followed right before...

    She let out a defeated sigh. Team Galactic, of course that was the why she was looking for. The mist in her head started clearing as she remembered; she'd foolishly gone looking for them in the depths of that blasted city, and she'd almost made it to two of their commanders before that Scyther fell from the ceiling, eyes glistening with killing intent.

    Failure. The word stuck to her, flew around her head like an annoying fly she couldn't quite slap away. She had failed, and quite spectacularly at that. Their mission was simple: open a way through the labs, defeat the few grunts that were scattered around the building and find Jupiter and Charon, easily the weakest of Team Galactic's commanders. It had seemed so easy, and then she'd gotten herself slashed and kicked in the chest mid-teleport leaving her on the side of a mountain. A golden opportunity served on a silver platter which had been executed with bronze stupidity.

    So little old Metchi screwed up again? Next you're gonna tell me the sky is blue.

    The wound, she reminded herself. Identify location, check your supplies, analyze wounds and keep going; you'll have time to sulk later. She'd tried not to think about it back in the lab but now she really didn't have much else to do. Slowly, almost not wanting to she moved one of her hands towards her abdomen, weakly touching the spot in her lower stomach where that Pokemon had slashed her. The fabric of her shirt was wet, blood staining the area around it and making it feel sticky to the touch. She pressed slightly and a sense of relief filled her when she only felt a sting of pain; no more blood was coming out of it. She could work with that, she could work with not being about to die. Next she tried to move her legs and her hip, and while they were responding a bit slowly she still had her mobility. She felt a lump behind her back which meant she still possessed her backpack, and a touch with her hand in her belt told her Lyserg's pokeball was still there.

    Look at you, being all responsible. Maybe next time you'll even manage not to get yourself almost killed.

    With a pained grumble she forced her body to the side, pushing herself upwards with her right hand, her left one making sure her backpack didn't fall to the floor. It was slow and sloppy and painful as all ****, but eventually she managed to get up, and almost immediately wanted to throw herself at the floor again. She blinked fast, her vision blurry and her head spinning from the effort. Her stomach felt empty, painfully so, and her skin was way too hot considering the cold wind that surrounded her. The veins on her temples kept pulsing, sending shivers down her spine every time.

    "I'm fine," she told herself, voice desperately trying to claw itself up from her throat. "I'm... fine. Now I have to..."

    "Heads up Metchi, you're about to vomit a lot of blood."

    Violent spasms shook her limbs, sliding her feet off the ground and forcing her to land on her elbows as her insides squirmed. The first heave made the skin in her neck tingle, the second one made her fingers run through the dirt beneath them as they curled into fists, and by the third one her entire body clenched and she couldn't hold it anymore.

    It was for the better anyway. One thing she knew about throwing up was that the faster it was over the better. Of course it wasn't often that she let out a small torrent of dark red from her mouth, not even in her worse hangovers. The floor in front of her eyes was now splattered with a mix of blood and a few other fluids that she'd rather not think about. The disgusting flavor stuck to her teeth and gums.

    "I'm sorry, but I had to get all that out of your system somehow."

    Sluggishly she raised her head towards that voice, her breathing heavy and irregular. As familiar as always, it resonated inside her mind as an amalgamate of different buzzes and noises that somehow managed to form words together. There was nothing in front of her, but she knew better.

    "Come out already," she said. "I don't like talking to the air."

    That familiar heat inside her chest evaporated slowly as a stream of golden mist exited her body, spiraling in the air in front of her and taking the form of a small, floating creature. Its body was oval and nearly as big as her head, grey and with skinny arms and tiny legs. Two ribbon shaped tails moved behind it in unison, a circled hole at the end of them where a red jewel should have been. Its head had two strange protrusions coming out of its sides, a pale blue covering most of its face. Metchi scoffed, not yet deciding if the sight of the Pokemon was a relief or a bother, especially with the glowing golden on its eyes set on her, unblinking.

    For a legendary Pokemon Azelf sure looked like a ****ing wimp, she thought.

    "How are you feeling, Metchi?"

    Words came out of the Pokemon, even though its tiny line of a mouth wasn't moving.

    She couldn't help to laugh at that question. A throaty, almost pained sound that some might have mistaken for a weep. She locked eyes with the thing, as usual hating that Azelf didn't have a body for her to punch. Unless she started hitting herself, which considering her current condition didn't sound like a great idea.

    "I'm..." she looked in her mind for a term to describe how she was feeling, and finally decided to summarize it the best way she could. "Azelf... this ****ing blows."

    "Poignant choice of words, as usual."

    The lid of her eye twitched a bit. She hated talking to Azelf because it always felt like she was having a conversation with a floating, immobile doll. One who never stopped staring at her with those huge yellow eyes. She had to look down, choking a curse, and her sight set on the small pool of fluids at her feet.

    "I'm sick of seeing my own blood," she whispered.

    "That sounds like a problem that's very easily solved. For anyone who's not you, that is."

    "Okay, shut your... nonexistent mouth." She raised a finger towards it. "I didn't call you to have a damn chat with some tea and lava cookies. We need to strategize."

    "No." That simple word hit her like a hurricane, almost knocking her down. "What you need to do is rest. I'm barely keeping you afloat with the power I have left, and after today's disaster we'll have to stay low for a while if we want to avoid capture."

    "I'm fine!" she yelled back. "I'm feeling better already, and that wound wasn't as bad as we thought."

    "And who do you have to thank for that?" Azelf's translucent body floated closer to her, piercing her with its eyes. "Do you know how hard it was to deviate that Scyther's attack to a spot where it wouldn't pierce your lower intestines or your iliac artery? Not very much, considering I had less than a second to do it."

    "Yeah I get it, you're sooo ****ing great," she scoffed. "I don't have time to stroke your ego now. I need a status report, how's my body doing?"

    Azelf stood still for a moment, although she immediately realized that it was always immobile and maybe the loss of blood was getting to her head. Finally it spoke again, voice as toneless as usual.

    "You've lost around one liter of blood. Your muscles are suffering from high exhaustion and your lack of sleep, food and drink have reduced your cognitive, physical and mental capabilities by fifty six percent. As for the wound in your stomach; I've managed to force your body to accelerate its healing capabilities to almost three times its normal effectiveness. Scabs are already forming around the cut and should have the wound completely sealed in a few hours. After that it will begin to swell and you will find it difficult to move due to the pain and your body trying to repair broken tissues."

    "Summarize," she said, tapping her foot on the ground. "How much until I'm back to full strength?"

    "That depends." Azelf stopped for a moment, but immediately began talking after Metchi shot it a murderous look. "By tomorrow night you'll be able to walk and act without too much pain, although you'll need to be careful not to reopen the wound. Complete healing will take at least a week and a half, even with me using my powers at all times."

    "I can work with that." Metchi nodded, feeling her eyes heavy. "Thanks, that's all I needed."

    She took her eyes away from the creature, and with slow steps started walking towards the edge of the small patch of grass she was in. To her right the floor curved down in all directions but north, leading down the mountain path towards either Eterna City (the town seeming so small and insignificant from that height) or Route 208, covered in ancient rock and small lakes. She turned around once more, shifting her sight north. The path extended upwards to a point where it would've been impossible to pass through for anyone who wasn't a hiker. The mountain kept getting taller and taller until its body penetrated the clouds above. She'd been lucky to appear in the low part of what was the spine of Mount Coronet, otherwise she'd have no way down. Not after she idiotically used Lyserg to fight that Scyther and got her hurt, cutting down her only available means of transportation.

    An itch in her chest surprised her and drained almost all her strength, as the blue of her eyes stood set against the imposing figure in front of her. She'd heard so much about this place back in Hoenn... the tallest string of mountains in the world, dividing an entire region in half and rising up even beyond the skies where they believed the legendary Pokemon of space and time resided. She'd wanted to visit it with all her heart, back when her dream was nothing more than to fly to the top of it. Back when she had dreams, anyway.

    She had to contain a miniscule weep and forced those emotions back into the depths of her mind. Move on. She told herself. Cry later, when you have a place to sleep.

    "So..." she said, feeling eyes on her back, "can't help but notice you haven't disappeared yet."

    "I was hoping we could talk."

    "What's there to talk about?" she shrugged. "I screwed up. You can wait 'til I'm feeling better to rub it on my face."

    "I don't take pleasure in proving you wrong. All the contrary, I've had to suffer the consequences of your actions as well. Your pain is my pain, remember? And after you abused my power to such lengths just to get to Jupiter and Charon..."

    "I didn't have a choice," she snarled through her teeth. "It was the perfect opportunity! Our plan just... lacked some polish is all."

    "You mean the plan of not listening to my warnings and using half my power reserve to blow up an entrance to the building?" Azelf questioned. "And alerting half the town in the meantime? We could have searched for another way in."

    "There was no time to think." she said. "We didn't know how long they would stay in there!"

    "And then you pointlessly tried to follow them when they were sure to escape." The legendary Pokemon kept talking, not listening to her excuses. "Jupiter ended up saving your life, you know? What would have happened if she hadn't kicked you in the middle of the teleportation? What would have happened if we ended up in the middle of Galactic HQ half dead and with no strength to fight?"

    Metchi wanted to respond, wanted to yell at Azelf until her voice went hoarse. Something blocked her throat, however. She figured it had to be something like shame.

    "Between those kids appearing to help you and Jupiter's stupidity we got incredibly lucky. That will not happen again."

    Metchi couldn't help but let out a chuckle. A very short, sad one, but it'd have to do.

    "Those two... they do nothing but mess things up." She crossed her arms, brow furrowed. "If they hadn't interfered..."

    "In that case you would most likely be dead right now, and team Galactic would have gotten all the energy they needed for the next step of their plan. They accomplished more than we could have hoped to."

    She bit her lip, no retort coming to her. Azelf was right of course, the Pokemon usually was, but she hated to admit it. Inyssa and Barry... those names clung to the back of her mind, filling her with a single question that she wasn't sure she wanted answered.

    "Do you think they escaped the explosion?" She didn't know why she asked that. "Do you think... they're dead?"

    "Would it make any difference? After all you've done, the people you've hurt, is another death on your shoulders really going to bother you?"

    "I... I guess not." She looked down, her fingers closing into fists. "I hope they're okay though..."

    "Don't worry yourself with those thoughts. The lives of those two are insignificant compared to the weight of our task. With one of my siblings in captivity and the other nowhere to be found we're the only ones who can stop team Galactic. Remember, if you die..."

    "I know, I ****ing know," she interrupted, heat rising to her face. "If I die you go back to them and we're all doomed. Got it, no pressure at all."

    "Whining is unbecoming of you. I didn't give you humans the gift of Valor so you would be bogged down by your emotions. Even when not around Mesprit still manages to bother me, if only by proxy this time."

    "Sounds like you have some family issues to work through." For the first time she formed a tiny smile, so weak that a gust of wind would've blown it away.

    "Enough about that. For now, try to find respite and make your way to Hearthome so you can get supplies." She could almost feel Azelf's irritation inside her chest. Her words must've struck a nerve. "I'll go back into your body. I'll need all my focus to make sure you heal faster, so I might stay silent for some time."

    "Finally, some good news."

    "I heard that." Azelf's body started to dissolve once more, the golden glow entering her chest and filling her with warmth once more. "Now get going. And stay safe, not only your life depends on that."

    Silence. At last it filled the air around her taking the form of the silver winds that ruffled her hair and made her pink locks block part of her vision. Talking to Azelf had always been exhausting but this time certainly took the cake.

    The middle child of the legendary Lake Trio, the being of Valor and one of the oldest creatures in existence. And also a colossal pain in the ass, as far as she was concerned.

    With nothing more than a tired sigh she started walking towards her right, following the tight path between the trees that lead down to Route 208. She'd have to cross it to reach Hearthome where stealing and pillaging would be necessary to get the resources she needed so she could survive a few more days. It would be a complicated day, she told herself, so it'd be better to get over it fast. With care, she started descending the dirt path, small stones rolling downwards as she made her way. Her legs were still protesting and she still felt a bit dizzy, but she could slowly feel the strength coming back to her. Between that and the clear air she was breathing she felt a momentary sense of peace as she descended. Sure, she was in a tricky situation at the moment, but it could be a lot worse.

    She allowed herself a smile. I can get through this, she thought. As long as I'm careful and don't let my emotions...

    Her thoughts were interrupted as the dirt beneath her feet gave up and tripped her forwards, her body now falling down the side of the mountain's cliff.

    ------------------------------------------------
    Metchi was lucky her body bounced off the cliffside a few times before falling to the ground, absorbing with every hit the momentum that could've shattered her bones. She was also lucky she fell on her feet and landed on her right side, although at that point she thought luck was relative when she was in as much pain as she was. The impact shook her vision, clouding her senses and casting yet another cloak of dark on top of her. She could almost feel her consciousness escaping her as her body laid limp.

    She couldn't say if minutes or hours passed while she was in that hazy stupor, but finally the mist inside her mind started dissipating, and she heard echoes around her. Voices, distant and yet feeling too close. When the darkness lifted from her eyes she saw a pair of green in front of them. A young girl's face was staring at her with a mix of confusion and shock. Next to her that familiar blonde boy was speaking words that sounded fumbled to her, although she could pick on his worried tone.

    "...you're alive." She didn't quite like how honest she sounded, even though she was completely dazed.

    "She spoke!" the blonde boy yelled, putting both his hands on the girls' shoulders.

    "I can see that." She gave him a side glance, frowning. "Hey Metchi, nice to see you again."

    "Niss! Help me get her up!"

    She felt a pair of calloused hands grab her by the shoulders, attempting to get her to sit. She scoffed but didn't protest at the touch, trying to help him by putting her hand against the ground to lift herself. The girl named Inyssa was still in front of her, hesitation clear in her face. Staring. Judging. Metchi didn't like her expression one bit.

    "Are you okay?" She heard Barry's voice at her side, through the clouds of pain and stupor. "What happened? We saw you disappear back in the lab!"

    "I'm... fine," she whispered, too tired to slap away the boys' hand. "Bit dizzy is all. What are you doing here?"

    "Uh... the route is like right there." Niss pointed behind her, towards the path of Route 208. "We found you passed out at the foot of the cliff."

    "Oh my gosh, have you not treated that wound yet!?" Barry's eyes were set on her stomach, worry lines on his face. "We have to clean that! Niss, you have that first aid kit, right?"

    "Huh? Oh, yeah, it's here in my backpack somewhere," Inyssa seemed distracted, her eyes not wanting to dart away from her. She knew that gaze too well. "Here." A small package of white made its way from the girl's hands to Barry.

    "I said I'm fine." Metchi reiterated, strongly enough to make Barry consider backing out. "The cut is closed, I'm not bleeding anymore."

    "Yeah, baloney." Barry put a hand on her shoulder, pushing her back and preventing her from standing up. Had he really said the word baloney? "It could still get infected if we don't clean it."

    A rasp, harsh laugh came out of her mouth. She had to admit, she'd missed the boy's impossible naiveness and the sight of his honest, brown eyes. It was kind of like watching her past self in a mirror.

    "If I let you treat my wound would you leave me alone?" she asked, already knowing the answer.

    "Look at yourself, you're paler than Niss!" Barry kept talking, not paying attention to her words. Behind him Inyssa frowned at his comment. "When's the last time you ate something?"

    "That depends on what you consider food." She smiled. Barry, however, didn't seem to share her sense of humor. "Uh... a day and a half ago, I guess."

    "Jeez... that's awful!" She could see genuine concern on his face, to the extent that it made her a bit uncomfortable. "Don't worry, we'll give you something to eat and drink as soon as I get this wound fixed up. Right Niss?"

    The question caught the young girl off guard. For once she took her eyes away from Metchi and looked at her friend, her lips stretched thin. She could see hesitation on her face, even if it only lasted for a second. She knew what it meant, she knew what was going through the girl's head right now.

    I don't trust you, her eyes said. Maybe she was thinking too much about it, but she couldn't help but feel rancorous at the way she was staring at her.

    "Yeah... of course." Inyssa finally said, nodding weakly. "I hope you like pancakes, Metchi."

    Metchi switched her sight between the two, exhaustion covering her entire body. She felt a sting of something she couldn't determine inside her chest, and decided to look down.

    "Why are you helping me?" she asked, voice almost too low to hear. "You saw what happens around me. You almost died twice because you tried to get close to Team Galactic. Why do you do this? What do you want from me?"

    Both kids stopped in their tracks, and had to look at each other for an answer. Barry's eyes were sulken and a drop of sweat was running down his temple, while Inyssa's expression was unreadable. A few seconds passed before one of them answered.

    "Because you're in trouble and we want to help you." Barry squished her shoulder with his hand, smiling brightly. "That's all there is to it, we don't want anything in return."

    "Well..." Inyssa bit her lip, trying to suppress a smile.

    "Niss!"

    "Fine, fine. Yeah we're just a couple of humanitarians, that's us." She crossed her arms, voice dripping with sarcasm. "Just let us help you so we can extract some information from you later."

    "I told you, I can't say anything," Metchi said. "It would attract them to you, and I don't want your deaths in my conscience."

    As if you care, the voice inside her head resonated, You would sacrifice them both to accomplish your objective.

    Shut the **** up, she replied.

    "Right..." Inyssa rolled her eyes, and with difficulty got on her knees, eyes now at the same height as hers. "Look, these past weeks have been pretty crazy for us too. Between the **** that happened in the bridge, team Galactic and that haunted house it's not exactly been a vacation for us."

    "Oh boo hoo," she said in a mocking tone. "Yeah I'm sure not being able to take on the Gym leaders was extremely stressful for you."

    "That's not..." Red rose to Inyssa's cheeks. "That's not what I meant. After what Mars did to me, and after what we saw back in that lab, we can't go on with our journey just ignoring what Team Galactic is doing. And we know that you know something about them, we know that you're trying to stop them, whatever their objective is."

    "Yeah! And any enemy of team Galactic is a friend of us." Barry smiled, pointing at himself. "We want to help you catch them, even if it's just with small stuff."

    "Someone has to do something," said Inyssa, eyes full of determination. "And the Association is not making many strides so we figured we could use your help to get them to justice."

    "Aren't you... scared?" Metchi asked them, disbelief clear on her eyes. "You know what they could do to you if you got in their way, right?"

    "Of course we're scared," Inyssa replied as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "But my desire to punch Mars in the face trumps that fear, so we're all good for now."

    "What do you say?" Barry walked near his friend, and both of them stared directly at Metchi. She could see something between them, a flame so faint and pale that it could disappear any second. "We can help you."

    Metchi frowned, not believing those idiots' words. They had no idea what true fear was like, they didn't know what team Galatic was capable of. A wrong turn and both of them would end up dead. Just another couple of bodies, another two corpses forced into the back of her mind where her conscience couldn't reach them. She opened her mouth to refuse, to tell them they were a couple of morons and they should just leave her alone before they got hurt. But the words that came out of her mouth were something she didn't expect, something fueled by that stupid warm feeling that had started growing through her body after listening to their encouraging words.

    "Fine." That single word was extremely hard for her to say, and she couldn't help but look down, avoiding their gazes. "I'll eat your food, I'll let you heal me and you'll take me to Hearthome. Then I'll go away and we'll hope to never see each other again."

    Both of them smiled. Stupid, young smiles that did nothing but fill her with pointless hope.

    "Whatever you say." Inyssa gave her a pat in the shoulder. "Let's get you fixed up, and then we can have a talk."
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018
  10. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    Interestingly, it looks like we've got a Metchi chapter this time around – and that means, finally, a bunch of answers to the ever-increasing number of questions! Chief among which is the revelation of the mysterious voice's identity. I have to admit, I was thinking about powerful Sinnish pokémon with golden eyes, and the lake trio had occurred to me as potential candidate, especially since they have a strong connection to Galactic. (And indeed, if Azelf's jewels are missing, it looks like the Galactics have already got to it and obtained part of what they need to forge the chain to shackle the legendaries, although it seems like Cyrus is not yet at the stage of going eh, whatever, I guess I'll let them go now.) I just couldn't decide which I thought was involved: the voice didn't seem passionate enough for Mesprit to be a good fit, but I didn't quite have enough information to tell whether it was Uxie or Azelf instead.

    Anyway, it's good to finally learn a bit about Metchi herself, too; we now know where she came from, if not why she's here or how she got involved, and I'm looking forward to finding out more as things continue to develop. It's also really nice to see her from her own perspective for once. Obviously, Inyssa and Barry are kind of intimidated by her, which is honestly completely reasonable, and that dramatically affects the way she's represented when we're following their POV. But Metchi sees herself very differently, and it's cool to get a much more human view of her, so to speak.

    The scene at the end is cute, too. Like awww, she has a heart! I kinda knew she did, of course, and I knew she did care, but still, it's very sweet to see her – however reluctantly – give in to being helped, after her trajectory through the story so far.

    One thing that stuck out as strange was the characterisation of the immune system as the means by which Metchi was being healed – the immune system fights off disease, but as far as I know isn't actually involved in healing wounds. White blood cells do clear out dead and damaged cells, but that's as far as the immune system's involvement goes; wound healing is its own process.

    As usual, here are some typos and other nitpicks I noted down as I read through:

    That should be 'translucent'.

    That should be 'swell'.

    I think 'pointlessly' might read better than 'hopelessly' here – because it seems to me that Metchi did have hope, it's just that it was misplaced. Also, the T in 'The' has been accidentally italicised here.

    This might read more fluidly if it was compacted into one sentence – like '“I know, I ****ing know,” she interrupted, heat rising etc.' Also, I feel like 'to' should be 'in', although I can't quite explain why, so maybe ignore me there.

    There should be a comma after 'care', and you don't need the word 'through' – you might descend through a cave, but you just descend paths, without any need for extra words.

    These should be two sentences. Like so: '“… you're alive.” She didn't quite like how honest she sounded'.

    These are two separate sentences, so 'She' should be capitalised.

    That should be a comma after 'something'.

    Same as above – this is all one sentence, so that should be a comma after 'scared', and 'The' shouldn't be capitalised.

    'That' should be capitalised.

    Anyway, yeah! This was definitely an interesting one. The plot threads are pretty thoroughly tangled together now; I'm looking forward to seeing how things go from here!
     
  11. TheAlpar

    TheAlpar Journey Enthusiast

    To Cutlerine: Thank you so much once again!!! Indeed I knew that I needed to answer a few questions this chapter, since a mystery that keeps building up and up without answers gets boring after a while. I also wanted to show a bit of Metchi's personality and the shitty situation she's in. I'm glad you liked it!!! Hopefully you'll like what comes next :D once again thank you for all the revisions! I also fixed the healing thing you pointed out.

    Onward to the next chapter!! This is a short one, a bit of a link between the previous mini-arc and the next one. Hopefully I'll have next chapter posted pretty soon as well. I love Hearthome and I want to make it justice.

    --------------------------------------

    Chapter 17: Hard Questions and Unsatisfying Answers

    Maybe it was the way they had him walk between them as they made their way through Route 208. Maybe it was just the glances they tried to sneak past each other, full of bitterness and anger and distrust. Or maybe it was the constant, tiring, excruciating bickering which made Barry wish he could chop his own ears off.

    In any case, he was pretty sure Niss and Metchi didn't like each other. They had only found her fifteen minutes ago and already the atmosphere around them had become tense and awkward, so much that not even his natural charms could change it. He looked up at the clear sky, one of Mt Coronet's cliffs standing proud at his left, and he saw Steven and Paulette flying high above him, watching the road ahead and playfully soaring in circles around each other. How he wished he could be one of them right now.

    "For the last bleeding time, I don't know anything about this ghost!"

    Metchi's voice reached him, harsh and strong and just a tad irritating. She looked barely less in the process of dying than fifteen minutes ago. The yellow No God pasted on her shirt was still torn from the incident in Eterna City, so that now it read No Coo.

    "I was only there for a week and I never saw any of what you're describing," she repeated, her face red from the effort of both walking and talking at the same time. "I never saw a weird girl or an electric ghost, and I sure as **** never got referred to as Big Sis or whatever you imagined you heard back there."

    Niss huffed, hands tightly gripping the straps of her backpack, "We nursed you back to health, the least you can do is be honest with us."

    "If by nurse me back to health you mean give me a couple cold pancakes, a can of soda and some old bandages." Metchi shook her head. "Forgive me for not singing you praises or throwing petals in front of your feet."

    Niss was about to say something back, but he decided he should interrupt before things got out of hand.

    "Niss, I think she's telling the truth." He put a hand between them, doing his best not to be intimidated by their glares. "Maybe someone else was in that house before her. It was pretty old."

    Niss wrinkled her nose and grit her teeth, probably trying to find a way to discuss the matter further. But after a few seconds she simply turned away, a sour expression adorning her face.

    "This must be what paying taxes feels like," she whispered under her breath. "You give all your stuff to people who almost blew themselves up and they don't even let you extract information from them."

    Barry tried not to laugh, while Metchi turned her head towards her and knit her eyebrows. She still walked with difficulty, one hand pressed against her stomach, but she was doing much better since she'd eaten some of their food.

    "First, that's classist. Which doesn't surprise me coming from you," she replied, bitter tone. "Second, you wouldn't know what paying for something was even if financial problems punched you in the face. And third…" She coughed a couple drops of blood before continuing. "Those were some really good pancakes, Barry. Thanks."

    He was about to reply when Niss put a hand on his shoulder, pressing with an iron grip.

    "I pay for my things, I'm not a criminal!" she protested, right hand closed into a fist. "Unlike you, I'm sure."

    "You get all your money from your family," Metchi spat back. "You've never had to work a day in your life, I'm sure."

    "Okay! Okay…" Barry put his arm between them, voice shaking. He had to stop them from killing each other somehow. "I know we're all with like… short fuses after what's been happening, but let's try to keep it chill. There's no reason for us to fight; we're all on the same side."

    Metchi looked at him for a few moments, lowering her head and nodding slowly. Niss on the other hand looked like she was trying hard to find a way to disagree with his statement. He could almost see the steam coming out of her ears. For a moment he imagined her as Enma and couldn't contain a chuckle he had to disguise as a cough.

    The overexcited Monferno was further ahead, helping to clear the road of any wild Pokemon that they could come across. Niss seemed to hope that he would take it easy for once, but there didn't appear to be a chance of that happening. As soon as he got out of his Pokeball he ran ahead to fight anything he could find, to the dismay (and pride, he was sure) of his trainer.

    "You say we're on the same side," Niss spoke up once more, "but we don't even know what the sides are. And she's not giving us ample reason to trust her with all this secrecy."

    He bit his lip, not knowing how to answer. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't dying to know everything Metchi could tell them about Team Galactic, but he also thought it was extremely rude to harass her for the information while she was weak and injured. Sometimes he wished Niss could have just a little more tact and didn't just insult the woman when she didn't give her what she wanted.

    "I can hear you, you know," Metchi replied, a bored look on her face. "I already told you everything you need to know about Team Galactic; they're bad news and you should stay away from them. Leave the fight to those who know what they're doing."

    Barry interfered before his friend had a chance to show her impressive knowledge of profanities.

    "Now, to be fair…" He tried to make his voice as calm and neutral as possible. "...We ran into those Galactic grunts before and we beat them easily."

    Niss puffed her chest up, "You're falling a bit short; I completely and effortlessly cleaned the floor with them. I wouldn't even remember those losers if they weren't part of Team Galactic."

    "Jeez, that hat big enough for you to contain your ego?" he heard Metchi whisper to herself.

    Even though her tone was mocking he could see the surprise in her face.

    "You shouldn't feel too proud of yourself," she said after a few seconds. "Their power lies in numbers, so it's not surprising one or two of them would lose against a… reasonably talented trainer." She spoke her last words slowly, apparently enjoying the glare full of venom Niss shot her. "They're just children, after all. Barely older than you."

    Barry felt something cold crawling up his insides towards his throat. The shadow that set over Niss' eyes told him that she felt the same thing.

    "Children?" His voice came out as barely a whisper. "What do you mean?"

    "What, you haven't figured it out yet?" Metchi showed him a dry, pained smile. "How do you think they get all their recruits? You can't honestly expect responsible grownups to join a group that dresses like that."

    "I'm…" He tried to talk, but it was like something was stuck inside his throat. "That's…"

    "They convince young people without purpose in life to follow them. They give them food, money and a roof to sleep under. And more importantly, they give them a sense of purpose." There was a strange sadness to her voice. "The boss has a way with words, I tell you. And kids these day are impossibly naïve and idealistic, so it's pretty easy for him to direct them like sheep. The only really dangerous folk around there are the com…" She stopped herself suddenly, her eyes opening wide. "****, I wasn't supposed to talk about this! Stop trying to trick me into telling you stuff!"

    She turned towards the both of them, maybe expecting Niss to protest or yell at her or anything of the like. Instead she found them a few feet behind her, standing completely still and a clear look of dread pasted on their faces.

    "Hey… are you guys okay?" She spoke tentatively, looking around her. "What's with those faces?"

    "They're… they were all around our age?" He was scared of the way his voice came out, shaking and almost broken. His body felt cold all of a sudden. "Then back in Eterna…"

    Metchi opened her mouth, surely to ask him what was his problem, when realization hit her.

    "What happened?" She spoke those words with urgency. "What happened after I teleported out?"

    He tried to answer, but the words didn't come to him. He could feel his lower lip trembling.

    "The building came down," Niss said. "We're the only ones who got out."

    In the back of his mind he knew she had intentionally omitted the part where something miraculously saved them from being crushed to death, but that was being drowned by the horrible realization that such miracle had done nothing for the numerous Galactic grunts who were unconscious inside the building at the time.

    All color evaporated from Metchi's face, as she stared at them expecting a Just kidding!, but none came. She lowered her sight towards the ground, her breathing becoming heavier. For an instant, between two of her short blinks, he could almost swear her eyes became golden. A chill went up his spine at the sight of it, but he figured it was just a trick of the light.

    "That's…" she said slowly, all strength gone from her voice while she searched for the right word to use. "Unfortunate."

    "Is that all you have to say?"

    Both of them turned towards Barry, surprised that those words came from him. He would lie if he said he wasn't surprised himself, but the burning knot in his stomach made it hard to reason at the moment.

    "A dozen kids died and you think it's just unfortunate?" He could feel the heat imbuing his voice. "They didn't choose to…"

    "What? They didn't choose to be there to die?" Metchi spat back at him, and for a second the anger inside him was replaced with fear at the fierceness of her voice. "I'm afraid that's exactly what they did, that's what all of us did. And that's exactly where you two dipshits are headed if you keep digging up all this stuff. You're not heroes like Synn or Nyss or Noh; you're just children who are way in over your heads." She blinked furiously, trying to hide the wetness in her eyes. "Just… don't look for them, please. I don't' want your deaths in my conscience, not on top of everyone else's."

    A heavy, deep silence fell over them as they avoided each other's eyes. Barry hugged himself, trying to keep the cold away from his body, until he felt something around his arm. He didn't notice Niss getting close, nor her hands closing around him, giving him warmth. Her face was slightly obscured by her black locks, but he could see pain and guilt under them.

    "I want to be the Champion." Niss' voice was barely above a whisper. "I want to stand above every other trainer, so that when I look up the only thing I see are the stars. That's the only way I could ever be happy."

    "That's a childish dream," said Metchi. This time there was no bitterness in her voice, just a sad acceptance.

    "But…" She ignored her words, and kept speaking. "Mars… she humiliated me, she killed my Pokemon and I couldn't do anything about it. I need to make her feel what she made me feel that day, I need to stop… having these nightmares." She looked up, and her eyes met with Metchi's. "I have to take her down. I owe it to Bertha and the rest of my Pokemon. I'll never feel confident in my strength again if I don't."

    If he didn't think twice about it he would've thrown his arms around her and hugged her until she had to chase him away with a broom. But he simply looked down, ashamed. So she'd been having nightmares, huh? Of course she did; those heavy bags under her eyes betrayed her clearly as day, and yet he'd been none the wiser about it. He imagined it then; Niss waking up in a cold sweat, tears welling up in her eyes as she realized she's not reliving that horror anymore.

    Barry wished the ground would just swallow him. He'd never felt more useless in his life.

    "Listen kid…" Metchi brought a hand to her face, rubbing her eyelids weakly. "That's very… honorable and commendable and all that, but there's something you gotta learn eventually. Dreams die and they die hard, crashing and burning and exploding. And you're gonna crash and burn with them if you don't learn to let them go."

    "I'd rather die," was her simple answer.

    Metchi shrugged. "You're a lost cause, then. What about you, kid?"

    A few seconds passed before he realized she was speaking to him. He opened his mouth, completely dry, and tried his best to give a satisfying answer. The truth was he didn't know. He didn't have Niss' unwavering spirit, he didn't have the desire to be the Champion to the point where he would sacrifice his life for it. He wasn't as strong or as dedicated as her.

    He wasn't good enough to be the Champion, not with someone like Niss standing next to him.

    "Isn't it obvious?" Niss finally said, arms crossed. "He's not going to give up on it either. We're both trying to be the best."

    "We…" He was finally able to get some words out, the warmth of her words untying the icy knot inside his throat. "Yeah, obviously… we gotta compete with each other so we constantly get better."

    Niss shot him a satisfied smile, not noticing the wavering tone of his voice. Metchi let out a long sigh and pressed a hand against the back of her neck, looking to him like the most tired person in the world.

    "Fine, you wanna throw your lives away? Be my guest." She lowered her shoulders, defeated. "You can each ask me one question and then I'll be gone. We're too close to Hearthome already and I can't risk being seen by anyone."

    His eyes opened wide, not believing what he was hearing. Just like that? They could ask literally anything they wanted? He turned towards Niss with a smile on his face, curiosity burning inside him, and opened his mouth to discuss what question they should choose. But the girl had beaten him to the punch and was already talking.

    "Mars!" she yelled, a sense of urgency in her voice. "Tell me everything you know about her."

    For the first time in his life he felt annoyed at the carelessness of another person. He figured this was karma doing its work against him.

    "Of course that's your choice." Metchi muttered under her breath, shaking her head lightly. "Mars is… as far as I know, the youngest commander of the bunch. She's in charge of any operation that involves stealing information or assasination, thanks to her… natural stealth, so to speak."

    "Her Ditto can transform her into other people." Niss nodded, hands closed into fists. "That's how she tricked me…"

    "That still… doesn't make much sense," he mentioned, trying not to sound like he didn't believe Niss. "I've never heard of a Ditto that could do something like that. All the ones I saw could transform themselves into other Pokemon and that's it."

    "Your guess is as good as mine, pal."

    Niss narrowed her eyes, "This is really shitty information."

    "Look kid, what do you want from me? Do you think Mars went around telling all the grunts how her ability worked? She might be nuts but she's not stupid," she said, a vein of irritation appearing on her temple. "All I know is that whatever happened to her, Charon was responsible for it. He's been doing experiments on Pokemon and people for as long as he's worked for Team Galactic. Other than that, no idea."

    Nis crossed her arms, a look of disappointment in her face. He guessed she was expecting a lot more than that for her answer.

    "Fine, I'll just have to search for her myself." She sighed, and looked over at him. "Now you go."

    He thought it over for only a few seconds, for he knew deep down exactly what he wanted to ask.

    "What's your deal?" he said, before he could process his words. "I mean… why did you join Team Galactic? And why did you leave?"

    The question caught her by surprise, judging by the way her posture relaxed and by the shadow of a smile that formed over her lips. She was about to answer when he felt Niss' fist bury in his arm.

    "You dumbass! That's what you choose to ask!?" she protested, spitting the words at him. "We could've learnt something useful!"

    "I was curious!" he defended himself, pushing her with his free hand. "Besides, you did the same thing! If you get to be an idiot then I get to do the same!"

    She stomped a foot on the ground, and tried to come up with a rebuttal which never came. He heard Metchi's chuckle behind him.

    "Well, she's not wrong. That is a stupid question," she said, scratching her cheek with a look of levity. "There's not much I can tell you, unfortunately. I was young and stupid and I had lost too much in a short time. Team Galactic promised me I would be part of something big, of the next important change of humanity. So of course I jumped right in and gave my freedom away for a stupid uniform and a fake name." She bit her lip, eyebrows knit together. "They called me Ursa and assigned me to Saturn's squad. I made good friends back there and I'd be lying if I said I didn't felt like… like I finally belonged. But…"

    She swallowed, as if her next words were extremely hard to say. He could see the exhaustion and sadness in her eyes.

    "I caught wind of their real plans, which no…" She frowned. "I will not share with you, not that you'd believe me anyway. In any case, I escaped their base and took something very important to them, reason why they blew up an entire bridge just to catch me."

    "What did you steal?" he asked, not being able to help himself.

    "I said one question." She raised a finger at him, a sly smile on her face. "Sorry, but that's a secret."

    "You really like giving non specific answers." Niss narrowed her eyes at her. "It's annoying."

    "It sure is," she said. "Well, that's all for now, I really should be going." She looked toward the path in front of them, where the bridge going over the river connected with the final stretch of the road, leading directly to Hearthome. "As I said, I can't stick to the main path anymore. I'll infiltrate the city at night, and I'll try recover my strength before I move again."

    "Good riddance," Niss spat back as she turned around towards the road. "Try not to get yourself stabbed again. Let's go, Barry."

    "Thanks for your all your help!" He hurried his words, concern growing inside his chest as he was being dragged by his friend forward. "If you need anything we'll be around the city! We'd be happy to help you out again!"

    Metchi offered him a warm smile, which eased some of the worry forming a knot inside him. She raised her left hand, the one that wasn't holding her stomach, and waved at him.

    "Take care of your friend, and try to stay out of trouble," she yelled, more enthusiastically than he would've expected. "And let's pray we don't have to meet again!"

    "Preaching to the choir on that one," he heard Niss whisper. "Come on Barry, I'm hungry, tired and pissed off. Let's try to get to the Pokemon Center before the sun goes down."

    They were able to do that, even though he barely noticed the passage of time as they walked, too deep in his own thoughts to pay attention to his surroundings. He was sure Niss was aware of this, along with the strange lack of energy and words coming from him, but she decided not to call attention to it. He was grateful for that.

    -----------------------------------
    The road didn't take long to get through, although they had to stop for a couple minutes one time when Niss accidentally looked inside one of the caves leading to the insides of Mt Coronet. If there was something he'd learned those past weeks was that claustrophobia was no joke.

    By the time they finally made it to the entrance of the city the sun was halfway hidden in the horizon, and the light it shone on the buildings standing tall in front of them was almost enough to erase all negative thoughts inside him.

    "Wow…" he heard himself whispering, a smile forming on his face.

    "Holy crap," Niss agreed, eyes glued to the sight in front of her.

    Hearthome wasn't nearly as big as Jubilife, but it sure felt like it was. The entire city seemed to glow under the weak light of the setting sun, each building and house an architectural work of art on its own right. It was a strange mix of ancient and modern, exuberant colors and lights decorating what seemed to be a town hundreds of years old. The peaks of Mount Coronet cast a heavy shadow over it, giving it a peaceful, resting look. And on the right the forest almost seemed to blend itself with the city, as if it had grown out of it.

    Full of life was the only way he could describe the place, which appeared to be an apt way to put it.

    "It's a shame it's getting so late," Niss said after a few seconds of admiring her surroundings. "I'd love to walk around and explore."

    "There's always tomorrow," he smiled. "Come on, we have to at least see what the Pokemon Center is like."

    She nodded, and together they stepped inside the city. He could feel the change of location in an almost physical way, as if he'd just crossed an invisible barrier, but he was too distracted to wonder about it. He could not wait to see the city in person, and whatever the first interesting thing he'd come across would be.

    That turned out to be a person. A boy, in fact, that he'd seen before, laying face down on the city entrance's asphalt. He was still wearing his blue and grey shirt and that weird red beret over his now messy hair. The smile disappeared from his face as realization hit him.

    "L…Lucas?" Barry asked, eyes opened wide and a look of horror on his face.

    "What are you…" Niss turned her head towards the boy, and she almost jumped out of her skin. "Holy ****! Are you okay!?"

    "U…ugh…" The boy made a few noises, which didn't exactly put him at ease. "I'm… I'm fine, just… route, too long. I kinda…" He slowly got on his knees, all his clothes stained with dirt and dust. "I kinda… underestimated Mt Coronet…"

    He didn't need to finish his sentence for them to understand. Shock disappeared from Niss' face and was replaced with a look of incredulousness. She slapped her forehead with her palm and sighed deeply.

    "Today just doesn't want to give me a break, does it," she whispered to herself. "Help me get him up, Barry. Let's get this idiot to a Pokemon Center before he passes out on us."
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
  12. TheAlpar

    TheAlpar Journey Enthusiast



    Chapter 18: Hearthome's Shadow
    Inyssa took another sip of her strawberry and vanilla tea, and as she flicked her tongue inside her mouth trying in vain to taste the two flavors that were absent from it, she thought to herself that this was getting quite old. Not that she had a problem with helping others when they needed her, but having to carry and take care of two exhausted and famished people in the space of a couple hours was a bit absurd.

    "…that's why I collapsed on the floor." Lucas finished telling his story, his hands trying to extract warmth from a cup of hot chocolate. "And then... well, you know the rest."

    Barry's eyes were glued to him as he told his story, hands grabbing his knees. "The part with the horde of Psyducks was really cool."

    She took another sip, mostly out of habit than anything else, and debated whether to scold or praise Lucas. She decided to go with half and half.

    "Well, it was time you got out of Rowan's shadow." She leaned back against the cushy leather sofa, touching shoulders with Barry. "Though I can't say crossing route 208 and part of Mt Coronet without a proper team or supplies was a good idea."

    Lucas looked down to his cup, a faint blush on his cheeks.

    "You can't make me feel bad for my decision." He tried to put some strength into his voice, but ended up making it break. "You were right; I have to study Pokemon on my own if I want to make a name for myself."

    She opened her mouth to reply but felt Barry's elbow lightly tap her ribs. He knit his eyebrows and shot her a look of Don't make fun of him. She pouted back and took the cup to her lips once again.

    "Hey man, that's great!" Barry reached to the other side of the small table and gave the boy a couple pats on the shoulder. "It's cool to see you break out of your shell, you know? So what if you kinda almost died a couple times? I'm sure the professor would be proud."

    Lucas crossed his arms unconsciously, hugging himself, and showed them a smile that made something jump inside the cold, uncaring void that was her chest. She raised the cup to her mouth to hide the red on her cheeks and gave Barry a side glance. Judging by his expression, she figured the boy's charm had worked on him too.

    He shouldn't be allowed to be that adorable, she protested to herself. There's just no justice.

    "T-thank you! I'll try my best!" He nodded energetically, lowering his mug to the table and reaching for something inside his backpack. "I already got so much information on Psyduck! I can't wait to show the professor what I found out about their migration process."

    He placed a small laptop on top of his knees, the same one she'd seen back in Sandgem. An idea appeared just at the edge of her mind, slightly out of reach.

    "That's… that's okay, bud." Barry raised both hands, forming a half smile. "No offense but I don't think I'd understand half of it."

    She clicked her tongue, foot slowly tapping the floor. What was she thinking about before? Something about that computer and Lucas…

    "Oh… yes, sorry." He nodded nervously, closing the laptop with care. "I'm sure you already have all the information you could need in your Pokédex…"

    A light turned on inside her mind, and her eyes opened wide. She could almost swear she felt one of her Pokeballs twitch a bit. Trying to appear casual, she looked around, making sure no one was eavesdropping on them. While the Pokemon Center was packed with a fair number of trainers none of them were close enough to hear anything they were saying, especially with the general noise all around.

    She leaned forward, eyebrows knit together, and left her cup at the table.

    "Lucas…" she said, trying to sound casual. "How much information would you say you have in that thing compared to the Pokédex?"

    He felt Barry's inquisitive eyes on her. She simply took her index finger to her lips, and pointed with her eyes to her belt.

    "Huh? Oh, well…" Lucas grabbed his chin. "A tad more, I guess? I have access to research papers and notes from trainers across the region."

    "From other trainers?" Barry asked. "What do you mean?"

    Lucas was about to answer when Inyssa elbowed Barry's arm.

    "He means other Pokédex Holders, you dingus." She shook her head. "If a trainer notices a new Pokemon behavior or trait that hasn't been documented they can add it to the database."

    "Well, technically yes," Lucas said. "That data has to be verified first by a specialist, and if it's deemed to be correct then it'll be added to the new versions of the Pokédex." He raised his index finger and smiled proudly, as if he were giving a lecture. "And I have access to all those data points, whether they've been verified or not. The professor trusted me with this information."

    "Yes we're all very proud of you." She cut him off with a gesture of her hand. "Listen, I need you to look something up on your computer, think you can do that for me?"

    "Of course! It's the least I can do for your help. What do you want to know?"

    "I need information on a certain Pokemon," she whispered. "Look up the words red, ghost and electric."

    Something shook inside one of her Pokeballs, and she could swear she felt a jolt of electricity hitting her hip.

    "No results on the official records," the boy said after a few seconds of searching. "Not even a mention of it…"

    She sat back, arms crossed, and unconsciously scratched the inside of her arm. Barry's expression seemed to say: Yeah, kinda figured.

    And after all the trouble she'd went to just to make Lucas warm up to her. Sure, that wasn't her initial plan, but it certainly would've been a nice compensation for her charitable actions. Her eyes moved once more to the Pokeball where Hao rested, and she bit the inside of her lip. Now the only lead they had lay with that old man from Team Galactic.

    "Well..." she sighed. "Guess it can't be h…"

    "Wait!" Lucas interrupted her, his big almond eyes widening. "There's one mention of it in the rejected data folder."

    She felt a spark running through her body, completely unrelated to the previous one.

    "It's an email. Here, let me read it for you." He cleared his throat in preparation, and started reading the text with a serious tone that would've made her chuckle if the situation were different. "Greetings, professor Rowan. I apologize for contacting you without any kind of previous notice, but as of now I can't rely on the Association to hold on to this information. I hope you remember me from the day you gave me my Charmander, my name is S…"

    His voice came to a halt, so suddenly he almost choked on his own breathing. He slowly looked up to meet her eyes, a hint of fear behind them, and didn't say anything else. Inyssa blinked a couple times, confused. What the hell was wrong with him? Why'd he stop out of nowhere? Why would reading a trainer's name cause that kind of react…?

    Realization hit her like a hammer, and for a moment she felt like she couldn't breathe. Of course, of ****ing course it had to be that. Next to her Barry's eyes opened wide; he had probably arrived at the same conclusion.

    Well, that explained why Lucas suddenly seemed scared of her. Last time she'd heard that name in his presence she ended up terrorizing him with the way she'd reacted. She closed her eyes for a few moments and breathed deeply, attempting to calm the storm that had formed inside her chest. She opened her mouth to speak, and her voice came a lot calmer than she'd expected.

    "I'm okay," she told him, tone emotionless. "Keep going."

    He looked at Barry, who shot him a look of Go on, she'll probably not want to kill you this time. Or maybe she was reading too much into his expression, who knows.

    "My name is… Shadi Dawn." He pronounced the name carefully. "As for the contents of this report, I wanted to inform you that I might have discovered a new species of Pokemon. As you might know, deep in Eterna forest lies an old chateau which has been abandoned for decades. I was training in the vicinity of the forest when I noticed something strange in one of the windows of the mansion, so I went in. Inside I encountered a few oddities not worth mentioning here, but most importantly I ran across a very powerful creature. It was gaseous in form, and its appearance was that of a red bolt with blue eyes, its body brimming with electricity…"

    Barry let out a small gasp of excitement, but Inyssa was too concentrated on Lucas' words to pay any attention to it. And while she felt a strange warmth at hearing her sister's words again, a stray thought appeared in her mind: Wow, gaseous? Its body brimming? She really did always talk like a nerd.

    "…unfortunately, I was not able to catch this Pokemon, as it ran away the moment I gained the upper hand," Lucas continued . "I've been camping inside this abandoned house for almost a week now, and though I find myself enjoying its antiquated commodities, I'm afraid I haven't run into the ghost Pokemon since. I will have to leave this place in a few days when I finish taking care of business, and I hope we can meet again in Sandgem Town by then. I will show you some sketches I drew of this strange creature and we can discuss how to collect more information on it. I apologize again for bothering you, professor. Sincerely yours, Shadi."

    He stopped reading, pausing to take a deep breath, and looked up at her expectantly. She simply stared at the small table at her feet, her mind storming with questions. Her body leaned forward, and she raised one hand to her face, massaging her eyelids and letting out a small sigh.

    "When was this message sent?" she asked.

    "Uh… hold on…" Lucas' eyes moved down to his computer. "Two years ago, almost exactly."

    Inyssa bit one of her fingers, enough to make it hurt just a little. Two years ago. After she lost against the Champion, but before she disappeared. Somewhere in the middle of her months of training, and possibly a few weeks before she saw her for the last time, back in that cold morning in Twinleaf.

    "Thanks," she said, "that's all I needed."

    Lucas' gaze moved from Inyssa to Barry, and then back to her. Worry formed a wrinkly, adorable line on his forehead.

    "Well, If I can help you with anything else…"

    "I'll be sure to let you know," she smiled. "Now, you should really get all that dust and dirt off your clothes and maybe take a bath and a nap. I'm sure you need it after what you've been through."

    "Yeah, we even booked in a room for you!" Barry said enthusiastically. "Trust me, those beds are comfier than falling asleep on top of an Altaria's wings."

    "T-thank you so much!" Lucas got up and bowed to the point his hat almost fell to the floor. "I'll be heading for Pastoria City as soon as I recover; I was assigned to study the Great Marsh and the Pokemon that live in it."

    "Don't forget to buy food," she reminded him. "And try to train your Pokemon whenever you can; you'll need them for protection."

    "We'll swing by Pastoria at some point to fight the Gym Leader," Barry added. "So we'll see you again for sure. Now go get some rest, man."

    Lucas nodded, and for a few seconds stood there with a look that told her he was debating wether to hug them or not. In the end he decided to air on the side of caution and simply headed towards the top floor toward his room.

    Inyssa grabbed her cup from the table and drank what was left of the tea. Cold, tasteless, and not enough to dissolve the knot formed in her throat. She applied more force to her fingers, briefly considering either breaking the mug in her hands or throwing it across the room. One option could end up with her hand covered in cuts, the other would attract unwanted attention from the rest of the trainers in the lobby.

    She clicked her tongue, trying to focus on anything else other than her thoughts. Was she breathing? Yes, but it felt like she needed more air than usual. She hadn't blinked in a few seconds and she felt a bothersome sting in her eyes. The tip of her fingers were red from grabbing onto the cup so strongly. Maybe if she just…

    "Niss." Barry's voice brought her back to reality, and she turned to him. His lips were stretched, pale. "Are you okay? We can go somewhere else if you want to."

    She shook her head, perhaps too quickly, and put one of her hands on his shoulder. It felt real, unlike everything else around her. She closed her eyes and tried to control her breathing, tried to tell her stupid heart to stop beating so hard because **** no, she was not going to have a panic attack with so many people around.

    Collect your thoughts, put them in order, she told herself. Just like Sarah taught you.

    "Why was she in Eterna Forest?" Her voice came out slightly more high pitched than she wished. "What was she doing there?"

    "Didn't she say she was training?" replied Barry, still observing her with caution.

    "Barry, we've been there," she said, frustration clinging to her voice. "And we got through it with just our second stage starters. Her Pokemon were as strong as those of an Elite Four; she would gain nothing from training in that place."

    His fingers started tapping on the couch's arm as his expression turned to one of concentration. She'd only seen him that contemplative a handful of times.

    "She also said she was investigating something. She spent an entire week there."

    She nodded weakly. Maybe she ran into the little girl Barry saw? The one she decided to interpret as just being an illusion created by that ghost Pokemon because seriously, she was not ready to think about the other possibility it entailed.

    "Do you think she was the Big Sis that little girl mentioned?" Barry asked, quicker on the uptake than she expected. "Since Metchi said that wasn't her."

    "Metchi could've lied," she said, "but… yeah, that's also a possibility."

    "What are you gonna do?"

    "Talk to Rowan as soon as I get the chance. If they really met after she sent him that email then he might know something about… this thing." She took the Pokeball out of her belt, examining it closely.

    She also hoped he would have any kind of lead or clue about her sister's whereabouts. It was a small chance, but she was not ready to let that small flame of hope die just yet. There had to be something hidden within all this; some kind of connection. The ghost Pokemon, her sister, Team Galactic, Mars… too many coincidences to just write them off.

    She imagined what Shadi would've told her: People are good at finding patterns where there are none.

    Great, and now the knot in her throat was back. She couldn't think properly in that state, she had to expel some energy somehow.

    Her gaze went to the other side of the room and moved between the rest of the young people sharing the lobby with them. All seemed to be around their age, sitting together in groups of two or more. Some ate their food while discussing their adventure, others sat around the gigantic plasma television arguing over what movie to pick, and a few of them were with their… significant others, so to speak. She ignored those the fastest.

    She felt eyes in her back, and when she turned around she noticed one of them looking away, trying to casually make it look like he wasn't staring. He looked around twenty, dark skin and short black hair combed stylishly. Next to him sat a girl quite a bit taller and with a muscular complexion, her long red hair tied in a ponytail. She wore a white tank top and had a dark green hoodie tied around her waist. The spark in her eyes sent shivers down her spine.

    They were the only two who looked like respectable trainers, and she had to stop herself from walking to their table and challenging them then and there.

    "I need to fight something." The words left her mouth before she had time to process them.

    "You mean like…" Barry looked at her, concerned.

    "A Pokemon battle," she clarified. "But I'm guessing it'd be rude to challenge people when they're trying to eat."

    "Yeah…" He nodded nervously, "maybe a bit."

    She considered her options for about half a second before getting up from the couch.

    "Let's go to the gym."

    "Oh boy," Barry muttered under his breath. "Come on Niss, we just got here. I thought we could stay for a few d…"

    "We're not going to challenge the Gym Leader, dumbass." She grabbed the sleeve of his shirt and pulled him up. "We'll fight her students and get a feel of what's waiting for us in there."

    Barry formed a smile, the kind that lit his eyes like fire.

    "I can get behind that," he said, punching his left palm with his right fist. "Whoever defeats more people gets another point."

    "You're on."

    -----------------------------------
    Getting to the gym ended up being quite the difficult task, though not for the reasons she would have imagined.

    As they made their way through the busy streets of Hearthome they had to stop themselves constantly from just… spending some time in every place they saw. Her mouth watered with possibilities as they ran across every single temptation imaginable. An ice cream shop which had every possible flavor under the sun was the first thing they saw, and she had to practically drag Barry while promising they would come back later.

    That wasn't the worst of it. A bakery which smelled like dreams right out of the oven, a shopping mall that sold every Pokeball, accessory and Battle Item she could possibly imagine, a clothes shop that sported a red coat and boots she fell in love with, and even a gigantic arcade which looked like a neon-nightmare of fun.

    And then there were the parks, or at least what she called them in lack of a better name. Every few blocks or so they saw springs surrounded by small fields of flowers or playgrounds full of comfortable benches which seemed so inviting it almost hurt not to sleep a few minutes there. Wherever they went they couldn't take their eyes off the city itself, almost like it was trying to charm them. Which made it embarrassing when they finally arrived at the gym and she almost ran into a wall due to being distracted by one of the local businesses.

    "Yeah, I was about to say. Careful ahead." Barry chuckled.

    "Shut up," she replied, adjusting her hat while trying to hide her blush.

    The building was… quite smaller than she expected, especially for a city like Hearthome. For one, it didn't seem wide enough to accommodate a proper arena. Marble stairs led to a thick pair of wooden doors reinforced with iron, and from the sides of them rose two small towers made of really old stone. The entire place gave her the feel of a small castle, which was a bizarre choice for a gym.

    Two people stood at each side of the doors, probably in their mid twenties and wearing unnaturally formal black suits with a white shirt and black tie underneath. The girl was the first to speak as they made their way up the stairs.

    "Can we help you?" Her voice was barely above a whisper.

    "We are Lady Fantina's entourage," clarified the man, bowing to them ever so lightly. "What brings you here?"

    Inyssa and Barry exchanged looks, just to make sure the other had felt the same chill down their spine. Something about their voice and the heavy shadows they carried under their eyes…

    "We're looking for a good fight." Barry finally replied, showing a confident smile. "Any of you up to it?"

    "And we would like to meet the Gym Leader as well," she added.

    The woman arched the corner of her lip downward, and turned to her partner. He closed his very tired looking eyes and sighed, both hands on his hips.

    "You can't meet her." He spoke as if he'd been repeating those words endlessly. "And we can't fight you either."

    "What?" Barry jumped in place, taking the hands out of his pockets. "Isn't this the Gym?"

    "Indeed, but I'm afraid Lady Fantina isn't available at the moment," the woman said, crossing her arms, "and we are not allowed to take on challengers unless it's in very specific circumstances."

    She felt her spirits drop lower than the floor, and the exhaustion and anxiety she'd been trying to hold back began to buzz around her head.

    "Are you kidding me? Again?" Barry protested, shoulders low. "It's just like in Oreburgh."

    "Does any Gym Leader in this region do their ****ing job!?" She added, heat and anger imbuing her voice.

    "Don't talk about Lady Fantina like that!" The man took a step forward, his ears turning red. "She is the greatest, most wondrous leader in all of Sinnoh!"

    "And she doesn't have time for every second-class trainer who comes to her door," his partner added. "If you wish to have a chance to challenge her you should know that you need to take the tr…"

    Air escaped her lips as her body froze, and both of her eyes opened like plates. The man took a step back, sight fixated on something behind Inyssa.

    She stared at them in confusion and opened her mouth to speak, and that's when the cold hit her.

    She looked down to her feet. Her shadow had become pitch black, and before she could process what was happening it changed in shape, elongating through the ground like tendrils of darkness. Something started to emerge from it, and her heart stopped for a moment.

    A robust, purple creature made from shadows ascended from the darkness behind her body, its blood-red eyes glued to hers. Black spikes rose from its back and below where its nose should have been she saw a cold, unwavering smile of white teeth. She recognized the Pokemon, which didn't mean it didn't freak her the **** out.

    "ARCEUS F…!" Barry jumped backwards with so much force he tripped on the steps, falling on his butt in a manner that would've made her laugh in any other situation. "What is that!?"

    "L…Lady Fantina's Gengar," she heard the man's voice behind her. "What… brings you here?"

    The ghost Pokemon extended one of its short, purple arms to the two guards, its eyes never moving from Inyssa. She took a step back and tried to wipe the horrified look off her face. In its hands was a small, ornate piece of paper that it handed to the woman, who grabbed it carefully and started reading it.

    "It says… Let Her In?" she read it with a mix of confusion and incredulousness in her tone. "Is she serious?"

    Gengar let out a chuckle that made her skin crawl and started to dissolve again in the darkness of her shadow, until it disappeared completely. She still hadn't moved an inch.

    Sleeping tonight ain't gonna be easy, she thought.

    "Well…" The male guard swallowed, and his gaze went from his partner to the two kids. "You heard her. It seems our Fair Lady wishes to have a meeting, so you should not make her wait ."

    Inyssa closed her eyes and tried to push the burning spider-web of thoughts in her mind deeper, to a place where it wouldn't bother her for a while. She would deal with that chaos later, in the darkness of her room where no one could see her face. Right now she had business to take care of.

    "I'll be back in a few minutes." She turned to Barry, giving him a thumbs up.

    "Sure!" he replied with a smile that wasn't quite right. "I'll just go to the ice cream store in the meantime and eat until I can't move."

    -----------------------------------
    Halfway in she realized she forgot to ask the guards what room the Gym Leader was in, but by then it was too late. Besides, she could almost make up a bit of light through one of the doors on the second floor. She made her way through the ornate black marble staircase, feeling the place get colder with every step she took.

    Reaching the door, she put a hand over the knob and opened it carefully, cold sweat beginning to form on the back of her neck. She opened it to reveal a medium sized room, with merely a white table in the middle of it, standing on top of a red and gold carpet. In the furthest corner of the table sat a woman, a cup of wine on one hand and what seemed like a small book on the other.

    "Inyssa! Welcome, my dear." She spoke with a deep voice, smooth as silk. "Glad to see you could make it. Have a seat, would you?"

    Inyssa stood in place, not knowing what to do. Was this the Gym Leader? Why did she know her name?

    The woman was probably in her early forties, her pale and oval shaped face covered with the slightest hints of makeup. Her purple hair was tied in four buns which formed an X behind her head. She wore a full-length, strapless purple dress which was quite… close fitting, if she had to choose a term to describe it. Small amounts of white glitter covered it from the top to the tip of the skirt, and close to her hip there was what appeared to be a yellow ribbon with the shape of a plus sign.

    She'd never seen such a lavish outfit outside of maybe a wedding, and here this woman was wearing it for her afternoon snack hour. There was something strangely familiar about her appearance, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it.

    "Are you the Gym Leader?" she asked, her voice thin.

    "Yours truly," she nodded. "My name is Fantina Anabelle Katelyn Dusk. You might have heard of me from my modeling career, or perhaps my title as Master of Pokemon Contests. But for the purposes of this meeting I will say admit, yes, I am the current Gym Leader of Hearthome."

    She couldn't help but let out a small gasp; so that was it. She'd seen this woman before, many years ago when she had competed against her mother in the finals of a very important Pokemon Contest. The inside of her mouth turned sour, and she couldn't help but make a face at the unpleasant thought.

    Contests… she'd always hated them, completely unrelated to the fact that they were her mother's job. She saw them as nothing but a mockery of real battling; using Pokemon for little dances and artistic shows while dressing them in stupid clothing. A complete waste of time.

    "I'm Inyssa Dawn," she replied, tone dry. "Pleased to meet you."

    "The pleasure is all mine," Fantina said, articulating with her free hand toward the chair to her left. "Once again, please have a seat."

    She walked toward her with caution in her step, and slowly sat down on the white chair covered in gold ornaments. It was extremely cold. On top of the table there was one plate, which contained only three slices of blue cheese and a parsley leaf. Next to it was the small book the woman had been reading, its title…

    "Springy the Bunnelby?" the question came out of her mouth before she could stop it. "Isn't that a comic book for kids?"

    "Ah! I see you're familiar with it." Her eyes widened, excitement clear in her voice. "Do you also enjoy them?"

    She gulped, saddened that she couldn't take a step back due to being on a chair, "Uh… I mean, yeah when I was like, six."

    "A true masterpiece." The woman closed her eyes and let out a deep, perfect sigh. "It takes great talent to create entertainment suitable for both children and adults, don't you think?"

    Inyssa looked around, trying to make sure there weren't any hidden cameras and this wasn't someone playing a prank on her. She didn't know what she expected from the so-called terrifying master of ghost Pokemon that was rumored to be Hearthome's Gym Leader, but this definitely wasn't it.

    "I…" She stammered, trying to find her words, "I'm… sorry for the rudeness, but why did you call me here?"

    "Of course, I apologize." She placed the glass filled with blood-red wine on the table, and showed her a smile of perfect white teeth. "Sarah contacted me three days ago, telling me you would be coming by. She asked me to keep an eye on you."

    "S…Sarah?" she asked, brow furrowed. "You mean like… Barry's mom?"

    "Yes, we are very good friends, she and I." Fantina smiled, her white gloves glistening.

    Sarah's words came to her mind, something that she'd told her just before they left Eterna City. She had trusted someone in Hearthome to look after them, one of her close friends.

    "…and after I got the news from my dear Gardenia about what incredible trainers you two are, well I just had to meet you personally."

    "Dear? Wait, are you two…?" she started talking but the woman interrupted her.

    "So there's your answer," she stated. "To be honest there are a few things I'd like to discuss with you, Inyssa, but I think it's better if our little chat starts with one topic in particular."

    She shifted in her seat, not comfortable with literally anything inside that room.

    "Yeah? What topic?"

    Fantina leaned forward, putting her elbows on the table and resting her chin on her hands. Her deep, black eyes went to hers and Inyssa suddenly felt like the temperature of the room dropped drastically.

    "Tell me, darling," she said, almost singing her words, "why haven't you opened the letter Johanna sent you?"

    Inyssa blinked, not processing what she'd just heard.

    "W-what?"

    "Your mother's letter," she repeated. "You haven't read it yet. She is very worried, you know."

    Her body moved before her mind could catch up to it. She got up from the chair so violently it almost toppled to the ground, and her feet carried her to the other side of the room. She grabbed the doorknob and tried to turn it, to no avail. The door was locked.

    "Let me go."

    "Interesting. I see your attitude was not exaggerated." Fantina muttered to herself. "Inyssa, I just wish to talk. I assure you I have no ill intentions."

    Heat traveled from her stomach to the rest of her body, especially her face and hands. Needles of anger pricked at her fingertips.

    "What do you care?" she spat at the woman. "How do you even know about…?"

    "Johanna is also a very close… well, I would say even the word friend doesn't describe it properly." She sighed. "We used to be partners, back in the day. I taught her everything she knows about Contests."

    "I don't care," was her simple reply. "That doesn't give you the right to ask about my personal life."

    "True," she nodded. "I can't say I'm well informed about the relationship you and Johanna have, and it would be wrong of me to judge you for your decisions on the matter. However I do believe that her worry is well founded, from what I've heard about you."

    "Yeah?" she asked, trying to suppress a twitch in her eye. "What have you heard about me?"

    Fantina delicately moved a strand of hair from her face. The smile she'd displayed before had all but disappeared, and the force behind her eyes was almost enough to intimidate Inyssa.

    "By some accounts I've heard that you're a dedicated, powerful trainer with nerves of steel and an admirable spirit," she said. "By others, however, I've gotten the impression that you're a reckless teenager with an extremely short fuse who doesn't listen to anyone and ends up in deadly situations at an alarming rate. I called you here because I wanted to draw my own conclusions on the matter; I'm a very good judge of character, you see."

    "And what's your diagnosis, doc?" She imbued her voice with the most obvious fake gentleness she could. "Because I'm afraid I might have come down with a terrible case of go **** yourself."

    Fantina let out a short chuckle, "Ah... quaint. I can see a bit of both in you, but I consider it too early to make a decision just yet." She leaned on the chair, arched back like a Purrloin. "You have that Dawn fire in your bones for sure, which makes it unfortunate that you lack Johanna's grace or Shadi's temperance…"

    Inyssa kicked one of the edges of the table with all the strength she had in her. Her intention might have been toppling it over as a good expression of how she was feeling but the table was heavy and all she accomplished was shaking it a bit, one of the candle holders falling to its side. Fantina simply shook her head and sighed.

    "I am not them!" She yelled with enough force to hurt her throat. "I am sick and ****ing tired of getting compared to everyone in my family!"

    "It will keep happening, I'm afraid."

    Fantina's legs uncrossed and she rose to her feet with the elegance of a petal floating in the wind. She took a few steps towards her and the sound of her stilettos hitting the ground felt like someone was pecking her brain.

    "People will keep comparing you to those who've come before you," she said, "because that's what people do."

    "Why?" she asked, sounding more desperate than angry. "I don't get it, everyone makes such a big ****ing deal about it." She crossed her arms, unconsciously trying to make herself smaller. "Who cares about my mom or Shadi? They have nothing to do with me or with my career as a trainer."

    "From an ideal standpoint, you're right," said Fantina. "But the reality is that a comparison between them and you is inevitable. They both became famous for very different, but important reasons. Their accomplishments are still fresh in Sinnoh's memory."

    "I…" She felt her breathing getting heavy. "I don't care. I am not them."

    Fantina shot her a look which was hard to describe. She felt like the woman was staring directly at her soul.

    "Tell me something, Inyssa." She placed a finger on her chin. "If I remember correctly you wish to become the Champion, do you not?"

    "Y-yes." She lowered her head. "More than anything."

    "Then you will have to learn how to deal with people constantly comparing you to others," she said, raising her hand, palm up. "Do you know what characterizes a proper Champion?"

    "They're… very strong?"

    "Well yes, that is an essential component, but it's hardly all there is to it. Since old times the Champion has been a paragon of the best traits our land has to offer. They have all been exceptionally virtuous and kind to accompany their overwhelming strength, especially after the war waged against Kanto." She spoke with passion, hand curled into a fist. "However when I look at you I see none of these things. A spiteful child who can't stop herself from verbally assaulting anyone who gets a rise from her will never be fit to be the Champion."

    She grit her teeth, palms white from the force her fingers were applying to them. She wanted to yell at her, she wanted to say anything to defend herself or to simply hurt her, but she couldn't. All the rage and stress she'd been trying to repress rose up to her throat, choking her when she opened her mouth to speak. Instead she simply looked down at the floor and tried to contain the sting she began to feel in her eyes.

    "Why do you care?" she finally asked after what seemed like an entire minute. "Why are you telling me this?"

    "Because I'm rooting for you, Inyssa."

    She felt one of Fantina's hands on top of her shoulder. It was cold, strangely so considering she was wearing gloves.

    "What happened in your family was… unfortunate." She spoke with a sorrowful tone. "None of you deserved it. Not Johanna, one of the people I love most; not Shadi who was a... very dedicated person; and definitely not you," Inyssa looked up at her. Why had her face gone dark after mentioning Shadi?. "I can see you're a good kid despite all that brews in that head of yours, and the least I owe to your mother and Sarah is to try and help you."

    Inyssa bit her lip, feeling her legs shake just a bit. There was no anger left inside her, just cold apathy.

    "If this is what you call help then I hope you never become a therapist," she said, tone dry.

    "I apologize," Fantina smiled, "but you needed to hear that. I know what you're capable of, Inyssa. I believe you have a chance of becoming the Champion, but you have to learn to conduct yourself around others."

    Inyssa took a hand to her face, wiping the wetness running down her cheek.

    "What do you want me to do?" she asked, pride taking the back seat in her mind.

    "For now? Go have a great day, and when you have time, reflect on yourself." Fantina turned around and walked towards her chair, her hips moving to the sides with every step.

    "I'm gonna drown myself in ice cream."

    "Sounds wonderful," she replied. "As for your second task, well… do you know how I deal with challengers in my gym?"

    She shook her head weakly, which prompted the old woman to smile proudly.

    "Being a famous Contest star means I don't quite have time to accept every youngster that comes to my Gym as an opponent. As such, I have a rule to only battle four times per week."

    "Oh god, please tell me there's not a queue."

    "Not quite," she said. "Every trainer who wishes to challenge me will need to pass a test designed by yours truly. This trial occurs every Monday morning, which gives the competitors one chance per week."

    She forced her brain to start working again, asking it to give her the current day. It was Tuesday.

    "Where is the trial held?" she asked, feeling some of her strength coming back to her limbs.

    "East of here, in the northern part of Route 209 lies a very special place." Fantina sat down once more, crossing her legs and picking up her fork. "Locals call it the Lost Tower, and it's rumored to be one of the oldest buildings in all of Sinnoh. The trial will take place in the subterranean chambers underneath it."

    She closed her hand into a fist, and the smallest hint of a smile appeared on her face. Battling, now that was something she could do very well.

    "I'll be there," she assured the Gym Leader, fire in her eyes, "and I'll show you why I deserve to become the Champion."

    "I sincerely hope you do." She nodded, taking a sip of her cup of wine. "You have six days to train and think about things. Make good use of them."

    Without another word Inyssa turned around and headed towards the door. She almost made her way to it when she heard Fantina's voice again.

    "And again, I know it isn't my place to interfere, but…" Her tone was a lot warmer than before. "Please, open that letter. Tell your mother you're okay."

    "I will," she replied, no hint of anger in her voice. "Goodbye."
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
  13. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    I let this one get away from me a bit, huh. D: Well, let's use some of this holiday time to catch up. Chapter 17 is a bit of a slow one, and it doesn't tell us too much that we didn't already know, but it's fun to have all three of our sometime POV characters in one place, and Barry's a good choice for a viewpoint from which to watch Niss and Metchi butting heads. Two people who really don't see how similar they are, huh. They're definitely much too alike to get on at all.

    So: good thing Niss has Barry. It's interesting how when they started out, she was the one holding him back from impulsive things, and now he's the one reining her in; he tries to be conciliatory with Metchi, and when they're talking to Lucas, it's him who stops Inyssa being mean to him. I guess this is something they each do for the other, but it certainly seems to me that recently Barry's doing a whole lot more of it than Niss is; she's got very driven and very reckless since the incident at the Windworks, and he, for his part, has got a lot more considerate – perhaps because Niss has turned into someone who needs that kind of person around her.

    It's kind of cute, especially since obviously it's easy for a reader to see their past selves in these two dumb kids; still, I'm looking forward to the point where Niss finally figures out how much Barry's been doing for her recently and reacts appropriately. Like, she's not a particularly charitable person, a lot of the time, but whenever she notices that Barry's done something for her, she is grateful. So that'll be sweet.

    And Shadi's name has recurred again! It was always clear that she was going to be connected to all this somehow, but we're finally getting a few hints as to how: some investigation in Eterna Forest, some connection to the ghosts of the chateau. Interesting.

    Then, in Hearthome, we have another gym leader. These have pretty much universally been great, memorable characters in this fic, and Fantina's no exception; I do really like how much leeway there is to make gym leaders your own in fic, since they usually don't have too much personality of their own. Iirc all there is in-game about Fantina is that she's like slightly French or something? Anyway, I like your take on her; you can see why it was she ended up specialising in ghost-types, and how much fun she has leaning into her spooky aesthetic.

    I also like how blunt she's willing to be with Niss. That was necessary, at this point. What remains to be seen is whether Inyssa takes her advice on board. We'll find that out in due time, I suppose!

    I think I'd have 'it' rather than 'that' here, but I honestly couldn't tell you why exactly, so maybe just ignore me.

    This is another preposition mix-up – that should be 'clear the road of any wild Pokémon', rather than 'from'. Or, if you wanted to stick with from, you could have 'clear any wild Pokémon from the road', I guess.

    That should be a comma rather than an ellipsis, since it's part of the same sentence as the dialogue on the other side of the attribution. Also, 'speak' is a weird word – you can use it to describe the fact that someone's speaking (“After listening for a while, they spoke.”), but you can't use it in an attribution (“'I know you told me not to do this,' she spoke.”) – so in this case, that should be 'Niss said' rather than 'Niss spoke up'. I don't really know why this is a thing, but apparently it is.

    That part in the middle isn't a dialogue attribution – it doesn't have a 'he said' or equivalent anywhere in there – so you can't join it to the dialogue with commas and stuff as you do here. You could have 'he said, trying to make his voice as calm and neutral as possible'; that would work.

    'He' shouldn't be capitalised here.

    Looks like something is missing somewhere here – I think it should be 'Stop trying to trick me into telling you stuff'.

    Again, 'spoke' can't be used like 'say'.

    That should be 'digging up all this stuff'.

    'He' should be capitalised here.

    That should be 'can't risk being seen by anyone.'

    Again, 'he' should be capitalised.

    That should be 'learned' rather than 'learn' – it's already happened, rather than something that's happening now. Also, I think there's an 'it' missing before the second 'was'.

    That's really awkwardly phrased; it would read better to say something like 'It was a strange mix of ancient and modern'.

    That should be 'lay', rather than 'lied'. Past tense of the kind of lying that involves not telling the truth is 'lied'; past tense of the kind of lying that involves lying down is 'lay'.

    That should just be 'vicinity'; no need to make it plural.

    I'm glad Niss pointed that out, because otherwise I'd have to. :V Man, Shadi really did over-write that email a whole bunch.

    I'd put a comma after 'one' here.

    'He' shouldn't be capitalised, and there should be a comma after 'replied'. Unless I'm misinterpreting what you were going for here, which on reflection I think I might be.

    There should be a comma after 'friends' here.

    It's Inyssa who's doing this, right? It initially seemed like it was Fantina, because Fantina was the one who was last mentioned, but I don't think it's right. Anyway, replacing 'She' with 'Inyssa' would clarify things and stop readers making that mistake.

    That should be a full stop, not a comma.

    More prepositional confusion – that should be 'from', not 'of'.

    'She' shouldn't be capitalised here – it's an attribution attached to that first line of dialogue.
     
  14. Firaga Metagross

    Firaga Metagross Auferstanden Aus Ruinen

    Oh boy, I sure do love to fall behind on reviewing these.

    Chap. 16
    Definitely gave me more of the "in-between events" chapter vibes, but having it focus on Metchi was a good way to mix up the formula. I like how Barry's become the reasonable person who has to contend with not just one but two people who have a tendency to be around dangerous BS. I haven't seen him written in this role anywhere else. Niss and Metchi definitely don't seem to like each other; maybe its because of how alike they are :p

    Chap. 17
    Ooh, a serious chapter. Galactic definitely gives off threatening vibes in this story. Metchi tells them they're going to die and they're like "cool". These kids have the most aggressively bad sense of self preservation I've seen. Despite being the "jaded" one, Niss definitely seems to be the most stubbornly idealistic.

    Chap. 18
    Lucas, too, studied self preservation under Niss. I kind of like how your characters are allowed to feel attraction like normal people, it feels much more human than the chasteness of the canon stories. The plot's thickening again. Glad, Shadi's plot is getting some more mentioning. Feels like its been on the back-burner because of all the galactic stuff. Fatima seems exceptionally...rude? Intrusive? Maybe it's because Johannna and her are close, but having a stranger talk like that is pretty aggressive.
     
  15. TheAlpar

    TheAlpar Journey Enthusiast

    To Cutlerine: Thank you so much!!! Sorry I took such a long time to reply; it's been super busy over here D: I'm glad you liked these chapters!! Just like you say, Barry might be a goof and super clueless sometimes but when Niss needs him he always steps up to it, he's a great friend. And yeah these two are my dumbs and I love them... as for Shadi, I hope you'll like the following chapters :3c once again thank you so much for your grammar fixes!!! You're the best.

    To Firaga: Thank you as well! And yeah I think you put it better than anyone; these kids' sense of preservation is simply terrible. But that's exactly why I love them. And yes, Fantina does tend to be quite... aggressive in her way of helping people. Once again thank you and I hope you enjoy the next chapters!


    Chapter 19: What you Lack - Part 1
    Barry roamed through the streets of Hearthome, head down and path aimless.

    He passed the ice cream store, barely paying any attention to it before walking past it. He'd lied to Niss; any cravings he might've had for the cold, sweet dessert had been replaced with that bothersome feeling of unease setting in the pit of his stomach.

    He kicked a can of soda laying on the side of the street. It went flying towards a nearby trash bin and scared a couple of Starly, who flew away at the sound of the crash. That felt good. Kicking, walking fast, stomping his feet on the ground with every step he took, it all helped to slowly get rid of the unusual heat running through his body. It took him a few minutes to realize why exactly he felt that way, and by the time he got the answer he regretted it.

    Niss had been given permission to speak with the Gym Leader. Of course she had, he felt stupid just thinking that for once people would treat them equally. Why would they? She was the better trainer, as everyone who met them immediately realized. Infinitely more dedicated and smart than the sidekick she brought along with her everywhere.

    He wondered why the Champion didn't just surrender the title already, since Niss was so friggin great and all.

    His shoulders dropped, fingers curling strongly into fists. He shouldn't think those things; none of what was happening was his friend's fault, and being bitter about the situation wouldn't help. Niss had been through a lot of really bad things, and the least she deserved was getting some recognition for her effort.

    A sudden gust of wind hit him from behind, ruffling up his hair and bringing him back to reality. He blinked, standing up straight, and looked to his right to one of the most stunning buildings he'd ever seen.

    He had somehow arrived to what seemed like a cathedral, standing painfully out of place between two tall skyscrapers. Its main tower rose to at least forty feet, not quite as tall as some of the structures he'd seen in the city but certainly impressive. It was built with smooth, pale stone which reflected the light of the sun. The enormous windows at the side were made of stained glass, depicting shapes that he couldn't quite recognize from afar.

    How had he gotten there? Where even was he? He figured he was heading towards the Pokemon Center and just let his feet do the walking, but he would've remembered such a place if he'd seen it before.

    He passed through the steel gates, too curious to turn back. A short path lead to the oval shaped hole that was the cathedral's entrance, and two small but impressively laid out flower patches rested at his side coating the air with a sweet, musky scent. As he approached he noticed that the walls and pillars were each engraved with distinct, spiraling patterns only visible from up close.

    The inside was quite a contrast, though equally impressive. To his left was a marble pedestal about half his size, with a bowl on top of it full of what he assumed was holy water. To his left lay another one, holding a small box with a stamp that read Donations. He washed his hands and deposited some change in that box before proceeding.

    In front of him two rows of ornate wooden pews ran through most of the length of the room, stopping just a few feet before the altar. He made his way towards it, the sound of his feet against the ceramic echoing all around him. In between the thick stone pillars at the sides of the seats he spied some of the stained glass he'd seen from outside.

    Most of them were people he didn't know, dressed in robes and garments from times long past. Others he recognized easily, like the cheery Mew or the three pixie legendaries, their piercing golden eyes staring down at him with an intensity which made him nervous. With the exception of Uxie, of course, whose eyelids remained always closed. He felt a strange warmth behind his eyes, which disappeared as soon as he blinked.

    Before he knew it he arrived at the feet of the altar, and his eyes went directly to the opposite wall, where the last glass picture stood. It clearly showed the peak of Mt Coronet, as seen from the city, standing proud and mighty as he'd seen it just a few days before. At the very top a blinding light shone all over the mountain, parting the sky in half. He looked at it for what felt like minutes, mouth slightly agape and a stunned look on his face. What was he…?

    "Beautiful, isn't it?"

    He shook his head, mind clearing of that strange fog. He blinked a few times, disoriented, and turned towards the voice he'd just heard.

    A tall woman stood a few feet from him, posture rigid and hands behind her back. She wore a long, black coat that reached to her ankles, with puffy frills at the neck and base of it. Her straight, blonde hair reached to her hips and part of it obscured her left eye. She was pale, slightly more than Niss, and her skin seemed to reflect light the same way the stones of the cathedral did.

    She must have realized how long Barry stared at her, and tried to stiffle a laugh. He felt heat run up to his cheeks.

    "H-hi!" he stammered, bowing to the woman. "I'm… I'm Barry, hi."

    "Hello Barry," she smiled. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I apologize for ruining your concentration, it's just that I don't see many kids who are interested in these sort of artistic pieces."

    Her voice made him flinch. It wasn't unpleasant; far, far from it. It traveled through the still air between them and hit him gently, easing the knot that had formed in his stomach and washing it away with ease. He felt painfully aware of every word she spoke, every movement of her mouth; the way her lips gave shape to those sounds and turned them into something calming and powerful. The moment that thought appeared in his mind he shook his head, aware of how much he was blushing.

    "I… just kinda ended up here by accident," he admitted. A small wrinkle formed at the edges of her stormy grey eyes. Another smile. "I just got to Hearthome so... uh…"

    "You still looked very interested in it, and I think that's what matters. This really is one of the most striking places in all of Sinnoh." She looked up at the stained glass once more. "I like to come here whenever I pass through this city. It feels like a memory from a world that's no longer with us."

    He narrowed his eyes at her. "You're not... from here?"

    "Not technically." She crossed her arms beneath her chest. "I consider all of Sinnoh to be my home, but I suppose if we were to be technical you could say I'm from Celestic Town."

    "Oh yeah, the place with the ruins, right? What's it like?"

    Her expression changed multiple times within a few moments, ranging from a deep momentary sadness to a prideful smile. He blinked in confusion, not having any idea how he'd managed to notice all that.

    "It's a small town, and not many people visit. It holds an ancient history that few places do, and even without the polish and grandeur of a city like this…" She looked around, taking in a deep sigh, "...it's still beautiful in its own way."

    "O-oh," was his well thought out response. "I'm from Twinleaf. It's cool there, lots of trees and stuff. Kinda quiet."

    The woman's laughter forced him to take a step back. The tingly feeling behind his eyes came back and for a moment he seemed to understand, at least somewhat. There was a subtle, latent strength to the way she carried herself. Every movement of her body looked perfect and premeditated, every word seemed so carefully built, and every laugh was a small ember escaping the raging fire he felt burning inside her.

    Then the feeling disappeared again, and that understanding left him completely, leaving an aching void inside his chest.

    "I've been to the Twinleaf pine-tree plantations and the outskirts of Lake Verity, they really are a sight to behold. I enjoy traveling the region, and seeing with my own eyes each piece of beauty my dear Sinnoh possesses. All so different, and yet the same in essence." A wistful sigh escaped her lips, and Barry had to force himself to stop staring at them. "Oh, sorry for my rudeness. I didn't even ask what you were doing here in Hearthome."

    The question caught him by surprise, and he went through a lot of lies inside his head before he realized he had no reason not to tell her the truth. Why did he feel so defensive all of a sudden?

    "The Gym," he said, only a moment later realizing she needed more context. "I'm a trainer, I'm taking on the League challenge. Wanna become the Champion and all that."

    She turned her eyes to him, lips curling into a smile. "Oh, really? How interesting."

    Barry felt as though lightning had struck him. The grey of her eyes came to life, bringing the whole strength of their inner storm on top of him, paralyzing him completely. That was not the gaze of an old (was she old? He honestly couldn't tell if she was twenty or forty) woman who was slightly interested in him, but the glare of a Pokemon about to jump on its prey.

    He realized then what was so entrancing about her. She was beautiful, yes, but not in the same way as Niss or Gardenia, not in the subjective and biased way a person would judge her. Her beauty was something deep and unshakeable and dangerous that one had to admire from afar. Most beautiful people he'd seen were like the painting of a fire; this woman was the fire itself.

    She blinked once, and that oppressive feeling disappeared. He could breathe again.

    "I'm a trainer too, you know," she said, breaking eye contact. "Perhaps one day we'll meet in battle. I certainly hope so."

    "Y-you do?"

    "Absolutely. You have the spirit of a true trainer, something very few possess. I can feel it burning inside your chest. Warm, expansive and very gentle." She tilted her head to the side slightly with each word, enjoying them like a delicacy. "A pleasant feeling indeed."

    Not a single thing she said made sense to him, and even though he should've been doubting the woman was even sane he found himself clinging to her every word. Especially…

    "T-thanks." He smiled back. "But I'm not that good. My friend Niss is much better than me, you should see her."

    "Is she? Then I'm even more excited." She moved forward and backward on the ball of her feet. "But please don't sell yourself short, Barry. I am not joking when I say I feel a tremendous strength inside of you. And when the time comes…" She paused for a second, and formed a daunting smile. "I'm sure you'll show the entire world what you're capable of."

    He didn't know what to answer, didn't think he even could. An entire minute seemed to pass before she spoke again, right after turning around towards the exit on the opposite side of the room.

    "Now I'm afraid I have business to take care of," she said. "But it really was a pleasure to meet you, Barry. I am certain we will see each other again, but until then…"

    "Y-yeah!" He came back to his senses, once again bowing slightly to her. "Thanks for the kind words… uh…"

    She smiled with her back toward him, tilting her head slightly to the side.

    "You can call me Cynthia."

    And before he had a chance to say anything else she walked out of the cathedral, leaving him alone with his thoughts.

    -----------------------------

    Inyssa would've liked to say she came back to the Pokemon Center with fire in her eyes and determination in her gut, but that couldn't have been further away from the truth. Her feet hurt, her heart pounded just a bit too strongly and her mind was a royal mess from the events of the day.

    So she decided to make a list to keep herself in order. Buy food, something nutritious and with some vegetables sprinkled in, something that would aid her sleep that night. Talk to Barry, inform him of the trial situation and pretend not to notice that something was bothering him. She would address that later, right now she was in no condition to have another emotional talk. Take a shower, heat turned up to the highest setting and the sound of the pouring water distracting her from her thoughts. Let the scalding water hurt her just enough for that.

    And finally tuck herself in bed early, so that she'd be ready to train when the morning came. She went about these steps almost automatically, her mind wandering someplace else and herself feeling not entirely within her body. She hung her white cotton hat on top of the night lamp and threw herself beneath the sheets, taking in the fresh, lavender smell of them. She closed her eyes, extinguishing everything, and finally felt the weight of that day falling on top of her.

    She remembered Fantina's advice. She remembered her mother's letter and how predictably sappy it ended up being once she gathered the courage to look at it. And she remembered her sister, and that email.

    It didn't hit her until that moment that she'd been walking on the same steps as her those past weeks. She'd been to the same abandoned house, met the same Pokemon and even managed to catch it. She'd met people who knew her, who knew Shadi and what an incredible person she was. And even after meeting Inyssa, someone so unqualified to even reach her boots, those people seemed to believe in her. Believed that she would one day surpass her and leave all of her accomplishments behind.

    She turned to the side of the bed, half her face buried in her pillow. Her eyes stung, and she could hear the beating of her own heart in her ears. She tried to retreat to her sleep, where none of those thoughts would reach her, and finally accomplished it after only a few minutes of crying.

    It ended up being a pleasant night, at least when compared to the past weeks.

    -----------------------------
    The remaining six days passed by quickly for Barry, or at least quicker than he would've expected with a deadline hanging above his head. He'd always been bad with those, the pressure of a time limit making the days longer and unbearable and him a nervous wreck.

    But he had Niss now to get him through it, or at the very least part of her. His friend seemed somewhat out of it during the time they spent together in Hearthome.

    He knew their Pokemon needed to get through the training of their lives if they were to have a chance of beating that trial, but she seemed to be taking it just a bit too seriously. Every day they woke up at seven and headed to the outskirts of town to work on their basics and fight wild Pokemon, and they wouldn't come back until at the earliest two in the afternoon when their stomachs started growling. They would have lunch, their Pokemon would recover and a couple hours later they'd be back at it again until nightfall.

    He had to practically drag her then to explore the town and at least make an effort to enjoy their time there. But with only a couple of free hours a day the best they could do was a movie, an ice cream date or a short time at the local arcade. She seemed to enjoy it, but not to the extent he expected.

    She was caught up in her own head again, and he hated himself for not knowing how to help her. He was sure something must have happened when she talked with the Gym Leader, but when he asked about it she simply told him that the woman had personally invited them to the trial, and nothing more. Another thing for the pile of stuff Niss didn't trust to share with him, another lie. Part of him felt like he should've been getting used to it, but he wasn't.

    Something strange happened the day before the trial. They were roaming the outskirts of Route 208 as usual, and all of their Pokemon were concentrated on a specific exercise they've prepared for them. Pedri and Shadi used their fins and scythes respectively on small boulders, attempting to cut them in half with a single blow. And close to them Enma coated himself in fire and used Flame Wheel on a row of pillars with empty bottles on top of them, trying to maneuver between them without knocking any over.

    They practically had nothing to do for the moment, which is probably why Niss addressed him.

    "Hey, Barry," she said with a low tone, walking towards him with her arms crossed. "Can I ask you something stupid?"

    He stared at her stunned for a moment, then composed the biggest smile he could and threw his arms behind his head, attempting to look casual.

    "I thought stupid questions were my thing, but sure."

    She looked to the floor, and a heavy shadow fell her eyes. She stammered for a few seconds before finding her words.

    "Do you think… I mean, when you look at me…" She bit her lip, eyebrows knit together, "can you… imagine me as the Champion? Do you think I can really do it... as myself?"

    The question caught him off guard, so much that he had to drop his lighthearted façade.

    "What? Of course I do," he replied like it was the most obvious thing in the world. "You're the strongest trainer I know, if you can't become the Champion then no one can."

    "Even if I'm a huge asshole?" She curved the side of her lips into a half smile. "I feel like you'd be a better candidate. You have the attitude for it." He couldn't help but notice a hint of bitterness in her voice.

    "No one cares about attitude," he shrugged. "You just gotta be strong and people will follow you anyway. That's what you've always said and it's still true."

    Niss opened her mouth to say something, but stopped herself. She turned around towards her Pokemon, shoulders firm.

    "I guess we'll see," she said, dryly. "I'll give it my all tomorrow. You better do the same."

    "Don't feel bad if you fall short compared to me."

    He immediately regretted those words, especially since there had been no hint of teasing or joking about it. He was completely serious; he wouldn't fall behind her anymore.

    Niss nodded, and went back to training without another word.

    -----------------------------

    The morning of the trial came and Inyssa arrived at the Lost Tower almost before anyone else. Crossing half of Route 209 barely after the sun started rising in the horizon proved to be difficult, although not for the reasons she imagined. An expansive fog covered the fields of grass and the main path, becoming thicker the more they approached the structure. The tower itself wasn't as impressive as she imagined, barely a couple floors tall and with the shape of an old obelisk. Cold seemed to emanate from its stone entrance.

    Not counting herself or Barry, there were eighteen other trainers around them by the time the clock struck eight. She'd seen a few of them hanging around the Pokemon Center.

    Most of them looked weak, with the exception of two people standing at the edge of the path, engaged in a conversation she couldn't quite hear. Fancy boy and redhead girl, the two trainers she'd seen her first day in Hearthome and hadn't ran into since then. Their belts carried six Pokeballs each, and their eyes and posture told her they were ready to tackle any situation, just like her. She felt a jolt of excitement.

    "Greetings, everyone."

    The voice made her jump, the back of her head clashing against Barry's chin and causing him to whisper a soft curse. Most kids around her gasped too, one of them even dropping their Pokédex to the ground.

    Fantina stood in front of the dark entrance to the tower, looking up at all of them. Her hair was styled the same way as when she met her, but she'd changed from the frivolous dress to a more practical purple suit with a yellow tie and white shirt. Very simple, and yet Inyssa couldn't believe how easily she pulled it off.

    "Oh my gosh, is that Fantina!?" A girl asked at her right, tone full of excitement.

    "The ghost master…" another boy added from someplace within the fog.

    "She's so pretty!" One of them gasped.

    Barry couldn't help but chuckle after hearing that, and Niss rolled her eyes. She looked again towards the two mysterious trainers; they didn't seem very impressed with the Gym Leader either.

    "Oh please, please." Fantina raised a hand, and everyone stopped talking. "You are all too kind. It is true, I am Fantina, the Gym Leader of Hearthome. I assume all of you are here for the trial?"

    A vague cacophony of nods and affirmations resounded through the air.

    "Fantastic. We will begin shortly, but first I must explain the rules and the objective of this particular test." She started walking towards the middle of the group, hands behind her back. "Does anyone know what this place is?"

    There was a short silence before one of the girls in front of Inyssa answered.

    "Isn't it a cemetery?"

    "Almost, but not quite. Anyone else… yes, you?" She looked left and pointed with her pale finger at the dark haired boy Inyssa had been keeping an eye on.

    "This used to be a temple, but it was turned into a memorial recently," he replied, hand still raised firmly. His voice was deep and rich. "No people or Pokemon are actually buried here, but there are plenty of engravings depicting and honoring the victims of the seven year war with Kanto."

    "Correct, and very concise may I add. Since this is such a sacred place none of you will be allowed to go to the upper floors, instead the trial will take place entirely within the underground tunnels. Your task is to make your way through its labyrinthic layout and reach the very bottom. As for what waits for you inside…" a soft, cold chuckle escaped her lips. "My disciples have trained plenty of ghost Pokemon to halt your advance, so ready yourselves."

    Inyssa bit her thumb softly, foot tapping on the wet grass. She figured the test would be something like that, and indeed she'd prepared herself for a fight against multiple ghost Pokemon. The only problem was the maze part; for one she didn't have a very good sense of direction, and worse of all tunnels weren't entirely different from caves so she wasn't sure her claustrophobia wouldn't kick in the second she set a foot in there.

    "Oh, I forgot to mention something."

    Everyone stopped talking amongst themselves and turned again to Fantina, who shot them a dubious smile, her eyes glistening with malice.

    "You will be entering the tower in groups of four, and you'll each be permitted only three Pokemon."

    She felt her blood run cold, and next to her Barry's eyes opened wide. Groups? She couldn't mean…

    "Does that mean that if one of us fails, we all do?" One of the boys close to her asked the question in everyone's mind.

    "Indeed," said Fantina, one hand raised and the other one on her hip. "Think of it as a team building and leadership exercise; these are things that you will need in order to become a great trainer. You will have an hour to complete the trial. And talking about time, you have five minutes to choose your team and the Pokemon you'll use. Pick wisely."

    Everyone started moving and running around while Inyssa stood still with more than a few ****s and shits and you can't be ****ing serious running through her head.

    Groups. They had to complete the exercise in groups. Her sight turned towards Fantina and she caught her smiling, and while it wasn't directed at her it sure felt like it was. Was it on purpose? Was that why she'd given her that talk about what a true Champion should act like? She felt her ears turning hot and had to stop herself from going over there and smacking that perfect face of hers.

    "…are obviously gonna form a team," she realized Barry was talking to her. "But we need two more people, who do we choose?"

    "I… am not going to lie, I have no idea," she shrugged, perhaps a bit too strongly. "I didn't think… I thought we'd do this alone."

    Just as she was about to go ask Fantina if they could form groups of two she saw something approaching her from the mist. Fancy boy and redhead girl locked eyes with her and she froze in place. Were they…? No, they couldn't…

    "You two," spoke the guy, arms crossed over his white shirt. He had a slight accent that she had trouble locating, "join our team."

    A few moments passed where Inyssa made sure she didn't suddenly develop a hearing problem. She tilted her head to the side, mouth slightly open.

    "Huh?"

    "Yeah, like… an introduction, maybe?" Barry added, tone sardonic. "Nice to meet you and all that?"

    The girl formed a lovely smile and put a hand over fancy boy's shoulder. Her bare arms were thick like bars of steel, and Inyssa imagined she could easily pick her up and tear her in half.

    "Sorry kids, Percy here ain't exactly a people person." Her voice was high and raspy, full of strength. "You can call me Reiko. What he was trying to say is that we'd like to have you on our team, since you look like the only other barely respectable trainers around here."

    She didn't know whether to feel honored or insulted, so she went with a mix of both.

    "And what makes you think you're good enough for our team?" she asked, curling her lips into a smile. Truth be told she had no problem with teaming up with them, but she couldn't pass the opportunity to say that.

    "Hah! Half pint over here has some nerve, doesn't she?" Reiko leaned forward until their noses almost touched. Her smile was just a bit too willd for her taste.

    "My name is Inyssa," she didn't back down an inch. "Call me that again and I'll…"

    "We both have four badges," Percy interrupted, putting a hand between her and Reiko. "We saw you train from afar. Judging by your Pokemon you can't have more than two, which is why it would be to your benefit to team up with us."

    Barry furrowed his brow, "Wait, hold on. You were spying on us?"

    "We just happened to be walking by," said Percy, smiling for the first time. His teeth were as white as the impeccable shirt he wore.

    "And we were impressed," nodded Reiko, jovial tone. "That Monferno of yours is what I call a real Pokemon, yes sir."

    "And that Prinplup has a grace and technique I've hardly seen before," added Percy. "Now, do you want us in your team or not? Five minutes are running out."

    Inyssa looked at Barry, looking for confirmation. Her friend simply shrugged and shot her a look that seemed to say they seem good enough.

    She gave them an unenthusiastic thumbs up, "Alright. Hope you can pull your own weight."

    Percy gave her a short nod accompanied by a satisfied smile, while Reiko let out a hearty laugh that showed her sharp teeth.

    "That's the spirit, shortie!" She punched her palm and Inyssa could swear sparks came out of her eyes. "We'll beat those ghost ****ers so bad they'll have to bring them back to life a second time."

    Inyssa smiled. She liked this girl, she decided. She then looked at Percy, and thought that while he seemed to have a stick up his ass the size of Mt Coronet he wasn't that bad either. She could work with people like that.

    "One minute until the trial begins! Get ready!" Fantina shouted, her voice filling the entire field. For an insant her eyes seemed to meet Inyssa's. "I hope you're able to learn inside what you all lack as trainers."

    -----------------------------

    They were the first group to enter, not due to luck but because Niss plunged into the darkness of the tower's maw the moment Fantina asked who wanted to start things off. Barry followed behind their two new friends, a jolt of excitement running through him. This would be his chance to prove himself.

    They took the stairs down, leading towards the underground path according to what Fantina told them. With each step he felt the light from outside vanishing and by the time they made it to the base the only thing illuminating their path were a row of iron torches hanging from the stone walls of the first subterranean floor.

    The room couldn't have been bigger than the Pokemon Center lobby; entirely empty except for the aforementioned sources of light and a few round, white rocks scattered across the feet of the walls. He narrowed his eyes; there was something familiar about Oh dear God those are bones.

    "Cheery," whispered Niss.

    "The path is that way," Percy took a few steps forward and pointed at the south wall, where a small opening led to a narrow corridor.

    They started walking towards it, the sound of their feet echoing, and Barry knew something was wrong the moment he was a couple feet away from that hole in the wall.

    Again, for only a moment the warmth came back and he felt like he could truly see. The darkness covering that passage was too thick for the lanterns not to breach it. He also felt a strange sense of claustrophobia which accentuated the closer he walked to Niss.

    The warmth disappeared again, but this time he was able to remember how it felt.

    "There's something in there," he spoke before realizing it. "I mean… I think there might be something."

    Percy and Reiko turned towards him, the first one being a lot more subtle about the fact that he found that statement odd. But Niss didn't even flinch at his words, instead her eyes studied the corridor from up close. She took one of her Pokeballs and released Enma, whose tail lit up the moment he materialized. This light, however, didn't seem to penetrate those shadows either.

    "Huh..." she whispered to herself. "Enma, use ember on the corridor, make sure you get all of it."

    Enma inhaled deeply, arms raised to the side, and breathed a striking torrent of flames towards the darkness in front of him. A gust of burning air hit all of them and forced them a few step backs, the exception being Reiko who stood still staring directly at the attack, her ponytail waving behind her like a flag.

    It took him a few seconds to run out of breath, and by then the attack had managed to turn black the walls, floor and ceiling of the corridor. A pale steam came out of them, and part of it seemed to start taking form. He narrowed his eyes, were those…?

    "Two Gastly," Percy's voice made him jump. He set a foot inside and approached the two unconscious ghost Pokemon who now floated aimlessly close to the walls. "I'm guessing they were supposed to lay an ambush for us."

    "Nice one kid." Reiko gave him a thumbs up..

    "We'll need more light than that Pokemon's flame…" Percy pointed with his head towards Enma, "if we want to have a good idea of what's around us. Prince, come out."

    He took an Ultra Ball out of his pocket and opened it, releasing a flash of light that materialized into a tall, chubby yellow Pokemon with thin arms and legs and a long tail which ended in a glowing red sphere. The creature looked at them and formed a goofy smile.

    "Ampharos here will light the way," Percy said. "Let's go."

    Niss followed along with Enma, elbowing Barry gently as she passed and shooting him a smile. He was the last to enter not because of chivalry or anything of the like but because he was still confused about what had just happened. How'd he know those two Pokemon were in there? And what the heck was that feeling behind his eyes that'd been appearing so often lately?

    "Does anyone else feel like it's getting colder?" Reiko asked after what seemed like an entire minute of walking through that passage.

    "Yeah, it's called we're getting away from the sun and going underground," Niss replied, her voice not lacking sarcasm. "It's a fascinating natural phenomenon, you should look it up sometime."

    "You know what I mean, jackass," Reiko tried to hide a laugh and tilted her head towards him. "How do you stand her, string bean?"

    "It's… Barry, actually," he stammered, trying his best to avoid looking at her. "And don't let Niss fool you, she's super sweet once you get to know her."

    "How dare you spit such disgusting slander in front of me," his friend replied. "I'm honestly offended."

    The conversation came to a halt when Percy stopped, extending one his arms to the side so he could get everyone's attention.

    "If you're done playing out your favorite cheap sitcom…" he said, "we're here, and you might want to take a look at this."

    The room they entered was easily twice as wide and cold as the previous one. The walls seemed to be made of darker rock and this time there weren't any bones around, thank goodness. The walls at his right and left had two person sized holes which led down towards something he couldn't see even with Ampharos lighting the way, and the remaining wall at the other side of the room had another three, even bigger entrances which also led to darkness.

    In the middle of the room stood a wooden pedestal with a metal plate bolted on top of it. Some words were written on it, although he couldn't make them out from that distance.

    "Anyone else thinks this looks like it's overdoing it a little bit?" Barry mentioned as he walked inside the room, cold clinging to his body. "Like okay, there's no way all this stuff was here before, even as a memorial. The bones, the carvings, the pedestals, the tunnels, they probably added all that later to make the trial creepier, right?"

    "Well I'd like to think our ancestors didn't have such a tacky sense of decoration." Inyssa nodded. "So I'd say that yeah, this was all Fantina's work."

    Percy took a tentative step forward, eyes set on the wooden pillar. The moment he was close enough a powerful gust of wind erupted from the four openings at their sides, almost knocking them off their feet and obscuring the light coming out of the Ampharos' tail.

    "****, what's g…!" Reiko started talking but the wind turned her ponytail around and it hit her in the mouth. "Blegh!"

    "Prince, use Flash!" Percy screamed, his voice barely audible over the sound of the wind.

    The Ampharos stomped the ground with his tiny feet, a furrowed brow appearing on his adorable face. He let out a high pitched scream and his tail lit up like never before, bathing the entire room in such a strong light that Barry could even feel the intensity of it through his closed eyelids. The dark wind evaporated almost immediately, revealing four floating figures close to the ceiling. Three of them were familiar; the same orbs of darkness that had attacked them earlier; but next to the Gastlys was a Pokemon he'd only seen once in a book. Small, dark green and with flowing, gaseous hair and wearing a strange red necklace. The Misdreavus stared at them with an intense glare.

    "There they are!" Inyssa pointed at them. "Enma use…!"

    "Stay put," Reiko interrupted her. She walked forward, Pokeball in hand and a wicked smile on her face, and released one of her Pokemon, "these are mine. Stain, Night Slash!"

    A flash of green flied by them with a speed that made him dizzy and turned the creature's form into a blur. The only thing he saw was the shine of a sharp blade before it crashed against one of the Gastlys, knocking it out instantly. It landed on its knee, one of its scythes extended to its left and the other one buried in the ground. Its four wings moved furiously, and as it stood up Barry saw the burning, bloodshot red of its eyes set on the three remaining ghosts. Fear and excitement ran through is body as he recognized his favorite Pokemon right in front of him, and he couldn't help but form a huge smile.

    "Scyther!" he curled his hands into fists and leaned forward, voice high pitched. "Oh my gosh that's so cool! Where did you get one!?"

    Reiko formed a smile full of pride, "He's just a childhood friend, nothing special. Now, Stain! Use..."

    "Wait!" Percy put a hand on her shoulder. "Tell him to back up. We should all attack at once to…"

    "Don't insult us! I can take care of this myself," Reiko complained, her voice more a growl than anything else. "Stain! Get rid of them!"

    The Scyther jumped with his strong legs towards the ghosts, reaching them before Barry even had time to blink. He extended one of his scythes back, brimming with dark energy, and with a forward slash he sent the remaining Gastly flying towards the wall where their bodies disappeared. His wings changed direction and he veered in mid air, preparing a second attack. The Misdreavus' collar started glowing.

    He didn't know what he expected; perhaps to see the poor, small ghost Pokemon cut in half or be hit so strongly that its form would entirely dissipate. What he didn't expect was that the moment Scyther touched it his entire body went limp, and the bug Pokemon fell to the ground with a loud thump.

    A few heartbeats of silence passed, and he didn't move again. He was completely unconscious.

    "W-wha…" Reiko stammered next to him, the cocky attitude she'd displayed a second before gone. "What... the hell?"

    -----------------------------

    Inyssa pressed a hand against her mouth in an attempt not to laugh. Enma on the other hand, had no problem chuckling loudly at what had just happened. Reiko's face turned almost as red as her hair and she was surely about to say some less than flattering things to both of them before Percy interrupted her.

    "That Misdreavus must've had Destiny Bond, and it took Stain down with her," he explained, scowling at her. "We should have analyzed our opponents before attacking blindly."

    Reiko lowered her head and bit her lip, and Inyssa had to remind herself that making fun of her wouldn't help when they were all trying to work together. She still laughed internally because honestly, seeing that blood thirsty beast fall to something as small as a Misdreavus was one of the funniest things she'd seen all month.

    "It's okay, we still have eleven usable Pokemon between all of us," Barry said, working in that charming smile of his that was surely meant to raise the mood around him. "We can still do this."

    "Y-yeah…" Reiko whispered and returned the Scyther to his Pokeball. "That was a fluke, nothing else."

    "Let's hope it doesn't repeat, then," Percy said as he turned around towards the pedestal. "Now, let's see what's written in here."

    They all approached it, and thanks to the light being emitted by the Ampharos' tail they could read the message clear as day. It was written in what seemed to be oily, purple ink and the calligraphy was perfect and beautiful. It read:

    Three paths lie before you:

    The Path of the Unwary; he who is blind to all except those in need.

    The Path of the Victorious; she who weaves rage with vine-shaped flames.

    The Path of the Guardian, he who patiently waits, forlorn.

    Only one of these holds a light at the end of the tunnel.

    Four other paths lie at your side.

    One of them contains a clue, the rest hold nothing but more shadows.

    Choose wisely.

    Inyssa rolled her eyes. Dear god did that woman had an over the top aesthetic for these kinds of things.

    "So there's one correct path and the rest are probably dead ends," she summarized to the rest of the group.

    "And one of the tunnels at our left or right must hold a clue over which path we should choose," Percy nodded, his eyebrows knit together.

    "So we can either choose one of the paths at random and hope we get the right one or we explore those openings and try to find the answer." Barry said.

    "Either way we'll be here for a while, huh." Reiko scratched the back of her head.

    Silence spread through the room as they all stood there, thinking over their options. She didn't like the idea of leaving the choice of the main path to luck; this was a trial for them to prove themselves after all, but she knew those side corridors must've be packed to the brim with even more ghost Pokemon ready to weaken their team. It wasn't an easy choice.

    Which is why she was startled when Percy started laughing. It was a short and quiet laugh, the one she'd expect from a snob like him, but it still caught her off guard. He turned to them and smiled, which did little more than unsettle her.

    "We don't need to do any of that," he declared, moving another Pokeball between his fingers. "I'll find the way myself. Pierre, come out!"

    From the light he released appeared a… thing, that she had trouble identifying. It looked similar to a Butterfree, but its wings were bigger and more colorful, showing an uniform blue and white square pattern, and its body and eyes were smaller and thinner.

    "That's so pretty…" Barry whispered, a small gasp escaping his lips. "What is it?"

    "A Vivillion, there's lots of them in my home region."

    "You're from… Kalos, then," she deduced, and then turned her head towards Reiko. "And you… judging from your name and that Scyther you must be from… Kanto."

    She tried to suppress any sort of anger or disgust at pronouncing the name of that region, but some of it must have slipped through judging by the sour look Reiko gave her.

    "Any problem with that?" She perked up her nose, arms crossed.

    "No, of course not," Inyssa lied. "Anyway Percy, you were saying?"

    There was a small, awkward pause before he cleared his throat and continued speaking.

    "Yes, right. There's no need for us to look for any clue," he turned toward his Pokemon. "Pierre, use Supersonic on all three of the main paths. Tells us which one leads to the deepest part of this dungeon."

    Oh, thought Inyssa, so that's what he… damn, that's pretty ****ing smart. The bug Pokemon flied towards each one of the openings and released a strange sound wave into every one of them. She deliberated for a few seconds before flying to the one on the right.

    "That was really cool." Barry said.

    "Thank you," Percy replied dryly. "This will probably save us around twenty minutes, so let's make use of the time we have."

    So down they went, for the third time. The path was even narrower and darker than the ones before, but although that would've been a perfect chance for an ambush none came. They simply traveled through what seemed to be about half a mile of a path in complete silence.

    Inyssa would've been quite disappointed if that was the end of the trial and they just won without any further challenge. Unfortunately that wasn't the case, and what waited for them in the next room took the air from her lungs.

    "What the…" Barry gasped in front of her the moment he came out of the corridor.

    "What? What is it?" she managed to pass to the side of his skinny friend and entered the room. "O…oh. Holy ****."

    She could barely see the other extreme of… whatever place they'd just walked into. She figured the room must've had the size of a football stadium, and that was hardly the strangest thing about it.

    Rows and rows of what appeared to be metal stakes with engravings on them ran from where they were in all directions, covering the majority of the length of that cavern. And in the center…

    She felt her throat drying up. That had to be the absolute biggest Pokemon she'd seen in her life. Even when kneeling down its body towered over everything around it, making the stakes look like toothpicks in comparison. It looked like a golem; not the Pokemon Golem but the actual earthly puppet from the myths she read as a child. Its torso was oval shaped and formed most of his body, made of grayish blue rock and with an undulating scar in the middle of it covered by a patch of leather. Its head was quite small in comparison, with pale yellow eyes that also resembled cracks.

    Its muscular arms formed a cross in front of it, and while she couldn't quite see its legs while it was in that position she imagined they would be equally gigantic. Inyssa could feel her lower lip trembling, and she unconsciously took a couple steps back.

    "W-we're not supposed to fight that, are we?" Reiko asked, her voice breaking slightly. "What even is that ****ing thing?"

    Whatever it was Inyssa was sure glad it wasn't moving, nor conscious for that matter. The light in its eyes was dull, almost inexistent. Percy took a step forward and grabbed his Pokédex, which had a different design from hers. A small beeping sound filled the room followed by the electronic voice of the device.

    Golurk: The Automaton Pokemon - Ghost/Ground type. It is said they were created by an ancient civilization to protect the people and the land, and they have outlived it by hundreds of years. The energy which fuels them is something scientists haven't been able to study. If the patch covering its chest falls off this energy will run wild, and Golurk will destroy everything in its path.

    "Thank Mew the patch is still there," Reiko couldn't help but laugh. "So, are we supposed to…"

    The ground shook. The sound of the Pokédex seemed to have reached the Golurk, since the light of its eyes flickered to life and the dust covering its body started falling around it as the behemoth stood up. It stomped one foot on the ground, and Inyssa could feel the vibration hitting her and traveling to her bones. Its head almost touched the barely visible ceiling now, and the crystals in its shoulders began to glow with power.

    The only consolation she could find at that moment was the horrified look on Percy's face.

    "W-we need to get all of our Pokemon out now!" He took a step back. "This must be the final boss, which means that if we beat it…"

    He didn't have time to finish his sentence because something erupted behind them. Enma's body flew up towards the ceiling, the Monferno using the explosions of fire in his hands to propel himself towards the giant in the middle of the room.

    "****, Enma!" she moved Percy out of the way. "Come back here! You can't fight that thing alone!"

    But her words and eventual profanities did nothing to convince her Pokemon of changing his strategy. When he was less than twenty feet from the Golurk he coated himself in flames once more and turned his body into a ball, headed directly to his opponent's face

    The Golurk moved its head slightly, as if it'd just been woken up from a nap and barely registered the rolling inferno about to crash into it. It raised its fist and held it at eye level with the Monferno. A white glow covered its entire body.

    "Heavy Slam," Percy's Pokédex came to life once again, startling them, "a steel type attack that becomes more powerful the more the user weighs in comparison to the target."

    Her veins turned to ice. She'd felt the vibrations that thing caused just by stomping the ground. If its fist hit Enma…

    She opened her mouth to scream a warning that would've been useless, but she never got the chance to. The Golurk's fist clashed against her Pokemon with such force that his flames were extinguished before they even made contact, and Enma went flying backwards like a bullet, landing only a few steps from Inyssa.

    He wasn't moving.

    "O-oh my god…" Barry whispered behind her. "One… one hit?"

    "That Monferno should've resisted that attack," Percy's voice shook with fear. "So if any of our Pokemon gets hit by that thing…"

    Inyssa barely listened to him, eyes glued to Enma. Her best Pokemon, defeated in less than an instant.

    In the furthest part of her mind, she heard a faint laugh that reminded her of Fantina.
     

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