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unrepentantAuthor

A cat who writes stories
So I went right ahead and read ch25 because of course I did.

First off, I adore the chapter art. I keep looking at it. Starr's face, with flowing tears but a grit-teeth wide-eyed stare of horror. Her hands, are they reaching out, or coming up to defend herself? Her executive outfit, and how it has elements of both strength and vulnerability, light and dark. The hulking feraligatr behind her, concerned but ultimately no asset to her strength in the situation they're in. The stark grey wall behind, reminding us that the Team Rocket environment is a bleak one. The shadows. The handgun. The emblem. Wow.

Reactions first!

Ajia is very competent and Starr is on the back foot... or is she? I'm not exactly expecting at this point that she might use the rest of her impressive team together with her sidearm to take control of the situation, because I know she's been increasingly a mess for some time now. More that I'm expecting Ajia to **** up or have poorly predicted the outcomes.
Wow Starr really isn't handling this psychologically, huh? She's very much in the 'denial' phase. Intensely so.
What a win! Love to see stuff like pichu-beats-raichu, not a fan of evolution being a ticket to strictly superior battle competency.
Giovanni sure makes an entrance. What an intimidating fellow. This is a serious version of the character, and I love to see it.
I ****ing knew they wouldn't free Mewtwo lmfao. There was no way they'd pull the plan off that easily, or that Gio would leave himself so vulnerable.

Oh god this is ****ing terrifying and I fully expect Gio to demand that Starr executes the gals. What an awful situation. Definitely not feeling a "get sent to the cells for Stracion to bust out" vibe this time...
"Ruined" is such an gut-wrenching word to use about Astrid. It's clear how Gio only sees her as an asset and perhaps an extension of his pride, and not as family. It's also a button of mine when antagonists go off on how worthless someone is specifically for their redeeming traits, or becuase they're on a redemption path.
He was already suspicious, of course. We don't see much of the consequences for Starr letting Jade get away repeatedly, except in her mounting stress levels and that delicious extra, which I loved, but it must have been awful for so long. How much scrutiny has she been under her whole life? That line about her being 'singled out' later on really hammers this home.
Ajia is a "criminal" lol. The ****. I guess Gio thinks that Team Rocket are already sovereign, or something.
Oh **** oh **** this is gonna be so awful...
Ajia sure seems like she really overplayed her hand here, and Jade was hopelessly naive, to the point that even though I know Starr gets out I still somehow don't believe it'll happen??
"This decides your fate" is a metal line. It has the same energy as "Angry at her? Dusk, I'm angry at you." It also really makes it even more intense that Starr can't go through with it, considering she knows it's futile and she has almost nothing to lose by killing them herself.
Starr's begging and pleading hurts my heart. I assume this is not a habit she's made during her TR career.
Oh wow, Jade's emotions when Starr refuses! I feel that, Jade. What a mood. I believe in Starr!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Umbreon! Espeon! This ****ing battle is so sick, omg. Such intensity! I love it.
"It was my choice" no it ****ing wasn't, you WALNUT. YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND AGENCY. YOU WERE A MINOR BEING COERCED BY AN ARMED CABAL LED BY YOUR FATHER. YOU ****ING MORON. Anyway my heart is breaking for Starr. She really does believe that her life is her own.
Lmfao that Ajia keeps assuming stuff of Jade. Why would Jade, a certified idiot, have uncovered or guessed Starr's relationship to Giovanni? Haha.
HOLY **** THEY PULLED IT OFF WOW. I was stunned, and confused, and couldn't think what Umbreon did.
Lmfao at half the Rockets ****ing off tbh. I bet they're totally going to get resources to help out and not just fleeing for their lives~
What the **** did Umbreon DO, though? What's Ajia's ****ing deal?

Yeah, Jade you hardly know either of these girls. Five years is a long time, and a year isn't. Honestly, it's sometimes pretty rough to realise that in five years, some of the most important people in Jade's life are people she hasn't seen in that long, knows ****-all about, and in Starr's case, has been tortured by extensively. She doesn't go with Ajia for Starr because she thinks it's her moral duty, but because Starr is still her friend. She doesn't seem to have people in her life, exactly. The Rebellion, sure, but that's done and she didn't go with her teammates. She hasn't thought about her family hardly at all since the call to her mother forever ago. The most important people in her life besides these two are her own pokémon, I think. It's kindof rough to think about.

Further on that note, Jade's goals and cares don't often seem firm in her own mind. I think she wants to be significant to the people who left her behind. I think she wants to matter to the people who went off and lived lives without her. It really makes my heart ache. By contrast, Starr's goals and cares have been obliterated by the weight of 'survive being a Team Rocket executive' and 'don't murder your childhood friend and lose what humanity you have left'. That's even worse heartbreak. Ajia seems to just love dunking on Team Rocket. Power to her. I'm sure she's very well-balanced psychologically~ I actually feel like we could stand to know more by now about what the friendship at school was actually like. Jade doesn't elaborate on it much, and I feel like if she thought back to it sometimes it would track better that she'd take such risks as this one. She mentions that Starr used to love water pokémon—that stood out to me a lot because such details are pretty rare in her narration. Don't get me wrong, I love these three, but it's just something I've been musing over a little.

Love how Starr processes the situation as Ajia ruining her life, when her life was already **** and she could totally have just killed them. Except of course, she couldn't, and Jade and Ajia were right to gamble on that fact. Damn.
Jade's internal narration is laying it on a bit thick here but I like that she's still bothered that Starr is okay with different murders. She isn't getting out of moral scrutiny just because she's done this one thing.
"Have you forgotten what I did to you" oh man this is some delicious guilt. It's not the same as remorse, but that's surely to come.

Kinda surprised that Ajia ****s off and that Jade was about to. I thought both of them would be more insistent on staying together. Hell, Ajia just leaves without even showing concern that, say, Starr might verbally rip into Jade out of shock and anger. Or that Starr might literally not be able to process what to do next. Or that she has a firearm and a lot of fear that she'll be hunted down and tortured. Oof. Really surprised that Starr is the one reaching out given the state of shock she's in! I think the actual lines used could use a little tweaking to sell it as natural, but I get it. Starr does care, and everything stopping her shwing it but habit are very suddenly gone. It tracks. And of course, Jade just watched Starr yell at Ajia, and Ajia walk away, and she doesn't know what to do. It's rough.

Starr volunteering that description of her social life is pretty rough... Even though she admits she couldn't trust anyone, she still talks about having plentiful social interaction and the opportunity to 'fool around' as being a desirable thing. But I know that as a very young executive, all her relationships, if they even qualify as that, were probably sketchy as ****. Even if they'd been with miraculously decent Rockets, who weren't sickeningly exploitative of her, they still represented a threat to her strength and a risk of attachment, of weakness, of slipping up. I don't believe for a second that Starr had a single healthy intimate moment with another Rocket during her time there and I am miserable about the implications of what sshe's saying. I'm desperate for her to have a real friendship with someone who actually cares about her. Oh gods.

Jade is a good kid and I love her. Well done for offering your hand, Jade. I'm proud of you. HOORAY FOR BIG HUG! I love big hug. I know we probably aren't gonna get platonic spooning bc of inevitable reader perceptions but I choose to imagine it will happen bc it makes me happy. I hope we at least have plenty more hugs to come! I love the friendship, hhhhhhhh.

So, this was one of my favourite chapters so far too, along with ch23. I love this stuff so much. I'm gripped. And so relieved there's so much more to go. I did think to myself that by now there's still a lot of stuff that feels either like it's been dropped or was a deus ex machina of some kind, or just a strange narrative choice, but I trust that we'll get answers to everything in due time. I'm having way too much fun to get hung up on stuff like that right now! Very hype for the next chapter, Chibi!
 

unrepentantAuthor

A cat who writes stories
ch26, I'm on a roll~

Love how unimpressed and uncomfortable Feraligatr is in the header art.
The pokémon don't like this! For the most part, anyway. I like that, it's a good way to layer on the difficulty of the new arrangement without having Jade and Starr lay into each other. Bless Raichu for wanting to make friends even though he's a walking trigger. Kinda ****ed up, though.
Many fire types, huh? I have this image in my head that she's used them as a unit to burn out targets many times, and this is the reason for having several.
'Loop of nope' is a slightly irreverant way to describe Jade being triggered, but I chuckled. It's really delicious trauma brain all round, this chapter, actually.
"Flagged for something I've actually done" is a great way to remind us how ****ed up Starr's history is. We already know she attended a massacre of teenagers, and saw her torture a 14yo, but I'm waiting for her to reveal something even more awful that she's done.
Starr being legit impressed at illegal trainership is a nice moment. It's good banter! I like that she's so good at slipping into comfortable jesting and jockeying despite awful, awful, awful things on her mind. It's a good character trait. Also, Duskcore.
Jade, you are truly a dumbass! Get a diploma in dumbassery, you have all the qualifications. Starr is literally holding a pile of money.
Sleepy train rides are good. Really felt the vibe. This chapter was less 'essay on Osaka' than you'd led me to believe, I actually found it all really natural and grounding. Love to see bacon pancakes pop up in the fic.
That was a rough moment with Chibi. He's becoming the weapon he was created to be, I guess. I know that surely he'll recover some eventually but it's tasty to see him so angry and shut down right now. I love Jade for trying so hard with him, and feeling so bad.
New outfit and no flinching! This is a very good scene, I love a few things about it but particularly how it plays on Jade's compartmentalisation of Astrid and Starr.
Starr's guilt! Jade's trauma! It's absolutely delicious to read. I think I'd have preferred a more consistent nightmare, it feels a little spread thin over many characters taunting Jade, but it was still good and I really loved how out of it Jade was afterwards and how she manages to open up about what's on her mind despite Starr's resistance. I loved how Starr is so affected by it and desperate to shut it out but talks about her feelings anyway and Jade both sympathises and begrudges because this **** is complicated. It was an exceptionally good scene, imo. Big fan of Starr's willingness to start making up for things in small ways, that "five years?" comment especially. Oh, Starr. I know you care.
"Forced out of us" is a great line. I'm a huge fan of this kind of indirectly brutal communication, the way Jade can say something with no explicit link to the awful experience they're trying to move away from and still be saying "the reason you couldn't get useful information out of me by electrocuting me repeatedly was because I was a child and nobody trusted me with useful information." She's saying "you tortured me for nothing." It really hurts my heart, like everything in this fic lately!
Stalker scene was good, I'm fascinated by what must be going on inside his head and to what extent he's basically just grooming Jade to be an asset in his war. Very excited to finally learn a little more about his name and whole deal! Also delighted to hear more about Mewtwo's escape, which I've been anticipating for a while and which I'm crediting as the main reason Jade and Starr aren't already dead or imprisoned.
 

unrepentantAuthor

A cat who writes stories
Here we go, with ch27!

I had a feeling Stalker was still an active Rocket member and this explains why there's such a rift between the forces, I guess! I fiure I was supposed to believe he was a defector, but I always assumed he was still very much integrated and that his goal was specifically to prevent the use of Legendaries rather than to take down the team. Wish I'd called it!
He calls her Astrid, he calls her loyal. He knows how to get a rise out of her, it seems.
I too am impressed with Jade! Demanding answers and getting them, you go, kid!
Ajia is so central to the events of the revolt! What a story! She's very impressive, but I still don't like her emotional wellbeing credentials.
Who is the Kanto commander? I am fascinated by this 'strongest trainer ever' reputation. It also occurs to me, how does Team Rocket recruit so many extraordinary individuals? It sure seems like a tremendously powerful organisation.
"Treason" is an interesting word to use. Yet again with the implication that Team Rocket is sovereign and not an insurgent group itself. What does Giovanni believe in?
Executions, huh. Rough to think of Starr murdering people, rough to think of her gunning down prisoners in cold blood. Or worse.
Starr knew about this guy all along and couldn't do anything, huh? She's been under some intense and sustained stress for one hell of a long time. Her only reasonable play was to keep out of trouble, but she's under pressure as the boss' daughter to perform. A no-win scenario, to be sure.
Kinda love how mad both Ajia and Starr are at Sebastian, but for different reasons (save for the shared distate at his chessmastery).
Starr cares about doing **** yourself and taking the heat yourself because she had to, and Sebastian is a puppeteer. I can't imagine her ever expecting someone to do something distasteful for her, and she seems to have fully internalised that if you mess up, you must be punished. I wonder how many times she's been punished, and in what ways. I guess we'll find out.
Sebastian has his own agenda, naturally! I mean, was there really ever any doubt?
Also, why haven't the pantheon obliterated TR by now?
Oh wait, they're doing exactly that. Really enjoy how Ajia gets the same memo via telepathy.
Also, Ajia is a chosen! Many thoughts on this, but I was too tired to type them up.
Starr cares about atrocities, and dead innocents. Love to see some moral backbone in a recovering villain, even if the bar is incredibly low on this one.
Stalker's departing words are very interesting. What a manipulator! Bet he thinks he can still get his claws in Jade by appealing to her need to be considered significant. Which I don't know if Starr and Ajia are going to give her considering how much she's still in their shadow. I mean, Stalker even credits the Mewtwo mission to Jade, here, even though it was very nearly 100% on Ajia, and I think he hopes it will make Jade feel loyalty.
Ajia is pretty based! Best of luck to you, you mad trainer.
Starr will join! Wonderful. Very excited for that.
Love how Mew just pops up and starts chatting to them. No biggie. She's seen some crazy ****, probably.
Looking forward to the next!
 

unrepentantAuthor

A cat who writes stories
What a long ****ing read ch28 was! Really enjoyed it. Here goes.

Lugia time! Problems on purpose! The chapter art is especially gorgeous, and I'm very excited for the famed large horrible superpowered goose creature and all the terrible decisions they're gonna make!
Holy **** this is one hell of a conflict. It reminds me of the destruction of Midnight Stadium and the first kid deaths. The destruction of city blocks and the presumed death or injury of many, many civilians is a rough thing to take even sympathising with the Legendaries as one might do at this point. I'm anticipating that some of them may be not just assholes, but close to or outright malevolent, given that this is how the so-far-sympathetic Mewtwo and the soon-to-be-Team-Jade Lugia are behaving.

Mew is sad! Instantly likable little kitty, worrying about the wellbeing of petty mortals. I wonder whether she's actually a moral paragon, since I suspect the prominent legendaries will be more complicated than that.
Jade is so good and she's out of her depth like never before. Really enjoying that she's heading into this with really nasty odds, and I'm proud of her for how far she's come. This is so intense.
"People are dying, Twenty-four" is such a line and I love it. Just putting it down flat. Really enjoy Aros' little reboot of confusion as everything tells him to go save the day instead of taking revenge.
"List of conversations owed" is a great concept and I'm looking forward to seeing some of those overdue discussions. Will one of them be about Firestorm's strength fixation?

Don't get killed, Jade! Starr needs you to stay alive or she'll have ****-all to live for. I suspect Starr is gonna be pretty damn dedicated to Jade's survival, considering it's her lifeline to not being totally irretrievable as a person.
Cool combat and orders! Really like that Starr is able to command a specific focus-fire with a handful of syllables. That's fantastic stuff.
Interlopers sure aren't wanted by every Legendary, huh? Since there are seven Legendaries choosing human partners, that leaves an awful lot of Legendaries who aren't doing that. Even if only the first four or five generations of Legendary are relevant to the conflict, that's a huge number of them who aren't throwing their lot in with that gambit.

Master ball cannons are not allowed! Jade Arens says so! D:<
Mewtwo captured himself, huh? Kinda genius. I really enjoy this sort of thing, I know I loved this kind of idea when I was writing fanfic in the mid 2000s and all that. It feels weirdly nostalgic.
Healing Moltres and Articuno repeatedly sounds pretty terrifying. Lugia is clearly on a different level, but the power levels on display combined with restorative aid makes for an unassailable foe if not disrupted.
Love the inventive use of sandstorm. Always a big fan of moves being used to do useful things and not just fill out a battle scene.

The evolution of both Swift and Firestorm was ****ing sick. That fight was intense, and I was delighted to see Jade in a serious duel at last, against a tough opponent no less!
I AM YELLING. OH MY GOD, FIRESTORM. That was so brutal. That was so sickeningly cathartic. This is incredibly FI-core oh my god?
Hey, nice, Jade is horrified but relieved. Good reactions. Looks like Firestorm is more messed up than anticipated, but the freakout tracks perfectly well with his strength fetishism and general obsessiveness. Excited to learn more, see him recover (or get worse...)
Swift is once again the MVP! He is so excellent. What a lovely bird dude. Wholesome. why would you ship jadestorm when you could instead ship swiftjade
Also, we're finally past the banner art! With Swift and Firestorm at their final evolutionary stages besides megas (), that gorgeous art of Jade in Rocket uniform runnin with her team is now fully in the past! I'm guessing Lugia is gonna be the sixth team member, of course, leaving her with three fliers for those essential Chibi-brand aerial combats and fraught flights.

Jade you idiot! You have no plan at all! Did she not even think about the consequences of this or consider running the plan by anyone at all? Oh my god, she just wants to be significant, doesn't she? She wants to make a difference. Oh no.
I love Chibi for being so protective of her. He does care! He ****ing slapped a god in the face to save her life. Bless you, you little edgy pikachu.
Lugia is... probably probing Jade's mind, right? Otherwise they'd just beam her again and get it right this time. That, or they're sparing her by means of torture, I guess, but I think probing is more likely considering the likely imminent addition of Jade to chosen one ranks.
Oops, though~
 

unrepentantAuthor

A cat who writes stories
It's TIME to review Ch29!
Fantastic art, as always. Really like this one.
"Someone's charizard" is pretty rough. She's not thinking of him as Firestorm right now, huh.
She got whumped HARD. Damn. Really enjoying the consequent pain and hardship.
Chibi was LYING, he DID care!! I am tearing up at this.
Psychic torture, huh? I wonder if that was really the goal. I'm not really expecting the attack to have been meant as a punitive measure. Big frowns at Lugia if so.
Get your ****ing license, Jade. Go do it. ****'s sake!
HANDHOLDING! Love a bit of platonic handholding.
Starr: Please don't make me fight TR, but I will follow you anywhere-
Jade: Nah, I'm good, lmao.
I love them.
Ajia's not really part of a big resistance, huh. It never felt like she was recieving orders or coordinating efforts the way Stalker was, but it's a pretty decent surprise that the Johto resistance straight-up doesn't exist. And Jade thinks she's 'supposed' to be a big brave bold invincible hero, who doesn't feel fear. Oh man. Ajia's still just a kid with talent and boldness, though.
Starr saying "we" about TR, Jade calling her on it. I have a soft spot for that trope. Wonder how long it'll take for Starr to drop such things.
Lmfao six other people to help Ajia. Has she met any of them? ...mayb.
"Thanks or whatever" lmfao can you be sincere and vulnerable for three seconds
Love the banter between these three. The dynamic feels complete. It's like the story's been waiting to reunite them this whole time. I love each of them anyway, but bouncing off each other is a total delight. Aaaaaa!
I like that Jade fusses about the state Firestorm will be in and immediately wants to recall him. She's so bothered by this, of course. Reasonable.
His shame at failing to protect his trainers and at losing control and her shame at not helping him through his issues or appreciating him before he'd killed someone. It hurts, but it's delicious, and I hope they're both okay. x
He's taller! Maybe she'll think of him differently now that she has to look up to him a bit.
Learn to fly, Firestorm! Oh, how wonderful. What a lovely ending to this chapter. My heart.
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Hot damn uA I'm still in awe of how quickly you chewed through Book 1 and your comments have been an absolute delight. I know I've already said as much in DMs, but I just wanted to say it again. x3

Got some specific replies for Sike too:
Well that was certainly fascinating! I enjoyed getting a look at Sebastian's thought processes; I feel like I understand him more, but not too much more at once, if that makes sense?
That's about what I was aiming for! :D A sense that we understand him better, but that there's still a whole heck of a lot that we're missing.
I have pretty much no doubt that he could've climbed the ladder just fine without a magic dragonplane on his side; there just wasn't time to dawdle around like that, and he knew it.
Magic dragonplane just accelerated the process. :V
Nice nightmare scenes, especially the latter one. Heck yeah, body horror. :D
Yessss, the body horror was 100% spontaneous, but once I got the idea, I couldn't let it go. >:3
Also I liked the little moment of semi-lucidity he had in that dream (thinking about Latias despite not having her yet in the time period where most of the dream took place and subsequently wondering why he would think he had her). What a cool, realistic detail. I'm not exactly a stickler for fictional dreams actually working the way real ones might, but when they do, it's extra neat. :D
I'm a huge fan of moments where someone's dream self suddenly questions the dream logic because that always stands out to me in my own dreams, so I knew I had to have fun with the fact that this extended flashback began and ended with a dream sequence.
Coincidence? Red herring? Maybe. Maybe not. Time may tell...
Haha, that's pretty great that the text generator put that there. xD
Also, it was great to get a little better acquainted with his team! Silvan's kind of adorkable, and Vesta and Kaida are precious together (especially the cute autumn snuggles!).
Dragon snuggles was clearly the most important part of this chapter. *nods*

Thanks tons for the read n' reply! Got a small extra that I'm aiming to publish tomorrow!

~Chibi~
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
~Chapter 47 Extra: Masks~

Lexx tapped his foot against the park bench that he was leaning against, humming a tune while idly scrolling through posts on his phone. Nothing too engaging, and he was only half paying attention to any of it. Maybe the news would be more interesting. The destruction of Sootopolis was still the hot-button topic of the day, and he was somewhat curious to see what the mainstream news had to say about it. Did they have any clue what it was really about?

“*I’m bored. When’s she getting here?*” a voice spoke from his shoulder.

Lexx gave the Pichu an amused glance. “Shouldn’t be too long.” It wasn’t like Ajia to be late for things, and she did have access to perfect long-range teleportation, after all.

Still, she was late. Five minutes, to be exact. Pichu gestured suddenly, and Lexx glanced up to see Ajia walking toward them, illuminated by the street lamps. He waved, and her expression flickered slightly. Only a second betrayed the fact that she wasn’t happy to see him.

Her Pichu’s eyes lit up, and she leaped from Ajia’s shoulder to race down the path toward them. His own Pichu jumped down to greet her. The two siblings exchanged a few sparks from their cheeks, then immediately took off chasing each other through the tall grass.

“How is everyone?” Lexx asked, and he sounded genuine. His mask was already up.

Ajia had been expecting him to ask something like that, but that still didn’t make it any easier to give him an answer. “Starr’s livid, and Jade’s worried sick because one of her Pokémon was badly hurt during the Aqua battle.”

Lexx frowned. “Ah geez. I was trying to not hit you guys,” he said, rubbing the back of his head. “I mean, you know it wasn’t anything personal, right?”

Ajia sighed exasperatedly. “That doesn’t make it better.”

Lexx turned away. There was a part of him that knew that. He had to come up with something that would help. “It’s not like my life wasn’t on the line,” he offered. “Pretty sure Raven was out for my throat. Probably still is.”

Ajia gave him a sideways glance. Either she was failing to keep her frustration behind the mask, or this was the amount she was allowing him to see.

That’s how their game always went. Pretend everything was fine. Chat the way they always used to, leaving their allegiances aside. Then, when it was done, they’d go back to serving their sides like nothing had changed. That was just how things were. He hadn’t had any reason to assume that would ever change.

And yet, it had.

He needed to fill the silence. Maybe Ajia would find this interesting: “Jade stopped by yesterday.”

Ajia paused, looking wary. “She did?”

“Yeah. Think she mostly just wanted to chew out Seb,” he added.

Ajia smirked. “Good for her.”

Lexx crossed his arms behind his head. “Seb might’ve told her some things that you don’t know yet. You might wanna ask later.”

Ajia gave him a look that was hard to read. “More like he was trying to manipulate her into believing more of his garbage.”

Lexx waved a hand dismissively. “Nah, she wasn’t having any of it, from what I could tell.”

Ajia smiled, looking rather too pleased. “Good.”

He tiled his head. “Would it really be so bad if she agreed with him, though?”

Ajia was ready for that one. “You know, there’s times where I feel like Starr’s right about you,” she said, and the words cut deeper than he wanted to admit.

“Really? That’s no fun,” Lexx said, playing it off with an overly-defeated face. “I don’t even mind that she hates me, it just sucks being ignored.”

“You know, if you’d just apologize…”

Lexx was quiet for a bit. “Doesn’t feel right to apologize for something I’d do again,” he said simply.

Ajia gave him a hard stare. “You know what she went through because of it, right?” Her words were firm, but still gentle, in that way that she’d perfected. Precision-engineered to reach through his chest and dig into his heart.

Lexx broke eye contact first, and he had the distinct feeling he’d lost that round. “It’s complicated,” he just said.

Ajia shook her head with a faint smile. “I know those sympathy ploys better than anyone.”

Lexx gave a crooked smile. “Not a ploy this time,” he said. But then his gaze hardened. “Seb’s my friend, Ajia.”

“I thought I was your friend.” The mask slipped. Some of the hurt leaked into her voice.

“You are,” he replied quickly, rubbing the back of his head. “I don’t want you to get hurt either. It’s just… well, like I said… complicated.”

Ajia lifted her eyes to meet his. “Does he really see you as a friend, or just another pawn?”

Lexx chuckled slightly, shaking his head. “Ajia. Your tricks aren’t going to work on me like they did with Starr.”

Neither of them spoke for some time after that. Ajia stared out at the half-moon hanging low in the sky ahead of them. Several times, she almost found the right words, but then decided against them.

“Look at us,” she said finally. “Neither of us believe a word the other one says. How did this happen?”

Lexx leaned back against the park bench, following Ajia’s example and staring up at the sky. “You guys could work together with us. Offer’s still on the table.”

Ajia sighed deeply. It had been a long, long time since she’d found that tempting. “I can’t. Not after knowing what he’s planning.”

“Do you really—” Lexx stopped, thinking better of it. Ajia must have considered pressing further, but in the end, she didn’t.

“There’s probably gonna come a time when you’ll have to,” he finally answered.

Ajia fought back a shiver. “I don’t like thinking about that.”

“Seb’s got good reason for not explaining everything,” Lexx said, suddenly fixing her with a serious look. “I’m sure you can relate.”

Ajia grimaced. “I’ve been trying to break that habit. Lying to people to keep them safe. That’s not who I want to be. And besides, he’s not lying to us for our sake. His lies only ever make things worse for everyone. It’s not the same at all.”

Lexx gave her a playful smirk. “Ah come on, that’s not fair. You know we’re not like, trying to make people miserable or anything.”

“That’s what’s happening, though.”

Lexx flinched. He’d crossed a line, and he knew it. But had he really had a choice? They needed to beat the Kanto force no matter what. Nothing else mattered. Right?

Maybe...

Lexx struggled to think of the right words. All the usual confidence had slipped through his fingers behind the mask. “Look. I don’t like things being like this either. So… how about this: I’ll tell you something Sebastian doesn’t want anyone to know yet.”

Ajia shook her head softly. “You know I can’t believe that.”

“You don’t have to,” he said earnestly, holding both palms out. “You can just sort of… think it over and decide if you want to use it or not.”

The wind rustled through the trees, punctuated by the occasional jolt from the two Pichu racing around through the tall grass. They’d been at their game ever since Ajia showed up. For them, everything was simple. It didn’t have to be so complicated. No layers of secrets and lies. No masks.

“Alright. Let’s hear it.”
 
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Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
So I initially parsed the title as "Extra Masks" and my brain went to a Hollow Knight place for a few seconds. :V

Anyway! "What he's planning", Ajia says. "He" being Seb? The dialogue that followed seemed to suggest that might be the case. I guess the next question is, what's the "what". Sebastian is a talented son of a gun. Can't guess what he could be up to as such, not precisely. Not even vaguely, come to think of it.

Also:

Ajia lifted her eyes to meet his. “Does he really see you as a friend, or just another pawn?”

Lexx chuckled slightly, shaking his head. “Ajia. Your tricks aren’t going to work on me like they did with Starr.”

Answer the question, Lexx. Or does he even know the answer?
 

unrepentantAuthor

A cat who writes stories
Ch30
Gorgeous art!! Always gorgeous art, but damn.
So, this is the end of Book 1!! I really did demolish it, as you say. If anything, I'm gonna get faster now.
Jade is a real trainer! What a journey, from failing her exam to having a big team of evolved and powerful pokémon and travelling far from home with her friends. I'm so proud and happy for her I'm getting teary.
Telling the experiments goodbye is a touching scene in its way. They're still oppositional assholes, but they have obviously become fond of her, even if they won't show it.
Swift and Firestorm are proud of her! Okay, now I'm really emotional.
Negotiations! The experiments are all tsunderes and I love them. You little shits, just admit you care about the human already.
Get hype for a great journey! I know it'll go wrong, but for now I'm hype!
That moment with Chibi is genuinely so touching. What a great character. I know he's like, got that edgy dA OC vibe and you missed your chance to give him a reasonable name, but I don't care. I love the birdchu.
This is the best I felt I've understood Rudy and Darren so far. Really enjoyed their scenes with Jade this chapter.
Love the growlithe fight, and the way it just feels like this is how pokémon journies are meant to be, with Ebony having fun and fights being to bond and test strength. It's so much sweeter after all the pain to date.
Buizel seems fun! Looking forward to having her around.
Lmfao Jade is still a dumbass with no ability to plan. Has she never thrown a pokéball before? Nice catch, idiot. I love her.
Can't believe I'm finally this far through. It was a wonderful experience, and definitely a complete 'book' in its own right.
I'm proud and hopeful and and and I love this ****ing fic holy ****.

Ch31
Hooray! Excitement to begin Book 2, excitement for some serious competitive battling.
Jet already having evolved makes for a good timeskip demonstration. Good choice, there.
Lol I already know T Fang is coming from the cover art. Jet is possibly ****ed here.
"Our opponent was still huge metal snake" missing the indefinite article 'a' here, bud
Four moves does matter, I see. Interesting. I'm only learning this now, and only in the next chapter am I learning it's four moves per battle rather than four moves possible to remember at any one time. That's really interesting.
Jet only knows water moves but they each matter!! I actually love that. It's way too specialised to be worthwhile in the games, but in this fic it provides a lot of tactical options. I really love that, the way I love how smokescreen and scary face and so on actually have utility.
80LBS OF SOGGY AFFECTION. I love Jet.
The various pokémon and human banter makes me really happy, I feel wonderful and kinda like everything is about to go wrong, but maybe not just yet. It's comforting for them to be getting on each other's case in such a friendly, low stakes way.
"Weren't hoping to be in the battle weren't you" reduplicated 'weren't's there, bud
Lol Book 1 is just Jade telling Jet things over the course of their journey I guess.
It has been SO LONG with nothing coming of Jade's weird rock. what. When are we gonna get Legendary Bullshit. I'm frankly amazed she hasn't so much as done a little idle research into it.

Ch32
Hooray for sick stadiums and battles! Definitely an exciting change of pace, and good to see what high level battling is like in a regulated environment. The note about high powered moves being forbidden in certain areas is a fun piece of worldbuilding.
Stygian vs Pupitar! I really loved the way Pupitar is so indifferent even before reachin her final stage, and her interesting method of propulsion. Definitely a surprising match.
Aros vs Nidoking! Pretty rough for Jade to **** up an entire move choice like that. Poor Aros will be humiliated.
Firestorm vs Tauros! I liked that Jade fell to more or less the same trap as last time, because she's a slow learner. I feel like I don't tend to see that in fiction, with protagonists usually adapting fast. Also I snorted hard at Firestorm hurting himself in his confusion. Excellent moment.
All in all, those were really fun battles to read. I felt like a real spectator. Great stuff, Battles Georg.
Rudy is better at pokéspeech because Jade made it cool! I love that! How wonderful, bless, oh my god. I'm delighted.
Starr bickering is the best part of this chapter lmfao she's so grumpy all the damn time. Friendship is so based.
Hype for next chapter!
 

unrepentantAuthor

A cat who writes stories
Chapter 33
Really enjoyed the tournament content this chapter. I love the takes on competitive battling in LC, and I really felt hype for the events as if I were a convention attendee myself. I couldn't help but think of Worlds in real life. Pokémon really lets me care about sports by way of animal companions.
Friendgroup ****! Love it. It brings me such joy for Jade to be spending time casually with her friends, all her friends! I like how she's caught between her older friend pair and her younger friend pair, each of which has very different but related traumas. Delightful. Will they eventually squad up?
I wanted to scream with Jade during that fight holy ****. I wanted to stand up and cheer with my arms up and fists clenched. Hype!
Lexx! This guy! Barely know he exists, absolutely expected him to show up but without having any particular expectation. Turns out he's basically a huge smug dick. Goddamnit Lexx.
Team Rocket will attack the League, huh? My running theory is that when 'the war' happens, it'll be open conflict between humanity and the Legendaries, with Team Rocket heading up humanity. You said before that 'treason' was foreshadowing. I'm sure that the Chosen are going to find themselves fugitives not only from Team Rocket but from legitimate authority in due time.
Starr being this torn up is fun to read. I love her and how much she cares and how hard for her things are.
Rudy is so competitive! What a little munchkin of a trainer. Man, you go, kid. I'd bet on ya.
Oh no! The Thing!

"Chapter 34"
Lmfao.
Actually, I really enjoyed this April Fool's joke. I often get distracted from and come back to LC chapters while reading, and because of this, I actually forgot I was reading a Fool, and for like a full three seconds I thought Trilugia was still canon. My misapprehension was quickly ended by Chibi and then Everything Else, and I settled in to enjoy a bunch of total bullshit with a big dumb grin. I'm especially a fan of Stalker making no ****ing sense whatsoever, that was delightful. Thanks for a good laugh. This made me want to do an April Fool's joke chapter of my own!

Chapter 34
Jade's terrified face in the chapter art is wonderful. I do love to see her in a state of total panic.
HOORAY PTSD FLASHBACKS. These are always superb; you're damn good at them.
"You're not alone" oh my heart. I'm a sucker for moments like this.
The aerial combat is ****ing intense! I found the whole sequence gripping, honestly.
Love that Jade's experiments aren't necessarily competitive with TR's forces, just because they have significant innate strength. It really serves to emphasise both that Jade's team is not a solution to any of her problems, necessarily, and that TR are a serious threat.
I like that you lampshaded the frequent presence of ice beams specifically to make life hell for Jade's fliers. I'd begun to notice it, in fact.
MEGA BOLT! That's really sick. Imagining that as an actual move similar to Explosion.
Hooray for the battery of trainers volleying beam moves. That's sick as hell.
Hooray for Dragonite! Whose are they? Or rather, WHO are they? I'm calling it now that this is Mew transformed.

Chapter 35
Lmao it was Mew. Fastest confirmation of a piece of speculation ever.
The escape to the ranger station is very cool. The whole concept of it is cool, rangers are cool.
Love to see Ajia's father and the rangers. Real feeling of a lived-in world and of her having a life. It also makes it feel like Jade just... isn't connected to her family, rather than that you keep forgetting she has one.
Forgetting Rudy and Darren and feeling bad about it is a nice moment for Jade. It's like, sure yeah I get it, it sucks, but you were literally afraid for your life while under attack from a minor deific figure. Holy ****, girl.
REACHED JADESTARR HUG! HAND: DETAINED. I love these moments so much.
"You just can't be upfront, ever?" I can really feel everyone's frustration, oof. Still, I love seeing the three of them together even when it's sad and hard. They're good kids. Flawed as hell, but I love them. Their dynamic as a trio is a real "more than the sum of the parts" deal.
Mew, you dick! Just have a ****ing conversation with the poor girl! I'm desperate to know what it is that's making it impossible to communicate anything meaningful to her right now. I feel like she could at least more clearly explain that there are conditions silencing her.
Love the reveal that only Ajia has been chosen to-date by the way. I'm not at all surprised, although I had little reason to believe it was definitely the case. The next-most likely possibility was that some unknown face was a Chosen with whom she had a difficult working relationship if any, but to be honest I should have called this one. The implications! Leaving it late indeed.
BEEG LOOG. I am ready for the CONSEQUENCES. It's ALL BEEN LEADING TO THIS (CHAPTER).

Chapter 36
It's THIS chapter! The chapter everything's been leading to! Beeg loog moment!
I love to see Jade this terrified, but she really is a huge dumbass to think Lugia failed to kill her. Lugia's probably spent the last year thinking that she'd know that they could've killed her and chose to spare her and must be taken aback by this.
You know, if it weren't for that the Jade & Lugia bond was practically an up-front reveal, I would probably also be surprised by Lugia being a member of the Order, given how aggro they are. Fair enough on Jade's part.
Really enjoy the conversation between these two. Careful balance of negativity and positivity from both parties here. Really interesting implications for character, lore, foreshadowing, and all sorts. Sortof expected Jade to wonder what Starr would think if she agreed to this before doing so.
Hooray psychic whump! Low key chills when Jade's uncertainty is forced out of her by the bonding process.
Holy **** if she'd turned Lugia down... they'd have killed her? Goddamn.
Bless Mew. She's a sweetheart when she's not bound by secrecy.
Interesting that the Order essentially is composed of Mew and both Tohjo quartets, with the exception of one beast and one bird. I wonder why those two are not members.
There's a feeling in the prose for this chapter that you're taking pains to make as explicit as possible why events are happening in the order and manner that they do, but a couple times it just comes off as Jade being a dumbass. Asking which other Legends have chosen a human when she already knows is the egregious one. Which leads me to wonder if it's somehow significant that Lugia wouldn't confide that information. It gives the impression that Legendary etiquette is a big deal, or that Lugia just doesn't want to give Jade info.
Excited for the 'meat' of the fic, and for the power of friendship!
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Thanks tons for the reviews, uA and Sike! And sorry for the long wait, but I'm finally ready to charge full steam ahead into 2021. This chapter actually got split in half while writing, so expect the next one very soon!



~Chapter 48: Choice and Consequence~

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Falling. Air rushed past, streaming through my sleeves, whipping my hair back, stinging my face. In the back of my mind, I saw the ground rushing up at me, and my stomach gave an uncomfortable lurch. But still I kept my eyes closed and my limbs outstretched as far as they would go. Focusing. Counting the seconds.

The wind shifted. He was beneath me.

I threw my arms out, caught hold of smooth scales, and immediately locked my arms around Aros’s neck. His flight leveled, our momentum shifted, and my body flattened against his back as we pulled out of the dive at breakneck speed. Then I finally let myself open my eyes to see us shooting above the treetops, no more than fifty feet from the ground.

“Holy crap, you really left that one until the last second, huh,” I said, heart still pounding.

“*I had it under control,*” Aros replied firmly.

“I know,” I said, relaxing slightly. “I trust you.” With how many times he’d saved my life, I couldn’t not.

The cool September breeze was invigorating. My body felt lighter than air as the two of us darted over the foothills of Route 3, our flight comprised of rapid swerves and rolling swoops, ducking and weaving past invisible opponents. Every so often he’d pull an especially wild maneuver and I’d lose my grip, and there’d be that heart-stopping moment of terror as I fell, helpless. Then I’d force it back, and we’d use that opportunity to practice freefalls. And once he’d caught me, we’d know what moves we needed to focus on next. Holding on through barrel rolls wasn’t that hard anymore. Somersaults were another story.

“*I could probably catch you even if you stayed limp and didn’t grab on,*” Aros bragged.

I snorted. “I bet you could. I’d rather save that for when we have Firestorm as backup, though.”

He gave a mildly disappointed huff but didn’t press the topic. It was something we’d have to practice at some point, I just hadn’t quite worked up the nerve yet.

We’d just finished pulling out of another freefall when I spotted the silhouettes of a Pidgeot and Charizard in the distance. I pointed them out to Aros and he made an indistinct sound of displeasure before flaring his wings to slow our flight and aiming for the ground.

“*Bout time you two showed up,*” Aros grumbled once the others had landed alongside us. “*Come on. I need some competition. Bet I can catch Jade faster than either of you.*”

Firestorm rubbed the back of his head. “*Probably? I don’t really care which one of us is faster.*”

“*You should,*” Aros replied immediately.

Firestorm shrugged and threw a glance at Swift like he was waiting for him to speak. Swift pawed at the ground with a talon before meeting my eyes. “*You’ve been training for quite a long time. Shouldn’t you take a break?*” he asked earnestly.

“*Yeah seriously, you’re starting to look more tired than Aros,*” Firestorm added quickly. “*Take a break already.*”

I chuckled a bit. “It’s kinda funny hearing that from you. Remember the way you used to train on Midnight Island?”

Firestorm rolled his eyes. “*We both know I was an idiot Charmeleon. Plus I was trying to evolve. Humans can’t do that, so you don’t have an excuse.*”

“I think you also wanted to show off to Stalker’s Charizard.”

Firestorm blushed and turned away quickly. “*Whatever! Just take a break or we’ll drag you back to the Pokécenter!*” The Charizard gave a small huff before taking off with a gust of warm air.

Alright, they probably had a point. I patted Aros’s neck. “I’m gonna call it here,” I said, sliding down from his back. “Keep training by yourself if you want.” The Flygon looked disappointed for a few moments but then vibrated his wings and took off.

I slowly shuffled over to the closest tree before collapsing against it, a bit lightheaded. My whole body still felt weirdly airy, and it took a good minute or so for my brain to get used to being on solid ground again. Yeah, they definitely had a point. I didn’t even know how long we’d been flying.

Swift sat next to me with his feathers fluffed out for a few minutes before joining Firestorm in the sky. I sat there, watching the two practicing moves together. Firestorm was demonstrating something involving a powerful gust of wind, his wings glowing red as a heat haze warped the air in front of him. It seemed like an odd choice since Swift wouldn’t be able to copy anything like that, but it was still nice to see them having fun. At least someone was.

“*I know what you’re doing,*” a voice said.

I pulled my gaze away from the sky to see Chibi sitting down next to me with a stern look on his face.

“What’s that?” I asked, already feeling like he’d caught me doing something wrong.

“*It’s the same thing I was doing after I first joined you,*” the Pikachu answered, fixing his intense birdlike stare on me in that way that made it impossible to not pay attention.

I strained my memory to think back to last year. He’d spent all his time obsessively training, right?

“I figured that was because discharging power relieves your pain.” Of course, I hadn’t known that at the time, but…

The Pikachu’s ears twitched. “*That’s one reason. The other is because it’s easy to avoid troubling thoughts when your body is flooded with adrenaline.*”

I bristled. “Look, I’m just trying to prepare myself. I can’t even count how many times I got knocked off a flier last mission.”

He looked unimpressed. “*We just established that things can have more than one reason.*”

Alright, he kind of had me there. When I was falling… it was like nothing else existed. And when Aros caught me, the only thought my brain could generate was ‘I survived. I’m alive.

“Yeah, yeah, I hear you,” I said, awkwardly glancing away.

It had been nearly two weeks since the Hoenn mission. It didn’t feel like it though. It felt like everyone else had been moving forward in time, and here I was stuck feeling the exact same guilt and frustration as I had the day after it happened.

“It’s not… bad that I’m still bothered by what happened in Hoenn, is it?” I asked slowly.

Chibi was silent for some time. “*It’s not,*” he finally answered. But there was an odd hesitation in his voice.

“I want to be able to relax and focus on other things like everyone else,” I said, voice cracking slightly. “But the last time I did that, I ignored it all for nine months, and then it was hard to get used to it again.” My mouth went dry, my brain flashing back to that moment when Moltres had appeared, and the illusion was shattered. Relentless flames. Dizzying speed. Falling. Always falling.

Chibi dropped his gaze, looking conflicted. “*You deserve to rest. I shouldn’t have pressured you so hard back then.*” His paws clenched. “*I’m not sure why I did.*”

I tilted my head. Didn’t he, though? “You said it was important, and that we couldn’t hide from that.”

“*It wasn’t your job back then; I just acted like it was. And besides—you have your place in all this now. You’re allied with the Legendaries.*” He paused heavily, a soft breeze ruffling his head feathers. “*It’s made me realize that I still don’t know my place.*”

I blinked at him. “You’re with me—you’re allied with the Legendaries too,” I offered.

Chibi stared downward, brow furrowed. “*For you, it’s by choice. For me it’s… what I am. I was born into this role. Would I still want to do this if it wasn’t literally a part of me?*”

For me, it was by choice. I chose this. I had no right to complain.

I crossed my arms behind my head, looking up at the clouds. “I mean. I dunno what my ‘purpose’ is. Don’t really think I have much of one. Just trying to get by, you know?”

“*You don’t need one,*” he said simply. “*You don’t need to make up for your existence.*”

“You sound like Aros,” I said, giving him a sideways glance. “Well, I guess it makes more sense for you. Legendary heritage and all. I won’t pretend to understand that.”

Chibi shook his head. “*He thinks he needs to be strong. I already know that I am. I just don’t know what to do with it.*” The Pikachu glanced up at me, and his expression softened when he saw my face. “*You don’t need to have an answer for that. It’s just been on my mind, that’s all.*”

I pulled out a few blades of grass, scattering them across my sneakers. “Well, the training’s not just out of obligation, anyway. It’s been nice to have something to work on with Aros. And I think it’s been helping him.”

“*You’re enabling him,*” Stygian cut in suddenly.

I blinked at the sudden interruption. The Absol was sprawled out in a shaded patch of grass by the next tree over, idly sharpening her claws.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“*You’re enabling him,*” she repeated, eyes closed, not looking at us.

I stared at her blankly, completely baffled. Where was this coming from? “Enabling what, exactly?” I asked.

“*His nonsense hopes of proving that he’s strong by being useful in the fight against his creators, and surpassing his original,*” she said without hesitation, as if she’d already had it rehearsed.

I blinked. “Is that what he’s doing? I mean, I already knew that proving himself was important to him, but that? What would even come of that? It just feels…”—I really hated to put it this way, but—“pointless.”

“*It is pointless,*” she said, her ruby-red eyes practically boring a hole through me. “*It is a shallow, stupid goal. It will accomplish nothing.*”

I rubbed the back of my head. “It feels really rude to just tell someone that.” Not that that was usually a concern to her. “What should I be doing instead? Anytime I try to give him advice on anything, he just tells me that I can’t tell him what to do.” I already knew that I couldn’t tell him what to do. That wasn’t what I wanted at all.

Stygian was silent for a bit, mulling over her words. “*I have that same frustration. My words seem to do little. I have tried to convince him that it is time to move on. To find a new path to pursue in life, rather than being bound to this one. He has not given me an answer.*”

So Aros was just using me to avoid making a decision. I mean, I kind of already knew that. And that was fine—if that was what he really wanted, then I’d let him. But while Aros was wasting time, Stygian was impatient to move on.

“You don’t really want to be on the team, do you,” I said finally.

“*I don’t dislike it,*” the Absol said, licking her paws.

I swallowed. “That’s not the best reason to do something.”

“*We all have our responsibilities. You have yours, I have mine,*” Stygian said airily, without looking at me.

“I guess that’s true but…” I trailed off, running a hand through my hair. Part of me still wanted to disagree, but I couldn’t figure out how. Maybe it just wasn’t something I could understand. So I just sat there feeling vaguely frustrated until a thought struck me, and I asked, “If you could do anything at all, what would you do?”

The Absol blinked, taken aback. But then, like she’d already had an answer prepared: “*I want to cross the land on my own feet, at my own pace. Traverse mountains, visit seas. Know that I may do whatever I like, whenever I like, dependent upon no one.*”

I shuffled a foot against the grass. “Sounds lonely.”

“*Maybe. It’s entirely possible that I’d grow tired of it,*” Stygian said distantly. “*But I wish it to be my choice, to follow as I like.*” She switched to meticulously running her claws along her blade, each stroke giving off a smooth scraping sound.

I was having a hard time putting my thoughts into words. “Is that something you want right now?”

She shook her head. “*Not yet. I can’t leave just yet.*” There was no uncertainty. No hesitation. It was just the truth that she’d accepted.

“You really care about each other, huh.”

She was silent for some time. “*You care as well, I know.*”

I sighed heavily. “I try.” It was really all I could do.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later that afternoon we ventured into Pewter City to catch up with Rudy and Darren. I hadn’t gotten a reply from Rudy yet, so Darren was first. It wasn’t exactly hard to spot him at the training park, surrounded by his whole team. I waved to grab his attention, and he gave a small wave back once he saw me. Then his team suddenly noticed mine, and within moments, all the Pokémon had rushed forward to greet each other. Firestorm didn’t waste a second before striking up a conversation with Venusaur, who had launched into some outlandish story about beating an Arcanine. Aros and Stygian started a light sparring match with Sandslash and Golduck while Swift and Alakazam commented from the sidelines. And in the midst of it all, Weavile was skulking around with teary eyes, hiding behind Venusaur and trying her hardest not to let anyone see her (and ultimately failing).

“How’s it going?” I asked Darren.

“Ah, you know. Hanging in there,” he replied casually.

I gave the Pokémon a sideways glance and then held a hand against the side of my mouth. “Weavile doing okay?” I asked in a hushed tone.

Darren smiled weakly, but there was a heavy look in his eyes. “We just got done saying bye to Skarmory.”

Oh, right. Darren had mentioned that a few days ago. Skarmory was leaving. He hadn’t signed up for a war when he joined Darren’s team, so… he was leaving, and that was that.

“That must’ve been sad, yeah,” I said quietly. “Sorry you guys had to part ways.”

Weavile let out a particularly audible sniffle that thwarted her efforts to remain unnoticed.

“He said he really did like training with everyone,” Darren said distantly. “Hopes we’ll be safe and everything. Was even hoping he could join us again, once we’re done with… all this,” he said, vaguely waving a hand through the air.

My mouth went dry. “Can’t really blame him,” I mumbled. It was bad enough that the rest of us were stuck being a part of this. At least we’d been trained for it, which was… something.

“Course, he might find another trainer before then, and that’s fine,” Darren went on. “We’ll have to keep an eye out for him in the League next year. Wanna cheer him on.”

“*If he joins another trainer you gotta find ‘em and we gotta fight him!*” Weavile cut in, grabbing the tattered edge of Darren’s jacket and shaking it insistently.

Darren smiled faintly and carefully removed her claws with the practiced motion of someone who’d done it a hundred times. “That’s the idea.”

We wandered around the park for a bit while our teams caught up with each other, then eventually made our way downtown, aiming to locate Rudy. Our group stood out quite a bit, what with there being twelve of us. Most trainers came here early on the gym circuit, since the gym had one of the best programs for newbies. Nearly-full teams were a bit odd—occasionally I caught glimpses of younger kids stopping and staring in admiration.

“Seen Rudy much?” I asked as we walked.

“Here and there,” Darren said with a shrug. “You know he’s busy as all heck. Too important for the rest of us,” he added with a tone of mock sadness.

Ever since the tourney site at Indigo had been closed to the public, there’d been a frustrating lack of news from the League as to what was going to be done with the unfinished tournament. So in the absence of any actual guidance, the finalists had gotten together to organize their own finals. They’d settled on Pewter City for the location. It just seemed natural—it was the closest decent-sized city, it was part of the standard League circuit, and it had decent accommodations for both Pokémon and trainers. Sure, it wasn’t designed to hold anything remotely on the scale of the League finals, but it wasn’t like they were gonna have even close to the audience that the official tournament had on such a short notice. Maybe. The fan reaction had proven way bigger than anyone had expected. Turns out, people really wanted to see a champion get crowned.

The density of people around the stadium was noticeably higher than the blocks we’d just passed. An unusually high number of Pokémon were scattered about the sidewalks too, chatting with each other or idly waiting for their trainers. The parking lot across the street had already been roped off as a designated landing and teleporting zone, and though it was mostly empty right now, I suspected that wouldn’t be the case for very long.

“Target spotted,” Darren said in a hushed voice.

I followed his eye direction to see Rudy talking animatedly with someone in a gym trainer uniform. Nidoking and Breloom weren’t too far from him, currently discussing something with a pair of Graveler. And… Jet was with them.

I hadn’t seen Jet much the past week. She’d opted to spend time with Rudy’s team since they were all busy with the unofficial League revival. And well, I could hardly blame her for finding that stuff more interesting than the kind of training I’d been doing. She’d waffled over learning Protect, complained about practicing it even though I tried to stress how important it was, and then made snide comments about Aros and Stygian’s training until the latter snapped at her. Then she went off to sulk for about five minutes before coming back to complain loudly about all of us like we weren’t within earshot.

But it’d been a few days since then, so maybe she’d be happy to see us now. Rudy was absorbed in his conversation and hadn’t noticed us yet. So I walked up to the Floatzel and asked, “How’ve you been?” while doing my best to keep my tone casual.

“*Fine,*” she replied simply. No elaboration. We hadn’t talked in nearly a week, and she was dedicated to pretending that she didn’t care. And no matter how much I told myself that I shouldn’t… I felt a little hurt by it.

“So you’re doing okay, then?” I asked again.

“*Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?*” the sea weasel said offhandedly, like the question itself was offensive.

Well, I still didn’t feel like I was doing okay. I was very aware of how my mood had bounced all over the place the past week. So that was one reason it seemed appropriate to ask. And she’d been firmly pretending that nothing happened during the Aqua mission and had refused to acknowledge otherwise.

“I just figured I’d ask since we all went through a lot last week, and we haven’t gotten a chance to talk about it,” I said, choosing my words carefully.

“*Don’t feel like talkin’ bout it,*” the Floatzel said, turning away with a dismissive huff.

I struggled to get a grip on my frustration before it could go anywhere. This was… fine. She just didn’t know how to process it all. No one could blame her for that.

“You know you can tell me if you’re not feeling okay, right?” I said as gently as I could.

Jet stuck her nose in the air. “*I don’t gotta tell anyone squat.*”

I sighed. “No, you don’t have to. I just meant that if you wanted to, you could.”

“*Good,*” she said with a tone of finality.

So she hadn’t seen any of us in nearly a week, and this was how she was acting now? What was I supposed to do? I’d given her plenty of space. Was I supposed to just ignore it?

“So, are you planning on hanging out with us again, or are you on Rudy’s team now?” I asked shortly, failing to keep the irritation out of my voice.

Jet rolled her eyes. “*Our team is boring. They never wanna do fun stuff.*” She threw a sideways glance toward her teammates. Firestorm waved awkwardly.

After a pause, Jet added, “*Okay, sometimes Firestorm and Swift do, I guess, but the other three are all serious and crap.*” The Floatzel stuck her tongue out. “*It’s like they live for that stuff.*”

They kind of did. Maybe I should have been encouraging them to break away from that, but… no, they were perfectly capable of making decisions for themselves and didn’t need me telling them what to do.

“I guess it’s just… because of how they were raised, that’s all,” I ended up saying.

They’d been shaped by it all. I’d been shaped by it too. Jet didn’t have to be. She didn’t have to. If I could stop that from happening…

“You know it’s fine if you want to sit out on missions, right?” I said, unsure of where I was going with it.

“*No thanks,*” the Floatzel said flatly, scratching behind her ears.

“I just mean, if you ever have any second thoughts like Skarmory…”

Her fur bristled, and she squinted at me suspiciously. “*You kickin’ me off the team?*”

I blinked. “What? No, no that’s not it at all.”

“*I’m not gonna sit around while you guys are saving Legendaries,*” she said heatedly, tails lashing. “*There’s no way I’m not gonna be a part of that.*”

So the others were too fixated on the war and that was bad, but she was determined to be a part of it too? Which was it?

“You know it’s not just some fun game, right? Please tell me you know that.” The rest of us were stuck, but she didn’t have to be. Why couldn’t she see that?

Jet paused, apparently realizing her argument wouldn’t work on me. Then she let out a snort and said, “*Yeah well, it’s not like we got a choice,*” and something about that phrasing set me on high alert instantly.

“You have a choice. You always have a choice,” I blurted out without thinking, not entirely sure I was saying it to her.

The Floatzel stared at me incredulously. “*The heck are you on about?*” she asked, and I had the distinct feeling that I’d chosen the wrong thing to say. She gave a swish of her tails and turned to leave. “*This is stupid, I’m out.*”

“Wait. Please—” But she was already racing off on all fours, back to Rudy’s team.

Aros hovered over, watching her go. “*Eh, leave her alone, she can do what she wants,*” he said, waving a claw dismissively.

“I know that,” I said exasperatedly. “I’m just worried about her.”

I didn’t want to tell anyone what they could or couldn’t do. I just… didn’t want them to hurt themselves. Was that so wrong?

…Whatever. I didn’t want to think about this right now. There was Rudy. I could count on him having a million things to say, at least some of which could help distract me.

“Hey Rudy, how’s it going?”

He spun around suddenly, face lighting up the moment he saw me. “Jade! We got a date locked in! Friday, the 17th! Runs through the weekend. God, it’s frickin’ awesome, I can’t believe this is happening. I swear we crowdfunded like five times the money we needed for the stadium, and now we’ve got a film crew to broadcast, and they’ve even got Rotom cameras on staff. Got plenty of judges, referees, and stuff—lotta them work at the gym, but Brock’s been pretty psyched about helping out. Couple people even tried to get the Elite Four to show up but no dice so far. Oh, but we did get—”

“Alright, you can slow down, you’re gonna have the chance to tell everyone at the meeting,” Darren chuckled, elbowing him lightly.

Rudy glowered at him for a few seconds. “It’s just cool feeling like I’m actually a part of this, y’know?” he added, giving me an earnest look. “Yeah, I’m just one trainer, but like, we’re making this happen.”

I grinned. “Heck yeah. It’s awesome.”

The inside of the stadium wasn’t decked out half as much as the League stadiums had been, but there were some modest decorations that had obviously been added recently. Banners proclaiming the ‘Unofficial Kanto League Finals’ hung from the ceiling, and someone must have donated their giant Venusaur plush, because it now stood watch over the lobby from atop a huge pedestal.

“The League never actually published who all was gonna make the top cut, but one of the competitors went and calced it anyway,” Rudy explained. “So we’ve got our top 16, and we’re gonna start planning out match times and crap, and then—”

“Did you make it?” I cut in.

He stopped, blinking. “Huh?”

“Did you make the top cut?”

It actually took him a second to register my words, but then his face lit up. “Oh! Yeah! Pretty sweet, huh? Anyway, the place isn’t rigged up for League-tier matches, but pretty much all the Pokémon agreed that they wanted to go all-out, so we had to…”

And he was already off again, rambling about everything from gym trainers volunteering as organizers to higher-caliber protect shields being installed in the stands. The fact that he’d made top cut—the thing that would have been the topic of the day only a week ago—was now only a footnote amongst everything.

Rudy wasn’t standing still. He was getting things done, being a part of something important. I really had to stop feeling sorry for myself. Failing the Hoenn mission wasn’t the end of the world. We’d save Latias. We’d figure out a way to come out ahead. We had to.

“So you’re not gonna be too busy for the meetup tonight, what with how important you are now, yeah?” I asked him, with just the slightest bit of a smirk.

Rudy paused. “Oh hell yeah, looking forward to it.”

“Hell yeah you’re too busy, or hell yeah you’ll be there?” Darren asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Oh, shut your face.”

It would be nice to get all of us together, including the Legendaries. We could come up with a plan for moving forward so that we’d never have to suffer that kind of failure again. We could figure out how to free the captured legends. We had to.

And maybe I could finally stop stewing in my own head. That’d be nice too.






~End Chapter 48~
 
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unrepentantAuthor

A cat who writes stories
Really loved this chapter! Understated interactions are so important for tone and pacing and the density of character development in this one is superb. Separately I also really love how many unusual character pairing interactions we get to see, and how much we get to see of some of the less prominent cast members.

I adore how one of the major concerns in this chapter is how characters deal with situations they didn't exactly ask to be in, but ultimately had to nonetheless. Pretty fitting considering the title, lmao. There are some really delicious lines in both the narration and the dialogue, and I'm living for how much Jade wants to not coerce or pressure or contradict the team even though her taking charge of them a bit and showing some goddamn leadership would be really good for them. Thinking about how Stalker benched her when she was ****ed up after the torture, but she doesn't have it in her to bench Jet after she nearly died.

Always love how clear it is in this fic that pokémon have agency, to the point that Jade just straight up loses fifteen arguments a day with her team. Not just her, either—Skarmory has left Darren's team, amicably! That's excellent. I also really love that the trainers in this world just deal with the loss of the official tourney by crowdfunding their own, and that the pokémon participants are consulted on whether they'll go all-out. It feels so real, so wholesome, so fun.

Psyched as **** for next chapter!!

(You have one odd broken word at the very bottom, btw.)
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Aaaaand this chapter really should have only taken a few weeks but it took a few months as usual. Enjoy!



~Chapter 49: Human and Legend~

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It felt kind of surreal being back at the same cabin we’d stayed at for two nights following the attack on Indigo. The ranger union was still busy enough that they didn’t have anyone stationed out here, so Ajia was able to pull some strings to let us stay here for a few nights. It was a reasonably secluded spot that would let us actually talk with the Legendaries discreetly, so it was the ideal place to meet up and make plans.

The sun was low in the sky when I arrived via teleport, and the air was thick with the calls of bird and bug Pokémon from the forest. I let my team out to join the others, and the sheer volume of Pokémon out was a bit staggering. Rudy and Darren had left most of their teams here while they went shopping, which meant we had around two dozen Pokémon all scattered about the campsite. The less sociable ones had wandered off into the forest, but the area was still packed. Pichu and the two Raichu ran circles around Arcanine, who was trying her hardest to ignore them. Aros had challenged Aerodactyl to a race and was being soundly thrashed. Ebony and Jet were playing a game where the former would spit an Ember and the latter tried to put it out with a Water Gun before it could hit the ground—which would have been a lot more concerning if Feraligatr weren’t napping nearby. Ajia and Starr were sitting at one of the outdoor tables watching something on a tablet, occasionally laughing.

There was a flash of light, and Rudy and Darren teleported into the yard, both deep in a heated discussion with the energy they normally reserved for really stupid debates. Each of them was carrying way too many grocery bags like they’d been trying to out-carry the other. Alakazam walked next to them, levitating several bags over his head and lifting them just out of reach whenever Weavile tried to grab them.

“Look, I’m just saying, there’s literally no way that Glen is gonna lose to Trini in the semifinals,” Rudy snapped, sounding almost offended.

“Trini’s team has a Gyarados,” Darren replied simply.

“So?! You saw Glen’s Gengar take down a Gyarados in round 3!”

“Yeah, but Trini’s team actually supports Gyarados with status, and Glen doesn’t have an answer to that. One Dragon Dance and it’s a team wipe.”

“Look, I’m telling you, I’ll bet actual money on this,” Rudy kept going heatedly.

Darren raised an eyebrow. “How much are we talking?”

The two of them dumped their grocery bags unceremoniously onto the picnic table, letting the contents spill out. I spotted… lots of marshmallow bags. Probably more than anyone ever needed, although given the sheer number of Pokémon here…

Starr sifted through the bags, unimpressed. “Did you two buy any actual food, or…?”

There was a tearing sound as Weavile finally succeeded at stealing one of the bags from Alakazam only for her claws to tear clean through, sending marshmallows spilling out over the grass. Jet and Ebony immediately abandoned their fire hazard game to start vacuuming up the fluffy white lumps.

“Look, this is like the third time we’ve camped here and we haven’t made s’mores once,” Rudy said indignantly. “I’m pretty sure that’s actually illegal.”

Darren held up one of his bags with a deadpan expression. “I got hot dogs in case we want something slightly more filling than marshmallows.”

Starr gave a reluctantly impressed nod. “That’s slightly better. Though you better have got some toppings for those.”

He looked down at the groceries helplessly. “Uh… I got mayo?”

“Ajia, we’re going to the store right now.”

As the evening went on, everyone got to work cleaning out the firepit. Venusaur sliced up some dead trees with Razor Leaf, and with half of our teams competing with each other to carry more logs, we soon had more firewood than we knew what to do with. Ebony insisted on being the one to start the fire, and then we all got to work roasting hot dogs. Starr poked fun at me for eating mine plain while she’d buried hers in enough toppings that you could hardly tell there even was a hot dog.

Afterward, Rudy was quick to break out the marshmallows, and everyone either crowded around the firepit or bothered the various fire-types in our midst (with Arcanine burning them until people stopped asking her). Jet and Ebony were having a contest to see who could fit more marshmallows in her mouth while Weavile cheered the two on. And after several minutes’ insistence from Firestorm, Chibi finally, reluctantly accepted a s’more from him with a suspicious look.

For a long moment after taking a bite, the Pikachu didn’t say anything. He just sat there with a look of surprised bliss on his face. “*This is… good,*” he admitted quietly before devouring the rest of it.

More s’mores were passed around and half the party soon had chocolate smeared on hands, claws, or faces. Rudy regaled everyone with more details about the unofficial League finals, including the fact that he’d apparently gotten to talk with gym leader Brock the other day.

“I think it’s cool that the community is coming together like this,” Ajia said, sounding impressed. “Especially since it’s almost like the League is just trying to sweep things under the rug.”

Darren gave her a curious look. “Jade mentioned you were volunteering at Indigo. Found any good info?”

Ajia laughed. “I never said I was looking for info! But no, we haven’t found out much. The League HQ wasn’t really anywhere near the parts of the tournament site that got hit, so we haven’t had many opportunities to see what’s going on there.”

“*I offered to sneak us in,*” a raspy voice piped up from next to Ajia. The bushy-maned fox, Zoroark—appearing as his actual self for once, rather than an illusory form.

“It wouldn’t be a good look,” Ajia said, rolling her eyes like she didn’t know what to do with him. “We’re saving that for a last resort.”

Zoroark scoffed, licking a sticky mess of marshmallow and chocolate from his bright-red claws. “*As if we’d get caught.*”

“What about the Legendaries?” Rudy asked excitedly. “You’ve heard what they’re doing, right? Moltres never tells me anything.”

Ajia smiled. “Mew’s been busy touching base with everyone after the disaster, making sure no one else has been targeted, stuff like that.” She paused for a few seconds, eyes flicking to the side, most likely talking with Mew. “She’s about ready to join us with the others, by the way. Any objections?”

Starr raised her hand. “Yeah, how about the fact that I was enjoying my evening Legendary-free.”

Ajia rolled her eyes. “I’ll let her know we’re ready.”

After about a minute, Mew suddenly appeared in a flash of light, along with Lugia, Ho-oh, and Moltres, all standing in the clearing and towering over everyone else. They were immediately mobbed by a large chunk of the party all crowding them and looking up in awe.

This was the first time we had the patron Legendaries here with us since the Hoenn mission. Ho-oh had apparently flown to some distant land across the ocean to the east. Lugia had been sleeping at the bottom of the southern sea. And I honestly wasn’t too sure where Moltres had been.

<You know, we usually have our own meeting spot. It is considerably calmer and quieter than this,> Lugia said pointedly.

“Did you want everyone to show up there instead?” Ho-oh asked, sounding lightly amused.

<No.>

The phoenix chuckled, then turned to look over the whole group. “I’m pleased to see you’re all doing well. I trust you have been resting and recovering from the great ordeal when last we met?”

“Hell nah. Been busy as heck,” Rudy replied in an upbeat voice, jumping up from the picnic table and running over to the legends.

“So I’ve heard,” Moltres commented dryly, tossing its head. I got the suspicion that Rudy had been bombarding his patron with tales from the unofficial League.

<I have not heard much from you,> Lugia said, fixing me with a stare.

I flinched. “I’m feeling a lot better now than I was the other day,” I admitted. Than I was this morning, even. But the others didn’t need to know that part.

Lugia relaxed slightly. <That is good.>

Moltres turned to face Mew, cleared its throat and said, “Per your request, I have been self-isolating since the enemy may have a particularly high reason to target me.”

“Hey, if anyone attacked you, I’d know,” Rudy pointed out, folding his arms. “It’s not like you’d be on your own.”

“I said as much, but Mew insisted,” Moltres replied simply, closing its eyes.

Starr raised an eyebrow at Rudy. “You’re really getting into the whole chosen thing, aren’t you?”

“It’s serious business,” Rudy said, giving her a hard stare.

She shrugged. “Guess Moltres chose right then.”

“Regardless,” Moltres went on dryly, “I am interested in arriving at a course of action that does not require indefinite quarantine.”

Right. That was part of the reason we were meeting up. Coming up with a plan for where to go from here. Between the attack on Indigo and the Hoenn mission, we were just reacting to the Rockets. Unless we came up with some way of learning their plans, or weakening their forces, or strengthening our own, we’d never come out ahead. And none of us were in a hurry to experience that kind of crushing failure again.

“So,” Moltres said, settling itself into a comfortable position away from any grass or kindling, “let us hear what some of that human ingenuity has to offer, hm?”

My face fell. They weren’t expecting us to already have a plan fully formed, were they?

Ajia rested her chin on the back of her hand, thinking. “Recently, we’ve only been able to react after the Rockets make a move. I don’t think we can expect to come out ahead that way.”

“Obviously we should take the fight to them, then!” Rudy exclaimed, tapping a fist to his palm.

“How would we do that?” I asked. Sure, it was kind of what we’d done on the Rebellion. But we’d had Stalker’s resources back then. It would be a lot harder without them.

Mew idly twirled her tail around herself. <I don’t believe it’s wise to go picking fights unnecessarily.>

“We’ll need a means of gathering information, then. That’s what our human allies are for, yes?” Ho-oh asked, glancing around at everyone earnestly.

I could try asking Stalker what all he knew about the Kanto Force’s plans. Although the idea of talking to him was incredibly unappealing on every level. Also, I still hadn’t told anyone that I’d gone to meet with him, and I didn’t really want to. Especially not Ajia or Starr.

“We could think about infiltrating?” Rudy asked. “Where’s the main hideout now?”

“Cerulean base is currently their main hub,” Ajia said, tenting her fingers. “It’s not as centralized as Viridian was, and most of their manufacturing is outside of town, but—”

“How exactly are you supposed to get into a base?” Starr asked, folding her arms. “You don’t have a working Rocket ID anymore. None of us do.”

Ajia shuffled a foot against the pine needles. “Well, I know you won’t be happy to hear this, but there’s always Lexx…”

Starr scoffed. “There’s no way a Johto ID will work at a Kanto base after the stunt Sebastian pulled, get real.”

“*IDs are optional,*” came Zoroark’s muffled voice from under the picnic table.

Starr squinted at the fox, taking a few seconds to piece together the fact that he’d volunteered to help. “Do you honestly think they wouldn’t have prioritized getting illusion cancellers after that Mewtwo stunt? I know they’re expensive as all hell, but come on.”

“Do you have any better ideas, then?” Rudy asked, glowering at her.

Ajia clasped her hands in her lap. “You could come with us, maybe show us—”

“No thanks,” Starr replied immediately with a scowl.

I rubbed the back of my head awkwardly. This was getting a bit heated.

“You did say you’d help us,” I pointed out carefully. “Maybe we need to… level on what that means, exactly.” I didn’t want to imply that she had to or anything, but…

Starr was quiet for some time. “Look… this rebel crap is still a bit new to me. Obviously, I’m gonna help out if it’s desperate or whatever, but going out of your way to cause trouble is another thing entirely.”

Ho-oh glanced back and forth between all of us, pensively running a talon across the ground. “Sometimes taking action is ideal. Sometimes waiting and listening. It is always difficult to discern which is better.”

“Yeah but we just said that we gotta take the fight to them or we’ll lose,” Rudy said exasperatedly. “I don’t want anything like that League attack to happen again, you hear?”

Starr let out a huff and rotated herself on the picnic bench so that she was facing away from the others. I turned myself so that I was facing the same direction, tapping my fingers on the table while I tried to think of what to say.

“I don’t like the idea that you’ll be charging into danger,” Starr muttered quietly. “I don’t like thinking about it. You shouldn’t have to.”

“I know,” I said. Hesitantly, I reached out a hand to hers and held it until she squeezed back.

Despite the tension on the human side of the camp, the Pokémon side of the camp was still cheerful and energetic, which was kind of a weird contrast. Some of them were crowded around the Legendaries—mostly Rudy and Darren’s team, although Pichu had somehow managed to climb to the top of Lugia’s head without getting shaken off. Lugia seemed content to let her stay, while Pichu was just glad to have the highest perch.

Searching for some way to start the conversation again, I turned to Mew and asked, “How’d everyone take the news of what happened in Sootopolis?”

<They weren’t as surprised as you might think,> she replied. <They’re used to the idea of humans causing problems with the legends.>

Well, that was depressing. Was it too much to hope that any of them had had good experiences with humans? I didn’t want to believe it was just a given that humans were nothing but trouble for them.

“How many Legendaries do you know?” Rudy asked, scooting forward in his seat. “Do you know all of them in the country? In the world?!

Mew chuckled a bit at his enthusiasm. <I spoke with all the legends I’m acquainted with in Sinnoh. Three of my friends there have had troubles with humans before. But nothing recently.>

I tilted my head, feeling a bit uneasy. They’d had problems with humans before…?

<It’s nothing to do with Team Rocket,> she added quickly, upon seeing my face. Her tone sounded reassuring but I honestly wasn’t sure how reassuring it was. People other than Team Rocket were messing with the legends? We were having a hard enough time with just the Rockets.

“What about here? Is everyone accounted for?” I asked warily.

<Well, there is one thing,> Mew replied hesitantly. <I was unable to locate Suicune or Zapdos.>

A chill came over me. “You don’t think they’ve been captured, do you?”

Mew put a paw to her chin. <I don’t believe so. But there’s no way to know for sure. While I can usually locate the others, if any of them really wanted to avoid me, they could.>

That would be a problem. “Don’t they need to pick a chosen?” I asked. If they were stuck in hiding, how would the chosen pact ever be completed?

“Perhaps that is what they’re off doing—locating a chosen,” Ho-oh mused.

<That is far, far too optimistic,> Lugia said, giving the phoenix a hard stare.

<There’s also the issue that naturally they’ll be trying to avoid the human threat,> Mew added thoughtfully. <So they’ll be more elusive than normal.>

This whole time, they’d had to dance around the Rockets’ forces to avoid being captured. How much easier would it be if they didn’t have to worry about that? And, as I had to keep reminding myself, that was technically possible, but no one had brought it up yet.

…It was worth a shot.

“Last year,” I began slowly, “Mewtwo said that he captured himself, so he was immune to capture.” I could already feel Lugia tensing up. I braced myself, then asked, “Couldn’t the rest of you guys do that?”

<No,> Lugia answered immediately.

I stared up at the dragon-bird, utterly perplexed. “Why not?”

<Why would I willingly accept the device that is designed to enslave us?> Lugia replied dryly.

I stared. “You’re acting like the Master Ball itself would brainwash you. That’s not how it works; they have to program it to do that after the capture.” I wanted to add a ‘wouldn’t you know that better than the others?’ but thought better of it.

<Yes, well… I’m not even convinced that it’s foolproof,> Lugia said dismissively.

Okay, now it was just being difficult on purpose. “You can’t catch a Pokémon that’s already been caught,” I said firmly. That was just a fact. But suddenly I found myself doubting it anyway. Well… if the Rockets had invented a way around that, we’d have heard, right? That’d be a pretty huge deal.

“You know, it wouldn’t even be a Master Ball, right?” I offered. “It would just be a regular Pokéball. Super easy to break, and you could hide it somewhere the rest of us don’t know about, and never tell us.”

Lugia narrowed its eyes. <We are going to stop talking about this right now.>

I stared up at it incredulously. This was kind of an important topic! And Lugia just wanted to drop it without even considering? What the hell.

My Pokegear buzzed. I grabbed it and read a text from Ajia that said, “I’m gonna have Mew try to talk to them later.”

I made eye contact with her. “Okay,” I texted back.

I didn’t like the idea of putting it off ‘til later when it had already been this long, but… it seemed like we didn’t have a choice.

“Right, so… if you guys aren’t doing that, you’ll need a plan for dealing with the fact that both Rocket forces just added another legend to their ranks,” Starr went on. “You’re gonna need some way to compete. They’ll be augmenting their strength. Powerups, equipment, that sort of crap.”

Right… the Rockets’ Legendaries all had battle equipment during the last mission, and there had been way too many instances where they’d been faster or stronger than they had any right to be. That was no doubt part of the reason why they’d trounced us.

“Was anyone else surprised by Articuno using Water Pulse?” Darren asked suddenly.

I blinked at him. “Huh?”

“When the Rockets were attacking Team Aqua. Some of the Magmas tried hitting it with fire, but it put out the fire. Just seemed weird is all,” he said, shrugging. But it was never just that—he was implying something.

And now that I thought about it… Entei and Raikou’s Shadow Ball. While I could hardly pretend to be a Legendary expert, that really didn’t seem like a natural ability for the guardian of storms or volcanoes.

Lugia paused, thinking hard. <I am quite familiar with Articuno’s techniques. I have never known them to use control water before.>

Ajia let out a deep sigh. “I was afraid of something like that. I think they’ve been using TMs on their Legendaries. That’s especially concerning since they just got Rayquaza. Most dragons can learn an incredible variety of elemental moves. Why would the most powerful dragon in existence be any different?”

Oh geez. Yet another way that the Rockets could use their resources to have the advantage on us. Why was this strategy meeting only making things seem more hopeless?

“Why don’t you do the same thing?” Darren asked simply. “If the free Legendaries also have TM moves, they’ll be a lot more prepared to take on the Rockets, wouldn’t you say?”

Lugia tossed its head indignantly. <No. I know how TMs work.>

I stared incredulously. Now Lugia was finding some way to reject TMs of all things? Did it plan on going along with any of our ideas at all? “…They just let you use new moves,” I said flatly.

<Yes, thank you for that one, oh dispenser of wisdom,> Lugia said with an eye roll. <TMs work by emitting a wave that permanently modifies the energy signature of the target. I do not wish to have my energy signature defiled. Would you allow anyone to tamper with your genetics?>

“That is not the same and you know it,” Ho-oh said, waving a wing dismissively. “Energy signatures exist to be modified. Reproductive Pokémon can even pass on their life experiences. It’s quite fascinating.”

Lugia rolled its eyes again, but from the hesitation in its mind, it was clear that it knew Ho-oh had a point but simply didn’t want to admit it. <Fine. Which ones are compatible?>

It took me a few seconds to realize that the dragon-bird was addressing me. “Oh, uh… I don’t know. I mean, no one’s ever tried to use a TM on a Legendary—besides Team Rocket—so it’s not like there’s a handy list of which ones you can learn. I guess we’ll just try them one after another until one works?”

Ajia tapped a fist to her palm. “Alright, sounds like we’ll need to pick up a few TMs. I’ll make a trip to Celadon, they’ve got the best selection.”

“I’m going with you,” Starr replied immediately. When Ajia gave her a surprised look, she added, “Look I don’t get to go to Celadon often enough, and I’m bored as hell with the Indigo volunteering. I need this.”

I figured the trip was going to wait until tomorrow, but within half an hour, Starr was dragging me off the couch, insisting I come with her and Ajia. So we teleported to Celadon City’s mega department store. After two weeks of mostly hanging around Pewter City and its outskirts, the bright lights and relentless crowds were a bit overwhelming. I vaguely followed Starr around the store, occasionally leaving to check on Ajia, who spent the whole time pacing in front of the TM shelf.

“I mean, at the very least we should get copies of the most common elemental moves,” she muttered to herself, running a finger past endless rows of discs. “Flamethrower, Thunderbolt, Ice Beam… probably Rock Slide… Oh, and Protect.”

That seemed reasonable enough… and then my face fell the moment I laid eyes on the price tag. “50,000 pyen?? Seriously? Where are we supposed to get that kind of money?”

“Look, the non-reusable ones are a tenth of that,” Ajia said, gesturing to another shelf. “We’ll get a reusable Protect and a few disposable copies of the others.” Even that was still a lot… but I wasn’t about to protest since it wasn’t my money.

It was supposed to just be in and out, grab the TMs and go, but Starr spent an extra half hour dragging us all over the seemingly endless floors. Ajia kept coming up with new strategy ideas, but it wasn’t like we could just buy everything our teams needed. We didn’t have the limitless resources that the Rockets had.

“God, it’d be nice if we could just steal some of the **** we need from the Rockets,” Starr said as we left the store, bags in hand. “Remind me why we can’t do that again?”

“You were the one who didn’t want us going in the base,” I pointed out.

“Don’t need to,” Starr replied with a scoff. “Just make Lugia steal a supply truck or something. Should be easy.”

“We’ll keep that in mind,” Ajia said cheerfully, with the kind of tone that indicated she had no intention of doing so.

Around 9pm, we teleported back to the cabin with all our purchases, and within ten seconds of Ajia announcing our return, we already had a mob of Pokémon crowding around us. Half of them were deterred by the fact that none of the bags held food, and the other half left once we explained that the TMs were meant for the Legendaries. Thus began the task of deciding which disc to use on who. I really had no idea where to even start. Flamethrower? It was hard to imagine Lugia breathing fire, but who knows—maybe it was possible?

“Are there any moves you’ve ever wished you could do?” I asked Lugia.

<My present skills have been more than enough for any occasion,> Lugia replied airily.

Yes, well… overcoming any obstacle through the sheer power of being a legend wasn’t really an option when the opposing side had Legendaries. Not that I felt like saying as much.

“So you’ve got psychic powers. You can also control water and air… maybe something like… lightning? Or ice?”

<I’ve never particularly felt the desire to wield either of those things.>

I let out a groan. “I’ll just pick something, then.”

Rudy was a lot quicker than me. He’d just returned, dropping a small stack of TMs on the table. “None of these worked.”

Darren picked up the disc on the top of the stack. “You thought Moltres might be able to do Ice Beam?

“Well, how are we supposed to know if we don’t try! And it’s not like they know either,” he muttered indignantly, gesturing to the Legendaries. Moltres quirked an eyebrow at him.

“I guess I could try it,” I said with a shrug before Darren handed over the disc. The plastic wrap had already been removed and the pull tab yanked out. I turned to Lugia and asked, “Want to try this one?”

<Do as you wish,> it replied dismissively, swishing its tail.

I rolled my eyes. It could’ve at least pretended to care.

“Well, here goes.” I pressed the button and the disc inside whirred to life. I was about to ask Lugia if it was working, but I didn’t even need to. The blank look on its face was sign enough. Not only that, but through our link I could actually feel the sense of calm contemplation that had overtaken the legend.

When it was done, Lugia shook its head to clear the haze. <Which move was that?>

“That one was Ice Beam.”

<Ah. Yes. I am familiar with that move.> Lugia closed its eyes in concentration before exhaling experimentally. Tiny bits of ice crystals formed in its breath. <Excellent. I will master this move tomorrow. You will accompany me. I imagine you are more familiar with the technical details.>

I rubbed the back of my head. “I mean. I guess so?” Sure I’d seen the move used and all, but none of my team could do it, so I’d never had to drill anyone on it. Maybe I could find an online tutorial or something.

Darren was helping Rudy narrow in on options that were more likely to actually work for Moltres. Ho-oh was watching them and occasionally offering suggestions. Meanwhile, Ajia and Mew hadn’t actually touched any of the TMs that they’d helped buy.

“What moves are you two going to try?” I asked them.

<There’s no need,> Mew said, smiling. <I’ve already learned them all.>

It took a few seconds for her words to sink in. “Wha—all of them? Every TM?”

<My energy signature is compatible with all elements, and all known techniques that use them.> She held up a paw. Wisps of flame clung to it, flickering into strings of electricity and then fading into glimmers of ice.

I blinked at her, wide-eyed. “Does… does that have anything to do with the stories that Mew was the ancestor of all Pokémon?”

<I don’t know. Perhaps one of my distant past lives actually was,> she said offhandedly, with the kind of tone you’d use for something perfectly mundane.

I stared blankly. “Past… lives?” What was that supposed to mean?

Mew frowned. <Oh. You… didn’t know?>

I couldn’t think of any other response, so I just shook my head.

<It’s so easy to forget that humans wouldn’t have any reason to know that,> Mew mused to herself. Then she smiled faintly and said, <We’re not immortal.>

…What? Of course the Legendaries were immortal. Everyone knew that. They’d been around for… since… all of recorded history. Stories, records of them, going back for eons. Every civilization across the globe had them. And there had never been any sightings of multiples, at least not for the ‘true’ legends.

<Our bodies wear out just like any other living beings,> she went on. <It’s our energy signature that persists indefinitely. When we die, the energy from the body condenses into an egg, which forms a new body.>

I paused, struggling to sort through my endless questions. “So you’re reborn when you die? How often does that happen?

<About five hundred years, give or take.>

For real? That was so much younger than I’d been expecting. Here I’d been thinking they were thousands of years old, and—

And then it hit me. “Wait, but that means… none of you are the same Legendaries that existed in that war 3000 years ago?”

<Correct.>

Seriously? That changed everything.

“Are you the same person as back then?” Darren asked.

A noticeable pause followed. Several of the Legendaries glanced at each other, looking uncomfortable. Mew pondered the question for a bit before answering, <We have the same life force as our predecessors, so presumably the same spirit as well.>

Lugia continued, <But we have no memories from those lives. And our personalities are shaped by our life experiences just like any other being, so… no, I wouldn’t say any of us is the same person.>

Mew sighed exaggeratedly. <Must you always follow the most boring interpretation of the world?>

<I’m just being realistic,> Lugia replied defensively. Mew gave the dragon-bird a playful thwack with her tail.

I couldn’t stop repeating it in my head. Legendaries weren’t immortal. No wonder it felt like they had no idea what was going on half the time. No wonder they didn’t know why the pact existed or why the seven patrons had been selected. They literally weren’t around back when the legend was written!

“Can you be killed?” Rudy asked. He must’ve climbed Moltres’s back at some point, because that’s where he was sitting now.

Moltres turned its neck 180 degrees to face him, looking amused. “Ha! You have some nerve to ask something like that.”

He shrugged. “Just curious.”

The firebird gave a small snort. “Well, yes. Of course we can be killed. Our bodies might be sturdy but they can still be damaged. That much should be obvious by now.” It paused and then added, “The same thing happens when we die regardless of the cause of death, by the way.”

The Legendaries weren’t immortal, they could be killed, and they weren’t even around when the legend was written. It felt like my brain was going to break from processing it all. Others seemed to be taking the news a lot easier—particularly some of the Pokémon.

“*You’re not that old!*” Pichu exclaimed, patting the top of Lugia’s head.

<I’m still over 300…> the dragon-bird replied, sounding disgruntled.

“*I would’ve thought the Legendaries were like… five… ten thousand-thousand years old.*”

“*More than that,*” Weavile piped up.

“*Pretty sure numbers don’t go higher than that,*” Pichu replied matter-of-factly.

The rest of the night passed with relative calm. The Legendaries continued to get heckled by the Pokémon on all our teams. Darren broke out some card games and thrashed the rest of us so badly I thought Starr might flip the table. There was some light sparring, and Feraligatr eventually had to put out a small fire or two. The relaxed tone was strange. It felt like we should have been doing more. More training, more strategizing. More preparation for the next disaster, whenever it came. But we deserved this. I deserved this.

Tomorrow I’d be helping Lugia learn Ice Beam. That was a surreal thought. A hundreds-years old legend, getting help from a human. It was even weirder to stop and think about the fact that they had to just… go along with writings from well before they’d even existed.

I’d been caught up in events way bigger than me. They’d been born into events way bigger than them. We weren’t so different.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The wind whipped my hair wildly as Lugia and I soared low over the ocean at a breakneck speed. My eyes scanned the island below, searching for anything out of the ordinary. A flash of red feathers, the glint of green scales—anything. Nothing so far…

And then I saw it—a tiny glimmer of yellow flame, barely visible in the stark afternoon sun.

<Below us!> I called.

A jet of red-hot fire shot upward, and I held on tight as Lugia barreled to the left. My teeth rattled, my head spun, but I managed to stay on. I still didn’t like the feeling of riding Lugia. Keeping a grip on its waterproof feathers was a pain, but I was getting better at it. I would’ve killed for a flight harness, but Lugia didn’t exactly like the idea of advertising that it had a rider. At least falling off wasn’t that scary anymore. All the training with Aros had paid off.

Orange wings, approaching us. Firestorm had taken flight, quickly closing the distance to fire another Flamethrower at a closer range.

<Below again, coming up fast!>

Lugia pivoted instantly, firing a torrent of water that easily quenched Firestorm’s flames. It could have blocked the attack with a psychic barrier, but we didn’t want to over-rely on barriers when attacks from actual legends could overwhelm them.

Dragonfire rained down from above. I glanced upward and immediately regretted it as I got a faceful of sun. Ugh. Well, even if I couldn’t see him, Aros was ready to attack from above, and Firestorm was still in position below. Caught between two sides, no way to counter both without a barrier. So Lugia just flared its wings to slow down, causing both attacks to overshoot… or maybe the attacks would have missed anyway. Hard to tell.

<This isn’t terribly effective if they insist on missing,> Lugia pointed out.

<They don’t want to hit me, obviously,> I said.

<Are they under the impression that I would fail to adequately defend you?>

I was definitely not going to answer that. Lugia seemed committed to being miffed about it either way.

While we were focused on them, where was… I glanced over my shoulder and sure enough, there was Swift, wings poised for an Air Slash. I called him out and Lugia swept its tail to the side, sending a rush of wind to intercept Swift’s Air Slash. The Pidgeot dove just in time to avoid the worst of it. But a second blast of wind knocked Aros and Firestorm’s flight paths askew, the latter tumbling head-over-tail until he managed to right himself just before he would’ve hit the sea.

Aros was close enough that I could actually see him now—including the crackle of sparks from his back. My breath froze. Lightning—couldn’t deflect that with wind or water.

<Dive!> I yelled, already tightening my grip.

Lugia threw its wings back and we shot downward, just in time for the narrow bolt to go shooting well past us. That time there was barely any delay at all. Lugia was responding to my thoughts way faster than before. The training was working.

<You’re still fully voicing your thoughts. It would be faster if you just aim your intent at me.> Well, that was a buzzkill.

<I’m… not sure how to do that?> Aiming thoughts at someone was hard enough with words to guide me. I didn’t even know where to begin if it was just abstract intent.

While I was puzzling over that, Firestorm drifted closer to us, his movement slow and inoffensive compared to earlier. “*When’s lunch?*”

I glanced at my watch. 2pm. We’d been at this for a while…

“We can take a break now,” I replied.

<I do not require one,> Lugia said.

I rubbed my eyes. “No, but the rest of us do.”

<Very well.>

Lugia landed on the rocky shoreline and I dismounted. My arms were a bit sore, as usual with prolonged aerial training. It always seemed like I didn’t notice it until taking a break. I retrieved my bag from where I’d stashed it among the rocks and pulled out lunch for me and my team. As we ate, we discussed training, the League, news they’d heard from Rudy or Darren’s teams, gossip from Pokémon competing in the League—normal stuff. It was easy to forget that an afternoon training with a Legendary was anything but normal.

A strange fog surrounded the island. The air within was clear, the sunlight uninhibited. But anyone on the outside wouldn’t be able to see a thing. Lugia had said that any ships approaching would get turned around. And any fliers overhead would just see the sun’s glare off the water droplets. Some kind of psychic trick, I supposed. Lugia apparently had a lot of techniques to avoid having to deal with curious humans. It had proudly told me how it developed the techniques by itself.

While the rest of us had lunch, Lugia passed the time circling the island underwater, occasionally breaching the water inside a swirling waterspout before plunging back into the sea with a mighty splash. I wasn’t sure if it was doing that just because we were watching, but I had to admit it was a cool spectacle.

After he’d finished eating, Swift took off and soared low over the water’s surface, trying to keep pace with the giant seabird swimming below. Chibi took up flinging small rocks into the air with his Iron Tail for Firestorm to hit with small, concentrated fireballs. Aros and Stygian had gone exploring the island, chasing each other up and down the craggy terrain, poking into small caves, and heckling a few of the local Slowpoke. I found myself automatically wondering where Jet had gone before remembering that she was still hanging out with Rudy’s team. I felt a weird sting in my heart at that thought.

After some time, Lugia burst out of the water and did a few loops in the air before landing on the shore near me. Sunlight glimmered off the water streaming down its waterproof feathers. There was something sort of graceful about the fact that Lugia was equally at home in the air and the water.

“Back when we first met, we were underneath these islands, right?” I asked.

<Correct. There is a labyrinth of caves beneath the islands. Countless divers have attempted to explore them. None have reached me. By my design, of course.>

I leaned back against the rocks, stretching my legs in the sun. “Is this your main home, then? Do you have others?”

<There are many seas south of here that I frequent. Various island chains. I once spent a great deal of time exploring the ocean on the far side of the world. But that was years ago. And I’ve decided I prefer this one.>

It suddenly hit me that I really had no idea what it was like being a Legendary. Wild Pokémon spent a lot of time surviving (and… humans did too, come to think of it). But what was it like not having to bother with stuff like that?

“Are there… any things you like doing?” I asked. It was probably a stupid question. But then, I was still getting over the news that the Legendaries hadn’t been around for thousands of years. They hadn’t seen and experienced everything that life had to offer.

Lugia hummed, mulling the question over. <I enjoy traversing the powerful, warm currents through the southern seas. I can easily lose myself in their embrace. Sometimes I go about mapping the layout of the seafloor in my mind. Losing myself in tracing every detail. It’s such a complex system. I’ve tried diving to the deepest depths that I can find. Finding new places to go even deeper. I once spent five years at the bottom, pushing myself to project my mind, my psychic field outward from myself, as far as it could possibly go. Leagues away.>

I stared. “You can sense things that far?”

<Not at the moment. After months of meditation, certainly.>

It was pretty hard to wrap my head around that kind of time scale. Meditating for months was just… mind-boggling. I couldn’t imagine how that wouldn’t be boring. Then again, I guess mapping the seafloor was a lot to process.

<That’s an excessive example, however. Usually I just meditate long enough to guide the nearby currents and storms in my sleep.>

I tilted my head. “Do you really control that stuff? What would happen if you didn’t?”

Lugia paused, as though it hadn’t considered that before. <I suppose… the ocean currents would still flow without my wings, but… I still think of myself as a caretaker of sorts. It is… something like self-expression, for me. I know the others feel the same with their domain.>

It was weird thinking about the role that the Legendaries played in the world. There were still so many things I wanted to know. About their lives. About their past. About the legend. There were a lot of things that they didn’t even know. And the chosen pact was designed 3000 years ago, before any of them were born…

“Can I ask something?”

<Regarding what?> it replied, sounding somewhat guarded.

“It’s about the whole chosen thing. There are a lot of things I’ve been wondering about.”

Lugia relaxed slightly, mulling things over in its mind. <I can’t say everything, and I also don’t know everything about it, but I’ll say what I can.> It still seemed uncertain, but that was probably as good a reaction as I was gonna get.

I shuffled a foot against the gravelly sand. Where to begin… “Okay, so… the pact between human and Legendary… it needs all seven of you to go through with it, right?”

<Correct.>

“What happens when you do?”

Lugia hesitated. Discomfort drifted from its mind. <I’m not sure. I believe Mew knows. But they might be putting on an act for the rest of us just so we’ll feel more reassured. From what I can tell, it will make things easier for us in the war.>

Really? Lugia of all people was alright with something so vague and unexplained as that?

<I really wish I had more information than that. Trust me.>

Ah. So it wasn’t okay with it after all.

I leaned forward, resting my chin against my palm. “Okay, so you, Mew, and Moltres are the only ones to have made a pact so far. Aren’t there only a few months left for Zapdos, Ho-oh, Suicune, and Raikou? Isn’t that… dangerous?”

Lugia glanced away. <It is a cause for concern, yes. Although Mew seems confident that the way the fight is currently progressing has a high probability of yielding more chosen candidates.>

Really? Well, that sure was a lot more confidence than I felt. “You put a lot of trust in what Mew thinks, don’t you?”

Lugia drew itself back, ruffling its feathers. <I dislike Mew’s blind optimism. I wish they were more straightforward and didn’t accept things without explanation. But… yes, I trust them.>

Definitely a hint of embarrassment there. Probably best to change the subject. “So why can’t you just grab any human who’s fought Team Rocket to protect the balance? There’s gotta be a decent number of them.” Hell, Raikou had referred to the entire Rebellion as interlopers once.

Lugia shook its head. <That’s not enough. Remember, there needs to be some sort of connection between the human, the legend, the conflict, and the other interlopers. The threads of fate surrounding them must be sufficiently intertwined. Something about making a proper bond for when things get really ugly.>

“‘Threads of fate’?” I said incredulously. Lugia had been pretty adamant that fate had nothing to do with being chosen.

<Just poetic language,> it said, waving a wing. <It’s obviously something more real than fate. I just don’t know what it is since I didn’t come up with the system. And whoever did was very careful to avoid saying how they did it.>

Huh. Until now, I hadn’t really properly considered the fact that whoever wrote that legend obviously must have been hoping we’d succeed, right? It didn’t make any sense. Why would someone supposedly trying to help just… decide not to give us all the information we needed?

“So you can sense which humans have threads of fate crossed with yours?”

<Correct. That is how we located our chosen candidates. The threads between you and me were especially bright after that night in Viridian City.>

I flinched, trying not to remember it. “What does that… feel like?”

Lugia paused. <You know of creatures that can see colors of light beyond what the rest of us see?> I nodded. <This seems similar to that, only if the light was rarer. Like a tiny glimmer of heat in an otherwise void. No, more like strands of heat.>

Weird. So all that stuff about interlopers and locating the strongest candidates… they could just straight-up see it. That was a lot simpler than I would have guessed.

“So what about Raikou? I never heard anything about when it was captured, and no one seems to want to talk about that, even though it’s kind of important. How will the seven unite without it?”

Lugia exhaled slowly. <We had to free Moltres. We’ll make it our priority to free Raikou as well, now that we finally have time to plan. For one thing, several of your group know the human who took them. We can use that to our advantage.>

The human who took Raikou—Lexx. And Lexx was working for…

“…Did anyone ever consider Sebastian a candidate for being chosen?”

Lugia froze. At first, I wasn’t sure if that name would mean anything to it—by its own admission, it was bad with human names. But then a heavy feeling took hold. It knew. It definitely knew.

<There is something very strange about the human Sebastian,> Lugia said slowly. <He gives off an overwhelming feeling of being tied to the legend. More than anyone I’ve ever seen. But there’s something… wrong about the feeling. It’s the reason why none of us approached him to become his patron. Otherwise we might have, before we learned he was willing to capture us for his own ends.>

“‘Wrong’? What does that mean?”

<I cannot explain it. But I know it as surely as I would know something to be hot or cold.>

Well that was… unnerving. Did he know? Should I tell him? What would come of it? He’d told me all about the fact that he’d tried to turn other people into chosen candidates, but never mentioned anything about himself. If he’d wanted to be chosen, he would have said so, right…?

Lugia shook its head. <We should resume our training. I want to practice that ice technique now.>

Right. We were here for a reason. Couldn’t just waste the day thinking about stuff I had no control over. I stood up, brushed the sand from my jeans, and grabbed my phone from my pocket. “I’ve got an online video here. Took forever to load; the signal’s really bad out here.” I held up my phone with the screen facing out.

Lugia squinted. <Am I supposed to be able to make out what is displayed on that miniscule screen?> it asked dryly. I was about to come up with some kind of reply, but it went on, <No matter. You will have to relay the relevant information then.>

I sighed. “Alright.”

The video was well-made, and the Glalie instructor clearly knew what he was doing. The video was even narrated by him directly (with subtitles), as part of a growing effort to make YouTube more accessible to Pokémon. But that said, something told me the actual process for refining an Ice Beam would be a little bit different for a user with… more limbs.

I could load a different video, but that would require going back to where I could actually get a signal. Didn’t wanna bother with that. We’d just have to wing it.

“What have you got so far?” I asked, looking up at Lugia.

The dragon-bird drew its head back, bright blue particles gathering in its mouth. The energy slowly condensed into an orb, growing larger and larger until finally, it shot forward, breaking into pieces and leaving trails of frost scattered across the sand.

“That looked alright,” I said.

Lugia huffed. <Don’t patronize me. You know how it is meant to look.>

I flinched. The idea of correcting Lugia still just felt… viscerally uncomfortable. “I mean, I guess it’s kind of scattered, like snow. It’s supposed to be a focused beam. It shouldn’t break apart, it needs to hold its shape until the impact point, and then break apart.”

<Perhaps I can psychically force the energy to hold its shape,> Lugia mused.

Something already told me that wasn’t going to work, but Lugia tried it anyway, gathering another round of icy energy and launching it forward. A psychic glow flared up around the beam, but the two energies just exploded outward, dissolving into blue particles trailing upward.

Lugia scowled. I took that opportunity to avoid its gaze and glance back at the video, scrubbing through the timeline. “The instructor says to compress the energy inward to the smallest point. That’s the only way to get a concentrated beam.”

<How is that meant to work? Cold is the absence of energy.>

Seriously? Did it want me to look up the physics on how ice moves work or something? I scrolled down and—thank god, the video description actually explained some of the details. “Uh… it says here you have to… configure your energy signature for the ice element, which is… characterized by a negative pressure? So even though you’re pouring infinity energy into the beam, it’s actually pulling heat from the target, which makes it seem cold.” What was any of this. “And for Ice Beam specifically, the uh… ‘void point’ has to be as small as possible, or else it just pulls heat from the surrounding area and loses strength.” I paused, feeling like an idiot. “I don’t have any idea if that’s helpful, but—”

<It is.>

The dragon-bird fired several more beams, each one slightly different than the last—some thicker, some brighter. Some trailing snow, others raining shards of ice. The beams kept their shape, but the impact point wasn’t freezing over the way it was supposed to.

It probably wasn’t a good idea to say this, but: “It’s okay to not get it right away.”

<Maybe for you.>

I winced. Lugia must have realized its words had stung, because its feathers ruffled awkwardly. <That was… not meant to be a slight. I just cannot afford to be lacking. The enemy is powerful and relentless. My power is no longer sufficient, so my skills must be.>

I hadn’t really thought about it like that before. Lugia had always seemed so… confident in its strength. Even last night…

<It’s been years since I’ve had to learn to use my power in new ways,> Lugia went on, its tone airy and offhanded, like it was merely thinking aloud. I felt its mind digging deep into its memory, like swimming through a distant past. A time of discovery, exploration, and experimentation. A time when everything was new and exciting.

“What’s it like? Having that much power?”

It was a stupid question. Still, Lugia paused in surprise, like it had never considered it before. After several seconds’ thought, it replied, <It is… as natural to me as breathing. I can’t imagine not having it.>

Lugia attempted to focus the ice into a beam once more. The beam swerved, missing the target completely.

<At the same time… there is also the pressure to use that power correctly. To figure out what that means.>

Another beam. A wave of snow cascaded over the rocks.

<It’s frustrating, the feeling of being inept at something. Of wanting to force the skill into being through willpower alone.>

Another beam. Waves of cold radiated out from the impact.

<But it’s also… new. It’s different. Interesting.> Lugia glanced toward me. <I’m told that humans excel at both new and different. You’re so weak compared to Pokémon, and yet your lives are filled with such… novelty.>

Another beam. Spires built up from the impact point, glittering in the sun.

<Normally, if I wished to hone my powers, I would spend years meditating upon them. But we do not have that kind of time. Humans live their lives so quickly. You must learn quickly as well.>

It took me a few seconds to realize Lugia was trying to pay me a compliment. Unsure of how else to respond, I rearranged my face into something that hopefully looked grateful.

“It looks like it’s coming along. There’s a bit here that talks about how to control the way it reacts with the target.” I said, scrolling down further. “I just wish at least one of my Pokémon knew Ice Beam. They could’ve demonstrated.”

<It’s a shame that we do not have Articuno here,> Lugia said offhandedly.

I blinked. Lugia’s tone was casual, like that fact was merely an inconvenience. But there was an undercurrent of heaviness lurking underneath.

“What was Articuno like?” I found myself asking, without really knowing why.

Lugia started slightly, as though it hadn’t expected me to ask. <Articuno was…>—it struggled to find the right words—<Kind. Supportive. They saw beauty in almost anything. Their mastery over ice was enchanting. They could make the most dazzling displays of wind and snow.>

I could feel a distinct pressure from Lugia’s mind holding its feelings back. Little bubbles of emotion rose to the surface anyway, despite its best efforts.

<I did not always see eye to eye with them. I had to hold my words, to not say things I might regret. They were always so sensitive.>

A heavy feeling took hold in my chest. As obvious as it seemed, this was the first time it had really hit me—the Rockets enslaving the Legendaries wasn’t just wrong because it was a crime against nature or something like that. It was wrong because the legends were people. I’d been thinking of it all this time in such a backwards way. Still seeing each of the legends mainly as a force of nature and not… a person. A person who deserved to exist and be free, just like everyone else. A person who had others that cared about them, who’d been hurt by their loss.

I could feel that ache in Lugia’s heart. And instead of getting help from someone it had known for literally hundreds of years, all Lugia had was some small, weak nobody that hadn’t even lived a tenth as long.

<Articuno would have made a fine patron. They would gladly have taken a human under their wing. I don’t understand why they could not have.> Lugia’s mind crackled with frustration. Now, more than ever, it wished that we had answers as to why the seven patrons had been chosen. At least I knew why I’d been picked. But Lugia… Lugia had inherited a legacy from 3000 years ago, and didn’t even know why. A legacy that it didn’t feel like a proper fit for.

“I’m sure that Articuno would be proud of the effort you’re putting in. Learning its element like this?”

Lugia didn’t respond to that. It just stared off to sea, idly nudging some of the fallen snow with its foot.

I rubbed my arm. “Mew could probably help with the whole Ice Beam thing. I really don’t know much.”

<No,> Lugia said immediately. I tilted my head, nonplussed. It ruffled its feathers, mind awash with embarrassment, realizing that it had answered too quickly.

<I will work on it with you.>






~End Chapter 49~
 

TheCharredDragon

This is my justice...and my punishment
Hey, hi...just going to drop a relatively short review, for my average review length anyway, because, funnily enough, seeing an old topic in the Author's Café titled "This author needs validation" and then seeing your post in it talking about making reviewing easier.

So that's basically why I'm here now! even if it might be a bit if not a long time till you see this...but i won't let that deter me!

Before I say anything about what I've read so far though, I...actually read it a while because of the, then recent, Fanfic Awards for 2020 and thought on reading some of the fics there to at least get some idea for some of the nominations. This being one of the ones. I read up to chapter 3 and had planned to review and then...forgot.

But now I'm here! And am mostly going off of both memory of my experience reading it and what I wanted to say then.

I liked how the prologue opened. It had a mystic feel to it. The image above it certainly helped in that, but I doubt that alone would've worked had you not kept in theme with it. It set up a lot of questions.

I remember you mentioning that the beginning chapters are a bit cliché or something...and honestly I didn't feel that way, but that might be more of an indication of my lack of reading trainer fics because I certainly haven't read much of those. Either way the only thing that was even close to "cliché" to me was the whole "mysterious guy recruiting MC to the freedom fighters/rebels/secret organization/what-have-you" and even then I was fine with it.

The hybrid aspect was interesting, not much else to say on that. And the fights. I liked how they flowed/were written because I actually read through them completely instead of skimming like with a half, if not a majority, of written fight scenes I've read. The hybrid Pikachu had an interesting attitude.

And...that's it. I doubt I'll continue reading this anytime soon but I wouldn't mind coming back to this at some point.

Also...for some reason you listed chapter 52 on the table contents but only reached 49 here? I don't know what's up with that so thought I'd let ya know.
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Hey, hi...just going to drop a relatively short review, for my average review length anyway, because, funnily enough, seeing an old topic in the Author's Café titled "This author needs validation" and then seeing your post in it talking about making reviewing easier.
Hey there, glad that that post was helpful! ^^ And I'm glad you're enjoying the fic so far! Especially the battles, since there sure are a lot of them, heh. Sorry for taking so long to reply--my life was thoroughly consumed by an extensive PMD campaign that only ended last month, aha. xD; So I've been pretty behind on all things fanfiction. But I'm hoping to get back into it in 2022!



~Chapter 50: Invites and Warnings~

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After several days of training with legends and discussing plans for spying on the Rockets, it was kind of nice just taking a day off to watch the finalists practicing for the unofficial league. The stands were mostly empty—it was just practice matches, after all. Firestorm and Aros watched with the most rapt attention, occasionally arguing over whether or not a certain move was a good idea. Golduck and Weavile were sitting with us, the latter jumping out of her seat every few seconds anytime a cool move landed. Darren was only half-paying attention, busy reading something on his phone.

“You still never explained why you volunteered to sit out of the finals,” I said offhandedly.

Darren shrugged. “I just figured we got to have our fun, me and the team. Rather than having a big tiebreaker for the 8th slot, might as well leave it to the people who’ve been dreaming about being a champion their whole life, you know?”

I rubbed the back of my head. “I guess that makes sense.” Honestly, I could kind of relate to it in a way. I was just so used to being around people like Rudy or Ajia.

“Everyone was cool with it,” Darren said. “Skarmory was the only one really set on the finals, and he left, so…”

He’d left in spite of the fact that he’d had a chance to be in the finals. That put things in perspective.

“To be honest, I just got a little sick of training every day,” Darren went on sheepishly. “All that hypercompetitive stuff is more Rudy’s deal. I was looking forward to something a little more chill.”

I raised an eyebrow. “And yet you’re hanging around with those of us who’ve got the least chill job possible.”

Darren shrugged. “Never said I was smart.” He stretched widely, putting his feet up on the seats in front of us. “Anyway, I technically qualified for the finals. So when I volunteered to sit out, one of the organizers invited me to a minor league she runs in Johto—I might think about entering that one. Fewer people watching, seems like a better fit for us.”

“Huh, I wonder if it’s one of the minor leagues that Starr did when we were in Johto.” Decent winnings without too much publicity. Still, we’d had a few close calls—times we’d had to skip town to avoid trouble. Darren probably would be fine though. He wasn’t a notorious enemy of the Rockets like we were.

It looked like Rudy and his opponent were clearing out of the battlefield so we opted to leave the stands and go meet up with him. The moment we made it into the lobby, Weavile’s ears pricked up and she dashed forward to meet Ebony. Rudy had just finished signing something at the front counter. His eyes lit up when he saw us, and he bolted over, looking absolutely ecstatic.

“You guys, I gotta tell you the news! You’re never gonna believe it, it worked! It worked!” he yelled, bouncing up and down with so much energy it was almost contagious.

I waved my hand in front of me. “Okay, slow down, what worked?”

Rudy slowed to a stop, but his grin hadn’t lessened. “Some people were petitioning the Elite Four to show up at the unofficial finals and they’re totally gonna.”

I stared at him. “Holy crap.” This whole unofficial League thing had grown way bigger than I’d ever imagined. At this point why was it even unofficial? It might as well have been the real deal.

“Did the League ever say why they didn’t just hold the finals themselves?” I asked.

Rudy shrugged indifferently. “No clue. I just know the Indigo tournament site is still a mess.”

“Yeah, but they could have held it somewhere else, like you guys did,” I pointed out, shuffling a foot on the floor. “And there’s still no word from them on, like, the whole Legendary attack situation.” Just a whole bunch of media speculation. The idea that Moltres may have been acting on behalf of humans kept getting treated like a dumb conspiracy theory even though it was obviously the simplest explanation here. Were people seriously that blind?

“Y’know, there’s still a ton of people theorizing about that on social media,” Darren said casually.

Rudy turned toward him. “Huh?”

“Yeah. Most people think that the Legendaries are trying to punish humans for some crime against nature or something. No one can really agree on what it is, though.”

Rudy balked. “Wait, really? You can’t be serious.”

“You might consider reading things for once,” Darren said dryly, taking a swig of his drink, then nearly spitting it out when Rudy punched him in the shoulder.

“Oh, screw you, I’ve been busy.”

Yet again, I found myself wishing we could just tell the League everything. What did we have to gain from it being a secret? Sure, the Legendaries didn’t trust humans, but all this secrecy only benefitted Team Rocket and made the legends look like the bad guys.

Rudy shook his head. “Anyway, you guys distracted me before I could even get to the main point.”

Darren looked impressed. “Learning that the Elite Four are gonna show up to the finals wasn’t the main point?”

“No,” Rudy said, giving Darren a look. But then just as quickly, his face split into a wide grin. “I got invited to League headquarters later today!”

My jaw fell open. “Whoa, seriously? Are all the organizers getting invited?”

“Probably! I need to ask them. Might be a sign that the League's finally recognizing all our effort, y’know?”

Darren leaned back against the wall. “Well, yeah. They had to let you guys do all the hard work. Might just mean the League is gonna try to take credit for everything you guys did.”

Rudy jerked his head toward him incredulously. “What? Why do you think that?”

“I didn’t say I think it’ll happen, just that it could,” he said cryptically.

“Yeah, well, I don’t think that’s gonna happen,” Rudy replied with a huff. “That’d be a total dick move.” His expression had grown a bit conflicted, though. “At least… I sure hope they’re not gonna try to take over. It was a pain to set all this up and they weren’t helping us then, so it’s not like we’re just gonna hand it over from there.”

I shrugged. “I mean, the League was probably dealing with a lot at Indigo. Important… government stuff, or whatever.” I couldn’t pretend like I had any idea what they’d have to deal with in the aftermath of a disaster like that.

Rudy seemed at least a little satisfied. “Yeah…” he said, nodding distantly. He glanced around the lobby and added, “C’mon, let’s head outside or something.”

We all left the stadium, Weavile riding on Ebony’s back, lightly pummeling the back of her neck in what was probably some sort of congratulations. Our teams burned some energy goofing off at the training park, and then we all went out to eat before finally wandering back to the stadium around half an hour before the time Rudy was supposed to leave for his meeting. We chatted about the finalists, made bets on their chances, and argued about different tactics. Finally, a voice behind us said, “Rudy Fierro?” and we turned to see a woman in an official-looking suit approaching us from the sidewalk.

“Hell yeah, that’s me,” Rudy replied, raising a hand.

The woman nodded. “Thank you for agreeing to meet with the League on such short notice. A teleporter will be arriving shortly,” she said, gesturing for him to follow her to the designated jump spot.

“Sweet,” Rudy said. He turned to me and Darren. “I’ll see you guys later, then.”

“Be sure to remember us when you’re a League big shot,” Darren said, earning a shoulder punch.

“Seeya,” I said, giving a small wave and turning to leave, but then—

“Just one moment,” the League rep said. “Are you Jade Arens?”

“Yeah,” I replied, a bit bemused. How’d she know my name?

“Oh, that’s perfect. Are you available?” she asked. “We’d like for you to accompany him.”

I tilted my head. “Me? I’m not really involved in this whole unofficial League thing.”

“Oh, it has nothing to do with that,” she said, waving a hand dismissively.

“…What does it have to do with, then?” I asked cautiously.

“That will be made clear when you arrive.”

I wasn’t sure why, but I had the distinct feeling that I’d done something wrong.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

An official teleporter arrived to take us to the outskirts of the tournament site, at the Indigo Pokécenter, where a car was waiting for us. During the drive, almost everything looked ordinary, but then sometimes we’d pass by a city block that was completely demolished out of nowhere, and it was hard not to think of what had happened here a few weeks ago.

At least that mission had gone well for us. Even if it was just a trap that had caused us to fail miserably in Hoenn, we’d still gotten out alive, and managed to free Moltres in the process. And Rudy had been able to partner with Moltres. It was worth it. I kept telling myself that, at least.

“You’re sure you don’t know why we’re being summoned?” I asked, leaning over so I could see the driver.

“The Elite Four didn’t specify. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

I settled back into my seat, unsure of how to feel. My brain had already started generating bad explanations. Maybe they didn’t approve of the unofficial League after all. (But then why would I be here with Rudy?) Maybe they found out that we snuck into the tournament site while it was a restricted zone. Maybe—

“Man, I can’t get over how nice this car is,” Rudy said, stretching out so he was taking up two seats. “They must think we’re really important.”

Well, at least Rudy was enjoying himself. As the ride progressed, he asked questions nonstop: “How come there wasn’t any news from the League? How come they didn’t end up continuing the tournament themselves? What do they think of what we’ve been doing? They’re glad, right?” The rep answered a few of the obvious ones, but otherwise we didn’t get much. So he resorted to talking my ear off instead.

Finally, we reached the League headquarters itself, an impressive stone building towering over the northern edge of the plateau like a fortress. Rhydon statues flanked the entrance and heavy banners hung from the windows. It was all very traditional—even though the inside was probably just as modern as the stadiums, the outside hadn’t changed much since it was built. And it was huge—big enough to hold an arena for private battles.

No one had led us inside yet. I was about to ask if we were supposed to just go in when another car pulled up from a different direction, parking in front of us. And out from it emerged—

“Ajia? Starr? What are you two doing here?”

“Gooood freaking question,” Starr muttered, shutting the car door and shooting a visible glare at the driver. “Just showed up out of friggin’ nowhere and made us come here. Real great sign.”

Why us? We didn’t have anything to do with the unofficial League at all. Ajia didn’t say anything, but she looked deep in thought. I half-expected her to have already figured out why we’d been brought here. Maybe she had and just wasn’t saying it yet.

The front doors opened, and a staff member ushered us inside, leading us to a meeting room on the first floor. We didn’t have to wait long. After a few minutes, the door opened, and a voice said, “Good afternoon—I hope you’re all doing well.”

“What do you want?” Starr asked shortly.

The woman sighed. “At least let me introduce myself.”

Rudy’s jaw dropped. I swiveled around in my chair, and—oh. Dark red hair in a loose ponytail, thin glasses, a crisp dress suit…

“My name is Lorelei, of the Elite Four.”

As if she even needed to say that—we all recognized her. If I’d known that we’d been called to meet with a member of the Elite Four, I would’ve… well, I wasn’t sure what I would have done, but something to feel more prepared than I was currently feeling.

Lorelei took a seat at the head of the table, setting a tablet down in front of her. “I hope you’ve all been well ever since the tournament was cut short?” she asked.

“Been busy with the unofficial League. Which you’ve heard about?” Rudy said, letting his tone rise toward the end.

Lorelei nodded. “We’re all very impressed with the way the community has come together like this. I’m hoping it will pave the way for future collaborations with community-run events.”

Rudy’s face brightened a little. “Yeah. That’d be awesome.” But then his eyes wandered around the room, and he fidgeted a bit. “…How come I’m the only one on the organizer team who’s here? I figured there’d be others.”

“And why did you want to talk to the rest of us?” Ajia asked, giving Lorelei a perplexed look. “We’re not involved.”

Lorelei nodded. “I’m sorry for the confusion. We didn’t bring you here to talk about the tournament—it’s actually about that disaster. We were wondering if you might be able to help us learn more about it.”

“The… disaster,” I repeated. The attack on Indigo?

“Legendary incidents have been on the rise in recent decades,” Lorelei went on. “And we’re worried there could be more yet to come.” Her tone was careful. Measured. Like there was a lot of thought behind each word, without trying to seem like it.

I tilted my head. “Um… why exactly do you think we’d have any info that you don’t? I mean… you’re part of the League, and we’re just… us.”

Her reply was unflinching: “Steven Stone informed us that your group was acquainted with multiple Legendaries.”

And there it was. The reason we were all here. The thing they wanted out of us.

“Yeah, I don’t know where the hell he got the idea from, but that’s obviously bullshit,” Starr replied indifferently.

“The Ranger Union was tipped off by an anonymous source, and then you all arrived, along with the Legendaries,” Lorelei explained. Her tone was patient, like she already knew she was right and was just waiting for us to admit it.

“Yeah, they just showed up at the same time as us, that’s real compelling evidence,” Starr said sarcastically.

Ajia took a deep breath. “You’re right that we tipped the rangers off. And then we went there ourselves, even though we shouldn’t have. I know that was probably a bad move, but… I’m not sure what that has to do with the Legendaries.”

Lorelei glanced back and forth at all of us and sighed. Then she flipped open the tablet that had been sitting on the table. She scrolled through some files for a moment, then propped the tablet up with its case and rotated it to face us.

It was aerial footage, taken from a flying Pokémon, most likely. The frame jerked around the sky as whoever was filming fought to steady the camera. And then my stomach dropped through the floor. The camera had settled on what was unmistakably Rudy riding Moltres. It lingered there for a few seconds while Rudy called out inaudible orders to his nearby Pokémon. Then the footage swung over to Ajia riding on a Charizard and calling out to Rayquaza. Rayquaza responded to her—brushing her off, yeah, but the fact that she was in a position to even talk with it at all… And then, as if my stomach couldn’t sink any lower, there was me riding Lugia. Struggling to hold on as the dragon-bird swerved around attacks from the Rockets. Clear as day. Why had it never occurred to me that people would have seen us? I guess it wasn’t a priority since we had way bigger concerns at the time, but…

They must not have pieced together that Darren was involved yet, otherwise they probably would have brought him here with us. Probably because he’d been on the ground for most of the Sootopolis fight, until the very end. At least one of us didn’t have to deal with this.

“I can understand why you wouldn’t want anyone to know about this,” Lorelei said evenly. “Nevertheless, we’re aware. I’d like it if we could discuss things openly now.”

“Discuss… what, exactly,” I replied, still feeling like I was sinking into a bog.

She gave me a look like it was obvious, but then adjusted her glasses and went on, “Discuss the current state of affairs. All the disasters happening recently. Sootopolis. Indigo. Viridian.” My throat clenched up at the mention of Viridian, and I did my best to ignore it.

“You had advance warning for Sootopolis. Was it the same as the others?”

“Well, if by advance warning, you mean ‘a couple of hours,’ then I guess,” I mumbled.

“That’s a couple of hours earlier than the rest of us, and that can make the difference when people’s lives are on the line,” Lorelei said firmly.

The only reason we’d had any advance warning at all was because of people like Stalker or Lexx trying to use us. It was bad enough the League knew about our connection with the legends—the last thing we needed was them finding out about our connection with high-ranking Rockets.

“I don’t think there’s much way we can help out. We just got tipped off early, that’s all,” I said quietly, avoiding her eye. It wasn’t even a lie but somehow felt just as awkward as one.

Lorelei regarded me carefully. “Did the legends warn you about the disasters?”

“No. They didn’t know either.”

She gave me a curious look. “Then who did?”

Ugh, I probably shouldn’t have said that we’d been tipped off. Now there was no way to backpedal and say that we’d like, stolen the intel from Team Rocket or something.

I glanced helplessly at the others. Starr was still watching the footage, looking unimpressed. Rudy looked bewildered. I had no idea what to say, so I didn’t say anything, and I felt like an idiot.

Ajia clasped her hands together. I couldn’t help noticing the tiniest flicker in her eyes as she silently conversed with Mew. “It’s complicated. There are people who know more than us.”

Lorelei raised an eyebrow. “Perhaps they ought to be here with us, then.”

“I don’t think that’s possible.”

Lorelei was silent for some time. Finally, she put her elbows on the table, tenting her fingers. “Then, if you’re unable to help us, we have to ask you to stop associating with the legends,” she said simply.

It took several seconds for me to process what she’d just said. Then my jaw hung open. “What? Why?”

“We don’t trust the Legendaries. Not after all the attacks that have been happening recently.”

Okay, that was too much. I couldn’t not say it. “Those attacks are all Team Rocket’s fault!”

“Are they? All of them?”

I was about to open my mouth… and then I paused. The attack on Viridian. I’d been avoiding thinking about it. Someday, I’d have to talk to Lugia about it. But what was there for me to say? Point out the way innocent lives had been lost from their attempt to strike back at Team Rocket? Would it care? Was it okay for me to be helping if it didn’t?

“Regardless of whose fault it was, Legendary Pokémon are dangerous,” she went on. “Do not underestimate their power.”

Starr wasn’t backing down. “Full offense, but if we’ve been hanging around them, I think we understand their power better than you.”

“And what if your little war game causes major loss of property and life?” Lorelei asked, peering at all of us over her glasses. “This isn’t the sort of thing the Elite Four can just ignore.”

“Then why don’t you guys stop Team Rocket?” Rudy blurted out suddenly.

Starr laughed. “They can’t do that.”

Lorelei stood up, pacing one end of the room, arms folded behind her back. “Team Rocket is too deeply intertwined in the politics of this region, and has been for too long. We have to consider the big picture.”

“Wait—you’re just letting them get away with all this?” Rudy asked incredulously.

She turned to face him. “And how would you have us stop them without causing even more problems?”

Rudy looked dumbfounded. “I—well, you… you could do something!” he exclaimed, tripping over his words.

The videos were still playing on repeat. The movement made it hard not to look at them, but I hated to think how many people had seen them.

Almost as if she’d sensed what I was thinking, Lorelei said, “This footage hasn’t been released to the public. To be honest, we would really prefer not to do that. And I’d imagine you wouldn’t want that either.”

Starr stood bolt upright. “Wait, wait wait, excuse me? Are you friggin’ blackmailing us?” Starr demanded.

Lorelei’s gaze was unflinching. “That’s not my intention.”

“Yeah, well it sure sounds like you are,” Starr snapped. “Also, what the hell am I doing here anyway? Don’t suppose you’ve got any footage of me riding Legendaries?” she said mockingly. “Like I’d be caught dead doing that.”

“You’re closely associated with these two, that’s reason enough,” Lorelei said dismissively. “There’s also the question of… your history.”

Starr bristled. “The hell is that supposed to mean?”

“We really don’t have any particular need to pursue legal action against your criminal record. But if you’re helping them with these Legendary conflicts, then you’re a part of this whether you like it or not.”

Starr’s fists were clenched so tight I half-worried she might jump over the table and deck Lorelei in the face. I closed my eyes and willed her not to, whatever good that would do.

Lorelei relaxed slightly. “I know this all sounds harsh. Please try to understand. We can’t keep having disasters like this happen. Not if there’s some way that we can prevent them.”

Sharing everything we knew with the League sure didn’t seem like a good way to prevent anything anymore.

Lorelei gave us an imploring look. “We’re really just asking for your cooperation.”

“Or what? Gonna arrest us?” Starr asked with a snide grin. “Pretty sure there aren’t any laws for this kind of thing.”

Starr, please. If I could just will her to stop responding to everything with sarcasm…

Lorelei considered her carefully for some time. “We didn’t bring you here with the intent to keep you here. This is merely a warning. It’s in your best interest to stay away from the guardians.”

“Look… we really can’t do that,” I said, awkwardly avoiding her eye.

Lorelei’s gaze softened. “Are they forcing you to serve them? Are you trapped in any way?”

“Of course not!” I exclaimed, probably too quickly.

“What Jade means is…” Ajia said, giving me a significant look, “that we’re not at liberty to discuss that.”

Lorelei surveyed her closely. “If you’re in any way trapped, I want to assure you that anything you say here will not leave this room.”

I had half a mind just to say something to Lugia right then and there to prove her wrong, if only in my head.

“Not that we don’t appreciate the generous offer, but it’s really none of your business,” Starr said loudly, standing up from her chair and moving toward the door. “So are we free to go, or what?”

Lorelei paused, considering us carefully. Finally she stood up and opened the door. “Of course. I just ask that you please think carefully about what I said.”

It was going to be hard not to.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The car ride back was silent. I couldn’t even really bring myself to read anything on my phone to distract myself, unlike Starr. We were dropped off at the edge of the tournament site. The driver gave us some canned parting words and then the car drove off. Ajia didn’t feel safe calling for Mew, and I could hardly blame her. Rudy ended up calling Darren. A minute later, Darren and Alakazam appeared, the former looking baffled and the latter looking displeased.

“Hey, so… what exactly happened?” Darren asked after we’d teleported back to the Pokécenter in Pewter.

Rudy threw his arms up. “I literally told you on the phone that the Elite Four gave us some BS about Legendaries being bad.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t actually explain anything,” Darren replied in that practiced tone like he’d told Rudy that same thing a thousand times.

Ajia proceeded to explain the meeting to him in a slightly more informative way. Rudy interjected every so often, making sure to convey how dumb everything was.

“You guys are too honest,” Darren pointed out. “Why not just agree to whatever the League says and then keep fighting the Rockets anyway?”

I wasn’t sure. Somehow the idea of lying to the League felt… intimidating. And to think—all those times I’d wondered if it was a good idea to get the League in on this fight. So much for that idea.

Starr hadn’t said much ever since we left. She mostly just kept her arms folded, occasionally muttering things under her breath

“Hey, so… thanks for not saying anything,” I said quietly.

Starr raised an eyebrow. “Why the hell would I?”

I tapped my fingers together. “I mean, you didn’t swear a pact with the Legendaries.”

She let out a long, drawn-out sigh. “Yeah, I still say that the chosen thing is bullshit, but it’s bullshit that’s important to you two, so I’m not gonna screw it up for you, obviously,” she said impatiently, like she couldn’t believe we were even talking about this.

I nodded vaguely. “Still… thanks.”

It was nightfall already. The days were getting shorter. Soon, it’d be fall. I wasn’t really sure why summer’s end felt like the days of doing whatever we wanted were over. It wasn’t like I was going back to school or anything. Maybe it reminded me of being on the Rebellion.

Ugh, I still hadn’t told Lugia anything. Half of me wanted to just not. But the other half wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.

<Right, so… the League knows about us,> I said.

<What? What are you talking about?> Lugia replied, utterly baffled. Probably because I’d just sprung this on it out of nowhere.

<They know that we’re working together with you guys,> I said. <The Hoenn Champion told them.>

Lugia took a few seconds to process that. Then it cursed. <I knew it. It’s impossible to keep news from spreading when dealing with humans. This is why we were committed to secrecy. We should not have compromised on that.>

<We didn’t have a choice,> I said defensively. <We had to help with the evacuation.>

<Never mind that. Have you escaped yet?> Lugia asked.

<We weren’t trapped,> I replied tiredly. <They just wanted to talk.>

<What were their demands?>

Geez, I hadn’t even said what happened yet and Lugia was already assuming the worst.

<They just wanted information. How we always know to show up when there’s a Legendary incident, things like that.>

I felt Lugia tense up. <What did you tell them?>

<We just told them that we couldn’t tell them anything,> I said, a little exasperated.

Lugia noticeably relaxed at my words. Part of me was a bit annoyed—what, did it think we were just gonna spill patron/chosen secrets to the first person who asked? But, no… it had already eased up. There was no point in making a fuss over nothing.

My mind couldn’t help drifting back to Viridian. Half of me wanted to finally ask Lugia about it. The other half wanted to do literally anything else. And Lugia was feeling anxious as well. Guess we’d leave it for later, then.

“So, we’re obviously not going to listen to them,” Ajia said, taking a break from her pacing. “But I don’t want to get on the League’s bad side either.”

“Sounds like you already are,” Starr pointed out flatly. She shook her head. “Told you guys that being chosen was nothing but trouble.”

“I don’t think you ever worded it exactly like that, no,” Ajia said, with an attempt at a playful grin. It was forced, though.

Starr just rolled her eyes. “Yeah, well, enjoy the League breathing down your neck if you try anything in public from now on. That’ll be fun.”

I rubbed the back of my head. “I mean… I’m okay with staying out of public.”

Starr looked unconvinced. “You’re not going to have a choice if the Rockets pull more public ****, and let’s face it—we know they’re gonna.”

“I guess we could always just avoid going anywhere the League could see us,” I said. We’d already been having to stay on the move to avoid the Rockets anyway.

“I can’t just stay out of public. I’m in the tournament,” Rudy pointed out indignantly. “If they don’t want me to help Moltres, they can suck it.”

In just one day, his starry-eyed admiration of the Elite Four had been totally shattered. It was honestly kind of wild.

Rudy turned away, shaking his head. “I’m sick of talking about all this, and I need to let my team out anyway. Gonna go for a run with them. I’ll see you all later,” he said before walking off in a huff.

Letting out some steam sounded nice. Unfortunately, I already suspected that I’d be thinking about all this for the rest of the night.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We ended up heading back to the cabin for the night. That way, it would be easy to discuss things with the legends when the time came. Secretly, I hoped that wouldn’t be until tomorrow. I really didn’t want to talk about this stuff anymore until then.

Alakazam teleported us there and then promptly bid everyone a very grumpy good night. As we approached the cabin, the first thing I noticed was that the front door was open. That was… odd. Maybe someone had forgotten to close it last time we were here? I’d just reached the front steps when movement inside caught my eye.

“Is someone in there?” I asked hesitantly. I could already feel the hair on my arms standing on end.

A figure stood up from one of the armchairs. A tall figure. A tall, nonhuman figure. It stepped forward as lightly as if it was walking on air. And then the light from the window framed its outline for a moment.

My breath froze. I knew that silhouette. Pointed ears. Long, thick tail. No way…

<Hello.>

The group reaction was instant: “Mewtwo?!”

It was him. I hadn’t seen him in nearly a year. What was he doing here? Why now? Was he… waiting for us?

<I wish to speak with the guardians that have associated with this human group,> he announced. No introduction. He knew we all knew who he was. He knew we all were affiliated with the Legendaries. <You have a means of contacting them, don’t you?>

“I… do,” Ajia replied slowly, regarding him curiously.

“Excuse me, what the hell?” Starr blurted, glancing back and forth between me and Ajia. I gave her a helpless look that hopefully conveyed that I didn’t have a clue either.

<I’ll wait,> Mewtwo said, sitting back down in the armchair.

Still looking rather perplexed, Ajia nodded. She conversed silently with Mew for a minute before Mew appeared at her side, her eyes wide with intrigue.

<Mewtwo?> she asked, drifting gently through the doorway.

Mewtwo looked up at her, gazing long and hard, his expression hard to place. Something between intrigue and uncertainty.

<I wish to speak with the others as well,> he said finally.

Mew blinked, looking a bit taken aback. But then she nodded, and vanished.

I couldn’t get over how weird it was to have Mewtwo just sitting in the living room. I couldn’t help staring at him. Did he remember me? Did he… have any particular opinion about me?

“Good to see that you’re… doing okay?” I said, feeling like an idiot.

He looked up, vivid purple irises practically staring through me. He nodded.

“Have you… been busy with things?” What would he have been spending his time on, anyway?

<Traveling. Seeing. Experiencing.> His expression shifted slightly. <Living.>

“Oh,” I said blankly, unsure of what else to say. “That’s… good.”

At least it sounded peaceful. He’d been imprisoned from the moment of his birth until the day we freed him, so… getting to live his own life was a good thing. And it also meant that he wasn’t getting involved in any more incidents like Viridian.

There was a familiar teleport flash behind us. Mew had appeared outside with Lugia, Ho-oh and Moltres, all looking various degrees of perturbed.

<Where is he?> Lugia asked.

Right on cue, Mewtwo drifted lightly through the open doorway, regarding the new arrivals with a contemplative look. Lugia stared at him, and I could feel the recognition in its mind. I couldn’t get a read on how it felt about seeing him, though.

“I trust you have been well?” Ho-oh asked. There was a slight edge to its voice, like it was holding its tongue.

“Staying far away from the humans?” Moltres asked with a smirk.

<Why exactly have you been nonexistent for the past year?> Lugia asked tersely.

<I didn’t wish to interact with any guardians,> Mewtwo replied. <I needed to see the world for myself.>

“And what if you were targeted?” Ho-oh asked.

<They would not have found me,> Mewtwo said simply. <I traveled to a distant land across the sea.>

<Why bother to return, then?> Lugia asked.

Mewtwo fixed the seabird with a pointed look. <Don’t misunderstand. I felt confident that they would not find me this past year. I do not expect that to be the case forever.>

Lugia glowered. Irritation already saturated its thoughts.

<The events happening in this region will most certainly have consequences. If all of you fall here, do you think that will be the end of it? Do you think that the humans of other lands won’t learn what happened here? Won’t seek to obtain that power for themselves?>

I swallowed hard. The idea that things happening here had the ability to affect the rest of the world… it wasn’t something I’d ever had to consider until now. I didn’t like thinking about it.

Mewtwo gestured with both palms up. <I have returned to stop the humans, because if I do not, then no one will.>

<Excuse me?> Lugia asked indignantly. <No one? What do you think we’ve been doing?>

Mewtwo tilted his head. <Then why do they continue to do as they wish?>

<They’re not—>

<I heard news of the incident at the place the humans call Sootopolis,> Mewtwo went on, making Lugia freeze. <They were unable to reclaim me, so they set their sights on another in my place. And just look at the destruction that caused.>

“You’re right,” Ajia said carefully. “The Rockets went after Rayquaza specifically because they wanted a weapon that could match your power.”

<And now they have one.>

<Where were you during that time, then?> Lugia snapped.

Mewtwo fixed Lugia with a hard stare. <Learning to understand my power. Learning about the state of the world. I could not risk my freedom until I was ready.>

“I thought you were confident that you cannot be captured,” Ho-oh pointed out.

Mewtwo was silent for a bit. <I took measures. I don’t expect those measures to be foolproof. I could not afford to risk my freedom until I learned the true scope of the threat.>

So he hadn’t spent all his time across the sea. He must’ve returned occasionally to see what was happening back here. Then again, how much of this stuff had made the news in other countries? The destruction of Sootopolis was a pretty huge deal…

<I was created to overthrow all of you. To be the weapon for humanity to surpass the only beings they have to fear. If they overthrow all of you, do you think they will allow me to quietly live my life as they please? No. I will be their prize, their trophy.>

Man, it was chilling to hear him talk so matter-of-factly about the scenario where we all lose.

<And what of the innocents?> he went on. <Do you think their lives will be unchanged? Do you think this is something we can allow to happen? And do you think I will be the last? What if they create another weapon to surpass me? The threat must be stopped, and it must be stopped decisively.>

Ho-oh gave him a knowing look. “If I recall correctly, this is much like what you said last year, before attacking Viridian. Did that attack accomplish anything?”

Mewtwo eyed the phoenix closely. <It forced the enemy into hiding for nearly a year.>

“Mm,” Ho-oh replied noncommittally.

“What are you planning?” Moltres asked with a suspicious look.

<I believe the enemy will be making their move soon. I intend to stop them.>

Ajia stared at him. “Are they targeting a new Legendary already?”

<No. Targeting your leadership.>

I gaped. “What?”

<It’s simple. If the enemy gains control of the human leadership, what reason will they have to operate in secret? They will be able to freely target us.>

The League already thought they couldn’t beat Team Rocket. They didn’t even want to try; they were too worried about collateral damage. Another attack could be the end. And we wouldn’t hear about it from Stalker or Lexx this time now that they’d betrayed the Kanto Force. Or maybe they’d be part of the attack. Maybe the two halves of Team Rocket would be fighting to see who could take over the League first. Lexx seemed to think the Kanto force would win that one.

<They would be free to target you as they please,> Mewtwo said, fixing the Legendaries with a hard stare. <Would you live the rest of your life in solitude, isolated from the world? A prisoner by another name?>

Lugia bristled. I could feel it struggling to come up with a response. It finally settled on, <What exactly do you want from us?> In its voice, it was annoyed. But in its mind, I could feel something else. It was conflicted. Unsure.

<I want to unify our strength. It is all we have,> Mewtwo said simply, tail flicking.

<That’s what I’ve been trying to do,> Mew said, drifting forward. <I believe that rallying everyone around the chosen will give us a much better chance of standing up to the enemy.>

<The chosen?> Mewtwo asked, tilting his head ever so slightly.

<We aren’t just working together with these humans,> Mew said, gesturing to Ajia, and to me. <We have bound ourselves to each other.>

He surveyed her closely. <How does that work?>

<Our souls are bound. We feel each other’s presence.>

<For what purpose?>

<To combine the strengths of both human and legend.>

For just a moment, there was a flicker of surprise across Mewtwo’s features. It vanished just as quickly, and he pondered her words for some time. <I would prefer not to inform more humans of my plan.>

Ajia blinked. “More?”

<I have trusted one. That is all.> I didn’t have any idea what to make of that.

Mew glanced back at Ajia, and then at Mewtwo. <I will not keep secrets from my chosen. That is all,> she said firmly, with a tone of finality.

Ho-oh gave a firm nod, like it had been waiting for that. “I haven’t got one, but I still disapprove of your recklessness in Viridian.”

Moltres tilted its head. “Hm? Wasn’t there for that one. Well, not all there, anyway. In any case, my human has proved useful, so I believe I’ll be sticking with our methods.”

Lugia tensed. It was the only one who hadn’t replied, and everyone’s eyes were on it, waiting. Lugia had been the one to help Mewtwo attack Viridian. But… it couldn’t possibly be thinking of joining him again, could it?

Lugia hesitated for a long time. Finally, it replied, <My loyalties will remain with Mew.>

Mewtwo nodded softly. <Very well.> It was hard to tell what he was thinking, but his tone gave a sense of disappointment. He turned to face away from the other legends, and Mew hovered closer to him.

<You could join us…?> she asked hesitantly.

The clone bristled. He considered her for some time.

<I will not be your shadow. I will follow my own path.>

Mew nodded, her face somber.

Mewtwo turned to face us, the humans of the group. <I may need to contact you again,> he said. <Or you may wish to contact me.> He opened a pocket inside his cloak. A small scrap of paper floated out, over to Ajia. She took it, and I leaned in to get a closer look. It was… a Pokégear number?

“You have a Pokégear?” I asked blankly.

<It’s not mine,> he replied, as if that answered anything.

I didn’t know what to make of that. He didn’t want to work with humans, but he was willing to use a phone of all things? I didn’t understand him at all.

<I expect I’ll see you again,> Mewtwo said. And then he vanished.






~End Chapter 50~
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Heya,

I'll admit, I didn't exactly plan on starting to throw reviews out for this story since it's kinda intimidating to start from scratch for a 50-chapter story, but I'd been having a good time with what I have read of LC so far, and you've been pretty generous with feedback. So I decided that since one of my resolutions for Review Blitz on TR was to try and pay things forward to other writers who have given past reviews and the like for my writing and you surprised me with a fresh review on my plate earlier today... I opted to just take the leap of faith and write some honest-to-goodness reviews of LC beyond simple Discord impressions.

Prologue

This story began with the human who rejected infinity.
It will end with the human who accepted it.

Not sure how much of a world there's gonna be at the end of that story with a tagline like that, but I suppose that's something to find out along the ride. ^^;

A pair of eyes snapped open, radiating a cobalt aura and piercing the inky blackness within the depths of the sea. The true blessing of light had never reached the ocean floor, and even the rare glow of life could not break its concealment. The creature to which the eyes belonged knew this better than any other. The deep was always dark and always would be. The deep was always calm—not like the surface. The deep could always hide those who wished to be hidden. But the time for hiding was at its end.

At once, the creature shot up from the ocean trench like a silver torpedo. The crushing depths released their hold as it flew through the water, scattering countless tiny water Pokémon in its wake. Piercing eyes adjusted to the rapid increase of light just in time to be met with the inviting glimmer of the surface right above. And then the beast rocketed out of the sea. Cool, salty air washed over its body, a sharp contrast to the water’s embrace. The sensation prickled like needles against its feathers, but still… there was something almost freeing about being able to beat its wings through the currents of wind and take gulps of sweet air that at once burned its unused lungs, yet felt so good.

Oh hey! It's Pleo! Plus a few centuries of growth and maturity. And in a completely different time and place, so... you know, not Pleo at all. But I'm sticking with the comparison. :V

Also, I'll be doing my normal style I've ironed out of leaving rewording suggestions in the format roughly as above. You're free to ignore them if you feel they don't quite match what you're going for, but might as well throw them out there.

It was so wildly different than the deep, but somehow felt just as right. Flying was, indeed, one of the simplest joys in this world. The creature effortlessly sailed through the skies, its wings stealing bits of silvery cloud from all around to shield it from the view of any onlookers, had there been any. One could never be too careful, especially these days.

So no squawking sea shanties from LC's overgrown Wingull, huh? A shame, not that I blame big bird for doing so considering that the neighborhood's kinda on a bad trip right now.

The ancient creature had spent much time within the realms of its dominion, reflecting upon the state of the world. The Order had been empowered to protect the balance, and protect it they had. For so long they had kept watch over its course. Caring for it. Guiding it. But there was a time when the balance had fallen, and the flames of war consumed the world. The creature had not witnessed that time itself, but the tale was well known amongst the Order. Even the humans had their stories from that era.

The time for careful observance was at its end. That cataclysmic era had left its mark on the world—one that had lain dormant for nearly 3000 years. Soon the conflict would resurface, and the Order would face its greatest challenge yet. The creature had not wanted to believe it, but the events of the past few years had confirmed those fears.

Wait a minute, did you explicitly tie your story into the whole AZ thing going on in mainline at some point down the pipe in your story? Or was that just a happy accident that happened to just align with canon a decade down the road?

It was a strange thought, knowing that the balance of the world would soon unravel again. Would they be ready? It wasn’t as if the Order had no course of action before them. They all knew what was required. They’d known for ages. And now the search had been set into motion.

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Lugia: "Hey! What's that supposed to mean?!" ÒvÓ

Even as the fires of the Revolution subside, the balance that the Order fought so hard to preserve is already on the inevitable path to being torn apart once again. Seven among them—the ones who dedicated both mind, body, and spirit toward ending the war—shall be empowered to forge an alliance with humankind so that both might endure.

Well, that's not ominous at all. Especially if those seven happen to be hormonal teenagers with questionable amounts of life experience.
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Lugia:
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Such a strange course of action, joining the two sides together. But the legend knew just as well as the others that it could not refuse to follow that path. It had seen the threads of fate with its own eyes, much as it hated to admit it. The real question was… [when would the conflict reach a point that the interlopers would be forged]?

I'm... not sure if I can parse that last sentence fully, mostly because of two things:

A: I'm not fully sure who "interlopers" is supposed to be, since the word choice implies said interlopers are an unwanted party, but the framing seems to have been intended to be building towards a bond or connection of some sort with these interlopers needing to be built. If the interlopers aren't a hostile party, you probably want a different term for them.
B: As a result of the above, it's hard to tell whether it's supposed to be building off of the comment about needing to join the aforementioned two sides together, or if this is a threat that's got them all on a clock that they need to beat. If it's the latter and said interlopers are TR, you probably want something like [when would the conflict reach a point that the interlopers could be thwarted?] instead.

Lugia gazed down over the mainland, its mind swimming with conflicted feelings. The next seven years would be interesting, that much was certain.

Huh. Somehow I completely forgot about the fact that this story was slated to cover a timespan of seven years chronologically. I blame it on the fact that I'm still early on in the narrative where it's literally been just a few weeks since the launch of the Rebellion, though how that flow of time is handled is something that I'll be keeping an eye out for as I grind along in this story.

A loud ringing filled the air, which meant it was the end of class for the day—and it was about time, too. I quickly stuffed my books into my backpack, following after my classmates and pretending I hadn’t heard the last-minute assignment that we’d been given. It would have been just as normal as any other afternoon, except my head was still filled with rumors from earlier that morning. [ ]

I glanced down the other end of the hallway just in time to spot my friend Ajia, a small fifth-grader with dark hair and eyes. Well, that was good—at least I’d get to talk to someone before the end of the day.

Okay, I'm gonna be nitpicky here, but I personally feel that if it doesn't blow up an intended plot build-up, it probably makes sense to drop in a sentence or two hinting a bit more concretely what those rumors are about. For instance: if they're about TR going after Entei in the arc immediately after this, it might be worth mentioning in passing that the rumors were about something like "unmarked trucks prowling the woods in recent days".

But yeah, that's just me, and I understand if it's not your cup of tea to roll that way.

“Hey Ajia!” I called out, waving to her from the crowd of my fourth-grade classmates before quickly making my way over to where she was standing.

“Heya, how was class?” she asked.

“Meh… failed a Pokéspeech quiz—you know, as always,” I replied with a smirk.

I'll admit, I was a bit skeptical at first to see that there's a mainstream way for humans to get past the Pokémon speech intelligibility barrier in this story. But from experience, it opens a lot of narrative doors that otherwise remain firmly shut in a mainline setting with a hard language barrier. The benefits of picking that route are another story for another day since it's not topical to this Prologue, but I'll give you props for taking a route that commonly isn't done all that well, and pulling it off in a way that feels natural to your story's world.

Ajia laughed. “Yeah, that class is confusing doom when you first start out. It gets better later on, though,” she said.

Such is life when you're speaking "Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den" - The Language. I do not envy Jade at all there, since from personal experience, learning a tonal language as a L2 language coming off an atonal one as your L1 is a giant pain.

“Yeah…” I replied, my mind wandering back to what had been bothering me most of the day. “So, uh… have you seen Starr? I didn’t even see her at lunch.” I fidgeted a bit—how was I supposed to bring up the topic? “Is it really true, that…?” My words sort of died before the end.

Ajia sighed. “I think she didn’t want to talk about it with you ‘cause she knew you’d take it the hardest.”

[ ]

“What? What does that even—ugh, I’ve got to talk to her before she leaves.”

I personally feel it would've been nice to see a bit more of Jade's internal thought process after Ajia's response since it'd help clue in the readers as to what's going on between her and Starr, but that's just me.

“She’s right outside, actually,” Ajia pointed out.

I blinked. [ ] “Huh? She’s not taking the bus home?”

“No, her mom’s picking her up. If you hurry, you might catch her.”

“Okay. See you on Monday!” I yelled, immediately taking off through a pair of double doors behind me.

Er... yeah, this bit also feels like it'd have been well served slipping in description or Jade's internal thought process somewhere between one or two of these paragraphs. Since as is, "Okay. See you on Monday!" is the 6th line of dialogue in a row with only minimal description being added along with things. The bit after "I blinked." IMO is the best candidate to drop such a paragraph in, since Starr's way of getting home is apparently strange to Jade but we don't really get to see the gears turn in her head as readers.

The bright afternoon light stung my eyes as I raced past the areas where the younger kids would get picked up by their parents. I quickly glanced over all of the groups sitting along the ledges by the parking lot… and then spotted a girl dressed in a purple shirt and jean skirt sitting by herself off to the side. My footsteps slowed. I paused, hesitating for a bit before walking up to her.

“Hey Jade,” Starr mumbled as I neared. She was leaning forward so that her short brown hair fell across her face—probably to keep from looking me in the eye.

I sat down next to her, but didn’t say anything at first. She had only hinted at what was going on, and I had no idea what I was supposed to think. “So… this is really your last day at school here?” I finally asked.

Right. This was why you were playing things so close to your chest with Starr earlier. I still think you had room to hint a bit more to build up to this reveal, especially since this is a very compact Prologue, but I can understand the other side of the coin for the argument.

Starr nodded slowly without looking up.

“Where’re you moving to?” I asked cautiously. She obviously didn’t want to talk about it… and I almost didn’t want to know.

With a blank voice she replied, “Cianwood.” I had no idea where that was supposed to be.

Starr: "... Have you tried using a search engine, Jade?" :|
Jade: "To be fair, are phones with internet capabilities even mainstream in this setting? Since it certainly wasn't when this story was first written." ^^;

Everything fell silent after that. It was like nothing around us even existed. I couldn’t get my thoughts straight—all of this had come up too fast. Sure… I’d known that she was going to leave at the end of the school year, to start her Pokémon training journey. And I’d been trying not to think about it. But I’d thought we’d have three more months together. Not… this.

“It’s not fair!” I yelled, burying my face in my arms. “Why’d this have to come out of nowhere? And moving on your birthday? What’s up with that?”

“I don’t know… it’s all my mom’s idea, and she didn’t tell me anything. But my dad’s staying here in Viridian.

Okay, so I'm admittedly spoiled to the twist behind Starr's line there thanks to Blacklight. But it was something even before that happened that made me go 'hmm' internally when I first saw it. Since Viridian has a certain reputation in Kanto mainline.

I slowly uncovered my face, turning toward her. “You never really see your dad much anymore… do you?”

She shook her head.

“Still… it’s dumb that your mom won’t tell you why all of this is happening,” I added.

“Yeah… she keeps saying that she wants me and my brother to have a better life that we couldn’t have gotten here. Or something like that… she never really explains,” Starr mumbled.

Jade: "Wait, Starr. Is this related to your dad's job or something? What on earth does he even do?"
Starr: "... Sorta. Though you know, bossing people around from an office, planning a hostile takeover or two, normal business stuff."

“Hey, that’s right—what does your brother think about all of this? Isn’t he friends with Ajia?”

Starr sighed. “I don’t know, Lexx has been acting weird and not talking to me much lately,” she said with a bit of a scowl.

Neither of us said anything else for a while. I stared at the floor as the time went on, feeling sort of lost. [ ]

“Why didn’t you want to talk to me before you left?” I finally managed.

I personally feel that it might make sense to show off more of Jade's internal thought process there, but that's just me.

Starr: "Because it'd have led to a hugely awkward moment between us, and I didn't want that hanging over me for the rest of the school year?"
Jade: "Starr, how is this any less awkward right now?" >_>;

She sighed again. “I didn’t want you to make a big deal out of it, okay?”

“Who says I was gonna?”

Starr laughed. “What do you think you’re doing right now?”

I opened my mouth to say something, but realized she’d got me with that, so I glared and didn’t say anything.

“Pfft, see what I mean? You’re such a little kid,” Starr said, smirking.

Jade: "Starr, we're in grade school!" >.<
Starr: "Well, 'little kid' relative to that then."

“Don’t call me that!” I exclaimed, punching her in the shoulder, but then she just laughed even harder. Yeah, I was annoyed, but I was also glad to see her smiling.

“So… since you’ll be in Johto when you get your trainer’s license, what starter are you gonna choose?” I asked.

“Probably Totodile. You know how much I like water Pokémon.”

Ah yes, a walking administrator of puncture wounds with fishhook teeth. Wonderful choice for an up and coming trainer.
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I mean, I would suppose that being socialized as a starter helps take some of the edge off, though whether or not it was intended, it does give Starr some "rough and tumble" vibes to favor a starter that's uniquely equipped to be a handful among its Water-type peers.

I smiled. “Yeah? That’s cool. It just sucks that I won’t be able to start my journey for three more years. Then I could meet up with you and—” The realization hit me out of nowhere. “Hey, wait! If you’re gonna be a Pokémon trainer, that means you can travel anywhere you want, right? So then you can come visit way before I become a trainer!”

She paused, blinking in surprise. “I… hadn’t thought of that,” she said slowly. “It’ll have to wait until I get strong Pokémon to protect me while traveling so far. But… yeah. I’ll do that.”

My face fell. Why wasn’t she more excited about it? Starr was just kind of… staring into the distance, like she was thinking about something. She looked like she wanted to tell me something else, but didn’t say anything.

Jade: "So is this parental issues, or...?"
Starr: "Look Jade, if I feel like I need to tell you about it, I'll do it myself." >_>;

We sat there for some time after that. It was probably only a few minutes, but I wanted it to last forever. And then Starr glanced up suddenly at a blue car that had just parked along the curb. She stared at it for a few seconds, then stood to her feet and threw her backpack over her shoulder before walking towards the car, her feet dragging a bit. She had only taken a few steps when she paused, turning back towards me one last time.

“Bye.”

Just hearing that one word made me feel weirdly numb. I forced a smile—it felt fake, and I could tell from her face that she wasn’t fooled.

I didn’t watch as she got in the car.

Wait, so was that even really Starr's mother who picked Starr up in that car? Since even without knowing about Starr's background that description there felt really, really shifty as-presented.

As for my general opinions, admittedly there's only so much to say from a short Prologue like this, but I do feel it accomplishes its overall job of hooking the audience, establishing that there's trouble on the horizon, and wanting you to come back for more. Though featuring best bird prominently certainly helped with that.
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I do wonder if whether or not it made sense to be a little more generous with detail in a few bits given that there were some moments in the second scene with Jade, Ajia, and Starr that felt a bit sparse. While I understand the need to play some things close to the vest given that there's some reveals down the pipe that would fall pretty flat for the reader if you hinted too strongly at some things going on, part of me wonders if it would've made sense to hint more at things not being quite right or imminent plot events since the gas pedal really gets stepped on compared to Jade's normal life over the course of the next couple chapters, and it'd likely have tied things more into it/played up an angle of suspense a bit more.

I admittedly dunno how long it'll take me to catch up with this story, let alone catch up with reviewing this story, but I had a lot of fun just going back and taking a second look at your tale, and I'm still jealous of the amount of TLC you've put into your baby here over the years. I strongly doubt this'll be the last review I swing your way in the near future, so I'll be looking forward to crossing paths with you again soon, @Chibi Pika .
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Heya, took a while, but as mentioned, I'm back to take another bite at the apple for reviewing The Legendarian Chronicles. Namely by taking a solid dive into...

Chapter 1

June 5

Summer days were made for this—made for the blast of wind in my face and the rush of exhilaration as my bike flew down the street. The slightest twinge of fear pricked at the back of my head, but it was easy to shove aside. My eyes focused straight ahead, blocking out everything else. Teeth clenched. Fists tightened on the handlebars as I closed in on my target. Just a few more seconds and I’d pull back on the handlebars at just the right moment and—

“Aw yeah!” I yelled, throwing a fist towards the sky as my bike flew through the air. No matter how many times I jumped that same ramp, those precious few seconds of being airborne were the greatest thing in the world. I landed several feet away with a thud and immediately veered my handlebars to double back in a wide arc, waving toward the top of the hill.

“Did you see how much air I got?!” I yelled.

Well I suppose this explains a lot about how Jade thought to get sucked into being a mole within TR. Just from her first appearance post-Prologue, you’ve established she’s a risk-taker from the jump.

“Big deal, I can beat that!” Rudy called out to me while speeding downward on his bike. The usual determined grin covered his tan face; his dark eyes were wide and full of confidence as he raced downward. Neither of us were really experts at this whole biking thing, but who cared? It was by far the best way to spend the after-school hours, and summer offered the promise of biking every day.

I sluggishly pedaled upward, still watching him race toward the ramp. Which is why I never saw it coming.

Out of nowhere, a black blur shot into the street, skidding to a halt right in front of me. I swerved instantly to avoid hitting it, but then—crap, I was heading for a parked car—had to turn! I spun way too far, my front wheel hit the curb sideways, and then I found myself toppling over into a sprawled heap on the grass.

Uhh… yeah, that’s one of the attendant side-effects of taking risks for thrill-seeking. There were already a couple moments like this in the portion of the story that I’d gotten up to, so talk about your ominous foreshadowing…
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Well, that was random. But there was really only one thing that could have done that. Sure enough, only a few seconds passed before I felt heavy paws on my chest. Black fur covered my entire field of vision, and the air was filled with musty, hot breath and uneven panting.

“Ow… get off, Ebony!” I yelled, shoving the Houndour away. She lumbered off, but sat down less than two feet from me, apparently fighting the urge to jump on me again.

I sighed exasperatedly. “You’re never gonna get tired of this game, are you?” Sure, she knew me, but still felt determined as ever to ‘protect’ her home and her owner—who was now standing next to his bike, cracking up.

Jade: “Wait, am I even wearing a helmet right now? Since if not, I’m pretty sure this ‘protection’ could’ve given me a head injury had my landing been a little off.” .-.
Ebony: “*Well your head is uninjured, so nothing to fear! My protection did its job.*” ^^

“Pfft—shut up, Rudy,” I laughed, climbing to my feet and wiping the grass from my baggy shirt and jeans. “How’d Ebony get out this time?” I glanced back at the energetic puppy, who was now wagging her stubby tail with the hope that she could play with us.

“Dunno,” Rudy said, shrugging. “I guess I didn’t close the backyard up good enough. At least Chloe didn’t follow her.” He grabbed Ebony’s collar and led her toward his backyard. The Houndour followed without struggle, though she made an exaggerated show of dragging her paws as heavily as possible.

I can already hear the loud “I was helping!” on the way out. :V

“Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you—I get to bring Ebony with me when I leave,” Rudy spoke up casually, like I already knew what he was talking about.

“Huh?” I said, not really sure what he was getting at. And then my brain clicked into place. “Wait, wait… You’re leaving on a training journey?”

“Yeah, didn’t I tell you?” he asked.

“No. You didn’t,” I said flatly, a sinking feeling growing in my stomach. Really, he waited until now to tell me something like this?

Jade: “... What on earth is it with my friends and leaving me out of major life changes these past few months?” >_>;

“Yeah? Er, sorry… but you can’t be surprised. I mean, school just got out, I passed the exam—why would I wait? It’s like the most perfect time to start training.”

Unfortunately, he was right. Summer really was the best time to start a training journey, even though you could apply to take the exam at any time after passing the required two years of Pokémon handling courses beforehand.

I’m actually pretty sure that’s the same take that PokéSpe uses since I could’ve sworn there was at least one arc where one of the regional protagonists basically had it as a self-imposed challenge to get through the League in 80 days of summer break or something like that. Still fun to see little worldbuilding assumptions lying about here and there like those.

“You realize you’re pretty much the only person I know who hasn’t left on a journey yet?” The words were out of my mouth before I’d had time to fully think them through.

He shrugged. “I guess? But that’s only because I’m starting late.”

“Getting your license at thirteen isn’t that late. My not having a license at fourteen? That’s late,” I grumbled.

Rudy: “... You said the same thing back when you were eleven.” :|
Jade: “Look, not everybody’s able to just go out onto a route gushing about their Rattata in the middle of grade school, okay?” >.<

“Oh come on,” Rudy said, looking kind of bored with my complaints after having heard them a dozen times. “I still say you should just take Swift and leave, license or no license.”

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I stared at him. “I’m not gonna train Pokémon illegally. I’m not that stupid.”

Rudy: “So in other words, I should expect you to set off sometime in about a week-”
Jade: “Rudy!” >.<
Rudy: “What? There’s 50 chapters of this story, and I refuse to believe you’re just going to bum around home here for more than 3 of them.”
Jade: “(More like one if that title is anything to go by.) Look, it’s the thought that counts!” >_>;

“Alright, alright, it was just an idea,” he said, waving a hand impatiently. “I’m just saying if I failed the exam twice, that’s what I’d do—just take Ebony and leave. Though it would kinda suck not getting a starter.

Yeeeeeeeah, that sounds like a pretty good reason to get a license.


“Yeah, that’s definitely the worst part about training illegally,” I said. Then again, this was a nice place to change the subject. “So… which starter are you gonna pick, anyway?”

Rudy gave me a look like I was the dumbest person in the world. “Do you seriously think I would pick anything other than Charmander?

So in other words, in a more normal journey, Rudy wouldn’t have made it past Cerulean City for most of the summer.
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“Right,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Because already having one fire Pokémon just isn’t enough. This way you can light even more random crap on fire.” I guess the flame-tailed Charmander would be a perfect match for him, in that case.

Remind me to never visit Rudy’s house if they use natural gas for heating and haven’t been keeping those pipes up to date.
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“I just hope they don’t run out of starters at the League registration building…” Rudy mumbled to himself as we led Ebony along a rock path to a fenced-off area of his backyard. “Maybe if Dad takes me there today—it is Friday—but so many trainers have already started…”

“Heyy, that’s right—Charmander is the most popular Kanto starter. You might get stuck with Bulbasaur,” I said tauntingly.

“Shut up,” he laughed. “I don’t like grass-types.”

Really? I had no idea.”

Ouch. Even in this world, Bulbasaur gets shafted.
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We stepped onto the grass and over to the fence where Rudy opened a gate and let Ebony in with Chloe. The latter wagged her fluffy tail nonstop as she nosed up against the fence, obviously hoping for a chance to play with us. When neither of us responded, the Growlithe turned around and immediately decided to roughhouse with Ebony instead. Rudy threw a glance around the rest of the backyard before suddenly clapping a hand to his forehead.

“Oh crud! I forgot to do my chores—my dad’s gonna kill me!” he exclaimed.

“I could help,” I said, shrugging.

He considered the offer for a bit, running a hand through his spiky black hair. “No, if my dad gets home and sees that you’re here… I wasn’t even supposed to be playing in the first place. Help me get the ramp in and then I gotta get to work.”

Jade: “Gee at this rate, you’re going to sleep in and get stuck with a Pikachu as a consolation prize of a starter or something like that.”
Rudy: “Look, just help me get the ramp in so I’m not grounded for the rest of summer.” >_>;

I groaned mentally as we ran back to the front yard—figures that something like this would come up. We grabbed opposite ends of the ramp and carried it to his garage, setting it in a corner next to the large pile of boxes that took up most of the space. He wheeled his bike in and slammed the garage shut.

“I’ll see ya, Jade,” Rudy said, running to the backyard.

“Later,” I said, swinging a leg over my bike and riding down the street to my house. Well, a perfectly good day of biking had been cut short. The only thing I could think of to pass the time was… bike some more. It seemed like a nice day to go riding around town for a little bit, in any case… just to take my mind off things.

I hadn’t realized it the first time, but there’s a lot of little details regarding what Jade does and finds fun that really lends themself well to foreshadowing the sorts of activities she’ll be doing later on in the story. Like I don’t think Jade would’ve exactly been as effective an adventurer if her first instinct was to beeline home and play Capsule Monsters all day in her bedroom.

I dunno if it was something that has always been there in this story, but it’s a nice touch to help tee things up for the wild ride to come.

I grabbed my wallet from my room, quickly scribbled a note to my mom on the first piece of scrap paper I could find, and was about to head outside when a fluttering noise from the other room made me stop. The source of the noise was the Pidgey sitting atop his wooden perch in the corner, flapping his wings lightly. He gave a few chirps, not saying anything in particular but hoping to get my attention in the smallest way possible.

“You don’t have to be so shy, Swift—you know you can come with me whenever I go for a ride,” I said, smiling and holding out my arm as the tawny bird flew over to perch on my shoulder. With that, I walked outside and mounted my bike once again, and the Pidgey took flight overhead, chirping contentedly.

I actually wonder if it’s possible to get a pudgy Pidgey with flight problems in this setting from overfeeding like in the anime. Not that Jade or her family have been having any problems with that.

I wandered the streets of Viridian City, glancing around at the various storefronts that I passed, half tempted to stop by the card shop or the c-store, but deciding against it. I mostly just wanted to ride aimlessly under the shade of the trees, enjoying the cool breeze and the empty sidewalks that came with it still being early in the afternoon. Every so I glanced up at the sky through the trees, hands drifting from the handlebars as my mind wandered back to the previous conversation.

What exactly is a ‘c-store’ again? Convenience Store? Or something else?

Rudy was leaving. Going on a training journey, like everyone else. And as much as I hated to admit it… I was glad when he didn’t have the credits to take the exam last year.

I’d never had all that many friends, but it seemed like for each one that left, I always had someone still here. Starr had been the first to leave, five years ago. Then Ajia three years ago, then all the aspiring trainers in my year, and then everyone I knew in the year below me. I didn’t even want to be a professional trainer; I just wanted to go with them. First I screwed up by failing Pokéspeech so many times that I didn’t have enough credits the summer after I turned twelve. Then failing the test the summer after I turned thirteen. And now this year. The crushing feeling of seeing that failing score… for the second time.

I completely forgot that there was that much of a timeskip between the prologue and here. I think. I suppose that answers what on earth happened with the 7 years the plot was set over, though.

I hated to think about it, and yet I didn’t want to do anything but think about it.

I was now nearing the edge of Viridian city; the trees and buildings on either side of the road had grown further apart, replaced with open stretches of tall grass. I’d just reached the point where the road merged with the highway to Johto, with trails leading north branching off into the forest—this was usually where I turned around. I glanced up at the sky and was about to call Swift, but he wasn’t there.

“…Swift?” I called out hesitantly, half expecting him to hear me and suddenly fly into view, even though the sky was completely open. Where had he gone? He had never done this before.

Jade: “Oh yeah, that’s not ominous… Swift? Where are you?”

“Swift!” I yelled, pedaling hard to power my bike along the route. A feeling of unease was spreading through the back of my mind. This wasn’t like him. Had something happened to him? There was no way, but I couldn’t see any sign of him in the entire… sky. I’d just realized. The sky was empty. No birds anywhere within sight, and these fields were usually full of Spearow.

“That’s… weird…” I muttered to myself. My eyes traced the horizon, hunting for any possible clue, when I spotted a plume of smoke within the trees to the north. What was that?

Jade: “... You know, this would probably be a good time to go someplace to borrow a phone and call the fire department.”
- Jade looks back at the apparent brush fire in the distance -
Jade: “... Or I could bike up there and check it out myself.”


Feeling almost compelled to head that way, I turned and rode along a trail leading north—towards the forest. I reached the treeline within minutes and kept going, unsure of whether I’d be any nearer to finding Swift when I could barely see the sky anymore. Still, I kept getting a vague feeling of significance, like this was important somehow. I couldn’t explain it, and the more time passed, the more stupid I felt.

I have to wonder if there was some sort of paranormal call going on or if that’s just Jade’s sense of adventure taking over since… yeah, I probably would not have done this at her age on my own. Though then again, I wouldn’t have biked for fun either. :V

I was just about to turn around when I caught sight of a winged figure passing over the trees above me.

“Swift?!” I yelled, not expecting much. It could have been any bird.

Except it wasn’t. It was him.

“Swift!” I exclaimed, holding out my arm for him to perch. “Why’d you fly off like that? What’s going on?”

Jade: “And boy was it really fortunate to find you here. Why on earth did you fly towards the fire?”
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His expression was reserved like usual, but distinctly troubled. He motioned a wing in the direction I’d been heading.

“Did you check out the smoke or something? Is there a fire?” I asked.

The Pidgey nodded. I glanced over my shoulder, but now that there was a thick canopy of trees above us, I couldn’t make out the smoke anymore. Then again… weren’t there a lot of fire-types living in the area? Fires had to be pretty common.

As an aside, but at least in the neck of the woods where I grew up, you could tell where places had been burned periodically since it’d have much thinner undergrowth. So… yeah, the fact that things are burning this bad even if there’s an expectation of regular brush fires is kinda a big red flag that something’s up.

Swift gave a low string of chirps. This time they had meaning, and I knew at least enough Pokéspeech to catch the words, “*It’s bad… come see.*”

He took flight again towards the ridge north of us, and I followed in silence for several minutes. In time, the air was filled with a thick haze, and a horrible stench burned my nose. And still we continued on until we reached the edge of the destruction. One moment we were within the thick of the forest, and the next, there was nothing but the charred remains of tree trunks and blackened bits of what had once been grass and leaves. Flurries of ash saturated the air, stinging my eyes. And that noxious odor just wouldn’t go away.

I stopped dead. For whatever reason, I realized that the odor saturating the air was burning flesh. These woods had been filled with Pokémon, all of them now dead. My brain really had no idea how to process any of it. Who on earth expected to see something like this on an ordinary day?

I shall refrain from making the tactless barbecue joke, even if I suspect someone like Ebony might’ve had she been present.
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“C’mon…” I muttered to Swift. “We don’t need to be here. We shouldn’t be here.”

But then I caught a glimpse of flame amongst the ashes, burning feebly at the edge of a dark mass. I leaned my bike against a tree before approaching it hesitantly, my eyes widening once I got a good look at it.

It was breathing.

The mound was alive. It was a Charmander.

I stared, unable to believe it. The lizard’s orange scales were burnt black, and with each breath its body shuddered, almost as if it were cold. The flame that should have burned bright yellow on its tail was little more than a tiny scarlet ember that flickered constantly.

I take it that Fire-types have relatively low heat resistance in this setting? Or is this a side effect of something like being weakened from oxygen deprivation? Since… yeah, in a bad enough firestorm, you’ll die from asphyxiation before you burn up.


Shaking slightly, I reached a hand towards it. I didn’t know why—it was like my arm was moving on its own. So far, the Charmander hadn’t reacted to my presence. I took a deep breath before awkwardly attempting to pull the blackened scraps of wood and leaves away from it. The lizard jerked suddenly upon having its skin exposed to the air, and I snapped my hand back. Okay, so trying to clean its wounds was a bad idea; what was I thinking. It wasn’t like I had any water or bandages anyway. In fact, water probably would have made things worse.

The fire-type didn’t move again after that. It was still breathing though, so I could only guess that it was out cold.

“I wouldn’t stay here much longer if I were you.”

Well that’s certainly a jump scare there.

I jolted at the sudden voice. Someone else was here? I threw a glance over my shoulder and sure enough, a figure was approaching me. The smoke obscured him at first, but eventually he came into view. He was several years older than me—at least eighteen or so—and quite a bit taller than me, with wavy brown hair and icy blue eyes. He was dressed in a black shirt with a long gray coat, navy blue cargo pants, and thick, gray boots. And he was currently examining me with a reserved expression that made me feel like I was being x-rayed. Somehow, his overall air was that of someone much older.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“You shouldn’t be here,” he repeated. “They wouldn’t want any witnesses, and”—he paused mid-sentence and suddenly asked, “Are you a Pokémon trainer? You look old enough to be one.”

“Um, no… not yet,” I admitted. After a few seconds of awkward silence, I asked, “Are you?”

Stalker: “I’m eighteen and in the middle of the woods next to the site of a giant fire, did you think I’d really come out here without Pokémon?”
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Jade: “Look, it was a valid question, alright?” >_>;

“I’d have to be if I wanted to carry these around,” he replied, pointing to the small red and white spheres clipped onto his belt. Right—only licensed trainers were allowed to use Pokéballs.

Now gazing at the ravaged landscape, he muttered, “Amazing how much damage humans can cause. The fire’s spread too far, though… how do they plan to keep it unnoticed?” I wasn’t entirely sure whether he was talking to me or just commenting to himself.

“Who did this, do you know—?”

“There’s no point trying to explain it,” he interrupted, walking further in the direction I had originally been going. “Just follow me.”

Jade: “Uh… on second thought, can you just text me some photos? I should probably get this Charmander to a Pokécenter and-”
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Stalker: “Nice try, you’re not running away from the plot that easily. (Also, I’m pretty sure you don’t have a cellphone right now, let alone one with reception.)”

I glanced back down at the pitiful form of the unconscious Charmander. I didn’t want to risk hurting it by moving it, but what choice did I really have? Was I supposed to just leave it here to die? I hesitated as long as possible, but then finally wrapped my arms around the lizard’s limp body, taking care to avoid its tail flame, tiny though it was. Its skin felt raw and sticky against mine and gave off a radiating heat.

Well that’s certainly a mental image there.
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The trainer was now just a hazy figure in the distance with all of the soot clouding the air, and I had to walk quickly to catch up with him. “How recently did all of this happen?”

“So recently that it’s still happening,” was the only response. We reached the edge of a ridge that overlooked an open valley between the forested hills. It was there that I saw what he was talking about.

A brilliant flash of fire tore across the mountainside before stopping suddenly in the middle of the clearing and unleashing a blazing heat wave outward. When the flames cleared, I saw it. A fantastically bizarre beast stood before us, shaking its head and ruffling its long brown mane. Jagged spikes framed its back, and a silky, cloud-like tail billowed constantly. The creature whipped its head around to take in its surroundings, and when it turned in our direction, I couldn’t help but stare open-mouthed. Its face was, in short, amazing—rimmed by brightly colored crests of red along the side, blue over the muzzle, and a crown of yellow over its eyes.

Entei. The Beast of the Volcano. A Legendary Pokémon of Johto. Right here, right in front of us, for real.

Jade: “Remind me to never respond to invites to barbecues from this guy.” ._.
Stalker: “Trust me, he won’t give you one. He certainly didn’t for the Pokémon around here.” >_>;


Suddenly, I heard a roar of engines to the right. A huge group of jeeps and trucks burst into the clearing, filled with countless armed adults. Entei recoiled backward, pelted by bullets—they were shooting it? The auburn beast slammed its shackled paws to the ground and let loose a wave of fire, incinerating everything within the valley. But then the flames cleared, revealing the vehicles’ protective energy shields. Around two dozen Pokémon charged forward from behind the jeeps, unleashing torrents of water at their target. Entei stood its ground with a determined glare, but I could still see it wincing in pain as steam poured off its body. I could still hear the fury in its roar as it tried to flee, gripped by the glow of something preventing its escape.

Surprised they didn’t opt to just hide behind cover and snipe at him with the likes of Hydro Cannon, since… yeah, considering what he did to the forest as collateral, you don’t want to get physically close to Entei.
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“What… how can they…? Why…?” I stammered.

There was a pause. Then came the reply, “Have you heard of Team Rocket?”

I tilted my head. “Well… pretty much everyone has heard of Team Rocket, right?” The notorious organization that had run this region’s criminal underworld for as long as anyone could remember. But knowing anything about them—that was a different story.

Stalker: “Take a good look, since this is what they do.”
Jade: “I-I thought they just stole kids’ lunch money and stuff like that…”
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“To the general public,” he continued, without acknowledging I’d said anything, “Team Rocket is nothing more than a widespread group of criminal gangsters. What the public doesn’t know is that for the past twenty years, the team has been making a slow push for total control over all of Kanto and Johto. On the surface, they’re still the same thieves, smugglers, and traffickers they’ve always been. But that just hides the fact that there’s another side to the team that no one knows about.” He motioned to the ongoing struggle down in the valley.

Words failed me. Everything he had said was kind of overloading my brain, and the only thing I could manage was, “How did you find out about this?”

The corners of his mouth turned up slightly. “Not all Rockets are satisfied with the direction the team is headed. Some of them have their own plans. Some of them are working against Giovanni from within the team.”

Jade: “So in other words, people like you.” >_>;
Stalker: “I’m allowed to have contacts, you know!”
Jade: “Yeah no, giving that whole spiel that only someone with knowledge of Team Rocket could have. There’s no way you’re not one of those dissident Rockets you just brought up.” >_>;

“Giovanni?” He couldn’t mean… the Giovanni? Leader of the Viridian Pokémon Gym?

“The current boss,” he clarified.

I shook my head. “Hang on, hang on. You’re telling me those crazy rumors that he’s involved with Rockets—they’re not just true, but he’s the boss?!

He nodded.

Jade: “Again. Not. Helping. Your. Case.”
Stalker: “Look, can you just let the story do the hard work of confirming or disproving your theory and listen to my exposition here?” >_>;

I couldn’t help staring. “You’re serious? That’s supposed to be, like… tabloid fodder for conspiracy nuts. If it’s actually true… shouldn’t more people know?”

“You underestimate the team’s influence,” he replied with a slight laugh. “They have agents working all over. Turning him in wouldn’t do anything.”

Stalker: “Mostly because he’d be out on the street within an evening.”
Jade: “Oh great, I feel so at peace from knowing all this already.” >.<

Well that was… unnerving. Really, what was I supposed to say to that? With a glance back at the blazing hillside, I asked, “Shouldn’t we do something? I mean, if we don’t—”

“We?” he said, his voice tinged with amusement. “You have a pet bird and a half-dead lizard; I’d be the one doing everything. And I know my limits. I can’t stop them alone.”

I glanced down at the dying Charmander in my arms, feeling rather miserable about all of this. Really, why did he even bother explaining anything only to flat-out tell me I was useless?

Jade: “Wait a minute, ‘you can’t stop them’? What are you getting at?”
Stalker: “Bold of you to think that you’re just going to be able to go home after all of this.”
Jade: “...”
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“What would you say,” he began slowly, with an unusual tone, “if I told you that a large-scale takeover might soon be within their grasp?”

I whirled around to face him, gaping in shock. “What?”

“That’s why they’ve taken to capturing Legendary Pokémon. If the heads of the combat unit had Legendaries at their disposal, there would be no stopping them.” His tone was perfectly casual, as though Team Rocket being on the verge of a regional conquest was normal, everyday conversation.

Stalker: “It is normal, everyday conversation. For me.”
Jade: “Yeah, well try keeping your frame of reference adjusted for a fourteen-year old girl here!” >.<


I was frozen, unable to process all of this. “…What do we do about that? Why are you telling me this?”

He gave me a very serious look. “Are you interested in helping stop Team Rocket’s Legendary project? Would you be willing to fight them?”

Jade: “Wait, you expect me to give a response right now?” ._.
Swift: “*Uh… Jade, not that this isn’t horrible for the poor Pokémon, but I really think you should go home and think this over before you do anything rash.*”
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I stared. How exactly was I supposed to fight them, and how did he expect me to? Didn’t he just say that there was no way I could help? I kept waiting for him to say something like “it would be nice if it were possible,” but his expression was cold and unflinching.

“How… what do you mean?” I asked.

“If you were able to stop Team Rocket from catching Legendaries, would you?”

I wanted to say “well, who wouldn’t?” but that didn’t seem like a very good answer. I found myself simply nodding.

Swift: “*JADE!*” >v<
Jade: “Oh come on, Swift. If you knew that you could make a difference, why wouldn’t you go ahead and try to stop them?”
Swift: “*Because it was a hypothetical question, and you’re a fourteen-year old without a trainer’s license!*” >v>
Jade: “... He hasn’t asked for a commitment yet?” ^^;
Stalker: “Yeeeeah, about that…”

He considered me for a while before reaching into his coat pocket and pulling out a small card. “This is your formal invitation to join a team against the Rockets,” he said, handing it to me. “I’ve been handing these out to people just starting their journey. Once you become a trainer, I want you to meet me at the location specified on the card, and I’ll tell you more.”

“But how—?” I began.

“What’s on that card is all I can say for now,” he said firmly. “Don’t lose it, and don’t reveal it.”

Swift: “*... Is it too late to lose the card and pretend that we never saw anything?*” ·v·
Stalker: “What do you think, little bird?”
Swift: “*I… think that I’m really not going to like the answer to that question.*”
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He unclipped a ball from his belt and pushed a button on it, causing it to enlarge and open. A flash of white light burst from inside and took the form of a tall dragon. Shiny, flaming orange-colored scales covered most of its thickly muscled body, save for a massive pair of blue wings. My eyes widened—it was a Charizard, the fully evolved form of Charmander. I’d never seen one in person.

He replaced the Pokéball and climbed onto the dragon’s back. It flexed its wings and outstretched them, flapping against the air and sending flurries of soot into my face. I shielded my eyes reflexively until the reptile had lifted off.

“I’ll see you,” the trainer said before soaring out of sight.

Jade: “Hey wait a minute! I didn’t give you a formal ‘yes’! And you can’t just leave me here right next to forty mafia goons with a half-dead Pokémon in my arms!
Stalker: “Circumstances have a way of sorting out priorities! Oh, and one more thing!”
Jade: “What?
Stalker: “Try being quieter!

“Later…?” I said, more to myself than him. How and why I’d see him later was beyond me. I looked at the small card he had given me and read.

If you have received this card, it is because you have been recognized as either a beginning trainer with the potential for skill, or an ambitious young trainer willing to face danger for the sake of stopping Team Rocket. If you are serious about joining a rebellion against the Rockets, then meet in Vermilion harbor prior to July 3 for further instruction.

Talk about vague. Still, it made sense, just in case Team Rocket got a hold of one of the cards. But was he really just giving them out to random trainers? Why was he doing this? And how on earth had I gotten myself mixed up in all of this?

I turned back to the battle that was still continuing. Everything about it was completely mind-boggling. The ridiculously powerful fire beast was still struggling to ward off its attackers, but its strength was waning. I still wanted to help it somehow, even though I knew I couldn’t do anything. It was frustrating, and I felt stupid about it. With a sigh, I sat down and continued to watch.

Swift: “*... Uh, Jade? Why are we still here again instead of trying to get that Charmander medical attention? Or… I don’t know, being anywhere else?*” >v>
Jade:
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And then it happened. The Rockets and Entei were now only about a hundred yards away from where I was sitting. One of the jeeps near the front of the formation suddenly broke from the group and began speeding up the hill in my direction. I stared stupidly at the vehicle racing towards me, unable to work though what it meant.

“Don’t… don’t tell me they…” My eyes widened as the realization hit me like a brick.

I’d been spotted. And they were coming for me.

Jade: “Oh, so that’s why that mysterious Charizard guy was telling me to be quieter…”
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Swift: “*We could’ve avoided all of this if we’d turned and left earlier!*” >v<

Alright, as for my overall thoughts. There were a couple of bits where I admittedly when "huh, but why don't you just [X]?", but they were largely easy to ignore after remembering: A: This fic was written before smartphones were mainstream. B: The protagonists are junior high students, so they're not always going to be on their A-game for taking the most sensible and logical course of action, since... yeah, I remember my time back at that age, and in retrospect, I was pretty dumb.

There's a lot of little flourishes to this first chapter that looking back seem to work really well at teeing up things to come. I dunno how much of it was always there and how much of it has been rolled in over successive revisions over the years. But stuff like Jade exhibiting a bit of a reckless and daredevil streak for what she chooses to do for entertainment makes it suddenly seem more believable that she'd let herself get sucked into the plot that TLC has going on in it.

Kudos, @Chibi Pika , I'll be looking forward to giving you at least one more review for your story in the next week and a half or so.
 
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Heya, back to round out Legendarian Chronicles with one last review before that offsite review event winds down for the year. So let's get right back into things with...

Chapter 2

I immediately took off back the way I came, mind racing. They were coming for me—why were they coming for me? Swift flew nearby as I sprinted through the woods, still completely floored by everything. I could feel my heart pounding and my lungs burning as I choked on ash, but the sudden burst of fear kept me running onward. I threw a glance over my shoulder—I wasn’t running nearly fast enough. They were gaining on me.

... Because you literally just sat and watched an organized crime syndicate drag off a Pokémon that if known by the authorities would potentially bring down existentially threatening raids of their offices? You are in Kanto, and organized crime in Japan historically hasn't exactly been terribly subtle about its presence to broader society. ^^;

Swift: "*Again Jade, we could've left to get the Charmander medical treatment earlier, but nooooo...*" >v>
Jade: "Look, it was a bad idea, I get it, just keep running! Er... flying! And don't look back!" O_O;

My only hope was to reach my bike—nothing was more important than that. If I managed to, then I could make it to town before they caught me and then lose them on the side streets. Just that tiny bit of hope was enough, but was I too far away?

Swift: "*... Jade, don't these people have jeeps? How are you supposed to outrun that on a bike?*" ·v·
Jade: "Look, I'm pretty sure I can duck down a forest trail or something on my bike that a jeep can't. And can you not do this right now, Swift?!" >_>;

I couldn’t help looking over my shoulder again, and—they were right behind me. What was I supposed to do now?! I wasn’t going to make it in time!

Swift: "*Jade, on three we duck into the brush and try to shake them. One... Two...*"

The jeep sped past me and skidded to a stop in my path. I spun around and tried to run in the other direction, but the driver threw open the door and grabbed me by the back of my shirt.

Swift: "*Er... too late.*" ·v·

“No! No, stop, damn it—” I yelled, flailing as hard as I could, but it was no use. The Rocket flung open the back hatch and threw me into the rear of the jeep without saying a word. And then he climbed back into the front seat and drove off as though nothing had happened.

Ah yes, that whole "fighting Team Rocket" thing is just going swimmingly right now.

- Meanwhile through the rear window, a Pidgey beats his wings and tries to keep pace with a speeding TR jeep -
Swift: "*Again, I told you this was a bad idea, Jade!*" >v<

I lay there in a crumpled heap, my heart racing and my breath shallow and as my brain was still trying to work through what the hell had just happened. I hadn’t meant to be there—I had just… been there. I willed myself as hard as I could to at least sit up and figure out my situation. But nothing in my body would respond. Not for the longest time. Until finally, clenching my teeth as hard as I could, I managed to force everything out of my mind for one moment and look over the back seat without drawing attention to myself.

:sceptical:


Uh... no, I distinctly remember you going to try and get a closer look after Stalker ditched you there, Jade. You just hadn't meant to get caught. >:V

Four… there were four Rockets in the jeep. The driver was tall, burly, and looked older than most of the others—probably more experienced too, judging by a number of badges pinned to his vest. My eyes slid to his reflection in the rearview mirror—he had thick black hair and dark eyes surrounded by a stern and commanding face. Just looking at him was intimidating; I couldn’t help ducking behind the seat.

For some reason, my brain finally registered that my arms felt warm. Right, I was still holding the wounded Charmander. It was still unconscious, but also still alive. Then my eyes wandered to the window… and caught sight of buildings? We were nearing Viridian. But why? Why hadn’t we rejoined the group going after Entei? If we drove through Viridian instead… would it be possible for me to yell for help?

You'd have thought that someone would've noticed the dying Charmander while kidnapping the teenaged girl and just dumped it on the side of the road, but... that'd be a pretty depressing and short story otherwise, so let's just chalk this up to that much-fabled Rocket competence. ^^;

No. The windows were up now, and each of the Rockets was armed. There was no way out of this.

I sank back against the seat, still numb with shock. How on earth had I managed to get myself into this? It was the sort of thing you always imagined would happen to someone else. I still couldn’t help trying to come up with something, anything that I could do, even though there was nothing. Nothing—that fact alone was the most paralyzing.

I mean, you could try and force the back hatch open and fall out in a more public space where it might be tactically smarter for the Rockets to just drive off instead of answer questions, but... yeah. I don't blame that not occurring to a 14-year old with a half-dead lizard in her arms and these guys presumably aren't exactly obeying the likes of stop signs that would give an opening to pull that stunt off without sustaining serious injuries. ^^;

After some time, I pulled myself up to look out the window again. We’d just passed the outskirts of Viridian, now heading into the forests to the east of the city. And then I saw him. Swift was still flapping his wings quickly to follow the jeep, struggling to keep up—it was almost a painful sight. Upon seeing that I was watching him, he soared downward to fly alongside the window, his eyes meeting mine.

“Just go,” I mumbled, though he couldn’t hear me. “There’s nothing you can do…”

Swift: "*Look, your parents wouldn't want me to not do my utmost to try and help you and you're not fully right there either, Jade. If nothing else, I can yell at you about how all of this was completely avoidable.*" >v>
Jade: "Okay, let me amend that statement, there's nothing practical you can do right now." >.<

I jumped suddenly at the sound of a gunshot and whirled around. My stomach melted into nothing—one of the Rockets pulled out a small handgun and began shooting at Swift. But then just as quickly, the driver held a hand up to stop him.

“Don’t waste your bullets on a Pidgey,” he said.

I mean, I don't know how gun laws work in LC, but in Japan... yeah, this is something that would potentially get handgun grunt into hot water with his superiors in TR proper since gun crimes bring down a lot more police scrutiny than their counterpart crimes committed with the likes of bladed weapons or blunt objects.

But hey, I suppose there's perks to heavily infiltrating the social structure of two regions. Including being able to skimp out on subtlety.

I quickly turned to look out the back window and saw Swift flying high up in the sky. When he was sure that the Rockets weren’t paying attention, he swooped low again and waved his wing at me. And I could’ve sworn I saw him nod to me before taking off to the north. I stared after him; part of me couldn’t help feeling more alone now. But what was he planning to do?

Swift: "*Do you seriously think I'm letting the plot get rid of me that easily, Jade?*" -v-;
Jade: "Swift, you're a Pidgey, pitted up against four mafia goons. Four armed mafia goons. I'm allowed to be a little skeptical, okay?" >_>;

Upon reaching a small clearing that had been stripped of tress, the jeep suddenly skidded to a halt. I couldn’t see anything more from the back window, and the Rockets in the front seats were blocking my view in front of the car. The driver got out and slammed the door.

I leaned forward to peer out the backseat window and watched as he kneeled and lifted up a small hatch in the grass. Underneath were a keypad and a small screen. He punched in a long passcode and pressed his hand against a scanner before closing the hatch.

And then, amazingly, the ground starting to sink, revealing a wide ramp that descended into darkness. He walked back and got into the car again before driving downward. As we neared the end of the tunnel, the entrance behind us closed, and I could see lights far ahead in the distance. And then we emerged into a massive, dimly lit underground hangar, filled with trucks, small aircraft, and on the far end, a huge jet. I stared around at it all, the realization slowly dawning on me—Team Rocket was every bit as huge as the Charizard trainer had implied.

Jade: "How on earth did you get all this stuff anyways?" .-.
Handgun Grunt:
uh-internet-fairly-odd-parents.gif

Tyson: "Steve, the correct answer with prisoners is 'None of your business, sod off'." >_>;

The driver parked the jeep in an area to the side, and the Rockets all exited the vehicle. I watched as the driver walked off toward one side of the hangar, where a heavy computerized door stood. He pulled a card out of his pocked and touched it to the scanner, unlocking it before entering what looked like an office hallway.

And so, I was left alone in the jeep. Well, not quite alone—the Charmander was still here, after all. I looked down at where I had set it. A tiny flare flickered at the end of its tail, so it was still alive, at least. It probably wouldn’t survive much longer though. That fact made the already bleak situation feel even more crushing.

I jolted at the loud bang of a door being thrown open. A young man stormed out wearing an irritated expression, closely followed by the driver, who was looking weirdly submissive. The former Rocket had to be higher rank or something. If they were arguing, then this would probably be a chance to find out more about my situation, at the very least. Acting more on impulse than anything, I threw myself over the back seats so I could open the back door a crack and hear them.

... Wait a minute, this entire time, none of the Rockets thought to zip tie Jade precisely to avoid her having this sort of mobility while just leaving her in their jeep?
:what:


I mean, they absolutely would've had an upper hand in a struggle, but... yeah, that seems like a recipe for getting objects thrown at your driver or something like that if their captive had been someone a bit less "freeze up and panic" than a random junior higher.

“Of course no one ever feels like telling me a damn thing about the mission status,” the higher-ranked Rocket snapped. “And what the hell made you think it would be a good idea to grab some random kid who happened to see it? Sure, she reports someone poaching a Legendary, big deal. No one would have any idea that it was us. But now she sure as hell knows too much. Honestly, Tyson, I don’t even know why I—”

... I stand by that Rocket competence comment from earlier, since the Rocket Captain is raising some pretty solid points here. If Tyson had kicked Jade out along the road earlier, the worst that could've happened would've been a police report would've gotten filed at a likely compromised police department, Jade gets a scare, and all of this just vanishes into the ether beyond some disbelieving schoolmates when Jade tries to talk about the time she was kidnapped by Team Rocket for 20 minutes.

Well, aside from the fact that she saw Stalker, but Tyson still could've been a bit smarter about where he immediately brought his prisoner than straight to a secret airbase. o<o

Rocket Captain: "And furthermore, if you were going to grab some random kid, why would you bring her back to the base with the secret hangar instead of some random warehouse we stash goods to be fenced?!" >_>;
Tyson: "Look, it seemed like a good idea at the time! Look, she's a junior higher. How hard can it be to tie down a loose end here?"
Jade: "I... don't think I like where this conversation is going with that 'tie down a loose end' comment." O_O;

“That’s not all,” the driver continued defensively. “I saw him. The one we’ve heard rumors about from the new recruits. Course, he was far off so I didn’t see what he looked like, but I know she did.”

A very heavy pause followed.

“Don’t tell me you’re taking that crap seriously?” his superior asked. “I don’t know what you’ve heard, but all I’ve heard is that some dumbass is going around gathering a bunch of twelve-year-olds against us.”

Rocket Captain: "Tyson, are you kidding me? Look, someone has to have a Beheeyem on staff, don't they? Just let it work its magic on her to wipe the last day or so of memories and get this kid out of here already!" >_>;
Tyson: "... Pretty sure that all of those aren't accessible to our unit on short notice... but listen, we want her memories for now since..."

“I heard he was a part of the revolt.”

Yet another pause. This time the other Rocket seemed at least slightly intrigued. “So he might know more about us than we figured. But how many others left us that day? Have any of them accomplished much? I don’t see how this is any—”

He was interrupted by the ring of a cell phone. Tyson answered it and proceeded to listen for nearly a minute while his superior watched, still looking a bit irritated. After some time, Tyson gave a short response quietly and hung up.

“Well?” the other Rocket snapped.

“Shortly after I left, it was looking like Entei was going to escape into the Tohjo Mountains. And then—you’re not gonna believe this—the Johto combat unit showed up,” Tyson reported while his superior made an exaggerated sound of disgust. “They took control of the situation, and of course one of their agents was the one who threw the ball that caught Entei. Only now he’s refusing to hand over; he’s waiting for orders from the Johto commander.”

Boy, sure is a good thing that you're just talking about all of this right in front of the girl that you snatched from the woods and didn't bother using something like Sleep Powder on. I mean, I get that you're not planning on letting her go normally at this point, but might want to engage in some loss-mitigation since... yeah, this entire plot would've played out pretty differently if Jade had never gotten wind of just how serious things were with TR and just went back to being a normal junior higher. :V

I felt myself go rigid with shock. They had actually caught it? They’d caught Entei?

“The idiot. Boss’s word isn’t enough for him?” his superior muttered, folding his arms.

Tyson shrugged. “It’s the Johto force. You know how they are.”

“Tch… always making their own terms for everything…” he scoffed. “Anyway, we’re almost ready to ship the experiments to the secondary headquarters for testing, along with the supplies and machinery.” The higher-ranking Rocket jerked a thumb toward the black plane on the far side of the hangar. “Since you’re back, and you have a… vested interest in that program, I want you on board.” At this point, he let out a sigh. “Now, about the kid…”

Ah yes, interservice rivalries. Except with organized crime syndicates. So how many internal losses are incurred between the Kanto and Johto units engaging in... -ahem- aggressive disputes with each other over conflicting plans? Since if the Johto branch is brazen enough to just roll in on another branch's field of operation... :V

“Should I just kill her?” Tyson cut in, and my heart stopped.

“Well, if you’re convinced that she knows anything, it could be useful. But I don’t have time to question her, and I know none of the admins do.” Rather unexpectedly, he laughed. “I know, this is perfect—most of the department heads are at Celadon HQ right now. Stick the girl on the transport jet; let them deal with what to do with her.” With that, he walked off to discuss things with some of the other Rockets.

Tyson: "... You know if you're concerned about a body turning up, we could try to just go with your earlier idea with the Beheeyem-"
Rocket Captain: "Tyson. Get. Her. On. The. Jet." >_>;

I collapsed into let out a huge sigh of relief. My situation hadn’t improved, but just knowing that I wasn’t dead yet was enough to make me feel better. But then a few seconds later, I spotted Tyson walked back toward the jeep. I immediately climbed into the trunk and pretended like I hadn’t moved at all.

“Well, it’s your lucky day,” Tyson said with a sneer as the back hatch opened. “If you keep your head down and answer the executives’ questions, they might not mind letting you live after all, though I’m not offering any guarantees.” He grabbed me by the wrist and jerked me out of the jeep. I racked my brain for something to do—some sort of resistance to show that I wasn’t just some helpless kid. I couldn’t think of anything.

Rocket Captain: "... Tyson, you're bantering with your prisoner and not hitting her with Sleep Powder first thing after opening the hatch why? It's not that long of a flight to Celadon City." >:|
Tyson: "I... er... don't have any such Pokémon assigned? Look, Boss, she's a junior higher. I can handle detaining a junior higher..."
:fearfullaugh~1:


“Here,” Tyson said, handing me off to one of his subordinates. “Throw her in one of the containment cells on the transport jet. Don’t forget all the standard procedures.

... Says the guy who brought a junior higher straight back to the base with the secret airplane hangar. >:V

“What about the kid’s Charmander?” the Rocket asked with a glance back in the jeep.

“That thing isn’t dead?” Tyson said, raising an eyebrow. “I don’t know… we’ve got tons of Pokéballs—I’ll have someone else put it with the stolen Pokémon.”

Actually, wait. Where is Tyson's boss during all of this? Did he already bounce? Since you'd think if he was still present, he'd have some commentary on all of this.

Tyson walked off in another direction, and the Rocket holding me started heading for the large, black airplane in the opposite corner of the hangar. Several mechanics looked to be making sure everything was in order, and other Rockets were loading supplies into the cargo hold; Tyson’s subordinate escorted me in that direction. Large crates of machinery and boxes of various supplies filled the area, and more were being loaded in. The Rocket paused to unlock a panel along the side, and then I was thrown into a small metal room. He proceeded to check that I didn’t have any weapons or Pokéballs on me—pretty much the only thing I did have was my wallet.

“So…” he said, flipping through it and pulling out my school ID, “Jade Arens, fourteen years old. I’ll be sure to get that on file. And… what do we have here?” I felt like kicking myself when he pulled out the wad of cash I had stuffed in there. It was my birthday savings, which I’d intended to use on a training journey someday, though I had never quite figured out how exactly. A part of me had known all along that it was a stupid idea to carry it around like that, but… there wasn’t much I could do about it now.

After having found the money, the Rocket didn’t bother looking anything else I had in there and simply tossed the wallet into a bin with what I assumed were other stolen items. He then chained my hands and feet to the wall before shutting the door.

Ah yes, living up to the petty thief rep that TR has with in-setting normies quite well there. :V

Though... yeah, they are really fortunate that they drew a (seemingly) bulliable junior higher, since yeah. Given how livid the Rocket Captain was at first over Tyson bringing back a junior higher to a secret base, you'd think they'd at least get the idea of blindfolding her just in case if by some freak accident she turned out to be a fic protagonist and slipped away from them instead of... you know, letting her see everything about this hangar and a plane that presumably has a visible tail number on it so that way it doesn't raise alarm bells with civilian air dispatchers.

... Though then again, it's Team Rocket, so I guess I shouldn't be so surprised that the lower ranks would make an unforced error or two here or there.

I was alone. For how long, I had no idea. I couldn’t see my watch. I had no way of knowing how long I spent in that cell with the only sound being the occasional clunk of more cargo being loaded onto the plane. It was nerve-wracking just standing there drenched in sweat mixed with soot and not knowing how much longer until something happened, or even what would happen. I almost just wanted to get it over with… but then immediately drove the thought from my head when I realized what it meant. Couldn’t afford to think like that—I wasn’t going to die. I was going to figure a way out of this. Except… there was no way out. What was I supposed to do?

After what felt like hours, I heard another door shut and then the heavy thud of what must have been the cargo hatch closing. My body tensed up; the air was now filled with the steadily growing roar of engines. I felt movement—the plane accelerated suddenly, and I felt myself slant backward as it sped up the long ramp that exited the hangar. And with that, we were airborne, and I was heading off to an unknown fate.

Jade: "Well, this day couldn't possibly be going worse right now." >_>;

I wanted to clear my head, but the thoughts wouldn’t leave. What would I have done differently if I had the chance to redo this day? Going into the forest… that was probably my biggest mistake. Or maybe following the mysterious trainer I’d met. But if what he said about Team Rocket’s imminent takeover was true…

I think that 'go gawk at Entei fighting the Rockets' was the point of no return there, since... yeah. There wasn't an indication that Jade had been spotted until after that. :V

A sudden clang jarred me from my thoughts. Footsteps neared my cell, and I tensed up instinctively. What did they want now? I had no idea what I expected to see when the cell door handle turned and opened.

…But I definitely wasn’t expecting what I did see.

A teenage boy about a year or two older than me stood in the doorway. He was about my height, with thick, dirty-blond hair, baggy clothes, and was currently looking rather pleased with himself.

“Hello there,” he said. “It looks like I’m rescuing you. My name’s Spencer—I think we’re gonna be good friends.”

Jade: "I'm sorry, what. How on earth are you-?!" O_O;
Spencer: "Maybe let's wait for explanations until after you're out of these restraints, huh?"

I blinked. I had about a million questions, but about the only thing I could say was, “What?”

I... actually completely forgot that this was Jade's response. :V

He frowned. “That’s all the response I get? Boring.” He stood aside, allowing a sleek tan and black-furred beast to step in front of him. The final form of Johto’s fire-type starter, if I recalled correctly. “Alright Typhlosion, I need you to melt these chains, so we’re gonna need it hot.”

Jade: "... Not that I'm not eager to get out of these things, but isn't that going to cause me serious burns by convective heat transfer?" ._.
Spencer: "... We'll aim for the part of the chains furthest from you?"
:joltyshrug~1:


The Typhlosion leaned down and grasped a bundle of the chains, holding them behind its head. Suddenly, a blazing ring of fire burst out from the red burners around its neck, torching through the metal with a wave of sparks. The room instantly filled with sweltering heat.

Wait, just how hot is that fire if it can do that to metal chains? Like you'd think that they'd deform and start to melt from the heat and Spencer's Typhlosion would need to give a stiff tug or something to actually break the links, but... .-.

Granted, this would work about as described in the text if it was something like zip ties, but... yeah, unless if I'm missing a detail from that description, that metal sure seemed wimpy to just more or less atomize from coming contact with fire like that.

Jade: "Or I guess we could just pass out from heatstroke. That works too."
:fearfullaugh~1:

Typhlosion: "*You know, if you'd rather have stayed chained up, we could've just moved on without you.*"
826550123924029450.png


Still trying to make sense out of this seemingly random turn of events, I asked, “What are you doing here? And how did you know I was here? Who are you?”

“I already told you my name,” Spencer said matter-of-factly, folding his arms. “And, uh, I guess if you wanna know how I’m here, you’ll have to ask him.” He motioned a thumb over his shoulder.

A voice behind him said, “Yeah, Jade, I hope you’re happy, because I hadn’t planned on getting stuck on some stupid Rocket jet like this.”

What. That voice… it couldn’t be…

Spencer stepped aside, revealing a rather disgruntled Rudy standing in the cargo bay.

“How did you get here?” I asked, completely floored.

Jade: "And since when did you fight Rockets without telling me?" >_>;
Rudy: "Jade, are we seriously doing this right now?" >.<

He groaned slightly, putting a hand to his face. “Well, Spencer needed to find his Pokémon first, and luckily it was the same place they’d taken you, so we snuck on board and then we came here for you.”

I would have clapped a hand to my forehead if it hadn’t been chained up. “Okay, just… what? That doesn’t answer my—how about you actually start at the beginning? How did you know I was here?”

“Alright, alright,” Rudy said impatiently, as though details like that didn’t matter and he wanted to get them out of the way as quickly as possible. “It’s because of Swift. I’d walked to your house to show off my license, and I saw him pecking the windows in a fuss, and—what’s with that look?!” My jaw had dropped upon hearing the word “license.”

“You got a license. Already?!”

Spencer: "(Psst, is she always like this?)"
Rudy: "(More than you could ever know.) Again, Jade. Priorities here..." >_>;

“Oh, come on. Enough questions already,” he said, waving a hand aside. He wasn’t totally paying attention, though, and was now preoccupied with staring at the ongoing blaze. The heat was getting a bit overwhelming.

“Hey, uh, is Typhlosion almost done?” I asked.

Almost right after I said that, the fire beast extinguished its blaze and pulled the chains apart with a snap, which was a relief. I took a few steps to stretch out my legs, the chains clattering around as I walked.

... Oh right. Spencer's Typhlosion actually does actually weaken the chains and pull them apart. You might want to make that earlier description sound a bit less like he just blowtorched through them if there's still weakened chain links to pull apart after this entire conversation. ^^;

Spencer: "Might want to watch your step since some of those links are red-hot right now."
Jade: "Okay, seriously, wasn't there a more precise way you two could've handled this?" >_>;
Typhlosion: "*... Starting to think we should've carried out that mission first and freed her once we figured out how to get off this plane.*"
826550123924029450.png


“Guess you’ll have to deal with those for a while,” Spencer said as I stepped out of the cell. “Any closer and he’d have melted your hands and feet off.”

Spencer: "Now granted, I suppose that'd have been one way of getting you free, but-"
Jade: "No, no, I'll live with the loose chains, thanks!" ._.;

I didn’t really mind—just being free was enough. Really, just them being there was enough to make the entire situation feel better somehow. I wasn’t alone in this; with three of us there was no way we wouldn’t find some way out.

“So…” I said turning towards Rudy. “Am I even gonna get the full story as to how you got here? And how the heck do you already have a license for that matter?”

Rudy: "Jade, does this really have to happen right now while we're on a Team Rocket airplane?" >_>;
Jade: "Yes. Now fess up, Rudy." >:|
Rudy: "... Ugh, fine..."

“Oh, er… right. See, my dad got home right after you left. He would’ve been upset with me for not finishing my chores, except my test results had come in the mail and I passed everything,” Rudy said, beaming. “So, my dad took me to the place and he signed the form and I got my license and a Pokémon and everything.” He stopped there, but then realized that I was looking at him expectantly, wanting to hear the actually important part of the story. “But yeah, uh, I went over to your house, and no one was home, and Swift was flying around like crazy. From what little I could make out, he was saying you were in trouble? So I followed him out into the forest and that’s when I ran into Spencer here.”

“Yeah, my Pokémon were stolen from me a few days ago,” Spencer explained. “I’d been scoping out the entrance to the hideout for a few days, but I had no idea how I was ever gonna get inside. Rudy showed up in the area, and then about an hour later a bunch of jeeps were returning to the base, so we took the chance to sneak in behind ‘em.”

- Jade looks over at Spencer -
Jade: "Oh, so Rudy hasn't been secretly fighting Rockets for like a year or something crazy like that."
Rudy: "Nope. More like sneaking and hiding from them for about 2 hours." ^^;
Spencer: "From the way that the Rockets were dealing with you, I was kinda hoping to come across someone a bit more... experienced." >_>;

I stared, impressed. “You guys snuck into a Rocket base? What was your plan?”

“No plan, really. Just kind of improvising, y’know?” Spencer said, laughing awkwardly. My face fell somewhat. Okay, so maybe my newfound ally wasn’t the most capable.

Understatement of the century here.

“We hung out by a cargo area where we could avoid being seen, but still hear what all the passing Rockets were talking about,” he explained. “Then I overheard stuff about transporting Pokémon and supplies and a prisoner.”

“And just look at this awesome mess it’s gotten us all into,” Rudy added, half-jokingly, half-accusingly.

Jade: "I suppose this means that you don't have a plan for how we're going to get off this plane without being drug off kicking and screaming by armed Rockets?" -_-;
Spencer: "I... was working on that?"
:fearfullaugh~1:


“You didn’t have to come and get me,” I said, a little bit insulted, even if it was true that he wouldn’t have been in this mess had it not been for me.

He sighed. “I didn’t know any of this would happen, so that doesn’t matter now. We’re here now. This Team Rocket crew sounds like bad news, so we’ve gotta do something.”

- Jade points around at the airplane's fuselage -
Jade: "What exactly when we're stuck on an airplane?" :|
Rudy: "... I don't suppose that Swift happens to know Fly, does he-?"
:uhhh:

Jade: "Rudy, Swift's a Pidgey. What, do you think we live in a video game or something where birds a tenth of our size can fly us across Kanto?!" >_>;
Spencer: "Also, I'm pretty sure said Pidgey isn't here, so..."

Easy for him to say. He hadn’t seen how dangerous they could be.

“Well…” I said, “I guess we’re not really in any danger right now, so we’ve got time to plan.”

Jade: "I mean, for all I know, it's about 30 minutes to plan since I'm pretty sure Celadon City isn't that far away from Viridian, but let's try and think positive here?"
:fearfullaugh~1:


“Exactly. Anyway, why don’t we start by screwing up as much of the crap on this plane as possible.” It struck me that Rudy had almost exactly the attitude that the Charizard trainer had been looking for in his anti-Rocket recruits.

With a glance around at the crates surrounding us, I replied, “Screw up things how? I don’t think we can just go around blowing up random crap while flying.”



“Well, for one thing… what do we do about the rest of the stolen Pokémon?” Spencer asked, motioning towards an open box filled with Pokéballs. “I already got mine back, and—”

“Hey wait, that’s right!” I exclaimed, running over to the box. “I had a Charmander with me before I was captured. It should be in there!”

Now it was Rudy’s turn to gape incredulously. “You have a Charmander? What in the—how?”

Jade: "Long story, but for the record, if you come across a half-dead Pokémon in the woods, do yourself a favor and just go off to get it medical treatment. You'll save yourself a lot of headaches." ^^;
Rudy: "That's... some rather specific advice you have for me there." ._.;

“I found it out on Route 22, where I got captured. It’s… kind of a long story.” I shifted through some of the Pokéballs in dismay. “How am I ever gonna figure out which one it’s in?”

“Here,” Spencer said, pulling out his Pokédex and opening it. I stared in fascination as he held the Pokéballs up one by one to the device’s scanning lens. After about twenty or so of them, he announced, “Here we go. Low-level, unregistered Charmander. Heh, it’s asking if I want to register it to myself. And, uh… its energy is reeaally low. I know they always say you have to defeat the Pokémon before it’ll let you train it, but come on now.”

Jade: "... Uh... yeah, does it count if a forest fire started by a big, angry gerbil does the defeating for you?"
:fearfullaugh~1:

Spencer: "... Is there anything left of this Charmander with readings like these?" .-.

“I didn’t catch it,” I said a bit defensively, despite his joking tone. “It was half-dead when I found it. I’ve gotta like… find some healing items or something.” I turned to gaze vaguely around all the supply boxes in the cargo hold.

“Alright. You fix your Charmander, I’ll go see if I can find anything useful,” Rudy said, taking the opportunity to wander off. I could have sworn I heard him mumble, “We should totally set some of this junk on fire at least.”

And then the three of them followed through on Rudy's plan and passed out from inhaling toxic fumes and Legendarian Chronicles had a downer ending in the second chapter. The end.
803821849384583219.png


I headed in the opposite direction, opening boxes and scanning their contents as I went. I’d wondered what jet was intended to transport, but now it seemed like the answer was almost anything. Most of the crates were filled with heavy machinery and old computerized devices, but then others were packed with battle enhancements for Pokémon or stronger variations of the Pokéball. Finally, I scored—a box near the front of the plane was packed with medical supplies. I picked up the first thing I could find and read the label.

“‘Full Restore: Guaranteed to soothe burns, frostbite, poison, rashes, close open wounds, and heal any other damage done to your Pokémon’… sounds great.” I noticed the rather unappealing price tag of 3000p—good thing I wasn’t buying it.

Jade: "Wonder what truck this fell off the back of. Since this is a lot of expensive medical gear." .-.

I held out the Charmander’s Pokéball and carefully pressed the button on its center, making it split open down the middle and let loose a burst of white light that condensed into the fire lizard’s unconscious form. It shivered, but looked to be in the same condition it had been earlier.

I kneeled down and sprayed the liquid all over the Charmander’s skin. The lizard flinched, but soon enough, the charred flesh slowly regained its normal color, leaving only patches of scabs on some parts of its back. It was honestly amazing how quickly Pokémon could heal when given a bit of help. Still, it wasn’t enough that the Charmander’s injuries were gone. It was likely still exhausted and drained of power.

Ah, I see that HP-restoring items still work even when a Pokémon is passed out in this setting. Makes sense since you'd think that a wound wouldn't require consciousness in order to close.

“Hey Spencer!” I called out. “Do you know the name of the stuff that fully restores energy?”

“Hyper Potion?” he said, in a tone that sounded more like he was asking me.

“Not injuries. Energy.”

“Oh right… uh, I think it’s called Elixir? Never used one before—not a lot of stores carry ‘em.”

Somehow I completely forgot that there was a coupling between consciousness and the analogue to Power Points in this setting. Does that mean that if you get a Pokémon down to only being able to use Struggle, that it'd be close to passing out? (Or I suppose it would be either way after using Struggle enough times.
803821849384583219.png
)

Jade: "... At first I thought you were going to say 'Revive' there, but eh. If it works, it works."

I dug through the box some more. “Got it,” I said, pulling out a yellow bottle labeled “Max Elixir.” I flipped the cap open and poured a small amount into the fire-type’s mouth. Within seconds, the tiny flare on its tail burst into full flame. Slowly, it opened its bright blue eyes and stumbled to its feet.

“Hey, how’re ya feeling?” I asked.

The lizard spun around, eyes wide with alarm. It gave a light whimper, clutching its tail tightly and glancing around at the strange surrounding.

Jade: "... I'll take that as a 'not great'. Anyhow, let me explain here..." -_-;

“This has got to be a pretty big shock. And, uh… you’re probably wondering how you got here. I didn’t mean to take you from your home. It’s just that… you were sort of… dying,” I finished lamely. The Charmander relaxed slightly, but didn’t give much of a reaction to my words. Could it even understand me? As a wild Pokémon, it might never have heard human speech before.

“Can you understand me?” I asked.

It stared, apparently confused at my confusion. “*Yes…*” it said slowly, in a tone suggesting that it found the question very strange.

Well, uh, okay—so you’ve been around humans before. Have you ever been named?”

Somehow I didn't pick up on Pokémon needing to be around humans to learn how to understand their language. Though I suppose it makes sense. If humans have to specifically learn Pokéspeech to understand it in this setting, it'd only be logical the reverse would hold true too.

The fire lizard gave me a long, quiet stare, something shifting in its eyes. After several seconds’ hesitation it replied, “*Firestorm.*

Well that's some cruel irony if I ever heard it given that this lizard almost kicked the bucket to his namesake.
:fearfullaugh~1:


“Alright then,” I said. “So, are you male or female?” I wasn’t quite sure if this was an offensive question or not, but I wasn’t used to Pokéspeech enough to tell a Pokémon’s gender by its voice.

“*Male,*” he answered simply.

I nodded, not really sure what else to ask him. After having gotten over his initial shock, Firestorm was calmly glancing around at his surrounding, seemingly unconcerned with having been taken from his home and not even very curious about his situation.

Jade: "(I should probably be a bit more curious as to why this 'mon is so unbothered going from a forest to the cargo hold of an airplane, but... yeah. Let's worry about that after we get back on terra firma.)" ^^;

The Charmander then said, “Mander char charmander char’charrman?” But it was longer than the previous one-word statements, and I didn’t quite catch most of it. It sounded like a question—something to do with a Pokémon trainer? I was about to ask him if he could repeat it, but then I heard Rudy call out, “Hey Jade, come check this out!”

I stood to my feet and motioned for the Charmander to follow, although on second thought he didn’t really have to—it wasn’t like he belonged to me or anything. After navigating back through the maze of boxes, I found Rudy and Spencer, the former sitting on the ground and undoing the latches on a long metal case.

“Oh hey,” Spencer said, giving a small wave. “Normally I’d say that warnings are meant to be ignored, but I don’t know about this.” He flashed a skeptical look toward Rudy.

I stared blankly. “Huh?”

“Check it out,” Rudy said, holding up the case. Engraved on the top in sleek lettering were the words: “Pokéball Containment Unit.” Beneath that, a label read, “Caution: Experimental Pokémon are extremely unstable and must be kept in the containment unit at all times unless removed by an experiment handler.”

Rudy: "Sweet. Looks like we've got a way off this flying hunk of junk-!"
Jade: "Rudy, shouldn't we not be futzing with this given that these are experiments that Team Rocket made? For all we know, they'll
instantly go for our throats the moment we let them out!" >_>;
Typhlosion: "*Yeesh, isn't she just Miss Positivity right now?*"

“Experimental Pokémon?” I said incredulously. Then again, Tyson’s superior had mentioned something like that…

“Yeah, yeah! Just think—these could be like, super-powerful mutant Pokémon. If we used them to fight the Rockets, we’d be able to get out of this for sure!” Rudy said excitedly.



I hesitated. “That… does seem like our best chance to get out of here, but… we don’t even know if they’ll listen to—hey, don’t let them out now!” I yelled frantically. He had opened the case, revealing several black Poke Balls encased in holders, each labeled with info on the experiment within.

Whelp, too late.

“I’m just looking,” Rudy countered. “I’m not gonna let them out. Huh… these are weird looking, aren’t they?” He pulled one of the black spheres out of its holder and rotated it in his palm.

Jade: "Rudy, if you're 'just looking' then you don't need to hold those balls!" >_>;
Rudy: "I'm just looking closely, okay? Sheesh, chill out already."

“Okay, okay, just wait. We’re not gonna have to fight until this plane lands, wherever it’s going. Spencer, how many Pokémon have you got?”

“Six,” he replied, posing importantly. “Typhlosion here is the strongest, but the rest are pretty powerful too.”

“Alright, that’s good since, uh… Rudy and I will be pretty useless in a fight.” It felt rather lame to admit.

Rudy: "Jade, why did you have to drag me into this?!" >_>;
Jade: "Because you've had your Trainer's License for all of two hours?" >.<

“Hey, what do you mean?! I’ve got two Pokémon,” Rudy shot back.

I clapped a hand to my forehead. “Don’t be stupid, these Rockets are dangerous.”

Jade: "Again. Two. Hours."
Rudy: "That's still two hours more than you!" >:|

“How about when the plane lands, we confuse the experiments into attacking the Rockets, and then we run away during the commotion?” Spencer interjected.

“How do we do that—?”

Out of nowhere, an explosion of black light shot out from within our circle, knocking the three of us backward into a pile of boxes. I sat up shakily, completely stunned. What on earth had just happened?

Spencer looked about as flustered as I felt. “Okay, just… what was that?

I glanced around rapidly, my eyes falling on Rudy, toppled over in a heap with his eyes wide, clutching an opened Pokéball.

Rudy: "... I didn't do it." ._.;
Jade: "'Just looking closely', my foot." >_>;

“What did you…?” I gasped.

“I didn’t open it, I swear!” he yelled back. “It—it let itself out!”

Jade:
:sceptical:

Rudy: "Look, Jade, I know I say a lot of things sometimes, but I really mean this one, okay?" >.<

“Wait, where’s the experiment?!” Spencer cut in frantically.

The three of us whirled around in a panic, all eyes falling on the Pokémon that had appeared behind us. A jagged, lightning bolt-shaped tail twitched. Four paws slowly lifted a small, golden-furred mouse off the floor. No… it couldn’t be…

“It’s… it’s a Pikachu?” Spencer blurted out, stifling a laugh. “A Pikachu?

Jade: "Uh, hey, stoat guy... you... might not want to openly mock the science experiment that for all we know can casually drop this plane out of the air if it's feeling cranky."
:fearfullaugh~1:


Except something looked… off about it. It was missing the familiar red cheek markings. And… the fur on its head was long and stiffly pointed, almost like feathers. And then its eyes snapped open, revealing a pair of piercing, birdlike eyes.

I hesitated. “Guys… I don’t think—”

At once, a flood of lightning poured out of the rodent’s body. I jumped backward without thinking and tripped over a box as a bolt flew dangerously close to where I’d been standing. Right after that, the experiment shot past me in an instant, bolting up to the highest point it could find before unleashing waves of electricity all around.

Jade: "You just had to laugh at it..." >.<
Typhlosion: "*Uh, yeah, that was kinda a bad idea, Spencer.*" O_O;

“Let me see that!” I shouted, practically shoving Rudy out of the way so I could get a look at the label on the Pokéball slot.

Experimental Pokémon 009: Hybrid series - Pikachu / Zapdos. Possesses abnormally high power level and untamable disposition. Experiment classified as failure due to undersized power capacity, unstable energy signature, and immunity to standard experiment control procedures.​

My face fell with dread. “This thing was mixed with the Legendary Zapdos.”

Jade: "I sure hope those Rockets didn't cheap out on electroproofing their plane, since otherwise this is probably gonna be a short flight." o_o;;

“What? No way… That is awesome!” Rudy exclaimed.

“Hey, focus! If we don’t stop it, it could end up taking down the plane!”

So in other words, they did cheap out on electroproofing their plane. :V

“Er, right, I’ll put it back in the ball—”

The Pikachu turned suddenly at the sound of our voices and sent a string of lightning flying toward us, shattering the black Pokéball before we could do anything. I gaped in horror—what were we supposed to do now? Firestorm clutched at my leg in fear. Typhlosion leapt in front of our group and snarled defensively, igniting its neck blaze flames.

Rudy: "Fantastic, could this possibly be going any worse right now?" >.<
Jade: "Rudy! Don't just say that out loud!"
:uhhh:


And then, in the midst of all this, I heard the sound of a door opening.

“WHAT. THE. EVER. LIVING. HELL?!!

My stomach sank even lower as I turned to see an extremely pissed-off Tyson standing in the doorway to the cargo area, his jaw hanging open from shock.

Jade: "That's why you don't say that out loud!"
785236292803100683.png


“Uhh, hey…” Spencer said awkwardly. “Could you leave for a bit? We kind of have a situation here.”

Tyson stared at us in a sort of stupefied rage before turning his gaze on the experimental Pikachu and clenching his teeth. He then pulled one of the black Pokéballs from his belt and opened it. The flash of light from within took the form of a huge green mantis with an armor-plated exoskeleton. Blank, pupil-less eyes flared mindlessly from a vaguely reptilian head. Light glimmered off a pair of scythe-lined forearms that looked sharp enough to cut the air. Wings twitched, ready to strike at any moment. And from its perch atop the mountain of supplies, the Pikachu stared at the Scyther, eyes wide with what looked like both anger and dread.

Spencer: "... Is that a 'maybe'?"
:fearfullaugh~1:

Tyson: "What do you think, kid?" :mad:
Spencer: "I... uh... will just take that as a 'no'."
:uhhh:


“Thought you’d play with the hybrids did you?” Tyson asked with a sneer. “Then have fun facing the strongest of them. Kill them, Razors!”

The three of us couldn’t do anything but sit there, frozen in horror as the blade-armed nightmare shot toward us, too fast to even see.

All:
:AAAAAA:

Jade: "Is the story seriously leaving us on this note?!" O_O;
Narrator: "The story's seriously leaving you all on that note-"
Jade: "That was a rhetorical question!" >.<

Alright, overall thoughts:

My overall thoughts are about the same as in Chapter 1. I enjoyed the chapter, and it does a good job at selling a sense of drama and tension, though there were a few points that made me
:what:
at the logic a bit. Nothing that was too immersion-breaking given that we're dealing with Junior Highers and lower-ranked Rockets here, both of which aren't exactly well-known for their fantastic decision-making abilities, but it did undercut the whole "hidden strength" vibe going on a little. Since operatives like Tyson as presented are really obviously being carried by their betters in TR's plot to use yoinked Legendaries to carry out some regional takeovers.

I do have to wonder if it would've made sense to provide some earlier narrative hint to Rudy and Spencer's presence. Like on one level, it makes sense that Jade wouldn't have picked up any sign of them since she's busy getting yeeted into a chained restraint in a plane's cargo hold. On the other, it does make Rudy and Spencer's appearance feel a bit sudden from a narrative perspective. Not sure if there's really a way to square that circle, especially if in your eventual revision, the Rockets do get a bit more competent about OpSec, but it's something to consider at least.

But those quibbles aside, as you can gather from this review, I had lot of fun reading this chapter again. And I had a lot of fun writing stuff up in response to it too. Good work, @Chibi Pika , and I'll be looking forward to pecking away at your story a bit more regularly through the year.
 
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