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Golden Riolu
April 25th, 2008, 07:42 PM
(Some people may have seen this story before under a different author's name, and I'd like to say first that I am indeed Gardevoir Girl.)

One girl, starting her Pokemon journey… with a rather uncooperative partner. One boy, on the run from his past, trying to survive purely in the present. Two destinies, entwined inseparably, each soul unaware that the fates are guiding them closer to their true path.

How will they survive in a world where traitors and murderers smile at you on the street, where anyone you pass could be your darkest nightmare in disguise?

But they must succeed. For if they fail, all will end…

This story has a key to make it easier to understand.
* is a breaker I use to change the narrating character within a chapter.
*~*~* is a breaker I use to indicate passage of time but keep the same narrator.
“This” is when a Pokemon speaks and I’ve translated what it’s saying.
“This” is humans speaking or telepathy.
This is used for thoughts, memories and other stuff that goes on inside the character’s mind.

The prologue is in third person, but all future chapters will be in first person. Oh, and by the way, the rating is PG-14 for violence, a little blood and dark themes, but there is one chapter that I'll have to temporarily increase the rating for.


Prologue

One day will come two… who will unite… conquer enmity… curse shall claim the life of… yet rescue at the hands of enmity is… will go on to fight obstacles and accomplish what… guardian never succeeded… not without obstacles… fail would result in the loss of all life, human and Pokemon alike…

Ancient scripture, written at unknown date.

*

BBRRIINNGG!!!

A gaudy pink alarm clock began its shrill ringing from on top of its pine cabinet beside the heaped bed as the first rays of sunlight began to spill joyfully into the room, illuminating the avalanche of clothes and books scattered in heaps all over the floor. The monstrous, many-coloured pile of blankets on the bed shifted slightly; a pale-skinned arm clawed its way to freedom, the long-fingered hand groping around for the alarm clock until it finally knocked it onto the floor. With a crash, the clock shattered, spilling cogs all over the rosewood floor.

The hand clawed again at the patched and faded blankets, finally clearing enough space for a head to emerge. The mass of frizzy, dark blonde hair made its owner resemble an angry albino Jigglypuff. Two sleepy chestnut eyes blinked from beneath this mop of hair, then screwed closed as the girl stifled a yawn.

“Happy birthday, Marisa,” she murmured to herself.

After a moment of hesitation, Marisa kicked off her blankets and crawled out of bed, carefully avoiding the broken remains of her alarm clock. Her bare feet slapped against the floor as she made her way to the closet, kicked aside a heap of undersized children’s clothing and yanked open the green-painted closet door. Unsurprisingly, there was hardly anything inside. Another yawn shook her body as she gazed into the mirror on the inside of the door, seeing a slender, unimpressive ten-year-old girl with very little cleavage, wearing a bright blue nightdress that barely covered her backside. It had fit perfectly when she was eight.

Marisa cast a glance at her bedroom door to make sure it was closed, then shed her nightdress in favour of a simple outfit. Once dressed in her black shorts and aqua blue T-shirt, which featured the logo of a band called Jezebel’s Curse, she examined herself in the mirror and felt only a sense of relief that it fitted. She didn’t really like the shirt; her mother had picked it out for her earlier that year.

Finished with examining herself, Marisa began to search in the bottom of her closet for her favourite mauve backpack. She had last seen it months earlier…

…somewhere.

She dropped down onto her hands and knees and began to dig through a pile of shoes that no longer fitted. It was surprising how many different pairs she had, including soccer shoes, sandals, high-heeled shoes… She came to a halt, holding up a pair of pink satin ballet slippers. She couldn’t even remember taking ballet lessons…

There was no backpack among the shoes. Marisa rose to her feet again and nudged the closet door closed, then turned slowly to face the disaster zone that was her bedroom. She practically needed an Escape Rope to find the door from amongst all of her junk. She had been meaning to get rid of some of it, but there was always some sort of distraction.

With a sigh, Marisa resigned herself to searching for her backpack in the mountains of discarded possessions. She raised one hand to her face in imitation of a walkie-talkie. “Pshht… Marisa West calling in for backup. Repeat, Marisa West needs backup. And maybe a team of Growlithe to find me. I’m going in… pshht…” She dropped her hand, took a deep breath and waded into the sea of clothing on a rescue mission for her backpack.

*~*~*

Meanwhile, not so far away, a young boy awakened to the sound of clanging. He shook his head to wake himself up, blinking eyes of a muddy green colour. His long, lank hair flopped about his face, so filthy that it was impossible to tell if the natural colour really was black or not.

The boy levered himself up on his hands and knees and brushed dirt and food scraps off the tattered rags that barely passed as clothing. His skin was coated thickly in grime, although one could see just by looking at him that his natural skin colour was very dark indeed, almost completely black.

William crawled out of the overturned garbage can in which he had been sleeping. The early morning sunlight blinded him, piercing his eyes like sharp pins. He shielded them with his arm and squinted until the world came into focus.

William tilted his head slightly, noticing what had made the clanging sound that had woken him. He was crouching in a filthy alleyway behind a fast-food restaurant and a short teenage cook with a bad case of acne had just flung a bag of garbage into an enormous dumpster. The teen paused to give William a strange, searching look and, in response, he scuttled behind his garbage can to hide. He felt safer when he was out of sight.

As soon as the man had gone inside again, William leaped to his feet and scrambled into the dumpster. He landed lightly, his bare feet sinking deeply into piles of garbage. With a moan of longing, he fell upon the new black bag and tore it open, his fingers digging into the plastic and shredding it easily. The stench of rotting food assailed his nostrils but he ignored it and began sifting through the bag’s contents, occasionally coming across a scrap of stale and greasy food and cramming it hungrily into his mouth.

After he had eaten his fill, he crawled out of the dumpster again and dropped lightly to the ground. Now that hunger was not clouding his senses, he could take stock of his surroundings and decide where to go next. Ever since he had fled from the place he once called home, he had been frantically searching for a particular building. As of yet, however, he had had no luck with finding it.

He slipped one hand into his pocket, his questing fingers pushing aside scraps of rotting food and dead insects before finally brushing against the edge of a filthy scrap of paper. His grip tightened and he drew it out. Unfolding it and spreading it on the ground, he found himself gazing down on a greasy, yellowed map which showed a bird's-eye view of the city; unfortunately, the top of the map had torn, which was the main reason he had not known that his goal was here in Veilstone City.

William's finger traced a crayoned path scribbled over the map, its journey culminating with a scrawled circle around a particular warehouse. It must be close; he could practically taste it. He crammed the map back into his pocket, so eager to reach his goal that he could think of nothing else.

He moved silently to the edge of the alleyway and peered around the corner, checking for danger. Fate must have intervened, because at that moment the crowds in the city parted slightly and allowed the boy a glimpse of one of the buildings along the street. His heart leaped into his throat; it was a plain office building, but it was the one he had been searching for.

The building had no sign. It was three stories tall and built of grey brick in order to make to look inconspicuous. William stole toward it on silent feet, but his pounding heart was enough to give him away. He had searched almost all of Sinnoh and been on the run for months, but finally it would all be worthwhile.

The building was unguarded; it was surprising, considering the precious cargo inside, yet William had been expecting it. If the occupants wished to remain inconspicuous, they would have to relinquish their right to a guard.

It was a simple matter for William to sneak around to the back of the building without attracting too much attention. He found a sufficiently concealed window and pressed both palms flat against it, pausing to feel any vibrations caused by movement inside the room beyond. He felt nothing and braced his shoulders, leaning all of his weight against the glass.

A delicate, fractured white line traced itself along the glass as, with a sharp crack, the window began to split from the pressure. The unpainted wooden frame was splintering and with a sudden crunch, the rotting wood gave way. The glass fell into the room beyond and shattered on the floor, exploding into a million fragments of frosted white.

William clambered into the room, careful to avoid stepping on the broken glass as he touched the floor. He was standing in a filthy, bare basement, the stone walls dripping slime and the floor stained with the same substance. William’s eyes locked onto a staircase of identical stone and he proceeded toward it.

Minutes later, a shout went up from the building and countless alarms began their shrill shrieking. Gripping his prize tightly to his chest, Will caught hold of the edge of the broken window and hoisted himself out, ignoring the splinters of glass digging deep into his skin. With the alarms ringing in his ears, he bent double over the stolen object and pounded down the street, glancing neither left nor right. His breath rasped in his throat but he felt only a savage triumph; he had escaped. The guards would be far too late to capture him.

William glanced down at the object in his arms as he fled. His prize, one of the most valuable objects in the entire region, was a large egg the size of his head. Its hard, dark blue shell was patterned with splashes of midnight black.

BakingBluePotatoe
April 25th, 2008, 08:12 PM
I seem to remember the Backpack part... yeah, I guess I read your story... FF.N, was it?

well, whatever. It's still good!

Golden Riolu
April 28th, 2008, 04:59 PM
I’ll be posting a chapter every few days until I can catch up to where I am on the other sites. Also, it may be hard for some people to remember, so I’ll be putting a reminder at the beginning of every chapter; Poke-speech will always be in italics and telepathy will be in normal text.

Chapter One

The Journey Begins

Rarutos

The first time I saw my new trainer was just after she released me for the first time. I felt some sort of soft fabric beneath my newly-forming, wide feet and sensed that I was in a large, enclosed space, most likely what the humans call a house.

I lifted my head, tipping my lime-green, red-horned cap back so that it wasn’t in the way of my eyes. My garnet eyes locked onto a pair of bare feet and moved slowly up, taking in a pair of loose black shorts, an aqua T-shirt decorated with some sort of slogan, shoulder-length dark blonde hair and a grin stretching from ear to ear.

I concealed a snort of derision. Surely this isn’t my new trainer? She doesn’t look capable of handling a goldfish, let alone a team of Pokemon.

The girl seemed to have lost her voice. Then again, perhaps she hated me so much that she would release me immediately. I can hope, can’t I?

“A Ralts!” the girl finally managed to choke out. Her eyes were glittering with delight and she spun around, throwing her arms around an older, almost identical human female who I guessed was her mother.

Oh, please. What is this, Let’s-All-Be-Soppy Day? I can’t travel with this girl!

Finally the girl let go of her mother and crouched down before me, the idiotic grin plastered over her features once again. “Hi, Ralts! My name is Marisa and I’m your new trainer!”

Well, duh. You think I don’t know that? My IQ is probably higher than yours.

“We’re going to be great friends!” Marisa continued cheerfully. “Now, I’d better give you a nickname. Let’s see…”

A nickname! I felt repulsed by the very thought of having this human call me by any name other than my own. I took a chance and summoned my telepathy, projecting a word into her mind. She would never know where it came from and hopefully I would never again have to talk to her with my power. It was a waste of perfectly good mental energy. Then again, so was every thought that passed through her thick head.

Marisa paused, a light of excitement coming into her eyes. “That’s a good name!” she exclaimed. “Okay, Ralts, I’m going to name you Rarutos.”

At least I can stand her using my true name. She probably would have named me something stupid like Mushroom.

I smothered the smug expression that had started to appear on my face. Hopefully Marisa would never figure out where the idea had come from.

The older female turned to Marisa with a frown of confusion, a strange expression in her eyes. “Rarutos? Where did you think of that?”

Marisa shrugged cheerfully. “Not a clue. It just came to mind and I thought it fit. Anyway, Raru, you should go back into your ball. We should get going.”

Raru? Oh, travelling with her is definitely going to be torture. Arceus, what did I do to deserve this?

The girl extended the fist clutching a red and white sphere. In a flash of clarity I realized what was going to happen and drew on my power once again, feeling the red horns on the front and back of my head begin to pulse with pure violet energy. In a flash of light I vanished, reappearing three feet away as a beam of crimson light from Marisa’s Poke Ball struck the carpet where I had stood.

Marisa tried again with the same result, then flung the sphere at me in a fit of anger and an attempt to force me inside. I teleported easily out of the way once again and stood watching calmly as, in her anger, Marisa began to flush as crimson as the light.

“I think you should leave it out,” Marisa’s mother advised. “Your father had a heck of a time trying to get it into the ball in the first place.”

I flashed back on the day before. I had been minding my own business in the grass field that used to be my home. The ugliest human I had ever seen had barged in, trampled most of the plants and started ordering some dim-witted water rat Pokemon that he called Bibarel to attack me, then began flinging orbs at me while I was still trying to fend the thing off. So much for the peaceful life of a wild Pokemon.

I shivered involuntarily, then realized with indignation that the woman had called me ‘it’. What did she think I was, an object? I focused on the abandoned sphere and telekinetic energy began to pulse around it. As the two humans watched, open-mouthed, I picked the thing up and flung it as hard as it could at the mother. Before she could dodge it, it smacked her in the face and dropped to the carpet with a thud, leaving an imprint on the human’s face.

I couldn’t help a smug smirk. That’s what you get for treating me like an object.

With a grumpy expression, the woman snatched up the orb and held it out, the white button aimed at me. Obviously she had changed her mind about leaving me out. Once again I teleported easily out of the way, but as I reappeared Marisa lunged at me in one quick motion. Before I knew it, her hands were wrapped around my entire body. I kicked and struggled ferociously, but I was small enough for her to wrap one hand easily around my slim waist.

Big stupid oaf.

Marisa lifted me to her reddened face. “We are going to be great friends,” she said through clenched teeth, practically trembling with rage. “Now, Rarutos, are you going to come with me peacefully or do I have to force you back into the ball?”

I hated that sphere, but I wasn’t particularly too fond of Marisa either. In the end we decided to compromise; after retrieving a bulging mauve backpack from what was presumably her bedroom, Marisa somehow managed to cram my empty Poke Ball right down to the bottom. In return for that, I agreed reluctantly to travel with her for a while. I was far from home and she seemed quite proud of me; I had to hope she would be willing to protect me. If necessary, I could teleport to safety while the wild Pokemon were busy feasting on her.

Marisa attempted to carry me at first, but I soon put a stop to that with an electric attack I had recently managed to learn from a discarded human item. As we left the house, Marisa was still smarting from the charge and her hair was sticking up wildly in every direction. Every time I looked at her I had to conceal a snort of laughter.

Marisa unchained a white wooden gate as I gazed around at my surroundings. The city seemed enormous, but I was used to a quiet field with only the occasional minor conflict to break the monotony. Of course, with several Pokemon living in close proximity there were sure to be fights occasionally.

This city… was something completely new to me. The buildings were gargantuan and the air smelled faintly of soot, but not of chemicals as a friend had once told me it would. The paths between the buildings were paved with something hard, black and rough; this must be a road, what human vehicles travel over.

I turned back to Marisa, my curiosity getting the better of me. A clunking sound had been emanating from behind me and I now realized that she was struggling with the gate; it had shut behind her and she couldn’t get it open again. Eventually it yielded and Marisa emerged again, pushing a wheeled contraption.

I felt another lurch of disgust. I don’t even want to think about what my friends would say if they saw me travelling with a human on that…

The contraption seemed to be what the humans called a bicycle. The metal frame was painted bright red and the two black wheels were coated with a thick layer of dried mud and grime. The handlebars had once been covered in white rubber; it was now a dirty shade of grey. In front of and between these handlebars sat a woven wicker basket, fastened tightly and decorated with fake flowers.

“Oi!” Marisa yelled to me. I winced; she was only six feet away. “Get in,” she continued, jabbing her finger at the basket. A fake chrysanthemum fell off the edge of the basket and fluttered limply to the ground.

Get real.

Marisa stared impatiently at me. “I don’t have as much patience as you think I do,” she warned. “Get in here or I’ll put you back in your ball.”

Grudgingly I permitted the violet shimmer to surround me again, transferring my body instantly into the basket. As Marisa swung one leg over the bicycle and settled herself on the seat, I hunched down in the basket and hoped that no one would see me.

“This is Hearthome City,” Marisa told me as we set off, wobbling unsteadily at first but straightening out after a while. She was probably going to make me travel-sick.

“I've lived her all my life with my ma,” Marisa continued. We were moving more steadily now. “My pop went away to work and never came back, but he still sends us things. He sent you to me for my birthday. Today’s my tenth birthday! How old are you, Raru?”

This girl talks way too much.

I refused to answer and eventually she gave up. We continued in silence, wobbling occasionally, down the road to our future… and our fate.


*~*~*






I had drifted to sleep because of the constant motion, but a deafening shriek jerked me back to consciousness with such abruptness that I had to struggle to regain control of my teleportation ability. My heart was pounding furiously, pounding as though a Spoink was bouncing on my chest. Suddenly the bicycle skidded to a screeching halt and I was flung from the basket. Before I could react I had slammed into the muddy ground.

Everything was a blur of flying mud and pain. Suddenly I found myself lying half-buried in the slop, my entire body coated thickly with it. Rain was beginning to fall and the cold leeched through my skin, chilling me to the bone.

My entire body ached, but I braced myself and gingerly flexed my arms and legs to see if anything was broken. I appeared to be all right. I levered myself up onto all fours and staggered upright, wiping filth out of my stinging garnet eyes.

I turned and my eyes locked onto Marisa, who had also tumbled off the falling bicycle. It was lying on its side and she was laboriously picking herself up, her clothes and skin as muddy as I was.

“Darn,” she muttered to herself, surveying the mess. She hesitated, then flashed me a false, broad smile. Her teeth looked startlingly white in her filthy face. “Sorry, Raru. I think I nearly hit a wild Pokemon and I had to stop.”

Easy for you to say. You did that on purpose to humiliate me.

I glared darkly at her, watching her flinch at my hate-filled stare, then dragged one hand across my face to clear away some of the mud. I flicked the glop away and waited for Marisa to set her bicycle upright again. She was not interested in it, however; she had bent over to pick something up.

The object was small, barely bigger than me, and it was coated thickly in filth, but I could make out four distinct limbs and a head. Marisa shook the object, splattering the slop all over both of us, then wrung it out to clear away even more. Finally it was clear; the object was a teddy bear, old and worn, its brown woollen body torn in places and one rounded ear missing.

“I think a little kid might’ve dropped this,” Marisa said. Uninterested, I crossed my arms and allowed my gaze to drift away.

I just want to get home.

“We should take this to the nearest town,” Marisa mused. “Maybe whoever lost it will want to claim it.” She righted her bicycle, swung her leg over and settled herself astride the vehicle. “Come on, Raru. We’re near Solaceon Town; we can stop for a rest there.”

I reluctantly allowed my telekinesis to envelop my body once again, transferring me into the basket. As soon as I had settled down Marisa carefully tucked the toy in beside me. I glared at it, then fixed her with a look filthier than all of the words in my mind put together.

Marisa recoiled. “Sorry, but my bag is full. We’ll be able to drop it off as soon as we get to the town, all right?”

As she once again began to pedal, I settled down in the basket with my back against the toy. Still the pregnant clouds above us groaned with the weight of their rain, pouring it down upon us first in sheets and then in torrents, drenching us both until our teeth chattered with cold and we could not feel our hands or feet. Marisa’s hair lay flat against her head and shoulders, her clothes clung to her slim body and rivulets of water ran down her face, but she had physical activity to keep her warm. As the rain drenched my slight form I began to shiver, feeling the chill soaking through my skin and numbing every inch of me.

It was a good thing that I was crammed so tightly into the basket; soon I could not have gripped the edges even if I had to save myself. My muscles seized up but I felt no pain, only the tension. As the path opened out and houses sprang up on either side of it, Marisa squeezed the brakes and came to a gradual halt before a red-roofed building.

I felt a feverish warmth blossoming throughout my entire trembling body. As much as I hated to speak to Marisa, I knew I had no choice. As she brushed a strand of drenched hair out of her eyes, I summoned the last of my energy and feebly projected my voice into Marisa’s mind.

“Marisa… something is wrong… I don’t feel well.”

Marisa turned concerned golden-brown eyes on me. The last thing I saw was the rain falling in a ring around her head, creating a sort of sparkling halo… then the blackness folded around me.

*~*~*






Hovering in the unbroken blackness, I attempted to cry out. Images flashed before me unceasingly, images of death and destruction, images so ominous that they shook me down to my very core with the fear of them. A bridge collapsing, sending hundreds of humans and Pokemon plunging to their deaths… a ship capsizing in a glacier-laden sea… liquid fire blossoming from a volcano and clouds of toxic ash spewing forth into the sky… an out-of-control aeroplane crashing down upon an oblivious school…

The images kept coming and coming, flooding my mind and filling every inch of me with the emotional anguish until I writhed in agony. “No! Make it stop! I can’t take it…”

The images paid me no heed, only flashing through my head with even more ferocity. Nameless, faceless humans and Pokemon perished in an instant, unaware that their lives had been wiped out, as a nuclear reactor exploded. Terrible screaming filled the air as enormous waves crashed down upon tropical islands, drowning homesteads, washing screaming babies out of their dead mothers’ arms, tearing apart couples who clung desperately to each other with their fading breaths and numb hands.

”No! Please stop!” My voice begged, sobbed, screamed without rest, although I was unaware that I was still making any sound. The images were engulfing me… no, the images were me. Maybe they had always been a part of me; maybe they had always been filling me up with their terror for every moment of my existence.

Then, suddenly, it stopped. I floated in silence, drifting through my own mind, listening to my own fading heartbeat. As the pulsing thuds grew further and further apart, I began to feel more and more sluggish. As my eyes finally closed I heard the sound finally come to a halt. The silence rushed in, engulfing me completely, and I welcomed it. I welcomed the abrupt end to the torment that the images had brought, along with the enclosing silence. I didn’t care if I never saw anything again, as long as the pain never returned.

Golden Riolu
April 30th, 2008, 05:27 AM
As usual, italics for Poke-speech and no italics for telepathy.

Chapter Two

Unwanted… Or Wanted?

Aurikara

As the early morning sunlight brought a shine to my dark fur, I gradually began to become aware of my surroundings, dragging myself up from the pool of darkness I had hovered in as I slept. I was curled up in the grass outside; this was the same environment I had woken in every day since my recent hatching. I sighed contentedly, huddling deeper into my bed of flowers and grass. The sun warmed my back and a light breeze played through my fur; all of it was comforting, but I strove to wake up.

My entire body shuddered with a wracking yawn as I struggled wearily back to consciousness. The first thing that swam into my vision was an enormous face peering into mine; the same face that had looked down on me as I fought my way out of my egg a few days earlier. The boy’s face – he had told me he was a boy – was covered with filth, but I didn’t care about that. After all, he was my –

“Master!” I exclaimed in delight, leaping into Will’s arms. My tongue left slimy trails on his cheek but I quickly abandoned this display of affection. He tasted terrible.

“Yuck!” Will cried in disgust, wiping his face with one torn, filthy sleeve and smearing mud over his cheek. I leaped back and rose up on my hind legs, swaying unsteadily until I got used to it. Will swatted at his face in a desperate attempt to rid it of my saliva. “Aura, that’s disgusting!”

I hung my head, abashed. My long, blue-furred tail trailed on the ground, collecting more dirt than it already had. My blue and black fur was already greasy and it was hard to see the natural colour through the accumulated dirt. My blue forepaws looked the same colour as my black hind legs. I was careful to keep my small, pointed ears clear, though; I wanted to hear everything that happened around me.

My pleading ruby eyes fixed on Will and he gave a faint smile. “All right, I guess you’re sort of cute,” he admitted grudgingly.

With a squeak of happiness, I leaped into his arms again and clambered all over him, sticking my foot in his ear, poking him in the eye with my tail, biting his nose playfully with my tiny fangs. He grabbed me and pretended to wrestle with me, laughing the whole time.

A sudden blast of wind blew past us and Will, startled by a flurry of leaves that collided with his back, pushed a little too hard. I lost my grip and crashed into the ground a short distance away, one arm twisted beneath me.

“RIII!!!”

Will hurried to my side as I set up a deafening wail. He scooped me out of the mud and cradled me to his chest in an effort to calm me, but all I felt was the throbbing pain in my arm. I continued screaming until he clapped a hand over my mouth, his instincts for concealment taking over. I felt his heart pounding rapidly as he gripped me so tightly that I could barely move, only loosening his grip when I finally quit struggling.

Will released me and I slid onto his lap, exhausted. Too tired to play, I curled up in a ball and summoned the limited telepathy that was my birthright. He had been teaching me words and I used them often so I wouldn’t forget how.

“Master, what am I?”

“Don’t call me that,” Will chided. He leaned back against a tree and allowed the faint breeze to blow through his hair. I started to think that he was never going to answer.

“You’re a Riolu,” he said eventually. “You’re a boy and your name is Aurikara, or Aura. You’re four days old and you’re my partner, my best friend, my first Pokemon. That’s who you are.”

“Aura,” I repeated, trying out the name. It was difficult to say, but I liked the sound of it. “Aura. Aura. And Will. Will and Aura.”

A smile twitched at the corners of his mouth and he rumpled my fur affectionately. “Yeah, Will and Aura. We’ll be known throughout the land - no, the world - as the toughest team anywhere. People will battle us but they won’t stand a chance, especially after you evolve.”

“Evolve?”

“Yeah, it’s when you… you know, change form. You get bigger and stronger and stuff. You’ll be a Lucario when you evolve. Lucario is really strong; it can sense and control aura properly instead of just seeing it, like you do.”

“But… I’m Aura. I can see me?”

A laugh burst from Will’s throat. “No, your name is Aura because your species has a lot to do with sensing and controlling aura. It’s like the life force of all creatures.”

“Oh. Aura.” I paused, considering what he had just said. “Will you evolve?”

“No, I’m not a Pokemon. I’m a human. Only Pokemon evolve. You’ll evolve when you’re older, when we get to be good friends and you trust me a lot more.”

“I want to evolve.” I settled down with my head on my forepaws, my tail curled around my body. Only moments later I uncurled myself and straightened up, my stomach beginning to rumble loudly. “Hungry…”

Before I could begin to cry again, Will’s hand was tight around my mouth. “Quiet,” he ordered. “If you’re hungry we’ll have to go into the city again. I don’t know what’s good to eat out here.”

“Hungry…” I whimpered.

Will hesitated, then slipped one hand into his pocket and withdrew a shard of glass. I instantly forgot my hunger, entranced by the glimmer of sunlight reflecting off the perfectly smooth surface. Will gripped the shard tightly, brought it to the forearm of the arm holding me and pressed it hard against his skin. Blood blossomed from the place where the edge touched as he dragged it slowly, slicing a deep line in his arm.

I watched in fascination as cherry-red liquid trickled from the wound, spilling down Will’s forearm in torrents. He removed the glass. “Go on, drink,” he told me.

I hesitated, staring at the crimson streams uncertainly. Surely he doesn’t mean for me to drink his blood?

Apparently he did; he once again offered his now-drenched forearm toward me. At the strong, cloying smell of the blood, my stomach growled once again. I couldn’t ignore the hunger; I didn’t have enough experience with life. I hesitantly placed my paws on his arm and licked at the wound, which was quickly healing over.

The blood had a rather bitter, salty taste, but it was warm and nourishing. Soon I was drinking greedily, sinking my teeth into his arm for more when the flow lessened too much. Will eventually stopped me and I released his arm, letting him squeeze the edges of the wound together until the blood flow stopped. I felt glad that he had stopped me; if he had let me, I would probably have kept drinking until I burst and he fainted.

“Now, we need to go into the city,” he told me. “Soon we’ll be leaving to make our own way through Sinnoh. We need to get supplies so we’ll look just like any other trainer and Pokemon team. Promise me you won’t draw attention to us.”

I nodded solemnly, then spoiled the effect with a loud belch.



*~*~*




I huddled into Will’s warm chest and let the rocking motion of his walk soothe me. He had insisted that I stay hidden under his shirt until he had gotten everything we would need. I didn’t see the point, but it was a good excuse to sleep.

Before long, however, I started to feel bored. Forgetting what Will had told me, I gripped the inside of his shirt and climbed up toward his head, using the rips in the material as footholds and feeling them tear even further under my weight. His hands pressed firmly into my back, trying to hold me down, but I squirmed out of his grip and stuck my head out into the light.

The breeze ruffled my fur as I gazed around alertly, ignoring the fact that Will was attempting to wrestle me out of sight again. I wrapped one grimy paw around a handful of his hair and crawled out onto his shoulder.

Will gave up trying to hide me; I had already attracted a fair amount of attention. “Don’t fall off,” he muttered to me instead.

I settled myself astride his shoulder and clung to his head, my tail resting against his chest. My ears flicked in every direction and I watched everything with an interest that betrayed my youth. A few humans of the opposite gender to Will (and wearing, between them, less than he was) glanced at us cautiously, but they looked away in contempt when I did my best imitation of a threatening growl. It came out sounding like someone was strangling a chicken.

Will was moving casually toward a small shop with filthy, graffiti-covered brick walls and windows full of colourful notices. My gaze was drawn to the brightly-coloured papers in the windows, all of them covered with writing I couldn’t read, each notice jostling the others for its own space to let its message be known.

A face sprang out at me from the pictures and I paused, not believing what I was seeing. I tugged at Will’s ear to attract his attention and pointed, keeping my grip on his head with my free arm. “Will! You!”

The picture was printed on plain white paper, pasted over the top of several more colourful things. It was in black and white, simply showing a side-on and front-on view of Will’s head. Above the pictures were several letters I could not understand and beneath it were a lot more, along with several numbers.

I felt Will’s entire body grow tense beneath me. “Don’t draw attention to us,” he muttered out of the corner of his mouth. “This is worse than I thought.”

He quickened his pace. I kept gazing at the picture, entranced by it, but I lost sight of it as Will entered the shop. Immediately blackness folded around us and I blinked hard, trying to adjust to the sudden darkness. I gripped his ear tightly and turned my head from side to side rapidly, trying to make out my surroundings. I took a deep breath and smelt fresh fruit, vegetables, bread and other nameless aromas all crowding in on me. Instantly my fear was replaced with delight and I completely forgot the poster.

Wherever we are, I hope we can stay here forever!

I gulped greedily at the air as though the scent itself would nourish me. Will couldn’t help a smile. “A man’s head and heart are ruled by his stomach,” he murmured. I was too busy simply inhaling to care about or understand what he had just said.

Will casually reached out and lifted a rough cloth bag from its hook, then began to browse the shelves. I watched with interest as he piled food into the bag, but I didn’t understand why he wasn’t just eating it. I scrambled down his arm and into the bag; before he could stop me, I had sunk my teeth into something large and cylindrical.

OWOWOWOW!!!

“RIII!!!”

I dropped the offending object immediately and it clattered to the floor. The bite marks in its aluminum side were obvious and the label was stained with my blood. I clutched my jaw and moaned in agony as Will attempted to quieten me. Behind the nearby counter, the young dark-haired shopkeeper was watching us suspiciously.

“Calm down,” Will hissed between his teeth. I would not be consoled; my teeth felt like they had been forced back deep into my gums. I felt warm blood gushing over my tongue and allowed it to leak steadily onto the cloth bag. The pain was too much; I could no longer even scream. I clung to Will’s hand and emitted a low, piteous moan of distress.

Sweat had broken out on Will’s forehead and he was pretending to stare at me, but I could see that he was watching the shopkeeper intently out of the corner of his eye. The shopkeeper was consulting a piece of paper and, after uttering a sharp swearword, picked up a grime-encrusted telephone and quickly pressed a few of the buttons.

Will began to move faster, scooping things at random into the bag and nearly crushing me beneath them. I crawled to one side to be safe from the falling objects. The man had begun to speak quietly into the telephone receiver.

“I need the police. I’ve found that boy - the one on the wanted posters in all the shop windows. He’s in my shop right now.”

Before the man could say anything else, Will broke into a run. He was out of the shop in an instant and into the sunlight, clutching the bag and pelting down the street as fast as he could. The sunlight struck my eyes, blinding after the dim darkness of the shop. Will shielded his eyes with one hand but did not slow down.

The cans and boxes shifted beneath me in the bag and I gripped Will’s hand tightly, terrified of the thought that he might drop me. I chanced a look behind him and spotted two men in pursuit of us, both of them dressed in plain blue outfits and shiny, black shoes. One of them barked a harsh command and a huge, skeletal-looking, canine creature raced past them. Muscles rippled beneath its silky black fur as it ran, its long, arrow-tipped tail whipping through the air behind it. Its dull ruby eyes were fixed firmly on us and its jaws were open, dripping slaver from its orange-furred muzzle.

I froze, my eyes slowly growing wider and wider in fear as I watched the Houndoom. It moved with an easy, loping pace and I could see that it would catch us before we could even leave the city. I knew what I had to do.

I tightened my grip momentarily on Will’s hand, then in one quick motion launched myself out of the bag. I landed in a crouch, ready to fight the creature. It came to a skidding halt, its clawed paws splaying on the brick path.

The two policemen came to a halt behind their Pokemon and Will stopped running so abruptly that he nearly lost his balance. “Aura, what are you doing?” he demanded in a hoarse whisper. “It’ll kill you!”

I met his gaze. “Aura,” I said meaningfully.

Taking advantage of my distraction, the dog dived at me with a sharp growl. Before I could react it had caught me up in its jaws. I squealed in pain, but the killing fangs only dug in deeper. I felt my bones crack and my own blood trickled through my fur as the beast began to shake its head ferociously.

The deadly fangs tore my flesh, but I felt none of my childish desire to scream and hope that Will would make it all better. Instead, a more mature instinct was taking over. I twisted around and worked one arm free from Houndoom’s grip, then summoned all of my strength into my fist and directed a powerful punch at the canine’s snout.

With a howl of pain, the creature released me. I fell limply to the ground and struggled to gather enough energy to rise. Before I could, however, two hands closed around my waist and I was lifted gently into Will’s arms. As he turned away I caught a brief glimpse of the Houndoom stumbling, dazed and disoriented by the blow.

Will caught up his bag of supplies as he fled. I saw a brief glimpse of one of the policemen beginning to chase us, before the other caught his arm to stop him. Will didn’t slow down and soon we had left the surrounding buildings far behind.

Will sank down on the grass and gently placed me beside him to examine my wounds. His fingers felt through my dirty fur, pinching together the edges of each rip in my skin. “Why on earth did you do that?” he asked softly, stroking my blood-drenched fur.

My vision was swimming, but I gathered my strength and projected my name into his mind. When he still looked puzzled I pointed first to my own black-furred chest, then to Will’s hand. “Dark?” he guessed, trying to make sense of my miming.

I nodded feebly.

Fear and shock dawned in Will’s eyes as he realized what I was trying to say. “You mean… the Houndoom had a dark aura?”

Once again I forced enough strength into my neck to nod. “Dark aura. Bad aura.”

Golden Riolu
April 30th, 2008, 06:32 PM
Same as usual; italics for Poke-speech, no italics for telepathy.


Chapter Three


The Stench Of Victory



Rarutos


I gripped the edges of the basket tightly as we wobbled along the muddy path. Marisa’s forehead was slick with sweat and I could see that she was pedalling as hard as she could, but the bicycle seemed to be responding at half-speed.

It had been days since we had left Hearthome City. Most of our time in Solaceon Town was a blur for me, but I distinctly remembered waking several times in hospital to find Marisa by my side. I remembered the feel of soft, white bed sheets; seeing bright lights above me; an unfamiliar human sponging my sweaty face and feeding me by hand. My fever had broken the night before and since we had left the town the following morning, I had been able to describe our surroundings in one word: mud.

I snapped back to reality abruptly; the front wheel had fallen into a deceptively deep puddle and I was nearly thrown out of the basket. The entire vehicle lurched forward and, with a sudden screech, Marisa left her seat and soared directly over my head before landing with an enormous splash.

What the heck just happened?!

A violent sneeze rocked my entire body, triggering a fit of coughing which changed into a badly-concealed laugh as Marisa rose out of the mud. Her entire body was so thickly coated in the sludge that she resembled a brown Grimer. It dripped from her clothes and hair in torrents as she dragged one hand across her face, clearing space to see through. Her eyes resembled twin spots of white and hazel burning in her filthy face.

When I finally managed to stop laughing, my body convulsed with another sneeze. I was still recovering from the cold I had developed when riding through the rain days earlier, but thankfully I had gotten through the fever and the nausea.

“What are you laughing at?” Marisa demanded, her eyes blazing with fury.

I was once again laughing so hard that I had to grip the edge of the basket to stay upright. Another bout of coughing took hold and I clutched my chest, feeling the spasms tear at my throat. Blood splattered onto the basket and I wiped my mouth, drawing a shaky breath.

Maybe the worst of the cold hasn’t passed yet.

Marisa shook her head ferociously, sending mud flying in every direction. Dizzy, she stumbled and nearly fell. “Whoa… I shouldn’t have done that.”

Her hands closed around the black trunk of a twisted, gnarled tree. As soon as she had regained her balance she let go of it, wiping her hands on her filthy clothes to rid them of the splinters of rotting bark. “Do you think we’re close to Veilstone City?” she asked brightly.

I ignored her completely. I may have gotten used to Marisa and realized that she wanted to be my friend, but I had still not warmed to her.

Marisa seemed to understand that I was not going to talk to her. Her shoulders slumped slightly as she returned to the bicycle and embarked on an attempt to drag it out of the pit it had sunk into.

A burst of telekinetic energy engulfed me as I teleported out of the basket, reappearing a few feet away. My wide feet instantly sank into the muddy ground despite my light weight. I glanced down at it disdainfully before returning my gaze to Marisa, who seemed to be having a lot of trouble with the half-submerged bicycle.

With a lot of swearing and straining, the young girl finally succeeded in dragging the contraption onto reasonably-solid land. I stood and watched the process silently, occasionally stifling a chuckle; it was more amusing than watching two Psyduck try to outthink each other. As Marisa finally dropped the thing, however, I heard a quiet snuffling sound emanating from somewhere behind me. My muscles immediately tensed up and I cautiously turned my head toward the sound.

My gaze immediately fell upon a patch of purple in the sloppy surroundings. The Pokemon was roughly my size, a quadruped with long, plum-coloured fur punctuated by a creamy stripe down the centre of his back. His four short, stubby legs were braced apart in the mud, their short claws gripping plants or rocks to prevent him from sinking. He was obviously well-adapted to this environment. His white, bulbous eyes were fixed firmly on me and his long, scraggly tail lifted slowly into the air behind him.

Marisa had also noticed the creature; an expression of delight stole over her muddy features. “A wild Pokemon! Finally I can capture something! Raru, get it!”

As if I’m going to battle that. I’m not as stupid as she seems to think.

Marisa’s delight gave way gradually to irritation as she realized that I was not going to fight for her. She covered it quickly with false despair in an effort to convince me to assist her. “Come on, Rarutos,” she begged. “I looked after you in hospital! Aren’t we friends? I promise I won’t call you Raru any more! I’ll give you something nice to eat tonight! I’ll… oh, come on, please?”

I remained stubbornly unresponsive. The creature’s long whiskers twitched and his gaze shifted from me to Marisa, the latter of whom returned his gaze intensely. Unnerved, he took a few steps back.

I broke my silence to Marisa, unable to stand it any longer. “Marisa, don’t frighten him, whatever you do. Do you know what he is?”

“Not a clue, but he’s wild so I’m going to catch him!” Marisa replied excitedly. Her hands tightly gripped the straps of her backpack and she shrugged it off, gripping it between her side and one elbow. Her eyes never left the terrified Pokemon as her fingers fumbled with the buckle.

“He’s a Stunky,” I told her, exasperated. “Didn’t you take a class or something? Are all humans this clueless?”

“I’m not clueless,” Marisa murmured, half of her attention on Stunky and half on her hand, which was groping in her bulging backpack for a spare Poke Ball. “Besides, what does it matter what he is? I’m going to catch him anyway!”

I sighed in exasperation and started to warn her, then changed my mind. An evil smile crept across my face. “Never mind,” I said sweetly.

Marisa withdrew her hand from amongst her drenched possessions. There was a light of excitement in her bronze eyes as she raised her hand, her fingers wrapped tightly around the empty red and white sphere clutched in her grimy fist. “You’re mine!” she cried, swinging her arm back and throwing the orb with all her strength directly at Stunky.

The creature gave a squeak of terror and attempted to flee, but the ball collided with his back. At the impact, it burst open along the hinges; a pure white glow surrounded the creature, dissolving him into a haze of light. In an instant the light had vanished inside the sphere, which closed with a quiet click as it fell into the mud.

“Yes!” Marisa cried, her fist punching the air in triumph. She started forward but my silent telepathic warning stopped her in her tracks. A reddish glow was emanating from the white button as the sphere began to quiver.

The glow faded and Marisa paused, but it did not return. She gave a whoop of victory; she had just captured her first wild Pokemon, all without my help. Not that she had a choice.

“Yeah!” Marisa cheered. She jogged forward, splashing me in her haste, and snatched the ball out of the mud. Her thumb depressed the button and Stunky rematerialized in a blaze of white. His entire body was tense in terror.

Uh-oh. I think I know what’s going to happen.

Marisa turned to me, her expression haughty. “Look! I captured a Pokemon all by myself! Aren’t you going to congratulate me?”

I rolled my eyes once again and edged away from Marisa. “Sure. Congratulations on your capture of the living Repel.”

Marisa’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Huh?”

She didn’t take long to find out what I meant. Still partly frozen in terror, the Stunky had turned his back on Marisa. His tail trembled as it was lifted into the air.

Here we go. I wonder if humans have a good sense of smell?

As Marisa watched in confusion, Stunky’s muscles tensed and he fired a jet of liquid stench from his rear - directly at Marisa.

It turned out humans did have a fairly good sense of smell.

“AARGH!” Marisa screeched, clawing wildly at her face in panic. She flung herself down into the mud and writhed, coating every inch of herself in it in an effort to get rid of the stink. I could smell her clearly despite my cold. I couldn’t help myself; I felt laughter beginning to shake my body. Despite the horrible stench assailing my nostrils, I clutched my belly and doubled over, laughing uncontrollably.

Stunky was watching me in alarm, his entire tense body quivering. Still chortling, I splashed my way through the mud to get to him. I could easily block his attack if he decided to repeat what he had done to Marisa.

“Hi, there,” I said cheerfully. “You can’t be so bad if you don’t like her either. Unfortunately, she’s your trainer now as well as mine.”

Stunky didn’t reply; his nervous gaze shifted from me to Marisa, the latter of whom was still groaning as she rolled around in the slop like a Quagsire on a hot day.

“Skittish little thing, aren’t you?” I commented. I raised one pale arm and pointed to the writhing human. “The girl you just sprayed, the mud-monster, the colossus, whatever you want to call her… that’s our trainer, Marisa. She doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing and it’s my goal in life to make this journey as difficult as possible for her.”

Stunky’s whiskers twitched. “And you are…?”

Pleased at getting a response, I answered cheerfully, “I’m Rarutos. What’s your name, Stench-Factory?”

“Sutanu.”

“Huh? Sultana? What, like a dried grape?”

“No, I said Sutanu! I’m Sutanu the Stunky. And you’re… a Ralts?”

“Yep, that’s me,” I said happily, ignoring the humanoid mud-monster still thrashing behind me.

With a loud groan of disgust, Marisa rose, dripping, from the filth. “That was a horrible thing to do,” she admonished.

I pasted an innocent expression on my face. “So, what you’re saying is that you don’t want your new partner to use his special ability on you again?”

“No!”

I turned to Sutanu. “Why don’t you try it again? I don’t think she got the full blast of it.”

“No! Aah!” Marisa threw herself to the ground once more when she saw Sutanu aiming at her again. She thrust out the fist still gripping his Poke Ball and, before he could attack, he dissolved into a shapeless cloud of particles which vanished harmlessly into the sphere.

Marisa climbed to her feet and turned her furious gaze on me. I was laughing so hard that I slipped and fell into the mud. “Gullible little thing, isn’t he?” I asked innocently, straightening up again.

“Raru! Did you tell him to spray me?”

“Only the second time. What?” I protested as she glared at me venomously.

Marisa started to clip the ball onto her belt, realized she didn’t have one and tucked it safely into the pocket of her shorts instead. “What were you talking to him about?”

“Just asking his name,” I replied casually.

“And…? What is it?”

“Sutanu. But he likes to be called Sultana,” I added, deciding that it would be fun to torment the newest addition to the team.

“Sultana? Like a dried grape?”

“The very same,” I agreed, trying not to laugh. Sutanu won’t like this… or should I say Sultana?



*~*~*




By nightfall we had still not left the swampy Route 215. Due to the mud-encrusted state of her bicycle, Marisa had been walking with it instead of riding it. Ignoring her complaints of my laziness, I had dozed in the basket for an hour or so as she struggled along.

We arrived in a reasonably-dry area and Marisa dropped her bicycle onto the grass without warning, sending me tumbling directly into a tree. I picked myself up and gave her a filthy look. She simply drew the grimy red and white sphere from her pocket and pressed the button.

A burst of light briefly illuminated our surroundings as Sutanu materialized once more. He stood and shivered for a moment before realizing that Marisa, in her weary state, was obviously not a threat. As he made himself comfortable, Marisa turned back to me.

“Find some firewood,” she told me wearily.

“Find it yourself. You can’t order me around.”

The girl simply shook her head tiredly. “Rarutos, if you don’t help me we’ll spend the night cold and hungry. Although I guess I could put you back in your Poke Ball…”

I crossed my arms and glanced up at the tree, gathering telekinetic energy. With a crack that pierced the quiet night air, a branch longer and wider than Marisa’s entire body ripped itself free of the trunk and dropped, with a deafening crash, two feet from my trainer. The impact sent dirt flying everywhere and Marisa lurched to her feet, stumbling away from the branch.

“How’s that for firewood?” I asked calmly.

Marisa’s fingers twitched; for a moment I thought she was actually going to try to strangle me. With a huge effort that showed itself in her reddened face, she regained control and began snapping smaller twigs from the fallen limb. After arranging them artfully on the driest patch of land she could find, she produced a box of damp matches from her backpack and began attempting to light a campfire.

Unconcerned, I settled down in the grass to sleep. Sutanu spared me one nervous glance before closing his eyes. I lay staring up at the sky, my garnet eyes reflecting the countless tiny pinpricks of light, and thought about how I had seen exactly the same stars over a hundred times before in my life.

I wonder if my friends are watching the same stars right now? What would they be doing, I wonder? Would they be eating with their families? Sleeping beside their brothers and sisters? Oh, Galen… Jesse… Kira… I miss you all so much…

My vision blurred and a single tear made its way down the side of my face before falling silently into the grass. I raised one hand and rubbed angrily at my eyes, smearing mud over my cheeks. I don’t want Marisa to see me crying. I need her to think I’m strong.

I glanced over to where Marisa was sitting. She was still striking match after match unenthusiastically, failing to get even a single spark out of the damp wood. Eventually she flung the entire box of matches onto the unlit campfire with a defeated groan. “I give up…”

I made no move to assist her. After a moment she climbed to her feet and splashed away through the mud, treading heavily as she vanished among the gnarled trees. I waited until I was sure she was gone.

Slowly I pushed myself up off the ground and approached the pile of wood. A tremor of cold raced through my body as I focused my power again, my eyes beginning to glow with a violet light. A ball of blue flame began to gather between my outstretched hands as I drew light and heat energy from the very air. The sphere pulsed for a moment as I released it, then it collided with the wood and exploded into a roaring campfire.

Sutanu awoke with a squeak of terror as the fire burst into life, but moments later he scuttled closer to the blazing warmth. I settled down and hugged my knees as I stared into the flickering flames, once again thinking about my friends.

After a few minutes the sound of squelching indicated Marisa’s return. I didn’t look around, but when she spoke I could tell from her voice that she was surprised. “Raru, did you light the fire?”

I remained silent.

“Thank you,” Marisa said quietly.

I spun to face her, anger etched over my pale face. “I didn’t do it for you.”

“Oh. Well, thank you anyway.” She settled down on the grass and began to search through her backpack. I stared dully into the fire once again.

“I hope we can be friends one day,” Marisa told me.

I ignored her completely and extended my cold hands to the warmth. Marisa abandoned her search through her bag and faced me. “Rarutos, why don’t you like me? I’m doing all I can. There’s no reason for this hostility.”

Believe that if you want. There’s no one more deserving than you.

I merely turned my head away, indifferent. Marisa heaved a sigh and leaned back, stretching out on the ground. “I’ll cook something in the morning. I’m too tired tonight.”

I’m sure any other trainer would take better care of their Pokemon.

I turned away from her and curled up on my side in the grass. After only a minute something soft was spread over my filthy body. I turned my head, startled, and realized that Marisa had covered me with one of her spare T-shirts to keep me warm.

I guess she’s doing her best. She’s trying really hard to be my friend; maybe I should give her a chance. I curled up under the cloth and stared into the darkness, thinking about how my trainer was attempting to make peace. She at least deserved a chance.

I wonder what it’s like to fight for a human? If she pushes me too hard I’ll refuse to continue, but it might be fun. It might be interesting to be a trained Pokemon…

Despite my attempts to stay awake, I felt my eyelids drooping. I was asleep almost instantly.

Golden Riolu
May 1st, 2008, 06:31 PM
Sorry about this chapter; Aurikara's POV didn't last long enough so I had to switch narrators halfway through. Same as usual, Poke-speech in italics, no italics for telepathy.

Chapter Four

Communication

Aurikara

“How’s that?” Will’s anxious face peered into mine as he worked, his slim fingers deftly tying a tight knot in my makeshift bandages. Lying on my side on the grass, I winced slightly and resisted the urge to cry out as the strips torn from his tattered clothes dug into my chest. I snapped at his hands, which he quickly snatched away.

As my teeth closed on empty air the filthy cloth pulled taut over my ribs, causing me to emit a sharp howl of agony. In an instant Will’s hand was on my side, soothing me with physical contact. I calmed down slightly as his fingers gently stroked my dark fur. Will was trying to avoid touching my injuries, but inevitably his fingertips brushed over the half-healed bite marks that had been inflicted days earlier.

Will withdrew his hand, looking troubled. My sharp ruby eyes could easily focus on the pale haze around his skin, which was tinged with a nameless colour that indicated his concern. He’s worried about me. Pokemon shouldn’t be so mean to us.

“Aura, I’m worried about you,” Will told me. His eyes, which resembled ponds of stagnant, green water, were full of the concern I could read in his aura. I rolled onto my back and tilted my head to one side, gazing up at him quizzically.

“Why, master?” I queried.

Will reached out and gently stroked me again, a faint smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Aurikara, I can’t understand a word you’re saying. You know that, don’t you? You’re doing that just to torment me.”

“I want you to learn,” I replied telepathically. “You taught me your words. I want to teach you mine.”

“Humans can’t speak the many languages of Pokemon. Some try to learn, but for the most part they fail. Only a few gifted people can do it properly and I’m not one of them.”

“You don’t have to speak my words, just understand them.”

Will smiled resignedly. “All right, I’ll try. Say something simple.”

“Aura.”

His eyes left mine as he gazed into the distance, concentrating on the word. “Again,” he commanded. “Say it again.”

“Aura.”

“I know you’ve said it before…” Will kneaded his forehead with his knuckles in furious concentration. “I just… can’t think…”

“Aura,” I repeated imploringly. “Aura.”

Suddenly a light of realization dawned in his eyes. “Is it… aura?”

I nodded delightedly and attempted to leap into his arms, but a sharp bolt of pain raced through my chest at the sudden movement. I doubled over and fell to the ground once more, my low moan the only sound I could hear. Will’s hands closed around me and I found myself huddled up in his warm arms.

“Be careful,” Will told me. “That Houndoom must’ve done a lot of damage. I know I should get you to a hospital, but I can’t go into a city or they’ll catch me.” He met my gaze, his expression troubled. “I… I’ve done some bad things. I can’t let them catch me.”

His hands trembled and the pain split my side open once more. In sudden agony, I found my jaws closing tightly around Will’s thin wrist, my fangs digging into his dark skin until blood spurted from the wounds.

“Aargh! Aura, let go!” Will barely resisted the urge to shake his arm violently to throw me off; instead, his fingers pressed into my cheeks in an attempt to loosen my jaws. I let go only reluctantly and Will replaced me on the grass with quivering hands.

I lay waiting for the pain to recede, my breath panting and the taste of blood strong on my tongue. Will wrapped his hand tightly in his shirt and pressed down on it, trying to lessen the flow. He didn’t look at me again for several minutes.

“Why did you do that?” he asked finally, his eyes still on the dark stain spreading over his shirt from the wounds.

I remained silent, afraid of the anger that would surely come. My tongue absently licked the blood from my lips and I swallowed greedily.

“Aura, you’ve been different since that Houndoom attacked you. I don’t know if it’s because of the pain, but you’ve been acting more… mistrustful toward me.” Will finally turned back to me. The anger I had expected was not in his eyes, which were instead full of worry.

“Am I doing something wrong?” Will asked. “Is there something I should be doing? I’m treating you as well as I can. I’ve never raised a Pokemon or a baby of any species before and I don’t know what to do. If you need something you’ll have to tell me.”

I suddenly felt guilty for being so difficult to handle. “I’m sorry,” I whimpered, avoiding his gaze. My heart was filled with shame. “It just hurts…”

“It’s just the pain in your ribs? That’s why you’ve been acting so rough and wild?”

His hand passed gently over my body again and I relaxed into it. “Sorry, master.”

“It’s all right. I understand now. It’s good that you’re more mistrustful now; you’re less likely to get into danger without realizing. Aura, tell me: would you go somewhere with a stranger? Even if they offered you chocolate?”

I gazed up at him solemnly and shook my head. I didn’t have a clue what chocolate was, but it couldn’t possibly be enough to entice me away from the only living creature I knew I could trust.

A smile transformed Will’s gaunt face and he ruffled my fur. “Good boy.”

A moment later my gaze was drawn past Will; something was moving at the edge of my vision. I soon found myself staring avidly at a small, pig-like creature watching from a short distance away. It looked smaller than me, but I couldn’t properly tell its size due to the fact that it was bouncing up and down continually on its long, coiled tail. Its dark grey skin seemed to absorb the sunlight, making it a dark blot in the bright surroundings. The perfectly round, pink sphere between its short, pointed ears gave off a faint telekinetic force which made me dislike it immediately.

Will glanced behind him and paused, his eyes following the creature as it bounced. “Look at that,” he said quietly. “A wild Pokemon!” His hand drifted away from me and plunged into our bag of supplies, drawing out one of the cylinders that hurt my teeth.

The creature was gazing at him cautiously, but still its bouncing did not cease. He climbed to his feet and began to approach it carefully. I watched its spring-like tail coil beneath it and propel it into the air repeatedly, but before long the unceasing movement started to make me feel sick. My stomach lurched unpleasantly and I turned my head away, suppressing a burp at the same time.

Will had crouched down a few feet from the creature and was wrestling with the tin cylinder. A peculiar twist of his wrist caused it to snap open and a strong, sweet aroma reached me. My nausea vanished immediately and I began to sniff greedily at the air.

I have to learn how to do that.

The creature bounded closer as Will offered some of the tin’s contents to it. Jealousy surged through my veins, dragging a harsh snarl from my throat. Will glanced back at me.

“I’ll give you some in a moment, Aura,” he told me. “I just want him to trust me.”

I hesitated. “What is he?”

“I don’t know.” Will turned his back on me, watching the creature begin to eat from his hand without pausing in his relentless leaping. With his spare hand Will reached out, hesitantly touching the pearl on the creature’s head. When he received no negative reaction, he began to stroke its hard, smooth surface.

“Good boy,” Will soothed as the creature flinched. His soft voice was calming and soon most of the tin’s contents were inside the Pokemon. I attempted and failed to lever myself up on all fours as Will returned to me, his new friend bounding after him.

“What’s his name?” I asked, cautious of the new arrival.

Will shrugged. “I don’t know. Aura, why don’t you ask him?”

The pig was gazing at me suspiciously. I summoned my courage and took as deep a breath as I could manage, feeling the ache in my chest again. “Hello. I’m Aura. What’s your name?”

His mistrustful gaze was upon me. “I don’t have one.”

“No name? What are you? What do you call yourself?”

“Spoink,” he replied defiantly. “I’m called Spoink because I am one.”

Will glanced between the pair of us; Spoink bouncing continually on his tail, me lying in the grass and attempting not to hurt my ribs. “Well, what did he say?” he pressed.

“He doesn’t have a name,” I replied. “He calls himself Spoink.”

Will lifted one hand to scratch his filthy hair as he considered. “Hmm… well, I should give you a name. How about… Bane?”

Spoink glanced up at him, interested. He crouched down to stroke the creature’s pearl again. “You like that? Okay, from now on your name is Bane. I think the name fits. You look tough; you’ll grow up to become a bane to your enemies.”

The newly-named Bane bounced gleefully higher in response.



*


Rarutos







She can’t be serious.

I cast a dark glance at Marisa, who ignored me completely. Her entire face was alive with excitement as she gazed up at the enormous building before us. I gripped the edges of the now-flowerless bicycle basket as my gaze travelled over the stone Gym.

“We’re going to battle in there, Rarutos,” Marisa whispered, a gleam of reverence in her eyes.

I guess she is serious.

Marisa slid off her newly-cleaned bicycle, narrowly avoided dropping it on top of herself and drew a polished sphere from the pocket of her gaudy orange shorts. The shapeless cloud of glowing particles expelled from the ball quickly shaped themselves into Marisa’s other partner. Sutanu had been forcibly bathed that morning and his plum-coloured fur was no longer encrusted with mud, but clean and smooth.

He still stank, though.

Marisa crouched down and scratched behind Sutanu’s ears, as she had quickly discovered that he liked. “Are you ready?” she asked excitedly.

This is unbelievable; she actually thinks we have a chance.

“Marisa,” I interrupted, “You’ve only been training us for a week. I don’t think we’re ready yet.”

“Of course you are!” Marisa promptly forgot Sutanu and swept me into the air, holding me high over her head despite my protests. “This Gym is full of Fighting types. You’ll beat them easily! And Sultana will help, of course,” she added.

“Tell her not to call me that,” Sutanu groaned.

“What’ll you do? Spray her?” I said mockingly, then pretended to be terrified of him. “Oh, I’m so scared! Sultana the Stink-Factory is going to spray my dear trainer! What will I ever do?”

“Don’t you dare…” His voice held the warning of a growl.

Marisa glanced frantically between us. “Come on, please be nice!” she begged. “We can’t mess this up!”

This battle will be messed up from the moment Marisa sets foot in the Gym.

She crouched down and placed me gently on the ground. “Don’t you dare upset each other,” she warned. “If you’re going to talk, just do it to encourage each other.”

Sutanu glanced nervously at me as Marisa wheeled her bicycle to a bike rack and began to chain it up. I smiled sweetly at him. “Oh, don’t worry about me. I wouldn’t even think about hurting you. You’re not worth my time.”

There was a groaning creak as Marisa forced the heavy Gym doors open. “Come on, guys,” she encouraged. “We’d better get in here before we lose heart.”

Sutanu shuffled into the Gym and I followed, moving my short legs as fast as I could to keep up. As I reached the door Marisa scooped me up in her arms, ignoring my struggling. I paused, a soft violet glow surrounding my arms as I gathered energy. Before Marisa could react, a weak jolt of electricity sped through my body and into hers, causing her to drop me.

“Ow!” she screamed, shaking her hands frantically to stop them from tingling. The glow enveloped my entire body and I teleported safely to the ground.

Marisa glared at me; her head once again resembled a pale yellow Tangela. “What was that for?”

I crossed my arms calmly. “I don’t like being touched.”

“Well, you’ll have to get used to it,” Marisa said impatiently, attempting to smooth down her out-of-control blonde hair. “Gardevoir is called the Embrace Pokemon, isn’t it?”

I eyed her suspiciously. “What does that have to do with it?”

“Well, you’ll be a Gardevoir one day, won’t you?”

I will never evolve for you.

“Are we going in or not?” I asked impatiently.

Marisa abruptly turned and walked into the dark hallway beyond the door, Sutanu waddling rapidly to keep up. I teleported ahead whenever I fell back too far and before long we had left the hallway, stepping into a large arena built of the same smooth, grey stone as the hallway.

The arena was not very large, but it was definitely big enough for us to fight in. The floor was painted with white lines to mark out the area for the battle. I gazed up past the bare walls to the ceiling, where countless cold, fluorescent lights glowed steadily.

“We’re expected,” I announced.

Marisa glanced down at me, anxiety etched over her face. “What? What do you mean?”

I pointed up at the lights. “They would not be shining if the Gym Leader was not expecting challengers.” My constant study of human customs had quickly paid off; this was one of the many things I had learned since meeting Marisa.

Marisa glanced around nervously, then cleared her throat and took a step into the Gym. Her footsteps echoed around the silent stone room. “Hello?” she called, her voice trembling with apprehension. “Is anyone here? I want to challenge the Gym Leader!”

“That would be me.”

Startled, I shielded my head and felt a burst of energy carry me almost into the centre of the Gym. The moment my feet touched solid ground I spun around, only to see a young girl standing in the doorway. I barely held back a laugh; I had been expecting something more dangerous.

The girl looked no older than eight years old; she was definitely younger than Marisa. She was dressed in a simple outfit of a dark, sleeveless top and white pants. Her face was pale and strict and her eyes caught my attention; they were a shade of red similar to my own and looked startling beneath her short, magenta hair. Her bare feet slapped on the stone floor as she stepped forward and offered one hand, clad in a lapis-lazuli fingerless glove, to Marisa. Marisa hesitated before shaking it.

“My name is Maylene,” the girl announced. “I’m the Gym Leader of Veilstone City.”

“I’m Marisa and I’ve come from Hearthome City and I want to challenge you!” Marisa blurted out in a rush.

A glitter came into Maylene’s eyes at these words. “I accept your challenge. What do you say to a three-on-three battle, no time limit?”

“Um…” Marisa glanced anxiously at me, then looked down at Sutanu by her feet. “I only have two Pokemon…”

“Two-on-two, then,” the Leader said briskly. “No time limit. The battle will only end with a win or a forfeit. The first to recall her second Pokemon loses. Take your place, challenger.” She barked this order like someone four times her age and, before Marisa could protest, had set off at a sprint for the opposite end of the arena.

Marisa cautiously stepped into a painted rectangle and motioned to me. I materialized at her side instantly.

“Do you mind if I use Sutanu first?” she whispered to me. “You’re my strongest weapon and I want you to save your strength.”

“I don’t mind.” Forgetting to be scathing, I settled down on the ground beside Marisa to watch the fight. Despite my first impressions of the Leader, I was beginning to think that she might be strong.

Marisa motioned to Sutanu, indicating that he should step onto the battlefield. His ears twitched nervously and he shuffled forward, moving almost into the centre. Maylene reached the opposite end and turned on her heel, raising her arms into the air. In one fist she gripped a sphere.

“I will call the battle!” she announced. Her clear, ringing voice echoed from the rock walls and bounced back at us. “This is a two-on-two battle and these are the terms. If you recall a still-healthy Pokemon, you can still use it in this battle. There will be no rematch. No breaks are permitted. Items may be used if necessary. Is this clear?”

Marisa nodded, her face as pale as the fluorescent lights above.

Maylene tossed her sphere into the air. “Let the battle begin!”

Scales
May 2nd, 2008, 04:33 PM
This is pretty well written. Maybe I'll watch this

Golden Riolu
May 3rd, 2008, 01:12 AM
Same as usual; italics for Poke-speech, no italics for telepathy.



Chapter Five


Fallen



Rarutos







The entire arena lit up with an explosion of light as the Gym Leader’s orb burst open. As the sphere flew back to Maylene’s outstretched hand, the shapeless cloud condensed into a small, humanoid creature with skin of white and turquoise. Unconcerned, the unusual Pokemon hovered a foot from the ground in a meditation pose, its slim legs crossed and its two-fingered hands clasped in front of it.

Sutanu hesitated; the creature didn’t look like it was going to attack. Even when Maylene bellowed an incomprehensible order it showed no response.

I wonder if that thing’s deaf?

Marisa paused for only a moment before shouting her first order. “Sutanu! Incapacitate it with Poison Gas!”

Sutanu braced his clawed paws apart on the smooth floor and belched a cloud of thick, purple gas. The toxic cloud quickly enveloped the opponent and soon began to expand and spread throughout the entire Gym. Seeing the danger, Marisa immediately clamped both hands over her mouth and nose to prevent herself from breathing the poison by accident.

A loud click echoed through the enormous room as several hidden vents snapped open. I felt a gentle breeze on my skin; the vents had responded automatically to the toxicity level of the air and were draining the gas away. Within seconds the air was safe to breathe again.

Maylene, Marisa and Sutanu were unaffected, but I was beginning to feel vaguely nauseous. The opponent was clearly worst off, though; it had fallen to the floor, unable to levitate, its pale face a sickly shade of green.

Marisa didn’t hesitate to press her advantage. “Weaken it with Screech!”

Sutanu obeyed; his mouth opened and a deathly wailing filled the air, rebounding from the walls and sounding like it was coming from every direction at once. I clamped my hands over my ears with a moan, but the wailing continued.

Please stop… it goes right through my head…

The screaming kept going and going, tearing through my head, echoing inside my skull. I didn’t realize that I was in Marisa’s arms until I saw her worried face gazing down at me.

I removed my hands from my head slowly. The scream had ended, leaving only a distant ringing in my ears. Marisa looked extremely anxious; she had even forgotten the battle, although the opponent still seemed to pose no threat to Sutanu.

“Are you all right?” Marisa asked.

My entire body was trembling violently and my breathing was shallow, but I nodded forcefully. “Put me down.”

Marisa set me down gently on the floor and straightened up. Sutanu was still watching his opponent, but it was making no move to attack him. “Scratch attack!” she ordered, forgetting about me once again in the thrill of the battle. Sutanu charged at the humanoid and leaped, his sharp claws bared. The creature stumbled back from his attack, unsteady on its feet, crimson lines drawn across its body from the knife-like claws. Sutanu darted in for another attack.

“Meditite! Release!” Maylene bellowed. Her Pokemon responded instantly; as Sutanu raced toward it, his claws clicking wildly on the floor like an overenthusiastic dog’s, his opponent spun toward him and struck with its entire body. The attack was almost too fast to see; Sutanu tumbled away and hit the floor hard, skidding along on his side for several feet.

“Sutanu!” Marisa cried in despair.

Sutanu’s entire body quivered as he struggled to his feet. His chest fluttered rapidly with his quick breathing, but he was not badly hurt. At Marisa’s command he bounded forward again, alert eyes fixed firmly on Meditite and pulsing with the fury of revenge.

With a cry of rage, Sutanu leaped on Meditite. Weakened by the poison in its system, it could do nothing but feebly cover its head as Sutanu’s claws ripped at its body. Maylene shook her head despairingly but could do nothing to help her Pokemon. She raised the empty Poke Ball in her fist and Sutanu fell harmlessly to the floor as his victim dissolved into a stream of red particles once again.

Maylene selected a second sphere and tossed it high into the air. It spun twice before bursting open, releasing the torrent of light inside. This glow twisted and condensed into a larger humanoid figure, white light fading into dark fur.

Maylene’s second Pokemon stood only a few inches shorter than its trainer. Its canine body was covered with short, mostly dark fur, midnight black in some places and sapphire blue in others. Its arms, ending in wide black paws, were crossed before its sunshine-yellow chest to shield its head. Its sharp ruby eyes were fixed upon Sutanu.

Marisa wasted no time in calling her next command. “Get it, Sutanu! Scratch!”

Again Sutanu lunged, summoning the fury back into his eyes to focus his strength. His new opponent stood watching calmly as he approached, then launched itself into the air and turned a somersault before landing lightly behind him. Its long, blue tail glowed with a soft light and it swung around, striking Sutanu in the side as he turned to look at it. He slammed into the wall and vanished into a beam of red light.

Marisa’s face was pale and her teeth dug into her lip until it bled as she replaced Sutanu’s Poke Ball in her pocket. “Your turn, Raru,” she said quietly. “Be careful; that’s a Lucario. It’s fully evolved and it’ll be tough to beat.”

She hesitated. “Are you sure you’re all right to battle?”

I was beginning to feel violently ill, but I nodded determinedly and teleported onto the battlefield. Lucario towered above me, its long ears tilted in my direction and its snout pointed at me. I planted my feet firmly and stood my ground, gazing unflinchingly up at it.

You don’t scare me. It’s up to me to defeat you.

“Confusion!” Marisa ordered.

I concentrated and directed a jet of energy at Lucario, but suddenly it was not there to take the hit. I blinked, too startled to react, and a powerful kick connected with my back. I spun around and a second kick struck my chest, sending me flying.

What the…? How did it get behind me?

My body hit the ground hard and I sucked in a rough breath, feeling the agony in my chest. I levered myself up on all fours and broke into a violent fit of coughing. Lucario had been gathering energy for the finishing strike, but all of a sudden it faltered. With a huge effort, I lifted my head and saw that it had stopped attacking and was watching me in concern.

It’s worried… my opponent is worried but my trainer isn’t…

Blood splattered onto the floor as I coughed, feeling my throat tear with the force. My breathing became increasingly harsh but still I could not manage to stop coughing. I felt my nausea increasing and swallowed hard.

Please don’t let me hurl in front of Lucario…

My vision dimmed and I found myself falling limp, my cheek colliding painfully with the blood-spattered stone floor. It took a moment for me to realize that I had stopped coughing but could barely breathe, then a moment longer to realize that Maylene had called the battle off. I heard her voice faintly in my fading consciousness.

“Challenger, you need to learn to take better care of your Pokemon before you start calling yourself a trainer.”

My body left the hard stone and I felt Marisa’s arms enclose me, pressing me close to her chest. Her breathing was ragged and a drop of moisture fell onto my skin. “I’m sorry, Raru,” she whispered tearfully. “I should’ve known you were too sick to fight. Just hold on… I’ll get you help…”

Too late…

My eyes closed and I felt my breath catch briefly in my throat before starting again. I faded away from consciousness to the rough motion of Marisa’s running gait.

It’s my fault… I could have refused but I was too proud…

I’m sorry… I’ve failed you.



*~*~*




The shadows were all around, hovering around my unmoving body, dancing teasingly just out of reach of my weakened telekinesis. I could see nothing but darkness wherever I looked. The blackness was as thick as molasses, choking me when I tried to breathe it in, pressing down on my eyes, preventing me from moving my arms and legs. I attempted to struggle but it only weakened me.

With my fading thoughts I focused on the body that was not my own. My waist was too slim, my frame too graceful and elegant. Something soft brushed against my legs; something in my mind told me that it was a part of my body. My green cap was gone, replaced instead by pale green hair that stuck to my face, soaked with my own sweat.

The darkness closed in on my dying consciousness and, like a powerful Grass type opponent, drained the strength from my body. My heartbeat grew sluggish and my breathing was shallow. My eyes were closing as my life slipped away from me, but I forced them open again and caught sight of a panicked face in the darkness. The human face was framed by dark blonde hair and two eyes of soft chestnut gazed at me, full of fear and worry. The mouth opened and cried out to me in a desperate voice. “Raru!”

I was fading rapidly, thought I tried to reach out and bring myself closer to the face. As my life was extinguished I summoned the strength to speak three words.

“I forgive you…”

*

Aurikara

Just one step…

My entire body quivered with the strain of remaining upright. After a week of rest my legs could barely support my weight; this was not helped by the fact that I was growing rapidly and was nearly to the full height and weight I would reach as a Riolu. I clung to the trunk of a tree, feeling the rough bark beneath my paws as I struggled to stand by myself.

Have to walk… I need to get strong and fight that bouncing pig.

My long tail was stretched out behind me to help balance me. I hesitantly loosened my grip and swayed alarmingly. The pain in my chest had been reduced to a dull throb, but it was constant and only served to make me angry. I felt cold determination filling my entire body and slowly edged one foot forward.

Somehow I managed to remain upright as I took my first step in a week. A savage pleasure filled my heart and I let go of the tree completely, using only my tail and outstretched arms for balance. I managed three small, tottering steps in quick succession before my legs gave way, refusing to hold me any longer.

I cast a brief glance back at the tree as I attempted to stand again. The first morning light shone through the leaves and branches, throwing stripes of light and shadow upon Will’s sleeping face. He was curled up and trembling slightly with cold in the dewy grass, but his face was relaxed and peaceful. Near his filthy bare feet slept that hateful pig Bane, who never ceased his irritating bouncing even in sleep.

I’m going to kill that thing one day.

I froze, startled by the murderous thought that had come into my mind. At the same moment I became aware of the low growl burning in my chest and cut it off abruptly, scared by my own hatred. A moment later I relaxed.

It’s not such a bad idea… maybe I’ll get more of master’s attention if Bane isn’t in our way.

Contented by the thought, I focused on climbing to my feet again. By the time the sunlight began to stream over Will’s eyelids and he stirred from his dreams, I had managed to get from my sleeping place to the edge of the small lake we had been drinking from. I dropped to my knees, plunged my face into the pure water and drank deeply.

Will stirred and opened his eyes with a groan. I barely noticed; the strain of staying upright for so long after a week of almost no movement had made me extremely thirsty. Will must have noticed that I was not asleep beside him; he sat bolt upright and shouted my name, causing me to flinch and fall headfirst into the lake.

The sudden chill stripped the strength from my body and I floated, dazed, in the shallow water. It was not even deep enough for me to be completely underwater; the hard-packed mud was beneath me and a faint breeze blew over my back, but I was too stunned to move. My breath left my mouth in a stream of bubbles that brushed against my cheeks on their way to the surface.

Abruptly I was dragged from the water amid a shower of flying droplets and my back struck solid ground, triggering a bout of coughing. The water was forced from my lungs, spraying into the air as I coughed and gasped for air. Will’s face, pale and panicked, swam into view above me.

“Can you hear me?” Will demanded.

Taking in short gasps of air, I nodded and gripped his hand tightly. He gathered me up in his arms and I huddled close to his chest, feeling the rapid throb of fear beneath his skin. His mouth was close to my ear and his breath tickled me as he whispered, “Don’t ever do that again.”

I forced a shaky nod and he set me down gently on the grass. “You can walk again, can you? Show me,” he commanded.

I knew he was trying to take his mind off the moment of panic and prove to himself that I was all right. I staggered upright, gripping his hand at first but finally standing by myself. Will’s eyes were upon me as I took a few tottering steps and turned back to him, expecting praise but finding none in my master’s distant eyes. His expression was inscrutable.

“You’re getting better quickly,” he said quietly. He raised one hand to his face and climbed to his feet, turning his back on me. I watched him walk away and wondered what I had done wrong.

Will stopped before the lake and stared out over the water. Behind me, Bane was beginning to stir, but Will paid no attention. With a deep sigh, he cast aside his outer clothes and waded into the lake wearing only a torn, tattered cloth knotted around his hips.

I had no wish to re-enter the water, so I settled myself at the edge and watched. The strips of soaked cloth tied around my torso were bringing a deep chill into my body. I pawed at the knots, then craned my head down and attempted to gnaw through the bandages. Before long Bane hopped to my side, ignoring me completely as he watched Will.

Resisting the temptation to bite down on the irritating creature’s tail, I turned away from him and fixed my gaze on my master. Will was oblivious to us both as he swam slowly back and forth in the deepest part of the lake, occasionally ducking his head under for a minute or so.

His head broke the surface as he came up again and he tossed his hair back, sending crystal-clear droplets flying. His dark hair, long and straggly, was clinging to his head and neck. He gave a gentle sigh as he gazed into the trees surrounding the lake.

“Master?” I called hesitantly.

There was no response from Will. After a moment he turned away from the trees and dived underwater again, his blistered feet breaking the surface briefly before vanishing. He emerged closer to the edge and crawled onto dry land, sweeping his drenched hair back, water streaming off his slim body. His eyes were red-rimmed and I suspected that the redness had been caused by more than just the sting of the water.

“Master, are you crying?” I asked, crawling closer to gaze up into his face.

Will heaved another sigh. “In English, Aura. I can’t understand you.”

“Are you crying?” I repeated, speaking with my mind.

Will didn’t respond for a moment and I climbed into his lap, curling up against his wet skin. He stroked me absently as he stared into the distance.

“I was thinking about Selena,” he murmured quietly. “I haven’t told you about her, have I?”

I shook my head, interested. Will leaned back and closed his eyes briefly, allowing the sun to dry his damp body. “I guess it’s time to tell you a little about why I ran away,” he conceded. “I’ve been trying to block it out of my mind for so long. It’s been weeks since I left home.”

“Where’s home?” I asked.

Will smiled reminiscently. “For me, home was a beautiful little seaside city called Canalave City. It had an old inn, a big library and a Gym where trainers could go to battle. I lived in a little house with my father, my sister and my brother. My mother died when I was a year old, but I can’t remember her. Apart from my father, my brother was the oldest; he would be seventeen now and I think my sister is fifteen. My brother left home to become a trainer when he was ten, but he sometimes came back for visits. He only had one Pokemon; a Kirlia named Selena.”

“What’s a Kirlia?” I interrupted.

“I wish I had a photo of her to show you,” Will said fondly. “She was very pretty; I’m sure you’d like her. She looked like a little girl, with slim legs, long green hair, red horns on her head and eyes like pools of liquid garnet. My father hated her, but I thought of her as my little sister.”

He was silent for a moment and I nipped his finger, encouraging him to continue with his story. He flinched and drew his hand out of my reach. “Don’t bite, Aura! Where was I?”

“Your brother and Selena,” I prompted.

“Right. Well, they visited on a regular basis, every few months. I started to notice that Selena looked worse every time I saw her. Each time my brother visited, Selena was more withdrawn and submissive, she refused to talk and she wouldn’t play with me like she used to. She had this beautiful rainbow-coloured silk scarf that my sister had given her and she wore it every time she came, but a few times I found her hiding somewhere without it on. Her back was covered in these horrible welts and bruises, like she’d been beaten or something. Whenever I tried to ask her about it, she just pulled the scarf over the marks and ran away like she was scared of me.

“I asked my brother if Selena had been in a bad fight and his only response was to tell me to shut up. He’d always been a bit rough, but he got rougher as Selena got more timid. Eventually I figured out the truth. As much as I tried to deny it, it seemed like the only possible explanation. My brother must have been beating Selena.”

I gaped at Will in horror as he spoke. Tears glittered in his eyes at the painful memories but I didn’t see them; I could only see the scene playing in my mind. Again and again I watched a nameless, faceless human raising a heavy stick over his head, bringing it down forcefully on the kneeling creature before him.

Who would do such a thing? Who could possibly be so cruel… so uncaring…?

“What happened?” I demanded.

Will only shook his head; his voice had deserted him. After a moment he moved me gently onto the grass and climbed to his feet. I tried to cling to his leg, but he shook me off and walked away in silence, vanishing into the trees.

Master must be sad for Selena… I have to make him feel better.

Ignoring Bane, who was still bouncing idly nearly, I leaped up and padded after Will. The sunlight shining through the trees soon fell upon Will’s naked back as he paced through the trees. I raced after him, my paws silent on the grass until I caught up with him.

“Master, it isn’t your fault,” I said firmly. “You didn’t hurt her.”

“No, but I kept the secret for my brother,” Will said quietly, “until… never mind.”

He sank down on a rock and buried his face in his hands. His still-damp loincloth made an unpleasant squelching sound as it came into contact with the rock. I hesitated, unsure of what to say to comfort Will. A moment later I had completely forgotten about him; the sound of crunching reached my sensitive ears and I realized that someone was approaching.

I scrambled into Will’s lap and tugged at his hair. “Will! People coming…”

Instantly Will was on his feet, one hand on my back to prevent me from falling. The footsteps were close now, moving rapidly as though the person was running. Another sound accompanied the footsteps; a quiet sniffling sound, as though the person was crying.

“Keep quiet,” Will whispered to me, setting me down gently. He crept around the side of a tree and positioned himself so that he could see whoever was approaching. A moment later there was a scream of pain and Will tumbled backward - with someone on top of him!

In an instant I set up a threatening growl and dived on the intruder, kicking furiously and biting with all my strength. There was a high-pitched scream of pain and the intruder stumbled away from Will, beating at me with fists and pulling at my tail. I refused to let go and sank my teeth viciously into a gigantic ball on the intruder’s head… only to find my teeth closing on nothing but hair.

“Get it off!” the hairball shrieked.

“Aura, let go of her!” Will ordered. His hands caught me around the waist and suddenly I found myself flailing at empty air. As Will gripped me tightly in his arms I gazed up at the intruder… and found myself looking at a human of about the same age as Will.

The stranger wore clothes much cleaner than Will’s, their feet were encased in shoes and their hair was frizzy and blonde, but the most noticeable difference was their light skin colour. I had seen similar people in the city, but something about this one drew my interest.

“Will, this human isn’t like you,” I said, gazing up at my master.

“She’s a girl,” Will told me. “I’m black, but she’s white. And it wasn’t nice of you to attack her.”

I fell silent, abashed. I had felt obliged to defend my master, but he was scolding me because of it. I glared sulkily at the girl, who was attempting to flatten her wild hair and rubbing self-consciously at her damp cheeks.

“Are you all right?” Will asked.

The girl glanced at Will and looked away quickly, a blush rising to her cheeks. “Um… I’m fine,” she murmured. “I feel like I should be asking you,” she added pointedly.

Will glanced down at himself and laughed nervously. “I left my clothes by the lake. I’m Will, by the way.” He offered one hand, still holding me with the other. “And this is Aurikara the Riolu.”

The girl smiled shyly. “Hi, Will and Aurikara. I’m Marisa.” She reached out and grasped Will’s hand in a brief handshake. After a moment of hesitation she offered her hand to me as well.

“Go on,” Will encouraged me. I paused, uncertain, then stuck out one paw reluctantly and let Marisa shake it.

“What are you doing out here by yourself?” Will asked.

Marisa was still determinedly avoiding looking at him. “I wanted to get away from the city,” she explained. “I just came from the Gym. I messed up badly in the battle and I can’t stand to face my Pokemon’s anger. She got sick recently and I was so eager to win that I made her fight anyway. She’s in the hospital.”

“Oh.” Will clearly didn’t know how to respond to that.

“It was my fault,” Marisa moaned tearfully. “I made her fight and she could’ve died! She nearly stopped breathing when I was carrying her to the hospital. I don’t know if she’ll make it… and if she dies I’ll never forgive myself…”

“I’m sure she’ll be all right,” Will insisted. “You should be with her. If you’re with her, she’ll know you care and she’ll fight harder to get better.”

Marisa nodded, a determined look coming into her eyes. “You’re right. Thank you, Will. I hope we meet again.”

Will nodded and gave a weak smile, but his expression clearly said that they would never see each other again. The girl raised one hand to wave as she turned and jogged away, back into the city.

Golden Riolu
May 4th, 2008, 04:06 PM
Okay, first of all, no Ash is not in this story. The title refers to something else that you'll understand as you read. Second, I do write from the perspective that Arceus is the god of the Pokemon world, so please don't be offended. Third, there are some things at the end of this chapter that people may find disturbing. Be warned, it gets a lot worse, although I won't describe it a lot. And fourth, italics for Poke-speech, no italics for telepathy.




Chapter Six


Through Water, Through Ash



Rarutos







My head was throbbing and my entire body ached as I struggled back to consciousness. The sound of my own breathing echoed through the quiet room, the only sound I could hear. I gave a soft moan and turned my head to one side, feeling the soft pillow beneath it.

As my awareness gradually returned I registered the feel of soft, white sheets against my skin. Harsh lights burned in the ceiling above me, emitting an almost inaudible buzzing sound. I blinked harder and glanced around; I was lying in a bed that seemed as big as a field, in a room that would be small for humans but was big enough to comfortably fit my entire family inside. The walls were painted a painfully dull shade of pale cream.

I raised one hand and felt the thick bandage wound tightly around my head. That would explain the headache.

The bandage came loose easily and I tugged at it until it fell in folds onto the bed. I pushed myself slowly up until I was sitting in bed, my back against the pillow to support me. The silence in the room was rather unsettling.

Where is everyone? What’s going on? Where’s Marisa? Oh, my goodness, things are bad when I start wanting Marisa to be here.

At that moment a crash sounded outside my room. My eyes travelled across to the glass window, but I could see nothing outside. Despite that, I had no trouble hearing the banging and yelling that seemed to be occurring outside. With a jolt I recognized Marisa’s voice.

“Get out of my way!” she bellowed. “I have to get to Raru before she wakes up! Move your fat backside out of my way! Ever heard of Weight Watchers? Listen, shove it before I get my Stunky to spray you!”

Moments later the door burst open and Marisa exploded into the room, red-faced, out of breath, her hair once again out of control and a bruise rising on her cheek. She slammed the door closed so hard that the windows rattled and leaned against it, gasping for breath. “You’re awake,” she panted.

“You’re loud,” I commented dryly.

Marisa grinned and I noticed that she had a fat lip. She crossed to my bed and plunked down in a chair, rubbing her bruised cheek as she did. “Sorry I wasn’t here when you woke up. I was upset and ran out of the city, but I met this boy who convinced me to come back. After his Riolu tried to kill me,” she added, pointing to the minor facial injuries. “Then I got back here and found the hallways clogged up with nurses who really need to lose some weight.”

“I heard about that.”

Marisa didn’t smile this time; instead, she leaned forward and gripped my hand. It practically vanished in her own. “I’m sorry I made you fight,” she said earnestly. “I was being greedy. I should’ve just given up when Sutanu fainted.”

“How is Sutanu?” I asked, grasping for a change of subject and reflecting guiltily that I was the one who had wanted to fight.

Marisa tapped her bulging pocket. “He’s healed and back inside for a rest. Raru, this isn’t about him, it’s about you. You nearly died.”

“I know. And that was-”

“-all my fault,” Marisa moaned, cutting me off. “I was the one who made you do it. I should’ve realized that you were too sick but I pretended not to notice. And then Maylene said I wasn’t fit to call myself a trainer if I didn’t take better care of my friends. Raru, I’m sorry.” Tears welled up in her eyes and spilled down her flushed cheeks, splashing onto the blanket and her clothes. I drew my hand away from hers, fighting an internal battle with myself over whether or not to tell her the truth.

“Marisa, it wasn’t your fault,” I said finally. “You asked me if I was sure I could fight and I lied. I said I was all right when I knew I wasn’t. I did it because I wanted you to think I was strong.”

Marisa was listening intently, her eyes fixed on mine. I broke eye contact and gazed around the room; anything to avoid seeing the anger that would soon come.

“Respect is my weakness,” I said quietly, staring at a dead fly on the window ledge. “I’ve always needed people to think I was stronger than I really am. I teased and insulted the Pokemon I used to live with and made them believe that I was stronger than them, so when they fought me they didn’t try very hard and I won. I didn’t let you see me cry the night after you caught Sutanu because I needed you to think I didn’t miss my friends. I insult Sutanu because I like to make others feel less important. I guess I’m just a bully and a liar.”

Marisa was silent. I forced myself to look at her but I found no anger in her eyes, only understanding and kindness. She leaned close and hugged me gently and for once I didn’t resist. I felt drained, exhausted both physically and mentally, but it was a good feeling. It was as though my secret had been a huge weight in my heart and I had finally managed to lift it up and throw it away. My defences had gone with it, but I no longer cared.

“I forgive you,” Marisa said, leaning back in her chair again. “Actually, I’ll forgive you on one condition.”

I eyed her warily. “What’s the condition?”

“You’re not allowed to insult any of your friends any more. By ‘friends’ I mean anyone who is kind to you. You can still make jokes and everything, but not at anyone’s expense unless they say you can. You can still insult your enemies in battle, though. Do you promise?”

I nodded. “I promise. Can I point things out, though, even if they might be insulting?”

Marisa paused. “What sort of things?”

“Things like the fact that your head looks like it’s being eaten by an Electrode.”

Marisa laughed and smoothed down the offending hairstyle. “Yeah, you can point out things like that as long as they won’t upset people.”

“Good.” I settled down more comfortably in bed, stifling a yawn at the same time. With a tender, almost motherly smile, Marisa reached over and drew the blanket up over me. “You need to get some sleep,” she said. “I’ll be right here the whole time.” She picked up the unravelled bandage and wound it into a roll again before setting it aside. I leaned back and closed my eyes.

Marisa began to hum a soothing song. I felt the blackness enveloping me again, but this time it held welcome warmth and I allowed myself to sink into it. I drifted to sleep with Marisa’s sweet music ringing in my ears.



*~*~*




“Help us… Rarutos!”

I turned my head frantically from side to side. Shapeless shadows crowded in on me, blocking my view and jostling against me. Their touch was colder than ice, colder than the coldest thing I had ever felt.

“Rarutos… you have to come…”

“Who are you?” I cried desperately, turning to look through the darkness. I could see nothing in any direction; nothing but the darkness hovering around me.

“We are… we were once like you… we wish to be like you again…”

The figures crowded in on me, hissing their words in my ears, grasping at me with frozen fingers. I heard the pounding of a million hearts, but each beat sounded like the rattle of a chain. I knew instinctively that these poor souls had their hearts locked by cruelty, blocking out any kindness and preventing them from giving any of their own.

“Please, tell me where you are!” I called. “I can’t save you if I don’t know where you are!”

The shadows seemed to recoil from me, but a moment later their voices became taunting and they shoved closer, chanting their meaningless words in my head again and again.

“Through water, through ash, shadow of a rash, inhabited by night and emptied of light…”

“Stop it!” I demanded, my hands clamped over my ears. “Where are you? Tell me where you are!”

But the chanting went on and on as deathly fingers grabbed at me, tearing at my skin with toxic claws, ripping apart my mind with the ferocity of their words. I screamed and flailed at them, trying to beat them back, but their voices rose to a roar to make themselves heard over my desperate pleading.



Through water, through ash

Shadow of a rash
Inhabited by night
And emptied of light…










*~*~*




“No!” I screamed, snapping back to consciousness so abruptly that for a moment I didn’t know where I was. My breath was panting and my heart pounded rapidly in my chest. My pillow was damp with sweat.

There was a thud and I spun around, only to see Marisa staring at me in panic. “What’s wrong?” she demanded.

I shook my head, my heart rate beginning to slow down. “I’m fine. I just had a nightmare.”

Marisa quickly drew one finger over the back of the opposite hand and leaned forward to peer out the darkened window. “It’s not a new moon tonight,” she said, relieved. She bent down under the bed to retrieve her book, which had obviously caused the thud when she had dropped it.

“What was that motion?” I asked as she straightened up.

“The motion…? Oh, you mean this?” Marisa repeated the gesture, using one finger to draw a curved line on the back of her other hand. “It’s meant to repel Darkrai, the bringer of nightmares. Darkrai, who causes mischief on moonless nights, can’t do anything if Cresselia intervenes. Cresselia is Darkrai’s mortal enemy and represents the moon. People used to say that if you make Cresselia’s symbol, the crescent moon, on the back of your hand, it protects you from Darkrai’s nightmares when there is no moon.”

“Do you actually believe that?” I asked sceptically.

Marisa shrugged. “My mother believes, so I got used to doing it every moonless night and whenever I had a bad dream. Even if it isn’t true, it made me feel better. You need to believe in something or you’ll go insane.”

“Do you believe everything you hear?”

“No!”

“What about Arceus?” I asked. “Do you believe in it?”

“Of course I do. Where would the world have come from if Arceus didn’t exist to create it?”

“Maybe the same place Deoxys came from,” I pointed out. “You know, space? The place with the stars and the moon?”

“How do you know about space?” Marisa demanded. “I thought Pokemon didn’t know about things like that?”

I rolled my eyes. “Please. I’m psychic, remember? There are intelligent members of my species too. They study these things and pass the knowledge down to the rest of us orally. Did you think that all we did in the wild was eat, fight and make babies?”

“No,” Marisa said quickly, trying to hide the blush sweeping up her neck and into her cheeks. She tugged at her collar feebly. “Don’t you believe in anything that hasn’t been proven in the past?”

“I believe in destiny. No one can prove destiny, although we all know it exists.”

She hesitated, watching me uncertainly. “Destiny? You mean… the theory that every event is predetermined before it happens? I’ve never really thought about that before,” she admitted.

“It was our destiny to have met, no matter how much I regret it,” I said. “It’s our destiny to die one day. Arceus is the only one who knows how we will die; not even psychics can foretell the circumstances of their own deaths. Everything that happens is written into our destiny.”

“I thought you didn’t believe in Arceus?” Marisa said suspiciously.

I shrugged. “I was testing you. I believe in it; I just don’t believe that it created the world. How would you move a thousand arms at the same time?”

Marisa laughed. “I don’t know. That’s a good point, Raru.”

I started to tell her not to call me that, then changed my mind. It doesn’t really sound that bad. I think I like having a nickname of my real name.

I think I’m starting to warm to Marisa. She isn’t really so bad… once you know how to handle her.

*

Aurikara

I padded along quietly by Will’s side, glancing around as we walked. Bane was bounding incessantly on Will’s other side.

We were leaving our place in Route 214.

Will glanced back anxiously; he had been worried for hours about whether the girl would see his face on the posters and call the police. Eventually he had said flatly that we were going to leave.

Will scuffed his bare feet on the ground as he walked, kicking up clods of dirt and grass. His eyes were on the ground and I could see that his thoughts were far away. He wouldn’t talk to me, so I tried to read his emotions in his aura. The nameless colours of worry and sadness showed up most prominently and I guessed that he was thinking about Selena again.

“You weren’t the one who hurt her,” I told him firmly.

Will looked down at me, startled. “Who?”

“Selena.”

“How did you know I was thinking about Selena?”

“I sensed it in your aura,” I explained.

Will smiled and placed his laden bag on the ground, offering his arms to me. I leaped into his arms and he helped me climb onto his shoulder, then picked the bag up again and resumed walking. “You’re getting good at that. You’re right; I was thinking about Selena.”

“What happened to her?” I asked. “You never said.”

Will heaved a sigh and glanced up at the darkening sky. “The clouds are gathering; it’ll rain soon.”

“Master,” I said sternly.

“Don’t call me that, Aura. All right, I’ll tell you some more about Selena.”

I settled myself in a comfortable position; not an easy feat due to my growing size. Soon I would be too big to ride on his shoulder at all. He raised one hand to make sure I was not going to fall off. “Selena was getting more and more timid,” he began. “It was easy to understand why once I figured out that she was being beaten. She was always very loyal to my brother, no matter what he did, so she let it happen. She wouldn’t dare to attack him or run away. She wouldn’t even tell anyone what he was doing.

“I planned to confront my brother about it. I was a bit scared of what he’d become and what he might do to me, though, so I left it for a long time. Eventually I decided that I couldn’t put it off any longer.

“He visited for his seventeenth birthday, just after he’d attempted for the second time to defeat the Elite Four. They’re the four best trainers in the world,” he added for my benefit. “He tried twice and each time Selena only managed to defeat two. He was really angry about the loss when he told us. Selena was used to covering up her injuries, so I had to physically wrest the scarf from her to see if she was hurt. Her back was all torn and covered in scabs, so I knew he’d been beating her again.”

“That’s horrible,” I moaned, imagining the terrible wounds.

“I know. I said the same thing and suggested to Selena that she should run away from him, but she just looked scared and ran to hide somewhere. I think she only felt safe when she was alone.

“My brother’s seventeenth birthday was a few days after that. I was planning to talk to my brother about how he was beating Selena, but I was still afraid and I waited all day. Strange things started happening that evening, when my family was out in the back yard. It was just before sunset and we’d set up a folding table and some chairs. My sister was going to give Selena a chair of her own, but my brother said she didn’t need one because she could sit with him. When everyone else was sitting down, my brother just picked Selena up and put her down in his lap. I don’t think anyone else paid attention, but I saw that she looked frozen with terror.

“That night I got up in the middle of the night to get a drink. I was just passing my brother’s bedroom when the door flew open and Selena ran out. She’d never run away from my brother before and she didn’t trust anyone any more, so when she jumped into my arms I knew something was wrong. I forgot about my drink and I ran back to my room with her.”

I was clinging to Will with all my strength, listening intently to his story. I was breathing directly into his ear, but he just turned my head aside gently with one hand and continued. I could see that the story had festered inside him for so long that he needed to get it out, like something rotten that he had to throw up. The words kept coming and I knew that he couldn’t stop them.

“I slammed my door closed and locked it, then I sat on my bed with Selena. She was shaking and clinging to me like she’d never let go. I asked her what he’d done to her, but she wouldn’t say anything. I thought at first that he’d been beating her again, but the only marks on her back were the old ones. I knew whatever had happened was worse than anything he’d ever done before.

“I made Selena comfortable in my bed and promised her that I’d be right back, then I went out to talk to my brother. He was in his bedroom and he looked angry, but he suddenly got calm when I asked what he’d done to Selena. He told me that she’d been bad and run away when he tried to show her something. I knew he was lying because she was never bad; she always let him do anything to her without complaining. He told me that she needed to be punished and that I should find a belt and beat her. When he said that I knew I was right; I knew that he’d been hurting her.

“I stood up to my brother for the first time and told him that I’d take Selena to the hospital and show someone the marks on her back. He just punched me, then he walked out of the room and into mine before I could stop him. When Selena saw him she went into hysterics, crying and screaming like I’d never heard her do before. I knew he must’ve done something really bad to her and I ran to protect her, but he just shoved me into the wall and I hit my head. The next thing I knew, it was morning and everyone was fussing over me, thinking I’d been sleepwalking and I’d fallen. I didn’t tell them the truth.

“The next night I snuck out and looked into my brother’s window from the outside. It was horrible; Selena had been beaten again and it looked like her wrist was broken. She had these heavy chains around her waist, chaining her to the bed so that she could move almost to the door but she couldn’t run away again. And my brother was sitting on the bed with his back to me and… and I found out what had made Selena so upset the night before. She was kneeling on the bed and he was holding a knife to her throat and… he had all these photos around him and was trying to force her to look at them. They were all pictures of naked people… and some of them were of him.”

Will broke off and took a deep breath, his face pale. “It was horrible, what he did to her,” he whispered. “Selena had her eyes closed and she looked like she wanted to scream for help, but the knife was at her throat. I grabbed the biggest rock I could find and threw it through the window. The moment the window broke, Selena was running as well as she could and trying to get the chains off. She just slipped right through them and leaped into my arms and I ran like there was a murderer after me.”

Horrible… how could Will’s brother do something so bad to Selena? I didn’t quite understand the part about the photos; in fact, I wasn’t even sure what ‘photos’ were. I knew that the knife was bad, though, especially if it had made Selena so scared.

Will was looking more troubled than before. “Selena was innocent, but he was trying to take away her innocence. If I hadn’t stopped him I hate to think of what he might’ve done to her.”

“What did you do?” I asked eagerly, practically falling off his shoulder.

Will shrugged, nearly dislodging me. “He caught me. I was running with Selena and I tripped. My brother caught up, grabbed her and went running toward the warehouse where my father worked. I tried to chase him but he was too fast.”

I waited for Will to continue, but he was silent. We continued walking into the gathering darkness, all three of us thinking about Selena and what Will’s brother had done to her.

Golden Riolu
May 5th, 2008, 07:39 PM
Italics for Poke-speech, no italics for telepathy.



Chapter Seven


Connection



Rarutos







“Look!”

I opened my eyes blearily to find that it was morning and a piece of paper was waving back and forth an inch from my face. I recoiled and blinked hard, trying to focus on the paper. The mass of black lines on the paper resolved themselves into a black and white drawing of a swimming human, along with letters and numbers I could not understand.

My eyes locked onto the pale hand gripping the poster and followed it up an arm, finally reaching Marisa’s excited face. I reached out and pushed the paper away.

“Could you please not wake me up like that again?”

Marisa blushed and lowered the poster. “Sorry. But doesn’t it sound good?”

“It would if I could read it.”

“Oh, you can’t read?”

I sighed. “I said that Pokemon are intelligent. I didn’t say that we learn the same things that humans do. I can’t read your letters and numbers unless you teach me. In the wild we have no need for writing or reading.”

“Oh.” Blushing more furiously, Marisa lifted the paper to hide her face. “It’s an announcement for a fair in Pastoria City. Entry is free and there are going to be stalls, battles and swimming competitions. Even the Gym Leader of that town is going to be participating! I think we should go.”

I concealed a yawn with one hand and rubbed my eyes with the other. “Have you considered that by the time we arrive, the fair may be over?”

Marisa glanced back down at the paper. “No, it doesn’t start until tomorrow! And the nurses said you can leave the hospital as soon as you feel strong enough, so we can be there by the time it starts.” She folded the paper and crammed it into her pocket. “So… do you feel strong enough?”

I stretched my arms and legs. My body no longer ached from Lucario’s attacks, my nausea was gone and my cough had subsided somewhat; in fact, I felt nearly back to normal. I shoved the blanket back. “I think I’m ready. Are you sure I’m allowed out?”

“Sure!” Marisa said cheerfully. “As long as you teleport out and wait for me on the other side of the window. I’ll come around and get you.”

My misgivings increased tenfold but I tried to ignore them. After all, there was no reason for me to stay. I nodded, took a deep breath and allowed my body to dissolve into the air, reappearing in a filthy alley on the other side of the window.

A blast of cold air struck me immediately; after the sterile air inside the hospital, it was like a Brick Break attack to my immune system. I resisted the urge to cough, instead rubbing warmth into my arms as I waited for my trainer.

Before long Marisa stepped casually into the alley, pushing her bicycle and trying to look innocent. She leaned the vehicle against the hospital wall and unfolded a soft, mint-green blanket in the basket. “I have to hide you and I don’t want you to get sick again,” she explained as she placed me gently in the basket, folding the material around me so that there was only the tiniest gap to see out of.

I settled down in the basket, making myself comfortable for the ride. The blanket was wonderfully warm and soft. Despite the unsteady rocking motion as Marisa began to pedal, I was soon fast asleep.



*~*~*




A slight change in the bicycle’s movement brought me back to consciousness. The light streaming into my warm nest was duller, indicating the approach of dusk despite the fact that my internal clock told me it was barely midday. I began to push my way out of the blanket, wanting to know what was happening.

The bicycle slowed to a stop and Marisa’s face appeared above me. “Something wrong?”

“I just want to know what’s going on.” I finally succeeded in sitting up and gazed around myself. We had stopped in the middle of a very muddy area; the bicycle’s wheels sank deep into the sloppy ground, barely supported by the few patches of scrubby grass. There were a few black-barked trees scattered sparsely about, most of them ugly, squat, twisted things like misshapen monsters.

I glanced skyward and the reason for the darkness was revealed. The sky was steadily filling with dark clouds and the breeze was increasing, heralding the imminent arrival of a storm.

Marisa glanced up. “That’s why I stopped. We don’t want to be riding in the rain again. If we stay under the trees I think we can keep reasonably dry.”

I eyed the twisted trees apprehensively. “They won’t give much shelter.”

“That’s why you’re staying in the blanket,” Marisa told me. She slid off her seat, landing in the mud with a squelching sound, and wheeled the bicycle into a shelter formed by the interwoven branches of two contiguous trees. She had barely leaned the vehicle against one of the trees when the storm broke over us, sending torrents of rain spilling down to churn up the already-muddy ground.

Marisa shivered and lifted me into her arms, protecting me from the rain with her own body. I blinked up at her, stunned. How could she be so protective of me when she knows I would willingly leave her to freeze?

As I gazed up at my trainer, watching her begin to tremble with cold as the rain soaked through her clothes and drenched her hair, I felt myself coming to a realization.

I wouldn’t leave her. Marisa is fast becoming my closest friend. She’s almost like a sister to me. If I had to protect her, I would do it willingly. Maybe I wouldn’t give my life for her, but I would certainly do almost anything else to save her.

Marisa’s grip tightened on the blanket as she sank down to sit on a knot in the tree trunk. I knew she was not only holding me to keep me dry; she was also trying to use my own body heat to keep herself warm. I struggled my way out of the blanket’s folds so I could see the ground, chose a dry spot and summoned my strength again.

Marisa gasped as a ball of blue flame began to form between my hands. I aimed and sent it soaring at the spot I had chosen, where it struck and exploded into a roaring fire. Immediately my trainer crouched before the blaze and began feeding dry wood into it. I drew the blanket around myself again and huddled into her chest to wait out the storm.

A jagged bolt of lightning split the sky, briefly illuminating the route with a stark white flash. Almost immediately afterward, a deafening crash of thunder roared its fury at the world, causing Marisa to cringe and whimper quietly. “I hate storms,” she whispered over the driving rain. “Maybe we shouldn’t have stopped under a tree. What if lightning strikes?”

If lightning strikes and one of these trees falls on us, we’ll die. It’s the undeniable force of nature. But I can hardly tell her that, can I?

“If lightning strikes, I’ll reflect it with telekinesis,” I assured her, painfully aware that I was neither strong enough nor fast enough to follow through with this promise.

Marisa smiled feebly and hugged me. The firelight cast flickering shadows on her pale, frightened face. “Thank you.”

A powerful blast of wind sent embers skittering across the drenched ground, at the same time causing Marisa to shriek and fall backward onto her rear. She started to get up and changed her mind. “My clothes are ruined already,” she sighed, glancing down at the extremely muddy orange shorts.

“Wrap the blanket around both of us,” I suggested, but Marisa responded with a shake of her head.

“No. You’ll get cold and the rain will just soak through and make me even colder. It’s better this way.”

I made myself comfortable in the blanket and listened to the forceful storm. Before long Marisa began to tremble, but she just edged closer to the fire and turned her back on it so I didn’t get too hot. The wind howled, thunder roared, lightning flashed and rain hammered down, but I was safe in my warm nest. I slipped into a doze as I listened to nature’s rage and eventually drifted to sleep properly.



*~*~*




The first thing I became aware of upon waking was the silence. I could hear no sign of the storm. I experienced a moment of terror at the thought that maybe lightning had struck and I was dead, but when I reached out in the darkness my hand met a soft resistance. I felt around me, pushing with arms and legs, until I finally remembered that I was in a blanket in Marisa’s arms.

I carefully extricated myself from the blanket and crawled out into the damp afternoon air. The sky was still filled with clouds, but they looked considerably lighter after spilling their contents down on the world. The sun rode low in the sky, indicating that it was nearly evening. My fire had been extinguished and Marisa was curled up in the mud beside where it had been, her breathing slow and steady as she slept.

“Marisa.”

The girl slept on, oblivious to my call.

“Hey, Marisa!”

Still there was no response. I took a deep breath and bellowed at the top of my lungs, “Get yourself out of the mud this minute unless you want to be eating it!”

Marisa bolted upright, staring around frantically to find the source of the yell. I waved one hand to attract her attention. “Down here,” I said cheerfully.

A look of irritation crossed her face, quickly replaced with surprise. “What are we doing here?” she asked, once again taking in the trees and mud that made up the entire route.

“There was a storm,” I reminded her. “We stopped to wait it out. We both fell asleep.”

Marisa scratched her hair, which was stiff with filth. “Oh. I guess I forgot. We’d better get moving again if we want to get to the city by tonight.”

“We aren’t going to get there by tonight,” I pointed out.

My trainer heaved a sigh and dragged herself out of the mud. “Is there a river or a lake around here? I should wash this off.” Without waiting for my answer she reached into her pocket. A few seconds and a burst of light later, her shy Stunky was once again standing before us.

“Can you find me a river?” Marisa asked, crouching down to him.

Sutanu immediately charged away through the trees and Marisa replaced the sodden blanket in her bicycle basket. “Come on, Raru. Let’s follow him.”

I teleported myself into the basket as Marisa began to push the contraption through the sloppy environment. Before long we caught up with Sutanu, who had stopped at the edge of a wide lake. After leaning her vehicle against another tree, Marisa bent down to pet him.

“Good boy,” she said. “Now, can you and Rarutos keep an eye out for anyone approaching? Try to chase them off and spray them if you have to.”

Sutanu positioned himself near the trees to keep watch. I joined him, even though I found it rather pointless to keep watch for Marisa. After all, she was only bathing. It wasn’t as though that was illegal in human society.

I glanced back at Marisa. Her backpack was lying at the edge of the lake and she was in the water, trying to comb the mud out of her hair with her fingers. Her dirty clothes lay in a heap at the water’s edge.

I returned to my watch and abruptly noticed something lying near a tree. Ignoring Sutanu, I teleported closer to examine it. The sunlight reflected off its smooth, shiny surface; it was an aluminum can, the sort that Marisa had bought in Veilstone City and eaten out of. I reached toward it and my hand touched the smooth surface.

Immediately a rushing sound filled my ears and my mind was swamped by a vision. I collapsed in the mud, the can clutched to my chest, my entire body shaking convulsively.

*~*~*

A dark-skinned boy, about Marisa’s age, walked along with a thoughtful look in his eyes. A small black-and-blue-furred canine clung to his shoulder, bladed paws gripping whatever they could to stay on, pointed ears aimed attentively at his master.

“How did you know I was thinking about Selena?” the boy asked, his muddy green eyes on the Riolu’s ruby ones.

*~*~*

A low moan escaped my mouth as I shuddered, in the grips of the vision. Marisa scrambled out of the water, crying my name in panic, but I was deaf to her yells.

*~*~*

A young man stood in a bare, filthy hotel room, ignoring his surroundings as he wound a belt around his hand. “Kneel down,” he ordered coldly.

The small creature before him trembled as she obeyed. Her back to the man, she bent her slender green legs and knelt on the rough wooden floor, her miniskirt-like garb spreading around her. She bowed her head, allowing her lime-green hair to fall around her face and conceal her frightened garnet eyes.

The man raised his hand and brought the belt down hard. Kirlia screamed as the leather ripped into her flesh, but she immediately bit her lip and fell silent. She closed her eyes tightly and endured the pain as though she deserved it, allowing the belt to strike her again and again.

“Master, please…” she whimpered. The man, unable to understand her, ignored her.

“Maybe this will teach you not to be weak!” he bellowed. “This is what happens when you lose! That’s twice you’ve lost to the Elite Four… if it happens again you’ll get a worse punishment!”

One last blow knocked Kirlia onto her face on the ground. Unable to hold herself silent any longer, she sobbed aloud with the pain and despair. The man turned his back on her as he buckled his belt around his waist.

“You don’t deserve to eat tonight,” he said softly as he walked away. The hotel room door opened and closed behind him, leaving Kirlia alone in the room.

The small Pokemon’s breath was panting as she levered herself up painfully on all fours. Her back burned with the pain and she could feel rivulets of warm blood trickling from the wounds. She managed to crawl halfway across the room, leaving a trail of blood behind her, to reach a tall mirror against the wall.

Hesitantly, Kirlia turned her back to the mirror to see the wounds. She bit back a gasp of despair and hid her eyes; she could not even look at the injuries without feeling ill. Trying to ignore the pain, she reached up and tugged at the edge of a dirty grey T-shirt hanging down from the bed. It fell to the floor and she carefully drew it around her, pressing the material against her wounds to stem the flow of blood.

As Kirlia hesitantly settled herself on the floor, her back to the wall, she felt tears well up in her eyes. She cried very rarely but sometimes, especially after a beating, she found that she could not hold her despair inside any longer. Despite her attempts to suppress her tears, they spilled down her pale cheeks and fell onto the bloodstained floor.

“I want to go home,” Kirlia sobbed.

*~*~*

I dragged in a ragged breath and opened my eyes to find Marisa leaning over me. I blinked in surprise; she was cradling me in her arms, her body covered only by the filthy blanket that she had wrapped around herself. “Are you all right?” she asked, concerned.

“Yes…” I said cautiously. “Why? What happened?”

“You collapsed,” Marisa explained. “How do you feel? Are you dizzy or nauseous?”

I shook my head; I felt perfectly healthy. “I’m fine. It was just…” I hesitated, unsure if I should tell her that I had been having visions. I decided against it and said instead, “I’m a bit dehydrated.”

Marisa looked like she was going to punch herself. “I’m sorry! This is what Maylene said… I need to take better care of you. I’ve been so stupid.” She carried me to the water’s edge, crouched down and collected some of the clear, pure water in her cupped hand.

“I can drink by myself,” I protested, pushing her hands away.

“Sorry.” I could see the anxiety in Marisa’s eyes as she placed me gently on the ground. Aware of her eyes on my back, I knelt at the edge and scooped some of the water into my mouth. Behind me, Marisa began searching through her backpack to find her clean clothes.

“Keep watch, Sutanu,” she said as she ducked behind a tree to get dressed.

Sutanu, obviously taking his guarding duties seriously, planted his paws apart and glared down the path. I glanced between him and Marisa’s tree.

“Why is it so important that no one sees her?” I demanded. “Pokemon don’t care. Why should humans?”

“Don’t ask me,” Sutanu said. “It just makes me feel special when I have something important to do.”

I toyed with the idea of telling him how insignificant one tiny Stunky really was, compared to the wide universe, but decided against it. I had promised Marisa that I wouldn’t upset him. Instead, I crossed my arms and waited impatiently until Marisa emerged from behind the tree, fully clothed.

“All right,” she announced, clapping her hands together once. “Before we leave, we should eat.”

“I agree with that!” Sutanu said eagerly.

I shrugged. “Fine with me.”



*


Aurikara







I raced along a dark alley, my paws flying over the filthy ground, my breath tearing at my throat as I pushed myself to my limits. Tears trickled down my cheeks; I knew my escape attempts were useless, I knew they would catch me again in the end, but it was against my nature to give up hope.

I reached a corner and turned sharply, darting through a side street and onto a busy main road. The endless stream of cars kept coming even through the night, but that was no obstacle to me. I crouched low and sprang directly over a forest-green van to land on the other side of the road. I briefly glimpsed the driver’s startled expression as I fled along the sidewalk, dodging the occasional human and easily outstripping the cars.

I raced down another alley and skidded to an abrupt halt; my path had ended in a cul-de-sac. I spun around, desperate for escape, but two roaring motorcycles were bearing down upon me. My golden-furred back hit the wall as I gazed at them in terror, watching the black-clad riders dismount their vehicles and approach me. I could see my reflection in the helmets of the pair: my red eyes, wild with terror; my long ears, drooping from their erect positions; my panting mouth, from which froth was trailing along my cheeks.

I was helpless. One of the men produced a thick net, woven from near-unbreakable rope, from the sidecar of his motorcycle and prepared to trap me with it. The other levelled a dart gun and fired a tranquillizer dart at my exposed neck.

A high-pitched whimper escaped me as I clutched at the dart protruding from my neck and tore it out, flinging it to the ground. It was too late; my exhaustion had slowed my reflexes and some of the sedative had already entered my bloodstream. I staggered, my mind swimming with tiredness, but snarled fiercely at the men in case they dared to approach. One of my attackers gave a gruff laugh and made a comment to the other in an unfamiliar language.

I stumbled over something on the ground, my body moving more sluggishly as the drug took effect. A deafening clatter filled the alley as I knocked over a garbage can and suddenly I found myself lying in a heap of garbage. The men advanced on me and I quickly discovered what it was like to be completely helpless. I could do nothing but shield my head as the net covered me. As I was dragged away and lifted into the sidecar, all I could do was whimper a plea that the men would never understand or even listen to.

“Don’t make me one of them…”



*~*~*




I snapped awake with a squeal of terror, which increased dramatically in pitch when I realized that someone was holding me. I flailed and bit ferociously at my captor in a panic.

“Aargh! Aura, stop it!”

Suddenly I found myself colliding hard with the ground. I scrambled to my feet, ignoring the throbbing pain in my ribs, my muscles tense as I prepared to fight. My eyes locked onto a dark, bouncing blot and I lunged at it, but two hands caught me firmly around the waist.

“What’s gotten into you?” Will demanded, lifting me to his face despite my struggles. “I’m sorry I dropped you, but I didn’t expect you to suddenly start attacking me!”

I stopped fighting abruptly as I realized where I was. “Sorry, master,” I said sheepishly. “Bad dream.”

Will immediately glanced up, relaxing visibly when he spotted the gibbous moon riding low in the sky. “It’s not a new moon. It was probably just a normal dream. What was it about?”

He allowed me to climb onto his shoulder as I thought about the dream. The details were slipping away rapidly like water through my fingers. “Darkness,” I said, grasping at the few details I could remember. “It was dark and I was frightened, but I wasn’t me. I was someone else.”

“Who were you?” Will asked. “What did you look like?”

I could remember my dream self a little more clearly than the actual dream. “Big,” I said. “I was bigger, almost as big as you. My ears were longer, my chest was yellow and my mouth was all foamy.”

Will reached up and scratched gently behind my ears. “That doesn’t sound like a nice dream if you were foaming at the mouth. Were you running a lot? Was someone hurting you?”

I couldn’t remember; the details of the dream had evaporated, leaving only the memory of the darkness. “Shadows,” I murmured, concealing a shudder.

“What was that?” Will asked.

“Shadows,” I repeated. “Dark like shadows.”

There was a moment of silence as Will considered my dream. “Well, it wasn’t Darkrai,” he said eventually. “It sounds like the sort of dream Darkrai would send out, but it wouldn’t be active when the moon is out.”

“What’s Darkrai?” I asked, interested.

“It’s a Pokemon that brings nightmares to people on moonless nights. It can’t do anything when the moon is visible in the sky because of its mortal enemy, Cresselia, who keeps it at bay when the moon is out. There are a lot of Legendary Pokemon that not many people have seen and they’re all in charge of something, sort of like demigods under Arceus.”

I considered the dream as Will continued walking. Bane bounded along beside us, occasionally shooting me dirty looks, but I just made myself comfortable on Will’s shoulder and stuck out my tongue at the jealous pig.

“Where are we going?” I asked eventually, noticing the gradual decline in the amount of trees around us.

“I don’t know yet,” Will admitted. “We’re near Lake Valor. There’s a big, fancy hotel around here that’ll probably have a lot of police around it, so we’ll have to circle around it. Once we get onto the beach, we can either go east to Sunyshore City or west to Pastoria City.”

I fell silent again, glancing around at the empty space around us. Will seemed to be getting more and more nervous as we left the trees further behind. He nearly had a heart attack when I finally voiced a question that had been eating away at me for hours.

“Where’s Selena?”

Will started so violently that his feet left the ground; his hand flew to his heart and he drew a choking breath. “Aurikara, don’t do that to me!” he hissed harshly.

I recoiled from his anger. “Sorry…” I whimpered.

Will relaxed and stroked me with one hand. “It wasn’t your fault. I’m just a bit tense. What was your question?”

“Where’s Selena?” I repeated. “Did you leave her with the bad man?”

A faint smile creased the corners of his mouth, but his eyes and his aura emanated sadness. “The ‘bad man’ was my brother, Aura. And no, I didn’t leave her with him.”

“Then where is she?”

Will glanced up at the sky. “It’s a long story, but the ending is pretty simple. Unless someone has adopted her, which is very unlikely, she’ll still be at the orphanage for abandoned Pokemon where my sister left her.”

Abandoned?

“What happened?” I asked hesitantly, unsure if Will would want to tell me.

He kicked at a clump of grass. “I don’t think I’m ready to tell you. Maybe one day I will, but for now…”

“Why didn’t you adopt her?” I pressed. “She knows you. She won’t want someone she doesn’t know to take her away.”

“I know, but I couldn’t adopt her. After the abuse she went through, the police will have a trace on her identification number. There’s a microchip in her arm and the nurses at Pokemon Centers will be scanning it to see if it’s her, then they’ll be checking if she’s been hurt or beaten. If I’d taken her, when they scanned her ID they would have found out that the police were after me.”

He glanced at me and realized that I hadn’t understood a word. “Don’t worry about it,” he sighed. “It just means that I couldn’t have taken her. If she’s lucky she’ll find a new trainer, one who cares for her and treats her well.”

I could see by Will’s expression that he didn’t really believe this, but I didn’t press the subject. As a row of tiny lights became visible in the distance we continued silently through the night, steadily approaching this sign of human civilization.

Golden Riolu
May 6th, 2008, 05:08 PM
I have to point something out to American readers: I refer to fall as autumn, just so you know. And I have not yet decided if winter should be set in June or December, but I’ll let you all know when I decide.

BTW, I apologize very much for the terrible description of Wake. Since he was standing and doing nothing, my description turned out too listy.

Italics for Poke-speech, no italics for telepathy.

Chapter Eight

A Vanishing And A Reappearance

Rarutos

“Finish it!” Marisa ordered. “Scratch attack!”

I watched from beside my trainer’s feet as Sutanu charged through the choking fog, his wide eyes fixed on his opponent. With a high-pitched squeal, the orange otter skidded away and scrambled quickly to its feet once more. The creature rose up on its stumpy hind legs, its twin tails flicking behind it.

“Aqua Jet!” the other trainer, a boy with scruffy brown hair, commanded.

Buizel bounded at Sutanu on its four light paws, its head tilted back to spit a stream of water at him. The water, despite being too weak to cause injury, sprayed into Sutanu’s eyes; he shook his head to get rid of it, not noticing Buizel’s charge. He skidded back with a furious screech as Buizel slammed its weight into him.

Immediately Buizel leaped back, its dark whiskers twitching as it raised its blue-finned arms dramatically. On its trainer’s command it directed another jet of spray at Sutanu, but the tiny Pokemon darted aside and collided with Buizel.

With a cry of shock and pain, Buizel was tossed helplessly into the broad Pastoria Lake with a small splash. It surfaced almost immediately, the yellow ring around its neck inflating to keep it afloat. Its twin tails began to rotate like a boat’s propeller to push it back to the edge.

As Buizel crawled back onto land, Marisa called Sutanu off and stepped forward to shake the other trainer’s hand. “Good battle,” she said cheerfully.

“You’re tough,” the boy said enviously. “How many badges do you have?”

“None,” Marisa said regretfully. “I’m hoping to beat the Gym Leader of this city, though.”

“Crasher Wake?” The boy looked impressed. “You’re going to challenge him? That guy’s the best trainer I’ve ever seen! You know he swims in that lake every morning, even in winter?”

Marisa apprehensively eyed the lake; the water was cold despite the fact that it was early autumn. “That’s no measure of how strong his Pokemon are, though,” she said firmly. “He could have a single Shellos for all we know.”

The boy shook his head, sending his dark hair flopping about his face. “I’ve seen his Gyarados. It’d be tough to beat.”

Marisa’s face fell. “Oh, okay,” she said dully.

“Bye!” With his seemingly unhurt Buizel bounding by his side, the boy turned and jogged away.

Marisa crouched down to pet Sutanu. “Good boy! You’re getting really strong!”

“What about me?” I demanded, stung. Marisa started; she had apparently forgotten me.

“Of course you’re strong!” she cried, catching me around the waist and swinging me high into the air. I shoved her hands away and she replaced me quickly on the ground before I could electrocute her.

As Marisa began to fuss over Sutanu, I glanced around disdainfully at the town. It was almost as muddy as the route beyond and the distinct smell of a swamp drifted to me from the north and west. It was no wonder that the town was wreathed in a thick early-morning fog. I could dimly make out several houses around us, but no sign of the fair that was supposed to begin in an hour.

“Are you sure this is Pastoria City?” I asked, interrupting Marisa’s monologue of praise.

She glanced around. “Yep, I’m sure. This is the lake people will be swimming in, there’s the fog hanging around and I think I can smell the Pastoria Marsh.” She wrinkled her nose; the smell was quite putrid, almost as bad as Sutanu. “And I saw a sign advertising the fair as we came in last night.”

“Could you have gotten the date wrong?”

Marisa shook her head forcefully. “No! I even asked someone in that Pokemon Center we stayed at last night. It’s definitely today. Maybe they’re just late getting started…”

“Maybe everyone else has forgotten,” I suggested; it seemed like the only plausible explanation.

Her shoulders slumped and she sighed. “Maybe. Let’s go back to our room. If the fair hasn’t stared by this afternoon we’ll keep moving.”

Sutanu and I followed her back to the room she had rented the night before. When the door was closed, Marisa slumped on the single bed and gazed forlornly at the ceiling. Sutanu trailed muddy paw-prints across the floor and settled himself on the rug.

I adopted a post at the window, despite the fact that I could barely see two feet from the glass. It was interesting to watch the outside world from inside a building, especially now that I was not confined to a bed. The window ledge was quite narrow, but I made myself comfortable and allowed my legs to hang over the edge as I gazed outside.

About ten minutes after I had taken my post, something quite startling happened. I immediately noticed the sudden change and stood up so fast that I nearly tumbled off the ledge. “Marisa! Look at this!” I exclaimed, my hands and face pressed against the glass like an overenthusiastic child.

Marisa dragged herself wearily off the bed and approached the window. We both watched in awe as the fog began to dissipate rapidly, revealing the city in its entirety. A few stalls were being set up around the town, their owners unpacking from the backs of vans, but we barely noticed them. Our attention was drawn to the man in the centre of the city.

He was enormous; that was the only word for him. His back was to the lake, his fists raised in the air for emphasis as he watched the fog dissipate. Despite the early-morning chill, his chest was bare. He wore a thin pair of ocean-blue pants, with black padded thighs and orange trim at the waistband and ankles, which would hold in almost no warmth. His feet were encased in boots of the same orange, his wrists with bands of the same colour and a blue similar to that of his pants.

“That guy has no fashion sense,” Marisa whispered.

As the fog cleared away I noticed the dragon thrashing in the lake behind him. It was a gigantic sea serpent, its body ultramarine and saffron, its back edged with spiny white fins at intervals. It raised its vicious-looking head from the water, its wide mouth gaping as it uttered a deafening roar. Its blood-red eyes flashed with never-ending fury and it tossed its head, sending its whisker-like appendages swinging through the air as it projected its energy into the gigantic twister before it.

Oh, Arceus, don’t tell me that’s the famous Crasher Wake and his Gyarados. I have to fight that thing?

The last of the fog vanished into the twister, which immediately settled down and sank into the lake. As the man lowered his arms I noticed his unusual headdress; thin strips of aqua-coloured metal that encircled his head on three sides, with a projection over his eyes that resembled Gyarados’s fins.

The man turned and extended one fist, which I noticed was clutching a plain metallic sphere. Gyarados showed none of its earlier rage as a beam of scarlet light struck it, instantly reducing several hundred pounds of leviathan into glimmering particles of light. Suddenly I was struck by the genius behind the principle of Poke Balls; what else could render such a ferocious beast harmless and weightless in an instant?

I guess humans must be smarter than I give them credit for. Well, some humans, at least.

Marisa and I glanced at each other. Her eyes were glittering and I knew I was wearing an awestruck expression. “Isn’t he incredible?” she whispered. “Controlling such a strong Pokemon… and getting rid of the fog just like that! I can’t wait to battle him!”

My heart sank. So that is Crasher Wake… I’m dead meat.

Marisa leaned over me to see outside properly. “It looks like people are setting up for the fair. I’ll have a shower, then we can go out and see what’s being sold.” Without hesitating she darted out of the room, leaving the door wide open behind her. I knew where she was going; I had already seen the gigantic, steamy room with the tiled walls and floor. I found it quite strange that humans like Marisa, who were scared of thunderstorms, would enjoy shutting themselves into tiny cubicles and having boiling water pour down on them from above. I would much prefer to bathe in a nice, cool stream rather than their ‘showers’.

Sutanu struggled to his feet and waddled to the open door to peer outside. “Where did she go? And why did she leave us behind?”

I rolled my eyes. “Do you ever think of anything but Marisa? Do you find her attractive or something?”

Sutanu recoiled; he would have blushed if he had been able. “No! I’m just worried. It’s my duty to defend her.”

“Well, relax, genius, she isn’t going far. She’ll be back in a few minutes.”

He shuffled forward, placing one foot outside the door. “I’m going to look for her.”

“She won’t be happy,” I warned. “That girl has problems with anyone seeing her without her clothes. Anyone would think she’s got something to hide. I wonder if all humans are like that?” I trailed off, considering the question. Marisa was the only human I knew, so I couldn’t compare her to anyone else.

It took a moment for me to realize that Sutanu was gone. “Hey!” I called, sliding off the window ledge and landing on the rug with a thud. “Oof… Sultana, where are you? Come on, I told you she’s fine! Sultana, you imbecile!”

There was no response and I heaved a sigh, then set off resolutely after him. Stupid creature… I told him Marisa was fine. I’ll have to chain him to me to stop him from wandering off. I wish I could learn Destiny Bond or Rock Tomb; they’d come in useful.

Once in the hallway, I glanced left and right but could see no sign of Sutanu. He hadn’t even left any paw prints behind to show me his direction. I considered trying to trace his thoughts before I realized that, as a Dark type, his aura would block my telepathy. I reluctantly chose a direction.

“I need to put a leash on that skunk,” I grumbled to myself, setting out along the hallway toward the bathroom in the hopes that Sutanu had followed Marisa’s scent.



*~*~*




Half an hour after beginning my search, I had still not found Sutanu. I stormed angrily up hallway after hallway, bellowing out his name and avoiding the humans who tried to grab me. My fury was mixed with the slightest hint of worry; the Pokemon Center was not big enough to get lost in, so unless Sutanu was actively avoiding me or had gotten into trouble there was no reason why I shouldn’t have found him already.

“Sutanu?” I called hesitantly, peering into a room with an open door. I recoiled sharply when the occupant, a large purple-skinned humanoid, glared at me. “Sorry, wrong room,” I apologized quickly.

I stepped into an empty hallway and glanced around. There was only a single door here, a large wooden one right at the end of the hallway. It was painted the same dull cream colour as the hallway and a small plastic sign was attached to it, several letters on it spelling out two words I could not understand. I edged forward; something about this room sent chills up my spine.

The door was closed firmly and I knew that Sutanu could neither open nor close doors, but finding the irritating Stunky was suddenly not the most important thing on my mind. A gentle telekinetic influence caused the door to creak open slightly and I approached it, my heart beating faster in anticipation.

The hallway beyond the door was completely dark and the blackness seemed to reach out, sucking the light out of my hallway as I approached the door. My breathing was quick and shallow and I was beginning to feel light-headed with fear, but I could not back out. I was already committed.

“GOTCHA!”

I jumped a foot in the air and nearly messed myself when two hands closed around my waist. The psychic blast I directed at my attacker slammed them into the wall, but they did not release their hold on me. As I struggled in their grip I caught a glimpse of their face.

“Marisa?”

“Yeah! Why did you attack me?” Marisa pouted, picking herself up and keeping a firm grip on me. “You weren’t in our room, so I came looking for you. Where’s Sutanu?”

“You haven’t seen him?” My heart sank; Sutanu was definitely missing. “He snuck out when I wasn’t looking and went to find you. I was looking for him when I found this room…”

Marisa glanced up at the temptingly open door. “The sign says ‘No Entry’,” she said doubtfully. “Maybe it’s a morgue or something. I don’t want to look at bodies.”

“I don’t think it is. I get a bad feeling from it… like that nightmare I had in hospital.”

Marisa placed me on the ground and stepped forward, resting one hand on the doorknob. She pushed the door open carefully and the hinges creaked slightly, but no alarm sounded. Unable to contain my eagerness, I teleported ahead of her and plunged into the darkened hallway.

Marisa carefully closed the door behind her and flicked a switch. An electric bulb burst into life over us, casting its cold yellow light on a dank stone hallway lined with steel doors.

“What do you want to look at first?” the girl whispered, her excitement evident even through her fear.

I gazed around. Each identical door bore a sign with a single word engraved on it and suddenly I hated myself for not being able to read. “What do these signs say?”

Marisa’s footsteps echoed on the stone floor as she took a few steps forward. “Most of them say ‘Storage’,” she whispered. “That one says ‘Chambers’, though. That sounds interesting…”

She moved past me and reached out, her hand closing around the doorknob. The door creaked as she pushed it open, revealing a set of stairs leading down into the blackness. Immediately a blast of cold air struck us, causing my throat to burn as I struggled not to cough. At the same time a terrible sound rose from beyond the base of the staircase; a high-pitched, inhuman scream of agony.

Marisa recoiled at once, her face a mask of terror. “Wh- what’s going on?” she whispered fearfully.

The scream rose higher, sending chills down my spine and causing my ears to ring. “I think it’s a torture chamber,” I replied, trying to keep the tremble from my telepathic voice.

A loud scream from directly behind me nearly caused me to have a heart attack. I spun around, hoping it was simply another of Marisa’s tricks, but that hope vanished when I saw her struggling in the grip of a very tall, muscular man crammed into a black suit.

“What are you doing down here?” he demanded in guttural tones, his blue eyes burning into Marisa from beneath his slicked-back brown hair.

“I took a wrong turn,” Marisa squeaked fearfully. “Please let me go!”

The guard released his grip on her, reached around and pulled the door closed. “What did you see?”

“Nothing,” Marisa said innocently. She met my gaze and I understood that she was trying to play dumb to make the guard less suspicious. Deciding I should do the same, I crept timidly behind her leg as though scared of the man.

He was looking uncertain; he must have heard the scream and known that Marisa had heard it too, but he seemed to figure that if she hadn’t known what caused it, she could do no harm. He didn’t seem to have noticed me.

“All right,” he said gruffly. “Get out of here.”

I teleported out of the hallway before he could see me and seconds later, Marisa emerged with the guard behind her. She immediately scooped me up in her arms and watched as the door closed with a firm click.

“What was that about?” she whispered to me. “What’s going on in there?”

I shuddered involuntarily. “Whatever it is, it isn’t good.”

*

Aurikara

Will’s bare feet squelched in the wet ground as he walked. I dozed lightly in his arms, my snout buried in his tattered shirt to block out the strong stench I had been able to smell for the past hour.

I felt the swaying motion of Will’s walk come to a halt and lifted my head, blinking sleepily up at him. “Master? What’s going on?”

“There’s a fair,” Will said softly. “We can’t go in this city.”

“Fair?” I turned my head as the smell of food reached me. “Will, I smell food! I’m hungry!”

“You’re always hungry,” Will murmured, but he was smiling. “All right, but try not to draw attention to us. Remember, we have to keep hidden.”

I ignored him; I was squirming in his arms, eager to get to the food. He let me down and I trotted eagerly by his side as we entered the small town.

Crowds of people were milling around in the town, exchanging objects at sheltered stalls, eating food I had never seen before and ordering their Pokemon to fight each other. A deafening roar echoed through the town and, too frightened to think sensibly, I leaped into Will’s arms. He stumbled back and dropped his almost-empty cloth bag. “Aura, careful!” he exclaimed. “It’s all right, it won’t hurt you.”

I scrambled up to sit on his shoulder, my heart still pounding so fast that my vision was pulsing. Will bent to pick up the bag at his feet and a shadow fell over us. We both glanced up; a tall, imposing, broad-shouldered boy with khaki hair was standing over us.

“You want to battle?” the boy demanded; the way he spoke, it sounded more like a command.

Will hesitated. “I’m not sure… my Riolu has only ever been in one battle and I’ve never fought with my Spoink.”

“I don’t got all day,” the boy grunted. “You wanna fight or not?”

Will’s eyes met mine and I nodded forcefully. I wanted to fight as hard as I could to make up for my loss against the Houndoom over a week earlier. Will lifted me from his shoulder and placed me gently on the grass. “Be careful,” he warned the boy. “He’s still just a baby and he’s hurt.”

“I don’t go easy on my opponents.” With a sinister smile, the tall boy led the way to an empty part of town. Taking up a position a short distance from Will, he plucked a peculiar red and white sphere from his belt and tossed it into the air.

I stepped in front of Will and braced myself, ready to fight. The orb soared in an arc and burst open, expelling a torrent of pure light that twisted itself into a small, mouse-like creature.

My opponent’s yellow coat shone in the sunlight as it sat hunched over, its tiny black nose twitching. Its equally black eyes travelled over me and its lightning-bolt-shaped tail quivered.

“Quick Attack!” the boy ordered before Will could react. The mouse’s black-tipped ears twitched and it darted at me on its four tiny paws, throwing its entire body against me. For such a small creature it was very powerful. My back slammed into the muddy ground, knocking the breath from my lungs.

I gasped for air and struggled upright, shaking the filth out of my short, dark fur. The opponent hadn’t even paused; at a command from the boy, his Pokemon clenched its tiny fists and unleashed a powerful bolt of lightning. The electricity arced through the air and struck me down.

My chest hit the ground and I groaned quietly, feeling the agony as electricity coursed through my trembling body. Struggling to suppress my childish urge to scream in pain, I levered myself up onto all fours and spat mud out of my mouth.

“I’m calling the battle off,” Will said quickly. He crouched down to pick me up but I shoved him away and staggered upright, my feet slipping in the mud.

“I’m going to do this,” I snarled. “Back off.”

Will recoiled, looking startled. “All right, sorry. Try to hit it as hard as you can. I don’t care which attack you use.”

He retreated and I fixed the opponent with my angry glare. It darted at me again and I channelled my strength into my legs, propelling myself into the air. As it skidded to a halt, startled, I landed lightly behind it.

Focus… channel energy…

The muscles in my long tail seized up; the sensation wasn’t exactly painful, but it was very uncomfortable. A soft glow began to emanate from the rigid limb as I concentrated on heightening the strength of my aura. Within barely a second I knew that my aura had reached the solidity of steel and I charged at the opponent, ignoring the startled look in its eyes as I twisted around suddenly. My stiffened tail struck a forceful blow to the mouse’s side, sending it tumbling away through the mud. It came to rest lying in a limp heap.

The unfamiliar trainer let out his breath in an impressed whistle. “You’re tough!”

I ignored him; I wasn’t done yet. The creature was stirring and I paused for a moment to allow my tail to return to normal, then I dived on top of my opponent. Its yellow fur was already filthy, but I scooped up handfuls of mud and ground them forcefully into its chest. More violent instincts were taking over; I had defeated this creature, so now I had to humiliate it. I had to prove my dominance.

“Please stop…” the mouse moaned feebly. I snatched up a handful of mud and, with a vicious snarl, thrust it between the creature’s jaws. It choked and attempted to spit it out, but I forced more into its mouth.

“Swallow it,” I ordered, feeling a savage pleasure as I watched the creature suffer. Its red cheeks crackled with electricity but the mud prevented it from launching a bolt of lightning at me. I smeared more filth over its cheeks and into its eyes as it squirmed, attempting half-heartedly to escape.

Suddenly Will swept me up in his arms, gripping both of my wrists to prevent me from hitting him. “Aura, what’s gotten into you?” he demanded. “That was a horrible thing to do!”

I struggled against his grip and snapped ferociously at his hands. My muscles were still tense from the rush of adrenaline that the battle had triggered. “I don’t care! I want to fight!”

Will struggled to hold me still as I kicked violently. He crouched down and pinned me firmly against the ground. “Bane, use Psywave!” he commanded.

Bane bounded closer, the fuchsia orb between his ears beginning to glow with a soft inner light. At once the strength left my body and Will released me. “Feel calmer now?”

The smooth pearl resumed its usual colour and I climbed slowly to my feet, all traces of anger gone. I glanced back to where the battle had taken place and Will tensed, ready to restrain me again, but I had no desire to attack the defeated opponent. The trainer was approaching us, his Pokemon safe inside its sphere.

“You need to teach your Pokemon how to fight fairly,” the boy said, shooting a horrified glance at me. He fumbled in his pocket, drew out a small folder of black material and thrust a few pieces of paper into Will’s fist. With one last glance at me, he departed hurriedly in the direction of the marsh.

Will looked at the paper in his hand. “Prize money… I forgot trainers gave money as a reward for winning battles.”

“What’s money?” I asked curiously.

Will crouched down to show me. The pieces of paper were a powder blue colour, each with a number and a picture of a strange creature in the corner. “Humans use money to pay for things like food,” he explained. “These are all pictures of Legendary Pokemon. It’s different for each amount of money.”

“They all look the same,” I pointed out, examining the money.

“That’s because these ones are the same.” He pointed to the picture, which depicted a distinctly feline creature with wide eyes, big feet and a long tail curled around it. “That’s Mew, the ancestor of all Pokemon. It’s on every hundred-dollar note. A hundred sounds like a lot, but it isn’t really worth much at all. Even a single Poke Ball, like that boy had, costs-”

I glanced up, wondering why he had suddenly stopped talking. Will abruptly stood up and thrust the money into his pocket, then motioned for me to follow. I padded beside him, ignoring Bane as he bounded after me.

An enormous crowd had surrounded the lake. Will stopped at the edge, peering through the mass of humans. “I could’ve sworn I saw someone I know…” He shook the thought away. “Doesn’t matter. Come on, let’s get away from this crowd.”

As he turned away, I paused long enough to catch sight of a pair of deep, garnet eyes in the mass of bodies. I stopped, shuddering slightly; their solemn expression told clearly of past torment. The eyes moved up to Will and widened in sudden recognition.

I turned urgently to Will. “Will! Look!”

Will hesitated and turned back, his expression full of uncertainty. A moment later it changed to shock as a small figure detached itself from the crowd, racing at full speed toward Will. I barely had time to register long, green hair and a white miniskirt-like garb before the creature had leaped into Will’s arms.

He stumbled back, shock written all over his face and his mouth gaping in a wordless exclamation. As the creature buried its head in his chest, he managed to find his voice and spoke one word in a startled croak; a word that explained Will’s surprise and left me as speechless as he had been.

“Selena?”

Golden Riolu
May 7th, 2008, 04:19 PM
I have to warn you that this chapter contains some mentions of disturbing themes, and by the end you’ll probably be able to figure out what I mean by ‘disturbing themes’.

Italics for Poke-speech, no italics for telepathy.

Chapter Nine

Reunited

Selena

My eyes burned with unshed tears as I buried my face in Will tattered shirt. He was very much different than the last time I had seen him; his clothes were torn and filthy, he was barefoot and his hair had grown long enough to reach almost to his shoulders. I didn’t care how different he looked; he was still my saviour and my best friend.

Will’s hand gently stroked my back. “I don’t believe this,” he whispered.

“Is that Selena?” A new voice interrupted my thoughts; a childish telepathic voice, one that sounded distinctly male despite its high pitch. I glanced briefly down; a dark-furred, bipedal canine stood at Will’s feet, gazing up at me with curious ruby eyes. This was the Pokemon I had seen before I noticed Will.

There was a disturbance in the crowd as a tall, fourteen-year-old boy forced his way out into the open. He was a complete contrast to Will; he was dressed in a midnight blue T-shirt, faded jeans and white running shoes and his skin was fair, although he had a slight tan. He brushed a strand of black hair out of his ice-blue eyes as he surveyed Will.

“Excuse me,” he said, “but you seem to be holding my Kirlia.”

Will flushed and attempted to disentangle me from him. “Come on, Selena, let go.”

“You know her name?” The boy stepped forward, intrigued. “Do you know her?”

Will nodded, tugging at the hand I had fastened securely around his arm. “Her first trainer was my older brother.”

“Kevin Barren?”

My entire body stiffened at the sound of the name. I clung tightly to Will's shirt, shivering in renewed fear. Even after all this time, the sound of the name still struck terror into my heart. My trainer, however, didn’t notice; his eyes had lit up in sudden recognition.

“That must make you… William Barren!”

Will recoiled at the sound of his name and took a step back, glancing around anxiously. Obviously the police were after him after what he had done. Thankfully, even if anyone had seen the wanted posters they didn’t seem to notice his name being spoken.

“Please don’t hand me over,” Will begged in a hoarse whisper, his grip tightening on me.

The boy shook his head and stepped forward, offering one hand to Will. “No fear of that! I think you’re a hero, freeing Selena like that. I’m Tyler, her new trainer.”

Will paused, scrutinizing Tyler as though trying to read his mind. His hands loosened on me as he reached out to shake my trainer’s hand. “You already know who I am.”

As they let go, a cheer drifted up from the nearby crowd. The first swimming race appeared to have begun. The two boys ignored it and Will crouched down, still attempting to loosen my grip on him. “Selena, Tyler, I should introduce my new friends. This is Aurikara the Riolu and this is Bane the Spoink.”

I turned my head, my long hair falling into my eyes, and squinted at the two Pokemon. I hadn’t even noticed the Spoink. The Riolu was pushing close to me, trying to thrust his snout in my face, his paws reaching out to me. I pressed closer to Will in an attempt to avoid the dog.

“Aura, she’s shy,” Will said quietly. “She doesn’t like being crowded.”

Looking disappointed, Aura backed away. I hesitantly let go of Will’s shirt and crawled out of his lap. Tyler reached toward me but I retreated from his arms.

“She doesn’t seem to like you much,” Will observed.

Of course I don’t. Tyler wouldn’t understand… he hasn’t been through what I have.

Tyler scuffed his shoe on the ground. “Yeah, we’ve got a bit of a problem with trust,” he admitted. “I picked her up from the orphanage months ago but she still hasn’t made a sound. I asked if she was mute…”

“She’s not mute,” Will assured him. “Why don’t we come away from the crowd? You can tell me how you found Selena.”

I wound my hand into the leg of Will’s shredded trousers and followed silently as he led the way to a deserted part of town. He settled himself on the grass and Aura immediately crawled onto his knees, casting me a scathing glance.

I stiffened as Tyler lifted me onto his own lap. Will made an involuntary movement as though to punch the boy but managed to restrain himself. “She doesn’t like sitting in a stranger’s lap,” he said firmly.

It’s been so long since someone understood me…

“I’m not a stranger, I’m her trainer,” Tyler pointed out, refusing to relinquish me.

I adopted a foetal position in his arms, wishing I could sit with Will again. Tyler was oblivious to my fear; he leaned back, gazed up at the clouds and began to recount the story of our meeting. I allowed the memories to flood into my mind as I listened.



*~*~*




Two weeks… that was how long I spent at the orphanage where sweet Emerald Barren brought me. Two weeks, yet each day felt like a month in itself. Right from the moment Emerald carried me through the doors and the elderly matron agreed to take me in, I did not fit in there. The other Pokemon, of whom there were very few, were wary of me at first. They disliked my silence, my solitary manner and especially the way I often hid from visiting trainers. Eventually they began taunting me, even attacking me when none of the nurses were around.

The nurses themselves were cautious around me, careful not to mention the boy who had left me with such terrible emotional, mental and physical scarring. Many tried without success to encourage me to speak and interact with the other Pokemon. Eventually, however, they gave up on me and focused on the other Pokemon.

Of course, it was partly my fault that I was treated badly and ignored at the orphanage. I refused to make a single sound, as I had ever since the incident. I refused to fight, for fear of being beaten if I lost. I would not come when the cook rang his bell; as the other Pokemon rushed to eat, I often crawled into one of the hiding spots I had discovered and enjoyed the silence. Upon noticing that I was not eating, the matron took it upon herself to bring me food several times a day so I could eat alone.

All of this lasted for two weeks. During that time I began to hate the place and considered running away, but I knew the world was cruel to tame Pokemon. I would have been killed or, even worse, captured by a trainer even crueller than my last one. I waited it out, avoiding any humans who might have wanted to take me in, until Tyler arrived.

Tyler had come to make a donation, not to adopt, but he met the other Pokemon anyway. He told me later that he had wanted to see who his money would be looking after. One of the nursing staff mentioned me and Tyler decided that he wanted to see me. The matron, who had taken a liking to me and who knew all of my favourite hiding spots, offered to bring me out.

I was huddled up in a hollow inside one of the walls when I heard two sets of footsteps approaching. I ignored them, thinking that it was two of the nurses looking for me. No one but the matron had ever been able to find me, so I simply settled down and clutched the silken scarf that was my last reminder of a family. I was startled when the loose sheet of wallpaper was drawn back and the kind, crinkled face peered in at me.

The matron took me into her arms and showed me to Tyler, who was standing nearby. I remembered thinking how different he looked than the dark-skinned, fair-haired boy who had treated me so cruelly. A smile creased his gentle mouth as he reached out to stroke my hair, although I recoiled from his touch. The matron explained how I had been beaten on countless occasions and I watched pity and compassion fill those ice-blue eyes. I remembered thinking how little even the matron knew about me.

Then all coherent thoughts were driven from my mind as Tyler announced that he wished to adopt me.

I couldn’t believe it. I barely heard the elderly woman’s warnings that I was very antisocial and refused to battle. I struggled as she finally gave me up to Tyler and as he held me in his arms for the first time, I barely restrained myself from screaming. I kicked, fought and bit with all of my strength, but Tyler simply cradled me close and soothed me. Eventually I drifted into a doze and he carried me out of the orphanage for the last time.



*~*~*




“I think she found your story boring, Tyler.”

I fought off the darkness of sleep, struggling to return to the waking world. My first conscious thought was the realization that someone was holding me. Blind panic instantly took hold and I thrashed wildly, straining desperately toward freedom. The arms tightened around me, pressing me into a broad chest.

“Can’t you see she’s terrified?” a familiar voice demanded angrily. I hesitated and everything came flooding back into my mind. I’m with Tyler and Will at the Pastoria City Fair. Tyler must be the one holding me. I’m safe… I’m safe…

My struggles ceased and Tyler’s arms loosened. Will was looking murderous; his muddy green eyes burned with fury and his fingers were digging into his Riolu’s chest, making him squirm in discomfort. “No wonder she doesn’t like you,” he snapped at the startled Tyler. “If she gets scared she needs to feel safe. After what she’s been through it’s not surprising that she only feels safe when she’s alone. Your doing that is only adding to her fears.”

Tyler released me and I scrambled out of his arms, fleeing to hide behind a tree a short distance away. My heart was still pounding the rhythm of fear against my ribs as I curled up against the trunk, feeling the bark digging into my skin. Anything was preferable to the feeling of hands holding me.

“You don’t know how to handle Selena, do you?” Will demanded angrily. “You don’t know what she dreams about at night. You don’t know what she’s afraid of. You don’t even know her age or her favourite food, do you? You don’t know anything about her!”

I peered around the tree trunk and saw Tyler’s shoulders slump. “No,” he admitted reluctantly. “No one at the orphanage told me anything except her name and the fact that she doesn’t like to fight. I adopted her because I thought I could help her get over what had happened. All I know about her past is what was in those news reports and they were focused more on Kevin than Selena.”

Aura emitted a distressed squeaking sound, alerting Will to the fact that he was squashing him. Will quickly loosened his grip and Aura crawled up to his shoulder, his chest heaving as he struggled for air.

“Sorry, Aura,” Will said quietly.

I gripped a knot in the tree trunk and used it to help me climb onto one of the lower branches. The bark left scrapes on my hands and legs as I edged onto the higher limbs and I finally came to rest on a broad branch. My scrapes stung as blood oozed out, forming tiny scarlet beads on my pale skin.

I ignored the conversation between Will and Tyler as I examined my grazes, watching the droplets of blood swell and merge together. I ran my hands down my legs, leaving smears of crimson on my skin.

Blood is so interesting… it is needed for life, yet although my blood has been spilled many times I have not died. Sometimes I feel it would be better if I had.

“You don’t deserve to look after her!” Will’s raised voice interrupted my thoughts. He was on his feet, glaring at Tyler as though he wanted to see him writhing in agony. Tyler, Aura and Bane all looked startled at Will’s outburst.

“Sorry…” Tyler said meekly. “I didn’t know she was so scared of physical contact. I thought that holding her close would comfort her.”

“There’s a reason she fought you!” Will replied heatedly. “My brother used to do some terrible things to her. You should have let go of her and helped her understand that no one wanted to hurt her, not constricted her like that.”

My trainer flung up his hands. “I give! If you know so much about her, why don’t you take her?”

“I…” Will hesitated, the uncertainty visible in his eyes even from a distance. “I can’t,” he said eventually. “They’ll trace her ID and the police will find me.”

“Oh. Right.” For a moment both boys were silent, before Tyler lifted his gaze again. “Can you teach me how to look after her?”

“Huh?”

Tyler stumbled to his feet, dusting dirt off his clothes. “I obviously don’t treat her right, but you’ve lived with her for most of her life. Can you teach me what to do?”

Again Will was uncertain, glancing uneasily at Aura and Bane and taking a step back. “Um… I…”

“We’ll travel with you!” Tyler said enthusiastically. “I’ll watch how you treat Selena and I’ll do the same thing!”

For a moment something like panic flared in Will’s eyes, but it was gone just as suddenly. “No,” he said firmly. “Why don’t you find my sister? Before I left home, she told me she was going to leave on her journey as soon as Selena was safe. Her name’s Emerald Barren and she’s fifteen. Just look for her and she’ll show you what to do.”

Tyler’s face fell and my heart dropped like a rock. I can’t stay with Will… doesn’t he love me?

Ignoring Tyler, Will approached the tree I was sheltering in and leaned around the trunk, searching for me on the ground. He looked quite startled when Aura suddenly leaped off his shoulder, scrambling up onto my branch. I shrank away from the Riolu, my eyes growing wider in fear.

“Aura, she’s scared,” Will said softly. “Don’t make it worse.”

I crawled along the bough, away from Aura, my scratched legs leaving streaks of blood on the rough bark. Will stayed carefully beneath me, ready to catch me in case I fell. As I edged onto the thinner part of the limb, my hand slipped and I clung desperately to the branch to avoid falling.

“I just want to talk to you!” Aura called, his attentive gaze fixed on me. “I’m Aura. Do you know my master?”

He placed one wide paw on the slimmer branch, which trembled ominously. I redoubled my grip and closed my eyes tightly, my legs and arms wrapped tightly around the branch as I prayed silently that it would not break. Please go away…

Aura grasped the branch and crept forward, lowering his chest onto it. It creaked under our combined weight and snapped suddenly, dropping out from beneath me. I released it and grabbed wildly for support, completely missing the surrounding limbs. A pair of hands caught hold of me and I curled up tightly, trembling, my face pressed into Will’s chest. A soft thump nearby indicated that Aura had landed safely on his feet.

“It’s all right,” Will soothed, slowly stroking my back. “You’re safe.”

I am when I’m with you.

The sound of feet squelching in the mud announced Tyler’s approach. “How come she lets you hold her?” he demanded. “She gets scared when I try to touch her, but she trusts you!”

“I’ve known her since she was a few weeks old, back when she was a Ralts,” Will replied, gently smoothing my knotted hair. “I was only three when we met. We used to play together all the time, back before my brother started beating her.”

I lifted my head, gazing pleadingly into Will’s face. I knew he could read the question in my eyes.

Can I please come with you? I don’t want to stay with this boy. I don’t trust him.

“Selena, you can’t come with me,” Will said quietly. “Just go with Tyler. I’m sure he’ll eventually figure out how to treat you.”

He knelt down and deposited me on the grass. Instantly a vice-like grip closed on my hand and I looked up to see Tyler standing beside me, his expression almost murderous. “Come on, we’re leaving.”

I stumbled after him as he dragged me through the crowd. My eyes once again stung with tears, this time born of my despair. “You’ll learn to trust me,” Tyler said firmly. “I’m not letting him take you. I adopted you, so you belong to me.”

I felt a chill at his words. They were exactly the same ones my last trainer had said months ago, right before…

I tore my hand out of Tyler’s grip. I’m not going to let that happen again. I’m going with Will!

Tyler stopped, startled. “Selena… you’ve never refused to come with me before. What’s gotten into you?”

I will not be separated from him again. I’m going to stand up for myself just this once.

I took a few steps back from the boy. He followed me, still looking bemused, and offered his hand again. “Come on, I won’t hurt you.”

That’s what he said too.

I shook my head vehemently and edged away from him. I knew I should speak to him, but I was still unwilling to break my silence. I turned and glanced back to where Will had been.

Where is he? He left without me?

“Selena, I’m not letting you go with Will,” Tyler said angrily. “He had his chance to take you when you were at the orphanage, but he didn’t want you. Now you’re mine.”

Those words… just like the day my last trainer took away my innocence…

I stumbled over a rock and my back slammed into the damp ground, but I quickly staggered to my feet again. My skin was already filthy; a little extra dirt would barely make a difference.

Tyler reached for me but I recoiled and fled, hoping to find footprints that would guide me to Will. My small feet sank into the wet dirt, slowing me and making me stumble, but I refused to let Tyler catch up.

Not after what he just said…

Tyler straightened up behind me, stung. “Fine!” he yelled after me. “Have it your own way! Let’s see how long you survive on your own!”

The door of a white-painted building swung open and a figure raced outside, not noticing me until it was too late. I was moving too fast to stop. We collided in a blur of flying mud and pain, accompanied by a squeal of shock from the figure I had run into.

With my eyes closed tightly, I felt myself collide with the ground and a suffocating weight began crushing me. A badly-concealed snort of laughter caused me to open my eyes. I could barely see anything; whatever had landed on me was much larger than I was and was blotting out the light.

“Nice one,” a sarcastic voice said. Despite the tremendous weight on top of me muffling the sound, I could tell that the voice was female and had spoken with telepathy. I squeezed my eyes closed again and struggled to draw breath.

The creature on top of me stirred. “Ugh… what happened? What was that?”

“You just ran into a wild Pokemon,” the first voice said conversationally. “You might want to get off it now. You’re squashing it.”

“Huh?” The weight shifted as the creature - presumably a human - heaved itself off me. The air rushed into my lungs and I took several deep breaths, savouring the feeling of my breath flowing easily in and out.

I felt a slight telepathic nudge at my consciousness and looked up to see a small figure beside me. Its slim body, green cap and red horns left me in no doubt that it was a Ralts, as I had once been.

“Hey, you okay?” the Pokemon asked, bending down to see my face. I studied it carefully. Its blood-red eyes, so like my own, were full of concern. Its delicate but rather solid build told me that it was female and still young, less than six months old. The Ralts was still a child, albeit one rapidly approaching adolescence.

“I asked if you’re okay,” she persisted. “Can you hear me? Can you talk?”

I shook my head and buried my face in the mud, but suddenly I found myself in someone’s arms again. My chest ached with each breath and I found that I was too tired to resist. A pair of golden-brown eyes blinked down at me from a face framed by blonde hair.

Another human. Why can’t the humans leave me alone?

“Sorry I fell on you,” the girl said, brushing her damp hair back from her face. “I’m just clumsy. Are you wild or do you have a trainer?”

I blinked and gazed past the girl, but Tyler was gone. I felt a sudden chill of fear. He left me just like Will left me… I’m alone with these strangers.

Another nudge of telepathy brushed my mind; the Ralts was reading my thoughts. “Female, over seven years old, hasn’t spoken in months, named Selena, belonging to a trainer named Tyler who seems to have run off,” she announced. “Um… and she just said congratulations; we now know more about her than her trainer does.”

A blush swept into my cheeks. Did she really hear my last thought?

“Yes, and I heard that one too,” Ralts told me.

Please get out of my mind… there are some things I don’t want you to know.

The contact withdrew, leaving me alone in my head once again. The girl was stroking my tangled hair thoughtfully. “If your trainer ran off, who’s going to look after you?” she asked. “I can take you in, if you don’t have anywhere else to go. I’ll look after you until your trainer comes back and you can be friends with Raru.”

Who’s Raru? What’s she talking about?

She placed me gently on the grass near her Ralts, who raised one hand cheerfully in welcome. “Raru is her nickname for me. My name’s Rarutos. I already know your name.”

I glanced up at the girl, who was watching me attentively. She wanted to see her Ralts befriend me.

“That’s Marisa,” Rarutos explained. “She’s my trainer, in case you couldn’t tell. She can be a bit thick-headed sometimes, but her heart is in the right place. She’s not really that bad once you get to know her. So, what’s your trainer like? Come on, you can tell me all about him.”

I remained silent, startled by how verbose Rarutos seemed to be. She waited for me to reply, crossing her arms impatiently over her chest. I made no sound, glancing anxiously between her and Marisa.

“Why don’t you like to talk?” Marisa asked. “Does your throat hurt?”

When I still didn’t reply she gathered me into her arms, ignoring my feeble struggles. “You don’t have to talk if you don’t want to, but I think you should come with me. You need a bath.”

Should I take that as an insult?

“What about Sultana?” Rarutos asked.

“He’ll come back when he can’t find me,” Marisa said. “For now we have to think about Selena.”

Rarutos followed reluctantly as Marisa carried me back into the building she had come from. I curled up in her arms, feeling comforted. No human females who had held me had ever harmed me.

I hid my face in Marisa’s clean T-shirt and closed my eyes, soothed by her warmth. I suddenly felt as safe as a child in its mother’s arms. I ignored the sounds of movement around me as I drifted into a doze, my legs tucked up to my chest and my hands wound tightly into Marisa’s clothing.

A sister to protect me, a mother to care for me… as the darkness closed around me, I had a powerful sense of finally being home.

Golden Riolu
May 8th, 2008, 06:51 PM
I hope no one thinks of Will as a Gary-Stu for what happens in this chapter. Oh, and some of you might recognize a certain toy.

Italics for Poke-speech, no italics for telepathy.


Chapter Ten

The Wanted One

Aurikara

“Why did you leave her behind?”

Will ignored me, staring directly ahead of him as he plodded wearily through the mud. I leaped up into Will’s arms and propelled myself onto his shoulder, my paws leaving muddy prints on his clothes. The tip of my tail tickled his nose and he pushed it away, nearly causing me to lose my balance.

I clung to his shoulder and repeated my question insistently, but still received no answer. Annoyed, I sank my sharp teeth into his ear.

“OW!”

His shoulder lurched under me and I grabbed desperately for something to hold onto, almost flying off my perch. Will tore me from my place and held me at arm’s length.

“What is wrong with you?” he demanded, his eyes blazing with fury. “First you fought me and tried to attack Bane, then you hurt that Pikachu for no reason, now you’re biting me! What brought all this on? If you keep it up I’ll put you inside a Poke Ball.”

I drew my arms and legs close to my body, trying to make myself look small and innocent. “Sorry… you were ignoring me.”

Will heaved a sigh and put me down on the grass. “I just don’t want to talk about it. Tyler will look after Selena and we can think about keeping away from civilization.”

“Don’t you love her?” I persisted, padding after him as he began to walk again. “She loves you. She wanted to stay with you.”

“That’s the problem,” Will sighed. “She shouldn’t trust me after what she saw me do. She should hate me or be afraid of me. That Tyler called me a hero… but I’m definitely no hero. I shouldn’t even have escaped Canalave City. Sometimes I wish the police had caught me while I was running away…”

My heart was beating as fast as a Yanma’s wings in my excitement. “What happened?”

“I can’t tell you, Aura. I’m not ready. I still wake up sometimes and feel like it never happened. Maybe if I don’t think about it, the police will give up looking for me and I can find somewhere to live. Maybe I’ll be able to train you and Bane to challenge the Gyms of Sinnoh. Maybe all of this will go away.”

“And… Selena?” I asked timidly.

“She’ll eventually recover from the ordeal and start talking again. She and Tyler will be great friends. Maybe she’ll even evolve into Gardevoir one day.”

He glanced down at me, suddenly cautious. “Why do you care about her, anyway? You didn’t seem to like her before. I saw that look you gave her when you climbed into my lap. It was almost a silent threat.”

“I thought you were giving her too much attention,” I protested.

“Oh, the green-eyed monster of jealousy makes its mark.”

“Green?” Confused, I bounded across to a puddle of rainwater and gazed at my reflection. “But my eyes are red!”

“It’s a figure of speech,” Will explained, pausing to watch me. “Come on, we need to find a secluded place for the night. There’s an expensive mansion around here so the place is crawling with police after dark. We could probably blend into the darkness well enough if we find a place where no one will hear our breathing or Bane’s bouncing.”

I ran to catch up with him and glanced around, my sharp eyes picking up every movement in the tall grass at the edge of the path. I spotted a flash of copper fur and my entire body stiffened in anticipation of a fight.

Will paused and glanced back at me. “Aura? What is it?”

“A Pokemon,” I snarled.

As I spoke, the creature abruptly appeared to notice us and began to push her way out of the grass. She was less than half my height, her long pelt mostly a deep mustard colour apart from the thick, cream-coloured mane around her neck. Her delicate paws moved carefully as she picked her way out into the open. She lifted her round head and twitched her long ears, a curious but cautious expression in her wide brown eyes. In her mouth was something limp and muddy.

“I don’t believe it!” Will cried, starting forward. The creature dropped what she was holding and darted aside, tiny fangs bared threateningly at Will, but he was not aiming for her. He snatched up the abandoned object and shook the filth off it, revealing a worn and ripped stuffed animal. Its brown fur was worn away in places, its four limbs hung limp and one rounded ear was gone completely.

I cast the creature a threatening glare to make sure she stayed still. She returned my gaze unflinchingly, the fur on her thick white-tipped tail standing on end to make her look bigger.

“What’s that?” I asked Will, my eyes still riveted to the wild Pokemon.

Will wrung out the soggy object in his hands. “It’s my teddy bear! I never let go of it when I was younger. I took it with me to remind me of home, but I lost it outside Solaceon Town. This is definitely one well-travelled toy.”

He suddenly noticed the Pokemon that had been holding the toy. “I wish I had some Poke Balls… I want to catch that thing. She’s an Eevee; they’re really rare.”

Eevee didn’t seem to care if she was rare or not; her gaze was still fixed on me and she was making no move to escape. Will edged away from her to avoid being attacked. “Aura, try to calm her down,” he instructed. “Tell her that she can trust us and that I’ll look after her.”

I cleared my throat. “Um… hi,” I ventured. “We want to be your friends.”

“I don’t believe in friends,” Eevee snarled, her long ears pressed flat against her skull. With a threatening growl, she darted toward me on her four tiny paws. Before I could react I was on the ground, my chest aching from the impact.

She’s really fast!

I staggered upright, gripping my injured chest with one hand. Barely conscious of what I was doing, I stretched out my other arm and aimed my palm at Eevee. My body trembled and my eyes closed as I focused my mind, feeling dark energy bubble up in my consciousness.

Eevee had paused, uncertain, but I didn’t care about her. My eyes suddenly flew open, but I could see nothing but the black haze filling my vision. At the same instant I felt my channelled power race along my arm and sensed a jet of dark energy burst from my paw.

A cry of shock and pain startled me out of my trance and I dropped my all fours, blinking the last of the haze from my eyes. Images of death and destruction surged through my mind, making my stomach churn and sending a burst of unpleasant heat through my body. With a horrible wrenching sound, I brought up my last meal onto the damp ground.

Dragging one arm across my mouth, I climbed shakily to my feet. Eevee lay unconscious a short distance away. Hearing a sound behind me, I spun around in time to see Will lurch upright. Bane appeared to be unconscious, but - unbelievably - he was still bouncing!

Will massaged his temples with his fingers and stared around groggily. “What happened?” he murmured. “Something hit me really hard. I saw all these terrible images…”

His eyes locked onto me and widened in sudden shock. “It was you! I saw you using Dark Pulse! But you’re not meant to be able to learn that until you evolve… and how could it be so powerful if you weren’t aiming it at me?”

How could I use an attack without knowing I can? And why did it hurt Will?

I stumbled and collapsed on the ground, the post-fight fatigue taking effect. I barely felt Will gathering me into his arms; my eyes were closing of their own accord, the gentle wave of sleep bearing me away from the waking world.



*~*~*




The sun dropped slowly beneath the horizon, staining the paved streets a deep shade of orange like dying flames. I crept silently through the streets, my dark fur helping me to conceal myself in shadowy corners whenever I sensed humans approaching. Having lived wild in this concrete jungle all my life, I definitely knew how to survive.

The aroma of hot food reached me as it drifted aimlessly on the breeze. I paused to tilt my head back, raising my long snout to the sky. I inhaled deeply and the pungent scent filled my nostrils, delighting my olfactory sense and causing my painfully empty stomach to commence its insistent rumbling.

My mind was working rapidly as I stole closer to the smell. I knew I would have to move fast, collecting enough to feed my small but growing family and getting away quickly before I could be chased or captured.

I thought longingly for a moment about the days when my partner helped me scavenge. Among wild Pokemon it was rarely a male’s job alone to find food, but over the past few weeks I had been searching by myself increasingly often. My partner preferred to stay hidden and protect her eggs, and the recent hatching of our first son only gave her a better reason not to help me. I didn’t resent her for it, of course; our hatchling Riolu had a tendency to wander off and we both wanted him to be safe rather than become a tool for a human.

I crept around a building and my goal came within sight. A middle-aged male human stood behind some sort of vehicle, yelling at the top of his voice to attract customers. He waved broad hands over his hairless head, bellowing over the noise of the crowd, “Hot dogs here! Get your hot dogs here!”

Despite my frequent wanderings of the city, I rarely came across anything being sold in this way except during festivities. I didn’t care, though; my hunger had driven me to the point where I would kill to eat if I had to. I edged closer, keeping to the shadows, my eyes fixed firmly on my target and my sharp teeth dripping saliva.

The crowd parted for a moment and I snatched at my chance, racing between the humans so fast that I was practically flying. The hot dog vendor leaped back with a cry of alarm as I threw my weight against his machine, sending it soaring a short distance away. It crashed into the sidewalk and I landed on top of it, one paw easily shattering the heated metal. In one quick movement, I gathered as many of the sausages as I could see and fled the scene before anyone could attempt to capture me.

As I raced through the streets with my prizes clutched to my chest, I failed to hear the four echoing cracks coming from the area in which my family was hiding. However, I did hear the agonized scream that followed the sounds; the unmistakeable scream belonging to my partner. My ears twitched at the sound of her cry and I slowed for an instant, overcome by panic, then flew through the city at a speed faster than I had ever reached before.



*~*~*




I stirred and dragged myself back to consciousness slowly, struggling to wake from my dream. The darkness was the first thing I noticed, but it was not the oppressive darkness of my nightmares; it was the cool, soothing blackness of night. I took a deep breath, feeling the cool air rush easily into my lungs, and gazed up calmly at the stars glittering above me.

A quiet snore drew my attention away from the sky. Will was curled up in the grass beside me, fast asleep with his hands clasped to his chest. Bane hopped up and down continually in his sleep nearby. A short distance away from him, a bundle of brown fur lay silently in the short grass.

I climbed to my feet and edged closer to the Eevee. Her long ears twitched in my direction and she leaped up from her place, instantly alert.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” I protested. “I want to be your friend.”

Her lips drew back in a snarl, revealing tiny but sharp fangs. “Could’ve fooled me.”

“I’m Aura,” I told her. “What’s your name? Do you have one?”

“Of course I have one.” Eevee turned her head away disdainfully.

“Well, what is it?” I pressed.

Eevee hesitated, glancing uncertainly toward me as though wondering if I was actually interested. “Eileen,” she said finally. “My name is Eileen, or Lynn for short.”

“That’s a nice name,” I commented. “My name is short for Aurikara.”

“Aurikara?” Lynn snorted derisively. “What kind of name is that?”

“I don’t know. My master came up with it.”

Lynn cast an uncertain glance at Will, who remained completely unaware of our conversation as he slept. “Is that your master? Did he capture me too?”

“No.”

Lynn’s face settled into a determined expression. “Good. In that case, I’m leaving. Don’t try to follow me or I’ll be forced to hurt you.”

Without another word she strode away, her tail held high with pride and her paws picking their way daintily through the grass and avoiding the mud. I crossed the distance between us in two quick leaps and landed before her.

“Where are you going?” I demanded.

“I’m leaving. If I haven’t been captured, I’m not going to stick around and wait until he decides to capture me.” Raising her short snout in the air disdainfully, she edged around me.

My fury began to rise like bile in my throat. “If you try to leave I’ll fight you,” I threatened, stepping firmly in front of Lynn again.

I half-expected her to ignore my threat, but to my surprise she immediately braced her paws apart and snarled at me. “If you want to fight, I’ll fight,” she growled. “You’ll go crying back to your master soon enough.”

Before the last sentence was even out of her mouth she charged, a venomous glare in her dark eyes. A rush of adrenaline filled my body and I leaped clear over her head, landing lightly just as she spun to face me again. As she reared back, a sphere of dark shadows gathering in her mouth, I launched myself into the air once more. The rage filling my body was directed into my right leg as I fell, aiming a powerful kick directly at Lynn.

Her sphere of clotted darkness sped toward me, pulsing with a black light. My outstretched foot collided with it, causing it to instantly explode into wispy shadows. At the same moment a feeling of extreme pain lanced up my leg from the attack.

Lynn darted aside at the last moment and, with a sickening crunch, my kick connected with the hard ground. An agonized scream exploded from my throat and I clutched my leg in pain. Lynn snatched her chance, darting in and throwing her full weight against me, knocking me face-first into the dirt as I struggled to get up.

“Stop,” I snapped, snarling at her despite the tears of pain spilling down my filthy cheeks. Lynn simply bared her fangs in a cruel smile and repeated the attack, forcing a feeble cry of pain from my compressed lungs.

With one leg immobile, I curled up as tightly as I could to endure the attacks. The barrage abruptly ended as soon as it had begun, leaving a ringing silence in my ears.

I shakily lifted my head to see Lynn settling down on the grass, delicately licking one forepaw. “That was fun,” she commented mildly. “I enjoy a ridiculously easy battle once in a while.”

She’s so much stronger than she looks…

I stumbled to my feet, wincing as a bolt of pain split my injured leg but trying not to show a reaction. “One day I’ll make you pay,” I warned. “You’ll see. You won’t stand a chance against me.”

Lynn made an idle gesture, flicking her ears back casually. “Maybe so, but if a Fighting type like you can’t beat a Normal type like me, I doubt I have much to fear from you.”

*

Rarutos

The Kirlia looked so helpless as she lay in Marisa’s bed, the dirt cleaned away from her skin and the tangles combed out of her damp hair. Her sleeping face looked so innocent that I felt an almost motherly urge to protect her.

Having fallen asleep as Marisa bathed her in the bathroom basin, Selena had never heard our cries of shock and anger as Marisa and I discovered the terrible scars torn into her back. I was grateful for this; it was probably better if she didn’t know we had seen them. She was already timid; she would likely be afraid of the extra attention. Marisa, however, didn’t even think about this.

“Who could do such a terrible thing?” she whispered furiously, pacing back and forth in the hallway outside the rented room.

I cast another glance through the doorway to make sure Selena had not woken. “If some humans are as cruel as some Pokemon can be, I’m not surprised that she’s so mistrustful,” I commented.

Marisa nodded, confirming my suspicions. “Humans can be nasty sometimes, especially if they consider Pokemon to be inferior. It’s horrible what some of them will do. I’ve seen stories on the news about people who actually tortured or killed their Pokemon.”

“Tortured…” My gaze strayed past my trainer, down the empty hallway which led to the forbidden door. The agonized scream echoed in my memory and I shivered involuntarily.

“We can’t let her go back to Tyler,” Marisa announced. “I can raise her instead. If Tyler is beating her, we need to keep her as far away from him as possible. Maybe if I hid her inside a Poke Ball, he wouldn’t know she was with us even if we met him.”

Marisa paused in her relentless pacing, then swept past me and into the room. I edged around the door and found her digging through her bulging backpack. As she straightened up and approached Selena, I noticed the sunlight glinting off crimson metal in her fist.

“You should ask her first,” I pointed out. “She might be scared. If she’s afraid of going inside but you force her in, you’re being nearly as cruel to her as Tyler is.”

“I need to get her inside,” Marisa argued in a whisper. “If he comes back he might see her.”

“Wake her up and let her know what you’re doing!”

Marisa stretched out one hand and gently shook Selena by the shoulder. She stirred faintly, then her eyes flew open and she scrambled desperately away from Marisa. Before I could even move, her back was pressed against the wall and she was gazing at Marisa in terror, her chest fluttering with her quick, fearful breathing.

In a burst of telekinesis I materialized at her side, taking one trembling hand to soothe her. “You’re safe,” I promised. “We won’t hurt you. Marisa may be huge but she’s harmless.”

Selena cast another fearful glance over Marisa, alerting her to the fact that she was the subject of my comment. “What did you say about me?” she demanded of me.

“Nothing,” I replied innocently. “I’m trying to get her to trust us.”

Selena was calming down slightly, but when Marisa tried to take her other hand her fear returned. Immediately she pulled away from me, drew her legs close to her chest and wrapped her arms around her knees, adopting the posture of pure, primitive fear.

“I don’t think she trusts you as much as you thought she did,” I said, stating the obvious. “Either that or she knows that you plan on capturing her.” I spoke my words to the room at large and Selena immediately stiffened, arching her back and hiding her face in her knees.

“Now she does,” Marisa muttered darkly. She leaned close to Selena, pushing her hair behind one ear with her free hand. “Selena,” she crooned softly, “I want to help you, all right? I want to keep you away from Tyler, but I think the only way I can do that is to put you inside a Poke Ball.”

I half-expected Selena to teleport or attack Marisa, but her fear only showed itself in her increasingly ragged breathing. I was rather surprised by her docility.

She must’ve been through hell and back if she’s too scared to even attack Marisa.

I placed my hand comfortingly on Selena’s back. “Come on, it’s not that bad,” I encouraged. “You might like it! There’s no need to act like you’ve just met Giratina and Darkrai in a murky alley!”

“Maybe you should go inside your ball first,” Marisa suggested to me, “just to prove to her that it doesn’t hurt.”

I turned my murderous glare on Marisa and she recoiled instantly. “Sorry, but I think she trusts you,” she pointed out. “If you lead she might be willing to follow.”

“I’d like to see you try to get into one of those things,” I said darkly. “It’s a horrible feeling, worse than nightmares. You completely lose your sense of self.”

“Please, just do it to show Selena,” Marisa begged, retrieving my prison from the depths of her backpack. “I promise I’ll never make you go in again!”

Did I mention I hate you?



*~*~*




Half an hour of soothing words and one minute of unpleasant non-existence later, Selena still refused to enter the sphere in Marisa’s hand. My attention kept straying from my begging trainer and falling on the doorway, which had remained empty the entire time. As much as I hated to admit it, I was beginning to feel genuinely worried about the missing Stunky.

Eventually Marisa dropped her orb on the bed and heaved a sigh. “I give up. Nothing will make her go inside willingly.”

Selena edged away from the ball as though worried it might bite her or capture her of its own accord. Marisa glanced away from her briefly, following my gaze to the door.

“Did you see someone?” she asked.

I shook my head. “I though Sutanu would have come back by now. Do you think…”

“I’m sure he’s fine,” Marisa said, but she sounded uncertain.

We were so focused on Sutanu that we both jumped in shock when a blast of psychic energy sent the empty Poke Ball flying off the bed. I watched it clatter to the floor several feet away, then turned my gaze back to the bed. Selena had scrambled to hide under the blanket and was curled up beneath it, a trembling lump in the seemingly huge bed.

“We can’t leave her here alone,” Marisa said. “Raru, can you stay with her?”

I nodded. “Go and look for Sutanu. We’ll be all right here.”

“Thank you.” Marisa’s face relaxed briefly into a smile and then she was gone, Sutanu’s empty Poke Ball clutched in her fist, the door swinging closed behind her.

I approached the lump in the bed and placed one hand gently on it. “She’s gone. You can come out.”

The blanket was slowly pushed back, revealing first a mess of lime-green hair and then a pair of frightened blood-coloured eyes. I crawled under the blanket with Selena and hugged her comfortingly.

“Think of me as your sister, if it makes you feel better,” I told her. “Your little sister won’t let anything bad happen to you. I know how to handle Marisa, so I won’t let her hurt you. I promise.”

Selena blinked down at me, confused by my kindness. Again I felt a surge of pity; she must have had a hard life if she wasn’t used to being treated kindly.

“You should go back to sleep,” I told her, climbing out from beside her. She rested her head on the soft pillow and I drew the covers over her. She gazed at me with caution for a moment, but relaxed when I sat beside her and took her hand. With a quiet sigh, she drifted to sleep.

As soon as I knew she was fast asleep, I let go of her hand and teleported to the window ledge again. As my feet hit the edge I swayed, nearly losing my balance. A sneeze rocked my body and I began to fall, but I dropped down onto my belly and clutched the chipped wood until the world righted itself. Cautiously I edged into my usual position and stared outside in search of Sutanu.



*~*~*




I didn’t realize how long I had spent at that window until I noticed the sun beginning to set. The shadows grew longer and the sinking sun spilled amber light over the entire town, staining the lake a deep shade of gold. Most of the town’s inhabitants had gone home and the tourists had all found somewhere to spend the night, but Marisa still wandered between the houses in her fruitless search.

He can’t have gone that far… I should help her search. But I can’t leave Selena…

“Sutanu!” Marisa’s voice sounded faint and strained through the glass, but I could still clearly hear her calls. “Sutanu, where are you? Please come back to me! I’ll make you something nice to eat!”

Her calls went unanswered by all except a few shrieking Starly who soared overhead. I watched Marisa’s shoulders slump and saw her begin the walk back to the Pokemon Center, but she froze suddenly mid-step. Her head turned to the window of the shop near her.

Suddenly Marisa changed direction and raced to the shop, her attention fixed on one of the many posters in its window. This one showed a mass of words and numbers along with the photograph of a boy’s face. I leaned closer, straining to see; even from a distance I could see that his skin was extremely dark and his eyes held a solemn expression.

Marisa’s eyes sped over the words and I watched the colour drain from her face. Her mouth opened, her lips forming an extremely impolite word.

Within moments my trainer was no longer outside. She raced at warp-speed to the hospital, exploded into the rented room and slammed the door closed behind her, not even caring that Selena jerked upright so fast that she nearly knocked herself out with her own knees.

“What’s wrong?” I demanded.

Her face still paler than mine, Marisa sped across the room and leaned close to me. “Remember that boy Will I told you about?” she whispered urgently.

I nodded, trying not to gag; her breath smelt worse than dead fish. What on earth did she have for lunch?

“I just read a wanted poster outside… and he was on it,” Marisa breathed in panic. “He… the police are after him and there’s a reward of thirty thousand dollars for his capture. He… oh, I can’t even say it!”

I gazed at my terrified trainer, beginning to feel even more worried than I had been before. That meeting… did he target her or something? Is he after her? Is he a stalker? If I ever see him, I have to protect Marisa from him.

Even if it means I have to kill, I can’t let him hurt my trainer.

Golden Riolu
May 9th, 2008, 05:18 PM
Three of the new characters who appear in this chapter are originally from an earlier story I may one day rewrite and post here. And one in particular is very special and important to me.

As usual, italics for Poke-speech, no italics for telepathy.


Chapter Eleven

Family Ties

Rarutos




I woke to a feeling of warmth and the sound of scratching. The first sight that greeted my bleary eyes was a slightly dusty window above me, with rays of early morning sunlight streaming in through the glass and illuminating the bare room. It took a moment for me to realize where I was, but eventually the events of the day before all fell into place in my mind.

I slowly levered myself up, slipping out from under the blanket on the floor. Marisa lay sprawled beside me, her breathing soft and steady, oblivious to my movement.

I gazed around the room until my eyes found the bed. Marisa had opted to sleep on the floor with me so Selena could be comfortable. At first glance it appeared that the bed was still inhabited, but I quickly realized that the bundle of blankets on top of it held no life.

Selena is gone? But… the door is still closed… did she maybe…?

My gaze was drawn to the crimson-topped sphere still resting near Marisa’s backpack. I approached it and hesitantly prodded at the single round button, half-expecting to be sucked inside, but nothing very dramatic happened. The ball sprang open; there was absolutely nothing inside.

I closed it again and scanned the room, finally noticing a faint movement beneath the bed. A pair of red eyes blinked fearfully at me from the shadows as I crossed the room. There was a frantic scuffling sound as Selena shuffled backward, away from me.

“Didn’t you trust me yesterday?” I asked. “Come on, I won’t hurt you. We’re sisters, remember? I’ll look after you, I promise.”

There was a moment of tense silence, then Selena slowly crawled out from beneath the bed. The early morning light fell over her body, illuminating the livid scars criss-crossing her back. A cloud of dust accompanied her into the light and a tiny spider dropped from her messy hair, scuttling back into the darkness.

I sneezed three times in quick succession as the dust reached me. “I hope you realize that you just wasted the bath Marisa gave you yesterday,” I told her. “She’ll want to give you another one now.”

Selena climbed to her feet, brushing dirt from her miniskirt-like garb and shaking her head to rid her hair of it. As she stretched one arm over her head and stifled a yawn with the other, I suddenly realized just how thin she was. Her slim arms and legs trembled continually, her cheeks were pinched and her body was so thin that all of her ribs were visible through her pale skin.

“Do you ever eat?” I demanded. Selena recoiled slightly at my tone and I hurriedly lowered my voice, not wanting to scare her. “Did your trainer starve you or something? Why are you so thin? And what’s with the scars on your back? Come on, you can tell me. I promise I won’t tell Marisa.”

Selena shook her head nervously, allowing her hair to fall across her face. She took a few steps back until she bumped into the edge of the bed, then turned and scrambled up onto it.

As I turned to talk to Marisa I noticed the scratching sound again. A quiet knock accompanied it; someone was outside. Selena’s eyes widened in silent fear and she drew the covers over her head as Marisa lurched upright, her own blanket falling around her feet. “Coming!” she called, stumbling to the door.

She yanked the door open and immediately a familiar stench assaulted my nose. At the same moment Marisa squealed in delight, scooping up the heap of purple fur at her feet and hugging it close to her chest. “Sutanu!” she cried. “Thank Arceus you’re back!”

Slowly her gaze travelled over something else in the doorway. I crept closer and saw a boy of about fifteen years standing in the hallway, his clothes extremely muddy and his black hair full of dirt.

“I’m glad I found the right trainer,” he laughed. “I spent the last hour going from door to door in the town and no one would let me in. Of course, I can’t say I blame them,” he added sheepishly.

“Who are you?” Marisa asked suspiciously, clutching Sutanu close to her chest. He squirmed in her arms, attempting to get free.

“I’m Mark,” the boy said, offering his hand.

Marisa placed Sutanu on the floor and shook Mark’s hand. “I’m Marisa. Nice to meet you, Mark.”

Looking extremely ruffled, Sutanu edged around her and made himself comfortable on the discarded blanket. “Where were you?” I demanded, but Sutanu remained stubbornly silent.

“How did you find him?” Marisa asked. “I looked for him all of yesterday but I didn’t know where he was!”

“I found him in the Great Marsh,” Mark explained. “I couldn’t seem to capture him because my Safari Balls just bounced off him, so I guessed that he already had a trainer. He sprayed me when I tried to pick him up,” he added, flushing with embarrassment, “but I eventually got him to trust me with Eruri’s help.”

“Eruri?”

Mark glanced at something out of sight in the hallway. “Come here, both of you,” he said. “You should meet Marisa.”

The first Pokemon to appear by Mark’s side was unpleasantly familiar. I flinched at the sight of the dark fur, long ears and broad paws; a Lucario, although this one was female and seemed more gentle than the last. I suddenly felt a desire to hide under the blanket with Selena; the last thing I wanted to do was fight another Lucario.

The next Pokemon, although also familiar in appearance, immediately banished that urge. I couldn’t help a gasp at the sight of it: the slim body, delicate yet still rather solidly built; the ruby eyes, glittering with a permanent mischievous light; the long, lime-green hair, trimmed to just beneath the ears and drawn back from the creature’s face with a rather masculine emerald band.

A Kirlia? A male Kirlia… and he looks so…

Mark smiled and made a hand gesture toward Marisa. “Guys, this is Marisa. And Marisa, this is Ruka,” he said, motioning toward the Lucario, “and this is Eruri,” he finished, indicating the Kirlia.

Marisa smiled warmly at them. “Hello, Ruka and Eruri,” she said, offering her hand to each of them in turn. Ruka hesitated before shaking it, but Eruri immediately sank into a low bow and kissed the back of her hand.

I was finding it extremely difficult to breathe. Without pausing to think I teleported into the doorway; in my haste I missed my mark by a foot and collided with Marisa’s legs.

“I’m Ralts the Rarutos,” I announced in telepathy as I rushed to stand before Eruri. He gazed at me in amusement and I felt the blood rush to my cheeks. “I mean I’m Rarutos the Ralts,” I corrected quickly. “I’m meet to please you, Eruri.”

“You’re meat to please him?” Marisa hissed under her breath.

“No, I… what?”

“I’m pleased to meet you too, Rarutos,” Eruri told me, taking my hand and bowing once more. A thrilling tingle raced up my arm from the place where his lips lightly brushed my hand. I suddenly felt strangely light-headed; for a moment I thought I was going to pass out.

Marisa shook her head wearily, looking rather annoyed by my antics. “As you’ve heard, this is Rarutos,” she informed the boy. “And the Stunky you found is named Sutanu.”

Eruri moved aside to make room for his trainer as Mark crouched down before me. “Nice to meet you, Rarutos. And Sutanu,” he added, gazing past me at the heap of rumpled fur on the blanket. I simply nodded to acknowledge his presence, and when he received no verbal reply from either of us he climbed to his feet once more.

“Why don’t we talk outside?” he suggested. “I think Sutanu’s smell will linger if I stay inside for much longer.”

“All right. The three of you, follow me,” Marisa called over her shoulder as she followed Mark. Unwilling to be left behind, I teleported ahead of her and struggled to keep up with Eruri. He smiled as he watched me but didn’t offer to help.

Even if he offers I’ll refuse; I have to prove myself good enough for him.

We emerged into the early morning sunlight and Mark headed directly for a patch of grass where we could sit, but Marisa hesitated. She glanced back; Sutanu was following, but Selena had not come out after us.

“You can get comfortable here,” she said, stepping back toward the door. “I’m going to get Selena.”

“Selena?” Eruri echoed, alerted by the sound of the name. I barely even noticed that he had spoken in telepathy for the first time.

“Are you sure it’s safe?” I asked Marisa. “If Tyler comes…”

“We’ve got Sutanu,” Marisa said confidently. “Tyler won’t dare to try anything.”

I made myself comfortable beside Eruri, who was still watching the doorway intently. Ruka had settled down beside Mark, gazing mistrustfully at Sutanu. We sat there in silence for a moment longer, until Marisa emerged from the hospital again, Selena curled up in her arms.

Eruri was suddenly not beside me any more. I glanced up in shock to see him racing toward Marisa, crying out, “Selena!”

Selena’s eyes widened in shock and she wriggled free of Marisa’s grip. The moment her feet touched the ground she leaped into Eruri’s embrace. I felt a surge of jealousy until I heard Eruri whisper, “Oh, sis… it’s been too long.”

He’s her brother?! I hope I’m not really her sister… unless he’s her half-brother and I’m her half-sister on the other side, so we’re both related to Selena but not to each other. That would be okay.

I was snapped out of my complicated thoughts by Marisa’s startled exclamation. “She’s his sister?!”

“Sort of.” Mark had climbed to his feet and was approaching the embracing pair. I hurried to join them, not wanting to be left out.

“Eruri told me a while ago that she was his half-sister,” Mark explained. “They share the same mother, Isabelle, but they have different fathers. Eruri’s father was a male Gardevoir named Ry. Ry was accidentally killed in a fight defending his partner and she was then taken by the challenging Gallade, whose name was Storm. Storm was apparently Selena’s father, but he spent a lot more time with his other partners so we both think that Selena is the only child from both of those parents.”

That’s one heck of a family history. It took a while for the name to penetrate my mind, but the realization hit me like a Thunder attack. Suddenly I rushed to hug Selena, crying out joyfully, “We’re sisters! Storm was my father too!”

“How do you know that?” Marisa asked suspiciously.

“My mother told me.” For once I was proud to admit my mother’s name because it meant that Eruri was not my brother. “My mother was named Tiara,” I said happily, savouring the delight in realizing that Selena really was my sister. A moment later I realized something else; my guess had been right.

Maybe my telepathy is getting stronger.

“Well, that’s quite a coincidence,” Mark laughed.

Eruri gazed up at him solemnly. This time I noticed that his telepathy was patchy, as though he was still learning to speak English. “No coincidence. Destiny. Arceus lead us together so brother sister find each other.”

Mark nodded, a thoughtful look in his eyes. “You’re right. After all, destiny is probably the strongest force in the universe; stronger even than gravity, or-” he cast an amused glance over Eruri and myself, “attraction.”

I looked away from Eruri, feeling my cheeks burn again from sheer embarrassment. Eruri quickly took a few steps away from me, mortified, his entire face steadily turning beet-red.

Marisa laughed at our reaction and even Selena gave a brief smile as she glanced between us. Eruri reached out and grabbed my wrist, indicating silently that he wanted to talk to me in private.

“Don’t do anything naughty to her,” Mark warned Eruri, but he was smiling. Eruri blushed harder and led me a short distance from the group.

He stopped when we were out of earshot and I turned to him, noticing again how beautiful his eyes were. He released my hand and brushed his hair back shyly. “Look, I don’t really know what I can say to avoid upsetting you,” he began, “but I’m not interested.”

My stomach felt like it had sunk into my feet. “What do you mean? Do you have a girlfriend already?”

“No, but you’re not really right for me. I mean, I’ve got a trainer and you’ve got a trainer, and we’ll travel separately…”

“I’ll run away from Marisa!” I said eagerly. “I’ll come with Mark to be with you!”

Eruri shook his head firmly. “No. It’s not right to abandon your trainer. And…” He paused, struggling to think of something else to say. “I’m not interested in you because you’re a Ralts. Having not yet evolved is a sign of immaturity. You’re probably not even past childhood, but I’m seven years old. You’re too young for me.”

My heart dropped even lower than my stomach. “Can’t you just give me a go?” I begged. “We might be perfect for each other! Just let me try to earn your love…”

Eruri silenced me with one hand over my mouth. “I’m not interested,” he said firmly, turning to rejoin the others. I stood and watched him walk away, my vision splintered into a thousand fragments by the tears that filled my eyes.


*~*~*



“Are you ready?”

I nodded glumly in response; Marisa had been asking that question the whole way to the Gym. I trailed behind Sutanu as he followed Marisa loyally, never moving more than a foot away from her.

“Selena, have you ever been inside a Gym before?” Marisa asked excitedly, glancing down at the green-haired bundle in her arms. Terrified of Sutanu and Mark (or maybe keeping away from them because of the smell), Selena had even refused to walk beside Eruri, and Eruri would not come closer to walk with her because he would have to be near me. He, Mark and Ruka trailed behind us, Mark chatting animatedly to his two Pokemon even though it was obvious that neither was listening.

“Here we are!” Marisa announced.

I lifted my gaze to the enormous Gym standing before us, almost directly in the centre of the small town. The sunlight glinted off the broad, sheet-iron roof, a complete contrast to the grey rock walls beneath it. Marisa approached the tall doors and turned back to us suddenly.

“Are you coming with us?” she asked Mark.

He nodded. “Sure. I don’t have the badge from this Gym yet. Eruri lost the last time we were here, so I decided to come back when Ruka evolved. Since she managed it last month,” Mark glanced fondly at the Lucario, who returned his smile self-consciously, “I decided to try again. Wake has three Pokemon, and since we only have two each we can both battle with at least one.”

Marisa glanced down at Selena. “But I have three!”

“She won’t battle,” I told my trainer. “Her trainer used to beat her when she lost, so now she won’t fight at all for fear of being punished. I read her mind,” I added in response to Marisa’s confused expression.

“That’s not nice,” Marisa chided. “What if she doesn’t want you to read her mind?”

Selena lifted her head and blinked down at me, horrified. “I didn’t hear anything you don’t want me to hear,” I reassured her.

“Are we going in?” Mark asked.

Marisa nodded. “Sure.” Holding Selena close to her with one hand, she reached out and pressed her other palm against the door. It creaked and gave way steadily as she leaned her weight against it.

Immediately a chilling artificial breeze struck us, bringing with it a strong chemical smell. I immediately began to cough harshly, my throat burning as though I had swallowed fire. Marisa looked down at me anxiously. “Are you all right?”

I drew a deep, shaky breath and nodded forcefully. If I fight and win in this battle, Eruri might decide that I’m strong enough for him. “I’m fine,” I said.

Marisa shoved the door open further and stepped inside, her mud-caked shoes tapping on grey rock. Sutanu and I followed, looking around apprehensively. The walls and ceiling were also grey stone, lined with vents at intervals to blow out the chilling air and prevent moisture from condensing on the rock. Directly in the centre of the Gym an enormous pool was sunk into the floor and filled almost completely with clear water. Several small platforms, barely big enough for Ruka to stand on, floated idly on the surface.

Marisa crouched down and let Selena out of her arms. The Kirlia was beginning to look extremely nervous, but she relaxed when my hand slipped into hers. “I won’t let her make you fight,” I promised.

“Where’s Crasher Wake?” Marisa whispered.

A jet of bubbles burst on the surface of the pool, startling everyone. Moments later two heads broke out of the water. One of them I recognized as belonging to Crasher Wake, the man I had seen clearing away the fog the day before. The other, broad, flabby and blue-skinned, belonged to a Pokemon.

“Challengers!” Wake exclaimed, immediately striking out for the edge of the pool. He heaved himself out and climbed to his feet in one quick motion, water streaming off his broad body. His headdress was gone and his clothes had been discarded in favour of a simple pair of aqua-blue swimming shorts.

“You’ve come to challenge me, of course?” the man inquired. “Both of you?”

“Of course!” Mark said boldly, stepping in front of Marisa. “You have three Pokemon and each of us only has two, so we’ll challenge you together!”

Wake’s eyes swept over us and a frown tugged at the corners of his mouth. “I count five Pokemon,” he pointed out. “Only three may be used in this battle.”

“Selena won’t fight,” Marisa said immediately, placing one hand reassuringly on Selena’s shoulder. She glanced anxiously at Mark and lowered her voice to a whisper. “Which three will we use? One of us will have to use only one Pokemon.”

“Why don’t you leave Rarutos out?” Mark suggested in a low murmur. “She was coughing when we came in. I don’t think you should make her fight when she’s sick.”

Leave me out? There’s no way I’m staying out of this battle! I need to make Eruri notice me!

“I’m going to fight,” I said firmly, “whether you like it or not.”

“Can both of your Pokemon fight?” Marisa asked her new friend. “Sutanu has been living wild for most of yesterday so he’s probably not in the best shape for battles.”

Mark hesitated, his gaze travelling between Sutanu and myself. I planted my feet firmly and glared stubbornly up at him until he finally nodded. “All right,” he said reluctantly. “You can leave Sutanu out. If Rarutos starts to cough again, though, you should pull her out of the battle.”

“Of course,” Marisa said quickly. She glanced anxiously down at me and added, “I don’t want a repeat of the last Gym battle.”

She held out Sutanu’s Poke Ball and watched him dissolve into a beam of crimson light before crouching down to me, her expression worried. “Don’t try to pretend that you’re fine this time,” she told me. “If you feel sick or weak and can’t fight, I won’t think any less of you. Promise you’ll tell me the truth.”

“I promise,” I sighed, rolling my eyes. “I’m not a baby any more. I’m perfectly capable of fighting for myself. I was doing it long before we met.”

“I understand that. Do you want to go first?”

I hesitated. If I go first, I won’t be able to beat that Gyarados. But if I go second after Ruka so that Eruri is still watching, I might just be able… especially if…

I turned to the tall canine standing behind me. “Why don’t you go first?” I suggested. “You’ll impress your trainer if you can beat them all yourself!”

Excitement dawned in the Lucario’s eyes and she turned eagerly to Mark, tugging at his sleeve. She did not speak but Mark seemed to understand by simply looking into her eyes. “Ruka wants to go first,” he told Marisa. “Is that all right?”

“Sure!”

Mark turned to the huge man standing at the opposite end of the Gym. “We’re ready,” he announced. “The Pokemon we’ll be using are my Lucario, my Kirlia and Marisa’s Ralts.” He nodded to Ruka and she darted to the edge of the pool, her entire body tense with excitement.

Wake nodded. “Three-on-three battle. No breaks are permitted, but items may be used at any time. Is that clear?”

“We understand,” Mark said, his face already settling into a determined expression almost identical to Ruka’s.

Wake swung his arm in a sweeping motion and the Pokemon at his feet responded, its broad blue-skinned body sliding easily under the water. Its rounded tail, edged with the same sapphire fin that extended down its back, surfaced briefly as it dived, its stubby feet and arms pushing the water behind it.

“The battle has begun,” Wake announced calmly.

Naito
May 9th, 2008, 05:35 PM
Oh yea, I remember this and some of your other stories on SPPF, along with Fan-Fiction. It's all good by the looks of it, and you're getting bonus points for featuring the Ralts-line, whom have always been a favorite of mine.

Despite the lack of reviews, there are a few readers of these type of stories, and I'm one of them. So um, keep up the good work, I guess.

Golden Riolu
May 12th, 2008, 05:39 PM
There is a scene in this chapter which could be considered ‘adult’, but first I’d like to say that it doesn’t get as bad as it could be. But the second half of the chapter will make up for it! (Apart from all the violence near the end…)

BTW, sorry in advance for my portrayal of Force Palm. I have neither played Brawl nor seen the Veilstone Gym episodes, so I see the attack differently to what other people do. And please forgive me for altering the laws of science in relation to water and electricity. I couldn’t have Rarutos electrocuting everyone.

Italics and brackets for Poke-speech, no italics for telepathy.



Chapter Twelve





Time For A Change





Selena




All was silent for a moment, but suddenly Ruka crouched low and leaped into the air. At the same moment the opponent’s head broke the surface, its wide mouth opening to spit a powerful stream of water at Ruka. Completely missing its target, the jet struck the wall behind us and sent icy droplets flying in every direction. Ruka’s feet hit one of the floating platforms and she landed in a crouch, the platform swaying ominously but supporting her weight.

A shudder raced through my body as the droplets splattered my back, reminding me horribly of the many battles I had endured with my first trainer. I fled to Marisa’s side and hid my face in her leg like a young child.

“Don’t worry,” Marisa soothed, reaching down to stroke my hair. “I won’t make you fight. You won’t have to fight again until you’re ready.”

Rarutos was standing motionless, her eyes closed and her expression solemn, as though she was concentrating hard on something. I could barely see the faint glimmer of psychic energy surrounding her body.

I think I might know what she’s planning… could she be getting ready…?

“Quagsire, try Water Gun again,” Wake ordered.

“Aura Sphere!” Mark commanded.

Balancing precariously on the platform, Ruka slowly brought her hands together before her. A glint of light shone between them, growing rapidly into a sphere of pulsing golden light. As Quagsire’s head broke the surface and it fired off another burst of water, Ruka directed the orb at it.

I flinched as the two attacks collided, exploding in a blast of light and water. Violent waves lapped over the side of the pool, drenching the floor and all of us. Thrown off-balance, Ruka swayed alarmingly and toppled into the water with a crash.

Rarutos shook droplets of icy water from her head and gasped for air, her concentration broken. “Oh, you’re really going to get it for that,” she snarled in a low voice. “As soon as I get my focus back…” Her eyes closed again and she drew several deep breaths, her violet aura intensifying dramatically.

Ruka’s head broke the surface and she gasped for breath, kicking desperately to keep herself afloat. She clutched at the nearest board and attempted to scramble on top of it, but her cry of pain indicated that Quagsire had attacked from beneath.

I don’t like this… all this fighting… it scares me.

My grip tightened on Marisa’s leg and I felt her hands close around me, lifting me into her arms. “It’s all right, Selena,” she said comfortingly.

Ruka threw her head back and cried out in pain, then kicked hard and managed to scramble onto the board. Her dark fur was plastered flat to her body and blood flowed freely from a long gash just above her tail.

“Attack it, Ruka!” Mark called urgently. “Force Palm!”

As the creature burst from the water behind her, Ruka swung around to face it. Still on her knees, she brought one arm forward and her paw struck Quagsire a powerful blow to the head. It vanished again and Ruka clung, panting, to the platform for a moment as she waited for its next attack. When none came, she took the chance to shake the water from her body like a dog.

Suddenly the pool seemed to explode as Quagsire leaped out, tackling Ruka with its entire body. She yelled in shock just before her back hit the water with a loud splash.

The water was churned into a foam as both Pokemon thrashed, making it impossible to see what was happening. I shivered and clung tightly to Marisa as I watched the violent fight.

I hate fighting…


Ruka’s head briefly broke the surface as she gasped for breath. Her scream of pain echoed through the Gym, rebounding off the tiled walls and bouncing back at us from every direction. I froze as a memory from my past flooded my mind, making me tremble and break into a cold sweat.

No… I don’t want to remember that day… anything but that day…




*~*~*




The silence was deafening, pressing down upon my ears as the darkness pressed upon my eyes. I blinked desperately and strained my eyes in a desperate attempt to see something. The only sound I could hear was my own rapid breathing, interrupted only occasionally by a helpless whimper. I had been trapped here for almost a week and the blackness had remained mostly unchanged, broken only by the cold artificial light which was turned on for the heavyset worker who brought me a small bowl of filthy water twice a day.

My left hand was wrapped tightly around one of the cold steel bars keeping me in this prison. I felt for the next bar with my right hand, ignoring the pain that coursed through my broken wrist despite the stiff bandage tied around it. I still didn’t understand why Kevin had immobilized my wrist; he had told me that he wanted it to heal straight, but I suspected that he wanted me to be able to use that arm again after it healed. He still wanted me to fight for him.

I curled up tightly in my corner, my back to the bars, feeling the cold metal send splinters of pain through the recent wounds on my back. I once again leaned my head against the wall of my prison, my filthy hair falling into my eyes. The smell of sweat assailed my nostrils, but I was grateful for anything to block out the worse stench of the corner I had been forced to use as a bathroom.

Another whimper escaped my throat as I gripped my empty belly. I was weak with hunger after so long without any food, but I would still be able to last for a while longer on the muddy water I was given. As the thought entered my mind I fell upon the steel bowl beside me, my swollen tongue desperately searching out the last few drops. I swallowed eagerly but was rewarded only with a few grains of dirt to scratch my parched throat.

The silence was broken abruptly by the sound of footsteps. I instantly scrambled away from the bowl, knowing that the worker would not refill it if I was touching it. He considered me to be dirty, although I could hardly blame him for that.
The footsteps grew louder as the person approached. The door swung open and the room was suddenly flooded with cold, artificial light from the room beyond. I shielded my eyes and squinted at the silhouette, realizing suddenly that the person was too slim to be the worker.

I blinked hard in the dazzling light and gazed around at the many steel boxes and empty cages piled around me. This was one of many storerooms from the main warehouse and I was the only living creature imprisoned inside. My cage was reasonably small, but large enough for me to still fit inside - albeit uncomfortably - if I happened to evolve during my imprisonment.

The figure flicked a switch and a fluorescent light burst into life above me. The door closed with a thud and I suddenly recognized the dark skin, pale hair and cold eyes of my trainer. I trembled involuntarily and shrank back, fear coursing through my veins as it did whenever I saw him.

“Master… m-master… why are you here…?” I trailed off; he could not understand me. Instead, I simply watched as he approached my cage.

A cruel smile played around his mouth as he drew a set of rusty keys from his pocket. He selected one, crouched down and fitted his key into the heavy padlock, turning it with a loud click.

With a creak and a scrape of disused hinges, the cage door reluctantly swung open. Kevin reached inside with one hand and I shrank away from him, but his fingers closed around my arm. I moaned in fear as I was dragged from the cage and flung onto the floor.

“Are you enjoying your stay?” Kevin asked mockingly as he leaned over me. His deep voice sent chills up my spine and I attempted to stand, but my entire body was trembling and weak. His smile vanishing without a trace, Kevin swung one foot and kicked my legs out from beneath me. My face slammed into the stone floor and the unpleasantly salty taste of blood filled my mouth.

“Still want to run away?” the spiteful voice demanded.

I allowed the blood to trickle onto the floor and drew a shuddering breath. “No, master. I’m sorry.” My voice rasped in my dry throat and the strong taste of blood lingered on my tongue, warm and wet, enticing me to quench my thirst. Before I could stop myself, I swallowed the last traces and felt my empty stomach heave in protest.

“There’s no point in running away,” Kevin hissed, crouching over me. His hand gripped my shoulder and I was dragged forcefully onto my back. My bruised face ached as I gazed up fearfully at him.

“There’s nowhere to run,” he breathed, his fingers moving through my matted hair. I flinched from his touch; somehow it felt gentle and menacing at the same time.

“I won’t hurt you,” Kevin purred into my ear, his hands now caressing my body. He ran one finger slowly over my side, feeling each protruding rib. I shivered and attempted to scramble backward, but he gripped my shoulder to hold me still.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he demanded. “I captured you, trained you and looked after you for seven years, so you belong to me.”

My breathing was shallow and ragged; I felt as though iron bands were constricting my chest. A faint whimper escaped me as I gazed up, terrified, into Kevin’s face. He was still holding me motionless with one hand, but his other strayed to his belt.

“And now… you’re mine.”

I flinched again as the buckle came free and closed my eyes automatically, expecting a beating, but none came. I opened my eyes hesitantly to see him toss the belt aside, its buckle clattering loudly on the stone floor. Suddenly, in a terrible flash of clarity, I knew what was coming.

In an instant, the submissive nature he had beaten into me was gone and I began to thrash with all of my strength, shoving his hand away and kicking desperately at him. I attempted to scream but, like the worst nightmare, my voice had failed.

As his hands pinned my shoulders to the floor, immobilizing my arms, I finally found my voice. My screams reverberated around the storeroom, filling my ears and making the walls vibrate with the sound of pure fear.



*~*~*




“Selena? What’s wrong?”

My fists tightly gripped Marisa’s shirt, my breathing was harsh and loud and my face was drenched with the sweat of panic. I felt violent shudders wracking my entire body as the memory consumed me.

Marisa looked up desperately at Mark, who was focused completely on the fight in the water. “Mark, what should I do?”

Mark tore his eyes away from Ruka for an instant and I met his gaze, my terrified eyes gazing deep into his solemn ones. I couldn’t even hear the battle over my own rapid breathing.

“She’s having a panic attack,” Mark said immediately. “The fight probably brought back a bad memory. Take her outside and let her calm down.”

Clutching me close to her chest, Marisa rushed for the door and threw her shoulder against it. She burst out into the bright sunlight as the door swung open. I felt the warm light streaming over my body, drying my sweat and bringing my mind back from the dark and cold warehouse in my memory.

Marisa leaned against the wall and held me close, stroking my hair and whispering reassuring words to me as I slowly calmed down. The memories were receding, the warmth of the sunlight banishing the last traces of fear.

“There’s nothing to be scared of,” Marisa soothed. “Do you feel any better now?”

I met her gaze and saw the concerned expression she wore. She truly cares about me… she actually wants me to feel safe. That must be rare among humans. I was lucky to meet her.

I leaned my head against her chest, feeling her steady heartbeat against my cheek. I drew deep, shuddering breaths of the warm air and felt it chasing away the last of my fear. When I raised my head again I knew she could see that I was calm.

“That’s good,” Marisa said. “Are you ready to go back inside or do you want to stay out here?”

Marisa will want to go back to Mark and Rarutos… I don’t want her to leave me here by myself. I want to be with my brother and sister again.

I pointed at the Gym door and Marisa turned to go back inside. The moment the door opened I saw that the battle had progressed. Quagsire and Ruka were both gone from the pool, which was instead inhabited by an enormous sea serpent with vicious eyes and a gaping mouth.

“Which Pokemon are you going to use?” Wake bellowed.

Mark didn’t reply; he seemed to be listening to something. It took me a moment to notice Rarutos standing before him, her arms crossed and a furious expression on her face. She seemed to be communicating with him in telepathy.

“What’s going on?” Marisa asked, approaching her friend.

Mark glanced up, his concentration broken. “Rarutos wants to go next,” he informed Marisa.

I noticed a strong telekinetic haze hovering around Rarutos, even stronger than before. The humans didn’t seem able to see it, but I noticed Eruri watching her curiously. I could tell from the intensity of the haze that Rarutos was nearly ready and still focusing her mind.

“I know I can do it,” Rarutos said stubbornly. “I have to go next.”

“As long as you feel ready to fight,” Marisa said.

Without another word Rarutos vanished, reappearing on a platform in the pool. It rocked beneath her, pushed back and forth roughly by the waves created as the serpent thrashed. She stood firm and gazed boldly into the creature’s eyes.

“This is for Eruri!” she cried, raising her arms to charge a bolt of electricity.



*





Rarutos




I hurled the bolt of lightning directly at Gyarados, feeling grateful that Ruka had already weakened the monster. It reared back and roared as the lightning raced through its body, but I was barely aware of it. My vision was swimming and I could barely aim.

Why do I feel so lightheaded…? Is this normal? Maybe I was focusing too hard…


I could still sense the violet aura that enveloped my body slowly growing stronger. I was concentrating hard on increasing it, siphoning off any extra energy into it.

I can feel it… it’s working… I’m nearly ready…


Gyarados’s eyes flashed with rage as it lunged, its gaping jaw aimed at me. I automatically evaded the attack, teleporting myself onto another floating board. With my arms over my head again I began to charge another electric attack.

Wait a minute… something’s happening…


I’m ready! It’s happening!


A deafening roar shook the Gym as the lightning struck Gyarados. The sound was cut off abruptly, as though I had gone deaf. I saw Marisa’s eyes widen in shock before my sight vanished as a blinding white haze filled my vision.

This is for you, Eruri!


The sparkling glow enveloped my entire body and I felt it flow beneath my skin, flooding me with sudden energy, changing my body. For a moment it was as though my physical self vanished completely; my mind floated free in the air, feeling changes but not really registering them. I sensed parts of my brain changing, broadening my abilities for telekinesis, transforming the parts of my mind that controlled my limbs.

I felt my mind flutter back into my body, then my vision returned as the light faded. As the last glimmering particles vanished into the air, I raised my arms over my head and stretched them.

Wait a minute… these aren’t my arms! It must’ve worked!


I… evolved!


I glanced down at myself, shocked. Lime-green hair fell into my eyes as I moved and I shoved it back with my slender hands. My new miniskirt-like garb fluttered around my slim legs as I took a step. Unaccustomed to my new weight and delicateness, I abruptly tripped over my own legs and fell into the pool with a splash.

Oh, great, I evolved into a klutz. I just embarrassed myself in front of Eruri!


The opponent wasn’t waiting for me to orient myself with my new body; I immediately felt a sudden sharp pain in my back as rough scales tore at me. A burst of bubbles left my mouth in a pained scream and I twisted around, narrowly avoiding Gyarados as it charged past me again.

I kicked hard and strained to reach the surface. My head finally burst out of the water and I sucked in a deep breath, feeling it flow easily into my new lungs. Strong-smelling water streamed from my long hair as I crawled onto one of the floating boards, clinging to it desperately to get my breath back.

The water exploded behind me and I spun around, barely hearing Marisa call out her command. My hand was already in the air and I felt the twin horns on my head glow with psychic energy. A burst of glittering emerald leaves materialized before my hand, spinning through the air to strike Gyarados several powerful blows.

The serpent reeled back and, with a pained roar, collapsed in the pool. I flinched as waves crashed over me, drenching me once again.

“Yeah!” Marisa cheered, leaping into the air. I jumped in shock; I had completely forgotten her.

“Great job, Raru!” she cheered. “You evolved and you beat Gyarados!”

“This battle isn’t over yet, young lady,” Wake warned, slipping the sphere into his pocket. He drew out a third one and tossed it into the air, where it burst open and spilled a torrent of light into the water.

I’m getting a headache… I’ve had enough of white light to last me a lifetime. Now I know why Selena never evolved into Gardevoir.

The water burst upward as a creature exploded out of it, landing lightly on its hind legs on a nearby platform. It closely resembled the Buizel that Sutanu had defeated the morning before, but it was much larger. The blue fins on its forearms had grown and its saffron collar had transformed into a sort of inflatable raft along its sides.

“Floatzel, Crunch!” Wake ordered.

“Raru, use Shock Wave!” Marisa called.

I was still struggling to get my breath back. Floatzel easily cleared the distance between us in one bound, landing on all fours beside me. In the same instant it swept me up in its jaws and I screamed in agony, feeling the sharp fangs tear at my skin as it shook its head.

Have to fight… have to impress Eruri…


My breath rasped in my throat and I felt the strength leave my body. Marisa cried out in despair as I surrendered to the fatigue, allowing myself to fall limp. My vision was swimming; my eyes blinked once and closed.

I can’t… I’m sorry…


Another shuddering breath wracked my body and I felt Floatzel shake its head one last time, releasing me suddenly. My back hit the water and it folded over me, drawing me into its deadly embrace. Automatically I held my breath, feeling myself sink slowly.

Why am I still conscious…? I can barely form coherent thoughts…


Suddenly the rush of energy from my evolution flooded back into my body. My eyes flew open and I kicked hard, feeling my feet brush the tiled floor as I pushed myself through the water. The last bubbles left my mouth barely a second before my head broke the surface and I drew a deep breath, feeling the icy air fill my limbs with new energy.

“Rarutos!” Marisa cried in delight. “You’re okay!”

I’m more than okay. I feel… reborn!


A growl escaped Floatzel’s throat when it saw me. It slid easily into the pool and vanished beneath the surface, no doubt headed directly for me. I filled my lungs and dived once more, this time completely in control.

I could barely see; the chemicals in the water burned my eyes, but I could make out an orange blur racing toward me. I kicked and darted aside as Floatzel sped past, but it twisted around and charged again. I felt a pulsing telekinetic aura surround my body as another flurry of leaves materialized, slicing through the water and colliding with the otter.

A scarlet cloud filled the water as I surfaced for another breath. Floatzel was not far behind; not at all hindered by its injuries, it leaped from the water and slammed into me. I felt its jaws close around my waist again and we both vanished beneath the water.

I squirmed desperately in Floatzel’s grip as ice-cold fangs dug into me, ripping jagged tears in my skin. This time the cloud of blood we descended through was my own.

Eruri…


I thrashed frantically, trying to break free from its grip. The jaws closed tighter and a bolt of icy pain arced through my body, chilling my blood and draining my strength away. As the frozen bite compressed my lungs, I felt the last of my breath leave in a stream of bubbles.

I can’t… do this… it’s going to… kill me…


My entire body convulsed violently and I involuntarily sucked water into my lungs. In a sudden panic, I fought wildly with all my strength as I began to drown. Floatzel simply held me down, enjoying my panic as my energy began to leach away once more.

Can’t breathe… why isn’t Marisa recalling me? She’s just going to let me die…


More water flowed into my lungs and I gagged on the chemical taste. My vision was swimming again and I felt my consciousness slipping away.

Someone, help… I don’t want to die…




*~*~*




“What are you doing here?”

I spun around desperately, my eyes scanning my dark surroundings. I stumbled on my new legs but quickly regained my balance, searching for the source of the voice.

“Who are you?” I cried.

“Tell me…”

The deep voice chilled me to my bones, sending shudders of fear through my body. “I don’t know why I’m here!” I called. “I was in a battle… I was drowning… and suddenly I was here! Who are you and what do you want with me?”

“Who are you?”

“Rarutos!” I yelled, nearly crying with desperation. “I’m Rarutos the Ra- the Kirlia!”

I staggered and my knees collided with the ground, jolting my bones painfully. I remained on my knees, panting and listening for the voice. After a moment’s pause it spoke again, sounding rather surprised.

“Rarutos? But… you are so much like her…”

“Who? And who are you?”

At first the voice did not answer and I thought it had vanished. I knelt on the hard ground, feeling cold stone under my hands and hearing only my rough breathing. Eventually the voice spoke again, its words more gentle this time.

“I thought you were your sister, Selena. My name is Storm. Rarutos… I’m your father.”

Golden Riolu
May 20th, 2008, 06:06 PM
I haven’t been writing much recently, plus I seem to spend a lot of time thinking about… someone special to me. Erm, three ‘someones’. So the next chapter might take a while again. But, on the other hand, I’m up to writing Chapter Seventeen! And, three fairly well-known characters make a comeback in this chapter!

Now, the first part of this chapter contains a bit of gore, so please put down anything you might be eating. I won’t pay for you to buy a new keyboard.

Italics for Poke-speech, no italics for telepathy.

Chapter Thirteen

Out Of Luck

Aurikara

My feet pounded the rough asphalt as I raced through the streets, scattering hot dogs everywhere as I ran. I gripped the last few tightly; no matter how much of a hurry I was in, I needed to bring something edible to my family.

I turned a corner in time to see two huge, black vehicles speed away, smoke belching from somewhere behind them, a dark canine form bounding in pursuit. The dog’s wide paws and the two wheels on each vehicle left behind trails of dark scarlet; a liquid that looked horribly like blood.

I froze for only a moment, then stepped hesitantly into the filthy alley. My sharp eyes registered the splatters of blood around the alley and suddenly locked onto the motionless figure lying a short distance away.

My heart nearly stopped as I moved closer to the figure, my breathing rapid with fear. A pool of blood was spreading quickly around the prone form. I suddenly dropped the last of my hot dogs, springing to my partner’s side in a single leap.

Delilah tilted her head back slightly as I touched her shoulder. Her breathing was ragged, blood spilling from the neat hole in her side. I gently touched the wound, ignoring the blood that stained my dark fur; I had lived around humans for long enough to know a bullet wound when I saw one.

I lifted my gaze from my partner and noticed the garbage cans scattered behind her. We had taken them from various parts of the city; they made up our home, the place where we slept and cared for our eggs. It took me barely a moment to notice that the inside of one was splattered with blood.

Forgetting about Delilah for a moment, I stepped over her prone form and crawled into the garbage can. Tears splintered my vision into fragments as I lifted the mutilated body of my son into my arms. His eyes were wide and blank and he wore an expression of terror, but my gaze was drawn to the bullet hole in his forehead. Blood dripped from the countless rips in his tiny body and fell into my lap. I cradled him close to my chest, ignoring the sickening crack that split the air as his head tilted to one side.

My gaze travelled past my dead son and fell on the remains of the two unhatched eggs. Both had been trampled beneath clawed paws, but the perfectly round bullet hole through the very centre of each was still clearly visible. I gazed in horror at the trickles of yolk oozing through wide holes and my stomach lurched unpleasantly at the sight of the broken, underdeveloped bodies of my two unborn children.

A quiet moan rose behind me and I turned, remembering Delilah. She was attempting to sit up, pushing feebly at the ground with her hands and struggling to lift her head. I gently replaced my son’s body on the ground and leaned over my partner.

“Delilah, what happened?” I asked. “Who did this?”

“It was… two humans riding motorcycles… and a Houndoom,” Delilah panted. “I sensed them and I tried to protect my children, but one of the humans shot me. Then they just stepped over me and… they shot the baby first, then the eggs. I screamed but Houndoom just started ripping at Riolu. Then… one of the humans hit me. I don’t remember any more.”

I gently touched the lump on her forehead and she winced, then struggled upright. I slid one hand behind her back, helping her to sit up and lean against one of the garbage cans.

“Are you all right?” I asked, my paws over her bullet wound in an attempt to stem the flow of blood.

“I’ll live. But Shadow…” She grabbed my wrist, gazing seriously into my eyes. “Shadow, what if they come back? We need to find somewhere safe to stay.”

“Why would they come back?”

Her eyes never left mine. “The Houndoom had a black aura. It was a Shadow Pokemon. I think… they want to make us Shadow Pokemon. Our species can control aura, so imagine how dangerous a Shadow Lucario would be.”

I shook my head and pressed harder on her wound. “It would never work. We could resist.”

“But… your anger… you couldn’t resist. Shadow… they’re after you.”

*~*~*

I emitted a faint whimper as I jerked my head up, frightened into wakefulness. Will glanced down at me briefly as I adjusted my position in his arms.

“Keep quiet,” he whispered to me. “The guards look pretty sleepy; I think we can slip past them if we don’t make a sound.”

My throat was burning with thirst, but I remained obediently silent. Will tucked me securely under one arm and edged around a huge stone figure, his eyes fixed on something beyond it. I glanced at the ground, startled to find that we were alone.

“Where are Bane and Lynn?”

“They’ve gone ahead,” Will whispered. “They won’t look out of place here. We have to stay together, though; you’ll look out of place anywhere, and they’re probably looking for people like me. Most kids are asleep at three in the morning.”

“Why don’t we go around the house instead of past it?”

“We are going around it,” he murmured. “The grounds are enormous. The owner of the mansion also owns half the path between Hearthome City and Pastoria City. I can’t avoid crossing his property unless I go right through Pastoria, Veilstone and Solaceon and come from the other direction. Quiet, now.”

I felt his muscles tense suddenly and he shrank into the shadows, one hand wrapped firmly around my muzzle. Moments later a tall human trudged wearily past, his dark clothes blending into the night, his torch illuminating only the ground at his feet.

“Slack,” Will whispered as soon as the guard was out of earshot. “All right, keep quiet and don’t struggle.”

He hesitated for a moment, watching the guard’s beam of light vanish behind another statue, then set off across the grass. His bare feet made almost no sound as he raced across the short grass, aiming for a row of perfectly shaped spiral topiary trees.

I held my body tense as Will vanished into the shadows, his eyes on the distant mansion, gripping me tightly beneath his arm. My breathing was quick with fear.

“We need to stay away from the guards,” Will whispered to me. “If we go around the mansion the long way, I think we can make it.”

He began to creep from tree to tree, moving quickly to cross the distance but pausing in the shadows. My throat felt like it was on fire, but I remained as silent as I could. I licked my dry lips and swallowed, but only succeeded in making it hurt even more.

“Master?” I said hesitantly. Will did not respond, his attention fixed completely on his task.

“Master, I’m thirsty,” I complained. “Can I-?”

“You’ll have to wait,” Will hissed.

“I feel dizzy,” I complained. It was true; I was beginning to feel lightheaded and my limbs were weak. I kicked feebly at Will’s arms in an effort to make him drop me, but his grip only tightened.

“Will…” I moaned, forgetting about the danger. Will’s hand closed around my muzzle again as he edged further into the darkness, his eyes searching for any sign that we had been noticed.

My vision dimmed slightly and I shook my head, clearing stars from before my eyes. In one brief moment I made a decision and sank my teeth into Will’s hand, causing him to draw a sharp breath and lose his grip on me. My feet hit the grass and instantly I was running, bounding on two legs at times and on four at others, limping slightly on my injured leg, aiming for a gigantic stone structure emitting the scent of water. I crouched low and sprang onto the side of the structure, my paws immediately finding a ledge and gripping it tightly.

I dragged myself up and the smell of fresh water nearly overwhelmed me. Before me a pipe sprayed water directly up into the air, where the droplets hung for a moment before falling into a wide pool with a splashing sound. I eagerly crawled to the edge and plunged my face into the water, savouring the feeling of the cool liquid flowing over my parched tongue as I swallowed as much as I could hold.

“Aura!” Will whispered harshly. “Come back before someone sees you!”

I reluctantly returned to the edge, but I moved no further. A feeling of vertigo gripped me suddenly and I swayed, my anxious gaze on the ground beneath me.

Was the ground that far away before?

“Aura!” Will hissed.

I took another step and hesitated; a fear I had never felt before was gripping me. I tried to move forward and found that I had completely frozen in place. A soft whimper escaped my throat and I shook my head despairingly.

With a quiet hiss of exasperation, Will edged forward into the open. The moonlight immediately washed over him, throwing a dark shadow behind him, but he ignored it. He took a few quick steps toward the fountain and stumbled, his foot accidentally kicking a dark shape protruding from the ground.

That was when our luck ran out.

As Will’s bare foot brushed against the object, a shrill ringing sound pierced the night air. An expression of shock and realization crossed Will’s face and he darted forward, his hands closing tightly around my waist. As he turned to flee, I glanced around him and saw five guards racing toward us across the short grass.

Will fled into the shadows, but the guards were hot on our trail. They were quickly closing in. Desperate, Will attempted to dodge around a group of trees and throw them off, but he burst into the open once again and immediately five spots of light were trained on us.

“Bane,” Will cried, “Eileen! I need you!”

Almost instantly a tiny, dark figure bounded into view, his pearl emitting a soft pink glow. I was startled by how fast Bane could move when he wanted to; he was at Will’s side in only seconds.

The air split open with a sharp crack, the aftermath causing my sensitive ears to ring, as something small collided with a tree near us. Will paused, his face pale, then finally came to a halt and spun to face his pursuers. He crouched down and placed me gently on the ground.

“I surrender!” he called, straightening up and raising his hands to shoulder level. “Just don’t hurt my Pokemon.”

The guards immediately surrounded him in a circle, two holding their torches steady and three aiming small, black, metallic devices at him. One of these three, a young woman with a steely expression in her eyes, drew a crumpled sheet of paper from her pocket and glanced at it.

“William Barren,” she murmured to her colleagues. “Ten years old, from Canalave City. The reward is thirty thousand dollars. Wanted for… holy Arceus…”

The man beside her leaned over to see and I watched his eyes grow wide in shock. “Don’t let him move anywhere,” he commanded the others. “We need to call the police.”

I suddenly became aware that Bane and Lynn were beside me. Bane glared fiercely at the guards, while Lynn looked infuriatingly casual and uncaring. I closed my eyes for a moment, then contacted them both with telepathy for the first time.

“You’re going away for a long time,” one of the men told Will. “Your little pets will probably go to an orphanage, so you won’t have to worry about them for much longer.”

“They’re fierce-looking things; maybe they’ll be put to death,” another commented, a cruel smile stretching over his face.

“But you probably like death, don’t you?” he shot at Will. “Maybe you’ll be allowed to watch over closed-circuit television and get your sick pleasure from it.”

I bared my sharp teeth in a fierce snarl and lunged at the nearest man, sinking my teeth into his knee. A flurry of movement told me that the other two had also attacked. A sharp cry of pain echoed in my ears from my victim as I launched a flurry of rapid punches, but something hard collided with my head and my jaws loosened. The ground rushed up to meet me, the grass doing little to cushion my fall.

“Vicious things, aren’t they?” the woman commented, kicking aside Bane’s lifeless body. I felt Lynn collapse nearby and blinked feebly up at the stars. They seemed to glow brighter as the darkness enveloped everything else.

“You didn’t need to hit it that hard,” another man laughed. “It’s going to have a headache fit for a Psyduck when it wakes up.”

I attempted a feeble growl but no sound escaped my throat. Moments later the stars gave one last glimmer and vanished, allowing the darkness to rush in and obliterate everything.

*

Rarutos

It is not your time to die…

No… not the right time…

Please come back…

“Raru, come back!”

I snapped back into my own body with a jolt. Immediately I became aware of a pressure on my chest, compressing my lungs. My entire body jerked involuntarily as foul-tasting water sprayed from my mouth.

Marisa’s relieved face swam into view above me. “Raru! You’re all right!”

Icy air rushed into my lungs and a violent fit of coughing took hold, making my throat burn and forcing the last of the water from my lungs. I felt a gentle hand tilt my head, allowing the water to spill from my mouth. I gasped for air and blinked forcefully, clearing away the stars before my eyes.

Before I could figure out where I was, I found myself in a tight hug. “I’m so glad you’re all right!” Marisa squeaked, her voice echoing from the stone walls around us. “I was so scared… I thought you were going to die!”

My entire body was trembling and weak, but I struggled to gather enough energy to reply. “I… I think I did,” I said feebly.

Marisa replaced me on the floor, fear written in her chestnut eyes. “Raru, don’t say that… you really scared me. I thought I lost you.”

“What happened? The battle… I was in the pool…”

“Eruri jumped in to save you,” Marisa told me. She glanced to one side and added, “He’s fighting Floatzel now.”

Then we must be still in the Gym…

I turned my head and immediately noticed Eruri’s jade headband lying at the water’s edge. He was standing balanced on a platform, gazing in fierce concentration at the water.

“It’s hiding,” Marisa whispered.

Eruri spun around suddenly and glared at a different patch of water, energy pulsing around his horns as he gathered his strength. Within seconds a jet of razor-sharp emerald leaves sliced through the water, filling it with blood once more.

His aim is excellent!

My breath caught in my throat and I once again began to cough. The water’s chemicals still burned my throat and lungs with each breath. Marisa’s hand supported my head as I struggled to sit up, my coughs subsiding into ragged breaths. I felt a small hand close over my own and noticed Selena sitting beside me.

I forced a weak smile. “Thank you. I’m all right now.”

Selena’s grip tightened and she gazed solemnly into my eyes. For a moment her façade of childish behaviour fell away and I saw true wisdom in her eyes, but then she blinked and her mask was back in place. I looked away from her, feeling slightly unsettled.

What exactly has she been through? I get the feeling that she has a more terrible past than I could ever imagine.

A barked command from Crasher Wake interrupted my thoughts. My gaze returned to the battle in time to see Eruri dive into the water, narrowly avoiding a leap from Floatzel.

The otter soared harmlessly over the empty platform… and froze a foot above the water. My eyes widened in shock as I watched the creature struggle against the mauve haze of telekinesis holding it in the air. Eruri’s head broke the surface and he pushed his sodden hair back, his glowing crimson eyes fixed on the squirming creature.

Floatzel snapped viciously at Eruri to no avail. He crawled back onto his platform, ignoring the way it swayed dangerously beneath him, and calmly raised both hands. One final burst of glittering leaves sped at Floatzel, slicing deep into its skin until streams of blood spilled into the water below.

The telekinetic energy dissipated, dropping its burden into the pool with a splash. The water folded over Floatzel and I held my breath, watching anxiously, but it did not resurface.

Crasher Wake held out one fist silently and a beam of scarlet light burst from between his fingers, plunging into the liquid to draw the defeated Floatzel back to its capsule. He stared silently at the ball as Mark ran to the edge of the pool to help his Pokemon. Eruri slid into the water and struck out easily for the side.

Wake lifted his gaze as Mark pulled Eruri up onto solid ground. The huge man watched for a moment, then turned and vanished through a doorway at the back of the Gym.

Eruri crawled away from the water and collapsed, his breathing rapid and shallow. Mark hesitantly placed one hand on the Kirlia’s back. “Are you all right?” he asked, genuine concern in his voice.

Why is he so worried? Why is Eruri so exhausted after such a brief battle? He didn’t look that tired when I first woke up, and he didn’t do that much. Am I missing something?

Eruri pushed Mark’s hand away and struggled onto his knees, then managed to stand. He spared one reassuring look for his trainer before making his way unsteadily toward me.

“Are you all right?” he asked. As he spoke he stumbled and fell to his knees, but he didn’t complain. All of his attention was on me.

I nodded, feeling my cheeks burn. My plan worked! He’s paying attention to me!

“I’m all right,” I said as nonchalantly as I could. “You?”

“Can’t complain.” Eruri managed a brief smile, but I noticed that his whole body was trembling.

I glanced apprehensively at Mark, wondering what he knew but wasn’t telling us. His eyes were fixed firmly on Eruri. The Kirlia’s shivering had grown more violent and he closed his eyes, drawing deep breaths of the chilled air.

Mark stepped forward and lifted Eruri into his arms. “I’m taking Eruri to the Pokemon Center,” he told Marisa. “I’ll meet you there when you’re ready.”

I watched with concern as the two vanished through the Gym doors. Almost instantly Wake reappeared, striding around the edge of the pool toward us. Marisa rose to her feet to meet him.

“Where is the boy?” Wake asked, bewildered. “Didn’t he want his badge?”

“His Kirlia was hurt,” Marisa explained. “Can I just give it to him? I’m going to meet him at the Pokemon Center.”

“Very well.” Wake proffered one fist and opened it, revealing two small objects glittering in his palm. Marisa gazed at them with rapt adoration and I strained to see what they were.

I hate being short. I can’t wait until I’m a Gardevoir.

“Congratulations on winning the battle,” Wake boomed. “You seem to be quite a good trainer, despite your inexperience. Your Ralts wouldn’t have evolved if it didn’t think you were. I now present to you the Fen Badge, one of the eight badges of the Sinnoh League.”

Marisa stretched out a shaking hand to accept the badges and Wake suddenly grasped it with his free hand. It appeared to swallow Marisa’s completely. She stared at him in bemusement as he roared with laughter.

“Well done!” he bellowed. “Very few people can defeat me the first time. Even though you had help, I can tell that you’re strong by yourself, especially after defeating my Gyarados!”

He released my trainer’s hand and Marisa withdrew it, gripping the badges tightly. “Thank you, sir,” she said.

“Go ahead and meet your friend.” Wake turned and strode briskly away, leaving Marisa staring at her hand in amazement.

“What’s so stunning?” I demanded. “It’s a chunk of metal!”

“I’ll show you outside.” Still holding the badges in one hand, she lifted me from the floor and balanced me against her hip with the other. Selena followed silently as Marisa left the Gym.

The warm evening sunlight washed over us as the door swung closed, shutting away the horrible chemical stench. I took deep breaths of the evening air as Marisa placed me on the grass. She opened her fist and held the badges out for me to see.

The polished metal caught the dying sunlight and reflected it into my eyes, but I shielded them and squinted at the objects. Each was small and perfectly round, the rim of white metal encircling the entire badge and the blue oval that formed the lower half. The upper half was a bright silver colour reminiscent of a Magnemite’s body.

“What’s so impressive about that?” I asked.

Marisa shook her head, still gazing almost reverently at the badges. “You wouldn’t understand. They’re symbols of authority. Each badge gives me permission to raise stronger Pokemon, but all together they’re my pass to challenge the Elite Four. I want to collect all of them and maybe one day battle the Champion, or even work for her as a Gym Leader or something. I would love that.”

She climbed to her feet, tucking the badges safely into the pocket of her black shorts along with Sutanu’s Poke Ball. I began trying shakily to stand and felt Selena grip my arm, helping me.

“Thank you,” I told her, attempting to smile. My only reward was her solemn gaze and a brief flicker of telepathy in my mind. I blinked and shook my head, trying to shake off the sudden image of a dark-skinned boy with stringy black hair and haunted green eyes.

Will…

I paused, then turned back to Selena. Her expression was impassive once more, but I knew without a doubt that she had been the one to give me that image. I grabbed her shoulder, causing her to flinch slightly.

“You know Will?” I asked, remembering the boy on the wanted poster. Selena’s only reaction was to duck her head, allowing her messy hair to hide her face.

“Stop harassing her, Raru,” Marisa told me. “We need to make sure Eruri is all right.”

I released Selena and stepped back. “Of course. Sorry.” My legs trembled but I refused to let them buckle, taking a few tottering steps toward the Pokemon Center. “Let’s go.”

Golden Riolu
July 8th, 2008, 03:52 AM
Sorry about the delay. Hey, those words seem to come at the beginning of every single chapter! Anyway, there’s been a lot of stress around lately to stop me writing. I phoned someone I like to ask them out… only to find that they’ve moved. Now I have to find them.

Italics for Poke-speech, no italics for telepathy. This chapter’s warnings: birth (with as little description as I could manage) and some mild hinted-at language. Only hinted at; I don’t plan on putting anything more than G-rated language into my fic.

Chapter Fourteen

Never Meant To Be

Aurikara

“Master… Will…”

“Quit it!” A vicious snarl came from the cage beneath mine. I could not see Eileen; the newspaper-lined floor of my prison was solid metal. However, I could hear her perfectly well.

“He is not coming back!” the Eevee snapped, punctuating her comment with a Tackle aimed at the ceiling of her cage. I gripped the bars as my prison rocked dangerously, but thankfully it remained upright. A few of the Pokemon in nearby cages woke at the sound, blinked sleepily at us and returned to their slumber.

“He will,” I retorted. “He won’t leave me here. He cares about me!”

“Wake up, dung-brain,” Lynn growled. “He’s in a cage just like us.”

I refused to believe what she was saying. I knew that Will would never make me stay in a place as horrible as this. I turned away and gazed past the cages lining the walls of the long hallway, glancing at the doors at either end and half-expecting Will to walk through one of them.

“She’s right,” Bane said heavily. He was still bouncing listlessly in the cage beside mine, but I no longer had any desire to hurt him.

“We’ve been here for two days,” Bane continued. “If Will was going to save us, he would have at least tried to do it by now. He’s in as much trouble as we are.”

“But we haven’t done anything wrong!” I cried. “We were only protecting our master! And he hasn’t done anything wrong either!”

“I beg to differ,” Lynn said matter-of-factly. “The humans seem to know something about him that we don’t.”

A loud creak cut into our conversation and I flew to the side of my cage, peering out eagerly to see what was happening. One of the doors had creaked open and a dark hand was gripping the edge. My heart leaped into my throat and I cried out in excitement, throwing my weight against the side and making the bars rattle again.

Moments later the owner of the hand edged around the door, causing my heart to sink. It was not Will; instead, the human was a girl a few years older than my master. Her clean, golden-brown tresses cascaded down to the waist of her long aqua blue dress. She clutched a bundle of towels to her chest with her free hand as she closed the door, then turned to survey the room. I met her jade eyes and realized how similar she looked to Will.

Scarily similar… almost like a… sister…

The girl’s white running shoes tapped quietly on the stone floor as she approached, her eyes fixed on me. The bundle in her grip stirred and she adjusted it in her arms, stroking it gently until it settled down. I wrapped my paws around the bars and gazed intently at her.

She stopped just before my cage. “Are you Aurikara?” she whispered.

“How did you know?” The words were out of my head before I could stop them. She smiled in response, a pleased glitter coming into her bright eyes.

“Riolu are rare anywhere in Sinnoh, especially in the humble Hearthome City pound,” she replied. “I’ve come to save you, Aura. I’ve already seen my brother, but I can’t do anything to help him at the moment.”

“Who are you?” I asked suspiciously, edging backward. My tail brushed against the back of the cage and I pressed myself against the bars.

“Don’t be scared. I’m Emerald Barren, your master Will’s older sister.”

“He never talked about you.”

“I’m sure he did, just not by name,” Emerald said. “Did he mention our house in Canalave City? Our brother Kevin? Or what about Selena?”

“Selena?”

A smile curved Emerald’s delicate lips. “Yes, I know you’ve heard about her. We loved her like a sister, Will and I, and I think she thought of us as her family.”

I crawled closer to the girl, pausing when I noticed her bundle’s resumed movements. She glanced down and began to stroke it again, whispering softly to it under her breath. I strained my ears to make out her words.

“Settle down, sweetie, I’ll feed you soon. It’s all right, Miracle.”

“What’s Miracle?” I demanded.

“Never you mind.” Emerald crouched down to peer into Lynn’s cage. “I take it you’re Eileen? That’s a pretty name. You’ll soon be out of here, so don’t worry.”

“What about me?” Bane demanded.

Emerald’s attention strayed to the Spoink. “You too,” she added. “If you’re Bane, you’ll soon be free as well. My brother made me promise that I’d save all of you before they could put you to death.”

“Death?” I echoed fearfully.

Emerald nodded solemnly. “You attacked police officers and you were helping a fugitive of the law. Either of those things alone would be enough of an excuse to have you put to death, but now that your trainer is locked away and you’re classified as dangerous it’s a certainty. If you agree to come with me, I’ll get you out of here and eventually get you back to Will.”

I hesitated, uncertain. “Why should we trust you?” I demanded. “You might be bad like the people who locked master up.”

Emerald gazed solemnly into my eyes. “I can’t make you trust me,” she said. “I can only beg that you do. I’m your only chance of survival, but to save you I need your consent.”

I glanced uneasily at Bane. He was watching the girl intently as he bounced, his coiled tail thumping on the floor of his cage. “She’s right,” he said heavily. “She’s our only chance. If we don’t trust her, at least for now, we’ll die. It’s worth a try.”

“All right,” I told the human. “We’ll trust you for now, until you get us back to master.”

An expression of sadness passed briefly through Emerald’s eyes, but she blinked and it was gone. “Good,” she said. “You’ll be out soon.”

I watched emotionlessly as the girl walked away, still cradling the bundle in her arms. As she opened the door, however, I could’ve sworn I saw a golden-furred paw reach from among the towels, which were quickly folded over it again.

The door closed with a quiet click and Lynn immediately burst out, “You idiots! Why do you trust her? The moment we think we’re free she’ll sell us to a Pokemon food company as meat!”

“She’s Will’s sister,” I replied stubbornly. “She wouldn’t betray us.”

“You naïve little bas-”

“Aura is right,” Bane interrupted, cutting Lynn off mid-sentence. “I think she can be trusted. She did mention Will by name, as well as his brother and Selena, who she wouldn’t know about otherwise. She’ll get us out of here, then we can focus on finding Will.”

Lynn grumbled but didn’t argue. I pushed my short snout through the bars of my cage, but it didn’t help me see any better. After a few minutes of tense silence, I settled down on the floor of my cage and curled my tail around my body. Within moments I felt my eyes closing.

*~*~*

My paws propelled me through the dark streets, moving far too slow for comfort. My chest ached from overexertion and my lungs felt as though they were being compressed with steel bands.

Disconnected thoughts raced through my mind as I stumbled away from danger. Shadow was gone, chased and captured by the humans and their black machines. I was alone.

Well, not quite alone.

A piercing pain arced up my back and I screamed, faltering and nearly falling. With one arm I clutched the egg I had laid only a week earlier; Shadow and I had wanted more children after our family was destroyed.

For a moment I felt a flash of anger toward Shadow; if he had not wanted children, I would not be in such pain. My free hand gripped my swollen belly as I stumbled, feeling heavy and bloated. My breath was coming in quick gasps and my strength was failing. I had tried to hold off the moment for as long as possible, but it was getting dangerously close.

I needed safety. If I stopped now, I would never survive.

I briefly remembered Shadow’s terrified face as he lifted his head, his long ears twitching toward the sound of roaring. He had immediately recognized the sound, although I did not. I had thought we were safe.

Shadow’s last words echoed through my memory. “Run, Delilah! It’s them!”

My ankle gave way beneath me and I fell, twisting in midair to protect my egg from harm. My shoulder crashed into the concrete and my jaws snapped together with a clicking sound, suppressing the scream that rose in my throat. I held my egg close and began to crawl, aiming for an overturned dumpster nearby. I would be safe hiding amongst the food scraps and discarded human items.

I realized abruptly that I would not make it to the dumpster. The pain was overtaking my entire body, making me twist and writhe in agony. I suddenly wished that I had simply hidden near my home, rather than running for so long and making myself so weak.

“Shadow,” I gasped involuntarily, feeling my muscles contract. My paws scrabbled helplessly at the cold concrete, my long ears flattening themselves against my skull from the excruciating pain. I gasped and screwed my eyes closed, a low moan escaping my throat as I strained.

The silence was rent by a dull roar, which increased in pitch as my pursuers drew closer. I could almost see the humans in black already; their images were printed firmly on the inside of my eyelids. My moaning quietened to a feeble whimper and my mouth gaped silently as I gathered the last of my strength together and gave one final, agonizing push.

My cheek hit the ground and I lay panting, struggling to draw breath into my burning lungs. I slowly lifted my head again and felt cold panic fill my heart. There was too much blood, far too much, staining the ground and darkening my fur. I knew without a doubt that even if the humans didn’t finish me off, I would never survive to see my eggs hatch.

I raised one trembling paw and drew the new egg close to my chest. Its shell was still slightly soft and very damp, and I pressed my cheek lovingly against it. My entire body was shuddering convulsively and I felt very weak, but I still found the strength to whisper three words.

“My little miracle…”

My fading voice was almost drowned in the roar as the motorcycles drew closer. There were two of them, each with a single human astride it. The roar faded to a low growl as the vehicles slowed to a halt on either side of me, and I silently watched through glazed eyes as the two humans dismounted. One of them kicked at me with the toe of his boot.

“Waste of time,” a low, guttural voice grumbled. “This one’s already dying.”

“Take the eggs,” the other human ordered; this voice was not quite so deep, but still rather harsh. I registered dimly that it was female.

The male crouched down and took the first egg from where I still held it to my chest, then lifted my new egg out of my grasp. My paws tightened involuntarily on empty air and I gave a shuddering sigh, tears welling up in my eyes. The man straightened up and placed the two eggs in the rough brown sack that the female held out. I watched her turn away, tucking the sack carefully into a spare carriage attached to her motorcycle.

A single tear dropped from my eye and splashed silently onto the ground. The man surveyed me for a moment before asking, “You want to take her back with us?”

“No,” the woman said, already climbing back onto her motorcycle. “We’ve got the male and the eggs; they’ll be enough. Put her out of her misery.”

She kicked the vehicle into life and, with a roar and a cloud of smoke, carried my two unborn children away from their dying mother. I watched silently as the man drew a small black object from its place at his hip, pointing the blunt muzzle directly at my forehead. My shuddering had slowed to a faint tremble and I no longer felt connected to my body. I watched without emotion as the gun jerked back in the man’s hand, a burst of flame exploding from the muzzle and obliterating my fading life.

*

Rarutos

I wasn’t quite sure how I managed to get to the Center without falling over, but it seemed to have been in vain. When Marisa pushed the door open I immediately saw Mark in the waiting room. I stumbled as Marisa snatched me off the floor, tucking Selena beneath her other arm, and rushed to meet him. He glanced up as we approached and I was suddenly overwhelmed by the Stunky stench still lingering on his clothes.

How the heck did I manage to forget that?

“Why are you waiting here?” Marisa asked.

“Why do you have a Kirlia under each arm?” Mark countered.

Marisa shrugged self-consciously and replaced us both on the floor. “Now will you tell me why you’re waiting? Is Eruri that badly hurt?”

Mark returned to staring blankly at the off-white wall. “It’s his old wound,” he said flatly. “If he overexerts himself, he gets sick.”

“Is he going to be okay?” Marisa asked anxiously, voicing my thoughts.

There was a moment of silence in which Selena and I glanced worriedly at each other. Then-

“I don’t know,” Mark replied heavily. “I always hope so, but I can never be sure.”

Selena settled down on the floor, her back to the wall, and I followed suit. My new skirt-like garb billowed out as I sank to the ground, tucking my delicate feet beneath me and folding my hands in my lap. I had quickly decided that I liked this form more than the last; I felt more graceful and loved the feel of my soft jade hair.

Before long a pair of feet approached us and a female voice said, “Are you Eruri’s trainer?”

“I am,” Mark said instantly, leaping to his feet. I gazed up at the female human. She looked quite old; her skin was lined and her short hair was a dull grey colour.

“Please follow me,” the woman said shortly. She glanced at Marisa and added, “You stay here.”

“Can’t I-?”

“No,” the nurse said flatly. She set off across the waiting room and through a blank cream door, Mark trailing behind her. Marisa dropped into his newly vacant seat, heaved a sigh and propped her chin on her fist.

I glanced at Selena, who was gazing at the wall with a blank expression. I cleared my throat. “So, about that boy you were thinking about,” I said, trying to sound friendly. Selena turned her head in my direction, looking apprehensive.

“His name is Will, right?” I continued. “How do you know him?”

My questions were greeted with silence. I waited for only a moment, then hesitantly extended tendrils of thought and linked our minds. A few foreign abstract thoughts floated into my mind and I studied them carefully, watching Selena’s face for clues.

Why is she asking me?

My telepathy must have slipped…

Did she read my thoughts again?

I hope Eruri is all right…

I wish Will would come back for me…

At this I felt such a powerful wave of emotion that I accidentally broke the contact. Selena flinched, feeling my telepathy withdraw, but I barely noticed. I was busy sifting through the emotions, trying to separate them.

And suddenly it clicked.

“You love him!” I said incredulously. “I felt it… and you’re lonely because he left and sad because he doesn’t share your feelings.”

Selena drew her legs up to her chest and hid her face in her knees, blushing furiously. I fell silent as I considered my discovery.

If Will did something so terrible that Marisa is scared of him and the police are after him, how can Selena feel that way?

The sound of footsteps snapped me out of my thoughts and I lifted my head to see Mark approaching. “Eruri is all right,” he announced, the relief written all over his pale face. “He’s asleep now. He’ll be allowed out of the hospital in the morning.”

“That’s great!” Marisa cried, leaping to her feet as though her chair was electrified. She plunged her hand into her pocket and began groping for her spare badge. “I’ve got something for you… where is it? Oh, here it is!” She tugged her fist out of her filthy shorts and presented it with a flourish.

Mark carefully took the badge from her and gazed at it silently. “Thank you. I’ll show this to Eruri when he wakes up.” He carefully pinned it to the lining of his forest-green jacket alongside five other metallic badges.

Marisa gaped at him in shock. “That was your sixth badge?!” she exclaimed. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t think it was important,” Mark said, shrugging.

Marisa edged closer. “Can I see?”

I turned away as Marisa gazed enviously at the metal objects. My mind was still full of Selena’s thoughts.

Marisa knows something about Will that she’s not telling me, and I know something about him that I’m not telling her… and Selena knows things that she’s not telling either of us. I guess that makes us even. But I still wish I knew why Marisa is scared…

*~*~*

The bright half-moon shone down from the dark sky, casting a pale light over the wispy clouds drifting around it. I sat at the lake’s edge and hugged my knees, staring up at it. My eyes itched with tiredness but I refused to sleep, wanting to savour my first night as a Kirlia.

“Psychics need to sleep too, you know.”

I jumped and spun around, my eyes locking onto a pair of black paws. I followed them up to a slender body and distinctly triangular head.

“Ruka?” I asked incredulously. “I didn’t think you spoke!”

“I do speak. I just don’t like to, because Mark can’t understand what I’m saying.”

She settled herself on the grass beside me, curling her tail neatly over her legs and folding her hands in her lap, adopting the same position as myself.

“But you’ve been silent since this morning, and you’ve been looking at us like you don’t trust us,” I protested.

“No, I’ve been looking at Sutanu like I don’t trust him. Have you seen him since you evolved?”

I hesitated. “No. Marisa recalled him before the Gym battle, and she hasn’t released him since then…”

“Look at him and concentrate. You wouldn’t have been able to see it as a Ralts, but you had to heighten your aura in order to evolve. I watched you do it. That means you’ll be able to see aura if you really concentrate. Eruri wouldn’t notice; he’s never seen Sutanu before, and Selena probably hasn’t either, but I can tell.”

I waited for her to elaborate, but she simply continued gazing silently at the sky. I turned away and watched the clouds drift lazily across the moon.

“Did you always know Selena?” I asked, the question once again burning at my mind.

“I only know what Eruri has told Mark and myself. I never met her before today; I wasn’t even born when Mark and Eruri first started travelling together.”

“But did you hear about Selena’s trainer? Did Eruri mention a dark boy called Will? Do you know what he did?”

Ruka shook her head solemnly. “I wouldn’t have a clue. Eruri said that he watched a dark boy capture Selena, but he looked different to the boy on the posters. His hair was lighter and he would be older now.”

“Can you read the posters?” I asked, feeling desperate.

“No. Mark is teaching us to read, but I’m still learning. I can’t read anything yet.”

I heaved a sigh and stared dully into the lake. The bright moon and faint clouds were reflected in its surface so that it looked like there were two moons. The faint breeze ruffled my long hair and I tucked it behind my ear with one hand, listening to Ruka’s quiet breathing from beside me.

Ruka closed her blood-red eyes and felt the gentle breeze through her fur. “I like this,” she said softly. “I sometimes come and sit outside at night without Mark knowing. I like to sit and think about the one I love, and how we’ll soon be going back to Snowpoint City so Mark can win his seventh badge and I can be with my love again. Machoke and I are hoping to have a family if Mark will let us.”

“Congratulations,” I said dully, not really caring. “Good luck with that.”

I pushed myself to my feet and brushed dirt off my skirt, still uncomfortable about the feel of the membrane against my hands. It felt like it might tear at my touch, although I knew instinctively how much pressure it would take to tear it and that I could never do it accidentally. “I’m tired,” I announced, snapping Ruka out of her daydreams of children. “I’m going to bed.”

“Goodnight,” Ruka called to my retreating back. I opened and closed the hospital door with telekinesis, leaving her alone by the lake. The hallways were dark and silent and I met no one as I made my way back to my trainer’s room. The door clicked closed behind me as I settled myself on the floor beside my sleeping trainer.

Selena grunted quietly in her sleep and I cast a glance at the bed, watching her roll onto her side and fall still. I lay and gazed at the ceiling for quite a while before finally falling asleep.

Golden Riolu
September 1st, 2008, 05:25 AM
Well, there’s not much to say this time. Just one thing; my writer’s block has shifted, and I have only one person to thank for that. You know who you are, and when you read this, I want you to know that you’re my muse, and I’ve never been happier than you made me two nights ago (or mornings where you are).

Oh, a note to everyone reading this: sorry, my writing skills have gotten a little rusty. I haven’t written since around May, after all. I also find it odd that I wrote this chapter way back in April, when I was so proud of my own new little Miracle. Also, something else I’m sorry about; the rape is referred to in this chapter, and also the next. It’s nothing like the last time, though, just a few passing mentions.

Chapter Fifteen

Shadows And Mud

Aurikara

I jerked back to consciousness with a terrified whimper, only to see a pair of jade-green eyes gazing at me. The lights had been extinguished and the room was completely dark, making the girl difficult to see. I squinted and saw a pale haze shimmering in the air, outlining her slim body.

“Don’t worry,” she whispered. A quiet click reached my ears and she withdrew a tiny key from the lock on my cage. I hesitantly placed one paw against the bars and felt the door swing open.

I crawled into the doorway as Emerald concentrated on first Bane’s lock, then Lynn’s. Finally she hurried to the end of the room, replacing her bundle of keys on a hook beside the door.

“Why are you still in your cages?” she whispered urgently. “If I get caught here, I’ll be fired!”

I hesitated; the ground seemed a long way away. Beneath me, Lynn leaped easily to the floor and arched her back, stretching her cramped muscles. Bane’s tail hit the floor with a thud and he paused for barely a second before resuming his bouncing.

“Aura, come on!” Emerald whispered.

I don’t want her to think I’m weak.

I crouched on the edge for a moment and leaped, bringing my legs forward to land in a crouch. The impact travelled through my legs and into my back, making me wince quietly. I stood up slowly, stretching my legs, finally able to stand upright for the first time in two days.

Emerald reached for the doorknob and for the first time I realized that she was no longer carrying the bundle. She carefully pushed the door open a crack, then slightly further when no sounds from beyond reached us.

“Quick,” she hissed, motioning to us. Lynn darted for the exit, her thick tail vanishing through it just as Bane reached Emerald. I hurried after them and heard the door close quietly after the girl.

I nearly collided with the other two as I reached another door. An icy breeze whispered beneath this door, ruffling Lynn’s thick fur and bringing with it a combination of smells.

Emerald’s feet reached us and the door swung open, revealing the night sky and a city lit with artificial light. “Out,” Emerald urged.

Lynn and Bane wasted no time in obeying, but I was rooted to the spot. In an instant the girl had swept me into her arms, the door was closed again and we were hurrying down a dark side street, the other two right behind us.

As wonderful as it was to finally be outside again, my attention was completely drawn to one thing; the scent on the girl’s dress. She paid no attention as I buried my snout in the soft material of her dress, inhaling deeply. The scent seemed very familiar, but I could not place what it was.

Before long the girl had climbed a set of stone steps and entered a tall building. I watched with mounting trepidation as we moved up several longer staircases, finally pausing before one of the many doors along one of many hallways. Emerald shifted me slightly in her arms as she fitted a key into the lock.

The door swung open, revealing a dark and rather empty room. “Welcome to my apartment,” Emerald said. “Get inside, but try not to make too much noise. Miracle is asleep.”

The door closed behind Bane and Lynn, who paused uncertainly in the entrance. Emerald placed me beside them and flicked a switch on the wall, causing a light bulb in the centre of the ceiling to burst into life. Cold yellow light filled the room, illuminating the worn wooden floor and the few wooden chairs and various other objects scattered sparsely throughout the room.

</p>“It’s not much, but it’s home,” Emerald said quietly. “It has been ever since… since Will and I left Canalave City.”</p>
Once again I had a strong feeling that there was something she was hiding from me, the same feeling I had gotten from Will on several occasions. I turned toward Emerald, determined to ask a question, but before my mind could form the words I suddenly froze. A scent had reached my nose; the same scent on Emerald’s dress.

Slowly, I turned toward the nearest open door. As a small creature stepped into the doorway, the artificial light fell over it and reflected back off pale fur, temporarily blinding me. I rubbed my eyes and squinted at the creature.

All at once I recognized the scent; it was just like mine, the scent of a young male Riolu. My eyes widened as I gaped at the small creature in the doorway. It was like looking in a mirror, but a mirror with very distorted colours. In the places where my fur was black, so was the other Riolu’s; however, where I had deepest blue, this creature had fur of a bright yellow-gold with a peculiar sheen to it.

“Miracle, why are you awake?” Emerald whispered, hurrying to pick up the creature. He clung to her dress and blinked down at me with curious ruby eyes just like my own.

“What is that?” Lynn demanded, sounding startled.

Gently stroking the Pokemon to soothe him, Emerald crouched down before us. “Guys, this is Miracle,” she said. “Aura, he’s just a few days younger than you. He’s your little brother.”

I gaped at the Riolu in wonder. “Why is he-”

“-a different colour?” Emerald finished for me. “Because he’s what they call Shiny. His colouring is very rare, and in the wild it would make him a target for predators.”

“Shiny!” Miracle squeaked excitedly.

Emerald gave a cough which sounded like a badly-disguised laugh. A thought suddenly struck me; I had noticed something odd about the girl since our first meeting. I glanced at Lynn and Bane, who didn’t seem to have noticed anything, and cleared my throat.

“How do you know he’s my brother?” I asked in my native tongue.

“Because both of your eggs were kept in the same place,” Emerald replied without even realizing what she had done. “Will took one and there was an empty space where your egg used to be when I took the other one.”

I glanced meaningfully at Lynn and Bane, who suddenly looked shocked. Emerald blinked at us for a moment before her eyes widened in sudden realization. “Oh! Oops… I guess I gave it away.”

“You can understand us,” I said accusingly. “How can you understand us?”

“I’m not sure how,” Emerald admitted. “It’s been like this since my brother brought Selena home and I realized I could understand her. I was always the only one who could and I never even needed to learn.”

“I still don’t trust her,” Lynn hissed to me. “There’s something fishy about this girl.”

“I don’t expect you to trust me immediately,” Emerald said, “but eventually you’ll have to try. I’ve set you free, and we’ll all need to work together. That means I need you, Miracle, Lynn, Bane, and… someone else.”

“Someone else?” Bane said apprehensively.

Emerald glanced at the darkened doorway. Suddenly I noticed something large and dark standing just out of the light, silently listening to the conversation. The girl beckoned to the shape with one hand and it moved back, further away from us.

“Come on, sweetheart,” the girl said softly.

Still the figure did not move. Emerald climbed to her feet and approached it, holding out Miracle toward it. It stepped forward to take him and she grasped its arm, leading it into the light as Miracle huddled into its other arm.

As the light washed over the creature, I barely suppressed a gasp of shock. Dark fur, long ears, an unmistakeable shape; he was a Lucario, the very same one I had been in my dreams. But that was not all that had startled me; a dark purple haze hovered around his entire body, blurring his outline and obscuring his features. He was just like the Houndoom I had fought at a few days of age.

“Everyone, I’d like you to meet Shadow,” Emerald said, pushing the Lucario down on the floor. He folded his tail neatly by his side and cradled Miracle in his arms, showing a gentleness that I could barely believe from the darkness in his aura.

“Shadow is aptly named, because he’s what they call a Shadow Pokemon,” Emerald said. “His heart has been locked with cruelty so that he’ll fight harder without caring about his opponents. I saved him and I’m trying to reopen his heart by treating him kindly, but he only responds when he’s holding Miracle. We’re going to need his help too.”

I hesitantly took a step closer to Shadow and he lifted his head, his cold and emotionless eyes burning into me. I shivered involuntarily.

“Don’t be scared,” Emerald said softly. “I know he looks scary, especially if you can see his aura, but he won’t hurt you.”

Shadow moved Miracle slightly so that he was supported with only one arm, then offered his free paw to me. The warmth and gentleness still did not reach his expression but I sensed that he did not want to hurt me. I edged closer, reached out hesitantly for his paw and felt it close around mine.

“See?” Emerald said. “He won’t hurt you because he can sense who you are.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, glancing up at her.

Emerald smiled down at me. “Aura, as unbelievable as it may seem, you’re now holding hands with your father.”

*

Selena

Don’t touch me… get away…

“No!”

The room materialized around me abruptly and I clutched my blanket, my chest heaving with my rapid breaths. My eyes scanned the room immediately, taking in the abandoned blanket on the floor and the early morning sunlight filling every corner. The room was empty; no one had heard me cry out.

I settled down in bed, trembling and gripping the blanket tightly around myself. The horrible dream had come back. I expected it; it had come almost every night for the past few months.

My trainer… my own trainer… I trusted him, and he took advantage of me…

I drew a deep, shuddering breath and wiped sweat from my forehead. Suddenly I wanted to get outside and away from buildings, but at the same time I was unwilling to remove the blanket from around my body.

At once the door burst open and Rarutos leaped into the room, twirling gracefully on one foot before coming to rest with her arms spread to help her keep her balance. “I’m still getting used to this. Anyway, wake up, sleepyhead!”

She paused, noticing the fact that I was gripping the blanket so that it covered everything below my eyes. “What’s the matter?”

A gentle probe nudged at my thoughts and I pushed it away instantly, beginning to get used to the feeling of her telepathy. She paused with a puzzled expression on her face.

“You’re scared, but you won’t let me know why,” she said slowly. “Why aren’t you telling me? I feel like I should know this.”

I clutched the blanket more tightly, feeling a shiver of fear from the memory. Each time I dreamed about it, it seemed to hurt more and more… or possibly I simply forgot the pain between each dream.

“Are you getting out of bed?” Rarutos asked hesitantly.

Slowly I loosened my grip on the blanket and allowed it to slide over my skin. The feeling scared me even more; I hated to feel exposed after that dream. Carefully I slid out of bed, and the moment my feet touched the floor I self-consciously flattened my skirt against my legs with both hands.

“Something is wrong,” Rarutos said. “I’ve seen Pokemon acting like you do, and I just realized what it means. You’ve been abused, haven’t you?”

I remained silent, squashing down my skirt once again.

Rarutos took one step forward. “You’ve been raped, haven’t you?”

Reluctantly I nodded, feeling tears well up in my eyes. Rarutos moved closer and held out her arms to me and abruptly I felt a dam break inside me. Suddenly I was collapsing into her embrace and sobbing into her shoulder, my tears flowing freely for the first time in months. Rarutos sank to the ground and patted my back awkwardly.

“I’m sorry,” she told me. “I wish I could say I understand, but I don’t. Only you understand what happened to you.”

All at once a human raced through the open door, tripped over the blanket and collided with a wooden cabinet. She picked herself up with a groan as I rubbed at my eyes, attempting unsuccessfully to quieten myself. Marisa swept her hair back and grinned at us, but the smile slid off her face like month-old milk when she saw me.

“What’s wrong?” she asked kindly, crouching on the floor and offering her hand. I clung to Rarutos and she hugged me reassuringly, completely ignoring her trainer.

I have to control myself. I don’t want them to think I’m weak.

I rubbed at my wet cheeks, attempting to wipe my tears away and only succeeding in smearing them across my face. Marisa produced a crumpled but clean tissue from her pocket, making me wonder again how she always seemed to have everything in there but made it look like her pockets were empty. I accepted the tissue silently and dried my face, biting my lip to keep from bursting into tears again.

“Do you want to tell her yourself?” Rarutos asked gently.

I remained silent, feeling a chill of fear. She can’t tell Marisa… she might think Will or Tyler did it.

“I’ll do it then,” the younger Kirlia said. Still holding me tightly, she turned to face her trainer and switched to telepathy so the human could understand.

“I found out why Selena is acting so scared all the time,” she began. I felt a spark of determination in my heart; I would not permit her to tell Marisa.

Rarutos continued, unaware of my decision. “Selena has been-”

“DON’T YOU DARE!”

Her words cut off abruptly from shock at the force of my telepathic message. I glared at her fiercely, feeling her draw away from me slightly. It was not the first time she had heard my thoughts, but possibly the reason the contact had left her speechless was the fact that this was the first time I had chosen to project my telepathy to her.

“She’s been what?” Marisa prompted. Rarutos flinched and her eyes darted around the room for inspiration.

“She has… been… having nightmares,” she finished weakly. “But she’s okay now.”

“That’s good,” Marisa said. “Now, come on. We’re going to have breakfast with Mark and his Pokemon, then we’re leaving town.”

Rarutos climbed to her feet as her trainer departed. “Why did you stop me?” she asked.

Again I refused to answer, pushing myself slowly up from the floor and dusting off my skirt. The other Kirlia watched as I followed Marisa out of the room.

*~*~*

“Eww, disgusting!” Marisa cried, twisting around in an attempt to free herself from the heavy, black mud. I shook back my hair, damp from the light rain, as Mark struggled toward her through the waist-deep sea. He grasped her hands and tugged until she broke free with a horrible sucking sound. She groaned and took another step, aiming for the nearest piece of dry land.

Rarutos grinned mischievously at me from her place on Marisa’s shoulder and I felt her thoughts enter my mind. “I won’t say that was all my fault, but I did help the mud get a good grip on her.”

I remained silent, wrapping my arms more tightly around Mark’s neck. Marisa had refused to carry both of us, and despite my apprehension I had reluctantly allowed Mark to carry me. As long as everything below his waist was buried in mud, I was fine with him.

They don’t need to know that I’m afraid of him because he’s male.

“You all right?” Mark asked, turning his head in an attempt to see me. I nodded silently and watched the back of Rarutos’s head moving away from me.

Marisa waded through the shallower mud onto dry land. “That’s disgusting,” she muttered, glancing down at her mud-covered legs and waist. Mark squelched out after her as she sat down and began to empty the filth out of her shoes.

I let go of his neck and jumped to the ground, unwilling to be near Mark any longer. My small feet sank into the soft ground as I walked, making my way toward Marisa. She and Rarutos had both frozen and were staring at something among a nearby group of trees.

I tilted my head and realized that we were not quite alone. The creature watching us from between two trees closely resembled the blue creature - the Quagsire - which Ruka had battled first in the Pastoria Gym. Its dull eyes gazed at Marisa as she stood up slowly.

“Raru, do you want a battle?” she asked.

Instantly Rarutos vanished, reappearing in front of the wild Pokemon. Her crimson horns began to glow with a pulsing amethyst light and she raised her hands, preparing to attack. The opponent instantly responded, rearing back and spitting a huge ball of mud at Rarutos. The sphere collided with her before she could react and she tumbled backward, landing in a messy heap.

“Raru!” Marisa cried, but Rarutos was already on her feet. A flurry of glittering emerald leaves formed before her outstretched hand and sped toward Quagsire, sending it staggering back from the force of the attack. Blood trickled from shallow cuts in its flabby skin but it shook off the attack as though it was nothing.

“Try to hypnotize it!” Marisa ordered.

Rarutos was a step ahead of her; crossing her arms before her chest, she fixed Quagsire with her scarlet gaze. It inhaled deeply, preparing to attack, but suddenly it froze as tendrils of thought invaded its mind. It swayed on its feet, eyelids drooping and a feeble trickle of water bubbling from its mouth. Abruptly it collapsed on its belly, grunting snores escaping its wide mouth.

“Good job!” Marisa exclaimed, delighted.

I turned away from the battle to see her fumbling in her backpack. She withdrew her fist, clutching the same sphere she had attempted to trap me inside. Rarutos stepped out of the way and Marisa tossed the sphere directly at Quagsire.

The orb burst open and the snoring Pokemon was enveloped in a cloud of glimmering white light. I looked on in awe as it vanished inside the ball, which closed with a quiet click and dropped into the mud. I watched anxiously as the ball began to tremble ominously.

In a sudden explosion of light, the orb burst open and regurgitated Quagsire. The mud-creature, now fully conscious, glared briefly at Marisa before turning and vanishing into the bushes. A jet of viridian leaves followed it, slicing easily through the foliage, but the Pokemon was already gone.

Rarutos lowered her arms, looking disappointed. “Darn… I’ve never lost an opponent like that before.”

Marisa also looked crestfallen as she collected the empty Poke Ball from the mud. “I really wanted that,” she complained.

“Marisa,” Mark warned, shooting a glance at Rarutos. Marisa followed his gaze and noticed her partner’s dejected expression.

“But it doesn’t matter,” she said, faking cheerfulness. “It looked weak and stupid, and I’ve heard that Quagsire make really bad fighters. I’m glad I didn’t catch it so I could use this ball on something better. You did really well, Raru!”

The Kirlia lifted her head slightly. “Nice try,” she said bitterly. “I failed and we all know it.”

“Come on,” Marisa said encouragingly. “You got some battle experience and that’s all that matters.”

I glanced between Marisa and Rarutos, the latter silently berating herself as the former attempted to cheer her up. A sudden memory invaded my mind; a teenage boy screaming at me for failing to defeat an opponent, kicking me as I huddled helplessly on the ground.

I don’t think Rarutos realizes just how lucky she is. She was taken from the cruelty of the wild and put into the care of a human who actually treats her like an equal and thinks of her as a friend. If only Will had been my trainer… things might have turned out differently.

I tilted my head down slightly. In my mind’s eye I saw Will crouching down to congratulate me after I won a battle, his hair and clothes clean and neat. I saw him smiling at me, not worrying about the police finding him.

A single tear trickled down my cheek, blending in with the droplets of rain, and fell silently to the ground. If Will had been my trainer, all of that would have been possible…

…because I’m the reason he is on the run.

Saltare.
September 1st, 2008, 05:31 AM
pretty good! like it so far

Golden Riolu
September 22nd, 2008, 05:18 AM
Hey, everyone! This might be the last chapter for a while, because seventeen is still unfinished. Which is the reason for the infodump later on; I sincerely apologize for that. But, right now I’m typing this on my new laptop!

Song lyrics in this chapter are from ‘We’re Coming Home’ by the Rogue Traders.

Chapter Sixteen

Blood

Aurikara

“Aura! Aura, wake up!”

I rolled onto my back and swatted the hands away. “Mmf… no…”

“Aurikara, get your lazy tail out of bed now!”

My eyes snapped open and I sat bolt upright, gazing around in a panic. Gradually the events of the previous night returned to me and began to relax. I focused and managed to make out the dark shapes of a human and an Eevee before me, obviously the ones who had woken me up.

“What?” I murmured sleepily, rubbing my eyes with one paw.

“It’s time to go,” Emerald whispered. “I promised that I’d take you to see Will today, remember?”

“I don’t…”

“You were already asleep when she promised,” Lynn hissed. “You fell asleep in Shadow’s arms and Emerald stopped talking to make beds for us all.”

I blinked and looked down, realizing for the first time that I was sitting in a woven wicker basket lined with something soft. Another empty basket stood nearby, presumably Lynn’s bed, and beside that lay a thin blanket which Bane could have bounced on as he slept.

“It’s early enough that we can see what we’re doing but not be seen by anyone else,” Emerald whispered. “I’ve got a job at the pound and I sometimes help out at the police station by taking food to the prisoners on my days off, so I’m allowed to be there, but you aren’t.”

I paused, uncertain; everything seemed too planned. Seeing my expression, Emerald gave a faint smile. “I see you’re smart for your age. Well, if you’re thinking that it’s all too planned, you’re right. After Will left home, I came here and took my job so I could save you when he was caught, which was bound to happen eventually. And yes, I knew he would have at least one Pokémon with him,” she added as I began to interrupt. “And then I started helping at the police station so I could be ready for his capture. And as for Shadow… well, I saved him for a reason. But we’ve talked for long enough; let’s go!”


I quickly scrambled out of my bed and followed Lynn to the door, where Bane was already waiting. Emerald vanished through a doorway and reappeared seconds later, Shadow trailing behind her with Miracle in a towel in his arms.

“Everyone, I need you to keep as quiet as you can,” Emerald whispered. “Watch where you’re going so you don’t trip, and keep to the shadows if possible. All right, let’s go.” Her hand closed around the doorknob and she pushed the door open, letting us out into the darkened hallway.

*~*~*

With Emerald in the lead, we all crept through the city at a run. The journey seemed to go on forever, and at the same time took no time at all. Finally the human slowed to a halt and beckoned Bane forward. I watched as he bounded apprehensively toward the door in front of Emerald.

“Can you unlock this?” she asked in a whisper, motioning toward the lock.

Bane’s pearl began to glow with a faint light as he concentrated. Almost instantly there was a quiet click and the door creaked open. Lynn took the lead instantly, creeping through the entrance and returning a second later to say that no one was there.

“Inside, and quickly,” the girl breathed, motioning for us to pass her. I padded after Lynn and found myself in a plain room containing only a potted plant and an enormous wooden desk.

“Through here.” We hurried toward the door Emerald opened for us, finding ourselves in a long hallway. I glanced around and realized that the walls on either side of us consisted entirely of thick steel bars. Behind the bars were countless cells side by side, each ten feet in every direction and separated by a stone wall. Gazing into the nearest cell, I saw only a metal bed frame holding a thin mattress and, blocking one corner from view, a roughly built wickerwork screen. The floor was hard stone and the temperature seemed much lower than outside.

I shivered and stopped abruptly, catching a hint of a familiar scent. I backed away from the cell and sniffed the air. Suddenly I gave a squeal of delight and bounded down the hallway, ignoring Lynn’s growl of warning.

“Master!” I cried, skidding to a halt before a cell identical to the others. The dark shape on the bed stirred and rolled over, his eyes barely open. Suddenly he snapped awake and dived from the bed, rushing to crouch before me.

“Aura!” Will exclaimed, barely managing to keep his voice to a whisper. “I’m so glad to see you! I thought Emerald didn’t manage to get you out in time. I was really worried about you.”

Bane and Lynn hesitantly approached the cell, Bane increasing his speed when he realized that Will really was inside. Lynn hung back, her expression disdainful.

“I missed you all so much,” Will breathed, gazing around at the three of us. “How are you? Is Emerald looking after you well? Have you met Miracle? What about Shadow? Are they being nice to you? Aura, are your ribs all right?”

“Slow down,” Emerald whispered, smiling as she came up behind us. “They can’t answer all your questions at once.”

Eventually we managed to assure Will that we were all fine and had met everyone of importance. He gripped the bars as he gazed at us all, his eyes overbright. “I wish I could hug you all,” he murmured. “If only I wasn’t locked in here…”

He slipped his hands through the bars and Bane and I crowded forward, letting him stroke us. Lynn reluctantly allowed him to touch her thick fur, but as he began to withdraw his hand I clung to it. I blinked up at him sadly, clutching his hand with both of my paws.

“When are you coming out?” I asked.

“I don’t know, Aura,” he said quietly. “Maybe never. They might let me out after a few years because I’m young, but it’s also possible that I might be locked away in different prisons for the rest of my life.”

“But you didn’t do anything!” I cried. “How can they do this when you didn’t do anything?”

Will heaved a deep sigh, suddenly looking much older than he really was. “I did something very bad. If I never get out, I’ll deserve it.”

I stared up at him pleadingly. “You don’t deserve it! You’re a good master and you never hurt me like your brother hurt Selena-”

A sudden gasp from behind me made me stop. Emerald was gazing at Will in horror. “You told them what Kevin did?” she said incredulously. “You told them about that and not about what you did?”

“I’m sorry,” Will said heavily. “I needed to tell someone about her. Emerald… we met her in Pastoria City. She was with her new trainer. And she looked at me like I was the Messiah.”

“She wasn’t scared?” Emerald asked.

“No. She wanted to come with me rather than her new trainer. But I think what she saw might have scarred her for life; she hasn’t spoken a single word since she arrived at the orphanage.”

An expression of sadness flickered through Emerald’s eyes. “I think she was hurt more by what Kevin did to her than what she saw. She trusted him, and he…”

“You should go,” Will interjected. “The sun will be up soon and someone might see you. I’m guessing you didn’t pay to free any of the Pokémon?”

“No, they’re all stolen or illegally hatched,” Emerald admitted with a hint of pride. “I’m joining the family business of crime.”

“Go,” Will repeated, tugging his hand out of my grip. I continued to gape at him in confusion, wondering what the heck he and his sister had been talking about. Before I could say anything Shadow had caught me up in his arms and we were hurrying away from Will. I watched despairingly as the distance between us grew, wondering when or if I would ever see him again.

*

Selena

“You know we’re falling to zero, hurting much more than it did before!”

What in the…?

“I’m always playing the hero, cleaning your mess as you walk out the door!”

I forced my eyes open to see clouds of steam pouring under a nearby door. It took me a moment to register that I was lying on threadbare carpet with a dirty T-shirt spread over me to keep me warm. Before I could think about anything else, another barrage of sound hit me like a bomb.

“We’re coming home, we’re coming home, you know it’s now or never!”

“I think that’s meant to be singing,” Rarutos said dryly. It took me a moment to realize that she was sitting on the edge of a bed behind me, dragging a brush through her damp hair.

“No afterglow, this time I know, but I’m feeling kind of better!”

That’s singing? I’m glad I never learned.

The door exploded open, bounced off the wall and swung closed again. After a moment of silence, Marisa pushed the door open more slowly, wincing and rubbing her nose. “Stupid door… good morning, everyone!”

“It was until you started singing,” Rarutos commented dryly.

“But didn’t you notice the sun?” Marisa rushed to the single window and wrenched back the plain white curtains, allowing light to pour into the room. I stretched my arms and drew a deep breath of the dusty air.

“Aren’t Kirlia meant to dance on sunny mornings?” Marisa asked, her hands planted on her hips as she glared at Rarutos. “But you’re just as cynical as ever!”

“I didn’t know she knew that word,” Rarutos said uninterestedly, curling a lock of hair around her finger. “Hey, Selena, how do you think I’d look with ringlets?”

I’m staying out of this.

I clutched the T-shirt more tightly and drew it over my head, hiding my face from them. After a moment it was tugged out of my grip and I found Marisa looking down at me with a concerned expression.

“I know there’s a reason you act so scared all the time,” she said. “You’ve obviously told Raru, and I’m going to find out eventually, so why don’t you just tell me now?”

“Her trainer raped her,” Rarutos blurted out before I could stop her. Marisa spun to stare at her and I pushed my hair back from my face, giving her a look of pure venom.

I told her not to say anything!

“Tyler raped her?!” Marisa yelped, horrified. “Holy Arceus… and I thought him beating her was bad…” She scooped me up in her arms, squashing me against her chest in a suffocating hug.

“I’m so sorry you had to go through all that,” she squeaked.

I attempted to squirm free of her grip until she finally placed me back on the floor. Marisa brushed a tear away from her eye and gazed sadly at me. “How could someone do something so terrible?”

How many times have I heard that? At the orphanage, and then with Tyler…

“But that’s not all, is it?” Rarutos piped up. She tossed her hairbrush aside and slid lightly to the floor, spinning in a graceful pirouette leap before coming to a halt before me. “I can sense something else troubling you,” she informed me. “It’s something to do with Will, but the way you think about him makes me think that it isn’t something bad he did. And yet… if he’s on the run, he must’ve done something bad.”

Marisa glanced between the two of us suspiciously. “What are you talking about? Raru, what’s going on?”

Rarutos completely ignored her trainer, stretching out one hand to touch my forehead. “Will you let me look at your memories?”

I hesitated, trying to form barriers around my mind with my telekinesis. I was much older, stronger and more experienced than Rarutos, so I knew she would not be able to break through. I felt her warm hand press against my forehead and sensed her trying to read my memories.

“Come on, let me in,” she murmured, her eyes closed tightly as she tried to focus.

I grabbed her wrist and pushed her away. Her eyes flew open and she looked at me questioningly, but I simply shook my head firmly.

The younger Kirlia reluctantly stepped back from me. “There’s something Selena isn’t telling us,” she informed Marisa. “I think it’s something to do with Will.”

“Will?” Suddenly Marisa looked troubled. “Do you… do you know Will?”

I nodded reluctantly, deciding that I didn’t want Rarutos to blurt out my other secret. Rarutos, however, had something else on her mind.

“Why are you so suspicious of Will?” she demanded. “Ever since you saw that poster, you’ve been acting strangely when you hear his name. What did the poster say?”

Marisa paused, then quickly wiped the concern off her face. “It could be a different Will,” she said casually, but I shook my head. I already knew that the boy on the posters was the same one who had treated me like his sister.

The fear returned to the human’s eyes. I watched as she drew a deep, shaky breath and said, “All right. The poster… it said that Will was wanted… for murder. He killed someone.”

Rarutos’s eyes widened in shock and terror. She glanced quickly between Marisa and myself as though waiting for someone to yell, “Psych!” Marisa was looking solemn and I simply bowed my head, silently admitting that I already knew.

“He killed someone?” Rarutos asked shakily. “Are you serious?”

I nodded mutely. I could clearly remember that day. This time I reluctantly allowed Rarutos to place her hand against my forehead and I closed my eyes, drawing on the memory.

Don’t hate him for what you see…

*~*~*

I lay sprawled on the floor of my cage, silent tears trickling down my cheeks, feeling the cold metal searing my back. Kevin had simply pulled his pants back on, thrown me back into my cage and walked out. My entire body was aching and I had an overwhelming desire to scrub myself clean, but I had no water.

The sound of footsteps intruded on my thoughts. Within seconds the door was thrown open once more, flooding the room with light. Kevin approached my cage, a steel jug clutched in one fist, and knelt to unlock my cage again.

I summoned enough strength to crawl feebly into the nearest corner. Kevin caught me by the ankles and stretched my legs out until I lay sprawled across the cage floor again. He held the jug over me, tilting it to pour a steady stream of ice-cold water over my entire body.

“Clean yourself up,” he said shortly, using the last of the water to fill my bowl. The cage door clanged shut again and I listened to his receding footsteps, then used the bars of my cage to drag myself to my knees. Immediately I fell upon my bowl, thirstily gulping down as much as I could hold. The water was fresh and clean rather than the mud I was used to.

Eventually I straightened up, licking the last droplets from my lips. At least half of the water remained in the bowl, and I cast a furtive glance toward the door to make sure I was not being watched. Hesitantly I scooped up some of the water in my cupped hands and began to scrub myself clean.

Savouring the feeling of being able to bathe again, I threw caution to the winds and dipped my filthy, matted hair into the bowl. Clumps of it came loose in my hands as I washed as much dirt out of it as I could.

My bath over, I crawled back to my corner and curled up in a tight ball. It had not been a smart idea to wash my hair in my bowl; the next time I tried to drink, I would taste oil and dirt in the water. It was too late though; I would have to deal with that when it happened. I hunched myself against the cold bars, closed my heavy eyes and drifted to sleep.

The sound of quick, hurried footsteps brought me back to consciousness before long. I sat bolt upright, clinging to the bars as I listened. These footsteps sounded different to Kevin’s, as though the person was lighter and trying to keep quiet.

There was a pause, then suddenly the door creaked open. A slight, familiar figure slipped inside, closing the door quickly after themselves. I squinted at them, trying to identify them.

The figure froze, sensing another living creature in the same room. “Who’s there?” a voice whispered hoarsely. Their voice sounded male but not very deep, as though it was a prepubescent boy. My eyes widened as I recognized the voice.

“Will!” I cried, my voice sounding feeble in the darkness. My throat seared with agony; speaking caused me pain after the screaming I had done earlier. A single call was enough, though; the figure paused, then a burst of light illuminated the storeroom. Will had dared to turn on the light and he now hurried toward my cage, his footsteps echoing around the room.

“Selena?” Will breathed, crouching before me. I pressed myself against the bars to be closer to him, feeling tears spill from my eyes again. He reached for my hand and I stretched out my unhurt arm toward him.

“Selena… you look terrible…” Will whispered, gazing at me in concern. His eyes travelled past me and he wrinkled his nose in disgust at the state of my cage. “He’s been treating you horribly…”

I nodded silently, simply glad to be with him again. He squeezed my hand gently, then released it and drew a hairpin from his pocket, inserting it into the padlock on my cage.

“I heard you screaming before,” he told me as he worked. “I was waiting for a chance to get in here when my brother left. I snuck in the moment I got a chance and I’ve been checking room after room to find you.”

Suddenly a thud behind him made both of us freeze. Will slowly turned his head, finally realizing what had happened. Kevin had slipped into the room while Will was talking, making no sound at all until he had closed the door firmly behind him.

Kevin gave a humourless smile. “Well, well, if it isn’t my dear little brother.”

Will rose to his feet, fury in his eyes. “You can’t do this to Selena,” he spat. “You’ve been keeping her in this tiny cage, not bothering to clean it, letting her starve and freeze to death… I can get you arrested for this!”

Kevin’s expression didn’t change. “I can do what I want to her,” he said calmly, his eyes flickering briefly toward the floor before returning to Will’s face.

“You…” Will hesitated as he noticed his brother’s attention waver. He turned to look at me and I lowered my gaze, too scared to admit what had happened. I watched Will turn his gaze on the stone floor before his feet, which was peppered with drops of blood and…

“You monster!” Will snarled, taking a step back as he realized what had happened. “You animal! I knew you were cruel, beating her and locking her up like this, but actually forcing her to… that’s just sick and wrong. You’re despicable!” he screamed, throwing each word like a rock at his brother.

Kevin didn’t flinch as Will spoke. Finally he moved forward, bringing his hands out from behind his back to reveal the metal pipe he held. “She’s mine,” he said calmly. “I can do what I like with her.”

“You sick-”

Will never finished his sentence; Kevin abruptly launched himself forward and Will barely dived out of the way as the pipe came down on top of my cage. I recoiled, the shock travelling through my body like an electric attack. Will stumbled to a halt near a stack of empty cages, his eyes scanning for something he could use to defend himself.

“You don’t seem to realize that all of this has a purpose,” Kevin said conversationally. “You see, it’s a little-known fact that certain people in Veilstone City like to have Shadow Pokémon imported. Of course, there has to be somewhere to import them from, and it has to be beside the sea. And what better place to store them than this old, rickety warehouse?”

“Shadow Pokémon?” Will demanded. “What are Shadow Pokémon?”

“Pokémon with their hearts closed,” Kevin replied, approaching Will with his pipe ready. “They are the ultimate fighting machines.”

“But what does that have to do with-” Will ducked as the older boy swung the pipe down, then quickly threw his weight into Kevin’s stomach. The older boy doubled over and Will kicked his feet out from beneath him, taking the chance to rush to the opposite side of the room.

Kevin climbed to his feet as Will vaulted over a heap of steel boxes. “Selena is important too,” Kevin said, watching with faint amusement as Will resumed his search for a weapon. “There aren’t enough Shadow Pokémon being shipped over to deal with the growing demand. So a team of scientists in Veilstone City developed their own way of making normal Pokémon into Shadow Pokémon. It takes the most horrible treatment to make a Pokémon close its heart.”

“So she was your guinea pig?” Will demanded. “You were testing out your own method on Selena?”

“Well, she was going to be the first made here,” Kevin agreed, once again approaching his brother. “But for some annoying reason, I’ve managed to break her but not close her heart. There’s too much hope there for me to wipe it out. I tried everything I could think of, but nothing worked. And then,” he said, stopping just feet from Will, “I realized why. She only responds to you. She only cares about you. She only loves you. And it seems like you feel the same about her.”

Despite the seriousness of the situation, I couldn’t stop a blush from rising to my cheeks. Kevin had figured out my secret, and now Will himself knew…

“She’s my sister,” Will said fiercely, crouching behind the boxes where Kevin could not reach. “Of course I love her.”

Kevin chuckled lightly; an oddly chilling sound. “If you want to take it that way…”

I clung to the bars of my cage, watching anxiously as Kevin raised his pipe to strike. Will was completely out of my range of vision, so there was no way of telling if he knew there was an attack coming. Silently I prayed that he had found a weapon of his own.

A deafening clang reverberated around the storeroom and Kevin reeled back. Will had appeared behind the boxes, gripping what looked like a steel chair leg. He swung it at his brother; his weapon swished dangerously through the air, sounding much more lethal than the unwieldy pipe.

Kevin took a step back. “So, the innocent little kid isn’t afraid to fight back,” he taunted.

Will’s face was alive with fury. “I would do anything to save Selena,” he snapped. “I would kill for her.”

Suddenly he struck again, aiming the metal bar directly for Kevin’s head. The older boy barely managed to step out of range. He stopped a few feet away, clearly waiting to attack when Will tried to climb over the boxes.

Guessing Kevin’s plan, Will briefly took his attention away from his brother and vaulted clean over the boxes. He landed just as Kevin prepared to strike and raised his bar to block the attack. The two pieces of metal collided with a deafening clang.

“Should I kill you or just knock you out?” Kevin jeered, but the strain was showing in his face. Will was as light as a kitten and fast as a rattlesnake, his eyes alertly fixed on Kevin’s shoulders to see when he would attack. I watched in awe as he avoided most of Kevin’s attacks, blocking those that he was unable to dodge, never letting his brother inflict even a scratch upon him.

As Kevin began to tire, Will used his bar more and more offensively. At every pause in the fight, he swung it in a sharp arc so that Kevin was forced to dodge. He began to move backward, slowly moving closer and closer to my cage.


Finally Kevin’s legs hit my cage. Sensing defeat, he suddenly thrust his pipe at Will, who instantly blocked the blow. They seemed to freeze in place, both brothers pushing against the other’s weapon in an attempt to break his grip. Kevin leaned forward, the fight turning in his favour; Will’s youth and lightness may have been an advantage earlier, but he could not outmuscle his brother.

Suddenly Will twisted aside, swinging his foot at the same time and kicking Kevin’s feet from beneath him. His bar fell to the floor with a clang; he had broken his own grip to perform the manoeuvre. Kevin stumbled and began to fall, the pipe sliding from his hands as he grabbed for anything to hold him up. There was a sickening thud as the back of his head slammed into the corner of my cage.

All of the strength immediately left Kevin’s body and he slumped to the floor, motionless and lifeless. A pool of blood began to spread steadily from his head. Will stood motionless for a moment, panting and sweaty, waiting for Kevin to rise.

Nothing happened. I listened intently; I could not hear Kevin’s breathing. Suddenly a thought occurred to me; I was not sure if it was wonderful or horrible, but maybe…

Will took a slow step forward, as though expecting his brother to suddenly grab his foot and leap up. He lowered himself to his knees, hesitated and stretched out one shaking hand, pressing two fingers against the side of Kevin’s neck. After a moment of silence, he swallowed hard and lifted his gaze to me.

“He… he’s dead,” he said shakily, looking as though he was about to throw up. “I just… killed my own brother.”

Golden Riolu
November 7th, 2008, 03:48 AM
Sorry for the unusually long delay. My word processing program sort of, er, 'went to meet its maker'. In other words, it dropped dead. So I needed to get a new one, which didn't happen, and here I am stuck with Wordpad. No spell-checker, so my obsessive spelling seems to have a purpose after all, but please point out any typos you see so I can brutally murder them.

Also, the next chapter may not be entirely my own work. I will, however, be giving credit to the person who has already agreed to help me plan out a scene I'm having a lot of difficulty with. To that person... well, you know the words. <3


Chapter Seventeen


The Challenge


Rarutos
I broke my contact with Selena, struck dumb with horror. After a moment I became aware that Marisa was gripping my other hand, her eyes wide with shock. She had seen the memory at the same time as I had.

Slowly she released my hand, still gaping at Selena. The Kirlia lowered her head silently.

"Did… I just see… what I thought I saw?" Marisa asked haltingly.

Selena nodded, still refusing to speak. I glanced between her and Marisa, wondering if it had been my imagination. I cleared my throat, then remembered that Marisa couldn’t understand my language and switched to telepathy.

"Was it my imagination… or did she think of that boy as Kevin?" I asked.

Marisa glanced down at me. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Because… that means that Tyler didn’t rape Selena. That Kevin guy did. And Will killed him… but he did it by accident, and he did it to save Selena."

Selena nodded eagerly, looking relieved that I had figured it out. Realization dawned in Marisa’s eyes at the same moment as I came to a sudden conclusion.

"Will is innocent," I announced. "He did kill someone, but it wasn’t murder. Kevin was the guilty one. What he was doing couldn’t possibly have been legal… could it?" I turned to Marisa, still uncertain about human law.

Marisa slowly shook her head. "Murder means killing someone on purpose, but Will did it by accident. And Kevin could be arrested for mistreating Pokémon at the least - if he was still alive, I mean."

"We could clear Will’s name," I said slowly. "He wouldn’t have to run any more."
"But he can still be arrested for manslaughter," Marisa sighed. "And I doubt anyone would listen to us, Raru. We’re both still children, and we don’t really know the whole story. If only Selena would talk… they’d probably listen to a witness."

"I’m not a child!" I said indignantly. "I may only be a few months old, but I’m more mature physically than you!"

"You’re a Pokémon, and you’re not a witness," Marisa pointed out. "They won’t listen to you even if you’re fully grown."

I crossed my arms, fuming silently. Marisa picked up on my mood and said quickly, "Let’s just go and meet Mark and the others for breakfast."

Before I electrocute her. I wonder if I can still do that now that I’ve evolved?

I raised my hand and focused, feeling a faint crackle of electricity around it. I could definitely still use Shock Wave after evolving. With an evil smile on my face, I followed Marisa and Selena out of the room.

*~*~*

Mark picked up on our mood the moment Marisa sat down beside him. She and I were both shaken by what we had just seen and Selena looked more subdued than ever before. I glanced around the café in an attempt to distract myself, but I shouldn’t have bothered. The walls were bare and painted a dull khaki colour and most of the tables were empty, giving me absolutely nothing interesting to look at.

Mark leaned forward in his seat, gazing at Marisa’s face. "Hey, are you all right?"

"Huh?" Marisa said blankly, staring at him as though she had just noticed him.

I kicked her from my seat beside hers, sending her a silent telepathic message. "Smooth move. Now he’s going to ask what happened."

"What happened?" Mark asked almost instantly.

Marisa glanced at me and I rolled my eyes. "I didn’t have to read his mind to know he was going to say that."

"Nothing happened," Marisa lied unconvincingly. "I, uh… I just… Raru doesn’t like my singing."

Mark raised one eyebrow at her. "And that is what’s making you so unresponsive? I may have only known you a week but I’ve never seen you so silent."

Eruri stared hard at me around the menu. He was once again wearing his headband, although I couldn’t remember seeing Mark pick it up from beside the pool. I sensed him attempting to read my mind and quickly threw a barrier around my thoughts.
"You can tell me the truth," Eruri said. "I won’t tell Mark if you don’t want me to."

I knew that he could easily break through my barriers if he wanted to, but I didn’t feel him trying. He wanted me to tell him myself. I glanced briefly at Marisa and when she didn’t reply I slid from my seat to the floor. Eruri followed as I motioned to him, and Selena and Ruka silently watched us leave.

Once outside the café, I sank down on the kerb at the edge of the road. "First I want to ask you something," I said as Eruri imitated me. He pushed his hair back and watched me intently.

"What happened in the Gym?" I asked, finally voicing the question that had been annoying me for a week. "Why were you shaking like that? Why did Mark have to take you to the hospital?"

Eruri bowed his head and lifted one hand to his chest, using one finger to gently trace a long scar I had never noticed before. "[/I]This is why,[/I]" he said quietly. "It happened just over a year ago. I was in a rough fight and my opponent nearly killed me. I can’t get overemotional or exert too much energy, because when my heart starts to beat faster for too long I get sick. Is that what you wanted to know?"
I nodded silently, amazed. He hasn’t had an easy life…

Eruri leaned back casually, leaning on his elbows to stay up. "So why are you and Marisa so quiet?"

I paused. "Promise me you won’t tell Mark."

"I promise," Eruri said solemnly. "I won’t breathe a word to him or Ruka. And I won’t tell them telepathically either," he added as an afterthought.

I drew a deep breath and began to describe Selena’s memory.

*~*~*

Eruri straightened up as I finished talking. He had listened intently to my every word and had not interrupted once. "Wow," he finally murmured. "I knew Selena had been beaten, but I never would have thought… that explains how different she seems to the young Ralts she used to be. And… you said she loves her old trainer’s brother?"

I nodded eagerly. "Imagine! A human! She’s in love with a human!"

"Imagine that," he repeated quietly, but I could tell that he wasn’t as stunned by the fact that his half-sister loved a human than by the rest of the memory. He leaned his head on one fist and stared into the distance, his eyes empty of expression.

"You don’t seem surprised," I pointed out.

Eruri shook his head, snapping back to awareness. "No, not really," he said. "It’s more common than you’d think. But humans disapprove of that sort of love and try to stop it. I’ve seen some horrible things on television…"

Amazed, I shook my head. "I don’t get it. How could a Pokémon love a human? I mean, Marisa is like my sister… like an annoying, clumsy sister, but still a sister. But I could never imagine loving her romantically. It’s just… sick!"

"It’s not that different to a Pokémon loving another Pokémon," Eruri said mildly. "Charmeleon and Monferno are different species, but they can still fall in love with each other. And we’re both similar to humans; would it be so disgusting if we fell in love?"

"If we fell…?" I stopped, my eyes widening in shock as Eruri leaned closer. An involuntary gasp escaped me as his lips gently touched mine, sending an electric thrill throughout my entire body. I felt like I must be glowing like a light bulb. All too soon I felt him draw away and, realizing that my eyes were closed, I opened them again. His face was barely two inches from mine; he gave a mischievous smile and returned to the café.

My breath was coming in short, sharp gasps and I felt the blood rush to my cheeks, causing them to burn bright red. My lips were throbbing as though someone had just punched me in the mouth, but I savoured the feeling. I was still thinking about the kiss as I stood up and slowly returned to the café.

"Where’ve you been?" Marisa demanded the moment I stepped inside. Eruri was already back in his seat; he smiled at me as I approached the table. I licked my lips absently and climbed back onto the empty chair, wishing I could sit on the opposite side of the table.

Mark glanced between Eruri and myself as I tucked my hair nervously behind my ear. Gradually a smile appeared on his face and he elbowed Eruri. The male Kirlia grinned guiltily up at his trainer in return.

"What’s going on?" Marisa asked, gazing suspiciously at me.

I quickly pasted a smile on my face, hoping that my lips were back to normal. "Nothing," I said innocently.

"Don’t nothing me," Marisa said sternly. "Raru! What did he say to you?"

"I don’t think it’s what they talked about that matters," Mark said mildly.

My trainer stared blankly at him. "Huh?"

Before he could explain what he meant, Selena caused a distraction by scrambling into Marisa’s lap and hiding her face in the human’s shirt. Only seconds later a shadow fell over the table and I looked up to see a teenage boy standing over us, a puzzled expression on his dirty face. He looked a few years older than Marisa but not as old as Mark, his dark hair untidy and his torn and faded clothes a similar shade of blue to that of his eyes.

"Excuse me," he said to Marisa, "but I thought I recognized that Kirlia you’re holding. Do you mind if I have a look?"

Marisa glanced uncertainly down at Selena, who was still hiding her face from the humans. Eventually she gave a reluctant nod. The boy bent down and lifted Selena’s hair off her back, exposing the livid scars.

"I thought so," he said triumphantly. "This is my Kirlia. I adopted her months ago and I’ve got the papers to prove it."

I felt as though an icy hand had closed around my heart. No… it’s Tyler and he’s come to take my sister away…

"And you are…?" Marisa prompted.

"Tyler," the boy announced, confirming my fears. The hand around my heart clenched tighter, squeezing away all of the happiness I had felt only moments before. At the same moment, I watched Marisa’s grip tighten on Selena, drawing her closer protectively.

"She’s mine," Tyler repeated. "Give her to me."

"She doesn’t belong to you," Marisa snapped. "You abandoned her! You ran off and left her in Pastoria City! You don’t deserve her!"

Tyler’s eyebrows furrowed slightly at Marisa’s words. "Wait a minute… how did you know that?"

"She told me," Marisa lied. "She also told me she’s never spoken to you. You don’t know anything about her because she never trusted you!"

I wouldn’t have been surprised to see steam shoot from Tyler’s ears. "I challenge you to a battle!" he roared. "If I win, you have to give Selena back to me!"

Marisa glanced down at the Kirlia in her arms. "No," she said defiantly. "I accept your challenge, but whoever wins has to give Selena the chance to choose who she wants to stay with. Do you agree with that?" she asked Selena gently.

The Kirlia lifted her head, glanced nervously at Tyler and nodded. Under Marisa’s glare and Mark’s solemn gaze, Tyler seemed to deflate slightly.

"What’s the point of battling, then?" he murmured, then drew himself up to his full height. "Fine. You’ll referee?" he shot at Mark.

"Sure," Mark said, shrugging.

"Meet me by the fountains in half an hour," Tyler said, turning to walk away.

*~*~*

A cool breeze ruffled my long hair, causing me to shiver slightly. I began to rub my arms to keep myself warm as I glanced around, waiting for Tyler to arrive. Selena had refused to leave Marisa; she was curled up in my trainer’s arms, her alert scarlet eyes staring fixedly down the road.

"Maybe he chickened out?" Marisa suggested.

Mark shielded his eyes from the sun and squinted at an enormous clock atop an ancient building. "No, we’re early."

Marisa began to pace back and forth; she would have wrung her hands if she hadn’t been holding Selena. "He’s probably out training his Pokémon," she said anxiously, "and when he gets here he’ll be so strong that my team will faint right away, and then Selena will want to go with him because we’re too weak to protect her… who are you going to choose, anyway?" she demanded of Selena.

"Don’t pressure her," Mark said. "She’ll decide when she’s ready to decide."

Selena pushed aside her emerald hair and met my gaze, panic in her blood-red eyes. Instantly I knew her dilemma; she was afraid to refuse Tyler, and at the same time she didn’t want to upset Marisa. With each second, the moment when she would have to make her decision was drawing closer.

Marisa thought she was doing the right thing by Selena, but in reality she was putting her in an extremely difficult position. Refuse to go with Tyler and stay with her family and friends, and maybe receive a terrible punishment from Tyler… or go with Tyler out of fear and avoid the punishment, only to spend the rest of her life with someone she is terrified of?

"This was a bad idea," I piped up, drawing Marisa’s attention away from the fearful green lump in her arms.

"How so?" the human asked.

"If Selena chooses you, she’ll be with her family and the ones she trusts, but she’s afraid of repercussions from Tyler. If she chooses him, she’ll disappoint you, and although she’ll avoid being punished by Tyler, she’ll have to live with someone she’s afraid of. I know you thought you were doing the best thing, but you actually put her in a really difficult situation."

Horrified, Marisa’s chestnut eyes flashed down to Selena. "I’m so sorry! I didn’t realize… I thought this was best for you, so you got to choose instead of being forced to go with anyone. I made a huge mistake, didn’t I? I should have refused the battle."

"You did the only thing you could," Mark said reasonably. "It’s true that she’s in a bad position. It’s also true that she’s not being forced into anything. You couldn’t have refused the battle. By the rules laid down by the Pokémon League, if one trainer challenges another, they have no choice but to accept."

"Yeah…" Marisa said, calming down slightly. "I did the only thing I could. Maybe I can draw out the battle to prolong the moment… if Tyler has more than two Pokémon, will you help me?" she asked Mark.

"I can’t, I’m the referee. But I can do this…" Glancing around discreetly, he unclipped the two spheres from his belt and pushed them into the girl’s hand. "If you want to know who’s in which ball, just squeeze it in your fist. Ruka’s ball lets off a faint aura that you can sense if you really try."

"Thank you," Marisa whispered. She tipped the orbs into her pocket with Sutanu’s and dragged Mark into a one-armed hug, trying not to squash Selena between them.
"He’s coming," Mark said quietly, gazing over my trainer’s shoulder. She released him at once and spun around, her cheeks drained of all colour. I stared down the road at the dark figure, watching it grow larger as it approached.

Tyler held his head high as he walked, his eyes burning with the passion that the thought of battle ignites in every trainer. He came to a halt before Marisa and Mark. Selena shivered and huddled into Marisa’s arms, trying to escape her trainer’s eyes.

"How many Pokémon do you have?" Tyler demanded of Marisa.

She drew herself up to her full height and glared at the boy. "How many do you have?" she retorted.

"Four, not including Selena," Tyler said. "And any of them can beat your entire team in one hit."

If it was even possible, my trainer’s face became paler at these words. "I doubt that," she said, trying to sound confident even though her voice was shaking. "I have four as well, and we’ve beaten everyone who challenged us without even breaking a sweat."

Tyler seemed completely untroubled by her claims. "If you weren’t lying, you wouldn’t be so nervous," he said simply.

Abruptly he spun to face Mark. "Conditions?"

Mark hesitated for a moment. "Double battle, no items used," he said, thinking as he spoke. I knew he was trying to tip the battle in our favour without being obvious about it. "If you recall a Pokémon during the battle, it counts as being defeated. Is that all right?"

Marisa nodded silently and Tyler said, "Agreed." He turned and strode away.

Marisa glanced anxiously at Mark. "I’ve never been in a double battle before!" she whispered desperately.

"Don’t worry, it’s easy," he said distractedly. "Get both of your Pokémon to target only one of Tyler’s, so you can knock it out as quickly as possible. Ruka and Eruri work well together in double battles."

Tyler had come to a halt a short distance away. Mark gave Marisa a brief hug and murmured something in her ear before hurrying away to stand halfway between the two trainers, out of the way of the battle.

Marisa let out a slow, shuddering breath. "I really don’t want to do this," she whispered.

Tyler had paused for a moment and was now reaching for something on his belt. He raised both arms and flung two spheres into the space between us. Both objects burst open and expelled a flood of dazzling light, which arced toward the ground and twisted itself into the shape of two creatures.

As the light faded, one of the creatures rose up and hovered two feet off the ground. Its metallic blue body resembled a UFO, with a single bone-like horn between its narrow crimson eyes. It flexed its thick and powerful arms threateningly.

From the second burst of light, a rather thickset feline took form. The white glow gave way to dark fur; short and a shade of aqua over some of the body, but longer and black over the head, shoulders, legs and rear. Slowly the lion-like creature stretched its thick legs and yawned, flicking its long star-tipped tail.

"Tyler has chosen Metang and Luxio," Mark called. "Marisa, your turn."

Trembling, Marisa reached into her pocket and withdrew a single sphere. "All right… Sutanu, Rarutos, you’re up!"

She tossed the ball lightly into the air and a third jet of light exploded from within it, landing a few feet away and shaping itself into the familiar skunk-like form.

I drew a sudden gasp of shock, remembering a conversation with Ruka on our last night in Pastoria City. Look at him and concentrate. Concentrate…

His aura…

A Dark type would naturally have a dark aura; it was what prevented me from being able to use my powers on him. But I had been able to sense his dark aura before evolving, and it had simply been a stifling force. Now a definite sense of hatred and cruelty radiated from him, and I realized that I could actually see his aura, just as Ruka had said I would.

A black haze hovered around the Pokémon’s body, distorting his features and blurring his outline. It was much darker and heavier than any normal Dark Pokémon could possibly have. It was anything but natural; only humans could cause something like this.

DarkGrowlithe
January 9th, 2009, 09:10 PM
This is very well written. I haven't noticed very many spelling errors, only one or two. There are quite alot of details in it, maybe a bit too many in the nightmares/visions. In my opinion, you should make Will and Marisa meet each other again. Other then those few little things, this is a great fanfic! I hope you post soon, I can't wait to read it.

Astinus
January 9th, 2009, 09:42 PM
Don't bump threads over a month old unless you are the author. I would suggest reviewing the rules of this section.

Golden, you can PM/VM me when you are ready to post the next chapter.

Thread is now closed.