New Chapter! (Finally...)
Well well, what can I say. Besides the fact that this chapter was ready mid-March, but between BR and RL, it took quite some time for it to see the light. My trusty Betareader did quite some work, he even put down his XBOX game controller, and warned me about the comma coma I was about to fall into. and here I thought my problem was with spoken English...
But, no more excuses. Recall my warning: I write long. I even forgot to do the word count thingie for this piece of story, but, hey, who's keeping score anyway? Well, someone is, in Darius' dreams, and that is to affect his mood, so lets see how things play out. Oh, and there's more incluing on the backstory between Darius and Lou, plus we get to finally see this foreshadowed antagonist - of sorts.
The chapter title is of course a reference to the road you oghta go through in 1st Gen games before reaching Victory Road. So you can guess what is being cooked here.
Let's continue the reading with...
“Grandpa”... “Pizza”... “School”... “Leap”... “Trick”... “Friend”...
“Bitter”... “Seaweed”... “Fence”... “Ball”... “Dent”... “Curl”...
“Stage”... “Mist”... “Smile”... “Belt”... “Tear”... “Flame”...
“Shoot! Shoot Shoot...! I overslept!”
Darius cursed under his breath as he got dressed, as quickly as he could. A look at the wall clock, another at his watch, just to confirm his fear. Belt? Check. Food? Later. Case? “...Feraligatr has it”, he reminded himself. A couple of minutes later he was running down the hotel's stairs and waving his hand to the help desk women, who managed to barely say a “Good mor---” before they saw his blue, messy and uncombed hair disappear beyond the main entrance.
To be truthful, Darius was barely awake. He had not slept very well last night. Between an itching sensation of uneasiness, a shapeless doubt trying to form in his mind, and knowing Feraligatr was spending the night alone, he went in and out of sleep more times he could count. So, when he approached the secluded part of the park where he had left Feraligatr and the case last night, he was in dire lack of stimulation, and about to break down due to fatigue.
“Feraligatr?” he asked, in a loud voice, as he noticed the tree he was looking for was empty, except for the ever present Weedle.
“Feraligatr?” he repeated the question, looking left and right, trying to distinguish anything blue out of the green and brown of the park.
There came no answer.
“Feraligatr...” he called again, softly, scratching his head, thinking with difficulty, had he picked the wrong tree? Or maybe even the wrong park? Sure the lack of sleep had taken its toll.
Steps strongly echoing in the ground called his attention, and he turned back and faced up to meet his Pokémon, carrying the case in its left arm. Darius smiled and took two steps towards the larger creature, to hug it. The Pokémon hugged back.
“Thanks, Feraligatr...” he mumbled, with some difficulty. “I'll repay... I promise, I...”
Darius sunk his head on his Pokémon's chest, fatigued... Feraligatr released the case, which fell to the side of the tree, and managed to grab his Trainer before he would dully fell to the ground, unwillingly delivered to sleep...
Somewhere in the Suocé Region, three years ago...
As the ferny-odoured winds coming from the east slowly covered the remains of the Race Stadium, signaling a coming rain. The sun was lighting the benches and the tracks, giving them a radiant appearance. It was a setting all too precious, and was to be remembered as an historic landmark...
Until a sudden blast, high in the north section of the establishment, sent fiery sparks, wooden logs and pieces of seats flying. Down in the tracks, the source of the flames was swirling around, madly looking for a target, which she found, as a young blue-haired man, cried in disbelief.
“Croconaw, look out--!”
An explosion stronger that the first one, impacted at some distance, engulfing said Pokémon. The shockwave was strong enough to send the youn blue-haired boy to the ground.
But the human was quick to come to his feet.
Darius turned to walk towards his precious, beloved companion, tears having difficulty forming in his eyes, due to the intense heat. The pain of seeing her in such a situation was unbearable: her form was swirling left and right, neighing in confusion, trying to get rid of the pain that came from a set of metal belts straped to her torso, piercing it. The flames of her mane were so powerful that the soil around her would scorch upon contact.
Turning to his left, beyond the spot of the explosion, Croconaw was barely standing, heavily burnt and with evident damage to his left arm. Even from this distance, Darius could appreciate it was broken and bent backwards.
Darius looked back at his longtime companion. Why was this happening? Who would hurt a Pokémon this way? Who could be so ruthless...?
Darius heard his lovely's whining, as she slowly lost control and started shooting flames to the ground in all directions. He noticed, worriedly, that she seemed to be ill, confused, and afraid. He remembered the strange sickness that afflicted Rapidash every time she tried to pull a Flame Wheel... and the pain and fear he now saw in her eyes. Not knowing why, Darius started walking towards his Pokémon, slowly, steadily...
“Calm down, lovely... calm down!”
She would turn to him and away, her eyes apparently being unable to fixate on his own. He noticed that his sense of smell was picking not only the burnt soil, but also a strong odour like that of wet fern. He then realized some raindrops slowly falling from the sky. He looked at her, and she turned to look at him... and past him... and away... Was she so confused?
“I'll remove them! I need to---”
Darius could not complete the sentence. He saw Rapidash looking towards him with confusion, hatred, and pain. A second later, a strong force pushed him to the ground. He felt pinned down, and his head hurt a bit, but he could still hear his Pokémon's endless neighing, her call for help.
Darius tried to move, to get up, but something was clamping his arms to the ground, and he could feel a weight all over him, and a breath all over his face. He opened his eyes to see a brown-haired man, with a green t-shirt, lying over him, struggling to keep him on the ground. Darius was shocked to see the man's eyes, apparently devoid of all realization about what was happening. How could he, thought Darius, do this? His friend?The one he called for this? Do this to them?
“Get off me!” struggled Darius. “I have to help her...!”
“You can't.” the figure of the brown-haired man responded, struggling back to keep Darius pinned down. “You must---”
“No! Lou! You can't do this!” screamed Darius, trying to force his right arm up for a punch.
“It's the measurement!” stated Darius' friend as he forced his face closer to his. “Let her die!”
“What!?” Darius exploded in a fit of rage, akin to that of his Pokémon, and struggled, with more strength, until he managed to roll to one side and partially push Lou aside. Lou's right arm and leg were still gripping Darius' left ones', he would not get away.
“Her strength... plummeted down” continued Lou, with a voice devoid of emotions, as his face slowly became wet as Darius was, from the rain.
“No... Get... help her!” yelled Darius, as his sight fixated again on his companion Pokémon, still suffering as she tried to literally melt the belts away with her flaming body. The process was causing her even more pain as well as loss of blood.
A strong thud forced Darius down to the ground again, and he felt Lou's weight upon him, again, but that did not last. Darius rolled to face the sky and Lou's face, freezing in place as the two friends locked their eyes.
“Let her die...” stated Lou. “Let her die...” once and again, just like a broken machine that would simply repeat its actions over and over.
“Let her die...”
Darius raised his head, gaining sight of the northern side of the Stadium and of his Pokémon slowly coming to a halt, her fire diminished, her neighing fatigued, as she slowly swirled a couple of times, lost balance and fell to the ground, panting heavily.
Darius instinctively threw his fist towards Lou's face, barely missing; but that movement provided distraction enough to cause the brown-haired man to lose balance, and Darius managed to roll back, face to the ground, and start crawling his way towards his Pokémon. The soft rain gaining strength and bathing them both.
“Let her die...” repeated the voice behind him.
He tried to crawl closer...
Linoone flinched and fell back from his Trainer's chest, as the two of them literally clashed head-to-head. With its eyes closed, the Pokémon growled warningly as it got up on the ground and shook its head, fending off the pain.
Darius took the hit hard, too, its suddenness cutting him short of the curses and swearing he was about to scream to someone. The words “you bastard” swirled back and forth in Darius' mind as his head fell back again. But this time he hit a tree. Letting out a yell and taking his hands to his head, Darius leaned to the soft grass to his left side, scratching his head.
“Grr-- ooone!” cried Linoone as it got up and jumped over its Trainer again.
Darius opened his eyes again, and saw his Linoone, literally sitting on his chest, shaking its head left and right. Apparently the clash had been strong enough to upset it, as it was licking its paw and brushing its head with it. With some barely audible growls it made its discontentment clear. Darius felt the pain too, of course, and he was sure that accident was to leave a mark.
“Sorry--” he managed to mutter, his own hand over his forehead.
As he did, he noticed the warmth all over his body. The sunlight had made its way through the trees and directly above him. It felt not only warmth, but tender. It was as if his body had been refilled with the joy of life as he slept... despite his dreams.
Darius rose again, this time with care, forcing Linoone to get off his chest. The Pokémon did not leave its trainer, however, instead it sat on Darius' legs.
“How long... have I slept?”
Linoone scratched its head and pointed with a paw towards the sky. Darius tried to look up, but his sight was instantly blinded with direct sunlight. “Noon”, he said to himself, flinching and returning his sight to his companion. As he did, he noticed another shadow partially covering him as he stood up, and he turned left to meet Feraligatr who was approaching with the case.
“I... fell asleep?” he asked, somewhat rhetorically, as he came to understand what had happened, avoiding the sight of the blue Pokémon who circled around and stood before Darius' feet.
“Rhaaa...?” countered Feraligatr, standing still and fixating his eyes on him, as if he was the one making questions.
“What do you mean?” asked Darius, tilting his head as he started scratching his head, thinking of the nightmare he had just had.
For an answer, Feraligatr came closer, hunched down so that his head was at Darius' height, and softly pushed Darius' jaw with his own. Darius noticed that Feraligatr's tail was swirling back and forth, slowly, and that Linoone was looking at him with a hint of confusion.
“Well, I felt asleep... that's all...” Darius answered. He stepped back towards the tree and leaned on it, allowing himself to rest.
Feraligatr and Linoone looked at each other with a hint of curiosity, and reached some kind of tacit agreement. The alligator Pokémon came closer over Darius' body, repeating the gesture. Darius sighed and pushed his Pokémon away gently, indicating that he didn't understand what he was trying to do.
Feraligatr blinked a couple of times, looked at Linoone, then at Darius again, and he started making faint, slow sounds with his jaw. It was something between a growling and a mumbling, Darius noticed, and he was making it with his eyes closed.
“Oh... I was sleeptalking then...” Darius said, raising his left hand slowly to indicate that he had got the message.
Linoone and Feraligatr approached him and took a rest in the grass besides him, Linoone softly resting its head on Darius' arm. The trio stood there, resting, for a while, Darius still thinking about what he had dreamt.
“He is the one who did this...?” he thought, trying to clear his head to remember the events that day. “I... did not expect that...”
As the sun slowly disappeared from sight, covered by the tall trees, Darius honed his hearing as he noticed some mumbling far away. There were people... of course, there's always people, this was a park... a public place, after all.
“Not like it was then,” he stated, remembering the old stadium. “when it was abandoned. I asked for it because of that. And what I got...”
A sound close to him called his attention. Linoone was snoring. Feraligatr had fallen asleep, too. Still holding the case. Smiling faintly, Darius took out two Poké Balls and recalled his Pokémon back to the container devices, leading the case to fall to the ground with a thud. As the Poké Balls returned to his belt, Darius' hand veered instinctively to other of the devices, the first one. The one containing what he had protected the most... except for one time.
“I expected something else, but it did happen, after all...”
His hand stroked the device, and he believed, for a moment, that he could feel the worrying and the trust from the creature held inside. His “Lovely”.
“You turned out well.”
He let himself to daydream for an instant, and, after recalling his renewed strength, stretched his arms up and long, taking a long yawn, and then a deep breath with his eyes barely open, to enjoy the dim sunlight bathing the forest.
“I'm done with this place.” he said to no one in particular. “We should be going already.”
And he slowly walked outside the small forest, towards the voices that revealed the city life.
The attendant of the Poké Mart picked the goods from the man in front of her, and passed them through the scanner. She did not bother to look at the tall, fat man with a beard: she knew exactly who he was and why was he here.
The sum appeared on the display, and the man forked out the amount in bronze coins.
“Thanks, sweetie,” the man said with a smirk.
“No, thanks to you, Bruce. I hope your Machop is OK.”
That said, the man walked out of the building, where a small, muscular Pokémon was waiting. The Pokémon took the bags with its hands and held them for a while as the man called Bruce produced a cellphone and started making calls.
As the attendant smiled, she waved her hand to the next client, who was apparently looking absently at the announcement board. “Sir? You're next...” she called to a brown-haired man in his twenties, and sporting navy pants and a wool vest, apparently over an oversized green T-shirt.
“Oh...” answered the brown-haired man, awakening from his apparent numbing. “Sorry... I just wanted to buy these.”
The man proceeded to lay some cans of Poké food and a couple of healing sprays over the counter. The attendant observed casually that the man did all this with his right arm: the left was covered with some sort of cape, apparently made from a ripped shirt, and the man's wrist was bandaged.
“Apparently you're trying to train a Pokémon very hard, sir.”
“Oh,” answered the man, smiling and leaning back a bit, as if to hide his left side, “it's an old wound. Nothing special. My Pokémon are fine.”
“Well.. sir. It's one thousand and twenty-- oh...” the attendant interrupted herself as the man forked the exact import on the counter. A couple of beeps from the cash machine and the sell was made.
“Thanks.” mumbled the man, waving his hair to the left, with this move leaving both his oil-black eyes visible.
“You're welcome.” answered the attendant, as the man left the place with a bag. Then she turned to the next client.
The man walked towards the southern exit from the city, every once in a while letting his eyes wander and giving leers to the northeast with uneasiness. He walked like that for some time, as a vigilant shadow periodically covered his form for a moment, until he reached a square close to the city exit. After resting there for a while, he exited the main road and walked to the wilderness, coming to a stop besides a fallen tree as the sun was about to disappear to the west.
He took a seat and started checking the contents of the bag, as the creature responsible for the shadow flew past him and landed its purple form before the man, staring at him with round, large eyes with black pupils and the swift and gentle beat of her large wings.
“Venomoth, I brought some food. How's that?” Lou asked, as he showed one of the cans, blue in colour, to the inquiring Pokémon. For an answer, Venomoth leaned closer, and, after probing the can's smell, bat her wings furiously a couple of times, made a strange sound, and left to a nearby log. From there she just stared at him.
“I take it it's not the brand you like. Anyways...”
Lou's line of thought was cut short when he felt a soft poking on his side. He turned his head left, to meet his Sandslash poking him. The ground-type Pokémon threw its clean white claws insistently but gently towards Lou's side, just below his spleen.
“Hello to you, too. I brought some food.” He said, as he took again the blue can and showed it to them. “I think it's the wrong one, because---”
Again, he was cut short when Sandslash literally jumped on him and stole the can from his hands, running away towards a closer tree. Lou almost fell back from the trunk because of his Pokémon's hind claws coming so close to him.
“Carhis!” Lou yelled to the thief and the pursuer, respectively. “Don't... don't eat all of it...! Oh, whatever.” he reprimanded himself, as he managed to sit back on the trunk. “As if it were to listen...”
“Besides...” he reminded to himself, trying to regain his train of thought, “I can't just buy specific brands anymore. No matter what Carhis says.”
Lou turned his sight to the other direction, and met his loyal partner, his companion of a lifetime, coming from out of some bushes. Ivysaur walked towards him from the shadows, eyeing him proudly, as he usually did since he had evolved. Ivysaur pushed himself over the fallen trunk using his vines, and took a “seating” position of sorts alongside Venomoth, who simply stood there bating her wings. But after only a while Ivysaur decided to simply lay flat on the trunk, hind legs spread and eyes wide open at his Trainer. He “saur”ed a welcome, which Lou responded by leaning forwards to his Pokémon, the two pressing their heads against each other. Lou noticed that Ivysaur was breathing hard: probably he had been patrolling the place.
“Guys, any trouble? Have you detected anything?”
Venomoth bat her wings a couple of times and leaned back slightly, her way to indicate everything was clean. Ivysaur just answered with an “Ivy...” as he pointed with his vines towards a heap of objects, barely visible besides some bushes, that he had found while keeping guard of the place. There were some coins, cans, and what appeared to be a bike tire.
“People so inconsiderate...” said Lou to himself. “We clean at dusk...” he commanded to his Pokémon. “For now, it's food and rest.” He looked furtively to the trees where his other Pokémon had gone. “Well... I'll have one of us mount guard the afternoon, and we march to the League during the night.”
Lou sit at one end of the trunk. Ivysaur remained on the trunk and Venomoth flew to her Trainer's side. For the next half hour the human and the two Pokémon enjoyed some meal, although Venomoth made a point of rejecting the contents of the blue can no matter what would Lou mix them with. The grass-type Pokémon did not eat much: weather had been very sunny and warm the last week. As for Sandslash, it remained hidden from sight, silently pleasuring itself with the contents of the can.
Lou watched his Pokémon eat, and picked some things from his backpack. He produced a pen and a notebook, put up a pair of latex gloves, placed a small brush besides him, and finally produced a small device from the innermost pocket of his pack. Tubular in form, with a couple of colour-coded wires on the inside and small copper-layered sockets on the outside. Lou manipulated the device for a while, as he checked some notes that were written in the paper with an apparently very rushed script. Those actions he repeated for several minutes.
Neither he, nor his Pokémon, would notice a pitch-black form with four legs and blood red eyes, watching at them from above. Patches of golden running around its ears and tail fur, reflected the growing moonlight, but despite this the form keep hidden, silent, aware, standing over one of the highest branches of a very thick tree, making not even the simplest of motions except for its eyes which scouted the group below. The Umbreon watched their every movement, examining their surroundings, and measuring their strength, looking for all viable openings. Its eyesight fell on the tubular device for a while, and then slipped towards the human, inspecting the strange, somewhat limited movement of his left arm. Umbreon's nostrils picked the scent of Pokémon food, not only from the human, but also from some trees to the opposite side of its position, but the growling and mumbling that it could heard, assured the creature of the night that the Pokémon far below would not pick up its essence for quite a while.
Umbreon leaned backwards very slowly, and took a very soft breath, to be left in a frozen stance again. Inspecting, calculating, envisioning. Its mind and body ready to leap down and shed everything in its path at the very first sign.
Rapidash's hooves thundered fiercely against the asphalt ground, as she walked the road with outer dignity but inner discontentment. Carpet and asphalt were not her thing, after all. Darius led her absently, until they met the green overboard sign to the side of the road: the “last one”. Darius smiled as he caught sight of the sign indicating the end of the city. It read:
«You are now leaving VIRIDIAN CITY.
46 km. to Indigo Plateau.
WARNING TO ALL PEDESTRIANS: Road maintenance in progress.»
Darius turned to Rapidash and petted her between her ears, to which she responded by flicking them once, and then lowering her head a bit, to better meet his care. They stared at each other's eyes for a moment and then Rapidash raised her sight and kept her stare ahead.
“Yes, lovely, we're out... Now you can run.”
That said, Darius mounted and readied himself. For a while the two of them were still, sensing the wind. Then, Darius let out a shout and Rapidash started trotting towards the plains. In just a couple of steps her trot switched to a fast gallop, as she ran away from the road. One, two, three beats and a brief instant of delight, of sheep power pushing forwards, a sequence repeated once and again with the interjection of a deep human breath during those instances of suspension. Darius could taste in the acidity and the warmth of the mane, that Rapidash was happy. Free to gallop at last, after, how long... two weeks? Delighted, too, to make her presence known in the plains, to the Sandslash, Mankey and Raticate mothers who would quickly call their cubs to safety as they senses the impact of the hooves storming nearby.
It took no time for the pair to reach a line of trees leading to a hill, which Rapidash tacitly understood to follow. The slope of the soil quickly increased: barely an attempt of a gist from Nature for her. Upon reaching the top, Darius had Rapidash's pace slowed and led her to do rounds around the hilltop, to better take a look at the landscape.
The sight of the giant forest to the east and the mountainrange to the north impressed Darius heavily. He had not had much time for exploration in his joust for badges. After a brief look, he whistled, and Rapidash neighed acutely and briefly in response.
“Nice place,” he added as he turned his sight to the west, and leaned to whisper at his Pokémon's ears: “but in that direction we have quite some space.”
Rapidash snorted, unsure as to what the sarcasm was about. She leered back, to her partner's foot, and then to the forests to one side, and then she neighed an inquiry he could not understand. She would ponder why would a human find funny that she was the fastest Pokémon around (she felt sure of that) and that she had to have room to show her speed. It was only natural for her: she had been born and raised for this. The fun was in beating others like her. Even if it had to be after coming out from a pathetic device.
A gentle pull on the reins informed Rapidash that Darius was done thinking. He led Rapidash down the hill, towards the edge of the nearby forests. This time they went slowly until they reached the road ahead. Where several Trainers were making their way, either alone or in the company of the tourists.
This was the place of the final test.
Darius led his mount close to a wooden sign, painted in blue and orange so that it would easily be distinguished among the various details on the road. And he smiled faintly as he read it in his mind.
Here, finished. There won't be more story updates until mid-Juny, probably, as I'm going to go through a... h€ll of a month. But once I'm back I should be able to update more often.
What's in for next chapter? A battle, a sad story, and a pen. That's all I can say right now.
Of course I would appreciate if you can read, comment and enjoy this story (and, if not, tell me why). And, in case you feel lost, you can go to the Table of Contents.
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