Thread: [Pokémon] ROOTS // Professorfic
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Old December 9th, 2011, 04:20 PM
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Haruka of Hoenn
Rolling writer
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Yes.
Gender: Female
Nature: Calm
This chapter was another challenge, both in content and in formatting. After doing quite a bit of thinking, I’ve resolved to split it into two parts again. They're both somewhat long, and in theory I could have made them two different chapters, but since they share a common theme, it would be more appropriate to keep them under one heading. Plus, you’ll get to see the Gym battle now instead of having to wait. I know I don’t like waiting. :P

So, without further ado… Chapter 20.

2.0

“Wake up! WAKE UP!”

A bag of feathers hit Henry over the head with a whump. At first, the boy did not stir, still drifting in dismembered thoughts. Then the blow came a second time, shattering his concentration on sleep and forcing him into awareness. Groaning, Henry pushed himself up and rubbed open his eyes.

Michael was standing beside his bed, still in his nightclothes, clutching a pillow. At the sight of his friend, Henry felt a flicker of irrational panic. “Oh my gosh, the battle!” He bolted up. “Is it today? Did I oversleep?”

“No,” Michael said. “We still have three days. I just wanted to let you know that your Clefairy passed away last night.”

“WHAT?!” Henry sprang to his feet. Almost unconsciously he grabbed hold of Michael’s shoulders. “You’re lying, it’s not funny! What did you do?”

Michael shook his head, his expression blank. “I tried to save her, but I guess I was too late. She’s gone.”

“No!” Henry pushed Michael with all his might, causing him to collide with the wardrobe. Michael dropped the pillow in surprise, but he was smiling, and when Henry began to shake him all the harder, his grin broadened. With ease, Michael pushed Henry’s arms away and sprang back towards the TV, out of Henry’s reach. “I’m telling the truth,” he said. “Clefairy’s gone. I saw it with my own eyes.”

Henry stiffened, clenching his fists at his sides. He felt a sting of shock pass over his face, then warm welling tears. “You’re lying, Michael Rowan! You’re lying!” He bit his lip. As much as he did not want the tears to fall, the urge was already beginning to overpower him.

“I told you, I’m not. If you really want to know, it happened at around midnight, while you were still asleep. I decided to wait before telling you.”

Henry gritted his teeth. “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“She was a good Clefairy,” Michael continued gravely. “Brave and loyal…”

“NO! SHUT UP! I’M TELLING YOU, STOP IT!—” Henry screamed, but his throat closed up before he could say more. One more word, and he would lose it.

“But hey, don’t sweat it.” Michael gave Henry an amiable pat on the shoulder. “You know what they say—life’s short. I guess Clefairy’s time was up, that’s all.”

Henry scrunched up his face and let out a low croon. Tears began to spill down his cheeks in powerful gobs, and through the blur of water and wails, he failed to see that Michael had retreated into the bathroom and come out with something in his arms.

“But Clefable seems to be feeling fine, on the other hand.”

Henry’s wails increased, then suddenly Michael thrust something into his arms. It was big and pink and furry.

“Wha… what?” Henry blinked. He was holding a pokémon. Its body was large and angular, and it had big, long ears and arms. At the first glance, the creature held no familiarity for him. But, taking a closer look, Henry realized that the old dimpled cheeks were still there… as were the round, soft eyes that had so often stared into his.

As he blinked away his tears, the pokémon’s thin mouth slowly spread into a smile. It lifted its tiny hands, holding on to Henry's arms with a reassuring, almost welcoming grip.

“… Clefairy?” Henry lifted the pokémon to eye level. There could be no mistaking it. He turned back to Michael, floored with disbelief. “Michael! How…?”

Michael smiled again. “That rock you brought back wasn’t a pumice stone. It was a freaking catalyst. You should’ve seen it!” He spread his arms out wide in a demonstration of hugeness. “Clefairy grew like three times her size in less than ten seconds.”

Henry let out a laugh, more out of relief than amazement. He wiped away his tears with the back of his hand, now feeling slightly foolish for crying. He fluffed Clefable’s pointy ears and brushed his fingers through the comma of pink hair, amazed at the effects of the transformation. As he did, Henry felt a growing sense of puzzlement. “But I—I don’t get it...” He turned to Michael. “What did you see? What exactly happened?”

“It was about the middle of the night,” Michael said. “She fell down from her table, and I started trying to catch her, you know, so I could put her back. Then I got the stone, and I sort of accidentally threw it… and then she just started spazzing out like she was having a seizure. Then she grew. She evolved into Clefable.” He cracked a smile again. “It was wicked cool.”

Henry frowned. “But how is that possible? My grandma had a bunch of Clefairies and they never evolved. Plus, Clefairy and Clefable are two different species. How could one just change all of a sudden?”

“Two different species don’t look similar just for the heck of it,” Michael said. “I think I’ve figured it out.” He took the pumice stone from the nightstand and held it up. “This thing, I don’t know how, must have caused Clefairy to transform. It wasn’t a typical evolution because it wasn’t tied in with Clefairy’s normal growth. That’s probably why she started getting sick yesterday. You kept the stone, and being near it made something in her internal chemistry wig out.”

Henry took this in, and frowned. “Hey! That’s probably why that trainer kid threw it at me! He must have known it would get Clefairy sick and thought it would be funny to play a joke on someone!”

Michael laughed. “Who cares? That flake probably picked it up on the street because he thought it looked cool. Just think—think of what we could do with this!” He held up the stone and examined it in the light. “I bet we could evolve anything!”

Hearing his friend’s astounding words, Henry looked down at his pokémon. Clefable. She was one of his first, given to him by his Kanto-residing grandmother as an infant Cleffa. He had raised her all by himself, watching her grow in size and personality, until she matured into Clefairy. He knew little about Clefables, only that they resided in a secluded mountain in Kanto called Mt. Moon. He had noticed their similar appearances from pictures before, but he had never considered that there might have been a connection between them.

Henry looked back at the pumice stone, and suddenly, something clicked. He gasped. “Michael!”

“What?”

“Bertha’s Roselia! You don’t think that that’s what happened to her, do you?”

Michael stared at him for a few seconds, eyes widening. “Only one way to find out. Let’s go.”



//////



After leaving Clefable and the still-sleeping Stunky with some food, the boys rushed over to Bertha’s door and knocked. The Gym leader emerged, already in day clothes, looking rather surprised to see them. “Boys? What are you doing up so early?”

“We need to ask you a question,” Michael said. Bertha stepped aside, and they hurried over to the two-person table, occupying the same places as the previous night. Michael kept tapping his hand on his knee, and Henry too seemed to find it hard to mask his anxiousness. Bertha sat down on the bed across from them, already looking perplexed at their strange behavior.

“All right. So, what did you want to talk to me about?”

“Your Roselia,” Michael said.

Bertha’s eyebrows climbed. “Rose? What for?”

Michael tapped his fingers together. “You said that you just found her one day when she had transformed… right?”

“Uh-huh.” Bertha nodded, still somewhat guardedly.

“How exactly did it happen? Did you see any part of it, or did you just find her like that?”

“Hm. I’m not sure I remember much about it. All I know is that I had this really pretty ring…” Bertha pursed her lips, and a reproachful edge crept into her voice. “And for the life of me, I couldn’t find it. I thought I had left it on my nightstand, but it wasn’t there when I checked, or in my purse, or the bathroom, or anywhere. I remember I was looking for it that whole week, and then on one of those days Rose changed.”

“Did she get sick?” Henry asked.

“She did, but only a little. She was perfectly fine when I took her out of her pokéball to feed her that one morning, but then I saw that she had already changed.”

“What did the ring look like?” said Michael.

Bertha’s gaze trailed off for a moment, tracing the bumps in the ceiling. “It was made of silver. The band was cut to look like a thread of leaves, almost. The stone was nice too. It was a light green, almost white, and always looked like it had just been polished. It went with almost any outfit, and that’s why I liked it so much. But then I lost it.” Her gaze fell back to Michael, and she folded her hands in her lap.

Michael and Henry exchanged a glance, and Michael took the stone out from his pocket. “So the rock didn’t look anything like this?”

Bertha’s eyes widened in surprise. “Whoa. Where’d you get that?” She reached for it, and Michael placed it into her palm.

“We found it in Amity Square,” he said.

Bertha traced the stone’s pocked, chiseled surface with her fingers. In the bright sunlight, the rock’s edges gave off a purplish glow. “Well, I can say for sure that I’ve never seen anything like this before. It definitely doesn’t look like something that would be lying around in a park, though. It looks like it came from somewhere in the mountains.” She handed it back to Michael, and sat still for a moment, watching the boy’s unchanging expressions. “So, is there anything else? Have I helped?”

Michael shook his head. “Thanks anyway, Bertha. We have to go.”

They got up, and leaving Bertha somewhat confused, they left the room. In the hallway, Michael pocketed the stone again. “So this definitely wasn’t what made her Roselia evolve… but then what did?”

“Maybe it had something to do with the ring,” Henry offered.

“Could be. But we can’t know for sure until we test it, and that would be impossible now.”

They went back to their room and got ready for breakfast. After a nondescript meal, Michael pushed open a side door to take a shortcut, and found himself crossing through an outdoor patio. In a normal hotel, such an area would have contained a pool and snack bar, but here, the hotel had set up an outdoor battle area. It resembled less of a school backyard, as Oreburgh’s had, and more of an uppity resort club. Two concrete arenas were laid out side-by-side, bordered by palm trees and patio tables with umbrellas. Trainers of all ages congregated together, some battling, and others idly standing by.

Michael kept to the main path, mildly surveying the crowd, but midway he felt a tug on his sleeve. He turned around to Henry. “What?”

“It’s him! That’s the kid from Amity Square!” Henry pointed over to the edge of the nearby arena, where a boy was leaning against the trunk of a palm tree. From this distance, Michael couldn’t make much of him: The boy’s hands were stuffed into the pockets of his pants, and his hair puffed out in curls from beneath his cap.

Michael smiled. “You got your pokémon with you?”

“Yeah, I always have them with me,” Henry said, shifting his tote bag.

“Then let’s go have a little talk. Come on.” Michael pulled Henry after him and led him over to the tree.

The trainer kid didn’t notice their arrival. He kept staring off into the distance, though he looked more vacant than cool, like a strange fellow at a bus stop. He looked to be around Henry’s age.

Michael stopped a few feet away and cleared his throat. “Hey. How’s it going?”

The kid looked up. “Oh. Hey.” He lifted his cap, peering through the tufts of hair to get a better look at his visitors. When the kid saw Henry, a flash of recognition passed over his face, and he jumped back against the tree. The cap’s visor fell awkwardly over his eyes and he pushed it back up as he groped for balance. “You again!” he said. “What, here for a battle? Little baby got his feelings hurt?”

Michael stood still against the trainer’s attempted taunts. He felt Henry shift beside him, and saw the boy’s hand tighten around his pokéball pouch, but Michael stopped him with a light tap on the arm.

“My buddy here didn’t like what you said about his Clefairy,” he continued to the trainer, still keeping a conversational tone. “They’re really close, you see. He’s had that pokémon ever since he was little.”

The trainer’s lips curled into a sneer. “Oh, little baby’s still walking around with his mummy’s Clefairy?”

Henry took a step forward, but Michael held him back. This seemed to boost the trainer’s confidence ever so slightly, and he stepped away from the tree, into the full sun. “So what are you gonna do about it? You wanna start something?” He pounded his fists together.

“That’s what he was about to do,” Michael said, before Henry could interrupt, “but now that he’s taken a second look at you he’s realized that it’s not worth the bother.”

Henry pushed against Michael’s grip. “Get off me!” he grunted. “I can take this kid!”

But Michael did not let go. The trainer, hearing Henry’s protest, broadened his grin and beckoned. “Come on! Why don’t you stop hiding behind your friend there and face me like a real trainer? You scared? I wouldn’t be surprised... sissy little fink that you are.”

With a final lunge, Henry pulled away from Michael’s grasp. Michael gave way willingly and stepped back a few feet. Henry ran up to the trainer till they were only inches apart. “You and me. One on one.”

The trainer smirked. “I thought you’d never ask.”

From his place behind them, Michael crossed his arms. His work here was done.

Henry and the trainer stormed to the center of the battlefield, the other kids willingly clearing the way for them. Henry took his place at one end, the trainer kid at the other, and instantly all around them the crowd began to shift. Michael backed away into the sidelines, sitting down at a spare table, and felt a series of jolts as several others ran around to join him.

When he was able to see the battlefield whole again, he saw Henry and his opponent draw out their pokémon simultaneously. Henry sent out Clefable, and his opponent sent out what appeared to be a strange, engorged bug. The pokémon had a thin, wiry body, six tendril-like legs, and a bulbous head with two eyes that stared in opposite directions. Its wings thrummed as it zipped through the air, adjusting its altitude with minute precision. Michael silently cursed his luck. He had absolutely no idea what the pokémon was, but it sure as hell wasn’t anything that lived in Sinnoh.

He must be from another country… He looked at the trainer again. That was the only logical explanation. Taking Bertha’s words into account, the stone could either have come from the mountains or from a different region entirely. And the trainer kid didn’t look like much of a mountaineer (heck, a tiny hiking trail could have probably finished him), so the most likely explanation was the latter. This conclusion only heightened Michael’s interest.

He watched as Henry shouted his first command, Quick Attack. With a speed that was surprising for her size, Clefable sprang forward and dashed towards the flying bug, eyes narrowed into slits against the rush of air. The trainer kid smiled, directing his pointer finger towards the sky.

“Yanma, Ancientpower!”

Still in the air, the flying bug rolled over onto its back, revealing a tiny network of veins in its wings and abdomen. It curled its tail into a ‘C’, and instantly, a shimmer of green coursed through the fine lines, like a neon light. Simultaneously the ground beneath it cracked.

Michael rose from his chair, and peered along with the swelling crowd as the cracks deepened into fissures, carving out three huge blocks of concrete from the floor. The blocks rose into the air, and one by one, hurled themselves at the speeding Clefable.

Henry clenched his fist. “Clefable, dodge!”

But the pokémon seemed to be doing fine on her own. Clefable skirted out of the way of the first boulder, and evaded the second one with a daring sideways leap. She kept running, dashing straight into the path of the third one. When it looked like the boulder would hit her smack in the face, Clefable jumped, the pads of her feet barely gracing its surface as she let the boulder roll past her. A loud cheer rose out from the crowd, and Henry beamed.

The trainer with the Yanma grit his teeth at the charging Clefable. “Use Wing Attack!”

A loud buzz issued from the Yanma’s wings as it descended. It hovered above the ground for a moment, then with a powerful exertion, swept its wings forward, stirring up a powerful gust. The wind blew around Clefable, but though she stumbled and staggered back, she did not lose her footing.

The gust died down, and Yanma drew back its wings to send the next one. During the pause, Clefable managed to claw her way forward, then ducked her head as the wind again assailed her. Yanma sent several more attacks in this fashion, which Clefable endured with a resolve that was completely unlike the plump, bumbling Clefairy she had been before. She kept going, till she finally crossed the distance between them, and lifted her lengthened claws to swipe at Yanma.

With a jeering buzz, the Yanma glided high out of reach before Clefable could touch it. Frustrated, Clefable began to jump, trying to grab hold of the Yanma’s slender, swooshing tail, which dangled beneath it every time the pokémon turned. When Clefable’s fingers would creep up on the forked edge, the Yanma would flap faster and ascend. Then, as Clefable ran around beneath it, the Yanma would dip temptingly low again, and let the same thing happen. All the while, Clefable remained helplessly trapped below, at a loss for what to do.

As he watched this useless stalemate, a sneer crept into the trainer kid’s face. “Swing it back!” he called to his pokémon. “Tail Whip!”

Flying a safe few yards away from Clefable, Yanma dropped lower than ever, lifting its tail. Seeing that her opponent was once again within reach, Clefable began to charge, arms outstretched. She advanced upon the Yanma, who was tapping the ground with the head of its tail like a baseball player, and Michael tensed in preparation for the collision.

Seconds later, a shrilling cry rang out through the arena. But it wasn’t Clefable’s.

Michael opened his eyes the rest of the way and leaned forward, trying to register what had happened. Instead of being hit like a playground ball, Clefable had somehow managed to grab hold of Yanma’s tail mid-swing, and was now hanging on tight while the Yanma thrashed about in the air, trying to shake her off. Henry and his opponent were both watching, mouths hanging open.

As Yanma twisted and flipped, Clefable kept a tight grip on the edge of its tail, her feet sliding off the ground as she tried in vain to keep her footing. With the Yanma pulling her to and fro, she he resembled a water skier. With a powerful tug, Clefable pulled Yanma out of the air and hit the bug against the ground. But a second later, Yanma picked itself up and swung back in a different direction, pulling Clefable along with it.

“Get it into the air! Use Fly!” shouted the trainer kid.

“Clefable, don’t let it!” Henry countered. “Wake-Up-Slap!”

Clefable pulled herself forward, clawing her way up the Yanma’s tail. The panicked bug began to flap its wings even faster, till they were reduced to twin silver blurs, and Michael heard what seemed like the roar of helicopter blades in their wake. The force of the wind instantly propelled both Yanma and Clefable into the air, and sent a powerful downdraft sweeping through the battlefield.

All around them, people raised their arms over their faces and backed away. A pokéball flag that stood nearby changed directions, and tiny pebbles that had been loosed by Ancientpower now scattered towards the neighboring buildings. Michael hung on to the edges of his table, trying to keep steady as the umbrella creaked and flapped.

Yanma and Clefable ascended higher and higher, till they were skimming above the treetops, their conjoined silhouette blotting out the sun. Henry had been knocked flat on his bottom, as had his opponent, and both boys were now squinting up at the sky, the wind rippling their hair and clothes. The cap had flown from the trainer kid’s head, letting the full mass of his hair splay around his face. The kid cupped his hands around his mouth and let out a bellow.

“Yanma! Use Slash!”

The pokémon didn’t seem to have heard him. Henry shouted up at Clefable, but his voice too was lost in the roar of raging wind. Either Clefable would let go, or Yanma would plummet from exhaustion.

Ducking against the forceful wind, Michael pushed himself away from the table and made his way to the edge of the battlefield as far as his legs would allow. He bent his head back and looked up at the pokémon, who had settled into an impasse, neither rising nor sinking. Clefable’s panicked eyes darted across various points on the ground, probably searching for the softest spot to land on. Yanma gave another jerk, and Clefable seemed to slip a little, but held fast. Her eyes slammed shut. Catching on, Henry scrambled to his feet, running around with his arms out in hopes of catching her.

“Clefable, go!” he called. “Let go! I’ll catch you!”

“No!” The trainer kid jumped up, his expression livid. “Yanma, use Slash! SLASH!” He made a swift swiping gesture with his arm. Yanma buzzed in return.

With a sharp flick, Yanma tossed Clefable off of its tail and into the air. For a split second, Clefable hung there, and the ends of Yanma’s tail glittered a hard, polished silver like a cutting blade. Henry let out a wordless exclamation as the tail swung out at Clefable, making to slice her body from the side. But at that moment, Clefable’s eyes flew open, and to Michael’s shock, he saw that they were a blazing pink.

What?!

Before he had time to think, Michael felt a tremendous weight press down upon him, as if someone had dropped an iron vest around his shoulders. His legs gave way beneath him, and with a hard thump, he fell flat against the concrete. Henry and his opponent dropped down likewise, as did the other trainers around them, like so many dominos scattered around a table. Michael was on his back now, his heart pounding in response to the sudden pressure, his skin crawling both hot and cold at the same time. He could barely move. The noises around him swelled into an indecipherable blur, and red spots ran across his vision.

After a few seconds of bewilderment, the pressure faded, and Michael felt a small sigh escape him. He lifted himself, looking around to see what had happened. Henry and his opponent were also recovering from the impact.

At the center of the arena were Clefable and Yanma, still lying flat where they had fallen. The Yanma’s body was draped over Clefable’s, its wings twitching infrequently. Clefable groped weakly for a handhold as she tried to pull free of the dead weight on top of her. Her eyes were half-closed, as if the attack had taken a considerable amount of energy.

In the midst of his scrambled thoughts, it took a while for Michael to realize that the courtyard had gone completely silent. Clefable’s attack had considerably damaged their side of the area: umbrellas hung broken over tables, signs and trash cans were dented, and the flagpole was slightly stooped. A kite that had been flying from one of the overlooking balconies was hanging limp from its string. The other half of the courtyard, in contrast, looked exactly as it had ten minutes ago.

Clefable finally managed to pull free, and scampered over to Henry. The trainer kid didn’t respond to his fallen Yanma, but rather watched as the pokémon weakly lolled about, as if bewildered that such a thing could ever happen.

All around them, the other trainers were whispering. Many of them scurried away, but as Henry pocketed the pokéball, he made to approach his opponent. Michael followed him. The trainer’s expression remained neutral as Henry arrived first, hands on hips.

“Well?” Henry said. “Don’t you have anything to say to me?”

The trainer met his gaze. “No.”

Michael stepped forward. “Where did you get the stone?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I’m serious, you little dweeb. Tell me!”

A smile curled the boy’s lips, but he remained silent. Michael bent down beside him and grabbed his arm, jerking him up till their faces were level. “I can knock out the rest of your pokémon if you want!”

Panic flashed in the boy’s eyes, and he lifted his hands in surrender. “Okay, okay! I went with my parents to a museum back in Kanto. They gave us free samples.”

“Free samples of what?”

“I don’t know. They said it was called a moonstone or something… Brought it all the way over from the mountains and they were just giving them out like free candy. I—I kept mine, but I didn’t want it anymore, so —”

“So you threw it at my Clefairy?” Henry said.

“I’m sorry!” the kid blurted. “Okay? I was just playing. And it’s not like your Clefairy got hurt or anything. I mean, nothing happened to him, right?”

Henry jolted forward, but Michael held him back. He looked down at the trainer with a neutral expression. “Just don’t mess with us, and we won’t mess with you. Got it?”

The trainer grumbled. Michael took it as a yes.

Henry returned Clefable to her pokéball, and immediately started towards the side gate. Michael followed, ignoring the passing gasps and remarks of the trainers in the crowd. None of them stopped to talk however; they merely parted way as Michael and Henry passed, then continued their hushed conversations.

Stepping through the gate, Michael let it swing closed behind him. They were now on a quiet, unpaved path that led back to the hotel rooms. It was only when they were finally safe of any possible scrutiny that Henry stopped and took a breath.

“Whew. I thought we’d never get out of there.” He adjusted the strap of his bag and wiped his forehead. Biting his lip, he took a quick glance in the direction of the patio. “We sure made a mess back there. Do you think I should’ve told a staff member or something?”

“No. Why?”

“I’m just saying. They might be surprised when they go outside and see three big holes in the ground.”

Michael rolled his eyes. “Okay, first of all, that wasn’t your fault. And second of all—man!” He grinned. “That was amazing! Your Clefable was totally boss! She beat that Yanma in three minutes flat! Do you know what that means?”

Henry’s cheeks flushed with pride, but he shook his head. “No. What?”

“It means that whatever that morphing was last night, it was a good thing. That rock you found—that moonstone, whatever it was—makes pokémon stronger! It’s the freaking key to all our problems! Think about it: if we could just expose it to all our other pokémon, we could beat Jerry and every other leader in Sinnoh.”

“But wouldn’t someone have figured that out already?” Henry said. “I mean, it’s not like we’re the only people in Sinnoh who have it.”

“Oh come on, didn’t you hear the kid? He brought it all the way from Kanto. And even then, he probably didn’t know what it could do, otherwise he wouldn’t have thrown it away like that. But now, we know what it does. And we’ve gotta put the knowledge to use.” Michael patted his pocket. “I’m gonna test it on my pokémon now. Maybe it’ll do something for them too.”

When they arrived back at their room, he released all his pokémon and gathered them in between the beds. It was somewhat of a mess, and the pokémon greeted him with varying displays of content and confusion, filling the room with garbled noise. Michael took the moonstone from his pocket and tossed it at the group.

“Here. Play with this.”

The stone landed in front of Turtwig, who backed away several steps. Then, ever so slowly, he pushed it with his snout. Caterpie immediately curled herself into a ball, hiding from view, while Machop lifted the stone and turned it over in his hands. Michael nodded. “Yep. Take your time.”

Henry sent out his pokémon as well, and they spend the next fifteen minutes feeding them all. The span of time passed, but still none of Michael’s pokémon showed any special interest in the moonstone. As a last resort, he picked up the stone and held it out to Stunky, wiggling it around the cage in what he hoped was a tempting way. The pokémon was resting on its belly, and seemed reluctant to leave its position, so it turned its head away. Michael lowered his arm. “I don’t get it. Why isn’t it working?”

Henry, who had seated himself at the desk, looked over. “It probably takes time,” he said. “Clefairy only got sick by the end of the day.”

Michael flipped the moonstone over in his hands for a bit, then set it down on the nightstand. “Okay, then we’ll wait. But don’t put it away. Just let them be exposed for a while.”

Henry nodded, and began to turn the pages of his planner. Clefable went over to him, and he lifted her into his lap, hugging her close. With his free hand, Henry traced his finger down to the current date. “The battle’s only three days from now. What are we going to do? Will we practice some more?”

“Definitely,” Michael said. “For one thing, we’ve gotta test Clefable.”

At this, Clefable turned to look at him, one of her long ears twitching. Henry turned as well, and for a minute, they looked almost comically similar—trainer and pokémon—both with confused, wide-eyed gazes. “Huh?”

“That’s right,” Michael said. “I bet you she has more new moves up her sleeve now that she’s evolved. We just have to find them.”

Henry twirled the pencil around, pressing the eraser to his chin. “Like what?”

“Like that move she used at the end to make Yanma fall,” Michael said. “Have you ever seen her use it before?”

Henry shook his head. “Nope.” He looked down at Clefable. “What about you? Have you ever used it before without telling me?” The pokémon giggled.

Michael sighed. “Come on, be serious. We’ve got a completely unique case on our hands here. We can’t goof off. We have to see what else she can do.” He stood. “Come on, we’re going back to the patio.”

Henry slouched in his seat. “But I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to battle any more today.”

“Well you’re gonna have to,” Michael said. “Your pokémon’s powerful now, and we have to examine her if we want to utilize her full potential. Don’t you realize how important this could be?”

“But I don’t want to examine Clefable,” Henry repeated. “And what’s the big deal anyway? Just because she evolved doesn’t mean she’s any different than before.”

“Of course she’s different. Did you not see her battle?” Michael held out his arms. “Give her to me. We’ll take her outside and see what moves she knows.”

“No. She needs to rest,” the boy affirmed.

“We need to examine her.”

“I want her to rest.”

“Well I need to do research!” Michael said.

“Well she needs rest!”

“Research!”

“Rest!”

Getting to his feet, Michael threw up his hands in resignation. “Fine! Fine, go ahead. Do what you want. I’ll win my own battle.” He grabbed a discarded Pokémon League Weekly magazine from the shelves and plopped down in one of the bedside chairs. In response, Henry stiffly opened an issue of his own, and they sat with their backs turned, not speaking.

The day passed with few variations. Michael tried several times in vain to get Henry back to the patio, and make him realize that it only made sense to finish what was started and continue battling. But aside from venturing out for meals, Henry seemed to want nothing more to do than sit around in their room and talk to Clefable. His battle with the foreign trainer seemed to hold no special significance for him, which Michael found infuriating to no end. Henry simply refused to budge, and seemed to withdraw into his own thoughts, shutting out the world around him.

When he went to bed at the end of the day, it crossed Michael’s mind that perhaps Henry was even more perplexed and astonished than he was.

Whatever the cause, by next morning, whatever had troubled the boy’s mind seemed to have abated. Henry’s mood had lightened into a productive one, and after a quick breakfast, he and Michael hurried outside with their pokémon.

It turned out that Henry’s battle with the Kanto trainer had raised much interest in the patio’s community. When Michael returned that day, he and Henry were greeted by a welcoming troupe of trainers, most of whom he recognized as spectators from last time. The arena that Henry had battled on was closed off by orange cones, and several workers were filling in the holes that Yanma’s Ancientpower had made in the concrete.

The trainers quickly informed Michael of what had occurred after he and Henry had left the battlefield. Apparently, by some inevitable turn of fate, the hotel staff had been lured by the clamor of the battle, and were appalled at the damage it had caused. Henry and his opponent had broken the patio’s rules by using attacks that damaged the area, and both participants were threatened with fines. Fortunately, the management didn’t know who the battlers were, so for the time being, their investigation was at a standstill. But Michael figured it would only be a matter of time before someone finked on them, which only strengthened his resolve to win the Gym battle.

There was no way of finding out the exact identities of Jerry’s pokémon, as far as Michael could tell, so he had to make do with the information he had. He decided to leave out Turtwig and Burmy from his and Henry’s teams, who would both be vulnerable to Psychic attacks, which left him with Goldeen, Machop, and Caterpie; and Henry with Starly, Pachirisu, and Clefable.

With these teams, they battled the other trainers, some of which had Psychic pokémon of their own. By mutual agreement, they decided that the battles would all be casual, simply for the sake of good-natured practice. Nevertheless, Michael’s competitiveness didn’t abate. If he couldn’t beat a bunch of trainers in a morning get-together, then he would stand no chance against Jerry.

When they could, they occupied both sides of the available arena, but more often than not, Michael’s and Henry’s battles ended up literally side-by-side. Henry (to Michael’s slight annoyance) seemed to manage non-contact moves well, especially when Clefable’s turn came. The pokémon danced rings around her opponents, and once was even able to manage a weak attempt at a Psychic attack herself, which elicited from Henry a grin that lasted the whole day.

Michael, on the other hand, found himself struggling to keep up in his win-lose ratio. Goldeen was as floundering as ever on dry land, and though she was able to retaliate with a Supersonic and Horn Attack at times, she was for the most part useless. Machop had recovered from his thumb injury and was fully energetic again, though he was strangely susceptible to mind-attacks and would blubber around in confusion for many minutes afterward. The pokémon that did the best against Psychic opponents was, oddly, his Caterpie. Michael quickly isolated Bug Bite and Stringshot as her best moves, the ones that did a good job of putting Abras and Slowpokes in their place. Nevertheless, the truth remained crystal clear in his mind: Henry’s team packed a punch, and his didn’t.

After defeating his third opponent, having lost only twice before, Henry turned his smile over to Michael. “Hey, we should battle against each other now! Just to see each other’s strategies, you know?”

Politely denying the boy’s offer, Michael said that he was thirsty, and headed back to the main building.

His lingering hope was that the moonstone would perform another miracle and transform one of his pokémon into a super-fighting machine as well, but after the second day passed and none of them showed any signs of getting sick, Michael abandoned the experiment. But on the other hand, he was growing tired of constantly carting an armful of pokéballs to and from the Pokémon Center, which propelled him to search for a solution.

All other options exhausted, Michael stopped by a nearby library and checked out a few books on evolution, hoping to find something pertaining to moonstones. Henry gave Clefable a break as well, for she was beginning to grow frustrated at the increased attention she was getting from everybody, and so they spent the final day before the battles in Amity Square.

Michael was grateful to be immersed in his reading again, and relished the familiar feeling of blotting out the world with a blizzard of words, facts, and figures. He made a few notations in his notebook as he went along, though he forgot most of what he wrote, preferring to simply follow along and pick up bits of information. He didn’t think too much of his own battle, and so for the time being, his worry was kept at a minimum. For some odd reason, simply watching Henry train was enough, as if the umbrella of Clefable’s newfound abilities would stretch its protection to his team as well.

Last edited by Haruka of Hoenn; February 20th, 2012 at 07:25 PM.