Chapter Thirteen: Deceit in Nacrene City
Boreas was warm, itchy, and annoyed. All three of those conditions had the same cause: summer had arrived with its asphyxiating heat. For day on end the Sun was all alone in the sky, not a single cloud in view, and it seemed to have decided to use all that space it had for itself to perform some incredible acrobatics: very early each morning it would rise in the north-east, climb higher and higher, seemingly attempting to reach the zenith, and only barely failing. Then it would just hang around near the zenith for several hours, shining almost straight down on the world, before finally and very slowly sinking to the north-west, where it would set very late in the evening. About an hour after the last light in the sky had disappeared, it reappeared again as the Sun was preparing to do the whole trick over again.
Boreas' fur seemed to have decided to abandon ship after a few days of the stifling heat, as he was heavily shedding, making him very, very itchy, and every time he scratched large masses of hair would loosen. Yet there always seemed to be enough left to make him feel miserably warm, and this made Boreas very annoyed. He only had conscious memories of two seasons (he had been born in winter, of course, but by the time he was old enough to go outside it was well into spring), but he had a growing suspicion that this would be his least favourite of all four. What made him even more annoyed was the frustratingly chirpy behaviour of Octa and Toxica, their chloroplasts bringing them enormous amounts of energy every day. Lucius seemed to be enjoying the stifling heat too, as Boreas could've sworn he had come close to cracking a smile at several points.
And now it seemed they were about to reach Nacrene City, where he would probably be even warmer, itchier, and more annoyed. He didn't know if he would be able to stand another boring grey city filled with boring grey humans. But as they approached, Boreas realised this city was rather unlike Striaton. He heard faint sounds of music, talking, and laughter. And the city seemed to be made of low buildings entirely, missing the tall grey flats that Striaton was filled with.
As they entered the city, an incredible mix of colours assaulted their eyes: every house was painted in bizarre colours, from red to blue, and everyone was wearing differently coloured clothes. Many people had even dyes their hair in all kinds of bizarre colours. Pokémon walked freely among the humans and it seemed there was some kind of market going on, as many humans were performing music in the streets, or dancing, or selling drawings and paintings. Some were painting or drawing, or even sculpturing on the spot, and everyone seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. The contrast with Striaton couldn't possible have been greater. Though some of the musicians and other artists were pretty bad, and the insane mix of colours looked quite overdone and ugly, Boreas liked Nacrene infinitely much more than Striaton.
Black and his pokémon were just sort of staring at the jolly chaos around them, bedazzled by the endless display of colour, when a blue-haired human in neat black and red clothing jovially slapped Black on the shoulder.
“Hey there, new in town?” he asked. He had a truly bizarre hairstyle, with two large spikes pointing up above each ear, and a long yellow scarf that almost reached the ground.
“Uh...” Black said somewhat startled, “Yeah, I am.”
“Welcome! My name's Sly, and you look like you want to know more about Nacrene.”
“Well, you have to know that Nacrene is a city full of artists. Everyone here practises some form of art, either professionally or as a hobby. And on a sunny day like this, we all go outside to show off our art and earn a bit of money with it. Cool, huh?”
Black nodded, somewhat freaked out. “Uh... Yeah. It's pretty cool. What kind of art do you practise?”
Sly laughed a very odd little “hehehehehe”-laugh. “Oh, a bit of this and a bit of that. Many people wouldn't consider half of it a real art. Anyway, are you looking for the pokécenter?”
Black nodded, and Sly gave him directions and made his exit.
“Weird guy.” Toxica said.
“Yeah.” Boreas said, “I wonder what he's up to.”
“I highly doubt he's “up” to something, my dear fellow.” Octa said, “The gentleman quite obviously enjoyed a proper upbringing that only one with noble ancestry such as myself would have. Didn't you notice the proper bearing and the walk?”
Boreas and Toxica shrugged.
“Quite, I remember now that neither of you would have had much chance to observe those of good ancestry, myself excepted. But let me assure you: that gentleman's upbringing and ancestry was as proper as mine.”
Toxica and Boreas just shrugged again and followed Black to the pokécenter. Just as they were passing a band of trumpeters, a little, cloaked old lady bumped into Black and nearly fell over. Black apologised and helped her to her feet, and then they continued.
They arrived at the pokécenter and entered. A crimson-haired nurse stood behind the counter.
“Hi,” Black said, “My name is Black, and I've just arrived in this city to challenge the Gym. Do you have any rooms free?”
“Sure.” the nurse said, “My name's Torment. Can I see your trainer's card?”
“Sure,” Black said, reaching into his pocket. “Here it... Hmm, must have put it in my backpack...” He rummaged through his backpack, more and more frantic, “What the... It's gone! Everything is gone! My trainer card, my trio badge, my money! I've been robbed!”
“I bet it was that Sly.” Boreas growled.
“Total codswallop.” Octa protested, “It must have been that little old lady that bumped into him. A quintessentially proper gentleman like sly would never steal something.”
“Oh dear,” Nurse Torment said, “We'd better get the police then.”
“'Afternoon, all.” a bearded policeman who had just entered the pokécenter greeted them, “I'm officer Grim of the Nacrene City Police Department. What's all this then?”
“Officer!” Black gratefully greeted the policeman, “I've been pickpocketed by someone. They stole my trainer's card, my money, and my badge.”
“Righto. Please describe the incident and the stolen items to me and give me your ID number.”
After the policeman had taken Black's police statement and left, he approached the nurse. “Nurse, I know I don't have any papers or money, but may I please sleep in the pokécenter anyway? I can sleep on the couch here in the waiting room if you don't want to give me a room.”
“Well... It's against the rules, y'know.”
“Yeah, I know.” Black said with a sinking feeling.
“So go right ahead.”
“Thanks. You're an angel.”
The next day, Black and his pokémon dropped by the police station to see if there was any news of his stolen stuff.
“I'm sorry, but there's no officer named Grim in the city.” the policewoman Black was talking to said.
“But there is. He took my police statement yesterday, a big heavy man in a black beard, you must know him.”
“No such officer works in Nacrene, sir, but we have been getting reports of someone impersonating a policeman. Would you like to make a police statement?”
That afternoon, Black and his pokémon wandered the town grumpily. Without money they couldn't even buy ice cream to cool them down on the blazing hot day, and without a trainer's card they couldn't challenge the Gym either. At one point, someone quickly sketched something on a piece of paper as Black passed her. She showed it to his pokémon while he wasn't looking, and they saw it was a caricature of him, looking incredibly grumpy. With a shushing gesture, she put it in his pocket without him realising anything, to his pokémon's great amusement, and left.
As they walked the city's outskirts, they suddenly saw a familiar face.
“Look, it's N!” Boreas said.
Suddenly Sly appeared from the crowd, jovially slapped N's shoulder, and started talking to him. From the angle they looked on this time, it was quite obvious that he was in fact pickpocketing something from N's backpack.
“Hey, Sly!” Black shouted as he ran at the pickpocket, “Give back what you stole from N and me!”
“Hmm?” N looked up.
“Uh oh.” Sly ran off. Black and his pokémon pursued him through the crowd. It seemed they were going to lose him, but then a Pidove flew over and landed in his two-spiked hair. Sly struggled to get it out of his hair, and in doing so he lost enough speed that Black could overtake and tackle him to the ground.
Surprisingly, Sly laughed. “Congrats, it's rare that someone manages to not only find me, but also catch me. Hang on, I'll give you your stuff back.”
“You know I'm going to hand you over to the police anyway, right?” Black asked.
Sly grinned. “Of course. But I had some fun, that's what I'm doing it for in the first place.”
“You pickpocket people for fun?”
“Yeah. You should try it sometime, it's hilarious. Did you realise I pickpocketed you thrice yesterday and a fourth time just now?”
“Yeah. When I introduced you to town I stole your money and your badge from your backpack, when I bumped into you, disguised as a little old lady, I stole your trainer's card from your pocket, and I stole your watch when I was disguised as Officer Grim. Ah, I can see from your reaction you hadn't even noticed it was gone. Finally I stole a caricature of you from your pocket just now. My, you're looking grumpy on it.”
Black took back each of the items as Sly gave them back. “So you do this for fun?” he said in disgust, “Don't you realise how much annoyance and problems you cause to the people you rob?”
Sly shrugged. “Not my problem. I'm just having fun practising my art. Besides, I don't always pickpocket. Yesterday evening I was bored with it, so I sold someone a map of a treasure buried in the Giant Chasm.”
“But you might even kill someone with that! The Giant Chasm is incredibly dangerous!”
“Not my problem. I'm an artist, and I'm just practising my art. I told you most people wouldn't consider my art art.”
“That's because it isn't!”
“See, I told you.”
“Look, how is stealing an art?”
“Not just stealing. I consider cheating and lying part of it too. And I'm not going to explain how they are an art, it's unlikely that I'll convince you.”
“Hmpf, you're just a sad kleptomaniac who tries to justify his actions.”
“I don't try to justify my actions, I already told you I don't care. And I'm not a kleptomaniac, but an artist.”
“Well, I'll just let the police sort you out, Sly, if that's really your name, which I doubt.” He pulled Sly to his feet, “And give back my watch and trainer's card, I noticed you steal them this time.”
Sly gave them back. “Not bad. And now- oh?” He squinted, surprised by something behind Black, and when Black instinctively looked for a moment, he immediately ran off, throwing a pokéball. A ferocious Krookodile appeared, and immediately made a massive tremor, knocking everyone nearby off their feet and shattering houses' windows. Then Sly got it back into its pokéball as he ran off. Black followed him the moment he got back to his feet, but Sly had disappeared around a corner. They searched for him, but couldn't find him.
“Such a noble, proper gentleman.” Boreas teased Octa.
Octa blushed slightly. “Well, quite. It seems I was mistaken there. It appears 'twas just a part of his act.”
“Boreas, Octa!” N greeted them as he caught up, “How are you?”
“Splendid.” Octa said.
“Fine.” Boreas lied.
“Hello to you too.” Black said annoyed.
Ignoring Black, N talked to his pokémon: “I see you have new friends.”
“Ah yes, allow me to introduce you,” Octa said, “N, these are Lucius and Toxica.”
“H-hi.” Toxica shyly waved using her leaves, “Can you really talk to pokémon?”
“No,” Lucius sneered, “he just happens to respond exactly to what we're saying, idiot.”
“Hey!” Octa berated him, “Now that is no way to treat a lady. Nor, in fact, is it any way a civilised man would treat a gentleman. To treat another-”
Lucius rolled his eyes. “Just shut up, you dandy.”
“Dandy?!” Octa seethed, “How dare you, sir! I shan't shut up. You, sir, are a barbarian!”
“Octa,” Boreas said, putting a calming paw on his shoulder, “Calm down.”
“Yeah,” Lucius sneered, “Listen to your boyfriend, Octa. Calm down.” he imitated Boreas' tone.
“He is not my boyfriend.” Octa spoke icily, “We are friends, a concept you are likely unable to comprehend.”
“Whatever.” Lucius said, “Keep telling yerselves that. I'm gonna go stand over there now.”
“What's his problem?” Toxica wondered.
“A general lack of manners, intelligence, and civilisation, 'twould seem.” Octa seethed.
N was about to say something, when Black interrupted. “So, N, what do you want?”
N seemed genuinely puzzled by the question. “What do I want?” he thought about it, “I... want to see things no one can see. The truths of pokémon inside pokéballs. The ideals of how trainers should be. And a future where Pokémon have become perfect.... Do you feel the same?”
Black, in his turn, was now puzzled. “What? Uh... I guess, yeah.”
“Is that so? I think my friends and I should test you to see if you can see this future, too. Claudia?”
The Pidove that had stopped Sly from fleeing earlier came flying down from a rooftop and landed before N.
“A battle, eh?” Black said, “Lucius, fight that Pidove! Bite!”
Lucius jumped at the Pidove, but she was faster than him and repelled him by flapping her wings and making a Gust. After he was knocked about by the Gust, Lucius once again jumped Claudia, who couldn't stop him this time. Lucius bit her, drawing blood and leaving nasty bitemarks.
“Sorry, but I'm out of here!” Claudia screeched as she flew off panicky.
“That was easy.” Lucius sounded surprised.
N chuckled. “It seems my new friend wasn't quite as ready for battle as she had me believe. But my other friend will make up for that. Go, Baltoy!”
A weird little balancing top came around the corner. “Ha, is that all?” Lucius boasted as he bit the Baltoy. The Baltoy didn't even seem to feel the nasty bite it received, and reciprocated by rapidly slashing Lucius multiple times with its arms, spinning around. Lucius bit it again, and once again the Baltoy completely ignored the Bite and reciprocated by multiple rapid scratches. Lucius was the one bleeding now.
Boreas though this all very weird. “Octa, shouldn't Lucius' Bites be very powerful against a Baltoy?”
Octa nodded. “If the simpleton is doing them properly, the dark energy such a bite should be infused with should overwhelm a telepathic mind. Ergo, he's not doing them properly. A pity, 'tis such a shame to see him hurt because of his own incompetence.”
“I told you,” Lucius gnarled as he was hit by the enemy again, “shut up!”
Boreas couldn't help think that the Baltoy was moving in rather strange ways for what was essentially a living top. It moved sideways, and dodged in ways that seemed physically impossible for it. Its flat arms were also leaving distinct claw marks on Lucius' skin. Suddenly a story his father had once told him sprang to Boreas' mind. “Lucius! Try using fire!”
“Shut. Up. Pup! That's stupid!” Lucius gnarled.
“Just use a fire-attack, if I'm right it'll work much better!”
“Well, you are wrong, dipmuk. Because that is a ground and psychic type, so fire will do little, while my bites work extra good. So stop bothering me with your stupid suggestions.”
“It's not a Baltoy, it's a Zorua! So just try using fire!”
“Are you blind as well as stupid? It's a Baltoy, look at it. And now shut your trap!”
“Idiot.” Boreas and Lucius said at the same moment. Half a minute later, Lucius was defeated.
“Octa, it's your turn!”
Octa switched in. “Hello, Diego, long time no see.” he said as he launched a Leaf Tornado at the enemy.
The Baltoy was so surprised by Octa's words that he was caught up right in the middle of the Leaf Tornado. The storm of leaves completely enveloped him. When the Leaf Tornado dissipated, a large, black shape with many eyes stood in its centre.
“Holy buckets!” Black cursed, “It evolved!”
“No, it didn't.” Octa calmly spoke, “He's just trying to intimidate me. But his illusions shan't work any more.” He put extra force behind the words by accentuating them with a Leaf Tornado, which the Claydol dodged with a jump a real Claydol could never have performed.
“Diego, drop the disguise,” N said, “they've seen through it.”
The Claydol disappeared into thin air, and in its centre was a Zorua with several cuts made by viciously sharp leaves. Immediately after dropping the disguise, he jumped at Octa and scratched him several times with his claws. Octa slapped Diego with his vines, knocking him off, and Diego tried to Bite Octa. Octa quickly dodged, and then suddenly a brilliant light enveloped him.
Diego jumped back startled, and the light made it hard for Boreas to see what was happening to his friend. He was scared, and hoped nothing was wrong. Squinting, he managed to see Octa's silhouette in the radiant light. It was rapidly changing, growing longer and sleeker, and leaves sprouted from his back in the process. Less than ten seconds after it had started, the light disappeared.
“Splendid.” Octa the Sevine remarked. Boreas noted his voice was lower and more melodious than it had been before. He saw Diego had retreated to N's shoulder. “Diego, would you be so good as to come down from there so I can celebrate my evolution by winning this battle?”
“Not today.” Diego surrendered, “I don't think I can beat you now.”
“You win.” N said to Black.
“Wow, you evolved!” Black congratulated Octa.
“As you can see, my friends aren't strong enough to save all Pokémon.” N said, “Maybe I can't solve the equation that will change the world. So, I need power... Power enough to make anyone agree with me. Then, we will be friends.” he walked off.
Boreas joined Octa, surprised at how much larger he had become. “Octa, you look awesome!”
“Thank you, my dear fellow.”
“Y-yeah.” Toxica whispered. Boreas noticed she was blushing a deep purple and seemed to be staring at the ground. “Really, really awesome.”