White Heart Black Bones [PG-14]
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April 18th, 2012 (2:29 PM).
The Will of One
Join Date: Nov 2011
Dim rays of light drifted through the dust covered window above my head. It cast smothered illumination into the gloomy basement where N and I had spent the night. This place was still a sight for sore eyes, as it had always been; it was one part of the town which had remained unchanged at least. The basement of my house was crammed with old boxes, filled with forgotten toys, clothes and junk, meant for nothing more than to gather dust. And that’s what they did, even to this day.
I shook the last vestiges of sleep from my mind and slowly started my body up. But I was in the process of having one of those mornings where I couldn’t find the will nor desire to crawl out of bed. I just lay there for a while, stared at the cobweb covered ceiling, and got lost in a train of thought. While I underwent this slothful process, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was amiss down here. But what was it?
I turned to the spot beside me and stared at the empty covers. Wasn’t there supposed to be something there? After a few moments of staring, the thought finally clicked. N was gone.
I shot up in surprise, patting the empty covers next to me in the hopes that I would touch a body. There was nothing there. I took a few wide glances around the room, using only dim light to guide me, until I realized that I was the only one here.
My heart sank right to the pit of my stomach, and I made my way hurriedly to the staircase which led to the first floor. I was trying to keep myself calm, but N’s absence worried me. And my mind wasn’t helping since it had decided to craft up countless horrors of what could have happened to him. I tried to ignore those thoughts as I clambered up the stairs.
“N?” I tried to hide it, but my voice still cracked in panic. I poked my head out of the open doorway with hesitance. “Are you up here?” my voice was cut short as I found the man in question sitting at a newly assembled kitchen table.
He glanced over his shoulder questioningly, “Yes? What’s the matter?”
I was at a loss for words for a moment, and N need only to look at my face to see why.
He answered an unspoken question promptly, “I hope you don’t mind but I… uh… I thought it’d be better if I just set the table back up…”
I continued to stare at the sight at a loss for words. The display of a homely table set amidst wreckage was a startling contrast. It lay nestled between a wall of pulverized furniture, and acted as a sort of gathering point to all the shards of dishware which had been swept away to make room for its revival. The table still held together rather well; it hadn’t been broken.
“I hope that’s… not a problem,” he continued, turning his back and avoiding my eyes. By his body language, I could tell that N was a bit worried if he’d upset me or not. He may have wondered if he’d accidentally desecrated the ruins of my home by trying to put small bits of it back together. While some people could be offended by it, I know Cheren in particular hates getting his stuff touched, N’s actions struck me as benign. I let his words hang in the air for a second before blowing a puff of air out through my teeth.
“It’s alright,” I crawled out of the basement doorway and made my way over to the table, “I was just a little worried when I couldn’t find you when I woke up.” I let out a short laugh as I took a seat down across from him on a chair that creaked against my weight, “I think I overreacted a little, heh.”
“I apologize,” he said with a faint smile. “I rise early.”
“Yeah.” I leant back, folded my arms behind my head and used them as a rest, “…Team Plasma hasn’t come here… have they?”
N paused, taking a moment to observe the lines and knots on the wooden table before saying, “There’s been no sign of them.”
The lack of emotion in his voice unsettled me a little bit, but I hardly let it show, “So. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
“I don’t know yet. Logic dictates that, since Nuvema is your home town, it would be a hotspot for them to check, regardless of our earlier red herring,” N began to trace the lines in the wood nervously with his finger, “though I think there’s a reason to why they haven’t come…”
“Which is…?” I leaned in closer with interest.
“They may have been ordered to leave us alone for the time being… so that we can witness every atrocity we’ve let Ghetsis commit unto this region, and after we’ve seen it all and have become enveloped by fear, only then will we be wiped out.”
I stared at him, contemplating his words. I let out a sigh, “That might be true, or we could just be lucky. But it doesn’t matter either way.” I pulled myself up, “We have to keep on going… no matter what.”
“Even if it’s painful?”
“Of course. Nothing good will come from running away from the truth, or from reality,” I reached up and scratched my head. “That’s a mistake that I’ve made for a long time, and I really want to avoid repeating it again, ya know?” I grinned weakly.
A small smile spread on N’s face, “Your unwavering drive impresses me, Touko.”
“Let’s just hope it doesn’t get us both killed,” I responded, holding the grin and heading back down into the basement to get changed.
We finished off Juniper’s box of granola bars for breakfast. If you got passed the pungency, they actually weren’t so bad. Either way, I was thankful that we had them. Even if they didn’t taste the greatest, they were filling and sure to provide the both of us with the energy we needed to face the day.
N and I packed up all our supplies before setting out. What startled me the most was that we left this town exactly as we had come: with nothing. There was nothing here for us to take; not food, supplies, medicine, or even any leads on which to go by, but Team Plasma had intended for that. I didn’t feel sad about it, and in a way I was glad. It meant that we would have nothing to hold us down; no possessions to tie us back as we went off to face the new world.
I stood at the doorway as a cool breeze drifted past, fondling my hair with the slightest caress. Even now the wind seemed to be drawing me back into my ruined home, as if it despaired at my departure.
“I’m sorry,” A glint of broken glass caught my eye before I could turn out the door. What set it apart from all the other fragmented shards I had seen was the fact that this glass was held inside of a picture frame. I walked over and plucked the wooden frame off the ground, squinting through the cracked glass to see the image inside.
My heart ached ever so slightly as I stared, mesmerized, at the picture through the dust. After a few moments of silent staring, I forcibly pulled myself out of my trance. I buffed the picture up with my shirt and wiped off as much dust as I could manage. It didn’t help much, but the photo inside was made much clearer. I walked over to the kitchen table and placed the frame on top. I looked at the four of us: mother, Cheren, Bianca and I through the broken glass and I made a pledge. I promised to those faces, who could be alive or dead in this world, that when all of this was over I would return Nuvema Town back to the way it used to be.
I walked out the door and met up with N. The two of us left this forgotten town and made our way towards Route One, and the remorseful wind couldn’t do a thing to hold us here. We didn’t know what was waiting for us, but we would keep going no matter what.
Knock The Walls Down
The God You’ve Become
I couldn’t see the trees because they were held captive behind walls of iron. The giants stretched high into the overcast sky, disparaging the height of the ancient woods they contained. The barriers didn’t seem entirely satisfied with blocking the woods from sight, so they also strangled the wind and let silence have its reign. N and I stood in the shadows of these massive creatures, and they regarded us with wordless stares as we trembled in the cold and terror.
My throat was dry but I just managed to force out the words, “What… is this…?” I stumbled over the bare earth, feet crunching against dirt, as I approached the wall on my right. I placed a steady hand on its body, feeling its cold sink beneath my skin. I cast a wide glance along its pewter surface, watching the barrier stretch on until its point of terminus which I guessed was near Accumula Town; it was too far to be certain. As far as I could see, the walls trudged on unhindered.
“What the hell is this…!?” My hand began to tremble over the iron; my voice faltered only slightly. I was about to turn to N and demand answers but my actions were cut short by his approach. He was beside me before I could even remove my hand from the wall.
“I was afraid of this…” N murmured, also placing his hand upon the broad surface. “They’ve sealed the Pokémon…” He cringed, looking up, “…Behind these walls…”
I looked out over the route to try and spot a clump of tall grass where I knew a Pokémon could be hiding. But to my despair, every single blade of grass had been uprooted and removed. I first thought that the season was responsible for the absence of greenery, but I was mistaken. Even though winter was upon Unova, no snow had fallen here. And even if the falling temperatures had been enough to kill the grass, I couldn’t help but wonder, where were the remains? This route was absent of the limp and soggy grasses of post-autumn: the strands that waited to be buried in snow were nowhere. The raw, empty soil that was left didn’t seem to have the ability to harbor life. I wondered if Team Plasma had altered it to be so.
“I can’t believe this…” I spoke softly, my voice bounding off the walls and greeting me in a short echo. This drastic change was hard to wrap my head around; in a way it didn’t feel real. “Can’t… the Pokémon break out somehow? I mean, isn’t there a way that they can escape?”
N shook his head silently, “Touko. I think these walls are for keeping the people away, not keeping the Pokémon in… I think…” The pain in his voice was unmistakable, “They may have done something far worse to the Pokémon to keep them contained.”
I felt a lump in my throat, “How do you mean?” I almost didn’t want an answer. I knew that people could be capable of horrible things, but what on earth could they have done to keep the Pokémon from breaking free? My mind was kind enough to fill in the blanks with the worst case scenario, per usual.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to think about it,” N said dismissively. “Let’s just…” he turned back to me with a saddened gaze, “make our way to Accumula Town…okay?”
I agreed because I didn’t want to dwell on the issue. It was depressing the both of us, and the last thing we needed was to have a damper on an already glum situation.
N and I began our walk through this linear path that would lead us straight to Accumula Town.
The coils of barbed wire that wound over the tops of the fences clanked together gently in the breeze. A softer sound joined the melody; the drone of rustling evergreens could be heard from behind the barriers, but it was muffled, barely above a whisper. But those small sounds that could have been much louder were paled in comparison by the dry crunching of our footsteps. The sound alone pervaded as we walked through this empty place.
So much had changed…
The wind no longer combed through deep grass; no longer carried leaves in its gale; its sole purpose was simply to remind me of what was gone and accentuate what remained. There were no longer Pokémon playing through this path. There weren’t any people strolling by, no cheerful “hellos”. It felt like I had entered another world. Instead of trees there was steel. Instead of grass there was stagnant earth. I’m not sure how they did it, but Team Plasma had somehow made this nature artificial, to the point where walking down this route made me feel like I was walking down a hallway. It was sickening.
This place was dead; there was no better word for it. N and I were walking through its corpse.
I tried to ignore the horrible reality, but difficult was too light a word. N was looking just as distressed as I, but we avoided eye contact and just kept looking forward. Eventually, I noticed the honey-coloured buildings of Accumula Town begin to crown in the distance.
N placed a halting hand over my shoulder, “Touko… look,” and with the other, pointed towards the end of the route. My eyes darted around the barren path between the solid fences, trying to locate what N was gesturing towards. It took me a minute before I came to notice a small girl standing at the base of the iron fence, staring up with defined loneliness on her features. I watched her quietly for a moment. She simply kept her eyes skyward, and I reasoned that she hadn’t seen us coming. But I couldn’t help but wonder what she was doing here, and why she was staring so remorsefully at the walls.
I figured that asking was the quickest way to find out.
“Touko?” N seemed worried as I approached the small brunette, but she seemed harmless enough. I wasn’t really expecting a little girl to pounce on us or anything.
“Hey there,” I said gently, coming face to face with the small child. She nearly jumped out of her skin as I spoke. I smiled apologetically for startling her, though I was surprised that she hadn’t seen me coming. I was basically the only moving object on the path.
“What are you doing over here by yourself?” I took a glance towards the wall. “Are you missing something?”
The girl began to tear up and I jumped in surprise. “My… My…” she sniffled, bringing her tiny fists up to catch the tears, “my… Lillipup is…” The tears spilt from her eyes, rolling down freckled cheeks.
“Hey now,” I knelt down to eye-level with the child and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “You can tell us, okay?” I glanced back to N who was standing a few feet away: watching. “We’re the good guys.”
The girl sniffled again, “O-okay. Its jus’ dat… I keep tryin’ ta get my Lillipup out from behin’ dat wall,” she squawked, teary-eyed. “But dese mean men keep takin’ him away from meee!!” she started to sob again.
“Wait a second,” I frowned up at the iron fence. “How do you say he keeps getting back to you?”
The girl pointed to the ground, sniffling, “Sometimes ‘e digs ‘is way up. But ‘e can’t anymore! Dey keep makin’ da walls longer. ‘e can’t…” I could hardly even understand what she was saying through her blubbering. “’e can’t d-dig under um a-anymore…!!”
“Hey now…” I said, taking her gently into my arms and patting her back softly, hoping to quell her fit of tears. I was pretty good with kids so I wasn’t having much trouble settling the girl down, “Tears aren’t gonna bring your Lillipup back.” I pulled away, giving her a huge grin, “But I can help you out with that.”
She gawped at me, “You CAN?!”
I stood up, placing my hands smugly on my hips, “Sure can, kiddo. You see I just happen to have some Pokémon with me. We’re gonna knock down these walls and reunite you with your Lillipup, alright!?”
The child threw her arms around me and began sobbing into my jeans “Tank you miss! Tank youuu!” She kept wailing over and over.
“Now now.” I tutted, pulling her away. “No more tears, kay?”
She stared at me with wide, innocent eyes before nodding vigorously.
“Touko…” N caught my shoulder. “Are you sure this is such a good idea?”
I shrugged, “Why not? We have to start somewhere, right?” I plucked a Pokémon from my belt, “This seems like a good a place as any.” That’s right. I was going to change this.
N didn’t seem convinced but he didn’t protest. He and the girl both distanced themselves from the spectacle I was about to make: the history I was about to create. I was going to rip down the walls Ghetsis had erected.
“Hyle, come on out!” My Emboar landed onto the hard earth, snorting eagerly. “I want you to use Flamethrower on that wall, okay?”
Hyle sucked in a deep breath through his snout, and proceeded to spew a breath of flame onto the towering steel. The inferno licked against the iron, searing into the metal and turning it red. Once the steel had become heated, I instructed Hyle to use Brick Break on the weakened wall. Hyle thrust his burly arms into the smoldering barrier and tore into it with his claws, ripping the weakened iron like clay. It only took a few swings to break the imposing barricade and send it tumbling down. A ragged slab crashed to the ground with a deep, metallic moan, and that was the end of it.
“Right on, Hyle!” I took a glance towards the entrance of Accumula town to see some townsfolk had caught sight of the situation. We were right at the ingress of the town and the streets were bustling. I wasn’t surprised we had grabbed some attention, and if these people were set to approach I was going to use it to my advantage. I was going to be their hero.
“Now.” I spun around towards the girl where she was waiting sheepishly beside N, “Your Lillipup is in here somewhere, right?” I asked, steadily approaching the raw hole in the fence.
“Yeah!” She piped up, scrambling to my side. “Checkers! Where are youuu!?” The child headed towards the tall grass which waited from behind the gash.
I was about to stop her from going any further, because I couldn’t have her wandering through tall grass without any Pokémon of her own. But before I could do that, a bushel of grass began to shake and a small Lillipup bounded out of the foliage.
“Checkers!!!” The girl gasped as she raced towards her Lillipup. The dog propelled itself into her arms and she was tackled down as they collided. The puppy quickly hailed her face with slobbery smooches, and I couldn’t suppress a smile. Something about seeing these two reunited turned my heart to goo.
I turned to N to see his reaction; how could he not see the bond these two shared? The sight alone was enough to make anyone’s heart melt, and I figured he would be the same. Only he wasn’t. Instead of joy or happiness, N wore the most fretful look on his face. His brow was furrowed; his leg jittered nervously, and his eyes darted towards the curious onlookers of Accumula with uncertainty. Everything about his body language radiated unease. I didn’t understand it. What was there to be worried about?
“Tank you miss!!!” The little girl ran up to me with her Pokémon secured in her arms. Once laying eyes on the thing, I could understand the name choice. This Lillipup had checker-like spots dotting its tiny paws and a couple mismatched dots over its furry face. “But what will happen if dose mean men come back an’ try to take ‘im away from me?” she asked nervously, tears already brimming in her eyes.
“That’s not gonna happen.” I said resolutely, staring at the gathering crowd. Now seemed like a good a time as any to rally these people and get them to fight back against Team Plasma. I wasn’t the greatest at motivational speeches, but I knew firsthand the pain of being separated from my Pokémon. Looking at these people’s sullen eyes… I knew they felt it to. I knew things didn’t have to stay this way. I knew that I could change the horrible world I let Ghetsis create.
With a triumphant sweep of my leg, I swung my foot down onto the fallen sheet of iron that once served as a restricting wall. “People of Unova!” I cried to the crowd of onlookers. “I realize that you have suffered much under the tyrannical rule of Team Plasma, but hasn’t this gone on for long enough!?” I gestured towards the ragged hole in the wall, to the untamed grass were a few curious Pokémon peeked their heads out. “It’s time that we took up arms and begin to fight for what we believe in! We as people must rebel against this repressive government and rejoin both people and Pokémon together!! Only with the unison of these two sides will we open up the possibilities of liberating ourselves! Those who have suffered, those who have dreamed of a different world; if there are any among you who desire change, please join me!”
I expected cheers: roars of triumph; cries of determination. I thought the townsfolk would usher into the grasslands, grab hold of their Pokémon and rush back into the town, ready to fight and take back what they had lost. Instead I was met with silent, vacuous faces that did nothing but stare me down with hate-filled eyes. A crack appeared in my hope. Why weren’t they doing anything? Why were they just standing there? I gave another gesture towards the fallen walls but still the citizens wouldn’t move. My arms dropped with my hopes. Amongst the crowd, some people drew away and retreated back into their homes frightfully, those who remained hailed me with a volley of scowls.
“Ha Ha Ha!” I nearly jumped out of my skin as a booming laugh filled the air, bounding off the iron walls on either side of the route. From the back of the crowd a burly Plasma Soldier came forward and sneered at me deviously.
“Look what we have here!” he placed his fists onto his hips and leant back as if admiring, “Must be my lucky day here! Ha! Here I am face to face with the escaped hero!” he brought his hand up over his brow, shielding his eyes from an absent sun and squinted, “Ha! The imposter king is with ya too!”
My brow furrowed and I turned to N questioningly. What did this soldier mean by imposter? N seemed just as confused as I was.
“Looks like you were tryin’ to start a riot here, eh?” he boomed, crossing his arms over his broad chest. A mocking sneer spread across his thick lips, “Didn’t have much success, did ya? Ha!”
I was getting sick of that condescending laughter. “So what!?” I snapped, “Maybe beating you will get these people to see clearly and act.”
His eyebrow twitched, “That a challenge then?”
I readied myself, “You bet it is.”
The two of us locked eyes for a moment before the Plasma soldier took a stomp at the ground, “Ha! Why not then! I’m the one in charge of this town here and there ain’t no way I’m lettin’ a little girl and an imposter beat me.”
“We’ll see about that! Terra, let’s show this brute how it’s done!” I shouted, bringing my Galvantula out on the field.
“Galvantula, eh?” he scoffed, “Ha! You’re no match for my Stoutland!” The soldier called out a large, mustachioed dog that growled menacingly at my electric spider.
The crowd that had gathered drew back slightly to give us fighting space. Other bodies from the town began to approach, and I thought for a minute that a desire was sparking inside of these people. But after taking a wide glance across the face of bodies, I saw eyes full of fear and disdain all targeted at me. It tore up my resolve pretty nice but I wasn’t backing down. I hoped that maybe if I beat down this Plasma Soldier then it would get these people to wake up. Still, their inability to act frightened me to my core.
My Galvantula shuddered under our enemy’s gaze; the Stoutland’s ability Intimidate had lessened her attack. I couldn’t let that dissuade me.
“Stoutland, use Fire Fang now!” The jaws of my opponent ignited with flame. This wasn’t good. Terra didn’t have very many weaknesses, but fire just happened to be one of them. I wasn’t even aware that Stoutland knew Fire Fang, and I was a bit hesitant to react.
“Terra! Dodge it!” Thankfully, Terra was more alert then I was. She just managed to evade the opposition’s gnashing jaws, “Follow it up with Volt Switch!” I couldn’t afford to have Terra hang around the battlefield any longer. I knew I could evade all I wanted and try to land some decent attacks, but I really didn’t want to drag this battle out.
My Galvantula began to crackle with electric current. She raced forward on her spiny legs and catapulted herself right at our adversary. Stoutland was knocked backwards, rolling upon the ground until it managed to steady itself and gain its footing. After Terra had done her job, she shot straight back into my Pokéball.
“Cheap trick,” The Plasma operative spat, glowering at me from over the gravelly heath.
“I don’t want to waste too much energy on you,” I smirked, hoping that little remark ticked him off. By his unbreaking scowl I could see it had. “Hyle! Let’s go!” Hyle stomped forward on his bulky legs, bringing up his fists and growling deeply.
“Stoutland! Use Giga Impact!” The Stoutland belted forward on its stubby legs, leaping into the air and throwing its weight right at us.
“Hyle! Catch it!!” My Emboar opened his arms, braced himself for a hit, and let the shaggy dog smash right into his girth. Hyle let out a deep roar as he was pushed back, taking hold of his attacker who had so graciously thrown itself into his lap. “Use Hammer Arm!”
Hyle raised his fist. “Oh ****!” The Plasma soldier spat, “Stoutland, get out of there!” The dog tried to worm its way out of Hyle’s grip but it was feeble. I flinched as Hyle’s fist connected to the Pokémon’s skull with a sickening crack; the Stoutland fell to the ground in limp defeat. The audience sucked in a breath of surprise at this turn of events. I smiled weakly under the brim of my hat. Was I getting through to them?
My opponent called his fainted Pokémon back to his ball and drew another from his belt, glaring at me in the process.
“You did good, Hyle,” I praised, also sealing my Pokémon away. I was going to use Terra again for the next round. That Giga Impact had done more damage than I thought it would. I couldn’t afford to leave Hyle out on the battlefield, especially if my opponent were to send out a stronger Pokémon or one with a type advantage. At least with Terra I could switch out if things got bad.
“Liepard! Let’s end these fools!” A sleek cat of purple and black crawled out over the naked earth, arching its back with an angry hiss. The Plasma soldier frowned when I called my Galvantula out again; he must have known about the disadvantage he had. Since his Liepard was a dark type Pokémon, all I needed to do was hit it with an X-Scissor and he’d be out of action. There was only one problem with that.
“Use X-Scissor, Terra!” Terra crossed the appendages over her mouth and scuttled towards our opponent.
“Dodge it now, Liepard!” The dark feline jumped gracefully aside with a snide smirk. Liepard’s speed was deadly and this proved to be problematic. You can’t take down an enemy you can’t hit and I was suffering with this. I knew I needed to slow that cat down somehow if I wanted to land a hit.
“Liepard, use Bite!” The soldier boomed.
I held my breath as the leopard came in close and took a chomp on one of Terra’s legs. Perfect.
“Use Thunder Wave! Quickly, before it lets go!” Terra reared the pincers on her mouth and jabbed them into the Liepard’s dark fur. It screeched in shock, reeling back as a wave of static coursed through its body.
The Liepard rolled around on the ground furiously, trying to rid itself of the electric current injected into its body. “Good job Terra, now we can…” My jaw dropped as the Liepard pulled itself off the ground and shook the static off of its body like water. It hadn’t been affected.
“Wha…” I was at a loss for words.
“Ha!” The Plasma Soldier squatted down, putting his elbows on his knees as if he was tired of standing, “That’s my Liepard’s ability, little girl. Limber! Paralysis doesn’t work, see?!”
My eyebrows knotted, “Ability…” I echoed.
“Right you are!” he sneered, pulling himself back up. “Good luck trying to get a hit on us now! Ha! Ha! Ha!” he roared, holding his quaking belly as he laughed.
“Liepard! Use Pursuit!” The sly feline faded for a moment before taking a stab at Terra’s head. My Galvantula was knocked down with a pained squeal. “What will you do now, little hero?” he laughed. “Going to run away again with Volt Switch?” his face suddenly darkened, “I won’t have it!”
“Grab it, Liepard!” he shouted. His Pokémon leapt forward and sank its claws and teeth deep into Terra’s bulbous body. Terra spun around frantically, trying in desperation to throw the dark feline from her back. But those claws had sunk in deep and there was no chance of bucking it off. But that was fortunate for us because now I had it right where I wanted it.
“Terra! Use Gastro Acid!” The Plasma soldiers face contorted in fear. My Galvantula spewed a wave of acid from the depths of her stomach all over our opponent. The Liepard jumped off in shock, trying to shake off the sickly green bile, but it clung to the feline’s fur like glue.
“What have you done?!” The soldier seethed.
“That move is called Gastro Acid. Now that your Pokémon is covered in Terra’s acid, its ability is suppressed,” I grinned, “I hope you know what that means…”
The fear on his face was unmistakable.
“Terra! Use Thunder Wave!”
“Shit!” The soldier stomped at the ground angrily, “Liepard!”
But he was too late. Terra sank her fangs into the Liepard’s skin, injecting it with a paralyzing static. The feline screeched in pain, falling into a jittering heap in the dirt. “Finish it with X-Scissor!” Terra made quick work of that troublesome cat. After that move it was all over.
“You rotten little…” The Plasma guard gnawed angrily on his thumb as he returned his fainted Pokémon back into its ball. “This isn’t over yet, you filth.” He reached towards his belt again and pulled out another red ball.
He still had another Pokémon? Though I was assuming it was his last. Taking a look back at his previous fighters, both Stoutland and Liepard were final evolutions of Pokémon commonly seen around Accumula. If the theme held true that meant his last Pokémon would most likely be a Watchog. Terra had come out of that last round with only a few scrapes to show for it. I had confidence that she’d be able to take down his groundhog too.
I told Terra to ready herself as he called out his final fighter, but it wasn’t a Watchog that landed before us. A bulky Pokémon stomped forward, leering angrily as flames licked out of its snout like a tongue. The pipe-like lines over its body clanged with each step, and smoke shot from its muffler-like tail, darkening the air. This was definitely not a Watchog.
“Heatmor, use Flamethrower!” I stood there in shock as a breath of flame sped straight towards my Galvantula.
“Touko!” I heard N shout from behind, but by the time his words met my ears Terra had already been engulfed in flame. I stood frozen as the fire ignited my Pokémon and seared deep into her skin. The face of the crowd looked on in awe and amusement as the light of fire flickered across their vapid eyes. They were enjoying this. They were enjoying my pain. They gained amusement at seeing my Pokémon die. Why?!
“Terra!” My voice was drowned out by the hideous laughter of my opponent. The world seemed to grow dark around me and the laughter resounded through my head. Fresh stains of blood danced across the route. The bodies of my Pokémon lay crumpled beneath Ghetsis’s sneering visage. It was happening again! I staggered back as my head began to spin. I was losing. My Pokémon were dying!
“Can’t switch out now, can you little hero?! Ha Ha Ha!!!”
I was about to fall flat on my face and pass out. It felt as if the whole world had turned against me, and I felt like I was going to die. But before my mind could shatter, a figure dashed out of the crowd. My breath was caught in my throat as the person, covered top to bottom in a dark cloak, pulled out a tin bucket and threw a wave of water onto my burning arachnid. The flames doused with a hiss and my charred Pokémon lay fainted on the ground.
“What the hell d’you think yer doing?!” The Plasma soldier roared in question. The figure simply responded by slamming the blunt end of the bucket right into the soldier’s jaw, which caused him to stumble back and fall over.
“Come on!!!” The figure called out to me hurriedly, motioning frantically for us to follow. I was too dumbstruck to comply, but thankfully N was on the ball. He grabbed hold of my arm and pulled me toward the figure. I called Terra back into her ball as we reached the mysterious person.
“Follow me!” They hissed, darting into the crowd.
“Let’s go,” N urged, pulling me by the arm through the heap of gathered bodies, using the confusion as a cover to slink away. I had no idea where I was being dragged, but I could feel N beside me and his presence forced my legs to move. As the crowd thinned, and soon grew further and further away, I looked back to see the little girl get her Lillipup taken away by a group of Plasma soldiers. The three of us dove deep into an unfenced section of forest and vanished.
After trudging through the ragged terrain of the forest, guided only by our anonymous host, we finally came to a stop. I doubled over, hands on my knees, as I tried to get a breath. The figure, whose identity was still obscured by their cloak, also bent over in exhaustion.
“Who are…” I wheezed, “who on… earth are you…?”
The shadowy figure took a few more deep breaths before answering, “It sure has been a while, hasn’t it?” They turned to face both N and I while banishing the hood that hid their face, revealing a head of glossy purple hair.
“F—!” My words suffered from a dry throat. “Fennel!?”
She flashed a smile, “The one and only!”
“What are you doing here?!” I gawped, “How did you know that we were here?”
She shrugged, “I didn’t. Actually, I had come to Accumula town to run an errand, and I just so happened upon the little scene you were making at Route One!”
I had no idea what to say but Fennel wasn’t finished, not by a long shot. Her face suddenly darkened.
“And him…” She pointed towards N who was still standing beside me, “What on earth is the king of Team Plasma doing here?” she questioned with a mix of disdain and confusion.
N’s face hardened and I brought up my hands quickly, hoping to avoid an argument, “No! No! He’s on our side now! He’s here to help! If it wasn’t for him I would have…”
Fennel brought up her hand dismissively, following the motion with a soft smile, “I understand, Touko. But we can’t talk here. Let’s get back to my laboratory in Striaton and discuss matters there,” Fennel turned around and continued to walk through the brush. I was about to follow but N caught my arm.
“Are you sure we can trust her?” he asked quickly.
I avoided his eyes, almost guiltily, remembering the empty faces the crowd had given me when I tried to get them to fight. “There’s nobody else… to trust…” I said sadly, following Fennel back into the forestry.
The two of us caught up to her where she was waiting and followed her through the maze of branches.
“Fennel… I’m wondering…” I said looking around at the quiet trees, “Why isn’t this part of the forest fenced off like all the others?”
“Only certain sections are blocked off and the Pokémon are quarantine behind those walls, like the ones you saw at Route One,” she said, hopping over a fallen oak, “there aren’t any Pokémon in this part of the forest, they’ve been driven out, so there’s no need for a fence.” She sighed, “People wouldn’t like it if all parts of the forest were closed off to them, you know. Gotta leave some bits open, heh. Makes it easier for us this way…”
N glanced up towards the towering treetops which segmented the cloudy sky, “But… the flying type Pokémon…” he inquired. “Where are they? Surely they can get over the walls.”
Fennel stopped for a moment, looking around the dense forest to check if we had company. She then responded, sounding very text-book, “I don’t know if you’ve seen them already, but there are small prongs on the top of the walls. These prongs emit a frequency which deters the flying Pokémon from approaching, and in turn, keeps them captive.” The dappled sunlight shone across her glasses, hiding her eyes, “But even if the flying Pokémon ignored the frequency, or could somehow go through it, there is an electric field overtop the walls which will strike them down if they try and fly over.”
The shock on N’s face was unmistakable and I too was struck hard with a certain disbelief. Fennel didn’t waste time with consolation or soothing words. She continued onward through the brush, not even waiting for us to catch up. N stood there silently, staring with a mix of anger and sadness at the leaf covered ground. Some of the worst thoughts imaginable must have been squirming through his head. Even I had the displeasure of envisioning a Pidove staring sadly at the towering walls with shredded wings. But just as N had urged me in my time of weakness, it was my time to help him.
I grabbed hold of his trembling hand and tried to produce a comforting smile, but by his upset eyes I knew it came out crooked and warped. Either way, I sprinted off after Fennel, dragging N behind me.
After walking what felt like miles through the brush, and after my feet were raw with sores, Fennel finally came to a halt. I could see the red bricked houses of Striaton City melding through the bough. We were approaching a row of apartments from the rear.
“Alright…” Fennel licked her lips nervously, staring hard at the yellow back door of one of the buildings. The professor was silent for a few moments before saying, “I’ll head to the door first… then I want the two of you to follow me in turn, got that?” N and I nodded. “Act casual,” she said, standing up and padding down her coat before strolling forward, nonchalant.
When she reached the back door of her apartment, I made to follow. I reached the door just as Fennel was fumbling around for her keys. I turned a curious gaze to the sky. There was some sort of strange noise in the air; a rumbling that sounded akin to construction work. It sounded like metal giants were stomping around in the distance. But there was something weird about it. It sounded low and mechanical, like gurgling or the gnashing of teeth. Fennel got the door open before I could ask what it was. We were urged inside and the professor hurriedly slammed the door behind us, shutting the noise out.
Fennel leant against the door for a moment in silence, her back to us, before she blew out a relieved sigh. “I really can’t handle this kind of intensity,” she smiled tiredly, running a hand through her plum-coloured locks. “HEY AMANITA!!” Fennel suddenly boomed, which caused N and I to nearly fly out of our skins. “Are you in here!?”
After a pause, I heard someone stomping either up or down a staircase, and a moment later a girl in a blue dress peeked around the hallway.
“Are you alright, Miss Fennel?” she asked, and her eyes suddenly widened once she caught sight of us. Amanita blinked at N and I before saying, “Who are… these two?”
Fennel grinned, “This one’s Touko, don’t you remember? She’s one of Juniper’s pupils, came here a long while ago to help us get Dream Mist for our research!”
“Right!” Amanita looked up, the realization dawning. Her eyes then fell back down, “And… what about him!?” She growled, and I shrunk back. Who’d of thought such a small girl could sound so menacing?
“He’s…” Fennel regarded N quizzically, not really knowing how to answer.
“I mean you no harm.” N assured, acting calm in the face of their suspicious looks.
“Really!” I said desperately, “He’s a friend!”
“Alright,” Fennel sighed, “I believe you.” At least for now, I suppose she meant. She kicked her black rain boots off on a mat before turning back to her assistant, “Amanita, can you get a couple of potions for Touko’s Pokémon? They got a little roughed up before we got here.”
“Sure thing, sis!” Amanita chimed before dashing down the hall, her rosy pigtails bobbing up and down with every bound.
“Now then, you two come with me.” The scientist led us down a hallway until we reached a divide. Fennel led us to the left which deposited us into a lounge-like room. The wallpaper was scarlet in here: all four walls leading up to a black ceiling where a row of florescent lights shone.
“Take a seat, anywhere is fine,” Fennel shrugged, gliding into the room. “Feel free to put your feet up. Can I get either one of you a drink?”
Both N and I vouched for water and took a seat together on one of the black leather sofas in the room. It felt like heaven as I sank into the cushions. Following Fennel’s remark to put my feet up, I tore off my boots which had grown tight around me and started to massage my aching ankles. Fennel came over a second later and placed a duo of clear cups on a wooden table before taking a seat on an arm chair across from us.
She stared at the two of us, almost observing, as she rubbed her chin thoughtfully.
“Um…” her stare was unnerving so I felt like I needed to break the silence. “Do you know where Cheren, Bianca and the rest are?”
“You’ve been to Nuvema, eh?” she sighed taking a huge gulp of her drink before answering. “You don’t need to worry about it. They’re all okay, as far as I know.”
“So they haven’t been captured by Team Plasma?” I asked hopefully, edging up on my seat.
“Right you are.” Fennel jerked her glass forward, “I haven’t been in contact with Juniper for some time now. Though the last time I checked, she and those kids were organizing a rebuttal against Team Plasma’s actions.” She took a sip, “A resistance, if you will.”
“Located where?” N inquired, he hadn’t even touched his water for some reason.
“I’m not sure,” Fennel bowed her head apologetically as Amanita entered the room. “You see… I haven’t had contact with Juniper for some time.” Fennel closed her eyes, “I don’t even know how fruitful the results of their actions have been. You can watch the news but its all garbage,” she muttered bitterly.
I handed my Pokémon off to Amanita and she restored Terra and Hyle’s health. She pressed the nozzle of the potions onto the release button on their capsules, which restored their health from the inside.
“The two of you are welcome to stay here as long as you want. In the meantime, I’ll try to see what info I can dig up about Juniper and your friends,” Fennel leant forward with an encouraging smile.
“Thanks. It means a lot,” I said gratefully. “But there’s something else I want to ask you…” I began hesitantly. “About the people. Why didn’t they want to fight back when I knocked down those walls? I mean… I’d opened up a path for them but they didn’t want to take it…”
The navy-haired professer sighed and leant back in her chair, “You’ve been absent from this world a long time, Touko. Things have changed more than you can fathom.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. Even Amanita seemed nervous and uneasy as she began to twiddle her thumbs, staring intently at the gray carpeting.
“And the Dream Factories are a huge factor in that…” Fennel muttered absently, locking her eyes on the blinds that covered the windows.
Both N and I radiated confusion at that unfamiliar term. I was about to come forward and ask the professer what this Dream Factory thing was, but my question was cut off by a loud trumpet call which cut through the air. Fennel and Amanita whipped towards the window where the sound had come from, their faces the picture of shock.
“Uh-oh!” Amanita squealed, “There’s an announcement coming!!”
“What… do you mean?” I asked nervously.
“Now of all times!” Fennel growled to herself, ignoring my question and turning to her younger sister. “You need to get them something to wear, and quick!!” Amanita tore off into the house like a bounding Sawsbuck. “You two!” she spat, whipping in our direction. “Here, put these on,” she plucked a pair of tinted sunglasses off a table and shoved them into my hand.
I held onto them stupidly, not knowing the cause of this ruckus, “Er… why? What’s going on?”
“Put ‘em on!” she snapped again as she went over to N and tore off his hat. “They’re calling a town meeting. You two are going to have to come out with us.”
Amanita returned with a bundle of clothes grasped in her arms. Fennel ran over to her sister and plucked a baggy gray sweater out of the pile, which seemed two sizes too large for any of us. She tossed it at N, “Wear this, alright?”
N didn’t protest and slid the huge jumper over his shirt.
“They do house checks, you see,” Amanita came over to me and threw a black coat over my shoulders, “If they find anyone in their house during the announcement then there’ll be trouble. For sure they’ll find you if you don’t come out with us!!” She squealed, wrapping a scarf around my head like a hood.
I didn’t fully understand the situation, but I figured things would go smoother if I just went with it. I threw on the glasses and buttoned the coat up high to conceal my face. Fennel spread a wave of perfume through the room, trying to mask our scent I suppose, as Amanita ushered us out the front door and into the streets of Striaton.
The citizens were massing under a gigantic jumbotron which was mounted on a tower-like building, right in the middle of town square. The burning screen displayed the Team Plasma coat of arms over its surface as if beckoning the growing crowd.
As I drew closer to the screen-mounted building, I realized with horror that the structure had been made from the town’s old Pokémon Center. I tried to suppress a scowl as we melded into the sea of bodies. So that’s what had become of the Pokémon Centers, they had been converted into Plasma headquarters. The building was so different, so altered that I could hardly even recognize it from its former appearance. In the end it was the location that gave it away.
I didn’t have time to look very long as Amanita pushed us into the crowd under the glaring screen, continuously muttering, “Don’t look at anyone. Keep to yourself. Don’t speak.” Fennel brought up the rear, trying to hide her nervousness as she glanced through the mass of people.
The people were murmuring, bustling, and congregating into one large blotch. People exited their houses accordingly, shutting doors behind them. Others came in from the streets and alleys that connected to this point. All four of us stood smushed in the throng and the screen continued to glare up above. I figured we’d need to wait a bit until all of the citizens gathered, but it was taking a bit too long.
As I began to look around restlessly, I caught sight of something over the many heads around me. There were groups of Plasma soldiers opening doors and entering people’s houses. I didn’t know what they were doing at first, but the answer came to me soon enough. They were doing house checks.
Just like Fennel had mentioned, these soldiers were entering people’s houses and making sure that no one was hiding away or not attending the announcement. They were opening doors so effortlessly and without protest that I figured they must have had keys with them. My heart had fallen to the pit of my stomach in shock, but it grew even worse after what I saw next.
These masked soldiers had Pokémon with them. They were using Herdier, who were hooded and leashed, to sniff out those who could be hiding away. Most of the houses the soldiers entered seemed to be vacant, but they were hauling a few people out of their homes and forcing them to join the crowd. But those who they did drag out, just appeared to have slept through the trumpet call, or hadn’t heard it for some reason or another. No one resisted, I suppose they knew better than to do that.
Nobody else in the crowd looked at this sickening violation of privacy; they just kept their eyes upward and waited for the screen to come alive. N and I seemed to be the only ones watching the soldiers carry out their work.
“Don’t look at them.” Fennel muttered under her breath, with enough force to cause me to look away.
I felt horribly uncomfortable after what I’d just seen, and my head seemed to be pounding. I turned to N and asked him, “What do you think this is about?” under the white noise of the crowd. I could hardly even recognize him with his hood drooping over his eyes and a blue scarf wrapped various times around his neck.
“I don’t know,” he admitted, but the unease in his voice, though muffled, was unmistakable.
A trumpet call rang out again and the murmur of the crowd quickly died. All the citizens seemed to have been gathered, and the soldiers bordered the crowd like fence posts, as if to keep them contained. All eyes were set on the massive telescreen above, which towered higher than any building around. The Plasma logo flashed a few more times before cutting to a large marble platform bordered by masked soldiers. Each one had a flag grasped in their gloved hands. They stood around an elevated podium where one of the Seven Sages stood.
He addressed the people, “Citizens of Unova! Bow in salute to our eternal lord, N!” The Sage stepped aside to reveal a man cloaked in a resplendent fur-lined cape, wearing a glimmering golden crown over his verdant hair. N walked up to the podium, silenced the crowd with a gentle wave, and said with a voice that echoed through the sky itself.
“My people. A tragedy has befallen our nation this day.”
Are there no heroes left in man?
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