"Hold on a minute." I pulled my hand from Susana as we went deeper into the tunnel. "Susana, what's going on? Why are they after you too and why do they know who you are?"
Susana stared at me for a long moment with her luminous grey eyes that seemed to sparkle in the dull light. Though her face was void of guilt, I knew that something was up. Ever since the beginning, I knew that I was missing something--that Susana was hiding something. I'd ignored it at first, thinking that it was none of my business, but now I had to know. Why was she being targetted now as well? What were the Schola really after? They'd said she was feigning ignorance--something she didn't deny. I struggled to not ask the main question tugging in my mind. Just who was she?
When I only stared back at her without saying a word, she spoke without any expression crossing her face.
"Aren't you also wondering what they meant by 'fifth and final' target?"
Her single sentence struck me hard. Five people? They were chasing five different people, and Susana and I were apparently two of them. That meant that the Schola were targetting three others. But for what?
"What do you know?" I asked darkly. "And don't give me a vague answer, I want the whole truth. What do we have that the Schola want?"
"Arceus." Susana replied without batting an eyelash. "We have their beloved savior hostage."
I could only stare at Susana in deep shock, unable to reply. Before I could completely recover from my surprise, the sound of something scratching against rock caught out attention and we looked toward a rock slab sticking out of the tunnel wall above us. The Pokemon that was standing on the slab had beautiful white fur and a regal posture that earned it its infamous name. At this moment, the black horn sticking from the side of its head resembled a scythe's blade perfectly.
"What...is that?" Susana appeared to be as affected by the Pokemon's presence as me. Just the sight of it would send goosebumps down the back of anyone, even if they didn't know what it was.
"That's an Absol." I replied hoarsely. I cleared my throat and began again, frowning at the Pokemon as it continued to stare down at us. "It's a Pokemon said to herald disasters. They reside deep in the mountains because of the strife they cause among populations. Floods, droughts, earthquakes...they're like a grim reaper. It is..."
I jumped slightly as Susana's voice rang out through the tunnel, reverbrating and echoing loudly. She clapped her hands together as she stared up at the Absol with the eyes of a giddy five year old. Startled by Susana's sudden exclamation, the Absol quickly hopped down from its perch and dissapeared into the tunnel at a running pace. Susana watched with the same entranced smile.
"Such beauty...such grace...such majesty!" Susana swung her hands out, nearly smacking me in the face as she did. "Even though it is wild, it puts to shame many of the Pokemon I've seen throughout my life! Trained, there is no doubt that it will be completely unmatched in pure sheen! I must have it!"
"Didn't you hear me?" I began, instantly dissaproving. She could not be serious. At a time like this?! "That thing has brought disaster time and time again. It has an infamous reputation and is not well recieved by people."
"Don't you know?" Susana raised an eyebrow at me, not at all fazed by my description. "There is untamed beauty in destruction. Such a reputation suites me just fine!"
"You should really try to keep your voice down. Do you want the Whismur to rampage?"
I threw myself into Susana, throwing her to the ground as several sparkling ray of light sailed through the air, deflecting against the ground and walls around us at it attempted to strike us. Standing ahead of us was Fonrose and his Grumpig, grinning at us serenely. I wasted no time in hopping back to my feet and releasing my Camerupt just as Grumpig raised its hands again as it continued to hop its strange dance. The "power gem" attack deflected against the walls once more, surrounding us, but they did little damage against Camerupt's high defenses. My Pokemon simply shrugged off the attack as if it were nothing.
"You people really are persistent." I muttered darkly and Fonrose chortled.
"Well excuse us for doing our job." He said as he drew his flute from his belt and began to play it. Upon hearing the musical notes, Grumpig took another stance, clapping its hands together.
"Curse!" I ordered as particles of purple and grey energy materialized around Camerupt. Camerupt shut its eyes and its body shuddered before the energy particles struck Camerupt's body. Fonrose continued to play and Grumpig crouched slightly.
"Camerupt, use rock slide!"
Camerupt slammed its legs onto the ground and the stalagmites hanging above Fonrose and Grumpig fell. Grumpig "bounced" into the air and slammed its feet into the falling spikes, knocking them away to keep Fonrose safe.
"Excellent job." Fonrose said as Grumpig landed beside him once more, getting ready for another attack. "I may not be using verbal commands, but your piece allows you to see what attacks are coming before they happen just by looking at the opponent."
"What 'piece' are you talking about?" I muttered as Camerupt braced itself to counter-attack once more, snorting ash from its nose.
"Never you mind, boy." Fonrose chuckled as he pressed his lips to his flute again. Once he began playing, Grumpig raised its hands and its black pearls shined. It was using psywave.
"Brace yourself, Camerupt." I warned as the beams flew from Grumpig's raised hands, bouncing from the walls to angle themselves toward us.
A floating wall of energy suddenly erected itself before us and the psywave bounced off the surface and shot back toward Grumpig, who quickly hopped into the air to dodge. I blinked at Susana, who had released a Glaceon to use the reflective move. Like her Lilligant, Glaceon was visibly well cared for. But unlike Lilligant, it didn't seem cheerful and happy-go lucky, like her master. Glaceon shot me a cool glare that reminded me of the one Susana had given me when we'd just met. Interesting...
"You're taking way too long." Susana chided as she frowned at me. A few wrinkles formed between her brows from the expression, though I had no idea why she was mad. "We don't have the time to waste with this guy!"
"The cruise boat's pretty slow, we have plenty of time--" I began to explain, but she cut me off, waving her hands in exasperation.
"Not that! I mean Absol! It's going to get too far away at this rate!"
I stared at her for a moment, waiting for her to roll her eyes at me for taking the joke so seriously. She did no such thing. She was still obsessed with that Pokemon? But Susana didn't give me the chance to argue. She turned her glare toward Fonrose, who stared back apathetically.
"Do you plan on letting us go?" Susana asked coldly. "I have business elsewhere."
"Don't be ridiculous." Fonrose didn't seem the least bit amused. "You aren't leaving this tunnel alive."
"Then you'll have to be the first to go. Glaceon, ice beam!"
Grumpig prepared to evade the attack as Glaceon fired a beam of pure frozen energy at him, but the attack simply grazed the ground and walls around him, not making contact. Fonrose chuckled, humor returning to his face once more.
"I guess when someone focuses too much on aesthetics, they grow rusty in battling." He taunted. "Unless your Pokemon is simply blind."
"You're the idiot who's blind." Susana muttered as she brushed a stray her from her face, shooting me a glare. I understood immediately. Impatient as she was, Susana was showing an uncanny amount of sharpness once again.
"How redundant." Fonrose shook his head pitifully as Camerupt slammed its feet on the ground. "Now you're just struggling. You used up your ammo for rock slide with the last attack--"
Fonrose cut off as he looked up to see the falling stalagmites of ice that rained down on him and his Grumpig like deadly spears. Susana had only hit the walls and ground to distract Fonrose from the real target; the ceiling. Since there were no more stalagmites, she simply created more that were sharper and more plentiful. I didn't like having to take such a drastic action, but this guy was trying to kill us.
"There," Susana said as she started forward. "Now the road is clear-"
She suddenly stopped, her eyes widened is sudden surprise as she stared at the area where the stalagmites were. I hurried over to her, worried.
"What's wrong, Susana?" I asked, touching a hand to her shoulder to shake her. She didn't respond whatsoever.
"Yes, Suzy." A coy voice rose from the debris--a female voice. "Why are you suddenly so stiff? Don't tell me that you scared!"
I watched as the ice particles and dust settled to show another figure now standing with Fonrose, who was glaring at us with hate in his eyes. Beside him was a woman with reddish colored hair with two braids hanging beside her ears, wearing a brown woven stole and a single black robe that hung just above her ankles, showing her bare feet. It was strange--she had far more color in her skin than Susana, who was pale as a blanket of snow, and yet when I looked at her, I immediately drew a connection between her and Susana. Clearly they knew each other, but they also looked like they were the reciprocal of one another.
Beside the woman was a Medicham, sitting with its legs crossed on the point of one of the frozen spikes, remaining in meditative form with its eyes closed. I knew that the Medicham had destroyed the lethal spikes before they made contact. Though Medicham usually have thin arms this one had arms that were slightly thicker than typical of the species. I could imagine that its martial arts strength was above that of its brethren.
"Ophelia." Susana greeted with a dangerous smile. "What a pleasant surprise. Why are you here?"
"I'm the Schola's priestess; I'm here to make sure an advisor doesn't die in battle."
"I wasn't going to die!" Fonrose snapped angrily. "They caught me off-guard! Watch now; I'll bury them both six feet under!"
"Don't get so worked up, Fonrose; you'll become sloppy and graceless."
Medicham swiftly swung one blazing fist out and smashed it into the beam of frozen energy that Glaceon fired directly at Ophelia's face. Steam hissed from the contact and Ophelia snickered.
"Angry, are we?"
"You're blocking our path." Susana replied simply as she raised a hand. Glaceon poised itself to pounce as the air around it began to freeze instantly, creating a spreading mist. Camerupt and I prepared to back her up immediately as Grumpig began to dance once more in preperation to attack and Medicham hopped down from the icicle it was meditating on took a martial arts stance.
"Medicham, psycho cut!" Ophelia ordered as Fonrose played angry, sharp tunes on his flute that caused Grumpig to fire another fierce psywave with high intensity.
"Glaceon, mist!" Susana called. The frozen air around Glaceon enveloped us both completely and the psycho cut and psywave passed through harmlessly, missing us. I prepared to call out my next attack, but Susana's hand suddenly clapped around my mouth, preventing me from speaking.
"Stay quiet." She whispered into my ear and I stopped struggling. I listened to muffled movement outside of the mist and heard footsteps pass right by us. After a few moments of silence, Susana released me.
"What just happened?" I asked, confused as Susana stroked Glaceon's head with a grateful smile.
"Since those two were all hyped up to fight, I led them to believe that I was resolved , so they let their guard down a bit. They didn't even realize that my mirror coat was still up."
I stared in surprise as Glaceon's mist dissapated into thin air and I noticed a large clear slab of ice that was erected right before us. It reflected the light strangely, making all sorts of magnifications.
"They thought we had escaped in the mist and went outside to chase down." Susana grinned mischeviously. "I bought us more than enough time to move on and lose them. Good thing too--Absol is getting away."
Susana had never intended to fight from the very beginning; she'd only been plotting to trick them. Was she really that obsessed with the Absol? I felt uncomfortable, complying with such deceitful tactics, but Susana was pulling me along before I could even object. Again, I ask, just who was she?
Outside, the battle had yet to end. Both Roxanne and Quincy were breathing raggedly as they glared across at each other. Their battle had dragged on for a long time, ever since we'd entered the tunnel. Nosepass had yet to be moved an inch, but both Cradily and Breloom were exhausted from effort. Cradily had also yet to move, due to its ingrain, but the technique was no longer as effective as it once had been. Breloom was sweating painfully from the toxic attack that was eating away its health. Originally, Breloom's Toxic Heal ability had allowed Breloom to replenish its health with the poison status, but Roxanne's Cradily had cleverly mixed a gastro acid in the toxic to nullify the ability. Breloom, on the other hand, had continued to batter Cradily mercilessly with its fighting attacks and had spread seeds deep into the ground around them with leech seed to mimic something like ingrain. It wasn't as effective as it would be if it had been used on a pokemon, but it helped Breloom hold on long enough to chip away Cradily's health. By this point, both Pokemon were struggling. Neither trainer had expected the battle to last this long, expecting a quicker victory. Switching Pokemon would have made it quicker, perhaps, but thanks to ingrain and block, and their pride, it wasn't really a plausible strategy. Both were unsure of how to clinch their victory now--it was down to which Pokemon could survive with a sliver of health when the other fell.
The sound of Fonrose's exasperated screech echoed from the tunnel entrance and both glanced breifly to see Fonrose and another girl emerge, looking irate. At the same time, Cradily collapsed a moment before Breloom fell as well, unable to battle any longer.
"This is my victory." Quincy grinned in satisfaction as he returned his Breloom to its pokeball. "Though you didn't do half bad."
"I'm afraid I can't agree." Roxanne flipped her hair defiantly as she returned Cradily. "My Nosepass's block is still in effect. And from the looks of it, Zane and his friend got away, just as I intended."
"That's on Fonrose. In our one on one battle, Cradily fell first."
"Are you dense? Since when did standard rules apply?"
"A gym leader should stick to the uniform under any circumstance--if you're really a competent gym leader."
The two glared at each other, sparks flying, prepared to argue until they both dropped as well. It was the shrill voice of the woman with Fonrose that broke it up.
"Quincy! We're leaving now!"
Quincy sighed in reluctance. "We'll settle this another time, gym leader."
"I'm looking forward to it, Schola."
Controversial and upsetting endings to the battles, the true face of the Schola begins to reveal itself, along with the strange priestess! Next time, more light is shed upon things as Solana and Francois investigate Mt. Chimney, where another gym leader will assist the main protagonists! Gotta love those canon characters