"Koffing, use sludge!"
"Kirlia, double team!"
Kirlia raised his arms over his head acrobatically as he suddenly split into several twirling figures as the wave of poison approached. The attack washed over several of the fakes, leaving the true Kirlia completely unaffected as he danced through the rain fluidly, almost as if he enjoyed the weather like this.
Kirlia hopped forward suddenly, closing the distance between him and the Koffing with a single leap as his eyes glowed with energy. Koffing reeled back as the invisible force hit it, sending the poison gas Pokémon into a nearby puddle, severely injured.
"That’s a quick Kirlia." My opponent, Riley, said as he held his Pokéball out and returned Koffing into it. "Though it seems a little reckless to let a long distant psychic type get so close when attacking."
"It’s my Kirlia’s nature." I shrugged as Kirlia spun to a stop before me, curtseying politely. "His attacks are stronger up close."
"I see…" Riley narrowed his eyes slightly as he drew his next Pokéball. "Then let’s see how good it’s footwork is. Ninjask, go!"
A Ninjask appeared from Riley’s Pokéball and shot forward quickly, swinging its claws quickly at Kirlia. Kirlia spun and twirled quickly to evade, backing up all the while. This dance did not last long, though. Ninjask soon gained the upperhand, slashing one claw out and striking Kirlia on the chin, leaving a sizeable scratch. Kirlia skidded through the water as she ceased twirling, touching the scratch with one hand and wincing. The rare few moments Kirlia was as fast as Ninjask were over now, thanks to Speed Boost. Time to recycle a tactic.
Kirlia multiplied into several forms of itself as he touched his hands gently together in front of him in a ballerina pose. Ninjask glanced around frantically at the surrounding figures, unsure of which to attack. Riley frowned as he looked around critically before pressing two fingers to his temple and shutting his eyes.
"Ninjask," He ordered. "Use mind reader!"
Ninjask stopped looking around for a brief moment and remained hovering in one spot before suddenly vanishing and reappearing directly in front of a single Kirlia abruptly, claws out to attack. Kirlia cringed in surprise at first, but used the back step to quickly make a back bend, evading the "fury cutter" with perfect timing and luck.
"Confusion!" I ordered, clenching my hands in anticipation. That was the exact moment I was waiting for. Kirlia kicked out one leg while remaining in her back bend as Ninjask attempted to use its speed to get out of the way. But it was already too close; Kirlia’s glowing leg knocked into Ninjask’s side, slamming psychic energy into the bug Pokémon and throwing it back. Despite being fast, Ninjask were quite fragile. That single hit knocked it out completely. Riley stared in awe for a long moment before groaning.
"I lost!" He looked up to the dark, stormy skies in exasperation. "Master will kill me!"
"Great job, Kirlia!" I praised my Pokémon as she twirled over to me happily. I knelt in the mud and I patted the center of her head, careful not to accidently hit either of her horns by accident. "It was dangerous at the end, but we pulled through!"
"Kirrrlia!" Kirlia rolled her tongue on the ‘r’ whenever she was proud of herself. She continued to spin absently as I stood up, knocking away the crust of mud on the knees of my jeans. God, these things were filthy. I hadn’t had the chance to properly wash my clothes in days. The rain was only going to serve to make it smell worse, no doubt. Route 120 was notorious for its chronically stormy weather.
I looked down at Riley as he bowed low to me, hands at his side before straightening again. He was quite shorter than me; several inches, really. He was just a kid, but an excellent battler. He wore a black jumpsuit and had his red hair cut low, like a buzz cut. I’d met quite a few ninjas in Hoenn back when I’d first traveled through here, but it was always surprising when I ran into them to see how disciplined and polite they were, especially to their elders. Not that I’m old, of course.
"Thank you for the battle." Riley said gratefully. "It’s was a good experience to have such an unorthodox opponent. I’ve never met a Kirlia like yours."
"He’s a little young but on his way to be an excellent battler." I grinned at the twirling Kirlia, who had his eyes shut. Kirlia smiled nonetheless, singing her name under her breath rhythmically.
"Here is the prize we agreed on." Riley held up a Pokéball to me and placed it in my hand. "I have to say, though, it’s rare that someone specifically asks for something like that rather than money. I had just caught while I was training…"
"I know, I saw. But something like this is a rare find. I couldn’t help it when I saw it. By the way, I have a small request for some information about another rare Pokémon. Have you seen an Absol around here, by chance?"
"An ‘Absol’?" Riley looked at me uncomprehendingly. "What’s that?"
"A four legged Pokémon, about this tall…" I raised my hand in the rain to indicate the height. "Had bleach white fur and a black horn sticking from the side of its head…probably send shivers down your back on sight?"
"Oh! You mean that thing! Yes, I’d something like that run past here about half an hour before you arrived, running at high speeds. My eyes barely grazed it, and yet I got a sense of foreboding…"
Looks like I’d asked the right guy. Ninjas typically trained to hone their senses, so he’d be able to recognize my description of Absol no matter how short the encounter. I didn’t know if the was the same Absol we’d seen before in Rusturf Tunnel, but I doubted that it would matter, so long as that girl got what she wanted.
"Thanks for your help." I told Riley before turning and heading through the rain. Kirlia followed after me, still completely unfazed by the weather.
"Be wary of that creature!" Riley called after me. "My master told me that it heralds great disaster and chaos; you may want to evade something of that terrible reputation!"
I raised a hand to acknowledge his words without turning. I’d said the same thing, but apparently this fact only encouraged the little lady.
"That took you a while." The aforementioned girl said as I approached. She stood waiting with an umbrella over her head, shielding her pretty black hair from the falling precipitation. Beside her, a sleek red/black bike stood on its kick stand with waterproof pain keeping it from rusting. "You’ve been accepting challenges for battles ever since Mauville—are you sure that Absol hasn’t shaken us?"
"He’s a half-hour’s ride away at most." I assured her as I took a Pokéball from my wristband and returned Kirlia into it. "Trust me; I’ve been tracking Pokémon for a while."
"A half hour?" Susana raised an eyebrow before holding out her hand. I held out the Pokéball I’d received from Riley and she gently touched her fingers to it. She stared at it for a long minute before blinking again and retracting her hand.
"Looks like you’re right." She conceded as she placed herself on the seat on my bike right above the back wheel. Ever since we managed to cross the water route between Mauville and route 118, we’d rode this bike I’d bought with the remains of my money up to Foretree and now back down in pursuit of Absol. Luckily, it was headed in the direction of Lilycove, our main destination, so we weren’t really going out of our way. "What Pokémon did you get that you wanted so much?"
"The perfect Pokémon to help you catch that Absol." I grinned as I held the Pokéball up and kicked up the kick stand. A Scyther appeared from the Pokéball, regarding me with a slightly irked expression, though not necessarily hostile. "We’ve got some tall grass that the bike can’t really go through ahead, so this fella’s going to help mow it down. Scyther, cut!"
The Scyther shot me an exasperated look before turning and holding its scythes out, then charging forward through the curtain of rain. I pedaled after him, shooting through several puddles as we approached the tall grass that nearly reached our necks. It looked impossibly thick—normally, a bike would have to navigate its way around it. But thanks to Scyther, the grass was reduced to small blades of grass instantly as the Pokémon swung low, slashing and hacking, mowing a path for us to follow. Scyther was so quick; I didn’t have to worry about overtaking him or running him over by accident. Behind me, Susana was gripping her sunhat tightly to make sure it didn’t fall off, the other hand busy keeping the umbrella over her to keep everything aside from the fringes of her dress from getting wet.
Throughout our journey, Susana and me had really ‘bonded’, per se. I’d been taking challenges all throughout our traveling, partly to train Kirlia (which had been a baby Ralts at first), but mostly to gain money. Once we reached Foretree, the city in the trees, I’d used the prize money to buy Susana her umbrella for the rain and food, since she was strongly opposed to eating food raw and struggled to eat anything for a while. I guess I couldn’t blame her—she threw up on her first attempt. The rest of the money had been used to buy a sufficient amount of Pokéballs to catch Absol. Sadly, she hadn’t had any before and forgot to mention it until we had left Mauville, so even if we somehow managed to catch up with Absol earlier, it wouldn’t have made a difference. And in return for all my efforts, Susana told me about her strange ability; the dimensional scream.
"Phew!" I sighed as Scyther slashed through the last bit of tall grass and we hopped over a ledge onto flat ground. I skidded to a stop and glanced up at the dispersing rain clouds. We’d gotten out of the danger zone, it seemed. We were by an expansive lake that was very familiar to me. Across it, up the mountain, was a cave I’d once explored on request from the Pokémon Association. Supposedly, one of the three legendary golems used to sleep there. Now, however, as far as I knew, it was empty. I attempted to spot the entrance to the cave from my position, but it was difficult to see from my perspective. Rather than finding any signs of the cave, I spotted Absol instead, standing regally on the mountain side, staring in our direction.
"Susana, it seems like we’ve finally found it."
"I told you," Susana sighed as she slipped off of the back seat and released her Lilligant from its Pokéball. The Pokémon danced around happily, apparently enjoying the sunlight. I suppose that it had no idea it had been dreary and storming moments before. "Call me Suzy. It sounds weird when you keep calling me ‘Susana’."
"Right, right, whatever you say." I shrugged indifferently. I didn’t care what she wanted me to call her, honestly. "Just remember what I told you—don’t let your guard down. You can’t injure it too severely when trying to catch it, nor can you be too gentle and let it get away."
"I know." Susan—I mean, Suzy—smiled back at me. "I also have to be careful where I aim the Pokéball when I throw them. Its horn is its most dangerous feature, able to split a Pokéball in half. But at the same time, that single bare area on its forehead is the vital spot where I have the best chance of success."
I just nodded. I’d lectured her about my pain encounter with an Absol some time ago as I attempted to capture it some years ago. Dark types were reputedly vindictive and even ruthless. While that was mostly a stereotype, it wasn’t as if they had no base.
"Take Scyther with you." I told her. "It has an attack called "false swipe" that will make it easier for you to weaken Absol."
"Thanks." She grinned at me once more as Scyther grudgingly walked over to her, attempting to ignore the sweet look she gave him. I knew Scyther was a guy since it had a small abdomen, which may actually have made it easier for him to move so swiftly when mowing the high grass. With its combination of bug attacks and false swipe, I knew he was the best choice to catch the dark type Absol. Finding one in Hoenn was an incredible find, hands down. I’d never seen one in here before, so I knew I had to get it, even if I had to battle for it.
The same species of Pokémon from different regions could look quite different from others, due to natural selection. Often, it was just different colors, but it could even be minor differences in anatomy. That was what I’d seen through my job, anyways. This Scyther seemed far more agile and swift than the ones in Kanto, Johto, or Sinnoh. But that wasn’t all. As they approached Absol, both Lilligant and Suzy trembled a little under the force of his glare, I myself could feel the familiar pull of gravity that made my arms and legs feel like lead. Absol’s ability, Pressure, put strain on those nearby and forced them to make a bigger effort when attacking. Scyther, though, simply glared back at Absol defiantly. Such a powerful will couldn’t have been normal.
"Hello, my dear Absol." Suzy smiled gently toward the disaster Pokémon, apparently shrugging off the Pressure with her own willpower, though I saw a bead of sweat roll down her neck. "All along the way here, I’ve heard stories about how you bring disasters to mankind and how you were shunned. Such a reputation is a mere testament to your true magnificence! With me, your true beauty will flourish to levels beyond that of any other!"
Absol narrowed its eyes slightly at Suzy as it listened to her monologue that sort of surprised me as well before swinging its head around, whipping up winds with its ominous looking horn. Absol shot into the air, leaping over Suzy gracefully before landing on the bridge, between the two of us. I reflexively reached a hand to my Pokéballs on my wrist as Absol glanced at me, but the Pokémon simply turned away to face Suzy. He was acknowledging her challenge and indicating that I was not to get involved. Not that I intended to anyways.
"Lilligant, quiver dance! Scyther, use your fury cutter!" Suzy ordered, holding out her hands in a dramatic gesture all the while. Scyther shot forward as Lilligant danced behind him swiftly, wiggling her leafy arms as if to mimic waves. Absol swung its head fiercely and a slash of pure cutting wind flew toward Scyther, who raised its scythes up and charged right through it without a second thought. Absol shot forward to intercept, slashing its horn to intercept Scyther’s "fury cutter" attack at close hand. Their fighting was mostly even—though Scyther was faster, Absol’s attacks were dangerously fiercer. As Absol lashed out with its claws, Scyther was forced to hop back to avoid being struck. At the same time, Lilligant danced gracefully behind Absol as a tornado of leaves swirled around her and enveloped Absol, tossing him high into the air. It was an excellent executed "leaf storm" that took advantage of Lilligant’s heightened speed.
"Scyther, your false swipe!" Suzy called as she held out a Pokéball—a quick ball. I’d even gone as far as to teach her how to properly utilize the individual Pokéballs I’d bought for her. It looked like she was intending to make this quick. She took a deep breath as Scyther slashed through the leaves, opening a wide path directly to Absol and threw the quick ball with perfect timing to hit right after Scyther’s attack connected.
But Absol was a step ahead. Using the whirling winds from "leaf storm", it managed to fire a powerful "razor wind" attack, slashing straight down on Scyther, knocking the Pokémon back down toward the ground. He attack also split the Pokéball in half before it could reach Absol, who landed gracefully on the ground before charging toward Lilligant. Lilligant quickly took evasive action to avoid the swipes from Absol claws, sustaining a single cut on her side as she quickly retreated to Scyther’s side. Absol tossed its head arrogantly as he prowled toward the two Pokémon, charging up another "razor wind". I was beginning to worry that this was a little too tough for Suzy. We’d planned out a strategy ahead of time, but she wasn’t used to predicting the opponent’s moves on short term. Adapting to the situation when facing a Pokémon like Absol was key, after all.
So I was surprised as Suzy suddenly smirked.
"You truly are the Pokémon I want." She murmured calmly. "This is checkmate. Lilligant!"
Vines and roots suddenly shot out from below Absol, which immediately attempted to evade. Scyther shot forward suddenly and lashed out with its scythes, using "false swipe" and knocking Absol to the side. The vines wrapped around Absol’s legs firmly, disabling its ability to move and throwing it to the ground. She’d managed to have Lilligant hide a "leech seed" under the ground in order to catch Absol off guard. An excellent strategy, one I hadn’t seen coming. Suzy’s friend ball connected right with Absol’s forehead and fell to the ground, shaking a few times before becoming motionless.
"Well, Zane," She smiled brightly at me as she picked up the Pokéball. Scyther returned to my side, snorting as if the effort he’d put in was nothing. "I guess I should be thanking you first."
"No problem—it was fun." I shrugged, though Suzy was already releasing Absol from the Pokéball and hugging it tightly, burying her arms in its fur. Absol didn’t seem to mind the sudden display of affection—it already seemed quite fond of its new master. "So, now that this is done, we’re moving on, right?"
"Yep." Suzy grinned as she returned her Lilligant to its Pokéball and I returned Scyther to its Pokéball as well. Suzy sat on Absol’s back as a mount this time so I could ride my back without the extra weight quite easily.
"You know," Suzy began as she stroked Absol’s white fur gently. "I think that this guy was heading there as well all this time—sort of leading us as an envoy of nature."
"How do you know? Your ability?"
She shook her head. "No. Just a feeling. Absol are the disaster Pokémon, but they only predict them. In a way, it’s just like me. This is nature that is at stake, after all."
"Hmm." I replied simply as I touched the brakes slightly, slowing my race downhill as we came quickly onto a port. East of here, Lilycove waited. But our new destination was beyond the waves here, looming in the fog in the distance. Several rocks made a scattered trail toward it in an ominous way. I swear that I could see small will-o-the-wisps hanging over the rocks sitting closer to the mountain. Considering it was a cemetery and home to a high concentration of ghost types, it was hardly a surprise. Nevertheless, it still gave me the creeps. But according to Suzy, we needed to head there. By this point, I trusted her opinion. If she was right about the natural phenomenon plaguing Hoenn lately, then there was no doubt that she was right about coming here, to Mt. Pyre.
I summoned Aggron from his Pokéball and folded my bike up, fitting it in my bag as I hopped onto his back. With a large splash, he entered the water and began to swim across it with higher speeds than his body weight hinted toward. Absol, with Suzy on its back, hopped easily on the highly spread rocks over the water. As we slowly approached, I felt a strange sense of foreboding, along with the same feeling of nostalgia I got from seeing Scyther. Hopefully, we’d be able to put all these questions to rest, finally…