[Francois: Mt. Chimney, just below the summit, 8:20, Day of Summoning]
"Wow! You’re getting used to this pretty fast!"
I snorted in derision as a pink figure flashed out of the corner of my eye and flames immediately shot up out of the corner of my eye in time with a signal from my hand. The pink figure came to a screeching halt, unable to advance any closer thank to the heat, and immediately darted around us, looking for an opening. It fired a blast of energy in my direction but I easily hopped out of the way. But rather than stopping there, I immediately whirled around to see the attack I had supposedly dodged shooting toward me. I didn’t move however, once I was facing it, and the attack bent and missed me completely.
"This graveyard has been giving me the creeps ever since I got here." I said as I whirled around again and motioned to Arcanine. The flames scattered in the fierce wind and Arcanine pounced forward, aiming at the petite girl. She darted out of the way just as quickly as the pink figure retreating several feet as a barrage of "zap cannons" rained on Arcanine. Arcanine moved lethargically to the side and ended up quickly evading them all, sliding through the ground to my side once more, crouched against the wind to keep his balance. "At first, I thought it was just your "trick room" that was screwing with us, changing out speeds and messing up out timing. But then I figured that since time and space were supposedly screwed up already, you were probably distorting distance and accuracy too. I’m just lucky that I was right."
"Oh no, it’s not luck." The pink haired girl giggled as her Porygon came to a stop beside her. "A normal person’s body wouldn’t be able to keep up like this. Thanks to the distortions concentrated here, I can have Porygon bend them a bit to our advantage. But you’re close that handicap through sheer willpower and effort alone. Kudos!"
"Enough talk! I want to know what the hell you people are doing here! What are you after?!"
"You’re not very persuasive."
I gritted my teeth in frustration. I didn’t like these indirect combat strategies that she used. It required more thinking than actual battling, which didn’t suit me. I need to find a way to catch that Porygon to stop it from moving. Easier said than done, since it was using ranged moves. When it came to observing the changes around him, Arcanine was best. But I needed to fight distance with distance…
"Alright then, let’s make this quick…" I muttered as I took two Pokéballs off of my neck. I returned Arcanine into one as I tossed the other into the air. My Ninetails appeared on the ground, rolling its neck casually as the air heated up quickly thanks to its Drought ability. "Solar beam!"
Ninetails held the tips of its tails together in front of its snout and green beads of light began to form, condensing rapidly into a single orb of energy before shooting out abruptly as a large beam toward the pink haired girl and her Porygon. They both shot out of the way with incredible speed and the girl landed on a nearby rocky slope as Porygon shot forward, surfing just over the surface of the "solar beam" as it approached.
"Ninetails, will-o-wisp behind you!"
Ninetails pointed its nine tails backwards without turning and immediately fired a barrage of fireballs, ignoring the fact that I was there. Porygon, who had been charging head on just a moment before, was surprised to have been caught while attacking from behind in that instant. It had used sharpen to make its body smoother and increase its potency of piercing with its beak, but the fire balls scattered the Porygon before it could even get close. The attacks singed my clothes slightly but I it was a small sacrifice to burn Porygon. Injured by the status infliction, the moment’s hesitation was all I needed.
"Ninetails," I stared at my Pokémon firmly. "Use Inferno."
Ninetails regarded my close proximity briefly as the pink haired girl gave a short yelp in surprise. Knowing that the look of my face meant that I wasn’t going to change my mind, Ninetails gave a short sigh before spreading its nine tails apart and aiming them in all different directions around her before erupting into flames that began to spin around us quickly, turning into a massive vortex of fire. Thanks to how quickly the air had become dry thanks to Drought, not even the fierce wind could do anything but stoke the flames as the spinning inferno erupted into to the sky, burning a hole straight through the clouds above. The pink haired girl had been lucky enough to be at the edge of the inferno and managed to escape with only her robe in flames. She quickly tossed it away from her and the wind grabbed it and tossed it into the air where it turned to ash almost instantly, leaving the owner with only a few small burns.
"Incredible!" She laughed as I suddenly burst out of the inferno as well and grabbed her by the arm, forcing her to stand. "You took advantage of your innate ability to ignore pain and flawlessly worked with you Pokémon on trust alone to break the handicap! Though crudely, you are probably the strongest battler of the five!"
"You’re going to answer my questions, girlie." I said firmly as I gripped her arm tightly to make sure she couldn’t slip away. Ninetails strode out of the inferno to stand behind me. "I’ve got a ton of them."
"But," She went on, completely ignoring me. "Unlike the other two, you don’t deal with traps well, do you?"
"Wha-" I said in surprise as something darted through the air and Ninetails screeched as several slash marks appeared over her side in an instant. I whirled around to see what it was, but several cut appeared on my back as I did, to my surprise. I tried to turn again to see what it was and barely caught a glimpse of the Pokémon’s golden shell before the ground beneath me began to crack and break away before a pitfall appeared beneath me and I fell through the ground.
"You little-" My angry yell was erased by the wind as Ninetails leapt forward to try and send a tail out for me to grab. Instead, she ended up falling with me and the rubble, to the pink haired girl’s delight. She looked down into the hole to watch as falling into the darkness and waved one hand in farewell. I spotted the golden shell of Ninjask beside her right before she was out of sight and I cursed under my breath. Of course she would have another Pokémon.
[Zephyr: Mt. Pyre Summit, 9:00]
I sighed as I finally stepped into the shrine atop the highest point of Mt. Pyre. After swimming through the water and rushing through the entrance to Mt. Pyre while dealing with ghost Pokémon, I took more time than I had expected. What bothered me, though, was that I didn’t even know how much time I took. I couldn’t have been more than an hour, I thought, but the position of the sun had changed so drastically all of the sudden. It was as if my perception of time was out of sync with reality. Or would it be more proper to say that Mt. Pyre’s time was out of sync with the rest of the world?
On top of that, there were ripping winds all around the exterior of Mt. Pyre that had threatened to throw me off as I hiked up here. I could have sworn that I had heard someone fighting along the way, but I wasn’t able to go check because of how fierce the winds were. The moment I’d set foot between the columns here, however, the shrieking winds had ceased. I couldn’t even hear anything outside, though I saw the grass and trees whipping about wildly. Only a low howling tone, probably courtesy of the hurricane, could be heard throughout the entire shrine. It created an ominous tone. Was this place really the center of the chaos happening on this graveyard?
I didn’t let myself dwell on it too long. I strode forward as I gripped my yoyo in my hand tightly. I hadn’t seen any sign of Phoebe the entire way up, so I could guess that she was here, looking for her grandmother. Phoebe’s grandmother had been sick recently and was one of the three people who guarded the red and blue orb. I wasn’t surprised—just being near those disastrous orbs required a lot of mental strength. Any lapses in focus or emotional spikes could lead to dramatic changes in mood. Touching them could make one go crazy. I don’t even want to tell you what happened to the two men who had wielded the orbs years ago for their ambitions. One thing’s for sure—they were lucky to have kept their lives after that ordeal. So you could imagine why Phoebe was so worried.
While reminiscing about the bad memories this place held, it was then that I saw it.
It was then that I saw the scene that would be forever carved into my soul.
Phoebe’s beloved grandmother was sitting on a mat behind the pedestals, as still as a statue. Her shoulders weren’t moving due to her breathing, nor were her eyes open. I knew immediately that it was too late for her
So I was surprised to see Phoebe smiling.
She stood where she was, as gentle as an angel, looking up with a sad smile at the dark figure looming over her. Red spikes were sticking out of blackness that curled around her as if it were alive, but she ignored them as she showed such a loving and kind face to the creature that glared at her with all the bitterness in its soul. The bitterness was simply ignored and pushed aside by tender love as tender love was swallowed and devoured by bitterness. The result was a silence atmosphere of nothingness.
"Ah," Phoebe’s lips moved marginally as she spoke, her smile widening. "Is that it?"
The shadows clamped onto her body and she collapsed.
I was left staring at the crumpled body of Phoebe, my childhood friend and the person who I cared most for in the entire world.
Deep inside, a feeling that I could not identify began to boil and burn like lava, slowly spreading through a body that was stiff with shock. The normally mellow and levelheaded Zephyr was no longer present. Instead, he was temporarily replaced with a creature of hate and anger. His golden eyes burned with this newfound emotion as he was entirely possessed, his hands gripped so tightly that his fingernails dug into his palm so that they bled.
"I’m going to kill you."
The figure of shadows that was the object this man’s anger shifted its gaze toward him, merely glancing with a single beady red eye. The two stared at one another with absolutely negative emotion for the longest moment in the history of the second world before the creature of shadows opened its golden mandibles and released a screeching bellow that would have shaken the core of any sane man and made them cower from the pain in the undertone.
However, this man had already abandoned all sanity.
Even as several tentacles of black shadows slithered like arrows across the ground toward this man, he swayed to the side and evaded them as the shadows struck out like spikes, attempting to impale the man. This man who lost his sanity acted entirely on instinct. He was not concerned with what was humanly possible, whether he could win or not, or if it was even worth it. All he knew was that he wanted to kill this creature of shadows and took the best actions to do so. Evading these shadows came naturally. Swinging his yoyo out came naturally. Calling out his Zangoose, the only Pokémon on his team that shared this rare moment of fury by instinct, came naturally.
"Night slash!" This man of anger roared as he charged forward along with his Zangoose. The creature of shadows gathered the darkness in its long black wings as it watched the two recklessly approach without any real plan in mind. A wall of pure spikes of shadows flowered forward from the side in a pincer formation with more than enough numbers to lacerate the two completely. The intimidation alone was enough to stop a person in their tracks. But if one did that, they would immediately be run through from all sides. As such, this man of anger did no such thing. Nor did his Pokémon. They simply charged down the shortest path down the middle, ignoring the attacking shadows as they both roared with fury. The creature of shadows could only watch in shock as the man of anger only sustained some injuries over his shoulders, splitting open his skin and shredding his sleeves, but didn’t falter for a moment. Zangoose slashed its claws fiercely as it arrived first and struck the creature of shadows with a powerful strike, and the creature of shadows took a step back with its six legs in surprise. But its shock was not over. The man of anger, who was still bloody and roaring with fury, was still charging forward. What could this human do? Fighting a normal Pokémon would be madness. Fighting a legendary was pure stupidity. And yet this man’s fist was clenched all the same. The creature of shadows instinctively roared once more, and a shockwave shook the shrine, throwing back both the man of anger and his Zangoose. The two shook off the blow and were on their feet in no time, already charging forward. But the creature of shadows was not curious to see what would happen next. It immediately melted into living darkness and dove into the ground, turning into a shadow across the floor. The shadow of the creature of darkness sailed underneath the feet of the attackers, as if swimming through the concrete floor of the shrine, passing by harmlessly. The two attackers whirled around furiously, showing every intention of giving chase.
An Aerodactly shot down out of the air and slammed into Zangoose, throwing the Pokémon back. The man of anger paid no mind, too focused on chasing after the fleeing creature of shadows it had sworn to kill. But before he could get far, he felt powerful feet grip his already bleeding shoulders and lift him into the air.
Aerodactyl took the enraged man and shot into the air, aiming the slam him into a nearby pillar. It was then that sanity abruptly regained control of the man’s mind and I saw what was going on. Pain shot through my entire body and may have paralyzed me if my indignity were not stronger. I threw my yoyo whirring upward so the line would tangle with the base of Aerodactyl’s wings, and we immediately went tumbling down before hitting the pillar. I groaned as I rolled on the floor, making my wounds throb and ache. It took me only a moment to figure out what I had to do as I looked around. I saw one of the Schola (wearing a black trench coat and fedora) standing between me and the direction Giratina had fled in. Aerodactly had already untangled itself from my yoyo, which cam spinning back into my hand perfectly, and Zangoose had rushed over to me in order to fight. If we remained here, there was a chance of winning. But at the same time, it was irrelevant. There was a bigger problem that I had to deal with, and since Giratina was long gone, I couldn’t do anything else at the moment. Though I’d been lost in my anger before, I was now able to think clearly enough to realize that I might not be too late…
"Exploud," I said as I spun my yoyo out and swapped Zangoose out for Exploud. I ignored the throbbing sensation in my shoulders all the while. "Hyper voice!"
Exploud took a deep breath and released a full powered bellow, but I didn’t even stay to watch the damage. I already knew it would probably destroy half the shrine, which would be painful to see, and would probably fail to knock out the Aerodactyl completely. I whirled around and rushed over to Phoebe’s unmoving body and quickly picked her up in my arms. I tossed my yoyo out to return Exploud immediately as I rushed through the pillars of the shrine and into the howling wind once more, sliding down the side of the mountain as I searched for the nearest entrance to go inside of Mt. Pyre once more. All while denying the angry tears that wanted to show themselves. I refused to submit once more to my emotions. Not again; not if I wanted to save Phoebe.
[Solana: West exterior of Mt. Pyre 8:00]
I stood firmly in front of Chimecho with my hands trembling, but not because I was afraid. I just didn’t like being at the center of battling. Blades of grass fiercely blew around us among the storm of water with shot like bullets at the Gravelers and Geodudes around us. They kept their arms linked together firmly to avoid being thrown off as the circled quickly, firing rock blasts at us like machine guns. The rocks were either blasted away by the water bullets or cut apart by the sharp blades of grass. Tropius’ long flexible neck as he quickly covered us with the attacks, not letting a single Geodude or Graveler get by unharmed. Xansa watched the fighting with the same composure he had before, and I couldn’t look him in the eyes. Every time I did, the pain I saw threatened to shatter my resolve. I hated to see anyone in pain for any reason, and he looked as if he were having a war of internal conflict.
"That’s an interesting strategy." Xansa said at last. "Using "natural gift" to use both water and grass attacks, which are both doubly effective against rock and ground types. You shouldn’t be able to carry so many berries on you, but your Tropius has the Harvest ability, doesn’t it?"
"That’s right." I nodded firmly as I plucked up the courage to look in his direction. I needed to put on a brave face, or I wasn’t going to get out of this in one piece. As I spoke, several berries hanging from Tropius’ neck shriveled up like prunes before falling off. They were quickly replaced by perfectly healthy berries of the same exact kind that began to shrivel up as Tropius took their energy to attack. "Tropius eat the same fruit every day and begin to grow them from their neck naturally, but my Tropius eats any and every fruit, so he has the biggest assortment in the world, especially with its Harvest ability to regrow them no matter how many are used up. By using Liechi berries and Nanab berries in quick succession, we can exploit your type disadvantage pretty easily."
Of course, I knew that my strategy wouldn’t work for long. Xansa was clearly a powerful trainer. He would find a way through my strategy sooner or later. I needed to get out of there before he did. I could only hope that my thoughts projected to my Pokémon properly. When I’d landed on the mountain, I’d prepared for the worst by releasing one of my Pokémon into the sea around the mountain just in case we needed to a quick escape. Of course, the dear was quite useful for diversions as well. Xansa was focused on me, Tropius, and probably even Chimecho, so he was probably surprised when I called out at the top of my voice.
There was only a delay of a few seconds before the sound of rushing water could be heard. Xansa looked just in time to throw himself to the ground as a powerful geyser of water shot through the air and smashed into the mountainside, knocking away the Geodudes and Gravelers in the chaotic torrent. For a brief moment, the attacks stopped thanks to the wall of water. From Xansa’s position, he probably though he had to wait until the geyser ceased. However, he didn’t realize just how powerful the attack was. By time the water faded, his three targets were gone, having vanished into the hole in the mountain the geyser had created, forcing a path into the enormous labyrinth of tunnels inside Mt. Pyre.
"And to think," Xansa sighed. "She looked so harmless."
[Mauville, Hoenn 9:00, Day of Summoning]
Roxanne sighed impatiently as the sound of men’s voices echoed throughout Mauville’s gym. It was times like this that made her wonder if this man was Hoenn’s most senior gym leader. Wattson acted like a child so often, Roxanne honestly forgot that he was her senior at times. Of course, it was Roxanne’s choice to come to Mauville seeking help from this very man, so she was beginning to wonder if she herself was the idiot. Roxanne touched her fingers to one temple as she sighed in exasperation, sitting in one of the few chairs in the gym with her legs crossed. The entire gym had several giant lightning rods that created nets of electricity in order to create a maze, but they were shut off since the gym was not currently open. Wattson noticed Roxanne’s sigh and turned to her.
"Whoa, Rocky, that was a pretty ‘smooth’ sigh. You’re normally a lot ‘rougher’ than this."
Roxanne completely ignored his terrible puns. She knew that he was probably trying to energize her a bit on purpose, but she was honestly not in the mood for it.
"Can we please get back to the problem glaring right at us?" Roxanne attempted to bring the tone of urgency back into the gym at last. "We’ve seen people be attacked by hostile trainers mercilessly, and we’ve yet to do anything about it in the long term."
"That’s not all too much of a problem." The third man sitting in the room with them disagreed as he absently batted Donphan’s trunk away as the Pokémon attempted to irritate a Manectric by poking its strange hairdo with its trunk. Sparks ran across Manectric, but Donphan was evidently immune to the irate shocks. "Those who were targeted are no novice trainers—some are pros, even."
"But Flannery seemed quite upset when she called from the hospital." Wattson frowned for a moment in discontent. "She’d actually been knocked out before the fighting was done with. When I’d arrived to aid Zephyr, he was already unconscious. And Roxanne, didn’t you barely manage to keep one of these guys at bay, despite being a gym leader?"
"Well, yes." Roxanne frowned as cupped her chin between her thumb and forefinger as she wrinkled her eyebrows together. "They are pretty strong. But that’s not the main concern. We couldn’t chase after them if we wanted to—we have no idea where they may have gone. Zane isn’t even answering his pokenav whenever I call, so I don’t even know if he’s still being chased. But the worst thing is what the goal of the Schola is. We shouldn’t be able to directly interfere with these people, but they might be putting all of Hoenn in danger. We can’t turn a blind eye to that."
"What do you think, lass?" The Berrymaster asked as he leaned forward with anticipation. "What are they after?"
"In order to figure that out, we’d have to figure out why they’re targeting these particular five. What do they have in common? What relationship do they hold that catches the eye of the Schola?"
Roxanne shook her head back and forth, her pigtails swinging about. "I can think of a lot of possibilities, but they fall through whenever I start to really look into it. It’s giving me a headache just to guess without any information."
"Well, something abstract won’t be able to penetrate that ‘rock head’ of your—ow!"
Wattson whimpered as Roxanne mercilessly kicked out and the heel of her shoe connected with the old man’s shin.
"One thing bothers me, though." Roxanne looked toward the Berrymaster as he swatted Donphan once more. "You say that Zephyr, one of the attacked, headed toward Mt. Pyre after fighting with the Schola?"
"That’s what one of the men who’d been under hypnosis told me and my wife." The Berrymaster nodded solemnly. Roxanne’s gaze lost focused as the gears of her mind began to turn. Why Mt. Pyre? That burial ground was known for being an eternal resting place and the home of the two orbs that held the power of two titanic Pokémon of the sea and earth. The legend of the other world spoke nothing of those two legendary Pokémon.
Roxanne was known for being a genius among geniuses, having worked with Sinnoh’s Lucian on several occasions. She was also called the ‘brain’ of Hoenn, capable of tracking and analyzing the geography in order to better understand the unique nature of the island region. She was quite famous despite her young age. Using that enormous brain power of hers, she attempted to put together the pieces of the puzzle laid out before her. It was like trying to push together pieces with way more edges than there should be, barely making a distinct shape, if at all.
Even so, she did it.
She finally learned of the connection between the five, the Schola, Mt. Pyre, and the legend it all revolved around.
She could barely widen her eyes in surprise at the revelation before the doors to the gym opened up suddenly on their own and a single man strode in, a stern look on his face. He wore a pinstripe suit and had spiky silver hair that set him apart from any crowd, yet let him blend in at the same time.
"Roxanne, Wattson." Steven Stone spoke with a voice edged with steel. "We need to talk."