:D I've read all seventeen chapters, and I have to say, good work. There are almost no grammatical errors *remembers Venosaur*, and you're characters are very believable. I like the idea of having three different girls, with different goals, and intertwining them to make a story. The only thing that I would like to see is that you show us more of the Pokemon moments, like how they capture their Pokemon, all of the contest battles, the gym battles, and training sessions. Every time you are a bout to do a battle, I get so excited, and then you skip right over it, and I am disappointed.
But overall, well done, I like the story, the ability I have to connect with it, and the character development and scenarios. Just work on showing us those things, and it will be perfect! :D
Cassandra felt strangely empty as she watched Belle disappear into the sky the next morning, but she had to push the thought out of her mind. She needed to go off to Fallarbor Town— the next contest date was three weeks away.
Cassandra ate breakfast and then walked into the parlor, where Joanna and Gerald sat on the couch. Gerald put away his paper and smiled as she walked in. “There’s our little winner!” He stood up and embraced her. “How did it feel?”
“Good,” Cassandra replied. “Very good.”
“Well, much to my surprise, Cassie, you seem to have potential.” Joanna smiled as she took a sip of her coffee. “You may borrow Staraptor to get to Fallarbor Town.”
“Um, actually…I’d…” Cassandra looked over at Gerald rather than act like she wanted her mother’s blessing. “I’d rather go myself. Y’know…like Belle is going on her own.”
“Go yourself?” Joanna echoed. She set her mug down on the table in surprise.
“Like a Pokémon Journey,” Gerald said. “Well, you’re old enough now, and you have your official first Pokémon…I think it’s a grand idea!” He clapped his hands. “The only thing is, what route should you take?”
Cassandra grinned broadly. Joanna seemed shell-shocked. “But…perhaps we should hire a bodyguard or two to go after her. Or we could order a car.”
“No, that’s okay,” Cassandra told her. “I’d like to do this kind of…classically.”
“Kickin’ it old school!” Gerald proclaimed. “Now, as for routes…I’m not particularly fond of you going through Meteor Falls by yourself, but you’d be able to stop off in Rustboro if you went that way.”
“But there’s always a sandstorm brewing on Route 111,” Joanna said. “She shouldn’t be there by herself, either.”
“That’s true,” Gerald replied. “Hmm…well, Swablu, Finny, and Fluffy should be strong enough to get you through Meteor Falls. You know, Finny should be about ready to evolve…don’t you think, dear?”
“Yes, about ready.” Joanna lost interest in the conversation. She picked up her coffee mug and produced a crossword puzzle from seemingly nowhere. “You should pack.” Joanna then picked up a pencil and wrote down something on her puzzle.
“Yes, you should pack! We’ll help you!” Gerald sprang to his feet. “Come on, Joanna!” He knocked her elbow, making her spill coffee on her crossword.
The very next day, Cassandra emerged from the Rusturf Tunnel, Finny trotting along beside her. She made her way to the Pokémon Center.
Once inside, Cassandra settled into one of the plastic chairs and pulled out her breakfast and a newspaper as she waited for Nurse Joy to tend to her Pokémon. She was just reading an article about strange Snorlax movements in Kanto when the glass door slid open again and a slightly familiar voice said, “Hello, Nurse Joy.”
Cassandra looked up. A girl about a year or two younger than her was walking to the counter, her violently pink hair in two ponytails on either side of her head, both of which were in elaborate ringlets. She wore a pastel yellow sweater with sleeves that only let her fingertips protrude from the ends and a pink-and-yellow plaid skirt. A Wigglytuff walked beside her.
Karen Lowell and Tuffly, Cassandra’s first ever contest opponents.
Cassandra put her newspaper down in her lap as Karen and Tuffly approached Nurse Joy’s counter. “What brings you two here today?” Nurse Joy asked.
“We’re bored,” Karen replied.
“I’m sorry. I don’t have much for you to help with today. I only have one person in here right now.”
Karen looked over her shoulder at Cassandra. “Hey! Hey! I know you! I’d recognize that hair anywhere! It’s so long, and it’s honey-colored.”
Cassandra blinked. This girl thought her hair was recognizable?
“You’re Cassandra Étoile! I went up against you in the preliminaries!”
“Yep. How are you and Tuffly? And what are you doing here?”
“Oh, we’re great! And I live here in Rustboro. So I guess the question is…what are you doing here?”
Cassandra smiled as she folded up her newspaper carefully. “I’m heading to Fallarbor. I figure I’ll get there early and introduce myself.”
“That’s a fantastic idea,” Karen told her. “A good Coordinator familiarizes him or herself with the Contest Hall.”
“So, are you trying to become a Coordinator?”
“Who, me? Oh, no. I just like Pokémon. I’ve tried being a Trainer, too, but the fact is…I just like them for pets.” She reached out and hugged Tuffly. “Right, Tuffly?”
“Oh, you know what? You’re headed to Fallarbor, right? I’ll just go with you! Wait here and let me get my stuff together. We can travel together. It’ll be fun!”
Cassandra laughed. “Right. You’re cute.”
“Come on, Tuffly. Wait here, Cassandra, okay?”
“Wait, what— ?”
Karen rushed out of the Center.
To: dingdongbelle@pokénet.com From:dancing_through_life@pokénet.com Subject: Now I know how it feels.
So I unwittingly attracted a traveling companion.
Her name is Karen Lowell and she’s fifteen. She likes having Pokémon as pets, and she has a Wigglytuff named Tuffly. She’s actually the girl I first went up against in Verdanturf. Turns out she lives in Rustboro and she’s bored out of her mind, and her parents don’t care if she goes running off to Fallarbor Town with a sixteen-year-old stranger.
Belle stepped into the train station and adjusted her hat better on her head. Charmy reached up and held her hand like a four-year-old.
She turned in the direction of the voice, catching a flash of tousled blonde hair. “Derrick?”
He grinned broadly as she came over towards him. “Surprised?”
“What are you doing here? I said I’d meet you at the Pokémon Center.”
“Well, I figured that it would be nice if someone was here at the station waiting for you. So, what’s the plan? Do you want to stay the night at the Center, rest up a bit, or do you want to go ahead to Vermilion City now? I’d recommend waiting, actually. The past week must have been tiring. Here, let me get your bag.”
Belle smiled. It was really sweet of him to think of her.
They walked to the Pokémon Center together. Derrick asked about her trip and listened with great enthusiasm as she told him of first Alyssa’s graduation speech, then Cassandra’s fantastic come-from-behind victory.
“Your friends sound almost as great as you,” he said.
Belle smiled again. “You know, I think they’re even better.”
“Nah,” Derrick said as the Pokémon Center door slid open. It was quite busy; people milled about the lobby, talking and laughing. Belle sighed as she looked around.
“It’s going to be hard to find a place to sleep.”
“Oh, so you’re going to stay the night?”
“Yeah, I’d better.”
“Well, it won’t be hard for you to get a place. Come on.” He led her through the crowd and waved at Nurse Joy as he passed by the counter and went into the back. He led her past the Pokémon being tended by Chansey and into a back room.
“This is where Nurse Joy set you up,” Belle observed. Derrick set her bag gently on the floor beside the bed.
“Yep. And you’ll sleep here tonight.”
“With you?” Belle was thunderstruck.
“No,” Derrick said quickly. “You’ll sleep in here, and I’ll go find a place out there.”
“But this is the place you’ve been sleeping— ”
“And you’re tired, right? Sleep here.” He gathered his things. “I’ll just go ahead and claim a space now.”
“I’m not changing my mind,” he told her, pausing at the doorway. Belle smiled at him.
“I know. Thank you.”
He smiled back. “You’re welcome. Hey, once you get settled, we’ll go eat some dinner. Sound good?”
The next morning, Derrick knocked softly on Belle’s door. When she called for him to come in, he entered to see her already dressed and packing her things.
“Oh…I thought I’d have to wake you up.”
“I’ve always been an early riser. Dad used to say that was the first sign of a Pokémon Trainer.” She paused, surprised that she had just said that.
Derrick seemed to sense the change in atmosphere.
“Oh.” He came to kneel beside her. “How old were you?”
“Eight," she replied, a bit uncomfortably.
“I was nine.”
Belle looked over at him. She only saw his profile; he didn’t look at her. He reached forward and picked up a shirt that she had been meaning to grab off the floor, folding it idly. “We lived on Cinnabar Island…me, Mom, Dad, and Koko.”
“My little sister.” He placed the shirt on her bag. “She was three. We were all fishing…Koko fell in, and Dad went in after her." A strange smile seemed to touch Derrick's lips. "He...was a little afraid of water." The smile disappeared, and he slowly pushed Belle's bag towards her, not looking at her. "A Tentacruel came up, and…Koko never surfaced. Dad was poisoned to death.” His whole body seemed to be rigid as he spoke.
Belle blinked and found her vision blurry. She turned away and shoved the folded shirt inside her bag, wiping away her tears as she did so. “I…I’m sorry. Is your mom worried about you?” She glanced over her shoulder at him. Derrick didn’t reply; he was, instead, smiling in a sad sort of way at the floor.
“So, uh…Didja catch any new Pokémon since I was gone?”
“Yeah. I caught a Geodude.” Derrick passed a hand in front of his eyes; Belle looked away. “I went back to Mount Moon to get it.”
“Wait.” Belle closed up her bag and stood up. “You went back to Mount Moon by yourself, after you made that big stink about not wanting me to go there alone?”
Derrick looked up at her and smiled. “Pretty much.”
Belle shook her head. “Well, I’m all packed. Let’s get a move on, shall we?”
He nodded and stood; Belle looked down at the floor and noticed a bit of water glistening where Derek had knelt.
To: dancing_through_life@pokénet.com From:dingdongbelle@pokénet.com Subject: Oh really?
It’s nice to hear that I’m not the only flypaper for freaks in the world.
But does your traveling companion have a tragic past? MINE DOES. Get this…when he was nine, he lost both his father and HIS THREE-YEAR-OLD SISTER. In one shot! His sister drowned and his father was poisoned by a Tentacruel trying to save her.
I CRIED. And so did he. He tried not to let me see, but I saw. 0.o
Well, I’m in the Vermilion City Pokémon Center right now. I caught a Diglett at Diglett Cave. Derrick had caught a Geodude, and I couldn’t let him have more Pokémon than me!! Also, I needed a Ground Type to use against Lt. Surge. Plus…
Don’t judge me…
I think Diglett is cute.
Oh, I think Derrick’s coming out of the bathroom. I don’t want him to know that I’m blabbing about his tragic past, so I’ve gotta wrap this up.
Love your turning-girly friend (YEEUUCCKK!),
Chapteer Nineteen...was awesome! I found these past two chapteers really enjoyable, as we learn more about Derrick, and Cass gets a partner. Chapteer eighteen was actually very funny. When Gerald got the coffee on the crossword, and when Cassandra made the remark about Karen's hair. xD
Then for chapter nineteen, epic. I was kind of annoyed by Derrick's kindness for some reason, but it wa just my problem, not yours as a writer, But then the chemistry between Derrick and Belle, and suddenly, you don't feel that Derrick is annoying and whiny anymore, but you feel bad for him, and it was great.
And I don't really have a problem with the battling scenes anymore (a.k.a. no battle scene for diglett) Because the fic is kind of more of a....I don't know how to put it. Like, more of a human fic than Pokemon. But overall, great chapters, can't wait for moere!
(btw, I hope Zigzagoon ends up as Alyssa's partner, I <3 Ziggy! xD)
I found Cassandra’s reaction to having been dumped with Karen amusing. Although, I have to admit, simply having her partners as mere pets would not impress Josephine (a character from my fic). She prefers to have them battle and be friendly with them.
Chapter 19’s review...
Reading about Derrick’s past was indeed sad and may actually be on equal par with what happened to Josephine’s older sister. Her name was Tara and her death was caused because of their other sibling, Rowan.
Credit goes to Sgt Shock for my signature and avatar
Alyssa’s heart pounded in her chest as the glass doors of the Vientown Ranger Base slid open. It was time for her to start her new, exciting life of helping people and Pokémon. Zigzagoon, who she had decided to call Ziggy, happily trotted after her as she walked inside.
She had only been inside the Ranger Base one other time in her life— on a field trip a few years after she had joined the Ranger School. She had been about eight, and had looked around at the lobby with wonder.
She felt the same way now as she did back then.
The lobby spread out before her. The floor was green and grassy, and she stood on a glass walkway that bridged over a watery moat. She felt Ziggy push himself against her leg as he stared warily down at the water beneath his feet. The only places that weren’t covered in smooth green grass were the large computer in the corner on her left and the Operator’s office area in the corner to her right. The water, she knew, was to help keep the part of the tree on top of the building alive. Every Ranger Base had a bit of the tree on top, and the large Tree of Life (or whatever it was called) was growing out of the roof of the Ranger Union.
A few Rangers stood in the grass; one of them was a fat, dark-skinned man with a tuft of dark brown hair sprouting out of the top of his head. He turned as the door opened; he had been talking to Ian.
Ian smiled. “And there she is!”
“Right on time,” the fat Ranger said in a deep, booming voice. “I’m Barlow. I run things here at the Vientown Ranger Base. What’s that?” He pointed.
“Oh, this is Ziggy.” Alyssa scooped Zigzagoon up and walked forward a few paces. “I was hoping to make him my Partner Pokémon.”
“All right, done,” Barlow replied, waving his hand dismissively. “So, we usually make the rookie deliver the local newspaper. You up to that?”
The other two Rangers in the base and the Operator were now eyeing her with interest. Alyssa felt a rush of adrenaline. “You mean…like a mission?”
“Uh…sure, whatever. I’ll have somebody go with you. Any volunteers? Crawford? Luanne?”
The other two Rangers, a boy with a brown bowl cut and a raven-haired girl, shrugged noncommittally.
“I’ll do it,” Ian piped up.
“All right then. The papers are over there.” Barlow gestured towards the large computer behind him, where Alyssa now noticed were two stacks of newspapers tied with twine. “Actually, Ian, don’t you have a younger brother?”
Ian’s face darkened. “I helped him get stationed in Pueltown.”
Alyssa started heading over towards the papers, setting Ziggy down on the ground. He followed after her.
Ian picked up one stack of newspapers, and Alyssa scooped up the other. They left the base side-by-side.
“I made sure of it that Greg got stationed in Pueltown,” Ian remarked as he yanked at the twine. “They’re a bigger base, so he’ll get paid a little more.” He frowned. “That’s what he cares about. And I won’t have to deal with him here.”
“I’m glad I got stationed here,” Alyssa said. She yanked a newspaper off the top of the stack and tossed it into someone’s yard as they passed. When she looked at Ian, he appeared to be blushing.
“Well…I may have…done a little persuading…”
“What?” Alyssa asked. Ian didn’t reply; he pulled a newspaper off his stack and threw it onto a porch.
“Barlow doesn’t like trainees,” he said finally. They continued their routine of throwing. “He thinks it’s too much work to train one. You notice how you’re the only new Ranger that showed up today?”
Alyssa didn’t say anything. She was a bit surprised. Sure, Barlow seemed less than friendly, but…
“That crap about how we usually make the rookie deliver the paper…well, that’s when we get a rookie. I was his first rookie in seven years.” He grinned down at her. “But he took a liking to me; I did my job really well. So he listens when I recommend things, and…I recommended you.”
“Why, though?” Alyssa asked.
Ian’s ears turned red. “Well…you’re…nice. I kind of liked the idea of…getting to know you better. Working with you.”
Alyssa smiled and looked down at the paper, not even taking in the headline. By now, they only had a few newspapers left to deliver. “Well, I’m glad you did a little persuading. I like the idea of getting to know you better, too.”
Ian’s whole face turned beet red, and when he threw his last newspaper, it went wrong and smacked into the mailbox of the next-door neighbor to the house at which he was aiming, forcing him to go retrieve it.
Alyssa smiled. It felt good to fluster someone.
To:dancing_through_life@pokénet.com From: [email protected] Subject: COOL!!!
AWESOME!!! SUPER!!! I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!
It’s so cool that you won your first contest! I’m so happy for you! XD You have to email me the video!!! I DEMAND COVERAGE!!! How high do you have to go before it’s televised?
Well, I am so excited for you. And now you need to be excited for me. It turns out that I’m only stationed in Vientown because…get this…
IAN WANTED ME TO BE THERE!!!
Barlow never takes rookies, and Ian convinced him to!!! w00t! Do you think Ian has a crush on me??
…God I hope so.
AAAHH!! XD I am so happy!!
Well, I’ve gotta go…I need to get to bed. I had quite a busy day of waiting around and watching Bowl-Cut Crawford and Vain Luanne get quests.
…do I sound bitter?
Love your un-busy friend,
Belle blew gently on her coffee before raising the cup to her lips. The Vermilion City Pokémon Center was deserted; all the trainers that had been there the day before had left, either because they were going to challenge Lieutenant Surge or because they had already challenged him and needed to move onto Erika in Celadon. Belle and Derrick sat alone at a table, eating breakfast. They had decided to wait to take their gym challenge until all the trainers had finished. Neither of them had any desire to wait in a long line.
Belle set her coffee cup down and looked up at the TV absently. It was on the channel that played news all the time. She blinked. The pictures changed and the anchorwoman talked, but Belle didn’t take in any meaning.
“Oh, not again,” Derrick moaned suddenly. She glanced over at him; he was looking up at the television. “Nurse Joy, could you turn up the TV?”
“Certainly.” Nurse Joy picked up the remote from behind the counter and turned the volume up.
“—another Snorlax has fallen asleep. Anyone wishing to travel from Vermilion City must take the Lavender Town route.” The picture cut to a video of a large, slumbering Snorlax right in the middle of the path. Several people were dancing around it, yelling and pushing at it. “Police say that when the Snorlax has moved, the public will be notified.”
The anchorwoman appeared again and went off on some other story. Derrick moaned and slumped onto the table. “Those stupid Snorlax! I swear, they fall asleep in the most inconvenient places at the most inconvenient times. It’s like the world wants you to go out of your way sometimes for stupid reasons. I don’t want to go to Lavender Town. Let’s just stay here until the Snorlax moves.”
“No way!” Belle cried. “There’s no telling how long that’ll be! In Johto, there’s a weird tree right outside Goldenrod City that blocks the road, and you have to water it with a watering can. It freaks out and runs away, but there it is again the next day. And there’s no way around it unless you have this special watering can. With this, at least there’s a way around. We’re challenging Lieutenant Surge this afternoon, and then we’re setting off for Lavender Town.”
“But Lavender Town is haunted,” Derrick whined. “Isn’t it, Nurse Joy? You have a sister in Lavender Town, right?”
Nurse Joy smiled. “Well, yes, but she says that it’s really not so bad there.”
“See, Derrick? You have nothing to worry about. I’m going, with or without you.”
Derrick groaned and threw himself face down on the table again as Belle calmly took a sip of her coffee.
Belle was feeling confident. With a Diglett, Lieutenant Surge had no chance of getting an attack in. She had progressed past his traps and stood before him, staring at him from under the brim of her hat.
Crap. Magneton didn’t touch the ground, so Ground-type moves wouldn’t work on it. But it was part Steel…
“Charmy! Let’s go!” Belle tossed Charmy’s Poké Ball out onto the arena, and her Charmander broke free of it.
“Use Ember, Charmy!”
Charmy did so; the Fire-type move hit Magneton so hard that it was blown backwards a bit.
Lieutenant Surge’s face darkened considerably. Already his Magneton was hurt, and even burned. It hadn’t even attacked. Its three eyes seemed to point at each other. “Come on, Magneton! Use Thunder Wave!”
“Don’t let it attack, Charmy! Ember again!”
Charmy obeyed quite well. Magneton was toast; it fell to the ground, whirring tiredly, and the gym’s referee held up Belle’s colored flag.
“Magneton is unable to battle. Challenger wins!”
Belle folded her arms as Lt. Surge withdrew Magneton. “You shouldn’t look so smug, young lady,” he told her in a gruff voice as he picked another Poké Ball off his belt. “This next Pokémon is my last…and I can pretty much guarantee that— ” Surge stopped.
Belle followed his gaze to see a glowing Charmy standing where a non-glowing Charmy had stood just seconds before. “What? Charmy is evolving!” she cried out.
Charmy glowed brighter until he seemed composed of nothing but bright white light, and then his shape started to shift and turn; he grew taller, and a spike grew out of his once-round head. His arms got longer, his legs got thicker, his tail stretched just a tiny bit. Then the light faded, revealing a Pokémon that was red instead of orange, with a much fiercer gaze and long claws.
Lt. Surge was the one who broke the silence. “Your Charmy evolved into Charmeleon!”
“Oh,” Belle said. Charmy was now almost as tall as she was; when it came running back to her, arms outstretched to hug her, its head came to right underneath her breasts, and its head-spike protruded up past them. She placed a hand on the back of Charmy’s head. “Good job, Charmy. I’m so proud of you.”
“Okay, enough of the mushy love,” Surge barked. “Raichu!”
Raichu, although absolutely adorable, looked rather fierce. It bared its fangs as it burst out of the Poké Ball, thrashing its strange whip-like tail over its head. Belle withdrew Charmy to his Poké Ball and pulled a different one off her belt.
Well, it wasn’t really a belt. It was more like a loop of material that she kept slung ****-eyed around her hips, so that one side was up near her waist. But for simplicity’s sake, she called it a belt.
“It’s your turn, Diglett!”
“Diglett?” Surge muttered as the Pokémon appeared before him. His eyes widened.
And then the Diglett disappeared. Shloop! and it was gone. Belle smiled grimly as she realized that she was using much the same technique as Sakura Konohana had against Cassandra.
“We’ve encountered this before, Raichu!” Surge shouted. “Feel the vibrations of the ground!”
Raichu went down on all fours, putting all of its limbs to the challenge. It closed its eyes and Belle bit her lip.
“Diglett, stop!” she cried. “Stay still!”
Lt. Surge folded his arms over his chest. “Ah. Giving up?”
Raichu stood, folding its own little arms and wearing much the same expression— a sideways smirk.
Belle grinned back. “I’d never give up. Now!” she shouted. Diglett surfaced right underneath Raichu, throwing the Pokémon up into the air. It squealed, but it righted itself and landed unharmed and catlike.
“Impressive,” Surge told her. “But I am a Gym Leader. I have seen most things. Raichu! Tackle!”
Schloop! Diglett disappeared under the ground and Raichu sailed over it.
“Magnitude!” Belle cried.
And Diglett, summoning all its strength, managed a beautiful Magnitude 8. Raichu was unable to escape as the ground shook.
With the whole floor shaking, Raichu was unable to sense Diglett’s vibrations and dodge; this time, when Diglett hit it, it went sailing into the air and landed in a crumpled heap. It was so fainted it might as well have had Xs over its eyes.
“Raichu is unable to battle! Challenger wins the match!”
Surge withdrew Raichu and stepped forward as Belle jumped up and down happily. The ground ceased its shaking and Diglett happily burrowed its way over to Belle, stopping in front of her to receive its praise. “Diglett dig!”
“Yeah, Diglett dig,” Belle told it, patting it. “You did a really good job.” She pulled out the Pokémon’s Poké Ball and allowed it to return before standing up. Lt. Surge came to a stop in front of her.
“You fought well,” he said, pulling a hand out of his pocket. He opened his fist; inside it was the Thunder Badge. “You’ve earned this.”
“Thank you so much!” Belle gasped, grabbing the badge from his hands. “Oh, thank you!” She looked up into his harsh, unsmiling face. “How many of these do you go through a year?”
“You’re asking about a year?” he said. “The numbers I go through a week are staggering, and you wanna know about a year?”
Belle glanced back at the floor behind Surge. “Um…sorry about that.” It was now split by numerous cracks and fissures.
“I lead an Electric-type gym. People bring Ground-type Pokémon. It happens all the time. You…you’re intuitive. And very familiar-looking. What’s your name?”
“Belle,” she replied. “Belle Caldwell.”
“Caldwell?” Surge frowned. “You know a man by the name of Daniel?”
“He was my father,” Belle replied.
Surge continued looking at her quizzically. “Was your father.”
Surge closed his eyes and nodded. “I’m sorry to hear that. He was a strong man.”
“You knew him?”
“Of course I did. Before I shipped out to join the army, he came here to challenge the gym. He had an Ivysaur. I challenged him to a battle, and…well…he beat me.” Surge laughed. “That Ivysaur was damn strong.”
“I used to play with him,” Belle said. “Well…by the time I was born, he was a Venosaur, but…”
“Yeah, my son used to play with Raichu here. But listen, Belle. You share your father’s talent and instincts. You keep listening to your gut and keep training.”
Belle smiled. “Thanks, Lieutenant Surge.”
She stayed to watch Derrick battle Surge. He did quite well, seeing as Geodude had actual arms and could pick Raichu up. When they left the city together, they both clutched Thunder Badges.
To: dancing_through_life@pokénet.com, [email protected] From: dingdongbelle@pokénet.com Subject: THUNDER BADGE!!!
I GOT MY THUNDER BADGE, I GOT MY THUNDER BADGE, I GOT MY FREAKIN’ THUNDER BADGE AND IT FEEEEEEEEEELSSS SSSSOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOD!!!!
That’s right ladies, Belle Caldwell has got THREE BADGES. Oh, and to top it all off, Charmy evolved into Charmeleon. Yup! I have now got an evolved Pokémon on my team. w00t!!
Oh, Alyssa, Derrick’s tragic past— his little sister drowned and his dad got poisoned by a Tentacruel trying to save her.
I cried when he told me!! Also, I have a Diglett now. Don’t think I informed you. Sooo, how was your first daaaay??
And how’s the road, Cassandra?
Well, I’d better get going. It’s off to spooky haunted Lavender Town for me!!
Love from crazy excited,
Cassandra was quite sure she was going to rip her hair out by the time she and Karen wandered out of Meteor Falls.
“That place is so stupid! Why is there a log bridge randomly between two cliffs?”
“Well, we did have to cross it in order to get out,” Karen told her. “Cheer up, Cassandra. We’re almost to Fallarbor Town.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” She tugged unhappily on the strap of her backpack and pushed her hair out of her face. She had long since twisted it into a bun, but her bangs insisted on falling into her eyes.
A short trek later, Cassandra and Karen ended up in Fallarbor Town. It wasn’t much to speak of; it was small, and ash seemed to be falling from the sky. Its only redeeming quality was the special, Coordinator-only hot spring situated inside the Contest Hall, which Cassandra was already planning to get into.
“Ooh, a hot spring!” Karen said as Cassandra told her about it and they went into the Center. “That’ll be fun, won’t it, Tuffly?”
“Wiggly!” the Pokémon agreed. Karen didn’t seem to have a Poké Ball— and if she did, she wasn’t using it. Tuffly walked with them the whole way.
Cassandra went straight to the counter to talk to Nurse Joy. The woman clapped happily when she saw her. “Oh, hello! You’re Cassandra Étoile, right?”
“Y-yeah…how did you know?”
“My sister in Verdanturf told me,” Nurse Joy replied. “She sent me a video from the DVD she gets complimentary from judging the contest. You were magnificent! And my sister in Rustboro said you got a traveling companion? Where’s Karen?”
Cassandra looked over her shoulder and blinked. Karen was nowhere to be found; she had disappeared. “Um…I don’t actually know,” she replied. “She was right behind me when I walked in. Do you…know…Karen?”
“No. But my sister in Rustboro tells me all about her. She loves Pokémon, and she comes into the Pokémon Center every day to help out.”
“So…” Cassandra leaned in. “What’s up with her parents? Why are they willing to let her run off to Fallarbor Town with a stranger?”
“Well, apparently they’re hippies.”
“Yes. They are very free-spirited. Both her mother and her father have hair down to their waists, and they believe very much in the unity between Pokémon and humans.”
“Great. So do they smoke a lot of dope?”
Nurse Joy laughed appreciatively. “I don’t know, Miss Étoile.”
“Please, just call me Cassandra.”
“I’m ready for the hot spring!”
Cassandra turned and Nurse Joy looked up; Karen stood behind them, looking absolutely adorable in her bright blue one-piece bathing suit. She reminded Cassandra of very brightly-colored cotton candy. The girl did a little twirl; Tuffly turned with her. It was quite a well-choreographed move. Perhaps Karen did have a bit of potential as a Coordinator.
“Great,” Cassandra said again. “Is it okay if I drop my Pokémon off here, Nurse Joy? They need a bit of rest. We just came through Meteor Falls.”
“No problem,” Nurse Joy replied as Cassandra handed over her three Poké Balls.
“Why, if it isn’t Cassandra Étoile.”
Cassandra blinked. Sakura Konohana smiled demurely up at her from her place in the hot spring. Her wet red hair tumbled down around her, sprawling out once it got to her shoulders; it wasn’t quite as long as Cassandra’s. About Alyssa’s length, Cassandra thought to herself. She could make out an orange-and-white tail bobbing next to Sakura in the water.
“Let’s go, Tuffly!” Karen said, pushing past Cassandra to clamber down into the hot spring.
“Wiggly!” Tuffly followed as best it could; with its giant bulk and tiny arms, it couldn’t quite grip the ladder, so it slipped and fell into the hot spring with a splash. Karen laughed happily and wiped the water from her face; Sakura chuckled appreciatively.
Cassandra lowered herself into the water carefully and picked out a place to sit. She sighed happily, relaxing for a moment, before turning to Sakura. “So, what are you doing here? Did you come to watch the contest?”
“Oh, no,” Sakura told her. “I’m here to compete.”
“But…you lost at Verdanturf,” Cassandra said hesitantly. “You have to beat the Normal Rank in order to move on to the Super Rank here in Fallarbor.”
Sakura tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Yes, but I competed in the contest directly before the one in which I battled you, and I won. The Normal Rank has theirs more often, so I wanted to move through it as many times as possible before I moved on to the Super Rank. I now believe I have enough experience to win here.”
“Goldeen goldeen,” the Pokémon toned from underwater.
Cassandra nodded. “That’s cool. Verdanturf Contest Hall has theirs once every few weeks, right? How far apart is Fallarbor’s?”
“Theirs is a monthly contest.”
“And it’s broadcasted on some of the less-watched cable stations,” Karen piped up. “Hyper Rank in Slateport City is totally different, though. They have their contests once every two months, and it’s widely televised.” For a moment, she seemed fixated on the water running through her palms as she scooped it up in her hands. “But the Master Rank in Lilycove City…” The water slid off her fingers again. “They hold their contests…”
“Four times a year,” Sakura finished. “So if you don’t win the first time, you have to wait a very long time for another contest date.”
The water slipped easily from Karen’s hands, splashing delicately into the spring.
To: [email protected] From: dancing_through_life@pokénet.com Subject: Televised contests!!
They actually start televising contests at the Super Rank, but only on lesser-watched channels…so you may not be able to see my Fallarbor performance unless I send you something.
Sorry your first day sucked. Things will get better!! At least you have a hot guy to flirt with while you work…contests are total taco-fests.
Did I actually just put that?
Anyway, I’ll email you later!
Love you lots,
Alright-y, review time! You definitely have the basics down, though I did see a few things:
“I don’t have enough money for a hotel room,” Belle said uncertainly.
“Trainers are allowed to stay for free at Pokémon Centers,” Professor Oak told her.
I’m surprised that Belle didn’t know she could stay free at a Pokemon Center. She wanted to be a trainer since she was nine, right? Then she should definitely know that info already. It’s basic stuff.
One rude person shoved her and she “accidentally” lit the shoulder of his coat on fire with Charmy’s tail, making the man squawk and bat at it with his briefcase.
Whoa, Belle set a person on fire? That’s not funny. He could get seriously burned because of that and I wouldn’t be surprised if Belle was arrested. That could even be seen as attempted murder.
Police say that when the Snorlax has moved, the public will be notified.”
Why doesn’t someone just force Snorlax up, attack it and / or catch it? It’s not that hard. If you can’t wake it up, that mean it’s just easier to capture.
And there’s no way around it unless you have this special watering can.
Sudowoodo are skinny little things. I can’t see how they would be difficult to get by.
Most of the problems above stem from you taking things directly from the games or anime and trying to duplicate them in a realistic environment. It just doesn’t work, though the shout outs (like the Sudowoodo one) are rather nice to read.
You have a good start, though I do think your chapters are a bit on the short side. One thing I really like is how you end each chapter with an email from the focused character to the other two, detailing the events. The emails are very realistic and they’re just how I would imagine teenager girls to write (the caps and smilies everywhere help).
Out of the characters, I have to say I like Belle the best. She seems cute and I love the relationship she has with her brother. Cassandra’s nice too, but I absolutely despise her mother. Why Gerald married a woman like that I’ll never know. At least Cassandra’s mother seems to be defrosting slightly with Cassandra’s win. I don’t know much of the Ranger games, so I’m not that attached with Alyssa, but she’s starting to grow on me.
One thing you should really work on is description. I’d rather liked to have seen all those battles you skipped past and the coordinator battles with Cassandra. The first coordinator battle especially, since it would develop Karen’s character right from the get go.
I’ll keep my eye on further chapters, so keep up the good work!
"After being saddled with two ten-year-old brats and being sent out on her long overdue Pokemon journey, she can’t help but wonder… is it worth it?"
Wow, Dagzar! Thanks for all the constructive criticism! I hadn't thought about the actual physics of Sudowoodo and Snorlax; they're kind of just end there as game shout-outs, like you said. They're not too terribly important.
I’m surprised that Belle didn’t know she could stay free at a Pokemon Center. She wanted to be a trainer since she was nine, right? Then she should definitely know that info already. It’s basic stuff.
I didn't think about that. o.0 I'll have to go back and say something about how she was making sure the laws were the same in Kanto as they were in Johto. Thanks much for pointing that out!
You have a good start, though I do think your chapters are a bit on the short side. One thing I really like is how you end each chapter with an email from the focused character to the other two, detailing the events. The emails are very realistic and they’re just how I would imagine teenager girls to write (the caps and smilies everywhere help).
The short chapters start to get longer; the reason they're so short right now is because when I originally started this story, I had all three girls in one chapter, with an e-mail between each installment---the chapters started getting too lengthy, though, so I split them up. They start getting relatively longer as the fic moves on. And thanks for the praise on the e-mails! A lot of people seem to like those...o.0
Why Gerald married a woman like that I’ll never know.
Teehee, if you continue to read, you will.
One thing you should really work on is description. I’d rather liked to have seen all those battles you skipped past and the coordinator battles with Cassandra.
This fic is mostly centered around the humans, and I promise the describing-the-battle thing gets better later (just wait til Belle battles Sabrina XD). It's just that Cassandra's beginning battles aren't particularly important to the overall plot of the story, and they take up space that I would like to devote to her Sakura battles. And as for battling Karen---I am going to have to admit that having Karen accompany Cassandra was a last-minute decision, but now she's closely linked to the plot. A lot of things I do are like that. o.0
Anyway, thanks so much for your review! I love reviews like yours!
After taking a full day wandering through some strange grass maze peppered with random trainers and then a series of piers with tons of fisherman, Belle and Derrick emerged between two cliffs to find themselves in Lavender Town.
Belle squinted up at Pokémon Tower. Tall and gray, it stretched into the sky above them, obviously the town’s landmark.
“Oookay,” Derrick said, hurrying forward. “Let’s just get out of here.”
“Don’t be retarded,” Belle snapped. “We have to rest our Pokémon, and I’m tired too. Plus, it’s almost dark. Let’s find the PokéCenter.”
“No, please,” Derrick begged as she started forward and grabbed his wrist. “It’s so creepy here…”
They passed by a large house labeled the Pokémon Volunteer House and found the Pokémon Center. It seemed bright and cheery compared to Pokémon Tower. The glass door slid open automatically and they stepped in.
Only a few trainers occupied the Center, and they were all grouped around one round table, leaning in and speaking in hushed voices. Belle glanced over at them, straining nosily to hear their conversation. One of them gasped. “An HM?” she said. The others quickly shushed her.
“At the top of the tower,” said the boy across from her. “But there are tons of Ghost Pokémon up there…vicious ones.”
“How vicious?” asked another.
One of the trainers, who had been silent before, leaned forward. His face had been cast in shadow, but now, as he brought it into the light, they could all see that it was deadly pale. “Extremely vicious,” he said, his whispery voice shaking.
Belle walked quickly to the counter, where Derrick was handing his Pokémon over to Nurse Joy. “Did you hear that?” she whispered excitedly.
“Extremely vicious ghosts? Yeah! I did!” Derrick pushed a bit of his blonde hair out of his eyes, which were wide with fear.
“No,” Belle said impatiently. “The HM at the top of the tower.”
“You’re not seriously thinking of going,” he said.
“Extremely vicious ghosts. Hello?”
Belle shrugged. “Well, I’ll go, and you can wait here.”
“Please don’t go,” he begged as she handed her Poké Balls to Nurse Joy. “Please, please don’t.”
“I’m not going to pass up that HM,” Belle retorted. “I’m just not.”
“Then…wait til tomorrow,” Derrick said. “It’s dark out.”
She blinked. He seemed extremely worried, that much she could tell. His forehead was creased and he was frowning. A bit of blonde bangs fuzzed over his gray eyes, and he pushed them out of his face as he looked at her.
“All right. I’ll wait until morning. You sure you don’t want to go, though?”
Later, all the other trainers had fallen asleep, but Belle and Derrick lay with their sleeping bags side-by-side in the dark.
“Why do you want to go?” Derrick asked her.
Belle shifted. “I want that HM.”
“What about the vicious ghosts?”
She shrugged noncommittally. Derrick saw her outline faintly, and he scoffed. “You’re so stubborn. All girls must be.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Koko was too.”
A strange silence fell upon them like rain; not heavy or awkward, but graceful and serene. It washed over them, drenching them.
Belle pulled her arms out of her sleeping bag and placed them by her sides. “I never told you how my dad died.”
Derrick said nothing. He didn’t even move; the only sounds were the light snores of a redheaded boy in another section of the lobby.
“He was a Pokémon Trainer. But he wasn’t one of those that just quit after a while, you know? He was dedicated. He started off here in Kanto, and then went off to the Pokémon League. He didn’t win, but he got to the semi-finals. And then he went to Johto.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she vaguely saw Derrick’s form shifting in his sleeping bag. After he settled down again, she continued. “He met my mom there…in Goldenrod City. She was passing through on her own Journey. She was originally from Ecruteak, and she was going back for a gym battle. Dad said he fell in love with Mom as soon as he saw her.”
“What’s your mom’s name?” Derrick asked her.
“Terra. Terra Caldwell…but back then, it was Terra Carson. Why?”
“Just…feels like it’s more real that way.”
Belle considered this for a moment. “Then, what’s your mom’s name?”
“Angelina Evans. But Dad called her Angel…his Angel.”
“And your dad’s name?”
“Joseph. Mom called him Joey. Your dad’s name?”
“Daniel. Mom didn’t have any nicknames for him.”
“Ah. Okay. Sorry to interrupt. Please go on.”
“So, they traveled together. They were both heading to Ecruteak, so they decided…why not? At the end of it, they were in love, and they got married and had me. Mom was done with her Journey, so they moved to Cherrygrove City—it’s not a city, I have no idea why it’s called that—to settle down.”
“But you said your dad was dedicated.”
“He was. He lived there for a few years…and then he told Mom that he wanted to go to Hoenn. So he did. He packed up all his Pokémon. He wanted us to go, but Mom said no. She said that it was no life for a child, but we’d be waiting for him to get back.”
“Did he come back?”
“Yes. From Hoenn, he did. And he brought some new Pokémon for me to play with. He stayed with us for a few more years, and then he decided to go to Sinnoh. And then, he said, he’d be done.”
“Yeah. After you beat all the gyms in all the regions, there’s not much else to do, is there?” Belle smiled ruefully up at the ceiling. “So he went. While he was away, Mom discovered she was pregnant.”
Belle blinked. “Excuse me?”
“Your little brother, Derek. He spells it D-E-R-E-K, right?”
“Oh. Yeah.” She vaguely remembered telling him such when they first met. “Well, anyway, not long after Derek was born, an Officer Jenny visited our house.” Suddenly, Belle’s voice cracked, and she closed her eyes, taking a few moments to compose herself. “She told us…that Dad had tried to stop Team Galactic from doing something.”
“Team Galactic?” Derrick said. “I hear they’re hooking up with Team Rocket now.”
“What does Team Rocket even do?” Belle asked.
“And then what? What do they do with them?”
Derrick was quiet for a moment. “No idea. But continue. Team Galactic.”
“Right. Well, Team Galactic actually does stuff. They’re always trying to make the world better with this perverse, twisted logic. And Dad got in the way of that. Apparently, they were torturing somebody, and Dad stepped in to take care of them. Well, in the real world, people don’t just fight with Pokémon.” Belle drew a deep, shaky breath. She could feel a lump rising in her throat, and her eyes began to burn. “They…killed him. No trace of his body was ever found.” Her voice was shaking, but it was beyond her control. She had never really gone into much detail about this, not even with Cassandra and Alyssa. It was hard. “He was coming home to see Derek. He never got to. And Derek never knew him.” She sniffed. “Derek has his eyes, you know,” she said as a few tears leaked out of her own. “They’re blue. When he looks at me, it’s like…Dad’s looking at me again.” Her voice didn’t sound as though it belonged to her. It was foreign; she had never talked and cried at the same time before.
Derrick moved in his sleeping bag, and a moment later, Belle felt his hand brush her arm. He gently pushed her hand to lay palm up, and he laced his fingers through hers and squeezed.
They fell asleep holding hands.
When Belle awoke, she was lying on her side, facing Derrick. He faced her as well; they were now holding hands with the opposite ones. How they had switched during the night, she had no idea. He was still asleep; his lips were slightly parted, and she could see his back rising and falling underneath his blanket. He looked so sweet with his eyes closed, his eyelashes gently curving against his cheek. His hair fell softly around his head. As she watched him sleep, she thought back to something she had put in an email to Alyssa.
He’s more like a pest than a potential boyfriend.
Belle’s gaze fell to their interlocked fingers. Well, what was he now?
She pulled her hand away from his and got up. She grabbed some clothes out of her bag and headed for the shower. Would this change things?
When Belle came back out, Derrick was sitting up in his sleeping bag, digging the heel of his hand into one eye. He looked up at her and smiled.
“Morning,” Belle replied as she came back to her sleeping bag and knelt on it. “I’m going to Pokémon Tower today.”
Derrick groaned and fell back on his pillow. “I’m scared for you.”
She paused and glanced over at him. I’m scared for you.
“Please don’t go.”
“I’m going, and you can’t stop me. I’m leaving now.” She hooked her Poké Balls to her belt and stood.
Derrick sat up and caught her wrist gently; she looked down at him, at his worried expression, his tousled blonde hair, his gray eyes that still looked a little sleepy. “I’d feel better,” he said, “if you’d send Charmy out to walk with you.”
Belle raised her eyebrows. “You’d feel better?”
He nodded. “I’d be less worried.”
He nodded again.
With a sigh, Belle plucked Charmy’s Poké Ball off her belt and tossed it out in front of her. With a cry, it burst out of its Poké Ball, and then looked around, confused.
“There’s no battle. I just want you to walk with me.”
Charmy seemed happy about that. It took its place by her side, holding her hand with its claw like it did when it was a Charmander. Belle gave Derrick a little wave as she left the PokéCenter.
Pokémon Tower was an extremely short walk. It seemed to be busy today; Belle found this odd. She slipped in the front doors.
The lobby area was full of people, all dressed in black. “This seems a little morbid, Charmy,” she said quietly. The Pokémon responded with a soft noise of agreement.
And then she realized—everyone looked sad. Even the woman at the reception counter wore an expression of pain. Belle weaved her way through the crowd, catching snatches of conversation.
“So young…why did it have to…?”
“She must be devastated.”
“What happened to it?”
“Birth complications. Poor thing only lasted a few months.”
Belle finally found her way to the back of the room and stopped short. A small table was draped in a white cloth, and a small black box rested on top. The top of the box was open, and three people stood in front of it, gazing at its contents. The first was a woman, dressed in a black, floor-length dress. The second was a man, probably her husband, wearing a black suit. Between them was a small girl of about five. Her light brown hair was held back with purple barrettes, and she wore a little black dress trimmed with white lace. She didn’t appear to be looking at the box; her head was bowed, her eyes closed.
“Come on, dear,” the woman said gently, taking her daughter’s hand. “There’s nothing we can do to help him now.”
The girl nodded. When she turned, Belle caught sight of the little family’s faces; all of them looked incredibly sad, their eyes red and puffy. The little girl had tears running down her face, and she kept her eyes on her shiny black shoes as they walked away from the box.
Belle was now alone; she glanced around to see if anyone was watching this intruder, this girl wearing shorts and a dark green T-shirt, step up to the box and look in. Charmy came with her. They both stared into the box, and Belle’s eyes widened.
Inside was the body of a baby Pichu. It could have been sleeping, except that the multitude of people dressed in black milling around in the lobby suggested otherwise. A small picture in a wooden frame leaned against the box—it was a snapshot of the little girl Belle had just seen, happily cradling a very alive-looking Pichu.
This Pichu was dead.
All the snatches of conversation Belle had caught made sense now. This was a funeral…a funeral for a baby Pokémon. She backed away from the casket—now she realized what it was—and turned to go up the stairs, moving away from the sadness before it threatened to overtake her. Pokémon died? She had never thought about it. But it made sense—everything died, everything ended. But why this? Why a baby?
Belle came to the second floor and looked around. Tombstones stretched out before her, gleaming white. She reached for Charmy’s claw again, and he held her hand. She glanced down and saw the tears welling up in her Pokémon’s eyes. Pokémon Tower. This place was a tower, and each floor would have tombstones. Each tombstone represented a dead Pokémon, someone’s dead friend, someone’s Charmy…someone’s Pichu.
Belle felt the sobs coming before they broke out of her, ringing in the silence of the tower. Charmy stepped forward and wrapped its arms around her, pressing its face into her stomach, comforting her. She laid a hand on the back of its head and bowed her own.
When she had regained her composure, Belle progressed to the top of the tower to get the HM. No vicious ghosts plagued her; perhaps they only bothered people who didn’t understand. She moved slowly, touching all the tombstones that came within her reach and whispering sorrowfully to them. When she finally got back to the lobby, the Pichu funeral was long over; the casket and table were gone. She slipped out of the Tower and into the night air.
Had it really taken her that long? She walked back to the PokéCenter, Charmy delicately holding her hand. She drew a deep breath before she went in.
The trainers that had spoken of vicious ghosts had left, but a few new trainers sat at the same table, playing cards, blissfully unaware of the air of sorrow that ran thick through Pokémon Tower. Derrick sat with them; he turned and waved happily to her.
“Belle!” he said cheerily. She forced a smile and walked over. “Want to play cards?”
“No thanks,” she heard herself reply as if from far away. “I’m tired…I think I’ll just take a shower and get to bed early.”
“Did you get the HM?”
She nodded. “We’ll leave in the morning, if that’s okay.”
“Hallelujah!” Derrick said happily, slapping the table. “Away from here to Celadon!”
“Yeah,” Belle said, and she went over to gather her things for her shower.
That night, Belle laid in her sleeping bag and waited for Derrick to fall asleep beside her. There was no hand-holding that night. Instead, when he was asleep, she slid out of her bedroll fully dressed and packed everything up. She leaned down and pressed a gentle kiss to his cheek before turning and leaving the Center. She sent Charmy out to walk with her as she left Lavender Town behind, heading to Celadon City on her own.
There was no way she could burden him with anything she saw or felt in Lavender Tower.
To:dancing_through_life@pokénet.com, [email protected] From:dingdongbelle@pokénet.com Subject: <blank>
Derrick and I aren’t traveling together anymore. I’m heading to Celadon City now. Erika’s gym is there. I’ll email you guys telling you how the battle turned out.
Now, you don’t have to follow the Australian way of spelling ‘centre’, because I know and understand Americans do things differently to us. What I’m hinting at, however, is the full spelling of ‘Pokémon’. Again, you don’t have to listen to what I say, it’s merely a suggestion.
“—another Snorlax has fallen asleep. Anyone wishing to travel from Vermilion City must take the Lavender Town route.”
I roflmao-ed at this.
In light of what I learned that day, I’d like to thank you nokyo. For your sake, I’m gonna keep the spoilers secret.
All I can really say for this chapter is that I really, really loathe Sakura.
If you ask me, Belle should have told Derrick what she’d experienced. That way, there wouldn’t have to be a cat and mouse game of Derrick trying to catch up to her.
Credit goes to Sgt Shock for my signature and avatar
Your Lt.Surge battle went a bit quick, but at least you drew out a battle for us at all. I kind of wished you'd went into Derrick's battle a bit more, though, because I want to know how he battles, and his Pokemon better. Oh, and, going back a chapter, Alyssa and Ian equals <3 <3 <3
Jumping forward, you spelled Venusaur wrong again. ;3
Next chapter, it was cool. Although, I would've liked some more Meteor Falls attention, and maybe even a couple of Zubats? And yes, I do hate Sakura or whatever the name is. Although, I cannot imagine her with red hair, and chuckling to herself at that...
And for the final chapter, that was awesome. The whole relationship with Derrick thing, and then leaving him. And that poor Pichu...... ;.;
But yeah, good job on these chapters. Nice moving the story along, and I have a feeling that the plot will get much mroe interesting as well.
Sorry for the choppy review. One last thing: GO TEAM ROCKET-GALACTIC!
Now, you don’t have to follow the Australian way of spelling ‘centre’, because I know and understand Americans do things differently to us. What I’m hinting at, however, is the full spelling of ‘Pokémon’.
They shorten it in the anime, and it's also short in the game, so I just picked it up.
In light of what I learned that day, I’d like to thank you nokyo. For your sake, I’m gonna keep the spoilers secret.
I'm confused...could you pm me with the explanation to this? o.0
One last thing: GO TEAM ROCKET-GALACTIC!
The only reply to this that I can think of is: You are awesome.
Over the past week, Barlow had started giving Alyssa increasingly more difficult tasks. Alyssa had risen to the challenge wonderfully, much to Barlow’s pleasure. Now she walked in happily, brushing the bangs out of her eyes.
But something was off.
Everyone inside was panicking, running around, yelling, wide-eyed and scared. Finally, Barlow bellowed “Quiet!” at the top of his lungs, making everyone stop.
“We have to keep our heads!” Barlow told everyone. “Crawford, you and I will go to the school. Rookies, patrol the beach.”
“What’s going on?” Alyssa asked.
“Bomb threat at the Ranger School,” Ian told her, appearing beside her. “And Barlow doesn’t think we can handle it.”
“They’re doing a sort of student orientation thing at the moment,” Luanne piped up. “People just coming into the school are there, touring and such.”
“But…that means…” Alyssa looked up at Ian, who nodded.
“Yep. The school is full of small children right now.”
Children entered the Ranger School at age five, and they continued their education on up till age sixteen. Except for the occasional transfer, students at the school grew up together.
“Who put in the threat?” Alyssa demanded.
“Some group of weirdos dressed as spacemen,” Barlow replied. “They call themselves Team Galactic. Crawford and I need to get down there now. Ian, Alyssa, you two patrol the beach— cut off their escape.”
“They won’t need the beach to escape! There’s water by the school! They could have a boat there!” Ian said angrily.
“Do what I say,” Barlow snarled.
“What about me?” Luanne asked.
“You stay here and guard the base.”
“Your Partner Pokémon is a Buneary,” Barlow said, pointing out the little Pokémon beside her. “It’s useless. Come on, Crawford!”
“Come on, Alyssa.” Ian angrily turned and left the base, heading for the beach.
“This is stupid!” Alyssa cried, kicking sand up. Ziggy used Sand Attack in imitation. “There’s a bomb threat on our school, and we can’t even help!”
Ian growled in response and ran the fingers of both hands furiously through his hair, seeming to pull at it as he got near the back. “What kind of a sick weirdo threatens a school full of children?” he grumbled. Prinplup muttered angrily in reply before waddling off toward the ocean.
Alyssa squinted up at the sky, which was a clear, peaceful blue. She imagined it full of smoke, a mushroom cloud blossoming in the distance. “I feel so useless,” she said finally, trying to rid herself of the images.
“Me too.” Ian sighed and plopped down on the sand, propping his elbows up on his knees. “There’s no way we can help at all. If we try to go over to the school ourselves, we’ll probably just end up getting in Barlow and Crawford’s way.” He pushed his face into his hand, closing his eyes. “And…what if they blow up the school?” he said quietly after a long pause. “What if…all those children get badly burned? Or worse…what if they die?”
Alyssa wrapped her arms around her stomach. “Barlow and Crawford will know what to do,” she said forcefully, trying to reassure herself. Silence descended upon them for a while before Alyssa found the courage to speak again. “Um…Ian? Is…is this the kind of thing you have to deal with a lot?”
“This worry? The fear of…death?”
He nodded again.
“Is this a big part of being a Ranger?”
“It’s a huge part of being a Ranger.” Ian dropped his hand from his face. “I didn’t expect it, but the worry…it’s intense. It’s exciting, sure, but the danger isn’t always just yours, just something you face, alone. Often, people and Pokémon are in danger, too. Oh, and you know how everyone tells you that all Pokémon are good?” He glanced sideways up at her, waiting for her to nod. When she did, he continued. “Don’t believe that. There are mean Pokémon. Evil Pokémon. A lot of being a Ranger is un-learning some things you learned. Did you hear that?” he snapped suddenly, springing to his feet.
Alyssa’s head was still reeling with the term evil Pokémon. “No,” she replied.
Ian shushed her. After a few seconds of silence, she heard it, too— voices, faint shouting, coming from Vientown.
“Who is it?” Alyssa asked.
“No one I recognize. It might be best to hide.” He ran past her, grabbing her and pulling her along by her wrist. “Prinplup! Underwater!”
Prinplup ducked quickly under the water; Ziggy followed Alyssa and Ian into the crazily-growing shrubbery by the entrance of Marine Cave. Alyssa pulled the Zigzagoon into her lap as she crouched down, peering out at the beach.
About ten or fifteen people came rushing onto the sand, all dressed in strange spacesuits with short, bright blue hair. A G could clearly be seen on their chests.
The leader was a man of about twenty; he led the pack across the beach, yelling, “To the hideout!” They sped right past Alyssa and Ian’s hiding spot, jostling and shouting as they disappeared into the cave. The leader at the front yelled for order, but no one listened.
After they were gone, Alyssa and Ian glanced at each other. “We have to go in after them,” Alyssa whispered.
The two Rangers made their way stealthily after Team Galactic, who led them deeper and deeper into Marine Cave. Stalagmites and stalactites jutted up from the floor and down from the ceiling, dripping water.
Finally, Team Galactic arrived at their hideout. It was a huge cavern that seemed as though it had been here naturally, but Galactic had done a few things to it; it was coated with what Alyssa was sure was a soundproof metal, and the cave floor had obviously been flattened. On the far side of the cavern, the floor ended and water began. What looked like several submarines floated in a makeshift harbor. Even more members of Team Galactic teemed throughout the hideout, doing various tasks with Pokémon.
“Listen!” shouted the leader as he entered the cave; Ian pulled Alyssa behind a boulder. “The Rangers thwarted our plan. I’m not sure how long we have to get out, because they may have followed us. We’ll have to destroy the hideout. Load up the submarines!”
An explosion of activity ensued; Alyssa and Ian watched intently as they loaded up. “How do they plan to destroy this place?”
“With a Galactic Bomb.”
The two whirled around; they were being watched. A man stood before them. He had dark blue hair that looked quite like cat-ears, and his outfit looked different from the rest of Team Galactic’s. His shirt and pants were relatively simple, yet still had that stupid spaceman look to them.
“Well…if we don’t have some intruders.”
“Who are you?” Ian snapped. Ziggy pressed against Alyssa’s legs fearfully.
“I am Commander Saturn. But perhaps you aren’t in the right position to be asking such questions.”
Alyssa launched herself at Saturn; he was too surprised to fight back. She knocked him to the ground and put a hand over his mouth. “Ian, we have to get out of here!” she said.
“Right,” Ian replied. “But if they use a bomb to blow up the cavern, they’ll kill hundreds of Pokémon. They’re too deep underground for an explosion to bother anyone in Vientown.”
“What do we do? Stop struggling,” Alyssa said crossly to Saturn, and she picked up his head and banged it against the cave floor. His eyes crossed and he fell still. She stood up, dusting herself off.
“Well, we can take him in as a prisoner,” Ian said, gesturing towards Saturn. “My bet is they won’t set off the bomb until everyone’s accounted for, so…”
“But they’ll come looking for him. He’s a commander. There’s only two of us, Ian! There’s, like, a million of them! It’s not like we can fight them off.”
“We need backup or something…I’ll see if I can get a signal on my Styler. I can use it to contact the base.” He pulled out his Styler and began fiddling with it. Alyssa looked around worriedly as he did so, making sure no one came near. After a while, Ian sighed. “I can’t get a signal,” he told her. “It’s too far underground. Alyssa…we’re on our own.”
Alyssa raked her fingers through her hair, effectively messing up her ponytail. “Okay…okay. Options. What are our options?”
“We could run away,” Ian said, “and not do anything, and let hundreds of Pokémon die.”
“Okay, Option Number One—do nothing. Vetoed. We won’t take it.”
“We could run in there and make demands.”
“Option Number Two—suicide. Vetoed.”
“We could…uh…run out of here and grab as many Pokémon as we can.”
“Option Number Three— do what we can. Possible.”
Ian fell silent. Alyssa frowned. “We have to have more options than that,” she said. “Okay, how about this. One of us runs up and tries to get a signal on the Styler while grabbing as many Pokémon as we can. The other stays here and watches to see when they set up the bomb. I’m sure they’ll clear out of the cavern before they detonate it, so whoever’s here will run out and try to disarm it.”
“Option Number Four—partial suicide,” Ian said.
“We could steal his outfit.” Alyssa pointed to Saturn. “We could pose as a member of Galactic and…do something. Why is this so hard?”
“Wait!” cried the leader from before. Alyssa and Ian turned as he cried out, listening worriedly. “Has anyone seen Commander Saturn?”
There was a chorus of “No, sir!” from the members. The leader yelled out two names; two identical people came out of the crowd. Why did all the members of Team Galactic look exactly the same? “Go up the passage. See if we’re being followed and look for Commander Saturn.”
“Dammit,” Ian mumbled. He grabbed hold of Saturn’s feet. “We have to hide him.”
Alyssa scooped her hands under the man’s armpits and lifted; they stuffed his limp body behind a nearby boulder, arranging him so that none of him would show. She and Ian then hid in their original hiding place, scrambling to get out of sight as the two members of Team Galactic came passing through.
“D’you hear something?” asked one as they passed Ian and Alyssa’s boulder.
“No,” the other one replied. Then he stopped. “What the hell is that? Is that a hand?”
Alyssa almost said a very dirty word. Saturn’s arm had fallen in such a way that his hand was visible. The two Galactic grunts rushed toward him. “It’s Commander Saturn!” cried one of them. “Oh my God, he’s unconscious! This means we’ve been followed. There are intruders!”
“Help me carry him,” said the other. “SIR!”
The two grunts waddled off carrying Saturn’s body between them, the head lolling on its shoulder.
Saturn’s unconscious body caused a huge commotion. “We have no time to waste! Set up the bomb now! Return your Pokémon to their Poké Balls! Leave what you have unless it’s marked top priority; get in your assigned submarine! Numbers one through fifty, Submarine A! Numbers fifty-one through one hundred, Submarine B! Numbers— ”
The leader continued to call out submarine assignments. “We can’t do anything,” Alyssa said. “We can’t stop the bomb.”
“We could disarm it once they’ve left,” Ian suggested.
“But what if it’s a remote detonator?” Alyssa asked. “We won’t have any way of knowing how much time we have.”
Ian closed his eyes and pressed his face into his hands. He stood like that for what seemed like ages. Finally, he lowered his hands and looked sadly over at Alyssa.
“Option Number Three,” he said faintly.
Alyssa sighed. “I wish we could do more,” she said.
She tightened her ponytail and pulled out her Styler. “Things are going to get crazy,” she told Ziggy. “Okay…how about this. We’ll have to keep checking our Stylers. When we get signal, we’ll contact the base.”
“Oh God…we were followed.”
Not again, Alyssa thought as she turned to see a grunt, a man of about twenty. “Ziggy, Headbutt!”
Ziggy did so, launching himself at the man. “Ian, can you carry him?” Alyssa asked as Ziggy’s head made contact with the man’s stomach. His head cracked against the cave wall.
“Yeah, I’ll get him. We’ll take him to the base for questioning.”
The next few moments were spent running around and capturing as many Pokémon as they could; of course, they had a limit of seven. After they reached that, they had to physically grab wild Pokémon. Ziggy and the seven others that Alyssa had with her tried to communicate the danger to the other Pokémon, so Alyssa and Ian, after a while, were running with a giant crowd of Pokémon all around them; Zubats flew overhead, Geodudes levitated around them and past them, Poliwhirls with baby Poliwags clutched in their arms ran around them, with one Poliwrath bellowing as they passed.
“I got signal!” Ian cried joyously.
“It’s too late,” mumbled the grunt. He was being carried by a Graveler. Both Ian and Alyssa looked at him. “The bomb…will be going off soon…”
“How do you know?” Ian asked.
“We don’t waste time…”
And then they heard it; the great boom! that resounded beneath their feet, from behind them, all around them. The walls of the cave began to shake; in one huge mass, the Pokémon pushed upward and out. Ziggy leapt onto Alyssa’s back and hung there as the Pokémon seemed to sweep her along. Even if she wanted to go back, Alyssa couldn’t; the Pokémon were carrying her now. The Poliwrath, determined to help her because she had helped its family, held her up over his head as he bellowed to the other Pokémon in the cave that may not have heard.
The mass pushed along the cave passageways; the entire cave was still shaking. The bomb had triggered major collapses.
After what seemed like forever, the cave stopped shaking and the mob of Pokémon stopped moving. Poliwrath gently set Alyssa down; she and Ian released their Pokémon, and there was a new commotion as they all gathered, shrieking and calling to make sure their families were all present and accounted for.
Ian and Alyssa made their way to each other. “I’m calling Barlow,” Ian said, holding up his Styler. Alyssa nodded.
“I’m gonna go back as far as I can to see if I can help anyone.”
“It’s too dangerous,” Ian said. “Don’t— Alyssa, dammit, come back here!”
But Alyssa was leaping deftly over rocks and contracting the help of Pokémon as she went.
Some caverns had been empty, thanks to Alyssa and Ian’s efforts…but Alyssa found dead Pokémon in the remnants of other caverns. She placed a hand over her mouth as she and her entourage of Gravelers picked their way through the cave. After a while of seeing nothing but dead Geodudes, dead Zubats, dead Poliwhirls, Alyssa gave up. Ziggy, noticing her sorrow, nudged his nose into her cheek.
Right as she was about to turn back, Alyssa caught sight of something. She bent and shifted a rock to take a closer look, but stepped back immediately; it was a dead Poliwag, just a baby. Alyssa’s eyes filled with tears; the Gravelers gathered around her and stared at the little baby.
When Alyssa came back up, Ziggy was still riding her back, and she had the dead Poliwag in her arms. Ian ran to her, ready to scold her, until he saw her expression and the way she slumped visibly as she walked. I must look terrible, she thought; she knew that dirt and debris had gotten all over her, and now tears had left grimy tracks down her cheeks.
Ian stood in front of her and put a hand on the Poliwag’s stomach. “Are they all…?”
Alyssa looked up from the little Poliwag’s face. “No survivors.”
To: dancing_through_life@pokénet.com From: [email protected] Subject: This is hard…
Being a Ranger is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I can’t give you all the details right now…I’m too shaken up. But Team Galactic set off a bomb in Marine Cave and killed a bunch of Pokémon. Ian and I saved as many as we could, but…we couldn’t save all of them. I’m very sad. I don’t even think I’d ever thought about Pokémon dying.
By the way, did you get Belle’s last email? It didn’t seem like she was feeling very well. I hope she’s okay.
Love from the sad,
Cute chapter. It was very funny throughout, but at the same time it was a more dark chapter. Good description, by the way, I can imagine everything in your story. And I don't think I've said it but Zigzagoon: Best. Partner. Ever!
But yeah, great chapter. (b'_')b
Cute chapter. It was very funny throughout, but at the same time it was a more dark chapter. Good description, by the way, I can imagine everything in your story. And I don't think I've said it but Zigzagoon: Best. Partner. Ever!
But yeah, great chapter. (b'_')b
Zigzagoon is awesome, and I'm glad someone appreciates him!!!
Wow...thanks for the praise, too! I've always been a little self-conscious about my descriptions...o.0 Thanks!!
Cassandra’s eyes fluttered groggily as Karen nudged her awake. Today, the girl’s hair was in a ponytail almost on top of her head, with her bright pink hair falling in curls behind her. Cassandra groaned and shut her eyes immediately, not wanting them to be assaulted with colors too early in the morning.
“Get up!” Karen chirped. “We need to get to the Contest building. You need to register for the soonest date, and then you need to get training!”
Cassandra mumbled something incoherent as she rolled over on her side in the bed. She had paid for a room in a hotel; Joanna periodically wired money into her account. Cassandra had considered not using the money and staying in the PokéCenter, but it was too noisy for her.
The only hotel available was a small one on Route 113 called the Poké Love. It was rather quaint— or, it would have been, had it not been covered in ash all the time. The woman who ran the place strived to keep it clean on the inside to make up for the outside. She had been positively delighted to see that a promising young Coordinator was staying in her inn, and had put her up in the best room available.
“Get up,” Karen repeated, and Cassandra finally pushed the ivy-patterned blankets off her body and sat up, stretching and yawning. “I went through your clothes and decided what you should wear to the Contest Hall.”
“What?” Cassandra snapped, suddenly alert. She stood up.
“Here! I laid them out on my bed!”
“Karen, what the—don’t go through my stuff!”
Karen pouted, and Tuffly came out of the bathroom—What was it doing in there? Cassandra wondered briefly—and made big, round, blue, watery eyes at Cassandra. “But I like picking out outfits,” Karen mumbled softly.
“Fine,” Cassandra muttered, looking over at what Karen had laid out. She had to admit that the girl had taste. Lying on the bed was a green knee-length skirt with an off-white camisole to be worn beneath a translucent, light green shirt. “This is good,” Cassandra admitted as she picked up the skirt. “I might let you do my outfits for Contests.”
“Really?” Karen squealed, clapping her hands together. They made a muffled noise— the sleeves of her sweatshirt were fashioned to be too long, and only her fingertips poked out.
“Don’t get too excited.” Cassandra changed in the bathroom and allowed Karen to do her hair—she pinned the front part of it back and let the rest lay softly on her shoulders—before they set off.
It was a ten-minute trek to Fallarbor Town. On the way, Karen insisted on bobbing along beside her with a large pink umbrella, keeping the falling ash off her “carefully-selected outfit”. The Contest Hall seemed bright and garish, the only brightly-colored building in the town. No one stood outside, but then again, Cassandra wouldn’t expect them to in this weather.
Inside the Contest Hall, Cassandra finally breathed freely. It was noisy, the air was conditioned, colors and Pokémon abounded…she was home.
“Come on, the register desk!” Karen closed her giant umbrella and handed it to Tuffly, who carried the item as it followed the girls to the register desk. To her surprise, Cassandra got into line behind Sakura Konohana.
Sakura turned around and smiled. “Oh, hello,” she said. She wore a light blue kimono with a dark blue obi, and her hair was pulled into a tight bun behind her head. “Isn’t it a coincidence that we came to register on the same day.”
“I thought that you would have registered sooner,” Cassandra said. “You were here before us.”
“Oh, I only arrived a day before you did,” Sakura replied with a gentle smile. “I decided to rest and enjoy the hot springs for a while. Are you staying at the Poké Love?”
“Yeah, we are.”
“How nice! I am as well. After this, we should do something together.”
Cassandra smiled. “Okay. Would you be up for that, Karen?” she added, turning to the girl. Surprisingly, the girl was looking at Sakura with her head cocked and a quizzical expression on her face.
“Karen?” Cassandra prompted gently.
After a while, Karen nodded slowly. “If you like.”
This girl is so weird, Cassandra thought. “Well, that settles it. What should we do?”
“Lavaridge is near here,” Karen said thoughtfully.
“There’s barely anything to do in Lavaridge, though,” Sakura replied. “It’s almost as bad as here. Oh, I wish I had a Flying Pokémon…we could go to Lilycove and go shopping.”
Cassandra winced. She always associated the words “Lilycove” and “shopping” with her mother, especially if they were in the same sentence. “Well, maybe we should just have some lunch together or something,” Cassandra suggested. “I’ve got to get training, anyway.”
“Your Pokémon is Swablu, is it not?”
“Yes,” Cassandra replied. “But I’m thinking of entering Finny into this one.”
“A Marshtomp? In a Contest? My, won’t that be interesting…” Sakura was next in line, so she turned away from them, pulling a fan from her sleeve and pressing it against her lips as she did so. She stepped up to the counter and Karen grabbed Cassandra’s sleeve.
Cassandra glanced at Sakura talking to the register woman and smiling behind her fan, which she now opened with a flourish and began to wave gently. “She seems nice enough.”
“Seems,” Karen said emphatically. Cassandra frowned.
“Incidentally,” Sakura was saying to the woman, “do you know if any of the judges are here today? I’d like to introduce myself.”
“Maybe I should introduce myself to the judges, too,” Cassandra muttered to Karen. “Do you think that would increase my chances?”
“If you slipped them some money, probably,” Karen replied good-naturedly.
“Karen! People don’t bribe in Contests!”
Karen shook her head. “You might not. But I’m sure others do.”
“That’s just wrong,” Cassandra told her crossly.
“I’ll meet you at the door,” Sakura said, turning back to face them and shutting her fan with a snap. “Wait for me if you get there first.” And then she turned and walked off, quickly becoming lost in the hustle-and-bustle of the Contest Hall.
Cassandra stepped up to the counter to register. She signed up for the closest date—three weeks away—and showed the woman Finny. “Um, he’s going to evolve soon,” Cassandra told her, “or…at least, I think so.”
“If he evolves before your contest date, you must bring him back here for a second inspection. If you fail to do so, you will be disqualified from the Contest.”
“Okay then.” Cassandra allowed the woman to inspect Finny before returning the Pokémon to its Poké Ball and turning away. She walked towards the door, but Sakura wasn’t there.
“Sakura’s over there,” Karen said, pointing. Cassandra sighed.
“We’re going to wait for her at the door.”
Cassandra did. Sakura was talking to one of the judges, an older, bald man wearing a suit. As they watched, she set the tip of the closed fan on her lips and closed her eyes as she smiled. Then, her other hand poked out of her sleeve as she reached to shake his hand. After what looked like a firm handshake, Sakura gave a small bow and walked away, leaving the man by himself.
“He put his hand in his pocket,” Karen said matter-of-factly.
“You’re observant. Is the ash still falling outside?” Cassandra leaned toward one of the large windows in the front of the building. “Ah, get your umbrella ready, Karen.”
“Tuffly,” Karen said, holding her hand out for the umbrella.
“A pink umbrella to match your pink hair and Pokémon…well, that’s quite stylish.” Sakura arrived with a smile, tucking her fan into her sleeve. “I think I saw a cute little café down the road. Shall we go look?”
After lunch at the café, Cassandra, Karen, Sakura, and Tuffly all walked together back to the Poké Love. Sakura went to her room “to rest”; Cassandra went to her room to change into clothes she wouldn’t mind getting dirty so she could train.
“I don’t understand why you don’t like Sakura,” Cassandra said to Karen as she pulled out a pair of jeans.
“There’s just something fishy about her,” Karen said absentmindedly. She was sitting on her bed, coloring in a coloring book.
“Well, I think she’s nice.”
“Just don’t tell her any secrets or anything.”
Rolling her eyes, Cassandra went to the bathroom to change into her jeans and T-shirt. When she was done, she hung her clothes up in the room’s closet and gathered her Poké Balls off her bed. “I’m going to go train along Route 113. You wanna come?”
“No,” Karen replied, frowning as she moved a sky-blue crayon along the paper. “I’m doing something very important.”
Cassandra let those words hang in the air for a moment as she stared at her companion, whose brow was furrowed as she selected another crayon. “Right. Well, if you need me, you know where to find me.”
To: [email protected] From: dancing_through_life@pokénet.com Subject: !!!
Alyssa, your job sounds terrible! If it were me, I don’t know what I would do with myself…seeing Pokémon dying…but I know you’re stronger than I am, and you can keep on fighting despite the sadness, right?
You’re right about Belle’s last email. It worried me a little, too. Why do you think she and Derrick aren’t traveling together anymore? Do you think they had some kind of fight? You know how Belle gets when she’s upset…all withdrawn and stuff. Maybe she’s just tired, though. We’ll wait for her next email.
Well, anyway, I’m going to bed now…stay strong, Alyssa!
Belle arrived in Celadon City with newly-evolved Primape, Dugtrio, and Pidgeotto, as well as a reluctant Oddish that had quickly turned into a Gloom. Despite her overwhelming sadness, she couldn’t help but marvel at the huge buildings that surrounded her. She had felt this way in Saffron, too, especially next to the Silph building.
At the PokéCenter, Belle had to grab onto Charmy’s claw to keep from losing him among the mass of bodies (she had taken to letting Charmy out of his Ball to be her traveling companion). She wondered vaguely where she would sleep tonight as she allowed Nurse Joy to heal her Pokémon. When she finally left the Center, she breathed in a sigh of relief and set off on the busy streets to explore the town.
Derrick would no doubt be looking for her…she had to leave as soon as she could, and that meant defeating the gym…well…now. Coming to this conclusion, Belle wandered the streets of Celadon, trying to determine where she should go. She passed some strange, random mansion; the towering Department Store; the Rocket Game Corner, which sounded suspicious to her; and the PokéCenter again. Crap. She was lost.
It was so loud…how could anyone stand it? Belle moved out of everyone’s way and stood by the PokéCenter, rubbing her temples; Charmy hurried to stand beside her. She wished she could find a quiet spot to just…be alone. How many people could fit into one city?
Belle slipped down beside the Pokémon Center, entering a place between the trees and the building. There was a path here; she walked along it, gratefully hearing the noise behind her drop away. Soon, she found herself at the back entrance to the Celadon Mansion. What was this? Some sort of servant’s entrance? Why was it here? Not thinking, she tried the door. It was unlocked.
“Should we go in?” Belle asked Charmy, who held his claws out in a classic “I don’t know” gesture. “Worse-case scenario, I get thrown out. Right?”
Charmy cocked his head at her. She stared at him for a while before opening the door and finding herself in a small room containing nothing but stairs. Wonderingly, she climbed the stairs to find herself in yet another small room containing nothing but stairs. The next room was the same way; and then, she climbed a flight of stairs and was on the roof.
“This is weird,” Belle said. “What is that building?”
“Meleon,” Charmy replied. They both looked at the small, rectangular building, squatting close to the flat roof. It was white, with gray-and-blue walls. Belle walked around it to find the door.
“Well, we’ve come this far,” she said, before stepping inside.
She walked into what looked like a classroom; there was a desk and a chalkboard, and a small table off to the side with a Poké Ball sitting on it. A man stood near the desk. He had brown spiky hair and wore a white headband with karate clothes, and he didn’t seem to notice her, even though she was standing practically right in front of him.
“Um…hello,” Belle said. “Is…is it okay that I’m in here?”
“There is nothing that I don’t know, like I wrote on the blackboard,” the man told her. “I know about the world of Pokémon! Get together with your friends and enjoy trading Pokémon!”
Belle blinked. She glanced down at Charmy, who shrugged, before moving carefully around the man (he didn’t move) and going towards the table with the Poké Ball. “What’s in this?” she asked, but the man didn’t answer her. She picked it up and an Eevee burst from it immediately, making her cry out and leap backwards. The little brown Pokémon looked up at her expectantly.
“What—?” Belle shouted. It shrank back, trembling with fear, and flattened its ears against its head. “Oh, sorry,” she murmured, and got to one knee. “Come here, I’m sorry, my bad.” The Eevee timidly walked towards her and nudged her hand with its nose. “Is that dude your trainer, or what? What are you doing here?”
The Eevee didn’t show any signs that it had heard or understood her; instead, it pressed itself against her stomach and promptly fell asleep. Belle looked over at Charmy, dumbfounded. She half wished that she hadn’t left Derrick back in Lavender so that she could talk to him about this. Thinking about leaving Derrick in Lavender Town made her remember her sense of urgency, and she stood quickly.
Belle returned Eevee to its Poké Ball and turned to look at the man. “Hey, dude, uh…what’s up with this Eevee?”
The man didn’t reply. She walked past him again and stood in front of him. “There is nothing that I don’t know,” he said when she came back into view. In frustration, Belle reared back and punched him in the jaw.
“Ow! What the hell?” the man cried, stumbling. “What is your problem?”
“What is my problem? What’s your problem? What are you, a freaking robot?” Belle put a hand on her hip. “So, what’s up with this Eevee?”
“Just take it,” the man said. “Geez, that’s what it’s there for. It’s yours now. It’s got seven evolutions, though.”
“Yeah, I know that.” Belle waved this fact away. “What’s up with this little rooftop thing? And why don’t people get in trouble by coming up here? Why do they get rewarded with Pokémon instead?”
The man shrugged. “I don’t know. This is just my day job.”
After the punch, the man didn’t seem too keen on giving Belle directions, but he had grudgingly told her how to get to the Celadon City Gym—it was tucked away in a quiet corner, surrounded by trees and flowers. She approached it timidly, with Charmy by her side and Eevee hanging on her shoulder, where it had insisted on falling asleep.
“Okay…I don’t want to give away my strategy,” Belle told Charmy. “So I’m going to have to put you in your Ball.”
Charmy eyed Eevee, and Belle sighed. “All right, I’ll put this thing up too.” But when she returned the Pokémon to their Poké Balls, she felt a bit lonely.
The inside of the gym was carpeted with lush green grass, and the air was permeated with the sweet scent of flowers. Belle closed her eyes and felt strangely happy for a moment, standing in the middle of this indoor meadow. How could trees and flowers grow inside?
And there were girls—they were everywhere. Mommies, daughters, teenagers, old women, every shape, size, and age. No one in the gym was male; Belle suspected even the Pokémon here were female. A pregnant woman stood with a Chansey, smiling as she picked a flower; until now, Belle had only seen a Chansey in the PokéCenters. A woman and her teenage daughter sat cross-legged across from each other, playing with a litter of baby Bulbasaur…cubs? Were cubs what they called them? It made her miss her own mother a little.
In the center of it all was a woman with a kind, gentle face and dark black hair, which was held out of her eyes with a dark pink headband. She wore a light yellow kimono and held a bouquet of flowers. As Belle watched, she bent and gave the bouquet to a very small girl, who laughed and ran away. The woman smiled and stood, sighing as she tucked her hands into her sleeves. That must be Erika, Belle thought, moving toward her. She remembered the sign outside—The Nature-Loving Princess! Perhaps an indoor meadow was going a bit too far.
Erika stood with her eyes closed contentedly as Belle approached, and she didn’t move or even notice her. Belle stood there awkwardly for a few moments before clearing her throat. “Um…excuse me…are you Erika?”
She didn’t answer. After a while, she opened her eyes and looked towards the sky; and turned, startled, to Belle. “Oh dear…you startled me.” Her voice was as kind, calm, and gentle as her face. It was smooth, like wind whispering through tree leaves.
“I’ve been standing here for a while,” Belle said.
“Oh…I must have dozed off.”
How do you doze off standing up? Belle wondered.
“Well, at any rate…I am Erika, the Gym Leader here, and also an expert in the art of flower arranging. Are you, by any chance, interested in flower arranging?”
“No, I’m here for a gym battle,” Belle replied.
“Oh! A gym battle! By all means, yes…but I warn you. I’m quite strong.”
“I believe it,” Belle replied.
Erika smiled. “Good. I will ready the gym.” She snapped her fingers; immediately, two tall boxes rose from the ground and a stadium floor appeared. Every woman in the gym scattered and turned their attention to it. Belle felt a little nervous. She had never battled in front of a large audience.
“Please climb into your box,” Erika said, gesturing towards Belle’s box as she walked away. Belle did so; her legs shook as she climbed the stairs, but she stood proudly in the box, trying not to show her fear. She wasn’t afraid of heights, but apparently, she did have stage fright.
A woman in a referee outfit stood by the stadium floor, holding a flag in each hand. “This will be a three-on-three battle. Switching out is allowed by the challenger, but only between matches for Erika. Erika, are you ready?”
“Indeed I am.” Erika smiled, but a certain edge was now in her features as she held up a Poké Ball. She liked winning.
“Very,” Belle answered, pulling a Ball off her belt and feeling it enlarge in her hand. She felt the thrill of battle in her stomach, and she forgot about the people watching. Belle liked winning too.
“It is your time to shine, Victreebel!”
“Swifter, let’s go!” Belle tossed her Poké Ball into the air as her Pidgeotto burst from it, crying out and expanding its wings.
“Vine Whip, please, Victreebel.”
“Swifter, let’s give ’em an Aerial Ace!”
Having the type advantage, Swifter won easily; Erika frowned as Victreebel was proclaimed unable to battle, and the red light from the Poké Ball swallowed it as she reached for another Pokémon. Belle was unsure as to whether she wanted to keep using Swifter or switch to Charmy, but Erika threw her Poké Ball too fast for her to decide.
“What the—?” A Pokémon that looked like a walking bundle of knots stood on the stadium floor, its many vine-like appendages wriggling in the air. Belle frowned down at it.
The vines suddenly looked a heck of a lot more formidable wrapped around Swifter’s wings and talons. Swifter cried out in alarm, struggling to beat its wings as it was pulled rapidly towards Tangela.
“Come on, Swifter, fight it!” Belle shouted, grabbing onto the rail of the box. “You can overpower it!”
“I’m afraid it can’t,” Erika replied. “You see, Tangela is quite strong.”
Frustrated, Belle banged her fist against the rail. “Swifter, Peck its vines!”
The Pidgeotto leaned down and thrust its beak into the vine wrapped around its talon; with a strange squeal, Tangela pulled it back. Swifter was able to use this as a distraction and wiggle free of the other vines; it flew up, out of Tangela’s reach. There was no way Belle would be able to get close to Tangela again to attack it; she needed an attack that had range to it, one that she could use while standing far away from it…
“Swifter, return!” Belle cried, holding out its Ball. With her other hand, she quickly loosed Charmy’s Ball from her belt. Once she had his Ball in her good hand, she threw it, yelling out his name.
The Charmeleon stood a little bit taller than the Tangela, and he leered down at it, baring his fangs menacingly. Belle glanced at Erika to see a grimace pass over her face. She didn’t have any tricks up her sleeve for a Fire-type.
“Get out of reach of it, quick!” Belle shouted down to Charmy, who leaped backwards immediately. “Use Flamethrower!”
It didn’t take long for Tangela to go down; Erika returned it to its Ball and brought out the next one.
“That’s the evolution of Gloom,” Belle said, leaning over the rail to get a better look. She didn’t particularly like the look of it; the large pink petals on top of its head were unnecessary and obnoxious, and why was its body so small and dark? “Hey, how did you get that?” Belle asked, pointing down at the Vileplume.
Erika blinked at the interruption of the battle. “I used a Leaf Stone on my Gloom.”
“It doesn’t just evolve into Vileplume on its own?”
“Um, no,” Erika said uncertainly. “But if you use a Sun Stone on a Gloom, it will evolve into Bellossum.”
“Oh. Okay. Thanks. Flamethrower, Charmy!”
“Wait—what? Vileplume, use Bullet Seed!”
But Vileplume was too late; it had a burn on one of its big, obnoxious petals. Belle gripped the rail in front of her hard, trying to force down her excitement. If she started thinking she’d won too early, she would get ahead of herself and lose.
“Vileplume, use Pursuit!”
Belle’s mind whizzed quickly. That was a Dark-type move. How did Vileplume know a Dark-type move?
The move hit Charmy like a ton of bricks and sent him sprawling across the stadium floor. The women in the gym cheered; suddenly, Belle was all too aware of them. The hand gripping the rail in front of her started to sweat, and her legs began to tremble. Maybe she was afraid of heights…
No! No, she couldn’t choke! She couldn’t let Charmy down, or her mother, or Derek, or her father! “Ch-Charmy!” she called out. The Charmeleon sprung to his feet, eager and ready for more. Belle took a deep breath to steady herself.
“Uh—Burn them if they get to close to you!”
What was she doing? Think, dammit. She squinted down at Charmy as he swept a seed out of the air with his tail. The seed bounced against the large, obnoxious petal that had the burn, making Vileplume wince and stop its barrage of seeds.
“Now’s your chance, Charmy! Go around behind it, use Flamethrower!”
In a spectacular move that Belle was quite sure she hadn’t taught him, Charmy leapt into the air and did a front flip, touching his claw to the ground briefly and using it to catapult him over and behind Erika’s Vileplume. He let loose a monstrous Flamethrower that hit Vileplume square in the back and sent it tumbling in flames.
“Vileplume!” Erika shrieked in a manner that was not calm at all. Now the Vileplume lay there as Charmy simply baked it.
Belle had a sudden flashback—a small table draped in white cloth; a black box; a little girl with tears running down her face; a small, lifeless Pichu; only now, she saw Erika, standing over the box, staring teary-eyed at a battered Vileplume—
“Charmy, stop!” Belle cried. “Stop!”
He did, snapping his mouth shut to immediately snuff out the flames before looking up at her apologetically. As their eyes met, Belle knew he knew what she was thinking. Don’t overdo it, she thought, staring down at her Pokémon.
“Vileplume is unable to battle,” the referee said, pushing thick blonde hair off her shoulder. “Challenger wins!”
Erika rushed down from her box and ran over to Vileplume, throwing herself on the floor beside it and placing a hand on its body. “That was a dirty trick you pulled,” she snapped at Belle as she got closer. “Acting as though you were interested in Gloom’s evolutions.”
“I am,” Belle replied. “I have a Gloom. And I didn’t mean to distract you. I’m sorry.”
Erika blinked. Obviously, this had not been the answer she was expecting. She turned away from Belle, checking Vileplume over. Finally, she returned it to its Poké Ball and stood, dusting her kimono off, and smiled like she had before, with that calm, serene look.
“You fought well,” she said. “My Vileplume will be fine. It could have been a lot worse…your Charmeleon has quite a Flamethrower.”
“Your father would be proud.”
Belle was taken aback. She opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Charmy, noticing her distress, immediately reached out and grabbed her hand with its claw.
“Yes, I knew your father. You are Daniel Caldwell’s child, are you not?”
Belle nodded dumbly. Now that Erika mentioned it, she did look around her father’s age…or, what his age would be if he was alive.
“Your father was a very good man. He battled me when I was still an aspiring gym leader.”
“Did he win?” Belle asked quietly.
Erika laughed softly. “No. I clobbered him. His Ivysaur was no match for my Gloom. Why you would pit Grass against Grass, I have no idea. But I assume he learned from the experience.” She smiled. “We are a lot alike, you and I.”
“You have been through much. So have I.” Erika smiled gently. “We both have black hair. We both miss your father.”
Belle swallowed hard. “What were…you…to my father?”
“An ex-girlfriend. The match I mentioned was the one where we broke up.” Erika laughed, but it was a sad laugh. “He and I were not meant to be…but he was a good friend, as was Terra.”
“You know my mother too?”
“After your father…was killed…we drifted apart. But I like to think we were friends at one time. May I see your Gloom, Belle?”
Belle let Gloom out of its Ball, and it stood on its little flat feet as drool slipped from the corner of its mouth. Erika smiled. “I think a Bellossum would suit you much better than a Vileplume. Here.” Out of a pocket, she pulled both a Rainbow Badge and a Sun Stone.
Belle took the gifts and turned to Gloom. “Gloom, would you like to be a Bellossum?”
Gloom seemed to consider. It rocked back and forth, unleashing its foul stench into the room. Belle pulled the collar of her T-shirt up over her nose, and Erika put her sleeve over her face. Finally, the Pokémon nodded, and Belle gently and timidly touched it with the Sun Stone.
In a show she had seen several times before, Gloom emitted a bright glow and transformed into something smaller and cuter. Bellossum soon stood before her, bursting with happiness. “Bellossum!” it cried.
Belle then decided to take her leave; she felt like she should hug Erika, but all she could do was bow her head in thanks. “Take care, Belle,” Erika called as she left.
It was late in the day when Belle left the gym, so she decided to stop by the hotel she had passed on the way to the gym and see if there were any vacancies. She couldn’t stay at the Pokémon Center—Derrick would find her there. She called Cassandra’s father to ask him for some money, which he gladly sent her over the PC connection.
It wasn’t until she was lying in bed about to fall asleep that Belle realized that she had never told Erika her name.
To:[email protected], dancing_through_life@pokénet.com From: dingdongbelle Subject: <blank>
I got the Rainbow Badge. Erika gave me a Sun Stone and I evolved my Gloom into Bellossum. Swifter, Mankey, and Diglett evolved earlier than that. I got an Eevee in Celadon Mansion. Next stop is Fuchsia City for the Soul Badge.
Alyssa stared down at Ziggy’s fur as she stroked it. Her other hand was busy propping up her head, as it was drooping considerably. Ziggy stayed still, but only because it made Alyssa even sadder when he went anywhere; so he stayed huddled on her lap, worried sick.
She looked up. Ian stood in front of her, a frown on his face. “Did you get any sleep last night?”
Ian’s frown deepened and he pulled up a chair beside her. “You didn’t need to stay up all night, you know.”
Alyssa sighed and put her fist in her cheek once again, letting it mash the soft skin of her face as it propped it up. She had long ago taken out her ponytail, and her hair was scraggly and limp.
“Alyssa…someone’s coming from the Ranger Union today.”
Alyssa nodded. She had spent the night at the base last night instead of going home to Chicole Village. Barlow had told her that they needed everyone present to guard the prisoner until someone from the Ranger Union came to pick him up. Luanne, Barlow, and Crawford already slept at the base every night; Alyssa went home, and Ian stayed in a house in Vientown.
“Why did you stay up all night? We guarded the prisoner in shifts, remember?”
Alyssa nodded again. She did remember. She remembered yesterday and last night all too well…and there was nothing she could do to forget. Every time she had started to drift off, images of crumpled Graveler and Geodude would flash into her head. And when once, she had finally started having a perfectly normal dream, it had suddenly turned into a nightmare when gigantic rocks came crashing down from the sky unannounced.
“Hey…come on. Barlow said you and me deserve a break, and you look like you could use some fresh air. Let’s go outside.”
Alyssa shook her head. “The prisoner,” she mumbled. Ziggy shifted in her lap to look up at her. “We can’t leave the prisoner.”
“Barlow’s watching him. Come on, Lyssi.”
Alyssa looked up at Ian sharply. Her brother used to call her Lyssi. Lyssi my sissy! he would say jokingly as he hugged her tight, or pulled her to her feet after she fell, or kissed her on the top of the head, or tucked her in after a story.
“Lyssi?” she echoed faintly. Ian scratched the back of his neck.
“Sorry. It just…came out.”
“Please don’t call me that. It’s what my brother used to call me.”
“I didn’t know you had a brother.”
Silence dropped between them as heavily as a stone. Ian reached out and touched the hand that was so diligently petting Ziggy. “Alyssa…”
She shook her head and looked at her hand. Ordinarily, she would have been thrilled that he was touching her, but she couldn’t muster it up now.
“Come on, Alyssa. Let’s go.”
Finally, Alyssa nodded. Ziggy climbed up to hang on her back as Ian and Prinplup led them out of the base.
Dawn was just beginning to spill over the horizon. Alyssa brushed her bangs out of her eyes and squinted. Ziggy pushed his nose into her ear and sniffed, making her smile for the first time that day.
Ian and Alyssa stood side-by-side for a while. She was quite thankful to him for dragging her out into the fresh air; a light breeze brushed her face, and she breathed in the scent of grass. It really was nice out here. She looked around at all the houses. Life would have to go on, no matter what happened. Her life, for certain, was going to be a lot more complicated than she had thought…but she was going to have to keep pushing through. She remembered the baby Poliwag, and how she had handed it carefully to the Poliwrath. The Poliwrath had taken it into his hands and closed his eyes; when he opened them, he had looked up at Alyssa with a deep sadness. She had watched as the family of Poliwag and Poliwhirl buried the small Pokémon…but then they had moved on. And that was what Alyssa needed to do.
Alyssa pulled in a deep breath and looked over at Ian. “Does it get easier?” she asked him.
Ian sighed. “Not really. But you have to find your own way of handling it. Everyone has a different way. Luanne has her beauty crap—you’ve noticed that, right? Crawford has his drinking. Barlow has his gruffness.”
“What about you?”
He was quiet for a moment. “It’s…complicated. It’s a long story.”
She was just about to tell him that she had time when they heard a rumbling and a van pulled up. A man wearing a Ranger uniform with a shock of messy brown hair clambered out of the passenger’s seat. “We’re here to pick up the prisoner,” he said. A Buizel bobbed along beside him. Alyssa eyed his Styler. He was definitely a Top Ranger.
“Come on in,” Ian said. He and Alyssa led the man inside. “Barlow!” Ian called. He went into the hallway that led to the overnight rooms, leaving Alyssa in the lobby alone with the man.
“I’m Alyssa,” she said, holding out her hand to the man.
“You’re Alyssa!” he cried, clasping onto her hand and pumping it excitedly.
“I’m Keith. It’s nice to meet you. Was that kid Ian? Are you two the ones that did that whole cave-thing yesterday?”
“Uh…yeah,” Alyssa replied, taking back her hand and feeling quite shaken up. She was saved from further questions by the appearance of Barlow and Ian.
“Ah, they sent some Top Rangers to get the prisoner, I see,” Barlow said. “Nice to see you again, Keith.”
“Nice to see you, too, Barlow. Well, I’ll be taking the prisoner, Ian, and Alyssa with me. Could you two escort the prisoner out?”
“Ian and Alyssa?” Barlow thundered, no longer happy to see Keith. “Why would you need them?”
Keith looked shocked. “Didn’t you get the message? Chairperson Erma wants to promote them to Top Rangers.”
“Yeah, but what they did was extremely worthy of Top Rangers. They both show incredible potential!”
“But you have no idea if that was a fluke or not,” Alyssa said wonderingly.
“It wasn’t a fluke,” Barlow muttered. “I at least know that. You two are damn good Rangers.”
Keith beamed at them, but Alyssa and Ian were shocked. Neither of them knew what to say. Alyssa was too tired to deal with this. “So…I’m gonna be a Top Ranger?”
“Yep!” Keith replied.
“I’m gonna be a Top Ranger.”
“You sure are!”
Alyssa suddenly felt dizzy. She wobbled over to the counter and grasped the edge, leaning on it heavily. “You’re sure there’s no mistake?”
“No mistake! You are now a Top Ranger!”
“Alyssa?” Ian stepped forward, a frown on his face. His outline was blurred…everything else was kind of blurry too…Alyssa squinted. “Alyssa?” he repeated, and his voice sounded far away. It echoed as if he were in a tunnel.
And then everything faded to black.
“She stayed up all night last night.”
“I told everyone to sleep in shifts!”
“I know, but I think she was having nightmares. It was her first major mission, after all.”
“CORN DOGS ARE YUMMY.”
Several different voices danced through Alyssa’s head as she weaved in and out of consciousness, some making sense, some not. Finally, after a long bout of unconsciousness, she awoke.
First things first—she needed to take stock of her surroundings. She was lying on a bed, with Ziggy slumbering quietly on her stomach…she turned her head a bit. It was the same bed she had been assigned to sleep in last night, but hadn’t used. In a corner of the room, Ian sat in a chair. When he saw her move, he jumped to his feet and strode over to her. “Alyssa!” he said softly.
Alyssa moaned in reply. “What happened?” At the sound of her voice, Ziggy perked up and looked at her.
“Well, Keith told you that we were going to be Top Rangers, and you fainted.” Alyssa noticed that he couldn’t keep the grin off his face at the mention of being a Top Ranger. It certainly was exciting news.
“How long have I been like this?”
“Well, you fainted around five-thirty in the morning…it’s two o’clock in the afternoon now.”
“What?” Alyssa sat bolt upright, dislodging Ziggy; but she felt so overpoweringly nauseous and dizzy that she lowered herself back down. Ian laughed and Ziggy nestled down again.
“Don’t panic. I’ll go get you some lunch.”
“The Rangers that came to pick up the prisoner are staying here for the night and heading back to the Ranger Union in the morning. They figured it’ll give us a chance to pack, since we didn’t know about this yesterday.”
Alyssa nodded. “I need to go home and pack everything up.”
“Hey…” Ian leaned over her, gently placing a hand on the side of the bed. “Did you dream?”
“Leaving? But you just became a Ranger!”
“I know, Mom. They’re promoting me.”
“But—but—you’re so young! And you’ve only been a Ranger for a few weeks!”
“Yeah, I know.” Alyssa climbed the stairs to her bedroom. Her mother followed her worriedly, but her father stood in the kitchen, where he had been when she entered the house.
When they arrived in her room, Ziggy jumped from his place on Alyssa’s shoulder and scuttled across the floor, sniffing to make sure he knew where he was. Ambipom looked up; it had been making Alyssa’s bed. The two hands on its tail had been straightening her nightstand. “Am!” it said happily.
“Don’t get too excited, Ampibom,” Diana said to the Pokémon as she entered the room. “Alyssa’s being promoted, and she’s moving away.”
At first, Ambipom’s face fell; then it appeared to be happy for her. Its tail-hands left her nightstand and reached across the room to her dresser, where Alyssa was, to give her a hug.
“Aw, thanks, Ambipom,” Alyssa laughed. “Do you know where my suitcase is?”
“Am!” It hopped over to her closet and pulled it out.
Diana crossed her arms. “Well, I suppose I’ll help you pack, too.”
To:dancing_through_life@pokénet.com From:[email protected] Subject: Promoooottiiiooonnn!!
So guess what? I’ve been promoted to TOP RANGER!!! Yep yep yep!! I guess the whole traumatizing cave-thing kinda paid off. When they came to pick up the prisoner Ian and I apprehended (AHHH, that makes it sound so cool! XD), they told us about our promotion!! That’s right, OUR promotion. Ian’s going with me!!
Oh, did you see Belle’s other email? I really think something’s up with her.
To: dingdongbelle@pokénet.com From:[email protected] Subject: your emails
Belle, what’s wrong? Something’s up with you and I know it. What happened? Are you okay? I’m worried. Cassandra is too. You’re not explaining anything like you used to. How did the battle go? What did Erika say afterwards? Why did she give you a Sun Stone? How did you get a Pokémon from a mansion? Did you get in trouble? What happened between you and Derrick to make you not travel together anymore?
Love from your worried sick friend,
P.S. I got promoted to Top Ranger! Be happy or something.
Cassandra felt a swooping in the pit of her stomach the morning of the Contest. Had time really gone by so fast?
Karen was slumbering peacefully next to Tuffly in her twin-sized bed, so Cassandra was very quiet as she slipped out of her own and went towards the closet. Since Cassandra (or Joanna, rather) had a lot of money, she could afford to pay for a suite; she walked into the den after plucking her outfit from the hangar.
To match her newly-evolved Marshtomp, Cassandra wore a frilly light orange skirt that fell about to her knee; it swished pleasantly when she moved, which would add some flair to the competition. Her shirt was orange with blue designs, and the sleeves belled out at the elbows, allowing gossamer fabric to trail her every arm-movement. She twisted her hair into a bun; her trademark would be let out later.
Cassandra let Finny, Swablu, and Fluffy out of their Poké Balls as she pulled on her shoes. They stared at her expectantly. The air felt heavy; this was her second Contest. It wasn’t big, but she was advancing.
“Why didn’t you wake me up?” Karen asked, rubbing sleep from her eye and drifting into the den.
“You looked like you could use some rest,” Cassandra told her. “You were up late coloring, after all.”
Karen nodded. She turned and looked over her shoulder. “Tuffly’s still sleeping.”
“Well, get dressed and ready. We need to leave soon.”
The Contest Hall was buzzing with excitement. Cassandra couldn’t pull a crazy grin from her features as she wandered around, Karen and Tuffly in tow.
“Have you seen Sakura?” Cassandra asked after a while. Karen tugged on one of her long pink braids thoughtfully.
“No. I haven’t. Why?”
“There she is!” Karen pointed at a door nestled in the corner marked Judges Only. Sakura stood in front of it, gently patting her smooth orange hair, which was held back in two buns behind her head. What looked like hair extensions dangled from the buns, giving her a Sailor Moon-like look. She wore, as usual, a kimono, with orange and white patterns on it to match her Goldeen. “What’s she doing by the judges’ lounge?”
“She’s probably…” But Cassandra was stumped. What was she doing by the judges’ lounge?
Sakura glanced around, her hand sliding from her hair and to the doorknob; with a final glance, she pushed open the door and disappeared inside.
“Maybe she bribed a judge,” Karen whispered, a dark look coming over her face. Tuffly frowned too.
“No, she wouldn’t do that,” Cassandra told her. But a strange feeling was churning in the pit of her stomach, and she turned away to look up at the tourney screen.
Thankfully, Cassandra’s first round was against a Fire-type Pokémon—a Flareon—so Finny had a type advantage. The girl she fought lost quickly to Finny’s Mud Shot; not only did it put her Pokémon near fainting, but it muddied up Flareon’s coat, making it less graceful.
The second battle was a little tougher, and it was against a Machop dressed in a tuxedo, which Cassandra thought was adorable. She regretted mucking up the nice tuxedo to beat the Pokémon.
In the break between her second and third round, Karen came bursting fiercely into the lobby. “Cassandra! Are you paying attention to the battles in the stadium?”
“Um…” Cassandra found it hard to answer the girl. She had never seen her look so fierce or serious.
“You need to! If Sakura wins this next battle, she’ll be against you!” Karen pointed up towards a screen, which displayed Sakura and Deena battling a Chikorita.
“She might lose,” Cassandra said thoughtfully. “The other person has a type advantage.”
“That won’t matter if she bribed a judge,” Karen muttered.
“Will you stop that?” Every time she heard that, it made Cassandra uneasy.
As she watched, Chikorita came out with a powerful Vine Whip and plucked Deena easily out of the water; it raised the Goldeen above its head before flinging it back with a splash.
One of the judges, a bald, older man, began waving his hands and yelling. “One of the judges calls unnecessary roughness and docks Miss Carrie a significant amount of points!” the MC called. The booing of the crowd was so loud that Cassandra could hear it through the stadium doors as well as on the television.
“I’ve seen rougher things than that,” Cassandra remarked, frowning. “That judge sure is strict.”
“Or—” Karen began.
Sakura won her match, and Cassandra tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear as she stood across the floor from her, Finny’s Poké Ball in her hand and determination in the set of her jaw.
“These two faced off in the final round at Verdanturf,” the MC boomed over the speaker. “What surprises await us as they face each other again today?”
“Best of luck,” Sakura called across the floor.
“Thank you,” Cassandra replied. “You too.”
“Ready the stage!” called the MC; and in a familiar display, the floor opened to reveal a pool. This time, however, there would be no disadvantage for Swablu. Finny would be taking the stage this time. “Begin!”
“Deena, it is time!”
Goldeen burst out of her Poké Ball and sailed in a graceful arc above the pool, water droplets shaking from her tail as she fell. Cassandra squinted. Was it just her, or did Goldeen look a bit bigger?
At any rate, Deena entered the pool with hardly a splash; Sakura’s point-bar rocketed forward.
“Oh, and a very graceful display by Sakura’s Deena! That’s…a very large amount of points for just an entrance. But let’s see if Miss Étoile can beat it!”
Cassandra took in a deep breath and raised both hands above her head. She did a little spin and tossed Finny’s Poké Ball. “Finny, let’s go!”
Finny leapt out of his Ball, did a somersault, and then swan-dived into the pool, where he swam for a bit and then surfaced with a shiny splash. Cassandra smiled as her point-bar surged forward, stopping just before Sakura’s. It was going to be another close, exciting battle; probably entirely underwater.
“And the Contest Hall’s WaterCams are on and functioning! Everyone turn your attentions to the screen!” the MC boomed.
The WaterCams were only turned on for battles between two Water Pokémon; it wouldn’t be fair for a non-water Pokémon to see the surface as well as what was going underwater on the screen, while the Water Pokémon could only see underwater.
“Deena, use Horn Attack!”
“Dodge it, Finny!” Cassandra cried, watching the screen intently. Finny ducked swiftly beneath Deena and swam under her, shooting off toward the other side of the pool. Cassandra’s points-bar inched forward for his show of grace. “Now, use Water Pulse!”
Finny flipped around and clapped his two fins together; a pulse jolted from the impact, spreading out and heading towards Deena. The surface of the pool rippled with its intensity; with nowhere to go, Deena tumbled over in the waves helplessly, and Sakura’s bar shrank back a great deal.
Sakura looked positively furious at her dip in points; she cut the judges such a scathing look that Cassandra was surprised that they didn’t burst into flames. She hadn’t noticed that competitive edge in Sakura at Verdanturf…but then again, she had already won the contest the previous week. Not so much had been riding on their battle then. Whoever won this progressed to the final round, and Cassandra, while not willing to glare daggers at the judges, was determined that it was going to be her.
“Good job, Finny! Now use Aqua Tail!”
Finny spun around again, this time to get enough momentum for a powerful Aqua Tail. The entire pool was in turmoil as the water shifted and swirled.
“Deena, jump out!” Sakura yelled, an edge to her voice.
“Don’t let it! Get that thing back in the water!” Cassandra let her hair loose as she yelled this, and it fanned out and caught the light; the crowd roared its approval. Finny leapt out of the pool, snatched Deena out of the air as she sailed upward, and threw her back down. The Goldeen fell, smacking roughly into the water. She looked weakened as she passed by a WaterCam.
“What a display of acrobatics!” the MC yelled. “And look at Cassandra’s—wait, one of the judges is saying something!”
An older man with a bald head was yelling from the judges’ table. He looked angry, but the other judges were looking at him incredulously.
“Oh…well, he is saying that Finny and Cassandra are to be docked points for unnecessary roughness!”
Cassandra’s mouth dropped open as the crowd booed and hissed. She put her hands on her hips and looked up at her bar, which had been snatched back to half its value. She gritted her teeth as rage bubbled up in her stomach. That wasn’t fair.
Finny looked around; Cassandra hadn’t made a command. She pushed the rage back and looked up at the WaterCam. Deena was nowhere in sight.
“D-dodge!” Cassandra yelled, but Finny didn’t know where Deena was either. Anywhere he moved could be right in the path of wherever Deena was.
And then, Deena’s horn buried itself into the skin of Finny’s leg; she had come from the bottom of the pool. The power of her attack drove Finny bursting through the surface of the water. He shot up several feet into the air, did a strange, awkward somersault, and then landed with a belly-flop back on the water.
“Where’s the call of unnecessary roughness now?” the MC asked. “That didn’t look quite legal to me! But the judges haven’t said anything, and Cassandra’s points are docked!”
Cassandra balled her hands into fists as Finny floated on the water, struggling slightly. Its leg was badly injured, and blood leaked from an open wound. “Finny! Would you like me to forfeit?”
With a strange, determined look, Finny righted himself and dove underwater, a thin blood trail flowing up and then disappearing altogether. The crowd cheered noisily.
“It seems as though Finny wants to fight through his pain!” the MC yelled through the speakers.
Cassandra smiled, but she remembered something; a Poochyena, fighting through repeated onslaughts of Bug attacks, to its own destruction.
“Show them their mistake, Deena! Surf!”
“Surf?” Cassandra muttered. Could Goldeen learn Surf?
The water in the pool contracted; it rose up into one huge wave, leaving half the pool dry. Finny stood, dripping wet, in the dry part of the pool, staring up at the wave towering over him with Deena swimming up, up, up into the crest of the wave as it curled over sinisterly and came crashing down around him.
The WaterCam showed nothing but rushing water for several seconds; Cassandra rung her hands as she alternated looking at the surface of the water and the screen, trying to catch a glimpse of Finny. Finally, she saw him; the WaterCam showed him going by in the aftermath of the wave, being flopped gracelessly in the current. Cassandra leaned over, worriedly staring at the blue fleck that was Finny’s body as it was tossed around; the MC shouted things and the crowd roared angrily, but Cassandra could only pay attention to Finny.
Finally, the water calmed down and Finny floated up to the top, thoroughly fainted. She returned him to his Poké Ball and sadly looked up at her screen. Not all her points were gone…but most of them were.
“And the judges are arguing at this very moment,” the MC yelled. Cassandra looked over at the judges’ table; Nurse Joy looked angrier than Cassandra had ever seen any Nurse Joy, and the two other judges—the bald old man and a middle-aged man with brown hair—were yelling at each other. The old man seemed to win the argument; albeit unhappily, Nurse Joy and the middle-aged man turned away.
“The decision stands,” the MC’s voice boomed over the loudspeakers. “Sakura Konohana wins the match!”
Cassandra sadly lifted her eyes to see Sakura, standing demurely on the other side of the stadium, Deena’s Poké Ball in hand. There was something about her expression…she wore a small half-smile, and her eyes were cold and distant. A strange triumph was etched in the set of her jaw.
It was awful. And it was unfair. I’ve been trying to ignore Karen, but it looks like she’s right. She thinks Sakura bribed a judge, and now I think so too. I’ll send you the video soon so you can see.
Well, I guess I’ll be hanging around Fallarbor Town for another month or so until the next contest. I’ll train even harder.
Have you heard anything from Belle? It’s been three weeks and I haven’t gotten ONE email from the girl. I don’t want to pressure her, but this is getting ridiculous. I almost want to go over there and get her, but I have no clue where she’d be. Last time I got an email from her, she was heading to Fuchsia City, but that was THREE WEEKS AGO. Who knows where she is now?
Oh, and congratulations on your promotion!! That sounds exciting! Well, it also sounds like hard work, but you’ll probably love that. And with Ian too! Looks like you two will be getting even closer!