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Old December 23rd, 2012 (2:33 PM). Edited March 3rd, 2013 by adventure.
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---- for you, Caravan

→ Cherrygrove City

Cherrygrove looked like it always did in MAO. Cheerful and friendly, with all its NPCs wearing sleezy smiles. Krissu went past the marketplace and heard a character call out to bypassers about their homemade, cheap medicines. She halted her walk for a moment. It was a player, likely an Alchemist, who had set up a marketstand of their own. Many had accepted the only in-game profession available in Cherrygrove and learned to become Alchemists. It was a good thing for the players who wanted to stride onwards, too, since Alchemists usually sold their items cheaper than the Pokémart did. Krissu bought 1 antidote and a couple of potions from the thankful player. She wasn't rich since she had hardly battled other trainers yet and hadn't become an Alchemist herself, but she figured she'd need at least some backup if she was going to set out north from the safety of the city.

It was still rather early in the day when Krissu went to the shore in Cherrygrove to have the lunch she had also bought at the market earlier. Cooking was something also implemented in the game, but not as a profession per se; if you wanted skills in cooking in MAO, you'd simply have to practice. It reminded her of how it worked in World of Warcraft; anyone could take up cooking and get better at it, without treating it as one of their main professions. She hadn't been practicing cooking either, though, instead buying food every day. Avatars got hungry, to keep the game realistic. Her money was running low because of this. Another reason for her to start taking her mission as a trainer more seriously now. As if she didn't have enough reason already.

She let Litwick and Rattata out. The former happily stole some of Krissu's lunch, while the latter sat down and blinked at the girl until she slowly gave the rat a piece of food. It silently ate it up. Rattata seemed to have accepted easily that it was now Krissu's pokémon. Just like in the old games and kind of in contrary to the anime, it only took the successful capture of a pokémon into a pokéball to make it loyal. Or perhaps it was just this particular Rattata being submissive. Krissu would not know until she had captured even more pokémon.

"Will you be my fighter?" she asked her pokémon, absent-mindedly. Litwick gave her a curious smile but Rattata looked up with hesitation and found Krissu's eyes facing his. He didn't really reply. But Krissu knew that even though many did not bother with catching Rattatas, in favor for more exotic species or pokémon with better elemental powers, he could become a fierce fighter if he learned good crushing moves and evolved. She'd make it so.

"Ahoy there, lass!" a voice suddenly came, making Krissu lift her head. A man was walking towards her on the cliffs. His skin was tanned leathery by the sun and his head was bald. He was dressed in an armless top and shorts and sandals, holding a fishing pole in his hands. Krissu knew who he was even before he had said anything more. She had spent enough time in Cherrygrove, all these past days, to know what quests existed here even if she had not dared to take up any of her own as long as Malcolm had advised her to lay low. Malcolm...

"Would you mind doing me a favor, perhaps?" the man said, coming closer. Krissu stood up and her pokémon finished eating, watching the fisherman curiously. The fisherman's favor. A well known quest here by now, to get the simplest rod in the game. Hm, she might as well.

"What should I do?" she simply asked, still feeling too down to be polite to NPCs.

"Simple thing. I lost my favorite rod down in the water by some cliffs and the water's too wild for me to dive down and get it back for myself. I'm getting old, you see. If you'd help me with fetching my rod, I'd give you one of my old ones. Not the shiniest stuff, but it can sure catch some pokémon of the sea!"

Krissu nodded, accepting the quest. She recalled Litwick and Rattata into their pokéballs; neither of them would be very able to join her if she was going underwater. The fisherman led her to the cliffs in question and Krissu took her bag, coat and shoes off. As she leaned out over the water, her reflection looked back at her. Behind her dark silhouette, a graying sky was ominously luminescent, making it difficult to see past the surface down at the bottom below. A sudden feeling made her shiver.

Christina was never a good swimmer! Diving, that was something she did only because the teacher told her in class. She had been one of the least athletic girls in school, and not really comfortable with being underwater. Not to mention opening your eyes there would hurt. But now she was Krissu, designed to be a breathtaking fighter. Well, not really... but at least designed to have the possibility to be that way. In this game, she could overstep boundaries and overcome her fears. Maybe... if she dared trying in the first place.

The fisherman had walked away for a bit and was now interacting with another player, it seemed. He didn't seem to give every player the same task to fulfill. Was it random or was it meant to suit the player?

The pink haired girl shook her head and pulled the black, short dress over her head as well. She didn't care if anyone saw her here, and there was nobody nearby anyways. She took a deep breath and jumped in.

The water was cold against her skin. So real... She almost got a shock as she submerged, but managed to keep her breath. Opening her eyes, found that it didn't hurt as much as she thought. Pain, at least, wasn't as real inside MAO as in the real world. Some comfort.

The metal rod was gleaming just about one meter below her. Krissu steeled herself and kicked with her feet to swim down. She took great effort not to look out towards the dark sea; the slope down was steep and filled with rocks that became invisible in the blackness only a few meters further out. So creepy. Her hand closed around the rod and she gathered power with her legs and kicked off from the bottom, back towards the surface. That was when something snared around her ankle, stopping her ascent.

She let out a bubble of air in surprise and unwillingly looked back. A red, glowing gem and a pair of narrow eyes looked at her and a tentacle wriggled itself around her leg. Panic. She managed to kick the creature with her other foot, in the face. It let go and she waved her arms and the rod, finally reaching the surface with a gasp for air. As quickly as she could, she climbed the cliffs again, freezing slightly in the cold sea breeze. She calmed herself down, realizing that it must have been a pokémon and not a monster that wanted to kill her down there. The breeze dried her only slightly and she soon had to put on her dry clothes again to make herself warmer. She hoped the game would not let her be wet for long.

The fisherman was easy to find again and when he got his prized favorite rod back, he gave her the one he had been carrying in return. A much less shiny one. Still, Krissu knew it could come in handy, from playing the old games. She didn't say anything in reply to his generic words, she just nodded and left him on the shore. But she didn't walk back to Cherrygrove's center just yet...

Below the water near those cliffs, a red light was still pulsating. It didn't take a genius to figure out that it must have been a Tentacool. Or perhaps a Tentacruel, but in that case she was rather lucky that a simple kick could serve as her getaway. In any case, she intended to capture it.

Christina had learned how to fish from her father when she was younger. Living near the sea in Scotland made it natural to spend some time fishing, anyways, and her father quite enjoyed it. In her teenage years, she had not been coming with him as often though. Still, she hoped that it would be simpler in MAO than in real life... and she was right. She didn't even have to think; just making a flicking motion with the Old Rod threw out the line and made it land about 4 meters out in the water. Content, Krissu smiled smugly. Then she remembered that if she got something on the hook, she'd have to battle it. At least it was so in the old games. She reached for her bag with one hand and retrieved Rattata's pokéball. He was quite low leveled still, but pokémon found with Old Rod were never really high leveled either. And Litwick wasn't really a good choice, seeing as he was fire type.

She didn't get anything for several minutes. Maybe she had just found a really bad place. But then, something was tugging the line! Rattata growled in its ratty way and Krissu pulled on the rod, throwing the pokémon up into the air... a Tentacool. It landed on a rock beside her and fluttered around stupidly. No... it wasn't what she wnted.

"Eh... no. I know you might become a less pathetic pokémon with some training," Krissu told it. "But right now, I'm looking for determined pokémon. Pokémon that can understand me. I don't think you can." As if it had listened and understood, the pokémon jumped back into the ocean, only leaving Rattata slighly less dry than before. If Krissu hadn't been her new, determined self still, she would have laughed.

Come on... ankle grabber, where are you? Krissu was losing patience, but put up with getting two more silly looking Tentacol on her hook. Rattata got to beat them both with a few turns of his Bite attack. Interesting thing here was that instead of just fainting and somehow lay still (something that never was visible or resolved in the old games), wild pokémon's bodies dissolved into a shower of red pieces of data when they were defeated. Like flying crystals. It was just like killing monsters in any video game, but Krissu couldn't help feeling like she took real lives away when she did this. Throwing opportunities away. If she had captured that pokémon instead of killing it, would it have grown into a beautiful friend of hers some day? A valuable companion on the battlefield? No, she could not be thinking in those terms. She just had to survive and beat the game. These pokémon were not real. Not like she was, and Malcolm.

Finally, the pokémon she pulled out was a different Tentacool. Judging by the recognizing look in its eyes when it met her gaze in the air, this most certainly was the one that had grabbed her ankle before. Just the one she wanted to face.

"Rattata, Quick Attack!" she called out when the water pokémon was still in the air and had let go of the hook. Rattata jumped at blinding speed and tackled the jellyfish to land on a cliff instead of back in the water. It got up and stared at the rat, before starting to vibrate strangely. Krissu realized that it was some kind of sonic attack when she saw Rattata becoming confused.

"Dammit," she muttered. Not wanting to risk Rattata hurting itself and maybe fainting, losing any shared experience, she recalled it to its pokéball and threw out Litwick instead. She hoped that Tentacool would not have any water attacks yet, if it was low leveled enough.

"Litwick, Night Shade!" she ordered and her pokémon's shadow extended quickly towards Tentacool, where it rose up and dealt a slamming blow that also scared it. But not enough. The water type countered with throwing its vines towards Litwick, trying to... "Normal type moves like Constrict still don't work on ghosts," Krissu jeered. Choosing a ghost as a starter was proving more useful than she had planned; she had actually just chosen it because it was cute and small.

"Retort with Confuse Ray!" Litwick sent a swirling ray towards its opponent, who became instantly confused and slipped on the wet rocks. Dangerously close to falling back into the ocean... "Fire Spin!"

The fire attack wouldn't hurt it much since Tentacool practically consisted of water. But it might keep it still. Unfortunately, whether it was speed alone or the mechanics of the game, Tentacool's attack came first. A tentacle was thrown out and this time hit Litwick right on. It was glowing in purple. Litwick squeaked and fell backwards, while a purple dot appeared near its floating health bar; it had been poisoned! Krissu knew that this wasn't a critical situation now. She did have Rattata in case Litwick fainted. But still, her pulse rose. She wanted to finish this now.

"Come on, just one more attack. Use Night Shade again," she begged her starter, who obeyed. Naturally. It was bound to obey. Tentacool had managed to free itself from the Fire Spin and was readying another futile attempt at Constricting the ghost, it seemed. But Litwick's shadow crept up before that, and slapped Tentacool with its ghostly force again. This made Tentacool's health bar sink, and sink...

The pokéball touched down on the blue skin just before the health dropped down below zero. Apparently that might be the trick. The pokémon was sucked in and the ball dropped onto the cliff, rocking a few times back and forth until it finally came to a stop. Her second capture attempt was also her second successful attempt. Thank god... or maybe thank the maker of MAO? Krissu picked up the ball, gathered her other stuff and picked up the poisoned Litwick.

"Thank you," she said softly to him. She wasn't sure why. He was just a figure in a game, but she could have sworn that he smiled when she carried him back to the Pokémon Center under the gray sky. No need to use her antidote now; it might save her life later.