JX Valentine

Your aquatic overlord

Female
Harassing Bill
Seen August 19th, 2020
Posted December 8th, 2012
3,276 posts
16.6 Years
Author's Note: I think I killed myself trying to write this.

Hilariously enough, this all is a one-shot (and a response to a 50 Passages prompt once again). It, however, ended up being split into two parts because I hit the character limit. (50k characters in the fanfiction section? WTF?) Hence this long and unnecessary author's note to make me feel as if I'm justified in splitting this in half.

As a warning, I'll admit I might've rushed the ending (given how close I am to the deadline), and there are parts that feel as if I was high while writing it. I almost feel like adding more ficlets to this world because I tried to leave something fairly ambiguous and open to future rapings with fic, not to mention there's entirely too little decent Bill fic in this fandom anyway. Of course, mine isn't much better, but I try.

In any case, feel free to say something feels WTFy about the plot. I probably deserve it.

Now that I've probably evened out the number of characters in both halves of the fic, on with the story.






Come. Please come. Protect this.

Bill wasn't sure where he heard the actual voice or if he actually did. It might have been a figment of his imagination. Nonetheless, he followed it that morning, deep into the forest near his home, far from the golden beaches and the crashing waves of the ocean. He heard a song, something beautiful, like a woman singing, but the voice felt lighter than anything he had ever heard. Almost perfect. It was something terrifyingly powerful and holy.

He lost track of time and wandered far from the worn paths that wound through the forest. The trees and brush grew thicker where he was going, until the leaf-clad arms above him crossed one another to plunge the forest into brown shadow. Patches of light moved beneath where the leaves parted in the wind, and both swayed gently over the forest floor.

By then, he began to realize the forest was quiet. In fact, it was silent, except for that song. Part of him wanted to hesitate, to turn and run the other way before the song finished. He knew what it was. Goldenrod City was no great distance from Ilex Forest, where they say the legend began, and even then, all of Johto knew better than to let a story die as if it was just a fairy tale. Stories never liked to be forgotten. The burned tower of Ecruteak and the sunken ships around Cianwood were testament enough to the power a story had when it felt neglected. Even though he knew more respectable researchers classified the Voice of the Forest as only a myth, in his heart, he knew he could never deny the existence of the forest god, if only because he knew how vengeful and powerful a Johto god could be. Besides, he always felt he'd know the Voice when he heard it, and he was hearing it right then.

And worse off, he was obeying it. Try as he might, something kept him going. He knew that, according to the stories, whoever stayed to hear the end of the forest's song would disappear forever, but something kept him running towards it. Low branches scratched and tore at him with their thorns and twigs, as if they were reaching out to stop him, and his mind screamed for him to turn the other way. Yet, his body rebelled. He was called, and he had no choice but to answer.

With a sharp gasp, he felt the forest floor abruptly end beneath his foot. Before he could stop himself, he lurched forward and fell to the earth hard before tumbling down a sharp slope and coming to a rest on his side at the foot of a large oak tree. Closing his eyes, he winced as pain laced through his body. Nothing felt broken or twisted, luckily for him, but it still took a moment for him to recover from the shock of the fall. Rolling over, he lay on his stomach on the bed of dirt and wet, dead leaves. He inhaled, taking in the musty aroma of the earth and trees before the pain finally faded into a dull throb in his left arm.

Something green filtered through his eyelids. Slowly opening an eye, Bill found himself staring straight ahead at the base of a tree stump. The green glow came from something hovering over it, something that was watching him intently. Immediately, Bill opened both eyes and lifted himself slightly. Before he had enough time to recognize the creature, it placed an egg on the stump, perfectly in the center of a throne of splinters left by the fallen tree. Then, it lifted its blue eyes to stare into Bill's, and it sent his instructions.

This time, there were no words. No words entered his mind suddenly, as if on the edge of a dream. No words were spoken. Bill simply understood, and the creature knew this. Before waiting for an acknowledgement, it turned and flew past the trees.

He rested for a bit to let the shock of the moment subside. Swallowing hard, Bill curled his legs underneath him and forced himself to kneel beside the stump. For once, no questions entered his mind. It simply was an event that happened. He had his orders, and he was to fulfill them. There was to be no questioning it.

Carefully, he reached out and touched the egg. Pulling it into his lap, his hands ran over its smooth, green shell. It, in every way, resembled most other pokémon eggs he had seen, but on the other hand, he wouldn't have been given it by the Voice of the Forest if it wasn't something special.

Underneath his hands, something moved, as if to acknowledge his presence. It was close to hatching. Closing his eyes briefly, he nodded. He knew how close to hatching it was not only by the way it felt, as if the creature inside was trying to push through the shell to get to him, but also because that was what his orders had told him. He was to keep it safe until then.

Safe from what?

Behind him, a twig snapped. Drawing in a breath, he stood and turned as he shielded the egg with his arms. Stepping back, he kept an eye on the patch of underbrush straight ahead of him until he caught sight of a hulking man in black emerge through the trees. The darkness obscured most of the figure, but Bill caught sight of something red on the other man's chest and had a feeling, judging by the red letter and the lack of a backpack most trainers carried with them on excursions through the forest, that this would not end well.

The man, meanwhile, had caught sight of Bill, if only because Bill's brightly-colored clothing hardly served as camouflage in his brown and green world.

"Hey!" the man said, raising an arm in a sweeping gesture (as if a wilder gesture meant Bill would notice him more). "Hey you! You see a little green fairy fly through here?"

And then, without thinking, Bill turned and ran.

Behind him, the man continued shouting. "Hey! Hey! Come back here! I'm talking to you!"

As he careened through the underbrush, dodging trees left and right, Bill listened to the voice fade slightly. Part of him felt relieved, and paying attention mostly to this part, he slowed slightly in his mad dash through the forest.

Then, he heard a howl. It was a long, piercing howl that rose through the trees, eventually joined by three others. Bill stopped in his tracks, suddenly shivering at the sound as his entire body suddenly felt cold. He knew this sound. It was another sensation that was introduced to him by his homeland, something that didn't exist in Kanto forests except the ones around Celadon City. In his mind, he imagined the black dogs, raising their brown muzzles to the sky and curling their wet lips around glistening, white teeth. He envisioned their sleek, black bodies racing through the forest in a pack, just as they did in the wild.

In Johto, people told their children and grandchildren about packs of houndoom like that, lurking through the forest to devour lost and unfortunate travelers. Several at once would leap upon the victim and consume him whole, bones and all. They were the Big Bad Wolves of a Johto fairytale.

Remembering this story as well, Bill launched into another run, his heart beating at his ribcage as he frantically searched for a place to hide. The cold of the morning soon faded into the mild warmth of the afternoon, but Bill didn't dare stop. He no longer heard the barks of the dogs behind him, but he still fled like a terrified rabbit through the underbrush. Pains of physical exhaustion and hunger began to creep at his legs and stomach. He ignored both as best as he could until his legs began to stumble across the brush and carry him sluggishly. Several times, he tripped, twisting his body with a sharp gasp so as not to land on the egg. After the fifth time this happened, he remained on his back. His dark eyes stared towards the green canopy for a long moment as he listened to the wind and the barks in the distance. The egg sat on his chest, still and quiet as he composed himself. His breath felt like knives going down his throat as his lungs heaved for air.

Eventually, when his heart and his lungs calmed, he sat up and undid the buttons of his jacket. Carefully, he slipped his arms from the satin-lined sleeves and pulled the velvet material around the egg. He felt a beat under the shell, as if the egg responded in gratitude. A small smile cracked across his lips, just before he tore his eyes away from his charge and towards his surroundings.

The forest floor rose in a ridge nearby, but otherwise, it was flat in all directions as far as he could see. Trees rose from between tangles of thorns and bushes to stand only a few feet apart from one another. Dead leaves blanketed the rest of the floor, where the shrubs and thorns and tiny forest plants left patches of earth otherwise unoccupied.

Nearby, a large cluster of tall bushes filled the spaces between trees. Their leaves served as a green wall, obscuring anything that might have been behind it. Taking a deep breath, Bill stood and walked to the wall of leaves. He reached his arm between two of the bushes to feel for anything on the other side. Slowly, his arm eased through the mass of twigs and to the other side, where his fingers wiggled in thin air. Biting his lip, he pushed the rest of his body (with his other arm still tightly around the egg) between the bushes. The twigs snagged at his clothing and dark hair and scratched his face, but he needed the cover.

It took a moment of struggling with the twigs of the bushes before he finally stumbled beyond its reach and into the small clearing. There, he stood beside a flat-topped rock covered with a blanket of green moss in the center of a circle formed by the brush around him. Overhead, the lowest tree branches crossed, creating a low ceiling for the tiny nook. It was, he thought, enough.

He sat on the rock with the egg placed in his lap. Carefully, he unwrapped it partway to examine it. No cracks appeared on its surface yet, and with a slight frown at this sight, Bill wrapped the egg again and held it as he stared upwards towards the branches.

The forest was quiet at that point, save for another chorus of houndoom howls somewhere in the distance and the chirping of pidgey in the canopy. Bill couldn't tell if the man was still following him, but weary as he was, he knew better than to risk it.

"I think," he murmured (although to himself or to the egg, he wasn't entirely sure), "we had better not move from this spot until it has gotten quite dark."

And although he wanted to stay awake long enough to contemplate his situation, within moments, his eyes eased shut, and exhaustion took over.

---

The first dream came in fragments. He couldn't remember so many details that far back, but he remembered scattered bits, colors, puzzles, rooms with white walls plastered with diagrams and posters.

Psychologists' offices, he decided, smelled like hospitals, and hospitals smelled like sterility and cold, if either one of them was a smell. He didn't like it.

He remembered it was the school's recommendation – actually, insistence – that he'd be sent there just months after he entered kindergarten. The teachers thought he was mentally diseased or disabled, what with the way he interacted with the other children, keeping away from them unless they approached him first. And even then, a certain incident involving a girl and chicken soup wasn't about to be forgotten, either.

There were tests. He remembered each of them, and he remembered the people who gave him them talking about him behind his back – literally. In the meantime, he played with the colored, wooden blocks they had given him. As he worked, they sat to watch him and the silver watches in their hands as he, in a plastic, orange chair, put it together easily. They scribbled notes across papers on clipboards and gave him another one and another one.

Eventually, they lost interest in watching him play – or at least, he thought so at the time – and called in his mother. She was a willowy creature back then, with jet-black hair, eyes that were dark and stern, and skin that was smooth and smelled like jasmine. Her voice was quiet back then too, soft and melodic like the shy foreigner she was. At the lead psychologist's (the one, Bill remembered, who was bald and blue-eyed and explained things as if he was writing a textbook) invitation, his mother sat down in one of the chairs behind her son. He, meanwhile, had given up the puzzle for a pencil and a piece of paper on which he was
meant to work out the problems the psychologists had given him, should he need it (which he often didn't).

For every journey from point A to point B, one has to pass through a point C halfway between them…

The psychologist, meanwhile, sat across from his mother, and he spoke to her in a hushed whisper.

"Your son is quite remarkable," he said.

"You say that after every test," she replied. "How many more do you want to perform? I really don't like the idea of—"

"I understand that it's difficult for you to set aside time to take him here, but I assure you, it's well worth it. His IQ exceeds anything we've recorded at this particular institution, and we would like to know if we could spend a bit more time with him."

His mother let barely a beat of silence lapse between them before responding. "Absolutely not."

Here, there was a hole in the memory. His dreams tried to replace it with something irrelevant and incomprehensible.


And from point A to point C, the line must pass through point D halfway between them.

"These are your options," the psychologist said. "I highly suggest you consider them carefully. There's an excellent school in the city that can nurture his intelligence properly."

"How much would it cost?" his mother asked.

"Money shouldn't be an issue, Mrs. McKenzie. If he doesn't get the attention he needs from an early age, his gifts may go undeveloped, and his potential could be wasted. If you need financial aid, he can earn a scholarship to this or any of the other schools we recommend simply by taking the entrance exams."

"How much are
those?"

"Are you so concerned about money that you would be willing to sacrifice William's future for it?"

There was a pause.


And from point A to point D, the line must pass through point E halfway between them.

His mother's voice dropped in volume, and any sweetness it had instantly vanished.

"I have three children to raise by myself, sir. Ignoring two of them for only one is not an option."

Another lapse in his memory occurred, although Bill was certain this one was because he simply didn't pay attention, rather than because the years had faded the image. All he could remember is that things escalated. His mother's voice climbed in volume, and the psychologist pressed further, like a car salesman trying to convince a customer to buy a car she couldn't afford. Bill didn't like it when his mother's voice rose like that. She spoke to his father that way.

Attempting to ignore her, he continued to work with the pencil, drawing dots and lines across it.


If the line continues to pass through halfway points, then that would mean that the journey from point A to point B is infinitely long because it contains an infinite number of halfway points.

"Your son has amazing potential, Mrs. McKenzie. What will you do with him if you won't send him to these schools?"

"Continue sending him to public schools, of course."

"You realize, Mrs. McKenzie, that public schools may be a little slow-paced for William, correct?"

"They can place him in the appropriate grade if he needs something fast-paced."

"A child like him wouldn't be able to cope with the age difference. He's exhibited acute emotional sensitivity compared to other boys his age, and studies show that children in older age ranges
do have the tendency to be less than fully acceptive towards an individual who displays such uniqueness as being a six or seven-year-old in the fifth or sixth grade. I don't believe William would be able to handle it."

"Then I can home-school him before I go to work every night."

"Mrs. McKenzie, at the risk of sounding a bit forward, you're proposing to severely hinder William's intellectual growth. Is this really what you want?"

She paused for only a beat.


Because the journey from point A to point B is infinitely long because it contains an infinite number of halfway points, then by definition, one would never reach point B.

Then, Bill heard her sigh.

"Sir, I never mean to hinder any of my children, but yes. This is the best I can give him. I know what you think, but I don't think you understand our financial situation. I will not lie to you. We can barely afford
this."

But, Bill thought, that can't be right. It doesn't make sense.

"Mrs. McKenzie," the psychologist began.

She shook her head. "This is enough. It should be our decision what to do with him, regardless of what you think. If we have no money for that kind of education, you have no right to push us. If William has the potential you say he has, then he can figure out for himself what he needs to do with it and what we
can give him."

Underneath the string of spots, Bill drew a long line with one spot on one end and another on the other.
That made sense. But that wasn't what the paradox meant.

---

He awoke with a slight jolt. His body felt heavy and cold, and the egg remained on his lap. It twitched slightly, but he barely took notice of it. Instead, he glanced towards the afternoon sky. The blue between the branches had faded to gray.

Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath.

Eventually, he drifted into sleep again.

---

Bill dreamt about the day he decided he would become a researcher.

He remembered hating being a trainer. It was an excuse, a loophole that let him escape school. His mother was right. She couldn't juggle teaching him and working a full-time job, much less multiple. So, after consulting with the school board, he was placed in a higher grade, where the children coming back from their failed pokémon journeys occupied the rest of the classroom and did their best to pretend he wasn't there and where the teachers felt awkward and caught themselves trying to simplify things because they realized they were teaching a six-year-old.

He cut them breaks by finding every way possible to skip classes. Not every one, of course, but many of them without going over the limit that would have, with no questions asked, held him back a grade and made the road to graduation even longer than he would have liked. His mother and the principal caught on eventually. The latter put up with it only because he never had enough evidence to prove that Bill was doing anything wrong. After all, the child
was sickly, but the principal never imagined that it was, in many cases, self-inflicted thanks to a glass of milk and a dangerous sense of ingenuity.

His mother, on the other hand, eventually figured out all his tricks, and before long, the only one Bill had left was obtaining a trainer's license and leaving the city. Trainers were exempt from school (aside from loosely structured online courses) until they willingly returned, completed enough credits to receive a degree, or otherwise lost their licenses. It was, in Bill's eyes at that time, both an easy and legal solution. Naturally, he took it.

In actuality, he had no interest in pokémon, even going as far as
disliking a number of them. Pokémon were his father's thing, and if there was one thing Bill never wanted, it was to become his father. He was the shadow of his childhood: the rarely seen figure that nonetheless dominated the household with his dizzying charisma and debts, the deadbeat his mother still loved, the one who cared more about pokémon and games than his own family, and the one everyone said Bill was exactly like. Always.

Yet, no matter how much Bill resisted that world, it was right there in his blood. He tried to convince himself that he was just collecting – a harmless hobby born from a necessity to have a set of anything, an almost obsessive-compulsive tendency. Yet, no matter how often he said that to himself, something inside him nagged at him and tugged him towards that world. Weeks as a trainer became months, and even though Bill thought it was because he wanted more time to enjoy his freedom, he knew there was something else there.

He remembered waking up very early that morning. The world was still gray with the first light before dawn and green with the dew-drenched underbrush of the forest clearing. It had a scent, too – a cold and wet scent laced with something spicy and bittersweet, like cinnamon. Turning his head, he glanced towards his partner, the ivysaur that had grown from the bulbasaur his mother had given him for his tenth birthday. The thing had crawled while he was asleep to the far edge of the clearing where the most light fell through the branches of the trees, and there she lay with her eyes tightly closed and a growl rumbling from her throat.

Bill sat bolt upright.

"Ivysaur?" he whispered.

The grass-type ignored him. Instead, she sat and breathed calmly as the pink flower on her back quivered.

Bill never forgot what it was like watching a venusaur bloom. One by one, each petal gradually parted from the hard center and fell to the side softly, like feathers drifting in the wind. As the sun rose, painting the clearing in a soft pink and then a pale yellow, the grass-type sat, almost oblivious to the flower as it slowly opened on her back.

Sometime in the middle, Bill felt his heart stop. He could feel it fluttering against his chest, as if it was trying to beat but couldn't for fear of disrupting this moment. His throat hurt, and after a moment, he realized it was because he wasn't breathing. It was almost as if he
couldn't, as if he suddenly felt inadequate and unworthy to be watching his pokémon evolve. Even remembering it, he lacked the words to describe it. It was beauty in itself, something nature considered mundane but the human mind couldn't fully comprehend. It simply was.

When Bill could finally catch his breath, he searched for words that best suited the situation. He could only find three.

"Oh my God."


---

When he awoke, he was barely aware of the fact that he muttered those words almost involuntarily.

Straightening his perch on the rock, Bill looked to the sky. It had turned darker and colder since he last fell asleep. Soon, he felt it would be safe enough to leave his hiding place and venture back through the forest, northward to the Sea Cottage.

As the last wisps of his dream faded, he began to realize how odd certain things seemed to him. For one, his dreams very rarely came so comprehensibly. Usually, he dreamt of odd little scenes filled with images that barely matched reality – things he didn't care to mention, like mushrooms with wings and meowth with no faces. On the other hand, he passed his sudden, vivid dreaming off as mostly stress-related.

And the others? Why did he follow the Voice? Why did he take the egg? Why did he run?

All three questions played across his mind, one after another. Didn't it call him early that morning, the moment he awoke just before dawn? If that was the case, then why him, of all people? He was, by no means, a strong guardian. Even in his younger years, when he'd been a trainer, he often failed on the battlefield. It was only by a miracle and his own pokémon's ability to think for themselves that any of them managed to win, let alone evolve. He couldn't possibly direct one of them to defend himself, and though they would know what to do if he needed their protection, the fact that he was hardly a valiant warrior meant that there were stronger trainers in the forest that the Voice could have called, especially if it knew that the only one he had with him right then was Venusaur, who couldn't possibly stand her own against a pack of houndoom.

But then, why did he run? Wouldn't it have made more sense for him to simply respond, to point in the other direction and lead the man away from the Voice? The egg appeared to be nothing special, so it couldn't possibly have made much of a difference.

On the other hand, he thought as he ran a hand over the smooth shell, this is my duty, isn't it?

That was right. It was his duty to protect a pokémon. He was asked, called specifically by the Voice for this one purpose. Running was his part. Running from anything that might have posed a threat to the egg, the way his instructions had told him. If he couldn't fight, then he would run, and either way, the egg would be protected to the best of his ability. After all, that's what a researcher did. The job, as he reminded himself right then, wasn't just a matter of discovery, of uncovering the past and present and unlocking the secrets of the world. It was a matter of dedication. Most individuals that claimed that pokémon was a large part of their profession – trainers, breeders, coordinators, watchers, researchers – had an obligation to protect them from those who saw pokémon as tools for their profession. There was to be no question about it. It was a fact, and Bill accepted it was what he was.

---

"Why do you want to go to this college?"

It was the third time someone had asked him that question. Since the day his ivysaur evolved, Bill had been working himself to the point of exhaustion – and slightly beyond it – to find a college that he could afford (or otherwise figure out how to afford college), much less one that would accept him. Many of them rejected him, sending him polite but vague, one-page letters in neat type explaining in as eloquent words as possible that the admissions office felt older and harder working students were more deserving of a place at their institution than an eleven-year-old who, regardless of test scores, had little in the way of his instructors' recommendations. He'd already damned himself with his hatred for the educational system, and it was coming back to bite him with a sharpedo's jaws.

The few that listed their acceptance as pending, however, asked him for an interview. In his first, the interviewer stopped halfway and politely told him that the college would get back to him. He expected a small letter of rejection and in fact received one less than a month later. The second listened to what he had to say, taking careful notes the way he'd seen psychologists record his every movement when he had his IQ tested. Every word he said, every gesture he made, was most likely scrawled across the woman's pad in messy, black ink. That made him slightly nervous, and because of that, at the end of the interview, she politely told him the college would get back to him. He received
that rejection letter shortly before the one from the first college arrived.

By the time he stood in front of the city library for the third, he felt a little indifferent about the process. Nonetheless, with a deep breath, he decided to get it over with anyway.

The third interviewer was an older man, possibly ten or so years older than his father. Bill felt slightly intimidated by the intense look in the man's black eyes, though the smile above the square jaw reminded him of someone's grandfather. More than that, Bill couldn't help but feel as if he'd seen the man before, but like many other moments of recognition in his life, he couldn't quite place where.

They sat in a room normally used for the classes the library offered now and then, at a small table in the corner, by a window. The man took the chair against the wall, leaving Bill the open room at his back. Every so often, Bill would glance out the window, towards the sunny day and blue skies, as if they would somehow comfort him.

In reality, they didn't.

Taking a deep breath, Bill finally answered, but his voice came polite and stiffly, as if he was reading his response from a textbook. "I'd heard about Celadon University's reputation as one of the finest schools in Kanto. It's one of the few schools that offer a program for pokémology, and its professors—"

The older man shook his head, and immediately, Bill stopped. He could feel his heart go cold. His hands clenched into fists resting on his knees as he watched his opportunity slowly slip away from him. Seemingly ignorant of the child's desperation, the representative rested his elbows on the table and laced his fingers together in front of his mouth.

"Let me rephrase the question," he said. "Why do you want to be a pokémon researcher?"

Startled by the question, Bill answered, stammering his story at first. Then, as he recalled the evolution of his partner, a note of confidence entered his voice, and a small smile spread across his face as he told his story with as many details as possible. When he was finished, he stared at his elder for a long while. The latter sat in silence, listening to each detail as he closed his eyes. When he no longer heard the applicant's voice, he took a deep breath.

"Is that all?" He must have sensed that there was something else there. His voice carried a note of curiosity, not one of boredom.

Bill straightened. "I… I… Well, y-yes. That's all."

The man separated his hands and lay them flat on the table. His dark eyes opened, fixing themselves on Bill with an intense gaze. Bill shifted uncomfortably, feeling the weight of the stare on his entire body.

"Don't get me wrong, William," the man said (using his formal name because Bill still wasn't
Bill back then). "It's all incredibly interesting, but you just didn't quite answer my question."

Bill blinked. "What do you mean? What else do you want to know?"

With a sigh, the man said, "You say that the evolution of your ivysaur was what sparked your interest in pokémon, but being a researcher is a full-time job. It's hard work, and it consumes your life. An interest in pokémon is fine, but you need to be absolutely sure you want to dedicate your life to it. You're young. You have a lot of opportunities ahead of you and a lot of life to see. Once you become a researcher, you might live only for your work and for pokémon, so you'll pass up many of the experiences you may have between now and your twenties. Are you sure that's what you want?"

It wasn't the first time he'd heard
that too. Bill bit his lip, not so much in thought about the answer but instead about the other times he'd been asked, "Are you sure that's what you want?" The first interviewer had asked him, stating that the field wouldn't take him seriously because he was so young, so he would be turned down no matter what he did and besides, didn't he want to wait a few years and enjoy being a teenager before giving up everything for college and a career? The second interviewer had asked him, telling him that the field of pokémology is dangerous and citing the statistics of novice researchers who died in the field because of one mishap or another. His mother had asked him when he declared what he wanted. She had told him about his father, about how he couldn't handle it and turned to gambling because he was suffocating in his work.

But he had something his father never could have. Although he never compared himself to his father, he knew there was something in his heart no one else could feel. Something so powerful it threatened to consume him like a blaze and leave him as empty as a gutted building if he didn't do something about it.

"Yes," he said firmly. "It's what I want. You heard my story, but that doesn't do any justice whatsoever to what I felt then and what I feel now. Pokémon is the first thing I've felt this much emotion towards. Every day, I wake up, and I can only think about them and all the things I don't know about them. Each minute, I'm thinking about them. I know it sounds like I may be crazy, but whenever I think about pokémon – Venusaur's evolution especially – I feel this strong sense of wonder."

"And you want to become a pokémon researcher because of this?"

Bill nodded slowly. "I need to do this. It's the only thing I've ever felt was absolutely necessary."

Taking this in, the man leaned back. His head bobbed in a nod, and already, he was forming a decision.

"That's all I needed to know," he said.

What Samuel Oak didn't say, however, was that that was the first time in a long while that an applicant actually impressed him.


---

The sky was dark. Bill couldn't figure out what time it was, but he knew it was getting late and cold. He could feel the cold, early-autumn air pass easily through his thin, cotton shirt, and he shivered as he curled himself around the egg. The egg moved in response, beneath his velvet coat and the warmth of his body. Bill knew it wouldn't be enough. Not until he could get back to his home.

He bit his lip hard in order to focus on that pain enough to stop shivering as he stood. The last thing he needed was to drop the egg through trembling arms. Exhaling, he noticed that his breath came in a curling puff of moist air as another shiver wracked his thin body. Taking another deep breath, he pushed back through the bushes and to the open forest. Glancing around the forest, he realized he couldn't see much of anything except the silhouettes of trees all around him.

That is, until he heard a twig snap and a low growl.

Turning slowly, he saw one shadow move, just before it split into five: one taller and four shorter.

"Hey," the tallest shadow said in its gruff voice. "You're the guy from earlier, right? It took a long time for my pokémon to track you. Why don't you let me see what you have in your arms there? I promise I won't hurt you."

Bill glanced from the taller shadows to the four smaller ones that were advancing towards him. He took a step back as his eyes widened in fear.

The larger shadow extended a hand. "Come on. Let me see it."

With a sharp shake of his head, Bill turned and ran. He couldn't give up the egg. He couldn't let the man see it. It was his to protect. Those were his instructions. He was to let no one else touch it until it hatched.

Behind him, the dogs howled, sending another shiver down Bill's spine. The researcher stumbled slightly, nearly pitching forward if he hadn't slammed his other foot down painfully for balance. After a few moments, the howls transitioned into barks that refused to fade into the distance. They were faster runners than their master, and although the rabbit had a head-start, they could match his speed.

Bill didn't look back, but he could feel an intense heat suddenly flare as one of the houndoom attacked. An orange glow danced across the forest as Bill tried to weave in and out of the trees to avoid being struck from behind by the flames. He couldn't risk looking back, not with the trees as dense as they were in that part of the forest.

So, when the forest lit on fire, he couldn't see the first tree being consumed in a blaze. Instead, he heard the crack of the bark burning and smelled the sweet aroma of a maple whose skin and leaves were turning to black ash. He could swear he heard the loud curse of the man pursuing him, but the dogs didn't seem to care. If anything, he heard their excited barks grow louder and more agitated by the warmth of the flame as it arced from tree to tree alongside them, engulfing another maple near the first, then an ash, then a birch. Each of them had pale trunks and branches that immediately turned dark brown and then black under the red and yellow of the flames that quickly consumed them. Another dog opened his muzzle to release another stream of flames to send a poplar tree up in smoke. They weren't even aiming for Bill anymore.

On the back of his neck, Bill felt the blaze. His eyes already began to water from the intense heat, and his skin began to feel raw from a growing burn. Thick, gray smoke quickly filled the forest and clouded his vision. He felt his nostrils and throat burn with each breath he took, and though he knew he'd soon choke on the black cloud surrounding him, he couldn't duck for fear of crushing or dropping the egg as he ran.

The ground suddenly gave out beneath him again. He gasped sharply as he stumbled for a stable footing on at least a slope, but for five feet, there was nothing but air beneath him. In seconds, he landed hard on his feet, and as a result, his left ankle protested and sent a sharp jolt of pain up his leg. With a sharp cry, he felt his legs buckle beneath him. Before he could catch himself, his body crumpled at the foot of the cliff.

Looking up, he saw the sky turn dark gray as smoke began to obscure the dark clouds farther above the forest. Orange light danced across the churning smoke; the fire had reached the edge of the cliff and was beginning to reach towards the trees on the other side. Four shadows leapt across the glowing sky and landed a few feet in front of Bill before scampering over one another and turning their glistening fangs towards him. The houndoom were apparently far more graceful than their quarry, given that they advanced on healthy paws towards the injured prey.

Bill curled around the egg, clutching it to his chest. Tears from both the stabbing pain in his leg and the hot fear in his chest trickled down his cheeks. He knew that one way or another, he was to die: if not from the dogs, from the fire. His sprained ankle made sure of that.

He shut his eyes tightly. The growls grew louder as the dogs came closer. His body trembled, anticipating their attack. Finally, with nothing more he could do to save himself, he began to pray.

The heavens responded. At first, Bill thought he'd imagined the feeling of something cool striking his head. Resolving himself to ignore a possible hallucination, he tightened his grip on the egg and continued to wait for his final moment. Instead, the dogs stopped and fell silent, except for a single hound that barked and whined abruptly.

Opening his eyes and looking up, Bill saw the pack turn their heads towards one of their companions. The dog had his eyes shut and his head bowed, and he whined pitifully as he attempted to shake something off his head. Bill's lips parted slightly, and he craned his neck to look towards the sky. Another droplet fell, splashing across his cheek. The others fell shortly afterwards. As it rained, the dogs retreated a few steps. The fire continued to consume the trees above the cliff, but its fingers shied away from the rest of the forest below it.

Then, Bill heard them. A pair of howls, vaguely canine but nothing like the barks and cries of the dog pokémon Bill had encountered before then, rose above the crackling of the fire and the hiss of rain. As if in response, the rain grew heavier with fatter droplets drenching the forest, and a great bolt of lightning split the sky in a brilliant flash of jagged white and amethyst. With a blinding flash and a deafening crack, a tree behind the houndoom split, sending splinters cascading down upon the squealing pack.

Bill screamed. He couldn't hear his voice above the explosion of the tree and the panicked howls of the houndoom, but he could feel it painfully reverberating across his throat. As if on instinct, he clutched the egg tightly to his chest as he waited for the sound and terror to be over. The two roars rose above the barks of the four houndoom again, prompting high-pitched whines from the pack. A sudden terror rose in Bill's chest as he felt the presence of the Voice creep across his body.

You have done well so far, Guardian, it said. Hold on. Your first task is almost complete.

With a nod, Bill struggled to rise to his feet. His injured ankle sent pain screaming up his leg, even though he put his weight on the other foot. There was no way he was going to run, so what could the Voice have had in mind for him? In his search for it to ask for help, he instinctively looked up first.

Then, he felt his blood freeze. Standing on the cliff above him were a pair of large creatures – the very source of the howls. One, the blue beast on the left, bent low and stared directly at the fire-types. Its mane flicked upwards in the wind, and the rain itself didn't seem to touch its sleek body. The other, the yellow on the right, lifted its head and jagged tail to the sky as another bolt of electricity slammed into a tree, splitting it to rain splinters on the pack again. Bill had never seen either in the flesh before that moment, but he knew of their stories too, just as he knew of the Voice's story from picture books and his grandfather's words. And he knew that in the stories, one was called Thunder and the other, North Wind.

Thunder lowered its head, turning a white eye towards Bill. Right then, time seemed to stop for him, and the sounds of the storm and fire faded into dead silence. He felt that eye stare deep into his body and touch the electricity pulsing across his nerves with its ancient gaze. The voice that entered his mind was not the melodic one of the Forest Guardian. It was something else altogether, something that rumbled with the sounds of storms on a summer day.

Don't look.

Bill flinched and closed his eyes again. His body felt as if something else was controlling it. Each motion wasn't his own but instead the result of something far older and more powerful than he could imagine.

Behind his eyelids, he saw a white light.

And then, there was black.

Light into darkness.

A crack.
Professional ninja. May or may not actually be back. Here for the snark and banter at most.

Need some light reading?
Anima Ex Machina (Chapter 20 now available)
The Leaf Green Incident (SWC 2012 winner)
Braid (Creepypasta apparently)
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