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Old November 20th, 2011 (12:11 PM). Edited March 3rd, 2012 by OpenDoorLeia.
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OpenDoorLeia OpenDoorLeia is offline
The Will of One
    Join Date: Nov 2011
    Gender: Female
    Nature: Lonely
    Posts: 17
    Hello everyone, nice to see you have arrived. I hope you enjoy the first installment of this Pokemon fiction of mine, and if you have, please be courteous and offer some feedback. Because if you don't point out my huge, gaping flaws, how will I ever hope to improve? Thanks, very much.

    Summary: Touko, Unova's last hope, lost the final battle, and Ghetsis took over the world, tearing people and Pokemon apart. Touko was locked into Team Plasma's castle and watched as the world burned. Although hope is not yet lost. The world still needs a hero.

    Disclaimer: All characters and related trademark material belong to their rightful owners. The only thing I'm responsible for is writing up this story (and the OC's featured within it) which came out of my cesspool-like mind. Pokemon (c) GameFreak, Nintendo, Junichi Masuda and whoever else.

    Rating: PG-14 for blood and gore. Squeamish folk tread carefully.

    Well then... let's get a crackin' shall we?

    I must be on top of the world right now…

    That's surely what it felt like as I gazed down at the earth below from a pedestal on level with the clouds. It's so amazing, I thought, awestruck, looking down towards the vast expanse of land stretching out endlessly beneath. Thousands of feet below white capped mountains stretched up towards the sky, their peaks pointed towards me. Far beyond that the world sprawled out in large blocks of blue and green land. Raging waves turned in the ocean, leaves stirred softly in the quiet forests. I was astounded… even from this high up every detail, every motion seemed to be unbelievably vivid and defined. Tearing my eyes away for a brief moment I looked forward to the gigantic platform I stood on. It was made of pale blocks of stone with dark ivy crawling through the cracks and nicks in the rock and flowers that hung over on the precipice, bobbing their heads in the wind. This is beautiful, I thought feeling the wind blow by, playing with my hair through invisible fingers. Tears began to well up in my pale eyes as I was overcome by emotion. It's so beautiful.

    A sudden spray of blood shot into the air, staining the pale tile below in arcs of crimson. A horrible, crushing laugh boomed outward, echoing across the vast sky. The bodies of my team, my friends, my Pokémon were scattered about the platform, leaning against ruptured walls, bodies lying in crumpled heaps, all motionless shells of flesh. Each covered in horrible gashes and wounds, each one drenched in blood. My heart came to a stop.

    That's right… my Pokémon died here at the top of the world. And I simply watched as it happened. I failed.

    I turned slowly, across the tarnished stone to the source of the laughter. A dark figure of a man stood there, sneering at the tears in my eyes. His tea-green hair was slicked back, apart from a few stray pieces which stuck outward. A metal patch over his right eye gleamed malevolently red; I could see my own pained reflection in it. He threw his arms outward, parting the robe that he wore. "It's over!"

    No! It can't end here!

    The blocks of stone beneath my feet began to crumble, giving passage to the drop below. I looked down in shock, willing my body to move but it wouldn't respond. I tried to find something to run to, something to grab hold of, someone to help me. Then I saw his face.

    His eyes were almost hidden under the brim of his black hat, but I still saw the sadness and regret emanating from those gray orbs. His jaw was set and his lips were pressed tightly together, as if he was in pain. I reached my hand out to him desperately, begging for help, begging for him to do something, anything!
    He just stood there staring at me remorsefully as I tumbled over the edge.

    I was falling, that much I could be sure of. I could see the ground speeding towards me simply waiting for the moment of impact. It's surprising how something so beautiful like the earth could be the instrument of my death. That was the last thing I thought as I hit the ground and died.

    Chapter One
    I'm alone (… in the burning world)

    The crash was almost deafening in my ears as I toppled out of the warm fabrics of N's bed and smashed my face onto the ground. For the moments following I just sat there crumpled uncomfortably half on and half off the bed. I struggled to pull myself out from the numbness of sleep which still clung to the edges of my mind. I had been dreaming again. Surprisingly the memory still remained crisp in my head, the details-still vivid, the sounds-still ringing through my ears. Even the falling sensation had not completely vanished. I had to give my arm a good pinch to pull back into a solid reality.

    With the heaviest of sighs I hauled myself up on aching limbs, straining to keep my eyes open I looked around the room-analyzing, trying to pick out a human figure (if there even was one around). The room was vacant. There was a faint happiness and relief to know that there were no witnesses to my embarrassing tumble. Although even if someone had been present during my little scene I knew who it would be, and they knew all about the nightmares.

    I stood up not even bothering to toss the blankets back over the bed, it was usually a total mess anyway so I was indifferent. I took the briefest of moments to straighten up the scarlet dress I wore which had twisted around me in some odd way during sleep. Then dragged my weary self over to the far row of outward curving windows, stabbing my foot on a section of toy train track as I went.

    The dream continued to play over and over in my mind like a broken record. For some reason I couldn't stop thinking about it. Since the dream was sticking to my memories like glue, horrible glue, I tried to analyze what I could remember, before those memories too disappeared into the thick of my subconscious. While I ran it through my head a couple times I came to a realization that not much had changed from the previous nights where this nightmare had struck. Yes, I was under the plague of a recurring nightmare and until I found some way to get rid of it the terrors would just continually replay themselves over and over in my broken mind. Unfortunately for me I wasn't about to get over these night horrors any time soon. These wretched dreams had plagued me for the better portion of the month, and because of that my sleep patterns became distorted and mangled. I seemed to have dark circles under my eyes almost constantly. I looked almost zombified, good thing I was too depressed to care about my appearance.

    I took a quick glance around the room to make double sure that it was empty. I didn't see anyone; my paranoia was just getting the better of me. Still, looking around the room I was captivated by its beauty. The room was vast and circular, the floor made of coal-black tile, the walls white as cream. The bed I had stumbled out of was located in the dead center of the room. The covers lay strewn all over the circular bed, making it look like a huge mess. Rib like columns lined the walls supporting the ceiling and uniting in a circle right above the bed. My eye brows scrunched together when I turned my gaze from the beautiful design of the room to the piles of toys strewn everywhere, and when I say everywhere I'm not exaggerating…not even a bit. There were so many toys, shoved clumsily in boxes or lying lonely on the floor just waiting to be accidentally stepped on, it was really ridiculous. Plastic robots, action figures, toy trains along with a track to go with them, a basket ball hoop and ball, even on the ceiling chimes with circling Pidove and planes hanging on wires under the gray, dominated the void-like ceiling. With all the toys thrown around everywhere you'd think the room belonged to a five year old, that is if you ignored the elegancy of the rest of the room.

    I took a seat a few feet away from the row of windows. I didn't want to be too close to the edge because even with glass separating my body from the drop below, the height of the room was almost unfathomable. It almost made me feel like I'm on top of the world, and I really hated it. Looking out the row of outward curved windows I could see a large mountain range looming in the far distance. The ground below the tower was nearly barren and lifeless. But there were some forests patching the earth but from this far up they all looked like twigs and sprouts, even the hills and cliffs defining the landscape looked little more than anthills.

    But I wasn't paying attention to any of that, I had seen it so many times before that it induced no feeling out of me. This time over the horizon I could see huge plumes of black smoke bellowing out over the sky just below the crest of mountains. Something was burning out there and to me that meant something was dying. My expression turned bitter as I watched the smoke drift out over the sky. My heart ached with a dull sadness. It hurt because I knew whatever was being burnt to ash in those massive flames below was because of me.
    I may have been sitting there for hours or maybe simple minutes, but the sound of a door opening from the back of the room caught my attention. But I didn't turn to look at who had entered. I already had a good idea who the visitor was. A moment of silence followed before the sound of approaching footsteps drew near. Still I did not turn around. I saw him take a seat beside me out of the corner of my eye. He kept out bodies apart. Neither one of us spoke which invited another wave of silence to settle over the room. The only sound audible was my steady breathing, his body didn't seem to make so much as a muffle. I didn't have the heart to start up a conversation with him, and at the same time I was put as ease by his presence. It was a horrible mixed feeling.

    "The smoke looks nice against the sun set," N said softly, giving me a jolt of surprise. Even though I knew he was bound to say something sooner or later the broken silence startled me. Taking a look through the window to the dead world beyond I saw the dark plumes of smoke framed against a fire-like sky. It did look beautiful… in a horrid sort of way. There was something that had to perish to produce the smoke that tainted the sky, that's what made it so bitter-sweet.
    I gave a vague grunt in agreement.

    "Dinner will be ready soon," He said, not taking his eyes off the distant sky. I turned my head a fraction to get a better look at his face and what expression he may have worn there. His eyes were almost obscured by the bill of his black hat and those wispy green bangs falling over his forehead, I still managed to pick out his stormy-gray eyes. His emotions, whatever he was feeling, were shut under some invisible wall. N was, as usual, unreadable.

    "I'm not hungry," My voice was so quiet and hoarse that I hoped my words were intelligible.

    He delayed his response as if waiting for me to continue, "You haven't been eating much lately, Touko." I almost flinched when he said my name, just the way he said it made it feel like someone took a stab at my heart. Again he was right. I was too depressed to eat. Being locked in his room for days upon endless days, and the horrible nightmares that crept into my head at night added a whole new layer to the malaise I was feeling. I no longer had the desire to eat.

    "Are you alright?" He asked me, turning to look directly into my eyes. I pushed him back with a wall of emptiness, an unresponsive gesture.

    I wanted to shake my head, because I wasn't going to lie to him, but I couldn't move. N knew very well that I wasn't alright. I'm sure he had his suspicions about my nightmares without my having told him prior. I know he heard my cries at night and seen the tears streaming down my face while I slept, but he never brought it up. It made me wonder if perhaps he was waiting for me to do it. But I wasn't going to do that. I didn't want to tell him anything…

    "I'll do anything I can for you Touko." The sincerity in his voice made my heart ache and I couldn't suppress a flinch. I expected him to continue, to say something more, but right then he got up and left the room. I stood there for a moment after hearing the door close, and continued to sit by the windows until the moon rose and sky turned black. The smoke had become obscured by the dark night but the fires that burned in the world below were illuminated anew. N did not return.

    With drooping eyes and a heavy heart I got up from the windows and dragged myself back to bed. I collapsed on the covers in a heap, burying deep into the elegant and colourful fabrics of N's round bed. I had the crazy notion that if I dug down deep enough beneath the sheets then I would never wake up again. N returned before I could knock myself into slumber. But I was hoping that he wouldn't, because sometimes he doesn't, but luck didn't seem to be on my side. Instead I tried to feign slumber and pretend that I was asleep. Whether he bought it or not I'll never know. He seemed to ignore me as he pulled back the covers and crawled beneath the sheets. Well, of course, where else was I supposed to sleep? N only has one bed in his room so we sleep together. Neither of us were bothered by it so we figured it best to leave things as they were. I liked it better that way. The feeling of having another life right beside me as I slept alleviated the sadness that encompassed me so heavily. Without N there I probably would have been devoured by emptiness long ago. It was only a short while later that I really did pass out and fell into another sleep, right where the nightmares were waiting.

    I was on top of the world, hoisted up on the white-stoned platform which had already become drenched in blood. My heart jumped to my throat. Across the pedestal a man with wispy green hair, slicked back to his skull, laughed at me. My own shocked expression was reflected in the metal patch over his eye.

    "Ghetsis," I seethed angrily. I reached for my belt to draw out a Pokémon but my hand grabbed nothingness where I knew my Poke-balls were supposed to be. Again Ghetsis laughed. Beneath the clouds the winds raged in the forests thousands of feet down, tearing loose the fragile leaves and ripping them apart. In the ocean furious waves crashed against the mountains below, grabbing at the peaks, smashing the rocks like brittle bones. The world was crumbling.

    "Where are my Pokémon?" I demanded, startled at their absence.

    "Foolish girl, they're already dead," He mused spreading his arms out at length. In a flash the bodies of my team appeared over the platform, lifeless and still, torn with deep gashes and lacerations. My heart nearly stopped. My team… My Pokémon… they were all dead. I wanted to run to them, I wanted to help them, I wanted to do something-anything! But a crushing hand of sadness that broke my very bones left me immobile.

    Ghetsis laughed again as a large, three headed dragon arose behind him. "You've lost, little girl,"
    The lips of the beast began to shine brightly and I knew an attack was coming. I tried to speak, to choke out an attack or to call out a name. But nothing followed, nothing came. The last thing I saw before Ghetsis' dragon attacked was N's distant face staring at me solemnly from the end of the world. The crash came and I died.

    I could hear screaming bounding off the walls. It took me only a moment to realize that the source of the insane wailing was me. A pair of arms grabbed hold of my body and I lashed out in shock. I was unable to tell if the touch was a dream or reality.

    "Touko!" I heard someone shout and I realized a little too late that it was N who had called my name. I froze, letting him pull me into his arms away from the frigid despair of my dreams. I trembled in fear as he soothed me, the streaks of blood were still vivid in my mind as if even now they were coating the dim walls of N's room. But as he continually stroked my back, soothing me down, the blood faded, the laughter died and I broke down in tears. In response N pulled me close to his body setting up a refuge for my frailty. Shuttering sobs broke from of my lips and tears rolled down my pale cheeks. The memories of the nightmare had branded themselves inside of my head. No matter how hard I closed my eyes or how much I told myself that it was only a dream, the day I lost to Ghetsis continued to play endlessly in my head. That man's horrible laughter was my lullaby into another numb sleep.

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    Old December 1st, 2011 (1:53 PM). Edited December 1st, 2011 by icomeanon6.
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    icomeanon6 icomeanon6 is offline
    It's "I Come Anon"
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      Do I see that this is your first post? If no one else has done so, let me be the first to say Welcome to PC and the FF&W forum! And good news: this chapter makes a pretty good first impression in my opinion.

      I really like the idea of starting the story with the hero character losing the climactic showdown to save the world. I don't recall ever seeing that in a story around here, or anywhere else for that matter, so you get a gold star right off the bat. You've also done a good job of showing the effect the loss of the battle and more importantly the loss of her team has had on Touko. The opening dream did a good job of setting up her state for the rest of the chapter.

      Another thing I felt was done really well was the sense of scale for the settings. The description gave me a clear picture of both what the places looked like and especially how Touko reacted to them emotionally. The image of the extravagant, toy-filled, circular room miles above the rest of the world is a fascinating one.

      Also fascinating is your portrayal of N, but I'm still not sure how I feel about him overall. I haven't played Black or White, so I can't say much about what these characters should be like canonically, but your N's sheer creepy-man-child factor made me cringe. Having to share a bed with that weirdo for a month should be enough to give Touko nightmares, so she must be pretty shattered to actually prefer his company. Mind if I ask what their ages are? Or do I not want to know? o_o Anyway, his presence made the whole chapter pretty unsettling, and I'd say mostly for positive effect. Mostly.

      N-horrifyingness factor aside, my only real complain is that the writing feels a little unpolished throughout. The language and description are rich, but I think you could stand to give it another read-over for corrections and to smooth things out. For example, towards the end you have:

      Instead I tried to feign slumber and pretend that I was asleep.
      This is redundant. If she's feigning slumber, that means she's pretending to be asleep. Also, this sentence made set off my writing style alarm:

      His eyes were almost hidden under the brim of his black hat, but I still saw the sadness and regret emanating from those gray orbs.
      This is more my personal taste, but it goes against my grain when writers describe a character's eyes as "<color> orbs." It's kind of a red flag for purple prose (overly flowery writing), and I see it way too often. I'm not saying that your prose is purple, but it's something to be wary of.

      There were some grammar issues too, and I don't have time to dig into that, but here's one that a lot of people mess up and is hard to spot:

      His jaw was set and his lips were pressed tightly together, as if he was in pain.
      This is written as a hypothetical, so you need the subjunctive case: "as if he were." Now, since the story is in first person, it could just be that Touko doesn't have perfect grammar, but I recommend changing it.

      Little stumbles aside, I really enjoyed your first chapter. It's an intriguing beginning, and I'm looking forward to learning more about Touko and seeing what's going to happen to the world in the wake of the bad guy's victory. Nicely done!


      Forgot to mention: I'm assuming the three-headed dragon is Hydreigon, and it doesn't look to me like they have lips. I'd find another way to word that.
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      Old December 1st, 2011 (4:23 PM).
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      SuperTrainStationH SuperTrainStationH is offline
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        Easy on the eyes and nicely formatted.

        I read and made a bunch of notes, but then reached the bottom and found icomeanon6 already addressed most of my concerns.

        I like N in fiction because though we have a lot established about him, there's a lot to be left to the imagination, especially in this alternate scenario. How indoctrinated is he by Ghetsis's propaganda? And so on.

        I'll enjoy seeing how this will play out. To me, Black and White were the first Pokémon games where though I play knowing I was guaranteed to win, that within the context of that world, Team Plasma winning was a possibility characters took seriously.
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        Old December 1st, 2011 (7:28 PM). Edited December 4th, 2011 by Bay.
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        Bay Bay is offline
        Darkinium Z
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        All right first off, LOVE YOUR ICON! Greed 1.0 is quite awesome, LOL. Okay, with that out of my system, onto the review!

        That's right… my Pokémon died here at the top of the world. And I simply watched as it happened. I failed.
        Dang, that’s an intense line there I have to say.

        I seemed to have dark circles under my eyes almost constantly. I looked almost zombified, good thing I was too depressed to care about my appearance.
        Real quick I feel this line in a first person POV is a bit jarring as how would Touko, who is narrating the story, know how she looked like? Only way this would work is if she’s looking at a mirror or another reflection of some sort, but there was no mention of that.

        My expression turned bitter as I watched the smoke drift out over the sky.
        I also have to question how the main character know her expression is bitter if she can’t see herself pulling that expression. Maybe she lets out a bitter sound or is just feeling bitter in general?

        My own shocked expression was reflected in the metal patch over his eye.
        Now this is fine as you have Touko mention seeing her facial expression from Ghetsis’s metal patch.

        "Are you alright?" He asked me, turning to look directly into my eyes. I pushed him back with a wall of emptiness, an unresponsive gesture.
        Also real quick whenever you have the pronouns he or she in dialogue tag, the first letter has to be lowercase not uppercase, so "Are you alright?" he asked me, turning to look directly into my eyes would be correct.

        Yeah in short when writing in first person POV be careful how you describe the reactions of the characters and their expressions. If you have Touko narrating the story, it’s fine if you have her said, “A wicked grin pulled over N’s face” while not fine to but “A wicked grin pulled on my face” as Touko probably won’t be able to know how she was grinning.

        icomeanon6 already mention what I thought of the story so far. Very interesting you have Touko lose and the setting you have here is nicely developed so far. I also like how you keep the toys in N’s room as that’s part of his personality. I too didn’t get to play Black (or played much of it due to my DS Lite died >.<; ), but I’m aware more or less what had happened in the games and I always thought of N as a weird but interesting character, haha. Poor Touko with her nightmares. :<

        Overall, quite like the concept of this story already and can’t wait to read more of what is to come!

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        Old December 3rd, 2011 (2:09 PM).
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        OpenDoorLeia OpenDoorLeia is offline
        The Will of One
          Join Date: Nov 2011
          Gender: Female
          Nature: Lonely
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          Originally Posted by icomeanon6 View Post
          Do I see that this is your first post? If no one else has done so, let me be the first to say Welcome to PC and the FF&W forum! And good news: this chapter makes a pretty good first impression in my opinion.
          Thank you for your kind words, good sir. Out of all the sites I've posted this story on, I've gotten the best feedback from here.

          Mind if I ask what their ages are? Or do I not want to know? o_o Anyway, his presence made the whole chapter pretty unsettling, and I'd say mostly for positive effect. Mostly.
          I'm not really going to give away too much here, because you should probably let your imagination do the work here(Mwahaha). But Touko's defeat at Ghetsis's hands happened quite some time ago, and years have passed since that day, so she isn't necessarily a child any longer. And I'm glad you found N to be really creepy :D

          Now to Bay Alexson:

          All right first off, LOVE YOUR ICON! Greed 1.0 is quite awesome, LOL. Okay, with that out of my system, onto the review!
          I agree with your sentiments, Greed is such a boss >:D and let me say that I like your Mustang icon too! Full metal Alchemist is filled with great characters, now back to the point.

          I understand what your saying with Touko, unable to see her own reflection or face, probably wouldn't know what emotions were clear on her features. Though I think some people can have a grasp on what emotions they show by how they're feeling inside. But thanks for pointing this out because it put it in perspective for me, since most times Touko probably won't know what she looks like without a mirror of some sort.

          With all of that said and done, I thank everyone for their reviews so far and I hope you all continue to provide me with constructive feedback so that I can learn from my missteps and create better stories for you to enjoy. And now for an update!!
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          Old December 3rd, 2011 (2:14 PM).
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          OpenDoorLeia OpenDoorLeia is offline
          The Will of One
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            When I awoke the next morning N was gone. That put a damper on the brand new morning, but I was already used to it by now. I had grown accustomed to falling asleep in his arms only to wake up all alone the next morning. That's to be expected I guess, right? N is the king of Team Plasma, he has his duties to attend to. But whatever those may be I haven't a clue, since I never leave his room everything that goes on outside the walls of N's room is shrouded in mystery. All I can ever see is the dark smoke over the horizon and everything else is left to guesswork.

            I didn't have the heart to stumble out of bed so I just lay there like a lump, staring at the ceiling as if in a trance. The curving pillars of the room, the bones that supported the structure, crawled up the walls, onto the ceiling and united in a circle right above N's bed. There was some sort of ancient carving inside of this little circle; it seemed to tell a story no longer spoken by word. I lifted up my hand, tracing the lines of the carving above with my finger. Two figures stood below the sky, reaching out their hands to embrace arcs of black and white light. Towering above them, in this ancient illustration, was a massive Pokémon, some sort of great deity.

            "What was it…?" I mumbled to myself, hidden thoughts within my head suddenly broke from my lips. I wracked my brain, trying to figure out the carving and whatever story it was telling. I started to wonder about the origins of Team Plasma's castle. How long has this structure been around and who on earth created it?

            I flipped over onto my stomach, entangling myself further in the blankets of N's bed. I started to debate whether or not I should actually get up this morning. Though I'm not proud to say it, there were some days where I would throw a pillow over my head and submerge myself under the sheets, hibernating all day long. I know that's no way to be, but can you really blame me? I was locked in N's room all the time, overcome with choking depression, forsaken by the world. If those aren't good reasons to isolate yourself then I don't know what is. Because of my routine I would have thought that I'd put on a couple pounds, the opposite actually happened. That's because I never eat, well almost never. I don't have the desire to eat food anymore. If anything it's just something to do to occupy time. So I'd actually become skinnier, not emaciated by any means but my rib cage was sticking out.

            I debated for a while with myself before finally deciding to roll, very ungracefully, out of N's bed. The blood surged to my head when I stumbled up on my feet, the room started to go dim. Head rush. I gripped the sides of my skull until it subsided and then turned to the mirror at the side of the room.

            I looked rough, but no one really looks beautiful first thing in the morning. I knew I'd look worlds different when Anthea and Concordia got their hands on me. Since N is usually off somewhere, being a king, Anthea and Concordia are my caretakers. They're nice to me, don't get me wrong, I really enjoy their company. But for some reason they really love to dress me up in some of the most extravagant, over-the-top outfits that have ever been witnessed by human-

            There is was a sudden movement to my left, and I jumped in surprise. It was so quick, so small that I immediately doubt that I really saw it. It's just my paranoia again… I stare, with serious vigor, to where I could have sworn I saw something moving under the sheets of N's bed. Nothing moves, everything is still, and I swear I've gone insane.

            Chapter Two
            Consume the illusion (… and get ready to dance)

            With no movement following the one I could have sworn I'd seen, I give up and trudged over to the mirror where a small counter lay. I flopped down, picked up a brush, and made an attempt to smooth out the huge mass of hair on my head, with a polished wooden comb. I kept my gaze locked onto the sullen looking girl who stared straight at me through the reflective glass. I hated her and I hated that stupid distraught look she always wore. Why did I still look this way? Even though I was sure my spirits had lifted from last night, my expression still reflected absolute sadness. I tried not to linger on those thoughts.

            After my naturally wavy hair was as smooth as I could make it with a quick comb through, I made to get up and head over to the windows to stare blankly at the world. But right as I put down the brush I saw it again, right in the reflective glass, something was moving under N's bed! I was sure I'd seen it! I clambered up with the speed of a race horse, knocking my chair over with a loud clatter. I reached the bed where the lump was still moving. I was overjoyed that I hadn't gone insane, and that there really was something beneath the sheets. I wondered if N was still hiding there, but I quickly pushed that thought away, realizing how ridiculous it sounded. N had left very early in the morning and whatever was quivering beneath the bed sheets was much smaller than a person.

            I contemplated on what the creature could be, chewing on my lip as I thought. I was too weary to tear the sheets off just yet because all sorts of outlandish possibilities kept flooding into my mind. A whale-shark? Some ancient ghost inhabiting the castle? A super-natural tunnel leading to a world of never ending falling? Ghetsis? I hit myself on the forehead; I really was going crazy inside this room. Finally, after swallowing what fears I had I took firm hold of the bed sheets and tore them away.

            A small black dog-like Pokémon was huddled into a ball underneath the covers. It had a red-tipped wisp of fur on its head, which kind of looked like the end of a paintbrush. It was a Zorua.

            It looked up, and by the harsh glare it was giving me I could tell it was peeved at being woken up. I stared at it still as a statue trying to feign innocence. I didn't work. With the blankets still in my hands I looked incredibly guilty. It gave a small, annoyed yip before taking a dive straight into a bundle of purple blankets.

            "…Sorry…!" I whispered, throwing the sheets back over the bed. Walking away I started to wonder how that thing ended up getting inside N's room. Was there some sort of way out apart from the front door? Maybe a secret passage or some ventilation shaft I could crawl through? The question endlessly demanded my attention as I began to pace the room, poking my foot on one of N's toys. After giving much thought to the possibility of escape I decided to let the idea drop. I knew that I wouldn't be able to find out anything by simply pacing the room like a robot. And I certainly wasn't going to head back to N's bed to dig up that Zorua again, asking it how it had got in. It was angry enough at me last time I disturbed its sleep. Something told me that it would do more than just bark at me if I pestered it again.

            Sighing in defeat I stalked over to the far row of windows, nearly tripping over one of N's toy boxes on the way.

            The windows had a sort of outward curve to them just like the walls. Just sitting inside of N's room is kind of like being in a gigantic sphere. The design perplexed me so. After taking my seat, with my legs folded, I stared at the brightening landscape beyond. A pale white sun rose over a row of mountains in the distance. Dark clouds of smoke drifted out on the wind from where the fires burned last night. It was definitely early morning, but I'm not good on telling time by the sun's position, I was unsure. So I sat awaiting either Anthea and Concordia, or perhaps N to return – depending on what he has to do this morning. I decided that when he returned I would ask him about that Zorua.

            I waited for what seemed like quite a while, and the sun had definitely gotten higher. Eventually the door opened. I didn't react to it at first because the depression that lingered inside my body left me unresponsive and a bit slow-witted. But when I did turn around to meet the visitor I saw that it was N who had come back. His expression was definitely hard to read, per usual, but there was an intense seriousness in his gaze.

            Is something wrong? Did something happen? I thought in a vague sense of worry.

            My suspicions were thrown to the wind as he broke his serious stare with a huge ear-to-ear smile.

            "You're awake?" he asked.

            I waited for some witty remark to follow but it never came. He just stood there staring at me. He's a bit of a weirdo sometimes but I guess
            that's beside the point. I clambered up and sped towards him, dodging all the clutter at my feet on the way.

            "You have to see this!" I bleated taking hold of his arm and urging him toward the bed. "Look. Look. Look!" I couldn't spot the Zorua at first glance so I figured it was still sleeping under the covers somewhere. I dove into the blankets digging through them in search of that elusive little dog. Little did I know at the time but that Zorua had already left the concealment of the bed sheets and was standing behind me, right beside N.

            I continued to tear through the sheets like a mad man, not really caring how much of a mess I made. N's bed was usually a huge mess anyway. N spotted the Pokémon standing beside him and kneeled down to pet it, smiling the entire time, completely ignoring the spectacle I was making. He'd been oblivious to it! That Zorua, on the other hand seemed to relish in the foolish attempt I was making trying to find it. Only when it gave a snide barking, that actually sounded like a laugh, did I realize where it was.

            I pulled my head out of the bed sheets and whipped around. "Youuu!" I shrieked, pointing at it with an accusing finger.

            N smiled at me, "You've met Laika, then?"

            My finger dropped, "It's a girl?"

            He nodded at me while still stroking the Zorua's back.

            "How did it get in here? I'm sure it wasn't here a few days ago…" I stopped myself as a thought came up from the depths of my memory. I remembered someone telling me that Zorua is a Pokémon of illusion. I wondered if it was possible that Laika had been secretly residing in this room under my nose the entire time.

            "She gets in through the dog door over there," N told me, making a small gesture towards the oaken front door. "I make it so that she can come and go whenever she pleases."
            I stared stupidly at the dog door for a minute, wondering if I could squeeze through it somehow. Even though I had a very small figure, I knew there was no way I was getting through that dog door. Judging by its size I doubt that my head would be able to get through. Looks like that chance for escape is out, I huffed subconsciously.

            I turned back to N who was smiling contently as he scratched Laika behind her ears. N emanates an infectious atmosphere whenever he's with a Pokémon. Just looking at his joyous expression even had me smiling.

            "I hope you can be friends with her," he said finally standing up. Laika looked up disappointedly, upset that her ear massage had ended. "Breakfast is ready. I've come to get you."

            I didn't really notice how hungry I was until he made that comment. I hadn't eaten in a fair amount of time and the thought of food made my mouth water, and the aching in my stomach grow. I obliged. And without having Anthea and Concordia appear to clothe me into some extravagant outfit, I followed N to the dining room. The dining hall wasn't very far away from N's room. It was just out the door, down the hall and around the corner quite literally. Fitting with the rest of the castle, it was an extremely grandiose room, very long and rectangular. A table which resembled the room's length was the dominant feature of the area, taking up most of the space. The wallpaper was a slate-like gray. Columns, just like the ones in N's room, lined the walls like ribs joining together on the ceiling where a light hung down. In the space between each column was an expertly crafted painting depicting images of Team Plasma, Ghetsis and the Seven Sages or legendary Pokémon. Small tables rested against each of the four walls. A vase of flowers lay sleeping inside, providing a spring-like aroma to the room.

            The food had already been placed on the table before N and I arrived, so we were ready to eat. I headed straight to my end of the table and took a seat. N went over to his side opposite, grabbed his chair and dragged it back over to where I was sitting. It didn't take us long to establish that if he sat on one end of the table and I sat on the other, we would have to scream to each other if we would ever hope to have a conversation. Let me stress that this was quite a long table. So he always brought his seat over to mine and sat beside me on the adjacent side. Once we were seated and established, N started to offer me certain dishes of food. Well, he knew I didn't eat very much, so he tried to coax me to eat as best he could.

            "Try the ham and eggs!" "Touko, try some of this garlic bread." "Hey. Touko, try this sausage that looks like an octopus!"

            The food provided for us was so incredibly rich. All of it looked like it was made right from scratch. And when I say that, I mean it was all grown and harvested in the castle too. I knew there must be a green house around here some place…

            After I had eaten a decent amount, more than what I would usually eat, I noticed that N had become silent. He was looking down steadily, slowly twiddling his thumbs. I could tell by his body language that he wanted to tell me something and whatever it was… it was important. I stared at him for a minute with cheeks full of chewed food as I waited for him to begin.

            "Touko…" Even the tone of his voice was unreadable. I couldn't draw any sort of inkling to what he was about to say. "There's going to be a dance at the end of the week. It will be to commemorate Ghetsis's success. I was wondering if you'd like to come with me…"
            He spoke so quickly, as usual, that I almost didn't catch everything he said. But once he was finished talking I took my chance to swallow my food and simply stare at him.

            "A dance?"

            "Yes, but it will be a formal one…"

            "I can go?" I asked him in bewilderment. "I thought I was supposed to be a prisoner in this place! I mean…" I paused for a moment, letting the news sink in.

            "Ghetsis agreed to let you come. But you'll be heavily guarded and watched at all times…" he said, staring towards but not directly at me.

            I knew there'd be a catch. Even if I got to leave N's room and attend the dance, there would be no chance for escape if I was constantly being watched by Plasma guards.
            "You don't have to go if you don't want too," he said at length.

            I turned to look down at my empty plate, analyzing the food smears and crumbs while I thought it over. I couldn't look N in the eye while I mulled it over. Even if I was to be guarded and watched the opportunity for escape could still present itself before me, and I would be a fool not to take it. This was a chance that I couldn't risk passing up.

            However, before I could give an answer, N suddenly stood up. He matched my curious gaze with a smile. "You can think it over. You don't have to give me an answer right away. The dance is at the end of the week."
            And with that, he left me. Before I even had a chance to speak...


            Author Notes: I will never know the joy of eating a sausage octopus ;__;
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            Old December 5th, 2011 (4:51 PM).
            icomeanon6's Avatar
            icomeanon6 icomeanon6 is offline
            It's "I Come Anon"
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              That was a prompt update. :)

              Another interesting chapter, I'd say. Not as creepy or chilling as the first one, but that's to be expected. Now that you've got the reader hooked, you're toning things down a bit and turning Touko's attention towards escaping instead of just despairing. I found the little bits of humor funny, like when Touko is wondering just what could be under the bedsheets (you silly, insane girl; of course it's a pokemon! xD ). A bit of humor is a good thing to have in an otherwise dark story as long it's not so overboard that it clashes, and I think you've done fine in that regard. Though I still have no idea what the deal with the sausage octopus is. Is that a Gen 5 joke or something?

              At any rate, I'm glad to see that the plot is starting to move; first with Touko grasping at straws for possible escape routes, and then with the news of the dance, which I can just tell is going to be creepy-N-underage-romance-tastic. I kid; in fact, I think I'm starting to warm up to N. Like Touko seems to be doing. Maybe I'm going crazy, too.

              Anyway, being willfully ignorant of just about everything in Black and White, I'm also interested in learning more about that carving in the ceiling.

              One thing though that rubbed me the wrong way a bit was how Touko apparently eats in the dining room, after she had explicitly said at the beginning that she never leaves the room. She could have been using hyperbole, but the knowledge still jarred me away from the story for a bit once it was time for breakfast.

              Writing-wise this chapter felt cleaner to me than the last one, but there were some conspicuous cases of tense confusion.

              There is was a sudden movement to my left, and I jumped in surprise. It was so quick, so small that I immediately doubt that I really saw it. It's just my paranoia again… I stare, with serious vigor, to where I could have sworn I saw something moving under the sheets of N's bed. Nothing moves, everything is still, and I swear I've gone insane.
              Other than the "is was," It looks like you were changing your mind about which tense the paragraph was in partway through. I would change it all to be in past-tense like the rest of the story is.

              With no movement following the one I could have sworn I'd seen, I give up and trudged over to the mirror where a small counter lay.
              Same problem again. Make a note to be extra careful about that when you proofread.

              tl;dr: I'm continuing to enjoy this story, and I can't wait to see the dance and perhaps meet Ghetsis for the first time out of dream.
              Old, Janky Fics
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              Old December 5th, 2011 (10:39 PM).
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              Bay Bay is offline
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              I wondered if N was still hiding there, but I quickly pushed that thought away, realizing how ridiculous it sounded.
              Indeed it sounds ridiculous but still funny imagining that, LOL. It's even funnier when she it Ghetsis (GHETSIS?!) was under there. XD;

              "Hey. Touko, try this sausage that looks like an octopus!"
              I wouldn't know taste of that either, haha.

              Once again icomeanon6 pretty much summed up my thoughts on a chapter, haha. I do want to say though I too like that things are moving a bit and some humor being thrown in. *points to the quote I referenced* :P N and Touko's interactions I enjoyed a lot this chapter and looking forward to more of them warming up to one another. As for the news of the dance, looks like something big is gonna go down, like all stories that features dances. :P

              "Meowth are all right. They don't care who you are or anything."
              Foul Play [Chapter Six up!]
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              Old December 8th, 2011 (4:14 AM).
              Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
              Gone. May or may not return.
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                I've been meaning to look at this for a while (huh; that's the story of my entire online existence) but haven't got around to it until now. I'm glad I did, because my initial sense wasn't wrong: there's something good here, and even better, it has the potential to be more than good.

                The protagonist losing is an unexpected twist, and combined with the fact that the story actually starts after the battle to save the world has been fought and lost, it makes for a very interesting basis. Not much else I can say about that idea except to congratulate you for thinking it up.

                However, there are two major criticisms I can make of the story as it stands, and both are to do with writing style, and so are easily correctable. The first one is this:

                They're nice to me, don't get me wrong, I really enjoy their company.
                and this:

                There was something that had to perish to produce the smoke that tainted the sky, that's what made it so bitter-sweet.
                and this:

                I stood up not even bothering to toss the blankets back over the bed, it was usually a total mess anyway so I was indifferent.
                and at quite a few other points, too. They're all comma splices, the joining together of two sentences using a comma, and they're a very basic violation of written English. They're also a very easy mistake to correct: instead of using a comma, use a semicolon to join two discrete but related sentences together, and it magically becomes right.

                Next up is a more general point, to do with the way you describe things. icomeanon6 pointed out the 'gray orbs' bit as an indicator of purple prose; there are more instances, believe me. You apply way more adjectives and adverbs than are necessary to conjure up an image. Take this, for instance:

                With no movement following the one I could have sworn I'd seen, I give up and trudged over to the mirror where a small counter lay. I flopped down, picked up a brush, and made an attempt to smooth out the huge mass of hair on my head, with a polished wooden comb. I kept my gaze locked onto the sullen looking girl who stared straight at me through the reflective glass.
                Ignoring the fact that the comma after 'head' should be removed, there's quite a lot of superfluous description here. Touko is looking into a mirror, and I think it's safe to say that most of your readers will know what that is - you don't need to say it's 'reflective glass'. You could drop the 'polished' too, or even that whole clause, but that doesn't matter so much.

                Now, this isn't wrong exactly, but it does get a bit annoying to read after a while. So do the random changes between present and perfect tense, though of course that actually is incorrect, not merely irritating. That's actually the other reason I chose this paragraph to view in more detail - you do it there as well.

                Other than that, the description can be slightly awkward and even tedious at times - you have a tendency to dump it all in at once, like so:

                The dining hall wasn't very far away from N's room. It was just out the door, down the hall and around the corner quite literally. Fitting with the rest of the castle, it was an extremely grandiose room, very long and rectangular. A table which resembled the room's length was the dominant feature of the area, taking up most of the space. The wallpaper was a slate-like gray. Columns, just like the ones in N's room, lined the walls like ribs joining together on the ceiling where a light hung down. In the space between each column was an expertly crafted painting depicting images of Team Plasma, Ghetsis and the Seven Sages or legendary Pokémon. Small tables rested against each of the four walls. A vase of flowers lay sleeping inside, providing a spring-like aroma to the room.
                Detail is fine - Dickens did it, after all - but calling a room 'very long and rectangular' is a step too far; unless you say otherwise, most people will assume it was rectangular. The sentence describing the table essentially says the same thing three times: it's as long as the room, it's the biggest thing in the room, it uses the most floor space of anything in the room. It seems a rather awkward tautology.

                Aside from all this, I think it would read better if you showed the features of the room as you went along, rather than all at once at the start.

                Now I feel guilty for having snapped the metaphorical mast of your story's ship, but you have to believe me when I say it was still an enjoyable read, and easily in the higher-quality half of the collection of work on this forum. I just think it could be even better, that's all. Oh God I hate having to point out bad things people have done...


                For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
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                Old December 9th, 2011 (2:59 PM). Edited December 9th, 2011 by OpenDoorLeia.
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                OpenDoorLeia OpenDoorLeia is offline
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                  To Cutlerine: On the contrary, good sir. I'm glad you've brought these problems to my attention. Because as we all know; KNOWING IS GROWING! I encourage constructive criticism of all kinds; so I certainly don't mind if you rip my story apart. But I'm certainly glad that you've enjoyed what you read so far, and I hope that you continue to take pleasure in this story.
                  Anyway, commas are a weak point of mine, but I think that's just because I'm not too clear on how to use them. Good news is that I did a little research and I think I figured out where to put the buggers now, but please inform me if this problem persists in my writing.
                  Now for an update!!!
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                  Old December 9th, 2011 (3:01 PM). Edited December 9th, 2011 by OpenDoorLeia.
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                  OpenDoorLeia OpenDoorLeia is offline
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                    I decided to attend the dance N had told me about. It was a good opportunity for escape that I knew I couldn’t pass up. That and it would be great to get out of N’s room for a change. I could swear that I was going insane inside of these walls. As to how I was planning to escape; well I didn’t know that yet. N hadn’t given me very many details about the dance; other than the fact that it was to commemorate Ghetsis’s success and my failure. So my escape plan was going to have to be made on the spot; once I entered the dance hall and assessed the situation. I hoped that fate would smile upon me and I’d be able to find some instance to escape. I’m not an avid believer in karma or anything like that, but I figured it was about time something positive happened in my life. I had already suffered enough from my past failures. The sun really needed to start shining over me.

                    I didn’t see very much of N in the days leading up to the dance. In fact, I saw neither hide nor hair of him for days on end. Some nights he wouldn’t even return to his bed, and it left me wondering where he could be. N usually made it a point to come and see me at least once a day; even if I was an unresponsive zombie having him around was just nice. I tried asking Anthea and Concordia about it but they would only say, “Our lord N is very busy…” and not even bother to elaborate. N’s absence left me more and more depressed as the days rolled by. The only company I had in the long days leading up to the dance was Laika the Zorua, and she didn’t like me very much.

                    She would usually loiter around on N’s bed stealing my lounging area, and sleep away. She has assumed my role! Apart from being depressed that is. I didn’t feel like fighting with the little Pokémon about who’s sleeping area she stole, so I let her do whatever she pleased. It was one day; the day right before the dance that we reached a compromise. Laika was resting on N’s bed curled into a ball as usual, and I simply approached and climbed into the bed beside her. She didn’t bark at me or try to bite me. She just let me sit there as we lay on the resplendent sheets of N’s bed; staring at the ceiling absently. I believe we had a breakthrough that day.
                    It was when we were lying on N’s bed that I asked, “Laika? You’re an illusion Pokémon yes?”

                    She just stared at me through half-closed eyes. She probably knew what I was hinting at.

                    “Does that mean you can change into any Pokémon? ANY Pokémon?” I pressed.

                    She nodded and sighed in exasperation.

                    “Can you change into something for me?” I asked excitedly as I stared at her with hope filled eyes. Laika shook her head and turned away in refusal.

                    “Whaat? Why not…?” I asked; a wave of disappointment coming over me. Laika just ignored me, and I stared angrily at the back of her head her from behind the huge golden pillow I sat on. I was upset that she wouldn’t show me her ability… I was just curious.

                    N arrived shortly after; picking up on the hostile tension in the room the second he set foot inside.

                    “What’s going on…?” He asked approaching the bed.

                    “She won’t show me her ability…” I grumbled; clenching the same pillow even tighter to my chest.

                    N stared at me blankly for a minute before turning to Laika. But not before I thought I saw him flash a quick, almost amused smile.
                    “That’s not nice Laika…” N said to his Pokémon, “Can you please change into something for me?”

                    Laika agreed almost instantly with a quick bark; wagging her tail joyously. “What do you want her to change into?” N asked; smiling again.

                    I stared at him; numb with shock. I didn’t actually think that he’d persuade Laika to morph for me, and it caught me off guard.

                    “U-uhh… how about a Wailord!” I blurted; shouting the first thing that came to mind, and throwing my arms out wide.

                    Laika gave an annoyed bark. “Think smaller” N translated.

                    “Uuhm,” I put my finger to my lips in contemplation; my cheeks flushed.

                    “…A…a Tepig…?” I mumbled.

                    N looked at Laika with an expectant smile and she in turn, with a small puff of black smoke, morphed into a Tepig.

                    I stared at her; dumbstruck. She oinked at me; gloating in my shocked silence, and wagging her now spring-like tail.

                    “Ta-da! Pretty amazing, huh?” N said; seeming to love my shocked face as much as Laika did. My mouth slowly closed and I picked Laika up in my arms and stared directly at her with serious vigor. The illusion she had crafted was impeccable. Everything down to the smallest detail resembled a Tepig, and that just tore at my heart strings. N noticed the tears in my eyes and came to my side instantly.

                    “Touko… why are you crying…?” As if he didn’t know…

                    Chapter Three

                    Chaotic Waltz (…drink away your dark dreams)

                    The night of the dance had come quickly. I hadn’t seen N all day, but I was sure that he’d meet me in the dance hall later on in the night. He did invite me to come with him. I had no doubts that I’d see him there. Anthea and Concordia were in charge of my wardrobe for the dance and I expected them to dress me up in the most over the top outfit witnessed by human eyes. My mind went wild with all the outlandish possibilities. I envisioned a dress poofing out like a parachute covered in pink and blue ribbons; I imagined them crafting my hair in to a pretzel like design which stood erect like a tower. Thinking back on what they’d clothed me in before it didn’t seem too far fetched.

                    The reality, however, was actually very tame. They gave me a simple strapless black dress with a large white stripe running vertically down the center. It held tight to my slender figure until it reached my hips where it then fluttered out slightly ending right at my knees. They wrapped a gray sash tightly around my waist; which didn’t seem to have any other purpose than to squeeze my innards together. Thankfully, my hair was just as simple as my attire. It was put down; apart from some pieces that they tied up in the back of my head, so they wouldn’t obscure my face. A gray rose was placed on either side of my head; held there by a clip. I stole a quick feel to the flower and felt the soft, buttery petals. They were real. They weren’t made of plastic or some sort of fabric. This gray rose was authentic. I wondered if the colour of this flower artificially generated; I couldn’t remember ever seeing a gray rose before. They didn’t do much in the ways of make-up which sat well with me because I hated the stuff and hardly needed it anyway. I looked stunning in this get up.

                    We departed shortly after preparations were finished. Anthea and Concordia lead me down the castles grand hallways, and off to the fancy ball that awaited. The moon was already high in the night sky reflected through the dark framed windows. It cast deep shadows against the floor as we walked; extending our shadows and making us look like demons.

                    I was pretty nervous; I won’t lie. I wasn’t a horrible dancer, but there were going to be so many people around. And there was always the thought of running into Ghetsis during this ceremony, and that’s what I feared above everything else. I had to strike up a conversation between my guards as we walked; the silence was too unnerving.

                    “Are you two going to be guarding me during this dance?” I asked them.

                    Anthea nodded, “We will be your escorts.”

                    I couldn’t help but feel a bit relieved after that. If Anthea and Concordia were all I had to worry about in ways of security than I’d be laughing. Only when we reached the dance hall did I realize that the ballroom was loaded with Plasma Soldiers. They lined the walls, stood at the door ways, watched from the balconies; they were everywhere! Sure, Anthea and Concordia would be guarding me directly, but the security for the rest of the ball was so tight I figured tossing myself back into N’s room and throwing away the key would be a better alternative.

                    I clenched my fists knowing that I couldn’t give up that easily. Something unforeseen still might happen… right?

                    We were greeted at the door by the same Plasma guards that lined the walls like fence posts. They checked us over quickly; eyes analyzing under the deep black visors they wore over their faces. These guards were worlds different than the ones I used to take down by the thousands back before Ghetsis took over Unova. Their robust build and solemn composure filled me with utter fear whenever I lay eyes on them. These were Ghetsis’s soldiers and I knew they would not be trifled with. They would sooner kill me than watch my successful escape. It unnerved me. I knew I would have to deal with them somehow, but without having any Pokémon of my own I didn’t know how that was possible.

                    They passed us through the main doors and we entered the dance hall. And it was huge. Its ceiling stretched above so wide and vast that it almost felt like I was looking at the sky. The room glowed in golden colour, mostly because of the light wood floors and immense glass chandelier hanging overhead. It gave off a heavenly warmth that settled my heart just a little bit – I was pretty nervous. The guests already dominated the room; congregating in crowds and talking among small groups. There were people literally everywhere, and I shrunk back a bit. I wasn’t used to being around this many people. Their presence and the noise of so many bodies frightened me. As we walked in I noticed that every woman in the room was dressed in only white, while on the other hand all the men were dressed in nothing but black. I seemed to be the only person exempt from that rule with my dress of black, white and gray.

                    Anthea and Concordia lead me to one of the many large tables hugging the walls of the room, while the rest of the people paid us no mind and continued on either dancing or talking. I looked at the table behind me and saw that it was covered in rich, colourful food. The sight of it was just breath taking. I could only imagine the effort that was put into making every dish. I could even taste the effort put into the food’s creation as I snacked on a few cheese balls. Once I tried one I couldn’t stop myself, and I was soon shoveling them down. They were just so delicious I couldn’t help myself!!

                    Anthea and Concordia just stood beside me like statues while I sampled the delights. I could hear an orchestra providing the music for this ball off somewhere in the distance. But from where I was standing they seemed to be obscured by the crowd. The song suddenly shifted into a soaring waltz with an easy to dance to melody. I saw some couples grab each other and head to the dance floor; slowly swaying with the music as they went. I watched them with cheeks puffed full of cheese ball; feeling a bit jealous. They were just here to have fun… while I… I’m a prisoner in these walls… None of them would be dancing away to this chaotic waltz if I had won the battle against Ghetsis that day.

                    Because I’m imperfect they can have this dance, I thought bitterly.

                    I noticed Anthea and Concordia bowing while they stood beside me. I realized quickly that meant that either Ghetsis or N was standing behind me. And I just prayed for the latter.

                    “May I have this dance… Touko?”

                    I turned around with piles of cheese ball still stuffed in my face to find N standing there offering his hand to me. I swallowed hard and stared at him impishly. He looked amazing. He was dressed in a black suit with a white under shirt. A gray rose rested on his lapel. His hair, usually tied back, was put down letting it flow around him like a mane of fur. He also seemed to be exempt from the weird colour-code dress rule.

                    The enchanting mood was broken when he pointed to the corner of his mouth. “Food smudge!” He blurted.
                    I realized, not as quickly as I would have liked, that he was referring to the remnants of cheese ball still sticking to the corners of my mouth. I cheeks were ablaze with colour as I quickly rubbed my mouth with the back of my hand. “Let’s dance…” I grumbled; embarrassed.

                    He smiled took my hand and headed out to the dance floor. Upon reaching the dead centre of the room, he grabbed my right hand in his and wrapped the other around my waist. I responded by resting my one free hand on his shoulder. And together we swayed to the music. I won’t lie… it felt very stiff and awkward at first, and since he was so tall it was kind of hard to dance with him. But I had really missed N in his absence. And feeling his body right beside mine drove out the sadness and fear as it always had. I moved in closer and he responded in turn; not breaking the gaze we shared. We didn’t need to communicate through words; in this moment our eyes were enough.

                    “I missed you…” I said to him in a dance that, until this moment, had remained silent.

                    “I missed you too,” He responded quickly. My heart ached at the sincerity in his words. But after our words had been spoken and faded into the music… I didn’t know what else to say. We simply let the music carry us as we glided around the room; our bodies moving together in sync with the soaring orchestra. We moved together like the push and pull of the ocean’s waves; like a flurry of autumn leaves rushing upward by the wind’s breath. We dominated the dance floor. Thousands of eyes watched us. I could see looks of awe and envy scattered around the void of bodies. I myself felt as though I had been pulled into another world. It was ethereal.

                    It almost broke my heart when the music abruptly came to an end in a crisp staccato; N and I stopped with it. The crowd around us erupted in a roar of applause. N broke our gaze and addressed them all with a kingly wave, which was little more than just raising his hand in the air. I just stood beside him and watched them all applaud, since I wasn’t sure if I should address this cheering audience as well; with a curtsy perhaps. N turned back to me when the cheers had faded back down.

                    “Thank you for the dance, Touko,” He flashed me an honest smile before turning on his heel and walking straight into the crowd around us. Once I realized he was leaving I tried to make a move to stop him, but a certain gaze that caught my eye froze me into place like a poison. Ghetsis was looking down at me from a raised platform at the far end of the room. He sat on a massive throne on top of thick black pillows. The rest of the Seven Sages surrounded him on all sides, his throne however seemed to be most prominent. He was clothed in a prestigious robe which radiated his high position of power and importance. Golden rings hugged his knuckles as he clenched the arms of the throne.

                    I couldn’t move. My throat was sealed under his heavy gaze. Though he did no more than stare me down; Ghetsis’s eyes were paralyzing and freezing me into place. Flashbacks of my failure came rushing back. The blood, the cries of my defeated Pokémon, his wild laughter and N’s steady gaze as he watched it all transpire.

                    A gentle hand being placed on my bare shoulder snapped me out of my paralysis. I spun around to see Concordia standing there; ready to escort me back to my table. I cast one look back to where N had once been, but it was in vain. He had disappeared in the ocean of bodies around us all.

                    Why does he always have to disappear like this? I thought in sadness, Couldn’t he have stayed around just a bit longer?

                    I gave in and let Concordia lead me back to my table where Anthea was waiting. Anthea had brought over a small chair for me to rest in, and I thanked her with a faint smile. I flopped down and turned around to see the tray of cheese balls, which I had eaten most of prior, had now been refilled.
                    Great, I thought, now I have to eat all these too.


                    “Drink, Madame?” A waiter, out of the blue offered me a small drink resting on a silver platter. I didn’t remember asking for one but I hardly cared at that point; it meant a free drink for me either way.

                    “Sure,” I grumbled snatching it off the platter. I was a bit peeved at N for having left me here by my lonesome. And I decided to take out all my frustrations through consuming all the food and drink this place had to offer; it was a self destructive road. I took the drink and quite frankly gulped it down, which I immediately regretted. Whatever this drink was it was clearly alcoholic, and I was soon sputtering and coughing after downing nearly all of it in one gulp. Anthea grabbed my shoulders lightly and asked if I was okay, and after a violent coughing fit I was.

                    I held the drink out and examined it closely. It was clear, with a bit of an amber colour to it. I could tell by the small bubbles, and the burning in my throat, that it was carbonated. But the warm tingling that soon arose in my gut prompted me to finish the glass off, but at a much slower pace. It tasted kind of like a cider, it was sweet, but also had a horrible bitter aftertaste. Once I had finished it off I called another waiter over and asked for a second glass. I had found something else besides N’s embrace to drive away the dark dreams.

                    I turned to Anthea when I was half way through the second glass and asked her if I could go get some fresh air. I felt incredibly stifled for some reason; maybe it was the sea of bodies, or the alcohol creeping into my system; either way I needed to get outside. I was happy when she nodded and led me over to one of the many grand windows lining the far wall of the room. Each window stretched so high above our heads that it almost reached the ceiling. A small black-framed door, also made of glass, sat right at the bottom leading out to a high balcony far above the earth below. As expected the balcony was covered in Plasma guards. I gave them the faintest of glares as I stood by the window-like door, but they were unmoving, statuesque creatures. Even if no limb would stir I knew they were watching me. I could feel their eyes boring into my skin accompanied by the frigid wind that howled past.

                    The moon was bright out tonight; in fact it was the only light present in the sky. The stars, for whatever reason, were snuffed out by the darkness above. It made me sad.

                    “Anthea…?” I called her name but I heard no answer. I turned around in confusion to see that she wasn’t with me; she was inside the ballroom somewhere, though I could not see her through the window. I suppose she thought the guards would be enough to sustain me on the off chance I tried something wild. Honestly, I didn’t have it in me to try to escape tonight. The piercing look Ghetsis had given me brought back a rush of raw emotion I had felt during my loss to him. The old wounds had simply been reopened and my spirit had been crushed anew. I was just a girl who let the world fall… how could I ever hope to escape this place? I took another gulp of my drink as an icy wind blew by… man it was cold…

                    After my drink was long gone, and the wind had all but frozen my naked arms, N returned. My response to his arrival was delayed. I had fallen into a trance-like state with the moon, and when the door had opened I just assumed that Anthea had come back to collect me. I glanced back to see N standing there, almost right behind me, since I was still so close to the door. I had hardly even stepped out onto the balcony. He raised his hand dismissively and I only realized he wasn’t addressing me when the Plasma guards patrolling the area took off and headed inside.

                    He strode out into the cold night like some sort of ghost. His movements were so soft, and the moonlight defined him so sharply that he looked almost like a monster. I don’t know what I was thinking; maybe the alcohol was starting to get to me. He draped his arm over my shoulder and asked, “Aren’t you cold?”

                    I shrugged unresponsively.

                    “Let’s go sit by the railing together,” He offered; making to lead me over to the edge but I dug in my heels and refused to budge. He regarded me quizzically, “Is something wrong?”

                    I sort of pouted, “I don’t like… the heights…”

                    N stared at me with the blankest expression in the world.

                    I side glanced him; he really was making such a dumb face “Did you really forget about the scene I made when you tried to take me on the Ferris wheel?” It seemed like ages ago now…

                    N burst out laughing which sent me flying out of my skin, “That’s right! I’m sorry Touko, I’d forgotten about your fear of heights.” He led me over to one of the small tables set against the castles outer wall. I sat down and he took a seat right across from me.
                    “Is this better for you? We’re still pretty high up,” N looked at me wearily.

                    I shrugged, “Well as long as you don’t constantly remind me of how high we are.” I gave a small smile, “It’s okay if I’m…” I sniffled, “You know, looking out at something vast… like when I’m looking out of a window or something…”

                    He grinned, “But when you’re looking directly down to an unfathomable height?”

                    I glared at him, “Don’t bring it up I said!”

                    He raised his hands apologetically, but by the childish grin he was still wearing I could tell he liked messing with me. I turned back out to the view and sighed.

                    After a lengthy silence N spoke again, “Are you okay Touko?” I looked back towards him; not turning my head.
                    He was looking at me with concern. “You look a bit sad…”

                    I was hoping he wouldn’t ask that. Sure, I usually looked like a living corpse, but N never brought it up. On the rare occasions where he would ask these questions I would always dance around the answer; tell him I was just feeling sick or had a headache. I never went out and told him the truth. You know; that nightmares were haunting my waking hours and that I lived in an endless torpor. I figured he knew on a subconscious level even if he never talked to me about it.

                    But on this night when the moon was full and the alcohol had a choke hold on my feelings, I mumbled out, “…I miss my Pokémon…”
                    The look he wore once I said that was nearly heartbreaking. I tried to ignore it but his eyes were so sad, so intense that I had to slam my head on the table to try to break the gaze.

                    “They aren’t dead…”

                    I looked up in shock. N was staring directly at me. His face now composed; his emotions now locked up behind an unreadable visage. “Your Pokémon aren’t dead, Touko… Ghetsis has them locked up inside of the castle…”

                    I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “N!” I bleated, “You have to take me to…” He grabbed my hand, hard, and my voice cut out.
                    He was staring at me again with those smoldering eyes, “I can’t.” His voice was apologetic. “I wasn’t supposed to tell you about them, so please don’t say anything about it.”

                    I frowned at him; blinking away tears. I knew there was no use fighting him about this; I could already tell by his eyes that he wasn’t going to take me to my Pokémon. The only reason why he told me was to cheer me up. But was he telling the truth? To me it didn’t matter. After what he’d told me I was silently laughing and crying to myself just because I thought they were still alive. I was sure that they hated my guts, but they weren’t dead. N watched me with a sad smile; stroking the back of my frigid hand gently.

                    I wanted to thank N; at least for what he told me, but every time I tried to speak I kept choking on my tears and laughter. The alcohol was definitely kicking in and I was shivering like mad; N seemed to notice.
                    “Let’s go back inside Touko, I don’t want you to catch anything,” He smiled again; coming over and helping me up. Once my tears had dried we walked back into the dance hall together.

                    We were welcomed by the comfortable warmth filling the room when we reentered the dance hall. I sighed in relief as I felt the heat wash over my cold limbs; not realizing until now how utterly frigid it had been out there. I was sure to count myself lucky if I didn’t come down with the sniffles the next morning.

                    “Lord N. Your attendance is requested.” A member of the Seven Sages, not one I could identify by name, appeared from the crowd and approached us. N threw me an apologetic look; seeming to know what the sage wanted. I shrugged in defeat and let him go off. It wasn’t like I had any authority over him anyway. If he had to go then I knew I couldn’t stop him.

                    “I’m sorry Touko, I’ll see you back at our room later tonight,” He took off after the sage, but only stopped half way there to run back over and give me a parting kiss on the cheek. The feeling of his lips was so soft against my skin it was akin to the breath of the wind or a small drop of rain, and even after he had gone the feeling still lingered on my cheek; depressing me anew. I really hated such sadness. I couldn’t understand why it wouldn’t just leave be alone; even for just a small reprieve. But that’s the thing with despair, you know. Once it latches on it takes a lot of effort to try and tear it off… I would know. And even if you do manage to tear it off your body will still be torn up from the barbs.

                    Concordia came to retrieve me only a moment later. I cursed myself for my stupidity. In that small moment that I was left alone; I may have been able to slip away unnoticed in this crowded gala. But I tried not to ponder on that too much. The last thing I needed was to procrastinate about what could have been. So I let Concordia lead me back to my table where a whole mountain load of cider and cheese balls awaited; just waiting for me to gobble them all up. I decided to wreck myself.


                    About seven glasses of cider and an innumerable amount of cheese balls later that goal had been realized. I sat in my chair with my head lolled back as I stared drearily at the ceiling. A near empty glass of cider lay limp in my hand. The alcohol was finally kicking in and it was hitting me hard. This embarrassing little binge was my first time at really drinking some hard alcohol, and boy was I feeling it. I could hardly even remember where I was; let alone that N had told me my Pokémon were very much alive. Man… I was really wasted.

                    “Hey!” I hissed leaning over towards Anthea. “Where’s N!?” I tried to suppress a burst of laughter, failing, and make a fool of myself in the process. “Where…hehe…Where’s N!!!!???” I whispered again like it was some sort of big secret.

                    “Our lord N is very busy…” She began but I cut her off.

                    “WHAT!!!” I yelped, drawing the attention of a few passersby.

                    I shrunk back from there stares; looking at them like I’d fallen off my rocker.

                    I leant towards Anthea a second time, “But…” I almost broke down in another laughing fit. “He’s busy…!? But that’s what you allllwayyys tell me.” She stared at me blankly not seeming too care too much about how stupid I was acting.

                    “Like… you know what I think! You want to know where I think he is!? You want to…” I stifle laugh; tipping my drink over, and having it spill over the ground without even noticing.

                    “Miss Touko, please settle down,” Anthea said calmly.

                    “Shh!!” I shushed her, “Listen… imagine N with a mustache… can you imagine him with a green mustache” I tried to take another sip of my drink but became completely dumbfounded by the lack of liquid in the glass. “Where’d my drink go…hic?” I began to sway.

                    Anthea and Concordia shared a look and quickly decided that it was in my best interest to bring me back to N’s room. They grabbed hold of my arms, each on either side, and hauled me all the way back to his chambers and I didn’t make it easy for them. In my drunken state I could hardly even walk right without their assistance, and the trek back was filled with much stumbling and tripping. I felt so bad about it after the fact but Anthea and Concordia aren’t the type to hold a grudge. Still, both women remained patient and calm as they handled me. Eventually we returned to N’s chambers. Upon arrival I found myself laughing uncontrollably for no apparent reason. Even to this day I have no idea. I may have been laughing about the thought of N sporting a green mustache, but thinking of it now that’s more creepy than amusing. Laika was at her usual spot on the bed when we arrived. By the disgruntled looks I saw her giving me as I was escorted over; I could see that I had awoken her.

                    “Wait here for a moment Miss Touko,” I heard them say as they sat me on the bed, but my mind could hardly register their voices. I just stared at Laika with a stupid smile on my face and she looked at me uneasily.

                    “Hyle!!” I squawked at her. Laika cringed away; the potent smell of alcohol drifting from my mouth was clearly affecting her sensitive nose. “Hyle! What are you doing here?!” I questioned, stroking her head roughly. Laika looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. She was hardly as understanding as Anthea and Concordia were. She yipped angrily and ran off.

                    I reached out for her; falling over as I moved, “Don’t leaaaave!” I cried out but she ignored me. Anthea and Concordia came back shortly after with a change of clothes. They stripped me out of my dress and into a regular tank top and a pair of shorts.
                    “Please try to get some sleep, Miss Touko,” Concordia said as she made for the door.

                    I flopped back in the bed; the pressure in my head getting the better of me. “You’re leaving?” I asked sadly.

                    “Please try to sleep,” They repeated again before finally heading out the door and leaving me to my own devices.

                    After they had gone I continued to lie on the bed; silently laughing to myself about who knows what. Laika, having distanced herself from me, cast confused glances my way from her spot on a mound of pillows. She had no idea why I was laughing, and you know neither do I! Eventually I grew tired and fell into a numb sleep. Anthea and Concordia’s words echoed endlessly through the confines of my head as the world grew dim.

                    Please try to sleep

                    The world became fuzzy and warped as my eyes slowly slammed shut.


                    A few hours later I awoke in a cold sweat; my body ablaze with fever. Even though I was under the blankets of N’s bed, encompassed by heat; I was trembling like mad and sweating buckets. A sharp pain erupted in my abdomen, and a sickening gurgle followed. Those cheese balls and all that alcohol wasn’t sitting well inside of my body. I could feel it turning and swishing around. I could taste the sick bitterness of cider and cheese crawling up the back of my throat. I knew it wasn’t going to stay down there for long.

                    So I wouldn’t tarnish the elegant fabrics of N’s bed; I made an attempt to crawl over to the bathroom. I rolled off the bed; hitting the icy tile below with a muffled crash which seemed so much louder in my ringing ears. The temperature drop made it feel like I had fallen under cold ice.

                    “L-Laika…” I croaked. She was at my side in an instant; realizing something was wrong. The Zorua barked in concern.

                    “I feel… like I’m going to throw up…” A sickly gurgling in my stomach confirmed my fears.

                    ****… I thought, I really over did it with the cheese balls.

                    I crawled along the floor on hands and knees towards the bathroom door. My body shivering with every move I made; the gurgling in my stomach turning into a sharp ache. Upon reaching the bathroom I latched onto the marble counter and pulled myself up on my feet. The lights flickered on; powered up by the signs of my movement, and my face was illuminated in the mirror.
                    Although I wished it wasn’t. I looked wretched. My eyes were wet and bloodshot with dark shadows encircling the lids. My skin had become sickly white and my hair sprawled down on all sides of me making me look like some sort of medusa. I didn’t have time to look long because I was quickly hit with a feeling of vertigo. I flung myself towards the toilet and made it just in time to dispel the waste in my stomach. It left a searing burn in my throat after it had forced its way out.

                    Laika came to the door; whining in worry. She watched me impishly as I dispelled the bile; sputtering and coughing as I went. During a small reprieve I reached up a trembling hand and flushed the toilet; trying my hardest not to look at was inside.

                    “Lai…ka…” I burst into another coughing fit. Laika dashed over from her spot in the doorway and yipped questioningly.

                    “I need… help…” I choked out, “Get… Concordia… Anthe… N… anyone,” I clenched onto the toilet rim tightly; trying to suppress another wave of vomit. “Please…”

                    Without another word Laika was off; dashing through the door and out the dog flap at the main entrance. My vision darkened and my sight began to blur. I leant over the toilet again as another wave of vomit came rushing up my throat.

                    [Third Person Point of View. Start.]

                    Laika sped silently through the empty halls of the castle, which were so vast and large she seemed like a ball of dust in comparison. She blended in well with the deep shadows cast by the moon. If there’d been a soul about at this dead hour of the night no one would be able to spot her passage.

                    Laika had set out to find N. She had a pretty good idea of where he might be if not inside of his own room, and that was in the throne room. Laika had hopes that he was still there now; considering that the dance ball had more than likely come to an end. Along the way Laika realized that N was not in fact in his throne room. He was with Ghetsis instead.

                    She discovered this when she passed the doorway to Ghetsis’ study; slightly left ajar, and noticed them talking.
                    “The dance to commemorate the success of my victory went quite well,” Ghetsis was saying from behind a large wooden desk at the far side of the room. N stood before it; staring at him with an unreadable expression.

                    “Even that little girl, who thought that she could save the world, seems to have been broken,” He laughed.

                    “I’m not sure she’s given up yet,” N replied.

                    Ghetsis snorted, “Give it another year or so and she’ll soon waste away. She’ll just sit in that tower and watch helplessly as the world is slowly reformed in my image!” He took a sip from a glass of red liquid he was holding which was presumably wine.

                    A silence lingered.

                    “You’re wrong Ghetsis,” N spoke up and Ghetsis froze.

                    “Did you speak?” He seethed.

                    “Touko won’t lose hope. No matter how many years go by. She has a bond with her Pokémon that won’t be broken, no matter how dark the earth becomes. She can…” N was about to continue, but was sharply cut off by a fist smashing into his face.
                    Laika, still watching at the doorway, turned away in shock as his body hit the ground with a crash.

                    “Silence, you wretched boy! Must I remind you that the only reason that girl is still alive is because I feel I must humor you.” Ghetsis stood tall above N’s fallen figure. N looked away; avoiding all eye contact with him. “If you disobey me, and continue to go on about such nonsense then she really won’t make it through the year.”

                    A horrible silence followed Ghetsis’ piercing words; the weight of the soundless air pressing heavily against those silent in the room.
                    “Get out of my sight…” Ghetsis spat. N pulled himself up immediately and headed for the door. Once he had entered the hallway it slammed angrily behind him. A curtain of hair fell over his face; obscuring any expression that he may have worn. Laika’s soft winning got his attention and caused him to look down.

                    “Laika? What are you doing here?” He asked kneeling down.

                    She continued to whimper, “Oh… you saw? Don’t worry about it… I’m okay,” N said trying discreetly to wipe the stream of blood from his lips. Laika wasn’t completely convinced but she knew questioning further would get her nowhere. So she hurriedly informed N about Touko’s poor condition.

                    “What? What happened to Touko?” Rather than sitting there and explaining it to him Laika sped off down the hall and N followed behind her.

                    When they re-entered the room Touko was nowhere to be seen. “Touko?” N called walking quickly to the dimly lit bathroom but
                    stopped mid-step when he saw the sheets of his bed quiver. “Touko?!” He dashed to the side of the bed and gently pealed the covers away from the face of the girl.

                    [Third Person POV. END]

                    I winced; turning away from him. I didn’t want him to see the mess I’d made of myself.

                    “What on earth happened to you?” He asked, pressing a cool hand against my forehead.

                    I didn’t respond. I wasn’t going to tell him about the results of my binge on alcohol and food.

                    “Hold on for a minute,” He left the bed only to be replaced by Laika who came over and softly licked my cheek. I smiled at her gratefully; as if saying thanks. She got the message and yipped a ‘you’re welcome’. N reappeared with a cloth, damp with cold water. He dabbed it over my face before laying it down over my forehead.

                    “I’m going to open some windows…” He said; disappearing again. I heard a click and the whine of hinges being moved followed by a cool breeze wafting into the room. He came back over to the bed again.

                    “Are you feeling better?”

                    I nodded softly; feeling the pull of sleep come over me.

                    “Thank…” I tried to say but my throat was too dry to continue.

                    “It’s alright,” He said clasping my hand in his, “I’ll be with you all night. I won’t leave you Touko.”

                    I was so tired, but for some reason I just couldn’t pass out. Even with N beside me calming my nerves; I still couldn’t doze off. After a while of silence N spoke again.

                    “Do you hate me Touko?” His voice was so soft that I hardly even heard him.

                    “Wha?” I found speaking rather difficult, “Why would I ever hate you? You’re my best friend.” Even after the huge vomiting fit I had; the alcohol hadn’t been completely cleaned out of my system. I was still slurring all over the place.

                    “You’re drunk aren’t you?” N smiled at me in pity, “I should have told Anthea and Concordia to keep you away from the alcohol…” He stared absentmindedly at the ceiling; still grasping my hand securely.

                    “I’m sorry I’ve made you so sad…” He almost sounded like he was crying, but I couldn’t hear the undertones in his voice as I crawled over him; using his lap as a pillow.

                    “We’re best friends…you and me…hehe,” I could hardly keep my eyelids open; I was finally about to pass out.

                    “You could never make me sad, N. We’re best friends…” I moved onto my back; giving him the biggest, stupidest smile ever and he smiled back.

                    “Thank you…Touko. Please go to sleep,”

                    I tried to keep smiling as long as I could before I was knocked out. I was so stupid I couldn’t even see it. I couldn’t even see the streams of tears running down N’s bruised cheek. I passed out.


                    Next Time: STUFF HAPPENS. And it's probably not the kind of stuff you're thinking of.
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                      #12   Link to this post, but load the entire thread.  
                    Old December 9th, 2011 (9:33 PM). Edited December 11th, 2011 by Bay.
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                    Bay Bay is offline
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                    I thought the first part with Touko and Laika was very cute. I expected the Zoura to only listen to N, lol. I had an idea though as to why Touko was heartbroken upon seeing Laika transformed into Tepig. Poor her. :<

                    I’m a bit curious over the gray rose and wonder if that mention will be important later on in the story. I could be wrong, though. LOL The dance between N and Touko is quite lovely and also like their interaction at the railing. Interesting that Touko’s Pokemon are still alive. I actually do believe N might help Touko get her Pokemon back, so hopefully that will happen.

                    I admit I feel sorry for Touko for not feeling well, but that's what she gets for drinking and eating too much. :/ I want to say though I find it distracting you put the third person pov part and have the label there too as you had the story in first person POV. Felt weird to me the POVs switched for a bit. I thought that scene shed some light over why Ghetsis kept Touko alive, though. If you still insist that scene is needed, maybe take out the third person pov labels and have that part italicized?

                    One grammar problem I want to mention real quick is I keep seeing you mixing up using semi colons instead of commas. For instance:

                    Though he did no more than stare me down; Ghetsis’s eyes were paralyzing and freezing me into place.
                    The semi colon here used is wrong. Semi colons are used to connect two independent but related sentences together. For this part the comma is suppose to be there instead of the semi colon.

                    I do see a couple instances where you used the semi colon right. An example:

                    I wondered if the colour of this flower artificially generated; I couldn’t remember ever seeing a gray rose before.
                    Here you have the semi colon placed right as those two sentences are independent but related to one another. I hope I explained this right, otherwise someone who is better at grammar than me can tell you more about semi-colons. ^^;

                    Overall I enjoyed this chapter a lot and can't wait to see more stuff happening!

                    "Meowth are all right. They don't care who you are or anything."
                    Foul Play [Chapter Six up!]
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                      #13   Link to this post, but load the entire thread.  
                    Old December 10th, 2011 (9:10 PM).
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                    icomeanon6 icomeanon6 is offline
                    It's "I Come Anon"
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                      And now it is my turn to say that I mostly agree with Bay. :P

                      The best part of the chapter for me was definitely Laika's Tepig illusion. Truth be told, I felt like crying (didn't though. guess you'll have to try harder). It was a wonderfully subtle way of illustrating the source of Touko's sorrow. When I first looked it over, I was all "Well, someone's getting awfully emotional at the sight of a pig," then I remembered that Tepig is the Gen V fire starter (always the most popular starter), and then I was like "Oh my God, that's awful." That segment packed a heavy emotional punch, very well done.

                      And like Bay, I thought the dance was well done. The whole black/white theme was neat, but I wonder if Touko was missing the point in regards to her dress and N's attire. She describes herself and him as being "exempt from the rules," but it's more like they're a special case within the rules. I've read up a bit on the Gen V story, so I get the impression that you're trying to convey that N and Touko are going to play some important role in regards to the bridge/connection/relationship between pokemon and humans. Or I could be totally wrong; don't tell me, just keep writing. :D

                      And yeah, Bay's right about the whole It's 3rd person now, guys! thing. Putting the section in italics would definitely be better. Actually, what would be really neat but also really challenging would be if you had that part be in Laika's 1st person (1st pokemon?) perspective.

                      It's finals season and I don't have the energy to delve into grammar right now, but I think I recall some instances of sentences without proper verbs, and maybe one with too many. You got this chapter up awfully fast, so I'd recommend taking more time to proofread. And Bay's right about the semi-colon thing.

                      Another fine chapter, and I can't wait to see what "STUFF" will happen next time. You say it's probably not the kind of stuff we're thinking of, and since I definitely wasn't thinking about sick and illegal activity between Touko and N, I'm now suspicious. You monster! >:|
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                      Old December 16th, 2011 (7:37 PM).
                      OpenDoorLeia's Avatar
                      OpenDoorLeia OpenDoorLeia is offline
                      The Will of One
                        Join Date: Nov 2011
                        Gender: Female
                        Nature: Lonely
                        Posts: 17
                        After the maelstrom of petals had ended, Ghetsis's Seismitoad crashed to the ground in a motionless heap. Its moist skin covered head to foot in lacerations which poured blood onto the black-tiled floors.

                        That was too close, I thought as my heart thrummed wildly in my chest, and sweat beat down my face.

                        Ghetsis, casting a disappointed look towards his fallen Pokémon, returned the Seismitoad to the confinement of its ball before drawing out his next choice.

                        "Get ready for this Ophelia!" I shouted to my Pokémon; bracing myself for whatever came next. A Bouffalant was our next adversary. I grit my teeth hard. Neither side had a huge type advantage against the other, but Ophelia had taken serious damage from that last Pokémon. My Pokémon's low health could be the deciding factor if I didn't act quickly.
                        "Use Teeter Dance Ophelia!" I shouted; hoping for success.

                        Ophelia spread out the leaves on her body; rocking back and forth rhythmically as a high-pitched humming sound bounded off the walls of the throne room. In response to the confusing move produced by my Pokémon, Ghetsis's Bouffalant began to wobble on its hooves; barely managing to stand up straight.

                        Yes! We just might take this one down! Or at least… that's what I thought.

                        "Bouffalant. Use Head Charge," Ghetsis commanded in an eerily still voice.

                        A gleam in Bouffalant's eyes signified its oncoming attack. With a crushing realization it donned on me that it had snapped out of confusion. I had not a moment to cry out my Pokémon's name as she was torn down before me; falling to a still heap over the crimson-stained tile.

                        "R-return!" I shouted, sealing my unconscious Pokémon back in her ball.

                        I wanted to heal her but I was fresh out of medicine, which meant that this was a do-or-die battle; a fight to the death. I couldn't afford to lose anymore Pokémon.

                        I looked up at my opponents with a look of determination that I hoped overshadowed the pit of nervousness growing in my gut. Ghetsis stood across from me with an unreadable look of malice spread over his aging face. His Bouffalant scraped the ground angrily with its raw hooves; snorting, and slashing its horns through the air with a shake of its afro-like mane. The two of them were ready to destroy anything that I would throw out, and it killed me.

                        No. I won't lose here!
                        "Hyle! Let's go!" I shouted; releasing my next Pokémon. Hyle launched out. Fire spewed from his nostrils as he hit the floor with a crash; sending shards of black tile flying through the air.

                        "Let's do this! Brick Break!" Hyle brought his fists up, kicked off from the ground, and sped straight towards Ghetsis's Bouffalant.

                        "Head Charge! One more time!" Ghetsis roared and the two Pokémon met in a blinding crash. Both attacks struck simultaneously knocking our Pokémon into unconsciousness. We called our fallen monsters back to their balls; reaching towards our belts to call out our next fighter.

                        "Eelektross, Go!" The air crackled with static as a long, green, eel-like Pokémon slithered out over the platform on Ghetsis' side.

                        "Go, Terra!" My Pokémon landed on the ground, jittering her body from side to side; ready for battle. Both of our fighters were electric types; apart from mine having the secondary typing of 'bug'. Neither side had a huge advantage over the other, though I figured if I played this right I would be able to finish his Eelektross off without heavy injury on my part.

                        The last thing I expected was the jaws of my opponent to ignite with flame and burn my Terra down into unconsciousness. Eelektross had used flamethrower, and unfortunately for me that meant my Pokémon's destruction. She was taken down without even landing a single hit.

                        My legs began to tremble. The small crack of nervousness which clung unto my heart had spread into a fissure of despair, and I was teetering over the edge. My Pokémon were being slaughtered before me and I was helpless to stop it. I couldn't do anything!

                        It wasn't over yet; I realized that. My Pokémon had not given up; they weren't through yet. The determination they had was infectious in me. It rekindled my desire to win; to save this world. I managed to hold onto my sanity, just barely, and continue this vicious battle.

                        I won't let it end like this!

                        "Hana! You're up next!" I shouted; throwing out my next Pokémon. Hana was at a type disadvantage, being part water, but I hoped that she would hang on long enough to land a hit.


                        "Wild Charge!" Ghetsis ordered. The air blazed with electric current as his Eelektross lashed out like a snake. Hana was hit hard and she recoiled backward. That attack had hit a lot harder than I'd anticipated.

                        Ghetsis burst with laughter, "Pathetic girl! Did you really think you could win against me?!"

                        I smirked under the brim of my hat.

                        Ghetsis was confused by my expression, "You find the destruction of your comrades amusing? Or have you simply gone mad with despair?"

                        "It's not over yet Ghetsis!" I shouted as Hana picked herself up. Her ability, sturdy, had kept her alive, but just.

                        Ghetsis scoffed; I could tell by his look that he wasn't expecting Hana to survive that attack, "You still won't win!"

                        "Hana! Use Aqua Tail!" A wave of water erupted forth from my Pokémon. Massive waves washed over his Pokémon, one after the other; each one drawing it deeper into the blue, choking out its air and drowning it further. I hadn't expected it to survive that attack, and that's probably why my response was delayed when his Pokémon burst through the waves and landed a heavy Wild Charge on us.

                        Hana was finished. Fragments of her broken shell clattered against the floor; falling motionless by my feet. With a trembling hand I returned her to her Pokéball.

                        The fear inside was growing stronger, and I was trying my best to conceal it. But by the constant sneers Ghetsis was giving me, I was sure he'd seen through my façade. He knew I was breaking and he was relishing in my ill concealed torment. But he had every right to. Ghetsis still had four Pokémon at his disposal while I was only holding on to two. He was practically glowing with overconfidence.

                        Things weren't looking good but I wasn't going to give up! No. Not until my last Pokémon falls and I fall with it.

                        How naïve.

                        I called out my iron knight, Luca, as my next fighter. He was a tough one who had really helped me out with the Elite Four. As long as Ghetsis didn't have any fighting-type Pokémon I was sure we'd be fine. "Let's finish it with stone edge!"

                        With luck the attack was just enough to finish Ghetsis's Eelektross off; finishing the job Hana had started. Eelektross lay motionless upon the floor; its twisting body was ripped apart by the projectile stones Luca had unleashed.

                        I stared at Ghetsis hard; hoping that he would falter once I displayed that I too could put up a good fight. I could tear his Pokémon down just like he did to me. But did my attempts have the same results?

                        I stared from his lifeless Pokémon right up into his eyes. I was shocked to see not a flicker of fear cross his scarlet eyes; not a trickle of doubt nor a sign that he would waver. He was as immovable as a mountain itself.

                        Ghetsis glowered, "You think you've won?"

                        A great unease began to build in the air. My Pokémon braced itself against the pressure. Something big was coming and we could both feel it.

                        "Go. Hydreigon," With a mighty flash a great three-headed dragon was released. Its body, a mix of black, midnight blue and purple, stretched high into the marble ceiling. The beast growled horribly from the back of its trinity of throats; gnashing its teeth in the air as if anxious for our flesh. It was a dragon of darkness.

                        Luca stared at it hard, bringing up a stance; preparing himself for any attack it might launch at us. The icy feeling of despair had come up to my lungs. I could hardly breathe under the pressure.

                        "Hydreigon. Use Focus Blast." Ghetsis' words rang out clear as a bell; as if it was the only sound in the world.

                        "L-Luca! Stone Edge!" But it was too late. The Focus Blast hit hard; smashing into my Pokémon and crushing my iron knight like a bug. It was a critical hit. Shrapnel from its broken armor scattered across the floor with a metallic clatter. I watched him lie there, blood seeping through the cracks in his broken body as my eyes became wet with tears.

                        "L-Luca?" I squeaked out its name, but the only response I heard was Ghetsis' wild laughter.

                        I brought up a shaking hand; returning my motionless Pokémon back into its ball. One more. I only had one more left.

                        …I won't give up…

                        "Rhoden! Go!" My great eagle-like Pokémon launched into the air like a torpedo; soaring around the room once before coming in front of me; beating his massive wings threateningly. Rhoden was always a brave one and didn't falter under the pressure and fear that Hydreigon radiated. On the other hand I was teetering over the edge of madness.
                        This was it. If Rhoden fainted it was all over. So many things could go wrong, and even then my mind flooded with all the horrible outcomes that could transpire. My next attack could miss, Ghetsis could get another critical, maybe Hydreigon was immune, and even if it wasn't another one of Ghetsis's three Pokémon could know any electric and rock moves that could knock Rhoden out.

                        Despite all the odds stacked against me I managed to cling onto my sanity and call out an attack.

                        "Crush Claw!" I shouted; hoping for a miracle. A critical hit perhaps? Maybe Hydreigon's next attack would miss.

                        Please… Please… it can't end like this…

                        Rhoden raised its talons and brought them down with all its force against Ghetsis's Pokémon. Hydriegon reeled back smashing into the floor behind Ghetsis. I looked up in shock. Rhoden had knocked it down! A glimmer of hope ran through me.

                        We'll win…!

                        "It's over…" Ghetsis said. I stared at him blankly because I knew he was right. On a subconscious level I could feel the terminus seeping in.

                        "Hydreigon, use Dragon Pulse."

                        The great serpentine creature raised its body up; a bright glow reverberating from the maws of its three heads. The attack hit and it was over in a flash. Rhoden was knocked out in one hit; being struck back so violently he was whipped into a column supporting the castle's roof. A dead silence followed as the smoke slowly cleared. The lifeless body of my last Pokémon fell in a heap behind me, and my mind shattered. I fell off into a gorge of despair.

                        "It's over." Ghetsis concluded; returning his Hydreigon back into its ball. I collapsed to my knees in the pool of blood my Pokémon had left behind.

                        "Restrain her, now!" Ghetsis called out to what I guessed were his soldiers… but I couldn't see. I could hardly register anything. The only thing that made sense in my shattered mind was the fact that I failed. I lost to Ghetsis.

                        I looked up hopefully towards the one person in the world who could change this turn of events; to the only hero left. I found N standing there solemnly right behind Ghetsis; watching me with hollow gray eyes. I reached a desperate hand out; begging for his help.
                        My heart shattered as he turned his back on me and the malaise took hold of my heart. While my mind crumbled inward, my Pokémon were stripped from my belt and taken away. Where? I don't know. Are they even alive? Despite what N told me at the ball I could never be certain. Judging by the wounds they received during the battle I wouldn't have been surprised if they died right on the spot.

                        I do know for certain that I was weak. I failed myself that day. I failed my team, and I failed the world which now burns because of me.

                        Chapter Four
                        Breaking Out [Part One] (…the white princess escapes)

                        I awoke the next morning to find myself buried deep in the confines of N's bed; wrapped up like a cocoon under sheets upon sheets of colourful velvet. The only thing that seemed to remain from my 'alcohol experience' the night prior was a dull headache which pulsated through my skull. The head pain was probably the only reason why I didn't just sleep for the rest of the day, but I was distraught by this headache and was, unfortunately, unable to pass out again. It was probably a good thing in a way, because the worst thing for my body would be to sleep and laze about all day. Regardless, I was fortunate to come out of that ordeal with only a migraine to show for it. I know it could have been much worse and I made a promise to avoid drinking like that ever again.

                        I squirmed out of the tepid sheets out into the morning light which beamed right into my eyes.

                        Great, just what my head needs. I squinted hard; trying to pick out figures through my blurred vision.

                        Everything came into focus soon enough and I noticed Laika perched at the foot of the bed. She was turned away looking out over the room, but I could hardly see her through the horrible glare that beamed in through windows. I crawled over; still groggy from sleep deprivation plus the hangover, and flopped down beside her. She barked a 'hello' and I responded by giving her a quick scratch behind the ear, which I could tell she enjoyed by the huge smile on her face.

                        A sharp clicking sound caught my attention; causing me to jolt up in shock. I scanned the room until I found the source of the noise, and it came as a shock. I was completely dumbfounded by the state of N's room. The sections of toy train rails which once scattered the floor in lonely clumps had now been assembled forming a twisting and winding path all throughout the room.

                        "Whoa," I breathed, unable to take my eyes of the sight. Pushing the feelings of awe aside, at least for a brief moment, I tried to locate the assembler of the tracks. My eyes darted around quickly until they located him, and it didn't take long to spot him. N was sitting near the edge of the room; continuing his meticulous goal of bringing the tracks together. A small click sounded from where he joined the toy rails. He was turned away and I couldn't see his face.

                        "N… What are you doing?" I called out to him but there was no response.

                        "He did all this?" I turned to Laika for some answers, but because of the language barrier she simply nodded. She couldn't explain to me what kind of reason N had to suddenly put all these train tracks together. And it made me wonder why he had decided to build a huge train station all over the room in the first place. Not that I was complaining; it was better that the rails were assembled opposed to laying out over the room where they were sure to stab into my feet. But what was the reason? Was he just taking a break from his strenuous kingly routine just to have a little bit of fun? It seemed like the only sensible reason. Either that or he'd gone crazy.

                        Laika and I watched him for a bit as he slowly assembled the tracks; spreading them out like veins across the black tiled floor. He built the path around colourful pillows that probably looked like hills and mountains in the toy's eyes. It even went around the bed in a round-a-bout sort of way. At one point, N changed the path of the tracks to wind around the circumference of the room. When he had reached the row of windows I thought of a brilliant idea.

                        "Hey, Laika," I nudged her after a long silence. She looked up with a faint curiosity. "Let's go dig up one of N's trains and put it on the track! I want to see what it looks like moving along this thing!" I hopped up from the bed and headed towards the nearest toy box in sight. Laika followed behind, whether she was genuinely interested or just humoring me, I'll never know. It didn't take much searching to dig up a toy train. In fact it was quite literally sitting on top of the box.

                        "I found one," I said yanking it out and looking it over. It was a plastic locomotive; incredibly detailed with frightening precision. The maker of this toy clearly poured their heart into it. It was painted red and black with a triad of gold numbers on its left side: 788. On the other side was a small lever used to wind it up into motion. I started cranking it until it refused to move.

                        "Okay…" I slowly placed the train on the nearest string of tracks; not really knowing where it began or ended anyway. "Go!" It took off in a flash; quickly chugging down the plastic tracks. "To the bed! To the bed!" I hollered. Laika and I made a beeline for the bed which was the perfect vantage point to watch the train's journey; being in the center of the room and all. We flung ourselves onto the covers, scrambled over to the edge and watched our train begin its voyage.

                        It wound its way through towns made of toy boxes and building blocks, darted past space men and towering robots. After it had passed this child-like world it raced over the vast oblivion that the floor cast. For some reason I really flipped out when it came around the bed.

                        "WOW! Check it out! Look! Look!" I babbled quickly; pointing at the train as it chugged around N's bed. Laika yipped in response; wagging her tail joyously. We were really having a little bit too much fun. Our little train sped on until its adventure came to an abrupt end when it came by the windows of the room; where N was still seated. I watched, waiting for it to pass by him but it never did. Laika and I shared a confused look, and I went over to investigate. When I reached his spot on the floor I could see the train over his shoulder; turned on its side with its wheels spinning tirelessly in vain. The tracks had ended.

                        "There's a piece missing," N stated; his voice monotone.

                        I walked in front of him, picked up the train and steadied it back on the tracks. It was too sad just watching it sit there spinning its wheels and going nowhere.

                        "I wouldn't worry about it," I told him. "It's probably hiding under the bed or in one of these toy boxes somewhere," I took a quick glance around to see if I could spot it out perchance. But without such luck I turned back to N with a smile of encouragement.

                        "I'm sure we can find…" My words fell ill in my throat; under the brim of N's hat… behind his bangs… I noticed something black on his face. Before I could react he stood up suddenly and headed towards the door.

                        "N!" I called; scrambling up quickly and heading him off before he could reach the exit. I grabbed onto his arms with force; halting him. He tried to look down, to avoid showing his face to me but I could see it now. There was a huge bruise covering the length of his cheek.

                        "N… what happened to you?" He didn't answer. "Did… Ghetsis do this to you?" The following silence only confirmed my suspicions.

                        "N you…" I paused, wondering if I should continue or not. "You… You don't have to be controlled by that man! You don't have to listen to everything he says, especially when you know he's wrong! If you'd just say no… if you'd just make the effort to fight against him I know you could beat him." N remained motionless, "And… and if you won't then please, please take me back to my team!"

                        "No." He responded tersely.

                        "Why the hell not!? Are you willing to just stand by and let Ghetsis **** this world!?" I shouted; letting slip my patients.

                        N surprised me by breaking his gaze with the floor and staring straight into my eyes with burning fervor. "You don't understand anything!" He said angrily. He shoved me out of the way and disappearing out the door; slamming and locking it behind him; sealing me in the prison.

                        I stared at the door for a moment; waiting for him to return when I knew he never would. A dull numbness hung over my emotions. I had never seen him react like that… and in front of me. It donned on me that the bruise on his face wasn't the only wound N was carrying; whether on the outside or the inside.

                        I kicked the oaken door angrily with my foot.


                        With a curse I stormed back over to the bed; steam literally fuming from my ears. All I wanted to do at that moment was disappear. I'd had enough of this disgusting castle! I'd had enough of this malaise! All I wanted was to be free, but if N wasn't willing to oblige than what could I do? There was no way that I could get out of here!!
                        I dove deep into the blankets.

                        Laika hopped up on the bed; yipping questioningly.

                        "Leave me alone!" I shouted; my voice muffled by the large bronze pillow I had thrown my head under. Laika whined softly, but I crawled deeper and deeper into N's bed until her voice faded. Everything faded and until my headaches put me to sleep.

                        I awoke nearly an hour later and slowly peeked out from under the sheets. From what I could see the room was vacant.

                        I shed the covers and looked about, "Laika…?" Only silence followed. "…N?" Nothing.

                        Fine, I thought angrily, it's not like I care if I'm alone.

                        I pulled myself out of bed and stomped towards the bathroom in a huff. I was in desperate need of a shower and I hoped that the warm water would calm my nerves. I never made it there.

                        I tripped over one of N's low lying toy boxes by accident and sent the toys flying to the floor with a clatter. I cursed and fell with it.

                        "Damn it, N!" I shouted to the empty room, "Why do you always have to leave your stupid toys all over the place! I step on these things you know! It hurts like hell you stupid, Pokémon-loving weirdo!"

                        I was pretty thankful that he wasn't around to hear that, but getting all that off my chest felt great.

                        I hauled myself up; turning around to see the mess I'd made. It wasn't a pretty sight. Many of his toys were scattered about and I noticed that some had broken in the force of the fall. I bit my lip; pushing down a pang of guilt.

                        A sharp glinting caught my eye. Under the mess of toys I'd made was the missing piece of the train tracks. I gasped; reaching for it quickly as if it were about to get up and run away. It was broken… many of the wooden boards running horizontally between the two bars of plastic steel had shattered off.

                        Oh man… I thought to myself, I hope N won't get mad about this.

                        I looked around guiltily at the roads of train track coating the floor, and thinking that it would never been completed if the final piece was broken. I tried to suppress a small shudder as a chill ran through my spine. A cool breeze was drifting into the room; gently stirring my hair and giving me the chills, especially with the short clothes I was… wait… a breeze!?

                        I scrambled towards the windows; too focused to even drop the train track I held. At first glance they seemed to be closed.

                        No. I thought, I know I felt a breeze coming from somewhere… somewhere.

                        Then I saw it. One of the windows was open a sliver and that's where the breeze was coming through. It was an exit. A chance to escape! I ran for it; trying to squeeze my fingers though the gap. But they wouldn't fit. The opening was too small. I cursed to myself; clenching my fists and having the toy track poke my skin in the grip.

                        Inspiration suddenly struck. I looked down at the damaged section of train rail in my hand. This small toy just might be thin enough to fit through the window. I could use it as a lever to pry it open! I leapt towards the window without a second's hesitance. I was fully aware that Anthea and Concordia, or even N could return at any moment and catch me in the act. I shoved the plastic track into the gap and it fit just fine; it gave not the slightest protest. I slowly began to move it back and forth, and with each movement the crack in the window began to widen.

                        The plastic track snapped and I stumbled backward with a curse. It had whacked my hand pretty hard upon breaking, but I was alright. No damage was done. I quickly raced back to the window to see if I had opened the gap wide enough to slip my fingers through, and I had. It had worked! I managed to wiggle my fingers through the opening quite easily.

                        "Yes!" I cried happily.

                        Using all the strength I could muster I yanked the window open, which was no easy task mind you. The windows in N's room were meant to be opened outward not inward. I was pulling against the hinges hard, and I think the only reason they truly gave in was because they had weakened with age. I pulled harder and harder; grunting with effort as the window screeched in protest. I had to stop; my fingers were starting to strain. But by then the gap had already widened enough for me to slip through; although just barely.
                        I hesitated for a brief moment; a sudden realization coming to me. If I were to crawl out the window then I would be suspended on a thin sliver of railing thousands of thousands of feet above ground level. And I was afraid of heights. This was a bit of a problem. My heart had already begun to beat against my ribcage and into my throat. I was already trembling like a leaf in the breeze. Why did N's room have to be so bloody high up in the air?!

                        You can't do this. One of those self-loathing voices took its chance to speak up inside of my head. I know everyone has one of those. You know, the voice that tells them they're a failure and a disgrace and disparages any feelings of happiness that arise. I was all to familiar with this voice because it had been my only company, apart from N and Laika, in my imprisonment in this castle. It had been keeping pretty quiet lately, but now of all times mine had to rear its ugly head. You'd fall and die the second you stepped foot out there. Give up. It's not like you have the power to save the world anymore anyway. It's been too long. The world has already been torched and maimed. It seemed to grow louder; bounding off the walls of my skull as my stomach lurched with each spoken thought. You can't win, Touko. You aren't a hero.

                        I almost broke down. Each word seemed so true, so real and so sharp like a blade. Each thought was cutting deep into my morale, and I almost gave up. It would be so much easier to turn my back on his opportunity. So much easier to crawl back under the bed sheets and cry; awaiting nightmares. Trying to leave this haven would lead me right to death.
                        But then I thought of something.

                        Maybe the voice was right. Maybe I wasn't a hero. But I would be even less of a hero if I continued to rot in this room while the world burned. My Pokémon were the same; I already knew that. They fought beside me during my final hour with unshakable spirit. And even if they were dead I couldn't forsake their sacrifice by turning my back on the world.

                        I won't give up. I took a step towards the open window; the breeze stirring my hair around my bony frame. Not here.

                        Not now. I sucked in my gut and squirmed through the gap separating my prison from the outside world.

                        I'm breaking out of here! Without even taking a final glance towards N's empty room I stepped out into the frigid autumn air thousands and thousands of feet above the earth below.

                        A blast of cold wind hit me upon my departure. I shrieked, clinging desperately to the grooves in the windows as I nearly tumbled off the lean ledge which was the only thing separating me from a deadly fall. I had never been so scared in my entire life, but I didn't turn back. My resolve was hard as the earth itself, and I'm not the type of person to bail out once I've set my mind on something. The heights still, were terrifying to say the least.

                        The world outside Team Plasma's wall of a castle was covered in a blanket of patchy fog. The clouds were thick and they swarmed heavily around the face of the structure; blocking the view to the ground below. But there were some instances where the shield of clouds broke away; opening up view to the barren world beneath, which was coated in its own veil of fog. On a regular clear, sunny day this would have been unfathomably harder to do. At least with all the cloud cover I could craft a paper-thin deception that I wasn't really high up as I really was. It was a flimsy delusion, but it kept me sane as I inched along the pale face of the castle against the moist—but icy—wind.

                        I dared not look down although it was hard not to. Instead I tried to find another window somewhere along the face of the castle. It didn't take much looking until I found one. It was a couple of yards away; a dark tinted, square-hole set right in the middle of the castle wall. A couple of windows echoed behind it along the face of the building until it curved away into oblivion. It wasn't in easy walking distance, but the ledge I was clinging to lead straight to it. I swallowed hard and began my slow trek to the window where I would break back in. What I would do then was all up to the nature of the room inside. I would think that up when I gained a better understanding. I had to progress for now.

                        It was a daunting task, and I'm not really sure how I pulled it off. I went on at a snail's pace; being ravaged by icy winds and numbing fear as I went. I kept myself focused on the window –my goal- and tried to keep my attention off the staggering drop below.

                        Easy now… Easy… You can do this Touko, I repeated in my head as I inched steadily along. The disparaging voice in my head had been silenced by my fortitude, which was good because if it decided to make a comeback I was surely to lose focus and fall. I suddenly felt no pressure beneath my feet. The ledge I was crawling across had ended and I didn't even notice until I felt myself fall.

                        I didn't even notice. It was so stupid of me. The ledge was parted and only resumed again right before my destination; the window. I'd kept my eyes on my goal so intently. I didn't even bother to see where I was walking. And so, I fell.

                        I reached out desperately; trying to grab onto a ledge or a groove in the castle… anything! I simply grabbed at thin air. I fell, screaming; feeling the wind rush over me like a torrent. My mind buzzed frantically with panic. I could hardly even register that I was falling, or that eventually I was going to hit the ground and die.

                        Fortunately for me that never happened. I connected heavily with some sort of solid structure mid way through my fall. It knocked the air out of me and I rolled over onto my side; trying to get a breath. When I felt nothingness under me I realized I was rolling off the edge of the structure. I was quick to react this time and I latched onto the platform's edge; pulling myself up to safety and preventing another fall. Once I was sure I would come to no more harm, or be put in another fatal situation, I assessed my whereabouts.

                        I hadn't fallen very far from the ledge outside of N's room. Looking up I realized that the fall had only been about six feet or so. I still counted myself lucky that nothing was broken. I sat on a flat platform-like ledge that was much thicker and wider than the one outside N's room. I had the opportunity to collect myself and assess my whereabouts.
                        Looking down at the white stone, I guessed that there was a room underneath but it didn't look like there was a way to get in from where I was. Disregarding that, I spotted a window a few yards to my right. It was different from the last black-tinted window I tried to get to. It had some sort of a wooden frame by what I could see, and the glass wasn't tinted, but I couldn't see much more than that. The window was to my right, separated only by a fragmented platform-like ledge which broke away and left gaping holes I'd have to jump across to get to.

                        I nearly died. Walking along the outside of this stupid castle was bad enough, but jumping!?

                        "You're kidding," I wheezed, finding the strength to pull myself up. I walked over to the side of the ledge to gauge the distance I would have to jump from one platform to the next. There was a mix of delight and utter terror when I realized that, with enough momentum, I'd be able to jump the gap and get to the window…probably. Each platform was on a lower level then the last, and there was only one separating me from the window. I pursed my lips in thought. That meant two jumps to get to the window; one off this ledge and then one off the next.

                        I licked my lips; staring at the window hard. I'm getting to you. I walked over to the far edge of my platform and crouched down in starting position. I waited; staring at the window with burning intensity. The wind continued to lash at me but I waited it out. Waiting… waiting… The howling wind died down and a dead silence settled over the heights.


                        I took off; belting forward like some sort of Olympic runner. My feet slammed against the solid platform as the approaching edge grew closer every second.


                        I kicked off from the edge and propelled myself forward. Time seemed to slow in this leap of fate, and I couldn't help but take a small look downward. The blanket of clouds, almost as if mocking me, broke away and showed me the immeasurable drop below. I could hardly even see where the castle ended it was simply too far away.

                        I hit the next platform, and managed to steady myself and continue my mad dash without breaking the momentum. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I was actually doing it! I didn't lose my footing and fall. My ankle didn't roll. It boosted my morale tenfold.
                        I kept screaming in my head to run, to just go and not stop. I couldn't give up. Failure was not an option here. The end of the second platform before the window drew near, and I readied myself for the last jump. I didn't realize how far away this final platform was until I head leapt. It was out of reach. No matter how hard I pushed off the ledge or how fast I was running it seemed like I wasn't going to make it. It seemed like I would fall by the ledge, separated by only a hair, and tumble to my demise. I reached my hand out; grabbing for the edge in desperation. If I could just get a hold of it then I would be home free. But I was falling too quickly I wasn't going to make it!

                        You know how people say when you stare straight into the face of death your whole life flashes before your eyes? That kind of happened to me. But it was weird for some reason. I seemed to flash back to my defeat against Ghetsis, but there was no blood or death or any of that. I could just see my Pokémon, each standing before me with determination blazing in their eyes. They were brave fighters who could never be knocked down; at least not for long. They fought against the impossible. My Pokémon were the real heroes here.

                        Then it was… well… all I could see after that was N's face. He was just staring at me, but he was smiling and looked so happy I felt like I could bawl. I felt guilty for having turned my back on him, and I hoped that he would forgive me someday.

                        "You're a hero," I thought I heard him say to me, and I wanted to deny it. A wretched creature like me is anything but a hero. He then finished, "because you are free."
                        I flaring intensity burned inside my body, blazing through my veins and my soul became an inferno.

                        I won't give up!! I roared like mad; reaching out to the approaching ledge as I descended down. Somehow, against all odds, I grabbed hold of the edge of the final platform just before it fell out of reach. I slammed into the marble platform; the air forcefully leaving my lungs in a pained gasp. My vision blurred as a wave of pain washed through my chest; running through my ribs as I scrambled onto the ledge. I almost slipped off due to the clamminess of my hands, but despite the weeping of my joins and the howling of my fingers, I managed to pull myself up into safety.

                        I fell onto my back with tears streaming down my face; eyes set on the gray sky above and I laughed. I laughed louder than ever before, and my throat hated me for it. But for some reason I couldn't stop and was soon cackling like a mad man.

                        "I did it guys…" I choked between laughs, "I did it…"


                        Author's Note:
                        Today's lesson is: Never Give Up! Anything is possible. It may sound cheesy, but I think it's true. Never let your dreams die.

                        Now, with regards to the chapter. Yes. I love torturing Touko, but don't worry, she's tough!
                        I also haven't revealed Touko's Pokemon for good reason. But fear not, this is all happening for a reason. But while we're on the subject, does anyone have any guesses to what her team consists of? A prize of virtual pastries given to those who can guess correctly! (not really though.)
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                        Old December 27th, 2011 (12:03 PM).
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                        Bay Bay is offline
                        Darkinium Z
                        Join Date: May 2006
                        Location: Dani California
                        Gender: Female
                        Nature: Sassy
                        Posts: 5,428
                        Quite an intense battle there at the beginning. Poor Touko for losing, though. D: Dang it N, why you stood her up like that? :/ As for the Pokemon, I’m going to guess Emboar, Lilligant, Galvantula, Carracosta, Braviary, and Escavalier.

                        The part with Touko and Laika and the train tracks is cute. Now I’m reminded how much I loved playing them as a kid, haha. As for her breaking out, finally! XD Like how you develop her decision to leave so that she doesn’t grow weaker than she is already an also her “staring straight at death” at the end there was quite nice too, especially where N said she’s a hero. If only N had explained to Touko what was going on between him and Ghetsis and also take her to her Pokemon. D:

                        I awoke the next morning to find myself buried deep in the confines of N's bed; wrapped up like a cocoon under sheets upon sheets of colourful velvet.
                        One thing I notice is I still see you using the semi-colons wrong again. I suggest going back my last review where I mentioned how to use it the right way. If you’re still confused though, then maybe check over semi-colons in an English grammar book or look it up online. Sorry to mention this again, but the misplaced semi-colons threw me off a bit. ^^;

                        Overall enjoyed this chapter a lot. Looking forward to how things will move along now!

                        "Meowth are all right. They don't care who you are or anything."
                        Foul Play [Chapter Six up!]
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                        Old January 6th, 2012 (4:44 PM). Edited January 30th, 2012 by OpenDoorLeia.
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                        OpenDoorLeia OpenDoorLeia is offline
                        The Will of One
                          Join Date: Nov 2011
                          Gender: Female
                          Nature: Lonely
                          Posts: 17
                          …I keep asking myself… when will things change?

                          I tried to pull open the window I had reached, trying to wedge my fingers between the divide of wood. There were no handles on this window, no surprise there, still, I was hoping by some impossible convenience that there would be. I tried to peer through the musty glass on one of the eight segmented sections that made up this window, cupping my hands around my face to stave off the harsh glare. Even with all the cloud cover it was tough to see through with the unnaturally bright light emanating off the sky, but from what I could see the room beyond seemed to be some sort of library. I could just make out the figures of towering bookshelves through the sky's glare. I squinted hard as I tried to pick out some sort of motion or movement that would announce if the room was occupied or not. After a few minutes of looking, and seeing not a stir, I decided to break the window down.

                          I shoved my shoulder against the frame, testing its strength as the wind whipped by in all directions and tousled my hair into my face. The window was sturdy, and another one that wasn't meant to be opened inward. It meant I would have to break it in, and I was nervous considering the glass and all. I took a few wide glances along the face of the castle to see if I could spot an easier entrance, but every window I found was too far out of reach. This was the only way I was going to get in. I sucked in a breath and began to throw my weight against the wooden frame but it wouldn't give way.

                          After a few attempts at entry, and a bit of colourful language, I tried a different approach. I stood up with my back towards the window, holding onto the wall above it with all my strength and threw my rear against the wooden frame. It didn't yield on the first attempt at butt-smashing but a loud, splintering crack caught my attention. It was beginning to buckle! Again! I threw my rear against the window a second time and it gave slightly inward. My heart fluttered in excitement and the realization that I was pulling this off. I spun around, eager to see what progress I had made. The wooden frame of the window was caving inward right at the divide.

                          One more shove ought to do it, I thought, licking my lips nervously.

                          I took in a huge breath, braced myself for the impact and charged, throwing my weight against the weakened frame, concentrating the force onto my right shoulder. And man did that window snap. I ran into it much harder than need be, and it shattered against my weight. Whipping violently inward with a smash, I was sent tumbling into the room below.

                          The momentum of my fall had sent me spiraling out of control. Everything happened so quickly that my mind couldn't keep up with my body. I hit something in my decent which I thought was the floor at first, but I continued to topple downward. I was still falling?! I was dumbstruck with numbing fear and sickening vertigo; I couldn't make a move to save myself. The world finally ceased in its nauseating spiral when I smashed into the floor with crippling force, having the air I'd took in forcefully pushed out of my lungs. It felt like a punch to the stomach. I saw my saliva flick across the wooden ground as I sputtered painfully, the force of the impact ran through my body like a wave.

                          My vision flooded back in speckles as I lay paralyzed. I tried to figure out what had happened. I gave a pained moan as the ceiling faded back in. It was hard trying to move my body, and for a frightening moment I thought I'd crippled myself, or banged something crucial that would leave me immobilized. Thankfully that wasn't the case and I pulled myself up on shaking limbs taking in deep, heaving breaths. Shards of glass sprinkled the floor around me, their sharp edges glistening in the cloudy daylight.

                          I looked up towards the window to see the damage I had done. The wooden frame was just barely hanging onto its hinges, rocking back and forth with a creak in the breeze. The glass in the framed segments had been shattered out and now scattered the floor. I jumped in shock, padding my body down to see if I had been cut by the jagged shards. I found many small cuts and gashes coating my arms and legs. It left my clothes a bit of a mess, but I wasn't seriously injured. The most unnerving of the cuts rested right below my left eye, on my cheek. I poked at it, wincing, just to feel the wetness of my blood.

                          That was too close…

                          A bookcase lay under the shattered window. I figured it was what I slammed into during my fall before hitting the ground. It unnerved me. I hadn't even seen it there before. I curled myself up in a trembling ball in the shadow of the bookcase. I couldn't believe how lucky I was to come out of that incident with only a few cuts and scratches. I knew that it could have been much worse. I could have smashed my skull on the floor, my neck could have broke and my limbs could have snapped in two. I couldn't suppress a laugh. I know you're probably thinking I'm crazy, I know I was too. But I had cheated death, not once but twice however since leaving N's room and I was still alive. My sides were aching and my throat felt dry as sand but I still cackled like a maniac.

                          I must be the luckiest girl in the world.

                          After that small fit of insanity, I pulled my bruising body off the ground, deciding that I'd better get a move on. I left the scene, prancing nervously around the shards of glass still specking the floor and off into the maze of bookshelves beyond. I noticed rather quickly, after leaving the scene of my break-in, that the library I'd stumbled into was completely void of life. All was silent apart from the thrumming of my heart accompanied by shaking breaths and padding footsteps. I still feared that someone was hiding deep in this place, on one of the many floors of the room which stacked up towards the darkened ceiling. If this person, imaginary or not, had heard my break-in they could be watching me, studying my every move, waiting for the right moment to attack! But I knew my imagination was just torturing me. If the room really was habited my break-in would have already been noted and I'd been captured the second I crashed onto the floor. As far as my rational mind was concerned this place was a ghost town.

                          A nervous gurgle in my stomach sounded whenever I thought of N returning back to his chambers to see I'd vanished. With the windows of his chamber still agape, I wondered if he'd think that I'd thrown myself out the tower and plummeted to my death. I gnawed on my lip guiltily, hating to put him through that kind of anguish, but I couldn't let that hold me down. It took a bit of work to stamp out those thoughts, but I continued on, quickening my pace in search of an exit.

                          The library wasn't as wide as it was tall, and because of that I saved myself from running around blindly through aisle after aisle of books until I found an exit. I found a large wooden door bordered on either side by massive mahogany bookcases and Plasma flags. My heart jumped right to my throat in anticipation of this possible exit. This could be a way out! Or, worst case scenario, it lead to another room of the library, and if that was the case I swore I was gonna lose it. But just as my fingers grazed the cold bronze handle a glint of blue light caught my eye. I whipped towards the light just as it vanished. My feet felt like they were frozen in place.

                          What was that?

                          A dark hallway to my right lead deep into the belly of the library, and for some reason it felt like something was calling to me. I know that sounds ridiculous right? Even I thought I'd whacked my head too hard during my fall, but the feeling was overwhelming. I couldn't ignore it. So I put my escape on hold and dashed off down the hall to discover what was beckoning to me.

                          My heart was in my throat as I traveled the hallway I'd taken. It soon led to a wooden staircase taking me to the second level of the library. The layout was different on this level. A round, black table was the dominating feature, bordered on all sides by, you guessed it, bookshelves. I couldn't believe how many books there were in this place and I couldn't help wondering what they were written about, though I hardly had time to pull up a chair. A wooden door frame was set on the far wall which led into a book-lined hallway. A sharp glint flickered out from the depths.

                          I proceeded into the hall, bringing up my fists defensively if something unseen were to happen. I reached the end of the passage which terminated at another bookshelf, and shoved dead-center inside of the shelf was a thick brown book. A small jewel which resembled a shard of ice was embedded into its spine, glinting eerily in the absence of light.

                          This was it… I could feel it. I pulled the book from the shelf with haste and quickly scanned the cover. Kyurem, god of ice. It was written in sweeping golden font, sticking straight out from the dark brown surface.

                          Kyurem… I repeated the name subconsciously. Somehow… it sounded familiar to me.

                          I slowly pealed the book open, eager to learn more. I didn't have time to pull up a chair and read from cover to cover so I quickly flipped through the pages to see what I could find. I stumbled onto a shocking illustration mid-way through the book, which nearly made me drop it from my grasp. The image depicted a large, gray dragon towering over a world of frozen bodies and dead ice. Rivers of blood streamed through the snow covered ground where it stood. Bits of flesh and bone lay wedged inside of its spade-like teeth, glistening in snow light. I couldn't breathe for a moment. My eyes seemed locked onto the monstrous dragon in the illustration; with yellow eyes ablaze with fury it looked like it wanted to devour me.

                          I nearly jumped out of my skin as the sound of a door opening echoed through the library. I gasped, fumbling around with the book clumsily and slamming it shut. I clenched the tome to my chest gritting my teeth in the tension, perking up my ears and listening for noise.
                          A steady clomp, clomp, clomping of footsteps alerted me to this unexpected visitor. I slunk back against the wall, my breath caught in my throat as I waited for something to happen. I hoped against all hope that the intruder, whoever they were, wouldn't wander up to the second level of the library where I was hiding. Worst case scenario they'd want a book from my hallway and that thought alone made my heart tremble. It felt like the whole world had turned against me when I heard the visitor slowly stomp up the stairs which lead to the second level. I crouched low, hoping to hide myself in the gloom of the hallway if they passed by. I cringed outwardly, dreading the thought of my break-in being discovered. The window was still smashed open, already filling the room with a chilled breeze. I began cursing profanities inside my head.

                          A member of the Seven Sages slowly hobbled into view, not even glancing in my direction. He appeared to be a senile old man, having a long gray beard coming down from his face which wagged to and fro with every step he took. A pair of small eye glasses lay perched on the bridge of his prominent nose. He shuffled by, heading in a different direction towards the far side of the room. A gleam of hope ran through me. If he headed off somewhere into the library then I could slink away unnoticed.

                          Go away, go away, go away. I tried to signal him telepathically.

                          As if hearing my unspoken demands he walked by out of view, and the following sounds of clomping footsteps lead me to believe that he was heading up to the third level of the library. I slid the book I clenched back onto the shelf and hurried to the edge of the hallway to see if the Sage really was heading off. And indeed he was. I noticed the large pointed cap, which was standard dress-code for the sages, disappearing into the deep halls on the third level. Good. If I was gonna go then I'd better do it now.

                          As quiet as a Patrat I hurried out of the hallway, sped down a staircase, without tripping, to the bottom floor. I ran back to where I found the door and yanked it open. It gave a sharp squeal which made me flinch, but I didn't hesitate. I slipped right out the door and jumped with joy when I saw that it led out of the library and into the castle. I sped down the crystalline halls, grinning like a fool, unable to believe that I had gotten out of that scene without being captured.

                          I must be the luckiest girl in the world! I thought as I turned a corner and slammed head-first into a duo of Plasma soldiers. I staggered back from the force of our impact, flailing in shock, trying to stop myself from crashing onto the floor. The weight difference between the guard and I did the work. I flopped down onto my rump without him even giving me so much as a nudge. Before I could make an attempt at standing up and speeding away, the Plasma guard took hold of my forearm, hauling me up with a violent jerk.

                          "Well, well. Now what do we have here?" He asked, smirking deviously under his shaggy beard. I tried some feeble attempt at resistance but the guard overpowered me. There's just not much a ninety pound, bony girl can do against a burly duo of Plasma soldiers. There was no conceivable way I could wriggle out of his grip, unless… I cast a glance toward his crotch, preparing to kick, but when I found his hips clad in armor I became limp in defeat.

                          I'm the unluckiest girl in the world…

                          Still, I wouldn't give up, not now after I'd come so far. "Let go!" I cursed angrily, bringing up my offence again; trying to whack the guy with my flailing limbs minus my left arm which he still had hold of in his iron grip. The bearded guard who had hold of me, shoved me into his partner who grabbed my arms and restrained them behind my back.

                          "Well now… we can't let the prisoner go now can we? We wouldn't be very good guards if we did that." The soldier behind me said with a mocking edge.

                          "How did a little girl like you break out anyway?" The bearded soldier inquired, scanning me uncomfortably with his emerald eyes. The look he was giving me sent chills down my spine. This guard was one of Ghetsis' soldiers. I could tell by his uniform. But he wasn't wearing the customary black visor over his face for some reason. He flashed a mocking smile under the scruffy hairs on his face which put me on edge.

                          "I guess she still has a little bit of fight in her," The one behind me said. The guard with the beard scoffed, bringing his face right up to mine, so close that I could taste the fishiness on his breath.

                          "Did you really think that you could escape this place? Or did you forget your last defeat against Lord Ghetsis?" He smirked, "You failed, little girl."

                          I glowered at him, wishing that looks could kill.

                          "There's no hope left for you," He laughed and my heart was nicked with sadness. The malaise was building back up inside of me, aroused by this soldier's mockery. It was the last thing I needed. But I refused to give in to the sadness; not again.

                          The guard brought his face even closer until it was just inches from mine. "You are nothing" He sang. I responded by shooting a wad of spit at his face. He reeled back angrily, rubbing the saliva off in fury.

                          "You little *****!" He roared throwing his fist right into my stomach. The air was sharply pushed from my lungs for a second time today, and I doubled over in pain: coughing sporadically.

                          "I'll teach you not to mess with me," He seethed reaching for the collar of my shirt. I was still recovering from the blow he dealt and I had no energy to strike back or resist. And his partner still had tight hold on my arms. This wasn't looking good. However, just as the soldier grabbed hold of my shirt a thick haze began to build in the hallway.

                          The guards looked around in alarm as a thick purple fog rolled in, snuffing out the ivory stone halls of the castle. The bearded guard looked to his partner in question and I heard him say through my ringing ears, "What's going on!?" He pulled harder on the cuff of my shirt, "Is this one of your tricks you witch?" But I could hardly even hear what he said through the pain still pulsing in my gut. I was too fear stricken to respond either way, for behind the guard I caught sight of two yellow orbs, eyes that pierced right out of the haze.

                          "S-Sir…!" The soldier holding my arms pointed a trembling finger towards the ominous light. The bearded guard spun around just in time to see a Chandelure meld through the haze. Its glass body, five times larger than a regular Chandelure's, was heavily cracked and smeared with crimson webbing which looked horribly like blood. A nearly headless body hung from a noose tied to one of its twisted steel arms. The guards turned pale as the ghoulish Chandelure leered over us menacingly, burning with black flame.

                          "BE GONE!!!" It screeched. But the guards were frozen in place: paralyzed by fear. I was much the same.

                          "BE GOOOONE!!!!!" It shrieked again with ear splitting force. The guards didn't need to be told again. They dropped me, pushing me towards the ghost and ran like hell down the hall: wailing like babies.

                          I looked up towards the Chandelure, feeling helpless under its paralyzing glare. I flinched away from the creature, waiting for it to strike me down. But instead of pain, I heard someone calling out to me.

                          "Touko!!!" I looked up. Strange. I could have sworn that dead body, hanging from the Chandelure's arms, had just spoken to me. And taking a closer look I could see it waving at me.

                          I must be going mad… I thought, putting my fingers to my forehead. But just then, the bloodied body jumped down from its noose, melded out of the haze and landed right before of me. I gasped at the man standing before me; it was N!

                          "Wha-wha-wha…" I blubbered stupidly. I turned to the Chandelure quickly and it too, with a puff of smoke, morphed back into Laika the Zorua. I sat there frozen for a moment. IT WAS AN ILLUSION!!!???

                          "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!!" I exploded, and N raised his hands in sheepishly in an attempt to calm me down. "YOU SCARED ME HALF TO DEATH YOU…YOU!!!"

                          "I'm sorry," He said honestly, sweating slightly. "It was… mostly Laika's idea…"
                          I turned to the Zorua to see it leering at me mischievously. She loved my reaction. I was about to blow my lid a second time but I forced myself to calmed down. Now wasn't the time to get worked up.

                          "Don't try to stop me N…I'm getting out of this castle," I said to him, being as straight forward as I could.

                          "Alright," He said understandingly. I stared at him blankly. Had I misheard? I wasn't expecting that reaction from him, especially with the scene he'd made earlier this morning. I looked into his eyes with confusion and he stared directly at me with a stern but somehow calm expression.

                          "Then how exactly do you plan to get out of this place?" He asked. I was about to answer but stopped when I realized I didn't know what to say. He continued anyway, "Many more soldiers, besides the ones that nearly captured you just now, patrol this castle left and right. How do you plan to evade them all?" I stood there motionless under N's unbreaking gaze. "And let's say you could, somehow, get passed them. Where is the exit? Do you even know how to get out of this castle?"

                          My silence was a good enough answer.

                          "I thought so," He said closing his eyes, finally breaking that hard stare before resuming it a moment later. "Do you really think you can win Touko?" He asked, staring into me again with a look so heavy I'm surprised I didn't collapse under the pressure. But I already had an answer to his question. He was right, he was right more than anything. I didn't know the way out. I didn't know how I would get passed the guards without Pokémon of my own. I didn't know if I could really free the world but…

                          "I'm not going to let the world burn because of me," I answered, looking straight into N's eyes, "I'm sick of just rotting here and doing nothing! I'm going to change something, and I'm not going to give up! No matter what happens, whether you help me… or not," I frowned deeply, not daring to break my gaze.

                          N stared at me with a look that made it seem like he wasn't convinced. For a few moments of dread, I'd thought that he was going to take hold of me and escort me forcefully back to his chambers. But that didn't happen. N broke his steely expression with a huge smile.

                          "Good answer!" He said happily, "I knew you had an unbreakable spirit Touko!" He turned around and began to walk, "Follow me."

                          "Wha… wait! Where!?"

                          He paused, glancing over his shoulder; viewing me with a grin spreading over his blackened cheek, "I'm going to bring you to your Pokémon."

                          Chapter 5
                          Breaking Out [Part Two] (…The puppet king betrays the seven gods)

                          "I'll take you to your team"

                          I kept running that line over and over in my head, but the more times it played the less real it seemed. I wasn't imagining it was I? Did N really say those words? Even as I followed behind Team Plasma's king, as quickly as my battered legs would allow, I could not be sure of our destination. Was N really taking me to my Pokémon or was he leading me to my death? N seemed so resolute about keeping me away from my Pokémon before, so why the change of heart now? Was it because I had finally acted on my own and escaped? I couldn't make sense of it.

                          It's obviously a trap… The subconscious voice of negativity bubbled to the surface of my thoughts again. It drove me insane. I thought I'd silenced it once and for all the second I stepped foot out the windows of N's chambers. But it was back seemingly stronger than ever now.

                          You're being disposed of… how thick do you have to be not to see that? You're too dangerous for your own good. Now the king of team Plasma will deliver personally your requiem.

                          I had to refrain from bludgeoning myself over the head to silence those thoughts. I didn't want to give in and believe those words, because I knew N wasn't the type of person for deception or hate and I knew he didn't want to hurt me. My confidence in N far outweighed any thoughts of negativity which fought against him. I would have to put my trust into the young king and see where he took me.

                          We didn't run into a soul during our walk which came as a surprise. I kept half-expecting another duo of Plasma soldiers to show up and cause trouble, but they never did. I guessed it was because N was keeping away from the more populated areas of the castle. He knew this place far better than I did. He knew how to maneuver these halls unnoticed. Eventually, after a fair amount of walking, we reached a hallway built with white tile terminating at a featureless black door.

                          We came to a stop in front of the door and N placed his hand over the empty surface, and it slid open with an electronic whine.

                          "They are in here," He gestured for me to enter, "After you."

                          I gave him a quiet stare. Hesitating as the negative voice within my head took its final chance to shout its last warnings at me. I sucked in a breath and proceeded into the dark room.

                          The lights flickered on upon my entry, illuminating a large empty room built out of some black material. But the more I stared at it I couldn't figure out what it was. It wasn't stone nor tile, but it held resemblance to some sort of electronic grid. Jagged lines ran across the floor, flashing from time to time as if catching sunlight in a windowless room. I walked in, staring all around quickly, trying to find signs of danger or signs that my Pokémon were present. At the far end of the room I spotted a large white box which resembled a safe in nature resting atop a black table-like platform. N drifted past me as silent as a ghost, heading to the safe box. Once reaching his destination he turned to me and smiled.

                          "Come on," He coaxed. I hurried over to him quickly, padding silently across the grid-like floor.

                          N reached over and began punching numbers into the key pad set in the center of the box. After the digits had been inputted into the safe's locking mechanism, and the code was approved, the lid popped open. N grabbed the door, pulling it to reveal a group of six Pokéballs resting on a pillow inside. My breath was caught in my throat.

                          N smiled at my reaction, which was anything short of astounded, "Go ahead. Take one…"
                          I glanced at him in numb shock with thoughts too muddled to process anything. I hardly even heard what he'd just said. Laika barked impatiently beside me nipping my leg softly.
                          "Ouch! Alright, alright!" I reached into the safe and grabbed hold of the first Pokéball that caught my eye. I held onto the ball capsule in my trembling fist, feeling a dull heat emanating from within. My heart was going wild. I turned to the empty room and called out my first Pokémon.

                          In a flash of red light a figure landed onto the ground with a thud. As its image began to materialize my heart was overcome by a rush of emotion. An Emboar sat huddled on the floor, curled up protectively as if expecting to be struck. Once it realized it had been released it brought up its guard, snarling angrily, spewing smoke from its nose, probably expecting to be greeted by Plasma soldiers. But instead it saw me.

                          "…Hyle…" I choked out the name of my first Pokémon, my starter, the one who had been with me since the very beginning. The rush of nostalgia I was feeling was almost unbearable. I ran towards my Emboar, tears already flying from my eyes and threw my arms around his bulk, sobbing like a maniac. Hyle overcame his shock quickly and returned the hug, nearly crushing my tiny frame with his burly arms.

                          "I can't believe you're okay!" I babbled through a wave of tears, "I thought you'd…" I couldn't finish that thought. I didn't want to think about any member of my team being dead. Hyle snorted an affectionate response, spewing more acrid smoke into the air which soon had me gagging. I couldn't blame my Emboar though. I'd be spewing smoke out of my nostrils in joy too if I were him.

                          "Let's go bring out the others okay!" I shouted with excitement, rushing back to the safe where N and Laika were waiting patiently and scooping up the rest of the Pokéballs in my arms. I threw out another Pokéball from the pile in my arms and my Galvantula named Terra materialized before me. Her reaction was much the same as Hyle's. She flung herself unto me, embracing me with all four of her spiny legs. I hauled her up in my arms, laughing as my hair sprung up from static.

                          Hana, my female Carracosta, was the next to be called out. I was shocked to find many deep cracks and gashes coating her obsidian shell. I reached out a trembling hand, touching the gouges lightly with the tips of my fingers, feeling the broken shell against my skin.

                          "I'm sorry," I croaked, trying to halt another wave of tears from gushing out of my already puffy red eyes. Hana smiled back humbly, understandingly. Even though we couldn't communicate through words I knew she didn't blame me for this. Her eyes said it all.

                          With another bright flash, the remainder of my Pokémon team forced their way out of their balls and appeared around me, nearly scaring me right out of my skin. They must have sensed I was near and they were too excited to wait until I called them out individually.

                          Ophelia my Lilligant, Rhoden my Braviary and Luca my Bisharp crowded around me. My heart jumped straight to my throat when I laid eyes on my Bisharp. Luca, much the same as Hana, was covered head to toe in deep gashes and scars. He had been marred from the Focus Blast that Hydreigon shot. His armor was brutally cracked and the many sharp blades which coated his body had shattered off. Even the axe-like blade on his helm had broken. And looking to the rest of my Pokémon I could see all of them carried some scar or old wound from the battle with Ghetsis. Ophelia's torn leaves. Rhoden's tousled feathers just barely concealed soft pink scar lines. Terra's limping gait, Hyle's bruises…

                          I broke down.

                          "I'm sorry," I sobbed, falling to my knees. "I… I never wanted…" I couldn't continue through the tears that just kept gushing out. I'd been bottling up the sadness for so long, never giving it an outlet, and now it all came rushing out as if a dam had collapsed. My Pokémon drew near, hoping to offer some comfort.

                          "They don't blame you," I looked up to see N approach, his image blurred by my tears. He smiled down at me, "They want you to know that none of this is your fault, Touko…" I stared at him, blinking away the moisture in my eyes. "You no longer have to blame yourself either… if you're willing to stand up and fight."

                          He was right. I didn't have to sit around and feel sorry for myself any longer. A rush of determination flared through my body. My Pokémon weren't dead and neither was I. My heart was still beating and I knew that we could change this world together. We were alive.

                          "Alright guys!" I roared, jumping to my feet. "I know we've been out of commission for a long time. And during that time Ghetsis has used our weakness to consume Unova with his
                          power," My heart fluttered, seeing the determination sparking in my Pokémon's eyes. "But it's not going to stay that way for long!" I shouted, "We're going to knock Ghetsis off this throne and put everything back to the way it's supposed to be!"

                          "Hyle!" Plumes of dark smoke erupted out of my Emboar's nostrils. "Ophelia," My Lilligant smiled humbly. "Terra," The air crackled with electric current around my Galvantula's body. "Hana," My Carracosta stomped the ground hard. "Rhoden," Braviary beat his massive wings heavily, flaring the plumage on his chest. "Luca," My battle-scarred Bisharp sliced at the air.

                          "We're breaking out of here tonight!"

                          Those final words felt like a battle cry and I was spurred into action. I returned my team back into their Pokéballs, eager to finally get out of this castle and escape. If the king would let me that is. I turned to N, blinking away the tears in my eyes. "Will you help me?"

                          "I will." His answer was instant.


                          He simply stared.

                          "I mean…" I felt a sudden flush come to my cheeks, "You never wanted to help me escape before. Why now? What's changed?" I hated asking him that kind of question because it felt like I was cutting down to the bone. But I needed an answer from him. I needed to make sure he was on my side.

                          It was N's turn to avoid my gaze, "I just… don't want you to be sad anymore Touko."
                          My heart felt heavy, and I couldn't seem to find words to form an answer. I just kept staring at the bruise on his face. N was never easy to read, and even though I'd known him for a long while and got considerably close to him, I still couldn't see past the wall he'd crafted. I couldn't read him, or see what his true intentions were. But I knew he was acting out of kindness. He wanted to help me save this world, and all the people and Pokémon within it.

                          Even though I knew there was more than what was told to his answer, he wouldn't let me waste anymore time here.

                          "We should leave," N said, breaking his gaze with the floor. I nodded, although a bit reluctantly, and both of us headed to the door. But before we could leave the room the door slid open for us. I gasped, expecting to be swamped by a rush of Plasma soldiers. N, on the same train of thought as I, stepped forward defensively but stopped abruptly when he saw the figures standing there were not Plasma soldiers.

                          "Peace…Love…" He gasped. It was Anthea and Concordia who stood silently in the doorway. I was surprised to see them and honestly they were the last people I was expecting to see. Instead of attacking or halting our passage, they bowed respectively at the presence of their king.

                          "We are not here to stop you," Anthea said in her usually soft voice.

                          "We thought that you might be needing this, miss Touko," Concordia held out a folded pair of clothes and the old bag from my travels. They both smiled at me, "We can't have you running around in those clothes." I looked down at the thin T-shirt and shorts that I was still wearing. They were right. These clothes were the furthest thing from battle-wear.

                          "R-right!" My cheeks were flaring again as I took the clothes and bag from Concordia, "Thank you so much."

                          N and company waited outside the room as I got to changing. I yanked on a pair of dark blue jeans and tied up my pink-laced black boots. I pulled a white shirt over my head and shrugged on a black, long-sleeved jacket. Tying my hair into a tight pony-tail and putting on my old white cap were the finishing touches. It was time to go. I took a quick glance inside my old pink bag to find it stocked with Pokéballs, clothes, food, other useful supplies and the like. It made me wonder how long Anthea and Concordia had been planning to see me off with this.

                          I waited not a second longer and exited the room to find them waiting. I wanted to thank Anthea and Concordia for all that they had done for me but my emotions got the better of me and I threw my arms around them, sobbing out my gratitude.

                          N held his hand out to me, "Let's go. Touko." I looked down towards his feet to find Laika smiling eagerly, ready to take off. I returned the look twofold, grabbed onto N's hand and the three of us sped down the halls together, exit bound.

                          As we raced through the castle, running beside lapping streams and belting down staggering stairwells, I realized that without N I would have been completely lost. Team Plasma's castle was immense and there were so many unmarked hallways and paths that lead everywhere or nowhere at all. Without him as my guide I'd be better off dead.

                          We encountered some resistance on our way out, which didn't surprise me. I felt more shocked by the lack thereof of Plasma soldiers. It was almost refreshing running into some opposition. I know that sounds crazy enough, but now that I had my Pokémon with me again I wanted nothing more than to beat down some Plasma grunts. The thought delighted me and when I saw a duo of Plasma guards rushing at us from the end of a long hallway. I didn't even hesitate.

                          "Watchog go!" One of them shouted under his black visor, calling out his ferret like Pokémon.

                          "Krookodile, end them here!" Another one called out a beastly looking, burgundy crocodile which barred its gleaming fangs.

                          "I've got this!" I shouted to N, taking the lead, not breaking our dash.

                          "Hyle! Ophelia, let's go!!" It felt great to say that again. Emboar and Lilligant launched out, ready to fight. "Hyle, use Brick Break on that Watchog. Ophelia use Giga Drain on Krookodile!" I shouted.

                          The hallway was just long enough that I didn't have to stop running while my Pokémon attacked, which was great since I didn't want to break our momentum. Both of their Pokémon were taken down in one hit. Hyle smashed his fists into the ferret's gut, causing it to spew a wave of blood onto the shimmering floors. Ophelia drained all of Krookodile's energy from a bundle of vines which shot from under the folds of her leaf-like body. Her methods weren't as bloody as Hyle's but they were just as ruthless. The Krookodile fell into a heap over the ground; completely drained of all its strength. I called my Pokémon back into the confinement of their balls as N and I sped past the defeated grunts. We left them in silence.

                          After running what felt like a marathon through this ridiculously large castle, N and I finally reached the exit. We burst through a grand door, after leaping down another staircase, and entered a massive hall built out of light blue rock. Another staircase descended below us which connected with the ground floor. And beyond that was a massive door built with the same light blue as the rest of the area, embellished with golden swirls and runes. This was unmistakably the exit.

                          "That's it!" N said taking my hand and leading me down the staircase with haste, watching to make sure I didn't trip and fall on my face, which I'm surprised didn't happen considering how fast we were going. We touched down at the bottom of the stairwell, belting forward on aching legs. My legs were searing with absolute pain and I could imagine that N was feeling much the same. It was hard to not just flop down and give up but I'd abandoned that state of mind now. Giving up as not an option. N and I reached the door and when he began pulling it open I expected an army of Plasma guards to fly down from the ceiling and crush us. Though, oddly enough none of them ever did.

                          Once the door had been jarred, we launched ourselves through the opening and out into the world beyond. An icy breeze blew across the landscape, not even stirring dust. The temperature change came as a shock to me; the wind even found a way to pierce through my sweater.

                          The world outside of this castle looked just the same as it always had from my perch above the clouds, dead and barren. Even the trees avoided growing in this ground, apart from a single tree I saw waving in the distance, blackened by death, scratching the distant sun with its claw-like branches.

                          "Over there!" N pointed to a massive metal wall looming over the horizon, "The grounds of the castle end there!"

                          "Let's go!" I shouted, trying as best I could to ignore the protest of my legs.

                          The black wall crowning in the horizon inched closer and closer at a snail's pace as we sped along. I huffed, my lungs now burning with each breath. I couldn't keep up this running and I didn't want to chance calling out my Braviary. We were still too close to the castle for flight. I dreaded the soldiers launching attacks from their battlements. Running seemed like the best option, no matter how excruciating. I suddenly noticed with a nauseating jolt that N wasn't running beside me anymore. I whipped around to see him standing behind a few feet away.

                          "N…!" I gasped, desperately trying to catch my breath, "Come on!"
                          He smiled at me sadly and shook his head. "You go on ahead, Touko. Laika and I will hold them off here," Laika came up beside him and growled ferociously. Although I couldn't take it too seriously while looking at her size.

                          "No!" I shouted, winded, "I'm not leaving without you!" I ran over to him, grabbing hold of his arm and staring straight into him, "I'm not going to leave you to die here!" He stared at me with barely legible remorse.

                          "I won't abandon you," I choked out. A spark of shock flickered across N's face and it was anything but hidden. I must have plucked a heart string, though I didn't have the time to mull over those thoughts as a voice cut through the howling wind: stopping my heart.

                          "Well, well, well,"

                          N and I both froze. Our heads spun around towards the looming obelisk of Team Plasma's castle to see none other than Ghetsis treading over the desolate landscape, the wind lashing at his hair, a snicker brandished across his face.

                          "It seems the mouse has escaped."


                          Author Note:
                          Hope you all enjoyed this one. Also, to avoid the confusion of dumping all of Touko's Pokemon on you at once, I have devised this little list to help you tell who is who.

                          Legend: Species Name (gender) nickname [Type] *nature {ability}

                          Emboar (male) Hyle [Fire/fight] *Hasty nature {Blaze}
                          Lilligant (female) Ophelia [grass] *Quiet nature {Own Tempo}
                          Carracosta (female) Hana [water/rock] *Modest nature {Sturdy}
                          Braviary (male)Rhoden [normal/flying] *Brave nature {Keen *****
                          Bisharp (male) Luca [dark/steel] *Serious nature {Inner Focus}
                          Galvantula (female) Terra [electric/bug] *Naive nature {Compoundeyes}

                          and if you haven't guessed already, Laika is naughty nature, hehehe.
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                          Old January 27th, 2012 (2:33 PM). Edited January 27th, 2012 by OpenDoorLeia.
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                          OpenDoorLeia OpenDoorLeia is offline
                          The Will of One
                            Join Date: Nov 2011
                            Gender: Female
                            Nature: Lonely
                            Posts: 17
                            Author's Note: This chapter might get a little bloody chaps, just a fair warning. Don't want any of you passing out over there.


                            Ghetsis treaded over the wasteland, shadowed by Team Plasma's dark castle; his figure defined by the gleaming squares of light set on the looming spires. The wind tore at his elegant robe and combed through his slick hair, jarring a few strands astray. His searing eyes were set on us in a steely half-gaze, with such crushing intensity I felt as if I was paralyzed from head to toe, and the feeling grew with each step he took. Perhaps I was imagining it, or maybe the environment was paying a good tribute, but Ghetsis looked exactly like the man who handed defeat unto me all those years ago. There was something in his eyes, something about the way he moved that filled me to the brim with both nostalgia and terror. I had to wonder, did I resemble the girl he defeated in the past, or did I look like someone who had awoken from their despair; someone who had thrown away a treacherous past?

                            Ghetsis finally stopped his approach, keeping a few yards distance between us. The wind suddenly cut out, smothering its howling moan, drenching the world in a veil of silence. It left only the sounds of my quaking heart and trembling breath audible in the gaze of that monstrous man.

                            "Well, well, well," Ghetsis's voice cut through the air as clear as a bell over the silent heath. "It seems the little mouse has escaped." His gaze focused on N, warping into a glare.

                            "I should have known you'd be responsible for this…" Ghetsis sighed at length, "You were always… defective" The tone of his voice and the emphasis on that last word made me cringe. I could hardly believe it; it was like he was referring to N as some sort of vermin. My eyes flicked towards the Plasma King who still stood unmoving beside me. I wanted to gauge N's reaction to those words, though I was hesitant to do so. I almost didn't want to see, but curiosity plagued me. I turned. At first, he seemed just as void and unaffected as ever, but as I continued to stare into that face I noticed a spark of pain flick across N's eyes which radiated the real truth. Those words were cutting deep.

                            "Hand her over and I may just over look this little blunder of yours," Ghetsis withdrew his hand from under his cloak and held it out as if waiting to be offered something.

                            "I won't do that," N responded, sounding more resolute than he looked. Ghetsis's expression immediately soured and his hand slowly clenched into a trembling fist.

                            "You have the nerve to defy me?" Ghetsis growled, "You're just a puppet, a disgustingly useless boy! You fool…"
                            "Shut up!" I roared, unable to listen to a word more. Ghetsis was silenced, at least for a moment, by the harshness of my voice. Although the fiery glare that seemed etched onto the lines in his face didn't falter for even a second.

                            N stared at me in bewilderment, "…Touko?"

                            "It's alright," I said, trying to stare down Ghetsis as best I could without having any painful memories return. I didn't want to look N in the eye again to only see more pain. "No one deserves to be spoken to like that N… I'm not going to let it end here…" I drew a Pokéball from my belt.

                            "Hah!" Ghetsis scoffed, "You're going to fight me!? That's a laugh!" Ghetsis echoed my actions, drawing a capsule from under his cloak. "Must I remind you about what happened last time we did battle!?" He sneered.

                            "Oh, I remember alright," I lifted the brim of my hat, revealing determined eyes. "And that's why I won't lose to you!

                            "Such insolence," Ghetsis huffed, "It seems I must re-teach you a lesson in failure." He called out his Seismitoad as our first opponent. The blue bullfrog-like Pokémon landed to the ground in a crash. A deep croaking rumbled out of its throat as it leered down at me with crimson eyes. I matched its hate-filled gaze while calling out my Lilligant, Ophelia. I knew I would have the advantage here since my Pokémon was a grass type and Seismitoad, being both a water and a ground type, had a huge disadvantage.

                            N, with Laika in tow, distanced himself from the battlefield. His fretful eyes never left my figure. For some reason he seemed deeply concerned about something, but at the time I paid it no mind. I was more surprised with N's leniency for this battle. He was actually letting me fight Ghetsis without a word of protest, though all the protest imaginable was reflected on his face. Perhaps he thought that I needed redemption, that I needed to reclaim my sense of honor. Or maybe he figured I was too stubborn to back down either way. Never the less, I was grateful for this opportunity. I wasn't planning on losing to this man a second time.

                            I started the battle off. "Ophelia, use Petal Dance!" A tornado of petals erupted from my Pokémon's body, spinning around her and expanding in radius throughout the battle field. The petals, a soft rose in colour, fluttered by my cheeks gently while they whipped passed Ghetsis with enough force to draw blood and tear cloth. Ophelia hadn't forgotten. Her scars were still fresh and she wanted vengeance. She rushed at his Seismitoad quickly, the flurry of petals condensing around her body as she approached.

                            "Dodge it!" Ghetsis barked but he reacted too late. Ophelia smashed right into his Seismitoad with terrible force, throwing it backward.

                            "Right on Ophelia!" I shouted in glee. But the light-heartedness of the moment quickly faded when Seismitoad began to pull itself up. I nearly choked on my own breath. How hadn't it fainted!? That Petal Dance had hit dead-on and it was still standing!? A quiver of fear rushed through my bones.

                            Ghetsis sneered at me, "Seismitoad, use Hyper Beam!" The lips of his bullfrog Pokémon began to emanate with light. If this attack hit then it spelt bad news for Ophelia and I.

                            My heart leapt, "Ophelia! Get out of there!" My words hit the air not a second too soon. Ophelia took a dive and the Hyper Beam rushed passed her, cutting across the ground—narrowly missing me—and shattering the earth below. I brought up my arms to shield my eyes from the dust and debris spewing from the point of impact. "Ophelia!" I choked out against the wind, "Are you okay!?"

                            Through the clearing smoke I caught a glimpse of my Lilligant staggering to her feet. The hyper beam had nicked her, producing a large searing tear in her leaf-like skin. "Are you alright!?" I asked hastily. The smoke would clear any minute and we only had a small opportunity to land another Petal Dance while Seismitoad was recharging.

                            Ophelia nodded and I called out the next attack, "Petal Dance, one more time!" The burst of petals that erupted from her body shot out at such high velocity that it tore through the dust which the Hyper Beam had created. She sped towards the Seismitoad and tackled into its bulbous figure, smashing it to the ground with a quake. The Petal Dance had made quick work of that amphibious monster, leaving streaks of red across its blue form.

                            I couldn't suppress an ear-to-ear grin. "Awesome Ophelia! We did it!"

                            Ghetsis cast a bitter glance towards his fallen Pokémon, returning it to its ball and drawing out the next fighter, "Don't get over confident."

                            "Eelektross, put an end to this foolish girl!" A black, eel-like Pokémon was called out, gnashing its teeth menacingly, charging the air full of electric current as its body writhed in the air. I clenched my teeth, remembering very well that Ghetsis's Eelektross knew Flamethrower. One hit from that attack and Ophelia would be out. But I didn't call Ophelia back to her ball. Out of the corner of my eye I saw N give me a confused look, but I had hatched a plan to take care of this serpent. It was a risky one but what's a good battle without its risks?

                            "Ophelia! Use Teeter Dance!" In response Ophelia spread out the leaves on her body and began to sway in a hypnotizing rhythm. Eelektross glared down at Ophelia's dance, and for a brief moment of terror I thought we had failed. But when the eel's head began to loll and it began to stumble to and fro in confusion I knew we'd hit the mark.


                            "Ophelia! Finish this with Solarbeam!" With her petals already drawn back, Ophelia took in the light from the distant sun, building it up on the large flower resting atop her head which would be the outlet.

                            "NO!" Ghetsis roared, "Attack her you useless beast!" but it was too distraught to hear a word he said and instead it hurt itself in confusion. Even if it had snapped out of its stupor it was already too late for Ghetsis. The Solarbeam blasted out from the flower on Ophelia's head with such intensity that the ground shattered underneath and burnt black with scorching heat. The attack hit, scorching deep into the Eelektross's skin, knocking it straight into unconsciousness.

                            Ghetsis glared at me with an unfathomable amount of hate in his eyes as his second Pokémon was knocked out. He scrunched his eyebrows together and seethed through clenched teeth like he was about to explode in rage. But instead of a huge outburst of rancid cursing and furious profanities, he sucked in a deep breath and sighed. His eyebrows unknotted, his jaw lax; he seemed to simmer down almost instantly.

                            "Impressive." He said simply, "I never would have expected you to have improved so much during your imprisonment."

                            I was too confused by his sudden mood switch to respond.

                            "What could it have been, I wonder." He continued to ponder while staring me down, "You certainly weren't training in all this time. Unquenchable spirit perhaps? A desire to overthrow my kingdom? … I should have put you down while I had the chance," Those last words were hushed, almost like he was talking to himself. I was still shocked. I didn't even know how to respond to what he was saying, but Ghetsis wasn't waiting for an answer.

                            "But none of that will come to matter. I plan to end this foolish game here and now," he drew another Pokéball from his robe. The wind stopped suddenly as if choked, and a hush settled over the earth. "Go, Hydreigon!"

                            In response to the beast's awakening the overcast sky became dark, and the frigid wind picked back up in a violent gale. Hydreigon rose up above Ghetsis. Three bulbous heads blossomed from its jet-black body, the trinity of them gnashing at the air angrily—eager for battle or the taste of our flesh. My heart fell right to my stomach.

                            "Use Fire Blast." Ghetsis commanded.

                            My heart nearly stopped, "Ophelia—!" But my Lilligant was left immobilized by the intense Solarbeam she had released; she was left wide open as she struggled to recuperate.

                            Ophelia was taken down in one brutal shot. The Fire Blast set aflame her leaf-like skin, spewing a sweet aroma from her burning body. I cried out her name but it was already too late. Ophelia had fainted. Unable to stare at her blackened body any longer, I returned Ophelia to her ball. I needed to call out another fighter. I couldn't afford to leave myself open. I was worried for my Lilligant's safety but I had to make an effort to settle myself down, telling myself over and over I would treat my Pokémon's injuries when the battle was finished.

                            It will be okay… It will be okay, I repeated like a mantra in my head. I couldn't afford to lose my sanity now, no matter how difficult it was to hold intact. But as I caught sight of Ghetsis smirking across the battle marred earth, my morale began to break. He was mocking me. I could tell just by that snide look that he relished in my pain and distress. It was a deterrent, but I would not lose grasp of hope now. I still had five Pokémon to lay offence with! Sure, Hydreigon was tough but there's no way he could survive an onslaught of all my remaining Pokémon.

                            We can do this, we can do this. The desire to keep going, to protect the people I care about or to avoid the pain of another failure, either one of those was the perfect fuel for my resistance. I would not lose here.

                            "Let's go, Hyle!" I sent out my Emboar. My lack of any ice type Pokémon meant the only immediate chance I had against Hydreigon was to use a fighting type. My fighting strength outnumbered Ghetsis's but I really didn't want to drag this battle out. I was starting to feel ill and a bit uneasy. So what better to do then launch a fully charged Focus Blast right in the face of that serpent? I just hoped it would be enough to take it down.

                            "Hyle! Hit it with a Focus Blast!" In response Hyle picked up particles from the surrounding air and condensed them into a ball of energy. He snorted out black smoke from his nostrils and hurled the attack straight towards Hydreigon.

                            "Use Dragon Pulse!" At first I thought Ghetsis had gone mad. He hoped to push away Focus Blast with an attack!? It seemed completely outlandish to me until I saw that this was no regular Dragon Pulse; this attack had the combined powers of all three of Hydreigon's heads. This was bad. I didn't know what to do at first. Actually I had almost blubbered out a bunch of random attacks for Hyle to follow, just out of the impulse of panic. But I realized that I would just have to hope that Dragon Pulse wouldn't overpower our Focus Blast. Sadly though, it didn't.

                            The attacks met in a massive blast in mid air; Hyle's Focus Blast immediately broke away, torn down like wet paper, which left the Dragon Pulse to proceed unhindered.

                            "Hyle!" I cried out my Pokémon's name, panic stricken. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what I should tell it to do. Hope was slipping from my grasp.

                            My Emboar put its hands out forward and actually blocked the assault. I reeled back, shielding my eyes from the intense power and light of the attack which my Pokémon was just barely staving off. The raw determination Hyle had to hold off the enemy to this extent shocked me to my core. My Pokémon's determination was infectious and sparked a desire for victory deep within me.

                            Hyle was willing to see this through to the end. I didn't doubt that my Emboar also carried scars from our last battle, but he still wanted to fight. I wasn't going to give up either.

                            We can do this.

                            I was about to call out another attack for Hyle to carry out, but before I even had a chance to form the words that would be the catalyst of our victory, Hydreigon turned its attack towards me. It was so sudden, so subtle, that I didn't even know I was being targeted until it was too late. I couldn't respond. I only had enough time to think that… I was going to die. But the feeling of someone throwing me aside changed the path of fate. N had foreseen Hydreigon's intent, and he had rushed out just in time to push me out of the way. He was hit instead.

                            For a brief moment I saw the desperation in N's ashen eyes; the sadness; the fear. I saw more emotions flash across those eyes than I ever had before. I crashed onto the ground and watched in horror as those beautiful eyes were torn down before me. N was hit with the pulse of energy, his hat flying off in the updraft; the attack tore deep across his body erupting forth a spray of crimson. He flew back, like some sort of rag doll—limp and lifeless like a corpse—and smashed into the earth in a dead stop. A red slash of blood connected to his broken body where he had plowed into the dirt, more followed from the wound forming a pool of red beneath. Ghetsis wore an expression of dumb shock before breaking into a fit of laughter. He was actually laughing, I could hardly believe it. But I couldn't react to that; I couldn't even move. Even my eyelids refused to shut. I just stared at N's body, almost expecting him to get back up and tell me he was okay. But taking another look at the blackened ground, stained heavily with his blood, I realized that wasn't going to happen.

                            "N!!" I shrieked against the wind: a voice filled with blind horror. I ran to him, stumbling clumsily on the ragged earth until I reached him. Still, he wouldn't move. I skid down to my knees, ripping the fabric of my jeans, and picked him up in my arms. His eyes were left ajar, diluted and unfocused like the eyes of the dead. Streams of blood trailed from his lips and down his neck. But the worst was at his chest, where the attack had hit. The Dragon Pulse had burnt the skin so intensely that the flesh had broken open. It was a searing gash running along his body, ripping his shirt down to bloody tatters. I choked on a wave of vomit, just barely managing to suppress the bile.

                            "…N" I choked out his name but he didn't respond. A crushing wave of realization fell down on me. He was dead.


                            "N! You have to wake up! Say something! Plea…" Something crashed to the left of me. Tearing my eyes away from N's carcass for a quick moment, I saw Hyle lying in a motionless heap on the ground. Up till this point he had been holding off Ghetsis's Hydreigon, but my Pokémon had reached his limit. Hyle had been knocked out. A red, whip-like beam of light shot out of my Pokéball, automatically returning my Emboar inside. Ghetsis's laugh filled the air as his Hydreigon loomed over us, snarling its glistening teeth. I reached for my belt, trying to grab hold of a Pokéball but they slipped out of my ensanguined hands.

                            "It's over, little girl" Ghetsis sneered, and I could see that he was right. Casting one last glance to N's body the realization came to me. This was the end. It was all over here. The person who I wanted to protect, more than anything else in the world, was now a torpid husk in my arms. It was over…

                            I'm sorry, I tried to tell him but my lips were sealed; my throat—frozen.

                            "Dragon Pulse, now Hydreigon!" A sudden flash of black appeared in front of me. It was Laika. She was standing in the way of the oncoming attack which had just burst from Hydreigon's maw. If she didn't move then she would be hit instead!

                            "Laika!" I gasped, "You have to get out of here!" She flashed me a smirk in response.

                            Suddenly her body began to glow in a brilliant white light. I flinched away from the intensity, looking back a moment later to see that Laika had transformed. The bipedal black fox that stood before me was anything but an illusion. Laika had grown to her next stage of evolution; she'd become a Zoroark. Laika brought up her newly gained arms and deflected Hydreigon's attack. I stared in utter shock as the attack rushed by, whipping my hair about my face as the pressure connected with a bang into the ground beyond.

                            "Touko…" I felt something grab onto my arm and looked down in shock to see N staring at me with smoldering eyes. "It's not the end yet," He sputtered through blood-stained lips.

                            A rush of emotion overcame me. A burning desire of hope blazed up from the depths of my heart.

                            This is not the end.

                            I reached for my belt and clenched hard onto a Pokéball, determined to not let it slip through bloody fingers, "Luca! Let's Go!" I shouted, calling out my battle scarred Bisharp. Laika sneered deviously and with a puff of black smoke, morphed into an identically marred Bisharp. "Attack!" Both Luca and Laika shot towards Ghetsis's Hydreigon, darting across the ground in a confusing zigzag.

                            Ghetsis clenched his teeth in frustration, not being able to tell which Pokémon was real and which one was an illusion. He left it at guess work. "Hydreigon! Fire Blast!" He commanded, pointing to the Pokémon steadily approaching from the left. Hydreigon responded by erupting a blast of flame from his mouth towards one of the Bisharps. Just before it hit, Laika melded out of her illusion dodging gracefully out of the way, twirling around the inferno in a graceful pirouette. Ghetsis had aimed at the wrong Pokémon.

                            "Luca!" I shouted as loud as I was able, "Use Iron Head!"

                            My Pokémon leapt up into the sky, leaning its head back before smashing its broken helm down onto Hydreigon's main skull. Ghetsis's Pokémon roared in pain as it crumpled down towards the ground: flinching.

                            "Finnish this with Stone Edge!" Luca landed, smashing the ground on impact, launching up thousands of projectile stones which whipped towards Hydreigon and tore it into submission.

                            Laika was by my side in an instant, tearing N's bloody body out of my grasp. He seemed to have fallen into unconsciousness. "Laika!?" I gasped in shock, "What are you…"

                            She interrupted me by placing a clawed hand on my shoulder. She stared at me hard before she set her eyes towards the massive black wall in the distance. I knew what she was hinting at. We needed to get out here. If we didn't make a retreat now it could mean N's death. With so much blood already having left his body, he wouldn't last much longer.

                            "Okay!" I shouted, scrambling to my feet. "Luca, return!" I called my Pokémon back to its ball, but not before I saw it sneer at Ghetsis, slashing its blade-like arm through the air smugly. It had got its revenge. After my Bisharp had been contained I hopped onto Laika's back, clinging to her scarlet mane. She took off instantly speeding towards the wall, crafting an illusion around us as we faded into the barren land.


                            Ghetsis watched the horizon with a hard stare. He didn't pursue or more accurately, couldn't pursue. Hydreigon had been his last Pokémon on hand and he had exhausted his strength during the fight. Whether he liked it or not, the white princess had escaped. What he dreaded the most had now been realized.

                            A flurry of Plasma soldiers crowded around their leader. "Lord Ghetsis, would you like us to lay chase to the escaped prisoner?" They asked him with a salute. Ghetsis cast a bitter glance towards his fallen Hydreigon which stared intently over the distant wall as if waiting for the return of his enemies.

                            "Bring them back here—alive." Ghetsis barked. The guards nodded about ready to take off when he spoke up again, "And one more thing. The N Harmonia accompanying the escaped prisoner is an imposter. You have orders to kill him." The guards hesitated, sharing a confused look. "An imposter sir?"

                            "That's right," Ghetsis growled.

                            The guards took off, following their orders.

                            Chapter 6
                            THUNDER! (…and the puppet king dies)

                            I hid my face deep into Laika's mane as we tore across the landscape. She was a much faster runner then I would have expected, but I figured that was due to her newly evolved state. Once we reached the great, steel wall that bordered Team Plasma's castle, she leaped over it in a frightening bound. Though the wall wasn't as high as it looked from a distance, and seemed to be unguarded, the Zoroark scaled the border with ease and dove into the forests beyond. I tried to control my breathing and steady my quaking heart as images of blood danced in my head. I tried to cling to sanity until Laika could find a place to hide and tend to N's wounds.

                            We tried to distance ourselves as far away from the castle as we could, but the worsening of N's condition forced us to stop. The three of us found refuge in a small cave spotted in a stout cliff face, surrounded on all sides by naked trees and burly evergreens.

                            Laika and I nestled ourselves in the throat of the cave, glancing at the entrance nervously, as we set N's gruesome figure down on the cave floor. I scrambled to his side, trying to ignore my beating pulse as I tried to assess his condition. His expression was that of eternal pain. His teeth were grit together hard, his shuddering body was already drenched in sweat along with a coating of blood. His breathing was heavy, uncontrolled, and his face was flushed.

                            "N…" I whispered out his name. It was so unbearable seeing him look this way; the rawness of his injuries already had my head spinning. He continued to writhe on the cold floor of the cave, unable to hear me or even respond if he was able.

                            Laika faced me with a hard stare. Somehow, by the look in her eyes, I understood that she was intrusting the wellbeing of her master—no, her friend—in my hands alone. The Zoroark then stood up and headed towards the mouth of the cave.

                            "A-are you going to g-get help…?" I asked her shakily. She gave a quick nod in response before taking off into the darkening forest. A thick wall of storm clouds was rolling over the skeletal trees; a furious wind tore the stray leaves from the forest's branches and moaned through the lip of the cave.

                            I knelt down beside N, scanning him nervously, unsure of what I should do. I was panicked. I had never treated injuries before besides simple things like a scrape or a stovetop burn. And what was this! I stared uneasily at the small pool of blood accumulating around N's jittering body, trickling down from his torn skin. He needed professional medical help here. What could I do? My breathing became uneven, uncontrolled; I was losing it. N was going to die and it would be because I was too stupid to do anything. Even if I had beaten Ghetsis, even if we had escaped, if N died because of me I knew I wouldn't be able to handle the guilt. This boy's death would bring the despair back.

                            I contorted into a ball, hugging myself tight as I sobbed. "Why did this have to happen…?" I blubbered, clenching my brunette locks. "Why did you do this you idiot…?" I asked, as if the dying boy could give me answers. But I didn't need him to respond because the answer came straight to me.

                            This is not the end.

                            N did it to save me. He was the only one left in this distorted world who cared for a forsaken wretch like me. N had saved my life and I wasn't going to let his efforts go to waste. Just like when I stood on the edge of Team Plasma's castle, thousands of feet above the ground, a burning resolve sparked inside me.

                            N was still fighting. He was struggling to keep alive against any odds that decided to stack against him. And what was I doing?! Sitting here in the dirt, feeling sorry for myself, waiting for things to be done for me? No. I wasn't just going to sit idle and watch this boy die.

                            I'll save him. I declared in my head. I'll save him no matter what. And no negative voice dared to defy me.

                            I tore off the tattered remnants of N's shirt and fashioned it into a sort of make-shift tourniquet, put in place to halt the bleeding or at least slow it down. I'm no doctor by any means but I knew I had to apply pressure to the wound so N wouldn't lose any more blood, although the streams of sticky crimson that soon coated my arms had me gagging; the metallic taste was even in my mouth somehow. The bandage was sloppy but it was better than nothing so I stuck with it. I could do all I could with my resources, but in the end it was up to N's will to survive. I just hoped he hadn't lost it.

                            After his bandages were applied I dove into my bag in search of some sort of medical equipment, or even some stray bandages that would serve better than a couple torn shirts. I came up with nothing but I expected as much. Although not medical supplies, there were a few spare clothes packed in with the clutter for both N and I respectively. Did Anthea and Concordia foresee the chance that we would escape the castle together? I gave them the quickest of mental thank-yous before turning right back to N, seizing his hand in my own.

                            "N!" I said his name with force, hoping to get his attention. His brow wrinkled for a moment before the eyes underneath fluttered open.

                            "N? Can you hear me?" His face unknotted and his fading eyes found mine.

                            "Tou…ko" He managed out a small smile, breaking the coating of blood that had crusted over on his lips.

                            I squeezed his hand tighter, trying to keep my voice steady, "Listen to me alright. You have to hang on, okay?"

                            His smile, unfaltering despite his pain, birthed a heartache in my chest. "It's…so cold…" His eyelids started to droop.

                            "Hey!" I shouted, clenching his clammy hand in my own. "You have to stay awake! Listen to me!"

                            I reached toward my bag with haste, pulling out an extra sweater and draping it over his body. I liked it better that way. It meant he didn't have to be as cold and I wouldn't have to see his grisly wounds. I started to talk to him. Mostly to keep my mind off any traumatic thoughts, but also so N could continually hear my voice. I hoped that having him focus on something would keep him conscious.

                            "It was a stupid thing you did back there you know," I smiled crookedly. His dull eyes were still on me, his hand still loosely entwined in my own. "Why did you sacrifice yourself like that…? Throwing yourself in front of Hydreigon's attack… taking the hit… I don't get it…" I was finding it hard to look him in the eye.

                            He coughed, "If I didn't…you would…have been hit," It sounded like he had to force the words from his throat. "I…couldn't…let that happen…to you…"

                            He took in a shuddering breath. It was clear that even those small words took a huge effort to say. A low rumble of thunder echoed above.

                            "Touko…my head feels…heavy…" His eyes started to close again.

                            "N!" I yelled, and when he didn't respond to my voice I resorted in smacking his cheek in order to get him to stay awake. His eyes fluttered open again, but this time strained.

                            "You have to hold on…" I pressed. The soft patter of rain began outside the mouth of the cave falling on grass and wooden limbs. Another roar of thunder resounded in the heavens. I turned around towards the entrance, hoping for Laika to return but there was no sign of her. I took in a deep breath.

                            I faced my dying companion to see his face wrought with agony. The pain from his injuries must have started back up again. I squeezed his hand tighter, cursing myself for being so powerless. If only I could do something to relieve his suffering. I noticed the roughness of the cave floor, the uneven edges and the clumps of raw dirt. Just looking at it made me think how uncomfortable it must be to lay there on cold, lifeless stone.

                            "I know you just wanted to save me N," I began, slowly lifting up his head and placing it on my lap. "But if I had lost you out there… I'm not sure I would have been able to… keep going."

                            I looked down at his face. His eyes were opened but they seemed unfocused. "Even now you could still…" I stopped, pushing the negative thoughts away, "That's why you have to stay awake… alright?" I tried to smile at him, hoping that he would see me but his eyes seemed so dull, like a mirror tarnished by time; his eyes seemed to grow darker.

                            "You mean… a lot more to me than anything ever has before…" Even if he wasn't able to hear me, I still continued. "You know," I whispered, grinning foolishly, "You're the only reason why… the sadness hasn't gobbled me up… yet." My eyes were growing heavy and my head began to droop. I was growing tired and all that running, not to mention the battle, at Team Plasma's castle had drained the life from me. I struggled to remain conscious, so I could be there for N if anything were to go wrong, but the pull of sleep was too great and I burned out.

                            I must have passed out for a length of time, that couldn't have been more than an hour. But I was jolted from my sleep by a deafening crash of thunder. A flash of lightning then followed, illuminating the lip of the cave and the figure standing there. I was on edge immediately, expecting Plasma soldiers or even Ghetsis to meld from the shadows. Instead it was Laika who came forward, utterly soaked in rainwater.

                            "Laika…" I gasped, "Did you find…?" Before I could finish that thought a small Pokémon waddled up beside her. It was an Audino. Laika gestured over to N who was still resting on my lap, his face tight in pain. He was still awake, thank Arceus. The Audino walked up and stared at him, as if measuring up the damage. The ringlets of fur under its ears twitched occasionally as it brought its head towards N's chest. It almost looked like a doctor using a stethoscope on a patient; I was in awe by it.

                            "Ah…!" I quickly reached for my jacket which still served as N's blanket. "The wound is under here…" After tearing off my softly stained jacket, I could see that the injuries had become worse. The gash was inflamed, bordering on rot and infection.

                            "You can heal him?" I asked the Audino breathlessly. I had fought this type of Pokémon in the past, if you could even call it a fight. Audino were healers. They would even go so far as to heal their own enemies before themselves. I had no idea where Laika had found this Audino, but it was just the miracle we needed.

                            Laika tore off the make-shift bandage I had made out of his clothes, whether or not it had helped in the long run was a mystery to me. The Audino closed its eyes, drawing in a deep breath before placing its hands on N's marred chest. The paws of the Pokémon began to glow a surreal shade of pink over the wound. N suppressed a scream though his clenched teeth while he lashed out in blind agony. Laika and I held his arms down while the Audino set to work. I held my breath as he cried, wordlessly in pain. I tried to block out the noise subconsciously but I had little success. The pink light grew brighter from behind closed eyes and I couldn't help but peek out to see what was happening.

                            I gaped in awe as the wound on N's chest began to close up under the Audino's paws, leaving the fresh vestiges of a large scar. N fell limp under us, heaving deep breaths through his lungs.

                            I was dumbfounded, almost on the verge of tears. The Audino sighed and looked up at us happily, a look which said 'everything is going to be okay.'

                            Laika stared at N for a long time before leaning down and nuzzling him softly with her snout: relieved. The Zoroark then locked eyes with me and … she actually smiled. It was a smile much different from any playful sneer she had given me before; it was a genuine thank you that resonated deeply inside of me. But I was too shaken up to even form a response, my lips felt like they were sealed with glue. Laika seemed to understand that so she collapsed down beside me, keeping her back towards me so I could use her red mane as a pillow.

                            "Thank you, Laika," I said.

                            The Audino, having done its job, turned to go.

                            "Wait!" I cried out, halting it. "You don't have to leave…" It looked back towards me questioningly.

                            "Please stay…I really…wouldn't want to send you off into that storm…" It flashed a small smile before waddling back over and taking a seat between Laika and I. Once we were all settled, I finally let my body have its rest because I needed it more than ever now.


                            Author's Note Part Two:
                            ... Didn't think I'd actually kill him, did you? Ohoho, I certainly am not that cruel a person (obvious lie) Hoho~

                            Also, Audinos save lives. Just remember that the last time you level grind on Black and White. You monsters D: ALL OF YOU! MONSTERS!! ;___;
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                            Old February 10th, 2012 (4:40 PM).
                            OpenDoorLeia's Avatar
                            OpenDoorLeia OpenDoorLeia is offline
                            The Will of One
                              Join Date: Nov 2011
                              Gender: Female
                              Nature: Lonely
                              Posts: 17
                              Chapter 7
                              Scars and Marks

                              The first thing to greet me as I awoke in the cold throat of our refuge cave was a headache. A throbbing pain coursed through my skull with such intensity it felt like my head was being bludgeoned. I tried to move around but the jagged walls that encompassed me resisted even the slightest shudder. It was unfortunate, considering I was shaking like a leaf in the breeze out of the utter cold that filled the air. I struggled with great effort to peel open my crusty eyes as I tried to figure out where I was. The morning sun of autumn beat down outside the cave lips beyond; some rays strayed through the gash in the rock and lighted the gloomy confines of our hideout. But the sun was already too high up in the sky to shine its way to where I was hidden in the dark maw.

                              I shuffled against the uneven floor, trying to pull myself out of the stupor of sleep, but I was stopped by a faint groan coming from my legs. I looked down to find none other than N resting soundly in my lap. I stared at his sleeping figure in confusion, analyzing the wispy hair that curled around his shoulders and wound around my legs. I made note of every smudge of dirt that spotted his face, and with a sluggish brain still recovering from sleep, I couldn’t figure out why he looked so haggard. When my eyes fell down to his scarred chest I remembered. Our dire escape from the castle, the heated battle with Ghetsis; N sacrificing himself to save me and almost dying a short time later; every single memory flooded through my mind. I could hardly believe it. We had escaped.

                              I couldn’t seem take my eyes off of N while I underwent this recollection. The steady rise and fall of his chest signified that he was still in a deep sleep, and I did everything I could to remain silent and hope that I wouldn’t disturb him. But as my eyes seemed locked with the horrid scar that still crawled through the grooves in his chest, my emotions threatened to spill. I could already feel the sting of salty tears as they gathered in my eyes. The boy who slept beneath me, the one who had risked everything to save me… he had nearly died… I was just about to lose grip on my composure, when a sudden movement jolted me right out of my skin. Some large, hairy creature was shuffling around on the cave floor right beside me!

                              I scrambled, torn between putting up and offense or making a move to cover N. Though I didn’t have enough time to do either thankfully, until I realized Laika was the hairy monster that I had seen.

                              The Zoroark pulled herself off the ground and turned towards me, greeting me with a groggy set of aqua eyes. I could understand her reasons for looking so disgruntled, since the back of a cave isn’t the most comfortable place to spend the night. Laika locked her eyes with mine, before they settled over her trainer, who still remained comatose despite my sudden movements. The Zoroark radiated an air of relief, and once she found that everything was okay she began stretching her body out.

                              “Laika…?” I had to clear my throat; my voice was rough as sandpaper, “Can you take N? I need to go outside…” Laika halted and scanned me once over as I tried to moisten my parched throat. She obliged.

                              The Zoroark lifted N’s head off of my legs and settled him down on the flattest area of the floor she could find. I figured N must have really passed out, or was a really deep sleeper, since he hardly gave more than a muffle as he was moved about. But that worked out for the better since I wanted to give him as much time as he need to rest. Especially after what had happened yesterday… and all he had done for me. I owed him that much at least.

                              After my legs had been freed, I latched onto the cave wall and struggled to pull myself up. Laika threw me some confused glances as I floundered about on my numb limbs.

                              I frowned at the looks she was giving me, “My legs feel like slabs of concrete, okay?” I managed to shift my weight onto my feet as my joints screamed their protest.

                              Once I had achieved the simple goal of standing, I set towards the mouth of the cave with arms outstretched like a tightrope walker. Even with my ridiculous stance I was still having trouble proceeding forward. Thanks to the uneven ground, that I swear was put in place with the sole purpose of tripping me up, I fell on my face a few times before reaching the mouth of the grotto. At least Laika was having a good time relishing in my stilted walking. I could almost see the wolfish grin plastered on her face as she watched my constant stumbling.

                              I reached the mouth of the cave after a fair bit of hobbling and cautiously peeked out the entrance. Before I could make an attempt at analyzing every inch of the area in search of an enemy presence, something occurred to me.
                              “Laika?” I turned back to the depths of the cave where Laika hovered over her trainer, “Where did that Audino go?” I had just realized that the very Pokémon who had saved N’s life was nowhere to be found.

                              Laika shrugged absently, without bothering to turn around from where she seated, indicating that she was just as clueless as I was. I let out a long sigh, figuring that the Audino must have taken off in the early hours of the morning, back to its friends and family or whatever else.

                              I skid down the cliff face, which wasn’t a violent decline by any means, and hit the browning grass below which was blanketed in a blotchy quilt of fire-like leaves. I watched the leaflets crumple under my weight with a permanent frown on my lips. I was melancholy because I had really wanted that Audino to stay around. I wanted to thank the Pokémon for all it had done in one simple night, but now it seemed I would never have that chance.

                              I sucked back my thoughts as the morning light rained down. I craned my neck up towards the vastness of the sky to see it empty of any cloud or patrolling soldier. The only mark dotting the blue expanse was that of the sun itself, whose warmth seeped into my skin and soothed down my aches just a little bit. An icy breeze blew by, fondling the strands of my brown hair and rustling the leaves in bushes squatting under naked trees. As the playful breeze stirred through the foliage, my paranoia began to set in and I quickly brought up my guard. My mind went into the process of imagining hundreds of Plasma Soldiers lying in wait behind those shuddering bushes, though it didn’t take me long to realize that my imagination was blowing things way out of proportion. The woods around me were empty, and my active imagination couldn’t change that fact.

                              After calming my uppity nerves, I tried to loosen out my stiff muscles in the heat of the sun. I couldn’t get far when I realized, upon stretching my out arms and seeing my hands, that I was covered in dried blood. Streams of crimson caked onto my palms, blotches of black stained my jeans; I was coated with the blood of the man who had saved me, and somehow I couldn’t help but feel repulsed. I quickly made it a priority to locate a river or pond so I could make an attempt at scrubbing the fluid off. I could only hope that it wouldn’t hold too tight to my clothes and skin. I didn’t delight in the thought of wearing this blood, and as long as I was stained I could never truly feel free from Ghetsis’s grip.

                              I regarded myself lucky when I found a small creek located at the far left of the area, almost out of sight. It wound its way out from behind the cliff and slunk down into the forest beyond. The sun was kissing my cheeks as I submerged my hands into the current. The water seemed much colder than the weather permitted, and I was a bit startled by the initial coldness that pierced into my skin. By force of will I kept my hands beneath the water and attempted to scrub off the blood with my equally dirty nails.

                              My heart sank a little when I wasn’t granted with immediate results. The cold temperatures of the water made it difficult to rid the blood from my skin, but eventually with a little digging I began to see some leeway. Every stain of crimson that wound around my fingers slowly peeled off in brittle flakes, washing away down the stream like dust—forgotten. I sighed with a small shudder. With every streak of blood slowly vanishing from my hands, I kept returning to the horrific sight of N’s body as I had seen it last night. Every image from that time seemed branded into my head, and every time the thoughts bubbled to the surface of my already swirling mind, a tremor of fear erupted from within me. I couldn’t believe N had almost died.

                              I threw a wave of water into my face hoping that would banish those thoughts, or maybe even shake the last vestiges of sleep from my mind. The blood had nearly been cleaned from my hands and I was just about to work on my jeans, but I found myself frozen. I zoned out, staring unblinkingly at the stream which caught the sunlight and shimmered and soon blurred as my eyes unfocused.

                              N wasn’t dead. Neither was I. The two of us… together… had escaped from Team Plasma’s castle. Even now I was still having a hard time believing it. After so many years I spent looking out at the burning world through those windows, I was bound no longer. In a sick way I almost expected myself to awake screaming back inside of N’s chambers. A crooked smile appeared on my face as droplets of water ran from my chin. Wouldn’t that just be the biggest irony?

                              I imagine I would have continued to sit there sneering like insanity, if not for a sudden squeak which jolted me right out of my thoughts. I started, nearly losing my footing and toppling into the creek, as I noticed a small Audino standing beside me. Being completely startled by its appearance all I was able to do was stare at it like a Deerling in the headlights. How long had it even been standing there? Had it seen me snickering to myself like a weirdo? Just how much did this little Pokémon know?

                              My eyes narrowed as I stared the Audino down. Despite my haggard look, and my resemblance to one who has lost their mind, the Audino simply smiled at me apologetically. It seemed to have been saying sorry for surprising me, but I couldn’t be sure.

                              I eventually found my voice. “Are you…?” I pointed with a shaking finger, still startled. “You’re the Audino from last night…”

                              Before I could finish forging those thoughts, the Audino interrupted me by pulling a hat out from behind its back. I blinked absently at the black-billed, white fronted hat it held before my jaw hit the ground in realization.

                              “This is N’s hat! How on earth did you find this?!” I gawked, taking it from the Audino’s outstretched paws. I held the slightly battered hat up into the sunlight just to be sure. There was no mistaking it, in authenticity it was N’s hat and it was in pretty good condition!

                              I looked from the hat right back down to the smiling Audino before throwing my arms around it in a huge hug. “Thank you…” I murmured, on the verge of tears. It patted my back humbly.

                              “Without you… my friend would have…” The Audino interrupted what was about to become a long, teary-eyed thank you by tugging sharply on my sweater. I pulled it from my embrace questioningly, “Something the matter little guy?” The Audino answered by pointing towards something approaching from behind and I felt a lump emerge in my throat. I gently set the little Pokémon on the ground before hauling myself up and turning around to find N walking over from the cliff face.

                              N proceeded over dew moistened grass, swishing the fallen leaves beneath his feet with each stride. A current of icy wind tousled his hair about, winding the strands like vines around his shirtless body. His head swiveled, turning from side to side as he took in our environment until his eyes finally fell on me. He didn’t break his forward approach and the two of us were soon standing face to face in a canopy of autumn sunlight.

                              “Touko.” N began, staring at me with those wide, analytic eyes of his, “It looks like you want to punch me.” That set me off.

                              I stomped forth menacingly and he brought up an automatic defense, throwing his hands over his face so his observation wouldn’t become a reality. Instead of slugging him in the teeth, which I honestly wanted to do but didn’t have the heart; I threw his black hat back over his messy green hair and pulled the bill right down over his eyes. I crossed my arms in a huff and turned my back.
                              “Here…” I grumbled, “You don’t look the same without it…”

                              N burst out in laughter. I felt a flush of colour come to my cheeks as I spun around, “What’s so funny!?” I bleated angrily.

                              N’s hand flew over his mouth as he tried to stifle his chuckles. “I-I’m sorry, hehe,” he plucked a tear from his eye, “It just seems kind of cute when you try to hide your relief…”

                              I stuck out my bottom lip, still unable to rid the colour from my face. “You… are okay aren’t you…?” I managed to ask. “Are you sure you should be walking around…?” I was finding it difficult to look into his eyes. Despite his brush with death, N was still walking around like he hadn’t a care in the world. It was honestly a little irritating, but it was hard to get mad at him.

                              “There’s no need to fret. I’m feeling quite fine actually. Anywa—Oh! What’s this,” he gasped suddenly as the little Audino, who I suppose was watching our conversation with interest, waddled up to N with a happy squeak.

                              “Hello then,” he said, kneeling down to near eye-level with the Pokémon, “You must have been the Audino who saved me last night. I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done. I’d be in a pretty bad spot if it weren’t for you.”
                              The Audino responded with a string of chirps and squeaks that I couldn’t made heads or tails of. N stared at the pink fur ball thoughtfully, nodding his head occasionally as it spoke.

                              “You don’t say…” he mused as it continued talking, “I can understand how that would be troublesome…”

                              I turned towards the conversing duo, feeling very third-wheel-ish at the time as I tried to figure out what on earth they were talking about.
                              N broke out in a good natured laugh as if the Audino had just told a joke.

                              “Uhh,” I suddenly found my voice, “Mind filling me in on what’s going on here?” I pointed questioningly at the both of them, fanning my finger from side to side.

                              “Oh.” N scrambled up, “Sorry about that Touko. I forgot that you were standing there.” My eyebrow twitched angrily, “I mean…!” N put up his hands defensively before picking the Audino up in his arms, “Marie says she wants to come with us…”

                              My eyebrows scrunched in confusion, “Marie? You mean she already has a name?”

                              N shrugged, “She just said that’s what she’s called. It’s no trouble if she comes with us, right Touko?”

                              “Of course not!” I started. I was actually pretty happy about having this Audino join our group, and how could I say no to that adorable face?

                              “It’s settled then,” he said, holding the Audino gently in his arms, “It’s quite fortunate for us, you see. Marie knows a move called Heal Pulse, if we ever run out of potions or get caught in a tight spot we’ll have her to help us out,” N said scratching the Audino under her chin. She peeped in response, nuzzling affectionately into his arms.

                              “Wait a minute, what about the Pokémon Centers and Pokémarts?” I questioned.

                              N turned his gaze to the trees, staring thoughtfully into the gloomy branches, “From what I understand, both institutions have been closed down respectively. Now that people aren’t allowed to use Pokémon anymore, what’s the point of keeping up the facilities used to cater them?”

                              “Right…” I said, tapping my finger against my chin. It made sense, but I had a hard time wrapping my head around the thought of the Pokémon centers being shut down or converted into something else. It was an abstract concept.

                              “Anyway,” he said, turning back to face me, “Let’s go back inside of the cave now…” he looked downward, having the brim of his hat obscure his eyes, “There’s something I need to talk to you about…”

                              The confusion was clearly shown on my face as I pondered what he meant by that. The air of composure N held as I helped him back over to the cliff face, recalled me to the time the two of us had met in Nimbasa city. The same sternness was settled over his voice when he dropped the bombshell of his kinghood right over my head… so long ago. What was N planning to tell me now? I got nervous just thinking about it, and even as we crawled inside of the cave N avoided eye-contact with me. Laika was waiting for us when we returned and decided to pre-empt our conversation shortly by tackling into N affectionately and covering his face with slobbery kisses.

                              “Laika! Hey!!” I gasped, making an attempt to pull the fox-like beast off, “He’s still hurt you know! Come on!! Off! Off! Off!” Instead Laika threw herself onto me and gave me my share of her slimy gratitude. “Gross!” I squealed trying to fend off the Zoroark with my hands. I knew she was just showing her relief by lack of words, but I didn’t need to be covered in her spit to know it!

                              After Laika had said her wet thank yous, I dug into my bag and pulled out a pair of shirts for N to wear which were much similar to his usual attire. The customary black turtle neck and white button up.

                              “Here” I held them out to him, “I found these in my bag and…” My eyes darted down to his toned chest embellished over with a grisly scar. My cheeks turned a little rosy, “Its cold out…”

                              N flashed a grin, probably seeing my embarrassment but not daring to address it. He took the shirts and pulled them back over his head as I took out something to eat from the depths of my pack. Anthea and Concordia had so generously planted food inside of my rucksack. Though it wasn’t much more than a few slices of bread, cold cuts and a bundle of apples, it would serve as a good enough breakfast. I peeked out the mouth of the cave towards the high risen sun. Or lunch…?

                              N and I had established ourselves at the mouth of the cave and I waited for him to begin. But after a few minutes of silence he still did not speak. By the look in his eyes, it seemed like he was still debating the issue inside of his head. I decided to keep quiet and gnaw on my apple until he was ready to begin. The topic he was about to bring up seemed too delicate to force out.
                              After a few more moments had passed, N forced out a heavy sigh and said “I’ve been having nightmares too…”

                              I froze. I swore I misheard. But when I found his ashen eyes I could tell that he was dead-serious.

                              “You had them too? I mean, you knew about my…?” I tried to swallow what chewed apple I still had in my mouth.

                              “Well,” N shrugged, giving me a sly look, “You’re a pretty vocal sleeper…”
                              My cheeks became red and I turned away in a huff, “Okay, so what’s your point?”

                              N’s smile faded as his gaze settled over the forest again, “Well I…” he rested his hand on his knee so that Marie, who was seated comfortably in his lap, could have a nibble of his apple. “I kept having nightmares of your death.”
                              I was finding it hard to swallow.

                              “They began shortly after you were first imprisoned. At first I thought I was feeling the guilt of witnessing your failure and allowing it to happen… and I’m sure that played a big part in it… but they were relentless. Every single night I kept seeing you perish.” His voice was almost monotone but I could hear the undertones of despair clinging to each word. “You were painted with blood… not moving and not even breathing. I would try to awaken you but…”
                              A silence followed after that. I hadn’t a clue what to say and even if I could form a response there was no way I could force it from my sealed lips.
                              “So I took you out of your prison and invited you to stay in my room.” He looked down thoughtfully, “Though Ghetsis was vehemently against it, I finally managed to persuade him to let you live in my quarters…” The apple N had neglected was slowly being nibbled up by Marie’s little jaws. “But still, the nightmares wouldn’t leave me alone.”

                              He struck me with an unfaltering gaze. “Your nightmares were the haunting of the past… I took mine as a premonition.”

                              My heart knotted in my chest.

                              “Please don’t misunderstand.” He said quickly, “This isn’t really about me. You see, it doesn’t matter to me how much I’m haunted or hurt, because I’m probably deserving of any ill fate that befalls me, especially after what I’ve let happen to you and this world. But I never wanted to see you get hurt Touko. That’s why I never tried to help you escape or go against Ghetsis’s orders… I was so terrified that my vision would become a reality…” he lowered his eyes. “Who’d of thought I’d become so malleable?” He clenched and unclenched his one free hand. “My formula for a perfect world… has been corrupted…”

                              I wasn’t sure but N sounded like he was crying—or at least trying to hold back tears. Both Marie and Laika seemed to see it as they drew close to their friend in the hopes of offering some comfort.

                              N’s words had left me feeling so torn up inside. He had been suffering just as much as I had all this time and I couldn’t even see it! I’d been so ignorant it was sickening; I wasn’t going to let N wallow in his torment any longer. I went right up to him and wrapped him up in my arms. His shoulders shuddered and Marie was squished right between us, but I wouldn’t dare let him go.

                              “Touko…?” He muffled out.

                              “Shut up,” I responded, tightening my grip. “Please don’t… don’t try to carry the burden all on your own…” I broke the embrace and locked eyes with him. “The both of us messed up and all of Unova is paying for our mistakes. But we’re alive!” N’s eyes seemed to widen with the realization. “I’m alive… you’re alive too… our Pokémon haven’t given up either…” A few stray tears managed to find their way down my face. I hadn’t even realized I’d been crying, but the trembling of my voice and the shaking of my body alerted me to it now. “W-we’re the world’s only hope N. We have to keep moving… we have to keep… going no matter what…”

                              And that’s when I lost it. I dove back into N’s embrace, hid my face in his neck and cried. My quiet sobs echoed through the depths of the cave, muffled by the fabrics of N’s shirt as I held him. Marie patted us comfortingly while squashed between our bodies and Laika watched silently. I may have been mistaken, but the Zoroark seemed rather impressed by my short but sweet speech. Even I was a little taken back by my own resolve and the words I used to represent it. But the words just flowed so effortlessly just like salty tears down my face; they embodied my emotion and my determination. I hope N felt it too. I hoped he wouldn’t give up on this world.

                              “I think you’re right Touko,” N said breaking the silence and our hug, finally giving Marie room to breathe. “I’ve thought this over quite a bit and I’ve decided that I want to help you no matter what happens, okay?” He suddenly broke out into the most genuine smile I’ve ever seen. “Since you are the very first and the very best human friend I’ve ever had.” His smile nearly broke my heart. It was so innocent and child-like I found myself forcing back another wave of tears. My hands flung to my face as I tried to wipe my tears away with the back of my hand.

                              “And I honestly…” N began again with eyes downcast, “I no longer wish to be the king of a rotting world…” he grabbed onto my hands, “I may not be much help to you Touko. I am regretful to say this, but I am also ignorant to how the world has changed…”

                              “So that means…” I leant back a bit, “You don’t have much of an idea of how Team Plasma is running this region?”

                              He shook his head with a wave of green bangs. “But I have a bad feeling about it… a very bad feeling…” his hands began to tremble. “Because of our inactivity the Pokémon of this region have probably suffered…”

                              “Then we’ll save them!” I shouted, gripping his fists tightly, “We’ll save everyone. Together!” Shock was etched into his features, “You and I…” Marie reached up her small hands and took hold of where we had joined. I couldn’t help but let out a little laugh at her eagerness, “And with the help of Marie and Laika I know that we can rewrite all of the wrongs we’ve let Ghetsis commit,” Laika sealed the deal in a way by placing her clawed hands over ours and snickering.


                              I’m not alone. Since I had been encased in despair for such a long time, call me crazy but I almost forgot what it felt like to be happy. The despair was gone now, and in its absence came a strong feeling of strength: hope. I had escaped Team Plasma’s castle, stomped down the sadness; I’d even beat Ghetsis on equal grounds. N was with me, so were my Pokémon… all of us had made it out alive. We were free. I was ready to face whatever this world had to throw at me, whether good or bad. I was free.
                              But I was also so naïve, and I think I knew it somewhere deep down. Even if I had gained this small victory, there was a darkness waiting out there for me, with open jaws waiting to slam shut and crush me once I fell inside. But I was alive, no matter what waited for us out there in that burning world, the journey was far from over.

                              (With a face of void, the Black King births death unto his red hands.)

                              Ghetsis descended into the depths of his crystalline castle, passing through chamber after chamber, proceeding down endless staircases and wandering through colossal hallways. As he continued on through the archaic castle, the inhabitants that once coasted the halls began to wear thin. Guards no longer patrolled and other members of the Sages were no longer seen shuffling by. Only the sound of footsteps on stone pervaded.

                              After a while, the Sage reached a large black door set at the end of a cramped, empty hallway lit only by torchlight. The door was a monolith, free of any mark but a handle and the carving of a gray rose on its center. Ghetsis hesitated for no more than a second before pulling back the door and entering the room beyond.

                              The Sage had entered a drab, cramped sort of area which was nowhere near the grandeur of N’s chambers. It was barren and empty almost like a void. Even the colours of the walls were gray and devoid of feeling or sensation, and shadows clung to the four corners. All that stood out in the room was a single window set in the furthest wall and sitting in front of it was a boy.

                              “Can I take the bandages off yet…?” He asked in a frail voice.

                              “Not yet…” Ghetsis replied keeping his voice calm, free of any emotion. “Does it hurt?”

                              The figure shrugged with a soft rustle of white clothes, “Maybe just a little bit…”

                              Ghetsis approached the boy and noticed a vase full of wilting gray roses placed on the window sill. The boy was caressing the dead petals softly with his thin fingers. Some broke under his touch, falling still below him.

                              “But you need my help don’t you?” The boy said, keeping his back turned. Even though he was facing the open window overlooking a dreary world beyond, his face was covered top to bottom in bandages, even his eyes weren’t uncovered. Which begged the question, could he even see anything beyond the frame? “The king has run away…” The boy continued, “With the white princess?”

                              “Yes,” Ghetsis nodded, “He’s taken her too…”

                              The boy made a muffling noise that sounded something like a laugh, “That’s certainly no good. If she’s broken out then that means…”

                              “My plan is jeopardized,” Ghetsis finished with more force in his voice than before. “That’s why I need you…”

                              “You should have killed the girl when she was in your birdcage…” The boy said, matter-of-factly.

                              The elder sage scowled for a moment, “You don’t think I know that? It was an error on my part, but she was the only linchpin keeping that fool N in check.” The creases on his face smoothed once more, “But the past is irrevocable, that’s why you must take his place now. You can be the voice everyone hears and the face that they worship to.” He glowered at the landscape.

                              “No one will know the difference?” The boy inquired.

                              “It won’t even cross their small minds,” Ghetsis sneered.

                              “But what if I run into the original king…?” The boy asked turning to look at Ghetsis with a face wrapped in white.

                              Ghetsis gave him a hard stare, “You have to kill him. Those two are the only ones in this world capable of abolishing this dominion” Ghetsis glowered at the boy, “Understand that I won’t tolerate failure.”

                              With those parting words the Sage turned his back on the silent figure, leaving him to his own devices.

                              The bandaged boy lay motionless as the door closed behind him with a slam and froze as the noise resounded through his cramped chambers. The tip of his index finger just barely grazed a gray petal browned with decay. A silence soon settled over the room once more, save for the boy’s shallow breathing. With a sharp movement he reached forward towards his vase of gray roses and clenched the bulb of the flower ferociously; wilting petals breaking like char beneath his grip.

                              “I will show you, N. What the world looks like from below the heavens…”

                              And so… a new marionette sovereign was born.

                              PART ONE END—the defeatist is dead


                              Author Note:
                              Well. That's it folks. White Heart Black Bones PART ONE has come to a close. I'd like to thank you all for reading and adding your comments so far, you fill me with joy.

                              Anyway, Part Two will be up soon enough. I'll be posting it on this thread as well. So, I'll be seeing you in the next arc, lovies!
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                                #19   Link to this post, but load the entire thread.  
                              Old March 2nd, 2012 (2:40 PM). Edited March 3rd, 2012 by OpenDoorLeia.
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                              OpenDoorLeia OpenDoorLeia is offline
                              The Will of One
                                Join Date: Nov 2011
                                Gender: Female
                                Nature: Lonely
                                Posts: 17

                                PART TWO START


                                “Ladies and gentlemen of Unova, my name is Ghetsis. I have come here to talk to you about Pokémon liberation.” With a starting line so simple yet moot, the crowd’s growing interest was immediately snared. “Pokémon are sentient beings, it is an inarguable fact. Both humans and Pokémon have co-existed together for as long as time can recall. We have worked together and forged bonds together, but I ask you… is this really the truth?”
                                A tumultuous noise grew from the people around me, buzzing from their gaping lips like static. What was this man saying? The collective of their words formed this final thought. I watched the heralder as he spoke, with words echoing across the townscape. I seemed so captivated by his figure and his voice. I watched every movement he made, and eagerly clung to every word he said. The more I watched him, the less he seemed like a man…

                                His crimson eyes scoured the throng’s questioning yet attentive features; he seemed to regard them all as slabs of meat. This orator… what was he speaking? Was he questioning our ideals, our truths?

                                “Pokémon are subjected to our selfish commands and are forced to battle each other against their own will and desire. They are pushed around and degraded… while in reality we claim them as our partners. Can anyone dispute what I am saying?”
                                The people turned to each other in confusion, sharing looks of question and worry. Every set of eyes pretended to understand what was happening, but they were just empty holes fused to empty heads; they feigned both knowledge and comprehension. I was exactly the same as them; a being who only watched events unfurl, ignorant of their consequence. I can’t help but wonder how those people would have reacted if they knew the future this man’s words would bring about…

                                The preacher suddenly raised his arms against a slate-gray sky, parting the robe he wore.

                                “In order for us, as people, to learn from these spectacular beings known as Pokémon, we are presented with a task. What is that task you may ask? The answer is very simple…” The man paused for a moment before opening his arms in a vast, sweeping gesture. “We must liberate Pokémon!”
                                The crowd began to drone with noise again. “Liberate…?” Cheren questioned from beside me; his voice was almost drowned out by the chattering bodies that surrounded us. “I don’t like the way that sounds…” he mused skeptically, holding his chin with his thumb and index finger.

                                If Pokémon were to be liberated… wouldn’t that mean separating them from people? That’s not right. That’s unthinkable. Nothing benign could beget this act. The idea unnerved me more than I let show. I had just received my first Pokémon a mere few days ago, and now there were people around with the intent of severing our bonds? I hated it, and in a way I felt cheated. As far as I was concerned there was no way that this man could be right.

                                “In order for both people and Pokémon to be clearly seen as our equivalents, we must liberate them. Then, and only then will we be able to stand eye-to-eye with each other, and following that a new world of opportunities shall present itself to us. I conclude my speech here, ladies and gentlemen. We sincerely appreciate the time and attention you have given us this day.”
                                With that closing thought, the man named Ghetsis stepped down from his podium and was swallowed up by his entourage of soldiers and led away from town. The crowd of bodies that surrounded my friend and I continued to prattle on about what they had heard.

                                “Pokémon liberation…?”

                                “Who’s ever heard of such a ridiculous idea?!”

                                “As if that’s even possible!”

                                “But… what if that man is right…?”

                                “What do you think Touko?” I looked up towards my raven-haired companion who wore a familiar look of indifference on his face. When I didn’t form an immediate response, Cheren continued on, “What that man was saying… Pokémon liberation… When you spruce it up with flowery dialect like that, anything can sound good… though I can’t help but think that this ‘Team Plasma’ has some sort of ulterior motive.” My friend almost seemed to glower at the dispersing crowd as they wandered back into their houses and into the streets.

                                “Yeah, but…” I suddenly found my voice only to be silenced a moment later. Something had caught my eye over the emptying town square. A lean boy was standing in a shroud of shadows given off by the overcast sky, and made even more powerful by the brim of his hat. Even after all the townsfolk had left, he was the only person that remained. It made me wonder why. What did he want, and why was he looking at me with such burning eyes? The intensity of his look kept my words withheld, and I shuddered.

                                “Who is that person?” Cheren spoke my mind as he too noticed the boy. I didn’t answer because almost as if on cue the mysterious figure approached.

                                The man came to a stop right in front of me. I stared up at him while nervousness grew in the pit of my stomach. There was something very off about this boy, so much so that I felt a vague repulsion towards him. But human beings can often be afraid of things they don’t understand, and this boy who stood a few heads above mine was an enigma to say the least. I craned my neck to make eye contact with him in the hopes my nervousness would vanish once I got a better look at his face. I felt anything but soothed as I was met with a pair of analytic gray eyes, staring me down as if sizing up some sort of prey. I could only look at the boy in this soundless moment, though Cheren offered a different approach by trying to push the imposing boy back with an unfriendly stare.

                                I did feel fairly taken out of my comfort zone because of how odd this guy was, but I also felt kind of intrigued by him in a way. Why had he bothered to approach the both of us after such a milestone event had occurred? Did he wish to speak his truths as well? My curiosity prompted me to arouse conversation, since it didn’t look like anyone else was going to, and the awkward silence was already driving me mad.


                                The man lifted the brim of his hat a notch and suddenly launched his words at me, “Just now your Pokémon it was saying…”

                                “Hold on,” Cheren put his hands up haltingly, “slow down will you? You talk way too fast. And what do you mean about Pokémon… talking? That’s an odd thing to say…”

                                The strange boy almost seemed to glower at Cheren under his verdant bangs, “I see… So you can’t hear it either? That’s quite unfortunate,” he addressed me again, “my name is N.”

                                Cheren looked a little ruffled by this guy, who could only be described as different, but he didn’t let that affect his manners. “My name is Cheren and this is my friend Touko,” he sent a small gesture my way, “we’ve just started on our journey to complete the Pokédex.”

                                N’s eyes blazed at the mere mention of the Pokédex. “I see. But in order to do that you’re going to confine countless Pokémon in those capsules. I am also a trainer but I can’t help but wonder… are Pokémon really happy this way?” he began to proceed closer and I could already feel Cheren become on edge, but I simply continued to stare this boy down.

                                After hearing N talk, the way he spoke with such emotion, he seemed to be on the side of the mysterious Team Plasma who wanted to set Pokémon free. And in addition to that, he claimed that he could hear the voice of my Pokémon? I didn’t believe him and I was willing to challenge his boast.

                                “You can hear the voices of Pokémon!!?” Both boys jumped in surprise. I was even startled by my own voice, which was much louder than it should have been. I lowered it accordingly, slightly abashed by their looks, and continued, “I’ve never heard anything like that before. Maybe if we had a battle you could tell me what my Pokémon was saying.”

                                N stared me down in contemplation.

                                “Touko,” Cheren inched up beside me and whispered into my ear. “You sure this is a good idea? This guy seems a little…”

                                I had to cut him off, “Well he says he can understand what my Pokémon are saying.” I plucked Hyle from my belt, “Wouldn’t he be able to tell me if my Pokémon want to be set free?” I was still upset about what Team Plasma had said and I was torn. I didn’t want to give up my Pokémon who I loved so dearly. If I fought this man who said he could hear the voices of Pokémon… and I beat him… perhaps that meant that Team Plasma was wrong. Because I really didn’t want them to be right.

                                N stepped back in order to make room for our battle. “You’re just as hot-headed as ever,” Cheren grumbled before backing off.

                                N drew a Pokéball from his belt, “Then. Shall we begin?”

                                The first battle that I ever had with N was short and sweet. It was decided in only a few moves and it wasn’t long before his Purrloin was incapacitated. I couldn’t help but notice that during the whole battle N wore the most astounded look on his face. He was in shock and it wasn’t because he was losing. I soon realized that he really could hear what my Tepig was saying to me. And when the battle had been decided he was only able to say, “… I was not aware that Pokémon could say such things…”

                                Even if he heard it back then, even if N realized that my Pokémon were happy by my side, he continued to pursue his ideals and his truths. He wanted to enter a future built for Pokémon and Pokémon alone, and if that meant expunging humans from that equation that would be perfectly fine with him. But ignorance made the both of us weak, and when Ghetsis pulled the rug from under our feet we toppled—we were knocked down because both of our futures were wrong. We failed, and as a result Unova was molded into something else.

                                What is going on beyond the windows which I gaze?

                                I don’t know because the world is too far down for me to see. Even if my eyes were made of steel I could not see through the smoke, through the sadness and through the blood. I knew that the world below the heavens was burning, but I did not know in which ways.

                                But I reentered that world, and I wasn’t alone when I did it, and that small blessing made the following events… just a little less painful.

                                Chapter Eight
                                Blood in the sky (…turn your back on the castle of corruption)

                                “N!” I huffed, doubling over. “Slow down will you?” N turned around, staring at me obliviously as I hunched, hands on my knees, desperately trying to catch my breath.

                                “What’s the matter Touko?”

                                I frowned, unable to believe he had the gall to ask that, “My legs feel like blocks of concrete is what’s wrong!” I tried to steady my breathing. “Let’s take… a break…”

                                N walked over with a strange look of worry and pity clouding his features. “… We can’t stop now,” he almost stated, casting a weary glance to the sky which was only partially shaded by the entwining forest branches. “Ghetsis has most likely sent his soldiers to either capture or terminate us… I wouldn’t like either one of those options to become a reality…”

                                I flopped down on my rear and leant against a great oak, “I know… but how about just five minutes,” I grinned innocently.

                                I must have won him over with that cheesy smile because he immediately sighed in defeat, “Alright then,” and took a seat beside me.

                                The two of us sat in the woodland that sprawled below Team Plasma’s castle. Apart from the faint breeze howling through the trees, an unnerving silence surrounded us. It was strange, considering it was a forest and all; it should have been full of life. But we saw no Pokémon in this place; no Lillipup’s scampering about; no Patrat gathering nuts for winter. There was nothing. The wind was our only company, and it met us in a cold caress.

                                The emptiness was a little bit painful, so in an attempt to block it from my mind I had thought back to the conversation N and I had that same morning. I remembered it well. When the night had ended and the dawn had come, N and I began our trek away from Team Plasma’s castle. Our bodies were sore from the recent escape, and I was worried if N was well enough to handle all the walking, but he insisted so off we went.

                                Before the two of us set out, we had debated shortly on our next plan of action. I thought about heading to Opelucid City. I figured it would be a good place to start, considering that it’s the closest city from the castle and all. It would be a good place to gather information on the current state of affairs and to see what kind of changes Team Plasma had made to the region while I was locked away. I knew they wanted to separate humans and Pokémon, but to what extent had they taken that idea?

                                We can’t do that.” N said.

                                I could only blink at him, “Why not?

                                While your reasoning makes sense, I fear that it would be too predictable to head for Opelucid now.” N explained while we snacked on what remained of our rations, “Since it’s the closest city from the castle, it is likely to be loaded with soldiers and the like, not only that but there’s a good chance they’ll be expecting us. Let me assure you, going to Opelucid would be the equivalent of a death sentence.

                                That was a clear deterrent. I would have hated to go there only to be recaptured again. I wanted to avoid that at all costs.

                                Good points. So then… where do you think is a good place to start…?” I tried to get an internal list of possibilities going, but I didn’t get too far when N spoke again.

                                How about your hometown Touko?” I could only stare at him, since his suggestion came as a bit of a surprise.“It is the farthest town from the imperial castle… if I’m not mistaken. And there’s a fair chance that your family and friends may be there too. I know you’re strong Touko, but it would be beneficial for us to join up with some allies. Neither one of us knows very much about how this world has changed… we need to know more if we wish to throw Team Plasma from their position of power.”
                                I wondered if heading to Nuvema, my birth town, was just as predictable but N told me that the pros outweighed the cons in this situation. So we headed out. After packing our supplies and sealing up our Pokémon we dove into the forest beyond.

                                We had been stomping around on tired legs for what I would guess was a few hours into morning, and the complaining of my joints warranted a little break, at least for a few minutes. Though I was the picture of exhaustion, N seemed unfazed by our constant hiking through the rugged terrain.

                                What kind of superhuman is he…? I couldn’t help but wonder.

                                “N…” I broke the silence, keeping my eyes set on the ground.

                                He didn’t respond immediately, “What is it Touko?”

                                “When are…” I gnawed lip nervously, “uhm… when are we… going to be flying…?”

                                Before he could answer I continued to blubber on, “I mean, because we’re going to have to get to Nuvema town somehow right? I mean, we can’t just hike all the way there. What am I saying, that’s impossible with the state my legs are in. But maybe we could pull it off, you know, and it like, could be safer too. I uh…” N grabbed my hand tightly in his own and stared at me with dead seriousness. My voice was lost.

                                “Touko…” he said solemnly before his expression suddenly softened. “You’re afraid of flying aren’t you?”

                                A rush of colour came to my cheeks, “Yes. It’s the stupid heights.” I hung my head in shame.

                                “I don’t think you need to feel bad about it…” he said carefully. “Everyone is afraid of something… aren’t they…” a not so subtle hint of sadness was heard in his voice. I flashed a look of confusion his way but decided not to pry.

                                I kept on-topic instead. “But how are we supposed to get there if I can’t fly?”

                                N smiled, “I believe you can do it Touko. Rhoden believes in you to.” Impossibly, his smile became wider, “And I’ll be here for you. So you don’t need to worry. Okay?”

                                Somehow, his kindness and faith put me at ease. Though it takes a lot more than gentle words to drive out a fear, N did a good job at settling me down until we reached a clearing in the forest. I was still anxious; my throat was dry and I couldn’t stop shaking. My heartbeat thrummed through my head as a flock of butterflies fluttered madly in my stomach. I was scared. I knew that, but after I realized it, I accepted it in a way. I told myself that no matter how nervous or scared I was, I couldn’t let the fear get the better of me. Flying was something that I was going to have to do. I couldn’t turn by back, because I’d already run away long enough. If I’d escaped Team Plasma’s castle, then I could certainly do this.

                                I plucked Rhoden from my belt and called him forth.

                                “Rhoden,” I stared at my great eagle with slight distress. He simply stared back, “We’re going to be flying.” He cocked in head to the side in surprise.

                                “I know!” I wailed.

                                “We have to hurry,” N said, looking over the forest uneasily to where Team Plasma’s stronghold loomed over the sky. Even though we had put a fair amount of distance between ourselves and the castle, it could still be seen over the horizon. The sight was ominous as it stood there like a colossal ghost, turning the forests and mountains that surrounded it into twigs and molehills. It leered from its position in the sky, and it watched as we left it behind. But I had a feeling that no matter how far away from it we ran, we’d still be able to see its towers in the sky. It would always be watching, and waiting for us to return.

                                “Okay.” I said, removing my eyes from the sight and facing Rhoden uneasily. “Okay. Okay. I can do this…Okay.” Rhoden knelt down and I stumbled onto his back clumsily. N followed suit, mounting my Braviary gracefully and sitting behind me.

                                “Are you ready Touko?” he asked, wrapping his arms around my waist.

                                I clung onto Rhoden’s plumage tightly, but not so tight as to hurt him. “Y-yeah… I’m…” I swallowed hard, “I’m ready.”

                                “Okay.” N responded, but I can’t imagine that he was convinced.

                                I sucked in a deep breath, closed my eyes and focused on finding my center. I composed myself before the liftoff.

                                I’ll be okay. Rhoden won’t let me fall. I know that I can do this…
                                I thought back to the moment when I decided to escape Team Plasma’s castle. The very instant it happened. The feelings I held when I forced back the sadness and fear and stepped out those windows. The desires I had to save the people and Pokémon in this world.

                                I can do this…

                                I can do this…

                                I won’t turn back…

                                I won’t run away…

                                I opened my eyes and looked up.

                                I won’t give up.
                                “Rhoden, use Fly.” My Braviary kicked off the ground, beating his massive wings and taking us above the treetops in a matter of seconds.

                                My eyes automatically slammed shut, “Ahh- ah n-not above the treetops!! Not above the trees!!” I wailed out, leaning down closer to Rhoden’s sturdy body as we gained altitude. I could have sworn that I heard my Pokémon give an irritated sigh as he halted his upward climb and held his course stationary above the disappearing treetops. Rhoden was happy to be free, just like I was, and I’m sure that all he wanted to do was breach the very limits of the sky with his newfound wings. But with the fear I was feeling, that wasn’t going to be happening.

                                “Touko, calm down it’s alright,” I could just barely hear N’s voice through the howling wind, “take a look.”

                                I opened my eye a fraction to see the barren land passing below us, and I realized that it wasn’t so bad. We weren’t as high up as I thought we’d be. I mean, I had been looking out the windows of N’s room for so long that this height really seemed like small potatoes. Rhoden had kept with my demands and glided just above the treeline. My heart was still thumping; my white-knuckled hands were still strangling Rhoden’s feathers, but I was okay.

                                I hissed out a quivering sigh. “I-I guess,” My head spun around in all directions. “I guess it’s not so bad.” I followed that remark with a nervous laugh.

                                “We’ll be okay. Rhoden would never do anything to hurt you Touko,” N was saying, and my Braviary squawked in agreement. I felt N rest his chin on my shoulder, which sent a jolt of nervousness through my gut. “We’ll probably reach Nuvema town by midday tomorrow.”

                                “Yeah…” I said, looking over the horizon. I wondered what was waiting for me back in my home town. Was my mother still there? What had happened to Cheren and Bianca? What about the Professor? I had been absent from the world for such a long time that I wasn’t sure how much had changed. I tried to prepare myself for any outcome, but even that was impossible. I could only wait until we arrived back home.


                                We had been flying in silence for quite a while. I had grown used to the heights and the feeling of N’s arms around me, so I wasn’t as terrified as before. But if Rhoden tried to elevate too far above the treeline he was sure to hear about it. I didn’t enjoy keeping Rhoden so grounded, and seeing him cast longing glances towards the sky really depressed me, but I wasn’t sure that I could handle being up that high. So we kept flying low.

                                I soon discovered that late fall was no time to be flying around; it was nothing less than freezing up there. The iciness of the wind tore through my clothes and pinched into my skin. And besides the goose pimples that coated me, my nose felt like an icicle and I even heard N fire off a few sneezes, which sounded like an air horn and scared me out of my skin. But we simply had to grin and bear it since walking wasn’t much of an option.

                                We also avoided coming in contact with the main traveling routes during our flight. N advised that if we drew too near to the towns and routes there was a high chance that we would be spotted by Plasma operatives, and that was a risk we really didn’t want to take. So we kept our distance from the populated areas and didn’t come into contact with a single soul of either human or Pokémon. That was until the following evening.

                                I could assume that we had flown further south than Opelucid city but there was no sure way to tell; all I could see below were bony deciduous trees and the peaks of the shaggy evergreens going by. The sun was setting over the mountainous horizon, splaying a collective of fiery colours over the sky: an inferno of red which melded right down to a deep purple above our heads. I let out a yawn, causing puffs of air to drift from my mouth and N let out a little shiver. We were going to have to land once the night set in, so at least we could get a little sleep, and spare ourselves from contracting hypothermia in the frigid sky. But before I could even ask where we should descend, I felt N shift behind me as if he was turning around.

                                “Touko…” the edge in his voice set me off. Something was wrong. “I hate to distress you…” he said carefully, “but we’re being followed.” My hands clenched tighter on Rhoden’s feathers; there was no possible way he could have said that without distressing me.

                                “Who is it?” I asked, keeping my eyes fixed on the descending sun.
                                “It’s the Team Plasma Aerial Division,” N cursed. “I was hoping we wouldn’t run into them. We’re not even half way there…”

                                “Do you think we can outrun them?” I tried to keep myself steady and calm; the last thing I needed was to panic.

                                “They’re known for their persistence,” he responded. “They’ll follow us to the ends of the earth if they have too.”

                                “Rhoden. Stop,” Rhoden came to a halt with a thrum of massive wings, leaving us suspended in the icy orange sky. We turned around to face our pursuers and came to see many black dots which speckled the darkening violet sky, and they grew in size as they approached. I let out a shuddering breath, staring them down and trying to sum up a number, and trying to keep myself from losing my head in the process.

                                “How many do you think there are?” I asked. I wasn’t pleased that a crack of fear had distorted my voice.

                                N paused for a moment, “It looks like there are about twelve.”

                                I grit my teeth. This was definitely not good. We couldn’t turn tail and run because that wouldn’t solve anything. They’d just continue to pursue us until we were brought down and captured. The figures drew closer and closer and I managed to pick out a few details. Many of the soldiers were riding atop Unfezant and Tranquill, each Pokémon was reined, hooded and wore a garb emblazoned with the Team Plasma coat of arms.

                                “That’s the leader,” N said, pointing to a dark, vulture-esque Pokémon which leered at us near the back of the flock. Even from this distance I could see the piercing eyes of a Mandibuzz. The rider of the sinister Pokémon was clothed in blacks and dark browns: a colour scheme which matched his Pokémon to a T. The rider’s face was obscured by a beak-like helm which gleamed in the falling sunlight. They were getting close.

                                I took in a deep breath and swallowed my fears. “Alright.” There was no other option. We were going to have to fight these guys. The mere thought terrified me considering I had hardly even flown before, let alone had to partake in an aerial battle. Fate seemed to be frowning on me now, but after all I’d gone through to break out of Team Plasma’s blasted castle, I wasn’t about to get chained up again. And that feeling alone pushed down the terror.

                                “Rhoden… are you ready for this?” I asked as the riders drew near. My Braviary beat his massive wings threateningly: screeching eagerly. I should have known he wouldn’t back down. “Good. We’re going to take these guys out!”

                                N tightened his grip around my waist once my words disappeared into the air.

                                A trinity of Tranquil shot a Quick Attack at us: boxing us in from the front and both left and right sides. There was no way to evade but to go up.

                                “Rhoden dodge it!” My Braviary shot into the sky and I suppressed a scream as the wind beat against my body. We arced over our adversaries and towards the cirrus clouds above. I forced my eyes open to see if the three Tranquil had collided with each other after we had fled. I didn’t have a chance to look before N shouted my name. I looked forward to find a duo of Unfezant heading straight for us with dark talons extended.

                                I cursed, reacting a little too late, “Rhoden, Dodge!!” Rhoden weaned to the side, evading the first attack as the Unfezant blew by—narrowly missing us. The second Unfezant was coming in fast and we didn’t have enough time to dodge. Rhoden avoided a fatal blow with his sharp senses, jerking out of the way at the last moment, but the Plasma Unfezant managed to take a hit at his wing. We teetered as a flurry of feathers broke from my Pokémon’s body: drifting away in the faint breeze.

                                “Rhoden? Are you okay?!” He squawked a response.

                                “He’s alright,” N translated.

                                Alright. “Rhoden! Dive down!” My Braviary took a nosedive towards the trees below. We rushed past another couple of Unfezant on the way and they immediately made to pursue.

                                I clung onto Rhoden with all my strength as we barreled down with Plasma soldiers following right on our tail. Before we plunged into the forest below, Rhoden curved upward, straightening his trajectory so we wouldn’t collide into the hollow branches. Our pursuers weren’t so lucky. I heard the crash and snap of many branches and bones as our enemies fell into the forest.

                                I was almost laughing out of pure fear and exhilaration. I couldn’t believe this was happening or that we were pulling this off. I couldn’t rejoice long as a dual-pair of Tranquill came up beside us. I choked on a gasp. They’d caught up to us already? Even more surprising was that they were able to match Rhoden’s speed. My reaction was delayed and I couldn’t call out an attack.

                                “Touko!!” N shouted, trying to pull me back into reality.

                                I cursed as the pair of enemies began to lash out at us with their claws and beaks.

                                “Rhoden! Up!!” In response my Braviary sped towards the clouds, and I immediately regretted my decision. I could feel the altitude pressing against me: the tempest of wind ferociously pummeling my clothes and hair and howling through my ears. I almost felt like I was going to slip off my Pokémon’s back and tumble to my death, but N and I managed to hang on.

                                Upon breaking the surface of the cloud-line Rhoden stopped his upward arc and flew forward. Nearly a second later, before I even had time to get a breath, three Tranquill and one Unfezant appeared from under the blanket of clouds. Rhoden was immobilized, waiting for my orders and trying as best he could to fend off our attackers with his massive talons. I was too paralyzed by fear to speak—my throat felt frozen. And besides that, I could hardly get a word out with all the wings beating against my body and the claws tearing at my skin.

                                “Rho—…” I tried to choke out against the resistance, “RHODEN USE CRUSH CLAW!!!” I screamed as loud as I could. Rhoden extended his talons and brought them down with force against a very unfortunate Tranquill below. I heard the fragile bones in its wings snap as my Braviary clenched it in his claws.

                                “Finish it with Peck!” Rhoden drove his beak deep into our enemy’s skull and he fell below the clouds in a lifeless hunk. I could almost see N cringing behind me. I didn’t mean to be so violent, but it was the only way to deal with our enemies. It was either kill or be killed in these skies.

                                I ordered my avian Pokémon to use Crush Claw against the remainder of opponents, and Rhoden was merciless. He snapped their necks, gouged their eyes and smashed his skull into their chests. They were dealt with, leaving only gray feathers dancing over the air.

                                I expected more enemies to emerge out of the clouds and swarm us but none came.

                                “Where are they…?” I wheezed, but my attention was drawn by a black shadow which broke the cloud-line and headed right for us. I managed to see it quickly enough to evade, “Rho-Rhoden! Dodge!” He weaned out of the way just in time as a massive Mandibuzz flew past.

                                My Pokémon halted, turning around slowly to face our enemy who was hovering a few yards away.

                                “Pretty valiant fighting so far!” The leader boomed in a frighteningly loud voice; I have no idea how it carried so far over the roaring winds of the atmosphere. “Sorry to say that I’m going to shoot you out of the sky!” I swore I saw him sneering beneath his beak-like helm, and in response his Mandibuzz cawed deviously, “It all ends today!”

                                I returned the sneer, trembling like mad but feeling more confident then I looked. “We’re not going to let this punk beat us, are we Rhoden?” He screeched menacingly in response. I didn’t need N to translate that. Rhoden was saying ‘let’s do it!’ and I didn’t wait another second.

                                We both sped towards each other at breakneck speeds. By our trajectories it looked like we were about to collide, but we changed course at the last second.

                                “Use Dark Pulse!!” The Plasma leader shouted on the pass. A dark wave of energy reverberated off the buzzard, striking us hard and throwing Rhoden off course. I nearly slipped off Rhoden’s back as we teetered at a frightening angle, but N was there to catch and steady me, saving me from a nauseating fall. Unfortunately there wasn’t time to thank him. The Mandibuzz was taking advantage of our distress and coming at us with another attack.

                                “Rhoden! Use Slash!” But my voice was drowned out by the Plasma leader’s next attack.

                                Mandibuzz’s body seemed to fade for a moment before a heavy force struck my eagle in the stomach. Our opponents had used Faint Attack. They followed up with a Fury Attack, not even giving us a moment to recuperate. The Mandibuzz’s ebony beak struck into Rhoden’s hide with force, drawing blood. As we were hailed, I couldn’t find my voice to speak or to shout out an attack. N seemed just as distressed as I since he was squeezing my waist so tightly I thought my organs were gonna explode. The Mandibuzz drew back, and I thought for a fleeting moment that we’d have a chance to launch a rebuttal, but I was wrong.

                                Mandibuzz shot at us with such speed and force that it seemed almost invisible for a second. It had used Brave Bird, plowing into Rhoden’s abdomen so hard that N and I were bucked off his back and cast towards the earth below.

                                The last thing I felt was the soft tips of Rhoden’s feathers against my skin before I was falling weightless through the sky. I was going to die. But even that thought could hardly register itself in my slowly crumbling mind. But you know what the weird thing is? I wasn’t scared. The gales of the atmosphere eviscerated me and the jagged branches below delighted in finishing the job, but I didn’t feel afraid. I simply thought that the burning sky, with the veins of clouds streaking across the expanse, was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life. Rhoden, the Mandibuzz and every other vicious fighter on that plain became amorphous blotches that melded into the ocean of colour above.

                                I was crying. I could tell by the blurred world and the watery drops which slowly drifted from the corners of my eyes. Time itself seemed to grind to a halt.

                                A sudden voice shattered this strange, ethereal world of pre-death. Someone was calling my name. Somehow through the hurricane of wind which blew past my body, I recognized N’s voice echoing towards me. My eyes forced their way open and I turned my head to the side to see N falling near me. He reached his hand out desperately in my direction… and I realized that he was trying to save me. It was funny. N seemed to think that if he caught hold of me then he could halt our fall and prevent our death. I reached my hand out to him in response, trying as hard as I could to grab hold, just to feel his skin against mine before we hit the unforgiving earth. The winds did all they could to keep us apart but we soon found each other’s hands a moment later, and N pulled me into his embrace. We fell together. I remembered being happy because I thought dying in this boy’s arms wouldn’t be such a bad way to go out, you know?

                                But it wasn’t over yet—it was far from it. The second I entered N’s arms and felt the heat of his body merge with mine, and the pound of his heart resound in my ears, desire sparked. The numbness that encased me was abruptly driven out with force, and I was filled head-to-toe with a searing desire. I’m not going to let us die.
                                “RHODEN!!!” I shouted against the deafening wind. “USE SUPER POWER!!!”
                                My voice carried into the sky where Rhoden was falling. His eyes flashed open and he turned to the Mandibuzz, rushed at it and plowed into its gut with titanic force. The vulture doubled over, spewing blood as it tumbled back.

                                After dealing with the leader, Rhoden belted downward, faster then I’d ever seen him go before. But as I saw him shooting towards us in the fall, I couldn’t help but look down to see the bony branches of the forest only a couple yards away. He wasn’t going to make it!

                                Rhoden could see that too and somehow, and with another great heave of his wings, managed to gain the final push that he needed. He zoomed past us, his image distorted by speed, and caught us on his back. And he came not a second too soon. I heard the branches below tear and snap as my Pokémon’s legs ripped through the foliage. N and I scrambled onto Rhoden’s back. Feeling the warmth and sturdiness of my Pokémon’s body beneath settled me and quelled the fear. If my Pokémon had not been powered up by that last attack, N and I would be mince meat right about now.

                                “Let’s go!” I shouted to my Braviary. After hearing that I was okay, Rhoden sped forward, fleeing the battle area, getting as far away from our enemies as we could manage. We had taken out their leader, and glancing back I could see the riders were in disarray. They circled around their captain who, judging by his subordinate’s actions, had fallen into the branches below. I wasn’t sure if he was dead or not, but now was the perfect time to escape, and with Rhoden heavily wounded as he was, we couldn’t afford to stick around a fight a losing battle. Thankfully, none of our opponents followed as we disappeared into the darkening sky, and the first stars of night began to spark in the cosmos overhead.

                                I don’t know where it was that we landed, but after getting as far away from the battle as we could manage, Rhoden landed ungracefully into a small clearing in a brush of evergreens. We stood frozen under the sparkling night sky as I tried to settle my thrumming heart and rid the violent tingling from my body.

                                “Touko…?” N broke the silence with a winded and shaky voice. “A-are you o-okay?”

                                I responded by sliding off of my Pokémon’s back and crashing onto the muddy earth. I could hear N gasp as he scrambled off of Rhoden and squatted down beside me. He grabbed firm hold of my shoulders and brushed the hair and dirt from my face, “Touko?”

                                He looked so worried and distraught, but I couldn’t take him seriously do in part to his hair which was sticking out all over the place, which made him look like he’d been zapped with electricity or something. More surprising then that was the fact that he still had his hat on, which was what shocked me more than anything. How on earth had he managed to keep hold of the bloody thing? His clothes were torn, and he was bleeding a bit, but I figured I looked just has haggard, if not even more so then he did.

                                So out of all the things I could have done at that moment… I decided to laugh. Well, it wasn’t so much a decision as an involuntary rise of insanity. I threw my face into N’s shoulder and I started weeping and cackling like some sort of maniac. N didn’t respond to my uh, rather crazy antics at first, probably in the process of thinking that I’d become mentally unwell. But after a few moments… he started laughing too.

                                “I can’t… b-believe that we…” I choked a few audible words out. “I can’t believe that we beat them…!”

                                He stroked my back with soothing rhythm, grinning like an idiot into my hair, giving out broken chuckles as a response. I guess laughter really is contagious. Rhoden, who I’m sure by this point thought we’d gone mad, nudged me gently with his beak. I pulled my face out of N’s shoulder and stared at my Pokémon who was so incredibly haggard, yet still looked so valiant. I threw my arms around Rhoden then, weeping with both pride and relief, burying my face into his torn plumage.

                                I kept blubbering into my Pokémon’s chest. He was extremely tolerant for some reason and let me go on for a while as I choked out some intelligible praise, eventually though, N had to pry me off so we could tend to our wounds. Marie was handed with the task of patching up Rhoden’s damage; we figured it best to conserve our minimal supply of potions anyway. N and I on the other hand tried our best to mend our wounds. None of our slashes were too deep or fatal for any serious medical attention. So we dressed ourselves up with stray clothes and such from my pack and set up camp for the night.

                                “What do you mean we can’t light a fire?” I crossed my arms over my chest as I regarded my friend with slight anger in the failing light.

                                “I don’t want to risk it,” N answered simply, taking yet another nervous glance towards the night sky, “we may have taken care of the Aerial Division… but I can’t help but think that our efforts yield temporary results. Besides… it looks like it’s going to rain.” He jabbed a finger towards the stars which were being slowly eaten up by cloud cover.

                                I felt my arms drop, “So, I guess we’re freezing to death then?”

                                N put up his hands, “Please don’t be bitter about this Touko. I’m not too thrilled with the idea either. But we must do this to survive. We can’t afford to be captured.”

                                I blew out a sigh, causing plumes of steam to drift from my lips. N was making his argument pretty inarguable. I suppose I was just going to have to go with it, even if I did turn into a frozen mummy by the morning. Anything would be better than getting recaptured.

                                N caught my attention when he drew a Pokéball from his belt. I didn’t even have time to ask what he was doing before he released Laika. The Zoroark took in a huge breath of air through her nose before blowing it out with a shake of her mane; her way of stretching I suppose.

                                “The temperatures will likely plummet tonight,” he scratched his Pokémon gently on her jowls, “we can huddle beside Laika.”

                                I pointed a shaking finger questioningly, “You mean… together?” Was I simply imagining the heat gathering on my cheeks?

                                “Yes,” N agreed, “it’s an ideal way for us to conserve body heat and maintain our regular body temperature against the wind! Laika can also use her ability to conceal us from any soldiers.”

                                …That’s what he was thinking of?

                                N noticed the face I was making, “What’s the matter?”

                                I blinked, catching myself, “Oh! Nothing, nothing at all. Really!”

                                Once N and I finished our meager dinner of bread crumbs and apples, we huddled together and Laika wreathed herself around our bodies, just as the wind started to pick up.

                                “You don’t think there’ll be a storm tonight… do you?” I muffled into his shoulder, trying to rid the blush from my cheeks. It was hard enough trying to keep my voice steady, because my shivering and nervousness really delighted in setting it off and making me look a bit stupid in the process. It’s just that… we were a bit too close for comfort…

                                “It seems possible,” he took a look back up to the sky, which had now been completely covered in clouds. “But please try to get as much sleep as you can Touko. The body works best when it’s well rested.” N held me closer with a gentle squeeze of his arms and I felt my heart quicken. Whether he was trying to contain the body heat we generated… or just wanted us to be closer together, I’ll never know. I don’t even want to know!!

                                But by the way the night was going, my body was going to be anything but well rested when the morning came around. A storm did brew, and I could hardly get a wink’s sleep through the blustering winds and the icy sting of rain which fell down. There were moments where I felt myself drift off into fragments of unconsciousness, and the rain was generous and only decided to sprinkle down on occasions. The tree we rested under was an evergreen, with very broad, thick branches that worked kind of like an umbrella, and probably saved the three of us from catching sick.

                                It was a relief to see the sky brighten in the morning hours once the storm had finally let up. I took my chance to get some decent sleep before we would have to get moving. But even then my attempts at slumber were quashed.

                                N suddenly tightened his grip on me, jolting me from my half-slumber and shoving me right into his chest. I could hardly even breath, “N…” I muffled into his shirt, “what the hell…?”

                                “Be quiet!” I jumped at the sharpness in his voice. I squirmed slightly until I was able to peek out of N’s embrace. Only then did I see that his tone was justified. There were Plasma soldiers making their way through the brush only a couple feet away. My hands automatically clenched down onto N’s shirt, bunching the fabric. My heart was thrumming noisily in my ear as I tried to keep my breathing silent. The soldiers drew closer, not looking directly at us, but they scoured the bushes and trees always keeping one eye skyward as they patrolled. Laika’s illusory powers, it seemed, were keeping us hidden for now. I could feel her fur bristle anxiously against my skin as she tried to keep us concealed.

                                The duo of soldiers were talking, saying something about the direction in which the escaped prisoners had went, but most of their words fell before reaching my ears. My heart rate skyrocketed when one of them looked our way. He stared directly at our position for a few agonizingly slow seconds before approaching. I nearly lost it. My guard tightened with fear and anxiety. I planned on reaching for my Pokémon if this guy were to take another step forward, but luck seemed to be on my side as it were.

                                “Hey!!” The second grunt suddenly cried. “There they are! I see them!”

                                His partner, the one who was approaching, suddenly stopped and turned around, “What? Where!?”

                                “They’re in the sky!” The grunt shouted from behind in the brush somewhere; I couldn’t see him with my face smushed into N’s chest. “They’re flying off westward! Towards Nimbasa it looks like!”

                                N loosened his death grip on me as the other visible grunt reunited with his partner. The both of them called out their Tranquill, boarded them and headed off into the sky.

                                I sucked in a deep breath, since now I was able to.

                                “Whew. That was a close one,” N stated, watching the area where the grunts once stood.

                                “Yeah. Thanks. You nearly strangled me to death,” I said, giving him a very displeased scowl.

                                N shrunk back from my look, “Oh. I, uhh, apologize.”

                                “Okay,” I forgave him (partially), giving his shoulder a pat, “was that Laika’s illusion just now?” I tried to get a look at the Zoroark’s face and wasn’t surprised to see her grinning. “You made those guards think they saw us right?”

                                “Correct,” N said for his Pokémon, “hopefully it will throw them off our trail for a while, and we can make it to Nuvema Town without further disturbances.”

                                “Alright,” I pulled myself up out of N’s arms, shifting my weight onto my numb legs and trying to shake the dampness off my clothes. “I’m gonna go to the bathroom, and we’ll get going once I come back, okay?” N didn’t respond but I figured he heard me.

                                Once business was taken care of, I walked back into the clearing in which we spent the night to see that both N and Laika were gone. I stared blankly at the area for a moment, as if they would suddenly meld from the branches and into view.

                                A thought occurred to me, “Alright guys. Jokes over. I know you’re hiding behind that illusion…”

                                Still… nothing moved. My heart started to quicken as I hurriedly called N’s name. Had those Plasma grunts returned only to capture them both? “N?!”

                                Up here Touko!

                                A frown creased my face, and I followed the voice with my eyes. “N?” I spotted him waving from the top of a colossal evergreen and my jaw hit the ground.

                                “Oh my god. What are you doing up there!?” I gasped, craning my neck to try and get a better view. He answered something back but it was lost in the wind. “I can’t hear you!!”

                                N scaled down the tree with ease a moment later, touching down gracefully. “I said that I was giving the skies a glance over before we took off,” he said casually.

                                That wasn’t the issue here. “How the hell did you get all the way up there!?” I glanced up again as a reminder to how high he was. “What was that—like, eighty feet?! What if you fell?! Not to mention you climbed down that thing like a freaking Pansage!!” I was convinced N was a superhuman.

                                “Umm, yeah,” his cheeks coloured as if he was mistaking my shock for praise, “I used to climb trees like this all the time when I was younger. You can find lots of interesting Pokémon up in the trees…” His smile seemed to fade, “But there aren’t any around here…”

                                I placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, hoping to console him, “We’re going to change that, okay?” I plucked Rhoden from my belt, “let’s get going before anymore soldiers show up.”

                                He smiled, perhaps showing me that he felt better, and both of us prepared ourselves for flight.

                                I boarded onto Rhoden, flinging myself onto his back. A motion more graceful than my first attempt, but so fast that I almost fell off the other side. Once I found myself steady, I felt N climb on behind me and wrap his arms gently around my waist.

                                “Will you be okay?” he asked me. N was probably worried if I had been mentally scarred from that dogfight the other day.

                                I looked up to where the peaks of the gathering trees circled around us and gave way to the sky. I wouldn’t know until we lifted off, “…Rhoden. Use Fly.”

                                My Braviary beat his navy wings with quick succession, elevating us higher and higher until we had breached the treeline and the wind rippled past our bodies. My heart beat accelerated as I looked down towards the sprawling landscape below, but something about the fear felt less terrifying and more exhilarating.

                                “Rhoden…” I called to my avian Pokémon. He turned his head slightly to give me a questioning glance. “You can… go higher if you want too!” I could see my eagle’s eyes light up in question. I nodded with a smile, and he hesitated only a short second before taking us higher. The land below suddenly shrunk; the details became more minute and all melded together to from one large block of forest.

                                “Touko?” N shouted against the wind. “Is it okay for you to be up this high?” I think he seemed to notice how tightly I was clenching my Pokémon’s feathers.

                                “It’s okay!” I shouted out, watching as the world went by beneath us, all under one bright sun. I started a laughter that was distorted slightly with fear. “This is fun!” But I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.

                                It was just… being this high up seemed more beautiful then frightening now.

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                                Old March 31st, 2012 (4:43 PM).
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                                OpenDoorLeia OpenDoorLeia is offline
                                The Will of One
                                  Join Date: Nov 2011
                                  Gender: Female
                                  Nature: Lonely
                                  Posts: 17
                                  A cluster of leaves danced through the air, falling and rising in the cool current; they spun and circled together over the many fragments of wood and glass that blanketed the ground. In the distance, skeletal trees bordered the town. Their naked branches clattered together in the breeze, which added even more dead leaves to the current. From a distance, and mixed with the faraway drone of the ocean, the rattling of those branches sounded like laughter. The wind sank its chill into my skin and I shuddered as N and I stood in the shadow of my ruined home.

                                  The beaten structure leered at us with eyes of shattered glass, looming forward as if it delighted in crushing us and making us just as scarred as it was. The front door swung limply on its hinges, creaking back and forth as if beckoning us to enter. I followed its calls with stilted, robotic movements and came to a stop right before the misshapen building. I lay a gentle hand upon its body of broken boards, but there was no sensation… no aura or feeling. It was lifeless… and empty. My eyes rose slowly, taking in the sight of the dilapidated building that crouched before me.

                                  The house in which I had been born in, the house which I had grown up in, the house which had once harbored a family… had now become dead.
                                  The wind chose its moment to die, and in the silence I realized… nobody was here.

                                  Team Plasma had been here long ago it seemed, and had torn this place to shambles, leaving only memories to fester.

                                  It took a while for me to speak, but eventually I found my voice, "They're gone." I turned to N who remained stationary on the very divide between shadow and gray sunlight. There was no despair or remorse in his eyes. He was aloof from the sadness I felt, but his air of detachment was justified. N didn't hold emotional ties to this place. This wasn't his home so he had no reason to be sad.

                                  He broke the gaze we shared, "I figured this might have happened…" and deep down I was probably expecting it too. But coming face to face with this frozen destruction was too much to handle. Team Plasma had ravaged this place and my mother, Bianca, Cheren and the Professor were all gone… and could very well be dead.

                                  Wait! I thought in foolish desperation, maybe they're hiding somewhere! They must be!

                                  I hurried towards the open doorway of my home, speeding into its confines and calling my mother's name, hoping that someone would answer. I was in denial and I knew it, but I still held tight to my stupid false hope. It was the only thing keeping me from losing my mind.

                                  I was eaten up by darkness as I breached the doorway and my hand flung to the wall on impulse. I found the light switch but the room would not illuminate no matter how hard I flicked it. The power was down, or had been for a long time. I squinted hard against the darkness, begging internally for my eyes to adjust, and eventually they did. The shattered windows also leant their assistance by shining in a few rays from the overcast sky. It made trying to move around in this ruinous room a little easier.

                                  The ground floor was frightening in the darkness. Tables and chairs had been overturned and strewn asunder. Drooping wallpaper had been fragmented by jagged gashes and dulled by element exposure. Family pictures and keepsakes had either been smashed or stolen.

                                  I drifted in, rushed but stunned by what I'd seen. It was like entering another world. I suddenly gagged as the musty scent of decomposed food met me. I tried to pinch my nose shut, but the damage had already been done it seemed. The source of the vile stench, I soon realized, was the overturned refrigerator which rested silently with guts spilled all across the floor. But amongst all this destruction, I could not find life.

                                  "Mom?" I ran up the steps as it appeared that the first floor was vacant, and burst into my own room which was in a much worse condition than what I'd seen downstairs. My bed was overturned and split in two, with shredded sheets dangling in the breeze. The same claw marks I'd seen downstairs ripped gorges into the floor and tore my wallpaper to bits. My bookcase was spilt; my old laptop appeared to be missing, and my dresser was smashed in the middle, like a large fist had been thrown into the wood. But there was no one here.

                                  The reality began to seep in, and even though I knew it would be uneventful, I checked my mother's room as well. I just needed to be sure. But her room was destroyed and empty, just like the rest of Nuvema.
                                  I turned away from her room in defeat, hung my head and headed back down to the first floor. N was waiting for me at the front door, regarding the internal wreckage with a steely disposition. He was both emotionless and unreadable as the breeze stirred his hair, as if it was trying to guide him in.

                                  He spotted me on the stairwell, "They're not here, Touko."

                                  I couldn't deny that he was right. Even seeing both Cheren and Bianca's equally ruined homes through the broken windows of my own, I knew that their houses were the same as mine—empty. No one was living here in secrecy; no one was hiding out in wait of my arrival; Team Plasma made sure that no one was left after they had come. We were alone in this town.

                                  The desperation left me only to be replaced by unfathomable guilt. Why hadn't I been here when my friends and family had been attacked? If I'd only acted sooner, or had not even lost to Ghetsis in the first place, then none of this would have happened! This blame… this sin, the feeling strangled my insides and my cheeks were soon wet with tears.

                                  N, who I guess noticed my crying, drew near in hopes of offering some comfort, "Touko…? A-are you going to be okay?"

                                  But I didn't want his pity or his company. To put it bluntly, he was the last person I wanted to see, and when he placed a shy hand on my shoulder I pushed him away.

                                  He reacted with genuine hurt at my cold repulsion but he just managed to say, "Maybe I… can help you?" Offering comfort wasn't one of N's strong points but his actions were pure. He just didn't want to see me get eaten up by sadness all over again. But I was upset and irrational and I honestly felt sickened by his gesture… as if he could understand what I was feeling.

                                  "Just leave me alone," I responded coldly before nudging him aside and speeding out the door. But no matter how far I ran, the unforgettable past would not release its hands from my throat.

                                  Chapter Nine
                                  Weight of the world (…memories from the heights)

                                  The waters of the ocean, turned gray by the overcast sky, flowed and ebbed against the jagged rock face of the cliff on which I perched. Only a small railing separated me from the drop below, and I did feel my stomach somersault a few times out of nervousness, but what I felt… the nostalgia of this place numbed out the acrophobia. I had my legs through the bars of the railing and I swung them back and forth over the edge, with cold hands clenching even colder steel. It had been years since I'd been here and strangely enough… so little had changed. On the other hand, I was worlds apart from the small girl who used to come here to kill the days and watch the endless waves roll by.

                                  I hadn't been born with fear, and I don't think things like fear are predetermined by birth. The things you experience during your life, whether good or bad, attribute to what you enjoy and what you're afraid of.
                                  My hands held tighter to the frigid rail.

                                  This place had been the origin of my acrophobia. As a child, I wasn't scared of anything. Cheren would go pale-faced at the sight of insects; Bianca was perturbed by both physical and emotional pain but I wasn't afraid of anything, not even the heights. As a child I would often come to this place at the edge of town to be alone. Whenever I got into an argument with mom or one of my friends, this had always been my go-to place: my hideout.

                                  I enjoyed watching the waves and thinking about all the different places that they came from, and I would even walk along the tightrope-thin railing that guarded me from the fall. I can only shake my head about how reckless I was, but even as a kid I was headstrong and defiant. I couldn't grasp the consequences of what I did; it never really clicked that if I ever fell off that railing then I would die.

                                  I fell into the ocean one day.

                                  The waves which had been so beautiful from above devoured my tiny frame with ruthlessness and fury. I was tossed around like a stuffed animal in a washing machine, water pressed against my body from all sides. It entered my mouth and suffocated my cries; it stung my eyes and took away my sight; I was pulled down deep into the unforgiving depths. In a world of pre-death you can't really think of much. Instincts take over and people react on their primal urges, just as I did. But no matter how hard my small body fought, nature prevailed and I was swallowed by the depths. I knew I was going to die.

                                  By some strange twist of fate, I survived. You see, Professor Juniper had been near enough to see me slip off the railing. She arrived just in time to pull me out of the water with the help of her Swanna. It dove into the depths and yanked me out of the ocean.

                                  As I was hoisted up into the air, my acrophobia took root. As I was pulled up and up, the distance which separated me from the fall grew and became more threatening. Falling meant entering that world of death again, and I wanted to avoid it at all costs.

                                  As I fell onto dry land, coughing and sputtering, I could hear the voices of Cheren, Bianca and my mother calling for me in worry. In mere moments they were by my side sobbing, embracing, and angry at my foolhardiness. But they were always like that. My friends and family had always been there for me and in return I had been there for them, and that didn't change much even when we went separate ways during our Pokémon journey.

                                  I began to delve into my memories again, a smile spreading over my face as I watched the gray horizon.


                                  The Legend badge was firmly grasped in my hands. This small piece of metal I had slain dragons for was the key to my final destination: the Pokémon League. I pondered endlessly on what was waiting for me over that horizon. I knew I would have to fight the Elite Four and finish off with the Champion, but I wondered if I would even get that far. How high could I climb until I would have to face N again? Things were different now considering he had the legendary dragon on his side. Was I strong enough to defeat him? Did I have enough power to knock him from his imperial perch and save the world he wanted to change?

                                  It wasn't right for N to change the world, for only him to decide if humans and Pokémon should be together or not. No single person should be able to decide the fate of many. I felt that way the first time I fought him, and my convictions hadn't faltered after many battles past. The world N wanted to create may be one built on pure will, but it could only amount to despair. It's as they say, 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions'.

                                  I loved my Pokémon and I had decided that I would go to any lengths to keep them by my side, even if that meant I had to destroy N's dreams. I made this pledge and I was resolved to see it through, but the more I thought about it the more weary I became.

                                  What if I lost?

                                  The world's future would be decided at the Pokémon League. If I lost to Team Plasma then all of the blood and tears that followed would be on my head. The world was perched on my shoulders and the weight of it was slowly crushing me. Having the Legend badge felt like less of a victory and more like a death sentence. Even after I had won the badge, I refused to leave Opelucid City. Every time I found myself at the gates to Route 10, a sickening feeling would overcome me; my nervousness would get the better of me and I'd turn tail.

                                  Every morning I'd wake up at the Pokémon Center's lodgings and promise myself that I would move on. But my pledge would drift into the wind once I came face to face with the gate.

                                  What if I lost?

                                  As each day went by, my fears grew and the weight of the world threatened to shatter my spine. After a point… I almost considered giving up. I harbored serious thoughts of running off and letting Unova's fate be decided by others, because I had never wanted the responsibility in the first place. The Elite Four and Alder were strong… they wouldn't go down without a fight. They would protect the Pokémon League from being taken over. They would defeat N. I was trying to convince myself that it wasn't necessary for me to fight. I tried to pretend that I wasn't a hero.

                                  During the seventh day of my inactivity at Opelucid city, something rather unexpected happened. My mother showed up. I saw her calling out to me from across the street, waving her arms frantically so she wouldn't go unnoticed. I thought I'd lost my mind.

                                  "Touko~! Toukooo!" She continued to call, rushing across the ivy-riddled streets of the city, with heels clacking against cobblestone.

                                  My throat was dry, "M-mom?" I only had time to speak for a moment before she threw her arms around me and I was buried in her chestnut coloured hair, "Wha… What are you doing here!"

                                  She continued to squeeze me for a few moments before pulling away and locking her sky-blue eyes into mine. "I had to come as soon as I heard," she gushed. "I'm so proud of you!" she said, stealing me up into another hug. "You've got your final badge…"

                                  Right. At least I knew the 'why' of her being here. I pulled away from her almost smothering hug, "I do but… how on earth did you know that?" I regarded her unbreaking smile quizzically.

                                  "Mothers intuition!" she grinned, tapping her forehead lightly with her finger.
                                  I blinked. "…So you came all the way here, across the region, to congratulate me in person?" I paused, letting the reality of the moment sink in.

                                  "Well, sure why not? But that's hardly important now darling," she grabbed my hand hurriedly, flashing me an excited glance. "I've got a surprise for you. Come with me dear."

                                  I could hardly manage a grunt of protest as my mother proceeded to drag me half way across town. But the main reason why I didn't rebel against her actions was because I felt that my mother was giving me an excuse to ignore my calling. Hanging out with my mom, who I didn't see much anyway, was a lot better than facing the dreaded future.

                                  The destination we reached was the Pokémon Center. "Um… This is great mom but why here? My Pokémon are already healthy…"

                                  She suddenly flashed a wolfish grin, "Ohh you'll see. Now just close your eyes darling!"

                                  "Wait. What?" Her hands suddenly closed over my eyes and I felt her push me from behind into the building. My paranoia skyrocketed. Was this really my mother? Why was she dragging me into a darkened building like this right before I was set to battle the Elite Four? Could some Plasma Grunt have assumed the role of my mother and was now in the process of luring me to my demise? That's it! They were taking care of me before I even had a change to oppose them!

                                  "Happy Birthday!"

                                  The large front lobby of the center was suddenly filled with a shower of confetti as both Bianca and Cheren proceeded to empty the glittering shards of paper into the air, very enthusiastically on Bianca's part. I was utterly speechless as my friends drew near.

                                  "You should see the look on your face right now," Cheren observed with a crooked upturn of his lips.

                                  "But…" I pointed at them blankly. "What?"

                                  Bianca cocked her head to the side, pursing her lip in confusion, "Touko… don't tell me you forgot. It's your birthday for goodness sake!"

                                  My mom let out a boisterous laugh at my gaping expression, then cupped her hand around her mouth as if trying to be covert, "I think we may have thrown it on her a little bit too suddenly!"

                                  I was still at a loss for words as my friends dragged me out of the central lobby and into a secondary room that they rented out to host the party. As I was escorted to a rounded table dominating the room, I managed to find my voice, "Cheren? Bianca? How long have you two been here?"

                                  Cheren rolled his eyes, "For the last couple minutes, dummy."

                                  "I meant in the city!" I shot back. "How long have you guys been in Opelucid?"

                                  "We arrived just this morning actually!" Bianca chimed in, guiding me into a chair and seating me right in front of a large pink cake. I had to gawp at it. Each member of my Pokémon team was painted onto the cake with coloured icing.

                                  "Bianca did the drawings…" Cheren said, pushing his glasses way up his nose, acting like he had no part of the cutesy figures on the pastry. "But I drew that one…" he added quickly under his breath, pointing towards a large dark-blue blob which I guessed was supposed to be my Carracosta.

                                  "I drew your Ophelia!" Bianca piped happily, pointing to a detailed drawing of a little Lilligant. "Oh! And I drew this one too!" She then pointed to a grumpy blotch of red and black which resembled Hyle to a T. I couldn't hold back my laughter any longer.

                                  "Honestly, Touko," Bianca crossed her arms over her chest as a flush came to her cheeks. "They aren't that bad!" then pouted under her breath, "I think I did a really good job."

                                  "It's not that—haha," I tried to speak through my laughter. "It just looks so—pshhehehe!"

                                  "Now, now children," My mother came in as mediator and had us all settled down soon enough. She then pulled out a camera and started snapping pictures left and right. She even got a shot of the cake, which was good because I almost felt guilty eating apart my friend's cake-doodles. After we'd taken our pictures and formed still-framed memories, mom dimmed the lights, pulled out a match and began to light eleven candles.

                                  "My Touko's growing up so fast," she said snuffing out the match and catching a stray tear.

                                  "Come on mom! You don't have to bring out the waterworks for this!" My mom always got so teary eyed on my birthdays. To me it didn't seem like something to cry over, but I really grew with every year passed. The little girl who was born eleven years ago had grown into a hero.

                                  "I wonder what you're going to wish for?" Bianca questioned excitedly. My friends and family followed that remark with a volley of eager faces. I wondered… what should I wish for?

                                  Should I wish for victory against Team Plasma? This party had me sidetracked from my real goal, but now of all times the realization had to flood back and my expression dropped with my hopes. Once the fun and games of this celebration was over, I would have to fight for the fate of the world. Should I wish for a way out…?

                                  "…Touko? What's the matter?" My moistening eyes and quivering lips must have been more apparent than I thought.

                                  "It's about Team Plasma, isn't it?" I had to flinch. Cheren was as perceptive as ever, "You don't think you'll be able to stop them. That's why you haven't left Opelucid city yet, isn't it?" Very perceptive. I was impressed that he could see through me so effortlessly; was I really so easy to read?

                                  "I thought you said you've only been here since this morning…" I grumbled, avoiding all eye contact with my surrounding friends.

                                  "That's not the point!" Cheren spat with unexpected force. "How long are you just planning to sit here and wait for things to change!"

                                  "It's not easy alright!" I shot back, "You don't know what it's like to be a designated hero. The pressure is sickening… If I lose then the whole world pays for it. I'm not the only one who's gonna suffer!" Tears were starting to run from my eyes, and I had to force every word out my mouth so it wouldn't crack with sadness.

                                  "Please don't fight you two!" Bianca cried, standing up and trying to settle us down as she brought up her hands.

                                  "Bianca's right," my mom said in concern. "This isn't the time for a petty argument."

                                  Cheren turned his head with a swish of raven hair, "I wouldn't call the fate of the world petty."

                                  "That's enough, Cheren!" Bianca barked with unexpected ferocity, "You too, Touko!" The blond approached me and wrapped me up in a huge hug. "Touko…" She breathed into my shoulder and began to tremble. "Why don't you believe in yourself?"

                                  I bit down on my tongue, unable to form an answer that wouldn't be seen as pathetic. Bianca pulled away and stared right into me.

                                  "Because I believe in you, Touko! And even though Cheren's a jerk, he believes in you too!" She was crying for some reason. I found it strange since I was the one with the problem here and I'd hardly even shed a tear. But Bianca was always more emotional then Cheren or I. She knew better than to let her feelings bottle up and gnaw away at her insides. "Your Pokémon, your mom, Professor Juniper… all the Gym Leaders… and even," her tears were beginning to distort her words. "Every single trainer in Unova… Touko… They all believe in you!"

                                  I was shocked by what she was saying. Every person in this region… had faith in me?

                                  "She's right." Cheren suddenly spoke up, "And that's why you won't lose to N, Touko. You've got this whole region behind you. And Bianca and I," he stared me down from under the lenses of this glasses which shimmered in the candlelight. "We aren't going to let you down. Understand?"

                                  The reason I had never taken the initiative, after wining my final badge, to take on the League and defeat Team Plasma was because I felt like I was alone. After what Bianca and Cheren had said to me, I came to the realization that I wasn't the only one holding up the world. The hands of every trainer and every person in this region were hoisting it up too, and they were all stacked up behind me rooting for a victory that wasn't just mine—it belonged to all of us.

                                  Because of the faith and confidence that my friends held for me, I finally did build up the courage to leave Opelucid City. And after that, I climbed my way up to the very top of the world. I beat the Elite Four and I even beat N. It was Ghetsis who I really lost to, and it was simply because that man wanted to seize the future far more than I did. Ghetsis wanted to create something, and even if it was a crooked, artificial world, his desire gave him the power to gain victory and mold Unova with his own hands.

                                  As I watched the world burn from my tower, I had to wonder how Bianca, Cheren and everyone else were fairing. In the back of my mind, I had hoped that they would be okay and that they hadn't succumbed to Team Plasma's villainy. But in the end… I may have been wrong. They may have been defeated a long time ago, and the ghostly shell that Nuvema had become only further solidified that fact.

                                  My friends… my family, where were they now? I couldn't find an answer. No matter how long the waves lashed the shore or the wind tore my skin, I couldn't find an answer.


                                  N came over and sat down beside me, sliding his legs through the gaps in the railing and swinging them back and forth over the edge. I was startled to see he'd come. I was so wrapped up in my memories and thoughts, and his movements were so subtle and silent, that I didn't even notice him coming. That, and I didn't expect him to come see me when I was in such obvious turmoil, and I had pushed him away so coldly before. I'd thought that he'd simply wait for me to return, probably scrounging around Juniper's lab and picking up clues as he waited. But he was here, right beside me, staring out at the waves that marched over the silver skyline. Even if I had repulsed him earlier, the anger was gone and I was left with a bitter feeling of regret.

                                  "N… I…" It felt like there was a lump in my throat, "I didn't mean to push you away like that…" I couldn't make eye contact with the boy beside me, and even though I had begun talking he wouldn't take his eyes off the horizon, "It's just that… everyone is gone and…"

                                  I suddenly felt his hand close over my own and was drawn back over to his eyes. "You said it yourself right?" he showed a faint smile. "You shouldn't carry a burden this big all by yourself."

                                  He gave my hand an assuring squeeze, "Your mother and your friends are strong… just like you are. They possess an unbreakable drive that makes them unstoppable. Even if they're not here, and this town has been abandoned…" he paused, looking down at the raging waves, "It doesn't mean that they're gone." He smiled at me again. "I think I can understand why you must be sad. But to the extent of my knowledge, your friends and family haven't been captured by Team Plasma as of yet."

                                  I couldn't suppress a smile, "So you think they're still out there somewhere?" I could feel tears brimming over my eyes.

                                  "I wouldn't be surprised if your friends are forming a resistance against Team Plasma as we speak." His smile was replaced by a look of serious composure, "And if they are then we need to find them."

                                  "You're right," I agreed, feeling confidence flare inside me again, and then my stomach gave a noisy growl.

                                  N and I both turned to my abdomen, and with cheeks flushed I said, "After we eat that is…"


                                  I surveyed the destroyed refrigerator of my house, stirring through the clumps of mold that used to be food with my foot; they disintegrated at my touch. I had hoped to find something edible in this mass, but every single piece of food that had once packed our kitchen fridge had been festering in the air for years now. In short, there was nothing salvageable.

                                  After my raid on the fridge had turned up fruitless, I turned to the cupboards that lined the upper wall of our once baby-blue kitchen. I poked my nose into the gaping cupboard door in search of cookies, granola bars or some other sort of nonperishable food item. In contrast to the fridge, the cabinets seemed to have been cleaned out by those who had trashed the town. I only found a solitary box of chocolate chip cookies and my hopes rose only to be dashed again by the small remainder of crumbs which trickled out. I frowned at the thought of the perpetrators of this disaster helping themselves to my food.

                                  "Touko?" I spun around to the doorway to find N standing there with Marie in tow. "Any luck?"

                                  "My cookies have been eaten," I told him with a frown, "how did you do? Find anything that we could snack on?" I ditched the bag and walked over to him. "We still have some food from Anthea and Concordia, but if we can find something here it'd be good to save what we've already got."

                                  N shrugged, "We couldn't find much but…"Marie held up a box of granola bars, "we found these in Professor Juniper's lab…"

                                  My face scrunched in confusion, "What are these then?" I picked the white box from the Audino's hands. An image of a chocolate coated bar was just barely legible on the battered box. I couldn't read the name brand apart from a few letters. All I could make out was the 'all natural health bar' sign written in bright red. "Are these edible…?"

                                  "Well… they haven't been opened yet so it's better than nothing," N said passively.

                                  "I suppose." I said, fumbling the box open and taking out a granola bar. "So how's Juniper's lab? Did you find anything interesting there?" I ripped open the bar and smelt it cautiously. It was apparently nonperishable but I had no idea how long it had been sitting inside of that box. There was no real telling how fresh it could be, especially if it was all natural like the box claimed. My nose ached after a whiff of that bar as it carried the overwhelming scent of pine. I nearly gagged at the potency.

                                  "Her laboratory is worse than the rest of the town. Team Plasma's soldiers really tore it apart looking for her research. There was nothing salvageable, and we can't access her computers since the power is down. Though her machines are in such a state that, even with power, they'd be too broken to function." N walked in with Marie waddling behind and surveyed the sights of my ramshackle homestead with a wide, detached gaze, almost as if analyzing. "I do hope that Professor Juniper was able to get all valuable information out before they arrived."

                                  "I wouldn't worry too much about that," I said, finally giving up at dissecting the granola bar and biting a chunk off. "She's usually on the ball… ohh bluhhh," My hand flung to my mouth.

                                  "What's wrong Touko? Has it gone bad?" N noticed my distress and rushed over.

                                  I managed to push down what I'd bitten off before answering, "M-my god…" I sputtered, "how on earth can she eat these things! They taste like raw dirt." I spun the package around, scouring for an ingredients label.

                                  "They can't be that bad," he said with a relived smile. I frowned at my friend's ignorance as I tried to get the taste out of my mouth, but it continued to cling to my taste buds like a glue.

                                  "We should probably stay here tonight then, Touko." N said.

                                  "Right. We could hide down in the basement… you know, just in case Team Plasma decides to show up," I threw him an apprehensive glance. "You don't think they'll show up, do you?"

                                  "I don't want to rule it out," N stared at me seriously, "chances are that they'll come here just to check if we were around. I can have Laika cast an illusion for us… so I think we'll be okay."

                                  His words put me at ease if only slightly. I headed over to an old red rug that lay on the floor and peeled it away to reveal the doorway leading to the basement.

                                  "I guess they haven't been down here yet." I said as I attempted to pry the door open, but for some reason it decided to be difficult and stick. I cursed, "Stupid thing…" After a few more seconds of struggling, I managed to get the door open and we descended down into the unlit depths. It wasn't all bad that the power was down, because lighting up a town that was supposed to be abandoned was not a good idea. N and I just had to rely on eyesight as we stomped down the rickety stairs.

                                  "Sorry," I said, pulling a spare mattress down from a ledge under the stairs, "there's only one mattress so…"

                                  "I can sleep on the floor." N said indifferently. I gave him a stare and then took a look down at the hard concrete floor of the basement, which was already coated in its own blanket of dust and dirt.

                                  "Well, it's a double so we could uhh… we could… uhh, you know." I have no idea why it was so awkward trying to say 'we could sleep together'. Maybe I just had some weird connotation in my mind.

                                  "Sleep together?" N finished for me with a slight smirk hovering over his lips, "I don't have a problem with that. I find that I have a better sleep when you're beside me anyway, Touko."

                                  My cheeks became inflamed and I tried my hardest to hide it. "Yeah. Okay. Okay…"

                                  "Then, Touko…" The serious tone of N's voiced caused me to find his eyes again. I was a bit surprised to see he'd already taken a seat on the mattress and had Marie resting in his lap.

                                  "Now that we know Nuvema Town is uninhabited, where do you think we should head next?" I could tell by his tone that he was asking for my opinion, not a decision.

                                  "Well," I said, taking a small nibble of my already half-eaten granola bar, "how does Accumula sound? Neither you or I know very much about what Ghetsis has done to Unova. I've been in that castle so long…" My voice faded slightly as I began to zone out, shifting my weight from one leg to the other. If Nuvema Town was a hollow, then what was the state of the rest of the region?

                                  "I think you're right. Accumula Town would be a good place to gather information. We need to have a good grasp on the extent of Ghetsis's takeover and what the current state of the world is…" N stared intently at the ground as if a million thoughts were bustling in his head, "perhaps we could find some information about Professor Juniper and your friends… or maybe, if we're lucky, we might find sympathizers to our cause…"

                                  "One thing's for certain, "I said with a smile, "we're gonna need a good night's sleep if we're gonna rebel against Team Plasma." I took a seat beside him on the bed and offered him a granola bar, "You wanna try a bite? They're actually not that bad…"


                                  I was on a pedestal on level with the clouds, dangling my feet over the precipice and feeling the heat from the world below on my skin. My brain was sluggish and slow witted in this ethereal plain of heaven. It didn't even register to me that the world below my rocking feet was being devoured by flames. The forests were dying in a red inferno; the leaves burnt down to quick ash and the ancient woods collapsed into their own bodies. As my head swiveled slowly, I saw that the colossal mountains which pointed their peaks towards me were also crimson with flame. Even after seeing the sights, the reality refused to hit.

                                  The world was burning.

                                  Thunders echoed in the heavens as a tempest of wind rushed by, tearing at my skin and fluttering the skirt of my dress. A jagged web of lightning streaked across the clouds with a massive crash, creating the illusion that the sky was cracking. I wondered if it was even possible for the sky to break and fall… but that thought seemed to be filled with only curiosity and absent of consequence.

                                  As the thoughts wound their way through my head, I turned my gaze up to meet the vast plains of heaven. The clouds pooled around my perch in a tunnel: a vast nimbus above my head, opening passage to thousands of glittering stars above. I laughed like some sort of child as I reached my arms up to the heights, completely oblivious to the stench of rotting flesh in my nose and on my tongue. From where I was sitting… I felt like I could grab the sun. Lightning crashed again and the inferno down below began to build and climb. I knew somehow that the blaze was yearning to embrace me. Even the lightning that galloped across the clouds had a desire to sink into my flesh and bury into my bones.

                                  Turn around Touko.

                                  I obeyed the disembodied voice that beckoned, and turned my head to find two brilliant figures composed of black and white facing me, opposite my side of the pedestal. They were massive creatures, standing many heads above mine, staring me down with their burning eyes and rumbling with their glistening teeth.

                                  I will create… order through chaos…

                                  I only came to notice the figure standing right between the two gods after he had spoken. Ghetsis was there staring at me with a face empty of any emotion. The Sage looked like an obelisk of a man, silhouetted against raging skies. My heart jumped right to my throat at his sudden arrival and I braced myself for fountains of blood to spring forth from the stone floor. But apart from the raging gales, the drone of flames and the sharp cracks of lightning, all was still. Everything was silent. I couldn't break my gaze with him; I felt paralyzed. But no blood sprang forth; no bodies emerged; the dragons simply bordered the man.

                                  Order through chaos… He said again through unmoving lips. Even though Ghetsis remained stationary, I could tell that the voice was his.

                                  A sudden stream of cold injected itself deep into the violent gale that ripped through the atmosphere. Flecks of snow began to rush by, dancing in the current and merging with the stars above. There was another dragon in the sky, but this one was painted in a veil of icy gray. Golden eyes met mine as it snarled in a breath of steamy air, showing its spaded teeth and the flesh and bone wedged between them.

                                  After our eyes had met, my perch collapsed under the weight of the burning bodies which held it aloft. I fell through the air for only a few moments, before I was swallowed up by hungry flames which had long ago consumed the earth. Fires ate my flesh, my bones and even my spirit as I watched the uncountable stars glisten above.

                                  Somehow I knew, as I was eaten away, that the heavens were laughing at my death.

                                  Nightmares don't die…
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                                  Old April 18th, 2012 (2:29 PM).
                                  OpenDoorLeia's Avatar
                                  OpenDoorLeia OpenDoorLeia is offline
                                  The Will of One
                                    Join Date: Nov 2011
                                    Gender: Female
                                    Nature: Lonely
                                    Posts: 17
                                    Dim rays of light drifted through the dust covered window above my head. It cast smothered illumination into the gloomy basement where N and I had spent the night. This place was still a sight for sore eyes, as it had always been; it was one part of the town which had remained unchanged at least. The basement of my house was crammed with old boxes, filled with forgotten toys, clothes and junk, meant for nothing more than to gather dust. And that’s what they did, even to this day.

                                    I shook the last vestiges of sleep from my mind and slowly started my body up. But I was in the process of having one of those mornings where I couldn’t find the will nor desire to crawl out of bed. I just lay there for a while, stared at the cobweb covered ceiling, and got lost in a train of thought. While I underwent this slothful process, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was amiss down here. But what was it?

                                    I turned to the spot beside me and stared at the empty covers. Wasn’t there supposed to be something there? After a few moments of staring, the thought finally clicked. N was gone.

                                    I shot up in surprise, patting the empty covers next to me in the hopes that I would touch a body. There was nothing there. I took a few wide glances around the room, using only dim light to guide me, until I realized that I was the only one here.

                                    My heart sank right to the pit of my stomach, and I made my way hurriedly to the staircase which led to the first floor. I was trying to keep myself calm, but N’s absence worried me. And my mind wasn’t helping since it had decided to craft up countless horrors of what could have happened to him. I tried to ignore those thoughts as I clambered up the stairs.

                                    “N?” I tried to hide it, but my voice still cracked in panic. I poked my head out of the open doorway with hesitance. “Are you up here?” my voice was cut short as I found the man in question sitting at a newly assembled kitchen table.

                                    He glanced over his shoulder questioningly, “Yes? What’s the matter?”
                                    I was at a loss for words for a moment, and N need only to look at my face to see why.

                                    He answered an unspoken question promptly, “I hope you don’t mind but I… uh… I thought it’d be better if I just set the table back up…”

                                    I continued to stare at the sight at a loss for words. The display of a homely table set amidst wreckage was a startling contrast. It lay nestled between a wall of pulverized furniture, and acted as a sort of gathering point to all the shards of dishware which had been swept away to make room for its revival. The table still held together rather well; it hadn’t been broken.

                                    “I hope that’s… not a problem,” he continued, turning his back and avoiding my eyes. By his body language, I could tell that N was a bit worried if he’d upset me or not. He may have wondered if he’d accidentally desecrated the ruins of my home by trying to put small bits of it back together. While some people could be offended by it, I know Cheren in particular hates getting his stuff touched, N’s actions struck me as benign. I let his words hang in the air for a second before blowing a puff of air out through my teeth.

                                    “It’s alright,” I crawled out of the basement doorway and made my way over to the table, “I was just a little worried when I couldn’t find you when I woke up.” I let out a short laugh as I took a seat down across from him on a chair that creaked against my weight, “I think I overreacted a little, heh.”

                                    “I apologize,” he said with a faint smile. “I rise early.”

                                    “Yeah.” I leant back, folded my arms behind my head and used them as a rest, “…Team Plasma hasn’t come here… have they?”

                                    N paused, taking a moment to observe the lines and knots on the wooden table before saying, “There’s been no sign of them.”

                                    The lack of emotion in his voice unsettled me a little bit, but I hardly let it show, “So. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”

                                    “I don’t know yet. Logic dictates that, since Nuvema is your home town, it would be a hotspot for them to check, regardless of our earlier red herring,” N began to trace the lines in the wood nervously with his finger, “though I think there’s a reason to why they haven’t come…”

                                    “Which is…?” I leaned in closer with interest.

                                    “They may have been ordered to leave us alone for the time being… so that we can witness every atrocity we’ve let Ghetsis commit unto this region, and after we’ve seen it all and have become enveloped by fear, only then will we be wiped out.”

                                    I stared at him, contemplating his words. I let out a sigh, “That might be true, or we could just be lucky. But it doesn’t matter either way.” I pulled myself up, “We have to keep on going… no matter what.”

                                    “Even if it’s painful?”

                                    “Of course. Nothing good will come from running away from the truth, or from reality,” I reached up and scratched my head. “That’s a mistake that I’ve made for a long time, and I really want to avoid repeating it again, ya know?” I grinned weakly.

                                    A small smile spread on N’s face, “Your unwavering drive impresses me, Touko.”

                                    “Let’s just hope it doesn’t get us both killed,” I responded, holding the grin and heading back down into the basement to get changed.

                                    We finished off Juniper’s box of granola bars for breakfast. If you got passed the pungency, they actually weren’t so bad. Either way, I was thankful that we had them. Even if they didn’t taste the greatest, they were filling and sure to provide the both of us with the energy we needed to face the day.

                                    N and I packed up all our supplies before setting out. What startled me the most was that we left this town exactly as we had come: with nothing. There was nothing here for us to take; not food, supplies, medicine, or even any leads on which to go by, but Team Plasma had intended for that. I didn’t feel sad about it, and in a way I was glad. It meant that we would have nothing to hold us down; no possessions to tie us back as we went off to face the new world.
                                    I stood at the doorway as a cool breeze drifted past, fondling my hair with the slightest caress. Even now the wind seemed to be drawing me back into my ruined home, as if it despaired at my departure.

                                    “I’m sorry,” A glint of broken glass caught my eye before I could turn out the door. What set it apart from all the other fragmented shards I had seen was the fact that this glass was held inside of a picture frame. I walked over and plucked the wooden frame off the ground, squinting through the cracked glass to see the image inside.
                                    My heart ached ever so slightly as I stared, mesmerized, at the picture through the dust. After a few moments of silent staring, I forcibly pulled myself out of my trance. I buffed the picture up with my shirt and wiped off as much dust as I could manage. It didn’t help much, but the photo inside was made much clearer. I walked over to the kitchen table and placed the frame on top. I looked at the four of us: mother, Cheren, Bianca and I through the broken glass and I made a pledge. I promised to those faces, who could be alive or dead in this world, that when all of this was over I would return Nuvema Town back to the way it used to be.

                                    I promise…

                                    I walked out the door and met up with N. The two of us left this forgotten town and made our way towards Route One, and the remorseful wind couldn’t do a thing to hold us here. We didn’t know what was waiting for us, but we would keep going no matter what.

                                    Chapter 10
                                    Knock The Walls Down (The God You’ve Become)

                                    I couldn’t see the trees because they were held captive behind walls of iron. The giants stretched high into the overcast sky, disparaging the height of the ancient woods they contained. The barriers didn’t seem entirely satisfied with blocking the woods from sight, so they also strangled the wind and let silence have its reign. N and I stood in the shadows of these massive creatures, and they regarded us with wordless stares as we trembled in the cold and terror.

                                    My throat was dry but I just managed to force out the words, “What… is this…?” I stumbled over the bare earth, feet crunching against dirt, as I approached the wall on my right. I placed a steady hand on its body, feeling its cold sink beneath my skin. I cast a wide glance along its pewter surface, watching the barrier stretch on until its point of terminus which I guessed was near Accumula Town; it was too far to be certain. As far as I could see, the walls trudged on unhindered.

                                    “What the hell is this…!?” My hand began to tremble over the iron; my voice faltered only slightly. I was about to turn to N and demand answers but my actions were cut short by his approach. He was beside me before I could even remove my hand from the wall.

                                    “I was afraid of this…” N murmured, also placing his hand upon the broad surface. “They’ve sealed the Pokémon…” He cringed, looking up, “…Behind these walls…”

                                    I looked out over the route to try and spot a clump of tall grass where I knew a Pokémon could be hiding. But to my despair, every single blade of grass had been uprooted and removed. I first thought that the season was responsible for the absence of greenery, but I was mistaken. Even though winter was upon Unova, no snow had fallen here. And even if the falling temperatures had been enough to kill the grass, I couldn’t help but wonder, where were the remains? This route was absent of the limp and soggy grasses of post-autumn: the strands that waited to be buried in snow were nowhere. The raw, empty soil that was left didn’t seem to have the ability to harbor life. I wondered if Team Plasma had altered it to be so.

                                    “I can’t believe this…” I spoke softly, my voice bounding off the walls and greeting me in a short echo. This drastic change was hard to wrap my head around; in a way it didn’t feel real. “Can’t… the Pokémon break out somehow? I mean, isn’t there a way that they can escape?”

                                    N shook his head silently, “Touko. I think these walls are for keeping the people away, not keeping the Pokémon in… I think…” The pain in his voice was unmistakable, “They may have done something far worse to the Pokémon to keep them contained.”

                                    I felt a lump in my throat, “How do you mean?” I almost didn’t want an answer. I knew that people could be capable of horrible things, but what on earth could they have done to keep the Pokémon from breaking free? My mind was kind enough to fill in the blanks with the worst case scenario, per usual.
                                    “I don’t know. I don’t want to think about it,” N said dismissively. “Let’s just…” he turned back to me with a saddened gaze, “make our way to Accumula Town…okay?”

                                    I agreed because I didn’t want to dwell on the issue. It was depressing the both of us, and the last thing we needed was to have a damper on an already glum situation.

                                    N and I began our walk through this linear path that would lead us straight to Accumula Town.

                                    The coils of barbed wire that wound over the tops of the fences clanked together gently in the breeze. A softer sound joined the melody; the drone of rustling evergreens could be heard from behind the barriers, but it was muffled, barely above a whisper. But those small sounds that could have been much louder were paled in comparison by the dry crunching of our footsteps. The sound alone pervaded as we walked through this empty place.

                                    So much had changed…

                                    The wind no longer combed through deep grass; no longer carried leaves in its gale; its sole purpose was simply to remind me of what was gone and accentuate what remained. There were no longer Pokémon playing through this path. There weren’t any people strolling by, no cheerful “hellos”. It felt like I had entered another world. Instead of trees there was steel. Instead of grass there was stagnant earth. I’m not sure how they did it, but Team Plasma had somehow made this nature artificial, to the point where walking down this route made me feel like I was walking down a hallway. It was sickening.

                                    This place was dead; there was no better word for it. N and I were walking through its corpse.

                                    I tried to ignore the horrible reality, but difficult was too light a word. N was looking just as distressed as I, but we avoided eye contact and just kept looking forward. Eventually, I noticed the honey-coloured buildings of Accumula Town begin to crown in the distance.

                                    N placed a halting hand over my shoulder, “Touko… look,” and with the other, pointed towards the end of the route. My eyes darted around the barren path between the solid fences, trying to locate what N was gesturing towards. It took me a minute before I came to notice a small girl standing at the base of the iron fence, staring up with defined loneliness on her features. I watched her quietly for a moment. She simply kept her eyes skyward, and I reasoned that she hadn’t seen us coming. But I couldn’t help but wonder what she was doing here, and why she was staring so remorsefully at the walls.
                                    I figured that asking was the quickest way to find out.

                                    “Touko?” N seemed worried as I approached the small brunette, but she seemed harmless enough. I wasn’t really expecting a little girl to pounce on us or anything.

                                    “Hey there,” I said gently, coming face to face with the small child. She nearly jumped out of her skin as I spoke. I smiled apologetically for startling her, though I was surprised that she hadn’t seen me coming. I was basically the only moving object on the path.

                                    “What are you doing over here by yourself?” I took a glance towards the wall. “Are you missing something?”

                                    The girl began to tear up and I jumped in surprise. “My… My…” she sniffled, bringing her tiny fists up to catch the tears, “my… Lillipup is…” The tears spilt from her eyes, rolling down freckled cheeks.

                                    “Hey now,” I knelt down to eye-level with the child and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “You can tell us, okay?” I glanced back to N who was standing a few feet away: watching. “We’re the good guys.”

                                    The girl sniffled again, “O-okay. Its jus’ dat… I keep tryin’ ta get my Lillipup out from behin’ dat wall,” she squawked, teary-eyed. “But dese mean men keep takin’ him away from meee!!” she started to sob again.

                                    “Wait a second,” I frowned up at the iron fence. “How do you say he keeps getting back to you?”

                                    The girl pointed to the ground, sniffling, “Sometimes ‘e digs ‘is way up. But ‘e can’t anymore! Dey keep makin’ da walls longer. ‘e can’t…” I could hardly even understand what she was saying through her blubbering. “’e can’t d-dig under um a-anymore…!!”

                                    “Hey now…” I said, taking her gently into my arms and patting her back softly, hoping to quell her fit of tears. I was pretty good with kids so I wasn’t having much trouble settling the girl down, “Tears aren’t gonna bring your Lillipup back.” I pulled away, giving her a huge grin, “But I can help you out with that.”

                                    She gawped at me, “You CAN?!”

                                    I stood up, placing my hands smugly on my hips, “Sure can, kiddo. You see I just happen to have some Pokémon with me. We’re gonna knock down these walls and reunite you with your Lillipup, alright!?”

                                    The child threw her arms around me and began sobbing into my jeans “Tank you miss! Tank youuu!” She kept wailing over and over.

                                    “Now now.” I tutted, pulling her away. “No more tears, kay?”

                                    She stared at me with wide, innocent eyes before nodding vigorously.

                                    “Touko…” N caught my shoulder. “Are you sure this is such a good idea?”

                                    I shrugged, “Why not? We have to start somewhere, right?” I plucked a Pokémon from my belt, “This seems like a good a place as any.” That’s right. I was going to change this.

                                    N didn’t seem convinced but he didn’t protest. He and the girl both distanced themselves from the spectacle I was about to make: the history I was about to create. I was going to rip down the walls Ghetsis had erected.

                                    “Hyle, come on out!” My Emboar landed onto the hard earth, snorting eagerly. “I want you to use Flamethrower on that wall, okay?”

                                    Hyle sucked in a deep breath through his snout, and proceeded to spew a breath of flame onto the towering steel. The inferno licked against the iron, searing into the metal and turning it red. Once the steel had become heated, I instructed Hyle to use Brick Break on the weakened wall. Hyle thrust his burly arms into the smoldering barrier and tore into it with his claws, ripping the weakened iron like clay. It only took a few swings to break the imposing barricade and send it tumbling down. A ragged slab crashed to the ground with a deep, metallic moan, and that was the end of it.

                                    “Right on, Hyle!” I took a glance towards the entrance of Accumula town to see some townsfolk had caught sight of the situation. We were right at the ingress of the town and the streets were bustling. I wasn’t surprised we had grabbed some attention, and if these people were set to approach I was going to use it to my advantage. I was going to be their hero.

                                    “Now.” I spun around towards the girl where she was waiting sheepishly beside N, “Your Lillipup is in here somewhere, right?” I asked, steadily approaching the raw hole in the fence.

                                    “Yeah!” She piped up, scrambling to my side. “Checkers! Where are youuu!?” The child headed towards the tall grass which waited from behind the gash.
                                    I was about to stop her from going any further, because I couldn’t have her wandering through tall grass without any Pokémon of her own. But before I could do that, a bushel of grass began to shake and a small Lillipup bounded out of the foliage.

                                    “Checkers!!!” The girl gasped as she raced towards her Lillipup. The dog propelled itself into her arms and she was tackled down as they collided. The puppy quickly hailed her face with slobbery smooches, and I couldn’t suppress a smile. Something about seeing these two reunited turned my heart to goo.

                                    I turned to N to see his reaction; how could he not see the bond these two shared? The sight alone was enough to make anyone’s heart melt, and I figured he would be the same. Only he wasn’t. Instead of joy or happiness, N wore the most fretful look on his face. His brow was furrowed; his leg jittered nervously, and his eyes darted towards the curious onlookers of Accumula with uncertainty. Everything about his body language radiated unease. I didn’t understand it. What was there to be worried about?

                                    “Tank you miss!!!” The little girl ran up to me with her Pokémon secured in her arms. Once laying eyes on the thing, I could understand the name choice. This Lillipup had checker-like spots dotting its tiny paws and a couple mismatched dots over its furry face. “But what will happen if dose mean men come back an’ try to take ‘im away from me?” she asked nervously, tears already brimming in her eyes.

                                    “That’s not gonna happen.” I said resolutely, staring at the gathering crowd. Now seemed like a good a time as any to rally these people and get them to fight back against Team Plasma. I wasn’t the greatest at motivational speeches, but I knew firsthand the pain of being separated from my Pokémon. Looking at these people’s sullen eyes… I knew they felt it to. I knew things didn’t have to stay this way. I knew that I could change the horrible world I let Ghetsis create.

                                    With a triumphant sweep of my leg, I swung my foot down onto the fallen sheet of iron that once served as a restricting wall. “People of Unova!” I cried to the crowd of onlookers. “I realize that you have suffered much under the tyrannical rule of Team Plasma, but hasn’t this gone on for long enough!?” I gestured towards the ragged hole in the wall, to the untamed grass were a few curious Pokémon peeked their heads out. “It’s time that we took up arms and begin to fight for what we believe in! We as people must rebel against this repressive government and rejoin both people and Pokémon together!! Only with the unison of these two sides will we open up the possibilities of liberating ourselves! Those who have suffered, those who have dreamed of a different world; if there are any among you who desire change, please join me!”

                                    I expected cheers: roars of triumph; cries of determination. I thought the townsfolk would usher into the grasslands, grab hold of their Pokémon and rush back into the town, ready to fight and take back what they had lost. Instead I was met with silent, vacuous faces that did nothing but stare me down with hate-filled eyes. A crack appeared in my hope. Why weren’t they doing anything? Why were they just standing there? I gave another gesture towards the fallen walls but still the citizens wouldn’t move. My arms dropped with my hopes. Amongst the crowd, some people drew away and retreated back into their homes frightfully, those who remained hailed me with a volley of scowls.

                                    “Ha Ha Ha!” I nearly jumped out of my skin as a booming laugh filled the air, bounding off the iron walls on either side of the route. From the back of the crowd a burly Plasma Soldier came forward and sneered at me deviously.
                                    “Look what we have here!” he placed his fists onto his hips and leant back as if admiring, “Must be my lucky day here! Ha! Here I am face to face with the escaped hero!” he brought his hand up over his brow, shielding his eyes from an absent sun and squinted, “Ha! The imposter king is with ya too!”

                                    My brow furrowed and I turned to N questioningly. What did this soldier mean by imposter? N seemed just as confused as I was.

                                    “Looks like you were tryin’ to start a riot here, eh?” he boomed, crossing his arms over his broad chest. A mocking sneer spread across his thick lips, “Didn’t have much success, did ya? Ha!”

                                    I was getting sick of that condescending laughter. “So what!?” I snapped, “Maybe beating you will get these people to see clearly and act.”
                                    His eyebrow twitched, “That a challenge then?”

                                    I readied myself, “You bet it is.”

                                    The two of us locked eyes for a moment before the Plasma soldier took a stomp at the ground, “Ha! Why not then! I’m the one in charge of this town here and there ain’t no way I’m lettin’ a little girl and an imposter beat me.”
                                    “We’ll see about that! Terra, let’s show this brute how it’s done!” I shouted, bringing my Galvantula out on the field.

                                    “Galvantula, eh?” he scoffed, “Ha! You’re no match for my Stoutland!” The soldier called out a large, mustachioed dog that growled menacingly at my electric spider.

                                    The crowd that had gathered drew back slightly to give us fighting space. Other bodies from the town began to approach, and I thought for a minute that a desire was sparking inside of these people. But after taking a wide glance across the face of bodies, I saw eyes full of fear and disdain all targeted at me. It tore up my resolve pretty nice but I wasn’t backing down. I hoped that maybe if I beat down this Plasma Soldier then it would get these people to wake up. Still, their inability to act frightened me to my core.

                                    My Galvantula shuddered under our enemy’s gaze; the Stoutland’s ability Intimidate had lessened her attack. I couldn’t let that dissuade me.

                                    “Stoutland, use Fire Fang now!” The jaws of my opponent ignited with flame. This wasn’t good. Terra didn’t have very many weaknesses, but fire just happened to be one of them. I wasn’t even aware that Stoutland knew Fire Fang, and I was a bit hesitant to react.

                                    “Terra! Dodge it!” Thankfully, Terra was more alert then I was. She just managed to evade the opposition’s gnashing jaws, “Follow it up with Volt Switch!” I couldn’t afford to have Terra hang around the battlefield any longer. I knew I could evade all I wanted and try to land some decent attacks, but I really didn’t want to drag this battle out.

                                    My Galvantula began to crackle with electric current. She raced forward on her spiny legs and catapulted herself right at our adversary. Stoutland was knocked backwards, rolling upon the ground until it managed to steady itself and gain its footing. After Terra had done her job, she shot straight back into my Pokéball.

                                    “Cheap trick,” The Plasma operative spat, glowering at me from over the gravelly heath.

                                    “I don’t want to waste too much energy on you,” I smirked, hoping that little remark ticked him off. By his unbreaking scowl I could see it had. “Hyle! Let’s go!” Hyle stomped forward on his bulky legs, bringing up his fists and growling deeply.

                                    “Stoutland! Use Giga Impact!” The Stoutland belted forward on its stubby legs, leaping into the air and throwing its weight right at us.

                                    “Hyle! Catch it!!” My Emboar opened his arms, braced himself for a hit, and let the shaggy dog smash right into his girth. Hyle let out a deep roar as he was pushed back, taking hold of his attacker who had so graciously thrown itself into his lap. “Use Hammer Arm!”

                                    Hyle raised his fist. “Oh ****!” The Plasma soldier spat, “Stoutland, get out of there!” The dog tried to worm its way out of Hyle’s grip but it was feeble. I flinched as Hyle’s fist connected to the Pokémon’s skull with a sickening crack; the Stoutland fell to the ground in limp defeat. The audience sucked in a breath of surprise at this turn of events. I smiled weakly under the brim of my hat. Was I getting through to them?

                                    My opponent called his fainted Pokémon back to his ball and drew another from his belt, glaring at me in the process.

                                    “You did good, Hyle,” I praised, also sealing my Pokémon away. I was going to use Terra again for the next round. That Giga Impact had done more damage than I thought it would. I couldn’t afford to leave Hyle out on the battlefield, especially if my opponent were to send out a stronger Pokémon or one with a type advantage. At least with Terra I could switch out if things got bad.

                                    “Liepard! Let’s end these fools!” A sleek cat of purple and black crawled out over the naked earth, arching its back with an angry hiss. The Plasma soldier frowned when I called my Galvantula out again; he must have known about the disadvantage he had. Since his Liepard was a dark type Pokémon, all I needed to do was hit it with an X-Scissor and he’d be out of action. There was only one problem with that.

                                    “Use X-Scissor, Terra!” Terra crossed the appendages over her mouth and scuttled towards our opponent.

                                    “Dodge it now, Liepard!” The dark feline jumped gracefully aside with a snide smirk. Liepard’s speed was deadly and this proved to be problematic. You can’t take down an enemy you can’t hit and I was suffering with this. I knew I needed to slow that cat down somehow if I wanted to land a hit.

                                    “Liepard, use Bite!” The soldier boomed.

                                    I held my breath as the leopard came in close and took a chomp on one of Terra’s legs. Perfect.

                                    “Use Thunder Wave! Quickly, before it lets go!” Terra reared the pincers on her mouth and jabbed them into the Liepard’s dark fur. It screeched in shock, reeling back as a wave of static coursed through its body.

                                    The Liepard rolled around on the ground furiously, trying to rid itself of the electric current injected into its body. “Good job Terra, now we can…” My jaw dropped as the Liepard pulled itself off the ground and shook the static off of its body like water. It hadn’t been affected.

                                    “Wha…” I was at a loss for words.

                                    “Ha!” The Plasma Soldier squatted down, putting his elbows on his knees as if he was tired of standing, “That’s my Liepard’s ability, little girl. Limber! Paralysis doesn’t work, see?!”

                                    My eyebrows knotted, “Ability…” I echoed.

                                    “Right you are!” he sneered, pulling himself back up. “Good luck trying to get a hit on us now! Ha! Ha! Ha!” he roared, holding his quaking belly as he laughed.
                                    “Liepard! Use Pursuit!” The sly feline faded for a moment before taking a stab at Terra’s head. My Galvantula was knocked down with a pained squeal. “What will you do now, little hero?” he laughed. “Going to run away again with Volt Switch?” his face suddenly darkened, “I won’t have it!”

                                    “Grab it, Liepard!” he shouted. His Pokémon leapt forward and sank its claws and teeth deep into Terra’s bulbous body. Terra spun around frantically, trying in desperation to throw the dark feline from her back. But those claws had sunk in deep and there was no chance of bucking it off. But that was fortunate for us because now I had it right where I wanted it.

                                    “Terra! Use Gastro Acid!” The Plasma soldiers face contorted in fear. My Galvantula spewed a wave of acid from the depths of her stomach all over our opponent. The Liepard jumped off in shock, trying to shake off the sickly green bile, but it clung to the feline’s fur like glue.

                                    “What have you done?!” The soldier seethed.

                                    “That move is called Gastro Acid. Now that your Pokémon is covered in Terra’s acid, its ability is suppressed,” I grinned, “I hope you know what that means…”

                                    The fear on his face was unmistakable.

                                    “Terra! Use Thunder Wave!”

                                    “Muk!” The soldier stomped at the ground angrily, “Liepard!”

                                    But he was too late. Terra sank her fangs into the Liepard’s skin, injecting it with a paralyzing static. The feline screeched in pain, falling into a jittering heap in the dirt. “Finish it with X-Scissor!” Terra made quick work of that troublesome cat. After that move it was all over.

                                    “You rotten little…” The Plasma guard gnawed angrily on his thumb as he returned his fainted Pokémon back into its ball. “This isn’t over yet, you filth.” He reached towards his belt again and pulled out another red ball.

                                    He still had another Pokémon? Though I was assuming it was his last. Taking a look back at his previous fighters, both Stoutland and Liepard were final evolutions of Pokémon commonly seen around Accumula. If the theme held true that meant his last Pokémon would most likely be a Watchog. Terra had come out of that last round with only a few scrapes to show for it. I had confidence that she’d be able to take down his groundhog too.

                                    I told Terra to ready herself as he called out his final fighter, but it wasn’t a Watchog that landed before us. A bulky Pokémon stomped forward, leering angrily as flames licked out of its snout like a tongue. The pipe-like lines over its body clanged with each step, and smoke shot from its muffler-like tail, darkening the air. This was definitely not a Watchog.

                                    “Heatmor, use Flamethrower!” I stood there in shock as a breath of flame sped straight towards my Galvantula.

                                    “Touko!” I heard N shout from behind, but by the time his words met my ears Terra had already been engulfed in flame. I stood frozen as the fire ignited my Pokémon and seared deep into her skin. The face of the crowd looked on in awe and amusement as the light of fire flickered across their vapid eyes. They were enjoying this. They were enjoying my pain. They gained amusement at seeing my Pokémon die. Why?!

                                    “Terra!” My voice was drowned out by the hideous laughter of my opponent. The world seemed to grow dark around me and the laughter resounded through my head. Fresh stains of blood danced across the route. The bodies of my Pokémon lay crumpled beneath Ghetsis’s sneering visage. It was happening again! I staggered back as my head began to spin. I was losing. My Pokémon were dying!

                                    “Can’t switch out now, can you little hero?! Ha Ha Ha!!!”

                                    I was about to fall flat on my face and pass out. It felt as if the whole world had turned against me, and I felt like I was going to die. But before my mind could shatter, a figure dashed out of the crowd. My breath was caught in my throat as the person, covered top to bottom in a dark cloak, pulled out a tin bucket and threw a wave of water onto my burning arachnid. The flames doused with a hiss and my charred Pokémon lay fainted on the ground.

                                    “What the hell d’you think yer doing?!” The Plasma soldier roared in question. The figure simply responded by slamming the blunt end of the bucket right into the soldier’s jaw, which caused him to stumble back and fall over.

                                    “Come on!!!” The figure called out to me hurriedly, motioning frantically for us to follow. I was too dumbstruck to comply, but thankfully N was on the ball. He grabbed hold of my arm and pulled me toward the figure. I called Terra back into her ball as we reached the mysterious person.

                                    “Follow me!” They hissed, darting into the crowd.

                                    “Let’s go,” N urged, pulling me by the arm through the heap of gathered bodies, using the confusion as a cover to slink away. I had no idea where I was being dragged, but I could feel N beside me and his presence forced my legs to move. As the crowd thinned, and soon grew further and further away, I looked back to see the little girl get her Lillipup taken away by a group of Plasma soldiers. The three of us dove deep into an unfenced section of forest and vanished.


                                    After trudging through the ragged terrain of the forest, guided only by our anonymous host, we finally came to a stop. I doubled over, hands on my knees, as I tried to get a breath. The figure, whose identity was still obscured by their cloak, also bent over in exhaustion.

                                    “Who are…” I wheezed, “who on… earth are you…?”

                                    The shadowy figure took a few more deep breaths before answering, “It sure has been a while, hasn’t it?” They turned to face both N and I while banishing the hood that hid their face, revealing a head of glossy purple hair.

                                    “F—!” My words suffered from a dry throat. “Fennel!?”

                                    She flashed a smile, “The one and only!”

                                    “What are you doing here?!” I gawped, “How did you know that we were here?”

                                    She shrugged, “I didn’t. Actually, I had come to Accumula town to run an errand, and I just so happened upon the little scene you were making at Route One!”

                                    I had no idea what to say but Fennel wasn’t finished, not by a long shot. Her face suddenly darkened.

                                    “And him…” She pointed towards N who was still standing beside me, “What on earth is the king of Team Plasma doing here?” she questioned with a mix of disdain and confusion.

                                    N’s face hardened and I brought up my hands quickly, hoping to avoid an argument, “No! No! He’s on our side now! He’s here to help! If it wasn’t for him I would have…”

                                    Fennel brought up her hand dismissively, following the motion with a soft smile, “I understand, Touko. But we can’t talk here. Let’s get back to my laboratory in Striaton and discuss matters there,” Fennel turned around and continued to walk through the brush. I was about to follow but N caught my arm.

                                    “Are you sure we can trust her?” he asked quickly.

                                    I avoided his eyes, almost guiltily, remembering the empty faces the crowd had given me when I tried to get them to fight. “There’s nobody else… to trust…” I said sadly, following Fennel back into the forestry.

                                    The two of us caught up to her where she was waiting and followed her through the maze of branches.

                                    “Fennel… I’m wondering…” I said looking around at the quiet trees, “Why isn’t this part of the forest fenced off like all the others?”

                                    “Only certain sections are blocked off and the Pokémon are quarantine behind those walls, like the ones you saw at Route One,” she said, hopping over a fallen oak, “there aren’t any Pokémon in this part of the forest, they’ve been driven out, so there’s no need for a fence.” She sighed, “People wouldn’t like it if all parts of the forest were closed off to them, you know. Gotta leave some bits open, heh. Makes it easier for us this way…”

                                    N glanced up towards the towering treetops which segmented the cloudy sky, “But… the flying type Pokémon…” he inquired. “Where are they? Surely they can get over the walls.”

                                    Fennel stopped for a moment, looking around the dense forest to check if we had company. She then responded, sounding very text-book, “I don’t know if you’ve seen them already, but there are small prongs on the top of the walls. These prongs emit a frequency which deters the flying Pokémon from approaching, and in turn, keeps them captive.” The dappled sunlight shone across her glasses, hiding her eyes, “But even if the flying Pokémon ignored the frequency, or could somehow go through it, there is an electric field overtop the walls which will strike them down if they try and fly over.”

                                    The shock on N’s face was unmistakable and I too was struck hard with a certain disbelief. Fennel didn’t waste time with consolation or soothing words. She continued onward through the brush, not even waiting for us to catch up. N stood there silently, staring with a mix of anger and sadness at the leaf covered ground. Some of the worst thoughts imaginable must have been squirming through his head. Even I had the displeasure of envisioning a Pidove staring sadly at the towering walls with shredded wings. But just as N had urged me in my time of weakness, it was my time to help him.

                                    I grabbed hold of his trembling hand and tried to produce a comforting smile, but by his upset eyes I knew it came out crooked and warped. Either way, I sprinted off after Fennel, dragging N behind me.

                                    After walking what felt like miles through the brush, and after my feet were raw with sores, Fennel finally came to a halt. I could see the red bricked houses of Striaton City melding through the bough. We were approaching a row of apartments from the rear.

                                    “Alright…” Fennel licked her lips nervously, staring hard at the yellow back door of one of the buildings. The professor was silent for a few moments before saying, “I’ll head to the door first… then I want the two of you to follow me in turn, got that?” N and I nodded. “Act casual,” she said, standing up and padding down her coat before strolling forward, nonchalant.

                                    When she reached the back door of her apartment, I made to follow. I reached the door just as Fennel was fumbling around for her keys. I turned a curious gaze to the sky. There was some sort of strange noise in the air; a rumbling that sounded akin to construction work. It sounded like metal giants were stomping around in the distance. But there was something weird about it. It sounded low and mechanical, like gurgling or the gnashing of teeth. Fennel got the door open before I could ask what it was. We were urged inside and the professor hurriedly slammed the door behind us, shutting the noise out.

                                    Fennel leant against the door for a moment in silence, her back to us, before she blew out a relieved sigh. “I really can’t handle this kind of intensity,” she smiled tiredly, running a hand through her plum-coloured locks. “HEY AMANITA!!” Fennel suddenly boomed, which caused N and I to nearly fly out of our skins. “Are you in here!?”

                                    After a pause, I heard someone stomping either up or down a staircase, and a moment later a girl in a blue dress peeked around the hallway.

                                    “Are you alright, Miss Fennel?” she asked, and her eyes suddenly widened once she caught sight of us. Amanita blinked at N and I before saying, “Who are… these two?”

                                    Fennel grinned, “This one’s Touko, don’t you remember? She’s one of Juniper’s pupils, came here a long while ago to help us get Dream Mist for our research!”

                                    “Right!” Amanita looked up, the realization dawning. Her eyes then fell back down, “And… what about him!?” She growled, and I shrunk back. Who’d of thought such a small girl could sound so menacing?

                                    “He’s…” Fennel regarded N quizzically, not really knowing how to answer.
                                    “I mean you no harm.” N assured, acting calm in the face of their suspicious looks.

                                    “Really!” I said desperately, “He’s a friend!”

                                    “Alright,” Fennel sighed, “I believe you.” At least for now, I suppose she meant. She kicked her black rain boots off on a mat before turning back to her assistant, “Amanita, can you get a couple of potions for Touko’s Pokémon? They got a little roughed up before we got here.”

                                    “Sure thing, sis!” Amanita chimed before dashing down the hall, her rosy pigtails bobbing up and down with every bound.

                                    “Now then, you two come with me.” The scientist led us down a hallway until we reached a divide. Fennel led us to the left which deposited us into a lounge-like room. The wallpaper was scarlet in here: all four walls leading up to a black ceiling where a row of florescent lights shone.

                                    “Take a seat, anywhere is fine,” Fennel shrugged, gliding into the room. “Feel free to put your feet up. Can I get either one of you a drink?”

                                    Both N and I vouched for water and took a seat together on one of the black leather sofas in the room. It felt like heaven as I sank into the cushions. Following Fennel’s remark to put my feet up, I tore off my boots which had grown tight around me and started to massage my aching ankles. Fennel came over a second later and placed a duo of clear cups on a wooden table before taking a seat on an arm chair across from us.

                                    She stared at the two of us, almost observing, as she rubbed her chin thoughtfully.

                                    “Um…” her stare was unnerving so I felt like I needed to break the silence. “Do you know where Cheren, Bianca and the rest are?”

                                    “You’ve been to Nuvema, eh?” she sighed taking a huge gulp of her drink before answering. “You don’t need to worry about it. They’re all okay, as far as I know.”

                                    “So they haven’t been captured by Team Plasma?” I asked hopefully, edging up on my seat.

                                    “Right you are.” Fennel jerked her glass forward, “I haven’t been in contact with Juniper for some time now. Though the last time I checked, she and those kids were organizing a rebuttal against Team Plasma’s actions.” She took a sip, “A resistance, if you will.”

                                    “Located where?” N inquired, he hadn’t even touched his water for some reason.

                                    “I’m not sure,” Fennel bowed her head apologetically as Amanita entered the room. “You see… I haven’t had contact with Juniper for some time.” Fennel closed her eyes, “I don’t even know how fruitful the results of their actions have been. You can watch the news but its all garbage,” she muttered bitterly.

                                    I handed my Pokémon off to Amanita and she restored Terra and Hyle’s health. She pressed the nozzle of the potions onto the release button on their capsules, which restored their health from the inside.

                                    “The two of you are welcome to stay here as long as you want. In the meantime, I’ll try to see what info I can dig up about Juniper and your friends,” Fennel leant forward with an encouraging smile.

                                    “Thanks. It means a lot,” I said gratefully. “But there’s something else I want to ask you…” I began hesitantly. “About the people. Why didn’t they want to fight back when I knocked down those walls? I mean… I’d opened up a path for them but they didn’t want to take it…”

                                    The navy-haired professer sighed and leant back in her chair, “You’ve been absent from this world a long time, Touko. Things have changed more than you can fathom.”

                                    I didn’t like the sound of that. Even Amanita seemed nervous and uneasy as she began to twiddle her thumbs, staring intently at the gray carpeting.
                                    “And the Dream Factories are a huge factor in that…” Fennel muttered absently, locking her eyes on the blinds that covered the windows.

                                    Both N and I radiated confusion at that unfamiliar term. I was about to come forward and ask the professer what this Dream Factory thing was, but my question was cut off by a loud trumpet call which cut through the air. Fennel and Amanita whipped towards the window where the sound had come from, their faces the picture of shock.

                                    “Uh-oh!” Amanita squealed, “There’s an announcement coming!!”
                                    “What… do you mean?” I asked nervously.

                                    “Now of all times!” Fennel growled to herself, ignoring my question and turning to her younger sister. “You need to get them something to wear, and quick!!” Amanita tore off into the house like a bounding Sawsbuck. “You two!” she spat, whipping in our direction. “Here, put these on,” she plucked a pair of tinted sunglasses off a table and shoved them into my hand.

                                    I held onto them stupidly, not knowing the cause of this ruckus, “Er… why? What’s going on?”

                                    “Put ‘em on!” she snapped again as she went over to N and tore off his hat. “They’re calling a town meeting. You two are going to have to come out with us.”

                                    Amanita returned with a bundle of clothes grasped in her arms. Fennel ran over to her sister and plucked a baggy gray sweater out of the pile, which seemed two sizes too large for any of us. She tossed it at N, “Wear this, alright?”

                                    N didn’t protest and slid the huge jumper over his shirt.

                                    “They do house checks, you see,” Amanita came over to me and threw a black coat over my shoulders, “If they find anyone in their house during the announcement then there’ll be trouble. For sure they’ll find you if you don’t come out with us!!” She squealed, wrapping a scarf around my head like a hood.

                                    I didn’t fully understand the situation, but I figured things would go smoother if I just went with it. I threw on the glasses and buttoned the coat up high to conceal my face. Fennel spread a wave of perfume through the room, trying to mask our scent I suppose, as Amanita ushered us out the front door and into the streets of Striaton.

                                    The citizens were massing under a gigantic jumbotron which was mounted on a tower-like building, right in the middle of town square. The burning screen displayed the Team Plasma coat of arms over its surface as if beckoning the growing crowd.

                                    As I drew closer to the screen-mounted building, I realized with horror that the structure had been made from the town’s old Pokémon Center. I tried to suppress a scowl as we melded into the sea of bodies. So that’s what had become of the Pokémon Centers, they had been converted into Plasma headquarters. The building was so different, so altered that I could hardly even recognize it from its former appearance. In the end it was the location that gave it away.

                                    I didn’t have time to look very long as Amanita pushed us into the crowd under the glaring screen, continuously muttering, “Don’t look at anyone. Keep to yourself. Don’t speak.” Fennel brought up the rear, trying to hide her nervousness as she glanced through the mass of people.

                                    The people were murmuring, bustling, and congregating into one large blotch. People exited their houses accordingly, shutting doors behind them. Others came in from the streets and alleys that connected to this point. All four of us stood smushed in the throng and the screen continued to glare up above. I figured we’d need to wait a bit until all of the citizens gathered, but it was taking a bit too long.

                                    As I began to look around restlessly, I caught sight of something over the many heads around me. There were groups of Plasma soldiers opening doors and entering people’s houses. I didn’t know what they were doing at first, but the answer came to me soon enough. They were doing house checks.

                                    Just like Fennel had mentioned, these soldiers were entering people’s houses and making sure that no one was hiding away or not attending the announcement. They were opening doors so effortlessly and without protest that I figured they must have had keys with them. My heart had fallen to the pit of my stomach in shock, but it grew even worse after what I saw next.

                                    These masked soldiers had Pokémon with them. They were using Herdier, who were hooded and leashed, to sniff out those who could be hiding away. Most of the houses the soldiers entered seemed to be vacant, but they were hauling a few people out of their homes and forcing them to join the crowd. But those who they did drag out, just appeared to have slept through the trumpet call, or hadn’t heard it for some reason or another. No one resisted, I suppose they knew better than to do that.

                                    Nobody else in the crowd looked at this sickening violation of privacy; they just kept their eyes upward and waited for the screen to come alive. N and I seemed to be the only ones watching the soldiers carry out their work.
                                    “Don’t look at them.” Fennel muttered under her breath, with enough force to cause me to look away.

                                    I felt horribly uncomfortable after what I’d just seen, and my head seemed to be pounding. I turned to N and asked him, “What do you think this is about?” under the white noise of the crowd. I could hardly even recognize him with his hood drooping over his eyes and a blue scarf wrapped various times around his neck.

                                    “I don’t know,” he admitted, but the unease in his voice, though muffled, was unmistakable.

                                    A trumpet call rang out again and the murmur of the crowd quickly died. All the citizens seemed to have been gathered, and the soldiers bordered the crowd like fence posts, as if to keep them contained. All eyes were set on the massive telescreen above, which towered higher than any building around. The Plasma logo flashed a few more times before cutting to a large marble platform bordered by masked soldiers. Each one had a flag grasped in their gloved hands. They stood around an elevated podium where one of the Seven Sages stood.

                                    He addressed the people, “Citizens of Unova! Bow in salute to our eternal lord, N!” The Sage stepped aside to reveal a man cloaked in a resplendent fur-lined cape, wearing a glimmering golden crown over his verdant hair. N walked up to the podium, silenced the crowd with a gentle wave, and said with a voice that echoed through the sky itself.

                                    “My people. A tragedy has befallen our nation this day.”


                                    Are there no heroes left in man?
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                                    Old May 20th, 2012 (1:36 PM).
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                                    OpenDoorLeia OpenDoorLeia is offline
                                    The Will of One
                                      Join Date: Nov 2011
                                      Gender: Female
                                      Nature: Lonely
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                                      “Citizens of Unova!” N’s voiced reigned through Striaton’s town square. It echoed off the encirclement of buildings and into the attentive ears of the citizenry below. Many adoring eyes were captured by the monarch’s glorious image, fixed upon his figure which shone from the broadcast screen in the sky. I could feel it emanating from the crowd, a sense of overwhelming love and praise for this carved-out king. The people radiated with blind idolatry, and it left me feeling sick. It revolted me to think that the man they loved so zealously was nothing but a fake.

                                      “A tragedy has befallen our nation this day.” Despair fell upon the king’s face as he spoke, “A terrorist has broken free of her imprisonment and wishes to abolish the wholesome kingdom which we have worked so tirelessly to create!” This second N made a gesture to a new image which had appeared on the screen, one of my very own face. The people scowled up at it, hatred rising.

                                      The Second N continued his tirade, “Not only does this person desire to tear apart our rules and ideals that we’ve worked so hard to maintain…” his expression seemed to bitter, “she’s also accompanied by a man who has stolen my image. An imposter king who has changed his face and body with the intent of deceiving us all!”

                                      A sudden bolt of shock struck me hard and I turned quickly to N to try and find his eyes. I came to regret this action because the N that I saw beside me looked more torn up… more ripped apart then I had ever seen him before. His mouth was held slightly agape as he watched the sight unfold with horror stricken eyes. His gaze of utter shock and disbelief then slowly turned to one of deep despair. I knew that look all too well. I had worn it many times in the past. N was on the edge of madness, and each word his duplicate spoke seemed to drive the feeling deeper and deeper. I reached over and grabbed his hand, squeezing down onto his clammy flesh with all my might. It was only a small rebuttal to keep the both of us from going mad.

                                      “These harbingers of terror must be stopped!!” The king boomed, slamming his fist down onto his podium. Every feature of his body burned with passion and it was infectious to the crowd below, drawing forth roars of agreement. “These people must not be allowed to release the abhorrent creatures known as Pokémon back into our world!!”

                                      I started, looking up at the monarch in shock. What did he just say!?

                                      The king matched my gaze with his own of unsettling seriousness. “We of Team Plasma have worked tirelessly for years to confine and whittle down the numbers of said beasts. Our progress has gone well, and all of it could not have been achieved without the continued support and aid of you, the citizens.”

                                      The crowd erupted in cheer, nearly causing me to leap from my skin.

                                      The king smiled, as if he could hear the people’s understanding, “And with your continued support and effort, we will soon reach our ultimate goal of a perfect world!” His expression darkened, “But something now stands in our way! The terrorist Touko, her accomplice—the imposter king, and anyone else who supports their goals and ideals must be purged from this world before their corrupted way of thinking has the chance to take root!” The Second N opened his arms, “People of Unova, you are glorious and you are strong, and I know that none of you are as gullible and naïve to fall for the words that the terrorists speak. But there are some who may bite, and fall for their ploy, and those who do will be seen as enemies of the state and dealt with as such. I hope that each and every one of you, as proud people of this nation, will do your part and combat the efforts of the terrorists wherever they may rise. We are Team Plasma and we will protect you, but only if you submit and allow us to.”

                                      I felt N’s hand begin to tremble within my own. That gentle feeling filled with fear is what pulled me from the sickening world of the king’s words. I gave his hand another reassuring clench but it didn’t come close to mending his distress. I couldn’t even glance towards him a second time; my eyes were simply locked with the massive gaze belonging to his replacement.

                                      “Long live our glorious nation!” The sovereign spread his arms out wide as if he could embrace every adoring person who heard his words that day. As if he could cradle the whole nation in his arms. The fading of his speech was soon replaced by an eruption of cheer. I almost couldn’t believe that they were applauding this fake king and his lies, but despite my shock they continued to cheer deafeningly.

                                      The Second N’s image was replaced in a flash by the Team Plasma coat of arms which gleamed on the screen. Another trumpet call rang out over the town, signifying that the announcement had come to an end. The people quickly dispersed back into their homes or into the streets, mumbling to each other, looking thoughtful and understanding, and slightly fearful, as if they knew the real truth.

                                      As the bodies around me grew thin, I tried to get my legs to move but I felt glued in place. N, who was still clenching my hand tightly, also stood frozen. We probably would have caught some unnecessary attention if Fennel and Amanita hadn’t grabbed hold of us and forced us back to their home. Even without their guiding aid, walking would have been impossible. My limbs felt numb; my mouth so dry. I can imagine that the professor was saying something to us from under her breath, but my throbbing heartbeat drowned it out. I was no longer looking at the screen but I could still see its image, as if it had burned into my eyes. Even the words that had resounded out from that tower echoed faintly behind my pulse. I couldn’t believe it… but I knew it was real. We had all seen it and I couldn’t convince myself otherwise.

                                      We were monsters in the eyes of this nation. What could we possibly do to change that fact? The Second N had pounded the words into the hearts and minds of the people. It was engraved into their very being now. We couldn’t simply pave over their thoughts without causing chaos and terror. The words of the hero had become vile. In an instant, we had become the enemies. The people didn’t want to be saved from this rotting paradise. And they never would.

                                      As Fennel and Amanita pushed the both of us inside, locking the world out, I could only think that things would never be the same.

                                      Chapter 11
                                      Repugnant Paradise (…under the void throne)

                                      Streams of water ran down my body from the showerhead above, slowly erasing all the blood and grime that had been coating my body since our escape from Team Plasma’s castle. Having a shower after such a long time felt heavenly to say the least, although the mood was continually spoilt as my thoughts kept returning to the announcement the Second N had given earlier that day. The goal N and I shared for freeing both the people and Pokémon from this region had been quashed by what he had said. We were now seen as enemies of the state, and no matter where we would go that fact wouldn’t change as long as the screen continued to herald it so. Our pleas of liberation had fallen deaf in the ears of this nation.

                                      I let out a heavy sigh which was lost in the drone of falling water.
                                      But that wasn’t all. I had the feeling that there was something else wrong here. The people of Striaton just gobbled up the king’s words so eagerly and without doubt that it unnerved me. No one questioned the words he spoke; no one thought of whether it was truth or falsehood. Why was that? Even when I tried to start a small rebellion on Route One… they all looked at me like I was some sort of monster.

                                      I reached for the knob, turned off the water and stepped out of the small shower. I snatched up a towel and quickly dried myself off before throwing on a pair of pajamas that Fennel had leant me. The jams were a bit baggy and the sleeves felt like flippers, but they fit well for the most part. It was a mild struggle trying to open up the bathroom door with such baggy sleeves, but I managed in good time. A cloud of steam leapt up towards the ceiling as I stepped out of the bathroom and into the dark spare room we had been leant. The lights were off. No one had bothered to turn them on, so the only illumination the room got was from the streetlamps outside.

                                      I spotted N sitting at the only bed in the room which hugged against the far left wall. The bed was the only thing that filled this room; there was nothing else here; it was basically empty apart from a single window on the far right wall. I stared at N for a few lingering moments, but he remained motionless. With elbows on his knees, head bowed, lit eerily by the streetlights outside, he looked like some sort of statue. His hair was untied, falling across his body and over his eyes, which kept his expression hidden. But I didn’t need to see his face to know what he was feeling. It was as clear as day that N was in pain.

                                      I walked over to him and took a seat beside him on the bed. He didn’t move, only shifted slightly as the bed dipped from my weight.

                                      “That… person…” I tried to say as carefully as possible, “…the one who looked just like you…”

                                      “I don’t know who he is.” N said suddenly, keeping his eyes, what I could see of them, trained on the floor.

                                      Earlier that day when the announcement had ended and we lay safe inside Fennel’s home, N continued to assure us that he had no idea who his lookalike really was or why he possessed his face. Both Fennel and Amanita were hesitant to take his word but I assured them that N was telling the truth. I believed him. I knew just by the way he acted during that broadcast, the fear that enveloped his eyes, such raw emotion is not easily feigned. Though the professor and her sister didn’t seem entirely convinced, they let the subject drop and we did not discuss it further. Since then, N had become very distant and antisocial, even to me, and the day wore its way into night.

                                      I knew the subject was touchy, and it was probably something that he wanted to avoid, but talking about it was something we needed to do. I needed to know if N really knew anything about his duplicate or who the man truly was.

                                      “I don’t know what his real name is… or why he wears my face,” the torment in his voice was hard to take, and I tried to offer some comfort by placing a gentle hand over his bare shoulder. It was hard to console him since I couldn’t really say that everything was going to be fine. I imagined how I would feel if someone had stolen my face and the kingdom that I once ruled over. Betrayal would probably just be scratching the surface.

                                      I didn’t know what I should say to lessen his sadness, so I simply told him, “I’ll be here,” and traced my fingers down the grooves in his back, along his spine soothingly.

                                      N let out a shuddering sigh under my caress, and I felt his body become lax. “I think… since I left Team Plasma, Ghetsis has needed another person to take my place. Someone to fill the void I left…” he started. “But something worries me, Touko.”

                                      The tone of his voice caused me to try and find his eyes, but even when I looked at him, his gaze was on the window on the opposite wall. “What is it?” I had to ask.

                                      N paused before collecting his thoughts and speaking again, “It troubles me that Ghetsis has taken the time and effort to mold another emperor into my image…” he locked his eyes into mine, “…when he simply could have taken the throne himself.”

                                      The sound of a car drifting by evaporated the silence of night.

                                      I asked N what he thought Ghetsis’s machinations were, but he simply shook his head dismissively. That simply meant he was just as clueless as I was, but not knowing made it much worse. My imagination filled in the horrors for me.
                                      Silence pervaded again as the both of us mulled over our unsettling thoughts. I tried to pursue the outcome of the Sage’s actions but my mind was sidetracked again by another thought. There was something that I needed to say…

                                      “Um…N?” My throat was already turning dry. He turned towards me in question; something about my faltering tone must have sparked his curiosity. The inquisitive look he gave me didn’t help matters as I tried to gather my thoughts and get them out of my mind.

                                      “I want to apologize for what happened back there on Route One…” I looked away. “It was… stupid of me to think I could convince everyone so easily… to fight against Team Plasma. I mean… I’d thought they’d want to… you know?” The guilt I was feeling made speaking sound awkward.

                                      It was N’s turn to offer his own form of comfort by placing a steady hand over my own. I was drawn back into his eyes again to see not a look of loathing or contempt, instead he seemed understanding.

                                      “It’s alright. Neither of us could have known how lifeless the masses have become. Even when I was the one standing on that podium… I never really thought they had become such cattle. It appears that I was wrong to think otherwise. In fact, these humans might be far more subservient than I feared.” He frowned. “I find it difficult to want to fight for such vacuous people… people who won’t even grasp at freedom when it’s thrown in their laps.”

                                      “There’s something more than that.” I told him.

                                      He glanced questioningly in my direction. “…What do you mean?”

                                      “There’s a reason the people are like this, N. I’m not… really sure what it is yet but, there’s definitely a reason why they’re acting like such… like such robots.”

                                      He looked unconvinced.

                                      “But that’s beside the point. We worked so hard to get this far… there’s no way I’m throwing in the towel now.” I felt more determined than angry.

                                      “Your resolve is admirable as always, Touko,” N smiled at me, clearly amused by my drive. “I will stand beside you no matter what. Although, I’d like to provide more aid to the Pokémon instead of the people…”

                                      “I think our goals will intertwine at some point then,” I grinned before stretching my arms over my head. “Let’s just sleep on it and try to sort things out in the morning, okay?” I gave his bare back a slap. “And I think you’re in need of a shower…”

                                      N looked ruffled by my comment for a moment there; almost as if he was saying, I don’t really stink that much do I? But he headed off to the bathroom while I buried myself beneath the blankets.

                                      This was actually the first time I had slept in a real bed since leaving the castle, and it was heaven. I slowly faded into slumber as the patter of the shower lulled me into oblivion. Before I lost consciousness, I remembered something that Fennel had said to me. The professor had mentioned some odd term when N and I first came to her home. What was it now…? Was it something about a building…? A factory? I couldn’t put my finger on the word, and finally I drifted off as N finished his shower and crawled into the covers beside me.


                                      When morning had arrived, I made my way downstairs. I followed the scent of cooking breakfast all the way to the kitchen where Amanita and Fennel were there to greet me.

                                      “Morning, Touko!” Fennel said rather cheerily as she peered out from behind the morning paper. “Come have a seat! I hope you like bacon an’ eggs, cause we got plenty!” She was acting a bit too jolly considering the unsettling scene we’d all witnessed yesterday.

                                      Her attitude seemed peculiar. “… Uh, yeah,” I tried to force out as smile as I took a seat across from the professor. Fennel brought back up her wall of newspaper and continued to read while taking occasional sips of coffee.

                                      “Is mister N not up yet?” Amanita inquired with a glance over her shoulder. She was bent over the stove, sizzling strips of bacon on a cast-iron pan.

                                      “Ah, no. He’s still sleeping, so I figured I should let him have his rest…” I said rather sheepishly.

                                      “A bit of java could wake him up,” Fennel said, wiggling her coffee mug in the air with a mischievous smile. “How about you, Touko? You look like you could use a jump start!”

                                      I put up my hands quickly, “Oh! No-no thank you. Coffee’s not… really my thing you know.” I tried to decline as politely as possible. For one thing, I really didn’t want to intrude too much on these people who had so graciously offered to conceal N and I from Team Plasma, especially since they knew about all the trouble they’d be put through if they were found out. I didn’t want to take more than I should from them. But besides that, I wasn’t lying, I can’t stand coffee. It’s far too bitter for my liking.

                                      Fennel let the subject drop with a shrug just as Amanita brought over my meal and set my plate down before me. I stared at the steaming food for a moment in deep thought.

                                      “Miss Fennel?” I said, grabbing my fork and poking the gooey center of my eggs.

                                      “Yes?” The cheeriness had dropped from her voice for some reason. Maybe I was imagining it. Maybe the wall of newspaper was just muffling her tone.

                                      “What’s happened to the Striaton gym leaders?” I tried not to sound hesitant. “Where are they now? Are they taking steps against what Team Plasma has done?”

                                      Fennel didn’t put down her newspaper and I noticed Amanita give her older sister a nervous glance. I heard N clomp down the stairs as I tried to get the professor to talk.

                                      The scientist didn’t need another prompt from me; she quickly slapped her newspaper down on the table and stared me down with unsettling seriousness just as N walked through the kitchen door.

                                      “Why do you want to know that, Touko?” The professor asked me with unnerving calmness in her voice.

                                      I was taken aback by her question. Wasn’t it obvious? “Maybe they can help us to get rid of Team Plasma,” I made a vague waving gesture, “and maybe… you know, get the people of this town to stop listening to those broadcasts and do something!”

                                      N remained standing at the doorway, watching the conversation with interest, waiting for Fennel’s response. The scientist continued to analyze me with a dead-serious air while Amanita scraped the food around on the pan with her spatula nervously.

                                      Fennel broke the silence with a swift sigh, “I guess there’s no use hiding it from you now.” The professor pulled herself up, leaving her morning paper and half finished breakfast aside. “You two need to come with me,” she continued, pointing at N and I.

                                      We shared a confused glance as the professor scooched passed us and headed back towards the staircase. We figured it best not to question her, so we simply followed the scientist as she lead us up all the way to the roof of the complex.

                                      I shuddered against the frigid air, hugging my arms around my body to try and conserve some warmth. I was still in my pajamas for Arceus sake. “Miss Fennel!” I tried to shout out against a gust of wind which rammed right into us upon exiting the building, “Why’d you bring us all the way up here? Miss Fennel?!”

                                      The professor stood near the far end of the building, ignoring what I had said as she stared at the rising sun which had just made its way over the horizon of evergreens. Even after a few moments passed, she did not acknowledge me for some reason. Had my voice been lost in the wind?

                                      I glanced at N to see his take on things; maybe he had some inkling to what was going on. N’s eyes were locked on the professor with suspicion. He watched her with an uneasy frown, as if she might turn on us and attack. N’s heightened guard unsettled me a little bit, but I knew it was ridiculous. Fennel wouldn’t just attack us for no reason, especially after she had done so much to help us. I was about to ask her again, why she brought us up here, but my words were cut short by her sudden movement.

                                      The professor brought her arm up and pointed towards the horizon. She asked, “Do you see that?”

                                      What I saw defied reality itself. Some dark monster of pipes and metal was looming over the distant wall of pine trees on the outskirts of town. The building was colossal, yet stout and wide in design. Rows upon rows of glass eyes glistened upon its surface, catching the sunlight. A quintet of black towers jut out from the structure like horns, dominating the sky, raising their blackened fists high into the air. A soft pink mist spewed from the tops of those towers and drifted out slowly into the orange sky. The building looked so sinister, so malevolent, I couldn’t find the words to ask Fennel what it was.
                                      The professor turned towards the both of us and answered our thoughts, “Dream Factory.”

                                      I stared at the scientist wide-eyed, “W-what is…?”

                                      “They are factories that have been erected in many cities and towns all over Unova. They utilize the Dream Mist that is produced from both Munna and Musharna to project dreams unto the citizens of the region.” Fennel crossed her arms and leant back, “Are you familiar with how Munna’s Dream Mist works, how it affects the human mind and body?”

                                      “I…” my breath was caught. I shook my head by lack of words.

                                      “It has the power to bring people’s dreams to life in a sort of—” she waved her hand, “—illusory reality. The power of the Dream Smoke is miraculous on its own, and could have destructive potential if used by the wrong hands. But Team Plasma has made their own altercations to the Dream Smoke.”

                                      “How so…?” N asked, voice on edge.

                                      Fennel pointed to the five smokestacks which rose from the stout body of the factory. “Team Plasma has added their own compounds and chemicals to the mist, changing its properties and effects but keeping composition and structure relatively the same.” Fennel turned to us. The rising sunlight caught the lenses of her glasses, and obscured her eyes with a gleam. “They are pumping out small amounts of altered Dream Mist from that factory,” she pointed to the plumes of pink smoke which gushed from the high towers. “It’s melding into the air, as you can see. The mist is drifting over the town as we speak. It is almost invisible to the naked eye, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s being ingested by every single person in this city.”

                                      “Then what…” I almost couldn’t finish my question, because I held dread for the inevitable answer. But I had to know. “What does the Dream Mist do… after it’s been breathed in!?”

                                      “When ingested, the altered Dream Smoke from that factory enters the brain and implants a subconscious message inside. It tells the recipient to hate Pokémon,” Fennel tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Have you ever heard of those advertisements, usually ones which showcase food, that show a hidden message within them that makes the viewer crave their product? It’s called subliminal messaging, or subliminal stimuli. It’s sensory manipulation which is usually beyond the limits of one’s conscious perception. The altered Dream Mist works in the same way, but on a chemical level. The people don’t know it’s being done to them, but the more they breathe it in, the more the suggestion grows. They are being subconsciously told to hate and be repulsed by Pokémon, in addition, they’re also being told to fully obey and fully submit to everything Team Plasma without question.” Fennel looked out over the town, “That’s why they didn’t listen to you when you tried to rally them on Route One, Touko. They’ll only listen to what Team Plasma and N say, the eternal gods you both witnessed on that screen.”

                                      She caught her hair in the breeze. A deep chugging travelled with the wind and carried over the rooftops of the town. Some machine inside of that building was gurgling, echoing out from where it perched over the city like some sort of sentinel. If my memory held true, then this building was located right where the Dreamyard used to be. Ruin replaced by iron bones…

                                      It was hard to pry my eyes off of the factory, but I couldn’t stop myself from taking a glance at N. I needed to know what he was feeling. If the overwhelming terror building in my gut was a mutual feeling held between us. I’d been right. His expression was a pure manifestation of both terror and disbelief, the mirror image of my own horrified gaze. His eyes were captured, just like they had been by that screen yesterday; his sight locked onto the factory’s mammoth body. I’d seen enough. I hated seeing N look so crushed, so ripped apart, because he thought the reason the Dream Factory existed was because of him. There wasn’t only shock in his eyes… there was guilt.

                                      “Do you understand now, Touko? Why your pleas have fallen on deaf ears?” Fennel said directly, drawing my eyes back over to her.

                                      “But I haven’t—!” I blurted, trying to form the words through shock. “I haven’t felt this way! I haven’t felt manipulated or hypnotized into hating my Pokémon!! I still love them and want to be with them… I…”

                                      “The effects are gradual, Touko. You’ve only been here a few days, so it’ll take some time for full effects of the mist to sink in,” her voice was grave. “But it’ll hunt you down too. Even now you’re breathing it in; it’s entering your body as you speak. With each breath you take.” She pointed at me, “Maybe you’ve noticed an increase in headaches? A slightly nauseous feeling? A faint metallic smell or taste? Those are all signs of the Dream Mist creeping into your body. The headaches are a sign of rejection, since your body isn’t used to the presence of the mist. But you’ll both grow accustomed to it, create a tolerance, just like everyone else has. Soon enough, you’ll fall victim, and you won’t be able to realize that you’ve been ensnared.”

                                      My heart fell to the pit of my stomach. “There is… there’s… no way that’s possible…” I couldn’t believe what she was telling me; all the things she said seemed to ludicrous, so insane!

                                      Fennel gestured towards the factory which continued with its work. “Believe it or not, Touko, this is the furthest thing from a dream.”

                                      “But the Pokémon!” N suddenly found his voice. “What’s happening to them?”
                                      Fennel shrugged, “The mist works a bit differently for Pokémon. Though they may not feel a strong hatred for people, they will feel depressed and lack the desire to break down the walls that encase them on the routes. Team Plasma doesn’t have to worry about manipulating the Pokémon too much. Their goal is to keep people and Pokémon separated, and as long as the Pokémon are quarantine, then they have nothing to worry about.”

                                      “…How?” Fennel turned to me questioningly, “How could this… have happened? How could anyone let this happen!? I mean, if people know what that… thing… is for, then why don’t they go against it and try and shut it down!?”

                                      Fennel let out a breath of air, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose, “It’s easier than you may think. You see, Team Plasma continually claim that Pokémon are wretched beasts that will do nothing but destroy and cause chaos if they’re allowed to roam free.”

                                      “That’s ridiculous!” N barked, “Pokémon aren’t like that at all, they…”

                                      “I know that.” Fennel cut in with enough force to shut him up. “But if you’re told it, again and again, conditioned to believe that its truth, then lies can be turned into reality.”

                                      “That’s what Team Plasma does?” I glanced quickly to the broadcast tower in town square, which rose above the surrounding buildings, screen still glaring as if it never slept. “That’s what the screen is for?”

                                      The professor nodded. “The people are manipulated into thinking that Pokémon only exist to destroy and kill. The people start to get scared and panic. They’re blinded by fear and made weak as a result. Team Plasma build those factories and erect those walls and claim that it’s to keep the Pokémon away and keep the citizens safe in turn. The reality of it all is much different. The Dream Mist will keep people and Pokémon eternally apart. This is good news for Team Plasma for, without weapons to fight with, Team Plasma can never be thrown from power. Especially not when the Dream Smoke tells the citizens to unconditionally love everything that Team Plasma says or does, even if it is all rubbish. But it doesn’t matter to them. The citizens won’t question what they’re being told. They’re content so why should they complain? No one here wants to be saved, but that’s because they don’t’ think they have anything to be saved from. They’re safe in their paradise as far as they’re concerned.”

                                      I held myself even tighter against the wind as a sudden realization dawned. Back on Route One when I tore down the walls and tried to set the Pokémon free… just what exactly did I look like to them? What did I appear to be… in the eyes of those people? What would I have seen if I were in there shoes? The monster… I must have been…

                                      I felt like I was about to vomit.

                                      “You see, it doesn’t matter how much you try and say it, these people aren’t going to believe anything you say,” she jerked her thumb towards the factory, “and as long as that thing is around, nobody, not even the gym leaders, are going to help you.”

                                      Reality was blurry and amorphous for long minutes after her explanation had finished. I numbed out all that was around me only to focus on what I’d been told. I no longer noticed the cold wind, the chugging of the Dream Factory; I hardly even noticed the presences of N and Fennel beside me. But even after I had numbed out the world, the reality of what I’d been told was still hard to grasp. It felt like some sort of sick dream. I even expected myself to wake up back in my bed. But of course that wasn’t going to happen. There’s no way I’m that lucky. No matter how much I wanted to deny it… I couldn’t.

                                      I couldn’t talk or respond. I walked like a zombie back into her apartment, following Fennel blindly as she led us back to the kitchen.

                                      Amanita smiled at us half-heartedly as we entered through the flap doors. “Mister N, your breakfast.” She made a small motion to where she had set his plate. He only responded by sitting down and staring unblinkingly at his steaming food. He was too absorbed in his thoughts to even hear what Amanita said; he might not have even realized there was food in front of him. I was in a similar state of mind. All I could do was sit back down at the table and stare as every thought wound through my head, over and over. On the other hand, Fennel strolled casually into the kitchen, took a seat and brought up her morning paper again.

                                      She jiggled her cup in the air, “Amanita. I need another refill please.”

                                      “Yes, sis.”

                                      Amanita began to fill the professor’s cup with black liquid.

                                      “I still want to find the gym leaders.”

                                      Amanita and Fennel froze, looks of bewilderment etched on their faces. Even N withdrew from his stupor to give me a questioning glance. I found it rather irritating that none of them were taking me seriously.

                                      “You still think they can help?” The professor asked, unconvinced.

                                      “Well… it doesn’t hurt to try!”

                                      “I think you’re crazy.” Fennel said quite bluntly, and Amanita agreed with a silent nod. “But if you still think you can change something… then I’ll do whatever I can to help you.”

                                      My spirits brightened, “R-really?! Thank you so much, Miss Fennel!!”

                                      “Yeah, yeah,” she waved my gratitude away humbly. “Just don’t get yourselves caught… or killed.”

                                      “Certainly not, miss!” I grinned.

                                      “Alright, alright, just finish your darn breakfast,” the professor sighed, then added with a mumble, “kids these days.”





                                      “Please be still, Touko. This is very delicate work,” Amanita said, plucking another eyebrow from my head.

                                      “This feels more like torture—ow!!” I grumbled.

                                      “Tough!” Fennel barked as she strode through the doorway with a box in her arms. “If the two of you are going to be walking around out there then…” she let out a labored grunt, slamming the box on the living room table, “you’re going incognito.”

                                      “So that’s why you’re tearing my eyebrows out by the roots? Ouch!” I growled as Amanita ripped another hair loose, following her action with a quick apology.

                                      “Precisely!!” Fennel sneered as she began to dig through her mysterious box, pulling out clothes and supplies. “We don’t have much… so we’re going to have to be creative here.” She paused for a moment as she pulled out an old ripped pair of jeans, seeming to be lost in the past. “Hey, N!” she piped suddenly.

                                      N continued to stand at the window, peering through the blinds secretively like he was doing reconnaissance or something. I don’t think he even heard a word that the professor said. It was a bit unfortunate for him, since she threw an old shoe right at his head to get him to pay attention.

                                      Amanita got out some sort of makeup brush and started sweeping it all over my face. I had to cringe. This isn’t what I had in mind when I decided to seek out the gym leaders; the last thing I wanted was to get all gooped up. N seemed to share my mindset as Fennel ordered him to remove all his key chains and bracelets and other things that could signify his identity.

                                      Fennel cupped her chin with her hand as she analyzed him, “You’re a tricky case…” she leant back, “since we can’t really hide your features with makeup… or could we…?”

                                      N brought up his hands, “Actually I…” he turned his gaze to the floor, “…maybe you could cut my hair off…?”

                                      All three of us didn’t expect him to say that and it showed.

                                      N noticed our expressions and quickly explained, “Think about it for a second. Maybe I won’t look so much like that man on the screen if you cut this ponytail off…” his eyes were downcast again. Having N differentiate himself from his replacement was a good idea. There weren’t too many people walking around with hair colour like his. But something as simple as a hair cut seemed to mean a lot to N, and all of us knew it. This wasn’t as simple as a mere change of style.

                                      The professor was silent for a moment as she thought the prospect over.
                                      “Alright then!” She said suddenly. “Get the scissors, Amanita!”

                                      Amanita hopped up and headed off somewhere to retrieve said item. She seemed to be finished with my facial disguise anyway.

                                      I watched N as Fennel sat him down in a chair and tied a table cloth loosely around his neck.

                                      I grabbed a nearby mirror and took a look at Amanita’s work, and honestly I was impressed. Though I was still recognizable, it took me a few seconds to actually discern that fact. My eyebrows were thinned right down; no surprise there. The makeup she placed on my face wasn’t lathered on, instead it was artfully placed to accentuate certain areas of my face, almost altering them. She even placed a fake beauty mark under my eye, which I nearly smudged with curious prodding.

                                      I turned to N and pointed to my face, “N! Look! Check it out!!”

                                      He looked my way and stared for a second before gasping, “Who are you and what have you done with Touko!?”

                                      “Quit with the joking around!” Fennel barked over our laugher as Amanita walked in, staring at us curiously. “If you’re caught by Team Plasma out there then it’s game over.” Our laughter faded after that sharp reality check. Even amidst this chaos was there no room for a little lighthearted joke?

                                      Amanita handed the small, trimming scissors to her sister and Fennel prepared for the cut.

                                      “Ready for this?” The professor asked, spreading the blades.

                                      “Go ahead and do it,” with that, Fennel snipped and N’s untamed ponytail fell to the ground.

                                      N turned around and peered over the chair, staring at the clump of hair for a moment before stating, “That was quick.” He sighed, “The back of my neck feels cold now…”

                                      Fennel cut a few snips off the back of his head, evening out the ends, erasing any trace that a ponytail used to be there, “We’re just about done then. Feeling better?”

                                      N turned to me with a weak smile, “How do I look? Any different from that person on the television?”

                                      Something took a stab at my heart, and I tried my hardest to suppress a frown. “Yeah. You don’t look anything like him.”


                                      “How long are you gonna be out there for? Estimated time?” Fennel asked us as N and I slid on our boots.

                                      I paused, thinking it over. “Five hours, tops. We’ll come right back after we figure out what’s happened to the gym leaders.”

                                      An odd look crossed Fennel’s features. She seemed a bit uncertain… anxious? “Sorry to mention it so late, but I probably won’t be here by the time you get back.”

                                      “How come?” I asked her.

                                      “Well,” she pulled a half grin. “Believe it or not but I have a job to get to in a few hours. I work nights, and it’s Monday starting today so my brief vacation has regretfully come to an end.” She closed her eyes woefully.

                                      N and I gave each other a look.

                                      “But you don’t have to worry about it,” Fennel looked back up at us, “Amanita will be here to take care of you both. She’s a grand cook so she can make you anything you’d like for dinner.” Fennel nudged her sister good-heartedly, “Ain’t that right?”

                                      Amanita smiled shyly, “Um. Yes. Yes, I can do that.”

                                      I frowned, slightly disappointed, but once I realized I was making that face I quickly birthed a smile. “Alright. Well then, we’ll be seeing you both later.” I turned for the door and N made to open it.

                                      “Take care,” Fennel said seriously. “Keep your wits about you. Don’t lower your guard even for a second, there are eyes everywhere in this city.”

                                      “Will do.” I said, trying not to show that her last remark had me shaken.

                                      “Come back safely,” Amanita said before both N and I exited Fennel’s house and walked out into the streets of Striaton City.

                                      The wind made its presence clear by weaving through our clothes and pinching at our skin. As a rebuttal, I pulled my army-green trench coat up over my chin and scrunched my shoulders together against the wind. N echoed my actions, and shoved his hands deep into the gray hoodie that Fennel had lent him. We weren’t thrilled about having to walk all the way across town, on a day as cold as this, to get to the Pokémon Gym—or what was left of it, but beggars can’t be choosers and all that. Walk we must.

                                      The people strolling through the streets seemed to feel just the same about being out here. Luckily, we hadn’t been recognized or identified by the citizenry yet. Actually, the people who walked by hardly even glanced in our direction. They only seemed concerned about where they were walking and how they were getting there, and even then they had permanent scowls on their faces. They just shuffled by, contorting their bodies against a cruel wind. The body language of these people was unfriendly, even a bit hateful to say the least, and it radiated.

                                      I thought back to what Fennel had said about the Dream Factory’s mist. I followed the people’s actions as I thought, glaring at the sidewalk. Did the Dream Mist not only destroy these peoples’ desire to fight, but did it make them bitter and spiteful towards each other as well? I didn’t want to think of it. I simply continued to stomp over the faded Plasma emblem which was carved into each block of the sidewalk.

                                      I removed my eyes from my feet, but looking forward wasn’t any better. No matter how far the two of us walked, the smokestacks of the Dream Factory were always visible, protruding from the tree line—belching its noxious mist into the sky. Even the mounted tower of the converted Pokémon Center was always leering down at us with its blazing white eye. I hated it and tried not to scowl, but it was hard, and not only five minutes after exiting Fennel’s house I had become akin to the angry people who walked the streets.

                                      “Are you okay?” I heard N muffle beside me. We were heading into town square. I found it odd that he was asking me that, since I figured N would be more uneasy up about entering this place than I was. “We’ll be there soon.”

                                      I side-glanced him, “Let’s just take a little break at that fountain over there. My legs are already frozen.”

                                      N muffled a weak laugh before pulling his blue-plaid scarf down from his mouth, letting out a puff of steam, “Okay. My legs are cold too.”

                                      The both of us sat down in the town square right on the bowl of a fountain as we watched the people walk by. The shining screen above observed our actions. It seemed to be showing some kind of sales figures; the rate of stocks and metals or something like that. I felt depressed looking at the thing, since it kept reminding me of yesterday, so I watched the pool of water beneath me ripple the superimposed image of the sky.

                                      There weren’t a lot of people walking around town square, which made sense I guess considering how cold it was. In fact, the amount of traffic that drifted by on nearby streets was more numerous than that of the citizens here. I wouldn’t have paid too much attention to the traffic, since it wasn’t too out of the ordinary, if it wasn’t for the sight of these strange black trucks I saw rolling by.

                                      They were stout, yet wide, imposing and turtle-like in appearance. They were completely black, no colours; no license plates. There wasn’t even a logo or insignia that confirmed they were under Team Plasma’s control, but I figured there was no one else those vessels could be serving. The only thing that really set them apart was a string of four or so numbers at the back of the truck where the license plate should have been. They crawled by slowly, almost as if patrolling: watching. The very sight of them made me uneasy. How vulgar they looked. How their tinted windows hid the faces of those who drove the vehicle, if there even were drivers. What were they? What were they sent out to do? The conclusion I settled upon was that these trucks must be the guards from the Dream Factory, making sure that order was kept, and no dissent would arise.

                                      I bumped my sunglasses up the bridge of my nose which tinted the city around me and the people and vehicles that moved through it. I let out a shudder as I glared them down from behind my glasses, where they couldn’t see my eyes. It could have been the Dream Smoke, or maybe it was a normal human reaction, but I felt overwhelmingly bitter and loathful. What was it?
                                      I couldn’t really contemplate long. N surprised me by moving closer to my body, a little too close actually. I glanced at him in question only to find him staring intently at a group of Plasma guards which had just entered the square.

                                      I buried my face into the collar of my jacket, stifling a curse.

                                      “Just be calm,” N whispered beside me. I could feel his breath heating the hood on my head. “Just act like you don’t have anything to hide.”
                                      Right. Act casual. That was easier said than done.

                                      My spirits did settle a great deal when I noticed that the group of soldiers was just making their usual run over of the square, at least that’s what it looked like. Though there was something about them that seemed off; they were acting a bit too vigilant for a regular patrol. That thought alone had my heart thumping, and I hadn’t even realized it but my breathing had become rapid. N reached over and gave my arm a squeeze in an attempt to calm me down. I slammed my lips shut and waited for the soldiers to leave. They finally took off a few minutes later, and N and I found it best not to linger and head straight to Striaton’s Gym.

                                      Striaton City grew more run down the further we walked towards its borders. The streets grew absent of angry citizens and were replaced by shady characters that leered at us from the shadows of alleyways; drunkards walked ponderously about, rambling and raving with unintelligible slurs. There were even some people lying motionless in alleys, wearing clothes far too thin for this kind of weather. I wondered if they were even alive. I wanted to go check, to see if I could help them, but N advised against it. He said we should just head towards our destination and not bother with anything else. I didn’t like his cold attitude, but I had to admit that he was right. Figures in the alleyways could easily be more dangerous than friendly. It was best to play it safe and continue through this run down portion of the town to where the Gym was waiting.

                                      We reached the Gym without any further disturbances, and what we saw, though expected, still came as a shock. The building was in ruin. The Striaton Pokémon Gym wasn’t as depilated as my house in Nuvema Town, no, it was still held together pretty well. But neon graffiti coated the red bricked cathedral, winding around in illegible scrawls—though I could make out a bit of colourful words placed here and there. The symbol of the once proud Pokémon League swung with a noisy creek above the doorway, ready to fall off its hinges at a moment’s notice. The building lay nestled in a row of other equally ruined homes. I figured the buildings that surrounded the Gym were empty, uninhabited, but when I glanced in some of their shattered windows, I could have sworn I’d seen people staring back at me. When I looked again they were gone.

                                      “It’s abandoned,” N stated.

                                      It took me a minute to respond. The building was an eyesore, and it was pretty painful to see this once grand place hunched over as if in pain. But nothing would surprise me after Nuvema, “…The Gym leaders could still be inside.” But even I wasn’t convinced by my own words. “I mean…” A frown distorted my features, “It doesn’t hurt to check, okay?”

                                      I stomped towards the gaping front door, stepping over a snoozing drunk on my way. The guy was just sitting over the front steps, leaning on a broken handrail, snoring loud as anything and utterly reeking of alcohol. I wondered how long he’d be sitting there before he was apprehended, or simply decided to walk away on his own. Something about the guy depressed me, and made me a bit angry too. Was that all there was to his life now?

                                      I discarded the thoughts as I walked through the Pokémon Gym’s empty front gate. N followed close behind as we proceeded into the gloom. The power seemed to be out for some reason, which only further solidified N’s thoughts about this place being empty. But I had a weird feeling that maybe we weren’t alone. Maybe there was someone still living here. I just hoped they wouldn’t want to kill us when we found them.

                                      Striaton’s Gym was also vulgar on the inside. By lack of a front door, the elements had taken a substantial toll on the lobby of this restaurant-themed building. The rugs we walked over were soggy, and squished beneath our feet. The wallpaper had been washed of its warm colours, and was left damaged and lifeless.

                                      I squinted hard, “Man… I can’t see a thing.” I dug into my bag and pulled out a flashlight to guide our way—another helpful thing that Miss Fennel had packed with us before we had set out.

                                      N didn’t seem too keen on the idea of walking around with this beaming ray of light, because it was sure to be a clear announce to anyone that we were here. But we weren’t going anywhere without it, at least not without falling all over ourselves in the dark.

                                      The floor beyond the front lobby generously turned to wood, which quelled the sickening squelching beneath our feet, instead replacing it with a soft clomp. The ground floor of this building was comprised of one large room, which stretched all the way back to the end of the building. I remembered this room being sectioned off by three large curtains in the past: one of grass, fire and water. These curtains had long ago been stolen or viciously marred after years of neglect. It left the whole area feeling so spacious and empty.

                                      N and I proceeded forward, maneuvering around all of the upturned tables and broken chairs that scattered the Gym floor. We had to be especially careful of the broken shards of glass or tableware that lay scattered about—it was sure to be unpleasant if we stepped on one of those. But we saw no signs of life as we continued forward.

                                      Right when we were about to reach the back of the room, which lead to the gym leader’s chamber, N grabbed my shoulder and whispered, “Touko. Turn that light off.”

                                      I gave him a questioning look which he ignored. N stared directly ahead as if he had seen something. I listened and turned the flashlight off with a click, shrouding us in darkness. The light that poured in from the front door couldn’t reach all the way back here which added a whole new layer to the gloom. I looked forward to see if I could spot what N was looking at so intently, but saw nothing.

                                      “N… I don’t see…” I was interrupted by a sudden gesture; N pointed out before him towards the back of the room. It took me a minute to see it, for my eyes were adjusting, but there was an unmistakable glow emanating from the back of the room, flickering from behind a musty curtain. Someone, or something, was there!

                                      I looked at N, asking him with a gaze, friend or foe?

                                      He shook his head, telling me that he didn’t know. And since neither of us knew, there was only one way to find out. I walked towards the light with a heart pounding in my chest. As I drew closer and closer, a gap opened up in the moth-bitten wall that had been erected. I could see a circular table… and around it were three figures.

                                      With one swift movement, I parted the gap and entered through the curtain. The three Striaton gym leaders sat huddled at a table amidst ruin, slowly pouring each other a cup of mint scented tea. All three of their heads swiveled towards me upon my entrance and they stared us down defensively.
                                      “Who are you then!?” The fire-type trainer, Chili, asked angrily.

                                      “Team Plasma again?” Cilan, the grass-type trainer, questioned with a depressed moan, “I thought we already paid them rent this month?”

                                      Cress, the water type trainer, watched the two of us as we drew closer, his eyes suddenly flashing in realization. He shot up, toppling his chair with his movements, startling his brothers. “I can’t believe it…” he gawped, sounding more angry then surprised.

                                      Chili and Cilan turned their attention towards the two of us, curious to what had set their brother off.

                                      “It’s Touko,” Cress practically seethed.

                                      I hesitantly banished both my glasses, hood and scarf, revealing my features, showing them who I really am. N on the other hand just stood behind me with his hood pulled up tightly around his head: observing.

                                      “Touko?” Chili snapped with unexpected venom. “What the hell are you doing here?!” The redhead fumed.

                                      I put up my arms defensively, not really expecting such a violent reaction from the trinity of brothers. “Settle down! I just want to talk to you guys!”

                                      They didn’t look too convinced, and I could see Chili preparing to launch another string of questions at me in a blind rage. Cilan could see it too and he put a hand over his brother’s chest, not breaking eye contact with me as he did so. “Let’s just hear her out.” He nodded my way, “If you will.”

                                      I didn’t waste time with hesitation, “I wanna know... why aren’t you guys fighting against Team Plasma?”

                                      Their expressions were of shock.

                                      Cress scoffed, “That’s what you wanted to ask us? That’s what you came all the way out here for?” The bitterness in his voice struck a nerve.

                                      “Well, yeah! Why not?! You three are gym leaders! You shouldn’t just sit around and let Team Plasma build those Dream Factories and do this to everyone!” Their glares seemed to intensify the more I went on until Chili finally interrupted me with a fiery outburst.

                                      “You don’t think we know that!?” The redhead snapped, “But what do you think we can do?!”

                                      “Fight back!” His anger was infectious and I was already getting agitated by his pigheadedness. “Get off your asses and do something!”

                                      “It’s hopeless,” Cilan said, lowering his gaze. “We know, Touko. Trust me, we do. Team Plasma’s presence has left a very bitter taste over our town and the whole region. But to fight back is to die, you understand.”

                                      “That’s the truth,” Cress agreed with a caress of his raindrop-like bangs. “Any act of rebellion would just be an invitation for them to kill us further.”

                                      “That’s right.” Chili huffed, crossing his arms over his chest stubbornly and flopping back down on his rickety chair, “If we can’t win then there’s no point in fighting back. We’re alive now, we just wanna live the rest o’ our days here without bein’ bothered.” His brothers nodded in consent.

                                      “But that’s…” My words dropped, “You’re just giving up? What the hell is wrong with you?!”

                                      Cress regarded me with a chilling glare, “You’re one to talk about fighting back. You’re the root cause of all this.”

                                      I was unable to form another word.

                                      “If you hadn’t lost then Team Plasma would never have done this!” Chili growled.

                                      That’s right…

                                      Cilan avoided looking at me, almost as if out of shame, “We have no desire to help you. It would be much better if you… um, left us now.”

                                      What they said was true. If I had never lost to Ghetsis none of this would have happened. Even so, perhaps if I had acted sooner, if I hadn’t wallowed in self pity for so long… then I could have stopped the Dream Factories from ever being built. But I hadn’t. I hadn’t done anything. The people who had become robots; the people who rotted in the alleyways; the despair that encroached this nation. All of that was my fault.

                                      My ears rung. My head began to throb. My tongue tasted like iron; my throat felt like it was closing.

                                      I was about to lose it then and there; the unforgiving glares that the Striaton brothers were giving me didn’t help matters any, and I was about to let the malaise get a foothold. But N suddenly stomped over, banishing his hood as he approached and shouted, “At least Touko is doing something!!”

                                      The brothers gaped at N in shock. Whether they were surprised of his identity or of the words he spoke, I’ll never know.

                                      “Instead of sitting here and waiting for things to change on their own, Touko is making the effort to change the world now. Things won’t change on their own, and the three of you know that!” The Striaton brothers glared daggers at N as he went on, each word seeming to make them angrier. “You’re being controlled by fear.”

                                      “Now the king of the bloody nation is lecturing us?” Cress spat.

                                      “You have no right to speak to us about what is right and wrong!” Cilan accused with an angry jab of his finger. “You’re as much to blame, if not even more so, than Touko is!”

                                      Chili picked up a tea cup and whipped it at us with a curse. Luckily his aim was off, and it shattered harmlessly behind us.

                                      “You’re wrong!” I tried to defend N as best I could, only now finding my voice again. “The N on the TV yesterday was a fake… it’s…” The former gym leaders weren’t buying a word of what I said, and I was about to continue on when N placed his arm before me: silencing me.

                                      “You’re right,” he said to the elemental brothers. “I was the king who erected tyranny in this nation. These people and Pokémon are suffering because of me, because of my inability to decide for myself…” It sounded as if he was trying to hold back tears, but the determination in his voice drowned that out. “I will change the world that Team Plasma has formed… because no one else is brave enough to do it.” N turned his back on the scene then and raced towards the entrance as the gym leaders booed him away.

                                      I wanted to stay longer and try to get the gym leaders to hear us out but it seemed my efforts would be futile, so I followed N quickly. I found him again at the bottom of the staircase leading up to the front gate. He was staring up at the Dream Factory’s towers with smoldering eyes; a fiery gaze that challenged death itself.

                                      He turned to me and said, “Touko. Please help me dismantle this repugnant place.”

                                      I need only stare in those unfaltering eyes for a moment before grinning eagerly.

                                      “What are we waiting for then? Let’s do it!”
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                                        #23   Link to this post, but load the entire thread.  
                                      Old July 22nd, 2012 (2:23 PM). Edited July 22nd, 2012 by OpenDoorLeia.
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                                      OpenDoorLeia OpenDoorLeia is offline
                                      The Will of One
                                        Join Date: Nov 2011
                                        Gender: Female
                                        Nature: Lonely
                                        Posts: 17
                                        “Cress?” Cilan ducked his head through the curtain.

                                        Cress was settled at their only remaining tea table, right where he’d last been. It was the only table the leaders had managed to salvage from Team Plasma’s invasion so long ago, and even then it was in poor condition, rickety, filthy. The man in question took a short sip from his tea before responding, “What is it, brother?” The former water type gym leader was put in a foul mood because of Touko and N’s unexpected visit, and it was clearly heard in his voice. The things they were saying… to rebel against Team Plasma… there’s no way that could still be possible… And during the length of their outlandish ploy of ideas the freshly brewed tea had become cold.

                                        Cilan took a wide glance around the enclosure, “I can’t find Chili anywhere!”
                                        Cress nearly choked on his drink.

                                        Cilan passed through the curtain door and rested his chin on his hand, clearly in thought. “I know he was here just a moment ago,” he began to shift his weight from one foot to the other, “and I worry if he’s maybe… well, um… if he’s taken what Touko and N had said to heart.”

                                        “Are you sure that he is gone? Is he not somewhere in the building? Then again…” Cress turned to his brother with a steely gaze, setting his cracked tea cup back on the table. “This is Chili we’re talking about. Acting with haste certainly is one of his traits…”

                                        “Hey! I heard that!”

                                        Both brothers’ heads whipped around suddenly to find Chili ducking through the gap in the curtains, carrying an old suitcase in his arms.

                                        Cress squinted confusedly at the suitcase for a moment before recollection the hit. He sprung from his chair and pointed, baffled, “…That!!” Cress knew exactly what was in that case, though he’d wished never to remember.

                                        Cilan took a closer look at the suitcase, it was hard to identify in the dimly light, but it didn’t take him long to recognize what it was as well. He stumbled back from his red-headed brother, shock in his eyes.

                                        “What on earth are you doing with that thing!?” Cress snapped viciously, “I thought that we had thrown those things away years ago!”

                                        Chili stared bitterly at the ground, “…I was just… Well I couldn’t.” He frowned, “I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away.”

                                        “I can’t believe this! Don’t tell me you’ve been holding onto them all this time!” Cress threw up his arms. “Do you realize how much trouble we could get in if we’re caught those things!?” he jutted his finger towards the case which Chili clenched protectively.

                                        “I don’t care about that!” Chili barked, but quickly reined his anger with a calming breath. Even he knew that bickering would get them nowhere. “Do things really have to stay this way? Is it really alright to just give up?…What if what Touko and N were saying… is actually…?”

                                        “I guess…” Cilan interrupted his brother’s thoughts, slowly recovering from his initial astonishment. “I suppose it can’t hurt to take a quick look. Just to see how they’ve been doing all this time.” The smallest of smiles found its way onto his face.

                                        Chili immediately shook from his hesitance and raced over to the table and placed the suitcase down as gently as he could.

                                        “We’ll just take a quick look,” Cilan said to Cress, who had his arms folded over his chest in refusal.

                                        “Yeah, Cress! Don’t be a sourpuss!” Chili shouted over, “You act like you don’t wanna see them, but it’s clear as day that you really do!”

                                        “What do you say?” Cilan asked with a soft smile.

                                        Cress glanced to where both of his brothers stood. Chili had his fingers hovering anxiously over the latches and looked expectantly to his elder brother. Cress gave a sigh of defeat. Even though he hated to admit it, they were right.

                                        “A-Alright then, but just a peek. And be quick about it, we can’t afford to get caught.”

                                        The former Striaton gym leaders huddled around the suitcase. Chili unbuckled the latches with an almost inaudible click and opened up the case to reveal a triad of Pokéballs resting inside.

                                        Chapter 12
                                        Intruders! (…inject infection into the beast)

                                        The smokestacks of the Dream Factory rose higher into the sky as we approached. The grinding of machinery that echoed from the building grew louder and rumbled beneath my feet. The Dream Smoke that spewed from the chimney tops filled the sky and blotted out the sun. The clouds melded together into an undefined wall, and the deadly smoke dyed the world a faint hue of pink. N and I lay hidden in the underbrush. For some lucky reason, the forests around the Dream Factory weren’t blocked or fenced off. It must have been one of those unfenced areas that Fennel had told us about prior; there were no Pokémon here, and I understood why. The trees we slunk past were either all dying or already dead. Branches were bare, blackened, curled in upon themselves like fingers clenched. The immediate conclusion that I reached was that the altered Dream Mist must have been killing them. The forests hugged close to the imposing building, subjected to the mist twenty four hours a day and seven days a week. After a battering like that, the forest didn’t have the will to go on any longer. Pine trees shed their spiny thorns, bright leaves wilted and turned brittle, their remains crunched against our feet; any greenery left in the forest was browning and slowly on its way to death. The people in Striaton who breathed this mist every day… were their bodies reacting in the same way somewhere deep down? The reaction in humans must have been different. The people I saw in the streets had no outward deformities or wounds from this mist… but somewhere deep down decay was marching.

                                        Because of the lack of cover, N had drawn Laika out to hide us with her illusory powers, to blend us into the surrounding branches and keep our approach concealed. Hopefully, no one would be able to see through it. Usually I wouldn’t question Laika’s abilities, but I’d already seen the impossible and wasn’t bound to rule anything out yet.

                                        The chugging that vibrated through the air only grew louder as we walked. The sound, which was akin to the gnashing of giant metal teeth, was painful in my ears. It caused them to throb and ring, and I was sure they were on the borderline of bleeding. The sound drove me mad. As a feeble resistance, and without any earplugs, I resorted to shoving my fingers in my ears and screaming la-la-la until my throat ran sore. But even that did not work. Over the sound of my humming, the ringing persisted, and the rumbling of the machinery shook through my bones. My ears were screeching, and I then felt animalistically inclined to rip my own ears off. They were frightening thoughts; I was startled by the notion. Why would I begin to think such macabre things? But as I thought it over, I warmed to the idea. If I clawed my ears off, then at least I wouldn’t have to deal with this wretched ringing over and over. Right?

                                        I didn’t get that far. Somehow, I found it in me to box those primal urges, and in lieu of something more harmful, I pinched at my ear lobes and hummed melodies to keep myself steady.

                                        While walking, I forced down a sigh and scrunched up my nose. In addition to that ringing, the scent of the Dream Mist was thick in the air. It was grainy and heavy, like a pollen or smoke, and you can imagine that my nose would have none of it. With a pause, I stifled my fourth sneeze of the minute, and rubbed the excess off on my sleeve. Despite all the snorting I did, the coin-like smell of the smoke did not leave my nose. It clung to the hairs, crawled up the sinuses and pinched at my brain. My eyes couldn’t help but water, and they ran so much it made me look like I was crying. This must be what people with extreme allergies have to contend with.

                                        I coughed, hacked, sneezed, cried, pulled at my ears, tugged at my hair, but nothing seemed to make it any better, and it only got worse the closer we came. Fear began to build within me. I had to stop. What exactly was this Dream Mist doing to me?

                                        “Touko.” I looked up to see N stopped a few feet in front of me, hand against a tree to keep himself steady. “Are you alright?” he asked, pausing to cough in his sleeve. His eyes were just as red and watering as mine, and his skin had become a pasty color.

                                        I smiled at him weakly. I croaked, “We should head back. I feel just as bad as the tress look around here.”

                                        N smirked and turned forward. “We must keep going. We are almost at the perimeter of the Dream Factory.”

                                        I frowned, “And… if we pass out before we get there?”

                                        “We’ll just have to make it there before that happens,” he looked up at Laika and gave her a pat on the shoulder. “Shall we continue?”

                                        His question was clearly meant for the Zoroark. Laika looked better than the both of us did, but that wasn’t saying much. Her eyes were clearer, unclouded, but she was trembling and on edge.

                                        We walked on, and true to N’s assurance, we wound up right below the Dream Factory in less than a minute. The three of us halted in collective shock. Laika’s eyes were skyward; she watched the smokestacks with both intrigue and fear. Her gaze, along with N’s and my own, were magnetized to the structure, and I noticed that Laika was looking at it not like a building, but more like a predator. All of us seemed to feel it in an odd, abstract way. It was like we were standing before a slumbering giant; a beast who would, if awakened, would not hesitate to crush us with a yawn.

                                        There was silence for a time, only broken by the thunderous gurgling of that machine. I blinked away the tears in my eyes. “Well. We’re here.” I turned to N, “…What do we do now?”

                                        The boy carried a strange look of unease in his eyes. N usually wasn’t one to get freaked out, or even show that he was getting freaked out, but there was no use hiding it here. We all felt on edge in this place. “I’m not sure,” he admitted.

                                        “Well…” I looked down, “it’s not like we can just stroll on in and demand a surrender.”

                                        He nodded, “There’s no way it would be that easy.” N looked at me, thumbing the tears on the corner of his eyes. “I suppose all we can hope to do is scan the perimeter and see how this factory is guarded, and if there’s a way in which we can use to enter. Then we’ll be able to construct a battle plan from that.”His expression dropped somewhat as Laika gave a soft grunt and nudged him with her arm. N turned to his Pokémon curiously and peered through the thick brush she gestured towards. A moment later he said, “Though it won’t be easy… getting passed that wall…”

                                        I arched my eyebrow curiously before I followed his gaze into the undergrowth. I couldn’t see it at first, but after a moment of squinting I noticed a steel wall standing in front of the factory, obstructing the real building from view. This wall was much different from the ones we’d seen back on Route One. This iron border was built with watch towers on each of its four corners, search lights which had powered on in the dusk, and curls of barbed wire that danced along the top of the wall. This was a clear deterrent to simply waltzing in and demanding a surrender.

                                        “Great…” I grumbled. “More walls to deal with.”
                                        “Let’s circle around and see if we can find an entrance,” N said, keeping his eyes fixed on the structure. He gave Laika a quick pat on the shoulder, as if trying to soothe her. Only now at close range I could see how tense her muscles had become, how her fur was prickled and on edge, the fear in her eyes.

                                        I agreed with N’s proposition and the three of us began to circle the factory cautiously.

                                        We got as close to the walls as we dared. Even with Laika’s illusion for cover, we weren’t confident enough to leave our meager shelter of trees and approach the walls head on. Even if the trees around us were thin and dead, the forest was thick enough to keep us obscured on the off chance that Laika’s illusion would fall. We circled the building slowly, trying to find a kink in the armor of the iron womb. Maybe there was a spot along the walls where security was lessened? It was worth checking out.

                                        We weren’t so lucky. All four walls were completely unfaltering through the whole perimeter. There were no dents, nicks or cracks that could be used to break through. The walls stretched high and hid the bulk of the factory from sight, so even if we could find a way to break down the barrier, we had no idea what could be waiting for us inside. The security was so strong on the outside that I didn’t even want to think about what was going on in there. There wasn’t a spot we passed by that wasn’t covered with some form of security. I figured the front perimeter would be much the same, maybe even more so. Who’s to say that the front yard wasn’t a mine field, or watched by snipers day in and day out? I dismissed the idea of using Rhoden to fly in. No attack on this fortress would go unawares. Rhoden was tough and quick, but even he wouldn’t be able to fly though a shower of bullets.

                                        I looked down as we walked. My footsteps crunched against grassless earth and swished the bodies of dead leaves around my feet. I wondered, was it possible to dig our way in? The option was certainly open, but judging from all of the armament and security that surrounded this place… cautionary measures had likely been taken for that as well. Who’s to say that the wall didn’t defend under the earth as well, and I was still alert to the mine idea. There could be all sorts of snares and booby traps around this place that we didn’t even know of or couldn’t even see. Precaution was something that we couldn’t abandon in this scenario, holding hands with haste would get us killed.

                                        This building was nothing but impenetrable, but I suppose the Dream Factory was built with that in mind. This was a wall that could not be knocked down.

                                        After a fair bit of walking, the three of us reached what I suppose would be considered the front gates, and they were a sight to behold. We lay crouched in the bushes as we observed the entryway. The entry gates were a set of large, imposing doors, which stretched even higher than the accompanying wall did. Watch towers bordered the doors, and at their tops I could make out the figures of soldiers walking to and fro. There were even small groups of guards at the base of the door, all armed.

                                        N tugged on my shoulder, “Something’s coming”.

                                        I didn’t have a moment to ask him what, when a large armored truck pulled up to the front gates. It was one of the unmarked trucks that I’d seen rolling around Striaton City.

                                        “What do you think that’s here for?” I asked under my breath as the vehicle came to a rumbling stop.

                                        N paused, keeping his eyes locked on the guard’s security check of the vessel. Possibly pondering if we could use the trucks as a mean to sneak in, “The Dream Factory could be the place where the vessels are stored.”
                                        “Could be. I wonder what the deal is with those.” I began, but the truck was given the green-light before I could be answered. The front gates rumbled open.

                                        It was then that N and I got our first good look at the facility called the Dream Factory. Seeing it up close brought forth a different feeling than the last time I saw it. Viewing it at a distance, I felt afraid but still in control, like looking at a deadly creature held captive inside a cage. It’s behind bars; it can’t hurt you, and one is able to marvel at its contained destructive nature. Here it was different. The cage was gone. The beast was free, looking me dead in the eye. I wasn’t safe here. This iron creature could easily leap forward and crush my skull in its jaws.

                                        That’s what it was. The structure looked more like a monster than a machine. It lay crouched on the barren earth that was once the peaceful Dreamyard. It watched us with thousands of gleaming eyes, windows that lined the two storey building, one above the other, clenched together like teeth. It was stout and wide with a flattened roof to accommodate the smokestacks on its back, those of which looked like horns. It was made of nothing but black iron or steel, and maybe it was because of its colour, but I couldn’t spot a single door on the structure, but there must have been one somewhere. We didn’t get a chance to look very long. The truck didn’t waste time and quickly slipped through the gates, before they were slammed shut again.

                                        “It’s not going to be easy… getting inside of that thing,” N said after a pause. A slight shaking had caused his voice to falter, but I couldn’t tell if he trembled because he was scared, like I was, or if he was just cold. Maybe it was a bit of both, but more prominently the latter.

                                        “I don’t think we can do it alone,” I said to him, turning to look him straight in the eye. “I think we should ask Fennel for help.”

                                        N looked at me in surprise, but quickly recovered. He looked uncertainly at the wall and said, “Not here.” We then slunk back into the woods and headed back towards the town. There wasn’t much else we could do here. I followed him in question as we distanced ourselves from the factory. During our stroll back, N returned Laika to her Pokéball. It was probably best for her, because since she’d been let out, Laika had become very flighty and anxious, very uncommon behavior for the trickster. Her feelings were more than justified though. Even the strongest of creatures would crumple in the face of that building. I hoped that Laika would end up feeling better now that she was safe and sound inside of her Pokéball… or could the Dream Smoke get inside there as well?

                                        We eventually came to a stop on the outskirts of town, hidden in the cover of the woods but still able to see the backs of neighbouring apartments whose windows had long ago been boarded.

                                        N turned to face me. “Do you think that Miss Fennel will be willing to aid us?”

                                        I frowned, “Why wouldn’t she? I mean, by the sounds of it, she doesn’t want that thing around anymore than we do.”

                                        N folded his arms and viewed the ground, clearly in thought, “I’m not so sure…”

                                        “What do you mean?”

                                        “Miss Fennel is a resident of this town as well. She’s just as susceptible to the Dream Mist as anyone else here…”

                                        “You think she’s working for Team Plasma?!” I squawked.

                                        N put up his hands, looking nervously about, “Please keep your voice down. I’m simply saying that it’s a possibility. I don’t want to run the risk of her alerting the authorities to our plans…”

                                        “Fennel wouldn’t do that! Maybe you forgot, but she’s the one who’s been hiding us from Team Plasma this whole time! She’d want to help us, not send us to our graves,” I didn’t want to think what N was saying was right. Fennel might be our only hope to get inside that place, and I couldn’t tolerate N discarding her assistance so quickly.

                                        “I don’t trust her…” He said softly, looking away.

                                        Something about this seemed wrong. It wasn’t just Fennel. N seemed reluctant to put his trust in anyone else besides myself or his Pokémon. I knew a bit about it, thanks to what Anthea and Concordia had told me. N spent his childhood with only Pokémon for company. He was conditioned to think that humans did nothing but abuse and harm them, and after seeing what this world had become, the lies he had been fed turned into reality.
                                        I wanted to know the reason why… his reason why.

                                        “Why won’t you let yourself trust them?”

                                        His face was shock, as he wasn’t expecting such a direct question. He quickly averted his gaze from me, looked down, sadness creeping into his eyes. He opened his mouth to answer.

                                        N was interrupted before he could say a single word. The bushes to my immediate right began to rustle and put the both of us on guard. But before we could panic and attack, Amanita stumbled forth from the foliage. I relaxed with a relieved sigh.

                                        “Amanita,” I breathed. “What are you doing here?”

                                        The girl in question took a moment to pull a few leaves from her dress, pad herself down and look around nervously before responding, “I’ve been looking for the two of you.”

                                        I knew that N’s suspicions were rising, but I figured it better to hear what she wanted before jumping to any conclusions.

                                        “I heard…” She looked down sheepishly and a flush grew on her face. Her shyness definitely wasn’t my doing. I didn’t even have to look at N to see how distrusting he must have looked. I tried to contrast his cynicism with a warm smile of my own, with the hopes of calming her down and getting her to talk. She spoke up again, “I heard what the two of you were talking about… about breaking into the D-dream Factory…”

                                        I tried to keep myself composed, but deep down I felt worried, “We are.”
                                        “I see,” Amanita began to fidget with the skirt of her dress, bunching the fabric together with nervous hands. She turned her eyes towards the sky to where the towers loomed far over the treetops. She took a breath, became resolute and faced us. She then said something I don’t think either of us were expecting, “I want to help you.”

                                        “You…you do?” I asked in astonishment.

                                        She bowed her head suddenly, “Please! You’re the only ones who can! Please save all of the Pokémon, save the people, please save Miss Fennel too! Just…” Sorrow began to warp her voice, “Turn everything back to the way it’s supposed to be…!”

                                        Amanita continued to bow, stifling her tears as I looked on in shock. I was surprised that Amanita wanted to help us so strongly, after visiting the Striaton Gym, I thought N and I would be alone in our task to save this city. But what she had said… what exactly did she mean by that ‘save Fennel’ comment? Was something wrong with the professor? Had I misheard her?

                                        “What good are you to us?” N asked bluntly.

                                        I turned to him in surprise, baffled by his rudeness.

                                        He saw my look and replied, “I need to know if she’s going to weigh us down or not. Having an extra member join us would usually be a good thing, but this operation could all fall to pieces if she turns out to be a liability. Breaking into the Dream Factory…”

                                        “It’s a delicate art, I know.” Amanita smiled at the both of us. “I’ve seen the security around that place. I know full well what the soldiers are capable of.” She closed her eyes, “I know it won’t be easy. And I wouldn’t have come to the both of you if I didn’t think I’d be of use.” Amanita crouched and slid a small backpack off her shoulders. She unzipped the pack and began to pull out what looked like various maps and schematics. As she lay them upon the ground, even though they were unlabeled, I could recognize one to be a map of Striaton City.

                                        “I’m sure the two of you have seen the wall that surrounds the Dream Factory?” she said, rustling out another schematic, this one appearing to be of the Dream Factory itself.

                                        N arched his eyebrows is surprise, “These maps are very precise. Where on earth did you get them from?” he viewed her with a hovering suspicion.

                                        “I um…” She tried to avoid both of our gazes, “I got it from a source of mine… it’s… well, it’s not important right now. Anyway, I suppose you know that there’s no way to break down the wall,” she traced her finger along the blueprints, along a line which I assumed represented the Dream Factory’s fence, “you can’t fly over it, dig under it, or knock it down.” Amanita looked up at us with a toothy grin, “But don’t you guys worry! I know a secret way to get into the Dream Factory, one that Team Plasma won’t be suspecting!”
                                        I leant forward anxiously, “Which is…?”


                                        With the aid of a crowbar, we managed to pry off the cover of a manhole. It looked much lighter than it actually was; the thing weighed a ton and it took all three of us to lift it off. We set it down as carefully as possible, but even then it was impossible to stifle a dull, metallic clang. Luckily, the alleyway we’d entered was completely vacant, so we’d gone unnoticed, for now.

                                        Amanita peered down into the black hole, and then looked me dead in the eye. Her gaze was frightfully serious from behind the pink rims of her glasses. “Are you ready? Once we go in there’s no going back.”
                                        I made a face. This wasn’t what I had in mind when she mentioned a ‘secret entrance.’ I could already smell the fetid odor of sewage wafting up from the hole and the sloshing sound it made as it travelled down the canals.

                                        Before I could answer, N approached the hole and crawled fearlessly inside. Before he vanished and was shadowed out of view, he looked up to me and asked casually, “Aren’t you coming?” then continued to traverse the ladder down.

                                        My frown descended. I took a quick glance around our cover of buildings and saw no one. I sucked back both fear and disgust and climbed cautiously down the hole and into darkness. The gloom around me was absolute; I could not even see my hands as I traveled down the icy metal ladder, foot by foot, hand by hand. Amanita followed me, and once she was in, I heard her slide the manhole cover back over its top. It became darker.
                                        We continued down blindly for a while, slinking deep into the underground. After a time, the subterranean world below us started to flicker into view. Gaping stone tunnels and streams of sewage were illuminated dully by the yellow lamps that hugged the ceiling. We touched down. By what I could tell in the dim light, there was no one around besides us. No soldiers, no workers, no Pokémon even. There was nothing, just the lapping sound of putrid water in my ears.

                                        I scrunched my nose, squinting around at the bowels of the city, “It stinks…”

                                        Amanita jumped off the ladder and landed behind us, the clomping of her boots echoed down the spacious tunnels. She pulled out the schematics again, the ones belonging to the sewer system this time. She glanced up and down from the map a couple times, looking up to judge our path as N and I tried to peek over her shoulder. “We have to go this way,” she finally declared, pointing towards the left.

                                        “You sure it leads to the Dream Factory?” I asked as the three of us started to travel down the walkways which bordered the filthy river.
                                        “Yes but…” Amanita continued to look up and down from the plans, “It’s not going to be as easy as you think.”

                                        I didn’t know what Amanita meant by that at first, but I soon came to realize when the walkways ran out and only left tunnels of stagnant water beyond.

                                        “The path’s gone,” I put my hands on my hips and let out a sigh, “how are we supposed to…” my eyes nearly bulged out of my head when Amanita stepped off the pathway and hopped into the murky waters beyond.
                                        She gave me a short glance from where I stood watching in shock, “We have to go on foot from here.” She turned around and began to walk through the knee-high sewage.

                                        I stood at the pathway’s edge for a moment, almost as if I was expecting her to turn around and say that she was joking.

                                        N, seemingly unfazed, jumped into the water casually with a short splash, “Let’s go, Touko.”

                                        “In there?” I pointed towards the path. “You’re not serious…”

                                        “It’s the only way!” Amanita called back.

                                        Oh god… I heaved out a sigh, and with one swift movement I dove into the malodorous stream. My boots were just high enough to breach the waterline, but the thickness of the water kept a permanent scowl on my face as I tried not to look down at what I was walking through.

                                        The three of us passed by junction after junction as we made our way through the underground to the Dream Factory which we planned to kill. Sometimes the water level depleted, other times it rose. The walkways resumed at some points, to my delight, but were absent on other paths. Time began to drag as we took all manner of twists and turns through the bowels of this city. To my disdain, I noticed that Team Plasma had painted their coat of arms on the sewer’s walls; we saw a insignia on at least every tunnel we walked through, and the sight almost sickened me as much as the stench. Was Team Plasma really so proud of their power that they had to boast it in the sewers of all places? I tried to ignore those thoughts as we trudged on into darkness, guided only by flashlight.

                                        When Amanita announced that we were almost there my spirits leapt, only to be dashed when we came face-to-face with an iron grate that obstructed our path.

                                        “Oops,” Amanita chimed, taking a wide glance at her map, which had gotten a little soggy on the edges. “This wasn’t supposed to be here,” she withdrew a hand to ram her glasses up her nose with not so hidden anxiety.

                                        “We can break it down.” N stated. “We do have our Pokémon with us.”

                                        Amanita quickly folded up her map and slid it in her backpack. “It’s okay,” she then drew a Pokéball of all things from her pack. “I’ll take care of this grate. Herdier! I need your help!” Amanita’s terrier Pokémon appeared in a flash, just managing to keep its head above water, though it didn’t seem too bothered by the stuff it was treading through.

                                        I gawped at the canine, “A Pokémon?! How did you…” I tried to look into Amanita’s eyes but she kept her back turned, as if she didn’t want to discuss the subject. But I didn’t want her to get out of this without explaining anything. “Why do you have a Pokémon with you Amanita? And for that matter where did you get all those maps from?”

                                        “Herdier. Use Take Down on that grate.” Her voice was unmistakably monotone.


                                        “What does it matter?!” she suddenly snapped. Her uncharacteristic lash of anger had taken me back, “As long as we get there… everything is fine… right?” she turned away again and balled up her fists. I couldn’t speak.
                                        Amanita’s Pokémon, after taking an uncertain look at her trainer, took a smash at the grate and we were soon walking forward again.

                                        Why didn’t Amanita want to tell us what was going on? Contrary to what N’s face was saying, I didn’t think she was tricking us. Not after going this far out of her way. Amanita just didn’t seem like a deceiving person, and I hoped I was right. I thought back to N’s words. She is a citizen of this town too. She’s just as susceptible to the Dream Mist as anyone else. No. He must be wrong. These people wouldn’t betray us… they wouldn’t.

                                        “I can’t see a thing down here,” I grumbled quietly. “Are you sure this is the right way, Amanita?”

                                        “Up there…” she said.

                                        I tried to squint through the darkness, “…Up where?”

                                        A sudden beam of light illuminated a lengthy ladder which descended down from the ceiling. Amanita turned the flashlight to us, nearly blinding N and I in the process.

                                        “Hey, watch it!” I said, throwing my hands over my eyes.

                                        “Oops!” she gasped, turning the light back up. “Sorry! I’m sorry!”

                                        N recovered quickly, “Where does that ladder lead?”

                                        All three of us craned our necks to where it stretched up into the darkness.
                                        “According to my maps… it should lead us right into the Dream Factory,” she answered.

                                        I whistled. “Nifty.” I looked back down to Amanita, “Don’t they know that this thing is here?”

                                        Amanita reached back to scratch her head. “Well, you see, this used to be an entrance to the building that was here before the Dreamyard got turned into the Dreamyard, and much before the Dream Factory was ever built. It was a pathway that had no necessary use to Team Plasma, so it hasn’t been torn down or blocked off, and I don’t think they’ll expect anyone to enter from this way either. So we might as well try.”

                                        “Whereabouts will we be deposited?” N inquired with a glance.

                                        “Uhh, I don’t really know. I have the basic floor plan of the Dream Factory in my pack, but it doesn’t list off what the rooms are or what they’re used for. We’re uhh, kind of walking in blind,” she showed a sheepish smile. “But it’s the only way in.”

                                        N looked towards the ladder for a minute, staring it down in contemplation. Perhaps he was wondering if this was a trap or not, or maybe he was pondering what would be waiting for us at the top of that climb. I was much the same. The facility looked so imposing on the outside, with so many guards and armaments. What was it like on the inside? Was it just as heavily guarded? Would we reach the top of that ladder only to have guns pointed in our face?

                                        The only certain thing was that we wouldn’t find anything out by just standing here. N walked up to the ladder and began his climb: a metallic clang sounded from where his feet hit metal. Amanita was second, and I took up the rear, relieved to finally be out of that disgusting water. The blasted stuff was starting to seep through my boots, and that smell wasn’t gonna come out easy.

                                        The climb through darkness only lasted a few moments before N announced that he’d reached the top.

                                        “There’s a door here…” By the sounds he was making, I could tell that he was trying to pry it open. But it wasn’t making it easy for him. Before N could announce a complaint, or say that this entrance was impassible, a sudden clicking sounded.

                                        I looked up into the gloom on the off chance that I could make out what it was, “Did you get it open?”

                                        The sound of screeching hinges met my ears, and answered the question for me. The door clanged once it had opened. I’d assumed it had hit a wall. There was a pause and before my fear had a chance to take root, I heard N say, “It’s all clear,” and clamber through the entrance. Amanita and I followed him and cautiously crawled into the Dream Factory.

                                        We had entered some kind of garage loaded with rows upon rows of the armored trucks we’d seen in the city. It seems N had been right about this factory being a storage for the vehicles. This room was large and wide to accommodate the mass of bulky trucks. The lights were out, and the only illumination we were getting was from rows of blue lights that hugged close to the floor and lit things from the bottom up. Our secret entrance was but a loose tile on the metallic floor. Once in, we closed it up without a sound; there wasn’t even a handle or mark on the door to show that it was there. It further solidified that Team Plasma either didn’t know or didn’t care about the sewer entrance. Either way, I was made more confident.

                                        We’d entered at the back of the garage near the last row of trucks. The vehicles made good cover thanks to their bulk. They were easy to hide behind and crawl under, but we found not the need for stealth when we quickly realized that the room was unpatrolled.

                                        I leant my back against one of the vehicles mighty tires and breathed a sigh of relief. “Where do we go from here?” I whispered while trying to keep my heart steady and my body from shaking. It was hard to see Amanita and N in this room. We stuck close together, and I could hear them move, so I always knew where they were, but the room was dark and made it tough to see them clearly. They were illuminated by the floor lights in eerie ways. Splashes of neon blue lit the grooves in their clothes and faces.

                                        “Over there,” N said in a hushed voice as he pointed towards a barely legible door on the nearest wall.

                                        I stared at it seriously, “Where’s it go?”

                                        Amanita shook her head, not having the light or the time to check her maps. “It doesn’t matter where it goes. All we know is that it leads away from here… and that we’re probably going to have to fight if we want to keep moving.”

                                        “Alright.” I swallowed hard, head pounding, “Let’s not waste any time then.”
                                        The three of us padded silently across the floor; we blended into the shadows and slunk through the last rows of trucks. We reached our destination in a few short strides. Once there, we hugged the walls on either side of the door, since we found it unwise to stand directly before it. Amanita analyzed the opening mechanism of the door, since this one didn’t have a handle and slid open instead.

                                        “It isn’t locked.” She turned to N and I, looking dead serious. “The two of you need to get to the control center of the facility. If you reach it, and hack into the mother computer, you should be able to shut down power to the factory. I promise that I’ll protect you if anything happens. All that matters is that the two of you make it there, you’re the only ones strong enough to shut it down. I’m irrelevant in the matter.”

                                        I didn’t like the thought of abandoning Amanita, but I didn’t have the time to reason or protest. Amanita pulled back the door and light flooded our view. Without pause, all three of us dove into the bright hallway beyond.
                                        The hallways we sped through were the definition of sterile. There wasn’t a blotch or unwanted mark to speak of, and although this was a building of metal and wire, an unnatural creation, the perfection within unnerved me. I tried to ignore my fear as we ran on, only accompanied by the buzzing of florescent lights above. We passed by legions of doors as we ran. Each one was a white and clean as the rest of the place; they would have been impossible to tell apart if not for a string of block numbers above each one. Still, we saw not a single soul.

                                        I dared to think that we might have the luck to make it to the control center without running into any hindrance. Not only a second after that thought had reared its head, a small group of Plasma soldiers turned a corner to meet us.

                                        I stumbled back in surprise. Amanita pushed back her fear and called out her Herdier to match them, “You two get out of here!”

                                        “Wha… What about you?” I asked as N grabbed hold of my wrist and began to run, taking me with him in the process.

                                        I was only able to hear Amanita shout, “I’ll hold them off here! Don’t worry about me!” before we turned a corner out of sight.

                                        I tried to keep up with N’s pace as I half ran and was half dragged through the facility.

                                        After a time, I had to get him to stop, “N…!” I breathed, slowly tugging him to a halt. “Slow down… for a minute… will you?”

                                        “We have… to keep going…” He said between breaths, still clenching my wrist but not bothering to turn around and look me in the eye. “We can’t stop now… though Amanita may try to hold off the soldiers… her attempts may be…”

                                        “I know!” I clenched my jaw, “But we’re walking blind! We don’t even know where we’re…”

                                        N turned around in shock as the sound of approaching soldiers echoed down the corridors. The both of us, knowing time was short, looked around frantically for a doorway or another hall to dive into. We seemed to be unlucky, because this hall out of many seemed to be one of the few that wasn’t lined with doors. But the both of us seemed to notice it at once. There was a door that stood black upon a vast white wall: standing alone like some sort of monolith. It stood apart from the other doors we’d seen, not only in colour, but this door wasn’t marked by a string of numbers like before. It was only identified by the words Dream Room 06 in crimson lettering.

                                        As the approaching clamor of soldiers drew near, N and I knew it was our only chance at a quick escape.

                                        We took it.

                                        The both of us were submerged in darkness again as the door slid shut behind. N and I pressed our bodies close to the wall and listened as the soldiers hustled by. For some reason which struck me as odd, none of them came inside to check this room. I didn’t have much time to ponder the reason why, for N set my heart alight with fear when he gave a terrified gasp. He’d grabbed my attention immediately. I’d never heard him sound so frightened. I knew whatever had caused him to react that way couldn’t be good. I spun around and came to see a world out of a nightmare.

                                        This place… this Dream Room, was lined with containment tanks, eight on either side of the room spaced evenly apart by a few feet. They were filled to the brim with some weird neon fluid, and I couldn’t tell what it was or what was giving it its color. The tanks glowed and lit the darkness with eerie florescence. The cylinders were placed about the room, side by side, with the intention of leading up to a much larger container at the back of the room. Suspended in each one of these tanks, hooked in place by wiring, was a Pokémon known as Munna, and in the very last tank of the room a Musharna was held. Each Pokémon’s face was tight in pain. Many wires that stemmed from the connecting base and head of the cylinders lay buried in the Pokémon’s skin, hooked into organs and veins under pink flesh. It took me a moment to realize, but it dawned on me that the wires were probably there to pull Dream Smoke from the Pokémon’s bodies. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Even after Fennel had told us that the Dream Factories extracted mist from the Munna and Musharna… I never expected it to be like this…
                                        What finally caused me to tear my eyes off the Munna’s frozen agony was N. He walked towards the tanks hesitantly, fearfully, as if he didn’t believe, or couldn’t comprehend, what his own eyes were showing him. His face was filled with horror, eyes wide, jaw ajar. He stopped before one of the cylinders on our right, brought up a trembling hand and placed it flat upon the clear glass. The Pokémon within writhed weakly, oblivious to his unfelt touch, as it tried to wriggle free from the wires sewn into its flesh.

                                        “Tou…” N’s hand clenched into a trembling fist. “Touko…” His voice had me on edge. I had never heard N sound so tormented, so outraged. He must have been trying with all his might to contain his aggression and keep a clear head. He knew as well as I that losing himself to fury was the last thing we needed. Because of his tone, I almost feared giving him an answer. I didn’t want to see what N would become if he let rage get the better of him. He didn’t give me time to respond.

                                        N looked at me with eyes wrought with both agony and fury, as if he was the one confined in the tanks instead. “W-we have to get t-them out of here…” His words trembled with emotion, with desperation.

                                        I wanted to answer but I was tongue-tied. I tried again after my first stumble, “O-okay. Okay! Let’s do it! This is what we’re here for!” I tried to sound brave, but I was still buzzing with the shock of what I’d seen. I threw my hands to my belt, making to grab a Pokémon but N interrupted me.

                                        “Hold on,” I looked up to see him pointing towards the back of the room, to behind the prominent tank that the Musharna lay suspended in. “It looks like there’s a control panel over there behind the final tank,” his voice had assumed a horribly hard edge. He’d gained control of his feelings for now, but at what price?

                                        I squinted for a moment, trying to see past the gruesome sight, until I finally did notice it, “Can you hack into it and set the Pokémon free?”
                                        “It can’t hurt to try,” he made a move towards the back of the room but froze mid-step.

                                        “What’s the…?” My words fell as I noticed a shadowy figure step out from behind the right row of tanks.

                                        A scientist, with glasses agleam with green light, regarded the both of us with a wicked sneer. With slick black hair, a well ironed jacket and a blemish-free, but scrunched looking face, this man seemed to be trying his hardest to replicate the perfection this building was constructed upon. Ultimately, he failed. To me, he looked gruesome in the light of the anguished Munna. “I see. So the reports of intruders held validity after all,” he glanced down the line of tanks, holding a prideful smile. “How do you like our work? A wonder, don’t you think?”

                                        He sounded so pleased with the suffering of these Pokémon that I felt sickened… I couldn’t even respond.

                                        But I didn’t need to. “You monster! How can you do this!?” N roared, balling his fists in rage. “How can you simply stand here and marvel at this atrocity! How can you get pleasure from the suffering of these innocent Pokémon!? They’ve done nothing to deserve this… you… you monster!!”
                                        The scientist arched his thick eyebrows in surprise. “Could it be? You’re the imposter our lord N is looking for… to think you’d be here of all places…” he leant forward with an observative leer.

                                        N flinched. That comment had clearly struck a nerve. Being reminded that someone else had his face, and was ruling the nation in his name, just added to the weight that N had to carry. It was wearing him down and it was painfully obvious.

                                        I couldn’t keep my eyes on him so I turned to the scientist. “Can it! We’re setting these Pokémon free whether you like it or not!” Somehow I managed to drive the wavering tone from my voice, “Step aside!”

                                        The scientist watched us for a moment from behind his shining lenses. “That… I cannot do,” he withdrew a Pokémon from under his lab coat.

                                        I responded in turn by reaching for my belt, “If it’s a fight you want…” N put a firm hand on my arm. I turned to him with a curiously, but his eyes were fixed on the scientist.

                                        “Let me have this one,” Was all he said.

                                        The resolution was clear in his voice, but I had to be certain, “Are you sure?”

                                        He nodded. “Please get to the back of the room and destroy that control panel,” he plucked a Pokéball from his belt. “If you can’t find a switch to release the Pokémon… then just destroy the panel.”

                                        I was going to ask one more time if he was certain, but N gave me a guiding push as his only answer and I was off, slinking through the rows of cylinders towards the back of the room.

                                        I could hear the noise of the battle over my breaths. I couldn’t pay mind to it; I had to keep on target. N would be fine; I couldn’t waste time worrying about him now; I had faith that he’d be able to take care of himself. I just hoped he wouldn’t let his emotions get the better of him.

                                        I ducked down behind a tank as a shockwave ran through the room. After it had passed, I peeked out to see N was deep in battle with the scientist. Laika was fighting against a Klinklang. My heart sank when I saw this because I knew dark type moves were not usually effective against steel types.

                                        “Laika! Use Foul Play!” Laika’s body began to glow with ominous red light. She then sent the wave of light flying at her opponent which sent the rotating gears off course and knocked them into a nearby tank, which didn’t break despite the force. The Munna went wild inside of their cylinders. They began to wriggle and squirm around in the neon fluid, eager for their freedom, but the wires held them stationary. The sight of their desperation reminded me of what I needed to do.

                                        I raced towards the back of the room where the control panel looked over the room. Another shockwave shook the enclosure and I grabbed hold of the board to prevent myself from flying back. Once it had subsided I tried to keep my eyes off the violent battle, and tried to figure out how to work this complex board of blinking lights and switches. After but a moment of looking I came to realize that I had no idea how this machine worked, and I certainly didn’t want to start mashing buttons and hope on the off chance that I’d set the Pokémon free.

                                        I began to panic, “N! How do I work this thing?”

                                        The scientist N was fighting took an angry glance over his shoulder, frustrated at his preoccupation. N was turning out to be more of a challenge than he’d seemed to have first thought.

                                        “Just blow it up!” N shouted from across the room, from across the battle where Laika was just barely managing to hold off a Gear Grind.

                                        “Are you sure?” Was blowing it up really a good solution to this? What if it reacted badly and ended up hurting the Munna instead of helping them?
                                        “If you cut power from that panel, then the Munna should be able to break out on their own! Laika dodge it!” His words were just audible through another crash.

                                        I took a hesitant look to the control board on the off chance that I could make something out. But I had no such luck so I reached to my belt with the intentions of drawing Hyle out. A nicely placed Brick Break was sure to cut the power to those cylinders.

                                        The second my hand closed around the ball capsule I heard the click of a gun.

                                        “Don’t move.”

                                        I couldn’t believe my ears. I couldn’t even trust my vision as I turned slowly to see professor Fennel standing a few feet away with a pistol in her hand, whose barrel was pointed right at me.
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