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Old August 19th, 2017 (11:30 AM).
Twilight-kun's Avatar
Twilight-kun Twilight-kun is offline
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    Join Date: Mar 2011
    Age: 25
    Gender: Female
    Nature: Naughty
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    This is a companion piece to After the Ashes: Sasha's Story.

    Summary: A young Zorua who dreams of traveling the world and satisfying her curiosity finally gets her wish, but not in the way she expected.

    Cover art
    Spoiler:


    -
    Chapter One

    Within the depths of Lostlorn Forest in the region of Unova, a zorua crept through the undergrowth slowly, ears pricked forward to detect sounds.

    The small pokemon's paws pressed silently on the ground as it crouched low among the grass.

    "And where have you been, Ailette?"

    The zorua froze as a zoroark loomed out of the gloom.

    "H-hi, mom," Ailette gulped.

    "You've been looking at the humans again, haven't you?"

    Ailette sighed, standing up and shaking herself. "Yes," she said, lifting her chin stubbornly.

    "It's bad enough you gave yourself a name like them. Do you plan on running off and being caught by them as well?"

    Ailette hesitated. "Well...no, but-"

    "No buts. You know the rules."

    The zoroark's gaze softened and she gently touched the zorua's ears. "Please, I don't want to lose you too."

    Ailette nodded. "It's just so...dull here," she muttered, tail twitching as her mother scooped her up.

    "It's safe, at least," Zoroark replied, nuzzling her.

    "But humans are getting bolder every day," Ailette said.

    "The Swords of Justice will keep us safe."

    Ailette sighed and let her mother carry her into the depths of the forest.

    -

    Ailette watched the human woman kneeling in front of a rock slab curiously.

    The female appeared to be crying, which caused the young zorua to tilt her head in confusion.

    What was the point of crying over a rock? Just go out and find a new one if your old one died...somehow.

    It wasn't the strangest thing Ailette had seen humans do. Sometimes they liked to go out into the woods, take off their weird cloth skin and start touching one another.

    Ailette's mother had found that most amusing, and while once again telling her daughter to keep away from humans, told her that was how they procreated.

    The human woman got to her feet, wiped her eyes and left the area. After a few minutes, Ailette crept up to the rock and stared at it. Weird scratches marred the surface, which the zorua attributed to another weird human quirk.

    Her gaze dropped lower and she leaped back in alarm to see a tiny human staring at her out of a weird square shape. Looking at it closer, Ailette saw the human wasn't moving.

    Was it trapped in the weird square?

    She touched it and yiped as it fell forward, showing a blank white square. Flipping it with her paw, she stared at the black-haired human inside it.

    Ailette got an idea and focused, closing her eyes. Her form rippled and changed, taking on the same image as the human in the picture before her.

    Her body grew and lengthened and she carefully stood up, wobbling as she tried to get her balance.

    How on Groudon's firm earth humans ever managed to walk around on two paws was something Ailette couldn't even begin to fathom and she dropped down to all fours, only to run into a problem.

    The human anatomy didn't lend itself easily to four-legged travel and she wound up slamming her face into the stone header.

    Reeling back, her disguise poofed and she pawed at her throbbing nose, eyes watering in pain.

    "Ailette!" hissed a voice. "What do you think you're doing?!"

    Ailette rolled to a sitting position and watched a zoroark melt out of the woods.

    "Hi, momma!" Ailette said cheerfully. The zoroark didn't budge and Ailette squirmed under her mother's stern stare.

    "This place reeks of grief. What are you doing here?"

    Ailette glanced at the rock and her mother followed her gaze.

    "Ah. So they've buried one of their dead here. Irritating. I hope we don't get a Ghost-type lurking about. The pansage are enough to worry about..."

    Sighing, the zoroark blinked and shook her head. "That's enough wool-gathering. The sun will set soon and your bedtime is coming up."

    Ailette flattened her ears. "I'm old enough to set my own schedule," she muttered rebelliously.

    "Only when you actually listen to me, will I allow you to set your own rules. For now, home!"

    Ailette nodded and walked toward her mother. As they turned to go, Ailette cast one last glance back at the grave.

    "Momma, you were once a trainer's pokémon. Can you read what's on the...grave?"

    Ailette's mother froze, eyes pinpricks, fur standing up. With a shaky breath, she banished the memories her daughter's words had brought to the front of her mind and stared at the stone.

    "Someone named Ash Ketchum was buried there," she said curtly. "'Taken too soon' and all that other mush humans like to decorate their corpses with. Let's go."

    The two illusion pokémon faded into the forest.

    -

    Ailette's mother, as it turned out, was not happy when she learned about what her daughter had been using her power for.

    "Why are you trying to turn into them?!" she growled as Ailette sank lower onto her belly in front of her. "Have you forgotten what humans did to our - to the pokémon of Unova?"

    "Tore down our homes to develop homes for themselves," Ailette said, not looking at the zoroark.

    "Exactly! And it's our duty to make sure they don't take any more. So focus your energy on that instead of trying to mimic them."

    Ailette nodded curtly and her mother dismissed her with a paw flick.

    Scampering away, Ailette let her power cover her, giving her the appearance of a common patrat, which allowed her to move around easily - just another among thousands.

    Reaching the edge of the forest, she cast a glance at the grave.

    The woman hadn't been back since the first time Ailette had seen her. The photo had long since vanished and the grass had very nearly swallowed the stone.

    Ailette briefly took on the guise of the child she had seen before reverting to her normal form. She wondered if she could use it to go into the human settlement, but had never worked up the nerve to try.

    Too many risks and for what? Probably another lecture from her mother, she thought bitterly. Ailette understood her mother's worry well enough. Her father had vanished one day and a gang of humans had been sighted shortly thereafter, with many captured pokémon.

    They had then set the forest on fire and fled. By the time the conflagration had been quelled, they were long gone and life had slowly returned to some semblance of normalcy.

    Ailette flicked her tail and pounced after a falling leaf. Catching it in her paws, she bit into it before tearing it to shreds.

    Panting, she sat down and watched the grave

    Staring at the various indents indicating words, she looked for the group of ten she was reasonably sure spelled Ash Ketchum and looked for similar shapes among the other words, trying to puzzle out what it said.

    Without references, however, she hadn't made any progress, much to her chagrin.

    With a sigh, she got to her paws and disappeared back into the forest.

    -

    The air was thick with oily black smoke, flashes of orange, yellow and red occasionally bursting through the murk.

    Formless black shapes leaped through the blazing forest, pokémon and humans alike fleeing the inferno.

    "This way!" a liepard howled, herding its litter along. A family of watchogs acted as guideposts, their bodies glowing brightly.

    A purrloin fell with a yelp, but before it could be trampled underfoot, a large green pokémon helped it to its paws. "Hurry, little one," the Musketeer Virizion said encouragingly, "you're almost there."

    Passing the small kitten along to its grateful mother, Virizion scanned the brush.

    "Excuse me!"

    The noble pokémon turned to see a zoroark clutching an egg. "Have you seen my husband?!" it asked, eyes wide with fear.

    Virizion shook her head sadly. "I'm sure he's alright," she said with a smile. "Once things settle down, I'm sure he'll find you."

    A flicker of unease passed over the zoroark's face and she clutched the egg tighter to her chest. Blinking away tears – from the smoke or grief, Virizion couldn't tell – the zoroark dipped her head to the Musketeer and turned, fleeing the blaze.

    "Virizion!" came the booming voice of Terrakion. "That's the last of them!"

    Tearing her attention from the zoroark, Virizion shook herself, causing the ashes that had coated her to fall off. "Alright. Are the panpour and simipour in position?"

    "They're ready and were simply waiting for everyone to get out. Wouldn't want even more pokémon getting lost among the storm," came a third voice. A large blue pokémon strode out of the fire, not bothered by it in the least. "Would have been nice if Thunderus were here, but all three of them are asleep at the moment."

    Virizion sighed, shaking her head. "Alright, let's do this."

    At their command and by their guidance, the water elemental pokémon used Rain Dance. Thick dark clouds swiftly formed and water poured down on the blaze. Even under the deluge, the fire stubbornly refused to go out.

    "Terrakion, some help?" Cobalion asked.

    The ground-type nodded and unleashed Mud Shot and Mud Bomb to quench some of the larger bonfires. The rain then washed the mud away, mixing it into the ash-coated ground.

    "The forest will recover from this," Cobalion said, noticing Virizion's uneasy look.

    "That's not what's bothering me," she said, flicking water from her head. "It's the fire."

    Terrakion came over, done with his work. "What're you saying?"

    Virizion glanced at him, then at the devastated forest. "Forest fires are natural – a cycle of renewal. But this was too fierce to be natural."

    "You think a pokémon set it?" Cobalion asked.

    Virizion smiled thinly. "A young pansear is always accompanied by a panpour to prevent such things." Her expression hardened. "No, I think it was humans."

    "What reason would they have to burn a forest down?" Terrakion asked.

    Virizion didn't have an answer.

    At the edge of the forest, a trio of humans converged.

    "What'd we get?" one asked.

    "Nothing particularly impressive," another said, shaking its head.

    "A zoroark is the only one of note, but the others will get Team Plasma plenty of money from sales to Team Rocket. Their greed for non-Kanto pokémon for their black market works in our favor," the third said.

    "So I can report this as a success to Lord Ghetsis?"

    "He will be most pleased, I am sure of it."


    -

    Zoroark opened her eyes.

    She'd dreamed of him again – the handsome zoroark who had stolen her heart and given her a daughter before he had vanished from her life. Sighing, she got up, stretching her body as she sniffed the air.

    Ailette's scent was thin, meaning she had left some time ago and Zoroark sighed, idly running her paws through her mane of hair.

    They touched the bauble toward the end and she cupped it, gazing into its greenish-blue depths. It had been a gift from her mate. He liked her mane long, but understood the hassle of taking care of it, so he had come home one evening carrying the odd thing, which he said humans had used to keep their own hair under control.

    Initially, she had dismissed it, but after a few days of getting her hair caught in everything, she had conceded the point and contained her wild locks. The look on her mate's face once she had finished had been a sight she always treasured and several months after that night, she'd presented him with an egg.

    Then the fire had struck.

    Closing her eyes, she slowly let out a breath, gently letting the memories sink back down and she called forth more recent ones to think about.

    Such as where the heck her daughter was.

    No doubt looking at humans again. Or trying to pass herself off as one.

    For all her venom towards the Unovans, Zoroark knew she couldn't prevent her daughter's curiosity and she tried to keep herself neutral toward them when talking about the subject, but after what they had done to her family and what she'd gone through as a trainer's pokémon, it was very hard to do so.

    She left the den and melted into the depths of the woods to hunt.

    -

    Ailette pricked her ears as a commotion broke out somewhere ahead of her.

    Creeping forward, she poked her head out into a clearing, where a pichu was surrounded by purrloin, patrat and a bisharp.

    "Lookie here boys, a rat has lost its way," the bisharp said with a sneer. An insult Ailette was amused to see backfire when the patrat growled at the bisharp.

    "Oi, what's wrong with rats?" it said, baring its teeth. The bisharp sighed, gesturing with a limb.

    "Nothing, 'cept we got a yellow one here, see?"

    The pichu didn't seem too impressed either.

    "Are you going to move or am I going to have to make you?" he asked, cheeks sparking.

    Ailette noted with some curiosity that his cheeks were a deep red instead of pink while his coat was a slightly darker yellow than a standard pichu.

    "And what're you gonna do if we don't move?" the purrloin asked.

    The pichu discharged a massive bolt of lightning from his small body that tore up the ground as it raced towards the purrloin, who gaped in disbelief before being blasted backwards.

    Ailette watched the pichu stumble as the electric attack took its toll and marveled at the power hiding in such a young pokémon.

    The patrat lunged at the mouse from behind, only to meet a ball of electricity coming from the electric mouse's tail, sending it sprawling.

    "Well, well," the bisharp said, rubbing its blades together. "You've got some tricks up your fur. But you're out of electricity, and that makes you mine!"

    It thrust its blades forward, only for them to get deflected by the pichu's glowing white tail. Thrown off balance, the bisharp stared as the mouse ran at him, covered in electricity.

    Ailette winced as the Volt Tackle collided and ducked down as dirt and grass was thrown around.

    Lifting her head, she crept forward, ears pricked. Her paw brushed against something and she looked down to see the bisharp lying unconscious on the blasted ground.

    Letting out a low whistle, she looked around for the pichu.

    "Who are you?"

    Ailette flinched in surprise and turned to see the pichu brushing himself off.

    "Ailette," she answered. "Nice work with those three."

    "Ah, you were watching?" the pichu asked, grimacing. "Sorry about that."

    "Sorry? Why?"

    "Well," he said, rubbing his head. "That wasn't my best showing. I'm still trying to control my electricity and it keeps going haywire."

    Ailette glanced around the devastated clearing and nodded. "Fair enough," she said slowly. "But still, three on one…that's quite impressive."

    The pichu ducked his head and mumbled something. Slapping his cheeks lightly, he dipped his head. "It's nice to meet you. Not seen a lot of your type around here."

    "Oh?" Ailette asked. "You new then? Where are your parents?"

    Ailette regretted the words the instant they left her mouth but the Pichu waved her stammered apologies away.

    "Relax, it's fine," he said. "I really don't care at this point. I was born in Pinwheel Forest and eventually came here once the other pichu, pikachu and raichu were fed up with me out-performing them at everything."

    "Even though you still have trouble with it?" Ailette asked dubiously. The Pichu shrugged helplessly.

    "I don't know how or why it works the way it does," he said, "But that's the way things are."

    "Well, since you're new, why don't I show you around?" Ailette offered. Pichu blinked in surprise.

    "You're…you don't care that I'm a freaky-colored pichu with lots of electricity?" he asked.

    "I'm not an electric-type, so what would I have to be jealous over?" Ailette pointed out. "Besides, I'm called weird by a lot of pokémon here myself."

    "Because you gave yourself a name?"

    "Yeah," Ailette said. "Humans intrigue me and I want to learn more about them. My mother is…less than pleased about that, but I don't think she'd – never mind about that though. Let me show you around, alright?"

    "Sure," the Pichu said with a smile. "That'd be nice."

    -

    "Lord Ghetsis."

    The tall leader of Team Plasma didn't turn from his work as he spoke.

    "The fact you are here instead of keeping an eye on the king tells me all I need to know."

    "We are already searching for his whereabouts," the Shadow Triad member said, bowing low.

    "He desires to connect with pokémon, especially those whose hearts have been closed to humans. That should narrow your search considerably."

    The Shadow nodded. "He will go to Lostlorn. But…humans are forbidden from going there and the Musketeers are extremely vigilant, especially after our last outing there."

    "You can thank Team Rocket for that," Ghetsis growled. "But no matter. Send the zoroark to retrieve the king."

    "By your command."

    -

    "I'm home!" Ailette called as she entered the den she shared with her mother.

    The zoroark poked her head out of the adjoining room and the two shared a nuzzle.

    Zoroark stared into her daughter's icy blue eyes – a gift from her father – and smiled.

    "How was your day?" she asked.

    "It was good. Ran into a pichu who had gotten himself into a spot of trouble, but he managed to get out of it easily. He was very strong," Ailette said.

    "Oh really?" Zoroark asked. "You don't see a lot of pichu around here."

    "He's from Pinwheel. Apparently the others there picked on him because he's colored like a pikachu and could kick their butts," Ailette said with a grin.

    "Did he kick yours too?" Zoroark asked, running an eye over Ailette's disheveled coat.

    "Hm? Oh, no. I showed him around the forest," Ailette said.

    "I see. Go wash up, dinner will be ready soon. I found something I'm sure you'll enjoy."

    Ailette's eyes lit up. "You found Roseli berries?"

    She scampered off to clean herself and Zoroark rolled her eyes in amusement.

    So very like her father, she thought wistfully, turning to gather berries.

    -

    "You understand your orders?"

    The zoroark nodded and the Plasma Grunt stepped back from the cage and gestured to a scientist.

    "We're all set, Kodai. Whenever you're ready."

    Kodai tapped a few keys on his console and the cage door rattled open.

    Zoroark stepped out, sniffing the air. Its blue pupils dilated and it let out a howl before darting out the open door.

    The Plasma Grunt stared after it, shaking his head. "Every time I hear that howl, I get goosebumps."

    Kodai grinned, leaning back against the wall. "It's on the hunt for our irresponsible king. Oh, don't get your hackles up at me," he snapped as the Grunt stiffened. "If he took his job seriously, he wouldn't be running off to play with pokemon every chance he gets."

    "The fact he can get around the Shadow Triad is what scares me," the Grunt muttered, turning back to his work.

    Kodai stroked his chin before sighing, shaking his head and did the same.

    -

    Ailette and Pichu walked through the trails of Lostlorn, chatting quietly.

    Pichu suddenly stiffened, ears twitching. His eyes darted around, scanning the area. Ailette felt a chill go down her spine and she frowned.

    "We're being watched," Pichu murmured, shifting to a combat stance. Ailette covered his back, fur standing on end.

    "But from where?" Ailette muttered.

    Pichu suddenly blinked and relaxed. "It's gone," he said, sounding puzzled.

    The pressure they'd been experiencing vanished and Ailette shook herself to resettle her fur.

    "The heck was that?" she wondered.

    "Should we investigate or go tell someone?" Pichu asked.

    "It…shouldn't be anything bad," Ailette said slowly. "The Musketeers wouldn't allow anyone like that into the forest."

    "You don't sound convinced," Pichu noted. Ailette smiled ruefully.

    "No, I'm not," she replied, sniffing the air. Trotting over to a patch of ferns, she gave them a quick sniff.

    "That's odd," she murmured. Pichu joined her, nose twitching.

    "What's that smell?" Pichu asked.

    The ferns shifted and the two pokémon leaped back as something emerged from the undergrowth.

    "Human!" Pichu squeaked, cheeks sparking wildly.

    "Wait!" Ailette yelped. "It's just a cub!"

    Pichu stared at her in confusion. "What does it matter? Humans aren't allowed here, no matter what size they are."

    "Yeah, but the fact it's here means the Musketeers let it in," Ailette pointed out. "So it's harmless."

    Pichu stared at her for a moment before turning back to the green-haired young human - boy, Pichu guessed, judging by its dress - who was staring at them curiously.

    His pale eyes were focused on Ailette and he dropped to a knee, holding his hand out.

    "Well hello there, little one," he said gently.

    Ailette glanced at Pichu, who shrugged. Edging closer to the human, Ailette sniffed his hand then stiffened in surprise when he gently scratched under her chin.

    "Ailette!" Pichu hissed in alarm. Ailette flicked an ear at him in irritation.

    "Relax, Pichu," she said, shaking her head to remove the human's hand from her neck.

    "I mean neither of you harm," the human said, leaning back. A pendant hanging around his neck clinked gently as he moved. Ailette stared at it curiously and the human toyed with it, a distant smile on his face. "My name is N and you two are…a Pichu and a Zorua, correct?"

    "What, does he expect us to answer in a way he can understand?" Pichu scoffed.

    "I can understand you," N replied. Pichu's jaw dropped.

    "That's…impossible! Humans can't understand pokémon!"

    "That's not true," N said calmly. "It just depends on the human and how close they are to their pokémon. It's most common amongst Psychic-type pokémon due to telepathy, but there's plenty of cases where a trainer is so in sync with their pokémon they can understand their feelings."

    "That's not natural," Pichu said. Ailette nudged him with a frown. He glanced at her and she shook her head.

    "I understand your skepticism," N said with a sad smile. "I understand pokémon whose hearts have been closed by or against humans. You two were harmed by them, weren't you?"

    "What's it to you?" Pichu growled.

    "Nothing," N replied easily. "I'm just here to get away from my daily life."

    "Where are you from?" Ailette asked curiously.

    "I'm the king of Team Plasma," N said with a sigh. "A group of people who want to free pokémon from the control of humans."

    Ailette thought back to the fire her mother had told her about and all the pokémon who had died or vanished during and after it had swept through the region.

    "Well, I imagine the pokémon of Lostlorn would be overjoyed with that prospect," she said bitterly.

    "You don't approve?" N asked.

    "I'm curious about humans," Ailette admitted as Pichu crossed his arms, silently watching N. "I've heard so many things about them and want to learn more."

    N chuckled. At Ailette's inquisitive stare, he elaborated. "It's funny, because I want to know more about pokémon. I'd like to meet a pokémon whose heart isn't closed, for one. I want to know their hopes, their dreams, fears, all of it."

    "You sound like you want to be a pokémon," Pichu noted.

    "Well, when you put it that way…" N murmured thoughtfully.

    The trio froze as a low growl emanated from the undergrowth.

    N grimaced. "Ah, I'm sorry, but it's time for me to go," he said regretfully.

    A zoroark emerged from the bushes, eyes locked on N before it turned and glanced at Pichu and Ailette.

    Ailette gazed into those blue eyes before flinching as they moved away from her.

    "Farewell my friends," N said, getting to his feet. "I hope we can meet again someday."

    "I'd like that," Ailette said. The zoroark's ears twitched at her voice and it glanced at her again with a frown, causing Ailette to take a step back. "If it's…okay with your friends," she added warily.

    "You'll have to forgive Zoroark. He's just following orders," N said, resting a hand on the Illusion pokémon's shoulder. "Take care, Ailette, Pichu. It was nice to meet you."

    At the mention of Ailette's name, the zoroark stiffened, eyes going wide before it regained its composure and stared at the small fox pokémon, who didn't notice the attention.

    "Likewise," Ailette said with a smile.

    Pichu just grunted.

    The human and pokémon vanished into the forest and Ailette sank back onto her haunches.

    "You've got that look," Pichu noted. Ailette stared at him curiously. "The 'I-wanna-follow-them' look."

    "Aren't you curious about them?" Ailette asked. "And that zoroark…"

    Her voice trailed off and she frowned. "He felt…familiar somehow."

    "Well, whatever happens, we're going to need to tell your mom," Pichu said. Ailette winced, ears going flat.

    "She'd never agree to it," she grumbled. "She's not a fan of humans and me chasing after them would only make her worry…" She struck at the ground in irritation. "But going off without telling anyone…arrrgh!"

    "Finally," a voice said, causing Ailette to shriek in surprise and leap into the air. "You actually take my actions into regard before leaping into danger."

    "Mom?" Ailette asked in disbelief. "What are you doing here?"

    "The pokémon of the forest told me a human was in the forest, then I got word you were talking to it – him – and I came to make sure you weren't going to do something stupid. Like going after them."

    "Mom, there was a…blue-eyed zoroark that came to fetch him," Ailette said. The female zoroark went very still, paws clenching and unclenching.

    "Go," she said tiredly, body relaxing.

    "What?" Pichu said in disbelief. The zoroark turned her eyes on him and he shrank back as she loomed over him.

    "You will go with my daughter and keep her safe. If anything happens to her, no distance will protect you from me. Do you understand?"

    Pichu stared up into the female's glowing eyes, swallowing. "O-of course," he said, voice cracking.

    The zoroark sighed, smiling as she stared at the two of them. "I'd join you, but it's been far too long since I've been on an adventure and I'd only slow you down. Well, Ailette, seems like you're getting your wish to learn more about humans. I wish you the best of luck."

    "I'll come back," Ailette promised. The two pokémon shared a hug, nuzzling one anther.

    "Ah," Zoroark said, pulling back. "Before you go…" She rummaged in her mane for a few seconds before pulling out a necklace. Putting it around her daughter's neck, she kissed her forehead gently.

    Ailette stared at the small charm hanging off the necklace curiously.

    "That charm will give your illusions a little more durability and they won't be as draining to maintain. Be careful and don't take unnecessary risks, alright?" Zoroark said. Ailette nodded and the two shared one last hug before Ailette pulled back and stepped back.

    Zoroark turned to the Pichu, who had turned away from them, pretending to observe the sky.

    "I'll keep an eye on her," he said. "Between the two of us, I'm sure we'll be fine."

    Zoroark chuckled. "Have fun, you two. Oh, and for future reference, Ailette likes Roseli berries, belly rubs and having her fur stroked in counter-clockwise patterns," she whispered to the Pichu.

    "Mom!" Ailette squeaked, ears heating up. Pichu stared at her, causing the zorua to sputter into silence.

    "What kind of mother would I be if I didn't make you uncomfortable in front of a boy?" Zoroark teased. "Now get going."

    Shaking her head, Ailette sniffed the ground, picking up the zoroark's scent. It was headed to the east, a direction Ailette hadn't really explored.

    "Come along, Pichu, adventure awaits!" she said.

    Zoroark watched the two depart and smiled. She then turned and pricked her ears.

    "You may as well come out," she called. "They were never gonna detect you anyway."

    Virizion melted out of the greenery and stared after the pichu and zorua. "You always were a weird one," she said at last. "Didn't expect you to encourage your daughter to chase after her dreams like that."

    "Better to know she has my blessing instead of running off on her own," Zoroark pointed out. "Less worry on both ends this way."

    "True," the Musketeer replied. "Well, I wish them the best of luck."

    The grass-type vanished back into the forest and Zoroark turned and went back to her den.
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      #2    
    Old August 23rd, 2017 (9:59 AM).
    Twilight-kun's Avatar
    Twilight-kun Twilight-kun is offline
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      Join Date: Mar 2011
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      Chapter Two

      N and Zoroark stood outside the entrance to one of Team Plasma's labs overlooking the sea.

      N was sitting on the edge of the plateau the lab was built on and Zoroark was curled up next to him. Idly stroking the pokémon's fur, N spoke.

      "You seemed to recognize Ailette. Is she your daughter?"

      Zoroark opened an eye to stare at him. "What makes you think that?"

      N ticked off a few fingers. "First, you noticed her eyes, which match yours. Then her name caught your attention and you've been quiet ever since."

      Zoroark looked away. "I work for Ghetsis now, babysitting you and failing to keep you out of trouble. It's better she doesn't know."

      "I imagine your job would be a lot easier if you weren't constantly being tested on by Kodai and Colress," N said dryly. "Ailette is a smart girl and I wouldn't be surprised if she's put the pieces together."

      "Or if my charge stopped chasing fanciful dreams," Zoroark growled. "Whatever Ailette does, I cannot allow myself to get close to her. But enough of that, you need to take your duties as king more seriously and stop wandering off."

      "But how can I ever hope to influence people and pokémon without experience?" N pointed out. "For all his grandiose plans, Ghetsis had absolutely miserable social skills and seems to be banking hard on using Unova's dragons to make his dream a reality."

      "And how's that search going?" Zoroark asked.

      N's scowl was all the answer the pokémon needed.

      -

      Ailette and Pichu followed Zoroark's trail to the edge of the forest without issue.

      The duo stared out at the route where people and their pokémon were traveling apprehensively.

      "So how do we follow them without getting caught by some random trainer?" Pichu asked.

      Ailette went silent, face thoughtful as she ran a few ideas through her head. Her eyes lit up as she reached a conclusion.

      "Simple," she said, grinning. Pichu pricked his ears and turned to look at her, then did a double-take as she turned into a black-haired human boy, dressed in a blue jacket, red and white baseball cap and jeans.

      "That's your plan?" he asked dubiously.

      "What better way to blend in among trainers than pretending to be one?" Ailette asked.

      "What if they challenge you to a battle?" Pichu said. "You can't speak human and - what are you even going to do for pokém – oh heck no. No, no, no, no, no," he said, shaking his head hard, stepping back.

      "Actually, I learned how to speak a little Human from my mother. She picked it up during her tenure as a trainer's pokémon," Ailette said. "And you're strong enough to win any fight we may get into."

      "That's flattering of you to say, but there's still oh so many ways this can and will go wrong," Pichu muttered.

      "Do you have a better idea?" Ailette asked.

      Pichu winced. Ailette chuckled, then perked up.

      "Oh, I almost forgot. Why did you accept coming with me so easily?"

      Pichu shrugged. "I wanted a change of scenery and traveling the region seems like the best way to do it. Having a traveling partner makes it easier to get around as well. Although," he added with a rueful sigh. "I didn't expect to wind up with someone like you. Not that it's a bad thing, though," he said hastily. Ailette giggled.

      "Well, with any luck, we'll find my father and N. After that…we'll see what happens, yeah?"

      "Sounds like a plan," Pichu said with a smile.

      "Next stop…that way," Ailette said, pointing towards a towering bridge ahead of them. "My mother said it's called Marvelous Bridge and on the other side is…uh…" Her nose scrunched as she tried to remember what lay on the opposite side of the bridge. "I forgot what it was," she muttered sheepishly.

      "We'll find out when we get there," Pichu said. He eyed Ailette's human form again curiously. "You gonna be alright walking around like that though?"

      Ailette flexed her fingers and nodded. "I can easily keep this form for the rest of the day," she said. "The drain is negligible and I doubt we'll get into any fights inside a building."

      Pichu nodded and jumped up onto her shoulder, settling himself comfortably against her neck and the duo walked toward the bridge.

      -

      Deep within Route 17, N and Zorua arrived at a non-descript dwelling and entered.

      A scientist was toiling away at a machine among a sea of tables, tubes and junk. He turned as N approached, tucking a strand of blue hair behind his ear as he did so and adjusted his glasses.

      "My lord, what a pleasant surprise," he said with a smile.

      "Professor Achroma," N said with a polite nod, to which the man scoffed.

      "Colress, please," he said. "I have been busy with research your…father wanted me to do."

      "And what is that?" N asked as he watched Zoroark curl up in the corner.

      "Bringing out the power within a pokémon and harnessing it. I've made some wonderful discoveries," Colress said, brightening.

      N smiled as the man rambled animatedly. A pair of words caught his attention and he frowned.

      "Mega Evolution?" he asked.

      "Oh yes," Colress said, tapping a tablet before handing it to N. "Some pokémon have been noted to have the ability to evolve even further, bringing forth a whole new level of power. Audino is one such pokémon."

      N stared at the images of a Mega Audino compared to a regular one with a frown, then read some of the notes.

      "A bond with a trainer?" he asked. "How can there ever be a bond between a tool and their user?"

      Colress smiled thinly. "Your guess is as good as mine, your majesty. But on the bright side, there have been cases of pokémon Mega Evolving without need of such bonds. Or a Mega Stone," he added thoughtfully. "But so far, that phenomenon has only been observed with Hoenn pokémon; namely Rayquaza and the Eon Duo, Latias and Latios."

      "Would it be possible to replicate such a feat?" N asked, setting the tablet down.

      "Not without time and resources I don't have access to," Colress said with a sigh. "But we don't need them for Team Plasma's dream to be a reaility. Once we have the dragons, Unova will be ours."

      N glanced at Zoroark and he nodded slowly.

      -

      "Pay attention, Ailette. This is important."

      The young zorua tilted her head, flicking her ears dismissively. "How is learning how to speak Human important?"

      Zoroark sighed, rubbing her muzzle. "There's only so many ways you can say your name before you start repeating yourself, so pokémon have learned to use their whole body in the way they communicate. Unfortunately, Mew didn't give humans the same ability, so they've had to improvise. Often by making their languages much more complicated than they have any right to be."

      Ailette nodded slowly, perking up. "I see..."

      "No, you don't; otherwise you'd have been done an hour ago," Zoroark said testily.

      "Not my fault it's hard to stop doing what's been instinctive for every pokémon since the day they were born," Ailette said, tail lashing in irritation.

      "I know it's frustrating," Zoroark said, "but given how you seem to enjoy turning into a human, you may as well know how to talk like them."

      Ailette let her illusion cover her, turning her into a young black-haired boy.

      "Human human. Hu-human, manman?" she asked.

      Zoroark bopped her lightly on the head, dispelling the illusion.

      "Your accent is atrocious," she remarked.


      -

      Zorua and Pichu craned their heads back to stare up at the magnificence of Marvelous bridge.

      Unfortunately, it was closed off, with a sign neither could read.

      "Well, that's unfortunate," Pichu grumbled. "How are we supposed to follow Zoroark and N now?"

      "Perhaps find some other way?" Ailette replied, keeping her voice low, as there were other humans about and she wanted to keep her mute façade as long as she could.

      "Hey, boy!" came a voice, causing her to freeze. "Are you trying to get across to the other side?"

      Ailette turned to see someone decked out in a bright neon vest with a belt of tools slung on his hips walking toward her.

      At her nod, the worker frowned, stroking his chin. "Unfortunately it's swanna mating season and the bridge is a popular site for them. It becomes exceptionally dangerous for a few weeks. You'll have better luck using Skyarrow Bridge from Castelia City."

      He pulled a map out, showing where they were and then traced a path back the way they had come, then to another city – Nimbasa – and then further south to a sprawling metropolis, then east. Pichu perked up, as they'd then be at Pinwheel Forest.

      "I heard there's a few colonies of pikachu and the like living in the forest," the worker said, staring at Pichu. "You taking him to see his relatives or something?"

      Ailette nodded, taking note of Pichu's sudden discomfort at the prospect of meeting the pokémon that had shunned him and she stroked his fur soothingly.

      "Best of luck to you then," the worker said and the two departed.

      -

      Wandering around the city of Nimbasa, Ailette and Pichu took in the sights and sounds.

      "You ever seen anything like this?" Pichu asked in awe, staring up at the massive ferris wheel.

      Ailette shook her head. "Never left the forest. Just watched the people walking through it."

      "You there! Boy!"

      Ailette turned to see a human clad in a form-fitting black and yellow outfit that reminded Ailette of a beedrill. She nodded politely as the woman walked up to them.

      "Are you going on the wheel?"

      Ailette shrugged, not trusting herself to speak and the woman tilted her head. "Not much of a talker, eh? No worries. Name's Elesa, the gym leader of this city. I specialize in electric types and noticed your pichu; they're notoriously hard to come by and it's not often I see one. Can I pet him?"

      "Forward, isn't she?" Pichu muttered, leaning forward on Ailette's shoulder. Elesa stroked his head and smiled.

      "That's one way of putting it," she said matter-of-factly, startling the mouse pokémon. "I can understand Electric-types," she added at his stunned look. "Well…generally, anyway. Can't seem to get the subtle nuances down."

      Ailette grinned and Pichu chuckled.

      "Come on, they're about to start the wheel," she said, grabbing Ailette's hand and they entered the machine.

      Peering over the edge of the capsule they were seated in, Ailette watched the ground drop away and she leaned back and turned her attention to the woman who had taken such an interest in them.

      "You're not really human, are you?" Elesa asked.

      Ailette froze and stared at the woman before lunging for the open window of the car.

      A hand seized the back of her disguised form and hauled her back into her seat, pushing her down firmly.

      "I'm not going to hurt you," Elesa said patiently. Ailette rubbed her shoulder and eyed the woman warily. "I'm just curious as to why you're passing yourself off as a human."

      She crossed her arms and leaned back in her seat, crossing one leg over the other.

      "I…think we can trust her," Pichu murmured to Ailette. "She waited until we were alone before doing this. It would've been a lot worse had we been on the ground."

      Ailette bit her lip and frowned before she sighed. No point in trying to get past a gym leader. Her form poofed, revealing her gray and orange fur.

      "A zorua," Elesa said, clapping her hands together lightly. "Not what I was expecting, actually."

      "I have a feeling I'm going to get response that a lot," Ailette muttered. Elesa tilted her head, glancing at Pichu, who offered a translation.

      "Well, the only reason I could tell you weren't a human was because I work in the modeling industry and have worked with all manner of people dedicated to posing people for the best shot. Along the way, I've picked up the uncanny ability to pick up on people's intentions through body language and the like."

      "And what did Ailette's posture tell you?" Pichu asked.

      If Elesa thought a zorua with a name of its own was odd, she didn't say anything. "She was curious, yet cautious. Always seemed ready to flee at a moment's notice," Elesa said, leaning her head on her hand, eyes glimmering with amusement. "And I daresay leaping out of a Ferris Wheel would've gotten you a lot of unnecessary attention."

      Ailette sank into her seat, burning ears flat on her head.

      "So, where are you two headed?" Elesa asked.

      "South, and then East," Pichu replied.

      "Around Pinwheel then. Visiting your folks?" Elesa asked.

      "Chasing after her father, actually," Pichu said, nodding at Ailette, who had resumed her disguise and was now fidgeting with her clothing.

      "Ah," Elesa said, nodding. "I've heard tales of zoroarks. Not…the best of parents, unfortunately," she added apologetically. "Well, the fathers, anyway."

      "I just want to know why he's with Team Plasma," Ailette said and Pichu translated.

      Elesa's eyes widened slightly and she leaned forward. "You've met Team Plasma?"

      "Well, someone calling himself their king, at least," Pichu said.

      "Makes sense, what with their medieval motif," Elesa said musingly. "This is the first time we've gotten any information on him though…what does he look like?"

      As Pichu described N, Aieltte gazed back out the window, watching the wind blow through the faraway trees, lit by the setting sun. She frowned and wondered where they could spend the night, especially in a city.

      "Ailette," Elesa said, getting her attention. "You're wondering about the night, right? You're welcome to stay at the pokémon center and resume your travels in the morning. I'll send word to them if you'd like."

      Ailette hesitated before nodding. "Thank you," she said.

      Elesa needed no translation and simply smiled.

      -

      Ty, Tsu and Cayne lounged around their room in the castle slowly being built in the mountains around Unova's pokémon league.

      They'd been put on standby on Ghetsis' orders and nerves were beginning to fray.

      "It's been months since our last excursion to free pokémon from trainers and I wouldn't be surprised if our work has been undone by this point," Cayne ground out, pacing back and forth.

      "Relax," Ty ordered. "The reports from Lacunosa show they've released all their pokémon and have made no attempts to recapture them and have even outlawed poké balls in their city. Our plan is slowly gaining ground and soon the rest of Unova will follow suit."

      "Easy for you to say," Tsu muttered, poring over his notes. "You don't have to organize all the reports. For example, did you know Drayden has banned Team Plasma from his city? The last spokesman we sent was turned away by a horde of dragon-type pokémon led by some purple-haired child."

      Cayne chuckled and shook his head. "Lightweights, the lot of them. Now, if I'd been sent-"

      "We don't need another Lostlorn Forest debacle," Ty said.

      Before Cayne could reply, their Cross-Transceivers beeped in unison, summoning them to Lord Ghetsis' chambers.

      Swiftly making their way into the depths of the hollowed-out mountain, they arrived at Ghetsis' suite and entered.

      Rows of monitors lined the far wall, providing the only light for the room. In front of it stood Ghetsis, who turned to face the three Shadows.

      "Good news," he said, gesturing with his left arm. A monitor behind him showed the visage of a young black-haired boy with a pichu perched on his shoulder. "I have a job for you."

      "Kidnapping?" Ty asked warily. "I wasn't aware Team Plasma emulated the likes of Team Rocket and Galactic."

      Ghetsis glared at him and he meekly bowed his head.

      "What you see before you, is the boy known as Ash Ketchum."

      Another picture came up, of a slightly older boy, wearing a primarily red and white outfit with bits of red and yellow scattered throughout it.

      Looking between the two pictures, it was easy to see the resemblance.

      "Didn't he die?" Tsu asked.

      "That was the conclusion once he vanished. Nobody knows where he went, but now it seems he has returned," Ghetsis said.

      "And gotten younger, by the looks of it," Cayne said.

      "Exactly why we must capture him – preferably alive," Ghetsis said with a glare at Cayne, "at all costs. Imagine, being able to live forever so our rule will never waver."

      "By your command," the three chorused and vanished.

      -

      Elesa and Ailette wandered through one of Nimba's clothing stores.

      "If you're traveling, you're going to need clothes," the gym leader had said.

      When Ailette pointed out she was perfectly capable of making illusionary clothing, Elesa's eyes had narrowed.

      "That may be true," she said. "But making it mimic movement under various conditions is hard even for zoroark. Besides, if you're just maintaining the base body, it's less strain on you, right?"

      Ailette sighed, conceding the point and the model had dragged her and Pichu to several clothing stores, collecting a pile of clothing.

      Many different shirts, pants, vests and jackets were soon all housed within a deceptively small backpack Elesa had purchased.

      "And to top it all off, a hat," Elesa declared, gesturing to a wide selection of headgear.

      Ailette smiled slightly at the pun and stared at them for a moment before settling on a two-tone red and white baseball cap with a stylized poké ball emblem on the front.

      "Perfect," Elesa said. "Shall we go try them on?"

      Making their way to the dressing rooms, Elesa and Pichu waited as Ailette swapped her clothing.

      Stepping out, Ailette brushed her hands over herself self-consciously. Elesa took in her appearance and nodded approvingly.

      Ailette had chosen a white and gold hoodie with a white zipper, dark fingerless gloves with red wristbands, dark pants and red sneakers.

      Playing with the zipper, Ailette blushed as Elesa eyed her up and down.

      "Nicely done," she said. "Come on, I'll see you to the edge of the city. Feel free to come back any time, alright?"

      "Thanks," Ailette said shyly. "You didn't have to do this."

      Elesa waved the words away. "Don't worry, it was my pleasure."

      Stepping outside, they were blinded by bright flashes of light.

      Yelping in surprise, Ailette took a step back, covering her eyes.

      "Easy," Elesa's voice murmured, her hand on Ailette's shoulder, steadying her. "It's just the tabloids."

      Blinking to clear her vision, Ailette saw a crowd of people with cameras pressing forward.

      "Elesa! Is this your child?!"

      "Elesa! Were the reports of an affair true?!"

      "Who's the father?!"

      "Oh for…" Elesa muttered under her breath. "Sorry about this," she said softly to Ailette and Pichu before she forced a smile and turned her attention to the cameras.

      "This is not my kid," she said calmly, crossing her arms. With an amused smirk, she added, "And I thought I made it quite clear that I prefer the company of women when you lunkheads crashed my dinner with Skyla. Scared the poor dear half to death, as I recall," she added thoughtfully.

      Reaching to her belt, she pulled out a poké ball. "Zebstrika, front and center."

      The equine pokémon appeared in a flash of light, pawing at the ground with a snort. The reporters all edged away from it warily.

      "She'll take you to the edge of the city," Elesa said, hoisting Ailette onto the pokémon's back. "She'll find her way back once you're gone. Take care."

      "Thank you again," Ailette said as the electric-type horse trotted past the reporters.

      Bidding the electric pokémon farewell, the duo headed south to Route 4.

      -

      Deep within a forest clearing in southwestern Unova, a pokémon lunged at a large rock. Striking it with their horn, they recoiled with a hiss as they were repelled by the unyielding stone.

      Falling back, the pokémon shook his head before he sat down to catch his breath.

      "Focus, Keldeo," a deep voice said.

      The colt pokémon scowled. "What do you think I am doing?"

      "Letting your anger cloud your mind," the voice said, now sounding amused.

      "I don't need your help, Cobalion," Keldeo grumbled. "At least, not the kind you're giving me now."

      "Maybe once Virizion comes back-" Cobalion said as he came forward to inspect the stone.

      "That'll take too long," Keldeo snapped before he deflated. "Sorry, I'm just…"

      "Nothing to be ashamed of. We all struggled to master Sacred Sword. Terrakion was especially vocal about it," Cobalion said, striding to the front of the stone, where three large gouges had been carved into the rock. "Perhaps you should take a walk to clear your mind."

      "But where can I go?" Keldeo asked.

      "Perhaps across the river to Pinwheel Forest?" Cobalion suggested. "It's a few days' journey from here, which is plenty of time to reflect."

      Keldeo thought about it before he dipped his head. "Thank you."

      "Take as much time as you need. Travel the region, if you wish. I'd honestly encourage it, since seeing the sights of Unova inspired Virizion and I to get stronger. Terrakion, on the other hand…well, he's as stubborn as the ground he wields and rooted himself that way to master Sacred Sword."

      "What works for one doesn't work for all, hm?" Keldeo said with a small smile.

      "Get out of here," Cobalion said with a mock scowl.

      Keldeo smiled at the memory as he trotted through the dappled paths of Pinwheel Forest. Cobalion had been right with his suggestion to go on a trip. The wide-open expanse of Unova had done wonders for Keldeo's temper and he had found himself able to call on his power without as much trouble.

      "Well met, Keldeo," a voice called to him. With a start, Keldeo pulled his attention from his thoughts and blinked as Virizion melted out of the greenery. "What brings you here?"

      "Decided to get out and clear my head," Keldeo said. "Probably do a lap of Unova and see what I learn along the way."

      Virizion tilted her head before nodding. "A good choice. Marvelous Bridge is closed off though. You'll have to go under or around the other way if you wish to get to eastern Unova."

      Keldeo sighed. "That is unfortunate, but acceptable."

      "My, my," Virizion said teasingly. "You've already learned something quite helpful for your journey."

      "Sod off," Keldeo said, sticking his tongue out at her. "You heading back to Cobalion and Terrakion? Give them my regards, will you?"

      "Certainly," Virizion. "I wish you the best of luck on your journey."

      -

      Within an apartment in one of Castelia's many skyscrapers, a woman stared at the TV screen in shock, the plate she had been cleaning slipping from numbed fingers to shatter on the floor.

      "Impossible," she said, stumbling forward. Her hands gripped the sides of the TV as she gazed at the face of her deceased son with a pichu on his shoulder.

      She jumped in surprise when her vid-phone rang and she got to her feet, taking a deep breath to compose herself. Walking over to the set, she answered it.

      "Delia!" came the hoarse voice of Professor Samuel Oak. "Did you see-?"

      Delia Ketchum nodded. "He's alive. I don't know how, but my son is alive."

      "And in Nimbasa, if the gym leader beside him was any indication," Oak said. "Looks like he's headed to Castelia City even now. Are you going to see him when he passes through?"

      "I pity whoever gets in my way," Delia said. Oak chuckled and sighed.

      "Give him my best, would you?"

      "Of course."
      __________________
      YT|dA|After the Ashes: Sasha's Story|Ailette's Story|Walking with Gods
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