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Old June 23rd, 2017 (11:42 AM). Edited September 21st, 2017 by Aisu.
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Aisu Aisu is offline
     
    Join Date: Dec 2011
    Location: America
    Nature: Adamant
    Posts: 1,806
    Author's Drabble - Ah, I still haven't posted that sequel to Yggdrasil, have I? Should get working on that soon...

    Spoiler:


    1. Chapter 1
    2. Chapter 2
    3. Chapter 3
    4. Chapter 4
    5. Chapter 5
    6. Chapter 6
    7. Chapter 7
    8. Chapter 8

    (Pretty short story, yeah.)
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    Old June 23rd, 2017 (11:48 AM).
    Aisu's Avatar
    Aisu Aisu is offline
       
      Join Date: Dec 2011
      Location: America
      Nature: Adamant
      Posts: 1,806
      Spoiler:
      Chapter 1
      “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
      —Lao Tzu

      Mt. Silver is cold and unrelenting, lashing and numbing my skin below the three jackets I have donned in preparation. My hands are freezing even under the shelter of my pockets and gloves and I feel my jaw ache terribly from my chattering teeth, and even so, I press on, slowly trudging up a stone staircase on the side of the mountain, unable to see any ground below due to the heavy swirls of white and grey snow. I’ve heard more than a few stories of Trainers and Hikers that have misjudged a step or moved too quickly on a sheet of ice and ended up pierced by rocks hundreds of feet below, but I can’t bother my mind enough to be concerned, never mind scared. Now, every ounce of my concentration is on Pokémon Master Red.

      I am not a Pokémon Trainer—at least, I don’t work to challenge the Pokémon League. Even so, I want to talk to Red, and if he refuses to speak without a battle, then I am prepared for the situation. Although Red has been on Mt. Silver for twenty-five years, in every news story, including the live ones, he has not appeared any older. Moreover, no one has ever seen him leave Mt. Silver, not even once. My friends and even my father say I’m overthinking things as always—it’s just the way the Pokémon world works, they say—but I know that something is going on, and I will do what I have to do to find it out.

      I reach a cavern at the mountain’s peak, and through the hole at the end, I can see a silhouette in the snow. I run across the clear stony ground, quickly clearing the difference between us until I am back in the piercing cold. “Pokémon Trainer Red,” I speak. He turns to me, his eyes bright beneath the brim of his cap, and gives a breath—relief? or trepidation?—that instantly freezes into a small white cloud of wonder.

      “You want to battle?” he asks.

      “I want to ask you some questions.”

      “You know how it works: can’t talk without a battle.”

      “I expected as much.” I remove the glove from my right hand to draw a pokéball from my trainer’s belt, releasing Charizard onto the field; similarly, Red releases his own charizard. “Charizard, Flamethrower!” we order in unison. Our pokémon release dual waves of red and gold fire that meet in the middle, the heat so great it melts away all of the snow in a thirty-foot circumference and forces me to remove two of my jackets. The twin flames soon burst into a shower of embers, forcing our pokémon apart. “Charizard, Aerial Ace.”

      “Charizard, use Dragon Pulse!” Again, the attacks meet in the middle, but this time there’s a visible struggle between our charizard. They are neck-and-neck, evenly matched but losing hold with each second, but finally, Red’s Charizard falters, allowing mine to slash him down onto his back.

      “Do you want to know something, Pokémon Master Red?”

      “Huh? Charizard, recover with Solar Beam!” His charizard pushes mine away to soar into the air, and spreads his wings with a furious roar to summon the power of the sun.

      “My name is Sean Isaac DiCaprio,” I continue. “I am not a Trainer. Rather, I am an intellectual that seeks the answers to questions that many refuse to ask. Many times, my quest for knowledge takes me places that I need protection, hence my team.” I gesture to my pokéballs on my utility belt. “And you are the latest question, one that I have been training this entire year for.”

      “That so?” Red asks, interest piqued; my charizard falls to his attack and I return him.

      “Umbreon.” I release her and she immediately leaps onto Red’s Charizard, digging her fangs into his left wing. The pain of it causes him to plummet to the earth with a jaw-loosing thud!

      “You did great, Charizard,” Red says honestly as he returns his Pokémon. “Now, Pikachu!” I did not expect him to bring out his strongest companion so early in the battle, but that is not to say that I am unprepared for it.

      “Pika!” his pikachu cries, landing in a small and pudgy bundle of golden fur.

      “Thunderbolt!” The snow around us instantly ceases as thunder instead rolls around in the clouds above. Pikachu clenches his little fists and seemingly draws the electricity towards him, summoning it in the form of a grand lightning bolt, and then redirects it at Umbreon. Umbreon cries out as it summons a cloud of darkness that absorbs the lightning, then it dissipates in a field of static, although the thunderclouds remain. “Cloak,” Red orders his pikachu. He clenches his fists again as lightning strikes him, but this time it remains around its body like a second coat of fur. “Now, Volt Tackle.” Pikachu gives a cry before rushing forward, electricity streaming behind him with such an intensity that it tears trenches into the hard stone of the mountain and surges back into the sky like lightning striking from the ground. It hits Umbreon and hits it hard.

      “You should’ve made her dodge,” Red tells me.

      “There wouldn’t have been a point, what with your pikachu’s speed. Also, even if I had made it dodge, the electricity, if not Pikachu’s body, would still have hit it.”

      “Smart guy, huh,” Red says, and I can’t decipher his tone.

      “The smartest.” Umbreon quivers slightly on the ground, and then it drags itself to its feet and shakes the ash from its fur. Pikachu’s attack visibly affected it but it still manages to stand. “Umbreon, use Psychic and force Red’s pikachu into the air.” Umbreon’s eyes glow as Red’s pikachu is thrown high into the sky.

      “You’ve just put him closer to the clouds,” Red tells me, then he shouts at Pikachu, “Thunder!” More lightning appears in Pikachu’s vicinity, turning the clouds translucent with their intense brilliance. Pikachu absorbs all of it, then he releases it in a gigantic shockwave that makes all of my hairs stand on end. Umbreon digs beneath the earth, shielding itself from the brunt of it, but with the overflow of electricity, it finds its way into the hole and it cries out in pain. Umbreon does manage to dig to the surface, but as soon as it hits the ground it falls unconscious.

      “I w—” Red starts, then his pikachu hits the ground and faints as well. “W-What?” he stutters, flabbergasted. “What happened? You didn’t even touch him…?”

      “I didn’t have to,” I point out. “The reason why I propelled your pikachu in the air was to separate it from the ground, forcing it to contain and surge the electricity through its body. Even though pikachu are made to hold high voltages and maintain them with the tail, the better half of a thunderstorm is pushing it.” He returns his pikachu with an odd look in my direction.

      “Blastoise.”

      “Eelektross.” It coils around Blastoise’s neck and chokes it off before it can even expel a single drop of water. “You have to be faster than that, Red.” He’s now visibly disconcerted as he returns his Blastoise. “It would be a lot faster if you would just answer my questions and let me be on my way.”

      “Finish the battle,” he says in a different tone. “Then I won’t need to answer your questions.” That confuses me. It’s not like he’s bargaining with me; he says it in a very matter-of-fact tone. I try to decipher what he means, but just as a lot of things, it’s just beyond my grasp, and the chilling anticipation of that knowledge excites me to some degree. Never have I been so compelled to discover something that I have gone so low as to battle with pokémon, which I have always thought to be just as gruesome as pitting together above-average humans (which still happens—not that I have personally witnessed that spectacle), and yet here I am. I am doing exactly what I have constantly berated others, including my own father, for, and I don’t even want to focus on the hypocrisy of that.

      “May we cut this short?”

      “No, it has to be a full team—all six pokémon,” he says almost vehemently, spiking my adrenaline further. What is it that has him so invigorated? For all I know, it could also be what has him on Mt. Silver agelessly and tirelessly battling trainer after trainer. “Lapras, Ice Beam,” he calls, releasing his fourth pokémon. I am caught off-guard, and so his attack strikes my eelektross and freezes it in a tsunami-sized wave of solid ice. I return it a second later. “He could’ve broken through,” Red tells me.

      “It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Eelektross are cold-blooded; it would have been too fatigued to continue.”

      “You really do know a lot about pokémon. Are you an intern for Oak or something?”

      “My first and second years of college, yes, I was. I am not especially proud of that time, however, and I would prefer that you not pry about it. Now, I have used Charizard, Umbreon, and Eelektross… To quote the words of an old master, ‘Pikachu, I choose you.’” I was trying to avoid that particular choice, but the rest of my team cannot stand up to Red’s Lapras, and I am therefore hard-pressed to release the bundle of golden brown fur.

      “Shiny,” he comments.

      “It’s not a trophy.”

      “You’re right,” he agrees. “Lapras, Ice Beam, c’mon!” His Lapras fires an expansive beam of pure cold, the temperature so low that it creates a thin veneer of frost on my clothes even from a distance. The ground freezes around it for three and a half feet before it even comes close to us. Pikachu clenches its fists before propelling its small body forward with a whirlpool of electricity surging around it. It nullifies the stream of ice but doesn’t protect me from it as my sneakers are frozen in place. “—Headbutt!” he cries as Pikachu grows near. Lapras lowers her head and causes Pikachu to slam his skull into hers, which I know from reading is built denser and is most likely cracking Pikachu’s as I am thinking.

      “Volt Tackle!” I try not to shout because of how irrelevant is it considering Pikachu’s hearing, however it’s going limp and I cannot have it losing conscious. It does not seem to hear at first and Red’s eyes widen, then its tail raises like a flag and the electricity returns on a greater scale, shocking the Lapras but also overheating its tiny body as too much voltage courses through it. Lapras hits the ground in a heavy heap but Pikachu just manages to stay conscious, grounding itself as to immediately release the excess power. Red returns his Lapras with a more vacant expression than before.

      “Venusaur, hit him with Poison Powder!” Before the red light has even faded away Venusaur’s flower pumps out a confetti cloud of violet dust. Pikachu looks up in time to skitter out of range, although the movement drains him for the time being.

      “Thunderbolt,” I order regardless. Pikachu gives a weak cry and summons a spark so weak I doubt it can even create an ember. “You can do better than that! Thunderbolt!” Its cry becomes strained as more sparks fly from its coat, which is frizzing slightly from all of the electrons in the air. Red puts his hands out, stepping forward.

      “Stop! You’re hurting him! Can’t you see that he can’t do it?” he pleads.

      “Then he’s useless, simple as that.” I lay my eyes on Red’s Venusaur, who is reclining without a real care until it smells something that causes it to perk up. It wiggles its large body a bit before releasing another cloud of Poison Powder, however this time a downwind draft carries it with speed like Hermes towards Pikachu. It takes a big gulp of air before it can stop, and in that state the poison’s effects hit it incredibly fast. “Return, Pikachu.” I draw him back before it can even hit the ground. That leaves me with one pokémon, which I have to use to defeat Red’s last two. “Medicham, go.” There’s a reason why I’ve put Medicham as last within my roster, and I show Red that reason as I pull my necklace out, previously hidden under my scarf, and let the crudely-cut stone catch the dull light of the mountain. Medicham looks at me expectantly before turning back to Red as the stone begins to glow. “Medicham, Mega Evolve.”

      An iridescent light consumes Medicham, forcing my eyes away as it shines almost as bright as the sun. Red watches as Medicham’s appearance evolves into something more spiritual and the last of the light dissipates into the now-ubiquitous symbol of Mega Evolution. “Amazing,” he says, fingering his own stone in a bracelet. “You know, there was only one guy that I fought that I was so serious as to need Mega Evolution for.” I can’t help but be curious.

      “Who was that?”

      “…My best friend,” he murmurs after a moment of hesitation, a sad smile on his face. “—But let’s get back to the battle,” he says quickly. “Venusaur, use Sludge Bomb!” His Venusaur’s plant makes a sick squelching noise before “spitting” out a ball of plasmatic poison. Medicham dances out of the way with speed no less than what I expect before returning to its usual stationary pose.

      “Medicham, use Force Palm.” Medicham breaks its prayer stance and extends one hand before rushing at Venusaur faster than the behemoth can react.

      “Sleep Powder!” Red orders as Medicham’s palm connects with Venusaur’s face. He gives a grunt of pain as he releases spores on impact, which rain down on both of them. Medicham jumps back immediately, hopping constantly from foot to foot even as its eyes droop, but Venusaur lacks that agility and falls on his side, unconscious. “Venusaur! Venusaur!”

      “Fire Punch!” I command over Red’s voice. Medicham shakes his head quickly to regain his bearings and clenches his fist, which ignites as if it was doused in gasoline, and rushes at the prone Venusaur. It doesn’t awaken despite Red’s pleas and Medicham hits it square in the face, its fist leaving a burning imprint that sears the thing’s skin and turns it black around the area. “Now, Ice Punch.” It comes even harder and stronger, encasing Venusaur’s entire front half and most of its plant in ice.

      “Sludge Bomb again!” Red calls, turning his hat to the side. The center of Venusaur’s plant remains intact as the sludge begins boiling again. I mentally run through the composition of a Venusaur’s poison, and one of the first thoughts I get is nitric acid. I know that it works as a strong corrosive, able to burn through the skin of humans and pokémon very quickly, but also that it can ignite in the face of a hypergolic propellant. Damage can be done to Medicham, but I believe that Pikachu and Eelektross can still be pushed to fight in the event that it falls.

      “Aniline,” I tell it just as the Sludge Bomb is formed. Medicham understands quickly while Red doesn’t, making me question just how much of an education the man has had when he should be my father’s age at this point. Medicham covers its mouth with two phantom arms as the air waves around its head and it tries to focus on the molecular level. I believe that it’s failed as the Sludge Bomb arcs above its head, but just as the nearest drop caresses its “turban,” both Medicham and Venusaur are consumed in a wild explosion that forces Red and I away from the smoke and heat.

      “Venusaur!” he cries as the smoke clears. His Venusaur survived, however he’s just a lump of charred skin and wilting feathers, and with a weary grunt his full weight hits the hard-packed dirt of the mountain. A gentle snow begins to fall as Medicham raises its head, all ethereal arms gone with only small wisps of greyish energy to mark their old presence on its back, one eye stuck shut with crusting blood and one hand completely out of commission. He returns Venusaur, jaw clenched.

      “I don’t mean to put words in your mouth, however… ‘Snorlax, use Body Slam?’” Red looks irate for the first time, and although it’s no accomplishment to piss off a supposedly seventeen-year-old trainer, I feel somewhat pleased with myself. He draws out that final pokéball and holds it in both hands, deliberately pressing the button.

      “Snorlax…use Rest.”

      I watch as Red’s Snorlax comes out in a sprawled position and I honestly believe in his command’s redundancy, as that Snorlax comes out already deep in REM. “The hell… Medicham?” It’s not as gung-ho as before but it still has one good arm and two good legs. “…Hi Jump Kick.” I usually hate to get complacent, however I know from both reading and physical experience that Snorlax are lumbering, maladroit sacks and especially so when just waking up from a deep nap. Medicham gets a bit of a running start before leaping high into the air, knee bent and outstretched as it comes down on Snorlax.

      “W…” Red bites his lip for a moment, watching Medicham gain velocity as it comes down until— “Sleep Talk!”

      “Ssssnnn…” Snorlax murmurs lazily as a faint white aura surrounds it. Suddenly it lurches upwards and I believe that he’s waking, however my fears are momentarily assuaged when he falls back on the ground with a loud snore—then his vast stomach tenses before hardening into the vague shape of abdominal muscles. Medicham’s eyes widen and it grabs Snorlax psychically, attempting to roll him over but getting as far as his side before it hits the dirt. I hear the loud crack coming from Medicham’s feet even from yards away, then its pained cry follows seconds before its Psychic gives out and Snorlax, with another heavy grunt, rolls back on top of it. A solid minute of staring ensues as Snorlax lays on top of my pokémon for fifteen seconds, spends ten more wiggling to make himself more comfortable, Medicham’s body cracking the whole while, then he’s content with a sigh for the remainder.

      “…Medicham, return.” Even the pokéball is perplexed as the red light dances around Snorlax’s flesh for a few seconds before finally, magically finding a crack in its bulbous body to slip beneath and return Medicham to its confines. Even Red seems a little abashed.

      “S…Sorry, that happens sometimes.” For my sanity, I don’t respond.

      “Pikachu, come back to finish this.” Pikachu returns onto the field as shaky as before, although it’s still ready to fight, tail raised and cheeks sparking. “Nuzzle him.” Pikachu draws closer and, cheeks still zapping every few seconds, rubs its nose against Snorlax’s foot, little strings of lightning dancing across his skin.

      “Snorlax, Snore.” Snorlax opens his great mouth and I remember to cover my ears just in time. A terrifyingly loud gargling noise resonates from his throat and propagates across the battlefield, and although Red seems used to it Pikachu immediately cries out and skitters away, although the noise doesn’t lessen due to the distance.

      “Electro Ball.” Pikachu doesn’t respond right away, ears pressed flat against its head to block out the noise. “Grr—cancel out the noise with Echoed Voice.” Pikachu opens its mouth and releases its own cry, drowning out Snorlax’s low reverberating noise with its own. It then forms a ball of crackling lightning that it sends flying with its tail. The good part is that the attack hits him directly in his gut, however the impact does little more than give him an itch to scratch. I know that Snorlax have ridiculous levels of health, however Pikachu in that state has a low chance of draining that in any way.

      “You seem stuck,” Red says more than a little smugly. I smirk back at him.

      “A momentary setback, I will admit. Pikachu, charge.” Pikachu grounds itself before raising its tail and increasing its voltage. Red’s mouth skews into a line before he snaps his fingers.

      “Snorlax, wake up and use Earthquake.” His Snorlax grunts lazily but rolls onto his side and, with another grunt, shifting to one foot, the other dragging along due to Pikachu’s earlier attack. Still, he only uses one foot as he gives a short hop maybe eight inches into the air before crashing down on his stomach, shaking the very ground beneath our feet terribly enough to knock me onto my behind and send Pikachu rolling across the rough terrain until it crashes into a snowdrift. Pikachu leaps back onto the dirt and briefly shakes stray ice from its fur before sparking, tail still perked into the air.

      “Discharge!” Pikachu rushes across the ground to quickly close the distance between itself and the Snorlax before its cheeks begin sparking wildly.

      “Heavy Slam!” Red orders with a thrust of his fist. Snorlax’s abdominals tighten once more and I react quickly.

      “Pikachu, Agility.” Pikachu vanishes from sight as Snorlax’s mammoth body kisses the ground once more, then it comes back into sight between its ears. It feels along Snorlax’s head for a moment just as I’ve taught it before finally finding its prize. “Disable its cerebellum.”

      “What—,” Red exclaims as Pikachu uses Discharge, this time at full power. Goldish-white bolts of solid power ripple across Snorlax’s body, forcing his fine covering of fur to waver as the magnetic field between them increases, showing more as the fur under Pikachu’s paws turns away from it. Snorlax gives a bone-rattling moan as he starts rolling around furiously—while he still can. “Snorlax, Incinerate him!” Snorlax howls in pain as the ground beneath them begins quivering and erupts in a virtual shower of blazing orange fire. Pikachu is knocked away but not before it’s burned out of commission.

      “Return,” I say, withdrawing Pikachu. I stare at my last pokéball before rereleasing Eelektross onto the field, watching it immediately coil up in pain. “Get up, Eelektross, and use Flash.”

      “Eel!” Eelektross cries in indignation before releasing pent-up electricity in the form of a blinding surge of light. I hear Snorlax’s heavy footsteps pound against the rock for a moment as he tries to find a center of balance.

      “Now use Charge Beam.” Electricity pops off of Eelektross’ body before it unwinds and fires a crooked bolt of lightning at Snorlax, zapping his center as the light fades. Snorlax shudders from the impact but stands his ground, and the excess electricity settles in a wide oblong around the battlefield, sizzling as it comes in contact with the snow.

      “Snorlax, Giga Impact!” Red commands. Snorlax’s feet pound against the ground for a moment before it rushes forward with speed it has not previously displayed.

      “Eelektross, slow it down using Acid.” Eelektross coughs and gags before spewing a strip of green liquid onto the rock that causes Snorlax to slip and slide as well as burning the soles of his feet, but for all that its done to his momentum it’s pointless. Eelektross slithers out of the way as Snorlax barrels past. “It has to take a break. Use Thunder!” It gathers electricity for just a moment before firing several bolts of electricity at Snorlax, burning the snow as if with a strong wave of heat. The attack finally shows as dark marks are left in his beige coat and he grimaces in pain.

      “Ice Beam!” Red calls. A trail of ice makes its way towards Eelektross.

      “Counter with Flamethrower!” The heat melts the ice away but bounces useless off of Snorlax’s Thick Fat.

      “Ground it with Rock Tomb!” he orders, seeing Eelektross’ wild slithering movements. Snorlax grabs large chunks of rock from the ground before tossing them at Eelektross with a grunt of exertion.

      “Dodge using Acrobatics!” Eelektross works its body around the varying rock sizes to get into the air. “Now that you’re up there, use Brick Break!” Eelektross spins top over bottom as it comes down before aiming its tail at Snorlax’s head.

      “Catch her and use Fling!” Snorlax grabs Eelektross’ tail as it smacks down between his ears, causing him to flinch but still giving him the strength to spin it around and throw it down into the hard ground. Eelektross grimaces in pain as Snorlax pants, both weary and down to their last leg. Red and I acknowledge this with a meaningful look, and we both are very aware that it’s all come down to one last move.

      “…Giga Impact,” Red whispers, the whole world having gone silent at our climax. Snorlax huffs through his nose before stomping, a whitish-gold aura surrounding it as it heaves itself towards Eelektross. It’s paralyzed as it watches Snorlax come closer, overheating slightly from the electricity it has been forced to produce. It looks at me fearfully but I keep my eyes on Snorlax, watching the aura “wear away” slightly as he drags his feet across the ground—

      Before he reaches Eelektross he bursts into a shower of electricity.

      “W-What!?” Red splutters as Snorlax hits the ground bodily, eyes spinning out of focus. “You didn’t call a command…and she didn’t move…” Eelektross heaves a sigh as I return it, pocketing the pokéball and facing the underdog.

      “It didn’t matter. All of the electrons Eelektross excited remained in that state around the battlefield, and although you and I couldn’t see it they were slowly galvanizing all of Snorlax’s normal-type attacks… I think you would know the move as Ion Deluge.” Red only seems to be half-listening, returning Snorlax listlessly as a light snow begins to fall. It settles lightly on the brim of his iconic red cap as he hits the ground, seemingly shocked at the resolution. I’ve expected no less, however, and it irks me that he had.

      “I…lost…” He says it like it’s the end of his world, which I find a dramatic exaggeration that only young children are prone to. Still, I ignore it as I slowly walk towards him, boots crunching over the freshly fallen veneer of snow across our battle-marked ground, his eyes roaming listlessly over the field before setting on mine, an odder shade of hazel than I remember them to be.

      “Now, as I have just won, I want my answer—”

      A bright and sudden light stops me in my tracks, doubly so when I realize that it’s emanating from Red’s body, from every pore and opening as if there is a flashlight inside of him. The light slowly intensifies as he cries out, then I become aware of jumbled and rushed words coming from his brilliant mouth as he grabs his hair, his knees, the dirt—anything he can get his hands on. His pokéball belt snaps off and his pokéballs roll free, one in particular bumping against the toe of my shoe. I pick it up and drop it almost immediately as it superheats between my hands. What in Arceus’ name is going on?

      The current Red has lost, a booming voice calls from all around me, yet I don’t see anybody. I don’t understand, not at all. To ignore the completely random voice’s randomness, what does it mean by “the current Red”?

      The light intensifies even further until I have to retreat behind my jacket to avoid being blinded. I count to five, then I warily drop my jacket to find the light has died down. I look at the ground and see Red’s signature cap fall into a small pile of snow near me. I take it up, flipping it over and over, and it strangely looks brand new despite being the exact same hat worn through rain, sleet, and snow for over twenty years. The voice continues, startling me from my thoughts.

      That makes you, Sean DiCaprio, the new Pokémon Master Red.

      “What?” I feel my own skin turning red-hot, eliminating any notions that I’m just imagining all of this, and I stare at my hands on Red’s hat. They’re changing, becoming smaller and less calloused, like…like a child’s hands. Like Red’s hands. I drop the hat but the change continues all the same. “What? No! No, I don’t want to be Red!”

      You have no choice, the voice says. The strongest trainer becomes Pokémon Master Red and it has been that way for decades.

      “But why? Why do we need a Red?” There’s a pause.

      Only the strongest trainer can keep the darkness of Mt. Silver in check.

      I am deeply confused, then I become aware of another presence, my awareness growing by the second. It feels like Arceus itself is descending on Mt. Silver, and when I look skyward I see dark clouds building whereas they had just vanished seconds ago. Lightning begins cracking and a strong wind picks up, stealing Red’s cap and throwing it towards—him? He’s face-down on the ground but it can’t be him. He is younger now and his hair is bleached blond instead of its original brown color. I look at my hands again and a sense of dread and panic builds in my throat as I shakily take out my cellphone and stare into the screen. My hair was auburn before but there are obvious brown streaks growing through it, and my eyes are darkening as well. Even the little scar above my eyebrow is fading away although it’s been there for ten years, dissolving into skin tanner than it was mere seconds ago.

      “No, stop it! I can’t stay here!”

      This is what you wanted, isn’t it? To find out the secrets of Red? The voice has an empty tone yet it words denote sarcasm.

      “Be quiet! Stop this already!” There’s a deathly slamming sound in my head as if somebody’s set off a bomb within my skull. I fall to my knees, dazed, and almost miss the light surging from the center of the whirling clouds.

      You dare speak to Arceus like that? A great white pokémon descends from the cloud cover, a hundred feet tall if not more as it hovers just above Mt. Silver’s peak. The wind whips harder at its presence and its power is almost better at suffocation than the altitude. I can barely look at it as the light it emits sears my corneas; the most I can make out are its eyes, which reflect all the colors of the rainbow and all the indifference of an observer as it looks down on me.

      “Arceus…?” I shake my head, trying to stay awake. “I just want to know why!”

      Arceus looks down at Red—or who used to be Red, anyway. Mt. Silver is the gateway between the world of the legendary pokémon and Earth, it finally admits. It was originally self-sufficient, then the constant travels caused by trainers capturing legendaries weakened it. Red, the original Red, volunteered to maintain the barrier, however the stress of the power caused him to age quickly, and before he passed I gave his “will” to the next strongest trainer in Kanto, yet the same quickly ensued. So has the chain continued throughout the years.

      “I don’t understand. Shouldn’t the gateway have fixed itself by now?” I can feel my bones grinding against each other as my body shrinks, my clothes becoming looser. “Or why can’t you fix it?”

      I am only one pokémon, and there are several in particular that wish for escape. One legendary could not defeat another, as that would throw off the balance in the world; as such, they press endlessly against the barrier, constantly weakening it, and if not for “Red,” it would have broken long ago.

      “That makes no arceusdamn sense—no offense.”

      It is simply the way things are.

      “I won’t take that.”

      You’re not the first to say that—

      “If I can solve that issue, then I won’t be stuck here, will I?” I trip over my shoes, which have become three sizes too big, and ungracefully flop on my stomach.

      —and you won’t be the last.

      “Believe me. When I set a goal, I’ll fulfill it or it’s my life.”

      And it will be, Arceus says. Although I do know of your prowess… It thinks for a moment, long enough for me to lose twenty I.Q. points. Yet we have no time to spare. Darkness is always ready to surge forth.

      “I will be back within the week.” My voice is going higher.



      “Please, Arceus.” I have resolved never to prostrate myself before anybody, yet in the face of the rest of my free life, I am doing exactly that and more.

      One week, it decides, its voice louder than before. The heat fades from my skin yet the pain persists, but this time it is a different type of pain, and as I stare at my hands, they slowly return to normal, my skin paling again. Nevertheless, to ensure you do not forget… I feel another burning pain, this time on my right palm. I turn my hand over and see Arceus’ symbol branded into my skin, red-hot and pulsing like a second heart.

      “I wouldn’t have forgotten anyway, but thanks for the parting tattoo.”

      Watch your tone for the one who is doing you a favor. It would be less time-consuming simply to leave you here as I have done for the last twenty years, but I am in a particularly benevolent mood. It would usually take less time for Darkrai—among others—to pass into this world, but I will work my hardest to keep them at bay. As such, I expect you to work tirelessly as well, Arceus says.

      “Of course.” My hand and head ache in tandem. “Of course, Arceus.”

      And if you fail, it continues, voice raging even louder, I will leave nothing left of you to even serve as “Red.”

      “I expect no less.” It looks harder at me.

      You are the first human to react so calmly to my presence—it’s unnerving.

      “That’s not a question, so I won’t respond.”

      Just be grateful, human. It whisks off without another word, returning to the clouds with a blinding flash of pure golden light. I wait for the wind to die down before looking up again, and a tiny snowflake perches on the tip of my nose. I hear a groan and remember the Red—or maybe not-Red is more accurate. He’s younger than even Red appeared to be, twelve or thirteen if I have to guess, and his eyes are wide yet unseeing. He’s so still that if not for his rapid breaths, I’d take him for a corpse.

      “I-I’m me,” he breathes, his breath instantly freezing into a cloud. “I’m me. I’m free.

      “You may be free, but you won’t be alive long enough to enjoy it.” I point out his lack of protective clothing—in fact, he’s only in a t-shirt and sweatpants. I don’t know if he was dressed like that before…the fact…or if becoming Red somehow eradicated his original clothing.

      “H-Help me, p-please,” he stammered, his muscles already succumbing to spasms in the cold. He attempts to stand but falls on his face in a snowdrift, his pale skin slowly shifting from blue to white as the second stage of frostbite settles.

      “What do you know of this curse? The darkness that binds one to here?”

      “N-No… I’ve got n-no…idea…you’re t-talking about…”

      “Then I won’t help you. I know very little and I have even less time to waste.”

      “P-Please!” he calls after me as I kick through the snow towards the cave. “I d-d-don’t w-want to-to die! I-I know s-s-something! I really d-d-do!” I have no reason to believe him—fear of death will make a person say anything—but my train of thought comes to a screeching crash as it trips over the implications of a little boy being found dead after encountering a young man, because “no idiot can or would climb Mt. Silver in a t-shirt and sweats” and the police are not my biggest fans considering how many times I have used their own laws against them to escape the numerous situations I have landed in.

      “Stay still.” I take off one of my coats and throw it over his shoulders. It is a few sizes too big but he slouches gratefully into the heat, although he keeps bouncing from foot to foot as they sink ankle-deep into the snow.

      “S-Shoes?”

      “I am not losing my toes for you. You should be grateful that I even gave you the parka.” I walk and he follows like a wary puppy, looking all around but remaining at my heels.

      “Y-You’re kind of a j-j-jerk.”

      “I am not a jerk. My philosophy is doing all for the pursuit of knowledge. Saving your life doesn’t fit.”

      “Y-You—” He does not finish and instead bites down on his blue lip. He starts shaking again as we enter the cave, although the appropriate response would be to relax as he’s out of the swirling, biting wind. Instead, he continues trembling, gripping his arms tightly and curling in on himself. I grab his arm, trying to rush him, but as soon as I do his weight shifts onto me and he loses consciousness. I have to grab his other arm as well so he doesn’t hit the ground and I bite down the urge to swear at Arceus. I instead focus on the knowledge that the nearest hospital is at the base of the twenty-thousand-foot tall mountain and I get to walking.
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      Old June 25th, 2017 (9:58 PM).
      Bay Alexison's Avatar
      Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is online now
      O, Dance of Devotion!
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      Oh yay the sequel to Yggdrasi! Been looking forward to that for a while. That's a cool battle between Red and Sean there. I do admit, I reacted the same way as Red when Sean called his Pikachu worthless. Interesting take on why Red stays in Mt Silver and that "he" can be passed down. So little nice Sean backstory there, interested to see where you'll take this story with the other characters.
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      Old July 4th, 2017 (8:51 AM).
      Venia Silente's Avatar
      Venia Silente Venia Silente is offline
      Worrisome, but also Charming
         
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        I came for the battle but I stayed for the

        Quote:
        He turns to me, his eyes bright beneath the brim of his cap, and gives a breath—relief? or trepidation?—that instantly freezes into a small white cloud of wonder.

        You want to battle?” he asks.
        Well, you make Red talk. That is a combination of silly in its own particular way, and also welcome.

        Sounds like quite the journey comes ahead. While I have not read Yggdrasil yet (I've been... lazy), this story got my attention when I saw the first person narration and the various implications being thrown around in between text and dialogue about the character's personality. The various twists brought around with the fight and how "Red" works, and Arceus being in a bit of a good mood, they all made this opener interesting to read; it is also my opinion this chapter could also stand on its own as a sort of battle drabble with only minor changes, but that's just how I enjoyed it .

        Good luck with this ongoing story. I hope to have more questions as it develops.
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        Old July 7th, 2017 (6:00 PM).
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        Bardothren Bardothren is online now
        Muddling along somehow
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        Good battle? Check.

        Intriguing Red plot with an unusual twist? Check.

        Older main protagonist who isn't all about being a pokemon champion? Check.

        Evil legendaries? Check.

        Solidly written prose and good descriptions? Check.

        Good dialogue, particularly with Arceus involved? Check.

        I see a lot of potential for this story, and I'm really eager to see more. I'll be waiting for the next chapters.
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        Old July 13th, 2017 (3:39 PM).
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        Aisu Aisu is offline
           
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          Author's Drabble - Now I have work done on that sequel, and the final title is "Jormungand."

          Chapter 2

          “And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand,
          The hand that held the steel:
          For only blood can wipe out blood,
          And only tears can heal.”
          —Oscar Wilde "The Ballad of Reading Gaol”


          I am not a fan of drinking. It addles the thinking process and at this point of time, I cannot afford that hindrance at all. I have a time limit to find something that I have no goddamn clue about with even less background knowledge and the looming threat of my eventual smiting by Arceus’ golden hoof. I came to Mt. Silver expecting something impressive, I have to admit, but nothing as bat-muk insane as the spirit of a fourteen-year-old boy protecting the world from the dark side of the legendary pokémon. If for nothing else than to placate my spirits and contain my vanishing sanity, I buy a bottle of vodka from the small town at the base of the mountain, and while Oz is treated in the clinic expertly built to handle frostbite, I stand in the cold to numb my body while the alcohol numbs my mind. I know I’m not doing myself any favors, but I would like to avoid reality for a little longer.

          Oz doesn’t wake up for a long time. When he finally does, the first thing he sees is me sitting by the bed watching him like a, ah, total creep. “Good morning, Sleeping Beauty,” I say. “Great job wasting one of my seven days.”

          He stares at me for a second before shutting his eyes and turning his head away. “I didn’t dream it,” he mutters disdainfully.

          “I wish you did. Hell, I wish I did too.”

          “Are you drunk?” He says it like he already knows the answer.

          “Why?”

          “I don’t think you hear how drunk you are.”

          “You’re right, I can’t.” The bottle only has a quarter remaining but I dump it in the room’s trash can anyway. I settle back in the seat and look out the window at the drab snowy landscape. “Now that you’ve had a good night’s sleep, I hope your mind’s clearer.”

          “You’re one to talk.” His sarcasm annoys me, but honestly, I would be bitter too if I had to spend who-knows-how-long as someone else, although I’m starting to wish that I did just choose that option. I run my hands up and down my face, trying to string together my fragmented thoughts and failing miserably.

          “The, uh… The, ah, Red thing. Can you just answer the question please? I don’t want to end up like that and that’s why I’m here.”

          “Yeah, about that.” It takes some effort but he sits up. He seems a little upset, but through these drunk goggles reality is very elusive and deceitful. “Why aren’t you still on Mt. Silver? I mean, I didn’t question it before ‘cause you were better than laying there to die of cold, but now that I think about it, you should’ve been right after me.”

          “I made a deal, a deal with that big white equine thing.” I laugh at the fact that I remember the word “equine” over its name, but Oz doesn’t find it as humorous.

          “Big white…I don’t know what ‘equine’ means.”

          “Horsey.”

          “Oh. Oh, so you mean…you made a deal with Arceus,” he finishes, stunned. I give him a clap for his effort. “B…But how? And why?”

          “Look I’m having a hard time holding a note right now, I can’t rehash that one-sided conversation with enough coherency… I don’t even know if I sound the same to you as I do to myself.”

          “Ya shoun’ like zhish,” Oz says. I wince. “L…Look, I don’t remember much from being Red or whatever. It was like watching an 8mm movie… I was just watching him or it or whatever do battle and talk and everything but it was so bad that half the time I really had no clue what was happening. Before that…” He shudders, looking at his hands. “I can barely remember anything about what it was like before. It feels like my whole life—my life—was just some big dream. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever felt.”

          “Hmm… Do you recall anything that might help me?”

          “No…”

          “Honesty, Oz.”

          “I don’t!” he said more vehemently before slumping over. “I don’t…”

          “It’s…alright.” It’s not, but I won’t be getting any pertinent information from this kid. I already lost one day, which leaves me with six. Six days to find out about something that even I never heard of before, and from that fact alone I know it will be damn near impossible to get any information on this gateway to Tartarus in Mt. Silver or whatever the hell it is. “Well, I suggest you call a parent, because they won’t let you, as a minor, walk out by yourself.”

          “Parent…” he repeats with a dazed expression before blinking back to reality. “Can’t you, ya know, pretend to be…?” The question brings more clarity to my fogged mind and I frown.

          “Should I do so, I would legally be obligated to watch over you, and I’m sorry to put this in such blunt terminology, but hell no. If you didn’t hear, I don’t have time to waste.”

          “But you’re still talking to me,” he points out. I rub my chin.

          “I’m not exactly in a good thinking state at the moment. If I was, I would have been gone yesterday.” He sighs and brings his knees to his chest. The action makes him look even smaller and weaker, which makes me wonder how he ever ascended Mt. Silver to beat Red, or rather his predecessor of “Red.” As a matter of fact, I did not find any pokéballs on him, and although his clothes apparently changed, I don’t think that his pokémon would have been divinely confiscated as well.

          I must be focusing hard on him, because Oz gives me an odd look. “Is there something on my face or something?”

          “No.”

          “Then can you please, like, stop staring? It’s making me uncomfortable.”

          “I’ll try.” A period of silence falls over us as I try to pretend I’m not heavily inebriated to no avail. The door opens and a young doctor enters, giving me a familiar nod before turning to Oz.

          “You’ve had some excellent company,” she says dryly, taking his arm to check his pulse. “He makes the rudest observations.”

          “He’s a jerk,” Oz confirms.

          “I’ve been hearing that my whole life, and so the sting has long passed,” I tell them, finally managing to sober my voice to normal levels. She checks Oz’s other vitals before declaring him healthy and asks if, “as his guardian,” I will be taking him home. My response is just as I told Oz, however he rushes to grab my arm and speaks for me:

          “Yeah, he’ll do it,” he tells the doctor. She nods and informs me that there are a few papers necessary before he can be discharged, at which I nod in response to Oz’s astoundingly strong grip on my forearm. She says to meet her at the front before departing, which is when he finally releases my arm.

          “If I had the coordination to do so, I’d kill you right now,” I tell him, standing, “and as we’re in a medical facility, I’d let them revive you—only to kill you again. What the hell was that?”

          “I couldn’t call my parents, so I had to use you!” he says. “This isn’t ideal for me either, jerk, but maybe we can help each other?”

          “How exactly?”

          “I can’t remember a lot, just a few things, and I blame it on what happened. You need to figure out that mystery to save yourself, right? We work together, we figure it out together—the perfect denouement!”

          “You’re that anxious not to go home? What is so bad about your parents?” His jaw clenches and he relents for two seconds.

          “I have… I remember flashes. They’re bad.”

          “Bad is subjective.”

          “Take my word for it. Why else would I go with a complete stranger?” I can say that he is over exaggerating or just crazy, but I don’t think he would take it well. And it’s not to say I haven’t had my fair share of issues, mainly maternal, but he’s risking a lot. As a matter of fact, so am I.

          “And you’re supposed to help me? I have twice your intelligence.”

          “And you’re also a huge jerk,” he adds. “I may be a dumb mankey, but I’m not a total moron.”

          “I did not call you a dumb mankey.”

          “Yeah, but I get the feeling you think it a lot.” I sigh and pinch the bridge of my nose. “Please, please…what was your name again? Sean?”

          “Sean Isaac DiCaprio.” He strains not to roll his eyes.

          “Please, Sean Isaac DiCaprio.”

          “No. That is final.”

          “You have a poor depth of field. Come on, have just a tiny, tiny bit of goodwill in you!”

          “If you can’t tell, I’m doing an astounding amount of soul-searching for that tiny, tiny bit. I don’t like children, I don’t like baggage, and although I admire your persistence, I don’t like you.” Oz does roll his eyes, then he gasps as a thought strikes him.

          “I’ll sweeten the deal. I’ll give you another mystery to figure out. Something good.”

          “Oh?” Curiosity is one of my vices. “And that would be…?” Oz holds his hand out facing skyward, and curls his fingers in. When he slackens them again, a purple flame appears just above the contours of his palm. It dances across his pale skin before swirling up his arm to his shoulder, where it briefly hovers before disappearing. I stare at him, surprised, and he smirks smugly.

          “So, is it a deal?”

          I will regret it, but I agree.

          _____

          “Ya got no damn clue what we’re doing, do ya?”

          I can only chew my salad in response, because for all of his candor, he’s right. We sit in one of the town’s diners trying to figure out a second course of action, or rather having Oz berate me for not thinking one up. Although, that isn’t as annoying as his new syntax, which I fear may be permanent. “The library.”

          “The tumble-down ol’ one room thing down the street? Yea, great idea there.” He ordered a club sandwich with a large side of chili cheese fries. I’m no health nut (my second vice is sugar, which little know about) but his choices aggravate me. “Yer starin’ kinda hard at my food,” he says. “I’m not sharin’.”

          “Thank Arceus for that.” I feel its mark on my hand pulse a bit in response, as if it’s irritated by my use of its name. I ignore the feeling and continue, “Perhaps the library isn’t in its prime, but it can still be of use. You never know.”

          “I think I do.” He takes a bite of his sandwich, smearing mayonnaise across his nose that he wipes on his sleeve.

          “That’s ill-mannered behavior.”

          “Bite me,” he says with another obnoxious bite. “Or, ya know what? Ya look like ya really wanna, so I take that back.”

          “Why are you talking like that anyway?” He shrugs a shoulder.

          “Happens sometimes. Can’t help it.” I mentally file it away under his many oddities.

          “We’re wasting time here. We have to glean as much information as possible before the library closes,” I tell him, gesturing out the window to the setting sun.

          “I don’t like to be rushed when eatin’.”

          “I have news for you that just may turn your fragmentary world onto its hinges: I physically cannot care less about what you like or don’t. We are going to leave and I won’t hear one complaint from you on the matter.”

          “Yer a—” His eyes widen for a second as he appears to lose his train of thought, then he looks down at his sandwich and curls his mouth into a sneer. “An ornery bastard, ya ‘re.” He finishes his sandwich while I pay for the food (and he also takes two more wrapped sandwiches, apparently to spite me) and makes a mess of his fries as we walk towards the library. I stop him before he touches the doorknob.

          “Wait outside,” I tell him.

          “Oi—”

          “I spent fifty dollars on you and your food. You don’t know what I do to make just fifty dollars. Stay out here or I’ll sell you to get my money back.”

          “An’ yer cheap too. Ya must’a been real popular with the ladies.” I don’t waste any further words on him.

          The library is just as disorganized and shabby as it looks on the outside. When I walk in, I have to do some quick footwork to avoid stepping on a stunky. It wakes up anyway and hisses at me before scurrying up to the shoulder of a bespectacled young man. “You must be new. You wouldn’t be coming in here otherwise,” he says, scratching his stunky’s nose.

          “I was wondering if you have any books on Mount Silver, Pokémon Master Red, the legendaries…?”

          “Hello to you too,” he says amicably and points me towards a low shelf with perhaps a dozen thin books on the dusty metal. “Although my company has never been very polite.” I ignore him and check the first book. The Theology of Arceusism. It sounds as self-righteous as if the horse itself wrote it. “You’re not one for scintillating banter, are you?” the librarian asks, a bit affronted. I appreciate his vocabulary, if it means something. His stunky hisses again as it jumps from his shoulder and onto the shelf, watching me carefully. “Can I get your name at least?”

          “Sean Isaac DiCaprio.”

          “Well, my name is Aristotle, but I prefer Aries.”

          “Good for you.” A long time ago, there was once a single egg. That egg hatched into the first pokémon, Arceus… I flip through the pages and find nothing at all helpful, and so I move onto the next book, Tallest Mountains in The World. Aristotle picks up his stunky when it starts tearing a book, scratching its side.

          “No, no, not to a book,” he chastises. “What’s with the odd search anyway?”

          “I believe it’s because none of your business?”

          “Well damn, okay,” he says, chagrinned. He sets the stunky down on the book-cluttered counter and looks out the window. “Is that your friend out there inhaling chili cheese fries?”

          “He’s not a friend, more like a recalcitrant stray.” Again, the book does less than nothing. Biography of Red. Sounds promising, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

          “That’s mean, although I see why you’d liken him to a pokémon.” He reaches behind the desk and draws a box of treats out, giving two to his stunky. “Well, I’m just here helping out an old friend, watching the library and his stunky for him while he goes on a date. She’s a lovely young woman by the way. I don’t quite know how to feel about that.”

          “You’re fairly tenacious even though I’m sure you can tell I don’t want to talk.”

          “But I do, and I don’t mind holding a conversation with myself,” he said brightly. “Or maybe with your friend outside.”

          “Knock yourself out.” I toss the book and check the next two at once. I hear the door open and close, then his stunky jumps onto my head and starts picking at my hair with its stubby claws. The first book is crap, but the second one seems to be catching onto something. It’s only a news article though. Legendaries…our friends or FOES? written by a man named Wilhelm Rowan. Most of it is crap drabble by an author desperate for reads, but when I look deeper I find interesting (and by that, I mean relevant) information.

          As we know, Arceus has cultivated several lands across the Earth, the birds have maintained the fickle weather, and the trio of Sinnoh keep our space and time aligned. But we know there are “bad” legendaries in existence: Darkrai causes and feasts on bad dreams; Kyurem eats humans in the dead of the night; Dialga and Palkia can and will fight brutally, at times giving ruin to the space around them. So one has to wonder how our world is still intact at this point? It’s assumed that Arceus deals with these troublesome pokémon, but how?

          Mt. Silver, which lies on the boundary line between Kanto and Johto, is also believed to be a boundary between worlds, or dimensions—more specifically, our world and the various worlds the legendaries live in. I’m suggesting to you that Arceus is using Mt. Silver as a “lock” to hold those worse legendaries back and out of our world. The confusing thing, however, is that pokémon like Palkia can create spatial holes anywhere they want, so what stops them from coming into our world regardless, we can’t say.


          The article regresses into something pointless and I throw away the book. So, Mt. Silver is the barrier that separates our world from the legendaries’, also preventing the ill-tempered legendary pokémon from coming out and wreaking havoc. The one fact that he had incorrect was Mt. Silver being the seal, but I guess that he couldn’t know, not having seen what I saw. All it has told me is that a “lock” is necessary, which I already know, but he did raise an interesting question on how the legendaries simply cannot escape on their own. Something separate must be restricting their power, and now I must wonder why that something just doesn’t function as the “lock” as well.

          I check the shelf again but apparently, that’s the last book relatively useful. I try to pry the stunky from my head but it clings with all the obstinacy of, ah, Oz. They would be best friends.

          Aristotle and Oz are eating ice cream which is annoying because one, Aristotle looks to be my age and is eating an ice cream cone in the shape of a clown, and Oz is eating two of the kiddie cones with cheese still on his fingers. “You…just look sad,” I tell Aristotle. “And you, Oz, did you not just eat? Are you a black hole?”

          “Never pass up free food,” he says with an easy smile. Aristotle laughs and they both look like, ah, dumb mankey. Why are they even eating ice cream, and who sells ice cream when it snows all day every day? Stupid.

          “This town has exhausted its use. We’re leaving.”

          “Yeah sure,” he sighs. “Thank ya for the ice cream, Aries.”

          “No problem. I’m always on the run, but here’s my email address in case you ever want to chat,” he smiles, handing Oz a slip of paper.

          “I’ll keep that in—ow!” Oz says as I grab his ear.

          “We’re leaving.”

          “Ya don’t have to be so rough, ya know,” he complained, biting off the clown’s head. It’s amazing that he doesn’t freeze his tongue.

          I stop by the hotel to get my two bags, then we go to the train station where we have thirty minutes to catch the next train to Celadon City. He doesn’t want to wait in line with me to buy tickets (and I can’t blame him; the line is way too damn long) so I warn him that if he doesn’t board the train he’ll be left behind. He gives me all the care of a self-regarding child before disappearing into the station’s crowd, and I can already sense the law enforcement that will blame me for whatever moronic thing he is about to do.

          The ticket seller, a redheaded teenaged girl, looks me over with insouciance before apparently finding something interesting. She adjusts her glasses slightly as she scrutinizes my face. “Haven’t we met?” she asks in a slightly nasal voice, picking up two golden train tickets.

          “I believe we haven’t.”

          “Hmm, sure?” she presses, passing the tickets under the glass.

          “Very. Thank you.” I take the tickets and head towards the train. The boarding has already begun so I go looking for Oz with about as much success as I envisioned. It doesn’t help that the station is crowded and it’s below ten degrees out here. I fully intend on getting on the train alone, but just as my foots lifts from the edge of the platform I feel a smaller form barrel into my back.

          “Hey don’t leave without me!” he protests.

          “Then don’t waste your time.” I hand the conductor both of our tickets. He punches mine easily but gives Oz sort of an odd look.

          “You bought him a children’s ticket,” he says to me.

          “Okay?”

          “They’re only valid for twelve and under.”

          “Sean!” Oz exclaims, looking at me in exasperation. “Really? Did you think I was ten?”

          “I gave it a guess, yes. And why are you hard-pressing me about this ticket? The children’s ticket costs more!”

          “Rules are rules,” he says. “Now, you can go and buy an adult’s ticket, but I need you to move so the live can continue—”

          “The train is about to leave! The next one comes in five hours!” He looks at me to complain, I assume, then his eyes glint. “Cover your ears,” he tells me. I just stare back and he shrugs. He looks at the conductor and puts his fingers in his mouth like he’s about to whistle, but the sound that comes forth is ten times more brain-jarring. I cover my ears at the first note but the conductor isn’t as lucky and neither are the others in line. While they crumple to their knees from the ensuing headache, Oz grabs my arm and pulls me down the train cart to the very end and roughly shoves me into a seat, hiding himself beneath my bags.

          “You know that I’ll ask how you did that.”

          “Part of the mystery, buddy,” he grins.

          “So I’ll tack it up alongside the fact you travelled up Mt. Silver without any warm clothing or pokémon, and that weird speech you adopted in the town. You know, part of a mystery is getting clues for it.”

          “Eh, you know what? You’re right,” he agrees. “Here’s your clue: I did, in fact, go on Mt. Silver with pokémon. Turning into or morphing or whatever into Red didn’t change that.”

          “So what, did you leave your pokémon in the snow?”

          “That would be cruel and maybe something you would do. I didn’t.”

          “Then…where are they?” He waggles his fingers at me.

          “That’s another part of the mystery, guy.” Earlier, he was bucolic; now he’s full of beans. I don’t know which is more aggravating. “But I’ll be nice and give you a hint too: I’m a more unique pokémon trainer.”

          “Yes, I could tell that even without your saying so.” He sticks his tongue out at me, then ducks his head as the conductor passes by us. He looks between me and my bags in confusion.

          “I thought I heard…?”

          “Heard what?”

          “N…Nothing,” he says, shaking his head before passing through the door and onto the next cart. Oz sighs and leans his head back against the seat.

          “You still don’t remember anything?”

          “Why do you ask?”

          “Curious.”

          “Ah. Curiosity killed the cat, Sean Isaac DiCaprio,” he reprimands with a smile. “And the answer is no, I don’t.”

          “Don’t lie.”

          “Look at my face. Do I look like I’m lying?” I stare out the window instead as the train’s whistle blows. The conductor gives me the same look as he heads back up to the leading car. “So I guess you believe me. Good. I remember just a little about what life was like before, but nothing that would help you, and you’re not exactly a model student with small talk so I don’t think you’d care.”

          “I’m not and I don’t.”

          “Aries said that I should still talk to you anyway,” he continues. “I used to live in Goldenrod—don’t remember how long though, or even when. I remember the lights though, they were really pretty… And I stayed in a lot of pokémon centers after that. Then it was Mt. Silver. That’s about it.”

          I close my eyes to block off his chatter, but end up falling asleep instead as the train drags across the tracks and to a new anxiety-filled beginning.
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          Old July 16th, 2017 (1:59 PM).
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          Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is online now
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          From the way Oz and Sean often banter, the both of them trying to figure out this Red curse thing shall be fun. I like some of Sean's voice in the narration, like his commentary on Oz and Aries eating ice cream in cold weather. Speaking of which, oh hey Aries nice to see him again. I enjoy the part where Sean bought a children's ticket for Oz, lol
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          Old August 12th, 2017 (12:40 PM).
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            Spoiler:
            Chapter 3


            “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”
            —C. S. Lewis


            The train reaches Celadon City late after midnight, giving all tourists a perfect view of the city legendary for its rainbow hue. Lights reaching both ends of the color spectrum span across the city in the darkness, painting a scene brilliant enough to pass for daytime. Oz starts gravitating towards the city and I grab his arm, hauling him back towards me.

            “Hey,” he complains.

            “I don’t want you to get lost in the crowd.”

            “Then don’t stand there like a streetlamp and come with me!”

            “I am going to the library, and you are coming as well.”

            “Me and reading, we’re not best friends,” he protests. “Can we go to the movies instead?” I pull on him harder, but he has an amazing amount of strength for a child.

            “This involves you too—you should, therefore, be more concerned.”

            “I’m living the good life! I’m out here away from home with no cares in the world.”

            “Do you not want to remember?”

            “With the stuff I do remember, I don’t think that the rest will be any better,” he says with a grimace. “So no!”

            “Then find a room in the pokémon center and stay there.

            “No guarantees!” he tells me. “You have one of those faces that just makes me wanna push your buttons.”

            “I do not have many buttons to push.”

            “No, I’m pretty sure you have more buttons than a video editing program, and I’ll be happy to find each of them.”

            “You are insufferable.”

            “Yeah, I’ve realized that,” he says offhandedly. “Let’s go.”

            ________

            I stare at Oz’s sleeping form while mentally staying my hands from his neck, sitting heavily on the other bed of the small room with a sigh. I let my eyes run over my laptop’s screen and the fourth movie in a row that he watched before shutting it down. He really enjoys movies, not necessarily new ones but older ones too, where the pokémon moves are edited in because pokémon of those years had yet to learn how to pull their punches. I thought that a stupid show would put him to sleep, but he has the vitality of a vigoroth. It’s already the third day and I feel too mentally worn to go to the library anymore.

            “Hey, this one! Let’s watch this one.”

            “‘Let’s’?”

            “Yeah, ‘let’s,’ as in ‘let us,’ as in the two of us. C’mon.”

            “I’m leaving.”

            But I didn’t leave, because the movie that he chose was one that I hadn’t seen since I was about his age, and I let my emotions get the better of me. He knows a great deal about movie terminology and production, perhaps more than I do, and went out of his way to explain the physics and details behind each scene—all sixty of each movie. I enjoy learning, whether from my elder or, in this case, an odd young man, but he is just a…bad teacher. He speaks too quickly and mentions names and topics that even I have no idea about but continues to gloss over them as if I do. If anything, it helps me realize how much of a douche I am when I do it to others.

            Oz is not particularly tall for his age—perhaps by one or two inches—but as I look harder at him, he appears older than he is. He has the muscularity of one who grew too quickly for his body to properly catch up, so I would pin him at thirteen or fourteen. He always moves a tad rigidly, as if he had a bad fall once that he never quite recovered from, but more importantly he has begun lying about what he does and does not remember. He truly appears to have forgotten a lot about his past, yet he still refuses to talk about what he does recall, even when it may help me save my own life.

            “You really like movies, don’t you?”

            “Well, yeah. Can’t say why, but they calm me.”

            “Yes, because you seem so calm at the moment.”

            “It’s an inner peace-type thing…”

            I check my cellphone and, surprise, there are several messages from my father and sisters. Mostly asking where I’ve gone and why haven’t I contacted them in the last two days, neither of which I can answer without illuminating what I found at Mt. Silver and the due date on my life. I shut my phone off and think about the surefire verbal tirade to come as soon as they can get a hold of me.

            “…friends…”

            I look up at Oz but he’s still sleeping, albeit more restlessly than before. He shifts onto his back and repeatedly clenches and unclenches his fists in distress. “You guys’re…my only…” he continues before breaking off. Friends? He curls in on himself and grasps his forearms so tightly they turn white from lack of circulation. “Don’t…I’ll do…anyth…” His nails break skin and blood beads from the points of contact. “Anything…just please…”

            Comforting others is not my forte. I have never been particularly good with people or pokémon for that matter. That’s why I stick to books: They don’t have emotions to read, simply pages. But I know that it is not right to just…watch him be in pain.

            “Oz, wake up. Oz.”

            “Oz…” he murmurs, opening his eyes just a crack to look at me. He’s not awake, but he’s not fully asleep either. “Oswald…my name’s…”

            “Oswald, what do you remember?” He blinks sluggishly before looking away, worrying his lower lip.

            “Parents…I had to…Mt. Silver could help…had to let them go…parents were pressing…help me ma…” I can barely make out what he’s saying, as he does not seem to be following a single train of thought.

            “Focus. What do you remember?”

            “Dark…cold…” He closes his eyes and grits his teeth, his next word coming out hissed and constricted: “Evil.” He lets out a breath and goes still, and I know that I will not be getting any further information out of him. Not that the material that I did get was any help at all. I shake my head at the thought, going in my backpack to take out a first-aid kid. I bandage the small wounds left by his nails and turn away when Oswald’s hand comes out and, latching onto my arm, yanks me backwards. I fall onto the bed, and if I planned on getting up, he grips me with his other hand and curls around me like his stuffed animal. If I could hurt this kid, I would, but he has the grip strength of a conkeldurr, and I can’t move until morning.

            ________

            “I don’t really remember what I dreamed about, it’s weird,” Oswald says as he swirls his eggs and oatmeal into a lumpy mixture. “But I remember, like, this big red teddy…”

            “It must’ve sucked, being that teddy.” I hope he can hear the murder in my tone.

            “How did you sleep?”

            “Barely, if at all.” I couldn’t lie down and was forced to sleep sitting up until he woke up eight hours later, which my back did not appreciate.

            “You’re funny,” he says with a little smirk, and I want to throttle him so badly it’s almost painful. He takes a bite and looks around the pokémon center’s café, which is not too populated as most of the trainers are already out to challenge the gym. “Didn’t you say you wanted to go to the library?”

            “Yes.”

            “What’s stopping you?”

            “As I said before, you’re coming too.”

            “I don’t— Okay. Whatever.” He’s giving it up too easily, but I’m too tired to actually care. “Can I ask you a question?”

            “No.”

            “Well, I’ll ask anyway: Why were you challenging Red? No offense, but you don’t look the training type.”

            “I wanted to know what was going on.”

            “Well now you do,” he says, again with a smirk. “And now your life is in danger. Happy?” I really want to throttle him but there are too many witnesses. “So, you’re just an adventurer or whatever, travelling around to discover secrets.”

            “I suppose that works.” He crumbles his toast into the mess and mixes it all together.

            “You figured out mine yet?”

            “No.”

            “Wow, you’re not all that smart, are you? But in your defense, I guess there aren’t many people like me…” He takes a moment to eat and I expect him to continue right after, but he continues through his silence. I attempt to focus on my coffee but the pulsing of Arceus’ brand is highly distracting.

            “I have to go to the library.”

            “Wait for me!” he protests as I give the emptied mug to the nearby Nurse Joy. “I don’t want to be here alone.”

            “Did you not climb Mt. Silver alone?”

            “That was…different,” he says hesitantly, looking aside before meeting my eyes again. “I wasn’t up there alone, I had my pokémon. I…have…my pokémon,” he corrects after a moment’s thought, the spoon frozen halfway to his mouth. He resumes eating a second later as if he hasn’t said anything.

            “Is it impossible for you to hold a train of thought more than three seconds at a time?”

            “What? I’m very focused,” Oswald gripes, indignant. I’m already heading out while he’s still working on his hash browns, and while he angrily shouts my name flavored with several graphic threats, I refuse to wait.

            The library is a bus trip downtown, and while I loathe public transportation, it is much cheaper than hailing a cab. I end up sandwiched between a pregnant woman with a three-year-old and an elderly man, both of which are irate at being forced to stand on the crowded vehicle. It’s far from any sort of comfortable, but if there is anything that I am used to, it’s crowds of the unwanted. The ride lasts another twenty-five minutes of suffering before finally stopping in front of the largest library in Johto, Goldenrod Memorial. If I can’t find my answer here . . .

            I am briefly reminded of the library back home, stepping inside: It was architected and constructed by the people, all from the elderly down to the small children, and although that led to clashing design choices, it all had an odd sort of harmony. This place, however, was intricately planned, from the arched glass ceiling heading the observatory to the winding mazes of shelves below. The library is organized into sections with large plaques detailing their contents, which include everything from the anatomy of Caterpie to a study of all current and antecedent League Champions for all regions. I follow the line down until I reach an entire shelf dedicated to Red. It’s a way to start, at least.

            I read through three solid reports before finally finding something of interest:

            “After completing both the Kanto and Johto Pokémon Leagues, Trainer Red began a study on Mount Silver, which was the source of several odd energy readings from science stations across both regions. As the strongest Trainer in both regions, he sought to investigate more thoroughly, but upon reaching the peak of the mountain, all communications with him were cut off. Childhood friend and longtime rival, Blue, followed him, returning alone and refusing to speak on the matter.”

            So, his friend, Blue, may have some information. It’s as good a lead as any. Then again, Red is from Pallet Town, and assuming Blue has retired to his parents’ home after losing his championship title, it would be a two-day plane trip from here, two days I cannot afford. I place the information on a backburner as I continue searching.

            “Find anything helpful?”

            I will not, under any circumstance, admit that Oswald’s sudden interruption caused me to jump and scatter all the books I was holding. Never.

            “I was fast on the way until you showed up.”

            “Thanks. I love hearing that I’m being appreciated and not just the cleaning the gels guy.” He stoops down to collects the books under the reproving eye of the passing librarian, who appears within an inch of kicking both of us out.

            “Cleaning the gels?”

            “It’s the film equivalent of the register boy that has to scrub crappers.” He spots one page of my notes and takes it up. “So you’re starting from Blue, huh? I don’t think you have the time to make it to Pallet Town, especially if this is a bad lead.”

            “Don’t you think I have the mental capacity to figure that out on my own?” I point out bitterly. “And why are you even here? To berate me?”

            “No!” he protests, rolling his eyes. He clears his throat and gives me a more somber expression. “This stuff affected me too, remember? Maybe if you can figure your crap out, I can get all my memories back.”

            “Why do you even care? You said you don’t want to go home.” He frowns and stacks the last of the books on the red carpeting at the base of the shelf.

            “Yeah, but . . . I’ve got this weird emptiness where my memories are supposed to be and it . . . itches I guess? I don’t know how to describe it but I don’t like it. You ever felt a gaping kind of hole in yourself? Well, besides the one where your heart is?” I almost began to pity him, but all too soon he’s taken my pity and twisted it back into a strong lust for throttling.

            “Less blathering and more aid would be much appreciated.”

            “Aye-aye, Captain Curdled.” We split the books, although I quickly see that Oswald is more harmful than helpful. I am a fast reader, but on the other hand he spends too many minutes on just the first page.

            “Can you put a bit of urgency to this?”

            “I’m trying my hardest, but you should know that I always flunked Language Arts. Books are so boring,” he complains, blowing his hair out of his face.

            “Not every answer can be found in a movie,” I mutter. He raises his eyebrows.

            “Okay, but what about over there?” He points to the more abandoned section of ‘Ancient History.’ “Whatever it is that Mt. Silver is holding has to be pretty old if it exists with the Legendary Pokémon, right?”

            “Oswald.”

            “. . .Oswald what?” I shake my head out of incredulity.

            “That is the best idea I’ve heard from you yet.” I spin around the corner only to crash face-first into a much larger man who is buried in a trench coat. I stumble backwards clenching my nose, which is probably fractured and most likely bruised, and stutter out a nasal apology. The man, whose face is so plain I doubt I’ll remember in a moment, stares at me blankly as if in a trance, slowly dragging a large hand from his pocket to reveal a small pokéball, which grows as he presses the button once, then twice. The second time, a red apparition swiftly takes shape into a male Jellicent, which happens just as Arceus’ mark gives a painful throb. Oswald and I stare, momentarily stunned, until the man’s large hand is pointing at me in the universal command of death.

            We run.

            “Wha— Don’t you have Pokémon!?” Oswald demands breathlessly as we cut through rows of bookshelves. People shout and protest before a concentrated spray of ice-cold water follows us. We duck away just in time and the attack takes out two rows of steel shelves in a heartbeat.

            “In case you’ve forgotten, I’m not a Trainer. I don’t always—Arceus!” He grabs me by the sweater and pulls me down to avoid a stream of highly-pressurized bubbles that cut through a paper divider, sending the inhabitants of the other area running. “I don’t always carry them! Only in special situations!”

            “Damn, if only this counted as one,” he points out deprecatingly.

            “I’m not psychic. I didn’t know this was going to happen.”

            “Why is this happening anyway, is my real question!?” I push him towards a small niche between two shelves and a work desk.

            “Your guess is as good as mine. That man seemed to be in a sort of . . . trance . . .” He suddenly snaps his fingers centimeters from my face.

            “Yo, don’t black out on me.”

            “I’m not. This brand is distracting. It’s been pulsing nonstop since I’ve locked eyes with that man.” I stare at my palm and can actually see Arceus’ mark pulsing with energy. Oswald raises his eyebrows before gasping with realization.

            “That thing is getting loose!”

            “What in hell are you talking about?”

            “Whatever it is that’s under Mt. Silver—or I guess in it, whatever—is getting out without ‘Red’ to guard it. You’re running out of time, in other words. But I didn’t think it could up and possess people,” he adds thoughtfully.

            “That is a farfetched claim.”

            “Do you have any better ideas?”

            “Offering you as a sacrifice?”

            “Ha-ha. No.” The noise behind us suddenly ceases, and we barely have time to turn before the air temperature drops several dozen degrees. Miniscule flakes of ice form of the vapor around us as frost builds over the bookshelves and in small patches on the carpet. A low whine fills the air, preceding a sharp jerk that knocks the both of us onto our stomach and sends the heavy metal shelf, which is now covered in white frost, falling in our direction. I grab Oswald’s leg and yank him backwards with all my strength, sending him rolling across the carpet. I don’t have the momentum to move as quickly across the snowy ground and the books catch me first, slowing my movements enough that my arm remains in the danger zone and falls victim to the shelf.

            “ARGH!”

            Pain burns up my shoulder and through every synapse in my body as the thirty bones of my left arm and hand are severely damaged, most certainly shattered. I roll onto my back holding my arm as the Jellicent sluggishly floats back into view, another Ice Beam at the ready. It is seconds from firing when a sphere of ghost energy—Shadow Ball—repels it, sending him backwards into his owner. Oswald grabs me by my good arm and puts his around my waist, pulling me up and starting an awkward three-legged run.

            “Keep it moving egghead,” he grunts from exertion, his face pale and sweaty despite the cool temperature.

            “—Aye-aye, Captain Capricious.”

            It’s a terrible effort to limp through the expansive library and even more so as the people around us rush towards the exit, jostling my arm and throwing us off balance, and it’s no wonder that the Jellicent soon returns over our heads. A ball of misty water spins ahead of his mouth a second before another gush of it surges towards us at breakneck speed. We’ve no room to dodge and the attack grounds us as well as surrounding civilians. I think I lose consciousness for a few seconds, because when I look up I’m flat on my back and staring it in the eyes. Another Ice Beam, another death sentence, but this time I see Oswald make a Shadow Ball with his own hands and throw it at Jellicent. This time it falls and stays down, but Oz looks a second away from doing the same.

            “. . .Yer gettin’ shabby, Grit,” he mutters with a crooked smirk, smoothing his soaked hair away from his eyes with a hand. The other, I notice, is at his side, shaking so badly he seems hardly able to use it. It’s so cold I can barely feel my hands. “You’re the one that’s shabby, idiot,” he replies to himself. To himself . . . no. The flame and the Shadow Ball. Of course: it’s not just Oswald in that body. The cold, so cold . . . He has Ghost-type . . . cold . . .
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            Old August 12th, 2017 (1:19 PM).
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            Bardothren Bardothren is online now
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            How the heck did I miss chapter two of this? Looks like I have some catching up to do.

            The second chapter is just as interesting as the first. Oz and Sean Isaac DiCaprio have a lot of fun banter together, and Oz's eccentricities have me wondering. Makes me wonder if he somehow absorbed his pokemon. It would explain his multiple personalities, insatiable appetite, and eerie abilities. I wonder if Sean will pay Rowan a visit.

            I'll be back for chapter three, but for now, I'll leave it at that.
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            Old August 13th, 2017 (9:52 PM).
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            Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is online now
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            Quote:
            “No guarantees!” he tells me. “You have one of those faces that just makes me wanna push your buttons.”

            “I do not have many buttons to push.”

            “No, I’m pretty sure you have more buttons than a video editing program, and I’ll be happy to find each of them.”

            “You are insufferable.”
            Heh, still enjoy their banter.

            Quote:
            “Find anything helpful?”

            I will not, under any circumstance, admit that Oswald’s sudden interruption caused me to jump and scatter all the books I was holding. Never.
            This is also amusing. Also the part where Oswald said how he kept flunking Language Arts.

            The part where the two were running away and Sean mentions Oz being offered as a sacrifice, yeah don't think it's a good idea either. The last few paragraphs with Oz having a ghost type inside him (I think?), well that doesn't sound too good.
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            Old August 14th, 2017 (5:19 PM).
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            Bardothren Bardothren is online now
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            Alright, I'm back for the third chapter.

            Quote:
            he has an amazing amount of strength for a child.
            More fodder for my "he's a pokemon fusion" theory.

            And... mystery solved! Ghost types, makes perfect sense. An exciting and fun chapter, just like the others. Keep it up! Nothing stuck out at me except the sporadic use of bold font. I'm a believer in using font as little as possible, since it's often more distracting than helpful. Tis but a molehill before the Mt. Silver of 'holy muk this is good' that this story delivers.
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            Old September 1st, 2017 (3:41 AM).
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            Aisu Aisu is offline
               
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              Spoiler:
              Chapter 4

              “Act the way you'd like to be and soon you'll be the way you act.”
              —Leonard Cohen


              It’s a little hard to justify yourself as a fourteen-year-old and the main face of a “terroristic incident” in the largest city in Johto, but I give it my best shot anyway.

              “This wasn’t my fault.”

              A-1 acting. They’ve gotta be total blowhards to not buy this.

              Suffice it to say, my only saving grace was that Sean had to go to the hospital, and “as his son,” I was obligated to tag along. It was hard to stay quiet during the ambulance ride as Grit, Pong, and Stein talked up a storm, but I kept my mouth shut until we pulled up. Then I bolted to the hospital bathroom and locked the door.

              “Why would ya do that?” Pong demands, sparking all over the small area. Stein reins him in with a tired exhale.

              “I had to,” I tell him. “Otherwise, that Jellicent would’ve killed us.”

              “And this won’t?” Grit protests, floating closer until I can see into the depths of her blue and yellow eyes. “Think a little more, would you, Oswald?”

              “I was thinking,” I grumble. “What would you three have done, huh? Let him get killed?”

              “That blowhard? Yes!” Pong says.

              “Yes, but if not for that blowhard, we’d still be ‘Red,’” Stein points out dryly.

              “We were jus’ a side effect of his goal,” Pong argues.

              “Either way, if he hadn’t come, we’d still be there and silent.” He had mentioned that while I was “Red,” their consciousnesses were in some kind of sleep or stasis like mine. If they weren’t already dead, I would’ve panicked.

              “You have a point,” Grit agrees hesitantly. “Nonetheless, Oz, I wish you would consider yourself a little more. Your death would mean a lot more than our disappearances.”

              “No way!” I yell, startling her a little. “If you guys went away, I wouldn’t have a purpose left. Please, don’t sell yourselves short like that . . .”

              “Please don’t start this conversation again,” Stein carps. “I don’t feel like flying in circles today. And . . .” He vanishes for a few seconds, then reappears with his candle lights flickering in distaste. “There’s a guy waiting to piss, and he seems pretty desperate. We’ll talk later.” Stein turns into a purple flame that melts back into my skin. Pong zaps his way back inside of me, but Grit lingers.

              “Stein may not want to beat a dead horse, but I’ll never stop trying,” she says, resting her small hands on my face. Cold constantly emits from her skin and I shiver a little. “You should’ve let us go when our time came.”

              “You’re saying you didn’t want to stay with me?” My voice cracks when I say it. Grit’s eyes widen, then she frowns.

              “Don’t twist my words around, Oz. That’s not what I mean. But this . . . Doing this isn’t healthy either. Please. You’ve gotten your life back—make it worthwhile.” She exhales before fading into mist, dying away.

              Why do they have to tell me the same thing all the time?

              ____

              Sean still isn’t waking up, and his third day is about to finish. He’s in a hospital bed with some needles poking into his good arm—ack, needles—and his other arm’s in a bright green cast. I poked it a few times to see if it hurt, but he’s drugged with so many painkillers he didn’t even roll his eyes in his sleep like before. I watched him for a while, then I went down to the hospital’s café and got a ham sandwich and orange Kool-Aid in a cheap paper cup. The sandwich is better than the Kool-Aid. I try giving him a piece, but even though his mouth is open enough to let a bucket load of drool through, it can’t fit a portion of sandwich. Asleep, with his long red hair and kinda small build, he looks younger, not that I actually know how old he is—maybe it’s because he’s not scowling at everything.

              “You little muk,” I tell him. “Or, I mean, you’re a big muk, because you’re bigger than me. You big muk.”

              He doesn’t wake up.

              “Come on, man, you’re wasting our time here. We’re not exactly running on stardust…” His wrist is turned so that his palm is up, showing the mark Arceus left on his skin. It looked real angry before at the library, but now it looks like a tattoo again. I touch it, feel the weird texture of it—it’s not like ink, not like anything I’ve ever felt before—and Sean finally moves.

              “Did you know that Wilder agreed to be in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory only on the condition that he could limp up, fall on his face, and jump to his feet? No one expected it either, because he didn’t tell any of the other actors, so their surprise was real.”

              “Wha . . .” he groans, pressing the back of his hand into his eyes and grimacing. “What in hell are you blathering about early in the morning— Wait, is it early in the morning? What time is—ouch!” He sits up fast, then doubles over in pain. I look up from the bed’s remote.

              “Oh yeah, the doctor suggested that you don’t do that.” He gives me this really homicidal look and I figure that he can’t be too injured. “It’s actually a couple of hours before midnight, so we’re still pushing the clock on the same margin we’ve been.”

              “Good,” he says, then winces. “Bad. One or the other. I don’t know. I feel like I haven’t slept in a week.”

              “Yeah, the doctor said that too. It’s a side effect.” He shakes his head sluggishly.

              “What happened to the man and his Jellicent?”

              “Beats me,” I shrug. “I was too busy not getting arrested myself. For all I know, he’s escaped to terrorize another day.”

              “Great,” he sighs, dragging his hand down his face as he stares at his broken arm. Then, slowly, he looks at me, and he looks even more depressed than usual if that’s even physically possible. “Why are you still here?”

              “What? Because I actually think of you as a friend?”

              “No,” he says, a little appalled. “Because you’re stupid enough to hold Ghost-type Pokémon within your body.” I freeze up in shock.

              “Wha— Who told you?”

              “I’m not an idiot, Oswald, and as much as you act out, neither are you.” He grimaces as he tries to move his broken arm. “Their energy saps yours. Like that, you won’t have too long to live.”

              “It doesn’t matter.”

              “Then what does matter?” he presses.

              “That they can live.”

              “Oh. Oh, oh, ha-ha.” He laughs, but it’s weird and bitter. “Putting the lives of dead Pokémon before your own. That’s a paradox at its peak.”

              “Shut up! You don’t understand because you don’t have anything you care about, just yourself!” His face darkens, and with some effort he swings his legs around to face me.

              “I care about my father and my sisters,” he growls, grabbing me by the shoulder. “I care enough not to throw my life away over Pokémon that have already passed. Moreover, you’re preventing them from passing into the next world, and for what? Because you don’t want to be lonely?” I want to snap back, but somehow, he’s hit the nail on the head.

              “How . . . do you know that?” I ask carefully.

              “In Goldenrod, you were speaking in your sleep,” he explains.

              “So you heard something that isn’t your business. So, what?”

              “So, I don’t want to watch someone die in front of my face while I can prevent it.”

              “Since when do you have ethics?”

              “I’ve seen death,” he says grimly, squinting a little at the memory. “It’s . . . not pleasant.”

              “Really now?” I say matter-of-factly. “And—look, none of this has anything to do with how I run my life.”

              “For you, it does matter, doesn’t it? You want to live?”

              “I don’t want to die.”

              “That’s not the same thing,” Sean says. He tries to clench his casted fist but only really wiggles his fingers since he can move just the upper half of his hand. He stares at it for so long that I start wondering if I should call the doctor back. “With that Jellicent, I saw death, and it’s not pleasant,” he repeats, letting his arm fall back in its sling. “It made me think . . . To say you don’t want to die means you’re happy with any sort of existence. Would you rather be ‘Red?’”

              “No way,” I say and shudder. He shrugs a shoulder and looks out the room’s window.

              “There are a lot of books that I want to read, a lot of mysteries that I want to solve. Only by living can I do those things, by being able to walk free. Being ‘Red,’ that’s no sort of life—to do what you want and enjoy it, that’s what it means to live.” He rubs his chin with a sigh and looks back at me. “It’s strange. I’ve never given that much thought to these things before now, but this week has been oddly eye-opening.” He raises his eyes to the ceiling. “I considered you a smart boy, Oswald, but if you’d be willing to give up the greatest opportunity in this world—that is, to live—then you are a fool.”

              Sean doesn’t blink and his voice doesn’t crack—he’s really intent on what he’s saying. The problem is, I’ve heard it all before.

              “Having fun there, giving your big grand speech? This isn’t the climax of the story, you know.”

              “Perhaps it’s not mine,” he supposes, “but your denouement is soon coming. Am I now speaking in terms that you understand?”

              “You’re really into my life,” I grumble instead. “Don’t you want to know what I found out while you were napping?”

              “You actually managed to get information.”

              “I’m not useless, you know. The T.V. in the cafeteria, it was on a news channel that was playing the same stories over and over. There are Pokémon all over Kanto and Johto that are going wild. They’re kinda zoning out and flipping on their Trainers and private property . . . Sound familiar?”

              “It means you were right,” he says grimly, scowling like it’s painful to say. “That whatever Mt. Silver was containing is escaping and causing problems for everyone, not just us.” He squints at his hand and flexes his fingers thoughtfully. “And that is far from good news.”

              “Oh, really?”

              “I am not being jocular, Oswald.” He clenches his fist so tightly that his hand goes bloodless. “This is some sort of primal force as old as the world, perhaps even as old as the Legendary Pokémon themselves. It is malevolent enough that Arceus would have the strongest Trainer of the instant constantly guarding it and keeping it in check. And now it’s leaking past its bonds and causing havoc in the immediate area. Imagine if it spread farther, if it affected Pokémon as distant as Hoenn or even Sinnoh.”

              My parents.

              I haven’t thought about those two in a long time, and even when I do, it’s not with worry like right now. I remember endless nights of shouting, flashes of pain, crying—nothing that would make me love them like a child should love their parents, but even so, I’m concerned that they’ll be hurt. Does that make me weird, then? Well, I guess I crossed that line long ago, but still . . .

              “We can’t let that happen,” I decide. “No way.” I try to remember what else I learned, but the thing about having three minds on top of your own is that your thoughts get pretty damn jumbled. “There was, uh . . . Oh yeah! Blue is going to be in Johto’s Pokémon League tomorrow evening on, uh, business. Something like that. But he’s going to be there.”

              “Still,” Sean says. “It will be hard to get across the region in so little time on such short notice.”

              “Not if we fly!”

              “Flying-type rentals are hard to come by, and on top of that—”

              “Ghosts can fly too,” I point out. He stares at me for a moment like he’s just gone brain-dead. “Oi, Sean?”

              “The mark,” he mutters, holding his hand up. It’s throbbing with a faint light. “It’s been bothering me for a while now.”

              “It means . . .?”

              “You might just be joining me here.”

              I stand up and start to tell him to run, then I remember that he’s all hooked up. “Where are your Pokémon?”

              “In my box.” He grimaces. “I’m stuck.”

              “No you’re not.” I choose Stein since he’s more responsible than Pong and I need Grit. He manifests right next to Sean, and I’d be lying if I say I didn’t die on the inside when I saw his panicked expression. It took all my willpower not to laugh in his face.

              “Just a Lampent,” he mutters, pretending like he didn’t just jump two feet in the air.

              “I was an Absol one time,” Stein says. “What’s going on? Who’s he?”

              “He’s the prick,” I explain. Stein’s candle lights flicker as he sighs.

              “Well, I guess I owe you some thanks for saving Oz.”

              “It wasn’t on purpose, trust me,” he deadpans. “Not a second passes that I do not regret meeting him.”

              “I love you too, Sean.”

              “Well, even so.” Stein’s eyes turn purple when he looks at me. “I’ll keep an eye on him, don’t worry. Nothing gets past me!”

              “I feel so safe,” Sean says with the same lack of energy. I let it slide.

              “Give me your Trainer’s card. I’ll go to the Pokémon Center downstairs and—why are you making that face?”

              “I don’t have a Trainer’s card,” he admits.

              “But you can’t walk around with a full team without a Trainer’s card. Wait, then—wait, how did you put them in the box at all?”

              “Hacking,” he answers. “I bypassed the system’s security and placed them in a sort of . . . how to say this in layman’s terms? In a nonexistent box, like null space.”

              “Then can’t you tell me how to do whatever the hell you did?” He looks at me dubiously. “I’m no idiot, man. We’re in this together—have some faith in me.”

              “I can’t . . .” He changes his mind mid-sentence and holds out his hand. “I can’t write with this hand. Get a pen and paper.”

              “Gotcha.” I find some stationary lying around the room and write the passwords as he’s saying them. There’s a lot, and they’re pretty long and, uh, alphanumeric, but with Grit and Pong reading them too, I doubt I’ll forget. “I’ll be back,” I promise in a deep, accented voice. It looks like he’s still giving me a homicidal look, then his mouth twitches.

              “You’re not going to drive a car through the hospital, are you?” he says. And then he laughs. Like, an actual, human laugh. I feel like I died and woke up in a parallel universe. Can that darkness thing work opposites on people that are already heartless? It’s the only explanation.

              “. . . You know what? I’m gonna leave. You’re scaring me, Sean.”

              ____

              There are still people walking around, visitors and patients, so at first I think I’m just being paranoid, then when I get off the elevator into the lobby, I realize that every other living soul is gone from the area. The desk is abandoned, the waiting area is empty, there’s even a flickering fluorescent light that makes the whole room dim. That’s what ticks me off.

              “Muk, Sludge Bomb.”

              Grit makes me jump to the side as a huge ball of purple gunk splatters all over. The polished tiles rot away where it touches, and it sinks into the dirt and leaves rusted metal pipes in its wake. At the other end of the room is a taller, lankier dude in a trench coat and with his hat tipped low like the guy from Casablanca. Next to him is a Muk, which is infinitely harder to deal with than a Jellicent.

              “I remember you,” the man says with a weird echo-y voice, like there’s three people speaking at once. “You were ‘Red’ not too long ago, for two years.”

              “So I’m guessing you’re not happy about that.” I roll to my feet but there’s a lot less standing space now. “Pong?”

              ‘I’m hungry,’ he complains. Well he’s a lost cause.

              “Grit, could you make a Shadow Ball?”

              ‘No. You know how I feel about that,’ she grumbles.

              “Don’t really have a choice here, ya know . . .”

              “Talking to yourself?” the man jeers.

              “What’s it to you, huh? That ain’t even yer body, yer just hijackin’ it,” Pong snaps for me. The man stares for a second, then laughs sharply.

              “And with ghosts inside of you! It seems as if I didn’t need to intervene—you would’ve killed yourself eventually. But since I’m out here, I can’t help but cause mayhem. It’s what I do, after all.” He snaps his fingers and the Muk races forward, slopping everywhere like the aftermath of a mudslide. I jump onto one of the couches and use it like a spring, vaulting over its head and onto the receptionist’s desk behind them. Muk splatters all over the wall and melts it in a second.

              “Thanks, Grit,” I mutter, even when I feel my muscles tighten up in the aftermath. The man growls and his hand flashes out too fast for me to track. The pain doesn’t hit me for a few seconds, not until I see blood dripping at my feet. I drag my palm across my face and find a big bleeding bruise on my forehead.

              “Don’t think that I play nice, kid,” he warns. I remember that pain doesn’t affect me as strongly and I try to find what he threw, but all I see is a bloodstained Iron Ball rolling across the ground. It doesn’t make sense though—it should’ve hurt a lot more, not to mention cracked my skull. A full-body shiver goes through me as Grit appears in front of my face. I can still see through her and I get a perfect view of the Muk, now extraordinarily pissed off. “What are you . . . I thought you don’t like to fight?”

              “I don’t like seeing you get hurt either,” she says, giving the man a look that could freeze lava. It reminds me of when she was alive, as a Mamoswine. Not that being a Frosslass makes her any less terrifying. “And I don’t care if it’s a Muk, evil itself, or Arceus—I won’t let off anyone that lays a finger on you.”

              “How noble,” the man sneers, and as he raises his head, I see that there’s nothing solid beneath that hat, just roiling blackness like the inside of a thunderstorm, no CGI needed. “But if Arceus itself has to delegate the task of keeping me in check, then I doubt that an expired Pokémon such as yourself can do so.”

              “Then you obviously are underestimating me.” The air around her chills until three huge icicles are stationed in a circle around her, big and sharp like swords. Her eyes are shinier than 135 film. “I may only be half of what I was, but that’s still more than strong enough to fend you off.” The icicles snap forward, points out, and shoot forward. They stab into the Muk, and while that in itself doesn’t do much, considering how gelatinous it is, ice covers it faster than I can blink, completely immobilizing it.

              “It seems I have,” he notes. “You’re fast.” His tone of voice sends chills down my spine worse than what Grit can cause. He snaps his fingers and the coat and hat fall to the ground as he disappears. There’s nothing but silence and the humming broken light for a few seconds, then Grit falls to the ground.

              “Grit!” I dive down and take her up, and I realize she’s shaking.

              “G-Go on ahead,” she hisses, eyes squinted in pain. “I’ll be f-fine.”

              “You’re hurting!”

              “Oz, go ahead!” she repeats vehemently, and her body gets so cold that I have to drop her. She shakes even harder and frost appears on the ground around her. “Go! I don’t want to lose control and hurt you.”

              “I’m not gonna let that bastard hurt you!”

              “You can’t do anything right now! Just—” A gust of frigid air bursts from her and knocks me off my feet, but the ground’s all the way frozen over and I slide on my back until my shoulders and head crash against the wall. It hurts, but with Pong left it doesn’t hurt too much, and after a few breaths I’m back on my feet. She’s staring me in the eyes with a homicidal expression to rival Sean’s. It’s hard, but I tear myself away and keep running down the hall. There are signs pinned to the wall that locate the Pokémon Center—I’m close, real close. I just hope Pong still remembers the—

              “Oz, freeze!” Pong cries, zapping all over the hallway like an electric net. I skid to a stop just as a cluster of big heavy boulders come rolling from a corner and slam into his barrier, but it holds. One of said boulders glare at me with red eyes.

              “Pong, I have to get through—the Pokémon Center’s around the corner!”

              “Ground yerself!” I jump back as he explodes in a shower of blue electricity, which doesn’t really hurt the Golem but sends it backwards in shock. It’s slow to recover, and I take the opportunity to slip past and through the shattered glass doors. The lobby of the Pokémon Center is wrecked with a few Pokémon lying KO’d on the ground, but I ignore them and head to the machine. The paper is frozen, so I have to handle it carefully as I enter the passwords into the system. I get a few letters wrong a few times, mostly because my fingers are numb from the cold and electricity, but after a while six pokéballs roll out into the tray. I’m barely aware of the place’s clock chiming midnight as I take them up and clip them onto my belt, seconds before the top floor of the hospital blows like a James Bond movie.

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                #13    
              Old September 14th, 2017 (4:38 PM).
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              Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is online now
              O, Dance of Devotion!
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              Quote:
              “There are a lot of books that I want to read, a lot of mysteries that I want to solve. Only by living can I do those things, by being able to walk free. Being ‘Red,’ that’s no sort of life—to do what you want and enjoy it, that’s what it means to live.” He rubs his chin with a sigh and looks back at me. “It’s strange. I’ve never given that much thought to these things before now, but this week has been oddly eye-opening.” He raises his eyes to the ceiling. “I considered you a smart boy, Oswald, but if you’d be willing to give up the greatest opportunity in this world—that is, to live—then you are a fool.”
              I like this bit of dialogue here.

              I admit this took me a couple readthroughs, but it's cool you have the spirits of Oz's Pokemon be turned into ghost types. Even though I get Stein's a Lampent and Grit's a Frosslass, thought you could perhaps made that a bit clearer in the beginning of the chapter. Oh, and of course Oz would use hacking to bypass the hacking problem pfft.
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              Old September 21st, 2017 (11:21 AM).
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              Aisu Aisu is offline
                 
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                Author's Drabble - Did you know that Oz made a cameo in Yggdrasil? Part 3, chapter 1.
                Quote:
                He didn’t see any nurses roaming the halls but was quiet anyway, creeping along the wall with one hand braced against the textured white paint in case he fell as he slunk towards the elevator. He pushed the button, and every waiting second felt like an hour until the doors finally pinged open. He stepped inside to join a slightly older boy with thin blond hair and sort of a dazed expression, like his mind was in two thousand places at once. The doors shut and the elevator started moving with not even stupid music to fill the silence.

                “…What are you in for?” Mel asked after a moment.

                “Accident,” he responded tonelessly. “You?”

                “Same thing.” The doors pinged again on Mel’s floor and he stepped off, giving one backwards glance to the boy behind him as he headed up the hall. The boy provided a weak wave before the doors shut.
                Chapter 5

                “And then I felt sad because I realized that once people are broken in certain ways, they can't ever be fixed, and this is something nobody ever tells you when you are young and it never fails to surprise you as you grow older as you see the people in your life break one by one. You wonder when your turn is going to be, or if it's already happened.”
                —Douglas Coupland, Life After God


                “You said you were an Absol?” I’m not particularly curious, but I find it ironic that a Pokémon that could sense danger, coupled with having a long lifespan, has perished. Stein’s candle light flickers in what I assume to be a sigh, but his tone is still exasperatingly optimistic.

                “Once upon a time, yeah. Feels like forever ago now.”

                “Oswald has not mentioned this to me yet, but how did you all die?”

                “Well, that’s . . . not a nice story,” he says uneasily. “But he does like you, so I don’t think he’ll be too mad at me for telling. Well, I’ll at least tell you part of it. Before the big Fall on Mt Silver and all, Oz wasn’t getting on too right with his parents. I’m the youngest of his Pokémon, so I don’t know the whole story, but I know that they didn’t treat him right. It was disgusting.” His flames blaze for a moment, upping the temperature of the room, before shrinking down with a loud puff of smoke. “So, he ran off. He thought that if he could beat Red, he could get famous and rich and move far from them. We were alive when he climbed Mt. Silver.”

                “And you died before he could descend it, I presume?”

                “Yeah, that’s what happened. Something went wrong afterwards. Oz beat Red and all, but there wasn’t a big hubbub right after like with you. It took a little time . . . enough time for that darkness to get free.” The air suddenly seems colder as Stein closes his eyes. “We’re his Pokémon. We protected our Trainer with our lives.”

                “And now you’re wasting that life.” His flame abruptly roars back to life, spiking the temperature so harshly I start sweating in seconds.

                “He knows that!” he snaps. “We always tell him, but he’s so damn stubborn about it.” He sighs, and the life leaves him. “We’re not trying to kill him, you know. We wouldn’t.”

                “Whether you’re trying or not, you’re doing so,” I tell him. “Why don’t you all just leave?”

                “It’s not our choice to make,” he says gravely. “If we do, it’ll be the last straw, and he’ll break.”

                “That’s dependency. It’s no better.”

                “He knows that too,” he says dismally. “As his Pokémon, even in death, we refuse to hurt him, but staying with him is hurting him too . . .”

                “Look . . . and don’t tell him I’ve said this . . . I don’t want to see Oswald mortally injured, especially not dead. It wouldn’t be any better to see him damaged, but he’ll recover. He may be stubborn as an ox, but he’s as strong as one too.”

                “That’s Grit’s strength, you know,” he mutters.

                “Not physically. I’m referring to the strength within.”

                “That’s . . . still us, bro.”

                “You know what the hell I mean, and I’ll send you to a second afterlife if you dare make me say it aloud.”

                “Ah, okay. Ya know, Oz has had a good influence on you. You’re not as frosty as Grit anymore.”

                “Gee, thanks,” I say with all the joy of a dead man. Stein’s eyes close with happiness. “You did say you were an Absol?”

                “Yeah. Why?”

                “From my research, I learned that Pokémon, upon death, will turn into a Ghost-type of equal strength. An Absol is statistically much stronger than a Lampent, perhaps even stronger than a Chandelure.”

                “That’s interesting,” he remarks, floating a little closer to me. He floats in an odd bouncy sort of way, as if he’s a marionette being pulled along by a three-year-old toddler. “You’re a pretty smart guy, so I’m surprised you didn’t pick up on this yet.”

                “—What?”

                “Not everything falls under nice labels and statistics,” he says airily. “Some things, like that Arceus mark on your hand, are completely unpredictable, and you just have to roll with it—right?”

                “I hate you all . . . Even more so, because you’re right. And I’ll kill you again if you tell Oswald that.”

                “Oz,” he says with some surprise, rather than laughing it off. “I can’t sense him as well as I ought to. You see,” he explains, “we all have some awareness of his presence, both from when we were alive and especially now when we spend so much time inside him. Now I can barely feel him, but I can’t leave you unprotected either . . .”

                “You can use Psychic to move me, can’t you?”

                “Can’t I?” he repeats with a baffled expression. “See, if you’d asked me to do Psycho Cut instead—” The lights abruptly surged, and for the brief moment of darkness, Stein’s flames shine dark blue. “I felt that,” he whispers, his voice blank. I feel a sharp sting in my branded hand, and without even looking at it, I already know that Arceus’ mark is shining brightly.

                Stein starts spinning around at a rapid speed, so fast that his flames form a whirring ball of fire around him. The ball expands quickly and chars the sheets as the tail end drags along the bed’s footrest. I try to pull away, but quick movement isn’t exactly on my side at the moment, hence why I’m in a hospital at all. The flames finally latch onto the thin dressing pants, but skips away psychically. It doesn’t even burn. The ball of fire consumes me painlessly, but everything but the clothes on my back burst into flames. And by that, I mean things within the room, in the hallway . . . everything abruptly explodes. I cover my face instinctively, but Stein’s ball of fire works as a shield.

                “I don’t have enough fire to keep doing this,” he says, his voice oscillating so much it’s hard to make out. The flames sputter out, but before any of the detritus hits me, Stein slams into my good hand, causing me to grip one of his metal candle stalks. As soon as I do that, he and I turn intangible. It feels like all my blood has turned into cherry slushie, not to mention the doubly unpleasant sensation of a cold hand shoved into my—

                “Stein!” A semi-transparent Rotom zaps into view, its form buzzing from instability. “You have to get to Oz now!” Then it fades away into blue sparks that blend into the still crumbling mess of plaster and furniture. Stein’s body burns so hot that I find it hard to hold on as he dives forward and down, passing through the destroyed floor and into the rooms below. I see flashes of patients and staff hurrying to evacuate the building as an alarm rings, and several Pokémon try to hold off the damage to give them extra time.

                “In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m not in the condition to face that thing a second time!” I snap.

                “Well aren’t you the one that made the deal with Arceus and all?” he retorts. A chill permeates the air as we fall steadily through the ground and network of pipes until we’re in the hospital’s lobby. The entire area is iced over like a fantastic cave from a book of fairy tales. “Grit did this,” he mutters, his flames growing in intensity. “But where is—” His flames go out in the next second, and I feel the full effect of the cold prickling on my skin. Arceus’ mark burns like a new fire beneath my skin and I stumble backwards, holding my hands to my chest. Stein clatters to the ground and falls still as a new set of footsteps ring through the lobby.

                “I don’t usually thank Arceus, but I feel the need to now, since he gave you your own personal spotlight,” says the man—at least, I thought he was. But as he draws closer, I see that in between his coat and hat, there’s nothing but rolling clouds of blackness. “Now I can . . . what do you call it? Kill two birds with one stone.”

                “Oz . . . Where is he? You didn’t kill him,” I say, because just the thought of it is so inconceivable. Oswald is a nuisance, so much so that I don’t doubt he’d cling to life just to spite me. Just the idea of him being dead is utterly ridiculous.

                “Why wouldn’t I have?” it scoffs. “That kid has held me captive for far too long, and now you’re the legendaries’ last line of defense.” He points at me and a large purple blob surges out from behind him. I’m not a slacker physically, but spur-of-the-moment dodges aren’t my thing. The ice and frost covering the floor comes to my aid as I try to sidestep the rushing Pokémon and I slide across into the far wall. The Muk splatters against the ground, causing it to hiss and sizzle as its poison corrodes the material. It takes a while to reform, and I see that Stein is still immobilized and directly in its path. I dive forward to grab him as the Muk slams a gooey hand down on my casted one.

                Its acidic body burns through the plaster quickly, and the smell of burning flesh fills my nose as it clings onto me. The sensation doesn’t last too long before it spins me around and hurls me into the receptionist’s desk, which shatters into wood chips upon impact. My shoulder is certainly dislocated, and the skin on my lower arm is marred with burnt grid marks. I can barely think, can’t even see straight, and rainbows burst in what little vision I still have. That Muk draws close again, and its slime burns the bottoms of my feet as it oozes towards my prone form.

                This is what I get for refusing to be ‘Red,’ huh? Death by poisonous asphyxiation? I’m beginning to wish I’d taken a page from Oswald’s book and have Pokémon always on hand . . .

                I notice the temperature suddenly plummet, then there’s hands on my bad arm trying to pull me up. I bite my tongue so hard it brings up blood and fight them off. “H-Hey, I’m trying to help you here, ungrateful prick!”

                “Oz?” It hurts to work my jaw, even more so to focus my double vision, but eventually I do make out Oswald’s face. He’s bruised, and a clump of hair around his temple is seared away, but he’s not dead. “A-Arm . . . dislocated.”

                “What? Oh, I get it.” He grabs my elbow and shoulder and pops the joint back into place. The agony worsens briefly, but it’s not as if I’m not pained to begin with.

                “You were dead,” it accuses in a low growl, its body flashing grey as if filled with lightning.

                “No, my heart stopped,” Oz says casually. “You should’ve made sure it stayed stopped, but I guess it’s a villain’s thing to walk off before the deed is done.” He raises his hand and a snowball forms just above his palm. “I also don’t have a clever one-liner for this.” He throws his hand forward and the snowball breaks into a flurry of icy wind and slush, overtaking the other. Ice encases its body from head to toe. “Well, that’ll slow it down. Where’s Stein?” He spots Stein right after, who is starting to become a part of the snowy landscape. Oz dives down to grab him. “Stein, wake up! What’s wrong?”

                “He’s just weakened, Oz.” A Frosslass slips out from Oz’s body, resting a hand on Stein’s head. “His flames have burned out, and they’ll take a while to reform. For now, we should go while we still can.”

                “A . . . Fine.” Oz crouches at my side and stares into my eyes. “You’re still awake, right?”

                “Mostly. Hurts . . . everywhere. Can barely think.”

                “That’s a blessing in disguise,” he says with a little smile. I don’t even have the strength to glare, and he frowns as he grabs my burnt wrist, turning my palm out. Arceus’ mark still burns, but not as strongly as before, perhaps because the danger level has lowered. “You’re like a walking neon sign to that guy,” he mutters. “We can’t go far with this on your hand. Then again, it’s our only clue of when it’s hanging around. We need somewhere it can’t follow, somewhere . . .”

                Rrr . . .” The ice around it begins to crack and steam, and scarlet eyes shine through.

                “Ya can’t afford to think here,” says the Rotom from earlier, cutting between us. “We don’t have the time. Let’s split already!” It phases into Oz’s body and he pitches forward with a surprised cough. Grit frowns but soon joins him, pulling Stein’s prone form along with her. Oz takes a deep breath, his face squinted with pain and sweating despite the subzero temperatures around us, and looks back at me.

                “Can you walk?”

                “I can’t feel my legs.”

                “Can you move your arms?” I try to, and although my broken arm is still powerless, my good one was bruised and probably fractured upon impact. “Good,” he nods. “Then you can’t hit me for this.” He clutches my shoulders and I feel the familiar sensation of immateriality radiate from his form to mine. The last thing I see are the creature’s glowing red eyes, then we sink down through the displaced floor into the pits of the structure. His grip tightens, and we shift from falling to rising. The next thing I see is the crescent moon sitting dead center in the sky, and somewhere in the distance, a clocktower chimes twelve times. Midnight, my fourth day.

                “Muk, man, it’s the heat,” he remarks beside me. I look over and realize that we’re not exactly on the ground—more like halfway inside of it still. It’s an uncanny feeling, being intangible, and I would be actively fighting it if I wasn’t staring at hordes of police swarming around the hospital. Intangible, invisible, it means we can see what’s happening without being seen ourselves. “They’re gonna be in danger when that thing gets loose. We have to . . . I have to do something.”

                “Oswald—” I wince and grit my teeth, clenching my arm. The scorch marks sting and itch horribly, and are infected with thousands of germs from the Muk’s body. Oz looks at me, then back at the crowd.

                “We gotta get to Johto, pronto,” he says eventually. “But I barely have any energy left now . . .” He dove underground again, and we resurface even further away in a neighborhood of old brownstone apartments. He drops me on the ground none too gently, but to his credit he apologizes afterwards. “On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your pain?”

                “High enough that my patience with you is even shorter than usual.”

                “That’s not really an answer, but I’ll work with that.” He holds up his hand and it becomes engulfed with blue and white electricity. Before I can speak, he grabs hold of my fractured arm. The voltage burns across my already disfigured skin, but the pain doesn’t last longer than a few seconds when, before my eyes, the injuries begin to knit themselves together. “There are some perks to technically being a Pokémon after all.”

                “What? Oz, what are you do—” He pulls away with a full-body shudder, and though he tries to hide it, his hand briefly moves towards his heart. I push myself up and realize that my arm is almost completely healed—although there is still a powerful lingering ache, I can move it and not feel the shards of bones digging into my skins. I grab his wrist and his eyes meet mine, a bit wet with unshed tears. “Don’t do that again,” I snap.

                “Whuh?”

                “Don’t. Do. That. Again. If you do, you will die, and if you die, I will find a way to bring you back to life and kill you myself. Alright? Alright?” I repeat, shaking him when he drifts off.

                “Sheesh, man! I hear ya,” he grumbles, pushing me away.

                “And Stein, let Oz know I said that.” He raises his eyebrow, then gives me a smirk.

                “You really can tell us apart now, huh?”

                “It’s not hard. And we’re wasting time.”

                “Ah, right.” He clenches my wrist as well, giving us a tight hold, then our feet leave the ground. It’s not quite like flying on a bird, or even on a plane: it’s more like gravity has ceased to exist altogether and we’re along for the ride with the rest of the elements. The lights of Goldenrod blur together beneath us as we go higher and higher into the air. “Oz is saying this is like a Studio Ghibli movie,” he says. “I don’t know what that is, but he’s practically bursting at the seams thinking about it.”

                “He can see and hear everything still?”

                “Well yeah. It’s still his body. It’s just, now and then our personalities bleed through, sometimes desires too, like when Pong wants to eat.” Him saying that makes me wonder if, since the three Pokémon can affect Oz’s disposition, mannerisms, everything down to his syntax, at any moment of the day since they’re always inside of him, if some of “Oz” has permanently been lost, assimilated with their personalities. The logical side of me . . . god, I never thought I’d be saying that . . . the logical side of me sees all the impracticality of housing three Ghost-type Pokémon within one’s body, but the old me that Oz is slowly bringing out can sympathize with why he does so.

                “I’m really starting to hate this kid . . .”

                “What did I do now?” Oz complains.

                “Nothing, intentionally anyway.” He looks away petulantly and we dissolve into silence. I’d never imagined Ghost-types to be very fast, but the wind has picked up in my face as if I’m sticking my head out of a car window. I sometimes wonder if we’re visible as we pass over the boroughs of Goldenrod, then as if on cue, I see my hands flicker in and out of sight. I thought Oz to be a bit childish, labelling this as something by an animated movie studio, but the scene does resemble something they would produce, and the quiet atmosphere weighs heavy on my already exhausted body. Soon enough, the city disappears behind us, and there’s only ocean turned silver by the moonlight. Against the horizon, I can see the imprints of the Whirl Islands.

                The monotony breaks when Oz starts to dip. He quickly rights himself, but my hand clasps around a cold metal handle. I look up and see that Stein has returned, and next to him is the Frosslass, Grit, holding Oz’s limp form up by the t-shirt. “Foolish boy, he really wants to kill himself, doesn’t he?” she mutters, her breath frosting in the already chill air.

                “You’re one to talk—you’re not even healed,” Stein points out. “You could pass out too and you’ll both fall to the water.”

                “I wouldn’t drop him,” she protests. “Maybe you would, but I’d never. You barely can use your fire without blacking out.”

                “Says you! You and Pong are fine—I’m the one that got a whole new type! It’s not exactly cake and roses getting used to it,” Stein grumbles.

                “Are you complaining, Stein?”

                “’course not,” he says in a flatter tone. “I’m just . . . stating facts. Uh-huh.”

                “Excuse me, but I’m finding myself exasperatingly out of the loop here,” I interject.

                “Oz hadn’t gotten any sleep since you were brought to the hospital,” Stein finally explains. “His body reached a point where we can’t stay inside of him without draining his vitality on a more permanent level, so we’re taking a breather.”

                “But there’s three of you.”

                “Pong is inside of you,” Grit adds. “I don’t know why.”

                “WHAT?”

                “You’ll be fine,” she says with disinterest. “He would have to be inside of you for a long time for you to feel any effects, since Rotom typically only affect machinery.”

                “Yeah, but could you sound a little more concerned?” Stein says. “He’s still the one that saved Oz in the first place. We still owe him something.”

                “What do we owe him? He rescued Oz because it was convenient, not from goodwill,” she fumes. “He would’ve left Oz to freeze in the snow otherwise. I would rather that he chose to be ‘Red’ after all.”

                “What would that have meant? Arceus—wow I hope he doesn’t smite me for this—Arceus would’ve just kept on taking Trainers and throwing them in Red’s spot. Parents losing their kids without even knowing it . . . friends and all . . . I know you’re kinda a snow queen, Grit, but you have to feel something, hearing that.”

                “I care about those that are important to me,” she objects.

                “And nothing else? C’mon, I’m even getting used to Sean Isaac DiCaprio, and not even in that bad-itch way.”

                “He’s a pretty okay guy to me,” Pong the Rotom says, appearing right above Stein’s head. “He bought me food that time, even though, ya know, he was kinda a crybaby about it.”

                “I’m here . . . and awake . . . and you all are talking about me as if I’m not,” I point out. Stein is the only one that looks apologetic.

                “Hehe, sorry . . . It’s a little challenging to remember that another person can see and hear us.”

                “I don’t care either way,” Grit says passively.

                “I don’t have standards,” Pong says. Somehow, he’s the most frustrating of the three.

                “But we’re just Oz’s Pokémon, not his spokespeople,” Stein continues. “Dead Pokémon to boot. His opinion matters most, and from what I can tell, he’s pretty attached to you. That’d make you his first friend in . . . a pretty long time. So, even if you’re a callous guy, I don’t think you’re bad.”

                Luckily—or maybe unluckily—I don’t have to dignify that with a response, because a strange rumbling fills the atmosphere, surfacing from the Whirl Islands below. The water foams with even more agitation within the vortices until its churning and surging in miniature typhoons and crashing waves. If that creature’s influence has spanned even overseas, then . . .

                “Grit!” Stein shouts, bringing my eyes to a cyclone that whirls up towards us. Grit releases a gust of frosty breath that freezes it in seconds, showering us with a spray of icy mist. The clouds above groan ominously before light surges between the crack. The tingling sensation of intangibility rushes over me a moment before a thunderbolt zaps down from overhead and into the frozen tornado, splitting it and shattering it into tiny filaments nearly instantly.

                “Uh-oh! We got some bad company!” Pong says, disappearing and reappearing in several different spots. “And it’s comin’ from down—”

                The whirlpools slow before our eyes, and after a while they just stop spinning entirely. The water is calm for several breaths, then a murky shape takes form under the glow of moonlight on its surface. Grit releases a consistent coldness, and Pong is exploding into a shower of sparks every few seconds. Stein is the only one that seems calm, then again, he said he can’t truly control his form.

                A ghastly roar sounds as a huge gush of water surges upwards. Stein’s flames are extinguished by the spray, then Oz and I begin to fall. It lasts for maybe a second before a whirlwind builds in the atmosphere, holding us aloft. Oz flops around limply before I can find some sort of equilibrium in the air and peddle over to grab him. Grit holds Stein by one of his candle stalks, and despite being already dead, he looks eerily lifeless without his fire. The water finally is pulled down by gravity, but it leaves a little something behind.

                I thought I sensed Arceus above my waters, Lugia says, its large wings flapping slowly to both keep it in the air and maintain the gust holding us aloft. You’re only human, but you do have its energy within you . . .

                It’s hard to look dignified with my ass above my head, but I try. “I’m Sean Isaac DiCaprio. This is Oswald. We’re doing Arceus’ dirty work for it.”

                That makes two of us, it hums laconically, looking out towards the water beyond. I’ve been having to do a bit of “damage control” the last few days. Word’s spread among the Legendary Pokémon that Mt. Silver lacks a “Red” and that it’s causing an outpour of dark energy throughout the region, but seeing you here as you are cements those rumors.

                “What exactly is beyond the barrier of Mt. Silver?”

                There is a great mass of evil energy, mostly, but that would be akin to the plasma within your bodies. The “blood cells,” the main pieces that must be held at bay, are the rest of us, the other Legendary Pokémon. Trapped in separate spaces after crimes here so that they may not harm another human, they constantly seek their freedom. As strong as it is, Arceus alone cannot hold off the entirety of them, thus the stream of “Reds.”

                “Then I was looking at this the wrong way.” If the problem is staving off Legendary Pokémon themselves, then the situation is much easier. That’s been done already. “Which Pokémon, exactly?”

                Lugia opens its mouth, then its jaw snaps shut again as its eyes narrow. One is coming up right now. It flaps its wings harder, creating crosswinds that bring us even higher in the air while it remains in the same spot. At the same time, Oz cries out and curls up, his face twisted in pain. A cloud of black and red moves straight through its breeze and Lugia claps its hands together, creating a gust that cuts the water apart even from dozens of feet above sea level. The cloud momentarily dissipates, then coalesces into a solid form. What are you doing over my seas, Darkrai? it growls, keeping a careful distance.

                What I do best. Compared to Lugia and Arceus—who don’t sound very melodic to begin with—Darkrai’s voice is nails on a chalkboard, hissing cats, wailing babies, and the unique sound of terror, all rolled into one. Darkrai smiles, and if merely speaking is unnerving enough, then that is utterly horrifying. Causing mayhem . . . fright . . . ruin . . . And now that Mt. Silver is slowly opening up, I am the—the herald, if you may, of all that and more to come to this plane of existence.
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                  #15    
                Old October 12th, 2017 (9:49 PM).
                Bay Alexison's Avatar
                Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is online now
                O, Dance of Devotion!
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                We get a bit more insight how Oz's ghosts function there, which is cool. Heh Pong inside Sean for a little while. And well, not only did the group met with Lugia but seems Darkrai joins in the part too, which doesn't sound too good.
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