Pokémon Of Sand and Shadows

Started by HelloYellow17 March 27th, 2021 7:20 PM
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HelloYellow17

She/her
Seen 1 Day Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
8 posts
135 Days
Hey, hi, hello! Thanks for swinging by, and welcome to my first fanfic!

I decided to write about one of my favorite Pokémon games of all time, Pokemon Colosseum. I hope you'll enjoy taking this ride with me as I retell this fantastic story. As this is my first attempt at any kind of novelization, helpful feedback and critiques are more than welcome!

Please be advised that this story will have minor swearing, scenes of violence and death, and depictions of both Pokemon and child abuse. If any of these are sensitive topics for you, please use your discretion.

Last but not least, obvious disclaimer is obvious: I do not own Pokémon, but I do own my OCs.




Chapter 1: Escape

Some would say that "barren" and "Orre" were the same thing.

It would only take a brief view of the landscape to see why. The desert region sprawled for miles, seemingly without end, with little to no life in sight. The sun blazed down mercilessly on the copper sands as the winds whistled aimlessly across them. The only sign of life was the occasional tumbleweed that rolled lazily on by.

One thing disrupted the flat expanse: a series of cliffs, tucked away from the sands, which formed a narrow canyon. At this canyon's mouth sat a large building—or, at least, something that barely qualified as one. The structure, though massive, almost looked more like a pile of poorly assembled pipes and scrap metal than an actual building. Like its surroundings, this, too, was a quiet and still place, with only the howling canyon winds to break the silence.

It wouldn't be quiet for long.

BOOOOM!

An earth-rending explosion shattered the stillness. Flames burst from a section of the dilapidated building, followed shortly by screams. People in dark uniforms emerged from the blazing building, their faces masks of panic and confusion. Among the chaos, no one seemed to notice one person in particular dashing away from the scene, with two Pokémon sprinting at his side.

"Go, go, GO!" the young man shouted at his companions as he raced for a beat-up motorcycle parked on the desert sand. He sprang nimbly onto the seat, revved the engine, and glanced quickly into the sidecar, where his two partners should have been safely seated—only to find his Umbreon watching him tersely.

He glanced over his shoulder and found his Espeon a few yards away, yipping loudly at the people fleeing the burning building, tail waving triumphantly in the air. He didn't speak Pokémon, but the runaway figured if he did, he would be hearing a choice selection of colorful insults.

"Neo, you idiot-"

"Espi-esp, esp, esp! Es-SPI!?" The Espeon's barks cut short in a yap of surprise as his trainer hauled him off his feet and shoved him under one arm. He sprinted back to the motorcycle and dumped the creature rather unceremoniously into the sidecar next to his brother, ignoring the Pokémon's cries of indignation.

"LEO! I'LL KILL YOU, BOY!"

A terrifying roar of rage sounded from behind the trio, and the trainer turned his head to see his least favorite person in the world: a massive, hulking man with no hair (though he made up for that with an impressive beard and eyebrows), charging straight toward them, his face red and contorted with unfathomable fury. Several others, clad in dark clothing like the rest, flanked him on either side.

Anger and bitter satisfaction alike swelled inside the trainer's chest. He faced his now-former boss with a growl.

"If you're going to threaten me," he said, "call me by my real name." He sneered. "It's Wes, by the way. In case you forgot."

The man roared again, this time too incensed to form any words. He barreled toward the trainer and his Pokémon with a murderous expression, but this wasn't Wes' main cause of concern: a flash of light emerged from a Pokéball at the man's belt and took the shape of a metallic bird. The Pokémon spread its wings, emitted a blood-curdling screech, and took to the sky.

It was time to go.

The motorcycle engine started with a roar, and in one smooth motion, Wes swept astride the motorcycle. He raised his left arm high above his head, sunlight glinting off a strange metal contraption that encased it. Holding a small remote in his hand, he looked his boss dead in the eye, smirked, and pressed the button.

KA-BOOOM!

The second explosion was, if possible, even more impressive than the first, and nearly knocked every bystander off their feet. The giant man's bellows of rage were drowned out by a monstrous roar as the motorcycle kicked into gear. Its rider slammed on the gas and he launched the bike forward, narrowly missing a dive-bomb from the enraged Skarmory, and soon the crowd of people were left in the dust.

Skarmory flew overhead, shrieking horribly as it gave chase. Wes shouted a command to his Pokémon, but he needn't have bothered—his Espeon had already charged up a Psybeam and fired it at his foe.

A metallic clang followed by another agonized screech told Wes that the Psybeam hit its mark. He glanced over his shoulder to see the bird tumbling out of the sky and down to the sands below.

He laughed and let out a whoop of celebration, his companions joining in with triumphant cries, and the trio plowed through the desert until the base and its inhabitants were long out of sight.

—————————————————————————————-

The sun was sinking below the horizon and the temperatures had started to drop by the time their destination came into view: an old, rusty, seemingly abandoned train car. Near the door, a wooden sign swung lazily in the desert breeze. On its face, it read: OUTSKIRT STAND. The crusty thing had been converted into a diner, and though it wasn't much to look at, it was a place Wes was familiar with. Most importantly, it was a place where they would be safe for the night.

He hoped.

The motorcycle puttered to a halt as Wes pulled up to the establishment. Dim lights shone through the train car windows as old Western music hummed from an outdoor speaker. Wes stood and stretched his limbs—speeding through the desert for hours did his joints no favors—as his Pokémon followed suit, leaping nimbly from the vehicle and stretching their lithe bodies.

"All right, who's hungry?" He pushed his mirrored goggles off his face and into his sandy hair, revealing a pair of golden-colored eyes, and grinned at the two Eeveelutions. His Umbreon gave a yip of hearty affirmation. His Espeon, on the other hand, squinted at him, then sniffed airily and turned his head away from his trainer.

"Spi."

Wes heaved a weary sigh. He crouched down in front of his Espeon to be eye level with him despite the fact that the Pokémon was pointedly avoiding his gaze. "Neo. Is this about me manhandling you back there?"

The Pokémon, Neo, irritably flicked his tail in response.

Another sigh. "Look, I'm sorry. But there's a time and a place for gloating over a victory, and doing so while escaping from an exploding building is not it."

Neo flicked his ears back and looked at the ground, looking slightly abashed. "Esp." He then looked back up at his trainer with a small glare. "Espi-esp!"

"I know, I shouldn't have been so rough. I'm sorry, bud, really. How can I make it up to you?" Wes glanced at the Outskirt Stand, then back at his Pokémon with a sly grin. "How about I get you a whole plate of bacon and we call it even. Truce?"

Neo's eyes grew wide and he leaped to his feet. "Es-PI!" He waved his tail excitedly in the air, all injuries to his pride forgotten.

"Bri!" There was a reproachful bark from the Umbreon.

Wes rolled his eyes, but was still grinning despite himself. "Fine, fine, bacon for everybody. Don't get used to it though, you hear? This is a one-time deal."

He wasn't sure if they heard the last line, as they were already bounding excitedly to the entrance of the train car. Wes snorted in exasperated amusement, then followed his companions into the warmth of the diner.

—————————————————————————————-

Muffled cries, the screams of Pokémon, a child sobbing quietly in a corner - images and sounds flickered and blurred together, one coming right after the other as if in a disorganized photo reel.

A flicker, and there was a dark room, in which a child was sobbing over the limp form of a Pokémon's body. He looked up, tear-stained face twisted with anger. "This is YOUR FAULT!" he screamed.

The scene dissolved into darkness, and a man's husky, menacing voice spoke in a snarl. "It's time you learned this lesson, boy."

Another shift, another dark room littered with Pokémon lying ominously still, limbs splayed out in awkward angles—and there was another voice, a kinder voice, accompanied by a sad, tired smile.

"Do good, kid."


He sat bolt upright with a gasp, drenched in sweat and shivering. Breathing heavily, he glanced around the room. It took a moment to remember where he was: Outskirt Stand. The diner cellar. A night's stay in the musty place, where he and his Pokémon would be hidden from prying eyes.

Safe.

"Dammit—"
He buried his face in his trembling hands. Again, he thought shakily. Again. When in Arceus' name will they stop?

He felt a gentle nudge at his arm, and raised his head to see his Umbreon looking up at him with wide, concerned eyes. "Umbri?" The markings on his coat glowed softly, gently illuminating the dark, dusty cellar.

Wes forced a feeble smile and placed a hand on the sleek black head. "I'm okay, Novo. Just some more bad dreams, is all." Beside him, Neo stirred and stretched out his legs before relaxing back into sleep with a gentle purr.

Novo, unconvinced, bunted into his arm again with his head. He placed a paw on his trainer's lap, giving him a stern stare.

"I know it'll help, bud, but I've got to be able to sleep on my own sometime." Wes closed his eyes briefly. He was exhausted, and yet returning to sleep would undoubtedly mean more nightmares, more voices, more things he'd rather forget...he opened his eyes again and looked at his Umbreon. "All right...just one more night," he said wearily.

Novo purred in response and brushed his face against Wes' shoulder. The two sat in silence for a moment, Novo leaning into him as Wes stroked the Umbreon's sleek black fur. He paused at Novo's left side, fingers brushing at old scars that he knew were still there, despite the fact that they were nearly invisible under the dark coat.

More memories flashed through Wes' mind, and he couldn't suppress the shiver that followed. Novo, sensing his trainer's distress, chirped and brushed against him again. Wes sighed and finally laid back down in his sleeping bag, closing his eyes. His Umbreon touched his nose to his forehead and purred gently, using Hypnosis.

Just before drifting off to a dreamless sleep, Wes had one last coherent thought.

The sooner we leave this region, the better.

Venia Silente

Inspectious. Good for napping.

Male
on the second floor's nest
Seen 15 Hours Ago
Posted 5 Days Ago
1,027 posts
12.7 Years
"Espi-esp, esp, esp! Es-SPI!?" The Espeon's barks cut short in a yap of surprise as his trainer hauled him off his feet and shoved him under one arm.
Ah yes the armpit duffelbag carry, the most uncomfortable means to carry a cat around. That silly Espeon has it well deserved for its theoretically colorful insults. Good to see a fic that brings the two companion Pokémon Espeon and Umbreon, into the scene! And good to see these little hints at personality.

His Espeon, on the other hand, squinted at him, then sniffed airily and turned his head away from his trainer.

"Spi."

Wes heaved a weary sigh. He crouched down in front of his Espeon to be eye level with him despite the fact that the Pokémon was pointedly avoiding his gaze. "Neo. Is this about me manhandling you back there?"

The Pokémon, Neo, irritably flicked his tail in response.
Do you remember the manhandling of the Espeon in Colosseum? Pepperidge Farm remembers. And Neo will, too, for a good while I'm sure.

Really, this cat gives a very special and sorta... nostalgic? vibe to the story, like "come on Wes is dealing with enough problems already".

"Bri!" There was a reproachful bark from the Umbreon.

Wes rolled his eyes, but was still grinning despite himself. "Fine, fine, bacon for everybody."
YES! Umbreon gets their own share of screentime and meaty rewards as well.

Fun, short, concise introduction for the story, very welcome feline protagonism, picking up one of the best games in the franchise, what more can one ask for?

(More episodes, of course)
Venia Silente - Consulting WorldbuilderSocial·🐘ⓜ · · Direct·
Looking for background art.
[World] The Suocéverse «Thread» «Wiki»

Fic stuff~
SWC Selections
: Playfield : As They Were : Simpler than Magic : Beyond Today :

Other Releases
: FF&W Library : Stories : AO3 :

The Meta Journey!
Nidoran : Carnivine : Trapinch


HelloYellow17

She/her
Seen 1 Day Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
8 posts
135 Days
Ah yes the armpit duffelbag carry, the most uncomfortable means to carry a cat around. That silly Espeon has it well deserved for its theoretically colorful insults. Good to see a fic that brings the two companion Pokémon Espeon and Umbreon, into the scene! And good to see these little hints at personality.


Do you remember the manhandling of the Espeon in Colosseum? Pepperidge Farm remembers. And Neo will, too, for a good while I'm sure.

Really, this cat gives a very special and sorta... nostalgic? vibe to the story, like "come on Wes is dealing with enough problems already".


YES! Umbreon gets their own share of screentime and meaty rewards as well.

Fun, short, concise introduction for the story, very welcome feline protagonism, picking up one of the best games in the franchise, what more can one ask for?

(More episodes, of course)

Oh wow THANK YOU for taking the time to leave your thoughts! I really wasn’t expecting anyone to say anything, so this was a really pleasant surprise!

Haha loved the commentary, you tapped into Neo’s personality with it xD and YES this absolutely IS one of the best games in the franchise, glad to see you have fine taste! ;)

Never fear about more episodes! I have 15 eps written (plus an Aprils Fools one) and they will all be cross posted here shortly! Second chapter will be going up tonight, in fact.
Thanks again for your thoughts! Hope you enjoy what I have in store!

HelloYellow17

She/her
Seen 1 Day Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
8 posts
135 Days
Chapter 2: Interference


Wes was awakened the following morning by the sound of footsteps and chatter from the diner overhead. He sat up, stretched, and was slowly gathering his bearings when a familiar smell wafted to his nose...

Bacon.

He groaned. "Aw, hell—"

"ESPI!"

He was pushed flat on his back as his Espeon leaped at him, eyes wide, tail wagging in excitement. "Espi! Epsi, espi, espi, espi, espi!"

"No, Neo." Wes shoved the Pokémon off of him with a grumble. "I gave you and Novo plenty of bacon last night. One-time deal, remember?"

At the sound of his name and "bacon" being used in the same sentence, the Umbreon lifted his head and yawned. "Umbri?" He pricked his ears forward and gave his trainer a hopeful look.

"I said no, guys." He donned a teal trench coat that fell past his knees and began to pack up his belongings, pausing only to give them a stern look. "Last night was a special treat, but today we have to get on the road as quickly as possible, which means nothing fancy for breakfast. And that's final."

Naturally, not ten minutes later, he found himself sitting across from his Pokémon in the diner, watching them each chow down a fresh plate of bacon.

Despite all his griping, he did relish the opportunity to spoil his partners. Bacon—or any decent food, for that matter—was hard to come by, and therefore was practically a delicacy. Under normal circumstances, he would have had to resort to swiping table scraps for all three of them, but thanks to the cash he'd snatched from the hideout, he could afford to dote on his Pokémon just a little. After yesterday, he figured they deserved it anyway.

The diner was just as shabby on the inside as it was outside. Still, there was a homey feel about the place, peeling wallpaper and rusty metal windows notwithstanding. The smells of various breakfast foods drifted through the air while the signature Western music played quietly in the background. On the wall across from where they sat was a flatscreen TV, arguably the most modern thing about the place. It was showing some old, obscure cartoon that nobody seemed to be watching.

Through the grimy window next to their booth, Wes could see two men laughing and talking amongst themselves, seemingly rejuvenated after a hearty meal. They continued laughing as they entered their vehicle—an old hover truck of some sort. Neo paused from his feast to watch them intently, his ears pricked forward, eyes trained on a large burlap sack that rested in the truck bed. His gaze remained steadfastly fixed on them, and he only returned his attention to his plate after they drove away and out of sight.

Wes, meanwhile, had turned his attention elsewhere. He ate his breakfast quietly while discreetly scanning the occupants of the place. It was relatively empty, with only a middle-aged woman seated up front, dozing quietly in her booth, and a gruff-looking man stretched out at his own booth in the back, face obscured by his cowboy hat. The diner owner could be heard whistling from the kitchen behind the counter at the very front of the train car. No signs of immediate danger, it seemed. Still, he was anxious for them to be on their way.

"Here's the plan," he muttered quietly to his Pokémon. They both looked up at him from empty plates, licking the last remnants of bacon grease from their muzzles. "We'll head to Phenac to stock up on supplies, and head straight to Gateon from there. It'll take us a handful of days, but if we only stop for occasional breaks, we should make it in good time. And then, if all goes well, I can get a passport there and we'll be out of Orre. For good."

Those last two words felt like a breath of fresh air to him. They were so close now, he could almost taste it. Soon, very soon, they would be rid of this disease-ridden, Arceus-forsaken desert, and they would be free.

Neo chirped softly in agreement while his brother nodded, looking resolute. Wes couldn't help but smile softly and give them each a rub behind the ear. He'd never been much for people, but his partners more than made up for that. As far as he was concerned, there was no need for human company when his Pokémon were far and away better than any humans he'd bothered with.

"We bring this breaking news to you live from Eclo Canyon—"

A female reporter's voice blared suddenly from the TV and interrupted his thoughts. He turned his head and felt his chest freeze: raw footage was being displayed on the screen, footage of a familiar metal building, now reduced to shambles and a pile of smoking debris. The diner owner poked his head from the kitchen and, upon seeing the report, grabbed a remote from the counter and cranked up the volume. The woman up front snorted awake at the noise, and soon everyone present was watching intently.

"Reports of an explosion yesterday have led investigators and authorities to this building, which has now officially been confirmed as the home base for Team Snagem. The scene was already abandoned by the time authorities arrived, and no casualties have been confirmed. The cause of the explosion remains unknown.

"Team Snagem is infamous for its involvement in theft, property destruction, and Pokémon trafficking. Authorities have been unsuccessful in shutting down the organization..."


"Hah!"

Wes gave a start as the gruff man from the back barked out a laugh. "Serves 'em right, the rotten thieves! Shoulda blown the whole lot of 'em away!" He rose to his feet and stretched.

"Aye, I'll level with ya there." The owner nodded approvingly as he spoke, and the woman up front gave a disdainful sniff.

"I don't understand how authorities haven't at least made some progress," she said. "Whoever bombed that shack has done more than they have in thirty years!"

Wes turned back to his plate and inhaled deeply, willing his heart to stop racing so fast. He glanced uneasily at the metal sleeve that covered his left arm from his shoulder to his wrist. The existence of Snag Machines—particularly this Snag Machine—was not public knowledge, and his identity was safe for now.

At least, it should be...the bartender knew Wes as a regular, but not well enough to be suspicious. And, worst case scenario...Wes reached under his coat and brushed his fingers against the hilt of the knife he kept strapped to his belt. Well, "knife" was bit of a generous term for the thing—it was an old Skarmory feather that he'd strapped to a makeshift hilt. Not exactly the most conventional blade, but it had served its purpose on more than one occasion just fine.

The feather itself had come from none other than Gonzap's own Skarmory, and as much as Wes hated that bloodthirsty bird, he felt a strange sense of satisfaction at being able to weaponize part of something that had once terrorized him.

Yes...he, Neo and Novo had fought their way out of hell once, and they could fight their way out of this place if they needed to. Although, there was no need to resort to violence if it could be avoided. All he needed to do was get moving as quickly as possible—

"Howdy, stranger!" A hand clapped on his shoulder, and he found himself jumping again. Inwardly cursing, he turned his head to see the man from the back now standing beside him, grinning down at him. "Those are some mighty fine Pokémon ya got there!"

Wes shrugged off the man's hand and eyed him darkly. "Can I help you?" He growled.

The man chuckled and removed his hat, revealing a surprisingly young-looking face and a head of pink hair—pink hair? He offered a hand to the younger trainer. "Name's Willie. Yours?"

He did not shake his hand. "Wes," he answered curtly.

Willie withdrew his hand, though he didn't seem to take any offense from Wes' rudeness. "Mighty fine name. You come to these parts often?"

What did this man want from him? "On occasion," Wes said curtly.

His terse responses must have given Willie a clue, as he stepped back and tipped his hat to him. "Well, pardon me for interruptin' your meal. Was a pleasure meetin' you." He then walked up to the front counter to pay for his meal, then exited the diner.

Wes let out a breath and slowly eased his hold on the knife. He hadn't even realized he'd been gripping it so tightly.

He finished his meal quickly, his senses now on high alert after the newscast. It wouldn't do for them to stay here any longer.

He stepped into the bright sunlight after paying for his meal, then made straight for his motorcycle with Neo and Novo trotting happily on either side. He was halfway there when a shout stopped him in his tracks.

"Hey, stranger! Care for a battle before you go?"

Wes turned his head to see Willie leaning up against the diner, a cigarette in his hand and two Zigzagoon at his feet. The sunlight made his bright pink hair even more shocking to look at, and Wes quietly snorted to himself in disbelief. Pink hair. Unbelievable. Not that he had much of a right to mock strange hair color—his own was such a light, platinum blonde, it was often mistaken for silvery white. Still, at least he could blame genetics instead of poor decisions.

Willie eyed the metal contraption on his arm, but if the stranger thought anything of it, he said nothing. After all, eccentric fashion choices weren't unusual in Orre. The man did, however, squint his eyes a little as he observed the tattoo on Wes' face; a thin white line that went across the bridge of his nose from one cheekbone to the other. Wes was not unused to strange looks at his face, and while stares in general made him uneasy, he'd learned to shrug it off. Still, he sighed a little at the man's scrutinizing look. Speaking of bad decisions...but no, it was better this way. Tattoo or no, he would have been stared at anyway; his choices had been either a nasty scar or this tattoo to cover it up, and he'd chosen the latter.

Wes looked back at the man and shook his head. "No. We have somewhere to be—"

"Aw, don't be like that! We can make it quick." Willie gestured to his Pokémon. "They could really use the training, see."

Novo perked up his ears, and Neo flicked his tail, eyes gleaming with excitement. Wes supposed it had been a while since they'd had a chance to battle—properly, anyway. He figured battling while on the job for Snagem hadn't really counted, considering the main goal had been thievery and not victory.

But—no. He couldn't afford to waste time, not with Snagem at his heels, and especially not after that broadcast. The clock was ticking.

"I said no," Wes said a little more forcefully. "We don't have time for a battle. Sorry."

Willie looked disappointed, but he merely shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well, can't be helped, I s'pose. You in a hurry, then?"

"Yes." Wes hopped on his vehicle and turned to face the man as his Pokémon followed behind. He noticed Neo glancing back at the Zigzagoon over his shoulder and walking with a particular swagger, as if attempting to flaunt his superiority to his would-be foes.

Show-off.

Novo remained calm and stoic as ever, faithfully watching his trainer for any commands as he settled next to his brother with a dignified air.

"Do you know the fastest route to Phenac from here?" Wes asked Willie.

"Phenac, eh? You gonna take on the Pre-Gym there? You certainly look tough enough." When Wes didn't reply, he shrugged and pointed the way. "Head that direction and you'll be there by early afternoon. It's mostly a straight shot."

Wes nodded his thanks. He was about to start his motorcycle when a thought occurred to him, and he turned back to the other trainer. "Hey."

"Yeah?" Willie grinned at him again. Such open friendliness from a total stranger. He was far too naive for this place.

"You should be more careful about who you challenge to battle. Your Pokémon are easy targets, and there are still plenty of Snaggers out there." He pulled his goggles over his eyes and gripped the handlebars tightly with gloved hands. "Don't pick fights you have no chance of winning." With that, the motorcycle roared to life and he drove off, leaving a bemused trainer in his wake.

——————————————————

Phenac City was often referred to as "the jewel of the desert", and it was easy to see why. Laid out in a circular pattern, with the tallest buildings at the northernmost top of the circle, the city gleamed with white stone and crystalline waterfalls flowing along the streets. The desert sun reflected off the sparkling water and white structures, making it blindingly bright to look at.

To Wes, it was a literal eyesore.

Perhaps he simply wasn't used to such pristine buildings and clean streets. His life had consisted of dirt, sweat, and rust, and none of those things seemed to belong in such a perfect place as Phenac. Plus, there was an air of false grandeur about the place that repulsed him, particularly in the way its citizens liked to flaunt Pokémon as symbols of status. Snagem may have shipped stolen Pokémon around like merchandise, but in Wes' opinion, Phenac was hardly any better. He'd preferred to avoid it on his previous missions if he could help it, but today's errands made it a necessary destination.

We won't be here for long, Wes told himself as he and his partners walked to the city gate. Just head to the market, grab supplies, and get back on the road. In and out. Simple.

The desert winds billowed the tails of his blue trench coat behind him as he, Neo, and Novo approached the city gate. Neo swatted playfully at the swaying fabric before bounding ahead to be at the front of the group, where he usually preferred to be.

They had just stepped through the entrance and started their way to the center of town when Wes saw the Espeon stop dead in his tracks. He didn't think much of it and continued walking; random things caught Neo's attention all the time. He did stop, however, when he heard a soft, alarmed chirp behind him. "Spi!"

Wes glanced over his shoulder to see his Espeon standing stiffly, fur on end. He was facing away from his trainer, ears forward, eyes focused on two men in the shadows near the city wall. They were hefting a large burlap sack between them, and were muttering under their breath, glancing about warily.

"Neo?" Wes asked quietly. He approached his Pokémon and knelt beside him, Novo close behind. "What's wrong?"

"Espi." Neo looked at Wes with wide eyes, then back at the men in the shadows. "Esp!"

Wes observed the pair with narrowed eyes. He vaguely recognized the truck parked against the wall and remembered seeing it briefly at the Outskirt Stand. He gave Neo a questioning look. The Espeon continued to stare forward, body rigid, and growled softly.

Perhaps it was obvious, or maybe Wes' personal history had taught him the signs; either way, it was clear to him that these men were not up to anything wholesome, and everything about their demeanor screamed, "shady business."

He got to his feet with a sigh and turned away. "Not our business, bud. We're here to get away from those kinds of people, remember?"

"Es-piiii!" He felt teeth tugging at the hem of his pants and saw Neo gripping the black fabric in his mouth, looking up at him with a pleading expression.

"What's the matter with you?" Wes asked irritably. Since when had his Espeon developed such a strong moral compass? "We can't stop every shady person in town. Leave that to authorities or something. Let's go."

"Bri, umbri." This time Novo chimed in, looking up at his trainer with urgency.

"Both of you, now?" Exasperated, Wes turned one last look at the suspicious men. They had set down the sack and now appeared to be quietly arguing with one another—but they weren't the ones who held his attention this time.

The burlap sack was moving.

"Oh, for Arceus' sake." He ran a hand through his sandy hair and looked down at Neo and Novo. "What, they have a Pokémon or something?" Neo's tail lashed, and Novo flattened his ears against his head. He frowned at them. "Not a Pokémon? Then what...?"

Oh.

He looked at the sack again. Whatever—no, whoever —was in the sack was struggling fiercely, which prompted a bark and a kick from one of the men.

Merciful Arceus, he thought. Kidnappers? In broad daylight? In Phenac City, no less? Even for Orre's standards, it was rather bold. He glanced back at his distressed Pokémon and sighed. They had come here for a pit stop, nothing more. They had a long road ahead, a city to get to, an unforgiving region to leave behind forever. He had absolutely no obligation to interfere in what was clearly a messy situation, especially considering they were in enough hot water as it was.

Let someone else handle it, he thought. Preferably someone who didn't have an entire gang of thugs out for their blood.

"Not our business," Wes said again, and turned away. "Let's go."

He only made it two steps before Neo sprang in front of him, fur bristling, giving his trainer a hard, burning stare. Novo stood cautiously at Wes' side; Wes knew the Umbreon would go along with whatever plan his trainer thought best, especially if it was the safer route. Neo, however, seemed to have his own agenda at the moment.

"Move."

"Esp."

The two glared each other down for a moment, Novo glancing between them. Wes had all but made up his mind to return Neo to his Pokéball when his brother stepped forward, cautiously moving between them, and looked intently into Wes' eyes.

"Oh, for the love of—" Wes turned on his heel and made his way towards the old hover truck, swearing under his breath. "Fine." His every instinct screamed at him to walk away and to never think about those men again, and as much as he wanted to listen, he couldn't bring himself to say no to the pleading stares of his Pokémon. "This is the only time, got it? Don't make me pretend to be some hero."

Neo and Novo chirped and strode eagerly at his heels.

Wes could hear their conversation as he approached. "Wha' do you mean, take a rest? We're almost there!"

"I'm tired , man. An' shouldn't we bunker down till nightfall anyhow? This lil scrap ain't making it easy for us, and I don't want to cause no scene." The second man glared down at the wriggling sack.

"I'll cause a scene!" The first man snarled. His eyes were shielded by his own pair of sunglasses, and some blonde hair could be seen poking out from under his dark beanie. "We're gonna cash in on this haul today, an' I don't care how tired you are! I ain't keeping this extra baggage longer than I have to!"

"Pipe down, Trudly!" his partner hissed. "We can't go around shoutin' our business, someone might hear us—"

"Someone like me, for instance?"

The pair whipped around to find Wes standing a few yards away, arms folded, his companions at his side. The first man, Trudly, addressed him in a low growl.

"Listen, kid, I dunno what you heard, but you best keep to your own business if you know what's good for you."

Wes raised an eyebrow. "Very scary . Consider me intimidated."

Trudly snarled and took a step forward, but his partner reached out an arm and stopped him. "Ain't nothin to see here, stranger. We're just delivery men doin' our route. Now get gone." He glared at Wes through a pair of orange goggles that matched the absurd color of his hair.

"Funny, I don't recall people being a common delivery item," Wes remarked. Both of the men paled. "Would your 'route' happen to include some sort of human trafficking ring?"

The sack wriggled again, and this time muffled shouts could be heard coming from inside. The second man swore vehemently and gave the bag another kick, producing a yelp from their captive. "Damn it all," he spat at Wes, "You just had to stick your nose where it don't belong! We'll make you sorry, boy!"

He stepped forward and summoned his Pokémon in a flash of white light. Two Whismur hopped forward, tensed for battle. Despite their readiness to fight, it was hard to find the pink, rotund things menacing. Wes snorted. "Is that all you got?"

"You cocky little—" The trainer's lip curled, and he bellowed at his Whismur. "UPROAR!"

"Neo, Novo, charge up!" Wes barely had time to give the command before the opposing Pokémon launched their assault. The brothers responded immediately to the veiled phrase, having executed it hundreds of times before.

Neo's forehead jewel gleamed, and a silvery Protect shield formed around him, blocking the Whismurs' attacks completely. Novo, however, braced himself and took the hit - he tumbled backwards, then scrambled back to his feet and howled. Neo's fur bristled and his eyes gleamed as he gained strength from his brother's Helping Hand.

"Neo, Confusion! Novo, Bite!"

They lunged forward. The opposing trainer bellowed commands, and both Whismur hurled themselves at the empowered Espeon. Novo intercepted a Headbutt from one, staggered briefly, then returned a fierce Bite, fangs tearing into the pink Pokémon. The Whismur's battle cries turned to shrieks as the Umbreon flung his opponent and sent it rolling through the dirt. The second Whismur failed to reach Neo before it, too, was sent flying from his Confusion attack.

"Switch!" Wes' voice sounded from behind.

In a synchronized motion, Neo and Novo gracefully moved across the white stones, each one targeting the others' former opponents. The Whismur struggled to their feet as their trainer called for another Uproar. The resulting attack screamed through the air, piercing their foes' ears, but it hardly mattered - the Espeon and Umbreon were already upon them. With a final Bite and Confusion, the Eeveelutions sent their foes tumbling backwards. The Whismur rolled to a stop at their trainer's feet, and this time they didn't get back up.

"HAH?!" Trudly roared in fury at his partner, who stood frozen in shock. "Was that the best you could do against some scrap off the street? You're an embarrassment!"

"You're no better," replied Wes dryly. Neo and Novo trotted triumphantly back to him, and he crouched down to rub their ears. Trudly spat a colorful insult at him in response.

"What do we do, Trudly?" The orange-haired man's eyes were wide with fear as he returned his Pokémon and addressed his partner. "M-maybe we should run—"

"Shut your trap, Folly! Don't throw around my name here! We can't have everybody knowin' who we are!"

"...but you just said my name!"

Trudly blanched. "Aw, hell—"

"What in Arceus' name is going on here?" A female voice drew everyone's attention. A middle-aged woman stood a cautious distance away, watching the scene with frightened eyes. A young man in jogging gear walked up beside her, frowning.

"I'd like to know that myself!" he said.

Wes stood, staring Trudly and Folly in the eyes as he responded to the people behind him. "These guys are kidnappers," he said simply. "And thought they could get away with it."

"What?" The woman cried. "Do you mean—are you sure—oh!" She gasped in horror at the sight of the still wriggling sack.

Folly swore loudly and grabbed Trudly by the arm, hauling him towards the hover truck. "Time to bail, man!" He glowered at Wes, who returned his gaze nonchalantly. "I'll remember you, kid!"

Wes smirked. "Aw, how cute."

The men broke into a sprint and hopped into their truck. The young athlete yelled and started forward, but he only made it a few steps before the truck roared alive and hauled away, plowing recklessly to the city entrance. He turned to Wes in frustration. "We—we have to stop them!"

Wes shook his head. "They'll be long gone by the time we can give chase. No point in that."

"Can you boys help me with this knot?" The woman had rushed to the sack and was frantically pulling at the rope tied around its mouth. The young man sprinted over to help, but Wes hesitated. He had half a mind to walk away right then and there—he'd done his duty, after all—but then decided, more out of curiosity than anything else, that he might as well stay to make sure the victim was all right.

The knot was, in fact, relentlessly tight. Even with two people working at it, it refused to give way. Wes brushed them aside and called for Novo, who stepped forward and gnawed at the rope. Within seconds, the rope was severed, and the woman swooped in to open the sack.

A girl burst out of the sack, gasping great gulps of air. Most of her red hair was pulled up into two pigtails, and the rest of it was drenched in sweat and plastered to her face. In fact, she was almost entirely drenched in sweat—not surprising, as Wes couldn't imagine how hot it must have been inside the stifling burlap.

"Oh, you poor dear!" The woman reached out and pulled the girl's blue and pink jacket from her shoulders in an attempt to cool her off. "Those monsters , how could they do this to you?"

The girl looked around, taking in her surroundings. She seemed incredibly disoriented. "Wh-where—?" She broke off in a coughing fit. The Phenac woman placed an arm around her shoulders and tutted with concern.

"You poor, poor thing—do either of you have water?" She asked Wes and the boy beside him.

Wes shook his head, but the athlete promptly answered, "I do!" He procured a water bottle from his pack, crouched beside them, and handed it over. The girl, still gasping for air, gave him a weak smile and took it from him. She opened it with shaky hands and raised it to her lips.

"You need to take small sips." Wes surprised himself by speaking. What did he care? Why had he bothered to stick around this long? Why hadn't he left already? "You're probably really dehydrated, so don't drink it all at once or you'll make yourself sick."

The girl gave him a shaky nod and did as he advised, sipping carefully from the bottle. Her hands were trembling so badly that the woman beside her reached out and helped keep them steady. "To answer your question, you're in Phenac City, dear," she said kindly. "Would you mind telling us who you are? Perhaps there's someone we can call for you?"

The girl lowered the water bottle and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "My name is Rui," she said, her voice now steadying. "Rui Everlin." She looked between the woman and the boy beside her and smiled at them—a surprisingly genuine one, Wes thought, considering what she had just been through and how badly shaken she was. "Thank Celebi you were here to help me...I don't know how to repay you!"

Celebi? Wes frowned a little. He'd scarcely ever heard people swear by that name. He noticed the woman and the boy beside him exchange surprised looks, and wondered if they were thinking the same thing as him: She's not one of those crazy believers, is she?

The athlete simply shrugged. "Well, we didn't do much," he admitted as he turned back to the girl. He gestured to Wes. "He's the one who did all the work and chased those thugs off. It was real impressive, too, you should have seen it!" He gave Wes a look of shining admiration, which made him feel rather uncomfortable.

The girl named Rui looked up at him with shockingly bright blue eyes. She beamed at him with radiant gratitude. "Thank you—thank you so much! And you are?"

Wes paused. Giving out his name to perfect strangers was not on his list of things he wanted to do today—but then again, rescuing a kidnapping victim hadn't made it on that list, either. "Wes," he said shortly. He didn't offer his full name and was grateful when she didn't ask for one.

"I'm Dash," said the young man. He and the woman helped the girl to her feet, and Wes couldn't help but note how short she was—her head barely reached his shoulders, if that. No wonder she got kidnapped. Easy target, I suppose.

"And you can call me Marla, dear," said the lady kindly. "But enough about that—we need to get you taken care of. Who can we call for you? Perhaps we can help you get back to wherever you're from? Oh, we ought to get you to a hospital!"

"No, no, I don't need a hospital, really!" Rui said. "If—if I can get to a Pokémon Center, I can—wait!" She stopped abruptly and her eyes widened as if she'd just remembered something. She turned to Wes with an urgent expression on her face. "Those men you battled—did they have an unusual Pokémon?"

Wes eyed her warily. Unusual Pokémon? Perhaps the heat had disoriented her? "No." He shook his head.

Dash frowned and nodded. "They looked like ordinary Whismur to me..."

"You didn't see a Makuhita?" She looked between the three of them. Wes shook his head again. "Oh..." the girl's face fell and she looked deeply troubled.

"Oh, you don't have to worry about those—those—thugs any longer, dear," Marla fussed. "Let's get you taken to a Pokémon Center and—"

"No, wait!" The girl's face was urgent. "I need...I need to speak with the mayor!"

"The mayor?" asked Dash. He gave her a baffled look. "Why the mayor?"

"Those men grabbed me because I saw something," said Rui. "They had a Makuhita and there was something really...really wrong with it. I need to report this to the mayor so somebody knows about it!"

Marla frowned at her. "I'm not sure what the mayor can do if those people have left town already..."

"They were heading here for something!" Rui said emphatically. Her eyes were wide and pleading. "I think they might come back, and I'm really worried about what they plan to do with that Pokémon!"

Mew above, she's sure passionate , thought Wes. She was awfully fired up and upset, all for a Pokémon she didn't even know. What is wrong with this girl?

"The Center is close to the mayor's house," offered Dash. "We can take you there after we take you to the mayor, I guess...?"

"Oh, would you? I don't know this city well, so that would be really helpful!" Rui beamed at the athlete.

"But you ought to take this young man with you!" Marla gestured to Wes. "If those criminals are coming back, you ought to have someone with strong Pokémon."

"No," Wes said shortly. "I have places to be." He'd taken far too many detours today already.

Marla gave him a pleading look. "Oh, but if those men come back for her...I don't have my own Pokémon, you see, or I would take her..."

Dash rubbed the back of his head. "W-well, I do have my Castform," he said. "He's not a battler, exactly, but...maybe..."

They all looked at him hopefully. Even Neo was looking up at his trainer with pleading eyes. Traitor , thought Wes sourly. Do you want to get to Gateon or not?

A low, harsh, eerily familiar voice rang inside Wes' head. Sticking your neck out for people is what gets you killed, it snarled. Don't be a fool, boy.

Right. He didn't have time for this.

But then he noticed Novo, practical though he was, shift uncomfortably and look up at him. Never once had his Pokémon led him astray. For all the survival instincts Wes' upbringing had drilled into him, he would always trust his Pokémon, his family, more than anything else.

Wes was done in. He pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a long-suffering sigh. "Fine."

Neo chirrupped happily and Marla beamed at him approvingly. "You're such a kind gentleman!"

I'm definitely not.

"Oh, thank you, thank you so much!" Rui bounded up to him, and for one terrifying second he thought she might hug him. Don't touch me. He was immensely relieved that she didn't.

"That's really generous of you, man," said Dash. He looked relieved. "Maybe we can all go together—"

"No." Arceus forbid Wes get saddled with more unnecessary distractions today. He quickly thought of an excuse. "You two should go to the Town Hall and report this incident. Make sure authorities know about what happened." Not that it will do much, he thought to himself. The only "authorities" in Phenac City were the staff at the Town Hall, and they could do little more than raise awareness and alert the citizens.

Dash nodded. "Alright, good plan."

He and Marla said their goodbyes. Dash left his water bottle with Rui, claiming she needed it more than he did and that he had plenty more where it came from. Rui thanked him and Marla generously for their help, and the two set off in the direction of Town Hall.

Rui turned to Wes with a bright smile. "I'll let you lead the way, then!"

Her bubbly demeanor absolutely baffled him. What kind of person could smile so easily after being kidnapped, for crying out loud? Wes shook his head slightly and sighed again—he'd been doing that an awful lot today, it seemed. "It's this way. Let's go." He didn't even wait for her to respond before setting off in the direction of the mayor's house, Neo and Novo trotting faithfully in tow.

It was already looking to be a long day.

HelloYellow17

She/her
Seen 1 Day Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
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135 Days
Chapter 3: Change of Plans

Sunlight streamed down on the whitewashed streets and sparkling fountains, and there was no respite from the blinding brightness and burning heat as Wes and his Pokémon walked with Rui to the mayor's home. The girl certainly noticed this, as she commented for what must have been the fourth time on how beautiful the city was.

"I haven't been to Phenac in a long time, but it's even more beautiful than I remember!" she said in awe. "It's so lovely!"

Wes shot her a look—or tried to, but ended up looking over her head. He had to drop his gaze significantly to actually make eye contact. Arceus, this girl was small. Just how old was she, anyway?

"Not for years," she said. She still wore a small smile on her face as she talked. "I was just a kid the last time I was here." Her attention shifted to the Eeveelutions striding at Wes' side. "What are their names?" she asked lightly.

"The Espeon is Neo, and the Umbreon is Novo," he said. She already knew his name, so he figured the names of his Pokémon were inconsequential information to give out at this point.

"They're beautiful Pokémon!" Rui exclaimed, admiring Novo's sleek black coat. Neo looked over his shoulder and chirped happily at the compliment. He was always pleased to be acknowledged.

Wes felt a prickle of unease at her comment. He was painfully aware of Neo and Novo's rare species being capable of drawing attention. Fortunately, in a place like Phenac, rare Pokémon weren't an unusual sight; Wes had seen plenty of Pokémon in his days at Snagem, but even he couldn't identify half the Pokémon trotting at their trainers' heels in this city.

Not that showing off had ever been Wes' motivator for keeping his Pokémon out. Neo and Novo were security, an extra set of eyes, and even though Wes hated the awed looks they received from passersby, it was a necessary precaution with Snagem on his tail.

Neo strayed to a nearby waterfall and swiped a paw through the water before bounding playfully back to Novo, who greeted him with an affectionate headbutt. Rui giggled and looked back up at Wes. "So...Wes, was it? Where are you from?

"Nowhere, really."

"Oh? Did you move around a lot?"

"...yeah."

"That's so fascinating! I've only ever lived in the same town my whole life, so I haven't been to many places."

Obviously, Wes thought dryly.

"So was there a reason for you moving so much? Was it for your parents' work?" Those blue eyes sparkled excitedly as she talked to him.

Too many questions. Nervousness flitted about in his chest. She was entirely too curious, and every question was making him feel more and more threatened.

The familiar, growly voice rang in his head again. The best lies are half-truths, boy.

"I sort of...grew up on the streets, actually," he answered hesitantly.

Rui's eyes widened and the brightness vanished from her eyes. "Oh." She dropped her gaze to the ground. "Oh. I'm...I'm so sorry. I had no idea."

An awkward pause. Taking advantage of the silence to divert the attention away from himself, Wes curtly asked, "And you?"

"Oh, I'm from Agate Village!" She looked up at him again, appearing relieved to be talking about something else. "It's absolutely beautiful there—have you ever been?"

"No."

"Well, you should definitely visit sometime. It's completely different from anywhere else in Orre!"

How would you know?

He was momentarily saved from the agonizing small talk as they rounded a corner and the marketplace came into view. The place was crowded with people and Pokémon alike, dotted with vibrant colors of foreign Pokémon and their trainers. Open-air shops under white canopies lined both sides of the street and offered a wide variety of products that could be found nowhere else in Orre: fresh fruit, imported goods, and a wide variety of fabrics, amongst other things. Vendors, citizens and tourists alike bustled from one booth to the next, and the air was buzzing with snippets of conversation here and there.

"Aguav berries! Hondew berries! Come and get your exotic berries here!"

"How much for this bag?"

"Forty Poké? That's entirely too much, I won't go above thirty!"

"...Wow," Rui breathed in amazement. She quietly soaked in the scene for a moment as they walked, and Wes huffed a sigh of gratitude for the reprieve. It didn't last long, however, because soon she was tugging on Wes' sleeve. "Hey, do you think they'll have Pokéballs here?"

Wes frowned at her. Pokéballs? This girl was just getting weirder and weirder by the minute. "Phenac doesn't sell Pokéballs anywhere."

Rui sighed in disappointment. "They didn't have them in Pyrite, either...oh!" She gasped and was momentarily distracted by a woman who swept past with a sleek, purple-coated feline at her heels. "I've never seen that Pokémon before!"

Wes, however, was still fixated on the first half of her statement. "Pyrite?" he asked in disbelief. He glanced at her outfit: she wore a frilly pink and blue jacket over a dark purple tank top, a white pencil skirt, and pink rubber boots. He had a hard time picturing this girl, neatly dressed and put together as she was, wandering the ragged streets of Pyrite. Not to mention that her bubbly disposition would have stuck out like a sore thumb.

"Yeah." Rui clasped her hands behind her back and kicked idly at a pebble as they walked. "That's where I was when those two thugs..." She trailed off, a troubled expression overtaking her face.

"That's where you got kidnapped," finished Wes bluntly. That didn't surprise him in the least. Pyrite was not known for its upstanding citizens, after all.

Rui nodded, her gaze still fixed on the sidewalk.

"So, let me get this straight. You're not a trainer. Yet you left your hometown and wandered to Pyrite Town, of all places, to look for Pokéballs...in a region that doesn't have wild Pokémon."

Rui gave a weak laugh and looked at Wes with a wan smile. "Well, when you put it like that, it sounds pretty dumb. But that's the truth, I promise."

"Well, what in Mew's name do you need Pokéballs for?"

"It's for my grandpa," she said. "He's a former Ace trainer, and he's been teaching some of the kids in our village about becoming trainers."

"Pokéballs are useless if there aren't Pokémon to catch them with," said Wes dryly.

"Well, you see, Papi—my grandpa—he's hopeful!" Some of the brightness had returned to Rui's eyes. "There have been rumors of wild Pokémon sightings around the area up north, so he thinks they might be migrating back into the region!"

"First of all, those are just rumors. Second, are you telling me he sent you to get Pokéballs instead of going himself?"

Rui pursed her lips. "W-well. Not exactly."

"'Not exactly?' The hell does that mean?"

She averted his gaze. "I did volunteer to go, but...Papi wouldn't have it. He said it was too dangerous. But he's not exactly young and spry, no matter how much he might think he is, and it had me worried...besides, I'd been wanting an excuse to see the world outside Agate anyway, but no matter what I said, he wouldn't listen, and—" She stopped short, as if to catch herself from rambling, then scowled. "So I just went anyway," she said flatly.

Wes had no idea how to respond to that. Sure, she'd been stupid and reckless to take off like that, but a small part of him respected her resolve, nonetheless.

"Well," he said after an awkward pause, "how do you like the rest of Orre, then?"

Almost immediately a voice screamed at him inside his head. She just got kidnapped, idiot! What kind of a question is that?

But Rui didn't seem to take offense. She shot him an incredulous look, then burst out laughing.

Dumbfounded, Wes could only keep walking as she followed, her laughter continuing for a few minutes until, at last, she was forced to catch her breath between giggles.

"Oh, dear Mew," she gasped, "thank you for that. I really needed the laugh."

Well. He hadn't been trying to be funny, but rather than tell her that, he rolled with it. "...Yeah. No problem."

Rui wiped tears from her eyes and smiled up at him. "I know I'm an idiot for doing what I did, but thanks for not making me feel like one."

He bit back a snort. Well, at least she was aware that she had been stupid...

He was saved from having to come up with a reply as the mayor's home finally came into view. He nudged Rui with his elbow and nodded, and they made their way up the wide stone steps.

True to the atmosphere of Phenac City, the mayor's house held nothing back in terms of extravagance. While not incredibly large in terms of height, it made up for that by sprawling impressively in either direction, showcasing large, gleaming windows and ornate carvings all over the exterior. The front steps led to a wide porch lined with bright white pillars, and the blue double-doors were a sight to behold. Even if Wes hadn't known this to be the mayor's home, it would have been easy to guess.

Of course, the bright banner that stretched across the pillars and read "MAYOR ES-CADE WELCOMES YOU!" was also a slight giveaway.

Rui looked the building up and down with awe. "Are you sure we can just...knock?" she asked in almost a whisper. Wes merely shrugged. He'd never bothered to visit this place himself.

Rui seemed to take this as a yes, as she stepped forward and knocked boldly on the metal doors. Apparently, her recent ordeal hadn't done much to diminish her enthusiasm.

After a brief pause, the doors creaked open and a tall, crisply dressed man with fiery red hair stood before them. He looked down at them with a penetrating gaze. "What is your business?"

"We wish to speak to the mayor, please," said Rui. She met his eyes evenly despite the man's intimidating presence. "It's urgent."

Wes half expected them to be turned away, but the man simply nodded. He eyed the Umbreon and Espeon at Wes' feet. "No Pokémon indoors here. Security policy." Wes begrudgingly returned his companions to their Pokéballs, and they were escorted through the doors.

The cool air inside was a welcome relief from the relentless desert heat. A sparkling crystal chandelier greeted them from overhead, sending multicolored glints of light off the pristine marble walls. A massive flatscreen TV was mounted above a fireplace to their left, and to their right was a handful of plush couches. Straight ahead was a sleek wooden desk, at which sat the mayor of Phenac.

Wes had never seen the mayor personally before, and quickly surmised that he hadn't missed out on much. The man was short—very short—and, like his house, made up for it in terms of width. He was as round as a Jigglypuff, with a puffy mustache and bushy eyebrows to match. His head, though mostly bald, sported two large tufts of gray hair on each side.

"Welcome, welcome!" boomed the mayor. He beamed at them through beady eyes that seemed as though they were stuck in a perpetual squint.

Rui stepped forward and gave a small, polite bow. "It's an honor to meet you, Mr. Mayor."

"Oh, please, call me Es-Cade, my dear!" The man chortled. He rose from his seat and walked around to the front of his desk, gesturing them to the couches. "Please, sit! I insist."

Rui did as requested and took a seat. Wes would have much preferred to stand, but upon seeing the mayor's inquisitive look, he sat with a quiet sigh.

"Eldes, would you please fetch our guests some tea?" Es-Cade pleasantly addressed the red-haired man that stood stoically by the front doors. The man gave a curt nod and strode through an exit at the back of the room.

"Now, what do they call you, my dear?" The portly man turned back to Rui.

"I'm Rui, sir. Rui Everlin."

"I see!" Es-Cade said. He looked at Wes. "And you, my good man?"

"Wes." The mayor continued to look at him, as if expecting more, so he sighed. "Wesley Lycas."

"Excellent!" He beamed again. "And to what do I owe the pleasure of meeting you both?"

Rui hesitated. Wes gave her a pointed look. This was your idea, not mine. She cleared her throat. "Well, you see, Mr...Es-Cade, it's not exactly good news."

Es-Cade's smile faded to a concerned frown. His bushy eyebrows knotted together. "Oh?"

Rui shifted nervously before continuing. "You see, sir, I'm here to report an incident. I was brought to this city because...because I was kidnapped."

"Good heavens!" The mayor's eyes widened as far as his beady face would allow. "Are you quite alright?"

"Yes, I am, thanks to Wes," Rui gave the rogue trainer a grateful smile before turning back to Es-Cade. "But...that's not the whole reason I'm here."

She paused and looked at the floor, as if trying to find the words to continue. "You see, sir, I know this will sound strange and you might not believe me, but...I was born with a gift. That gift allows me to see the auras of people and Pokémon."

Es-Cade's eyebrows shot up an inch or two, and Wes didn't even bother to mask his disbelief as he stared at her. Auras? That did it. Not only had he happened to rescue the most clueless girl in all of Orre, she was also certifiably insane.

"Well, I won't pretend that this isn't...very hard to believe, my dear," said the mayor after a pregnant pause. "Are you certain about this...this gift of yours?"

Rui nodded, her face resolute. "I've had this gift for as long as I can remember, sir. I've always been able to see aura."

"Very well," he mused. He raised a meaty hand and rubbed his chin. "Go on."

"Well, I was traveling through Pyrite when I saw these two men. One of them had a Makuhita and was battling another trainer. I don't know how to explain it, but...there was something wrong with that Pokémon. Its aura was...dark. I'd even say it was evil." She shivered. Her face was solemn and fearful as she recalled the memory.

"And you've never seen this, erm, aura before?" Es-Cade asked.

Rui shook her head. "No, sir, never. I've seen auras of many different kinds, but not like that."

"Could it be, perhaps, that you've never encountered an aggressive Pokémon?"

"With all due respect, Mr. Mayor, I've seen aggressive Pokémon before." Rui's voice took on a stern tone as she raised her head and looked Es-Cade in the eyes. "This Makuhita was something completely different. And the way it battled was...horrible. It really looked like it wanted to kill the other Pokémon."

Wes sat back in his seat, absorbing all this new information. This girl was clearly sheltered—that had been obvious from the beginning. He, unfortunately, had seen Pokémon kill on command more than once. While not every Pokémon was willing to kill, there were plenty more that were either eager enough or desperate enough to do so. It was certainly not unheard of, and something that was all too common in Orre's crime rings.

He wondered if the mayor was thinking the same thing, as the man had a skeptical expression on his face as he listened to Rui's story. "You do know that Pokémon can and do sometimes kill other Pokémon, my dear?" he asked gently.

"I know that!" Rui said in frustration. "I do! But they only do so if commanded, right? Well, this Makuhita was on a rampage and was acting of its own accord—its trainer couldn't even stop it!"

"I see, I see," Es-Cade backed down slightly upon seeing her frustration. "That is very concerning, Miss Everlin. I can assure you that I will assign some of my staff to look into the matter—although, if this Pokémon is in Pyrite, there's only so much I can do."

"I...I understand," Rui sighed. She relaxed a little and slumped back in her seat.

Es-Cade seemed to notice her disappointment. "Do you perhaps have a description of the criminals?" he asked kindly. "I can also try to put out a search for them, and see what we can come up with—ah!" His eyes brightened as the doorman reentered the room with a tray of tea. "Perfect timing, my good man! Thank you kindly!"

The man said nothing, only depositing the tray on the coffee table in front of them before resuming his post by the doors.

Wes didn't trust drinks from strangers, so he quietly declined his tea. Rui and Es-Cade sipped theirs as she gave him a description of the two men. Wes only spoke up to give their names and a description of their other Pokémon he'd seen. He noticed the mayor raise his eyebrows as he spoke of the two Whismur; the odd fact that Wes hadn't seen a Makuhita was not lost on him, apparently, and it likely contributed to his doubt. The man said nothing of it, however.

Once Rui had given all the information they knew, the mayor kindly thanked them for their visit and personally showed them out the door with a smile, promising her that he would look into the case at once.

As the doors shut behind them, Wes couldn't help but feel that they had just wasted a massive amount of time. Rui must have sensed this, too, because he noticed she was staring at the ground with slumped shoulders as they walked to the Pokémon Center.

He released Neo and Novo from their Pokéballs. They both stretched and gleefully bounced around Wes' feet, happy to be outside again.

Rui brightened a little at the sight of the Pokémon. She giggled as Neo brushed playfully up against her legs, then looked up at Wes with a sheepish expression. "You probably think I'm crazy, huh?"

Wes shrugged. "Maybe a little." No point in sugar-coating things.

"Well, you don't have to believe me, but I promise I'm telling the truth." Rui glanced at the Eons walking ahead of them. "For example, I can tell by your Pokémons' auras that they are happy and well cared for. They really love and trust you...and it's part of the reason I knew I'd be safe walking with you." She grinned at him.

Wes decided it wasn't worth pointing out that she could have deduced this from Neo and Novo's evolutions—Espeon and Umbreon only got their evolutions from bonding with their trainer, after all. Instead, he shrugged again and said, "It makes no difference to me. You saw something and reported it, and now you can move on."

Rui bit her lip, but said nothing. Whatever she'd seen in Pyrite—or whatever she thought she'd seen—was obviously weighing heavily on her, and their fruitless meeting with the mayor had done little to help with that.

Not my problem, Wes told himself. He'd done more than enough for this random girl today, and wasn't about to take it upon himself to cheer her up. He wouldn't even know where to start, anyway.

Wes was about to head in the direction of the Center when he noticed Rui stop short. What now? He followed her alarmed gaze to what she was staring at and suddenly he, too, stopped walking.

Someone was heading their way. Whoever this person was, they were massively tall, dwarfing every other passerby on the street. Wes saw the long, flowing silver hair and initially thought it was a woman, but as the stranger came closer it was apparent by the square jaw and bulging, muscular figure that it was a man. But the hair was not what kept his attention; there was something visibly wrong with him.

He exuded an air of cold, crisp, precise cruelty as he walked. Wes had seen his share of men drunk with power who thought they had it all—but this man knew he was in charge, and was keenly aware of his own authority. The stranger passed them on the sidewalk, but not before turning his head to glance at them. Wes met the man's eyes for just a second, and felt a chill trickle down his spine; his eyes were red as blood.

A cruel smirk played across the stranger's lips before he turned away and breezed past them in the direction they came from, head held high, eyes straight ahead.

Wes felt Rui step close to him. He noticed she was shivering. "He was...scary," she whispered.

Wes couldn't help but nod in agreement. He was immensely grateful that such a person was only a stranger and nothing more. He had a feeling he would never want to tangle with that man.

He shook his head and rolled the uneasiness from his shoulders. "Center's just up ahead," he said to Rui. "Let's get inside." She nodded nervously, and the two set off for the wide white steps leading to their destination.

The Phenac Pokémon Center was an impressive sight, even to Wes. He had only been here a handful of times, and he was always just as amazed each time as he was upon his first visit. His negative impression of Phenac and its population aside, he had to admit: they knew how to treat their Pokémon.

The building was a large dome with white gleaming walls and a sparkling glass ceiling. At the back of the room, straight ahead from the entrance, was a marble counter in front of a healing machine and a crisply dressed nurse who chimed a cheerful greeting as they walked through the doors.

To the right, a luxurious lounge for trainers held a TV, plush couches, a small snack bar, and ornate bookshelves adorned with all kinds of literature. A row of video-call booths lined the wall near the shelves.

To the left was an enclosed, glass-walled play area for Pokémon. Wes knew from previous visits that the play area extended through a door in the wall to a larger, fenced-in outdoor area. He'd never used it himself, though—the thought of leaving his Pokémon in someone else's hands was mortifying to him.

"Welcome!" The nurse smiled at them from her place behind the counter. "How may I help you today?"

Rui stepped forward, hands clasped behind her back as she addressed the nurse. "Y-yes, um, could I use your video phones?"

"Absolutely! Right this way, I'll get you started..."

The nurse escorted Rui to the phones and Wes wandered over to the couches to sit and wait. Novo followed, looking around with great interest; he, too, always appeared to be impressed with the place whenever they visited.

"Espi!" Neo pawed at Wes' knee and pointed his snout over to the play area, where an Aipom had its face pressed against the glass, wiggling its tail playfully at the Espeon.

Wes shook his head. "Sorry, bud," he said quietly. "We don't have time today."

Neo sat on the tiled floor with a sigh.

"Tell you what," Wes lowered his voice even further as he reached down to rub Neo's ears. "When we get to Johto, you can play with tons of wild Pokémon every day. How does that sound?"

Neo pricked up his ears and kneaded the floor in excitement. "Spi!"

Johto. Wes had only heard stories of it, but it sounded like a beautiful place, so entirely different from the sandy Orre Region. He'd heard about green forests that stretched as far as the eye could see, of giant shining lakes, of mountains that stretched so high you couldn't see their peaks. He'd dreamed of seeing it from the moment he first learned of its existence.

He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Soon. Very soon. Just be patient.

Novo hopped into his lap and he idly stroked the Umbreon's head, lost in thought, until Rui returned and sank onto the couch a short distance away from him with a sigh. Novo growled softly at her abrupt appearance, a quiet rumble that only Wes could hear.

"Well, my grandparents are happy to know I'm safe, but that didn't save me a tongue lashing from Nan." She turned to him. "They're so grateful to you, by the way. I'm sure they'd love to meet you if you'd like to visit!"

"Sorry, I have other places to be," Wes muttered. There would be absolutely no more detours until they reached Gateon.

"Oh, I...I figured as much," replied Rui. There was a note of disappointment in her voice. "Well, you're always welcome if you—"

She broke off suddenly, her eyes fixed on something over Wes' shoulder. He turned his head to see what had grabbed her attention, and saw footage of a burning building on the TV. The words MYSTERIOUS EXPLOSION REVEALS SNAGEM HIDEOUT flashed across the screen.

"What—when did this happen?" She breathed in disbelief.

"You're just now finding this out?" Wes blurted. Surely, sheltered though this girl was, she'd have heard something about it already. He was certain that news of the incident had traveled across every corner of the region by now. Uncovering Snagem's hideout would be earth-shattering news.

Rui surprised him by throwing him a withering look. "Yes, I'm hearing about it just now," she said scathingly. "It's not like I've spent the last twenty-four hours in a sack or anything!"

"...Oh." Wes suddenly felt incredibly stupid. "Right...sorry."

Rui returned her gaze to the TV. "I can't believe..." She trailed off and didn't bother to finish her sentence. Wes left her to her thoughts and continued stroking Novo's fur, watching his yellow rings pulse with light.

"They deserve it."

He looked up in surprise at those words. Rui was still watching the screen, but a dark expression had taken over her features. It was a jarring change from her usually smiling face.

"You think so?" Wes asked.

She turned her eyes to his, and he was shocked at the amount of pure hatred he saw there. "Yes," she said quietly. "I hate Pokémon thieves. Snagem had this coming, and they deserve a whole lot worse."

Wes looked at her for a moment before answering. "I agree," he said quietly.

"Umbriiiiii." Novo's whine broke the tense moment. Wes heard the Umbreon's stomach growl, and suddenly realized how hungry he was, too. He rubbed Novo's ear. "I guess it's time we go, then."

Novo leapt off Wes' lap as he stood. He turned to Rui. "The nurses can help you arrange a ride with someone from here. You should be able to make it back to Agate that way."

Rui stood, too, and bowed her head to him gratefully, hands clasped behind her back once again. "Thank you for everything you've done for me, Wes. Really. I don't have any way to repay you for it, but...I really am gratef—"

Her stomach suddenly rumbled loudly, and she flushed a little in embarrassment. "Sorry!"

Wes narrowed his eyes at her. "Did you say you were in that sack for a whole day?"

She shifted a little. "Well, I don't know exactly how long it was, but it was a long time..."

Wes took a closer look at her. For all her smiles and cheerfulness, he noticed for the first time that she was still a little pale, and her fingers were shaky as she fidgeted with her necklace. "You haven't eaten."

Rui gave him another smile, but this time he was paying enough attention to see how forced it was. "It's fine! You've done more than enough for me today, I can...figure something out..." She trailed off, not looking very convinced at her own words.

She could figure it out, Wes mused to himself. And yet...he had gone long stretches without food before. He knew firsthand how unpleasant it was, and he was certain that this girl had no means of getting food for herself. There was no way she still had any money on her after being kidnapped.

The low voice came into his head again. Remember this, boy. Don't stick your neck out for nobody.

Anger burned in his chest at the intrusive voice. You don't get to tell me what to do. Not anymore.

"Alright," he sighed, turning to leave. "Come on." He gestured for her to follow him.

"What? Where—?"

"We were going to find a place to eat anyway. You might as well come with us." He looked at her over his shoulder. "But after this, you'll really be on your own. Got it?"

"I—what do you—I don't—are you sure?" Rui spluttered.

"If you don't hurry up, I'll change my mind."

Rui blinked at him, and for a moment Wes thought he saw tears in her eyes. He turned his head away and hoped to Arceus he was mistaken. He had no idea what to do with people when they cried...

Rui bounced up to his side. "Where to, then?" she asked brightly. Any indication that she'd been teary had quickly vanished.

"I've got a place in mind," he said. And with that, they strode through the Center doors back into the sunlight.

Wes couldn't help but feel mildly impressed at the speed with which Rui was devouring her burger. It made him wonder just how hungry she must have been this whole time.

His restaurant of choice was closer to the edge of town: a small, dingy, hole-in-the-wall kind of place that he'd always preferred thanks to their low prices and low profile. By Phenac standards, it was "seedy," but compared to the Outskirt Stand, it may as well have been fine dining. The blue painted walls and tiled floor, though scuffed in many places, certainly made it feel a lot cleaner than the dusty old train car.

His Pokémon were happily eating their kibble from bowls on the floor. It was no plate of bacon, but it was better than nothing, and far better than what they had been accustomed to at Snagem.

A waiter stopped by to offer drinks, which Wes declined. He'd need to be fully alert for their journey ahead—though after the long events of the day, alcohol was tempting.

The waiter turned to Rui, but she also shook her head. "Not today, thank you."

The waiter left, and Wes narrowed his eyes at her. "Are you even old enough to drink?"

Rui nearly choked on her fries. "Wha—excuse me?" she asked indignantly as soon as she could speak, "I'll have you know, I'm well over eighteen!"

He raised an eyebrow. "By what, a few months?"

Rui huffed at him. "I'm twenty-one, Wes."

Oh. He was genuinely surprised at that. She was much closer to his age than he'd originally thought, only a year younger than himself. "Sorry. You just look younger."

"I get that a lot, actually," she said dejectedly. She picked at what remained of her food.

"It's because you're short," he said bluntly. He immediately recognized his mistake when Rui raised her eyebrows at him.

"Wow, really? I'm short? Thanks for pointing that out to me, Wes, I never noticed," she said with a dry smirk.

Moron. "I—that's—yeah. Sorry."

Rui snorted and waved her hand. "Don't worry about it, I get it all the time. And even if I were taller, I'd still probably look younger."

"Well, the pigtails don't help," Wes blurted. Rui's eyebrows rose even higher, and he mentally kicked himself. Gods. Was it always this hard to have a normal conversation? He grabbed his water and spent a deliberately long time sipping at it, wishing more now than ever that he'd ordered a beer instead.

Rather than take offense, Rui simply gave him a sly grin. "Well what about you, Mr. Tough Guy? You don't look much older than seventeen."

Wes choked and spluttered on his drink. "I—what—seven—?" He stopped short when he saw that Rui had erupted into a fit of laughter.

He scowled at her. "That's not funny."

For some reason, this only made her laugh even harder and she was forced to grip the table for support. Neo and Novo looked up at her from their meal in alarm and Wes began to feel uncomfortable as heads turned in their direction. Why was this girl so loud?

"S-sorry," she gasped as her laughter subsided. "I honestly didn't think I'd get a reaction out of you, with you being so stoic and all, but that was funny."

Wes grumbled darkly under his breath. Rui snorted and bit her lip in an effort to keep herself from laughing further. Her face held a lot more color now that she'd eaten, and she was, if possible, even more lively than before.

Having finished their meal, Wes stood. "Let's go." Rui and his Pokémon followed him as he paid for the meal at the counter up front and stepped outside.

The sun was horrifyingly low in the sky, and Wes inwardly groaned at the sight. They were behind schedule, but no matter—they'd be on the road soon enough, and all their troubles with Phenac (girl included) would be left behind.

"Briiiii!" Novo yawned and stretched happily in the sunlight, his yellow markings glowing contentedly. Neo padded up between Wes and Rui and let out a soft burp. He blinked sleepily up at his trainer with a lazy purr.

The corners of Wes' mouth twitched into a smile upon seeing them so content and peaceful. For the first time since escaping the Hideout, he allowed himself to relax a little. All that was left to do was stock up on some supplies and hit the road now. It should be smooth sailing from here, he thought.

And then he heard a voice that turned his blood to ice.

"Keep your wits about you, ya hear? He's in this blasted city somewhere."

Wes swore under his breath and grabbed Rui by the arm, pulling her around the building into a side alley. She squawked in protest. "Wes, what're you—hey!"

He ignored her and listened closely. He heard the rough cadence of three all too familiar voices across the street, causing his heart to race.

How could he get out of this without raising suspicion? He looked at the redhead. If she found out who she was… He remembered her face in the Center as she spoke about Snagem. The anger in her eyes, the righteous fury. There was no way she would let him off if she knew. Not a chance.

"Are we sure he's still here?" another voice drawled from where the first one had come from, just across the street. Wes turned his head to listen.

"Shut your trap and quit whining!" the first voice barked. "The faster we get moving, the sooner we'll find the damned rat."

There was no mistaking that gravelly voice. Wes had heard it all too many times before, usually before facing an unpleasant punishment. Wakin, Gonzap's second-in-command, had always loved to dole out the punishments himself whenever he could. Wes glanced nervously at the metal sleeve on his arm.

If Wakin found Wes now, he was a dead man.

Wes' mind raced. He scrambled to think of a way to get out of this city without setting off Rui's suspicions. He certainly couldn't tell her what was going on, nor could he merely bolt away—what if she started calling after him? Caused a scene? Drew attention from those menacing voices across the street…?

A crazy, half-baked idea occurred to him, and he tightened his grip on Rui's arm as he looked back at her again. She was apparently oblivious to the conversation taking place across the street. She seemed much more concerned with Wes' odd behavior and his grip on her arm. He decided to take a chance on her naivety.

"Hey. You said you needed Pokéballs, right?"

"Y-yeah?" Rui attempted to tug her arm out of his grip. She looked frightened. "Wes, can you let go of me?"

"Sorry," he said quickly. He released her and took a step back. Breathe. You need to stay calm. He met her blue gaze evenly. "I know a place where we can get you some. I just thought of it."

Rui frowned at him. "You do?"

"Yeah, but it's...not here. It's a bit of a drive. But I can take you there." The words tumbled out of his mouth before he even had time to think them through.

"That...that would be really helpful! But I don't have any money—"

"Don't worry about it." Damn, he was panicking. Stay calm. Don't show fear. "I'll cover for you. But we need to get going now if we want to make it there at a decent hour."

"Are—are you sure? You've done so much for me today already—"

"I'm sure, let's go." He almost grabbed her by the arm again to drag her with him, but remembered the fearful look she'd given him and decided against it. "Come on, I'll show you to my bike."

He stepped cautiously out of the alleyway, looking around for any sign of Wakin and his grunts. Rui stood a few paces behind him, mumbling in confusion. "Bike...?"

"Neo. Novo." Wes kept his voice to barely more than a whisper. They pricked their ears and stood at attention. "Keep a lookout."

He motioned for Rui to follow him, and they stepped out into the open.

Wes was sure that Rui would hear his heart trying to escape from his chest. He hated having to walk in the open, hated that he couldn't move any faster than a brisk walk, but he knew that darting through the shadows would only raise her suspicions. He could not afford to be caught. Not now. Not like this.

He was grateful that they had at least made it to the edge of the city already for their lunch. They were able to reach the city entrance relatively quickly, and made it to his bike shortly after that.

Rui looked at his monstrosity of a vehicle with wide eyes. "Okay, when you said 'bike', I had a very different image in my head," she said as she took in the massive engine and rusty exterior.

Wes didn't bother to reply to this remark. He'd crouched down to his Pokémon and was muttering a hurried apology. "Sorry guys, but there isn't room for all of you in the sidecar. You're gonna have to go in your balls for now."

Neither Neo nor Novo were very pleased with this arrangement, but he didn't have time to reason with them before returning them to their Pokéballs. They would get over it. What mattered now was getting as far away from this city as possible.

Wes gestured for Rui to get in the sidecar as he slid into the driver's seat. She climbed in awkwardly and nearly fell over in the process.

The engine bellowed as he brought it to life. He thought he heard Rui trying to say something, but couldn't be sure. Rather than wait to find out, he slammed on the gas and the motorbike lurched forward, kicking up a cloud of dust as they flew out of sight and left the blinding white city behind.

HelloYellow17

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Seen 1 Day Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
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135 Days
Chapter 4: Questions


Rui wasn't entirely sure this wasn't all just some sort of fever dream.

In the span of just over a day, she'd seen a crazed Pokémon, been kidnapped, had nearly suffocated in a sack, was rescued by someone who acted for all the world as though he'd rather have left her there, and was now flying across the desert in a crazy death trap of metal with said stranger.

It had been a weird day, to say the least.

Wes didn't speak at all as they sailed across the sands. Rui was actually quite all right with this, as most of her concentration was spent shielding her face from the sandy winds and trying not to panic at the absolutely terrifying speed at which Wes was driving.

Rui peeked at the driver underneath her hands covering her face. Despite his gruff demeanor and the begrudging manner in which he'd helped her, Rui did sense that Wes was a kind person under all the rough edges. His aura, a pleasant blue color, seemed to indicate so, at least. And he didn't have to escort her all over Phenac and treat her to a meal, least of all take her somewhere to find Pokéballs. His actions seemed very contradictory to his attitude, and she had to admit she found it a little amusing.

She pulled her gaze away from Wes to glance at her surroundings; at one point, she thought she saw some town ruins in the distance, and despite the desert heat, she shivered. Wes would probably scoff at her for it, but she hated even thinking of Noctis ruins. They were a bad omen.

The hours ticked by in silence as the sun slinked lower and lower in the sky. Rui's ears gradually adjusted to the dull roar of the engine, and she found that if she ducked her head at just the right angle, she could keep most of the sand from her face. She still found herself wishing for some goggles like the ones Wes had, though.

After what felt like ages, the bike started to slow. She looked up, hopeful to see their destination—and saw nothing but more desert and an old abandoned train car. What?

Wes rolled the bike to a stop. Bewildered, Rui glanced around again, thinking that maybe she missed something, but the scenery remained desolate and unchanged. She started to feel a little uneasy. Surely Wes hadn't dragged her out here with ill intentions...?

"Are you coming?" His voice made her jump. He'd already started for the old, worn down building and was impatiently looking at her over his shoulder. His Umbreon and Espeon had been released from their Pokéballs and were already waiting outside the car's entrance.

"Um...where are we, exactly?" Rui asked nervously.

Wes didn't answer, but jerked his head to the train car. It was only then that she noticed there were lights on inside the thing, and the dim strains of Western music reached her ears. So it wasn't entirely abandoned, after all.

Rui clambered awkwardly out of the sidecar, once again nearly face-planting into the sand as she did so, and followed Wes as they headed into the...whatever this place was.

It was a diner, apparently.

Rui blinked in the dim lighting as she surveyed the dusty interior. This place was very different from home, but it was also very different from Phenac. Most of the places she'd seen had tried to flourish despite the lifeless desert, as if trying to fight against their surroundings and prove to be something more. This place embraced the empty sands, the lawlessness of the desert, and made it a home—a creaky, grimy, dilapidated one, but a home, nonetheless.

Wes approached the sleepy-eyed man behind the counter, who could only be the owner of the place. He rubbed the back of his head as he addressed him. "Hey, Grogan. Got any Pokéballs in stock?"

The man, Grogan, gave Wes a bleary-eyed stare. "Pokéballs?" he grunted. "The hell do you need those for?"

"They're not for me, they're for her." Wes nodded at Rui.

Grogan looked her up and down. He raised an eyebrow at Wes. "Who's this, your mail-order girlfriend?"

Rui felt a wave of indignation at the snide remark. She was about to offer a stinging reply when Wes answered. "She's just a lost traveler. I'm doing her a favor."

"Awful long way to come for a favor."

"We're looking for Pokéballs, do you have them or not?" An edge crept into Wes' voice.

Grogan waved a dismissive hand. "Sure, sure, I got the old things somewhere." He turned and headed into the kitchen. Rui noticed a somewhat startled expression on Wes' face.

"You look pretty surprised he has Pokéballs," Rui observed. "I thought you knew he had them?"

Wes turned to look at her, his surprised expression melting into a smooth, unfazed one. "Well, yeah. This is the only place I've known in Orre to ever sell them, so he doesn't always have them in stock."

That makes sense, Rui thought. She began to feel slightly ashamed of herself for doubting the trainer. So what if he was a little guarded? He'd saved her life in more than one way today, and she ought to be grateful.

Grogan returned to the counter with a bag in hand. "Got 'em here," he grunted, and then unceremoniously dumped out the bag's contents onto the countertop.

Rui blinked at the little balls rolling across the dingy surface. There was a much greater variety than she'd expected; red, blue, yellow. She stared at them all and realized she didn't have the slightest clue what the difference was between them. "Uh."

Wes heaved a weary sigh beside her. "Just all of the regular ones," he said. "And maybe a few Great Balls."

Grogan obliged and packed about half a dozen red Pokéballs and about four blue ones. "Will that be enough?" Wes asked Rui.

"Yeah, those should be fine," Rui mumbled. She dropped her gaze to the floor and shuffled awkwardly, feeling acutely embarrassed at her complete lack of knowledge. She'd expected this to be a relatively simple errand, but clearly she had been utterly unprepared for it. No wonder Papi was hesitant to let me go. I have no idea what I'm doing...

To make matters worse, Rui quickly realized that neither she nor Wes had a bag to carry the Pokéballs. Grogan merely waved a hand and let her keep the old canvas tote he'd brought the balls out in. "I've got plenty of space for the rest of these old things, and that bag was just collectin' dust anyway."

Rui thanked him profusely and stuffed the balls into her new bag, feeling even more abashed than before. She heard Wes saying something more to the diner owner, but she wasn't paying much attention anymore. She leaned against a wall with a sigh, and felt something brush her hand.

She jumped, and then looked down to see Neo nosing at her fingers. He blinked up at her with dark, inquisitive eyes. Rui couldn't help but smile at the innocence reflected in his silvery aura. He'd done this same thing just hours before, when they were at the restaurant, and he was just so darned cute she couldn't possibly resist showering him with affection.

Rui crouched down to his level and the Espeon allowed her to stroke his fur with a purr. "You're a glutton for attention, aren't you?"

Neo shamelessly purred louder in response.

She noticed Novo watching from a safer distance. He sat primly at Wes' feet, crimson eyes narrowed distrustfully as he observed her. She'd attempted to pet him, too, at the restaurant, and his only response had been to snarl at her. Unlike his brother, Novo's aura was a lovely shade of lavender—and it spiked every time she addressed him.

"Novo, was it?" Rui asked softly.

The Umbreon answered with a growl.

This caught Wes' attention. He looked over his shoulder and glanced between Rui and Novo. "What are you doing?"

Rui smiled up at him sheepishly. "Just trying to make friends."

He gave her an odd look, but said nothing. Rui was sure he thought she was crazy—although, given the day's events, she couldn't entirely blame him. She sighed and stood, despite Neo's soft protest for more attention. "I guess your Umbreon doesn't like strangers...sorry about that."

Wes merely shrugged. He nodded to Grogan and made for the door. "Let's go," he said.

Rui blinked. "Go...where?"

"It's too late to go anywhere else, so I booked us a place for the night." He didn't wait for her reply before pushing his way out the door, so Rui quickly followed him before giving a hurried thanks to the diner owner. She stepped out into the desert air and was surprised by how cool it already was - the temperatures were rapidly dropping now that the sun was almost below the horizon.

"S-sorry, but I'm just confused," she said as she tried to match Wes' brisk pace. "Where exactly are we staying? This place doesn't look like it has any rooms..."

Once again, instead of answering, Wes simply kept walking until they reached the back end of the train car. He kicked away a layer of sand to reveal what looked like some kind of cellar door, then wrenched it open and, to Rui's disbelief, gestured for her to step inside.

This is exactly how you die in horror movies, Rui.

Still, Wes hadn't given any indication that he planned to hurt her in any way, and she felt a little better upon seeing his Pokémon dart down the creaky steps as if they'd been here before. She took a deep breath before glancing briefly at Wes.

She couldn't help but notice that the golden rays of the setting sun matched his eyes. Rui balked at this sudden thought. What is wrong with you? she asked herself sternly. She shook her head slightly and then ducked into the cellar.

It was pleasantly cool in the place, if a little dank and musty. The only source of light was a tiny window right near the ceiling and an old, dim lightbulb that hung so low she nearly hit her head on it. The walls were covered with shelves of stored food, and the only thing on the floor was a small mattress and quilt.

The cellar door slammed shut and Wes stepped into the room behind her. "It's really not much," he said, "but it's the best option available out here." He must have noticed her eyeing the tiny mattress, because he then added, "You can take that. I'll sleep on the floor."

"Are—are you sure?" Rui turned to him uncertainly. She felt as though she'd been asking that question a lot today.

"I prefer the floor anyway."

The weirdest thing about that statement was, he seemed to mean it. This baffled her a little. What kind of person liked to sleep on the floor?

She sighed and flopped onto the mattress, only to cough and gag as a cloud of dust puffed up into her face.

Wes grimaced a little. "Sorry. Should have warned you about that."

Rui, still coughing, just shook her head and indicated it was fine with a wave of her hand.

The trainer gestured to some water bottles sitting near the steps on a crate. "Some water, if you need any," he mumbled, then he went about setting up his space.

Wes removed his blue coat, revealing a black tank top underneath. Rui couldn't help but notice a variety of faint scars across his arms and shoulders. Overwhelming curiosity made her want to ask about them, but she'd gotten the distinct impression that the man hated questions, so instead she held them back.

But then she saw Wes push a large crate up against the wall under the small window, and she couldn't help herself. "What's that for?"

"It's for Novo," he answered simply. "He likes to watch at night."

As if on cue, the Umbreon hopped up onto the crate and peeked at the steadily darkening world through the grimy window. He turned to his trainer and bunted him happily with his head. A tiny smile tugged at the corners of Wes' mouth as he rubbed Novo's chin.

Rui couldn't help but smile a little herself. Gruff though he may be, this odd stranger was certainly soft on his Pokémon.

Wes waited for Rui to get settled on her mattress before turning out the light. The dim lights from the train car overhead filtered through the tiny window, but they were left in almost complete darkness save for Novo's gently pulsing rings.

"Um, goodnight, I guess," Rui said awkwardly. What did one say in a situation like this?

There was a pause, and for a moment she thought he wouldn't answer her. Then he heard his mumble from his place across the small cellar. "Night."

Rui settled down onto the mattress. She'd never stayed in a place like this, and wondered if she would ever be able to fall asleep. But then the events of the day caught up to her, and her exhaustion pulled her under.

————————————————————————

She couldn't be sure what time it was when she woke.

It was still dark outside as Rui sat up. She promptly stifled another cough as more dust swirled up from the mattress at her movements. So much dust everywhere...the first thing she was going to do when she got home was shower.

Still, though...Rui glanced around the dark cellar and shook her head to herself in disbelief. It was wasn't an ideal situation, but it was far better than wherever she might have ended up if she'd never been rescued from that sack…

A shiver rippled down her spine at the memory: the suffocating heat. The mens' voices and rough hands as they tossed her around like merchandise. The paralyzing terror as she had started to wonder that maybe it didn't matter where they were taking her because she was going to die of heat stroke before she got there…

Rui's hand flew to her necklace. She grasped it tightly, forcing herself to take deep breaths and keep her hands steady. She could feel the edges of the black crescent moon pendant digging into her palm, and the sensation grounded her a little.

You're fine. You're fine. Everything is fine. She closed her eyes. You're safe. You'll be home soon.

Her panic gradually eased and she relaxed her grip on the pendant. Yes, everything would be alright. Soon she would be back home, and everything would be back to normal…

And yet...did she want things to go back to normal? She certainly had no desire to repeat the experience of the last couple days, but Rui's yearning to see more of the word outside of Agate was still as fervent as ever. She opened her eyes and looked down at her palm, where a crescent moon-shaped indentation had formed from her tight hold. She'd always wanted to travel the region—and maybe even the world someday—ever since Rui's mother had told her stories of her home region of Hoenn...Rui sat quietly for a few moments, lost in a swirl of thoughts and memories.

A soft glow caught her attention. She spotted Novo sitting on his crate by the window, ears pricked, eyes alert as he watched the world outside. Rui couldn't help but wonder if there even was anything to see out there.

All the same, the Dark-type Pokémon brought a small smile to her face. Rui raised a hand to her necklace once more as fond childhood memories of her mother's Pokémon, another Dark-type, rose to the surface. She watched Novo for a moment, running her thumb over the smooth pendant.

Her mouth felt dry and sticky, and she remembered what it was that caused her to wake. Breaking from her stupor, she slowly rose from her mattress to grab one of the water bottles that Wes mentioned earlier.

The trainer in question was, indeed, on the floor. He'd apparently rolled up his coat to serve as a pillow, and Neo was curled up against his trainer's chest. One arm was loosely draped over the Espeon, and the two were fast asleep. Rui smiled a little at the sight. There had been a time when she thought she would be traveling around, with a Pokémon to sleep beside at night...

She shook these thoughts from her mind and was making her way past the sleeping pair to the crate near the door when a low growl met her ears.

Rui glanced over her shoulder to see Novo watching her every move with narrowed crimson eyes. His body was stiff, hairs on the back of his neck raised. She noticed him glance between her and his trainer.

"It's...it's okay, Novo," she whispered slowly. "I'm just getting some water. I won't hurt your trainer, I promise."

Novo continued to stare, but his growls subsided at her words.

Rui moved cautiously to the crate, grabbed a water bottle, and tiptoed past Wes and Neo back to her mattress. Novo again growled softly as she stepped past his trainer a second time, but remained where he was.

She settled back on her mattress with a quiet sigh. She gave the Umbreon a tired smile. "See? I'm harmless, I promise."

Novo gave her a hard look that plainly said I doubt that very much before returning to gaze out his window.

Rui downed the water greedily and was just about to get back to sleep when she heard another sound.

She lifted her head off the pillow. Through the dim light of Novo's glow, she could see Wes twitching in his sleep. His breathing became labored, and he started to mumble something in distress.

"No...please...no—"

Rui paused. Should I wake him? she wondered anxiously. She was pondering what to do when Novo, without a sound, slipped from his perch atop his crate down to the floor below, and stepped up to his trainer.

The room brightened a little as his rings filled with light. He bowed his head, touching his muzzle to Wes' forehead, and a soft hum filled the room. After a brief moment, the sound faded, the lights dimmed, and Wes fell back into peaceful slumber with a quiet sigh.

Novo silently stalked back to his crate without sparing Rui so much as a passing glance. She could only stare at him in wonder. What was that? Was this a common occurrence? She'd never seen a Pokémon use Hypnosis on their trainer before...

Rui rested her head back on her pillow. It seemed the more time she spent with this unusual trio, the more questions she had. She was pondering these many questions when she finally drifted back to sleep.


————————————————————————

Wes could not believe that, a full day later, he was right back where he had started.

Not only that, but instead of his Pokémon sitting across from him in their usual diner booth, it was this girl.

He'd figured they could all do with some breakfast before returning to Phenac, so here they were, morning sunlight filtering through the dirty windows, waiting for their food to be ready as Neo and Novo downed their kibble at Wes' feet.

He put his head into his gloved hands and sighed. It's like Arceus himself doesn't want me to leave this place.

"Es-piiiii?" Neo peeked at him from under the table with wide, sparkling eyes.

"Neo, you're getting regular Pokémon food today, and I swear to Arceus if you whine to me about it, I'll put you in your ball for the rest of the day," Wes growled.

Neo looked thoroughly mortified at this answer, but he knew defeat when he saw it. He slunk back to his place under the table with a pout.

Rui giggled at the sight. "He must love human food, huh?"

"Mostly just bacon," Wes muttered. A small part of him regretted the day he'd let the two brothers try some. What a pair of monsters he'd created.

Rui placed her elbows on the table and leaned in a little. "So we're going back to Phenac today, yeah?"

"That's the plan."

"Do you have a P*DA or something? I'd really like to find a way to contact you and pay you back when I can..."

"I don't give out my number to people I don't know. Sorry."

"Oh?" She cocked her head at him, a smile dancing across her face. "You don't give out your number to strangers, but you'll rescue them from kidnappers, escort them around the city, and give them food and a place to stay for the night?"

Wes felt a small tinge of warmth in his face. "That's...different."

"It's very different from just giving out your number, I agree." She smirked.

"Look, I didn't—I don't—"

Rui laughed, and the sound filled the small diner. Wes was grateful that there weren't any other customers to give them weird looks this time. "I'm teasing, Wes. You don't have to give me your number if you aren't comfortable. I just want to pay you back, that's all."

"Well...don't worry about it," Wes mumbled in response. He'd much rather send this girl on her way and never have to contact her again. It was simpler that way.

The call for their order came, and he was grateful for the chance to end the conversation, if only briefly. He knew she would likely pepper him with more questions once he returned with their food—and, lo and behold, he was right.

"So, where are you heading?" Rui asked him around a mouthful of omelette.

"Pyrite, actually." Wes had pondered a few false answers to give her, so as to prepare for the onslaught of questions.

Rui's eyes widened in shock. She hastily swallowed her bite of food. "Pyrite? But...why?"

Wes shrugged. "Thought I might take on the Colosseum challenge there."

"Ohhhh!" Rui suddenly leaned forward in excitement, putting her face far too close to Wes' for his comfort. "That's so cool! Agate doesn't have a Colosseum, so I've never seen any Colosseum matches before!"

"Um, yeah." Wes leaned away from her to regain some breathing room. Not for the first time, he wondered what in Mew's name was wrong with this girl. Had she never heard of personal space?

Thankfully, Rui sat back in her seat with a resigned sigh. "If this trip has taught me anything, it's that I really haven't seen enough of Orre. So much of it is so different from what I'm used to."

It's about time you realized.

"You could always change that, you know," said Wes as he picked at his plate. "You shouldn't wait too long to leave a place." Like me, he thought ruefully.

"I would, but...I probably shouldn't go alone." Rui gave a slightly bitter laugh. "I mean, we both know how that went when I tried it."

"Then go with someone."

"I don't really have anyone to go with."

"What, you don't have trainer friends?"

She dropped her gaze to the table. "No, actually," she said hesitantly. "I mean, Agate is mostly full of old, retired Ace trainers and maybe a few young families that are related to them. There wasn't anybody my age growing up, so...I didn't really have any friends." She grinned at him sheepishly. "Sounds kind of pathetic, huh?"

No, Wes thought, It sounds...lonely. For once, he thought he could relate to her, if only just a little. "Well, get yourself some Pokémon, then. Be a trainer. You're probably safest that way, anyway."

Rui laughed again. "Come on. You and I both know Pokémon aren't easy to come by. They haven't been since the Kantonian War." The smile faded from her face a little. "I...I don't do Pokémon, anyway."

Wes frowned at her. "Why not?" She certainly seemed to like them enough.

"I just...don't."

It was the first vague answer she'd given. Wes took the hint and didn't press the issue further. They finished their meal soon after and headed out to Wes' motorbike.

Neo had warmed up to Rui quite a bit over the last twenty-four hours. Wes had a suspicion that it had to do with the fact that she was always showering him with attention and praise whenever the Espeon so much as looked at her. He narrowed his eyes as he watched Neo rub up against her legs with a hopeful mewl.

"Oh my gosh, you're so adorable!" Rui giggled as Neo brushed against her. He answered with a happy chirp. She grinned over her shoulder at Wes. "I think he really likes me!"

"He likes everybody," Wes replied dryly, although he knew that wasn't exactly true.

Rui didn't seem to hear his remark and walked ahead to the motorcycle with a spring in her step. Wes glared down at his Espeon. "Stop sucking up to her. She's not staying."

Neo's only response was to blink smugly at his trainer before sauntering ahead, tail held high.

Brat.

He once again had to return Neo and Novo to their Pokéballs to make room for Rui in the sidecar. Neo was more willing to go along with it this time, but Novo seemed more sour about it than ever. Wes sighed quietly to himself and wondered how long his Umbreon would hold this against him.

Once they were both seated, he heard Rui speak up from beside him. "To Phenac, then?"

Wes nodded and gripped the handlebars. "To Phenac." And then, finally, to Gateon. And beyond.

He roared up the engine, and they were off into the desert once more.


————————————————————————

Neo liked the new girl.

He had decided so almost immediately upon seeing her emerge from that stuffy brown sack. Even though he'd sensed anxiety and fear rolling off her in waves, he also sensed something else: kindness. Gentleness. Sincerity.

He liked that. It reminded him of his trainer.

Her vivaciousness made itself known as they walked around town, and he liked her even more. Her bright spirit added a new dynamic to the trio that Neo had not seen before, and it was fun. Novo was always serious and alert, and Wes always made an effort to remain composed and impassive. Neo loved them, but Mew above, being the only energetic one of the group sometimes got downright boring.

Her energetic enthusiasm, while thrilling to him, only seemed to agitate his trainer. She peppered him with questions, laughed a lot, and walked with a bounce in her step all while irritation quietly emanated from Wes in spades. Neo found this highly entertaining to watch.

But aside from her odd red hair, her loud laughter, and her bubbly personality, there was one reason above all others why he liked the girl so much.

She was a total pushover.

He'd discovered this as they sat at their booth in the Phenac restaurant. While his trainer spoke with the girl, Neo had cautiously leaned forward to sniff her hands from his place at Wes' feet. Her scent was pleasant yet unfamiliar, and it stoked his curiosity. She must have felt his whiskers, because suddenly her attention was on him and she was stroking his head and cooing at him all the while, telling him how handsome and beautiful he was.

Well, she clearly had good taste.

He tested this a few more times, and sure enough, each time he brushed against her, he was showered with her affection. She seemed absolutely thrilled every time he paid attention to her, and she was more than willing to return the favor.

They were at the Outskirt Stand when Neo decided to test this even further. He was pouting under the table after he'd given Wes the Begging Eyes and was told a hard no. The smell of bacon wafted tantalizingly in the air, and Neo chuffed and gloomily laid his head on his paws. He couldn't believe his trainer sometimes. Who could possibly deny him, Neo the Great (and Handsome, according to the redhead) Espeon, when he put on the charm? Apparently his stone-cold trainer could. Hmphf.

His eyes rested on the pink pair of boots across from him, and he had an idea.

He waited until near the end of their meal when Wes briefly left the table to pay for their food, then slunk over to the girl and rested his head in her lap. He let his ears and tail droop, then looked her straight in the eyes and blasted her with Irresistible Cuteness, utilizing his Begging Eyes to the max.

It was a sight to behold. Her face crumbled, her resolve wilted, and she glanced quickly about before discreetly slipping him a piece of bacon under the table.

"Don't tell Wes," she whispered.

Neo devoured the meat with gusto. He could feel his brother's stare of disbelief on the back of his head and could practically hear him asking where his dignity went. Neo chose to ignore this, and instead licked the last remnants of bacon from his muzzle and settled down smugly at Wes' feet when he returned. Score one for the Espeon.

Yes. Neo liked the new girl very much.


————————————————————————

Novo was very unsure about current events.

True, he did help his brother pressure Wes into stepping in to rescue the girl, but he hadn't expected her to stay. The longer she stayed with them, the greater the anxiety was that he could sense from his trainer. And Novo disliked anyone who set his trainer on edge.

Which was basically everyone that wasn't him and Neo, but that was beside the point.

This girl. She was naive. And boisterous. And loud. Her laugh grated on Novo's ears, and he thought her voice was loud enough to draw attention from two streets over. Hadn't the plan been to blend in and go as unnoticed as possible? In fact, wasn't the plan to be well on their way to Gateon by now?

Novo sensed from Wes' quiet tension and frustration that he was having the same thoughts as the Umbreon. The mounting anxiety to be on the road almost made him regret begging his trainer to save the girl. Almost. Much as he disliked her, he was sure that sack had not been a comfortable place to be, and kicking those men and their Whismur to the curb had been fun. Still, her bubbly demeanor rubbed his fur the wrong way.

His opinion of the girl lessened even further when, at the restaurant, she'd tried to pet him. She'd stretched out a cautious hand, as if to touch his head, and he snarled at her. Sure, she didn't seem like a threat—far from it—but if Wes didn't want her to get close, then Novo wouldn't let her get close to himself, either. It was that simple.

Nonetheless, he suffered through their annoyingly long stay at Phenac City. Once the girl was set, she would be on her way, and they would be on theirs. No more invasive questions or weirdly bright smiles.

But for some reason, she followed them as they finally made their way back to the motorbike. Wes had picked up the pace considerably, and Novo felt joyous at the prospect of moving ahead as planned. Yet...the girl was still here. Did she not understand? Was she that naive? Surely—surely—Wes wasn't planning on bringing her along?

Novo's shock was immeasurable when Wes crouched down to level with him and told him he would have to go in his Pokéball.

What?

His trainer seemed displeased at the idea, too, as he mumbled an apology to him, but Novo's shock only deepened further when he saw the redhead make for the sidecar.

What?

Not only was he being forced back into his Pokeball for the second time today, he was being booted out of the sidecar? His spot? The spot where he loved to watch the scenery fly by and feel the wind in his fur? All for this—this girl? This girl, of all people?

The feeling of betrayal was palpable. He made certain Wes knew this by cramming every fiber of his wounded pride into a piercing glare before he was sucked into his Pokéball.

This girl.

Novo did not like this girl.

Venia Silente

Inspectious. Good for napping.

Male
on the second floor's nest
Seen 15 Hours Ago
Posted 5 Days Ago
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And the adventures of Best Cat, Companion Doggo and Reluctant Human Tagalong continue. Let's face it, as far as Ch.3 it's Neo driving the team on where to go, he's not gonna be taken anywhere he doesn't want to go, not with that attitude.

Getting Wes forced to play along and get involved into the kidnapping case was a nice accidental stuff to have, and his sort of venting his frustrations on the kidnappers moment paid well off. Can't really say much battle-wise, considering as well the fight with the two kidnappers was pretty restricted on what kind of places it could go. Plus this Marla woman was just insufferable "oh yes dear" "oh poor dear" "is this kidnapping bag all ok dear" in a fun way and I can only imagine how happy Wes is at having to spend any screentime with her around.

"They're beautiful Pokémon!" Rui exclaimed, admiring Novo's sleek black coat. Neo looked over his shoulder and chirped happily at the compliment. He was always pleased to be acknowledged.
I can only mostly imagine these two's not-exactly-inner thoughts.
Novo: "I am the night, I am Batman."
Neo: "Why yes I'm a cat, thank you!"

All in all, in general good episodes though I have not been able to catch up pas Ch. 3, so I'll have to still work on that. So long as there's more Espeon and Umbreon adventures it shouldn't be too difficult exceptt for Wes.
Venia Silente - Consulting WorldbuilderSocial·🐘ⓜ · · Direct·
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Fic stuff~
SWC Selections
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Other Releases
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The Meta Journey!
Nidoran : Carnivine : Trapinch


HelloYellow17

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Seen 1 Day Ago
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135 Days
And the adventures of Best Cat, Companion Doggo and Reluctant Human Tagalong continue. Let's face it, as far as Ch.3 it's Neo driving the team on where to go, he's not gonna be taken anywhere he doesn't want to go, not with that attitude.

Getting Wes forced to play along and get involved into the kidnapping case was a nice accidental stuff to have, and his sort of venting his frustrations on the kidnappers moment paid well off. Can't really say much battle-wise, considering as well the fight with the two kidnappers was pretty restricted on what kind of places it could go. Plus this Marla woman was just insufferable "oh yes dear" "oh poor dear" "is this kidnapping bag all ok dear" in a fun way and I can only imagine how happy Wes is at having to spend any screentime with her around.


I can only mostly imagine these two's not-exactly-inner thoughts.
Novo: "I am the night, I am Batman."
Neo: "Why yes I'm a cat, thank you!"

All in all, in general good episodes though I have not been able to catch up pas Ch. 3, so I'll have to still work on that. So long as there's more Espeon and Umbreon adventures it shouldn't be too difficult exceptt for Wes.
Aaaaa thank you again for sharing your lovely thoughts! Haha Marla is absolutely that doting motherly figure and Wes is not really having it. And omg you are spot on with Neo and Novo xD

I will say that if you're enjoying Neo and Novo so far, then you'll like Chapter 4! They both have some time in the spotlight. :)

I'm just about to post chapter 5 right now, too, so there's more for you to enjoy if/when you get around to it!

HelloYellow17

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Seen 1 Day Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
8 posts
135 Days
Chapter 5: Stirring Shadows

Wes couldn't help but grumble a little once Phenac City came into view.

Yesterday he had hoped to never have to lay eyes on this city again, and yet here he was, shielding his eyes from its brightness even with his shaded goggles on.

He parked in his usual place outside the city wall, released Neo and Novo immediately, and stalked back through the city entrance with Rui close behind. He'd alerted the two brothers to stay close and be watchful; he didn't think Wakin's impatience would have kept him in the city for very long, but he couldn't afford to be careless. Especially not since he still had the Snag Machine...he spared a glance at the metal sleeve.

"Wes! Rui!"

Someone was shouting their names. Wes cursed quietly under his breath; having someone shouting his name in a busy city was not an idea he was fond of. He looked for the source, but Rui had spotted them first—Dash and Marla, running towards them from across the street.

"Oh my goodness!" Marla panted once they'd reached them. She was looking at Rui with dismay. "You...I can't believe you're still here! You should have left by now, dear!"

"W-well, we technically did leave, but—" Rui began.

"That's not important now!" Dash frantically waved his hand. "Rui, those men that took you—they're back! They're here, and they were headed to the mayor's house!"

Rui's face drained of color. "Are...are you sure it was them?"

Dash nodded solemnly. "I'm sure. Positive. It was definitely them." He looked between her and Wes with worry. "I-I'm really worried for the mayor! You told him about them yesterday, right? What if they found out and...and..." He trailed off and gave Wes a pleading look.

Wes was rubbing his temples in frustration. Another distraction. Another. Damned. Thing. He sighed yet again. Rather than fight it this time, he figured if they could power through the issue quickly, then he could still be heading to Gateon by the end of the day.

He raised his head and fixed Dash and Marla with narrowed eyes. "All right, here's the deal. We'll go check on the mayor and make sure everything is fine. Maybe we can even report that you two saw those men back in the city. And then we'll get going, because we really need to be on our way."

He could have sworn Marla had watery eyes as she thanked them. "Such incredible young people you are!" she sniffed. She and Dash said they would continue to look for the suspects before they parted ways.

"Do-do you think the mayor's okay?" Rui's face was taut with worry as they made for his home. "What if they did find out and they're here to do something to him?"

"He'll be fine," said Wes shortly. "First of all, those two thugs had less than one brain cell to share between them, and second of all, we're talking about the mayor. He'll have security with him. Remember that doorman?"

"Yeah...yeah, you're right," Rui said. She relaxed a little. "He should be fine—but I am glad you offered to check on him. I'll be glad to know for sure." She smiled at him. "You're a really good person, Wes."

No, I'm not, Wes thought with annoyance. He felt ready to sock the next person who needed a favor in the jaw. He wanted to get. Out. Of. Here.

They made it to the mayor's house in good time, largely due to Wes walking so fast and Rui almost needing to jog to keep up. The massive estate looked very much unchanged from the day before. Wes snorted and shook his head. Such a waste of time.

Still, they marched up the steps. Rui bounded forward to knock on the door with her usual enthusiasm—

And the door creaked open.

She let out a gasp, and Wes felt an unpleasant sinking feeling in his stomach. Certainly there was an explanation. The doorman had just forgotten to shut the door tight and lock it...right?

Rui hesitated, then pushed her way inside.

"What—Rui!"

But the girl had already stepped through the doorway. Wes could see that the lights were out inside, and he uttered a few more curses under his breath. Did this girl have a death wish?

He hastily followed her inside with Neo and Novo at his heels. She had only ventured in a few steps and was now looking about the room. Wes grabbed her by the arm with a growl.

"Are you stupid?" He hissed. "What do you think you're doing?"

Rui turned to look at him with horror in her eyes. "Wes..." she whispered. He could feel her trembling in his grip.

Wes noticed their surroundings, and he immediately understood her fear.

The office was unrecognizable from the day before. Not only were the lights out, but the room was destroyed; papers were scattered all over the floor, the fireplace was shattered, furniture was upended everywhere. Wes noticed the tea set that had been used to serve them yesterday was smashed into pieces on the floor.

"Rui," he said slowly, "we need to get out of here. Now."

He was just about to drag her back outside when the door at the other end of the room burst open.

At first, he wasn't sure what he was looking at. For half a crazed second, as he saw a massive ball of red and white, he thought he might be looking at a bizarre Pokémon. And then he realized it wasn't what he was looking at, but whom.

The man that stood before them was tall, lanky, and dressed in some kind of ridiculous bright yellow track suit. His face was covered with gaudy shades, and he was adorned with flashy jewelry. But most noticeable of all was his hair; a massive afro that, for all intents and purposes, looked as though it defied the laws of physics just by how big it was. But the absurdity didn't stop there - the hair was dyed two colors and split evenly down the middle, one side white, the other a fiery red.

Wes briefly wondered if this wasn't just a hallucination. What did he have for breakfast, again...?

Afro Hair was apparently talking to someone else as he entered. His high, nasally voice carried a lilting accent that was almost as obnoxious as the fluff on his head.

"Now, now, darling, ain't no need to get your hair worked up in a frizz. Why, that lil' gal can't have gone far, can—oh!" He squawked in surprise upon noticing Wes and Rui in the room. "Boys, I think we have company!"

Two more men stepped into the room from behind him, and Rui gasped in terror. She grabbed Wes by the arm and stood close to him. "Those—they—they're—"

"I know," Wes replied. He looked Folly and Trudly up and down with disgust. So these men had the nerve to come back to this place?

Neo and Novo stepped forward and faced the three men with bristling fur and low growls.

"Gah!" Trudly barked in alarm and pointed an accusing finger at Wes. "That's—that's him, boss! He's the one who ran us out of town yesterday! An' that's the girl, there!"

The "boss" placed a hand on his hip and cocked his head to the side as he surveyed the newcomers. He scoffed and turned his head back to Trudly. "Are you boys tellin' me you lost to this lil' scrap?"

Trudly shuffled awkwardly. "Uh, Folly battled him, sir," he said quickly.

"What're you throwin' me under the bus for?" Folly snapped. "You'da lost, too!"

Wes had started to inch toward the door, pulling Rui along with him. If they could just make a break for it while they were arguing amongst themselves—

The strange man's gaze suddenly snapped back to Wes in his escape attempt. "Oh, I don't think so, sonny boy!" he said. "Trudly, care to prove to me you're not a pathetic lil' sap like our dear Folly over here?" Folly made a noise of indignation, looking highly affronted.

"Sure thing, Boss!" Trudly barked. He whipped two Pokéballs from his belt and hurled them onto the floor.

Two beams of light faded to reveal a Duskull and a Spinarak. Wes almost shook his head at the pitiful Pokémon. Did these thugs really think they stood a chance against Neo and Novo?

But getting into another messy situation was not on today's agenda. He took another step closer to the door—

A web shot from the Spinarak's mouth and stuck to the door over Wes' shoulder. With a fierce tug, it was slammed shut.

"Oh-ho!" the odd man cackled. "Tryin' to run away, now? And here I thought you was some gentleman lookin' out for this girl!" His eyes rested on the redhead as he mentioned her. Rui shivered and took another step closer to Wes.

"Here's the deal, sonny! You hand that girl back over to us, nice an' easy, and we let you go free! How do that sound?"

"What do you want with me?" Rui snapped. She was quivering, but her eyes were fierce.

"Well, lil' gal, we was hopin' you could tell us." A sneer slid its way across the man's face. "What are you doin, goin' around and seein' things you're not supposed to see?"

Rui's eyes widened in horror. "So you did do something to that Makuhita!"

A sudden ringing interrupted the exchange. The man gave a start and giggled. "Whoops-a-daisy! Pardon me, boys and girls!" He pulled his P*DA out of his pocket and answered. "Hellooooo?"

There was an incredibly awkward silence as he listened to the other side of the phone call. Nobody else in the room dared to speak. Folly was seething with anger near the opposite doorway, and Trudly was growling at Wes, clearly itching for a battle. Neo and Novo stood planted firmly, growling at the men and now Trudly's Pokémon. The Spinarak and Duskull were shifting in front of them, eyeing their opponents warily.

Wes discreetly slipped his free hand under his coat and felt for his knife. Not that he thought he would need to use it, not when Neo and Novo would be able to mop the floor with the other Pokémon, but remembering he had it on him was somewhat comforting, regardless.

"W-Wes..." Rui spoke in a frightened whisper. "I'm so sorry—we shouldn't have come here—I shouldn't have barged in—"

"You think?" he growled. Rui bit her lip and ducked her head; Wes could still feel her trembling. Despite his annoyance, he felt a small tug of sympathy for her.

"I won't turn you over, if that's what you're worried about," he mumbled back to her. Rui kept her gaze on the floor, but she tightened her grip and nodded.

"You...think we can get out of here?" she whispered.

Wes snorted. "Please. Neo and Novo will take care of this."

But even if we escape, what happens to the mayor? he wondered. There was no indication of where the mayor might be. Maybe, just maybe, he wasn't actually home and they hadn't come for him after all, but something else...?

It was a small thing to hope for, but he did anyway.

"Ah, just lovely! Goodbye, darling!" The man with the afro ended his phone call with a flourish of his hand before returning the P*DA to his pocket. He turned to the grunts behind him. "Well, boys, I'm off to Pyrite now! Ta-ta!"

"Wh-what?" Trudly spluttered. "You're just gonna leave us to deal with this alone?"

"Yes indeed, darling," his boss drawled with a wink. "I have frightfully important business to attend to, so I'll be on my way. But I do trust you'll have the girl with you the next time we meet." His last sentence, though still drawled in his light, lilting voice, suddenly contained a cold and dangerous edge to it.

Trudly paled in fear and nodded. "I-I'll do it, boss!" he stammered.

"See that you do." The man glanced back over his shoulder at Wes and Rui and winked. "Was lovely meeting you, darlings!" He sauntered off through the back door and was gone.

"Was he for real?" Wes mumbled dazedly. Rui gave a nervous laugh.

"All right, boy," Trudly snarled. His face was twisted with fierce hostility, but there was something akin to desperation in his eyes. "You heard the boss! He needs the girl back. Pronto. Hand her over and nobody gets hurt."

"No, thanks," Wes said coolly.

Folly glanced between the two of them nervously. He sidled towards the door.

"You wanna do this the hard way, then?" Trudly roared. "FINE! Hard way it is!" He addressed his Pokémon. "String Shot and Shadow Ball!"

"Neo, Confusion on that Spinarak!" Wes barked. "Novo, keep that Duskull away from him and Bite whenever possible!"

The Eeveelutions acknowledged their orders with a bark. Novo was immediately tied up in a String Shot, but he gnawed his way through the sticky webs with Bite as Neo dodged the Shadow Ball and plowed into Spinarak with Confusion. The spider screeched as it was thrown into the opposite wall and fell motionless to the floor in one hit.

Duskull fired another Shadow Ball, and this time it struck Neo's shoulder with enough force to send him tumbling. Neo yowled in pain, but before the Duskull could launch another attack, he was yanked out of the air by Novo's jaws. The Umbreon had leaped onto the desk to reach his foe, and now hurled him down to the ground with a fierce tug. Duskull wailed and shot another Shadow Ball at the Pokémon; the attack rolled off Novo's shoulders with barely any effect whatsoever. He lunged and ended the scuffle with a swift Bite.

Trudly roared and raged. "You—you PATHETIC LITTLE—" he swore vehemently and returned his fallen Pokémon to their balls before turning on Wes. "I'M NOT FINISHED YET!"

Rui's eyes widened. "Wes—"

"Not now, Rui." Wes focused intently on his opponent.

"But—Wes—"

She didn't get to finish her thought. Another beam of light filled the room as Trudly unleashed his third and final Pokémon.

A Makuhita.

Rui choked a cry from behind Wes. "That's the one, Wes!" she cried. "There's something wrong with that Pokémon!"

Wes looked the Makuhita up and down; it didn't seem like there was anything wrong with it. Sure, its tense posture and fierce growls were aggressive, but he didn't see how—

Without a command, the Makuhita hurled itself at Novo with terrifying speed. Novo scrambled to get out of the way, but he'd been caught off guard. The Makuhita slammed a fist into the Umbreon's side and sent him flying into the lounge area, crashing into a knocked over couch.

Wes hissed through clenched teeth. This Makuhita was fast. No matter; it was still outnumbered, with a type disadvantage to boot. "Neo! Confusion!"

The Espeon was back on his feet and ready to rumble. He blasted a wave of Psychic energy at the Makuhita. Wes could hear Rui shouting in alarm, but he didn't listen. What was she so worried about? This battle would end quickly soon enough, they were fine—

The Makuhita barreled straight through Neo's Confusion. Wes blinked. That was new.

Neo let out another howl as his foe tossed him effortlessly to the side and kept gunning forward—straight at Wes.

Oh.

He barely had time to react. He ducked and dove to the side, but he wasn't quite fast enough to dodge the entire blow. The Makuhita's fist glanced off his right shoulder, and Wes felt something pop, followed by a thrill of pain shooting down his arm as he crashed to the floor.

Rui's screams filled his ears. The Makuhita lunged for her next, but Novo rammed it out of the way with a Return. The Pokémon tumbled across the floor, then scrabbled to its feet with another snarl, and Wes got a good look at its eyes.

He felt a shiver go down his spine; he'd never seen such empty, such soulless eyes in a Pokémon before. He'd seen more than his fair share of abused and neglected Pokémon during his time in Snagem, but none of them had been quite like this. This Makuhita was filled with nothing, nothing at all, except pure, unfiltered hatred.

"Rui—Rui!" Wes shouted, sitting up and trying to put some distance between him and the Makuhita. "The bag! Give me the bag!"

"Wh-what?"

"Just give it to me!"

She did as told, and tossed the bag into his lap.

The crazed Pokémon lunged at Wes again; Neo blocked it this time with a Protect, then another Confusion. Though the Espeon's Psychic-type attacks should have greatly weakened the Fighting-type, it seemed hardly fazed at all—anything, it was even angrier than before. Both Neo and Novo lunged at their foe, only to be thrown aside yet again.

Makuhita locked eyes with Wes, and launched at him a third time.

Wes' instincts kicked into overdrive.

He was hardly aware that he had dug into the bag and was now holding a Pokéball in his hand. The machine on his arm came to life, soft orange lines glowing as they ran all the way down to his fingertips. The Pokéball in his hand glowed and hummed as the machine did its work.

The Makuhita bore down on him, and Wes threw the ball.

The Pokémon vanished in a beam of light. The ball fell to the floor with a light thunk, then shook once...twice...three times.

Click.

A stunned silence filled the room, only to be broken by Trudly's shout.

"WHAT?!"

The ball flew from its place on the floor to Wes' open hand - the one with the machine. He stared at it numbly, unsure of what to think or feel.

"WHAT DID—HOW DID YOU—THAT'S MY Pokémon!"

Trudly was practically foaming at the mouth. Wes looked up into the man's eyes.

"Not anymore," he said bluntly.

Trudly took a step forward, looking about ready for murder, when Neo and Novo limped out from under the wreckage of the battle. Neo's forehead jewel gleamed menacingly, and Novo's rings pulsed with anger.

"Doesn't look like your friend is here to back you up, either," Wes added.

Folly was indeed nowhere to be seen. Trudly balked, glancing at the advancing Pokémon and where his friend should have been. He shrieked a volley of insults at Wes before retreating hastily through the door.

Wes' shoulders slumped in relief, and he stared at the Pokéball in his hand. Never, not once, had he seen a Pokémon behave in such a way before...

A shuffle from near the door caught his attention. He turned his head to see Rui backing away from him, her face white with shock. "You...how...how did—"

Wes staggered to his feet and sucked in a sharp breath at the pain that laced through his shoulder. Something was definitely wrong with it. He grimaced at Rui. "I'll explain later, okay?"

Rui continued to stare at him. "You...you just...you just stole—"

Wes didn't have time for this. He grabbed Rui by the arm and made for the door. "I'll explain later. But for now we need to get out of—"

"I'm not going anywhere with you!" Rui's voice was shrill as she wrenched her arm away from him. "Not until you explain to me what just happened! Right now!"

Wes clenched his jaw and took a long look at the girl. If he told her the truth, would she understand? Would she allow him to continue on his way without turning him in? Or would she give him away to the authorities in a fit of rage?

He thought of her face in the Pokémon Center when she spoke of Team Snagem, and he knew the answer.

He heaved a long, weary sigh. "Okay. Okay. I'll explain. But can we please go somewhere else? I don't want to be here when authorities get here. It won't look good for either of us."

Rui seemed to accept this answer, as she tersely nodded her head after a moment's pause. "Fine."

They took the back exit to avoid being seen, and Neo and Novo were returned to their Pokéballs until they could be taken to the Center for their injuries. Wes made an effort not to let his own injury show, partly out of attempts to avoid suspicion from curious onlookers, but mostly out of habit. He led Rui to a bench that was tucked away next to a few artificial waterfalls; their conversation would be safe here, with the rushing water to discourage potential eavesdroppers.

Rui sat far away from him, on the opposite side of the bench. Though she'd been clinging to his arm just moments earlier, now she wanted nothing to do with him, and was putting as much space between them as possible. She fixed him with a burning glare. "Well?"

Wes took a deep breath. He would have to be careful, very careful, on how he approached this. The low voice spoke in his mind once again, repeating words from yesterday: The best lies are half-truths, boy.

And as much as Wes hated that voice, he listened to it.

"I...I told you I grew up on the streets, right?" He started slowly. Rui narrowed her eyes at him and nodded. "Well...I associated with all kinds of people. Living that life, you have to make connections to survive. I had...had some close friends who got caught up with Team Snagem."

Rui's hands curled into fists as they rested atop her knees. She said nothing, so Wes continued.

"I didn't like what Team Snagem did. I never liked it. But these friends of mine...they did what they thought they had to do to survive. So they stayed with Snagem for a long time, until something happened." He paused and stared hard at the ground. "They...killed one of my good friends and his team."

Rui's eyes widened and the color drained from her face. "Arceus...what happened? Why would they do that?"

"Because he broke one of their rules...I don't know all the details." Wes ran a hand through his hair. "I just know that they killed his team and made him watch before they killed him." Anger started to rise in his chest. Horrifying images, ones that plagued his nightmares, began to flicker across his mind. He shook his head and pushed them back as he took another deep breath.

Not now. Keep it together.

"So," he pressed on, "I got together with a couple of friends and we decided to do something about it. We rigged up some explosives and infiltrated the base. That explosion that happened a few days ago? That was me."

Rui's mouth dropped open. "That...was you?"

"Yeah." Wes gave her a bitter smile. "Best damn thing I ever did."

She stared at him in shock for a moment, then her eyes went to the machine still on Wes' arm. "That doesn't explain that, though."

"I stole it before I—we—blew up the base. Snagem had a whole bunch of machines made to convert Pokéballs for stealing, so we set the bombs off in all the rooms that held them. We destroyed them all...except this one." He looked down at the metal contraption. Sunlight glinted off its many curved surfaces. "This one is the only portable Snag Machine in existence. I stole it because...well, I'm actually not sure. Part of me wanted to use it against them, I guess. Somehow."

"Then how did you automatically know how to use it?" Rui's voice hardened with suspicion.

"I had a general idea of how they worked from what my friends told me. Plus, it's pretty straightforward. You just throw a Pokéball with that arm." He raised head back up to meet Rui's eyes. "That's the story."

Rui scanned his face as if looking for any traces of falsehood. "So...you were never part of Team Snagem yourself?"

"No," Wes said firmly. "Never."

"You've never stolen a Pokémon?"

"Today was the first."

She sat still for a long time, staring hard at him, fists still clenched. Wes tried to calm the pounding in his chest as he met her gaze evenly. Please let her believe me. Please.

"Okay." Her voice was quiet. "I believe you."

Wes allowed himself to breathe a tiny sigh of relief. Thank. Arceus.

"But...what does this all mean?" Rui leaned back with a sigh. "That Makuhita...I don't know what they did to it, but it's badly scarred, and dangerous. You saw for yourself."

Wes nodded.

"And I'm apparently the only person who can see them...that I know of, at least." She tipped her head back to look at the sky. "I've never met anyone else who can see aura...but then I just happened to find a Pokémon with a corrupted aura…" Her forehead scrunched.

Wes wondered what she was thinking. "What are you getting at?"

"It's kind of...convenient, isn't it?" Rui sat up on the bench, angling to face him. "Anyone could have come across that Makuhita, but I was the one who did.. Maybe it means I have my ability for a reason, maybe I'm meant to do something!"

He stared at her blankly. "Do something? Like what?"

"Save those Pokémon!" Rui waved a hand excitedly. "Whoever those people in the mayor's house were, they're part of something. Some kind of gang. I heard them talking while I was in the sack. It's not just the Makuhita, there are lots of corrupted Pokémon out there. Whatever they're doing to those Pokémon, it's wrong, and it's horrible, and—" She broke off, her voice quivering with emotion. "And I want to save them," she finished. Her hands had clenched into determined fists and her eyes were bright with resolve.

Wes sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. Of course. Of course this girl, with no knowledge of how the world worked, would want to go charging in to challenge some underground crime ring on the off chance she might save some random Pokémon she didn't even know. Really, why did he expect anything different?

His arm twinged painfully, and he held back a wince.

"Look." He raised his head again. "That's a nice idea and all, but you're completely out of your depth. You don't have any specifics, and even if you did, what do you expect to do about it? You don't even have a Pokémon. Tell the cops what you know, and let them take it from there."

"But what can they do?" Rui huffed. "They haven't done anything about Orre's crime rings! I mean, you did more to hurt Snagem than they have ever done, and you're just one person!"

She had a point there, Wes had to admit. Orre's lack of a central government was precisely why crime was so high. Pokémon trafficking, among other things, was pathetically easy in a region where you could simply hop from one city to the next to evade arrest—and then there was The Under, Orre's underground criminal hotspot and a hotbed of corruption that was far too powerful for any measly law enforcement.

There was a reason Snagem thrived so well in Orre, Wes thought bitterly. Justice was little more than a pipe dream in this desert.

He realized Rui was looking at him almost hopefully. She couldn't possibly expect—

"Look, I've done my part, all right?" Wes' words came out more harshly than he intended. "I did what I could to destroy and expose Snagem, I hit them where it hurt the most, and now I'm a dead man walking if any of them catch me. I'm also pretty sure that blowing up buildings is still a crime, whether it belongs to a gang or not. So there's that. I'm not in any position to...to play hero, or whatever, and neither are you. I just want to lay low and live the rest of my life in peace." He shot her a hard look. "And if you want my advice, you should do the same."

Rui bristled. "Are you saying I should just—just ignore everything we saw today?"

"I never told you to ignore it, just to leave it to the police."

"Which is basically the same thing," she said with a scoff.

"Fine, ignore me," Wes snapped. "Get yourself thrown in a sack again or worse, and see if I care." Another pang shuddered through his shoulder and down his arm, and he hissed in frustration. Why, why, why couldn't he have just ignored his Pokémon yesterday and let someone else rescue this crazy redhead? He got to his feet. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to heal my Pokémon and get my shoulder looked at, and then I'm leaving this place. You should too. And if we're lucky, we won't run into each other again."

Rui had also risen to her feet and was frowning at him. For a moment Wes wondered if she'd even heard what he said. "You...hurt your shoulder?" She looked concerned.

"A crazy Pokémon tried to kill me, in case you didn't notice."

"I-I didn't realize you were hit! I'm sorry—"

"Doesn't matter." Wes turned away on one heel. "I'm going now." He marched off in the direction of the hospital.

"Wait!" Rui rushed up beside him. "At least let me go with you to the hospital!"

"What the hell for?" he spat. "I don't need you. Go away."

"No! You got into this mess because of me, and the least I can do is make sure you're okay!"

"I'm fine, and I'd be even better if you'd leave me alone."

"At least let me go with you. Okay? Then I'll leave and I'll be out of your hair, I promise."

Her face was so sincere as she looked at him. Wes found it so damned infuriating. How in Mew's name could this girl possibly have the energy to care so much about absolutely everything? Didn't she ever get tired? Like a normal person?

Wes grumbled in defeat. "Fine." And with that, he made for the hospital with Rui in tow.