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Old July 2nd, 2017 (8:06 PM). Edited August 23rd, 2017 by Bardothren.
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Bardothren Bardothren is online now
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Here's to hoping I learned something in the last few years I've been writing. This is the rewrite of my first ever fanfic, which wasn't atrocious, per se, but it was still really bad. Didn't help I was still new and awkward with internet forums... but now you get the new and improved version. I haven't changed much of the basic plot (not yet anyways), but I intend on tweaking some important details and keeping the story moving. So, here you go!

For those of you who have just found this story... well, it's not the second entry. It's the fifth. If you really want to start at the beginning, you'll want Through the Scope. It's also rough and needs work, but that's a rewrite for another day. You could also start at Through the Aura without losing too many important details, or start anywhere you damn well please. I'm not your boss, and you're just doing this for fun. I'm just offering my suggestions.

And if I had to say what the series is about... well... the conflict in these tend to focus on characters trying to achieve personal goals that get intertwined into a centuries-old feud between pokemon and humans.

Also, just be warned, there will be dead people, occasional language (if the swear I dropped earlier wasn't enough of a hint), blood and mild gore, romance maybe? and more dead people. I'm rating this one M as well for Must read.

Alright, that's enough beating around the bush. Let's get to it.

Spoiler: Changelog: chapter spoilers ahead.


I added this because I decided it might interest some people to see what goes into edits.

V1.01: Added detailed description of Landon's medical supplies.
V1.02: Major chapter overhaul, including new reason for leaving the lab (investigating the fleeing pokemon), Landon receiving the professor's gabite, and reference to a latias (maybe?) :P A few extra tweaks while I was at it.
V1.03: Realized that Landon was way too quick in agreeing to hunt down a rampaging a rhydon. Toned down the danger, upped the professor's persuasion, and removed a few other tidbits I was unhappy with, particularly the mention of his adoption. No need to be blunt. Oh, and gave him some ultra balls because either he or I was an idiot for not thinking to get some ultra balls to catch a rhydon. Got rid of the word "emerald" when describing his eyes, way too over the top. Tweaked Landon's appearance a bit, wanted to take the edge off the gloom. Also, a backpack like that probably weighs a ton. Threw that tidbit in there. I mean, jesus christ, he'd have a defibrillator in there if it would fit. I may split this chapter into two in the future, considering how long it is becoming, and if I do, I'll simply split this one post into two pieces.
V1.04: Gave Landon a dart gun as a last resort against the rhydon. Why? I'll leave that for you to find out later :D





SoulSwitch

Part Two of the Sinex Redemption Saga
By Bardothren


Chapter One: An Air of Unease
“Professor, are you sure there’s a point to this?”

Landon Duchare inserted the needle into the magikarp’s chest cavity. His hands had machine-like stillness as his thumb squeezed firmly on the syringe. The needle opened up, and a thin glass capsule slipped into the magikarp’s belly.

The magikarp shot Landon a murderous glare and squirted water into his face. Landon didn’t even flinch as he took out the needle, dabbed antiseptic over the tiny opening, and threw the fish back into a tank.

Landon was a tall, lanky young man with unruly black hair, hedge rows for eyebrows, a beak-like thin nose, and thin, pursed lips. Dim green eyes gazed out of shadowed, cavernous hollows. His skin, already pale, seemed deathly white in contrast to his cream-colored lab coat, but he wore a slight smile as he handled the needle.

The elderly man standing behind Landon, known as Professor Hyacinth, watched the surgery intently and rubbed his temples with one hand. Most of the hair had gone from the top of his head, but the tufts left around eye level still had more brown than gray. His forehead was smooth despite his furrowed brows, and kindly brown eyes peered beneath thin, slender eyebrows. Both his nose and mouth were a touch wide, making his head seem stretched out like taffy.

“Who knows,” the professor said gruffly, “But it funds the lab. How many more left?”

Landon peered into a giant tank on the far wall of the lab. Two dozen magikarp, some solid orange, or dappled white, slashed with brown streaks, and one pink with a white belly, darted through rock formations and splashed against the wire mesh screen over the tank.

“Too many.” Landon set the syringe in a bath of isopropyl alcohol and threw his labcoat onto a bench. “Let’s take a lunch break.”

The professor pulled up the sleeve on his lab coat and stared at the thick, heavy steel watch strapped to his wrist. Its weight dragged the professor’s hand closer to the ground when he dropped it.

“It’s not even noon yet. Why stop now?”

Landon smirked and said, “I guess sticking magikarp full of tracking chips is giving me an appetite. Should I turn on the stove, or are we going to have our leftover ramen cold?”

Professor Hyacinth waved his bare hand around in the air and grimaced at the heat. “Leave it cold. Too damn hot in here as is.”

As Landon turned towards the professor’s living quarters, the door flew open, and a farmer, sweating hard, gasping for breath, and still caked with mud from knees to boots from working in the fields sprinted into the lab.”

“Professor, something’s got the miltank restless! And not just them too, a whole flock of spearow and pidgey flew right over my barn, followed by swarms of ratatta, caterpie, and even a few rhyhorn. Damn near broke my fence, they did. Should I call the police?”

Hyacinth sat down in a chair and put his legs up on a desk, dislodging a stack of papers. A folder hit the floor with a thud and spilled its graphs across the floor, but the professor didn’t notice. “Rhyhorn, you said? Probably a rhydon on a rampage. Pokemon flee for miles from a rampaging rhydon, and spread the word too. That’s why the miltank are restless, I imagine.”

“So, we should call the police?”

“We could call the police,” the professor said, putting extra emphasis and disdain on the ‘could’, “But it would take at least an hour for them to get here, longer still to get ready to take on a rhydon. They’d have to call in a professional trainer and evacuate the area… of people and cattle.” The farmer scowled at that thought, and the professor smiled at him. “And by then, there’s no telling where they rhydon will go. It could run straight for town… or more likely, it could head to the Daggers of the West and hole up in some mountain cave.”

Hyacinth swung his feet off the desk and went to a locked metal cabinet at the back. “Our second option is to wait out the rampage. I’m sure it won’t take long for the rhydon to calm down… but I’m also sure it wouldn’t take long for it to destroy half of Olendale in the meantime.” This made the farmer pale, and Hyacinth’s smile widened.

“Option number three, we deal with it ourselves.” As he said this, he glanced at Landon. It wasn’t the cold, oyster sauce-slathered ramen that made his stomach turn.

The farmer snorted. “Are you crazy? All the miltank and tauros in the town could stampede it and not even leave a scratch.”

“No,” the professor said as he unbolted the safe with a loud clank, “But I have something that might.” He took out a pokeball and wiped years of dust off its dull red top. Then he drew a small dart gun and tucked it into his front pocket. He turned towards Landon, who hung in the doorway to the living quarters, eating cold leftover ramen out of a pot. “Oh Landon, could you do me a favor?”

Landon’s eyes narrowed. He set the pot on the floor, threw off his lab coat, and walked over to the professor with his arms crossed.

“I hope you know how far off your rocker you’ve fallen, and how many idiot branches you hit on your way down.”

Professor Hyacinth took him by the elbow, walked him towards a corner of the lab, and whispered in his ear.

“Look, I’m just exaggerating about the rhydon. Yeah, it’s bad news, but just have my gabite use iron tail on it and it’ll fall easily, and after rampaging for hours, it won’t put up much of a fight.” He took the dart gun out of his pocket and slipped it into Landon’s pants pocket. The muzzle jutted against his leg, and he felt a twinge of fear staring at its trigger. “And if that fails, this dart gun will do the trick. It’s diamond-edged and made to punch through metal. It’s also expensive, so only use it if necessary.

Landon frowned and considered it. “You’re the expert,” he said with a shrug, nudging the gun so it pointed away from his thigh. “But if it’s so easy to catch, why not have one of the farmers do it?”

Professor Hyacinth leaned in even closer and glanced at the farmer. “I’d get a lot of grant money if I could keep a rhydon on the pasture. Think about it – we could get the AC fixed and replace the shower head.”

“Still too dangerous. You should send some farmers along so I don’t get hurt.”

The professor thought it over and shook his head. “Just do it and I’ll let you keep that gabite, alright?” The professor pressed the pokeball into Landon’s hands, pursed his lips, and said, “That gabite’s been cooped up for too long, and I’m too old to look after it properly. I was going to save it for when you went to college, but…”

Landon looked down again at the pokeball in his hand. It felt grimy to the touch, and it was a bit too big to fit comfortably in his fingers, but all the same, he felt the sweet, seductive, addictive childhood dream embedded like a heroin needle in the collective unconscious of every human being with a soul under the age of twenty-five. He felt only half-surprised to hear himself agree without hesitation, scoop up some ultra balls, and dash straight for the door.

But even as excited as he was, both by the danger and the promised reward, Landon stopped to pick up his backpack, which leaned against an overburdened coat stand. It was a jet-black rugged hiking pack, durable and water-resistant. He eased the zipper open and unpacked all the medical supplies crammed into it.

He started with a first-aid kit that barely fit in the pack and cracked it open. He set aside three rolls of gauze, two unopened bottles of antiseptic, a bottle of aspirin, a bottle of rubbing alcohol, two pairs of tweezers, three scissors of different sizes, sterilized rubber gloves in a plastic bag, a wound up ball of stitching, a plastic tub of cleaning wipes, two digital thermometers, a bottle of ibuprofen, half a dozen cough drops, four small bottles of distilled water, and six different boxes of bandages, each a different size. Everything gleamed like products on store shelves, and the faint, sterile scent of isopropyl alcohol clung to everything.

Then he reached deeper in the pack. Neatly packed away was a stethoscope in a sleek plastic case, a higher-quality digital thermometer, two bags of intravenous saline solutions and half a dozen sterilized needles, another set of sterilized gloves, three different unopened bottles of antibiotics, a dozen stitching needles still shrink-wrapped, a jug of eye rinse, a dozen packs of high-quality trail mix, three bottles of water, and six more rolls of gauze.

Landon had unpacked, checked every item’s packaging and expiration date, and repacked it all in the exact same order in under ten minutes. His hands never stopped moving and his eyes darted around, taking in the flurry of words, dates, and images without the slightest change in expression. Professor Hyacinth watched silently with a small, tired frown.

After he zipped up his pack, Landon strode out the door. The lab was nestled at the edge of its own pasture, ten acres in total, but the only pokemon roaming those grasses were a farmer’s miltank. Long swaying grass, so green it could be tied in countless knots, lined the bumpy gravel path. A sudden gust rippled his black t-shirt, but his grip remained firm on the pokeball. He shrunk it with the press of a button, tucked it and the ultra balls into a pants pocket next to his phone, and walked towards town.

More of a hybrid between a rural farmstead and a suburb than a proper town, Olendale had a peculiar mix of luscious, spacious suburbs and rows of farm fields that lent the town a sleepy, yet connected feel. Small, family-owned shops and businesses, from a local hair salon to a small pub known as The Barn, lined a smoothly paved concrete street alongside fast-food restaurant chains like Kroll’s and Taco Diver. The buildings were all aged-looking brick that could have passed for rural or rustic urban, given the right lighting.

Going further west, Landon hit the farm fields. Miltank crowded the eastern fences, snorting and stamping hooves as he passed. He gave them an uneasy glance behind his shoulder and continued westward.

Once he was clear of the farm fields, Landon took the pokeball out of his pocket and called out the professor’s – no, his gabite. The dragon materialized before him, looked around in confusion, and then fixed its beady yellow eyes on him.

Landon had no idea what to tell the dragon. It seemed to wait for a command, so with a shrug, he told it they were hunting for a rhydon and pointed west. The gabite looked at him nervously, started east, and then stopped. It looked up at him again, sighed, and waited. When Landon walked west, the gabite followed.

Between the summer heat, the dragging weight of his overstuffed backpack and his own lack of exercise, Landon felt pure misery as his chest burned, his legs shook, and he sweated buckets into his clingy black t-shirt. His thoughts drifted longingly to the jerky and water in his backpack, but he ruthlessly strangled the urge to take a drink. Exhaustion gave way to fury as he walked for miles without even hearing the rhydon, let alone seeing one. The only sound rustling through the prickly grass and gnarled oak trees was the wind.

“You better be worth all the trouble,” he grumpily told the gabite. It scowled back at him and gave a longing look behind.

More miles crept by. With every step, the gabite grew more and more anxious, until it started frothing at the mouth and slamming its head into the ground. Alarmed by the gabite’s sudden antics, Landon fumbled for the pokeball in his pocket, pointed it at the gabite, and called it back in.

He immediately regretted it. He felt so alone and exposed, surrounded by a sea of knee-high grass so flat and thick it looked like a sheet of brown-green glass that stretched from horizon to horizon. He looked east, towards the lab, muttered a few curses under his breath, and kept going.

His hackles rose with each step. At first, he thought it was just his imagination, but when a sensation like sparks tap-dancing on his nerves shook him, he realized that he too could feel whatever made the pokemon flee like madmen from this place.

Then he heard it. So faint, he couldn’t be sure what it was, but he could’ve sworn it was a cry for help. Cocking his head, he tried to find the source, but the sound didn’t seem to come from a direction. It felt as if he had earphones on. He moved even faster, and lights flashed before his eyes. The sound, which grew louder as he stumbled forward, was a voice, resonant and strangely genderless, too high-pitched for a man, too low for a woman, and too mature for a child. Then he picked out the words.

“Anyone, please! Help me!”

The cry was cut off by a shriek, like a bird with its wing broken. That sound had a clear direction to it, and Landon followed it to a valley in the plains. As he went forward, he felt a sickening sense of fear. He had passed it off as nerves at first, but the closer he got, the more he realized there was something very wrong up ahead.

Whether by erosion from a pond or glacial activity, the land had been hollowed out in that one spot, leaving a gently sloped hole thirty feet deep and thirty wide. At the bottom were two humans and three pokemon. The two men had rugged hiking gear in dull green and brown camo paint that only stood out in the rich green of the grass. Each was accompanied by a pokemon, one a mightyena and the other a crobat. Both pokemon had sleek silver bands around their heads.

The third pokemon lay collapsed on the ground, cowering in a crackling blue sphere that seemed to be made of hexagonal plates. It had a blue face and red eyes, a long white neck, and a blue body marked with a red triangle at the chest. Two blue wings, which didn’t look like they would bend, jutted out from the pokemon’s back, and it had two small blue arms with three claws each.

The shield came from a waist-high pedestal with a pale, transparent blue sphere nestled near the top. Just looking at it made Landon’s head throb and his stomach lurch.

For a moment, Landon stared, marveling at a pokemon that even he had never seen before. But then one of the guards turned, and Landon ducked back into the grass.

“Hey, are you sure we have to do this way?” one asked. “It just seems… extreme.”

“Yeah,” the other said, “But it’s not like we can sedate it. The moment we drop that barrier, it’ll be gone. Poof! Just like that.”

“Well, alright.” The guard glanced at the dragon and shifted nervously. “But isn’t the pokemon supposed to be red with a blue traingle? This one’s the opposite.”

The other man shrugged. “Well, it’s what we got. If they’re not happy about it, we’ll just try again.”

The dragon lifted its head an inch and looked where Landon crouched. Their eyes met, and the voice said, “Please help. I beg you.”

The fear clutched at his heart, as if it was trying to strangle him from the inside, but the forlorn gaze kept him from turning. Wiping sweat out of his eyes, Landon looked down at the two pokemon standing guard. Judging by its behavior earlier, using his gabite wouldn’t be an option. He guessed the silver bands kept their pokemon sane, while his would probably dash its brains out on the nearest rock.

The mightyena would respond most to smell, and luckily for him, the wind was getting stronger and he was downwind. The crobat, however, would respond to sound, and the rustling grass wouldn’t be nearly enough to disguise his footsteps. He first thought to use the dart gun, but he only had one shot and four targets, none of which he could be sure to hit. The wind blew into him, making any shot veer unpredictably and shortening his range.

He frowned for a moment and thought about leaving, but then he remembered his favorite phone app, a supersonic emitter. He had spent an extra hundred dollars just to make sure he would have this feature. Repel were expensive, and he had been done with swarms of zubat flapping around his face when the Professor sent him once a month to get samples in the river caves east of the pastures. It made other pokemon more aggressive, but that was a small price to pay for the peace and quiet.

Landon turned on the app, cranked up the volume, and walked forward. For a moment, Landon was afraid that the metal bands somehow cancelled out the supersonic frequencies. After all, they seemed to cancel out whatever the heck that machine was emitting.

The crobat fluttered nervously, peering around, but as he crept closer, the bat went ballistic. It flew into a tree and buried itself in one of the holes. One of the guards went to coax it out, muttering about the band slipping off, while the other turned his back to Landon. He silently cheered as he crept closer to the device.

The world seemed to shrink in on itself the closer he got to the machine. His peripheral vision blackened, and a low, angry buzz filled his ears. When he put his hand on the rugged metal surface, a fiery, painful tingle danced over his fingertips.

Landon kept the device between himself and the guards while he examined it. Once he found a plate on the back, he threw it open, grimacing at the pain shooting up his arm, and peered at the cables inside. He had thought the professor’s machines were sadistically complex, but this made a NMR spectrometer look like a light bulb. He reached inside, debating which one to pull, when a low, nasty growl made him look around.

The mightyena, ticked off at the high-pitched whine of his phone, went to look for it, and found him. With a yelp, Landon leapt back, and his fingers reflexively closed around a pair of thin, slender wires. With a snap, they came loose, and he held them in his hands.

“Hey, what is it?” the guard shouted. He ran over, at first puzzled at seeing Landon, then aghast at the wires in his hand. The machine crackled, and the pale light of the sphere lit up like a lighthouse beacon.

“Holy muk, run!” The guard put word to action, running after his partner by the tree, followed closely by his mightyena. Landon got to his feet and stumbled away, but he fell just a few steps from the malfunctioning device.

Blue light rushed to his eyes, and then a sense of gut-churning vertigo mixed with a sensation like having his brain squeezed in a lemon press overwhelmed him.
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Old July 2nd, 2017 (10:39 PM).
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Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is offline
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I think you accidentally called Landon Sam the last few paragraphs there (old habits die hard, huh?), lol. Speaking of Landon, I kinda feel the description of his appreance is a bit weak with you listing off "tall, lanky man, black hair, thin nose" etc. The professor's description you did a bit better with some action thrown in. Actually since this is Landon's POV he probably won't describe how he looks like in his head.

I don't think I read the first version of SoulSwitch, so you're lucky there. =P So, we have a Latios here that apparently burst someone's brains out hah. Latios' appearance makes me think his role here relates to his Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire entries over how he can make images and only open its hearts to compassionate people. There's also the Soul Dew orb that only Latios or Latias can hold. Ok, going off tangent here now oops. But yeah, interested how where this story will go.
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Old July 6th, 2017 (6:18 PM). Edited August 23rd, 2017 by Bardothren.
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Bardothren Bardothren is online now
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Join Date: Nov 2014
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Spoiler: Message from the Author
I don't know how much longer this writing spree will last until I finally burn myself out and go back to the regular routine, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Trust me to screw up the name, fix it, then realize there were two more spots I missed. On the bright side, I learned to use the Find thingy on MS Word and purged my document of all remaining instances of that name. One slipped through the cracks and was ruthlessly erased.

Also, I forgot an important personality detail back in the first chapter. You'll know it when you see it - it's about what Landon keeps in his backpack (I almost typed Sam there... old habits die hard) Hint: it's enough medical supplies to make a hospital. Feel free to go back and read it if you want - it's right before Landon leaves for his trip out into the wild (goddammit I did it again).

So, let me know what you think of the chapter title. I thought it was clever.

Spoiler: Changelog: Chapter spoilers ahead

V1.01: Changed details so it would line up with V1.02 of chapter one, mainly adding in gabite and an ex machina so the guards' pokemon wouldn't freak out over the machine.
V1.02: Removed the part about Landon's parents. Way too blunt, and it's been gnawing at me ever since I wrote it. Ugh.



Chapter Two: Out of Body Experience

When Landon finally opened his eyes again, he felt as if his head were like a popcorn kernel in a kettle, ready to pop. With a groan, he tried to push himself off the ground, but his arms slipped on the grass, and he only managed to crane his head up at the sky. The sun had sunk a little lower, but no more than an hour passed since…

With a start, he remembered everything that had happened. Oddly enough, he didn’t feel any panic, just a numb sensation that he should be panicking right now. His eyes darted across the hollow, and his eyes locked on the molten, splintered remains of the pedestal. Ten solid chunks of crystal crowned the sinuous, deformed top, each cracked so cleanly that the facets reflected light like mirrors.

Then Landon’s eyes fell on a person lying in the grass right next to the machine. He wore a black shirt, and had black hair, but he couldn’t see the face clearly. Landon tried to crawl, but he couldn’t feel his legs, and his arms wouldn’t go past his neck, so he wriggled through the grass like a caterpie, inching along with his chin and shoving back with his elbows.

When he finally managed to crawl far enough to see the person’s face, he stopped dead and stared. It was his face. His jaw should’ve dropped, he should’ve gasped or screamed in horror, but instead, he put his head against his chest. It shifted with gentle breathing, and he could feel his heart pounding rhythmically.

Satisfied he was still alive, his mind went straight to the cell phone in his pocket. Maybe he couldn’t speak, but if he could send a text message, the professor might be able to do… something. Praying it still had charge, Landon wriggled the rest of the way to his body and reached for the pocket. His arm wouldn’t reach, and when he craned his long, flexible neck, he saw why. His neck was almost half the length of his body, while his arms, tipped with three white claws, could only stretch out to two feet.

Wriggling closer, Landon rested his new neck over his old chest, feeling around his pants for the cell phone. When he found it, he sent one arm digging around in his pocket. After a few tries, he snagged the phone case by one claw and eased it out of the pocket. The screen was black. Something like worry flickered through his mind, but it felt superficial, as if he was considering what ramen noodles to buy. He tapped the power button, and the screen blinked on.

The phone was still playing the supersonic noise, but to his relief, he couldn’t hear it. He pressed one claw to the screen and tried to swipe it away. Nothing happened. He pressed harder this time, and winced when he left a thin scratch in the glass. Still nothing. He used the stump, pressing the smooth, downy blue skin against the glass, but it didn’t even twitch.

Landon didn’t even sigh as he turned the phone off and stuck it back in the pocket. His hand brushed against the gabite’s pocket, and he thought about calling it out for help, but the thought of trying to explain everything to it made him put the pokeball back.

He looked around for any trace of the men and their pokemon, but he couldn’t see them from down in the hollow. “I have to get out of here,” Landon told himself. Then he blinked in mild surprise when he realized he just spoke. “Weird. Am I speaking English, or do I understand myself in English?” Then he shrugged the question away and looked at his body. He couldn’t leave it there, but he couldn’t drag it while he crawled either. Twisting his neck back farther than he thought possible, he stared back at the two huge blue flaps jutting out from his back. He tried moving them, like rolling his shoulders, but they didn’t even twitch. He rippled his whole back, but they refused to budge.

Landon spent the next thirty minutes trying everything to get himself off the ground, but to no avail. Despite that, the irritation he imagined he would normally feel was strangely absent. He felt empty, as if all the joy and bitterness, rage and sorrow were all ripped out of him. He felt a flicker of sorrow and unease, along with a touch of joy, at the prospect of never experiencing emotion again.

“Come on,” he grumbled, “Why can’t I just get off the ground?” And image of the dragon form floating a few feet up came to mind, and then the ground fell away beneath him. He panicked, the image disappeared, and the ground rushed back up at him. The breath whooshed out of him, and he coughed, but there wasn’t any pain.

Focusing again, he held an image of himself floating in his mind. With a fitful start, the image finally coalesced enough to lift him off the ground. Then, with a deafening whoosh, he hundreds of feet into the air, high enough that he could see Ashland City, a metropolis an hour north of Olendale by car. A passing pidgeotto squeaked and dove away from him as he passed by.
Thinking quickly, Landon added the ground to his mental image, with a fluffy coat of grass, and the ground just as quickly rushed up to meet him. Closing his eyes, he held tight to the mental image, and this time, he stopped just short of the ground, without any tangible force due to the sudden stop.

He was also rocketing backwards and to the left, so fast the grass looked like a green blur around. He threw a few more trees and the hollow into the mental picture, putting himself right next to the molten pedestal, which he remembered with as much detail as he could muster. Before he could blink, his body raced back to where he started.

Landon’s new arms weren’t meant for grabbing anything, but he managed to snag his claws into the shirt and drag his body by the shoulders. He found that the clearer the mental image and the more clearly he took in the surroundings, the better control he had over his movement. Conversely, anytime he got distracted, such as when a spearow squawked at him, his control worsened, and he found himself slamming into trees, taking a nosedive into the ground, or rolling over in the air like a log.

“Of course all the pokemon come back after I get myself in this mess,” Landon grumbled, but despite his words, he didn’t feel the slightest pang of anger. “I wonder how he’s going to react.”

Shaking his head, Landon forced himself to focus and keep going. Going through thickets and farm fields to avoid prying eyes, he didn’t return to the lab until the sun was painting the western horizon orange. He paused before the door, glancing around to make sure no one was around, and knocked. He tried the doorknob, but he couldn’t turn it with his stubby arms.

“About time you made it ba-” the professor began as he threw open the door, but he stopped cold when his eyes met the soft, crimson gaze of the dragon. The professor’s mouth gaped open enough to reveal a gap of three absent teeth on his lower left jaw where a ponyta broke his jaw. Then his gaze flicked down at the crumpled body. The head slumped forward, and miles of grass stained his chest and shoulders green, but he only needed one look at the backpack strapped to his shoulders to know who it was.

“Landon!” he shouted, snatching the body from Landon’s hands. He dragged him past cluttered desks through a back door, to the professor’s personal living quarters. Like in his work, the professor kept an untidy house. Pots and bowls caked with bits of leftover ramen cluttered the sink, heavy pokemon research volumes and human medical texts alike spilled out of overflowing bookshelves onto tables and sofas. Two clearly defined sitting areas, nestled in between papers with charts and data, formed rings on the dusty cushions.

The professor swiped most of the detritus off the couch and tried to lift the body onto the couch. Landon helped him the rest of the way, snagging the jeans and pulling his legs onto the table. With so much more detail to process, his flying became erratic, and he bumped into a bookshelf. A few books tumbled onto the floor, and the shelf leaned forward slightly, but it remained upright.

Once the professor checked his vitals, he reached for a cell phone. Landon put a hand on his shoulder and said, “Wait.”

Professor Hyacinth flinched at the touch and paled when the word echoed across the room. His mouth worked, but no words came out. Then, swallowing, he finally said, “You can talk?”

Landon shrugged his back-fins. “I guess I can. Lucky me.”

“This – this is amazing, but what did you do to him?”

Landon grimaced, thought for a moment, and then settled onto the floor, between the table and the couch. He twisted his neck so it rested on top of a pile of books.

“I have no idea. The gabite went nuts, so I called it back in, and then I started feeling weird too. Then I stumbled on two guys, their pokemon, and some weird machine. They had this pokemon,” he said, gesturing at himself, “Inside some weird blue force field. The machine had a glowing crystal sphere inside of it. Anyways, the pokemon asked me to help it, so like an idiot, I distracted the guards and started digging around. Then they caught me, I panicked and pulled out a few wires, the machine exploded and when I woke up…”

He couldn’t bring himself to say it, but Hyacinth, after thinking so hard his eyebrows jumped up and down, found himself sitting down at the floor and gazing at Landon with a hesitant, fearful expression.

“Landon?”

“Yep.”

“Prove it.”

“We had oriental ramen for dinner last night, with broccoli and oyster sauce.” He paused, and added, “I had some for lunch too.”

Hyacinth snorted. “We had that for the past three months. Try harder.”

“The showerhead broke because you were-”

Professor Hyacinth clamped Landon’s mouth shut with a headlock. “Okay okay,” he said hoarsely, “No need to mention that.” He gave a nervous cough. “So, you’re a talking pokemon now?”

“Yeah.”

A wicked smile crept onto his face. “Can I take a few pictures? Maybe do some tests as well?”

“Only if it gets me out of this body,” Landon growled.

“Just imagine the grants I’d get to study you. They’d pay an arm and a leg for blood sample. We could eat real ramen for the rest of our lives, not the store-bought crap, real ramen!”

“That’d be great if I could hold a spoon,” Landon said, waving his arms in the air. “Good god, how does this thing eat?”

Their banter was interrupted by a groan. Professor and pokemon both turned towards the couch. Landon’s eyes were open and darting across the ceiling.

“Oww… where… where am I?” he said.

Landon swung his neck around to gaze down at his conscious body. He gave a start when the large red eyes came into view.

Landon nudged him on the shoulders and said, “Had a good nap? Now, whoever you are, can I please have my body back?”
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Old July 7th, 2017 (7:44 PM).
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Landon shot him a glare so full of malice that the professor blanched and brought his hands up. “Alright, alright,” he said hastily, “I believe you!” He took a deep breath and held a hand against his chest. “Sweet Jesus, I thought you were going to bite me.”
This imagery is cute especially when Landon is now a Latios, haha. Landon and the professor's banter (real ramen, pffft) after that is also amusing.

Yeah, had a suspicion that soul/body switching will be involved. Still a bit early to tell where you'll take this plot, though something tells me Latios won't switch bodies that easily.
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Old July 12th, 2017 (6:57 PM). Edited August 23rd, 2017 by Bardothren.
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I take it you've never had real ramen before, Bay? I assure you, genuine Japanese ramen far surpasses anything one could ever get out of a plastic packet. In fact, I've half a mind to get myself some real ramen this weekend. Mmm... ramen...

Anywho, I've been tinkering with the first chapter a lot (I think I'm on my fourth revision already.) Reading the changelog at the beginning of the previous two chapters should give you a good idea of what I've done, or if you feel like re-reading the first chapter, it may be informative to see what changes I make, how I fit them in, and get a hint of why I'm doing it. Editing is by far the hardest part of writing imo, so study up.


Chapter Three: Self-Introduction

Latios woke up with a splitting headache. He groaned in pain and reached for his head, but his long, limber arms overshot his head and flapped off the side of the couch. Then, remembering the hollow in a flash, Latios tried to soar into the sky. Instead, he lurched with enough force to knock him off the couch, and he landed on top of a light, downy cushion. Peering closely at it, he realized it was his own fur.

Turning his neck, which for some odd reason, wouldn’t reach nearly as far as he remembered, he stared down at his own hands, which weren’t his hands. The chest that breathed in fitful gasps wasn’t his chest, the legs that sprawled uselessly behind him weren’t his legs, and the eyes he saw through weren’t his eyes, but there he was, living in this body that wasn’t his, flooded with a growing sense of fear he had no idea how to handle.

Latios screamed. He squirmed violently, struggling with all his might to get the hell out, to wake up from this awful nightmare, but he only succeeded in bruising himself on the table. Each heartbeat that rocked his chest, each new twinge of pain from his arms, each second he wasn’t back in his own body, added to the fear until he drowned in the exponentially growing dread. His breath seized in his throat, his lungs burned, starved of oxygen, and white lights flashed before his eyes, each one a firecracker in his brain.

Then two huge red eyes appeared overhead, like a life vest thrown amidst a raging sea. Clinging desperately to those two still, calm pools, Latios felt air rush into his lungs and his chest tingle with newfound life seeping into him. After a minute, his muscles relaxed, and he sagged against the body beneath him.

“Well, I can’t blame him,” the thing beneath him said. “Waking up in a new body isn’t exactly relaxing.” Then it looked up at a human and asked, “Could you help me get him up? I don’t want my body getting more bruises than it already has.”

The human, who Latios guessed was an old man from the bald patch on its head, grabbed him by the arms while the pokemon beneath him rose and dumped him onto the couch. Sitting upright, Latios had a chance to take in his surroundings. He was in some kind of home, unkempt and dirty, but the lack of care put him at ease, somehow.

Latios tried to speak, but his throat felt raw, dry, and scratchy. He coughed, and the old human rushed to the sink. He filled a mug caked with coffee grounds, dumped it out, and filled it again. Latios, licking his lips, brought the brown, bitter water to his lips and drank it down so fast he choked, spitting most of it onto the table. Pausing only for a breath, Latios tipped the mug over his head and fervently gulped at the water as it trickled past his lips and down his chin. Most of it ran into his t-shirt, already damp from sweat, but enough made it down his throat for him to speak.

“Where… where am I? What happened?”

The old human spoke. “You’re in my lab, in Olendale. I am Professor Hyacinth, the pokemon expert in this backwoods dump. Half my research is keeping track of all the magikarp and zubat, so I’m not exactly equipped for…” the professor trailed off and gestured at him and the pokemon on the floor. “As for what happened,”

“This body belongs to you, right?” The pokemon floated off the floor and hung in mid-air before him, as if suspended by a string. Latios felt his chest stop as he looked up at his own body.

“Yes,” he said dully, “That’s mine.”

“Then it would seem we switched places.” The pokemon held out his hand, which didn’t even make it past his neck, and said, “I’m Landon. Well, you are now, but whatever.”

“And I’m Latios,” he said. His own arms were gangly, clumsy things, and it took a few tries before he flopped his hand into Landon’s slippery, fingerless grasp. The handshake was equally clumsy, and Latios cut himself on one of Landon’s claws.

“Ow,” Latios said, bringing the hand up to his mouth and sucking on it. An unpleasant sense came from his tongue, metallic and harsh, but the dulled pain kept him from pulling away.

“Sorry about that,” Landon said. “Wait, no I’m not, that’s my body. Whatever. So, can you… you know, fix this?”

Latios shook his head. “Can you?”

Landon looked at the old man, who shook his head. “Way out of my expertise.”

After a long pause, Landon said, “Psyduck me, I’m going to be stuck like this.”

Latios felt a sensation, white hot and bubbling like molten iron, rising in his chest. With a howl, he grabbed the edge of the table and flung it up. The table tipped, books clunked onto the floor, and papers drifted like leaves. Then he grabbed the cushions off the couch and threw them without looking. One hit Landon on the head, and the other landed on top of the stove.

Before he could reach down and yank at the couch, two strong arms pinned him to the bare, springy back. He squirmed, and his wrists moved slightly, but he stopped when he cut himself on one of Landon’s claws.

“Calm down.” Latios felt the eyes on him, and even through his eyelids, he felt their comforting presence. But the rage refused to leave him. It forced his eyes shut tighter and made him twist even harder at the sharp, clumsy grip on his wrists.

“Calm down!” Latios screamed. “I’m trapped inside this body, with all these… these feelings! How the hell am I supposed to calm down?”

The pressure lifted from his wrists, and he sagged to his side. Landon said, “Just take a deep breath. In, and out.”

Latios didn’t know what he meant, but he felt his chest expand. It stretched so far it felt like it was about to split apart, and in a rush, all the air whistled past his lips. The anger cooled, turning warm, then cool, then ice cold, knotting in his stomach. Tears burned his eyes as he sobbed hysterically into the couch.

Landon looked at the professor with a lost, concerned gaze, and said, “I thought this couldn’t get any worse.”

Professor Hyacinth rubbed the side of his head. “I don’t blame him. Honestly, I’m more surprised you aren’t joining him.”

“It’s not just that.” Landon glanced at his body, shaking, soaked, and hysterical, and quickly looked away. “I don’t think Latios ever felt a single emotion before.”

Hyacinth furrowed his brow. “No emotions? No wonder why he’s such a mess.” Then his eyes widened. “But wait, then what about you? You don’t feel anything?”

Landon forced a smile and said, “Completely dead inside.”

“You don’t even feel any worry looking at that?” he asked, gesturing at Latios. He had rolled onto the floor. Snot gushed out of his nose, and he coughed on his own spit. His eyes were pink and bloodshot. Tears soaked every inch of his face.

“Not a thing.” Landon picked him up, hauled him back onto the couch, and wiped his face with a stray paper.

“Well, what if I said… you know… that.”

Landon swung his neck around and stared at the professor. Hyacinth shivered as he stared into those cold red eyes despite the sudden calm that stilled his nerves.

“Nothing.”

The professor put a shaking hand on Landon’s head. “Are you going to be alright?”

“Who knows? But right now, we need to get as far away from here as possible.” Before Hyacinth could say anything, Landon floated down next to Latios. “Hey,” he said, “I got good news.”

Latios stared blankly at him, but the tears stopped. “Good news?” he mumbled weakly.

“Professor Hyacinth isn’t the only expert on pokemon. In fact, he’s one of the worst.”

The professor shouted at him, but Landon went on. “There’s a lot more professors out there, ones who have way better labs and do far more sophisticated research, professors like Maple and Oak, Birch and Cedar, Hornbeam and Poplar. Anybody with a tree for a name’s a good bet, but even the flowers might help. There’s Rose and Orchid, Violet and Lilac, all sorts of excellent professors. They’re more the ‘teach at university’ sort of professor, but even they might know something. And Hyacinth here can get in touch with them.”

“Well, I don’t know-”

“We could be back in our own bodies within a week,” Landon went on, right over the professor’s comment. “It’ll probably take longer, but not much. And then everything will be back to normal.”

Latios’ eyes sparkled as he looked up at him, and he stared like a starving man at the hope Landon dangled before him. “Really? I’ll go back to… being me?”

“Yep. But we have to get out of here, quickly, before those guys show up again.”

Panic flashed in Latios’ eyes, and in a flash, he was on his feet. He wobbled and held out his arms, but he stayed upright. “Hey, I’m up! I can move!” He started laughing, feebly at first, but soon he fell onto the sofa and clutched at his stomach, breathless and smiling.

“Good, very good,” Landon said with a spring in his voice. “Now, let’s get you up and walking. We need to be in Ashland by nightfall.”

“Wait, you’re not going to walk… fly all the way to Ashland, are you? You’d be seen!”

Landon turned to look at him, and Hyacinth glanced away from the soothing eyes. “That’s why you have to come along. Not to mention, this is the second place those guys are going to look for a rare pokemon they lost around this area, especially if they find out what happened.”

“Those guys? Who?”

“The people with the machine. And if not them, people working for the same boss. They mentioned someone else not being happy about him… me… being blue.” Latios shifted uneasily on the couch, and Landon’s eyes caught the movement without a word. “They didn’t seem bad, but there’s no telling what they’re willing to do.”

Professor Hyacinth swallowed and wiped his hands on his lab coat. “Okay. So, we go to Ashland, get a hotel, and contact a professor.”

“Yes.”

Hyacinth frowned and looked at him. “You’re not going to fit inside my car.”

Landon’s eyes darted to the bulging pocket stuffed with ultra balls. He took a breath, realized that nothing entered or left his mouth, and frowned. “I’ll have to be caught first.”

The professor gaped at him. “But – but you’re… are you sure?”

“There is no other way,” Landon said flatly without looking at him. He studied Latios, who bounced in the sofa and drummed his heels on the floor, and said, “I think you should hang on to it. The thought of being in his care… well… doesn’t seem wise.”

Professor Hyacinth reached into Latios’ pocket and drew out a handful of pokeballs. He held them out on his palm. “Pick your poison,” he said with a hesitant, fleeting smile. Landon pointed at the one closest to him, and the professor let the rest tumble to the floor. They fell with dull thuds and rolled into Landon’s shadow, right beneath him.

Hyacinth stared at the ball in his hands. With the press of a button, it filled his hand, and his whole arm seemed to droop from the weight.

“Listen, Landon,” he said, bringing his voice to a whisper, “I can’t promise that anyone will be able to help you.”

“I know,” Landon cut in.

Hyacinth grimaced. “Yes, well, whatever happens, I promise you won’t become a test subject, not for me or anyone else, no matter what it takes. I can do that much for you.”

Landon tried to smile, but the upward curl to his mouth only came with great effort. “Thank you.”

“Hey, um, excuse me?” Latios said. All the eagerness was gone, replaced with panic. He stamped his feet on the ground and held both his hands between his legs. “It suddenly feels… really tight. Is this normal?”

Landon and Hyacinth looked at each other, the professor with his teeth clenched into a grimace, and the pokemon with a dead, weary stare.

“Come on,” Landon said, taking Latios by one arm and dragging him across the room. “I’ll show you how bathrooms work.”
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Old July 13th, 2017 (7:31 PM).
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Before I being with my next comments, I want to point out I have eaten real ramen several times before. I just thought that portion of the dialogue was funny lol.

Anyways, so you told me you made some changes in the first couple chapters. While I don't have any problems in my first read through, I'm not going to complain some of the additions you made either. I can see why you added the little subplot with the Gabite and Rhydon (of course you'll need a dart for that Pokemon because, well, it's a Rhydon lol).

Now onto the latest chapter. Looks like Latios also needs to get used to his new body there. I find it slightly unusual he's experiencing these emotions the first time since Latios and Latias can feel compassion, as I mentioned in my first reply here. Putting Landon in a pokeball I get so he doesn't get seen, and the mention of all the professors named after trees or flowers was a cute fourth wall jab heh.
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Old July 18th, 2017 (7:11 PM). Edited August 23rd, 2017 by Bardothren.
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I'm moving into a new apartment on Saturday, and I have plenty to do in the meantime. If I suffer any decline in productivity, that's why.

As for what you said last time, Bay, good catch with the emotions thing. I covered that patch, not by editing it out, but by explaining Latios' "emotions" a bit more clearly in this chapter. Well, as clearly as one can explain emotions. Who knew they're so complicated? I'm not getting rid of that plot point... there's too much room for interplay and conflict between the emotionally wild Latios and the emotionally dead Landon, and it's perfect for build-up chapters like this and the next.


Chapter Four: The Longest Car Ride

Professor Hyacinth sourly hoped his old clunker would last the trip to Ashland as the suspension rattled and the brakes shuddered each time he tapped them. His car could not be called vintage, or dated, or even simply old. It was an ancient, decrepit, blocky wreck a mile shy of the junkyard, with spots of rust marring its faded blue paint job like an outbreak of measles. One headlight was cracked, but it still gave off a feeble, flickering light some people mistook for a turn signal, and the brake lights had turned brown from caked dust. The wheels and cup holders were the only two parts of the car in good condition, since the professor hardly used either of them.

The interior had aged slightly better. The leather seats were cracked in a few places and stiffened in most others, and two of the radio dials were missing, but both the transmission and steering worked tolerably well, and only the occasional gurgle from the engine cut through the heavy silence that lay between himself and Landon.

Myself and Latios, Hyacinth sternly reminded himself. He glanced away from the empty road for a moment to look at him. Though he had Landon’s body, he had none of the bearing, hunched over as if his unfamiliar body and the backpack weighed him down, eyes darting around nervously at the scenery flying by.

“Is the speed getting to you?” he asked. The speedometer had him going about two over the limit. His haste to get away from Olendale competed with his fear of getting pulled over or getting in an accident.

Latios flinched. “What? Oh, no, not that.” He smiled uneasily. “Well, maybe. It looks faster than I’m used to. Must be the eyes.” Then the smile vanished, and his eyes darted back to the woods lining the highway. “Do you think they’re after us already?”

Hyacinth frowned. He had thought through all the organizations he could think of that could try to catch such a rare pokemon, from the professors to the police, wealthy corporations and pokemon collectors, but all of them seemed equally likely. He grimaced at the thought of handing Landon over to the very person responsible for the accident, and one hand dropped from the steering wheel to the ultra ball in his pocket.

“Once we get rid of this piece of junk, they won’t find us so easily.” He added a silent I hope to himself.

Latios settled a little into his seat, but he never took his eyes off the roadside. “How do you live with feelings?”

Hyacinth took a deep breath and drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. “I take it you haven’t felt feelings before.”

“Well, sort of.” Latios’ eyes slid towards him and went back to the road. “I could… touch minds, see how they felt. The part that’s made of aura, anyway.”

“Aura?” Hyacinth felt his heart skip a beat at the unfamiliar word. “What’s that? Is it some kind of energy? Is it diffused through the body or concentrated in one area? Do pokemon have it too, more or less strongly, or in different areas? Is it what drives spontaneous evolution, or perhaps mega evolution?”

Latios muttered under his breath, too quiet for Hyacinth to make out. Then he said, “It’s better you don’t know.”

Hyacinth tsked in frustration. “Alright, fine. So, you can sense emotions through this aura stuff, but it wasn’t the same as having emotions yourself?”

“Not even close,” Latios growled. “How the hell do you turn your feelings off?”

The professor saw a car pulled over half a mile down the road. Sweat beaded his forehead as he slowed down a touch and willed the policeman to ignore his flickering headlight. As he got closer, however he saw it was just a van, jet black, with a fist-sized dent caving in one door and a missing rear view mirror on the driver’s side. He tried to look into the vehicle, but the long shadows over the road made it impossible to see clearly.

“Is that them?” Latios asked. His voice quavered, and he shied away from the van.

“I doubt it,” Hyacinth said. “Probably just some trainer looking for a chikorita. I heard there were a few in this area.”

Latios repeated his question, but he turned his head to watch the van as it disappeared into the twilight behind them. Hyacinth mulled over his answer for a minute and said, “It isn’t easy to control how you feel, and some ways of dealing with emotions are healthier than others. In your case, I can only tell you to give it time. It won’t last forever.”

“How long can feelings last? Will I be like this tomorrow?”

“Absolutely.” Hyacinth wished he had the word back the moment they were out of his mouth. Latios’ face crumpled, and tears welled up in the corners of his eyes. He bent over and sobbed into his legs.

Latios mumbled something, and Hyacinth could’ve sworn he heard the word “Arkus,” but before he could ask a question, Latios straightened and rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand.

“How long?”

This time, Hyacinth restrained his first hasty answer and picked a more methodical response. “Hard to say. Everyone reacts differently. Maybe you’ll get over it in a few days, or weeks, months… maybe never.”

“There are people that feel like this forever?” Latios’ voice sounds hollow. “How can you stand it?”

“You get used to it.” Hyacinth took a deep breath and felt for the ultra ball. It felt cold and small between his fingers. “No matter how bad things get, you’ll live through it.”

Latios laughed hysterically. “How could it get worse than this?” he asked, gesturing wildly with his arms, nearly whacking the professor in the head. His whole face was smeared with tears, and his eyes struggled to stay open.

“I–” He paused and scratched at the thinning hair above his ear. He almost didn’t tell the story, but another look at Latios’ despondent, defeated face changed his mind.

“I almost gave up on him,” Hyacinth started slowly, quietly. Latios turned towards him, staring at him with puffy pink eyes.

“I – I thought it would be bad. Really bad. But I thought he would cry himself out for a week or two, then he’d be quiet for a little longer, and within a month, he’d be a normal kid again.” A chill settled over his heart as he thought of those first days, nine years ago. “He didn’t have anywhere else to go, just an aunt halfway across the world who couldn’t afford it, and two grandparents in nursing homes. I thought, I could take him in, and I’d get a grant for having an assistant.”

Hyacinth kept one hand on the wheel, and he struggled to keep his steering straight. His other hand was clenched around Landon’s ultra ball. He chuckled dryly and said, “I was pleasantly surprised when he skipped that first step. Landon didn’t shed a single tear, not even during the funeral.” Then his voice drooped. “But after a few weeks, I started to worry. He never spoke a word, and he only nodded if you asked him a direct question. He would do anything you asked him to, but then he’d go back to… to...”

With a start, Hyacinth noticed a tear rolling down his cheek. Without taking his hand off the wheel, Hyacinth rubbed his cheek on his shoulder. “He had a first aid kit. In any spare time he had, Landon would practice bandaging a dummy he made out of cardboard boxes. He’d wind and rewind bandages until the gauze fell apart in his hands. Over and over. I tried to get him to stop, but he wouldn’t.”

The professor stopped to take a breath. His throat felt raw and tight, and it hurt to speak louder than a hoarse whisper. “This went on for months. I kept thinking that I was out of my depth, that I could do nothing for him, and I had no choice but to turn him over to the state and hope they could do something.”

“But then, one day, when I was making dinner, I was cutting an onion. I hate onions. My eyes stung, I couldn’t see straight, and I was stupid enough to wash the onion first. The knife slipped, and I cut deep into my right hand.” Hyacinth took his hand out of the pocket, turned on the one working light overhead, and held up his right palm in the pale light. A thick, slender white scar ran from the edge of his thumb all the way to the other side of his hand, thinning out as it went.

“But before I could blink,” Hyacinth said with a jittery chuckle, “Landon rushed over with a roll of gauze. He had the cut disinfected, slathered with antiseptic, and wrapped with two feet of gauze before I even felt the sting of the alcohol.” A faint grin crept onto the old man’s face as his hand returned to his pocket. “When Landon looked at the bandaging, he smiled. It was the first time he smiled since…” Hyacinth trailed off and glanced at Latios. Then he said, “He doesn’t like talking about it.”

Latios reached for his hand. Hyacinth let the ultra ball slip from his grasp as his hand got pulled out into the light. Latios clumsily pried his hand open and stared at the white line bisecting his hand.

“So, it’s like this,” he said drowsily. “It’ll stop bleeding with time, but the mark stays there.”

“Exactly.” Hyacinth glanced back to the road and saw city lights looming overhead. “We’re almost there. Try to stay awake.”

The professor looked again at Latios and saw that his head was tilting to the right, and his eyes were half-closed. He gave him a rough shake and said, “Focus. Don’t fall asleep until we get a room.”

“Asleep?” Latios mumbled. “I don’t sleep, not like you humans.” He blinked sluggishly. “Oh wait, I’m a human now. How do I not sleep?”

“Just… just give yourself a pinch once in a while, or look at the lights. See? We’re in Ashland now.”

The quiet country highway exited onto a city street. Even after sunset, the streets were choked with cars, inching forward and honking at every obstruction. Latios groggily grumbled about all the noise while Hyacinth focused on finding a hotel. Then he saw the Chateau Royale, not the ritziest hotel in the city, but pretty close. It loomed over the offices surrounding it like a pillar of gold, glittering out every hotel room. Giant neon letters proclaiming its name ran up the center of the building, nestled between two huge stone columns.

He thought about moving on, but Latios tipped to the left and woke with a start. Grimacing at the imagined blow to his research grants, Hyacinth parked his car in front of the hotel, handed his keys to a valet who stared at his clunker with thinly veiled disgust, and half-dragged Latios through the lobby.

“One room please,” the professor blurted before the receptionist had a chance to speak. He slapped his credit card on the counter. “Two beds. Just for tonight.”

“Standard, or deluxe?”

Hyacinth glanced up at the prices overhead, written in flowing white script on a slab of slate. The standard wasn’t as expensive as he feared, but the deluxe nearly made his eyes pop out of his head.

“Standard, please,” he said quickly.

The receptionist nodded, golden blonde curls bobbing like springs beneath her tidy red cap, and handed him a room key. The professor tucked it next to the ultra ball, thanked her, and strode towards the elevator. His room, close to the top floor, felt miles away in the large, opulent elevator as it gently rose. Latios wobbled on his feet, and the professor had to hold him up by the shoulders.

“Come on, almost there. I can’t drag you there.”

He breathed a sigh of relief when the doors slid open with a loud, bright ding. He rushed forward, yanking Latios’ arm, and opened up his room. Latios tumbled onto the carpet, eyes closed, and his mouth slack-jawed. The professor dragged him across the floor and onto a bed, wincing as his back cracked, and then tumbled into the other bed. He spent half the night envying Latios’ ability to sleep so quickly and the other half in a fitful, hazy nightmare about what happened nine years ago.
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Old July 19th, 2017 (4:52 PM).
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Hyacinth grimaced. He had thought through all the organizations he could think of that could try to catch such a rare pokemon, from the professors to the police, wealthy corporations and pokemon collectors, but all of them seemed equally likely. Hyacinth grimaced at the thought of handing Landon over to the very person responsible for the accident, and one hand dropped from the steering wheel to the ultra ball in his pocket.
Minor, but you have grimaced twice within a paragraph there.

Quote:
“Aura?” Hyacinth felt his heart skip a beat at the unfamiliar word. “What’s that? Is it some kind of energy? Is it diffused through the body or concentrated in one area? Do pokemon have it too, more or less strongly, or in different areas? Is it what drives spontaneous evolution, or perhaps mega evolution?”

Latios muttered under his breath, too quiet for Hyacinth to make out. Then he said, “It’s better you don’t know.”
Hm, wonder if this is reference to Latio and Latias's Mega Evolution in the Hoenn remakes. That, and if this is a clue as to how this ties to your other stories.

I like the conversation with Hyacinth and Latios there concerning emotions and Landon's past. Sounds like Landon had a very rough childhood there, though him proud of taking care of Hyacinth's injury was cute.
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Old July 27th, 2017 (5:50 PM). Edited August 23rd, 2017 by Bardothren.
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I'm not 100% sure about this chapter, but screw it. It's experimental. Let me know what you think of it.

My life's more or less in order now, so I should hopefully maintain my standard writing activity. Fingers crossed and knock on wood.


Chapter Five: How to be a Human in a Hundred Steps

One: wake up

Two: realize all over again you’re not in your own body

Three: fall out of bed, bump shoulder on bed frame

Four: stumble into bathroom and miss the toilet

Five: watch while a grumpy old man shows you how to clean up a mess

Six: experience the unpleasant sensation of hunger, like a den of ratatta gnawing your gut from the inside

Seven: puzzle over all the goopy liquid dripping from your mouth when room service arrives

Eight: get more food on your shirt than in your mouth, nearly choke when you try to cram more of the wonderful, greasy sausage into your mouth than deemed wise by professors

Nine: realize said shirt smells like old cheese, and not the kind on the platter with crackers and cold smoked ham that tastes heavenly

Ten: get in a shower with an old man, rub herb-smelling soap everywhere

Eleven: trip while getting out of the shower, hit elbows, cry for ten minutes as the alien, alarming sensation of pain sends jolts up your arm like a car battery

Twelve: decide that feeling cold, with an ice pack wedged against your bruises, is slightly less unpleasant than the throbbing pain

Thirteen: realize that you don’t have any other clothes to wear and get back into smelly leftovers

Fourteen: eat more mini pancakes and sliced fruit to forget about the cold, learn what a bellyache feels like

Fifteen: vomit all over the floor, and gag when you learn that taste can make you just as miserable as any other sensation

Sixteen: feel ashamed as you watch an old man, hunched over with a handful of napkins, attempt to clean up the mess you just made

Seventeen: wait all alone in the apartment while Hyacinth leaves to get some clothes

Eighteen: put on new set of clothes, forget to put on underwear first and shove them over your pants to cover up your mistake

Nineteen: blush as the professor laughs at you

Twenty: spend five minutes figuring out how turn a shirt in-side-out

Twenty-one: spend twenty minutes tying shoes before the professor makes an exasperated noise and ties them for you

Twenty-two: go outside, and feel an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia and vertigo as the towering buildings lean over you and crowds of jostling people bump you in the streets

Twenty-three: go to the Ashland Central Bank, and wait in line for what feels like forever

Twenty-four: feel the urge to use the restroom, get held in line by the professor so they don’t lose their spot

Twenty-five: reach the counter as you can feel your kidneys about to burst

Twenty-six: carefully recite what the professor tells you to say, and stutter when you forget a line

Twenty-seven: watch the woman’s eyes bug out when she sees your bank account

Twenty-eight: walk out of the building as fast as your throbbing kidneys will allow

Twenty-nine: make a beeline for the hotel lobby bathroom

Thirty: get dragged away from the closest door by the professor, and into one slightly further down the hall

Thirty-one: sweet, sweet relief

Thirty-two: start to wonder if it will ever stop

Thirty-three: forget to pull up pants and nearly trip leaving the stall

Thirty-four: hastily pull up pants before the professor notices

Thirty-five: take the elevator back up to the room

Thirty-six: struggle to pay attention as the professor explains how money works with a huge stack of hundred dollar bills on a table

Thirty-seven: sneeze, and make a few bills fly into the air

Thirty-eight: try to sneeze again, and recapture that sudden, euphoric feeling while the professor dashes after the wayward bills

Thirty-nine: give up when the professor tells you sneezes can’t be forced

Forty: mull over how random and fleeting happiness is for a human, while pain and suffering are omnipresent, and feel tears trickling down your cheeks again

Forty-one: turn towards a soft click and the sound of hissing static

Forty-two: marvel as a black box sitting on a dresser projects an image of two people speaking about a break-in at a lab

Forty-three: turn towards Hyacinth, whose face is now bone-white, and his fingers fumbled to change the channel

Forty-four: hear another click from the television; this time, it’s a comedy show

Forty-five: laugh as one of the humans, a fat, bald man, hits his thumb with a hammer, tumbles down a roof, grabs onto the gutter, and then breaks it, going “doh!” as it hits him in the head

Forty-six: stop laughing when you imagine yourself doing the same thing

Forty-seven: gently wriggle the remote out of the professor’s nerveless grasp and hit buttons until the channel changes

Forty-eight: settle on a cartoon about a human with a gem in his stomach

Forty-nine: start out mildly perplexed by the on-screen antics

Fifty: wonder if the human’s gem is anything like yours – then realize once again you’re stuck in a flesh and blood body

Fifty-one: find Steven surprising likable and relatable

Fifty-two: learn that crying can actually feel good

Fifty-three: feel startled and sad when Hyacinth turns off the television

Fifty-four: eat more food, and this time, practice a lot of restraint, only nibbling the edges of the hamburger you received

Fifty-five: enact a wide variety of conversations, and get grilled on every nuance of human courtesy as you feel your brains boiling in your skull like a potato

Fifty-six: get pushed out the door to go practice all those manners

Fifty-seven: feel your stomach churning like a diesel motor running on fumes, howling for food

Fifty-eight: wait in a long line at the nearest fast food restaurant, a place called McTauros

Fifty-nine: stumble over your own tongue as everything you just practiced feels like forever ago

Sixty: finally manage to order a number one, whatever that is

Sixty-one: impatiently wait by the counter for your number, three-hundred and eleven, to be called

Sixty-two: get a paper bag that smells almost like sweat, but greasier

Sixty-three: stare in distaste at the limp, soggy sandwich in your hands, a beggar before the prince that was the hotel’s room service 100% beef patty on a toasted, buttered bun

Sixty-four: take a bite and realize this pale imitation tastes pretty damn good anyways

Sixty-five: eat it all without choking, somehow, before you even realize what you’re doing with your hands

Sixty-six: get grabbed by the wrist when you start to lick your fingers

Sixty-seven: get another lecture about manners, this time regarding the use of napkins, in the dirty McTauros bathroom that smells like flushable wipes and urine

Sixty-eight: walk through the city streets, getting slowly acclimated to the pressing crowds and towering buildings

Sixty-nine: ask about all the dirty people sitting next to buildings, holding out coffee cups, and get told not to look at them

Seventy: look at them anyways, and shiver at their dejected, blank, emotionless stare, and turn away from their leaden plea for spare change

Seventy-one: ask again why all those people are just sitting there, and feel a mixture of confusion and sorrow when he tells you they sit there because they have nowhere to go

Seventy-two: wonder if he isn’t the same, if he isn’t trapped like them and unable to go anywhere, and walk even closer to the professor

Seventy-three: walk into a hair salon and ask for a haircut, breathing a sigh of relief when you got through a whole sentence without stammering

Seventy-four: clamber into the chair with a tingle of apprehension

Seventy-five: shiver with delight as the barber’s comb tickles the back of your neck

Seventy-six: inspect your fresh-cut hair and ask if he could make it longer, much to the barber’s bewilderment

Seventy-seven: repeat your question to the professor and immediately regret asking as he lectures you on the regenerative abilities of the human body, kindly requests that you ask him first before assuming anything about human anatomy, and then meanders onto the topic of fingernails, toenails, and skin

Seventy-eight: tune him out as your eyes hone in on a fry stand, and a wonderful idea forms in your head

Seventy-nine: walk up to the man serving fries and chant for the bits

Eighty: nearly get dragged away by Hyacinth, panicked over your sudden antics

Eighty-one: turns out the man’s an SU fan and dredges up some greasy fry flakes from the bottom of his fryers for free

Eighty-two: they taste awful, like bits of charcoal crunching between your teeth, but you’re pleased with yourself anyways

Eighty-three: enter a big clothing store, with rack upon rack of colorful clothes stretching across a whole city block in either direction

Eighty-four: get pulled away from examining a white, frilly lace gown

Eighty-five: pick out all the brightest, most colorful clothing options you can find, much to the professor’s thinly veiled displeasure

Eighty-six: get told to pay for it and receive a slip of green paper

Eighty-seven: borrow more script from the cartoon and get a puzzled frown from the cashier as she takes the money, bags your clothes, and hands them to you with uneasy thanks

Eighty-eight: get lectured again by Hyacinth, and tune him out

Eighty-nine: get a bruise the size of an egg on your forehead when you walk into a no-parking sign

Ninety: get dragged into a Spotted Ledian’s to learn the art of using utensils

Ninety-one: fail miserably, getting more on the napkin laid over your lap than in your mouth

Ninety-two: hastily dump the spilled food on your napkin onto your plate when no one’s looking, and thank the maker Hyacinth didn’t notice

Ninety-three: eat what you think is a reasonable quantity of potatoes and carrots, enough to remove the hunger, but not enough to cause any pain

Ninety-four: feel hungry two hours later, back at the hotel room, as you channel-surf in vain attempt to find your favorite cartoon, and eat some cold, leftover hamburger

Ninety-five: get a lecture on what composition of food you should try to eat to optimize the blah blah-blah blah nutrition blah-blah protein and fat stick to your bones god you wish he would just stop talking

Ninety-six: follow that lecture up with a short explanation about television channels, mercifully cut short when the news channel comes back on, with a missing person’s report on Professor Hyacinth and his assistant Landon Duchare

Ninety-seven: have the remote pried from your hands when you change the channel

Ninety-eight: watch the news with Hyacinth for a bit before yawning hard enough to make your jaw pop

Ninety-nine: sloppily brush teeth and wriggle out of your new clothes, which are stained with brown streaks from dropped bits of steak

One-hundred: just before you nod off, feel your heart sink as you wonder what fresh torment awaits you on the next sunrise
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Old July 27th, 2017 (10:40 PM).
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I admit, I think this is the most effective and amusing way to detail a bit of how Latios is adjusting to being human. The parts with him figuring out food and clothes and being a Steven Universe fan is cute. I think some parts, like when Latios sees the homeless guys, I feel could be better in regular prose writing as it kinda contrasts the more lighthearted parts of this particular chapter due to the seriousness of the topic. And I admit the parts where Latios learns the more, um, bathroom business, gets kinda old after the first couple of mentions. Otherwise, this is a fun read overall.
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Old July 31st, 2017 (7:34 PM). Edited August 23rd, 2017 by Bardothren.
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Thanks Bay for your thoughts on the last chapter. It's not my usual format, and I was having a really hard time writing it. I'm glad I did something right, at least.

Also, how the heck did I finish a whole chapter in one night? How? I even watched the last Game of Thrones episode before I started.

For this chapter, I remembered some advice I got last time, to make sure something actually happens within the first several chapters, and I felt the pace might start plodding along... so I did this.


Chapter Six: Pursuit


Hyacinth groaned as the hotel alarm clock, an elegantly curved wooden timepiece with a brass button on top, played Beethoven’s Fifth in a loud, tinny chime. The professor clumsily swatted at it until it fell silent, rolled to the edge of the bed, and trailed the covers behind him like a cloak on his way to the bathroom. The sun had just peaked over the horizon, casting the skyscrapers in a crown of gold. Long slender shadows, cast by the windows, covered the walls like iron bars.

Blinking at the light, Hyacinth yawned loudly into a hand and dunked his face underneath the bathroom sink. Though he had a habit of waking early, talking with Landon in a bathroom with the lights out, a precaution against cameras, followed by a restless night, made him wish he could sleep until the next sunrise.

Slightly rejuvenated, the professor toweled his face, threw on a pair of new clothes, jammed a wide-brimmed hat over his head, tucked all stray strands of white hair beneath it, and went to Latios’ bedroom. He lay sprawled across the bed, sheets kicked onto the floor, and a night shirt thrown over the bedpost.

Hyacinth gave Latios a quick shake, and his eyes opened a crack.

“We have to leave now,” the professor said.

“Ugh… my head feels woozy… can’t I sleep a few more minutes?”

“There’s no time. I already got the train tickets. We’re meeting Birch’s assistant in the Town of Mayene.”

Latios’ eyes snapped open, and he flung himself upright. “Really? Let’s go!”

Hyacinth watched with interest as Latios threw on underwear, socks, pants, and shirt in the correct order, with no clumsiness in his hands and legs. Landon, on the other hand, had bumped his head multiple times during their bathroom conversation, and even left a dent on the underside of the bathroom sink. He prayed the hotel staff wouldn’t notice.

“How long will it take to get there?”

Hyacinth looked at the alarm clock. The time was six, the train’s departure seven, and its arrival in Mayene, eight-thirty.

“Two and a half hours,” he told Latios.

Latios bounced on his feet and raced for the door. Hyacinth called after him, telling him to slow down, but Latios already had the elevator button pressed by the time the professor made it out the door.

“Wait, you’re forgetting the backpack!”

Latios blinked in confusion. Then he darted back into the room and raced back out, leaning precariously as the weight on his back threatened to push him over.

“Do I really have to bring this along?” Latios frowned at the straps digging into his shoulders. “It’s so damn heavy.”

Professor Hyacinth took a deep breath and tried to keep his face expressionless. “Landon always carried it around. He thought it would come in handy.”

Latios shifted the weight on his back, but he never found a spot that fit on his shoulders. “Well, with any luck I won’t have to carry it for long. Let’s go.”

Hyacinth looked again at Latios, whose shoulders sagged and back hunched beneath the weight. He put a gentle hand on his shoulder and said, “If you get tired, I could carry it for a bit.”

Latios looked away from him. “No thanks. You’ve already done too much for me.”

The elevator doors opened. Latios set the pack in the corner and rubbed his shoulders while the elevator dropped. When the doors opened into the lobby, Latios grabbed the pack and walked towards the doors, but Hyacinth stopped him with a hand on a strap that nearly made him fall over.

“We have to check out first,” Hyacinth said quietly so the receptionist, bright-eyed and smiling despite the hour, didn’t overhear. They walked up to the counter, and the professor handed the elderly man in the gleaming red jacket the room key.

The man shifted the cap on his wrinkled head, ruffling the mat of silken, gray hair slicked back with gel, and his smile widened. “Thank you for staying with us. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“Yes,” Hyacinth said. “If you could call us a taxi, I would appreciate it. We’re going to Union Station.”

“Of course,” the man said warmly. “There’s already a taxi outside, they can help you.” Then he glanced at the pack. “Can I help you with that, sir?”

Before Latios could protest, the receptionist darted around the counter and swept the backpack off his shoulders like a magician yanking a tablecloth out from under a stack of wine glasses. He blinked at the heavy weight, but his arms, rigid with thin, wiry muscles, bore the burden easily.

“Seems like you have a long way to go, if you’re carrying a pack this heavy.”

Latios smiled uneasily and said, “Hopefully it won’t be too long.”

The old man nodded and led the way out the door. He held the taxi door open and handed the bag to Latios after he clambered inside.

“Have a safe journey,” he said with a quick bow. Then he turned and vanished back inside the hotel.

Professor Hyacinth felt uneasy himself. He knew hotels commonly had taxis swarming around them like carvanha waiting for scraps of meat, but he couldn’t imagine any around at sunrise, well before most people would consider leaving their beds. Looking back at the hotel, and at a few lights shining through its windows, he decided it must be a courtesy to the odd handful with business in the morning.

The taxi-driver seemed half-asleep himself, but his taxi swam through city streets like a minnow, squeezing between cars and sprinting through yellow lights. Despite the uneven path, the cab’s passengers hardly swayed with the sharp turns, as if they were nestled in Styrofoam.

City blocks darted by, but suddenly, the forest of buildings thinned out. With a frown, Hyacinth realized that he had grossly overestimated the time it would take to reach Union Station. The massive flat building with forty massive doors built into one side took up enough space to fit Olendale’s town center. The taxi sped up to the front, Hyacinth paid the driver a generous tip, and they walked through one of twelve sets of glass doors.

Small shops and fast food restaurants lined the inside of the building. The smell of sausage and eggs wafting through the air made Hyacinth’s stomach gurgle. Latios started forward, but Hyacinth held him back.

“The train doesn’t leave for a while. We should get breakfast while we can.”

A platter of eggs and two sausage biscuits later, the professor felt ready to burst. Latios picked at his food gingerly, taking small bites and chewing thoroughly. He wryly thought that yesterday’s lessons must’ve sunk in hard.

With even more time on his hands, Hyacinth visited a gift shop nestled between a Sawsbuck’s and a Taco Diver. A rack of hats made him look up at his wide-brimmed disguise and decided that buying a second disguise, a leather black beanie, might be handy for an emergency. He also brought a matching leather jacket, a pair of giant sunglasses, and a black knapsack to the counter.

When he handed the cashier a credit card, the sleepy young woman pointed at a sign, telling him they only took cash. Hyacinth considered putting everything back, but after a moment, he decided Landon wouldn’t mind a frugal investment.

Having eaten up enough time, Hyacinth led Landon to the boarding area. When he rounded a corner, however, he stopped short and casually turned around. Two police officer, fully uniformed, one cradling a hand around his radio, stood a ways down the hall, right next to a set of bathrooms.

The professor puzzled over this unexpected appearance. He had counted on private guards at the entrances, not officers watching train departures. Walking slowly and keeping the hat tipped forward enough to suggest his face without showing it, Hyacinth approached a stand of departure fliers. Pretending to read through a thick purple packet, he glanced sideways at the cops. Their eyes were fixed forward and unfocused, and they occasionally spoke with each other, although in too hushed a voice for Hyacinth to hear. From their tone, however, it was just casual conversation.

The professor thought he could sneak past them, if he was careful. He looked farther down the hallway, looking for stands and corners to break the officer’s line of sight, and saw two more officers. These were attentive, alert, and doing an excellent job blending in with a sparse crowd waiting for the boarding to begin. What set them apart was the lean, affording a complete view of everything around them while ostentatiously avoiding attention. Even fifty years later, Hyacinth felt as much an instinctual sense of danger as an electric stove glowing orange-hot.

Slowly, willing the undercover cops’ eyes to slide over him, Hyacinth went back to Latios. “They’re after us,” he said.

Latios shivered, and his eyes widened. “Them?” he squeaked.

“Probably. Those two men down there are after us, or I’ll eat this hat.”

Latios leaned forward, but Hyacinth pushed him back. “Don’t look. It’ll draw them over.”

But as he said it, he heard two slow sets of footsteps, so in-sync that they almost sounded like a single set, echoed down the hall. Two more footsteps, these clumsy and louder, joined them.

“Damn it, they spotted me,” he grumbled as he pulled Latios back out the front. He heard the cops break out in a sprint when they reached the main area, but they were fifty feet behind when they reached the front doors. Once they were out, Hyacinth led Latios in a dead run towards the nearest alley.

“Pokeball!” Hyacinth shouted in Latios’ ear. Panting hard, he worked the pokeball off his belt and handed it to the professor. Once they were in the alley, Hyacinth’s eyes surveyed their surroundings and fell on a sewer grate off to the side.

Footsteps thundered towards the alleyway. “They went this way!” one voice called.

Hyacinth called out the gabite and shouted, “Sandstorm!”

The stocky dragon growled, and a whipping wind, laden with bits of dirt and sand, whipped down the alley. Latios coughed and sputtered, but Hyacinth held his shirt in front of his nose and mouth.

“Sewer grate!” Hyacinth shouted over the roar of the wind. He felt the gabite sprint past him, and he heard a soft clink as the grate popped open. He pulled Latios forward, pushed him down the narrow opening, and jumped in after him. Twisting in mid-air, he narrowly avoided landing on Latios, who lay groaning on his side in a small, murky puddle. Before the gabite could land on Latios, Hyacinth called it back into the pokeball. Then he slid the grate back into place while the sand blinded the cops.

“Are you alright?” Hyacinth asked as he helped Latios onto his feet. “We have to be very quiet, so they miss us. Understand? Very quiet.” He put a finger to his lips to emphasize his point.

Latios nodded, and together, they sat in the sewer, staring up at the thin light filtering through the dusty air, and waited for the footsteps to fade away.
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Old August 1st, 2017 (9:49 PM).
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Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is offline
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Hyacinth watched with interest as Latios threw on underwear, socks, pants, and shirt in the correct order, with no clumsiness in his hands and legs. Landon, on the other hand, had bumped his head multiple times during their bathroom conversation, and even left a dent on the underside of the bathroom sink. He prayed the hotel staff wouldn’t notice.
Oh dear, poor Landon. You know, you've been focusing a lot with Latios being a human, hopefully we'll get some stuff on how Landon is adjusting as a Pokemon soon.

Not surprising the police are after Hyacinth and Latios there. Does make me wonder if they'll miss their train and they'll have to find other ways to get their destination or something else.
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Old August 5th, 2017 (8:20 AM). Edited August 23rd, 2017 by Bardothren.
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Time for the story to really get interesting! :D


Chapter Seven: Missed direction

Professor Hyacinth sourly thought to himself that he was getting too old for climbing out of sewers. His lower back popped like a string of firecrackers as he pulled himself through the narrow opening. With the gabite’s help, he got to his knees. The alley was deserted, but Hyacinth patted the beanie lower on his head. Then he looked down the grate.

“Come on up! We better go before they realize we ducked down there.”

Gabite reached down and grabbed Latios’ hands. With a quick heave, Latios wriggled out of the sewer, flopped on the ground, and rolled over. He wobbled on his feet and leaned against a wall.

“Ow, I hit my knee.”

“Let’s go.” Hyacinth walked to the end of the alley and scanned the streets. No loiterers casually leaning against storefront windows or leafing through newspapers on bus benches, just a crowd of people surging through sidewalks like schools of fish.

“To the train? Won’t there be more police waiting there?”

Hyacinth consulted his phone. It was six-fifty, just enough time to sprint to the train. He wondered if they really did know he ordered the ticket, or if they just had a hunch.

“Either way, it’s too much a risk,” he muttered. Then he spoke louder. “We need a new way out of the city.”

Latios scuffed his shoes on the gritty pavement and looked nervously at the professor. “Are we still going to… to Birch’s assistant?”

Hyacinth pursed his lips. Then he said, “They probably know where we were intending to go.”

“So we can’t go there.” Latios lowered his head, and his shoulders sagged even lower, until his backpack grazed his legs.

“Don’t worry Latios, once we get somewhere safer, we can arrange another meeting place. He’ll understand. Heck, he’ll probably be more eager to get you in safe keeping once he hears the police are after you.”

“Really?”

Hyacinth held himself back. After a slow breath to collect his thoughts, he said, “Don’t get your hopes up too much. It’d be a gamble for Birch to move against the police. They may respect his right to custody over you… or not.” He neglected to say that he would personally lean towards any sane professor keeping his hands clean of the whole mess, and wryly wondered if he was getting daft.

They wandered through the streets, two minnows hiding in the school. Hyacinth felt his hackles rise each time they saw an officer or a cop car. Flashes of red and blue made him flinch. He stubbornly told himself to stop drawing attention, pulled his jacket tighter around himself, and set his eyes on the pavement beneath his shoes.

Racking his brain, Hyacinth thought of every possible route out of the city. They could simply walk out, but it would take days to reach any city. Without a tent, cooking equipment, or a GPS, it would be a grueling journey, and even if they bought all that stuff, he doubted that they could carry a hundred pounds each for very long.

Ashland City had an airport, nowhere near as large as Exelint City’s sprawling tarmacs and towering hangars, but flights left hourly from Ashland to several notable destinations. Of course, the organization chasing them would surely watch those too.

They could drive out, but the police would watch for his plates, a taxi won’t go beyond the city limits, and he’d need to give his ID for a rental. Hitch-hiking was an option, but someone may recognize him from the news if they got close enough. Too risky.

Before he realized it, the crowd had swept him far north in the city, near the outskirts. A bus terminal, coated with cracked blue paint, stood packed with a throng of trainers. Two exhausted clerks shoved tickets at any hand outstretched with money in it. Hyacinth looked around and saw that the buses were heading for Flottman Village, a tiny settlement nestled in the fork of two mountain ranges.

A six hour drive through barren wilderness and winding roads separated Flottman from its only thread to civilization, a thread constantly snapped by fallen trees in fall, flash floods in spring, and avalanches in winter. Yet, Flottman Village remained on the map for two reasons: a relative abundance of rare earth metals, and a Gym. Judging by the crowd in the terminal, mainly composed of ruggedly-dressed youths twenty to thirty years in age – Hyacinth fumed at himself thinking of thirty as young – they were more interested in the Gym than the mining industry. But still… so many at once?

He took another look at the buses. One rolled out of the lot, packed front to back like a can of sardines. From the open windows, he heard them shouting for the bus driver to give it more gas. Belching black smoke, the bus thundered down the road and vanished down a wooded bend.

With a sigh, he told Latios to wait there and waded into the rush. Some noticed his old age and gave him what space they could, but most couldn’t see anything but the two clerks. Darting beneath arms and through thin gaps, he wound his way to the front, shoved two fistfuls of hundreds at a clerk, and got two tickets in return. Clutching his prize to his chest, he wriggled his way free and rejoined Landon. They ran to the nearest bus. Every seat had a person, and most were full.

Before Hyacinth could turn around and find another bus, the doors slammed shut behind him, and the bus sped out of the lot. A young woman behind him told him to move his ass. Whispering to Latios, he told him to find a seat before picking the one in the far back. His neighbor, masked by a tangle of long, black hair, snoozed against a half-open window. His black coat had rips across the chest and sleeves, and the hood was torn off, leaving behind a length of rope that once tightened it. Between the hair and the flatness of their chest, the professor couldn’t quite tell which gender they were, but he wasn’t about to ask. Asking was for idiots even more senile than he was.

He looked for Latios and found him three seats up. Unlike him, Latios had terrible luck with his choice of seating. His neighbor was a young man with hair like copper, sleeked back with enough hair gel to mummify it for all eternity. Hyacinth could hear him clearly over the roar of the bus. Too clearly.

“Hi, my name’s Barry, what’s yours? So, I just got my ninth badge from Eliza. She was tough as nails, and if you ever face her, just remember that her rhyperior packs one hell of a thunderpunch! Nearly knocked my greninja to kingdom come, that one, but in the end, we pulled it off with a clutch double team and water shuriken combo. Oh, and her krookodile’s nothing to scoff at either, and she even taught it poison fang to cover for fairy and grass types. I tried to take it with my beartic instead, but…”

With an effort, Hyacinth pried his attention away from the conversation. As he looked out the window, at an endless sea of pines with dry, brown needles, his neighbor stirred. They sat up, rubbed their eyes, and looked at him with a slight frown.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Hyacinth said. “I didn’t ask if I could sit next to you.”

The frown didn’t leave their face. “It’s fine.” Though her voice was thin and wispy, Hyacinth could tell it was a woman’s voice. Then she looked at him more closely. “Are you interested in the dragon too?”

“Dragon?” Hyacinth felt the blood rushing through his veins. “What kind of dragon?”

She shrugged. “Nobody’s sure. All the rumors say that it’s red, though. Red, and flying. Not a combination I’ve ever heard of before.”

Not a combination he’s ever known, either, though a salamence came close. However, salamence lived in the Kuntuo Mountains half a world away. If not a salamence, that left one option. One that involved a long conversation with Latios.

“So, are you here to catch it?”

“Me?” She smiled slightly. “No, I’m not that stupid. You can’t train a wild pokemon in a few months, especially not a dragon.” She glanced at the other passengers. “Then again, they’re probably thinking a few years down the road. Few pokemon can go toe to toe with Victor’s dragonite, but a well-trained salamence might.” With a chuckle, she said, “Playing dirty’s more my style.”

Her shadow flickered, and two big red eyes blinked at Hyacinth. He sat up with a start and peered closer.

“Is that a gengar?”

She blinked, and her smile widened. “Good eye. Yeah, I like to keep him around.” She stroked her shadow, and it purred like a cat. “He’s a portable air conditioner.”

Hyacinth leaned forward to look more closely at the gengar and felt the bubble of frigid air surrounding her. With a shiver, he backed away.

“I thought gengar lurked in shadows to sap the energy of its victims.”

“True, but Dante – my gengar – is well trained. He only does it when I ask him to.” She looked down at the shadow and said, “Do you want to say hi, Dante?”

Her shadow wriggled. A huge grin split the darkness, right below those huge, red, malevolent eyes, and then tiny ridges jutted out from the shadow. They grew taller and taller, then a mound forced its way out. Once he got his arms free, Dante chuckled silently and gave Hyacinth a quick wave. Then he sank back into the woman’s shadow until only his eyes remained. They gazed hungrily at him.

“So, you’re competing in the League?”

“Yep. My name’s Sam – Sam of the Shadows, they call me. You are?”

Without hesitating, Hyacinth gave his name, not the moniker given to him by the APS – Association of Pokemon Studies – but his birth-name. It felt strange using it after all these years.

“Brian Hayworth, huh? Well Brian, whatever you’re here to do, stay away from Beggar’s Peak.” She nodded towards everyone up front. “It’ll be a warzone up there, and just one pokemon’s not going to cut it.”

Hyacinth reflexively wrapped his hand around the ultra ball buried beneath his jacket. Before he could say anything, however, Sam leaned her head back against the window and closed her eyes. With an uneasy glance at Dante, who continued to stare at him, Hyacinth studied the other passengers. Some glared daggers at each other, some yelled for the bus driver to go faster, and some sat in stoic silence, staring straight ahead. All looked ready to murder each other. Well, all except Barry, who continued to talk over Latios like a friendly, boisterous megaphone. He talked about the kinds of food his pokemon preferred, and in the blink of an eye, he went on a tangent about pokeballs.

After a five hour bus ride that made Hyacinth’s stomach roil, the bus screeched to a stop in a tiny, weather-worn depot on the outskirts of Flottman Village. Latios beat him off the bus and waited off to the side by a small stand of trees, anxiously watching the mad rush of trainers towards a mountain in the distance.

“We have to go after them,” he blurted the moment they were alone. “They're going after a red dragon on top of that mountain. It might be Latias!”

Professor Hyacinth blinked, and his mouth fell open. “There’s another one? Like you?” He reached for the ultra ball and called out Landon.

“There’s another pokemon like Latios, up on that mountain,” Hyacinth told Landon, pointing at the mountain. Its tip was hidden behind a veil of swirling clouds. “There’s a few dozen trainers after it.

Latios glanced around and whispered fiercely, “We have to find her before they do!”

“We should stay well away from there,” Hyacinth said. “It’s going to be a warzone up there.”

A distant explosion, a quarter of the way up the moment, punctuated his warning. Lightning crackled in the mountains, and an avalanche left toppled trees in its wake.

“If we’re fast enough,” Landon said, “We can beat them all up there. And we need answers.”

“Alright then, let’s go!” He ran towards Landon, but he floated away.

“Not you. The professor has more experience battling, and I can only carry one. Give him the gabite and wait in the terminal.”

“But I know her!” Latios fumbled for more words, and then said, “She will probably flee if anyone approaches her, especially a human that caught me, but I can explain everything. I have to come along, or she won’t believe us.”

Professor Hyacinth shifted uncomfortably, handed Latios the ultra ball, and said, “He has a point.”

Landon didn’t say a word as Latios clambered onto his back. Once Latios got his legs wrapped around Landon’s chest, they floated upward and vanished in a flash of blue. Hyacinth called “Be careful!” after them, looked again at the roiling mountain, and went inside the bus terminal. He took a seat with a good view out the window and spent the next few hours wishing that he was forty years younger.
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  #14    
Old August 5th, 2017 (10:36 PM).
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Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is offline
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On the statement of Hyacinth seeing twenty to thirty year old trainers, hm I would think there would be some pre-teens/teenagers joining in too, unless those trainers are established ones and not beginners. But anyways, looks like everyone is taking a detour for a while. Possible sighting of Latias, huh? That may or may not go well.
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Old August 9th, 2017 (7:40 PM). Edited August 23rd, 2017 by Bardothren.
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Bay, your thoughts are correct - these are all well-established trainers. What rookie would last two minutes in a mountainside brawl for an incredibly rare pokemon? I'm also low-key disappointed you didn't catch the Professor Oak gender confusion joke in there... I wrote the first half without realizing it, and when I did, I thought why not go the rest of the way.

As promised, action! Hooray!

Chapter Eight: Beggar’s Peak

Landon took a deep breath of air. He was sure it had a frigid bite and tasted fresh and clean, but he didn’t feel anything. Latios, on the other hand, trembled on his back. His clothes were soaked, and his breath wafted away from him in short, hot puffs of vapor.

“Ugh, how is it this cold up here? Shouldn’t it be nice and warm closer to the sun?”

“The air pressure is much thinner up here. Since there are fewer air molecules to transfer heat to your skin, your body radiates more heat than it receives.”

Latios looked around. They had flown through a dense, swirling mass of clouds and came out soaked on the other side. A jagged white peak lay ahead of them. Clouds smashed against its craggy slopes like waves, surging up to swallow trees and receding back down to expose bare rock nearer the base.

Latios’ grip relaxed, and he teetered on Landon’s back. In a whisper, he said, “I don’t feel well.”

For a second, Landon thought it was the cold, but he remembered the low air pressure. He reached back, but his arms wouldn’t reach Latios.

“Stay calm,” Landon told him. “Slowly take the backpack off and hold it in front of you, straps away from you. Slowly!”

Latios fumbled at the backpack. It slipped, bumping against Landon’s side, but Latios still had an arm hooked around it. With a grunt, he heaved it up and set it on Landon’s neck.

“Okay,” Latios said. “Hurry, I can’t think straight.”

“On the bottom left, there is a pocket. Inside is a cylinder with a red cone on top. Shake it up, press the button next to the cone, and hold the cone against your mouth.”

It took Latios a few seconds to make his trembling fingers pull the zipper, a few more to work it free of the tightly packed pocket, and another moment to get his finger on the button. After a minute, his grip tightened, and his breathing deepened.

“I feel better. What’s in the can?”

“Oxygen.” Landon twisted his neck and looked back at him. Latios' lips were blue, but his eyes gazed steadily forward. “Use it sparingly. There’s only enough in there for thirty minutes.”

“Thirty? I don’t think I’ll last that long.”

“There’s a heat blanket in the pack. When we’re on the mountain, I’ll help you set it up.”

Skimming the clouds for a clearer mental image of his flight, Landon slowly approached the mountain. He kept a wary eye down. Flashes of red and yellow lit the clouds from below, and a boulder breached the fluffy, murky ocean like a whale.

“C – c – can’t anyone else fly up here?”

“Doubt it,” Landon said. “All it’d take is a clap of thunder and they’re dead.” All the same, Landon scanned the sky for any disturbance in the clouds while he rummaged through the backpack.

In the front pocket, jammed beneath six chemical ice packs and a box of infection masks, was a rolled-up electric blanket. Latios wrapped it around himself and pressed the button. After a minute, he stopped shivering, but the color didn’t return to his lips.

“How do you put up with all this?” Latios asked, gesturing at the snow. He took another draft of oxygen. “All the cold, and wet, and hot, and hunger, all that stuff?”

“Those feelings keep you alive.” Landon tapped one of the bags of jerky in the pack. “If you never felt hungry, you’d never eat, and you’d starve to death.”

“Well, I didn’t have to do any of that.”

Landon reflected on that for a moment. If he didn’t have to eat, then what sort of energy sustained his life? Could it run out? Is there a way to replenish it, or was he like an old battery, thrown away once depleted?

He shook the thoughts out of his head and looked up the peak. They didn’t have time.

“Get back on. I’ll fly us the rest of the way there.”

Landon tried, but the closer they got to the peak, the stronger the wind. Each time he got blown off course, his body moved erratically, sometimes plummeting down fifty feet, other times racing out over the sea of clouds. After the fourth attempt, Latios got off. He trudged up the mountain while Landon clumsily flew after him.

Halfway to the top, Landon felt pressure on his whole body, as if he had half a mile of ocean above him. Latios’ eyes darted around, and his free hand twitched.

“They’re here,” Landon said.

Latios shivered and wrapped the heat blanket tighter around himself. “What do we do?”

“They’re here for Latias, aren’t they? Then we’ll have to do whatever we can to stop them.” Landon looked up the hill and had Latios stop. “Open up the bag. At the top is a dart gun.”

Landon explained how to use it while Latios held it in a shaking hand. Landon prayed that there weren’t more than two.

Inch by inch, they clambered their way up to the peak. At the top, the mountain caved in, forming a snowy crater shielded from the wind. At the bottom stood ten people clad in thick black coats, each accompanied by an ice, rock, or fire type pokemon, most notably a boldore and a beartic, and all of them wearing silver bands on their heads. At the heart of the crater was a familiar machine. A piece of crystal, part of the sphere Landon broke judging by its half-spherical shape, gave off a flickering, feeble blue light.

The wind howled across the crater, but Landon could hear them talking below.

“I hope this thing shows up soon,” one said, adjusting their respirator so they could speak. “I can’t feel my toes anymore.”

“Tell me about it, but at least I got a torkoal.” The one who said this knelt and held his hands out over the turtle’s glowing, coal-filled shell.”

A roar echoed off the mountainside. Landon glanced at Latios, but he shook his head. Landon turned his attention back to the device and saw all ten of them scrambling, one to activate the device, and the other nine to hiding spots beneath white-colored tarp. With a whir, the machine glowed brightly, and the tenth man ducked beneath a tarp.

Before Landon thought to get farther away from the thing, an orange blur soared over the mountain peak and landed in the crater with a snow-muffled thump. The machine flashed, and blue light shot out of the crystal. The dragonite writhed and roared in pain as a cage of light surrounded it. The men threw away the tarps. They approached the dragonite warily, and one muttered a curse.

“Damn it! This thing’s supposed to drive wild pokemon away.”

“Does anyone know how to turn it off?”

Someone went to the machine and pressed a few buttons, but nothing happened.

“I don’t think there’s a way. We’ll just have to bring it in and try again. I’m sure the boss won’t complain about getting a good specimen to test on, even if it’s not the one he wanted.”

Landon filed away every word he overheard for later analysis. That last bit in particular caught his attention. Testing could mean any number of interested parties, from government programs to private weapons and medical corporations, or any pokemon professor. Rowan came to mind first, followed closely by Oak.

“Well, let’s get it in the van! The sooner we get off this mountain, the sooner I won’t freeze to death.”

“And the sooner those trainers down there don’t make it up here.” One hiked up the crater, on the opposite side from Landon’s hiding spot, and stared down the slope. “Sounds like they’re getting close.”

The machine sputtered and threw off sparks. Every pair of eyes turned towards the machine as the light suffered an apoplexy, shimmering, dimming, and flickering like a mirage, before the bubble holding the dragonite popped.

The dragon, enraged by the pain and confinement, lashed out at the nearest man. With its tail, it sent the beartic down the mountainside, while an icy fist to a man’s midsection shattered his ribcage. He fell, clutching a gaping wound frozen over.

The remaining men ran. They ran straight for Landon and Latios. Spotting a rocky cleft just a few feet down, Landon grabbed Latios, rolled towards it, and wriggled inside. Motors whickered to life and zoomed past him. One flew into the air with the sound of crushed metal and a hoarse scream.

Once the snowmobiles faded into the distance, Landon left the hiding spot. Twenty feet down the slope, a bloody smear ran from a crater where a snowmobile landed, to a spot ten feet further, where a man, ground to pink goop, lay crushed beneath a flattened snowmobile. A simisear, impaled by the muffler, gazed lifelessly up at him.

Cautiously, Landon approached the mountaintop. The dragonite was stomping the machine into tiny pieces. Jagged edges of metal lacerated the dragonite’s feet, staining the trodden snow red, but it kept stomping. The crystal, stained red, lay unbroken despite the dragonite’s attempts to crush it.

“Hello,” Landon called quietly. “Are you okay?”

The dragonite whirled. It stared warily with widened brown eyes, and its antennae flailed like salted worms. It bared its teeth and snarled.

“Hey, I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to help.” Landon frowned at the gashes in its feet, some with metal jutting out. “Want me to fix your feet? I can take the metal out and stop the bleeding, if you let me. You just want the pain to stop, right? I won’t hurt you.”

Word by soothing word, Landon felt the dragonite relax under his calming red gaze. The dragonite sat down and held up its feet.

“Latios, get up here!” Landon called back. “I need supplies out of that backpack!”

It took a minute for Latios to trudge up the steep, snow-covered slope. When the dragonite saw Latios, it hissed, stood up, and flew away, towards the melee on the mountainside.

“No, stop!” Landon called after it. “There’s a huge battle going on down there, you’re going to get hurt! Come back!”

As the dragonite lumbered into the air, visibly shaken by the pain of its confinement, Landon raced to Latios.

“Shoot it! Hurry!”

Latios blinked in confusion, then he looked down at the firearm in his right hand. His arms trembled as he lined up the shot. When he pulled the trigger, he sneezed. His hands shot up, and the dart flew straight into the air. Landon was afraid it would fall back down on them, but a stray wind whipped it forward, pushing it into the pile of broken machinery. Landon raced towards the dart and clumsily scooped it up, ignoring the cuts the metal shards made as his arms brushed over them.

With a precarious hold on the dart, Landon pictured himself flying like a dart, arms extended out, towards the dragonite. He shot through the air, and the diamond tip landed point-first in the soft skin underneath its right wing. The dragonite lurched, tucked its wings, and fell from the air like a stone, dragging Landon with him. Landon landed on a rock, pinned beneath the dragonite, and the jarring landing made him feel as if he broke a few ribs. Despite the pain, he remarked that falls normally didn’t hurt.

“Are you okay?” Latios asked. He half ran, half rolled down the mountain to them.

Landon squirmed, but he couldn’t get out from under the unconscious dragon. “Yeah, just catch it and get it off me already.”

Latios rummaged around the backpack and pulled out a great ball. With a flash of red light, the dragonite disappeared, the ball rocked, and a heavy click announced the successful capture.

“Good,” Latios said faintly. “Let’s get off, I’m getting woozy again.”

Before Landon could do anything, Latios fell face-first into the snow. His lips were violet. Landon scrambled around for the canister of oxygen and found it half-buried in the crater. The gauge read empty.

“Damn it, I told you to use it sparingly.”

Landon reached for Latios, hoping to drag him down the quiet side of the mountain, when a voice called up, “I think I see something!”

Acting on impulse, Landon grabbed Latios and threw himself into the snow. The snow around him shifted, and suddenly, he was rolling down the mountain, throwing him and Latios around like a slushie machine. Latios held on tight and prayed that the weak, trembling heart beat at his neck wouldn’t vanish.
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  #16    
Old August 10th, 2017 (6:52 PM).
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Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is offline
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Is this part meant to be Latios or Landon's thoughts? If Latios then a point of view slip there as this chapter seems to be in Landon's point of view. If Landon's then typo there.

Anyways, quite a run in they had with Dragonite there. I can imagine Pokemon like Dragonite can be pretty violent. And looks like some folks spotted Latios (or Landon as Latios there), Latias, or something else entirely.
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Old August 15th, 2017 (8:14 PM). Edited August 23rd, 2017 by Bardothren.
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I was in a rush when I wrote that chapter, so the naming got sloppy for a moment. I think I fixed it all, but I'll go back again later to be sure.

Speaking of going back, I added an extra paragraph to the end of the last chapter. I was planning on making the next chapter describe how Landon got Latios off the mountain, but I decided it wasn't necessary. So, I wrote this instead.

Chapter Nine: The Price


A blizzard howled down the mountain, plastering the bus terminal’s tiny windows with a thick blanket of snow. The first time, Hyacinth went out to clear the snow. However, between the freezing temperature, hailstones the size of marbles falling from the sky, flashes of lightning arcing through the clouds, and the futility of keeping the window cleared longer than a minute, Hyacinth resigned himself to staring at the blocked window.

“Damn trainers,” Hyacinth grumbled. “Don’t they realize they’ll wreck the crops calling hails and blizzards in the middle of summer?”

The door flew open. Hyacinth stood up, and a shout of joy was stifled in his mouth. The man who entered wasn’t short, per se, but he would’ve barely come up to Latios’ chin. He had on a plain t-shirt and jeans, small protection against the snow covering his left side, and his skin was well-tanned.

The stranger slumped into the nearest chair and brushed the snow off his face. Then he looked at Hyacinth.

“Thank god, I thought I’d be too late.” Then he grumbled to himself, just loud enough to hear, “He got the damn time zone wrong.” He looked around and frowned. “Where’s the other one?”

“You – you mean Landon?” the professor asked.

“Yeah, I think that’s his name. Well?”

Hyacinth pointed towards the door. “He’s up on Beggar’s Peak, where all the other trainers were going.”

The man blanched and swore. In a rush, he asked why they went up, what he had, and where he would go. Hyacinth told him everything he could without revealing Latios’ presence. Once he finished, he asked, “Who are you, exactly?”

“Oh. Sorry about that, I was in a rush. I’m Chris, the town’s gym leader. I got a call from… an acquaintance of mine who knows about the trouble you’re in.”

Hyacinth frowned at the gym leader. “Who?”

Chris glanced around the room. “Not here. I’ll explain more once we’re all back at my gym… assuming Landon makes it down that mountain.” He tapped one of the windows, but the snow was frozen solid over it. “And you’re telling me he went up there with just a gabite?”

Hyacinth felt his throat tighten up, but he kept his voice steady. “Yes, but he went up around the back. He’ll avoid the worst of it.”

“He’ll never beat the others up on foot, even if he doesn’t get in any fights. You should’ve gone to me first.” Chris opened the door a crack and peered out. From his spot, the professor only saw flashes of white in a blinding blizzard.

“Should we go after him?”

“Heck no!” Chris said as he slammed the door. “Even if we didn’t get sucked into the war on that mountain, we’d never find him. All we can do is wait for him to get back on his own.”

The door shook. The professor thought it was the hail, but then the doorknob twitched. He raced for the door and threw it open. Landon tumbled into the room, and Latios slid off of his back. Latios was pale, his lips were a deathly shade of violet, and his eyes were rolled back in their sockets. Hyacinth wrenched Latios’ shirt off and pressed his ear against his chest, shivering from the clammy touch. His pulse beat faintly.

“We need to get him warm and dry,” Landon panted. “I had a heat blanket, but that’s toast.”

“I got it,” Chris said, taking a pokeball of his waist. A magcargo, dripping lava all over the linoleum floor, approached Latios. Heat poured out of it fast enough to melt the snow on Latios’ clothes within seconds, and within a minute, he was completely dry.

For that entire minute, Landon stared warily at the gym leader, as if deciding to run away or fight. He checked Latios’ pulse, and then approached Chris.

“Who are you?”

Chris introduced himself. Then he said, “I think I understand what’s happening, now. It’s not safe here. We need to get to my gym as quickly as possible, before they come back.” Chris nodded towards the door. A clap of thunder rattled the walls and cracked one of the windows, letting the icy wind whistle into the room. The magcargo scowled at the cold draft and crawled away from it.

“He’s not going anywhere, not without rest,” Landon said. “He’s suffering from hypothermia and oxygen deprivation, and if he doesn’t get warm first, he could lose fingers. Those gloves didn’t do muk.”

“We can get some tea into him back at my place,” Chris said. “And we won’t have to go out in that blizzard, either. I’ll be right back.”

Chris called back his magcargo and walked out the door, wrenching it shut behind him. A minute later, he came back in, and the doorway was blocked by a giant boulder.

“Move, I got a tunnel cleared.” Chris and Hyacinth hoisted Latios onto Landon’s back and helped him out the door. An onix sheltered the doorway from the wind and hail, and right by its blocky head, a hole ten feet wide opened into a spacious tunnel lined with the orange glow of superheated rock. The atmosphere inside was warm and wet like a sauna, and smelled of iron and burnt vegetation.

The tunnel exited into a large, open room with an uneven, rocky floor. A perfect white circle split in two was painted over a perfectly flat surface.

“This way,” Chris said, guiding them through a door in the back corner. It led into Chris’ living quarters, a spacious single room with a kitchen, table, bed, chairs for six, and a full bathroom beyond another door. Two fossils, one of a kabuto and another with a swirling helix shell, both the size of a human head, rested on granite plinths. The smell of green tea wafted through the air.

“I started a pot,” Chris said as they set Latios in the bed and threw covers over him, “And it should be ready by the time he wakes up.”

“Get the head covered,” Landon said, shoving blankets over Latios’ head, “But make sure he can breathe. There’s warm compresses in my – the backpack. Rear pack, in a box near the bottom.”

Hyacinth dug out a mountain of medical supplies. Chris chuckled at the growing stack and sifted through its contents.

“You’ve got half a hospital in there,” he said, “But it’s not any good for travel in the wilderness.”

“We won’t be going on hiking trips,” Landon said defensively, “And you better be glad I have all this stuff. He would’ve died up there without the oxygen and heat blanket.”

Hyacinth grimaced at Landon’s slip of the tongue, and he flinched when Chris followed up on it.

“Your backpack?” he asked slowly. “So, how did the two of you switch bodies?”

Landon took the box of heat packs, tore it open, and crushed it between his arms. While he set the packs into the blanket, Hyacinth told Chris everything he dared about the strange machine. When he was done, Chris took the tea and poured four mugs.

“I see,” he said, sipping at the tea. “That explains a lot.”

“Why were you there?” Landon asked without turning away from Latios. “At the bus terminal. It’s as though you knew we were coming.”

“I did know.” Chris tapped the side of his coffee mug and stared at the ripples. “I suppose I can tell you. Bill sent me.”

“Bill?” Hyacinth asked. He racked his brain, and nearly dropped his tea when he remembered a certain rogue pokemon fanatic. “Wait, you don’t mean the Pokemaniac?”

“That’s the guy,” Chris said. “Do you want any sugar? I forgot to ask before I poured.”

Hyacinth blew and took a sip. It was bitter, but bearable, and he took a longer swallow. Warmth seeped through his stomach, and he felt himself relax into the chair.

“I’m fine, but Lan – he’ll want some,” he said, pointing at Latios.

Chris went into the kitchen. Standing on his tiptoes, he nudged a cabinet open and pulled out a bag of sugar with his fingertips. He tossed a spoonful into the cup of tea by Latios’ bedside and swirled it around. Meanwhile, Hyacinth impatiently tapped his finger on the table, his mind buzzing with questions. He got his first question out before Chris finished sitting down.

“What the hell has Bill been doing for the last ten years, and why is he so interested in us?”

Chris touched the ring on his finger. A pale sphere with a double helix pattern glittered in the steel frame. “I don’t know, but he has been collecting Mega Stones. He gives them out to gym leaders, and in return, we help him with his research. He mainly asks us to catch pokemon for him, but I have no idea what he does with them.” At Hyacinth’s raised eyebrow, he quickly added, “Nothing unethical, or anything like that! I and the others check on the pokemon we send in once in a while, and they’re all still alive and well.”

Hyacinth mulled it over and shrugged. Then he said, “You didn’t answer the second half of that question.”

“That’s because I don’t have an answer.” He took a long swallow and set the empty mug down with a loud clink. “All I know is he said to tell you he can fix your problem.”

Landon swung his neck around. “He really said that? How?”

“You’ll have to ask him yourself. He wants you to come to his lab as soon as possible.”

Hyacinth swirled the tea around in his mug, watching the leaves swirl around, whirling them faster and faster until a whirlpool sucked them all towards the center. “Ferndale City, right? A ways north of there, if I recall.” He watched as the whirlpool vanished, but all the leaves remained clumped together and swirling in the mug. “We’re stuck here. We can’t go back to Ashland, not with those thugs looking for us.”

“And you won’t get over the mountains, not with all the snow piling up. One false step, and you’ll cause an avalanche,” Chris said. “Luckily for you, there’s another way out of Flottman.”

“How?” The professor swallowed more tea. All the leaves were gone, out of the mug.

“Beneath the mountains,” he said. “Two days of hiking, and you’ll be out the other side, within a day of Dechert Town. From there, you can take a train.”

“Then we’ll leave tomorrow,” Landon said. “He should be able to walk by then.”

Chris shook his head. “Not possible. The caves are a maze. It would take you weeks to find your way out, if at all, without my help. He’s going to need more rest than a day, and I need to take care of any gym challenges.” He looked out the window and grimaced. “I’m going to get a lot of challenges in the next few days.”

“Alright then, we’ll leave in a few days.”

Chris gave a grim smile. “I didn’t say I’d do it for free.” Hyacinth bristled, and his mind whirled through a long list of possible prices while Chris poured himself another mug and drank it all down. Bill had another request, that I make a condition for my help.” The gym leader looked at each of his guests in turn, smiled harder, and said, “If you want me to escort you through the mountains, you need to earn my gym badge.” Then he turned towards Landon. “And you have to fight me with a certain pokemon, one he said that I’d know when I see it.”

Landon stared at Chris, and Hyacinth felt a shudder run down his back. He tipped the mug to his lips, but it was empty.

“If that’s what it takes,” Landon said, “Then I accept your challenge.”
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Old August 16th, 2017 (4:32 PM).
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Oh, so Bill will make an appearance? He's perhaps one of the most underrated Pokemon characters, so it should be interesting to see your take on him. And an upcoming gym battle, huh? This should be fun.
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Old August 23rd, 2017 (5:16 PM).
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Yes, Bill will be making an appearance, and yes, I intend to have some fun with his character. I won't say how at this time, but I intend on giving him a... unique twist.

Anywho, time for Landon and Latios to play the world's most dangerous game of Operation! :D

Also, in light of comments in Beaten Beater, I've decided to tweak my CSS. It was born of my exasperation with chapters taking up miles of thread and me having to scroll all the way through them. I crushed them into smaller scrolls so I could more easily navigate through them and make changes, and it never occurred to me to look at them from a cell phone. I'm not getting rid of it, but I did double the height, which I think helps. Lemme know if you think it makes a difference.


Chapter Ten: Operation

For what felt like forever, Latios drifted in shallow sleep. He could hear conversations happening around him, the voices of Professor Hyacinth and Landon mingled with a third, unknown presence. His body wouldn’t respond to his commands. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t move his arms, speak, or open his eyes.

His body prickled. The tips of his fingers pained him the worst, like needles jabbing underneath the nails, but he could feel stinging sensations in his feet, and his ears tingled.

Once, his mouth was pried open, and a trickle of warm liquid was forced into his mouth. He swallowed out of reflex, and the thin rivulet warmed his throat as it descended to his stomach. It tasted fragrant and sweet.

The sound of a door slamming snapped his eyes open. All at once, he was overwhelmed with sensations of stiffness, aches and pains from tumbling down the mountain, hot stabbing pain in his hands, dryness in his throat, and fuzziness in his head. Sitting up, he struggled to recall exactly what happened, but the details were clouded, and he could sense gaps in his memory. Going back even further, he realized that going to Ashland was a blur. He could remember waking up in the lab, but he couldn’t remember the specific words in their conversation, only the gist.

Going back even farther, he realized that everything before the body switch was eaten away. Whole centuries of his life, from his creation at the top of the Pillar to getting snared by that noisome device, were either blurry or gone.

Latios sat up in bed, and his head throbbed. He groaned and clutched his aching skull. On the nightstand, there was a full glass of water. He reached for it, but his trembling hands knocked the glass to the floor. The glass remained intact, but all the water gushed into the carpet.

“Water,” he croaked. “Thirsty.”

“I got it,” Landon said. He floated up to the kitchen sink, flipped the faucet with his nose, and held a glass underneath the rushing water with both hands. With the full cup precariously perched between his claws, he carefully flew over the counter and to Latios’ side. The cup was wet, but Latios kept his grip as he greedily gulped the water. His first swallow made him cough. Landon flinched at the spray in his eyes, but he rushed forward to make sure Latios wasn’t choking. In a rush, Latios drained the rest of the water and set the empty cup on the nightstand.

“There’s something wrong with me,” Latios said. “I – I don’t remember. My life, it’s vanishing.” Tears streamed down his face, stinging his eyes. “What if I forget everything? How will I know who I am, or that I was ever anything else? Am I going to be stuck like this forever?”

Landon wiped the tears away with a blanket. “Whoa whoa, hey, calm down. You’re fine. Humans forget things, it’s a part of living, our brains can’t hold all that information, so it dumps what it has to.”

“But – but I’m forgetting so much? How will I know if I forgot something important?”

Landon gazed at him with those giant red eyes, and he could feel his muscles relaxing. His heart slowed, and his breathing grew easy. “There are some things it’s better to forget. It makes living easier.”

“Why would I want to forget anything?”

The door swung open, and Chris entered the room. Hyacinth followed closely behind him, holding a bulging plastic bag. It fell to the floor as the old man ran to the bed.

“You’re up! Are you feeling alright?”

“Just tingly,” Latios croaked. “Kinda hurts all over, and my throat’s scratchy.”

Latios pulled up the blankets, exposing his feet. “Just a bit of frostnip, nothing that won’t heal with time,” he said. “And since you’re up and Hyacinth brought some hyper potions, I can finally treat my other patient.”

“What other patient?” the professor asked. His brow furrowed. “You told me you wanted to stock up for the road.”

“I wanted to make sure nobody would suspect you. If you really knew what those were for, you’d be a hell of a lot jumpier.” He poked his head into the bag, shoved his arms inside, and dragged out a brown leather jacket, lined with faux fur. “Good, this will do nicely.”

“I take it you’re not planning to have Latios wear that jacket?” Hyacinth asked with a hint of irritation in his voice.

“If there’s anything left of it when we’re done, then he can wear it, but don’t hold your breath. If I recall, dragonite bite very hard.”

Hyacinth stiffened, and his knuckles turned white. Chris, however, smiled in awe.

“You actually caught a dragonite? Unbelievable!”

Hyacinth snorted. “You know what else is unbelievable? The kill count from last time a dragonite went on a rampage in a heavily populated area. Granted, Flottman is no Yvenna, but there wasn’t a stone standing of that city by the time Sinex got that dragonite under control.” He kicked the bag of potions towards the corner of the room. “Forget treating it yourself, Landon, one mistake and this town’s history. We need to take it to a pokemon center.”

“We can’t,” Landon said. “They saw it, and if any of us took it in, it could be traced back to us.”

“Then have me take it in,” Chris said.

“Two problems. One, you weren’t supposed to be on that mountain, so you shouldn’t have caught that dragonite, and two, I want to keep the shards in its feet. Bill might learn something from pieces of that machine it destroyed.”

Hyacinth stroked the stubble of white hairs growing on his chin. “You’ve really thought everything through.”

“This body’s good at that. Now, Chris, will the Gym be clear for the next three hours?”

“Yep,” Chris said. “I’m not getting any challenges until tomorrow, thanks to all the injuries on Beggar’s Peak.”

“Then I’ll get started right away.” Landon turned towards Chris and pointed at the pokeballs on his belt. “I’d like to borrow some of your pokemon, to keep it under control.”

“Is there any way I can help?” Hyacinth asked. “You’ll need someone to use the tweezers, right?”

Landon glanced at the great ball on the nightstand. “Hopefully not. That dragonite went berserk when it saw Latios. It might panic if there are any humans around.”

Hyacinth chuckled. “Perfect. We’ve got a ticking time bomb on our hands, and instead of taking it to professionals, we’re clipping the damn wires ourselves.”

Chris jogged through the battle arena, locked the front doors, and let out a rhyperior and an onix. After a quick discussion with them, Chris returned to his living quarters and gestured towards his pokemon.

“They’re all yours,” he said. “And don’t worry about making a mess, I can have them dig up some new rock.”

Landon took the pokeball and clumsily pulled the door shut behind him. Hyacinth sat down as if all the bones in his legs vanished, while Chris pressed his head against the floor, peeking beneath the door.

“Are you insane?” Hyacinth hissed. “If that thing sees you, it could tear you to bits and burn the whole town.”

“So?” he whispered without moving from the door. “The same could be said of tyranitar and rhyperior, and I’ve been inside their nests.”

Hyacinth mouthed the words “inside their nests” and said fiercely, but quietly, “You must be the biggest fool alive.”

“Ah, but I’m still alive, aren’t I? And besides, what’s life without taking some risk?”

“There’s taking risk, and there’s tying a noose around your neck and jumping off a cliff. If you’re that eager to die a messy and gruesome death, please leave me out of it.”

“Wow, that dragonite’s a beauty. Shame about the feet.” He got lower to the ground, and then he abruptly stood up. “Oh, hold on, he’s coming.”

Hyacinth’s face turned white. “The dragonite?”

The doorknob wriggled. Hyacinth ducked behind the fridge, and out of instinct, Latios hid under the covers. Chris moved behind the door as he opened it, and closed it once Landon was inside. His arms were coated with blood.

“I can’t get all the pieces out,” he said. “I convinced the dragonite to let one of you out there, but you better move slowly. She’s still really skittish.”

Landon turned towards Professor Hyacinth, who had come out from behind the fridge, but he raised his hands and backed away.

“Oh no, you don’t want me out there. I know I’m the expert, but my hands would shake so much I’d pull one of its… her toenails off. See?” He held his trembling hands forward. “Just thinking about it is making me queasy.” He turned towards Chris. “You’re the crazy one here, why don’t you do it?”

Chris thoughtfully stroked his chin. “Landon – er, Latios is the one that caught her, right? Then he should do it.”

“Me?” Latios squeaked. “But – but I–”

“It’s your pokemon,” Chris said, “So it’s your responsibility.” He pulled Latios by the arm and gave him a hearty slap on the back to push him towards the door. “Good luck!”

Landon opened the door and shoved Latios through. Latios walked forward, legs trembling and his stomach bubbling with nerves, as the dragonite stared at him with brown eyes as hard and cold as icy boulders. An onix coiled over the dragonite’s belly and pinned both arms, while a rhyperior held both legs in the air, one underneath each arm. Blood pooled in the rocks and filled the air with a nauseating, metallic scent. Off to one side, a small pile of metal scraps glistened in the harsh stadium lighting, and on the other side, a pair of tweezers, dulled by a coat of drying blood, waited for him like an executioner’s axe.

“I – I can’t,” Latios mumbled. Cold dread numbed his nerves, and his mouth moved with a will of its own. “I don’t want to hurt anyone. I can’t hurt anyone. Arceus said I’m not supposed to.”

“I don’t know who this Arceus is, but you have to,” Landon said quietly, with a glance towards the dragonite. “She’ll die if she’s not treated properly.”

“She – she’ll die?” A memory, as languid as a drowsy snake, wound its way to the surface of his thoughts. “The second commandment, keep them safe. I have to keep them safe. I – I have to.”

His twitching fingers gripped the tweezers. He squeezed until the dried blood cracked, and the two ends snapped shut, then he relaxed his grip. His hand moved in a rhythm of squeeze, relax, squeeze, relax, like the beating of a calm heart, acclimating himself to the grisly task.

“Go slow,” Landon said, “And take it out blunt-edge first. Start with the right foot, that one has easier pieces to remove.”

Latios scooted through the blood-soaked rocks until he reached the foot. The dragonite growled at him through the leather jacket as his hand crept towards the first glint of metal, right beneath a toe. Holding his breath, he grabbed the piece of metal, wriggled it free from a bundle of tendons, and eased it out of the foot.

As the metal shard clattered onto the pile, a memory came unbidden to mind. Mounds of corpses piled in streets, and live humans, rotting as they walked, where a flourishing metropolis once stood. Blood ran like rivers and pooled into lakes where they dug mass graves. Tears glistened in his eyes, and his hands shook uncontrollably.

“Focus,” Landon hissed. “You’re shaking too much.”

“We were supposed to protect them,” Latios said numbly. “We were supposed to, but they all died anyways. Watch, protect, and stay hidden, but how could we help and stay hidden?”

Landon flew over him and held his tiny arms against Latios’ hands. The claws drew tiny beads of blood, but he didn’t feel the pain.

“Don’t think about it,” Landon whispered in his ear. “Just focus on doing what you can.”

“I could’ve done more.” His arms trembled as he reached into the dragonite’s foot again. “I should’ve done more, but instead, I sat there and watched.” He chuckled weakly. “I guess two out of three isn’t so bad.”

Landon gripped tighter, and the claws sunk even deeper. The jolt of pain snapped Latios back to the present, and remembering that he was digging around in, tensed up his arms. The next piece was a tiny sliver, barely visible through a layer of dried blood, and the tweezers slipped off its smooth surface. Eventually, he managed to wriggle it and eight other shards out of both. Landon grabbed for a bundle of gauze from the backpack and wound it tightly around each foot, but his clumsy arms could not make the knots. He guided Latios through the process of tying them. Though the tangle of gauze would’ve elicited swears from doctors, it appeared good enough to hold, and the hyper potion soaked into them was already causing skin to close.

“There, see?” Landon said to the dragonite. “Nothing to be afraid of.”

His words were wasted. The dragonite had passed out, and the leather jacket, gnawed to shreds, sat in a soggy pile on the floor.

Latios shakily got to his feet. He wiped sweat from his brow, smearing his whole forehead with congealing blood.

“I think I get what you mean,” Latios said breathlessly.

“What I mean?”

“When you say it’s good to forget some things.” When he closed his eyes, he saw the mounds, and cities burning like torches. “What do you want to forget?”

Landon, busy bundling up the medical supplies that weren’t soaked with blood, ignored the question.
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  #20    
Old August 25th, 2017 (7:44 PM).
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Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is offline
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Quote:
As the metal shard clattered onto the pile, a memory came unbidden to mind. Mounds of corpses piled in streets, and live humans, rotting as they walked, where a flourishing metropolis once stood. Blood ran like rivers and pooled into lakes where they dug mass graves. Tears glistened in his eyes, and his hands shook uncontrollably.
That memory of Latio's I take it is reference to one or two of your past stories? I mean, Sinex got name dropped earlier... But I can see why Latios would feel guilty unable to do anything and feel bad if something were to happen to Dragonite. Landon's getting a bit suspicious there when he avoided Latio's question, but it probably has to do with some of his backstory mentioned in one of the earlier chapters I believe.
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Old September 1st, 2017 (7:20 PM). Edited September 1st, 2017 by Bardothren.
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Yes and yes. I don't think this is a particularly exciting battle, but it's A: mildly entertaining and B: setting up for the next leg of the journey. I may have to edit it again sometime, but I think it'll hold for now, and quite frankly, with how mildly sick I've been lately, it's a miracle I'm still writing and not wallowing in my cranial misery.

Chapter Eleven: Rocky Start

Landon suspected that, had he still been able to feel emotions, he would’ve felt light-headed and sick to his stomach as he floated onto the Flottman Gym arena. Instead, he had the rational sense that he would very soon end up unconscious and in a lot of pain, and an equally pragmatic resignation to his fate. He kept telling himself it had to be done.

Latios demonstrated enough nervousness for both of them, sweating and wringing his hands as he took in a small box outside the arena. His face was pale as snow. He held Landon’s ball in a white-knuckled grip and shuffled his feet against the jagged stone.

“Alright, just be calm!” Latios shouted. “We can do this!”

From the sidelines, Professor Hyacinth gave him an eye roll and winced as he slipped off the boulder he was sitting on. With a grumble, he stayed on the floor and leaned his back against the rock.

“This will be a two on two battle for your first gym badge. No substitutions or items are permitted, and the time limit is one hour. Are you ready?”

“Uh, yes!” Latios shouted hesitantly. “I – I think so.”

“Alright then, for my first pokemon…” Chris threw a pokeball high in the air, and out of it tumbled a geodude. It hovered two feet off the ground and stared at Landon with a stony frown. Its hands grated and popped as it clenched its fists.

“Hey, quick question,” Landon said, turning his neck towards Latios but keeping one eye on the geodude. “What moves do I know?”

“Moves?”

“Yeah, you know, moves, like iron tail, or earth quake, brick break, preferably one of those, but I’ll take whatever you can give me.”

“Uh…” Latios looked nervously at Hyacinth. “I don’t know what moves are.”

“Okay then,” Landon said, “What do you do if something attacks you?”

“I’ve never been attacked before.” Latios closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. Then he said, “You could try hitting it.”

“With what, my arms?” Landon waved his stumpy appendages in the air. “I don’t think that would do much.”

“No, with your head!”

Landon turned around. “You want me to ram into that thing with my head? Do you have any idea how much that would hurt?”

Latios shrugged. “I’ve rammed through a brick wall before, and that didn’t hurt at all.” He furrowed his brow and said, “At least, I think I did. It’s getting harder to remember.”

Landon turned towards Hyacinth. “I’m open to opinions.”

The professor stretched his arms and shifted his back against the rock. “Don’t look at me, I’ve never been in that body.”

Chris’ order cut through the conversation. “Rock throw!”

Landon hurriedly looked back and saw a stone two feet wide hurtling toward his head. He dodged to the side just in time. The stone gouged a chunk out of the floor where it landed, skipped across the uneven surface, and came to a stop at a thin, translucent barrier at the edge of the ring, right next to Latios’ feet.

“Hey, we weren’t ready!” Latios shouted.

“In a battle, the other side won’t wait until you’re ready, they’ll only wait for the starting bell. Now hop to it!”

The geodude dug its hands into the floor and hauled up two boulders larger than its head. With a flick of its hands, it threw both of them, but Landon soared into the rafters overhead and took cover behind a wide steel beam.

“You only have one hour,” Chris called up. “You can’t stay up there forever.”

“I know,” Landon called down. “I’m trying to figure out a way of attacking that doesn’t involve me ramming my head into a rock.”

“Just do something already,” Professor Hyacinth called up. “My popcorn’s getting cold!”

Landon went through his mental catalogue of information he acquired during the last few days. His brain felt like a computer hard-drive, with whole chunks of memory replay-able in mental video, or walls of text if he just wanted the dialogue. They were even sorted by date and labeled with an identifying snippet. The images flashed before his eyes in transparent blue flickers. After a quick scan and five minutes of trying to pick up the geodude with his mind, Landon admitted that his only option was little better than to hit rocks together like a caveman.

So, with a shrug, Landon fell from the rafters, twirled around a few thrown boulders, and slammed face-first into the geodude with a resounding crack. The geodude staggered back, and a chip tumbled off of its forehead, while Landon reared and bent his head down to feel it with his arms.

“Huh, that didn’t hurt at all,” he mused, right before the geodude lumbered forward and hit him with an uppercut to the jaw. Pain lanced through Landon’s head as he was sent flying backwards by the blow.

“What the heck!” he howled as he tried to cradle his head in his arms without looking away from the geodude. “Falling from the freaking ceiling and headbutting it doesn’t hurt at all, but a punch does? How the hell does that make any sense?”

“Go right!” Latios shouted. Landon looked up just in time to see a boulder flying towards him. He veered right, but the boulder clipped his left wing, and with a cry, he spun uncontrollably in the air. Landon closed his eyes, envisioned himself on top of the rafter, and when he opened them again, he was safely out of reach.

“Anyone else have any brilliant ideas?” he called down. When all he got were stammered half-ideas out of Latios and another shrug from the professor, he did another kamikaze dive. Even with his head aching from that punch, he didn’t feel a thing when he slammed his skull into the geodude. For half an hour, he carved that geodude apart chip by chip while dodging an endless stream of boulders. A few of those boulder connected, and after each hit, Latios felt his strength ebbing out of him.

Through that half an hour, Landon did quite a lot of ruminating. His first thought drifted to his missing emotions and how he would’ve surely thrown his hands up and stomped away after two minutes of this crap. Then his thoughts wandered into what moves he could possibly know besides tackle. Hitting things with his skull wasn’t his favorite definition of using one’s head, but he had no idea what type of pokemon Latios could be, or if it even had a type at all.

Psychic was his first guess, but all the mental strangling of that geodude didn’t even make its eyes twitch. Flying followed a close second, but kicking up a gust with his stubby wings, even if he could, would’ve done about as much damage to the geodude as farting on it. He tried other basic water, dragon, fire, ice, steel, and fighting type moves in between tackles, but all his abortive attempts resulted in comically pathetic displays, such as him failing to spit on the geodude, or near-misses with the grim reaper when a half-hearted metal claw brought him within perfect punching range for the geodude.

When he tired of thinking about moves, his thoughts went to the gym battle itself, wondering about Chris’ motivations and why he insisted that he get the badge. And that brought him to Bill.

Bill, well-known as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, had been notoriously aloof from society when he only engaged in press conferences behind a screen, spoke every word through a voice filter, and hoarded his research like a conspiracy theorist preparing a bomb shelter, releasing a paper only when he needed the money. That ended fifteen years ago. Since then, he had become even more reclusive, often thought to be dead, and every paper he published had a decade’s worth of dust on the front cover. Rumors floated around of tragic accidents and assassination attempts, but in Landon’s opinion, the man had simply broken under the weight of his own paranoia and isolation.

Broken, unfortunately, meant unpredictable, but Landon knew two things from fact: Bill was still doing research, and he had done enough research to know what had happened to him and Latios. Mega-evolution had taken off within the last seven years when Professor Sycamore published a paper on the phenomenon. If Bill was collecting Mega Stones and using them to curry favor with Gym Leaders, well, that brought a lot of ominous possibilities to mind.

As wrapped up in his thoughts he was, he didn’t notice when his last tackle knocked the geodude unconscious. It hit the floor with a dull thunk, and Chris called it back.

“About time!” Hyacinth said with a groan. “I think my hair’s getting whiter over here!”

Chris glanced at the watch on his wrist. “That used up forty minutes, and this next one’s a bit tougher.”

Landon had to admit it was good practice flying, and he was able to fly through the rafters without bumping into anything, but he had come no closer to learning a new move, nor were his tackles likely to win against his next pokemon in the sparse twenty minutes they had.

“Switch me out,” Landon told Latios.

“Hey, I’m supposed to battle you!” Chris said.

“It’s a two on two battle,” Landon pointed out. “Per gym rules, he can switch me out at any time, but I’ll be considered out, correct?”

Chris thought for a moment, and then said, “Alright, make your switch. But first, here’s mine.”

Out of his pokeball came a carbink. Its diamond-studded body glittered in the light.

Latios reached for the dragonite’s pokeball, but Landon anxiously pulled his hand away and guided him to the gabite’s pokeball, in his backpack. He called it out. The gabite blinked, examined the room, and fixed a cold, calm glare on the carbink.

“A dragon type?” Chris asked. “I know it’s dragon-ground, but a dragon type?”

“Don’t worry,” Landon whispered in Latios’ ear. “Just tell him to use iron tail and it’s over.”

They waited. For a whole minute, neither side moved, and Chris stared at the professor. Hyacinth raised his head, blinked, and said “Oh, you want a referee? You didn’t call a start to the last match.”

“That was a lesson.” Chris rubbed the back of his head and said, “I fudged the rules a bit, I guess. Whatever, just do it.”

“Battle start,” Hyacinth said calmly and rested his head back on the rock.

“Iron tail!” Latios called out. Chris blinked, and a second before the gabite’s glowing tail struck, he called, “Reflect, and go into the air!”

The carbink threw up a lustrous barrier in front of it, and though the barrier took the brunt of the attack, gabite’s tail knocked a chunk of diamond free from its body. Then the carbink floated into the air, out of gabite’s reach.

“Ancientpower!” Chris called. Glowing blue rocks broke off of the carbink’s body, swelled in size, and flew towards the gabite. Though it dodged most of them, one knocked it on the head, and another pelted it in the thigh.

“Uh, oh, I know!” Latios pointed and said, “Use sandstorm!”

The gabite swung its tail in a full circle, and a gale laden with sand whipped up around it. Within seconds, the entire arena was filled with swirling sand.

“You do realize that won’t affect my carbink, right?” Chris asked. “Rock types don’t mind the sand.”

“Your mistake,” Hyacinth said to the Gym leader. “The sandstorm makes it easier to dodge, and it powers up its sand tomb.” He gave a pointed nod at Latios and said, “Which I recommend you try.”

Latios swallowed. “Right, use sand tomb!”

The sand coalesced into a tighter cloud, surrounding the carbink in a tiny floating sand whirlpool. The carbink was whipped around a few times, all the while getting scratched up by the sand, and then it flung itself out. Unfortunately for the carbink, its trajectory sent it flying straight for the gabite. Landon suddenly saw a mental calculation of its flight path, a temporal representation caught in greater transparency with greater time to show where and when the carbink would be. Before he could point out the tactically wise move, Latios beat him to the punch.

“Iron tail, now!”

The pitch was perfect. Gabite shifted its legs in the stone like a batter stepping up to home plate, swung, and hit the carbink with a loud smack. With a wail like quartz crystals grating together, the carbink flew high into the air and landed hard enough to smash a crater into the floor.

Latios blinked, and the images were gone. The more he experimented with his new mind, the more it seemed to resemble a computer rather than an actual mind, with files for storage and programs he could execute to analyze the world around him.

After Chris called back his carbink, he walked across the crater-filled arena and gave Latios his badge, a brown octagon inlaid with sharp bronze ridges.

“Get some rest,” he told them all. “We will leave first thing in the morning.”
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Old September 12th, 2017 (9:30 PM).
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Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is offline
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I feel the exposition/info dump explaining Bill and Mega Evolution could be better used later in the story as it seems out of place during the battle. Landon trying to figure out how to battle as a legendary is cute though, especially with him realizing ramming with your head is a legit way to battle heh. At least he and Latios won the badge and can move further with their journey.
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Old September 13th, 2017 (7:45 PM).
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Spoiler: Message from the Author
Thanks for the excellent point Bay! I've thought it over, and I do agree with your point, but I intentionally did that for a few reasons. First, there was no real need for an exciting battle in this chapter, and it would've been bad for the pacing. There was Beggar's Peak just a few chapters back, and something coming up in the next chapter, so I wanted a bit of calm and buildup before the storm. Second, I wanted to emphasize the underwhelming nature of the gym battle. Describing fifty tackles in a row can only be so exciting, and I wanted to impart a sense of tedium and time wasted. Third, I wanted to show Landon's greatest priority. Bill is reputedly the only one who can get their bodies back to normal, but Landon is suspicious of the offer, and so, he's mainly preoccupied with figuring out Bill's motivations. Fourth, the meeting with Bill and yes, that is going to happen is going to be a huge exposition dump, and I wanted to spread it out a bit.

That doesn't change the fact that you felt it was out of place. In light of that, I intend to make some edits to make it more clear that Landon isn't interested in battling and is thinking ahead because that's where his motivations lie.

And speaking of something coming up next chapter...


Chapter Twelve: In the Halls of the Mountain King

Latios hadn’t know what “first thing in the morning” meant until Chris shook him awake at four in the morning. Even after a cup of tea, with enough sugar in it to rot his teeth, he groggily cursed his human existence as he put on fresh clothes, hiking gear supplied by Chris, and two backpacks, Landon’s, and one crammed with food and water.

“There’s fresh springs we can fill up from, but we better be careful all the same. Cave-ins are frequent, and wells can get buried.”

They left through the gym’s floor, after Chris’ onix dug a tunnel five miles out of town. Chris let out a brown-haired lycanroc, which trotted besides him. On a whim, Latios let out his gabite. It went towards Hyacinth, but the professor shook his head, and the gabite followed Latios instead.

The onix-made passageway emerged in a wooded clearing at the base of a mountain. Chris had his onix conceal the entrance to the cave before they continued east. After a mile hike further east, by which time Latios’ legs and back felt like jelly, they reached the cave entrance.

Chris glanced back at Latios, and a concerned frown crossed his face. “I guess we should stop for a bit in the cave, so our eyes can adjust.”

When they sat down with their backs to the cave walls, Chris let out a lunatone. It emitted a pale glow that pushed back the darkness without hurting Latios’ eyes. Latios also let Landon out, now that they were out of sight, and he gave him a grateful nod.

While they were waiting, Chris gave them all lectures on mountain safety – don’t drink from still pools, stay together, ration out supplies, and above all, don’t make any sudden noises. A shout can trigger cave-ins, pokemon attacks, or both.

The caves were quiet at first. The howling of the wind kept the silence at bay, but when the turned down a sharp corner, all noise vanished except for the shuffle of boots on stone and the slow, steady breathing of everyone around him. After a while, Latios could even hear the Lunatone move. It made a dissonant humming noise like an electric toothbrush.

That was until they descended deeper into the mountain. First, the harsh aerosol sound of repel echoed off the walls as Chris sprayed them all. Then the walls came alive with the sound of rustling wings, scurrying feet, rumbling rocks, and agitated squeaks as pokemon rushed out of their path. Latios saw the occasional zubat or paras in Lunatone’s light, but nothing confronted them.

About a mile into the caves, a jumble of rocks blocked one path at a fork. Chris prodded the pile with a stick and shook his head.

“That battle must’ve done a number on these mountains, even here. We’ll have to take a few detours, I’m afraid.”

A few detours turned into many, as cave after cave was blocked off. Chris deemed some safe to dig out and put his onix to work, but there were others that rumbled dangerously at the slightest tap of a stick.

“We don’t have time for this,” Chris grumbled suddenly as they hit another dead end. “At this rate, it’ll take a week to get through the mountains.”

“Our rations won’t hold out that long either,” Hyacinth said. “Is there a way to hunt?”

Chris snorted. “Not unless you can stomach zubat toxins or eat metal. Luckily, I know a shortcut that I can guarantee won’t be blocked off. It goes straight through the mountain and out the other side.”

Latios floated over and stared down at the gym leader. “I’m assuming you didn’t take us that way in the first place because something nasty lives in it.”

Chris grimaced and said, “A rhyperior, the toughest old bastard I’ve ever seen. I tried catching it a few times, and I was lucky to escape with my life.” Chris shivered, and the lunatone’s light flashed erratically as its eyes widened. “If we’re lucky, it’ll be taking a nap.”

“Won’t the repel keep it away?”

“It’ll draw it straight to us. It’s learned to associate the smell of repel with the smell of easy prey. We better wash it off if we find a spring. Actually, I think I smell one nearby.”

Down another fork, a small, bubbling pool lay across the path. They all waded in with their clothes on and shook themselves like birds in a puddle. Chris took a long whiff of everyone and made Latios dunk himself again.

Then Chris doubled back and led them down a narrow, winding tunnel that plummeted deep into the mountain’s bones. The deeper caves were eerily silent. Not a single pokemon braved the rhyperior’s hunting grounds. Even the Lunatone fell completely silent, and its light shrank into a tiny disc surrounding the party. Gabite clung to Latios’ leg, and even Landon warily eyed the darkness.

“So, what’s this rhyperior like?” Latios whispered. Though he kept his voice low, it seemed to magnify as it echoed off the walls, bouncing off the sides like a stone tossed down a well. Everyone, human and pokemon alike, glared at him. He hunched his shoulders and stayed silent.

When they reached a fork in the path, Chris motioned them to stop. Latios and Hyacinth pressed themselves into a nook in the wall while Chris crept down the left fork. When he came back, he glanced down the right fork before leaning over to whisper.

“It’s out of its nest. The monster’s hunting out there, so if we’re lucky, it’s in one of the forks behind us. But just in case, we better call out all our pokemon.”

Latios touched the dragonite’s pokéball, but Landon stopped him. “Not unless we really need her. We don’t want her getting spooked by being underground.”

Chris called out his own rhyperior and a golem, and they both took point as they walked down the tunnel. Even they tread lightly when they saw the tall, spacious tunnel around them, and they shot Chris a nervous look when he told them to move forward.

“Be very careful,” he whispered. “This bastard knows these tunnels inside-out and can move through them without a sound.”

Landon heard a pebble skitter across the floor behind them. When he turned, he shouted “Get down!” and flew back. He tilted up, and a rock slammed into his outstretched arms. With a grunt, he deflected it to the right, away from Chris. It missed the lunatone by a few inches and hit the cave wall before hitting the golem in the head. It pawed at the scratches on its forehead and growled down the cave.

An ear-splitting roar shook the cavern, and Latios lost his balance as the floor heaved beneath him. Each step cracked the stone beneath the golden rhyperior’s feet. It stood tall enough for its shortest horn to graze the ceiling, half again as tall as Chris’ rhyperior. Thick golden plates covered its head and shoulders, and its rocky arms could crush an anvil into a pancake.

“Gabite, to me!” Landon called. It ran over to him and hopped on his back. Then he soared towards the rhyperior and tilted to one side as he passed. The gabite hardened his tail, and it slammed into the rhyperior’s shoulder as they passed, hard enough to knock a chip of stone loose.

It howled in rage and hurled a boulder after them. Landon banked to avoid it, but the gabite tumbled off and landed in a jumble in front of the rhyperior. It raised one foot to stomp the dragon into a bloody pulp.

Latios’ heart caught in his throat. Fear gripped him with sharp, icy nails, and the blood drained out of his face. With a strangled yell, he sprinted forward, tripped over a rock, and tumbled to a stop on top of the gabite, right beneath the rhyperior’s raised foot.

Landon, seeing his own body moments from obliteration, felt a chill run through his body, like a memory of fear. Power welled up in his chest, and when he shot forward, throwing the power at the giant golden rhyperior, it came out as a crackling blue cloud. It blinded the rhyperior, and with a furious roar, it reared back. Its foot came down two feet from Latios’ head, and the quake its foot made jarred Latios’ cheek against the stone.

By then, Chris’ golem and rhyperior moved to the front of the line, supported by a nervous lunatone. The crescent-shaped rock emitted a pulse of purple light that slammed into the rhyperior’s back, making it turn around. As it glared at the lunatone with blood-shot eyes, Chris’ rhyperior punched it in the throat. Its head barely moved.

With a derisive scowl at the smaller rhyperior, the monster brought up both arms and slammed them down on top of its head. It howled as more chips of stone cracked off from its shoulder, but the smaller rhyperior fared far worse, with one arm cracked nearly in two and spurting fountains of blood, and the smaller horn atop its head pressed an inch into its skull. With a gurgle, it fell to its knees, and Chris recalled it.

By then, Latios staggered to his feet and helped up his gabite. Still gripped by fear, he clutched the dragon tightly to his chest. It froze up, and after a moment, gently returned the embrace.

“Are you alright?” Latios asked.

The gabite looked up at him with determined eyes and nodded. Then it turned back to the fray. Meanwhile, Landon rejoined them. He coughed, clearing a puff of glittering blue breath from his throat.

“I have an idea,” he said. “Have gabite use sand tomb around the rhyperior, and I’ll keep it trapped in there.”

Latios gave the order, and the gabite whipped up a swirling whirlwind of sand, and Landon breathed more dragonbreath into the sand. The vortex crackled with sparks of blue static. The golden rhyperior flung an arm into the sand and howled when the energized sand bit into its armor.

Undeterred, the rhyperior gathered energy in its mouth. The imminent hyper-beam attack blazed as bright as the sun, and through the crackling dust devil, it lit up the cave in a chaotic blue light.

Latios froze, unable to think as the light blinded him. But before the rhyperior could attack, Chris shouted “Gyro ball, go!”

Chris’ golem had used the time Landon and the gabite bought to pack more stone on its body. Though it still only came up to the rhyperior’s shoulders, it rolled right through the sand tomb and slammed into its side, knocking it over. The hyper-beam blasted through a section of wall five feet to Latios’ left, swung up to the ceiling, and gouge out a long, deep line of molten rock before fading away. As it fell and the sand tomb dispersed, Chris threw an ultra ball. It hit the rhyperior’s tail with a dull thunk, sucked up the behemoth, rocked violently, and fell still with a gentle click.

Chris staggered forward and cradled the pokéball in his hands. His chuckle was soft and quiet, at first, and then he held the pokéball high and laughed hard enough to echo through the mountains.

“Hell yes! Ten psyducking years, and you’re finally mine!”

Between the battle at Beggar’s Peak, the carnage left by the rhyperior, and Chris’ excited shouts, deep fractures formed in the bedrock of the mountain. Inch by inch, slabs of stone grated against each other, slid, buckled, and fractured into smaller pieces. A deep, booming crack emanated from the whole mountain like an anguished moan, and far behind them, a tunnel collapsed with a roar. Within seconds, the whole mountain shook, and stones rained from the ceiling.

Chris’ laughter died, and his eyes widened. He recalled the lunatone and crawled underneath his golem. Hyacinth, who had just wriggled out of his hiding spot, ducked back in and muttered oaths with his eyes shut. Latios grabbed onto the gabite and held him close, and the dragon fell still in his arms.

Landon felt another flicker of fear. It was a relief, in a way, to feel something again, and the sensation of adrenaline coursing through his skull felt like radiant sunlight. He stared up at the ceiling just as a section thirty feet long fell in one piece over them. His thoughts went back to the home he and Hyacinth had shared, to the strewn papers and cluttered shelves, dirty dishes, and broken AC, savoring every pictured detail before he got crushed into oblivion.

The vision flashed blue, and a strange wrenching sensation tore at his head. Fatigue hit him like a sledgehammer, so hard that he thought it was the boulder. He looked around, at Latios and Hyacinth strewn over the couch, at the table crushed beneath the golem and at Chris dangling from the golem’s arm by his jacket.

Then he felt himself fade away.
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  #24    
Old September 21st, 2017 (10:07 PM).
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Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is offline
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This chapter went a bit of head hopping here. Usually your chapters have one person's POV, but this one you have both Latios and Landon's point of view here. I feel having this chapter be in Landon's point of view could work better than Latios's, especially with the final few paragraphs you set up there. I also think you can have Landon react a bit more upon Gabite getting almost killed by the Rhyperior since it's his Pokemon, but I did like Latios's reaction there. Speaking of Rhyperior, he seems like a very tough one to deal with. I wonder if it's Landon or someone else that saved the group there.
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