February 7th, 2009 (2:50 PM). Edited March 22nd, 2010 by Shrike Flamestar.
Latest Update: 3/22/10 - Chapter 7
The Flamestar Chronicles
Hey, everyone; welcome to what is both my oldest and newest fanfic all at once. This is actually a rewrite of a fic I started about three years ago but have recently decided was simply too outdated in many respects. I hadn't left enough free room in the plot and style I used for me to be able to subtly work in the changes I want, plus the chapters that had already been written were in dire need of an overhaul. Thus, I made the decision to simply start over again using all the knowledge and writing skill I have gained over these three years to truly bring the story I've envisioned to life (or, well, words).
Since I never posted the original story on here, you guys will have nothing to compare to (unless you've also gone to Serebii and seen it there). Nonetheless, I hope that as new readers you will enjoy the story I've put so much work into.
Table of Contents and Information
Overall Fanfic Rating: PG-15 (frequent swearing, violence, gore, and other generally more mature themes)
Genres: Original universe, drama, action, adventure, supernatural
Book I - Inception
Part 1 - Turning Point
Part 2 - Shadow's Core
PM Update List
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Book I - Inception
A wind rustled the trees of a large forest bordering a coastal city, towering buildings reaching high into the air. Twirling over the outlying houses, the wind squeezed between the towers, twisting through them in the maze of shining steel. As if with a sigh, the wind burst out of the buildings and into an area near the center of the city where the buildings didn’t rise as high, a campus of buildings low to the ground nested among the skyscrapers, cradled by the city around it.
The wind blew lower to the ground, low enough to touch the trees in a park enclosed between two semicircular buildings. The wind pushed the branches of the trees aside as it passed, causing them to wave to the people passing below. Crouched in the bushes, a girl with black hair looked up as the wind passed overhead, but the wind ignored her and carried on its journey. Coming upon a cylindrical building in the midst of the park, the wind split into two, sliding around the building’s smooth sides before rejoining on the other. As if by random the wind suddenly curved around and passed over the railing on the balcony that wrapped around the entirety of one of the semicircular buildings. Along the balcony the wind blew, over and around people who walked past, clutching papers tight so as not to have them blown away.
Ahead of the wind a door opened, an old man with half-moon spectacles and thinning, gray hair walking into the room with a stack of books held against his side. Turning abruptly, the wind streamed past the man, blowing into the room and over the tall, circular desks at which several teenagers sat on stools as they talked with friends, the din of the room quieting as the old man entered. After blowing through the short, brown hair of a boy who was paying more attention to a tablet PC in his lap than to the other people around him, the wind brushed up against a series of cages that lined the back of the room, a squat four-legged Pokémon with blue and cream-colored fur glancing at the air as if it could see the course of the wind as it blew past its cage.
Circling back through the room, the wind streamed back out through the door again just before the old man closed it, the wind dispersing into the air and fading away, the campus growing still and quiet. No storm clouds were visible in the distance, but a feeling of unease settled over the low buildings as if caused by the wind’s leave.
“It has been found at the location you gave us, sir.”
There was no wind in the dark chamber which the voice came from, only dead, stale air. Red lights ran along the walls and ceilings, casting a red tint on the two people who stood within, the dark barely allowing each to see who the other was. One of the men, taller than the other, nodded as he heard the news that the other had reported.
“Good, I expected the fool would keep it close. The time for us to begin our plans has come. I take it that our men are already being positioned for its capture?” the taller man spoke with a sharp yet refined voice, turning around from the other man and walking over to the wall across from the door, screens on the wall lighting up as he approached.
“Yes sir, they are. I will make sure all goes as you wish.”
The man staring at the screens on the wall grinned to himself. “Those men are to stand down.”
The other man seemed surprised. “Uh...sir?” was all he could respond with.
“I’ll make arrangements myself, do not bother with them.” The one next to the wall placed a hand on one of the screens, the screen responding to his touch as characters in a foreign language appeared and began scrolling across the displays.
“As you wish, sir.” The underling gave a salute to his superior that could not be seen.
The man next to the screens turned back around and walked over to the reporting man. “How is Iruel?” he asked, a hint of concern in his voice.
“Iruel?" The young man seemed uncertain, but quickly responded. "His body is deteriorating at a rapid rate and is very close to a complete failure. We are preparing for his treatment, and work on stabilizing his condition is continuing. In addition to his body, his mind is also deteriorating at a rapid rate, leaving him currently on the brink of insanity. I am sorry I do not have better news, sir.”
The man who was evidently in charge waved his right hand, dismissing the apology. “No, no, I am actually grateful he is in this state currently. He may be of use to me like this. I will be going to speak with him in a few minutes; please alert his caretakers.”
“Yes, sir.” Again a salute was given, which the other saw this time.
“You may go now,” the superior said as he turned back around, the other gladly taking the chance to leave the room. As the door closed, the tall man was left alone in the dark room.
Holding out a finger, the man smiled as a small flame appeared over its tip as if by magic, no source of the flame visible. The man stared into the flame as it hovered over his fingertip, dancing and waving in the slightest of breezes. For a few minutes the man stood there motionless, staring into the flame. At last he broke the silence, speaking only to himself.
“And so the fierce one emerges, the two flames burning brightly in this world once more. Again the cycle repeats, what has been and what will forever be starting again in its timeless cycle of rebirth and decay. But perhaps this cycle, progress can be made.” The man grinned, the small fire above his finger disappearing in a wisp of smoke, curling through the air as he idly thought.
~End of Prologue~
February 7th, 2009 (2:54 PM). Edited May 14th, 2009 by Shrike Flamestar.
We live in a world of hopes and desires. A world of dreams and their dreamers, every individual soul carrying in their heart some great goal that they wish to achieve, unable to be truly happy until they reach that goal. People build their lives around this concept, identifying what they believe to be their own desire and focusing their entire life, their very existence around building a stable platform to stand on so that one day they can reach out and pluck their dream out of the sky.
All who do so are doomed to failure. So often what we believe is our true desire is but a fake dream we ourselves create to hide the truth behind. When this fake dream is finally attained, nothing changes. The person realizes that the happiness they sought for so long is naught but a lie. The platform they had so carefully assembled out of their lives comes crashing down around them, plunging the once dreamer into a life of despair. They finally admit that the dream they had shaped their entire life around had been false, but by that point it is too late for them to try to find a path towards the truth. All too often people die without so much as even knowing what it had been they wanted their entire life.
Today I start down a new path. Is it the path towards true happiness for me, or a fake I conjured to allude myself? I cannot tell, not until the day it is all over. Destiny has me firmly in her grasp, and even if I do not wish to take the risk that lies along this path, it is useless for me to resist. As I am dragged onwards towards my fate, I must compose myself and greet the new day with a smile. I will play this game and follow the path if only because I have no other choice, but all the while doubt will sit in my heart, asking me just one question.
Is this my true fate?
The Flamestar Chronicles
Part 1 - Turning Point
The main campus of the Rustboro Pokémon Academy sat quietly within the shining example of modern architecture and technology that was Rustboro city. Taillow hopped blissfully between branches of the trees that filled the park between twin semicircular buildings, facing each other on either side. A handful of students who had got out of class early or didn't have any at this time wandered the crisscrossing pathways that filled the park, most of the paths emanating from the cylindrical building at the park's center like spokes.
Hidden amid some carefully trimmed bushes a girl sat on the ground, her legs clothed in black pants crossed beneath her. Her eyes were closed as she concentrated as if in deep meditation, but suddenly she opened them and stared up at the sky with olive green eyes, clutching at a silver ring embedded with a blue gem that hung on a chain around her neck. Sitting next to her on the ground, a white-furred Pokémon growled deeply in its throat, attracting the attention of a girl and boy who were walking past. Dismissing the noise they continued walking, the girl hidden amid the bushes waiting until they were gone before muttering quietly, “What is this...?”
Unaware of any disturbance that the girl may have felt, a boy sat quietly in one of the classrooms of the southern building, a slate-like tablet PC with a large screen sitting on his lap as his fingers flew over a virtual keyboard on the screen. “Is this my true fate?” the boy quietly mused to himself. “Yeah, that's a real hooker right there. I'll be sure to get people's attention with this opener...”
“Yes, you will indeed get people's attention by not paying attention in class, Shrike Flamestar,” an old man dolefully droned as he peered over Shrike's shoulder and into his lap. Running his long, wrinkled fingers through his thinning gray hair, he shook his head. “Have you paid even one modicum of attention to my class today, Flamestar?”
Shrike sighed as he lifted the tablet out of his lap and set it on the table he was seated at, within the raised walls that surrounded its edge. Sitting on the table a small, squat Pokémon turned to look at the computer with squinted eyes. Walking over on stubby legs, the Pokémon prodded the computer curiously with its long snout. Shrike smiled and stroked his fingers through the blue fur that covered the Pokemon's back, not bothering with turning to look at the old man as he responded, “I haven't needed to. Today you gave us free time to finish our projects. I was listening before that, but there was nothing to pay attention to now.”
The old man narrowed his eyes, pushing his half-moon glasses farther up his nose. “Since you are evidently not working on your project I can assume you're done, then?” Reaching into his pocket, the professor pulled out a small memory card and handed it to Shrike, the label on it reading “Professor M. Jura: Pokémon Behavioral Habit Observations.”
“Sure, no problem,” Shrike smiled as he slid the card into a slot on his tablet, propping it up using the hard plastic cover that could also fold over to protect the screen. The Pokémon sitting on the table watched curiously as Shrike tapped at the minimize button on the window with the story he had been working on, exposing a spreadsheet titled “Observations on the Behavioral Habits of a Cyndaquil Under Human Care” behind it. Glancing over the data it contained one final time, Shrike nodded as he saved another copy of it to the memory card, waiting until the operation was complete before ejecting the card and handing it back to Professor Jura.
“Very well,” Jura muttered as he took the card back and returned it to his pocket. Pointing to a listing of textbook page numbers and question numbers on the whiteboard at the front of the classroom, he continued with his antagonizing of Shrike. “Now then, what about those problems? Have you completed them as well?”
Shrike faltered as he glanced at the list of questions, messing up his short brown hair as rubbed the back of his head nervously and fixed the position of his own glasses. “Eh, well, uh... You see...”
Bastard, those weren't there before... Shrike thought, refraining from voicing his opinion of the Professor out loud. Of course, even if he did, only Jura himself would care while the rest of the class would probably just laugh. Jura was widely regarded as the one of the strictest teachers at the Rustboro Pokémon Academy, and probably the most mysterious while he was at it. None of the students at the Academy even knew if he had a wife or family, although the general consensus among them was that no woman would be insane enough so as to want to marry him.
“Those are the homework problems, due tomorrow. I suggest you take note of them and start cleaning up; class is almost over.” Finished with Shrike at last, Jura turned around and walked back to his desk at the front of the room, sitting down while keeping an eye on Shrike.
After glancing at the clock, Shrike realized just how close to the end of class it was. Looking back down over the classroom he noticed that most of the other students had already finished packing up, standing about and talking as they waited for class to officially end. Quickly Shrike jotted the assigned homework problems down in a text document on his computer before putting it in sleep mode. Flipping the cover about and snapping it closed over the screen, he thrust it into his backpack that sat open on the floor beside the table.
Shrike slid off his stool and hoisted his backpack off the ground, closing the open pocket as he slung it over his shoulders and stretched his arms out. Turning to the Cyndaquil who sat on the table while watching the human pack up, Shrike nodded as he reached out to pick him up. “Come on, time to go back now.” Shrike smiled as he scooped the small Pokémon up in his arms, it rolling about to a more comfortable position as it squeaked sadly, apparently recognizing that they had to part now. Leaning its head against Shrike's chest, the Cyndaquil yawned tiredly.
“Now now, while I'd like to be able to take care of you more, it's against the rules. Hey, maybe we can see each other again sometime, though,” Shrike said to the Cyndaquil as he walked over to the wall of cages that filled the back of the room, all of various sizes. All the other groups had returned their Pokémon already, the various species sitting atop the blanket-covered boards that sat on the bottom of the cages, bowls of food and water supplied for them as well. Shrike didn't like the concept of keeping the Pokémon in cages such as these, but he knew that it was just a temporary location and that after the class had vacated they would be moved to the various habitats that the Academy kept for their Pokémon to live in.
Of course, that presented a problem with Shrike's suggestion that he and the Cyndaquil he had been looking after for a week could see each other again. Students were expressly forbid from visiting the habitats, as the Academy didn't want any specific student and Pokémon to get too close to each other; the week-long project had already pushed it enough for them, Shrike was sure they'd never grant any request of his to see this specific Cyndaquil no matter how much he asked. Keeping the truth to himself, Shrike shifted the Cyndaquil to hold it with one arm while he undid the latch on the cage labeled for its use, swinging the door open and setting the Pokémon down on the bed of blankets inside. Before he swung the door closed again, Shrike stroked the coarse fur on the Cyndaquil's back one more time, a cough behind him reminding Shrike that Jura was watching and didn't approve of the act of kindness.
He's just jealous... Shrike thought to himself as he chuckled slightly, closing the cage door and waving at the Cyndaquil for the final time as he turned around, ignoring the gaze Jura was keeping on him over his reading glasses from behind the desk he sat at. Briskly Shrike made his way through the crowd of other students gathered around the door, the bell ringing just as he broke through the front of the crowd. Not giving a single glance back at either Jura or the Cyndaquil, Shrike walked out the door and off to the side before the mad dash for freedom the other students made could trample him.
Shrike looked around the balcony he had exited onto on the third floor of the Rustboro Pokémon Academy's main academic building. Most of the classrooms in the semicircular building exited directly onto the balconies, the interior rooms reserved for faculty and private use. The matching dormitory building across the park was arranged similarly, with most of the rooms exiting onto the covered balconies. While the design had been a little strange to him at first, Shrike had gotten used to it in time and now even enjoyed the more natural feel it gave to the Academy.
Walking over to the railing that enclosed the balcony, Shrike leaned against it and looked out at the park below, his eyes drawn to the monolithic black cylinder that rose from the ground at its middle: the school's battle center. It was where classes on Pokémon battle strategies were taught, as well as where upperclassmen were allowed to freely have practice battles. While Shrike was only a sophomore and unable to battle on his own without approval from one of his professors, he still enjoyed hanging out there and watching other students fight. He had a break period before his next class, so as he looked at over the main part of campus Shrike tried to decide what he wanted to do in his free time.
“Hey, Shrike. Get over here.”
Shrike turned around to look for where the voice was coming from, his brown eyes coming to rest on a small alcove set into the wall of the building. Leaning against the wall inside the alcove was a girl wearing black pants and a plain black camisole that fit her tightly, a ring on a chain around her neck resting against her breast. As she watched Shrike with her olive green eyes, the boy shook his head. “I'm not your slave, Rayne, despite what you may have thought with this project. If you want to talk to me, you can come over here.”
“Tch...” Rayne gave in despite her inner objections and walked over to Shrike, leaning against the rail next to him while he turned back around to overlook the campus again. “Look, I appreciate you covering for me with the Cyndaquil stuff. It's not like you had anyone else to work with anyways, nor did I.”
“It's that whole work part that's the problem,” Shrike remarked. “You did absolutely nothing, just leaving it all for me. Do you think that just because you're a loner and skip classes whenever you want and yet somehow still manage to get good grades, that means you're entitled to not have to do anything you don't want to do?”
“Okay okay, I'm sorry,” Rayne sighed, shaking her head and waving her long black hair about. “Look, I have my reasons, I just can't tell you... This isn't what I wanted to talk about anyway.”
“Then explain, and quickly. I think I've just about decided where I want to be right now.” As if to demonstrate, Shrike pointed a finger at the battle center before moving it the dorms, bouncing it back and forth thoughtfully.
“Something is happening... I'm not sure what, but...I've been feeling something,” Rayne quietly uttered as she looked about at the sky.
“So you're psychic now, huh? Well then, on that note I've made up my mind. Battle center it is,” Shrike remarked agitatedly as he spun around to leave, Rayne quickly running to block off his path before he could get away.
“Please, you're the only person who will listen to me, ever,” Rayne pleaded. “I know you're angry but just give me one minute!”
Shrike sighed and shook his head. “One minute.”
“I'm not psychic, I didn't say that,” Rayne went on to explain. “There's just been this...feeling. Something queasy nagging at me for the past few hours. My gut's telling me that something big's gonna happen. And I don't know why, but...something seems familiar about it.”
“I thought you couldn't remember anything before coming here?” Shrike asked while cocking his head. It was true; one of the more curious things about Rayne was that she had no memory of her life prior to studying at the Pokémon Academy. How she was even enrolled was a secret that the administration wasn't willing to divulge, but common thought believed that one of the more important members of the staff must have been involved, likely paying her tuition themselves.
“Right,” Rayne confirmed. “First thing I can remember is waking up here, in the infirmary. But still...maybe I'm starting to remember something.”
“Well regardless, you should probably go lie down or see the nurse, or both. You may be coming down with something,” Shrike suggested.
“I don't feel...” Before Rayne could continue, she trailed off as something behind Shrike caught her eye. “What are they doing?”
“Huh?” Shrike questioned as he turned around to look.
All the students and Professor Jura had by now left the room Shrike had just come out of, yet two oddly dressed men emerged from the classroom and turned to walk down the balcony past Shrike and Rayne. The taller of the two's odd choice of clothes—a long black robe with hood down and a gold chain tucked into the robe around his neck—was curious enough, but what attracted the most attention was what the hunched over short man was carrying. Clutched in his hand by the scruff of its neck the shorter of the two held a Cyndaquil as it thrashed about and tried to free itself, flames sputtering from its back but seeming to not even hurt the man as he dug his claw-like fingers into the loose skin of the scruff.
“Hey, what are you doing with that Cyndaquil?” Shrike asked boldly as he stepped in their path and confronted the pair. “Who are you guys?”
The taller man looked down at me with piercing red eyes that matched his slicked down, flame-red hair. “Who am I?” the man pondered. “The answer to that question depends on who you are.”
“Shrike Flamestar, sophomore,” Shrike said, having no reason to hide his identity. “You're not from here, are you?”
“No, we are not. We solely came to pick up what is rightfully ours,” the man gestured to the Cyndaquil as he said it, “and that is all. Since you have told me your name, I will tell you mine. I am Zelos, and my companion here...you may call him Ramirez. If you will excuse us, we shall be leaving now.”
“Wait, that Cyndaquil doesn't belong to you though, does it?” Shrike held out a hand to stop them before they could leave, the situation just not adding up in his mind. “I mean, it doesn't seem too happy.”
Zelos was visibly agitated at Shrike's second interruption. Taking advantage of his master's silence, the short, stocky Ramirez scuttled over to Shrike, the loose gray rags he was clothed in flowing about him as he stopped next to Shrike. Sticking his wrinkled face up into Shrike's, his skin seeming as if it was too tight and would fall straight off at any moment, the odd man hissed, “Ah... The boy cares about this creature's comforts, no?”
Forced to stare into Ramirez's face, Shrike suddenly stumbled back against the railing as he noticed something odd about the man's strikingly gold eyes: their pupils were narrow vertical slits, like those of a cat or snake. As Shrike composed himself again, Ramirez laughed at the startled boy in an odd, wheezing manner before Zelos shook his head and held out an arm in front of the laughing man. “Do not bother the boy, Ramirez. He has done nothing to deserve it,” Zelos barked. Turning to address Shrike, Zelos continued, “I apologize for my companion. He is...unlike us. Certain birth defects have left his mind and body distorted; indeed, you would likely call him mentally disabled. Despite this, he is an invaluable ally of mine.”
“Sorry, I was just surprised...” Shrike muttered, but as he did so he noticed the Cyndaquil that Ramirez was holding open its eyes, looking about frantically until its gaze came to settle on Shrike. Suddenly yelping and squealing, the Cyndaquil cried as it tried to stretch out a paw towards the boy, pleading for help. Shrike's eyes widened as he saw the Cyndaquil recognize him, the realization suddenly coming to him. “Hey! That Cyndaquil belongs to the school!” Shrike exclaimed. “I recognize it now! You can't just take it like this!”
Zelos smirked, causing Shrike to falter. This isn't the part where they try to kill me for calling them out, is it? Shrike wondered.
“I see... Ramirez,” Zelos simply said.
The odd man whose sanity was questionable giggled as he reached into his rag-like clothes, pulling out a slender pocketknife which he flicked open. Seeming almost eager about the situation, he pressed the edge of the blade up against the Cyndaquil's neck, the Pokemon's eyes going wide as it began to breathe heavily. Shrike yelped and edged away from the now evidently crazy man, his body freezing up out of indecisiveness as he kept his eyes fixated on the steel blade, working through the different options available to him in his mind. Before his very eyes the Cyndaquil he had cared for this past week was being tortured and if nothing were to happen soon, if Ramirez made just one small twitch of the blade, it could all be over for the innocent Pokémon. All around the balcony, the people who had stopped to watch what was happening began to scatter, fleeing from the scene in the worry that a fight would break out. Even Rayne seemed to have disappeared somewhere, leaving Shrike alone with the two men.
“You recognized this specific Pokémon. It has no obvious identifying marks, so something deeper must have formed between the two of you,” Zelos remarked snidely. “You care for it, so you don't want it to be hurt, right?”
“Just...who are you? Why are you doing this? There's no point... Please, just let him go,” Shrike gasped as his heart beat fast. In a way, it felt like it was him who had the knife to his neck, as if he was the one useless to defend himself.
“Who I am beyond the name Zelos is none of your concern,” Zelos proclaimed. “Rest assured though, that for salvation to dawn on this world my actions are vital. Darkness has enveloped all, and I will be instrumental in the return of light.” It was as if Zelos was a preacher, his zealous talk about salvation having a crazed, obsessive edge to it. Zelos continued however, before Shrike could interject, “To that end sacrifices must be made, this Cyndaquil being one of them.”
Shrike gritted his teeth; he could tell that Zelos had absolutely no compassion for the Cyndaquil he cared so much for. They had only spent a week together but that had been more than enough to make Shrike feel as if, in some way, the Cyndaquil was his responsibility even after the project was over. “What the hell are you talking about?!” Shrike exclaimed. “This Cyndaquil has done nothing! It's the people like you who go around stealing and murdering that make the problems we face today! The innocent have got nothing to do with it!” Zelos was certainly managing to work up Shrike's anger, however he still remained rooted firmly to the ground, unable to do anything but shout at the two men due to his own indecisiveness. No matter what plan Shrike came up with, he could only see the ways in which Zelos and Ramirez could prevail in the end, his fear preventing him from taking any chance that could lead to harm towards the Cyndaquil.
“It is evident that you know nothing about the truth, much like all others who live in this world. You will never understand, and so it is pointless for me to waste my time here any long.” Zelos motioned Ramirez and again they began to walk away, but Shrike simply couldn't let that happen. He didn't have a plan nor any idea of what he could do at all, but the one thing he knew for certain was that if they were to get away now, he would never see the Cyndaquil again and would have failed not only himself, but the Cyndaquil who had cried out for his help. Whatever the case, Shrike knew he couldn't let the two men escape with the Cyndaquil.
“No, you won't...” he muttered, hesitantly stepping forward as he clenched his fists. Glaring at the two men as they stopped, Shrike let out a roar, “I won't let you!”
“Oh?” Zelos looked amused at Shrike's display of courage and smiled. “Do you intent to fight us? You do not look the part of a fighter. Besides, we have got the upper hand here.”
Zelos snapped his fingers, signaling for Ramirez who gleefully began to press his knife into the Cyndaquil's neck, a red line appearing as the cold steel bit into the soft flesh and drew blood. The Pokémon whimpered helplessly, looking to Shrike and silently pleading for help again. Unfortunately, the flare of enthusiasm that had sparked within the boy was all but lost as he saw the sight of the knife cutting into the neck, blood flowing out from around it. His teeth gritted together in anger, Shrike knew that while the wound was small now, acting recklessly would only cause it to worsen until the point where the Cyndaquil he longed to save could no longer be rescued.
“So what now, hero? Will you continue your foolish efforts that can only result in death, or will you retreat and let the Pokémon you care for live to see another day?” Zelos mocked. “The choice seems clear.”
“I...I don't know...” Shrike stuttered, feeling as if the world was falling apart around him. He had no idea what to do; he couldn't just let them get away with the Cyndaquil, but how could he save it before it was killed?
“Oh come on, I thought you were better than that. Consider this my dues for not helping with the project!”
Someone suddenly ran past Shrike, leaping at Ramirez and sending the two collapsing to the ground in a pile of rags. The pocketknife that had been up against the Cyndaquil's throat moments earlier went flying through the air in an arc before hitting the ground well away from the action, scattering across the floor before coming to rest near the wall. Not paying attention to it or anything else, all Shrike could focus on was who had come to help him.
“Rayne...!” Shrike gasped breathlessly, surprised that she had come back; she must have just run off to tell the administration about the encounter.
“Don't just stand there!” she shouted as she struggled to keep Ramirez down, the crazed man thrashing about as he tried to throw her off him. “Grab the Cyndaquil already!”
Realizing that Ramirez had also dropped the helpless Pokémon, Shrike looked around frantically for where it had fallen only to find it sitting on the ground next to Zelos, too dazed to move on its own. Before Shrike could move to grab him, however, Zelos reached down and grabbed the Cyndaquil himself, lifting it back up by the scruff again. Shrike cursed under his breath and bit his tongue as Zelos proceeded to pull a gold-handled dagger out of the sleeve of his robe, pressing the blade up against the same cut Ramirez had started. Zelos smirked wickedly at Shrike as he pressed the blade in farther, both deepening and widening the wound. Shrike's mouth gaped open as he stood motionless, unable to do anything to stop the cruel man from digging even deeper into the Cyndaquil's neck, blood starting to flow down the Pokemon's cream-colored chest as it passed out and lost consciousness.
Off to the side Rayne grunted as she saw out of the corner of her eye what Zelos was doing, but in doing so Ramirez almost managed to overthrow her, forcing Rayne to return her focus solely to restraining Ramirez lest he go after Shrike or otherwise assist Zelos now. Come on... Rayne thought as she gritted her teeth. Do something, Shrike... You have no other choice; get over your worries...
Zelos smirked as the blade of his dagger almost entirely buried itself into the Cyndaquil's blood-stained flesh and fur. “Are you just going to let me kill this Cyndaquil that you care so much for, without even attempting to save its life? It means nothing to me, I'll kill it in a heartbeat if you back down now. Then again, I'll kill it if you attack me carelessly,” Zelos mocked. “So what will it be? Will you attack me like your friend would and try to save its life, or stand there like a fool and watch this pitiful creature's existence be erased from this world? Come on, come on!” Zelos' voice began to elevate as he worked himself up, a fire seeming to rage in his red eyes. “If you truly cared you would try to take this Pokémon away from me but you are disappointing in that regard, Shrike Flamestar!”
“St...stop it...” Shrike stammered, watching helplessly with his whole body shaking as the knife inched deeper into the Cyndaquil's throat. If anyone was to interrupt the Pokemon's execution it would be Shrike and only him, but as he watched in horror all his mind could focus on was the image of the knife slicing deep into the Cyndaquil's throat, blood spurting out around it and dying the Pokemon's chest a crimson red. A moment of silence passed in which all the world around Shrike seemed to dissolve, filled only with the images of the Cyndaquil's suffering that he was helpless to stop.
The silence was finally broken by a loud scream from the Cyndaquil as the blade seemed to disappear entirely within its neck. Its raspy voice dropped lower as it began to pant and squeal, gasping for breath, all while its fur began to turn pale from the loss of blood. Beneath Zelos a sickening puddle was forming from the blood that flowed down from the Cyndaquil's neck, the vital liquid draining from the Pokemon's body. Shrike's eyes widened as the Cyndaquil weakly looked over at him, fear in both of their eyes. In the moment that the two stares met, something seemed to pass between human and Pokémon, a tight bond forming between the two in the blink of an eye. Silently they each passed a vow, swearing to always protect the other's life no matter the cost. As if responding to Shrike's resolution, a pulse beat from deep within his being and he felt as part of his soul that he hadn't even known was there before awoke, a new feeling of inner strength washing over his body and taking with it all his doubt and fear, rejuvenating him with renewed courage and determination.
“Let him go!” Shrike roared as he charged at Zelos. The cruel man was taller and bigger than Shrike, however the determined youth's attack took the older man by surprise. With newfound strength, Shrike grabbed the arm that Zelos held his dagger with and began to pull it away from the Cyndaquil, prying the blade loose from the neck it was embedded in. Zelos resisted Shrike, yet somehow the boy managed to slowly draw the blade of the knife out farther, the downside to this being the increased blood flow that sprung from the wound. Zelos growled at Shrike but was unable to counter his assault, his efforts to resist failing. Finally the blade slid free of the Cyndaquil's neck, but Shrike knew he had to quickly free the Pokémon as well and tend to the wound as well he could.
Growling in rage and with all reason thrown to the wind, Shrike curled his free hand into a fist, pulling it back and punching Zelos in the gut as hard as he could. While he was doubtful of how much actual force was behind the punch, the rage-fueled attack managed to knock the wind out of Zelos nonetheless. Zelos staggered back and fell down in a daze, Shrike quickly letting go of his arm so that he wouldn't be dragged down with him. As Zelos fell, both the dagger and Cyndaquil fell from his hands, the former grazing across Shrike's arm and drawing a thin line of blood that, compared to the Cyndaquil, Shrike was sure he could survive. Paying more attention to the Pokémon than his own body Shrike quickly caught it before it hit the ground, cradling the Cyndaquil's limp form in his arms.
Off to the side, Ramirez had finally managed to knock Rayne off him while she had been distracted by Shrike's assault on Zelos. As they both stumbled backwards, Rayne ducked down and grabbed the pocketknife that had fallen to the floor while Ramirez pulled another out of his robes. Rayne narrowed her eyes as she held the tiny knife out in front of her, the scene looking like the two of them were about to duel with three inch-long swords. “Get out of here!” Rayne yelled over to Shrike. “Our infirmary isn't suited for this severe an injury; go to the Pokémon Center down the road!” Just as she finished saying it, Ramirez suddenly made a charge at Rayne, the girl dodging out of the way of the attack and countering with a swing from her own knife that landed a hit on the ragged man's arm.
Wordlessly, Shrike nodded and turned in the direction of the nearest staircase, running down the balcony away from the fight. Shrike worriedly glanced down at the Cyndaquil in his arms who had begun to blindly bat at the air with its paws, believing Shrike to be Zelos still. Noticing just how severe the wound was, Shrike bit his lip and held back some vomit, knowing that he had to do something now to at least ease the blood flow which didn't seem to be stopping or even slowing down. As Shrike looked around for someplace safe to duck into, all sound but that of the Cyndaquil's forced, shallow breathing disappeared to him; he knew that so long as he heard that one sound, all could work out fine.
Off to the side, Shrike saw a hallway that led off to some of the inner rooms, quickly ducking into it and collapsing against the wall as he threw his backpack to the side. Carefully, Shrike laid the Cyndaquil in his lap, noticing that both of his own arms were now caked with blood. Not paying attention to it, Shrike mentally took stock of what he had available to him that he could use to help the Cyndaquil. Getting an idea, he kicked off one of his shoes and pulled off the sock, stretching it out before wrapping it around the Cyndaquil's neck and tying it off like a makeshift bandage, ensuring that it wasn't so tight it would cut off the Pokémon's breathing. Almost immediately the sock was soaked completely through by blood, but it would at least still help staunch the flow even if it wasn't neat.
Kicking his other shoe off, Shrike took that sock and tied it around the injury he had received to his own arm. He would have liked to ignore it, but it had begun to drip blood and was apparently worse than he wanted to admit. As he slid the shoes back on, Shrike pulled open his backpack and dug around for something, finding a partial bottle of soda that he had thrown inside it earlier after lunch. Pulling the bottle out, Shrike twisted the cap open and held it up to the Cyndaquil's mouth. “Hope you like soda,” he whispered before tipping the bottle slightly, letting the brown liquid flow into the weak Pokemon's parched mouth. Fortunately, the Cyndaquil managed to swallow the liquid, relieving Shrike greatly. Gently he continued to pour it into the Pokemon's mouth until it was almost all gone, Shrike downing the rest himself and tossing the empty bottle in his backpack. Picking the Cyndaquil back up in his arms, Shrike stood up while pulling his backpack on again, shifting the Pokemon's weight slightly as he did so. As Shrike prepared to carry on towards the Pokémon Center, the Cyndaquil's eyes cracked open slightly and stared up at its savior. Noticing this, Shrike smiled down at the Pokémon who weakly smiled back at him, Shrike stroked its head quickly before turning to face the exit out of the hallway.
“I's found you!”
Yelling in surprise, Shrike fell backwards as he saw Ramirez appear from around the corner, staring wickedly at the boy who was doing his best to shield the Cyndaquil with his arms. Cackling, Ramirez produced two more knives from his rags, holding one in each hand as he approached Shrike.
How many of those damn things does he have?! Shrike thought, trying to take his mind off of his imminent demise; nothing he thought of could get Shrike out of this situation.
“Ramirez! Let him be,” Zelos' voice suddenly shouted out. “Staying here any longer would jeopardize everything, and as such I am afraid we need to retreat.”
With a reluctant hiss, Ramirez retracted the blades of his knives and thrust them back into the pockets in his rags. Angrily he turned and scurried away from Shrike, disappearing out of the darkened hallway as Zelos appeared in his place, surrounded by a halo of light from the glare of the sun behind him. The man looked down at Shrike with pure hatred in his eyes, the cowering boy at least satisfied in noticing that Zelos was clutching his stomach where he had been punched.
“I am sparing you for now,” Zelos said, his voice filled with pure, barely controlled fury. “A murder would attract too much unwanted attention, and I cannot have that for all to proceed as is planned. However, if you ever get in the way of my plans again, I will not hesitate to kill you.” With that Zelos turned around and ran off down the empty balcony which was still clear of bystanders as Ramirez trailed behind him like a dog.
Rayne was next to appear, bending down and holding out a hand to help Shrike up. “Come on, get up and let them go. You hold a more pressing matter right there in your arms.” Glad for her help, Shrike held the Cyndaquil with one arm as he grabbed Rayne's hand, the girl helping to hoist him to his feet. “I'll stay here,” Rayne nodded sternly. “The higher-ups will want someone to question, that's for sure. Let me deal with the interrogations, you just need to get that Cyndaquil to the Pokémon Center.”
“Right,” Shrike nodded in return, knowing that time was short now. How much longer the Cyndaquil could hold on he had no idea, but that it was able to last this long was either a miracle or some kind of sign. Not wasting any more time Shrike sprinted off down the balcony, praying all the while that the Cyndaquil who lay sleeping in restless, fitful sleep in his arms would hold out just a little longer.
~End of Chapter 1~
And so that's that, the start of the story that I've been advertising in my sig as coming soon for more than half a year now. <_< For Serebii I compiled a list of changes compared to the old version, so I figure I might as well put that here in spoilers. I'll do the same for every chapter if you're interested. I don't give away anything too blatant in this list, but if you want to be pure and not see even the slightest of spoilers even if it's just a name or so, don't look:
As is obvious for those who read my other fic, TRINITY, I can take a long time to write chapters. It's my hope though that I can shorten that now, especially since at the start of TFC the chapters aren't all that long. Two or more chapters per month? Maybe, we'll see. And hope...
February 9th, 2009 (6:28 PM).
My review for TFC…
The prologue seems to be okay, but with me getting over being sick, I may have missed something.
Correction made in bold.
Apart from these grammatical errors, the fic (given that I’ve read the original) still intrigues me. The prologue has been defined in a much better way and Chapter 1 is like a ball being kicked… in other words, it pulled me in right from the word go. Will Shrike and his two travelling companions be capturing the same Pokémon or will they obtain different partners? All in all, and I know that this is a generic statement, but keep up the good work.
Oh, and please put me on the PM List. Thanks in advance.
Credit goes to Sgt Shock for my signature and avatar
February 13th, 2009 (1:44 PM).
(Repost of reply which was lost in the hard drive crash. Good thing I save these and only overwrite when I make a new reply!)
Anyways, thanks for reading and commenting, and helping point out my typos... I don't think I'll ever get to a point where I won't have any, period
February 19th, 2009 (7:23 PM). Edited June 1st, 2009 by Shrike Flamestar.
The sound of a clock quietly ticking away was the only noise that could be heard in the circular waiting room of the Pokémon Center. Shaped like a Poké Ball, the clock hung on the wall over the building's entrance door, the clear glass that the entire front half of the room was made of allowing all inside to see a boy running up to the Pokémon Center as if his life depended on it. Setting down the magazine she had been reading, a nurse sitting behind the reception desk looked up as Shrike squeezed his way through the sliding doors from the sidewalk-lined street that the building faced. The silence of the waiting room broken, Shrike jogged over to the reception desk as he held an unconscious Cyndaquil in his arms, his legs looking and feeling like they were going to give out at any moment.
“May I help you?” the pink-haired nurse asked as she idly flipped through some papers on her desk to give the impression that she was actually working.
“This Cyndaquil, it...it was...” Shrike gasped, struggling to breathe, much less talk. Pausing for a moment, Shrike gathered his breath as best he could as he worked over in his mind how best to explain the situation. “There was an attack by someone,” Shrike began to explain. “At the Pokémon Academy. This Cyndaquil was badly hurt in it... Please, you have to help him!” Shrike pleaded as he shifted the Pokemon's weight slightly in his tired arms. As he did so, a pool of blood that had welled up in his arms spilled down to the ground, splattering over the immaculate white tiles and seeping into the cracks between them.
“Oh!” the nurse exclaimed as the blood splashed to the ground. Jumping out of her chair, she pressed a button on an intercom and quickly spoke into it, “Chansey, there's a Cyndaquil here who needs treatment in the emergency room immediately!”
Not a minute after the nurse had finished talking into the intercom, the doors behind the reception desk slid open. Through the doors a squat, egg-shaped Pokémon only slightly taller than Shrike's waist waddled through, pushing a small stretcher along that was almost as tall as itself. Uttering a cry, the Chansey looked up at Shrike while pointing to the stretcher with a stubby arm, its incomprehensible voice carrying an urgent tone that even Shrike could understand. Understanding what it wanted him to do, Shrike carefully walked over to the stretcher while avoiding the blood that had been spilled, bending down to gently lay the Cyndaquil on the thin mattress while being careful so as not to move its head more than needed.
As he laid the Cyndaquil down, more blood spilled onto the floor and stretcher, the sock Shrike had tied around the Pokémon's wound barely seeming to restrict blood flow anymore. Shrike stepped back from the stretcher as he looked down at the Cyndaquil mournfully, the small Pokémon looking even worse than it had seemed before as it lay helplessly, the only sign that it was still alive being that its blood was still flowing. Shrike didn't want to let the Cyndaquil out of his sight but was unable to do anything but stand there as the Chansey ran around to the other side of the stretcher and rolled it back through the doors as they slid shut, Shrike hoping that this wouldn't be the last time he'd see the Cyndaquil.
Shrike bit his lip as he turned around and shook his head, getting the thought out of his mind. It'd be fine, he knew it would. If it had been able to withstand as much harm as Zelos and Ramirez had inflicted to it, surely the Cyndaquil could live this out. Knowing that the situation was now out of his hands Shrike looked down at his own self. Cyndaquil blood had caked his arms, his own wound leaking rivulets of blood from beneath the makeshift sock bandage that mixed in with the foreign blood on his arms. The shirt he was wearing was now completely ruined, blood coating its entire front where the Cyndaquil had been pressed up against. Even Shrike's denim jeans had some blood on them as the result of dripping from his arms and shirt. “Do you have a restroom I can use to clean up?” Shrike tiredly asked the nurse.
“Yes, but before that I need to get some information from you,” she said as sat back down at the desk and turned to her computer.
Is it a sin to want to wash some blood off...? Shrike thought bitterly before responding to the nurse with, “Fine, whatever.”
“First, is that Cyndaquil yours? Are you a Pokémon Trainer?” she asked.
“No, to both of them,” Shrike answered as he shook his head. “The Cyndaquil belongs to the Academy, and I'm just a student there.”
Typing away at her computer to log Shrike's answers, the nurse nodded slowly before continuing, “Okay, than can I see your student ID card?”
Shrike dug through his pocket, finding it hard to move suddenly as the soreness from running all the way to the Pokémon Center set in. Ignoring it, he pulled out his wallet and flipped it open, sliding his student ID card out of its slot and placing it on the desk. “There,” Shrike said simply.
The nurse took the card and swiped it through a card reader set into the desk before handing it back to Shrike. “Okay then, Mr...Flamestar,” she uttered his name as if she was unsure it was right, Shrike sighing slightly as his shoulders sagged. The nurse continued on though, going on to say, “I'm going to need a full report of what happened to cause this injury.”
“Do I have to...?” Shrike asked, not wanting to even think about what had happened, much less recount it.
“We need to know for official records,” the nurse explained. “We also need to ensure that your story correlates with the one the Pokémon Academy releases, otherwise you could be charged a medical bill for this incident.”
Well that's nice; I don't think Trainers get billed if their story doesn't check out... I don't think they need a story at all, actually, Shrike thought to himself before giving in and explaining the situation to the nurse, “Well, I had just come out of my General Pokémon Studies class, taught by the infamous Professor Jura. I was talking to this girl Rayne who I guess you could say is a friend, when this odd guy calling himself Zelos showed up with this insane guy Ramirez...”
Continuing on, Shrike went over the rest of what had happened with the nurse, trying to block it out of his own thoughts as he did. As he wrapped it up, the nurse sighed and slowly shook her head. “That's quite a story...” For a moment Shrike thought that she didn't believe him, but as she continued he relaxed. “It's a shame these kinds of people are still around, and to bring their crimes into a place of education... Well, I guess that's all for now. The washrooms are over there if you want to clean off that blood,” the nurse pointed to a small corridor on the waiting room's back wall, “you should also be able to find some real bandages for your own cut.”
“Thank you,” Shrike gratefully replied. “Please, just...don't let him die.” As Shrike turned around, a thought came to him as he wondered what he would do now. Turning back slightly, he asked the nurse, “Hey, I know he's not my Pokémon but would you mind if I waited here until I can see him?”
The nurse blinked curiously, a slight smile coming to her lips as she worked out the connection between the boy and Pokémon. “Sure. I can't promise that it'll be anytime soon, though; it may take hours for him to stabilize after surgery has been completed. It may not even be tonight with how bad his condition is.”
“That's fine,” Shrike said, determination to see this through in his voice. “I'll wait as long as I have to.”
Before Shrike could continue to the bathroom, the nurse suddenly interrupted him with her own question, “Oh, hey, wait. Mind if I ask you something?”
“Sure...” Shrike answered hesitantly, having an idea of what it would be.
“Um, Shrike Flamestar... Is that your real name? It's kind of...” the nurse seemed hesitant to say anymore in case she would offend Shrike, but meekly finished, “eccentric.”
“Yeah, I know...” Shrike mumbled, as he hung his head and tightly grabbed his arm on the injured spot. “It's kind of weird, and I don't really like talking about why I did it...”
“Okay, okay,” the nurse waved slightly as she dismissed her question, realizing that it was a touchy subject. “I don't want to be pushy or anything.”
“Don't worry, it's not your fault...” Shrike shook his head as he turned around. “I'd probably be more open if that Cyndaquil wasn't dying as we speak...”
Silence filled the entry foyer of the Pokémon Center again as the nurse relaxed back in her chair, eyes following Shrike as he slowly shuffled his way to the bathroom. Throwing open the door angrily, Shrike stepped inside the small, single-person room before latching the door behind him. Immediately he leaped at the faucet and turned the cold water on, throwing his glasses on a small shelf off to the side before splashing the bitterly cold water into his face. Pressing his head into his hands, Shrike drew his fingers up through his hair before repeating the process and splashing his face with water again. It felt like needles were piercing all over his face as he tried desperately to wake himself up, continuing to splash more and more of the icy water on him. Realizing that what happened wasn't a dream after all, Shrike quietly sobbed to himself as his legs gave out under him and sent his knees crashing to the floor. Gripping the edge of the sink to prevent him from completely collapsing, Shrike rested his now wet head against its ceramic surface as he continued to weep in privacy.
Several minutes later, Shrike was finally roused by a series of sharp knocks on the door. Slowly regaining his senses, Shrike shakily stood up as the voice of the nurse drifted muffled through the door, “Shrike? Are you in there still? There's someone here who wants to see you.”
“Yea...yeah...” Shrike croaked out through a dry throat. “Just...tell them I'll be out in a moment...”
“Sure, but they brought some clothes for you to change into that you might want,” the nurse said.
Wiping a mixture of tap water and his own tears off his face, Shrike quickly opened the door a crack and grabbed the plastic bag the nurse was holding. Seeing his strained eyes and messy hair, she gave Shrike a surprised look but the boy had already ducked back into the bathroom and locked the door again before she could say anything. Shrugging to herself, the nurse walked away to tell the girl that had just arrived that Shrike would be a little while longer.
Inside the cramped bathroom, Shrike forcibly pulled himself together again as he stripped down to his underwear, throwing his blood-coated clothes into the trash. For the first time since this had all begun, Shrike saw himself in full as he turned to look at the mirror that he had previously ignored. He had a haggard, tired look to him, with tear-stained eyes and wet hair that now pointed in random directions. Focusing his attention on his blood-encrusted arms, Shrike turned on the hot water and ran his arms underneath it, rubbing the water into his skin as the blood slowly began to peel off and fall away. Getting to the sock tired around his arm, Shrike clumsily untied it and threw it in the trash as well before cleaning around the cut which had almost completely healed by now. His arms cleaned and dried off by some paper towels, Shrike found the box of bandages the nurse had mentioned and opened one of the sterile packages, sticking it to his arm over the cut to at least help with any further bleeding.
Clean at last, Shrike turned his attention to the bag that the nurse had given him. Opening it up he found a set of clothes that he knew must have been taken from his room, but he ignored the thought of someone having gone into his room without his permission. Quickly, Shrike pulled on the pair of jeans from the bag as well as a red T-shirt and new pair of socks. Digging through his backpack until he found a comb, Shrike cleaned up his hair as best he could before tossing it back into the backpack. Finally looking somewhat presentable, Shrike wiped off his eyes one last time before sliding his glasses back on, stuffing the empty bag into the trash along with his old clothes before grabbing his backpack and walking out into the Pokémon Center's foyer.
The black-haired girl who had been waiting on the bench that wrapped around the glass front wall of the Pokémon Center stood up as Shrike stepped out of the bathroom, walking over to him. “Hey, Shrike...”
“Rayne,” Shrike blinked in surprise. “Why'd you come here? Any news about those bastards?”
Rayne shook her head solemnly. “None. They're literally nowhere to be found and believe me, the police are throwing all they have at this case.
Shrike snarled, unable to conceal his anger. “They couldn't have just disappeared. They've got to be found. They'll pay...”
“Well so far, it seems they have. Nothing we can do about it,” Rayne sighed as she crossed her arms and shook her head. “Don't keep thinking about them too much, though. The true concern now is the Cyndaquil; revenge can come later, if at all.” Rayne waited a moment as she expected Shrike to say something, but when he didn't and merely stood there as he stared down silently at the ground, she continued, “Well, anyway, I just came to give you those clothes as I knew you'd need them. Also, Jura and Hendrickson simply wanted me to see how you're doing.”
“Neil Hendrickson?” Shrike looked surprised again. “The Dean of Students? I take it then that he's the one in charge of the investigation?”
“Well, he is on the school's part at least,” Rayne answered. “The police are controlling most of the investigation, though. Guess they had been bored and now that they finally have something major going on...”
Shrike smiled slightly, somewhat amused by Rayne's attempt to make a joke. “Well, whatever the reason, thanks for coming... Before you go, I just want to thank you for helping me out back there.”
Rayne shook her head. “Don't think anything of it. I didn't want either you or the Cyndaquil to get hurt, that's it.”
“Still...” Shrike mumbled. “If it wasn't for you...”
Rayne averted her eyes from Shrike and shook her head slowly for a moment. “Well, I guess I should be going now,” she finally said. Shrike silently nodded and watched as the girl turned around and walked briskly out the Pokémon Center's front doors, turning down the sidewalk in the direction of the Pokémon Academy.
Shrike groaned as he collapsed onto the bench that Rayne had been waiting on before, dropping his backpack next to him. Leaning his head back against the top of the cushioned backrest, Shrike stared up at the ceiling as he cleared his mind for a few minutes, preventing himself from thinking of anything at all. Only when the cellphone in his pocket began to ring and vibrate was he roused from his stupor. Pulling the phone out, he flipped it open and held it up to his head, still staring at the ceiling as he pulled his voice together again and spoke to whoever was on the line, “Hello?”
“Shrike Flamestar?” the voice on the other end questioned, not giving Shrike time to answer before going on, “This is Neil Hendrickson, the Dean of Students at the Rustboro Pokémon Academy you attend. I am calling to discuss the...rather strange incident you were involved in.” His tone gave away that he was stressed and somewhat angry, which didn't surprise Shrike given how the police seemed to be usurping any control the school had of the situation.
“Yeah...I'd rather not talk about it anymore...” Shrike moaned.
“I'm sorry, but now is not yet the time for rest,” Neil said. “Rayne Jarxis has told us all we need to know regarding the fight itself, from which it has been determined that neither you nor her are at fault. She was also able to give a description of the two men who appeared, and they are being searched for at this moment by police for the charges of trespassing, kidnapping, and attempted murder. However, this is not why I have called. I wish to talk about the Cyndaquil that was at the center of the fight and which you brought to the Pokémon Center; its owner is quite concerned for its wellbeing.”
“Owner?” Shrike suddenly interjected. “I thought it was owned by the school, like all the other Pokémon.” So far as Shrike knew, none of the Pokémon used by the school were actually owned by specific individuals; the mention of a specific owner for the Cyndaquil confused him.
“I am not the one to explain that,” Neil quickly said, waving aside the accidental slip he had made. Quickly changing the subject, he continued and asked Shrike, “Do you yet have any information regarding its state of health?”
“Well, not yet. It hasn't been that long,” Shrike responded.
“Hmm... Of course not...” Neil mumbled amid the sounds of him shuffling around some papers as if he was looking for something. “You are aware it is not necessary for you to stay at the Pokémon Center and that you may return to the Academy at any time, correct?”
“Yes, I am. But I want to stay here, at least until I know that it's going to be all right,” Shrike firmly asserted.
“Very well then.” In the background, Shrike could hear Neil writing something down. “Professor Martin Jura expected as much, and as per his request I will see to it that you are excused from all classes for the remainder of today and tomorrow.”
Jura? So he is involved in this... Shrike thought as he remembered Rayne's mention of him. Odd that he'd request this, though. Didn't think he would care enough. “Thank you; I really need the rest,” Shrike finally said after a moment.
“Indeed, and I hope not to keep you much longer.” Shrike wondered if Neil could hear the exhaustion and stress in his own voice; he doubted he was hiding it very well. “There is one final matter which I must touch on, though. The board of education is concerned about your relationship with the Cyndaquil in question, and are worried that an imprint may have formed.”
“An...imprint?” Shrike asked puzzled.
“A psychological one,” Neil quickly clarified. “To put it simply, there is some concern that your contact with it has been prolonged to the point that the two of you will start to feel attached to each other, much as a Trainer and their Pokémon do. The inevitable separation that will have to occur will thus require a period of rehabilitation in which each of you must adapt back to normal life.”
For the first time since before the entire encounter with Zelos, Shrike suddenly remembered that as soon as this was all over he'd have to part ways with the Cyndaquil. Looking inside himself, he realized that what Neil was saying was true; in the chaos that had ensued, something had formed between Shrike and the Cyndaquil. If nothing were to change that bond would have to be broken, and even just the thought of it hurt Shrike. Hiding his inner feelings, the boy responded as if it were no big deal, “Don't worry, it's not that big a problem. I'll manage.”
There was a pause, but then Neil answered, “I'm sure you'll do just fine in returning to your studies when this is over.” Shrike had the feeling Neil wasn't fooled at all, although the dean also masked anything he may have detected. “On that note I'll leave you to rest; I have other matters to attend to.”
With a click the call ended, Shrike closing his phone and clutching it in his hand a moment before slipping it back into his pocket. He was tired enough that he felt as if he could just fall to sleep any second now, but he wanted to ensure that he'd be ready if anything were to happen. Pausing a moment, Shrike pulled his slate-style tablet PC out of his backpack and folded back the cover of its protective hard leather case, tapping the screen to bring it out of sleep mode. At first he brought up the story he had been working on before, drawing his fingers across the screen to pull up the virtual keyboard which he preferred to handwriting recognition. As he held his fingers prone over the screen, he tried to gather together the plot which had earlier been so clear to him. This was the story he had been wanting to write for months now, but it seemed as if all inspiration he had thought of had vanished with the change of events in his own day.
Sighing, Shrike slid his fingers across the screen in the opposite direction, gesturing for the keyboard to close. Exiting out of the document, he pulled up some homework from his general education classes that he had to work on, zoning out as he slid the tablet's stylus out of its slot and started on some precalculus. His conscious mind went blank as he began to scribble down fractions and multiplications, working through problems step by step. He already knew all the concepts; he didn't even need to think about the problems, they were so simple to him by now. As if on autopilot Shrike went on with his work, not even noticing as several hours passed and the afternoon turned to evening and evening to dusk. Having finished with precalculus he had moved on to physics, and was just wrapping up with a problem about the momentum of colliding objects when the sound of approaching footsteps reached through his vacant mind and into his dormant consciousness.
Shrike snapped his head up, seeing the nurse from before standing in front of him in the same white uniform. It may have only been hours, but to Shrike it almost seemed like days had passed, and it took him a moment to regain his sense of time. “Is he okay? Has something happened?” he asked in a quiet voice, his eyes wide with concern that masked the inner turmoil that was now coming back to him as well.
The nurse smiled and closed her eyes, slowly nodding. “He's fine. The surgery was a success. It'll take a few days from him to recover, but...he's no longer in any danger.”
Shrike instantly scrambled to his feet, carelessly throwing his computer down to the bench where he had been sitting. “Please,” he pleaded, “you've gotta let me see him! I need to see for myself, know that he's okay...”
The nurse continued to smile and nod. “Of course,” she simply said. “Please, follow me.”
Shrike was led around the reception desk and through the sliding doors that the Cyndaquil had disappeared into hours before, the sterile white halls all blending together within Shrike's mind as he was led through them by the nurse. Passing through another sliding door into the intensive care unit, the nurse turned down a small hallway that branched off the main path, stopping at a locked door. Swiping a card through the scanner next to the door, she glanced over at Shrike as the door opened, admitting the two into a small observation room that looked out over a bright room filled with various equipment, most of which Shrike didn't know the purpose of.
At the center of the room was a small, padded table. Resting on the table beneath a blanket the Cyndaquil lay sleeping on his back, an intravenous line emerging from underneath the blanket and leading to a drip bag next to the table. Various wires also emerged from under the blanket, connecting to the computers and monitors along the walls that displayed the Pokemon's vital signs. Most prominent were the metal braces that restrained his head and upper body, preventing the newly stitched wound from being torn open. Stepping forward and up to the glass window that separated the two rooms, Shrike sighed, muttering to himself, “So he's all right...”
“This was undoubtedly the worst case we've seen here in a long time,” the nurse said as she watched Shrike, shaking her head. “It's not unheard of for us to receive Pokémon who have been seriously abused by their trainers or were badly hurt in a battle by trainers who were either too negligent or uncaring for the safety of their Pokémon, but something like this...”
“He was outright trying to kill him... Zelos... This wasn't just abuse...” Shrike spoke softly. “This was—would have been murder.”
“It was close,” the nurse revealed solemnly. “For a while it seemed like he wouldn't make it, but in the end he pulled through. He'll need at least a week more of recovery here, after which it'll take several months for the wound to fully heal. So long as you don't push him too hard—”
“Wait, me? I'm just a student,” Shrike corrected the nurse, remembering sadly what Neil had said about the inevitable separation that would follow this. “He's not mine, even if I wish so... He belongs to the school; they're the ones who'll have to take care of him.”
The nurse blinked, realizing her mistake. “I am aware of that, but... The man who contacted us said... Ah, no matter.” Shrike glanced back at the nurse curiously, but she skimmed over further details of her slip and went on with her explanation. “Anyways, as long as he isn't pushed too hard, he'll recover just fine and should even be up to battling far before the wound proper has completely healed. Until then, though, he will be crippled.”
“How so?” Shrike quickly asked, turning around to face the nurse. “I thought he was fine!”
“He is, he is,” the nurse reassured Shrike. “How much biology have you studied?”
“Well, um...” Shrike was caught off-guard by the seemingly random question “I did the basic stuff at the end of primary school in fifth and sixth grade, but haven't taken any biology courses yet at the Academy.”
“Well, then I guess you probably don't know anything specific about a Cyndaquil's anatomy,” the nurse said as she turned to a whiteboard on one of the walls, picking up a marker and starting to draw an interior sketch of the Cyndaquil's neck.
“Fire Pokémon like the Cyndaquil have sacs which store methane gas in their chest, over here.” The nurse drew a couple circles off to the side, then a web of lines coming out of them and leading away upwards as well as to her cutaway drawing of a neck. “Tubes from those sacs connect them to the incendiary spots found on Cyndaquil and their evolutions, as well as any other locations where a Pokémon is able to produce fire from. Almost universally, this means that it is connected to the pharynx, allowing the release of methane gas into the Pokémon's mouth. From there, as well as along any other incendiary points, they can ignite the gas through a mechanism which has not yet been discovered, although many theories exist.”
A picture of what happened came to Shrike as he saw the nurse completing the line leading to the throat, leading it beneath the trachea on the underside of the neck. “Those tubes were injured, then,” Shrike concluded.
The nurse nodded. “Yes. Due to their size it's infeasible to reconnect them ourselves, so we can only realign the split ends and hope that, like blood vessels, they'll heal themselves in time. Unfortunately, since the body doesn't see them as being vital to the life of the Pokémon, they heal fairly slowly. In this Cyndaquil's case, as I said it may take months due to all the other damage the body must prioritize first.”
“So it'll just be his attacking capabilities in battles that are limited; that's good,” Shrike sighed in relief. “Not like it really matters to me, though. I'd love to be able to, at the very least, fight in training battles with him, but there's no way they'll ever let me near him again after this...”
“And there's nothing you can do to convince them otherwise?” the nurse asked.
“I could drop out,” Shrike joked, shaking his head. “But no, that wouldn't go over very well with my dad; so long as I stay away from him though, who knows, maybe he wouldn't really care.” Shrike knew the nurse was about to ask why his dad wanted him to stay away, but he cut her off before she could start. “Again, don't want to talk about it. Anyway, no matter what, I still doubt the school would just hand him over to me.”
Suddenly, a harsh voice spoke from the doorway, “Perhaps they will. You never know how board of education decisions may turn out. Sometimes, they just happen to work in your favor after all.”
Shrike turned around and was startled to find himself looking at a familiar person. The tall, elderly, balding man with little of his wiry gray hair remaining looked down at Shrike through semi-circular glasses as he stepped into the room, his hands clasped behind his back. “Professor Jura?” Shrike asked, his voice filled with confusion. “Why are you here? Don't you have an evening class at this time?”
“I do,” Jura answered as he first looked at the two people who had already been in the room before looking through the window at the Cyndaquil that rested inside. “However I figured that since they're so lackluster, my presence at the class would have made no difference. So I left them to their own devices, locking the door before I left of course. I am merely absent from class; it is not a free pass for them to go home for the day.”
“Sir, you can't be back here,” the nurse boldly told him as she stepped in front of Jura. “I have to request that you leave now.”
“Ah, so you'd prevent the owner of this Cyndaquil from seeing his own Pokémon? I thought you would have more manners than that,” Jura scoffed.
“Your Pokémon?” Shrike was surprised, but then remembered Neil's slip on the phone. “Wait, are you who Mr. Hendrickson meant when he mentioned the Cyndaquil's owner?”
“So he didn't tell you, not surprising. It seems like he's not taking any initiative these days, only doing what I tell him too. Gods know what he'll do when I finally drop dead,” Jura said sarcastically. “Yes, I am his owner. I owned his mother and father as well, so I think there's really no question as to ownership. Yes, I did volunteer him along with the rest of the Pokémon from my trainer days to be used as school Pokémon under my strict guidance and care, but that does not make him nor any of the others any less mine. Now, move out of my way.” Jura glared down at the nurse, who coughed meekly as she skirted to the side.
“Um, I guess a few minutes wouldn't hurt, sir... This is highly unusual and against protocols and I may be fired for it, but...” She continued to mutter to herself under her breath, inaudible to Shrike and Jura.
Jura walked into the room and up to the window, scoffing at it. Nodding at the door to the side that led into the actual room, he boldly commanded, “Open that door this instant. I want to see him closer.”
“But, sir...” the nurse mumbled, trying to retain some control. “That would be against protocol...” This was her first time going up against Professor Jura, unlike Shrike who saw him almost every day. By now Shrike was used to how demanding Jura could be, and merely sighed at it all.
“The sheer act of me being in here is already against protocol, is it not? What more harm could come from me going in there,” Jura practically shouted, his deep voice bellowing throughout the small observation room. “I'm an old man, look at me! I swear, any of these days I'm going to drop dead and Gods damn it I'll be glad to have rid myself of this world! What the hell do you think I'll do in there, kill my own Cyndaquil?!”
“Uh, sure, sir...” the nurse squeaked as she scurried over to the door and swiped her card through it, unlocking it.
Jura pushed the door open faster as it began to slide open, thundering into the brightly lit room. “And stop calling me sir!” he bellowed to the nurse behind him, who was by now cowering in the corner. Glancing at her, Shrike hurried into the room as well, not wanting to miss this opportunity.
Jura folded his arms across his chest as he towered over the table with the Cyndaquil, staring down at it. Shrike meanwhile fell to his knees next to it, the table just the right height that he could still see the Cyndaquil lying on it. Resting his arms in his lap, Shrike merely stared at the Cyndaquil for a moment along with his Professor, both silent until Jura finally broke it. “What are you doing, boy? Praying?”
“I just...want to watch him sleep.” Shrike paused a moment as he watched the gentle rise and fall of the Cyndaquil's chest beneath the blanket. “He looks so peaceful, and from this angle it almost seems like he's unhurt...”
For what was probably the first time in years, Jura actually gave a small smile, nodding slightly. “Good, you seem to care for something other than yourself and your grades, a trait which I have found to be astonishingly rare among my students. Yet you need to come to terms with the world as it is instead of what you desire it to be, so stand up. Now.”
“Yes, Professor...” Shrike mumbled as he got to his feet again, standing up and snapping out of the small fantasy he had been in.
“And stop calling me that, for Gods' sakes!” Jura grumbled. “We're not in class, you don't need to be formal with me here.”
“Of...course,” Shrike hesitated. After another moment of silence Shrike spoke up with what he had been wondering, slightly nervous that Jura's wrath would befall him now. “Pardon me asking, but...why are you here?”
Jura scoffed. “Is merely wanting to see my injured, bedridden Pokémon not enough of a reason? Is that same sense of care for a Pokémon not why you yourself are here?”
“Well, I guess it is,” Shrike admitted. Still, it didn't seem right to him. “But you abandoned a class for this, when you could have come at any other time.”
Jura shook his head, something about him seeming to indicate that he was momentarily dropping the attitude Shrike had come to know very well. “If I had come earlier the Cyndaquil would still have been in surgery. If I had come later, you would have very likely left; I'm sure you do not plan to stay the entire night.”
“So you wanted to see me too, then,” Shrike stated.
Jura nodded. “The board is so worried about PR and whatever their awkward sense of 'justice' is that they seem to have forgotten the personal element here. If I hadn't demanded it, I have no doubt that you would have been dragged back to the Academy and forced to live out the rest of the day as if nothing had even happened.”
“Mr. Hendrickson did mention that it was you who wanted me to get today and tomorrow off of classes,” Shrike commented. “I thought you were just a normal Professor; why do you have so much control over matters such as this?”
“I have a history with this school, one which leaves me in a position to do pretty much anything I want,” Jura explained. “I could have been in Neil's place, but I simply prefer teaching in public while controlling the actions of others in the background.”
“And that history would be...” Shrike hadn't been expecting to find out much, if anything at all, about Jura but now that it had come up he didn't want the chance to pass by.
“None of your business,” Jura bluntly denied Shrike with. “In time I may tell you, but for now it is irrelevant. What is, is how you are doing at the moment and what you plan to do now.”
“What I plan to do?” Shrike asked. “Well, I don't know. What can I do? I want to be with Cyndaquil after this is all over and care for him more like I did this past week. I want to prevent him from being hurt again. I even want to, well, journey with him. Be his partner and him mine.”
“You want to be his trainer,” Jura added.
“Well, I guess you could say that,” Shrike nodded. “But I don't graduate for two years. I could drop out, but...that's disgraceful. I'd rather not start my journey on a low note.”
Jura suddenly changed the topic, as quickly as he had appeared in the first place. “When you were in class earlier you were writing something. What was it about?”
Shrike blinked, starting to get used the constant confusion that surrounded Jura. “Well, stuff about destiny and every person's goal in life, I guess...”
“Your goal is to be a trainer with this Cyndaquil at your side,” Jura proclaimed as he gestured down at the sleeping Pokémon. “Never forget that, even when things are at their worst. Never forget that all you want is to be a trainer with his Cyndaquil, nothing more. Destiny may have her tricks and throw everything she has in your way, but no matter what happens, no matter what you have to endure, no matter what trials you must overcome, always, and I mean always, strive for that one, singular goal. Never forget, and never back down.”
Shrike was speechless as Jura finished, the older man turning around and walking out the door and into the observation room. “I'm afraid I have a class to attend to now. Hopefully they haven't torn apart the classroom in my absence.” Jura's normal attitude seemed to be returning, his moment of sanity, even wisdom, vanishing into thin air. “Tomorrow evening I wish to talk with you further. As you know, you otherwise have tomorrow off. Use that time to figure out what you want to do, what you need to do, and what you will do.”
As Jura turned to leave, Shrike remembered another thing he had meant to ask, quickly yelling out, “Wait!” As Jura stopped in his tracks, Shrike continued. “Does he...have a name?”
Jura remained silent for a moment, and Shrike was worried he'd walk out on him without answering the question. At last he did though, slowly and quietly saying, “Zethro.” After that single word Jura was gone, rushing out into the hallway and taking his leave of the Pokémon Center. Meanwhile Shrike turned back to the table with the Cyndaquil on it, hesitatingly reaching a hand out and placing it on his blanketed chest.
“Zethro...” Shrike murmured. “I'll figure out a way. Something that will work to bring us together. I swear it; I won't let you go.”
~End of Chapter 2~
Hooray, another chapter. Under two weeks; that's about the fastest I've done it in a long time. Hopefully the next chapter or so will be similar to that, but I want to get back to TRINITY soon which will give TFC a break.
The changes to this chapter are really huge. While the overall plot is pretty much the same, the style, tone, personalities...everything has changed pretty much. I have to say that this chapter marks an even bigger change than was seen from the original chapter 1 to the current revised version. I doubt I'll get all the changes, but I've catalogued what I can pick out most readily below as usual:
And that's that. Well, I guess that's about it. See you all next chapter!
February 23rd, 2009 (6:29 PM).
My review for Chapter 2…
And that wraps up my review of Chapter 2 of TFC. The adding in of Neil made the chapter easier to understand and, besides that, I don’t think he was in the original version. You’re doing a good job with the rewrite; the fic is progressing well. Keep up the excellent work. As a side note, perhaps you may want to peruse the Beta Place and apply so that a mentor may help you with your mistakes. In my saying that, though, you ultimately have to choice as to whether or not you want to listen to me.
Credit goes to Sgt Shock for my signature and avatar
February 26th, 2009 (6:48 PM).
I enjoy this fic very much, you are deffinately a talented writer
I do hope you continue, I'd love to read more.
February 28th, 2009 (12:43 PM).
Wow. Just wow.
I really love how the story has a darker tone, and a sence of mystery to it. =3
Can I get on the PM list? Please? (I'd hate to not know a new chapter came out!)
March 2nd, 2009 (12:01 PM).
Okay, slightly bad news. Chapter 3 has been postponed due to difficulties in real life. I have Spring Break next week so my classes are cramming everything they can in this week, as well as last week while they were at it. This means that I have had and will continue to have very little time to work on the chapter, and while I may get a page or so written this week, it's doubtful any major progress will be made until next week. That's assuming I can drag myself away from Star Ocean 4 and The Nameless Mod for Deus Ex which should hopefully be coming out this coming weekend or so...
But anyways, thanks all of you for reading and replying. And sure, I'll add you to the list, KitsuneKat.
However, I did just notice that in the first one the part after is actually a whole 'nother sentence and should be spaced and capitalized as such. I'll call that a typo.
As for a beta, I did have one for about ten chapters or so of the old version, although even before that she helped me out by pointing out stuff in the chapters. After I felt that I had improved to the point where all she was finding was a handful of typos each chapter, I decided that it was no longer necessary. For reference that beta was none other than Astinus, the head mod of our little section here.
March 24th, 2009 (12:50 PM). Edited June 1st, 2009 by Shrike Flamestar.
Sorry about how long this took; more details following the chapter.
Also, sorry about the shorter length; again, more details to follow. Just now know that I decided to split off the former chapter 3 and the new scene I was adding to it into two separate chapters, this one being the new scene that I felt wouldn't fit with the rest of the old chapter 3.
Fire burned around a boy who stood amid the very depths of hell itself, the flames licking at his body but causing him no harm. Not having a clue where he was, his panic rising, he looked about him for some way out but saw nothing at all; nothing but the infernal rage of fire.
“The Cruel Flame. He has appeared once again.”
The voice echoed throughout the hellish place, twisting and turning amid the flames until they reached the boy at their center, piercing deep into his very soul. Yet at the same time it seemed to him as if the voice was emanating from within himself, the words cascading outward and flooding the field of fire with their brilliance.
“The Fierce Flame. He will rise once again.”
The boy reached a hand out through the flames, not for any material object but rather for the words themselves. While the voice that was speaking seemed to have no source, the words were so real and thick that behind the shimmering heat put forth by the flames, the boy could see the vibrations in the air caused by the sheer presence of the words.
“The Path of Light. The time has come once again.”
As the boy's hand passed through the vibrating air, the flames all around him began to flare up. Drawing his hand back quickly, he watched as the fire burst out of the ground, rising high up into the air above him as it took on the shape of a bird, its wide, fiery wings showering the boy below in a cascade of embers as they unfurled from around its flame-covered body. Amid the fire that enveloped its head, a pair of dark eyes stared down at the boy. Yet, despite the fearsome look of the monster the boy didn't feel fear as he stared back at it, instead feeling only kindness and wisdom looking down at him.
“Upon wings of fire the Fierce Flame flies; towards destiny, where the Cruel Flame lies.”
Shrike's eyes suddenly snapped open, and for a moment all he could do was lie in his bed and stare up at the dark ceiling above. He had been repeating that same dream throughout most of the night, waking up immediately every time it finished, but he found he was never able to remember any specific details other than that they were all the same. Struggling, Shrike tried to hold on to what little fragments of memories he had of the dream, but almost immediately they slipped away like dust in the breeze.
After waking, Shrike lay in bed for a few minutes, continuing to try unsuccessfully to recall the dream. Not until the sound of a series of sharp knocks on his door broke him from his trance did he roll out of bed, staggering about his cramped dormitory room as he tried his best to fully wake himself, wondering who could possibly be wanting to see him this early in the morning. Fortunately, he had fallen to sleep early the night before, practically slipping away the moment he stepped foot in his room after returning from the Pokémon Center and grabbing something to eat on the way back. Despite the constant interruptions to his sleep he didn't feel as tired as he normally would have at this time and stepped over to the door, pulling it open.
Standing on the balcony outside was none other than Rayne, whose constant appearances lately were starting to become somewhat less surprising to Shrike. She looked fully awake, as if she didn't realize this was the middle of the night and normal people would be sleeping; she was even fully dressed, unlike Shrike who only had a pair of boxers and an undershirt on. “Hey,” Rayne said, nodding slightly.
“Um... You do know what time it is, right?” Shrike asked
Illuminated by only the dim lights that lined the balcony's roof and the surprisingly bright moonlight that bathed the campus, Rayne nodded slowly again. “Yeah... Sorry, but I figured you wouldn't be able to sleep well either.”
“Got me there,” Shrike admitted. “Guess ordeals like that yesterday don't just go away easily...”
Rayne was silent for a moment, before suddenly reaching out and grabbing Shrike's hand. “I thought we could talk some, and I have something for you.”
Shrike hesitated. He wanted to get back to sleep, but he knew that the effort would most likely be futile considering how most of the night had turned out. “Sure,” he nodded with some slight reservation. “Just let me get dressed and I'll be right out.”
A moment later Shrike and Rayne were walking along the balcony in silence, Rayne leading the boy to one of the sets of zigzagging stairs that allowed passage between the different levels of the building. Shrike glanced about as he breathed in the cool night air, tense with thoughts of Zelos trying to sneak back to get his revenge under the cover of darkness.
“Relax,” Rayne reassured him, as if she could read his mind. “Even if something were to happen, this time I'd be better prepared.”
As they stepped down onto the granite path at the base of the stairs, Shrike noticed something move in the shadows against the outer wall of the building. Abruptly stopping and turning to face it, he watched as a Pokémon walked out of the enshrouding darkness, not Zelos as he had initially feared. The Pokémon walked gracefully and completely silently on its four slender legs, white fur whipping about in the subtlest of breezes and reflecting the moonlight in a way that gave it silver glow.
“That's my preparation,” Rayne acknowledged as she stepped over to the Absol, placing a hand on its back. “Her name's Matariel.”
“Is she yours?” Shrike hesitantly asked. He didn't know how or why Rayne would have her own Pokémon, but they seemed to be closer than just acquaintances.
“In a sense,” Rayne shrugged. “I don't think she likes to think of it as me owning her, but by most people's standards I guess I'd be her trainer.”
Shrike watched the Absol as she stared back at him with her bright red eyes, her blue-furred face not showing a hint of emotion. “Guess she's the quiet type...” he observed. As if in response Matariel let out a low growl, tipping her head slightly.
“She says that your powers of observation are masterful,” Rayne interpreted sarcastically. “Come on, let's go someplace we can sit instead of just standing here. There's a certain place I like; I'll show you.”
Shrike was led through the park by Rayne as Matariel followed, keeping quiet. After veering off the main path Rayne pushed through a bush to the other side, dropping down on one of several rocks that lay in the small clearing beyond, their surfaces ground down with age to be smooth and almost flat. Shrike looked over the rocks as he carefully stepped through the bush, not wanting to damage it, noticing the roughly circular arrangement they were in which prompted him to ask, “Did you do this?”
Rayne shook her head. “No, it's always been like this. I think there was a shrine or something here, long before Rustboro was ever built. But now this is all that remains.”
“A shrine...” Shrike repeated to himself as Matariel walked through the bush, folding her legs underneath herself as she sat down in the middle of the circle. “Is that why you like this spot?”
Rayne watched Shrike as he set himself down on the stone across from her, staring intently at the Absol that lay between them. She had never really thought about why she was drawn to this particular clearing instead of the several other similar secluded spots among the trees and bushed. “Something about the feel...” she muttered quietly. “When I sit here, it feels like...like I'm surrounded by an aura. It blankets me, and it's the closest feeling to truly being home that I know I'll ever feel.”
“That's right, you don't even know where you're from,” Shrike remarked as he slowly shook his head. “But, you have someone you can depend on, at least. Someone by your side, to look after and care for you.” Hesitantly, Shrike began to reach out to pet Matariel but suddenly withdrew his hand, not sure how she'd react to being touched by a relative stranger. “I may at least be able to remember when I had both a home and a family, but now I don't really have either...”
Rayne seemed surprised. “But, you do still have your dad though, right? Haven't you said he lives elsewhere in the city?”
“Just because he's still alive doesn't mean I have to like him, or consider him family...” Shrike lowered his eyes and slowly shook his head. Wanting to change the subject, he quickly added, “I'm sure this isn't what you dragged me out here to talk about, is it?”
“N-no,” Rayne stuttered, quickly digging through a pocket before pulling out something. Standing up, she walked around Matariel and over to Shrike, who held out a hand to take whatever it was from her. Pressing the object into his hand, Shrike held it up to the moonlight and was surprised to see that it was one of the pocket knives that Ramirez had used against them the day before. Under just the moonlight he couldn't tell if it was the one that had been used to cut into Zethro's throat; if it was, though, Rayne had cleaned it up since then. Shrike flicked the blade open and noted that there wasn't a speck of blood on it, snapping it closed again before curiously looking back at Rayne.
“Why're you giving this to me? I don't even know if I really want to keep something like this around...”
“We all need something that we can hold on to; something that, so long as we possess it, will never let us forget the most important memories of our past.” As Rayne spoke, Shrike noticed her holding on to the silver ring she wore on a necklace, clutching it so tightly it was as if she worried it would try and run away from her. “People seem to forget the value of memories, so please, assure me that no matter what happens in the future that you'll never forget any of this. Let that knife be a reminder of how everything started, even if it is grisly.”
“Memories...” Shrike muttered as he closed his fist around the pocket knife, looking up at the boundless stars far above. As he stared at the shining points of light in silence, he felt something bubbling at the back of his mind, struggling to burst forth. Closing his eyes, Shrike was suddenly overcome by feelings of the distant past, vivid images leaping to the forefront of his mind.
“Come on, that's it! Take your best swing!”
It was a warm spring afternoon, the sun high in the sky, its warm and comforting light blanketing the Earth below. In the small yard behind a much larger house, a young boy and an adult, his father, stood amid the lush grass. The boy held a wooden bat as his father tossed leather balls at him from a bucket at his side, the boy taking swings as he tried to hit the balls.
“It's hard...” the boy whined, lowering his head dejectedly.
“Maybe so,” his father said as he set down the ball he was about to throw. Walking over to his son, he placed a comforting hand on the boy's shoulder as he smiled down at him. “But the more you try and practice, the easier it'll become. I can tell from the way you swing that bat that you're a natural, you just need to practice to bring out your full abilities.”
“But I dun wanna play baseball...” the boy began to sob. “Why can't I go play with my friends? Andy's brother is leaving today, they're all playing with his Torchic!” As he spoke about the Pokémon, the boy's eyes lit up and for a brief moment he grew cheerful, looking up excitedly at his father. Upon seeing the adult's sullen and disapproving face, however, the boy grew silent and cast his gaze back downwards, quickly mumbling under his breath, “I wanna go play with it too...”
“Son, you have to realize that there is more to life than Pokémon,” the boy's father sighed as he said it, closing his eyes for a long moment before continuing. “Much more. That's why I don't want you to get too involved with them; I don't want you to let Pokémon become the sole focus of your life.”
“But I wanna be a trainer too... Like Andy's brother, and all my friends when they get older! Andy, Steve, Matt... They're all gonna be trainers! I wanna join them too!” the boy exclaimed, but upon seeing the growing frown on his father's face, he again groaned and looked away. “I just wanna have an adventure too...”
The boy's father was silent for a moment, before slowly shaking his head. “I doubt you'd still be saying that if you knew what this adventure you want was truly like.” Turning around, the man walked up onto the small deck built against the rear of the house, pausing only to say, “Clean up the balls and put everything away, then come back inside.” The final words said, the man continued through the rear door of the house, slamming it shut behind him, the door rattling slightly in its frame.
“Why are you like this...” Shrike mumbled to himself, the memory of his childhood burning brightly in his mind. “Why couldn't you just be more accepting, father? If you had, maybe mom wouldn't have—”
“Did you say something?” Rayne suddenly asked. Shrike blinked as he realized he had been talking louder than he thought, looking up to find that Rayne was still standing over him.
“No, not really,” Shrike quickly answered. “I was just thinking of something...”
Rayne shrugged, accepting the minimal explanation. “I'm going back now; let's see if I can get any sleep tonight... You don't have classes tomorrow either, right?”
“Nope, Hendrickson got me off the hook.” Shrike shook his head, before adding under his breath, “Doubt I'd have gone anyways.”
Rayne nodded once. “Yeah, same here. I want to at least try to get some sleep, though.”
“What'll you do about her?” Shrike asked, again glancing at the Absol that lay resting on the ground still. “Does she stay in your room, or does she have her own place to stay at?”
Before Shrike had even finished speaking, Rayne reached into her pocket and pulled out a small red and white ball. Gripping it loosely with her fingertips she pressed the button at its center, causing the ball to expand to a larger size. Shed pointed it at Matariel and again pressed the button, a red beam shooting out from the center of the ball and enveloping the Absol, who seemed to dissipate into red light that was pulled back into the ball. “You have a Poké Ball for her too, huh?” Shrike remarked as Rayne compressed the Poké Ball back into its smaller size by holding the button down for a second before slipping it into her pocket again.
“The school gave it to me, so that keeping her around would be easier,” Rayne spoke softly, her mind drifting off and displaying her past self sitting in front of a long table, the professional-looking people behind it asking Rayne questions none of which she could answer. Then a tall man whose little remaining hair was colored a deep gray walked into the room, silently placing a Poké Ball on the table.
“It was Jura's idea, along with everything...” Rayne continued. “He was the one who convinced them that she shouldn't be taken from me, and that I should be allowed to keep her close, like this at least.”
“He has a lot of influence here, doesn't he?” Shrike pondered. “I guess he has been working here most of his life...” Changing back to Rayne, Shrike noted, “So the school knows you have her? It's a good thing Jura's on your side, otherwise I very much doubt that they'd have let you keep her around.”
“Yeah...” Rayne simply stated, turning around to the bush they had pushed their way through to reach the hidden clearing. “Come on, I'll show you the way back.”
“I can see for myself the way back perfectly fine, thank you.” Shrike proclaimed, thrusting the pocket knife Rayne had given him into his pocket as he stood up. Quickly changing his tone, he smiled before adding, “But go on, lead the way anyways.”
Not more than ten minutes later, Shrike found himself lying back in his bed, the ceiling light in his room turned on to its dimmest setting. He held the pocket knife Rayne had given him up to the light, holding it lightly at each end between the tips of his index fingers. While it had been hard to tell under the silver-tinted light of the moon, he could easily see the color of the knife's plastic-paneled sides now: a dark red. Closing his eyes, the teenager reluctantly drew up the vivid memory of the previous day's encounter.
In his mind Shrike saw it all again, Ramirez holding Zethro by the scruff of his neck, suddenly pulling out a pocket knife which he flicked open in one smooth motion before pressing it against the Cyndaquil's exposed throat. It was hard to tell anything about the knife with Ramirez's hand closed over it, so Shrike forced himself to continue playing back the memory, watching in discomfort as the odd little man continued to press the knife against Zethro's bare throat, beginning the cut that Zelos would end up deepening, until suddenly Rayne leaped at him and sent both the knife and Cyndaquil flying out of his grasp. While Shrike had been focused on Rayne at the time, off to the side of his memory he noticed the pocket knife flying through the air, and for a split second he thought he remembered seeing a hint of red, not on the knife's blade but rather its handle.
Shrike opened his eyes again, pulling himself away from the memory before it could get worse. There was no way to be sure; his memory was unreliable at best, especially about something he hadn't paid much attention to when it had happened. However the possibility remained, and that was good enough for the distraught boy. Angrily he threw the knife in the general direction of the trash can that set next to his desk, closing his eyes as tears began to well up around his closed eyelids. For several minutes he lay in the dim light, wishing that he could just forget the memories of the past day once and for all. Rayne wanted him to never forget, but all he personally wanted was for it all to go away and let him continue with his life. Finally Shrike stood up and stumbled over to the light switch on the wall, next to the touch-sensitive plate that controlled the light's brightness. Flicking the switch he was plunged into comforting darkness, making his way back to his bed in the hope that all the weird dreams would stop and let him rest.
Miraculously, Shrike drifted off to sleep peacefully, not a single dream or nightmare stirring him from his slumber for the rest of the night.
~End of Chapter 3~
Okay, guess I'll start off by explaining myself. As I said previously, the week after the last chapter I was busy with exams and stuff and so couldn't work on this then. Then spring break came around and the intention was to, you know, work on it then. I wrote maybe a page or so, the rest of the time spent playing the venerable Deus Ex. Then the past week came along and again I intended to work on it, but oh hey, what's this? The Nameless Mod, an epic total conversion mod for Deus Ex seven years in the making came out. So I spent most of last week between work and classes playing TNM. I am still playing TNM heavily, but last night I managed to pull myself together and churn out the final four or so pages for the above chapter.
Which brings me to my next point and explanation, the length. You see, originally this scene was going to just be at the beginning of what the old chapter 3 was, the chapter going up through the end of part 1 and all. However, as I completed my writing last night, I realized that what I had written pretty much completely clashed with the rest of what will now be chapter 4. Now, I am trying to avoid having so many separate scenes in my chapters (some of them had up to six in the old version), instead merging them together through narration as I did in chapter 1 (originally the classroom bit was a separate scene). The problem there is that the scenes have to be, well, compatible. I can't take two scenes that are completely different and glue them together, the flow would be all off. Since I can't really transition from this chapter into what is now chapter 4 very well and want to avoid extraneous scenes, breaking them into their own chapters is the only feasible way to go about it.
There's also how I ended up writing the ending there that makes it just perfect for the end of a chapter, it's been near a month now without a chapter and would be even longer if I persisted, and the combined length of this with the now chapter 4 would likely be too long and I want to avoid long chapters this early. Plus, it extends the minuscule part 1 to four chapters instead of three, so hooray.
...Since this is largely a new scene, it hasn't really changed since it never existed before, but there is still some stuff that has been changed due to the insertion of this scene and so here is the changelog.
Also, Tigrerra, upon thinking some I've decided that although I can't find anything that says “pocketknife” is necessarily a wrong spelling, “pocket knife” seems to be much more commonly used and so I think I'll just go with that after all. <_< Sorry for my stubbornness, I can be like that some times.
Until next time...
May 12th, 2009 (1:17 PM). Edited June 1st, 2009 by Shrike Flamestar.
Oh hey, guys! Sorry about the wait; end of the school year and all that. Of course they have to cram everything into the last month or so! Unfortunately it may again be a while for another chapter here because I plan on skipping over to my other fanfic for a few chapters, but oh well... At least this chapter is a decent length unlike the last one.
Light was just beginning to peak through the blinds of the single window in Shrike's room when he began to stir from his sleep. As he gradually became more aware, he remembered his talk with Rayne in the middle of the night, the details foggy as if it had all been a dream. Sitting up in his bed, Shrike looked over at where his trash can sat only to notice the pocket knife Rayne had given him lying on the floor. Acknowledging that it had apparently not been a dream, he rubbed the last bit of sleep out of his eyes and quickly dressed himself, eager to begin the day's activities early. Shrike didn't have to attend classes that day, but Professor Jura's suggestion to seek for himself what could be done to prevent the school from tearing him away from Zethro had struck him, and he intended to do all he could to prevent such an outcome.
It was early though and Shrike knew he had the whole day ahead of him to work, so he figured he could at least quickly take care of something he'd intended to do the previous day after getting home but had ended up forgetting about in his desire to go to sleep early. Shrike walked over to where he had thrown his backpack on the floor next to the door that led outside, opening the bag and pulling out his computer. Carrying it over to his desk, he slid the tablet PC out of its protective case and into the docking station that sat on the desk. Pressing the computer's power button, Shrike tapped his chin while it started up before pulling out the tray on which sat the keyboard and mouse he kept connected to the docking station. After quickly typing in his password, Shrike opened a chat client as his desktop appeared.
Automatically he was logged into the chat server he most frequently visited, a list of available channels popping up. Selecting a particular channel from it, Shrike sat back as he connected to it, the list of users who were also on the channel updating to a rather paltry amount, not surprising considering the time it was. Just a quick glance at the list satisfied him however, as he noticed one particular name.
<Hey, what's up?> Shrike typed in under his usual online alias of FireBird. <Can't be on long, but thought I'd pop in for a moment.>
<Oh hey, hi!> a user called LuminousShadow exclaimed before quickly adding, <I was wondering what happened to you. Guess I shouldn't have gotten so worked up about just a single day absence.>
LuminousShadow was, in fact, the exact person Shrike had been looking for. In response he began to type a message; however before he could finish another popped up, this time from someone named Chaos. <lol i knew he'd be back>
Quickly writing a new response, Shrike sighed as he sent it, <What makes you say that? Perhaps I had decided once and for all to just ditch this place.>
<to bad you won't> Chaos immediately replied. <you can take your pokemon haggotry to a place that actually cares>
Before Shrike could angrily reply in kind, yet another message appeared, but this one wasn't someone saying something. <@Zero has banned user Chaos for 10 minutes. Reason: You can take your trolling haggotry to a place that actually cares.>
<Thanks for that.> Shrike said. He didn't want to admit just how much Chaos annoyed him, but he was at least glad he wasn't the only one who felt that way. This wasn't the first time Chaos' grudge against Pokémon had resulted in him crossing the line and being banned, and Shrike had no doubt it wouldn't be the last. At least he would be able to talk to LuminousShadow briefly now without being constantly bothered by him.
<NP. He deserved it.> Zero responded. He wasn't one of the operators that Shrike was too familiar with in the channel, but he was grateful nonetheless. Wanting to get on with the conversation with LuminousShadow, Shrike rewrote what he had been about to send before.
<I had meant to come on yesterday, problem was I sort of got distracted... See, there was this incident after I came out of my Behavioral Pokémon Studies class. One of the Pokémon belonging to the class was kidnapped right in front of my eyes and then, well... Then it got violent.>
<Oh my gods,> LuminousShadow quickly responded. <Was anybody hurt?>
<It wouldn't exactly by violent if no one did...> Shrike hoped that it wouldn't sound too callous of him, but it was sort of an odd thing to ask. <As for who got hurt, mostly it was the Pokémon they kidnapped, a Cyndaquil. I got a small cut while trying to save it, but it's nothing compared to what it suffered...>
Shrike noticed that as he carried on the conversation with LuminousShadow, other activity in the room seemed to slow down, as if the few other people currently in it either didn't want to interrupt or simply didn't know what to say. Truthfully, Shrike knew he should have been discussing this in a private message and not in the open channel so as to avoid such disruptions, but he didn't intend to stay much longer anyway. Shrike simply felt that he deserved to tell LuminousShadow about what had happened as they had been friends for a while now, both having enrolled in Pokémon Academies at roughly the same time. Unfortunately, whereas he went to the Rustboro Pokémon Academy, they went to Petalburg. Despite not being able to meet face to face and having only met each other online through forums and chats, they had quickly befriended each other. LuminousShadow had been the one who brought him to this chat room in the first place, although as it was for general talk and not Pokémon in particular Shrike didn't really care much about anyone else who frequented the chat.
<That's terrible...> LuminousShadow said after a moment, breaking Shrike from his nostalgia over the old days when they had met. It may have only been less than two years, but on the internet that could truly seem like a lifetime. <How come no one got involved? Didn't anyone see them and go get help? I mean, wouldn't your teacher still have been there?>
<Professor Jura? He, well, he...> It suddenly struck Shrike that he truly didn't know why Jura hadn't seen it or done anything about it. He supposed that before now he had thought that Jura must have left just after the students, but now that he thought about it that wouldn't make sense; he would have to check the cages to make sure they were locked, do at least a minimal cleaning of the room to gather up any supplies that hadn't been put away properly and so on. It was possible he could have finished with all that and left before Zelos and Ramirez had arrived, which was certainly the most logical choice, but it would be close. <You know, I have no idea. It's weird now that I think about it. It couldn't have been more than maybe five minutes after class got out that the kidnappers showed up, and I doubt he could have finished gathering things together in the room in that time. I guess he did, but whatever was up with him he certainly didn't do anything to stop them.>
<Do you think maybe that he was in cohorts with them?> LuminousShadow boldly suggested. <Like, you know, maybe he's on their side.>
<I doubt it...> Shrike answered truthfully. For as weird as Jura was, he didn't seem to be the kind to have his own Pokémon kidnapped, and the previous night at the Pokémon Center he had seemed pretty sincere in his feelings and concern. <Anyways, I need to go now; I have some research to do and should probably get started soon. We'll speak sometime else I'm sure, and I'll try to explain the whole situation then.>
<Okay, see you later.> LuminousShadow responded, Shrike waiting for it before exiting the chat client.
Slowly Shrike stood up from his desk, rubbing a hand through his hair. Still somewhat groggy from waking up early, he turned to the second of the two doors positioned on the walls of his room, one leading out to the balcony while the other led to the inside of the dormitory building. Pulling this inner door open, Shrike stepped out into the lounge that he shared with eight other rooms, four on each side of the building. In addition, each of the four rooms per side was split between double and single rooms with Shrike's fortunately being a single; he didn't much fancy the idea of having to live with someone else.
Crossing through the lounge, he stepped into the bathroom at its center and pulled open his locker, removing the bag he kept his toothbrush and paste in. While quickly brushing his teeth, he noticed someone walk into the bathroom behind him and step into one of the stalls, leaving the door open as they flipped the seat up and pulled their pants down.
“So, Shrike, I heard the news,” the person said.
Shrike spit the toothpaste out into the sink. “What news? You know something I don't, Matt?”
“Oh, I think you know well enough.” Finished, Matt pulled up his pants, not bothering to flush the toilet as he turned around to face Shrike's back. “Something about some kidnappers, a Cyndaquil, you, that chick Rayne, and a fight. It's in the newspapers.”
Shrike almost gagged on the water he was rinsing his mouth out with, managing to spit it out instead. “What? What're they saying?”
“Hey, it's not bad,” Matt clarified defensively. “They're calling you and Rayne heroes. Everyone in the school's going to know what you did soon, and reporters will be wanting to speak with you no doubt. Hell I mean, kidnappings don't happen everyday, and it's even rarer that you get people who actually puts their lives on the line to stop them.”
“That's precisely what I don't want!” Shrike exclaimed, turning to face the other boy. “I don't want to become some sort of celebrity!”
Matt shrugged as he leaned in the doorway of the stall. “Hey, I'll take your place then. I'd kill to be famous; it gives you something to make you stand out from the crowd, something that people can know you by. If you're that big, you can even carry it into your life as a trainer, and being a popular trainer can only help in the long run. First priority at gyms, sponsorship offers, discounts on products and services...”
“Yeah, and then you also the paparazzi stalking you everywhere you go,” Shrike added. “Then, before you know it, you've lost all sense of privacy you may have had. I think I'll stick with having to rely on my own abilities and not my name, thank you.”
“Suit yourself,” Matt shrugged nonchalantly, walking over to the door that led out to the side of the building opposite where Shrike lived. Pausing in the doorway, he glanced back behind himself at Shrike. “Don't take your self-reliance too far, though. You'll be screwed if you think you can rely only on yourself.”
Shrike watched silently as Matt walked out the doorway, shaking his head as he grabbed some paper towels and dried off his hands. Quickly he threw his stuff back in the locker and returned to his room, sighing as he sat down on his bed. No, that's not it. I don't want to rely just on myself, I want to rely on anyone other than myself, while at the same time not wanting them to aid me just because of who I am... Guess some things will have to change, starting now.
A moment later and Shrike was walking down the balcony of the dormitory building, carrying his backpack loaded with books and his computer, which he had removed from its dock before leaving as usual. Taking his time, he looked out over the large park between the academy's two main buildings, trying to find the place he and Rayne had gone to last night. Since it was in one of the more thickly grown spot, away from the cleared spaces around the battle center and at the very edges of the twin buildings, it was hard to make out. Still, Shrike could swear he saw a flash of white and black amid the trees around where he thought the spot was, turning away once he saw it to focus on his own task.
The Academy's library was located in a small building outside of the main campus, back behind the academic building. It didn't take long for Shrike to walk there from his room, one of the advantages of having the campus so tightly packed. The walk through the park took him past the battle center, Shrike glancing up at its smooth, windowless sides as he passed. It had been a while since he'd gone for practice or even just to watch others fight, but he couldn't let himself be distracted now. Besides, he needed to get approval that he didn't have if he wanted to battle.
Before long Shrike found himself standing outside the multi-level Academy library. Almost the whole of the building's cubic shape was walled in massive panes of glass that stretched between floors without a gap, offering great views both inside and out. Pushing through a revolving door, Shrike walked over to a floor plan and began to examine it. Before he could find what he was looking for, however, a girl not that much older than Shrike wearing a librarian uniform walked over. “Are you looking for something?” the student librarian asked Shrike, noticing him staring at the floor plan.
“Yeah, two actually,” Shrike said as he stepped aside. “Where would you find records of past policy decisions made by the school board, and the newspaper archives?”
The girl gestured towards the picture depicting the basement, pointing out two different spots. “Both are in the basement as they're materials that can't be checked out, although they can be copied for a small charge. If you're looking for really old stuff, though, you'll need to view them in the digital archives, which can be accessed from any computer with your student ID”
Shrike noted the two areas and nodded. “Okay, thanks.”.
He had just turned to walk away when the librarian, with a small smile, responded with, “No problem, Shrike.”
The boy stopped in his tracks, not turning around so the girl couldn't see the annoyed look on his face. “I don't know you so I'm guessing you read today's newspaper, which apparently has me in it.”
“Yep, I'm just someone who's glad you could do the right thing,” the librarian explained.
“I need to change my name again...” Shrike mumbled as he walked off, not bothering to explain what he meant to the librarian, not as if he would even if she asked. “Plastic surgery too, maybe...”
For the next few hours, straight through the morning and past noon, Shrike spent his time flipping through various books and newspapers, not quite sure what he was even looking for at first. He knew he had to find some ruling that he could use to his advantage, but just what that could be was unknown to him. To make it worse, the language used in the reports was as typically obtuse as most political writing. School board rulings weren't quite the same as politics, but from the way they wrote about them you'd never know the difference.
It wasn't until close to noon that Shrike finally got lucky. In a collection of reports from nearly forty years ago Shrike came across one about a student who had been nursing an injured Pokémon he had found back to health in his room for a week before the school found out. They couldn't let him keep the Pokémon with him at the Academy of course, but after deliberation they did give the student the opportunity to leave the Academy early to study abroad, allowing the Pokémon to travel with him. Without even reading the whole report Shrike quickly made a copy of it. Leaning back in a chair next to the copier, Shrike grabbed the paper as it fed out and held it up to the light, scanning over it again. This time his eyes happened to fall on one of the few spots where the name of the student was given: a fifteen-year old kid named Martin Jura.
Shrike's eyes widened and he leaped out of the chair, not bothering with returning the book in the copier to the shelf as he glanced around and found the nearest computer that was free to use. Dropping into the chair facing it, Shrike logged in and accessed the digital newspaper archives from the home screen that appeared. Shrike inserted the day after the one on which Jura had been found out according to the report, a list of various newspapers popping up from which Shrike selected the school's own personal newspaper, the front page instantly appearing on the screen.
Fortunately, this time it wasn't hard to find what he was looking for. Right on the front page was a picture of a young boy right around Shrike's age sitting on one of the benches in the park, a small Growlithe sitting beside him on the bench and looking happily at the camera. Underneath the picture read the caption, “Sophomore Martin Jura (15) along with the Growlithe he had cared for after discovering it injured earlier this week.” Scrolling down to the article itself, Shrike quickly scanned through it.
Not being able to keep a Pokémon on campus is one rule that the board of education has always been strict on, a fact which sophomore Martin Jura found out first hand after an investigation into disruptive noises coming from his room revealed a Growlithe that Jura had been tending to ever since finding it injured earlier this week. When asked about why he chose to care for the Growlithe himself, Jura explained his reasoning for disobeying a school rule to us:
“Yeah, it was just so weird. I was just out by myself for a walk one day when I almost tripped over this small little Growlithe pup. He was unconscious and had all these scratches and stuff, so I couldn't just leave him there. I thought about bringing him to the infirmary instead, but...I don't know. I just felt like this was what I had to do. Call it the will of the Gods, but I felt then and still do now like it's my job to care for and look out for him. I don't know who or what hurt him in the first place, but I don't want them to come back and try it again.”
Despite Jura's personal beliefs, the board of education could not allow him to continue to harbor the Pokemon on school property. Claiming that he would drop out of the Academy if he had to in order to prevent being separated from the Growlithe, the board of education decided after much deliberation that Jura would be allowed to invoke one of the Academy's most confused policies: that any student, regardless of class, may be allowed to leave the Academy on an extended study program that involves registration as a Student Pokemon Trainer and enrollment in supplemental internet courses. To even be allowed to follow such a course of study, one must display strong academic progress as well as obtain the unanimous consent of the board of education. Typically, this consent is granted to juniors and seniors only, leading to the false belief that freshmen and sophomores are unable to leave on the Student Trainer program.
Indeed, the number of times the board of education has granted this privilege to freshmen and sophomore students remains in the single digits, although the only thing preventing more from taking advantage of this challenging path of study is the board of education's reluctance to let relatively new and untested students travel abroad, potentially compromising their studies. When faced with this fact, the board of education has pointed out that no one made such students join the Academy in the first place and that if they desired to begin traveling so soon, they should never have enrolled. Indeed, many such students view traveling abroad as a Student Trainer a simple matter of being able to travel on the school's wallet instead of their own, forgetting the other responsibilities involved such as keeping up with the internet classes and completing specific “challenges” that grade the student based on how well they complete a specific task. Failure to follow such responsibilities will result in not only being dropped from the Student Trainer program, but also in the former student losing their Pokemon Trainer license all together, requiring that they reapply for a normal license if they wish to continue journeying.
When further asked about his decision to follow through with the board of education's offer to travel as a Student Trainer, Jura explained thusly:
“Well, it was pretty much a no-brainer for me. I mean, I couldn't just stay here, and between the choice of simply dropping out or being allowed to travel without needing to pay—with some stipulations of course—what would you choose? This isn't exactly what I was planning, but it's not really too bad, just different. Besides, it means no more classes I have to wake up for at eight in the morning and that can only be a good thing.”
Shrike quickly printed out the article, still unable to believe what he had read. He had heard of such things as a Student Trainer of course, but as the article touched on he had been led to believe that he'd have to wait until the following semester when he would be a junior before he could take advantage of it. That there was the possibility he could do so now and follow in the footsteps of the quite frankly bizarre Professor Jura, whose own situation had been surprisingly similar to Shrike's, was something which sent shivers up his spine. This had been exactly what he needed to find, a fact which Shrike realized Jura had probably known all along.
Feeling that the report of the school board's decision and the enlightening newspaper article were more than enough, Shrike slid the papers into a folder in his backpack and put everything back where it belonged, including the copy of the book he had almost forgotten in the copier. With a broad smile on his face Shrike triumphantly marched out of the library, giving a large nod to the librarian from before as he passed her on the way out. As she stared at his back after Shrike had passed, the girl wondering to herself how anybody so odd could possibly be the big hero the newspaper touted that he was.
Shrike was eager to bring his findings to Jura as soon as he could, but he knew that the professor would be busy with classes for the entire afternoon. Suppressing his desires to interrupt a class just to speak to Jura, Shrike relegated himself to simply relaxing for the rest of the afternoon, grabbing some food from the cafeteria and a copy of the day's newspaper as he returned to his room from the library. Reading over the cover story about how he and Rayne had saved the Cyndaquil, Shrike couldn't help but scoff at it all. No mention was made of just how injured Zethro was when it was all done and over with, just a brief note saying that he had to be taken to the Pokémon Center to recover. Instead, it focused much more on how “heroic” Shrike and Rayne had been, without even having contacted either of them for questioning. It's like they don't even want people to care about Zethro. If we hadn't been able to save him yet still managed to drive off Zelos and Ramirez, they likely would have still called us heroes for preventing them from hurting any other Pokemon. What great journalism this is...
Six hours later and Shrike was still annoyed by the skewed focus the newspaper article took on the situation. Still, being able to relax freely and get some work done had taken his mind off it for a while. Knowing that Professor Jura's last class was almost out and that he could finally talk to him, Shrike was walking over to the academic building after having eaten a quick dinner. Climbing up the stairs quickly, Shrike traced the path he had taken while fleeing to the Pokémon Center the previous day in reverse. The smell of the chemicals that had been used to clean up the blood lingered in the air still, growing heavier the closer he got to the classroom. Shrike was just a few doors down from Professor Jura's classroom when his door suddenly swung open, a tall man dressed in a formal business suit and carrying a leather attaché case stepping out onto the balcony.
Shrike's heart almost stopped as he saw who it was, the man noticing Shrike as well as he closed the door and turned in the direction Shrike was coming from. The man's haggard and worn face frowned down at Shrike with piercing eyes, the boy staring back with an equally angry look. “Father...” Shrike whispered, his eyes narrowing as he clenched his fists.
Turning his eyes back upwards, Shrike's father began walking slowly down the balcony, brushing past his son without a word. Angrily, Shrike spun around and yelled out, “What're you doing here?! You said you wouldn't interfere!”
The tall man stopped in his tracks, not even turning around as he paused for a moment before saying, “I had some business to attend to. I imagine that Martin will tell you the details.” In silence the man continued walking again, Shrike not turning around until his father was out of view. Slowly he unclenched his fists and shook his head, trying to bring his anger under control. It wasn't often that Shrike saw his father, and when he did it was hard for him to just let it go.
Turning back towards Professor Jura's classroom, Shrike closed the gap to it and pushed open the door, expecting to find Jura wrapping up a class. Surprisingly, the classroom was devoid of students, its only occupant being the old, gray-haired professor sitting behind his desk, reading through some papers with a concerned look on his face. At the sound of Shrike walking through the door Jura glanced up, turning the papers over after realizing who it was.
“I thought you had a class at this time,” Shrike stated as he walked over to Jura's desk, sliding his backpack off and setting it on the ground.
“It was canceled.” Jura watched Shrike intently over the tops of his glasses as the boy grabbed a chair and dragged it over to face the desk. “I had more important matters to attend to.”
“My father? Important? You must be kidding me,” Shrike said as he leaned back in the chair, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“You crossed paths, then,” Jura noted, coming to the logical conclusion. “I was hoping that wouldn't happen.”
“If it makes you feel any better, I didn't knock his teeth out,” Shrike growled.
“If it was a better time, I'd suggest you look into counseling,” Jura sighed. “Your dad only wants what's best for you. It may seem like he's suppressing your true desires, but if you knew his reasons...”
“He's not my 'dad',” Shrike asserted. “If he was my dad he would at least tell me why he's so against me getting involved with Pokémon. He's my father. That's it.”
Jura waved his hand dismissively. “Yet despite what you see as overbearing control he continues to finance your tuition and provide you with a monthly allowance that, may I point out, far exceeds what most children your age and older receive. His given reason for allowing you to enroll may have simply been to get you our of his life, but if that was the case, would it not have been better for him to just send you to a relative and cut off all ties? The fact is, Mr. Flamestar, that despite you wanting to sever ties with him so much that you changed your full name, he has insisted on keeping you close while continuing to uphold your dependency on him.”
It was obvious that Jura was holding out on Shrike; he clearly knew more than he was letting on. Shrike supposed it was possible that his father had discussed with Jura his reasons for abandoning his own son either now or during some previous meeting, but Shrike didn't want to press his teacher for answers. Even if Jura had them and would answer, Shrike didn't feel like hearing them now.
Jura nodded as Shrike fell silent, neither willing to continue with the topic of the boy's father. Instead, Jura brought up the obvious question, “Now, why are you here?”
Shrike grinned, his father washing away from his mind quickly as he remembered why he had gone to visit Jura in the first place. “Ah, but I'm sure you know that. You're the one who led me to do all this, and so I've played your little game.”
“And you believe you've won?” Jura rested his elbows on his desk and interlaced his fingers, supporting his chin on the platform they created as he continued to stare at Shrike over his glasses.
“I know I have.” From his backpack, Shrike produced the articles he had found earlier that day. Standing up, he walked over to Jura's desk and slammed the papers on top of it, splaying them out so that both were easily visible in their entirety. “You've been withholding stuff from me. You went through something rather similar yourself, just without all the bloodshed. You've known all along how I can get out of this mess without losing Zethro to the system because you did it yourself.”
“And your answer?” Jura proceeded to ask, merely glancing down at the papers to verify that they were indeed what he had been hoping the boy would find. “You know what you must do; is it what you want to do?”
“I'll do whatever's needed,” Shrike answered without pause. “If that means leaving this place early, so be it. I've never been much for studying anyways; I guess sort of like you back then,” he added.
“Good. That was one of the reasons I called your dad in; I needed his consent for you to leave the Academy early,” Jura explained. “The board's already agreed that you should be allowed to register as a Student Trainer; all that's left is for you to make the final call.”
“Then what was the point of making me find out about your past so that I could come to a conclusion you had already made for me?” Shrike asked, more than a little aggravated.
“I made no such decision for you, I merely arranged the pieces in advance,” Jura clarified, defending his odd methods. “You had to come to the conclusion yourself; you had to decide for yourself what your path is. I'm afraid that's one of the few things I lack the authority to decide around here.”
“You could have at least told me that this wasn't the first time this happened,” Shrike asserted, not willing to back down.
“What happened to me was different. As you noted, there was no bloodshed nor, to my knowledge, any such people as this Zelos and Ramirez. The end result was the same, but the entire experience was far different than your own.”
Jura was right, of course. There wasn't much in common between the two other than the sheer fact that they both saved an injured Pokémon. Still, Shrike couldn't help but feel that any normal person would have already told him even that much instead of requiring him to find out on his own. “Well, I already said I accept,” Shrike sighed, relenting. Jura had him cornered, and while he didn't want to admit defeat, he had no ground to stand on.
Jura nodded slowly, unlacing his fingers as he pulled out one of the paper he had been looking at when Shrike came in, picking up a pen as he began to write on it. “It's going to take at least a week to get the paperwork processed, and just about as long for Zethro to recover to the point where he can be safely removed from the Pokémon Center's care.”
“About that, sir,” Shrike said. “If he's yours, why is he here? Why are you just letting me take him?”
Jura paused, slowly placing the pen he had been writing with on his desk. His eyes dropped from Shrike to his desk, losing focus as he delved into his mind. After a moment, Jura slowly spoke up again, keeping his eyes focused on his desk. “As you now know, I used to be a trainer myself. When my life settled down and I returned here to teach, I brought my Pokémon with me as they had nowhere else to go, and I didn't want to part from them regardless. My responsibilities as a professor clashed with my responsibility to care for them, however, so I had to settle with letting the school take care of my Pokemon. Because of this, sometimes they're used in classes and such with my permission when no other suitable Pokémon are available, as was the case with Zethro. His mother is a Typhlosion that itself evolved from a Cyndaquil I caught, while his father is indeed the very Growlithe—although an Arcanine at the time—that I nursed back to health all those years ago.”
“The son of your starter...?” Shrike mused. “Don't you want to keep him, then?”
Jura nodded his head slowly. “Yes, I would. But, there comes a time when one must realize their own limits. I am no longer fit to keep such Pokémon around, and indeed they are more the school's than mine lately. Others care for and train them; my sole parts in the equation are my signature on a release form and a persistent entry in the Pokémon storage system marking them as belonging to me. While I would not dream of giving my older companions away, I cannot hold onto a child who barely even knows me due to how distant we are.”
Professor Jura stood up and began to pace behind his desk, holding his hands behind his back and shaking his head. “It was a mistake that allowed him to be used as a part of the research project. He's too young; he hadn't yet realized that the single person caring for him for so long, you, was just a student and not a new master. He bonded to you closer than any other Pokémon did to their student in the project, which in itself isn't too much of a problem. It's natural for some relationship to develop in these sorts of projects, and surely, given time, he would come to realize that you were just a temporary caretaker. The untimely intervention of Zelos and Ramirez only cemented his view in you as not just a caretaker, but a protector as well. Quite frankly, while the experience has driven you close to him as well, it's for Zethro's own sake that I am relinquishing his ownership.” Coming to a stop, Jura turned to face Shrike again, staring directly into the boy's wide eyes with his own narrow gaze. “Even now I yearn to be the trainer I once was, and I don't think withholding the desires of my Pokémon due to my own would make for a very good trainer.”
Shrike was completely speechless, struck by the kindness that he now realized existed in the dark, heartless persona that Jura had adopted. Amid the silence, Jura pulled open a drawer on his desk and picked up two items, placing them on the desk's surface with a slight push over to Shrike's side. Scanning over the items, Shrike recognized one as being a standard Poké Ball, it's glossiness giving it away as being brand new and never used before. The other roughly resembled a red flip cell phone without an external display, a large circular camera where the external display would normally be identifying the device as a Pokédex. Flipping it open, Shrike noticed that this model lacked any tactile controls, instead having a touchscreen on the lower half of the Pokédex with a normal display on the upper half.
“That belonged to your dad. He brought it over and said that if you were planning to go through with this that he wants you to have it,” Jura explained. “The Poké Ball is from the school's supplies; I assume you'll want one to keep Zethro in.”
“Father brought this over?” Shrike asked, flipping the Pokédex closed and looking it over some more. It didn't seem to have been used much, but it certainly wasn't new and had some wear marks. It couldn't have belonged to him; why would he of all people have a Pokédex? He probably just bought it used, but... “Why would he give me this anyways?” Shrike finished his thought out loud.
Jura shrugged, ignoring the question as he sat back down. “When I have a hard date as to when you may leave, I will let you know. Until then, remember that you are still a student of this Academy and I expect you to continue acting as one. That means you had better continue to attend classes and do schoolwork; remember that this privilege may be withdrawn at any time.”
Shrike stood up from the chair, nodding as he pocketed the Pokédex and Poké Ball Jura had given him. “Of course. I can't promise I'll be able to put my full heart into all my work, though.”
Jura smiled, shaking his head as he finally relented to something. “Of course, but don't expect me to grade you any more favorably.”
Shrike picked up his backpack and turned away from Professor Jura, a large grin on his face as walked out the door, Jura watching on with a small smile of his own, closing his eyes as the boy left the room. As a wave of nostalgia washed over the professor, his smile quickly faded, and as he opened his eyes he looked down at the papers on his desk with remorse.
“Perhaps things will be different for him...” Jura quietly whispered to himself, picking up his pen as he returned to filling out the endless amounts of paperwork.
Later that day, Shrike found himself setting on his bed as he looked about his small, cube-shaped room. He would have to begin packing soon, sorting out the bare essentials to bring with him. While there wasn't any sort of maximum on the amount of supplies that a trainer could carry, most people agreed that more than a single backpack would be too heavy and inconvenient for the long hikes through wilderness that had become synonymous with Pokémon Trainers. Moving his eyes from one thing to the next, Shrike mentally categorized everything he owned. Obviously he would have to bring his computer if only for the online classes, but its docking station would be pointless. Perhaps his video gaming portable as well, it wouldn't do him any good to be bored. Then there was his digital audio player, Shrike wasn't sure what he'd do if he couldn't listen to music. Shaking his head, Shrike sighed as he admitted that such luxuries would have to take lesser priority compared to other things, such as clothes, toiletries, camping supplies, and so on.
Before long, Shrike found himself lying amid the darkness again, trying to fall asleep with the hope that the night's rest wouldn't be as fractured as the previous. Trying unsuccessfully to clear his mind, all Shrike could think of was the future. Where it would bring him, what he would see, who he would meet... Maybe it'll be just like you see on TV, Shrike thought, boy goes off with his newfound friend and encounters all these exciting adventures, meeting new friends and training to get better, all the while perhaps even thwarting a little evil.
Shrike slowly opened his eyes and stared up at the ceiling, his head resting on his hands atop a pillow. A frown grew on his face as he thought of all the evil teams that TV, books, and games all seemed to love. Something about the idea of just a couple of kids and their Pokémon fighting back against these organizations rampant on taking over the world or other atrocities appealed to the mass public, and surely more than a few kids set off on their own journeys with the hope of such heroics in mind.
But what if I don't want any of that? What if I just want a normal life that I can set at my pace? I just want to have fun and see new things, not act as some protector of good and justice. Someone else can handle that, I just want to be the average guy who shows up in a single episode without any heroics or fanfare. I've had enough of that now, I don't need anymore...
His thoughts turning troubled, Shrike tried to relax again, but it was hopeless now. All he could think of was all the bad that could come of this; all the pain and distress that he and his Pokémon may have to experience, even if his life did turn out to have a lack of dramatics. Sometimes, battles just went wrong. An attack would be more powerful than it should have been, unrestricted by the Pokémon who performed it, and the opponent would end up in critical condition or, sometimes, worse. It wasn't common, but even without the whole battling evil thing there was enough potential harm in Pokémon Training, especially with the sometimes rather dangerous encounters with wild Pokémon, that Shrike had to wonder why it was legal at all.
There can't be anymore pain or suffering... Zethro, and me, have had more than enough for our entire lifetimes now... Haven't we paid our toll?
Sliding out of bed, the restless boy stumbled over to his trash bin, feeling around on the ground until he felt his hand close over the pocket knife he had carelessly thrown away the night before. Backpedaling to his bed and falling down in it, Shrike gripped the pocket knife in his fist and held it up against his chest as he closed his eyes again. I don't want to remember the pain that this knife caused, no matter what. But I don't want to see anymore pain from other sources either, and to prevent future pain perhaps I do need to remember the past pain... This journey may have begun due to pain, but if I keep that in mind and remember why I'm doing this, perhaps I can avoid any pain in the future.
~One Week Later~
Shrike stood on a small rock outcropping that lay off to the side of one of the main footpaths that led away from Rustboro City. A slight breeze ruffled his short hair and gently tossed about the short-sleeved black jacket he wore open over his traditional red T-shirt. “I've never seen the city like this before...” Shrike murmured, breaking the silence. From atop the rocks he looked out at the distant city, already miles away after a day's walk from the Academy.
Besides Shrike's feet, a small Cyndaquil squeaked happily, and Shrike smiled as he looked down at Zethro. “That's right, you haven't seen anything outside the school grounds ever, huh?”
Zethro's recovery had been surprisingly fast. Within just a few days of the incident he had been well enough to be moved to a standard recovery unit of the Pokémon Center and only a day later was up on his feet. While the doctors had still showed concern about removing him from their care when Shrike went to pick him up, the fact that he was well enough to run about excitedly didn't help their argument. The Cyndaquil had been only too willing to let Shrike capture him with the Poké Ball Jura had given him, not as if Shrike was going to force Zethro to stay in it all the time.
“What do you plan to do now?” Rayne asked as she walked up to the jutting rock, her longer black hair flying about wildly in the breeze as she crossed her arms. “I assume you don't plan to tackle the Rustboro Gym immediately. If you are, we've gone the wrong way.”
Shrike shook his head. “No, it'd be pointless without any training. When I return next, only after both of us have grown as trainer and Pokémon; I'll do it then.”
Rayne's announcement that she would be accompanying Shrike didn't come as a surprise to him. While the thought of having a bond with her as he did with Zethro was rather off-putting, Shrike couldn't deny that he and the girl had grown closer since the attack one week ago. Shrike didn't want to say that he liked her even as a friend just yet, but he was certainly grateful for her help; the bickering over her lack of assistance in the research project now seemed baseless after all the other help and support she had provided him. Like Shrike, Rayne would be traveling as a Student Pokémon Trainer. Jura had easily been able to arrange it without any hassle since she had no legal guardian and he himself had been her original sponsor for government-funded enrollment in the Pokémon Academy.
From behind Rayne, the silent, white-furred shape of her Absol, Matariel, appeared, glancing up at her master for a moment before gazing off at the city they had come from. Nodding slowly, Shrike turned away from the city and slid down off the rock, grabbing the backpack he had set against its base. “I was thinking we'd see about visiting Petalburg City first. It's almost as big as Rustboro I hear; certainly hard to think of it as having been a small town at one point.”
“Plus, they have a Pokémon Gym,” Rayne noted.
“Exactly,” Shrike grinned. Sometimes, he proved rather easy to see through.
Behind Shrike, Zethro slid down off the rock, jumping through the air and grabbing onto Shrike's head with a squeal of joy. Not finding the extra weight on his head so fun, Shrike reached up and picked the Cyndaquil off his head, moving him over to his shoulder and letting the small Pokémon ride there instead, propped up by his backpack. “Right, that's a better spot...” Shrike mumbled.
Zethro gleefully pounded Shrike's shoulder, pointing towards the forest in the distance that they would have to pass through to get to Petalburg. “I think he wants to get moving again all ready,” Rayne observed. “I'm not exactly against the idea. Staring back at the city is fascinating, but it'd probably be a good idea to reach the forest before night falls.”
Shrike nodded, reaching up and rubbing the head of the Cyndaquil sitting on his shoulder. “Yeah... I guess that's enough. Come on, let's get going.”
As Shrike began to walk again, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small pocket knife, its red sides catching Rayne's attention. Glancing down at the knife for only a moment, he quickly wrapped his fist around it before stuffing it back into his pocket. I'll make sure of it. No harm or pain will come to those I'm close to again. By the Gods, I swear it.
~End of Part 1 – Turning Point~
So, as I said, sorry about the wait and the wait that'll be after this one. Hey, TRINITY needs updating too, you know.
Anyway, I sort of like this chapter, imagine that. The tone is a lot different than pretty much anything else I've written which sort of threw me off at first, but it sort of grew on me as I wrote more and then proofread. The beginning really gives a good feel for the academy even without the actual going to classes part that the old version had. I got the chat back in, but modified to make it more narrative and concise; I managed to bring back the very brief encounter with Shrike's dad that I had originally planned but was cut before; I worked in mention of Shrike picking up Zethro which I forgot about last time, although I did end up cutting out the actual narrative of the pickup itself along.
Back to the tone thing, the change in tone throughout the chapter is one of my favorite parts, especially the final scene where the tone drastically changes to being much more mellow. Just as with the prologue, it's the calm before the storm.
Lots of changes here, both large and small... All together it adds up to make this a huge improvement over the old version in my eyes, if only because the characterization of Shrike is so drastically different that it's kind of hard to say that they're the same person. Seriously, I don't know what I was thinking with Shrike in the old version; he's pretty much consistently out of character for almost the entire chapter, it's crazy. Here's a not very comprehensive list of some of the important the changes that I haven't already mentioned:
~Chapter 4 changes (from old chapter 3)~
Well, let's see how long it takes to get back here again...
May 12th, 2009 (4:00 PM).
Well its official, I am now hooked on two on your stories. and Ill I have to say for my sell is "Aw man, I have no more too read."
Anyway, I Love the story, my favorite line was:
Anyway, you have another reader to add to the list. And until you post again I sit waiting for your updates.
I really need a new signature.
May 12th, 2009 (9:00 PM).
Hello! Hehe, this is a review for chapter one. I would read and review more, but it's pretty late. I always seem to start good stories right before I get really tired...
Anywho, these are the grammar/ typo errors I found:
In any case, I like the story thus far. Great description, intriguing characters, and interesting plot. The prologue was excellent and I really like how you put the exerpt Shrike was typing before the actual chapter.
I'll be back to read/review the other chapters sometime this week. Keep up the great writing!
May 14th, 2009 (12:23 PM).
Hey, people (and, well, orange otter water weasel thing that, might I add, is my second favorite Pokemon next to Quilava). Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave some comments!
In any case, thanks for pointing those out. I really should proofread more than once but I just feel like I'm at the point where, after the first one, I'd be lucky to find even a few mistakes if not none at all. What typos there are left are ones that I just skip over, like the won't/weren't one up there which I almost skimmed over in just your quote.
May 31st, 2009 (8:51 PM).
In order to be semi-organized, I am going to review by chapter. I have grammar mistakes and other comments intertwined- sorry for that lack of organization.
Run on sentence- I would split it up somewhere.
Overall, I absolutely love the character development in this chapter! You opened up a lot of questions, which keeps the reader reading. I can't wait to find out about basically everyone's pasts. Hehe, this chapter made me regret not forcing my lazy butt to read it sooner. Oh, and a warning... the more I get into a story, the less likely I am to find grammar errors- so sorry in advance. I guess its a good/bad situation. =P
Another run-on. I would end the first sentence after boy and then start the next sentence with yet.
Alright, I might as well get this over with now. You often mix up 'yet' and 'but,' which usually causes you to have a run on sentence. 'Yet' is not a conjunction like 'and,' 'or,' and 'but.' Thus, it cannot be used like a conjunction. In this situation, I would replace your 'yet' with 'but.' Here are a few examples:
The little girl likes dogs but not sheep. ~Correct use of but.
The little girl likes dogs, but she does not like sheep. ~Correct use of but.
The little girl likes dogs yet not sheep. ~Incorrect use of yet... I think. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure, but it sounds really awkward.
The little girl likes dogs, yet she does not like sheep. ~Incorrect use of yet
The little girl does not like dogs; yet, she likes sheep. ~Correct, but kinda awkward
The little girl does not like dogs. Yet, despite this intense dislike, she still likes sheep. ~Correct
In this situation, I would just stick to but...
More conjunction issues. This time 'but' should be 'or.' And no comma needed. You use a comma if the second part of the sentence could be a sentence by itself.
lying lying? Once is more than enough, lol.
Alright. Chapter three. Yeah, that grammar theory was just kinda shoved out the window... Anyway, I've decided you write amazing imagery in a way that keeps me interested. I can imagine everything as if it is a movie. It's pretty awesome. I've also decided Rayne is my favorite character, though I'm not quite sure why. Maybe it has something to do with randomly appearing, lol.
Two problems with this. 1. The first part does not make sense. Maybe I'm reading it wrong. 2. 'They' should not be used because there is only one person typing. Maybe use 'he' or 'she' or 'the correspondent' or 'the person'.
Grr. Run-on again. Period before however.
Anyways should be anyway.
Again, the first 'they' is incorrect because LuminousShadow is one person. I would just replace this 'they' with 'LuminousShadow.'
Also, the end should be 'befriended each other.'
If he is... on the dark side... I have to say, that would be really messed up.
Now that is just plain nasty... in every sense of the word.
Basically, Chapter 4 was just plain good. I liked learning about Jura's past and I'm loving the fact that Rayne is going with Shrike (not that that was unexpected). Like Buoysel, I am hooked on this story. I really enjoy your writing; keep it up!
Hehe, now that I'm out of chapters to review, I suppose you have to post another one!
June 1st, 2009 (7:44 PM).
Hey, thanks a lot for reading and for all the corrections! I always love it when I get comments on grammatical stuff; I personally consider my still imperfect grammar to be one of my weakest points. So again, thanks a ton for pointing all this out.
"Immediately he leaped at the faucet and turned the cold water on, throwing his glasses on a small shelf off to the side before splashing the bitterly cold water into his face. Pressing his head into his hands, Shrike drew his fingers up through his hair before repeating the process and splashing his face with water again."
"Under just the moonlight he couldn't tell if it was the one that had been used to cut into Zethro's throat; if it was, though, Rayne had cleaned it up since then."
Which is ironically exactly what I was looking for when I first wrote that but didn't think of until now.
I could just use the full name or rewrite the passage to work around it and not need a pronoun, but it's so different from how I usually write and to me detracts from the style and flow more than I can accept... For now, I'm just going to leave the 'they's in, but in the future I'll keep this in mind. ...Well, the first instance of 'they' I actually just removed while addressing the nonsensical part and run-on together, as follows:
"<Oh hey, hi!> a user called LuminousShadow exclaimed before quickly adding, <I was wondering what happened to you. Guess I shouldn't have gotten so worked up about just a single day absence.>
LuminousShadow was in fact the exact person Shrike had been looking for. In response he began to type a message; however before he could finish another popped up, this time from someone named Chaos."
Seriously, I just added it to the auto-correct list. I shall never make that mistake again! Auto-correct is a wonderful tool, and is also how I get the accented 'e' in anything Poke-related, as well as how I enforce my usage of the two word Poke Ball instead of Pokeball. More writers, especially Pokemon writers who want to use the accented 'e' but don't want to memorize the code for it, should use it. It is kind of cheating, though...
August 16th, 2009 (10:28 AM). Edited August 17th, 2009 by Shrike Flamestar.
As usual, sorry for the delay... If you read the fanfic lounge you'd know that I'm currently striving to write every day, which resulted in this chapter being finished in just about a week and a half from when it was started. While I have to bounce over to my other fic now, hopefully this still mean that there's a possibility of the next chapter here being finished sooner rather than later. Maybe.
Edit 8/17/09 – I've changed a few paragraphs when the wild Zigzagoon first appears and added a new paragraph, with the end goal being to clarify the existence of normal animals in the fic and validate my use of animal comparisons. Search for, “It was a common Zigzagoon” to find the new stuff if you've already read the chapter.
The Flamestar Chronicles
Part 2 – Shadow's Core
The sky above Hoenn was darkening, the sun quickly falling below the horizon and casting the warm red-orange glow of sunset over the Petalburg Woods. Basking in the light amid the branches of numerous trees, Taillow and Swellow began to settle into their nests as the sounds of their voices quieted with the dimming light. Within a clearing encircled by trees, young Shrike Flamestar stared up at the flame-colored sky, before a squeak from the Cyndaquil who stood before him brought him back to reality.
Looking back down at Zethro, Shrike gave a small nod and permission to continue. Striving to show off to his master, Zethro suddenly broke into a run, aiming for a tree across from where the two stood. Speeding up quickly, Zethro leapt at the tree when he was only a few feet from it. Curling up, he impacted with the side of the tree and rebounded off it, spinning through the air before landing on his feet. The tree shook from the blow, disturbing the birds that nested above and sending them flying in a flurry of blue and white feathers.
“You've got the basic technique down, good,” Shrike said, nodding in approval. “By itself it would suffice as a tackle or quick attack if you sped up more, but if you could just add your fire to the mix you'd get a flame wheel. Think you can try that out?”
Zethro nodded and ran back to where Shrike stood, spinning around as he spread his small legs apart, tensing up. The red spots on his back began to crackle before bursting into flames, the waves of heat washing over Shrike and warming him. “Okay, go.”
Zethro broke into a sprint again, charging at the tree and leaping into the air at about the same point as the last time. As he rolled himself into a ball, the fire from his back wrapped around his body as if an extension of his physical form. Wreathed in fire, the Cyndaquil again slammed into the tree. Bark blackened and burnt away, falling down in ashes as Zethro bounced backwards. Unrolling his body as he flipped through the air and landed, fire seemed to scatter in all directions.
“Good!” Shrike cheered on as Zethro proudly turned to face him. “Since you can't use flamethrower or even ember due to your injuries, we're going to have to rely on that until you're fully healed.”
Not far from the clearing Shrike was training Zethro in, Rayne and her Absol Matariel sat within another gap amid the trees. At its center, below an opening in the canopy overhead, Rayne had built up a pile of wood on the dirt ground after clearing away any flammable leaves. Lighting the tender at the woodpile's core using a lighter, she stood up and walked farther back as the fire grew in intensity. As she sat down against a fallen log, pulling a book out of her backpack and opening it to a bookmarked page, Matariel stood up from where she had been lying and walked over to the girl. Affectionately rubbing her companion's head for a moment, Rayne then nodded. Without a word Matariel turned around, running off between the trees and disappearing into the bushes.
Just as Matariel left, Rayne was greeted with the sound of Shrike and Zethro walking down a small informal trail that led from the clearing they had been in. Tiredly they collapsed on the ground close to the fire, Rayne watching them over the top of her book.
“It's hard to believe it was only two days ago that we left,” Shrike quietly said, staring into the fire.
“Do you want to go back?” Rayne asked, no hint in her voice as to her own answer.
“Of course not,” Shrike shook his head. “Life is different now, but...I'm liking the difference. I just miss some of the luxuries of home, that's all.”
“Home...” Rayne whispered. The only home she had ever known as far back as her memory allowed was the Pokémon Academy. However, despite the years she spent there it had never seemed to her as anything more than a transitory stage of her life. How Shrike could call such a place home was beyond her, especially since he had an actual home with his dad no matter how much he tried to deny it.
“Hey, where's Matariel?” Shrike asked, breaking Rayne from her thoughts.
Rayne closed her book again without having read more than a sentence, slipping it back into her pack. “She's off hunting. She refuses to eat prepared Pokémon food if there're alternatives.”
Shrike lowered his eyes as he heard the explanation. It was completely natural for Pokémon to hunt and eat other Pokémon of course, but after a Pokémon was caught and tamed by a trainer it was normal for it to be fed human-made Pokémon food. There was nothing intrinsically wrong with a Trainer-owned Pokémon continuing to hunt for food; however the thought that Rayne willingly let Matariel take the lives of wild Pokémon when there were other options mildly disturbed him.
As if he could tell that Shrike was thinking about food, Zethro began to nudge against his trainer's arm, whining as he tried to get Shrike's attention. Noticing his Pokémon as he snapped out of his thoughts, Shrike cocked his head. “Something wrong?”
“He's hungry,” Rayne answered for Zethro as the Cyndaquil walked over to Shrike's backpack and pawed at it.
Shrike stood up and walked over to where Zethro was waiting, sitting down on the dirt-covered ground and pulling open his pack. “You're good at understanding Pokémon, huh?” he asked as he pulled out a resealable package of Pokémon food. Pulling it open, he picked out one of the cubes from within. Processed from Tauros bred solely for use as cattle along with vegetables and vitamins important for the health of Pokémon, the cubes were everything a Pokémon could need for food. Perhaps they lacked variety, but if Pokémon didn't like them surely there would be more instances of the prepared food being turned down as in Matariel's case. Zethro certainly didn't seem to mind it, grabbing the cube with his front paws and tacking a bite out of it as he stood up.
Rayne shrugged. “Well, you just have to learn to read their body language. After observing a Pokémon for a while and seeing how it acts, understanding it's intent isn't too hard.”
Shrike narrowed his eyes and glanced over at Rayne out of the corner of his eyes. “There's more though, isn't there?”
Rayne kept silent, turning away from Shrike. Seeing her reluctance to answer, Shrike pressed on, “You can actually understand what they're saying.”
A tense pause followed, before Rayne finally spoke up. “How'd you know?” she asked hesitantly.
“I first noticed it back on that night at the Academy when we talked,” Shrike explained, looking back at Zethro as he finished the food cube, crawling into Shrike's lap and curling up. Stroking his Pokémon as it fell asleep, Shrike continued with the explanation, “I thought you interpreting what Matariel said was just a joke at first, however after watching you two together... I could tell that something more was passing between you.”
“It's always been like this,” Rayne said quietly as she stared at the fire. “I remember when I found out that the other people at the Academy couldn't understand Pokémon; it was the oddest thing to me. I guess I hadn't realized that this isn't normal until then.”
“I don't suppose you can teach me?” Shrike asked hopefully.
“I don't even know how I can do it, let alone if it's even possible for others,” Rayne shrugged. “I did read some books on it, though. Apparently it's said that some psychics and mediums claim to be able to understand Pokémon too, but since they can't prove anything they're rarely taken seriously.”
“Too bad...” Shrike frowned as he looked down at the Cyndaquil in his lap. He wondered if all trainers wished they could understand what their Pokémon said like Rayne apparently could. The idea of everyone in the world being able to understand Pokémon then came to Shrike, and he couldn't help but wonder how such a large difference in understanding between species would affect society.
“We should be getting to sleep soon,” Rayne said as she stood up from the log she had been sitting on, unstrapping a sleeping bag from her backpack. “If we make good progress tomorrow we should reach Petalburg within two days max, maybe even just one.”
Shrike nodded wordlessly, gently picking Zethro off his lap and setting him on the ground. Despite Shrike's best efforts to avoid waking his Pokémon, Zethro's eyes opened slightly and he turned to watch as the boy removed his own sleeping bag from his backpack, unrolling it on a level patch of ground. As Shrike crawled into the bag, Zethro stood up and crawled over to where Shrike lay, curling up again next to his head.
Shrike stared up at the tree branches overhead for a moment, the sky gradually darkening. Rolling his head to the side, he saw that Rayne hadn't actually laid down yet. Sitting on the log again, she had pulled her book back out to read a few more pages in the dwindling light.
As Shrike watched, some of the bushes next to where Rayne sat began to shake. The white-furred form of an Absol came walking out of them, Rayne glancing to her side as Matariel walked over to her. Smeared across her muzzle Shrike could see a red liquid, fresh blood. Apparently the hunt had been successful.
And some random Pokémon lost it's life, a Pokémon that if given the chance may have found a better life with a trainer or even just in the wild, alone or with a family...
Morning came faster than it should have to Shrike. It seemed as if he had only been sleeping for a few minutes when the sounds of birds welcoming the morning pulled him from his sleep. Cracking open his eyes, he stared up with blurry vision at the forest canopy overhead, blue dots hopping among unclear brown streaks against a field of green. Without his glasses it looked almost like a painting. Reaching to his side he found the case he had put his glasses in before falling asleep, removing them from the case and sliding them back on. As the scene overhead came into focus, Shrike looked over to where Zethro still lay. As expected he found the Cyndaquil was still sleeping, his cream-colored chest rising and falling to the rhythm of his breathing.
Shrike pulled himself up until he was sitting, examining the charred remains of the fire from the night before. After a moment he crawled out of the sleeping bag, stretching his limbs out. Glancing over at where Rayne had fallen asleep, he noticed that she was already gone. There wasn't any sign of her in the clearing, however her backpack was still where she had left it so she probably hadn't gone far.
Sitting on the ground next to his sleeping bag, Shrike found his personal items just where he had left them. Picking up his watch and strapping it around his wrist, Shrike saw that it was only around seven. If he was still back in the Academy, he probably would have fallen back asleep on the spot just due to seeing that time. Managing to ignore it though, he pulled his belt on before returning everything else to their proper place in his pockets.
“Hey, wake up,” Shrike softly said to Zethro as he began rolling up his sleeping bag. Stirring from his sleep, Zethro yawned as he raised his head and looked up at Shrike. The trainer picked up the rolled sleeping bag, carrying it over to his backpack as he continued talking. “I was thinking we could go train some more for a while, before we take off again for the day. Hungry?”
Zethro squeaked happily as he got to his feet, walking over to Shrike as he opened his pack. Digging through it some he pulled out a granola bar made of nuts and raisins. Breaking it in two, he gave a part to Zethro and quickly ate his own piece. Standing up, Shrike motioned to the trail that led off to the clearing they had been training in the previous day. Finishing with his own part of the snack, Zethro took off after Shrike as he began jogging down the trail, ducking under a branch that stuck out in his path every now and then.
“Okay,” Shrike said as he pushed his way past a bush and into the clearing. “We should probably warm up first; start out by simply doing a standard tackle.”
Zethro nodded, setting off in a run across the ground toward the far side of the clearing. Just as he was about to leap, however, a dark brown blur suddenly shot out of a bush. The creature rammed straight into the unprepared Cyndaquil, throwing him to the side. Entangled together, the two bodies rolled across the ground, Shrike recognizing the Pokémon as they slowed down. It was a common Zigzagoon, a Pokémon almost everyone in Hoenn was familiar with. For a moment Shrike watched it rolling around with Zethro, the Zigzagoon's alternating brown and white fur becoming marred with dirt that matted down its normally bristly tufts. Something seemed to be trying to get his attention at the back of his mind though, and as he focused he roughly recalled that there was an animal that resembled the Zigzagoon.
Normal animals such as cats and dogs, while common elsewhere in the world where they far outnumbered Pokémon, were almost nonexistent on the chain of Pacific islands colloquially known as the Pokémon Islands. On those islands of Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and so on, Pokémon were so numerous that several millennia ago most species of normal animals had been pushed to extinction. Still, on continents where Pokémon species weren't as common such as North America, animals continued to flourish. Shrike remembered learning about such animals in primary school, and as he studied the Zigzagoon it came to him. The Pokémon, with its small, low body and mask-colored fur on its head resembled an animal called a raccoon; a scavenger in urban environments much like Zigzagoon were.
As Shrike recalled those facts, the Zigzagoon sank its claws into Zethro's back and fiercely growled as bright red spots of blood appeared around the wounds. The raccoon-like Pokémon's claws were small and so the injuries they inflicted were minor, but as Shrike saw the blood his mind flashed back to when his Pokémon had almost been killed by Zelos and Ramirez. Stunned by the remembrance of the event, he barely noticed as the Zigzagoon bared its fangs and tried to sink its teeth into Zethro's back. Suddenly, a burst of fire flared up over the Cyndaquil's back, the Zigzagoon yelping as it released its grip and fell to the ground.
Zethro quickly ran away from the savage Pokémon, retreating next to Shrike. Its fur blackened due to the flames, the Zigzagoon was surprisingly relentless as it rolled to its feet again. Barking out deep, guttural growls as it bristled its fur about, Shrike couldn't help but admit what the wild Pokémon was trying to achieve.
It's...hunting. The thought was bizarre, but the Zigzagoon's behavior was proof enough. Why this particular Zigzagoon was hunting rather than gathering berries or other such food as was usual was a mystery to Shrike, but the only other explanation would be that it was trying to protect a family or such. That possibility didn't make much sense though as it had actively tried to bite Zethro not just to stun him, but to kill. I guess this is the truth of the wild... The part you never see on TV. These Pokémon are wild and won't hold back. I guess neither should we.
“Okay, Zethro,” Shrike said, looking down at the Cyndaquil that stood by his feet, legs spread apart with fire licking across his back. “Scrap that training. This will be our first real battle, and we can't afford to hold back!” Zethro barked in agreement. Focusing on his opponent, he began to growl back at the Zigzagoon, the two Pokémon working themselves up. The Zigzagoon could attack at any minute, and Shrike had to quickly decide rather to wait for it or take the initiative.
He thought too slow, however, as before he could decide anything the Zigzagoon made its move. Lurching forward, the opposing Pokémon crossed the ground between it and Zethro in seconds, lowering its head as it charged.
“Move!” Shrike shouted, both he and and Zethro diving out of the way as the Zigzagoon sailed right through where the two had been standing. “Now, retaliate with tackle!” Shrike yelled, hoping to get an attack in while the raccoon recovered from the missed charge.
Reeling from being thrown off balance due to the missed attack, the Zigzagoon was caught unaware as Zethro suddenly leapt through the air and hit it squarely in the side. The wild Pokémon screeched as it was thrown back several feet, tumbling across the dirt before it managed to recover its footing. Even angrier now, it growled again and bared its small fangs, swiping at the ground like an angry bull ready to charge at any moment.
“Watch out, it's going to going to make a move any time now!” Shrike began to yell, however before he could get out more than a few words the Zigzagoon suddenly shot forward. Streaking over the ground in a blur, it sharply turned before it reached Zethro and began running around him in a zigzagging path, showcasing its speed and agility in a manner that lived up to its name. Zethro nervously glanced from side to side as the speeding Zigzagoon ran around him in a constantly changing path, leaving neither Shrike nor his Pokémon able to guess at where it would be the next moment.
The raccoon Pokémon suddenly let out a blood-curdling cry as it converted its momentum into a jump, aiming not for Zethro's unprotected sides but rather his head. Shrike's eyes widened as he saw this, instantly realizing that the Zigzagoon had figured out that Zethro couldn't breathe fire. Such a head-on move would be suicidal against any other Cyndaquil, but with Zethro's injuries there was no defense against the Zigzagoon. Sinking his claws into the top of Zethro's head, the force of the Zigzagoon knocked Zethro onto his back. Flames uselessly squeezed out between his body and the ground, the Zigzagoon untouched by them as it quickly removed its claws from Zethro's hard skull and sunk them into his much softer belly.
Shrike was stunned as he watched the Zigzagoon's claws sunk deeper into Zethro's chest, his weight helping them inflict greater damage than their small size alone would normally allow. A sinister look on its face, the savage raccoon growled in victory as Zethro thrashed about. With the Zigzagoon holding him down Zethro couldn't manage to flip himself over, and none of the few attacks he had been trained in so far were possible to use in such a position. If the battle were a game of chess, Shrike would have just been checkmated; there was truly nothing more Zethro could do to win.
But this wasn't just an ordinary battle. The Zigzagoon, while now busy enjoying its catch and watching Zethro writhe in pain, had just succeeded in its hunt. It wasn't just going to let Zethro go for being a good sport, any moment now it would go in for the kill. Pokémon League regulations forbade a trainer from taking part in a battle in any way, but the battle was over and now wasn't the time to abide by rules. An idle hand drifted to Shrike's rear pocket, slipping beneath the folds of denim and pulling out a small, red-paneled object. Walking forward as if in a trance, Shrike mindlessly flipped the pocket knife open, holding it at his side as he approached where the Zigzagoon had Zethro pinned down.
He didn't go unnoticed by the Zigzagoon, who suddenly turned its head around to face Shrike. Growling and snapping its fangs, it was evident that it was intent on protecting its catch. Gulping nervously, Shrike raised the knife and stepped forward again, intent on drawing the Pokémon off Zethro. It worked, and before Shrike could even react the Zigzagoon had leapt off the Cyndaquil, flying toward Shrike with a paw outstretched, sharp claws glinting in the early sunlight. Suddenly, a crescent-shaped burst of wind cut through the air, hitting the Zigzagoon square on its side and knocking it down before it could hit Shrike.
“Are you crazy or something?!” Rayne suddenly shouted as she ran into the clearing behind Matariel, who stood poised to attack again if she had to.
“Well I had to do something!” Shrike exclaimed in his defense.
The Zigzagoon quickly recovered, glancing around between the four other occupants of the clearing. With Rayne and Matariel's arrival it was now woefully outnumbered, however as it let out a loud howl and puffed up its fur it became evident that even now it didn't intend on backing down.
“You have Poké Balls, right?” Rayne asked. “If you want it to stop, you're going to have to catch it at this rate!”
Shrike nodded, backing away to the edge of the clearing before flipping the knife closed. It was only then that he realized what knife it was, quickly shoving it into a pocket before Rayne could notice how close the knife had been to drawing the blood of Pokémon again. From another pocket he fished out a small, red and white Poké Ball that he had been carrying for just this occasion. Pressing the button at its center to expand it, he tossed it in his hand some as he ran the situation through his head. Its speed is its biggest strength, yet also perhaps its weakness. If we can cripple that speed...
Examining the impromptu battlefield, Shrike noticed that in the exact middle a patch of the bare dirt seemed damper than the rest. Looking up at the tree canopy overhead, Shrike saw that the patch was directly beneath a gap. Recent rainfall must have been able to penetrate through that hole, turning dirt to slick mud that was now starting to dry again. “Hey, by any chance Matariel doesn't know any sort of water moves, does she?” Shrike suddenly asked.
Unsure herself, Rayne glanced at the Absol, who nodded back in confirmation. Figuring out Shrike's plan, Rayne gave the command to her Pokémon, “Do it.”
Closing her eyes, Matariel focused as a blue glow wrapped around her body. Throwing her head up, the Absol opened her eyes and stared up at the tree-obscured sky overhead as she cried out a serene yet haunting howl. The blue aura suddenly flowed off from around Matariel's body, gathering in a sphere suspended in midair over her before suddenly shooting up into the sky, piercing through the trees undeterred. Black storm clouds quickly began to gather, rain condensing inside them far more rapidly than normal.
Meanwhile, the Zigzagoon had decided that Matariel was now the biggest threat, barking angrily as it took off across the ground. Its small legs kicked the ground hard as it crossed the clearing, reaching the center just as the clouds overhead split open, spilling rain droplets down onto the forest below. While most of the rain was deflected by the dense leaves of the trees, a stream of water found its way through the opening where no tree was growing and down to the Earth below. Under the pounding of the rain, the already damp dirt quickly converted to mud, the Zigzagoon unprepared as it found its legs tangled up in the semi-liquid mixture. Yelping in surprise, it tripped and fell to the ground face-first amid the mud puddle.
“Now, Zethro, hit it with that flame wheel we practiced!” Shrike ordered, tensing up his throwing arm as he prepared for Zethro to deal the final weakening blow.
Zethro, having rolled back onto his feet by now, flared up the fire on his back again, the flames rising into the air several times Zethro's own height. Determination, and perhaps a hint of anger in his eyes, the Cyndaquil ran in a straight line toward the downed Zigzagoon before leaping and rolling into a ball. Raindrops pounded against him and threatened to put out the fire that wrapped around his body, however so intense were the flames that the water merely evaporated instantly, drifting away from Zethro in a misty cloud. Weakly, the Zigzagoon turned its head and grimaced for the brief moment before Zethro rammed into its side.
The fur along where Zethro hit blackening to match the already charred fur on the Zigzagoon's belly, the Pokémon was sent rolling along the ground and through the mud. Weakly growling, it tried to pull itself up, still intent on trying to fight. Even more intent on not letting the Zigzagoon have that chance, Shrike suddenly whipped the Poké Ball he was holding at the defeated Pokémon. The ball burst open in midair, the Zigzagoon howling as a red wave of energy from within the ball washed over its body, converting the Pokémon itself into pure energy. As the ball fell to the ground, the raw energy that had once been the Zigzagoon was pulled into the Poké Ball which finally snapped closed as the last wisp of energy disappeared inside it.
Shrike slowly approached the Poké Ball as it rocked back and forth, the Zigzagoon within trying its hardest to escape. Yet it was evident that it was just too weak, and as Shrike crouched down next to the ball it finally stopped moving. Picking it up from where it lay stuck in the fresh mud, Shrike looked the Poké Ball over in amazement at the fight the Pokémon he had just caught had put up. “This'll be some story to tell...” he said, more to himself than anyone else. “LS will surely get a kick out of it...”
“Yeah, I'm sure they'll laugh at how you were not only almost defeated by a Zigzagoon, but how both you and Zethro were almost killed by it,” Rayne said as she shook her head. She was trying to put on an act of being almost disgusted, but wasn't doing too good a job at holding back her own laughs.
Shaking his head as well, Shrike held the Zigzagoon's Poké Ball by his fingertips as he tapped on its surface. He was almost afraid to open it, not sure if the Zigzagoon would be willing to accept the fact that Shrike was now his master, not an enemy. Something about Poké Balls seemed to have an almost hypnotic effect on Pokémon, but Shrike knew that it wasn't foolproof. Incidents where Pokémon rebelled against their trainers after capture weren't unheard of.
“Scared of a teeny tiny Zigzagoon?” Rayne jokingly mocked, understanding Shrike's hesitation.
Shrike continued to ignore her, lowering the Poké Ball and kneeling as Zethro walked over to him. “Come here, let me see those...” he said, concerned for the injuries Zethro had sustained in the fight.
Zethro whined as he submitted to letting Shrike pick him up, the boy moving the Cyndaquil about in his arms as he checked out the wounds. The ones along his belly were the worst, being about a centimeter deep although none were too long. Compared to the cut to his neck that the kidnappers back at the academy had given him, the Zigzagoon-inflicted wounds were merely paper cuts. Nonetheless, Shrike frowned as he picked through Zethro's dirty fur; even such small wounds would be prone to infection if dirt got in them.
“Here...” Rayne sighed, suddenly throwing two small spray bottles at Shrike.
Caught unaware, the bottles fell to the ground and Shrike gingerly picked them out of the mud. Examining the bottles he realized what they were, muttering, “Healing potions...” to himself as he nodded thankfully. “Why two?” Shrike went on to ask as he twisted open the top of one of them, starting to spray it over Zethro's open wounds. Zethro cringed slightly as the spray medicine sterilized the cuts as well as began healing them by accelerating clotting and stimulating cell reproduction, but fortunately he didn't resist. Almost done and without even having touched the second potion, Shrike added, “He's not that hurt...”
“I thought you'd want to take care of that Zigzagoon as well,” Rayne shrugged. “Unless you plan on putting a lock on the ball so it can never get out and terrorize you again.”
Still trying to ignore her and moving at his own pace, Shrike picked Zethro's Poké Ball off his belt and expanded it. Zethro saw it but didn't seem to mind, instead yawning and lowering his head as Shrike pressed the ball's central button and pointed it at the Cyndaquil in his lap. Enveloped in the beam of red light that shot out of the ball, Zethro disappeared into the Poké Ball. With Zethro safely stored away to more easily rest and heal Shrike returned the Poké Ball to his belt, only then picking the Zigzagoon's Poké Ball up again. “I think it needs a name,” he stated as he again examined the ball as if appraising a diamond.
“You're just stalling now...” Rayne muttered.
“Matariel... Where'd that name come from?” Shrike went on to ask while looking over the Poké Ball.
Rayne grudgingly indulged Shrike, responding with, “It's the name of an angel, from the legends associated with the Holy Trinity. It supposedly means 'The angel of rain,' or at least that's what she says.” Rayne nodded to Matariel to indicate who she meant.
Shrike knew of the Holy Trinity of course, it being the most followed religion of the modern world. Touting that the Earth and all of the universe was ruled by the three gods of creation, life, and death, Shrike had never really bought into it much. Still, he knew some of the names and stories associated with it although not to the point where he was too familiar with the names of angels. “Know any angels suitably savage enough for this guy?” he asked.
Matariel growled something in response, which Rayne kindly interpreted. “She says that there's an angel who rules over wild beasts, which I think would suit it.”
“And the name?” Shrike probed.
“Hmm...” Shrike tossed the name around in his head, trying it out and stressing the syllables. “Jehiel...” Rayne was about ready to give up and leave Shrike to his stalling when, after much deliberation, Shrike finally concluded, “I like it.” Swiftly and before he could regret the decision, Shrike then pressed the button on the Zigzagoon's Poké Ball.
The weakened Pokémon appeared on the ground before Shrike. Lying still, Shrike wondered at first if perhaps it had fallen unconscious, but before he could find that out Jehiel's eyes suddenly opened and turned to face his new master. A moment of silence passed as the Zigzagoon stared at his trainer, before slowly and weakly nodding his head in acceptance. Without any of the hesitance he had displayed in actually opening the Poké Ball, Shrike reached down and stroked the fur on Jehiel's head as a smile spread across his face. “I guess I should apologize about hurting you like that now, but you didn't give me any choice.”
Jehiel seemed barely aware of what was happening as Shrike picked him off the ground, holding him like he had with Zethro as he examined the wounds his new Pokémon had also incurred. Whereas most of Zethro's injuries had been cuts, Jehiel's were burns of varying degrees. In the worst spots, fur had been burnt away to reveal patches of black charred skin underneath. As Shrike swept the char away, pink, peeling flesh was exposed. Picking up the second potion bottle and opening it, Shrike began applying the spray to the wounds of the Pokémon that mere minutes ago had been out to kill him and Zethro. “By the way,” he said as he worked, “my name's Shrike. The Cyndaquil you tried to snack on is Zethro, and I hope you don't mind me calling you Jehiel.”
Rayne and Matariel walked over as Shrike set the empty bottle down next to the first. Jehiel seemed as if he was about to drift off to sleep at any moment, the fight having obviously worn him out. As the other trainer and her Pokémon approached, however, Jehiel's head suddenly snapped around to stare at them. Letting out a loud bark, Jehiel twisted his way out of Shrike's arms. As if the girl and her Absol were still enemies, Jehiel gathered his strength and charged straight at them. Too surprised to react, Shrike watched as Jehiel pulled his paw back in an attempt to take a swipe at Matariel. However, a blue glow appeared in her eyes and Jehiel was thrown back through the air as his attack bounced off a protective barrier that formed around the Absol.
Scrambling forward, Shrike caught Jehiel who thrashed about and struggled to get free, hissing at the pair who he still viewed as enemies. “Hey hey, easy now,” Shrike said, trying to calm the Zigzagoon down. “They're friends now, and you can't just go attacking them!”
Jehiel's struggles soon calmed down as he looked curiously up at Shrike, who slowly shook his head. “I'll tell you who the enemies are from now on; you can't just go and attack everyone you see, okay?”
Although seeming to accept it, Jehiel muttered something as he lay his head back and closed his eyes, although of course Shrike couldn't understand it. Both Matariel and Rayne could though, the former's fur bristling while the latter interpreted for Shrike. “Apparently your Zigzagoon just wants to tear the throats out of all who oppose you and then feast on their corpses. Nothing unusual, there.”
What have I gotten myself into with this one...? Shrike wondered as he recalled Jehiel, glad that he had been too weak to actually carry through with his desire. Placing the Poké Ball on his belt next to Zethro's and picking up the two empty potion bottles so as not to litter, Shrike straightened and nodded. “Well, this has been an interesting morning but we still have the day ahead of us. We need to pack up and get moving soon.”
Back at the campsite there wasn't much packing or preparing to do. The fire had long since burnt out but Shrike scattered the ashes about just to make sure. After returning what little he had removed from his backpack to their proper pockets and hoisting the bag over his shoulders, Shrike pulled his Pokédex out of his pocket and flipped it open. The dual interior displays lit up as he did so, Shrike tapping at the map icon on the bottom screen. After a brief pause as the Pokédex connected to the Global Positioning System satellites and calculated its position, a map appeared on the top screen showing Shrike's location within the Petalburg Woods. Giving the touchscreen a flick to swap the two displays, bringing the map down to the controllable touchscreen, he zoomed the map out until he could see the boundary of the forest and where Petalburg lay in relation to their current position.
“Okay, this way,” Shrike gestured in the direction the Pokédex indicated Petalburg as being in. Closing the device and pocketing it, Shrike set off into the forest as Rayne followed behind.
A few hours later the pair had found a trail that seemed to lead to Petalburg and had eagerly begun following it, glad that it was relatively clear and easier to traverse than pushing through trees and bushes. Matariel meanwhile had disappeared off on her own, something she seemed to do with surprising frequency. Rayne didn't seem to mind though, as the Absol would always show up a few hours later with little to no explanation of where she had been. Perhaps she was out hunting again, or merely scouting ahead to make sure the trail was safe. Whatever the case Shrike couldn't get an explanation from Rayne and so had stopped asking about it. Repressing the urge to try asking again, he idly pulled out his Pokédex and checked their position on the map. Glancing over the estimate it gave on when they'd reach Petalburg, he spoke up to inform Rayne of what it said, “If we keep moving at this pace we just may get there today.”
“That'd be nice.” Rayne replied. “I just want a shower and a bed already...”
“Overrated, if you ask me.”
The two suddenly stopped as the third voice spoke. Shrike and Rayne scanned over the scenery around them, looking for where the voice had come from but not seeing anything. “There's not much use hiding if we know you're there,” Shrike said as he flicked his eyes from bush to bush, watching for the slightest movement of a leaf that would give the stranger away.
“I disagree,” the voice spoke out. “Yes, you know I'm here. But where would the fun be if you knew where?”
“Fun is relative,” Rayne stated, looking among the tree's branches to see if perhaps the person was up above them. “This isn't fun to me; it's disturbing.”
“Ah, yes, you have a point. But who said I meant fun on your part? I'm certainly having fun, as I have been while following you guys for the last several hours.”
“You have fun stalking people and then hiding from them?” Rayne asked disgusted. “You're a big creep, you know that?”
“I've been called worse,” the voice said with a short chuckle. “Besides, I'm not hiding now. I'm right behind you.”
Shrike and Rayne suddenly spun around, looking back the trail in the direction they had come. There, standing with his legs spread apart rather wide and with his hands tucked into the pockets of his khaki-colored pants, was a young man who looked to be merely a few years older than Shrike. His clothes were neutral and utterly unremarkable, although his oddly clean white shirt seemed out of place among the dirtiness of a forest. His head tilted to the side, he smiled broadly at Shrike and Rayne with closed eyes, cracking them open just slightly as he spoke again after realizing that neither of the pair was going to continue the conversation he had started.
“Hi,” he said cheerily, pausing just slightly before continuing. “My name's Zack. Zachary J. Reilyn if you care about that much. And yours?”
~End of Chapter 5~
So...yeah. This is such an improvement over its old equivalent. I can't list all the ways its better, but generally it focuses on Shrike and Rayne acting much more natural now. The changes to Rayne also continue unabated, turning her from a cold bastard who almost seemed to hate Shrike to someone who just has a hard time opening up. Anyone who's familiar with Zack from the old version, namely how he was like in his first appearance, will also immediately notice changes to him as I rework all the different personalities he showed before into one that will continue throughout all his appearances (well, technically two personalities, however this time I actually mean for it to be like that). Fortunately, those same people should also notice that Jehiel has not changed a bit, and in fact may be even worse now than he was before. Fun times will be had.
Speaking of the bloodthirsty Zigzagoon, that battle on a whole makes the old one look almost as bad as those script-format battles everyone starts out writing. Shrike's big strategy last time, bouncing off a rock, was pathetic to say the least. This time I think the strategy of softening the ground to take away Jehiel's speed is pretty good if I do say so myself. I doubt I could always think up stuff like that, but fortunately at most there may be about five more true battles in this fic period. Previously there had only been three more I think, however I intend to add at least once more. In the very next chapter. Yeah, I'm going to reintroduce the battle between Shrike and Zack that had been dropped last time. If you know who Zack actually is, you probably won't have a hard time guessing who wins that.
Oh, and I'm dropping the list of changes now because they're annoying to write. Nothing too major was changed here anyways. Well, except for changes in character personalities, reordering scenes, dropping a few minor pointless stuff, changing Zack's introduction, and changing how Jehiel gets his name to better explain some of the religious stuff that will be more important later and which the reader might as well start learning about now. But, other than that, not much was changed.
August 16th, 2009 (4:15 PM). Edited August 17th, 2009 by Buoysel.
Yay, a new chapter. I spotted one error, while reading, which by the way , I don't go looking for, they just pop out at me. (yay for over use of commas too.)
I wanted to edit this because after I posted it I got to thinking that that may have come out wrong. I am not complaining about your use of commas, I was making fun of my self for the un-godly amount of commas I put in the sentence.
Also got to thinking about the burns on the new captures as well. When I got burned, It didn't hurt so bad at first because the nerves got burned, but after a day or so, It was extremely painful. Even the slightest breeze would cause me pain. The reason I am saying this is because you have the Zigzagoon just lay there as if it doesn't hurt one bit. =/
Just something to think about ;)
I really need a new signature.
August 17th, 2009 (7:55 PM). Edited August 17th, 2009 by Shrike Flamestar.
First, for those checking up on this thread after having already read chapter 5 previously, pay attention now:
Update 8/17/09 – I've changed a few paragraphs in chapter 5 when the wild Zigzagoon first appears and added a new paragraph, with the end goal being to clarify the existence of normal animals in the fic and validate my use of animal comparisons. Search for, “It was a common Zigzagoon” to find the new stuff if you've already read the chapter.
That edit was due to a comment on Serebii about me using comparisons between Zigzagoon and raccoons when so far there had been no indications that animals even existed in my view of the Pokemon world. Deciding that it would perhaps be best to edit the changes in now instead of clarify this later, I did so.
And now, ex-censored Buoysel/Buizel/Typhlosion/Bakphoon or whatever the hell you want me to call you, thanks for reading. :D
August 18th, 2009 (2:33 AM).
I had a third degree burn on my hand a couple of years ago.
I really need a new signature.
December 29th, 2009 (10:06 AM).
So a little fic of mine called Haunting at the Old Chateau got in the way of me writing here, and by the time that finished I was tearing my hair out so much due to school that the whole writing every day thing sort of died. But...here it is. I'm not even going to make a guess as to how many months it will be until the next chapter this time...
“My name's Zack,” the stranger said. He stood with an air of confidence, a smug look plastered across his face as he stared at Shrike and Rayne with a gaze that suggested he knew more than he let on. “Zachary J. Reilyn if you care about that much. And yours?”
“Shrike,” Shrike tersely responded, not letting his guard down. Zack wasn't acting hostile, but stalking people wasn't exactly the friendliest thing to do.
“No last name?” The smile on Zack's face didn't falter once.
“None that you need to know.”
“Ah, that type,” Zack nodded, still smiling as if he didn't realize how put off both Shrike and Rayne were. The smile was starting to get on both of their nerves, but it didn't seem that it would be letting up any time soon. Turning to Rayne, Zack went on to ask her, “What about you?”
“You're not even getting my first name,” Rayne snarled.
“Ah, wise in some ways,” Zack remarked. “Ice cold in others. Doesn't matter, I already know. Rayne, right?” Before the girl in question could smash Zack's face in, he quickly went on to explain, “You can hear quite a few things when eavesdropping. Like, that you two both happen to be trainers. Fresh out of an academy from the looks of it, but trainers nonetheless.”
“So? What do you care?” Rayne asked, still considering smashing Zack's face in.
“So... I just happen to be a trainer too,” Zack smirked. “You see, I was thinking that, perhaps, we could engage in a friendly little battle. To introduce ourselves, before we get to know each other better.” Suddenly, a different look came over Zack. His smile finally faltered, just for a moment, his eyes narrowing as they seemed to stare into the very hearts of the two trainers that stood before him. It didn't seem to be Rayne he was focusing on though, but rather Shrike. The boy was slightly unnerved, but just as soon as the change had come over Zack it disappeared, the stranger quietly adding, “One can learn wonders through a good battle.”
“No chance,” Rayne quickly said. “Matariel would wipe the floor with you anyway. I'll spare you the pain of defeat.”
“Bold words,” Zack said back in turn. “But unless you care to back them up I am afraid I cannot take them seriously.” Turning to focus on Shrike, he went on to say, “Well then, how about you?”
Shrike was hesitant. The sudden shift in Zack's demeanor was proof enough that there was more to him than met the eye, something which anyone with a brain could gather anyway. There was the chance the battle was a trick, but then again, what could be lost? It was just a battle, with regulations preventing any serious harm being done to Pokémon. Yes, criminals didn't necessarily play by the rules, but if Zack was that sort of criminal he likely would have already made his move.
“Sure, I'll play your game,” Shrike responded. “Call the rules.”
“One on one,” Zack declared. “I know you only have two Pokémon, one of which was caught this very morning and is no position to battle. In turn, I will use my starter as well.”
“That will depend on the outcome, and how good a show you give me. Rest assured though, I won't ask for much.”
Shrike already had his hand on Zethro's Poké Ball, backing down the trail to put a good distance between him and his opponent. Pulling the red and white ball off his belt, Shrike expanded it before holding it up into the air. “Come on Zethro, time for another fight!” Shrike yelled as he hurled the Poké Ball to the ground between where he and Zack stood. It was an overly dramatic way to release Pokémon and not one commonly used in serious competition, but Shrike figured playing things up could never hurt.
The Cyndaquil appeared on the ground in a burst of red light as the Poké Ball snapped open, the force throwing the ball back into the air. Quickly Shrike caught the Poké Ball before it could go flying off into the trees, taking granted for the time he had spent playing baseball as a kid. Zethro already seemed to be aware of the situation, his body lowering to the ground the moment he appeared as he adopted a fighting stance. Shrike was glad to note that the injuries Jehiel had inflicted on the Cyndaquil were all but gone, the healing potion having done its job well. “You ready for this?” Shrike asked, not wanting to pressure Zethro into fighting if he didn't feel up to it yet. Shrike's companion barked excitedly in response, which the boy assumed meant Zethro was ready.
“Yes, a Cyndaquil. That's what I thought,” Zack nodded as he reached a hand into his pocket. When he pulled the hand back out a Poké Ball came with it, clutched between Zack's fingers. Expanding the ball, he idly tossed it into the air a few times, letting it fall back into his hand. “You'll be glad to know than that, if nothing else, you have a type advantage. Come out, Sceptile!”
Shrike's heart skipped a beat and his optimism immediately fell as he heard Zack say the name. Only a moment later and Zack had opened the ball, releasing the green, almost prehistoric-looking lizard Pokémon on to the now decidedly one-sided battlefield. The Sceptile had its arms crossed as it appeared, looking down at the Cyndaquil that stood before it with a blank expression on its face. Suddenly, a smirk appeared and it let out an odd laugh before croaking something that Shrike naturally couldn't understand. Glancing at Rayne off to the side he could gather that she did, but he didn't expect her to say anything that would tell Zack more than the stranger needed to know.
“Well this isn't exactly fair!” Shrike exclaimed. “From the way you were talking, I thought you were a new trainer as well!”
“I said no such thing,” Zack defended himself with. “It was your fault alone you construed my challenge as meaning that.”
“I don't suppose I can back out of this?” Shrike grimaced.
“I am afraid there is no turning back now, so prepare yourself! En garde!” Zack yelled before thrusting a finger skywards. “Sceptile, you know the drill. Brighten the skies with Sunny Day!”
Before Shrike could even give Zethro a command Zack had already taken the initiative in the battle. Sceptile grunted as it closed its eyes and focused, a red glow appearing around its body. Shrike thought it was odd that Zack would have his grass type Pokémon use an attack that would only benefit Zethro more, but figured he was perhaps giving the less experienced team a handicap. “Zethro, wait for the effect to come into play, then hit Sceptile hard with a Flame Wheel! We'll grab every advantage we can!” Shrike commanded.
It wasn't long after Shrike gave the order that Sceptile snapped out of the trance it was in, thrusting both arms into the air with palms opened upwards. Fiery red orbs of light shot into the sky similar to Matariel's Rain Dance, but rather than form clouds this time the existing clouds overhead dissipated. Unimpeded, bright sunlight pierced down through the trees and flooded the forest below, the two combatants basking in the sun's warmth. Shrike knew that so long as the Sunny Day effect lasted Zethro's fire-type moves would be strengthened, but he'd have to hurry to get full use out of it. Preparing to use the only fire move he could, the flames on Zethro's back flared up as soon as the light brightened.
What happened next was almost too fast for Shrike to take in. Zethro had no sooner started charging at Sceptile than the orbs on the lizard's back began to glow, rapidly growing brighter. Shrike suddenly realized what was happening, but before he could warn Zethro it was too late. Sceptile swung its arms forward as if trying to stop the oncoming Cyndaquil, but before Zethro could even jump and roll into a ball, Sceptile launched its own attack. A beam of bright, white-green light suddenly poured out of Sceptile's hands, the light seeming to stream from the orbs on its back. The beam hit Zethro head on, the force of the blast enough to pick the Cyndaquil up off the ground and send him flying back through the air, pushed along by the beam. Shrike cried out as the beam and Zethro blew past him and continued straight on down the trail, the light only fading after it had sent Zethro flying through the air for several seconds. Shrike watched as his Pokémon fell to the ground and rolled along some, the boy quickly taking off in a sprint to see if he was all right.
Before Shrike could even reach where Zethro had landed, however, he watched as Zethro somehow managed to pick himself up. He was battered, but apparently the Solarbeam hadn't quite knocked him out yet. Furthermore, Shrike could see a flickering orange-red aura appear around Zethro, as if he were enveloped in a faint fire. Shrike realized that the single Solarbeam had done enough damage for Zethro's native Blaze ability to kick in, an ability which would only increase the strength of his fire attacks even more. However, using Flame Wheel would mean Zethro would have to cross the now long distance between the two opponents, all the while leaving him open for yet more counter attacks. As weakened as Zethro was now, Shrike wasn't sure he could handle anymore hits, let alone exert the effort needed to run at all.
“I'm surprised he survived that,” Zack commented. “Go on then, strike back at me with an Ember! A Flamethrower! Whatever you've got up your sleeve!” he then suddenly taunted. “I can do no more to increase your Cyndaquil's fire strength now, so take the advantage!”
Shrike frowned. Zack didn't realize that Zethro couldn't use Ember, nor much else at this range. “Stand your ground! Let him come to you,” Shrike said, making up his mind. There was little else to do, especially since he got the feeling that if Zethro tried to move closer, Sceptile would be ready to counter.
“Hmph, you don't like ranged combat?” Zack asked rhetorically. “Very well then; Sceptile, close the distance yourself with Agility!”
“Get ready for Flame Wheel again!” Shrike yelled as soon as Zack gave his own command. “Use it as soon as he's within range!”
Sceptile set off running, moving so fast that he seemed to flicker in and out of existence, teleporting several yards at a time as the gap between it and Zethro quickly closed. Meanwhile, Zethro's flame had flared up again, rising taller than Shrike had ever seen it before as the Cyndaquil channeled every ounce of his energy into what would hopefully be a one hit knockout. When Sceptile was only a few yards from Zethro, the Cyndaquil began running. Shrike noticed that he seemed a little wobbly, his legs shaky. He never would have made it to Sceptile on his own, confirming Shrike's thoughts.
Sceptile suddenly flickered back into view mere feet in front of Zethro, who swiftly leapt into the air and curled up. The attack was point blank, Shrike knew there was no way it could miss, even if Sceptile tried moving out of the way using Agility. There simply wasn't enough time for the Sceptile to move. As Shrike saw a glimmer-like spark flash in Sceptile's eyes, however, he instantly realized he had once again underestimated his opponent. Detecting the attack early, Sceptile suddenly slid out of the path of Zethro's attack just in time, the flame-wrapped Cyndaquil flying past him as he missed his target. Following up on the dodge, Sceptile suddenly swung an arm into the air, the leaf-like blade that seemed to sprout from his arm near the hand glowing green along its edge. The swipe clipped Zethro, knocking him out of his arc as he fell to the ground on his back, the intense fire that could have won the battle for Shrike extinguished against the dirt.
Sceptile knelt down next to Zethro, using the leaf blade on its arm to push Zethro's head up. Shrike grimaced as he looked at what Sceptile had the blade over: a wide scar that ran completely from one edge of Zethro's neck to the other. Some strands of surgical stitching were still visible in the scar, although most had dissolved or fallen out by now. Shrike watched as Sceptile cocked his head and examined the scar, his leaf blade held right over it in a position where he could very easily reopen the wound.
“I see,” Zack said. Somehow he had walked up next to Shrike without him realizing. Perhaps he had just been too focused on the scar to notice Zack. “So that is why he cannot use ranged flame attacks.”
“I'm not going to talk about it, if that's what you want,” Shrike preemptively stated.
Zack paused a moment, his Sceptile turning to look at him. Slowly the older boy shook his head. “I won't pressure you further, but I think it is clear that I won. I'll spare you and Zethro the pain of proper defeat.” Glancing to the side he grinned at Rayne, who merely crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes at him. Holding up Sceptile's Poké Ball Zack recalled it, slipping the ball back in to his pocket as he turned around, Shrike watching his actions out of the corner of his eyes, keeping his main focus on Zethro.
“And the cost of defeat?” Shrike asked.
“None,” Zack answered. “I may have won, but I'm calling the battle void. It won't be officially recorded and thus, no prize is needed.”
“That's awfully generous,” Shrike said as he called Zethro back into his Poké Ball and turned to face Zack. “But you were never looking for money, were you?”
Zack seemed to ignore the question, pausing for a moment before suddenly turning to face Shrike again. The wide smile from before was back, and as he spoke he sounded just as cheerful as he had when he first appeared. “I have a gift for you, in fact. Consolation, for being forced to put up with me.”
“A gift...?” Shrike began to ask, but before he could finish Rayne interrupted.
“No thanks,” she said as she shook her head. “No offense, but it's not like I exactly trust you.” Shooting a glare at Shrike she mumbled under her breath, “Neither should he.”
“Ah, but the gift is not for you,” Zack said cheerily. “Besides, it is my understanding that you already have the gift. The gift to understand the speech of Pokémon...”
This time, Rayne didn't wait even a second. She was on Zack in an instant, grabbing him by the collar and forcing him up against a tree as she held an arm across his neck with enough force that he could just barely breathe. Shrike took a step forward and opened his mouth as if about to say something, but stopped short when he realized it would probably not be a good idea to get on the bad side of his traveling companion. Rayne didn't notice him and went on to growl, “How the hell do you know that?”
“As I said, you can overhear quite a few things...” Zack choked out, somehow even now managing to keep smiling.
“Not good enough,” Rayne said. “When did you start following us?”
Rayne suddenly released the pressure on Zack's throat and backed off a foot, but before he could even recollect himself the palm of Rayne's hand came swinging around, landing across Zack's face with a loud slap. “Gods, that's so creepy!” Rayne exclaimed as Zack reeled back from the slap. “Did you watch us while we slept even? Huh?” Without waiting for an answer she spun around and grabbed Shrike's wrist as she began to drag him along. “Come on, we're getting out of here already. I don't think I can stand this guy any longer.”
“W—wait!” Shrike stuttered, pulling his arm away from Rayne. “Didn't you hear him? His gift, I could understand Pokémon too...”
“That's right,” Zack said as he rubbed his cheek where Rayne had hit him. “Not in the same way as she does, but still, is there any difference between natural abilities and technology in the end?”
“Technology?” Shrike repeated. “I haven't heard of anything like this before.”
Seeing that Shrike was once again being dragged into Zack's net, Rayne threw up her arms in disgust. “Fine, just go along with the creep. I'll be down the path, out of sight. Come find me when you're done, and don't blame me if he tries to con you.” With that Rayne went storming off, Zack and Shrike watching until she disappeared from sight behind a bend in the trail.
“It's not public knowledge,” Zack said, returning to the conversation they had been having before all of Rayne's interruptions. “But, a translator has been in development by CORE and it just so happened that I got my hands on a couple prototypes.”
“CORE? What's that?” Shrike asked.
“The Collective for Organic Research and Engineering, a biotech firm specializing in technologies related to humans and Pokémon,” Zack answered. “They've been in the news a lot lately after their former CEO was murdered, I'm surprised you haven't heard of them.”
“I don't watch the news much. None of it really applies to me,” Shrike shrugged.
“Well, one of these days it just may, so perhaps now would be a good time to start,” Zack said. Reaching into a pocket he pulled out a small metal canister no longer than his palm was wide, flipping open one end of it and rolling something out as if it were a breath mint. Holding it up so Shrike could see, he explained, “This is it, a prototype Pokémon translator. Just put it in your ear like a hearing aid and it'll work automatically.”
Shrike held out his hand and let Zack drop the translator into it. It did look similar to a very small hearing aid that fit fully in the ear canal, being made of a soft rubber to allow it to mold to the ear's shape. “So I just stick it in there?” Shrike asked. “Does it matter which way?”
“Here, I'll do it.” Zack picked the translator back out of Shrike's palm and grabbed the boy's head, turning it to the side. Gently he pushed the small device into Shrike's right ear, its malleable surface allowing the translator to fit in tightly enough that it wouldn't simply fall out.
Shrike rubbed his ear, grimacing at the discomfort of having something just under the size of a pea jammed into his ear canal. “This is sort of annoying,” he remarked.
“You'll get used to it within a day or so,” Zack shrugged. Shrike noticed that he could still hear clearly even with the translator in the way. He assumed that it must let through sound unimpeded until it actually needed to translate something.
“Can I remove it?” Shrike asked.
“You can if you really want to; just take some tweezers and yank it out. It's meant to stay in forever though, or at least until the battery runs dry and it needs replaced.”
“And when that happens?”
“You better hope I'm around,” Zack grinned, taking a few steps backwards. “But seriously, it shouldn't die anytime soon, certainly not for a year or so.” Nodding a few times and sliding a hand into a pocket, he then added, “Well then, I suppose we should test it out.”
Shrike grimaced as he glanced at his belt. “Zethro's in no condition to come out again now... I suppose there's Jehiel...” However, before Shrike could remove the Zigzagoon's Poké Ball Zack interrupted him.
“Hold on,” the other boy abruptly said as he held out his other hand. “I believe that at least one of my Pokémon wishes to tell you something. Might as well introduce you to the others while I'm at it, eh?”
With that there were suddenly three bright flashes of red light as Zack quickly extracted three separate Poké Balls from the pocket his hand had been in. Among the three Pokémon that appeared was the Sceptile Zethro had fought against, as well as both a Mightyena and a Swellow. The canine, clad in slick gray and black fur, kept its bright red and yellow eyes on Shrike as it moved right next to Zack. The large red, white, and blue avian also kept its sharp eyes on the person who to it was a stranger, flying into the air and perching on a tree branch overhead.
Sceptile, on the other hand, walked over close to Shrike before kneeling on the ground and bowing its head. An arm crossed over its chest, it then began to speak. “I apologize for injuring your Pokémon,” Zack's Sceptile spoke. Of course, it wasn't really any different, and to an outside observer it probably would have just sounded like meaningless grunts. Shrike could still hear that true voice, in fact; however, overlaid on top of those sounds the translator spoke their true meaning. “I assure you, I did not ever have it in my mind to injure your Cyndaquil beyond recovery,” The Sceptile went on to say. “I plead that you do not let our minor deception affect your opinion of us.” Finished apologizing, Sceptile stood up and walked over next to Zack, where he crossed his arms and glanced at his trainer.
“You can hear this too?” Shrike asked as he instinctively put a hand up to his ear.
Zack nodded. “Of course. Would be quite odd for me not to use one myself. As for what was said, it's true; we never meant harm.”
“You perhaps,” Zack's Mightyena suddenly hissed. “I still insist that we should just—”
“Quiet!” Zack suddenly snapped, the Mightyena doing just that before it could say anymore. “Now is not the time for bickering!”
“Ah, but that is all he knows how to do,” the Swellow crooned from its place in the trees above. “Bicker and fight. How barbaric.”
“Why, you...!” Mightyena growled as he jumped into the air. He took a swipe at the bird but the branch Swellow sat on was simply too high for Mightyena to reach.
“Enough!” Zack roared, bringing a palm up to meet his face while sighing. “Sometimes these translators are more curse than gift...”
Shrike was more than a little overwhelmed by all this. His hand was frozen next to Jehiel's Poké Ball, his intent to let the Zigzagoon out all but forgotten. All he could manage was to mutter, “This...is surreal.” After a brief pause he remembered what he had been going to do, closing his hand around the sphere and pulling it away from the magnetic clasp that secured it to his belt. “Might as well make it even crazier...” he said, before pressing the button on the Poké Ball and releasing the Pokémon from inside.
“Master!” Jehiel shouted immediately upon being released from his Poké Ball on the ground in front of Shrike, looking up at the boy as he continued with, “Are there enemies about? Hostiles?! Just show me them, I'll protect you!” Whipping his head about, Jehiel tried his best to locate any so-called hostiles.
“Uh... That... That's not necessary...” Shrike stammered, caught off guard by Jehiel's behavior.
“Of course it is!” Jehiel countered. “You caught me and so are now my master, and it is my job to...” Before he could continue with what he was saying, however, Jehiel suddenly turned around and finally noticed Zack and his Pokémon standing there, staring down at the rather vocal Zigzagoon. Before Shrike could introduce them, however, Jehiel got in the first word. Or, several words.
"Who the hell are you looking at you mangy mutt?!” Jehiel burst out shouting. “And you, green thing! What are you even? Keep on staring at me and I'll rip those eyes right out!” About that time Jehiel had taken up a fighting pose, lowering his body closer to the ground and puffing out his spiky bown fur to give him the appearance of being larger than he really was. Still not done though, he continued ranting, “And a bird?! You think you're so hot because you can fly right over me?! Well I'll show you just how high I can jump and clip your wings while I'm at it! Or better yet, tear them right out of their sockets! Come on, everyone! Bring it! If you so much as take one more step closer to master, I swear I'll tear you all to pieces!"
The silence that followed was literally so thick, Shrike could swear that even the bugs and other noises of the forest quieted. It was as if the whole forest was shut up by Jehiel's rant, not even the smallest creature knowing how to respond to something like that. Even the Pokémon Jehiel had been addressing, anger evident in their faces, were struck dumbfounded and at a loss for what to do. It was obvious they wanted to beat the living tar out of Jehiel, but they seemed to have enough restraint to prevent themselves from doing so.
“That's not needed either...” Shrike finally sighed. “This is Zack, and his Pokémon. They're our...friends. I think.”
“Are you sure of this, master?” Jehiel asked, not turning his eyes away from the other Pokémon for a single moment. “I swear that I will not let a single enemy harm you, but I must also obey your every command...”
“Then I command you to back down,” Shrike ordered.
“Very well,” Jehiel nodded as he relaxed, running back over to Shrike's side. Turning back to look at the Mightyena, he let out one final low growl of, “I'm watching you...”
Shaking his head, Zack pulled out his Poké Balls again. Even if Shrike had calmed Jehiel down, there wasn't any guarantee he'd stay that way. The last thing Zack wanted was for his Pokémon to have to injure the boy's only other Pokémon as well. So before that could happen Zack quickly recalled all of his own Pokémon, slipping the balls back into his pocket as he sauntered over to Shrike. “So,” he said, trying to force a smile again despite the bizarreness of the situation. “You see that I was right? These translators really do work. Perhaps a bit too well...” His forced smile starting to relax some, Zack then reached out and gave Shrike's shoulder a small, friendly pat.
“An attack!” Jehiel suddenly yelled. Faster than Shrike had even thought the Zigzagoon could move, Jehiel had launched himself off the ground and straight at Zack, his small fangs bared. In a flash Zack found those fangs buried in his arm, Jehiel wrapping his front paws around Zack's arms to get a better grip.
“Uh...” was all Zack could mutter as he stared at the Zigzagoon hanging off his arm. Zack's hand still held on Shrike's shoulder, it almost looked like the Zigzagoon was clinging to a bridge between the two boys.
“Jehiel...” Shrike growled, his eyes lowering.
“Yes master?” the Zigzagoon asked around his grip on Zack's arm.
“Let go of the arm.”
“That wasn't an attack,” Shrike continued to growl. “I will tell you when I am being attacked, and when you need to attack back.”
Jehiel was silent for a moment, before making a small nod. Letting go of the arm he dropped to the ground, sitting down and staring up at Shrike with his large brown eyes. Cocking his head to the side slightly, he then said, “You are an odd master. Far different from my previous.”
“Previous?” Shrike asked curiously, tilting his own head to the side. Did someone else release him?
“I...” Jehiel muttered, lowering his head to look at his feet. He didn't say anymore though, and Shrike got the picture.
“That's okay,” Shrike grinned as he knelt down and rubbed the Zigzagoon's head. “You don't need to say anything if you don't want to.” Standing back up, Shrike turned his attention back to Zack, who was inspecting the wounds Jehiel had given him. There were four holes in his arm from Jehiel's fangs, but they were small and the bleeding was minimal. Plucking a few leaves off a nearby bush, Zack used them to wipe off some blood. “It's not too bad is it?” Shrike asked, concerned nonetheless.
“Oh, it'll be fine,” Zack shrugged. “I've received and lived through worse.”
Jehiel glanced sideways at Zack as he staggered over next to Shrike again, refraining from reaching out to give the younger boy another pat least Jehiel attack again. Still, the Zigzagoon could see Zack's intent, and his almost apologetic demeanor suddenly changed. His fur puffed out slightly and his eyes narrowed to slits, his fangs peeking out from between his lips as a low growl emanated from his throat. “Take one more step and this time I'll tear your arm off,” he threatened.
“There will be no tearing off of arms today...” Shrike sighed. “Nor ever. I'd probably be arrested if you did that...” Removing Jehiel's Poké Ball from his belt, Shrike held it up and expanded it, adding, “I think that's been enough of you for now,” before gladly recalling the rather crazy Zigzagoon.
“You've got quite a handful there,” Zack remarked.
“Are all my Pokémon going to be like this...?” Shrike muttered, slapping the Poké Ball back into its spot on his belt.
“It's doubtful,” Zack shrugged. “But then again, he may be crazy but he's also loyal and obedient. Those are always good traits to have.”
“Yeah, it's just the crazy part I could do without...”
“Hey, it adds character,” Zack grinned, patting Shrike's shoulder again without the fear of being attacked by an overly protective fur ball. Turning around, he stuffed his hands in his pockets and began slowly walking back down the path. “Well, I think it's about time I take my leave.”
“You sure?” Shrike asked. “You could travel with us for a while if you want; it'd be fine with me.”
“Ah, but you have your friend, remember?” Zack said, stopping for a moment and glancing back over his shoulder. “I'm not sure she'd appreciate it.”
“Yeah, guess you're right...” Shrike muttered as he himself turned around slightly and looked down the path in the direction they were heading, the way Rayne had went. He assumed she would be waiting for him and hadn't just abandoned him; it had been her idea to group together after all. “Well, I guess all I can say is thanks for the translator, even if you weren't entirely—” Shrike trailed off as he turned back around and found that Zack wasn't there anymore, apparently having walked off while Shrike wasn't looking. Shrugging, Shrike turned back around again and slowly walked down the path by himself, taking his time.
Soon enough he found Rayne sitting at the base of a tree, reading the same book she had been reading the previous night. She glanced up as Shrike approached, but remained silent. “Good book?” Shrike asked to break the silence.
“It's okay,” she shrugged, closing it and dropping it into her backpack. Standing up, she pulled the bag over her shoulders. “So does it work?” she then asked back.
Shrike nodded. “Yeah. Did you know that Jehiel is a nutcase?”
Rayne grinned mischievously, brushing off the question in a manner that made the answer fairly obvious. “Shall we get going again, then? We've wasted enough time today, but we should still be able to make it to Petalburg in just a few hours.”
Nodding again, Shrike began walking down the path as Rayne fell into step beside him. “Hey,” she suddenly spoke up after a period of silence. “I'm sorry for how I acted back there...”
Shrike looked over at Rayne, suppressing his surprise. “It's fine,” he said. “You don't need to apologize. Heck, he even deserved that slap.”
Rayne merely shrugged. “Yeah, even you have to admit he's weird...”
Looking up at the sky while walking at the same time, Shrike couldn't help but wonder if Zack would show up again in the future. He certainly didn't seem like the type to just vanish forever. On one hand Shrike hoped that he wouldn't, but on another he hoped that he would. While weird, odd, and sort of creepy as Rayne put it, Shrike couldn't help but feel a desire to find out more about him and and hopefully become friends. Looking back down at where he was going, Shrike pushed Zack out of his mind for now, instead turning his thoughts to their closing destination. As his excitement rose and fantasies of his sure to be triumphant gym battle coursed through his mind, the odd interlude was all but forgotten. Not all of it, though. Raising his hand to feel his ear again, Shrike wondered what it would be like now to fully understand Pokémon instead of only guessing at their intent.
Off the side of the path, high up in a tree that towered over most others, none other than Zack sat on a thick, study branch as he peered through the leaves and watched Shrike and Rayne walk off below. Turning away from them, he looked up over the forest canopy in the direction they were heading. As if sprouting out of the forest, the skyscrapers and buildings of the city of Petalburg were visible. Reaching into his pocket, Zack pulled out a small, single-earpiece headset that he slid over an ear. Tapping one of the buttons on it, he waited a moment until he heard a terse, “I'm here.”
“I've met them,” Zack said. “They're en route. I'm heading back. Be ready.”
Another click of a button and Zack peeled off the headset, stuffing it in his pocket again as he fearlessly stood up on the branch. A flurry of feathers rose up from a nearby tree and soon enough the large form of Zack's Swellow appeared, the boy leaping from the branch and landing on the bird's back. Already knowing their destination, Swellow beat its wings heavily as it shot off towards that landmark of human civilization amid the untamed forest: Petalburg City.
~End of Chapter 6~
So yeah, there's Zack for you, and with it some rather large changes from before. In fact, pretty much everything was changed. From the entire encounter, to the setting, to Zack himself... Pretty much the only things I kept were Zack's team and the general flow of Jehiel's insanity. Old readers may remember that Zack had originally been planning a battle against Shrike in the original version but dropped it due to the whole battle with Jehiel thing. Well yeah, that was just me not wanting to write a battle then. Here I have restored that intended battle, and I am pleased with it. For one it shows that yes, Shrike can lose and he's not one of those invincible trainers who wins everything. It also shows that he's still a newbie at this for not grasping Zack's strategy.
Now I know some of those same old readers will probably be mourning the large changes to Zack's character as well, namely the fact that he is now no longer openly gay for Shrike. But seriously? Go compare Zack here to his later appearances in the original version. He had already lost his gayness there and this is just me retooling him so he's actually consistent instead of changing his face every time he appears. And no, I didn't want to change his later appearances to make him gay there as this really isn't that type of story. Go write some slash fics or something of your own if you must.
Those same people should also recognize that Jehiel hasn't change much at all. Except that he has. Yes, he's still bloodthirsty and overly protective, however I wanted to give him a better sense of loyalty, that he's not just acting like that for the hell of it but that he really just wants to protect his master. Also, I just had to make him even cuter in a more traditional sense for the irony.
So yeah. If this is how all future chapters turn out, well, this may be quite a bit more different than the original than I had thought. I had only been intending on majorly changing part 1 and certain other scenes, but at this rate, who knows.
March 22nd, 2010 (1:38 PM). Edited March 22nd, 2010 by Shrike Flamestar.
Just under three months. Well, um, yeah. Moving on...
Petalburg City was certainly an odd place. Originally the city had been one of, if not the smallest municipality in Hoenn that could actually be called a city. It was most notable for its proximity to the laboratory of Professor Birch in Littleroot town, as well as containing what was technically the first Pokémon Gym new trainers would typically come across. Of course, at that time the gym was deceptive; the leader, Norman White, would frequently turn away challengers with any less than four badges. In time the city began to grow in order to cater to the number of trainers passing through, and with the city's expansion Norman's stance changed as well. With the local gym now accepting challengers of all experience levels Petalburg has truly grown in size and importance, rivaling only Rustboro City for sheer scale in the Hoenn region.
“Man, this place is small,” Shrike exclaimed as he looked up at the Petalburg skyline with disappointment.
“You really have lived in Rustboro all your life, huh?” Rayne remarked.
“I guess I have,” Shrike said as he rubbed his chin thoughtfully. The tallest building he could see seemed around thirty stories tall, nothing compared to the skyscrapers of Rustboro. “Anyplace smaller just seems wrong to me.”
“You do realize that Rustboro is the largest city in Hoenn, right?” Rayne asked. She knew how Shrike would answer already and really didn't know why she even bothered to ask.
“And you also realize that Petalburg is the second largest city, right?”
“Yes...” Shrike was starting to get the picture.
“Well then you better get used to that feeling.” Rayne tossed some loose strands of her long black hair over a shoulder as she started walking down the sloping path leading from the forest. The path soon turned into a road that lead straight into the city, wilderness seeming to disappear in an instant. Matariel, who had recently reappeared from her lone excursion into the forest, walked alongside Rayne and glanced back at where Shrike stood still staring at the city.
Noticing the Absol looking at him as she walked away, Shrike yelled, “Hey, wait up,” before quickly rushing to catch up with them. “Before anything else we need to get to the Pokémon Center. Zethro needs some rest and it couldn't hurt to get our room now.”
“Know where it is?” Rayne asked.
“I can.” Shrike reached to his pocket and drew his Pokédex out of it, flipping it open. As soon as the screens sprang to life and its internal satellite receiver had connected to the global positioning system, Shrike pulled up the map application. It showed his near-exact location in Petalburg city, colorful icons scattered over the aerial view pinpointing where specific locations were. One of the icons, a stylized red Poké Ball, showed the city's primary Pokémon Center as being only a few blocks away with smaller satellite branches scattered over the rest of the city. Memorizing the location, Shrike nodded and motioned in the direction before saying, “This way,” and walking off down the street.
It wasn't long until it seemed like the forest was miles behind them, buildings of shining metal and glass rising up around the group on all sides. Signs—some made of paper, some of LCD screens, and some of neon—hung off the buildings and advertised the services and venues within. Most seemed to appeal to Pokémon Trainers, with services such as grooming and day care being common. Specialty shops housed at the base of towers that held the combined offices of several businesses also seemed popular. None of those were what Shrike was looking for. While the throngs of people moving in and out of some of the more popular locations made him curious to see what they offered, he knew that he could always do so later on.
Turning around a corner, Shrike pushed his glasses up his nose as he looked up at one specific building that stood out from the rest. Instead of the normal monolithic rectangle that jutted out of the ground, the building was cylindrical with no flat surfaces on its exterior other than the recessed windows that lined its surface regularly. Atop the building a Poké Ball emblem stood, the words “Pokemon Center” on the Poké Ball confirming that the building was indeed what Shrike and his map thought it was.
The group stopped for a moment as some traffic passed the street in front of them before walking across with the herds of other people moving around the city. Shrike noticed that Matariel didn't seem to attract too much attention, other than from some younger kids whose heads were constantly whipping around to stare at each and every Pokémon that was walking about. Indeed, there were quite a few Pokémon out, following or even being carried by people who Shrike could only assume were their trainers. The city was definitely devoted to Pokémon with its very heart and soul, unlike the corporate center that was Rustboro.
The curved doors of the Pokémon Center slid aside as Shrike, Rayne, and Matariel approached it, exposing a lobby quite unlike the last Pokémon Center Shrike had been to. Like the building itself the lobby was circular, seeming to occupy the entirety of the first floor of the building. Tables and benches filled with talking people lined the walls to either side of the door, while on the opposite wall a door led off to the connected Pokémon hospital. Framing that door to either side were elevators and free to use videophones and computers. Right in the exact middle of the lobby was the circular reception desk, the group walking toward it while looking around.
Situated in the middle of the circular desk, a brown-haired woman sat typing at a computer. As the group approached the desk she looked up from her screen, smiling and noting the Absol walking alongside Rayne and the Poké Balls on Shrike's belt. “Hello,” she said warmly. “I take it you're Pokémon Trainers?”
“Yeah,” Shrike answered, nodding. “We just got here.”
“Ooh, is this your first visit to one of our Pokémon Centers than?” the receptionist asked before adding, “I can give you an explanation of our services if you want.”
Shrike shook his head. “That's not necessary. But yeah, this is our first stop. We came the opposite way from normal, though; from Rustboro.”
“Ah, from Rustboro PTA?” the receptionist smiled knowingly. “My cousin goes there, says it's better than Petalburg's. My younger sister goes to the Academy here though and says it's better than Rustboro. What do you think?”
“How do you know we came from the Academy?” Rayne asked suspiciously.
The receptionist grinned slyly before answering, “Because it's logical. If you didn't come from a academy, you'd have had to go through Littleroot to register.”
“Right, that makes sense,” Shrike nodded. Returning to her question, he answered, “It's nice there. Very nice. I haven't seen Petalburg's Academy though; perhaps I can stop in while we're here.”
“You should do that,” the receptionist suggested. “If you do, come back and let me know what you think so I can break this tie. Anyway, I assume you'll be wanting a room?”
“Two rooms,” Rayne corrected.
The woman frowned. “I'm sorry, we're packed at the moment and I'm afraid we can't afford to book more than one room for a single traveling party that's no larger than four people.”
“And if I were to say that we're not traveling together?” Rayne suggested.
“This was your idea. You're not backing out now,” Shrike whispered under his breath while glaring at his traveling partner.
“I don't think that's very likely.” The woman shook her head. “Sorry...”
“Fine,” Rayne said sharply. “Just as long as there's two beds at least.”
“Okay then, I'll need to see your Trainer ID Cards to get you registered.”
Shrike and Rayne each produced the cards they had been given upon leaving the academy and handed them to the receptionist. The cards were fairly basic, showing a picture of their face and having their name and ID number stamped on the front. A magnetic strip that ran along the back and an embedded RFID chip provided two different methods for the card to be read. Shrike noticed that this Pokémon Center seemed to use the later as the woman waved each card in turn over a black pad that beeped after reading the RFID chip.
“Okay then, your room will be on the tenth floor, number J12,” the receptionist said as she handed their cards back. “This also gives you access to our complementary cafeteria which is located on sub-level one. Information on the times it is open can be found in a pamphlet in your room or on that sign,” she gestured to a sign on the wall next to the elevators that gave various information about the layout of the building. Crossing her arms across the desk she smiled and nodded, finishing with, “Now, is there anything else you need?”
“Yeah, one more thing,” Shrike said as he pulled Zethro's Poké Ball off his belt and placed it on the desk. “My Cyndaquil received some injuries in a battle and I was hoping you could have him looked over.”
“Certainly,” the woman nodded, picking up the Poké Ball. She placed the sphere into a device off to the side of her desk that clamped shut around the ball, a distinct humming noise picking up as a blue light washed over Zethro's Poké Ball. The woman stared at her screen as it began to show some information, finally responding with, “Initial scans look good, no major injuries. He could make a full recovery in just a day or so on his own, but I'll send him along for a basic treatment.”
“How long will it take?” Shrike asked.
“Not long. It should only be about half an hour or so, and when it's done the Poké Ball will be transported directly to your room,” she explained before asking for confirmation, “Is that fine?”
“Yeah, go for it,” Shrike said as he nodded once. “I want to show him the city already but I don't want him to be in pain...”
“Aw, don't worry, he'll be fine!” the woman sympathetically assured Shrike, tapping a few keys on her computer. The blue light continued to wash over Zethro's Poké Ball before the sphere suddenly disappeared, transported presumably to a waiting area in the hospital part of the Pokémon Center. The machine now empty, the clamps that had secured the Poké Ball in place popped open, ready to accept another one. “Now, is that all?”
“Thanks, and yeah, this time it is,” Shrike confirmed.
“I know you're probably hungry but let's go up to our room first,” Rayne suggested.
“Actually, I was going to suggest that too,” Shrike shrugged. “I want to wait for Zethro before eating and then going out.”
The group walked over to the bank of elevators, Shrike thumbing the call button. It wasn't long before one of the four elevators dinged, an arrow above its door lighting up as it slid open. Walking into it, Shrike found that like the building the elevators were also circular. A window ran the height of the elevator car along its back, however nothing was visible through it at ground level. After Rayne and Matariel had both packed into the elevator Rayne pressed the button labeled J for the tenth floor as she was the one closest to the control panel. Immediately the doors closed and the elevator began to rise up, the wall that had obscured the view out of the elevator window disappearing to reveal a view of Petalburg City.
“Hey, Matariel,” Shrike spoke up as he looked out the window.
“Yes?” the Absol responded with. Shrike could also hear her normal growl-like voice behind the translated speech, but he realized that if he were to make the most of this translator he'd have to start blanking that out.
“So you can talk after all,” Shrike remarked, raising an eyebrow as he glanced at Matariel's reflection in the window.
“I speak when needed,” she said calmly. “Most of the time, talking is wasteful.”
“Jehiel would like to disagree with that...” Shrike muttered, shuddering as he remembered the events earlier that day when Zack had first given him the translator.
Before anyone else could speak, the elevator dinged again and slowed to a halt, the doors opening to let the people inside out on to the tenth floor of the Pokémon Center. Glancing about as he stepped off the elevator, Shrike found the feel of the place to be a cross between a hotel and a dormitory. Rooms lined the outside of the building, while the middle part was a mostly open common area. Walking along the doors leading to the rooms, Shrike found the one labeled 12 and swiped his ID card over the black panel next to it. The door sliding open in response, Shrike walked into their room as Rayne and Matariel followed.
They were greeted by a somewhat small yet adequately furnished room. Straight ahead from the door was the main bedroom, with twin bunk beds pushed against the wall to either side. Opposite the door was a large, outward curving window with a desk positioned in front of it. Completing the room, a small television sat on the desk off to the side. While Shrike wandered over to one of the beds and sat down on it, Rayne meanwhile investigated the bathroom that was to the right of the front door.
“Sweet, a shower,” she said upon seeing it, complete with small bars of soap and bottles of shampoo and conditioner. It had been a few days since either of the two had showered and while it didn't bother Shrike so much, Rayne was a different story. “I'll be in here, probably for an hour or so. Don't worry about me!”
As Shrike set his backpack on the ground and rubbed his sore shoulders, he watched as Matariel slowly walked into the room. Without even glancing around the Absol lay down next to the bunk bed across from the one Shrike was sitting on, closing her eyes to rest.
“Girls, eh? Their showers are always so long...” Shrike joked, hoping to strike up some sort of conversation with Rayne's partner. All he got was Matariel opening one red eye to glance at him, before shutting it again and returning to ignoring him.
Come on, does she always have to be so quiet? Shrike thought in defeat. Deciding that trying to learn more about the Absol could come later, Shrike bent down and opened the backpack at his feet. From inside it he pulled out his slate computer which he hadn't touched in a while. Finally out of the woods and back in civilization, though, he was eager to check in with some people.
Flipping open the computer's protective case he pressed the power button and waited as it powered up. When he was finally presented by his desktop, the computer took the liberty of automatically connecting to the Pokémon Center's free internet, barely a second passing after that before an instant messenger window popped up. Shrike smiled when he saw that it was LuminousShadow, who must have seen him automatically sign in. <Been a while.> they said.
<Yeah, I was out wandering through the forest! :D> Shrike responded with.
<Awesome! You said you were going to Petalburg?>
<Yep! I'm sitting in our room at the Pokémon Center now.>
<Yeah, Rayne too. We have to share a room...>
<Oh. Okay. Well, so long as you don't have to share a bed!>
<Ugh... I don't think I'd be able to do that... DX>
<So, planning to go to the gym soon?>
LuminousShadow's sudden change of topic slightly threw Shrike off, but he quickly recovered. <Well, I suppose. It's sort of why I came here!> Suddenly changing the topic himself, Shrike then added, <Hey, are you on #thebbs now?>
<Is Chaos on?>
<Good, I'll be on there in a moment! Might as well say my hellos before leaving for the gym!>
Shrike wasn't sure how long he spent immersed in IRC, informing whoever would listen of the events of the past few days including his capture of Jehiel. While he did tell them about Zack (omitting his loss in the battle), he decided it would probably be best to leave out mention of the translator. Nonetheless, all was well and no sign of Chaos meant he could yammer away about Pokémon all he wanted without being flamed. Chaos had always been a problem on the chat. While normally he was fairly mild-mannered, any mention of Pokémon would lead to him flipping out to the point where he was inevitably temporarily banned. The operators seemed reluctant to permanently ban him, however, as it was only Pokémon that caused him to fly into flaming rampages. As the channel wasn't even dedicated to Pokémon in the first place, the operators seemed to feel it better to deal with him on a case by case basis.
<*chaos has joined #thebbs>
LuminousShadow was the first to respond, simply with, <Gods...>
<oh. you again.> Chaos said after a pause, no doubt addressing it to Shrike.
<You used periods.> Shrike couldn't help but notice. <What a surprise. Learn to capitalize next.>
<dude i dont need to take your shit i rite how i want>
<And then the periods disappear like magic! But they were fun while they lasted.> LuminousShadow sarcastically exclaimed.
Since Shrike was in a good mood he wasn't as angry at Chaos as usual and decided to try playing with him some. <Yet I have to take your shit all the time. Here, have some of mine.>
<*FireBird throws some of his Pokémon's shit in Chaos' face.>
<hey fuck you and your gay ass pogeymen>
There was a brief pause following that, with LuminousShadow again being the first to respond, <...Really? Pogeymen? That's the best you can come up with?>
Finding himself ever so slightly irritated now, Shrike scrolled through the list of current users in the channel. There weren't any operators on. Pulling up the instant messenger window with LuminousShadow from before he began focusing on it instead. <Aw great, no ops are on.>
<So I noticed.> LuminousShadow replied back. <You gonna leave then?>
<Yeah, it'd probably be for the best. I want to go eat something soon anyway.>
<Okay then, bye. See ya later!>
Shrike quickly switched back to the chat window, ignoring anything new that had been said and quitting with the message, <*FireBird has quit (Quit: Okay, enough of this for now.)> Then closing out all the open windows, Shrike put his computer into sleep mode and set it on the desk by the window. Finding its power cable in his backpack, he plugged it in to charge for the time being.
As Shrike was walking to their room's door he noticed two things: one being that Rayne was still in the shower, and the other being that a small screen set into the wall next to the door was currently beeping to get his attention. He must have been so caught up in his internet conversations he hadn't noticed it before. Lowering his glasses, Shrike peered over the top of them at the screen. On it he noticed a button labeled “Turn Off Alarm” which he promptly pressed to dismiss the somewhat annoying beeping. His eyes then turned to look at the text that was displayed on it, which read along the lines of Zethro being ready for delivery. At first Shrike found this wording sort of odd, but then he noticed the additional note saying to scan his ID across the sensor pad next to the screen to confirm his identity.
Pulling out his ID card, Shrike went along with what the screen suggested he do and swiped it across the sensor. A progress bar appeared on the screen along with the words “Pokemon Transportation System Initializing” as next to the screen a small panel slid down. From inside the newly revealed cavity metal arm-like protrusions—similar to those on the device used at the reception desk—unfolded around a circular pad set inside the wall. The progress bar on the screen rapidly filled as a hum built up from the transporter, quickly rising in intensity. In a flash of light a Poké Ball appeared on the pad, secured within the arms. As soon as the arms released their grip on the Poké Ball and opened up, Shrike reached inside to pick it up.
“Well that's convenient,” he said to himself.
Shrike had been planning to go down to the cafeteria and grab something to eat, however with Zethro now returned to him, he decided there was some talking to do. Returning to the bed he had claimed, Shrike sat down on the edge of it and casually popped open Zethro's Poké Ball. Matariel glanced over slightly as the mass of red light from the Poké Ball settled down into the now familiar shape of a hunched over Cyndaquil.
Fully formed, Zethro looked around some and blinked, uttering to himself, “Where is this now?” It wasn't long until he noticed Shrike, smiling down at him from the bed he sat perched on. Jumping in place excitedly, Zethro let out a squeal of, “Shrike! You're here after all!” before leaping up into his trainer's lap.
“Yeah, I'm here. You took quite a beating before, sorry about that...” Shrike apologized, although technically it wasn't really his fault anyway. It was Zack who had both deceptively challenged Shrike and then given the orders for his Sceptile to attack. Nonetheless, Shrike felt guilty anyway. “Oh, right. We're in Petalburg City now, in our temporary room at the Pokémon Center.”
Zethro turned to look out the room's single large window, from which he could see the other tall buildings of the city. “Petalburg... I wish I could have been there with you when you arrived...” Suddenly he perked up as he came to realize something, turning back around to face Shrike. Placing his front paws on the boy's chest, he raised his head up and stared at Shrike over his long snout. “Wait, did you... Understand me?”
Shrike smiled, placing a hand on the Cyndaquil's back and scratching him, his fingers running through the Pokemon's coarse, dark blue fur, although being careful to avoid the red incendiary spots. “You missed out on the rest of the meeting with Zack. He gave me something, this translator thing.” Shrike turned his head so Zethro could see, pointing to his ear inside which the exposed surface of the translator could be seen. “I'm still getting used to the feel of having it in there—it's not exactly normal, but oddly enough it seems to be getting more comfortable—but it does what Zack said it would: translate Pokémon speech.”
“That's...” Zethro blinked a few times, taking it in. “Cool! We can be friends now!” he squealed, dropping down and giving Shrike the closest thing to a hug that the small Pokémon could.
“But we were already friends...” Shrike pointed out.
“But now you can understand me!” Zethro exclaimed excitedly. A moment passed by with Zethro pressed against Shrike's chest, his eyes closed in thought. Shrike reached down and started to pet the Cyndaquil again, but suddenly stopped when he wondered if Zethro actually liked being treated like a pet. “Keep going...” Zethro murmured however, Shrike tilting his head slightly before continuing to pet his Pokemon's back.
“Is something wrong?” Shrike asked, wondering why Zethro had turned so quiet all of a sudden. From what he could see it looked like the doctors had pretty much fully healed and even cleaned him; not a sign of the battle with Zack remained, be it a scratch or some loose dirt particles trapped in his fur.
“I tried talking to you before, but of course you couldn't understand me...” Zethro quietly said. “I guess I had given up hope, but then this... I can... I can finally tell you what I've been trying to, and you can finally understand me when I say it...” Zethro slowly opened his eyes and looked up at Shrike, who was surprised to see tears welling up in the Cyndaquil's large, red-colored eyes. “Thank you...” he whispered. “Thank you for saving my life...”
Shrike was silent; he didn't know how to respond to that. Holding Zethro against his chest tightly, he dropped his head down so it touched the Cyndaquil's who nuzzled him back. His eyes closed as he took in the moment, Shrike didn't notice Matariel glancing up at them from where she lay on the floor. For a second she gave the two an odd, sullen stare, before blinking and closing her eyes again as she returned to her rest.
Finally Shrike came up with words, slowly speaking them into Zethro's small ears. “I couldn't live with myself if I didn't do anything. Letting them take you away, or kill you—they were never options.” Zethro nodded slightly and Shrike raised his head back up, lifting up Zethro's from his chest so he could see the Pokemon's face again. He had stopped crying. “Feeling better now?” Shrike asked.
“Yeah...” Zethro sighed. “I just needed to finally get that out of me.”
Shrike picked up the small Pokémon from his lap and sat Zethro down on the bed next to him, reaching behind the lenses of his glasses to rub his eyes before standing up. “Well, I was planning on going down to grab something to eat now,” Shrike explained as he slid his glasses off his face and held them up to the window. Determining that they were clear enough, he replaced them back on his face before continuing, “I imagine you want to come?”
Zethro perked up at that, leaping off the bed and running to the door of the room. “Yeah!” he shouted excitedly. “I'm hungry!”
“You always are,” Shrike grinned as he walked over to the door and opened it for Zethro. The Cyndaquil charged out of the room followed shortly by Shrike, but before the door could close behind him he heard Matariel speaking.
“Hold on to that companionship,” the Absol spoke. “It will make you strong.”
Shrike stopped and turned to look at her, however she continued to act as if nothing was out of the ordinary. “Huh?” he asked, to which the dark-type Pokémon's only response was to briefly open an eye to look at Shrike before closing it again. Shrugging it off, Shrike turned back around and walked out of the doorway which finally slid closed behind him with a slight whirring sound.
Zethro hopped about excitedly as the two traveled down the elevator, past the lobby level and into the building's basement. Clinging on to the rail that surrounded the elevator car, the Cyndaquil gasped in amazement as he looked at the view of Petalburg City outside the window, leaping off and running after Shrike as the elevator opened to reveal a brightly lit hallway. Various doors marked with their functions branched off the corridor, the most interesting and relevant one to the pair being the large double doors that were propped open and led to the Pokémon Center's large buffet-style cafeteria. Shrike was forced to again produce his ID card and swipe it over a panel to pass through a turnstile, while Zethro was able to simply run under it as if it weren't even there.
Shrike picked Zethro up so the Cyndaquil was at a better height to see the various foods available on the four bars arranged in a square at the center of the cafeteria. While most of the food available was stuff more appropriate for humans, one of the bars was devoted solely to special food designed with Pokémon in mind. Finding a plate, Shrike began to pile it high with a mix of food for both Zethro and himself. Shrike felt it was his duty to sample everything available, but alas the physical limitations of his plate—and inability to carry two due to Zethro's insistence on being carried so as to see everything—meant he had to settle with only a small sampling of what was offered. Carrying his nearly overflowing plate to an empty table, Shrike set both it and Zethro down as he took a seat.
Both trainer and Pokémon began to eagerly attack the mound of food, attracting more than a few odd looks from strangers seated at the surrounding tables. “What?” Shrike asked defensively, declaring that, “We haven't had a real meal in days.”
Only partway through the meal, Shrike was interrupted by a tap on his shoulder. Looking up he found Rayne standing over him, evidently done with her long shower although her long black hair still had a wet sheen to it. Next to her Matariel stood, although as usual she remained silent. “I figured I'd find you two here,” Rayne said.
“Yeah, well, here we are!” Shrike grinned, picking up a piece of battered chicken and holding it out to Rayne. “Chicken strip?” he offered. “I got too much and it seems Zethro's not fond of chicken.”
“No thanks,” Rayne sighed, pushing it away.
“You?” Shrike then offered it to Matariel, who snarled and looked away from it. “Ah right, I forgot about your preferred diet...”
“Look, forget the chicken.” Rayne seemed slightly aggravated, but then again, to Shrike she always seemed that way. “You're going to the Pokémon Gym today, right?”
Sadly setting the wasted piece of chicken back down on his plate, Shrike responded with, “Yeah, might as well go now. No use waiting!”
“Okay then. We've decided to come with you,” Rayne said.
“You have?” Shrike tilted his head curiously. Grinning, he then added, “Going to cheer for me?”
“No,” Rayne flatly said, an icy tone to her voice. “I just want to see if you get owned as bad as you would have with Jehiel without our assistance”
“Well no worry there.” Shrike picked up the knife he had been using to cut his food and began twirling it around his fingers. “I'm going to assume that no one will be trying to kill Zethro this time. That sort of complicated things.” The knife quickly slipped from his grip, hitting against his fingers before tumbling down, bouncing off his leg, and falling to the floor below. “Ow...” he muttered.
Rayne bent down and picked up the knife and began spinning it herself, flipping it between her fingers in a much flashier manner than Shrike could pull it off. After setting it back on the table and sitting down in a chair herself, she couldn't resist flashing a smile and saying, “We'll see about that...”
Under pressure from Rayne's watchful, waiting eyes, Shrike and Zethro suddenly didn't feel as hungry as they had been. Finishing off a few more items from the plate, the group finally stood up to leave, a small amount of leftover food remaining on the plate which they left for the busboys to clean up. Again crowding back into the elevator, they took the short trip up to the lobby and from there out the front doors and onto the streets of Petalburg City once again. This was the first time for Zethro, though, and it was obvious that he was anxious about seeing a new city. Running all around Shrike's feet and nearly tripping him up at times, Zethro scurried about the sidewalk to look at near everything and everyone with wide-eyed excitement. This was to the great amusement of the ever present kids watching the older trainers and Pokémon who they aspired to be one day.
Pulling out his Pokédex and flipping it open, Shrike again consulted its map to find out where exactly they were going. The Gym turned out to be located in pretty much the exact middle of the city, with roads radiating out from it like spokes. The group made their way to the closest of these main roads, taking their time walking down it to take in the various sights to be seen along the way. Glass storefronts housed various eye-catching displays advertising a full range of Pokemon-related products from simple toys and paraphernalia to specialty shops offering various exotic Poké Ball designs. Shrike noticed there wasn't much in the way of normal trainer items, but he attributed that to the monopoly the Pokémon Mart franchise had over that section of the market.
While most of the items on display didn't interest him too much, Shrike did notice one particular electronics shop that was advertising the latest Pokédex model as being on sale. Unfortunately the price was still too high for the meager allowance Shrike's dad was obligated to send him, so with a sigh he was forced to pass on such an unnecessary upgrade. The one from his dad that Professor Jura had given him would have to suffice, not like there was anything wrong with it.
Eventually the group reached the center area of the city. A park surrounded the city's heart: a dome-shaped building that had to be the Pokémon Gym. As Shrike, Rayne, and their Pokémon walked along a path that led through the trees, the building soon came into view. Shrike couldn't help but gasp slightly; the Gym was much larger than he had been expecting. In fact, it looked sort of like a sports stadium in some ways. Thinking about it some more, Shrike decided that wasn't too surprising seeing as here amid the Pokémon Islands, Pokémon battles were essentially the most popular sport of all.
Several smaller doors ringed the Gym, however there seemed to be one larger door that was the primary entrance. Pointing it out to Rayne, Shrike quickly snaked his way along the various paths that led through the grass that surrounded that building, Zethro quickly following behind. Rayne and Matariel, on the other hand, seemed to not be quite as excited and walked a bit slower. By the time they had reached the entrance, Rayne expected Shrike to already be inside, registered for a battle, and possibly halfway through either handing Norman a beat down or having it handed to himself.
This turned out not to be the case, much to her surprise. Instead, Shrike was standing a little ways back from the door, holding a hand out to stop Rayne from approaching it. “Hold on, something's up,” he said.
Rayne looked at the door, at first not noticing anything out of the ordinary. Then she noticed two men just standing there next to the door, clothed in crimson red robes that made them easily stand out from everyone else. “Those two?” she asked, Shrike nodding in confirmation. “Well let's find out,” Rayne followed with as she walked forward, Matariel padding along behind. Stopping so that she was within hearing distance of them, she positioned herself so that they hopefully wouldn't notice her. Furthering her efforts to blend in, she knelt down and began picking through Matariel's fur as if grooming the Pokemon before venturing inside the Gym for a battle.
Slightly hesitant, Shrike picked up Zethro and held him in his arms as he followed Rayne's lead. Sitting down on a bench not far from where Rayne was kneeling, he looked off at the trees while petting Zethro. All the while, though, he kept his focus on the two men visible out the corner of his eyes.
“Brother, what is this?” the shorter and presumably younger of the two asked. He seemed to be around Shrike's own age, while the other looked to be several years older. The robed boy was staring quizzically at the Pokémon Gym's main door, his eyes narrowed as he studied it with intensity usually reserved for more challenging subjects. Shrike didn't understand what exactly was so fascinating about the door—it looked just like any other door to him. Then the door suddenly slid open and a man walked out of the building, glancing briefly at the two odd men as he walked away.
“Ach! There again!” the younger man exclaimed, pointing a finger at the door as it slid back closed.
“Brother Rayth, relax,” the larger man said. It was hard to tell with the bizarre robes on, but underneath them Shrike couldn't help but think that he seemed to have the muscular build of a football player or such. “Tell me, what do you think is the explanation for such sliding doors as this?”
“Magic, it has to be,” Rayth responded, his eyes growing wide as he considered the quite frankly absurd possibility. “This could only be the work of a master magician of the highest order.”
“They call it technology, but for all purposes it is the same,” the older man explained as he crossed his arms. “This example is used to filter out the Pure like us, and prevent our kind from entering their civilization's inner sanctum.”
“Inner sanctum...” Rayth gasped, looking up at his brother. “Do you mean...”
The brother nodded. “Yes. This is a den for the Tainted and the Abominations that corrupt them. It serves as the core of their society. We are not allowed to enter.”
“But Reich!” Rayth exclaimed, his face a mixture between shock and wonderment. “We can not allow this to continue! It is our duty to see to it that this sanctum of theirs is purified!”
Reich slowly shook his head. “We have not been given permission, nor are we properly equipped for a purification. A purification on such a large scale would require the permission of all of the High Council and more men than just the two of us alone.” Suddenly smiling, Reich gave his younger brother a pat on the shoulder. “Today's purpose is solely to introduce you to the customs of life on the outside. In time you will be able to do as you please, but until then you must train, study, and prove yourself worthy to not just your peers but me as well.”
Reich turned from the Gym and motioned for Rayth to follow as they began to move on. “Do you think I am doing well?” Rayth asked while walking alongside Reich.
“Yes, you are,” Reich affirmed fondly. “There is no doubt in my mind that you are worthy of bearing the Ranthos family name. Mother and father would be proud.”
With that the two walked out of earshot, Shrike standing up and walking over to Rayne while glancing at Rayth and Reich Ranthos' backs. Rayne stood up to meet him, Matariel looking relived that Rayne was no longer messing with her fur. “Well that was odd,” Shrike said, hoping that the two couldn't still hear him. “What was up with those guys? They live in a cave or something?”
“They give me a bad feeling...” Rayne frowned, keeping her eyes on the robed strangers all the way until they turned a corner and disappeared behind a building. “I think we should avoid them if we see them or any of their kind again.”
“I agree,” Matariel spoke. Her natural voice, a mixture of growls and howls that somehow sounded oddly melodic attracted the attention of a few passerby who smiled and waved at the rare Pokémon and her trainer. The group ignored them though, paying attention to Matariel's actual words as she continued. “It as as if those people had an aura about them, one of malevolence. They are not well for this world.” Pausing, Matariel shifted on her feet as she looked at the ground. “...They frighten me.”
Even Shrike understood the impact of Matariel actually being scared by something, much less two oddly dressed, oddly speaking but otherwise apparently harmless men. For them to unnerve the apparently emotionless dark-type was quite a feat.
Rayne shook her head as she placed a hand on top of Matariel's head. Shrike wasn't sure Matariel actually enjoyed the contact. “Don't worry,” Rayne said quietly. “We'll do our best to avoid them.”
“An encounter may be inevitable,” Matariel responded, Rayne's assurances falling flat. “Fate may demand it without our choice or consent.”
Shrike shrugged, already growing bored of this. “Then there's no point worrying about it now as nothing could change. Look, let's just get on moving. I have a Gym Leader to defeat today!”
“Yeah!” Zethro cheered on, having remained silent throughout that uneasy scene. Evidently he also didn't care much about obsessive worrying.
“We can talk about this in private later,” Rayne whispered to Matariel as she turned to again follow Shrike who had, again, taken off running to and this time through the doors of the Petalburg Pokémon Gym. Once more Rayne took her time, walking at a normal pace. This time she expected to run into Shrike leaving the Gym following his indeterminate victory or loss, but instead she was simply greeted by his yelling as she walked through those miraculous, magical sliding doors.
“What do you mean he's not taking any challengers now?!” Shrike yelled in despair. He stood at what was presumably the receptionist's desk, the poor, unsuspecting girl behind it shaking her head.
“I'm sorry, sir, but Norman is currently in an exhibition match and following that he is booked full with reserved matches for the rest of the day,” the girl explained. “If you'd like, I can put you down for a battle in the closest available time slot.”
“I never heard anything about needing to make an appointment. I thought you could just walk in...” Shrike sighed in dismay. Zethro at his feet seemed similarly upset by this turn of events. “They never mentioned this in school...”
“You didn't finish your schooling,” Rayne said as she walked up to Shrike. “I'm guessing this would have been explained later.”
“You think they could have warned me before we left...” Defeated, Shrike placed both hands on the counter and took a big breath before slowly exhaling. “Okay, I think I can think straight again now. Go ahead and put me down for whatever the nearest slot is. Name is Shrike Flamestar.”
As the receptionist looked through the calender of bookings, Rayne noticed that their group had attracted the attention of a girl off to the side. She had been sitting on a bench next to a door that led from the Gym's lobby deeper into the building. The girl stood up, straightening her shirt as she walked over to the group standing at the desk. A smile on her face, she thoughtfully tapped her chin as she approached. “Excuse me,” she asked. “You said your name is Shrike Flamestar?”
Shrike motioned for the receptionist to wait as he turned to look at the girl. She was shorter than both Shrike and Rayne and with a thinner build as well, but she seemed to be around their age. Combined with her almost startlingly blue hair, Shrike couldn't say that he recognized her. “Yeah, I did,” he answered, feeling it would be pointless to lie.
The girl's smile broadened as she clapped her hands together in a motion of triumph. “Well then, your name matches, you said you'd be here today, and I can only assume that's Rayne and her Absol,” the girl gestured to where Rayne stood off to the side, Matariel walking between the two girls as if to defend Rayne from the stranger. Ignoring that, the girl continued, “I knew I could find you, Fire Bird.”
Shrike's jaw practically dropped. “If you know me by that name, you better not be Chaos or someone.”
That provoked a burst of laughter from the girl as she shook her head and waved a hand. “No no, hell no! If I was, why would be in a place like this?”
“Point taken,” Shrike shrugged. Rayne didn't understand the point, but then again she didn't really care about Shrike's little online life either. “Okay then,” Shrike continued as he went on to guess again. “Luminous Shadow, is it?”
“Bingo,” the girl smiled. “But don't call me that or I'll go around calling you Fire Bird. Instead, call me Aira Kaza.”
~End of Chapter 7~
And there you have it. Now we're really starting to move away from the how the old version was organized, with this chapter being a mix of both chapter 6 and the first part of chapter 7. Most importantly, though, is that EVERYTHING was pretty much completely reworked. Perhaps most notable is the changes I did with the Ranthos brothers, completely overhauling their characters and moving them to a different location, as well as removing the interaction they had with the main heroes. Additionally, the “elsewhere” scene was dropped as will most such scenes in future chapters. Only major ones will remain now, and the one at the end of chapter 6v1 certainly was not major in anyway.
For things added, there's several minor things with the biggest scene being the one with Shrike and Zethro. That scene where Zethro learns about the translator was one that I had originally planned for v1 but ended up cutting, leading to this odd problem where none of the Pokémon really take any notice of the translator. This time around I corrected. Whether it's cheesy or heartwarming is up to you to decide.
And now to decide what to spend the next few months writing...
March 22nd, 2010 (4:33 PM).
It might suck being able to understand the disaster Pokemon. Knowing that something bad is coming, then again it could help too.
Overall nice chapter, and I like the bid at the end; makes me leery of chat rooms. But I've meet people off the net too. Sitting in the room looking at all the different people wondering who is going to come up to you. Its quite the experience. lol
I really need a new signature.
March 27th, 2010 (9:16 AM).
In other words, blame English for being stupid and not me.
Thanks for reading!