1. Due to issues with external spam filters, QQ is currently unable to send any mail to Microsoft E-mail addresses. This includes any account at live.com, hotmail.com or msn.com. Signing up to the forum with one of these addresses will result in your verification E-mail never arriving. For best results, please use a different E-mail provider for your QQ address.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. For prospective new members, a word of warning: don't use common names like Dennis, Simon, or Kenny if you decide to create an account. Spammers have used them all before you and gotten those names flagged in the anti-spam databases. Your account registration will be rejected because of it.
    Dismiss Notice
  3. Since it has happened MULTIPLE times now, I want to be very clear about this. You do not get to abandon an account and create a new one. You do not get to pass an account to someone else and create a new one. If you do so anyway, you will be banned for creating sockpuppets.
    Dismiss Notice
  4. If you wish to change your username, please ask via conversation to tehelgee instead of asking via my profile. I'd like to not clutter it up with such requests.
    Dismiss Notice
  5. Due to the actions of particularly persistent spammers and trolls, we will be banning disposable email addresses from today onward.
    Dismiss Notice
  6. A note about the current Ukraine situation: Discussion of it is still prohibited as per Rule 8
    Dismiss Notice
  7. The rules regarding NSFW links have been updated. See here for details.
    Dismiss Notice
  8. The testbed for the QQ XF2 transition is now publicly available. Please see more information here.
    Dismiss Notice

I Will Touch the Skies - A Pokemon Fanfiction (OC)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Soussouni1, Jan 27, 2023.

Loading...
  1. Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    I'm crossposting it on royalroad, spacebattles, scribblehub, FFN and AO3 (I'm actually on chapter 86 on these sites, which is why I've been posting 3 chapters per day. My normal rate of upload is one per day). Thank you for reading!
     
    GunnarS14 and Popoley224 like this.
  2. Threadmarks: Interlude - Forums II
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    INTERLUDE - FORUMS II

    Welcome to the League Circuit Forums! The best website to get any League/Circuit related news!

    General → Sponsors

    Topic: Retani Industries is a scam

    Original Poster: Grace_Pastel (Verified Trainer)

    Date: 12th November 20XX


    Recently, there have been a lot of new companies that have been trying to get into trainer marketing. One of them is called Retani Industries. They’re a tech company based in Sunnyshore that wants to grow to rival the Poketch Company, but what’s more important is that they’re a complete scam. They invited me and my friend Denzel Williams to sign a contract and tried to make it seem like it would help us by promising money and TMs, but there were a lot of things hidden in the document. For example, they wanted to do ads for all of their products, which we would never have time for, they wanted to make our payments nonnegotiable, and we wouldn’t be able to retire until we turned twenty-two, essentially forcing us to shill for their company for years. If it wasn’t for my group’s help, we would have been screwed.

    They also said that they were contacting more trainers, so I wanted to get ahead of them. Do not under any circumstances sign anything from Retani Industries. I recommend never signing anything if you aren’t familiar with business in general. These companies are predatory, and this behavior shouldn’t be allowed. Thank you for reading.


    ►Hayleigh_Munoz (Verified Trainer)

    I’ve been contacted by them too, after winning my second badge in Pastoria, but I was too nervous to meet and I ghosted them. Apparently that was a good idea, thanks for the warning!

    ►Jessie_Newman (Verified Trainer)

    So they’re contacting people all over the region? Arceus, these people are scumbags.

    ►Nathan_Phillips (Verified Trainer)

    What the hell? Is this true? I signed just yesterday???? They didn’t tell me anything about what you’re saying.

    ►Chase_Karlson (Verified Trainer)

    You’re all dumbasses for even thinking of meeting one of these companies. This is just one part of why sponsorships and company meddling in the Circuit should be banned. Not only does it give an unfair advantage to some trainers while leaving others in the dirt, they’re only doing it to enrich themselves. I’m banning that shit as soon as I become the Champion. The League is complicit in this. Why do you think they haven’t done so already? This is bigger than Retani Industries. If the government starts opposing big business, then the money suddenly gets cut off and stops flowing. I bet they’re paying off politicians too. The government doesn’t work for us, it works for the rich.

    ►Se7en

    Big words from someone who barely won against Gardenia.

    ►Ramin_Abdel (Verified Trainer)

    That has nothing to do with the topic of the thread.

    ►Chase_Karlson (Verified Trainer)

    se7en nice job, buddy! You’ve successfully hidden your identity behind a screen and shittalked someone who you will never surpass! I have something planned very soon to bring a member of my team to the next level. I’ll beat Fantina easily.

    ►Mislav_Kelava (Verified Trainer)

    No need to be this rude. Anyway, getting back to Chase’s point, I agree in principle, but how else are we going to buy all of the supplies trainers need to thrive at the top? When you have eight badges, the few hundreds of Pokedollars you get from battles are pennies. You need money from sponsors.

    ►Hayleigh_Munoz (Verified Trainer)

    I agree with this. Plus, you’re acting like the League is a one-man dictatorship. There are procedures you would have to go through to do this.

    ►Chase_Karlson (Verified Trainer)

    Okay bootlickers, have fun getting scammed and then crying about it. I’m proposing solutions while you’re all complaining. I’m a man of action. I’ll figure it out.

    ►Bobby_Odink (Verified Trainer)

    @Grace_Pastel, I find it ironic that you of all people are trying to dissuade us from taking money from Retani when you’re traveling with a bunch of billionaires. I personally signed, and I might have gotten screwed, but that’s what normal trainers like us have to do, so I don’t expect you to understand.

    ►Chase_Karlson (Verified Trainer)

    She might be privileged, but her point still applies. I checked your profile and despite having been in the Circuit for three years, your personal record is a single badge. You don’t need the kind of money we’re talking about to win at that level. I’m living proof of that.

    You know what I think? I think you’re a pathetic jealous man who blames his personal failures on a lack of funds. Stop doomposting on the forums and hit the gym, loser. Train with your team for a change instead of making them repeat the same move over and over. That’s the definition of insanity.


    ►Bobby_Odink (Verified Trainer)

    I’ll have you know that the vast majority of trainers don’t even get a single gym badge, so I’m actually good at my job, thank you very much. And yes, I do need money even at my level. How am I expected to go through routes if I don’t buy potions? And I’ve been wanting to save up for some TMs, which Retani will provide me with. Those will propel me to the next level.

    ►Chase_Karlson (Verified Trainer)

    I ain’t reading all that, chief. Happy for you though/sorry that happened.

    ►Bobby_Odink (Verified Trainer)

    My message is shorter than yours, you fucking prick.

    ►Omori_Fumiko (Verified Trainer)

    Can we stop with the toxicity and get back to the original topic? @Bobby_Odink, was your contract the same as Grace’s?

    ——


    Gyms → Eterna → Gardenia

    Topic: Does Gardenia have it out for me?

    Original Poster: Caiden_Parker (Verified Trainer)

    Date: 8th November 20XX


    So I know I’m going to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but hear me out before clicking off the thread. I was at an anti-League protest a few days ago in front of the Eterna city gym, and Gardenia walked through the lobby while I was there, and I swear we fucking locked eyes for a split second. When I battled her two days later, she wiped the floor with me, and I mean no holds barred. I don’t even have a badge yet, and she’s treating me like I’m one of these first-year prodigies you hear so much about. So here’s my question, am I crazy or not?

    ►Caiden_Parker (Verified Trainer)

    Why is no one answering the thread? Am I being shadowbanned by the League because I’m right on the fucking target?

    ►Palovolap

    No, you fucking idiot, no one is answering because you didn’t take your pills this morning.

    ►Caiden_Parker (Verified Trainer)

    So the only person that answers doesn’t even entertain my theory? Nice try undercover League agent! I’m going to protest twice as hard! In fact, I think I’m going to go inside and boo Gardenia in the stands.

    ►Palovolap

    What losing once does to a mf.

    ►Emma_Gilly (Verified Trainer)

    Stop entertaining his delusions and don’t reply.

    ►Caiden_Parker (Verified Trainer)

    You’ll see me with a giant fuck you sign tomorrow, Gardenia!

    ——

    Gyms → Eterna → Gardenia

    Topic: Gardenia tips? (Second Badge) (Trainer Only Thread)

    Original Poster: Leland_Joel (Verified Trainer)

    Date: 10th November 20XX


    Hello everybody. I know this is a common thread, but the others all seem less active than I’d like them to be, so I’ll try to revive the topic. I tried fighting against Gardenia an hour ago and I only managed to take down her Lombre. She also used Ivysaur and Roselia against me. I have two fire types: Pansear and Magby, but I also have a Hoothoot. I’m kind of trying to become a fire type specialist in the long term, but that’s beside the point. I tried to have Hoothoot deal with her Lombre and I was doing rather well, but she recalled it immediately and started dunking on me with Ivysaur, and my Hoothoot went down way faster than I thought. I was left with two fire types… in the rain… yeah. So, if you were me, what would you do to win?

    ►Poppy_Allen (Verified Trainer)

    Wait, that was you? Yikes, dude, you’re making yourself sound way better than you actually were, but I’ll still try to help since I beat her two battles after you. It’s kind of impossible to make a strategy against Gardenia, since she uses so many Pokemon that you really don’t know what you’ll get that day. The only other gym leader that even comes close to the size of her team is Candice, from what I’ve heard.

    So what can you do then? Well first, you need to give that Hoothoot of yours way more training, and you can consider teaching Magby Sunny Day to change the weather again after taking down Lombre. The problem is that weather moves take incredibly long to learn, so if I were you, I would honestly cut my losses and come back later in the year.


    Leland_Joel (Verified Trainer)

    I mean, I really don’t understand why she’s that hard. I did just fine against Roark, and I had the same team. Two fucking fire types and a flying type, and I didn’t struggle. Plus, I thought we had really gotten better after getting through Eterna forest, but I guess not.

    Yeah, you’re probably right, I think I’ll leave. Probably try to fight Maylene and Volkner instead.


    ►Zac_Swanson (Verified Trainer)

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but as a veteran trainer who got six badges last year (check my profile), changing who you fight won’t do anything. The jump in difficulty between the first and the second gym is by design, not a flaw. No matter who you fight, you’ll have just as much trouble. Just stick where you are, toughen up your team, and you’ll win. If you beat that Lombre or you get lucky and fight her after she’s used both of them in previous battles, you’re pretty much guaranteed a victory.

    Leland_Joel (Verified Trainer)

    I mean, maybe you’re right, but here’s what I don’t understand. Why is there such a massive difficulty jump in between the first and second gym in the first place? And are there any more that I need to watch out for?

    ►Zac_Swanson (Verified Trainer)

    You might not have noticed it, but during your first badge, what face was Roark making? Unless you were any good, he was bored. That’s because all of the gym leaders pretty much run on auto-pilot during a trainer’s first gym battle. This is an open secret, but they’re basically kind of trying to get as many people through as they can because if too many kids are crushed in their first attempt, they probably wouldn’t come back. This keeps the League Circuit alive, with old blood returning every year to help the newer trainers. At the second gym, there’s no need for any of that, so they turn on a little bit of their brain during the battle, which is why you got hammered so hard.

    The only other difficulty jump that I’m aware of is the eighth badge, for obvious reasons. Gym leaders don’t want to let random shmucks who got lucky or trainers whose skills don’t hold up into the Conference. In between the second in the eighth, though, the difficulty curve is pretty steady.


    Leland_Joel (Verified Trainer)

    Thank you so much for the advice, man. I’ll keep at it. And honestly, I thought Roark was just permanently bored. Like for example, Gardenia does strategy, Candice is batshit insane, and Fantina has illusions, right? They all have a theme, and I thought he was the stoic bored guy that just used his rock type’s physical strength to win.

    ►Lynn_Sanford (Verified Trainer)

    I mean, if what you said is true, it’s kind of morbid, no? A fuck ton of kids, including me apparently, are being given false hope that they’re any good when they should just retire and not waste their time.

    Plus, you say that gym leaders don’t even try against badgeless kids, but the majority of trainers don’t even get their first badge! My first gym battle was fucking hard! What’s up with that?


    ►Zac_Swanson (Verified Trainer)

    I mean, at the end of the day, if you truly love Pokemon battling, knowing about this won’t bother you. It motivated me to better myself instead. I recommend just quitting anyway if the first deal of hardship you encounter makes you have this entitled mindset.

    ►Lynn_Sanford (Verified Trainer)

    Okay, asshole. So much for the older generation helping the new trainers. You’re blocked.

    ►Jean-Paul_Dargnan (Verified Trainer)

    He was literally giving you advice, you drama queen. Anyway, I’m usually a lurker, but thanks for the help @Zac_Swanson. Older trainers usually don’t post that much on the forums.

    ►Zac_Swanson (Verified Trainer)

    My pleasure. And yeah, older trainers tend to have grown past the childish antics, and we’re usually too busy trying to negotiate contracts, do odd jobs, and build connections. And we still train in between all of that! But I still swing by from time to time to give help and feel some nostalgia about just starting out. It’s a wonderful experience to be growing in skill as fast as you are. Cherish it.

    ——

    Trainers → Cecilia_Obel → Megathread

    Topic: Everything about Cecilia Obel

    Original Poster: League_Account_Official (Bot)

    Date: September 1st 20XX




    (Showing page 325/333)



    ►Goalducc42

    So I’ve been rewatching Cecilia Obel’s battle over and over in an attempt to describe her team in the most detail possible and maybe rank them? Anyway, I’m not a trainer, but I’m a huge trainer nerd, so I figured I’d give it a shot in between all of the discussions, so here goes:

    Deino - Her strongest team member by far and it’s not even close. That thing is a monster that can take way too many hits without ever going down. I mean, it beat Gardenia’s fucking Breloom! With the type disadvantage! Like it was nothing! At first glance, it might seem like its Dragon Breath is its biggest asset, but it’s actually how many hits it can just seemingly brush off. The Deino line, as rare as it is, isn’t usually known for its defensive abilities, but for the insane amount of firepower it has. Just take one look at one of her brother’s battles, and you’ll see. Deino does have good attacking options, but I find its moveset rather lacking still. There’s a lot more Cecilia Obel could be doing with it.

    Still, the attack it does have work like a charm. I guess there’s a reason ‘keep it simple stupid’ is a saying. The last thing I want to touch on with Deino is how docile it appears to have become now. A dragon is still a dragon, but compared to her fiance’s, or even how it behaved against Roark, it’s like night and day. She seems to have it under control, now we’ll have to see if that’s still the case when it evolves.


    Fletchinder - Speed is the name of the game. I knew the Fletchling line was known for its speed in the air, but Arceus, that fucking Agility, Quick Attack, Flame Charge combo is vicious. None of the trainers at her level would be capable of bringing that Pokemon down, and even Gardenia had to sacrifice Tangela, not even to take it down, but just to paralyze it.

    And Gardenia’s Tangela is usually a beast at taking down flying types. Hell, that’s usually its only job.

    It’s lacking slightly in power right now, but it makes up for that tenfold with the momentum it builds up with its insane speed. When it evolves again into a Talonflame, and it gets access to both? Anything that tries to fight it without a plan is fucked. This thing is a beast in the making, and probably more of a threat than Deino if I had to guess. Deino is more powerful, but at least you can hit it.

    Slowpoke - I’d say this is her weakest member that we’ve seen, but that doesn’t mean much. Its psychic abilities are still incredibly powerful, and being able to use both Zen Headbutt and Confusion at the same time takes an amount of focus that I wouldn’t have thought Slowpoke could achieve. That specific combination is also vicious, because unless your Pokemon is strong enough to break out of that Confusion— which even Gardenia’s Pokemon couldn’t— your Pokemon is pretty much done on arrival. It’ll be picked up and attacked over and over until it faints. And we haven’t even seen the progress it made with its water moves yet. No matter what this evolves into, it’ll mean trouble for any Pokemon not trained against psychic type attacks.


    ??? - Obel had a fourth Pokemon on her, which she didn’t even use. That’s right, she won three on fucking four. This is just speculation, but the Pokemon is probably a type that she doesn’t have yet, since she seems to be valuing type diversity instead of specializing in one type. Now, I’ll go further and theorize that it might be as strong as her other team members already, but it’s possible that it was too weak to use in battle.

    Reaching the Conference in your first year is nigh impossible, and only a handful manage to do it every year, but if I had to put money on anyone to do so right now, it would be Cecilia Obel. She’s going places, I’m telling you. This might be premature and the fanboy in me talking, but I see another Cynthia in the making.


    ►Sammy_Houghton (Verified Trainer)

    Fanboy detected.

    ►Goalducc42

    Bro… I typed all of that out, and that’s all I get? Like, really?

    ►Giftcard_Scratcher

    Don’t worry about it, that was honestly a great writeup. People are just salty that someone other than them is succeeding in life. I agree with all of your points, but I’d still place Deino as the bigger threat. If you get a lucky hit on Fletchinder, you can take it down. Deino just never fucking goes down.

    ►Jamie_Kelly (Verified Trainer)

    I’m just tired of people that work less than I do getting so much attention and fame. Yeah, I know that it’s just how the world is. Life isn’t fair. But I’d like it if people stop acting like she did something crazy. She only has two badges. I have two badges. A lot of people have two badges. Chill the fuck out and take a cold shower.

    ►Goalducc42

    I mean, you just sound salty to me, but we can agree to disagree.

    ►KnownChad

    You know what’s funny? All of the trainers on this thread are hating on Obel, and all of the civvies are her fan.

    ►Sammy_Houghton (Verified Trainer)

    Maybe because you don’t have to deal with the bullshit of knowing that she has an infinite amount of money to make her Pokemon as strong as possible.

    ►Victor123456

    I mean, if you look at some of the other trainers in her group, they didn’t have an easy time. Justin Gardner had to stall for time (which is fucking pathetic, I mean, have some decency), and Louis Bianchi almost lost because of his uncontrollable Gible. Hell, Emilia Lussier even lost and she has a Beldum.

    ►Amar_Chaou (Verified Trainer)

    Let’s stay on topic. If you want to talk about other trainers, go to their threads. Cecilia Obel certainly has advantages we don’t have, but you have to admit that she must be a good trainer if she got that Deino under control.

    ►Sammy_Houghton (Verified Trainer)

    Honestly, fair enough. I’m just feeling a bit salty because I lost to Gardenia, so I guess I let a bit of toxicity slip out.

    ►Giftcard_Scratcher

    Props on you for admitting that. But still, I’m excited to see her battle against Fantina. I’d like to see how she deals with all of her tricks. I can already tell that it’s going to be incredible.

    ►Malcolm_Stanfield (Verified Trainer)

    @Goalducc42, keep doing these writeups. I enjoyed reading this one, and I hope that you’ll do more of ‘em. For her fourth Pokemon, I have a theory. It might be native to Eterna forest. That’s the place where a trainer would be able to catch the most powerful Pokemon between Floaroma and Eterna city.

    ►Jamie_Kelly (Verified Trainer)

    Orrrr she just got it sent to her. I’m just saying.

    ►Goalducc42

    I’ll try to do them for the trainers that catch my eye in the future.

    ——

    Trainers → Louis_Bianchi → Megathread

    Topic: Everything about Louis Bianchi

    Original Poster: League_Account_Official (Bot)

    Date: September 1st 20XX




    (Showing page 233/243)



    ►Jejouedelamusique

    You people are delusional. This man isn’t making it past the third gym, no matter which leader he challenges. That Gible is even worse than it was during his battle against Roark and the Floaroma Tournament.

    ►Robert_Sladerk (Verified Trainer)

    I mean, it’s looking to actually be a genuine danger to him and his group’s safety. If he wasn’t rich, he would have been kicked out a loooong time ago.

    ►Michaela_Brunn (Verified Trainer)

    Did you see his dad running away from interviewers yesterday? Lmaoooo serves him right. Piece of shit thought he could buy his way into the Conference. Shows that he doesn’t know jack shit about Pokemon battling.

    ►Kasper_Andersen (Verified Trainer)

    His other Pokemon weren’t that impressive either. I mean, yeah, they’re well-trained and powerful, but I expected more, you know? Kind of makes you realize the entire group is overhyped. Soon enough, they’ll all fail. That’s what they get for trying to abuse the system.

    ►Calagore

    All I’m saying is that this is an overreaction. What I see instead of flaws is that he still won despite his Gible basically throwing the battle. A badly behaved Pokemon is something that is often fixed rather than not, so it’s only a matter of time. You’re letting your rabid hate affect your common sense.

    ►Jejouedelamusique

    Dude, he’s not going to pay you. You’ve been defending him since the start of the Circuit. Are you his alt or something? Or maybe he is paying you?

    ►Calagore

    I just try to see the good in every situation, which is something you should try. I promise you it’ll make you a better person.

    ►Michaela_Brunn (Verified Trainer)

    Okay, Mister totally not an alt. Anyway, his Vulpix was clearly bought. I did some research and there’s nowhere to catch one between Floaroma and Eterna city. That’s 3/3 bought Pokemon. Do we think he’s going to reach 6/6?

    ►Austin_O’Donnell (Verified Trainer)

    It’s looking like it. I hate all of the members of his group, but after receiving their starters, at least they had the decency to catch their Pokemon.


    ►Michaela_Brunn (Verified Trainer)

    If I ever cross paths with this kid, I’m challenging him to a battle and putting him in the dirt. He needs his ego checked.

    ►Maeve_Chang (Verified Trainer)

    I’ve battled him once already in Floaroma, and I’m itching for a rematch now that I saw he hasn’t progressed whatsoever. Unfortunately, he always stayed holed up at that hotel that I won’t name because that would be doxxing.

    ►Calagore

    At least one of you is mature enough to see reason. Arceus, this thread is such a cesspool.

    ►Jejouedelamusique

    No one’s asking you to read it, loser. If you don't like it, feel free to leave.

    ——


    Trainers → Denzel_Williams → Megathread

    Topic: Everything about Denzel Williams

    Original Poster: League_Account_Official (Bot)

    Date: September 1st 20XX




    (Showing page 134/145)



    ►Samuel_Panella (Verified Trainer)

    I’ve been gushing about Eevee since day one. Go back to the start of this thread, and you’ll see me. I can’t believe it stood up to Grotle. That thing is like five times its height, and I don’t know how many times its size. It’s made out of pure muscle, hits like a truck and takes hits like they’re nothing. Eevee might be small, but it holds an insane amount of potential. I’m excited to see what he evolves it into. If I had to guess, I’d be leaning toward one of the more physically-inclined evolutions, like Jolteon, Umbreon, etc.

    ►Katherine_Lane (Verified Trainer)

    The battle was a draw, but Eevee taking down that huge Grotle honestly made it feel like a win. I mean, what was that, Six detects?! My Meditite can only use the move twice!

    ►Eric_Vargas (Verified Trainer)

    Yes, yes, we know Eevee’s a monster, that’s all people are talking about, but can we talk about Buneary for a second? That fucking jump toward Hoppip was probably the most epic scene I’ve ever seen in any battle at our level. I still get goosebumps when I visualize it, and I wasn’t even in the stands!

    ►Samuel_Panella (Verified Trainer)

    You’re right. All of his Pokemon in general seem to take way more hits than should be possible. Even his Budew took four Acrobatics before going down. That Hoppip was boosting its speed with Fairy Wind, by the way.

    ►Desiree_Rumero (Verified Trainer)

    I mean, he’s traveling with a group of billionaires… he could have given his Pokemon supplements. Just sayin’.

    ►Samuel_Panella (Verified Trainer)

    Arceus damn it, this is why small threads are better than the big ones. Denzel’s a very swell guy who answers every DM about questions I have regarding Pokemon training. I can tell his love for battling is genuine. Please leave. Take your toxicity with you and never come back.

    ►Presticookr

    I swear, trainers are the saltiest motherfuckers on the planet. They see a wholesome thread with a civil discussion, and they have to come and taint it forever. Thanks for nothing!

    ►Christian_Cole (Verified Trainer)

    @Samuel_Panella is what you said about training DMs true? I’ve been stuck in a rut recently, and I need help to get my second badge.

    ►Samuel_Panella (Verified Trainer)

    Yes, feel free to shoot him a message. He’ll probably be slower to answer than he used to be since his thread blew up after his battle with Gardenia. He helped with my Nidorino a bunch.

    ►Christian_Cole (Verified Trainer)

    Thank you so much! Will message him right now!

    ——


    Trainers → Grace_Pastel → Megathread

    Topic: Everything about Grace Pastel

    Original Poster: League_Account_Official (Bot)

    Date: September 1st 20XX




    (Showing page 260/281)



    ►Sonya_Hladik (Verified Trainer)

    So let me get this straight. This girl who barely beat Roark two months ago is now defeating Gardenia’s strongest Pokemon at the first badge? Like, Sunflora, really? And I’m supposed to believe that she isn’t profiting from her new billionaire friends? She didn’t even try to hide it.

    ►Persivan

    You’ve been hating on this girl since her thread opened. Maybe if you stopped complaining and trained instead, you would get somewhere instead of still having no badges.

    ►Ishaan_Ward (Verified Trainer)

    I mean, regardless of what the answer is, you have to admit that she’s a great battler. We already went over this right after her battle finished. She had a clear plan of action, and it worked out. Pastel has talent, I’ll give her that.

    ►Ayden_Garza (Verified Trainer)

    How would you even plan against Gardenia? There was no way to know what she would go up against, and I doubt it was luck.

    ►Sonya_Hladik (Verified Trainer)

    She’s fucking cheating. I’m telling you these kinds of people use informants.

    ►Flutesong55

    Or… she just watched battle videos like everyone else? You are literally insufferable.

    ►Elsie_Burton (Verified_Trainer)

    Still, pretty much everyone that fights against Gardenia just wings it. Even with an informant or watching the videos, you’d have to be crazy to memorize everything. That would probably take a month of nonstop studying with no time for actual Pokemon training.

    ►Abigail_Walker (Verified_Trainer)

    She probably studied a few and got lucky, but her battle was still incredibly done. All of her Pokemon are incredibly well trained, but that Togetic is something special. It stood up to fucking Sunflora. It took it down and lived to tell the tale. You certainly don’t see that every day.

    ►Persivan

    The quick thinking with the multiple Ancient Power layers to weaken Solar Beam was my favorite part of the battle, but it was great all around. She’s not as flashy as some other trainers, but I think I’ll be rooting for her this year. I feel like she’ll get far.

    ►Christopher_White (Verified_Trainer)

    If that’s not flashy, I might be doing something wrong. Still, I’ve battled her in the arena close to route 205, and she just destroyed me with her Tangela. Kind of deflated my ego, but she gives great advice. I managed to win against Gardenia with the tips she gave me, so I’m definitely a fan.

    ►Sonya_Hladik (Verified Trainer)

    Whatever. You’ll see that she’ll lose soon and get nowhere.

    ►JohtoanSquatter

    You have literally been saying this since September 1st. Seek help, this is an unhealthy obsession.

    ——

    Sonya_Hladik → Profile → Direct Messages

    ►Pauline_King (Verified Trainer)


    You. If you ever talk shit about Grace or any of my friends again, I’ll have my mother find out who you are, and I’ll ruin your life. You are worth less than nothing. Get over yourself and give up on Pokemon battling.

    ►Sonya_Hladik (Verified Trainer)

    You’re unhinged. I'm reporting you.

    ►Pauline_King (Verified Trainer)

    Yes. That means you should know that I’m telling you the truth. And it takes an unhinged woman to know another one, by the way. Sleep well tonight.

    ——

    Trainers → Craig_Goodwill → Megathread

    Topic: Everything about Craig_Goodwill

    Original Poster: League_Account_Official (Bot)

    Date: September 1st 20XX




    (Showing page 563/590)



    ►Jordan_Mccullough (Verified Trainer)

    That was my first time seeing a Mega Salamence, and holy shit, it didn’t disappoint. The entire battle with Maylene was awesome, but it kind of felt like Craig was the gym leader and not Maylene. She was on the backfoot the entire time.

    ►Denzel_Williams (Verified Trainer)

    I mean, she just became a gym leader. She’s 14 and standing up to a 25 year old with 10 years of experience under his belt. So imagine her at Gardenia’s age. I can tell why they skirted around the rules and made her a gym leader. But yeah, Craig’s team is insane. I hadn’t taken a good look until I tuned in for the battle, so I only knew about his Salamence, but really? Typhlosion, Gyarados, Snorlax, Hippowdon and Eelektross? His entire team is stacked.

    ►[Raruro]

    I mean, once he pulled Mega Salamence out, it was pretty much over, but like Denzel said, Craig usually doesn’t use Mega Evolution at all except in difficult battles, so that’s the proof that he found her at least challenging.

    ►August_Jenkins (Verified_Trainer)

    Why wouldn’t he always use it? Sorry, I’m new to Pokemon training and Pokemon in general. I kind of signed up to the Circuit on a whim after my dad gave me a Buizel.

    ►Denzel_Williams (Verified Trainer)

    It takes an incredible toll on both the trainer and the Pokemon, which is why it’s rarely used. It can even make a trainer pass out during the battle if they’re not used to it enough, but Craig’s had access to it for what, seven years now? At least that’s what his trainer wiki page says. So he can use it more than most.

    ►Dragontypesupremacist11

    So that’s his fifth badge already, right?

    ►Cocoland

    Yeah, he’s been flying around and speedrunning the Circuit. He’s beaten Volkner, Fantina, Wake, and Byron as well so far. In one of his interviews, he said he wants to get them out of the way before he goes to train on Mount Coronet.

    ►Denzel_Williams (Verified Trainer)

    Arceus… training on Mount Coronet. We really live in different worlds. Any idea of where he’s headed next?

    ►Cocoland

    Snowpoint in a week or two. He said battling Candice was always the most fun every year because she’s so unpredictable.

    ►Jordan_Mccullough (Verified Trainer)

    There are few who can rival this guy at this point. I definitely think he’s winning this year now that Sarah Newman left.

    ►Denzel_Williams (Verified Trainer)

    Wait, she left?! I thought she was still hanging about, only taking a break for a year to spend time with family.

    ►Jordan_Mccullough (Verified Trainer)

    Nah, she said she was bored of Sinnoh. I kind of understand her, I mean, she’s been battling the same gym leaders over and over. She booked a ticket to Kanto after she lost to Bertha last year. She’s going to go through the League Circuit there, although they call it the Gym Challenge locally.

    ►Denzel_Williams (Verified Trainer)

    Sounds fun. I’d like to go to other regions at some point too. Let’s get back to Craig though, if you had to face his Typhlosion, what would you do?

    ►Pharell_Meyer (Verified Trainer)

    I don’t know, die? Tf you want me to do?

    ——

    General → Team_Galactic

    Topic: The Leak

    Original Poster: Tyler_Reed (Verified Trainer)

    Date: November 15th 20XX


    So people are still gathering all the facts about this massive fumble from the League, but I figured I’d make a thread now that team Galactic finally isn’t being censored by the mods anymore. Not like they can hide it any longer with the giant leak that took place today.

    So this afternoon, team Galactic used a Rotom to infiltrate Gardenia’s gym computers and send every single piece of information it had… somewhere. One can only assume they sent it to themselves, and we still don’t know what they’ll do with it. Still, team Galactic has access to all of the League’s communication, so they probably have a pretty good idea of how it operates and what the League knows about them. They also have information on every single trainer that passed through a gym. At first, I thought it would only be the poor bastards that went through the Eterna city gym, but no, since the entire registration system is connected, we’re all fucked. They know your full name, your team, the amount of money you have, the fucking number of hairs on your ass. They have everything.

    So that begs the question. What the hell was the government thinking? The League said they were going to create an army of Porygon so this never happens again, but why weren’t the computers with the very sensitive information on them already Rotom proof? I don't care how rare Rotom is, that just seemed like a security breach waiting to happen, and it did. At least Cynthia’s been vocal, which is a nice change of pace. She’s finally giving us information about team Galactic, and people seem to be taking it more seriously now that it’s suddenly affecting them.

    You hypocrites.

    Let’s just hope you’re irrelevant enough so that team Galactic doesn’t threaten you or your loved ones now that they can literally doxx every single trainer in Sinnoh.


    ►Frank_Hussain (Verified Trainer)

    I’m fucking terrified. This is way bigger than I thought it’d be. What do they even want to do with our information? Couldn’t they just have taken the League’s stuff and be done with it?

    The League failed us hard today.


    ►Jodie_Park (Verified Trainer)

    Maybe if the Directorate wasn’t cucking Cynthia every step of the way, she would be able to deal with these team Galactic assholes. Also really, @Frank_Hussain? You didn’t think they were a big deal after they busted into the Valley Windworks powerplant, faced Cynthia, and managed to fucking escape? Maybe you deserve what’s coming.

    ►Temerun_Wassem (Verified Trainer)

    Maybe Cynthia should have told us how much of a threat these terrorists were instead of twiddling her thumbs the entire time.

    ►Elle_Brown (Verified Trainer)

    POLL:

    WHO DO YOU SUPPORT

    CYNTHIA (15678 Votes)

    DIRECTORATE (2101 Votes)


    ►Temerun_Wassem (Verified Trainer)

    Lmao, the pro-Cynthia bots are here. Have fun supporting the person who caused this in the first place.

    ►Tyler_Reed (Verified Trainer)

    Maybe the Directorate should get behind Cynthia instead of playing these stupid ass political games and help the League deal with team Galactic? How about that?

    ►Leslie_Nasser (Verified Trainer)

    Okay, the point is, we’re all angry and scared. Let’s just wait to see the League’s response. Cynthia told the media that she’d deal with them more aggressively now that her negotiations with the Directorate failed. There’s no need to hold back anymore, she can just fly out and start raiding their bases when they find them or something. She doesn’t need to pass any laws for that.

    ►Antoine_Carette (Verified Trainer)

    I shit you not, they’ve already said they’d launch an investigation on the League to figure out if the leak was due to ‘purposeful negligence’. It’s like they’re being dense on purpose.

    ►Leslie_Nasser (Verified Trainer)

    Investigations won’t do shit, they won’t find anything. Sophie Richards just wants attention.

    ►Xian_Dong (Verified Trainer)

    I was starting to doubt Cynthia before now, but now I’m fully on her side. They can extract any memories for all I care. I just want team Galactic gone.

    ►Tyler_Reed (Verified Trainer)

    I mean, I don’t know about you, but it feels like everyone is thinking team Galactic is going to be dealt with way too quickly. I think this is just the beginning. They’ve shown they can outsmart and take the League off guard twice now, and who knows how many instances we haven’t even heard about. I think they’ll be there for a long, long time.
     
  3. Threadmarks: Chapter 71
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 71

    I braced myself, feeling the beating of my heart quicken as the end of my time with Amanda came to an end. It was our first ‘online session’ together, and I assumed that she always tried to nudge the conversation toward my nightmares to get to the subject at least a little bit before we had to go our separate ways, and it was almost scary how good she was at it. Although of course, she would never force me to talk about them if I didn’t want to.

    I did, though. And I also didn’t. It was just… it was just hard to explain.

    “Speaking of not sleeping enough,” Amanda said, her face on Cecilia’s giant television screen. “Have you stopped using Togetic to induce sleep?”

    Cece had lent me her entire hotel room for this and kicked everyone out. Not that they minded, of course. They were happy that I was getting help, and they hadn’t judged me whatsoever when I told them I was getting therapy. Even Pauline hadn’t made a snarky comment.

    “Yeah,” I breathed out.

    “Take your time,” Amanda softly said. “You’re in a safe place.”

    “I thought they were getting better, especially when I slept with my… friend Cecilia. But I’ve been getting them, and they’ve been worse since the leak three days ago,” I said, my throat suddenly feeling dry. “I’m always in this… in this maze-like place that looks like the power plant, and I always get trapped by Dusknoir and stabbed by Mars at the end over and over. When I wake up, it’s like I have the wind knocked out of me. For five seconds or so, I just— I can’t breathe, or I guess I forget how to. Then I start getting… this dull, throbbing pain wherever I got stabbed somehow. Finally, I take a breath and scream my heart out. Then I feel the softness of my bed, the sweat, and tears against my skin, I stare at my ceiling, and I finally remember,” I explained. “I remember that it’s not real.

    I was feeling scared by the end of my words. With the leak, Mars could have even more information about me if she wanted. It wouldn’t take that much research to find out I was in Eterna city right now, or the Pokemon center room I stayed at, or where I used to live in Jubilife—

    Calm down. I already warned dad about it, it’s beyond your control now.

    Amanda stayed silent for a second as my words sunk in. “I’m sorry. No child should have to go through that,” She said with a gentle, sad look. “I can see how the leak made things worse, but I promise you that the League will do everything in its power to bring team Galactic to heel. You said that having your friends around helped you a lot, right?”

    I nodded. “Hmhm.”

    “Good. You told me about Denzel before, but I never heard about the others. It’s good to have a group of people you can lean against and rely on.”

    “I met them after our last session together, actually,” I said. “They’re great people. I wouldn’t have made it without them.”

    “I’m sure that’s correct. But— and I don’t mean this in a bad way— from the stories you’ve told me, it seems that you’re helping them a lot more often than they’re helping you,” Amanda said.

    I frowned. “They never asked me for that help. They’re not taking advantage of me, I just… I just want to help my friends. Isn’t that natural?”

    “It is! It’s a wonderful thing, and it makes you a great person, Grace. But between your nonstop Pokemon training, the nightmares, and being all of your friend’s support crutch… I fear that you’re going to crash hard soon.”

    “No, I’ll be fine,” I dismissed. “If I start feeling tired, I’ll tell them and take a break.”

    “Exhaustion can sneak up on you very quickly. One minute, you can feel completely fine, and the next, it’s like the whole world is weighing you down.”

    “I’m good, Amanda,” I said. “I think it’s just the way I am.”

    “Very well,” She said after a pause. “But just ask yourself this, Grace: when was the last time you took a day for yourself? With nothing work-related?”

    “Well— I… uh, I guess it’s been a while. But I don’t consider being there for my friends something akin to work. They’re here for me too.”

    “Of course. Forgive me if I went too far, Grace. I worry that you’ll overwork yourself soon—”

    Her alarm started to ring.

    “—And that’s the end of our session. Sorry that we had to reschedule on such short notice. My job forces me to make in-person sessions a priority, even though I keep telling them that's nonsense. Now you’ll have to wait until you get to Hearthome for our next one. The next four days are already full for me, and you’re leaving in three days, right?”

    I nodded. “The next four days are full? That’s strange. Plus, you said that you were already swamped.” I asked. “What gives? You’re usually not that busy.”

    “I’m afraid I’m required to keep everything about my other patients confidential. You wouldn’t like it if I just told anyone else your problem, would you?” Amanda asked.

    “You’re right,” I quickly replied. “Goodbye, I guess. Have a good day.”

    “You have a good day too, and don’t forget to rest!”

    The connection was cut off, and I just leaned deeper into my seat and stared at nothing in particular for a few minutes. It felt nice to talk to Amanda again, but she had been right. A video feed wasn’t as good as actually being in her office. Still, trainers were always on the road, and I couldn’t afford to stay idle too long. I got up and grabbed some water from Cece’s fridge before making my way to the exit. I opened the door and peeked my head out, worrying that one of the old rich men that had moved to the top floor would see me walk around in just shorts, but the coast was clear. I ran on my tiptoes to Louis’ room and knocked.

    Justin let me in.

    “Did you start already?” I asked.

    “Well, no, we obviously waited, but I wanted to ask you if that meeting went well…?”

    I smiled. “Yeah, it felt good to talk to someone. Where’s everyone?”

    Justin led me to the living room, where a chaotic display could be seen. Denzel and Pauline were playing some sort of card game, and I took solace when I saw that the girl was losing horribly. I could tell, not because I knew the rules, but because she was swearing over and over. Emilia and Louis were spectating on the edges, egging them on in between their other activities. Emilia was brushing Rockruff’s fur and the blond boy was trying, but failing to mimic her with his Vulpix. Cece looked stricken with worry until she saw me enter, and she rushed to me, grabbing both of my hands.

    “Are you alright?! Did she treat you well? I can get you a paid professional therapist if you need it—”

    I smiled before interrupting her. “Amanda’s great, you don’t have to worry about her.”

    “I still wish you told us you were doing therapy,” Pauline said. “I can’t believe Denzel hid it from us.”

    “I mean, it just never came up, I guess,” I said. “All of my previous sessions with her were in Floaroma after the…”

    “You don’t need to say anything,” Denzel said. “Let’s get your mind off things and start planning the next leg of the journey, shall we? It’s a big one.”

    We all took our seats on the couch.

    “Crap, I forgot my notebook,” I groaned.

    “No need for notes,” Pauline waved her hand. “Just commit everything we talk about to memory.”

    “I mean, I could do that, but taking notes just makes it easier to remember.”

    “All I hear is moaning and complaining—”

    “Shh, stop bickering!” Emilia said, somewhat startling her Rockruff. She petted the Pokemon, who laid his head back on her lap. “Denzel, start us off, please.”

    My best friend clapped his hands, clearly giddy with excitement. “Alright! So in three days, we’ll leave for route 206. This will be the easiest part of the journey since we have the cycling road to help us. It’ll only take around six hours of riding if we count the rest stops to get through.”

    I nodded. I remembered hearing all about the cycling road on the news when I was around six or seven. The project had originally started in an attempt to link Eterna city and Oreburgh together, so trainers would be able to avoid taking the long way, which included braving Eterna forest. It had stopped at around seventy percent of the way there, though.

    “Why did the cycling road never finish getting built?” I asked curiously.

    Emilia sprung up. “When the League announced the project, Floaroma, and Jubilife threw a fit about it, including their representatives in the Directorate. Floaroma’s entire economy— along with selling their energy— relies on attracting trainers passing through and making them spend as much money as possible before they leave. Jubilife would have been less affected, but they still enjoyed the fact that trainers had to pass through them since they’re kind of the hub between Floaroma, Eterna, Oreburgh, and Canalave. The cycling road would have removed their advantageous position. In the end, both cities, along with Canalave, tanked the budget for the project to finish, and we ended up getting what we have now… this half-finished cycling road leading to route 207.”

    I listened attentively, nodding at each piece of information. “Thank you.”

    “Great as always, Emi. How good of you to educate those in need.”

    “Bla, bla, bla,” I said. “I bet you can’t even ride a bike since you were obviously driven everywhere as a kid.”

    Pauline blushed, clearly caught off-guard. “That isn’t true at all! I learned like everyone else!”

    “Are we done?” Denzel groaned, raising his hands. Pauline and I nodded, still side-eyeing each other. “Thank you! Like I said, we get to route 207 in six hours, then we’re on foot. From there, it’ll take a week or so to get to the entrance to Mount Coronet, not because the route is long, but because the terrain is a bitch to walk through. Think route 211.”

    We blanched a little at the mention of Mount Coronet.

    “Don’t worry too much, a lot of the cave is patrolled by rangers, but there is a small stretch in the middle that’ll be difficult to get through since it’s too deep in. Basically like Eterna forest, but only for two days,” Denzel said, looking at Emi. “Feel free to get yourself a plane ticket, by the way.”

    “I… I have to think about it,” Emilia said. “Beldum would be a great help to everyone.”

    “Don’t force yourself,” Louis said. “We’ll live.”

    “Anyway, in total, that’s six days to get through Mount Coronet. This’ll be the first actual hard cave to get through, and we’ll need some caving gear. Helmet, headlamp, pads— there’s apparently a lot of water in that section too, so we might need wetsuits.”

    “Ugh,” Pauline groaned. “At least it’ll be quick.”

    “The hard part will be quick. The edges of the cave itself will be hard to traverse, even if the wild Pokemon will be weaker. After that, we have route 208, which takes around five days to get through. The first… eighty percent of it is just Mount Coronet, but on the outside. Then we have to scale down the mountain— don’t look at me like that, there’s a path to follow! After that, we’re basically there already,” Denzel finished.

    “So… eighteen days just to get to Hearthome,” Justin quickly counted. “That’s a long trip.”

    “Yup. Don’t worry too much about the time it takes to get gym badges though. Pastoria, Veilstone, and Sunnyshore are all relatively close to each other. The main time sinks will involve getting there, then all the way back to Canalave and getting up to Snowpoint,” Denzel explained.

    “So I suppose we better start getting that caving gear then,” I said, getting up. “We also need to restock on food and stuff. Who’s going where?”

    “Actually everyone, I have a question,” Emilia said. “Um, tomorrow, there’s a contest that I’d like to go see, and I was wondering if you guys would… go with me?”

    “Of course!” Pauline smiled. “Why were you even scared of asking?”

    Denzel raised a hand. “Actually, I’m not the biggest fan of—”

    Pauline shot him a murderous glare. He coughed.

    “—I’ll go, obviously.”

    “Good. Emilia, your parents still haven’t called, by the way?” Pauline asked.

    “No… which is odd,” she answered.

    “Thinking about it, none of our parents have called after our… less than stellar performance,” Louis said, looking at Justin. “I expected to get yelled at.”

    “Maybe they’ve finally seen reason,” Justin smiled. “Let us not speak about sensitive topics. I’ve always been a fan of watching contests on television, so I’m glad I’ll finally get to see one in person.”

    I excitedly agreed. In a way, I had never been too interested in contests, but maybe seeing one would give me ideas on different move combinations for the future. After a few more minutes, we all dispersed and went to different stores. Denzel and Louis went to buy our caving gear, while the rest of the group went to buy… everything else, filling up our backpacks to the brim. The next day, bright in the morning, we all made our way to the contest venue, a stadium only slightly smaller than Gardenia’s gym, and it was surprisingly packed. Just seeing Emilia’s excited face was enough to make some of it rub off on me. I was intrigued to learn more about the world of Pokemon coordinators, but more than anything, I was happy she could finally make her dream come true.
     
  4. Threadmarks: Chapter 72
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 72

    The contest hall worked similarly to a gym, but I was surprised to find that a group of salesmen was selling coordinators’ merchandise in the lobby, which was something I had never seen happen in gyms.

    “Can they just do that?” I asked, pointing at them.

    “Yes,” Emilia said. “Pokemon coordinators are much more commercialized than trainers, and the Contest Committee is completely independent from the League, so the same rules don’t apply.”

    “Commercialized how?” Justin asked.

    “Coordinators don’t have a bunch of regulations and rules to follow,” Emilia explained further. “But that also means that they don’t get League funding. All that free stuff we get from being in the Circuit? They don’t get that, and the Contest Committee doesn’t either, which means that money is a lot more important to them and contest culture in general. Here,” she said, now that it was our turn to see the receptionist.

    Emilia hadn’t been kidding when she said the Contest Committee needed money, since we actually had to buy a ticket to spectate the contest instead of just showing up in the stands for free. It wasn’t expensive or anything, but it was surprising nonetheless. We slowly squeezed our way into the stands, and we luckily were given seats that were all next to each other. The arena below wasn’t at all like a gym arena. It was set up to be a large circle, and the ground was metallic instead of natural.

    “Why is it so packed?” Louis complained. “I thought you said it wasn’t one of the ones where you could win a ribbon.”

    “You mean that it’s not a grand contest,” Emilia specified. “You’re correct, but there’s a really famous coordinator participating today. Her name is Temperance. Temperance Porter. Isn’t that an amazing name?”

    “Ugh,” Pauline groaned. “Not her again.”

    “Okay, I have to admit, that is a cool name,” I said.

    Emilia clapped excitedly. “I’m her biggest fan! She owns a Dragonair and has the most beautiful combination of moves that you’ll ever see!”

    I felt more excited at the mention of a Dragonair.

    “And she’s participating in this when you can’t win a ribbon?”

    “Temperance was just passing by and decided to do so,” Emilia said. “Remember when I said that coordinators did a lot of things for money? She runs a website where you can donate to her, but she also uploads a lot of stuff, like vlogs and some of her training routines. That’s also where I heard that she’d be there before the news picked it up,” she continued proudly.

    I kept waiting, occasionally asking Emilia more questions about Temperance. I had been scared that we were all annoying her by being so inquisitive, but she looked like she was having the time of her life. I supposed it was her first time talking about this to anyone besides Pauline. I tried imagining not being able to talk about battling to anyone… and yeah, that would suck big time.

    “So, can we go over the rules so I’m not completely lost about this?” Denzel asked. “I know nothing about contests.”

    “It’s a shame how ignorant most trainers are about this wonderful side of Pokemon sports,” Emilia sighed. “But sure. There are two stages of a contest, the performance stage and the battle stage. In the performance stage, a coordinator sends out two Pokemon and showcases beautiful move combinations. Usually, it doesn’t last long, and the first stage is what separates the top sixteen from the rest,” she said. “Following me so far?”

    We all nodded attentively, except Justin and Pauline, who already knew about this.

    “Grand contests where you can win a ribbon are always a double performance battle. This one will only have a normal contest battle, but since we have time, I’ll explain both. In contest battles, the goal is primarily showing off a Pokemon’s style and skill instead of just using brute force to beat the other side into submission—” she continued.

    Uh, that was a gross oversimplification, but I’d let it slide.

    “—you win by showcasing the beauty or ingenuity of the way you use moves, and you only have five minutes instead of twenty. To decide who wins, we use a point system in both stages. See that little podium to the side?” Emilia asked. I nodded. “That’s where the three judges will sit. They’re the ones who add the points in the performance or deduce the points in the battle.”

    “So it’s completely arbitrary?” Cecilia complained. “How crude.”

    “No! Obviously they’re professional judges who know what they’re doing! You’re just being daft.”

    “What if a Pokemon faints, then?” Cece continued. “What if I just order my Pokemon to pummel the opponent.”

    “Then you’re not playing by the unwritten rules…” Emilia groaned. “Why are you like this? Obviously, coordinators will prioritize showing off the capabilities of their Pokemon instead of just beating the other side into a pulp. But Pokemon do faint sometimes, and that just means the side with the remaining Pokemon is the winner— but!” She exclaimed. “If you start just being rude and just doing that over and over, you can say goodbye to any fanbase you’ll have, sponsors, and a long-lasting career in general. You’re not the first one to have had the idea.”

    “Okay, so… points,” Denzel said. “And the one with the least points at the end of the battle loses, but in the performance stage, getting more points is good. Got it. What’s a double performance battle? And why is the name so confusing? Why call it a performance when it has nothing to do with the performance stage—”

    “It’s not that hard to understand! It works the same as a contest battle, but it’s a double battle instead. That means that the possibilities of move combinations improve… almost exponentially. It’s important to note that you’re locked in using the same Pokemon for an entire contest in both types of battles, however, so it’s best to pick wisely,” Emilia said.

    “Alright, I think I have the gist of it,” Denzel said. “the people who named all of this must have wanted to confuse people as much as possible…”

    “Oh! The judges are here!” Emilia yelled excitedly.

    The lights dimmed, and stage lights began to track the three men making their way to the podium. The audience clapped as they took their seats.

    “Who decides who the judges are?” Justin asked. “I’ve actually never thought about that.”

    “They’re always selected from the Contest Committee. Some judges get really famous too, but since this is a small contest, I don’t really know who they are,” Emilia said.

    One more person— this time, a woman walked at the edge of the circular arena. Everyone was dressed up incredibly nicely, which was a change from what I was used to seeing from people in gyms.

    “That’s the commentator,” Emilia said. “We’re about to start.”

    “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another one of Eterna city’s contests!” She paused, letting the crowd go wild for a few seconds. “As usual, my name is Lily Garnette, and I’ll be your commentator this afternoon…”

    She went on to hype up the contests for a few minutes, including dropping Temperance’s name, which made the crowd practically explode. After introducing each judge, the first coordinator was introduced, and the contest finally started. The boy, who looked to be about our age, was introduced as Terry Lars and then released a Volbeat and an Illumise.

    “And to start us off, we have a combination that’s actually less common than we would think, Illumise and Volbeat! Let’s see what Terry has for us today!”

    “Volbeat, Shock Wave! Illumise, Dazzling Gleam!”

    In a combination of moves I absolutely did not expect, Volbeat shook itself until electricity burst out of its body. The attack was surprisingly slow and too weak to deal any damage to anything, but then again, that wasn’t the point. Illumise’s entire body began to slow as beams of pink, glittering light shot out toward the electricity, this time much faster. The result was a beautiful light show that was accentuated by Shock Waves, and the two bug types danced around each other.

    “Woah,” I said before looking around. Emilia didn’t seem too impressed with this display. Maybe her standards were insanely high from only watching top-level contests. Either way, the teenager continued with these two moves until his time was up, and the judges apparently agreed with Emilia. He got terrible scores.

    “This feels so much more ruthless than gym battles for some reason,” I heard Denzel whisper.

    In a way, he was right. Losing any battle was painful, but to have the fact that you’re inadequate told to your face by judges whose entire job revolves around contests? Arceus, that would stay with me for a long time.

    Either way, the contest was just beginning.

    ——

    The contest organizers had seemingly kept Temperance Porter for last, and the girl walked onto the stage with a confident stride. She was short and had her hair in a bob cut dyed completely white with a glittering hairpin. Her dress was also sparkling— as if it had diamonds in it, and it was also way too long to be practical. The back of it dragged on the ground behind her. She wore multiple rings on her fingers that also looked like diamonds.

    “She sure knows how to make an entrance,” I whispered.

    “She does!” Emilia said in an upbeat tone, grinning..

    In fact, the audience was so stunned by her appearance that they hadn’t even begun to clap yet.

    “And now, the last contestant of the performance stage, Temperance Porter—”

    The girl— who was probably around eighteen or so— raised her hand at the commentator and shushed her.

    “You’re killing my concentration,” she said in a smooth voice reminiscent of Gardenia. “My manager will probably kill me for saying this, but please shut it. Let my performance speak for itself.”

    I was utterly taken aback that this was even allowed, but apparently, Temperance had so much clout in the contest game that they let the entire thing slide. I understood her reasoning, however. Commentators were great when you were a spectator, but they were extremely distracting when you were actually battling and thinking. It must have been the same for her.

    “She’s so cool,” Emilia said. Her eyes were practically shining.

    “That was kind of rude,” Denzel winced. “I feel the secondhand embarrassment from up there.”

    “She is rude. The only reason people tolerate her is because she’s a good coordinator,” Pauline said, rolling her eyes.

    “That’s ironic, coming from you,” I jabbed.

    “You haven’t seen nothing yet from me! Even when we just met in Floaroma, I was holding back,” she replied. “I can actually be rude if you want me to be!”

    “Wait… what do you mean, you were holding back?” Denzel asked with a look of pure horror.

    “Temperance isn’t rude, she’s just misunderstood!” Emilia slightly raised her tone. “Now hush, she’s starting.”

    Temperance took a deep breath and released a Dragonair and a male Meowstic onto the stage. The dragon immediately sang and took flight while the psychic type bowed slightly. I expected a command to be given, but Temperance only gave us silence. Instead, she walked onto the stage.

    Dragonair dove down and wrapped around her as she somehow spun in the opposite direction with incredibly high heels. A Twister began to form, obscuring them from view. At the same time, Meowstic jumped, its ears unfurled, and its eyes shone as it floated into the twister. A few seconds later, it was on top of the draconic tornado, riding it like it was solid. The Twister began moving around the stage, and small psychic orbs began shooting out of the attack like bullets. Instead of continuing on their path and ramming into the familiar barrier I had gotten so used to, they instead slowed down and rotated in the opposite direction, moving all in unison and at the exact same speed.

    A tornado with lights dancing inside and outside of it. What a beautiful sight it was. The Twister slowly began to end, and Temperance was somehow unaffected by the attack entirely. Even her hair hadn’t been disturbed by the strong wind. Dragonair put its head against its trainer’s and closed its eyes, and Meowstic interrupted its levitation, dropping into his trainer’s arms. They stayed in that pose like statues for what seemed like an eternity.

    And then the audience clapped. Louder than I had ever heard during any gym battle. They chanted her name over and over. Temperance. A name etched into my brain that would never be forgotten. Temperance. A performance that took even Cecilia’s breath away when she had been bored throughout the entire contest. Temperance. A brand, a presence, a name synonymous with Pokemon contests.

    A phenomenon.

    She bowed with her two Pokemon, and the judges all gave her tens. A full score— the first one of the day. And she honestly deserved it. Nothing had even come close to her. She recalled her Pokemon and walked off the stage.

    “That was… that was amazing,” The commentator said with a shaky voice. “Next up, the usual twenty-minute break, and then we begin the battle stage.”

    Needless to say, Temperance advanced to the top sixteen, and proceeded to wipe the floor with the competition with her Dragonair. The dragon type had such an affinity with electric, fire, and water type moves that could create any type of effect. For example, it used Flamethrower against a Cinccino in the finals, but in such a creative way that it took our breaths away. The attack had been thrown in the air, and then split apart as it fell to the ground exactly like Draco Meteor. She could use Rain Dance and Thunder to create hundreds of weaker lightning bolts at once, and instead of disappearing right away, they stuck there, linking the clouds and the ground, completely defying anything I knew about the move. Cinccino had to fight in a maze of thunder, but navigating in between them was nothing for Dragonair.

    Temperance had won, and it hadn’t even been close. When we exited the stands, I asked a question that had been burning my tongue for the last few hours.

    “How good is Temperance?” I asked. “Because she seemed way too skilled to be here.”

    I had to ask the question again, since Emilia’s head seemed to be still in the clouds, reminiscing about the contest.

    “Oh, sorry,” she said. “She’s been at the Sinnoh Grand Festival before, but she’s never been further than the top sixteen. So she’s one of the best in the region, but not the best. I think she’ll win, this year, though!”

    “Grand Festival?” Denzel said. “That rings a bell. Is that like the Conference?”

    “Yes, except you need five ribbons to get in instead of eight badges,” Emi explained. “Contests run all throughout the year. Unlike gym battles, there’s no summer break, but grand contests where ribbons can be obtained are held every few weeks at best, and almost none of them are in Eterna. Most of the time, they’re in Hearthome, Jubilife, Sunnyshore, or Veilstone, but there are exceptions. The Grand Festival is held at the end of every year though, slightly before the Conference. The League and the Contest Committee worked something out so that they wouldn’t eat into their viewer bases and tank each other’s ratings.”

    “And there’s no stigma about traveling by plane, I presume?” Cecilia asked.

    “Nope. In fact, if you asked a coordinator if they traveled through the routes, most of them would look at you like you were insane. Anyway, wasn’t that fun?

    “I have to admit, it was, but Temperance just stole the entire show,” Denzel said. “But the marketing side of contests looks fun. Having a large presence online and stuff is kind of what I want to try doing as a trainer. But the biggest question I have is, why even join this contest if she was going to destroy everyone?”

    “Money, obviously,” Emi deadpanned. “Everything Temperance was wearing— even the rings— was from a sponsor, and you get a lot more money than from winning gym battles. As I explained, coordinators need money more than trainers, so joining a low-level contest as a top coordinator wouldn’t be as frowned upon as it would be when doing it as a trainer,” She winced before continuing. “That’s part of why you see so many of the same faces at the Grand Festival every year. It’s extremely hard to actually get a ribbon as a new coordinator because the pros will just all swarm to the first grand contest they see since the monetary gains are bigger— along with the ribbon, obviously.”

    “Well, we’ll support you every step of the way,” Pauline said.

    “But you’re starting late. Will you be able to make it to the Grand Festival?” Louis asked as he stretched. “What?” He asked after noticing Pauline’s stare. “I was just asking!”

    “Well, if I’m being honest, probably not,” Emilia said sadly. “There’s a grand contest in Hearthome that I should be able to get to at the pace we planned, but the goal shouldn’t really be about that in the first year anyway. It should be about gaining experience and making connections with other coordinators. Connections are way more important in the coordinator world than in the trainer world. Favors and advantageous friendships go a long way.”

    I nodded. It was certainly true that if you really wanted, you could try to be an independent trainer without a group or sponsors. Even if it was crushingly difficult, it was possible, as Cynthia had shown when she became the Champion. For coordinators, however? That looked to be impossible, or at least nobody had done it yet.

    It was evening when we started to leave, but I had something important I wanted to do, still.

    “Cece,” I said, pulling her aside. “Can we hang out together, just the two of us?”

    “W—what? Of course we can, but what’s the occasion?” She asked.

    “Nothing,” I lied. “I just want to spend some time with a friend.”

    We let the others know we were going our separate ways, and Cecilia and I decided to hop on a tram. I was going to tell her that I liked girls tonight no matter what.
     
  5. Threadmarks: Chapter 73
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 73

    I silently sat next to Cecilia on the tram, and it slowly started sliding across the rails. I had decided to stick with her a while longer, but now that it was actually happening so fast, I couldn’t help but feel my hands clam up. I had gotten used to being with her alone, but the fact that the… reveal loomed so close made it hard to find words to say.

    “Where shall we go?” Cecilia asked.

    “Uh, I guess I somehow hadn’t thought that far,” I laughed nervously. “Any suggestions?”

    Cece smiled slightly. “Only you could be so enthusiastic about going somewhere without a plan,” she said. “I like that about you.”

    “You do?”

    “The spontaneousness of it all, I mean!” she quickly said, averting her gaze. “My life back in Unova was planned down to every last second. I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back on it now… I hated it. It felt suffocating.”

    “Well…” I slowly said, looking around. “Why don’t we go in there!” I exclaimed, pointing at a random building. “Come on, let’s get off on the next stop!”

    Cecilia squinted at the building. “That’s… some kind of shop, I think. I can’t see it well from there— ah!

    I grabbed her hand and dragged her toward the tram’s exit, much to the annoyance of the passengers we pushed through. As soon as the tram stopped, we jumped out and went toward the store. Upon closer inspection, it looked to be a thrift shop selling everything from used furniture to books— but it was mostly selling used clothes.

    “I’ve never been in such a shop before,” Cece said, looking through a rack of clothes. “A shop selling used clothes, I mean.”

    “I haven’t gone to many either, but you can find some pretty nifty stuff here that you wouldn’t expect,” I explained. “Not that I’m thinking of buying anything. My bag’s completely full.”

    “So is mine,” she smiled. “But we can still try things on.”

    I froze for a second. “Sure! I mean, that sounds fun.”

    Cecilia raised an eyebrow at me. “That was a very reluctant way of saying it. I don’t want to force you to do anything if you don’t find it enjoyable.”

    Everything is enjoyable with you, I thought.

    “No, no, I just wasn’t expecting you to want to try on hand-me-downs, I guess,” I finally said.

    “I can be quite flexible in the activities I choose to do.”

    I swallowed. “Well, let’s look for something that fits you! I bet we can find a great dress. Or a skirt! It’s almost winter, but they’re still selling clothes for all seasons.”

    “Why don’t we get something on you?” she asked. “Obviously, wearing jeans or pants when we travel is sound, but you never dressed up in the city. I deserve to see it at least once before we leave.”

    “You want to?” I said, scratching my neck. “I guess I can, I’ve never found anything I thought would fit me that well, so I usually didn’t bother.”

    “Nonsense. You can pull off anything. Look at you. Stay here, I’ll have something for you soon!”

    I anxiously awaited as Cece roamed through the small thrift shop. She returned with a white sundress, a knee-length white skirt, and some… white shorts. Why was it all white?

    “Before you ask, I think the color goes amazing on you,” she said, answering my question. “Which one do you want to try on first?”

    “I guess I’ll just take the dive and try out the sundress,” I said. “Gimmie.”

    Cece smirked as she handed it to me. “Don’t take too long.”

    “Yeah, yeah,” I said, looking away. “You’ll get to see me in it, don’t worry.”

    I hurried inside of the fitting room, taking a deep breath as I stared at myself in the mirror.

    “She might be disappointed,” I whispered. “But here goes nothing, I guess.”

    I took off my multiple layers of clothing and stepped into the sundress. I hadn’t worn any type of dress in so long that it felt kind of lacking somehow, but it wasn’t… bad. I spun around, stopping myself with my foot and a tiny smile. I was probably less thin and short than I remembered. My arms were also more toned than they used to be.

    I was apparently growing up. Scary.

    Still, that was way less fabric on me that I felt comfortable wearing in public. I slightly opened the curtains and saw that Cecilia was sitting down, waiting for me. Her face lit up when she saw that I was done.

    “So? Show me,” she said as she shot up.

    “Um… I don’t know.”

    “Come on! You already have it on!” Cece groaned. I shook my head, and she just barged into the fitting room, eyeing me up and down. “You look— you look amazing!”

    “Really?” I said awkwardly. “I don’t know, I feel like I can’t pull it off that well.”

    “You look beautiful. I wish we could get it for you… curse Sinnoh and its blasted weather. It’s too cold almost all year long,” she said before pausing. “Let me see the back.”

    Now that the conversation had slowed, I couldn’t help but notice how close she was. The changing room was small, and I felt her breath on the back of my neck, making me shiver slightly. She was silent. Too silent. In fact, Cecilia hadn’t said anything in the last fifteen seconds, and she was just staring at me through the mirror.

    “Cece? Is something wrong?” I asked.

    She coughed. “No, I’m perfectly fine. Here, I’ll get out. Try out the skirt next!”

    ——

    Even though there was no space in our bags, Cece ended up getting me all three articles of clothing. I protested, of course, but she went and bought them behind my back while I had been changing back into my normal clothes. She said they looked too good on me to just leave them there. I couldn’t really see it, but I supposed I’d have to trust her. She was way better at this clothing stuff than I was.

    Unfortunately though, someone in the group would have to carry those for me. With some luck, it’d be Pauline. The look of annoyance on her face would bring me great joy.

    “Where to now?” Cece asked. “Should we pick somewhere random again? That was a lot of fun.”

    I brought a hand up to my chin. “Hm… fuck it, let’s do it again. Let’s hop on a tram for like fifteen minutes and then go to the first building we see.”

    “What if it’s just some apartment?” She asked.

    “Then we break in, obviously,” I sarcastically said.

    “You know, a month ago, I probably would have taken that at face value.”

    “Aw, I thought you would,” I said. “Come on, the tram’s there!”

    ——

    “So, Grace,” Cecilia started. “Can you explain something to me?”

    “Hm?”

    “What are the odds that we would end up at your favorite fast food restaurant when we were supposed to pick randomly?

    I whistled innocently. “I dunno, I mean, they’re pretty big, they have a bunch of stores everywhere. It’s entirely within the realm of possibility.”

    “Or… you just wanted to come?”

    “Or… I just wanted to make you taste the goodness that is fast food, just this once.”

    “So you admit that it wasn’t random?”

    “Argh, you got me,” I said, raising my hands. “But this is the perfect moment to come.”

    And it was. The restaurant was almost completely empty since it was still very early in the evening, between lunch and dinner.

    “What do you want?” I asked, pointing at the menu above the counter. “Taste a slice of heaven.”

    “None of these sound appealing to me. I mean, double barbecue quarter pounder? How many calories is that?”

    “Just let yourself go, just this once,” I said, clasping my hands together. “Come on. There are no rules here.”

    “Fine,” she sighed. “I suppose I’ll pick the… nuggets.”

    “That’s kind of boring, but I guess that’ll do. I’ll go with a milkshake, fries, and a chicken sandwich. Here, I’ll take extra large fries so we can share. You’ve had fries before, right?”

    “Fries, yes, but they didn’t look like this. They were bigger.”

    “Ah, those,” I said. “I guess that counts, but I’ve always liked these ones better. They taste the best right out of the frier, but if they give you an old batch, you’re fucked.”

    “Do we know which ones we’re getting?” Cece asked in a suddenly worried tone.

    “No, and that’s kind of the beauty of it. It adds some suspense to your order.”

    “Why anyone would subject themselves to this is beyond me.”

    I ignored her complaints and placed our order. After waiting for around five minutes, we sat opposite of each other at one of the many empty tables. I tasted a fry.

    “Hell yes! We got the good ones! Here,” I said, handing her a fry.

    She hesitantly took it like it was going to hurt her and bit into the potato.

    “So?” I grinned. “How is it?”

    “It’s… I have to admit, it does taste great, but the fries our cooks made tasted better. The experience though… the experience makes it better than anything else I’ve ever had.”

    “The experience?” I asked.

    “Uh— I mean like you said. Not knowing if they’re going to be good or not.”

    “That makes it the best food you’ve ever had? I find that slightly exaggerated, but I’m happy you like it. You can have most of ‘em if you want.”

    “No! I want us to share.”

    “Okay,” I smiled. “To be honest, I’m glad you said that. I was already feeling sad about having to give up on some freshly made fries.”

    “Ugh, you!” Cece laughed. “Don’t force yourself to do something you don’t want.”

    “I’ll do it as many times as I can for you,” I blurted out. “I— I mean, you deserve it! I want to treat you well after everything you went through… sorry, that was weird.”

    “You’re not weird. I like the way you are.”

    Holy shit, I’m going to die.

    “I like the way you are… too?” I tried.

    We stared at each other in silence for a few seconds.

    “Come on,” I said. “Food’s getting cold.”

    ——

    “Alright, I’ve completely given up on the random building thing. There’s an actual spot I want to bring you to,” I told Cece as we got out of the restaurant.

    “What is it?” she asked.

    “Bowling alley on the way to route 211. I came across it every day when I went training, and I knew I wanted to go there someday. I just never had the time until now.”

    “Bowling sounds fun,” Cece said. “Although I’ve never gone.”

    “That’s a crime that needs to be rectified,” I said. “I used to go all the time with my dad.”

    “Your father?”

    “Yeah. We used to go somewhere almost every weekend. He’d call it a father-daughter date, which was… embarrassing, but they were almost always fun, except that one time he tried to get me into drawing at these art lessons with him. Those were a terrible few weeks—” I paused when I saw the pained look on her face. “Cece?”

    “I— it’s nothing. It’s just… the contrast between your father and mine. It makes me incredibly jealous. Is that wrong of me?”

    I winced. How could I have run my mouth like an idiot?

    “No, you’re completely fine,” I said, grabbing her hand. “I should have watched what I said. It’s my fault.”

    “You shouldn’t have to watch your words around me,” she said, her voice trembling slightly. “I’m no damsel in distress, or at least I try not to be.”

    “Still, I was complaining about something completely mundane. I mean, the truth is I enjoyed those drawing lessons, looking back. My dad’s a terrible artist, but he gave it everything he had. Here, I have a picture of one of the Pokemon he drew,” I said, scrolling through my Poketch, hoping to cheer her up. Thank Arceus for the Poketch company transferring all of your data from your old phone to the next. “See? This was him trying to draw Togetic when she was just a few weeks old.”

    Cecilia stood completely still for a few seconds. “What… what even is that?”

    “I know, right? It doesn’t even look remotely close, I mean, that’s not even the right shape.”

    “Those eyes are rather terrifying,” she laughed.

    “Look at the crown! He made it look like spikes that could stab you and kill you!”

    Sorry for exposing you, dad.

    ——

    “So how do the points work,” Cece asked as she grabbed a bowling ball.

    “I don’t know, I don’t play with points, I play for fun,” I said, looking at the piece of paper one of the employees had handed me. “The Jubilife one we used to go to would track your points automatically. I don’t know how to count them.”

    “Well, that’s fine,” she said. “Points or not, I think I’ll win.”

    “Pfft, you’ve never gone bowling before!”

    “I’m quite a fast learner,” she bragged. “Watch this.”

    Cecilia ran up to the lane and threw her ball with as much force as she could. The ball proceeded to roll into the gutter, hitting zero pins.

    “Nice one,” I smirked.

    “I— I said I was a fast learner, not that I would get a strike on my first attempt!” she stammered. “Why don’t you do it, then?”

    “It would be my pleasure,” I said, I carefully aimed with one closed eye and threw the ball slightly angled toward the center, netting me a strike. “Oooooh, that’s a strike, baby! I still got it!” I celebrated, pumping a fist.

    “Hmph. This is just the start, don’t get too full of yourself. I’ll show you what I’m made of.”

    I proceeded to destroy her and all of her hopes of victory. It hadn’t even been close, even without counting the points. I was getting strike after strike, while she couldn’t even get spares. We played a few games and then left the alley.

    “There’s no way to know who won since we weren’t keeping score,” Cece said, crossing her arms. “I might have won, for all we know.”

    “Come on, don’t be such a Pauline,” I said, rolling my eyes.

    Cece paused. “I am being a Pauline, aren’t I?”

    “Well, not one hundred percent, but I’d say you’re halfway there,” I smiled. “You’d need to say, like, ‘I’m going to make your life a living hell!’

    “That was scarily accurate.”

    “Well, she did say it to me the first time I met her,” I said. “Come on, it’s getting late. Let’s head back.”

    ——

    “So, Cece,” I said, sitting next to her on the tram. “If you don’t mind me asking, what’s the rest of your family like? Besides your… dad,” I asked.

    She looked outside of the window before answering. “My relationship with my mother’s fine, all things considered. I’m sure she loves me, and she tries her best, but one word from my father and she becomes his servant. She’s like a ghost, living without a single independent thought, and I hate her for it. There are so many times where she could have pushed back and defended me but didn’t…” she sighed. “It hurt.”

    “That’s fucked up,” I said quietly. “Was she always like that?”

    Cece just nodded. “They were an arranged marriage as well. For the longest time, I feared my own marriage with Louis would turn me into her. That was my biggest fear. I didn’t want to be a mindless drone, having given up on life,” she said. “Mark— my big brother, he used to hate dad just as much as I did. He and Amy, they were my pillars of support. But then he left to become a Pokemon trainer— or at least that was what he said to our father. The truth was, it was the only way he found to escape the household.”

    “And then you were all alone?”

    “There was still Amy, but she couldn’t always be there. I trusted her with everything back then, which was obviously a mistake in hindsight, but I would be lying if I said she wasn’t the only thing that kept me going. When Mark left, life at home got even worse. Father would keep berating me and mother, and we would just have to take it. Sometimes I even thought he would become violent, but he never crossed that barrier— or at least not with me,” she sighed. “Getting back to Mark, these days, we only talk when I need help with Deino, but that hasn’t happened since… right before the Floaroma tournament. He turned out to be a good trainer. A really good one. In his first year, he got to the Conference, and then he eventually became the Champion, as you know. In his meteoric rise, he pulled the Obel Energy Company up with him, and father started getting even more obsessed with fame and money than he was before.”

    She paused for a few seconds.

    “Mark came back, and he was a changed man. We had talked on the phone, but he never came back to visit until he became the Champion. I couldn’t recognize him at all, and his hate for dad had mellowed out into indifference. I mean, who could blame him? Our father holds almost no power over him— he’s the strongest trainer in the region! It angered father to no end, but he saw an opportunity in me. He decided to make me sign up for the Circuit in Sinnoh and marry Louis. The arranged marriage part was probably as much an economic decision as one to hope to keep me subdued and under control, like my mother is. Otherwise, I might have turned into another Mark.”

    “But it didn’t work,” I said.

    “It didn’t,” she grinned, grabbing my hand tightly. “I met you.”

    It was time, wasn’t it? It was time to tell her that I liked girls.

    I took a deep breath. “Cece, I have to tell you something, and you have to promise me not to freak out, alright?”

    She frowned. “What is it?”

    “Tell me you won’t freak out.”

    “I won’t.”

    “Alright. I…”

    The words turned to ash in my mouth.

    Say it.

    “I…”

    Fucking spit it out.

    “I like girls,” I said. I saw the confused look on her face and immediately decided to clarify. “Romantically, I mean. Now, don’t freak out. Please. I had to tell you because of how close we were getting, I mean, I thought— I— I figured you’d want to know.”

    “I…” she said, letting go of my hand. “How?”

    “How what?” I said, feeling tears build up.

    “How would one know,” she started. “If they liked girls. Romantically.”

    I turned away slightly to hide my discontent. “Well, I assume it’s the same as liking a guy.”

    “I’ve never liked anyone before, I don’t know what it’s like,” Cece said.

    “Well, if you can’t stop thinking about them,” I started. “If your biggest wish is to see them happy. If you want to be with them as much as you can. If you notice the smallest things about them that you go crazy over,” I said, looking at her again. “I’d say that’s what it’s like to like someone.”

    “I… I think I need to spend some time alone,” Cece said. “I have some things to think about.”

    Damn it, I thought. I had fucked up. I wanted to go home and cry my heart out. Maybe some time with my team would do me some good. If I explained my problem, they’d understand and support me.

    “That’s our stop,” Cece said.

    “I think I should spend the night at the Center tonight,” I said, barely holding myself together. “You can go.”

    “No. Someone will let you stay at their penthouse. I’m sorry, I just have a lot of mull over.”

    “I understand,” I said, hanging my head. “I kind of sprung it out of nowhere. I’m sorry for ruining things.”

    “You didn’t— ah, we missed our stop.”

    “Let’s get off on the next one.”

    For the rest of the ride, I wanted to die. I wanted to shrivel up into a ball and wink out of existence. I wanted the last five minutes to be erased and to never bring up the subject again.

    We walked up to the hotel in silence. It was snowing for the first time of the year.

    When we got to the lobby, Cece froze.

    “What is it?” I asked.

    I looked up from my feet, which I had been staring at for the entire walk and saw a girl sitting down, surrounded by four tall men in suits and sunglasses. Her hair was shoulder-length and blond, albeit darker than mine, and she had a pink highlight at its edges. She got up and shot us a smile.

    “Who is that?” I asked. “Cece?”

    “That’s…” she said, her face turning into a look of pure disbelief. “That’s Amy.”
     
  6. Threadmarks: Chapter 74 - Crashing Down
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 74 - Crashing Down

    “Your old best friend Amy?” I asked, my eyes darting in between the two. She was making her way toward us now.

    “Correct,” Cece said. “She must have flown here.”

    “What do we do?” I asked. “Do we run and call the others?”

    “No. I will confront her here. This is my fight.”

    I nodded, agreeing to let her speak alone. Amy stopped at an arm's length away from us, still surrounded by what I assumed were bodyguards, who each had a Pokeball on their belt. She stared me down first and then let out an audible scoff.

    “So she’s the one who’s got you wrapped around her finger, hm?” Amy said.

    Her voice was high-pitched, and she had a distinct Kalosian accent. I wanted to retort, but restrained myself.

    “What do you want from us?” Cece asked, ignoring her statement.

    “I want nothing from her,” she sneered at me. “Your father sent me. I’m your last warning, Cece.”

    “Do not call me that. You’ve lost that right.”

    For a second, Amy looked genuinely hurt. “You’ve changed, Cecilia. The people you’ve been associating yourself with changed you. Your entire family sees that.”

    “You’re the one who changed,” Cece said. “Ever since I’ve left Unova, it’s like a flip’s been switched.”

    “Have I?” She said. “I have always been about familial duty. Always. My family owes everything to yours. I will do my duty toward them, as should you.”

    “You supported me with my dad—”

    “Supported, yes, but in no way did I ever express my approval for outright rebellion,” she hissed. “As I said, I am your last warning. Kick her and Denzel Williams out of your group. Everything has gone off the rails ever since they were added.”

    “Never,” Cece spat. “The others will say the same.”

    “The others' input is not being considered,” Amy said. “You didn’t think they would just let you fail with no consequences, did you? Everyone aside from Pauline has brought shame to their family, some more than others. Although that rat and her mother turned out to be traitors anyway, so we had to maneuver around them. I will speak with the group tomorrow morning to discuss your next steps.”

    “You will do no such thing. You can’t force us to listen to you,” Cece answered. “You are blinded by my father. You can still be saved.”

    “It is you who needs to be saved,” Amy exclaimed. “Think about it. Grace Pastel and Denzel Williams show up, and suddenly you don’t want to marry Louis anymore? What if they were sent by one of Clarence or Harvey’s rivals who desperately want to stop the marriage and ruin all of your reputations like Pauline was?”

    I frowned. I had no doubt Cece would rebuke these accusations, and she was doing well with the confrontation in general, but Amy was turning out to be more… driven than I thought. I had thought her to be an evil person trying to manipulate Cece, but she seemed to genuinely believe what she was saying.

    “The poison you spew does not sway me. There is nothing you can say to convince me to abandon my friends. Now step aside.”

    Amy sighed. “You’ve truly been brainwashed… I didn’t want to have to resort to this, but I have to save you.”

    I yelled and got ready to release my team as one of the guards grabbed Cece, but they didn’t take her like I thought they would. Instead, they just held her in place, and Amy whispered something into Cecilia’s ear.

    “No… no, he wouldn’t have—” Cece said.

    “I am your last warning, and you’ve now been warned. Stop playing these silly games. I will see you tomorrow. I expect your new friends to be gone by then.”

    “And are you…?”

    “Nothing’s been done to me. I know you can’t know for sure, and it would be easier not to believe me, but it’s the truth.”

    Amy and her guards left the lobby after that. I called out to Cece, but it was as if she had been put in a daze.

    “What did she say?” I asked again as we stepped in the elevator. “Don’t try to keep it to yourself. I’m here to help, and so are the others.”

    “I can’t… I can’t tell you. I cannot.”

    “You can,” I insisted. “I’m sure she threatened you or us with something, but what is it? I told you I would help you back at the outpost, and you agreed. Now’s the time to let me help.”

    “I need to be alone,” she said. She opened her door and I tried to hold it open, but she was too fast and strong. I heard her lock it from the inside.

    I slammed my fist on the door. “Cece! Let me in, Arceus damn it! Let me in, or I’ll have Elekid break the fucking door down!”

    “Then I will release my team, and we will fight here,” I heard her say. She was right against the door. “At the top of the hotel. The damage will be consequential. You and the others might be hurt, along with innocent residents. I wouldn’t want that to happen to you.”

    “Don’t say shit like that!” I hissed. “Just… please. Let me help you.”

    There was no answer. I felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Her eyes were the same as they had been when we had both been held hostage by team Galactic. They were empty. Like she was giving up on everything.

    “Cece!” I tried again. There was still no answer. I slammed the door with my foot and ran to Louis’ apartment, where I assumed the group was staying. I knocked as loud and as fast as I could, and he opened the door. “Louis,” I started before he could even complain. “This is a fucking emergency. Amy just showed up in the lobby and said something to Cece— something that I didn’t hear that made her completely give up on everything. She isn’t well, and I’m scared that she’s going to make a mistake. I need to speak to everyone.”

    It took a few seconds for my words to register, and his face immediately tensed.

    “Pauline’s at Emilia’s apartment, and Denzel is at Justin’s.”

    “Gather them and tell them what I told you. I’m going to stay in front of Cece’s door just in case she tries to leave. Bring them there.”

    He nodded, and we both ran off, me toward Cecilia’s door, and him toward Justin’s. I tried to knock on the door and call out again, but still, there was nothing. Thankfully, I could tell she was still in there due to a lot of clattering.

    “What are you doing?” I asked. “Talk to me!”

    Another thirty seconds passed, and she finally opened the door.

    “Thank the Legendaries,” I sighed. “The rest of the group is coming, just talk to us and—”

    Her eyes. They were worse than before, and it looked like she’d been crying.

    “Where are you going?” I nervously said, my hand hovering over Togetic’s Pokeball. If push came to shove, I would need to have her use her powers. It wouldn’t be consensual, but I didn’t think I had a choice.

    She hugged me tightly and apologized in my ear.

    “There’s a letter on the table,” she said. “For all of you.”

    I was confused for a second before I saw Slowpoke lazily walk behind her as his eyes turned pink. I suddenly felt a mild headache as my eyelids grew heavy. I tried to getting of Cecilia’s arms, closing my eyes as tightly shut as I could, but none of that worked.

    “Fucking… psychics…” I muttered as I fell to the ground.

    Psychic-induced sleep wasn’t like sleep at all. The closest resemblance I could find was general anesthesia, which my dad had undergone once for a surgery when he was younger. He had told me that it was like closing your eyes for a single second, and then immediately waking up hours later in the recovery room. That is what I felt as I woke up, and the feelings of having been tricked by Cece were still fresh in my mind. I was in a bed, under the covers, and I instantly shot up. It was Cece’s penthouse. I hurried and walked through the hotel room, still feeling drowsy from the Hypnosis and knocking things over. She hadn’t used the move against Gardenia, otherwise I would have known to be wary, but I fucking failed, and now she was gone.

    The rest of the group was all sitting on the couch, asleep. I clenched my fists. They had failed to stop her too, somehow. Had they all been caught by surprise? The apartment was in a state of chaos, with items knocked all over the floor. It seemed Cece had hurriedly rummaged through everything before leaving, but it couldn’t have been to pack. Her backpack was still in her bedroom.

    I shook Denzel, trying to wake him up, but there was no way to wake someone from Hypnosis, or at least not any human way. I felt tears streaming down my face as the reality of the situation finally sunk in. Cece was gone. She was gone, and I had no idea where. It wasn’t like I could just run off and look for her in the city. Eterna city was too big.

    I grabbed my Poketch with a trembling breath and saw that only an hour had passed. I felt a glimmer of hope. Maybe that meant that the others would wake up soon, and then we’d be able to split up and look for her.

    And then—

    And then…

    “Fuck…” I sobbed. “Cece…”

    Through teary eyes, I remembered what she had told me. The letter on the living room table. It was there. I grabbed it with a shaky hand and saw that it had been roughly placed in an envelope with tear stains on it. It read ‘To my friends.’ I stared at my sleeping companions and decided to wait for them to read it out. It was addressed to all of us. I wanted all of us to be awake when I read it for the first time.

    Three minutes later, Emilia woke up first. Then Justin, Louis, and finally, Pauline and Denzel. It had been like a chain reaction, with them waking up one after another. That probably meant that Cece had hypnotized them all at once.

    “Cece, you bitch—” Pauline started yelling. “Where am I?”

    “Cece’s penthouse,” I sighed, wiping away my tears. “Try to remember. She put all of you to sleep with her Slowpoke. She’s gone.”

    “Because of Amy?” Denzel asked, struggling to get up.

    “At least Louis got to tell you before she struck,” I said. “Yes. I don’t know what she said to her, but it completely fucked her up.”

    “And she didn’t say where she was going?” Justin worriedly said. “Not even to you?”

    I shook my head. “I want to look for her, it’s been more than an hour. We won’t ever find her. Togetic’s too slow in the air and she can’t see well at night, so getting her to find Cece in Eterna would be like finding a needle in a haystack. Frillish can see, but he’s too slow as well. It’s… not looking good,” I said, breaking down. “She— she left us a letter. She wanted us to read it.”

    “I refuse to give up,” Louis exclaimed. “We can split up. We can try to find her, she couldn’t have gone far.”

    “I agree,” Emilia said. “But I think we should respect her wishes and read the letter first.”

    Denzel walked up to me and stroked my shoulder as I opened the letter. The handwriting was still beautiful, even though she must have been so rushed to finish writing it.

    My dear friends

    It has been a wonderful journey. I loved going through it with all of you, through the good, the bad, and everything else. I have never loved a group of people as much as I have loved all of you. You must all be confused, but I cannot tell you what Amy told me without putting you all at risk. Unfortunately for me, Grace is right now hitting my door again, so I must hurry and write what I have to say. A personalized farewell for each of you. Some of it may hurt, but it is the whole truth. Now, let me start where it all began.


    Louis Bianchi - First, I must apologize to you, Louis. I am sorry. I never loved you in a romantic manner, even though I pretended to for a large part of our journey. As you know, this marriage was forced onto us by our fathers, and I purposefully seduced you so I could potentially have an easier time in the future. This was before I learned to know you— to truly know you. I now know that there are no ulterior motives behind your enthusiasm in our engagement. I know now that you are nothing like our fathers. They are ugly, evil creatures that do not deserve to call themselves human, while you are a good man with a good heart, despite what others may think. People tend to judge you before they truly get to know you, and I was guilty of the same. At the start of our journey together, I hated you, Louis. I hated you with everything I had. I saw you only as a vessel through which my father could inflict suffering upon me. But still, with my mind clear as it is tonight, I think I am finally ready to call you a friend. I am sorry I had to tell you this way and that I let the matter sit for so long, and for manipulating you. Find someone who truly loves you and deserves you. P.S.: try to not stare at women that interest you as much as you do, we can tell.

    Justin Gardner -
    Justin, when we first started traveling together, I thought you to be the most sinister man imaginable. You rarely spoke to anyone other than Emilia, and you were a reclusive man. I thought that you were silently observing my every move to report back to my father. But then you slowly opened up to us, and I realized that you were just another person, as I was and that you had just been shy and passionate about business. I learned that you too, were being forced to go through the Circuit, but unlike me, you found little joy in Pokemon battling. I would like to tell you not to force yourself through this if you don’t want to, but I’m afraid our parents have something else in store for us. To me, Justin, you are the pivotal member of the group. An element of stability and normalcy we desperately needed to keep pushing forward. I hope your dreams of taking over your father’s company materialize. I am sure you will be doing great things in the future. Much love.

    Emilia Lussier - Emilia, you were the one I always found it the easiest to get along with, even at the start, but that may have been because I already had a preconceived image of you built in my head. I thought you to be weak, and therefore not a threat to me. But I was wrong, Emi. You are the strongest of us all. You hate traveling in the wild, you hate Pokemon battling with a passion, and yet you keep pushing yourself for us. You made it through Eterna forest, and we wouldn’t have without your crucial help. The strongest person is someone who can stare their fear in the face, put their head down, and keep striving forward. Unfortunately, I am not as strong as you are, even though I wish I was. The contest you brought us to see was wonderful, and I wish you well in your endeavors to become a Pokemon coordinator. Make sure to ask for the other’s help when you need it. The world of coordinators seems like a ruthless one, even worse than the world of trainers. Still, if your parents let you try, I know you will succeed. You are not holding us back, and you never were. You are a part of the group. You are a friend we love.

    Pauline King - Pauline, your hair fits your temperament, which I know you’ve heard a thousand times before, and I know you hate hearing it, but it is true. You are like a storm, never letting up and hurting everyone around you, friend or foe. That is what I believed when I met you. You were quick to anger and knew the most vicious ways to hurt someone with just words. That is why I largely avoided you until we got closer to Floaroma. I believed that if I ever angered you too much, you would see right through me, grab a metaphorical knife, stab me with it, and twist. I thought you would be able to also see right through my reluctance to marry Louis, and then my whole cover would be blown. Evidently, you did, since you let that slip at our kerfuffle in Eterna forest, but I don’t blame you for it. Instead, I will thank you for hiding my secret this entire time, through no benefit of your own. I know you are extremely protective of us, and I love you for it, but still, I must ask you to relax once in a while. Sit down, breathe in the air, and look at how beautiful the world is. You don’t need to be ready to fight at all times, although now would be a great time for you to be. When you see Amy in the morning, I want you to give her hell. Don’t let her speak. Talk over her, insult her, rip her apart. Make it as difficult as possible for her to get a single word out. Thank you.

    Denzel Williams - Denzel, you are this group’s light. In the darkness, we can always count on you to be a steady man to look up to. You always look at the bright side of things, and you’ve been an instrumental friend, especially when it came to breaking me free from my cage. I wish we could have spent more time together, but if I could have one thing, I would ask you to let yourself cry at least once. It is good for the soul, and Grace has told me about your issues. I am sure a good cry will help. You will not be less of a man for it. I also have some advice for you and your dream of building a personality online. You should work with Emilia and start from the ground up, doing what coordinators do, but on the trainer side of things. I am sure you will find great success there, and that will be something for you to bond over. I did not know you as long as the others, but you have been a great friend all the same.

    Gra Grac Grace P Grace Pastel - Grace, when I first saw you in Oreburgh, and you defended me from Chase Karlson, I thought you to be one of my fans. Since my novelty hadn’t worn off yet, there were a lot of them at the time. I thanked you, paid you no mind, and left. Then I met you again in Floaroma, and I practically assaulted you and accused you of being a spy. Little did I know at the time, us signing up for the same tournament was just a coincidence. And what an amazing coincidence it turned out to be. Your desire to improve at Pokemon battles immediately gripped me. It wasn’t often that I met someone as passionate as I was, and yet sometimes, I think that you are even more so. I see it in your eyes. No matter how nervous you are, your eyes are always full of fire and a desire to beat your opponent. You are the most beautiful when you battle. You brought the group back from the brink of destruction in Eterna forest, and for that, I must thank you with all my heart. Without you, we might have all perished in the forest. I wouldn’t want that to happen to any of you. Still, it wasn’t until you defeated Chase Karlson at the outpost that I knew you were different, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. From that point on, I wanted to get closer to you. To learn more about you, and to just be together. When your life comes crashing down in mere seconds, it is a lot easier to think clearly. I think I like g found out something about myself tonight that I never thought was possible, and again, it was thanks to you. I think I’m in lov I know you will possibly be the most crushed by this, but you must pick yourself up. You have too much potential to give up on battling. I know that if you keep working like you have been, you will become the Champion. You are special, Grace. I want you to know that.

    Well, I suppose it’s time then. I know this must be sudden for all of you, but I’ll be leaving for Mount Coronet. If I cannot escape from my father, I will go down to the most dangerous place available to me. I do not want to die a pitiful death, and I’m sure I will be fighting some wonderful battles before then, but eventually, I will fall, since I wasn’t strong enough to free myself. I am devastated that I will not be able to fulfill my promise with the first person that gave me hope, but alas. With me gone, my father’s hopes to enrich himself and create a lasting legacy will be destroyed. Oh, what I would pay to see his face when he learns of my demise. I have another letter in the envelope here for the press that you shall give them after I am confirmed to be missing or dead by the police or rangers. I want my father’s reputation and company to be ruined. As my last act, I will abandon the name of Obel. I am now Cecilia, and for my last hours at least, I will be free.

    -Cecilia

    I could barely keep reading when I finished the letter. My throat felt clogged and I struggled to breathe. Tears and snot fell over my face, and they did the same one everyone else’s. We were all crying.

    “We can’t let this happen,” I sobbed. “We have to go. We have to save her.”

    “Mount Coronet,” Denzel sniffled. “It’s supposed to be closed, but I don’t think there are any rangers standing guard. I— I don’t think they thought anyone would go there.”

    “It’s only been an hour,” Pauline said, her face in her hands and tapping her feet. “We can make it.”

    “Grab everything,” Louis said, his voice resolute and his eyes red. “Get dressed. We have to go and save her. She must live.”

    We all nodded.

    “And then I will have a word or two to say to my father,” He said, clenching his jaw so tightly that veins were visible on his forehead. “I will never marry her. The deal is off.”


    A/N: IMPORTANT: The strikethroughs are not legible to Grace.
     
  7. veekie

    veekie Connoisseur.

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2017
    Messages:
    25,157
    Likes Received:
    118,030
    Girl has issues, but a good friend still
    Mood
     
    SailorOfMyVessel likes this.
  8. Threadmarks: Chapter 75
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 75

    The others had left to get ready. I did the same, but there was still something to be done. With a flash of red, I released my entire team.

    “Listen up,” I said, wasting no time. “Cecilia’s gone. She left to a very dangerous place.”

    Togetic let out a sad chirp, staring at me with worried eyes, and Elekid tapped my leg to comfort me. Tangela didn’t seem to understand that much, but he still wrapped a vine around my ankle. Frillish just stared, and he seemingly knew what I was going to say next. He disapproved.

    “She escaped toward Mount Coronet, that huge mountain in the distance we always see, and she intends to die there. We will not let her. The entire group’s going to save her.”

    “Fri!” He protested.

    “I won’t argue with you!” I exclaimed, causing Frillish to flinch. “I’m… sorry,” I said, grabbing his tentacle. “I know you’re worried about me. About all of us. We’re family. But… I love her. I can’t let her die.”

    Togetic held on to Frillish’s hand to reassure him, but he still looked more worried than I’d ever seen him.

    “I’m sorry for being selfish and putting you all in danger,” I apologized. “This is selfish of me to ask, but I need you all on my side.”

    Elekid gave me a fierce nod, letting me know he was ready for anything.

    “Thank you, hon.”

    Tangela blinked twice and wiped away my tears with his vines.

    “Angel… thank you.

    Togetic let go of Frillish, flew to me and put her forehead against mine, letting out a soothing cry. I rubbed her cheek.

    “Princess…” I sobbed.

    Frillish floated to my side and placed a tentacle on my shoulder, apologizing with a whisper.

    “You’re fine, buddy,” I sniffled. “Someone’s got to be the one to think clearly in the team, and it’s always been you.”

    I looked at my team one last time. My partners. My family.

    “I love you all,” I said before recalling them.



    It barely took five minutes for all of us to get ready. I adjusted the strap of my backpack on my heavy winter coat as we rode down the elevator in silence. We were all determined to save Cece. We had our caving supplies, and enough food for weeks, and all of our Pokemon had been hurriedly informed. There was nothing left to be said. We were going to get to the cave, find her, and bring her back by any means necessary. The ground outside was covered in snow now, a sign that winter was almost there. It would be even colder in Mount Coronet.

    Louis held up his hand, and a limousine drove up to the hotel’s entrance.

    “I called my driver. Get in,” he simply said.

    We all climbed into the spacious car, and I felt relief that we wouldn’t have to waste time walking to route 211.

    “Where to, Mr. Bianchi?” The old man asked.

    “Route 211. Drive as fast as you can,” he answered. “I’ll pay off any speeding ticket.”

    “Very well,” The driver said, flooring the gas pedal and propelling me back into my seat. He started driving like a madman, skirting around cars, but his skill at the wheel was good enough to avoid getting into any accidents.

    “We should call the rangers while we still have reception,” Justin said. “Tell them that Cece walked into Mount Coronet and to send a search party. I’m sure they will if we tell them our last names.”

    “Then they’ll stop us from getting in,” Emi said. “They’ll say it’s too dangerous.”

    “Can we time our call to get there before them?” Denzel asked.

    “No, the closest outpost to Mount Coronet is twenty minutes into route 211, and they’ll probably just send their fliers to try to rescue her as fast as possible before she gets too deep into the cave.”

    “Maybe that would be the wisest choice,” Justin said more quietly. “They’d get there the fastest. Every minute counts—”

    “No. Absolutely not. We need to be there for Cece,” I immediately cut in. “She isn’t in the right state of mind. She might attack them, and she’ll only come back if it’s us. No rangers.”

    Justin reluctantly nodded.

    “Wait,” Louis said, lifting a finger. “Edward can warn them.”

    “Your driver? Oh, oh, yes, he can!” Emilia exclaimed. “Just have him wait… how long does it take to get to Mount Coronet from route 211? Grace, you’re familiar with the route.”

    “A day,” I said. “But Cece’s alone and not carrying anything, and she’s alone so she’ll probably make it in way less time.”

    “Edward, you heard us,” Louis said. “Call the rangers and tell them that we’re all stranded in Mount Coronet… thirty hours from now. And not a word to anyone else about this.”

    “Of course, Mr. Bianchi.”

    It felt so frustrating to think that Cece was just what, an hour and a half in front of us, and there was nothing we could do about it. If we sent our fliers ahead of us, she would just attack them, and without human direction, I had no doubt they would lose.

    “We need a plan,” I continued. “Like in Eterna Forest. What kind of Pokemon are in Mount Coronet?”

    “I know about it since I was doing research on the wildlife there since we were supposed to pass through it soon,” Denzel said. “We can assume the normal cave Pokemon will be there. Geodude, Zubat, Nosepass…” Denzel trailed off. “But the deeper we get, the tougher opponents we’ll encounter.”

    “We can handle it together,” Pauline spoke up, her eyes still red. “I will not die before ripping Amy a new one, and I want Cece to be there to see it.”

    Denzel nodded. “Then you have Graveler, Golbat, Boldore, Onix… there’s even old reports of a Golem being seen there years ago. Just… think of the worst rock types you can imagine, and they’ll be there, and only our strongest attacks will work against those. There are also some non-rock types to worry about. Bronzor, Machoke, Chingling colonies—”

    “So we’ll have to face everything on the face of the earth,” Pauline said. “Fine.”

    “I don’t really know how to handle them, but I’ll try my best to study up in the car,” Denzel sighed. “There’s another major problem. Most of the cave is completely pitch black. Since it’s been abandoned for years, there are no gas lights to guide us.”

    “We have flashlights for that,” I said. “And batteries. Plus, Frillish can see in the dark, so he can guide us.”

    “I know, but still, I thought it would be best to warn you,” he said. “Then, there’s the cold. It’s a well-studied phenomenon that I don’t know the first thing about, but it gets ridiculously cold in there, and there’s no wood to light fires. You’ll need to keep Charmeleon, Growlithe, and Vulpix out to warm us up when we aren’t moving.”

    Pauline, Justin, and Louis all agreed.

    “The dark will make keeping too many of our Pokemon out very difficult,” Emilia sighed. Her fingers were trembling so much that she had to bring her hands together to stop herself.

    “No choice,” I said dryly. “We need everything that we have against rock types, and your psychics to stop any attacks and sense nearby danger. Gothorita can do that now, right?” I asked Pauline.

    “It’s rough, but she can, yes.”

    “The mountain has other effects… like hampering some Pokemon’s senses if they aren’t used to being there, and other nonexplainable things… scientists chalk it up to the strong magnetic field, but they aren’t sure,” Denzel interrupted.

    “Fuck this shit,” I spat. “We’ll manage with just Frillish,” I said.

    There was a pause, as we began to realize we would most likely only be able to rely on Frillish’s eyesight in the dark to warn us from any danger.

    “The rest can stay in their Pokeballs, at least at the start,” I continued. “If things get too rough, we’ll need to release everyone. This is just as dangerous as Eterna Forest, and it might get worse depending on how deep we get.”

    “Alright,” Louis nodded. “Should we have a formation, then?”

    “I don’t know, I think we should just stick close together and have Gothorita in the front, and Beldum in the back, on our left and right,” I said. “That way, they can stop attacks from all around us.

    “The dark will certainly make it harder to keep up formation either way,” Justin nodded. “We should also have a headcount system,” he said. We all looked at him confusedly. “Every five minutes, we confirm that we’re all still there. It’s easy to get lost in the darkness, flashlight or not.”

    “Okay,” I said. “That’s smart. What else?”

    “Let’s help Denzel with his information gathering,” Emilia said. “We all have phones, and six pairs of eyes are faster than one.”

    ——

    Our trip through route 211 was uneventful and quick, but we were all exhausted. None of us had slept, and it was easy to see on our faces. I stared up at Mount Coronet, whose slopes were towering over us. I couldn’t see the summit. It just kept going, on and on, seemingly forever, as if someone had pinched the earth and pulled it up, and my vision started to swim. I shook my head, and my eyes settled on the opening to the cave. It was tall and looming, the inside of it completely pitch black as if light couldn’t penetrate into the cave. The low, menacing sound of wind blowing through the entrance rattled me. There was a torn-down, abandoned ranger outpost at its side, and the entrance had been littered with ‘KEEP OUT’ and ‘DANGER OF INJURY OR DEATH’ signs. Cece had gone in there hours prior, all alone. I clenched at my pants.

    I could only hope she was safe.

    I felt someone clap my shoulder.

    “We’ll find her,” Denzel said in a reassuring tone.

    “I know. We have to,” I said. “And then we’ll drag her back to Eterna, and we’ll all look back on this as a bad dream.”

    It took a few minutes to prepare ourselves to head inside of the cave. I only released Frillish for now, who looked at me with his eyes full of worry.

    “I know, bud,” I said. “But we have to do this.”

    Denzel released Budew, who let out her familiar screech. Emilia released Beldum, whose eye dimmed when he stared at us. He was probably blaming us for Emilia going into a dangerous cave. Pauline let out Gothorita, who smugly brushed the hairlike appendages on its head away. Justin released Sandile, who lazily sunk half of his body into the ground. Louis released Prinplup, and the penguin honked worriedly when he saw that we were at the cave’s entrance.

    We all huddled close together and hesitantly stepped into the cave. My heart started to race with anxiety as we turned our flashlights, and we truly learned how little it actually illuminated. Still, it was the only source of illumination in this dark and unknown world known as Mount Coronet that dominated Sinnoh’s skies. My breath only came in short gasps as I felt a tightness in my chest I couldn’t simply brush off and push past, and I could only manage to take deep breaths in between the little huffs of cold air I was getting in an attempt to calm myself down. Every rustle, every creak of the cave walls, every time I bumped into one of my friends, and the distant cries of wild Pokemon made me jump in place as if I had been jolted by electricity. The cave wasn’t just dark. Darkness itself clung around me like it had a physical form and shape. It was as if I was being enclosed and suffocated by the lack of light.

    Still, I could only push on, no matter how terrified I got. Emilia yelped as one of our flashlights found a field of unconscious Zubat. It was an entire colony.

    “Think Cece did this?” Pauline whispered.

    “It could have been a wild Pokemon,” Justin said.

    “No,” Denzel interjected. “A Zubat colony would only attack what they think they can beat. I bet they thought she’d be an easy mark.”

    I nodded, feeling some relief. We couldn’t be one hundred percent sure, but at least we were going the right way—

    “Fri!” Frillish yelled. We pointed our flashlights at him, and saw that he was pointing one of his tentacles toward our two o’ clock.

    “Holy fucking shit!” Denzel hissed.

    His panicking made us swerve our flashlight toward his own, and I took a step back when I saw what was happening. Huge, bulging arms wider than my entire torso, an elongated, reptilian face with a bloodstained mouth, and it didn’t have the usual belt humans placed on it. A huge Machoke was grabbing the Zubat on the ground, crushing them like eggs in its hands and then eating them. The fighting type hissed and shielded its eyes when the light reached it, and it immediately ran forward, crushing Zubat under its feet in the process.

    “Shit, shit, shit, fuck!” I yelled. “Frillish, Bubblebeam!”

    Pauline and Emilia yelled, and our Psychics immediately sprang into action, holding the fighting type in place as the stream of Bubbles hit it right in the face. Budew and Prinplup also threw out attacks of their own, but it was Sandile who saved us. Even though Machoke was a fighting type, the Pokemon broke out of its psychic restraints, but the ground below it liquefied, causing it to sink. I grabbed Togetic’s Pokeball and released her.

    “Princess, emergency. Thunder Wave and Sweet Kiss the Machoke!” I said, pointing at the struggling fighting type.

    She nodded, sending a cage of electricity that wrapped around the Machoke before confusing it with Sweet Kiss. It was completely stuck now, and if it somehow managed to push through, freeing itself from the Sand Tomb and pushing past the paralysis and confusion, we still had our psychics to work with. I breathed a sigh of relief— my first breath since we had seen the wild Pokemon appear in the darkness.

    “We should knock it out, just to be safe,” Louis sighed.

    The Machoke let out a stuttery hiss of protest, and we slowly whittled it down until it was unconscious.

    “Good job, princess,” I said, recalling her. “And thank you, Frillish. Without you to warn us, we would have been screwed.”

    The water type nodded, but his eyes were observing our surroundings. I stared at Machoke’s arms and gulped. If it got its hands on any of us, it could have torn all of us in half like twigs, especially without the belt that restrained their physical power.

    “So did Machoke do that to the Zubat—” Emilia started.

    “No,” I said. “A single Machoke wouldn’t have taken down that many Zubat. They would have run far before that. It was still Cece.”

    “Agreed,” Denzel said. “Let’s get a move on. All the yelling probably alerted a lot of wild Pokemon to come here.”

    We agreed and hurried along. Throughout the cave, we would find evidence that Cece had definitely gone through there. Scenes of battles with rocks charred by Dragon Breath knocked out wild Pokemon all over the place. She was going on a rampage, even having knocked out a group of two Graveler, who were no doubt more powerful than the one she had faced when fighting Roark all those months ago. The good thing about that, however, was that she had seemingly scared off a lot of the wild Pokemon, so we were making great ground. Plus, we had also surprisingly improved since Eterna Forest, although this wasn’t even considered deep into the mountain. Apparently, you could keep going deeper for weeks, and the Pokemon would progressively get worse. Now we just had to hope Cece would be slow enough for us to catch up to her. We had to be faster. Faster. Faster—

    “Fri!” Frillish yelled again. This time, however, I could tell he wasn’t warning about a wild Pokemon.

    I angled my flashlight downward and saw a giant lake whose surface was incredibly clear. I could see Barboach swimming under the water’s surface, nestled closely against the muddy ground. It was a large body of water, but it wasn’t deep at all. If we stepped in it, it would only get up to my waist, and I was the shortest in the group.

    Justin angled his flashlight toward the end of the lake.

    “We can cross that,” he said. “Saves us a lot of time.”

    We all ran our flashlights throughout the lake’s surface to make sure there wasn’t any hidden passage where a dangerous water type could be hiding.

    “Sure,” I nodded. “And it isn’t deep enough for anything threatening to hide in. Let’s go.”

    The Barboach fled as I tentatively placed a foot into the frigid water and flinched. I probably wouldn’t feel my leg after crossing this thing. I could almost feel it in my bones. We all carefully waded through the water, carrying our non-water type Pokemon in our arms, and we made it about halfway through when the ground began to shake.

    I felt mud snake its way along my ankles. I was stuck.

    “Cash! Whiscash!” I heard to my left.

    A Whiscash yelled out angrily as it peeked out of the water’s surface. The water wasn’t deep enough for it to even swim in comfortably, but apparently, it had still made it its home. I swore internally, and Frillish wasted no time, immediately sending out a Poison Sting into the Pokemon’s hide.

    “Now, Hex it!” I ordered. Frillish’s eyes shone brightly and the ground type cried out in pain as smoke started emanating from its body.

    “Gothorita, Psybeam!” Pauline said, holding the psychic type out as far as she could. The multicolored psychic energy hit Whiscash as well.

    Prinplup hit the water type with a Bubblebeam, and it began to thrash around the lake, making the ground shake.

    “That’s an Earthquake!” Denzel yelled as Budew screamed out a Bullet Seed from his arms. “Damn it!”

    Rocks far above us, creased into the cave’s ceiling and began to fall into the water. I fell backward due to the Earthquake, and mud started to worm around my waist.

    “Sandile, free us from Whiscash’s trap!” Justin yelled.

    The ground type snapped his jaw shut and finally broke us free. We ran out of the lake, barely avoiding getting crushed by stones. I crawled out of the water on all fours and dry heaved. One of them— one of them had landed right beside me. I almost died.

    “Arceus…” Emilia cried. “This is madness.

    “I’m sorry,” I breathed out and wiped my mouth and eyes. You are fine. Pull yourself together and cry later. “It was my call. W—we should have tried to find a way ar—around it. I just wanted to get to Cece as fast as possible, and it b—blinded my judgment.”

    “Then I sh—share some of the responsibility as well,” Justin said, shivering from the cold.

    I wiped sweat and water from my forehead. “Th—these wetsuits aren’t worth sh—shit. We need to dry our clothes and sleep,” Denzel sighed. “It fucking hurts, b—but it’s the most sensible thing to do. If we get some shut-eye— even two hours— we’ll think more clearly. We’re all exhausted.”

    I wanted to protest, but I knew deep down he was right. I could barely walk straight, and I was starting to get a headache.

    “We’ll d—die of hypothermia if we don’t at least d—dry ourselves,” Justin said, stammering his words because of the cold. “Get your fire types out to dry our clothes faster and keep ourselves warm.”

    “Frillish, keep watch, p—please,” I said. He nodded and let out a determined sound.

    We all quickly dried ourselves with towels and changed our clothes, which had gotten wet from falling into the water due to Whiscash’s Earthquake. I stepped into a sleeping bag and huddled around our fire types, who were all sitting on top of our wet clothes. Charmeleon’s tail was our main source of heat, but Vulpix and Growlithe’s naturally high body heat helped as well. Louis had volunteered to keep first watch along with Frillish, and he would wake all of us up in two hours and a half.

    “If I start screaming, wake me up immediately,” I warned.

    Louis nodded. He had decided to take the brunt of the exhaustion, but the next time we slept, he’d be able to rest for longer. We couldn’t afford to rest for long. Cece was probably still moving ahead, and rangers would be on our tail very soon.
     
  9. Threadmarks: Chapter 76
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 76

    “It’s time.”

    I jolted awake when I felt Louis pat my shoulder through my sleeping bag and struggled to open my eyes. How had it been two hours and a half already? It felt like I barely slept at all, but I still stood up immediately and put on my clothes. At least sleeping so little hadn’t given my nightmares enough time to start up again. Louis woke up all the others too, and we all hurried and got ready as fast as we could.

    “Did you have any trouble?” Justin asked Louis. “Any attacks?”

    “There was a pack of Aron that walked by led by a Lairon, but they didn’t strike,” Louis said before yawning. “Aside from that, nothing apart from the usual terrifying Pokemon cries all around us.”

    I grabbed a bottle of water from my backpack and coughed. My throat was killing me, my nose was clogged, and I was so cold.

    “I—” I started, before coughing. “I think I’m sick.”

    I pointed my flashlight at Emilia and saw her pale.

    “Can you keep going?” Pauline asked.

    Denzel started approaching me, but I held out my hand.

    “Stop! You might get sick—” I coughed again. “Sick too. Let’s go, we’ve wasted enough time, just don’t stay close to me.”

    Justin frowned. “We could have one of us bring you back or wait for the rangers—”


    “I said no. I’ll see this through.”

    We began marching again, although this time, I kept some distance from the group. Beldum hovered above me to protect me in case a Pokemon suddenly attacked. Frillish was reluctantly still ahead of the group. He wanted to stick by me since I was sick, but we needed him ahead to spot threats before we got to them. Denzel was now carrying Eevee on his shoulder, since his hearing would still be of use, but something about the mountain screwed with Growlithe’s sense of smell, and the fire type couldn’t adequately warn us as he had done in Eterna Forest.

    The deeper we got, the more wrong everything felt. Mount Coronet was known to have some strange effects, such as the cold temperatures, but some of it was entirely alien, like hampering human senses or Pokemon who weren’t used to the mountain. And it apparently got worse the deeper someone got, and there was an area around the summit that was the same as well. Strange visions, time dilation, shifting terrain— it was terrifying. Luckily, to go truly deep into Mount Coronet, one would have to be actively trying to be. Really good trainers used to routinely go through where we were to get to Snowpoint or Celestic, which means we wouldn’t feel the truly bad effects of the cave.

    Still, I couldn’t help but worry for Cece.

    Frillish yelled and stopped us, pointing his tentacle toward the cave’s ceiling. We pointed our flashlights up, and about two hundred feet above us, a colony of sleeping Zubat larger than the first was anchored on the ceiling, along with a few Golbat that I managed to see, causing my legs to shake. We immediately all pointed our lights back down. The Zubat line was extremely sensitive to light, and it wouldn’t do us any good to provoke them.

    You’re fine, I thought. You’re fine. You’ve grown past this.

    I stifled my coughs as best I could, and we carefully made it past the colony. The next five hours were utterly exhausting. We were being attacked left and right. Most of the Pokemon could be dealt with quite easily, but there were a few close calls. A Graveler’s Rock Throw was barely stopped in time by Gothorita, who saved Louis from being crushed, after which we battered it with our water and grass type attacks, and it angrily fled. A Chingling colony that dropped the temperature dangerously low and that screamed so loudly I felt like my eardrums would burst, and that forced us to flee, making my growing headache ten times worse. Still, we knew we were on Cece’s trail, since we were still following the unconscious Pokemon she had left behind.

    But the worse was yet to come.

    “Rhyyyyy!”

    The stone wall we were walking next to exploded, and a scream bellowed out to our left. I fell to the ground, dropping my flashlight as Beldum smoothly hovered in front of me and used Confusion to protect me from the flying debris. I fumbled at the ground, grabbing my flashlight with trembling hands, and I began to crawl backward.

    “Grace! Are you alright?!” I heard Louis yell.

    “I’m— I’m fine,” I stammered. I felt the ground shake and pointed my flashlight forward.

    A Rhydon was standing right above me with its fist raised. It brought down its massive arm and I shrieked, but I felt my body tense up and float in the air. Beldum picked me up with Confusion and narrowly saved my life. Frillish yelled and threw out a Water Pulse at the huge rock type. Denzel ordered Budew to attack before running toward me and pulling me back to safety. Beldum used the opportunity to hover back toward Emi, clearly ready to protect her.

    “A—A—Ar—” I stammered.

    “You’re okay,” he breathed out. “I’ve got you.”

    Rhydon slowly picked up its fist from the ground and stared us down. Budew’s Bullet Seed and Frillish’s Water Pulse had done nothing to Rhydon. Pauline and Emilia ordered our psychics to restrain the rock type, but the attack didn’t even have an effect. Rhydon lowered its head and began running toward them at speeds that shouldn’t have been possible for a Pokemon this large. Pauline began to run away but sprinted back when she saw that Emilia was frozen in place and pushed her out of the way. I screamed and closed my eyes, expecting her to be skewered and trampled by the unstoppable rock type, but Sandile liquified the ground below it, slowing it enough for Beldum to stand in between the two and stop the attack. He was still knocked away, however, and flew into a nearby boulder.

    “Don’t freeze!” Pauline shouted at her best friend. “Grace, get your fucking Togetic out!”

    My hands shook as I grabbed princess’ Pokeball. She was the only one that could use status effect moves from a distance. Our only hope. Rhydon slammed his foot against the liquified ground, and jagged rocks ripped themselves from the ground before flying toward us. There were too many

    Frillish appeared in front of me, but Rhydon’s aim was thrown off after Beldum let out a grinding sound and hit it with Flash Cannon, illuminating the entire cave. Still, Louis screamed and clenched at his face, having been grazed. I released Togetic after another round of attacks on Rhydon tore me away from my stupor.

    “Sweet Kiss!”

    “Toge!”

    A pink heart flew toward Rhydon and—

    The rock type hit it away with its fist like it was nothing.

    “What… what,” I said in disbelief.

    I felt Denzel grab at my arm again. “Fuck it, we’re running!”

    “It’ll catch up!” Louis said, still clutching at the right side of his face.

    “We don’t have a choice! Pick up the Pokemon that are too slow!” Denzel said as we began running. Rhydon was close on our tail. “Justin, have Sandile liquefy the ground behind us!”

    “That’s too much, he can’t use Sand Tomb in such a large area—”

    “Fucking try!” Pauline said.

    Sandile created another Sand Tomb behind us, slowing Rhydon slightly.

    “Togetic, Ancient Power,” I breathed out. “Create obstacles behind us.”

    She nodded and lifted up rocks in between us and the Rhydon, but the rock type simply tore through them like butter and used them to send that same ranged attack. This time, our psychic types were ready and barely managed to divert them away, along with Togetic’s help using Extrasensory. Denzel also had Budew drop a trail of Stun Spore behind us, which the rock type breathed in. We were slowly gaining ground, but after ten minutes of running, we were starting to get tired, and Rhydon wasn’t.

    I felt so sick I wanted to throw up. I was even starting to hallucinate voices—

    Voices.

    Lights, along with voices! They were faint, but they were unmistakably real. I began to feel a glimmer of hope.

    “...die, do it somewhere else, not in front of me.”

    “Then stop following me! Let me be!”

    “Nah, I’m good—”

    “Whoever the fuck you are, we need help, there’s a fucking Rhydon coming!” Pauline yelled.

    Another thirty seconds and we were there. Cece was bleeding from her forehead, but she was alive. I took a few deep breaths and approached her, touching her face to make sure she was real. Chase Karlson stood beside her with his entire team out of their Pokeballs. I was too relieved and out of it to even bother asking myself why he was there.

    Cece shook her head. “No, no! What are you doing here?! Do you not know how dangerous—”

    “Shut up!” I yelled. “I don’t want any lectures from you! Never do this again, you hear me! We’re taking you back!”

    “You’re going to get scolded later,” Pauline smiled, hugging Cece as the ground began to shake. “But there’s a giant, angry Rhydon coming right for us, so I’d like it if we could focus on that first.”

    “Stand far away from rocks,” Louis said. “It can control them at will and impale you with their fragments. Our psychics and Togetic will be enough to stop them if they have time to react—”

    Rhydon stepped around the corner and let out an infuriated yell, but Sandile immediately used Sand Tomb under its feet again.

    “String Shot it,” Chase immediately said before recalling Houndour and Zangoose.

    Charjabug screeched and spat out strands of strings that wrapped around Rhydon, but the rock type just tore them apart.

    “Ri, you’re up.”

    “Dragon Breath, Water Pulse,” Cece ordered.

    Deino and Slowpoke let out their attacks, which slightly slowed the ground type, and we ordered all of our Pokemon to attack as well. Bullet Seed, Psybeam, Bubblebeam, Flash Cannon, we threw everything we had at it and more, and it was finally dealing some damage. Meanwhile, Riolu ran up to the rock type and nimbly climbed onto its back, growing a bone out of his hand and jamming it in between one of the Rhydon’s armor plates. Finally, the rock type felt real pain, and it desperately tried to get Riolu off of itself, but its arms were too short. Rhydon threw itself backwards, escaping from the Sand Tomb and hoping to crush Riolu with its weight, but the fighting type just climbed onto its head and used Force Palm right into both of its eyes.

    That seemed to be enough for the rock type, and it finally started to flee, slamming its body into walls and boulders since it was blind. Riolu jumped off of its body and returned to Chase.

    Emilia collapsed to the ground. “Thank Arceus…” she cried. “I thought we were done for.”

    “Cecilia,” Louis said. “We’ve come to rescue you. Don’t throw your life away.”

    The girl averted her gaze.

    “Why did you… it would have been so much easier if none of you were here,” She said. “I wanted to go on my own terms.”

    “Don’t you fucking dare,” Pauline hissed. “Deep inside of yourself, you want to live. You wouldn’t have told us where you were going otherwise. It was a cry for help, and we came.”

    Cece teared up. “They’ve threatened me in such a horrible way,” she sobbed. “I can’t.”

    “You can. The minute we get back to the city, I’ll call my dad and call off the marriage,” Louis said.

    “No!” Cece screamed. “Absolutely not, you don’t know the lengths—”

    “It is my choice, and I’ll live with it,” he said.

    I grabbed Cece’s hand. “Please. I can’t lose you. We can’t go on pretending nothing happened if you die. It’ll destroy us. We’re all on your side. All of us will help you against whatever it is that they threatened you with.”

    “You can’t help.”

    “Stop saying that!” I said, clenching her hand tighter. I started to cough again. “We can certainly try, at least! Never give up until you’ve tried!”

    “Can you at least tell us why you can’t tell us?” Denzel asked.

    Cecilia shook her head, and he sighed.

    “Either way, we’re dragging you back home whether you want to or not. We can get you to speak with someone— I can ask Amanda! She’s great at what she does, and everything you tell her is secret.”

    “It would be best to wait twenty to thirty minutes for Rhydon to be far enough,” Justin said. “We have time. Maybe the rangers will even get here too, they’ll no doubt be faster than we will be..”

    I nodded, but kept looking into Cece’s eyes. “Will you at least come back without a fight?” I asked.

    “I don’t… fine. If that’s what convinces everyone to get back to safety, I will,” she sighed.

    “Thank you,” I said, feeling a weight lift off my shoulders. Even though she wasn’t coming because of her own will to live, she was coming home. It was a step.

    “Why is he here?” Louis asked, pointing at Chase.

    “Why does it matter?” Chase retorted. “I don’t like being with you either, you rich asshole.”

    “I did not even imply disliking you being here. More people means more Pokemon to get Cecilia back to safety,” Louis answered.

    “I… I met him a few hours into the cave. He was training his Charjabug here, but then he wouldn’t stop following me and helping me when I didn’t want him to,” Cece spat.

    “Meh,” Chase shrugged. “You were bleeding, I thought you’d need the help, but then you started asking me to let you die, so I figured I’d stick around,” he said.

    “So you… saved her?” I asked.

    “Not really. We were just walking in the same direction,” he said. “I heard that Charjabug needed a place with a strong magnetic field to evolve, but that was a dud. Apparently, it only gets strong enough deeper and higher up in the mountain, and I can’t get there yet, so I came here for no reason.”

    We all grouped up around Chase and genuinely thanked him for saving our friend, which seemingly took him by surprise. We all sat on the ground, and I started to tend to Cece’s wound. She had a large lesion on her head, causing blood to seep down on her forehead. Pauline and Emilia tended to our Pokemon with all of our potions, including Chase’s, and got most of them back in their balls so they could rest. Meanwhile, Justin helped with Louis’ injury. His was a deep cut on his cheek going right across his ear. That looked like that would scar.

    “What did this to you?” I asked Cece as I cleaned the wound with water.

    “I don’t even know,” she slowly said. “I hadn’t even noticed until that boy brought it up.”

    “Arceus…” I muttered.

    “Grace,” she said quietly. “Did you read the letter?”

    “We all did,” I said as I wrapped a bandage around her head. “It was beautiful— it— it made all of us cry. Even Pauline.”

    “Really?” She raised her eyebrows. “I thought you would all hate me after what I said. What I thought about all of you when we first met… me tricking Louis…”

    “Of course not. We love you. Nothing you could say could ever make us hate you,” I started. “Louis said he was calling off the marriage, but you should know he didn’t even hesitate. He knows it would hurt you too much. We’re all on your side now. Do you understand that, Cece? You are loved. You aren’t alone. We’re your family.”

    “Did you… could you read the parts I scratched out?”

    “At the end of the letter? No.”

    “Alright,” she said, sighing. “Thank you for bandaging me.”

    I pulled her up and hugged her again for good measure. “That’s still okay, right?” I asked.

    “What do you mean?”

    “My sexuality…” I awkwardly said.

    “Oh! Oh, of course. You can do it as much as you want—”

    A roar that was much too close for comfort echoed through the cave. It shook me to my core, and I felt my body tense. We pointed our flashlights toward the noise, and I noticed two things.

    First, there was a Larvitar that was running in our direction. Second, there was a Tyranitar and a Rhyperior fighting twenty feet away from the Larvitar. Rhyperior extended its arm and threw out rocks from its palms, barely chipping at Tyranitar’s armor. The rock type’s forehead started to glow, and it retaliated by ramming it into Rhyperior’s shoulder.

    “We need to run!” Denzel screamed.

    We all hurried to grab our bags and supplies, but the fighting was getting too close, and we opted to abandon a large part of our things instead. Still, Rhyperior yelled with a booming voice, and rocks that we could barely avoid thanks to our psychics began to fall all around us, and they were making our escape slow.

    Tyranitar was seemingly on its last ropes. Large parts of its armor were missing, revealing exposed flesh, and it looked back at the Larvitar before letting out a loud, guttural cry. The ground shook akin to an Earthquake, but this time, it cracked and opened up, splitting us and Larvitar apart from the two huge rock types. I tried to run faster, but I was sick and already tired from our escape against Rhydon. I couldn’t… I couldn’t keep going.

    Denzel and Cece were the first back for me. The others tried to come back, but they were told to keep running. I could barely hear what was going on. The ground was still shaking and creating a horrible sound. The wild Pokemon were screaming, my ears were ringing, my head was pounding—

    I fell. I fell into the dark chasm that Tyranitar had opened up, and so did Denzel, Chase, and Cecilia.
     
  10. Threadmarks: Chapter 77
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 77

    “I love you, son. This wasn’t your fault. You aren’t weak,” he said. “You’re perfect.”

    Chase Karlson woke up with Riolu worryingly shaking him. He got up, spat out a mouthful of dust, and he felt at his face. It was caked with dirt and bleeding. The teenager stared at the ceiling he had just fallen from and saw thousands of shining crystals illuminating this part of the cave. His right shoulder and upper arm hurt like hell, and he couldn’t put too much weight on his left knee. Chase shivered, and his teeth chattered. It was so cold.

    Still, he was alive somehow. Chase touched his head and was happy to feel his trusted cap still on it. Luckily, it had grown slightly too small for him, so it stuck to his head easily.

    “Thank you, Ri,” Chase said with a wince. Suddenly, he felt a surge of panic. “Where’s Charjabug?”

    Riolu pointed toward the Pokeballs still attached to his waist and nodded.

    “You put him back in? Was he injured from the fall?”

    The fighting type nodded again.

    “Good,” Chase said before his foot started to bounce. “Got no potions to heal him up though, couldn’t afford ‘em.”

    He should never have come to this cave. A fucking Rhyperior? How had it even evolved? Humans didn’t even know what triggered their evolution, so to see one in the wild? Plus, it reminded him too much of the Iron Islands. Falkirk had been built in one of the cave’s entrances, and the ground shaking reminded him of that day, which is why he had frozen up and fallen down there in the first place.

    He and his team had paid the price for it. And it gave him this shitty ass dream that he hadn’t gotten in years.

    “We need to find a way out of here,” Chase said. “Maybe find some of the people who fell down there on the way. Your aura’s still fucked from the cave?”

    “Riolu,” He said with a disappointed nod.

    “Even worse than before, huh? No prob. It’s about time I and the others start pulling our weight,” Chase said before grabbing a Pokeball. He released Houndour, who whined worriedly. His body warmth was a nice rest from the frigid temperature. “I’m fine. Just a few scratches. I need you to guide us and find a way out. Keep an eye out for threats.”

    The dark type barked, and Chase began following him with a limp. The rational part of him wanted to just high-tail it out of here. Even though it pissed him off, he recognized that his skills as a trainer were nowhere near what was needed to survive down here. Chase stared around the dimly lit cave. There was no clear exit, and staring up, the hole seemed to have closed, or at least he had ended up somewhere that wasn’t anywhere near it.

    If he hadn’t followed Obel deeper into the cave, everything would have been fine.

    But Chase couldn’t stop himself. She was clearly unwell and suffering from… something. Chase couldn’t really imagine what had pushed her this far. In his mind, Obel had been born with everything she could ever ask for and more.

    Chase started to think more about the fall. He had been falling right next to the others, and yet they were nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately, logic seemingly didn’t apply to Mount Coronet. He sucked in air through his teeth as pain racked his leg. His best hope of surviving was finding the others, even though it hurt to admit it— even more than his injuries. Still, Pastel was sick, and Obel was down in the dumps— only Williams seemed to be fine, which made Chase hope he’d be the one he found.

    With his shit luck, though, he’d probably end up finding one of the girls. If he even found anybody at all.

    “If they survived, they’ll fucking owe me big.”

    ——

    Cecilia tumbled through the air with a shriek, but her body suddenly came to a stop a few feet off a giant lake. It hovered there for a few seconds before dropping again, and she fell into the water and swam up, her body not even registering the cold. It took a few seconds for it to finally seep into her skin and down to her bones. Her skin felt like ice, completely numb to the touch. Every inch— every pore hurt so badly it was like her skin was getting stabbed by thousands of tiny needles. Every gasp of air was painful and burned her throat and lungs.

    She was shaking too much. Cecilia could barely control her hand when she released her Deino and Fletchinder. Slowpoke had been out of his Pokeball to break her fall with Confusion just in time. The water type lazily swam up to her and out of the underground lake.

    “F—F—Fletchinder, I—I need you— you to warm me up. Deino t—too,” Cece stammered, her teeth chattering so loudly it echoed through the cave. She stared guiltily at Fletchinder, who was still angry at her for coming to such a place and endangering herself.

    Deino grunted and blew a small, continuous Incinerate next to her while Fletchinder’s body burst into flames with Flame Charge. Cecilia quickly took off her clothes and began drying herself as fast as she could. She had messed up, and messed up badly. Grace, Denzel, and that other boy had fallen down here, and it was all her fault. All her fault.

    Now they might be dead while she still lived.

    They can’t be dead. They can’t. No, no, no, no, it couldn’t be—

    Suddenly, she heard a cough coming from the lake. Cecilia hurried to grab her flashlight and pointed it toward the body of water. There were some crystals lighting up a further section of the cave far up ahead, but it was still somewhat dark here. She saw a human figure struggling to swim— no, it would be more accurate to say that they were flailing underwater.

    “Hold on, I’ve got you!” Cecilia said before remembering that she ought not to yell. “Slowpoke, go help them!”

    The psychic type let out a complaining yawn, but he sank into the lake, approached the drowning figure, and used Confusion to lift Denzel out of the water. The teenager was just as cold as Cecilia had been, and he was hacking liquid out of his lungs. Cece hit his back, trying her best to help, and after around thirty seconds, he seemed to be fine.

    “Fucking hell,” he breathed out. “Tha— thank you for saving me—”

    “Take off your clothes! You need to dry and warm yourself, or you’ll die!” Cecilia yelled.

    Denzel let out a hiss of pain as he moved his arms to take off his wet coat. “I’m so happy you’re alive. We must have fallen from one hundred feet into the water,” he stammered as Cece wrapped his towel around him and had her Pokemon dry him. “I managed to recall Eevee while I was swimming, but I underestimated how heavy everything got when it was wet. I got tired… and I couldn’t go on—” Another wince. “Fuck! I feel like I’ve just run straight into concrete. The adrenaline’s leaving me, I might have a few broken bones somewhere,” he continued before his eyes widened. “Wait. Have you seen Grace anywhere?”

    Cecilia’s heart began to race with anxiety, and she had to steel herself not to cry.

    “No…” she said with a slight sob. “I don’t know where she is.”

    Denzel began to breathe quickly. “She… she had Frillish and Togetic still out. Togetic could have stopped her fall with Extrasensory, and Frillish could have helped her out of the water. She’s… she’s fine. We’ll find her.”

    “We will,” Cece whispered.

    Her words were doing very little to convince even herself. Grace might be dead, and it was all her fault. She would never forgive herself.

    “We have to get going. The quicker we group up, the more chances Grace has of being unhurt. We might come across Chase too, and he might be able to help us find her,” Denzel said in a determined tone before standing up. “My legs seem fine… my ribs and my arms hurt like hell. I can manage.”

    He grabbed Eevee’s Pokeball and released him. The normal type let out a cry of relief when he saw his trainer was still unharmed.

    “I’m sorry for worrying you,” Denzel said, wincing as he petted Eevee. “Grace is missing.”

    Eevee immediately grimaced, his face full of worry.

    “My flashlight’s gone,” he continued. “Dropped in the water when I was panicking. Cecilia still has hers, but our visibility is terrible. We’re going to need your hearing to guide us.”

    “Vee!”

    “Right on,” Denzel said. “I reckon we should head toward the part with all the crystals?” he asked.

    “My flashlight won’t have batteries forever, so I think that would be best,” Cecilia nodded before recalling Fletchinder. There were too many rock types lurking in the shadows to risk her. Deino and Slowpoke would suffice for now, even though the water type despised walking, and his sensing powers seemed to be affected by the cave. “Plus, Grace would probably head toward there too. It’s the only place with lights. Are you dry?”

    “Dry enough,” he quickly replied as he put on fresh new clothes. “Thank Arceus, our bags are water-proof. Let’s go.”

    Cecilia could only help but hope they would find Grace and escape.

    But even if she made it back to civilization, she would be doomed, and the others would potentially be too.

    To think that her father would go that far. To make her worst fear a reality.

    Cece shuddered, and it wasn’t because of the cold.

    ——

    I passed through a strange patch of air and then fell onto the cold, hard, rocks. My fall hadn’t been fast enough to injure, but it still fucking hurt. I groaned and clutched at my shoulder, but soon enough, it wasn’t my shoulder that was hurting the most. It was my head. It was pounding, giving me an agonizing headache. I let out a few coughs as I carefully stood up.

    At least I could still do that.

    I had apparently dropped my flashlight during the fall, but that was the least of my worries. I was sweating buckets. My body felt hot and cold at the same time, and my vision was swimming. Frillish flew toward me and placed both of his tentacles on my shoulders, asking if I was alright. Togetic was right behind him, and she rubbed her head on my hand. My extremities felt numb. It was cold— at least negative ten degrees celsius.

    “I’m— ah, holy fuck, my head. I’m not okay, but I’ll be fine,” I said, my face contorting in agony. I looked up and saw that the cave was dimly-lit thanks to some kind of shining rocks on its ceiling, so at least I had that going for me.

    Then it sunk in. We had fallen down a chasm opened up by that Tyranitar.

    I was alone, and Denzel and Cecilia might be dead.

    And the others who hadn’t fallen probably thought me to be dead. They’d probably inform the rangers and call my dad and mom about it today.

    All of them would be heartbroken.

    My fingers trembled as I released Elekid and Tangela for the first time and brought them up to speed on what had happened as fast as I could. Elekid worryingly tapped my leg, and Tangela rubbed one of his vines on my cheek.

    “First things first,” I said, groaning the last word out. “Frillish, can you go with your sister— with Togetic to check if the fissure up there’s closed up? Or if it’s even still there? Come back immediately if there’s any danger.”

    They both began to protest, letting me know that they weren’t going anywhere without me.


    “Fine,” I sighed. “It was probably a pipe dream anyway.”

    I moved my body around to check if I had anywhere I couldn’t move properly or put weight on, but my only problem was my sickness. It was getting worse.

    “We need to find the others,” I said. I wasn’t even going to entertain the idea that they were gone. It would only serve to slow me down. I was already struggling to get my mind to work. Worrying would only worsen the situation. They were strong. They survived.

    They survived.

    “Tangela, your electric attacks won’t be that useful—” I started before cutting myself off. “I meant Elekid. Sorry, hon.”

    I was so fucking out of it.

    “Stick close. You’re only here to use Ice Punch and keep the wild Pokemon off of me,” I continued. He crossed his arms and gave me a fierce nod. “That’s my boy,” I smiled. “Frillish and Tangela, you’re my heavy hitters. Angel, you see anything get too close, you restrain with as many vines as possible. Buddy, you’re using Water Pulse and Bubblebeam— I’ll leave you to pick which one works best depending on the situation.”

    Tangela blinked twice and caressed my ankle, and Frillish just nodded. It pained me to see him so worried.

    “We’ll make it out of here,” I told him softly. “I promise. Princess, your job is to Sweet Kiss anything as soon as angel locks them down. Remember to stay low. A lot of Pokemon have Smack Down in here. If the Pokemon is too strong like Rhydon was, we’re going to be running anyway. If we’re running, you’re going to use Ancient Power behind us to slow the threat down. Angel, I want you to let spores out while you run like Denzel’s Budew did. Maybe Leech Seed, too, although we haven’t practiced that move much yet, so I don’t even know if you know how to aim it. Did everybody get all of that?”

    They all nodded and were ready.

    “Good. First objective, find Cece and Denzel. Then Chase. Then, we figure out how to get out of here somehow,” I said as I began to walk.

    I was about to leave, but I heard a cry behind a rock. I thought it was my feverish brain playing tricks on me again, but there was another cry. It was full of pain and anguish— not like the aggressive ones I had heard so far from everything in this Arceus damned cave.

    “Angel,” I said, pointing at the rock. “Grab whatever’s behind that with a vine and pull it toward us. Keep it far, just in case, I just want to get a look at it.”

    Tangela nodded and sent out two vines forward that snaked around the boulder. The Pokemon let out a raspy yelp in surprise, and it took me a few seconds to realize that I was staring at the same Larvitar that had been up there. It was hurt— albeit not too badly— its armor had protected it from the worst of the fall. I realized then that it hadn’t cried because it was in pain. It had been crying because it had just lost its parent.

    Although right now, it was letting out enraged screams, trying to get out of Tangela’s hold or potentially scare us. I thought it was going to make a move, but it was just thrashing around. It was just a baby, it probably didn’t know that many moves or how to use them properly.

    I didn’t want to waste time, but it was a Pokemon in need that had just lost its parent… I thought I had lost my soft spot for non-aggressive wild Pokemon, but I felt compelled to help it out. It was way too weak to be here, just like we were. It would get killed and eaten by something without help. I clutched at my head as I opened my Pokedex. The bright light was making my headache worse.

    “You fell down here with us, huh?” I said sadly.

    Larvitar, the rock skin Pokemon. Larvitar is born deep under the ground. To come up to the surface, this Pokemon must eat its way through the soil above. Until it does so, Larvitar cannot see its parent’s face.

    Type: Rock, Ground


    “That’s… so sad,” I sighed. The rock type kept squirming around, roaring at the mention of its parent. “Let him down, Tangela.”

    Angel gently dropped Larvitar on the ground and petted its head with more vines.

    “I’m not here to hurt you,” I said as softly as I could and crouched to appear less threatening. “I have two potions to use on you that’ll make you feel better, and I’d rather be able to carry you so we can go faster while you recover from your injuries.”

    “Tar!” It hissed.

    Frillish hovered in front of me, his eyes glinting, but I held him back and shook my head.

    “Leave it, bud. It just… lost its parent. It’s allowed to be angry.”

    The water type huffed and got back behind me.

    “Look,” I said. “Leave it or take it. I’m looking for my friends, and I can’t waste time trying to convince you to save yourself. As much as it would hurt me, I’d leave you here, and who knows what would happen to you?”

    Larvitar frowned angrily and hissed at me, but it was less angry than a few seconds ago.

    “I’m going to pick you up now, alright?” I said. I placed my hands under its stubby arms, and I was surprised to see how coarse its armored skin was, but more surprisingly, it was heavy— maybe 130 pounds, which was heavier than I was. I placed it against my chest. I probably would only be able to carry it for a few minutes. “See? Not that bad, is it?” I huffed.

    Finally, I began to walk forward, spraying Larvitar’s injuries with my few remaining potions at the same time. Cece and Denzel were alive, and they were in here, I was sure of it.

    I had to be, or I would never find the motivation to get out of Mount Coronet.
     
  11. veekie

    veekie Connoisseur.

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2017
    Messages:
    25,157
    Likes Received:
    118,030
    Oh yeah. Momma Godzilla will be incandescent...
     
    TricMagic and SailorOfMyVessel like this.
  12. Threadmarks: Chapter 78
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 78

    Tangela curiously wrapped a vine around one of the shining crystals that had fallen from the cave’s ceiling and onto the ground.

    “Angel, don’t touch that,” I said. “We don’t know what it’s made of, it could be bad for you.”

    The grass type retracted his vine and wriggled.

    “Sorry. I know this is all new and exciting for you, but I need you to stay sharp,” I said, squinting to alleviate the pain from my headache.

    Frillish held out a tentacle and stopped me. There was something ahead.

    “Tar!” Larvitar roared, which was more of a hiss. I had stopped carrying it, since it was so heavy, but it was thankfully still following us.

    Even with the crystal lighting up the cave, I was still struggling to see well, and that was in part because of my illness. Elekid stepped in front of me and started whirling his arms around, generating electricity atop of his head, while Tangela created a barrier of some sort with his vines.

    “What is it?” I asked.

    Another few seconds passed in silence, and then a flurry of attacks erupted from my team. Frillish launched an enormous Water Pulse in front of himself, followed by a quick Bubblebeam. Tangela started breaking up rocks with Vine Whip, grabbing the smaller chunks and throwing them forward while Togetic erected an Ancient Power wall in front of me just before I heard something crash onto it.

    The fight was over in just a few seconds. I carefully stepped forward an saw an unconscious Boldore splayed across the ground with some parts of itself blown off by my Pokemon’s attacks. I gulped.

    “Good job,” I said. “That went about as well as it could have.”

    “Kid!” Elekid said, his head downcast.

    “Don’t beat yourself up,” I said. “I’ve already said this isn’t the best area for you to be fighting in. You’re my bodyguard.”

    “Elekid…”

    “I—” I winced and stumbled, but Tangela quickly stopped me from falling with his vines. “Ah, shit, this is— this is getting worse.”

    The cave was too easy so far. Too quiet. Sure, this had been our fourth encounter with an aggressive wild Pokemon in around twenty minutes, but this place was deep into the mountain, and it had apparently been closed off for… who knew how many years. No human had stepped in here for decades, that was for sure.

    So where were the incredible threats? Where were the Pokemon like the Rhydon we had encountered or that Tyranitar or Rhyperior?

    Something felt off about this. I heard a slight, gurgly sound behind me and turned my head around, but Frillish had already sent another Water Pulse, knocking a just awaking Geodude out.

    Did Geodudes make that sound?

    “Let’s keep going,” I breathed out.

    I was tiring out quickly, and I didn’t exactly have a direction in mind. I was just walking in a straight path, hoping I’d come across someone eventually. Unlike the upper level of the mountain, down there, there were multiple branching paths, tight corridors, and different elevations. Case in point.

    “I don’t think I’m well enough to jump up there,” I said, nodding toward an elevated path.

    Togetic chirped, and I felt the air around my body shift. She slowly lifted Larvitar and me up, placing me as gently as she could onto the ground. Tangela wrapped a vine tightly around Elekid and lifted him up before pulling himself up as well. Frillish’s red eyes darted toward the left, and I thought he would launch another attack, but he just stared at a wall.

    “Is there something near?” I asked.

    “Fri…”

    “You’re not sure?”

    The water type nodded and motioned for me to stay vigilant. A part of me considered just screaming, hoping someone would hear me and head in my direction, but that was probably my fever talking. Arceus, I felt like absolute trash. Still, I had to keep going. If I stopped, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stand back up.

    Around ten minutes later, I walked back to the same area Togetic had just lifted me to. It was like… like that mansion in Eterna Forest, except it wasn’t a Pokemon-induced illusion this time, it was just the mountain fucking with me. I was sure I wasn’t hallucinating since my team seemed just as perplexed as I was.

    “I’ve had enough of this bullshit for a lifetime,” I sighed. “Let’s try again.”

    It took a few more tries for me to finally get through… where? Get through the area I was in without being transported back to where I had just been, I supposed, and the time it took me to get there each time was seemingly random. Larvitar hissed at nothing in particular. I noticed that its sadness had been converted into anger now. Or maybe it was just trying to appear tough, it was hard to tell. The rock type was small but incredibly heavy, and I had an inkling it was asking to be carried again.

    “Listen,” I told it. “You must weigh at least 130 pounds, I can’t keep carrying you.”

    “Tar!”

    “Don’t fight me on this. I know walking around must be tiring you out, but I’m sick, so I’m weaker than usual—”

    I saw something move in the corner of my vision. A shadow. My body tensed.

    “Did you see that, bud?” I said, pointing toward where I had seen movement. Frillish shook his head, probably saying that if he had, he would have done something. “Okay,” I said. “Must be that damn fever. Let’s keep going.”

    I wiped the sweat off of my forehead and began walking again, slower this time. Elekid strode up to Larvitar and patted it on the back, but the rock type let out a juvenile roar and pushed him away.

    “Shh!” I hissed. “Leave it alone for now, hon. It doesn’t want to be friends.”

    I paused and stared at Larvitar again.

    “It’s weird calling you ‘it’ all the time,” I said. “What are you? Are you a boy?”

    Larvitar stomped a foot against the ground, kicking up some dust.

    “A girl?”

    Larvitar nodded fiercely and hit her arms against her chest.

    “Alright. A baby girl. Sounds good,” I whispered, holding myself up using a wall. This conversation was as much a bonding exercise as it was an urgent distraction from my increasingly worse fever and the intrusive thoughts that kept telling me Cece and Denzel were dead. “You’re a tough one, aren’t you?”

    She gave me another nod, but flinched when angel rubbed her huge horn with one of his vines. Larvitar yelled, angling her head downward, and ran toward the grass type. I worried for a second before remembering that she was a newborn. Weak. Tangela pushed two vines forward, holding her in place as she desperately tried to run him through. Togetic let out a tiny giggle, and Elekid smirked, but everyone stopped when Frillish glared at them one by one.

    “Frillish is right,” I said. “We have to keep going. This isn’t the time to be playing, we’ll do all of that when we find the others and get out.”

    They all nodded, and we soldiered on. I beckoned Frillish, and he floated toward me.

    “Sorry,” I apologized. “I keep adding kids to the team. Must be annoying to be the only adult in the room, huh?”

    He stared at me and nodded.

    “It’d be good if the last member of the team was an oldie like you,” I laughed slightly. He shot me a suspicious look. “Right. I guess I haven’t told anyone I want to catch Larvitar… I guess my motivations are mostly me feeling bad for her. She’s a newborn, and she’s just lost her mother or father… I think that Tyranitar might be mortally injured. I doubt there was any coming back from her wounds.”

    Frillish nodded before shooting another look behind us. Everybody was still following, but Larvitar had picked up some soft dirt that she was munching on, and Tangela was staring at her curiously, studying her every movement and trying to touch her without her noticing.

    “I feel terrible for her. Losing a parent so young… must be crushing, and yet she’s been hiding the fact that she’s grieving ever since we found her hiding behind that rock,” I coughed, and he shot me a worried look. “Don’t worry, I’m a tough girl,” I dryly said. “But at the same time, she’s a Larvitar, you know? They’re… incredibly rare, and they evolve to be incredibly powerful. I’d be lying if I wasn’t thinking about having her as a potential battler when she grew up a little and if she evolved.”

    “Fri…” Frillish warned me.

    “Obviously, I won’t force her to come with me,” I answered. “I’ve learned to be better than that after catching you. But it won’t hurt to ask. I’ll at least get her out of Mount Coronet. Newborn Larvitar are usually protected by one of their parents, they can’t fend off threats on their own for weeks after being born.”

    “Lish,” he sighed.

    “I know, I know, another baby to take care of,” I said. “I promise I’ll try to make the last one older,” I smiled. “You can bond over how grumpy and old you are.”

    He huffed, making me grin.

    “Might be selfish to be thinking about the future like this in this horrible situation, but I have to look forward. If I don’t… if I let myself think that I have no future outside of here, I won’t find it in me to continue—” Frillish’s head darted toward another crease of the cave. This time we had both seen movement. I gestured at the team to stop. “There’s something there,” I warned. “It’s been following us the entire time. Stalking us.”

    I took a few steps back, and my Pokemon stepped forward. Tangela held Larvitar back with his vines, much to her dismay. She wanted to fight, but she couldn’t. I took a few heavy breaths as the silence weighed onto me. Larvitar stepped behind me and calmed down.

    “Honey,” I said, feeling my neck hair stand on end and my headache start to pound again. “Use Thundershock to light up the area.”

    Elekid spun his arms and shot an arc of electricity in front of us.

    A purple Pokemon with a shiny gem embedded in its torso and a huge, toothy grin stared back at us.

    Frillish shot out a stream of bubbles, Togetic a quick Fairy Wind, and Tangela’s vines surged forward, but the Sableye sunk into the shadows like it was water and giggled— no, calling it a giggle wasn’t accurate. It was a low, gurgle-like sound that instilled physical discomfort into me.

    Sableye appeared behind me, but Tangela quickly pulled me with a vine, and I narrowly avoided a Shadow Claw.

    “It moves through shadows!” I yelled.

    That was horrible news. I gulped as the dark type’s grin grew wider, and it sunk into the ground again with a terrible laugh. If it moved through shadows, that meant that any barrier of protection would be ineffective. That meant my Pokemon would have to protect me by using reflexes instead of the planning we had come up with.

    “Keep a vine wrapped around me, angel,” I said, feeling his hold tighten. “Elekid, keep your arms spinning. Create light around us so it can’t get to me.”

    Elekid nodded and once again, created electricity above his head, creating a ‘safe spot’ that I could at least stand in without being clawed in the back. I heard Sableye’s evil laugh reverberate all around me, and the dark type finally emerged again, this time below Frillish. It jumped at him and held on tightly, clawing across his face.

    “No!” I yelled. “Tangela, get him off!”

    Tangela sent five vines forward, grabbing the ghost type and slamming him against the wall, and Togetic wasted no time, hitting it with her Fairy Wind. Sableye hissed and sunk into the darkness again. I rushed toward Frillish, who had three large gashes on his face. He was a ghost type, so the damage would heal over time, and it wasn’t bleeding, but it was still disconcerting to see.

    “Next time that fucker comes out, hit it with Thundershock,” I hissed. Elekid nodded, but the Sableye wasn’t coming out anymore. And yet I knew it was still there. It let me know, by laughing terribly all around me, taunting me.

    And I couldn’t do anything about it.

    I touched Frillish’s face, and the water type simply nodded as if to say he was fine. We still weren’t good enough with Acid Armor to switch up his state on a whim, so dodging a Pokemon as fast as Sableye was impossible.

    “Everyone else okay—”

    A large, shadowy ball shot out of a wall, but Togetic quickly raised a barrier using Ancient Power. The rock was destroyed, but she protected me from the sharp debris with Extrasensory. I let out a few quick breaths, expecting another flurry of attacks to come, but nothing happened.

    “Arceus…” I sighed in relief. “Stay sharp, it’s going to attack again—”

    Sableye grinned as he dropped from above me. Frillish immediately hit it with Water Pulse, creating an explosion that got water all over me. I expected to see the Pokemon crawl back into the shadows, but there was nothing. It had just been a Night Shade. Sableye clawed from the edge of Elekid’s light and jumped at me again, but Tangela finally managed to grab it with a vine. He wrapped another ten around the dark type, and began to drain its energy. Sableye groaned and tried clawing away at the vines, but it was too late. He finally went limp, and Tangela let him go.

    “Good job, Angel,” I coughed. “You’re—”

    Sableye sunk into the ground again. It had faked being unconscious to escape, but at least it seemed like it wasn’t going to attack again. It knew it was outclassed now. Still, I ordered Elekid to keep his light going, just in case the dark type got any ideas. I couldn’t be sure it had truly given up. Too bad Elekid could only sense ghosts, not ghost types. We waited for ten minutes, making sure that Sableye was gone before finally deciding to leave.

    I tried walking again, but my knees buckled, and I collapsed on the ground. My body felt so heavy.

    “Fuck,” I groaned. “It looks like I’m—” I coughed. “Tapped out.”

    My team coalesced around me and clamored with worry, and Larvitar stood to the side, watching with a careful eye.

    “I think I’m gonna pass out,” I said. “Frillish, take care of Larvitar and your siblings. You guys listen to him, he’s the leader when I’m not there—”

    I heard another sound. Not Sableye, but steps this time. Chase Karlson stepped from behind a boulder, accompanied by his Riolu and Houndour, and he looked to be in terrible shape.

    He clicked his tongue. “Of course, it’s you,” he sighed. “Thought I heard the sound of fighting,” I heard him say before I fell unconscious.
     
  13. Threadmarks: Chapter 79
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 79

    “Of course, it’s you. I thought I heard the sound of fighting,” Chase said, looking at Pastel splayed out on the ground. She stared at him one last time before going limp, and he sighed. “Just my luck. The one I find can’t help.”

    Her Pokemon were all over the place too. Her Togetic was crying and desperately shaking Pastel’s shoulder to wake her up while Elekid clamored in her ear, hoping to do the same. Plus, it was spinning its arm around, generating constant electricity for some reason. Chase wasn’t worried about those two, though.

    The girl’s Tangela whipped the ground in a threatening manner while Frillish just stared right into his soul. Chase wasn’t the type to get easily scared, but the fact that the water type’s face was torn open wasn’t helping. And then there was also a Larvitar standing to the side, hissing and roaring at him. That was a new one. Houndour started to growl, but Chase clicked his tongue.

    “Chill out,” he said to his Pokemon and Pastel’s. “We aren’t fighting. Your trainer was sick when we were up there, and she looks unscathed from the fall, so I’m going to assume her sickness got worse?”

    Frillish nodded, but kept glaring.

    “Alright then,” Chase said, before frowning. Houndour was still growling, making him suspicious. “Is there something there? Your face got pretty torn up. The thing that attacked you did this? Did you take it down?”

    “Fri…”

    “Yeah, I don’t know what the fuck that means. Nod or shake your head,” Chase said. The Pokemon’s glare somehow worsened, but he shook his head. “Got it. The cave is fucking with Riolu’s aura, so he can’t sense living beings, but Houndour seems to know where it is, for some reason. I thought it fucked with your sense of smell?”

    The dark type just kept growling.

    “Ah, whatever, just go get it,” Chase sighed. “Ri, help him out.”

    With a burst of speed, Houndour jumped forward, making Grace’s team flinch. The fire type spat out a stream of flames toward a darkened wall. The cave lit up, but a circular spot in the wall stayed dark until a Sableye crawled out of the shadow, screaming in agony from the burns. Riolu summoned one of his bones, rushed toward the ghost type, and slammed it in the head repeatedly until it stopped moving and knocked it away.

    “Ah, it was a Sableye. Good. Looks like you can still use your affinity with the dark.” Chase said before looking at Grace. He started approaching her, causing Tangela to strike the ground next to him so hard that it tore it open. “Tell your pal to stop acting like a moron unless he wants his trainer to die.”

    Frillish touched Tangela with one of his tentacles, his intense stare softening for a split second. The grass type wriggled around and wrapped one of his vines around the water type before blinking twice.

    “So… yeah?” The trainer said tentatively. Frillish nodded. “Finally. Houndour, stay next to her. She’s a little wet, so dry her up and keep guard.”

    Chase took a step, and when he saw that there was no reaction, he finally made his way to Grace and crouched next to her. Togetic stared at him with Lilipup eyes as if she was begging him to save her, while Elekid just stared intently, observing his every move. He rolled her body and laid her on her side to unstrap her backpack. His arm hurt while doing all of this, but he just pushed through the pain like it was nothing in order not to appear weak.

    “Alright… towel… that’s useful. Food, battery… Tepig plushie? Why even— you know what, whatever. Ah, there you go,” the trainer exclaimed. “Sleeping bag.”

    Chase unfurled the sleeping bag and laid Grace on top of it so that she wouldn’t have to lay on the cold, hard, ground. Then, he grabbed a towel and wiped the sweat off her face, and then got a fresh one that he doused with fresh water to place on her forehead.

    Been a while since I did this, Chase thought.

    “Good thing about it being so damn cold in here is that it’ll help with the fever, I think,” he said. “But you don’t seem to have any medicine in here. She needs to drink a lot of water, but she can’t exactly do that when she’s unconscious,” Chase sighed. “Her breathing seems fine… doesn’t seem like pneumonia or anything fatal with her lungs. I guess the only thing I can do is stick around and swap her towel once in a while. I’m no doctor.”

    But I did help out whenever my dad got sick from working in the mines too much, he thought again.

    “Could never bother learning any of that, even though they give classes for first time trainers. Never thought I’d need it,” he lied.

    Silence filled the air for a few seconds before he stared at Frillish. “You seem to be the leader. I’m releasing my Zangoose so that we have more manpower in case some wild Pokemon shows up.”

    He hadn’t been asking. Chase didn’t ask people, but he still felt the need to warn the water type. Zangoose’s hair stood up, and she immediately got up on two feet, thinking there was a fight.

    “Chill out. They’re our allies,” Chase said. “After I recalled you, I fell down a huge chasm, and now we’re stuck in the depths of Arceus damned Mount Coronet.”

    Zangoose relaxed, but kept a weary stare at Frillish, who did the same to her. His eyes settled on Larvitar. A small part of him wanted to catch it, but Pastel might have had her eyes on it, since it was traveling with her. Chase was no thief. Trainer etiquette had always been first come first serve.

    Plus, raising a baby Pokemon sounded like a pain in the ass.

    “You fell down here too, huh? Grace catch you yet?” Chase asked, looking at Larvitar. The rock type had now stepped closer and was standing behind Tangela and Elekid, still letting out threatening cries. “Couldn’t you tell your parent to not fucking open up a giant hole in the earth?”

    Larvitar’s air of fearlessness disappeared, and the Pokemon started to cry. Togetic immediately got on the ground and hugged the rock type. Elekid awkwardly did the same, and Tangela rubbed a vine on its head. Riolu jumped and hit Chase’s head— not hard enough to injure but hard enough to hurt, and he sucked in air through his teeth before realizing how insensitive he had just been. That Tyranitar… that Tyranitar was its parent, and it probably hadn’t made it.

    Larvitar had just lost its parent. Now wasn’t the time to air grievances.

    “Fuck. Sorry.”

    The apology came out of his mouth before he even realized it, surprising even himself. Still, Pastel’s Pokemon ignored him and kept comforting the Larvitar.

    Chase brought his cap down to his eyes. “Guess there ain’t anything else left to be said.”

    ——

    I woke up in the middle of a battle.

    My forehead felt wet, and I brought a hand to it, grabbing the towel off of me. Had my Pokemon… oh. It took me a few seconds to even remember that Chase had found me just when I was passing out.

    A fiery explosion rocked me to my core and made my head pound.

    “Fucking ram that bone down its eye, Ri! Houndour, Incinerate! Zangoose, keep it off the Larvitar!”

    What was happening? I tried moving, but every muscle in my body ached. My heart sank when I saw Tangela fly above me and into a wall, and Frillish sent a Water Pulse toward whatever they were fighting. I tried moving my head, but it hurt too much.

    And the noise hurt more. If I could have clenched at my head right now, I would have. There was a booming roar reminiscent of the Rhydon.

    “Get its other eye!”

    A series of stars flew above me and toward the wild Pokemon, and I saw pink mist gather out of the corner of my eye— Elekid’s Swift and Togetic’s Fairy Wind. There was another yell, and the ground shook.

    “Serves you right, motherfucker!” Chase spat. “Holy fucking shit, that was close.”

    “What’s going on?” I asked weakly. “Ah—”

    My Pokemon let out a collective gasp and grouped up around me to celebrate my return to consciousness.

    “Okay, you guys are hurting me,” I said with a small laugh. “Is everyone alright?”

    “Good to see you’re up,” I heard Chase say. “This cave is hell. The Pokemon here are fucking awful. It started with just Gravelers and Ryhorns, and now we just had to fight off a fucking Nidoqueen. Riolu blinded the motherfucker.”

    “A Nidoqueen?” I said weakly. “Must be a Moon Stone somewhere down here.”

    I saw that Tangela had a large portion of his vines missing, giving him a lot less mass than usual, but they’d regrow within a few hours. The rest of the team seemed unscathed, apart from Frillish’s claw mark on his face. Chase’s Pokemon, on the other hand, had looked better. Zangoose’s blood was mixing with the red patches on its fur, and its claws were almost completely gone. The skull-like bone structure on top of Houndour’s face was caved in and cracked, and Riolu seemed to have taken a bath in poison.

    “Tried to see if you had any potions, but apparently, you gave all of ‘em to Pauline before we fell, and I don’t have any,” Chase said. “Saw you had an Antidote though, so I’ll use it on Riolu. He got hit by a Sludge Wave.”

    “Uh, yeah, sure,” I said. “Thanks for helping out. I don’t think my team would have stood up to a Nidoqueen alone.”

    “It wouldn’t have,” Chase said as he searched the inside of my bag. “Oh, here, some water.”

    Now that he said it, my throat felt incredibly dry. “I… I can’t move. Or barely. It’s like I just had the most intense workout of my life, and now I’m all stiff.”

    Chase sighed. “Hold on.” He grabbed an Antidote and sprayed Riolu’s entire body down with it. The fighting type nodded to thank him and then hurriedly pushed him toward me. “I got it! Arceus.”

    Chase opened the bottle and placed it in my mouth, carefully tilting it to not overwhelm me. I downed the entire contents down in one go, and sighed in relief.

    “One more, please?”

    “Don’t say please, it’s your fucking water,” Chase snapped out of nowhere, surprising me. “You have enough water and food in here for days anyway— weeks if we find your pal Williams on our way out and we ration it.”

    Suddenly, my eyes bulged. “That’s right! Did you find any of them?!” I asked, feeling hope. Now that I saw that Chase had made it, the odds were that Cece and Denzel had too.

    “I just implied that I didn’t,” he sighed as he made me drink another bottle. I drank half of it and motioned for him to stop.

    “Sorry,” I said. “I guess I just got excited—” I winced. “Fucking headache.”

    “You feeling better or worse?” The boy asked.

    “Well, the headache is the same,” I said after the pain subsided slightly. “But like I said, I can’t move, so I’m guessing it’s worse.”

    “Sounds like we’re going to have to stay here for a few days until you get better,” Chase sighed. “Plus, this position is good and defensible. We’re against a wall, we can’t get sneaked up on.”

    “But the others—”

    “I’m not leaving to look for them, and you sure as hell aren’t either,” Chase said. “Now that I know Pokemon like Nidoqueen are out and about, I’m not going to throw my life away looking for a needle in a haystack. We met by pure luck, and we should use that to our advantage. Combine our forces and get out somehow. If we meet them on the way, fantastic. If we don’t, well, too bad. They’re… good trainers, so they’ll figure it out.”

    “They’re my friends,” I said. “What if they’re both alone out there, facing Pokemon like Nidoqueen? I need to make sure they’re safe.”

    The trainer clicked his tongue. “You won’t change my mind, but feel free to dip when you’re back to normal.”

    “Then I guess I’ll do that then!” I spat.

    “Be my guest.”

    I glared at him and huffed.

    “Larvitar,” I said before hearing her approach. “This might not be the best moment for me to tell you this since I don’t have the strength to even grab an empty Pokeball, but I think you should come with me.”

    “Tar…”

    “Frillish, please translate,” I said.

    “Frillish. Lish.” The water type said, waving his tentacles and bobbing his head.

    “You’re not sure, huh?” I sighed. “You want to try finding your parent? Well… Feel free to think about it. I won’t force you either way. Just know that we can become your family if you want to.”

    I didn’t have the strength to tell her that her parent was dead.

    “What the fuck?” Chase asked in disbelief. “You understood that?”

    “Obviously I did, he’s been my Pokemon for months,” I rolled my eyes. “Say…” I started hesitantly. “When we were running up there, you froze up. Why?”

    “What’s your deal? Want me to just ask you personal questions out of the blue too?”

    “I mean, I just know that you’re not the type to freeze up when scared. You know that expression, fight, flight or freeze? You seem like a fighter to me, so I was wondering if I got it wrong.”

    “Why does it matter to you what I am? Not like we’re sticking together anyway, so you don’t need to know about how I operate.”

    “Would it kill you to be just slightly less of an asshole?” I hissed.

    “Would it kill you to leave me the fuck alone?”

    “Whatever, man,” I said. I wanted to say much more. To tell him to enjoy being a loner for the rest of his life. To fight him. But he was the one nursing me back to health. It wouldn’t be fair to him after having helped me and my team stay alive. “It’d be better if we didn’t talk, I think.”

    “Uhuh.”

    Chase Karlson was like the worst aspects of Pauline and Louis combined. He snapped at the most minor infractions and clapped back tenfold, but he also had an enormous ego to boot. At least with the other two, I had gained their respect. We had found common ground and become good friends, but him? I doubted that I’d ever get along with Chase, even though I did consider him a rival of some sort. Less than Denzel and Cecilia were to me, but I had to acknowledge his skill as a trainer. He had gotten two badges and survived Mount Coronet.

    I just wished I didn’t have to spend all of this time with him. If it had been Denzel and Cece instead of him here… no. I shook my head. These thoughts would only serve to deepen the metaphorical rift between us, and I had to do everything in my power to keep it closed. If we didn’t have any teamwork, there was no way we’d survive down here, especially without any potions.

    And things worse than that Nidoqueen were coming. I was sure of it.
     
  14. Threadmarks: Chapter 80
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 80

    Stand still, stay silent.

    Denzel swallowed and kept completely still. He blinked to get the cold sweat out of his eye and stared at Cecilia, who had turned off her flashlight. Eevee was flat against the ground with his ears twitching, ready to signal them at the slightest sound, and Budew was silently using Growth. Slowpoke simply stood by quietly, and so did Deino, although doing so was pissing him off. Luckily Cecilia seemed to hold the dragon on a tight leash these days, so he had no quarrels with listening to her orders.

    Denzel clenched and unclenched his fist before slowly peeking beyond the boulder they were hiding behind and toward the lake. His heart jumped in his throat, and his stomach dropped again. A Gyarados was savagely tearing a Seaking apart and eating its remains. It was the fourth water type the monster had killed, and they were forced to stay here, hiding until the Gyarados finally decided it had had its fill.

    There was no way they could ever stand up to a Gyarados. Denzel had studied up on Craig Goodwill’s team too much to even think they stood a chance at their current level. None of their attacks would get past its hardened scales or even tickle it. It had used an immensely powerful jet of water— probably a Hydro Pump— to cut the Seaking in half. That amount of water pressure was unsurmountable. Yet they could not run away from the underground lake’s shores either. There wasn’t enough space for that, and even if there was, Gyarados would notice them without a doubt.

    Then there was also the fact that it could also hover and fly in the air. Not well, but it could.

    And so they hid, desperately clinging onto this rock for survival. Denzel winced as another wave of pain coursed through his body from the right side of his ribs, but he bit his lip to not make a sound. This cave was by far the worst thing Denzel had ever experienced. It served as yet another reminder that even though Pokemon could be befriended, they could also be powerful enough to cause untold amounts of damage. Luckily rangers usually nipped anything that strong in the bud, but this was an unexplored slice of Mount Coronet that humanity probably had never set foot in, and the Pokemon here were ruthless because of it.

    Hopefully Grace is fine, he thought. No, she is fine.

    Another two minutes, and Denzel could no longer hear the Gyarados crushing Seaking’s bones with its powerful jaw. He looked again, and it seemed to be gone, but he gestured at Cecilia to stay where she was. They’d need to wait at least another ten minutes to make sure it wasn’t bringing back another one of its kills to the surface to eat. Once he made sure that wasn’t the case, he finally carefully stood up, making sure not to make any sudden movements to avoid hurting himself. There was nothing left in the water. Gyarados had eaten all of it, bones and all. They silently stepped as far away from the blood-stained water as they could, and Denzel could finally breathe again when they had gotten far enough away.

    “Close one,” he said, trying to keep the mood up. He was fucking terrified. He wanted to curl up into a ball and cry for help. But there was no help, and Cecilia was in a terrible mental state. He stared back at her, and she didn’t seem worried one bit. He smiled thinly. “I never thought I’d have to face these kinds of threats so early in my career, but I guess it’s better if I get ‘em out of the way now.”

    “Are you alright?” Cecilia asked.

    Not at all, he thought. “I’ll deal. But let’s… let’s try to get back to what we were talking about. There’s still a long way to that lit-up part of the cave,” he said, pointing forward.

    “If you want.”

    Her answers were quick and devoid of any kind of tone. Lifeless. Denzel restrained himself from sighing. Grace was better at this stuff than he was.

    “Um. You said that your death would stop us from ‘immense suffering,’” Denzel started hesitantly. “I won’t press you to ask what that suffering is, since you won’t answer me, and you seemingly think that nothing can be done to help. But what about us? What about… your Pokemon? Did you even ask them about coming here?”

    Denzel clenched his fist. Was that tone too aggressive? Too accusatory? Should he rephrase? Apologize?

    Cecilia shook her head and looked away. “The only one I told about this was Deino, at the foot of the mountain. Slowpoke didn’t know about it, even though he put you to sleep, and Fletchinder would never have approved. Scyther might have,” she smiled. “To get me killed.”

    “Hm.”

    Hm? Was that the only response I could come up with? I’m such a fucking dumbass, he screamed internally.

    “Sorry,” Denzel apologized right away. “Didn’t know what to answer to that, which might be stupid because I asked the question.”

    “No need. You apologize too much. No need to talk to me like you’re walking around eggshells.”

    But how could he not? Denzel feared that any wrong sentence could cause her to just lose her will to live again—

    “I’m committed to getting out of this cave,” Cecilia said. “You’ve been trapped here because of me, so I have to help. I have to save Grace.”

    “And then? What happens if— when we get out?”

    “I don’t know.”

    “Cecilia…” Denzel started.

    “Yes?”

    “Nevermind. Just know that no matter what it is you’re facing, we will help you. We’ll come out of Mount Coronet stronger than we ever were. Whatever they throw at us—”

    “It’s not something you can face. You can’t just throw a Hyper Beam at it and call it a day,” Cecilia said, raising her tone slightly. “Let’s not even talk about it. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t. I don’t.”

    “Okay! I’m— I’m sorry,” Denzel grimaced. Suddenly, Eevee’s ears twitched, and they all stopped. A Dreadnaw was staring at them, seemingly considering if it could take them or not. Deino let out a low growl, and his mouth started to glow blue with draconic energy. The water type yelled and walked into the water, letting them through.

    “That went about as good as it could have,” he sighed. “I didn’t even know those lived in Sinnoh.”

    One of the teenager’s favorite things was information gathering about a route or area, its conditions, and its wildlife, but nothing could have prepared him for what he’d be facing here. If he had to guess, however, dealing with a Dreadnaw would be similar to how Eevee had dealt with Gardenia’s Grotle. He committed the idea to memory in case they needed it later. Always Double Kick in the belly, not anywhere else.

    “Let’s keep going. Any second spent idling is a second Grace could be desperately needing our help.”

    Denzel nodded to agree, and they kept going. He was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to lie down and take a break, but he had to push through. Soon enough, his legs would become numb, and the pain would fade, becoming a dull ache instead.

    “Cecilia,” Denzel said again. He was probably annoying her now, but he had to try. “In your letter, you said we hadn’t spent as much time together as you would have liked. When we get out of here, I want to remedy that. You also said you want to spend more time with Grace, right? She’d be incredibly happy if you could.”

    Cecilia stared at the lake in silence. Was he too insensitive? Could it be considered guilt-tripping? Had he stepped on a shell again? Better apologize to make sure—

    “I want to spend more time with her too,” she said, covering her eyes with her hands. “With everyone. I want to continue on our journey together. I want us to realize our dreams.”

    Cecilia was sobbing now. Denzel exhaled and tapped her shoulder.

    “So you want to do all of these things,” he said. At least he had confirmed that. She could still be brought back. “Look, I know you told me not to talk about it, and that you wouldn’t tell anyone, but I have to ask, and I’m sorry,” he paused. “If it puts us in danger, I’m willing to take the hit. I won’t tell anyone else, not even Grace. I promise you. Talking about it— getting the weight off your shoulders will help. I won’t say it’ll make everything right, but it’ll help.”

    “I… I’ll… think about it.”

    That was progress, at least. Denzel smiled at her and nodded. They went through a few battles, defeating a Lairon, two Ryhorn, and a Graveler. They had been tough, but nothing compared to the Gyarados they had seen earlier. Eevee had mastered Double Kick so well that he made quick work of any rock or steel types, and he was supported by the others. Still, the problem was that they had no potions, so every hit their Pokemon took would weaken them until they rested.

    Which they probably should be doing, but Grace was alone out there. They’d rest as soon as they found her.

    “Hey, just spitballing and trying to lighten the mood a little,” Denzel started. “Tell me if you want me to shut up, okay?”

    “Alright.”

    “How was your afternoon with Grace? Before everything went to shit, I mean.”

    The corner of Cecilia’s mouth rose, which was a good sign.

    “It was wonderful,” Cece said. “I bought her clothes. She was so shy about it, too. It was very endearing. Then we went to eat at her favorite fast food restaurant… I forgot the name—”

    “Arlyle’s? Yeah, she loves that place,” Denzel said. “Took me there all the time when we were in Jubilife— both times!”

    “I never thought I’d enjoy fast food out of all places, but it was amazing! Then we went bowling, which was another riveting experience. The games were… close, but she eventually won. And then she… um…”

    “Ah. Got to the hotel?”

    “No. She revealed something to me that helped me find out something about myself, too,” Cecilia said.

    “Told you to keep it a secret?”

    “Well, I’m not sure if she told you, so I’d rather not say.”

    Denzel was pretty sure she either meant that Grace told her she was gay or she confessed. He was pretty good at reading between the lines, but on the off chance that he was wrong, he opted not to say anything else.

    “To be honest, a part of myself was relieved when I heard her say it, but I was… confused as well,” Cece said. “I never thought I could… I could… it’s hard to explain.”

    Hey, you’re revealing way too much, Denzel smiled. It’s so obvious now, you’re not even hiding anything.

    “Were you happy?” Denzel asked.

    “I wasn’t at the time… it came as such a shock, but now… now that I had time to reflect, I feel incredibly happy about it. I just wish I had more time.”

    “You’ll get it,” Denzel said. “I’ll make sure of it.”

    She didn’t answer.

    The trainer sighed. Another dead conversation, but maybe staying silent was the better idea. The attacks were growing more frequent after all, albeit the Pokemon were seemingly getting weaker. At least he could rest easy now that his job as a wingman was almost over. When they got back to civilization, all it’d take was a slight push from him, and they’d probably start dating. Arceus knew that Cecilia needed someone to love— not love as friends, but love deeply. She had no family for that. Hopefully, Grace would help her stay afloat.

    Then again, emotional dependency wasn’t great, but it sure as hell beat being suicidal. One step at a time—

    A red eye stared at them from above. Denzel felt every hair on his body stand on edge, and he felt fear.

    It was primal. It was a fear that was all-consuming, filling his every thought and telling him to run. The eye made him feel vulnerable and exposed, as if it wasn’t staring at him, but through him. Like it could understand and know everything about him in the mere seconds they had just crossed paths, and he was just a mere insect. Denzel’s breaths grew short and shallow, his lungs pushing across his broken ribs. Dark visions filled his thoughts, and he saw himself die. Again. And again. And again. Once, his head detached from his body by psychic energy. Another time, his limbs unnaturally twisted and broken until they were ripped apart. Denzel screamed, but no sound came out. Instead, he fell on all fours, and dry heaved, his drool slowly dripping onto the ground.

    The rock type floated downward and let out a booming sound that echoed across the cave. Denzel’s eye stared at it, but every time they met its eyes, he was transfixed with fear, unable to even think. Cece was in slightly better shape, but she too was gripped with terror and unmoving. Only their Pokemon seemed to be only slightly affected, and Deino seemed immune.

    Lunatone hovered over the ground, appraising them, but Deino stepped forward and sent a Dragon Breath toward the moon-like Pokemon. The blue draconic attack illuminated the entire cave and hit the rock type, who seemed barely hurt. That seemed to have set Lunatone off, as its eye shined and rocks all around them were crushed and gathered around the Pokemon. Budew hit it with Bullet Seed, still powered up from her Growth earlier, and Lunatone finally felt something, because it let out a sound that could only be described as an alien cacophony of deep, resonating booms and whistles. It was hurt.

    That was good news. That meant that Denzel hadn’t been completely paralyzed by fear because it was just out of their league as Gyarados had been, but because it was an ability Lunatone had, no doubt powered by its psychic type. There was no time to grab his Pokedex to check. Lunatone let out an enraged, booming cry, and the sharpened rocks flew toward them. Slowpoke sprung to life and its eyes glowed pink, stopping the rocks that would have hit both Denzel and Cecilia. The others hit most of their Pokemon, although Eevee nimbly dodged. The boy panicked when he saw that one tore straight through Budew’s bulb, but the grass type looked fine as long as it didn’t hit her face directly.

    “Budew,” Denzel breathed out, finally able to get a word out. “Get behind Deino. His scales are tough enough to—”

    Denzel was racked by visions of his death once more, and his entire body froze up and flew in the air. He tried opening his mouth, but everything was locked in place. He couldn’t even breathe. Denzel felt tears form in his eyes when he felt one of his arms start to twist. It was like that vision—

    “Deino, Slowpoke, save him!” Cecilia yelled, and they both launched a Dragon Breath and a Water Pulse. Budew screeched as she attacked with another Bullet Seed.

    Eevee barked and leaped up from a rock, then onto his floating body and kicked Lunatone. Denzel dropped to the ground and sobbed as he gripped his arm. It was fine. It was fine. He was fine. He crawled away until his back reached a wall.

    They said your life flashed before your eyes when you were about to die. Nothing had flashed before his eyes. It had just been pure terror.

    “Hit it again!” Cecilia yelled, before running toward Denzel. Lunatone ripped another set of rocks from the ground and sent them toward their Pokemon, but Eevee, Budew, and Slowpoke all hid behind Deino, who let out an enraged roar before readying his attack. “Denzel! Denzel, look at me!”

    “I’m fucking— I can’t. That fucker was about to kill me just like it showed me—”

    Cecilia grabbed his head and stared into his eyes.

    “Look at me! Is your arm okay?”

    A miniature moon appeared in front of Lunatone and flew at Deino, and the dragon type was actually hurt by it.

    “It is. It hurts, but it’s not broken.”

    “Thank the Legendaries,” she sighed. “We can beat it. Release your Buneary and I’ll release Fletchinder. We have no choice.”

    Denzel winced. He hadn’t released Buneary because he had no doubt she’d be terrified of the cave, but he needed every Pokemon at his disposal to beat Lunatone, or at least convince it to leave.

    Denzel swallowed, clenching and unclenching his fists before grabbing Buneary’s Pokeball.

    “Good. You can do this, I’m right here. Fletchinder will maneuver around it and harass it from the air,” Cecilia said.

    He nodded and released his Buneary just as Cecilia released her own Pokemon, and she began ordering Fletchinder. Denzel focused on Buneary, who was already trembling in fear.

    “Listen,” Denzel said. “I’m sorry. I know I said I’d try not to take you out in Mount Coronet, but I need you. I know it’s scary— I— I know,” Denzel firmly said, staring into the rabbit’s eyes. “But I think we can do something, you and I.”

    Fletchinder sang, and it spat out an Ember toward Lunatone from afar, away from the range of its psychic powers. Lunatone let out an angry sound and sent sharp rocks toward the flying type, whose body loosened and dropped to the ground before stopping herself right before hitting it to avoid the barrage.

    Buneary gave him a shaky nod, and he caressed her ear.

    “The gears are moving,” Denzel said as he shakily stood up. His legs felt like sticks. “I’m going to need you to coordinate with Eevee and Budew for this. Watch for my signal and give me a Quick Attack jump like you did against Gardenia’s Hoppip.”

    Buneary followed him closer to the site of the battle.

    “Budew,” Denzel said. She was still hiding behind Deino, and she stared at him, angry that her bulb had been torn away. “I’m going to throw you up to this Lunatone.”

    The grass type screeched in protest and slammed her small foot against the floor.

    “You’re going to Stun Spore midair, and Eevee, you’re going to catch her on the way down. When it’s frozen in the air from paralysis, Buneary and Eevee can give the finishing blow. Two Double Kicks.”

    Eevee agreed right away, and Budew finally did so as well, although reluctantly.

    “You catch that, Cece? Tell Fletchinder to stay away.”

    The girl nodded and immediately gave the order just as Deino took another Moonblast to the face. It was disconcerting how much damage the attack was actually dealing. Denzel had never seen Deino get tired so quickly, and he had only been hit by that twice.

    Denzel grabbed Budew, and Eevee immediately blurred forward, anticipating the arc that the grass type would take. Denzel waited for another Stone Edge to finish, and then threw Budew at Lunatone just at the right angle and strength. The grass type screeched and released glowing, yellow spores in the air as it passed next to Lunatone. The wild Pokemon’s red eyes dimmed, and it began to stay still in the air. Deino hit it with another Dragon Breath, and Slowpoke another Water Pulse.

    Eevee jumped in the air, catching Budew with his mouth and landing gracefully.

    “Now!” Denzel yelled.

    Buneary slammed her feet against the ground, creating a small crater and soaring through the air. Eevee jumped as well, slightly slower than she was, but that was ideal. Buneary slammed Lunatone with both of her ears, and Eevee did the same with his rear legs. The reason Eevee being slower was good was because they could both hit the same spot, one after another, and Lunatone’s rocky surface cracked. The rock type tried to float away, but it collapsed from exhaustion and the paralysis, crashing to the ground with a heavy impact.

    They had won. Denzel gripped his arm, still aching from Lunatone’s twist. That had been close, but they had come out the victors. Budew waddled toward the Lunatone’s unconscious body and kicked it.

    “You’re not dealing any damage,” Denzel smiled thinly. Smiling was good. Smiling helped him forget that his arm had been almost ripped away. “But it’s a funny sight nonetheless.”

    “Bud!” She screeched.

    “It’ll regrow eventually,” Denzel said, looking at the missing top part of her body. “Although it’d be way faster in the sun.”

    “Are you sure you’re alright?” Cecilia asked with a worried look.

    “No. I’m not alright at all,” Denzel breathed out. “I want to cry, to curl up into a ball, and to wake up from this nightmare. I don’t want to die.”

    Do you know how many trainers die out there? Poor kids that get lost going through Mount Coronet, or Eterna Forest? I don’t want that to happen to you!

    The trainer’s eyes widened as he recalled his mother’s words on that day he had met Grace.

    He needed to… he needed to call her when he got out of here. And tell her he loved her despite their differences.Denzel wiped away a tear from his eye and sniffled. He had told her speaking would feel better, and he was putting money where his mouth was. Crying felt good.

    “You… I’m sorry.”

    “No, it’s good that you asked,” Denzel said. “I’m alright now, we have to keep pushing. Budew, I’m recalling you so you can rest a little.”

    Budew screeched as he recalled her, but it was one of her good ones.

    “I should tell you. I should tell you what Amy told me,” Cecilia said as she recalled Fletchinder.

    “Feel free to. Like I said, if you don’t want me to tell Grace, my lips are sealed.”

    “I’ll tell Grace when we find her… thank you. It’s not that telling you would put you in more danger than you are now, it’s that I thought that you would all leave me if you found out. That you’d be too scared to stick with me even if we somehow escaped.”

    “But you—”

    “Wanted to die,” Cece said. “I know. I wasn’t… I think I just wasn’t thinking straight.”

    Wanted, Denzel thought. Progress.

    “I knew my father to be evil, but I never thought him to be capable of finding my worst fear. Worse than dying,” she continued. “But I suppose he does know me well enough for that.”

    “Your worst fear?”

    “What Amy told me was—”
     
  15. Threadmarks: Chapter 81
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 81

    According to my Poketch, an entire day had passed since falling down to this level of the cave. Twenty-six hours to be exact. Yet it felt longer, especially since I was anxious about getting on the move again, and there was absolutely nothing to pass the time. The good news was that my cold, or whatever it was that I had, was getting better. My headaches were no longer as pronounced, although they were still debilitating, and I could at least move around now, albeit still painfully.

    I slowly inched my way up to my backpack, wincing and sucking air through my teeth from the pain. Togetic had her arms on my back, pushing me forward and hoping to help somewhat, but I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was doing nothing.

    “Just lay down,” Chase said. “What’re you even trying to do in such a pitiful state?”

    His tone irritated me. It was as if he was above me and deigned that I should even try to move.

    “You didn’t need to say it in such a shitty way,” I spat. “My Pokemon need to eat.”

    “Just sit down, I’ll feed ‘em. Hey, I’m just gonna assume that I can feed mine too, since they haven’t eaten anything.”

    “Fine,” I said. I disliked him, but his Pokemon were innocent. They had been wounded defending me, so I’d be a terrible person to say no. I sat back down and took in short, shallow breaths. Just crawling had exhausted me.

    “Sounds good,” he said before grabbing my bag.

    “Frillish,” I called out. “Come and eat.”

    The water type had been our lookout since Houndour was resting in his Pokeball. He spun around and quickly made his way toward me. Chase only had Riolu out now, and to be honest their dynamic was sometimes… strange. Most of the time, it was a normal trainer-Pokemon relationship that I’d learn to expect from my time as a trainer, but sometimes, all of the sudden, the veil lifted it and revealed that Riolu was the one in charge.

    Not that I minded. At least Riolu seemed like a nice Pokemon who was nothing like Chase.

    “Why’s the ghost type eating? We should save for the Pokemon who actually need the food,” Chase said.

    “He’s been working the hardest out of anyone here. Give him a break.”

    “Arceus, with you in charge, we’ll have to keep our Pokemon in their balls so they don’t starve in five days,” Chase said. “Whatever. It’s your stuff, not mine.”

    Yeah, you better, I thought with a frown. Chase took some canned kibble from my bag, and poured it into a metallic bowl.

    “But I will say you’re fucking dumb.”

    “Shut your fucking mouth,” I hissed, and Elekid complained loudly at Chase. Togetic cried out hesitantly, trying to lower the tension. “Sorry, princess,” I sighed. “Larvitar, wake up. It’s time to eat.”

    The rock type got up from her curled-up position, shook her head wildly, and got into a fighting stance, waving her arms wildly.

    “No fights,” I said. “Food.”

    “The dex says it can eat dirt—”

    “Chase, if you say anything more to me right now, I’m going to go insane.”

    “That makes two of us,” Chase said, passing a bowl to Riolu. “Eat, but leave some for the others.”

    “What?” I said. “That’s not even that much. You can feed him more.”

    “Well, if you’re going to feed your team frivolously like we’re in an Arceus damned restaurant,” the trainer started. “I’d better start rationing for two.”

    I sighed. “Fine. You were right, we should save food. Still, Frillish deserves a reward, so I’ll give him some, and Larvitar should taste at least a little bit, but that’ll be the exception. After that, we’re rationing.”

    Chase raised an eyebrow. “I’m surprised you agreed. You seem like the emotional type,” he said as he poured more food into Riolu’s bowl. The fighting type happily scarfed it down.

    “So, a normal person, you mean?” I asked sarcastically, squinting as a new headache assaulted my senses.

    Chase seemingly saw that I was in pain and stopped himself from retorting, but he gave the rest of his team the same kibble. He passed some to Larvitar, who smiled and practically dove into the bowl after tasting it, causing me to smile. I interrupted when he passed it to Togetic, however.

    “Not for her,” I said. “She doesn’t like it.”

    “What do you mean she doesn’t like it?” He asked incredulously. “Just give it to her anyway.”

    “No. There’s sliced-up Oran somewhere in there. That’s her food. She’s very picky,” I specified. Chase shook his head, looking at me like I was insane, and rolled his eyes, passing the kibble to Frillish instead. “No!” I exclaimed. “Not him either, he eats Mago berries. Give it to Elekid.”

    “I’m going to have a stroke.”

    “Just do what I say and call it a day! You’re wasting time.”

    “Wasting time, how? We’re waiting for you to get better.”

    Elekid grabbed his food and wolfed it down, while Frillish and Togetic enjoyed their berries. I extended a hand toward angel, and he did the same to me, only with his vines instead.

    “Sorry, you’re being left out,” I said. “I promise I’ll get you to eat one day.”

    He wriggled his vines and blinked twice, caressing my forearm.

    “I’m glad you believe me. I don’t make promises lightly!” I smiled. “Enjoying your food, princess?”

    “Toge!” She yelled.

    “Shhh,” I said. “Quietly. Don’t be an Elekid.”

    “Kid…”

    “Sorry, that was uncalled for,” I said. “Hey Togetic, remember how scared you were when we passed through Oreburgh gate? Our first cave? Look at you now. You’re brave enough to go anywhere.”

    Togetic nodded and clapped her hands— quietly, after Frillish tapped her on the shoulder. Chase had gone to one of the corners of our ‘hideout’ to work out with Riolu, finally giving me some peace and quiet. Elekid finished up his food, and I called out to him.

    “Honey,” I whispered as I beckoned. “C’mere.”

    Elekid strode up to me proudly.

    “See Larvitar?” I said, looking at the lonely rock type. She was butting her horn against the wall, trying to damage it. “She’s shy, I think. Why don’t you bring princess and get her accustomed to the group? I think you’ll do good as a pair. Try to not overwhelm her—”

    “Elekid!” He said, clapping a hand on his chest. “Kid, kid, kid…”

    He carefully walked up to Larvitar, calling out Togetic on the way. She followed behind him, her head barely above his horns. Larvitar heard them come and turned toward them, eyeing Elekid suspiciously. The poor electric type had wanted to befriend her so bad, but right now, he was probably her least favorite Pokemon. If I had to guess, her favorite was either Tangela or Frillish, but Frillish didn’t really count. He commanded respect from the entire team.

    Elekid hesitantly waved his arm around, and Togetic mimicked him. The electric type hurriedly told her something to the effect of ‘we maybe got off on the wrong foot, let’s start over,’ but Larvitar frowned, hissing and lowering her horn. Elekid sighed and easily weaved to the side as she tried to run him through, and Tangela stopped her from going too far with his vines. Togetic laughed, mocking Elekid, who let out a sad groan.

    “You tried,” I said. “You’ll get through to her eventually. Hey Larvitar,” I called out.

    “Tar!” She said.

    “You don’t have to sit alone all the time,” I told her. “I know you want to appear strong, but try to get along with us. We’re here for you. Elekid’s the most outgoing Pokemon you’ll ever meet, and Togetic’s the friendliest. No need for all that… ramming with your horn.”

    Larvitar relaxed slightly, approaching angel and me. She didn’t seem to mind me whatsoever, at the very least, which made sense since she let me carry her. I saw a hint of a smile as Tangela rubbed her with a vine.

    “Angel’s the one you like, huh?” I said. “You’re shy, but you’re pretty open with him.”

    She huffed— imitating Frillish, and settled next to Tangela. Togetic sat on my lap, and I pet her back, and Elekid slowly inched his way to Larvitar to see how close he could get without provoking her. Frillish, meanwhile, went back to observation duty. He really needed a break when we got out of here.

    I don’t know when, but I eventually drifted off to sleep.

    ——

    I woke up screaming until there was no more air in my lungs. Chase was hitting my shoulder, and my Pokemon were all looking at me with worried gazes. It had been another nightmare. Another vision of Mars and Dusknoir.

    “What the hell is wrong with you?!” Chase hissed. “You scream like an Arceus damned Loudred. You must have alerted everything remotely close to us, we have to move.”

    I had been foolish, falling asleep like that without telling Togetic to use her powers. But a part of me hated still being shackled by Mars and what she had done to me. When would I ever be free from her? When?

    “I’m sorry,” I said as I struggled to my feet. He pulled me up with more strength than was necessary. “I have nightmare problems. Don’t ask.”

    “I wasn’t going to. I already packed up everything while you were sleeping, are you good to walk?”

    “I think so…” I breathed out before taking a step. “I can’t run.”

    “Better than nothing. Let’s get a move on,” he said, clicking his tongue and releasing Houndour. “We’re leaving. Help Frillish look out for any danger. Ri, you’re with me in front.”

    We made it about thirty seconds until the ground shook all around us. For a second, I felt dread trickle down my spine, believing another Pokemon was going to open up another chasm for us to fall into, but that wasn’t what we were facing.

    It was arguably worse. We could escape from a hole opening up in the ground— if Chase held me and pulled me along, I could maybe push myself and run. Hell, he might have been able to carry me, even. Unfortunately, we couldn’t run away from this.

    An Onix tunneled through the wall, and chunks of rocks and rubble flew everywhere around us. Togetic used Extrasensory to stop most of the rocks, and the others were blown apart by Tangela’s Vine Whip or Frillish’s Bubblebeam. The Onix’s body was chipped, deformed, and scarred— a sign that it was old and had lived through many battles. The rock type’s eyes locked onto us, and it let out a low growl that shook me internally and reverberated throughout the room. It was as big as a freight train— and bigger than Roark’s by a slight margin.

    “Well, let’s fucking do this then,” Chase said. “Riolu, get its eyes.”

    Chase’s confidence snapped me out of my fear-induced daze, and I audibly gulped.

    “A—angel, Leech Seed!”

    Tangela whipped his vines, and a seed flew onto the huge Onix, and thorny vines wrapped around him, seemingly adapting to its size. The rock type surged forward, its body so large that we couldn’t hope to dodge. Riolu blurred onwards, rushing toward the Onix, and Frillish hit it with a Water Pulse.

    “Angel, your vines! Togetic, Extrasensory!” I screamed.

    Tangela extended a dozen vines toward the Onix, and Togetic’s eyes shone brightly as she altered the biggest area she had ever done around the ground type. Extrasensory couldn’t ever hope to stop a monster as big as Onix, but it slowed him slightly, and that was enough for Tangela to alter its path. The Onix’s body slammed on the ground to our right, and Elekid hit debris away from me with Ice Punch. Riolu used the opportunity to climb onto the Onix’s body, but the rock type wasn’t down for long, and it quickly started to roll toward us.

    “Slow it!” Chase yelled at me. “Riolu’ll get it!”

    I nodded and ordered Tangela to Vine Whip it, along with Togetic using Fairy Wind and Extrasensory to slow it as long as possible. I doubted a Pokemon that powerful would ever be affected by Sweet Kiss, so I didn’t even bother wasting time issuing the command. Every second was precious, and a move ordered at the wrong time could be the difference between life and death.

    Tangela extended more vines and pushed against the Onix with all he could, leaving me time to get away, and Riolu navigated toward the Onix’s head with incredible agility. A bone grew out of his hand, and he rammed it right into Onix’s eyes. The rock type let out a booming cry full of agony and anger, and began thrashing around, causing the ground the shake once more. Riolu jumped back toward Onix’s body, grew another bone, and rammed it in between its segments, holding on for dear life. All while this was happening, Frillish kept hammering at Onix with water type attacks, and Houndour used Incinerate with very little effect.

    Still, any attack that landed was another step toward convincing Onix that we weren’t worth the trouble, even if I had angered it with my scream.

    Onix jerked its head, finally throwing Riolu off, and snaked toward us again. Tangela’s vines were growing thin, and Frillish’s attacks, who were the best we had against Onix, were hurting it, but it wouldn’t be enough. Togetic was already exhausted from having even slowed such a large Pokemon for so long, and even though he had Ice Punch, Elekid couldn’t do anything lest he get crushed to death by the rock type. He was fast, but nowhere near as agile as Riolu was.

    I felt my throat close up. Onix was a few seconds away now. Would it be painful?

    I was leaving so many people and Pokemon behind. Would my team be able to escape—

    A stream of draconic energy traveled down the Onix’s open mouth, causing it to writhe around and divert its path into a wall, and then seeds flew at high speeds, hitting all along the rock type’s body. A Water Pulse that wasn’t Frillish’s hit its head, and when Onix tried to go toward us again, it was surrounded by a Confusion and stopped for a few seconds, leaving Chase enough time to drag me away again.

    These attacks. It could only be—

    “Dragon Breath again,” Cecilia said.

    “Eevee, Buneary, stand back. Budew, keep Bullet Seeding.”

    My heart swelled with relief and joy, but the battle wasn’t over yet. Onix was feeling the heat now. Four trainers and their Pokemon were finally enough to make it feel the pain. Togetic’s job had been relegated to Slowpoke, but she still helped with Fairy Winds whenever she could, and Tangela’s Leech Seed was pulling its weight. Deino roared out another Dragon Breath, hitting the same spot as Houndour’s incinerate and charring Onix’s flank, causing the stones to turn red hot. Riolu was back on its feet, hitting the wild Pokemon with Force Palms and Bone Rushes wherever he could.

    Houndour whined, and Chase’s head turned toward the fire type as light surrounded him. His body shook and convulsed, growing more than twice its original size. The skull on his head split, turning into curved horns, and his tail grew thinner and longer. Chase grinned.

    He had a Houndoom now.

    “Incinerate! Give it everything you’ve got!”

    Houndoom let out an eerie howl before spitting out white-hot flames toward the Onix. The rock type’s body caught fire somehow, and it screamed out in pain, making me cover my ears. The fire wasn’t going out, it was spreading, burning away Tangela’s Leech Seed. Riolu jumped off Onix’s body in the nick of time, and the ground type finally ran off toward the darker side of the cave.

    I turned toward Cecilia and Denzel, who both ran toward me and hugged me so tightly that I thought I would asphyxiate.

    “I was so scared,” Cecilia cried. I hugged them back. “I was— I thought— the only thing that kept me going was me thinking you were alive.”

    “I was scared too,” I sobbed. “I’m so glad you’re both safe. I’m so happy.”

    “Everyone’s back together,” Denzel smiled. “Now let’s find a way out of this hellhole.”

    I nodded and wiped Cecilia’s tears away. Right now, for this single moment, in the depths of Mount Coronet where every Pokemon wanted us dead, everything was right again.
     
  16. Threadmarks: Chapter 82
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 82 - The Whole Truth

    Seeing that Cecilia and Denzel were safe and sound had filled a hole in my heart I hadn’t quite realized was there. I was whole again. Full. With teary eyes, I hugged them again for good measure. Eevee jumped on my shoulder and licked my cheek, and Togetic grabbed at Denzel’s hair.

    “I missed you too, little guy,” I told Eevee. “Is everyone fine? Denzel, you look like you…”

    “Like I was hit by a truck?” He chuckled. “Yeah, I know. I think I cracked a few ribs or something. I can handle it, I think. If I don’t think about the pain, it becomes a dull ache.”

    “More importantly, what about you?” Cece asked, holding my arm tightly. “You look pale, Grace. You need to rest.”

    “I’ll rest when we're further away from here,” I sighed. “Wild Pokemon will probably be swarming here after all this noise.”

    “She’s right,” Chase spoke up for the first time. Even now, he kept his distance. “Scavengers will be hoping to get a quick meal from whatever fought that Onix— which in this case is us. We need to leave.”

    We all agreed, some more reluctantly than others, and started moving. It was my first time walking with this many Pokemon out at once. We all almost had our entire teams out, but I supposed a show of force was what was needed to dissuade potential attackers, especially in this well-lit part of the cave where tracking everyone wouldn’t be confusing. I used the opportunity to introduce Larvitar to my friends, but the rock type didn’t seem to like them one bit, and she especially seemed to dislike Budew. She walked closely behind my legs, reminding me of Togetic when she had been a Togepi.

    “I hope he wasn’t too harsh with you,” Cece whispered to me as she nodded toward Chase. His limp was better now and barely noticeable.

    “He was nice enough, all things considered,” I said, deciding to omit the times when he had definitely gotten on my nerves. “Protected me when I was passed out—”

    “You were what?

    “I, uh, passed out, and he found me just in time. He took care of me and nursed me back to health— if you can call my state healthy, I guess. We didn’t talk much, though.”

    And he saved your life as well, I thought.

    “Very well,” she said after pausing, clearly burying the matter. “I missed you.”

    I turned my head away slightly as I felt my face heat up. “I missed you too.”

    Cecilia seemed to be in good spirits, which surprised me. Her state now and back at the top of the cave was like night and day, but I didn’t want to step on her toes and ask her tough questions.

    “How did you and Denzel find each other?” I decided to ask.

    “We fell at the same spot, into an underground lake,” she said. “We were together from the start.”

    I looked at my best friend, who was leading the group and talking to his Buneary. He must have talked to her and cheered her up somehow. I’d need to thank him later.

    “And Grace… I’m sorry for putting you through this. All of you. The only reason we’re in this situation is my fault. I don’t know how I’ll ever atone—”

    “Don’t you dare,” I said. “You’re the victim! Your father and Amy, they’re the ones who I’m blaming.”

    “I still feel guilty.”

    “Well, we can talk you through that,” I said softly. “I promise you, none of us ever blamed you for even a second.”

    Cece bowed her head. “I don’t know what I did to deserve you and everyone else.”

    “You were a good person and a good friend. Kindness rewards kindness.”

    I almost froze when I felt her fingers intertwine with mine. It was cold, but her hand felt hot on my skin. She held my hand tightly.

    “I must tell you something when we get out of this cave,” she said, practically whispering in my ear.

    “Okay,” I swallowed.

    We walked another two hours before finally deciding to take a break. There were a few fights on the way, but nothing as threatening as Onix had been, and our entire arsenal was far enough to deal with anything. Still, our lack of potions was being felt. Tangela, Eevee, Riolu, Elekid, and even Deino had to be recalled into their Pokeballs from taking so many hits, which was a part of why we had stopped so soon in the first place after finding a good, defensible spot. It was like a miniature cave. An indentation into a wall that we had decided would be perfect for protecting ourselves from threats. Cecilia and Denzel had forced me to stay down while they prepared dinner.

    Well, prepare dinner was a bit of an exaggeration. It was salted crackers and water, but I supposed it was better than nothing. Denzel and Cece sat next to me, and Chase leaned against one of the walls of the cave, his Houndoom lying down closeby and watching out for any threats along with Frillish. Riolu was out of his ball again, as Chase was seemingly uncomfortable without him there, or at least that was my hypothesis.

    “So,” Denzel sighed. “It’s about time we start planning how to get the fuck out of here.”

    “Agreed,” Chase nodded. “Where did you guys come from?”

    “Further up the cave— there was a lake, and it was just as dark as it was at the top level. I’m a bit surprised at how bright everything is here,” Denzel said, staring up at the crystals. “It took us… a day and a half to get to you? Yeah, I think that’s correct.”

    “Slightly more than that,” Cece specified. “But I did notice one thing on the way here.”

    “Which is?” Chase asked in an impatient tone.

    “The Pokemon here are weaker than where we came from,” she said.

    My eyes bulged. Stronger Pokemon than that Onix?

    “She’s right,” Denzel nodded. “Faced some crazy shit on our way here, but as we got closer it got more and more manageable.”

    “Well damn,” Chase grinned. “I might have underestimated you, Williams.”

    Denzel rolled his eyes and continued. “But does that mean anything?”

    “Just a theory I have,” Cece said. “On the upper floor, the deeper into the mountain one gets, the tougher the wild Pokemon become, right?”

    I slammed a fist into my palm. “Ah, yeah, I see where you’re coming from. You’re saying we need to head deeper into the crystalized area.”

    She nodded.

    “Well, that’s the best working theory we have, so I won’t complain,” Chase said. “Still, what’d you face that was so tough? I’m curious.”

    Denzel’s eyes darkened. “Don’t feel like telling.”

    “Alright, alright, calm down, brother,” Chase said. Riolu stomped a foot on his shoe. “Ow, fuck! Arceus, sorry! Ok, so we go back from the way Pastel and I were coming from, then?”

    I frowned. “This is starting to make more and more sense,” I said slowly. “When I had just fallen down, I remember thinking that Pokemon here were way too weak for being this deep into Mount Coronet— or at least I thought it was deep. That means that I should have fallen the closest to the exit,” I finished, feeling renewed hope. Getting out was becoming more and more of a reality.

    “We don’t know where we’ll get out, or if the exit will even be accessible, but it should be there,” Denzel said.

    “In theory,” Cece added. “Let us not get our hopes up. That’ll only make the disappointment that much more potent.”

    We settled down after hearing her words.

    “If it doesn’t work,” I said. “What else do we got? I want all of our bases covered.”

    “We can try finding that chasm that Tyranitar opened up,” Denzel said. “Climb up, somehow, maybe?”

    “Not possible,” Chase declared, crossing his arms. “Mount Coronet is an affront to anything logical. I doubt we’ll ever be able to find that hole again.”

    “Damn it,” I groaned. “He’s right. I was… stuck in a certain area for at least twenty minutes. I kept walking forward, but the cave kept bringing me back to where I had just been, just like—”

    “That mansion in Eterna Forest,” Cece completed my sentence.

    “Mansion?” Chase frowned.

    “Don’t even think about making some snarky comment,” I warned. “It was abandoned, and it was a terrible time. Either way, the cave can do the same thing that Mismagius did, or at least some form of it, which means we might not even be able to reach this theoretical exit in the first place.”

    “How much food you got, Williams?” Chase asked.

    “Enough for, like, a week, I think, both for us and the Pokemon. We couldn’t pack that much, we had to hurry.”

    “Right, right, you were saving her ass,” he said, nodding toward Cece. “Pastel has the same amount as you, then?”

    “Slightly less,” I winced. “I was so stressed out that I was barely thinking when I packed.”

    “Sorry,” Cece said.

    “Don’t apologize,” Both Denzel and I interjected at the same time.

    “Okay, so we have what, less than two weeks left? Maybe more if we ration like I already told Pastel. If we don’t get out by then, we’re dead.”

    The straightforwardness of his statement washed over me like cold water.

    “Could have used a bit more tact,” Denzel said. “But yes, you’re right.”

    “Actually, we’re probably even more fucked than I thought,” Chase continued after a pause. “If we get out, we’ll probably end up somewhere off-route in the middle of nowhere, with no reception or anything to guide us. We have less than two weeks. We’re on borrowed time, and even though I wouldn’t be against eating wild Pokemon, nothing down here is even edible.”

    “I won’t eat any Pokemon or kill them,” I said firmly.

    “Keeping to your ideals even though that’ll get you killed,” Chase smiled at me. “Dumb as hell. But I respect that, Pastel.”

    Denzel shook his head. “We won’t need to consider that choice in the first place—”

    “You don’t know that,” he interrupted. “Positiveness for the sake of positiveness is fucking stupid. Quit it.”

    “You don’t need to be negative either,” Denzel said.

    “Why? We were already all thinking about it. And if you weren’t, well, you’d have to eventually, down the line. It’s better to come to terms with the choice now.”

    Denzel was about to retort, but he just groaned and turned away, conceding the argument. I finished my ‘dinner’ in peace, and when Cecilia went to pee further along the cave, accompanied by her Pokemon, I used the opportunity to talk to Denzel.

    “Hey,” I said. “How is Cece? She gives me the impression of being better, but how is she really?” I asked.

    “She… she has a lot on her plate, but she’s managing,” he said. “I managed to pull her up from the depths when we were together, and now that she’s seen you, it’s like she’s soaring.”

    “Thank you for helping her,” I said. “But she was happy to see both of us.”

    “Yes, but she was especially happy to see you,” he said.

    I rolled my eyes.

    “Don’t believe me? I think you’d be surprised at how close you are to dating already. You should probably just shoot your shot. If you don’t, there’ll be what, months of this will they won’t they bullshit? Just get on with it already.”

    “Wait, they aren’t dating already?” Chase said. “What was with all the hugging and the handholding and the whispering together then?”

    “Quiet down,” I hissed. “No one was talking to you.”

    “Fuck you too, Pastel.”

    “See what I’m talking about? Even he thought you were together. Just say something, I promise you it’ll work out.”

    “Now’s not the time,” I said. “I’ll do it later.”

    “If I was in love with someone and we were in the middle of a cave where we might die any minute, I’d probably say something now,” Chase shrugged. “Granted, I think romance is a waste of time in general.”

    “Shut up!” I hissed. “If you say anything to her, I will kill you.”

    “You can’t, I’m the better trainer. I toughened up a lot since our battle, and you still owe me a rematch. I’ll wipe the floor with you next time.”

    “I’m not interested,” I said.

    “I’m making you my rival whether you want it or not.”

    I entertained his idea, happy that the conversation had steered away from Cecilia, who returned a few minutes later. She sat down next to me again. Denzel started grooming Buneary’s fur with his brush— something that he had picked up from Emilia. He would have done it to Eevee too, but the normal type was still resting in his ball. Larvitar was playing with Togetic, chasing her around and trying to jump at her. Unfortunately, she was heavy and couldn’t get off the ground that well, but Togetic still gave her hope, often coming down just slightly enough to be almost in her range. Chase was sitting next to Houndoom, basking in his heat. The fire type’s new strength meant that his heat radiated much farther, and Riolu was dozing off against him. Cece and I were comfortably sitting on a sleeping bag. My illness was seemingly almost gone, having strangely disappeared as fast as it had come. Maybe the stress I no longer felt was a factor.

    “Are you not tired?” Cecilia asked me.

    “A little,” I answered. “I’m scared to sleep, even with Togetic here to help.”

    “Your nightmares?”

    “Hmhm. I had one earlier— that’s what provoked the Onix to attack us,” I said.

    “I wish I could help you somehow,” she sighed.

    “I don’t think they’ll ever go away, to be honest. Maybe if— when Mars is finally arrested and put behind bars for good, but I doubt it.”

    Cecilia placed a hand on my head and pushed it down to her lap. I almost choked, not finding any words to say. She began stroking my hair gently.

    “Is this okay?” She asked.

    “Y—y—of course! It is!” I stuttered.

    “My father might believe us to be stranded or dead, but when we get out of this cave and we return to civilization, we’ll be back on his radar. If I was naive, I would have said that me wanting to die in Mount Coronet would have scared him off, but I know he’ll only redouble his efforts.”

    “Uhuh,” I said, barely able to breathe. Still, I paid attention to every word, even though it was very difficult.

    She looked down at me and smiled. “I’m ready to tell you what he threatened me with,” she said quietly enough so Chase wouldn’t hear. “I already told Denzel. But you have to promise me not to panic.”

    “Obviously, I won’t,” I said. “It doesn’t matter what it is.”

    “My father is an evil man, but he knows me well,” she began, still stroking my hair. “He knows what I yearn for the most. Freedom. And so he knows my biggest fear.”

    “Losing that freedom?” I asked.

    “Worse than that. Becoming a mindless puppet,” Cecilia said. She paused for a few seconds before continuing. “He hired a trainer with… a Malamar.”

    I held back a gasp. Malamar was a Pokemon synonymous with mind control. I believed that no Pokemon was inherently evil, but trainers with Malamar tended to air on the criminal side of things, which gave the Pokemon a terrible reputation through no fault of its own.

    “And I assume your dad can skirt around the laws about mind control, since he’s rich.”

    She shook her head.

    “Why did you think that would make me freak out?” I asked.

    Her hands stopped. “If he can control my mind, he can control all of yours, too,” she said, avoiding my eyes. “To me, that’s a fate worse than death itself. But that wasn’t all. Amy told me that my father had already flown to Sinnoh with her— although he was still in Jubilife— and that the trainer with Malamar was already in Eterna city.

    I held my breath. That was why her reaction had been so sudden. To her, it seemed like the enemy had already been at the gates.

    “So she was essentially telling you to surrender right now,” I sighed. “I’m so sorry.”

    “And if I somehow ran away, he’d cut off access to all of my money and everyone else’s until I came back. Still, I’ve decided to hope for the best instead of giving up,” Cecilia sighed. “My situation is like a double-edged sword. There’s the potential to live my life and be the happiest I’ve ever been, but I could also fall under Malamar’s influence and never think for myself again.”

    “There’s… there’s protections against that kind of stuff, right?” I tried. “We have a bunch of psychic types. You can shield your mind, or something.”

    I remembered vaguely hearing that League members with important information always had mental shields on them put by Lucian’s team, but they had to be renewed every few weeks. Protecting yourself against mind control was easier than protecting yourself against memory extraction, however. That was almost impossible, although I was sure that the League had some countermeasures. Memory extraction was like metaphorically grabbing a hammer and smashing it against your brain. It was traumatic, brutal, and could leave someone crippled for life. Mind control, however, required finesse. It was extremely difficult, and only Malamar or Beheyeem could do it with relative ease, but shielding against it was possible with enough practice.

    “It takes years for a psychic to learn. I don’t have years, and I wouldn’t even know where to start. Plus, I’d have no more money, so hiring someone— either a teacher to teach me or a psychic expert to do the job— would be impossible.”

    “How long does it take for Malamar to take control of someone?” I asked. “Can we beat it before then?”

    “The trainer my father hired is a well-known criminal in Unova. He calls himself Abel. He was a trainer that went rogue after realizing how powerful he could get once his Inkay evolved, and he’s been avoiding authorities for years. League authorities.”

    “Which means he’s way more powerful than us.”

    “And he has more Pokemon than Malamar. Probably more than six, since he isn’t beholden by the rules, but that remains a theory.”

    “Alright… okay,” I said, taking a deep breath. “We’ll figure something out, I just need to think for a bit.”

    The biggest priority was preventing the mind control from ever happening. That meant that we either needed a way to knock out Malamar quickly, or just stay under the radar until we could. But if Cece got captured, it’d be over, so taking too much risk was off the table too. Would Malamar’s mind control procedure be interrupted if it was hurt badly enough? If we focused all of our attacks on it, we could possibly make that happen. I’d need to look this guy up when we got access to the internet again. There was also the possibility of just staying undercover somewhere. That meant no more gym battles and probably staying holed up in a Pokemon Center, avoiding any attention. Cece’s safety was more important. If one person took a picture of her and exposed her being alive, it would be over. It hurt to say, but there was always next year. It was safe to say that Eterna city was crawling with her father’s agents already, along with Abel, so going back there wasn’t an option, but Celestic could be a good alternative. It was rather isolated from the rest of the region. Unfortunately, I couldn’t choose where we would come out from. And there was also the fact that our friend’s phones might have been seized and bugged, so we wouldn’t even be able to call them to confirm that we were safe—

    I felt a hand caress my cheek, snapping me out of my thoughts. “Your face is wrought with worry,” Cece whispered. “I hate that you work yourself so hard for me.”

    “I’m trying to find a solution,” I said. “And I will.”

    “My heart is beating so quickly it hurts,” Cece started. “My time with free will might be limited,” she said before pausing. “So I’ve decided to make the most of it and take a leap of faith. I won’t wait until we get out of Mount Coronet after all. Tell me if you want me to stop.”

    Huh?

    Cecilia leaned down and slowly brought my face toward hers until our lips met. My eyes fluttered in surprise, and I let out a soft sigh, giving into her as excitement and happiness swelled and buzzed inside of me. Her lips were dry, and the kiss was short, but it still felt amazing. When we parted, she looked at me, still cupping my cheek. Even in the dark, not having showered in days and being what most people would consider unkempt, she was still gorgeous.

    “I’m— I’m in love with you,” she said, panting slightly.
     
  17. Threadmarks: Chapter 83
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 83

    My eyes widened, and I tried to respond, but it was like I had a foot in my mouth. My heart danced in my chest, my head was still buzzing, and I still felt the shape of her lips on mine.

    Her lips had been on mine.

    “I— yes!” I managed to get out.

    “Yes? Do you feel the same way?” She asked.

    “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!” I said. My face felt dangerously hot. “I think I’m going to pass out.”

    Cece smiled, and I felt her hands trace down toward mine. I stared back at Denzel and Chase, who were acting like they couldn’t see anything. I had completely forgotten they were still there.

    “I’m so happy,” she giggled. I laughed in turn, and she placed her forehead against mine. “I’d like to hear you say it.”

    “I love you,” I stammered. “Please date me.”

    “I thought I was the one asking,” she smiled. “I suppose we’re officially together then.”

    “Hmhm,” I said. “We’re… dating. You’re my girlfriend.”

    We both giggled again, and euphoria enveloped me completely. It was like we were the only people in the world, and all of our worries about the challenges ahead had disappeared. Unfortunately, the blissful ignorance could only last for the night, and tomorrow came faster than expected. With all of the excitement, I had barely slept, but at least that meant that I could be of help keeping an eye out, and Frillish kept me company. I opened my Poketch and saw that it was seven in the morning. The damn thing was already at thirty percent battery, and I needed to save some if I was going to call or message someone when we got out, but that was still a big if.

    Denzel surprisingly woke up first and gave me a thumbs-up while wiggling his eyebrows. I stuck my tongue out in response. Yeah, he had told me that Cece liked me literally minutes before she kissed me, but he didn’t need to rub it in my face! Chase and Cecilia were up soon after.

    “Mornin’,” I told everyone. “Hope you slept ok,” I said to Cece.

    “Better than I had in a long time,” she said. “You?”

    “So and so,” I replied.

    We stared at each other for a few seconds, and questions swam in my mind. Would it be appropriate to kiss her good morning? Was that too forward? I wanted to, but I hadn’t even brushed my teeth yet! Okay, I needed to do that, but maybe a light peck would be okay?. I grabbed my toothbrush and lazily started brushing. I was finally settling down again. I needed to think about getting out of here first and foremost, not the etiquette of kissing! That would be best saved for later.

    “Enough dilly-dallying,” Chase declared. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

    ——

    “That’s right, keep it away!” I told Tangela, who was finally rested up enough to be used in battle. The grass type slammed two vines against the Excadrill’s chest in quick succession, staggering it.

    Excadrill spun around and jumped into the ground.

    “It’s coming!” Denzel yelled.

    “Houndoom, now!” Chase ordered.

    The dark type barked, jumping from the shadows and spitting out a vicious Incinerate in the hole Excadrill had left. The ground type screamed and was forced to tunnel up to escape the flames, ending up right in front of Tangela. Multiple Water Pulses and a Bullet Seed hit it, and angel once again hit it with a Vine Whip, but the flames started spreading onto his vine and toward his main body.

    “Get it off of you!” I said, feeling a surge of panic. He shivered and detached his vine from his body, and I watched it writhe on the ground like it was a living thing.

    Excadrill collapsed, and the fire on it was still burning, which was apparently a new thing, and incredibly dangerous, since the newly evolved Pokemon had no idea how to control it yet. I ordered Frillish to spray the ground type with as much water as he could, and after a lot of attempts and cooperation from Houndoum, the flames finally went out. Not only was the fire incredibly hard to extinguish, but according to the Pokedex, they’d also hurt a Pokemon for months or years after the fact since Houndoom didn’t know how to hold back yet. I felt awful for the Excadrill, but it had attacked us first.

    “That’s going to get a Pokemon killed,” I said.

    “Motherfucker shouldn’t have attacked us then,” Chase shrugged. “Good job, Houndoom. Sorry about your grass type, Pastel.”

    I rolled my eyes at him. We’d been traveling for eight more days, and what I noticed was that Chase’s Pokemon were packing a serious punch. Houndoom was definitely his most powerful now that he had evolved, but Riolu was the one who always helped the most by distracting the bulky rock types. Even though Zangoose wasn’t doing much, her Metal Claw couldn’t be underestimated either, and Charjabug’s String Shot helped a bunch to lock the less large Pokemon down. Ideas swarmed my head, and I was subconsciously crafting different scenarios I’d use to beat him— even though I had refused to call him my rival. I’d need to start up training again when we got out of here, especially if we were ever going to stand up to this Abel guy.

    Wait. This whole experience through Mount Coronet was technically training.

    I had also developed a fighting strategy to take down the wild Pokemon here with Denzel’s input, and it was working wonders. Since we had no potions left, we’d have Tangela, and Slowpoke, who could restrain a Pokemon at a distance, and Riolu, who could distract them and easily dodge their attacks as our vanguards while we blasted them with everything we had. Our hit rate had gone down drastically now that we had a concrete plan in place, and that meant our progress was faster, especially since the wild Pokemon were getting weaker.

    Still, they weren’t actually weak. They were definitely stronger than the ones we had faced in Eterna forest. We were simply more organized and had a working strategy this time, along with just being better trainers.

    “I won’t lose any sleep over wild Pokemon dying because of us,” Denzel said. “But I’d like to avoid it. Plus, you’ll have to teach him how to control it if you ever plan on using him on gym battles.”

    “Yeah, I don’t remember asking for your input,” Chase spat. “Let’s stop wasting time and keep going. The less time we waste here, the better our odds are of surviving when we get out.”

    “Would it kill you to be nice for a change?” I said.

    “Yes.”

    I frowned at the unexpected answer. I had, unfortunately, overestimated Chase. The truth was, I had really expected him to warm up to us somewhat due to our shared terrible circumstances, and I thought he was, but he had been getting worse these past few days. The cave was getting on his nerves. Sometimes, he’d stay quiet, which was more than I could ever ask for, or apologize when Riolu asked for it. Still, I begrudgingly respected his skill as a trainer, even though I disliked how he treated his Pokemon like he was in the damned military. Even down in the cave, he didn’t forego their intense training, and apparently, it was a softer workout than what they usually did.

    “Pay him no mind, Grace,” Cece said. “You can’t reason with the unreasonable.”

    “I thought that too, but… I’d like to at least give him a chance,” I whispered to her. “He looks like he’s hurting. Emotionally, I mean.”

    “You’re too nice,” she smiled. “That’s why I love you.”

    I blushed at the unexpected affection and grabbed her hand. The words felt so good they made me feel light-headed. “I’m just good at noticing the small stuff,” I said. “It’s like he’s anxious. More anxious than a guy like him ought to be.”

    “Perhaps. Or perhaps he’s just been hiding his weaknesses behind a wall of fake confidence like I attempted to do early in my journey.”

    “Hm, maybe,” I said. “Either way, I probably won’t figure it out.”

    We kept going for a few hours, and the attacks grew less and less frequent. The crystals that lit up the cave’s ceiling were now so abundant that it didn’t feel like we were in Mount Coronet any longer.

    “Ri,” Riolu said.

    “What’s up?” Chase asked as he stopped us. “Feel something?”

    I had no idea how Riolu’s aura worked, but it had started working again around two days ago, and it was apparently getting sharper at sensing wild Pokemon, a sign that we were getting closer to the exit. Apparently, Chase had trained hard to get the fighting type to that level after going through Eterna forest, and he couldn’t stop boasting about it. Slowpoke could also do the same with his psychic powers now, but his senses were still somewhat muddled, and his range was nowhere near Riolu’s, even at full power.

    “Riolu…” The fighting type mumbled.

    “Feels weird?” Chase asked.

    Riolu nodded, and we started looking around. We couldn’t find anything out of place though, and nothing attacked us, so we started walking again. A few hours later, we stumbled upon Excadrill… it had died. The swarm of Zubat that was feasting on its soft bits fled when they saw us come, no doubt terrified at the amount of Pokemon we had at our disposal, revealing how fast they had utterly consumed the ground type. I could even see its bones stick out in some places. I lurched and turned away.

    “What the actual fuck?” Chase said, stepping forward.

    “Not this again,” Denzel groaned.

    “Again?!” He quickly said, his head jerking toward us. “What do you mean again?”

    “Something similar happened to us in Eterna Forest,” I explained. “A Mismagius trapped us in an illusion that repeated forever. We already told you, remember?”

    “Ah… right, I honestly thought you were bullshitting,” he said.

    “But this is no illusion,” Cecilia sighed. “This is reality.”

    “We’re trapped. I said this days ago, but this happened to me when I was alone down here, except that it was on a much smaller scale. It didn’t take hours for me to end up where I had just been. It took a few minutes at most.”

    “Hold on, this doesn’t make any sense,” Denzel said, raising a finger. “We’re closer to the exit, we should be getting less mind fuckery, not more.”

    “Well it happened anyway, big guy,” Chase frustratingly said. “I think that’s what Ri felt earlier, but how?

    Riolu nodded, but he seemingly struggled to answer the second question, not because he couldn’t but because it was too complex to explain to us. The language barrier was stopping him.

    “Okay,” I crouched, getting closer to him. “How about we throw ideas at you, and you nod when we get it right, okay?” I asked.

    “Don’t talk to him like he’s a kid,” Chase complained. “He’s more than twice your age.”

    My eyes almost fell out of their sockets. “W—what?”

    “He’s forty-eight. He’s your senior, show some respect.”

    I stared back at Riolu, and he sagely nodded with his arms crossed. I audibly gulped and stood up. It wasn’t like I had never seen an old Pokemon before. Dad’s Herdier was close to that age. But I hadn’t expected someone my age to own a Pokemon that old that wasn’t a ghost or a pet, because a Pokemon surviving that long in the wild meant that it would be incredibly powerful. Plus, he knew the fighting type’s exact age. That meant that Riolu wasn’t a wild Pokemon. It had belonged to someone else, and most likely been given—

    “You’re thinking. I can see it in your eyes. Stop trying to figure me out,” Chase spat, narrowing his eyes.

    “Watch it,” Cece warned.

    Denzel nipped the argument in the bud. “Let’s chill out. Grace’s idea was a good one, let’s try throwing stuff at the wall and see what sticks.”

    “Okay, let’s think about this,” I started. “We were walking, and then Riolu felt something strange using his aura. First, did Slowpoke feel anything?”

    Slowpoke stared at me with empty eyes.

    “He didn’t,” Cece translated.

    “Okay, I guess that might be because his power’s still getting messed with. Cross that out. So Riolu’s aura feels… living things, right?”

    “It doesn’t only do that, but it’s one of its functions. Each living being has a different aura signature,” Chase explained. “So yes.”

    “Alright, so he feels living things,” Denzel said. “Then what?”

    “Hmm, perhaps he felt us move a large distance too quickly?” Cece asked. Riolu shook his head, but moved his arms around.

    “You’re on the right track,” Chase said.



    “Okay, not us. That would make sense, depending on how the mountain’s power works. If it’s teleportation, he wouldn’t have felt a thing,” I said with my hand on my chin. “But if it’s teleportation, then why didn’t we realize we were transported…” I muttered.

    “What about feeling other things around us just… winking out of existence?” Denzel asked.

    I snapped my fingers. “Yes! That’s it! We were transported somewhere, which means that wild Pokemon around us looked like they all disappeared and were replaced by new ones!”

    “Ri!” The fighting type nodded.

    “Okay, so Riolu can feel when we’re getting screwed by the mountain. That doesn’t help us get out,” Chase said, bouncing his leg.

    “Okay, okay, let me think…” I whispered.

    In both instances of getting trapped by the mountain, both before Chase had found me and now, we hadn’t teleported, or at least it was unnoticeable. Was that possible? Probably not. So I could scratch that out, or leave it at the back of my mind. What else was on the table? How would the mountain transport us somewhere without us even realizing it?

    My eyes widened.

    “Ah, she’s got it,” Denzel said.

    “It didn’t teleport us. It teleported the entire fucking area we were in— maybe teleport is the wrong term for it, but that’s the closest I can— wait, maybe shift is better? We shifted back deeper in the cave along with this entire section, and then we ended up walking across Excadrill again, I think.”

    “That sounds right,” Cecilia nodded with a smile. “So what now? Do we try going again?”

    “When I was trapped, it took four tries to finally make it through. We might be able to brute force it.”

    “I like the sound of that,” Chase said. “Not like we can try anything else.”

    Seven attempts later, we were back to Excadrill’s corpse, which was now just thick, metallic bones. It had taken us the entire day, and we had made no progress whatsoever. Chase was growing more irate and frustrated by the hour, and we were all stumped. We decided to make camp nearby and sleep there, but as we huddled close to Houndoom for heat and I lay down with my head on Cece’s lap, we were theorizing again.

    “This is fucked,” Chase hissed.

    “And it makes no fucking sense,” my best friend frowned. “We know the exit’s close, but the mountain is keeping us trapped here… like it’s sentient.”

    “The mountain ain’t sentient,” Chase replied instantly. “Stop it with the batshit theories.”

    “No, it isn’t, but it’s like something… like it has mechanisms implemented to confuse people who venture too deep inside,” I said. “Like Mismagius, but on a much grander scale and in the real world. To get them trapped in here so they could starve or get killed by a wild Pokemon or something.”

    “But how?” Cece asked. “What would even be powerful enough to do such a thing?”

    “I dunno. Seems way too powerful to be your average ghost type, since it’s not an illusion, but I’ve never heard of anything capable of doing this,” I said.

    “Okay, and why would this— or these theoretical Pokemon want people to be stuck in one place in the mountain?” Denzel asked.

    “I don’t know. This phenomenon’s also been seen on top of the mountain, right?” I said.

    Denzel nodded. “Yeah, but it’s only at a specific spot, and people haven’t been there in decades. The place is too harsh to study anyway, and they were just burning cash and lives up there. Scientists never figured out what makes the mountain do that, but they might have figured out how it works. Either way, I've never read up on it, so we have to do this on our own.”

    “So it’s a specific spot on the surface, but everywhere when we’re actually inside?” Chase asked.

    “Not everywhere. Only deep in the mountain and in certain sections that lead to other places,” Denzel said.

    “This makes no sense to me,” I groaned. “Maybe it’s hiding something? Some old Hisuian temple? I didn’t pay much attention in history class. Not in any classes, actually.”

    “How’d you even graduate?” Denzel raised his eyebrow.

    “I coasted. Barely passed everything. couldn’t bother putting much effort in something I wasn’t passionate about. Anyway, regardless, we’ll never come up with a concrete answer. Let’s just figure out a way to get out.”

    “Agreed. Enough with the nonsense,” Chase said. “What if we go at it from another angle? Try to take a different path?”

    “You try finding a different path, and you let us know how it goes,” I dryly said. “You saw. There was no other way through.”

    Chase groaned and clicked his tongue. “Fuck it. I’m going to sleep, I’ll be in top form tomorrow.”

    “G’night,” I told him. “What about you, Denzel?”

    “I’ll stay up and try to figure something out.”

    “Sounds good. Cece?”

    “I feel out of my depth here,” she sighed. “No ideas are coming to mind, so I suppose I’ll just sleep.”

    “Okay,” I smiled at her. “I’m going to stay up.”

    I got up from her lap pillow, and we both stood up, but I felt her hold my sleeve.

    “Kiss me goodnight?” She said, averting her eyes.

    Ahhhh, she was so cute I wanted to die.

    I nodded, and she placed her hands around my waist, pulling me close and kissing me. I lifted a leg and smiled against her lips. How was she doing this to me? Even now that we were dating, I was just as nervous about being around her, and I still couldn’t believe that she was my girlfriend. I kissed her again for good measure, and she left, entering her sleeping bag. I took a seat next to Denzel.

    “Nice one,” he smiled.

    “Ugh, don’t even start. It’s you and me, we have to figure something out,” I said before cracking a smile. “But yes, it is very nice.”

    “Alright, alright…” He smiled in turn. “Like you said, it’s you and me. Let’s get thinking, then. First, let’s review what we know.”

    I took a deep breath, and we went over everything that we had found out about the cave, refreshing our memories. With all of the facts laid out, we were bound to find out something.

    “Okay, so we have… a mountain that shifts its insides around to trap and starve the people inside of it, or maybe keep them away from something. Does it affect the wild Pokemon?” Denzel started.

    “Yes, I would think? The area affected is way too big for it to have only plucked us out. Why?”

    “No reason, it’s how I think. I need a constant flow of conversation and ideas going in and out of my head,” he said.

    “I can certainly help you with that. Do you think brute forcing it might still be possible? Maybe Mount Coronet will run out of whatever energy it uses to keep us trapped.”

    “Hmm, doesn’t seem likely. It’s been doing this since the dawn of recorded Sinnohan history, and there are no signs of slowing down.”

    “Separating the group into two and going in pairs could maybe work to free two of us, but I don’t want to try that,” I said. “Too dangerous, and there’s a chance that the other two would be trapped in here.”

    “Yeah, but I like that train of thought. You’re thinking we could trick the system somehow? By making it shift two of us back so the other two can be free to progress.”

    “That’s right,” I said. “Mount Coronet isn’t sentient, it looks to me like a set of systems meant to keep people away from something. Systems can be tricked, now we have to figure out how to do it.”

    “Okay… it works on wild Pokemon, but humans are the trigger, correct?”

    “Looks to be that way to me,” I nodded. “So using a wild Pokemon to trigger the shift wouldn’t work.”

    I inhaled sharply, and my eyes widened.

    “Ah, you have it,” he said.

    “Yeah. Yeah, I think so,” I said, licking my lips. “Okay, remember this is just theory—”

    “Everything we’ve been saying so far is theory.”

    “Yeah, but this’ll require wasting a lot of time. Chase is going to be pissed.”

    “That asshole’s always pissed. What’d you find out?”

    “So we were talking about triggers. What if the trigger is delayed somehow? The shift seems to be affecting the same area over and over, but in every instance, it took a different amount of time to reach the Excadrill’s… corpse. And thinking back, it was the same for the first area I was trapped in. Since the amount of time varies, the shift seems to be on a randomized delay or something— but it’s not long enough to ever let us through. Even if we account for our different walking speeds, that’s the only way it makes any sense. So we could find its delimitations, step onto it, run off, and then watch it swap with another area.”

    Denzel hummed. “Ahh, that makes sense. It’s worth trying out, but I see why you said it’d take a lot of time. Finding how big the area is is going to take—”

    “A lot of time, which we might not have.”

    “Wait,” he frowned. “Wait. We can easily— well, easily might not be the right term, since it might be hard to tell still, but we can do it without trial and error.”

    “How?” I asked, shaking in anticipation.

    “No matter how powerful this shifting power is, the area that’s actually being moved is going to look unnatural, no? Maybe a small fissure in the ground demarcating it, or strange rock formations…” He trailed off.

    Denzel’s mouth opened. He had found something out.

    “Wait, we can use the fucking crystals on the roof!”

    “Holy shit, you are a fucking genius,” I exclaimed as I clapped my hands. I quickly froze and checked if Cece had woken up.

    “I’m not sleeping yet,” she said. “But I enjoy hearing you two think. Keep going.”

    I could tell from her tone that she was smiling.

    “Sorry,” I said, twiddling my thumbs. “But you’re right. The closer we got to the exit, the more crystals were on the cave’s ceiling, which means that theoretically, there should be a spot that has way fewer crystals than normal. That’s the area we’re looking for.”

    “Yeah, this is good shit,” Denzel smiled.

    “But remember, this only works if there’s a delay with the shift like we think,” I warned. “Let’s not get too enthusiastic yet.”

    “Are you kidding me? You’re more enthusiastic than I ever was. I should be the one warning you.”

    “Okay, dude,” I said smugly. “Whatever helps you sleep at night.”

    “Okay, dude,” Denzel imitated me.

    “That’s not how I sound at all!” I complained. “Ugh, whatever. We should start making plan B’s and plan C’s in case this delay idea doesn’t materialize. Still, at least we’ll know where the trap is now.”

    We planned all night until I fell asleep, and I somehow woke up in a sleeping bag with Togetic right next to me, imbuing me with happiness.

    How had Denzel put me in here without waking me up? Damn, he was good.


    A/N: Houndoom's Pokedex entry has been retconned slightly here.
     
  18. Threadmarks: Chapter 84
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 84

    Cecilia was sitting next to me, dozing off against the cave’s wall, but she snapped back awake when she saw that I had opened my eyes.

    “Grace,” She smiled. “You slept like a log. We’re almost ready to head out.”

    “Huh?” I said, still half asleep. I pet Togetic’s head as she chirped softly.

    Chase was seemingly training, doing some situps with Riolu, and Denzel was packing.

    “Why didn’t you wake me up?” I asked as I hurried out of my sleeping bag.

    “You’re more tired than you know, Grace,” she said. “I worry about you.”

    I smiled. “You sound like Amanda.”

    “Well, she’s good at her job then,” Cece said before pulling me close and softly kissing my cheek. “Did you finish your planning last night? I fell asleep.”

    “We did,” I said, ignoring the fact that I was blushing. Cece obviously noticed since she grinned. She enjoyed seeing me be shy in front of her. “I talked about a lot of stuff, but I think we covered all of our bases. Denzel didn’t tell you?”

    Cecilia shook her head. “He said you’d enjoy explaining it more than he did. You do like talking about plans,” she teased.

    “Erm, not that much,” I lied. “Let me get ready then.”

    I folded up my sleeping bag, brushed my teeth, and quickly ate. I smelled terrible, but I had gone through all of my clothes already. I sighed. I couldn’t wait to get out of here and take a warm shower. After around ten minutes, we were all ready, and I released Elekid and Tangela, who had been resting in their Pokeballs. I explained the plan to Chase and refreshed Cece’s memory, probably in a more convoluted way than was needed. She caught on and understood quickly, and Chase… Chase had gotten the gist of it. He was just irritated and wanted to get out, which I definitely understood.

    Soon enough, we were on our way with almost all of our Pokemon out. We quickly made work of any enemies foolish enough to attack us, which at this point weren’t many. It seemed that the wild Pokemon living in this region of the cave had learned who we were, and that we should be avoided at all costs, which meant that we progressed faster. As awful as our experience through Mount Coronet had been, I would be lying if our Pokemon hadn’t improved at a much faster rate in here than they would have outside doing normal training. As Cece had told me during our first training in Floaroma, Pokemon improved the fastest in tough situations, and there was no situation that was more difficult than being stuck in this death trap with no potions to heal their wounds.

    We stared up at the cave’s ceiling and noticed that there was a sudden lack of crystals like we had theorized yesterday. In fact, it was so egregious that it was incredible that we had never noticed.

    “How did we never notice this?” Chase said, enunciating my thoughts.

    “I heard a saying once,” Denzel said. “Humans rarely ever look up.”

    I slowly stepped forward and squinted at the ground. “That looks to be it,” I said. There was the smallest, tiniest fissure that demarcated the area that shifted us backward so many times.

    “That’s basically invisible unless you know exactly what you’re looking for,” Denzel said. “And incredibly unfair.”

    “Well, we found it, so do your thing,” Chase stressed, clearly impatient.

    “I’ll do it,” I said.

    “No, you won’t. Not alone,” Cece interjected. “Let’s all step on and run back at the same time, just in case there are any… mishaps.”

    I nodded.

    “Okay, let’s recall our Pokemon for this,” Denzel said. “Much easier to make sure none of them are separated.”

    “Good thinking,” I agreed.

    We recalled our Pokemon, and I labored to lift Larvitar into my arms. Then we jumped into the shifting zone and immediately scrambled back to safety.

    “Now what?” Chase asked.

    “Now we wait and hope that we were right,” I nervously said. “Should take anywhere from… a few minutes to a few hours.”

    We released our teams again as we waited. It was slightly underwhelming to have to wait so long. I wanted to have confirmation that the plan was working now, and I wouldn’t be able to relax until it did.

    It was honestly astonishing that I had somehow learned to relax in Mount Coronet. The human mind could truly adapt to anything if it was given enough time.

    Two hours had passed, and the area ahead of us just… suddenly changed. There wasn’t even a sound. No shaking ground, no rumbling, no wind, just nothing. It was disturbingly fast and silent. Teleportation was one thing, but to see it applied to such a huge chunk of the cave was just terrifying. It made me feel so tiny, so insignificant, that I felt my palms start to sweat. There were forces at play here that had been implemented by beings I couldn’t even begin to understand.

    “Holy shit,” I breathed out.

    We stared at the new terrain ahead of us in silence. It was smoother than the previous one had been, and now that I could take a good look at it, it definitely fit more. Rock formations stuck together properly, and the crystals on the roof were at an appropriate number, shining more light onto us.

    “You said it,” Chase said. “Let’s get out.”

    I nodded. There was a chance that this spot would shift too, as Denzel and I had theorized late last night, but we had come to the conclusion that it was likely for one reason. We had never seen this area before, which meant that at some point, they always switched back together for some unknown reason. That might have meant that we could have waited it out and swapped back here, but I didn't want to waste the only chance we might have. Luckily for us, this fact came with a silver lining. Since the two areas would swap back, that meant that the shift had a downtime of some sort that would last at least a few hours at most.

    Which meant we only had a few hours to get past this. We all broke into a frantic run, recalling our Pokemon who couldn’t run as fast as us. Larvitar could barely keep up, and I feared that she would fall behind. She was too heavy to run that fast, her legs were too short, and she was just a baby, so she tired out quickly. I tried carrying her for some of the way, but all that did was exhaust me. She was too heavy. I couldn’t run with her in my hands.

    I stopped in my tracks and looked at the rock type.

    “Grace, we have to go,” Denzel said.

    “No. I’m not leaving without her.”

    “Then fucking catch her already!” Chase yelled.

    “Shut it!” I yelled before grabbing an empty Pokeball and crouching. “Larvitar, you can’t run. I have to catch you if we want to make it out of here.”

    “Larvi!” She yelled back. “Tar!”

    “I’ll care for you. I know you’re hurting, and you’ve been so strong this entire time. You haven’t cried since we found you. If you don’t come with me, something in here will get you.”

    “Toge!” Togetic cried out. “Togetic!”

    Larvitar hissed, looking sideways.

    “I’ve had time to learn about you in our short time together. You’re a tough girl, Larvitar, but you’re hopeful too. You’re hoping to find your parent back, aren’t you? That’s why you don’t want to leave.”

    Larvitar’s eyes widened, and she stared right at me.

    “I… I’m sorry. You know deep down that it’s not possible. I haven’t told you this because I didn’t want to hurt you, but your parent is… gone.”

    The rock type shook her head as small tears began forming in the corner of her eyes. Frillish hovered over her and let out a comforting hum.

    “Tyranitar sacrificed herself for you. Don’t throw your life away. I know it hurts to let go, I know it hurts that you won’t see it again, but I promise you that we’ll take care of you. We’ll be partners, we’ll travel together, we’ll support each other, and you’ll grow to be strong. Stronger than you can even imagine,” I said, pausing to wipe away some of my tears. “And I won’t say that we’ll ever replace your parent, but we sure as hell will be your family. And… it would really hurt me,” I sobbed. “If I left you here to die.”

    Larvitar hesitated for a few seconds, but she lowered her head and rubbed her rough horn on my leg.

    “Ow,” I said before letting out a sad laugh and sniffling. “That hurts, but I still appreciate it.”

    I placed the empty Pokeball in front of her head.

    “Last chance,” I said. “If you want to come, bump your head against the Pokeball. It’ll take you inside, and if you don’t try to resist, you’ll be caught.”

    Larvitar took one last look behind her— back deeper into Mount Coronet— and then hit her head against the device. The ball shook three times in my hand before chiming.

    “Thank you, sweetheart,” I smiled, clipping the ball to my belt and standing back up. Chase was turned away from us and rubbing his face. “Are you… crying?” I asked him.

    “Shut the hell up. I don’t cry,” he snapped. “Her story just resonated with me, alright?”

    I ignored his lie, and we began running again. Pokemon were attacking us again, but that was because they had never actually seen us before in this section of the cave, and they probably believed us to be vulnerable. Instead, we completely battered them, especially since they were actually weak in this section of the cave, because this was the part that was supposed to lead to the exit. Geodude, Zubat, Bronzong— no matter what they were, they fell one by one. There was no actual way to know when the shifting zone began and where it started anymore, since the areas were actually in the right spots now, so that meant we could only run. Our sprint slowly turned into a more sustainable jog and then a fast-paced walk when we were too tired to go on. We had been running for more than an hour, having been on a diet of crackers and energy bars for more than a week, and we were battling at the same time. This was taking everything we had.

    I gasped and my heart jumped when I saw light. Not light from the cave, but from the outside world. It was debilitating to look at. I had spent so much time without so much as a lick of sunlight that just seeing some blinded me. I squinted and placed a hand in front of my eyes as I redoubled my efforts and broke into another sprint. We were out! We were out—

    Snow.


    The world was draped in a blanket of pure white that almost reached up to my knees. Trees were covered in a pristine, untouched coat of snow, and their branch sagged under the weight of the icy flakes. It was actually slightly less cold than it had been inside of Mount Coronet, but whenever the wind blew, it pierced through my coat and chilled me to my core. The air was crisp and clear, however, with not a single sound to be heard.

    The silence was deafening.

    The sun was high up in the sky, and there wasn’t a single cloud to be seen. Its light was bouncing onto the snow and back into our eyes, blinding me further. Togetic dove into the snow and rolled in it, laughing like she was having the time of her life. Eevee did the same, and they began playing together.

    “Where the hell are we?” I finally said. I could see my breath.

    “We’re definitely somewhere off-route,” Cece said.

    “Told you we’d end up stranded,” Chase groaned.

    “Yeah, we’re off route,” Denzel said. “Snow would have been cleared to manageable levels if we weren’t.”

    “So where are we?” I asked again.

    “This much snow at this time of the year?” Denzel started. “This has to be… somewhere near route 216.”
     
  19. Threadmarks: Interlude - House Arrest
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    INTERLUDE - HOUSE ARREST

    Pauline could still hardly believe it.

    Cecilia, Denzel, and Grace were gone. They had fallen to the depths of Mount Coronet.

    They had tried to find a safe way to climb down or to send Emilia’s Beldum down the chasm, but there hadn’t been any way to do so safely, and the psychic type would have died down there alone. The rangers had come and quickly found them an hour later, and they had scaled down the hole with their specialized caving equipment. Pauline and the others had waited with their eyes full of tears and bated breaths to see them come up with their friends. They would probably be wounded, but hopefully alive, and they would be able to put this behind them.

    The rangers came back up empty.

    There’s nothing down there, one of them had said. Just dead ends without any bodies. Are you sure they fell down?

    Pauline almost slapped that man right then and there. The tone they employed had been so nonchalant. They hadn’t cared enough. And the truth was, they didn’t. Some had been rattled or sad, but this was work for them. They had probably heard the same story about dead trainers plenty of times before. The rest of that day had been a blur that Pauline could barely even remember.

    The young girl got up from her bed and instinctively grabbed at a Poketch on her bedside table that wasn’t there anymore. It had been two days since her friends had fallen down into Mount Coronet’s depths, and the news had picked up the story and declared them missing. It wasn’t the first time trainers had sneaked into Mount Coronet since the entrance closed, but it was the first time someone might have actually died—

    Pauline’s body jerked. They weren’t dead. There hadn’t been any bodies. Just like the news said, they were missing. She had to hold onto that thin layer of hope, otherwise she didn’t know if she would be able to stand up in the morning. Harvey and Clarence’s agents had picked them up at the ranger station after they had been brought there to treat any injuries. Maybe they could have tried to run that day, but no one had the energy to do anything. They would have gotten caught eventually anyway.

    Pauline sighed. It wasn’t like her to think like this.

    They had been brought back to their hotel, and they were now under house arrest. When they got back, both of Cece’s letters had already been taken, and since they had no phones, there was no way to contact the outside world. They still had their Pokemon, but starting a fight with the hundreds of trainer guards that littered the building would never end well.

    Plus, they had Pauline’s mother, whose traitorous intentions had been figured out somehow. She still hadn’t spoken to her, but she had been assured that she was safe. Today, she would learn more about what was going to happen to them.

    Pauline stopped her foot from bouncing and got into the shower. There… there had to be a way out of this somehow. Even if— Arceus forbid— her friends were gone, she wanted to fulfill Cece’s last wish. To ruin her father’s reputation, and Louis’ father as well, for good measure, but how? They weren’t allowed to go out, and there were two experienced adult trainers standing at her door at all times that were on Louis’ father’s payroll.

    Her arms slumped, and she leaned against her shower’s wet walls. It was hopeless.

    “Come on, Pauline. We’ve gotten out of bad shit before, we can do it again.”

    Her head snapped toward her bathroom door. There was nothing there.

    Pauline knew she was going crazy. Sometimes, she randomly heard her friends’ voices as if they were still there, right next to her, but it seemed that she heard Denzel’s voice the most. The girl could almost picture his stupid childlike grin that came with the words, and he was trying to cheer her up, as he always did when the situation appeared desperate.

    Pauline let out a sad chuckle that turned into a cry. “They’re not real,” she sobbed as she crouched in the shower. “They’re gone.”

    She wanted the voices to stop. She felt that if they kept going on like this, then she would end up like Emilia or Justin. Her best friend had cried until she ran out of tears, and now just stayed in her bed all day, while Justin often sat on his balcony and just… stared off into the distance. He hadn’t spoken even once since.

    Together with her, Louis was the only one left. He hadn’t even cared that she originally joined their group to sabotage his engagement. His mind was elsewhere. He had demanded to speak with his father so many times and with such rage that she thought he would try to fight off a dozen guards at the same time, and he was finally getting his wish. Harvey and Clarence were here, and they were both going to meet him in thirty minutes. They had flown to Eterna city today.

    The redhead finally stepped into the cold and out of the shower to get dressed, and she opened her room’s door. She stared up at the guard who awaited her. He wore a suit with sunglasses and an earpiece, as did all the others.

    “Only you today?” She spat with her unending hate imbued in her words. There were usually two of them. “What even is your name? You all look the fucking same.”

    “No Pokemon are allowed when meeting Mr. Bianchi,” he said, ignoring her question.

    Pauline stared at the two Pokeballs on her belt and cursed. Was Harvey so paranoid that he thought they would attempt a suicidal attack to kill him? She sighed, realizing that she might have, depending on what they said. Pauline placed her Pokeballs back inside of her bedroom and followed the guard into the elevator.

    “Do you realize you’re helping one of the most fucked up humans on the planet?” Pauline asked him. He ignored her. “Does that make you feel good, motherfucker? Do you like the fact that Harvey and Clarence drove a girl to such torment that she thought the only option she had was to kill herself?

    Pauline noticed his fingers twitch.

    “How do you sleep at night? How do you do it, knowing that three children might be dead because of the man you work for, you piece of human filth? I see you have a ring on your finger. Does your wife know how much of a sociopath you are? I truly wonder what it takes for someone to go home and kiss their wife after a hard day’s work causing children to be murdered—”

    “Stop.”

    “Or what, you little bitch? You’re going to hit me? Hurt me like you hurt Cece—”

    “What is the point of this?” he hissed.

    “I don’t know, maybe I wanted you to think about the consequences of your actions. Real consequences. It feels good to just keep your head down and pretend you’re just following orders, doesn’t it? That nothing you do would change anything anyway? I hope the guilt eats you up and spits you out like a discarded hump of trash. You already know what Cecilia looks like, but since their faces are all over the news, you know what Grace and Denzel look like too. I want you to imagine them when you fall asleep at night. I want you to imagine their lives getting interrupted early. Fifteen and sixteen years old. You seem old enough to have a child that age. When you close your eyes, I want you to imagine their corpse having been mangled by some wild Pokemon. Imagine them having died alone and scared.”

    The elevator opened on the ground floor, and the bodyguard led her to where Harvey and Clarence would be, which was a restaurant he had completely bought out for the day. His stride was faster this time. He was jittery. Less confident.

    Good, Pauline thought. I hope you fucking choke on the guilt.

    The redhead could see the press in the distance, begging to be let in, but they weren’t allowed to. They were obsessing over this story— so much so in fact that it was going toe to toe with the fact that Team Galactic’s base in Eterna City had been successfully raided yesterday by Cynthia, the League, the Elite Four and the International Police.

    She was frisked before being allowed to enter the restaurant. Louis was already in the entryway, waiting for her. Pauline stared at the wound running from the corner of his lip to his ear and winced. It still wasn’t completely healed, and the scar would always be there, but Louis insisted on showing it. Pauline agreed with this decision. They wouldn’t let the assholes that worked for Harvey and Clarence ignore what they were doing. What they had caused.

    “Pauline,” Louis said. Gone was the innocence on his face. He wore a perpetual frown now. “They say my father’s waiting for his meal first, so he’s going to be late.”

    He clenched a fist tightly at the last word.

    “He’s treating this like some kind of vacation?” She spat. “I want to gouge his eyes out.”

    “So do I, but we have questions to ask first—”

    Louis’ face contorted into a look of rage when he saw Amy walk out of the restaurant. Her eyes were red like she had been crying, and she looked like she hadn’t slept. Pauline let out a hearty chuckle that died in her throat.

    “Amy,” she started, her voice trembling with anger. “Why are you crying?”

    “Why do you think,” she sniffled. “I’ve been crying since learning that Cece was gone.”

    Louis slammed his fist against a wall, and his knuckles started to bleed. She flinched.

    “Excuse me?” he asked, his voice dangerously calm. “Could you repeat that for me?”

    “I— I didn’t know that she would go that far! I was trying to save her. Grace and Denzel must have manipulated her somehow—”

    Pauline stepped forward and slapped her so hard that her hand felt numb. Amy fell to the ground, placing a hand on her reddened cheek, and guards rushed in to put some space in between them before she could beat the shit out of her.

    “You still don’t understand?!” Pauline screamed so loudly that her throat hurt. “You fucking did this! You’re a fucking monster!”

    “No! I was just trying to help! If your mother hadn’t tried to derail everything, it would have been fine!”

    “Your words,” she hissed. “Your words are the ones that pushed her over the edge. You can’t pretend to be innocent in all of this. In fact, you’re one of the biggest culprits. You killed Cecilia, Amy. You killed her.”

    Tears streamed down Amy’s face, and Pauline smirked. “Don’t you even dare act like the victim. You are inhuman. You could have helped Cece with her issues. You were her best friend, who she loved. Instead, you chose to be a collaborator. You dealt with evil, and now you can never be redeemed. I hope you can never get a wink of sleep again and that you get nightmares so bad that you go through one-tenth of what Grace went through. I hope you know that you caused Denzel’s death, who was the brightest and most positive person I knew. I hope you know that even though you weren’t the one holding the metaphorical knife, you killed Cece, who, despite her circumstances, was the most ambitious, most—”

    The bodyguards dragged her away before she could finish her sentence. She tried to follow her, but they held her back.

    “That was for Cece,” she whispered. “And it still wasn’t enough.”

    “We’ll see her again,” Louis said, clenching his hand in pain. “She’s going to be here a while.”

    “I’m going to fucking grill her every time I see her,” Pauline hissed. “She doesn’t get to pretend nothing is her fault. She doesn’t get to wash the blood off of her hands.

    “Good.”

    Seven minutes later, they were led deeper inside of the empty restaurant. Pauline scoffed when she saw that every utensil had been taken away. That’s how paranoid they were. Louis’ father, or Harvey, was almost a carbon copy of him. Their hair was exactly the same shade of blond, they had the same eyes, nose and face shape. The main difference came in eye color, which was light brown for Harvey and light blue for Louis. Still, even though it wasn’t Pauline’s first time seeing the older man, it was disconcerting to see how alike they were. Clarence, on the other hand, couldn’t look more different than Cecilia if he tried. He shared her brown skin and appeared a lot younger than he actually was. He had a small nose with thin lips.

    Pauline was surprised to see that Clarence actually looked shaken. His daughter was dead or missing, so it was obvious that a normal father would be stricken with grief, but he was anything but normal. He had directly caused her death. He was the one that held the knife and had been pressing it against her throat the entire time.

    Still, that wasn’t it. There was another man sitting on another table, with ten Pokeballs on his belt, and a Malamar standing at his back. Pauline flinched when she saw the dark type stare at her and give her a wicked grin that sent a shiver down her spine. Malamar were the most evil, most depraved species of Pokemon on this planet, and to Pauline, any trainer that owned one must have been just as perverse.

    Mind control, Pauline thought. It was all beginning to click now. Cecilia had been threatened with mind control, and the reason this trainer was here was to intimidate them. The Malamar’s trainer wiped his mouth and gave them a respectful nod. He looked so unassuming that she would never have guessed that he owned a Malamar.

    “Louis, Pauline,” Harvey started after sipping on some red wine. He motioned to two chairs on their table facing them. “Take a seat.”

    “What’s that Malamar here for?” Pauline said, already knowing the answer. “Gonna mind control us?”

    “No, of course not,” Harvey shook his head. “Abel is just here for some protection.”

    “You already have hundreds of trainers on your payroll,” Louis hissed. “But enough of that. Do you fucking—” he started, slamming a fist against the table. The plates shook and Clarence’s glass of wine fell on his suit, causing him to groan and call a server. “—know how many times I’ve been trying to reach you until today?”

    “Calm down, Louis. A man of your status must not employ such language needlessly.”

    “I will not calm down! What is this, dad? Why are you treating us like prisoners after our friends died?

    “Calm down,” he repeated more forcefully. “Allow Clarence to explain.”

    Clarence took a short breath as he wiped his suit. “Let us address the obvious first,” he said. “You associated yourselves with poison, and they made my daughter not be in the right state of mind.”

    “You have to be fucking kidding me—” Pauline exclaimed. Amy had said the same thing. Was that the narrative they were fucking creating? They wanted to ruin Denzel’s and Grace’s reputation, even in death!

    “I miscalculated. I thought a good scare would get her on the right path again, but it did not. The news are all over this since we couldn’t shut the story down in time. Reporters,” he spat. “Both of our companies’ stock prices have taken a slight dip, and our boards want this story out of the news cycle as fast as possible. You know what that means, right?”

    Pauline’s eyes widened. This man… this man wasn’t shaken because his daughter was possibly dead. He was shaken because his company was taken a slight fucking hit.

    “Who cares about money?!” Louis asked. “The company could go under today and we still would have enough to last generations!

    “You are too shortsighted. I raised you better,” Harvey said. “A man’s life should always be about the legacy he leaves behind.”

    Clarence nodded. “Getting back to my point, that means that you must stay silent. Do not speak to any reporters. You shall stay inside until the story dies down. Justin’s father and Emilia’s parents agree with this.”

    “Funny, because they haven’t even spoken to their kids once. Do you know how depressed they are? They barely ate anything since—” Pauline said, but Clarence interrupted.

    “Regarding your mother, Pauline. We have decided to give her another chance to redeem herself. We could have pressured her by funding her competitors, and she would have been out of business within five years, but I believe that everyone deserves a clean slate. Still, any more action from you and her, and you will pay. Understood?”

    Pauline said nothing.

    “I don’t understand,” Louis stammered. “You’re acting like nothing bad happened. Like it’s just business as usual.”

    He had a look of disbelief on his face. The last threads of hope that he had held of his father somehow still being a normal man were being torn apart in front of his eyes, revealing the monster for who he actually was. It was one thing to hear about it in Cece’s letter, but it was another to finally see it with his own eyes. The veil had finally been lifted.

    “I believe we’ve said everything that needed to be said,” Harvey nodded.

    “So what about your pet project about sending us all to the Conference?” Pauline smiled harshly.

    “Sacrifices will have to be made. We now have different priorities, and we have to negotiate with the new government about potentially giving more us… business-friendly terms.” Harvey simply answered.

    Pauline shook her head and spat into the man’s food. They looked at her with more disdain than they had while talking about dead children.

    “You,” she called out to the man called Abel. “You’re a piece of shit too, I hope you know that.”

    “It’s just business,” he said with an exaggerated bow.

    “Malamaaaar,” The psychic type said, imitating his trainer’s gestures and intonation.

    Money. Stocks. Investments. Business.

    Pauline was sick and tired of hearing about it.

    ——

    “Emi,” Pauline said, shaking her friend. She was under layers and layers of covers, and she couldn’t even see her face. “Emi, have you eaten today?”

    “I’m not hungry,” she sobbed.

    Pauline caressed her friend’s body through the thick layers of fabric. “I can make you anything if you need, just say the word,” she said, trying to keep her tone positive. “I’m here for you.”

    Her friend just continued to cry. Beldum hovered over her, ever vigilant, while Aimpom and Rockruff had fallen asleep next to her.

    “Drink lots of water, okay? I’m going to go, I’ll be back in an hour.”

    “Hmhm,” she answered weakly.

    Pauline stepped out of her best friend’s room, walked to hers with an escort, and collapsed on her knees.

    Stay strong, she thought to herself. The King family is strong.

    “If you need to cheer up, we can play a round of Old Maid. You’re terrible at it, but I’ll even let you win if you want,” She heard Denzel say.

    “Shut up!” Pauline yelled, waving her arms. “You aren’t real! Leave me alone!”

    She had to do something. Her friends’ reputations were going to get ruined because of two men’s greed, but how? If she could somehow escape, she would have to get to the nearest Pokemon Center to use one of their public computers and post something on the forums. That would be the quickest way to do it. But getting out of here was a task in and of itself. Say she went for broke and decided to fight her way out of here anyway. Two Pokemon weren’t enough, and even if she combined her forces with Louis, they wouldn’t even make it close to the exit. A trainer almost always got their start in the League Circuit, but not all of them retired. If they were good enough, some went into the League and started working there to become a League trainer, while the weaker ones or people with ambitions of becoming a gym leaders became gym trainers. That wasn’t what paid the most, however. The private sector hired a lot of retired trainers and lined their pockets with more money than they could ever dream of.

    So she would have to go through bodyguard after bodyguard, who would fight to the last to protect their salary, and she wasn’t even guaranteed to be a better trainer. She hadn’t seen any of them use their Pokemon yet, and there was still Abel—

    Pauline heard a knock on the door. She composed herself before opening the door and saw that a bodyguard was waiting for her.

    “What is it?” She asked. “Don’t bother me.”

    “My name’s Cedric,” he said.

    “What?”

    “You asked what my name was earlier. It’s Cedric.”

    Ah, he was the one that had escorted her to the restaurant downstairs.

    “Well, fuck you, Cedric,” Pauline spat. “Are you done?”

    “I’m not,” he said. “Your words… they struck a chord. I know I do a lot of fucked up shit. I’ve known all along, of course, but when I heard you say it out loud… I truly realized what it is I was contributing to. I have a kid.”

    “So?” She said, crossing her arms. “Want me to feel bad for you?”

    “No. I don’t expect forgiveness, of course, nor do I need it. But I do want to make things right— as right as they can still be,” Cedric corrected himself. He grabbed a Poketch from his pocket and gave it to her. It was hers. She recognized it instantly.

    “What if I rat you out and get you fired?” She asked.

    “I’m quitting anyway,” he sighed. “Can’t keep doing this.”

    “Well, Cedric,” Pauline said. “You’ve been promoted from a piece of shit to a piece of trash. Thank you.”

    Somehow, her verbal beatdown of this guard had made him become a better person, and he was potentially ruining his life for her. As her mother sometimes said, tact was the ability to tell someone to go to hell and make them look forward to the trip.

    The bodyguard nodded and closed the door. Pauline immediately ran to her bedroom door, locked it, and opened up her phone. She was going to type a statement— no, first, she was going to call all of the news organizations and tell her story, and then type a statement on the forums. That way, both civilians and trainers would learn how fucked up the Obel Energy Company and the Bianchi Conglomerate were.

    But her mother… her mother would suffer the consequences. And so would she after this. Her finger hovered over the call button, trembling like a leaf. She didn’t want to risk calling her mother beforehand to warn her either because she was sure her phone had been bugged. Once she started the first call, it would only be a matter of time until the guards realized something was wrong and stopped her. There was no time to waste.

    “Mommy would respect my choice no matter what,” Pauline exhaled. “She’ll understand.”

    Pauline pressed the call button and began talking to the first reporter. She was risking everything, but what could they do to even counter her? When the Meowth was out of the bag, there was no way to put it back in. She would fulfill Cece’s last wish and burn these companies to the ground if it was the last thing she did.

    Pauline talked to seven reporters and typed out a long statement on the forum that day.

    The very next hour, the new story broke. Harvey and Clarence’s lies were revealed, and the truth of the story came out. They had abused a girl so badly that she had decided to die in Mount Coronet, and Grace and Denzel were heroes who tried to go save her. She threw Abel under the bus too, saying that they had hired a trainer that threatened the use of mind control. Hopefully, with all the media attention this would get, law enforcement wouldn’t just ignore this one. Just tying down Harvey and Clarence in legal battles would be enough, even though they would eventually win. Pauline breathed a sigh of relief and smiled when she heard the bodyguards breaking down her door.

    That day, the Bianchi Conglomerate’s stock price crashed by 19%, and the Obel Energy Company’s crashed by 26%.

    And hopefully, it would only be down from there.
     
  20. Threadmarks: Interlude - Grunt
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    A/N: Let me add an important content warning for this chapter. It's about Team Galactic and therefore gets very dark. If you hate it when the story gets dark, I recommend not reading this, but there'll be an author note at the end about why I wrote it.


    INTERLUDE - Grunt

    Two years earlier

    “...although Carla battled addiction her entire life, which was filled with struggle and setbacks, we choose to remember the moments of joy that brought smiles to her family and loved ones. She was a sister, a friend, a mother…”

    Émile Cartwright stood there, his eyes downcast and his teeth grinding against each other so hard it felt like they were about to fall off as one of his uncles read his mother’s eulogy. She was dead. He had found her overdosing in her bathroom, foaming at the mouth, her waste all over the floor and with a dirty needle in her arm. He had tried to get her help so many times, but there was never enough money, and she kept relapsing again and again. He had begun with odd jobs and started to delve into petty crime, robbing small stores with his Trubbish to try to get her into a proper rehab facility.

    Still, it hadn’t been enough. There wasn’t much a street rat from the poorest corner of Jubilife could have done. He stared at his uncles and his mother’s friends, who looked on with dead eyes. Where had they been to help? All those times, he had begged them for money, and they just brushed him off. Yet they dared show up here to her funeral? When he had paid for most expenses out of pocket?

    The system had failed Émile and his mother. The government didn’t care about any of them. Every day, they would hear about a new stadium opening up, a new rising star trainer or coordinator, pointless debates and arguments about who was the strongest Champion, or who would win the Arceus damned Conference this year. Things that just did not matter when a huge part of Sinnoh was wallowing in misery. Instead of looking at the rot in society, people just chased the newest shiny object. The trend of the month. Émile was forgotten. A nobody.

    Jubilife had killed his mother. It watched her struggle, die, and spat on her corpse. Now the entire world would move on, unaware that she had even existed in the first place.

    He left the funeral early. He couldn’t bare to talk with his family and act like he didn’t hate their guts. Today, he would mourn, and tomorrow, he’d need to get back to work. He had spend all of his money on getting her a proper farewell—

    “You,” he heard behind him.

    “What?” Émile answered with a trembling voice. He grabbed Trubbish’s Pokeball. “I might not look like it, but I’m a trainer, so go rob someone else.”

    “I’m not here to rob you. You’ve been left behind, haven’t you, Émile Cartwright?”

    His stomach dropped. Giving the man a closer look, he was rather average looking, with short brown hair and brown eyes, although slightly older than Émile was. He looked like he’d fade into any background. Someone you would never pay any attention to or give a second look.

    “How the hell do you know my name?”

    “Don’t you wish you could stick it up to the government who failed you? Who doesn’t give a fuck about people like you and me?”

    Émile paused and licked his dry lips. “What do you suggest? Do you think we’re taking down the fucking League? The only reason I’m not in jail is because I keep taking from people like me. People who don’t have anything. If I targeted the shit that mattered to them, I’d already be in prison.”

    “I used to think that too,” the man said. “But then someone approached me and gave me hope. Like I’m doing now with you. We’re small right now, but we have potential. Potential to finally give the little guy like you and me a voice.”

    Émile somehow didn’t ignore the man, surprising even himself. Still, he was in no mood for idealism. Words were nice. They were gentle and could make you daydream about your ideal world for a few seconds before you snapped back to reality. Taking action was another thing altogether.

    Still, Émile was intrigued.

    “What’s your group? What do you do?”

    “I’m afraid you can only learn more if you come with me, my friend.”

    He sighed and rubbed his face, pinching his nose. This was shady as hell, but at this point, what did he even have to lose? Eventually, Émile would strike at a target too big, and he’d be locked up for years. So why not try something new?

    “Okay,” he exhaled. “I’m in.”

    The man grinned. “I’m Gabriel. Welcome to Team Galactic.”

    ——

    Émile squinted as he walked past two large men into the blinding white building, a huge contrast to the dreary streets that they had just come from. He couldn’t believe such a trashy-looking exterior hid this kind of building. From the outside, it had looked like one of the hundreds of abandoned factories and storage facilities that littered the northeastern side of Jubilife, but it was a hub of activity. People filtered in and out, all with determined looks on their faces, a far cry from what he was used to seeing in his neighborhood, and some of them wore weird uniforms that resembled spacesuits.

    “Eyes in front, Émile,” Gabriel said. “You’ll get acquainted with everything else later.”

    “I’m just so surprised,” he gasped. “I thought you were some rag-tag group, since you said you were small, but you look… legit.”

    “Of course we are,” he laughed. “If we weren’t, I wouldn’t be a part of it. And this is just one of our bases. We have a few right now, and we’re looking to start up a new one in Veilstone.”

    Gabriel led him to a small storage room that apparently functioned as an office. Another man, this time way older and with greying hair, stared at them exasperatedly.

    “Gabriel, another recruit? I thought we told you to slow down on those,” he said. Émile knew that he must have been a smoker from how raspy his voice sounded and how black his teeth were. “We’re growing too fast for my liking.”

    “If we want to achieve anything, we need numbers, Vedran. You put me in the recruitment force, and I got good at it. Don’t complain.”

    “Did you check his background properly, at least?” Vedran asked, eyeing Émile from head to toe.

    “He’s a nobody. We’ll be fine.”

    “What the hell?!” Émile exclaimed. If he was going to get insulted, then—

    “You misunderstand, young man,” Vedran interrupted. “That is the number one thing we look at when we recruit someone. We are all nobodies.”

    “Why?”

    “You don’t have anything to lose but have everything to gain, so you won’t quit and rat us out. And even if you do, no one will believe you. Have you seen Jubilife’s cops on the northside? Short staffed, incompetent as hell, and with a touch of corruption to boot.”

    “I know,” he said, clenching his teeth.

    “We’re doing a lot of illegal shit, as you could probably guess,” Gabriel explained. “So that’s why we look for people like you.”

    “Fine… but you could have worded that better.”

    “This is Team Galactic, boy,” Vedran spat. “We do not coddle. Get used to it.”

    “But I guarantee that you’ll feel more at home here than anywhere else,” Gabriel quickly added with a warm smile.

    Émile was filled with a sense of… it was hard to explain. There was a pinch of worry. He felt that if he truly joined this organization, it would be difficult to leave. But at the same time, excitement overwhelmed him. This felt good. Being a part of something larger than himself that was finally aiming to stick it up to the system? He was all in. He nodded at Vedran.

    “Good. Let me add your information to the system…” the old man said, “Gabriel?”

    He sprung up. “Émile Cartwright, twenty-two, poor as sin. His mother was a crackhead who died of an overdose, and his father’s in the slammer for attempted murder. Owns a Trubbish and is actually rather decent at battling, from what I’ve seen. Good instincts and strategizing, but lack of move variety.”

    Émile stared at Gabriel with wide eyes.

    “I said I was good at my job. Been watching you a while.”

    Vedran typed on his computer extremely quickly and smiled. “Okay… I wish he’d been adept with technology or science, we’re lacking in those,” he sighed. “Still, you own a Pokemon, so you’ll be of use.”

    “What’s my job, then?”

    Vedran smirked and tapped on the enter key.

    “You’re a grunt.”

    ——

    “Give us the code,” Émile yelled in the woman’s ear. “Now!”

    The bank’s employee whimpered as he pressed the knife tighter to her throat. She cried out a series of numbers, and then begged not to be killed. Émile nodded at his fellow grunts, and they went down to the vaults.

    “Good! The rest of you stay nice and quiet unless you want my Trubbish here to poison you. You’ll die in minutes.”

    “Tru!” The poison type belched, releasing a terribly foul odor. That was a good way to sell the threat.

    There had been a few trainers in the bank as well, but they had made quick work of their Pokemon. No one could stop them anymore.

    It had been two months since Émile had joined Team Galactic, and he had gotten a lot of work done. He was a grunt, but he specialized in gathering funds for the organization. He had already been an amateur robber before joining, and now he had just moved on to bigger fish. Instead of small convenience stores, he robbed jewelry stores and banks. Of course, they didn’t do this under the Team Galactic insignia. To bystanders, they were just normal bank robbers with masks. Cyrus still wanted the organization to stay under the shadows until they were ready to strike.

    Cyrus… Émile had never even seen the man or any of the Commanders, and neither had Gabriel or Vedran. Still, they all admired him. He gave them another chance at life. A chance to be someone. A chance to matter.

    “The pigs are going to be here soon!” his friend said beside him.

    “I know, Naomi,” Émile said. “Just give Lars, Riley and the others a few minutes so that they can come back with the money.”

    Funny how the cops always rushed to protect the big banks, but never to solve the gang violence that plagued his neighborhood and Jubilife’s northeast as a whole. Émile scoffed.

    He had made friends here. Connections. People in Team Galactic were harsh, but they were real, unlike his family. He felt like he finally belonged. This was his new home, and he actually got paid here. He was so happy Gabriel had found him that day. He always worked with his squad, of which he was the leader. Lars, Riley, Naomi, and Paul were his closest friends, along with Gabriel and Vedran, but he often worked with other groups of grunts for bigger jobs like today as well. If they succeeded… it would bring back millions of Pokedollars to Team Galactic. He was sure to get noticed by Cyrus if he did.

    A few minutes later, Lars, Riley, and a dozen other grunts walked back, dragging bags full of cash on the ground. There were many for them to be even able to carry, but that was fine.

    “Let’s get the fuck out!”

    Riley released her Abra, and suddenly, the entire group was back at headquarters with the money. Émile grinned. Commander Charon owned a Hypno who knew the move Teleport, and he often lent him throughout the entire organization so that their psychics could learn the move. They didn’t need a getaway vehicle or a plan of escape. As long as Riley and her Abra were here, they were invincible, even though he could only use the move once every few days. Any more would exhaust him to the point of near death.

    People around the HQ cheered when they noticed that they were back with the money. Of course, it would have to be laundered so that it couldn’t be tracked, but they had people for that. Team Galactic wasn’t only made up of grunts. Money launderers, scientists, trolls who spread misinformation and conspiracies online about the government, recruiters like Gabriel, administrators like Vedran, street thugs, informants, infiltrators, engineers, fucking accountants.

    Émile was just a cog in the machine that kept it going. A small part out of thousands. And it gave him a sense of belonging he had never felt before.

    ——

    “I’m so fucking nervous,” Émile said as he adjusted his uniform’s collar. It felt too tight. He hated the space theme they had going on, but at least he only had to wear it when he walked around HQ.

    “Just sit up straight, and you’ll be fine,” Lars said, his tone giddy.

    “I can’t believe it’s finally happening,” Riley laughed. “We’re meeting a Commander.”

    “The newest one, though,” Naomi said. “She joined after us, and she’s already a Commander? Must be something special.”

    “Vedran called her Mars. All I know about her is that she’s an upbeat woman,” Émile said. “Now, quiet down. We want to make a good impression.”

    Émile had been right. His bank robbery had propelled him from being an unnamed grunt to meeting a Commander. He was moving up in the ranks. Maybe he would even be a Commander too, one day.

    An incredibly pale young woman with hair too red to be natural and an incredibly strange haircut walked into the room. Émile stared down at her and felt a flash of disappointment, although he didn’t let it show. Mars didn’t look like much. She didn’t command his immediate respect as he had expected before meeting her.

    “Pffft, I hate Jubilife,” she groaned, stretching before sitting down on the ground. “You guys like it here?”

    Émile’s eyes darted left and right toward his friends. What should they answer? Was this a test of some kind? Would their answer determine if they worked under her or not?

    “Come on, answer me!” She said, pouting like a child.

    “I dislike it,” Émile said, making sure his voice did not waver. “It’s the region’s capital, and people act like it’s this shining jewel. The pride of Sinnoh. But if you peel back at the layers, you see that it’s rotten to its core.”

    Mars shot up— it was almost disturbing how quickly she had gotten on her feet— and grinned.

    “Good answer! Although that’s the world in general. Hey, what’s your name, my man?” She asked.

    “Émile Cartwright, Commander!” He exclaimed.

    “Relax, relax, this isn’t the League! I’m a laid-back kind of boss, no need for all that performative stuff,” she said, waving her hand. “Call me Commander still, though, I like that!”

    “Yes, Commander!” They all answered at the same time.

    “Sheesh! You guys are fun,” she laughed. “Well, you grunts distinguished yourselves from the rest, so you’re going to be working under me from now on, along with the rest of my unit.”

    Émile waited for further explanation, but Mars didn’t say anything.

    “What? Expecting something else?” She smiled as she approached them. Émile suddenly felt a chill, as if the temperature was dropping all around him. He stared into Mars’ eyes and had to remind himself to breathe. “I don’t particularly care for anything we do here. I’m just a girl in love. All I want is for Cyrus to praise me. So we’re going to be doing the most dangerous jobs possible. I don’t care what happens to you. Just make sure you don’t fail, because if you do and it reflects badly on me… well, I’m going to be having a lot of fun, but you certainly won’t!” She said before giggling.

    She was… she was pretending, right? Surely she wasn’t actually insane. To risk everything Émile had built for a crush?

    “Now, what are the rest of you called? Émile, introduce us!”

    ——

    Émile was the last one standing.

    It had only taken six months for all of his friends to disappear. Naomi and Paul had been arrested. Lars had died to a misfire from another grunt’s Pokemon, and he rarely spoke to Gabriel and Vedran these days, since Mars dragged him all throughout the region on a whim. And Riley…

    Émile shuddered. He preferred not to think about what the Commander had done to Riley after she blew up at her for letting their friends die or be captured.

    He was a much better trainer now. He had four Pokemon, and his Trubbish had evolved into a Garbodor. He had more money than he could ever have dreamed of, but Émile wasn’t having fun anymore. This wasn’t how it had been when he had just joined. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. He wanted out.

    And yet, he was stuck in Team Galactic. The higher he went, the harder it was to leave. And he was on the way up. Mars had recommended him for a promotion, which she forced him to accept, and he was finally about to meet Cyrus in Team Galactic’s Veilstone HQ, along with around a hundred other grunts. He was going to give a speech about the future of Team Galactic, which was incredibly too vague for Émile’s liking. Were they finally going to strike at the government, which had failed him and his mother? If they could just do that, then it would at least have been worth it.

    Émile groaned as a grunt bumped into him. They were packed like a pod of Wishiwashi in this room, and this uniform made him incredibly hot.

    Team Galactic’s leader stepped onto the stage, followed closely by his Commanders. Mars was giddy, as usual, and skipped across the stage while Charon scowled at her and limped to the center of the podium. The other woman, who must have been Jupiter, just walked forward with her chin up and a slight smile, and Saturn’s expression was hard to gauge. Émile wasn’t good enough with faces to tell if he was excited or angry— he somehow walked the uncanny valley between the two emotions.

    Cyrus had spiky blue hair and no eyebrows, which was strange, but he commanded Émile’s attention straight away. His face held a perpetual frown, and he had his hands behind his back. Mars perked up and adjusted his microphone, touching his torso in the process, but he paid it no mind. In fact, it looked like Cyrus hadn’t even noticed. His mind was elsewhere.

    “You are here today because you are the best Team Galactic has to offer,” Cyrus said, getting straight to the point. “You have risen above the riff-raff and proven yourself unique. Worthy.”

    Émile let out an audible gulp. Cyrus’ voice was emotionless. There was no intonation. He disturbingly kept it still and unwavering the entire time he spoke, no matter what words were being said.

    “You joined Team Galactic thinking that we were simply trying to be a thorn in Sinnoh’s side, but the truth is that we are much more than that. The human spirit is weak and incomplete. There is too much conflict and too much suffering in the world. Team Galactic will harness the power of Sinnoh’s old myths and science to create a brand new world without strife. We will start from zero. A blank slate. That means that this world will be wiped away. Rejoice, for you have been selected. You are part of the chosen few thousand who will survive and be a part of this perfect new world.”

    It took everything Émile had not to throw up. The organization he had joined… didn’t exist. Team Galactic was run by crazies. This new world idea was impossible, but that somehow wasn’t the worst part. Everyone who had joined and was still joining… was doing so for a fucking lie. His entire goal had been brought to naught. It had never been about helping the forgotten. Still, he looked around him. They were all cheering. Clapping. Celebrating. They had been brazenly lied to for months or years, and yet, they didn’t seem to care. They were completely taken by Cyrus with such fanatical devotion that Émile felt like he was in a cult. He was alone. There was no one to speak up with him, so he decided to stay silent.

    It was too late to go back. Cyrus kept droning about his new world, and Émile stopped listening.

    ——

    Émile carefully stepped down the stairs and saw Mars leaning against one of the walls. They were holed up in Eterna city HQ since the League was closing in on them, but he actually liked that. That meant that he wouldn’t have to do dangerous work for a goal he didn’t believe in any longer, although they were planning on abandoning the base in a week. His trip through Eterna Forest to catch that Rotom had been horrible, but he had gotten it easy compared to the others. When he heard that all of the grunts had been left at Valley Windworks, his stomach dropped. Their memories had all been ripped away. The camaraderie that he had seen at the start of his career was gone. Now Team Galactic was all about results, no matter the sacrifice.

    Still, Team Galactic exploited that and began a campaign of misinformation, accusing the government of tyrannical action and trying to balloon the already ongoing protests. A year ago, Émile would have been fully on board, but now, he just couldn’t bring himself to care about anything. He was hollow.

    “How goes my favorite grunt Émile?” Mars smirked at him.

    “I’m good, Commander,” he answered before eyeing the knife in her hand. She was hiding it behind her back, but it was barely showing. It was bloody, and so were her white shoes.

    “Ah, you noticed!” She laughed. “Come here.”

    He shambled across the basement, and she pointed at a door.

    “Open it.”

    “Why?” He gulped.

    “Open it.”

    Émile’s hand trembled as he gripped the handle. He pushed down, creaked the door open, and he felt a pit form in his stomach. It was… a mutilated body. He was missing his nails, and lacerations and cuts ran across his entire torso, arms, and legs, but the face had been left completely intact. Some cuts were so deep that they had reached the bone, and blood had seeped all across the floor. He still wore the Galactic uniform.

    “Not my best work,” she continued, uncaring at the horror they were looking at. “But not my worst either.”

    “Who… who was that?” He stammered as fear crawled down his spine. He bent over and almost threw up on the floor, but nothing came out.

    “Calm down, Émile! I wouldn’t do that to one of us. Come on, you know me better than that!” She said. “He was a League agent that had been sent to join and infiltrate the organization. Caught him right away. He was down here for a few days while I was working on him.”

    So she had tortured him for days? Émile stopped himself from lurching.

    “He died an hour ago. He wouldn’t spill anything, though, even after I threatened his Pokemon,” she sighed. “And when I tried to get Hypno to extract any memories, his mind came up blank. That’s how I figured out he was a League guy, actually. Some kind of mental shield they use that we haven’t figured out yet. How annoying. But his screams were decently fun, although there’s one particular girl I want to play with soon.”

    “But we got all the information we needed from the League with Rotom,” he said, his throat tight. “We even know that they found another one of the lakes by Sunyshore— you didn’t need to keep torturing him.”

    Mars stared at him blankly, and then her face split into a grin. “Oops. I guess you found me out! The truth was that it was too much fun. Don’t tell anyone else, okay? They’ll get mad at me. Especially that old gruff Charon, ugh, I hate him.”

    How… how had she become this way? There was no life in her eyes. Mars was a monster. Émile couldn’t believe it had taken so long for him to realize it. He had often tried to guess what kind of childhood she must have had to turn out this way, but the truth was, it didn’t actually matter. She just… she wasn’t human. She just looked the part.

    “Why’re you stepping away from me, Émile?” She pouted. “Come on, I got you promoted! You’re going to live past the end of the world!”

    I never wanted any of this, he thought as his breathing quickened.

    “But of course, you didn’t want it, did you?” She continued as if she was reading his mind. “I knew, Émile. I knew all along. You were my pet project, you know? I wanted to see how long I could keep stringing you along toward a fate you hated. It was decently fun, but you just took it and never reacted, I mean, come on! Blow up at me or something. Get mad! Attack me! It’s too late now, though. I’m bored of you.”

    Émile couldn’t even register the words he had just heard.

    “What?”

    “You heard me,” she said. “No hard feelings though, right?”

    “You—”

    Suddenly, the entire building was rocked by an explosion.

    “Ah, must be the League,” Mars smiled. “About time.”

    About time? He thought. They hadn’t been expecting to be found for another two weeks!

    Émile clenched at his Pokeball. Could he pretend to be helping and strike Mars down so that she’d be arrested somehow? Killed would be better, but he would take anything he could get at this point. He didn’t care what happened to him. Mars ignored his bubbling rage and skipped up the stairs as she released her Seviper and her Clefable.

    “Let’s go fight them off, shall we?” Mars smiled.

    “Yes, Commander,” Émile hissed, grinding his teeth together.

    ——

    “Sludge Bomb!” Émile yelled. “Double Edge!”

    “Protect and Disarming Voice!” The League trainer ordered in quick succession.

    Garbodore belched and spat out a huge lump of poison at the opposing Delcatty while Linoone’s body tensed and rushed toward the normal type. Delcatty summoned a thick barrier that protected it from both attacks, before quickly screaming at Linoone, causing him to writhe on the ground.

    Everywhere around him, fights were erupting, ending, and ongoing. Parts of the ceiling had collapsed, there were holes in the walls and the floors, and a part of the building was on fire. There were so many battles going on at this point that Émile didn’t even know where Mars had gone, but he knew one thing. They were losing. The League had brought everything they had, and he caught a glimpse of Aaron from the Elite Four at one point. Linoone fainted, and he recalled him. His other Pokemon were also down. He only had Garbodore left.

    Émile cursed, contemplating his options. Running was impossible. All exits had been blocked off, and League trainers had the building surrounded from all sides, along with the International Police. The only place he could go was deeper into the base.

    “Surrender,” the League trainer said as he covered his mouth and nose from the putrid air blowing his way.

    Émile ordered Garbodore to spit out another lump of poison, giving him an opening, and then booked it anyway. If he was going to get arrested, then he’d make sure the monster that called itself Mars would go down with him. He quickly recalled Garbodore once he was far enough and ran away. He needed to find her. He needed to—

    She was there, mowing down League trainers with just two of her Pokemon and giggling like a girl. She wasn’t even using her Dusknoir, and yet she was standing up to three trainers at once. Clefable laughed maniacally as she struck down a trainer with a Thunderbolt that flew from the tip of her finger, and Seviper stabbed a Manetric’s throat, its sharp tail dripping with poison and blood. Émile bit his tongue, waiting for the exact moment that he needed to strike, which was right after Clefable sent another Thunderbolt forward.

    “Sludge Bomb,” he whispered, pointing at Mars. Garbodore hesitated, but he hissed out the order again, and he finally listened, spitting out another ball of poison—

    The world drained of its color and became cold, and smoke immediately coalesced into a solid shape. The Sludge Bomb washed over Dusknoir’s body, and the ghost type shot Émile a look that caused him to collapse on his knees and desperately crawl back as he soiled himself.

    “I finally broke you,” Mars laughed. In the middle of this battlefield, her words still rang clear in his mind. “You were fun after all, Émile. Leave him be for now, Dusky.”

    Émile didn’t have the energy to keep going. He stayed there, on the ground and staring at the ceiling for minutes, hoping to die from a stray attack or a collapsing roof. He didn’t. He felt someone grab his arms and handcuff him, and then he was dragged out of the building.

    ——

    Émile sat in one of Eterna city’s jail cells with two other grunts, awaiting his fate. His Pokemon had been taken, and hundreds had gotten arrested, but he was sure Mars had made it out somehow. Hypno had been in the building before the fight erupted. Again, she was going to get off scot-free after all of the suffering she had inflicted.

    The door to his cell opened, and two League trainers walked in, accompanied by a police officer. He recognized the one who owned the Delcatty, and he lowered his head.

    “I didn’t want to— I’m sorry, I never knew it would get this bad—”

    “Shut it,” he said as he beckoned a Kadabra into the room. “You didn’t want to do it, you didn’t know it would go this far, you’re sorry. I’ve heard it all before, and I don’t care. Your terrorist organization caused the death of a lot of good people and Pokemon today, and I’m not in the mood to hear your sob story—”

    He paused for a few seconds, wincing.

    “Yes, you can start working on them now,” he told the Kadabra before another pause. Another pained expression from what Émile assumed was telepathy. “Yeah, yeah, sorry for wasting your time. Go ahead.”

    Émile’s breathing turned harsh and loud as he watched Kadabra approach his fellow grunt. Its spoon bent, its eyes flashed, and the man began to convulse, biting down so hard on his tongue that his mouth started to bleed. The process took around five minutes. Five minutes of torture. They weren’t even asking them questions before the extraction process. There was no out.

    It was going to happen to him too.

    Émile felt a sudden chill run down his spine as color died around the room.

    “Ghost!” One of them yelled.

    “What the fuck are the dark types doing?!”

    The two League trainers cursed and released their Pokemon as the police officer ran out of the room. Émile frantically pulled at his restraints, but he was tied down. There was no escape. Dusknoir appeared behind him, opening his mouth as thousands of screams rang out throughout the room. The two trainers clenched at their heads, and Émile fell to the ground. The headache was agonizing. He couldn’t think about anything.

    His body was so cold. His fingers trembled as the smoky mouth closed around him, and the world went black.

    Émile’s body was gone, and he felt nothing any longer. Just that he was falling closer and closer to the screams. It had been hours now, or maybe days? He couldn’t tell. Everything was so dark here, and there was no way to know how much time had passed. The further he fell, the more he thought that he could hear someone laugh down here. A distinct giggle he had learned to fear.

    Much later, the giggle was all-encompassing. It was unmistakable. Mars was down here somehow. Eventually, he slowed and stop falling.

    “What are you doing here?” He asked with a trembling voice. He could somehow speak, even though he held no physical form. “How are you even in there? What are you?

    “It’s a piece of me,” she said. Her voice reverberated through the screams. “Dusky and I are linked forever.”

    “You— you let it eat a part of your soul?” He said, his voice full of terror.

    “Something like that,” she said. Even without his eyes, he could tell she was grinning. “I messed up and made you hate me too much, so I couldn’t save you, but I couldn’t let your memories get stolen by the League either. You knew too much, Émile. Cyrus would hate me for letting that knowledge into the League’s hands, but that doesn’t matter. You’ve reached the bottom now.”

    “The bottom of what?”

    “Dusky’s soul receptacle.”

    “What does that mean?”

    Mars didn’t have to answer. Émile felt an indescribable agony flare up and began to scream, adding to the thousands of other voices. He was a piece of something grander. One part out of thousands. A cog in the machine.

    And he would be for all of eternity.


    A/N: Okay, let me say a few things.

    I wrote this interlude for three main reasons. The first one was, how the hell does an organization does Team Galactic function and get new members? Some people use the mind control theory, but that seems like a cop-out to me, especially when you'd need to control thousands a people at once. Now you learned how they do it. They lure vulnerable young adults/teenagers that feel like the whole world is against them and lie about their actual goal until they've distinguished themselves as an important member. I feel like that's a more realistic way of looking at it, but feel free to tell me your opinion in the comments. The second reason was to show off Mars again and give some more information about her. She might be a bit controversial after this because of how evil she is (some people don't like antagonists with literally 0 redeeming qualities), but hey, this is how I envision her, and this is how she'll be. The third and more minor reason was to show a snippet of Cyrus and the other Commanders.

    So now, let's speak about Émile for a second. This interlude wasn't really meant to make you feel either way about him. He was born and raised in terrible circumstances, and his life was a reflection of that, but he was also a terrible person who threatened/caused the death of people, and at the end of the day, he valued his life more than others, because he could have tried to run, although don't get me wrong, that doesn't warrant what happened to him at the end. It was more meant to showcase how much of a slippery slope Team Galactic is and how difficult it is to actually leave when you get high up in the ranks, and how it becomes more and more like a cult. Thanks for reading the author note, we're done with the interludes for a bit, next chapter will be back to Grace's PoV.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2023
  21. Threadmarks: Chapter 85
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 85

    “Route 216?” I almost choked. I hadn’t even contemplated that we would end up there. “So we should get to Snowpoint, then?”

    “No… this is a problem,” Denzel said. He placed a palm on his forehead and let out an exasperated sigh. “It takes a long time to get to Snowpoint from route 216 and 217, and we’re not even on the route yet. We don’t have enough supplies to last out there.”

    I shivered, squinting as another gust of wind blew past us, and sniffled. Breathing in this dry cold air was deeply uncomfortable.

    “The cold’s going to get worse as we travel and winter truly settles in, too,” Denzel continued. “Right now, it’s less cold than it was inside, but it’ll get colder.”

    “We’re lucky we didn’t get here in February. That’s when surviving outside is impossible unless you really know what you’re doing,” I said.

    “You’re right, but we still have to hurry either way,” Denzel agreed.

    “We have fire types for the cold,” Chase said. “And we can hunt for food after we run out. Melt and boil snow for water, maybe? Some wild Pokemon here are bound to be edible.”

    “Not me…” I started, shaking my head. “No.”

    “Grace…” Cece said. “There’s no choice.”

    “I won’t do it.”

    “We’ve already had this conversation, let’s stop wasting time,” Chase said. “Here’s what we can do. Pastel, you’ll eat the remaining food while we eat whatever we find out there.”

    I sighed. “Thank you.”

    “That works,” Cece agreed.

    “I said I respected your choice, but I’ve got to ask you,” he asked. “You do know that you’ve indirectly caused the death of many wild Pokemon, right? What do you think happens after you knock ‘em out? That they just wake up a few hours later and go about their day?”

    I clenched a fist. “Do you think I don’t know that? I try my best to do good. That doesn’t mean everything I do meets that standard. Sometimes, the rubber has to meet the road and there isn’t any choice.”

    “Alright,” Chase said after a pause. “Just wanted to see where you stood on things.”

    “I’m not stupid. I’m just trying to get by with causing the least damage possible,” I said. “Now, let’s figure something out.”

    “Wait,” Cece stopped me. “That still doesn’t solve the Pokemon food. They have to eat if they’re going to keep being out of their Pokeballs.”

    Denzel nodded. “I was going to bring that up.”

    “Deino and Fletchinder can eat whatever they kill in the wild,” Cece said. “So can Scyther, but I’m not planning on bringing him out any time before we at least get situated on a route. Slowpoke can only eat premade food, so he’ll have to eat what we have.”

    “Good thinking, Obel,” Chase said. “Houndoom can do the same here, along with Zangoose. Ri can eat anything too.”

    Denzel and I stared at each other awkwardly.

    “Um… none of our Pokemon do that…” he said.

    “I knew that already, and I didn’t expect you to change,” she replied with a nod. “But that’s still a lot of food we’re cutting out. Plus, Budew, Tangela, and Frillish don’t have to eat.”

    “Okay, that should last us until Snowpoint,” I said. “Now, to find the route. Cece, can Fletchinder do it?”

    “She’s never flown that far away before, but I suppose she could,” she answered, anxiously grabbing her flying type’s Pokeball and releasing her. Fletchinder happily spread her wings and flew around us, ecstatic to be out of Mount Coronet, causing Cece to smile softly. “Fletchinder darling, we’re out of the mountain, as you can see, but we’re still lost. I’m going to need you to find route 216 for us. Denzel, what should she look out for?”

    “Just anywhere where the snow is less deep than this and looks like some sort of canyon— the route is nestled in between two ridges. Think route 205. Or alternatively, anywhere with a ranger outpost. There’s supposed to be one at the mountain’s entrance on route 216, and if we can get there, our worries about food can be put to rest, and we can get help and reception for our phones.”

    Fletchinder nodded and flew off before taking one last look at us. The bird was probably anxious to be separated from us, but we’d stay put and wait for her. I would have liked to send another Pokemon with her, but nothing we had flew as fast as she could. In a few seconds, Fletchinder was already gone from view.

    “That’s a fast one,” Chase said, raising an eyebrow. “Would be interesting to face with the new anti-flier techniques I’ve developed after my fight with Pastel.”

    “Why are you even thinking about battling me still?” Cecilia frowned. “I still am not interested and will never be—”

    “Let’s not fight, guys,” Denzel interjected. “Take it in for a second. Yeah, we’re still in a precarious situation, but we were stranded in Mount Coronet, and we lived. Not many trainers at our level can claim that.”

    I nodded, breaking into a smile. Thinking back, the one thing Mount Coronet had taught me as a trainer was multitasking my team and fighting with all of them out at the same time, which was something I would have been incapable of doing before, like when we had to hold back the number of Pokemon we used in Eterna forest. I thought faster, responded better to threats, and my Pokemon were the same, able to often make the best decision independently in most situations, leaving me more time to think. I had no doubt the others were all thinking the same thing. I would even go as far and say I was ready for the third gym—

    I caught myself. I couldn’t face the gyms for the time being, or at least until we reached civilization and found out what was going on back in Eterna. The battles were always recorded, and our location would inevitably get back to Cece’s father. I’d have to talk to Denzel and Cece about coming up with a plan of action tonight or maybe tomorrow to give them one night of rest.

    Looking further around, it looked like we were on the slopes of the mountain still, albeit it didn’t look to be too high. I had no difficulty breathing, and I could see the terrain in front of us gradually slump.

    “Route 216, huh?” Denzel said again. “I actually want to catch something here or on route 217, although honestly, I didn’t think I’d be getting here until I had seven badges.”

    “Really?” I perked up. “Who is it? Wait, let me guess! Cece, help me out.”

    “Looking at the other members of his team… maybe a Smoochum?” She said.

    Denzel grimaced, and I broke into laughter.

    “A Smoochum! That’s— that’s a good one,” I giggled.

    “Hey, let’s not make fun of Pokemon’s appearance, alright! Grace, you’re not the type to do that!” Denzel said, shaking his head.

    “I’m sorry, I just find its evolution really funny,” I said. “It wasn’t malicious.”

    “So, was I right?” Cece asked, smiling to herself.

    “No! No, you weren’t.”

    “Okay, what about a… Snom?” I asked. “Their evolution’s beautiful. You only have that kind of Pokemon.”

    “I do,” he said, clearly stopping himself from smiling. He had taken it as a compliment. “But wrong! Last guess before I just tell you.”

    “Vanilite!” I yelled.

    “Vanilite aren’t beautiful…” Cece crossed her arms.

    “They totally are! You’re cuter, though.”

    She started fanning her face with her hands and averted her gaze. I walked up to her and placed my hands around her waist.

    “You like it when I call you cute?” I muttered.

    “Who wouldn’t like the girl she loves to do so?” Cece replied, her breathing ragged. “You’re treading dangerous waters, Grace.”

    I felt blood rush to my face. “Um, that sounds great to me, if that means what I think that means?” I asked.

    “Guess the game’s over,” Denzel sighed. “I really liked it too, and you barely tried. I want a female Snorunt.”

    I turned toward him.

    “That turns into a Froslass, right? Lots of scary stories about that one,” I said.

    “Lures men into a cave and turns them into ice statues, knocks on the doors of small villages at night to kidnap people that are never seen again, reincarnated women that die on the slopes of Mount Coronet,” Denzel listed. “Researched ‘em all. There’s probably a hint of truth to them, but I don’t really know how accurate those are. Doesn’t matter anyway, though, since I’m catching its pre-evolution.”

    “Your way of catching Pokemon is deficient, Williams,” Chase said.

    “Oh yeah? Why don’t you tell me why?” He replied, rising to the challenge.

    I rolled my eyes and prepared to watch what would probably be turning into a verbal fight, because Chase was incapable of disagreeing with people in a nice way. He had to be right, and he wouldn’t entertain any other ideas.

    “Planning your team to a T, that’s inefficient,” Chase clarified. “What if the Pokemon you catch is incompatible with you? Then you’ve got a team member that will hold everyone back.”

    “There are workarounds,” Denzel said. “You can adapt the way you do things. You think too rigidly.”

    “Hm,” he said. “That doesn’t work for me. I have a rigid training regiment, and if the Pokemon can’t keep up, then I wouldn’t catch them.”

    My eyes widened slightly. That had been less aggressive than I expected.

    “How do you even know if a Pokemon will be compatible with you before you catch them? You have to learn to know them, to befriend them. That takes months, at the very least,” Denzel countered.

    “No, there’s one easy way to tell,” he said. “The way they behave in the wild.”

    “Which is?”

    “There has to be a fierceness— a drive to get stronger behind them that just jumps at me the moment I lay my eyes on ‘em. I don’t care if they’re weak so long as they can keep up. We were all weak once. I just need ambition. Take my Charjabug, for example. When I met him, he was just a weak Grubbin getting harassed by a pack of Spearow right out of Jubilife, but even though he had no chance to win, he fought. He’s a fighter. That’s what I look for.”

    We all stared at him in silence for a few seconds. That had been surprisingly… deeper than I had anticipated. Maybe it was my bias, but I thought that he’d prioritize strength above all. In a way, he did, but he didn’t care what level the Pokemon he caught were at, which was unexpected.

    “What? What is it?” He asked.

    “Good job, Chase,” I said.

    “What the fuck?”

    “Okay, you have a point I guess,” Denzel conceded. “But I’ve seen the way you train. I work less rigidly than you, and I’m willing to adapt, so I don’t mind catching Pokemon that are hard to work with. My Budew used to hate my guts, and she did for a long time— it was my fault. But I worked hard to gain her trust, little by little.”

    “I think that’s a waste of time. You could have caught another Budew and made more progress,” he said. “But fair enough. We’re different,” he finished with a shrug.

    I took off my gloves and grabbed my Poketch to tell the time. It was a little past noon, and there was obviously no reception, but it was worth the try. Even calling rangers to let them know that we were stranded would have been a good move. I exhaled into my hands to warm them up.

    “So how long will that Fletchinder take to come back?” Chase asked.

    “That depends on how far we are from the route, but it shouldn’t take more than an hour or two, I would guess. We can’t be too far, and she’s fast, as you saw before,” Cecilia explained.

    “Alright,” Chase said. “All that catching talk made me want to catch something, so I was thinking about dipping for a bit to see if anything caught my eye.”

    “Absolutely not,” I said. “You’re the guy in the movies who separates from the main group and dies a horrible death.”

    “No,” he said, his expression suddenly darkening. “I’m the one who’s left alone at the end.”

    “Ahem,” Denzel said, breaking the silence. “We might as well settle down for now, then? Make a fire, and finally feel warm after so long. Fire type Pokemon aren’t as good as the real thing.”

    “I didn’t grab my axe when we left,” I said. “I only have my knife.”

    “Neither did I, but we have Pokemon. Can Zangoose do it?” Denzel asked.

    “Yeah, she can cut up wood, alright,” he smiled.

    Chase and Denzel went to gather wood while Cece and I stayed behind to watch our fire types melt the snow down to a manageable level so that we could sit down and place the logs correctly. Now that we were out of Mount Coronet, we’d be able to sleep in tents again as well, which would be crucial in protecting us from the wind, but we didn’t want to set them up just for two hours. Cece crossed her arms and anxiously glanced at the sky every few minutes.

    “She’ll come back, don’t worry,” I said.

    “She’s never been so far away. What if she gets attacked?”

    “She’s part fire, so she’s resistant to ice, and she’s fast enough to dodge and run away,” I softly said.

    “I can’t help but think… what if, you know? She was our only option since she’s the fastest, but I can’t help but be scared.”

    “You seem close to her. Closer than your other Pokemon, at least. When did you get her?” I asked. I knew Fletching could be found on Sinnoh’s southern shores, but they were still incredibly rare in the region due to disliking the cold.

    “I caught her in Sunyshore during the summer,” she said.

    “You were in Sunyshore?” I exclaimed. “I thought you were in Jubilife before the Circuit started.”

    “I was there in secret to get engaged with Louis… officially. She was the first Pokemon I caught after being given Deino, and we bonded instantly,” Cece sighed.

    “I’m glad,” I said.

    “Glad?”

    “I’m glad that you’ve got Pokemon who love you, I mean. I’m not sure about Slowpoke— I can never tell with him, but even Deino seems to care for you.”

    “Slowpoke appreciates me in his own way, but I’m not sure it can be defined as love,” Cece said. “Deino… Deino’s different as well. He respects me, and he thinks that I’m his key to getting stronger, but I wouldn’t call it love either.”

    “Come on,” I said. “He clearly cares for you.”

    “Perhaps,” she said.

    “What about Scyther?” I asked in a not very smooth way. “Any progress?”

    “Slightly, but he’ll probably be furious when I release him, and he realizes that so much time has passed. At least he doesn’t try to kill me that much anymore, albeit he definitely would strike me down if he had the chance.”

    “Seems to me like you need to apologize and reset the whole relationship,” I said. “I know you value gaining a Pokemon’s respect through power and all, but it won’t work.”

    “Chase’s words resonated with me, you know?” She said. “Wasting time.”

    “Are you… thinking of releasing him? Because if you are—”

    “No. It hasn’t come to that yet. I am thinking about all the time I wasted beating Scyther up, however. If I had him by my side, and he was at my other Pokemon’s level, then I’d be more prepared to stand up to Abel. His type counters Malamar perfectly.”

    I nodded. “I’ll help you out.”

    “No. I must do it alone.”

    “What?” I frowned.

    “You work too hard, Grace. You ask about my worries, but what about yours? How are you?”

    I felt my legs shake. “You know what crushes me the most right now?” I asked. Cece shook her head. “The fact that our friends don’t know we’re alive. And Denzel and my parents.”

    “I… I had been trying to keep that at the back of my mind,” she sighed, grabbing my hand. “We need to get to civilization as fast as possible to let them know.”

    “I have to talk to you about your dad first,” I said. “Tonight. For example, is he the type to bug phones, or other devices?”

    Cecilia sighed. “Yes… he is.”

    “Then we have to figure another way. Through your brother, maybe? I’ll bring Denzel too, we have to work out our next steps.”

    I leaned my head against her shoulder. Every time it looked like we were finally reaching the surface and that we were about to finally take that gasp of air, it turned out that we were even deeper than we thought. If we didn’t watch out, we would all drown.

    Denzel and Chase came back with the wood, which had been neatly cut into logs by Zangoose, and stacked some of them up. Cecilia ordered Deino to light it up with Incinerate, but nothing happened. The wood wasn’t catching on fire.

    “What the hell?” I said confusedly. “What’s going on?”

    “Deino, try it again.”

    The dragon did the same, using a stronger flame this time, and the wood still didn’t catch fire.

    “Your dragon is defective,” Chase smiled.

    “Wait!” Denzel exclaimed as he facepalmed. “The wood is wet. It’s soaked up snow for years. That’s why it won’t catch fire. We’re so fucking dumb.”

    “Watch and learn, Williams,” Chase said. “Houndoom, light it up.”

    The dark type snorted and used his own Incinerate, which was more powerful than Deino’s by a wide margin. The wood caught fire instantly, thanks to his unextinguishable flames. The smoke emanating from the fire was terrible, causing me to cough and fan the air around me.

    “Better than nothing,” Denzel sighed as he took off his gloves and placed his hands close to the fire.

    We waited around the fire, talking amongst ourselves. An hour and a half later, Fletchinder was back. She gently landed on Cecilia’s shoulder and squawked. She seemed unharmed— although her feathers were damp. That meant that it was snowing further ahead, and that the snow had melted on her. Cece breathed a sigh of relief and rubbed the flying type’s neck, and she let out a satisfied cry.

    “I’m so glad you’re safe,” she smiled. “Did you find the route?”

    Fletchinder let out a hoot and nodded.

    “Great!” Denzel said. “Did you find the ranger building? Any building, actually?”

    The fire type shook her head.

    “Ah, we must be closer to route 217 than I thought, then,” Denzel sighed.

    “Can you show us the way, darling?” Cecilia asked. Fletchinder extended her wings and took flight, circling above us.

    “Okay, let’s get going,” Chase said.

    It was only my second time off route, but it was easy to tell that wilderness reigned here. Walking through this knee-deep snow was exhausting, especially after the marathon we ran to escape from Mount Coronet. I had to recall Elekid and Tangela because they were simply too short to stand in the snow, and the others also recalled their shorter Pokemon, although Eevee and Riolu were perched on their trainers’ shoulders. The Pokemon here would be stronger overall than on the route, as Budew had been when Denzel caught her near Jubilife, but I was confident that we’d be able to take whatever nature would decide to throw our way. Now it was all about minimizing the damage our Pokemon took, and we’d be fine, just like in the cave.

    Luckily, we were traveling downward, too, giving us an easier time. This part of Mount Coronet had more gentle inclines since it was far away from the mountain’s summit, where the terrain got really steep, so we wouldn’t have any problems getting off of the mountain.

    I exhaled in awe at a humongous ice formation ahead of me. It was so large that it didn’t register as a living lifeform to my brain. an Avalugg was slowly trudging its way through the snow with a few Bergmite on its back. It moved incredibly slowly, and its eyes were protected by an encasing made of transparent ice. Houndoom began to growl, and Avalugg’s glacier-like body shifted, grinding and creaking loudly to threaten us.

    “Stand down,” Chase said with a shaky breath. Houndoom sat, and we watched as Avalugg slowly passed ahead of us, knocking the sparse trees out of the way like twigs.

    “Sometimes, I think I’m making a lot of progress, and then I see shit like that,” Denzel sighed. “Some things just aren’t meant to be fought.”

    I nodded, my previous confidence having evaporated, and we continued on our way. We encountered a few Pokemon that gave us trouble, but they seemed less aggressive here than in Eterna Forest and Mount Coronet, so as long as we didn’t give them any trouble, they’d continue along with their day and we would as well, after a few awkward stares.

    Not that there weren’t any problems.

    “Ember,” Cece ordered.

    “Burn it!” Chase yelled.

    Houndoom and Fletchinder both sent out a stream of flames toward an aggressive Piloswine who had attacked us, but our fire type attacks seemed to have less effect than they should have on an ice type. Piloswine grunted, shaking off the pain and burns as some of its fur caught on fire. Sharp shards of ice materialized all around the ground type and flew toward us.

    “Princess—”

    I didn’t even have to finish my command. Togetic’s eyes lit up and stopped the first barrage of shards, but Piloswine had already summoned another one, and Chase and I had to dive to the side not to get hit. Frillish rushed in front of Togetic, taking the hit for her. The shards of ice tore through his body, but caused less damage than they would have since he had managed to use Acid Armor in the nick of time. It hadn’t been a perfect one, but it did the job.

    “Riolu, now!

    “Eevee!”

    Riolu and Eevee jumped up next to Piloswine. They had been hiding in the snow, slowly making their way to the ice type. Riolu’s palms glowed with an ethereal blue and slammed Piloswine’s side while Eevee Double Kicked it right in the muzzle. The ice type roared and the ground shook, but the two Pokemon were already gone, having hidden in the snow again. Houndoom spat out one last stream of hot white flames, and Piloswine finally went down.

    “Grace! Are you alright?!” Cece asked, panicking as she hobbled toward me.

    “I’m alright,” I choked. “I wasn’t hit.”

    She sighed in relief and helped me up. I patted down the snow from my clothes.

    “That was a tough one,” Chase said. “But Piloswine seems edible.”

    “You try carrying a Piloswine while we travel,” Denzel rebuked him. “We can’t carry it. That means we’d have to stop. Plus… I know I said I’d eat wild Pokemon, but I don’t feel comfortable skinning anything.”

    “I’ll handle the skinning. You don’t even know how to do it,” Chase said. “But you have a point. I don’t want to waste any time here.”

    I stared at Frillish and grimaced. One of his tentacles was barely hanging by a thread, and an Ice Shard had tore through his face, leaving a gaping hole where his eye should be. Togetic was crying out to him and apologizing desperately, but he huffed and patted her head to tell her it was fine.

    “Don’t worry, princess,” I told her gently. “Frillish knows it would have been worse it you got hit. That Piloswine was no joke.”

    “Toge…”

    “You feel guilty, still?” I asked, and she gave me a sad nod. I extended a hand and brought her head to my chest. “It wasn’t your fault. You tried your best, and you know I’ll never ask for more.”

    I was trying my best not to tear up, but it killed me to see her like this. I was just starting to realize how much of a mental toll this was having on Togetic, but she still tried to pretend like everything was fine for me. I hugged her tightly, gently rubbing her back, and Frillish gave me a sage nod.

    “I love you, princess,” I said softly. “I promise that we’ll get to a city soon. Here, why don’t you go back into your Pokeball and have a break? Your brother and I can handle the rest.”

    “Ge! Getic!” She yelled.

    “We’ll be fine,” I insisted. “I’ll use you if we need to. Just relax for a bit, okay?”

    Togetic stared at me for a few seconds and nodded. I placed my forehead against hers and smiled as I recalled her.

    “Sorry for the wait,” I said. “Let’s keep going.”

    They nodded, and we began walking again. I had expected a mean comment from Chase, but he said nothing.

    “That was very sweet of you,” Cecilia said. “Are you alright?”

    “I’ve got to try my best,” I answered. “For her and the others. Frillish knows a bit more, but the rest of my Pokemon all look up to me for reassurance. If I start breaking down, they’ll do the same.”

    “The worse is behind us, Grace. By this time next week, we’ll be at Snowpoint, and this’ll all look like a bad dream.”

    “I hope so,” I sighed. “This might be a little bit nonsensical, but… Togetic and my other Pokemon… I see them as my kids, you know? Even Frillish, although I rely on him the most. I guess that’s a weird thing for a fifteen-year-old to say, but it’s the truth.”

    “Every trainer has a different relationship with their Pokemon,” Cece said as she grabbed my hand. “Yours is special. You’re closer with yours than most trainers would be after years of owning their Pokemon.”

    “I just want this to be over,” I honestly said. “Just being in a real room would probably make me break down. I’m tearing up just thinking about it, it’s so stupid.”

    “Grace, there’s nothing stupid about any of your worries. We all think the same. We want to get to a city, and we will. Don’t ever think that something is too strange or silly to bring up to me, alright? I want you to rely on me as much as I’ve been relying on you.”

    “Hmhm,” I sniffled. “Can I cry?”

    “Yes.”

    The dam broke.

    Cece called out for the group to stop, embracing me and letting me cry into her arms. I had tried my best. I had been strong, holding myself together throughout our entire time in Mount Coronet, but I just couldn’t anymore. It was strange that the closer we got to civilization, the more discouraged and exhausted I felt when it should have been the opposite.

    Still, at least I had people here with me to help.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2023
  22. Threadmarks: Chapter 86
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 86

    “Seriously Grace, I want you to talk to me about this stuff, alright?” Denzel said. “I didn’t know you needed help. It’s fine to call out.”

    “I’m sorry,” I replied, petting Togetic’s head and basking in the fire’s warmth. She was sleeping on my lap while Tangela was at my side, dozing off with his vines wrapped all around me. Elekid was a few feet away, playing with Larvitar in the snow. The rock type ran clumsily, slipped, and Elekid tried to help her up before being hit away with her horn. She sniggered at him and let out a small roar to celebrate her victory. “Not too hard, sweetheart!” I yelled out. She stared back at me and nodded, but Elekid used the opportunity to throw a snowball at her, and the fighting resumed.

    “Don’t apologize,” he said.

    “We all apologize too much in general when it isn’t needed,” Cecilia said.

    “That’s right,” Denzel smiled. “We’re among friends. Let’s lean on each other and help each other out.”

    “I don’t know what happened,” I said before letting out a half sigh. “I was fine, and then I saw that Togetic was so worried, and I couldn’t hold anything back.”

    Chase came back with his hands covered in blood, and I grimaced. I didn’t know where he learned to skin Pokemon, and I certainly didn’t want to ask, but he had brought back a small Swinub to roast on the fire.

    “The job’s done. Here’s your knife, Pastel,” he said, extending his hand toward me.

    “Just… leave it,” I said.

    “I’ll clean it for you,” Denzel said. “The snow needs to finish melting, though.”

    We had filled all of our empty water bottles up with snow and had set them up by the fire so that they could melt. Denzel said that it still wouldn’t be safe to drink unless we boiled it for ten minutes, but we had pots for that, and we could also use them to finally wash ourselves and clean other stuff, like my knife.

    “Thanks,” I nodded.

    “Oh, by the way, I don’t have a tent, so…” Chase started. “I need to sleep in yours,” he told Denzel.

    “What? It’s going to be so fucking crammed in there, man!” He complained.

    “Yeah, well, not my problem.”


    “It’s my tent, so it is my problem—”

    “I’ll give you mine,” Cecilia interrupted. “Just set it up yourself.”

    “Great. I’ll just look through your bag. Williams, you get cooking.”

    “Yeah, yeah, whatever,” he snapped. “This guy, I swear.”

    “He’s gotten better,” I tried.

    “Barely!”

    “Barely is a win in my book,” I said. “Think about it, at this rate, he’ll be a nice person in six months,” I continued sarcastically.

    “Six years,” Cece laughed.

    “We’ll get there!” I smiled.

    “Guys!” Chase called out. “Ri senses something.”

    All of the fun we were having evaporated in a split second, and we stood up. I woke up Togetic and Tangela and called Elekid and Larvitar to my side. Houndoom had melted the snow around us like last time, so angel and honey would be usable, at least. Riolu closed his eyes for a few seconds and pointed to our left, and our heads spun toward there. Now that no one was talking, I could hear something. A faint sound, almost like leaves rustling, but it wasn’t coming from the trees. I hissed in pain as a piece of hail fell on my shoulder. Then another. Then another. Togetic used Extrasensory above us, altering the path of the hail. The sounds were getting closer, and I held my breath, expecting the worst. My heart pounded against my chest as I took a small step back.

    I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that the sound came from two Snover duking it out. Their fight had somehow brought them here, and one of them had the ability Snow Warning, or maybe both. Snow below one of the Snover rose and pelted the other, who responded by just hitting the ice type with its green fist. It was almost refreshing how low-stakes the battle was. There were no moves capable of causing untold amounts of damage, just two weaker Pokemon fighting one another. After a few minutes, the larger Snover hit its opponent with Razor Leaf, slammed its fist against its chest, and let out a victorious cry, which sounded like rustling leaves.

    Chase started to approach it slowly, ignoring the pain from the hail.

    “Chase! What are you doing, you idiot,” I yelled.

    “I feel it. The pull,” he simply said, beckoning his Riolu and Houndoom to follow.

    Snover watched suspiciously, but it wasn’t capable of much more. The previous fight had exhausted it, but it still gathered snow and threw it at Chase, but Houndoom completely neutered the attack with his flames.

    “Hey,” Chase said, pointing his thumb at the unconscious Snover. “I see you took down your rival here.”

    Snover stared at his previous opponent and gave a wary nod.

    “The truth is that you’re still weak,” he continued, much to Snover’s protests, who slammed his fists against his chest menacingly. “It’s true. You can’t win against me, but I see potential in you. I see a drive to get stronger. Am I right?”

    Snover nodded, keeping his eyes on Houndoom. The hail finally stopped, and Togetic canceled her Extrasensory.

    Chase grabbed a Pokeball.

    “Then come with me, and I’ll make you more powerful than you’ve ever imagined. I’ll put you through the wringer to bring you up to the others’ level, but I guarantee you that you can reach it with enough work. I would have challenged you to a battle one-on-one, but even if you hadn’t just been in a battle, I would have destroyed you.”

    The grass type tilted its entire body, and after a pause, he gave a hesitant nod.

    “Good,” he smiled, bumping the Pokeball on Snover, who let itself be caught. “Welcome to the team.”

    “Well,” Denzel said. “That was something.”

    “Are you okay?” I asked. “That was a lot of hail that fell onto you.”

    “I’ll be fine, just some bruising,” Chase said. “I’ll be off bringing Snover up to speed and checking its moves. Call me when dinner’s ready.”

    That reminded me that I hadn’t even checked Larvitar’s moves yet! I grabbed my Pokedex and scanned her with it.

    Moves: Leer, Tackle, Horn Attack, Rock Throw, Payback.

    “Not bad!” I smiled. I genuinely hadn’t been expecting Rock Throw or Payback to be there, since Larvitar hadn’t used those moves during our entire time together. She seemed to be a fan of Horn Attack, though, since she liked attacking Elekid with it so much to play.

    “Larvi!” She said proudly. Was Elekid rubbing off on her? She had already adopted Frillish’s huffing too.

    “Don’t get too excited. We’ve got to let you grow up a little first before we get you in any battles, alright?”

    Larvitar hissed and angrily turned away from me. Tangela gently petted her head, and she smiled, but her smile turned to anger when Elekid laughed at her.

    “Don’t bully her, hon,” I said. “You’ll catch up, don’t worry,” I told Larvitar, rubbing her hard cheek. Togetic was already back to sleep on my lap. She was too exhausted to even play with the others, which hurt me like an invisible stake was being driven through my chest. I knew how much she liked to fool around with the family.

    We ate dinner, and I was content with my two granola bars. We stayed awake for a few more hours, and then set up our tents. It finally sunk in that I was going to sleep in the same tent as Cece. Of course, we had already slept close together, and we’d probably be in different sleeping bags, but now that we were dating, it was more nerve-wracking somehow.

    Still, before going to sleep, there was one more topic to discuss. Denzel stepped past Frillish and into our tent.

    “Did we have to do this in here? It’s so cramped…” he sighed.

    “Maybe you shouldn’t have grown up so big, then,” I snarked, making him roll his eyes. “This is important. It’s about what we’re doing when we get to Snowpoint.”

    “Right,” he said, his tone growing serious. “I was starting to think about that as well.”

    “First thing’s first,” I said. “Calling the others is off the table for now, but I had a question for you, Cece. Your father’s a fucking sociopath, and we’ve established that he’d most likely bug the other’s phones—”

    “What?” Denzel gasped.

    “—but would he go after our parents too?” I finished. “Because the first thing I want to do is call mine.”

    “I… I don’t know. A part of me thinks so. If he believes us to be dead and he wants to salvage his reputation, he might try to pay them a settlement to stop them from talking, depending on how much information has gotten out.”

    “They wouldn’t accept,” I said. Denzel nodded.

    “Still, I could ask Mark about it.”

    “I thought about your brother too. Is that safe?” I asked.

    “My father holds no power over him, and he only tolerates him because the company supplies Unova with a lot of its energy. Calling him would be safe,” Cece said. “He could have a few contacts in Sinnoh to check with your dad, although I don’t think he could send anyone to Twinleaf.”

    Denzel let out a trembling sigh.

    “I’m sure we can find out!” Cece stammered. “It’ll just take longer.”

    “Sorry,” I told Denzel. “Look, if he hasn’t bothered my dad, odds are he hasn’t sent someone to your mom’s either, so let’s keep our spirits high.”

    “You’re right,” he said. “Still, thinking about it, the other’s phones will definitely be compromised since they’ll want to control their communication either way.”

    “Yeah, they’re probably living under house arrest right now,” I sighed.

    “Still, I’ll also ask him for help about our Abel problem, but I don’t expect much,” she muttered.

    “Why?” I asked. “I know you said he’s indifferent to your situation, but this is mind control we’re talking about!”

    “Maybe he will help, I’ve just learned not to expect much when it comes to him,” she said. “But don’t expect him to come flying to save me. Like I said, father controls a lot of Unova’s energy, and trying to arrest him would open a whole can of worms, especially since he’s in Sinnoh right now. The situation isn’t as one-sided as it seems.”

    “Fine,” I sighed. “I suppose that’s better than nothing. We’ll get more informed when we get to a city. Next up, we need to figure out where we’re going.”

    “Staying in Snowpoint might be wise,” Cece said. “It’s the most isolated city in Sinnoh. My father will never look for us here, and we can use the opportunity to train.”

    “Agreed, I just wanted to bring it up,” I said. “But you won’t be able to get any of your money from your account, otherwise your father will find out. That means money will be a bit of an issue for potions and stuff, but we can stay in Pokemon Centers. Nurse Joys are sworn to medical secrecy, I think they won’t expose us being alive.”

    “Snowpoint will be pretty empty, too. Most trainers leave before the Circuit starts,” Denzel said.

    Cece nodded. “That’s fine. I would rather be poor and free than rich and held by chains.”

    I smiled and held her hand. “No gym battle is obvious, even though I would have liked to see what Candice was all about,” I said. “Unless we can find a way around the publicity it would bring. But when we finish training, we’ll have to go back into the world and expose your dad for the scumbag he is.”

    Cecilia's face broke into an evil grin. “When we’re ready, I’ll retract as much money as possible into my trainer card, and we can take the ferry to Canalave and then book a flight somewhere.”

    I nodded. We’d have to break one of the taboos of being a trainer, but at this point, I couldn’t really bother caring. If people wanted to trash-talk us after we made it out of Mount Coronet, they were free to. Their words wouldn’t affect me.

    “We’ll figure that out. Circumstances might change which city we go to,” I said. “But right now, Sunyshore or Hearthome seem to be our best bet.”

    “Why?” Denzel asked. “I would have said stick around in Canalave.”

    “Canalave could work, but those two are huge and easy to hide in if needed, but there are also a lot of people. They’re Sinnoh’s second and third largest city. That means that doing something illegal and hiding it, like, you know, pulling out your Malamar and mind-controlling children in the middle of the street is going to be a hell of a lot harder. So long as we stay in public as much as possible, we’ll be fine, but that’s not it.”

    “Stop teasing us!” Denzel groaned. “You like doing this too much.”

    “Cece’s going to reveal herself to be alive. That means that she’ll get a lot of publicity— publicity that makes it impossible to hide, even if you’re laying low in a Pokemon Center. And so will we, to a lesser extent. More than she had even at the start of the Circuit. That means that when she speaks to the camera, she can expose her dad for the piece of shit he is like she tried to do in that second letter.”

    “I love you and your devilish ideas,” Cece practically squealed. “They probably got their hands on that letter by now and are stopping the others from talking, but they can’t stop me from saying anything. I’ll make his stock price tank so much, oh Arceus, it’s going to be glorious.”

    “What about Chase?” Denzel asked. “What’s he going to do?”

    “Well, he’s not involved in any of this…” I said. “So he’ll probably stick around in Snowpoint for a bit, challenge Candice, and leave. We’ll talk to him about that when we get there.”

    “I doubt he would care that much about our issues,” Cece said. “And even if he did, we can’t expect him to hold back his entire journey for us.”

    I nodded. “It sucks to say, but you’re right. He’s been a great help, but we might not be together for much longer.”

    “So now it’s about how good we can get, and how fast,” Denzel said. “Mount Coronet’s made us improve a whole bunch, but we need something to push ourselves to the next level.”

    “The answer to that is simple,” Cece said. “Evolutions. If we push our teams to the next level, some of them are bound to evolve. Deino is on the cusp. I can feel it.”

    “Yeah,” Denzel awkwardly said, scratching his head. “Eevee might have to wait, but you’re right for some others. Grace can finally start teaching Tangela Ancient Power so that he can evolve.”

    “Excuse me?” I faltered, almost falling over.

    “Um… Tangela evolves into Tangrowth by learning Ancient Power? Did you… did you not know this before wanting to catch him?” Denzel asked.

    “I… did not,” I blushed before covering my face. Cece chuckled. “I thought he evolved normally!”

    “How can you be so smart and thorough about stuff and yet fail at the most simple tasks?” Denzel joked. “That’s a superpower.”

    “Shut up! How does that make any sense? How was I supposed to know?”

    “Research, you idiot,” he said. “But anyway, I know Eevee could evolve any time now, but he’s still holding himself back. He’s uncertain. I’ll have to figure out something with him.”

    “Have a heart-to-heart with him,” I nodded. “Oh, and one last thing! Cece, you said your brother could at least be trusted not to leak that you were alive when you called, so that got me thinking. Can he help us out… more? By sending money, I mean? Just enough to stock up on potions to train as much as we could.”

    “He might. I’ll see when I call, nothing is set in stone.”

    “Sounds good. All of this might become irrelevant depending on what happened back in Eterna anyway, I just hope the others are safe. Meeting’s over, now shoo!” I yelled at Denzel.

    “Okay, okay, I’m leaving!” He exclaimed as he fumbled out of the tent. “You kids have fun, alright? Don’t make too much noise, or—”

    “If you finish that sentence, I will kill you,” I said.

    Arceus… it wasn’t like we were going to do anything. And it wasn’t like I wanted anything to happen! Totally not! We were just going to go to sleep, and—

    “May I?” Cecilia asked, gently pushing me down.

    She stayed atop of me, and we stared at each other until we both averted our eyes out of embarrassment. My heart was beating so quickly I thought it was going to jump out of my throat.

    “Yes…” I whispered.

    She lowered herself and started kissing my neck.

    ——

    I woke up once I felt Cece shift around the sleeping bag that we had spontaneously decided to share. I stayed unmoving, unwilling to wake her up or Togetic, who I had released after we finished fooling around. She was hugging me from behind, and it felt so warm.

    That certainly helped with the cold.

    Around twenty to thirty minutes later— I wasn’t sure since I couldn’t count— Cece yawned and stretched, signaling that she was up.

    “Morning,” I said, turning toward her.

    “Grace, you’re already up?” She asked.

    “I waited for you. I don’t think the others are up.”

    We waited for a few seconds and heard no sound coming from outside.

    “Yeah, they’re not up. Denzel sleeps like a log anyway, we’ll have to wake him up,” I continued.

    “Um… sorry about last night. I said some… embarrassing things,” Cece said with a bit of uncertainty.

    “No! It was the first time anyone’s ever complimented me so much before, I liked it a lot!” I hurriedly answered. “I mean… I like it when you call me h—hot.”

    “It was new for me too, the words just came out,” she said. “Sorry about your neck too. There are… marks.”

    I awkwardly shuffled in the sleeping bag and rubbed my neck. “Hickeys?”

    “Yes,” she barely answered.

    “That’ll be awkward, but I’m sure Chase won’t say anything. I hope. Denzel might make fun of us for it.”

    “Well, so long as Chase doesn’t chastise us with an irritating comment, I’ll call that a victory,” she sighed. I kissed her and grabbed my Poketch to check the time. It was still barely nine in the morning.

    “I only have twelve percent left in the tank,” I said before quickly turning it off. “Not like it’s much use out there anyway. There are some spots on routes where there’s reception, but the odds of that being true on route 216 and 217 are rather low.”

    “Sinnoh really needs to invest into its route infrastructure,” she said. “This isn’t a problem in most of Unova.”

    “Wait, you can just call people and browse the internet in the middle of routes?” I asked surprisingly.

    “In most of the routes. Some still haven’t been built up enough. We pride ourselves on having the lowest trainer casualty rate, you know? Sinnoh is brutal in its nonchalance with trainer deaths.”

    “Denzel probably would take offense to that, but I think Sinnoh should learn a few things from Unova, and especially that.”

    “The weather, also,” Cece joked. “It’s still early…”

    “Yeah,” I said as I climbed out of the sleeping bag. “But we’ve got to get going. Princess, wake up,” I said as I gently petted her.

    “Prrri…” she lamented.

    “I know it’s hard, but you’ve got to eat breakfast. Three meals a day!”

    “To…”

    “You can go back to sleep after eating,” I continued as I lifted her up. “Come on up!”

    Togetic floated up for a few seconds with her eyes half-opened and then laid back down. At least she wasn’t sleeping... yet.

    “Maybe you should give her a few more minutes,” Cece whispered as she grabbed me from behind.

    “I don’t know…” I said playfully.

    Cecilia started kissing my neck again.

    “Not in front of—”

    I glanced down, and Togetic had fallen asleep again.

    Ah, screw it.

    ——

    I stood near Denzel’s tent with Elekid and Larvitar in tow. Togetic was hanging out with Frillish and Tangela near the center of the camp, while Chase and Cece had started to pack with their respective teams close by. There was one reason I had brought honey and sweetheart here with me.

    They were mischievous pranksters. Elekid was more on the playful side of things, while Larvitar was more vicious, but I’d slowly try to wean off her aggressiveness down to a more manageable level. She often still liked to attack others out of the blue. It was fine when they were members of my team, but I didn’t want her to annoy the other Pokemon.

    Still, we had a job to do.

    “Ready?” I asked them.

    “Tar!”

    “Elekid!”

    “You guys! Don’t be so loud!” I hissed. “He’ll wake up. Shhhh,” I continued with a finger on my mouth. “Follow my lead.”

    I silently opened Denzel’s tent, hoping that the cold rush of air getting in wouldn’t wake him up. He looked so silly, drooling as he slept, and he had no idea what was coming. I motioned at my two Pokemon and grabbed a handful of snow. Elekid and Larvitar did the same, although they struggled to get a substantial amount. I wasn’t going to mold it into a snowball and throw it at him, I was going to place it directly on his face.

    Why?

    Well, I felt happy this morning, which was almost a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn compared to yesterday. Having a girlfriend was kind of like magic, somehow. Still, that wasn’t it. It was also a pre-emptive strike to all of the teasing that was no doubt going to be coming from him today. I could already see his goofy grin and his eyebrows wiggling.

    I stepped into the tent, followed by my two accomplices, looked at them, and nodded before ramming all of the snow I had gathered on his face. He thrashed around and spat for a few seconds, and I broke down laughing. Elekid and Larvitar did the same, staring down at him.

    “What the— Grace, what the hell?!” He screamed.

    “Run!” I told my Pokemon.

    We hurried out of the tent and ran toward the center of the camp, and I saw a snowball land right beside me.

    “Learn how to aim, idiot!” I taunted.

    “You’re dead!”

    I quickly made it to where Cecilia and Chase were, and they shot me a curious look. I hid behind my girlfriend and stuck out my tongue to Denzel, who was carrying two massive snowballs in both of his hands.

    “Cece, let me through. She deserves it,” he said.

    “I don’t even know what happened.”

    “She put snow all over my face when I was sleeping!”

    “Where’s your proof? You just started attacking me out of nowhere,” I lied.

    “This really isn’t the time to be playing around,” Chase complained.

    “That’s right, man, it’s not the time to be playing. Go get ready already,” I smiled maliciously.

    “What’s gotten into you today—” he started before stopping. “Oh. Oh. I see.”

    “Don’t do it.”

    Denzel started to smirk.

    “Don’t.”

    He gave me a thumbs-up and then pointed at my neck. “Cece’s more outgoing than I thought.”

    Chase frowned. “What? What’s that on her neck?”

    “Don’t worry about it, kiddo,” he replied.

    “Don’t call me a fucking kid! What is it?!”

    “Erm…” she muttered.

    I felt the blood rush to my face and immediately crouched to grab a snowball of my own, but Denzel used the opportunity to angle his body to the side and throw his own snowballs at me. I yelped as snow covered my hair.

    “Gotcha,” he smiled. “We’re even now, right?”

    “Ugh, sure,” I groaned, crossing my fingers.

    “Okay, I’m going to fold up my tent—”

    I threw a snowball at his back, and Larvitar tried to imitate me. Hers didn’t go nearly as far, though.

    “Okay,” he said, cracking his neck as he turned toward me. “You asked for this.”

    “Spare me from any collateral damage, please,” Cece quickly added.

    ——

    “Great job wasting so much time, idiots,” Chase scolded. “One hour wasted.”

    “Sorry,” I genuinely said. “It got out of hand.”

    “You got involved too by the end!” Denzel mocked.

    “I did not, I was just hit by a stray shot and was forced into fighting back…”

    We were back on the road, and getting closer to the route. According to Cece, Fletchinder had said we’d make it on route 216 by tonight or early tomorrow, which meant that we’d finally be able to relax and not face Pokemon way too strong for our level. That also meant I’d be able to start up training again, since we wouldn’t spend all of our Pokemon’s energy battling threats all day. Pokemon on the route would most likely be too scared to attack such a large group.

    Of course, since we had no potions, I wouldn’t go back to making my Pokemon fight each other yet. I did want to have them work on new moves, though. It had been too long since any of them had learned anything new. Sure, that meant that they were really good with what they currently had, and they were able to push their current movesets to their limits, but I was desperately lacking in versatility. Whereas Cece was content with having her moves pack the most powerful punch, my Pokemon weren’t there yet. That meant I’d need a variable moveset to face upcoming threats, at least until my Pokemon evolved to be stronger. Right now, Tangela and Frillish were my heavy hitters, but Deino could easily overpower both of them.

    I wanted to focus on angel first and foremost. Now that I knew he could evolve as soon as he learned Ancient Power, there was no way I’d let the opportunity slip past me. Of course, I already knew that it would take longer to teach him the move than it had taken with Togetic, especially since he was a little slow on new experiences, but I fully believed that we’d manage together. Plus, princess would be able to help him out this time, so we weren’t going to start from zero. Hopefully, his evolution would give me the firepower I still lacked.

    With Elekid, I wanted to work on Shock Wave. I had already wanted to do so, but with how harrowing Mount Coronet had been, I got sidetracked. I knew he wouldn’t struggle much on the move though, so I also wanted to teach him Fire Punch, which, if we stuck around Snowpoint and its surroundings as we were currently planning, would be a great help.

    Damn, I really wanted a fire type.

    Next, I wanted Frillish to finally perfect Acid Armor and work on Shadow Ball and Recover. I knew I was giving him a lot of work, but I also knew he was up to the task. Acid Armor and Recover would allow him to gain an incredible amount of survivability in battle, and Shadow Ball would rival or even maybe beat Water Pulse in the amount of damage he could deal. It would take a long time, but hey, we were planning to stay here for a while.

    For princess, I wanted her to work mainly on Air Cutter. We were severely lacking in flying type moves, and it would fill that gap. The move hit hard, was difficult to dodge, and would be quicker to use than a powerful Fairy Wind. Plus, I knew that it was a good segway into the devastating move Air Slash, which was still a far way off. Next, I wanted to work on Double Edge as well. I knew the move was so powerful that it hurt the user, but we desperately needed it as a last resort against Pokemon that were too fast for her, notably Fletchinder.

    I did love Cece, but I wanted to beat her very badly, still.

    Finally, Larvitar would just observe, eat, grow up, and run around with me and Elekid whenever we started those up again. She was too young to battle still, but I could still start getting her into shape and try out her current moves. I’d think about what new moves to work on with her later.

    Riolu suddenly snapped me back to reality as he tapped on Chase shoulder and let out a warning.

    “Another Pokemon?” Chase asked.

    “Ri… Riolu.”

    “More? A lot?”

    The fighting type nodded, and my eyes darted in every direction, trying to tell what direction the threat would come from. There were no signs of life, however. No noise, or Pokemon coming out from behind any trees, which was the only place where they could have hidden. It was still daytime, which meant we should have been able to spot them.

    “Are you sure?” Denzel whispered.

    “Ri’s never wrong,” Chase snapped. “Which direction?”

    Riolu’s eyes narrowed, and he began looking all around us.

    I heard a hiss that made my neck hair stand on end, and I felt a bead of sweat trickle down to my chin. Then there were multiple. It was only now that I noticed the claw marks on the trees and the small rocks around us.

    “Well, fuck,” Chase breathed out as he released Zangoose.

    I swallowed as twenty Sneasel suddenly appeared all around us. Some had been hiding on top of the trees, while others peeked their head out from the thick layer of snow. The largest Sneasel shot us a wicked grin and honed its claws together.

    “Stay close,” Cece told us.

    “Chase,” I said, biting the inside of my mouth. “Get Houndoom to melt the snow around us.”

    Chase nodded. “You heard her.”

    The snowy environment was going to screw us up big time. A lot of our Pokemon were short and weren’t able to move around properly. We needed as many of them fighting as possible to survive the coming battle. Houndoom growled, and I felt sweat start to accumulate on my body as his body heated up, and he slowly used Incinerate, walking all around us to get the snow out of the way. The pack of Sneasel were incredibly fast, and adept at navigating through this terrain, so they dodged without much difficulty, but that was fine. We released our entire teams, except Larvitar and Snover, and waited for the coming attack.

    It didn’t come. The leading Sneasel let out a vicious hiss, signaling to his pack to stay put.

    “Elekid, Thundershock,” I ordered quietly. He grunted, spinning his arms and sent out a bolt of electricity toward the closest Sneasel, who got on all fours and clawed itself to the left before going to hide behind a tree.

    “Burn that fucking tree down,” Chase spat.

    Houndoom nodded and spat out another Incinerate, but the Sneasel was too quick— only slightly slower than Fletchinder was in the sky. They still didn’t attack.

    “Okay, Grace,” Denzel exhaled, clearly nervous. I was too. “We Swifting or what?”

    I nodded. “Not much else we can do. Aim for the leader.”

    I ordered Elekid to send out an Electric Swift, and Eevee did the same, using the normal version of the move. Sneasel ran off, hissing at its pack. They all grouped up and blew an Icy Wind toward the flurry of stars, freezing them in place before clawing them apart.

    I hadn’t even known that was possible.

    We spent another minute trying to hit any Sneasel, but none of our attacks were connecting, and we didn’t want to risk sending our melee fighters. This group was clearly well coordinated and could employ strategy. This was my first fight of this kind. They didn’t rush in and attack like other wild Pokemon. They had a plan, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.

    “What do we do?” Cecilia asked. Deino sent out another Incinerate their way, but the group just splintered and weaved out of the way. “Nothing is working. They aren’t even attacking.”

    Denzel sighed. “I know what they’re doing. They’re waiting us out.”

    “Huh?” Chase said.

    “We’re stuck here. We can’t outrun them through the snow, we can’t hit them with any attacks.”

    “Ah,” I said, finally understanding. “There isn’t any point risking themselves in a fight if they can just tire us out.”

    “Won’t they get tired as well?” Chase asked.

    “Look closely,” Denzel started. “They only move when they have to dodge an attack, and only use moves when they’re out of options. Meanwhile, we’ve been using our attacks over and over,” he explained.

    “We shouldn’t attack then,” Cece agreed. “Not unless they rush in. Let’s have our fire types forge a path through the snow, maybe? That way, we can stay on the move.”

    “I mean, I don’t see any other option,” I said. “If we stay here, nothing will change. Even though it’ll take days, eventually we’ll be exhausted, both mentally and physically, and someone will make a mistake. Someone, or a Pokemon, will slip up and get mortally injured or die."

    “Let’s do this properly, though,” Cece warned. “Our most important assets here are our fire types. If we tire them out using fire moves on snow, they might sense weakness and strike.”

    “Exactly,” I nodded. “Okay, let’s do it like this. We have Fletchinder, Deino’s Incinerate, Buneary’s Fire Punch, and Houndoom. Buneary’s Fire Punch is probably the slowest to melt snow, but she’ll be of less use against the Sneasel, so let’s start with her.”

    Denzel nodded. “She can go for a while, we trained a lot with the move before our fight with Gardenia—”

    Houndoom and Deino both melted another Icy Wind with their fire type attacks, causing us to jump, expecting their assault to be imminent. The ice types hissed all around us, but didn’t attack.

    “They’re keeping us on our toes. Can’t get too relaxed,” Denzel said. He noticed my face, which was probably full of fear, and clapped my shoulder as Cece held my trembling hand. “We’ve got this.”

    “We’ll make it out,” Cecilia added, clenching my hand tightly.

    “I know,” I said, my voice quivering.

    It seemed that no matter how many near-death experiences I was going to be in, the fear was never going to leave me.

    But I had learned to mold it and use it to sharpen my wit, as I had with my nervousness. As long as it were only wild Pokemon we were facing, I’d be on top of my game.

    ——

    “Your turn to keep watch.”

    I woke up to Chase shaking my shoulder. I struggled to keep my eyelids open, but after a few seconds, I remembered the dire situation we were in and I woke up like he had just splashed me with cold water. I yawned as I stepped out of the tent, and I saw Denzel and Cece staring in the distance. The Sneasel pack had stalked us and harassed us the entire day, and they lurked in the darkness, ready to pounce at any sign of weakness. Riolu knew, and could let us know whenever they approached. We had come up with a system that at least let us sleep a little bit, by going on a rotational basis. One of us would sleep at a time, along with three of our Pokemon. Still, we’d be woken up every twenty minutes or so because the Sneasel would feint an attack on the group, making us yell at whoever was sleeping to wake up.

    “It doesn’t feel like sleeping,” I whispered to them. “I feel like staying awake would probably get me less tired.”

    “We’ll last longer like this,” Denzel said as he munched on a protein bar. Since we were being followed so closely, any hope of hunting wild Pokemon had gone off the window.

    “Which isn’t long at all,” Cece grimaced. “Sooner or later we’ll have to make a move. Tomorrow morning, we reach the route. If they follow us, there will be less snow, meaning that we can cover more ground faster.”

    “Or have better options to fight,” I nodded.

    Denzel perked up. “Maybe we’ll get lucky and find a trainer on the route to help us.”

    I sighed at the notion that we might have to involve someone else in this, but maybe seeing our numbers grow would make the Sneasel change their mind.

    “I’d rather not, but we’ll see,” I said. “Either way we—”

    Riolu barked, warning us that he sensed movement. Frillish’s head whirled to the right and he released a Water Pulse toward that direction. I heard a small hiss, and saw that three Sneasel had circled around us toward the tent. They were jumping at it and tearing it open. Riolu rushed toward Chase and kicked a Sneasel’s face in, staggering it and giving Charjabug the time to hit it with Thundershock. Chase rushed out of the torn-up tent, and a stream of fire type attacks consumed the other two Sneasel along with it. They were fast, but they weren’t sturdy, so they immediately went down—

    I heard Deino bellow out as an Icy Wind hit him, along with Slowpoke and Eevee, while the rest of the Sneasel surrounded us and were attacking from all sides. This wasn’t just a distraction or a feint like the other attacks had been. They were making their play now.

    “Elekid, light up the area! Togetic, help out with Ancient Power! Use it defensively!” I said in quick succession. I barely had the time to get the words out before Buneary took a Slash to the face, bloodying her, and Eevee kicked her assailant away with a Double Kick.

    Elekid yelled and created a light source for us as he had done against Sableye in Mount Coronet. Light was crucial. The Sneasel were part dark type, meaning that even though they couldn’t sink in the shadows as Sableye could, they were still incredibly difficult to spot in the dark, and with Riolu too preoccupied with defending Chase—

    “Houndoom, light ‘em up!” the trainer yelled, holding his arm. Two huge claw rakes had flashed across it, and he was bleeding profusely.

    “Deino!” Cece screamed, now that the dragon had recovered from the icy type attack.

    The two Incinerate combined into one, blasting away another Sneasel as its body turned into a smoking husk. I felt someone tackle me from behind and a snowy rock slammed into a Sneasel mid-air. It had been jumping at my throat. We continued to battle, using everything at our disposal. I was thinking so much, moving around, barely breathing— this was a test of everything we had learned so far.

    I recalled Togetic when I heard her scream. Two Icy Winds had hit her in tandem, freezing her wings. Even though she didn’t need them to fly, she panicked and fell to the ground. It was safer to recall her before she could get jumped by the remaining Sneasel—

    “Ele!”

    I spun around and stared at Elekid, who had stopped generating his light and was locked in combat with two Sneasel. Two out of the remaining twelve. They had singled him out, since he was the only one that kept the area lit up. Charjabug had gone down minutes earlier. I looked around, desperately staring at who could help. Frillish was already helping Tangela and Budew, who had the type disadvantage, and the rest of the Pokemon were all occupied. I fumbled with trembling hands at Elekid’s Pokeball and—

    Dropped it in shock. Sneasel had opened up a huge gash across his chest, barely missing his eye, and the other one was slowing him down with Icy Wind. I cursed, feeling tears stream down my face as I dropped to my knees and searched for the Pokeball. It was so dark, I couldn’t fucking find the Pokeball why couldn’t I find it where was it oh Arceus oh no—

    Electricity rumbled across Elekid’s two fists as he managed to punch a Sneasel in the cheek. It was convulsing on the ground, having been paralyzed by his Static ability, but the other was still a threat.

    “Frillish! Tangela!” I shrieked. Tangela tried to get to me but was knocked down by an attack while a Sneasel jumped on Frillish’s back, knocking him to the ground. I stared around blankly. Everyone was in the midst of their own life and death battle. Denzel was wrestling a Sneasel away from Buneary while Eevee kicked its arm, snapping it like a twig. Chase had already been wounded, and Cece’s Deino had fallen to the ground from all the ice type attacks it had taken.

    Elekid’s muscle bulged as a blinding light surrounded him, revealing that a Sneasel had stolen his Pokeball and carried it away from me. I let out heavy breaths as I watched honey evolve into an Electabuzz. His face contorted into rage and he slammed a fist into the Sneasel’s nose, faster this time. The icy type was knocked over and Electabuzz lifted it up with a fist around its neck, shocking it with an attack that was too powerful to be Thundershock. The Sneasel went limp and Electabuzz let him go before blurring toward the Sneasel Slashing at Frillish and knocking him away. He was just as fast as they were now, and he could easily keep up.

    With Elekid’s evolution, the tide had turned in our favor. It took another few minutes for Electabuzz and the rest of our remaining Pokemon to mop up the rest of the Sneasel, causing the rest of the icy types to cut their losses and flee. There were only five of them left, including the leader. We had knocked out all the rest, and two had apparently died to Houndoom’s flames.

    Electabuzz approached me, blood mixing with the thunder-like motif on his chest. He was only a head shorter than me now, which was strange to see. Being close to him made all of my hair stand on end, not because I was scared, but because of the sheer volume of electricity he had in his body. Frillish’s face and body were barely recognizable, and Tangela appeared almost unscathed, except that he was running low on vines.

    I sniffled and brought Electabuzz into a hug. I felt a small shock, and his blood got on my clothes, but I didn’t care.

    “I’m so glad you’re okay,” I cried. “I was so scared, I’m— I’m sorry, your Pokeball, I dropped it. You were wounded because of me.”

    Electabuzz returned my hug, awkwardly patting my back. He hadn’t lost his patting habit. I ended the hug, but kept my hands on his shoulders to get a good look at him.

    “Look at you,” I sniffled. “My little honey’s all grown up.”

    He was taller than an average Electabuzz, even though he had been average sized as an Elekid. Maybe it was because of the situation he had evolved in? It had been a life or death fight after all.

    “Electabuzz,” he answered, flashing me a sharp smile. “Buzz.”

    I let out a small laugh. “You’re so silly,” I smiled. “I told you that you’ve always been pulling your weight. There was no reason for you to feel… inadequate. Promise me, no more taking risks, alright? You should have stayed close to the group.”

    He hung his head and let out a small sound to agree.

    “Larvitar and Togetic are going to have to do a double-take the next time they see you,” I smiled. “But now it’s time to rest up in your Pokeball, alright? You were great.”

    “Buzz!” He laughed.

    “Of course, you’re always great,” I said as I walked toward his fallen Pokeball. I recalled him. “Get some sleep.”

    I turned to Frillish. “You too, buddy. You’ve been out of the Pokeball for too long. I know you don’t sleep, but I also know you won’t let yourself relax if I leave you out of the ball. You took a beating.”

    He was about to protest, but I already recalled him before he could. “Angel, you did great too. You’re with me. It’s going to be a long night.”

    The grass type wriggled, blinking twice.

    “Thanks,” I smiled.

    I looked around, and it seemed like the others had finished talking to their teams and had recalled them. As it stood, we only had Houndoom, Riolu, Tangela, Fletchinder and Eevee well enough to fight. The battle had taken everything we and our teams had.

    Cece was unharmed, but she pulled me into a warm hug and kissed me. She had been crying like I had, and was seemingly as rattled from the battle as I had been. Denzel sighed and stared at his palm, which had been cut by a Sneasel. It wasn’t that deep, however, and he’d recover rather quickly.

    Chase was the one with the biggest problem. The entire length of his arm had been torn open by a Sneasel, and he was wobbling around from the loss of blood. Denzel sat him down and grabbed a towel to clean to wound, then a bandage to wrap his arm up and stop the bleeding. We went to sleep soon after, too exhausted to even have someone stand guard in case the Sneasel showed up again. The only Pokemon that was watching out for threats was Houndoom. We were being spread dangerously thin.

    Luckily for us, the next morning, Togetic carefully lifted us down a cliff, and then we stepped through a thick tree line. We were finally on route 216.

    The worst was finally behind us.
     
  23. veekie

    veekie Connoisseur.

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2017
    Messages:
    25,157
    Likes Received:
    118,030
    Think you mean Segue?
     
  24. Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    Oh, yeah that's what I meant. I honestly always thought that word was written as 'segway', thanks for catching that!
     
    veekie likes this.
  25. Threadmarks: Chapter 87
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 87

    I stared at Chase, who was clenching tightly at his bandaged arm. From our time together, I had learned that he usually hated to show that he was in any kind of pain, so I was sure that if he couldn’t ignore the wound on his arm, it had to be terrible.

    “Are you sure you’re okay?” I asked, getting slightly closer.

    “Yeah, I just feel a little lightheaded. I’ll be fine,” He answered. His tone wasn’t as boastful as usual, which worried me further.

    “Do you need a break?” Denzel asked. “We’re in no danger, so it’s fine if we stop for a bit.”

    “No, we keep going. The sooner we get to Snowpoint, the better,” he said.

    “Well, I definitely agree with that, but let us know if you need to stop, alright?” I said.

    “Don’t coddle me. I can handle it.”

    There were no two ways about it, route 216 was a walk in the park. Houndoom walked in front of us, occasionally stealing worried glances at his trainer and scaring off any wild Pokemon while Fletchinder flew high overhead, stretching her wings. Eevee was on Denzel’s shoulder as usual, and I had all of my Pokemon in their Pokeballs. They deserved a break, and it wasn’t like anything was going to attack us here.

    Still, the route was rather eerie. In every other route, there would always be the occasional trainer that we’d come across or signs of an old campsite that had been recently abandoned. There were no signs of human life here— not even footprints in the snow. I shivered as a strong gust of wind blew past us, jostling my hair wildly. Even Houndoom’s heat wasn’t enough to stop the cold winds from affecting me.

    “We’re really underdressed for this,” I said, my voice stammering. “The wind makes it worse than inside of Mount Coronet somehow.”

    “Well, we certainly didn’t expect to end up here, did we,” Cece grimaced. I shot her a knowing look, preemptively stopping her from apologizing. “How much longer until Snowpoint?”

    “Well, going through all of route 216 and 217 takes a week and a half, so slightly less than that, depending on where we ended up? It also depends on the weather too— wait!” Denzel exclaimed, cutting himself off.

    “What?” I asked.

    He pointed toward a small, snow-covered green sign and ran toward it. We quickly followed suit, and Denzel wiped the frost off of the sign. It read ‘Route 217’.

    “Holy shit,” he said. “We were so much further along than I thought we were.”

    “So how much does that cut the journey by?” Cecilia asked, smiling slightly.

    “Snowpoint’s less than a week away!” Denzel grinned. “Six days at most, and we’re back to civilization.”

    I sighed in relief. “Isn’t that great, Chase?”

    I frowned when I heard no answer. Houndoom turned back before letting out a distressed yelp, and I gasped. Chase had fallen to the ground, headfirst into the snow. We all rushed toward him, and Denzel flipped him over. I took off his coat and looked at his bandage— blood and pus were seeping from the wound and through the cloth.

    “W—what do we do?” Cece stammered. “It’s infected!”

    I swallowed. “We need to clean the wound, but that won’t be enough. This is worse than what happened to Emilia in Eterna Forest, way worse.”

    “Okay, you guys take off the bandage, I’ll grab a new one and a towel,” Denzel said.

    I winced as the bandage clung and stuck to the wound like they had been stuck together. Cece helped me unwrap it, and I gently bumped Chase’s face a few times to keep him awake. He was still breathing, but his face was dangerously hot, and he wasn’t even coherent. Through the word salad, I could only make out one word.

    “Riolu,” he whispered. “Riolu.”

    “You want to see Riolu? That’s okay, just hang in there, alright?” I asked as I nodded at Cece. Houndoom licked his trainer’s face as Denzel crouched next to us with a wet towel, and he started to clean the gash running across Chase’s arm. Cecilia grabbed Riolu’s Pokeball and released him. The fighting type screamed and grabbed his trainer’s face before shooting us a judging look.

    “I’m sorry. I knew he was pushing himself, but I didn’t know that he was doing it to the point of collapse.”

    “Rio!”

    “I’m sorry,” I said again.

    We swapped his bandage, but we had no antibiotics to give him. Still, this would hopefully prevent his condition from worsening.

    “We need to let him rest and stay here for now,” Cece said. We agreed with a nod.

    “With some luck, someone will pass through here. The transition point between route 216 and route 217 is the most likely to have people.”

    “Okay,” I exhaled. “He’ll be— he’ll be fine.”

    Denzel and Cece started to set up the tents while I stuck by Chase with Houndoom and Riolu. I put his coat back on and placed mine on top of him. We’d need to start a fire soon to keep him warm, but this was all I could do for now. Riolu closed his eyes and placed a paw on Chase's forehead, which started glowing bright blue. I didn’t know what was going on, but I was sure he was helping somehow. I wasn’t well-versed in aura enough to understand, but the fighting type shot me another worried look.

    “Can you tell how bad it is?” I asked.

    “Ri,” he nodded with a grim expression.

    I didn’t have the strength to ask if it was fatal or not.

    “Riolu,” Denzel said from behind me. “Can we borrow Zangoose to gather firewood?”

    Riolu nodded and grabbed Zangoose’s Pokeball, releasing her and explaining the situation. Her perpetual frown turned to worry as she stared at Chase, who was barely holding onto consciousness.

    “You stay,” I told Denzel. “I’ll go get the wood.”

    “Alright.”

    Followed by Zangoose, I made my way to the nearby tree line and watched as the normal type adeptly cut down branch after branch with Slash. I hurried to grab as many as I could. Luckily we had Houndoom to light the fire—

    “You won’t light a fire with that, girl,” I heard to my side. “You’ve got to use old wood.”

    Zangoose hissed, and her fur stood on end. My head snapped toward the voice. It belonged to an old woman, either in her late fifties or early sixties. She was in a coat twice as thick as I wore with a furred hood, and she carried a heavy-looking axe and an enormous crossbow on her back.

    “It’s unusual to see trainers here this time of the year,” the old woman said with a hint of disdain.

    “Uh, hello, my name is Grace,” I said after hesitating for a few seconds. “I’m— I’m traveling with my group further that way, but one of my friends is wounded and needs help. Please.”

    She groaned. “Another wounded? Is he a kid like you, at least?” she asked.

    “Yes! He’s fifteen, like me. Do you have a house nearby he could rest at? We don’t have any medicine for him, and his wound is infected!”

    “Well, first, tell your Zangoose to calm the hell down,” she said. I only just noticed how tightly she was gripping her axe.

    “Sorry!” I exclaimed. I tentatively placed a hand on Zangoose’s shoulder, hoping she had gotten used to me enough not to mind the contact. She didn’t. “Calm down, she’ll help us.”

    Her hair stood back down, and she got back on all fours, which she always did whenever she didn’t fight. The old woman placed her axe in a small holster.

    “Okay. Are we good?” I asked.

    “Lead the way.”

    When we got back to our just built-up camp, my two companions stared at the woman behind me with a mix of relief and confusion.

    I preemptively spoke up. “She’s… what’s your name?” I asked.

    “Savika,” she simply said.

    “Savika,” I nodded. “I met her in the woods, and she said that she could help Chase.”

    “That’s the boy?” Savika asked, leaning toward him slightly. “He looks worse than the other one I have with me. I live nearby, but if I’m to help you with this, you have to promise to never disclose that location. Am I understood?”

    “Sure!” Denzel said, getting up right away. “Thank you so much. Um, let’s hurry up and pack everything again.”

    Savika watched with a curious eye as we scrambled to put everything back into our bags. Riolu gave her a respectful bow, which she ignored completely. After we were done, she picked up Chase like he was nothing, carrying him in her arms, and led us back into the woods, back off-route. It took around fifty minutes or so, and the terrain grew more and more treacherous until we reached an enormous lake. The water in the distance was so clear and calm that it was as if it was covered in a thin sheet of ice.

    I took a breath at the beauty of it all.

    “Grace, this is like— this is like Lake Verity.”

    I nodded. Whereas Lake Verity gave me a sense of complete easiness and calm, this one made me feel… it was hard to explain. It was like I was smarter somehow. Like my thought process had been slightly sped up. I felt like if I ever had something on the tip of my tongue, the answer would come to me right away without fail. It was like I was more knowledgeable.

    “Like?” Savika raised an eyebrow. “There’s no other place like this,” she said, nodding toward the left. Her house sat close to the lake’s shore, and we followed her.

    My breath was cut short when I saw a Salamence drinking water from the lake. Its scales looked tougher than steel, and some of them were discolored throughout its body. Scars from older battles. The dragon was at least eight feet tall— with a wingspan much larger than that. Cece stared at the dragon with a childlike smile on her face, as if she was completely enamored with it. She was probably imagining a future in which Deino was just as powerful. Salamence stared at us from afar as we entered Savika’s home.

    It was a… modest home that had clearly been handbuilt by Savika herself. The wood was rough, and it was somewhat small, but I supposed that was enough for one person. On its side was a small barn-like building where at least one hundred wooden logs sat arranged in a long pyramid, protected from any snowfall, and there were a few solar panels on the roof. Before entering the house, she stared back at us.

    “No Pokemon in the house,” Savika said.

    I was about to ask why, but I held myself back. She was already helping us, and it was her house, after all, meaning that we would follow any rules she had. My companions recalled all of their Pokemon, and I recalled Chase’s.

    “Remember, not a word about this place to anyone. I’ve already had enough intruders for a lifetime.”

    We walked inside of the small foyer, wiping our feet on a rug.

    “Coats on here,” she pointed at a makeshift coathanger as she carried Chase further in. We took off our layers and followed her in.

    The only thing that grabbed my attention was a hideous, giant yellow flag that read ‘DON’T TREAD ON ME,’ with an Ekans hissing threateningly at nothing in particular. It was so big that it practically took half of one of the walls.

    “We have a lot of those in Unova,” Cece whispered.

    “Weird,” I said.

    The fireplace was prominent as well, but other than that, it was a basic home. She had kept it going the whole time, so the house was warm. I dragged my hands against one of the rugged wooden walls and let out a hearty chuckle. I was in a house. After so many harrowing experiences, it felt so relieving to finally be in one that I was tearing up. Cece and Denzel shared my amazement and were all smiles.

    Savika went into her bedroom, and I heard her speak to someone.

    “I thought I told you to watch for more threats,” Savika said, her voice muffled. “I have a wounded kid. Get off my bed.”

    “My bad, I was just really tired,” a male voice said back. “It still hurts to stand up.”

    “Don’t be a child.”

    It took me a few seconds to recognize the man who walked through the bedroom door. He had wavy, jet-black hair that went down to his neck and a badly-trimmed beard. He was usually always clean-shaven.

    Denzel’s mouth was agape.

    “Are— are you Craig Goodwill?!” He yelled.

    The man scratched his head. “Yeah,” he said with a small grimace. “Sorry if I don’t live up to the reputation. I can’t bother putting on my usual confident act right now. As you can see, my leg’s been in better shape,” he said, pointing at his bandaged member. He limped slowly toward us, barely able to put any weight on it.

    “You… um, sorry, I’m just a really big fan, I— I heard you were going to Snowpoint. What happened to you?” Denzel asked, fidgeting nervously.

    Craig sighed before sitting down on a chair, and Savika walked back in, searched through her cabinets, and grabbed a few bottles full of pills. I could only steal a glance, but she had a motherload in there, as if she was going to hold out here for years.

    “Savika, can I tell them?” he asked loudly.

    “Go ahead.”

    “I was flying on Roxie— that’s my Salamence— on my way to Snowpoint to challenge Candice, but she noticed a group of individuals down on the ground. Usually, I would have just chalked it up to being trainers, but there are no trainers here at this time of the year, especially not in a group that large. The people from Snowpoint either take the ferry to Canalave during the summer to start there, or they fly out if they have a license. I got a bit suspicious, so I ordered her to follow them. They found this lake and started attacking Savika here, who is a wonderful, helpful woman,” he said loudly so that she could hear. “So I swooped in to save the day. Unfortunately, something I often forget is that criminals don’t abide by the rules of battle. I would have easily dealt with them, but I took a nasty Slash from a Purugly. I guess that’s what I get for underestimating Team Galactic and only using Roxie for the fight.”

    My heart jumped into my throat. The nonchalant tone that he used when dropping the name of Team Galactic was disturbing, and I instinctively felt my teeth begin to chatter. My palms began to sweat, and my throat was so tightly closed that I could barely breathe. I— I couldn’t even see straight. What was happening—

    I felt Cece wrap her hands around me, and she brought me into a tight hug.

    “Calm down. It’s okay, they aren’t here anymore,” she whispered as she caressed my hair. “You’re safe here.”

    “Did I say something wrong?” Craig asked. “I know they’re a big threat, but… damn, sorry.”

    I felt my breathing calm, and I hugged Cecilia back tightly.

    “Grace has had a traumatizing encounter with… with them,” Denzel explained as he shot me a worried look. “The fact that they were here isn’t helping. Will they come back?”

    “Well, no, because they’re dead,” he said with a grimace, his face paling. He paused for a few seconds, clasping at his shirt and took a deep breath before continuing. “Roxie went crazy when she saw me bleeding on the ground and saw red. Savika buried them and cared for me since I saved her. I’m going to turn myself in when I’m better. I should be able to fly in a few days.”

    “So, will you go to prison?” Denzel asked worriedly.

    “No, I’ll be fine,” he sighed. “I’ve worked with the League before for some jobs, and they know I’m planning on applying for a job if I don’t win against the Elite Four and Cynthia this year. I’m one of the best trainers in the region, and they know they need me. The rules are…flexible. I want to feel bad for what happened, and I do, to some extent but… I mean, it’s Team Galactic. I can’t bring myself to. I just hate the fact that Roxie actually killed people. The League will probably bring me in for questioning and ask to be brought to the scene. Savika doesn’t want that to happen, though, but there’s no choice.”

    “What’s with her?” I asked, finally well enough to speak now that I knew we were safe. “Why does she live alone here?”

    “She’s kind of a loony—”

    “I’m perfectly sound of mind,” she said behind him. “I’m just living off the grid. I don’t trust anyone or any League. They’re a sinister force.”

    I stopped myself from rolling my eyes. I could already tell from her flag that she was anti-government.

    “How long have you lived here?” Cecilia asked.

    “Twenty years or so,” she said. “I didn’t count, and I don’t really keep track of the days here.”

    “Either way, thank you for helping Chase,” Denzel said. “Will he be alright?”

    “Yes, he will. He should wake up soon, and then I’ll have him on antibiotics. I don’t have a bed to house all of you, but I suppose you can make yourselves at home.”

    ——

    I stepped into Savika’s bathroom, which had a giant human-sized pot that served as a shower. Apparently, all of the water she used came from the lake, and she’d heat it up with the electricity she gathered with her solar panels. I stepped into the pot and let out a sigh of relief as I felt the exhaustion wash off me. Cece and Denzel had already washed and had stepped outside to hang out with their teams.

    Team Galactic… Craig just mentioning them being in the same spot that I was in had sent me into a full-blown panic. I clenched at the edges of the bath and swore internally. Craig hadn’t hesitated. He had flown down on his Salamence and completely destroyed them, but I couldn’t even hear their name without having a panic attack. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to be able to stand up to the people that had scarred me for life, and yet I couldn’t. Of course, my team was probably good enough to beat a few grunts, at the very least. The ones that had been all over the power plant when I was held hostage there didn’t seem like much these days. Mentally, however, I wasn’t ready at all. It wasn’t like I wanted to seek them out. I wasn’t insane. But if I ever met them again, I wanted to do something, at the very least, as Chase had done. I didn’t want to be powerless any longer.

    Somehow, I’d need to overcome my trauma.

    I took a deep breath and exited the bath. I didn’t want to waste too much of Savika’s electricity. It was strange to see a woman live off-route without any Pokemon, but that crossbow and those bolts had looked threatening enough. She had managed to survive somehow.

    I dressed, walked back into the living room and saw that Craig was looking through his huge bags. Plural. He apparently carried at least five everywhere he went, because his team needed a lot of food, especially his Snorlax. It was still surreal to think that I was in the same house as last year’s Conference finalist and the man I usually only saw on television. He acted differently in real life, though.

    “Grace,” he smiled at me, handing me potions from his bag. They were Hyper Potions. “Take it as an apology for earlier. I’m sorry for bringing up those terrorists like that without thinking… Denzel told me you were one of the hostages at Valley Windworks. Terrible, what they’ve done to you.”

    “I can’t accept this,” I said, shaking my head.

    “I already gave a few to your friends. Come on, it costs nothing to me. I get more than I’ll ever need from my deal with the Poketch Company.”

    “You’re sponsored by the Poketch Company?” I gasped. “My dad works for them too.”

    “That’s one of the companies that sponsor me, yes,” he said before pausing. “You remind me of my little sister, you know? She’s your age.”

    I raised an eyebrow. “How so?”

    “Well, first, she’s a trainer like you, but she also always refuses any help I want to give her.”

    “Is she? I haven’t really heard about her. What’s her name?”

    I really thought I would have heard about his sister, since he was famous.

    Craig grimaced. “Yeah, she’s keeping a low profile, or at least trying to— She always asks for gym leaders to turn off their camera feed before they battle, she travels alone, and she never sticks around cities for long. Her name’s Lauren. Last I heard, she was making her way to Hearthome, but she doesn’t want anything to do with me,” he sighed.

    I let out a pensive nod. If I were the sister of a potential Champion in the making, I’d probably hate being in his shadow as well. Cece didn’t seem to mind much, though, not that she was particularly close with her brother.

    “So she’s got two badges?” I asked. “What Pokemon does she have?”

    “Three, not two,” he corrected me. I refrained from making a face. It’d be stupid to compete with someone I had never met. “She beat Byron right after beating Roark, and then moved on to Gardenia. She owns a Duosion, Lairon, Magmar, Grovyle and Palpitoad. I offered to get her a Bagon at the start of her journey, but she refused. It would have been perfect to round out her team, too,” he sighed again. He seemed to like doting on her.

    My eyes widened at her Pokemon, however. That was an incredible team, and she would probably go toe to toe with Cece, or maybe beat her. For some reason, I did feel the need to compete with her, after all, even though it was stupid.

    “Well, I’ll look her up whenever I get to Snowpoint,” I said.

    “Damn it,” he shuddered. “She’s going to be pissed.”

    “Hey, how does it feel to be one of the best trainers in the world,” I asked after a pause.

    “Exhausting, but fulfilling. For some reason, the better you get, the less you actually get to battle,” Craig sighed. “That’s why I’m going off to Mount Coronet to train after I finish gathering all the badges again, I need to get my head back in the game. Speaking of Mount Coronet, you must have gone through there to get here, no?”

    “It’s a long story,” I said with a sigh. “But we did.”

    “Well, you sure have potential, kid,” he smiled. “But I digress. I know this is going to sound like some sob story, but it’s the truth. When I first started my journey ten years ago, the point where I stand at now… I thought it’d always be out of reach. I started out with a Bagon, but I still failed over and over. I wasn’t the best at anything, but I worked hard consistently to make up for my deficiencies, and now here I stand,” he said. I could almost see his television persona now. I realized now that it wasn’t completely an act. It was just how he must have been when passionate. “Atop of it all. I’ve almost reached the summit, and I’m sure that this year will be the one.”

    “The one where you beat Cynthia?” I asked. I honestly couldn’t believe him, but he seemed confident in himself.

    “Oh yes, but beating Cynthia’s just reaching the summit. I want to go further. I want to touch the skies,” he grinned. “Champions never battle each other. I want to change that. I want to beat every single one after I take Cynthia’s seat.”

    Touching the skies, I repeated in my head. Something about the expression called to me, tugging at me like a rope. It was a feeling that I couldn’t explain.

    “I’ll take your potions after all, Craig,” I said. “Thanks a lot.”

    “Oh? Alright then.”

    I was afraid I couldn’t swear off the League Circuit after all. I had just found a way to battle the gym leaders while staying out of the limelight— asking not to be filmed. I hadn’t even known that was possible. This, plus the fact that Snowpoint was empty of trainers meant that it was going to be possible to battle Candice. A fire had been lit in me. A challenge I couldn’t just ignore, as if I was starting my journey all over again.

    “I’m off to train,” I told him. “I’m going to beat you in the Conference, and then I’m going to beat everyone else. You just gave me more inspiration than you’d know.”

    Candice was next, then I’d crush the other gym leaders one by one. I had been looking for a goal beyond becoming the Champion for a while, but I felt like I had just grasped it. I would take Craig’s goal and mold it to my liking. I wouldn’t just beat Cynthia, I would defeat them all. And I wouldn't stop myself at the Champions. I'd beat all of the gym leaders too.

    I’d be the one to touch the skies.

    I’d become the best trainer in the world.


    A/N: Yes... title drop, you'll have to indulge me, I waited almost 300k words for this. For those who don't remember, Craig being there was foreshadowed in Interlude - Forums II, although I had this chapter planned in my head from the start. Also, Lake Acuity's been moved slightly away from Snowpoint. It's still next to route 217, but it's no longer so close to the city, since it's supposed to be unknown and all I figured that made more sense. Lastly, yeah, Salamence is bigger than her in-game counterpart because I mean... 4'11 is kind of a joke when you think about it.
     
  26. Threadmarks: Chapter 88
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 88

    I stepped out of the house— and far away from Roxie. She may have appeared docile, but she was definitely the most threatening-looking dragon I had ever seen after Cynthia’s Garchomp—

    Roxie roared and flapped her wings, blowing my hair all over the place even though I was at least one hundred and fifty feet away, and flew off into the distance somewhere. I ran back into the house.

    “Craig, Roxie just— Roxie just left!” I yelled.

    “Ah, she must be hungry,” he said. “She hunts around here, which lets me save the food for Caleb— Caleb’s my Snorlax, and feeding him actually takes most of my expenses. She’ll be back in thirty minutes or so.”

    “Oh. Sorry,” I said, feeling really awkward. I had never really seen someone be so nonchalant about their Pokemon leaving their side, but she was a Salamence. Nothing around here could hurt her, even with the type advantage.

    I hurriedly left again and released my entire team. Electabuzz stood out now due to how tall he was, and Larvitar shot him an angry glare. Ever since he had evolved, she seemed to be jealous of his new strength and stature, even though she stood no chance of beating him in battle before his evolution anyway. The electric type let out a hearty laugh and easily picked her up, proving how strong he was now. She squirmed in his hands.

    “Come on, hon, let her down,” I smiled.

    Electabuzz laughed again and dropped Larvitar on the ground, causing her to huff like Frillish did. The water type noticed and smiled slightly, but when he saw that I had caught him, he, well, huffed and stared away.

    “Caught ya,” I giggled. “And don’t worry, sweetheart, we’ll get you caught up to the rest in no time. You’ve got to finish growing first though, alright?”

    “Tar!” She yelled.

    “Okay, you’re already the strongest,” I humored her. Electabuzz clamored, demanding I call him the strongest now that he had evolved. “Let your baby sister have a win, alright?”

    He sighed and nodded sadly at me, causing Larvitar to laugh and hit his leg with a stubby arm. He was about to retaliate, but angel hurriedly grabbed her with his vines and pulled her to his side.

    “Okay, guys,” I said, clapping my hands to get their attention. “Due to everything that happened, it’s been a while since we had one of these, but it’s time to train some new moves. Princess, you’re first.”

    Togetic smiled and clapped her hands. She was happier now that we were finally out of dangerous areas.

    “You’re going to be learning Air Cutter, which is supposed to use the wind to, well, cut up your enemies. If I had to guess, you’re going to need to use your wings for this one. I know it’s going to be new, so don’t push yourself, alright? That won’t be it though, but I’ll get back to you.”

    Togetic nodded, and I moved on to Frillish.

    “Buddy, you’re going to learn Shadow Ball and Recover,” I told him. He immediately nodded without hesitation. “Shadow Ball should be pretty easy for you since you’re smart—”

    My Pokemon all joined and complained in unison except Togetic. Even Tangela wriggled in defiance.

    “—you’re all smart. I meant that he’s the smartest. You’ve got to gather ghostly energy, condense it into a ball and send it off. It’s easier when you’re an actual ghost, I think, but you’ll figure it out. Call out if you need any help. For Recover, I couldn’t think of how to actually get you started on the move…”

    Suddenly, I felt knowledge fill in the blanks in my head. The lake was helping, somehow, but it felt incredibly alien. Like thoughts were being forcefully put into my head. I didn’t like it one bit, but at least it helped me figure out how Frillish could learn Recover in seconds. I probably would have figured it out eventually, but this just sped up the whole process. If I ever needed the answer to something, I was going to come back here somehow, although it would be easier if I got my flying license and evolved princess…

    But I was getting sidetracked.

    “I’ve got it. You’re almost completely made out of water, right? You already heal passively from wounds by regenerating your body with water, which means that you just have to speed up that process to learn Recover. Fiddling with your body composition should help you with Acid Armor too, which is perfect.”

    “Fri…” he mumbled.

    “Great. I’ll get you some poffins when we get to Snowpoint. You haven’t eaten any in too long.”

    His face lit up for a split second before returning to his neutral expression.

    “Okay, you’re next, hon,” I turned to Electabuzz. “You’re actually spending all of our training session with me. We’ve got to test your new limits since you evolved. We don’t want to accidentally kill something when we start battling again,” I said. He nodded. “But we’re also going to be working on Discharge and Fire Punch. Originally, I was going to teach you Shock Wave, but you’re strong enough to skip that step.”

    Electabuzz flashed me a sharp, toothy grin.

    “Discharge should be easy, and Fire Punch probably…” I trailed off, waiting for more information to invade my brain again. “You need to use electricity to start a fire on your fist. Think you can manage that?” I asked.

    “Buzz!”

    “Of course, you can, I don’t know why I even asked! Now angel, you’re going to be focused on one move, and one move only. Ancient Power.”

    He blinked twice and snaked a cold vine around my ankle.

    “You like how it sounds, huh?” I smiled at him. “You’ve got some innate psychic powers in you, and I think princess will be able to help you awaken them.”

    I waited a few seconds to see if I was going to get help from the lake, but it seemed that there was a limit to how much it could actually do. If I had to guess, the limit had to do with knowledge I could realistically acquire. I wasn’t a psychic, so knowing the intricacies of lifting the earth with my mind was impossible.

    “Take your time and go at your own pace, alright?” I told the grass type. “When you learn the move, you’ll evolve.”

    His vines shook, and he jumped. Angel was so adorable when he let his emotions show.

    “And princess, no playing around with Tangela, alright? Not even lifting him with Extrasensory. I’ve got eyes at the back of my head! They’re called Frillish, and he’ll snitch. Right?” I said, staring at the water type. Togetic pleaded with him, and he avoided my eyes. “Okay, maybe I’m being too harsh…” I sighed. “For every hour you work hard, you’ll get twenty minutes of playtime. How’s that.”

    “Prrrrri!” She celebrated.

    “Sorry angel, looks like you’ll be her plaything again.”

    He stared up at me and let out a series of blinks.

    “Used to it already, huh? Well, as long as she helps you out,” I sighed. “Sweetheart, you’re with me and your brother. You’re going to observe today,” I said. She hissed in annoyance. “Don’t be so moody, I’m also going to test out your moves. You’ve used Horn Attack, but do you know that you know Rock Throw and Payback?”

    Larvitar’s eyes shone in anticipation, and she stared up at me with a satisfied expression.

    “Let’s get to work then.”

    ——

    “Rock Throw,” I ordered.

    Larvitar yelled, waving her arms in a really cute and wild way, and a tiny rock slightly bigger than my fist was pulled from the earth and thrown toward a tree.

    “Larvi! Larvitar!” She yelled proudly at me.

    “Great job, sweetheart,” I smiled.

    Whenever no rocks were present, the move worked similarly to Ancient Power, except that psychic energy wasn’t used. I assumed that it was some kind of type energy— in this case, rock type. Either way, since there wasn’t the fine control that psychic energy usually had, the move was less precise. In the distance, Electabuzz let out a powerful Thunderbolt toward a tree, which promptly caught fire. I called Frillish over, and he exasperatedly extinguished the flames. It was the tenth time this had happened.

    “Sorry,” I apologized to him. “But Togetic’s fully focused on teaching angel Ancient Power. I don’t want to disturb her by asking for targets.”

    It was actually surprising how hard she worked when she got small breaks in between the bursts of activity. Whereas I was wholly focused on a task until I finished it, princess was the type who needed small breaks at regular intervals to stay on top of her game.

    I grumbled when I realized that my hair was standing straight up again. Electabuzz had that effect on me now when he used an electric move, and he didn’t know how to tone it down yet. At least I looked funny, since he kept making fun of me with his usual cackle.

    “You better not use this to prank me in the future,” I jokingly said. “You’re incredibly strong now. It’s actually ridiculous how powerful you got. Remember when you could only keep a Thundershock going for eight seconds back in Floaroma? You’ve come a long way.”

    “Ele!”

    “But we’re only just starting,” I nodded. “Let’s try out a Fire Punch now.”

    The electric type nodded, and sparks flew around his fists until it caught fire. The flames quickly disappeared, however, and he aired his hand around. They had also burned him somewhat.

    “That’s okay, it was a great first attempt,” I said. “Let’s try it again for a while, and then we’ll start working on Discharge. Larvitar, let’s try out two Rock Throws at the same time. Don’t worry if it’s too hard, alright?”

    “Larvitar!” She boasted, clapping her hands like Togetic.

    “At this rate, you’re going to catch everyone’s habit,” I laughed. “If you start blinking or wriggling, though… I won’t know what to say to that.”

    She huffed and easily lifted two small rocks out of the ground. I had apparently been underestimating her. Her species wasn’t called pseudo-legendary for nothing.

    “Give me five this time,” I grinned.

    Arceus, I loved training.

    ——

    Cecilia swallowed as her hand hovered over the release button for Scyther’s Pokeball. Deino, Fletchinder, and Slowpoke were all around her, waiting. It had been so long since she had even spoken to the bug type. Would he attack her this time? Why did she feel so anxious about it now when she never had before?

    Cece sighed. She knew why.

    She had been a terrible trainer to Scyther. She had beaten him repeatedly into submission to force him into fighting for her, just like her father had wanted to force her into marrying Louis. And just like her relationship with her father, Cece feared that Scyther would never give her another chance. Why should he?

    Cecilia valued strength in her Pokemon above all, and her training style was more brutal than most trainer’s, but that had been no reason to defeat Scyther over and over again.

    And yet, he was her best hope against Abel’s Malamar.

    She took a deep breath.

    “Don’t attack him no matter what. You’re only there to dissuade him from doing so,” Cece told Deino and Fletchinder. “Slowpoke, keep him still if he does, then move him back and release him. Understood?”

    Her Pokemon all nodded— although Deino gave her a half-committed, angry one. That was probably the best she was going to get. He was growing jittery and anxious about his coming evolution, and so was she. She’d need to call Mark about how to raise a Zweilous, along with all the other help she was already going to ask of him. More than him going berserk though, she feared that she didn’t know how Deino’s personality would develop. Would the two heads behave as he did? Would only one do, and the other be completely different? Or would he be lost forever?

    The girl shook her head. Today was Scyther’s day. Deino would come later. She released the bug type, who was very confused at how he had gotten from Eterna city to the middle of the snowy wilderness. He stared Cecilia down and started to bat his wings.

    “I’m sorry,” Cecilia immediately said with an apologetic bow. “I know that won’t cut it, but I have to say it. I’ve been mistreating you. I’ve been a horrible trainer to you, and you have every right to hate me—”

    Scyther let out an angry screech and sharpened his sickle-like arms as he stared around the lake.

    “We went through a mountain and ended up here,” Cece said, guessing that he was asking where he was. “I want you to know that I won’t attack you anymore, no matter what—”

    Scyther seemingly took that as a sign to attack, probably thinking that she would just let him kill her. Slowpoke sprung alive and restrained Scyther, lifting him up in the air and pushing him back around ten feet. Deino’s mouth started to glow red, but Cece placed a hand on his hot neck, stopping him.

    “I won’t attack you, but I won’t let you kill me. I’ve found a reason to live,” she said, thinking of Grace and her friends. “I just want to get on civil terms… give me three months and if… if I can’t get that from you, then when I can get back to Eterna city, I’ll head into the forest and release you. You have my word.”

    Scyther smiled, probably thinking that he was going to be freed soon.

    At least he wasn’t attacking her.

    “I have food if you want,” Cece tried hesitantly. “Or you can go hunt something… I at least know you like that. I’ll have to come with you though, since I know you’ll try to escape. I’m sorry, but I’ll need at least a chance to change your mind first.”

    “Scy, scy,” he told her dismissively. “Scyther!” He screamed, pointing at the woods.

    “Hunting it is,” she sighed, looking back at her Pokemon.

    In the forest, Scyther tried attacking her five times, thinking that the advantageous terrain would help him kill her.

    Slowpoke stopped him every single time.

    ——

    Denzel rolled his eyes at the current display of jealousy that was happening in front of him. Eevee sat in the middle of Budew and Buneary while the two practiced the new moves he had asked them to, doing their best to impress his starter. Budew needed more move variety, so he had asked her to work on Venoshock, which she was already excelling at due to her poison typing. Large swaths of snow in front of them had been stained purple, and Budew screeched at Buneary, trying to showcase her dominance. Buneary, meanwhile, was trying to get Power-Up Punch down. The move supposedly made your Pokemon more powerful the more they used it, but it was very physically intensive.

    Which somehow had become a theme for his team. Beauty and endurance. From those two words, he had carefully theory-crafted his team at the ripe age of ten, revised it, then rerevised it again another thousand times before he finally came up with a final draft right before he turned fifteen with Eevee now by his side— although his slot had been left blank since he could evolve into anything. It had also been right before he had been supposed to start his journey. Of course, that had been delayed by a year due to his mother.

    Either way, Buneary was giving the move a hearty try, although she was struggling more than Budew was. Her right ear shined brightly and extended right away in front of her. She was getting the punching part down rather well, but the powering up was still a mystery to them. Budew let out something of a snicker and a screech morphed together into a horrifying cocktail, clearly mocking her. The normal type cried out to Eevee indignantly.

    The poor guy was stuck in the middle of a love triangle.

    To be honest, Denzel didn’t exactly mind. Eevee was just practicing his current moves today, and mostly trying to get better at Swift. He wanted Eevee to create the most amount of stars possible and throw them out in a wide shot instead of a line to make it harder to outrun. That meant that Eevee didn’t really have to be focusing hard today. Denzel also felt that some of this battle for attention could be used for Budew and Buneary to push themselves further, which they were doing at a rapid pace. As long as it stayed a healthy competition, then he wouldn’t intervene. He could tell that Budew still held back when fighting Buneary for training, even though they were around the same strength.

    He did feel bad for Eevee, though. He clearly had no interest in the two romantically, but he didn’t have the heart to reject them, so he just tried to appease the situation as best he could. Denzel sighed and leaned down toward his Feebas, who was swimming along the surface of the lake. He had caught up with the water type on everything that had happened in Mount Coronet and apologized for not letting him out of his Pokeball sooner. The cave’s lakes had been too dangerous for him to swim in.

    “At least you’re not in love,” Denzel told the water type.

    “Fee…” he said, looking longingly at the rest of Denzel’s team.

    Denzel let out a sad sigh. It was true that Feebas was less close to the rest of the team through no fault of his own. The limitations of the water type meant that any time he was released outside of water, he’d suffer immensely and could only flop around. When he evolved into Milotic, all of that would be solved, but that was still somewhat far off.

    The secret to evolving Feebas into Milotic was well-known, and it was simple in theory but hard in practice.

    You simply had to make the fish feel beautiful. Not just tell them, take care of their scales, or bring them to Pokemon spas every day. No, it didn’t matter what they looked like. You had to make them believe they were genuinely beautiful, and then they would evolve. Denzel did believe that Feebas was beautiful. If he hadn’t, then he wouldn’t have caught him in the first place, but he had been racking his brain to find a way to transfer that feeling onto the water type.

    And it looked like he wouldn’t figure it out today, either.

    “Hey, guys!” He yelled out at his Pokemon. “Take a break and come hang out with Feebas.”

    Eevee smiled, happy that he was finally going to get some relief and ran to them as fast as he could. Buneary followed him closely, and Budew was lagging behind. The rabbit looked at Budew and stuck out her tongue to mock how slow she was, and Budew’s permanent scowl somehow worsened.

    At least Buneary had gotten out of her shell with the group.

    “Bas…!” The water type exclaimed and smiled. Eevee jumped into the lake right next to him, splashing Denzel with ice-cold water in the process, and so did Buneary. Budew angrily stewed on shore, since she couldn’t swim.

    “Hey, you’ve hogged Eevee’s attention a lot, let Feebas have some too,” he said.

    “Bud! Bud! Budew Bud Budew Bud—”

    “Arceus, you woke up on the wrong side of the bed today,” he said, interrupting her tirade.

    His team played around for a while. Feebas kept splashing Eevee and Buneary with a proto-Water Gun from under the surface, blasting them up a few feet while Denzel kept Budew company. Ten minutes of playtime turned to thirty and then one hour. Their training had been cut short, but that was fine. Denzel didn’t want to stop Feebas from having fun, especially when this looked to be the happiest he had been in a long while. When Eevee finally climbed out of the lake, Denzel saw Feebas sadly shoot a glance at the normal type. He then realized that his earlier longing stare at the rest of his team had only been for Eevee, not the others.

    Wait…

    Him too?


    Was… was Eevee unknowingly building a… love quadrangle? A harem?

    “What the fuck…” Denzel muttered. Even Feebas was in love? “Let’s hope this doesn’t balloon out of proportion.”

    Around another hour later, Denzel had recalled everyone since Savika didn’t allow Pokemon into her home. He shot a glance at the huge Salamence that had only recently come back with a Piloswine. She was cooking it with flames so hot they altered the air around them and munching on it like a small snack. He gulped and made his way into Savika’s house. The old woman was making lunch on her small electric stove. Now that she wasn’t wearing layers upon layers of clothes, he could see that she was incredibly muscular— more than Chase was. Her life in the wild kept her in shape.

    “Savika,” Denzel said hesitantly. “I have a question, if you don’t mind.”

    “Shoot,” she answered right away.

    “I’m looking for the next member of my team— a Snorunt. Would you know where to find them? Do they live around here?”

    “Ah, those,” she said with a certain… dislike. The same that she had when she spoke about any Pokemon. “They do live in the woods around the lake. They’re not particularly uncommon either, so if you look, it’s only a matter of time until you find one. Just make sure not to bring it inside.”

    Denzel smiled. “Thank you! And um, another question, please?”

    “Don’t ask me to ask a question, just ask the question.”

    “I’m looking for a female Snorunt, not a male. Is there any way to distinguish between the two?”

    “It’s a bit tough, but it’s certainly doable. The females are slightly smaller, but other than that, they’re virtually the same.”

    “That’s good enough, thank you,” the trainer smiled. “I’ll be going then.”

    Even after all these months, Denzel still felt uncomfortable living in someone else’s house, just like what had happened at Grace’s place. He just felt so indebted that he thought he needed to be overtly polite, which probably made him come off as awkward, which he really wasn’t. Savika was a tough woman, but she was nice. She had even given him ice to put on his ribs and painkillers while they healed. Apparently, they were fractured, not broken, which was a relief and meant that they’d heal faster.

    Denzel felt his muscles loosen as he stepped outside and released his Eevee, who climbed on his shoulder.

    “We’re going to look for a Snorunt today,” Denzel explained. “They should be pretty common, but keep an eye out.”

    “Vee!” The normal type exclaimed.

    Denzel smiled and softly caressed his head. The truth was, he also wanted to have an important talk with Eevee about evolution. He had told Grace he would talk to Eevee about it, but he had kept putting it off again and again until he had gotten trapped in Mount Coronet. Now that he was finally safe, he figured that he needed to do it.

    Denzel watched a group of Vanilite float past him and instinctively cursed, releasing his entire team before remembering that he was safe. The Pokemon around the lake weren’t aggressive, and this was still relatively close to route 217.

    That didn’t stop his heart from drumming against his chest.

    He apologized to Buneary and Budew before recalling them.

    Getting back to his train of thought, seeing Chase and Grace’s Pokemon evolve, and learning that Cece’s Deino was close to doing so as well had made him more open to having a conversation with Eevee. Surprisingly, Denzel didn’t feel inferior or anxious about falling behind any longer. He was going at his own rhythm, and that was fine. If Eevee still wasn’t ready to evolve, he wouldn’t hold it against him.

    “Hey, Eevee,” Denzel hesitantly started. “I think we should talk about your evolution.”

    He felt the normal type tense against his shoulder.

    “Don’t worry, I’m not about to force you into evolving or anything,” he quickly explained. “I just think it’d be healthier to have the conversation, you know?”

    Eevee nodded slightly.

    “Okay. And don’t force yourself to pick, alright? We’ve made it this far with you as an Eevee, we can easily go further,” Denzel said before pausing. “So you don’t know what to evolve into still, right?”

    “Eevee,” he said hesitantly.

    “Is it because you’re scared of not being able to go back if you don’t like it? I’d understand that, it’s scary to make a choice that final.”

    Eevee shook his head before warning Denzel to look left, and he tensed, his hand hovering over his Pokeballs. A group of Snorunt were traveling together and packed tightly. Even though there were a good number of females in the group, Denzel clenched his fist and let them through. He wasn’t going to steal a Pokemon from their family. Not again.

    “So it’s not that then,” he said. “You told me you wanted to evolve a long time ago. That’s still the case, right?”

    “Vee,” he said, agreeing.

    “Okay, then can you tell me? I won’t mind, no matter what you answer.”

    Eevee took a deep, nervous breath before launching into a long tirade of noises and cries. Denzel wasn’t as good as Grace at deciphering what Pokemon said, but he had owned Eevee for long enough to understand the gist of what he was saying.

    “So you… you were waiting for me to decide?” Denzel asked in disbelief. “But I told you that I was fine with anything!”

    “Eevee…”

    “My list— my plan left your spot blank.”

    “Vee!” The normal type angrily raised his tone as he jumped down his shoulder.

    “I’m not! I don’t have a secret preference that I’m hiding from you!” Denzel desperately appealed. “I’ve been telling you the truth!”

    Denzel had messed up royally. His plan for his team had been so rigid that Eevee truly believed that he also had a plan for him, and he had refused to evolve while he waited for Denzel to tell him what to do because Eevee had been there for more than a whole year of planning. Of course, he’d think that Denzel was secretly hiding what evolution he wanted for him. The trainer facepalmed and crouched toward his starter.

    “I don’t know how to prove it to you, but I truly haven’t been hiding my intentions to make you feel better. I was never going to force you into doing anything. I’m giving you the freedom to choose. If you want me to get one of the evolutionary stones, I’ll save up and do that. If you want to evolve into anything else, we can wait for the right time of day or travel to the mossy or icy rock. If you’re already ready, then you can choose. I can tell that you’ve been holding back— since… since before Oreburgh, even!” Denzel said, pouring his heart out. He felt tears gather in the corner of his eye.

    “Ee… Eevee,” Eevee cried as he started to glow, and Denzel covered his eyes. His hair grew slicker, and ribbons began to grow out of his neck and right ear. After ten seconds, it was over. Bright blue eyes stared back at Denzel, still in tears.

    Eevee had evolved into a Sylveon. He understood now that there was another reason he had held himself back so long despite wanting to evolve into one.

    His sixth and final team member was supposed to be another fairy type, and Denzel valued type diversity. Eevee probably thought that he’d ask him to evolve into one of the evolutionary stone evolutions for that. That he would never budge on his planned team.

    Denzel brought him into a warm hug and felt his ribbons wrap around his body, soothing him. His heartbeat calmed, and he looked at Sylveon again.

    “Going to be weird not calling you Eevee anymore,” Denzel laughed. “The rest of the team is going to fawn over your new look.”

    “Sylv,” He complained.

    “Wow, your voice is higher pitched than before. Cool,” Denzel smiled. “Now, let’s find that lone Snorunt, shall we?”

    Sylveon nodded and climbed on his shoulder.

    “Arceus, you’re like, four times as heavy.”
     
  27. Threadmarks: Chapter 89
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 89

    Electabuzz, Larvitar and I watched as Togetic carried Tangela with her Extrasensory toward us. I laughed as she plopped him on the ground, and he stared blankly like a Slowpoke. Frillish worriedly followed behind her, staring at the poor grass type.

    “What is it?” I asked, smiling.

    “Prrrri!” Togetic yelled at Tangela.

    The grass type nodded, shut his eyes tightly, and his vines writhed. The ground below us shook slightly until he sat down, clearly exhausted.

    “Arceus, you’re doing amazing,” I beamed. “It’s only been what, four hours, and you’ve figured out how to use your psychic powers. That’s a huge win in my book.”

    Maybe the lake didn’t just have an effect on humans, but on Pokemon too? Angel lazily wriggled his vines and smiled with his eyes. I picked him up, spinning him around like a baby.

    “I’ve got to do this before you evolve,” I laughed. “You too, Togetic. You better get your Extrasensories in before he gets too big for you to lift.”

    “Toge…” she said sadly.

    “Don’t worry, I’ve seen that you can learn Psychic through a T.M., and I’m pretty sure that’s powerful enough to lift a Tangrowth. So eventually, when I have a lot of money, you’ll get to do it again.”

    She seemingly sprung up at the idea and picked up angel again, spinning him around like a ball.

    “Not too fast, okay?” I said before turning to the rest of the team. “Today was productive, but we’ll keep going until Chase gets better and we can get to Snowpoint, alright? Then, we can do a lot of fun things, like battling each other. Two on twos, and the like.”

    Electabuzz and Larvitar quaked in excitement, and I unfortunately had to break to rock type’s heart and remind her that she wasn’t going to be in our mock battles. Truth be told, I was already thinking about a strategy for Candice, even if I hadn’t watched any of her battling videos yet. I knew Electabuzz was going to be the key to winning, especially after learning Fire Punch, but the rest of my team was dangerously weak to ice types. Frillish would be able to mitigate this weakness somewhat, but I did like a challenge.

    The problem I was going to run into, however, was that since Candice was almost always challenged later into a trainer’s Circuit, there was going to be a severe lack of footage of her fighting at the third badge level. That meant that aside from learning her broad fighting style, I was going to go in practically blind, which would push my stalling abilities to the limit, although with how good my team had gotten, I felt confident. Still, I was getting ahead of myself. I recalled my team to let them rest and made my way back toward Savika’s house. I was starting to get hungry, and she was cooking food. It had been too long since I had eaten anything homemade.

    I noticed that Craig was leaning against her house. He waved at me, and I approached him.

    “Training hard out there?” He smiled. “Reminds me of my old days.”

    “Really?” I asked.

    “The simpleness of it all, I mean. No offense, I know you’re working hard, but this is nothing like training at the top.”

    I raised an eyebrow. “How do you do it, then?”

    “The more powerful a Pokemon gets, the harder it is to actually make it get stronger,” he explained. “And I’ve already taught my team every move under the sun. That means I have to get crafty,” Craig said. “Combining moves, or just making new personalized moves altogether is how I spend most of my time when I'm training.”

    I knew about move combinations and new moves already— in fact, I had created one for Electabuzz’s Electric Swift, but it was interesting to learn that older trainers put more stock into that side of Pokemon battling.

    “I watched a tournament you won in August on T.V., and you didn’t use any new moves,” I told him, crossing my arms.

    “Ah, the Sunyshore one? It sucked destroying all of those trainers, but I mostly did it because the Poketch company got on my back and told me I wasn’t battling in public enough,” he sighed. “But there’s a good reason I don’t use them. Why reveal my hand to potential enemies I’ll face at the Conference, who are watching me like a hungry Talonflame? I’m watching them as well, of course, but you get the gist of it. That’s why I practice in isolated areas, away from any prying eyes. Sometimes, though, you strike gold, and you create a move that can be easily used by your average Pokemon, then you can sell the rights to Silph co. and make bank.”

    I nodded. “Should I start working on them early, then? New moves, I mean,” I asked.

    Craig shook his head. “No, you’re better off focusing on the fundamentals until you can get through every gym leader’s personal team consistently each year. I’d say that’s when you should switch your training mindset— but I don’t want to help you too much.”

    “What? Why not?”

    I felt a palpitation in my heart. Did one of Sinnoh’s greatest trainers me as a potential rival?

    “I don’t want anyone to get one in over my sister,” he said, and I deflated immediately. “Unlike me, Lauren has talent. She’s going places, so I want her to get to the Conference in her first year. She’ll get crushed by us older trainers, but she’ll be the best-performing first year. It’ll be an amazing showing nonetheless, and it’ll jumpstart her fame. You can usually count the number of first years that make it to the conference in the dozens, you know? Although it’ll probably be a lot more this year since there are more of you in general.”

    “I thought she didn’t want you to help her,” I remarked as I crossed my arms.

    “Yeah, but I’m helping her out behind the scenes when I can. Gotta help out family, you know?”

    I sighed. It looked like I wasn’t going to get any more information from Craig, which frustrated me. He was a real treasure trove of Pokemon training knowledge, and I couldn’t access it.

    No shortcuts.

    I froze up when I saw Salamence approach us. Her steps were so powerful that I felt the ground tremble below me.

    “Roxie,” Craig smiled. “What’s up?”

    The dragon smiled, lowering her head close to Craig, and he caressed her scaly chin.

    “She’s so… docile,” I hesitatingly said. It was odd to see a dragon type behave like a cuddly Lillipup, and it was even stranger to imagine that such a laid-back Pokemon had killed people recently.

    “Should have seen her when she was younger,” he laughed. “And when she evolved into a Salamence. I honestly thought I’d never get her back under control for a while, but she came around.”

    “I have a friend that can’t get his Gible under control,” I said, thinking of Louis. “Any advice for him?”

    “A Gible?” He said, frowning. “Ah yeah, that Bianchi kid. That seems like potential competition for Lauren, and like I said—”

    “Fine,” I sighed. “Oh, by the way, I didn’t tell you this, but when you leave… not a word about us to anyone, please?”

    “Sure, I wasn’t going to tell anyone I was wounded and stuck in the middle of nowhere anyway, that would destroy my image,” he shrugged. “I have a few contracts to renegotiate soon, so I want to be coming from a position of strength.”

    “I won’t say anything about you either, then,” I nodded before turning to Salamence again.

    I stared at the magnificent dragon once more, who looked into my eyes. Was she appraising me? Now that I was close to her, I noticed a thin chain necklace going around her neck with a small red and blue ball embedded with a strange sign.

    “What’s that for?” I asked, pointing at the necklace.

    Craig pulled out his own necklace with a similar symbol from below his layers of clothes. “That’s a mega evolution stone, and she’s got a Salamencite. Cost an arm and a leg, especially when I wasn’t swimming in cash back then, but it propelled me to the next level.”

    My eyes almost fell out of their sockets. Mega evolution was something I honestly hadn’t even thought of yet. The only one who could potentially do it on my team was Larvitar when she was fully evolved, but even then, I had heard that it took such a ridiculous toll on a trainer and Pokemon’s body that it took years to perfect.

    “Left you speechless, huh?” he said. “Don’t want it to feel like I’m bragging. You’ll get there eventually. Anyway, I was waiting outside to call for your friends, but they both went into the forest. Denzel wanted to catch a Snorunt if I remember correctly.”

    “Right,” I said. “I wonder what Cece’s doing— oh, speak of the devil.”

    I saw my girlfriend walk back to the house, and she looked distraught. I hurriedly ran up to her.

    “What’s wrong?” I asked, clasping one of her hands.

    “Nothing bad,” Cece said. “Just that I’ve made no progress with Scyther. I suppose I did train a lot, though.”

    I stared at her for a few seconds and smiled. “But you spoke to him, at least, right?”

    She nodded.

    “Then you’ve taken the first step. I’m sure he’ll come around. Now come on,” I said, dragging her by the hand. “Have you spoken to Craig yet?”

    “Not much,” she shyly said. It took me a few seconds to remember that despite how close she had gotten to Denzel and me, she was still distrustful of strangers.

    “Cecilia Obel, huh?” Craig smiled. “I heard about you when I was looking up your brother and at the start of this year’s Circuit. I want to beat him eventually. You’ve got a Deino, right?”

    “Yes,” she said calmly. Her mask was back on. “He was my first Pokemon.”

    “Ah, yes, I remember! It’s not often that you find trainers starting out with a dragon type. It makes all the other kids jealous, but they don’t know how much of a pain in the ass they are to raise.”

    Salamence growled, which made me shiver.

    “Not you, though, Roxie. Who’s the best dragon in the world? That’s you— yes, that’s you!” Craig exclaimed. “I’ve got to head back inside, though. I’ll be back, okay?”

    Salamence nodded and took off, almost making my coat fly off in the process. Craig grinned as he looked at his dragon and beckoned us into the house. Hopefully, Denzel would be back soon so we could eat. Whatever Savika had cooked smelled delicious.

    “Hey,” I called out to Craig, thinking of him. “Denzel’s a huge fan of yours. I hope this isn’t too much to ask, but do you have any merch of something you could give him? He’d be too scared to ask.”

    Craig beamed. “Of course. I always carry some samples in my bags— I can give him a mug— ah, wait, that isn’t that useful for a trainer. He can have one of my shirts free of charge,” he said before he began to look through one of his bags. The raven-haired man pulled out a plain white shirt with a stylized, painting-like version of him on the back and his Salamence on the front, in the same hyper-realistic style. I did have to admit, the art was well made.

    “I had to haggle to make sure the clothing brand I work with— Denovo— used high-quality fabric and art. If I hadn’t negotiated, they would have used the cheapest materials possible. Anyway, here,” he said, handing me the shirt.

    “Is your friend coming back soon?” Savika spoke up from the kitchen.

    “Yeah, he’ll be there,” I answered. I turned to Cece, who was looking like an emotionless wall. “Come on, cheer up,” I told her.

    “I am already,” she said in a haughty tone.

    I smiled maliciously and pinched her arm, making her yelp in shock. Savika and Craig stared at her in disbelief.

    “She’s a bit shy, sorry,” I laughed. I could feel her fuming next to me.

    ——

    When Denzel came back, we had already started eating. Savika had made some vegetarian stew, since she apparently had her own garden that she used when the weather allowed it and a bunch of canned food she had in storage, which would last her years. Despite what I had thought from her owning that massive crossbow, Savika didn’t actually hunt Pokemon, it was just for her own protection since she had none of her own.

    Anyway, none of that mattered because Denzel came back with the biggest smile on his face, which could only mean that he had caught a Snorunt.

    “Did you catch it?” Cece asked.

    “Took a while to find one that was alone,” he nodded, his grin widening. “She was abandoned by her group, I think, because Snorunt live in packs. I’ll introduce you later, but that’s not it,” he continued as he sat on the table. “Guess what.”

    “How are you going to ask us to guess when you so obviously want to tell us?” I rolled my eyes. Cece laughed before coughing and restraining herself. Craig and Savika were sitting at the table.

    “Okay, you’re right. Eevee evolved into a Sylveon!” He excitedly yelled.

    “Holy shit!” I beamed. “During the battle?”

    “No, we just had a talk, and then he evolved. He was ready,” he said.

    “Fairy types certainly are a bi— annoying to deal with,” Craig groaned. “But congrats, kid. It always feels good to see one of your teammates evolve.”

    “Thank you!” He said.

    “You can swear around us, you know?” I rolled my eyes at Craig. “We’re not kids.”

    “You are kids,” Savika said.

    “I’m very proud of you, Denzel,” Cece said. “It was clearly weighing on you. You look like you’ve grown wings.”

    “I certainly do feel lighter. Hey, pass me some stew.”

    ——

    Savika walked out of her bedroom and stared at us.

    “Your friend’s awake,” she simply said.

    We all rushed into the room to see how Chase was doing. He was pale but alive, and he was sitting up on the bed, drinking a glass of water and taking some pills.

    “Well, you guys look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Chase said with a painful smile.

    “Next time you’re feeling so bad that you’re about to pass out, say something,” I scolded. “You could have died if Savika hadn’t been there!”

    “What are you, my mom?” He said.

    “Maybe!” I replied.

    He rolled his eyes. “How long was I out?”

    “Um, it’s around five in the evening, so eight hours or so?” Cece said.

    “Thank the Legendaries,” he sighed. “Only missed one workout.”

    “You’re still worrying about those in your state?” I said. “Don’t even think about it. You’re staying in bed until Savika confirms that you’re all healed.”

    “Ugh, how mediocre,” Chase said.

    “I don’t care,” I said. “It’s for your own good.”

    “Where are my Pokeballs? I want Riolu here,” Chase asked.

    Denzel grimaced. “Savika doesn’t want any Pokemon in her house, so you’ll have to wait until you’re healthy enough to walk again and go outside. Might take a few days.”

    Chase held the bedsheets tightly.

    “I know it’s hard, but we’re here for you,” I said.

    “Whatever.”

    “Can’t she make an exception?” Cecilia asked. “Even five minutes is fine.”

    “I’ll go and ask her,” I said. “Keep Chase company.”

    I exited the room and looked around for Savika, who had apparently gone outside. I followed suit and found her in her small barn, where she stored all of her firewood. She was probably gathering some to keep her fire going.

    “Savika,” I said before pausing. No use skirting around the subject. “My friends and I were wondering if Chase could possibly bring his Riolu out for a few minutes—”

    “No.”

    My eye twitched. “I know that they’re your house rules, but he’s really attached to his Riolu, and I think that it’d help him recover if he was there—”

    “I said no,” Savika said.

    “Could I at least know why? He’s a small Pokemon, and he’s nice. He won’t break things around the house, or dirty it, or be too loud or—”

    Savika finished grabbing her firewood and stared at me from the side of her eye. I swallowed. Had I pushed her too far?

    “Want to know something, girl?” She asked. “I despise Pokemon and Pokemon trainers.”

    I inhaled sharply. “Pokemon, I could have guessed,” I quietly said. “But trainers?”

    “Do you know why Snowpoint was created? Why people chose live in that damned hell hole thousands of years ago, before the invention of insulation? Where even a fire couldn’t keep you alive during the coldest winters?”

    I shook my head.

    “My people always lived around Snowpoint. In fact, we’re the ones who settled the damn city in the first place, not the League or any trainers,” Savika started as she leaned against a wall. She stared up at the ceiling, almost as if she was reminiscing. “I assume you’re familiar enough with history to know about the mass migrations that took place when the League started invading Hisui to subjugate anyone that wasn’t a trainer or submitted to their rule?”

    I nodded. The truth was, I had forgotten most of it, but the lake was helping me fill the gaps.

    “So… people from the south fled north to escape the League?” I asked.

    “Tens of thousands of them, through Mount Coronet. Without Pokemon,” she spat. “Only a few thousand were left by the end, and they arrived in an inhospitable hell. For them, it was either risk death and live freely, or be a servant to whoever the League sent to rule your settlement back then. Life was harsh. Still, my people took them in. We gave them everything, and we only heard rumors of the League forces rampaging down south from the occasional group that made it through Mount Coronet. Still, we hoped that we were far enough to avoid their lust for conquest.”

    I bit the inside of my mouth. “That didn’t work.”

    “Twenty years later, the League came on their flying Pokemon and took everything we had anyway. Everything we had built, with their trainers. They enslaved us, destroyed our culture, worked us to death, and now they think I will forgive them for doing the bare minimum? No. I will never forgive. I will take care of you. I won’t make a fuss. But my house, my rules,” Savika firmly said.

    “Okay,” I exhaled. “I’m sorry.”

    “So long as you understand,” she said as she began to walk toward her home. “It might seem foolish to you. I know that it’s been thousands of years since. I know that you specifically had nothing to do with it, but it still burns. It burned more when I was still living in Snowpoint and acting like everything was alright, when we’re still being run by that very same system, however changed it's been. I couldn’t take it. I spent all of my savings on supplies, learned how to live in the wild, and never looked back.”

    “Well, I feel like I have to thank you again,” I said. “You’re helping us despite disliking what we do.”

    Savika sighed. “I can’t turn back children,” she said.

    “Craig isn’t a child.”

    “Oh, please. Twenty-five is still a child.”

    “Right,” I said, forgetting that she was probably in her early sixties. “Doesn’t it get lonely, though?”

    The old woman’s hand twitched around her wood. “I’m used to it.”

    I stared at the lake and took a deep breath. I was sad that Savika was going to die on her own here. What would happen when she couldn’t take care of herself anymore? She was fit, but age would catch up to her eventually.

    “I’d be terrified to die alone,” I blurted out.

    Savika stared at me and then laughed. It was the first time that I saw her smile.

    “Aren’t you straightforward?” She said. “I do worry about it, but I’ve made my choice. I’ll end my life here. It’s my home.”

    I nodded, and we entered her house again. Chase took another day to be able to stand again and another two to feel well enough to travel. We all used the time to train up, and to help him out, we took his Pokemon outside so that they could train, too, since he was too tired to do so. He acted like he didn’t care, but I could tell he was glad. Craig left a day after that on his Salamence, bidding us and Savika goodbye. He told us to come see his battle against Candice if we had the time. Denzel was giddy about his new shirt and wore it all the time now. Another two days after that, we left Savika’s home.

    I left her an empty Pokeball hidden in one of her cupboards, just in case she ever changed her mind and wanted some company.

    Five days later, we had finally reached Snowpoint. The city of snow.
     
  28. Threadmarks: Chapter 90
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 90

    Strangely, the first thing that jumped at me in Snowpoint city wasn’t the dull, brutalist architecture, how quiet and peaceful it felt, or how everything was blanketed in a thin layer of snow. Entering the city, there was a massive port to our right that took up the entire length of the city’s coast. It was bigger than even Jubilife’s, which made sense when you realized that the only way the city received supplies was through freight shipping, and of course, there was also the fact that civilians used the ferry to get to Canalave. Snowpoint city didn’t have an airport. Huge ships packed to the brim with containers were all over the port, and the city was clearly stocking up. The month of February was brutal up there, and even the biggest Icebreakers wouldn’t be able to get through the frozen waters. That meant that for one month of the whole year on average, Snowpoint was completely cut off from the world, unless you had a Pokemon that could teleport.

    It was still relatively early in December, which meant that we needed to figure out if we were going to hurry up and leave, or stick around until February ended, but to do that, we needed information. Unfortunately, all of our Poketches were out of battery, and we struggled for a while to find the Pokemon Center. We kept our faces down and didn’t ask for directions, since we didn’t want to risk anyone finding out we were alive until we found out what was happening in Eterna.

    After around thirty minutes of looking, we finally found a Center by using the large, looming gym in the distance. There were always a few Centers next to them, so looking there had been a good bet. We waited to cross the street as a huge snow-plowing truck passed through the street, clearing the city from the ever-falling snow. Cars here were way bigger than I was used to in general— and they needed to be to navigate through the city of snow— but people could occasionally be seen on snowmobiles or even skis and snowboards. I personally couldn’t imagine sharing the road with skiers, but I suppose the people here were used to it. The city itself was rather small, but densely packed. It was probably just slightly more populated than Floaroma.

    We stepped into the Pokemon Center, and as expected, it was completely empty. There wasn’t one trainer in the usually packed lobby, which was perfect for us.

    “Four rooms, please,” Denzel hesitantly told the half-asleep Nurse Joy at the counter. She stared at us for a few seconds before her eyes widened.

    “Um, sure! I— there usually aren’t any trainers here at this time of the… wait, aren’t you… you’re the kids who died in Mount Coronet! How are you even—”

    “Please, not a word of this to anyone. We’re currently hiding,” Cece said.

    “Wait, you’re hiding?” Chase frowned. “Guess that changes my plan a little bit.”

    Nurse Joy raised an eyebrow. “Hiding? Why even— fine. If you want privacy, we’re obligated to give it to you, but don’t expect that to last. You kids were all over the news… people are going to notice you. Still, I’m glad you’re safe. Trainer ID, please.”

    We handed her our IDs, and she gave us four rooms next to each other on the first floor, since they were all empty. I had expected us to be in the news, but the fact that Nurse Joy had recognized us instantly didn’t bode well for our plans. Staying undercover was going to prove harder than I thought.

    “Well, I’m off to do my own thing,” Chase said as he quickly entered his room. “Then I’ll sign up to fight Candice. See ya,” he said, raising a hand as he closed his door.

    “I’m surprised he didn’t ask about us hiding,” Denzel said. “Thought he’d want to know.”

    “I feel bad for not telling him, but let’s go. We’ve wasted enough time already,” I hurriedly said as I opened my door. We all stepped inside, and plugged our Poketches in. I sat on my bed, not even caring that my clothes were dirty. It felt so good to be in a Center again. Something about the building made me feel safer than anywhere else.

    I watched in anticipation as our Poketches slowly charged up. It’d take around five minutes for them to turn on, and then we’d finally find out what was going on.

    ——

    Emilia Lussier was lying down on her bed quietly as she doom scrolled the Circuit forums while she had a news station on. Seeing Harvey and Clarence gain the ire of the entire public in Sinnoh, and by extension, Unova, was one of the few things that could still bring her any amount of joy, however minuscule it was. Emilia was weak, so she contented herself by seeing how others raged against the ones that had caused the death of her friends. Since Pauline had so magnificently exposed those two rats for who they were, the entire situation had turned up on its head. Anger from the public had been too much, and the League was breathing down Harvey and Clarence’s necks for bringing even more attention to what psychic types could do to a person’s mind. That meant that they had been freed.

    The word tasted like ash in her mouth. They were free. The taps had been removed from their phones. Her parents, quick to get ahead of the situation to avoid any kind of negative attention had even called her to give her permission to follow her dreams of being a Pokemon coordinator. And yet, Emilia still felt like she was chained up to her bed. At least they were out of that hotel and staying at a Pokemon Center. That place had felt nauseating and was now the seat of too many bad memories for Emilia to even look at it. The downside, however, was that trainers filtering in and out of the Center kept asking her questions about how her experience through Mount Coronet had been. Pauline and Louis always shut them down quickly, but some always slipped through.

    One particular post in the forums made her heart jump, however. The forums worked in such a way that posts that were garnering attention would be ‘trending,’ meaning that they would be on the front page. This particular one was from a civilian in Snowpoint city who posted a blurry picture of four trainers walking through the snowy city and toward a Pokemon Center, and the title read ‘Chase Karlson, Denzel Williams, Grace Pastel and Cecilia Obel spotted in Snowpoint!’

    Emilia felt sick to her stomach. This wasn’t the first one of these posts. Some sick individuals liked to pretend that they had suddenly found her friends and Chase out of the mountain for attention. She had seen similar posts with pictures from Celestic, Hearthome, or even Eterna, which was the worst offender. Snowpoint was a new one, however. Emilia started furiously typing a long-winded response on her Poketch to berate the original poster, but she slowed down, sighed, and erased everything. Other commenters were already taking care of that anyway. These posts were getting old, and forum dwellers were starting to hate them. Still, there were actually a decent amount of people calling the picture more legitimate than the others, simply because one of these blurry people had a Riolu on their shoulder. Riolu were rare, but it wasn’t as if only Chase Karlson could own one.

    Emilia sighed and kept scrolling.

    ——

    “It’s on!” Cece squealed.

    We all swarmed around her Poketch, which had turned on first. With trembling hands, Cecilia connected to the internet. The first thing she typed was her father’s name, Clarence Obel. Her worried stare turned into one of disbelief, then a smile, and then a giggle. Cecilia collapsed on the bed as she laughed wildly, thrashing all over my bed with tears streaming out of her eyes. She had gone too fast for me to see what was going on.

    “What happened?” I asked with a slight smile. If she was laughing, it was good news, at least.

    “Oh, Legendaries, this is such perfection,” she kept laughing. “Read it for yourselves.”

    Cece gave us the phone, and we read the headline of the article she had clicked on.

    ‘Founders and CEOs of the Bianchi Conglomerate and the Obel Energy Company found to have caused the death of three young trainers, including Cecilia Obel.’

    A grin split Denzel’s and my face, but there was still a small thought at the back of my mind. The headlines were excluding Chase, for some reason, and only giving us attention. Scrolling further, Chase’s name was mentioned deeper into the article, but they hadn’t added his picture.

    “So that means… that means what?” I said excitedly. “Are we fine?”

    Cece grabbed her phone and smiled. “Oh, Arceus, he’s lost so much money. But no, we aren’t freed just yet. They’re still in Sinnoh, and they’ve no doubt lawyered up. I doubt they’ll suffer any legal consequences,” she said, typing something on her phone. “Take a look at this.”

    Denzel and I stared at her screen and saw that the price of potions, vitamins, and other trainer supplies had jumped. I sighed. It made sense. Louis’ father’s company had a monopoly on most trainer supplies, so if his company was losing money, that meant that trainers would suffer.

    “Yikes,” I said.

    “If we’re being pragmatic, that’s kind of a good thing. More people hating Louis’ dad is a win in my book,” Denzel added.

    “It’s the same for energy in Unova. People’s energy bill is going to cost a lot more next month. It’s not in Sinnoh’s and Unova’s governments’ interest to let these companies fail. Still, they’re going to lose a lot of money and influence, which is good for us.”

    “I think I’m starting to see Chase’s point of view a little bit,” Denzel groaned.

    “What about Abel?” I asked. “Is he still around?”

    Cecilia typed on her phone again, this time less enthusiastically. “He’s escaped. The League wouldn’t have hesitated to arrest him to extradite him to Unova, but he was already gone. He’s on the loose in Sinnoh.”

    “And he’s stuck here,” Denzel nodded. “There’s no way he’ll be able to fly privately now that your dad’s dropped him, and his face is known throughout all of Sinnoh.”

    “That means that he won’t be after us, at least,” Cece said with a relieved sigh. “I’m not seeing anything else. The last time he was seen was at the hotel we stayed at, and he’s probably out of Eterna city already.”

    “Well, look at the bright side, there’s no way that he’s coming after us now,” Denzel smiled. “He has bigger fish to fry. We can definitely head back to Eterna. If anything happens to us, it’ll be obvious that your dad had something to do with it. He can’t touch us right now.”

    Cece nodded. “There’s something else that I think will soothe you Grace, at least slightly. Team Galactic’s base in Eterna city was raided and destroyed.”

    I beamed. “What about Mars? Is she gone?”

    “No, she escaped. But the walls are closing in for them, too,” she said, caressing my arm.

    “But how did your dad— and Louis’ dad get exposed? What happened?”

    Cece smirked. “It was Pauline.”

    ——

    Emilia desperately knocked on Pauline’s door like it had personally insulted her. She didn’t care that other trainers were staring at her as if she was crazy, or murmuring about how she was the kid that had gone into Mount Coronet with one badge and lived. Emilia had just seen the craziest— the most unbelievable— the most unimaginable thing posted on the forums. Pauline opened the door and quickly dragged Emi inside.

    “What is it?” Pauline said with a sigh. She might have been the one who freed the group from their parent’s clutches, but unlike Emilia, Pauline was getting more and more depressed. She had deep bags under her eyes, and her hair was disheveled, something that would have been unimaginable just a few weeks earlier.

    “Pauline!” Emilia yelled. “Look at this.”

    She unlocked her Poketch, and scrolled up to the post she had just seen— a video posted by Chase Karlson himself. Pauline’s eyes widened when she saw the thumbnail. The two girls stared at each other, and Emilia pressed play— it was also her first time watching the footage.

    “Yo. Looks like I missed a whole shitstorm while I was traveling through Mount Coronet. You heard that right. I traveled through Mount Coronet and lived. Anyway, I made it to Snowpoint. It was pretty easy, and I’m tougher than ever, ready to challenge Candice,” Chase said before pointing his camera toward his window. There was no mistaking it. That was Snowpoint. Did that mean the earlier photo… was real?

    “You know what pisses me off the most, though? How is it that the media gave me no fucking attention whatsoever? I also fell down that chasm, you know? Is it because I’m poor? Do I need to start talking about how for-profit media is a scourge on fucking society and that they omitted my name from all the headlines because I wouldn’t generate as many clicks—”


    Emilia cut off the video before he could continue into his tirade. Chase looked a lot less smug and kid-like than he had before falling down the chasm. Even though he behaved similarly, there was a certain maturity to his tone and face now. Emilia and Pauline looked at each other, their bodies unmoving. He had fallen down the chasm with Cecilia, Grace, and Denzel. If he was alive, then that meant that… that meant that maybe, the others were too, and the commenters seemed to agree. They kept asking him what had happened to the others, but he never answered any of them, which was uncommon. Chase was one of the most active forum members of the year, who never hesitated to answer anything, even when unprompted. Something about this was fishy. Outside of the room, excited voices could be heard. Every trainer in the Center was probably talking about the same thing.

    “Emi,” Pauline said, her voice a whisper. “Call the others. This is— this could be big.”

    ——

    “So can we call our parents without waiting for Mark, then?” I asked Cece.

    “I’d say that’s safe for now, although I’d still wait before calling the others,” she answered. “You guys call your parents, I’ll call Mark and see what he has to say.”

    Great,” I said. “Um, could I do this in… private? Let’s meet in Cece’s room in thirty minutes, maybe? Or one hour, I don’t know how long this is going to take.”

    Cecilia smiled gently at me. “Of course. Take all the time you need, I’ll be in my room.”

    Denzel and Cece left me to my own devices, and I turned on my Poketch. My finger hovered over the call button to my father. What would I even say? Hey dad, remember how all the news said I was dead? Well, surprise! I wiped my sweaty palms on my pants and sighed. This was supposed to be a beautiful moment. There was no need to be nervous. None of it had even been my fault. I called my dad, who somehow answered instantly.

    “Who is this?!” He yelled. “Is this some kind of sick joke? How did you get my daughter’s phone.”

    I took a few short gasps and felt tears stream down my face. Just hearing his voice… just hearing his voice after so long was enough to make me break down. I couldn’t even speak.

    “Is… Grace, is that you? Is that you?!

    “Dad,” I cried. “I’m sorry for making you worry. I— I was alive. I made it through Mount Coronet, and I’m at Snowpoint right now.”

    I heard a few sobs from the other end of the call. “Oh, sweetie,” dad cried. “Oh, I’m so happy you’re safe. I thought— I thought I had lost you forever, and that it was my fault for making you start your journey. I was— I was planning the funeral.”

    “I’m okay,” I sniffled. “I’m okay.”

    “You’re okay,” he said. “Let’s call your mom, alright? Then you can tell us what happened.”

    ——

    Denzel clenched and unclenched his fists as he stared daggers at his Poketch. He had said that he wanted to call his mom after almost dying to Lunatone, but now that the moment had come, clicking the call button felt harder than anything he had ever had to do. Even before the incident, he hadn’t spoken to his mother in too long— he had only called her once to let her know he had made it out of Eterna Forest okay. They didn’t have the closest relationship, and Denzel had always felt like she wanted to hold him on a leash. She did send him money to help out sometimes like she had promised since he beat Roark and sent him a message once in a while, but that was the extent of their contact.

    They obviously didn’t have the best relationship. Even after all his success, she disapproved of his career choice, which is why calling was so hard in the first place. Would there be one of her usual reprimands? An annoying, out of place comment? Should he call his dad instead?

    “Fuck it,” Denzel said, wincing as he called his mother. “They’re always together anyway, and they deserve to know at the same time.”

    The phone rang for a few seconds, and he heard his mother’s familiar voice on the other end of the call.

    “Denzel? Baby, is that you?!” She yelled into his ear.

    “I… yes, it’s me,” he sighed. “I’m alive, mom. I’m sorry for worrying you—”

    “Oh, by the Legendaries,” she cried. “Ronald! Ronald, he’s alive! Denzel’s alive! I told you he was tough! I never stopped believing.”

    Denzel’s eyes widened as he heard his father approach and cry on the other end of the call. Was… was that it? No ‘I told you so’? No ‘I was right’? No ‘get back home right now’? Why had he even put off calling for so long, then?

    Denzel let out a teary chuckle as he smiled. “I’m back.”

    “Welcome home, son.”

    ——

    Cecilia didn’t hesitate as she called her brother. She stood there, her face stoic as she awaited his answer. She had to call five times before he finally picked up.

    “Cecilia,” she heard his voice. “I thought you… I thought you to be dead. I’m glad you’re safe. Are you well?”

    “Yes, Mark,” Cece simply answered. Their relationship was no longer warm like it had been when they were both younger, and there was no need to pretend otherwise. Still, Cecilia was glad he at least cared. “And I’ve caught up on everything that happened with father. How is the situation back home?”

    Mark sighed. He was clearly exhausted. “Terrible, which is why I took so long to answer. You’ll have to forgive me, but I’m negotiating with congress about how to best tackle the looming energy price hike, so I’d appreciate it if we could keep this brief.”

    “Of course,” Cece said. “This won’t take long. You still have people in Sinnoh you can contact, correct?”

    “Yes.”

    “Then I’d like for you to confirm if my friend’s phones are still compromised. It would be like father to only pretend to remove taps from a phone, only to listen in on all of their communications anyway.”

    “Alright, I can do that,” Mark said. She heard another voice complaining next to him, but it was too muffled to make out the words. “Not now. My sister is speaking to me,” he said, his tone ice cold. “I apologize again. Do you need anything else?”

    “One last thing,” Cece said, more hesitantly this time. “It’s about Deino. He is evolving soon.”

    “You want advice?”

    “I need to know one thing first and foremost. Will his personality disappear?” The girl asked.

    “No, but it will split. The way the split happens is different for every Deino, but expect for each head to be a different part of him,” he said. He probably heard her trembling sigh, because he immediately continued. “But he’ll still be him. Expect the heads to fight a lot, especially at the start, and he’ll probably have problems listening again, just like when you first got him. Worry not, however. This is only a temporary split until he evolves into a Hydreigon and converges onto the main head. The other two can think slightly, and they can barely sense light, but the main head will be the one that controls them, and he’ll be your original Deino. Although he will go berserk when he evolves into a Hydreigon. All of them do.”

    “Thank you, Mark. Expect a lot of my calls whenever he’s finally evolved.”

    “Don’t hesitate,” Mark said. “And Cecilia. I’m sorry about father. I know how terrible he is to you, but I am the Champion. I must think of Unova as a whole before my family.”

    “I understood that from the start,” she said. “Still, I appreciate the help.”

    “I’ll check with my contacts in Eterna right away. It shouldn’t take long.”

    He hung up, and Cecilia laid down on her bed, saddened to see that not even five minutes had passed.

    Her brother was nice enough, but there was none of the warmth she felt with her friends. With Grace. And she couldn’t blame him. They had both been raised that way, the only difference being that she had found people to teach her how comfortable that warmth was, and he never had. His entire journey had been solitary.

    Grace…

    She wanted to see Grace and kiss her.

    ——

    Emilia finished showing Justin and Louis the video, and they stared at her with the same gobsmacked expressions that Pauline had had. Louis brought a hand to his scarred cheek and took a hopeful breath while Justin looked more alive and hopeful than he had in weeks.

    “We can— we can call them to check,” Louis said.

    “We should!” Pauline nodded. “Emi, call Cece right now!”

    “Wait!” Emilia said as fear suddenly gripped her. The fear of the unknown. What if they were wrong? What if they had been too hopeful? “Maybe we should contact Chase Karlson to be sure. Ask him if he saw them when he traveled through the mountain. His video doesn’t say that he did.”

    “But it doesn’t say that he didn’t,” Justin stammered, his usual cool tone now gone.

    “Why not just rip off the band-aid?” Pauline said. “I know it’s scary, but I’m tired. I’ve been hoping this entire time, and I just want to know.”

    “I agree,” Justin sighed. “First, the picture, and now this? I don’t want to be too hopeful, but…”

    Emilia licked her lips, which were suddenly very dry, and gave a hesitant nod. “Fine. I’ll call Cece.”

    Her thumb shook like a leaf over her contact list, but Pauline just snatched the phone from her hands and did it for her. The phone rang, rang, and rang.

    No one answered.

    ——

    Cecilia panicked as she saw Emilia calling her. She almost answered by reflex before remembering that it might be a trap from her father. She wouldn’t answer any calls until Mark got back to her. Abel was gone, but that didn’t mean that he was harmless. A cornered animal was always the most threatening.

    Around thirty minutes later, Denzel stepped into her room with a wide smile on his face, and Cecilia returned it.

    “I trust that your call went well?” She asked.

    “More than well,” Denzel said. “I think I just made up with my mom after being on pretty bad terms with her for years. It feels refreshing. What about you?”

    “It went well enough. Mark is checking with our friends as we speak. Their status should be confirmed within the hour.”

    “Great,” he sighed in relief as he sat. “I can’t wait. I really want them to stop worrying.”

    “So do I,” Cece grimaced. “I actually received a call from Emilia, but I didn’t answer. I thought it might have been a trap.”

    “Can’t ever be too paranoid with your dad,” Denzel shrugged.

    Twenty minutes later, Grace arrived. Cecilia beckoned her and sat her on her lap, hugging her from behind.

    “What’s with all the love?” She laughed. “Not that I mind. I like it.”

    “I love you,” Cecilia said. And I realized how precious you are to me, she thought. “How’d your talk with your parents go?”

    ——

    Emilia stared at the chaotic scene unfolding in front of her.

    “We can’t give up!” Louis yelled. “We’re close to something, I can feel it!”

    “Their phones might be dead or broken,” Justin said. “It would make sense after making it through Mount Coronet.”

    “Fuck this,” Pauline said, groaning in frustration. “I’m calling this Chase guy. Emi had the right idea.”

    “Do you have his number?” Emilia asked.

    “No, but I’ll just spam his DMs on the forums until he gives it to me. He knows who we are, he should answer,” Pauline said as she furiously typed on her Poketch. “There… you… go… copy paste fifty times.”

    “You’ll get muted for spam automatically if you do it too much,” Justin warned.

    “I can’t be bothered to care— ah, he answered!”

    “What did he say?” Emilia asked on the edge of her seat.

    “He says that it’s not his place to… what the fuck does that even mean? Not his place?” Pauline hissed. “I’ll show you your place, you piece of—”

    “Wait, that sounds like they’re alive! At least, I think so!” Justin said. “Why would he say that unless they weren’t?”

    “Yeah… yeah, you’re right, that would be absolutely psychotic,” Pauline nodded, her tone brightening. “But we can’t be sure unless—”

    Suddenly, there was a knock on the door.

    “—ugh, I fucking hate these stupid clout chasing trainers,” Pauline complained as she strode to the door. She opened it in one brisk motion. “Fuck off— you’re not a trainer.”

    Emilia stared at the unassuming man. “Are you a doctor? What is it?”

    “Mark Obel sent me. I thought you were notified I was coming?” He said.

    “Cece’s brother?” Emilia frowned. “Why?”

    “To check if your phones are still compromised. He feels bad about what happened to you. Call it a favor.”

    Louis hesitantly handed the man his Poketch.

    “Wait, Louis, it could be a trap!” Justin yelled.

    Too late. The man grabbed the phone and browsed it for a bit before pulling out a tiny screwdriver and taking it apart. After a few minutes, the Poketch had been thoroughly checked, and the man put it back together and handed it back to Louis.

    “It’s clean. Now give me all of the others to check. I don’t do my job half-assed.”

    ——

    I laid down next to Cecilia and showered her with kisses as we giggled like schoolgirls. Not only were we close to finally reuniting with our friends, but calling my parents had made me so incredibly happy that I felt the need to direct the feeling somewhere else. Even Togetic and Frillish had gotten to speak to dad, and I introduced him to the rest of the team too. He said that as soon as I got to Hearthome, he was flying out to see me, which was something I certainly looked forward to. I missed him too much.

    “Get a room, please,” Denzel complained as he awkwardly stared out the window.

    “This is my room, you idiot,” Cece laughed against my lips. “If you don’t like it, you can wait outside.”

    “I know I was your wingman, but it feels really weird being here. It’s like I’m seeing my two… adoptive children make out.”

    “Ugh, you had to make it gross,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Whatever, we’ll continue later,” I told my girlfriend.

    “But come on…” she grumbled.

    “Later!” I laughed. “You’re so cute when you’re clingy.”

    “I’m holding back, though,” she said. “And don’t act like you don’t get clingy when we’re alone—”

    “TMI!” Denzel interrupted. “Ah, Cece, your phone’s ringing. Thank the fucking Legendaries.”

    Cece extended her hand to her bedside table and answered the phone, nodding and agreeing a few times. She got up from the bed and stared at us, suddenly more serious.

    “Their phones are clear,” she said. “We can call.”

    ——

    The man had left the room just as fast as he had come, and he had multiplied the confusion that Emilia felt tenfold. She fidgeted nervously as the group fought, debating what to do. Chase was still being vague and had sent Pauline into such a tirade that she got temporarily muted by a bot, and it felt like they were back to step one. The knowledge was right there, at her fingertips, and yet she couldn’t know if her friends were alive or dead—

    Suddenly, her Poketch rang. All of their heads turned.

    Emilia hesitantly grabbed at it. “It says… Cecilia is calling.”

    She heard audible gulps throughout the room, and she answered the phone, putting it on speaker.

    “H—hello?!” She shouted. “Who is it?”

    “Emilia?”

    Everyone around the room gasped. That was Cece’s voice. It was her. Emilia had been in a state of constant worry and anxiety for days— weeks. It felt like a massive weight had just been lifted off her chest, and she burst into tears, overwhelmed with relief. Louis placed both of his hands on his forehead, like he couldn’t believe it. Justin let out a huge sigh and sat down on a chair with trembling legs. Pauline collapsed on her knees and cried like a baby. On the other side of the line, cries could be heard too. It took around two minutes for everyone to compose themselves enough to talk.

    “You guys,” Emilia sobbed. “You guys were alive?”

    “How?” Justin asked in disbelief. “There was nothing down the chasm? How did you—”

    “Mount Coronet can do that,” Denzel said through the phone. Pauline laughed when she heard his voice. “It was tough, and there were close calls, but we found each other and made it through. Chase was a big help.”

    “He was,” Cece added. “We wouldn’t have made it without him.”

    Emilia was surprised at how close they sounded now, but she supposed a trip through Mount Coronet, route 216 and route 217 would bring any group of people closer. How strong had they gotten now, she wondered. What had they seen and experienced?

    “Where are you guys right now? There was this blurry photo of a group of people in Snowpoint,” Louis asked.

    “Someone took a picture of us?” Grace said. Emi could tell that she was obviously crying. “Yeah, we’re at Snowpoint. We were planning on holing up here until Harvey and Clarence could be dealt with, but it looks like Pauline took care of that for us.”

    “Damn right, I did,” Pauline said. “Cece, I tore Amy a new one for you.”

    The girl laughed. “I’m glad you made my wish come true.”

    “Cece, you sound so much better,” Louis noticed. “Are you… are you fine now?”

    “More than fine,” she said. “I’m sorry for worrying all of you. I thought I had no one, but I didn’t look around me. You’re all family.”

    Emilia teared up. “Of course. Now when are you getting back?”

    “We’ll find out a way,” Grace said. “Obviously, we aren’t too willing to get back through Mount Coronet again. But there are a few things I want to do first, like battling Candice. I assume Denzel and Cece feel the same way?”

    They both agreed. Emilia almost had to do a double take. They were going to challenge Candice for their third badge. Almost no trainers could boast of such a feat.

    “Now let me tell you guys all of the crazy shit we went through,” Denzel started. “So first, I dropped at least one hundred feet down into this freezing lake…”

    Emilia’s eyes bulged. That was— that was only the first sentence?
     
  29. veekie

    veekie Connoisseur.

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2017
    Messages:
    25,157
    Likes Received:
    118,030
    Chase badly needed that vulnerability exposed. He got better.


    Still a huge buttface though
     
    trudny1 and SailorOfMyVessel like this.
  30. Threadmarks: Chapter 91
    Soussouni1

    Soussouni1 Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2023
    Messages:
    386
    Likes Received:
    3,369
    CHAPTER 91

    I rolled around my bed, carefully avoiding Togetic, who was sleeping next to me. Tangela was sitting next to the window, catching rays from the finally rising sun with a vine around my hanging foot. It was odd how late the sunrise was when we were so far up north. Electabuzz slept against a wall with Larvitar curved into a ball close by and snoring cutely. Frillish, meanwhile, carefully observed each one of us as he always did when we slept.

    I smiled, feeling at the soft, warm covers. I was finally waking up on a bed again after so long. I was sick and tired of sleeping bags. Still, I remained somewhat tired. We had spent almost all of last night talking among friends and recounting what happened on both of our sides. I particularly enjoyed how Pauline torched anything that moved, especially Amy, but it did hurt to know that they had suffered for so long at the hands of Harvey and Clarence. They, however, were in complete awe of how we had survived Mount Coronet and beyond, and honestly, looking back on it, I was astonished too. There had been a lot of close calls, but we had made it. We were safe.

    We had also created a group chat to stay in contact now that we were all far apart. Right now, Denzel was surprisingly awake and had shared a picture of his Sylveon and his newly caught Snorunt. Emilia was gushing over them completely, saying that if Denzel hadn’t been so dead-set on being a trainer, he would have made a perfect coordinator, and I did see her point. Still, Denzel had no interest in the sport, so he wouldn’t entertain the idea. I personally knew I would never do it either since I hated the judging system and how to the cynical side of me, it looked like money ran the world of coordinators and not just skill, but unlike Denzel, I wasn’t against going to see a few contests whenever I had the time, even if Emilia wasn’t in them. We were slowly starting to build ourselves up and make plans again. Pauline had a flame lit in her when she saw how strong we had gotten, deciding to train twice as hard and look for a third member for her team. Louis was now adamant about communicating with his Gible and trying to get the dragon under control, and Emilia was practicing move combinations to try on a potential future contest, although she would miss the next one in Hearthome. I did know, however, that she had finally chosen to grab a flight to the city when we got back, meaning that she would wait for us and meet us there. She could have made the contest if she had left now, but she obviously wanted the group to get back together first. Justin, meanwhile, wasn’t so sure about what he would do next. He said that he’d speak with his father about potentially negotiating new terms to inherit his company, but it wasn’t going well. It looked like he’d unfortunately be forced to continue his journey. He was hesitant to hurt his father’s reputation, since he did want to take over Pherzen intact.

    Still, things were moving, and the world looked bright and exciting again, and that meant that I had to get going too. I stretched, and Togetic woke up next to me. I petted her, and she let out a happy chirp. Tangela was next, and he wrapped his vines all around my legs.

    “Angel, I can’t walk if you’re hugging me like this,” I smiled, crouching to pet him.

    He apologized with his eyes and let go, still keeping his usual one vine around my ankle. Electabuzz strode up to me confidently, flashing a grin. I hugged him and greeted him good morning before doing the same to Larvitar, who had drool coming out of her mouth.

    “Morning, sweetheart!” I said. “You didn’t have to wake up, you know? Babies need to sleep a lot.”

    “Larvitar!” She exclaimed.

    “Okay, someone’s all grown up. I hope you’re grown up enough to eat all of your food this time and not be picky, then,” I said, trapping her. I had been too soft on Togetic, and now she would only eat Oran berries, but I wasn’t going to make the same mistake with Larvitar. The rock type gave me a pained nod, much to Electabuzz’s amusement. Frillish floated down and softly bumped him in the back of the head with a tentacle, and he quickly apologized. It was very funny to see that even though Electabuzz was bigger and more powerful than the water type was now, Frillish was still the top dog.

    “Good, good,” I told Larvitar. I started preparing everyone’s breakfast. “Don’t worry buddy, I’ll get you some poffins later. It’s pretty far, and there’s only one store that sells them in all of Snowpoint, but you deserve a reward. Plus, they’ll all be for you this time.”

    “Fri…!” He said, clearly trying to hide his excitement.

    “I see right through you,” I smirked. I gave everybody their food and sat at my desk. Like I had thought to myself earlier, the world was moving, and I needed to start gathering information if I wanted to keep up—

    I heard a soft knock at my door and perked up. I ran up to the peephole, saw that Cece was waiting for me outside, and hurriedly opened the door.

    “Good mor— Arceus, what is all of this?!” I exclaimed. She carried a huge tray of food with enough to feed an entire family.

    “Breakfast,” she said as she entered. “For both of us. I just came back from the bank and withdrew everything from my private account before my father could lock me out, and I figured I’d come to see you.”

    “Thank you so much— they make hashbrowns here? I love hashbrowns!” I said excitedly.

    “I figured, since you liked fries so much,” Cece smirked as she sat at my desk. “Come and eat.”

    I felt my mouth salivating and hurriedly dove into the food. “Yu didn’t av to do dis for me,” I said, my mouth full.

    “Nonsense. I know you, you were probably going to start working without eating.”

    I shot her a guilty look, knowing that she had seen right through me.

    Cece continued. “Aside from when we were with Savika, you’ve eaten nothing but the bare minimum, which is why I’ll take care of you from now on. Unfortunately, I’ll have to leave soon after to train, but this is the least I can do.”

    “Thank you again,” I said. “Oh man, this is really good. The food they make here tastes better than in other Centers.”

    Cecilia laughed. “I think that’s simply because you haven’t tasted Center food in a while. Have you seen Pauline’s complaints in the group chat?”

    “About us missing her birthday?” I lamented. “Yeah, that sucks. I had no idea she was a December baby.”

    I stared at the ceiling and counted in my head. Pauline’s birthday was on December 14th, which meant that it was in… six days.

    “Well, the others will still have a party, and I had an idea we could do for her. Why don’t we all give them a video call at midnight and stick around the party for a bit? That way, it’ll be like we’re all together.”

    “Great idea,” I said before chugging some water. Thinking about it… I had… I had no idea when Cece’s birthday was. I knew Denzel’s was during the summer, but hers? I had never even asked! What kind of girlfriend was I if I didn’t even know her birthday?

    “Grace? Is something the matter?” She said, seeing right through me.

    I sighed. “Erm, don’t make fun of me. Don’t get mad at me either.”

    “Just spit it out, I can tell you’re worrying about something silly.”

    “All this birthday talk made me wonder… when is your birthday? Sorry that I never asked. I honestly should ask about everyone’s birthday. We’re friends.”

    Cece grinned. “You’re so adorable. It’s February 27th,” she said.

    “Not going to ask for mine?” I pouted.

    “March 4th, I already asked Denzel.”

    My eyes widened in shock. That traitor! “When?”

    “Oh, it was a while ago… when we were traveling in between Eterna Forest and Eterna city.”

    “That long ago…” I muttered. “You have me beat.”

    “By a long shot. It’s great that our birthdays are so close, though. Maybe we can do a dual celebration in between the two dates.”

    “What, so you’re asking for less parties?” I said sarcastically. “That does sound like a cool idea. I hope you don’t get me an extravagant gift, though.”

    I saw her awkwardly look to the side.

    “Cece, come on,” I smiled slightly. “I won’t tell you not to get me anything, but if you get me some expensive gift, then mine will feel inadequate.”

    “It’s about the gesture. Just you being there is enough of a gift for me,” Cece said. The fact that she was being genuine about it too made my stomach flutter.

    “Well, we’ll see when we get there; I’m still getting you something,” I said. “Scyther still giving you a hard time?”

    “Yes. It’s only been a few days, I won’t change his mind any time soon. I wasn’t planning on using him against Candice anyway.”

    I felt excited at the mention of Candice. “Another three versus four for you, then?” I asked. I knew I’d be fine, since one of the options when filling up a form at the gym asked if you owned a baby Pokemon or a Pokemon that couldn’t fight, so I wouldn’t have to fight at a disadvantage. They didn’t exactly have to care, but it was considered bad etiquette, and it almost never happened.

    “I can handle it.”

    “I know you can,” I smiled. “You’re my rival, this won’t stop you.”

    She returned my smile. “The one thing I know for sure is that Deino will evolve during the battle. I just hope he’s sound of mind enough to listen and help me win, but Fletchinder and Slowpoke will be my main means of winning, since the ice type obviously isn’t to my advantage.”

    “You can say that again,” I groaned. “Such an annoying type for my team to deal with, but I’ll come up with something. Tell you what, why don’t we battle when we get to Hearthome? That way, you have time to fix your relationship with Scyther and maybe catch something else, and I have time to bring Larvitar up to speed. We can ask Denzel too. Not the mock battles we have when we train, but a real one like back at the Floaroma tournament?”

    “That would be my pleasure.”

    I felt my fingers shake with excitement.

    “How are you handling your newfound fame, by the way?” Cece asked me. “I know you hate the spotlight.”

    “Pffft, I don’t even want to talk about it. I’ve been wondering if I should redirect every email to Denzel or your phone, if you don’t mind? It’d take a lot of pressure off my shoulders, although the calls would still come to me.”

    It hadn’t even been a full twenty-four hours since we had been revealed to be alive, and my phone was blowing up, whether it was from offers to sponsor me, interview me so that I could recount my experience, or even just the forums. I thought my name had been blowing up after my battle with Gardenia, but that had been nothing compared to this. Everyone knew my name and my face now. I could only thank the Legendaries that I was isolated in Snowpoint, so at least no one would come up to me so long as I stayed in the Center, which I was planning on doing for the majority of today anyway. I was planning on looking at potential sponsors when we got back south, although I’d probably wait until we got to Hearthome as well.

    “It feels so overwhelming, but it’s something I need to get used to if I want to stand at the top,” I said with a firm nod. “Talking to Craig made me think about that— I mean, that man has to think about how he behaves in public to never hurt his image. That sounds like hell to me, but that’s how it is, I guess.”

    “Well, don’t hesitate to ask for help. I happen to be a professional at building up an image of myself. Just make sure not to go too deep. You might lose yourself,” Cece said.

    “I’d take a few pointers before we get back to Eterna, thanks,” I said. “Hey, did you know that Craig had this sister that’s apparently incredibly skilled? I was planning on looking her up today.”

    “What’s her name?”

    “Lauren Goodwill,” I said.

    “Doesn’t ring a bell, but feel free,” Cece said as she got up. We were done eating, so she picked up the empty tray. “I’d love to stay around longer, but I have to get ready for my fight against Candice. I’ve been trying to teach Deino Dragon Pulse, and we’re making good progress. Then I have a few interviews lined up to torch my father’s reputation further.”

    “Sounds good! Why don’t we go sign up together later today?”

    “Sure! Call me when you’re done.”

    I frowned. “What about your interviews? I don’t want to interrupt.”

    She smiled. “Come on, I know you’re going to take all morning and probably a chunk of the afternoon.”

    “Wait, you don’t know that for sure—”

    “Love you,” Cece interrupted as she left.

    I chuckled. She was right… but she didn’t have to say it.

    After she left, I heard Larvitar hiss at the door.

    “Don’t be jealous now, sweetheart,” I said. “Go play with your sister, I’m gonna be busy— no, don’t ram the wall with your horn!”

    Luckily, Togetic restrained her with Extrasensory, and Tangela grabbed her with his vines. She squirmed in the air and shot Tangela a look of pure betrayal. She had expected Togetic to stop her, but him? She probably wasn’t going to forgive him for a while. Angel placed her back next to me.

    “You’re the jealous type, hm? You never acted like this before,” I said, thinking back. “I’ve got plenty of love to give, alright? I won’t forget about you.”

    “Tar!”

    “I promise.”

    She stared at me for a few seconds, huffed, and walked away toward Togetic, shooting Tangela a murderous glare. He shivered and tried to apologetically pet her with a vine, but she pushed it away. I grabbed my Poketch, ignored the insane amount of notifications and the constant vibrating, and typed in Lauren Goodwill’s name. As I had thought, the girl was like a ghost. First, she never posted anything in the forums. Even I had posted sometimes, although rarely, but she didn’t even have one comment. There were threads talking about her, however, along with the usual megathread. From what I had seen, it had exploded at the start of the Circuit due to all of the hype around her being Craig’s sister, but due to the lack of content, it had slowed down to a crawl, and people who posted were mostly people making wild theories and speculations.

    “Strange,” I whispered to myself.

    Even if she did her absolute best to hide by turning the cameras off, her gym battles were still open to spectators. It was odd that there wasn’t even one comment about one of her battles from one of them. Honestly, if Craig hadn’t told me about Lauren, I would have believed that she might have given up and gone back home. Still, there were traces of her. People that said that they came across her in the wild challenged her to a battle and got utterly crushed by her using one or two Pokemon. Craig did say that she didn’t stick around cities, so that probably meant she only stayed to battle the gyms and left immediately afterward. I personally couldn’t imagine living that type of life, but she did have three badges and was on her way to having four, so her tactic was clearly working. Plus, she had defeated one of the older gym leaders. Byron’s defensive tactics were no joke, but she had somehow blown past that.

    The most sightings of her were in the wild, like I had established earlier, and she only ever battled other trainers there. The last time she had been seen was… route 207 by some poor trainer who got crushed by her Magmar so badly that he needed to walk all the way back to the Eterna Pokemon Center. So at least that lined up with what Craig had told me. She was on her way to Hearthome. Whereas Chase liked to apparently crush trainers in cities, Lauren seemingly terrorized them on the routes.

    Well, there wasn’t much more information on her. Her starter was a Treecko that was now a Grovyle, and from cross-referencing stories about her different encounters in the wild, she had caught her Solosis somewhere around Jubilife, Aron near the Oreburgh mines, Magby somewhere near Canalave and Tympole somewhere around Floaroma. Of course, these were all evolved to their second stage now.

    Was I being too stalker-ish? I mean, this girl didn’t even know I existed, but I had just made her one of my rivals and was looking up everything about her. I was kind of being like Chase in that regard when he had been obsessed with Cece.

    Thinking of Chase, I had tried to add him to our group chat so that he could make other friends, but he just left immediately after I did, saying that it wasn’t his kind of thing. At least I tried.

    Well, this dive into Lauren Goodwill’s capabilities had been somewhat disappointing, so it was time to find out how Candice fought. The ice type gym leader was infamous for her wild tactics, but due to how isolated Snowpoint was, she was probably the one I knew the least about. I went to the Snowpoint city gym website and applied the three badge filter. I groaned when I realized that there were only five videos, and none of them were even from when Candice was gym leader. I went up to four, five— six. Only at six gym badges did I finally find videos with Candice in them. These battles would be way over my level, and the Pokemon she used wouldn’t be used against me, but this was all I had. I’d need to gauge her general fighting style and forge a strategy from there instead of memorizing the moves of every Pokemon she had. I was essentially working backwards to how I usually did here.

    I pressed play and watched the first video. Then the second. Then the third, with much difficulty and buffering, because the internet in Snowpoint was kind of trash.

    What I saw irritated me.

    Candice had… no consistent strategy, or at least that looked to be the case. She would go from being so aggressive in one battle that she made Roark look like a softie, to being defensive in the next, like Byron. She stalled in another battle, winning with Hail and other status effects, and completely and methodically wiped the floor with her opponent in three minutes in the next. There was no pattern to her madness. Candice was extreme and exhausting. She did whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, and it worked. I could see now why she had won the Conference three years ago at the age of fifteen, winning the finals against Gardenia. Plus, she talked and taunted her opponents during battles, which somehow was allowed. I would need to do my best in order to not let her words get to me.

    It was impossible. I didn’t know what she’d do, I didn’t know what Pokemon she would use, I wouldn’t know their movesets or how she fought with them. I couldn’t plan against her.

    Or… or could I?

    I felt an idea appear in my mind and grasped it. I didn’t know which Candice I would get, but I could work my way around that. I could work backwards. I grabbed a pencil and my notepad.

    It was time to plan a strategy for each of her moods.
     
Loading...