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MATURE: Tales of Reborn: The Six Rifts of the Heavens

SilverRockets

Pokejourney Enthusiast
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Hi! I've been thinking for a little while about what fic of mine to start posting here, since my main one is a bit too long and the second main one is an offshoot of the first. But then I remembered this!
Long story short, this is a fic I started posting a while ago, but because of irl complications and other matters I had to put it on hold after only six chapters and focus on my other projects. But now I can finally continue it! I'm writing chapter 7 as we speak, and on the meantime I figured I'd start posting the fic here in the forum, since I figured the format of this fic might fit this place better :D

About the fic: This fic is an and adaptation of a DnD-like Pokemon campaign played a few years ago in one of my favorite forums, which is why the cast is so expansive at the beginning. I imagine it as The Adventure Zone meets Pokemon, in a way.

The reason I'm adapting it is because, honestly, this is one of the greatest Pokemon stories I've ever read and both the DM and the characters managed to weave together such an incredible, creative world that I can't help but be amazed with it, and I hope all the readers will be as well. Of course I'm adapting this with full permission of the DM Yuki, the man who came up with all of this, and all of the players. Full credits go to them for creating this amazing story.



Synopsis: A lot has changed in the past 10 years. Cities have been turned into fortresses, open fields are synonymous with death and the few trainers that still exist are only tools of the powerful. The heroes that once stood up against evil have all died. The only hope of saving Kanto lies in the hands of an eccentric group of trainers and criminals hired by a mysterious, masked man.
Their task? To find and retrieve the six stolen Lights of a long lost world.



Warnings:

⦁ Strong Violence/Gore - Explicit and/or frequent depictions of blood, injury, torture, dismemberment, violent deaths, and/or mutilation of body parts, excluding genitals.
⦁ Strong Language - Explicit use of slurs, no matter how infrequent or frequent they are and regardless of context. What counts as a slur is subjective and open to debate, so please contact a mod if you're unsure! Alternatively, rate the chapter that might have a swear MATURE to be on the safe side.




(Art and Video by Yuki, the DM. Don't go into the channel if you don't want massive spoilers for this series.)



Chapter 1: Lost Anthology

A harsh, sharp cold engulfed the station that night, enough to pierce lungs and turn skin as pale as marble. The only visible light nearby belonged to a rusty lamp sitting atop a metal pole. It flickered on and off every few seconds, threatening to plunge the whole place into darkness.

No train had circulated through those tracks in years, and by all means the place should've been abandoned. And yet, strangely, three dark figures stood behind one of the platforms. The first two leaned back on the freezing benches sprinkled all around. The third was the one closest to the rails, arms crossed and expression darkened.

The clock struck midnight, startling them with its buzzing, electronic gong. Two round, yellow lights could be seen approaching from the east, making the ground rumble the closer they got.

The train that greeted them had certainly seen better days. The rectangular advertisements at the sides had been turned into an incomprehensible garble of bright colors. The windows were so dirty they could barely make out the light inside and the ceiling and lower parts of the wagons were covered in a thick layer of rust.

It opened its gates with a whirring sound of nails against chalkboard. Its front lights illuminated a worn sign that read Viridian City Train Station.

Two of the three people looked at each other for a moment, and set foot inside the ninth wagon. The remaining dark figure turned away from them and entered through the tenth.

The train stood still for a few seconds before roaring back to life, disappearing into the night soon after.

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The inside of the train wasn't much better than the outside, they realized.

The seats were made of cheap plastic and a grey, dirty carpet covered most of the floor. The edges of the windows were being consumed by a thick layer of filth that made it impossible to see anything through it. Some of them feared the ceiling would collapse any second, as its whirring roars threatened to do.

The train gained velocity at a slow, steady pace. At a distance, the persistent sound of something crinkling against metal didn't sit well with some of the passengers, who shifted uncomfortably in their seats and focused their senses on their surroundings.

There were three on the ninth wagon. Looking curiously at the door was a tall man with a messy appearance, wearing a garish red and black jacket and a gigantic yellow thread that hung from his hip toward his left leg. Next to him another young man tapped his foot impatiently, hands on his pockets and worry clear on his face. His brown hair was somewhat covered by a pair of black triangular glasses that hung above his forehead, and the only thing protecting him from the cold was a jacket with a fuzzy white collar. The man who'd entered the wagon alongside him was standing in the middle of it, staring past one of the windows with a look of concentration.

The one with glasses ruffled his hair nervously and grabbed a tarot card from the deck holster hanging from his hip. Closing his eyes he threw it upwards, managing to catch it flawlessly. When he opened them again the image of a winged angel with a trumpet met him on the front of the card.

"Inverted Judgement... an unexpected travel?" he whispered to himself. "Wait... that's already happening."

Mom was right, I should've trained more.

He couldn't help but laugh at himself, and forming a soothing smile he turned towards the two men sharing the wagon with him.

"How about you two? Also traveling because of necessity?"

The tallest one stared at him with a curious, somewhat unhinged look. A pair of unfocused eyes could be seen behind his dark, tea shade glasses.

"Necessity, you say?" His voice was strangely calm, and yet they could feel laughter bubbling underneath it. "Let's see, if my math isn't wrong then there's three of us here, plus the four in the wagon in front of us and two in the one behind. Either this is all a coincidence or we all got the same letter and we came here because we're the perfect group of credulous idiots."

Without giving time for a response he turned towards the door leading to the next wagon, hands inside the pockets of his jacket.

"I'm going to make friends, wanna join me?"

I wonder if they got my sarcasm, he thought to himself. Wait… they're complete strangers. Ah, nevermind…

The one who hadn't spoken yet approached him with a gentle smile and put a hand on his shoulder.

"Forgive me, partner, but wouldn't it be courteous to introduce ourselves?" His tone was low and soothing. "I know what you're thinking: 'This person who doesn't even know me is accusing me of impoliteness!'"

The garish man stared at him as if he didn't understood half the words coming out of his mouth. Either that or he was extremely drunk.

"In any case…," he continued, still smiling, "my name is Siegfried, it's a pleasure to meet you. Well… technically it depends on you whether you want to introduce yourself or not and… ah… I'm sorry, I tend to ramble sometimes."

The man he was speaking to showed him a smile that, he realized, couldn't belong to anyone entirely sane.

"Name's Ñako." He winked playfully. "What about mister tarot over there?"

"You can call me Rhin." The third man also smiled, saving the card inside the deck. "A pleasure."

------------------------------------------------------------​


Four other people were in the tenth wagon. Leaning against one of the chairs at the back was a young girl with bright red hair, eyes lost on the barely recognizable landscape outside. Standing close to her but looking in the opposite direction stood a well dressed boy wearing a scarf, a white beret and a long, brown coat. A man with disheveled, spiky white hair sat down far from everyone else, a constant frown on his face.

But strangest of all was the one who'd just stepped inside through the Viridian Station. He wore a wide, bright smile and a simple-minded look, yet what surprised the rest of the passengers the most was his strange hair. A puffy, pink afro.

A dry chuckle came from where the white haired man was sitting, his eyes going from the newcomer's unusual hair to the window next to him.

He let out a sigh, mist escaping his lips, "I don't like it."

The young man with the pink afro turned towards him and smiled.

"There is no need for such praise, my young fan!" he spoke, startling everyone with the volume of his voice. "I can see in your eyes your incipient admiration!"

They all turned to look at him, with varying degrees of surprise and confusion. They stood quiet for a few seconds, and the eccentric man took this as an opportunity to keep speaking.

"If that's what you wish, then I shall introduce myself." He raised his palm toward the ceiling, his hair glistening under the fluorescent lights of the wagon. "I… am Vard!"

The two other men exchanged a puzzled look, and the girl at the back simply looked away, disinterested. Vard interpreted this as a result of his endless charm having boggled the minds of his poor companions. He needed to act fast, to regain their attention.

"Now, my indecipherable friends…" His expression turned darker, perhaps unconsciously. "Let's say… I make this wagon explode."

That certainly got the girl's attention, whose sharp yellow eyes quickly turned towards Vard. Both her and the white haired man moved their hands to their belts, where their only Pokeball resided.

However, the sharply dressed boy simply let out a laugh, half incredulous and half sarcastic.

"A pleasure, Vard." He raised his palm. "Let's say you actually do blow it up. Well, I'm curious as to what method you'd employ to accomplish such a thing, but…"

He formed a satisfied, smug smile and crossed his arms.

"I'm afraid the world isn't ready to see me blown to bits, and I'm sure the same applies to someone of your… uniqueness." He slightly bent his knee and put a hand over his stomach, in the form of a mocking bow. "My name is Mycroft, by the way. Enchanté."

------------------------------------------------------------​


In the middle of the eighth wagon stood a short, dark haired girl with a thick wool hat covering part of her head. Specks of ash fell from the cigarette she was holding in her right hand. Her eyebrows seemed glued together and the incessant tapping of her feet didn't help with the calm demeanor she was trying to portray outwardly.

Her mind was in the process of going through every possible escape route, should things go south. Which, knowing her luck, could happen any second.

What if they were the ones to send her the letter? No, there's no way they'd bother with something so elaborate if they already knew where she was hiding.

"This is something else," she whispered to no one, leaning against the nearest wall. It was cold as all fuck.

Close to her, another man laid down between two of the seats, fingers playing with a rusty Pokeball. He had short, brown hair and wore a messy white shirt with the image of a sunflower painted on the middle.

After a couple minutes of fiddling with the device he pressed the button on the front. A flash of light blinded him momentarily, and from it emerged a small, blue bird with two wings that looked like they were made of cotton. His soft brown eyes set on his trainer.

"The fuck do you want?" he asked with a bored expression.

"Bluu!" the creature replied excitedly.

He narrowed his eyes and let out a sigh of irritation, "Ah, dunno why I bother. Hope you don't end up being a weak piece of shit or whatever cause I'm gonna throw you off this thing."

The Swablu didn't seem to understand his words and started bouncing on top of his legs. The man looked towards the girl standing a few feet from him and studied her carefully.

She seemed tough, that was for sure. Alert and probably ready for any kind of fun that might happen that night. Not the kind of girl he'd want to mess with.

"Yo, Flaca." He winked at her. "What do I call you? Name's Silver."

She took the butt of the cigarette to her mouth and exhaled deeply, closing her eyes as she tasted it. A thin line of smoke escaped her lips, turning her eyes itchy.

"Sabrina," was her simple response. "And don't call me-"

Before she could finish, a sudden jolt almost threw both of them to the ground. Silver leaned into the wall and tried to look through one of the nearby windows, eyes narrowed in concentration.

The landscape outside stood still. The train had stopped.

Sabrina took a step back and grabbed her only Pokeball, biting down on the cigarette almost strongly enough to break it. There was no need for panic, she assured herself. It had probably just been…

The sound of shattered glass made its way from one of the nearby wagons towards them.

She cursed under her breath and opened the Pokeball, its light forming the shape of a yellow, triangular Pokemon with small blue eyes and a big mouth of perfect white teeth. The Snorunt started bouncing in place happily while Sabrina briefly considered kicking her before remembering she might need the stupid thing. Next to her Silver got to his feet, eyes glued to the door leading to the ninth wagon.

What do we do? his expression seemed to ask.

"We ambush whoever that was and beat them up in the most cowardly way possible," she replied, dropping the cigarette to the ground and stepping on it. "I hate complications."

Sharing a nod, they walked towards the door, kicking it open.

------------------------------------------------------------​


Two of the men in the ninth wagon threw their Pokeballs into the air at the same time. From Rhin's appeared a blue creature with an amphibian face and two long, thin arms. The one belonging to Siegfried was a short anthropomorphic fighting Pokemon with white sweatbands on his wrists and three protrusions coming out of his head.

"Those things are ugly," the garish man spoke, hands on his pockets and looking very casual for the situation.

"Alright!" the first yelled, smiling widely at his Croagunk. "Can't have a party without a main event, and we're not gonna make them wait! Keroro, get ready!"

Siegfried raised an eyebrow, surprised by the boy's sudden change in attitude. Where had his apparent mild mannerisms gone to? And… were his eyes a different color or was the exhaustion messing with him?

"Itsuki, we are under attack," he told his Tyrogue, deciding not to think about it too much. "Stay alert. We should go where the others are…"

Before he could finish, two dark blue creatures jumped inside the wagon, moving so fast they had trouble following them with their eyes. They landed in front of their Pokemon and brandished their sharp claws in unison, forming a wide and sadistic smile. A long, red feather adorned their heads, growing from the back of their left ear.

The Sneasel jumped forward and slashed at their opponents, who barely got out of the way before their bodies could be shredded by their claws.

------------------------------------------------------------​


The redhead jumped from her seat as soon as the windows started to crack, as if she were expecting such a thing to happen.

"Let's go!" she yelled with a commanding tone, and started running to the door leading toward the ninth wagon, grabbing Mycroft by the arm.

They heard the sound of shattering glass, too close for comfort.

Vard smiled, "Looks like I only needed to proliferate my intentions for the wagon to start exploding. Sometimes I even surprise myself!"

He was the first to cross the door, pushing it aside with a flourish of his arm and showing himself to Siegfried's group. There were two strange, dark Pokemon between them, which Vard didn't seem worried about.

"There's no time to admire my hair!" he exclaimed, taking a Pokeball from his belt. "I don't know your intentions you foul beings, but I will not let you harm these innocent bystanders!"

The light from the Pokeball materialized on top of the man's hair, and from it emerged what appeared to be a brown cylinder with two small eyes and a pink nose, its body hidden under a pile of dirt.

I wonder where the dirt comes from every time, Vard thought to himself.

"Everyone, stand back! The overwhelming power I'm about to unleash might drive you all mad!" He threw his hand forward. "Digda, Sand Attack!"

From his mouth the Diglett spat a small torrent of dirt that hit the Sneasels in the eyes, rendering them momentarily blind.

"Keroro, Cross Chop!"

"Itsuki, Mach Punch!"

Without being able to see where the attacks came from the dark creatures couldn't defend against the blows of the Croagunk and Tyrogue, and with their overwhelming weakness to fighting types they fell unconscious immediately.

All nine passengers finally converged in the same wagon and the eyes of the newcomers fell on the immobile bodies of the recently defeated Pokemon. The girl with the black wool hat stared doubtfully, ready to order an attack were it necessary.

However, she saw the confusion in the faces of the rest. They probably had nothing to do with what had happened. In the other extreme of the wagon the red haired girl spoke:

"What was…?"

The door separating them from the eighth wagon was torn from its hinges, falling to the ground with a deaf thump that turned everyone's attention to it. The cigarette almost fell from Sabrina's mouth as she saw what was on the other side.

Oh you can't be fucking serious.

Three tall figures walked through the recently made hole, cloaked in black robes. Identical red masks covered everything except their eyes.

A Spearow flew close to the one on the right, while the one on the left had her hand on top of the head of a Drowzee. However that paled in comparison to the creeping horror that sent shivers through their spines as they saw what the one in the middle was holding in his hands. A thin wooden pole with a curved blade at the end of it, as long as the man's torso.

A scythe. That's a goddamn fucking scythe, Sabrina thought, eyes wide like plates.

"So this is the talented group of trainers he was talking about…" They heard his rough voice muffled through the mask. "They don't look like much."

The woman with the Spearow nodded, "Still, I'm sure they'll entertain us all the way to Saffron."

Okay yeah, fuck this.

"Son of a bitch…" Sabrina whispered as she took a step back, looking at her Pokemon. "Adler, Powder Snow at his arms! And don't screw it up!"

Attack first, ask questions later. That's the rule she'd committed herself to and she wasn't about to break it when a tall bastard with a scythe appeared in what was supposed to be a pleasant travel towards her next job.

The Snorunt spat a cloud of icy mist that made its way towards the three… reapers, she decided she'd call them. However it didn't seem enough to freeze anything as it barely bothered them.

The garish looking man was the next to act. From behind his back he grabbed what looked like a folded shuriken, each blade as long as a sword. Smiling, he jumped forward with weapon in hand, aiming at the one in the middle.

"SUCK MY D…!"

His war cry was cut short as his foot slipped on one of the big pieces of glass, sending him forward to the ground face first. The shuriken flew to the side and one of its blades stuck to a nearby chair.

Even the three strangers trying to kill them couldn't help but stare in confusion as the man got to his feet, clothes covered in glass, and looked around with a slight blush on his face.

"Ah… did any of you see my shuriken flying around? It does that."

That was enough to bring everyone back to reality, and those who'd just been staring in disbelief grabbed their Pokeballs, releasing their partners into the shaking wagon.

"Geek, it's your turn!" the red haired girl yelled. "Pound!"

"Sousuke, these are your opponents." the white-haired man spoke. "Bite."

"L-Ludovic, do your best!" Mycroft ordered, voice shaking. "Quick Attack!"

From the simultaneous light of the three Pokeballs appeared a green, bipedal reptile with a red stomach, an angry looking chubby creature with red eyes and a canine looking Pokemon with black dreads. The Treecko, Larvitar and Riolu threw themselves at the man with the scythe before he had time to react.

"Spearow, cover us!" The cloaked woman yelled.

The flying Pokemon flapped his wings energetically, creating a strong gust of wind that hit all the trainers and managed to throw Geek and Ludovic back. Sousuke, being made of stone and considerably heavier, was the only one to get close enough to attack, but before he could close his maw around the man's leg the Spearow flew down and intercepted it, hitting him in the face with its wing.

Silver threw his hand forward. "Flancito, throw a… uh… fucking, Dragon Rush or something, at that guy's arm!"

Swablu surrounded her soft wings with a dark red energy and flew towards the one with the scythe. She crashed against his shoulders and almost managed to topple him to the ground, but he stomped back strongly with one foot and smiled under his mask.

"Looks like you know how to defend yourselves…" he whispered, and set his dark eyes on the trainer who'd just ordered the attack. "Good, that makes it all the more interesting!"

He moved so fast Silver almost didn't have time to react. The blade of his scythe cut through the air in an arc, tearing through his shirt and scratching his shoulder and part of his arm as he jumped backwards. He landed next to Sabrina and almost collapsed from the pain and his poor footing. Droplets of blood fell from the folds of his shirt to his hand.

Next to him everyone's Pokemon did their best to try and pierce the psychic barrier the Drowzee had created, while the Snorunt at Sabrina's feet hopelessly spat ice forward, which evaporated as soon as it left her mouth.

"They do know how to play…" the cloaked girl said sarcastically. "I can see why Mullac is interested in them."

As soon as she uttered those words, a wave of psychic energy hit all the Pokemon on their side of the wagon. The Tyrogue, Croagunk and Riolu fell to their knees, grabbing their heads in their hands as they let out a pained cry. The rest flinched but managed to resist it for the most part, although it certainly stopped them in their tracks.

The man with the scythe raised a hand casually. "In any case, I doubt they're good enough to get to Saffron alive. Sorry kids, but it looks like this is your last stop."

Sabrina clenched her teeth, hands closing into fists. She looked down to her own Pokemon and almost heaved at the sight of her pathetic attempts.

This isn't working.

If there was any time to bring out the big guns, this was it. Whatever those robed bastards were talking about was irrelevant; all that mattered was that she left the train alive, and that wouldn't happen if she didn't do something. Fast.

Her backpack fell to the ground with a weak thump and she kneeled down to open it, smiling at what was inside. Without hesitation she grabbed the heavy, worn out crossbow from its folds and raised it with difficulty, its weight making her arms shake.

Even though she couldn't see their faces she greatly enjoyed the gasps of surprise coming from the reapers' mouth.

Weren't expecting this, were you?

"Get back!" she yelled to the rest. "And you, Silver, try not to die! I'm gonna need all of you to get out of this one!"

She raised the weapon to her shoulder and took a deep breath, which wasn't easy in the middle of such a commotion. She focused her eyes on the man's hand and pulled the trigger. He tried to move out of the way but the bolt was too fast and it lunged into the back of his hand. Letting out a cry of pain, he let the scythe slip through his fingers, as his two companions stared at him in horror.

"Nice one, Flaca!" Silver let out a high pitched laugh. "I owe you one!"

And before anyone could stop him, he ran forward and threw himself to the floor, grabbing the ghastly weapon with his right hand. The cloaked man attempted to step on him but he managed to roll to the side and get on his feet without much trouble. Something that surprised the rest of the group as he still had a pretty ugly wound on his shoulder.

"Agh, you…!" The robed man screamed, taking a couple steps backwards. "How did you…!?"

"Come on dumbass, you're gonna wet yourself 'cause I stole your toy?" He brandished the scythe with a strange familiarity, pointing it at its previous owner. "Party's only getting started and I ain't leaving without your head as a trophy!"

Everyone stared dumbfounded at his bravado, and even Sabrina couldn't help but whistle.

Siegfried took a step forward and pointed towards the two Pokemon still obstructing them, "Itsuki, destroy that barrier."

The Tyrogue didn't need to be told twice. With a strong punch he shattered the psychic wall in front of them, sending a jolt of pain through the Drowzee's body, who fell to one knee and almost crashed against the ground. She had one eyed closed, and her breathing was irregular.

"L-Ludovic, finish that abomination, s'il vous plait!" Mycroft ordered.

"That's what I'm talking about! Keroro, to the bird!" Rhin followed.

Riolu disappeared in a flash and materialized behind Drowzee. With a resounding kick he sent her a few feet forward, where she fell unconscious. Meanwhile Croagunk jumped with his powerful legs and buried one of his thin hands in the Spearow's gut, throwing him to the ground.

Burning anger could be seen through the holes of the leader's mask, and his two partners stared at each other worriedly as their Pokemon fell before them.

"This… can't be happening…" he spoke between gasps, grabbing his own bleeding hand. "How did Mullac find these trainers before B… no, it doesn't matter. None of you will leave this train alive!"

A few of the trainers smiled at his words. A couple of them furrowed their brows and took a step backward, and Vard simply threw his palm to the skies again as he spoke.

"Evil beings who dare importunate Vard and his incredible friends…!" his voice broke through the cold entering through the wagon, filling everyone with a strange kind of warmth, "you will suffer the wrath of this rapacious breeder!"

He pointed at the three robed creatures, and everyone followed the scream that came out of his mouth.

"Attack!"

All Pokemon with the exception of Digda jumped forward, and the combined power of their assault almost destroyed the wagon they were in. Screams of agony came out of their opponent's mouths as they all collapsed to the ground, covered in blood and barely breathing.

As soon as the three of them stopped moving the train came back to life. The sudden jolt put all of them in alert and ready to fight, until they saw the landscape passing by through the windows. Mycroft and Rhin let out sighs of relief.

"Well, that was convenient," the red haired girl said. "Think we were supposed to kill them?"

"Looks like it."

Ñako started walking towards the three presumed corpses. For a moment most of them thought he was about to loot them, but he simply kneeled to the side of one of the seats and grabbed the strange shuriken stuck to its side.

"Agh, there we go..." He smiled as he pulled it out and made it spin on his hand. "So… there's eight of you, and with me it'd be nine. In my town we call that a pretty nice group."

He folded it back to its original size and hung it on his back, turning towards the rest of them.

"And speaking of my town…" he smiled. "The name's Ñako, and I'm from Fuchsia."

The rest of them with the exception of Vard exchanged looks of Is this really the time?

"You might have heard of me; I used to flirt with Koga's daughter every chance I got. I was also feared by the local mafias and had the title of sex symbol." Most of them raised an eyebrow at his words. "That's all a lie of course, except the flirting part. Anyway, my point is that it's a good time for introductions and stuff."

A few of them shifted in place, unsure if it really was the time for such a thing, especially with what they assumed were three corpses still in the same wagon as them. After a few seconds of silence the owner of the Tyrogue took a step forward and spoke with a calm, low tone.

"I'm Siegfried, from Viridian." He performed a short bow. "I think it would be most fortuitous to tend to the wounded, especially our friend with the scythe."

The man with the disheveled white hair spoke next, holding a small revolver on his right hand. Everyone close to him silently wondered why he hadn't used it during the fight.

"Wolfswift," he whispered. "Ready to break this party."

"My name is Mycroft." The sharply dressed man introduced himself again. "I'm from Violet, and I'm traveling towards Saffron. You already met my Riolu, Ludovic, and… I think that's it. Any questions?"

The red haired girl nodded slowly, "I'm Samantha, or Sammy if you'd like. I'm here because of a letter I received."

The boy with black glasses spoke next, smiling brightly.

"Of course, how impolite of me! My name's Rhin, and I'm from Viridian City. I'm a tarotist by trade and my amphibian friend here is Keroro!"

Silver was barely listening, eyes fixated on the Swablu flying around him. Both his scythe and shoulder were dripping with blood, though he didn't seem to mind.

"The fuck are you looking at with that flan face?" he asked, shaking his head. "Think I forgot about that Dragon Rush that did nothing!?"

He realized everyone was staring at him, and promptly let out a nervous laugh.

"Ah… can't be the only jerk who doesn't say anything." He scratched the back of his head. "They call me Silver and I'm from the Orange Islands. Came to Kanto for a vacation after they kicked me out of my old job."

Without prompt Vard took a step forward, and as he'd done twice already he raised his palm to the ceiling. Those who had previously met him expected him to break into a poetic spiel, but he only said three words.

"I… am Vard!"

The girl with the black hat felt everyone's eyes fall on her. She had to take a few seconds to think the situation over. Did they really want her to…? Judging by the looks they were giving her, they did.

I must look like an antisocial dick, she thought to herself. And they say appearances lie.

She didn't want to associate herself with these people, even if they'd just helped her survive a horror movie situation. Still, it was possible she'd need them in the future, so she didn't have much choice. Even the weird guy with the shuriken (why did he look so familiar?) had introduced himself. She let out a deep sigh.

"Sabrina. I'm from…" She smiled to herself. "Let's say I'm from Saffron, why not."

She couldn't help but roll her eyes as she felt the tension evaporate from the air. As if knowing these people's names could ever make her trust them.

As soon as she thought that, the sound of coughing reached them from behind. They turned quickly towards the pile of bodies, where the leader was slowly pushing himself upwards with his bloodied hands.

There was a strange gleam in his eyes, a mix of hatred and relief.

"You… you're all a bunch of talented trainers, aren't you?" He laughed through the blood spurting out of his mouth. "It's a shame you'll never make it to Saffron. This train isn't gonna stop, and when… once it reaches the last station…"

Light shone inside the wagon, and everyone turned towards the windows. Through it they could see the outline of a gigantic city in the distance. They were approaching fast.

"It'll crash…" the man struggled to keep himself conscious, still smiling. "You'll all die with it."

And with that he collapsed, and didn't move again.

The trainers stood frozen for a couple seconds, until Ñako took a Pokeball from his belt. From its light appeared a yellow creature with closed eyes and thin limbs, who appeared to be sleeping.

"Well, that sounds lovely but…" he said with a nervous smile as he grabbed the Abra by the arm. "That ain't the end I want. See you later suckers! Ah… you come with me."

Without further explanation he grabbed Mycroft by the shoulder and urged his Riolu to do the same.

"Paja, Teleport!"

The four of them disappeared in a flash of light, leaving the rest understandably startled.

"We need to jump!" Siegfried raised his voice for the first time, walking towards one of the doors and forcing it open. "The train has to slow down when it nears the station, even if it won't stop. That will be our chance!"

He threw himself forward, his Tyrogue hanging from his back. The rest of the trainers stared for a couple heartbeats before they started running around the wagon and prepared themselves. Sabrina, not caring about keeping appearances anymore, ran to the pile of bodies and grabbed the chubby psychic Pokemon laying down on the floor, still unconscious. Silver and Wolfswift followed her example, stealing the Spearow and one of the Sneasel respectively.

"Adler, we're going. And you pal, you'll come with me," Sabrina said, the Drowzee hanging on her back. "As for the rest of you… hey, it was fun."

"Alright! Spearow in hand, scythe with daddy…" Silver recounted, smiling to himself. "That's what I'm talking about."

Vard laughed, "Excellent! Everything went according to plan, except for the firefighters falling to the train in parachutes!" he steadied the Diglett on top of his hair and pointed to the exit. "Now we must fly, my friends!"

With their new Pokemon in hand they ran to the door and jumped, bracing themselves for the impact. Vard covered himself with his pink cape mid fall, though it did little to protect him from the ground as he slammed into it. Sabrina was ready to suffer a similar fate, but just before her body reached the platform a purple glow surrounded her and she landed as if she'd only taken a short hop.

The rest didn't have as much luck, and after they painfully got to their feet they saw that Ñako, Mycroft, Sammy and Sabrina were the only ones unharmed.

The train sped through the station, leaving them behind. Between them and the rails was a tall, metal fence. A white envelope hung from it.

"Wh-what happened!?" Rhin jumped in place, eyes wide open. He looked extremely confused, and his eyes had returned to normal. "How did I get here? What happened to the fight in the train?"

Mycroft gulped and looked at Ñako, not quite understanding why he'd been chosen to be saved by him.

"T-thank you. I don't know why you got me out of there but…" he smiled, though not very enthusiastically. "Mycroft doesn't forget these things. I owe you one, je suppose."

They made their way towards where the others had fallen and saw as Sammy walked to the fence and grabbed the letter stuck to it. She opened it and coughed as to grab everyone's attention.

"This must be from the person who sent us here," she exclaimed. "Did he want us to jump to this exact place?"

"Why are you not hurt?" Ñako asked.

Sammy ignored him, "Here, the letter says…"

If you made it to Saffron that means you deserve both my praise and trust. You have also earned the right to work under me.

Do not be afraid by what happened; I needed to know you were capable of surviving a simple test before I could reveal to you who I am or why I'm doing this.

I can assure you that you will be rewarded handsomely if you wish to take on my offer, as I've mentioned in my introductory letter.

I will wait for you in the tenth floor of Silph Co., at the center of town.

Good luck.

Silence covered the station for a few heartbeats, until Ñako broke it.

"Well… judging from those people in the train we can assume that whatever work relationship we might have with this guy has an expiration date," he said. "Still, it's not like I have anywhere better to go, so I think I'm gonna follow this letter."

He then grabbed the collar of his jacket, and sighed.

"By the way, do you think I should buy a scarf? They say they look good on ninjas."

Okay, now they were definitely staring at him weird. He gulped and blamed his performance anxiety.

"What? Can't you tell by my clothes?" He gesticulated towards his garish outfit. "I'm a ninja!"

Sammy rolled her eyes before turning her attention back to the letter. Everyone else simply looked at him as if trying to determine what kind of drugs he was on. He supposed it was a good time as any to change topics.

"Oh, by the way, it's very likely one of us works for the guy who left this letter here." He pointed with his head towards Sammy. "We should find out who they are, hit them, torture them, get information out of them, steal from them, kill them and then say they died in a boating accident."

Siegfried took a step forward and cleared his throat, wanting to get attention to the current issue.

"I agree, and I also think we should visit this strange person, even if we don't trust him," he explained, calm as always. "I'm sure most of us don't have a better alternative, and as they say… unity makes strength."

Sabrina laughed. A low pitched, dry laugh so full of disdain she regretted it as soon as it left her mouth. Everyone turned towards her and she silently cursed for not being able to contain herself.

She muttered something under her breath and nodded, which was enough to make some of them turn their heads.

God, why does this have to happen to me? she lamented herself, sighing.

All she wanted was some easy cash, enough to get her off this rotting region and towards somewhere nice and warm where they could never find her. Perhaps Dewford or Pacifidlog. The beach would certainly fit her.

She was so focused in her own fantasy that she barely noticed Adler grabbing her by the ankle. Looking down, she saw wetness appear on the small creature's eyes.

Oh no…

She began to cry. Really fucking loudly at that.

"Wait, no! Adler!" She took a bag out of her backpack and showed it to her. "Look, food!"

But it was in vain. The Snorunt kept wailing with all the strength of her lungs, and Sabrina could feel everyone's eyes on her again. Her cheeks turning red, she lowered her head and whispered low enough for only her Pokemon to hear.

"You… you did well." She heaved as she said those words. "You weren't completely useless."

Adler stopped crying immediately and, forming a huge grin she grabbed the bag of food and shoved it into her mouth. Sabrina gave her a look colder than the night around her and shook her head. She'd catch the first Pokemon she encountered, even if it was a Togepi. All so she could get rid of this waste of space.

She returned her to her Pokeball as soon as she stopped eating, heading to where the rest of the group was. They seemed to have reached some sort of agreement, since they were all looking towards the distance past the fence, where the outline of Saffron could be seen.

Sabrina felt a tug inside her chest, and her fingers curled into fists. To think she'd have to come back to this place…

"Uh… Vard?" Ñako's voice took her out of her thoughts, and she turned around to see the guy with the stupid pink afro staring at the stars. "You haven't said anything yet. You coming with us to meet this guy?"

Vard closed his eyes for a second and breathed deeply, as if considering his options carefully.

"Karma can only be portioned out by the cosmos."

Without another word he headed towards the door of the fence, leaving eight confused people behind.

"I… guess that's a yes?" Ñako shrugged.

And with that the rest of the trainers followed him, walking towards something that could easily be both a chance at a new life or a death sentence. Sabrina had experienced more than her fair share of both and had managed to fuck up said opportunities wonderfully.

She took a deep breath and raised her gaze towards the city, eyes full of determination.

Not this time.

------------------------------------------------------------​


Silver Notes: A few fun facts for those who like campaign stuff:

-Ñako falling on his face was indeed a crit miss.
-Similarly, Sabrina pulling off that crossbow shot was due to a lot of successes.
-The scythe was not meant to be stolen, but the DM let it happen because he's awesome.

Also here's a drawing of the party by the DM Yuki, so y'all have a better idea of what they look like. From right to left: Ñako, Sabrina, Silver, Vard, Mycroft, Sammy, Siegfried, Wolfswift, Rhin and.... someone else who hasn't been introduced yet.

02.jpg
 
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System Error

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Oh no, I hope this has nothing to do with bad fangames. Well, let's get to it anyway.

- Starting off with a train. Wonderful. Well, at least it's not a trainwreck that sets the tone for quality or lack thereof. Yet.
- That accented N is going to be a pain to keep copied so he's just Nako here.
- Well hair comes in all sorts of colors in anime land so I don't know why a pink afro is so weird.
- Rusted Poke Ball, huh? interesting take.
- Silver and Sabrina? Did uh, erm. These are roleplayers. Why in the world did they name their characters the same as canon ones? That's very confusing in the fic context too.
- Okay, a terrorist attack on the train. Next best thing I guess.
- You know it is pretty silly that all these characters have low form Pokemon in the context of things. They seem to already know some strong moves though.
- Shoutouts to Sand Attack???
- Some professional killer the shady whatever hired. Adapting flubs (?) to stories can be odd.
- If this was any tabletop sort of system, like 7-9 people playing at once I imagine was a mess.
- I assume the robe idiots are supposed to be a walking fountain of whatever ridiculous cliches?
- Well that was a brutal murder stomping
- I guess it's better than meeting in a tavern, but man is this introductions segment not translating well to fic form.
- Okay I spoke too soon, it is going to be a trainwreck. Great.
- And not much to say about what happens after. Plot stuff.
- Fancy fanart. Also, good DMs are always good times, they can really make a campaign by allowing those silly things.

Well, not much to say about this introduction. Am a fan of throwing it right into the action, as long as there's time to breathe after. That said, man. While I'm not really a stickler for too many characters, nine all at once is coloring way outside the lines. Hard to keep track of everyone, I guess is what I'm saying. Have to wonder how this campaign even went; was it homebrew or something because the Pokemon tabletops I know are tuned to much smaller parties. We'll see where it goes from here, however. Keep it up.
 

SilverRockets

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Thank you for the review!! I know this is a pretty unconventional fic, and you're right that this start is a bit of a mess and there's a lot of characters, but the story does get better at giving each of them their own time later, so I hope you'll like it more as it progresses. This was more a fun project to adapt some of my favorite characters into fic form, but yeah hopefully it'll improve as I go along.

As for your other points:

-Oh yeah I forgot you guys don't have keyboards with Ñ like we have here in Argentina.
-I think everyone's more surprised by the combination of pink and afro, which isn't a very common one :p but point taken.
-There's no excuse for Silver, but Sabrina's name being the same as that of Saffron's gym leader is an actual plot point that will be brought up later.
- Yeah like you said the start is kind of a mess and there's a lot going on. I'll see if I can edit it to be a bit more understandable.

Again, thank you for your review and your thoughts! I'll post chapter 2 soon, and I hope you can enjoy it better than the first one.
 

SilverRockets

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Chapter 2: Safrron - Part 1


Saffron, we meet again.

The city looked even shittier than before, as unbelievable as it sounded. Then again, carrying a 70-pound unconscious Pokemon on her back might've been staining her impression of it.

Maybe.

The rest of the so called group walked alongside her, making small chitchat here and there though mostly staying in silence. She could tell some were concerned about going to Silph Co. right away, when perhaps finding someplace to rest and recover their strength might've been a better idea. One of the guys –the one with the Tyrogue who was rather verbose– approached her and asked for directions, quoting back what she'd mentioned about being from Saffron.

"That would make sense normally, but…" She stopped, searching for the best way to phrase it. "I'm not exactly the most popular person in the city. I don't think having me with you will make for a good first impression."

More than a few eyebrows were raised her way. Exactly what she needed, for everyone not to trust her right away.

"Besides, the market won't be open this early." She shrugged, trying to change the topic. "I know we all want to collapse under a rock and rest, but I'd like to get this over with before that."

She hated the idea as much as them, but if the person from the letter had gone to such lengths to contact them, he wouldn't kill them at first sight. Silph Co. was safer than the outskirts of the city, as far as she knew.

Said building came into view after they passed through the outer slums, rising into the sky as a black pillar of glass. At the top of it a giant symbol hung; a long segmented S with two circles inside it. The skyscraper was the only structure she'd seen so far which didn't look damaged, dirty or ready to fall into itself, which in any other situation might have been reassuring. It wasn't, if what she'd heard of the place had any traces of truth in it.

She grabbed onto the unconscious Drowzee's legs more strongly, and gulped.

Her new life might be inside that building, were luck to shine on her for the first time in her fucking life.

-------------------------------​

Vard took a notebook out of his hair and started writing on it as he walked.

Finally, the Dispute of Death in the Train of Gale has ended.

Great adventurer that he was, he always knew exactly what to call every interesting event he came across. When people spoke of his legend, they would need a way to name each one of his stories.

He looked up, noticing how one of his new subjects had effortlessly cleaned up the scythe wound he'd suffered during the train altercation with his trusty first aid kit. Such determination, such providence. Such… wait, was that thing next to him a Pokemon? Well, nobody's perfect.

"Hear me, my faithful servant!" he spoke to the man named Silver, grinning from ear to ear. "Yes you, the one with the jocular bird. From now on you will be the official foreman of the great Team of Vard!" He raised his palm to the sky. "You've proven yourself to be an invaluable asset worthy of this recognition. Now, give me that first aid kit; I think I hit my head when I fell from the train and I'm seeing a blue thing with cloud wings flying around."

The man did as he was told, as happy as a Shelder. After a few minutes of walking and taking care of the wounds on his beautiful body they finally arrived at the twin glass doors of the building. The inside looked as dark as an Arcanine's maw, and no one could be seen guarding the entrance.

Vard formed a wicked smile, turning around towards his companions.

"You've all done well to keep up with me! Now, those with enough strength to follow me in my prowess, to look at danger in the face, to put your manliness to the test, to…"

"Pass." Rhin said.

"In any case, follow me!"

Waving his pink cape dramatically he pushed the doors aside, plunging into darkness.

-------------------------------​

The building was completely empty for the first few floors. Toppled tables and abandoned research cubicles covered in dust littered the place as if it hadn't been used in ages. As the group advanced they could see the rest of the city from a panoramic view; they noticed a few weak, dwindling fires in the distance surrounded by dark figures.

Once they reached the tenth floor the air seemed to become heavier as they noticed not only the pristine state of the room they'd walked into but also the man standing at the other side of it, wearing black robes and staring through the enormous glass windows into the distance. He turned his head slightly as the last trainer entered the room, and with a whirring sound the door closed behind them. Small lights appeared at the edge of their vision as the candles resting on the walls came to life with a pulsing, purple flame.

A round, black table sat in the middle of the room, so pristine it looked like it hadn't ever been used. Nine rickety wooden chairs were placed around it, with a finely crafted velvet sofa at the extreme of it.

The strange man walked towards it, sitting on it with swift movements. He urged with his hand for them to do the same, and once each one found their seat they could see his lack of a face. He wore an oval mask, half red and half blue split in the middle. Two tired eyes stared at them from behind the cut circles in it.

Vard was the first to speak.

"The Feng Shui of this room is a disaster."

The man ignored him. He cleared his throat and after a few moments of consideration spoke with a deep, calming voice.

"Before I introduce myself I would like to congratulate all of you. I understand some of you might be upset due to what happened in the train, but the selection process was very important," he said, moving his gaze from one end of the table to the other. "With that said, you may call me Mullac. If I'm not mistaken you all received a letter from my, let's say, organization."

Most of them shifted uncomfortably under the sound of his voice. Next to the man, Sabrina curled her fingers into fists, ready to flee at a moment's notice.

"You might think this is madness, but I needed to know you were capable of surviving such a test. For you see, my mission… our mission, will be infinitely more complex. Of course, we will talk about rewards soon, but first…"

He raised one hand, his long and wrinkly fingers pointing to one of the nearby walls, from which hung a gigantic map of Kanto and Johto.

"As you all know, the situation in Kanto… it's not the same as it's been in the past," he said. "We're headed directly into a war with Orre, which would mean the end of our region and countless innocent lives. That…" his eyes fell on them, "is where I need the help of all of you."

Sabrina raised an eyebrow, "So… you want to use us to stop this supposed war?"

"Ha!" Silver chuckled, hands behind his head. "Yeah sure, where do we sign up?" he said, voice dripping with sarcasm.

Rhin narrowed his eyes at the strange man. "Forgive me, but I really doubt your intentions are noble."

The rest either mumbled or agreed silently, while Mullac sat still with his fingers interlaced. Once silence settled back in he continued to speak.

"Please. I understand that you're all worn out by today's events, so before continuing I would be happy to offer you a place to rest inside this tower, and…" He made a gesture with his hand and the middle of the table retreated inside it. A moment later it came back up, but there was something different. Nine Pokeballs were arranged in a circle, each facing one of the trainers. "I am aware that some of you took a Pokemon from my employees. You may keep them if you want, but otherwise you're free to take one of these."

Before any of them could process the offer Ñako lunged his arm forward, taking one of the Pokeballs with gusto. He leaned back into his chair, no hint of concern of fear in his expression.

"Well, I'm gonna stay," he declared. "I don't think this place is more dangerous than the trip back and I'm already here anyway."

Sabrina nodded, crossing her arms.

"I'll keep this one," she said, pointing at the passed out Drowzee on the floor.

Silver placed both feet on top of the table, smiling cockily while patting the head of his newly acquired Spearow, "I prefer this one. No offense but I'm a humble kinda guy; I don't want one of your stuck up Pokemon."

The rest made their decision, Wolfswift being the only one left who chose not to take one of the free Pokeballs. As the rest examined theirs, spinning it on their hands, they heard Sammy speak. She looked bored, staring mindlessly at her new acquisition.

"I guess if you wanted us dead you had the chance to make it happen already" she said. "Now, back to this mission…"

The man nodded, raising his hand once more to speak.

"As I said, I need all of your help to bring Kanto to its former glory." They noticed a strange intensity in his voice that hadn't been there before. "Of course, you won't do it directly. First I need you to find something for me. A certain collection of objects, which might be able to end this conflict once and for all. Objects which are tied to the legend of Ho-oh, might I add."

Some of them flinched at the mention of the name, while others like Sabrina simply frowned, incredulous. What could a legendary Pokemon have to do with their quest?

"In ancient legend it is stated that Ho-oh once gave humanity a gift," Mullac continued, his tone one of reverence. "A divine, incredibly dangerous power, something we humans could never achieve on our own. That's why these objects were closely coveted and hidden in secret, until they became no more than simple myth."

He turned his head slightly, once again looking at the gigantic map at his right. Without prompt a powerful light fell on top of it, illuminating a specific spot northwest of it.

"According to my research, one of these objects is hidden within a certain construction in Kanto. The abandoned prison of Pewter, which was said to be built on top of…"

"An ancient burial ground?" Ñako offered.

"No, on top of an underground dungeon. I need all of you to travel to Pewter and investigate the prison in search for this object." His voice trailed off, leaving the room in silence for a few moments. "Of course I don't expect an answer right away. Feel free to rest and think it over, and tomorrow we can talk about remuneration."

There really wasn't any need to complain or turn away know, and Mullac was keenly aware of this. The group silently accepted his request while mulling it over inside their heads. As usual, Vard was the first to speak.

"Ho-oh…" he whispered, smiling to himself. "The only one capable of rivaling my omnivorous being, whose beautiful colors are even more dazzling than my own mane. If it's to revive such a beautiful creature…"

"I never said anything about rev-"

"IF IT'S TO REVIVE SUCH A BEAUTIFUL CREATURE…!" Vard yelled at the top of his lungs, smiling. "Then me and my gentle men will be at your services."

He walked towards Mullac, extending his arm forward. Their fingers met tentatively and they shook on it, sealing the deal.

-------------------------------​

The next morning came without much complication. Sabrina was one of the first to wake up, and as she walked downstairs with a cigarette hanging from her lips and the memory of last night still fresh, one single thought came to mind.

What a motherfucker.

She shook her head, still thinking about what Mullac had said. Honestly, she couldn't give less of a shit whether Ho-oh existed or not. As for the war, as long as it didn't affect her she didn't have any reason to intervene. The glory and wellbeing of Kanto? Ha! What a joke.

Still, she had no choice but to accept and Mullac knew it. She needed to escape the region and with her current wealth she wouldn't make it to Lavender. She could try, but the chances of being found and end up floating face down on the sewers were pretty big. She needed money, and this guy had lots of it. If she could complete this one job then all her problems, her pathetic life of constantly running away… it would all come to an end.

Finally, she could be free like she'd promised him so long ago.

She kept going downstairs, trying to keep that thought off her head, eventually reaching the base floor. Before exiting she took the two Pokeballs from her belt and opened them, the explosion of light revealing its occupants.

The Drowzee was conscious, though not very pristine. Still, judging by the intense look of resentment she sent her way, it was evident resting had done her well.

"Oh come on, don't be like that," she said, patting her head. "Your previous master is dead and I saved your chubby life when I took you out of that train, with a lot of effort on my part. So… let's be friends, alright Gouda?"

Drowzee opened her mouth and, if she were a person, she was pretty sure she would've repeated the name to herself in disbelief. Seeing as she couldn't, she decided to simply look at Sabrina in a way that made it evident she wished her the worst of fates. Adler on the other hand bounced happily like the filthy little ice triangle she was.

Good enough.

As soon as she returned them to their Pokeballs, two people crossed through the door to the lobby. One of them was the skinny guy with the sunflower shirt and the giant scythe, Silver was it? The other one was the technicolor ninja.

"Hey."

They stopped talking amongst themselves and raised their heads to look at her.

"Wanna come with me somewhere?" she said, perhaps a bit more grimly than intended. "I promise it'll be interesting."

Silver had helped her yesterday during the train and he was pretty good at fighting. At the moment there was no reason not to trust him. As for the other one… well, his moral compass seemed looser than most, which would come in handy for what she had in mind.

They listened to her explanation and nodded without much doubt. They exited the building, heading towards the center of the city.

She silently wondered what the others would do in the meantime.

-------------------------------​

An hour later, Mycroft realized they might be completely lost.

He'd ventured into the outskirts of the city accompanied by Rhin, Samantha, Siegfried and the freak with the pink afro in the vain hope they'd be able to find a good market, someplace to gather provisions for the harsh quest ahead of them.

Mullac's words danced around in his mind, especially his mention of the legendary Pokemon Ho-oh. As much as he hated the idea of having to traverse a dirty, old prison there was something stronger than him compelling him to accept.

After what seemed like an eternity they arrived at the city's gates, made from heavy stone and at least thrice as tall as any of them. Still, there didn't seem to be any guards around, so they could slip through to the outside if they wanted. A completely insane idea of course, and he was sure no one would…

"We might be able to find some kind of market through these gates," Siegfried spoke next to him, startling Mycroft. "I seem to remember seeing houses outside the walls."

Of course they were considering it, Mycroft thought as he shook his head. Then again as long as he was the only one to…

"Inverted priestess, eh?" Rhin said as he brandished one of the tarot cards from his deck. "Excellent, this means we'll find something in there. Either that or yesterday's food isn't gonna sit well with my stomach. Hopefully the first thing."

Bordel de merde.

He silently pleaded to Samantha, but she seemed interested in the proposition as well. So much for her being the only one worth trusting in his mind.

"We must get through the gates of evil!" declared Vard, pointing forward.

Samantha rolled her eyes, and walked towards the door. Almost effortlessly she pushed both of them aside, letting in a cold mist which shook Mycroft to his bones.

"Exploring a bit won't hurt," she said, narrowed eyes. "Let's go."

-------------------------------​

The market was uncomfortably familiar, Sabrina realized.

A gigantic black canopy stretched through at least five streets like some kind of creature with an ungodly amount of legs. It was separated into a few dozen small busineses, mostly people with a single table on top of which they put the valuables they wished to sell. Nothing impressive, though it would certainly be enough for what she had in mind.

The stench of burnt grass and incense made its way to her nostrils, forcing her to crinkle her nose. About a street and a half away she could make up the shape of a circle of people, at least thirty of them, all looking at something in the middle and laughing.

Not her problem.

Taking in a deep breath she lowered her wool hat until it almost covered her eyes. There was no way anyone would recognize her, she tried to convince herself. It was like looking for a tree in the forest; who could fathom she'd be suicidal enough to come back to her own city? She felt a certain satisfaction, prancing around under their noses without them ever being the wiser. Then again she had no desire to run any kind of risk, not after getting so far. She needed to be stealthy, or as stealthy as she could be looking like a thief and being accompanied by a carnival freak and a guy with a giant fucking scythe.

"Nice place you brought us to," Silver said, as if on cue. "I have a feeling I'm gonna have some fun here."

"I know right?" Ñako smiled. "With joints like these it's hard not to be optimistic."

Sabrina frowned. "Just don't do anything stupid. Or if you do then make sure it's far away from where I am." She looked around until her gaze stopped on a nearby store. "I need to do some business here."

"Yeah I want to explore too," the ninja said. "I have a feeling it's better to stay close, but I also have a feeling you bought that awful hat from one of the hicks in these stores."

She looked at him with a glare capable of melting ice and promptly turned away as she walked north. She arrived at the store she'd been eyeing up; on top of the dirty table were countless Pokeballs, all used judging by how rusty and scratched they looked.

Exactly what she was looking for.

A man sat behind the counter, reading a newspaper. He wore a military jacket and a red bandana under his black hair. An ornate dagger hung from the pocket on his arm. He addressed her before she could speak.

"A trainer, eh?" he said, his voice as rough as sandpaper. "And one of those sneaky ones that can read minds, too. What do you want?"

Sabrina froze, shocked he'd noticed her abilities without looking at her. However, she decided it wouldn't be a problem as long as he kept it to himself. Without further ado she took Adler's Pokeball from her belt and opened it. The small bugger appeared on top of the table, grinning from ear to ear.

"I want to get this thing off me," she said, pushing the Snorunt as it tried to hug her. "For a good price."

"A Pokemon from Hoenn?" For the first time the man lowered his newspaper, raising an eyebrow. "I don't know if I can buy something that valuable, but… maybe you're interested in some kind of exchange?"

-------------------------------​

"Ah, these hicks are getting impatient," said Ñako as he and Silver made their way through the inner streets. "They're looking at us wrong. Maybe they know we're with the crazy old man."

As if on cue one of the young men from a nearby store glared at them furiously, though he turned around before he could say anything else. It was quite clear the people of the city weren't big fans of the man employing them.

"Whatever, it's too early to start the fun," Ñako shrugged. "Silver, I think you might like that store over there. Looks like they sell all that medicine stuff you like."

"Nice find," Silver smiled, grabbing onto the handle of the scythe strongly. "Thanks papu."

As he approached he pushed the dirty curtains aside, revealing the inside of the store. Contrary to what he would've expected, the person behind the counter was a young, cute girl with rosy cheeks, her blue hair tied into pigtails.

"H-hello sir," she spoke softly, almost a whisper as she bowed down slightly. The nervousness in her face was as clear as if reflected through a mirror. "My name is Loli, it's a p-pleasure. What can I help you with?"

"Good day!" Silver replied, grinning widely. "My multicolor ninja friend told me you have some toys for me. I might not look the part but I'm an apprentice doctor, so let's see what I can get…"

After a few minutes of looking around and choosing the merchandise he put everything into his backpack and gave the money to the young girl, who accepted it with trembling hands. She wasn't even looking at him, her gaze kept going to something outside the store.

Silver sighed. This was simply unacceptable.

"Alright, to hell with it," he said, startling her. "Look, sorry for meddling but you're way too scared of something and that's not cool. I know you don't know me, that I'm carrying a huge scythe and that I look like I'm high as fuck, but… let's see if I can make you smile."

From the Pokeball in his hand appeared his Swablu, faintly flapping his cotton wings as he flew on top of the table. Silence covered the store for a moment, while the blue haired girl stared wordlessly at the tiny Pokemon in front of her.

"It's… so cute!" she lunged at the poor creature, enveloping him with her arms. "Oh my gosh your Swablu is so adorable! You must take really good care of her!"

Two things came to mind. First; apparently his Swablu wasn't a girly boy but a girl, and second; he was getting credit for raising a thing he couldn't stand in the first place. Life was surprising sometimes.

"Thanks, I do what I can," he shrugged. "And I'm glad I could make you smile but… please, tell me what's making you so nervous. I'd love to help you however I can."

Her smile died as soon as he said those words, shoulders tensing up once more as she glared past the curtains covering the store. She gulped, and it took her a few tries before she could get the words out.

"My… my father…" she said, pointing outside. "He did something bad, something Mullac's men didn't like, and now he's…"

Silver didn't need to be psychic to understand what she wanted to say.

"STOP IT! YOU'RE GOING TO KILL HIM!"

The scream traveled through every inch of the market, making sure everyone turned their heads towards the spectacle outside. Silver didn't make himself wait; grabbing the blue haired girl by the hand he led her outside. Ñako was the first person he saw, hands on his pockets and looking directly at the circle of people in the intersection between two streets. Most of them were spectators and bystanders, but in the middle of it they could make out three of the robed men with masks, looking the same as they'd done in the train.

Between them lay a broken, bloodstained shamble of a man, face down on the ground and desperately trying to push himself up. Before he could however, the boot of one of the masked men fell on top of his hand. The man shrieked in pain, rolling to the side once more.

Silver frowned, looking at the girl next to him. Her eyes had started to water and she had both hands over her mouth.

"D-dad…"

That's all the incentive he needed.

"Ñako." He spoke to the man next to him, brandishing his scythe. "Should we break this party up?"

He smiled in that unhinged way of his and grabbed the hilt of his giant shuriken from his back.

"Just what I was thinking."

-------------------------------​

Sabrina put the two Pokeballs she'd gotten from the man on her belt, and turned towards what was once her partner.

"Sorry, but this is where I say goodbye," she told the Snorunt. The creature looked at her with tears shining on her eyes. "It's not that I hate y–… ah, who am I kidding. The point is... you did some things that weren't so stupid, I mean, good…"

She was in the middle of her speech to try and make the thing not feel like trash though she was, when she noticed Adler had stopped listening to her and was now nuzzling the man's arm, who looked at her with surprise and disgust.

Not my problem anymore.

It all looked ready to go her way for once, until the scream reached her.

She really didn't want to follow it, but she knew Silver and the ninja must've had something to do with it. With heavy steps she approached the source of the sound and was pleasantly surprised to discover that her two companions were simply watching the spectacle in the middle of the market, even if they'd already brandished their weapons and were ready to attack.

Couldn't wait until I bought all the stuff I needed, huh?

She walked next to them, hands on her pockets, and watched as one of the masked bastards kicked the poor old man in the ribs, making him flinch in pain.

"This will be a good lesson…" one of them spoke, rugged voice filtering through the mask, "for all those who want to leave the city without thanking master Mullac for his infinite compassion and benevolence."

"Maybe we should bring you to him," one of the others offered. "And see what he does to someone like you."

Sabrina just stared as the two idiots in front of her started walking towards the group of reapers. She sighed deeply, and resigned herself to her fate.

God I hate this fucking town.

The one closest to the old man raised his boot once more, ready to stomp on his head.

"Now you'll…"

Something slashed at his leg before he could finish speaking. Silver moved almost too fast for Sabrina to follow, hitting the masked man under the knee and throwing him to the ground. He'd been lucky not to tear the entire leg off.

"Alright boys, let's see how tough you are against someone who can defend himself!" Silver yelled, grinning from ear to ear.

"Yeah, how about you stop stomping on the old man and fight!" Ñako added, pointing at them with the blades of his shuriken.

Sabrina simply sighed and, while the reapers stared at them in horror and confusion, she took the metal lighter out of her pocket and lit another cigarette.

She then looked down at the beaten thing and realized she'd have no use for it anymore, not with the fire Pokemon she'd acquired as trade for Adler. She stared at it for a moment, feeling something close to nostalgia, and produced flame on it one last time.

"Oh well."

The lighter made an arc of flame as she threw it backwards. It landed on one of the many arms of the black canopy and it didn't take long for the fire to start spreading, slowly swallowing the market around them as it grew and grew, bathing their backs with a potent warmth.

"I always hated this place," she whispered to herself, grabbing one of her new Pokeballs. "It smells and it's full of assholes."

-------------------------------​

As soon as they crossed the town doors they realized the rundown and baleful ambience inside was nothing compared with what was outside. A spiraling, all encompassing mist obscured the floor and beyond it almost all the houses had collapsed into themselves, looking like they'd been hit by some kind of heavy artillery.

Broken glass, bricks and occasional dry blood met them as their feet dispelled the mist under them.

"How quaint," Mycroft whispered under his breath, looking around.

"Wait!" Sammy raised one arm to the side, stopping everyone behind them. She craned herself a bit forward, looking through one of the nearby corners. "What… what is that?"

There were metal cages in every corner, big enough to contain a human being. The bars were entirely brown due to rust, though even then they seemed impossible to bend.

"W-why would they have cages here?" Rhin asked, voice shaking.

Siegfried stroked his chin contemplatively, "Perhaps this is Mullac's doing?"

Rhin nodded, and his hand unconsciously went to the tarot deck hanging from his belt, but he stopped himself. "There's something very wrong here. I can feel it."

"Thanks, I hadn't noticed," Sammy whispered, rolling her eyes.

"I'm not talking about the state of the place!" he replied, nervousness clear in his voice. "It's something in the air. The stars tell me that we're not alone here, we need to get our Pokemon out now."

As much as Mycroft didn't like the idea of having to take orders from someone like Rhin, he couldn't help but agree something didn't feel right about the place. He followed the example of the rest and released Ludovic from his Pokeball.

In front of Rhin materialized a small orange Pokemon with a bald head and a long tail with fire burning at the tip.

"A Charmander, eh?" the boy whispered, the presence of his new companion giving him confidence "I can feel your fiery spirit. You'll be called Wyvern."

Vard and Siegfried's Pokemon were a Pikachu and a Cyndaquil, and judging by the fact he hadn't seen them before Mycroft deduced they were the ones Mullac had given them.

"I am very glad to meet you, my partner." Siegfried bowed to his Pokemon, complete seriousness in his voice. "May we work together to achieve greatness."

The mole looking creature tilted his head to the side, confused by his trainer's words. He didn't have much time for that however, as Vard's voice soon filled the street they were in.

"What an auspicious day this is, for I have a new great beast under my care!" He yelled, extending his palm towards the sky. "Pikachu, show yourself to Vard!"

The small rodent timidly walked towards his trainer, clearly frightened by the sound of his voice.

"Come on Pikachu, there is no time to be afraid!" The man declared, extending both arms to the side. "As Vard's partner you must face your fears, throw yourself at danger and obtain mon… I mean peace!"

"Would you stay quiet for a second!?" Sammy growled, her golden eyes almost beaming with rage. "I can't hear anyth…"

The sound of glass shattering startled her, and soon the rest followed her eyes as she looked towards the thick mist ahead.

Dark, tall figures took shape within the mist, getting clearer the closer they got. Low, almost imperceptible growling came out of them, like the sound of someone trying to speak with a terrible cold.

"Are those…"

Rhin's voice died as soon as he saw what was walking towards them.

At least five or six people, all wearing terribly worn garb and covered in blood and dust. Their eyes were completely white and their skin had turned into a plain grey. One of them, the one in the back, had a gigantic cut in the middle of his stomach and part of his guts were spilling out.

They were too horrified to notice the figures approaching from between the houses. A small creature jumped towards Rhin, its sharp front teeth scratching his arm as he lunged towards it.

"Agh!" The boy took a step back, startling everyone around him. "R-Rattatas!"

At least ten of the rodent Pokemon had appeared from the shadows and were now surrounding them. Their bright red eyes gleamed with hostility.

"W-what's going on?!" Mycroft hollered, trembling from feet to the tip of his hair. "This isn't… woah!"

One of the white eyed people threw herself at him, attempting to grab him by the arm. He barely managed to take a step back, avoiding her as she fell to the ground with a weak thump.

"These people aren't okay!" he declared, the obviousness of his remark dawning on him a few seconds after.

Siegfried stared at the large man approaching him, a hint of hesitation in his voice, "Excuse me gentleman, but I believe your intentions may be hostile."

"Are you serious!?" Sammy yelled, thowing her Pokeball to the ground. "Geek, help us out! We need to make our way out of here!"

As soon as the Treecko's feet touched the ground he jumped forward, kicking one of the Rattata towards the wall, where it fell unconscious. Three others ran towards him, their overgrown incisors glowing with energy.

Vard stepped forward, his smile not wavering an inch.

"Don't panic! I know exactly what to do!"

From the pocket of his belt he grabbed a big, red onion and took a bite out of it. For a moment they thought that's what he was talking about, but then he threw his arm forward.

"I could defeat all these Rattatas in the time it takes my hair to take form, but I'm not here to brag," he said. "Pikachu, destroy these miscreants with Storm of Osiris!"

Pikachu turned towards him, raising an eyebrow.

"Thundershock, Pikachu. I meant Thundershock."

Pikachu concentrated for a moment, releasing a small beam of electricity from his cheeks. It tore through the air towards the mindless person next to Siegfried, hitting him right in the chest. He was stunned, but only for a moment. As soon as the crackling energy left his body he threw himself at the closest victim once more. Siegfried had to take a quick step backwards to avoid him.

"It's… it's not working?" Sammy narrowed her eyes, incredulous. "But then… wait! Mycroft!" she turned towards the boy next to her, eyes wide open. "Your Riolu! He can…"

"Yes, of course!" He nodded. "L-Ludovic, Allez-y! Use Foresight on those zombies!"

Ludovic planted both feet firmly on the ground, and looking at the enemies in front of him he made his eyes glow with a potent red light. For a moment nothing happened, until they noticed something forming in the mist. Pitch black spheres with enormous white eyes hung above each one of the so called zombies, surrounded by an ever changing purple smoke that traveled down to their bodies.

Sammy took a step back, horrified. "Gastly? Then… they must be controlling those corpses like puppets!"

"Then that's our target," Siegfried nodded. "Though it might be smarter to simply defeat the Rattata and try to run away."

The rest seemed tempted with the idea, until Vard opened his mouth to speak.

"No, we must firmly plant ourselves in front of the enemy and emerge victorious!" He raised a fist, smiling. "As it is declared by the Law of Vard!"

Mycroft shook his head. "I'm… almost afraid to ask, but what does the Law of Vard say?"

"The Law of Vard is like his hair; firm and leafy!"

"That… doesn't clear up much."

"I don't pretend to understand the Law of Vard, I just enforce it!" Vard pointed at their enemies once more. "Now we must fight! Pikachu, once more!"

The shock of electricity pushed the rest of the zombies back, giving them enough space to get into position. Sammy studied each and every single one of the enemies surrounding them, trying to come up with a strategy to get out of alive of such a situation.

"Alright, if we're gonna do something stupid then let's at least do it right," she said, pointing forward. "Everyone, attack the Gastly!"

As all their Pokemon threw themselves towards their enemies, none of them noticed that a pair of eyes were watching them from behind a nearby corner.

A pair of very human eyes, belonging to a confused girl with a letter in her right hand, bearing Mullac's seal.

-------------------------------​

Wolfswift walked alone through the endless expanse of Route 6, hands on his pockets and his partner Sneasel walking alongside him.

He had no need for supplies or anything of the like, unlike the rest of the group he'd unfortunately have to join forces with. He didn't trust any of them, and would much rather go out to train his Pokemon alone. Strength would be necessary for their job, so it wouldn't hurt to start early.

Something shrieked next to him once he took a step forward. Looking down he noticed the distinct shape of a small, yellow bell that was a Pokemon's head, hiding amidst the tall grass. He then saw that he was stepping on the thing's vines, and lifted up his foot.

The Bellsprout jumped a few feet back, still shrieking at him for what he'd done. His thin, vine like arms extended at his side and his eyes shone with hostility.

His Sneasel walked next to him and brandished his sharp claws, smiling maliciously. But before he could throw himself at the poor grass Pokemon, Wolfswift interrupted him.

"Don't bother," he said, tone bored. "This one's too weak to be worth fighting. I'll take care of it."

He took the small revolver from the holster on his hip, about as casually as one would grab one of their Pokeballs. Almost without looking he pointed the barrel of it at the Bellsprout, finger hovering over the trigger.

A sharp sound cut through the air before he could shoot, followed by an intense pain in his wrist as something coiled around it.

"Agh, wh...!"

Wolfswift's revolver fell to the ground as his arm was pulled backwards. Looking over his shoulder he saw what had grabbed him; a long, leather whip, extending towards someone's hand.

"Well, what do we have here?"

His eyes went wide. Six figures stood behind him, their appearances blurry due to the sun hitting him in the eyes. The only thing he could see were the teeth of the one holding the whip as he smiled.

"It would be a shame, to waste bullets on a filthy Bellsprout," he said, voice thin and raspy. "Don't you think?"

That's the last thing Wolfswift heard before everything went black.

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Current party at the end of the chapter (Art and image courtesy of Yuki):

V4rExUc.jpg
 

SilverRockets

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A/N: There's a small flashback in this chapter which will be marked with 》and《 at the start and end of it.

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Chapter 3: Saffron - Part 2


Three against three would've sounded like a fair fight to most, especially when one of the people they were up against had a severe limp due to a scythe cut.

Sabrina disagreed. Fair fights were for chumps who didn't know how to turn the tide of battle in their favor. Idiots who masqueraded their weakness with honor instead of ingenuity.

She spun one of her new Pokeballs with one finger as the fire grew behind them, slowly consuming the market. Screams of terror and general sounds of panic and fleeing made their way to her. The three reapers facing her seemed somewhat startled by what she'd done. Her gaze fell on the beaten old man between them, covered in dirt and blood.

It would've been merciful to take him out of his misery, but she had plans for him yet.

"Aren't those…" spoke the masked woman whose leg was bleeding. "…Mullac's trainers?"

"They are," the one next to her confirmed, narrowing his eyes through his mask. "We have orders not to kill them but… they did just set the market on fire."

The third one smiled under his mask, "And accidents do happen."

Sabrina rolled her eyes at their pathetic attempt at intimidation, deciding it was time to get this over with. Taking in a deep breath she looked at the back of Silver and Ñako's head, concentrating. It had been a while since the last time she had to use her powers.

"Hey."

Both men shivered as a voice boomed inside their heads, almost immediately turning to look at Sabrina. Her eyes were closed, lips pursed.

"Yes, I am talking to your minds and no, you are not crazy."

"W-Wha…?" Silver tilted his head to the side. "Flaca, you got yourself a Walkie-Talkie or somethin'?"

Ñako placed his fingers on his temples, wincing. "Is this one of those witch things that talks to your head?"

"Just listen. If we get this old guy out of here he'll be indebted to us. And we all know we could use some extra cash."

Ñako and Silver exchanged looks for a moment and then proceeded to shrug in unison.

"Well, if you say so…"

Silver grabbed his remaining Pokeball and smiled as he opened it. Spearow emerged from its light, flapping his wings strongly and looking at the reapers with a strange mix of malice and boredom.

"Alright Pogo, we're gonna follow the Flaca's advice," he told the bird, pointing towards the young girl at his side. "You and Flancito, fly her out of here! I'm sure her dad's gonna want her alive."

At first the girl seemed horrified as the two flying Pokemon grabbed her by the arms with their talons, but once her body lifted off the ground she seemed to understand Silver's plan. Desperation clear in her voice, she screamed one last thing before being carried away by them:

"S-sir! Please, save my father!"

Her silhouette became smaller as she was flown towards Route 7. Silver grinned in relief.

"Very noble of you," one of the reapers said, clear sarcasm in his voice. "Giving away your only route of escape…"

"Yeah yeah shut the fuck up already." Ñako interrupted him, pointing his blade forward. "We doing this or what?"

Sabrina felt the heat of the burning market in her back. They needed to end the fight and escape as fast as possible.

With the familiarity of someone who'd done it a million times before she threw the Pokeball forward, releasing her new partner. The light materialized into a green creature a bit taller than her, her body segmented into various oval pieces and two enormous scythes where her arms should've been. Her eyes were red as rubies.

"I'm aware we don't know each other and all that…" said Sabrina, hands on her pockets, "but I'm gonna need you to help me kill these guys. Also, you're gonna have an awful name and you'll be in countless bloody battles without ever receiving an iota of gratitude. Nice to meet you, Carrie."

The insect Pokemon lowered her glare shyly, as if their meeting had been some kind of emotive, epic event.

"Now, kill."

She jumped forward with enough speed to form a small vacuum of air behind her, translucid wings flapping fast enough to turn invisible. She wound her arm back and slashed at the reaper in front, slicing both the fabric of his cloak and the skin underneath. His body hit the floor, head bouncing on the cold cement, as blood started spouting from the wound.

"Shit!" The woman next to him yelled, eyes going wide. "We need to…!"

Silver and Ñako jumped forward, weapons in hand, before she had a chance to finish her sentence.

"Eat it hoodie!" the first declared, grinning from ear to ear.

"Ah… senseless killing," the latter whispered to himself. "I like these people."

It was over before it began. Soon enough the only people still in the market were the three trainers, the beaten old man, Sabrina's Scyther and the newly added pile of corpses in front of them.

Ñako folded the shuriken, still dripping with blood, and hung it from his back as he approached Sabrina.

"Not that I didn't enjoy that…" he said, raising an eyebrow, "but do you mind repeating why we're provoking the guy who's paying us?"

"That geezer Mullac needs us. It'll be fine," she shrugged. "Besides, you saw how little he cared about the guys he sent to the train."

Silver nodded. "And we're saving this guy, which means a sure reward!"

Their collective gazes fell on the almost unconscious old man, still covered in a not negligible amount of his own blood.

"Oh right, we should probably make sure he doesn't die," Ñako said, walking towards him.

The flames were almost on top of them as he opened his Pokeball, releasing the Abra they'd all seen in the train the night before. He fell on his butt and leaned his head to the side, breathing in deeply with his eyes closed.

"Paja, could I get a Teleport out with this guy?" he asked, grabbing the man by the collar. "I'll take your snoring as a yes."

The Abra lazily extended his arm to touch his trainer, a purple light coating their bodies a moment after as their shapes began to dissipate.

"See you outs-!" Ñako said as he vanished into thin air.

Silver looked around with a certain amount of worry in his expression, seeing the fire get closer and closer. Sabrina however didn't seem very bothered by it as she tapped her Scyther on the shoulder.

"Carrie, fly me and this guy out of here," she ordered, tone bored. "And make it quick. I hope you're getting used to this."

She lowered her head once more and obeyed without hesitation. Flying two humans on her back was a bit much, but they managed to get through above the fire just fine. After a couple minutes they spotted the funny looking ninja and his Pokemon next to the old man they'd saved and his daughter. They were on the outside of town, next to the tall grass of Route 7.

As they touched ground Sabrina noticed the girl with her arms around her father, tears running down her cheeks. Judging by all the bandages covering his body it seemed she'd gotten herself busy and patched him up as fast as humanly possible.

"I'm so glad you're okay!" she sobbed, hands shaking. "Oh dad, I was so worried!"

"I… I know," the man replied, smiling weakly. "It was thanks to these youngsters. I owe my life to them."

Silver approached his two Pokemon and let them land on his shoulder, patting them both in the head.

"Nice one! You two deserve the best birdseed money can buy!"

Carrie looked at the scene with unmistakable hope in her eyes and turned towards Sabrina, who simply frowned and turned around. She could almost feel the sadness of the insect's glare on her back, and sighed.

Making sure no one was looking at them, she slowly raised her hand, giving the Pokemon a thumbs up. She could swear the thing lightly screeched in glee.

Once father and daughter stopped crying over how happy they were or whatever, Sabrina approached them with the look of someone ready to do business. They both raised their heads towards her and saw as she extended her palm forward.

"Money," she said.

The man narrowed his eyes in confusion, looking all around as if he expected her to be talking to someone else.

"Wh-…"

"The money, geezer, the reward for saving you," she repeated, shaking her palm. "And make it quick, I wanna get out of this dump as fast as I can."

More silence, more confused looks. Had she really done all that for nothing? No, she still had one more card to play.

For the first time since meeting her, Ñako and Silver saw as she took out her hat, squishing it strongly with one hand over her chest. She closed her eyes, expression turning to one of intense sadness.

"She's… she's almost her age, my little sister." She pointed at the blue haired girl with shaking fingers. "They even look alike. The doctors say there's no cure for her sickness... all I can do is try to mitigate her suffering." She tried to summon tears and forcibly made her lower lip shake. "But it is too expensive."

She could almost picture the look of surprise and disgust in the faces of her companions behind her, but decided to ignore it.

"For two years I've been travelling the world as a mercenary, accepting the most dangerous jobs from the wealthiest of clients." She clenched her fist, voice breaking. "Without stop, without rest, all so… all so I could see her smile, one last time…"

With her act finished she looked up, taking in the reaction of the two. The man looked down, biting his lip and clearly moved by her words. The girl was a whole different story; new and bigger tears ran down her cheeks as she tried her best not to sob.

Hook, line and sinker.

At least so she thought, until the girl lunged forward and grabbed her hand with both of hers, smiling with difficulty.

"I… I'm studying medicine and I'm good at healing people and… and…" she tried to speak through the tears. "I'll follow all of you, and I promise I'll do everything in my power to help your little sister!"

Sabrina's smug smile died as soon as she heard those words, soon followed by the stifled laughs of Silver and the ninja behind her.

She looked down at the girl's hands, sighing as she let her shoulders fall.

"God dammit."

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Horrible people, asking me to come here all of a sudden. I should've stayed in the Orange Islands with all those pink Pokemon and be stupidly happy forever.

Those were the thoughts going through the girl's mind as she walked through the outer slums of Saffron with Mullac's letter in hand. Her brown hair was separated into two well crafted braids and on top of her head sat a strange, white hat with eyes and kitty ears. The sweatshirt she wore was more than a few sizes too big for her, so the sleeves went past her hands and flopped around with every step she took.

She heard something past the corner of the next street and froze with her heart in her throat. She'd seen that group of strange people before and they were fighting… things. She'd decided it would be to her benefit to get away from them.

What came out of the shadows didn't look like any of them, which at first she thought was a good thing. Then she noticed the state of the person walking towards her; empty eyes, several cuts and injuries all over and clothes covered in blood.

The thing swatted at her. She choked on a scream as she took a step back and dodged, eyes going wide in horror. The smell hit her, as potent as a punch to the nose and all encompasing. She had to summon all the will she had in her not to throw up on the spot.

"A-agh, what the…!?" She took an arm to her chest, hand shaking. "People in decomposition? What…?"

She heard various steps approaching and feared more… whatever these things were would surround her. Fortunately it was just the group of people she'd seen before, running through the street as a small army of undead followed them.

"The politics of failure have failed!" declared the one with the pink afro, a chubby Pikachu hanging from his shoulder. "We must look for shelter!"

The ones in front of her turned towards the sound and, for a moment, she had the hope they would chase those people instead of her. It was short lived as the second one made another attempt at grabbing her.

Looks like I have to choose between the pink afro and this, she thought to herself, cursing her luck.

She considered it for a good five seconds before making the decision.

"Pink afro, goddamit!"

She lunged past the two zombies and ran in the same direction as them.

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Rhin felt guilty for jokingly thinking they would encounter a zombie movie situation when they entered the outer slums. Now he was pretty sure the cosmos did listen to him, except instead of trying to help him they simply laughed while watching him suffer.

He smiled to himself as he ran from the zombies, Wyvern hanging from his back. If the stars wanted a good show then he'd give them one.

"There, that place!" Sammy yelled, pointing towards a nearby building. "The door is open, come on!"

A worn sign hung above the entrance: Winchester II.

Once all of them were inside Sammy and Siegfried locked the heavy wooden door by putting in front as many chairs and tables as they could find. Rhin decided to make himself useful and tumbled his way to the fuse box, turning the lights on.

The first thing he saw after being momentarily blinded was a beautiful, ornate pool table in the middle of the room. At its right was what looked like a counter full of unopened bottles of alcohol, covered in dust. A jukebox sat at the other extreme, its weak light still twinkling after what must've been years.

Of all the places, it had to be a pub, he thought, frowning.

"We need to check for other entrances so we can block them," Sammy ordered, looking around desperately.

"Ugh, this place is dirty," Mycroft shuddered as he tiptoed through the filth covered floor. "Wait, why are we boxing ourselves in?"

"These aren't real zombies," she said. "Either the Gastlys stop possessing them and come inside to fight, or they get bored and leave after a while."

Or they wait forever because they're ghosts and they have all the time in the world, Rhin thought hopelessly.

He looked at Vard, who walked around the room curiously and studied the place. Probably considering turning it into his base of operations or something similar. He smiled; he really couldn't be mad at a guy like that.

He was in the middle of wondering where the man's confidence came from when the sound of breaking wood made him jump. A long, pale arm made an attempt at his neck, but Rhin's reflexes allowed him to lower his head and barely avoid the swat.

"Shit, they're coming in!" he yelled, gritting his teeth.

"Ah, bastards!" Vard said. "We must teach them a lesson!"

More and more arms broke through the crumbling defense they'd managed to put in front of the door. Slowly everyone gathered on the back of the bar, Pokeballs in hand and sweat running down their foreheads.

A few more seconds is all it took before the shattered splinters of the doors flew to the side, letting in at least ten of the corpses inside. They growled and walked slowly towards them, heads leaning to the side and eyes empty.

Mycroft took a step back towards the jukebox. "Merde, we need to do something!"

Siegfried nodded, looking down to the Cyndaquil. "Elliot, I'm counting on you," he said, voice completely calm.

"Our only chance is to attack the Gastlys and take them out," Sammy said, lower lip trembling. "We need to combine our Pokemon's strength and attack all at once."

"That is, if our Pokemon can even see the Gastlys," Siefgried whispered.

"Oh, right!" Mycroft said, "Maybe I can…"

As he took a step back he accidentally bumped his elbow on one of the buttons of the jukebox. The machine roared with an electronic buzzing sound and came to life, startling all the trainers in the room.

"Tonight I'm gonna have myself a real good time…"

A voice came out of the device, bathing the bar with the low hums of music. Mycroft looked at the jukebox, then at the zombies and then at the jukebox once more.

"Why is Queen playing?" he asked, nose crinkled. "Ah, it doesn't matter. Ludovic, Foresight!"

The Riolu's eyes turned red once more, and just as it had happened before the gaseous shapes of the Gastlys appeared above the corpses' heads, smiling maliciously as they approached.

"Now!" Sammy yelled, throwing a Pokeball to the ground. From it emerged a bulb like Pokemon with four stubby legs, and a leaf coming out of her head. The Chikorita planted herself in front of her opponents. "Fiona, Razor Leaf!"

"Wyvern, Scratch!"

"Elliot, use Tackle if you may."

"Pikachu, destroy those mutants!" Vard ordered. "Storm of Osiris!"

As their Pokemon pushed back the zombies and tried their best to leave the Gastlys out of commission, someone approached from the back entrance of the bar. The girl with the strange hat scurried as silently as she could through the dark corridors, hearing commotion close. She carefully opened the door at the end of the hallway, finding herself behind the counter of the bar. At her right were the five people she'd followed, furiously battling what was at her left. At least ten of the horrible living corpses, their combined stench flooding the room like poison gas.

"Agh, disgusting!" she yelled, covering her nose with the sleeves of her sweatshirt.

Everyone in the room turned towards her, including the zombies. She froze for a moment, cursing herself, and grabbed the Pokeball hanging from a small holster in her jeans.

"I need to get out of here! Milkshake, Icy Wind!"

In front of her appeared a creature resembling a snake, with soft blue scales covering everything except her belly. Two small, white wings grew from the sides of her head.

The Dratini wound her head back, inhaling deeply, and spat a powerful torrent of frozen air into the room. The miniature blizzard swallowed every single Gastly, releasing enough mist at the sides to hide her and her Pokemon from the trainers sharing the room with her.

"W-what was that!?" Rhin asked, covering his face with the folds of his sleeve.

Once the mist and cold dissipated they were left alone with a room full of immobile corpses, the Gastlys controlling them having fled after the devastating attack.

"S-she took them all out at once," Siegfried said, incredulous.

"Wait, where is she?" Mycroft asked.

They looked towards the door behind the counter where the strange girl had previously been. It was now empty, no trainer or Pokemon to be seen. They waited for a few moments to see if more zombies would approach them, but only silence met them.

About a street away from the bar, the girl they'd just met ran as fast as her legs allowed, her long sleeves flapping in the wind behind her. Dratini slithered as she followed her, a look of boredom in her eyes.

"That place didn't look very safe, Milkshake!" she smiled nervously. "We should probably run back to Saffron at once!"

---------------------------------------​

Route 7 spread in front of them endlessly, only tall grass and clear skies there to meet them. Sabrina would've considered the sight beautiful were it not for the pillar of black smoke coming out of the city.

After some deliberation they decided to stick around the route a bit longer, looking for chances to train their Pokemon for the upcoming mission. For some ungodly reason the young girl had decided to follow them, now skipping alongside Silver as she held his Swablu in her arms.

"So… Loli's coming with us then?" Ñako asked, raising an eyebrow. "Or did I get this wrong?"

"Seems so," Sabrina said bitterly.

The girl walked amidst them with a spring in her step, a smile on her face and an arm around Silver's.

"We're going to the house of that sir's sister now?" she asked, excitement clear in her voice. "So I can help her!"

Sabrina froze for a moment, not sure if she'd heard right. Slowly she turned her head towards the girl and frowned.

"Wow…" she said. "Are you braindead or what?"

Loli reeled back for a moment, "U-uh… so, your little sister is okay?"

"No, she's dead," Sabrina said, voice taciturn. "I killed her."

"O-oh."

"And you're next if you keep calling me sir."

Ñako walked next to her, an eyebrow raised, and leaned in to whisper something into her ear.

"That thing about your sister... that's a lie too, right?"

"God…" she sighed. "Just… just shut up, all of you."

Before she could finish considering whether punching the ninja in the face was worthwhile or not, everyone's attention turned towards the grass as it rustled next to them.

A small, round creature peeked through it, her soft blue eyes staring curiously at the group of trainers. The moment Loli's eyes fell on the Jigglypuff she let out a huge gasp and put both hands on her chest.

"IT'S SO CUTE!" She yelled, almost blowing everyone's eardrums up. "Can we catch it? Please, please!"

Silver scratched his cheek and smiled, "Alright, alright." He looked at the Spearow on his shoulder. "Go ahead Pogo, try not to eat her. Oh, and her name's gonna be Regordeta!"

Pogo let out a loud chirp and dived towards his opponent, opening his beak in anticipation. The Jiglypuff's eyes narrowed and her cheeks puffed. She wound back her arm, which caught ablaze as she threw it forward. Spearow felt the heat even before the stubby hand dug into his cheek, sending him a few feet back with a burn that stung badly.

"Sir, that's not a normal Jigglypuff!" Loli exclaimed. "She knows how to use Fire Punch!"

"Fire Punch? That's n-" Silver saw as his Pokemon was so easily repelled. "Hey Pogo come on, hit the chubster!"

While they fought, Sabrina headed north, looking for her own training opportunities. Soon she noticed a few blades of grass which looked different than the rest; a lot shorter and darker. Beneath them was the figure of a creature which looked like a blue onion, with two small red eyes. The Oddish shuddered under her gaze, and soon a couple more joined him. They moved the leaves on their heads ominously, releasing a yellow cloud of powder. However it didn't seem too effective as the wind carried it in the opposite direction.

The three Pokemon seemed to shrink in fear as they saw this and Sabrina almost felt pity for them. Not enough not to fight them, she thought as she opened two Pokeballs. From the first emerged a fox like creature with six fluffy tails and from the second appeared Gouda.

"Gouda, take care of the one in the middle," she ordered. "Rokon, the other two are yours."

The Vulpix turned his head towards her and his expression sent shivers down her spine. Not only were his eyes bloodshot and almost bulging out of their sockets, but a concerning amount of saliva dripped down his sharp fangs to his chin as he smiled wickedly.

Huh, so that's why he was so cheap.

Gouda also looked at her, but with disdain instead of whatever Rokon's expression was. Sabrina didn't know what kind of tasks she was used to from her previous master, but taking on an onion with legs was probably beneath her.

"Hey, can't jump out of a moving train every day," she shrugged. "Let's shrink that belly, alright?"

While the two completely obliterated the defenseless Oddish she decided to spectate the other fights. Ñako faced against a similar number of grass Pokemon with the Bulbasaur he'd received from Mullac, while Silver still had trouble against the fluffy ball of pink, which seemed bent on hitting her opponent with as much fire as possible.

"That Regordeta is on fire!" Silver yelled. "She wants to cook Pogo!

In the time it took her to listen to that and turn back, all the Oddish had been defeated. One of them had fallen face first into the ground, while the other two were burnt to a crisp, the ground crackling with fire from under them.

She noticed another pair of eyes on her, these ones belonging to something a bit more respectable looking. Another Drowzee, identical to Gouda with the exception of his look of fear, hid a soon as they noticed him.

Gouda took a step forward, but Sabrina patted her on the shoulder before she could attack.

"Sorry for interrupting your battle for honor, but this one's for Carrie."

Scyther appeared like a shadow beside her, expression darkening as she faced her opponent. Sabrina rested her hand on her forehead.

"Your first battle," she declared. "Impress me."

She didn't know what she expected, really. Maybe for Carrie to jump forward and flat out eat the poor thing. She would've even tolerated her walking away from the fight, considering the Drowzee too beneath her.

How naïve of me.

What Sabrina didn't expect was for Carrie to hide behind her, shaking from tip to toe like a wet Poochyena.

"Ah… should've imagined it."

It wasn't enough with a schizophrenic Vulpix and a Drowzee with an attitude, no sir. The Scyther needed to have a personality flaw ridiculous enough to be part of the team.

"You fear Pokemon combat, don't you?"

The Scyther lowered her head, cheeks turning a dark green.

"Oh well, nothing I can do. You'll be a means of transportation for the rest of your days," she said, not bothering looking at her. "A Pokemon who doesn't fight is garbage and doesn't deserve my time. Rokon, you go."

Unexpectedly Carrie took a step forward, still shaking, and faced her opponent. She was clearly afraid out of her mind.

"Well, if you insist. Go ahead."

She noticed movement at the edge of her vision. The grass rustled almost imperceptibly, revealing something that ran through it at high speeds towards her Pokemon. Her eyes went wide as she saw it jump at Carrie, long claws wound back and shining under the sunlight.

"Shit, Carrie!"

She didn't have time to dodge. The Meowth slashed at Carrie's face with all the strength he had in him, penetrating skin and leaving three deep cuts where her right eye was.

Sabrina felt her throat turn to ice. The cigarette fell from her fingers. Images flashed through her eyes and, for a moment, she could hear it clearly.

---------------------------------------​

》"Here again? Aren't you tired of being beaten to a pulp every day?"

A furious man stood at the other side of the arena, a heavy iron crucifix hanging from his neck. In front of him stood his only Pokemon; a grim looking Scyther.

"Shut up!" He pointed at Sabrina with his finger. "I'll show you that I can win without resorting to dirty tricks like you, brat!"《

---------------------------------------​

"Gouda, protect Carrie!" Sabrina yelled, the words leaving her mouth before she had time to process them.

Her Drowzee only raised an eyebrow at her before obeying. She pointed one hand at the Meowth and released a small wave of psychic energy, which threw him backwards and stunned him momentarily.

Sabrina stared in horror, the realization of what she'd done flooding her. Heat rising to her face, she returned Carrie to her Pokeball and looked around to make sure no one else had seen that.

Why did I have to remember that now? She lamented herself.

"Scythers are very rare and valuable, I can't find one in the dumpster like you idiots." She pathetically excused herself to her Pokemon, who weren't listening to her in the first place.

Gouda emerged victorious against both the Meowth and Drowzee, though it was clear the battle had taken a heavy toll on her. Sabrina was sure of one thing; she hadn't done it out of respect for her or to protect her teammate, but because she'd been trained to obey blindly, no matter what were to happen to her.

Does she see me like one of those robed bastards? She thought, Am I the same as them for her?

With a sour taste in her mouth she gave her a pat on the head and returned her to her Pokeball, trying not to think about it.

In the distance she noticed Ñako straight up kicking Oddish left and right, who didn't stop coming towards him.

"I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL KILL EVERY FUCKING ODDISH IN KANTO!" He yelled at the top of his lungs. "EVERY SINGLE ONE!"

---------------------------------------​

After a while she decided to find greener pastures for her training, walking away from the rest. Silver managed to catch the Jigglypuff after a lot of effort on his part, and Ñako took the opportunity to catch the Meowth she'd left unconscious.

The tall grass became more peaceful as she kept walking, until she began to loop around towards Saffron once more. She was about to call it quits when a strange sound of metal hitting the ground reached her.

She froze, silently debating what to do. The obvious answer would be to run, obviously, but something akin to curiosity told her she shouldn't.

After a few seconds of walking she spotted the source of the sound. Standing in the middle of the field was a tall man with curly black hair, wearing a sleeveless shirt and worn out jeans. But what caught her attention was the thing in his right hand; an ornate, heavy looking silver sword. It was almost as tall as he was, which spoke volumes of the man's strength considering how easily he was carrying it.

Her steps were heard by him, and their eyes met once he turned around. His were narrowed, though more due to boredom than anything else.

Another trainer hired by Mullac? She thought, Or a mercenary trying to make a name for himself?

The two stared at each other for what felt like an eternity, green eyes clashing against soft brown. Finally Sabrina broke the ice, staring down to the strange collar hanging from his neck and then away as she showed him her back.

"Be careful if you plan to go to Saffron," she said, putting her hands on her pockets. "Later."

---------------------------------------​

Vard breathed in deeply, admiring the landscape before him.

"Ah, mother nature spreads before us like a beautiful woman's legs."

They'd made it out of the slums and walked uphill through the nearest route, stopping on a small mound just outside the city. Behind him Sammy and Siegfried sat against a nearby tree, recovering their strength, while Rhin and Mycroft looked around for wild Pokemon.

"I don't know about you," said Sammy, "but I think I had my fair share of exploring for today."

"We should probably go back to Saffron and rest," Siegfried offered. "It can't be safe to stay outside the city."

Sammy sighed, one hand on her knee, "I doubt those things will come back, since we're on an open field."

The sound of flapping wings made its way towards Vard, who perked up his nose curiously. On top of the fence separating them from the city now rested a bird Pokemon covered in black feathers, with something that looked like a hat on top of his head.

Those black wings flapping, the blood red eyes, the funny beak… a single thought came to Vard's mind.

Could he take the hat off if he wanted?

"You rascal bird!" he pointed at him, his other hand curled into a fist. "You shall be Vard's new servant in the skies! Pikachu, make your will known!"

An explosion of light came out of the man's afro, where the Pokeball was located. Pikachu climbed his way through the prison of hair and emerged with a clear look of Please never release me there again.

"Storm of Osiris!"

While Vard was busy with his fight both Mycroft and Rhin saw the grass rustling their way. Two canine looking Pokemon approached, one covered in orange and black fur and the other one sporting a skull like mark on his forehead.

Rhin smiled, looking directly at the Growlithe, "I'll take care of this one. Keroro, out!"

Next to him Mycroft released the Pokemon he'd received from Mullac; the Squirtle stared down his opponent with clear worry in his face.

"Alright Barty, I'll need your help," Mycroft said, smiling. "This time it won't be a battle for our lives, so it'll be okay."

The fire Pokemon they were facing were quick and powerful, but with a bit of strategy and taking Barty's type advantage into consideration the battle slowly began to tip in their favor.

"Barty, careful!" Mycroft warned, "That Houndoom will…"

Grass rustled behind him. Another wild Pokemon? He turned around as fast as he could but only managed to make out the vague shape of… a hat with cat ears? He had to be hallucinating.

Oh well.

The fight didn't last much longer, and soon all three of the trainers managed to catch the Pokemon giving them trouble. Mycroft kneeled to pick up the ball with his new companion inside, and smiled.

"This wasn't in the plan, but welcome to the team nonetheless Helga," he said. "I hope we can become…"

Something traveled through the grass too fast for him to see properly. Something long and thin, which proceeded to coil around his leg strongly enough to almost topple him to the ground.

"Agh, what the…!"

Thick, blue vines were grabbing his ankle, and as he followed them he saw the Pokemon they belonged to. A tiny ball of vines with feet and two dark eyes hidden underneath.

He could swear he saw the thing smile happily at him.

---------------------------------------​

The sun had almost gone down by the time Ñako and Silver walked back to Saffron. The city itself was livelier than usual, though the ninja attributed it to the fact that they'd recently burnt down the market. Not that anyone could know that, considering all the witnesses were either dead, indebted to them or grabbing Silver's arm. It was a shame that didn't stop most of the people they came across from hurling insults at them.

"Those are Mullac's people!"

"Fucking scum!"

"Get out of our city!"

Loli was shaken by such strong words, but the two trainers simply ignored them as they walked, the shape of Silph Co. growing in the distance.

They kept walking for a few minutes, the barrage of screams and insults never stopping for more than a few seconds. None of them startled Ñako, until they were a couple streets from the building and he heard something actually surprising.

"It's… it's you! You came back!"

They were approached by the exact opposite of what he expected from a citizen of Saffron. A frail, old lady with a bag of groceries still hanging from one of her arms. Her wide smile exacerbated the dozens of wrinkles around her face.

Ñako was too stunned to speak as the woman walked toward him, eyes watering.

"I knew it, it really is you!" she said, voice trembling but full of emotion. "You look a bit different, but your eyes! Your eyes are the same as the last time I saw you!"

"Wh-hey!" Ñako moved his arm urgently as the woman tried to touch him. "I don't know what you're talking about, hag! I've never set foot on this dump in my entire life!"

He got away from the woman as fast as he could, Silver and Loli following behind with frowns of confusion adorning their faces. He shook his head and tried to get what had just happened out of his head; what the hell had that been about?

Finally they reached the street in front of Silph Co and noticed Vard's group waiting for them. The man with the pink afro turned towards them as they approached, smiling thoughtlessly.

"You lot look like you fell on a pit full of dung," he said. "And then you fornicated with it."

"Ah… there was something of a situation," Ñako admitted. "When the black market burned down and all that."

Rhin glared daggers at him, arms crossed. He then looked at the girl accompanying Silver.

"You got tired of killing people so you've resorted to kidnapping?" he asked, voice full of poison.

"Geez, what an attitude."

They exchanged stories while they waited for the rest to arrive, the only ones silent being Rhin and Mycroft who seemed preoccupied with their own thoughts. Once the sun went down all the way they noticed Sabrina approach from a nearby street, hands on her pockets.

"Ah… if that duck gave me a cold…" she whispered to herself, eyebrows knit together.

Sammy raised an eyebrow, "Duck?"

"Oh hey, we're almost all here." Sabrina ignored her. "Where's the guy with white hair? Wolf… something."

As if on cue the glass doors of the building opened up and five people stepped through it. In front were two of the men working under Mullac, their faces hidden by identical masks. They held Wolfswift as he walked towards them, the state of his body even managing to make Sabrina flinch momentarily.

He was covered in gauze and his eyes were bandaged. Several cuts and bruises could be seen on him, blood staining the black fabric of his shirt.

"They found him outside the city."

Mullac was the fourth person, accompanied by someone who seemed to be hiding behind him. He spoke with his usual calming tone, pointing at the wounded boy.

"My men did everything in their power to heal his wounds," he assured them. "However, I'm afraid that his eyes are beyond recovery."

The two men holding Wolfswift let him go. He tumbled forward and fell to his knees, clenching his teeth in pain.

"This mission will be incredibly dangerous," Mullac said, "and there will surely be others looking for the same objects; it wouldn't be a stretch to consider that you'll run into them. You might end up like this boy, or even worse."

Rhin took a step forward, wanting to help the man but afraid he might attack him. "How… what happened to you?"

"Tsk…" Wolfswift got to his feet with difficulty, legs still wobbling. "There were… too many of them. I couldn't do anything."

Sabrina simply stared at the sorry state he was in, wondering if he'd even be useful for the mission. What if he turned into a burden? What if that burden cost them their life? It would've been merciful to either force him to stay or take him out of his misery.

Would someone miss him if he were gone? She thought, shoulders dropping. Does he have someone back home waiting for him?

Silver tapped Loli in the shoulder and pointed at Wolfswift, "Hey, see if those hooded guys did anything to him."

She nodded enthusiastically and kneeled next to the man, swiftly inspecting all his wounds with a steady hand.

"Sir, he was very well taken care of," she said. "But… they were right, his eyes…"

A few feet from them, Vard crossed his arms and smiled.

"Very well done, my foreman!" He patted Silver on the shoulder. "That girl will be a good asset for the Team of Vard! For your foresight I give you this!"

He fumbled around inside his cape for a moment until he found what he was looking for. Grabbing it by the tail he showed Silver an upside down, passed out Rattata with his tongue sticking out.

"He's not dead, just shake it a little."

"You've had that thing in your cape for hours?" Sammy asked, horrified.

"Thank you so much, Vard sir!" Silver said, voice turning bubbly in excitement. "I promise I'll train him as if he were my own family!"

While everyone around him wondered what the hell he'd meant by that, Mullac approached them and cleared his throat, grabbing their attention.

"By the way, I believe it's time for me to introduce you."

He moved to the side, revealing the person who was hiding behind him. Everyone who'd been at the slums that afternoon recognized her immediately by the unmistakable hat with cat ears and the long sleeved sweatshirt.

"She is a trainer who will travel with you," Mullac explained. "She calls herself Muffin."

"It's the girl from the bar," Mycroft said, eyes wide.

"Bar?" Silver smiled, "What bar? You guys had fun without us?"

The girl apparently named Muffin introduced herself quietly, though it was clear by the look on her eyes that she didn't quite trust the group she'd been stuck with.

After a few minutes of preparations Mullac gave each one of them a small backpack, which felt comfortably heavy as they carried it. Sabrina had to dump her old one and put the crossbow inside the new one along with everything else.

"Those have a few rations of food and a tent," Mullac said. "It's all I can give you until your return, I'm afraid."

The man turned to the side, eyes lost on the endless landscape leading north. He waited for a few moments before speaking again.

"As I've explained before, your mission is to find the underground dungeon hidden within Pewter's abandoned prison. Inside one of the cells you will find the object I want. I recommend you travel through Route 5 tonight, as you will be safer under the blanket of darkness.

"The first city you'll encounter will be Cerulean; you might stop there to rest and buy more provisions were they to run out. After that you'll walk towards Mt. Moon and head north. It's a long, arduous path but I trust you can handle it."

He narrowed his eyes, and a gleam of something like sadness appeared behind them.

"That is all. Good luck."

---------------------------------------​

They were almost an hour into the road through Route 5 when Mycroft slowed his walking, purposely falling behind.

He'd been so nervous in front of Mullac he hadn't gotten a word in. How could he? He'd been lucky to put that inside his pocket instead of the backpack he had to empty in front of the man. Had it been there, he would've seen it and all his plans would've collapsed on the spot.

As the others went ahead he put one hand inside the pocket of his overcoat. He had to make sure it was still there, as stupid as it was. Slowly he took it out, and the light made his eyes itchy.

In his hand he held a long, pristine golden feather. It glowed with a powerful, multicolor gleam and the very touch of it sent shivers through his skin. Its warmth had been the only thing keeping him from fleeing as soon as their mission had been revealed.

Mullac's words came to mind once more. The legend of Ho-oh, and the divine power it had given humanity long ago…

If the man knew he held one of the objects he was looking for, Mycroft would surely be killed on the spot. He needed to protect it.

He needed to keep Ho-oh's feather safe.
 

SilverRockets

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Chapter 4: Rivals - Part 1

A pestering, ever-present uneasiness followed Mycroft as they made their way toward Cerulean. The decrepit city they'd left behind was nothing more than a miniscule speck in the horizon now, which did little to ease the anxiety bubbling in his stomach. He wouldn't be surprised if Mullac could still see them, all the way here.

He headed to the right of the dirt road they were traversing, sticking next to Samantha who spearheaded the walk with both hands on the wrinkly map she'd found inside her backpack. He felt a bit more comfortable in that position; not that he trusted any of them but at the very least she wouldn't randomly burn down the first thing she encountered.

"I've never gone through this road before," she told the rest, eyes glued to the map, "but as long as we keep going north…"

"Who put the redhead in charge?" asked Ñako, stomping the ground with wild abandon. Muffin walked behind him, a constant frown on her face.

Samantha scowled, the bridge of her nose getting all wrinkly. "No one, and I don't want to be in charge either but someone has to get us to Ceru-"

She froze in the middle of saying that, which led Mycroft to crash against her back. The rest of the group stopped as well, half confused and half irritated.

"Did you hear that?" she whispered, narrowing her eyes. "There! Look!"

"Already giving orders? I like that," said Silver with a smile. "Yes ma'am."

"Shut up and follow me!"

They did as they were told –some reluctantly– as she sneaked her way through some nearby bushes at the side of the road. Soon they were all kneeling in wet mud behind a tall line of brambles. Samantha's gaze was set on a familiar shape in the distance.

"See? There's a cabin in there," she told the rest, pointing at the lone, small building. "And the lights are on."

Sabrina raised an eyebrow. "We're hiding… from a cabin?" she asked, cigarette still hanging from her mouth.

"We don't know who's in there, and Mullac did tell us to be careful," she replied. "Besides, if what he told us is true, then there might be… others, looking for the same object as we are."

A long, awkward silence followed her statement, and some eyebrows were raised her way. Most of them realized her scenario was a bit too specific for it not to be a coincidence. However before anyone could bring it up, Siegfried spoke:

"Sammy is right. The prudent option would be to silently move through the tall grass until…"

His words were interrupted as Vard stood up, startling his companions and splashing mud all around him. He pointed forward with one finger, sporting a wide grin as he yelled:

"Humbug! Only a coward hides in the wet grass of Route 4!"

Mycroft stared at the man slack-jawed, a single thought going through his mind.

You cannot be serious.

The ninja was the first to reply. "Vard, this is Route 5."

"Humbug I say!"

Strong rays of light broke through his pink afro, and after a few moments emerged from it a Pokemon with black, long wings and a sharp yellow beak.

"What are you doing!?" protested Sammy, eyes wide in anger.

"Do not fear my friends, leave this to Vard!" he replied, raising his hand to the sky. "Yamikarazu, take me to the ceiling of that cabin!"

Rhin scoffed, "Yeah right, and I'm sure they won't see you with that pink cape of yours."

"Never underestimate your leader!" He grabbed the edge of his cape. "Secret technique of Vard Nº 32: Reversible cape!"

With a quick motion he draped himself with the inside of the cloth, which was pitch black.

"Sometimes my genius scares even me," he said from inside his disguise. "I know you'd be trembling in fear like little girls were I to abandon you, so I'll leave you this camouflage!" He looked up at the Murkrow flying above him. "Yamikarazu: Aero-distortion!"

A strong flapping of wings was heard, followed by a sudden, thick layer of mist that started covering everything in between them and the cabin, to the point where it became difficult to see a few feet ahead. Sabrina recognized this as the effect of the move called Haze.

A moment after, Vard was lifted from the ground as Murkrow grabbed him by the shoulders, slowly carrying him through the air towards the cabin.

None of them spoke for a few seconds, either too dumbfounded or offended by what had just happened. Finally Ñako got to his feet, stretching both arms, and said.

"All right, let's steal."

"Huh?" Sabrina stared at him, frowning.

"If you think about it, it'd be too much of a coincidence if the guys who want to kill us were to be in the only shining spot in the entire route," he shrugged.

Sabrina considered this, being the only one who understood his intentions right away. After a few moments she raised to her feet as well, sighing as she threw the cigarette to the ground.

Siegfried was the next to stand up, sporting a frown full of wrory, "You'll need help if something happens."

"I'm going too!" Silver said, still holding on to Loli and with the Rattata Vard had given him on top of his head. "Loli, Raty, let's go help our leader Vard."

"Yes, sir!"

All five of them –including Wolfswift who'd followed without a word– started walking through the thick of the fog toward the cabin. Soon the shapes of their bodies were swallowed by the mist, leaving the remaining four trainers staring at nothing.

"They… they can't be serious, right?" asked Muffin, forming a nervous smile.

Mycroft placed his palm against his face, sighing deeply into it. "God, what is wrong with them!? Why are they all so useless!?"


---------------------------------​


Sabrina was slowly getting used to the group's stupidity, to the point where the actions of the freak with the pink afro only somewhat managed to surprise her. She would've liked to believe this was a good omen, but only time would tell.

The ninja did have a point, though. At worst they would find an empty cabin without anything to steal inside. The chances of running into someone hostile were astronomically low, or at least that's what logic dictated. God knows her bad luck had displayed the ability to shit into even the most solid of logic in the past.

As if prompted by her thoughts, she saw as Vard reached the ceiling of the cabin and set foot on it, smiling as he turned around to face them.

"I am okay, the great Vard will never l–!"

The tiles broke from under him. Through the thick of the fog she saw the dark figure that was his body fall down at an alarming speed, followed by the sound of him crashing against something that shattered upon impact.

"It looks like he fell," said the one who talked a lot, pointing out the obvious.

"Oh my god," Sabrina whispered, rubbing her temples. "I'm guessing the whole stealth plan kinda fell off." It took her a moment to realize the pun she just made. "If we're gonna pillage we might as well do it already."

The gunfreak with white hair stared all around him, clearly confused.

"Pillage? Where?" he asked. "Who just talked?"

"Oh yeah, you… Wolfsomething," the ninja gave him a poke on the shoulder. "Stay here and watch our backs."

Without another word he approached the cabin like a kid excited for his Christmas presents. He stopped just before the door and raised his leg as high as he could, a deranged smile on his face. She didn't need to be psychic, which she was, to guess what he was about to do.

"GOOOOOD DAY!" Ñako yelled as he kicked the door with all his strength, making it fly off its hinges and into the inside of the cabin.

---------------------------------​

The first thing he saw was Vard, his torso slightly buried into the wooden floor and two halves of a broken table at his right and left. Next to him was a chubby man somewhere in his forties, sitting on a chair and clearly in shock. At the other side of the room, standing on the sill of the door leading to what looked like a kitchen, was an old lady with a silver plate on her hands, which had two glasses and a jar full of water.

Not exactly what he expected.

Vard raised his trembling hand and gave him a thumbs up, still covered in wood planks. "Your leader is fine!"

"Uh…" the old lady looked at Vard, then at Ñako and then at his husband, "V-visitors?"

The rest of the group arrived at the door. Siegfried let out a sigh, halfway between relief and exasperation, as he entered the cabin.

"Vard, you should be more careful with that bird of yours," he said, his voice that of a scolding parent. His knees bent slightly down as he performed a cordial bow towards the old couple. "My most sincere apologies, you two. Me and my friends thought this cabin was abandoned."

"Oh… yes, it's fine dear," the woman said, forming a nervous smile.

"Is it!?" Her husband asked, standing up from the chair, brow furrowed.

She shot him an icy look and the man crossed his arms, looking to the side.

"Ah, of course, I forgot to introduce myself!" Siegfried added, rubbing the back of his head, a warm smile on his face. "My name is Siegfried, and I'm a Pokemon trainer."

"It's a pleasure, dear," the woman nodded, leaving the plate in another, smaller table next to her. "We don't see many trainers around here these days. Me and my husband… we're in charge of a daycare, as you can see."

She pointed at a small wooden plank protruding out of the wall. On top of it sat two Pokemon eggs; each one covered in differently colored spots. Both had a small piece of paper stuck to them with a name: Caroline and Nobu.

"It's a shame we don't get many clients these days," she sighed, the lines on her face exacerbating. "Times being what they are."

Siegfried was about to reply politely when he felt a tap on the shoulder. When he turned around he found himself face to face with Sabrina, whose eyes had a gleam in them he didn't like one bit.

Let me handle this one, her eyes said.

---------------------------------​


Sabrina stared with disdain as Siegfried went on and on, putting on the scout boy act and getting on the old couple's good side. He'd probably get one of the eggs for his troubles too, if things kept going his way. She looked at the plank; there was still another one there. It wasn't too late to perform a little magic.

Besides, she needed something to distract Silver and the ninja before they got bored and started doing something stupid. She cracked her knuckles and gently pushed Siegfried aside, presenting herself to the owners of the cabin.

She put her hat into place, already forming that fake, courteous smile she'd used before. She could almost hear the unanimous Oh no in everyone's minds.

"I deeply apologize for any trouble we might have caused you, my wrinkly friends," she said, imitating Siegfried's bow. "As my companion said, we thought this house was empty, which is why we choose it to film the choreography for our next single."

The couple blinked a few times, until the woman mumbled:

"S-single?"

Sabrina leaned her head to the side, faking surprise. "Oh, do you not recognize us? Then allow me to introduce our group."

She extended her arms to the side, pointing towards the five other people with her.

"We… are Rosita Storm," she declared with a smile. "Famous band and founders of the musical genre Death Metal Trash Cumbia."

She had to try hard not to laugh at everyone's expressions once they processed her words.

"A-ah…" the old man said.

"That one over there is Silver, our singer and lead guitar, accompanied by Loli, his faithful assistant." Without missing a beat the aforementioned winked and raised his hand as if greeting his fans. "The one outside is Wolfswift, our drummer." White hair guy reacted at the sound of his name, looking around in confusion. "Next to me is Ñako, main bassist." The ninja started playing air guitar, eyes tightly closed in concentration. "And my very educated friend here is Daniel Agostini, master of organ and tambourine."

Why am I the only one with a different name? his expression seemed to ask.

"And of course, the man fallen from the sky." She pointed at the pink afro freak, who promptly got to his feet and glamorously draped himself in his cape. "Vard, choreographer and in charge of outfits."

Another moment of silence. She needed to get to the point fast.

"Ah, how impolite of me. I am Sabrina, the manager." She pressed the button on her Pokeball, and a flash of light materialized on top of her hat. The bloodthirsty Vulpix started shaking his head up and down as soon as he appeared. "And this is Rokon, the band's mascot."

"I…"

"In any case!" she interrupted, clearing her throat. "We are very sorry for your troubles; I assure you that our roadies will pay for all the damage done to this cabin." She looked at the two eggs, it was time for the final act. Summoning all the seriousness in her she spoke again. "But before we go, and if it's not a bother, my venerable elders… would you mind doing a favor to one of our youngest fans?"

The couple nodded slowly.

"Jaime is 8 years old, and is suffering from a terrible disease for which there is no cure…"

Again!? was clearly written on Silver, Loli and Ñako's face.

"His biggest dream has always been to witness the birth of a Pokemon, and we wish…" She lowered her head, leaving space for a dramatic pause. "Since our music isn't enough… we would like to, at the very least, fulfill his dream before he has to pass into the next world. Would you… would you be kind enough to help us accomplish that?"

---------------------------------​

The old couple exchanged a look, not quite convinced that what the strange woman in the worn hat said was true.

"Well…" said the man. "The first egg… I guess you could have it, since its trainer hasn't shown up."

"Are you sure that's a good idea, dear?" his wife asked, eyebrows knit together. "Maybe there's a reason that person couldn't come to retrieve it."

"In that case we should still give it away," he argued. "The longer we have these the higher the chance the authorities find out, and you know what they think about us."

He grabbed the one with Nobu written to it and handed it over to Siegfried, to the great indignation of Sabrina. She formed a scowl that could've frozen a lake and took a cigarette from her pocket, raising it to her head so Rokon could light it.

"Can we get out of this fucking cabin already?"

The couple turned towards her, startled by her sudden change in attitude. But before they could say anything a strong, fruity smell entered the cabin from outside, followed by the sound of wooden heels hitting the ground.

"Granny, sorry for entering…" A soft, slightly grating voice flooded the room. "Oh… oh no, what a disaster! What horror!"

Through the sill of the door walked a rather tall and voluptuous woman in her mid twenties. A messy curtain of hair fell towards her hip, blonde turning into pink at the tips of it. She wore a short jean skirt and a bright pink top. She chewed on a piece of strawberry gum, its strong smell hitting everyone as soon as she took a step inside.

"Oh my gosh, like… this thing with the door on the floor, it's super in! Very rural and junk." she exclaimed, smiling brightly. "Oh my, I love this one's hair? What is it?" she walked next to Vard, studying him as if he were part of the house's decoration.

Every single person in the room was stunned by either the girl's appearance or her strange way of speaking. The old lady was the first to address her, clearing her throat as she did so:

"Caroline…" she smiled nervously. "What a pleasant surprise; we were just waiting for you. Here, allow me."

She handed the remaining egg to the girl, who held it in her hands with delicacy.

"I'm like… totally a genius, am I right?" she grinned from ear to ear, her teeth pearly white.

"Y-yes. By the way, is Nobu with you?" the woman asked, her gaze veering toward Siegfried. "Would he like his egg as well?"

"Nah, he liked the last one I gave him so like, he doesn't want that one." She pointed to the egg in Siegfried's hand. "He said you can have it."

"Oh, what a good news for you, then!" The woman turned towards Siegfried, smiling. "Though… Nobu should've told me he didn't want the egg. A responsible trainer doesn't let his Pokemon in situations like this," she scolded Caroline.

"Uh… yeah," the girl replied, clearly not understanding the situation. "Alright granny, I gotta go! The boys are outside waiting and like, it's really cold outside and we gotta travel a lot. Oh hey, you're drinking water?" She looked at Sabrina and Ñako, who were next to the table with glasses full of water. "Aw, I like that! Take care of your health, okay? Bye!"

She waved enthusiastically and left through the door, leaving a room full of very confused people behind. Sabrina blinked a few times, still unable to fully process what had just happened.

"Did… did she say that the boys were waiting for her outside?" she asked, still somewhat shaken.

Ñako gulped. "Ah… I wasn't really listening, to be honest."

He addressed the old lady, "Excuse me, who was that… uh, girl? We would like to… recruit her to be the dancer of our band. Yeah, that."

"Oh, Caroline?" she said. "All we know about her is that she's a very talented trainer, despite what one might think at first sight."

Sabrina raised an eyebrow at that statement, though before she could say something she heard Silver's voice calling to her.

"Hey, Flaca!" he yelled, peeking his head into the cabin. "We might have a situation outside."

---------------------------------​

Mycroft cursed under his breath the whole time they sneaked through the tall grass, trying to get past the cabin.

"Bunch of clueless baboons, each and every single one of them," he spat out, voice full of venom.

Next to him the girl with the cat eared hat twiddled with her fingers through the fabric of her long sleeves. Worry was written all over her face.

"It's been a while since they've gone in," she said, looking towards the cabin. "Maybe they need help."

Mycroft rolled his eyes at that, "Muffin, was it? I'm sorry to interrupt your train of thought…" he said, not even fazed by her stupid nickname due to how angry he was, "…but it looks like our companions lack all semblance of both common sense and manners. They kicked the door down for god's sake!"

"Wait…" Samantha whispered, raising her arm to the side. "I hear something. Stay still."

They didn't need to wait much to see what she was referring to. The sound of multiple steps reached them, and after a few seconds they noticed dark figures approaching from the mist, headed toward the cabin. At least six people, and the only thing visible about them was the weapon one of them held: a scythe similar to the one Silver had, except the blade went both ways and was considerably bigger. Just above where the pole met with metal there was a strange inscription or rune: what appeared to be the letter A with an eye in the middle of it. The man holding it was draped in a long, purple cloak which had certainly seen better days, its tattered hood covering most of his face.

While Mycroft was too busy freaking out over the sight of that weapon, Samantha spoke. "That must be them! We need to hide until they pass us."

Rhin let out a short laugh, as if her words were the most ridiculous thing he'd heard in a long time.

"Come on Sammy, that just looks like a group of trainers to me," he said. "Besides, we're not a bunch of criminals like the rest of the group; why should we hide as if we were?"

He stood up before Sammy could stop him, and a moment after all of the dark figures turned towards him. Six pair of cold eyes fell on the boy, who tried his best to smile cheerfully.

"Hey there! Nice night to travel, eh?" He waved with one hand. "Oh of course, where are my manners? My name is Rhin."

As he approached he was finally able to make out the group's appearance. The one in front was a man with curly hair and a heavy looking sword on his right hand. He studied Rhin from tip to toe, though judging by his expression he didn't consider him much of a threat.

"Hello… Rhin, was it?" he spoke with a rather calm voice, curling the corners of his lips into a smile. "My name is Ryan. This guy over here is Dexter." He leaned his head in the direction of the man with the scythe. He was the second tallest of the group; his bare arms and what he could see of his face were covered in a multitude of scars. "And this one next to me is Travis," He pointed to the boy at his right; he was at least two heads shorter than Ryan, with vine tattoos curling around his arms and a multitude of piercings on his face. He held a drumstick in each hand.

Rhin bowed to both of them though he could feel the raw animosity hitting him like a blizzard. Dexter hadn't moved an inch, and neither had the grin of sharp teeth he showed him. He could barely make out the other three people behind them.

OI4uoDn.jpg


"By the way…" said Ryan, his eyebrows knitting together in a way he didn't' like. "Isn't it… dangerous, to travel alone through these parts?"

He caressed the handle of his sword as he said that, and for a moment Rhin thoroughly understood the stupidity of his previous actions, as he tended to do a few seconds after making them.

Luckily Ryan turned his head to the side as more footsteps approached. Rhin noticed the silhouette of Silver's scythe breaking through the mist, soon accompanied by the rest of the group.

"Ah, I see you have friends," said Ryan, frowning.

Ñako was the first to spot them and, surprisingly, he ran towards Rhin and smiled as he put one arm around his shoulder, a bit more… tenderly than he'd expected.

"There you are!" the smelly ninja said, letting his weight fall on Rhin's shoulder. "Thought we'd lost you!"

"Agh!" Disgust was clear on his expression as he shoved the ninja to the side. "Don't touch me, scum!"

Ryan raised an eyebrow, amused, and a few giggles were heard from the people behind him.

"Ah… I'm sorry you two, I didn't mean to interrupt," he tried to stifle his laughter. "If you want some time alone I'd be happy to…"

His words drifted into the night as he noticed something behind one of the nearby bushes. A long mane of red, bright hair attached to a pair of eyes he knew too well. The mist had cleared enough for their gazes to meet, and they both pointed at each other simultaneously as they yelled:

"YOU!"

Sabrina, the second one to arrive, raised an eyebrow as Sammy and the sword guy she'd met in Saffron stared at each other, too stunned to say more.

"Night of coincidences?" she whispered, eyes going from one to the other.

---------------------------------​

Outside of Saffron – A few hours before.

Ryan raised his sword effortlessly, its edge only inches away from Sammy's face.

The two stared at each other for what felt like an eternity, a cavalcade of emotions storming inside them.

"I saw you running around with that group of trainers," he said, voice coming out a lot rougher than he intended. "Have you turned into a babysitter, Sammy?"

The raw anger behind that pair of golden eyes almost made him regret his words. She took a deep breath before replying.

"I believe I've always been one."

He formed a smile that didn't extend to his eyes. "Always so quick with the snark. But I doubt the rest will be happy to see you. Especially after…"

He didn't need to say anything else. Both trainers shared a knowing look with too long of a history behind it. 《

---------------------------------​

Sabrina didn't like the idea of interfering in other people's business, especially when it had nothing to do with her. Still, judging by the way Curly and Sammy were staring each other down, she figured one of them might jump at each other's throat any second now. She didn't care much for the redhead, but would've preferred to postpone the bloodshed until a later date.

To tell the truth, she somehow knew she'd run into that guy again, though not in the circumstances she was currently in.

The wisest choice would've surely been to run away as fast as possible, though at the same time she had the inkling these guys would be their rivals for the rest of their mission. This was a good, and somewhat low stakes, opportunity to get to know them better.

"Hey, Curly," she said, making him turn towards her. Almost indifferently she grabbed a Pokeball from her belt. "Looks like our teammates are busy getting to know each other."

Indeed, the rest of the group had not only caught up to them, but they'd gone to where the rest of Curly's friends were and were, hopefully, only striking a conversation.

"What do you say we find a way to pass the time?"

He looked her in the eyes, and Sabrina understood she was playing with fire. Still, sometimes one had to take risks.

After a few moments of silence the man smiled.

"A battle, eh?" he said, brandishing an Ultraball. "It's been a while since I've done this officially."

Sabrina curled up her lips into a sarcastic smile. "Already making excuses? The fight hasn't even started yet."

She could feel the burning hatred of Sammy's gaze stinging her back, and knew she might come to regret her actions later. It was a risk she was willing to take, however.

Both Pokeballs opened simultaneously in a cross explosion of light. In front of her appeared the familiar silhouette of Rokon, who still shook his head from side to side, froth coming out of his mouth.

She immediately recognized the Pokemon they would face. Almost as tall as its trainer, with a segmented body which was entirely blood red. One metal pincer in each hand, and four small wings coming out of its back.

"Sean, this one's yours," Curly told his Scizor.

"Alright Rokon," she replied, looking down at the small fox. "Let's see what you can do."

---------------------------------​

Silver thought he was having a pretty surprising day already, and that was before meeting the guy with the giant scythe.

First he got an actual job, then he got a personal assistant and then it turned out he secretly was both a singer and a lead guitarist all along? If only his mom could see him now; she'd probably regret kicking him out of the house for being such a screw-up.

Those kinds of thoughts were the ones crossing his mind as he followed Ñako and Sabrina through the thick fog. Life was good, as far as he knew. Things were certainly looking up.

Then that group of people appeared. At first he didn't care much for them; a loser with a sword and a short guy with drum sticks? He wasn't even motivated to kick their asses. That's when his eyes fell on the person behind them.

Their gazes met, sparks flying between them, and Silver couldn't help but smile. That familiar heat started running through his veins as his fingers curled around the pole of the scythe. Next to him Loli seemed to notice something different, and raised an eyebrow at him.

"This is the only one who doesn't look like a scared boy scout," the man said, his voice sharp and rough like sandpaper. "Just what I wanted."

A shiver of excitement ran down Silver's spine as he brandished his scythe, pointing it at the man. The smile on his face was somewhat unfocused, and some might say a bit too deranged.

"Whaddaya know, that's what I was thinking too!" he hollered. "I wanna test you here and now!"

He was about to jump forward when a voice broke through the clearing, startling them both.

"Stop it, you two!"

---------------------------------​

Rhin thanked the stars someone had stopped his teammate from throwing himself against the guy with a scythe twice as big as his. He could barely believe Silver had challenged him in the first place; the bravado and stupidity of his teammates still surprised him, it seemed.

He took a look at the girl approaching from the mist. Professional was the only word appropriate enough to describe her; she wore a black pencil skirt and a white shirt perfectly kept, along with librarian glasses and shining black shoes. Her black hair was tied into a short ponytail, and in her hands she held what looked like a black folder with a white triangle stamped in the middle of it.

"I was told you'd only come here to get a couple eggs," she said, eyebrows constantly knit, "and this is how I find you!? This completely demolishes our plans of traveling unnoticed!"

Her eyes fell on someone behind Dexter; a short and scrawny looking boy with enormous round glasses which completely obscured his eyes.

"Dick!" she yelled. It took Rhin a moment to realize that was the boy's name. "I leave you in charge for two minutes and this is what happens?"

"M-miss Nancy!" The boy's hands shook as he looked down. "I'm… I'm so sorry, you see… uh…"

She dismissed him with a wave of her hand. "It doesn't matter. And you, Dexter." She shot the cloaked man an icy look. "Put that scythe down, now."

Dexter did as he was told, reluctantly, though the bloodthirsty smile never left his lips.

"And where in the places is Caroline!?"

After a few moments a new voice broke through the mist:

"Oh hey! It's the boys from the cabin!" the blonde girl said as she approached them with a Pokemon egg in her hands. "Like, what's up!"

Nancy's frown stopped the girl on her tracks, like a small Pokemon suddenly encountering its predator.

"Nancy! Like… I'm so sorry for not telling you!" she seemed to shrink into herself, smiling awkwardly. "But like… girl, those bags under your eyes! I told you to take care of that!"

Rhin heard grass rustling behind him. Mycroft and Muffin had finally stepped out of their hiding spot, sighing in defeat.

"I guess there's no point in hiding anymore," said the former.

A bright idea came to Rhin, as bright as the stars guiding him, or so he would've liked to believe. Now that the librarian looking girl had arrived it didn't seem like there would be any kind of bloodshed; that gave them the opportunity to learn some things about these strangers, were they to meet again in the future.

"Nancy, was it? I see you're the leader of the group," he said, walking towards both girls with a cheerful smile. "Now that you put a nice leash around your dogs, and seeing as we're all trainers here, I think I might have a good idea to put our differences aside."

Luckily, Mycroft was very quick on the uptake. After only a moment of confusion he formed a smile and followed Rhin's gesture, bowing to both girls.

"Bonsoir, mademoiselle." He winked, forming his best smile. "Your name was Caroline, was it not? Mine is Mycroft, Enchanté."

The girl scratched her cheek, eyes narrowed. "Uh… some of your words are kinda weird. I'm cool with words, I use them too, but like… what?"

"What do you say?" he offered, ignoring Caroline's nonsensical spiel. "A double battle, like real trainers. My partner Rhin and I against the two of you."

Nancy considered it for a moment, and her lips curled ever so slightly into the tiniest of smiles.

"Caroline," she said raising her head high. "Let's put these tramps in their place."

---------------------------------​


Ñako had the strange feeling he was getting left out of something. As he saw everyone else go to talk to a certain member of the opposite team, he couldn't help but wonder what was that about.

Oh well.

He walked to the first stranger he saw that was still alone. A runt with vine tattoos who held two… sticks? They made a pleasant swoosh sound as he hit the air with them. Judging by his closed eyes and the passionate way in which he did it, Ñako figured he was lost in his own little world.

"So…"

The boy looked up at him, eyebrows knit in annoyance.

"…What's up with those sticks?" he asked. "Do you really like Chinese food or what?"

There was a rather long and awkward silence before the boy replied.

"…What?"

---------------------------------​

Vard smiled, satisfied with himself.

"I see you're all participating in practice rounds without any kind of aggressive undertone to them," he said to everyone around him. "That's good; socializing is important if we are to become known all over the world. I'm very proud of all of you."

His gaze veered left, and found one of the only two of their team not currently fighting or talking to someone. He was a veritable mountain of a man, at least a couple heads taller than him and twice as wide.

Vard couldn't help but be intrigued by his appearance. He wore a leather body armor dyed in bright red, and a strange cross shaped crown that covered his nose. His face was worn and scarred, and he noticed a few grey hairs amidst the light brown adorning his mane and beard. Two of what seemed like heavy battle axes hung from his back.

He walked towards the man with glamorous abandon, and stopped only a few inches from him.

"Excuse my nerve, my good sir," Vard said, looking up at him, "but I find your appearance to be quite jocular."

The man raised an eyebrow, and replied with a gruff, surprisingly polite voice.

"I beg your pardon?"

---------------------------------​

Siegfried's shoulders dropped at the sight in front of him. Not only would this delay their travel towards Cerulean considerably, but there was also the very present possibility of someone getting severely hurt.

"Please, there is no reason to fight," he pleaded to his teammates, to no avail. The egg the couple had given him felt heavy in his hands. "We need to get to Cerulean right aw-"

"Hey there."

He almost jumped out of his skin. A voice resounded from behind him, soon followed by a ghastly looking man. As Siegfried turned towards him he realized he'd never seen someone so… worn out, before.

The man had long, light blue hair that fell to the back of his knees, tied just behind his neck with string. Both his face and his body were skeletal looking, as if he hadn't eaten in months, and his eyes reminded Siegfried of those of a snake. A brown, leather whip hung from his right leg, stained with dry blood.

"That egg…" His voice was thin and throaty. "Could it be…?"

With every step he took towards him Siegfried had to suppress his desire to flee. The man took a hand to his mouth and grabbed the butt of the cigarette he was smoking, blowing a small cloud into his face.

"Nobu… I always hated my real name," he said, furrowing his thin brow. "Sid suits me a lot better, don't you think?"

Nobu? The owner of the egg he was holding… was it really this person in front of him? He could barely believe someone like him would want anything to do with Pokemon breeding.

As if to prove his point, Sid raised his lit cigarette, holding it as if it were a magic wand, and smiled.

"I guess you can keep that trash, boy scout. I already have the one I needed."

He lowered the burning tip of the cigarette, pressing it against the paper with his previous name written on it. A wave of panic hit Siegfried as he took a sudden step back, hugging the egg protectively.

"Don't touch it!" he yelled for the first time in a while, blue eyes glistening with fury. "Whatever is inside of this egg, I will take care of it! And I will prove to you that it's not trash!"

---------------------------------​


Invisible wisps of rage traveled through Silver's veins as he saw Dexter lower his weapon and turn away. He stood stunned for a few moments, unable to believe what he was seeing.

"Thank goodness…" Loli said next to him, letting out a sigh of relief.

He clenched his teeth, fingertips turning white from the strength he was grabbing his weapon with.

The disappointment was clear on his opponent's face too. His eyes studied the cracks and crevices of his scars, following the way his nose crinkled and his eyebrows became one in irritation. They both felt the same way.

He would not let such a good opportunity slip by, not after everything having gone so well for him today.

"Hey Flaco!" he yelled. Dexter stopped, slowly turning his head to him. "What's wrong, your mommy Nancy doesn't let you defend yourself?"

The man's lips curled into a wicked grin of sharp teeth.

"I knew you weren't going to disappoint me!"

Spinning on the ball of his feet he made an arc with his weapon, its wide blade lifting the grass into the air as it cut it effortlessly. Silver grinned and raised his weapon as well, their eyes meeting once more.

"Sir, please don't!" Loli complained, eyes wide in terror. "You can't, he'll…"

A few feet from them the tall, muscular guy turned to look at them. Silver heard his sigh even from where he was.

"Dexter, try to contain yourself," he complained, his tone strangely soft.

"Oh come on Fat Mike, this one's asking for it!"

"I sure am! I said I wanted you here and now, and I always keep my promises!"

No sooner did those words left his mouth than he leapt forward, the wet grass rustling under him. Dexter waited for him, feet firmly planted and scythe wound back.

Silver smiled. What better way to cap off such a day than with a battle to the death?

---------------------------------​

A/N: And finally we are introduced to the other group of trainers looking for the same objects as our... heroes? Protagonists. This is a pretty fun group, and I hope you'll all enjoy their rivalry with our main group as the fic continues :D The art depicting them was drawn by Yuki, the DM.

And to close this, here's some art of "Rosita Storm" by the amazing Muffin:

aDpKx7d.jpg
 
Last edited:

System Error

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C2
- How is she carrying that much on her back!??!!! More importantly, WHY? Why not recall it?
- This dude not know a Swablu?
- Shelder <- Typo
- I mean what sort of resources does Orre have to wage war?
- Ah a fetch quest for magic relic items or whatever
- Well Vard is a holiday ham.
- I do wonder what in the world it came to to try to hawk a Pokemon like that
- Loli. Hell of a name. Especially on a young girl character.
- And he takes the girl right to the scene of the crime.
- Well way to already show off the villain card, Mullac.
- A bunch of mook Rattatas. Not in the top percentile that's for sure.
- And the edge and mysterious men intensify.

C3
- I am noticing this crew is basically a bunch of anti-heroes.
- Or straight out villainy, in the case of Sabrina.
- But heh, that part where her lie got wrecked made me smile.
- Ah, an OG phat Pikachu? Always nice to see non-standard designs get some love.
- Why'd Foresight even be needed to see the ghosts in the first place when that's not how it usually works?
- That feel when Sabrina is more hateable than the actual villains. I mean jesus christ. There's nothing likable about this character at all, and she's already well past the point of any explanation of why she's acting this way excusing her.
- Jiglypuff's <- Typo
- Uh wait so the Scyther will kill humans without blinking an eye, but put it in front of another Pokemon and it cowers?
- And then it just gets one-shot, possibly crippled.
- I've heard of wanting to kill every Zubat and Tentacool, but every Oddish?
- Man the pacing on these battles is weird. Some are shown in detail, others are just skipped.
- Also man the GM seemed to have a thing for nonstop encounters
- And casually blinding a PC because...the player wanted to be a handicapped badass, or something? Well blind badasses are neat, sometimes. I guess.
- Why is the artifact under Pewter City's prison? We need to split up, gang!
- Oh, and they already have one. Hm.

Well, if this does have anything to do with bad fangames, I can 100% see the influence. If not, it's a hell of a coincidence. I guess my main problem so far though, besides being too many characters to keep track of, there's too much going on at once. We jump from scene to scene, different part of the party to different part of the party. I guess splitting up is something that has to be done when it's like ten people, because few tabletop/RP systems are really condusive to parties that big. But it makes for kind of neurotic reading.

One good thing I can say about this so far, I do like the art. Always have been a fan of stories that have just a little bit of art to spice things up. Gives the fic some more heart, so to speak.

Haven't read chapter 4 just yet, but, I'll get to that whenever chapter 5 is out, I guess.
 

SilverRockets

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Hi, thank you for writing another review! I really appreciate it.

As before, a lot of your criticisms are on the mark, mostly when it comes to the odd pacing and amount of characters in the story, something a few people have pointed out as well. I'll try to smooth it out a bit more, though I assume it's mostly because of its nature as a campaign adaptation. Nothing a bit of editing can't improve, hopefully.

I'd also like to adress some of your points:

- How is she carrying that much on her back!??!!! More importantly, WHY? Why not recall it?

Thanks for pointing this out; I forgot to add in the chapter that the Drowzee's ball got lost in the fight, and that Sabrina has no extra ones. Mullac gives them new Pokeballs after accepting the job; I'll add that too.

- This dude not know a Swablu?

In general Swablu are pretty unknown in Kanto, but yeah Silver just doesn't care at all for Pokemon and barely knows the ones in Kanto.

- Loli. Hell of a name. Especially on a young girl character.

I'd like to clear this up. The name is in no way because of what you're probably thinking; someone else actually made the same comment as you. This was played in an Argentinian forums, and in Argentina and other latin-american countries "Loli" is a pretty common name/nickname for a girl.

- I am noticing this crew is basically a bunch of anti-heroes.

Oh absolutely. Silver, Ñako and Sabrina especially are in no way good people, although Silver mostly only fights those who either want to fight him or who are hurting others. But yes, they're definitely not good.

- But heh, that part where her lie got wrecked made me smile.

A high roll in Manipulation doesn't always equate good results. I love that in campaigns.

- Why'd Foresight even be needed to see the ghosts in the first place when that's not how it usually works?

Foresight makes ghosts tangible. The rest is just a bit of creative liberty.

- Uh wait so the Scyther will kill humans without blinking an eye, but put it in front of another Pokemon and it cowers?

Yep! She's scared of Pokemon combat specifically, as Sabrina points out.

- And casually blinding a PC because...the player wanted to be a handicapped badass, or something? Well blind badasses are neat, sometimes. I guess.

That was actually a result of the equivalent of a Nat 1, or more like several Nat 1 in a row. It was very unfortunate.


Anyway, again thank you for leaving a review! Hope you enjoy the rest of the fic.
 

SilverRockets

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Chapter 5: Rivals - Part 2

The mist cleared in a circle as Silver took the first step, the unmistakable heat rush of an incoming battle washing over him.

He wound back his scythe as he ran, lips stretched into an unhinged smile.

"S'been a while since I had some real fun!" he yelled, fingers gripping tightly to the pole of the weapon, "so don't disappoint me!"

Just when he was about to swing, Dexter smiled. Time seemed to stop.

For that one, stretching moment Silver felt painfully aware of his surroundings. He could count every heartbeat, see every wisp of mist as it dissipated in front of him, and more importantly he saw as the cloaked man began to move.

His foot slid forward, parting the grass in front of it. But no, that wasn't just it; it wasn't just his foot that moved, but his entire body with it. Only a couple inches, just enough to gain a better stance. In those fleeting milliseconds Silver understood how the complex machinery of his body worked, from his shoulders to his hips, legs and feet, all to take a single, perfect step. A movement so fluid, so simple, he could feel the years of intense training behind it.

Time began to move normally once more. Silver, now aware of the astronomical skill difference between them, felt a tinge of fear that only served to fuel his excitement.

Dexter's entire body moved as he spun on the ball of his feet, slashing the air in front of him with the enormous arc of his scythe.

"You do get it, don't you!"

Silver leaned back, sliding on the mud as he tried to stop himself. The edge of his vision caught the gleam of his opponent's scythe, fastly approaching. The speed of the swing had caught him off guard.

With the momentum he still had he threw himself back, and felt the rush of wind as the scythe flew over him, rustling his hair.

"Those idiots with their Pokemon fights, they have no idea…"

He'd barely dodged the attack, but now he was moments from falling to the ground. Judging by the way Dexter squared up his shoulders in preparation for his next swing, doing so would be lethal.

He rotated his body to the side, right hand touching the ground. Using it as his center of gravity he pushed himself to the side with all the strength he had. The familiar sound of scythe cutting through air, followed by the cold as part of his shirt was torn open and his skin exposed, told him he'd barely dodged again.

"…of the adrenaline a true battle can generate!"

The world became a black and green blur for a moment before he fell on one knee, his grip still iron tight against the pole of his weapon. He gave himself less than a second to breathe, and looked up.

Dexter's eyes met his, and Silver felt his veins turn to ice. He faced him from the side, arms raised high along with his weapon. How'd he move so fast? Just before he was…

"Your weapon is rather pretty," he whispered, the scars at the side of his mouth as clear as cracks on marble. "But mine is a bit more customized, you could say."

Silver's mind had no time to react as the scythe fell on him like a guillotine. By reflex alone he grabbed his with both hands and raised it to meet the man's strike.

The blade struck the metal snath just between Silver's hands, its impact raising a cloud of dust around him as his feet dug slightly into the mud. Somehow it didn't break, which briefly started both of them.

Dexter's smile faltered for an instant, cracks of doubt filtering through his maddened expression. A moment's hesitation, one that Silver had no qualms exploiting.

Taking a page out of the man's book he stood up, using all his strength to push him back, and spun around, readying a counterattack. His opponent was out of balance and didn't have time to dodge or cover as Silver raised his leg and kicked him square in the chest.

Dexter flailed his arms wildly as he was thrown back, a gurgled growl of pain escaping his lips. Silver took the opportunity to breathe in deep, his limbs shaking slightly

"Sorry pal, but I've got someone waiting for me," he declared, forcing himself to smile. "So this ends now!"

Dexter finally regained balance and, eyes still covered in shadows, copied his smile to a T. He raised his free hand in front of his face and moved four fingers towards himself in a Come get me gesture.

Silver felt as if his body moved on its own, the wild beating of his heart deafening him to everything around him. With bliss flooding his veins he lowered his knees and jumped as high as he could, out of Dexter's slashing reach. He saw the man take a step back and move his scythe behind his leg.

Time stopped once more as their eyes met, and in that fraction of a second he could swear he heard him speak.

"Indeed…"

Silver raised his weapon as high as his arms could go and, grinning from ear to ear, threw it down as he fell on top of Dexter, ready to cleave him in half.

"This ends now!"

The strange rune on the man's scythe glowed with a purple, pulsing light as he slashed up. It seemed to almost go through Silver's weapon as it reached him. The last thing he saw before his vision went black was a splash of blood, followed by a pain so intense he almost lost consciousness.

In the fleeting moments before his body hit the ground, Silver's eyes went wide in shock. How'd… how had his scythe…?

Reality crashed into him as the air was knocked from his lungs. Through a heavy daze he noticed the distinct shape of his opponent's weapon, now stained with some of his blood, raising once more as Dexter prepared the finishing blow.

"STOP IT!"

A very familiar set of colors and shapes ran between him and Dexter, extending both arms to the side as if wanting to shield him. The man did not attack, too stunned by the sudden intervention.

"That is enough!" the girl yelled, fulminating both of them with her gaze. "This fight ends now!"

Contrary to what he would've expected, Dexter did not protest or attack her. Instead he stood still, smile absent from his face for the first time. He looked as if he'd seen a ghost.

"Loli…"

Silver tried his best to push himself to his feet, to no avail. His muscles were numb, and while he still had feeling on his right arm, the pain alone was enough to discourage him from moving it.

A familiar pair of soft hands pressed against him, pushing him back.

"Stay still, I need to stitch and bandage this," she said, grabbing him by the arm and pushing the broken fabric of his shirt to the side.

Silver clenched his teeth. "N-no, we're not done here. I still gotta…"

"Do what she says, kid."

He had to check twice to make sure those words really came from Dexter. The man's tone was completely different from before, and even though most of his face was obscured he noticed something strange in his expression. Regret, perhaps?

"Get that wound checked, and go back to your friends," he said, no signs of the joys he'd displayed present in his voice. "I'm done playing around."

Shame and anger were the only reigning emotions within him as he saw Dexter turn around and start walking away. He stopped a few moments after, however, and through the daze of pain and humiliation he heard him speak.

"Next time, it will be just you and me," he declared, voice strangely devoid of strength. "No third parties involved. Got it?"

-------------------------------------​


Sabrina hadn't expected to face a goddamn Scizor.

Last time she'd run into Curly she'd come to the conclusion that he must've been an experienced trainer, but this was something else. He must've really wanted to humiliate her.

He shot her a cocky look –aware of his overwhelming advantage– and for a moment Sabrina forgot that she was simply trying to study his weaknesses.

Now all she could think about was how much she wanted to win.

"Go," she told Rokon, tone frigid.

The Scizor moved too fast for her eyes to follow. Rokon, who'd jumped out of her head excited at the prospect of a battle, vaulted over his opponent –with reflexes she didn't think him capable of– and smiled savagely, embers filtering through his fangs.

The flames hit Scizor's wings, spreading at an alarming rate and, judging by the look on his face, causing enough pain to momentarily stun him.

"Sean, what are you doing!?" she heard her opponent's distressed voice, fingers curling around the handle of his sword. "Use Steel Wing!"

A pulsing, white energy covered the Scizor's wings, extinguishing the fire and restoring his focus. Using his segmented body to his advantage he spun wildly, flying towards the airborne Rokon.

However it seemed that an attack with quadruple weakness had taken a toll on him, though it might've also been due to the shock of having been eluded completely just before. His assault missed the Vulpix again, this time without the need for the small fox to do more than move slightly to the side.

The incredulous expression on Curly's face, she couldn't lie, made her smile, even though it was obvious it'd been nothing more than luck. She could feel the wound on his pride and decided to provoke him a little bit. How dangerous could it be?

"Hey, what's wrong?" she asked, spitting out a line of smoke. "Steel Wing against a fire Pokemon? Haven't memorized the chart yet?"

"That was just a lucky shot!" he replied, setting his jaw. "Sean, Metal Claw! And don't miss!"

Landing behind his opponent, Rokon jumped towards him once more. He saw as the Scizor rotated his body, pincers glowing with a powerful energy, and slashed at him with all the strength he had left.

Smile never wavering, he spun vertically and hit the pincer with his six tails, pushing himself above Sean's head, who was too shocked to react as a small torrent of flames engulfed him. Parts of his carapace and his lower wings began to melt as he screamed in agony.

Rokon landed behind him, not even bothering to look as his opponent's body hit the ground. Sabrina stood frozen, cigarette limply hanging from her lips. She didn't know whose expression was more priceless; hers or Curly's.

I think I like this one, she thought, giving her Pokemon a smile and a thumbs up.

"Useless…"

Curly muttered angrily as he retrieved his Scizor, whose body turned to light as it was absorbed into the Pokeball. The man's dark eyes stared at it for a few moments, expression unreadable. Then, letting out a sigh, he threw the device upwards. Sabrina's gaze followed its trajectory; it hovered in the middle of the air for an instant before falling back down. Curly raised his sword ever so slightly, the sharp end facing up, and simply stared as the Pokeball fell into it.

The sound of metal against metal made her wince. The thing didn't break in half, though barely. The button at the front flew off into the tall grass, leaving no way for it to ever be opened again. Curly kneeled to pick the Pokeball up, and spoke into it.

"If you can manage to get out of there, I might consider training you again."

Not only did he seem rather calm about his defeat, but not even her mocking and taunts had affected him. Not just that, but he'd condemned his Scizor to a slow, agonizing death inside his Pokeball without even batting an eye.

"Rokon, come back."

The Vulpix, who hadn't stopped shaking his head and spitting smoke after his victory, turned into light and went back to his Pokeball. Sabrina didn't see that however, as her gaze was entirely focused on the man in front of her.

This guy… he's dangerous.

He stared at her for a moment, as if waiting for her to do something, perhaps yell at him for what he'd done.

"Here, catch."

A small leather pouch fell at her feet, full of what looked like stacks of bills .

"For your victory; it was an official battle after all," he said, not fazed at all by his previous action. "Your Vulpix is… decent. He's got a future ahead of him."

She kneeled to pick up the bag, appreciating its pleasant weight in her hand. She was aware that any person with even the slightest sense of honor would've thrown it back at his face.

She was not that kind of person.

Curly placed his hands inside his pockets, in a similar way to her. Was he really not going to attack her? Everything seemed to indicate that he didn't have any desire to cause her harm, even though she'd beaten him in such a dirty way and hadn't let go of the opportunity to rub it all over his face.

Could she really turn her back on him?

She did, despite what her instinct told her, and started walking towards the rest of the group.

"Until we have to kill time again."

-------------------------------------​


As much confidence as Nancy had displayed while accepting the battle, she still took her sweet time choosing her Pokemon.

Mycroft saw as the woman turned her back on him, stroking her chin and staring at the six Pokeballs she carried; all of different patterns and colors. He could barely make out her mumbling from that distance.

"Belly Drum sweeper? No, not now…" she whispered, biting her thumb. "F.E.A.R Rattata? Maybe but… Perish Trapping? No, too risky."

After what felt like an eternity she finally grabbed one. Her thick glasses hid her eyes from view as she walked next to Caroline –who was on the verge of falling asleep on her feet– and faced them.

"I already chose mine," Nancy said, glancing to her teammate. "Do not mess this up."

They opened their Pokeballs in sync, and from their lights materialized two very strange creatures. The one belonging to Nancy looked like a small dog on two legs, with white and brown fur covering him. A long tail grew from his lower back, ending in the shape of a brush stained with green paint. The one in front of Caroline was quite more abominable; a humanoid looking thing with a white and pink body and two long strands of dark hair growing from the sides of its head. Its cheeks were painted red like a mime, and its eyes were covered by stylish black glasses.

A Smeargle and a Mr. Mime? This might be tricky.

Without taking his eyes from his opponents he released his own Pokemon, and Rhin did the same a moment after. Keroro the Croagunk and a round bundle of vines with feet appeared in front of them, ready to fight.

The first to declare an attack was Nancy, with a tone that made it clear she was not in it for fun.

"One Hit-KO…!" she yelled, pointing at the Smeargle, "…use Spore on that #453!"

With springier legs than he would've expected, Smeargle jumped into the air and pointed the tip of his smudged tail at them. From it grew a sizeable cloud of green dust, thick enough to hide him from view. It moved faster than a normal cloud of smoke, falling down towards Croagunk.

"Keroro, dodge!"

He started running in the opposite direction, but the cloud seemed to have a mind of its own and pursued him wherever he went. It was almost on top of him when Caroline spoke:

"#I'mYourMime, throw a Psywave girl!"

The first thing that came to Mycroft's mind was that he had no idea where the two girls had learned to nickname their Pokemon, but he didn't like them. The second was that if that wave of psychic energy hit Rhin's Croagunk, it would instantly knock him out. He couldn't have such a thing happen; he had plans for the insignificant thing.

"Stalker, you know what to do!"

Two of the countless vines covering his Pokemon's body grew to the side, slamming against the ground as he pushed his body forward. Flying like a bullet, he barely managed to reach Keroro as he pushed him to the side, taking in the blunt of both attacks. The psychic wave made him wince in pain, and his immunities to spore based moves meant the cloud of dust was absorbed by his tiny body.

Mycroft turned towards Rhin, frowning.

"It will not happen again," he spat out, tone dry.

The boy raised an eyebrow, and if they weren't looking at each other he was pretty sure he would've rolled his eyes.

"You're just a ray of sunshine, aren't you?" he whispered under his breath, before turning back to the fight. "Keroro, get moving! Cross Chop at the Smeargle!"

Croagunk jumped high into the air, crossing his arms in front of him as they started to glow. A few feet ahead Rhin saw through Nancy's glasses as panic flashed across her eyes.

"Caroline, this is a double battle!" she screamed, furious. "Take care of that thing!"

"I'm going, I'm going…" her teammate smiled, sticking out her tongue. "You're gonna get wrinkles if you're so mad, girl!"

Caroline's Pokemon raised his hand, pointing it at the airborne enemy as he concentrated his psychic power into it. He carefully took aim, ready to fire.

Something cut through the air with the distinct, sharp sound of a whip. Mr. Mime winced as one of the Tangela's vines wrapped around his arm, breaking his concentration and forcing him to lower it. The strength of the grip was tremendous.

"That's it Stalker!" Mycroft smiled. "Do not let go of him; use Absorb!"

Mr. Mime felt his strength leaving him, as his opponent's vine sapped his energy and redirected it back to himself. Clenching his teeth in pain, he pulled back with all his strength to break free of his grip, forgetting completely about his teammate.

Smeargle tried his best to jump out of the way of the incoming dive, but his body wasn't accustomed to physical combat and he wasn't quick enough. Keroro fell on top of him, both arms slashing at his back in an X. Consciousness left him as he hit the ground like a brick, releasing a small cloud of dust around him.

"W-what!?" Nancy's lower lip trembled, hands turned to fists. "One Hit-KO fell against that pathetic #453!?"

"That's what I'm talking about, Keroro!" Rhin punched the air up, smiling brightly at his companion.

Mycroft couldn't help but laugh at their opponent's shameful display. What had he been so worried about? In the midst of his sudden relief he decided to press his luck a bit, squaring his shoulders and smiling as he spoke:

"I'm astonished by your incredible coordination, ladies. Honestly, c'est admirable," he said, trying to stifle another laugh. "That was me being sarcastic, by the way. I hope you at least managed to pick up on that."

It was easy to imagine the fumes coming out of Nancy's ears. She stared at the battlefield, either too stunned or too angry to reply to his taunt; perhaps a mix of both. Caroline laughed at the boy's words, and turned to her teammate with a carefree smile.

"Sorry girl!" she shrugged, turning towards her Pokemon. "Okay, let's finish this 'cause my skin's getting dry! Another Psywave!"

Enraged by his teammate's defeat, the Mr. Mime broke free of the vine holding him, snapping it at the stem and throwing Stalker off balance. Before Mycroft could utter a command he threw his hand forward and released another wave of energy that flew towards Keroro.

Ah, shouldn't have bragged like that.

"Shit, dodge!" Rhin screamed, caught off guard by the speed of the attack.

But he wasn't fast enough, and the overwhelming strength of the attack left him unconscious only moments after hitting him. His body fell backwards into the mud.

"K-Keroro…" Rhin muttered, clearly shaken by seeing his friend hurt. "It's… it's okay buddy, you did great. You can rest now."

As Mycroft saw him return his Pokemon to its ball, he forced himself not to panic. The Croagunk had already done its primary job during that battle, and he didn't expect someone as pathetically weak as Rhin to last long anyway. Everything was still within his plans.

"That was acceptable, je suppose," he said, looking down at his companion. "Stalker, let's finish this."

He raised his chin (or whatever passed as his chin, considering he was covered in vines) high, facing Caroline's Pokemon with the same moxie as his trainer. His body still ached and hurt from the Psywave he'd endured, but he would not fall so easily.

Both remaining Pokemon stared each other down, waiting for their trainer's orders to strike.

-------------------------------------​


"Ah, this might take a while."

Ñako looked down to the guy holding giant chopsticks, wondering what he meant by that. The two of them, Wolfswift and Muffincat had spent the last few minutes awkwardly avoiding talking, while waiting for their teammates to stop flirting, battling or killing each other. Or in Silver's case, all three.

A gust of wind ruffled the hair on the back of his head, making him shiver in a way that felt strangely familiar. He turned towards the direction his short friend was looking at, regretting doing so only a moment after.

An endless patch of tall grass stood before them, covered in mist which –if his memory wasn't failing him– used to be a pearly white. Now it'd changed into a dense, cold purple. From it emerged black circles with huge white eyes, smiling at them. At least thirty Gastly, all floating towards them and, he guessed, not there to make friends.

"O-oh!" Muffincat pressed her sleeve covered palms against her mouth, eyes going wide in horror. "Not these things again! Milkshake, Icy Wind!"

From the light of her Pokeball appeared a very drowsy looking Dratini, who took a look at the Gastlys and seriously considered going back to sleep. Knowing she'd get no treats if she did so, she decided to accept her trainer's orders and spat a small blizzard in the ghosts' direction.

Unfortunately, at such a distance all that accomplished was to create another layer of mist, hiding their enemies.

"Again?" muttered Ñako, raising an eyebrow.

"It's… a long story," she said, gulping. "And… sorry. At least they're not zombies this time."

"…What?"

He was too busy raising an eyebrow towards her to notice that one of the Gastly had dove straight for him, fangs bared and sporting a wide, bloodthirsty grin. Ñako tried to move out of the way, but just then a flash of light appeared between them.

"Sousuke, behind the florid ninja!"

The Larvitar raised both hands as soon as he appeared, grabbing the Gastly by its sides and giving it a good chomp. Half its body evaporated as it shrieked, soon after dissipating to mist.

Ñako stood frozen for a moment, and then turned towards Wolfswift.

He smiled. "Pretty fast for a blind guy."

"Pretty slow for a ninja," he replied, not missing a beat.

They threw their Pokeballs in sync. Abra and Sneasel materialized in front of them, one clearly more motivated to fight than the other.

"Paja, teleport the blind guy's Sneasel up there!" Ñako pointed to a high spot between all the Gastly.

"Tsume, get rid of them," Wolfswift ordered.

Not feeling any sense of urgency, the Abra climbed on his teammate's back, and a moment after they both disappeared in a flash of light. From then on all their trainers heard were the sounds of slashing, teleporting and ghostly shrieks as their enemies were cleft in twain one by one.

Chopsticks guy formed a lazy smile next to him, spinning a Pokeball on his finger.

"Sid, this is getting boring."

...Who the hell was Sid? Ñako tried to force his sight through the mist, and noticed another person close to them he hadn't noticed before. Mister antisocial skeleton with long hair, standing back and smoking while he stared at them. Creepy.

"Travis, we're attracting too much unwanted attention," he said, voice like a snake who had a serious smoking problem. "Let's finish this at once."

They threw their Pokeballs at the same time. Three floating metal balls stuck to each other appeared in front of Travis, floating around as they crackled with electricity. Next to Sid was now a short, round creature with stubby, muscular arms and a stomach that was a black and white spiral. The Magneton and Poliwrath waited for orders.

"Magne, Discharge!"

"Wrath, get those ghosts off us."

Poliwrath threw his hands upwards, and gathering all the moisture in the air summoned a powerful wave, many times taller than he was. With a flick of his finger he sent it forward, spiraling towards the now weakened Gastly. Meanwhile Magneton concentrated for a moment before exploding in countless lightning bolts, hitting all but its allies around it.

The combined attack wiped out all the remaining enemies, and it would've done it for Paja and Tsume if they hadn't teleported out just in time. The wave of Wrath's attack crashed against the ground, flooding the place with an ankle-deep sheet of water that extended all around them.

-------------------------------------​


The last thing Mycroft expected was for his shoes to get wet. He was just about to declare an attack when a sudden wave crashed behind them, followed by a sizeable amount of water covering the small battlefield they were on.

Everyone, including him and Rhin, turned towards the source of the attack.

"That's enough."

The man who'd talked was the most disheveled person Mycroft had ever seen, and the nails against chalkboard sound of his voice sent a shiver down his spine. He saw as he returned his Poliwrath to his Pokeball and started walking in their direction.

"Dick, catch those Gastly," he said to the short one with the glasses. "We can always use some more bait. And Caroline…"

Even the always cheery blonde seemed put off by her own teammate, and recoiled at the sound of her name.

"Finish that fight now or we're leaving without you," he declared, his tone making it clear he was not bluffing.

The rest started gathering around them, having finished their particular fights. Mycroft had to do a double take as he noticed Silver with his arm around the blue haired girl, his shirt torn and heavy bandages covering his arm and abdomen, stained with blood.

Is he... bleeding? Dear God, can't I leave these barbarians alone for a second!?

"While I'm sure we could have a lot more fun…" the man said, a thin smile stretching across his face, "…we unfortunately have a long road ahead of us. And if I'm not mistaken, that applies the lot of you as well."

Caroline did not hesitate before returning her Pokemon to its ball, the way her lips were curled a clear sign of how much she didn't want to anger her teammate.

"W-wait!" Mycroft protested. "We haven't finished the fight yet!"

"Oh I'm sorry honey, but like… I gotta go!" she said, waving at him as she walked away. "I loved your beret tho! Like… buy me one for next time, okay?"

Mycroft failed to respond, as he stammered incomprehensibly, a deep blush covering his cheeks.

She... she likes my beret? He thought, heat rising to his face.

She ran enthusiastically to where her teammates were, all of whom stared at their leader with some amount of disdain. The thin man took a drag from his cigarette before speaking again.

"We still need to travel all the way to Pewter," he said. "But… I suppose it's not unthinkable that we might run into each other again."

Mycroft didn't fail to recognize his words as bait, and before he remembered the kind of people he was traveling with, he took solace on the fact no one with half a brain would fall for that.

That is, of course, until Vard took a step forward and spoke.

"But of course, my amicable new admirers!" he yelled, raising his palm towards the sky. "For you see, we are also traveling t-!"

"VARD!"

The man with the pink afro was silenced as Sammy, Rhin and Mycroft jumped on top of him, doing their best to silence him.

-------------------------------------​


Glad was not the first word Mycroft would've used to describe how he felt about the (relative) low amount of bloodshed that had occurred in their encounter with that group of trainers. Content might be a better candidate, though somewhat satisfied was also in there.

Still, he liked being on the road again, next to Sammy who looked a lot more upset than he'd ever seen her. Did it have something to do with that barbaric looking gentleman with the sword she'd yelled at?

"Cerulean was gonna dry up before you two finished that double battle," the smelly ninja said in front of him, hands behind his head. "By the way, where is Cerulean?"

"According to the map it should be…"

A hand fell on Mycroft's shoulder, distracting him from what everyone else was saying. Startled, he turned towards Sammy, whose piercing yellow eyes felt as if they were looking straight through him.

"W-what's wrong, Samantha?" he tried to imbue his voice with politeness, despite the unease he was feeling. "The rest are leaving us behind."

She furrowed her brow, and whatever stormed inside her flashed through her eyes, sending a painful shiver through his entire body. She spoke after a few moments of silence:

"We need to talk." Her tone was serious and heavy. "About the object you're hiding in your pocket."
 

System Error

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C4
- Saying her legs stopped moving makes it sound like it was an unnatural occurance
- Just assaulting the place is sometimes the best course. Also wtf afro ball
- And now just random theft.
- And Sabrina blatantly lying again. Very blatantly Evil aligned, in a way that it's a wonder they stay together.
- Idly reminds me of my 5e group's antics, just...way more out of control, heh.
- Stay hydrated.
- Unown Runemaster class? Or is this a different system?
- That picture makes them look like a bunch of ridiculous LARPers
- IT'S DANGEROUS TO GO ALONE! TAKE THIS!
- Well this escalated quickly. It seems aside from the one girl, this whole other group is just as crazy and dysfunctional as our 'protagonists'
- Shoutouts to crazy extreme breeders?
- Well this is less rivals and more...I don't even know. And wait, what's Loli doing here?

C5
- Er is that just anime or can this Dexter guy really control time
- Loli suddenly is here despite not being mentioned before. And really, can this guy control time?
- Rare to see prize money actually implemented
- Spore, and Psywave. Two moves that couldn't contrast more in terms of usefulness
- Well I hate whoever this is referring to Pokemon by numbers already.
- It occurs to me at this point, did that super violent battling just sort of break out for no good reason?
- And welp, the thing is happening.

Again, we run into the problem of introducing so many characters at once. Only ones who really stood out amongst them all for me were scythe guy and cheerful girl. Still couldn't tell you much about many of the different characters. With so many to focus on and so many scenes jumping around still, becomes a problem when it comes to characterization. Well, I'll keep reading on regardless.
 

SilverRockets

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To System Error: Thanks for keeping up with this fic! I really appreciate it, especially since there are so many fixes that need to be done as they come up.

I went and edited a few of the problems you pointed out. Regarding the 'class' thing, this campaign indeed has classes, as in actual trainer classes that give characters special bonuses and abilities, the most obvious one being Sabrina's psychic-ness. Dexter isn't a Rune guy, it's just that his weapon has some special properties that make it so it can do some pretty crazy shit.

And yes, they do indeed look like a bunch of LARPers. That's 2010's tabletop npcs for you. They will continue to appear throughout the fic and get more screen time, and I believe the big group character introductions are done for the moment, and we can get moving onto Pewter.

Prize money is definitely not a common thing, more a practice from the past, but Ryan is old fashioned like that. And yes, Nancy is the worst. She's like a Smogon pro in real life.

Again, thank you! Now onto next chapter:

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Chapter 6: Cerulean - Part 1



"We need to talk. About the object you're hiding in your pocket."

Mycroft was not proud to admit he nearly jumped out of his skin at Samantha's words which, accompanied by the gleam of her golden eyes, made him feel as if someone had dumped a bucket of water on him.

He stood silent, hopelessly trying to hide his reaction. She never stopped staring at him, not for one moment, and he could swear she didn't blink either.

How could she know? Was she working with Mullac from the beginning or…?

Calm down, fear will only make you look weak. This is a good chance to ask questions; behave like a true Sproutbury would.

"Alors… I have a few doubts I'd like answered as well," he said, clearing his throat. "If you don't mind."

It took her a few moments to reply, as she studied him from head to toe. Wondering if she could trust him? If so, he was confident saying that the feeling was mutual.

"You have one of the six objects, don't you?" she asked, a strange force behind her voice. "Don't ask me how I know; not only would it take me a long time to explain but it would be dangerous for you to know. The only thing that matters is that you keep that object safe; no one else can know about it."

He scoffed. "Is that all? Thanks, I could've come to such a conclusion myself."

The way she crinkled her nose made it clear his snark was not appreciated.

"There's something else," she said. "I have strong reason to believe someone in our group knows about the object as well, and wants to take it for themselves."

Something heavy dragged at the pit of his stomach.

"I'm guessing you can't tell me who they are either." He smiled nervously.

Her pursed lips were response enough.

"It's only a hunch for now," she said. "But I hope to confirm my suspicions on the way to Pewter."

"For our sake, I hope you do," he replied, his tone perhaps a bit more threatening than he intended. "Though right now I'm more interested in knowing your relationship to the group of trainers we came across tonight."

For a moment Samantha's eyes seemed to flash, and he feared she might attack him. Contrary to what he expected she simply lowered her shoulders and formed a thin smile which didn't extend to her eyes.

"I'm sure I don't need to tell you this." She spoke almost in whispers, eyes unfocused, "but… Ryan, Caroline, Sid and the rest are all after the same objects we are. They're our rivals, so to speak, and they've been hired by someone even more powerful than Mullac."

A thin drop of sweat fell down her forehead as she turned towards him, fingers curled into fists.

"Black." She pronounced the word almost fearfully, her voice shaking as she did so. "The man responsible for what happened to Kanto and Johto. The man who hunted down the Gym Leaders, the Elite Four and the Dex Holders until there was no one left who could oppose him. He's the one pulling the strings from the shadows; for all intents and purposes, Black is the government.

"I don't know exactly why he and Mullac are after the same thing, though I doubt the latter's intentions are worse than what the government might do with objects of such… incredible power."

He didn't like the way she said those last words, especially while looking down at his pocket. His hand unconsciously pressed against it.

"That's all I can say for now." She finally looked away, her expression somber. "I trust you'll keep that safe. For everyone's sake."

She began walking towards the rest of the group (whose silhouettes were barely visible through the mist) not giving him a chance to respond. Not that he would've had anything terribly insightful to say; he was still reeling from what he'd learned.

Was there any reason to distrust her information? Of course not; why would she choose to tell him such a specific lie? What would she gain from it?

Black, he repeated the name inside his mind, lips trembling. So he's the one responsible for…

Something caught his attention; the distinct shape of a square piece of paper flying out of Samantha's backpack. It spiraled through the air for a couple seconds, finally landing on the road behind her, the girl none the wiser.

He kneeled down to pick it up, and was about to tell her when he realized what he was holding. A small, polaroid photo with two people in it. The first was unmistakably Samantha, perhaps a year or more younger and wearing a yellow shirt with black and white sleeves.

His mouth hung agape, eyes going wide. Samantha's eyes were a completely different color in the picture. A faded, dull red. He would've considered it a printing error were it not for the pristine state of the rest of the photo.

Though the worst part was the realization that he knew the man she was with. Both he and Samantha were holding each other, smiling brightly at the camera as if they were extremely close.

He was younger as well, though he would've recognized that torn sleeveless shirt and that curly hair anywhere.

"R-Ryan…"

-----------------------------------​


Captain's Logbook.

(The captain is me: Vard.)

Our odyssey towards Cerulean has been packed full of vibrant emotions and endless adventures, thanks to my brave subjects. Everyone has been working non-stop to climb the steps of the Team of Vard.

Sabrina, our admirable and manly sub-leader has demonstrated her navigating capabilities, showing us the way in the vile maze of routes and roads between us and our objective.

My beloved ninja has caused no shortage of hijinks, including the time he kicked an unconscious Bellsprout for five hours straight while we walked. I still don't know exactly why he did that; but I am still proud of him.

Wol…Welf… uh, our white haired companion still wears those bandages around his eyes. Poor man must still be expecting that piñata to appear, though I don't see a baseball bat in his hands. Perhaps he intends to shoot it with his pistols? If so, quite the interesting idea.

Rhin and Muffin have begun to know each other, as observed by me from behind a bush. They seem to have exchanged Pokemon as a sign of peace; a hearty looking Growlithe for a… thing, that looks like a penguin. Well, no one said friendship gifts had to be pretty.

Mycroft and our sizzling redhead have been rather quiet lately, for reasons I am unaware of at the moment. I must investigate this as soon as I have the chance; perhaps they need more time looking at my beautiful mane?

And finally, my good foreman still seems down by the result of his peaceful strife against the gentleman with the humongous scythe. His lively assistant has done her best to not only patch up his wounds but his spirits as well.

Friendship, adventure, romance… and my hair looks better than ever.

Though finally; we've arrived at our mysterious destiny: Cerulean City!

What epic challenges must the Team of Vard face in this new scenario? I suppose only time will tell.

Vard closed the small diary, shoving it and the pen inside his hair. He breathed in deeply as he took in the sight of the city beneath them.

Raising his palm towards the sky, he proclaimed:

"Our final objective: Cerulean!"

"Uh…" Muffin raised a hand, nervous. "Wasn't our final objective Pewter?"

-----------------------------------​


Sabrina yawned as she stretched her arms, covering her eyes from the sunlight filtering through the mist.

For some reason she found herself smiling. Maybe being so far from Saffron was all she needed to lift her spirits; she felt free again, without worries, without that horrible black cloud hovering over her.

Just the way she liked it.

"Is this really Cerulean?" asked the one who really liked fiddling with tarot cards, frowning. "I expected something better than this pigsty."

"The town has seen better days," said Siegfried, a strange shadow of sadness washing over his eyes. Was it because of the proximity to Viridian, where he was from?

Sure, the town didn't look much better than Saffron, at least from afar, but she would take what she could get.

They were in the middle of deciding how they'd approach the city when the sounds of wings flapping reached them. Sabrina looked up, and through the thick mist she noticed a small ball of feathers with two enormous eyes flying down towards them; a Hoot-Hoot.

It landed on Mycroft's shoulder, holding something on its tiny beak. The boy's eyes went wide at the sight of what appeared to be a wax seal in the middle of it.

"A letter from home?" he whispered to himself. After a few moments of hesitation he turned towards them. "I'm afraid I'll have to leave you for a few hours while I take care of some family business. Besides, I'd rather that than having to keep following the advice of the Nobel prize for barbarics."

Sabrina raised an eyebrow, grateful that she was in too good a mood to be bothered by his insult. As if on cue, tarot guy raised a hand and smiled.

"I guess I'll look around the city as well, see what I can find," he shrugged. Judging by his expression she guessed there was a reason for his decision, but decided not to push.

"I'll go as well," said Wolfsomething.

"Very well then," Sabrina said, mockingly bowing to them. "I liberate you from my barbaric mandates, oh dear prince and his lackeys."

Strangely, it was Sammy who stared at her with what was clearly a very intense hatred. She wondered if she'd done anything to earn that; probably yes.

After a few moments of consideration she left as well, taking cat ear girl and Siegfried with her, leaving Sabrina alone with Silver, Loli, Vard and the ninja.

"So, we gonna go buy some stuff?" asked the first, cracking his neck and moving the scythe from one shoulder to the other.

"I doubt it'll be that easy this time," said the ninja. "Unless hat girl here has some underworld contacts on this city as well, which seems to be her specialty."

"Nothing that can't be fixed by looking around a bit," she replied, ignoring the ninja's (not entirely inaccurate) accusation.

They walked through the outer streets of the city for a while, looking for any sign of shadiness without much success. That is, until they ran across an aged man, sweeping the street with earphones on.

Sabrina took a deep breath, and fixed her hat as she approached him. She could feel Ñako and Silver facepalming behind her.

"Excuse me, my good sir."

"Huh?" the man said, frowning as he took his earphones out.

"You see…" She clapped her hands together, forming her best smile. "We are members of a very popular Death Metal Trash Cumbia band. Rosita Storm is our name."

His expression was priceless, though she decided to continue before he could fully process her words.

"We're actually working on our next single, and have been stuck for the past weeks, unable to keep working on it thanks to lack of… inspiration." As she said that Silver placed his thumb and index finger in front of his mouth, smoking an imaginary joint. "Besides, we need to see… you know, those creatures, Pokemon, and any related objects to use them as base for a song about stepping on Torchic. Do you have any idea where we might find such a place?"

Her longwinded explanation seemed to overwhelm the man. He stared at them with the deepest of confusion for a few moments, before replying.

"Ah… yes, I think I know your band's name from somewhere," he said, deep in thought. "Well… I don't know what kind of inspiration you're after; this is a city of humble and peaceful folk, for the most part. Though…" His gaze went towards the northeast part of the town, where they could see a long steel bridge which looked abandoned. "Under that bridge there's a more… picturesque place. You might find what you're looking for there."

She thanked the man, who still seemed somewhat doubtful of her words. Without wait they headed towards the place he'd pointed at, feeling as the warm and peaceful atmosphere of the city evaporate as they got closer. The bridge (whose red paint had washed away a long time ago) hid a street that ran under it; full of tracks where trains probably ran years before.

Now there was a single, giant warehouse painted with a multitude of graffiti. Its doors were opened; and from inside various purple lights flashed on and off. The music coming out was almost deafening. It shook the sheet iron of the place, and made Sabrina wish she'd stolen the old man's earphones.

"Now this is my kinda place," said Silver once they arrived, smiling in a way she didn't appreciate much. "The music makes me feel like I'm back home."

"Sir, please…" the young girl pleaded, grabbing him by the arm. "Your wounds aren't healed yet."

Vard smiled, raising his palm from within his cape. "Do not fear! Vard will guide you through this hapless hovel!"

All eyes inside the place turned towards them when they entered. A multitude of disgusting people adorned every corner; from bikers with leather jackets to robed men smoking something that smelled horrible to young girls with brightly colored hair serving drinks.

But strangest of all was the giant steel cage in the middle of the warehouse. There were two young men locked inside, each one commanding their Pokemon as they fought. The floor under them was covered in blood and bright coins people threw at them through the cracks of the cage.

"There sure are a lot of ugly people in this neighborhood," the ninja whispered, holding the back of his head with both hands.

"Come on Ñako, don't say that." Vard put a hand on his shoulder. "Not everyone is as lucky as your handsome leader."

Sabrina barely heard them however, as realization came to her.

Something in this place was terribly wrong.

At first she thought it was just one of the many underground Pokemon fighting rings, but soon she began to notice certain… details. The cages, the way the arena was laid out, even the faces… here and there she noticed familiar expressions and laughs. Could it be…?

No. No, there's no fucking way. Out of all the places in Cerulean…

A group of teens, looking a bit too innocent for such a place talked close to her with clear excitement. She caught some of their words with sinister clarity, despite the cold running through her veins:

"Did you see her today? Misty…"

Her hands began shaking so badly she almost dropped the cigarette in her fingers. She saw herself back inside a cage like that, with resounding screams of Let her out! booming inside her head.

-----------------------------------​


Two trainers stood across each other inside the steel cage. The one on the far right was a young girl wearing a black hat and hoodie, holding a cigarette with her lips.

She grabbed it with two of her fingers, and began to speak.

"I suppose you know the rules, though it wouldn't be a bad idea to repeat them," she said with a cold, dispassionate tone. "Three against three; you can use your Pokemon in any way you wish as long as you don't have more than one out at the same time."

She took a slow drag of the cigarette while walking back towards a small table inside the cage. Over it were a few boxes full of Pokeballs.

"The leader, that would be me, will use random Pokemon from these boxes." She pointed at them, looking bored. "They haven't been raised by me nor do I care about their wellbeing, so don't expect me to go easy on you."

She closed her eyes for a moment, throwing the cigarette to the ground and stomping on it.

"You can try to kill me to win, and in fact I recommend you do. I'm not allowed to kill any challengers. Too much paperwork, but then again…"

Her eyes set on her opponent, a boundless, cold abyss behind them.

"Accidents do happen."

High above the arena, sitting in the highest spectator stands were two people. One of them was somewhere in his forties, smoking as he stared down with something akin to boredom.

"Is that the new Gym Leader?" he asked. "She looks like a guy. Is she good?"

The young man next to him crossed his arms, replying with a cold, yet strangely alluring voice.

"Well… her physical strength is terrible, her attitude is abyssmal and she urgently needs someone to take her down a peg," he listed with a strange calmness, one hand holding his cheek. "However… her skill in Pokemon battles is something you don't see every day. And most importantly: she doesn't ask questions."

"And what's her name?"

The young man smiled, turning his head towards his associate. He was thin and handsome, wearing an all black uniform with a single white triangle badge on his chest. His hair was smooth and mostly light brown, with the tips dyed a strong blue. His eyes were two different colors; the same two as his hair.

"She doesn't have one anymore." The corners of his lips formed a lazy, yet unhinged smile. "From now on she's just... Sabrina."

-----------------------------------​


Sabrina came back to reality with a jolt. She took a deep, somewhat hurried breath and blinked furiously, her chest hurting.

Her gaze went towards the arena against her will, and she vaguely distinguished the… exuberant hair of Vard.

Ah… no, I don't want to know.

Without wait she turned around and started walking towards the exit, panic fueling her body.

Where are you going? A voice inside her heads asked.

"Far away."

But this is an excellent opportunity, don't you think? All you need is to ask some questions here and there and you'd learn the location of those people.

She stopped just before reaching the doors, clenching her teeth and stabbing her palms with her nails.

Don't you want revenge for what they did to you?

"No, I'm not into pain and revenge but thanks for asking."

Is that really it? Or is it because you know that no matter how hard you try, you'll never be more than a fly buzzing around the ears of their organization?

"Shut the fuck up."

She pressed a hand against her forehead. Great, she was arguing with herself again. She needed fresh air.

Walking out she found a small pile of old tires, where she decided to sit for the time being. She took a cigarette from the package, but her fingers were shaking so hard she needed Rokon's help to hold it while he lit it.

And to think she was in such a good mood before.

Did she really think she'd escape so easily? What a fucking moron. Now she knew better; she couldn't escape. Not while she was in Kanto. And yet…

Unconsciously her fingers closed onto something cold and metallic hanging from her neck, hidden within the folds of her clothes. She smiled bitterly as she felt its familiar, reassuring touch.

"That thing you asked of me… it's a lot harder than I thought, you idiot."

-----------------------------------​


"I'll be honest Vard, this is probably not the best idea we've ever had."

Vard jumped slightly at the sound of Ñako's voice as he appeared inside the cage. He didn't even make a sound; as a good ninja shouldn't.

"I understand and appreciate your concern for your wonderful leader my good ninja, but there is no reason to fear," he declared, giving him a thumbs up. "This is nothing compared to the Odyssey of Derangement of 86'"

Ñako raised an eyebrow, and then turned his attention towards their opponents at the other side of the cage. A man and a woman somewhere in their twenties, sporting so many tattoos and piercings it was hard to tell their true appearance from underneath them. The only thing they had in common was a tear shaped black marking, just under their right eye.

"Not to be a downer," he said, "but I'm pretty sure those punks are going to kill us, and then piss all over our corpses."

"Humbug!" yelled Vard, grabbing a Pokeball from his afro. "It will take more than twenty points of damage to kill me!"

"Where did you get that number?"

"The internet. But this is no time for diatribes; we must teach these vagrants a lesson!"

From the combined light of their Pokeballs emerged Pikachu and Gordolfa the Bulbasaur, the latter of whom stared at her opponents with her unfocused eyes, each of which looked at a different direction.

Their opponents did the same; the man released what looked like a pile of purple sludge with a mouth and two eyes, while in front of the woman appeared a bat looking creature with a long, segmented pink stinger at the end of its tail.

"You're pretty brave going up against us," said the man, smiling widely. "But you're pretty off if you think we'll let you reach Misty."

"How about we make this more interesting?" added the woman, taking a drag of her cigarette. "The winner gets to take a Pokemon from the loser."

Ñako smiled, "Heh, a pile of shit and a Gligar, hard choice. But fine, we accept."

-----------------------------------​


On the northwest outskirts of Cerulean, in a small, empty field next to the big road.

That was the place mentioned in the letter, and Mycroft headed towards it as fast as he could, not wishing to make her sister wait. Looking around he saw nothing but grass and bushes; and in the distance the ominous shape of Mt. Moon.

"She must be about to arrive," he told himself, gripping the straps of his backpack. "She's always been very rigid about punctuality."

On cue, he saw a shape approaching from the horizon. At first all he noticed were the two Ponytas next to each other, their fur so pristine it almost shone and the flames coming out of their bodies burning proudly.

They were tied from the torso and snout, pulling forward the carriage behind them. It was a pearly white, with ornate decorations of his family's flower all over it.

Mycroft gulped as the vehicle stopped next to him. He didn't like to admit it, but he felt a bit more nervous than during his talk with Sammy.

The door to the carriage opened, and from it stepped down a beautiful young woman, a few years older than him. She wore a sleeveless, close fitting white dress with pink outlines and a sash around her waist, tied by a broach with the shape of the family's flower. Her hair, a similar dark grey to his, was beautifully braided.

She closed the paper fan in her left hand as she approached him, eyebrows knit together in a way which made Mycroft more than a little nervous.

"C-Clotty…" He bowed to her, muttering as he did so. "How lovely to s…"

She raised a hand to interrupt him, "For you it's Lady Clothilde Hiragizawa-Sproutsbury, soon to be Lilycoveshire, you inept brat. And don't think I'm here for a pleasant family reunion; the only reason I came is because Mother asked me to."

He reeled back, eyes going wide, "M-mother? What could she…"

"Mycroft, I hope you haven't forgotten why you're here, smearing our dear family's name" she cut him off once more. "We need that money desperately; our funds are practically nonexistent at this point."

"Y-yes, I know that," he nodded, almost bowing. "I'm in the middle of a job… you see, the people working with me…"

"Calling them people is a bit too generous of you, ne pensez-vous pas?" she scoffed, looking to the side. "Mercenaries more like it, a bunch of failures not unlike you. All I ask is that those filthy criminals don't implant their habits on you; Mother is counting on you after all, despite my best warnings against it. I certainly hope you don't disappoint her again, as you've done for all of your life."

Mycroft unconsciously shrank into himself with every word his sister said, looking down in shame. Heat rose to his face, and he wished the ground would just swallow him already.

"In any case, that's not why I'm here," she sighed, fanning herself. "I came here to give you this."

From the folds of her dress she grabbed a white letter, just like the one he'd received earlier, and handed it to him. The seal looked like a bird's wing, and on top of the envelope was a single word: Scarmiglione.

"What is this?" he asked, studying the outside of it.

"Fortunately, we've been invited to the most prestigious wedding in all of Johto this year; all the important families will be there," she explained. "It will be a good way for Mother to forget her worries as well. Personally I don't think it's a good place for you, but I've been ordered to give you this invitation nonetheless."

He looked down at the letter once more, incredulous. Did Mother really… want him there?

"If you still have any respect for our family, I suggest you don't show up," she said. "Though that is up to you, je suppose. And now that I've done what Mother told me I bid you farewell, little brother."

Without saying another word she walked back to the carriage, not even bothering to look him in the eye.

Mycroft stood still for a few minutes after she left, staring down at the letter being held by his shaking fingers.

-----------------------------------​


After a few moments of consideration Sabrina decided to promptly fuck off from the makeshift Gym and go back to the city, where there was less of a chance to end up dead.

Or at least she planned to, until two people cut her off while she headed for the exit.

"Hey, you."

She looked up at the man blocking her path, silently cursing her own existence. He was at least a head taller than her, with a prominent beer gut and the voice of someone who'd eaten fifty pounds of sandpaper. The other one looked like a punk teenager who'd spent a few years inside a washing machine. She noticed the distinct tattoo of a black water drop beneath their right eye.

"Your face and that grubby hat… I know you, brat." He smiled, showing his stained yellow teeth. "From Saffron, you're S…"

"You must be confused, I'm just a traveler and nothing more," she said, trying to sound casual. "Step aside; your smell is making my stomach turn."

He let out a throaty laugh, soon followed by his bald friend.

"Kitty got claws, eh?" His hand went to something in his belt. "If you're so brave then…"

His voice trailed off as he stared toward something behind her. The sound of steps made their way to her, and as she turned around she saw Silver approach, his scythe on one hand and Loli on the other.

"What's going on here, Flaca?" His smile grew bigger. "Hey fatty, if you wanna get out of here with all your limbs then you better let us pass."

She saw as fear clouded their expression for a moment, before they could gather their wits and reply.

"That's very nice, but in here we solve things with Pokemon battles," said the bald one, forming a lascivious smile as his eyes set on Loli. "Oh, I like this one. If we win you're gonna have to lend her to me for a while, y…?"

Silver grabbed the man's wrist as he extended an arm towards her. His eye twitched for a moment as he lowered the scythe, placing the edge just below his arm.

"Careful with that hand there," he said, furrowing his brow. "It'd be a shame if you lost it."

To say baldy looked like he was about to shit his pants would've been putting it lightly, and Sabrina would be lying if she said she didn't greatly enjoy his terrified expression.

At least until Loli intervened.

"P-please, don't!" she tugged at Silver's shirt, lower lip trembling. "You already got hurt once… I don't want to see any more blood, please…"

He glanced towards her, smiling in a way Sabrina had never seen before, dropping his usual demeanor for a moment.

"You're too good," he said, shaking his head. "These assholes don't deserve your pity."

Letting go of baldie's arm he placed the handle of the scythe against his shoulder again, sighing as he did so.

"Though I guess it's fine this time. I don't like making Pokemon fight my battles for me, but if that's what you want…"

Baldie almost tumbled his way back to his partner, relief clear in his face.

"Fine then, you and beanie against the two of us," he said, tone furious.

Sabrina really wished she still had a cigarette with her. She wasn't exactly in the mood for a battle, especially so close to Misty's joint, but she had an idea to make it worth it.

"We accept, but only if we get to add a wager." She grabbed a Pokeball from her belt. "If we win you'll pay our stay in the best hotel in the city, for me and all my traveling companions. Breakfast included."

The taller one grit his teeth, spitting to the floor. "Brat. You're pretty insolent for just a traveler, don't you think?"

"That wager's fine with me," shrugged the other one. "But if we win then you'll have to spend some quality time with us, got it?"

Sabrina frowned, already regretting not going with the lethal solution for these guys.

"It's not like you have a chance, but fine," she said.

Silver let out a dry chuckle, "Ha, you guys really have to go to those lengths to get laid?"

"You're not gonna laugh so much when you lose," baldie growled. "If you'd known before that we were trainers officially recognized by Misty you would've…"

Sabrina rolled her eyes. "Just start the battle already before I throw up."

The man's eye twitched. "Fine then, I hope you won't regret this!"

They threw their Pokeballs to the ground, their light blinding them for a moment. The bigger one looked like a rugged boulder with legs and four muscular arms, and at its side was a short, humanoid looking creature with gills on its ribs and three sharp protrusions coming out of its head.

The Machop and Graveler smiled in a similar way to their trainers, staring them down.

"Whoa there, these ones are pretty grown," said Silver, not a hint of worry in his voice. "What do you say, Flaca?"

"Hmph."

Loli walked in between them, grabbing Silver's arm to get his attention.

"Sir, that Graveler is very strong against your Spearow!"

"Forget the Graveler," Sabrina said. "I hope the hotel's breakfast is Unovan."

"Heh, I'll be happy with warm water."

Another pair of lights shone below them, materializing into their Pokemon. The energetic Spearow flew up and began flapping his wings furiously, while the yellow duck in front of Sabrina held his head with his hands. He turned towards his trainer and let out an adorable sound of appreciation. She could almost imagine the sparkles and hearts coming out of his eyes.

"Hey, I haven't seen this one," Silver smiled, looking down at the Psyduck. "When did you get him?"

"Back in Saffron. It was…"

-----------------------------------​


Sabrina put both hands in front of her face to block the torrent of water, which filtered through them and threw her back a few feet, almost sending her tumbling to the ground.

She looked up at the Pokemon who'd attacked her, hiding within the tall grass. Two big, beady eyes stared at her full of false innocence. The duck was surely messing with her.

Gouda turned to look at her trainer, and naively she thought maybe she was worried, but her expression was blank. She wasn't smiling, but neither did she show any sign of worry towards her.

She supposed that, compared to the things she must've seen while working for those masked bastards, this had to be a joke.

We have a lot in common, after all.

After gaining back her balance she took off her hat and wringed it as to get the water out.

"After failing your attack so pathetically, are you sure you have time to look somewhere else?"

She looked at her with spite (and maybe a bit of shame), and turned towards the Psyduck with both arms raised.

-----------------------------------​


"…irritating," she frowned. "But it's the best option for this fight."

Silver scratched the back of his head. "Ah, back where I'm from that weakness thing doesn't matter, you either hit or you get hit."

"But sir, Spearow will be almost useless against Graveler," Loli said, biting her thumb. "You could have him use a special attack, it won't be very strong but at least it'd be more effective!"

"Jeez, you really like these things, huh?" he sighed. "Fine, why don't you tell him what to do, then?"

"Thank you so much!" she smiled, turning towards the battle. "Pogo, use Swift!"

"Van Damme, Water gun!"

Pogo dove forward, spiraling around Machop as it threw a punch against him, emerging just in front of the Graveler. Extending both wings he chirped loudly, forming beams of energy in the form of stars and shooting them forward.

The shower of stars pelted the rocky body of his opponent, barely making him flinch. Graveler smiled and readied himself to attack.

Only he didn't get much of a chance to. Van Damme took a deep breath and spat up a gigantic torrent of water forward, not only dousing Graveler from tip to toe but pushing him back towards the wall, where he crashed unconscious.

His trainer's Pokeball fell to the ground as he stared at what had happened, incredulous.

"Whoa!" Silver yelled, eyes going wide. "Loli, write this in the notebook."

"Uh… what notebook?"

"Never go up against the Flaca."

Baldie frowned, clearly upset by how easily his partner's Pokemon had been defeated. She could see the gears spinning inside his head, wondering how he'd pay his part of the wager. She couldn't help but smile.

"You bitch…" he whispered, sending his hand forward. "Machop, Rolling Kick!"

Pogo flew down in an attempt to intercept him, but in reverse of what happened before Machop slid under him, appearing in front of the Psyduck before he could do anything. Rotating on his hand he threw his body backwards and kicked up, hitting his opponent in the chin and sending him flying towards his trainer.

"Tsk… that attack better not have knocked you out, Van Damme."

The duck got to his feet with difficulty, wobbling as if about to fall, and yet he turned around and winked to Sabrina. Once again she could swear she saw sparkles appear around him.

"Hey Pogo, the hell are you doing with all that flapping?"

She turned her attention back to the fight, especially to the Spearow in the middle of the field. For some reason he'd flown upwards and was now flapping his wings furiously, gathering a strange white energy around them.

"Oh, oh!" Loli put both hands in front of her chest, smiling. "After defeating that Graveler Pogo must have learned a new move!"

She punched the air in front of her, looking livelier than she'd ever seen the girl.

"Pogo, use Aerial Ace!"

Sabrina glanced at Silver, without much subtlety. She found the way he smiled warmly at her both kinda touching and extremely cheesy.

"She really likes this Pokemon stuff, huh," he whispered to himself.

The battle was pretty much over by the time she set her eyes on the field again. Silver's Spearow flew down at incredible speed, dodging the Machop's Rolling Kick by juking under it and slashing at his chest with his wings. The humanoid creature was thrown backwards into his trainer, knocking him to the ground.

"Yay!" Loli punched the air up, giggling. "It's my first time doing this and I won!"

Silver gave her a thumbs up. "Nice one Flaca!"

She stared at them, somewhat taken aback by their cheery reactions. The fight had been very high stakes, and yet still…

It'd been such a long time that she'd almost forgotten… these things were supposed to be fun. She raised her thumb as well, trying to contain a smile.

The Spearow flew down to them and raised his wings, giving Van Damme a high five to celebrate their victory.

Forming the biggest shit eating grin she could, she approached the two men and extended her palm forward.

"I will be taking that prize in cash, thank you very much," she said. "It was a pleasure doing business with you."

After she was (reluctantly) handed the money she saved it inside her pocket, and would've seriously considered keeping it for herself if it weren't for the fact that Silver heard her talking about the hotel she was going to pay.

She didn't have much time to lament that, as they felt a vacuum of air between them followed by a bright flash of purple light. From it appeared Vard and Ñako, the latter of which held his Abra with one hand and a Gligar with the other.

"I assume your fight didn't go very well?" she asked, noticing the copious amounts of blood covering both of them.

"Yeah we should probably go like… right now," said the ninja, cracking his neck painfully. "Because we kinda stole that guy's Gligar and he didn't take it very well."

Silver smiled. "Yo, you've got some nice chocolate all over yourselves. Had a fight without us?"

"It turns out the whole thing was a battle to the death, and also we kinda suck at Pokemon fighting," the ninja shrugged. "But hey, I got the Gligar so we technically didn't lose."

"Even in defeat the Team of Vard emerges victorious!" Vard raised two fingers in a peace sign. "Though I do admit that I'm seeing blurry. We should probably retreat for now."

-----------------------------------​


Cerulean slowly shrank as Rhin and Wolfswift made their way through the desolated route, the sun rising behind them.

"Thanks a lot for coming with me," Rhin smiled at his companion, the sound of his excited steps resounding around them. "I appreciate you realizing that staying with that band of criminals was not a good idea, Wol… Wul… uh…"

"Wolfswift," he corrected him, voice hoarse. "And I won't lie, I thought you were the ninja. I think my lack of vision is playing tricks on me."

Rhin gulped, not accustomed to being around such a silent and serious man, especially not one with a pistol hanging from his belt.

"Oh well… while we're at it we should take the chance to travel ahead a little bit," he said, pointing forward. "Ahead is Mt. Moon, which we'll have to cross to reach Pewter."

"Shouldn't we wait for the rest of the group before continuing?"

"That's okay, friend!" he patted the man on the shoulder, smiling brightly. "We'll just go ahead a bit, I'm sure they'll catch up to us in no time."

Wolfswift didn't argue further, and as they kept going forward they failed to notice that, at the side of the road, there was a rusty sign which had fallen down, covered in grass and dirt. The inscription in it was barely legible:

Rock Tunnel ahead – 5 km.
 

SilverRockets

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Chapter 7: Cerulean - Part 2

Rhin smiled to himself in that way that his mom always told him made him look really cool and, producing a Pokeball from his belt, he threw it up in the air as light pooled out of it.

"Ha! Finally, something to break up the monotony! Let's stretch those legs, Wyvern!"

The Charmander materialized amidst the blades of grass in the middle of the route, standing on all fours and growling defiantly at the Venonat before him. The purple Pokemon jumped out in fear. He let out a screech and spat a cloud of musky yellow gas toward his opponent.

"You're faster; run circles around him!" Rhin commanded. "There's no need to hurt him, we want him for our team after all."

As Wyvern began running on all fours around the scared creature, Wolfswift approached from behind with that usual nonchalance of his, hands on the pockets of his jacket. Even after having been blinded, he always looked as though he were in control of the situation. Rhin wished he knew how he did it.

"I'm starting to doubt we're going the right way," said Wolfswift. "Why haven't the others caught up to us?"

Rhin waved the matter away with a smile. "They probably got distracted causing chaos and destruction like the senseless criminals they are. They'll catch up to us, don't worry."

"I don't know about that. Something about this place smells… off."

"Trust me, it's gonna be fine Wolf. Can I call you Wolf?"

"No."

"Listen Wolf. Once we're inside Mt. Moon we can find a place to rest, and then when we wake up the others will surely be close by," said Rhin. "Trust me, I…"

And at that moment, Rhin narrowed his eyes, which emitted a pale, crimson glow. Wolfswift froze in place as a voice spoke in his head.

"I can check."

It took him a moment to relax. "Ah… I see. You're one of those."

"Righto! So there's nothing to worry, Wolf." Rhin gave him a thumbs up, then turned toward his battle once more. "Alright, Wyvern, you got him on the ropes! Whip your tail and use Ember around him!"

It was a matter of seconds. Wyvern ran past another cloud of paralyzing dust and, using the momentum of his run, whipped at the air with his tail, sending a coiling whip of flames that engulfed the grass around the poor Venonat. He screeched and shrunk into himself, horrified as the wall of flame closed in around him.

"Don't worry, you won't get hurt! I just wanted to intimidate you a lil'. Makes you easier to catch," said Rhin with a smile. "Here it goes!"

The Pokeball flew through the flames and bonked the Venonat on the head, trapping him inside. Wyvern ran to the scene and stomped all over the flames, extinguishing them, and once he did Rhin walked to the middle of the ring of scorched grass and grabbed the ball containing his new partner.

"Alright! Looks like we have a new partner!" exclaimed Rhin. "Couldn't have done it without you, Wyvern."

Wolfswift scoffed behind him. "If you're finished wasting your time with that Venonat, we should probably deal with the girl over there."

"Wh–girl? What girl?" Rhin turned around, frowning. "And how did you know it was a Venonat?"

"I'm starting to get used to the blindness. My other senses are slowly sharpening," explained the man. "Still… I can't quite discern if she's dangerous or not."

Before Rhin could ask who exactly he was referring to, they heard a soft, sweet voice behind them.

"Hehe, I guess you caught me!"

His first thought as he turned around and met the girl's eyes was 'How the hell did I not notice her there before'? She was sitting on a big rock, leaning forward casually as she greeted them with a smile of perfect white teeth, a gesture that the Magby atop her shoulder imitated a second after. She looked young, probably no older than either of them. She had short, disheveled orange hair and wore the traditional apron and thick gloves of a Pokemon breeder.

"I was watching your battle. A trainer, eh? Not many of those around anymore, so that's pretty cool!" She spoke dizzyingly fast, almost enough to make it hard to understand what she was saying. "I'm one too! Or, well, a breeder I guess but still. This Magby here helps me out with all the eggs, mostly to make them hatch faster, you would not believe how hard it was before I caught him! This one time I was commissioned by one of my clients to hatch a Dratini egg and I'm not joking you it took me six months to get it to…"

She seemed to catch herself, letting out a short chuckle and shaking her head.

"Ah, sorry, sorry. I tend to ramble. Anyway, my name's Charity!" She pointed at herself with a thumb, and the Magby did the same. "I was supposed to go to Lavender but got lost in the way, so lucky me to have run into you two, right?"

"Wait, hold on just a moment." Wolfswift interceded, raising a palm toward her. "What are you implying? We don't know you, so–"

Charity jumped out of the rock she was sitting on and dusted herself off, shining them a brilliant smile.

"Oh come on blindfold guy, I'm trustworthy! And also lost. Like, very lost," she clarified. "Anyway, where are you guys headed? Are you alone? How many Pokemon do you have? Which ones? Oh right, where are my manners. What are your names?"

"I… er…" Rhin swallowed, unsure of how to deal with the intensity of this girl. "Well, I'm Rhin and this is Wolfswift, and we were headed tow–"

"Great! See, I'm actually kinda scared of crossing the mountains by myself, so I was hoping I could get you two to accompany me! For security, you know? What do you say, Ron?"

"I-it's Rhin and–"

Wolfswift placed a hand on Rhin's shoulder, shaking his head. "Rhin, we don't know her. It would be reckless to have her with us."

It's not like he would've had much time for it anyway, but Rhin considered their situation as best he could. And then, as he usually did, he decided to go with the option that involved trusting in people.

"Come on, Wolf, don't be a cynic. She seems nice," he said. "And besides, we trainers have to help each other, right?"

Charity pumped her fist high into the air, and Magby imitated her.

"That's the spirit, Ron! There's few enough of us to go around, so of course we gotta stick together when we can!" she exclaimed. "Alright, let's get to it! Together, we'll figure out a way through the mountains in a jiffy!"

Against the combined forces of two optimistic idiots, Wolfswift had, unfortunately, no choice but to accept their proposition.

------------------------------------------------​

Muffin hummed happily to herself as she examined a shelf full of different kinds of fishing rods. The supply store was mostly empty. Only she, Sammy and Siegfried were perusing through its contents, though the boy seemed more preoccupied with the Pokemon egg he was carrying.

"Ah, there's so much variety here!" said Muffin, raising her sleeved hands to her chest. "We can buy everything we need for the rest of the journey."

Siegfried looked down at the egg and smiled. "I just hope the others don't take too long. I've got a good feeling about this egg an–"

As if on cue, they heard the chubby man behind the counter address a group of people approaching the store.

"Welcome! Come in, come in."

Muffin didn't need to turn around to know that Ñako was the one to open the door, what with him slamming it against the wall. Not to mention that booming voice of his filling the room a second later.

"Don't have to tell us twice, geezer!"

The second voice was unmistakably Sabrina's, cold and full of irritation.

"What do we even need from this place, anyway?"

They strolled into the store, looking around with different levels of interest at the wares lining the shelves.

"A map, probably."

Sabrina frowned. "We came all this way for a stupid $10 map?"

"Er… $20, actually," said the owner.

"$20!? You cheap fuck."

Siegfried was the first to address them. "Was there any trouble on your side? You were gone for a while."

"And where are the other two?" asked Sammy. "Er, three. Vard, Silver and his… companion."

"They went ahead to secure our staying place for the night," explained Sabrina. "Big hotel, 5 stars. You're welcome, by the way."

"You don't need to ask how we got the money for it," Ñako. "It's okay."

"You… didn't set fire to anything, did you?" Sammy frowned.

Ñako shrugged. "Nothing of importance, right?"

"Nope," muttered Sabrina. "S'all good."

Sammy stood in front of them with her arms folded, the look on her face reminding Muffin terribly of the one her own mom often had whenever she was trying to determine if her brother was lying to her or not. After a few seconds, she just sighed and looked away.

"Anyway, we shouldn't spend too long here. Let's just get what we need an–"

A loud crack broke through the room. All eyes turned instantly toward the source of the sound, some more quickly than others. Sabrina's hand was already on her belt, though it froze in place when she realized what had caused the sound.

"Goodness!"

A happy grin spread across Siegfried's lips as he looked down at his egg, which had begun to crack. Muffin let out an excited gasp, and even Sammy couldn't stop herself from making a sound. All of them huddled around Siegfried as the Pokemon within the egg tried its hardest to free itself.

"Siegfried, look!" Muffin pointed excitedly. "You were right!"

"It's… it's about to be born!" declared the man, voice full of happiness. "We're about to witness the miracle of life."

Behind them, Sabrina muttered under her breath. "Tsk. Guess we can't eat it anymore, huh?"

The last of the cracks appeared on the shell, light filtering through, until finally with a sound like that of glass breaking the light exploded from within. The eggshells fell all over as a small creature began to take form on Siegfried's hands. It was round and blue, with big glassy eyes and a marking like a spiral on its stomach.

"A Poliwag!" Siegfried and Muffin yelled in unison, equally thrilled.

The rest looked somewhat disappointed, but Siegfried's reaction couldn't have been farther away from that. He raised the baby Pokemon high and shone him a kind smile.

"Welcome to this world, little one," he said. "Your name will be Murphy. I hope we can be friends."

"Wruui!"

"Ahh… that is wonderful," muttered Muffin. "I never thought I'd see a Pokemon being born."

"It's definitely not something you see much of nowadays," said Sammy.

"Eh. It's not that cool," Sabrina added. "I've seen b–"

Suddenly, the chubby owner slammed his hand on the counter and yelled out.

"THIEVES!"

Every pair of eyes turned toward him, some confused, most of them irritated by the sudden noise. Even the newborn Poliwag frowned at the man.

"Excuse me?" asked Sammy.

Sabrina scoffed. "We haven't stolen anything yet, what the hell."

"Yeah, I just smell bad!" said Ñako. "That ain't a crime last I checked."

"I swear, the nerve of some people," whispered Muffin.

"No, you idiots!" yelled out the owner, pointing forward. "Behind you, it's–!"

The door flew open, slamming against the wall with a loud, sharp sound. Everyone except Siegfried and Muffin already had a Pokeball in hand before they even turned all the way around, and their quick reaction was well-founded, as they found themselves face to face with a couple of men wearing black wool hats and scarves over their mouths. They both held pistols.

"This is a robbery! Everyone get down!" yelled the shortest one, his voice deep and rough.

"Yeah, stay nice and put if you don't wanna be Magikarp food!" the other one added, his voice much more shrill.

Out of the entire group, Muffin was the only one who gave the two the reaction they were probably expecting, gasping in fear and clutching at her chest with her sleeved hands. The others simply looked at the thieves gormlessly.

"'This is a robbery'? Seriously?" muttered Ñako

"Yeah, and that line about the Magikarp food…" said Sammy.

"Talk about cliché. Where'd these clowns come from anyway?" finished Sabrina.

The lukewarm reaction was enough to shock the thieves for a few seconds, which gave the trainers enough time to reach for their Pokeballs. Ñako, however, hoisted his arm over his shoulder and unfolded his giant shuriken in front of him, a relieved smile on his face.

"Ah, whatever," said Ñako. "It's been almost fifteen minutes since we engaged in senseless violence. I was starting to get worried."

"W-wait!" yelled the owner. "Please, I don't want any trouble, I–!"

Ñako silenced him with a wink. "Don't you worry, we'll take care of these two and no one will even miss them. Everyone knows those who wear black wool hats are terrible people, right?"

Sabrina dug into the back of his head with her glare.

"Are we sure we should be–?"

But Siegfried's concern was cut short as the tallest thief scoffed and took a cocky step forward. His partner tried to do th e same. He chuckled and then tried to spit dismissively to the side, but he forgot that he was wearing a scarf over his mouth and just ended up spitting on it instead. He froze, hoping that no one had seen that. Everyone had.

"You brats wanna step in, be the big heroes?" asked the tallest one. "We'll show you what happens to those who don't stick to the scrip–"

Two simultaneous lights exploded between the two groups, blinding the thieves as a Vulpix and a Treeko materialized inside the store.

"Alright, let's see if this works."

Sabrina grabbed a lighter from a nearby shelf and flicked it on, using it to light her cigarette. She took a drag, then threw the lighter down toward her Vulpix. As soon as the flame touched his fur it spread all throughout his body like a mantle of golden light. Inside Sabrina's head, a voice rang.

Flash Fire, activated.

"Light'em up, Rokon."

"Geek, take out these jokes!"

The roar of flames cut through the air, and by the time the tallest thief opened his eyes again they were already upon him. He screamed and threw his gun down to the ground on instinct as his hand was enveloped. His friend only had time to gasp at the sight before a green blur flew toward him and a thick green tail was buried in his gut.

"HGHK!"

He crashed against the doorframe and his gun fell to his side on the ground.

"Heh. This won't take long." Sabrina smiled to herself. "Hope you can hold your own, redhead."

Sammy scoffed. "Same goes to you."

The thieves stumbled back toward the door, disoriented and in pain. The shortest one swallowed, his eyes going wide in fear.

"S-shit, they got Pokemon!"

"Calm down, dumbass!" the other chastised him. "They're not the only ones!"

Three new Pokeballs flew through the air, the explosion of light pooling into the shapes of Pokemon a second after. A Gastly, a Beedril and a Kadabra. They stood between the trainers and the thieves, eyes narrowed, ready to attack.

"Get them!" yelled the tallest thief.

A buzz roared through the air as Beedril shot forward like a bullet, the tip of his spear-like hand going straight for Ñako's chest. The ninja raised his shuriken, deflecting the blow with a loud Tink as the Pokemon flew over him, maneuvering to his blind spot.

"Rokon, dodge and counter with Ember!" The Vulpix jumped out of the way of the Psywave and spat another mouthful of flames at the Kadabra. "Ninja, take care of the bug! Siegfried, protect the old man! We can ask for money in return for saving his store later!"

"Got it!"

"Y-yes, of course!"

The sounds of battle and chaos reverberated through the store as the five Pokemon and Ñako engaged in a mess of a fight, flames and waves of psychic energy flying through the air and destroying the shelves and items around them. Sabrina kept on shouting orders, but she stopped once she realized something.

"Hey, cat ears." The mere act of talking to Muffin was enough to make the girl jump in place. "Were you planning on just standing there with those Deerling eyes or are you actually going to do something?"

Muffin's voice shivered as she spoke. "I-I… I d-don't…"

"If you're gonna be useless then you could at least find a way to cover the windows," Sabrina offered. "We draw enough attention as it is."

"S… s-shut up, I know how to fight!" spluttered Muffin, grabbing a Pokeball from her belt. "Milkshake, use T-Thunder Wave!"

The attack went out before the light of the Pokeball fully vanished, a cloud of crackling electricity shooting forward. Kadabra raised his spoon, blocking both it and the flames from Rokon. Gastly flew up and dodged. The thieves, however, weren't as quick to react.

"Agh!"

"F-fuck!"

The crackling bolts surrounded them like chains, paralyzing them in place. The tallest one fell back, holding himself up against the wall, while the other lost balance and fell to the ground, right next to the gun he'd previously dropped.

"T-this is getting out of hand!" yelled the former.

"I-I've got it. Here, I'll–!"

It happened too fast. Sabrina and Sammy were too focused on the fight and Ñako was busy deflecting the Beedril's stings with his shuriken. Muffin and Siegfried were the only ones who saw as the man on the floor grabbed the gun with incredible effort and raised his hand as much as he was able.

"Sir, get down!" yelled Siegfried.

"P-please, I don't want trouble!" yelled the owner, terrified. "Take what you want, just–!"

The gunshot boomed throughout the store, deafening. The owner gasped, then looked down at the dark spot on his chest and opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out. His eyes rolled back and he collapsed behind the counter, immobile.

"Tsk," muttered the thief. "I was aiming for the mannish girl."

"Sir!" Siegfried bellowed, eyes wide with horror. "Sir, are you–!"

"NO!"

Muffin's scream was loud and shrill and broken. She took a step back, tears falling down her cheeks, and without thinking she grabbed a second Pokeball from her belt and threw it into the air.

"V-Vodka, do s-something! Stop them!"

A tiny wall of flames rolled through the room, spat out from the mouth of the freshly-materialized Growlithe. This time, Kadabra wasn't as lucky. He took the brunt of the attack and was thrown back while the remaining tongues of flame fell upon the two men. They screamed and fell back toward the wall, the shortest one dropping the gun immediately.

Sabrina whistled appreciatively. "About time you did something useful."

"W-what is wrong with you!?" yelled Muffin, her voice little more than a sob. "T-that man is… he was…"

"Dead. Shot. I'm well aware," replied Sabrina. "And we'll follow suit if we don't finish these fuckers off. And speaking of which…"

Grabbing her backpack, Sabrina put a hand inside and pulled out the heavy crossbow she'd used once before, a cold look of determination on her eyes.

"This is taking longer than expected," she said. "Ninja!"

"Just a sec!"

A spray of blood cut through the air as Ñako slashed through the Beedril's side, earning a loud buzz from the creature and sending it flying unevenly toward the ground, where it stayed. The man then turned around, shuriken bloody, and smiled at the two paralyzed men.

"There we go," he breathed out. "I'll be honest, I was looking for a reason to kill you two without feeling bad, so thanks for that."

Ñako threw himself forward. Sabrina raised her crossbow and whispered. "Stay still for me."

"W-wait! Stop, we…!"

"Gastly, Confuse Ray!"

A ball of disorienting light was shot toward Ñako's face. He frowned, unable to change his trajectory, and braced for the impact.

"Geek, intercept it!"

Using its springy legs, Treeko jumped in front of Ñako just as the ball of light was about to reach him, taking it straight to the face and falling back to the ground, eyes spinning in confusion. Ñako chuckled and raised his hand, ready to strike.

Something whistled through the air. The tallest thief opened his mouth to say something, but then the bolt from Sabrina's crossbow hit him square in the chest, going straight through him and impaling him against the wall behind him. His companion looked at him and shrieked in terror.

"Where are you looking you git!?"

Ñako fell like a reaper atop him, and a single slash was all it took to finish him off. A spray of blood painted the floor red as they both collapsed to the ground, dead.

Silence set in for a few moments. The trainers looked amist themselves, taking a moment to breathe, or in Muffin's case simply hiding her face behind her sleeves and shaking like a leaf. The enemy Gastly was the one of their opponents still conscious, but judging by that look of horror on his face he wasn't very keen to fight them anymore.

After a while, Ñako broke the silence.

"Think we might've gone a bit too far?"

The store around them was a complete mess. Three corpses laid on the ground and pretty much every item laying on the shelves had fallen off or been turned to ash by Rokon's flames.

"I don't know what you're talking about," replied Sabrina, lowering the crossbow. "That was a perfectly legitimate case of self-defense."

"What?" breathed Siegfried, holding on tightly to the baby Poliwag. "That wasn't self-defense no matter how you slice it!"

Sammy rolled her eyes. "Self-defense or not, things will only get more complicated if we stay here. Let's go."

"Yeah. Redhead's got a point," said Ñako. "Besides, we got a five-star hotel waiting for us. The more we hurry the better."

After taking a moment to return their Pokemon and holster their respective weapons, the trainers hurried out of the door and away from the scene of the crime. Sabrina, however, stayed back.

"Hey. Gastly."

She approached the terrified Pokemon with a casual look on her face, hands in her pockets. Stepping over the pool of blood, she bent down and picked up the Pokeball that belonged to him.

"I know this is a bit sudden, that I killed your previous master and all that, but I'm afraid we've got little time, and you have a decision to make," she said, raising the ball. "I can trap you here and sell you to the highest bidder, or…"

A cold smile formed on her lips. "You can work for me, and become stronger. What do you say?"

Of course, both of them knew it wasn't much of a choice. After a moment of deliberation the Gastly did the best equivalent of its species to a nod, and Sabrina smiled to herself as she returned him to the ball.

"Welcome to the team, Stan," she muttered. "Now…"

But just as she was about to leave, Sabrina noticed that she wasn't the only one still in the room, disregarding the corpses. As she turned around she saw Muffin, frozen in place, eyes wide like plates. Her cheeks were stained with tears.

"What?" asked Sabrina, raising an eyebrow. "First time you see someone die?"

Muffin said nothing. She just glared at Sabrina with a mix of horror and hatred.

"Well trust me, it won't be the last," she continued. "But hey, first time's always the hardest, so you've gotten through that at least."

"Y-you…!"

"You're free to leave. Turn tail and never come back. It's what's worked for me before," said Sabrina, shrugging. "Or you can open your eyes and see the world the way it actually is. It's up to you. I would suggest moving sometime before the police gets here, though. If you get caught and rat us out I will kill you."

And with that Sabrina turned around and walked out the door, leaving a scared, sobbing Muffin behind.

------------------------------------------------​


Half an hour later, Ñako came out of his hotel room's shower with only a towel tied around his waist.

"Oi, guys… you might wanna follow my example and take a bath," he told his Pokemon. "Assuming you want to experience new things… such as not smelling."

Most of his Pokemon were sleeping on different parts of the room. Gordolfa the Bulbasaur rested atop a flower pot, Paja the Abra sat with his eyes closed in front of the vanity mirror –not much different than his usual demeanor– and Gligar rested inside his Pokeball, which he'd forgotten next to the toilet of course.

"Mrraaw!"

Meowth, though. He was too busy tearing apart the room to sleep. The sheets, the curtains, the walls, they were all full his signature scratches. Ñako looked at this, opened his mouth, then closed it.

"Eh, whatever. I'm not paying for it."

He then walked toward the service phone and picked it up, waiting until he heard the 'Hello?' from the other side before speaking.

"Garçon! We're gonna need a lot of food and a loooooot of alcohol for the room next door, where Silver and Loli are!"

"Sir, I am not sure of who this Silver is, b–"

"Shut up and bring it! And also a change of clothes, and pretty much everything you could give us for free. Oh, and Pokemon food! It… uh… does my stomach good, yeah."

He hung up before the man had a chance to reply. Then he placed his hands on his hips and took in a deep breath, enjoying the moment.

"Alright, I guess I should tell everyone we're having a party in Silver's room," he muttered to himself. "I'll see if I can think of a way to convince them."

------------------------------------------------​

With her face buried in the pillows, Sabrina found herself faced with an existential dilemma. Fall asleep like she so desperately wanted to or… live, and stuff.

It was funny how in the little time she'd been here the room was already a disaster; clothes hanging from the chair, table and door handle, sheets balled up and thrown to the ground, Pokeballs strewn about everywhere, a crossbow next to her pillow and a quiver full of arrows hanging from the headboard.

For a moment Sabrina was about to fall asleep, but then she realized just how much she wanted to take a shower RIGHT NOW, and so despite her body's protest she got up and did just that.

After a full hygiene session, she put on her reserve shirt and pants and let her wet clothes hang from the window so they'd dry off by tomorrow morning. After that she went around the bathroom, grabbing every towel, soap, bottle of shampoo and tube of toothpaste she could find, shoving them all inside her backpack.

Once she finished stealing everything of value, she picked up the phone and was about to call to order dinner when she heard a distant knock, and then the muffled sound of Ñako screaming.

"Siegfried, we're going to use words that are very hard to understand in Silver's room!"

Ñako's steps echoed down the hall, and soon Sabrina heard him knock hard on her door, his voice booming through the halls.

"THEY'RE GIVING AWAY MONEY IN SILVER'S ROOM!"

Sabrina rolled her eyes and put the phone down.

In all honesty she had no desire to put herself in the same room as those… people, but if there was any chance of leaving this place without burning it to the ground then someone sensible needed to be there to look after them.

And so she let out a tired sigh, grabbed her shit and walked out of her room.

------------------------------------------------​

Silver lay down on his bed, one hand holding onto his scythe while the other held the room's phone close to his ear.

"Yo, waiter! Get us a Neapolitan pizza with half anchovies!"

"But I don't like fish!" Loli yelled out from the couch.

"Tsk, always making things easy, eh?" he muttered with a smile. "Alright, take out the anchovies and put some pineapple in there."

"I'm on a diet!" yelled Loli. "I'd rather a salad."

"Son of a bitch. Hey waiter, on top of the pizza throw in a roasted Goldeen with an Oddish salad, yeah?"

"I want apple juice!"

"Hear that, waiter? Throw some fresh juice in there, all the flavors and colors you got!" Silver paused, then added. "Oh yeah, you got some nachos or something for the pre-game?"

Loli yelled out again. "We also need food for the Pokemon!"

"Fucking critters. Hey waiter, to finish it off bring in a skewered Tauros 'cause the Pokemon are hungry! Alright, later!"

He hung the phone and threw himself up to his feet from the bed, almost skewering the frame behind him with his scythe. He figured he should start dressing himself now that he'd showered.

And so he put his trusty weapon against the wall while he looked for his clothes. Meanwhile, Pogo and Flan were flying about the room, chasing each other and giving each other little playful pecks whenever they were caught. It was cute, Silver had to admit, but he really hoped he didn't have to deal with any unexpected Pokemon egg popping up soon.

Then again, Loli might like that.

Once he finished dressing himself, he stood in the middle of the room and aired his concerns.

"…When's the pizza coming?"

But before he could get a response, he heard the walls talk with a voice eerily similar to that of Ñako.

"SILVER WE'RE HAVING A PARTY IN YOU ROOM!"

Silver looked around, confused.

"Is it me or are the walls talking?"

Loli stood up. "Sir, I think they're coming over!"

"… The pizzas?"

------------------------------------------------​

Rhin's face was red like a Scizor, and for once it had nothing to do with his proclivity for embarrassment. He was just trying to climb up the side of a cliff. A cliff high enough that he would certainly drop to his death were his hand to slip.

"Hngghhh! C-come on…"

Finally, after a couple minutes of struggling, he pushed himself with the last of the strength on his legs and emerged atop the platform he'd been trying to climb up to. Both Wolfswift and Charity were already waiting for him up there. The latter giggled and knelt in front of him, hugging her knees.

"Come on, come on! We're so close; I can see the entrance from here!"

"Hgh… Y-yeah, just give me a… a minute."

"Hurry up," said Wolfswift. "You're slowing us down."

Rhin decided not to tell Wolfswift where he could stick his advice, and instead used those few seconds to recover his breath, hands resting on his knees.

"A… are we really close?" he asked Charity.

Charity scrunched up her nose and looked away. Then she sighed.

"That attitude's not very attractive, you know," she said. "You have to be more confident, Ron! Put some determination in your voice!"

She shot up to her feet before Rhin could even reply, then turned around and pointed in the opposite direction of the cliff, through the small clearing in between the ridges of the mountain.

"There, look!"

Indeed, Rhin could see a depression on the wall in the distance; an entrance to the series of caves that ran through the entirety of the mountain.

"If we go through the inside of the mountain, then we'll get there a lot faster don't you think? Don't you?"

Rhin let out a breath that was almost a sigh, his shoulders dropping. "She's got a lot of energy, doesn't she?"

A scoff was all the response he got from Wolfswift before he changed the topic.

"Did you forget that we're supposed to meet with the others before heading to the prison?" he asked. "If anything we should go around the cave instead of through it."

"Oh come on, don't be boring Wolfsweets!"

"My name is not–"

But Charity was upon them in a flash, each of her hands grabbing onto theirs as she pulled them along with a huge grin on her face. Rhin felt his heart jump at the sudden touch.

"Where's y'alls adventurous spirit? Let's go!"

Rhin tried to stutter a response, his face tinted a pale red. "E-er, Charity, I think it's better if we–"

"Say no more! Through the mountain it is!"

There were no more arguments from the two men, mostly because they were too busy being dragged forward to be able to say anything.

------------------------------------------------​

The party inside of Silver's room was going well, so well in fact that nothing had been set on fire yet.

Loud rock music boomed through the walls, pulsing like a heartbeat out of the boombox Ñako had procured from Arceus knew where. The atmosphere was nice. Food and drink were abundant. Even the least friendly members of the group seemed to be having fun.

Silver, Ñako and Sabrina sat in a circle around the small table in the middle of the room, drinking beer and playing cards, while Loli watched with peaked interest, a glass of apple juice on her hand. Siegfried ran around the room, trying to keep the newborn Poliwag from stealing all the pizza. Sammy leaned against the nearest wall, arms folded, trying to pretend that her foot wasn't moving up and down with the rhythm of the music. Mycroft, draped in the hotel's fancy bathrobe, was too busy making tea in the room's kitchen to join his companions.

"Oh, by the way," muttered Ñako, looking down at his cards. "Where's V–?"

The door flew open. All eyes in the room turned and saw as Vard strolled forward, raising one palm toward the sky.

"Your leader… has arrived!"

The first thing everyone noticed was that his spherical hair was somewhat crumpled and bent on the side he'd probably lay down on. The second was that he was wearing nothing but a pair of pink underwear. After a moment of awkward silence, the man seemed to notice the former.

"Ah, how careless of me. Fear not, my gentle men, for I have this under control," he declared, raising his hand. "Secret technique of Vard Nº 17! Prehensile Hair!"

He stuck his hand inside his hair and grabbed a short piece of rope, then pulled at it with all his strength. With a 'Pop', his hair immediately poofed outward into its usual spherical shape.

"H-how the fuck did you do that?" Sammy asked, breathless.

"Ah, my candid redhead, explaining one of my techniques to regular people would be like trying to explain Algebra to an Ekans."

"R… right."

"Speaking of candid…" Ñako cleared his throat before changing the topic. "My dear Vard, your hair is as lustrous as usual but do you think you could put a shirt on? Or at least a pair of pants."

Silver laughed. "Yo', that's so cool, his boxers match his hair!"

Vard smiled to himself, folding his arms as he struck a pose as though he were thinking over something.

"The truth, my spiky ninja, is that I need to take a bath, but it is not like me to keep my subjects waiting," he explained. "As such, I decided to bless your bathroom with my nakedness. In the meantime, I'll be taking this!"

He walked toward the table and grabbed a slice of pizza before heading for the bathroom. Sabrina's voice caught his attention before he could enter.

"Er… not like I care, but are you going to eat that in the shower?"

Vard looked at Sabrina, then down at the slice of pizza, then up at her again.

"Yes."

He closed the door behind him, and the sound of the shower soon joined that of the rock music as the party went on.

------------------------------------------------​

Once Mycroft finished brewing some tea, he came out of the kitchen and immediately turned up his nose at the sight that met him. Food and empty bottles were strewn about everywhere. Pokemon ran through the room, toppling things over and scratching at the walls. And worst of all, they'd eaten all of the roasted Goldeen.

Barbarians…

However, one more detail caught his attention. Wasn't someone missing? Where was…?

He saw a piece of her hat through the window separating the room from the balcony. Muffin was sitting outside, with her back to everyone. She sat still as a corpse, holding her knees tight.

Muffin…

He made his way through the room, politely declining a glass of beer from the smelly ninja, until he reached the window and walked out into the balcony, then closed it behind him. Somehow, Muffin hadn't noticed him yet. She stared out into space gormlessly, eyes full of sadness. Her Meowth slept soundly on her lap.

Mycroft stood there for a moment, thinking. What was he supposed to do in a situation like this?

"Would you like some tea, mademoiselle?"

She blinked in surprise, then turned to look at him with eyes glossy with tears. Stammering, she wiped her cheeks with her sleeve and swallowed down the redness in her cheeks before replying.

"M-Mycroft… yes, thank you."

He handed over the cup of tea that, yes, he had made for himself, but he knew that Muffin probably needed it more than him. While she held the cup and blew air on it to cool the contents, he let himself fall next to her, one hand over his knee.

"Give it a moment to rest. Tea is temperamental; if you drink it right away you'll just burn your tongue."

Muffin smiled laboriously. "Thank you… it already smells amazing."

"That's good to hear."

They sat there for what felt like an entire minute, the sounds of the ruckus and the music behind them seeming to get farther and farther away. It wasn't an awkward silence. It was a pleasant one, one they shared.

After a while, however, Mycroft spoke.

"I understand."

Muffin looked up at him, eyes narrowed.

"I heard from the others what happened today," he explained. "Such an ugly scene. To take a life without even a hint of remorse like Sabrina… and even worse, to be making jokes while spilling all that blood like Ñako did… It's sick."

A strained sound left Muffin's lips. Her eyes grew cloudy again and she looked down, the cup shaking on her hands.

"Silver, too. They're all a bunch of savages. Like bloodthirsty monsters," continued Mycroft. "But you shouldn't let them get into your head. You are better than them."

Muffin shook her head ever so slightly. "N-no, it's not just that. It's just… being there when it all happened, in the middle of a battle to the death, I realized…"

She swallowed. For a moment she said nothing, but then a sad laugh left her mouth.

"… What am I doing here? When I accepted this job, a part of me thought we'd be out here having adventures, meeting new people and Pokemon, like…"

Her expression grew dark.

"Like… trainers. Real trainers, the ones from before… all of this happened. But I think I let my imagination fly a little too out of control, and here I am."

Mycroft shone her a kind smile. "That's nothing to be ashamed of. Do you want to know something?"

"Hm?" She turned to look at him.

"Even if I only accepted this job because of my family, I think deep down… I was looking for the same thing," he said. "So you're not the only naïve idiot in this group."

Despite herself, Muffin couldn't help but mirror the boy's smile.

"I guess I'm not."

They looked away from each other, their gazes getting lost in the dark horizon ahead. The tea had started to go cold in Muffin's hands, but neither of them minded.

"Kanto isn't ready yet. But maybe someday… we could be like them," said Mycroft. "Real trainers, like the ones we watched on T.V when we were young."

Muffin nodded, eyes distant. "I'd like that."

------------------------------------------------​

Ñako was the last one to wake up next morning, pushing away the pizza, empty bottles and sleeping Meowth on top of him before rising to his feet and letting out a big yawn.

"Ahh… is it eight already?"

"It's twelve, Ñako."

Mycroft said that as he entered the room with a handful of freshly washed white towels, which he proceeded to sniff before letting out a pleasured sigh.

"Ah, clean and perfumed. I guess the room service is acceptable."

The rest were scattered around Silver's room, either gathering their stuff or trying to wait out the hangover. Vard stood in the middle of the room, wearing a bathrobe as well as a towel wrapped around his hair.

"Good morning, my subjects! Let us embark on this new day with cheer and positivity!"

Sabrina scoffed, adjusting her hat in front of the mirror. "Can we get coffee first?"

"Did you all know that you snore a lot?" said Sammy from the other extreme of the room.

They finished dressing up and gathering their belongings while Loli and Silver's Pokemon sat back on the couch, watching T.V. It didn't take long before she called out to them, terror in her voice.

"E-everyone, come here! I think you'll want to see this!"

The group gathered around the couch, looking up at the T.V., which showed an interesting piece of news.

"Murder in Cerulean; there are three victims confirmed," Sabrina muttered under her breath. "Shit."

Mycroft took a step back and sighed into his palm. "I knew it."

"Great news! Our legend expands!" yelled Vard.

"B-but… they can't know it was us!" Sammy argued. "Right…?"

At that, Silver walked over to the balcony and looked down, then let out a long whistle.

"Well, there are police cars down the street, if that answers your question."

Chaos ensued. Everyone started running around the room as fast as they could, grabbing onto their Pokemon and belongings and heading for the door. Siegfried was the first to ask what they were all thinking.

"C-could we get out from the back door?"

Sammy shook her head. "There's no way, they'll definitely follow us."

"I could take my clothes off in front of the police," said Ñako. "Would that help?"

"It's just as the good ninja says!" yelled Vard. "We must create a distraction in order to escape safely!"

Siegfried shook his head. "In what way does Ñako's genitalia mean that?"

Ultimately, however, it was Sabrina who came up with a solution.

"They won't pursue us if they have something even bigger to worry about."

At least half the group shivered at the coldness in Sabrina's voice, and that feeling only exacerbated when they saw that she held a Pokeball in her hand. There was a flash of light, and a moment later her Vulpix materialized before them.

"Rokon, do your thing."

The curtains were burning before she even finished saying that sentence. It didn't take long for the flames to start growing, until they started licking up the ceiling.

Muffin let out a scream as she ran out of the room. "Whyyyyyy!?"

"Tsk! What if someone gets hurt?" asked Siegfried as he did the same.

"Merde! Is it too much to ask to leave ONE town without committing arson!?" Mycroft yelled out.

Yet none of them could stay back and argue, as the entire group soon started running downstairs toward the lobby. Sabrina, Ñako and Silver ran together in the back, a more relaxed look on their faces. As they reached the base floor and saw the back exit in the distance, Silver spoke up.

"Cool hotel."

"Yeah," said Ñako. "We should come back sometime."

"For sure," added Sabrina. "Ah, where are my manners? I should tip the staff for their generosity."

Just as she ran past the receptionist's desk, she took a coin out of her pocket and flicked it toward the poor owner, who was too busy sweating and yelling at the phone for the firefighters to come as soon as possible.

As the door closed behind them, the three stood still for a moment to catch their breath.

"Y'know, if we're all done acting cool and aloof…" said Ñako. "We should probably…"

"Fuck off," finished Sabrina. "Yeah."

------------------------------------------------​

An hour later, the group stood over one of the high hills of Route 4, overlooking the city they'd just left far in the distance while the wind blew and the grass rustled under their feet.

"So how was the thing now?" asked Silver. "We head for Mt. Moon?"

"We should," said Mycroft. "We wasted enough time on Cerulean as it is."

"Huh…"

Ñako muttered to himself, frowning at the horizon.

"Wolf… Wolfsy… the blind one, and that other guy. The one that believed in morality and Santa Claus. We never saw them again. Wonder what happened to them."

He only 'wondered' for a couple more seconds before shrugging and turning around, facing the majestic figure of Mt. Moon in the distance.

"Oh well."
 

System Error

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C6
- Like the allegory of a bucket of water being dumped here
- Secrets of knowing intensify
- A traitor seems so in-character for this group
- More powerful than the megacorp owner? The actual government? This is some Shadowrun level stuff up in here
- That feel when your ex shows up trying to kill you
- This guy is a real kook if he's writing that dramatically in his diary
- Hoothoot isn't hyphenated
- Splitting up again. This will end well.
- CAGE MATCH.
- This was not what I was expecting from this scene
- This is also a very interesting yet very question raising flashback
- Willing to bet that 'Misty' isn't Misty.
- Well this girl acts way out of her class. For a sibling, she seems to treat him more like a butler.
- Like the description of the guy's voice.
- You refer to the guy as both baldy and baldie, should pick only one.
- Yeah, this definitely seems like PTU or that other one which I forget, if human vs Pokemon is a thing.
- Water Gun should be both words capitalized
- Leveling up and move learning in the middle of battles though? Handy.
- Well that escalated quickly off-screen.
- And heading towards Rock Tunnel. Hey, I heard it's more interesting than all of Gen 8.

C7
- You'd think at least the non-blind guy would have a sense of direction, but I guess not
- Lots of psychics and telepaths in this campaign, it would seem
- Well this girl isn't creepy at all. And certainly not suspicious. Excessive cheer in an edgy world? Sus as fuck.
- money for it," Ñako. "It's okay." <- Seems to be some missing words.
- I know the miracle of life is a reference to something, but I forget exactly what
- Well this is a random encounter all right. And a pretty silly way for the owner to point it out.
- to do th e same <- Typo
- Well I will say one thing about this campaign so far. Edgy as it is, it does seem to understand the random mooks are often comic relief in Pokemon.
- Activating Flash Fire with a smoke? That's a new one.
- the Beedril's stings <- Typo. It's repeated a couple times.
- Guy can't aim. Also jeez.
- Treeko <- Same, Treecko is spelled as such
- Surprised Sabrina didn't swipe a map. Also more outright villainy from her, sheesh.
- "SILVER WE'RE HAVING A PARTY IN YOU ROOM!" <- Another typo
- Well heading into Rock Tunnel. She is even more sus. Especially having enough power to drag two full grown men.
- I've heard of eating on the can and reading in the bath, but eating in the shower is kind of insane.
- Good to know there's some normal people in the group, and getting some scenes expanding upon them. Can't have silliness without a straight man or two to balance it out, after all. Liked this scene
- And then we immediately go to the consequences of the fight from before, assuming things, then immediately burning down the hotel to try to get away. These evil characters. Sheesh. Haven't they heard of a manhunt?
- They don't even wonder where their companions went. Damn,

More chapters, and more stuff. Getting a bit more focused and better without all the introductions, I can say that much. There's a lot less jumping around too. Starting to improve from the rocky first few chapters. We'll see where it goes from here, especially with the group separated abruptly. And the evil characters continuing to be over the top excessive at times. :p
 

SilverRockets

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Thank you for the review!! I'm very glad you think the fic is starting to find its legs more as it continues. And again, thanks for noticing all the mistakes; I made sure to fix them in editing. These 2 chapters serve mainly as preparation, both for the trial ahead and for the characters themselves so they can be a bit more developed before the time comes for the fighting to start.

-To be fair, considering the state of both Saffron and Silph Co. itself I doubt it's doing very well :p
-Sabrina's past is definitely the most.... loaded out of everyone's, and we'll get to see much more of it as the story continues.
-Good observation with the Misty thing!
-Oh yeah, for how snobby Mycroft can be, he can't hold a candle to the rest of his family. He's a saint in comparison.
-Rhin is, indeed, a dumbass. Which is very unfortunate for Wolfswift, who followed him thinking he knew what he was doing.
-Charity is... an interesting one.
-Sabrina activating Flash Fire with a lighter was improvisation on the player's part, and the DM loved the idea of it so much he let her do it from then on even if it made Rokon a little broken.
-And yeah, Mycroft and Muffin's scene was needed to show that not everyone in the group is some flavor of lunatic. We'll get more of those scenes as the story continues.

Again, thank you so much for reading!!
 

SilverRockets

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Chapter 8: Mt. Moon

-------------------------------------------------------------​

2 months ago, in the Orange Islands:

Silver whistled to himself as he opened up one of the last boxes left in the deposit, and began perusing through its cottony contents. Although just as he started, a familiar voice rang from outside. His boss' voice.

"Hey, are you done checking all the boxes yet!?"

Silver gave a thumbs up over his shoulder. "On it!"

"Well get on with it! We still gotta count all the merchandise!"

"But…" Silver looked over his shoulder, frowning. "Weren't we about to close?"

"Less questions, more counting!"

And that was the end of the conversation. Silver turned around and sighed, leaning down toward the box as he started counting what was inside.

Alright… one cotton swab, two cotton swabs, three cotton swabs, a much bigger cotton swab, five cotton sw… hold on.

He blinked a couple times, then started again.

One cotton swab, two cotton swabs, three cotton swabs… holy shit, talk about a cotton swab!

"Wablu!"

Silver sat still for a moment, then looked over his shoulder again and yelled out.

"Oi, boss! Do uh… do cotton swabs talk?"

"They're gonna start talking once I shove them up your ass! Now get counting!"

Silver looked back toward the box, unsure. Shit, what was he supposed to do now?

"Wablu!"

The cotton-winged creature jumped out of the box and onto Silver's face, hugging him tightly with her wings.

"You… are definitely not a cotton swab."

-------------------------------------------------------------​

"Agh, I told you we were being followed!"

Sammy's cry echoed throughout the pastures of Route 4, somewhat lost amidst the billowing sound of dozens of wingbeats cutting through the air. The group of trainers were sprinting away, but soon stopped once they realized they couldn't outrun this threat. They stopped in the middle of a clearing and stood with their backs to each other, Pokeballs in hand, as a horde of aggressive Zubats flew high above them.

"This doesn't make sense!" yelled Mycroft. "We didn't get near the caves, there's no reas–Agh!"

One of the Zubat swooped down, and his fangs would've certainly dug onto Mycroft's neck if he hadn't stumbled forward.

"More coming through the grass!"

Sabrina barely had time to finish saying that before half a dozen brown figures jumped out of the tall grass, rolling toward them at incredible speeds.

"Ah! They're ground Oddish, and they've got tails!" yelled Ñako.

"Those are Sandshrew, dumbass!" replied Sabrina.

There was a simultaneous flash of light, and the Pokemon that materialized around them were able to repel the rolling assault, throwing the Sandshrew back. But it didn't stop them for much. They started rolling again as soon as they touched the grass, disappearing from view.

"Stolen Gligar, do your thing!"

Ñako grabbed the Pokemon by the tail and swung it around like a bat, throwing it against one of the Zubat, which the Pokemon didn't seem to appreciate much.

"Normal wild Pokemon don't behave like this," explained Sammy. "This must be Dick's doing! The others must've gotten here before us and set a trap for us!"

At that Silver just laughed and held his scythe in front of him, Pogo flying in circles around him, crimson eyes set on one of the Zubat.

"I still think they're a bunch of losers," he said. "They saved us the trouble of having to look for Pokemon ourselves! Give'em hell, Pogo!"

It was a mess of a battle. The group's Pokemon were clearly stronger and more experienced than the wild swarm, but the latter had the number advantage as well as not having to worry about protecting any humans. As a matter of fact, they didn't seem fazed by their opponents at all. Instead of attacking them, they grabbed every opportunity they had to attack the humans instead.

"Son of a bitch!" Sabrina knelt, holding her hat with her hands as a Zubat flew over her. "If these rabies-infested pests damage my hat..."

Silver's Spearow crashed against one of the Zubat, sending it flying unconscious to the ground, but that left him too late to deflect the Sandshrew as it jumped out of the ground and rolled straight onto Silver's pivot leg. He let out a grunt and almost lost balance, having to lean against the pole of his scythe to keep himself on his feet.

"S-sir, are you okay!?" Loli yelled out, holding onto him.

"Ha… cheeky little fucker," he muttered. "But…"

The Sandshrew landed only a few feet from him, and instead of hiding in the grass again he stood up and shone Silver a cocky smile, raising one of his nubby little hands in a 'Come get me' kind of gesture.

"I like his attitude! Think we could add it to the team?"

"We shouldn't have too much trouble with our flying Pokemon!" said Loli.

"Heard that Pogo? Get his ass!"

"F-Flancito, use Dragon Rush!"

The Sandshrew was swift and he gave the two flying Pokemon the run-around for a few seconds, but even he couldn't avoid the swiftness of their flight forever. After dodging one of Pogo's dives, he jumped up with his claws wound back to slash at him, but jumping to the air meant that he couldn't change his trajectory anymore. Flancito came crashing upon him like a bullet, covered in a yellowish-purple mantle of energy that exploded upon contact.

He fell with a pained grunt, and before he could get up he was hit with a glowing wing from Pogo, sending him rolling to the side. But even that wasn't enough to knock him out. Bruised and bloodied, he pushed himself to his feet and jumped up once more, surprising Pogo with his speed and landing a scratch on the Spearow's side.

"God damn, look at that endurance!" yelled Silver, clearly stoked. "I want him! Loli do your thing!"

"Wh–me!? R-really!?"

Silver looked over his shoulder and smiled. "Who else? You're the expert trainer, aren't ya?"

"T-thank you! Alright… Pokeball, go!"

The ball flew through the air, and Sandshrew was too busy avoiding his opponent's attacks to notice as it hit him on the back. The red light absorbed him inside in an instant. The Pokeball fell to the ground and shook once, then twice, then thrice. It sealed shut with an electronic click.

Loli's face went aghast with emotion, and she started jumping in place, hands pressed against her chest.

"I did it! I won my first Pokemon battle and now I caught my first Pokemon!" she cheered. "Thank you, sir, I–!"

"Look out!"

Siegfried's warning was a bit too late. Silver was distracted looking at Loli's excitement and he couldn't react in time as one of the Zubat swooped in at dizzying speeds, wings glowing with light. Loli screamed and threw herself to the side, but the attack caught her right arm right under the shoulder. There was a slicing sound, followed by a spray of blood.

"Shit! Loli!"

Silver swung his scythe, but by then the Zubat had already flown out of range. He clicked his tongue and ran straight for her, protecting her with his body as he looked down at the cut, brows furrowed with worry.

"Here, let me take a look," he said, grabbing her arm gently. "That looks gnarly."

"I'm… I'm f-fine sir, really." She tried her best, but her eyes were wet with tears and her voice shook. "I p-promise."

Silver frowned. The cut looked deep, but not dangerous. He raised his head and looked around. The rest had already taken out a good number of the Zubat, but progress was slow and he wanted to tend to Loli's wound right now.

He supposed it was time to call in the big guns.

"Hey, Flaca!" he yelled out. "Got an idea to get rid of these things faster!?"

"Hm," scoffed Sabrina, not even dignifying a look back at him. "Let me see what I can do."

Sabrina took a drag of her cig and looked around, surveying the state of the battle. Five Zubat and one Sandshrew down. They still had over ten enemies to take care of, and with every second that passed they were forced to stand closer and closer against each other. Soon they wouldn't have enough space to maneuver or dodge.

They needed to finish this now.

Let's see…

She only needed a few moments to come up with a plan. As soon as she saw the goody two-shoes girl… Muffin, was it? As soon as she saw her order her Dratini to spat out some ice at the Zubat, a plan formed in her head. She grabbed a Pokeball from her belt and pressed the button, releasing the creature inside.

"Milkshake, one more time!" Muffin yelled, throwing her hand forward. "Icy Wind!"

Sabrina yelled out her order. "Gouda, let's give some fuel to that attack! Manipulate the worm's ice with Confusion!"

"What?" asked Muffin, surprised. "What are y–?"

She soon got her reply. Her Dratini opened her mouth and spat out a small storm of frozen wind that flew high into the air. It hung there for a moment, and then its outline started glowing. Gouda the Drowzee raised her hand up at the air, eyes glowing, and a second later the frozen wind moved erratically in all directions as though pushed by a capricious wind.

"W-wow!"

Using her psychic powers, Gouda divided the storm of icy wind into seven smaller gales that swirled around the remaining Zubat, swallowing them whole and trapping them inside a psychic bubble. A blue and purple glow fell upon the clearing, making it look as though the sky had been blessed with an aurora borealis. The rest of the trainers looked up in awe, but Sabrina wasted no time.

"Afro!" she yelled out. "This one's yours!"

"Aha! Indeed, it will be I who will finishes this!" yelled Vard, throwing his cape to the side with a flourish. "Pikachu, illuminate the darkness like thunder in the night! Storm of Osiris!"

A blinding flash was followed by a heavy crackling as dozens of threads of lightning shot out of the small rodent, piercing through each one of the psychic bubbles and hitting the Zubat inside. The bubbles themselves shattered like glass, and the wind inside dispelled. All of the remaining Zubat fell down to the floor, completely out of the fight.

Sabrina allowed herself a second to breathe, as well as smile cockily to herself.

"H-how did you know we could…?"

She turned to look at Muffin and shrugged. "Comes with the line of work. You c–"

A Sandshrew jumped out of the grass, claws wound back. Sabrina turned and moved on instinct alone. Gouda was too exhausted from that previous attack to dodge, and before she realized what she was doing she threw herself forward and intercepted the attack.

"Ghk! Fucker!"

The Sandshrew tore a piece of her sleeve and cut half an inch into the skin below before jumping back and joining his companions. The pain was almost enough to make her eyes wet.

Gouda turned her head and looked at her, dumbfounded.

"What, is this too hard for you?" Sabrina provoked her. Blood was starting to stain the sleeve. "If you feel too tired I can always pull Rokon or Carrie out. I mean, if your trainer has to take a hit for you then that clearly doesn't speak well of your abilities, does it?"

With every word that she spoke, she could see Gouda's face wrinkling more and more into a look of spite. But before she could finish her motivating speech, she was interrupted by a nearby voice.

"Hey, you, the owner of the third-rate Vulpix! S-Sabrina, right?"

Sabrina looked over her shoulder with a raised eyebrow. And oh what a surprise, the one addressing her was princey boy.

"Yes, you. What if you repeat what you did with those Zubat, but with Barty's Water Gun?"

As he said that, he pointed down at his Squirtle. A satisfied smile immediately formed on her lips. This was a good opportunity.

"You hear that, Gouda? It seems his Highness requires a favor from us humble peasants. It wouldn't be polite to ignore him, now would it?" she asked, voice thick with sarcasm. "Though of course if you feel too tired to fight I'll have no choice but t–"

Predictably enough, Gouda raised both arms toward the torrent of water before she even finished the sentence. The psychic force molded the stream into a swirling ring that crashed down around them and spun at incredible speed as it expanded outwardly, catching all the remaining Sandshrew in its path.

"C'est magnifique!" Mycroft yelled in excitement, and only caught himself a second later. "Er… I mean, I suppose that was well done, mademoiselle Sabrina."

And just like that, the battle was over. A thick, pleasant silence set into the clearing as the trainers allowed themselves to breathe and lower their guards. A few of them sighed in relief.

"There we go," muttered Siegfried. "Talk about aggressive."

"Another victory for the Team of V–!"

"Yo', Pogo, the hell are you doing?"

Everyone looked up at the air, where the Spearow had begun to fly rapidly in circles, a soft glow quickly starting to grow outwardly from his chest. Silver frowned for a moment, distracted away from bandaging Loli's arm.

"Is he learning a new attack or something?"

"No, it's…!"

The light exploded into a fiery ball of white that enveloped Pogo whole, blinding the trainers below.

"He's evolving!" Loli exclaimed.

The ball of light expanded, then slowly began to contract as a bigger creature took form inside, its wingspan as wide as four people were tall and its long neck and beak striking an impressive image alongside its glowing, crimson eyes. The Fearow bated its wings as it flew down and landed amidst the trainers, a proud yet haughty look on his face.

Silver was left without words for a moment. He looked up at his partner, and a thoughtless smile formed on his lips.

"Shit, look at you! You shot up like a motherfucker, huh!"

Beside him, Loli grabbed onto Silver's arm and mirrored the man's smile, the pain of the cut on her arm the last thing on her mind at the moment.

"It's all thanks to the battles we all fought together!" she declared. "Good job, everyone!"

And, even though Sabrina rolled her eyes and mimicked firing a gun at her temple, the rest couldn't hide their smiles. Some kinds of enthusiasm were too strong to not be moved by them.

-------------------------------------------------------------​

About an hour later, Siegfried took the lead and led them down a path around Mt. Moon before reaching a dark clearing where he suggested they could pass the night.

"What do you say?" he asked the group. "With Pewter so close and the side of the mountain against us I doubt we'll find a safer place to sleep."

Sammy nodded. "It's too dark to continue. And we should be able to reach the prison tomorrow, assuming we wake up early enough."

"Vard is confused and sleepy," declared the man himself, raising his palm up. "Let us rest in this hapless place, my subjects."

That was all that needed to be said. In no time at all they managed to set up all the tents and, after an uneventful dinner that consisted of little more than cheese and crackers, they all started heading inside to catch a good night's sleep. Silver and Sabrina were one of the few that were still up, only because she'd asked the man to tend to the cut on her arm.

"… Hey, aren't we missing someone?" he asked while applying a swab to the wound. "Like… a couple of people?"

Sabrina, who was smoking a cigarette even while being tended to, inspected the rest of the group before concluding:

"Nope, we're all here."

Muffin spoke up timidly. "N-no, we're missin–"

"YOU HEARD THE PLEBEIAN!" Mycroft shouted from inside his tent. "We're all here!"

"Huh," muttered Silver. "Guess I was wrong. Whatever, we ought–"

There was the sharp sensation of cold, and then that and pretty much every other sensation left Sabrina's arm. She froze. Then she glared at Silver. The 'Oh shit' look on his face told her everything she needed to know.

Sabrina tried to move her arm. It didn't obey her.

"Ah… ahaha… Oh, man. Think I applied a lil' too much anesthetic there."

Sabrina knew Silver had good intentions and that he was generally competent when it came to medicine, but she couldn't help feeling that this time he'd… well, fucked up royally.

"Don't you go worrying Flaca, it'll be alright," Silver assured her with that toothy grin of his. "You ain't gonna be able to move that arm for a few hours… few days, something like that. I kinda skipped the anesthetic class during college. My favorite team was playing and… you know."

Sabrina stood up and walked away without even replying.

"I'm going to bed."

In all honesty she should have exchanged a few hours of sleep for a bit of training. She knew the hardest part of this journey was upon them. She would need strong companions if she was to make it out alive. But she kind of felt like shit. For having lost sensation in her arm, it still kind of hurt. Felt stiff and heavy. And the party from the night previous meant she hadn't gotten much shuteye then either.

Just this time.

She grabbed a Pokeball and releasing Carrie just before entering her tent. The Scyther looked up at her with hope in her eyes, naïve as she was.

"Wake me up when the sun is right above us," she said. "You can do that, right?"

Carrie nodded as vehemently as she could.

"Good. Don't fall asleep."

And with that warning, she walked inside and collapsed onto the floor, falling into unconsciousness mere moments later, all sounds vanishing around her.

-------------------------------------------------------------​

It was a long, tiring, torturing, excruciating day of walking, tripping on rocks, listening to Charity chatter nonstop and being attacked by Geodudes, but finally, when Rhin's internal clock was telling him that the sun would set soon, they saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

"Ah, there it is! Told you guys!"

"Oh thank Arceus and all its children," Rhin breathed out.

"Finally," Wolfswift muttered.

Rhin's first breath of fresh air as they exited the cave felt like waking up with a dry throat in the middle of the night and having a cold glass of water right next to the bed. It reinvigorated him. The exhaustion and pain on his calves seemed to vanish as he looked over the lush valley before them, the dark brown of the surrounding mountains morphing into a beautiful clearing, and then a city and the open sea in the far distance.

There was something wrong about that landscape, but Rhin's brain failed to pick it up at first.

"Ah… We really owe you one, Charity," he told her. "I guess you did know your way around after all."

"You're welcome, Ron! See, you're much prettier when you smile."

Wolfswift muttered an 'Ugh' behind her, more at the stammered sounds of embarrassment that came out of Rhin's mouth than anything else.

"Ha… haha… t-thank you." He swallowed, trying to hide the red on his face. "Anyway, looks like the sun's coming down. Do you know how much longer 'til Pewter?"

There was a pregnant pause. Charity blinked a few times, then turned to look at him with a raised eyebrow.

"Until… Pewter? Pretty darn long I'd say, considering we're getting farther and farther away the longer we walk."

Rhin felt his stomach drop. Next to him, Wolfswift stiffened.

"W-what?"

"I said we're getting farther away from Pewter the more we walk."

Another, even longer silence followed. The cogs in Rhin's brain whirred as they spun as fast as they could, though it felt as though they were being slowed by some kind of sludge.

"Faaaaar… awaaaaaaaay!" repeated Charity, mouthing the words exaggeratedly at their lack of reaction. "It means you'll have to walk a lot if you wanna go t–"

Rhin opened his mouth, voice shaking with desperation. "B-but… we just got through Mt. Moon! Isn't Pewter on the other side!?"

Charity laughed. "Mt. Moon? This is Rock Tunnel. I came through here 'cause there's a job I need to do in Lavender."

"We… we've…"

But words failed him. Rhin stumbled back a few steps, eyes wide, face pale, looking exactly like someone who'd been punched in the face. Next to him, Wolfswift moved for the first time in almost a minute, turning toward him.

"I'm going to slit your throat with your own tarot cards," he declared.

Finally, something in his snapped. Rhin threw his arms up toward the sky and let out a mountain-shaking scream.

"I knew it! God dammit, the stars told me I shouldn't trust gingers!" He threw his head down and grabbed at his hair with his hands. "Who knows how far away we are now! The others might've already reached the prison! They probably think we're dead! AGH!"

"That is more than likely," concluded Wolfswift.

"Hahaha…" Charity laughed nervously, scratching her cheek. "Did you guys have an appointment or something?"

Neither of them answered. Wolfswift just stood there in place, all faith in humanity left from his body while Rhin remained on his knees, staring at the grass with glassy, distant eyes.

Finally, it was Wolfswift who broke the silence.

"And it's not like we can go back now; it's about to be night time," he sighed. "The trip back would be suicide right now."

Rhin threw himself back, falling on his butt and looking up at the sky. "Ugh, you're right… and if we go tomorrow…"

"It's unlikely that they've already reached the prison, considering the distance," said Wolfswift. "But they probably will long before we get back there."

Great. Just wonderful. Rhin closed his eyes and breathed in really deep. He was about to suggest just giving up on the job when Charity chimed in.

"Well, if it's a job you gotta do in Pewter, I might be able to help you out."

They both turned to look at her sharply.

"I mean, like I said there's this job I gotta do in Lavender." She pointed behind her, toward the horizon. "But my employer's picking me up once it's done, so maybe we could give you a ride! Pretty sure we gotta head in that direction tomorrow."

"W-what!?" Rhin shot up to his feet. "Are you serious!? Could you really…!?"

Charity let out her tongue and gave them a peace sign. "Sure thing, Ron! We can even stay overnight in the house where I gotta do my job! I mean, I might need some help from you two tomorrow, but I'll get you back to Pewter no problem!"

She shone them a wide, perfect smile that was just a bit too wide for her face.

"Whaddaya say?"

-------------------------------------------------------------​

Muffin woke up to something unexpected yet wonderful; the sound of boiling water and the smell of food being cooked.

She hurried to dress herself and came out of her tent without even brushing her nest of a bed hair, just because her stomach was rumbling that badly. And the sight that met her was an unexpected one. Sammy knelt in the clearing amidst all the tents, a freshly built bonfire heating up the big steel pot suspended above it. She looked over the boiling rice and stirred every few seconds.

"That smells so good!" Muffin exclaimed as she approached. "Didn't think I'd find anyone cooking so early in the morning."

Sammy didn't turn to look at her, but a smile did form on her lips.

"We'll need all the energy we can muster for the fight ahead," she said. "It's not much, but I did what I could with what we had. Here, you can have some."

"Ah, thank you!"

She sat alongside Sammy, and in less than a minute the both of them were enjoying a heaping, steaming bowl of freshly made risotto. The first spoonful was enough to make Muffin exhale happily. The flavor was simple, but effective.

"It tastes really good," she said. "I didn't think we had much more than rice and salt and butter. Must've been hard to make it taste like this."

Sammy just leaned back and shrugged, then gobbled down a spoonful. "It's not that hard once you get used to it," she said after swallowing. "You gotta learn to fend for yourself out here in the wild."

"Did you use to camp much?"

An eyebrow was raised her way, and Muffin immediately realized the stupidity of her question.

"Ah. Sorry, I…" She laughed and shook her head. "I'm still getting used to… all of this. I keep forgetting what kind of people I'm traveling with."

"It's fine. I'd be worried if you'd gotten used to this so fast," was all that Sammy said in response.

They ate in silence for what felt like an entire minute. However, unlike the silence she'd shared with Mycroft, this one felt a lot heavier and tense. There was a hard edge to Sammy that was always there. Even while eating and pretending to relax, she could see the sharpness on her face and the tenseness in her shoulders. She was clearly not the kind of woman that did small talk or opened up to people easily, much less to someone like Muffin.

That look… does she not expect me to make it through this? she wondered sadly. Does she think I'm useless, like Sabrina does?

Suddenly, the risotto didn't taste quite as good. She swallowed the last of what was left on the bowl and let it rest on her lap, eyes downcast.

"You… you said we'd need the energy for today's fight." She finally broke the silence. "How do you know we'll have to fight something in the prison?"

Sammy froze for a moment, and then she shrugged. "Because hoping for good things is what'll kill you in this line of work. It'll be easier for everyone if we just assume we'll have to fight our way through."

"R-right," said Muffin. She felt like an idiot for having to ask these things. "I'm guessing you have experience on the matter."

"I've brushed shoulders with death more than anyone probably should," she muttered under her breath, narrowing her eyes. "It's never easy, and it's never pretty."

"Ah… I see. Well–"

"Muffin."

Sammy turned to look at her for the first time, and the sheer weight behind those golden eyes of her paralyzed her as easily as an Arbok's glare.

"W-what is it?"

"I'm going to be honest with you," she said. "You kind of piss me off."

Muffin's mouth went dry. "O-oh. Er… why d–"

"Because you don't belong here," she stated. "You don't need this job. You're clearly a momma's kid, someone with an actual family and either enough money or influence not to have to stoop this low. Yet you did it anyway. And for what; novelty? The thrill of it? Do you have any idea how condescending it looks to the rest of us who don't have a choice but to do this?"

"I… I just…"

But what could she say to something like that? Sammy's words didn't feel sharp and painful like Sabrina's were always intended to feel like. They were hard, but honest. For the first time she saw something besides cold determination in those eyes. It was concern.

"I… wanted to make a difference," she finally said. "To find a way for things to return to normal."

Sammy's nose scrunched up. She didn't look angry or disapproving, just… tired. After a moment she looked away and sighed.

"There might be a way to make things better, but I doubt someone as good as you would have the stomach for it."

"W-what? What do you mean?"

"Never mind." Sammy gave a small shake of the head. "Sorry, I know that came off as rude. You just… remind me a bit of me when I was younger, I guess."

Muffin raised an eyebrow. "You don't look much older than me."

"That's not what I meant. Anyway, it doesn't matter," she muttered, looking away again. "Just… keep in mind what I said. There's a good chance a few of you won't come out of this alive, and I'd rather avoid unnecessary casualties."

She spoke of it so casually, as though it were the possibility of being caught by an unexpected rain or a rather aggressive Rattata. It made something in Muffin shiver.

"I'll… give it some thought, I guess," she said. "But… I meant what I said before. I'm not as wishy-washy about this as you or Sabrina seem to believe."

"… If you say so."

She placed the bowl on the ground and shot up to her feet in a way that made it obvious that was the end of the conversation. She took one last look at the risotto and nodded to herself.

"The others should be hungry too," she said. "I'll wake Siegfried and Loli, you wake up Mycroft and Sabrina."

"Er… what about Silver, Ñako and Vard?"

Sammy just scoffed, though it almost sounded like a laugh.

"Have you seen them eating? I want this to last until we've all had our fill," she said. "I don't care if it's cold by then; they'll eat last."

-------------------------------------------------------------​

Sabrina spat out a line of smoke as she walked, a lit cigarette held firmly in her (working) hand, looking up at the concrete and steel sky surrounding them.

Pewter was small, in about the same way a bear trap was. Tall buildings and skyscrapers rose up into the sky like teeth, with them at the center. They all looked new, yet also dilapidated. The towns were mostly empty, save for a few brave souls running as fast as they could to get what they needed before everyone else woke up. There was nothing picturesque or historic about the town; it was all grey and drab and shitty.

God, what a horrible town.

Not as bad as Saffron, but close. At least they were close to their destination, close to the reward that was waiting for her, the reward that would finally get her off this region. Far, far away from Kanto and all the troubles, all the memories…

"Hey!"

Someone snapped their fingers in front of her face, almost making her choke on the smoke of her cigarette. The ninja. She glared at him. She couldn't help it, there was something about this guy… a certain obnoxiousness that felt horribly familiar.

"I know the landscape is beautiful and all," he said sarcastically, "but we should probably get a move on with this Mullac thing, yeah?"

She cleared her throat and gave a curt nod.

"We're almost to the other end of town. Can't be more than an hour away from the prison," she said. "So make sure you're all–"

But as she looked over her shoulder, she noticed something was off. It took her a second to realize what it was.

"Wait, where's Silv–?"

"Yo', Flaca, here!"

He came running from across the screen, scythe in hand as usual, and yet…

"Er… Silver?" asked Siegfried, a concerned look on his face. "Where is Loli?"

Silver stopped beside them, and didn't say anything for a moment. Some might've thought he was just catching his breath, but Sabrina noticed the way his expression had dropped.

"Yeah… about that."

-------------------------------------------------------------​

10 Minutes Before:

Silver and Loli were walking in the back of the group, not too far from the others. He stared ahead with an odd expression in his face, and he sounded less energetic than usual as he spoke.

"Pretty calm in here, huh."

Loli nodded nervously. "True… but we probably shouldn't lower our guard, just in case."

"She's got a point," said Mycroft, a bit ahead of them. "There's a good chance the other team could've set up a trap for us."

"At ease, my good comrades," said Vard. "The Team of Vard shall overcome any nasty surprise that might be in store for us."

Silver nodded to himself. Something about Vard's statements always managed to cheer him up. "Yeah… let'em come. We'll deal with them."

"Of course we will!" declared Loli. "Together we can do anything!"

Silver stopped walking, and since Loli had her arm around his that meant that she stopped as well, with a little yelp of surprise and a wide-eyed look of surprise.

"S-sir?"

"Hey… I'd like to talk to you for a min', okay?"

He positioned himself between her and the rest of the group, and noticed as they kept walking without them, not noticing their sudden absence.

"I… what is it?" asked Loli. "Don't scare me."

"Look, I…"

Taking off his backpack, Silver grabbed a few items inside, only what he knew he might need for his mission, and then handed the rest alongside the backpack to Loli. She took it almost automatically, looking unsure.

"W-what is this?"

"Here's the thing," sighed Silver. "Vard, Ñako, the Flaca… I don't know their stories, but it's clear they're all a bunch of fuck-ups like me. But you… you're different. You're smart, kind, determined. You know so much about medicine and other stuff, especially anything about these critters."

"You mean Pokemon?"

"Yeah! See how smart you are?" He forced himself to smile. "But even though you're so capable… back there, I couldn't… I mean, it was just a few shitty Zubat and you ended up getting hurt. And… I couldn't do anything. We…"

He took in a deep breath. Here came the hard part.

"We… are going to the Pewter prison. But you're not."

A choked gasp left her lips. "W-what!? Why!?"

"I just told you. We're all a bunch of fuck-ups. No one would miss us if we were gone; there's nothing we can do for anyone other than fight and kill. But you… you've got something special." He placed a hand on her shoulder, a warm smile on his lips. "You got what it takes to be a trainer. A real trainer, not the shitty imitations we are. But if you come with us and you die…"

"W-what does that have to do with anything!?" protested Loli, her voice growing hot with anger. "I can still help, I can still be of use to everyone! Why can't I come? Is… is it because I'm not good enough?"

Her voice shook and broke at that last sentence, and Silver felt something in his stomach tighten. This was harder than any battle he'd fought before.

"No, that's the problem. You're too good. You're a living Pokedex, someone who genuinely loves Pokemon and the world around you, someone who can someday be much more than I could ever be."

"You're wrong!" she screamed, pushing against his chest. "You're not useless! You're not a waste, you're... y-you're…"

But it was getting harder for her to speak, the sudden realization of what was happening bringing her close to tears. Silver almost had to look away.

"I know who I am. I never tried to kid myself about that," he said. "And… yeah, I need you. I want you to be there with me, but I can't…" He closed his mouth, gathering his thoughts. "Because I know who I am… I know I can live on no matter whose blood I spill, because I know the kind of people I'm up against. But not you. I couldn't live with myself if something happened to you while we were down there."

Loli took a step back, face flushed with anger and heat, tears running down her cheeks. She needed a few tries before she could get the words out.

"T-then you're just telling me to go away out of convenience!" she yelled. "Because it's easier for you, because you'll feel better about yourself! You can't decide what I can't or can't do!"

"Yeah. You're right." That affirmation seemed to confuse Loli. Silver wasted no time explaining. "I'm not the owner of your dream or your destiny. But you think you can become a famous trainer if you just follow us for the rest of your life? Well here's your chance."

"B-but…"

Silver grabbed two Pokeballs, the consequent flash of light interrupting Loli, making her close her eyes in surprise. When she opened them again, two Pokemon were at her side, grabbing onto her legs softly. A Swablu and a Jigglypuff.

"Look, Flancito and Regordeta would get all sad if you stay like that, so I think they'll come with you."

"W-wh…?" Loli looked down at the two Pokemon, lower lip shaking. "With me? But… they're your Pokemon. You'll need them for–"

"Trust me, they'll be a lot better with you than with me. Pokemon battling ain't really my style anyway," he shrugged. "And besides, they fit you more, right?"

Loli was left speechless. She stared down at the Pokemon, at the two new Pokeballs on her hands, and at the backpack she was now holding, eyes wide and disbelieving.

"I left you as much money and food as I could. Should last you for a pretty long time," said Silver. "You can keep exploring and training, or you can buy a ticket back to Saffron no problem if that's what you want. It's your choice."

Loli clutched at her chest with her hands, eyes shut tight, and shook her head. But she couldn't say anything. Couldn't refute him. All she could do was stand there, shaking, sobs trying to climb up her throat.

"I… don't want to say goodbye."

Silver let out a soft laugh. "Who does?"

Swallowing down her sobs, Loli looked up and was about to say something when Silver interrupted her.

"It doesn't have to be goodbye forever," he said. "Meeting you was the luckiest thing that ever happened to a fuck-up like me, and I know I don't deserve to have that kinda luck a second time, but… if we get out of this alive and fate wants it that way…"

He reached over, grabbing hold of her hand with his own. His callused fingers felt rough against hers, yet she held onto them for dear life.

"… maybe we can meet each other again."

Loli shook her head.

"Not… not maybe," she declared, frowning up at him. "I won't accept it unless you promise. Unless you swear we'll see each other again. Please."

"I…"

Silver was caught off guard by that. He smiled nervously, rubbing the back of his neck, and finally replied after a few moments.

"You really are demanding," he said. "Fine. I guess I can promise that. But only if you promise me to keep going. Chase that dream. Become a Pokemon trainer. You love these fucking critters and know so much boring shit about them, so I know you'll get far. You ain't got any roadblocks in the way like we do, so you better give it your all.

"I promise I ain't gonna ever forget you. 'Cause…"

He hesitated for a moment, but then his body moved on its own. He grabbed Loli and pulled her into a hug, which lasted only a second, but a second was all he needed. By the time the hug was broken, Silver was looking the other way, away from her.

"No existe el olvido, mi amor," he said, a terrible weight in his voice. "No existe."

He walked away, without looking back, without waiting for a response. He knew that would only make it harder.
 

SilverRockets

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Chapter 9: Pewter Prison


A month ago, on the summit of Mt. Silver:

Fire and ash rained from the sky; little slivers of white and specks of black that dug into Ryan's skin like needles as he ran, cutting through the thick smoke surrounding the summit of the frozen mountain.

The world around him was nothing but pain and dust and chaos. Pokemon attacks cut through the air all over; flames and electricity lighting the pure blackness that was everything around them. Screams and commands rang behind him, but whether from his companions or from their enemy he didn't know, and he didn't care. Not about them, not about the fight. Not even about the mission.

All he cared about was reaching her side as fast as humanly possible.

No, nononono!

His sword had been blasted out of his hand somewhere back near the battlefield. His hand was bleeding severely. His arms and face were covered in soot and little specks of burnt skin, and his legs and lungs felt as though they couldn't go on for much longer, his vision starting to blur from the pain and exhaustion.

He forced himself to keep moving, fueled by nothing but fear.

Not you, god, please not you…

The attack had reached her in the one second he'd let his guard down. Sid had told him to cover their left flank, and their enemy had used that moment of distraction to focus their weakest link. By the time he'd turned his head back to her, it was already too late. The volley of stones sharp as spears were already upon her.

Even through the flames and explosions, Ryan had heard it. The unmistakable sound of something sharp and jagged piercing flesh. She'd been thrown back by the momentum of the attack, rolling down the small cliff and away from where he could see her.

Please, please, she can't be… she wasn't even supposed to–!

Ryan found her. Even amidst this hellscape, the bright red of her hair was unmistakable. He froze in place for a moment, heart in his throat. Then he threw himself at her and screamed at the top of his lungs.

"SAMMY!"

Something in him gave away as he fell to his knees beside her, hands reaching for her arm, her face, any part of her that he could grab onto. Any part of her that he could pull back from the brink.

But there was nothing left.

"No, no… p-please, god…"

Sammy had never looked so peaceful, had never felt so fragile and weightless in his arms. Blood ran down her forehead toward her lips from the spot in which her head had bounced against the ground, and dark, deep red spots bloomed petals of blood against her chest and stomach, where she'd been pierced. Ryan didn't need to look at the wounds for more than a moment to know they were lethal.

"Sammy… S-Sammy, please…"

The girl did not answer, but her dark red eyes continued to look up at him, empty, cold.

Lifeless.

-----------------------------------------------------​

"Why do they call it Pewter Prison if it's not even in Pewter?"

Sammy was the first to break the silence. The group stood atop one of the many rocky cliffs overlooking the dull and grey valley west of Pewter, in the middle of which stood the prison they were looking for. Were it not for the black windows and roof, it might have camouflaged itself perfectly, being the same shade of gray as everything around it. The land was dead, barren, as though something foul were emanating from the prison itself, sucking out all life.

"Luckily, it doesn't appear as though it'll be hard to enter," Siegfried pointed out. "Look; the fence on the front has been blasted off its hinges."

"Must have been the other group of trainers," muttered Muffin.

Sabrina sighed. "Whether them or not, it shouldn't keep us here. Come on, let's get going."

The building grew and grew as they walked, and soon they realized it was a lot bigger than it looked like in the distance. It had the shape of a tall, bulky rectangle, with a couple of guard towers on each side and a tall, fenced wall around the back. On the front–

"One moment…" Mycroft stopped, frowning at something in the distance. "Is that...?"

Sammy looked up at one of the smaller cliffs near the fence, and nodded. "We're not alone."

There was a figure in the distance. A man, tall and lanky, wearing what looked like a white shirt and black jeans that cut off at the knees. He held something in his hands.

"Doesn't seem like one of them," said Mycroft.

"Then why should we care?" shrugged Ñako. "Come on, let's just go."

"Hold on, just…"

Mycroft walked away from the group and toward the man, followed closely by Sammy. Once he was close enough, he placed his hands around his mouth and let out a yell.

"Hey, you!"

"H-hu–Ghyaah!"

The man jumped and turned on his feet, and that was enough for him to slip off the edge of the small cliff, tumbling down and away from their vision.

"Merde!" yelled out Mycroft.

"What a moron," muttered Sammy.

By the time they reached him, he was still flat on his butt, rubbing the back of his head and muttering to himself. Yet he didn't seem angry at all when he noticed them. And as Mycroft reached out and offered him a hand, he just smiled and took it, pushing himself to his feet.

"Ah… haha… Man, these rocks are slippery." His voice was tall and deep, yet somewhat childish. "Sorry about that, guys."

From up close, Mycroft could make out his appearance more clearly. He was indeed quite tall and handsome, although strangely pale and sickly-looking. His hair was short and messy, a deep, rich black.

Mycroft raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure you're alright?"

"Oh, yes! Don't worry about it, I'm fit as a fiddle," he smiled. "This kinda thing happens to me a lot, trust me."

"I can imagine," Sammy whispered.

"What were you doing in a place like this anyway?" asked Mycroft. "No offense, but this isn't exactly a tourist spot. It might be dangerous."

The man blinked and tilted his head to the side, like he didn't understand Mycroft's point. He just shrugged and pointed down at the camera hanging from his neck.

"Right, right. Y'see, I'm actually a photographer. I heard about this place from an acquaintance of mine and I thought I'd come check it out!" he exclaimed happily. "There's just… something about this place, y'know? Makes you feel like there's something to be gained here."

"That is…" Mycroft tried to find the words. Foolhardy? Idiotic? "Interesting. But I–"

"Hey, red and beret!" Ñako yelled out ahead of them, his voice booming through the valley. "Stop with the social already; this prison ain't gonna ransack itself!"

Mycroft rolled his eyes. Damn barbarian…

"Right. Well, apologies, but we really must get going," Mycroft told the man. "It was a pleasure meeting you, however!"

"O-oh? W-well, I…!"

"Until next time!" yelled Mycroft, already walking away, being dragged by Sammy. "Take care of yourself!"

The man kept staring at their backs, expressionless, until they vanished past the next cliff.

-----------------------------------------------------​

"Aha. It seems as though this entrance is blocked by some kind of anti-intruder material," Vard pointed out.

Siegfried raised an eyebrow. "Do you mean bricks?"

It looked like, at some point, someone had blown open an entrance on the side of the prison, but then someone else had filled it out with a thick layer of bricks. They'd looked around, but there didn't seem to be any other way in. There was a moment of consideration amidst the group before Vard took a step forward and spoke.

"Very well, my leadership is clearly needed here. Attention, team! Gather up!"

Silver and Ñako rushed to stand in front of him, giving the man a perfect military salute. The others, Vard supposed, were so shocked by the sheer determination of his voice that they couldn't quite understand his order.

"Here's what we'll do," he said, folding his arms. "Ninja-man, go around the building and use your ninja eyes to find us a way in. Bird-man, use your man-bird to survey the area and make sure we are not surrounded by the enemy. And you, woman-man, I see you are still wounded. Come, and let your leader ease your pains."

However, as Vard took out his first-aid kit and approached a very hesitant Sabrina, Muffin decided to chime in.

"Or... we could have Siegfried's Tyrogue use Brick Break and open a way in."

"Oh. I suppose that is also acceptable, yes."

With a tired sigh, Siegfried produced a Pokeball from his belt. "You heard her, Itsuki. Please open up a path for us."

And while the Tyrogue started demolishing the wall with a series of consecutive glowing punches, Vard finished examining Sabrina's arm, and nodded to himself. He took a small vial full of liquid from his afro and applied a few drops to the wound. He then proceeded to replace Silver's makeshift toilet paper bandages with actual gauze, sealing it properly.

"W-what the…" Sabrina's eyes went wide as her arm started moving again. "How the hell did you…?"

"Worry not, my dear vice-foreman," Vard reassured her. "Vard's touch never fails."

Sabrina continued to tentatively move her arm, getting used to the pain as the last of the wall of bricks finally came down. A cloud of dust and dirt marked the way inside, and once the wind blew it away they all gathered around it and stepped inside one by one.

Due to the wall of people in front of her it took Sabrina a moment to see what was inside.

"Hm. This place seems abandoned," muttered Vard.

"That's because it is," said Siegfried.

"Exactly as I suspected."

The inside was about as wide in both directions as the inside of Silph Co., only there was much less in the way of decorations or… well, anything. At first sight, there were only two things in the room. First was the square row of empty prison cells lining up the walls not only around them, but on the upper floors as well. The bars were bent and brown, rust peeling off them in flakes and flying through the air, much like the disheveled pieces of paint coming off the walls.

The second was a hole. It stood in the middle of the room and took at least seventy percent of the floor, looking more like a sinkhole than any kind of manmade path. They could barely make out a wall of dirt and debris that went down a few feet before darkness overtook everything. It was impossible to tell at first sight just how deep it went.

"So… Cursed Hellhole of Death," muttered Ñako. "Sounds good! Who's coming with me?"

"W-wh… you can't be serious!" protested Mycroft.

Sabrina approached the hole, almost reaching the edge, and remembered what that bastard Mullac had told them regarding the mission.

An underground dungeon…

"There's nowhere else to go," she said. "We can probably get down if we use all of our flying Pokemon. So come on, get to it."

She produced a Pokeball and, after a moment of hesitation, a few of the rest did the same. There was a triple flash of light as Carrie, Pogo and Yamikarazu materialized above them, waiting for their orders.

"Two people can ride on Fearow's back, and two more can hang from his talons," she pointed out. "Carrie can carry two, and I figure Murkrow can carry someone small… so kitty girl." She didn't need to turn around to feel Muffin's glare on her back. "That's all of us."

Silver clicked his tongue, although he did it with a smile. "Pogo has to carry four? Y'all gonna give him a hernia!"

"You'd be surprised by how strong those things are," Sabrina replied with a smile of her own.

After a minute of weight allocation, the seven of them grabbed on to their respective flying Pokemon and only took a single moment to breathe in before jumping down into the darkness.

Not a second passed before they could see nothing. The shadows under them rose up like a wave, so thick and deep that it didn't seem as though their vision would adjust any time soon. Not that they had much time to worry about that, holding on to dear life as Pogo, Carrie and Yamikarazu struggled to keep them afloat, lowering them slowly instead of having them plummet to their death.

"J-jumping head-first into this darkness…" Muffin's voice was barely hearable to the rest. "Aren't we being a bit too rash?"

"A calculated risk, my good vice-admiral!" yelled Vard. "But fear not; my greatness shall light the way!"

Carrie was the first to land with a deaf thump, and Sabrina wasted no time returning her to her ball, no thanks given. She put her hands in her pockets and started walking around tentatively, unable to see anything around her. The floor felt solid under her feet, made of tiles instead of dirt, so they'd probably arrived at the right place.

"This really is a Pyroar's maw," Siegfried said behind her.

"Maybe this isn't the right way?" asked Ñako.

Sabrina shook her head, only a moment after realizing they couldn't see her do that. "No, this has to be the way. Princey boy, I saw you have a Tangela; make him use Flash so we can see around."

Mycroft grumbled, but he didn't complain. "Yes, I suppose we sh–"

A loud bonk of body against body echoed throughout the room, followed by pained grunts and the sound of someone falling atop someone else. Sabrina was the first to yelp.

"Gh-fuck!"

"Agh!" yelled another, male voice. "W-what the…?"

"W-what happened!?" yelled Muffin, terrified.

"Stalker, use Flash!"

At Mycroft's behest, Stalker emerged from his Pokeball and the device's flash of light was preceded by a longer-reaching and more lasting one. A powerful green glow poured outwards from the Tangela's body, blinding everyone for a moment before their eyes could adjust.

Once they did, they all stared forward in silence, gormlessly. Sammy was the first to speak.

"R-RYAN!?"

The swordsman blinked rapidly, shaking his head from the pain as he pushed himself slightly up with his hands. Under him, Sabrina let out a cough and did the same. Their eyes met, and the two trainers froze in place, shame and redness rising up their cheeks.

"…Wow. Just… wow." Ñako said, shaking his head. "I'd make a joke, but I think it's too obvious."

Ryan jumped up to his feet as though pushed by a spring, immediately turning around and clearing his throat. Sabrina did the same a second after. She said nothing, murder clear in her face as she adjusted her hat and wiped the dust off her clothes. Neither of them could quite hide the flush in their faces.

"Look where you're going next time, jackass," she muttered under her breath.

"W-what the hell are you doing here!?" Sammy demanded, her face similarly flushed.

Ryan didn't turn around, simply huffing. "It'd be easier if you stopped appearing literally everywhere I go."

Sammy's eyes went even wider as she glared at Ryan and Sabrina intermittently, which made the latter realize something.

Ah… I'm pretty sure Sammy wants me dead.

"Y-you…!"

But Sammy's voice was drowned out as another group of footsteps resounded not too far from them. Everyone but Ryan turned around sharply as seven other silhouettes appeared on the edge of Stalker's light, their faces hidden in shadows for only a moment before they stepped forward, revealing themselves.

"Heh. Funny running into you guys again," said Travis, raising one of his drumsticks and pointing at the other group. "Almost seems like fate, don't you think?"

Beside him, Nancy huffed and adjusted her glasses. "I'd recommend you stop acting like the leader, Travis."

"Oh… my gosh! It's you guys!" Caroline waved at them from across the gap between the two groups, a huge smile on her face. "It's so nice to see you! Y'alls style is still, like, totally awesome to the max, y'know?"

"I… what?" muttered Mycroft. "What did she…?"

But he was cut off as one of the other trainers took a step forward, hands on his pockets and a cigarette hanging from his mouth. Sid took a drag and let out the smoke before speaking.

"Hm. Looks like your group is missing… three members," he said with a raspy, snake-y voice. "What a shame to be separated from your friends, hm? Yet such a joy to find each other in a place like this. Oh, by the way…"

Sid looked up at Siegfried, who instantly took a step back at the sinister gleam behind his eyes.

"Did the waste of space finally crack out of his egg?" he asked. "If so… heh. Congrats."

Siegfried bit his lower lip in rage. "You…"

The two groups of trainers stood across each other, staring the others down with caution, only Ryan and Sabrina in between them. The silence was thick and heavy. The tenseness in the atmosphere could've been cut by a knife.

Finally, it was Dexter who broke the silence."Ya-ha! Look who it is!" he yelled, staring down at Silver. "Still playing with the other boy scouts, I see!"

Silver held his scythe in front of him and chuckled. "Heh, we'll see after I cut you in half if you're still talking lik–"

"Enough."

The voice reverberated throughout the entire room, instantly silencing both trainers with its weight. It came from the tall, grey-haired man in the back, the one that had spoken the least during their previous encounter. Whatever the case, as soon as he heard his voice, Dexter clicked his tongue and put his weapon away without complaint.

"Mike is right," said Nancy. "This is not the time for a fight."

"Oh, isn't it now?"

Despite the previous commanding tone in her voice, even Nancy involuntarily shivered at the sound of Sid's voice, and she couldn't help but go stiff as the man took a few steps in her direction.

"I think we all know it's no coincidence that we've met again in a place like this," he said, his thin lips spreading into a smile. "Now, as for the question of the day… which one of us will end up taking the prize? Us? Or you, and your team of worthless Pokemon?"

That was all it took for the tenseness to shoot up to the roof once more. Silver and Ñako instantly grabbed onto their weapons, while the rest hovered their hands over their Pokeballs.

Until Sammy broke the silence, that is.

"Sorry to kill your murder boner, Sid, but a battle in this place is completely out of the question."

All eyes turned toward the redhead as she walked forward toward the other group, hands casually in her pocket. There was no hint of fear or nervousness in her eyes.

"Oh?" asked Sid, raising an eyebrow. "And what exactly do you mean by that, Samantha?"

Sammy's nose scrunched up for a moment at the sound of her name, but she chose to ignore it.

"It's just as Nancy said. There's no point in trying to hide the fact that we're both here for the same object, but it makes no sense for us to fight over it right here and now," she explained. "Even if one group kills the other, they'll be left too weak and tired to deal with whatever is surely down there, protecting our prize."

The two groups chewed over her words, tension slowly dropping and various looks of consideration crossing the trainer's faces.

"I… I see what you mean," admitted Siegfried. "Then…"

"Wait, you're saying we should work together?" asked Sabrina, disgust in her voice.

Sammy nodded. "A temporary truce is the most logical course of action. We'll reach the depths of this place together, and when we finally find what we came here for… then each one of us may do as we please."

As much as they might have wanted to, it seemed no one could come up with a convincing argument against Sammy's suggestion. There was an air of hesitation around the room. Slowly, one after the other, the trainers from both groups looked at those around them and gave similar, reluctant nods.

"Working with you guys, huh?" muttered Ryan, disheartened.

"Trust me, the idea excites me as much as it excites you," said Sammy.

Muffin gulped and willed herself to talk. "I-I think she's right. As long as the fewest people get hurt, I think we should… do what she said."

"I agree completely!" bellowed Dick, speaking for the first time, startling everyone. "T-the Miss is right, we should definitely listen to her!"

Muffin might have been gladder if the spectacled boy's eyes hadn't been glued to her the entire time he was talking. She forced a nervous smile out and took a step back.

"Er… thank you?"

"Do us all a favor and keep your mouth shut, Dick," said Nancy. "Regardless, if we're all in agreement then there is only one matter to take care of next."

"Right," nodded Siegfried. "How do we proceed?"

Surprisingly, Nancy already had an answer. She smiled haughtily and pushed her glasses up. "I think I might have an idea. Here."

She turned around and started walking away, on the direction they'd come from.

"We were just looking at it when you all interrupted," she said. "Come, follow me."

After a moment of hesitation, both groups followed behind the girl as she led them down a dilapidated brick hallway they hadn't seen before in the thick darkness. It continued for about two-hundred yards before opening up to a large circular room. As they emerged into it they saw that it was illuminated, amazingly, although said lights were little more than cold-looking blue flames burning atop torches hanging from the wall. Each one was set up above a rusty iron door with almost illegible words written above. There were seven doors in total, arranged in a circle.

"Wh-what's that stone thing there?" asked Ñako. "Sacrificial altar, maybe?"

"Dear Mew, I hope not," muttered Siegfried.

"Not quite," said Nancy as she approached the stone pedestal in the middle of the room. "Here, look at the object in the middle."

"What are y…"

Sabrina trailed off as her gaze fell upon the small metallic object laying atop the pedestal. She froze in her tracks. In any other case, she might have thought her eyes were playing tricks on her, or perhaps this was just a cheap joke whoever owned this place had played on them.

But no, she felt the pressure against her mind as soon as she set her eyes on it. Like a burst of crackling heat enveloping her brain, burning like a purple flame behind her eyes.

It… it can't be…

"Pardon my Kalosian, but is that a fucking spoon?" asked Ñako in disbelief. "Er… no offense, Mycroft."

Mycroft was too busy staring at the object to reply. The rest of their group with exception of Sammy and Sabrina shared the same expression.

"What… are we supposed to do with a spoon?" asked Muffin.

"Huh. Maybe we just gotta eat some soup to get through this," Silver smiled. "Sounds easy."

Nancy looked over her shoulder, shooting their group a disapproving glare. None of her companions seemed to share their confusion.

"That is no normal spoon," she explained. "It is a–"

"A Twisted Spoon."

All eyes turned toward Sabrina as she spoke, for once too shocked to try and blend in. As though in a trance, she took a few steps forward, closer to the pedestal, and raised a hand toward the object before she came back to herself. She shook her head and stumbled back, gulping hard.

Dammit, why did something like this have to appear? She could barely keep herself away. Something inside her, the power that had always lay dormant in her mind felt pulled toward the spoon as though it were a powerful magnet.

"It's… an object filled to the brim with psychic energy." She started talking in order to distract herself from that pull. "Everyone knows this, but they come from the Kadabra or Alakazam that wielded them long ago. Any psychic Pokemon holding them will be stronger, but… it has other uses, too."

Ñako raised an eyebrow at her. "Wow, I think that's the longest I've heard you talk without insulting someone."

"Up yours, dickhead."

"Ah, there it is."

Nancy cleared her throat, trying to gather everyone's attention back to her. She looked genuinely surprised that Sabrina had known all that.

"Yes, well… that is the gist of it. And said 'other uses' are the reason this is here, if the note we found is any indication."

"Note?" asked Sammy, accusatory. "What note?"

"Calm down, I'm not hiding anything from you," snarled Nancy. "Here, we found it next to the spoon earlier. Ehem…"

She took a small sliver of paper from her pocket and, after clearing her throat, started reading its contents out loud.

"The Twisted Spoon, when held, shall point toward a trainer with a similar style and personality to that of the holder. Use it. Divide yourselves, stay alongside those the spoon chooses for you, and then come search for me. Only those who have been chosen by the spoon will be able to open these doors, and only a single group can enter each door. Follow these rules, and you may have a chance at retrieving the object you seek. Ignore them, and this will be the end of your journey. For good.

Good luck, trainers. Show me what you are capable of."


As soon as she finished reading, another one of those heavy silences set in around them with the weight of a truth few of them wanted to accept. Once again, they looked amidst themselves. Some, like Muffin and Siegfried, looked disconcerted, while others like Ryan and Sabrina rolled their eyes and looked like they wanted to punch themselves in the face.

After a few seconds, Dexter let out a 'Pfft' and walked away, leaning against the wall and waiting next to one of the doors. Mike shot him an irritated look.

"Well… I guess we don't have a choice," Sammy finally said. "Who wants to go first?"

"We should prob–"

Mycroft was cut off abruptly as Ñako sneaked behind him and gave him a strong push toward the pedestal, almost throwing him against it.

"How about you give it a go?" he asked with a smile. "That way, if the spoon sucks your soul or something you'll be fine! Everyone knows Kalosians don't have souls. Or if they do, they're expendable."

"H-Hmph…" Mycroft shot him an icy glare over his shoulder. "Dirty barbarian… I'm not even from Kalos, but fine. I'll go first, je suppose."

He picked up the spoon with tentative fingers, holding it up high and away from him, like he was fearing it might bite him. Nothing happened.

"Er… am I doing it right? Should I…?"

The spoon bent by itself with a sharp creak, until it was pointing at Nancy. Both her and Mycroft froze for a moment, clearly not pleased.

"…Great," he muttered.

"Don't be whiny," Nancy chastised him. "I doubt you could've gotten a better–"

But just then, the spoon bent again, this time pointing in the exact opposite direction. Toward Caroline.

"Her, too!?" both Mycroft and Nancy yelled in unison.

"What!?" yelled Travis, looking offended. "How come he gets to go with two girls?"

Caroline let out an excited giggle. "Ohhh yeah! Sup' girl, this is a killer team we got going on!" She raised her hand to Nancy for a high-five, which was not reciprocated. "I mean yeah you're a Scorpio and I'm a Pisces but I'm sure Crofty's gonna like, totally balance out our bad chakra!"

"C-Crofty?" muttered Mycroft in horror. "Is that supposed to be me?"

Ryan took the spoon from his hand before they could continue any further.

"Stop flirting with each other and let's just get this over w–"

The spoon bent so quickly and sharply that even Ryan was startled by it. Although definitely not as startled as the person it was pointing at. Sabrina's mouth gaped and she took a sudden step back, unconsciously shaking her head.

"Give me a b–"

Immediately, the spoon moved again, this time pointing at the redhead on the other side of the room. The anger in her expression immediately shifted to panic.

"Oh fuck me," sighed Ryan.

Sammy said nothing, staring ahead with eyes like that of a dead Magikarp. Sabrina immediately turned around and mimicked slamming her head against the nearest wall.

"Two girls again!?" complained Travis. "Ugh, this is rigged. Here, gimme!"

The short boy took the spoon into his hand. A moment after, it bent with a metallic whine, pointing toward Ñako.

"Oh fuck off, the ninja?"

Ñako simply smiled and raised his eyebrows in a seductive manner.

"Well… let's see here."

Next was Siegfried, who took the spoon and closed his eyes, letting out a deep sigh. When he opened them again, the upper part was pointing at Sid, who stood on the other side of the room, back against the wall.

"Heh. Who would've thought?" he whispered, a malicious smile on his lips.

Siegfried simply looked away and gave the spoon to Silver, who'd barely touched it when the top spun around sharply, pointing at the man with the scythe on the other extreme of the room.

"Couldn't be better," muttered the man, showing a smile of sharp teeth.

Silver chuckled. "You better not drop your guard around me."

Carelessly, he threw the spoon over his shoulders toward Vard, who caught it without trouble. As soon as he caught it, it bent toward the tall, grey-haired man next to Nancy.

"Ah, yes, the gentleman of the jocular appearance," said Vard. "Magnificent."

"Er… yes. It's an honor for me too… I suppose," said Mike.

When Muffin grabbed the spoon from Vard, it was little more than a formality, since there were only two people left. Though perhaps the girl wished some miraculous third option would appear out of nowhere. Alas, that didn't happen. The spoon bent toward Dick, who looked like he was about to have a heart attack from excitement.

"…Great," she whispered bitterly to herself.

"I suppose that makes all of us, then," said Nancy. "All that's left is to decide on a door. There's an inscription atop each one…"

She cleared her throat, then read all seven of them aloud for the rest of the group.

"Destiny, Luck, Tragedy, Power, Return, Wisdom and Truth," she recited. "I don't personally care which one I go through, so just choose quickly. There's no time to spare h–"

Ryan headed straight for the 'Power' door without waiting for Nancy to finish, sword hoisted over his shoulder and a sour look on his face. Sabrina and Sammy exchanged an irritated glare, then followed behind. The thick metallic door opened by itself as they approached, and then slammed shut as soon as the three of them were on the other side.

"I… yes, exactly like that," said Nancy, slightly surprised. "Let's get to it."

The remaining trainers pooled into their respective groupings somewhat tentatively, looking carefully at the doors around them. There was silence for a moment until Mycroft spoke.

"Mademoiselles… it seems we've been drawn together yet again," he said with a noncommittal smile. "I'll be honest, I don't particularly care for either of you or your motives; I just want to get out of this place alive, and I figure neither of you care about my motives either, so… allons-y."

He approached the door nearest to them, which sported the word 'Destiny' at the top.

"Le destin n'est pas une question de chance. C'est une question de choix: il n'est pas quelque chose qu'on doit attendre, mais qu'on doit accomplir," he whispered to himself, remembering those familiar words from his uncle Charles-Louis. Perhaps the only one of his blood whom he truly missed. "Here, we'll go through this one."

While the three of them went through that door, Silver approached Dexter without a care in the world, and the man responded in kind by flashing him a smile of sharp teeth. It was an act, of course. Both of them held onto their weapons tightly, waiting for the moment where the other jumped to attack.

"I don't really care about all this fancy occult shit, so here, 'Tragedy'," said Silver. "Sound good?"

"Heh, seems appropriate enough. Lead the way."

A few feet from them, Muffin let out a tired sigh and turned to look at Dick, shrinking into herself.

"So… judging by your expression I don't think you care which door I choose."

The only response she got was an incomprehensible stammer and a blush. She rolled her eyes.

"Right… well, 'Return' it is."

Ñako took a look around the room, staring gormlessly at the doors that remained, while next to him Travis didn't look as though he could care less.

"Right, so the ones left are…"

"The door of Truth…" said Travis.

"Ugh, no, I feel like we're gonna find a ninja dressed in orange at the end of that one."

Travis frowned. "What the fuck are you talking about?"

"Which other one?" Ñako ignored him.

"Wisdom… that one probably has to do with reading."

"Eugh, reading." Ñako stuck out his tongue. "And the last one is Luck, right?"

"Yup."

"Fuck that, we're probably gonna find a crying Rhin at the end of that one," said Ñako. "Maybe w–"

"Mrrhaw!"

While they were too busy deliberating, Ñako's Meowth got bored and ran straight for the door in front of them, disappearing behind it.

"That one yours? 'Cause I think he just chose for us," said Travis, hitting his drumsticks against each other.

"Which one was that?"

"Wisdom."

Ñako let out a sigh. "Oh well, lesser of three evils I guess."

The last two pairings were Siegfried's and Vard's, who ended up deciding on their door rather quickly.

"Luck, eh? What do you say, partner?" asked the tall man named Mike. "Are you feeling lucky?"

Vard raised his palm toward the sky. "Vard does not need luck! Luck needs Vard!"

"…Right. Luck it is, then."

Siegfried and Sid headed for the only door remaining, Truth. The former stopped right before opening it, letting out a sigh.

"I guess it's just you and me, Nobu."

"It's Sid," hissed the man. "And what were you expecting? You've got the waste of pace I left behind, after all."

Siegfried didn't bother dignifying that with an answer. He just shook his head and passed through the door, whispering a last pray before it closed behind them.

"I suppose this is goodbye for now, friends. May we find each other again at the end of this tunnel."

-----------------------------------------------------​

A woman stood within the deepest depths underneath Pewter Prison, standing perfectly still in the middle of a 1arge, dilapidated cathedral-like room covered in stained glass. The woman was tall and slender, her long, wavy blonde hair and large blue hat concealing a pair of glowing golden eyes.

She blinked once, then a miniscule smile formed on her lips.

"Indeed," she spoke to no one, her voice soft yet powerful. "It is no coincidence that we are all here tonight. Mullac's trainers, Black's trainers. Tonight…"

She raised her hands slightly, thumb and middle finger pressing against each other.

"…your destiny awaits."

The snap of her fingers echoed more loudly than it should have, breaking through the air like a wave of force.

Higher within the underground tunnels, all seven group of trainers felt the exact same thing. A burst of heat. An additional heartbeat.

A thin, purple thread of light now connected their chest to that of their companions.

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The morning met Rhin with what he'd given up on a long time ago; coffee, bagels and hope.

"I'm sorry I can't offer much more," said the woman, wiping her hands on her apron. "I know how tired you three must be after crossing Rock Tunnel."

"Please, you needn't worry," smiled Rhin. "The coffee's delicious. And we wouldn't want to impose more than we already have."

Last night, Charity had brought them here to pass the night, to a small house on the outskirts of Lavender, where she supposedly had some business to do. They'd been received more kindly and warmly than Rhin ever expected while still in Kanto, both by the owner of the house, a woman in her late-thirties named Valerie, and her daughter, an adorable little thing that couldn't have been older than eight. Neither of them seemed taken aback by the sudden appearance of three strangers, as though this were a common occurrence.

Maybe that has more to do with Charity, thought Rhin, taking a sip of his coffee. As soon as she showed that insignia on the palm of her glove, Valerie instantly relaxed. Wonder what that's about.

"Mommy, mommy! Look, this Pokemon is so cute!"

The little girl kept trying to jump up to Charity's shoulders where her Magby rested, but wasn't quite tall enough. The breeder let out a giggle and lowered the Pokemon a bit so she could pet it.

Valerie clicked her tongue. "Now, Luna, what did I tell you about bothering Daddy's friends?" She shot Charity a nervous smile. "I'm really sorry. You know how kids are, and she doesn't get to see too many Pokemon as is."

"Yeah!" yelled Luna, poking at the Mabgy's head protrusions. "All of Daddy's Pokemon are big and ugly and scary! He should get more like this one."

Charity smiled proudly at that. "I couldn't agree more, Luna. A Pokemon is only as good as it is aesthetically pleasing, don't you think?"

"Ast…esthe… huh?"

"Don't you worry. You'll learnt that word someday." Charity ruffled the girl's hair, earning a giggle from her. "In any case, you should give your dad a break. There's a reason he needs Pokemon like those; his job is very dangerous."

Rhin perked up at that. Next to him, Wolfswift stopped raising his cup and it froze before reaching his lips.

"It's just as the kind lady says," smiled Valerie. "On that note, Charity, I couldn't thank you more for all you've done for Mike and his friends. I sleep easier at night knowing some of their Pokemon are ones you raised."

Mike… Rhin felt a stab of something cold in his stomach. I feel like I've heard that name before.

"Aww, you don't need to thank me." Charity waved the matter away with a swat of the hand. "As long as the pay is good, am I right?"

Rhin cleared his throat. "Er…"

"Excuse me, miss," said Wolfswift, his voice betraying much less uncertainty than Rhin's did. "But this Mike, your husband I assume… is he a trainer?"

Valerie stopped in the middle of washing up her empty cup and looked over his shoulder, interested.

"Ah, maybe you two know him?" she asked with a smile. "It doesn't surprise me one bit; that big oaf is always making friends wherever he goes. Normally he would've been here to receive Charity, but he's currently out on a dangerous job."

And as she said that, the woman glanced at a certain object behind where Rhin and Wolfswift were sitting. A picture frame atop a small cupboard. The former looked over his shoulder, though the latter obviously did not.

"O-oh…"

Wolfswift sighed to himself. "It's one of them, isn't he?" he whispered so that only Rhin could hear. "From that other group of trainers we encountered."

Right on the money. The photo Rhin was looking at depicted a tall, broad man with disheveled grey hair and beard, smiling happily as he held Luna in his arms. His wife, Valerie, stood next to him with a similarly ecstatic look on her face.

"Daddy's great!" Luna said as soon as she noticed him looking at the photo. "He's so good with Pokemon."

Next to her, Charity laughed. "Well he oughta be if he's working for Black!"

Rhin hadn't turned around yet. He stared gormlessly at the photo, noticing a sudden pit in his stomach. Something was wrong. Something was horribly wrong. If this was the family of the men they'd met back in Route 4, if he'd been hired by an enemy of Mullac's, and if Charity was…

If she was…

"Black?" asked Wolfswift, raising an eyebrow. His shoulders immediately tensed up. "Who–?"

A loud, persistent series of beeps blared through the room, and Rhin's heart almost leaped out of his chest. Both him and Wolfswift tensed up, although they were the only ones. Valerie and Luna simply looked with curiosity at the source of the sound: the triangle-like insignia in the palm of Charity's glove.

"Charity?" asked Rhin, his voice barely above a whisper. "What's that sound?

The girl didn't reply right away. She raised her palm slightly, looking down at the beeping insignia. Then her glare shifted up toward Rhin, and her lips quirked up ever so slightly into a smile.

Rhin felt his blood freeze.

"Right… that." Her voice was deeper, sharper. She placed her hands on the table and rose to her feet. "I told you guys there was a job I needed to do here, right? Well… that beep means my boss is close by, and he would very much like to have a little chat with the both of you."

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