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Should I keep uploading pictures for the chapters?  

13 members have voted

  1. 1. Should I keep uploading pictures for the chapters?

    • Yes, you can even add more!
      11
    • Try and make less of them.
      2
    • It's better without pictures altogether.
      0
  2. 2. Should I keep uploading pictures for main battles?

    • Yes, keep them about the in-game battles.
      7
    • Try and post some about how the battles are narrated.
      5
    • No, the story is self-sufficient.
      1

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Thank you @Evi Crystal for your comment! And you haven't even seen how Gabriel takes it.    So, I haven't been following my posting schedule, it's surprising the amount of things I've had to

The Odd One Out is officially over one year old now. I was stunned when I saw the total word and page counts.  How, when did that happen?  Anyway, I hope you'll keep reading and enjoying it.

Hello !   So I've been reading a few playthroughs/fanfictions on the forum, most notably Vanilla's and Matthew's adventures, and I wanted to try one as well.    Sorry for the title

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@Evi Crystal: Yes... it's a lot of the point of this entire section. And the nastier bits are still to come, obviously.

 

Also, the thread has now over 5000 views and 35 chapters. I wasn't confident I'd keep going on when I started (slightly less than a year ago), but well, here it is. Thank you to all of you who read!

 

So... new chapter. If you've followed the status posts (or discord maybe? I don't remember), you've read that the Shade chapters were a bit of a headache during summer break, and that I had to, er, rework them quite a bit. It might be somewhat weirder than you expected it to be. 

 

Also, I'm really unsure about how the dialog is handled, so don't hesitate to comment on that. 

 

And I'll stop delaying now, enjoy!

 

 

 

Chapter 35: Nigh Nightmares

 

Spoiler

Dr. Sigmund Connal was worried. He didn't exercise any exposed position, but he was some sort of authority in Reborn City, and, in such wretched times as those he lived in, he had developed at least some instinct about politics. As such, he was aware just how catastrophic the events of this day were. 

 

The consequences were clear as day to him. He could see the different institutions of Reborn City at odds with each other, trying to shift the blame for their own inept management of the city, their dreadful planning, their senseless budgets, and their dismal attempts at turning around the downward spiral the city was trapped in. Very quickly, however, they would focus on the most convenient scapegoat, the Orphanage itself. 

 

Everything would go downhill from there. The negative publicity would result in drastic budget cuts directly detrimental to the way the Orphanage was run. He was forced to do so much with so little already... The funds allocated to the battle arena, an important part for the Gym Leader kids' very personal therapies and enjoyment, had not been actually delivered, and the workers would not do their job without pay. And the League had deemed the matter settled months ago, when they had finally managed to convince the Budget department, after a bureaucratic battle of over a year!

 

Speaking of Anna, Noel and Charlotte... He knew how pointless it was, but he couldn't help thinking of the events, trying to find where he had made a mistake, how he could have corrected it, what other decisions he could have taken... Because of course they would have headed for their top-notch Pokemon first, before using them to leave! It was obvious in retrospect. But what could he have done? He couldn't have committed all the Orderlies to protecting these Pokemon in the first place, it didn't make any sense!

 

He only managed to change his course of thoughts to consider again the consequences of the kidnapping. Because not only would it all undo all the work he had put into the Orphanage and all the good it did, but, if these kids spoke, they would misrepresent reality... Thus destroying all the work he had done to help normalize mental health issues as genuine issues for people to seek advice for. All these people suffering from the effects on their minds of their hostile living conditions... they would go back to ignoring their issues, not acknowledging them... What a waste. 

 

Even worse, those kids... Of course they were sweet, but they were blatantly unsuited to living in the real, unsheltered world. Only fools would consider their issues mild! Anna was having severe and nigh-permanent perceptory hallucinations, for Uxie's sake. Charlotte was prone to impulses and terrible anger crises -- it was barely surprising she had tried to burn him when let loose with her Pokemon. And Heather... was heartbreaking. Doubtlessly as a last-ditch way to shelter herself from abusive parenting, she was living in an imaginary world where she fancied herself as a hero blessed with the mission to thwart evil. Except that with that Salamence of hers, she just didn't have the means to tell reality and fiction apart... and she would badly hurt herself. 

 

Not to mention that Charlotte was one of the oldest kids in the Orphanage, and, for all her faults, she was a dear, "big sis" figure to most the children there, and there was no telling what her leaving on her own might do to them. Not that she really cared, but he did. 

 

Bottom line, he needed these kids back. For their own sake -- and his, and the Orphanage's, if the scandal could still be avoided. He didn't like what he was about to do, but he didn't believe he had any other choice. He dialed a number on the phone. 

 

"This is Dr. Connal speaking. According to our agreement, you owe me."

 

0QEzqZR.png

 

*******************************************


"Hi Cain," I said with mostly pretend enthusiasm and genuine surprise as I stumbled upon him in the railnet tunnels. 

"Gabriel?" he asked, also surprised. "What are you doing here?"

"Same as you do, I suppose." I answered with resignation, wondering if Ame had directed me to the tunnels on purpose. "I'm trying to leave Reborn City."

"Why?" Cain asked, baffled. "You... didn't do anything."

"No," I retorted sadly, "but you did. And I'm involved in the story anyway, and I'm a foreigner suspiciously involved in many of the city's tribulations, so I'm going to be a target as soon as it hits the news."

 

"Wow, that's paranoid." Cain commented.

"Not my idea, it was Ame's." I corrected. "Anyway, where are the kids?"

"There's a large shut door a bit further. Shelly thinks the switch is in the old Yureyu power plant, across the Beryl Bridge. So I'm going there."

"And you're letting all of them alone in the tunnels for hours, at night?" I asked, the realization and its implications setting in.

"Why do you care? You wanted nothing to do with this."

"I do care about all this. I thought things would be best fixed by informing the League... not by taking justice into your own hands." I sighed, "I don't think it helps with Reborn's current unstability. Nor is it, I think, really fairer than the current system."

 

"How can you say that?" Cain replied, puzzled. "You saw the note as well as I did. We couldn't let these kids there. If you ask me, it's a good thing if the Orphanage is shut down."

"Yes, but now the political crisis is going to strike the city and it really doesn't need that. If the city is weakened, it certainly won't have time or money to help all the other orphaned children. I don't think their fate will be more enviable. Anyway," I went on tiredly, "I've got a bike, so I can probably get to Yureyu a lot faster than you can. And you're the oldest of the group, I assume, so you'd better stay with them."

"Well," Cain retorted, "now, you're the oldest, I suppose."

"They don't know me. They'll trust you to be with them, more than me."

"All right, if you insist, I guess I can ask them."

 

"Cain," I asked, struck by a thought. "Do you have anything to stay the night here? I don't know, blankets, food? Do you even have a plan after that?"

"You didn't want to have anything to do with this. Certainly I shouldn't tell you that."

"Let me put it differently." I sighed. "Say the group accepts that I go there and open your door -- I take it you can't blast it by the way? Do you want me to bring you back some snacks and maybe a couple of blankets... just in case?"

"We're trying not to be noticed by the whole city, and not to be crushed by the collapsing tunnel either, so we're not blasting through anything." Cain articulated very distinctly. "But if the others accept, I'd love for you to help us. I knew you couldn't resist me." he winked, smirking.

 

 

oTZnB6K.png

 

Whatever.

 

"So can you go ask them? By the way, ask Shelly if she wants some other books. I may take a stroll in the Beryl Library."

 

*******************************


The very quick and less than optimal shopping for supplies for Cain, Shelly and the others was tense, as I was expecting each time a squad of police officers coming for me, to interrogate the whereabouts of the kids out of me. Being at the Beryl Library was ample compensation for this fright, but it couldn't lessen the apprehension I was feeling as I was crossing the Beryl Bridge. 

 

That accursed place. There I had failed to save Corey from himself. There I had seen his body plunge into the dark night, my fingers unable, by so tiny a margin, to grab his shoes. It wasn't as dark as then, but it was certainly night, and I was definitely spooked. The caws of dread, coming from invisible sources, that I had been hearing every night since didn't help either. Perhaps I was already insane, imagining them. 

 

The other side of Beryl Bridge didn't do much to soothe my uneasiness. It was sinister, derelict. Southwards, there seemed to be a steep path towards a more mountainous area, which was, according to my Pokegear, the start of Citrine Mountain. That wasn't the way I was going -- I had to go the the main building on that side of the bridge, the now-abandoned Yureyu power plant. 

 

It wasn't a pleasant sight. At some point, the building might have been a sight of power, of optimism, of growth, but nothing of that aura was left. Now, it was deserted, silent. Nobody even pretended to tend to it; the painting mostly didn't exist any more and the walls themselves cracked. It hardly seemed like the right place to turn power on to make something happen. 

 

And yet, perhaps it was. The former power plant seemed to match the rest of Reborn City -- a place who had stopped living, but whose inertia allowed for a very, very drawn-out death. As I was readying to enter, I heard the caws grow stronger, closer to me, and finally recognized a Murkrow rushing me. I ducked to avoid it, but the Pokemon didn't give up, and soon enough it was soaring, making a U-turn and flying at me, cawing all the way. 

 

If there isn't a way to shut you up... I thought.

 

I started to feverishly rummage through my bag, until I found a Great Ball, but I was forced to roll again as the ill-omen bird was on me, and I threw it as soon as it was clear from me, stopping its momentum altogether. The ball shook a bit, in a still, even more disturbing silence, then froze. 

 

qcwd4GR.png

 

And now, alas, there wasn't any reason to delay entering the power plant. 

The interior was very dark, already enough to put me on edge, but that wasn't the worst of it. The lights weren't inactive altogether... There were small fluctuations, and, very occasionally, a rare, blinding flash of light, with an ominous sizzling noise, that made everything pitch black for the next seconds. 

 

Greetings, Gabriel, I heard in a blood-chillingly close whisper. 

 

I turned around frantically, trying to escape at once. I couldn't bear them, but I was on edge enough to recognize a horror-movie setup when I was in one. Even though I hadn't watched a single one.

 

"Mr. Shadow?" I asked, while silently turning on myself, trying to locate the door. It wouldn't do to rush blindly, precipitating the events, in a wrong direction. 

Yes, the same whisper answered from just as close, as if it was in my ear. 

There! There the door was. I could simply push it open, but I had to at least make an honest effort to get the tunnel clear.

 

"I'm coming on Anna's part." I answered, conforming myself to Cain's instructions. "Um... Can you please turn the power on in the abandoned railnet tunnels, to let her and her group open the door that blocks them?"

 

GrOuyWw.png

 

I can, was Mr. Shadow's answer. But I will not... he added, and went silent for what seemed like hours. Yet.

 

The situation was becoming less and less comfortable to me, but he was begging for the question I had to ask. 

"Why not?"

Mr. Shadow's silence was almost palpable, and it terrified me. If he was dangerous, I tried to reason, would they have sent me without any warning? Probably not. 

But what if I had misjudged them? What if they were all indeed insane?

No, I decided. Way too unlikely. Which didn't mean that Mr. Shadow was even remotely safe.

 

"Please," I insisted. "They're children in the cold, humid tunnels. Don't let them stay there for the night."

 

r6O34d1.png

 

Come and find me, then, it exhaled. 

 

I heard the noise of a door locking. Oh no! Cursing myself for offering to replace Cain, I rushed as fast as I could to the doors of the plant, but they were locked, as I had feared. I was now alone, in the ominous darkness of the forsaken building, without available exit. 

 

I didn't want to move, least of all without reliable lighting, or, just maybe, a way to trace back my steps to the exit. So I could just try and break through the doors, with whichever Pokemon I had. But this meant quitting the mission, failing all these children. I... couldn't bring myself to do that. Not yet, as Mr. Shadow would have said. I could just remain there, where I was safest, and simply wear out my, well, host's patience -- if they were mostly of goodwill, as I fervently hoped, maybe they would give in and unlock the tunnel doors if it was clear I wasn't about to play their game. Or I could play said game. 

 

As pleasant (and most of all safe) as the second option sounded, I was rather confident it wouldn't work. The first option, of course, make the situation complicated for the kids below... So I didn't actually have a choice. How familiar, I mentally sighed. I wasn't even sure to be able to find my way back... 

 

Note to self: get a lot of rope for the next times. 

 

Correction: try to act so that there is no next time. 

 

So, hating every inch I was moving, I obeyed Mr. Shadow, and tried to find him. The atmosphere of the plant was supremely unnerving, with its almost permanent near-pitch blackness and short, unpleasantly noisy flashes of light. Danger in any form, a monstrous, aggressive Pokemon, or even a PULSE, a mad guy, a Meteor strike team, Corey's hateful ghost, or even a wall, any of them could be lurking within three feet of me, ready and eager to kill, devor or otherwise torment me at their whim. 

 

What was even worse was that the power plant wasn't, as I had believed, entirely dismantled. There was some remnant of energy within, which provoked bursts of static electricity at some of the times I tried feeling the machinery (to make sure I wasn't heading into a wall). Each time this happened, I started and cautiously looked around, with the meager hope to spot any threats, which was an improvement from the first time -- where I couldn't keep myself from stepping back a couple of paces, having a small yelp and panickedly looking around. 

 

In this oppressive silence, an agressive unpredictability of sensory inputs, a mind-dissolving straight-line labyrinth of mostly imaginary hurdles, I had no choice but go on, dreading every step that somehow resounded against my best judgement, and trying my hardest to suppress the full-body shivers my own recklessness was giving me.

 

For the briefest instant, the lights went stable, and the bright image of a red-haired woman, looking sickly somehow appeared. I was too surprised to process what happened to her, but one moment she was standing, and the next one she was falling like a doll, as if all strength had left her. 

What? Who was she? Was she... dead?

 

Nice try... I felt, more than I heard, this whisper in a chill of cold air, which made me jump again and turn around, trying fruitlessly to spot whoever was... well, toying with me. 
Bastard, I thought. Probably.

 

Search again...

 

I realized by feel that I was in a dead end, and turned around, slightly more confident, because it was an area I had explored. I moved on, trying to feel my way around as little as possible to avoid the static electricity, but my newfound confidence was soon undercut by ominously cold drafts, that could have meant the building was broken but for the fact that they seemingly came from various directions. And with the drafts, came hurling voices, with various tones, out of sync with one another, so that whatever they were half-shouting, half-whispering was unintelligible. drove me to desperately try and spot whoever spoke them and whom I couldn't find. 

 

Despite my frantic but fruitless attempts to try and spot whoever was speaking, I uneasily moved on, but I called Leaf around, to try and make some small light, which actually helped. But paradoxically, this small light made the surrounding darkness look even more dangerous, more menacing, by a clearer distinction between the known (a couple of feet in radius) and the unknown (everything else). The drafts were definitely more talkative now, more numerous, which wasn't reassuring in the slightest. It sounded like a crescendo of some sort. And in the dim light which Leaf produced, I could feel, almost see, the shadows gathering, organizing, for a terrible assault, and the sync between their spectral voices seemed to improve. 

 

... Skull ... chions...
Viv... Life...
That... Heart...

 

There seemed to be an odd reflection in the light before me, suggesting that perhaps, I may be at the end of the corridor. The whispers and drafts might have been suggesting that Mr. Shadow should be close -- and it was something I both dreaded and hoped for. 

 

And on the pedestal these words appear:

 

Another startlingly bright flash of light, and I could see the profile of a standing ageless woman with very unusual, long, emerald green hair. 

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings, the wind voice came to a climax. 

 

6mal2Bh.png

 

She turned slowly to face me, and she had a look so odd, so unnerving, so inhuman, that I stepped back. But as I was doing so, she was slowly being enveloped in a cocoon of white light -- which somehow didn't even light the Power Plant. 

 

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

 

And she simply exploded. 

 

Nothing ...sides ...ains. 

 

The first word was already lower than the previous ones, and the next ones were almost drowned in the sudden desynchronization, and loss of intensity, of the drafts. The little "game" of hide-and-seek wasn't over. Or was that what Mr. Shadow wanted me to think? To draw me further into their lair? Did I even have a choice?

 

There's no better place than the darkness to pace to think. But for that, you need a secure darkness -- your dark bedroom would work. In hostile darkness, you can freeze -- but if you're forced to move, you're suddenly forced to confront thousand of hidden terrors, would-be nightmares, because you're pretty sure they're not actually there... Just that pretty sure wasn't nearly sure enough. 

 

Such was the line of thought I was trying to keep following as I trod even deeper in the plant, to help prevent myself from focusing on my own would-be nightmares. But it was becoming harder and harder to not lose track, as it seemed that some malicious entity from the building itself was conspiring for the whole structure to be more and more nerve-racking until I could but break down. The lighting and overall static electricity were getting increasingly chaotic. The unnerving silence was slowly being replaced by an irregular humming, out of sync with the lighting, which was even more unnerving, if possible. 

 

It was in this mental state that I had a third vision. For once, I was able to recognize someone: it was a tall young woman with long blue-dyed hair, the Water-type Leader, Amaria. She was standing on a tiny rocky headland in a large river overhanging a huge waterfall... The picture was so vivid that my mind supplied on its own the sound of water. And nothing seemed to happen for a while, so I was free to look at her face. She looked... more than sad, far beyond sadness. She looked utterly hopeless, and in the instant I realized what, unfortunately, had to happen next. In spite of the background sprint of a red-haired young woman, about her age, Amaria, without a look back, threw herself into the emptiness. 

 

No!

 

It took me a while to realize that what I had witnessed wasn't the truth, couldn't have just been happening. How could it be? Given the nature of this forsaken place, it was much more likely to be a malignant illusion. The Amaria I had met... just wouldn't act like that, right? RIGHT?

 

Character rates:

Spoiler

Cain: 4.5/10 (minor increase). At least he's not resenting my choice of getting involved as little as possible. If he chose to keep the kids out of the Orphanage, I'm certainly not letting him leave them for an errand I can do myself. But Arceus knows he can be annoying at times. 

 

Mr. Shadow: 3/10. I'm quite freaked out there. Help, anyone?

 

Anna: 4/10 (-1). What was she thinking (or whichever mental process she undertook to make a decision) when she decided to get that aforementioned... whatever... involved?

 

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Hmm... Now I have mixed feelings about Sigmund, because he SEEMS to CARE about the children, but... as you know he did it in a wrong way. It's good, that your AU makes him in a least better light than in the canon, but sadly the real deal between him and Saphira will occur at Ep19...

 

23 hours ago, Mindlack said:

He didn't like what he was about to do, but he didn't believe he had any other choice. He dialed a number on the phone. 

 

"This is Dr. Connal speaking. According to our agreement, you owe me."

 

0QEzqZR.pngThis kinda points something to a foreshadowing about a certain person, we all hate by heart.

Also noted, that he's lawful neutral (having good intentions, but with an antagonistic/villainous outcome. 

 

And as we come to the gym battle against Shade, which children will be kidnapped in your AU? Will you make this an expection?

 

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Honestly, I didn't want the Doctor to not care at all after the children. After all, he's canonically been in the Orphanage for quite a while, so I thought it was unlikely for him not to care at all. But that's not the only reason why he acts -- like many people, he has stated motivations, motivations he knows but won't claim out loud, and motivations he's barely (if at all) aware of. So I wouldn't dare assign him an alignment -- a 'lawful' guy does not call up Meteor muscle to do something for him, when he has the law on his side. But as the head of the Orphanage (and attached to law and procedure), you can't exactly call him 'neutral' or 'chaotic' on that score. The same kind of considerations work for 'good' and 'evil'.

 

I'm not too sure if there's going to be significant revelations when the Belrose sisters meet again their demon, or if it's just going to be a battle to the death and Saphira is just going to fry him. I suppose I'll be glad either way.

 

Just a side note (and an invitation to speculate, maybe?): the Doctor still has some screen time here, though, and there are still surprises to come...

 

And yes, we know who's the next Meteor on screen.

 

Regarding who gets abducted: the reasons may get spoiler-y, and I don't want to spell it out before it's on screen, perhaps you can grasp what I'm hinting at.

Spoiler

As a game scenario, it's acceptable to make the path to saving the kids a convoluted fetch quest. But if you think about it, pretty much nothing in the quest would happen this way. I started trying to list all the ways the plot could be short-circuited, but there are way too many of them. And Gabriel wouldn't be dedicated to saving the children to the point of overcomplication. As I have a couple of ideas for breaking him the Apophyll arc, his (at least perceived) liberty of choice has to be constrained.

 

 

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23 hours ago, Mindlack said:

Honestly, I didn't want the Doctor to not care at all after the children. After all, he's canonically been in the Orphanage for quite a while, so I thought it was unlikely for him not to care at all. But that's not the only reason why he acts -- like many people, he has stated motivations, motivations he knows but won't claim out loud, and motivations he's barely (if at all) aware of. So I wouldn't dare assign him an alignment -- a 'lawful' guy does not call up Meteor muscle to do something for him, when he has the law on his side. But as the head of the Orphanage (and attached to law and procedure), you can't exactly call him 'neutral' or 'chaotic' on that score. The same kind of considerations work for 'good' and 'evil'.

I used to simply hate Sigmund back, when I firstly played Pokemon Reborn and I was kinda easily judging them fast, before thinking twice... Only after 2 years and rewatched and reading some infos (including the original Reborn Online League stories), it opened my eyes for such reasons (even to Fern, but more to people Solaris or Sigmund specially) and trying to do some headcanon lore to fill the loopholes in my mind.

 

Also the fun fact is: I easily can compare Sigmund with the ECT as aesthetic: While he gets heated for being a "creep" and "abusing children" and that the Electro-Convulsive Therapy is often represented as dangerous in media (Hollywood movies), which in truth isn't in the case. Most people doesn't know about someone's intentions, unless you look within the reasons. That's what I see in him: When his treatments are viewed as poorly executed, sometimes it works when using it to the right mental illness (like depression, schizophrenia)... I bet, he did "illegally" saved some lives.

 

Spoiler

Despite his methods and reasons for taking care of the children in the orphanage, he genuinely believes that he's doing the right thing and for their own good.

 

- Taken from his description in Pokemon Reborn wiki.

 

I just hope, that Ep19 will shed some light and truth to the whole "Orphanage- Connal- Belrose- Mystery"

 

Spoiler

Even though, I'm doubting for it, giving how Saphira's relationship is with him especially and how she hyperbeamed him in one branch route

 

But who knows, maybe she'll get a mindbreak in order to prevent another big problem already.

 

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I really should wait for a better time to do this, because there's a lot I have to do, but I'm also seriously mismanaging my time and my sleep schedule so I don't think I'm good for anything until next morning. 😴

 

So, let's do something overdue. 

 

 

Chapter 36: Worse Worries

 

 

Spoiler

I didn't notice when the whispers started again, but quickly they were louder and fouler, and almost spitting malice. I was sure I could see the shades, the ghosts, the spirits fueling them in a storm around me, a hurricane of chaos, of technology gone haywire, answering randomly to maliciously random prompts. 

 

hav... hol... war... 

 

What was the point of all that? I wondered while still walking in the dark plant, now not daring to touch the walls or the machinery any more, my sight and hearing crippled due to the rapid shifts in lighting and noise clearly wasn't as huge. 

 

rich... poor... sickness... health... rish...

 

It couldn't last for long now, but what would come at the end? I really didn't want to find out. And I realized it was irrelevant -- I was simply being played with, and the game couldn't end if I kept complying with the rules. I was done obeying the commands of that mad guy or whoever he was. I had a purpose here. 

 

"Mr. Shadow, I'm done pl-"

 

My voice came surprisingly shaky to my own ears, and I swiftly (and with more than a tinge of panic) cut myself off when I realized it was getting higher and higher-pitched almost on its own, because of two other events concurrently occurring:

 

till death us do part, the specters were now yelling. 

 

But, what was so, so much worse, was the fourth vision. Because I had experienced it, and had nightmares of its tiniest details, yet it was even worse than my nightmares. I could see myself on the Beryl Bridge, with Corey slowly moving towards his end, and my doomed effort to catch him, in excruciating detail -- I would see my finger's minute tremor as they tried to grab his shoe, giving the impression that I could have caught him with barely more self-control...

 

Long time no see, Gabriel, an icy cold voice, which I could somehow hear was disembodied, spoke. At the edge of my field of vision, I could see the shadows coalescing into a dark purple shape with a nasty grin. 

 

bj7LV4p.png

 

The first Shadow Ball struck Leaf, whose shriek of pain pierced my heart. Forgetting everything, and especially that I was surrendering control of the lighting altogether, I called her back and started to run away in a frenzy. But I could feel it didn't work, and instead of adrenalin pumping heat, drive, and life-preserving energy to my body, I     could feel chill being slowly distilled to each of my limbs and organs, a deadly chill that engulfed my body, that froze my legs and made even my arms numb. I couldn't flee the shadow which was close enough for me to see. 

 

It was a rabid-looking Gengar. 

 

Gengar, my frozen mind kept on supplying to an otherwise useless body. Ghost-Poison. A born killer. A deadly strong special attacker, impossibly swift. 

No use fleeing, no use fighting it

Find something! I tried to urge myself, but nothing would come, and I remained frozen in place as an enhanced Shadow Ball struck me, forcing me to the ground, my breathing strained. 

 

I can't beat it. Not on its turf. 

Then change the terrain, darn ir, you moron!

What with, you smartass? I don't have anything, it's no use! No use...

 

The second Shadow Ball hit my head, dizzying my thoughts, weakening my resolve...

 

No point in me attempting anything anyway... 
I knew I'd fail... Why bother trying...
I was a failure... A useless failure...
I just hope... it doesn't... 
Take too long now.
Sorry, Cain, kids.

 

I didn't try to get back on my feet. 

 

Sorry... Mum.

 

No, something pointed out in me, almost shily. 
No, it seemed to resound somewhere else. 
You're not an utter failure. 
You've got a mission.
You've got kids to save. 

And you've got to come back home for me. 

 

That voice was unmistakeable -- it was my mother's. 

 

But how? I protested weakly. I don't have any strength left!
You fight, of course! You don't let them win, nor do you give up or give in! 
Carol, my sister...

 

I don't have anything remotely effective yet.
I trust you, you'll manage!
That was Simon, my nine-year-old brother. 
 

You can go fight them -- it's impossible that you don't have anything. The nuanced style of my other younger brother, Michael. 
 

If there's no solution, then there's no problem. You can do it, son. I trust you. My father...

 

Slowly, I managed to push myself from the ground, with the Gengar gloating right above me starting to frown, and, before it settled on a course of action, I grabbed Sicy's Pokeball, the only hope I had left. If this place had to be impossible to see in, eerily mysterious, then let it be the light mystery instead of the mystery of darkness. 

 

"Mist!"

 

The Gengar decided suddenly to attack Sicy, but it was crucial that that mist be set -- and it would only last too little time. So I sheltered Sicy with my own body. Although the attack was unpleasant, a newfound resolve, not unlike a second breath in a role-playing game, burnt in my whole being, and the move didn't even manage to unbalance me as I braced myself.

 

An eerie mist, vaguely pink, slightly opaque, settled all around Sicy, enveloping the ghost Pokemon as well. The result was a pleasant surprise: I could see it become less sure of itself, his movements constrained and actually strained. The simplest way to put it was that, ironically, that kind of mist seemed toxic to the Gengar.

 

"Ice Beam!"

 

Sicy was slow, and, in ordinary circumstances, the move never would have had a prayer of hitting my nigh murderer. But that Gengar was significantly hindered by the Mist, and its reflexes seemed dulled, its cunning dimmed -- regardless, it moved in a pattern so predictable that Sicy had taken it into account when aiming. It snarled viciously, and prepared a vengeful Shadow Ball, while I instructed Sicy to finish that blasted ghost off with another Ice Beam. 

 

The two attacks collided about midway, but the mist had eroded the unpleasantness contained in the Gengar's attack, and it wasn't potent enough to resist our newly found determination. The ghost got hit by what remained of his own shadowy attack and by the Ice Beam, taking it out. 

 

Whew...

 

I started retreating again, quickly but cautiously, when I heard Mr. Shadow's ominous whisper again...

 

Doublade.

 

What? It was Mr. Shadow's Gengar? If so, that changed the situation -- I wouldn't be able to flee at all, unless that insanity was defeated. I had to fight all the way through. And the Doublade, somehow mirroring my thought, was dancing, sharpening each of its blades against the other.

 

This wasn't good... Had I known...

 

"Sicy, come back! Leaf, please Flame Charge it and retreat!" I muttered. 

Leaf came out, a bit rested from the Gengar's assault, and soon sped towards the Doublade, which made no attempt to avoid the move, instead trying to withstand it, and nastily struck back with its blade, filled with a spectral energy I could feel from several paces away. 

 

"Leaf, return..." I whispered, worried. 

 

Leaf so weakened, who could finish that monster off?

 

"Mouse, go Crunch it!"

 

The top dog -- the real one, I nearly chuckled nervously -- came rushing in anger, growling at its opponent in a deliberate effort to intimidate it. Some caveman part of my brain couldn't help but feel safer, now I knew someone this imposing was protecting me; but it was an impression I knew I had to shrug off, because I wasn't safe. Not by a long shot. 

 

The Doublade seemed to pay little attention to its new opponent, then started slowly spinning on the ground, then quickly gaining speed. I knew what it was... it was a Gyro Ball and it had to be avoided at all costs. 

"Roll aside, Mouse!"

 

Mouse got my meaning in the nick of time and managed to stay out of reach of the spinning blades, and instead pounced on them the second they stopped, fainting Mr. Shadow's second Pokemon. 

 

Rotom, Mr. Shadow whispered. 

 

And indeed, the malignant spirit of malfunctioning electrical appliances came out. Somehow, it seemed to bring in a colossal power of its own, something that made my hair stand out... Dear Lord, was it having that kind of electrical charge? And it released it in a prodigious Discharge, which simultaneously brought power back to the whole factory, turning on the lights, blinding me, and, I suppose, frying poor Mouse. 

 

"You did well, Mouse..." I muttered. "Watt, come play thunder." I called silently. 

 

The Ampharos stood there, not moving, facing the Rotom which, instead, moved around as if it couldn't stop. Suddenly, I felt electricity in the air again and I realized what it meant. 

 

"Ampharos, Charge!"

 

Watt completed his preparation at the very moment the Rotom expelled another powerful Discharge, which, though nowhere near as potent at the first one, fried again all the machines around, plunging the surroundings in pitch darkness. And to say that before I could see somehow in there...

 

Apart from a small grunt, Watt weathered the electric move remarkably well, but it grunted much more when a second move, non-electrical, seemed to hit her right after. A Shadow Ball, I guessed. I couldn't leave my opponent the initiative, could I? So I asked Watt to throw Power Gems where the attacks seemed to originate, and some unpleasant-sounding noises suggested that the attack didn't completely miss. 

 

The Rotom threw another Discharge, but this time the power seemed to be completely absorbed by the machinery to restore its functionality, and the bright light blinded me again. But Watt growled in displeasure, and I heard a fist hitting the machinery, and then sparks, and that move being repeated, with the Rotom making unearthly noises. Watt, I realized as my eyes got slowly accustomed to the light, was chain-punching Rotom... into the machines.

 

And suddenly, the machine itself began to whir in an audible annoyance, and I realized that the Rotom was now possessing it.

 

"Fry the bloody thing, Watt! You can do it!"

 

So Watt Thunder Punched, and punched, and punched, damaging the engine as if it was personally offending her (which it could have been), until something could be somehow felt giving way, and I somehow knew, as if my mind had sped into a subconscious fast mode, what the Rotom was going to do.

 

"Behind you, Watt!"

 

Drawing every muscle in her body, every inch of her weight, every ounce of power she could still gather, the Ampharos spun around and her right hook connected with the barely corporeal body of the Electric-Ghost Pokemon, completely dizzying it, and leaving the initiative to Watt, who, resonating with my own fear and adrenalin, started Thunder Punching even more fiercely her opponent, until it visibly gave up trying to protect itself -- until everything went pitch black again. 

 

Banette... I heard Mr. Shadow's voice. 

 

What had happened? It should have been obvious: the Rotom had fired a final Discharge with the last of its energy, trying to weaken Watt just a bit more, and putting the area back to darkness, an obvious disadvantage for me, my team and Watt in particular, who didn't have power to help her draw from and wouldn't be able to spot her enemy. 

 

Already her grunt of pain showed the Banette didn't have to worry about such issues in the slightest. And Watt had done an outstanding battle, if she could just do slightly more... I she could know where to aim... 

 

"Watt," I muttered, "you've done great. Please hold on... when you feel it coming, focus... and punch it for all you can when it's in range. If we can down it... There's a chance."

 

And indeed, I felt the familiar sensation of static electricity being drawn in, until it somehow all got redirected, in spectacular electrical arcs, at the Ghost doll Pokemon. Watt whimpered weakly, and collapsed. 

 

Two more to go, I thought. Hopefully. If we were still playing by the rules...

 

"Hex, come on, we've got to hold on, just a little more..."

 

Mimikyu... Mr. Shadow called, his Pokemon out of my area of vision. 

 

"Try to Toxic it," I whispered the Swalot, "and then hold on..."

 

Already I could hear ominous news as a faint, ghostly sound of blades -- the Mimikyu was strengthening itself like the Doublade, but I couldn't see it, with my eyes not half as accustomed to the darkness as they used to be. 

 

"It's going to be coming." I muttered for Hex. "Hold on... and don't miss it... if you can, add an Acid Spray to disable its disguise."

 

The Mimikyu came even faster than I feared, both a malicious undead spirit concealed in a floating cloak badly mocking a Pikachu and a dreadful presence snickering in the dark at us poor mortals, but Hex's resolve was flawless, and she managed to land both hits before the enraged Shadow Claws down her. Now it was just a matter of time, and perhaps Batley and Sicy could deal with that? 

 

"Great job, Hex." I recalled the Swalot. "Now, Batley, avoid the Mimikyu's moves, by any means necessary. Win us some time." 

 

And out of her Pokeball Batley went, right in the air, ready to evade and avoid anything... Until the Mimikyu took her down with an Electric attack neither I nor she saw coming. Only Sicy remained now, and it was dubious she would help me against the now-monstrous Mimikyu... 

 

I should have taken the hint then. It was a lost fight anyway. And the Mimikyu could run after me, go get me... so I couldn't flee either. 

 

Well? I heard Mr. Shadow's voice. 

No... there was no point... 

 

I had dropped to my knees at some point, and could dimly see the Mimikyu getting closer now, clearly relishing the fatal blows it was about to deal me. 

Just... make it quick, I thought, until something moved in my bag!

 

After the second of horrified panic, I realized, in the blasé indifference of my own death wish, that it had to be the Egg. Hatching here and now, of all possible situations. Striving for life where there wouldn't be soon any, I chuckled mentally, amused and bored. Wasn't life cute?

 

But while there's life, there's hope, isn't there? some other dumb place of my mind, which couldn't let go, implied. 

 

No, no hope. Just Sicy and...

 

"Il fuit pour mieux combattre, et cette prompte ruse
Divise adroitement trois frères qu'elle abuse."

 

Spoiler

That's verse from a French 17th century play. A layman's English translation, trying for rhyme rather than rhythm, along with the two preceding lines, could be: 
Strongest of the fighters, an outnumbered -- doomed -- knight, 
Yet he knows how to craft a way out of his plight.
He flees as a swift ploy, so as to better fight
The three brothers, his foes', fooled thus divided might.

 

Ah... It might...

Final warning, said Mr. Shadow's now icy voice, the Mimikyu threateningly towering above me, still strong despite the toxins that had to still be weakening it.

 

I grabbed something in my bag, pushed myself on my feet, made a few swift steps backwards and called my only hope, Sicy. 

 

"Mist!"

 

As soon as the new environment was set, I started fleeing for all I could. It wasn't a matter of escaping -- with the doors locked, it was impossible -- it was just to gain some more time. I gave the Hyper Potion I had just grabbed to a tired Leaf, and told her to stay and prepare in a quiet, dark corner. 

 

The Mimikyu wasn't even running after me. It knew I was trapped, doomed to fail. But it managed to get Sicy, the boosted Shadow Claw fainting her. I had expected it, but it still was a big heartache nonetheless. 

 

Poor Gabriel, Mr. Shadow mocked softly as the Mimikyu advanced again on me, angrier than before. But woe to the...

 

"Leaf, Flame Charge, now!"

 

Leaf, freshly (and secretly) Bulked Up, sprinted from her corner in a surge of desperate fiery energy, and struck the ghost Pikachu-wannabe in its ghostly face, once, and another time, just to make sure the thing would stay down. 

 

Dhelmise... Mr. Shadow called. 

 

I knew what a Dhelmise was. It wouldn't ever be able to strike Leaf. Leaf was now too robust, too strong, and too swift -- she didn't even need instructions at that point. A couple of Flame Charges took care of it indeed, and Leaf started shining with intense white light. She was evolving!

 

aYvcpFT.png

 

I'm not sure when it happened, the transition was so natural, but at some point during the evolution the lights turned on, and I could finally see Mr. Shadow for what it was... a ghost. 

 

Well done indeed, it said, the voice softer now, conveying no amount of threat. Omen Badge... yours. TM... too.

 

nsh8fU2.png

 

What? It was a League match, with a Gym Leader? Were they completely insane???

 

"Um... I don't think I can accept it," I said more diplomatically. "It wasn't a, er, regular battle."

 

Cold world outside. Weakness warrants worries. Must be prepared... Much... deserved, was Mr. Shadow's answer. Door... tunnel... unlocked. Look!

For the first time, I could look at where I was: there was a large screen behind me, on the wall -- and -- were these the doors I had entered in?

 

The screen lit, and I could see from above the kids, hunched up and partly on the large tarpaulins I had bought for the group, with a large blanket I had also bought that very evening. They were probably awake, though. Cain alone was standing against the wall, facing the massive, yet derelict, slab, which suddenly opened. 

 

But there were people on the other side.

 

7jx0pHJ.png

 

Some wore uniforms of Meteor Grunts, there was Pirate Meteor Guy from a couple of eternities ago, and... Orphanage Orderlies? What an unlikely alliance. 

 

"Seize them." Pirate Guy ordered. 

 

Cain shouted in panic, retreating and pulling the blanket so as to have the children react faster, but the aggressors were just too fast. Noel, Anna, Charlotte, Heather and Shelly were taken in seconds, separated from their Pokemon, incapable of just doing anything. They then converged on Cain, who, realizing he had lost the confrontation, backed off swiftly. 

 

Unfortunately, the Meteor grunts and a pair of Orderlies ran after him, and they were much faster. I saw Cain's panicked look, I heard his terrorized voice.

 

"Shoot... Nidoking, Earthquake, fast!"

 

 

Pa1G6Kq.png

 

No... I thought, as this was everything the group had decided to not do. The unusually powerful move, due to Cain's panic, obviously shared by his Nidoking, ended up partly collapsing the tunnel. 

 

The good news was it made Cain escape his pursuers. The bad news was that said pursuers were safe behind walls of rock, and were detaining five kid Gym Leaders. Also, they were terrorists hell bent on destroying the city. 

 

Shoot, indeed. 

 

Dying souls offer the keys to your gain... Mr. Shadow said evenly, as if oblivious to the scene I had just witnessed, a rare grammatically correct sentence. Let not them suffer to the poison in vain. 

 

Player's note:

Spoiler

I was quite scared of Shade, as I hadn't anything really super effective against him. So I grinded, and prepared, and ran calculations to be sure that it wouldn't go south, hoped against hope that their Pokemon wouldn't be too perfect, nor mine too bad...
And, well... I 6-0'd him with a couple of healing items. 
Here are the highlights: 

 

Spoiler

LAmdlxR.png

8yygmsm.png
2kcA0qT.png

(I really needed that miss, I think)
1f54A8x.png

(Die, you evil guilt-tripping ghost)
nsyji8t.png

(OHKO is far from guaranteed without the Gem, letting all the room for the Gengar to re-try and hit Hypnosis)


Ze3ZRHB.png
PUCcuTl.png
UJWCOd3.png

(Nice hit here)
yAExmSU.png

(I wasn't sure I killed with a second Discharge, so I went for Charge instead)
lI0SJT5.png

(A Lemonade later)
DpGZHLE.png


93rpzxY.png

A couple of Crunches later...


gCIejfg.png

Nothing much here...


sxSGhXu.png
8YND7A9.png

(That was one Gear Grind hit, the othe just broke the disguise)
8YND7A9.png

ICFSe7q.png

Perfect. 


YT3ERYZ.png

Nice burn after a Blaze Kick but it didn't matter ultimately.


7mrmsxK.png

 


 

 

 

Character ratings:

Spoiler

Mr. Shadow: 1/10 (-2). Thank goodness it's over, at least... What was that all about??

Pirate Guy: 0.5/10 (-1). I'm mean, he's a murderer and a terrorist and all, but kidnapping children like that, what's even the point?

 

Death count: 

Spoiler

Start-Corey: 6

Corey-current: 0

Total: 6

 

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So it begins... *signs in worry*  The aftermath always gets me amd makes my blood boil, just to think that cutescene😡

 

Hope Gabriel won't be so mentally screwed up during the operation "Orphan Rescue", because a lot of hell going break out soon. Poor Gabriel and poor Cain for intentionally trigger the "Strength Quest", because he didn't mean it at all😔

 

 

Also I wonder, why would "Pirate Guy" kidnap some adorable children? I wonder why?🤔

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Evi Crystal
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58 minutes ago, Evi Crystal said:

So it begins...

 

I just can't let that one pass, sorry in advance for the source. 

it_begins.png

 

 

47 minutes ago, Evi Crystal said:

The aftermath always gets me amd makes my blood boil, just to think that cutescene😡

On 10/1/2020 at 8:01 PM, Evi Crystal said:

I used to simply hate Sigmund back, when I firstly played Pokemon Reborn and I was kinda easily judging them fast, before thinking twice... Only after 2 years and rewatched and reading some infos (including the original Reborn Online League stories), it opened my eyes for such reasons (even to Fern, but more to people Solaris or Sigmund specially) and trying to do some headcanon lore to fill the loopholes in my mind.

 

Same here. The feelings I had with Reborn were... complicated, when I first watched a playthrough. I mean, it was so... so obviously not right! So much was wrong, so many characters were screwed up beyond belief. So I googled the name and found the forums and wanted to rant I felt it all was. But I read a bit instead, I eventually calmed down, and... well, I certainly didn't think I'd end up doing a fanfiction of it at the time. 

 

 

51 minutes ago, Evi Crystal said:

Hope Gabriel won't be so mentally screwed up during the operation "Orphan Rescue", because a lot of hell going break out soon. Poor Gabriel and poor Cain for intentionally trigger the "Strength Quest", because he didn't mean it at all😔

I'll let Caz's Desolation answer for me: 'Poor, poor Trainer.' (at least I think that's how the quote goes). 😞

(BTW, this is exactly one of the reasons why Gabriel thought Heather better in the orphanage, for a while at least -- on her own, there was no way she could be safe). 

 

 

54 minutes ago, Evi Crystal said:

Also I wonder, why would "Pirate Guy" kidnap some adorable children? I wonder why?🤔

I wonder too. That's inexplicable! They're children, they were stuck in an orphanage, they have nothing to do with all of this! 😢 Doesn't "Pirate Guy" have nefarious schemes of grander scale to attend to?

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@TheHellHamster: Thanks a lot for your comment, it really pleased me. I think I probably wrote it somewhere, but I was worried about these two Shade chapters -- I couldn't bring myself to write them as just another Gym battle. So I tried to do something different, thinking it'd be hit or miss. 

 

If you had the time and inclination to think about what, in this chapter, made you like it this much, I'd be very interested to hear it. 

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The Odd One Out is officially over one year old now. I was stunned when I saw the total word and page counts. 

How, when did that happen? 

Anyway, I hope you'll keep reading and enjoying it.

 

Also, there is this one-shot I've written. Take a look if you haven't read it!

(or tell me if it's unintelligible) 

 

 

Chapter 37: Plausible Plans

 

 

Spoiler

The night air I breathed upon leaving the factory was smelly, polluted, cold, dry, and had probably dozen of other defects I would dread to know of. It still felt immeasurably better than what was in the madhouse they called the Abandoned Power Plant. But I didn't have time to appreciate that. It was maybe past eleven, kids had been abducted by a terrorist group, and I was one of the only witnesses.

 

It took me a couple of minutes to realize what the very best course of action was. So I took my Pokegear, and realized that I didn't have Cain's number. Which meant that I would have to hurry very fast to the tunnel if I wanted to discuss future plans with him without him running off to do something rash. I took out my bike as fast as I could (no matter how convenient these bags were, it could, at times, be unbearably slow to get the bike from them), and didn't leave at once because something else in my bag was moving.

 

The Egg, I realized. It had been moving in the power plant, but now its moves were more sudden, more nervous. Could it be hatching, now of all times? How unlucky could I get? It certainly looked so. Instead of weakly unbalancing its Egg, the Pokemon inside managed now to completely destabilize it, almost make it turn. Just get out now, I thought. This is no time to waste! I wanted to shout.

 

So, instead of watching the Pokemon Egg hatching with tearful emotion, marvelling at the miracle of new life being born, I was stamping my feet with impatience, just wishing it to be over with, so that I could get to Cain before he did anything well-meaning and thoughtless.

 

yMqnBYg.png

 

"Tump?" the little vegetal ghost said sadly, looking at me, then all around itself. Then it started crying softly.

 

So I slowly sat near the Phantump and started petting it.

 

"It's okay..." I said, trying to be soothing, to focus on the situation at hand, instead of being frustrated at my forced inability to take action. And, well... when you thought of it for itself, baby Phantump was adorable. Just sort of cursed. But weren't we all? Wasn't I?

 

ajkS5zl.png

 

"It's okay..." I muttered, cradling it. The slow rhythm, the soothing tone of my own voice, the fuzzy sensation of finding this baby adorable, like any other, and still unlike them, were steadily pulling on my eyes, making the adrenalin, the tension, the need for decisive action flow back, and I found myself longing to sleep.

 

But I certainly could not do that here, not so close to that madness they called a former power plant. And I didn't know either what to do with a baby Pokemon, and couldn't get anywhere to buy anything. The only solution was to get to a Pokemon Center. And the closer to the tunnels, the better.

 

 

****************************

 

 

Cain's Nidoking hadn't held back when trying to protect his Trainer, I realized, when I went back into the Abandoned Railnet, the next morning, feeling very resolute and energetic. The tunnel was collapsed rather early on, and the rock slide was impressive, at least as high than the original ceiling of the tunnel, a mixture of rock and heavy construction materials. If anything, it was a miracle that Cain's attack hadn't sunk the city.

 

Just looking at it, I felt I wouldn't be able to bypass the obstacle on my own. I would need specialized help, or many people, or a lot of time. Then again, I did have some tools, I remembered. I had a Mining Kit. If now wasn't the opportunity to try it out, what would?

 

So, slowly, carefully, one spot at a time, with the sharp edge of the pickaxe, trying to not unbalance the entire structure or even sizable parts of it, I removed some bits of rock. The process felt neither fast nor safe, and it wasn't an effective way to advance through the scree. But, among the useless materials, I managed to get a few things that were worth the effort.

 

8aK3Fg6.pngNf4mcce.pngckiDFT4.png

 

But it was only so long before the mining grew too tedious for me, all the more so since I knew I was avoiding the real issue. Namely, what was I going to do for those kids? I couldn't leave them at the hands of Team Meteor, I couldn't justify it. But what else could I do? I didn't know anything about making a smaller tunnel through the fallen rock, and I certainly didn't want to try anything that might unsettle the entire structure and have the entire railnet collapse on me.

 

Not that it wouldn't solve a few things for you, a stubborn inner voice quipped.

 

I wouldn't manage it on my own. Ame had made it very clear she didn't want to see me. That left the people whose job was precisely to deal with that... the police. I wasn't too fond of the idea of involving them, as that was incriminating, but I couldn't see any alternative. And hopefully I'd convince them that it wasn't my fault.

 

Yes, but what of the kids? Would they go back to the Orphanage, the doctor's position strengthened by the events?

 

Nothing was perfect, I decided. Especially there. As I had known from the very beginning, but not voiced it in front of Shelly, there were worse places than an orphanage, even when the resident doctor was wretched. Hostage of a terrorist group intent on wiping their own city was, indeed, such a worse situation, but still not the worst-case scenario. What I was thinking of was something so horrible I would never dare utter it, but even then, it might not be the actual worst outcome.

 

Deep in thought, I was absent-mindedly exiting the tunnel, barely even noticing the stench of the Peridot Ward any more. I took my bike and started riding to the Jasper police station, the one I knew best, when I found myself looking at the back of a young woman whose dyed hair and height I thought I recognized.

 

She was walking purposefully northwards in the largest alley of the Peridot Ward. If it were her... then perhaps I didn't need to go talk to the police after all. But if it weren't, it would be pretty embarrassing. And even then, if she had something important to do...

 

So I cycled faster, just enough to go past her, and, with a vague sense of shame and guilt, turned around sneakily to get a peek at the young woman's face. There was no mistaking, it was Amaria. Now, to get her involved... I moved on for a few other meters, then stopped.

 

Amaria noticed me with a small smile, but didn't look eager to start a conversation. Maybe she did have urgent business to attend to. I didn't like it much, but I didn't have much choice. I had urgent business too.

 

"Hi Amaria!"

 

"Hey Gabriel," she said, still in front of me but not really slowing down. I would have to walk with her, then. That... was okay.

 

She was dressed soberly, with a black T-shirt and black trousers, with long blue shoes, maybe for mountain hiking, and there were beautifully blue bracelets on her naked left forearm.

 

"I... have a problem and I don't know whom to ask." I stated with some embarrassment.

 

"I'm sorry, I'd like to help you, but I'm on an assignment here. Perhaps later?"

 

"I understand, but there really is trouble," I said, trying to sound serious. "It's about Team Meteor kidnapping kid Gym Leaders."

 

Amaria stopped abruptly and looked at me. Almost automatically, with the long practice of the self-conscious well-meaning pupil being fairly scolded by authority, I dropped my eyes while she spoke -- until I realized what I was actually looking at, so I forced my eyes back up.

 

"Don't tell me this is about the Orphanage thing. Ame's really displeased about it, and quite annoyed at you in particular. The news spread to all city officials and everyone's upset. If she knew I could be talking with you, Ame would probably have forbidden me to."

 

"Is it that bad?" I asked in a higher-pitched, uncertain voice, trying to look reasonably repentant. Even though I hadn't done anything in that! Cain had taken action, not I! I had tried to delay him, to make him see reason!

 

"Yes, that is why we've advanced a little thing we had planned with Ame. We need a serious victory if we want to keep things together."

 

"So... you're not going to help with Team Meteor kidnapping these children." I argued uncomfortably, because I had to.

 

"I hadn't... you mean... the four children out of the Orphanage, and Shelly, they're... ?" Amaria was speechless at that point. She shut her eyes for a few seconds. "Damn it." she cursed under her breath. "What happened?"

 

I gave her the short version, omitting Mr. Shadow's madness, sticking to what had to have happened from Cain's viewpoint -- they were waiting for me to get the door open, but the Meteors were actually ready to attack on the other side.

 

Retelling the story made me realize just how suspicious it all was. How come the Meteors knew where to look? Why be so callous, so "small-scale", they who had aimed to wreak some much devastation with the PULSEs? And was the entire delay in the Power Plant a ploy?

 

You're being paranoid again, I thought. Again, why bother with children when you can level the entire city with better literal war engines?

 

"Right." the Water-type Gym Leader said finally. "I'd love to help you, but right now we're in crisis mode and your information is explosive. I can't do that to Ame."

 

"So," I sighed, "is there something you think I could do?" I had a feeling I knew that situation. Something had to be done and no one else would do it...

 

"I think..." Amaria hesitated. "I think you should go get the TMX Strength and use it to clear out the tunnel. The issue is, well... that Strength is held in Apophyll Academy, on the opposite shore of Azurine Lake."

 

"I suppose," I asked dully, wondering what kind of demented errand I had been goaded into agreeing to, "that there isn't a spare copy in Reborn City itself? Don't you or Ame have one?"

 

"Not that I know of." she answered, sounding at least slightly down.

 

"But the lake is huge..." I went on uneasily. "How wide is it?"

 

"It's probably over thirty miles if you walk. There used to be a ferry, but it's been cancelled months ago because of the rising toxicity of the lake."

 

I saw in Amaria's change of expression how disappointed, how helpless I must have looked.

 

"I've got a motorboat..." she offered. "But I need to complete my mission first."

 

"What's it about?" I asked, out of politeness and some actual curiosity, now that I knew that there was a way to solve my issue. 

 

"It's... ever since Julia and Rini went investigating the Mosswater Factory in Peridot, we've been monitoring the pollution levels of the lake, to try and figure out its sources. And we've found out that almost all of it emanated from the other factory in the western Peridot Ward... Blacksteam Factory. So I'm checking this out today..."

 

"Yes," I answered, a bit ashamed at my persistance, "I see, this sounds important."

 

Of course, it was horrific that kids could get abducted by Team Meteor. But the perpsective of cleaning the lake... That was more important, no question.

 

"Do you want to maybe come?" Amaria offered.

 

And there I was, in the same trap I had sworn I would try to avoid. But how could I refuse Amaria, when she was offering a solution to my problem? How could I refuse to help anything, even dangerous, which would so tremendously help towards Reborn's recovery?

 

"Yes, of course." I said, trying to force as much good will in my voice as I could.

 

 

 

***********************************************************

 

 

Blacksteam Factory, in the northwestern part of the Peridot Ward, was doubtlessly its most impressive structure. It was a large piece of functional architecture, all rectangular, easily thirty feet tall, and probably well over a hundred feet large. It was bordering the lake, and, Amaria told me, it had a direct underground connection with it, as their first business used a lot of water, although it certainly wasn't as polluting.

 

But that one business had declined, and then, in the last decade, which I learnt had been an especially dark one for Reborn, it had gone bankrupt and it had gone through so many owners, in so many dubious circumstances, that the city hadn't even tried to untangle who the theoretical owner was -- as far as they knew, nothing had been going on there in years.

 

I saw an entrance, but Amaria shook her head.

 

"We're not going this way."

 

"Why not?" I enquired.

 

"I don't know, but I think it's occupied. We don't want to make them aware."

 

Oh dear. Complications. This was ominous.

 

"So..." I asked, trying to be diplomatic. "What do you think we should do?"

 

"I've checked out maps of the building. There's an entrance on the roof which would probably be less guarded, and it would be easier for us to sneak from there." She answered. "Deliverance, we'd like your help, please!" she called.

 

Deliverance was Amaria's Lapras, a Pokemon who radiated confidence and safety, and also a measure of certain strength. Somehow, looking at the water Pokemon's steadiness and calm, I instinctively felt absolutely protected. She wouldn't let anything bad happen.

 

"Deliverance, use Waterfall and Ice Beam to make a way to the roof."

 

The Lapras threw a huge amount of water, somehow bound as a solid, in the air, towards the building, and the water was released slowly, making, more than a waterfall, a ramp of water. Deliverance had been preparing for that exact moment: she spat a prolonged Ice Beam, freezing the water ramp in free fall.

 

"Wow." I said. "That's... really impressive."

 

"Hm... it's not finished though. We can't climb on this ramp, it's too slippery, right? Deliverance, please use Ice Shard on the ramp to make some steps."

 

The Lapras did her job again skillfully and fast. It took less than a minute to turn the icy ramp into icy stairs, which one could actually climb. Light-paced, Amaria went first, which left me little choice but to follow her.

 

clj7YAQ.png

 

The entrance on the roof was, by some unlikely chance, unlocked, and Amaria went in, while I followed her, a few steps behind. The entrance led into a narrow staircase followed by a corridor coming out on a room.

 

"Team Meteor." I heard Amaria, who was already in that room, say. "I should have guessed."

 

Oh, crap.

 

"Hold it right there!" I heard a man's voice shout, but he didn't sound too assured.

 

"No, thanks." Amaria answered. "Gabriel, are you coming?"

 

Although I wanted nothing to do with Team Meteor, I couldn't back off now. I hurried up and found that Amaria was already in the middle of the room, and was facing two Meteor members, who were sending a Lairon and a Golbat. I hurriedly called Leaf to fight, while Amaria chose to request Deliverance's support.

 

It wasn't even a battle, in retrospect. Suffice it to say that perhaps thirty seconds afterward, one grunt was muttering "There's no way..." and we were already going forward in another staircase.

 

"Look," Amaria explained as we walked down the stairs. "They're probably going to sound the alarm, but I'll make them focus on me because I'm the bigger threat. That should earn you some freedom to check the place out. I think that whatever's happening is closer to the ground, because of the closer connection to the lake. Did you get it?"

 

"Yeah." I uncertainly said. "I hope so."

 

"I'll go first to try and bring them towards me. You'll just have to take the opposite direction."

 

"Are you sure it's a good idea?"

 

"I'll be fine, don't worry. Good luck."

 

"Good luck."

 

Amaria didn't wait to hear my answer before rushing, Pokeballs in hand, from the stairwell and into the building. I followed suit after a couple of seconds, and found myself in a corridor with doors on both sides, most of them leading probably to offices, and some leading to a different corridor.

 

The steps of many people were resounding, and I heard on my left several bursts of voices. Amaria was fighting this way, so I had to go right. But Meteors were also rushing against her from the right, so I had to hastily take shelter in an office so as to not get noticed. When the noises receded, I resumed walking in the corridor, trying to not be too fast or slow so as to not attract back to myself the attention Amaria was attempting to monopolize.

 

But the corridor ended in a corner without stairs, and I panickedly drew back my head when I noticed the Meteor squad rushing at the help of their comrades. I went to the closest office, shut the door and crouched against the wall. With a bit of luck, they wouldn't be interested in me. But how many of them could Amaria handle? She may have been the strongest Trainer I had fought along with, but even she had limits. And what if they had remembered that there were two of them?

 

But I heard the Meteors walking past the office without paying attention, so I counted to ten, got up, opened the door, trying my hardest to not make any noise, checked both sides, slipped out slowly to peek at the corridor, found it empty, and then shut the door and walked briskly into this next corridor close to the wall, so as to hide faster when necessary.

 

I found stairs in the corridor and cautiously slipped into the stairwell. I noticed only too late that there wasn't a system to slow down the door. It slammed with deafening noise, at least compared to the surrounding stillness.

 

I was on my own in enemy territory.

There wasn't any way back now. I had to go on.

 

Character ratings:

Spoiler

Amaria: 9/10 (+2). Really nice, and actually trying to be helpful. Plus, that staircase of ice was so neat. I really wish I hadn't had to be involved with Meteors again, but, as she said it, I should have guessed.

 

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On 10/17/2020 at 4:17 PM, Mindlack said:

"Don't tell me this is about the Orphanage thing. Ame's really displeased about it, and quite annoyed at you in particular. The news spread to all city officials and everyone's upset. If she knew I could be talking with you, Ame would probably have forbidden me to."

 

"Is it that bad?" I asked in a higher-pitched, uncertain voice, trying to look reasonably repentant. Even though I hadn't done anything in that! Cain had taken action, not I! I had tried to delay him, to make him see reason!

 

To see this, it makes sense now. As Gabriel wanted her to stay in this opportunity her safety and Cain and Shelly busted her out along with Charlotte, Noel and Anna. Gabriel is paying Cain's mistakes for, which is pretty unfair and thanks for making me dislike Cain now

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1 hour ago, Evi Crystal said:

Gabriel is paying Cain's mistakes for, which is pretty unfair and thanks for making me dislike Cain now

(Nervous chuckle)

 

It wasn't intended. When you try to do what you think is the right thing, you can't consider how it's going to affect everyone tangential to the case. Otherwise you wouldn't do anything. 

So yes, Cain didn't consider Gabriel's situation. It's not praiseworthy, but I think it's more than understandable, given that Gabriel is not being ECT'ed on a daily basis (now there's an idea...). Or perhaps he didn't think that it would create a political crisis which Ame would (at least partly) blame on Gabriel. 

 

Yes, Gabriel is paying for some of Cain's actions. Yes, it's unfair, but very few can say that they alone paid for their own mistakes. That's why Part 2 ("Taking Responsibility") is about, after all. 

 

When I thought of that arc, I reasoned as follows: if there aren't immediate political consequences to the breakout, then there's no reason to not involve the League higher-ups in the rescue (hence short-circuiting the plot and missing out on [redacted]). But it's certainly not Cain's style to think of politics before doing the right thing. 

 

Something which I didn't elaborate on (and don't know whether I will at some point in the story, because I don't think there'll be an occasion before very long) is that Ame isn't actually that angry at Gabriel (what she told Amaria was mostly a good, long rant at how hard that thing blew up in the city government). She just knows that he's too tempting a scapegoat to associate with in times of political crisis. 

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On 10/19/2020 at 11:56 AM, Mindlack said:

It wasn't intended. When you try to do what you think is the right thing, you can't consider how it's going to affect everyone tangential to the case. Otherwise you wouldn't do anything. 

So yes, Cain didn't consider Gabriel's situation. It's not praiseworthy, but I think it's more than understandable, given that Gabriel is not being ECT'ed on a daily basis (now there's an idea...). Or perhaps he didn't think that it would create a political crisis which Ame would (at least partly) blame on Gabriel. 

Ouch. That's probably a moral dilemma right there, since the boys have different opinions on and... when you have children, that live in such conditions. 

 

On 10/19/2020 at 11:56 AM, Mindlack said:

Yes, Gabriel is paying for some of Cain's actions. Yes, it's unfair, but very few can say that they alone paid for their own mistakes. That's why Part 2 ("Taking Responsibility") is about, after all. 

 

When I thought of that arc, I reasoned as follows: if there aren't immediate political consequences to the breakout, then there's no reason to not involve the League higher-ups in the rescue (hence short-circuiting the plot and missing out on [redacted]). But it's certainly not Cain's style to think of politics before doing the right thing. 

Welp that's our flamboyant rival for you, buddy. Also taking responsibility and makings things emright after mistakes sounds better and honest, but by adding a few bad things also kinda balanced this, I guess...

 

Honestly I wouldn't put such things in my story, as I completely changed the canon events, but after reading it, I spotted so many spots, that made no sense at all (like making my protagonist a Mary Sue) and deleted it as a result. I never though that writing a good and interesting story would be that hard *makes angry Crystal noises*

 

Well, let's all pray and hope together, that the children are at least fine, despite going through some torture (maybe making Charlotte breaking free and hiding Shelly, the twins or Heather somewhere from Team Meteor, as she fights them)🙏🏼

 

Last thing to say is, that your story is slowly, but steady capturing both political and economic crisis of Reborn. Very impressive buddy😁👏🏽

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  • 2 weeks later...

 

Quote

Welp that's our flamboyant rival for you, buddy. Also taking responsibility and makings things emright after mistakes sounds better and honest, but by adding a few bad things also kinda balanced this, I guess...

 

The thing is, we all know Cain's supposedly doing the right thing, but I wanted to show that there are very often consequences to doing the right thing over the lawful thing... usually unintended ones. I suppose it's a very first-world-lawful point of view, but I don't think that makes it wrong. 

 

Quote

Honestly I wouldn't put such things in my story, as I completely changed the canon events, but after reading it, I spotted so many spots, that made no sense at all and deleted it as a result. I never though that writing a good and interesting story would be that hard *makes angry Crystal noises*

 

Yes, it's hard, isn't it? The thing is, it never stops being hard. I was thinking that writing the buildup to the climactic end of Part 2 (which is very close) would be easy, but... no! There are battles to write, actions to justify, and it all has to make sense! It's still difficult. And let alone said end for which I'm very motivated and nervous to mess it up...

About a "good" story: it helps a lot to have appeciative readers, such as you, but I'm starting to (very slowly) realize that I don't have to worry about whether it's good or not. 

 

Quote

Last thing to say is, that your story is slowly, but steady capturing both political and economic crisis of Reborn. Very impressive buddy😁👏🏽

Thank you. To be honest, they were supposed to remain in the background, because it's mostly about Gabriel, but he needs special circumstances to take decisive action.^^

 

 

Anyway, after a tedious grinding session (and stressful Cal battle write-down, I hope it's decent but if it isn't I still have some time to fine-tune it), I'm presenting you he next chapter: 

 

 

Chapter 38: Threat Thresholds

 

 

Spoiler

I went down the stairs as fast as I dared, slowly half-opened the exit at the bottom to be sure that nobody was passing through, and, gathering whichever scrubs of courage and self-consistency I had left, I went from the stairwell to the corridor on the bottom floor. For some reason, there weren't as many doors there as in the other corridors. The very high ceiling offered an explanation -- there were actual production rooms around, which needed, of course, space. If so, then any nefarious activity was certainly there.

 

But either the soundproofing was excellent, or little was occurring, because there didn't seem to be any activity. I walked on, scared to death of being found out. The first few paces were fine, until I came to a crossroads, and peeking at the perpendicular corridor, I spotted a Meteor agent. I withdrew instantly, wondering panickedly what to do. Going forward, or turning, would be idiotic, I had nothing to gain in being found out... Perhaps the best way would to be to lay low and wait for the guy to pass. So I went back a few steps and stood against the wall, in such a way as to prevent as much as possible them from seeing me.

 

I waited, feeling every beat of my heart from my chest to my head, not daring to look at the crossroads, hearing the steps of the Meteor member coming closer, sweating bullets at the idea of being found out. And then the steps receded, the Meteor was already getting farther away. Whew. I pushed away from the wall to regain a normal balance, glanced at the crossroads, saw it free, and, as quickly as I dared, trying my damnedest to not make any noise, I started crossing it.

 

"Who the hell..." I heard on my side, a male voice.

 

I mechanically turned to the Meteor guy, failed to come up with an instant excuse, and, shaking in nervosity, started running.

 

"Stop right now!" I heard him yelling.

 

aQsbQel.png

 

I didn't bother shouting to him that this wasn't going to happen. I needed all of my breath for the dash. Already my throat was dry, my knees aching, and my bag was banging against my back and my shoulders. Why had I even brought it? I thought in a split second. But it didn't matter. There wasn't any other solution than going on.

 

"There's an intruder on the ground floor!"

 

Crap. Just... go on. I had to go on running as hard as I could, even with the knowledge that I couldn't hold on for long. It had to be long enough. I turned right at a corner because that seemed to be what was leading me to the exit... if I wasn't wrong already. Just stop the doubt, now's not the time! I ordered myself.

 

Going on, and on, even though my breath was coming shorter and shorter, and I didn't dare look back and lose momentum... I went straight at the first crossroads without thinking about it, only to hear another voice yelling me to stop. As though that was going to happen if I could help it... But in the brightly lit corridor, I could see a shape far ahead, a shape that was running towards me, another Meteor... But all wasn't lost, there was still a crossroads between us.

 

Perhaps if I forced the speed just a little more. I was gulping the air in large breaths now, too tired to go on much longer and too panicked to stop. I made it to the crossroads just in time, and abruptly turned right, and took off, pushing my weary body to accelerate as I felt the Meteor's fingers barely fail to grab my bagpack. I realized very soon that it probably was a wrong turn -- the corridor was very long, without any intersection except maybe at its end. I held on to that hope against the exhortations of the Meteors to stop "because I was trapped."

 

ChEjoEW.png

 

Alas, at the end of the alley, the only available direction was to the right, which was furthering me from any exit. Worse, it clearly led to a dead end. I ran into the corridor nonetheless, hoping to find any doors, but there was only one (on my right again), and I checked it was locked.

 

"It's over, kid." one of the Meteors who had been running after me panted. "Don't make things hard for yourself."

 

There were five meters of corridor between me and them -- and there was nothing but empty space between me and the wall. I didn't have a choice any more.

 

"Mouse, Batley, I need you!" I said softly, drawing Pokeballs.

 

"Come on," the other Meteor said. "It's pointless. You can't beat all of us."

 

"I'll give it a try." I replied darkly, hoping to sound confident enough, while knowing, in my heart of hearts, I was wrong.

 

"You asked for it, then." the first one said. "Machop, punch him out."

 

"Finneon, go." the other added.

 

Machop and Finneon? Something wasn't right. Or perhaps I was lucky. I had no choice but to pretend that I still had a chance. Batley's Air Slashes were powerful enough to knock the Machamp out, while the Finneon just didn't have the build or the training to go toe to toe with a heavy Pokemon such as Mouse.

 

hs1XTF3.png

 

"Don't get cocky, kid." the second Meteor snapped. "You're done, you just don't know it yet. You can't leave now."

 

He was wrong, I knew, only in that I knew I was doomed. I trusted him that they had been careful to seal the exits. But I had no choice other than keep the pretense up. It was the only way I might get out of this nightmare.

 

"Get out of the way." I said, my breathing stabilized, trying to radiate more than the self-confidence I could muster. 

 

"You asked for it." the first one answered ominously, but they let me backtrack.

 

Again, with my heart pounding fast and on edge, I started walking briskly in the corridor, trying to devise a way out of my predicament. As the crossroads where I had decided to turn right were getting nearer again, I decided to go right again, so that I was indeed heading towards the exit...

 

Unless, of course, there was a squad of three threatening-looking Meteors waiting for me on that side. I hastily changed courses and started going left, once again deeper in the facility. Warned by my own nerves, I realized that one of them was following me on the same rhythm, not trying to catch me, just to be close. I forced my pace even faster, but they adjusted without any difficulty.

 

At the second crossroads (the one where I had previously gone straight, but I had been walking in the other direction), there were again Meteor squads making every path, but the one on my left, a danger. It surely wasn't coincidental that they led me deeper and deeper in the facility... I couldn't let them dictate my path. But one on four or five...

 

YuKeMAK.png

 

I broke into a sprint at the crossroads, going on the left, hoping to shake off my followers at the next crossroads by the suddenness of the move, but I stopped after only a few steps for two reasons. First, there were two Meteors with a different outfit -- with wings -- waiting deep in the corridor, wielding angry-looking Toxicroak and Mudsdale. Second, there was a strong and sickening smell in the corridor, worse than anything from Reborn City. If anything polluting the lake was in the facility, certainly something there would be useful.

 

"Now," one of the Meteors in front of me said, loud and clear, in a woman's voice, "I suggest that you stop here and surrender peacefully."

 

"We're a cut above the rest," one Meteor behind me added, and I could see his outfit had some sort of extended sleeve, allowing him to have his Pokeballs right before his right hand.

 

I took a deep breath.

 

"I can't do that. Even if you're good, I'm ready to fight." I grabbed Pokeballs, Sicy's and Batley's, for the Toxicroak and Mudsdale.

 

"So be it." the other Meteor behind me said.

 

I turned around and saw two Gravelers, one of them looking distinctly electrified. No time to plot, I thought. Not good conditions.

 

"Leaf, Mouse, go!"

 

ujXgFVZ.png

 

"Batley, Confusion, Sicy, Ice Beam. Leaf..."

 

I hadn't even finished my sentence that the Toxicroak had rushed Batley and slammed its fist into her mouth in a powerful underhanded uppercut.

 

"Leaf, Double Kick, Mouse, Crunch, Batley, please hold on and Confusion."

 

The punch had thrown Swoobat against the ceiling, and Batley managed to regain her spirits while falling down. As the Mudsdale was already charging Sicy, she had used the Ice Beam to slow it down enough so that she (and I) could avoid the Heavy Slam, and finish it off. Furious at the loss of its partner-in-arms, the Toxicroak rushed once again onto Sicy and threw punch after enraged punch at her.

 

Come on, Batley!

 

"Toxicroak, stop!" the Meteor woman shouted. "Punch him instead!"

 

Crap. Again.

 

The Pokemon obeyed instantly, only to be hit by the psychic attack that Batley had struggled so much to prepare. Meanwhile, Leaf had used Double Kick on one of the Gravelers, which Mouse had finished off with a Crunch, even though her other foe had sent her a nasty electrical shock.

 

"You're not getting off this easy." one woman muttered darkly. She sent out a Gloom while her partner sent a Trevenant.

 

"Gothorita, your turn." the Meteor on the other side called.

 

I called Hex forth to help with the two Grass-types, even though Batley, now steady and focused, could hold her own. Leaf and Mouse's routine was all ready: Leaf took care of the second Graveler while Mouse Crunched the Psychic-type Pokemon, all without leaving them a chance to fight back.

 

I realized that it was a pretty bad plan long-term, because now the Meteors would train and get tougher, sneakier, smarter... but what choice did I have?

 

"Damn." the woman finally said, when my team finished dealing with their opponents. "I think there's no point in fighting on. You won."

 

"We can't let him go, Diana!" one of the men behind me protested. Fortunately he was facing Mouse and Leaf who had had a nice warm-up.

 

"Kenan," the other man said, "what's the issue? You know he won't make it." Er...

 

"How about we vote on it?" Diana asked. What? "Who's in favor of not obstructing any further?"

 

Three hands raised. "Fine", Kenan grudgingly conceded, "but you're taking responsibility for it."

 

"Agreed." the so-called Diana replied calmly. "Go on," she told me. "If you dare."

 

I didn't have any choice, didn't I? I walked on past them, my Pokemon around me, hoping they'd spot any foul play before me. At the end of the corridor, on my right, there was an open door, the only exit to the corridor.

 

*

 

The smell there was so pungent that it made me shudder. I was walking on a small footbridge above a large pond filled with a red-brown liquid. Given how it moved, it looked like water... but what kind of water could have this kind of color? This sounded as bad as...

 

Could this be the source of all the pollution?

 

"I didn't expect to see you again." a deep voice, very controlled, which sent me shivers (and another shudder when I tasted again the sickening smell of the room), resounded, forcing my attention to the room itself. It was like a network of metal footbridges above the red pond, connected to a main transparent floor in the middle of the room, with a few people working on some machines, and, in the far side of the room, on a footbridge lower and somewhat wider than the others, a contraption I didn't want to recognize...

 

"Gabriel is the main contributor to the destruction of the PULSE-Tangrowth project, sir. It is highly likely that his presence here is detrimental." another tall man I recognized as the insane ZEL spoke to Solaris. The former was tall, but did not radiate any kind of animosity, unlike the usual.

 

"I am aware." Solaris replied curtly, his voice sounding as severe as his slightly thin face looked before turning back to me. "You're an annoyance. Nonetheless, perhaps I should congratulate you for going through my underlings -- or discipline them. Here is your reward," he added, gesturing so as to indicate the entire room. But everything in his facial expression -- not least of which his dark, direct, cold eyes -- showed that that wasn't what he was thinking of. "Come, observe. Be at ease."

 

I knew something was wrong, but I wasn't sure what... and if I didn't know what was happening to the lake, what was the point of everything? Tense, I walked forward slowly onto the floor, and Solaris motioned me towards the platform at the end of the room. I could see that the PULSE machine was encrusted in the floor.

 

But the rest... was horrific.

 

"Have you seen this PULSE? Observe this Muk." Solaris commented dispassionately. "The machine drains its life force, suffocates its spirit. Even his body gives way as it collapses into a puddle of its own drool."

 

It was monstrous. Apart from the horrific smell, as expressive as a Muk could be, well... the process looked agonizing. What had happened to the lake -- a terrible, corrupting, insidious, infinitely nasty force withered Azurine from the inside -- had already happened to countless Muks, whose sole sin was existence, melting their insides, killing them slowly... even more gruesome than Spelltropy...

 

That begged only one question, but as I turned back to ask Solaris a question, my gaze met ZEL's, and I read sheer terror there, terror so potent it gave me a jolt of adrenalin.

 

"Watch out, Gabriel!" they yelled, in a voice so emotional it could only be Lumi.

 

I turned completely to see that Solaris had a Garchomp nearby, muscular, utterly confident, and obviously deadly, coldly staring at me. It threw itself at me just as I was taking this in, and the adrenalin somehow gave me the reflexes to escape its lethal claw, at the cost of forcing myself to lean for balance on the PULSE, which I felt was vibrating with purpose, a purpose evil beyond belief, evil for evil's sake.

 

665qp9U.png

 

"Lumi, considering that he is doomed regardless, you shouldn't have acted thusly." I heard ZEL say detachedly, doubtlessly Eve.

 

My heart racing, I was facing the Garchomp's jaw, the predator impassively awaiting orders. It would kill me without a hesitation if told so, I knew.

 

"You've just... You..." I stuttered, painfully aware these were likely to be my last words. "Why?"

 

"Lumi, you forgot your place here." Solaris enunciated loud and clear, his voice reproving. He then turned to me and his cold, uncaring voice made me shiver. "A pity. I would have had you out of the way. You wouldn't have felt a thing. But you decided to make matters complicated."

 

He paused, leaving me to wonder if I had just heard my last words. Or perhaps there was a way? If I stalled enough for Amaria to come... Just keep him talking... Maybe?

 

"Why... why all this?" I asked uncertainly in a very small voice, wondering if that sentence was going to get me killed. I wasn't even able to make eye contact, as I was fascinated in spite of every single cell of my body by the hunter which was about to cut my throat.

 

"I told you in the sanctuary. Reborn City is the city of insolence. A wretched, corrupt, faithless place, which must disappear. The city must be evacuated, and we will do whatever it takes to achieve that. If their homes are destroyed by raging plants, or they can't even drink water... The inhabitants will all leave. And since Grandview Station is destroyed, no more will arrive. This will become," he concluded, his voice growing harsher, more powerful, one might even say exalted, "a vacant, ruined city again. As it should have stayed in the first place!"

 

 "But," I argued shily, my own experience supplying the flaw in the argument, "how would they leave if Grandview Station is destroyed? I would have left if there had been any such means."

 

"Patrats," he replied categorically, "always manage to desert sinking ships. You should have done the same. Had you actually tried, you would have managed. Goodbye."

 

R0TSMgD.png

 

I felt a minute change in the Garchomp's posture, and I knew it was going to kill me and that I couldn't do a thing.

 

Bow before death, Gabriel...

He's right, you know, a very pessimistic inner voice pointed out. You sort of had it coming. 

 

 

Just a small comment about this chapter.

Spoiler

Originally, it was supposed to be called Blacksteam Battle and be one with what is now chapter 39. But it would have been a monster of a chapter, pages longer than the infamous chapter 14. So I had to split it. This is why there's a cliffhanger, instead of a ZEL battle, a Tyranitar, and some character rates. 

 

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Welp, it was nice knowing you... unless Amaria is coming to the rescue. Also your version of Solaris is pretty cold, but it has to be as a villainous leader.

 

I still feel bad for Lumi and Eve, considering how their origins are and it makes me feel bad for them (mostly Lumi). Forced to be stuck in a strangers body and becoming an unwilling pawn😪

 

Nice cliffhanger by the way 👌 

2 hours ago, Mindlack said:

The thing is, we all know Cain's supposedly doing the right thing, but I wanted to show that there are very often consequences to doing the right thing over the lawful thing... usually unintended ones. I suppose it's a very first-world-lawful point of view, but I don't think that makes it wrong. 

Yes... I wish the lawful side would understand their intentions, but given the current situation and crisis, not so much and ends pretty in misunderstandings with innocents paying the price for simply fight for their own sakes.

 

2 hours ago, Mindlack said:

Yes, it's hard, isn't it? The thing is, it never stops being hard. I was thinking that writing the buildup to the climactic end of Part 2 (which is very close) would be easy, but... no! There are battles to write, actions to justify, and it all has to make sense! It's still difficult. And let alone said end for which I'm very motivated and nervous to mess it up...

About a "good" story: it helps a lot to have appeciative readers, such as you, but I'm starting to (very slowly) realize that I don't have to worry about whether it's good or not. 

My weak points in writing a story are the grammars, battles and even making a good lore (not only with just family issues/abuse, I used back on Wattpad). Mostly when it comes to drama and tension, I used to be pretty sadistic with my characters. And it's hard to make it interesting for the readers, if you not want to make it poorly

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6 hours ago, Evi Crystal said:

Welp, it was nice knowing you... unless Amaria is coming to the rescue. Also your version of Solaris is pretty cold, but it has to be as a villainous leader.

Well, he is the main antagonist (and leader of the bad side) for a good chunk of the game. I actually think he's made himself cold, rather than be naturally cold. I think I'll hint a bit about the timeline at some point, but let's just say that PULSE projects have been in the works for a while. It'd be surprising for Solaris to not be so.  

 

6 hours ago, Evi Crystal said:

I still feel bad for Lumi and Eve, considering how their origins are and it makes me feel bad for them (mostly Lumi). Forced to be stuck in a strangers body and becoming an unwilling pawn😪

Yes, I was really moved when I learnt their story. It's indeed a terrible one. 

 

6 hours ago, Evi Crystal said:

Yes... I wish the lawful side would understand their intentions, but given the current situation and crisis, not so much

Fun fact: individually, the "lawful guys" could probably understand and sympathize with Cain's motivations, if they were explained to them. But because, at a larger scale, he's attacking without any justification a city institution, they can't let it slide. Isn't the power of collectives amazing?

 

6 hours ago, Evi Crystal said:

Mostly when it comes to drama and tension, I used to be pretty sadistic with my characters. And it's hard to make it interesting for the readers, if you not want to make it poorly

That's just my two cents here, but being sadistic with your characters isn't a bad choice -- in many cases, you have to make them suffer to make them move forward and grow. In one of the series I'm currently reading (and enjoying a lot), the writer almost boasts that he tries to find the most sadistic thing to be done to his protagonist. But it's definitely not easy to do well, as I can see a lot of mistakes that can be made (and who knows? perhaps I'll make some, too.)

 

It is not easy either to make a lore which is both consistent and compelling to read about, and that's where "light" (as in, mostly canon-compliant) fanfiction is much easier than deeply modifying the lore (which is what you're trying to do, I guess) or start from scratch.  

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Thank you all for your answers on the poll (and also for reading and commenting in general, of course)! I'll keep the poll open till chapter 40, just in case some more people have thoughts to express. 

 

Now, I was feeling really bad for submitting you to this cliffhanger last time... where there shouldn't even have been one. So I'll post the final part of the Blacksteam chapter a bit faster than usual (nothing to do with procrastinating the other stuff I have to do, nothing whatsoever). 

 

 

 

Chapter 39: Blacksteam's Battles

 

Spoiler

"Wait." I pleaded. Something in Solaris's determination wavered. He made a gesture and the Garchomp froze again. "You speak of holiness and purity, correct? But you are instead using opposite weapons, such as this rot... that isn't a way to restore a holy rite."

 

"Had the Lord believed rot and corruption unproper to the end of misbelievers, why would He have bothered creating them? Isn't it, instead, proper, that the city of ignorance, the city of insolence, be drowned in the ultimate conclusion of their worthlessness?"

                                                                                                                             

"But," I argued, trying to get to the same mental terrain as him, but knowing I was going on a slippery slope, "these cities the Lord itself destroyed -- he would have saved them, had there been ten righteous men. And surely Reborn City has more innocent people than wicked ones."

 

"Yet the Lord did not hesitate to level cities and slaughter people for such sins. Why should I not act as such?"

 

Amaria, please hurry.

 

"Because the Lord is omniscient, while you -- if I may -- aren't? Is it not pride to try and act like the Lord?"

 

"What sin, on the other hand, would be acting unlike the Lord if you knew His command?"

 

Ugh. How typical. I couldn't argue to literally save my life. But I had to go on, hope that I could manage to find a way out of this, that Amaria could come and help me when I couldn't save myself...

 

"How can you know with enough certainty that... all this is the Lord's command?"

 

"I know it. You may as well accept it as a fact. If it weren't the Lord's command, why would it happen?" That logic was demented. Damn these religious nuts. "And if not for the Lord's mercy, what stays my Garchomp's claw?" Uh...

 

I started hearing rushed footsteps. Could it be... I had to keep his attention just a little more.

 

"But by this logic," I objected, "it is the Lord's will that helped me destroy the PULSE-Tangrowths against all odds."

 

"The Lord works in mysterious ways. My actions have been successful for too long for..."

 

"Miss, you can't..." a Meteor grunt tried to stop someone, only to visibly recoil.

 

I didn't dare hope that...

 

"Yes," Amaria said, her breath short but her voice firm, "they have gone on unopposed for too long. This ends now."

 

Amaria! I physically felt the wave of relief that flooded my entire body. Thank goodness she was there.

 

"Deliverance," she commanded, "Ice Shard."

 

A few massive icy spears were blinkingly fast expelled towards the dragon Pokemon, which wasn't careful enough to avoid them. He turned to Amaria, his anger almost visibly flaring, and took off. He shouldn't have -- a second salvo of Ice Shards caught it in the air and the Garchomp crashed without dignity to the ground.

 

Thank you, Amaria, thank you so much.

 

"Ms. Fiore." Solaris turned to her, his interest in me temporarily vanished. In the wave of relief that flooded my very being, I dimly wondered if I had to use that time to try and do something to the PULSE.

 

"How do you know my name?" she inquired accusingly.

 

"Please. You have already been at odds with my organization, and you are a high-ranking Gym Leader. Of course I would know about you."

 

"So you're the ones poisoning the lake. Such a beautiful lake... why?"

 

"They want the city deserted." I chimed in without thinking, an automatic good-student reaction, born out of dozens of times thinking in classrooms, yes, it's because such reason, now can we get a move on?  "They're using the PULSE Muk here to pollute the water."

 

But even as I uttered the answer, I realized the explanation wasn't satisfactory. After all, they had said the Beryl PULSE was pretty old, and it had just been running for a week. And the lake pollution certainly had started longer ago than that, all the more so since this one PULSE aimed at killing in the most polluting fashion a Muk. So what?

 

"But why?" Amaria asked on. "That's just pointless evil."

 

How many Muks had they murdered?

 

"Do not judge that which you do not understand. We have our motives. If you don't share them, you're an enemy."

 

MAj6neq.png

 

Wrong, I thought, wrong, wrong, wrong. I had been Julia, Florinia, Amaria's ally (or pawn), not because I specifically cared for their ends, but because it had been the least useless, and the most consistent, of my options. But how would I exploit that? Of what use could this misconception be?

 

"It doesn't matter," Amaria said in a determined tone. "I'll never allow you to get away with this!"

 

"Interesting..." Solaris mused, looking at something I didn't see. "These bracelets of yours..."

 

"What, these?" Amaria's resolve was replaced by puzzledness, and she mechanically glanced at her left wrist. "Oh, they were a gift from Tania." Her tone became fiercer. "You're certainly not taking them. Anything Tania gave me is precious. I'd defend it with my life!"

 

"Suit yourself." Solaris stated flatly, making a couple of steps backwards. I saw him search for something in the same light brown long overcoat, and draw a Pokeball. "Both are forfeit."

 

He threw the Pokeball in the air, revealing an agitated, roaring Gyarados. Uh oh.

 

"Gabriel!" Amaria shouted. "I'll take care of him, destroy that machine!"

 

Destroy it? But... but...

 

"This isn't going to happen," a hateful voice coming from ZEL asserted. "Umbreon, go get him!"

 

9MyvjJS.png

 

The dark fox Pokemon got out of his Pokeball near Solaris and slipped onto the footbridge I was standing on. ZEL was following it, albeit more cautiously, and I called Leaf to defend myself.

 

"Double Kick!"

 

"Umbreon, come back; Espeon, your turn!" ZEL shouted, brandishing another Pokeball and slipping beside Solaris on the walkway.

 

The Eevelution meowed its mild discomfort at Leaf's kicks, but I recalled her immediately for fear of psychic retaliation. Now, whom could I call? I glanced at the other battle happening, and noticed, not without a spark of dread, that Amaria had changed Pokemon to a Rotom. Rotom...

 

"Watt, Charge and then Thunder Punch! " I ordered, wishing I had taken the time to train her to use electricity better.

 

Watt was greeted by a powerful psychic attack, but she managed to shake it off, and she focused, calling to her all the loose electricity in the room, all the residual power waste from the machines. I felt a subtle change of the way the PULSE I was still leaning on was vibrating.

 

"Tyranitar, go!" I heard Solaris order, his deadly voice calm, yet powerful.

 

The massive Rock-type Pokemon projected sand into all the room, including towards Watt and me, and I felt it especially in my eyes that I was forced to narrow. But I had miscounted how fast, and how strong the Espeon was. A second Psychic attack brought Watt down, before she had even the time to fight. This was bad...

 

oaD34Ww.png

 

"Mouse, please use Crunch." I pleaded.

 

Despite still another mental attack from the Espeon, Mouse managed to get that accursed Pokemon and knock it out.

 

"Grr. What are you doing, Lumi?" Zero (I think) asked angrily. "I'm so sorry, Espeon..." Lumi said sadly. "Umbreon, now's the time to break that guy."

 

Break that guy, I thought, shuddering. Break me. What had I done to deserve that?

 

"Mouse, come back. Leaf, Double KIck!" I decided to switch Pokemon.

 

Something ominous went on around the Umbreon, a sort of subtle wrongness that somehow managed to propagate in the air, reached Leaf, and, out of the blue, she aborted her move and crashed onto the ground.

 

"Leaf, are you okay?"

 

As Leaf was struggling to get up, I watched anxiously the Umbreon cautiously tiptoe to her, and deliberately headbut her in the sternum.

 

"Come on, Leaf!"

 

"Go on, Umbreon!"

 

"Tyranitar, use Superpower on the girl!"

 

h8RJeOr.png

 

No! I watched, horrified, forgetting all about Leaf's struggle for herself and myself, the Tyranitar nastily headbut Amaria's Rotom out of the way, and punch her in the stomach, throwing her backwards against some unused piece of machinery. But there was a Swampert now beside her (had she thrown the Pokeball before the punch?), fully alert and watching with hatred Solaris's new pet monster.

 

I saw. I saw the fore limbs of the four-legged Water Pokemon swell and grow more muscular. I saw its frame grow taller and bulkier, his gill get bright orange instead of a milder yellowish hue, its hind legs support a growing fraction of its weight. I heard its angry growl grow in power and threat. I felt an immense aura of power released. It was a Mega-Evolution, without the shadow of a doubt. I had never seen a real one before -- and TV battles typically "forgot" to air the process. I had no clue that it looked so... unnatural.

 

Leaf's whimper of pain, after another nasty deliberate attack by the Umbreon, brought me back to my own issues.

 

"Come on, Leaf." I encouraged her. "You can do it. You've beaten it before."

 

The Umbreon got closer to Leaf another time again, but this time Leaf had taken back control of herself. She rose in a blink and kicked the fox away.

 

But before she had time to avenge herself, the entire footbridge shook and the Swampert let out a resounding, and horrible, sound of triumph, while the Tyranitar was floored, crashed against another piece of machinery.

 

"Mandibuzz, Toxic!" Solaris yelled.

 

Without even a direction from Amaria, who, I noted with some alarm, hadn't really risen, the Mega Pokemon threw a punch at its opponent. The complaint of the Umbreon, whom Leaf was mercilessly kicking, as retaliation for its nastiest plays, turned me back to my own battles. Leaf was relentless, so much that, despite all that Zero had done to me, I felt bad for that poor Umbreon. And at the same time, I couldn't tell her to stop, because I didn't know if it could still be a nuisance to her... and I had no reason whatsoever to privilege the Umbreon's health over Leaf's well-being.

 

"Come back, Umbreon." Zero snarled. "Eve, you better freeze this guy over."

 

Leaf's new opponent was, as last time, a Glaceon. But last time, the Glaceon had been much stronger comparately to Leaf who was still a Combusken -- now, it wasn't anywhere near bulky or fast enough to survive the fight. It certainly did its hardest, trying to hide in icy winds, attempting to use the weakening sand storm to its advantage, but history repeated itself. Once again, technical mastery, on-the-fly thought, just weren't enough to stand up

to raw power.

 

Funny enough, I thought, that I be the one using so much of brute force. And then: fight now, think later.

 

"Fine." A booming voice resounding, dominating the chaos of two battles. Even the Swampert stopped hammering a weary-looking Scizor. "There isn't a point in going on. We will retreat, but you did not win. The lake is too far gone. And as for you, Ms. Fiore," he lowered his head towards Amaria, who still hadn't managed to get back up, and his voice was distinctly satisfied, "it may well be the same. Do onto the machine whatever you wish, Gabriel. Nothing shall save you eventually."

 

ERaPDir.png

 

And with that, Team Meteor retreated altogether, leaving only Amaria, her Mega Swampert visibly exhausted and already shrinking, Leaf, and I.

 

"Amaria!" I ran at her.

 

She was breathing, but very pale. She was pushing on the same piece of machinery so as to get back up, but it clearly was too demanding an effort for her. That Tyranitar really had done a number on her.

 

"The... mission..." she managed to whisper, struggling to breathe correctly. "Shatter... the... machine. Break it... to... pieces."

 

It wasn't a hard task. The machine wasn't designed to wield any amount of power. It was made as a parasite, feeding its unending emptiness with the life force of its host. It took a few fiery kicks from Leaf to break it down, without any resistance from anything. Certainly the Muk wasn't able to do much else than go on vomiting its cancerous guts, as it already did. It was heart-breaking to see it thusly agonize, but there wasn't anything left for it except a painful death. It was too far gone. 

 

"Thank... you... Gabriel." Amaria said. "You've... been... great..."

 

"You've done most of the work, really. How are you?" I asked, dismissing the undeserved compliment, very concerned about her, now that I didn't anything more immediate to worry about.

 

"I'm... okay... just a little... winded." she shut her eyes, gripped the machinery harder, and pushed herself up. The effort made her panting.

 

Holy crap. Just how tough was she? That punch looked like it could have broken every one of her ribs.

 

"Do you think you can walk out of here?" I asked her. "Or shall I call for help?"

 

"No... I'm fine." she contradicted me.

 

She pushed herself off her support, slightly staggered, recovered her balance, started walking a few steps and -- I was following her closely because of how worried I was about her state -- she wavered again, I saw her balance fail, and I... didn't manage to bring myself to catch her. And it was my fault she got this way. 

 

"You can lean on me, if you want." I offered. "This way I'll at least be of some use to you." I added, on the tone of a joke.

 

Amaria first refused the help, but she realized very quickly that she really couldn't walk completely unaided. So she help stabilize herself by holding my arm tightly. Her physical closeness to me did awakened... impulses, perceptions, that one could certainly not call thoughts.

 

Normal, some conscious enabler whispered. You know about how adrenalin can act as an... emotion booster.

 

Just shut up already, my ego snapped to my id.

 

Amaria asked me to drop her at the Peridot Pokemon Center. The walk there was slow, but uneventful. We weren't that much in a hurry anyway. It was somewhat our way to quietly celebrate our -- Amaria's -- prowess. She was wounded, and I was exhausted, by the adrenalin, the fear, the nervous tension of the battle, but she was slowly recovering some of her strength, and gripping my arm less and less hard -- something which I was, surprisingly, somewhat regretting, even though it was less tiring.

 

She had recovered enough, at the Pokemon Center, to quip a bitterly amused line, concealing the pain she had to be feeling:

 

"Why is it that I'm always the one ending up injured? I'm the high-ranking Leader, not you!"

 

Of course it was a joke. And yet the question remained.

How come that, against all odds, and probably then some, I hadn't been really wounded?

 

 

 

Player's note

 

Spoiler

I actually lost the ZEL fight the first time. I thought I could handle it and went ahead without bothering to seriously plan. It didn't help either that I had Swoobat as a lead when Glaceon was ZEL's first Pokemon. Regardless, I came pretty far, but I underestimated the Muk PULSE (which, as you noticed, isn't a pain in the story, because it's literally built to die in the ost gruesome way possible). They say it's not very strong, but it's very bulky and it easily downed my remaining Pokemon. It was also at this occasion that I realized how absurdly frail Swoobat was. 

 

Trouble is, I hate losing, so I reseted when I did -- and found out I hadn't even saved before, so I had to redo everything after the cage puzzle. I planned better for the second fight, and here is how it went:

 

g9QDbuB.png

 

yDJ83bN.png

 

Double Kick leaves Glaceon in the red, but she used Icy Wind so I'm not sure to outspeed. Hence the weak priority. 

 

MEgrjz8.png

 

Mouse to Crunch the Espeon. She takes a lot of damage from Psychic, but she does her job and gives me a safe switch in...

 

h2c7OSJ.png

 

See you later. 

 

dk4a7u6.png

 

Umbreon almost literally cannot hurt me. But the same isn't true for the very bulky incoming PULSE Muk, which leaves one obvious action to take. 

 

MzUO55X.png

 

Come on. It's annoying but not that terrible.

 

WuNZtP3.png

 

Let's just keep to the plan.

 

7cYRDGF.png

 

This time, it doesn't work, but never mind. Leaf has plenty of HP left and can certainly keep setting up.

 

E44jaSx.png

 

3ApHVkZ.png

 

No point in taking risks. 

 

45ZsQBM.png

 

Let's just keep setting up as long as Leaf is confused. There's no point in setting up if she can just hit herself instead of one-shotting the PULSE Muk.

 

4OOkIXh.png

 

Z5Lxt9p.png

 

Finally.

 

V0J53Oq.png

 

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Die.

 

FyPg8w8.png

 

Oh, come on! That's ridiculous!

 

cjz9UdE.png

 

Discharge hurts a lot. What's plan B now?

 

qjqqCyh.png

 

Protean is a great ability, right until it isn't any more.

 

 orDiMVd.png

 

Now for the fully-fledged stall because that thing is ridiculously strong. 

 

sEOgtBG.png

 

kGUYbGY.png

 

Good. 

 

2CCVBHe.png

 

That was a 'Bzzt' Discharge. With Batley at +2 SpDef. I don't know if that PULSE is broken or Batley is just that weak. 

 

ilxr9W2.png

 

At least Batley can hit back... But how weakly!

 

WEGNLsz.png

 

2bsf8ZR.png

 

FxwpoMN.png

 

Just look how much damage it did! But never mind that, never mind Batley's incoming demise...

 

lzPzKq9.png

 

  

 

Character ratings:

 

Spoiler

Amaria: (+1) 10/10. She saved me, she did most of the job. Even if I dealt the final blows, she was the MVP here. And did I mention she saved my life?

 

Solaris: (-2) -1/10. He tried to literally backstab me. And he's so strong... if he comes after me, I'm dead, plain and simple.

 

ZEL: (+0.5) 1.5/10. They might have saved my life... somehow. I don't think I know anymore, at that point.  

 

Death count: 

Spoiler

Start-Shade: 6

Blacksteam!ZEL: 1

 

Shade-Current: 1

Total: 7

 

 

Now, perhaps I'll add a small comment about my progress in the story -- I'm about three chapters ahead, with all but one needing pictures, and the last one needing perhaps some rewriting. And afterwards... there's something I'm quite nervous to write about because it's been one of the first scenes I envisioned... It's the finale of Part 2. I really hope I'll manage to get it right.  

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Thank you for your comment @sayar!

 

Regarding the pictures: well, my first step is to take quite a few pictures of the game itself. It can help for dialog, or to find room elements I'd like to use, or even because I like the background, tiling... anything I don't want (don't know how) to recreate from scratch.

 

Then I use an image editing program (paint is a bit crude, but paint.net is nice, although it has its limitations) to add some more sprites to the overworld, or to remove characters which don't gain to be on screen. I also sometimes alter the buildings, and that's just adding some tiles in the continuity of what's in the picture, so it's not that hard. I take the sprites usually from the Graphics folder of the game (for characters, tilings, "furniture" and sometimes Pokemon); sometimes, I use Pokemon Ranger sprites for overworld attacks; for overworld Pokemon, I'm mostly using the Graphics folder of the follower mod. 

 

For dialog, I usually copy-paste a dialog box from one of my screenshots, copy-paste to make it empty, and then copy-paste my own text, which I used the game's font to write (it's not that straightforward actually because due to some "shading", I have to write the text three times in some light grey color and one in some darker grey color to make it acceptably look like in-game text). For the reduced dialog boxes you just saw, I just cut the middle of the dialog boxes and made the two ends closer. 

 

So in a nutshell it's a large copy-paste. 

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21 hours ago, Mindlack said:

"Why is it that I'm always the one ending up injured? I'm the high-ranking Leader, not you!

 

Well I can feel your pain Amaria. Because later on, you'll suffer something bigger than broken ribs and depending on what choice, your fate will change forever. Had to make this foreshadowing moment, sorry for that buddy😂

 

Anyway, can wait for the drama in Apophyll Academy and Azurine Island. Perhaps some lecture could make Gabriel a bit better.

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5 hours ago, Evi Crystal said:

Well I can feel your pain Amaria. Because later on, you'll suffer something bigger than broken ribs and depending on what choice, your fate will change forever. Had to make this foreshadowing moment, sorry for that buddy😂


Choice? What choice? I can’t see any choice anywhere. There always are obvious deci – 

 

(author: whisper whisper mumble)

 

Oh. Er... Hi Evi! Nice new profile! Funny you mentioned a choice. Actually, the funny thing is, what you’re thinking of, well, it’s not the ma – 

 

(author: mumble mumble growl)

 

What do you mean, you know where I live? 
 

Wait, where did you find that picture? 
 

 

....

 

 

....

 

 

Okay. (sigh). Got it.
 

So Evi, that nutcase who wants to be called the writer insists that he’s going to kill Gabriel off unless I stop foreshadowing on that particular plot point. Sorry that I was unable to give you a proper answer! 😅 
 

And let’s feel sorry for Amaria by anticipation – there’s no way she’s getting a happy ending, is there?

 

 

Regarding the lectures, it might be a good idea... But come on, this is Reborn here, Arceus forbid anything might do Gabriel some good. 😥

Edited by Mindlack
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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey! 

 

Thank you for all your answers in the poll! I'm closing it now, but feel free to comment. 

You won't have any battle this chapter... But don't worry, you'll have plenty in the following chapters... After all, it's called a finale for a reason. 

 

So I'm writing the finale of Part 2, making the pictures (which takes a lot of time because battles, among others), so Part 2 should be completely online by the end of the year.

 

 

 

Chapter 40: Novel Nihilism

 

 

Spoiler

Walking with Amaria back to the Pokemon Center had been fine. Nice, even. There, she remembered -- which had completely been out of my mind -- that I still needed a boat to go to Apophyll. And she found an insane solution, which I wasn't ready to categorically refuse. Against my best judgement, she forced me to take the keys to her boat, telling me that sailing a motorboat was easy.

 

It was when I exited the Pokemon Center that it took me. When I realized the implications of the day's events. That Solaris could have killed me at any moment, and there wasn't anything I could have done. Perhaps even now, annoyed at his PULSE's destruction, he was watching the Pokemon Center, and... Suddenly, getting out of the building, walking in the open air, felt like treading on a mine field.

 

But then again, it'd be exactly the same if you stayed inside, I thought, a colder chill running down my spine.

 

There isn't anything you can do. He's faster, stronger, smarter, tougher -- he has a better organization and far better technology -- you just don't have anything he can't outmatch.

You'll die the second it pleases him.

 

Stop it! I thought desperately, trying to not get my own thoughts to drive me insane.

 

Nothing you can do.

 

Stop it. Think of something else, like...

 

What can you do to prepare? It's useless. Nothing you can do.

 

No, there's not nothing, there's... oh yes, you'll be sailing a motorboat. Perhaps you should think of what you'd need?

 

After that little thought session -- I daren't imagine how my nervous pacing must have looked to whoever was in the Pokemon Center at this point -- I felt relaxed enough to not panic even in open air, a sitting duck to be mowed down by...

 

Stop it!

 

It wasn't easy, but I managed to overcome my panic with a flood of wearily cynical resignation. In more common terms, I rode my bike from the Peridot Ward to the Obsidia Department Store, and made some purchases. After all, helplessness wasn't entirely a reason to not try and be at least not to unprepared for emergencies.

 

*******

 

The motorboat was surprisingly easy to drive, as Amaria had insisted, and from its safety, in the chill mid-automn air, the lake wasn't too bad a place to be. It didn't smell as foul as within Reborn City. But even a glance at the surface of the lake dispelled this pretend charm. Only when looking at the cloudy sky away from Reborn City could I maintain the illusion of a nice trip.

 

But nothing would let me forget that only an old, outdated, motorboat was my protection against the unrelenting, toxic, acidic elements polluting the lake. The boat was doomed ultimately -- it could not be a match for the artificially enhanced pollution, a horrifically optimized by-product of a technology two generations smarter.

 

And to compound it all, I was alone, in open air, with little to no freedom of movement. If Team Meteor came...

 

Even Amaria hadn't been able to protect herself. She had had to use a Mega-Evolution to save the day -- which told volumes about her skill and how dire the situation had actually been, even though I had again escaped (physically) unharmed.

 

Indeed, Mega-Evolution wasn't a taboo topic in the Trainer classes the curriculum had imposed on me (something I did not regret now). Considering how nearly all my classmates were interested, that would have been idiotically counter-productive, even dangerous. But the emphasis was made on the extreme difficulty of keeping control of the thus enhanced Pokemon.

 

With such a massive power differential and metabolism change, the Pokemon was growing temporary new instincts, enabling it to survive -- but they also included a huge increase in aggression. Only a flawless bond between Trainer and Pokemon, allied with a lot of focus on the part of the Trainer (to make up for the loss of clarity on the part of the Pokemon), could prevent such a deal with the devil to end peacefully enough.

 

For this reason, and many others, such as how rare safe Mega Rings were, the Kalos rule was simple: Mega-Evolution was illegal except to Trainers with a permit. Even so, a battle involving Mega-Evolution was illegal as long as both Trainers hadn't formally (and freely) agreed beforehand that they allowed it to happen.

 

This was the kind of power Amaria had had no choice but to unleash because she had to win -- and she somehow had managed to not let the entire situation go to hell. And by reflection, this was what Solaris was worth in battle. This was the threat a direct engagement with Team Meteor meant.

 

Then again, of course, not engaging them would have been bearing witness to the city's complete demise.

 

The map of the lake that I had found on the boat showed a large, wild, island in the middle of it, so I sailed around it at a reasonable distance to avoid reefs that I guessed had to be there, and when I saw the Apophyll beach (perhaps after an hour or so of sailing), I dismissed all my thoughts and focused to find a place to moor the boat, slowly decelerating to avoid again hypothetical reefs.

 

After a rather stressful time, I managed to set foot on the beach. The sand was brownish, as if the lake had stained it too. Or it could be more volcanic in nature, as I had read there was a volcano on that side of the lake -- and there it was, a not-that-big rocky mountain a few miles southwest, who, in the declining sunlight, was probably darkening with its ominous shadow some land. I pitied whoever had to be robbed of the last of their sunlight by a looming volcano. If people really lived in these parts, I thought, because it was very quiet and the landscape looked rather wild.

 

JGIc2vZ.png

 

It was past 5 pm already, and it was likely that I didn't have much time if I wanted to try and get the HM today. Amaria had specified to me that I had to go to the Apophyll Academy, not very far from the beach, and ask it to Kiki... that was Victoria's teacher, right? I almost was in known territory there.

 

But I didn't know where the Academy was -- but I was on the southeastern side of the beach, so I could perhaps try and see what was straight behind it: indeed, on this shore at least, getting away from the lake was an uphill walk, so I didn't have a good line of sight. Or I could try and get closer to the center of the beach before leaving it.

 

I chose the first option. Although I liked the feel of the small breeze cooling my face, which felt (although it probably wasn't) more wholesome than the Reborn City air, I didn't like the idea of that sand sneaking into my shoes, which were anyway inadapted to a walk on so soft a surface. So I regretfully treaded off the beach and started to walk along it, searching for a building, or, at least, something or someone who could point me to Apophyll Academy.

 

The landscape was barren, rocky for perhaps two or three kilometers, at which point a building came into my line of sight. It was shaped like a large wooden rectangle (although its exact size was hard to judge in the distance) and looked very sober, without unnecessary sophistication, the wood color too clear to be natural, but somehow still looking so. From whichever little anime and works inspired by that culture I had watched and read -- really, very little -- I was able to recognize that as a martial arts dojo aesthetic. Or perhaps it wasn't. But that was Far Eastern side definitely, maybe Kantonian. Or just a cliché. I just didn't know.

 

Well, I thought when getting nearer, actually, perhaps the crossbar, even wooden, wasn't necessary. Nor was the fact that the entire house was standing on some sort of wooden platform. I decided it was my own downcast self trying to crack aesthetic canons like it would dismiss anything else.

 

Regardless, I entered the building and found a wide entrance hall, not a very long one, all in wood with a few seats, most of them occupied by people young and less young, and a couple of bookshelves. There were stairs on both sides, and before me was a large sandy courtyard, where I could see a few young students practise what looked like martial arts moves. They were barefoot -- the sand may be harmless after all. In a corner of the room was a Pokemon healing station.

 

"Hello," I went there, not too much at ease. "Is this Apophyll Academy?"

"Yes, it is." the nurse answered. "Do you want me to heal your Pokemon?"

"It's not necessary now, thank you." I replied. "I'm looking for Kiki."

"Why?"

"Er, it's a complicated story. But it's rather urgent."

"I am afraid the Sensei is quite strict with protocol. She's only taking visitors at specific hours, and it's too late now."

 

https://i.imgur.com/eoBmD2q.png

 

Crap. But doubtlessly she wasn't the one in charge.

 

"I'll have to try anyway. It's really important and I don't have much time."

 

"Suit yourself." she answered. "Her... quarters, I guess, are on the other side of the courtyard."

 

I thanked her, and, following her advice, crossed the courtyard. In the hall on its other side, which had a disposition not unlike the other one (without a healing station, however), there was a large wooden panel, which should, if I had understood correctly, be the entrance to the Sensei's quarters.

 

I raised my hand to knock, looking nervously around, because I was perhaps unwelcome, and realized that about five people, all of them young, were staring at me.

 

"Is... something the matter?" I heard myself asking in a tiny voice.

"You shouldn't do that." one of them answered.

"What do you mean?"

"You're not from here, I guess?" another one asked.

"Yes, I'm not." Were they students of the Academy?

"The Sensei doesn't accept visitors in the evening." the first student answered.

 

G5C93ew.png

 

I sighed. "What I have to ask is important. Very important, and time-critical."

"She won't listen to you, much less grant you a favor, if you violate her rules." another student, a girl, observed.

 

I noticed that she looked far more assured than I was.

 

"Fine." I gave in. "When can I see her?" 

"She's teaching lessons in the morning, usually not too far south of the school. Just ask her afterwards."

 

Well, there went the hope for a quick rescue. At least, I had time to employ. What to do, I thought?

 

Pondering the recent events, the answer was obvious. It was training time. There were at least a few Pokemon that I wanted to fight alongside with, but which I hadn't had the time to train.

 

 

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******************************

 

 

"Now, the final words of today's lecture," the Sensei spoke.

 

It was in the morning of the new day, at perhaps 9am. I had managed to get somewhere to sleep inside the Academy -- an unoccupied guest room, small but sufficient for one nightmarish night, with a bloodstained hunter trying to slice my throat, and children begging for help. Now, Kiki's students, and, I assumed, some independents, were assembled, perhaps thirty people in the sand, some sitting, but most standing, in a large circle around the Sensei, who was standing. I had just arrived, so I had no idea what she had said earlier.

 

Kiki was a woman of a certain age, and the first word that came to mind to describe her was calm. She was radiating serenity, a steadfast, almost set in stone, certainty of strength, will, and purpose. She was talking slowly, turning at times to see each member of the group individually, trying to lock eyes with us.

 

"We will be introducing the final principle for this curriculum, the art of void. Void is the acknowledgement of that which cannot be known."

 

kDOoEgV.png

 

Er, what?

 

Most could be known. That was a central tenet of... what, science? Sense? Life? Or my own vision of things? And sure some was hard to know. And some (well, more 'a lot of') people would claim that what's important cannot be known. "The eye cannot see what is essential" and all that.

 

"It is the understanding that all ideas are in themselves fallible. For that reason, this principle cannot be taught, only considered."

 

What??  It sounded plausible, and wise, and my own refutations seemed very weak in front of the unworldly wisdom thus displayed in front of me. But something inside me kept being disturbed at this very idea.

 

"Many people believe that some things are 'right', and 'correct', and others are not. But these are not the laws of the world." Sure. "When examining these ideas objectively, one finds that they are in themselves a deviance from the broader sense of existence." Er... "Concepts such as "virtues" or "evil" must not be given way to exist, for this is not the true void."

 

Oh. Nihilism? Please. Virtues, evil did exist. In diluted form, perhaps, but they existed.

 

"By perceiving that which exists, learn to perceive that which does not. All things, even this instruction, must be questioned. That will be all for today. Thank you."

 

Well, at least she had got the conclusion right. Now I could move on to serious matters.

 

But I had to wait for a flurry of questions by some students, while most of the attendees were leaving to do Arceus knew what.

 

"Gabriel, is that you?"

 

I saw Victoria walking towards me. She was dishevelled and her voice didn't sound as dynamic as usual. More telling, she had taken out the martial arts staff she always kept with her and was leaning on it like on a cane.

 

"Victoria! Are you all right?" a student called her. "I thought you had left to train!"

 

"Yes," Victoria answered. "But some things happened, and I have to be here now."

 

"What happened? You look exhausted. Did you... Did you walk all the way here from Reborn City?"

 

OG6J8Pf.png

 

"As a matter of fact," she replied, a weary smile on her lips, her eyes shutting on their own, "I did."

 

Whoa. I hadn't know she was that robust. Whatever had happened in Reborn City, that sure had seriously upset her, to think that the solution might be here with...

 

With her teacher, of course, dummy, I chided myself.

 

"I don't have time to chat, I must speak to Kiki at once." Victoria added.

 

Fortunately, the last questioners were leaving the Sensei, and she was readying herself to leave when her eyes spotted Victoria. I realized a bit too late that I had missed my luck and now Victoria's problem would accaparate her.

 

"Er," I started moving towards her, desperate and still shy to get some attention from her while it was still time, "Excuse me..."

 

Kiki didn't pay attention and went straight to Victoria.

 

"Sensei," Victoria started, her voice more controlled than usual, more obviously respectful too. "I have an urgent matter to discuss with you."

 

She looked somewhat taken aback, but Kiki nodded and told her to meet her in her room. Victoria didn't object, but followed closely behind her.

 

"Victoria." I called her, following the Sensei and her student from a certain distance (as there was only one way out of the place where the lecture had taken place anyway).

 

She turned around. I hurried to be at her side.

 

"Did you really walk all the way here from Reborn City?"

 

"Yes," she answered, a bit stiffly. "Not the first time I'm doing it, too. But it's clearly the first time I'm doing it without sleep."

 

"Wow." I still couldn't believe it. "Why such a hurry?"

 

"We need the Hidden Machine for Strength. And we need it as fast as we can."

 

"We?"

 

"I don't think you know the other guy. He's like, sixteen, all in purple, named Cain."

 

"Wait a second... I know him. Purple hair, lots of make-up, always singing and, um, Nidoking as an ace?"

 

"Oh, so you know him." she smiled wearily. "Great."

 

"The three of us met at the Grand Hall, I think." I added idly.

 

"Ah yes, I remember. Anyway, Cain told me that Team Meteor had kidnapped five children! Cain managed to save himself, but his Nidoking panickedly collapsed the tunnel, and the kidnappers are on the other side. So we..."

 

"I know that story." I cut her off. "I'm the one who got the tunnel door that blocked them open. But..." my voice trailed off. "There was Team Meteor on the other side."

 

"Cain didn't mention that."

 

"He knows I really don't want to be too involved in that story. But I have no other choice."

 

"So you mean that you're here for..."

 

"Yes, I'm not here for the Badge, but for the Strength Machine too. I didn't think that Cain would have the same idea. I didn't hear from him since."

 

"He chose an easier path -- he crossed the lake on his Muk."

 

"That's brave of him. I wouldn't have had the nerve to do that."

 

"So how did you arrive here?"

 

"I...was lent a boat." I answered allusively, not wanting to get into the details. "Here's the Sensei's room." I observed. "Since we're asking for the same thing, perhaps we can go in together."

 

 

****************************

 

 

It took a while to explain the Sensei the whole business. She was sitting at her table, Victoria and I in front of her, and our tale wasn't as orderly as we could have managed had we prepared it beforehand. However, it was complete, understandable, and Kiki grasped the issue very well.

 

When we finally concluded, she shut her eyes and her breathing slowed down. I glanced quizzically at Victoria, who muttered the words 'She's meditating'. We stayed waiting for her, listening to her perfectly regular breath, for an untold length of time, although it probably felt much longer than it actually was.

 

"Truly," Kiki finally uttered, "I am moved by your plight. But, as you well know, I can only award that Machine to a graduating student of our Academy. One must attain inner strength before acquiring worldly strength. And to disregard this procedure is to disrespect every student who has followed it before."

 

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"Sensei," I protested. Calling her Kiki felt rude, and I didn't know the proper honorific to someone's Sensei which I didn't accept as my own. "They're children abducted by Team Meteor. Gym Leaders, also. They don't have time to wait for either of us to graduate. With due respect, I don't think any of your students would feel disrespected should they learn that you lent the Machine for this kind of reason."

 

"No." was the Sensei's one-word reply. "This is not recevable. I can consider an... accelerated test, but I will not renounce this principle altogether. Do you think that my other students had less compelling reasons to acquire worldly strength? "

 

Obviously, yes, duh.

 

"It's okay." Victoria whispered at me, while I was going to argue back. "Then, Sensei, I wish to apply for graduation."

 

Kiki closed her eyes again, and this time there was this very slight hint of weariness.

 

"So you will." she answered at last, the words conveying some sense of an inevitable march of fate. "I suspected you might finally ask. Were you successful in your challenge of the Reborn League, as I had asked of you?"

 

"I admit, Sensei, that I was not." Victoria answered plainly. "So much was going on that

I had other priorities."

 

No kidding. Such an understatement. The PULSEs, the aftermath, saving me, Shelly's sorrow... Why didn't she explain that? Surely no reasonable person could hold these against Victoria.

 

"I see." the martial arts teacher replied. "That is unfortunate, being that the Machine requires a certain Badge. How about you?" she asked me.

 

"I can manage that. I hope." I answered.

 

"Of course you can do it!" Victoria added. "Gabriel has lots of Badges already, one more won't be a problem!"

 

"So, I understand that you intended to pass the Machine off to an outsider regardless." Kiki answered after another endless pause, her eyes shutting again. "I suppose it cannot be helped, but knowing that is your intention, I must test you as well." she opened her eyes and looked at me in the eyes.

 

"Victoria, you will stay here and test for graduation." She turned to me. "Your challenge will be more suited to you. As you should know, Apophyll is in the shadow of one Pyrous Mountain -- a volcanic mountain. After all, it is the ash therefrom that grants the beach its grey hues."

 

I stopped listening when she said Pyrous Mountain -- because the words somehow resonated with me. Pyrous seemed so familiar a name that I couldn't remember where I had heard it.

 

"Atop Pyrous Mountain" -- where had I heard that name again? -- "usually meditates one of my youngest, though finest, students. Climb the mountain. Find my student. Challenge him. If you are successful, you may have the Machine."

 

"But that's --" Victoria gasped.

 

"Have faith in your companion, Victoria."

 

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Faith? I repeated myself, baffled. I was speaking of kidnapped children, lives that could be forever tainted, as there was no telling what Team Meteor might do with them -- and she gave me a Trainer's challenge, with faith as the sole thing in my favor?

 

Faith, Training skill... This counted for nothing! If that guy was stronger than me, I was stuck for good here, with Shelly, and Noel, and Anna, and Heather, and Charlotte, enduring nameless torments, perhaps being murdered by a monster such as Solaris, at the hands of Team Meteor!

 

What kind of inner strength hadn't I already demonstrated? I had taken Kalos-wide competitive exams tougher, more abstract than most, and got great rankings! I had gone on to fight, and somehow saved the day, in Reborn City, when everything seemed hopeless and no one was making any headway! I had faced and survived Corey's, Shade's and Solaris's murder attempts!

 

What more did she want from me?

 

But what I answered, in a shy, soft voice, was simply:

 

"I don't understand. How is that a test? You don't know how strong I am, and I don't know how strong your student is. What would my hiking and beating him, provided he's not a lot stronger than me, prove?"

 

"Your dedication to your goals," she answered. "Your self-discipline. Your willpower. Your strength, wits, and Training skills. All of which you will doubtlessly need for your rescue attempt. So think of this as training."

 

The worst thing was that it sort of made enough sense for me to stop arguing, unwilling to go against Victoria's obvious deference to her teacher.

 

I conceded defeat and got ready to climb a mountain.

 

 

 

Character rates:

 

Spoiler

Kiki: 5/10. I don't really understand the reason why she makes me do this. What does it have to do with the kidnapped children? Can't she understand it's urgent??

 

Victoria: 9.5/10 (-0.5) Why didn't she object to her teacher? Why didn't she point out it was unreasonable? But then again, why didn't I?

 

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Nice chapter. 

I suppose Gabriel will take time to learn that exams amd study's are not demonstrations of mental health. I'm waiting for the part in neo reborn where he couldn't go back to kalos becuz the tickets are sold out.😂

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9 hours ago, sayar said:

Nice chapter. 

I suppose Gabriel will take time to learn that exams amd study's are not demonstrations of mental health.

 

He's aware of it, but climbing Mount Pyrous to challenge Cal (whose strength he doesn't know) doesn't exactly sound like a test of mental health either, so he doesn't understand the point. 

 

9 hours ago, sayar said:

I'm waiting for the part in neo reborn where he couldn't go back to kalos becuz the tickets are sold out.😂

 

That would be so mean of me to do this to him. 😢

But I can't let him escape the resolution of the plot, can I? 

 

(By the way, I think I wrote it in an earlier chapter, but it's really not a straight trip to Kalos). 

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