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Should I keep uploading pictures for the chapters?  

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

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

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

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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, I usually struggle with these things. I wanted to add "terribly-titled" (because it's bound to be) but some expletive guy with a huge hungry dragon-like green familiar (I think it was a female, they're supposedly always fiercer) told me these words were his. He sounded pretty upset so I thought best not to defy him. 


A couple of things about how it is going to work: it is going to be a fanfiction (mostly following the game's original scenario, but...) coupled with a simultaneous playthrough (which will impact events such as the Pokemon in the team, the evolutions, etc). The fanfiction chapters will include a few screenshots as illustrations. Most chapters will, as seems customary, include a "character ratings" part at the very end.


Some of them will also include a "PC death count" section which corresponds to the number of defeat-related save scums (not for IVs or mining) during the playthrough to that point. (I'm really not a good player, so I'm going to use items and save scum instead of losing money.)


This "death count" will not be referenced directly in the story, but it may affect how the protagonist wins or loses some minor battles with little stakes (some Gym Leader battles, maybe Cain/Fern as well). 


Something else is worth mentioning: the fanfiction (and thus playthrough) is going to be quite slow-paced. For some comparison: I've been preparing a few chapters and it's more or less going to take twice as much text to get to Julia (probably Chapter 9) as in Vanilla's adventures. 


Finally, English being not my first language (and my not having much experience writing in my own native language either), there probably are going to be mistakes, so I am welcoming any feedback and comments. 


That's all for the introduction, the story starts right under the spoiler boxes (which contain links to the uploaded chapters so far).



 Part 1: (complete)




Part 2: (just completed)




Part 3: (started)


Part 1: An Unexpected Journey


“It needs but one foe to breed a war, not two.”

Tolkien, The Return of the King




Chapter 1: Pearl Harbor




The first thing I realized while awaking was pain. My whole back hurt as badly as though a car had tackled me into a solid wall. It didn't hurt (well, it did) that I was currently lying on it. The simile wasn't perfect, actually: the worst was focused on my shoulders and on my lower back. They felt exactly as if they had been skinned. I also found myself struggling to breathe. Maybe someone had struck me in the chest as well. 

"Gabriel, are you awake?"

I didn't really hear the words, my ears were ringing wildly and felt deaf at the same time. The air around me smelt awfully -- and I didn't usually notice these things. There were heavy smoke and ash in the air, but there was something even deeper and more unpleasant beneath. 

"Gabriel, is it? Are you okay? Please don't go..."

My hearing was too dull to make out the last words, which were very quiet, but I got the meaning of the first two sentences. And I thought I could infer the tone. The speaker was distressed, maybe even desperate. 

What could possibly have happened? I hardly remembered a thing. I did not know this voice. I hurt a lot and I could have been dying. Deep down, I felt like this was definitely not normal. I decided anyway to show I was alive by opening my eyes and trying to rise --

Pain soared. I could see nothing but destruction around. Actually, it was dark, so maybe I was at just the wrong place. Given how much I hurt, I definitely was. Some sort of large, broken apart, building was burning beside me. There were a few police officers (with recognizable uniforms) around. And a woman who looked both appalled and relieved as she looked at me. 

"Gabriel, thank Arceus you're awake. But, all the others..."

She gestured desperately at the burning mess, and I became aware again that I had zero idea about what was going on. Although the woman looked very faintly familiar, with her blue eyes, white skin and very light-colored hair, this was no explanation for why she knew my name. This was very worrying, especially since I seemingly had survived a life-threatening event. My life was at stake. 


I wished I could be as far away as possible from this place, but, obviously, nothing happened. Well, of course I couldn't get something for nothing. Teleportation like that was fantasy. I got up -- pain flared, the world spinned for a while and then steadied itself -- kept focusing on my breathing, and I turned to the woman beside me. 
"I'm, hum, sorry, but what was this?"

Just unbelievable how clumsy I could be. She frowned as an answer. 


"I don't know. The train wasn't slowing down, so I tackled you, shoving both of us outside. The train hit the station at full speed while exploding.  I'm glad to have saved you, but everyone else... I'd rather not think about it. But who would even -- "

She had been struggling to form the sentences, marking long pauses. She visibly had trouble collecting herself. That's likely a very normal behavior. Hopefully you aren't a psychopath devoid of empathy, yet. You might only be completely lost because you don't remember anything. She only broke at the last sentence, as a cheerful younger woman with bright yellow clothes ran with obvious enthusiasm and much giggling towards us. 

The blue-eyed woman did not seem pleased to see her. She actually looked very not-pleased. 

"Julia... What did you do? "

Julia, obviously, denied being involved in any way, apart from her racing to the explosion to watch the fun first-hand. That was also worth a worry. Hopefully she would be very, very far from anything that might explode... My savior frowned deeply, watching the mess -- and I imitated her. 

"This must have been a deliberate attack, I am afraid." she uttered. 

I could not believe my ears. A terror attack? A terror attack had physically blown up the train I was travelling in -- even though I couldn't remember what for -- and I had survived only by the most unlikely stroke of luck. I would very much go home now, please. Wait, this was not appropriate. Never mind. Julia, on the other hand, sounded almost admirative. As if she could not wait to hire the person responsible... This was as scary a thought, actually, than the terror attack thing.

"This isn't the time to be admiring their work. Whoever did this would have been monitoring the train, so they cannot be too far away. If I have the perimeter locked, we might get them... Sorry Gabriel, but I have to go. Somebody should be waiting for you near the Grand Hall. Just go straight ahead, not on the bridge. "


Had I not watched her as she spoke, I would not have believed how fast she was in control again. As if this was an ordinary Tuesday for her... That could be even worse news, when one thought about it: that might mean that such disasters were common.


Julia looked at me, and uttered this unbelievable sentence: "I am Julia, captain of cheer and pep, and all things bubbly and bright! Oh, pop quiz: are you going to take on the Reborn League?"


What the... whatever was even the Reborn League? 


"Hum, I'm afraid I won't. Actually", I blurted. 


"That's no fun", she pretended to whine. Oh, come on, she could be older than I was. "I am the Electric Gym Leader" -- oh, no -- "so of course I have to insist! I'll be looking forward to your challenge, so get down to the Grand Hall!" she added, oblivious to my dismay, and leaving me alone. 


I had no idea where I was, where to go, except something about a Grand Hall, somehow straight downtown. It all hurt pretty bad, but hopefully it wasn't too far.  
I started to walk, but I noticed that the pain was worse than I had assessed, although it remained manageable. I tried to speak with a few people along the way. The attack remained on their minds -- how couldn't it be -- and it was no use trying to find out where I was. 

One of the people waiting not far, was crying -- she had been waiting for her fiancee. Another one, with a still shaky voice, had escaped the catastrophe by a very bare margin -- they had been in the station a few seconds before the train had blown up. Several others had lost friends, relatives. A few ones had been on vacation and had no idea how to come back. And I still did not know where I was or why I was there. 
After quite a while, maybe a mile, the outset changed. People did not that much concerned with the incident any more, and I found myself staring at a large building with slight colorful notes. This had to be the Great Hall. 

"Hi, are you from the station?" a tiny little boy of maybe five asked me.

"Yes, why?" I found myself answering uneasily. 

"My dad is very sad because he said that something very bad had happened there. But Mummy was supposed to come back home by train and she hasn't come back and Daddy is crying now and won't tell me. And why are you walking funny?"


I c-couldn't tell him, that wasn't my place. What could even I say?


"I'm sorry." I muttered back, heartbroken, and hurried away.  


A rather muscular young woman with loose grey clothes was waiting nearby, glancing at me every so often. 


"Hey", she asked me as I was heading towards the Hall. "Are you Gabriel?"


With a bit of surprise, I nodded. How come my name was known? Julia or the other woman could have told her. She answered that she was Victoria. She enquired after my general situation with concern. I answered her that I hurt pretty much everywhere -- after the shoulders and the lower back, I had developed a nasty headache and my limbs felt very heavy -- and that a train apparently rigged with explosives had blown up and taken the entire station with it. 

She mentioned that a certain "Eimy" had asked her to "bring me in for registration". 

Wait... Eimy what? Registration what? Where in the world was I? I really wished I could have asked this, but this definitely would not have been diplomatic. And she had been kinder than pretty much everyone...


"Er, what registration, exactly?" I finally asked.

"For the Reborn League, of course." she answered, looking baffled. 

"Hm, I'm really sorry for asking, but what is the Reborn League?" I insisted.

"That's, well, the Pokemon League from the Reborn Region." she answered, apparently more confused. 
"So I am in the Reborn Region and I asked to participate to the League?"
"I'd guess so, yes." she patiently said. 
"But I have never heard of any of these!" I protested. 


What I didn't tell her was that I remembered quite clearly now the previous days, and I had made absolutely no plans about challenging a Pokemon League. I would never have gone challenging even the Kalos League. I was studying math, which was just better in every respect. Cleaner, clearer, less uncertain. So how could I have ended up here, of all places?  
I didn't really have the choice anyway, and I went with Victoria to the Great Hall. While holding the door for Victoria -- I couldn't believe I was being this ridiculous, Victoria would have done so much better instead of miserably struggling in a haze of fatigue -- or maybe struggling to just open it -- a thick envelope slipped out of a pocket I hadn't remembered I had. 

It was meant for me (it had my name, but not any address), but I was positive I had never seen it. So I opened it. Inside were a few bank notes -- I couldn't believe that so far, I had not worried about money -- and a note: "Use sparingly". In my own writing.


"What's there?" Victoria asked, looking at my presumably alarmed face. 


"Nothing." was all I could answer. I didn't want to draw too much attention to the fact that was helpless, and that I had money. "And now, with my usual luck, I am stranded here..."


Another thought managed to reach my strained brain. Should my parents get wind of the attack, they would want to know what happened to me... They would worry a lot. I picked up my phone, only to find it smashed. It seemingy had not liked my disembarking very much. Victoria looked at my cell phone and said that she could not make international calls. Guess I had to ask "Eimy". Was it my alleged blue-eyed travel companion (although I didn't remember any travel)?  

We ended up at a far end in the Grand Hall, at a counter. 


"I am, er, sorry" I apologized to my rescuer. "But I have no idea what is going on. In my latest, memory, I am in Kalos. What happened?"
"Oh." she answered simply, looking very puzzled. "I don't have much time, what do you wish to know?"
"First, who are you?"
"I am Amethyst, the manager of the Reborn League. You can call me Ame." So that was her.
"So, we're in Reborn City, and you convinced me to try my chance."
"I didn't convince you. We met in the train to Reborn City -- I think you mentioned something about three planes before and another train -- I mentioned the League, and you sounded quite enthusiastic about challenging it."
"I'm afraid I would rather come back home."
"There's no real way." she sighed. "Reborn is rather wild. The railway station is, well, to pieces. It was the only real way to go back to... Kalos, right? There was almost a full day of high-speed train in the wilderness. Till the station is repaired, I am afraid you can't leave."


Come on, there had to be some way... I'd deal with it later. Wait, did I actually spend at least several days, with the full-day train ride and the other planes? Which day were we? 

"Is there a way for me to phone someone in Kalos, just to tell them that I am safe?"
"I am afraid it can't be done either. We don't have phone links with Kalos, or much of the rest of the world for that matter. We were using the train and letters to communicate with afar."


"I think I'm slightly wounded. Do you know where I can some sort of treatment? And by the way, I don't know anything around here, do you know where I could sleep?"
"I'll show you in a minute. You might be interested to know about the investigation: we were quite lucky and caught right away a suspect with good evidence. We're going to make him talk. By the way," she added, turning to Victoria, "why are you here, Victoria?"
"I'm here to take on the League, Ame." she answered. "Kiki thought it would be good training."
"I'm sorry, but as you know, you'll have to wait for tomorrow. I can't give out starters this late." Ame replied simply. "There should be room for you to stay here as well tonight. Why are you here so late, anyway?"

What kind of administrative building had even room for chance (or rather misfortune) wanderers to sleep?

The rest of the evening was mainly pain and exhaustion, now that my adrenaline level was falling down to normal. Ame showed me the nursery and pointed me to a couch in an isolated room. A weary doctor examined my wounds and declared that however spectacular (falling off a train at that speed apparently was quite damaging), they weren't serious, but required disinfectant. Very annoyingly, it turned out that the disinfectant reacted more to the "spectacular" part, rather than the "serious" part. 


I tripped on the couch and fell asleep after contemplating unpleasant thoughts such as the stinging pain in my back, my now atrocious headache, being trapped in Reborn City for an indefinite period of time, and not being able to communicate with the outside world.


Oh well. Tomorrow was another day. 






Character ratings: 


Ame: 7/10 -- She couldn't find in the whole evening a solution for me to come home, yes, but she saved my life. Anything less would be ungrateful. Sounds like a responsible person. 
Julia: 4/10 -- What's her thing, about forcing me to participate in the Reborn League? Also, why does she need to keep mentioning explosives?
Victoria: 8/10 -- Seems nice at first glance, but ... ? 


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This is very good,for someone who doesn't have english as their first language your spelling and grammar are pretty spot on. Just curious, what does Gabriel looks like because I have noticed that you never mention any of the protagonist features does he look like Vero, Kuro, or Decibel? also i'm very excited to see what pokemon Gabriel picks and Cain appearances next episode.

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I'm assuming that since you said Matthew, you are referring to me. So for that, I thank you! 😄 I liked your story. Interesting that you skipped to the after train crash screen. Not complaining though. I also like how your character has lost his memory on the whole ordeal too. I am curious about 1 thing though. The sentences that are like this, does that means something? Is that him talking in his mind or something?

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First, thanks for the replies! 


About your remarks: 

@Angelkitsune: your question about Gabriel's physical appearance actually got me thinking a bit more than it should have. I was using Vero for the screenshots and th playthrough (as you can see in the chapter), but that's mostly because he's the least unsimilar of the player characters (and I really can't draw or sprite). For Gabriel, he's white, has green eyes with short brown hair, and is about 1.75 meters (5'9'' for American readers) tall. For the picked Pokemon and interactions with Cain, well, you'll see just below.


@Majin J-Awesome_One: I was indeed referring to your recounting of Matthew's (and Whettam's) adventures in and around Reborn City. Thank you for your appreciation. For the memory loss and skip to the after-crash, that's because the train part feels rather trite to write... and there's a bit of a plot point about it. 

Yes, the sentences in italics are in most cases the protagonist commenting or thinking to himself. I'm not too sure about how I'm going to do that in the long run, because clearly, a lot of the rest is the narrator commenting the situation from the protagonist's point of view, meaning that the difference isn't really clear-cut. 


So, on to the second chapter. I'm apologizing in advance for the random math-dropping (it's really in-character though), there's probably going to be other instances a bit later on in the story, but I'll keep them short and uncommon (the precise details, of course, aren't going to be relevant to the story). 








Chapter 2: Leaf Rocks



Despite, or perhaps thanks to, the brutal shocks of last night and the uncomfortable couch, I slept blissfully, and I found myself very surprised to wake up on a couch in a small dark room I felt I had never seen before. Then memories rushed in. 

Not all, unfortunately. Before the train wreck, my last memory still was me somewhere in Kalos with no plans to leave whatsoever. How would Mum and Dad have reacted, especially if I had told them I wanted to become a Pokemon Trainer in a place where international phone calls weren't a thing? Not to mention Michael, Carol and Simon, or the grandparents? Just what had happened to me?

So, back to a sane (cowardly) frame of mind, the answer was clear. I was in a foreign land with terrorists able to launch attacks that deadly. I did not have much money or supplies. The sane (definitely not cowardly) thing was to run back. 

Except Ame said that with the train station shut down, there was no escaping Reborn. There wasn't even any communication with the outside. 


That had been last night, she was tired and overworked, maybe she'd have thought of something. 

With this cheerful thought, I got up -- ow, my wounds wouldn't heal overnight -- dressed up with the replacement clothes Ame had found for me (mine somehow had not liked at all the whole "being shoved out of speeding train" thing, but I had not noticed last night) and started exploring the building, before realizing that I was starving. I hadn't showered in maybe two days, either, but that hopefully did not matter too much. I'd find something tonight. 

After a few moments of going in circles, I ended up in the main hall. It was larger and more populated than I remembered. Then again, I hadn't been exactly watchful last night. I found Ame sitting at a desk with a stack of paperwork, in a remote corner. Victoria wasn't around. 

"Good morning Gabriel!" Ame called. "Did you recover?"

"Good morning Ame. I quite did. I slept much better than I would have expected. And you?"

"Not much sleep." she smiled with a tinge of longing. "There was the investigation, and the chain of supply got sort of crazy with no railway station. Fortunately, we are mostly in control right now. We got information from the suspect, I guess you're interested?"

"I was more concerned about the chain of supply thing, because I'm actually starving, but"

"Gabriel," she interrupted me, her tone stern and reproving. "Please do not use this overstatement. I can understand that you are being hungry, but you are not starving. There has been actual starvation around here."

"Oh, I am sorry." I felt like a spoiled kid -- where had I chosen to go? "What did you find about the attack?"

"The suspect we had caught at once did trigger the explosives. And here's the bad news: he wasn't working alone. He's part of some group called Team Meteor. "

"Did he tell you what they wanted?"


"That wasn't clear. There was some weird part about changing the world, another about protecting some sort of sanctum. He couldn't explain the relation with blowing the station up and murdering all the people around. You'd expect a terrorist group to have some clear demands."

That was really worrisome. Hopefully they'd deal with it while I would be far, far away. 

"So, no offense, but can I get out? Can I send a word out? And can I eat?"


Ame started looking annoyed now. 


"We've checked that out again during the night. We can't send a word out." No... "So, of course, we can't send you out." Please nono... "You'll have to stay till the station is repaired. And it likely won't be repaired while the Meteors are a danger. Looks like you'll be stranded here for months, because we're kind of understaffed and overworked."

It had been such a nice day so far... 


"Can I do anything to help?" I asked, as had been drilled into me by my parents. I really hoped they didn't worry too much.

Ame shut her eyes and tried to sit more comfortably in her desk chair. 


"I don't think so." she finally said. "Without offense, your skills are mostly about math and that isn't suited to our needs. Besides, you have no idea where you are or what the city is like. The easiest thing for you, since you have a bit of money, would be to take on the League. The most fun too, maybe."

I had never had a Pokemon before. When most people my age had been desperate to have their own Trainer journey around Kalos, I had been mostly interested in stuff such as Kepler's laws, Gauss theorems, Galois theory or Lebesgue integrals. I had come to almost regret it, because I had declined an opportunity to see something truly different from my daily life (which was mostly about groups or derivatives or epsilons, depending on the days). Now I could catch up. The idea wasn't that crazy. I knew a bit about the theory and I had already had a few Pokemon battles for school; like everyone for once, I followed the important battles on TV. 

Maybe trying my hand at Pokemon training would do me some good indeed. I might meet and keep contact with new kinds of people. Maybe more normal ones.

Another issue brought my daydreaming back to real life. Namely, there was a terrorist group right there, and they had almost killed me. 
I decided that it shouldn't be that much of a problem. I would be very wary and stay out of trouble. After all, I wasn't here for them, and the likelihood that they would target me was almost negligible. I would be a target like anyone else anyway. 


You're not being any reassuring, some inner voice noticed.


Victoria had arrived while I was thinking and had engaged Ame. 


"Hi Gabriel. Did you sleep well?" she asked when I noticed her. 
"I did. How about you?"
"I didn't sleep that much. I replaced Ame earlier today so that she could nap and I worked out." she replied. "So, did you make up your mind on what you wanted to do?"
"Ame thinks I can't really help here. So I decided I could as well attempt to take on the Reborn League."
"That's great! I'm doing it too." Victoria answered enthusiastically. 
"I have the papers right here", Ame said. "Victoria, you know that the League usually provides starters for outsiders only. But I guess I can make an exception for Kiki. Gabriel will have first choice though."
"Go for it", Victoria said. "Don't worry about me counter-picking, I already know which one I will take." 

What was she talking about? 

I realized that I didn't even know which were the starters. I decided to pick one at random. 


Ame led me through a small maze of staff-only corridors to a small room upstairs, which she unlocked with a six-digit code. There were three colored tables with seven Pokeballs on each. I recalled that traditionally there weren't over half a dozen available starters in Kalos journeys. Of course I'd end up in a place where I'd have to make harder choices. Fortunately, I had already made up my mind on choosing at random. I decided on meanings for the outcomes (that is, sequences of head or tails), drew a coin and tossed it multiple times. 





Which generation?




Which type?


Player speaking: I did not tamper with that RNG but I don't want all these allegedly game-breaking Speed Boost sweeps (I suppose I couldn't make them work anyway) So I will keep the evolutionary line, but Torchic is going to have Blaze



Fate had me choose a tiny adorable orange chick, whose species name was Torchic. That did not feel like a fitting, or at least individual, name. I had to give it a name of my own. 

Of course I could have gone for something linked to the software I had been using a lot in the past months, but this Pokemon wasn't an algorithm. It was warm and cute. It was almost relief personalized. Relief... Well, I'd call her Leaf. .




Ame didn't let me stay long in the room and insisted that I came back downstairs right away, not to keep Victoria waiting.
"Whom did you pick?" she enquired. 
"Leaf. She's cute, isn't she? " I answered her with a mixture of equally absurd pride and embarrassment, showing her the small Torchic. 


She nodded and followed Ame again to the corridor maze. While I was looking at Leaf, I heard a disturbingly close voice addressing someone:

"Heyy, you're cute!"


It took me a few seconds to realize that the speaker was a boy with much makeup and long purple hair, likely younger than I was, and that he was speaking to me. I immediately felt intense discomfort. 


Who was that guy? Did he realize how inappropriate his words were? Did he speak them on purpose? What did he want? Should I act offended, as I actually quite was?

"Excuse me, did you say something?" I decided after a second's puzzlement. 
"No." he said smiling. "I didn't say anything. Did you see Ame?"
"Yes, she's currently walking someone to their starter. She should be back in a short while, the place is a maze."
" 'Kay." he answered. "My name's Cain, how about yours?"
"I'm Gabriel. Nice to meet you..." I mumbled the second part. 
"I think that's a pretty name actually. You've just got your first Pokemon, right? Are you gonna challenge the League?"

"Yes, she's Leaf." I answered, ignoring the first part (what could I exactly answer anyway?). "I'm not sure how sensible it was to try to challenge the League, but I am stranded here and I can't do much else." I said, pointing at the Torchic. "And you? Are you coming here to challenge the League?" 


He didn't answer at once, briefly dropping the smile. "I was coming here to start over. I figure I'd try taking on this League instead."

Instead? What did he do before?  

"So, what would you say to a battle, Gabriel?"
"Er... Okay, why not, but do you have your own Pokemon?"
"Aha, yes, don't worry about that."


We retreated to somewhere less close to any damageables (such as Ame's paperwork). We probably shouldn't have bothered: our Pokemon were fairly weak and all they managed to do to the scenary was a bit of scratching and a couple of ashes on the floor. Cain's male Nidoran did all the scratching. Leaf didn't need to do so and, keeping moving to be a harder target, burnt him into defeat.

"Nice battle", he acknowledged, still cheerful. "Let's get our Pokemon healed, there's a Pokemon Center just there." He added, pointing at a spot a bit farther again from Ame's desk. Was he trying to do something else specifically? I decided that probably not, but resolved to stay cautious. 

Overall, the battle had actually been pretty nice, even though the actual action (or thinking, or strategizing) for me had been fairly limited, and I had more felt like a sports supporter than like someone who actually took part in the battle, unlike all the interviews of well-known Trainers declared. Leaf looked pleased of herself but tired. Cain hadn't been a poor battler as well. And he didn't mind losing -- would I be that polite in his situation? Or, well, without the telling random people they were cute. 

Ame and Victoria found us at the Pokemon Center, where Leaf and Cain's Pokemon were resting. 


"What were you doing?" Ame asked. 
"Sorry" Cain answered. "I, er, stole Gabriel, and we had some fun."


Cain had innocently or most likely not stressed the last word. I felt once again very discomfortable and annoyed, didn't notice the two women's frowning and clarified: "He meant a battle." I added for him to "please stop it".

"I didn't know you were like that", Ame noticed idly, teasing -- couldn't someone please give me somewhere to hide from everyone? "By the way, Cain, why are you here?"
"We had an appointment, Master. Remember?"
"Master?" Ame asked, apparently puzzled, saving me the embarrassment of doing so myself. 
"Nothing," Cain said with an enigmatic smile. 

Cain took his Nidoran back and walked a bit away with Ame. So I found myself with Victoria. 


"Well, I got my first Pokemon too and I'd like to test him. Are you okay with another battle?" she asked me. 
"I'd agree, but Leaf doesn't seem to be rested."
"She is, actually.", the nurse interrupted. "She looks very eager to accept, if I may say so."

I picked up Leaf to oppose Victoria's Litten. Once again, Leaf, after growling her fiery awesomeness (I really needed to watch myself, that was sports commenter vocabularyat her opponent, easily clawed him to death -- er, defeat.

"You're good." she only commented before Ame called us over at her counter. 
"You're not bad too." I said while we were walking back there, not really wanting to point out that Leaf, not I, had done all the work. 

Ame had several important things for us. She handed us over empty Pokedexes, "because come on, full ones would kill your sense of discovery" -- I already missed Bulbapedia -- running shoes, because "Reborn is huge, you'll really need them, oh and they're from our sponsor, so you can't say no", and a Pokegear -- my equivalent in Kalos was better but it broke already. Too bad. 
"You can find on the Pokegear lists of inhabitants that are willing to let challengers sleep on their couch some night -- for a fee, of course. You might like keeping some cash -- that shouldn't be an issue for you, Gabriel? By the way, there are vending machines with food and beverage in the hall. If everything else fails, there's usually room for people at Pokemon Centers."

"Just a few words -- the last ones, I promise -- about the Gym Leaders. They are all skilled. You will be fighting them on their terms, in singles or doubles, on terrains of their choosing, with always a full team of six Pokemon. The terrains were subjected to some scrutinity, to make sure the fight is not too unfair. It will nevertheless always be an uphill battle. Good luck."

And so my journey as a challenger of the Reborn League started. 

Had I suspected how it would turn out, I might have chosen to do something less risky.

Maybe something like safety controls at wherever Julia worked?






Character ratings: 


Ame: 7/10 (0). She really hasn't found a way to send me back home, or let me do something useful. If it's plain impossible (which might be true), I can't blame her. Besides, she looks rather skilled at her really demanding-looking job. 
Victoria: 8/10 (0). Not much difference. Mostly confirms the positive opinion. 
Cain: 3/10. Does the guy realize how actually annoying he is and how awkward he makes everything?


Edited by Mindlack
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@SansTheSkeleton: The "Part" is more like a season in other runs. So it won't correspond to the episode split, but probably to some 3-5 episodes, as of now I've planned for five parts. The first part, in my current outline, should end after Corey. The ratings will dip in the negative, but this probably won't occur before a while. 



So it's third chapter time, where Gabriel sets out to discover Reborn City. You can say the journey really starts there.


Again, any comment or feedback is welcome. 






Chapter 3: The Decaying City



As newcoming challengers of the Reborn League, Victoria and I had also been handed a few Pokeballs. Before leaving, she provided me with another piece of advice. 
Pokemon, she told me, were everywhere in the city, but were discrete and shy, so would-be Trainers had to actually look for them. They would usually react very favourably to something called PokeSnax. 

She moved to leave, but she had repeatedly referred to a person I didn't know and whom Ame knew, that Kiki. This could be relevant information for my challenge. 

"Er, Victoria, can I ask you a question?"
"Yes, of course. What do you want?"
"You mentioned 'Kiki' a couple of times and Ame seemed to know her. Who is this person?"
"She's my teacher, she's taught me a lot." She slightly frowned at my phrasing, while obviously not objecting to the question. "She's the sensei of the Apophyll Academy, on the other shore of the lake." -- there was a lake here? I hadn't seen anything... "And she's Reborn's Fighting Gym Leader, so we'll have to beat her."
"Okay, thanks."

Victoria left. I decided not to imitate her at once. The best thing would be to make some list of absolutely necessary things to obtain by any (well, almost any) means. 
Let's see. A large bag with several compartments, some sort of notebook, pens, Pokeballs and Potions. Of course, snacks and water. Maybe clothes. And no cash squandering.

All of this turned out to be pretty easy to find. I bought a cheap old bagpack from the Hall surplus, the city workers had pens and notebooks in excess, and I found balls and healing items at the Trainer shop. Clothes and PokeSnax could wait. I started to head towards the exit of the Grand Hall before I thought of something else very important. I looked at the map included in the Pokegear and wrote down a list of reasonable objectives for this day, as well as a path running through them. 
As I readied myself to leave, some fisherman entered the Hall with enthusiasm and went straight at me. 

"Hello", he greeted me with a huge smile.
"Hm, hello," I replied cautiously. 
"I've fished an incredible Pokemon, I can sell it to you!"
"How incredible is it?"
"I can't tell you its exact species, but what I can tell you is that it can carry you through a lot of Reborn League Leaders." He looked at me with even greater enthusiasm. "Yeah, it's that good." he concluded proudly. I realized that his gestures weren't as steady as I had thought. Was he... on drugs? In an official building?
"How much would it be?"
"I can give you a discount, let's make it for nine hundred."

Nine hundred? This was waaaaay outside my budget. 


"Tell you what, just for you, I'll make it seven hundred."
I assumed I hadn't kept a poker face. I thanked him and said that while I couldn't afford it right now, I'd consider it again when I had more money.
"Five hundred!" he yelled, trying unsuccessfully to prevent me from leaving. 
"Not now, thank you." I went on, slightly shaken and found myself at the door, and then outside. 

I would never have expected what I saw. Before the Hall was a pathetic, dying garden with maybe five withering trees and scarce yellow grass. The pavement further was clearly only used by pedestrians, and yet it was clearly poorly maintained. Potholes were abundant. Moreover, the street itself was filthy. People had thrown everything they did not like on it. It was mostly rotting and smelt awfully, but statistically there had to be lots of valuable items left out. Even worse, there was some kind of huge lake on the other side of the street (with, very sensibly, some barriers to prevent falls), but it was brown. 

I had seen green-brown rivers, which meant pretty much any of them, because the bed was full of clay, sand, seaweed or whatever. This brown was different and suggested immediately that the water itself was rotten to its core, polluted beyond cleaning. What had I ended up in? Worst of all, there was a slight rain, and I hesitated to go on. It could be one of these so dreadful acidic rains.

A young woman whom I had not been paying attention to looked at me and said, annoyed: "Don't worry, the rain won't dissolve you. It's not that acidic."
She was in plain clothes, without anything really protective, not even a hood. She was actually trying to subdue a Stufful who seemed very keen on disobedience. It wasn't like I could stay there forever anyway. I started to walk in the rain. 

Nothing happened. More accurately, the Stufful went clear out of the woman's control, cast me -- I swear -- a contemptous look and a bit of a growl, then fled. 

"Come back here, Stufful!" she shouted before running off. 

Well, now that I was out in the light rain, I could as well train in the garden. After a while, I found and caught a Bidoof whom I nicknamed Goofy, which I started training till they were approximately as fit as Leaf when she had defeated Cain. 

I was pulled out of my training by some yelling at a corner nearby down, on the street leading to the Peridot Ward. There seemed to be a fisherwoman -- was that the word? -- and a thin homeless guy arguing while on the ground. 

"Can't you watch where you're going?" the fisherwoman asked angrily. 
"You bumped into me!" the other one complained. "And you knocked over my money cup with all my money into the lake."
"I'm pretty sure you broke everything in my bagpack."
"There was more than a hundred Pokedollars in it, and now it's in the lake, you ... " he growled.


Something very unsettling happened next: he got up in an agressive stance, fists closed, and got closer to the fisherwoman, who evidently minded. She failed to find something in her pockets, and with obvious panic, tried to get herself away from this man turned aggressive, without trying to get up as well (maybe due to panic). 

"What do you think you're doing?" she demanded, voice shaking.

There didn't seem to be any other witness. I could walk by, pretending not to notice. That would be callous, but safe. And maybe sometime I would get over it. So that left me with the unlikeable second option...

"Er, excuse me, is there a problem?" I asked loudly at them. 

The homeless person, with his attention distracted, started complaining again about fisherpeople, women and his lost money. She, on the other hand, slightly relaxed and got up. That wasn't esay to do with her enormous bagpack. 

"How much have you lost?" I asked him, willing for it to end. That was so uncomfortable, and likely unreasonable.


"One hundred and fifty." he answered, with the martyr air of someone asked to set a price on their own life. I could afford that.


"Well, here you are." 

The woman glanced at me and went away, but I noticed a fishing rod on the ground. She likely had forgotten about it. So I escaped the homeless guy's gratitude and ran after her with the fishing rod.


"I'm sorry, Madam, but isn't it your fishing rod?"


"It is, but I don't need it. I've got better ones. You can keep it."


"Thank you, I guess."


She turned away, turned again to me, thanked me and departed. Her aggressor went to me again and told me with approximate syntax how thankful he was and how today he could eat or maybe get clean. There was some warm feeling about helping him for this day, but the issue would be the same the next day. Besides, he had very nearly assaulted this woman, and there didn't seem to be a reason why he wouldn't try it again at the next opportunity.

"Thank you, buddy." he said again. 
"You're welcome." I replied reluctantly, waiting for him to leave. Please go away and let me do Trainer stuff.
Buddy, you're a League challenger or something?"
"Yes, I am." I said back, trying to be as distant as possible. 
"I've got something to show you. You're interested?"
"I might be." I said hesitantly. 


I stayed not too close to him and very wary, but driven by curiosity, and, to be honest, the possibility that he might genuinely have something worthwhile, I followed him. That was dumb. Real dumb, even though there might be something at the end. With an unsteady pace (was he drunk? or actually starving?), he led me through a couple of deserted back streets to a small cabin. 


"There's been a Pokemon here since last night. I can't feed him but maybe you could take care of him?"

I entered the cabin, being very watchful for a possible ambush -- this stuff happened in movies. There wasn't anyone here, except for a Minccino who sprinted at me for some reason. Maybe I smelt like snack or something. Anyway, I had collected a bit of cheap food (Leaf would need feeding too) at the Hall, so there seemed no ill in giving him some. Leaf went out of her Pokeball to heartily disapprove, but I assured her that there would be some for her. 

After eating, the Minccino kept being close to me and even startled me a lot by jumping on my shoulder. It was quite heavy, but less than I would have expected. Perhaps he was slim, since he didn't eat enough. Since he evidently seemed to like me, I'd keep him, if he so wanted.


"Do you want to come with me?" I offered, since he seemed to like me.  


As an answer, the Mincinno, still on my shoulder, started cuddles. But then, how would I call him? He had a long, very recognizable tail, so I could call him Tails? It didn't fit; he was male. Tailor would work, though. 




The homeless person who had led me there was already snoring outside and didn't hear my muttering thanks. Where was I going, then? 

I headed for the Opal Bridge (the name sounded wrong, as it had nothing matching an opal), before getting stopped by a very self-confident young man wearing heavily used red clothes. 


"This is Opal Bridge." he said. "That's for trainers only."
"I'm a trainer." I objected with just enough assertiveness to make myself noticed by a three year-old child. "May I pass, please?"
"You'll have to back it up."

He sent out a Bidoof who did not fare well against Tailor, Goofy and Leaf. Reluctantly, upon his defeat, the trainer let me go. There were some other trainers on the bridge, most of them beginners and mostly easy to defeat. It was a bit of a let down, because there hadn't been any serious challenge here. On the other hand, the bridge was slightly cleaner and better kept than the street, which made the visit a net win. 

As far as I could see, the bridge was connecting the part of the city that was west from the Grand Hall (the Peridot Ward, it seemed) to the Lapis and Obsidia Wards. Both of the other exits of the bridge were blocked off by police officers, because of what they claimed were "gas leaks". They couldn't have come up with something sounding more like an excuse. Did they actually have gas there anyway?

People on the bridge were mostly alone, but in a corner, there were three of them clearly being together. Two of them seemed to be talking threateningly to one another, or maybe to someone else smaller. They were loudly threatening this hypothetical being (or maybe one another) to obey their bidding, or be throwned in the horrifyingly acidic lake. The third one kept an eye on them and watched angrily their surroundings. 




I hated that kind of abuse, but I had been thinking of such a situation (well, not the specifics) for an unrelated reason and realized there was literally nothing I could do. Three on one was a clear loss. I was rather dismayed that the police officers had not done anything to stop that, while it was occurring just under their noses. While pondering whether to just move away, I likely had treaded too much intently in their direction. The lookout yelled at me with obvious aggression:

"What do you think you're doing here, man?"
"Oh, sorry, I didn't realize what I was doing. All right, I'm going away." I backed off cautiously and politely. Definitely not cowar -- never mind. 
"No, I'll teach you a lesson!" he replied angrily. 


I was frightened at the idea of a physical beating, because I didn't enjoy sports in general. I hated physical fights and it was obvious to see that the guy, however younger, had more experience with them. So that went as a mild relief when he sent Pokemon instead, which I managed to defeat.

"Ugh." he said, disappointed and angry, but not aggressive any more. "Have it your way, whatever."


Our battle (more likely, his yelling and colorful swearing during the battle about killing Leaf and feeding Tailor to angry Grumpigs) had attracted a bit of attention, and especially from his teammates who took me two on one. Fortunately, it wasn't physical but a Pokemon battle again. And again they weren't as strong or trained (my Pokemon battle classes had included strategy and stuff, but it had seemed pretty irrelevant here -- maybe we were all too weak) as mine. Or, more likely, mine were less weak and poorly-trained.

After their defeat, the three young men retreated, letting me see who they had been threatening to kill: it was a female Zigzagoon, and she was absolutely terrified. For some embarrassing reason, she rushed to me and kept getting very close to me without any sign of wanting to go away. 

I brought her to the Pokemon Center in the Grand Hall for examination, as she kept being within millimeters of me. It turned out the Zigzagoon was in relative health, just terrified. She apparently wanted to go along with me. I'd call her Long, then. 



I had probably nothing else to do on that bridge and I wasn't eager to go back anyway. According to my list, the next place to go would be the South Peridot Ward again, just west from the Hall, about where that homeless guy had guided me. 

It was a more depressing place than the bridge or the immediate surroundings, because there were more homeless people, the streets were in even worse condition, and the stench of filth was stronger. Everything was rotting down there. I wondered why I had accepted the whole League thing.
Maybe because since wouldn't have escaped Reborn City anyway, I would have needed something to do?




No character ratings for this chapter -- not enough significant interaction. 

Edited by Mindlack
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@J-Awesome_One: Thanks for the support! I am planning for quite a few deviations from the storyline, be it about sidequests or the main plot, I hope I can keep on surprising you! 😀


Just so that I don't forget to say it, for the sake of the modified storyline, I'll make "doctored" screenshots. Some of them are going to be quite clumsy, as I really am no good at this part and don't have any kind of advanced software. So I implore your leniency, as they are more for decoration, while the heart of the endeavor is the text. 



Anyway, on to Chapter 4! This one and the following are going to be very slow-paced and rather short, while the ones after will be quite longer. I'll try to make up for this by posting chapters 5 and 6 a bit more quickly. 







Chapter 4: Lower Mantle



My first step in the Peridot Ward was to check out Julia's Gym. Another Challenger was nervously pacing right by the building, which wasn't a good sign. The building itself was extremely ominous. It was bright yellow, and there was a strange kind of tension buzzing all around. The decoration, all flashy pink ribbons and shining lights, didn't help either. This was a better match for hypothetical headquarters of all cheerleading from the entire Earth (Kalos excepted, of course, since the culture didn't seem as prevalent), than, say, a Gym. 

"Hey," the other man said. "You're a challenger too?"
"Yes, but I'm a recent one. I don't think I can handle a Gym battle yet. You're waiting for the Gym to open?"
"Hah, you're really sounding like a new guy. Julia's got no hours at all. She fulfills her Gym Leader duty all right. Eventually. I've been trying to get her to fight for a couple of days. Didn't have any luck so far. "
"Wow, so you must be very prepared, you'd roll right over her!" I replied, impressed. 
"Well, yes and no. I haven't been able to watch her battle so far, or get any information, so I can't prepare. I can't even say if I'm good enough. I'm pretty confident I can best almost anyone in the area, so it should be okay, but I've seen people speak tearfully about Gyms. They're tough, man. Real tough."

We were interrupted by a very loud cry, with the kind of intensity one would expect from a very healthy, or maybe a very distressed, Julia. But it was obviously not a human cry. My comrade put his hands on his ears, and tried to convey soundlessly his annoyance at that yelling. He had heard it at least three times before this morning, he told me, but it was getting louder each time and it tended to last longer.

"You don't want to miss Julia's doing her duty, so you can't really leave the front of the Gym. Do you want me to go find out what's causing that sound?" I suggested him while the scream was getting even more insufferable. 

He agreed eagerly, and I tried to follow the sound. It was harder, and much more painful than it sounded, quite literally. It made my ear, and then my head, hurt very quickly. But I had promised the guy, so I went on and tracked, by (painful) trial and error, the sound to a small house falling into disrepair, surrounded by overfilled bins. Inside was a single, small, Whismur. It had been yelling for at least fifteen minutes and calmed immediately as I entered the shack.

That was a bit spooky. But it went much spookier when the Whismur rushed me. I barely had time for sending out a Pokemon. Even then, the Whismur tried to evade it and target me. Maybe she's hungry? 

I produced some food. The Whismur, in an unbelievably fast leap, snatched it, ate it and started focusing on my Pokemon instead of me. Whew. The rest was routine and I managed to capture her after weakening her. 

So, how was I going to name her? Maybe I should look at how I found her: she was hungry and calling for attention. What was a fitting name for that kind of being? 


As I exited the cabin, some bin right next to it started shaking, and a Gulpin sprang out of it just like a cartoonish jack-in-a-box. It started attacking at once, and it was stronger than even Leaf. It took all four of Leaf, Long, Tailor, and Goofy to weaken her enough to capture her. After what was easily the hardest Pokemon battle of my journey so far, the Gulpin was caught. And then came my most dreaded part: I had to name her. So what came from a bin turned horribly wrong? 



After battling the few trainers around, I felt I could not gather anything more in this part of the Ward and went northwards. On the way to the Abandoned Railway, there were a few larger apartment blocks, but they were as poorly kept as the rest of the neighborhood. The walls were cracked, covered in tags and "painting" which did not make any sense. It was beyond ugly, an image of decay of disrepair, which was stressed by the sad soundtrack. 

I was pretty sure I had heard this particular tune before, but it was from a famous composer from over two centuries ago. Except that reality didn't have soundtracks. So the music had to come from one of the apartment blocks. But could you really imagine music that neat (implying good-quality instruments) coming from a place this shabby? 

I realized that the entrance door of the one apartment block the music seemed to came from was ajar. I knocked, and, upon noticing no reaction, cautiously tried to open it more. A lobby was behind, which a few worn-down sofas around a couple of tables. Several people were gathered around one of them. 

I got nearer and I realized that the music was played on the table. The musician was a small Cricketot, with slow, heavy moves, as if he was burdened with the entire world. Everybody around him was watching him and listening to him. None of them looked cheerful. Most of them looked infinitely weary. I also realized that obviously, the Cricketot hadn't been singing the whole melody -- just the main track, and I had subconsciously filled the rest of the piece of music. 

"Excuse me, wasn't there an issue here with a Cricketot?" a newcomer asked in a very high-pitched voice. 

She was a young girl, maybe eleven or twelve, definitely not more. 


"Yes, he's mine. " someone said, clearly the Pokemon owner. "He's been looking ill for a while now. Lately, he's taken to singing, and singing well, but he always seems weary and really down. He's making me lose sleep. We can't sleep when he sings."
"Wait." someone else interrupted in a shocked tone. "You're the expert they were bragging about? The Bug Gym Leader, Reborn City's official Bug Pokemon specialist?"
"Yes, that's me, Shelly." the girl answered, mildly surprised. "Do you mind if I have a look at the Cricketot?" she asked the owner of the Pokemon.
"Please do."


Shelly seemed absorbed in her observations for a while, tried to take his pulse (who would have guessed they made special medical instruments for Pokemon this small?), and also to elicite some sort of reaction by what seemed to be a tickle. 


"He doesn't look ill to me, just a bit down." she concluded. "But I heard him; he's got a very pretty voice. How much do you take care of him?"
"Well, I'm usually exhausted when I come back from work, so he doesn't get out much..."
"Okay." she replied, thinking. "So it may be a Trainer that he need. A Trainer that would let him outside, see the world... Is any of you one?"

Every one in the circle shook their head. I didn't move. 

"And you?" Shelly asked me. 
"Yes." I answered after a second or maybe two. "I'm a Trainer. Temporarily at least."
"That's great, so you can take care of him."
I looked inquiringly at the Pokemon's owner, who simply said: "If it's the expert's opinion, you should keep him."

I hated being put on that kind of spot. Nevertheless, I got closer to the Cricketot, and asked him if he'd enjoy coming with me. He answered me at once, by completely changing the tune he was whistling. It turned to something much more lively and joyous, something I might have heard somewhere but just couldn't place. Where in Reborn could he have heard that kind of music?

"That pretty much answers it, I'd say." Shelly translated. 
I extended my arm and the bug jumped on it, before settling on my shoulder. That was it, then. He'd make a long, long walk out.



"Good luck. Please do come back some time, so I can see Cricketot getting better." the owner said. 
"How will we get music now?" someone else complained.
"Get records, I suppose. And a record player. And reliable power." 

"Well, it's been a pleasure." Shelly waved goodbye. "But I still have my Gym to attend to. Please come by, er, what's your name?" she asked me.
"Please come by, Gabriel, I'd be delighted to fight you some day." she finished before leaving. 

I took my leave and headed east again to the railway. I had hardly walked twenty steps out of the block when someone called me.

"Hey, Gabriel, right?"
"Yes." I answered warily. "What do you want?"
"So you're a trainer? A good one, with style and skill?"
"Not really any of them, I think, but why?"
"I've got something to show you, but you can't be any nobody for that. Care to show me?"

Why not? What did I have to lose? Worst came to the worst, I'd probably be able to run. I beat him with little trouble. He looked impressed at me, even though I couldn't figure out the reason. 

"Yeah, you're good." he finally said. "I've got something to show you."


I followed him with a lot of caution in a dark alley. From his account, this was his private space out, where he and his friends would hang out. It also featured Pokemon I hadn't seen so far, such as a, er, wonderful Trubbish. Somebody had also left there a Super Potion. Nobody paid it any attention, so I kept it. 






I thanked my guide and went again to the Abandoned Railway. Just upon entering, I realized that it was more lit than it should be. In the middle part of the cave, where he was most protected from the rain, a Pansear was wet and shivering. Maybe he had been in the rain for too long? This rain didn't exactly look healthy in itself, let alone for a Fire-type Pokemon. The Pansear had been watching me as I got carefully nearer, and, maybe seeing that I offered him no threat, extended his hand. The message was clear. 




Due to the smell of stagnant (and dirty) water inside, and the even more depressing state of disrepair the Abandoned Railnet was in, I did not stay there long, but I was nonetheless able to catch there two Pokemon: a Noibat and a Woobat. The first one had a very powerful evolution, but wasn't really useful herself. However, she showed promise, having managed to cry my Baby (the Whismur) to madness. Her name would call back to that eldritch capability. Woobat's evolution could be useful later, but she would never fare well against Julia. 






After maybe half an hour in the Railnet, the Peridot Ward had an astonishingly flowery smell. That was a bit too much -- after all, the Ward wasn't an example of cleanliness. So I tried, out of curiosity, to understand where the perfume came from. 

There was a single girl in the street, standing near a dying tree, just opposite the apartment blocks where I had got Wolfgang. It seemed likely that it was her perfume, or something she carried. That solved it. I could move on. 







Again, no character ratings for this chapter -- not enough significant interaction. 

Edited by Mindlack
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So, it's time for the next chapter. It's again a "short one", where the exploration of the Peridot Ward is completed for the time being, and we join again the game's main plot. 


@J-Awesome_One: Yes... That's not as much of a character trait as some preparations I make for the future of the run. I don't know which Pokemon will become useful and when (I'd like to try Noivern, and Swoobat will come in handy from Florinia to Shelly at least, for instance... Kricketune is really a blessing and Gulpin is bound to do the job for a little while; on the other hand, I don't really expect Pansear to become useful at any point). So Gabriel has to "pre-emptively" catch a lot of Pokemon, so that he doesn't have to go too much out of his way to get one that excels in any of the game's countless challenging battles. 




Chapter 5: Upper Mantle




The northern part of the Peridot Ward was, according to my PokeGear, organized around two factories, that were westmost in the Ward, just by the lake. There was, in the northern part of the Ward, a straight path from either side of the now-unused railway -- I really hoped it wouldn't stay unused for too long. West of that path, there was a loop leading on to the Jasper Ward and the larger factory. 

I defeated a few Trainers around a back alley with apparently very shady motives. One of them had wanted to hold me for ransom, the announcement of which had made me slightly panic; it had eased when he had challenged me at a Pokemon battle instead of just punching me out cold. 

It was in this series of battles, that, after a particularly successful fight, Wolfgang started to glow. After some surprise and worrying, I realized what was happening: Wolfgang was evolving! I admired the relatively fast shape-shifting of the minute (but definitely less shy and sad than when I picked him) Kricketot into a Kricketune, three times taller and ten times heavier. 



I realized that I had no idea about what precisely was going on. Where was all this mass he took in? All this matter that wasn't exactly the same compound as the air around us? How did the metabolism transition work? I couldn't come up with hypotheses or tests to do before the evolution stopped. And I had spoilt the magic of this even first occurring with too much questioning. 




I assumed that Wolfgang had seen my temporary sadness, because he decided to sing something else to cheer me up. Where had he learnt all these tunes? Then I decided to go for the loop, because I really did not want to keep the railway in sight. 

There wasn't anything much remarkable in that loop, except for the factory, which was indeed considerable, and, surprisingly, being operated. Policemen were barring the entrance to the Jasper Ward, because "it currently failed to meet basic safety standards for public visits". This was an odd sentence for the policeman to say. It was harder to understand than "It's really dangerous", longer, and didn't contain more information. There was also a very unsettling Trainer with a Bubble-expert Surskit, which could have annihilated my entire team, but for Wolfgang, who just Bid his time to strike back harder.

It had taken just a few hours for Wolfgang to turn from a tiny, frail, depressed bug, into my overall most reliable Pokemon, for both offense and defense. It was incredible news. Sadly, Wolfgang would likely be a burden on my other team members once they reach their full evolution, but till then (and it wouldn't happen overnight) he would be a great asset.

Continuing my exploration of the Ward led me to that straight path with the railway. It seemed perfectly functional. There just didn't seem to be any reason why I couldn't come home. Except, of course, for the "station exploded" thing, but trains didn't really need to start from stations, did they? Except if all the trains in Reborn City had been in the station, maybe. Just my luck. 

I was walking with less enthusiasm and more than a tingle of homesickness, lost in thought, when I nearly tripped into a disgusting fountain. It seemed to be more of a pollution fountain than a water fountain. As I was stumbling upon it, I wavered and ecovered my balance just in time, only to watch a Surskit -- help me, a team killer -- rush me. It turned out that the wild Bug Pokemon wasn't as fit as its trained fellow species member, so I was able to catch her. 




It was at that very moment that I heard a distant shout, coming from one of the houses. I could pretend that it was normal, that people yelled for very ordinary reasons, and turn away. But there was some quality (some pleading? despair?) in the shout that made me very uneasy doing this. So even more uneasily, I decided to come closer to make sure there wasn't an issue. 

What did I think I was doing? Even if there were an issue, what would be my chances of resolving it? Was the non-resolution worth my chances to be taken for ransom, or murdered, or any other unspeakable harm coming to me?

I decided that I'd be extra careful not to offend more than my weight class. At which point the same person -- undeniably a woman -- shouted again, louder and closer. Oh please, not another Baby. The house where the cry emanated from wasn't locked. The door was ajar and there was light inside. I knocked very cautiously.

"Help!" she yelled again. 




I opened the door very, very cautiously, entered very, very silently, and realized that it had been a terrible mistake. There were three people in the room. One of them, an woman (maybe forty?), was literally against the wall, an expression of horror and pleading on her face. The two others were facing her, clad in black (so that I couldn't distiguish much but part of their face), and displayed clearly aggressive body language. 

"That Pokemon belongs to Team Meteor now. Move or we start hitting."
"Please don't take it, please don't, he's my baby. Oh thank goodness you're here, please help me."

Crap. Now she was speaking to me, so I would lose any effect of surprise. Maybe I would never have used it anyway. 

"I'm afraid you have intruted in our business." said one of the suspicious people, obviously a man now. 
"So you'll have to be eliminated." said the other, obviously a woman. 


Oh crap.


"This is an attack, so brace for impact." they both said with approximate synchronization. How stupid I had been. I would never get out of it.

Yet here they stood, declaiming poorly synchronized martial poetry instead of attacking terrified little me. Maybe I had a chance after all. I wanted to check up the state of my Pokemon, but the black-clad bullies were watching me and I wouldn't benefit from an escalation. After a few ununderstandable verses, mostly because of their non-perfect synchronization, they attacked me two on one, and I braced for impact.

This battle was without question the most stressful I had had so far. It wasn't, however, the hardest one. My opponents each had a single Pokemon (where had they gotten theirs, they didn't seem to belong in the city), and I had six. My Pokemon were clearly in better shape and better trained, thus I won. The attackers retreated at once, and my adrenaline level fell back and the sheer insanity of my action sunk into me. What had I done? 

I had antagonized people who had claimed they belonged to Team Meteor. The group that had very nearly killed me and ended many others' lives. They had stranded me here. Congrats, Gabriel: Worst Start Ever. 

Amazingly enough, the "rescuee" had not fled, or anything. She had just watched. I knew that fear could freeze people (myself being the first), but experiencing it firsthand made it a more terrifying lesson. She had remained in danger, for no good reason. Maybe she didn't have anywhere else safe? Things could still turn ugly, because the so-called Team Meteor members didn't need their Pokemon to harm her. I wasn't sure whether I would be abe to harm them if they decided to continue their assault.
It came thus as a total surprise to me when the two goons decided to retreat. 

"Oh, thank you so much." the woman cried gratefully. "You saved my baby."


I felt extremely awkward, and didn't know how to react. After the tense rescue moment, I noticed that she looked deeply worried and exhausted. She even might be much younger than what she looked like. I mumbled that it was nothing, that she was welcome, and moved to leave. 

"Please don't go yet. They'll come back. They've already mugged me and I know they'll come back. You're strong. Please protect my baby." she pleaded, pointing at a small, pink Igglybuff who had been hidden before.

"I'm not strong." I objected heartbrokenly. "I was just lucky they were not as prepared as they could be. But if you insist, if you really think he's gooing to be safer with me, I guess I can keep your Igglybuff."

"Yes, please, don't let them take him."


"Er, that's strictly, er, safe-keeping, right? I'm a Trainer, but you don't want him to battle, do you?"


"He's a baby!" she protested. "Of course not!"


"Okay, then." I extended a hand to the Igglybuff who was just happily, obliviously, bouncing across the room. "Do you want to come along?" The baby looked at me with wonder and puzzlement, as if he had never seen me (which was the case). The woman just brought him back inside his Pokeball and gave me the Pokeball. "Please. Keep my baby safe."

I took it. What else could I do? 

I had pretty much explored the whole Ward now, so I decided to have a look again at the Gym. My team was obviously not ready for Julia yet, but there might be some interesting information about what kind of threat the team had to be trained for. There was this accursed train track again, reminder of my (hopefully temporary) exile status. More frightening, though, was the prospect of a Meteor retaliation. 

Lost in contemplation, I didn't notice the rambling generator (not exactly old) running from the "factory loop" and bumping into me. 

"Watch where you're going!" he said angrily, among mutters of lame and idiot and other factory
"Sorry, I was distracted. Are you okay?"

He turned to look at me with about as much appeasement as a hungry Guzzlord. That wasn't good news, but it could have been more threatening: he could have been taller than me. Of course, size did not equal strength, but in physical confrontation, it hardly ever was a disadvantage. 

"Got a problem?"
"No. Why would I?" I replied with not-pretend curiosity. 
"Don't play games. You don't know who you're messing with."
"I'm not messing with you." I protested very calmly. "I'm sorry for the bumping thing, and I'll try to not bump into you later."
"Name's Fern. I'm the cool cat and the top dog." Was he even listening to me? Just an utter lunatic? The safest might be to leave. 
"You think you can just leave like that. You clearly deserve a lesson."

Come on, just for a second's worth of common distraction and an apology and he's aggressing me? That was just ... what? 

And of course (fortunately), Fern moved to attack me with his Pokemon team instead of fists. Wolfgang almost made literal mincemeat of his first two Pokemon, but he didn't get the third one, a quick Rowlet. The Pokemon didn't even have to try to peck Wolfgang to unconsciousness. Given the slight rain which had kept falling, Leaf wouldn't be that useful, so I decided that Hex was my next safest bet, and it paid off. The Rowlet didn't appreciate the yawning suggestion, and even less the Sludges that followed. 

By the time it took to defeat the Rowlet, I tried to examine Fern. He was at least a few years younger than me, in his mid-to-late teens, had blond hair, wore glasses and his outfit was nicer than what I was wearing. That made him a spoiled brat, maybe?

"Hah!" he spat upon losing. "How cheap."
"You wanted it. I didn't." I pointed out. "But you're not bad. You'd beat everyone in the Ward."
"You're what, a League challenger? You can't have a badge. So lame. But anyway, with that look you have, chances are, you'll starve within a week. Later, loser."

Good riddance, maybe? What in the world was wrong with this guy? We bumped into one another, I apologized, he requested a battle on the spot, he lost, and he still insulted me? 

On the other hand, this was a fitting end to my training in the Peridot Ward. Meet Gabriel, your friendly exilee Trainer, baby-sitter, accidental evil-thwarter, and stoic verbal abuse victim? Maybe Fern had a point. The title was lame. 





Team and PC content just after defeating Fern


Character ratings: 


Fern: 2/10. What's with the guy? 


Edited by Mindlack
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You probably noticed, but I changed the overall title. I'm really bad for these things, so I may change it again from time to time. Maybe at some point I'll find something I really like and keep it that way. Chapter (and part) titles should remain unchanged.


So it's time for the next chapter. As always, I'm welcoming any feedback. 







Chapter 6: The Fantastic Four




After a snack -- it was clealy the afternoon, maybe as late as three  -- I found my fellow challenger in considerable anger before Julia's Gym. He was furiously pacing just before the entrance, with such nervous moves that he looked like he would have kicked anything coming in his way.

"Hey, are you all right?" I asked him. Not too close. 
"Hey. No. I'm really pissed off. That kid Leader, Julia, arrived running a couple hours ago. I tried to ask for a battle, but she straight out brushed me off with a single "Later", somehow opened her darn Gym instantly, entered and locked it in a heartbeat. So I am still locked out and this. Is. So. Annoying. "
"So you've been waiting there for a couple of hours after she opened the Gym?" I was baffled. 
"I got seriously worried after a while, so I started to knock noisily, hoping that they would open."
"Did they?"
"Yes, and no. Someone opened a window above, and said, quote, Julia just said she'd blow you up if you kept banging at the door, unquote."
"Like she was being serious."
"You don't know the stories." he said with that tone of mystery you would expect when being told of a human-sacrificing Ultra-Beast cult among your high school teachers.

"Could you explain? It's not like a Gym Leader can just blow people up."
"You really don't know. " he sighed. "Man, this League is seriously messed-up, all challengers say that. Some say they've been waiting for weeks just to communicate with Gym Leaders."
"Come on, that's impossible."
"Some say they've had to play chess to earn that right. "
"It doesn't sound that bad."
"You're the one to speak. And there's a Gym where the Leader requires people to fight naked in the dark. And there are Leaders under constant psychiatric care. They're saying some of them are Malamander people."
"You've got to be kidding me." I replied. That kind of stuff didn't seem possible. Besides, the Leaders' identities had to be known, right? That just couldn't happen? Right? 
"I'm not making these up. So, man, I am mad at Julia, but she's allegedly much better than most of them."
"Ma' t me? Hi 'briel!"

Julia had somehow opened the door soundlessly, and she had overheard the last sentence of the other challenger. 


"Yes, Ms. Julia, I wanted to have a Gym battle with you." he said.
"Can't now. Coupl' hours m'be? 'll r'nge fo't 'night." Wait, what was that language she was speaking?
"Gabr'l. We'f found 'thin' 'shy 't fac'ry, wan' 'vest'g't?" she added, clearly looking at me now and completely dismissing my companion. 
"I am sorry, I didn't get what you said. Could you repeat more slowly?"
"I suppose that's the coffee I just drank." she answered with the air of articulating the obvious to a six-year-old. What? You could overdose on coffee that much? "Anyway, following leads on yesterday's bombing we found something boomy going on at the Mosswater Factory, that's the smaller factory in the Peridot Ward."

I tried to look for the other challenger, but I couldn't see him at once. Then I realized he'd slipped inside and was waving at me from behind the threshold. That was quick and daring. Good for him.


"So we've made up a team to investigate, would you like to be in it?"
"It's... sort of dangerous, isn't it?"
"Come on! It's going to be awesome, with bombs, fireworks, and stuff. And I'll protect you, promise."

Something wasn't right. This was more like Julia, not the lengthy sentence I had heard earlier.

"And if you don't come along, I'll blow up the station again when it's repaired." she added with, I realized, exactly the mindless enthusiasm she had when meeting Ame and I at the recently blown-up station. She was utterly insane, no question. I just couldn't risk that.

"You win, I'm coming." I said dully. 


This was seriously, really dumb. So much for playing it safe, although even after the Meteor incident...

"Great, it's gonna be fun. And get out of my Gym, you! I said in the late afternoon, I don't want you with my toys." she snapped at my companion, as if she had noticed him all along.

I was left with little choice but following Julia. Hopefully I would extract some useful information from her and ... had she just said the small factory? The one I didn't meet that Fern at? And wasn't he saying something about the other factory and being required

I knew I had to remain calm, lucid and collected, and I tried very hard to convince myself this was a coincidence and just wishing a series of ambiguous clues into an intelligible pattern. Namely, a personal persecution from the universe, or at least the Peridot Ward.  I got substantial evidence to support this theory when Fern and a young woman greeted Julia and I at the factory. 

"You're late." Fern said to Julia before noticing me, then added at me with blatant annoyance "What do you think you're doing here?"
"I wasn't really enthusiastic about it, but Julia said she'd blast the station to ashes when it were repaired if I didn't come." I said half-jokingly. "So here I am. But seeing you here..."
"Oh, be polite Gabriel. You've met Fern. Hi Fern." she added with as much enthusiasm as I had when Fern was concerned. "This is Florinia, who was totally my BFF and roommate at Onyx School. Rini, meet Gabriel. He's a newcoming League challenger. "



I had never met a similar person before. She was slightly smaller than Julia. As the latter's "BFF", Florinia couldn't be old, yet she did not look young in any way. She wore sunglasses even though there was no sun. Her even non-verbal attitude, one of stillness and watchfulness, could not be more unlike Julia's, which was all dynamics and frightening bordering on insane enthusiasm.

"Nice to meet you, Florinia." I extended a hand.
"Hostility-driven emotional involvment within the quartet will deplete its efficiency significantly below sustainable minimum." Florinia said with robotic precision and much too fast, without seizing my hand. "Gabriel, Fern, apologies from each one to the other are required. "

These two sentences stunned me. Who on earth would speak like that and why? While my brain refused to process the sentence, Fern took the situation into his own hands: "Of course, Gabriel, we started on the wrong terms. I'm sorry for being impolite. It's cool now?"
"That's cool for me. I guess I have been impolite too." I drew my useless hand back -- Florinia hadn't shaken it, so I directed it to Fern who actually shook it. "By the way, could someone tell me what I am doing here?"
"Greetings, Gabriel. A continued interrogation of the Team Meteor-affiliated perpetrator of the attack on Grandview Station provided us with partial insight into the nefarious organization's ongoing plots. The operatives are allegedly ready to unleash more explosive destruction" -- I was pretty sure I didn't imagine Julia's giggle -- "targeting the next most sensitive points of the city. Specifically, the Grand Hall, and the Neo-Circuit Power Plant."
"Hey, Neo-Circuit is such a lame name!" Julia protested. "It's called the Electro-Dazzle Happy Boom-Time House of Cheer. My Gym." she added for me. 

And now Julia's Gym was a power station. Worse than that, it was the power station. Meteor or not, the whole area was doomed. I had really taken the wrong end of that choice. 


"This doesn't answer to my question. What are we about to do?"
"Avoid these explosions." Fern replied simply. 
"And boom them instead to teach them a lesson!" Julia almost shouted. 
"So you mean they're inside?"
"Time is being wasted. We must proceed at maximum possible speed. Julia, can we enter?"

The door was shut and padlocked, but this did not seem to faze Julia. She just chose to wear a huge grin, and dropped her flashy green bagpack, which I had somehow managed not to notice. She pulled out a few red batons, a matchbox, and -- oh.



At least the door was open now, even though my ears rang too much to hear whichever oversophisticated point Florinia tried to make to Julia, in her usual tone, way too fast for human comprehension.

 "Aren't we going to get in trouble for that?" I asked.


Nobody answered me. I didn't even manage to hear myself. I had to get farther from Julia next time she had that wicked smile. And I had to remember to turn around and put my hands to my ears. I might then be able to keep a somewhat functional hearing. 
Fern entered first of us all, and, almost from reflex, leapt out, whispering:

"Ew, it stinks inside."


Florinia looked at the three of us, grabbed a small slate and an erasable pen in her bag (where had she got them, that was so cool) and wrote for us, in a very neat computer font and rather unbelievably fast:


Our explosive move left you with impaired hearing, therefore improper assessment of your own speaker volume. Your improperly colloquial words were uttered four times as loud as average conversation, within technologically accepted precision bounds.


Well, when you were twice too sophisticated even in writing, something was bound to be very messed up. It just might not be the time to bring it up now.

"How can you even estimate that?" I asked in what seemed like a whisper. 


Florinia wasn't looking at me, but she erased a bit of her slate and completed. It now read:


Your words were uttered three times as loud as average conversation, within technologically accepted precision bounds. Your hearings are recovering. Preliminary layout and chemical analyses will be performed while the process completes. Barring unforeseen circumstances, you may follow me in 109 seconds.

I was confident that the number was mostly guesswork, but I counted nonetheless to give myself some more courage. This decision to assault a factory was starting to feel worse and worse, but I couldn't back off. It would be way too embarrassing, even without thinking about Julia blowing up a repaired train station out of spite.

When I reached 109 seconds, I followed Florinia inside, oblivious to Fern's snicker ("seriously, you counted?"). As the latter had claimed, the factory's smell was dreadful, but I didn't really recognize it. It smelt a bit like rotten food, like garbage, like sulfur. The "entrance hall" of the factory was not very enticing either: there was brown water under us pouring into the lake. Watching the colors, it didn't even seem a stretch to assume the water of the factory to be even worse than the lake water.

As she had predicted, Florinia could now whisper and get heard by all three of us. 


"The wine hue indicates high levels of pollutants. Estimated water toxicity exceeds ninety percent. "
"And the water is just dumped into Azurine Lake. No surprise it's so toxic." interrupted Julia.
"Let's not waste time on the hippie environmental bull. Let's get going." snapped Fern.

That was not merely hippie environmental bull, though. A polluted lake meant a wrecked ecosystem indeed, but clean (or clean-ish) water had been fundamental for civilization's survival at all time in history. So...


How on earth was Reborn City supplied in drinkable water?

Was it, even, supplied? 
Did I
actually want to know?


"We've got to destroy the factory!" replied Julia in a heated voice. "Team Meteor clearly doesn't care at all about the well-being of the city."


Terrorists, anyone?


"The path diverges. The most efficient course of motion for facilitation of thorough investigation and reclamation of this property is a similar bisection of the party." said Florinia without stopping for breath. I wasn't impressed anymore. This was just the kind of sentence she'd utter. 

"Meaning that..." I started, because I couldn't keep up.
"We split up, duh. Listen more carefully. " finished Julia with a reproving tone. "Rini, you'll come with me?" she added, pointing to a path on my right.
"So we'll take the other?" I asked, somewhat rhetorically, at Fern, pointing at the door on my left. 
"Indeed." Florinia replied, leaving. "Proceed with caution."
"I always do, sis." Fern pointed out.
"You were not the intended recipient of my previous statement. Permission for you to be life-endangeringly reckless: granted." the robot girl retorted as goodbye, in as expressive a tone as ever (that is, not at all).




I couldn't help but smile with some satisfaction. That jerk had got it coming. Then it dawned on me. She was his sister. She was telling him, quite clearly, that his safety or well-being, unlike mine, were utterly unconsequential to her at all. That shouldn't have caused me pleasure -- but disgust. How could she not feel ashamed, sullied by her own words? 

There was a simple answer: robots didn't feel, let alone shame.

Note to self: try not to be a robot.

"So, are you coming, or what?" Fern asked me, annoyed and impatient. 
"I'm coming, sorry."


We left the entrance and found ourselves in a much larger hall, with more than ten feet betweeen the floor and the ceiling. There seemed to be hundreds of wooden and metallic shelves, containing a huge variety of tools, small engines, crates, and paper, maybe records of some kind. The entire room seemed mostly occupied by these, leaving us with a rather small corridor to walk in.

"What do you think?" I asked him. 
"We walk, and you be careful."

I wasn't great at subtexts, but even I realized that there were countless things meant with the "you". Most of them negative. Most of them likely deserved, if pre-emptively. I didn't walk on.


"I am sorry about what she said to you. That really wasn't right."
"Not my problem." he replied with levity. "They call her the Flobot, because she's kinda weird. Anyway, she grew up with not enough hugs, but that's nothing to me."
"You can't say that." I protested mildly, trying to not put too much intensity in my voice. "I have a brother, somewhere far. We had been on bad terms for some time -- mostly my fault for being neglectful. It gnawed at us. We made ourselves miserable -- by our own fault. It's slowly mending, but scars remain, even though it was not nearly as bad as your situation. What I mean is: I'm not sure you should say this, it is going to bite you back!"

So much for the lack of intensity. Now Fern had effective mockery ammunition for quite a while. But he didn't answer this way. It might have been better.

"Drop it."

Yeah, I thought. Meet the Fantastic Four, all teamed up to prevent Reborn City from exploding. 

Miss Kablooie, Miss Replicant, Mister Family Issues, and me. 


Grievious Bodily Harm, Cruelty to Family, Mistakenly Cool Person, and The Foreigner Especially from Kalos. 


Such a great omen.









Character ratings: 


Julia: 3/10 (-1). Wildly irresponsible and unconcerned by anything like explosive safety. And she's blackmailing me into following her while I have every good reason not to! And she seems in a terminal phase of coffee addiction. Also, not cool from her not to be nice to Fern. 

Florinia: 5/10. Why does she keep speaking in a technically impressive style that is impossible to understand? And why is she so mean to her brother?

Fern: 4/10 (+3). Well, at least he apologized. Everyone may have a bad day. I didn't like his disparaging remarks on his sister though...


Edited by Mindlack
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Time for Chapter 7, the longest chapter so far. I apologize for it not featuring any screenshots. Let's just say that exploring an enemy base isn't easy for people who never did it before. Also, there's a "surprise guest" at the end of the chapter. So please feel free to give feedback on that scene, if not on the rest, because I'm not sure if I showed him well. 


Anyway, enjoy!






Chapter 7: Recklessness





The room we were standing in was packed with metal shelves, most of them filled. Fern and I could only walk in very narrow corridors, so we did not have much visibility. We were trying to move silently, and cautiously, which probably did not mean anything while we remained in the same corridor. Nobody would notice us in this way, except by looking from above. 

This possibility was unlikely. The shelves were quite a bit taller than us, so nobody would manage to notice us from above, unless we saw them as well. And we checked very regularly that the ceiling was empty. 

This lack of opposition, the relative silence of the room (there were metallic noises every now and then) made me nervous. I dreaded the inevitable moment we would be noticed, because then they would attack us with numbers, and we just wouldn't be able to resist. Why had I accepted to go again?

Those were my thoughts when we arrived at our first crossroads. Fern was a couple of steps behind me, wary as well. I peeked left, then right, and drew my head back in a panicked reflex.

"What, now?" asked Fern, annoyed.
"On the right, there's someone." I told Fern in my most silent voice. 
"Has he seen you?"
"I hope he hasn't."
"Is he continuously watching the corridor?"
"I guess... no" I answered slowly and very softly after drawing my head in and looking right.
"Then let's go left." he suggested. 
"But the depths of the factory are on the right. We can't go left if we want to explore the factory."
"Would you rather go right?" 
"Fair enough." I admitted. 

So we turned left, very carefully and quietly. After a short distance, the path turned left again, seemingly taking us back towards the entrance of the room. Except that it couldn't reach there, because there had been only one path starting from the entrance, so there was soon not going to be any way forward. 
Fern sensed me slowing down.

"I don't know, the path could lead downstairs or something, but I think we're headed to a dead end."
"And? You're really cramping my style with your being always scared of everything."
"Well, they could easily corner us."
"Whatever, man."

Well, no help from him. So I advanced cautiously and found out where the path stopped. It was a barren spot in the room, surrounded by empty shelves and a bit of idle machinery. Very unfortunately, someone was waiting for us at the other end with a sinister expression. 

"You are ours, now." he said in an ominous tone, walking slowly towards us.

He (I thought so, anyway) was all dressed in ill-fitting dark grey clothes. He even had a grey hood masking part of his face. He almost looked like the aspect of a man-eating alien. 

In a panicked reflex, I turned behind, adrenalin kicking in, to try and flee, but it was too late. A second person in grey was already blocking the corridor and slowly walking towards us. We were trapped there. So soon, so stupidly!

"I take it you're Meteors?" I asked after a long breath in as stable a tone as I could manage. I honestly didn't know how it sounded. Probably pityfully tearful.
"We are. And now you're in our power." said the second grunt.
"Who do you freaks think you are anyway?" Fern said in a very annoyed tone. 

Now I could hear the difference between his tone for me and his tone for them. He disliked them more than he disliked me, but he didn't pity them. Fern drew a Pokeball. 

"Budew, make them wish they hadn't met us."
"Goofy, go!" I imitated him, calling my Bidoof, realizing that I had forever ruined whatever credibility I might have left, and whatever semblance of threat I might have had to the Meteor grunts. Maybe it wasn't that bad?

The grunts called a dark (Alolan, from my Pokedex?) Rattata and a Lillipup, an adorable puppy. I had seen pictures of Lillipups before, and they were cute, but you couldn't really compare them to the reality of the Pokemon. 

Except that my two opponents ganged up on Goofy and made him faint without it being able to do anything. At least, that had left a free move to Fern's Budew which he used at best. Hex (my Gulpin) had a better luck (and more importantly, a better bulk), enabling him to poison both of our foes before being taken down. With Hex as fodder, Fern's Sandile didn't need to struggle to end the fight.

The grunts didn't assault us physically. I had the feeling that the Sandile would be happy to bite them as well should they try it. Instead, they retreated, letting us go without a word. I turned to leave as well, my adrenaline levels returning to normal, but Fern stopped me. 

"Give me your Pokemon" he said in a hard voice.
"Uh, what?" I asked, not exactly expecting him to take my Pokemon.
"So that I can heal them." he answered, exasperated. "We'll likely have a few more grunts to defeat and we -- you, at least -- don't have enough Pokemon to serve as fodder for me. You better deliver next time. If you slow me down again, I'll leave you behind."
"My Pokemon being fodder helped you attack." I protested rather half-heartedly, thinking that he was right. "And the Gulpin's Poison Gas really helped."


So we cautiously made our way back to the famous crossroads, only for me to notice that there was no one watching any more. Maybe the guard had been one of the grunts we had defeated. So we chose right, and kept walking very cautiously between shelves. In spite of my (or rather, mostly Fern's) former victory, I kept feeling extremely nervous. The utter silence of the room, the poor visibility in the narrow corridors made up, just kept terrifying me. We ended up at a crossroads again. 


"So what do you think?" I asked Fern in a whisper. "Unless there are stairs or something, left is likely to be a dead end. Right should make us closer to the center of the factory, so we have a better chance to join the others."
"Let's try and meet up with them. The faster, the better."

I didn't voice my agreement. It didn't seem relevant to any of us anyway. It wasn't long before we saw the entrance to a stairwell. That was good; we were making progress. What wasn't so good, however, was that everything was clear near the stairwell. There would be another Meteor embush, better equipped than the one we had broken through. They would have more Pokemon...
My fears were confirmed when automatic doors somehow appeared out of thin air when we were a few yards away and sealed the stairwell. 

"How does it go again?" asked the obligatory Meteor grunt, looking at us and at their partner behind us.
Great, they were two again. It could have been worse, though. 
"You shall not pass!" the Meteor roared as I was turning my back on him, making me jump. 
"Don't yell." commented wearily a third Meteor grunt, unambiguously a woman, (not that it mattered). 
"Tara's right, Bruno. We don't have the most exciting orders in the world, but you're being a pain." said a fourth grunt. 


Bad. There were four of them. And they were chatting as if we were small fry, which we definitely were. This did not bode well for us. 


"Two each." whispered sensibly Fern to me, not in a questioning tone. "Be useful, for once."

There was no point either in disputing Fern's assessment of me or in surrendering with a full team. Better try fighting. 
It turned out that my team could not handle well Rock-type Pokemon -- come on, I totally should have seen it coming -- which, since I was facing an Aron and a strong Alolan Grimer, was not a good sign. Very fortunately, Tailor's (Mincinno) Tickles and Hex's delayed sleeping spells managed to weaken my opponents enough for even not effective moves to cause damage. 

Fern's offense was more effective than mine : he had won his battle easily a few minutes before I did. After their defeat, even outnumbering us, the four grunts did not try to wrestle us into submission, even though they would have stood a better chance of success. We were free, but we couldn't go on. 
"Excuse me." I asked the Meteors, trying for it to sound polite and normal, instead of nervously terrified. "Do you know how... the stairwell opens?" Fern facepalmed.
"Sure we do." The grunt someone had named Bruno said, smiling. "But we won't tell you."
Oh well. It had been worth a try. 


Fern and I tried to walk back our path, to completely search the room for any opening mechanism, but we were blocked at the narrow entrance of the corridor, but Tara and the fourth grunt were faster than us and blocked the path. 
"Would you mind letting us leave, please?" I asked again, politely, without much hope. 
"Yes, we would." The man answered very seriously. 
"Gabriel, seriously." Fern spat, with ever more condescension and annoyance than before. "Where do you think you are? They're murderous terrorists. Of course they won't let you go like that. Let me show you how you do it." He drew a Pokeball. "Rowlet, Razor Leaf."
The grunts did not wait to check whether he was bluffing and instantly threw themselves out of the way.

So we rushed through the corridor and made our way back to the last intersection, where we took left instead of right. Now that no one else was in sight, my heart rate slowed down and Fern and I were able to heal our Pokemon without any interruption. Predictably enough, after a few turns, there was another empty space ahead, bordered by seemed machinery. 
"There are going to be Meteors there." I stated, and called Goofy again. 
"So what? Get a move on." replied Fern, behind me, infallibly polite, before calling his Budew. 
There were indeed two Meteor grunts, but they did not oppose any strong resistance. Also not worthy of mention was my failed attempt to pry information from them about the stairwell. Fern, on the other hand, always the practical person, had starting looking at the machinery.

"Over there, look!" he called.
He was looking at the blue screen of what could barely be called a computer. There were no printer or mouse, no actual keyboard, simply four directional arrows and one "enter" key. The interface was more than crude; it reminded me of old Windrowsee recovery screens, but somehow the displayed information and options were even less clear. 
Obviously, nobody would try to use such a system for anything, unless it was carefully documented. Hopefully, the documentation wouldn't be too far from the actual system, else it would have been inconvenient... 
While I was searching the nearby machines and shelves, under the mocking watch of the grunts (who didn't intervene for some reason though), Fern was trying to make the "computer" open the lock to the stairwell. Judging from his swearing, it wasn't exactly going well. 

"Hey, have a look at that." I showed Fern a sheet of plastic I had found. 
He looked at it and tried something on the information system. 
"You might be slightly less useless than you look like, you know."
"Is that a compliment?" I asked back in a very innocent tone.
"And... done. Get a move on, we're going back to the stairs."
"Er, aren't they going to lock the door again as soon as we've left?" I asked him, lower.
"No, I forced the doors open. You need to override everything to shut the doors, and if we hurry they won't have the time."
Out of the blue, Fern ran for the stairwell and, while I was somewhat taken aback by the sudden move, I followed him after grabbing the system documentation -- it could be useful, if only to delay the Meteors locking the access to the stairwell. For some reason, the four grunts we had previously met did not try to stop us and we hurried up the stairs. 


Of course, the exit of the stairwell was sealed. More worryingly, we couldn't exit any more through our entry point. The doors had been sealed again and there was no device in sight to open them. 
"I got a bad feeling about this." I muttered. 
"Chill out, you're afraid of your own shadow." Fern snapped helpfully (but alas, he wasn't lying). 
"Do you have any idea what we're risking? Or is it just Tuesday for you?"
"With these guys out there, we're risking our lives anyway. Better risk them doing something helpful. "

Great. So either he was a paragon, or he was just good at finding reasons on the spot to justify his risk-addiction.

"So what are we going to do with the door? We can't just break it open, it looks rather sturdy and we'd be losing any kind of surprise." I asserted, before realizing that the Meteors seemed to have had orders for us -- oh Arceus, we were so doomed.
"We can't stay trapped here. Do you have a better idea?" he asked, almost earnestly. 
"Well, your Sandile can get into Rage, Goofy and Baby can charge up power with Rollout and Echoed Voice respectively... Wolfgang can try Fury Cutting... No idea if it is going to be enough."


The door was very sturdy indeed, and after over fifteen minutes of increasingly noisy and somewhat desperate attempts, we weren't any closer to breaking it open. Fortunately, we did not need to: we had disturbed the grunts on the other side so much that the prospect of exacting revenge on us made them break the rules. 
They opened the door for us. They let us into the room, which was in the same style as the one on the ground floor, but with more empty space. They outnumbered us three to one. This was not going to be a fun time. And they... sent their Pokemon. 

Whyyyyyyyyy? They could have so easily bashed both of our heads in! "It was an accident, leader. They fell down the stairs." "Yeah, they were so decadent and blind to the Real Truth Of The WorldTM that they managed to fall all the way down the stairs backwards and head-first." 

We hadn't fought so unbalanced a battle before, but Fern and I managed to do quite well (it was mostly him doing the job though, my own adrenaline rush caused me to freeze at random and my Pokemon were left to fend for themselves -- an actually effective way for me to "snap out of it"), to the amazement of the grunts.
"Come on."
"There's no way."
"We're six and they're two and barely adult, for Arceus's sake."
"One of them is like a Deerling in headlights."


"How about a deal?" Fern suggested, somehow still looking in control. "You let us go, Sandile doesn't bite you, we don't ever mention the thing."

Why had they accepted his "offer"? There just wasn't a point. They were, as a whole, more dangerous to us than we could be to them, just because they were six and we were two -- well, more like one and a half. Why was Fern tempting fate, with that kind of condescension towards serious, hardened, criminals? Ohcrap we were so going to die horribly. 
No. I've got Pokemon and they don't have them. I can at least look like I'll fight, that wouldn't at least undermine Fern's bargaining position?


I took a deep breath and tried to look in control and grimly determined. I wished I could see my face to see how stupid it looked. 
"So the baby has finally stopped crying?" a Meteor remarked, answering my untold question.

I let a smile creep up my face, hoping not to look too self-deprecating or plain resigned. I probably failed. Fortunately, Fern looked serious enough for two. Where had he got such guts? I needed lessons. 

"What's even the point in keeping us?" I asked them. "You won't be able to do it for long, now."
"We have orders."
"And Sandile is going to bite you if you keep abiding them." Fern replied, more angrily. 
"You can't overpower the six of us." a Meteor answered with grim satisfaction. 


This was when a huge roar echoed deeply in the building, making the floor and walls vibrate for quite a while. 
"What was that?" asked the same Meteor, now quite shaken, to the confusion of the other Meteors who turned to him. 

Fern recognized the opportunity and made a dash for a break in the circle, aligned with the exit. I steeled myself and started running at the same time, definitely not because I was looking at him for directions. Fern got clear into the corridor, but a Meteor managed to grab my arm. I panicked, pulled harder and managed to lose him. But Fern was well before me, I had no idea where he was going, and I was nearing a crossroads. 

Right or left?

If my on-the-fly orientation sense wasn't too flawed, right would lead me again to the wing of the building. We would be more isolated. Bad choice. So I went left, and was rewarded after a mad sprint with an out-of-breath Fern and a locked door just like on the other floor.

"Panel... must be... right." Fern managed to articulate between his heavy breaths. Maybe he was a fighter, but he wasn't as much used to running.
"Do you want me to go?" I offered, breathing deeply, but not out of control. "You kept... the directions for opening the doors, right?"
"Can't split... Easier... for them."
"How about this: you look out for them at the crossroads and you prevent them from approaching. Meanwhile, I run back the other part of the corridor and unlock the door, rush back to you and we do the last run together."
"Might work... Heal first... But you... better fight." he snapped breathlessly.
"I will." I answered after a deep breath. I tried to sound steady and confident. 






That evening: 





A few miles away, a tall man with premature wrinkles and short dark hair, with a slight touch of that dark purple video game makers liked to associate with darkness, was calling his daughter. He looked detached from the world, as if already in the realm of dead. He had been wearing that look ever since the tragedy that befell him, ten years ago. He was Corey, Reborn City's official Gym Leader for the Poison type, and he lived in the Beryl Ward. 


It had been painful to him to raise his daughter alone, a living reminder of his terrible loss. Every look he had at her was heart-breaking. But, for his sake as much as hers -- and for the sake of your memory, he thought at his long dead love -- he had to keep her in line and instruct her of the ways of the world. Not too much, not too fast, for her sake. To build something, or someone, to bear a horrifyingly heavy burden, the construction had to be carefully planned, not exerting too much of a strain until it was ready. 


Heather had found her late mother's Pokemon a few months ago. Corey, of course, had taken good care of them for a while, but after a few years, even thinking of them became painful and their training sessions became sparser and sparser. Heather's choice didn't please Corey at all. These strong Pokemon would lull her into a false sense of safety. After all, all their strength did little to help their previous owner. If anything, he thought, they were instrumental to her downfall.


Even so, he hadn't yet figured out a way take the Pokemon away from Heather without deceit. He wasn't so sure he could brush up the subject without looking tearful, weak -- and this would mean the end of his authority on Heather, the end of everything. But now. Now he had the opportunity.

"Yes, Father?" Heather asked, eyes wandering, never really daring to look him into the eye. 
"In the afternoon, half the Peridot Ward noticed a deafening Salamence yell." his voice was deep. 
Heather felt her pulse speed up. She had been riding her mother's Salamence in the afternoon but hadn't noticed a sound. That was because the sheer volume of the Dragon Pokemon's scream had deafened her for a few minutes. This, she had noticed, and she had flown back home. 

"I heard no such sound, Father." Heather answered carefully. 
"Heather, did you stay inside while I was going to my appointment at the Grand Hall, as I asked you?" Corey asked. 
"No, Father." Heather had already noticed she wasn't a good liar. There was little point to try again. 
"I assume that it was your mother's Salamence who screamed, temporarily disabling your hearing." Corey stated. He could see Heather's eyes widen, his daughter taking it in... It was time for the conclusion. "This Pokemon, all of your mother's Pokemon." he pursued, voice harder. "They are too wild and too strong for you. They could hurt you without noticing. I cannot leave you with them."
"Father!" Heather protested half-heartedly, as she knew that her father's decision was final. 
"No, Heather. These Pokemon are too dangerous to you. When you are older."







Character ratings:


Fern: 6/10 (+1). While he's pointlessly (not wrongly) rude, he is a capable battler. And I wouldn't have made it so far without him. 




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Chapter 8: War Declaration



"Sandile, Budew, out... Keep wary. Rowlet, further... in the corridor... warn me... if they're coming... Be... discrete." Fern panted. 


I walked in the path we had neglected, taking left instead of right at the crossroads. I tried to be confident, quiet and fast. There were probably no grunts there, and I had the instructions for the panel control. It would work fine.


It was funny how trying to make up reassurances for myself helped sped up time. Or perhaps the computer was just this close. And the area was empty. Perhaps all of the grunts in the room had been toying with us and none had checked the computer. 

Everything in me screamed of a trap. But I had no other choice than unlock the computer. I took a good look at the sheet of plastic, trying to keep myself aware of my still desert surroundings. My hands nervously clutching Pokeballs, I paced briskly to the computer, then stopped abruptly to look around. There still was no one. Better finish it quickly.


As I was almost done, I froze altogether. There had been some sort of familiar noise? Wings flapping, I decided, even though it sounded less healthy than in my memory. This was when Fern's Rowlet, with more bruises than I remembered, crashed at around the entrance of the corridor. He had probably travelled either over, or in the shelves. But why had he not gone to Fern? Oh, right. Murphy's law.

I hit the few last necessary keys to unlock the door and I sprinted -- discretion was probably unnecessary -- with the Rowlet on my shoulder, doing a great job at keeping me unstable, and keeping one Pokeball in each hand, ready to be thrown. My steps were echoing abnormally, but it didn't seem relevant at this point. 


"What happened?" asked Fern.
"Your Rowlet crashed in front of me. Looks like they got him."
"So they're after us?"
"I don't know, I can't hear or see them. I'm afraid so."
"Why didn't you say it earlier?" he snapped, exasperated, recalling both the Sandile and the Budew. 

And we ran for the door, ran without any pursuers. Maybe the grunts had become bored. Maybe they had chosen another path to sucker-punch us into submission. There were, of course, more depressing answers, but they didn't cross my mind, since it was a rather short dash. The door was open. There was no telling what was behind. But we didn't want to stay in. 


While Fern went through the instructions to try and meaningfully lock the door, I tried to explore the room we had entered. It was long, dim-lit and rather narrow, with four exits overall, one per wall. Ours was on one of the narrow sides: with a bit of luck, Florinia and Julia would spring out of the other... Or they already had and had gone on exploring and dismantling and reclaiming the factory. The door on our left was quite different. It seemed stronger, and the control panel seemed much more elaborate than what we had met. It probably wouldn't let itself open. In contrast, the last exit seemed much more normal and we could probably have gone there on our own. 


"Ok, I've done all I could do." Fern stated grimly. "They'll just need a couple of minutes to force it open on the other end, but it's better than nothing."
"Thanks. What do you think we should do next? This room looks quite central: do we wait for Julia and Florinia to make it here?"
Upon uttering the words, I realized they were idiotic. There were so many possibilities for them, so many paths they could have taken, so many possible decoys in the building's architecture precisely to thwart people just like us...


Undeniably because of some ominous ulterior motive, fate spared me Fern's reply, as Julia popped out of the door opposite us, followed by a much more serious-looking Florinia. From her bearing, an outside observer might have pinned her as a world-class secret agent from movies, or as a forensics analyst immune to anything by virtue of "having seen it all".

"You're here." Julia said simply. "Good. Any trouble?"
"A lot of grunts, a bit too many at each time. Not much machinery." Fern answered. "Gabriel was rather useless though."
"In the last room, they stopped pursuing us for some reason, after locking us in the stairwell. Then they freed us, we went a bit showy with the Pokemon battles... And they stopped going after us." I added. "And Fern's comment on me probably isn't entirely undeserved." I concluded with a sad smile. 
"Nonsense." Julia replied, to my unspoken surprise. "I am sure you did very well. Anyway, we got few Meteors, but lots of machinery. We had to get creative to destroy it stealthily. We think we've got it all. You wouldn't believe where Florinia has made me hide the boomers. "
"Meteor headquarters confirmed beyond gate." Florinia said in a business-as-usual tone, pointing at the unusual gate before us, as if the previous conversation had not existed.

"Now, it's just a matter of opening it!" Julia answered with cheerful but steely determination. "I just can't blow it up, I've used all the explosives on the machinery."
"Regardless, after preliminary inspection of the facility's safety features, the digital security system appears sub-standard enough for a practical brute force search to be sufficient. Please hold." Florinia replied.


With all the detachment in the world, she walked the two steps to the control panel and started typing furiously -- even though she clearly wasn't furious. I watched her and felt, as again useless. I had seen my fair share of PokeWood movies hackers. They were always the cool people, able to disassemble security systems, to reduce them to their brute components, and bypassing them with utmost class. And I was left in helpless wonder. While growing up, and learning a slight bit about how computers actually worked, I realized that none of the people working to make these scenes had actual computer security knowledge or know-how, that it was just for show and didn't work like that in real life. Except that nobody seemed to have told Florinia. She kept mashing the controls with the same speed and precision as a world-class piano player. 


"That's all good and well," Julia commented, "but we aren't going to wait here forever for her to succeed. It could take hours!"
"Estimated time of success: within thirty-eight minutes and five seconds."
"I'm not staying here that long!" Fern protested. "Isn't there another, quicker, way?"
"Even the less important doors were Pokemon-proof, remember? We couldn't break them."
"Wait. Team Meteor is planning further demolitions, you remember?" Julia asked us.
Please, how about no?
"And if so, they would have explosives", Fern completed, pensive, instead of pointing to Julia how dreadful an idea it was. "We didn't find any in our way in. You?"
No, no, no...
"We didn't either." Julia reported. "So they should be over there!" she added enthusiastically, pointing at the fourth exit. "Fern, Gabriel, would you mind having a look?"
"No problem." Fern answered. "Gabriel, you're coming?"

I really didn't want to. On the other hand, it would be awkward if I kept looking alternately at Florinia's hand and at the panel, trying to understand the pattern, as I had done so far. Why did it have to happen to me? For explosives, of all things!

"Okay." I decided against my own idea of sanity after a couple of seconds. 
"Why does your solution to every problem involve combustion?" Florinia asked in as emotional a tone as ever, not looking at us but at the keyboard and the screen. 
"Fun for the whole family?" Julia suggested.
"Quicker this way. We need to go." Fern stated. 


I followed Fern with little motivation in the other room. Its layout was quite similar to the previous rooms we had been in. This was not a good sign; I was not eager to fight eight grunts at a time, which would probably be the case should the pattern go on. The main difference was that we didn't meet any crossroads and that the shelves themselves were emptier. We weren't therefore exactly surprised when two grunts, in a slightly less narrow space, assaulted us with a Crabrawler and a Minior, both Pokemon I hadn't known before the moment. And I learnt to fear them.

Fern had focused on the crab Pokemon, while I had decided to try and weaken the rock ball, with Tailor's (the Minccino) Baby-Doll Eyes. It hadn't prevented the crab Pokemon to knock out my Tailor in two moves, and, afterwards, for the Minior to go on a Rollout rampage, fainting each time one of my Pokemon. Fortunately, this provided a sound diversion for Fern, whose Budew took his time draining the health out of the Minior. 

Phew. That had been close. 


We had not had any other encounter in the room when we found some explosives. There was a large box filled with them where they were carefully lined up. Please someone let me out before we have an accident. I was clumsy. I wouldn't carry the explosives even for a minute if someone paid me all the gold in the world. For a return trip to Kalos, on the other hand...

"What exactly do you want with our bombs?" asked an inevitable Meteor grunt, maybe more polite than most others. 
"Get out of here!" their partner yelled. 


We weren't exactly intimidated by now. Fern hadn't really been at any point. And I had adapted: obviously, they would just draw their Pokeballs, we would defeat them probably without too much trouble, and they would stop bothering us and let us take the bombs for some reason.

That battle turned out to be as challenging as the previous one: when the grunts sent Solrock and Lunatone, I assumed that Wolfgang's lovingly handcrafted Fury Cutters would obliterate them in a heartbeat. This didn't take into account the fact that somehow, the floating rocks were faster and focused their effective attacks on him. Wolfgang fell before starting to act. The next best move undoubtedly was to do the same as for the Minior. Tailor would just weaken their moves while Fern's Budew drained them. That Pokemon was a boon. 

It worked beautifully. 


"You really can't do anything." Fern replied. "Let me take the explosives before you wet yourself just looking at them. You'll have to be my bodyguard, though."
I ignored him and we made our way back without any complications -- that is, there wasn't any need for me to show to any opponent my lack of fighting spirit and my willingness to let Fern do all the work. 


"There you go, crazy lady." Fern said before laying carefully the box full of explosives before Julia. 
"Yay, there's so much of them, we don't even have to use them all."


She picked sticks out of the box and put them all over the door. She took a lighter, grabbed all of the fuses, which she had tied together. 


"Everybody step back, and that counts for you too Rini!" she said with cheerful expectation. 


Florinia ignored her. Fern and I obeyed. I went as far as a could in the room, turned by back and put my fingers in my ears.


"Rini, it's going to be dangerous near the door, get clear." she repeated, more earnestly.


Florinia did not move. 


"Okay, well." she sighed. "You'll have maybe five seconds when the fuse is lit." She produced fire with the lighter and approached the fuses. "Three. Two. One, and..."


The door opened without a deafening boom (so I turned round and got my fingers out of my ears). 
"Access granted. Let us proceed." Florinia observed. 
"Hey, you're no fun! What about the booms? You can't do that to me, Rini!"
"Who cares how the door opened?" Fern replied, always conscious to alienate any temporary allies he might have. "Let's go."


Without any kind of hesitation, all three went through the opened door to whatever (or whoever) was waiting on the other side. I was alone in the room for a while, and I contemplated leaving instead, not going to danger. These three were insane. They rushed in almost blind, with no idea what could happen to them... 


Yes, but would I manage to leave on my own? Sometimes I hated my inner, objective (or was it my inner, idiotically reckless?) voice. Wasn't safety in numbers my best chance, with the two Gym leaders? 

The decision cost me a long, chilly shiver, endlessly vibrating along my spine (or lack thereof). I took a deep breath and followed everyone through the door. 

It was obviously the command post of the factory. There were archaic screens and controls everywhere in the rather small room. There were three other people inside. Two were Meteor grunts currently sitting, seemingly working with some controls, judging from their uniform. The third one was more worrying. He might have half an inch above the tallest of us and didn't look muscular, so he wasn't really physically impressive. But there was some sort of quality about him that rung huge alarm bells. 

You want to be ANYWHERE but here! LEAVE at ONCE!


Maybe it was some air of power and confidence -- they usually were downfalls of villains, but mostly in stories only. Maybe it was the eye-patch that made him look like a blood-thirsty pirate from three centuries ago. Maybe it was the Minior floating around. It was, without the shadow of a doubt, much, much stronger than the one we had met. It would tear through our Pokemon without the slightest difficulty, at least for Fern and I. Overall, the sight made me extremely nervous, hands clutched on my Pokeballs, breathing faster, but I tried to look collected and determined -- at least, I didn't run screaming.


"Are you the one in charge here?" Julia asked the pirate, with (somewhat shockingly) an actually stern voice. 
"And if I am?" he answered with a detached air, as if we all were a negligible quantity. Which we might well be!
"We're gonna blow your face off for what you did to Grandview Station!" Julia added, looking like she meant it. Wait, so there actually was, somewhere, a Serious Julia inside the explosive maniac?

"Tell me," the pirate said as in a casual conversation. "What power do you think you have to do so?" he asked, his gaze stopping briefly on each of us, as if to assess us. 
"Just who do you think you are, anyway?" Julia asked, now really annoyed.
The other one's words' significance would come much later, but already they had a very ominous sound to them. They were a war declaration.


"You know already. We are Team Meteor. And we do not relent. Don't think you got through this place on your own ability. We let you go. We had no intention of defeating you. Our purpose here is forfeit already. Regardless, we had to let you in, because you needed a demonstration."
"Let us in?" Julia asked, glancing at Florinia who was simply watching. 
"You did not hack our security system." the pirate answered. "You would have been foolish to think so. We slowed you down enough for operators to delete all mission-critical data. Then..." he cut off and his tone grew more confident, more coldly contemptous. It gave me another long shiver. "We overestimated your strength. Time was ample. We grew tired of waiting. Now, onto other matters..."

His voice grew harsher, more commander-like. 


"Aster, Eclipse. Go babysit." he ordered the two grunts, looking at Fern and I. "I'll handle the Gym Leaders."
"Okay." acknowledged one of the grunts, with a rather feminine voice. They could be a woman.
"Yessir!" the other grunt said with a clearly male (and enthusiastic) voice. "For Team Meteor!" he chanted.


The two grunts attacked Fern and I with Rockruffs, stronger than everything we had defeated in the factory so far, and the strategy, once again, was absolutely clear -- Fern and I had just had a similar battle. I wore them out, Budew swept. 

Except that this time, instead of trying to hit my Pokemon (the Bidoof, Goofy), the Rockruffs focused on the Budew and took him out with rocks and a Fire Fang, while Bidoof Growled. Fern winced and called his Sandile, but I kept to the plan. Another Growl, and Bidoof would start rolling. 
Except that Fern's Sandile just wasn't strong enough to weaken the Rockruffs enough and got hit too much, too quickly. 

"Do something, for once." Fern barked at me, sending the Rowlet.  
"I'm on it!" I whispered back.

He needn't have worried. The Rowlet's heartfelt Razor Leaf caused massive damage to our opponents, almost knocking them out. While somewhat delayed, Bidoof's offense was ready and could handle the last part, even though the Rockruffs, again, focused on Fern's starter. 


Fern had lost all of his Pokemon, but he had done his damage and left little enough for even me to handle easily. Overall, we had five Pokemon in perfect health. Enough to help Florinia and Julia deal with the Meteor higher-up. Outside the fury and chaos of our own Pokemon battle, we could more easily watch them fighting the pirate guy. They fought well, as Gym Leaders should, but their opponent's Pokemon was every bit a match for them. 

"Minior, Rollout!" 
Oh no. They would be so wrecked.

Except that the Minior did not target Julia's Electrode or Florinia's Cradily. For some reason, it hit at the wall. 


"So you two lost already." The Meteor higher-up scolded his grunts. "How disappointing." he said, exactly as though he did not care in the slightest. "It was amusing, at least. You should remember, anyway." His tone grew very, very serious again. "Team Meteor does not forgive." The Minior hit the wall a second time. He was going to make his escape this way? Just how strong was the Minior to break the walls? Could we try and stop it?



At the third iteration of the Rollout, the Minior blasted through the wall with a deafening crash, shaking the entire structure. All four of us lost our footing and coughed in the thick smoke of out-of-control power -- or maybe helped by the guy's Seviper, who was out. As if repeating a long-practised escape plan, the three Meteors strided outside and disappeared. 

"Is he gone?" Julia asked after a couple of minutes, after we managed to get up again and hear one another. 
"Affirmative." Florinia answered, calling her Pokemon back. 
"Great job, Electrode!" Julia mimicked her. "Now, on more serious matters..." she inspected the room. 

It was deserted, with all of the electronics wrecked. Julia left the room briefly and came back with the full box of explosives. Oh...

"When should we start leaving?" I asked, voice still shaky about the whole experience. And oblique threats. And the explosives, of course. 
"About now." Julia said after an endless minute she spent laying out the explosives and the fuses -- with a very, very long general fuse. "I'm giving it a couple of minutes when I light it."
"Which is the fastest way out? We had to lock the door from our side and the controls likely won't respond. Even though it was quick. " Fern asked, always the practical person. 
"Breloom." Florinia said simply. 

Her Pokemon went outside in a heartbeat and, after a brief time for focus, went out and sent a single punch that shattered the door. Well, that was good to know. She could have lent it to us earlier, couldn't she?

"Now there's a way." Fern noticed, deadpan. 
"Okay, you should all start running now." Julia trumpeted. 


Please don't let me die here. I rushed after Fern and Florinia and just before Julia (because she hadn't lit the fuse yet). Fern recalled the necessary turns to Florinia and I repeated them to Julia. We were in the nick of time: the factory exploded not fifteen seconds after our boomie-maniac got out. 

"That was loud." I muttered, rubbing my ears and fearing the oncoming headaches (and, just maybe, nightmares). 
"That's a wrap! Go team." Julia kept trumpeting, even louder than usual due to her temporarily weakened hearing.  
"If you're done with the pyrotechnics, I'm out." Fern said. "I can't just be there and look useless, like Gabriel. Peace."

Peace? Was that a common farewell formula?

"Way to sour the mood." Julia noticed bitterly. 

Not that he was wrong.

"That is one of his few veritable compentencies." Florinia supplied, always the nice big sister. "Nonetheless, Obsidia requires further investigation, which I will attend to."
"Okay." Julia said, with perhaps slightly less enthusiasm as I was used to. "I know you've been busy since graduation, but it's nice to hang out like old times."
"And equally destructive." Florinia completed the unfinished sentence. "However, sentimentalities remain counter-productive." She turned to me. "Gabriel, did you observe terrain-variant effects during your confrontations?"
"Not really." I answered, taken aback. "Well, there was that Thunder Fang that seemed somewhat stronger than I expected. I think Julia's Electric moves made the lights flicker too?"
"Recently, many Trainers have started documenting the specific attributes, the Field Effects, of each environment." The school headmaster was back, it seemed. "A PokeGear application was created for the purpose of cataloguing them, which you should keep and update. Some field researchers might have interesting data for it. Please let me install the beta version on your device."
"Wait, Rini." Julia protested. "You told me that the only info currently in the app was on my Gym's Field! Are you trying to give Gabriel a lead on me?"
"I will report today's proceedings to Ame. Farewell." Florinia elegantly failed to answer Julia and left.

Julia sighed. Her friend had never been so distant, so unreachable. She needed help, but she didn't know what kind to provide... She had appearances to keep up, at least.
"Rini, if you want to sass me, do it with style!" she shouted, while Miss Replicant ignored her (or maybe didn't hear). "Well, never mind." the Electric Gym Leader added after a deep sigh. "Thanks for your help anyway. I'll head back to the Gym, now that it won't blow up when I don't want it to... I'll see you soon."

And Julia left, leaving me rather baffled. I hadn't exactly been useful. I had mostly been like a Deerling in headlights. Still, a question kept haunting me. Why hadn't we blown up the factory before confronting pirate guy?







Character ratings:


Fern: 5/10 (-1). Still very capable, capable enough for two. But needlessly mean, and too eager to play with explosives. 

Florinia: 7/10 (+2). On the one hand, yay, hackers! On the other hand, what's the point of bad-mouthing her brother when she could just be silent? 

Julia: 4/10 (+1). She's capable and not entirely safety-unconscious at least. I still don't like her blackmail.

"Pirate Guy": 1/10. Who is this guy? Is he really the monster responsible for Grandview? While he's somewhat impressive (unfortunately, not in a good sense), he hasn't been acting normally even for an antagonist. Overall, I'm glad we all got out of there alive. 






And now, I sadly introduce the new extra, the death count. As I explained, this counts the number of defeats (or more precisely, save-scums for the purpose of avoiding in-game defeat) in my run. 


Death count: 


Mosswater Factory (+1): It's a bit stupid. I went through the factory several times, to decide how I would write the experience from Gabriel's viewpoint. That Minior/Crabrawler battle was always a tricky one, but, while I had managed to win on first try each time, I got beaten on my last playthrough. I got a mixture of bad luck and poor strategic choices, so the Rollout Minior ended up killing my team. If you look at the team views, it's quite easy to notice that I don't have much to counter Rock-types. 

Total: 1


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On 10/12/2019 at 10:08 AM, Mindlack said:

Something else is worth mentioning: the fanfiction (and thus playthrough) is going to be quite slow-paced. For some comparison: I've been preparing a few chapters and it's more or less going to take twice as much text to get to Julia (probably Chapter 9) as in Vanilla's adventures. 

*sweats* I'm assuming you've not read the latest season of Vanilla's adventures, because Season 1 went pretty quick but it kinda started dragging big time once I added the Everland's Underworld lore, not to mention me taking literal months to produce single episodes *sweats again*

anyhow, great to see more fan fictions / playthroughs in the forums~ 😄

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Hello Candy! Thank you for your comment.

I definitely read most of Vanilla's adventures, but my post's estimate was indeed based on the beginning of your Season 1, because it was the easiest one to access it corresponded to the only part where I had a clear enough outline. The whole content so far corresponds to roughly 40 Word pages, possibly more, which is, if I recall correctly the rough comparisons I had made, about the double of what you wrote up to Julia. 

I think the comparison is going to hold until Corey at least, maybe till Pyreous Mountain (although that point is well beyond what I've planned for ). 


But hopefully I'll have been stockpiling chapters so that I won't need months for episodes. 😇

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So it's time for the... well... long-expected moment, where you can all see for yourself how much Gabriel is worth as a Trainer. After some 35-40 pages (the counting is quite shaky), he's finally going to get to fight Julia. 







Chapter 9: Power Madness




It was now late in the afternoon, and my team, however rested, probably wasn't ready to take on Julia. But still, I could have a look at the Gym and train there, maybe even watch her battle to get an idea of what I would be facing. 

The good news was that the Gym was open and that the other challenger hadn't been kicked out without a battle. The bad news was that he was leaving with a very sour mood, and that the Gym, whatever its actual purpose (a real power plant? in such working conditions? I could hardly bring myself to believe it), was decorated in Julia's style. 

Every wall, even the floor, was painted in bright yellow, making the room almost too bright for naked eyes. There were banners of flashy colors, pink, green, some electric bleue as well in every corner of the room. The room was loud with noises of explosions (and a couple of suspicious small smoke clouds) and, indeed, the loud humming of an electric generator. Clearly, this wasn't a Gym. It was a custom war declaration to me, to which there was only one reasonable answer: back off. 

Which is why I first inquired about the other challenger. 

"Hey! How did your battle go?"
"I flunked it." he answered, annoyed. "I don't know what she'd been up to, but she was just buzzing with energy when the battle started. Anyway I started beating her lesser Pokemon without too much trouble... There was a Minun, a Plusle, a Voltorb -- and then she sent her Electrode. And it just started blasting through my team. It set up and swept. I couldn't stop it."
"Oh, I'm sorry. So her ace actually mowed your team down?"
"No, the others had actually made a bit of a dent. There's this field she uses... she gets insane buffs."
"You mean, the field effect really helps the Gym leader's strengths and removes their weaknesses? Ame told me it was supposed to be fair to the challengers."
"Hah." he spat. "It might have been fair if I had been informed about the precise effects of the field before the battle. As is, it's clearly not."
"I might have some info, if you're interested." I offered, thinking of Florinia's parting gift. "I don't know either what the field does, but we can find out together."

I took my Pokegear out, selected the Field Effects application and selected the Read-Out for the Electric Terrain. 


"All this??" I couldn't help but almost shout. "How do they actually expect challengers, newcomers, to assimilate all this, and prepare counterstrikes to whatever the Gym leaders come up with?"
"Here at the Reborn League, we strive to provide the challengers many flavors of difficulty, for a more profitable experience." my companion answered in a flat voice, fakely cheerful, an advertiser's exact voice. "They must beat seasoned fighters -- our Gym leaders -- in conditions of their choosing, whose exact details the challengers must figure out. We also endeavor to sensitize them to numerous issues regarding city planning, family issues and mental health care."

I snickered. Even though there probably wasn't anything funny there. It just could be the truth. Please no.


"Also," he added, serious again. "The device right there communicates with the Grand Hall. Someone can give you some tidbits of advice. I didn't think it helped much, but you never know."

He left, clearly disappointed about his defeat. As he suggested, I tried to contact the Grand Hall with the device, and Ame herself answered. As he said, she didn't provide much useful information. She recalled that it would be an uphill battle and that Julia would have six Pokemon. She also rephrased into understandable information what I had picked up from the Read-Out. So, Julia's explosions would be strengthened and her electric moves too. And I didn't have anything that could reliably tank any of them. Great.

Ame's advice was "to go with a full team and high HP Pokemon to tank the hits and whittle her down". I thought that not even Rot itself could claim to be able to whittle Julia down. The Gym leader's dynamism was like an ancient hero: never doing anything half-way. 

Regardless, I had to somehow go forward in the Gym. The door before me was not unlike the lesser ones I had met at the factory, but it was closed. It was probably a standard model from Reborn itself or somewhere neighboring. If so, there had to be some control panel somewhere. Except that the rest of the available space was mostly empty. There was a lab person doing something at the end, and no trace of a control panel. There seemed to be only one thing to do. 

"Excuse me?" I asked the tech.
"Be careful!" he turned abruptly to me and seized his Pokeballs. "Everything is going to blow in your face!"

Oh. He was a Gym trainer. Maybe he'd help me anyway. 

He was actually quite tough. His two Sonic-Booming Voltorbs made quite a dent in my team, because of the strength of the move. Except that when Wolfgang Bid his time and took revenge, the damage was amazing. Of course and unfortunately, the trick was once per battle only.
"So, excuse me to disturb you, but how can I make progress in the Gym?" I asked the tech after I won. 
He didn't answer, but pointed mischieviously at a cupboard at the end of the alley. There wasn't much there, except one Poke Ball and... My blood ran cold. It was a Voltorb, in other words... We had to blow up the doors to progress?? It was fittingly insane. There had to be another way.

"Sorry to bother you again, but... I don't like that way. I really don't want to blow everything up. Is there another way?" I asked the tech again, who had been watching me carefully. 
"There is actually a special way to non-destructively open the door." he answered after thinking through his words. "However, you will have to defeat and ask the tech each time, as the security code changes with the doors. Ms. Julia, of course, has a special admin code, but she'd rather blow them up anyway."
"How do you replace them so fast?" I asked, sincerely interested. 
"Trade secret." he smiled. "Or, maybe, we were selected to do this one job well."
"Can you show me in ten minutes instead? I need to heal my Pokemon."
"There's a healing station within the Gym, right there near the communicator." the tech showed me. I hadn't noticed it before. That was very thoughtful, but it most probably wasn't Julia's idea. 

By the time I had watched my Pokemon heal, the tech had been tampering with the door. I was just finishing picking my Pokemon from the engine when I felt the floor vibrate and a loud bang. Had the door just exploded anyway?

"Ms. Julia has a special sense of humor, it's a fake." the tech said. "She will be very disappointed in you, though." he mused, and shut the door after I went through. "Oh, by the way, you can open the door from your side more easily, there is a button right on the door. I think it even doesn't make these fake explosions. "

The rest of the Gym went as planned, with nothing as tricky as the Voltorbs to deal with. And I managed to reach the end without any explosions. It was easy to check at a glance that the end was Julia's arena, because there was an arena and Julia was dancing like a cheerleader alone in the room. However, I was feeling that my team was not up to the challenge and decided to stay a bit behind to train it up slightly more.

I got the pleasant surprise of seeing small, cute Leaf, evolve into a more combative Combusken who seemed now very keen on acrobatic kicks. I hoped that she would be precise enough to not fail them too often. 





Goofy also tried to evolve, but I remembered that its evolution was the Water-type Bibarel: overall, it did not seem like a good idea to let him gain a weakness to the Gym Leader's type, without him gaining much offense or defense.





It was now the evening (maybe 7 pm) when, after a final rest, my team and I felt ready at last to challenge Julia. She had been nice enough to not require from me to fight her earlier. Why was she so tolerant? Was this kind of occurrence common?




Julia's room was even more of an aggression to the eyes than the rest of the Gym. The yellow, if possible, was brighter. There weren't any explosion noises, but some annoying rather loud background music. The Electric Terrain was perceptible as some sort of tension in the room. It wasn't a surprise, in these conditions, that Julia wouldn't sleep. Well, that, or the coffee. 

I was extremely nervous about the battle, with the very disturbing feeling I was going to make a fool of myself. 

"Julia?" I asked in a nervously high-pitched and quiet voice. 
"Oh, you're here at last Gabriel? Welcome to the Super-Duper Ultra-Hyper Electro-Dazzle Happy Boom-Time House of Cheer!" she said in an excited voice. "Just," she added in a disdainful tone "ignore the machinery junk. Because," she went more enthusiastic again. "I need more banners, steamers, and fireworks of course". Her tone went louder and louder.

Crap, she was a cheerleader, of course she could yell for extended periods of time.


"Isn't that a safety hazard?" I asked, well aware of the pointlessness of my words.
"Who cares?" she replied, genuinely surprised. "Anyway, don't think I'll go easy on you just because you helped us out earlier. I have pride to uphold. " Most likely, she just wouldn't be able to go easily enough on me. I was so going to get wrecked. 

"As a former captain cheerleader, the Onyx Trainer's School's honor depends on me!" That was a rather inclusive view of honor, but well...
"OTS, we represent! We pack a punch and don't relent!" Was that a cheerleading motto? Was OTS Onyx Trainer School? "All right, all right, all right." You could tell it was the finale of her little speech. "I'm wired so let's fight!" Nice rhyme anyway. Oh I was so going to lose...



Overall, I failed less badly than I had expected. It took all six of Julia's Pokemon to defeat me, all of them had needed to do their damage -- the Charged Beams, Oricorio's Air Cutters, the Alolan Geodude's Tackles, the Explosions had already taken their toll on my team.  Only a tired Leaf had stood against her energetic and field-empowered Electrode -- she hadn't had a chance.

Darn, her team was tough. I should have taken Mudkip back then, I would have had an undefeatable Marshtomp. All of these self-boosting Charged Beams that were even further reinforced by the Terrain... How on Earth was I going to beat that?

"Nice battle." Julia commented, after the necessary remark about the OTS's honor being upheld and all that. "I'm pretty sure you can do better than that, though." 
"You're good." I complimented. "I hope I can beat you, but given my Pokemon, yours and your buffs, that's not going to be easy."
"That's the spirit of the thing. But you probably have advantages as well, you should exploit them." 

That got me thinking. What could my team do? Hex was rather tough, and could wear ennemies down by poisoning them -- but Julia hit too hard. Sleep was disabled -- well, almost, actually. Wolfgang and Leaf could give hits and tank a bit, but they were frail and could not score one-hit kills. Tailor could weaken my foes by Tickling them, but for lack of a safe switch and, worse, letting them set up, he would faint in the attempt. Baby was just too frail -- maybe it would improve when he evolved, but he didn't look close? And Bidoof was neither tough nor a hard-hitter... Wait


I had an idea. It would definitely not work. Never. It would be so easy to counter... It relied on a few conditions: the Electrode had to come last. The Oricorio had to come early. I needed not to take too many hits, so Julia would need to miss some of them. Yeah, that looked like the winning strategy of the century. I didn't have anything better, so I tried to put it in practice. 

Very kindly, Julia agreed to another battle on the spot.



Wolfgang was happy to faint at the start two of Julia's Pokemon, with an ever strengthened Fury Cutter, at the cost of bruises to himself. The Voltorb didn't even have time to explode. 






Then Julia sent her Oricorio, the only not-grounded Pokemon she had. Hex was ready and quite happy to put them to sleep while I used my Potions to keep him in shape and to help Wolfgang recover for the next rounds. Hex also found the time to properly spray Julia's Pokemon with Acid, making them significantly more vulnerable. 
Naturally, Julia switched to a Pokemon undefeatable by such tactics, her Geodude, who managed to take down Hex. It wasn't too bad; her main task was accomplished, since the Oricorio was worn down, and Leaf was more than eager for revenge. 
Julia sent her Oricorio back, and I didn't want to risk one of my strongest Pokemon, so I sent the Baby instead, hoping against hope he wouldn't fare too bad. 




Well, Julia deemed the Baby a safety hazard, since she withdrew her annoying bird for a Plusle. This let the Baby yell for all she was worth. I assumed the Plusle was used to such tactics, being 24-7 with Julia, but it did sting all the same to see her unable to defeat her foes. 




It had however sent heavy damages to Julia's Plusle, and my Tailor (fortunately faster than her Pokemons) was able to finish both the Plusle and the Oricorio down without taking a hit, paving the way for the ultimate showdown. 







Of course, Julia could have made it somewhat more dignified by stopping yelling her Electrode to not go boom; on the other hand, my Tailor tickled the explosive ball for quite a while, so we probably were even. He did his job so well (he got practice in the Meteor hideout, maybe?) that he managed to anticipate one of Electrode's Charged Beams, and managed to weaken him just a little more before the inevitable occurred. 



So Leaf replaced my Mincinno and sent the Electrode a nice kick. Being softened (I assumed) by the tickles, the Electrode didn't appreciate that at all and returned a nasty Charged Beam. Its power, boosted by the Terrain and by his previous targeting of my Tailor, was almost unbelievable. Leaf wouldn't go down with the shot, but would never keep fighting after the next blow. 

And the Electrode powered themselves up again. I wasn't sure that Wolfgang would be conscious after another Charged Beam. He didn't need to.




Leaf feinted right, managing to avoid the madly fast Electrode's move and send them another kick. What she hadn't expected (and neither had I) was the aftermath -- the explosion plain knocked her out. 



I had won. I had won. I had won
"Whatever, I'm going to take a power nap. Take your whatchamacolit Badge. The thing Badge lets you use... the thing... and things... obey... mo..." she fell straight down, snoring peacefully even before touching the ground. 
I didn't want to disturb her, but I still wanted the Badge -- and maybe a clearer explanation. So I went to her and waited expectantly. And she started to talk the rhythm of her breathing -- while sleeping on the ground.

"The Badge makes stronger Pokemon... obey you." Wait, what? Pokemon wouldn't always obey me? "It allows you to use Cut... outside of battle. " Yeah, that kind of stuff sounded familiar. "Please take the TM... as thanks for earlier today." Er, okay?

She drew the TM from under her. I didn't know where she stored them. Some sort of specific wallet?


"And finally... Rini gave you pointers about me. It is only fair... that I ricepracote."

Still while sleeping (she wouldn't have mangled the word that badly otherwise), she took a folded sheet of paper from her pocket... and I recognized the printed version of a Read-Out for another field. Florinia's? On a Desert Field? It didn't make sense. 


I took the gifts, thanked her (she was sound asleep at that point and didn't speak any more) and went back to the entrance of the gym, tired of all the tension of the day but quite happy.

I had won.





Character ratings:



Julia: 5/10 (+1). Weird and definitely an unsafe person. But a skilled battler, a good Gym Leader. There seemed to be more of her that meets the eye -- but then again, wasn't it the case for anyone?


Death count: 



Start-Julia: 4
                    Mosswater Factory: 1 (I hate Miniors)
                    Julia: 3

Total: 4 





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Hello! It's time for Chapter 10, a slightly shorter one. Just a note, which is quite fitting here, but doubtlessly applies to many chapters, released and to come: we see everything (or almost) from Gabriel's perspective, meaning that none of his thoughts are intended to be ideal, or sound, or anything. This, to explain some of his overall behavior. 





Chapter 10: Dewilish




The sun was setting when I left the Gym. It had to be at least 8 pm. The weather was clear, with only a few clouds in the light blue sky, but it had become noticeably cooler. The night would probably be quite chilly, but what worried me was the nightlife. I assumed that I would like neither the people hanging out at night in such a desolate city, nor their activities. 

It thus remained to me to find a roof. Ame had mentioned something about certain citizens accepting challengers for one night on their couch (not free of charge, if I remembered). But it would probably be both embarrassing and long to search for them. There had to be another way. 

Of course. I could probably try the same thing at the Grand Hall. It had worked beautifully last night. It was much closer, and I would be very surprised if there wasn't any room. Maybe I could volunteer, as payment, for some sort of not-too-long night duty? That would be last-resort, though. I liked full nights better. After twenty minutes' worth of a whistling, almost hopeful, stroll, the buildning was in sight, easily the largest around. It was obvious there would be room for small me inside. I just didn't expected the inside to look that way. 



The place was more crowded than I had seen it. And people were wrestling, fighting all around the place, one another. Hey, this was my sleep place, I wanted it quiet! Hopefully, they'd calm down eventually. 
This was when Ame, who had been sitting on a couch in the center of the room (and whom I hadn't paid attention to), started walking on the couch and yelling in a hysterical voice "Get this abomination out of here!" while pointing at a Budew who apparently had snuck his way in.

Everyone ignored her. They seemed perfectly satisfied fighting one another, punching, kicking, spitting, clawing, biting. Animals, really. None of them willing to be gallant. A shame. Someone would have to force them into it. 

"I'm offering two Badges of their choice to whoever splatters it against the wall and burns it to ashes! And... and money!" Ame shrieked, eyes wide and red, a perfect vision of primordial terror. 

The Budew was the first one to react. It did so with reasonable fright, and found shelter against what he probably thought was the nearest tree. 

Note to self: small frightened Pokemon can mistake immobile human beings for trees. 

Ame's high-pitched, hysterical pleas (and maybe the promised reward) had gathered the room's attention. People started searching for the Budew, and found themselves ominously  (and unanimously) glaring at me. 




That was about twenty on one. Hah! Such cowards that needed numbers to fight such a Trainer as me, just for that Budew? Who wanted gallantry anyway?

Wait, another inner voice said. You're realizing they cut you off from the exit? They're going to be attacking you from all sides. You're really in a bad spot. 
I lust for baaaattle,
something deep beneath layers and layers of carefully built super-ego said in a tired voice, awakening from a (lifelong, I assumed) slumber. 
Sounds good to me. 
For caaaaarnage.
Er, what?
Hey, you really should try to make a run for it, you won't like it if you stay here
, the voice of reason said again. 
This is my place, where I dwell, another caveman woke up. Invaders will not be forcing me out. I shall drive the Philistines out of my place!
I don't want to live in a mind where even the inner cavemen can use the word "Philistines", the voice of reason complained. 
Tough luck. I'd try and help you find another body, but I think there's no viable transfer method yet.  


"Gabriel, what the heavens are you doing here?"  

I didn't need a weak woman to fend off my foes. Hex, come and spray all these peasants with acid! 

"Oh well. Need the stronger stuff." Victoria mumbled while taking three Pokeballs. 

Her Pichu mildly shocked the few peoples standing between the exit and me (or actually, between Victoria and me), while her Torracat kicked them away elegantly. She hadn't been idle all day either. 

Was she coming as an ally, in my glorious battle to defend my rightful territory? 

"I'm sorry for this Gabriel, but I must. Ralts, Confusion!"


That explained all, then. She came as a poacher. Poachers weren't tolerat...


The attack struck me. 


Where was I? 
Who were all of these people?
Why did all of them look mad at me? 
What was that Budew at my feet trying?
Why was Victoria looking so intently at me?
Why were them all trying to expropriate me? 

Didn't they know that I could defend my own?

"Gabriel, we need to leave this instant!" Victoria pressed me. 

The atmosphere was quite paralyzing me. Victoria extended a hand and pulled me quite roughly. She was strong. She managed to get me out of the building, the Budew in my footsteps, somehow managing not to be walked upon. 
The air outside felt different. It was colder, for sure. But, in spite of its polluted smell, it somehow felt more normal than the atmosphere inside. What had it been?

"What was that?" I asked Victoria, remembering rather well the chain of events, but now it just didn't seem to make any sense. 
"I don't know. It's started in the late afternoon, at 4 or 5. Everyone there is extremely on edge and overly aggressive. And they come to their minds outside."
"And the Budew?"
"I don't know. It could just be a coincidence."
"What's with Ame? She yelled about it to be exterminated, she looked terrified, not exactly in a fighting mood."
"Actually, I don't think many people have seen Ame fight. She's the manager of the League, but I don't think she herself enjoys battling. Also, she's a Budew-phobic."
"No way. That actually exists?" I asked, surprised (and, rather shamefully, amused) at the existence of such a condition. 
"Did she look like she was faking it?" Victoria replied, frowning and slightly annoyed.

This was when the Budew reminded us of his presence, by letting a merry cry out, and keeping very (maybe even a bit too much) close to me. I crouched, trying not to look at him for too far above. 
"You want to come with me?" I asked, a bit taken aback at his daring. He seemed to agree, by coming closer to me. Well, no one in their right minds would complain about new companions, would they? "Sure, you can."




"Anyway, what brought you to the Grand Hall, even though you knew about the situation?" I asked Victoria. 
"There's a situation in the Obsidia Ward. The Grand Hall had to be notified. I thought they might have snapped out of it."
"So you mean this and the... situation could be related?" I asked, starting to wonder how bad a spot they all were in. 
"That's a possibility." Victoria replied. 
"Where is the Obsidia Ward anyway? And what's the situation?"
"Obsidia's right over there, just east of the bridge. I'm not too sure about the situation, but it's apparently chaos there. They're saying the plants are coming to life and attacking people and buildings."

"That's impossible." I objected, not dwelling on the fact that plants couldn't come to life, since they already were alive. "Pokemon can animate plants, but none of them anywhere near that scale."
 "Well, if that kind of word goes around, something bad is bound to be happening." Victoria answered in a neutral tone. 
"So what are you going to do?" I asked, not pursuing the subject. 
"I'm going to Obsidia. I'm going to help out there, either helping people out of danger, or fight against the plants. And you? What were you doing at the Grand Hall?"

"Trying to find a place to sleep, actually." I answered truthfully, without thinking. 
"I'm pretty sure they could use your help, in Obsidia." she mentioned casually, after a short pause. 
"I? What do you think I am?" the answer was almost automatic, as a knee-jerk. "I'm no hero. I'm no battler. I'm tired and I want to go home, not to be deeper tangled in the region's issues."

When uttering the words, I realized a few things. First, that I was speaking like (and unfortunately, probably as) a selfish, heartless jerk. Second, that if the Obsidia Ward went down into chaos, the odds that Reborn might not fix itself -- that I would have to stay there -- would soar. Third, that my disinterest would not please  Ame or whoever would manage the repairs. It would be so easy for them to prevent me from accessing these trains. 

Wait, why was Victoria looking at me that way?

Right. Of course. It wasn't just a casual remark.  


On the other hand, heroics had undeniable issues. It usually got people killed, especially those who were clumsy, or not daring, witty, skilled at banter, fast or lucky. I had zero -- maybe a half -- of these qualities. And clueless people, such as I, didn't make heroes, but rather liabilities. I hated being put on the spot like that. A long dialogue between a few inner voices and much freezing for me as a whole usually followed. 

Was Victoria really expecting me to risk my life for that wretched place, doomed to rot anyway? 
Would I really be able to live with myself should I not try anything? 

Yes, I would. It wouldn't feel good, but I'd manage. Especially if I were far from Reborn. Besides, I probably wouldn't amount to much. 
Was I thinking there wouldn't be a single person I'd manage to help?
I enjoyed less the outcome where two of them lived on while I died saving them, than the outcome where I did nothing and watched them die.

Actually, no. And I probably needn't put myself in mortal peril over and over. After all, the plants can't come from everywhere. I could stay somewhat safe. 
But sleep...
Shut up and do good already. 


"Gabriel, are you alright?" Victoria asked, maybe unsettled at my silence and looking like a Deerling in headlights... again. Sometimes I hated myself. Quite often actually. Almost as soon as I stopped doing math. 

"I think not. I'm quite out of my mind. So maybe I'll try to help at Obsidia, if there really is something we can do."
"That's great! See you there, then." she said before leaving.

I seriously contemplated going to hide somewhere rather than following through my words. But... I had committed myself. I had decided my reasons against weren't strong enough. Defeating a couple of stronger Trainers who had (maybe?) acknowledged me as an equal, as if recognizing my Badge on sight only, I walked firmly towards the entrance to the Obsidia Ward, before I let fear get the better of myself.

The Ward was still not accessible, the way was blockedoff  by police officers. They had mentioned gas leaks earlier in the day. Did this mean the Ward would stay locked off? What terrible news! Looks like I'd have to peacefully sleep in the end. Florinia was speaking with them -- hadn't she already left earlier? I went over, thinking at least that I had to make somewhat sure I couldn't go. 

"Gabriel." she noticed, without changing in any way her intonation. "Greetings. However, my immediate departure is necessitated. Obsidia remains in a volatile condition. My attendance is mandatory."

One police officer moved slightly the barrier so that she could slip into the Ward. She didn't move and kept watching me instead. 


"Reconsidering..." My good conscience beamed at the other parts of me, which were trembling in fear and urging me to run for my sleep (and life). "Are you trying to access Obsidia Ward? The area remains currently restricted for all outside civilians in reaction to the damage being currently inflicted." What pretty words. "However, given the previous assistance granted (come on, I wasn't exactly helpful nor entirely voluntary) at the factory, an exception may be possible." Well, no sleep finally. I wanted very badly to yawn, but decided against it. 

She finally turned to the police officers. 


"This person may be able to assist the present situation in Obsidia." she stated, pointing at me. "Is passage permissable?"
"Sure thing, Miss Florinia." one officer answered, after glancing at their colleague. 
"Very well. Access granted. Situation briefing: an unknown force has begun continual engagement in the overstimulation and manipulation of malignant flora life. Causes remain unknown; however, previous instances of this behavior have resulted in large-scale destruction. Objective: isolate and eliminate the source of the extraneous growth immediately. The target area has been isolated to the Obsidia Park, hosting the majority of floral species in the ward. Operation assets will assemble there. Do attend shortly. Farewell."




Well, that was a dense and brief briefing. 

"In normal language," I asked the officers when Florinia was gone, "the plants are coming to life and wrecking the infrastructure and assaulting the inhabitants. And if we let them do it, it is going to raze the Ward to the ground. So we have to find where it's all originating from and stop it as fast as possible. Is that correct?"
"That's the idea." confirmed the officer. 
"She really sees you as an asset?" the senior officer asked. 
"Sounds like it." I answered bluntly. "Honestly, I don't have a clue about the reason why."

"In this case... First, please understand that due to the emergency, Gym Leaders have a quite high role in the chain of command. Thus she is entitled to give you orders, which you -- not belonging to the police force -- may follow or ignore. My men are overworked, with all the emergency evacuations and safekeeping. So there's something I'd like to ask you as a complement, which should not hinder your mission too much. It also should be less hazardous than your original order and very useful. "
"I'm listening."
"First, we got a few complaints about the Day Care -- the Pokemon Day Care, that's just a bit North in the Ward, next to the Pokemon Center. We'd like you to have a glance at it."

They were asking me to investigate something? They were that desperate? I'd never notice anything amiss whatsoever. 

"I'm not sure I'll be able to unearth anything, but if it can help you... And you said first? There's a second part?"
"There is. Second, while the strongest part of the assault has struck Obsidia itself, some of the plants focus on the southern part. They seem to try to target and isolate another Ward, south of Obsidia, the Coral Ward. We'd like you to help break the blockade. There should be another of Florinia's assets there -- she's a woman and she... wears... a lot of blue. Her name is Amaria. She was contacted a while ago and should arrive in Coral Ward. "

"Amaria in another Ward south, break the vegetal blockade..." I summarized. "I think I got it." There still was an important question left unanswered. "Do you really think I'll be able to do all of this?"
"No idea, young man. If not, you'd better improve in a hurry, or find someone else who can do it. Proceed with caution anyway, the area is dangerous. "

Where was Fern when he would be so much better at this?




Character ratings: 



Florinia: 7/10 (+0): While I appreciate her decision-making, I do not enjoy her style of communication and her ordering me around. That doesn't mean I won't comply.

Victoria: 9/10 (+1). Still nice and everything. I admire her will to help and fight, even though she doesn't seem to have any personal reason for it, she doesn't have to do it, and it's night. Any attempt by myself to try and lower her rating because she talked me into forfeiting a night's sleep is only the manifestation of my basest instincts.










Edited by Mindlack
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Hello! It's time for a new chapter. We are starting with the "Obsidia Pulse" arc, and it's going to last a few chapters. 

Again, comments and feedback are really appreciated, as I really am sort of new to this (and way too talkative, I suppose). 






Chapter 11: Law of the Jungle




When I entered the Obsidia Ward, I was quite taken aback by the plants coming to life. Of course, I had been told about that by no less than three different people: Victoria, Florinia, and the police officers, but it made a difference to see what they meant with my own eyes. 

Even so far into the Ward (since the infection was reportedly originating from the other end), there were short vines breaking through the ground, weakly thrashing around, and withering. And another vine followed suit, seeable within minutes. It would start thrashing more strongly and die again. And again, and again, and worse each time. 
Even these small vines could make damage: when they hit buildings (albeit with nowhere near breaking force), one definitely heard the shock from the inside, and they shattered glass when they hit it. So of course, people were staying in the sturdiest buildings without windows, or at least as far as they could be from them.


The bystanders' reactions were rather varied. A drunk guy was yelling of a trans-dimensional attack to take back a fugitive from a fairy tale land. At the other end of the spectrum, worried mothers were running around, screaming after the child, whom they had lost. Some of them were almost oblivious to the situation, such as the Pokemon trainers who would go on challenging me, not minding the desolation around.

Even when there weren't close plants nearby, I could feel the ground under my feet slightly vibrating: the infection was spreading right underneath the Ward. The pavement had been extensively damaged from the cracks the plants had pierced through it, and at this point it could randomly crack anywhere close to a vine, with a depth impossible to predict. I learnt of it the hard way, for I nearly fell into one fifteen-feet deep crack, which opened on a spot where I had been standing half a second before.

But the elephant in the room was unaddressed: how was it done? Nobody had managed to make life proliferate on such a scale (both in space and time), let alone have plants thrashing that wildly, or even moving ten times slowlier. The feat was unmatched all we knew about Nature itself, so the phenomenon would be an utterly new natural occurrence, or a prowess of biological engineering, something that lent a new (and terrifying) meaning to the expression "biological warfare".



Using the map I had on my Pokegear, I was able to locate without trouble the Pokemon Center. The few battles I had had since I had beaten Julia's Gym brought about the overdue evolution of Goofy, since I had no more reason to delay it. I also took the time, some of my belongings were damaged, to save a backup copy of the Field Effect data Julia had given me on my Pokegear. It was something about a Desert Field. Right what Obsidia needed. It took surprisingly little time, as the user interface of the PokeGear application was quite well-made. 






Just next to the Pokemon Center, I found a billboard, my first one since I had set foot in Reborn City, advertising for the Pokemon Day Care, allegedly next door to the Center. The Day Care reportedly aimed to "help Pokemon grow on their own". They boasted competitive prices (they didn't have competitors, had they?), a traditional, not assembly-line-like, approach to Pokemon raising, guaranteed results, and availability from 6 am to 10 pm, every day. 

The officer had known what he was talking about; he had been aware that the Day Care would be open if I hurried to pay them a visit. However, I didn't want to start my investigation straight away. At the very least, I wanted fully healed Pokemon and prior information, so that I might be able to judge something to be out of ordinary. Ideally, I would have liked about a month's training in self-defense, running away, detection of red flags, an actually strong Pokemon team, and not an adrenaline-packed full day just before, but none of these would likely be available in the next couple of hours. 

That is why I headed first to the Pokemon Center. The building was rather packed with people, and the cumulated chatter noise was enough to make me wish I hadn't entered. Some groups discussed about astrology and religious prophecy. End of days, they claimed. This interpretation sounded rather absurd, since, as far as I knew, everything was quite fine back in Kalos (Galar was another story, but nowhere near this bad). Some of them loudly advertised their annoyance at the Ward being one-upped by plants (until rather unprofessional -- self-appointed? -- "security staff" firmly escorted them out of the premises). And many were pacing nervously, playing with their fingers against the wall, or sobbing uncontrollably. 

"Excuse me," I asked the nurse. "Could you please heal my Pokemon?"
"Sure." she answered with the trademark "Nurse Joy" smile. It was rather surprising that she could smile in this situation, so it might just have been her way of protecting herself against a breakdown. 
"Can I also... ask you something else?" I added rather shyly. 
"Fire away." she answered distractedly. 
"I've seen the advertising, and I'm rather interested in the Day Care. Do you know anything about them?"
"The Day Care? Now?" she asked back. "I think your sense of timing is a bit off."
"It's always been this way." I sighed. "But if there weren't any... plants outside, I mean. What would you have answered if I had asked you yesterday?"
"Well." she paused for maybe a second while she set the machine up. "Very honestly, they're nice folks. Good people. Lived a long and interesting life. They've been here for quite a few years now... Actually, they're the ones who welcomed me to Obsidia, showing me around and such. It was before the earthquakes, of course."

"The earthquakes?" I asked cautiously, as if fearing that speaking the word would create one. 
"Yes, the earthquakes! From ten years ago. They're the cause for Reborn looking like it is now. They've thoroughly wrecked the place, but we're rebuilding now."
The sentence was punctuated by a particularly strong vine hitting a wall of the Pokemon Center, making it vibrate. Earthquakes, now the railway, Julia at the power station, and that. Maybe the religious guys hadn't got it all wrong. Maybe Reborn was actually cursed. There was a brief germ of panic in the room, which the nurse efficiently crushed by reminding everyone (using her microphone) that the building was sturdy and that it would take a lot of additional strength to actually damage it. 
"See, your Pokemon are all healed." the nurse told me afterwards. "Oh, and I've been overworked lately, so please tell the Day Care folks Noa says hello."
"That's my actual name. I have to be Nurse Joy at work, but I don't enjoy the name that much."
"I'll do it. Thank you again."








"We're closed." the Day Care Lady standing behind her counter snapped about two seconds after I entered (which I did only after reading again carefully through all of the hours to make sure I wasn't too late). 
"Yes. We're closed." the Day Care Man repeated after looking at me. 
"But, in the hours you display..."
"We're closed. Now get out."



Nice old folks indeed. More like a hag and her servant knight. 
"Can't you at least tell me more precisely what you do?"
"No. We're closed." the old man replied flatly. 
I started feeling uncomfortable again. An intruse. I was an invader in their private life. 
"I'm sorry for intruding." I apologized eventually and went towards the exit, trying to find anything to explain the police's suspicion. 
My gaze fell on the rather rude old man, who was wrinkled, wore a typical "old wise man" beard, and was leaning on the counter instead of standing up straight. Something bothered me -- most likely my own impoliteness -- but I couldn't exactly say what, and went freezing. Then, slowly, I went for the door handle. I felt something moving and froze again -- what should I do again? -- before slowly putting my left hand in front of a Pokeball. 

I turned again to the old couple, who were watching me without any kindness in their eyes. Nothing seemed amiss at all. I grabbed the handle and remember what I had forgotten. 

"Sorry again for my disturbing you. Anyway, Noa asked me to say hello to you."


The couple shared a glance. 


"Well, that's nice. We haven't heard about him for at least a month."


Of him? Was the Nurse Joy...


"Shit, he's seen through us."

Seen through them? What did it mean?

And then truth, the obvious truth, hit me hard. These weren't the Day Care people -- these would be imposters. But what for? 


"We've got to eliminate him."
Oh crap. Well, at least there would be something to explain the police and I could leave any second I pleased.

"This is an attack." the fake elderly woman said in a familiar voice. 




"So brace for impact." Oh right, the Meteors again. There was their revenge. But how could they relocate here so fast?
"To eliminate this infestation!" They must have taken turns with other grunts. 
"To restore the art of God's own nation!" My left hand grabbed another Pokeball. If they hadn't changed their style, it would be a double battle again. 
"To break apart the world above!"
"To find what lies beneath truth and love!" I hadn't actually paid attention to the lyrics, and even though the rhymes were alright, it sounded rather cartoonish. Better not to tell them that though, they had to have worked for it. 
"Team Meteor! Resonating with the eternal light! Run away now, don't try to fight! For justice, that's right!"


What was a much more serious matter, was that the grunts had much better Pokemon than before. They had four instead of two, they were about as strong as Julia's, although not nearly as well used, and they had two of the Pokemon I didn't like facing at all: Minior and Crabrawler. It took me an actual effort, but I was able to win in the end, with a rather amazing Goofy. Well, this sounded like mission clear. Great job, Gabriel. 


"Oh yeah, we remember you now. You were the Tickle guy at the factory, and the bugger with that woman in Peridot. We had this ruse up for weeks and nobody suspected a thing."

"Where is the real couple?" I asked, shaken. Not at all because I had made myself a choice target. Darn that officer.
"You'll never know. We locked them far away and threw away the key." the fake old man sneered. This probably meant they wouldn't ever tell me, not that they were about to solve the issue of my clueless meddling for ever -- at least I hoped so. 
"It was an effective way to get the Pokemon of the more naive Trainers, and we couldn't let the Pokemon breed, could we?"


"What's it got to do with it?" I asked without much hope for an understandable answer.
"Do you need a picture or something?" the fake old lady sneered.
"No, not about that." I answered automatically, somewhat embarrassed and mildly annoyed. "What's the link between Pokemon breeding and bombing places?" I realized something else that had occurred (or more accurately, failed to occur) during the battle. "And how come the vines are not targeting this place? Are you behind that too?"
"So many questions." the fake old lady replied dismissively. "But you need not worry. Everyone will be eliminated."
"Team Meteor does not forgive." the other grunt added darkly, before jumping effortlessly over the counter to join his counterpart, allowing them to exit through a back entrance. 



Why on earth had I let them go? I probably could have stopped them, restrained them, or something. Maybe because it wasn't my job? Maybe because it was an unnecessary risk? I didn't know. But now that the situation had become back to normal, I felt like I needed something to help with the oncoming waking night. Anyway, I had to give the nurse from the Pokemon Center and the police the story. 

The police officers actually thanked me, as if I had done a great service to anyone. But the imposters were still at large; the real Day Care couple was still locked; the stolen Pokemon weren't any closer to being freed; the vines kept growing and their assault at the city was becoming ever more vicious. And the Meteor mystery was growing thicker. Preventing Pokemon to breed was seemingly a much longer-term action than a mere railway bombing, which was rather worrying.

What was undeniably worse was that the Meteors might have engineered the whole vine situation. This pointed to larger resources, and world-class people in terms of scientific skills working for them. Overall, I hadn't chosen the best enemies.



No offence to Lord Henry Wotton, of course. 




No character ratings for the chapter (no change)


No additional death.


Edited by Mindlack
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  • 2 weeks later...

The next chapter is out! It's one of the longest ones so far, but I'm afraid it's going to be topped soon. 


Also, please, leave comments because I'm rather worried about my starting to freewheel. 






Chapter 12: Treats and Tricks



As thanks for my time, the police officers gave me a tip: just west was another entrance to the Abandoned Railway, with interesting Pokemon, they said. There were mostly Woobats and Noibats, which didn't interest me, but there was a rarer Pokemon, a Klink. Its rarer Steel typing made me think they couldn't be a bad idea to keep for next battles where bulk could be handy. And there would be Poison Gym Leaders at some point, where a Steel Pokemon could but excel...

When it came to naming him, my thoughts wandered as I was at a loss for ideas. Klink was basically a wheel... like a train... to go back home... Mum had to be worried sick. Mum... And Klinks turned... That made another stupid name, right?



The Nurse Joy at the Obsidia Pokemon Center was very worried to hear that the Day Care Couple, old friends of her, had been abducted and locked someplace where the key itself was lost. But she thanked me, just like the police officers, with some advice: if I was going to stay up fighting for a longer part of the night, I had better take some sugar. So she mentioned to me the Candy Shop, in one of Obsidia's largest (and currently most damaged) alleys. 

"I get a lot of Trainers all the time," she added, "and I hear about the best spots to unearth unusual Pokemon. You should try their ice creams."

Entering the Candy Shop was like entering another world. The building was large and sturdy, without any windows. Even now, it seemed able to completely shrug off the vines, even though their assault had strengthened again. The reason why there were no windows was easy to see given the... colorful atmosphere: the walls were covered in various colors, each brighter than a happy kid's drawing. And there were sweets everywhere -- there were shelves filled with uncountably many varieties, flavors and shapes of candy. It was a kid's paradise.

And indeed, owing probably to the vine situation, there were numerous customers, and many children with them, in the shop, despite the late hour. The children were all so full of sugar that they probably wouldn't sleep of the night. At least, they were blissfully unaware of the actual situation they were in. 

There was one ice cream vending machine but it was out of order. Maybe they hadn't managed to keep it cold. And the vendors didn't have any, which pointed exactly to that kind of issue. I felt so down that I bought a bit too much candy -- if I were reasonable (considering I had no toothbrush and didn't know where to get one), I might be able to finish it in a couple of weeks. At the last counter, after noticing my questions on ice cream, the vendor asked me why I was so interested.

"Because I like ice cream." I answered on the spot. "And because the Nurse Joy hinted at something about unusual and good Pokemon."
"Oh, I see. Then, would you like to play Sweet Kiss' exclusive promotion challenge for a chance at a fantastic prize? I can already tell you that the prize is going to be an adorable Pokemon you probably didn't meet out there in the wild."


I felt very suspicious of such a challenge. Shops just didn't give goods away. It probably was going to be absurdly difficult. On the other hand, I needed some break. 

"Why not?"


The lady at the counter gave me a simple box with sixteen square tiles, all colored in sorts of white, pink and purple. 


"Arrange them in a four by four square to form the picture of a Pokemon." she instructed. "Should you manage to do so, you will get the prize."


Nice puzzle. 


It took me a few tries and a bit of observation, but I was able to get a working picture, even though it seemed not right enough. It was worth a try, anyway.
"Well, that's great." the vendor said when I showed her the picture. "Except not. That's not it. See there and there? It doesn't look like part of the same picture."

It took me another bit of observation and a sliver of imagination before I was able to get the intended picture. It was, this time, striking: this was the intended solution. 

"Congratulations!" the vendor announced after I showed her the picture. "You have won our shop's mascot, a Swirlix."

The name I should give the Swirlix was easier this time. After all, the challenge had forced me to think better and be more observant. 




But I was aware, with rising guilt, that I was probably delaying the second part of my assignment too much. I had to break the supposed Coral Ward's blockade, find some lady named Amaria there, bring her to the Obsidia Park, and then destroy whatever seemed to be causing the plants' assault. A whole night of fighting, yay! 
Oh, shut up, I accepted the task. 

Obsidia Park was, according to the map on the Pokegear, quite close, but there was something else I probably would need: Potions (I had used most of my supplies when I was battling Julia) and water. I got the water from the Sweet Kiss shop, and the Pokeballs from some small shop nearby that was still open at 11 for whatever reason. 
According to the Pokegear, I just had to head left in the large street and... fall into the biggest crack I had seen so far, I assumed? Doubtlessly due to the plant attack, a huge crack was splitting the alley in two. I hadn't noticed so far, but people were shouting (rather ineffectively) to one another from each side. I would have to find another way. 
I ended up trying to go south, since I hadn't seen any way north, the way eastwards was impassable and westwards was the wrong direction. The street south didn't have any lighting, making me rather on edge. There was again a possible turn eastwards, but I found out just on time that there was again a large crack -- as if the plants had wanted to protect their crib from the get-go. So I didn't have much choice and kept heading south, even though the street narrowed a lot, making me feel less safe as before...



I started, grabbed nervously a Pokeball, before I realized who it was. 


"What are you doing here?"
"Looking for a way to reach the other side. It's the only place I haven't tried." I said. 
"The plants have destroyed the main street, so the only way is through the Obsidia Slums." Reborn City had slums? Wasn't it like the pot calling the kettle black or something? "They're this way, I went in there, but it's dangerous!" It wasn't exactly a surprise. "All these men were trying to attack me, and it was like the debris in there was moving on its own." Uh oh. 

"I'm not going there again," Victoria added, "and neither should you."


"You're probably right." I answered after a short pause, where I weighed my options. "I'd rather check it out myself, though."
"I was worried you'd answer that. Is there any way I can make you change your mind?"
"It's just to get a feel" -- I forced myself to not shiver -- "of whatever's in here, of whether I think I can go through. I'm not going to do anything unsafe. But we could go together, we'd both be safer." I offered. 
"No, thank you. I... really don't like that place." she answered in an unsteady voice. "You think you're strong enough to go there?"
"I have no idea actually, I told you. If I don't feel safe, I'll go back."
"Then defeat me."
"What's the point?" I asked, taken aback.
"If you can't beat me, you just won't handle it." she stated. 

Okay, why not? 

The battle was rather quick. My Pokemon defeated hers in little time, even though they took some damage. 
"Fine. Maybe you'll be all right, after all." she commented. "Please though... keep a sharp eye. Be careful. And good luck."
"I will, and thank you." I said, watching her leave. 

After a slight detour through the Pokemon Center, which I filled by eating some candy -- it wouldn't do to enter such a dangerous place without healed Pokemon and without some more sugar in my blood -- I took the same way back. The progression to the Slums was rather obvious. Even with merely the moonlight, one could see the buildings slowly become ever more stained, if not broken altogether. And, in a somewhat less poetic way, the smell was worsening by the minute. Since the way was so narrow, the light was growing ever fainter, until there were only shadows even at a few paces around me. 

I wasn't straight out terrified. Just really frightened. Time to review the safety tips no one had bothered to give me. First, not be outside after dark. Second, not to look like a victim or a target. Third, not show anything valuable. There probably were some more specifics, but these were the ones I could remember. And they were great! There was even one I could apply in my situation -- I couldn't show anything, since it was so dark. To give me more courage, I took another new candy bar. 




I started. The Scraggy had somehow made his way almost to me in complete silence and was now pointing with some rather insistance at my candy bar. Was this what the Pokemon wanted? I had many others, after all. They could have it if they were hungry. So I simply gave the sweet to the Pokemon. The would-be gangster jumped a bit with weak cries, as if to say thank you, and departed. 
That did not really bode well. I was going to need to be much more careful.


The Slums weren't as much a rough neighborhood as an entire Ward in the Ward, organized in different areas on different levels. Of course, it was in an even worse state than the worse parts of Peridot. And it definitely smelt worse than Lumiose City's most infamous underground stations, of which there was no match in the Peridot Ward. 

Rather surprisingly, the place wasn't too dark; the public lighting somehow still partly worked, providing just what was needed of light to see clearly a few paces around. I walked, on edge, trying to be watchful. I just didn't expected so many people to be awake, and to have Pokemon. Not actively threatening, just watching at me. I tried to project self-confidence and went on. 

Some of them were somehow maintaining to keep some rationality while sounding obviously out of touch with reality -- one was rambling about the Deadly Scyther, another one was talking about beating some box. Another one tried to attack me on the grounds that I had a "pretty face", but backed off after Goofy demonstrated his Headbutts. I would have to trademark these someday.

And a few people were gathering about some light-emitting thing, as if they tried to have it warm them. It was best not to disturb them -- it wouldn't do to be assaulted at once by multiple people. There wasn't much of a need to, since so far there was only one way. I went on, expecting a real attack every step. I hated the sensation, but I hadn't had any actual reason to back off so far. Hopefully (or rather not?) there might be one soon. 

As I advanced in the Ward, the ground became less sturdy, and a lot of sections had fallen down. I had to jump over some parts, which didn't do anything to lower my adrenaline levels. 



Sometimes, in the corner of my eye, I would see some box move... But it was probably my brain tricking me. Box didn't move. That was the way I forced myself not to panic. But then again, several Trainers mentioned box moving on a regular basis... Was I becoming mad, like them? Was there some sort of insanity-inducing gas in the Ward? Were my own expectations turning me insane? 

Whoa, calm down. So far nothing has happened, you're safe, there's no tangible cause for alarm. You'll probably pull through without any trouble. 

At some point, I saw it clearly. The box hopped very precisely, without any bumps, from one place to another. I leaned wearily on the nearest wall. It was late and I was starting to have more potent hallucinations. It was time to get some more candy. 


"Sometimes," commented someone behind the grid I was actually leaning on, "I talk to this box. Sometimes, it talks back."

Oh great. Group delusion now. Or maybe the guy had the same kind of delusions as I had because they could be hungry?

I tried to look at the person from this angle but didn't get anything. I had never been good anyway at understanding that kind of information from people. But since the way split, using food could be an effective way of getting information -- or it could really backfire. But I rather needed the information -- the atmosphere and the tension were oppressive, and I didn't want to remain there.

"Excuse me," I asked in a voice I tried to make confident and not as soft and high-pitched as a shy seven year-old's. "Do you know the way out towards the Coral Ward?"

The man didn't answer at once. It looked at my hand, seemingly absorbed in something. My candy bar, maybe? 

"Do you want the bar?" I offered. "I've bought too many of them anyway."
"Yes, please." he answered. "I haven't eaten at all since yesterday in the morning."

I felt really bad for him. Not eating for a day was difficult enough. But for over a day and a half? He definitely needed the bar more than I did, so I gave it to him. 
"Thanks, buddy." he said while devouring it. "So for the directions, go up the stairs there. But that bar was so good, I'd really have another one and I'll give you a special tip."

"Sure." I said, feeling good for him -- after all, he must have been so hungry -- and rather sad there wasn't much more I could reasonably do, since I'd doubtlessly need the rest of the bars for the big fight with the bad vine things. He was eating the bars so fast I felt compelled to warn him that he could really make himself sick, so many calories so quickly after a long fasting. 

"T'was good." the man said finally, breathing as if he had run a ten-mile race, after his second candy bar. "Thank you. There's... this place... under the stairs... Nobody's ever there... but somehow... there's a Pokemon egg... at the end... if you're interested."


That did seem interesting, but what of my safety? My Pokemon were quite tired, and I really didn't want to take that kind of risk. So I thanked the man for their advice and pursued my way up the stairs, which led me to the roof of one of the buildings I had passed by. 


What I noticed first was the wind. It was a clean wind, carrying only what poets and country people had to call the fresh night air. It washed me of the foul-smelling atmosphere inside the Slums. What I noticed second was that the same bright thing that had so many people gathered around at the entrance of the Slums was there, except no one else was around. 

Interesting in spite of my better sense, I got closer. The object was pretty small, bright yellow, and of irregular shape. It didn't really seem anchored to the ground, but the wind wasn't moving it at all. Some sort of feeling seemingly surrounded it, but it was difficult to put precise words. Maybe some other kind of freshness and health? Or maybe it was a radioactive illusion, since it radiated light. Were it the case, I was already doomed. But I doubted it -- the people back there would have known and stayed away. Hopefully. I went closer and the feeling increased in potency. It was so good. Experimentally, I drew my hand closer and closer to the thing, and it felt better and better and it got closer almost on its own and -- I touched it. 

My whole being felt incredible. My weariness, my worst doubts had evaporated. I felt made anew, fully rested, full of energy, like waking up after a good night's sleep with the feeling that one had much to do and enjoyed every second of it. My Pokemon were also healed as well, but the small shard had disappeared. Well, you knew what they said. Too much of a good thing...




In that kind of shape, I was confident I could go and fetch the Egg, which I hurried to do. I didn't encounter any trouble maybe thanks to my wariness (or, since the stench seemed even worse than before, nobody wanted to be actually there). Then I hurried as well to reach the other end of the Slums. 



I met again my old box-shaped friend, who would move on its own, except that this time I realized that there was a Scraggy inside. This was a much more reasonable explanation to box moving that a collective delusion, although it didn't explain why Scraggys would feel the need to use such uncomfortable transportation. 
"That's common over there." some Trainer that had insisted upon battling me noticed. "It's quite fascinating, the way the Scraggy's customs adapt to their environment."

I realized the Trainer wore a lab coat -- was he pretending to be a scientist? Or wearing the lab coat just for the thrill of taking oneself seriously? Anyway, the coat didn't look like it belonged to the Slums. It was stained, but otherwise too clean, without any holes. 

"You're a scientist?" I asked him. 
"Yes. Right now, I am studying Pokemon's adaptations to unnatural environments, such as the whole environment of the Slums. What I'm looking for are Pokemon Gang activities."
"And you're not afraid to come here, at night?" I asked again, rather surprised, and keeping warily a hand on my Pokeballs. 
"I was, of course, at first. But I thought it over and I found a strategy. I went to see one of the bigger gangs, showed them the official grant money paper, and offered them a small share each time I came. And that I would deliver through an intermediary a last big chunk when I am all done. All of this in exchange for their protection. And it worked. Now I'm safe at any time in the Slums because everyone knows of that deal. And you? "
"Well, I guess I'm an illegal smuggler. I'm smuggling myself to the other side of the Ward, since the main street is blocked off because of the vines."

"The vines? What do you mean?" he asked, his surprise taking me aback. 
"Er... How long have you been in the Slums this night?"
"For... seven or eight hours, I'd say."
"So you might have missed it. In a few words: the plants have animated and are attacking the Ward."

"That's awful." he muttered. "But what does the police do?"
"They're fighting. But it seems somebody has completely disorganized the Grand Hall, so it looks more like they're struggling. But they've found out where it's coming from, and they're rounding up allies to put it down. That's somewhat the reason why I have to cross the Ward."
"You're on that kind of assignment?" he reacted, obviously surprised. 
"Well, I don't know why they insisted it had to be me." I answered sincerely. 
"You'd really better go then. And stay wary till the end, it's not too far now." he advised. "At some point, there's going to be large stairs on your left, I think. Go down them and afterwards, it's almost a straight line."
"Thank you."

I went on, meeting the box another couple of times without any complications. There once was a point where it tried to block my path, but I laid a candy bar on it and it ran away at once. I found it again near the stairs, empty and without the candy bar. That had undeniably been a sound investment. 







At that point, after many uphill battles and many screams, my Baby evolved into a Loudred, making him both more powerful and less frail. It still wasn't exactly bulky, though, but now it wasn't the weakest member of the team, about both offense and defense. Right afterwards, I found another light shard, which came at the perfect moment to give me a last bit of energy, and heal my tired Pokemon. I would need to buy books on Pokemon raising to see just how much messing with their sleep schedule was a bad idea. 




The room after didn't seem large, but it was much darker as the rest of the complex. It probably would be easy to cross, ten steps would do it...

"Don't move." a voice said, pointing their flashlight at my eyes. 

I knew what I had to do. Get an opening with any Pokemon, and run even though I wasn't sure where the exit was. My hands rushed towards my belt and stopped dead cold at maybe a couple of inches, when I felt something cold and sharp just against the back of my neck. 

"No false moves either." someone whispered to my ear.





Character ratings:


Victoria: 10/10 (+1). Now I understand better why she had urged me to not go to the Slums. Now I'm not even sure whether I am going to get out of this predicament alive. 


Edited by Mindlack
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Well, sounds like Gabriel is trapped and is going to die homeless in the short term.

The End. 



...Or maybe not, who knows? 





Chapter 13: Rescues






Just my luck. 
What could I do?

Option one -- running away -- was impossible. I didn't know where the exit was. That left another solution. I raised my hands slowly, trying to get some information on my surroundings from the ground -- I couldn't lift my eyes without having the flashlight blind me. 

"So, what are you doing on our turf?" the person who had stopped me first (who was also holding the flashlight) snapped. 
"I was assigned..." I started, getting cold sweat from the sentence. 
"And why didn't you pay?"
"It was just once..." I hesitated. "It was late, I didn't know whom to look for... I decided I could risk it, since the alternative didn't seem any safer."
"Take his bag." another, deeper, more threatening, voice in the shadows said. The person behind, without releasing the pressure on their knife, took my bagpack and threw it into the part of the room I couldn't see. 

No, please don't do that. I don't have any resource outside of it, and I'm trying to keep enough money to buy a train ticket when the station is finally repaired, something pleaded in my mind.

No, don't say it, they'll just happily put you out of your misery
, objected another voice. Option two is better.

"What are you searching for?" I tried to enquire in an interested voice. 

The guy before me stared at me as if I was an idiot. Which I rather was.

"Everything." he answered. "But mostly money and Rare Candies."
"Rare Candies?" I couldn't help but react. "You really think like I'm someone with Rare Candies? You know these are really expensive, right?"


This mild remark was welcome by a chorus of sneers. An even more uncomfortable chill ran down my spine. Time for option three, like the scientist said... But had he misled me? It did seem like the only reasonable way though... 


"I'm a Pokemon Trainer, you know."
"What's it got to do with us?"
"If you leave me money, it'll be easier for me to win battles, get some more money and pay you a few times more, after a while."


I kept watching downwards, because of the flashlight blinding me. Ah. There it was.


"Do you really think nobody tried that line before?" someone I couldn't see reacted. Okay, they were at least four. Really not good. 
"I'm being serious." I replied. Paying them afterwards would be unspeakably stupid, but I would do it nevertheless.
"For what reason would you come back and pay?" the person before me asked.
"My word." 

I didn't really feel surprised, just rather out of place (and really terrified too). They were probably also feeling that I was completely out of place. Maybe they thought me mad, but that wouldn't prevent them from robbing or killing me. This was probably the reason why the chorus of laughter started again and I felt the pressure on the knife waver. 

Option four. Now. I slightly shifted left, lifted my right foot with the intention of squashing the person behind's right foot. It wouldn't be enough to flee, but it would give me the time needed to call my Pokemon to my help. At seven, it'd be easier to break away.

It didn't happen as I had planned. Maybe I had been too obvious, or too slow about it. Maybe they were accustomed to it (while I clearly wasn't). No sooner had my right foot left the ground than the person behind slightly turned, grabbed my right arm with their right hand, applied again firmly the knife to my neck with their left hand, forced my right arm up my back very near breaking point, and slammed me headfirst against the nearest wall. I probably kept conscious only because they intended it, because stars shot from every point I could see. Even without the light pointed, I was effectively blinded. 




"That was pathetic." I got the whisper in my ear. "Really, it's almost entertaining how bad you are."
I was slammed again. And again. It hurt. My head, my back, my right arm. The fear to be left out to bleed to death at any point. But now, they couldn't see my left hand, now could they? I experimentally tried to move it and no one noticed. Just a few inches above and... A knee hit between my legs. I felt nauseous.  
"I. Warned. You."

My right arm was twisted more and more, it hurt so much, I struggled to breathe, trying to not throw up...

The pressure released slightly. Everyone (but me) started looking at the newcomer, an excited-looking Scraggy. 
"Aggy, aggy!" the Scraggy demanded attention. 
There was a hushed conference in the darkness, which I couldn't hear, focusing on breathing and driving the nausea away. Then the same voice that had ordered to take my bag replied with a deep "No". 
"Aggy, gy, aggy! Scra, gy, aggy! " the Scraggy insisted. 
"I told you, no. He's ours."
Were they talking about me?

"Scrafty. Craf." a deeper Pokemon voice interviened, one I didn't know but vaguely resembled the Scraggy's. 
"What do you mean, he's already paid?"
"Scra." the tone was unmistakably assertive. 
There was the sound of a blow, then the noise of something falling to the ground and a volley of rather creative swearwords. It culminated in a three loud words: "Retreat. Leave him."



thankgoodness. I was saved. 

The pressure in my arm, on my neck disappeared as swiftly as the person responsible had appeared. I slowly turned around, and saw that my saviours were a distinctly gang-like team of Scraggys led by a bulky and intimidating Scrafty. I had indeed found a Pokemon Gang, but I'd never, ever, come back to tell the guy. 
One Scraggy, maybe even the one I had fed at the entrance of the Slums, extended a hand, in a gesture that clearly invited me to put something in it. 

"I'm sorry, the bars are all in the bag."


It probably had been a mistake to say that, because the three Scraggys rushed on the bag and took everything out of it till they found the candy bars. I hoped rather selfishly they didn't take them all, because I was going to need them for the rest of the night, at least for the rest of the emergency. And I probably deserved one as well after my ordeal. 


As it turned out, they had taken about fifteen. I had four left. It wasn't too bad of a deal. 


"Er," I asked, still unsure of myself, "may I go now?"
"Ty." the Scrafty answered, in an inviting gesture, pointing at the exit I could now see, since one of the muggers had forgotten the flashlight. 

Okay. Pleasure doing business, then.

I drew out Leaf and Wolfgang. There was no way in whatever afterlife existed that I was going to make the last part of the journey through the Slums alone. Luckily, it was rather uneventful -- I ran all the way long, ignoring my now-reignited back and shoulder pain. That's fear for you. I made it out without any other incident. 
I probably wouldn't ever be so glad to see the actual Reborn City again, instead of the state within the city that the Slums was. I stopped running and thoughts rushed again. 

Never - go - there - again. 
I had really thought it would be the end. 
Really a useful purchase, these sweets. I should thank the shop.
Safe and sound, that's quite a miracle. 


Of course, now of all times, I felt the pavement vibrate very strongly under my feet and manage to avoid the rising vine. I might have been a bit carried away when I thought myself "Safe and sound". But at least I wouldn't be on the battleground any more, my task was just to go south -- this way -- to find this Amaria. 
After all, there had been a silver lining. I had gotten an Egg. I had also captured a few Pokemon. My Baby had evolved. And now I would be leaving the most unsafe zone. Really, it was almost positive.


I still kept Tailor, Baby and Wolfgang to run around, so that I wouldn't be taken as much by surprise. After the mild beatup (it could have been worse) and the final dash, and despite the two eldritch light shards (that kind of healing felt like what one would expect from some ancient wise wizard or something -- just unravelling their mystery would make the whole unexpected journey an undeniable win), I felt worn out, and my shoulders and lower back ached again. Hopefully, I told myself, it would be over soon.



The Coral Ward felt again very different from the Obsidia Ward. It was closer to the huge lake and felt more open -- although it might have been the night wind, which managed to be fresher and more comforting. The Ward itself was emptier, calmer than Obsidia or Peridot, which wasn't too bad a thing. There was an Gym in the Ward, but the building looked abandoned for a long time. 

Given the many warehouses and the piers, it seemed that the Ward had thrived on the lake. Now the lake brought death instead of life and polluted rot instead of fish or trade. The warehouses themselves or the piers didn't seem in too poor a state, so the Ward must have been a lively place not so long ago. Still with my three bodyguards, I went to the Pokemon Center, believing my Pokemon needed rest and so did I. I also might learn there of the whereabouts of Amaria and end all this. The Ward's quiet promised me a sound sleep. 
"Amaria?" the Nurse Joy answered when I enquired. "She's been asking for help about a problem maybe fifteen minutes ago. We couldn't find a solution, so she said she was going back to the pier to think. It's apparently the one closest to the Ward entrance, you can't miss it."
"What kind of problem?" I asked, thinking of horrific vine stuff.
"There's a Pokemon who's stuck on a rock just out of reach. Due to the wind and the rock's location, it's apparently pretty hard to reach through the air or with a boat. And with the lake as it is, it's unthinkable to swim there."
"I see." I answered, failing to come up with any ideas. Not that I devoted five physical minutes to it. "Thank you."

On the pier the Nurse Joy mentioned, a tall young woman, probably over six feet, with long blue-dyed hair which the light breeze was powerless to move, was standing alone, right at the edge of the pier, looking at some place in the polluted lake which I couldn't see. From what I had gathered, she probably would be this Amaria. 




I went closer to her and managed to have a look at the problem. It was a young Popplio, indeed, stuck on a rock in a tricky place. 
"Excuse me," I started. "Are you Amaria?"
She turned around naturally, as if she had always known I was coming. She probably had -- I hadn't exactly made an effort to be stealthy. 
"Hello", she greeted me. "That's me, yes. You're the one they sent to make sure I arrived, right? Could you please hold on just a moment? That Popplio over there is trapped and I need to get it to safety. I'm a Water-type Trainer myself, but no Pokemon can touch that lake without major injuries."
"That's a piece of cake." another voice mused. 
It was probably quite normal, but to me it carried a very ominous tone. Because the owner of that voice was... what was his name again? right, Cain. 


"Hi Gabriel." he added, rather warmly, quite a change from Fern and Florinia. "Making friends in high places, are we?"
High places? What did he mean? A thought struck me and I turned to Amaria. 
"That's right," Cain commented. That way of breaking the information obviously pleased him. "Amaria is the Water Gym Leader, one of the highest-ranking Leaders in the Reborn League. They say she's, with a single Pokemon, a match for any ten Trainers in all of the city. You really didn't know?"
"Very funny." Amaria replied. "There's quite the overstatement, and honestly, that's no big deal."

No big deal? With that kind of strength, she'd obliterate every Meteor without even drawing Pokeballs! She'd destroy every vine within a ten-mile radius! And now she was stuck on saving some isolated Pokemon in the middle of nowhere?
... Pretty nice of her, if you thought of it. 

"I would rather we focused on the Popplio over there." Amaria went back to the subject that mattered to her. 
"Oh, poor little thing's trapped there, and that's why you were staring? Not out of any romantic stargazing?"
I tried hard to stargaze to avoid looking at either Amaria or Cain. 
"Oh, Gabriel, can't you take a joke?" Cain complained mildly. "Anyway, that's easy." He started singing. "You're not alone, so have no doubt, we'll put our heads together, gonna figure this out.

He knew a bit about rhymes, anyway. Had he composed that on the spot? Or just memorized them out of somewhere, as I sometimes did for quotes or verse?


It turned out that Cain had a very simple plan, relying on what was in retrospect a very obvious Pokemon: his Alolan Grimer. In no time, we'll be at your side! We're a team on a roller coaster ride, he went on singing, while instructing the Grimer to simply swim in the lake and transport the Popplio to dry land. Each of us knows just what to do, And we're never gonna stop -- gonna stop -- searching for you, he finished. If he was making it all up, it was impressive. 

The Popplio, however surprised at the rescue party, overcame his original reaction and hopped on the Grimer, which then started to cross the short body of polluted "water", to Cain's triumphant singing. Oh baby, listen to me, We're gonna, gonna, set you free, yeah! And -- lo and behold -- in no time, the Popplio was safely on the pier. 




"That was fantastic!" an appreciative Amaria applauded. I'd have done the same, except that I couldn't decide whether applauding for the improvised song or the rescue. I finally settled on a heart-felt "Amazing".
Of course, Cain wouldn't let this unanswered. "I get that a lot, more from boys though." Why had he looked at me again. This was becoming so annoying, being that awkward. Couldn't the guy take a hint or something?
How ironical, some inner commenter noticed.

"Popplio's a-okay now, I'm going to leave" -- I hadn't actually asked him for what reason he was actually awake at that hour, maybe two in the morning -- I wanted to sleep so badly. Except that, rather clumsily, the Popplio attempted to follow him, but, noticing it couldn't keep pace, it started calling at Cain. 
"Aww," Amaria translated in human language. "He seems to have taken a liking to you."
"Huh?" Cain turned, looked at the Pokemon. "He's a cutie for sure. Heyy Popplio, do you wanna come with me?" The Popplio made an eager sound, which our Water-type specialist translated as a "Yes, please". I myself would have translated this as a "Yesyesyes, you're the sun and sea of my life", but, of course, she was the expert. 
"All right." Cain decided. "I'll keep you safe from now on, little buddy."



"I'd rather return the protection." the Popplio answered, through Amaria's translation anyway (it sounded more like "pop-pop-pop" to me). 
"I'm sorry, I didn't get your name." Amaria asked me. 
"It's Gabriel," I yawned. "I don't think I told you."
"Would you mind giving a chance to Popplio to prove himself?" she asked further. 
"What do you mean?" I had flashes of nasty mugging scenarios with the little guy saving the day. Needless to say, I would never risk anything of the sort. 
"I meant a Pokemon battle." Amaria clarified. I got some echos of what had happened not twenty hours ago. It seemed at least half an eternity. 
"That's our rematch, Gabriel." Cain said, obviously eager. 

Why not? I needed the wake-up anyway. 


Cain had not exactly been idle for his first day of "starting-over". His team was as well-trained as mine, with more diverse, if not better evolved Pokemons. It would be a tough fight when all of his team members evolved, but for now the evolved Goofy and Leaf did wonders. None of my Pokemon fainted. 

"I didn't intend Popplio to be on the losing side." was Amaria's comment. "Sorry," she added for me, "I didn't realize how strong you were."
"That's okay. I needed something to keep myself awake." I answered.
"Gabriel's full of surprises, and in all the right ways." Cain felt obligated to spice the conversation. Was he secretly doing this out of spite, this being his way of being a sore loser? Or just his way to contribute to just any conversation? I felt obligated to ignore him. "But I really gotta go back to the Wasteland. Something to handle out there." he said before leaving briskly, looking indeed as if he had business to get done (at this hour?).

"That's a relief." Amaria said to break the ensuing awkward silence. "I'm sure these two will be a great match for one another."
"I hope so." I said, because it wouldn't do to stay silent. 
"You know, with the lake as it is, lots of Pokemon have been suffering. I need to do my best to make sure as many of them are safe."
"I understand." I said neutrally, not wanting to point out that even Sisyphes probably had been assigned an easier (if more pointless) task. 
"But I was supposed to go meet Rini in the Obsidia Ward, right? I got distracted."
"I wasn't told all of the specifics, but if you refer to Florinia, I suppose it was the plan, yes." I answered. "We may have to break some vines on the way." I added, realizing I hadn't seen any kind of blockade, even though I had been told to expect one. 
"That shouldn't be an issue." she answered seriously. "So you met Florinia already?"
She seemed to expect an answer for half a second, then decided against it. "You'll tell me later. We've got to come back to Obsidia now."






Character ratings: 


Cain: 4/10 (+1). While he's really annoying, his Popplio rescue was pretty spectacular. His singing isn't too bad, either. 

Amaria: 8/10. A high-ranking Gym Leader, and seemingly a very nice person. 




Death count:


Start-Julia: 4

Julia-current: 0

Total: 4



Edited by Mindlack
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It's time for chapter 14, which is... a monster. Way too big. I really should have split it in half, but it wouldn't really have made sense, storywise. 

This length is why the chapter is in two different spoiler tags. 


Please feel free to give me feedback, criticism, or any kind of comment really. 



Also, I've seen that J-Awesome One discussed the possibility of writing Christmas Specials. Just to be clear about that: there isn't going to be one this year in my story. It just wouldn't fit in the overall theme. Also, snow would be too powerful an ally against the PULSE Tangrowths. Maybe next year, the scenario and characters will be in a more Christmas-friendly situation and I'll have an idea, but don't get your hopes too high.  




Chapter 14: The Longest Day




I went back to the Obsidia Ward with Amaria, letting her take the lead towards the Obsidia Park. The peace and mild mist from the Coral Ward were replaced again by a tenser and smellier atmosphere. The vines were again attacking, and we had to be careful to avoid the spots where they would just burst out of the pavement. 
Unlike me, Amaria was apparently known by sight in the Ward, so we weren't challenged by Trainers. On the other hand, the loud noises of mad plants striking at remote buildings, with the occasional glass-breaking, or just randomly driving cracks in the grounds were a most unpleasant substitute. 
We found a lone kid who was crying in a corner. Amaria, of course, went to see if she could help and I followed her.

"What's wrong?" Amaria asked gently. 
"I want my mommy. Where are you, mommy?" the child cried softly. 



There wasn't much we could do. There probably were thousands of people in the Ward who matched the required appearance and age. We had more effective stuff to do. But we couldn't just let him here. 

"What's your mommy's name?" Amaria asked again, as kindly as she could.
"It's... it's..." the child stuttered, clearly trying to remember. "It's Emma, I think." he said eventually. 
"What is she like?" I asked, willing to narrow the search space further. 
The child's face brightened, which I found most ominous. 
"It's the nicest and greatest mommy in the world, ever!"
Something else, then. 
"When did you see her last?"
The kid's enthusiasm dropped. "We were in a large street with many people and it was very loud, people were crying all around, and mommy didn't want to buy me sweets, said we were going to sleepover somewhere else." he started crying again. 
"Did she say where?" Amaria asked. 
"I... I think she mentioned the Pokemon Center."
"The Pokemon Center..." Amaria muttered. 
"The Main Street is broken apart. We'd have to cross the Slums again." I mentioned to Amaria, dropping my voice. 
"Then what do you..."

Amaria was interrupted by a very loud cracking noise, followed, after a couple of seconds, by a very loud crash, the kind that one would expect when a fast car hit a building. Glass broke noisily. And the vine struck again. It must have shattered the walls on the other end, because we saw it surge from our end of the building, and die. Probably, even this manipulated life wasn't sturdy enough to withstand such a clash. 




This put the whole "biomass" idea into a quite different light. 
"That's..." I started, appalled. 
"Yeah, we really need to hurry."
"I'm scared." the child said, tearful. "I want my mommy."

There was no point in telling him that his mommy would be utterly powerless against such violence. 

"We're probably going to run into some police officers on the way back. We can let them watch him over temporarily." Amaria whispered hurriedly to me. "Say, do you want to come with us?" she asked the kid. "We'll have police officers look after you for the time being till we can find your mother."
"Mommy told me not to go with strangers. Mommy..." he whimpered. 
"Or we can tell the police officers where you are, and you can have some candy for the wait." I added, offering one of my three remaining bars. 
For some reason, that seemed to do it, and we left the kid, cheered up by the sweet candy -- this was so going to be my best buy of the day -- to look northwards for police officers and the infamous Obsidia Park. 

The vines there became more and more numerous, some thrashing wildly at the large eastern wall, others just literally breaking new ground, and the rest attacking nearby buildings. None of them had as much power, but the continuous assault was taking its toll. There were a few citizens, here and there, trying to fight back with gardening tools, some of them with actual axes, but, while driven, they were outnumbered and tiring fast, whereas the plants were relentless. 
Small wonder they didn't manage to nip these in the bud before. With that kind of expansion, only targeting the source at an early enough stage would work... But were we even on time?
"Is that kind of jungle landscape common in Obsidia?" I finally asked Amaria, before realizing that she had left to speak with a police officer. I watched the police officer agree and head south again. At least one kid would be cared for. But how many others will be orphans before the crisis ended -- if it ended?



"I'm sorry." Amaria went back to me. "I was telling the officer about the kid's situation. Did I miss something?"
"I asked whether jungle landscapes were common in Obsidia." I said, pointing at all the nasty-looking greenery before us, slightly on the left. 
"That's Obsidia Park." she answered. "Usually there's just a tiny bit of grass and a few trees, but right now, I have to admit it looks more like some sort of jungle."
Obsidia Park. So my mission was more or less officially over. At last I could -- I yawned, not so surprising considering it was probably well over 2.30 am -- sleep.
"Oh, here's Rini." Amaria added. "Come on."
"Amaria." Florinia acknowledged. "Greetings. Greetings again to you, Gabriel. While its blockade against the Coral Ward was earlier broken by concerted efforts from the available forces, the flora's assault has secured the garden's entry points by overloading them with rooted upright wood cylinders."
"You mean there are trees we have to cut down to reach the Park." Amaria summarized. 
"Correct. I trust the machine was brought? Especially in so far as Gabriel was awarded the Volt Badge, it seems advisable to grant him the vegetable-felling ability as well."
"Of course I brought it, Rini, since you asked me to!" Amaria reacted, maybe a bit too cheerfully considering the overall situation. "Gabriel, here is the first special Technical Machine, Cut." she gave me the item.
"You want me to cut the trees?" I asked, surprised. "Well, my Pokemon." I corrected.
"You know what they say, the younger ones first!" Amaria said, smiling, in a way I still suspected our situation didn't warrant. 
"I don't think I'm any significantly younger than you." I remarked. "I probably act like it and may look like it, but..."
"If you really don't want to, I can." Amaria interrupted my introspection. 
"No, it's okay, Wolfgang will do it." I answered, calling my Kricketune. "Do you mind chipping us some wood?"

It didn't take more than a few seconds for Wolfgang to do the job, earning him Florinia's compliments (nobody could possibly believe the "Well done" was addressed to me) and the two young women, Florinia and Amaria, led the way into the park. 
I exhaled slowly. Now my role had ended. They'd take care of everything, being stronger than me. I could go sleep in peace. 

No, some part of me decided unilaterally. I'm not leaving till they've finished what they had to do in the park. And you know what?

That you're a terrible person who's going to get yourself killed for no good? a mixture of other parts of me protested.

That you're even going to go in the park with them instead of waiting outside.

Screw you.

"Ahhhh!" I heard Amaria yell. Not good.




I didn't hear Florinia, which wasn't good either. There didn't seem to be anyone but me to fulfill the mission. Trembling for my fate, I went into the park. 

It was just -- boiling with flora life. There were vines everywhere, some as thick and sturdy as trees, and some deceptively mobile. They seemed to be headed outwards, not really minding me, but I kept Wolfgang around, just in case if I needed him. With that many slippery plants all around, in every direction, keeping my balance was a hard enough task and I was forced to try and use some vines as support, since Wolfgang (who had much less difficulty, being at least twice as light and not far from half as tall) wouldn't bear my weight. 

Progression there wasn't fast, but there wasn't any clue as to what could have been such a threat to someone as strong as Amaria. It all seemed peaceful, except for... the vines themselves. There probably wouldn't be much left if any of the large ones had a go at me. I supposed Leaf could burn a lot of them, but with wind and this much fuel, the attempt would probably become deadlier to the Ward than the plant assault itself. Of course, another unpleasant consequence would be that I would be completely trapped in the middle of a plentifully fueled blaze. Devil and deep blue sea, indeed.

I felt something grab my right foot, which was unfortunately under a heavy layer of vines -- they were too slippery to be stepped on. I struggled to lift it, but whatever was holding on was too strong, and I could feel some green tentacle thicker than a fist was coiling up around my right leg. What to do, what to do?

"Wolfgang, can you help me?" I asked, probably hysterically. "With Fury Cut or Cut?"


Wolfgang rushed to me, treading lightly and gracefully on the plants, as the vine was up my knee, so strong it was already blocking the blood flow in my right leg and foot. I saw him raise his arms to strike. I got a horror-filled vision of an uncontrolled move cutting my leg, leaving me to bleed to death. I probably should have trusted him more, as he delicately cut multiple slices into the aggressive tentacle, forcing it off me. 

I managed to lift my right foot, even though it felt quite weak. I felt right after something close to my left foot and, out of sheer self-preservation, lifted it on top of the vine layer. Unfortunately, I had forgotten how slippery it all was, and ended up lying on that plant ground, unable to draw myself up. 

So I crawled during what seemed an endless time, trying uneasily to avoid whatever was intent on binding me for whatever purpose. I realized very quickly that the best strategy was to have Wolfgang hopping around me, watchful against threats to me and to himself. Somehow he handled the whole situation better than me. After all, he was the one to actually battle.

It all came to an abrupt stop, in a clearing devoid of any vine, with only scarce grass, as well as a tall man in a black uniform I recognized at once and a very weird-looking, hideously shapeless, as well as wrong-colored (a sickly green) Tangrowth, with parts that glinted in the moonlight -- metal, maybe? Was the Tangrowth some sort of cyborg? I arrived before them in the most undignified fashion possible, crawling and struggling to get up. 



"I told you they'd get here too soon." the man shouted at no one. It was hard to make out anything with the uniform and the black hood, but it seemed a man rather young, taller than me, broader-shouldered, maybe thirty. The very strange feeling was about his head motions, and maybe also eye and facial expressions? They seemed to shift with unnatural speed. "If you just had made this machine go faster..."

Who was he talking to?

"No! Tangrowth wouldn't be able to take anymore!" he answered to himself in a different voice, perhaps an actual guilty conscience -- although everybody managed to force it to not speak to others.


"The speed has been already optimized. Be glad the Pokemon was able to capture these two girls." a third voice, again different, came from the man. 
It was cooler than the second one, and more detached, more precise, more technical, than the first one. It was an engineer's voice. There was only one conclusion to draw, and henceforth only one possible question.

"Did you actually make this?" I asked while getting back on my feet, trying to sound only curious. 
"Hah. Only three of you entered? We expected more. Three's easy, especially with two girls down."
A chill ran down my spine. I considered the possibility that I wouldn't walk out of the Park. No use complaining, think of how to play best whatever hand you have, something whispered in my mind. Why did I have? I had Pokemon. I had allies. And maybe a small amount of scientific literacy.
This hadn't saved Florinia, an inner voice noticed.
Shut up, you'll jinx it,
another snapped.

"What do you mean, two girls down?" I asked cautiously. 
"Tangrowth snatched them and incapacitated them in vine cages." the guy answered with again erratic eyes and hardly a steady face. "They're held very tight. You're really strong to be able to do everything so well, Tangrowth!" he added by changing tone altogether, the mildly hostile yet mostly matter-of-fact tone becoming outright admiration. 
"So," I said very cautiously, relishing the fact that they weren't attacking me -- I might be able to get out of there -- "do you mean this Tangrowth and the... machine he's got are responsible for the entire plant attack in the Ward?"

"Just... Just how?" I asked the question, the only question that mattered. I managed to somehow not grovel at the technological wonder (abomination too, but people could worship them as well) that Tangrowth was.
"The Link System is a simple hybridization-amplification mechanic." the engineer voice answered. 
Uh. No? That was... nonsense. Hybridization-amplification mechanics as such didn't exist. Calling that... machine... a simple one was probably like calling spacecraft from a hundred years in the future "caveman stuff". 

"We call it the PULSE." another voice answered. If this conversation went on, I would probably get nausea just by trying to follow their head and eye motions.

There, you see? Your expectations of "worst outcome" are improving! Congratulations on your being optimistic!

Screw you, yelled wordlessly every neuron of my brain not connected to that other voice.

"It can manipulate even the slightest root into a massive arbor wrecking ball!" he concluded. 
"That's really impressive." I commented, trying not to commit too much. 
"It might be more polite if we introduce ourselves? My name's Lumi." the guy suggested in a shy voice that just didn't match him. 
"There's not much point, but I suppose I can humor you. I am Zero." the same guy said, with a much more assured voice. That guy knew how to handle himself, as authors said. Bad.
"And I am Eve. Collectively we are referred to as ZEL." the same guy added with the engineer voice. 

"So you mean..." I tried to set my brain working, but it had somehow decided to freeze. Great timing. Need sugar, maybe? No, that was going to provoke them. Yeah, no yawn, no sudden moves... "So you mean you are three different peoples sharing a body?"
"It is a crude approximation of the actual phenomenon, albeit one sufficient for most practical purposes." Eve answered.
"It's irrelevant." Zero answered, tone much harder than either Eve and Lumi could probably manage. "You came here to stop the PULSE, no question. Well, you can try."
I debated whether explaining to him that my thoughts were much more muddled than that. That some almighty part of me had just wanted not to give up early on the work. That Amaria and Florinia were worth the attempt to not let them die. That, however, I had never wanted to be on the frontlines. That, if he released the two girls and let us walk away freely, I'd consider that a net win. 
Something prevented me. He didn't look the type to understand. Then again, nobody did. Zero would just laugh at me and order the PULSE to "incapacitate" me. Eve would believe such matters to be beneath her notice. And Lumi just wouldn't understand. 

But neither ZEL nor the Tangrowth seemed to be moving. Were they leaving me the initiative? Surely not. Could they do anything without my noticing? Regardless, I needed to act or something... And of course any solution would involve me using my Pokemon. I didn't believe the Tangrowth would let itself be attacked directly. Which led me to call...

"Hex, Acid Spray!"


The Tangrowth didn't move and took the full hit. I wasn't sure what I expected, but I couldn't help but feel disappointed when it shrugged completely the attack off. The move had valuable secondary effects, but who even knew if they applied in such a situation? And why wasn't it doing anyt -
And the penny dropped. Had I been in Zero's place, I would have kept a sturdy Tangrowth, shrugging off hits, able to defend itself, but the actual attack would have come out of the blue. It would be an instant kill... I turned back and was greeted by the sight of three vines, from the "jungle", lunging for me at a speed that beggared belief (for flora, at least). I threw myself to the ground and rolled aside, yelling:
"Watch out, Wolfgang!"
The vines missed me, but they weren't trying to grab Wolfgang. They struck him with considerable speed and weight, although it fortunately was nowhere near the momentum of what had torn through the building back then. Wolfgang fell down, knocked out in a single shot. 
"Wolfgang?" I crawled to him. "Thank goodness, you're alive." I added after crudely checking his vitals. He probably would need to spend a while at a Pokemon Center, though. "You did a great job, you can rest now."

While I was focusing on Wolfgang, I got, on the corner of my eyes, the sight of vines heading towards Hex. But he just sprayed some acid at them, with was enough to have them recoiling. 
"Okay, Hex. Acid Spray the Tangrowth, again!" I ordered Hex who obeyed with enthusiasm. 
I had barely got up when I realized that a much more numerous section of vines was coming for me and Hex. I escaped them by a fraction of a second, but they had managed to pick the poor Gulpin. They were mercilessly drawing her back to the Tangrowth, pressuring her from all directions... Probably due to panic, she managed to spit a much more potent dose of acid, but the aim was rather poor, only a small part of it actually touching the Tangrowth, most of it eating into the vines -- which only made them angrier (if they actually had a personality) and crueller -- and some of it being spread on the ground around the modified Grass Pokemon. 
I fumbled around my belt until I found the right Pokeball and managed to call back the Gulpin, who looked in poor shape too. 
"Great job," I muttered. "Thank you."

Now that the Tangrowth had received large doses of acid, it would be more vulnerable to special attacks -- I still didn't dare use fire, but I counted on Baby. 
"Baby, use Echoed Voice, on the Tangrowth, as long as you can, and watch out for the vines." I instructed. 
The Loudred didn't obey at once, prefering to roll to avoid the vines coming at us, while I threw myself on the other side. Then she started to shout, with a deep, resonant, powerful voice. I might have seen the entire Tangrowth vibrate. I was probably imagining it. 

Smaller, frailer, but swifter, more agile, vines latched themselves on to the Loudred. I had seen such before. The Tangrowth was draining life from my Baby. It wouldn't do it too quickly, but my Baby was doomed if she didn't manage to end the Tangrowth. Again vines came for me, but this time I got wrong-footed and they managed to catch my right foot. In an instant, several were enveloping me up to the waist, preventing me from using any Pokemon and numbing my limbs. 
"I guess it's game over, then." Zero smirked. 

"Shout, Loudred, shout!" was all I managed to say before the vines starting pressuring my lungs, muting me, slowly choking me. 
And Loudred shouted, and shouted, his Echoed Voice more and more powerful, despite the strength the Tangrowth was stealing from him, not bothering to catch him or break him anymore. And I felt the Tangrowth vibrating. Something was happening. 
I felt the vines getting stronger up to my neck, my entire body become number. This was the end. I wished it would end differently, after a long and fruitful mathematical career and various other interesting stuff in life. Then again, I would die doing the right thing. I heard Loudred shout in defiance another time, thought it sad that of all the beautiful music ever composed, it would be the last sound I would hear. And the vines relaxed -- whatever had empowered them could not do so anymore -- I could breathe again -- I felt with the sheer mass of the vines on the floor, of maybe three feet. I still couldn't feel my limbs. 

Holy. Crap. 

Had my Baby actually done it? Was the Tangrowth down?

At not five meters, the multiple personalities of ZEL were bickering, not bothering to prevent (or to help) me from untangling myself from the (heavy) mess of vines. That untangling wasn't exactly easy when Baby had collapsed from exhaustion and I couldn't really feel my arms and legs much. 

"Zero, next time, rather than showing off the mission's keystone, let's fight with our own Pokemon." Eve was saying. 
"Stop yelling at me!" Zero snapped back. "You said this machine was supposed to make it stronger!"
"I'm sorry, Tangrowth..." Lumi was commenting softly, that tone completely unbelievable from someone with ZEL's size. "I should have intervened." 
"Your misjudgment was the key factor." Eve ignored her. "Regardless, with Tangrowth incapacitated, the malignant growth will now recess."
Something was bugging me though. While Eve was speaking, her right foot was tapping the ground very regularly, at a rather off angle, towards the fallen Tangrowth. It mostly stopped when someone else got to speak. What was it about?
"So it's all going to go back to normal?" Lumi asked. 
"Correct. So there's no longer any purpose in remaining here. Escape at once." Eve instructed. 
"Gabriel, right?" Zero said before leaving, my blood chilling in my veins -- how had they got my name? "Don't think it is over." 
Was the plant infection actually over? Had we just won?

As soon as my legs were steady enough to walk, I rushed towards where I had seen Florinia and Amaria last. There was a mess of vines there too, probably for the same reason as mine. I hurried to help them untangling -- uneasily again, with their limbs being mostly useless combinations of inert flesh and bone. 
They were both too shaken to be able to get up, so we debriefed sitting just next to the unconscious Tangrowth. 


"I'm glad I can breathe." Amaria commented. "Those vines grabbed us as soon as we got close... They were choking us the whole time. I'm sorry I wasn't of much help. But you cleared the whole thing yourself, Gabriel? I'm impressed."
"Thank you," I answered, a bit embarrassed. "I really didn't believe I'd be able to." I started to shiver and look at my watch. 
I shouldn't have. The vines had crashed it to bits. The very last item that linked me to home. Home, not hell. Just... glass powder. Tears welled up my eyes. 
"Are you okay, Gabriel?" Amaria enquired.
"I..." I stuttered, trying to not just fall asleep or weep on the spot. "I'll pull through."

Florinia went back to the matter of interest -- anyway, she probably wouldn't have understood homesickness, or the fact that it had to be after 3 am, making it officially my longest day ever, or the secondary effects of adrenaline levels falling back to normal.
"Presumably that person," Florinia stated, "if they can be referred to as a single subject, was an operator of Team Meteor. I project that our observances do not compose the entirety of their assault."
"I think so too!" Amaria replied. "A lot of bad things have been happening lately. Between the Jasper and Beryl Wards, Azurine Lake, the Apophyll Fires, Grandview Station and now this..." she interrupted herself.
"The Apophyll Fires?" I asked, puzzled. Apophyll rang a bell, but I had forgotten why. 

"Oh, that's just a joke. Somebody released an alarmist study a couple of weeks ago explaining how Fire Pokemon might become extinct in the whole Reborn Region. The report was only based on studies of a few cases only in Mount Pyreous, the dormant volcano on Apophyll Island. I think it was about Slugmas, Tepigs, and Magbys? It turned out the guy had stakes in some shady for-profit Fire Pokemon breeding program." she explained. "And I got sidetracked, again, darn." she added.
 "Anyway, Team Meteor might be a bigger threat than any of us had imagined" -- you should probably have really worried as soon as plants got somehow animated, I thought. "I'm going to report this to Ame, and hopefully we'll figure out what to do. Thanks so much for your help, Gabriel. We couldn't have done it without you! Bye, Rini!" Amaria got up uneasily and took rather abruptly her leave. 

"The immediate crisis is resolved." completed Florinia, getting up. "I will be returning to my Gym in the Onyx Ward. Gabriel, your attendance will be expected at your leisure. Farewell."
And I found myself alone, without the strength to move or a place to sleep. My eyes found the massive Tangrowth, lying motionlessly on the ground. 
"Florinia!" I shouted. Florinia stopped walking, turned back. "Don't you want to have a quick look now at the Tangrowth?"
"Preliminary investigation of the machine and its carrier's capabilities sounds indeed a worthy use of time." she answered after maybe a second's worth of immobility, then walked back towards the Tangrowth. "Considering their type matches my area of specialty in the Reborn League."
So she was the Grass-type Gym Leader, then?

"Hm. Most peculiar indeed, Gabriel." she remarked after turning around the Tangrowth, crouching near it and trying to manipulate it. 
"What is it?" I asked, trying to keep seeing sharp forms around me instead of a sleepy blur. 
"First, the Tangrowth is immovable. Extraneous body growth seemingly resulted in a great more underground ducts pertaining to the over-development of its vascular system, the expansion ranges of which supposedly spanned the entire Ward."
"I'm sorry... I haven't followed it all. You mean the Tangrowth grew..." -- underground ducts pertaining to the vascular system -- "roots? And that these roots are actually the origin for the plant attack?"
"No other element would have enabled such an over-stimulation of the flora life." she answered. "A reasonable assumption is that through genetic engineering or mechanic amplification, the fundamental purpose and scale of the Pokemon's metabolism were turned from functional living being to ecosystem-scale growth and hegemony. As the machinery looks unresponsive, resolving the alternative will doubtlessly be a demanding task."


I had mostly given up on understanding her at that moment, but something still managed to strike me from the half-awake state I was in. 


"Why are you always using the past tense?"
"You did not merely incapacitate the carrier Pokemon, it seems that your Loudred's moves terminated them." she answered. 
"I... Baby..." I stuttered, jolted into half-awakeness. "Killed the Tangrowth?"




Character ratings: 


Amaria: 7/10 (-1). While a very nice person, she managed to somehow make herself useless at the very moment she could have been most useful. Of course that's not entirely her fault, or fair to her, but still...

Florinia: 6/10 (-1). Again, the purpose of communication is to make oneself understood (implying some sort of dumbing down past 3 am), not to provide the least information with the highest average syllable count per word. Also, her uselessness in the PULSE battle, while compensated by her other undertakings during the crisis, and not entirely her fault, are annoying. 

ZEL: 1/10. What. Just what.



Death count:


Start-Julia: 4

Julia-current: 0

I'm rather surprised I didn't need to save-scum for any of these fights, either Victoria, Cain, the Scrafty gang or the PULSE Tangrowth... Hopefully my streak is going to hold on till Florinia. 


Edited by Mindlack
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  • 3 weeks later...

Well, it's been a long time. The number of views has quite bounced, so I'm assuming people are still reading this story, which pleases me. 

Also, over 1,000 views is amazing. I hope we'll reach new heights. 


The next chapter is (thankfully) shorter than chapter 14. It's mostly filler, because Gabriel needs a bit of rest after the demented 30 hours or something he has spent in Reborn City. 




Chapter 15: Investigations



"Don't fall asleep now. We need you." 

Pain flared through my old wounds. I felt vaguely, but literally, shaken. It was probably a mugger, but I didn't have the strength to fight or run away. 


"Hey, wake up!"


I felt someone put one hand on each of my shoulders -- oooowwww -- and shake quite roughly. But it was pointless. I was just out of strength, maybe three quarters asleep. 


"It's not working. Maybe he's exhausted?" I heard someone suggest. But it was all so far away. Why wouldn't they let me sleep? If they were here to rob me, they were welcome to do so, but I would really rather pass out. I felt some fingers run about my face, find my mouth, and slip something with a familiar and pleasant taste in it. I still hurt, but something unmuddled in me. I couldn't let myself get mugged. I had... to get up... find a safe place... Maybe the Pokemon Center... A sympathetic inhabitant...


"Easy." someone said. "Easy. You don't look to well."
"What... do you want?" I managed to articulate. 
"Take it easy. We're police officers and we have questions for you."
Questions... Now?
"We'll help you to the police station, but we really need to understand what happened there."
The officers helped me up. My legs didn't give up, but it was a pretty close call. It was painful, but it felt good to walk. I had survived the ordeal. I was alive, if exhausted. It wasn't a very long distance to the police station, but with someone walking as weakly as I was, it took a while. I heard, in a blur, policemen trade hushed whispers as we arrived. 

The officers sat me in a chair and started asking questions. My eyes were closing on their own, and my speech was probably less consistent than a sand heap. Vaguely, something registered that they had been asking four times the same question because they somehow didn't understand the noises coming out of my mouth. 

"Sorry to insist, but any information you can provide us is extremely important and we need it with utmost urgency."
"Just..." I mumbled. "Doze off... five minutes."
The officers turned to one another and whispered again. My eyes shut on their own and I started to nod off. 
"You've sustained wounds today, which haven't been cleaned or disinfected. At least, you should have a shower."
I didn't answer. I'm not actually sure I heard the officer, more than a few blurry syllables. There was then silence. And then I felt icy water thrown at me. That woke me up. 
"What do you think you're doing?" I asked, eyes aching for sleep, but clearer-headed than ever since I had met.
"Our sincere apologies." an officer came forth. "What you did was remarkable. However, we really are in urgent need for you to answer our questions."
I shut my eyes, trying to think. It was so hard. I kept feeling spiralling in some bottomless abyss of sleep... They wanted answers, and they'd not leave me alone till they got it. I probably couldn't escape -- I didn't have the strength, or sufficiently functional wits or reactivity. 
"All right." I opened my eyes again. "What do you want?"




So many people around me... Walking, talking... It was bright in the room. I was in my underwear under a warm and pleasant blanket. I was half-lying on some sofa in... a break room? Oh right, in the police station. I felt very tired, but with so much activity and daylight (and, to be entirely honest, in such an incomfortable position -- I wasn't able to feel my arm), I wasn't able to go back to sleep. After restoring blood flow to my arm, and muttering my morning curse to my train injuries (they did ache, but less than before). I added a new curse for my sore muscles from my life-threatening effort of the previous night. 


I had all of my few belongings with me, my clothes of last night dry and close. They were also quite damaged. The Tangrowth had shredded entire parts of my trousers and shirt. The vines had cracked some Pokeballs in the bag and my remaining Potions and similar healing items. The chemical had spread into all of the bag and contaminated everything. The remaining healing items, in rigid containers, would be fine. But it seems the fluid had seeped in the electronics. By some sort of miracle, the PokeGear and was dirty, but untouched, while the Pokeballs were unresponsive. 

Thank goodness none of them contained any Pokemon. 

It dawned on me that I hadn't checked my belt Pokeballs. Heart beating, I realized I didn't have them. My Trainer belt was gone. It didn't seem to be in the room. Maybe I had left it somewhere else. 

So, what should be my plans for the day? I decided that I had to do something I had always dreaded -- shopping. I needed clothes, a new bag, new Trainer supplies. I probably needed a bit more training, and maybe a few changes in the team, before taking on Florinia. If I did things right, all of this would hold in the day. 
"Oh..." a female police officer, entering the room while I was "getting dressed" (with clothe-halves rather than clothes -- I hadn't expected that somebody would come at just that moment), started awkwardly. "You're awake."
"I am." I answered, probably more awkward, and to finally get dressed. "Do you need me again?"
"Well, there has been developments that you might be interested in, but nothing really urgent."
"Can you tell me about it? Oh, and have you seen my Trainer belt with the Pokeballs?" I asked, curious, after a couple of seconds. After all, since she mentioned it, maybe they'd rather tell me about it?

"Come to my desk in a couple of minutes when you're ready. I'll also tell you where your Pokemon are." she answered lightly, leaving. 


I took what remained of my bag and went to see the officer at her desk, as she asked me. She first reminded me that they had delivered my Pokeballs to the Obsidia Pokemon Center for extensive healing late in the night, after my questioning and with my agreement. Then came the touchier subject. 
"So," she said, "the chief approved of you getting all of this information. However, we would like you not to mention some details too... casually."
This made me a bit uneasy. "You mean, I don't repeat what you're going to tell me."
"Some of it is probably already known outside, so the request is more about you being cautious and not interfering with the ongoing investigation."
"I think I can do that." I answered after weighing my words, because I wasn't absolutely certain I could do it. 

"Okay, so. First, it seems that your attack against what you called the PULSE Tangrowth, the plant attack has stopped altogether and the abnormal flora expansion receded." the officer started. "Second, the Tangrowth itself, as stated by Miss Florinia, is dead and decaying with too high a speed. The metal implements you told us about have completely disappeared. We assume for now it is due to an elaborate self-destruct mechanism."
"A thorough frisk of the area inside and around the Park revealed a full keyring, carefully labelled." she continued. "We found out that the keys opened warehouses close to the Coral Pier. We searched these warehouses and found them in a rather good state, meaning that they were in use until lately. The actual Day Care Couple was locked in one of them, so we were able to free them."
"How were you able to do so much in so little time?" I couldn't help but ask, baffled.
"Well," the officer answered. "It's past 11 and everyone was on duty last night, it being an emergency. And, between you and me, the keyring was really explicit. It was kid's play to follow the trail to the warehouses."

What kind of criminal organization with such futuristic tech could afford to leave around important items?

"Which brings me to my last point." the officer says. "We found a lost Pokemon in one of the warehouses. A Happiny. We don't have any use for this Pokemon in the police department, and they're usually hard to raise. So we thought..."
"You want me to take care of this Happiny?" I interrupted her, sensing where it was going. 
"That's the idea. You could take it as a thanks from the police, because we..." she cut herself off. "Some members in the force believe that had you not been there, it would have been a bloodier night."
The praise warmed my heart, but I felt it was undeserved. It had all been so much chance on my part, and such a lack of preparedness on the other side... And the feelings were dwarfed by, numbers. 255, 10, 10, 75, 135, 55, wasn't it? A Happiny... would be more than great. Long-term, I reminded myself. They wouldn't be useful right away. But I couldn't let the opportunity pass. 
"I would be honored." I answered finally. 



"For the very last, there was this story of a lost kid you and Ms. Amaria put in the hands of the police..."
"I remember." I said uneasily. 
"We were able to find the mother in the Pokemon Center. She was overjoyed and asked us to deliver a reward." the officer went on. "When we contacted her, Ms. Amaria said she didn't need it, but you might like it."
"What is it?" I asked, curious. 
"It's an Ability Capsule." the officer handed me the pill. 
"I know what they are. I..." I answered, almost not believing it, not daring to take it. "Is it really for me?" 
"Yes, and that's pretty much all." the police officer concluded, laying the pill in front of me. "Do you have any questions?" she offered, before adding: "that we might be able to answer?" 

I couldn't think of anything relevant to the situation. So I asked her where I should go shop. I was told to try Silph Co. for the bag and the Department Store, both of them north of the Obsidia Ward, for the rest. 






Getting my Pokemon back from the Center was easy. I was just warned not to carry out intense training during the day at least, as this could worsen my Pokemon's healing injuries. 

Getting what I wanted from the Obsidia Department Store was harder, because they had a most peculiar policy. Only faithful members, I was told, were allowed to shop for the rarer items. Customer loyalty was measured in special stickers, to be pasted on a specific Membership Card (which they, at least, gave me). These stickers were to be handed out during commercial events organized by the shop. 
"With what frequency are such events organized?" I asked. 
"The calendar of the events is to the management's discretion." was the distressing answer of the vendor. 
"I see... Do you know when the next one is supposed to be?"
"We don't know."
"Can you tell me at least if it is going to be a week, a month, or a year?"
"We can't comment."
"In that case..." I realized it was all futile. "Can you tell me when the latest event was?"
"It was two months ago."
"How will we be informed if an event takes place?" I enquired, not believing anymore in a helpful answer. "And how much notice will I have?"
"The events are announced well in advance using the television and public posters." the employee answered. 
"Fine." I sighed, dropping that part. What a stupid program. It would work better to condition stickers on the amount of purchases made from the store, or, even better, dropping it altogether. "What may I buy now?"

I saw the employee take a roll of paper from a drawer in their desk. It looked like a list. A very long list. "Okay. Can I buy Potions? Pokeballs? Basic healing items? And more importantly, clothes and a toothbrush?"
That got me a different look. No doubt I didn't exactly match their customer type, with my torn clothes and dubious hygiene practises of late. And I certainly didn't look like the Trainer shopping there for supplies. Besides, with my wandering eyes and awkwardness voice at least half an octave higher than expected, I probably didn't match any customer type they could have registered.  
"I have money." I added almost at random. "I can pay."






It wasn't cheap, but it worked out in the end. I spent over half my hard-saved money, but at least I had a better bag, a change of clothes of decent quality, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and all of the useful Trainer supplies. The shopping sequence had taken me a bit longer than I had expected and I only had a few hours for training, as I was myself tired. Not even because of the Nurse Joy's advice, but owing to my unadapted team, I wouldn't have challenged Florinia this day anyway. 

I knew Florinia was the Grass-type Gym Leader. So Goofy couldn't really be in the Team I challenged her with. I needed another Pokemon that could be actually effective against her. The Pansear, the Trubbish, or any Fighting-type Pokemon I got from the Slums (I shivered at the memory) would be rather redundant. The Noibat would be too weak, but the Woobat could work. They could just about evolve before the battle, just like Hex, and they covered an altogether different weakness of Grass-types. 
It was a good idea. So the rest of my day consisted in speeding Batley (the Woobat) up to speed, while keeping the rest of the team in shape. While there were a few Trainers around, and since the Obsidia Park was shut off, I kept training around the alleys of the South-West of the Ward. I had little to fear as long as the sun had not set, and I watched my team make progress. 



When 7.30 pm rung, I adjourned the training session. I grabbed a snack somewhere, and went back to sleep at the Pokemon Center early. I needed the rest, because the next day would doubtlessly be a difficult one, with another Gym challenge. 






"So, Jackie, what did you finally tell him?" the police chief at the Obsidia station asked his subordinate. 
"I told him what I know, which you had approved. Most of it is now public knowledge, or at least neighborhood rumors."
"Did you mention the keyring we found?" the question was asked in a casual tone, but "Jackie" felt the answer was important.
"Yes, I did. I told him how the labels on the keys led us to the warehouses in the Coral Ward..."
"You weren't in the team handling that part, though." the chief observed. 
"Yes, but that is the information you gave me and authorized me to transmit." Jackie objected. 
"That's not a reproach." the chief answered calmly. "But there's something important about it I haven't told you, because this mustn't leak."
"What is it?" Jackie inquired in a tense voice. It couldn't be good news, she thought. 
"That keyring... It was too carefully labelled, if you catch my drift."
"They meant for us to find the warehouses and the Day Care Couple?" Jackie asked, surprised. She hadn't expected that. 
"We believe that someone did. We don't have a clue as to who, or why. If they are Meteors, Meteor renegades, or someone else entirely." was the soft, quiet, reply.  








No character rating, or death count for this chapter, as little significant happened. 

Edited by Mindlack
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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, sorry for the delay. Studies have a way of interfering with fan-fiction writing and proof-writing. 


Oh, and I suppose that they also give stupid chapter ideas. That concept was among the first I worked out for my mildly alternate story, but I still feel like it was a stupid idea. The math speech (not very long, anyway) can be skipped.


Or, if you like math enough, you could try and solve the problem (or find where it comes from). I'm not too sure what sort of award I can give for that, but I'll try to think of one if the situation arises. 




Chapter 16: Of Math and Men




The Onyx Ward was the best place I ever went to. 

Actually, no. 

Despite, or perhaps because of, Florinia's commitment to counter the rampaging PULSE, some part of the flora had expanded northwards and attacked the Onyx Ward. However, the damage wasn't as heavy as in Obsidia. The point was that overall, the Onyx Ward was neither too derelict nor too dirty, unlike any other part of Reborn City I had visited so far. 

I might not have been fair to the Obsidia Ward, since my only visit had been in the aftermath of a freak phenomenon, created by a "person" whose very existence was enough to make me shivering. Three minds in a body... That was more than enough to drive each of them insane. 

The pavement was cracked, and so were the buildings, of course, but at least they looked like they could insulate the inhabitants from the wind and the rain. The pavement wasn't full of litter and could even be compared favorably with some Lumiose City neighborhoods (not the most reputable ones, but it was a start). The street lights even looked functional, although I was observing them at about noon. The sky was light blue, with hardly a cloud, but it was cool overall. I had to try to not be surprised by the winter and get warmer clothes in advance.

I had woken up early and spent most of the morning training my team, trying to get them ready for whatever would await me at Florinia's Gym. Seeing my six Pokemon, I couldn't help but feel that Grass-types wouldn't be too hard to counter: of my Pokemon, four resisted Grass-type attacks and could hurt very effectively Grass Pokemon. The other two were neutral and had proven their worth several times over. 

In a very prominent location, close to the main entrance of the Onyx Ward, a Game Corner was standing, doubtlessly due to a shrewd (and/or evil) businessman's insight. There wasn't any point for me in going there -- I would probably get kicked out, since I didn't have any document certifying that I was of gambling age. 

Besides, to make money, a Game Corner needed games biased against the customer. The only business where the customer was asking to get swindled. Even if the prizes were worthwhile (and they probably weren't), it would be likelier that I never won enough to claim them. And it wasn't exactly as if I had a steady income, sturdy savings, and a nice place to live. 

But the reason why I was going to the Onyx Ward was because of the Onyx Trainer School, a very reputable high school, by Reborn City's standards at least. I remembered that Julia, Florinia, and Amaria had all studied there, a few years ago. And for some reason, Florinia's Gym was still there. The School was, according to my PokeGear, located about the northern end of the Ward, and organized like a small university campus. 

For some reason, it had several dorm buildings, but their capacity was probably far exceeding the actual attendance of the school. If, as I recalled hearing somewhere, the city I saw was the distorted vision of what it once was, perhaps the School used to have more extended functions, requiring more buildings than necessary. With better transportation, and better communication with the outside world, maybe it could work as a good university?

The Gym was located in the western wing of what I could only call a house. It wasn't tall enough to be called a building -- it didn't have more than a couple of storeys -- but it was easily over two hundred yards long. Someone had arranged for it to be located just behind a large lawn, which probably was very pleasant to enjoy on sun-drenched warm days. 

There were also increasingly many students around as I was approaching the building, who probably were enjoying one of their last beautiful days. Shouldn't they be in class or something? They probably were enjoying their lunch break, I thought.

The Gym itself had a dedicated entrance, distinct from the main one, on the westmost part of its south-facing front. The door opened on a large hall, which might have looked majestic at some point, but wasn't (if by little) well-kept enough to be worthy of such a description at present. Also, there was Fern inside with people looking like... schoolmates of his? He hadn't mentioned he was attending the OTS. He just seemed the age. 

I was almost pleased to see him. Thanks to his decisiveness, and effective team, he had been an extremely helpful, if poor-mannered, partner back in that factory in the Peridot Ward. 

I walked forward him, intending to greet him, but froze when he turned my way. He didn't look like a soldier reuniting with his former comrade-in-arms (which he wasn't anyway). He rather looked... hostile, for some reason? But it was unthinkable... There wasn't any reason for it!

"Gabriel." he called. His voice was acknowledging, but cold. It also definitely confirmed my impression that he wasn't thrilled to see me. 
"Hi Fern." I tried to keep looking positive while answering, without looking like a six-year-old beaming at some candy. "I didn't know you attended the Onyx Trainer School?"

I went forward a few paces. Fern didn't look as hostile, since he hurried forward to me, leaving the others behind. I offered him my hand, which he didn't pay attention to. The good times definitely were over. He looked at me very coldly. I wouldn't have expected a teenager to manage that look. 

"A little birdie told me you were coming here to challenge my sister." he said after an awkward pause. "But, see, Gabriel, I know you. And you don't deserve to challenge her."



"I'm sorry?" I asked. Smartest reply ever, I thought. "What do you mean, I'm not deserving? And why exactly are you getting involved? You're not exactly fond of her anyway."
"Maybe you don't understand why I'm doing this." Fern said. 
"I..." I cut myself off, trying to understand what he could be getting at. Nothing came to mind. "No, I really don't." I shook my head, trying to still look positive, and with the appropriate level of politeness. Of course, I had forgotten about firmness.
"It's not like I'm trying to stick up for the Flobot. But it's a matter of our family, and our school's pride."
"I still fail to understand how any of this is relevant." I tried to argue, my patience and positive mind slowly waning. "I haven't exactly been the knight in shining armor, but neigher were you. Besides, " I tried a rational argument, "if every defeat of Florinia as a Gym Leader, even by a despicable individual, was a stain on your family's and the school's honor, even she would be overwhelmed by shame."

"I knew you were going to argue. But you know, and I know, that you're not worthy. You're not good enough, and that's just reality. So I won't let you." he delivered, his voice icy. 


He stepped back and automatic doors I hadn't noticed so far shut off, blocking my way in. I tried, much to Fern and his minions' amusement, to move about to force the obviously existing motion sensors to acknowledge my presence, and open the doors. But nothing reacted (apart from a smirk on the few unsufferable high-schoolers on the other side). 




"Fern." I said more strongly, my voice firmer and lower-pitched. Almost a normal adult's, I thought bitterly. "Please open that door."

The guy didn't bother to answer. It was time to find another way. I shrugged at how baffling Fern's move was, and exited the building. I would be luckier with the main entrance. 

My optimism was destroyed when I realized that at least half a dozen "students" stood before that entrance, talking with animation, but not looking like they were idly hanging out. Just to be sure, I waited, from a reasonable distance, for a few minutes, to check if they were going to vacate the entrance and let me in. As I half-consciously feared, they didn't move. 

"Excuse me?" I asked them after again a few seconds of hesitation. "Would you mind letting me in?"
The chatter died down. They all started staring at me, which was rather unsettling. What had I expected? I tried to remind myself that I was the adult, and that they were a bunch of unruly children, to be educated. It didn't work, of course, as they were too old. 
"No." someone snapped finally. 
"May I know why?" I asked, always polite, even though the anwser had come as a displeasant surprise. 
"'Cause we said so, that's why." the same person said, in a deeply annoying voice. 
"You're aware that you're blocking off the only exit to a large construction? I'm pretty sure security is going to disagree with you."
"I don't give a f***, d***head. Let them jump off the windows." he laughed at his stupid joke, and the others gave lip service (or maybe throat service).

The verbal abuse didn't hurt much, only a little. The refusal was more annoying. But I knew it would do little good to escalate or use force (not to mention the outcome would probably be unfavorable to me). So I, as asked by so sophisticatedly, backed off to wait and see. After all, they had to have classes, didn't they? Besides, I needed a lunch. 
I came back about an hour after, only to find the automatic doors still shut and the main entrance obviously forbidden to me. The upside was that only three people were blocking it off now, and the former leader (so rude a person, really) wasn't in sight. I got closer, trying to argue my way in. 

"No, we can't let you in." was the answer.
"Why not?"
"Somebody asked not to." one of the students said after a hesitation. 
"Somebody at the school required that I specifically wasn't to be let in?" I questioned further. 
"Yes." the students looked at one another. 
"Fern? He really asked the whole school to keep me from challenging the Gym?" I asked, unable to hide my bafflement, and a tinge of disappointment as well.

"I didn't say it." the "lead" student looked at his shoes. 
They didn't look very resolved. I might have been able to force my way through. But I didn't like my odds, and it rather disgusted me to try it. So again, I backed off a few steps, biding my time. They were pretty wary of my being so close at first. Then, upon seeing I wasn't about to break their blockade, they started talking again and I tried to pretend to not listen.

"So have you seen the math paper?" one of the students, a brown-haired girl, asked. 
"No. I'm expecting it's ludicrous, as usual." the "lead" answered. 
"Yeah," the girl went on, "well, actually..."
"I've had a look at it." the third student interrupted. "Lena's right. It's just too hard."
"It's that bad, Pat?" the "lead" interrupted. 
"Let's say, Jack," Lena answered, "that the clearest part is when he claims he's inventing numbers."

"Inventing numbers?" Jack said, the notion clearly alien to him. I repressed a smile. "How can one invent numbers?"
"I've looked it up." Lena added. "Apparently, he's using something called the complex numbers. But that's really harsh of him, not to teach us about them first. They're supposed to be in the curriculum, but later."
"Why did we have to get such a math teacher on graduation year?" Pat commented in a despairing tone well-known to students that don't like their teachers. 

If there ever was one, that was my cue.

"I'm sorry I eavesdropped on you." I went towards them, trying to look nice. "So you've got issues with your math homework?"
"What's that to you?" Lena snapped. 
"Well, I think I can help you with that." the plan had sprung to my mind. With the swarm of an hour ago, it would never have worked, but these three might favor good grades over obedience to the cool dog (or was it the top cat?). "If you let me in."
"You don't look the type." Pat observed, skeptical.


It was true. I had neither obvious delusions, nor bare feet, nor a year-long unshaven beard. Nor glasses or a blatantly unintelligible math book in my hands. If I looked like anything, I probably looked more like any beginner Trainer, rather than a successful math student. 


"Do you want to test it?" I asked, smiling confidently, perhaps for the first time since I arrived in Reborn City. 

"I'll give him Problem Three." Lena whispered to Pat. 
"What if he could help us on something else? Problem Three really isn't easy." Pat answered. 
"But if he does it, he'll probably solve the whole thing." Lena explained in a whisper, very quickly. "So, the question is the following."

"When are you letting me in?" I interrupted, sure that I would solve without a sweat whatever high-school problem they could ask. 
"Prove that 707,933 divides two to the 677,375-th, plus three to the same power, plus six to the same power, minus one." Lena read. "We have other questions about the homework, but if you can solve this for us, we'll let you in." 




Was the teacher giving that kind of problems? What was wrong with them? Little wonder they all struggled with that!

I had solved a similar-sounding problem, an eternity ago. It was one of those I remembered best. I also remembered the key part. I just had to check two things: first, that it really was similar. Second... that they would let me in.

"Have you tried to factor seven hundred thousand and... I can't remember the rest?" I asked. 
Lena and Pat shared a look. "No." they answered finally. 


"Factor it, that would simplify the problem." I answered as elliptically as I could, as I didn't want them to just have me do their homework for free.

"That's not good enough." Pat said after a silence. 
"I can't give anything more specifically relevant before that number is factored." I said. It was... approximately true. I could have given something more, but I didn't want to before they delivered their part of the bargain. "Let's find someplace inside where we can do it."

They looked at one another, hesitating. I couldn't believe it would actually work. I tried to conceal my excitement and wait calmly for their decision, but my heart was pounding inside my chest. 

"Okay." Jack said. He wasn't talkative, but answered when needed. I almost liked him already. "Let me just check inside if you can go unnoticed." He entered the building. 
"Don't you have classes or something?" I asked, surprised (and slightly dismayed) that so many people could be obeying Fern's stupid whim and actively preventing me from having the Gym challenge for reasons nobody could explain. 

"We usually do." Pat answered. "But some teachers got wounded a couple of nights ago, when..." he hesitated, unsure of how to follow. 
"I know how it was. I was in there." I answered simply. 
"The way's free." Jack came back. 

We all went inside. We found a room close to the entrance, on the ground floor. Afterwards,  Jack and Lena came back at the entrance to pretend to abide by their orders (for about fifteen minutes), leaving Pat to watch me. When they came back...

It was wonderful. For a blessed hour, maybe an hour and a half, I could forget about being a sitting duck in the most wretched "City" on Earth. I could forget about PULSEs, Team Meteor, or the strange accident that had stranded me there. I could stay in the inner realm I had made for myself more than half a decade ago. The realm of math...

I started crunching numbers, to check if the idea I had in mind would work. It turned out I had been right, and so I was asked to provide explanations for the numbers I had written everywhere on the blackboard. I gave them my solution, as I had found it at their age on a similar, if less misleading, problem. I tried to provide them with useful intuition, so that they could solve similar problems later. 

I started giving them, upon their questions, an overview of the so-dreaded "complex numbers", and, after reading the corresponding homework problem -- of a kind I wished I had had -- started explaining the solution. 
"Thank you," Lena said hesistantly, "but..."
"Now that we've understood the core idea, we'd rather try it on our own." Jack concluded. I gained a new respect for these high-schoolers who took math seriously. In a proper academic setting, they would do great. 

"There's a last favor we'd like from you." Pat said. "We were tasked to keep you outside. And... you're inside. We'll need some sort of cover."
"What do you mean?" I asked, feeling that the situation had come back to abnormality, that I had left my favorite realm, that of math. 
"Nothing really... Just defeat each of us in Pokemon battle. You're here actually for the Gym, right?" Jack asked. "That'll be training for you."
"Sure." I said. "Why not?"




Character ratings:


Fern: 4/10 (-1). Just what does he think he's doing? We weren't going to be BFF, of course, but from this to use an entire school just to block my path, when I don't really have anything else to do...


Edited by Mindlack
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  • 2 weeks later...

This probably sounds a little bit whiny, but I still have little idea if the story remains read. The view counter suggests so, but I learnt lately that a large part of the web traffic was made with bots, so maybe it's artificial. And the views don't translate into feedback. I suppose I can't really blame anyone, I'm not really the talkative one myself (except in the chapters, but it doesn't really count, does it 😀?). 


As a consequence, I have very little idea what would be good to change or to improve. Whether, say, making Gabriel use math to gain access to the OTS, was a good idea or worsened the story. Whether I should write shorter chapters, at the expense of "worldbuilding" (or maybe completionism). Maybe even how I should change the text layout? Add colors to the dialogue, like Candy does (it seems to make for better readability)? I don't know, you tell me? 📖 (it's fun trying to find appropriate emoji)


Anyway, the next chapter is out. Don't worry, there is no math this time. Enjoy! 





Chapter 17: The Obstructionists




The Gym building of the Onyx Trainer School was quite more than a Gym. Well over a hundred meters, it contained classrooms, small study rooms, each one of which with at least a few bookshelves. Most of the books in the rooms were similar, as students liked using them: successful textbooks, classical works literature teachers would ask to study, and so on. Still, a part of it was always room-specific, but someone had carefully balanced it so that the rooms were more or less equally used. The building also contained a lot of training rooms for Pokemon battles. 

Despite the clear weather, a lot of students were actually indoors, reading up or doing something else. After my math lessons, I had expected it to go smoothly, to just head in the proper direction to reach the Gym, but the reality was quite different. Some bright mind, or lack thereof, had decided to lock another set of automatic doors (probably in violation of literally every security requirement ever) just left of the main entrance, so that I had to decide on a new move.  



Fortunately, there was a healing station just at the entrance, so I went there, asking for directions. 
"Hello, I'm looking for the Gym." I cut myself off, trying to formulate best my next sentence. "I know it's just left of there, but the doors are locked and... I wondered if it was normal."
"The doors over there?" the nurse frowned. "No, they're not supposed to. I suppose the students are playing with the doors again." There was a long-suffering sigh. "I can't intervene from here and I can't leave my post. So you'll have to fix it yourself." Why? Why me? That wasn't any of my business. "The control panel should be on the other side. Just go right from where you are, go upstairs and walk across the first floor in the opposite direction, then go back downstairs." she indicated. 
"All right." I answered, reluctantly accepting the "assignment". There didn't seem to be a point in insisting: after all, I wanted the doors open as much as she did.

I left the station with healed again Pokemon and set about reaching the stairs to the first floor, at the end of the right wing. Stupid building. Stupid Reborn. Stupid Fern. 

"Hey. You." The harsh voice took me out of my thoughts. I nervously put my hands on my Pokeballs. "You're not welcome here." the person, obviously a male student, added, clearly looking forward to kicking me out. I froze. 


The student walked threateningly towards me, adding a few other niceties, such that "I'll kick you out myself if you don't leave right now.", while I was struggling to figure out a course of action. Or remember how to walk. 

I must have looked absolutely helpless, because the student was getting more and more confident as he approached me. It was sad, I thought, that in such a situation the teenager looked confident enough to bounce their elders. How did they get that kind of confidence? 


The students...


The word helped me regain control of myself and make my mind. There was enough room for me to go. I was in the right. The person against me was alone. I relaxed my arms, trying to look confident and strong, and went on, utterly ignoring the teenager, as if I did not deem him worthy of attention. I expected some sort of resistance, but the young man hadn't expected that kind of reaction. It was his turn to freeze instead of pursuing me. 

Anyway, I got through most of the ground floor (the first line of defence, maybe, in Fern's mind). Things got slightly trickier on the first floor, as the Trainers there used their Pokemon to force me to stop (and I couldn't ignore them). Luckily, I had a full team of stronger Pokemon, which made my progress swift. Besides, the teenagers seemed to lose their confidence after being beaten. 

That was a really stupid choice of organization, I thought. Had they been organized by patrols of six or something, which could alternate between stalling me and healing, I really wouldn't have been able to go through. 

I'd probably have found other means, though. If all else failed, I probably was more patient and had more available time than all of them put together. 

Available time... That thought upset me while I held it, because it reminded me of my situation in Reborn City as an exilee without much hope for a quick way back home, and my battling style went more aggressive, and probably less effective. Fortunately, the students weren't experimented Trainers, and their Pokemon were fairly new as well, and they remained manageable enemies.

I managed to get on the right side of the infamous doors with tired Pokemon, but still able to fight. By some contrived stroke of luck, nobody seemed to be watching them in any way. The controls for the door were explained by a special sign on the wall. I just had to press a button to unlock it. 

I got nervous. Certainly, something would be about to happen. An alarm would ring, because the doors were in their natural state. I, a stranger, had no right to move them. I thought about it. I decided that the nurse had been pretty clear. I reckoned I could claim misunderstanding if it all went hidesouly wrong. I shut my eyes and pressed the button. 

Nothing happened. Well, actually, the doors opened correctly and no hell broke loose. I took profit of the opportunity to see there a short cut to the Pokemon Center and heal my Pokemon, which the series of battles had hardened, but tired as well. 
I was tense at the idea that someone might burst in from that side and shut the doors again. So I gave my Pokemon to the nurse two by two and watched that entrance while she was healing them, oh so slowly, ready to jump in or protest. Or to resign myself to it, a very optimistic inner voice pointed out. It seemed no one cared enough to cut off this way, and all of the stress was for nothing. I was free to go on towards the Gym. 


Well, free... The next room was more of a general purpose room, combining both several Pokemon arenas, bookshelves, and what looked like antediluvian computers. More students were sitting at scattered tables, sometimes in groups, trying to work through an assignment, some other project, or just chatting. It seemed to be a rather popular spot overall. 


More than a few of them reacted to my entrance. They moved quickly about the whole room, so that I would have to defeat them all to go through. And maybe it wouldn't be sufficient: some of them wouldn't let me pass even if I defeated them, and I wasn't sure what I could do to persuade them to. 

I needn't have worried; again, none of them actually tried to block my path in any other way than sending their Pokemon against mine, and that didn't succeed. It was rather surprising in itself -- was the purpose of schools to not let the students be Trainers too fast

What a stupid idea, I thought. 


The last people in my way were, if I recalled correctly, the two people Fern was with when he greeted me with such overworldly hospitality and elegance. They, at least, had realized their task would be easier if they teamed up. Or maybe they cared more about it. They were also harder to beat than the others, although this could have multiple causes. They were two instead of one, and definitely more involved than their schoolmates. 

But all they managed to do was delay me. 


"Just, what was the point of this?" I couldn't help but ask after I won. 
"Look." one of them said, then went silent, looking at the other. 
"Fern's the one asking." that one went on. "He's the best battler in the school and, well, he's calling himself the top dog for a reason. Nobody's crossing Fern here."
"It doesn't mean we like it." the first one added. "But we've gotta live in the situation, keep friends, you know?"


I understood, even though I didn't like it one bit, and thought even less of Fern for that. The ultimate question now was probably when he would get a negative rating. 


"So, would you mind letting me go?"
I got two fazed looks. 
"Do we have a choice?" the question took me aback. 
"Of course you have one." I answered, cursing myself for my being (again) naive, but I had to say the truth. "Except that I'll go through one way or another, because you can't block me forever." And then, what was the logical conclusion again? "Do you really care about delaying me?"
The two young men looked at me and at one another. 
"Remember, we gave you hell."



I ended up in the very hall Fern had tried to lock me out of. There was a room on my right, but it was locked, so I went forward in another room. It was much more sober, and there was a sign indicating that the Gym was just behind the next door. I sighed. I had done it. I had overcome the blockade against me Fern had tried to enforce for whatever reason.


Or, almost, actually, as the "top cat" himself (or whatever he wanted to be called) stood before that entrance, almost daring me to try it. Again, I wondered what attitude I had better adopt. I decided for conciliatory and understanding, as I didn't really believe the matter to be serious enough to warrant confrontation. Besides, he had been an effective partner once upon a time...

Now I was referring to events from three days ago as "once upon a time". Great.


"I'm sorry, Fern, but I really don't understand what it all was about." I started. "What's the point?"
"Those dumb kids." Fern sighed with irritation. Like he wasn't a kid. A dumb one in some respects, too. "They can't do anything right, can they? But never mind, I'll explain."


"Look, Gabriel, really, don't take it personally, you're just a loser. Plain and simple."