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The Odd One Out -- A Reborn Story


Mindlack

Should I keep uploading pictures for the chapters?  

13 members have voted

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

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

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

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Page changes is tricky so I can't quote that well.

 

About the hug: I agree. In the text, it's sort of a blind spot (an issue of first-person narration, the blind spots are really blind) of the character, so it's never really mentioned because he doesn't even acknowledge that as a possibility. So Gabriel is probably not going to give them a hug. He's not really the hugging type. 

 

Or perhaps I'll rethink that. I don't know. 

 

It doesn't mean that he won't try to find some other ways, no less sincere but perhaps more... unusual, to help them. I'd say a little more but then that would spoil the next chapter. 

 

These dark scenes are overall difficult to write. I need to remember who's thinking of what, who's ready to go to what lengths. To find sensible plans for the bad guys, and why the good guys don't just all die because they thought it was going to be straightforward. Also, that negative emotions so intense leave dire consequences, otherwise it's just edge.

 

Sigh... this is going to get depressing, isn't it? I really wanted it to take more time...

 

A little note on Evi's comment about Sirius. I think it's important to keep in mind that it's a blessing that Sirius isn't there. Because Sirius, especially since he knows they're coming, isn't going to challenge them in a Pokemon fight. He's just going to spring a trap. 

 

Spoiler

Not unlike canon Devon, but actually trying to kill them instead of looking like a class project for "Edgelordiness 101"   

 

I don't want to think of the specifics right now, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't take much effort to find plausible courses of action for Sirius that would lead to a "total party kill".  

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello! 

 

I hope you're doing well. 

 

It's been a busy ten days, and I think this isn't likely to change in the near future -- although hopefully I'll have less pressure. Because what's the point of summer vacation if not to have the time to properly study enough to acquire the knowledge you need? 

 

Wait... am I getting this backwards? 

 

Anyway, here's the last chapter of the Yureyu sequence, whose consequences on the characters I hadn't fully realized until I started thinking of what came next. I wish I had managed to get a bit more ahead in the planning, but it is what it is...

 

 

Chapter 53: Encore

 

Spoiler

Surrendering to the Meteors who were essentially besieging us was a bad idea, of course. But the other solutions weren’t satisfactory either. We were on a schedule, as the unexpected earthquake had likely damaged the building. We had four more children to rescue and we wouldn’t manage to do it from this room.

 

Then again, it wouldn’t be exactly easy to get out of there. The first obstacle was, of course, the dozen Meteors grunts expecting us outside. Even if they were subpar battlers and didn’t try to thwart us through other means, that still could mean over sixty Pokemon for us to defeat. Even if we managed that, there was little reason why they would let us leave afterwards, instead of resorting to hand-to-hand or sneakier tactics, as was easier in a narrow corridor.

 

The other reason why the situation was difficult was Shelly. She was curled up on the floor, her hands covering her face, shaking with mute sobs, flinching at Cain’s attempts to comfort her.

 

“I give you a minute to get out, hands on your head. After that, we will cut you down.”

 

Shelly shook harder. We glanced at one another. There wasn’t much we could decide to do any more. We would have to fight in this highly disadvantageous situation. And Cain grinned.

 

"You know, Aya," he said, "I've never seen you fight with your new Pokemon. I wish I could just watch this, but we can't just fight them off properly, one on one."

 

"The corridor is too narrow for all of us to battle at once." I pointed out. "You two attack, I set up screens to protect your Pokemon, and I get Shelly up so that we can actually leave if we win. When we win." I corrected, remembering the importance of self-delusion in situations so complicated. 

 

"Fine." Cain eyed me. "Hurry."

 

I peeked at the corridor. There was the sound of multiple Pokeballs opening. I saw a Scolipede,  and a Samurott on one side, before taking Cain's place, crouching beside Shelly. The new (and reluctant) Poison-type Leader had sent out Salazzle and Toxapex, while her Venusaur was still guarding the table under which the terrorist who had tortured Shelly was forced to hide. Cain had chosen Nidoking and a Meowstic, a female one.

 

"Tech," I whispered. "Get ready."

 

"Attack!" someone shouted from outside, and suddenly the fight was on. I instructed Tech to set the screens to protect Cain and Aya's Pokemon while they would try to roll back wave after wave of attacks.

 

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"Shelly." I whispered softly at the traumatised twelve-year-old girl. She flinched, and that reflex of terror drove a spike of agony in my soul. How much did she suffer to recoil in so minute an instance?

 

"Shelly, you're safe now." I went on, forcing my voice to be soothing and steady, while I was listening nervously to the sounds of the furious battle that was happening on the other side of the wall, and glancing uncertainly at the damaged ceiling. "We're not letting them hurt you again."

 

This didn't elicit any reaction from her. Shelly remained prostrate and hunched up, shaking with uncontrolled sobs that had long ago depleted her of all her tears.

 

"Shelly, do you want something to eat?" I offered. Not one of my best ideas, but I reasoned that she probably hadn't been fed much in the past few days. "I have food, I have water if you want. Talk to me, please."

 

"You know," Cain told Aya, "Nidoking, Poison Tail -- you're really using them well, I'm impressed! Meowstic, Shadow Ball! You didn't have them for very long."

 

I allowed myself a little smile before keeping on trying to snap Shelly out of her current state. I tried for something a little more personal, even if I didn't know her very well.

 

"Shelly, remember me? It's Gabriel. I gave you books, remember? Foundation, The Fellowship of the Ring?"

 

Shelly did react this time. She shook harder, and an actual whimper managed to get past her lips.

 

"S... s..." she tried to articulate, but she was crying too hard to manage.

 

"Well, their previous owner did a great job training them in the first place." Aya answered Cain. "Salazzle, Sludge Wave."

 

"Perhaps it's too much to handle for you right now." I went on talking to Shelly. "It's too big, too noisy, too scary, too hard. I have some other books for you if you want."

 

"B-br..." Shelly hiccuped, sobbing.

 

It's no use, I thought, my word flow dried out. Shelly was trapped in her own panic, and I couldn't help her overcome it. But she had to snap out of it, or she would doom us all. She should be able to understand that. She wouldn't like it, and it may do more damage in the long run. But at least there would be a long run.

 

Sorry, Shelly.

 

"Shelly," I said, trying for a firmer, more reasonable than sympathetic tone. "They're besieging us. We're fighting our way out. But we can't get out if you can't stand on your own. We're not leaving you behind. I know it's a lot -- no, I don't know", I corrected, sickened, "I don't know how hard it is for you. But we need you to make that effort. Else, we won't be able to rescue you, nor Heather, Noel, Anna and Charlotte."

 

Did her sobs diminish in intensity?

 

"When we get out," I added, trying to soften my voice, make it sound as nice as I could, "I'll tell you a story, if you want. The books aren't out in Reborn City, but it's a great one, famous everywhere else, and rightfully so. You would be the first here to know about it."

 

"But in return, I'm going to count to sixty, and you're going to breathe slowly with me. When we get to sixty, you're going to sit up and remove your hands from your face."

 

I extended my hand towards her shoulder, slowly, shily, expecting her to flinch. She shivered when I made physical contact, but she didn't shake my hand out. And I started steadily counting.

 

 

*******

 

Rubbing her naked arms as a weak shield against the cold of the night, Charlotte was pacing nervously around Hardy's Gigalith, cursing how meekly she had obeyed the Rock-leader's unspoken demand. Then again, she thought for the tenth time, it had been incredibly stupid of her to order the Lycanrocs to Earthquake of all things. She would have been served well if the Pokemon hadn't shown restraint, collapsing the building on her and the other children as well, and Hardy, and maybe the Princess and... Gabriel, right? She wasn't sure of his name. 

 

And taking all these bastards with me, a dark part of her thought. And Simon and Tara and their good intentions of kidnappers.

 

After all, why not? That was what she had been born to do. To be a weapon of blind destruction, with no ties that she wouldn't burn. She had been surprised that her sisters didn't ditch her at the Orphanage, after the crime she was both the guilty party and a victim.

 

She then noticed two bird-Pokemon flying synchronously in her direction. She tensed briefly, before realizing that the Gigalith was welcoming them. A few seconds afterwards she could recognize the riders as well.

 

"Anna!" Charlotte exclaimed, surprised and delighted.

 

She wavered as soon as she set foot on the ground, while Heather, unsurprisingly looking like she had spent her whole life flying. Charlotte caught Anna before she fell.

 

"Are you all right?" she inquired with concern.

 

"The world's spinning." Anna muttered back. "I'm cold."

 

"So, not good. Ugh, just take my hand. And Heather, are you okay?" Charlotte turned to Corey's daughter. 

 

"She's... she really isn't." Anna blurted out, her hand on her mouth, part in horror, part to stop herself from throwing up. "Can't you see? She's bleeding all over her body."

 

Charlotte eyed them both.

 

"Anna," she replied, her voice level, "Heather doesn't seem to be bleeding. But she really doesn't look fine either. Heather, it's me, Charlotte. We delivered you from the doctor, remember?"

 

Heather's eyes watched Charlotte, not showing any sign of recognition -- barely of personhood.

 

"What took you so long, Noel?" Anna turned to her twin brother, who had just landed behind them.

 

"You're safe too, I'm glad." Charlotte turned to him, relieved. "So it's only Shelly now? Entei, I wish I had my Pokemon right now, I'm freezing."

 

"And you?" Noel asked. "After... that morning."

 

"It's fine..." Charlotte winced. "Now, at least. Why can't Hardy hurry though? We're freezing here..."

 

 

***

 

Cain and Aya fought like lions, their Pokemon enduring an endless wave of attacks, but forcing their enemies slowly back, getting us more breathing room. The screens set up by Tech helped their defence, but the numbers were heavily skewed against us and keeping the protective psychic barriers was a real burden for Tech. Their Pokemon were getting tired fast, but they were holding out enough to let me snap Shelly out of it.

 

When I reached sixty, Shelly took her hand off her face, and I gasped. Her entire face was bloody. Her lip was split in multiple places, blood was trickling from her archbrows and from her crooked nose. And I hadn't prepared anything like first aid. Something I would have to correct next time.

 

If there was one.

 

Shut up, the grimness detector snapped.

 

I furrowed into my bag until I found a knife that I had bought just in case, causing Shelly to repress a shudder. Then I cut the long right sleeve of the T-shirt I was wearing. I spilled some water on it, and handed it over to Shelly.

 

"Wash your face with this, okay? It's not very healthy as is, I'm sorry, but it's the best I have. I have water you can drink, if you want, too. And sweets. "

 

She shook her head. 

 

"All right, then."

 

"Gabriel," Cain called me. "Primarina, Water Pulse. Mind helping out a bit now? We're a little under pressure."

 

"I'm coming." I answered. "Hold up the screens, Tech." I added, giving the panting, trembling little cat Pokemon, his tiny paw clutching a Light Clay, a stroke and a Lemonade.

 

Aya only had a Nidoqueen out and it looked powerful, motivated, but exhausted. Cain had Primarina and an Alolan Marowak out, but they didn't look very fit either. Even with the screens, the numbers were stacked against us. Currently, our enemies were a Chesnaught who was attacking the Primarina, a Banette whom the Marowak was trying to beat up, but who wasn't down, and a Slurpuff that was engaged in hand to hand with the Nidoqueen, who was also trying to hold back a Forretress.

 

FgWKbF9.png

 

"Leaf, Hex, your turn." I chose, and I joined the battle. "Leaf, Blaze Kick the Forretress. Hex, Yawn the Scolipede."

 

That gave us a few seconds of respite, until Cain's Primarina fainted, giving Leaf a new target. But expecting the attack, the Chesnaught had prepared a Spiky Shield and Leaf hurt herself. She, however, tried it again with a vengeance, and Hex send a Sludge Bomb as support, and the Chesnaught went down.

 

But in the meantime, a Musharna and a Simipour had been sent out, against whom Hex and Leaf were at a disadvantage, and had taken attacks from too. I switched them out for Mouse and Watt who had more effective moves. And then a Primeape and a Jumpluff were sent against us.

 

It wasn't a matter of strategy, really. It was just the numbers, on both sides, a brutal free-for-all where attacks answered attacks, a model version of retaliation. Our screens helped us hold out, of course, but my team was weakening very, very fast nevertheless. Little wonder Cain and Aya had asked me to replace them so that they could heal. All I could do was fight on, focus on the next enemies, faint them before my own Pokemon went down, avenge my own losses.

 

I wasn't alone very long, fortunately. Cain had soon healed his entire team and was coming back to fight, more determined than ever. His Nidoking in particular was so fierce that I feared it might bring down the corridor wall each time its Poison Tail threw a foe into it. Soon afterwards, Aya was ready too to join the fray, letting me take care of my tired team and the pale Tech, with her League-supplied Revives and my Potions.

 

But we were doomed in the long term. We had intended to jump them, not to endure a siege ourselves. Sooner or later, they would have reinforcements, or our stock of healing items would run out, and we would be at their mercy (or rather, lack thereof). Realistically, our only hope was Hardy. If he was even capable of helping us take them down. Mega Aerodactyl was cool, but was it strong enough to beat these odds? We probably hadn't even beat half of their teams.

 

"H-how... i-is it g-going w-w...?" Shelly asked, stuttering, unsure.

 

"We're holding out."

 

"You're going to die." Ricardo said, in a very disturbingly cheerful tone. Shelly flinched. I wasn't very comfortable either. "I'm going to beat you all up until your brains leak out of your ears."

 

Ignore him... He's pushing buttons.

 

"Wow, feeling brave now?" Cain sneered back at him.

 

Something. We needed to get Hardy to rescue us, help us out soon. But how...

 

I still didn't have Hardy's PokeGear number. How lame was that? Instead, I would have to rely on...

 

I furrowed in another special pocket of my bag until I could find the empty notebook and pen I had bought after the Obsidia ordeal, expecting that my woes were over. How wrong I had been.

 

I ripped open a sheet of the notebook and scribbled: "Help. First floor. Need to be flown out."

 

"Aya," I whispered, "can you bash the door in front of us open?"

 

"Why?"

 

"I want to send air mail to Hardy. Batley needs a window, there's no way she'd escape all the Pokemon on the field. She's fast, but frail."

 

"Yeah, we'd definitely appreciate the help. Nidoqueen, the door!"

 

As fast as it could, Aya's Nidoqueen kicked the door that was in front of us a couple of times, breaking it down. I took out Batley, gave her the piece of paper, and told her to find Hardy, outside or in the building, and took off, fast enough to escape every attack that came her way.

 

09nJIAd.png

 

Now it was just a matter of holding out long enough.

 

"Hey," a young, clear, amused voice resounded in the corridor. Hardy! "That makes twelve of you. A bit much for bowling, isn't it?"

 

We all froze, Meteors and less-than-twenties alike. The free-for-all paused. Cain and Aya peaked outside, Aya not without a sigh of relief. I glanced outside, too, only to see that he was carrying a bag far too small for him and that he had two Lycanrocs and a Rampardos out.

 

"Who the hell do you think you are?" the Meteors on his side sneered at him.

 

"Back off, all of you." Hardy asserted. "Or Rampardos is going to Head Smash all of you. And I'll get another strike."

 

What game was he playing? Did he hope to bluff them? There was no way he could manage that, could he?

 

"You can't take all of us on, kid. Now surrender like a good boy and we're not going to smack you."

 

"You really want it to be the hard way, mate? I assure you that Rampardos's head is far more sturdy than your breastbones."

 

It was madness. We should be able to do something, at least.

 

"You dare threaten us? Let's get him!" one of the Meteors yelled in a high-pitched, outraged voice.

 

She sent a Poliwrath. The Rampardos headbutted it without waiting for any orders, putting it down instantly.

 

"Who's next?" Hardy teased.

 

WkFRCeM.png

 

Wait, was he actually that strong?

 

"Well then, I'm only going to say this once, you bastards." his voice changed at these two last words. From cheerful, it had become a snarl. "Fuck off."

 

The Meteors looked at one another. We were still standing still, not knowing what to expect. Could Hardy really pull this off?

 

And then the unthinkable happened.

 

The Meteors ran away.

 

Wow.

 

"I found everyone, I flew them outside, except Shelly." Hardy said, coming towards us. "I found her things, though."

 

Outside? Without anyone?

 

"We have her." Cain replied at once. "These sickos were threatening to kill her if we went forward."

 

"Perfect, then." Hardy replied. "We should get out of here, then. Gigalith is guarding the children, but they must be pretty cold."

 

"I bought pullovers." I said, pulling them out of my bag. "I hope the size won't be too wrong. But you're right. Let's hurry."

 

 

 

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

 

"At last you're here. After everyone else left the building." Charlotte said, reacting to our arrival. "Wasn't a minute too soon, Princess. Lucky us to not be near the exit."

 

She and Noel were pacing nervously beside the Gigalith, trying to warm themselves. Anna was leaning on the Gigalith, shivering, and didn't turn when we arrived, while Heather was just sitting, unreacting. These were unnatural reactions, and that gave my heart a brief metaphorical stab. We hadn't been there soon enough.

 

"Hey," Cain said, "you wouldn't believe what we went through in the meantime! I came as I could. Not in the usual way though." he corrected, his petulance slightly dimmed by Charlotte's glare.

 

Sigh.

If only I hadn't remembered these, um, comprehensive vocabulary lists, maybe I could have actually not got the "joke" for once.

 

"I have sweatshirts for you too, if I didn't get the sizes too wrong." I said.

 

"So you're letting us four damn days with these bastards and that's all you're saying? Not good evening, not I'm sorry it took this long, not even are you fine, just that?" Charlotte went off, angry, but certainly more distressed. "I don't give a shit about the cold. Why didn't you do anything? Why didn't anybody do anything?"

 

There wasn't much to answer. I kept watching Charlotte. It would be best for her if she could get out of her system now.

 

"Do you know what they did to us? What they did to me? What took you so fucking long? Did you just not care? Like you went to the Orphanage about Heather and just... let her rot there?"

 

What was there to say? Could we have been there faster? Managed to save them sooner?

Probably.

 

Then why didn't you just do it?

 

That question, I guessed, was going to haunt me for a long time.

 

"Hey, it's not entirely his fault." Hardy replied. "You really should thank him. He's the one who linked our little team together. And if he hadn't insisted that I fly instead of going directly with them, you probably would all have been corpses right now. Shelly at least."

 

Shelly, who was standing behind us, clutched my arm. Charlotte seemed to want to heatedly reply, but she shut her eyes, took a deep breath and remained silent.

 

"So, Charlotte," I answered slowly, reasonably, watching her, "I wish I had managed to rescue all of you sooner. It could have been done, certainly."

 

Relying on Cal (or my lack of knowledge of him in this hypothetical scenario) to not let Apophyll burn.  

Getting Amaria to nag Ame enough to assemble a rescue team at once.

Or nag Ame enough myself.

Try and get Strength on a hypothetical grey market and use it at once.

Just flying in with Hardy, on the spur of the moment, earlier today.

 

All of these could have helped get all five children out sooner. Why hadn't I done any of it?

 

"The best atonement I can currently offer you is food, water, and a sweater." I concluded, putting my bag down. "And we probably shouldn't be staying here."

 

"I understood you had a house not too far, Charlotte?" Hardy asked as I was furrowing in my bag. "I can fly all of you there if you want."

 

"I think I'll be heading home." Aya shook her head. She glanced at her watch, and winced. "Mom must be worried sick."

 

"I'll give you a ride." Hardy offered. "It won't be long. Charlotte, try to precisely remember where the house is. I guarantee you it's not the same when you're flying."

 

Cain scoffed at Hardy's words. Aya eyed him, then she hit him in the back of his head. It wasn't strong, but it definitely conveyed whatever message she wanted.

 

I glanced at Shelly. Her face was cleaner and who had stopped bleeding, but her nose remained crooked and her breath sounded funny.

 

"Heather!" she realized, looking at her friend, rushing at her side.

 

Corey's daughter ignored her.

 

"H-Heather, are y-you okay?"

 

Tired, heavy blank eyes gazed at the Bug-type Leader.

 

"Y-you're n-not mad a-at me, r-right? T-tell me something. A-anything? P-p-please? Heather?"

 

Poor, poor Shelly. How would she take the sadly obvious realization that Heather was that badly damaged? How far would she take the guilt, the belief that she was to blame for the entire sequence of events?

 

Cain soon went by Shelly's side to try and break what Heather's potential shell-shock. I offered Anna and Noel the (rather oversized) sweaters, that they gladly accepted, but the girl recoiled in distress at the idea of food or water. As obviously as Heather was currently mentally sick, Anna was physically unwell. She was pale and struggled to keep her balance.

 

"Anna," I crouched beside her, muttering. "I'll probably have to come back to the city to see a doctor for Shelly's nose. Do you perhaps need to come along?"

 

"I'm... fine." Anna said in a weak voice. "It's just that the world is spinning right now. I think Nostra is sick."

 

Nostra? Yes, the Jirachi doll, right? My inner chuckle was as cheerful as a sob.

 

"Why would she be sick?" I decided to play along, trying to get at least some understanding of the girl, at least to be able to state whether she needed medical care.

 

"This man..." Anna whispered, her tone sick. "He took it from us. He stole something very precious... the only thing that really ties us to our parents. It's an Amethyst Pendant. Nostra really needs it back. It's like a part of our soul."

 

"Nostra," Noel said, turning to us, "is just a doll, Anna. You're feeling sick because, like every one of us, you went through horrific events. What you really need is rest."

 

"Stop doing that!" Anna snapped at him. "You're always lying, Noel, just to hurt my feelings!"

 

bOxnLq4.png

 

Noel turned away.

 

"I am not." his voice was hoarse.

 

Charlotte was trying, perhaps out of misplaced dignity, to refrain herself from eating the sweets I had bought and laid out on my bag's uneven surface, but she was too hungry to succeed.

 

 

Shelly wasn't really pleased to have to stay in Reborn for a couple more hours, and especially to leave Heather's side. But for once, Cain, Hardy and I agreed, and Shelly had to sadly give in. For some reason, she asked me to stay with her for the time we found someone -- an anonymous nurse in a worn emergency care unit of the Obsidia Ward -- to tend to her crooked nose.

 

And so Shelly was the first child of Reborn City to learn of Harry Potter. Not the whole story, of course. Only, in as much detail as I could recall (that is, relatively much, given how many times I had read it -- although I struggled to give an even remotely acceptable approximation of the Sorting Hat's song), the first eight or nine chapters of the first book. I certainly didn't want to give her too abridged a version.

 

Then, as his last chore of a very long day, Hardy flew us both (Shelly first, obviously) to the house Charlotte had been thinking of, a cottage lost in a cove in the mountains east of Reborn City. It would certainly have been quite a hike to go there by foot.

 

A girl about my age introduced herself as Laura, one of Charlotte's older sisters.

 

"And that makes eight of us. Absolutely perfect." she commented, a tired smile on her face. "Let me show you your room for tonight."

 

Rather predictably, I was assigned a room with Cain. In the same bed, too. But he was asleep, or pretending to, which let me hope that I would hear the end of it. 

 

 

Character rates:

Spoiler

Aya: 8/10 (+2). Her accepting to go to the rescue, and daring impulse to free Shelly during the earthquake are just great. I hope she'll take them as such and not twist them.

Cain: 7/10 (+1). Points for bravery, but I do wish he was able to control himself sometimes. 

Hardy: 9/10 (+2). Well, he actually carried the entire operation. It would have been a disaster otherwise. 

Shelly: 8+/10 (+1)

Noel: 7+/10 (+1)

Anna: 7+/10 (+2)

Charlotte: 7/10

Heather: 7+/10 (+2) Most of these are sympathy/guilt points. Can't help it -- although I wish I could, for the sake of fairness. Charlotte gets a bonus for her decisiveness -- however suicidal, it worked and helped save Shelly.    

 

 

Death count:

Spoiler

Total Parts 1: 6

Total Part 2: 1

Kiki-Aya: 0

Aya-current: 0

Current Part 3: 0

Total: 7

 

Player's note:

Spoiler

DrYuc2R.png

 

So, I thought this battle was easier than the Tanzan Cove one, but I misremembered. No battle with Sirius is a joke. This guy means business. Here's how it went.

 

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Nidoking used a Dark/Ghost move (Shadow Ball, maybe?) and Tyrantrum used Rock Slide.

 

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Oops.

 

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At least we'll be able to focus on one side.

 

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Hex was at perhaps 10% after Minior's Power Gem. That rock is brutal. Also, Nidoking decided to attack Tyrantrum again.

 

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Time to play defence.

 

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Minior used Dazzling Gleam. It hurts...

 

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Oh well. What a good investment in Yawn... (sigh)

 

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I'm not sure why I didn't switch. I think I didn't realize that First Impression had priority over Prankster. 

 

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Not very effective moves start hurting Nidoking too.

 

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I guess Nidoking Shadow Balled the Minior at the end of the last turn? Not quite sure. And then Minior used Dazzling Gleam. I really shouldn't have let it set up. Or I should have set up a Light Screen. 

 

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In order: Nidoking finished the Minior off. Golisopod killed it in retaliation. And Watt's Discharge let it sole master of the field.

 

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Uh oh.

 

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Um...

 

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The damage on my side is Chandelure's Heat Wave plus Seviper's attack on Mouse (through Intimidate+Reflect). Note how even Alolan Muk (a real special tank) really suffered. How come Mouse's Crunch did so little to the Chandelure? And why did this moron attack the Seviper?

 

wHKfIBF.png

 

I know it's sort of cheating, but all I have left is Swoobat and Blaziken and they aren't going to cut it.

 

bYKXYfe.png

 

That's a sack to fully heal Watt. I think I did the calcs to check that it survived the Heat Wave.

 

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At last, Cain makes one right decision, attacking the one dangerous mon.

 

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Who's winning now?

 

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But Batley can't resist 5 hits of Rock Blast. I think Reflect is still on but I can be mistaken. Still, Toucannon is the last Pokemon Sirius has and I have still Ampharos, so this is over.

 

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Well. That one was way too close for comfort. I'm sensing sort of a pattern here...

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey! 

 

I hope you're all doing well. 

 

This is the 128th post, an amazing number -- thank you to all of you who helped me keep making progress!

 

I've had an idea for the story in the past few days, for a little difference in the plot... but I don't know if it's a good one, because it's, well, different, in ways I'm not sure I fully understand. Its climax isn't happening before 10 chapters at the very least, but I don't have a good idea of the specifics of what happens until then... and I have very little idea of whether it can have a noncontrived satisfactory resolution. I suppose it's better since it involves more "moving pieces", but, still... I wish I didn't have to decide on that soon, but I feel like I sort of do...

 

Anyway. A new chapter is here, and we'll be taking a little rest from the action and the overall madness. So it's a little self-reflection, and there's another glimpse of a character we haven't heard of in some 20 chapters... To be fully honest, that's a chapter whose idea I stumbled upon as I was writing the former one (so 53), and... I didn't realize I wanted this written that badly. It may be one of the chapters I've managed to write the fastest. 

 

As usual, I appreciate any feedback that you may give -- a reaction here or on the Discord announcement, a comment (wait am I watching youtube too much these days) -- including if it's about an older chapter because that's what you're currently reading. 

 

 

Enjoy!

 

I just remembered: the chapters contains spoilers for Prisoner of Azkaban and some background information from pre-1945 Potterverse history that I don't think is a real spoiler. But if you want to discover everything about Harry Potter by yourself, you should start reading after the first star.   

 

 

I just remembered bis: there is a mention of a "day of the week" information in this chapter. I thought I had included some in earlier chapters, but I can't see it at all. If you remember or can find one, please comment. If it contradicts the information given in this chapter, it's not too bad either (but I kind of like when everything is consistent so I would really like to know). 

 

 

Chapter 54: After Hours

 

Spoiler

It was a sleepless night at the Belroses's.

 

I lay in bed, my body and my mind tired, dully aching after the efforts of the day, my eyes prickling with the need to sleep. But it was impossible for me. As soon as I closed my eyes, my mind started wandering, thinking back on the previous events. We had been expected, that was certain. And we hadn't been intended to get out alive of the ambush, that was sure too.

 

I spent a lot of mental time trying to understand what was happening. What we had done wrong. What we could have done otherwise. Whether there had been ways to get us out that did not involved so contrived coincidences.

 

It had been crazy to go there in the first place. A crazy, desperate move, but how much of a moral choice did we have? Cain and I, wilfully or not, we had contributed to getting the children in such a predicament. And it had been crazy dangerous too. Without Hardy, we would have failed. Bloodily. Even then, without the earthquake ordered by Charlote, Shelly would have had far more serious injuries, if not...

 

I recalled the image of a Beedrill hit by a vine directly controlled by a PULSE Tangrowth. It had been hideous. I didn't care to precisely figure out how the comparison applied to Shelly.

 

There had been a dozen Meteor waiting for us, clearly goading us into attacking them. We just would have died if we had followed the original plan. Or probably too if Hardy had come too late, which could easily have happened. And Shelly would have been a literal martyr.

 

What if there had been an actual higher-up in the building, a skilled enough battler such as Solaris? What if there had been a nastier ambush there? Someone lurking in the shadow to cut the windpipe of the unsuspecting and unexperienced do-gooder? What if they had just tied one of the children in the building and mined it, hoping to draw out skilled enemies, the better to take them out?

 

There was something else, something very unpleasant too. I had to come to terms with the facts that I had made the decision to sacrifice Shelly if necessary. No one had known, because it had all been in my mind, but I knew it had been there. Not quite as low as Pettigrew, but enough to get Lupin to murder me.

 

What was the point in opposing him? Pettigrew had asked.

 

To save innocent lives, Peter. Sirius had answered. You should have died to protect Lily and James, died like we would have died to protect you!

 

I had consciously decided to sacrifice a sweet, kind, bookish, smart twelve-year-old -- an alter ego in some way -- for the greater good. This notion of greater good approved the sacrifice of an innocent to save my own skin. It approved of this being done repeatedly.

 

Did that make me Grindelwald? Perhaps not. But since that was already the second moral dilemma I had faced, with the same decision -- where would that eventually lead me?

 

Where would I manage to stand my ground against my own cowardice and selfishness?

 

Do it to Julia! a man's broken, desperate scream was all that my mind could find as an answer.

 

 

 

*

 

 

Cain too was restless. Now that he lay still, he could remember every detail of the action he had just taken, and how insane it had been. How deadly risky. Why on earth had he agreed to bring Aya in? If he hadn't reacted fast enough, if the light trick hadn't worked, she could have been...

 

This renewed contact with her, the little chit-chat that barely concealed how badly they needed a long, heartfelt talk. His choice to leave the house had deeply hurt Aya, there was no question about that. And seeing her reaction, for the first time in weeks, he was starting to have second thoughts on his idea... Perhaps he had just been too harsh with his mother. Perhaps he was imagining things. Perhaps he didn't actually have anything to blame her for.

 

Had Cain read the right books, he could have wondered whether Aya had been able to sleep too. She hadn't, and her reasons, her thoughts quite symmetric to his -- she was worried that she hadn't been supportive enough of her little brother, against, say, her mother's meddling in what was obviously no one's business but Cain's. 

 

 

Anna was lying in bed, her eyes wide awake. It wasn't too much about her traumatic experiences of the past years. Instead, she felt overflowing with energy, much better than she could ever remember. She was free at last! Free from the Doctor, from the "therapy" that he imposed on her several times per week, deaf to her pleas and her suffering. If she saw things that no one else could, that didn't mean she had to be shocked -- why couldn't he comprehend that?

 

Her overwhelming joy also may have had something to do with a rare side effect of the medicine Laura had forced on her.

 

"I live in a remote house, however enchanting." Laura had explained. "Not stocking up on medicine would be reckless."

 

Anna hadn't seen her in a few weeks, but Laura was unmistakeable, at least after the medicine had eased her dizziness. Years with the Doctor had changed her, to say the least, but she looked basically the same: like one of the Doctor's bookshelves, in an impeccable order, but this very order, or perhaps the need of it, was a manifestation of a deeper emptiness.

 

 

Shelly couldn't sleep either. She was forcing her eyes open to not have to live her time as a hostage again. The punches the Meteor goon had dealt her, even her small cast still ached, and she was glad that it was one more factor helping her to stay awake. Even then, even in the safety and obscurity of the cove, she couldn't keep herself from worrying.

 

After all, the tunnels were supposed to be safe, no? If Charlotte could find the house so fast in the dark, how hard could it be for them to locate it? To show up again as they were lying helpless, in the middle of the night, like four nights ago? But it was worse now, because everyone was really asleep and only Cain, Gabriel and maybe this Laura had Pokemon?

 

And what about Heather? No matter how much she and Cain had tried, the younger girl had remained withdrawn, mute, just able to put on herself the pullover Gabriel had thought of. Heather had to be so mad at her, which she certainly deserved. She had gotten her friend in the Orphanage, and then, after the rescue attempt that she had been a part of -- and yet so useless at that! -- all she had been good for was to land them all in Team Meteor's cruel claws.

 

 

Charlotte was thinking of earthquakes. Namely, the one that she had set off, which she had nearly killed everyone with. How could she have decided this? How could she have had so stupidly, so absurdly reckless an idea? Had she wanted just to get the world to burn? Again? Had she secretly wanted all her comrades dead, crushed under debris? One way or the other, she couldn't let that happen again.

 

But how could she know? It had been so obvious, so natural at the time, the only way to impress simultaneously on all of her enemies just who they were messing with. But she could have Rock Slided, could she not? Collapsing the ceiling on these bastards would only be justice, and she knew that all the children were below and therefore safe.

 

What was wrong with her?

 

And now she was here of all places. It had seemed a good idea, but now she was less and less sure of it. The last time she had been in that very place had been utterly dreadful. How could it be better now?

 

 

Laura was trying to think too, a necessity that overwhelmed her longing for sleep, while not enough to stop her from worrying about sleep deprivation. What little Charlotte and Cain had told her of the sequence of events leading to this unexpected sleepover had piqued her curiosity. How could all of this have been possible? It sounded too strange, too eventful, too vivid to be true, and yet it certainly was. But she had the nagging feeling that she was missing something important, that something didn't add up.

 

At about five, she made a decision that finally let her rest, albeit rather uneasily.

 

 

Hardy had an unpleasant surprise waiting for him in Agate City. When he landed at the entrance of his small flat, near his Gym, utterly exhausted with effort and released nervous tension (not to mention that it was really late), he wanted to open the door, fall on his bed, sleep for a couple of days and retroactively cancel everything he would have had to be awake for. What he didn't expect was that his older sister was waiting for him inside.

 

She had been worried sick for him, she explained. When someone had called Amaria to tell about the earthquake, she had immediately wondered about him, and tried to call here, just to make sure that he was safe. But no one had answered and she had decided to stay there, just to reassure herself that her younger brother -- who was still her responsibility -- was fine.

 

For obvious reasons, no one lived too close to Hardy's Gym. They knew that the battles fought there could be of very high level and didn't want to be affected by any of it. The area was known to be secure, but that wasn't enough to persuade people that there was no risk of any damage. This was lucky, because hypothetical people living near the cheap, poorly soundproofed flat would have heard the yells of the Andersen siblings arguing with each other.

 

 

Noel was thinking back about the events too. He remembered Gabriel's visit to the Orphanage, thinking about the time he had made the fateful decision of giving him the note. He wasn't too sure about what he had expected, but he certainly hadn't been disappointed. Already the distress he had felt as a powerless captive was fading into background noise born of his twelve years of misery. The loss of their Pokemon was stinging, and the others may still hurt, but he thought it had been worthwhile. Four more days of terror, of misery, of hopelessness, and our Pokemon teams, all to gain a whole life of freedom afterwards? Who could balk at such a deal?

 

Of all the people previously mentioned, only he slept well. He slept so well, in fact, that the light was already failing when he woke up the next day.

 

 

*

 

 

"Hey, Ame."

 

It was about ten thirty, and Ame was sitting at her desk, absorbed in the necessities of her work. She had been up since six in the morning, and she had known, after hearing of the earthquake, that this day would be a busy one, with all needed hands on the deck. Even though it was Sunday.

 

While the earthquake had been mostly localized to an abandoned building, the inhabitants' justifiable anxiety could not be lightly discarded, and there were a thousand questions that had to be answered. What had caused the shake? Was it a coincidence that it happened there of all places? How much danger were the residents of the close neighborhood in? Had the earthquake made the ground frailer, exposing a chunk of the city to a catastrophic collapse?

 

Hardy had had a rough night, and it showed in his red eyes, his definitely sloppy hair and the exaltation that was just a little too much. He had been exhausted, Ame noted, and he hadn't actually recovered.

 

"Hardy. Good to see you, it's been so long since you came here! Have a seat. What can I do for you?"

 

"Ame," Hardy started again, unable to seat. His voice was more mature than she remembered, and it was sterner too, something that didn't bode well. "What was that business in the old Yureyu corporate building?"

 

"We don't know very much about it." Ame said, her voice on autopilot. She had given this answer at least five times since the morning. "At about 1 am, an earthquake shook--"

 

"No." Hardy shook his head. "There was Team Meteor in this building!"

 

Ame's composure slipped. This nefarious group again. Was there no end to their malice, no restraint to their wish of destruction?

 

Wait a second, how did he even--

 

Oh no.

 

"You were there." Ame whispered, looking straight at Hardy's eyes. "Damn it, Hardy!" she sighed annoyedly. "You have no idea what you're doing!"

 

"What the hell is wrong with you, Ame?" Hardy defended himself. "Do you have any idea what went on in the building?"

 

"Please," Ame said, her composure magically back on, her voice level, "enlighten me."

 

"There were the children from the Orphanage that Team Meteor had kidnapped!" Hardy went off, triggered by this detached calm more than anything else. "They were here, in the middle of the literal Patrat hole! Do you know what they did to them?"

 

The... oh Arceus.

 

"There were League members -- children -- kidnapped and you didn't even tell me? Not Titania too? And you let them to rot in the middle of the city? What were you thinking?"

 

"You didn't have anything to do with them, did you?" Ame answered.

 

"Of course I wasn't going to let these bastards do whatever they wanted to them. We League members are a team, you told us that yourself! You didn't do anything, and you expected all of us to turn a blind eye! Just... just why?"

 

"So," Ame answered quietly, still sitting, her mind racing to try and understand the facts before Hardy put them into words, "what did you do?"

 

"Well, we beat all these fuckers and got the children--"

 

"You got outsmarted." Ame chimed in, cutting a speechless Hardy off, her voice suddenly strong as steel, her eyes unforgiving. "While you were busy trying to show off who's boss, another team escaped by another passage, with Shelly, Charlotte, Anna, Noel and Heather."

 

"So you did know about them!" Hardy asserted triomphantly. "But that's certainly not what happened. Instead, we--"

 

"Weren't able to save them." Ame cut him off again. "I know it's hard, but you have to face the truth, Hardy." her voice was softer, almost consoling, and her stern look became gentler. "It's okay, sometimes, to fail."

 

"Just what kind of bullshit game do you think you're playing, Ame? I was there! I fucking know what happened to the children, and it's not that!"

 

"No, Hardy!" Ame snapped. "You don't know what happened in there! Let me explain this to you. A former replacement Leader with known and numerous issues, and a complete foreigner with a pattern of suspicious interference in recent events, conspired to abduct, under false pretenses, underage children with League positions out from a city facility that gave them food, shelter, education and safety, deceiving a bright and oversensitive twelve-year-old girl into helping them."

 

"That's not-" Hardy tried to protest, but he just hadn't been in enough shouting matches in his life. Not even Titania had had as much practice as Ame in her long, troubled, challenging career as a bureaucrat. Maybe because few dared to shout back at Titania. 

 

So when Ame really wanted to cut one seventeen-year-old off, no matter how revolted or righteous they felt, she had the last word.

 

"Shut up and listen. Said two shady characters abandoned the children to their fate when events went south, even destroying the only way to reach them. I cannot be sure about the next days, but the only reasonable inference from what you hinted is that you helped these two take the children back, and kept them from their lawful residence."

 

"But that Orphanage--"

 

"You, Hardy," Ame went on, her tone hard and merciless, "a high-ranking Gym Leader of the Reborn League, one of our most promising recruits, and yet not a Reborn resident, have aided and abetted child kidnappers, and conspired to undermine one of the best and most important social institutions of our city."

 

"Ame, that's bullsh--"

 

"Is it, Hardy? If you forget everything you think you know about Cain and Gabriel, whatever they told you, these are the hard legal facts. Tensions are running extremely high in City council. If this spreads out, it could mean the collapse of the entire League!"

 

"Ame, they're children! There were terrorists kidnapping them! I don't give a shit about the politics and neither should you! It would have sorted itself out anyway! But you know what wouldn't? The children who've been living through hell in this horrid place and you didn't do a damn thing to help them out!"

 

Ame got up briskly, without a word, her eyes thundering at Hardy, and this made the Rock-type Leader realize that, in some sort of manner, he had overstepped an important boundary. Ame walked around her desk, walked past him, and slammed the door of her office, with a loud bang.

 

"This," she growled in a low voice that sent shivers down Hardy's spine, "does not get out of this room. Ever. Is that understood?"

 

"Y-yes." Hardy's voice, in reaction, had become trembling. He made a note to never, ever speak to Ame in that tone again.

 

"What do you think happens in City council? There are the incompetents, the cynics, the greedy, the corrupt and then us. Perhaps forty people total, so, us means, like, a dozen? But we do all the work. We're the ones who struggle to save Reborn. Every. Single. Day. We overwrite the incompetents' work. We nag the cynics into action. We keep the greedy in check, and force the corrupt few to pay dearly for the privilege they unlawfully took.

 

What is so problematic with the entire crisis triggered by Cain and Gabriel's decision to raid the Lapis Orphanage is that it has put us, the ones who get things done, who believe in a future for Reborn, at cross-purposes. Which is dreadful to the city as a whole.

 

So I had to give in today. Cain and Gabriel are now both wanted. The appearances are fine. Cain will do the sensible thing and lay low -- or better, run away -- for a while. Gabriel may or may not realize that, but I hope that the police won't be too harsh on him, since he's kept well-earned friends there.

 

And as for the earthquake... Well, you noticed it while flying out of boredom, and you investigated. It turned out to be a dastardly Meteor plot, which you put an end to. Understood?"

 

Hardy was frozen speechless in place, as though he was seeing a ghost. This Ame was one that he had no inkling existed. He had seen Titania get angry at others, but she hadn't even come close. And his sister was always on edge anyway. But Ame? The manager who had enthused him without so much as raising her voice? Who had been as nice, as helpful as she could, and then some?

 

Ame sat back down, closing her eyes. Her stature seemed to diminish, as though she was turning the intimidation off, but Hardy was still uneasy. She had a deep sigh.

 

"I understand," she said, "that you must have had a peek at the children before Team Meteor managed to get away with them. How were they?"

 

"They're..." Hardy started, then stopped hesitantly. He wasn't sure what to say, especially on this level of conversation that was so unfamiliar to him. He didn't even know... "They were walking on their own, at least." he decided, his tone cautious. 

 

"Hypothetically speaking, if you had been managed to set them free, would you have led them back to the Orphanage?"

 

"N... I'm not sure." Hardy replied. "Neither Gabriel nor Cain were fond of that idea."

 

"Where else would they have gone?"

 

"Cain told me that the original plan had been to go to the Belrose house in Tanzan Mountain."

 

The phone rung and Ame picked up, motioning to Hardy to stay. She was silent as she listened to what the other speaker said.

 

"Please make her wait for five minutes and send her in." she answered, before hanging up.

 

She forced her already weary, overheating brain to switch on again. Saphira was coming too. After four years of phone-only communication only when absolutely required.

 

The last time they had seen face-to-face was when Saphira, fresh out of the Orphanage herself, had wanted to expose what she felt had been mistreatment. Ame had listened to the story and felt revulsion, of course. But she was already cautious and very mindful of the possible consequences.

 

So she had called a lawyer that she knew, just to make sure that Saphira's story would stand in the obvious ensuing libel suit. It was a wholesale slaughter. Saphira on a witness chair was... wrong. Powerlessness did not suit her at all. In less than two hours, she had been reduced to a red-eyed mess, clenching her fists so hard that her nails were biting into her palms, who knew -- and couldn't do much about it -- that she was just dancing on the lawyer's strings, excellently arguing against herself.

 

She hadn't been able to take it all the way. In two hours, she had decided, furious, that she was not going to be made like this. So she had risen from the chair, headbutted the lawyer, and flown back to Labradorra to run her Gym, at least when she wasn't getting some extra training in Reborn City.

 

This wasn't a coincidence.

 

"Hardy, Saphira is coming to see me. I think she'll want to talk with you too, so it's best if you wait for her in the lobby. Whatever you may be speaking of, I think it's best if this doesn't happen inside the city. I don't have much time, but there's another thing I would like to know. As you know, I had my reasons to let the matter rest for at least a few days. So how did you learn about it?"

 

"Well..." Hardy replied uneasily. He didn't know very well any more what to say, what was to be understood and what was to be asserted. And he knew that the truth would get someone in trouble.

 

"Just the truth." Ame said. "Don't worry. I'm not taking it out on anyone, but I need to know."

 

"Gabriel told me. I wanted to give Aya a warm welcome into the League, and he had just got her Badge. He obviously hesitated before telling us about this, but he decided that he and Cain needed the backup. I trusted his story, and Aya was all too willing to see Cain again."

 

"I see..." Ame muttered.

 

"And, honestly... he was right. Had only Gabriel and Cain come, as was the plan, they would have been slaughtered."

 

Gabriel. Gabriel again.

 

Defying the odds, finding the one person who would help him.

 

There had to be something she was missing.

 

It was just unrealistic that he could be involved in so much in so little time, beating so frequently odds so long.

 

But it certainly didn't look like he was looking for it.

 

She remembered all the instances when he had asked for someone else to do the task for him, as Florinia had mentioned to herAnd she had just told her to do what she felt was best. 

 

So what?

 

"Ok, Hardy. Was there anything else?" her voice was completely smooth now, with a tinge of sadness.

 

"No... that is, yes. Team Meteor took their Pokemon. All of them."

 

While her face remained composed, Ame was already flagellating herself for not thinking of that. So many good Pokemon too... So many League members turned useless... But perhaps they could intercept them, figure out where the Pokemon were. She knew someone who might be able to figure this out.

 

"I'll have someone look into it. Anything else?"

 

"Not really, no."

 

"Then you'd better go. Don't forget to wait for Saphira. She'll come to you if she has any questions about last night."

 

"You think she's coming about-"

 

"Yes, I'm certain of it."

 

The talk was over. Knowledge, viewpoints had been exchanged, and it was time to move on. Hardy found his composure again, walked towards the exit, and opened the door.

 

"Hardy?" Ame asked, sitting, but her head not in her paperwork, her voice less steady.

 

"Yes?"

 

"Sorry for the outburst. And thank you for what you did."

 

 

 

 

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Ouch, this chapter was probably the most depressing one so far after listing to all the thoughts now.

 

But I never expected Noel to act like that, which scared me a little and the fact, they haven't retrieved their teams yet... Charlotte's and Anna's parts were sad, with the former playing a tragic tune on it.

 

However now, when Saphira will appear things will turn ugly for Gabriel, since we know how our Dragon Queen ticks, when it comes to her remaining family.

 

10 hours ago, Mindlack said:

So she had called a lawyer that she knew, just to make sure that Saphira's story would stand in the obvious ensuing libel suit. It was a wholesale slaughter. Saphira on a witness chair was... wrong. Powerlessness did not suit her at all. In less than two hours, she had been reduced to a red-eyed mess, clenching her fists so hard that her nails were biting into her palms, who knew -- and couldn't do much about it -- that she was just dancing on the lawyer's strings, excellently arguing against herself.

 

10 hours ago, Mindlack said:

Anna was lying in bed, her eyes wide awake. It wasn't too much about her traumatic experiences of the past years. Instead, she felt overflowing with energy, much better than she could ever remember. She was free at last! Free from the Doctor, from the "therapy" that he imposed on her several times per week, deaf to her pleas and her suffering. If she saw things that no one else could, that didn't mean she had to be shocked -- why couldn't he comprehend that?

 

 

Ouch, given how much of a dickhead and "cruel" person Sigmund is, I wouldn't be suprised about his treatment might have ruined the children... Especially Anna (with her powers) and Saphira (still waiting for the truth in E19)

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17 hours ago, Mindlack said:

"What do you think happens in City council? There are the incompetents, the cynics, the greedy, the corrupt and then us. Perhaps forty people total, so, us means, like, a dozen? But we do all the work. We're the ones who struggle to save Reborn. Every. Single. Day. We overwrite the incompetents' work. We nag the cynics into action. We keep the greedy in check, and force the corrupt few to pay dearly for the privilege they unlawfully took.

You pretty nailed this part 10 out of 10, buddy. It perfectly voices Ame's hatred for those damm fools, who can get away from all of this mess, but not the good ones. That's very sad, if you can imagine that is also happens in the real world, which grinds me a lot😡

 

I could imagine Ame snaping one day out of stress and anger, when trying to fix the mess. Also those corrupt idiots are almost in the same level as Team Meteor, if you ask me. It's.. very frightening and it always thr innocent who pay the price for it😭😡

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12 hours ago, Evi Crystal said:

Ouch, this chapter was probably the most depressing one so far after listing to all the thoughts now.

 

But I never expected Noel to act like that, which scared me a little and the fact, they haven't retrieved their teams yet... Charlotte's and Anna's parts were sad, with the former playing a tragic tune on it.

 

However now, when Saphira will appear things will turn ugly for Gabriel, since we know how our Dragon Queen ticks, when it comes to her remaining family.

 

Oh dear... I worry that it says something about me that I didn't even consider it to be a sad chapter. 

 

For Noel: I think he's supposed to be “on the spectrum”, which implies that he can tend to think or react differently. As he's (when he speaks) pretty pragmatic and unemotional, I thought it was in character for him to view this ordeal as a price to pay -- and, all things considered, one he would be willing to. That doesn't mean that he won't suffer emotional consequences from everything that happened... perhaps they'll just take longer to appear or be deeper. I'm not exactly sure how or when, though. I just hope I'm not getting him utterly wrong. 

 

As for Saphira: this is going to be so fine... there's absolutely no need to worry... 🥴

 

 

 

Quote

Ouch, given how much of a dickhead and "cruel" person Sigmund is, I wouldn't be suprised about his treatment might have ruined the children... Especially Anna (with her powers) and Saphira (still waiting for the truth in E19)

 

This Sigmund is a little bit milder... I haven't settled on that yet. In canon, the children are rather well-adjusted: Saphira and Charlotte hate the guy and the others find him scary, which is rather superficial as far as psychology is concerned. So I think the Orphanage issues will be overshadowed by some more specific ones to each: Saphira and Charlotte have some sort of anger issues, Laura has something that may already be noticeable, and I'm not entirely sure about Heather (though canon is probably sound), Shelly (we'll see how this goes), Anna and Noel (I'm least sure about them tbf). 

 

 

5 hours ago, Evi Crystal said:

You pretty nailed this part 10 out of 10, buddy. It perfectly voices Ame's hatred for those damm fools, who can get away from all of this mess, but not the good ones. That's very sad, if you can imagine that is also happens in the real world, which grinds me a lot😡

 

I could imagine Ame snaping one day out of stress and anger, when trying to fix the mess. Also those corrupt idiots are almost in the same level as Team Meteor, if you ask me. It's.. very frightening and it always thr innocent who pay the price for it😭😡

 

Thank you! I don't know how much of this is true in the real world. I guess that corruption happens even in first-world big cities. But here, I thought that everything should be up to eleven: how many people actually believe Reborn City can be fixed rather than live on out of inertia or "base" hedonism (and unwillingness to lay down and die)?

Everyone else is, on some level, a cynic. Some of them don't actually care (or don't realize deep-down what is on the verge of happening) and are in it for the money and the connections -- they're the greedy (or the corrupt for those who go to extra lengths). 

And of course, there has to be a good dose of incompetence because it's really unbelievable that Blacksteam could operate so long with a PULSE inside it. 

 

And yes, of course, the burden is on everyone else. 

 

But I don't see Ame snapping. She's far too aware of how important she is, has too much experience to lose her cool at important moments. And I guess she has people she can confide in (I suppose that voicing one's frustration at someone like Florinia, who will not react, can control it).   

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29 minutes ago, Mindlack said:

As for Saphira: this is going to be so fine... there's absolutely no need to worry... 🥴

*Jojo's voice* Ooh noooo😱😱

 

Run Gabriel! Ruuuuun, you and Cain will get both hyperbeamed all the way back to Azurine, if she finds out. Have mercy on these two fellas. I'll prefer Tania over Saphira despite some odds😶🙏🏼

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12 hours ago, Mindlack said:

For Noel: I think he's supposed to be “on the spectrum”, which implies that he can tend to think or react differently. As he's (when he speaks) pretty pragmatic and unemotional, I thought it was in character for him to view this ordeal as a price to pay -- and, all things considered, one he would be willing to. That doesn't mean that he won't suffer emotional consequences from everything that happened... perhaps they'll just take longer to appear or be deeper. I'm not exactly sure how or when, though. I just hope I'm not getting him utterly wrong.

Sigh, Noel doesn't have it easy expression himself thanks to his condition. Kinda tragic and sad, what he and his sister went through such ordeal, but him more due to being overshadowed by her😔

 

I hope, they'll get their teams back soon because it will be upsetting since they bonded with them after so long despite being separated back then.

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On 6/16/2021 at 11:48 PM, Evi Crystal said:

Have mercy on these two fellas. I'll prefer Tania over Saphira despite some odds😶🙏🏼


Are you sure about that? Gabriel just went above and beyond to rescue Charlotte from an awful place. Whereas each time he worked with Amaria, Gabriel got out in a far better state than she did. 


But I will be merciful… after all, no more Gabriel means no more story, right? 


 

On 6/16/2021 at 11:48 PM, Evi Crystal said:

*Jojo's voice* Ooh noooo😱😱

 

Run Gabriel! Ruuuuun, you and Cain will get both hyperbeamed all the way back to Azurine, if she finds out.


That’s underestimating Saphira’s power. She’s going to Hyper Beam them to orbit instead.🤣

 

On 6/17/2021 at 11:44 AM, Evi Crystal said:

Sigh, Noel doesn't have it easy expression himself thanks to his condition. Kinda tragic and sad, what he and his sister went through such ordeal, but him more due to being overshadowed by her😔

 

I hope, they'll get their teams back soon because it will be upsetting since they bonded with them after so long despite being separated back then.


Yes, Noel doesn’t have it easy, does he? 
 

I think I can only answer all this comment by “Read the next chapters to find out!”

 

Or, I assume, wait until I finally get back to

1) finishing that >@$!?#%*!< chapter 55 that I seem to be plain unable to write

2) having a little more certainty on the next plot points

3) growing back my now-inexistant buffer


Sigh…

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13 hours ago, Mindlack said:

Are you sure about that? Gabriel just went above and beyond to rescue Charlotte from an awful place. Whereas each time he worked with Amaria, Gabriel got out in a far better state than she did. 


But I will be merciful… after all, no more Gabriel means no more story, right? 

 

Ah I didn't mean that for the Gabriel part😅

 

It just sometimes I have the mixed feelings with Tania and Saphira due to how their are and given their circumstances, but for me... Tania will be more calm in those instances despite her lack of empath and her anger (more than the latter) with Gabriel- expect for a certain situation with the something.

 

And we all know how Saphira is ticking, so I'm kinda worried about it, that she'll snap at him despite him rescuing Charlotte. She's not the type to be that easy after all.

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  • 1 month later...

This has been a long time, hasn't it? I hope you've been doing well. 

 

I've really been struggling on the chapters following the previous one, as I may have hinted multiple times. I'm not too sure why. And to top it all, I was hurting inside a little each time I saw Candy's frequent updates (or Derog's, I guess) -- always very good, while my writing is an uphill battle these days. 

Maybe it'll change now that I'm "on vacation". Maybe I need a true break from this too. I don't know. 

 

Still, the view counter keeps going up, and we're far past the amazing 15k views, so wow. 

 

I'll stop delaying and give you the chapter. Just a warning: it's a long one, and I'm not sure the quality matches the quantity. The plot is taking a little nap, but it's going to wake up soon... 

 

I hope you enjoy! (and if you do, please do react or comment, even about earlier chapters -- they're not too old to be relevant)

 

 

 

 

Chapter 55: Cultivating The Garden

 

Spoiler

Curiously, I felt pretty rested and quite energetic after the three or four hours of sound sleep I managed to have, when the daylight woke me up at about nine thirty. I felt so rested, so comfortable, that I had trouble remembering where I was, or why I was there.

 

Then the events of the past few days rushed to my mind, the overall impression surreal. If I didn't remember it, I wouldn't have believed it. Cain wasn't moving, so hopefully he was still asleep. I got out of bed and prepared myself mentally for a journey of peace. A new day where there was so much to do, and so little that I had to do!

 

The realization finally sinked in as I exited the room in the previous day's clothes. So there were five children that I had taken from their legal residence. Ethically, I was now responsible for their wellbeing.

 

God.

 

I had never actually understood how people could want to have children. Did they not realize the insane responsibility that came with it? How many truly important factors they couldn't control or, when they could, didn't understand in the slightest? How many ways to possibly fail there were? And worse, that they were still accountable for the result -- legally for eighteen entire years, morally for their entire lives?

 

Of course, by that logic, we as a species would have died out long ago. But still.

 

And now I didn't have one child to raise from the cradle, in a steady life situation, with sufficient time or resources to nurture and stimulate them. I was homeless myself, with the equivalent of a pretty shallow emergency fund as sole money and no income, and there were five soon-to-be teenagers I was responsible for, each with doubtless issues and a childhood spent in the next worst place to a slum. I felt ethically responsible for them, and all I had to help them was, I guess, the influence of a slightly older figure.

 

An influence I probably didn't have anyway, since they didn't even know me. And even if I had some, what could I use it for? What could I tell them, help them with? In what way could they -- or, really, should they -- relate to my lack of experience, my lack of struggles, my cowardice?

 

This is so blatantly biased against yourself that I wonder how you can think it, the grimness censor pointed out.

 

I was basically arguing against myself at this point. It almost meant that the ethical thing to do was to no longer taint everyone with my flaws and just leave. Which basically amounted to reneging on my own duty, no matter the rationale.

 

A tour of the house would have been a nice distraction, but I didn't want to disturb the children's sleep. I supposed that all I could do would be to find the living room -- so as to not lock myself out of any contact -- and wait with a good book for everyone to wake up. Searching my memory for the books I had borrowed, I decided that The Return of the King would make for the most pleasant read.

 

The house had two floors. The bedrooms were upstairs, while the living room and the kitchen were downstairs. But Shelly was already downstairs and, sniffing, pale, with shadows under her eyes, she was pacing the living room.

 

"What's wrong, Shelly?"

 

She flinched, then stopped, facing me. But she was only really standing on one foot, and her other leg was trembling.

 

"Um... I... d-didn't mean to w-wake you up..." she stuttered.

 

jsH4wiL.png

 

"You didn't wake me up, don't worry. But there's obviously something you're upset about. Can I help?"

 

"It's Heather..." Shelly answered, lowering her eyes, her voice even tinier than usual. "I t-think she's f-fled..."

 

Not that again...

 

"I, um, told Laura, and she went looking for her, but it's been long since and I haven't heard of her yet..."

 

"Do... do you know how long?" I enquired.

 

"N-no... I d-don't have a w-watch. I t-tried to read, but I'm w-worried about H-Heather... S-she got in so much t-trouble because of me... S-she hasn't spoken t-to anyone..."

 

"Hm... do you remember how light it was outside?" I asked. "If Heather has had some time to flee, then it will take time to both find her, and get her back here."

 

"I k-know... b-b-but I'm s-still c-concerned about Heather..."

 

"Do you think Laura can find her?" I asked.

 

"She t-told me she k-knew the s-surroundings quite w-well, a-and she's, um, in the E-Elite Four..."

 

"Elite Four?" I blurted out, remembering my impression of her. I would never have thought that.

 

That meant that she shouldn't be taken lightly. But did that translate to more practical capabilities? Even then, I would probably have preferred Hardy to search for Heather, because he had Flying-types that would have helped him effectively survey everywhere that was close enough. Although I could be selling Laura short. And I probably couldn't do much better than she did.

 

Or could I?

 

"Um... Gabriel?"

 

I could let Batley stretch her wings. Just in case Laura was an ivory-tower battler.

 

"Do you know if Laura has Flying Pokemon to help locate Heather?"

 

"Y... Yes, she has. S-She thought of that."

 

"So..." I hesitated. "I don't think I can do much more than just trust her. Heather is on foot and probably knows very little about the place; Laura has Flying-types and lives here. She'll probably find her."

 

"I h-h-hope so."

 

"In the meantime, you really should take your mind off it, since you cannot do anything about it. So I guess you can take a book. Or do you perhaps want to know what happens next at Hogwarts?"

 

"I-if you d-don't mind, I w-would like t-that."

 

"Okay." I smiled, and tried to contain the rising fear that I didn't remember too well the next part of the book. It wasn't like there was a hundred pages of text that just had nothing in it, right? "Sit down."

 

 

*

 

I stopped speaking during the troll incident, when I realized that Shelly had fallen asleep in the couch. Shelly looked... different, asleep, but I wasn't sure what it was. Judging from the looks, I had the fleeting impression that she felt better now than all the times I had previously seen her. After all, she had been crying most of those times.

 

So I took the Return of the King and started reading, wishing for a second that I had the original Harry Potter book to refresh my memory... But then again I would give it to Shelly instead. After all, I had already read it many times.

 

"Hey everyone! Such a wonderful morning, isn't it?" Anna's cheerful voice rang in the living room. "Hi Gabriel! Hi... oh."

 

She stopped abruptly right before Shelly, hopping in place.

 

"What were you two doing so early in the morning?" she whispered excitedly.

 

"Shelly told me Heather was missing, and she was stressed out because Laura wasn't coming back."

 

"But Laura is in the Elite Four!" she chirped. "She'll manage, no problem. Heather will be fine, don't worry too much about her. So what were you two doing?"

 

"I was narrating her a book that I thought she would like." I answered. "I couldn't find the text at the library, I think it's too recent. She fell asleep..."

 

Ah.

 

"I must have been doing an awful job of it," I half-joked, "if she managed to sleep during that."

 

"Of course not!" Anna protested vividly. "She has had a difficult night, see? She was scared, she had nightmares. You made her feel safe and welcome. That's really the best result you could get."

 

My eyes blurred. The compliment was so sincere that it hurt. But it was ignorant. I didn't deserve it. I had endangered Shelly and everyone else, and I had been willing to sacrifice her to the greater good, aka my own. And that was just my disgraceful actions of the day before. Not to mention my letting Kiki die for me, or Amaria suffering instead of my dying...

 

"Stop doing that!" Anna said. "You're hurting yourself!"

 

"What are you talking about?"

 

"You can't see it? There are little black clouds that you're growing. They hurt you, you know! You look much better when you're glowing."

 

What? Black clouds? Glowing? I cast an automatic glance at my body, not really expecting to see any glowiness or black clouds, but you never knew.

 

"You can't see them, can you?" Anna added cheerfully. It was still a bit unnerving to see her so unfailingly happy. "That doesn't mean they're not here."

 

Uh...

 

I was spared the necessity of finding an answer when Laura came back, her hand holding close a scruffy-haired Heather who was struggling to keep her red eyes open. I rose.

 

"Good morning, Anna and... Gabriel. I found her." she said. She glanced at Shelly, who was sleeping soundly on the couch. "I take it that everyone else is asleep?"

 

She let go of Heather's hand. The half-awake little girl somehow managed to walk a few paces, and then collasped on the couch, cuddling up to the Bug Gym Leader (now without Pokemon).

 

"As far as I know." I answered.

 

"It is an endearing sight, is it not?" Laura mused, looking at the two friends who already had shared so much pain together, as they peacefully rested, exhausted.

 

Something about the sentence sounded off, though.

 

"I nearly forgot," Laura shook her head after glancing at me. "You must be hungry now. Let us start breakfast, the other will come?" she suggested.

 

I heartily approved, and Anna sounded interested too.

 

"You two go on ahead," Anna chirped, "I'm going to find them a blanket."

 

 

*

 

I had forgotten how good it actually felt to have an actual breakfast, rather than dubious junk food reluctantly swallowed to silence my crying stomach.

 

"I bake my own bread twice a week." Laura explained as she was eating. "I will probably do it more often now. Next summer I will make my own jam."

 

"That's impressive." I observed. "But why couldn't you make the jam sooner?"

 

"Well, I moved in only three months ago. I just managed to start a vegetable patch. And I was able to plant fruit trees. But it was too late for them to grow fruit or for me to pick it."

 

And the conversation went on, about what she had managed to do with the house, although she was rather reluctant to explain its past and I didn't push. Anna came back quickly enough, and then, after perhaps half an hour, Cain turned up and ate the last of the bread.

 

Laura explained that she had already started the next batch, earlier in the morning, but that it would take some time and not be sufficient. It was currently a bulk of dough under a wet dish towel, and she had to work it and let it rise again before baking it. So it was best to start it early so there might be bread for lunch.

 

I offered to help, and thus I started making another bread loaf, mixing yeast, flour, salt and water to make the dough, and then clumsily kneading it, the motion quickly straining my palms. Cain soon started to imitate me at Laura's request, because a lot of bread would certainly be needed for the many residents of the house in the upcoming days.

 

"Soon," Laura observed, "I will have to buy flour again."

 

Laura was done long before us novices had managed to knead our dough, because her part was easier and her hands had probably ascended beyond mortal stamina due to practice. She left the kitchen to keep an eye on Shelly and Heather and came back soon enough. Shelly was awake but reluctant to move, Heather being sound asleep on her. She wouldn't mind a book, and thus enquired about the sequel to The Fellowship of the Ring.

 

I took a little break from bread-making, washed my hands who were clamoring in relief, and hurried upstairs to find The Two Towers, smiling at Shelly as I passed in front of her.

 

Charlotte was frozen in place upstairs. She was stuck at the entrance of her room, dressed up, but looking like a deer in headlights.

 

"Is there something wrong, Charlotte?" I enquired, keeping my voice low.

 

Her reaction was so slow that I felt like I saw her un-freeze, slowly reboot, her wide eyes narrow, her trembling mouth straighten itself, her hands clutch at the wall.

 

"Nothing," she finally shook her head and left her room.

 

I got the book I was looking for, and went downstairs, Charlotte following a few minutes afterwards. Her grumpiness at the lack of bread for breakfast disappeared as soon as Laura showed her the pears she went shopping for twice a week.

 

"I love pears," Charlotte explained as she ate one ravenously. "We rarely had some at the Orphanage and they were usually much too ripe. These ones are just perfect. Thank you, Laura!"

 

 

                                                                                              *

 

Shelly and Heather finally woke up, while Noel seemed to be sound asleep for now, Anna insisting on not disturbing him. The two girls ate pears too for breakfast, as the bread wouldn't be ready for about another hour.

 

In the meantime, Laura gave Cain and me a tour of the house, with Charlotte following us, while Anna was happy to make conversation for Shelly and apparently Heather too. We had already seen the kitchen and the living room, but only now I was in the mind of appreciating the symmetry governing the layout of the two sofas and six armchairs. They were circling with striking regularity a long, rather low wooden table. Eight shelves in the room, arranged symmetrically, somehow managed not to block off any of the doors. There were a few books and pictures on them, mostly, it seemed, on cooking, gardening, and art history.

 

The dining room and the entrance of the house were on opposite sides of the living room, and, while we had all seen the entrance, we had not seen the dining room and its light wood table -- oak, Laura mentioned -- as well as the eight chairs circling it.

 

"You've redecorated, Laura." Charlotte said drily.

 

"No, I did not," she answered. "Saphira furnished this room. I did, however, improve the living room's layout."

 

Charlotte's answer was a sigh. Obviously there was something unexplained between the two sisters, but I did not try to learn more. Then we backtracked to another corridor exiting the living room, and found ourselves -- except for Charlotte -- in a dimly-lit room with a heavier door, whose main pieces of furnitures were a massive wooden desk and empty shelves.

 

"Our father used to work from this room." Laura said quietly.

 

Then we went silently upstairs -- Charlotte joining us back again -- and were able to see four of the five bedrooms of the house (since Noel was still asleep in the last one). Three of them were the girl's bedrooms, since, as Laura explained, they used to squabble a lot. She reminisced that Charlotte and their elder sister Saphira had already squabbled for entire nights when sleeping in the same room, whispering in the dark, to avoid clueing their parents in. Of course, it had been obvious the next morning that the girls hadn't slept, and that was the very day their parents decided to give them separate rooms.

 

The two other rooms were guest rooms, one of them being the traditional room for the girls' uncle, who loved the place and the gardening possibilities. All of them were quite sparsely furnished, and apart from Laura's own very tidy bedroom, they were all quite empty, with very little suggesting someone had lived there.

 

And then we had to get a head start on lunch, obviously, because Laura wasn't going to cook for seven on her own. She had decided to go for a salad, which ended up using the entire manpower available (so her and Cain and me). So we peeled and cut the vegetables, and washed the lettuce, since the rest could wait for the time when everyone would be hungry.

 

The salad was excellent. It tasted better and far more wholesome than whatever I had had to grab in the past two weeks. I had known it contained some vegetables I... did not approve of as food, but I tried to act like a normal adult and eat them anyway since everyone else did without so much as a complaint. Doubtlessly, they had been taught some different lessons about life than I.

 

There will be a better meal afterwards, my deduction had been since grade school. If you don't like it, don't eat it, just hold till dinner. I supposed that this didn't apply to Cain who had runaway from his home, and to everyone else who had ended up as a hostage of terrorists, after living for years in an unfriendly Orphanage, to say the least.

 

"Well, that was great," Charlotte quipped. "What's the main course?"

 

I suddenly realized with a jolt of shame that this joke was extremely unfunny when someone who hadn't done the cooking was making it. Cain snickered. Laura answered pleasantly:

 

"You can get another pear if you want."

 

And then it was time to decide on what to do in the afternoon, where I couldn't come up with a good idea. After all, "hide and seek" could be funny but slightly childish, and perhaps traumatic given Shelly, Heather, Anna and Charlotte's immediate past experience. "Werewolf" -- or whatever their version was -- wasn't hard to explain, but a mute Heather would certainly sour the mood and we weren't enough for the game anyway. Cards may or may not be labelled lame, if they had them. We couldn't really walk around the house and leave Noel there. And I had a feeling that speaking of math wouldn't match anyone's sense of fun.

 

In retrospect, the answer was obvious. Anna and Charlotte decided that they wanted to see Cain and I battle outside. Charlotte got Laura onboard by pointing out that we might end up challenging her -- and I unsuccessfully tried to argue my way out, since I doubted I could manage to go very far in this League.

 

"Don't be silly, Gabriel." was Anna's answer, with a rather disturbing familiarity.

 

And that was why we ended up a bit further away from the house, to try and avoid any damage to Laura's garden (and especially to the vegetable patch), Charlotte looking grumpy at her older sister as she discovered the regularly arranged window boxes. Shelly didn't look too happy with this activity either, and Heather was following the group, mute and withdrawn as always.

 

It was a cool afternoon with a few clouds in the sky and a very bright light. A Jumpluff and a Tropius, both of them Laura's Pokemon, were watching the house as we got perhaps two hundred meters away, looking remarkably confident. We took positions, I shook Cain's hand, he gave the obligatory innuendo to introduce the battle -- I'mma spank you -- and there we went.

 

Cain sent out his Nidoking, and I chose Tech to fight him. Except that the little cat-like Pokemon didn't look well at all. It looked tired, his small arms limp, his stance faltering.

 

"Well, now I know why you didn't bother showing up at the Orphanage." Charlotte quipped at me.

 

"Charlotte, don't be so mean!" Anna chirped.

 

"Okay. Sorry, Tech, I didn't realize you were this tired. You can rest." I recalled him. Not many of my Pokemon could well counter Cain's heavy hitter. Really, there was only one choice. I needed to have a more diverse team.

 

"Mouse, go, I trust you!"

 

 

*

 

This battle wasn't a very good idea, as it turned out. In very little time, Charlotte grew weary of the show we were giving her, and started pointing out, in spite of Laura's requests, every flaw in our battling styles. Our Pokemon were poorly trained, she explained. And our reflexes were abysmal, as well as our Pokemons'. We didn't do opportunity attacks upon switches, she complained. We were predictable, fell into simplistic patterns. We didn't have any real plan to win the battle, making it all up as we went along.

 

Anna couldn't keep quiet either and, in her own style, she ended up being as irritating. Neither Cain nor I were heartless enough to tell the two girls who had lost all their Pokemon that we didn't really like battling with their unending comments. But where Charlotte was criticizing us, Anna was sincerely trying to advise us, or encourage us, or our Pokemon, especially the one that looked like it was going to end up losing the confrontation at hand. What was most disturbing was that part of her comments that didn't make sense.

 

At one point, Cain's Nidoking and my Swoobat were partners in a dangerous dance. The Nidoking was trying to reach the Swoobat and the Swoobat was trying to get close enough to deliver a Psychic strong enough to bypass the Light Screen protecting the Nidoking. While Charlotte was theatrically facepalming, obviously trying to get noticed, Anna just kept insisting that the Nidoking was too much on the left.

 

5oTkLJK.png

 

Shelly and Heather went back into the house after Cain's Alolan Marowak grounded with the thick bone he was carrying my Ampharos' Discharge. Charlotte followed them shortly afterwards, and then there wasn't much point in carrying on. But we went on, with Laura and an increasingly excited Anna, and Cain won, if barely so.

 

I didn't like that loss very much, but it didn't prevent me from smiling and graciously conceding that Cain had bested me. Perhaps it was the fact that custom dictated I had to give out money -- not very much, of course -- that stung the most. Giving out real value, something I wouldn’t recover by snapping my fingers – because I wasn’t prepared for a battle on the spot.

 

"When was our last battle?" I mused.

 

"Amaria suggested it, no?" he thought. "You had won then. I guess I finally managed to beat you."

 

"You did rather well, the both of you." Laura said, only now speaking about the battle. "Cain did better, certainly, but it was close. If you ask me so, I can discuss this battle with you, give you some advice."

 

"Maybe later?" Cain asked. "Let's see what the girls are doing."

 

Maybe later. I agreed. I didn't care that much to win the League. But I had had to battle my way out of other situations, not League-related, and getting better at that would certainly be safer. But now, I didn't want to think about it. There would be time later.

 

"Please let me heal all of your Pokemon." Laura motioned to us to come back inside. "The League gave me many excellent healing items."

 

After spending a short time healing our Pokemon with Laura's items, the likes of which I had never seen used -- Max Revives, Elixirs that the League had apparently given her -- we found out that, inside, Charlotte had offered Shelly to play Scrabble. Apparently, they didn't have many board games in the house, but this one seemed to suit the girls fine, as Charlotte had often agreed to play with Laura and Noel, back in her quieter moments at the Orphanage, first out of boredom, and then found out that she actually could enjoy the game, not too often of course.

 

Shelly had been stuck on her turn, moving her letters around, trying to make a good word. But none of the options she knew seemed to convince her. Eventually, she decided on her best-rewarding option. But as she was arranging the letters on the board, Heather's hand held hers. She took Shelly's tokens, even those she didn't use, and made the word ASTERISM, with one tile previously used, and extending another word (BIDE into ABIDE). With two triple word scores.

 

I didn't know what "asterism" meant, but this was probably the first time that Heather displayed some agency since... since all the evil, and it had to be acknowledged as such. So actually, Shelly sobbed with emotion as she hugged her friend. And Heather hugged her back, shaking uncontrollably. That meant... that meant she could recover soon. An extraordinary piece of news.

 

So, as there were more of us, we started to play Scrabble together. We made three formal players, but, each time, we all tried to find the better words to make on the board. It was a form of play that I had seen my parents and grandparents play, which interested me moderately -- after all, it wasn't as fun if I didn't do it myself. But it seemed appropriate, here. I didn't mind as much.

 

We found very quickly a way to work together. Cain, Charlotte or I would usually make some suggestions, which Charlotte and Laura would refine or improve, and try to find an interesting spot for them. Shelly's suggestions were rarer, usually more original, but it took Anna to make us notice her very, very mild attempts at getting listened to -- not unlike what I still tended to do, except that she was even shier. She was obviously loath to chime in, afraid that it wouldn't be worth disturbing us.

 

We needed to find another game, I found myself thinking. One where she had to assert herself for all of us to enjoy it. Perhaps it would help her realize that we valued her presence and everything -- well, not technically everything, probably, but whatever -- she could want to say. But in the meantime, she didn't seem too upset to not be at the center and it was probably fine to let the game go on.

 

 

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This chapter was overall relaxing and fun to read it after all the mess. I like the small wordbuilding of the Belrose Mansion and moments with Laura. Glad that Heather is showing some signs and that small moment with Shelly. It was cute, yet sad with all the horror of 4 days

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  • 1 month later...
On 7/28/2021 at 9:28 AM, Evi Crystal said:

This chapter was overall relaxing and fun to read it after all the mess. I like the small wordbuilding of the Belrose Mansion and moments with Laura. Glad that Heather is showing some signs and that small moment with Shelly. It was cute, yet sad with all the horror of 4 days

 

Yes... these were some dark days indeed. They're thankfully over -- but I fear that they will still appear in some nightmares. I'm glad that there was still some cute upbeat stuff, even though it's definitely not my forte. Perhaps I should ask Azzie for lessons or something.

 

 

 

 

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your summer (or, for at least one exception, that you will enjoy your hard-earned rest after a how-tf-can-it-still-be-legal internship)! Apparently you all kept reading or checking this story, and I'm very glad that you did. Thank you. 

 

As some of you might have read on discord or as a status update, it hasn't been the easiest time to write for me... but now summer break is over, I no longer have this excuse to avoid working on my thesis (I can still find others, but none that will let me write this instead^^), so perhaps it really was the best time. 

So I still wrote a lot of chapters in that time, and my "buffer" has grown to a length that has been unrivalled since the finale of Part 2. The difference is that I have lots and lots to edit, and a less clear picture of how the story goes on (spoiler: one sentence at a time). 

 

I'm pretty confident that this chapter isn't as good as it could be. But I'm tired, I'm feeling bad for not posting in some five weeks, and I don't think I'll be able to make good edits before another long time, so here it is. 

 

I hope you enjoy, and don't hesitate to comment either way!

 

 

Chapter 56: Business as Usual

 

Spoiler

The bag containing the letters was thinning when someone else pushed open the door of the house. I could barely catch a glimpse of the newcomer before Charlotte and Laura rushed to greet her. She was slightly taller than I was, stood straight, and looked fit with wavy red hair.

 

"I'm so glad to see you're both all right." she said the Belrose sisters, and she clearly meant it. Only afterwards did she look at us.

 

"Cain," Anna chirped. "Meet Saphira. Saphira, you remember me, right? This is Cain, Shelly, Heather, and Gabriel. Noel is sill asleep upstairs." she went on, pointing at us in turn, slowly enough to let her match the names to the faces.

 

I didn't feel quite at ease with her. Perhaps it was her features that were, while very reminiscent of Charlotte's, just a little too hard. Maybe her brown eyes. Perhaps the overall intensity that emanated from her. She certainly looked, perhaps even felt like someone who would have their way, by bulldozing any obstacle if needed.

 

"So, how's the Gym going, Saphira?" Charlotte asked conversationally.

 

"The challengers have never been so bad, I swear." she answered just as lightly. "I just wonder what the other Leaders are doing."

 

"Well, we were kinda stuck in this Orphanage and now these bastards stole our Pokemon." Charlotte pointed out. "Although I heard that Shelly did a very good job of showing them they would have to take the League seriously."

 

"I didn't, um..."

 

"Oh." Saphira realized. "You're the Gym Leader Shelly. Of course." She softened her decisive, almost aggressively assertive voice. "They're all saying you're doing a great job."

 

WNUF714.png

 

"But I, um, my Pokemon were..."

 

"We'll find them, Shelly, don't worry. They'll be fine. But Laura, more seriously though, why do I have to battle all these jokers? How did they even get past the other Gym Leaders?"

 

"Two Gym Leaders are in the Agate Circus, Terra and Ciel." Laura replied. "But one needs Battle Passes to fight them, since the Ringmaster tolerates no exceptions to policy. Titania's Gym is almost inaccessible even by train. Ame says Hardy has to currently study more. You and Amaria are the only Leaders left. But you knew this better than I did."

 

"Laura!" Saphira's tone was snappy, almost a command. "You're doing it again."

 

"This is fine, really, no need to worry." she protested.

 

"Whatever." she sighed. "We'll need to talk this over. Again. So what were you doing?"

 

They all looked at me.

 

"Playing Scrabble, in... cooperation." I explained. "We all try to find the best word on each turn."

 

Currently, for instance, we were left with the rather disturbing hand IEDWYED and my best ideas were a few four-letter words.

 

As Saphira had questions for Cain, he left to discuss privately with her, leaving us with this ridiculous Scrabble hand, out of which Laura was trying to make a grand word. We found something decent, not great (YIELDED) and moved on to another "player". And then another.

 

I think it took an hour before I heard noises that meant that Saphira and Cain came back. I vaguely wondered what they had talked about.

 

"Gabriel, right?" Saphira asked next. "Do you mind coming with me for a second?"

 

"Sure." I agreed, a bit surprised that I was the one she wanted to see, getting up and leaving the table.

 

I followed the Gym Leader outside, in the cool garden, where dusk was preparing its arrival, by lightening a clear blue sky with a few long white tracks.

 

"You're not from here, are you?" she started. Her features didn't look as hard now. Her tone had changed, she was more pensive, but her voice remained very steady. "It must have been so strange for you to end up here of all places."

 

I didn't know what to answer, or how to react at the sudden change in demeanour. I decided to be genuine.

 

"Yes. It's been a wild journey. Chaotic, even. But I'm quite glad to have made it here. It's a nicer place than Reborn City."

 

"It is, isn't it?" she replied absently. "And the mountain range looks great in the evening. Do you want to watch?"

 

"From here?"

 

The house was everything but exposed: it was in a small cove, close to a wide lake. The sun was no longer visible, except perhaps in the subtle difference in lighting of the sky.

 

"Of course no." she corrected. "There's a great place to watch a few minutes away by flight. Do you have the Badge for it?"

 

"No." I answered after a pause. Not that I was too eager to fly myself, or really stay in a League where I would be certain to not get very far.

 

"It's all right. I'm the Dragon-type Gym Leader." she explained. "I have enough Flying Pokemon for two. I'll fly on Dragonite," she decided, sending out a tall, bulky, brownish Pokemon that radiated power and certainty.

 

It was strong, I realized, not without some anxiety. So, so very strong.

 

I remembered that, on the flight to the cove, I had asked Hardy just how good of a Gym Leader he was. After all, he had defied the entire Meteor squad to go after him, and he hadn't looked like he was bluffing.

 

He had answered that he was "top four, definitely not number one". Saphira was number one, he had explained. The two other top Leaders were Titania, his sister, and Amaria that I somehow kept getting injured. Hardy, Amaria and Titania's relative positions were quite unstable: to keep themselves in shape, they battled each other at least once a month, and the outcomes were seldom consistent. But, Hardy had added, Saphira used to battle with Titania and Amaria. And that she used to flatten them, every single time. 

 

"You can ride on Naganadel."

 

Naganadel? I didn't know this Pokemon, and I couldn't hide a shiver upon seeing it. It was a huge purple winged creature, with an insect-like build: it had a thin body, threadlike arms with pincers that still managed to look terribly strong, a large belly upon which it was lying, upon which three rigid appendages that might have been oversized stings by fifty or a hundred times. Utterly wrong didn't come close to explaining how disturbing, unnatural, this creature was.

 

But it was a Pokemon like another, wasn't it?

 

"Okay, Naganadel, flying time." Saphira said, getting on her Dragonite's back.

 

The creature pushed and somehow got off the ground, its orientation reversed, and stayed in stationary flight, its thin wings somehow strong enough to keep it airborne.

 

"Climb on its back. Its belly is comfortable, don't worry!" Saphira encouraged me.

 

Here goes...

 

And indeed, the Pokemon wasn't too uncomfortable to ride on, at least for the five cold minutes that I spent on it. Its flight was very smooth, undisturbed by the wind that I still had in full face. Even the Dragonite wasn't as regular in its flight, since it looked prone to sudden bouts of acceleration, thanks to its brisk wing beats, followed by longer (which wasn't to say slow) gliding times where it relied on the speed it had acquired. While their speeds were comparable, the Naganadel was more like a sail, and the Dragonite a breast-stroke swimmer.

 

I landed first, on a higher peak of the mountains. The sun was lower than us, but still visible and not yet obstructed by the mountains, and it felt cold. I knew that the cottage was vaguely in the direction of the sun, but hidden behind a lesser summit that was still lower than the sun.

 

Despite the cold, the sight was quite pretty, indeed. We were surrounded by the still green mountains (full of conifers, maybe?), but the beautiful hue of the pale sky was prevailing. In the distance, about northwards, I could see the faint outline of tall mountains. I felt more than heard Saphira's landing a couple of minutes after me. But something -- some instinct -- made me want to turn and look at her. I think it was her face that had closed off again, and she looked a lot less gentle now. More tense, perhaps? I didn't know.

 

We were both standing, which I found uncomfortable, and she was staring at me with an intent that I couldn't decipher. Her gaze was intense and difficult to sustain, but lowering my eyes too much from her face wouldn't be a good idea either – whatever she had in mind. Still, I caught her hand clenching in the corner of my eye.

 

I was standing still, alone, with the top Reborn Gym Leader in remote mountains where no one else would see me, at nightfall, and she didn't look very pleased at me. But what else could I do?

 

"Yes?" I tried to let go of all the stress I was feeling. None of it was going to save me if I was in danger.

 

"I'm not going to mince words." she stated, her voice level, watching me. "I want you out of my house."

 

Out. She wanted me out. The sentence resounded dully in my ears, echoed somewhere in my brain. But it didn't process against anything, and the overwhelming answer was: whatever. Even after noticing that both of her hands were clenched into fists.

 

"I understand you're challenging the League. A couple of hours by foot, downstream and eastwards, you can find Spinel Town," Saphira added, pointing at a direction that didn't look any different from the others, if one excluded the sun. "There's a Pokemon Center and a Gym there."

 

A couple of hours. I would never make it until nightfall. I'd get lost and not last long, without…

 

"Laura is gathering your things. She'll be flying them to you soon enough."

 

Wow. They had planned this in advance too. Saphira had lured me away from the house, just to make sure no one would care about my disappearance. This sounded like a firing procedure in a company desperate for security.

 

"You really don't want me coming even near there, do you?" I replied quietly, with a tinge of sadness and perhaps some bitterness that I tried to repress as much as I could.

"I'm not running this risk." Saphira answered, her voice harder.

"Risk?" It wasn't even an effort – my voice sounded very soft, puzzled, cautiously curious. At least I thought it sounded this way.

"You bring harm to everyone you come into contact with." she explained, glaring at me so much that I lowered my eyes. "Florinia and Amaria nearly got killed. Charlotte and Heather got hurt because of you and Arceus knows if they'll recover. Corey and Kiki weren't as lucky."

"Corey killed himself." I protested weakly. "And he was working for Team Meteor."

"Yes, and he conveniently offed himself instead of explaining after his confrontations with you and no other witness that will speak about what happened!"

"I wish he had told me more too." I sighed.

"Don't change the topic." she snapped. "You're dangerous to everyone around you. So I'm not letting you harm my sisters in whichever way you seem to manage it. So go away."

 

She turned her back on me and strode towards her Dragonite. Watching her get away, I felt more alone than I had ever felt in Reborn City. I was lost in the wilderness, no longer welcome at the place where I had rested and I had been sheltered, a criminal in Reborn City, or at least an accomplice, in spite of my better sense and what I really wanted.

 

It had been such a fine day until now...

 

I could have protested, of course, but I didn't really want to. The accusation was fact. For some reason, I had still ended up involved with Team Meteor far too much and pretty much everyone I had allied with had been injured physically or psychically. For the lucky ones. Except me, of course, the luckiest of the bunch, to have survived every madness thrown at me. Or the worst one, for using everyone else as a shield. And these children had been victims of abuse more callous than most people I knew would suffer in their entire lives.

 

She couldn't relieve me of the moral responsibility I had towards them. But she could prevent me from acting upon it. After all, they lived in her house. And it still would be my fault, in part, if something happened to them. Even though I wouldn't have been able to do a thing.

 

Wasn't morality so much fun?

 

"Saphira?" I called weakly, as she left. I felt a lump in my throat.

 

"Yes?" she turned, settling on her Dragonite. Even from these twenty meters, her glare at me, now no longer held back or disguised, was heated. And justified, I thought bitterly. Charlotte had nearly died in Yureyu, hadn't she? All that because I had set off the entire shitty business in the Orphanage. Or even earlier, because I had let Heather's father kill himself.

 

"Please... please take care of them?" I asked.

 

"What do you think I'm doing?" I wasn't sure what exactly was in her voice, but it was likely something both nasty and that I deserved.

 

The shape of the Dragon-type Leader and her Dragonite flying away in the declining light looked familiar, and it took me a while to remember why. Had I realized earlier, I wouldn't have assumed she could bring me anything good. Saphira had been the mysterious person who had broken up a gang fight in front of that orphanage, which had led to my temporary incarceration.

 

And my getting a bike. And books for Shelly. And driving Heather back to Shelly where doom awaited her. It was my fault, wasn't it?

 

 

 

*

 

 

Even if Laura actually sent me my bag, there wasn't much point in staying there. The air was getting quite chilly, and, with the surrounding mountain range smaller, I didn't have any protection against the wind. If I trusted Saphira, this Spinel Town would be a few hours eastwards and downstream. Of course, I had ample reason not to -- but then that left me clueless in the cold, dark wilderness.

 

So I tried to corral back whatever shreds of willpower I had left, and started to hike down the mountain, in the direction opposite to which one I guessed was the sun's. Fortunately, soon enough, a Tropius dropped a bag that was unmistakably mine about fifty centimeters in front of me. I took it back on my shoulders with a deep sigh, half-wishing it had hit my head and finished it all, and went back to trying to figure out which way was downstream.

 

It wasn't that easy to find out, because many ways that technically went downstream ended in front of rocky cliffs that I couldn't climb down, or, for the unluckier times, climb up. So I had to try a different way, manage to walk around them, backtrack when it seemed that my path wasn't the right one. And at every mistake, the light got darker, the small, local noises disturbing the crushingly wide silence became more nerve-racking, my legs grew wearier and my bag heavier.

 

And as I failed and failed, I started to realize that I was hopelessly lost in a cold, dark, late autumn night high in empty mountain ranges. That I was going to have a bad night. That I deserved it for bringing harm to everyone else while escaping unscathed.

 

I had been the catalyst of Corey's death.

The small pebble that had sent Heather to the Lapis Ward where she was bound to be noticed as an orphan.

The mechanism imagined by Noel to engineer his escape (and Anna, Charlotte and Heather's as well).

The means through which Team Meteor had managed to capture them all.

The badly thought-out fuse that had burnt the more valuable Amaria instead of myself.

My ridiculous attempt at playing the sane hero atop Pyrous Mountain had only resulted in the death of an actually virtuous person.

And I had been the cement of the Meteor raid of the previous night. The one that had been a hair away from disaster. Which would have been one if Hardy had just flown around, instead of freeing the children from the top floor.

 

Wherever I had come, I had inflicted nothing but damage, flirting with disaster at every turn.

 

Hah. Flirting.

 

In a story, I would have been a secret Meteor agent, a skilled psychopath deviously devoted to making sure he was thought of as a well-meaning person, while inflicting through feigned thoughtlessness damage to the side he pretended to be on. Perhaps even their undercover leader, confident in the reliability of his underlings.

 

I was pretty sure this wasn't the case. Ninety-five percent maybe, because how could I be any surer when they had PULSEs at their disposal? For the part about being a Meteor agent, anyway. I was pretty sure I had inflicted a lot of damage to the side I was on, by getting Amaria out of the fight, depriving several Gym Leaders of their Pokemon, and weakening institutions in Reborn City. And I could be a psychopath with delusions of being good, but actually willing to throw anyone else under the bus.

 

In other words, I was a treacherous pawn, disposable fodder desperate enough to survive the fray to recruit fodder of my own. As I had known I had been from the very beginning.

 

It was starting to rain, but I was past caring about that. I sat down at some point, crying silently in the night. What was the point in going on? Even if I managed to find a way out of this new-concept labyrinth, would I just ride on the wings of disaster, the personification of an Absol? Would I still pretend to be virtuous fodder who miraculously survived for official eyes, yet sacrifice anyone and anything to save my own skin?

 

Granted, every death I could blame myself for was the result of inaction on my part rather than deliberate action, but had I not been ready to sacrifice Shelly? After such a promising debut, what else would I be unwilling to do?

 

I missed home. I missed math. I missed simplicity. I missed peace. I was so sick of this trip in Reborn that I had never wanted. Or at least, that I didn't remember desiring. I wanted to just stay here, letting go of everything, until the end.

 

If a body falls in a lonely mountain, does it cause a sound?

 

A body.

 

By what sort of insanity -- certainly not my very own -- did I refer to myself as a body?

 

It was dark and it was pouring. I was soaking wet, cold and heavy and uncomfortable. But there wasn't much point in moping there. If I wanted to, I could at least try to find a drier place. But how would I manage to find a path?

 

The headlights that we had used at Yureyu's headquarters, of course. I wasn't sure I had kept them all, but there still had to be some of them in the bag. And indeed, I found some of them and even the larger flashlight I had already used last night. It wasn't easy to get them out without soaking everything else, especially the books, but the damage was probably manageable. If it weren't, it wasn't too bad either -- I had probably caused ten times the damage to Reborn City already.

 

So, my renewed, yet wearier, determination and I started to walk again on the mountain, trying to find the way down. I didn't have any means of finding out where I was going, other than some immediate feedback about "going up" or "going down", and perhaps the vaguely threatening shapelessness of the shadows a few dozen meters beyond me.

 

Perhaps I had managed to deplete my well of despair, because I didn't stop walking in the rain, even though I acutely resented the state of my clothes, sticking to my skin, a burden on every step I took. I resented the state of the ground as well, an inconsistent mixture of earth and rocks that was slippery at times, sticky at others, and always disgusting. My legs felt tired, with all the changes in altitude, and the effort to always keep steady on the ground, but there was little point in stopping. I went on, wishing for each step to be my last one tonight and yet never stopping.

 

I walked for long in the dark, even finding a few almost-paths down, until I managed, while walking alongside the n-th cliff I couldn't cross, to find a cave in the rock. Or, more precisely, a crack that was barely wide enough to let me in.

 

A dry place. Perhaps one to rest, at least until it stopped raining.

 

But the rain didn't seem to relent, and the best that seemed possible was to lie the bag down slightly further in the cavern that grew wider as I walked deeper inside, change clothes -- thanking my own foresight in buying spares, even though the money started to get a little bit nerve-racking, considering I had no income to speak of for the foreseeable future.

 

The spare clothes weren't perfectly dry in the bag, but they were a lot of relief from the drenched, heavy ones I was wearing. Perhaps a warm meal would have helped out as well, but that wasn't possible from there. All I had were some sweets that I had bought the previous day and that Charlotte had not eaten. I decided to not eat too many of them, because of the obvious health risks -- but more importantly, because I needed to save the sugar until I reached the city and I didn't know how long I would have to walk.

 

My water was a little too low for comfort, too. For tonight, or tomorrow, it would be fine, but afterwards, it would get more difficult. And incomparably more urgent.

 

Three days without water, the thought fused through my mind.

 

It shouldn't take that long, should it?

 

I didn't know.

 

But tonight, there was little else that I could do.

 

After a little reading, and a presumably uncomfortable -- not to mention unsafe -- sleep -- not that I was spoiled for choice -- tomorrow could worry about tomorrow.

 

But just in case, I made sure to be neither too close, nor too far from the exit, and to sleep sitting against the wall with Pokeballs in hand. Not unlike a plane, albeit an incomfortable but thankfully silent one, where Pokemon would be allowed.

 

 

Character rates:

Spoiler

The Orphanage kids don't really have changed values because they're already sort of inflated. 

Laura: 6/10. Pretty cool, until the evening. 

Saphira: 4/10. I can't fault her too much for what she did, in very deed, I understand her concerns, but it's still not very nice. 

 

 

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Well... I cannot comment fully, because I'm crying over this chapter. I should've have expected this, but god dammit the outcome was- again- emotional for me. Poor Gabriel, never catch a break from all this mess😭💔

 

 

10 hours ago, Mindlack said:

"You bring harm to everyone you come into contact with." she explained, glaring at me so much that I lowered my eyes. "Florinia and Amaria nearly got killed. Charlotte and Heather got hurt because of you and Arceus knows if they'll recover. Corey and Kiki weren't as lucky."

"Corey killed himself." I protested weakly. "And he was working for Team Meteor."

"Yes, and he conveniently offed himself instead of explaining after his confrontations with you and no other witness that will speak about what happened!"

"I wish he had told me more too." I sighed.

"Don't change the topic." she snapped. "You're dangerous to everyone around you. So I'm not letting you harm my sisters in whichever way you seem to manage it. So go away."

NO. NO. NO! Don't you dare blame him for that, Saphira! How could he know about the outcomes? He cannot predict them or do you think he has psychic powers?😡😡

 

I though Saphira might give him a beating given the type of a person she is, but I forgot about that as well. And it depicts Gabriel being always the scapegoat given he was involved with every affair of Team Meteor. Which makes it worse given his misfortunes😔

 

10 hours ago, Mindlack said:

It was starting to rain, but I was past caring about that. I sat down at some point, crying silently in the night. What was the point in going on? Even if I managed to find a way out of this new-concept labyrinth, would I just ride on the wings of disaster, the personification of an Absol? Would I still pretend to be virtuous fodder who miraculously survived for official eyes, yet sacrifice anyone and anything to save my own skin?

Man... When you realise that even plot armour cannot heal emotional scars? Kinda reminds me of Harry Potter.

 

 

10 hours ago, Mindlack said:

I missed home. I missed math. I missed simplicity. I missed peace. I was so sick of this trip in Reborn that I had never wanted. Or at least, that I didn't remember desiring. I wanted to just stay here, letting go of everything, until the end.

😔💔

 

 

Let's just hope, Gabriel will be fine and go through all this mess and perhaps finds some peace. Can wait for the parts with Citae Arc-d'Astrae Aerie and his interactions with Bennett, Elias, Adrienn and Radomus. This could be a turned point there. But I'm worry, that Elias might manipulating him despite being enemies. Who knows?

 

 

Also it was a good emotional chapter, buddy. Let's just hope everyone going to be fine expect for some nightmares and the upcoming raid. 

 

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Edit: added character rates to the previous chapter. 

 

Thank you Evi for your comment, and to all of you who reacted, here or on discord! 

 

9 hours ago, Evi Crystal said:

Well... I cannot comment fully, because I'm crying over this chapter. I should've have expected this, but god dammit the outcome was- again- emotional for me. Poor Gabriel, never catch a break from all this mess😭💔

 

Oh dear… I (repeat that I) am sorry for making you weep over Gabriel’s plight. 
Actually, Gabriel did get a small break, perhaps around 8 conscious hours? One has to take the good parts where they are… 

 

But yes, “Gabriel can’t catch a break” is so much a theme of this story that one could have guessed that chapter 55 wasn’t there to last. I don’t know when the next similar “chill” point is going to be, to be honest. It’ll probably be the end of Part 3, just before entering Agate. 

 

9 hours ago, Evi Crystal said:

NO. NO. NO! Don't you dare blame him for that, Saphira! How could he know about the outcomes? He cannot predict them or do you think he has psychic powers?😡😡


Yes, I decided to make Saphira rather pro-active. She gathered all the info she could on Gabriel, and then decided she didn’t want him in her house. Not nice, but safe is better than sorry. 

 

9 hours ago, Evi Crystal said:

I though Saphira might give him a beating given the type of a person she is, but I forgot about that as well. And it depicts Gabriel being always the scapegoat given he was involved with every affair of Team Meteor. Which makes it worse given his misfortunes

 

I decided that Saphira was more practical than that. Giving Gabriel a beating doesn’t do anything good to anyone – she gets angry for no good reason in the (quite possible, even to her) case where all the incidents have mundane causes. 
 

This may get explained at some point, and you might be able to figure this out on your own if you think along these lines, but Saphira 

 

Spoiler

is not being entirely straightforward. The risk she doesn’t want to run isn’t the one she told about. 
 

Saphira is worried that Gabriel is working for Team Meteor, or doing something else entirely, that what seems like impossibly lucky victories or ordinary cowardice is actually fake and planned. 
 

Well, that part of the story is called Mind Games. Why on earth wouldn’t other people be allowed in on the fun? 

 

 

 

9 hours ago, Evi Crystal said:

Man... When you realise that even plot armour cannot heal emotional scars? Kinda reminds me of Harry Potter.

😔💔


But think how boring it would be if plot armor worked on emotions too… 

 

9 hours ago, Evi Crystal said:

Let's just hope, Gabriel will be fine and go through all this mess and perhaps finds some peace.

 

He will, don’t worry… at some unspecified point. 

 

9 hours ago, Evi Crystal said:

Can wait for the parts with Citae Arc-d'Astrae Aerie and his interactions with Bennett, Elias, Adrienn and Radomus. This could be a turned point there. But I'm worry, that Elias might manipulating him despite being enemies. Who knows?

 

I have some ideas for all of them, although they might require a little more thought. No comment (yet!) on El. 

 

9 hours ago, Evi Crystal said:

Also it was a good emotional chapter, buddy.

 

Thank you! It was pretty hard to write, I’m glad it came out the right way. 

 

9 hours ago, Evi Crystal said:

Let's just hope everyone going to be fine expect for some nightmares and the upcoming raid. 

 


Ah. The raid… of course. (evil laughter) 

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Ooooookay, so, hi! I am here to read and to review your Reborn story for two reasons. One is because you have read and critiqued one of my own fanfiction stories (which I still appreciate and respect.)

 

Two is because now that I know that you've written a story of your own, or perhaps more than one that I have yet to become aware of, I feel that the time is ripe for me to repay the metaphorical favour and do so. Please note that I'll edit my review into this response because I am preemptively leaving my initial reply post here before my read through. Thanks again. :)

 

EDIT: I have now read up to Part 1, Chapter 23. I quite like your character dialogue, your battle style and the way that you write your scenes. In particular, I had really enjoyed your math solution entry into The Onyx Trainer's School, your Mosswater Factory battles and your Taka battles. I would like to see more instances where rests between battles are required (either by Pokemon Center rest area rooms, as Gabriel had used previously) or via town and/or city inns or hotels.

 

Also, I feel that the small but everyday things like morning routine requirements (daily showers, hair brushing, teeth cleaning, bathroom visit/s, breakfast) should be addressed every now and then, as well as essential item replacements and change/s of clothing and haircut/s. It is my hope that Gabriel and his team/s will gain confidence in himself and in their own selves and grow and develop to their fullest possible potential throughout this story.

Edited by Valyrian_Reforged
Reader's review #1
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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you for reading and reviewing, @Valyrian_Reforged

 

To be honest, it was, sort of, one of the reasons why I reviewed your work: "if I don't read and review other people's work, why should my own be read?". But the question was asked abstractly, not in terms of an actual "quid pro quo" with an actual person. 

 

But this means that I will be your debtor for a while. 

 

Back on topic, I'm a little bit surprised you marked the end of chapter 23 (as opposed to the end of part 1, three chapters afterwards) as your first milestone. But breaks have to be taken, and if that felt the best place to stop for you, that's good to me. 

 

Thank you for your compliments.

 

I think I wanted the entry to the school to feel a little different, and since Gabriel is a math guy, the idea was there for the taking. I think (but it's so long ago now) that I was worried about it being a little outlandish. 

 

Mosswater Factory was actually interesting to plan. The idea is that my protagonist is sheltered, and is quite conflict-averse. So how do you storm an enemy base in these conditions? And how would the grunts of a terrorist organization react? These were the kind of questions driving me. 

 

 As for Taka... I have an idea for this character, so I won't go into too much detail (there's another battle with him coming next too). 

 

Rests between battles... I think this gets brought up later on, but not very often. I'm afraid that Gabriel isn't going to be an unstoppable force of nature... at least not yet. 

 

As for the little facts of life, I operate on story logic: most of them aren't that important or interesting, so they're mostly skipped, except perhaps at some rare times. If I remember correctly, there's a shower on chapter 27 (but he does try to shower every day). I think a toothbrush is mentioned in chapter 15, and you can assume that is used at least once a (usually dangerous) day. Clothes get brought up in chapter 15 too, if I remember well, and they sometimes get mentioned. But the story so far is pretty slow (in the current chapter [56], less than three weeks have happened since the train attack), so he won't change clothes that much. Also, he doesn't want to spend what little money he has for it, so he keeps the same ones (I guess we can assume he bought a little more underwear). 

 

Meals put me in a quandary (namely, what kind of food to write about? Berries sound insufficient for feeding, too, and the status of meat in Pokemon universes tends to be... awkward). Mostly you can assume that he grabs something that looks edible enough (and doesn't taste very good except maybe for the sugar) and a hot drink for breakfast. 

 

Gabriel has a very practical approach to hair (well, I hear that it's actually very flawed in real life but, well, my story, my rules): just pretend that it's worth the barest effort and it's going to be fine. I'll confess that I didn't think about haircuts. But time progresses quite slowly (up to chapter 23, there's barely a week spent in Reborn City) so there's little reason for him to get one yet. Maybe later, though. 

 

As for the bathroom breaks... let's say that I still am considering something that may well make you wish you never asked for it. ;)

 

No comment on the future chapters... I'll let you discover Gabriel's progress for yourself.

 

 

I regret to say that, while I appreciate your feedback, I will not incorporate it in the previously written chapters. Keeping moving is already difficult, and I don't have the strength to seriously rework my earlier chapters just yet. But I will definitely take that into account in the future. 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Mindlack said:

Thank you for reading and reviewing, @Valyrian_Reforged

 

To be honest, it was, sort of, one of the reasons why I reviewed your work: "if I don't read and review other people's work, why should my own be read?". But the question was asked abstractly, not in terms of an actual "quid pro quo" with an actual person. 

 

But this means that I will be your debtor for a while. 

 

Back on topic, I'm a little bit surprised you marked the end of chapter 23 (as opposed to the end of part 1, three chapters afterwards) as your first milestone. But breaks have to be taken, and if that felt the best place to stop for you, that's good to me. 

 

Thank you for your compliments.

 

I think I wanted the entry to the school to feel a little different, and since Gabriel is a math guy, the idea was there for the taking. I think (but it's so long ago now) that I was worried about it being a little outlandish. 

 

Mosswater Factory was actually interesting to plan. The idea is that my protagonist is sheltered, and is quite conflict-averse. So how do you storm an enemy base in these conditions? And how would the grunts of a terrorist organization react? These were the kind of questions driving me. 

 

 As for Taka... I have an idea for this character, so I won't go into too much detail (there's another battle with him coming next too). 

 

Rests between battles... I think this gets brought up later on, but not very often. I'm afraid that Gabriel isn't going to be an unstoppable force of nature... at least not yet. 

 

As for the little facts of life, I operate on story logic: most of them aren't that important or interesting, so they're mostly skipped, except perhaps at some rare times. If I remember correctly, there's a shower on chapter 27 (but he does try to shower every day). I think a toothbrush is mentioned in chapter 15, and you can assume that is used at least once a (usually dangerous) day. Clothes get brought up in chapter 15 too, if I remember well, and they sometimes get mentioned. But the story so far is pretty slow (in the current chapter [56], less than three weeks have happened since the train attack), so he won't change clothes that much. Also, he doesn't want to spend what little money he has for it, so he keeps the same ones (I guess we can assume he bought a little more underwear). 

 

Meals put me in a quandary (namely, what kind of food to write about? Berries sound insufficient for feeding, too, and the status of meat in Pokemon universes tends to be... awkward). Mostly you can assume that he grabs something that looks edible enough (and doesn't taste very good except maybe for the sugar) and a hot drink for breakfast. 

 

Gabriel has a very practical approach to hair (well, I hear that it's actually very flawed in real life but, well, my story, my rules): just pretend that it's worth the barest effort and it's going to be fine. I'll confess that I didn't think about haircuts. But time progresses quite slowly (up to chapter 23, there's barely a week spent in Reborn City) so there's little reason for him to get one yet. Maybe later, though. 

 

As for the bathroom breaks... let's say that I still am considering something that may well make you wish you never asked for it. ;)

 

No comment on the future chapters... I'll let you discover Gabriel's progress for yourself.

 

 

I regret to say that, while I appreciate your feedback, I will not incorporate it in the previously written chapters. Keeping moving is already difficult, and I don't have the strength to seriously rework my earlier chapters just yet. But I will definitely take that into account in the future. 

 

 

 

Hi, Mindlack,

 

No worries. That's as good a reason as any to read and to critique a work, and/or works. In actuality, I had started at Chapter One. However, I had previously only thought to reply when I had read the entirety of this work. I'd decided against that upon receiving and reading your plentiful replies to my own work. Thank you for your feedback and support. I really enjoy reading your descriptions of Reborn City.

 

Your descriptions of each Ward and particularly of the PULSE Tangrowth damage had been most masterful. I like the way that you have really written your take upon the damage of these places and of the life and death struggle that it has been, thus far, for Gabriel.

 

He has been given a thankless job and you've had him ask questions that I feel that most protagonists never ask (such as why the Gym Leaders of Reborn haven't stepped in to help the protagonist against Team Meteor.) Cowardice and self preservation are the logical reasons behind why this is so. Gabriel is growing from cowardice into confidence and that's beautiful and admirable to see.

 

Thank you, in turn, for addressing the day to day minutiae that had been but a part of my immersion and practical concerns. I hadn't read that far ahead (to Chapter 56), but I'm glad that its mention was provided as an example to me.

 

Your revelation of the story pacing does explain alot as to why some of these concerns of mine hadn't been mentioned with regularity. I do remember reading about the toothbrush. I hadn't know about Gabriel's tooth brushing regularity, though. That is good to know.

 

Clothing is important. Changes of clothes is acceptable and definitely changes of underclothes are, even sporadically in Reborn, a must. Because it is currently a dump.

 

As to Gabriel's meals, I had read a very interesting fanfiction that had meals being created from some of the more plentiful Water critters of Pokemon (indeed an unsavoury practice), but in Reborn, who knows where food comes from in that region. It's definitely best not to think too deeply or to look too closely within the mystery meats and sundries while there.

 

It's like college slop. It's edible, albeit barely, but it'll always be a mystery.

 

Berries can be made into smoothies and shakes. As snacks, I'd imagine that a fair few of them would scratch the surface of fullness, but never fully satisfy it. Fair enough, you can incorporate any feedback that you can receive, or not, as you wish to.

 

I'll be keeping tabs upon your great work as I continue to read it,

 

Valyrian.

 

PS: If there's anything that I hadn't addressed above, please let me know.

 

Edited by Valyrian_Reforged
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Good evening! I hope you're all doing well. 

 

It's been a little while, and I had expected to be able to make progress in the story in the past two weeks... But I haven't, much. Summer break is over, and I am now studying with a vengeance (and some impressively irregular hours). So instead I worried about the next fights in game (Serra, Sirius/Sigmund, Steelix, Abra, Noel), tried to plan for them and got the important details wrong -- but never mind. 

 

I'd like to say that the information I've given in my two previous posts isn't entirely canon. They're how I view things at first, but I haven't thought them fully through. But they look consistent enough. 

 

Valyrian -- these are some interesting remarks on food. That may explain why I'm always wary of eating around a US college, when I go there. 🤣

 

Valyrian, regarding the contents of Part 1: well, in the stories I had seen, I had thought the devastation and the challenge level somewhat understated, with the PULSEs looking like early game bosses. But it didn't fit with my vision of the things -- they're literal bioweapons, engines of destruction wreaking havoc on huge areas. In my view, Gabriel isn't (at least at that point -- all bets are off for the late game) the golden hero that will always win effortlessly, so really the question was more: how could it not be a struggle of life or death? 

 

I'm glad I was able to convey all this. 

 

 

Anyway, we're moving on, with another very long chapter, with a title that may or may not be one of the most appropriate ones in the story. It has a lot of dialog that I'm not sure I got quite right, but I suppose that is part of an author's occupational hazards. Also, an offhand comment from about a year ago gets finally fully explained. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Chapter 57: Psy Ops

 

Spoiler

I found my right leg, the one farther from the entrance of the cave, wet when I woke up after an uneasy sleep. Really wet, almost as if someone had thrown a bucket of water at it. I sat up uneasily, my sight blurry after I turned my headlight on, before I managed to make out a vague, slimy, turquoise shape.

 

I shut my eyes, and then opened them again. No, I was probably not dreaming this time. Not because I could pinch myself, but because I could clear-sightedly think about it. My right knee was indeed the teddy bear of a snoring blue Shellos.

 

It had stopped raining outside, but it was still very dark. I had probably only had a few hours of sleep. In case I had to stay outside for another night, I didn't want to use up the lights too fast. I yawned. Perhaps I could manage another few hours of sleep, despite the lack of comfort of my position, due to the rock and the way the Shellos was slowly but surely inundating me with the water oozing from its viscous body.

 

 

When I awoke for good, my entire lower body was drenched and cold, and they were my spare clothes. The Shellos was still snoring. It was just before dawn: the earth was dark, but the sky hid a shy promise of light. Soon, the day would break, and it should be much easier to find my way, realize which way is down...

 

Or, I realized, feeling deeply stupid at how obvious this solution was, I could just have Batley fly around to find the best path. But to do that, I would have to get up, which meant disturbing the peacefully sleeping Shellos. I found this, to my own surprise, difficult to do. Even though I knew -- I felt -- that it was rather gross, getting up wouldn't solve this, and would just inconvenience the little Pokemon.

 

I sat and waited for a while, watching the dark sky get slowly lighter, before I decided to get ready. So I -- still trying to move my leg as little as possible -- dragged my bag nearer to me, drank some water, and ate a few sweets. It was unhealthy, nor did it feel really sufficient, but I couldn't afford to take more.

 

In the end, I couldn't stay much longer. Trying to be nice to a Pokemon was probably not that bad, but I had to be ready as fast as possible, lest I spent another night in the mountains. But it was still rather dark outside, and the Shellos had to have come from somewhere in the cave. It could be a good idea to explore it just a little, in case it led to an exit downstream.

 

Unfortunately, the cave, which really was more a narrow corridor, was clearly going up, and a trickle of water was running down towards the exit I knew. I found in perhaps fifteen minutes the end of the tunnel, where a thirty centimeter hole in the rock, one meter fifty above the ground, was the only way to go on. Just out of curiosity, I tried to peek through it, with my arms pushing the headlight inside so that I could have a better look.

 

The air in front of the hole was noticeably hotter, and the room was very foggy. Some of its surface seemed to be shining, as if it were wet. A warm spring of water? I had seen stranger sights. I realized dimly that the room itself was already warmer than it should be. But it wasn't immediately useful (and the water was probably not even drinkable), so I retraced my steps.

 

"Los!"

 

The Shellos seemed to be interested by the hot water too. Otherwise, why would it have woken up so quickly and dragged itself about halfway up the tunnel in its direction? But it wouldn't be able to reach it... and I was in a hurry. I went past the aquatic Pokemon.

 

"Los! Los!" it insisted.

 

I turned back. The Shellos was making a U-turn. Could it be more interested in me than in the geyser? Would I have to feed it, play with it? Could I refuse to? Would I lose more time again? The Shellos was coming back towards me and I wasn't entirely sure what to do, except avoid getting wet again -- so I was slowly taking steps back.

 

"Los! Los! Los!" it accelerated towards me again.

 

"You want to come with me?" I found myself muttering, unable to believe it.

 

"Los! Los!" it sounded pretty enthusiastic about that, too.

 

That made everything simpler. I presented it a Pokeball... and I had my first very own Water-type. Seeing where I had found it, finding a nickname was easy.

 

HfPt5j0.png

 

And then I walked out of the cave into the cool, humid morning, ready for a long walk. I took another Pokeball, and sent out Batley.

 

"Can you find a way to the town that should be around there?" I asked her, pointing in the direction of the low sun, since Spinel Town was supposed to be eastwards.

 

The bat Pokemon took off, and I watched her soar higher and higher, turning around me in an ever widening circle. I couldn't help but think that it was deliverance, ascension, the happy end of it all... That I was free at last. The dream didn't last for long, of course. Little in my situation had actually changed, but the tiny spark of optimism felt good.

 

Batley came back perhaps ten or fifteen minutes later, having found a path, and I followed her guidance down the mountain. Neither the muddy earth, nor the slippery stones would hinder me any more. I followed my Pokemon's lead through narrow, twisted, sinuous, muddy paths, disregarding my legs' complaints at the changes in altitude, at the consistent unsteadiness of the footing. It was taking a long time, but I knew -- I trusted, at the very least -- that I was in the right direction, and I couldn't stop. Not yet. Safety was not at the next step, not in the next hundred steps, nor even the next thousand, but it would be there eventually.

 

After perhaps two hours and a half, my surroundings didn't look mountainous any more. I was in a flat brown forest of mud and sparse leafless trees. Even better, what I was treading on looked clearly like a path, albeit a narrow one, that might lead straight to a town. I could have taken a break for lunch, but whatever sweets I had left would probably be better as a snack for another time.

 

And, walking briskly, I saw ahead of me someone in a beige overcoat that came down below their knees. They looked rather unremarkable, except for their hood and their very particular gait, not really slow but rather grave, as if each step had a deep significance that they did not want to undignify by rushing. I slowed down for a while, waiting for a time when the path would be large enough for me to walk past them without risking to slip. But soon enough, I decided to pass before them anyway, as they were slower.

 

So I pushed left, slightly straying from the path, and went on walking, knowing that soon enough I would distance them, and then I would be able to get back on track.

 

It didn't happen that way. One second I was walking in a deep mud puddle, and the next one I had lost my balance and fell headfirst on the more solid path.

 

Twenty meters in front of the other man, I realized dizzily. How on earth could I cover so much distance in so tiny an amount of time? My right knee had hit the ground harder than everything else, and I guessed that I would have a nice wound to disinfect. At least when I decided to keep some first aid in my bag.

 

My bag!

 

I didn't have it on my shoulders any more. I pushed the ground away, managed to stand with only some sharp pain in my right knee, and looked around.

 

The bag was perhaps fifty meters behind me. On the left of the path. What?

 

"Are you all right?" the other person had caught up to me now. He was an older man, easily over fifty, and his deep voice sounded as steady as the earth itself -- if not more, given what had just happened.

 

"I'm fine, thank you." I mumbled, shaking my head. "Excuse me, I need to get my bag..."

 

I glanced towards the point where I had just seen my bag. But it wasn't there any more.

 

What?

 

"Is it not right there?" the man pointed somewhere in front of us.

 

Indeed, there it was. At a place where I was sure I had never set foot. It was just too much in front of us. Perhaps Batley had put it there, but this looked unlikely due to the bag's weight.

 

But the bag couldn't have teleported, right?

 

I repressed an urge to get out from this place as fast as I could.

 

"I heard that Chrysolia Forest has seen some strange occurrences in the previous days." the man said gravely. "But I did not expect to see them myself."

 

And then he started muttering with his head lowered, and, after watching for a few seconds, I hurried to grab my bag back before, however incongruous it sounded, it managed to elude me again. I winced a little bit after noticing that it had landed in the mud and that I yet had to carry it. But it didn't matter too much. I had to go on.

 

"So, are you going to Spinel Town?" the man had caught up to me again and stopped muttering. He looked around, and his gaze settled on the Swoobat. "You must be a Trainer, then?"

 

"Yes, I am." I answered uneasily. I wasn't sure why I wasn't at ease. Maybe there was something too intense about the man. I certainly couldn't sustain the gaze of his inquisitive, piercing light blue eyes. "And you?"

 

"I am," he replied, his voice solemn, "a servant of the Lord Arceus."

 

B3QVei3.png

 

So, a priest? I supposed some people had to play that role, although I struggled to understand how they managed to stay that way, since, even on my more delusional days, I barely managed to convince myself that such an entity as a Lord could exist.

 

"And you are going to Spinel Town too?" I replied, trying to drown my inner voices' argument about tradition versus logic in the noise of physical voices.

 

"Yes." he answered, starting to move forward. I followed him automatically, staying barely behind. "But I walk there for a duty as sacred to me as my service, yet very distinct. If you are a Trainer, surely you must know a Gym Leader named Luna?"

 

"Er..." I racked my brains, taken aback at the sudden question. There was Luna Lovegood, of course, but I decided that it wasn't the one. First, because she was fictional, and second, because her father was not a priest. "No. I don't have many Badges."

 

"But, the Lord willing, you will." he answered. "Luna is my daughter." he explained gravely. "She has lost the Lord's light. People that she could not know better than call 'friends' swayed her towards a path of darkness. A year ago, she denounced me as her father and disappeared. I have been trying to find her ever since. Since then, I have not spent a day when I did not pray for her soul and for her safety. But if it pleases the Lord to put me to the test, I will bear the burdens that He has chosen for me."

 

Ah.

 

"And you think that she is in Spinel Town?"

 

"In truth, I do not know. I heard that she has been spotted there several months ago, but it may simply be false. But the League management has refused to help me in my search, so I am trying to talk directly to the Gym Leaders who I believe will be willing to talk to her."

 

"The League management refused to help you?" I reacted, surprised.

 

Or perhaps it was to be expected. After all, the daughter was affiliated with the League, not the father. Of course they would take her side, or at least not out her whereabouts against her will. The League and Reborn City had certainly their share of issues, but none of these seemed to include siding with an outsider against one of their members. Explicitly, at least, I mentally corrected, the entire Orphanage business coming back to mind. But I still felt surprisingly sad for the father who saw an organization deny him knowledge of his daughter's activities.

 

"Many of the people I talk to were sympathetic to my plight." El explained. "But there are those, more vocal, that hold the view that I am a relic past his time, that I and everything I stand for, everything that I deem important, are doomed to disappear -- even that such a prospect is to be encouraged. It is their right to believe so, but I did not expect..."

 

As he was speaking, his head turned slightly backwards, a tree materialized perhaps two meters in front of us. I blinked, unable to believe my eyes. Batley shrieked. El froze, made a few hand gestures, and muttered something.

 

"I did not expect," he repeated himself, still calm and solemn, "their enmity to be so merciless."

 

"What is happening here?" I muttered.

 

He turned fully towards me, eying me, then Batley. "You should recall your Swoobat... what is your name?"

 

"Gabriel."

 

"Gabriel, your Swoobat looks tired. You should recall her for a bit. These Pokemon do not care much for daylight."

 

"Batley!" I called. The Psychic Pokemon came back towards me. "Thank you for all you did. You can rest, if you want."

 

Batley took the offer gracefully.

 

"You know Pokemon, too?" I asked El.

 

"A little." he replied. "My life has been eventful."

 

"I am sorry this happened to you." I said. "About your daughter. It's... so sad. A flight of a year, without hearing about her..." I cut myself off, as I was imagining the anguish of a father who had no news of his child for months...

 

Exactly what I was doing to my family, of course. Although on a shorter time-scale, but worse odds of survival.

I felt the tears well up.

Stupid Gabriel. No point in crying.

 

"So what do you think happened with this tree?" I asked, forcing myself to change the topic. "It just appeared out of thin air."

 

"This is most concerning, indeed." my companion replied gravely. "I do not know what could produce such effects. Perhaps a powerful psychic Pokemon might manage it, but it should have been close enough for us to see it. A more plausible alternative would be that a more mischievous Pokemon decided to hide the tree from our sight, until we were too close to be fooled."

 

An invisible, powerful psychic Pokemon that tried to play tricks on us? Three times now -- me, my bag and the tree? I was not sure I was very fond of this.

 

I walked on, my eyes trying to be alert for any kind of suspect behavior in our surroundings, but it seemed very quiet. So if this really happened, it had to be done at long range.

 

So, a hugely powerful Pokemon with long-range effects...

Oh no. Hell no.

 

This sounded a lot like another PULSE. But if so, then it was frightfully inefficient. Instead of putting trees on our paths, it could have flung them at us. Instead of moving me fifty meters to meet this man, it could have moved me a hundred meters above ground, to plummet to my gory death.

 

Because if it was a PULSE, it was Team Meteor. Again.

And they wanted me dead. And I was all alone.

 

But, since the psychic things were far less deadly than they should have been, wasn't this a clue that this wasn't a PULSE?

 

Then again, Team Meteor stuff had always had an odd -- but overall not that unpleasant -- propensity to fail to kill me, even though I was entirely at their mercy. But, even without that, there really had to be a lot of things one could do with PULSEs, if the goal was to drive everyone outside.

 

And some of them had to be far more effective than so temporary and overt a plant invasion...

 

"By the way," I switched topic again, wishing to end this trail of thought, "I didn't ask your name."

 

"I am named El." he answered.

 

Like the suffix of so many of these first names, rooted in ancient faiths and languages. Rather appropriate for a priest, except perhaps for the implied hubris, which wasn't his fault.

 

"Do you work in Reborn City?" I asked after a while, wishing the conversation to go on. It wasn't like I had many people to talk with these days.

 

"It is there indeed that I serve according to my calling."

 

"That has to be difficult." The objection came naturally to mind. "The city is in a terrible state, isn't it?"

 

E7tYOzZ.png

 

"The Lord has indeed decided to test Reborn City." El answered, his voice lower and sad. "But His message is never so loud as in such a situation. Indeed, my very flock is made with people who escaped dreadful lives. They were stuck in empty violence, working for gangs who stole their possessions, their hopes and their souls. But I was able to show them a path to an unwavering light. Even then, it is not easy, and I wish every day that I could do more, convince more of them to leave the dog-eat-dog world where they roam and struggle to turn a blind eye to their own blemishes. But I am glad for every man and woman whom I can bring to listen to their conscience and save from their own degradation."

 

I didn't find anything to answer to that. It was, indeed, a worthwhile endeavor to try and convert members of gangs. It had to do some good, certainly. But given the situation of the whole City, this felt like a drop in the ocean. Even if they went from muggers to the most perfectly honest of people, how much would the overall well-being of the city improve? Not by very much. Although, of course, it would be better for them specifically.

 

But whether Reborn City rotted or recovered -- it wouldn't be decided by a hundred low-level mobsters turning into paragons. Not even, in all likelihood, by the kind of people that would dedicate their lives to such a task.

 

My heart was too heavy, too worried about the future to applaud El's efforts, and I didn't feel like acting skeptic, because I was far from his level of positive impact myself. So instead I shut up and tried to come to terms with the anxious realization that Reborn City's life -- and therefore, my own fate -- depended from nothing I could even legibly act upon.

 

But of course, in that train of thought lay an unpleasant answer. Perhaps Reborn City's recovery wouldn't indeed be decided by the men who spent their lives helping gang members back on the straight and narrow. But it was certainly hampered by anyone who thought like this -- that actions such as El's didn't actually matter. Myself included. I should have expected it -- acting or not, thinking or not, nothing good ever came from it as long as it wasn't as it wasn't as clear as a math problem.

 

That wasn't a grim thought or anything. Just fact. All that mattered was what I did with it.

 

El did not mind the silence either and made no effort to break it. We walked in silence another half hour until we finally reached Spinel Town.

 

 

"Well," El concluded, "I believe this is where our roads part, for now. I will see the Gym Leader, Serra Voclain. The Gym is located near her house, northeast of the town. But the Pokemon Center is in this way," he pointed westwards. "May the Lord smile upon your endeavors."

 

I thought of all that I had done lately. This didn't sound plausible.

 

"Good luck too." I waved at him as he left.

 

 

                                                                                              *

 

On the previous night:

 

Lost in thought, Noel was looking through the window, admiring how the lamps of the living room could not light the depth of the black night, not even enough to see the rain drops that he could definitely hear.

 

The dinner had been fantastic. Laura had definitely learnt a lot about cooking in the few months after she had managed to get out of the Orphanage. She had offered to teach Saphira a few things, but she had been met with a stern refusal.

 

"My cooking may be simplistic," she had replied, "but it's fast and good enough for me."

 

Everyone had been in a cheerful mood. Or more precisely, the Belroses and Cain had been in an excellent mood, Anna was spectacularly managing to put a smile on Shelly's face by telling her stories more and more ridiculous about the life at the Orphanage, now not a place of dread but a relic of a remote past, a little accident of history to be drowned into laughter. He had even caught Heather managing a smile. He had put a polite smile on, tried to not wince when he was the butt of Anna's stories, and listened, trying to find some sense in the talk.

 

They were drunk on their own happiness, all of them, he thought. Not thinking of what they could really do, which was very little since only three of them had Pokemon. He, Anna, Charlotte, Heather, and Shelly too, they would have to resign from the League, since they didn't have Pokemon any more. Ame would be devastated. Five standing League members, not to mention the Elite Four!

 

And he could think of someone who didn't share the ambiant happiness, someone who had been involved in every recent development of the story and yet couldn't enjoy its mostly happy conclusion. He had seen through the window in a sleepy haze that Saphira had left with him, and Laura had taken his things away from the house. Given how heavily it was raining and empty these parts were -- Laura had shown him a map, knowing he liked them -- he wasn't too sure what to wish for.

 

And, the excitement falling, the sleepless nights catching up with everyone but Laura -- who was rigid about her lifestyle and especially her sleep schedule -- and Saphira -- who wasn't as orderly but wasn't tired either -- they had all gone to bed, happy, warm and fed, and Laura and Saphira were wishing good night to everyone else...

 

He had slept so late already that he didn't feel tired. But he didn't have much to amuse himself. Perhaps Laura had paper and pencils for drawings.

 

"It is late, Noel," Laura commented when she climbed down the stairs. "Will you not sleep?"

 

"I'm not tired, Laura." he answered.

 

She glanced at the window he was standing close to. Not even the rain was visible in the darkness. She knew that the boy had something in mind.

 

"Noel," she began. "Is something the matter? You look lost."

 

"I was wondering..." he began hesitantly, then took a deep breath and winced a little, before asking the question. "What happened to Gabriel?"

 

"He wanted to go to the Spinel Gym." Laura answered, her tone cautious. "He wanted to go on with the League. And we asked him to order some flour, because my reserves for the bread are low."

 

Noel studied her.

 

"I don't believe you, Laura. Why did you pack his bag instead of him? Why did Saphira give him a lift without even his bag ready?"

 

"And what about the note that you wrote?" Laura quipped back, looking at the boy straight in the eye. Saphira had not had time to give her the full rundown yet, but she trusted her sister's judgement. After all, she had met many more people of all kinds than her.

 

"The note?" Noel asked automatically.

 

"Please do not attempt to play the innocent." the Elite Four member replied levelly. "Cain said Gabriel had been given a note. One with a ciphered text and a drawing. Who else would have done that but you?"

 

"You're counting your words again, Laura." Noel sighed.

 

"How is that any relevant to our topic? It is late to worry about Gabriel, Noel. Since you lied to bring him into this."

 

And then Noel changed. His childlike face, his thin features, hardened. Bitterness filled his usually observant, curious black eyes, and they started to shine a little. Laura wasn't looking at a child any more. She was looking at an old general, who had ordered a thousand battles and sent millions of men to die.

 

"I had to." Noel whispered, his voice hoarse. "I had no choice."

 

Laura stared at him, waiting for him to explain himself. She was over eighteen, while the boy was barely twelve, but she had enjoyed spending time at the Orphanage with him. He was sensible, mature enough, not too overwhelming. They had made drawings together, learnt from each other's styles. She had taught him chess and they fondly played, his progress mostly matching hers despite the age difference.

 

Above all, he was simple to deal with: if you offered to do with him an activity that he liked, he would agree, gladly participate in his own quiet way. If not, maybe next time -- in the meantime, he was not going to beg for your attention, because he could keep himself busy. Always an even temper, not joyous but not really sad either.

 

And in the long time she had spent with Noel, seeing him grow, she had never seen him in this state. Apart from that time, perhaps two years ago now, he had always been very calm, almost detached. Always halfway in a world of his own, but never so much as to miss anything interesting. That -- that was not the Noel she knew. She motioned at him to go on. He stared at her for a while, making a visible effort to regain his composure, but it was impossible to him when Laura was staring intently at him.

 

xSIb9lL.png

 

"I did it for Anna. For Charlotte too, I suppose." he managed in a mutter. "I couldn't stand her attending her... therapy... day after day... It never worked. It never will! And I couldn't let her suffer... every day for something so pointless."

 

"But why involve this Gabriel of all people?"

 

Noel took a deep breath, tried to steady his voice, but all he managed to do was to speak less loud, more uncertain.

 

"I'm usually interested in hearing stories from the Onyx Trainer School," Noel explained, "and one intern at the Orphanage has a sister there. He told me that this Fern, who is apparently running the student body around, had decided to ban a certain challenger from entering the Gym. So she was discussing the latest math homework with friends when this challenger turns up and very politely offers to help them if they let him enter the Gym."

 

"This challenger was Gabriel, if I understand correctly?"

 

"Yes, that was him. He made good on his promise, too. That was a pretty hard problem, apparently, and they say he solved it like it was easy. She said he looked transformed... he was nervous, uncertain, and then he was really glad to do the math, completely at ease. And then, two days after I hear the story, there's this... young man... to whom Anna opens the door of the Orphanage... and then he claims he represents someone who's interested in Heather."

 

"Are you still referring to Gabriel like that?"

 

"Yes." Noel confirmed. "But you had to be there, Laura. He was pretty nice, not, you know, trying to. Sincere. And he needed the door opened to him... he didn't have an appointment. He looked nervous, too. And you should have seen his face when Anna started trying to prevent him from seeing the Doctor. It was obvious, just looking at him, that the speech was a pretense, but the purpose was sincere. He had given his name, and James -- the intern -- had described him for me -- for the story, you know -- and I decided that it had to be the same person. And... I decided I could trust him."

 

He chuckled sadly.

 

"So I deceived him. Of course."

 

"Did you have to write a coded message?"

 

"I was worried that it would backfire if I didn't do it." he sniffed. Tears were running from his eyes, now more open than any time before. He couldn't bear to face Laura's disapproving look, and he lowered his eyes. "Plus, I thought it added some authenticity. Especially for someone who loved math -- he would relish the challenge, trust its outcome." Noel's sob was a full shudder.

 

"I hated it." he added in a sad mutter. "I hated lying to him. You know that I don't like lying at all. It was a wretched idea with worse consequences, but I would do it again if I had to. But... are you... are you going to tell them? Cain, Shelly, who did a lot to try and help us... Shelly was taken like us too... will you tell them that I lied to get them involved?"

 

Laura eyed him. Noel was looking miserably at the night, dreading to catch her eye, focused on the sound of the pouring rain outside.

 

"I understand very well what you are saying." Laura said softly after a long silence. "Saphira will figure it out if she needs. Cain, Shelly or Gabriel, I would think not. I will not disclose what you did, Noel."

 

 

 

Character rates:

Spoiler

El: 7/10. Apparently pretty decent. And such a sad story...

 

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This was kinda a bittersweet chapter, given we know the truth and reason behind the escape from the Orphanage. Can't blame him given how screwed up this place was thanks to Sigmund... 

On 9/18/2021 at 8:30 PM, Mindlack said:

She was over eighteen, while the boy was barely twelve, but she had enjoyed spending time at the Orphanage with him. He was sensible, mature enough, not too overwhelming. They had made drawings together, learnt from each other's styles. She had taught him chess and they fondly played, his progress mostly matching hers despite the age difference.

Despite it does had some good things, but- we all know- it's getting overshadowed by that "practice" called ECT and Sigmund's wrong practice. Not that is already new to us😶

 

On 9/18/2021 at 8:30 PM, Mindlack said:

"I was worried that it would backfire if I didn't do it." he sniffed. Tears were running from his eyes, now more open than any time before. He couldn't bear to face Laura's disapproving look, and he lowered his eyes. "Plus, I thought it added some authenticity. Especially for someone who loved math -- he would relish the challenge, trust its outcome." Noel's sob was a full shudder.

You know I can understand Noel's situation, but it kinda went down hill in the Underground Railnet. Just give him a hug already🧸

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Yeah yeah I know. "You said you were restarting reading like a year ago. What happen?" I'm terrible at reading ok donut judge 🙈

On 10/31/2019 at 9:27 AM, Mindlack said:

And there's a Gym where the Leader requires people to fight naked in the dark.

Luna is that u? What we gonna see, or actually, not see in that battle? 👀

On 11/27/2019 at 11:40 AM, Mindlack said:

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

 

Of him? Was the Nurse Joy...

Ngl I love it when these kind of things give stuff away cause even smol brain Candy can see they screwed up lol

On 12/7/2019 at 1:11 PM, Mindlack said:

So she mentioned to me the Candy Shop, in one of Obsidia's largest (and currently most damaged) alleys. 

owo

On 12/7/2019 at 1:11 PM, Mindlack said:

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

That's one big bad cliffhanger lol

I like that you actually upped the stakes in the slums, which makes why Victoria wanted to stop Gabriel earlier make sense. He really ain't the type that could get past some gangs in one piece xP

 

Also I want to self-congratulate myself for reading a good number of chapters on one sitting cause I can rarely do anything for this long without getting distracted lmao *bows* thank you, thank you *bows*

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12 hours ago, Candy said:

Yeah yeah I know. "You said you were restarting reading like a year ago. What happen?" I'm terrible at reading ok donut judge 🙈

 

I'm not judging, I'm very glad that you're reading!

 

12 hours ago, Candy said:

Luna is that u? What we gonna see, or actually, not see in that battle? 👀

 

Quote

Oh, my. Well, be that as it may, it wasn't quite my intention.

 

(damn, that makes three people to which this sentence could have applied)

 

I have no plans to feature such a battle. It's probably one of the clumsiest things in the early story that I wrote. But I'm fancying Reborn City as a very good place for rumors to spread (let's say that this anecdote didn't happen to the guy who spoke about it), and there's a (non-immediate) reason why I added this. I'm sure that there are far more skilled ways to, er, fulfill the purpose of this remark (for reasons that should be apparent in a little while), except that I couldn't think of one.

 

12 hours ago, Candy said:

Ngl I love it when these kind of things give stuff away cause even smol brain Candy can see they screwed up lol

owo

 

Gabriel isn't always very observant -- he doesn't really know how to do it usefully -- and he won't stand his ground unless he has a very good reason to. I needed something blatant to make him realize something was amiss. And even then, you'll note that the Meteors took the initiative, not him. ^^

 

12 hours ago, Candy said:

That's one big bad cliffhanger lol

I like that you actually upped the stakes in the slums, which makes why Victoria wanted to stop Gabriel earlier make sense. He really ain't the type that could get past some gangs in one piece xP

 

I completely agree (although I don't quite remember what Victoria said). It's almost surprising that he made it this far.

 

12 hours ago, Candy said:

Also I want to self-congratulate myself for reading a good number of chapters on one sitting cause I can rarely do anything for this long without getting distracted lmao *bows* thank you, thank you *bows*

 

Can I self-congratulate too for writing these chapters so well that they didn't let you get distracted?🤣

Kudos (and thank you) for reading this much in one go, and I hope that you'll find the time and inclination to read on.

 

 

@Evi Crystal I'll reply to you in spoilers, so that Candy does not unwittingly learn about half the plot points before they even get brought up.

Spoiler
On 9/21/2021 at 11:16 AM, Evi Crystal said:

This was kinda a bittersweet chapter, given we know the truth and reason behind the escape from the Orphanage. Can't blame him given how screwed up this place was thanks to Sigmund... Despite it does had some good things, but- we all know- it's getting overshadowed by that "practice" called ECT and Sigmund's wrong practice. Not that is already new to us😶

 

Yeah, the Orphanage was quite a messed-up place (like the city it's in). But I didn't want to make Sigmund a raving lunatic (like his canon counterpart), just perhaps a bit too ECT-happy. In this story, Sigmund is someone whose overall impact (discounting his association with Team Meteor and consequences thereof) on the city is positive; the Orphanage is a far better place to be than the streets, although it's not a good place by any absolute measure.

 

Realizing the consequences of this outlook made me pretty sad, because it meant that Noel had to be lying. And then I had to figure out a reason why.

Which is why Noel reacts this strongly (for his standards) when Anna says just after the rescue that he's always lying just to hurt her feelings.

 

 

The Gym Leader kids are mostly an exception, because they actually need psychological support (though perhaps not ECT, I'm not exactly a psychiatrist).

Charlotte and Saphira have some serious anger issues (remember why Hercules needed to do the famous Twelve Works? a bit like that, except that they're not strong enough to kill everyone in sight) and in my head, therapy (including, but not limited to ECT) did help them control it a little.

Noel is an Aspie, which is why, like most of the other children in the facility, he was (almost) not ECT'd except that time two years ago -- I'm thinking of a depressive episode due to his seeing Anna in misery and him being unable to help.

And Sigmund would see Anna (and maybe Heather too) as severely delusional and that's the sort of diagnosis that might warrant shock therapy (I'm thinking of the movie about John Nash).

 

 

On 9/21/2021 at 11:16 AM, Evi Crystal said:

You know I can understand Noel's situation, but it kinda went down hill in the Underground Railnet. Just give him a hug already🧸

 

Yeah, his idea backfired pretty badly. How could he have known in advance?

(Not that it prevents him for feeling guilty about it, though.)

But I can't give him a hug, Saphira is going to kill me. 😅

 

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6 hours ago, Mindlack said:

But I'm fancying Reborn City as a very good place for rumors to spread (let's say that this anecdote didn't happen to the guy who spoke about it), and there's a (non-immediate) reason why I added this.

big bummerr but hey that's still fun (not me picturing Gabriel readying himself to take off his clothes, and Luna asks him WTF he's doing 🤡) Coincidentally, I did also kinda imply that, at least among the Karens of Reborn region, the gossips tend to fly about (with some of the wards thinking they had a ghost problem, but it was Vanilla/Pikachu).

6 hours ago, Mindlack said:

And even then, you'll note that the Meteors took the initiative, not him. ^^

Yep he was like "Him? I thought she was a her..." and Team Meteor was like "So you've chosen death" and he was like "what is happen?????"

6 hours ago, Mindlack said:

Can I self-congratulate too for writing these chapters so well that they didn't let you get distracted?🤣

"You get a self-congratulation, and you get a self-congratulation. EVERYBODY GETS A SELF-CONGRATULATION!!!!"

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On 9/19/2021 at 4:30 AM, Mindlack said:

Good evening! I hope you're all doing well. 

 

It's been a little while, and I had expected to be able to make progress in the story in the past two weeks... But I haven't, much. Summer break is over, and I am now studying with a vengeance (and some impressively irregular hours). So instead I worried about the next fights in game (Serra, Sirius/Sigmund, Steelix, Abra, Noel), tried to plan for them and got the important details wrong -- but never mind. 

 

I'd like to say that the information I've given in my two previous posts isn't entirely canon. They're how I view things at first, but I haven't thought them fully through. But they look consistent enough. 

 

Valyrian -- these are some interesting remarks on food. That may explain why I'm always wary of eating around a US college, when I go there. 🤣

 

Valyrian, regarding the contents of Part 1: well, in the stories I had seen, I had thought the devastation and the challenge level somewhat understated, with the PULSEs looking like early game bosses. But it didn't fit with my vision of the things -- they're literal bioweapons, engines of destruction wreaking havoc on huge areas. In my view, Gabriel isn't (at least at that point -- all bets are off for the late game) the golden hero that will always win effortlessly, so really the question was more: how could it not be a struggle of life or death? 

 

I'm glad I was able to convey all this. 

 

 

Anyway, we're moving on, with another very long chapter, with a title that may or may not be one of the most appropriate ones in the story. It has a lot of dialog that I'm not sure I got quite right, but I suppose that is part of an author's occupational hazards. Also, an offhand comment from about a year ago gets finally fully explained. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Chapter 57: Psy Ops

 

  Reveal hidden contents

I found my right leg, the one farther from the entrance of the cave, wet when I woke up after an uneasy sleep. Really wet, almost as if someone had thrown a bucket of water at it. I sat up uneasily, my sight blurry after I turned my headlight on, before I managed to make out a vague, slimy, turquoise shape.

 

I shut my eyes, and then opened them again. No, I was probably not dreaming this time. Not because I could pinch myself, but because I could clear-sightedly think about it. My right knee was indeed the teddy bear of a snoring blue Shellos.

 

It had stopped raining outside, but it was still very dark. I had probably only had a few hours of sleep. In case I had to stay outside for another night, I didn't want to use up the lights too fast. I yawned. Perhaps I could manage another few hours of sleep, despite the lack of comfort of my position, due to the rock and the way the Shellos was slowly but surely inundating me with the water oozing from its viscous body.

 

 

When I awoke for good, my entire lower body was drenched and cold, and they were my spare clothes. The Shellos was still snoring. It was just before dawn: the earth was dark, but the sky hid a shy promise of light. Soon, the day would break, and it should be much easier to find my way, realize which way is down...

 

Or, I realized, feeling deeply stupid at how obvious this solution was, I could just have Batley fly around to find the best path. But to do that, I would have to get up, which meant disturbing the peacefully sleeping Shellos. I found this, to my own surprise, difficult to do. Even though I knew -- I felt -- that it was rather gross, getting up wouldn't solve this, and would just inconvenience the little Pokemon.

 

I sat and waited for a while, watching the dark sky get slowly lighter, before I decided to get ready. So I -- still trying to move my leg as little as possible -- dragged my bag nearer to me, drank some water, and ate a few sweets. It was unhealthy, nor did it feel really sufficient, but I couldn't afford to take more.

 

In the end, I couldn't stay much longer. Trying to be nice to a Pokemon was probably not that bad, but I had to be ready as fast as possible, lest I spent another night in the mountains. But it was still rather dark outside, and the Shellos had to have come from somewhere in the cave. It could be a good idea to explore it just a little, in case it led to an exit downstream.

 

Unfortunately, the cave, which really was more a narrow corridor, was clearly going up, and a trickle of water was running down towards the exit I knew. I found in perhaps fifteen minutes the end of the tunnel, where a thirty centimeter hole in the rock, one meter fifty above the ground, was the only way to go on. Just out of curiosity, I tried to peek through it, with my arms pushing the headlight inside so that I could have a better look.

 

The air in front of the hole was noticeably hotter, and the room was very foggy. Some of its surface seemed to be shining, as if it were wet. A warm spring of water? I had seen stranger sights. I realized dimly that the room itself was already warmer than it should be. But it wasn't immediately useful (and the water was probably not even drinkable), so I retraced my steps.

 

"Los!"

 

The Shellos seemed to be interested by the hot water too. Otherwise, why would it have woken up so quickly and dragged itself about halfway up the tunnel in its direction? But it wouldn't be able to reach it... and I was in a hurry. I went past the aquatic Pokemon.

 

"Los! Los!" it insisted.

 

I turned back. The Shellos was making a U-turn. Could it be more interested in me than in the geyser? Would I have to feed it, play with it? Could I refuse to? Would I lose more time again? The Shellos was coming back towards me and I wasn't entirely sure what to do, except avoid getting wet again -- so I was slowly taking steps back.

 

"Los! Los! Los!" it accelerated towards me again.

 

"You want to come with me?" I found myself muttering, unable to believe it.

 

"Los! Los!" it sounded pretty enthusiastic about that, too.

 

That made everything simpler. I presented it a Pokeball... and I had my first very own Water-type. Seeing where I had found it, finding a nickname was easy.

 

HfPt5j0.png

 

And then I walked out of the cave into the cool, humid morning, ready for a long walk. I took another Pokeball, and sent out Batley.

 

"Can you find a way to the town that should be around there?" I asked her, pointing in the direction of the low sun, since Spinel Town was supposed to be eastwards.

 

The bat Pokemon took off, and I watched her soar higher and higher, turning around me in an ever widening circle. I couldn't help but think that it was deliverance, ascension, the happy end of it all... That I was free at last. The dream didn't last for long, of course. Little in my situation had actually changed, but the tiny spark of optimism felt good.

 

Batley came back perhaps ten or fifteen minutes later, having found a path, and I followed her guidance down the mountain. Neither the muddy earth, nor the slippery stones would hinder me any more. I followed my Pokemon's lead through narrow, twisted, sinuous, muddy paths, disregarding my legs' complaints at the changes in altitude, at the consistent unsteadiness of the footing. It was taking a long time, but I knew -- I trusted, at the very least -- that I was in the right direction, and I couldn't stop. Not yet. Safety was not at the next step, not in the next hundred steps, nor even the next thousand, but it would be there eventually.

 

After perhaps two hours and a half, my surroundings didn't look mountainous any more. I was in a flat brown forest of mud and sparse leafless trees. Even better, what I was treading on looked clearly like a path, albeit a narrow one, that might lead straight to a town. I could have taken a break for lunch, but whatever sweets I had left would probably be better as a snack for another time.

 

And, walking briskly, I saw ahead of me someone in a beige overcoat that came down below their knees. They looked rather unremarkable, except for their hood and their very particular gait, not really slow but rather grave, as if each step had a deep significance that they did not want to undignify by rushing. I slowed down for a while, waiting for a time when the path would be large enough for me to walk past them without risking to slip. But soon enough, I decided to pass before them anyway, as they were slower.

 

So I pushed left, slightly straying from the path, and went on walking, knowing that soon enough I would distance them, and then I would be able to get back on track.

 

It didn't happen that way. One second I was walking in a deep mud puddle, and the next one I had lost my balance and fell headfirst on the more solid path.

 

Twenty meters in front of the other man, I realized dizzily. How on earth could I cover so much distance in so tiny an amount of time? My right knee had hit the ground harder than everything else, and I guessed that I would have a nice wound to disinfect. At least when I decided to keep some first aid in my bag.

 

My bag!

 

I didn't have it on my shoulders any more. I pushed the ground away, managed to stand with only some sharp pain in my right knee, and looked around.

 

The bag was perhaps fifty meters behind me. On the left of the path. What?

 

"Are you all right?" the other person had caught up to me now. He was an older man, easily over fifty, and his deep voice sounded as steady as the earth itself -- if not more, given what had just happened.

 

"I'm fine, thank you." I mumbled, shaking my head. "Excuse me, I need to get my bag..."

 

I glanced towards the point where I had just seen my bag. But it wasn't there any more.

 

What?

 

"Is it not right there?" the man pointed somewhere in front of us.

 

Indeed, there it was. At a place where I was sure I had never set foot. It was just too much in front of us. Perhaps Batley had put it there, but this looked unlikely due to the bag's weight.

 

But the bag couldn't have teleported, right?

 

I repressed an urge to get out from this place as fast as I could.

 

"I heard that Chrysolia Forest has seen some strange occurrences in the previous days." the man said gravely. "But I did not expect to see them myself."

 

And then he started muttering with his head lowered, and, after watching for a few seconds, I hurried to grab my bag back before, however incongruous it sounded, it managed to elude me again. I winced a little bit after noticing that it had landed in the mud and that I yet had to carry it. But it didn't matter too much. I had to go on.

 

"So, are you going to Spinel Town?" the man had caught up to me again and stopped muttering. He looked around, and his gaze settled on the Swoobat. "You must be a Trainer, then?"

 

"Yes, I am." I answered uneasily. I wasn't sure why I wasn't at ease. Maybe there was something too intense about the man. I certainly couldn't sustain the gaze of his inquisitive, piercing light blue eyes. "And you?"

 

"I am," he replied, his voice solemn, "a servant of the Lord Arceus."

 

B3QVei3.png

 

So, a priest? I supposed some people had to play that role, although I struggled to understand how they managed to stay that way, since, even on my more delusional days, I barely managed to convince myself that such an entity as a Lord could exist.

 

"And you are going to Spinel Town too?" I replied, trying to drown my inner voices' argument about tradition versus logic in the noise of physical voices.

 

"Yes." he answered, starting to move forward. I followed him automatically, staying barely behind. "But I walk there for a duty as sacred to me as my service, yet very distinct. If you are a Trainer, surely you must know a Gym Leader named Luna?"

 

"Er..." I racked my brains, taken aback at the sudden question. There was Luna Lovegood, of course, but I decided that it wasn't the one. First, because she was fictional, and second, because her father was not a priest. "No. I don't have many Badges."

 

"But, the Lord willing, you will." he answered. "Luna is my daughter." he explained gravely. "She has lost the Lord's light. People that she could not know better than call 'friends' swayed her towards a path of darkness. A year ago, she denounced me as her father and disappeared. I have been trying to find her ever since. Since then, I have not spent a day when I did not pray for her soul and for her safety. But if it pleases the Lord to put me to the test, I will bear the burdens that He has chosen for me."

 

Ah.

 

"And you think that she is in Spinel Town?"

 

"In truth, I do not know. I heard that she has been spotted there several months ago, but it may simply be false. But the League management has refused to help me in my search, so I am trying to talk directly to the Gym Leaders who I believe will be willing to talk to her."

 

"The League management refused to help you?" I reacted, surprised.

 

Or perhaps it was to be expected. After all, the daughter was affiliated with the League, not the father. Of course they would take her side, or at least not out her whereabouts against her will. The League and Reborn City had certainly their share of issues, but none of these seemed to include siding with an outsider against one of their members. Explicitly, at least, I mentally corrected, the entire Orphanage business coming back to mind. But I still felt surprisingly sad for the father who saw an organization deny him knowledge of his daughter's activities.

 

"Many of the people I talk to were sympathetic to my plight." El explained. "But there are those, more vocal, that hold the view that I am a relic past his time, that I and everything I stand for, everything that I deem important, are doomed to disappear -- even that such a prospect is to be encouraged. It is their right to believe so, but I did not expect..."

 

As he was speaking, his head turned slightly backwards, a tree materialized perhaps two meters in front of us. I blinked, unable to believe my eyes. Batley shrieked. El froze, made a few hand gestures, and muttered something.

 

"I did not expect," he repeated himself, still calm and solemn, "their enmity to be so merciless."

 

"What is happening here?" I muttered.

 

He turned fully towards me, eying me, then Batley. "You should recall your Swoobat... what is your name?"

 

"Gabriel."

 

"Gabriel, your Swoobat looks tired. You should recall her for a bit. These Pokemon do not care much for daylight."

 

"Batley!" I called. The Psychic Pokemon came back towards me. "Thank you for all you did. You can rest, if you want."

 

Batley took the offer gracefully.

 

"You know Pokemon, too?" I asked El.

 

"A little." he replied. "My life has been eventful."

 

"I am sorry this happened to you." I said. "About your daughter. It's... so sad. A flight of a year, without hearing about her..." I cut myself off, as I was imagining the anguish of a father who had no news of his child for months...

 

Exactly what I was doing to my family, of course. Although on a shorter time-scale, but worse odds of survival.

I felt the tears well up.

Stupid Gabriel. No point in crying.

 

"So what do you think happened with this tree?" I asked, forcing myself to change the topic. "It just appeared out of thin air."

 

"This is most concerning, indeed." my companion replied gravely. "I do not know what could produce such effects. Perhaps a powerful psychic Pokemon might manage it, but it should have been close enough for us to see it. A more plausible alternative would be that a more mischievous Pokemon decided to hide the tree from our sight, until we were too close to be fooled."

 

An invisible, powerful psychic Pokemon that tried to play tricks on us? Three times now -- me, my bag and the tree? I was not sure I was very fond of this.

 

I walked on, my eyes trying to be alert for any kind of suspect behavior in our surroundings, but it seemed very quiet. So if this really happened, it had to be done at long range.

 

So, a hugely powerful Pokemon with long-range effects...

Oh no. Hell no.

 

This sounded a lot like another PULSE. But if so, then it was frightfully inefficient. Instead of putting trees on our paths, it could have flung them at us. Instead of moving me fifty meters to meet this man, it could have moved me a hundred meters above ground, to plummet to my gory death.

 

Because if it was a PULSE, it was Team Meteor. Again.

And they wanted me dead. And I was all alone.

 

But, since the psychic things were far less deadly than they should have been, wasn't this a clue that this wasn't a PULSE?

 

Then again, Team Meteor stuff had always had an odd -- but overall not that unpleasant -- propensity to fail to kill me, even though I was entirely at their mercy. But, even without that, there really had to be a lot of things one could do with PULSEs, if the goal was to drive everyone outside.

 

And some of them had to be far more effective than so temporary and overt a plant invasion...

 

"By the way," I switched topic again, wishing to end this trail of thought, "I didn't ask your name."

 

"I am named El." he answered.

 

Like the suffix of so many of these first names, rooted in ancient faiths and languages. Rather appropriate for a priest, except perhaps for the implied hubris, which wasn't his fault.

 

"Do you work in Reborn City?" I asked after a while, wishing the conversation to go on. It wasn't like I had many people to talk with these days.

 

"It is there indeed that I serve according to my calling."

 

"That has to be difficult." The objection came naturally to mind. "The city is in a terrible state, isn't it?"

 

E7tYOzZ.png

 

"The Lord has indeed decided to test Reborn City." El answered, his voice lower and sad. "But His message is never so loud as in such a situation. Indeed, my very flock is made with people who escaped dreadful lives. They were stuck in empty violence, working for gangs who stole their possessions, their hopes and their souls. But I was able to show them a path to an unwavering light. Even then, it is not easy, and I wish every day that I could do more, convince more of them to leave the dog-eat-dog world where they roam and struggle to turn a blind eye to their own blemishes. But I am glad for every man and woman whom I can bring to listen to their conscience and save from their own degradation."

 

I didn't find anything to answer to that. It was, indeed, a worthwhile endeavor to try and convert members of gangs. It had to do some good, certainly. But given the situation of the whole City, this felt like a drop in the ocean. Even if they went from muggers to the most perfectly honest of people, how much would the overall well-being of the city improve? Not by very much. Although, of course, it would be better for them specifically.

 

But whether Reborn City rotted or recovered -- it wouldn't be decided by a hundred low-level mobsters turning into paragons. Not even, in all likelihood, by the kind of people that would dedicate their lives to such a task.

 

My heart was too heavy, too worried about the future to applaud El's efforts, and I didn't feel like acting skeptic, because I was far from his level of positive impact myself. So instead I shut up and tried to come to terms with the anxious realization that Reborn City's life -- and therefore, my own fate -- depended from nothing I could even legibly act upon.

 

But of course, in that train of thought lay an unpleasant answer. Perhaps Reborn City's recovery wouldn't indeed be decided by the men who spent their lives helping gang members back on the straight and narrow. But it was certainly hampered by anyone who thought like this -- that actions such as El's didn't actually matter. Myself included. I should have expected it -- acting or not, thinking or not, nothing good ever came from it as long as it wasn't as it wasn't as clear as a math problem.

 

That wasn't a grim thought or anything. Just fact. All that mattered was what I did with it.

 

El did not mind the silence either and made no effort to break it. We walked in silence another half hour until we finally reached Spinel Town.

 

 

"Well," El concluded, "I believe this is where our roads part, for now. I will see the Gym Leader, Serra Voclain. The Gym is located near her house, northeast of the town. But the Pokemon Center is in this way," he pointed westwards. "May the Lord smile upon your endeavors."

 

I thought of all that I had done lately. This didn't sound plausible.

 

"Good luck too." I waved at him as he left.

 

 

                                                                                              *

 

On the previous night:

 

Lost in thought, Noel was looking through the window, admiring how the lamps of the living room could not light the depth of the black night, not even enough to see the rain drops that he could definitely hear.

 

The dinner had been fantastic. Laura had definitely learnt a lot about cooking in the few months after she had managed to get out of the Orphanage. She had offered to teach Saphira a few things, but she had been met with a stern refusal.

 

"My cooking may be simplistic," she had replied, "but it's fast and good enough for me."

 

Everyone had been in a cheerful mood. Or more precisely, the Belroses and Cain had been in an excellent mood, Anna was spectacularly managing to put a smile on Shelly's face by telling her stories more and more ridiculous about the life at the Orphanage, now not a place of dread but a relic of a remote past, a little accident of history to be drowned into laughter. He had even caught Heather managing a smile. He had put a polite smile on, tried to not wince when he was the butt of Anna's stories, and listened, trying to find some sense in the talk.

 

They were drunk on their own happiness, all of them, he thought. Not thinking of what they could really do, which was very little since only three of them had Pokemon. He, Anna, Charlotte, Heather, and Shelly too, they would have to resign from the League, since they didn't have Pokemon any more. Ame would be devastated. Five standing League members, not to mention the Elite Four!

 

And he could think of someone who didn't share the ambiant happiness, someone who had been involved in every recent development of the story and yet couldn't enjoy its mostly happy conclusion. He had seen through the window in a sleepy haze that Saphira had left with him, and Laura had taken his things away from the house. Given how heavily it was raining and empty these parts were -- Laura had shown him a map, knowing he liked them -- he wasn't too sure what to wish for.

 

And, the excitement falling, the sleepless nights catching up with everyone but Laura -- who was rigid about her lifestyle and especially her sleep schedule -- and Saphira -- who wasn't as orderly but wasn't tired either -- they had all gone to bed, happy, warm and fed, and Laura and Saphira were wishing good night to everyone else...

 

He had slept so late already that he didn't feel tired. But he didn't have much to amuse himself. Perhaps Laura had paper and pencils for drawings.

 

"It is late, Noel," Laura commented when she climbed down the stairs. "Will you not sleep?"

 

"I'm not tired, Laura." he answered.

 

She glanced at the window he was standing close to. Not even the rain was visible in the darkness. She knew that the boy had something in mind.

 

"Noel," she began. "Is something the matter? You look lost."

 

"I was wondering..." he began hesitantly, then took a deep breath and winced a little, before asking the question. "What happened to Gabriel?"

 

"He wanted to go to the Spinel Gym." Laura answered, her tone cautious. "He wanted to go on with the League. And we asked him to order some flour, because my reserves for the bread are low."

 

Noel studied her.

 

"I don't believe you, Laura. Why did you pack his bag instead of him? Why did Saphira give him a lift without even his bag ready?"

 

"And what about the note that you wrote?" Laura quipped back, looking at the boy straight in the eye. Saphira had not had time to give her the full rundown yet, but she trusted her sister's judgement. After all, she had met many more people of all kinds than her.

 

"The note?" Noel asked automatically.

 

"Please do not attempt to play the innocent." the Elite Four member replied levelly. "Cain said Gabriel had been given a note. One with a ciphered text and a drawing. Who else would have done that but you?"

 

"You're counting your words again, Laura." Noel sighed.

 

"How is that any relevant to our topic? It is late to worry about Gabriel, Noel. Since you lied to bring him into this."

 

And then Noel changed. His childlike face, his thin features, hardened. Bitterness filled his usually observant, curious black eyes, and they started to shine a little. Laura wasn't looking at a child any more. She was looking at an old general, who had ordered a thousand battles and sent millions of men to die.

 

"I had to." Noel whispered, his voice hoarse. "I had no choice."

 

Laura stared at him, waiting for him to explain himself. She was over eighteen, while the boy was barely twelve, but she had enjoyed spending time at the Orphanage with him. He was sensible, mature enough, not too overwhelming. They had made drawings together, learnt from each other's styles. She had taught him chess and they fondly played, his progress mostly matching hers despite the age difference.

 

Above all, he was simple to deal with: if you offered to do with him an activity that he liked, he would agree, gladly participate in his own quiet way. If not, maybe next time -- in the meantime, he was not going to beg for your attention, because he could keep himself busy. Always an even temper, not joyous but not really sad either.

 

And in the long time she had spent with Noel, seeing him grow, she had never seen him in this state. Apart from that time, perhaps two years ago now, he had always been very calm, almost detached. Always halfway in a world of his own, but never so much as to miss anything interesting. That -- that was not the Noel she knew. She motioned at him to go on. He stared at her for a while, making a visible effort to regain his composure, but it was impossible to him when Laura was staring intently at him.

 

xSIb9lL.png

 

"I did it for Anna. For Charlotte too, I suppose." he managed in a mutter. "I couldn't stand her attending her... therapy... day after day... It never worked. It never will! And I couldn't let her suffer... every day for something so pointless."

 

"But why involve this Gabriel of all people?"

 

Noel took a deep breath, tried to steady his voice, but all he managed to do was to speak less loud, more uncertain.

 

"I'm usually interested in hearing stories from the Onyx Trainer School," Noel explained, "and one intern at the Orphanage has a sister there. He told me that this Fern, who is apparently running the student body around, had decided to ban a certain challenger from entering the Gym. So she was discussing the latest math homework with friends when this challenger turns up and very politely offers to help them if they let him enter the Gym."

 

"This challenger was Gabriel, if I understand correctly?"

 

"Yes, that was him. He made good on his promise, too. That was a pretty hard problem, apparently, and they say he solved it like it was easy. She said he looked transformed... he was nervous, uncertain, and then he was really glad to do the math, completely at ease. And then, two days after I hear the story, there's this... young man... to whom Anna opens the door of the Orphanage... and then he claims he represents someone who's interested in Heather."

 

"Are you still referring to Gabriel like that?"

 

"Yes." Noel confirmed. "But you had to be there, Laura. He was pretty nice, not, you know, trying to. Sincere. And he needed the door opened to him... he didn't have an appointment. He looked nervous, too. And you should have seen his face when Anna started trying to prevent him from seeing the Doctor. It was obvious, just looking at him, that the speech was a pretense, but the purpose was sincere. He had given his name, and James -- the intern -- had described him for me -- for the story, you know -- and I decided that it had to be the same person. And... I decided I could trust him."

 

He chuckled sadly.

 

"So I deceived him. Of course."

 

"Did you have to write a coded message?"

 

"I was worried that it would backfire if I didn't do it." he sniffed. Tears were running from his eyes, now more open than any time before. He couldn't bear to face Laura's disapproving look, and he lowered his eyes. "Plus, I thought it added some authenticity. Especially for someone who loved math -- he would relish the challenge, trust its outcome." Noel's sob was a full shudder.

 

"I hated it." he added in a sad mutter. "I hated lying to him. You know that I don't like lying at all. It was a wretched idea with worse consequences, but I would do it again if I had to. But... are you... are you going to tell them? Cain, Shelly, who did a lot to try and help us... Shelly was taken like us too... will you tell them that I lied to get them involved?"

 

Laura eyed him. Noel was looking miserably at the night, dreading to catch her eye, focused on the sound of the pouring rain outside.

 

"I understand very well what you are saying." Laura said softly after a long silence. "Saphira will figure it out if she needs. Cain, Shelly or Gabriel, I would think not. I will not disclose what you did, Noel."

 

 

 

Character rates:

  Reveal hidden contents

El: 7/10. Apparently pretty decent. And such a sad story...

 

 

Hi, Mindlack,

 

Thank you for your insights. I shall continue to read this fanfiction and see where Gabriel's journey will lead him. I like how realistic your take upon Gabriel's Pokemon journey is. The main games do not take into account how much or how little the protagonist may or may not want to step in and save the Pokemon world/s.

 

They simply thrust the protagonist headlong into the adventure, danger and drama in spectacular fashion because of their own belief that this is the right thing to do for all and by all. This is what makes Gabriel's reluctance logical, reasonable and understandable, in my opinion.

 

I agree about the Chapter 1 events being understated. I really enjoyed reading about the devastation (that the world wasn't protected from xD) that had been wrought upon the wards and your colourful usage of words such as malignant flora and fauna.

 

You made great use of the world that had been built within Reborn and had fleshed it out magnificently so that it read cleanly and eloquently off the pages to great effect.

 

I had been understandably engrossed within your turns of phrase and by your battles themselves that by chapter's end, I had felt more than somewhat at a loss, yet eager to read more of your work. I have alot to catch up upon in regard to my readthrough of this work of yours, but I do not see my having to catch up at all a chore.

 

In regard to the lateness of your updates, worry not - life delays the rest and the best of us and I imagine that I won't be the first among the fans and the readers of your written works to say that writing as great as your own is well worth the wait.

 

It's easy to feel as though you may have let your audience down via your time away from your keyboard. Know that you have not done so and that you could not do so. Keep up the fantastic work - I'm cheering you from the sidelines, my writer friend.

 

Apologies for my late response. I appreciate your reply. :)

Edited by Valyrian_Reforged
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