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Old Yesterday, 12:19 PM   #16
Lady Vulpix
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<Sylvan's POV>

It was a dream come true. Not the carnival itself, but the idea that there could be a carnival after everything that had happened recently. The nightmare was over, at least for now, we were in peace and we were actually going to have fun at last!
The team split up as Tsunami, Amber, Caledor and Iael decided to pay a visit to the Eevee house and see what it was like. I told them I'd catch up with them later. I didn't want to miss the carnival. So, Gabi and 6 members of the team (including me) went there with Scott and Ryan. This was the day before Scott left to have a well earned vacation.
Having heard that we were going to see Ryan, Lagi decided to follow us from the sky in order to give Edie a BIG surprise. We helped her, of course, and I loved to see the expression of surprise in Ryan's face when he finally saw her, and to feel the warmth of Lagi's love when she embraced her daughter. I wished that someday I'd experience that feeling by myself; I'd give my bud to have someone I could love like that.
There's no need to repeat what has already been said, so I'll get straight to the part where we found the challengers. Scott's performance was great, though I could see he was just playing. Everyone was, probably. I wanted a try of it too, as strange as it may seem. It looked like a good way to get some training and see how strong I actually was, without having the fate of the world depend on my next move.
It was as if Gabi has read my thoughts. Well, she probably saw it in my face. All of a sudden, she decided to take on a member of the staff with... me! Well, me and Ventura. She challenged the man to a 2 on 2 battle against a Magcargo and a Porygon 2. After thinking for a few seconds and looking at us, the man said: "I like the odds. I accept your challenge."
I stepped forward, barely believing what I was doing, and thinking that the word 'odds' had sounded a bit scary when the trainer pronounced it. The Magcargo looked quite threatening too, especially since I seemed to have a tendency to get burned in battles. But I didn't want to go back; not yet. I could always withdraw if things got really bad (that was a good thing of this kind of battles), and I really wanted to know if I was up to the challenge.
The Magcargo and the Porygon 2 came closer. Ventura stood at my side and talked to me quickly before the battle started.
"You focus on the Porygon 2. I'll take care of the Magcargo. Begin with Normal type attacks," she told me.For the first time, I felt she sounded bossy. Then I realized that had always been the way with her. She'd always given me commands as if she were my trainer. It was I who hadn't noticed, because I used to need her commands. I used to need someone who told me what to do every time I battled. Ventura hadn't changed; I had. And she had no way to know that, so she talked to me the same way she always had. Now I was determined to show her I'd grown up. This time we were going to battle as teammates, as it should have always been.
"All right," I said to her. "I'll give you a vine if you need it."
"OK," Ventura answer with what sounded like a smile.

"Are you ready?," the man shouted.
"We are!," Gabi responded after giving one last look at the two of us.
"Then let's start!," he said. Less than a second later, his 2 pokemon were charging at us.

& LV27 vs & LV27

I was aiming a Headbutt at the Porygon 2, but it somehow dodged me and shot a Psybeam at Ventura. That caught her by surprise and wrecked her plans, but luckily Vantura has always been good at improvising. She disabled her attacker's Psybeam, reducing the threat enormously for both of us. The bad news was that Ventura was left quite weak after that attack, so I'd have to give her more than just a vine if I wanted both of us to make it. I could hear the trainer laughing out loud. The good news (good for us, at least) was that the power of Ventura's glass Koffing sculpture had just kicked in, and the Porygon 2 was now poisoned! If we could make the battle last long enough, we had a chance of winning.
The man asked Gabi what that strange glow had been. I guess he was referring to the sculpture. Gabi let him know that the magical sculpture had poisoned his Porygon 2, and all of a sudden the man's face went red.
"Lava! What are you waiting for?!," he shouted. "Burn them up now!"
That was the last thing I heard before I was surrounded by the flames of an Ember attack. I started rolling, but I couldn't stop my back leaves from catching fire... again! "It must be a curse..." I thought. "Yes, that's what it must be. I can't have a natural tendency to catch fire like that!" Still, I resisted to believe that and kept on rolling. In the end, I proved that not giving in to fear has its rewards, as I finally managed to put out the flames.
It could have been worse. Ventura could have got the blow. After the Porygon 2's last attack, the heat might have been too much for her to take. Not sooner did that thought come to my mind than I realized I had to stop that from happening. So, I let out my Sleep Powder and sent the Magcargo to the realm of dreams. Of course, that didn't stop the P-2 from locking on to the singed Ivysaur. It didn't seem to feel Ventura's Giga Drain. It just hit me with its Iron Tail (or iron polygons), which made me feel grateful for having a 4-leaf clover with me. While it did lower my defense a little, my clover did more than make up for that.
The Magcargo was still sleeping. Ventura used her Giga Drain once more. The Porygon 2 seemed to be getting annoyed, and so it used Conversion 2 to discourage her from draining him. A 'Hm' from Ventura was all I needed to know that was exactly what she'd been expecting. The Porygon 2 switched its type to one of the most resistant to Grass type attacks: Grass/Poison. While it was converting, it gave me time to hit it with a Headbutt as I had tried to do before. The Porygon 2 made a metallic noise, which made me feel that the sum of our attacks was affecting it at last. At that moment, Ventura used her secret weapon: Psychic! That way she paid back what the P-2 had done to her. I thought it would probably think it twice before using a psychic attack on a poison pokemon, now that it knew how it feels to be on the other side.
But not everything was going that well. While Ventura was attacking the Porygon 2, the Magcargo woke up and prepared to finish what it had started (burning me up, I mean!) Suddenly, the sky became clearer and the sunlight grew stronnger than ever. "This would be a great moment to use Solar Beam, if only I knew how to use it," I thought. I doubted Sleep Powder would work again, so I decided to hit it with my razor leaves instead. The result wasn't nearly as good as I expected.
The Porygon 2 hit me with a second Iron Tail (it probably hadn't noticed that attack couldn't hurt me much). That was the last thing it did before fainting due to the effect of the poison. So, one was down, but the other one was still quite healthy and extremely dangerous. After all the blows I had taken, I was now weaker than Ventura. This wouldn't be easy at all.
I used Razor Leaf because it was the only half-reasonable thing I could do. Ventura did her part by using her Giga Drain. It didn't work much better on the Magcargo than it had on the Porygon 2, but it helped her regain some of her health. The Magcargo did as it had planned, using Ember on Ventura. That hurt her a lot more than any of our attacks had hurt the Magcargo. I was about to try Sleep Powder again, but Ventura stopped me. She wanted to do something first.
What Ventura wanted to do turned out to be another Disable; this time, on the Magcargo. I was glad she did that. The Sunny Day wouldn't help it much if it couldn't use Ember, and my Sleep Powder would have probably failed anyway (I'd never used it twice on the same pokemon before). I stood between Ventura and the Magcargo (just in case it wanted to attack her) and used Razor Leaf again. The Magcargo used Rock Throw, but I caught all the rocks before they could hit Ventura, and my clover absorbed most of the impact. Then I used Razor Leaf once more. I wonder why none of my leaves got to deal a critical hit, but I'm not complaining. After all, that added to Ventura's last Giga Drain finally brought the Magcargo down.


I grew to level 29!
Ventura grew to level 29 and learned Stun Spore!

The trainer's mouth was wide open. "I can't believe it!," he exclaimed once he managed to put his lips together. "I thought I was winning! When did the scores turn?"
"There were no scores," Gabi said. "This was the result of excellent teamwork; the best I've ever seen between them."
She came to me, kneeled down and softly caressed my bud and my singed leaves.
"Ventura has always been a natural leader," She said. "She things fast and gives out coordinates her moves and her partners' at the speed of thought. But all teams work much better when all their members have initiative. That's what we saw today. If Sylvan had been passive, we would have lost. But this time she was not afraid of putting her own ideas into action, and that way she helped Ventura as much as Ventura helped her."
Then she spoke directly to me. "It seems you can teach others a few things about battling too, and not only about life."
I gazed at her, trying to figure out what she was trying to tell me, or rather assimilate it.
"Why do you look so surprised?," she asked me. "Did you think I didn't know you well after all the time we've been together?"
I was honoured and, I must admit, a bit scared too. Did she expect me to have good ideas and react quickly in all my future battles? I didn't consider myself capable of that. But still, I had a lot to learn about myself, and I knew Gabi well enough to know she'd never put me under too much pressure. She'd never force me to deal with something I couldn't handle.
"Now we should get some rest," Gabi said. "I have a lot of work to do, and I'm planning to challenge the Training Grounds once I've checked them up. What do you say, Sylvan? Would you like to visit the Jungle Room again? Once you're fully recovered, of course. And once I've fetched the rest of the team."
I was still hurting, but I couldn't say 'no' to that offer. The Jungle Room was one of my favorite places in the world. Gabi shook the man's hand and, we left. Since both Ventura and I could still walk and were not in danger, she decided to watch Ryan's battles before taking us to the pokemon center. I'm glad we stayed; it ended up being fun.
Later, while we were on our way to the Pokemon Center, Ventura spoke to me. (That was quite unusual: since words are not her favorite way of communicating, she only speaks when it's strictly necessary). "You were amazing today," she told me. "Thanks for letting me share that with you."
Comming from Ventura, I considered that as the best compliment I'd ever received.
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Old Yesterday, 12:21 PM   #17
Lady Vulpix
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After fetching my pokemon from the Eevee house and taking some rest (I really needed that!), I decided to go to the Training Grounds. Of course, since I was going to host the Griffon Games, I had to check the Training Grounds and make sure they were functioning properly. But that wouldn't stop me for getting some training for my pokemon in the meantime.
I reached the building for the 4th time. It had opened 5 times so far, but I'd missed the 4th one. That was when... when John was in charge of the Grounds. "Why can't I simply enjoy a period of peace when it comes?!," I thought to myself. But feelings can't be controlled and I couldn't help missing John. And I couldn't help thinking that everything should have been different... that perhaps I could have made a difference if I hadn't been away when it happened. I had no way to know what was going on, and I could even have got killed too if I had been with John, but maybe not... maybe John would be alive if I'd been there to help him.
My thoughts had got me frozen at the entrance of the Training Grounds, and they wouldn't have stopped haunting me if something warm and rather heavi hadn't touched my shoulder, bringing me back to the present. I turned around and saw Lagi standing right in front of me. She gave me a deep look and then shook her head. She knew what I was feeling, and she'd probably guessed the reason. After all, John's death had affected her too, especially since he used to be Edie's trainer. Lagi didn't speak to me (I wouldn't have understood her words anyway), but somehow she made it clear that she wanted me to move on, and that she felt I was not to blame at all for what had happened; not even indirectly. I had no way to know.
Having someone like Lagi by my side helps a lot. She seems to know so much about feelings... and somehow she manages to share her wisdom with others, even with humans like me. I smiled and hugged her, thanking her for her help and promising I'd be fine. Sometimes it's hard to tell your heart what your mind knows, and I knew I'd miss John for a long time, maybe for the rest of my life, because he was my friend; but I'd be fine. I'd make the best out of my life.

So, we entered the building. Everything seemed to be in order. Well, some staff members stopped talking as soon as they saw me and became rigid, but after the Pegasus Games I'd got used to that. I don't think they were talking about me; maybe they were just taking an extra break. I wouldn't mind that, as long as the rooms were ok and the wounded pokemon were being taken care of. Iael looked impressed. I had forgotten he was the only one in my team who hadn't been to the Training Grounds before. We walked through the entrance hall and reached the main corridor, which looked just like it did before the Pegasus Games. We walked past the Pokemon Center and the supplies room (we wouldn't be needing any supplies yet), and went straight to the point where the 5 doors stood. There I noticed the first difference: the sign on top of the blue door now said "Pond Room", just like in the old times (it had changed its name to "Water Room" before the Pegasus Games). I liked that name.
We weren't entering the Pond Room yet, though. I had planned my itinerary, and I'd start by treating Sylvan to the Jungle Room. I knew how much she loved that place, and she wouldn't miss it for anything, even when she didn't normally enjoy battling. Besides, I could see that Sylvan was undergoing some important changes, and I wanted to help her along; I felt that becomming stronger and reinforcing her self confidence was exactly what she needed at that moment. For that reason, I decided to pair her up with Caledor for her upcomming battle. Unlike Amber and Ventura, Caledor was not so protective of Sylvan, and I thought that was why she only began to become aware of her true potential when she had Caledor as her partner for the first time. I thought it would be good for Caledor too, since he was trying to master his unique abilities, and he'd need as much training as he could get.
As soon as I opened the green door, Sylvan rushed into the Jungle Room. She was delighted by the sight and smell of all the exotic plants. Then she walked slowly toward the center of the room. I followed her, and so did my other pokemon. I was expected a pokemon to come looking for a battle any time soon but, it turned out to be a trainer who challenged me as soon as I reached the center of the room.
He looked a few years younger than me, and he had red hair and green eyes. At first, he was surprised to see me. He told me he was looking for a challenge, but he hadn't expected to find "Lady Vulpix herself". I felt a bit uncomfortable when he said that. I wondered how much he knew about me, and how much his imagination might have changed me. I thought starting a conversation would help, so I told him I was trying to get my pokemon some training, and asked him his name. He said it was Randy. I thought the name was a bit unusual, but nice. Then I asked if it was his first time at the Training Grounds, and he told me it was his third time. That helped me relax a little, since it meant he had enough experience not to build a myth around me; in all the time he'd been around, he had to have seen more of me than just a photo and a name. It also meant that I was probably up for a good challenge.
"So, do you want to battle?," Randy asked. "I know you have some amazing pokemon. I'd like to see them. Mine are not that strong yet, but they're good at what they do so, unless you're planning to use your Ninetales or your dragons, we can have an interesting battle."
"How do you know how strong my pokemon are?," I asked him. "And how do you know I have more than one Dragon pokemon?"
Lagi was standing next to me, but Water Angel was inside her pokeball, since it would have been hard for her to follow me through the jungle.
"Many talked about your Kingdra when it evolved," he replied, "and everyone talked about it during the last Eagle Games. And I saw your Ninetales at the Griffon Games. It was a great fighter and I guess it must be even stronger now."
"You saw me at the first Griffon Games?! I didn't think anyone had been around that long!"
"Well, I have, and many of my friends have too."
"Then you have an advantage over me."
"Huh?"
"You seem to know a lot about me, while I know nothing about you."
"You'll learn about me if we battle," he said with a smile.
"Ok, I accept your challenge," I told him. Then I asked Sylvan if it was ok with her. She nodded while exclaiming 'Saur!', and looked at Randy.
"This won't be hard," Randy said while he sent out a Venonat.

Sylvan froze.
"What's wrong with your Ivysaur?," Randy asked.
"I don't know," I told him. Then I looked at my other pokemon, trying to find a clue. I found one when I saw Ventura.
"I think she was not expecting to battle a Venonat. Ventura, my Venonat, is one of her best friends and I think Sylvan looks up to her. Maybe she feels she won't be able to defeat a Venonat."
"Well, the battle hasn't started yet. I can call Nat back and send out another pokemon."
"Thanks, but I think Sylvan must go through this sooner or later. It will be best if she does it now. I'll help her, and I'll call her back if I see she can't handle this, but I think she's strong enough to defeat a Venonat. Besides, she's seen Ventura in battle so many times that she knows what Venonats are capable of."
"She knows what your Venonat is capable of," he corrected me. "I don't know much about... Ventura was it?, but I think Nat must be different. Besides, Nat is male."
"And so what?," I asked him.
"Well, there's a natural law which says boys are stronger than girls," he stated as if he were recalling an absolute truth. I laughed.
"I think Sylvan will be glad to prove you wrong," I said. Sylvan nodded again. It looked like she was ready to battle.

vs

"Ok, let's see who's wrong," Randy said. "Nat, Stun Spore!"
"Sylvan, counter it with your Sleep Powder!," I said to my friend.
A cloud of powder with mixed colors formed in the air, but soon all the powder sedimented on the ground.
"Nat, Confusion!," Randy shouted. But before Nat could follow his command, Sylvan sent him away with a Headbutt. Anyway, Nat stood up in time to use his Confusion on Sylvan.
I looked at Sylvan. She didn't look confused, and she was still quite well. Randy seemed to know what he was doing, though. He'd used an effective attack, and now he was waiting to see Sylvan's next move. If what I thought was right, he was probably waiting for a strong attack in order to disable it. It was a logical and simple strategy I knew well. And since Sylvan only had 1 decently strong attack, I couldn't risk losing it.
I asked Sylvan to try her Sleep Powder again. She did so, but Nat evaded the powder by teleporting behind her.
"Nice, huh?" Randy commented.
"Yes, nice, but that won't help him defeat Sylvan," I told him.
"Won't it? And what if he helps it with Supersonic?"
"Sylvan, run!," I shouted. And Sylvan ran, not away from the Venonat, but in his direction. She hit him with another Headbutt before he could use his Supersonic attack.
"That was great!," I exclaimed.
"Veno-nat," I heard Ventura say. I looked at her and she looked back. Then her eyes returned to Sylvan and the battle. So did mine, though I was a bit confused now. Had the Headbutt been Sylvan's idea, or had it been Ventura's?
"Nat, stand up," Randy shouted. Sylvan's Headbutt had thrown the Venonat off-balance. I had an idea.
"Sylvan, this would be a good moment for Sleep Powder," I said.
"You insist on that?!," Randy complained. "Nat, get rid of that annoyance!"
I smiled and Randy looked at me, confused. He didn't know he was doing exactly what I wanted. Now it wouldn't matter if Sylvan missed, her Headbutt would be safe anyway.
Still, I didn't get to see my plan at work. I was almost sorry that Nat didn't escape the Sleep Powder this time.
"Ok, Sylvan, use your Headbutt," I said. "And wake him up if you can; this battle is becomming unfair."
Randy's eyes were wide-open. He didn't seem to understand what was happening.
"You want to wake him up!?," he exclaimed. "But why?!"
"I don't like unfair battles. There's no merit in beating a defenseless pokemon."
"Then why did you use Sleep Powder in the first place?"
"I'll tell you once the battle is over," I told him.
While we were talking, Sylvan hit Nat with a Headbutt. My concentration returned to the battle when I heard the blow. When I saw Nat, he looked a bit dizzy, but he was awake. Sylvan got to use another Headbutt before Nat reacted.
"I see now!," Randy exclaimed. "You wanted to stop me from..." without finishing the phrase, he gave Nat the only command I was afraid to hear: "Disable!"
With a simple gesture, Sylvan was practically crippled. Her Grass attacks would be useless against the Venonat, and Fury Cutter wouldn't help either (it would take ages to get strong enough to affect a bug pokemon, and one single Teleport could spoil the accumulated energy). As far as I could see, there was only one possible move; one which I'd never thought I'd see Sylvan use again.
"Tackle!," I shouted, half to Sylvan and half to myself. Sylvan looked surprised, but she followed my command. Nat, who was probably expecting anything but a Tackle, didn't have time to react. That was when I realized how weak Sylvan's Headbutts had left him: a single Tackle was all it took to finally bring him down.



------------------------
Sylvan grew to level 30! It's TM time and it's high time she gets a decent attack, so I'll teach her Body Slam!
Now, back to the story.
------------------------

"I can't believe it!," Randy exclaimed. "You won with a Tackle!"
"A Tackle and 4 Headbutts," I pointed out.
"4?! I should have noticed! It was all my fault! Nat doesn't normally show when he's hurt. That's usually good, but it can be a problem sometimes. Will you give me another chance?"
"Actually, I was going to ask you for another battle. You're one of the best trainers I've faced; you were great at finding out my strategy!"
"Yeah, only a bit late. Hey, wait! Am I really one of the best trainers you've faced?!"
"You're one of the best I've faced in battles, yes. If only you drew back what you said about girls..."
"What did I say about girls?"
"That thing about the natural law."
"Oh, that! Yes, I draw it back. Completely. Well, in part at least. You have a very strong female pokemon and you're great too. Wow, one of the best trainers you've faced! I'm honored!"
I couldn't help giggling.
"So, are you ready for another battle?," I asked him.
"Ready. Are you going to use Sylvan again?"
"No, Sylvan has had enough training for now and I know she'd rather walk around and enjoy the view. Caledor, on the other hand, needs some training."
"Caledor like... where we are?"
"Yes, that's his name. Please, Caledor, step forward so that Randy can see you."
Caledor walked a few steps and stood in front of me.
"An Eevee!," Randy exclaimed. "Hey, wait, would that be...?"
He pointed at Caledor and looked at me, as expecting me to finish the phrase for him.
"I guess that means you've heard of him," I relected. "I'd forgotten you'd watched the first Griffon Games."
"Then that's a yes! He's the genetically enhanced Eevee you got for winning the games! You're using him against me? I thought we were friends!"
"Thanks in his name, but Caledor is not invincible. He's just level 27 for now and, though I trust that he'll become one of the most powerful pokemon in Caledor one day, he still needs a lot of training."
"Well, in that case I accept. Does he know any fire moves?"
"Not yet, but he'll learn them soon."
"Then it will be fair. Do you mind if I use a higher level pokemon?"
"Do you?," I asked Caledor.
Caledor shook his head. He wanted a challenge.
"We don't mind," I said.
"Ok, then... Go, Spores!"
A Jumpluff materialized in front of him.
"Spores?!," I laughed.
"Yes. Anything wrong with that name?," Randy defended himself.
"Oh, no, sorry. I didn't mean to offend you; my laughter tends to burst out a bit too easily. I guess it's a proper name for a Jumpluff."
"It's more than accurate. You'll see."

vs

When Randy said he'd be using a higher level pokemon, I didn't think it would be 8 levels higher. The difference was huge! I could see that when the Jumpluff used Giga Drain on Caledor. My Eevee's only chance was to paralize Spores. I guess he knew that too, since he used Thunder Wave without waiting for my command. The Jumpluff tried to move, but it couldn't. Caledor used that time to perform a Rain Dance. As rain started to fall, I felt the place looked completely like a jungle.
The Jumpluff kept on struggling against its paralysis. I could see it was not used to being paralized. Caledor took advantage of that and, before the Jumpluff could move, he hit made a Thunder strike it. Even so, the damage the Jumpluff took was smaller than that which Caledor had taken.
"Spores, use Stun Spore!," Randy commanded. This time, the spores came out, but Caledor moved as fast as he could and managed to avoid them. Then he used Thunder again.
"Ok, try Cotton Spore!," Randy shouted this time. All of a sudden, Caledor was surrounded by thick white spores. He tried to escape, but he couldn't. Now it would be really hard for him to avoid ths Jumpluff's attacks. He used a third Thunder; he'd get to use 2 more before the rain stopped, but that wouldn't be enough. The Jumpluff was too strong. Fortunately for us, its paralysis was very strong too, and that let Caledor use Thunder for the 4th time before the Jumpluff could throw anything else at him.
The Jumpluff was trying hard to throw something to the air, but its anthers seemed to have got stuck. Caledor didn't waste that chance; the last good chance he had. 5th Thunder. The rain stopped.
The Jumpluff looked really agitated. Its anthers were turning red and still nothing was comming out from them. Caledor wasn't holding much better: with the cotton spores stuck on his body, it would be virtually impossible for him to perform another Rain Dance. So he decided to use Thunder again, even when there was a chance that he would miss. He did miss, because the Jumpluff gave up trying to get out whatever spores it was trying to use, and started moving. It reached Caledor and attacked him with Giga Drain.
Even when the Jumpluff had regained some of its health, Caledor did not desist. He used Thunder again and this time... it was a Critical Hit! The Jumpluff used Giga Drain again, but it didn't even regain half as much energy as the Thunder had taken. It did hurt Caledor a lot, though. He'd have to be lucky to remain standing after one more Giga Drain, and resisting two would be impossible. He difinitely needed his next Thunder to strike!
At that moment, Caledor's golden glow became stronger. He was shining so much that Randy had to ask what was happening. Then, he released all his charge in a final Thunder. The Jumpluff was surrounded by the light for a second, and then it fainted.


---------------------------
Caledor grew to level 29!
---------------------------

"Where did that light come from?," Randy asked.
"It was Caledor," I explained. "He glows like that sometimes. His glow isn't usually that strong, though."
"Well, you beat me again. I think I'll have to teach Spores to overcome paralysis. But I'll take him to a Pokemon Center first."
Randy really looked beaten.
"I'm done in this room," I told him, "so I'll go to the Pokemon Center with you. If you don't mind, that is."
"Why would I?"
He wasn't even looking at me.
"You did well, you know," I said.
"No, I didn't. I should have realized Sylvan was using only Headbutt a long time before I did, and I should have trained Spores to resist paralysis."
"Don't be so hard on yourself. That will only hurt you, I know that first hand. If you can't forgive yourself for losing a battle, then what will you do when something really bad happens? Life is like that: you can't always win. And when you lose it doesn't mean you're a loser; it means you're alive."
Randy smiled and, behind me, I felt Lagi smile too.
"You know what? I think you're right," Randy said. "Well, my pokemon and I will continue training and we'll have another test when we meet again. I'll do my best to beat you next time."
"I hope so," I replied. "I'll do my best too."
I didn't get what exactly he meant by 'test', but I liked the idea of having another battle in the future. Though, when we said goodbye at the Pokemon Center, I had the feeling that it would be a long time before Randy and I met again.
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Old Yesterday, 12:23 PM   #18
Lady Vulpix
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I waited until the following day to enter the Blizzard Room. At night, it would have been even colder than it was during the day, if that was possible. Amber had to stay at the Pokemon Center for the night, but in the morning she was feeling better than ever. Iael had been allowed to go home with me. Good thing, since he seemed to hate being appart from me.
After getting Amber back, I went to the Eevee House to pick up Tsunami. He looked happy to see me. He came out of the giant swimming pool and ran to me. I feared I might have made a mistake by taking him there. He didn't seem to have enjoyed his stay. As we left, he only directed his look to Ninetales, who was still waiting for the race to start and looked quite bored too. Well, at least Lagi, Pidgeot and Water Angel seemed to be having fun. As for Sylvan, I couldn't tell: she was sleeping when I arrived.
When my pokemon and I got back to the Training Grounds, one of the workmen stopped us. I wondered what the problem could be. He said that he had something for me, and made me follow him to a small office I'd never seen before. I asked the man what that place was.
"It's 'Lost & found'," he said.
"I haven't lost anything here," I told him.
"Well, we may be wrong, but we think you've lost something in the past few weeks," he replied.
I was trying to figure out what he was talking about, when Tsunami started pulling my sleeve. At that moment, the workman looked at him.
"What's your Vaporeon's name?," he asked.
"Tsunami," I answered.
"That's what I thought," he said. "Has he lost anything in the past few weeks?"
Then I dawned with the answer: "His Mystic Water! But you couldn't have found it. It was on the 4th floor of the Tower of Hoeth!"
"Well, someone found it and brought it here, hoping its owner would come to the Training Grounds. You're lucky there are still honest people around. The fact that he was not a pokemon trainer may have helped too."
"I thought I'd never see it again!," I exalaimed. "Thanks a lot! Tsunami will be so happy!"
The man opened a drawer and took out Tsunami's Mystic Water, handing it to me. It was clearly my Vaporeon's bottle, for it had the word 'Tsunami' written in silver. The man talked to me again.
"You know... Next time you're planning to lose something you should write your name on it. Most people here know Lady Vulpix, but not many know Tsunami. In fact, there are at least 3 pokemon with that name in Caledor. I had to guess which of the three that bottle belonged to."
"Well, he was the only one when I wrote this," I explained. "And the bottle is his; not mine. But I think you're right, not everyone knows Tsunami. I should write my name too. Anyway, we'll try not to lose it again. I wouldn't have lost such an important item if I hadn't been in the middle of that chaos."
"I know," the man said. "It must have been terrible to be there when the tower was taken over by evil. I would have liked to help, but I only learned about that when the danger was over. Besides, I'm not a trainer, so I guess I couldn't have done much."
"I understand. Thanks for giving us the Mystic Water back."
"No, thanks to you. For what you did at the tower."
I smiled. I shook the workman's hand, attached the bottle to Tsunami and left the 'Lost & Found' office.
Hours had gone by faster than I expected: it was almost noon when, after grabbing some warm clothes from the Supplies Room, my pokemon and I finally entered the Blizzard Room. The place was as cold as I remembered. I'd always had a certain resistance to cold temperatures, but it was bothering me anyway. I found the snow beautiful, though. There was no snow in the place where I grew up, and it was always a delightful sight for me.
Amber and Iael decided to go back to their pokeballs. They was no need for them to bear the cold if they weren't going to battle. Caledor wasn't going to battle either, but he decided to stay out. I guess he wanted to see Tsunami in action. We didn't walk much before we saw the cabins. I wasn't going to use them, anyway. I was willing to bear everything I asked my pokemon to go through (though it would have been hard to say 'no' if someone had ever offered me a fresh cabin in the Lava Room).
I decided to stay close to the cabins, for most of the pokemon had to be close by, waiting for challengers. It was only a matter of time before they realized I was waiting for them too. Soon, my eyes caught a puzzling sight: a bulk of snow was moving on its own! I saw it was comming my way, and wondered what it actually was. I didn't find that out until the creature stood in front of me and shook the snow away. It was a Swinub! Its heap-like shape plus a little snow on its back had made for a perfect camouflage.
The Swinub started smelling the air, probably getting the scents of the whole group. It was taking its time, so I had to ask him if it was ready for a battle. I could see its nose and its eyes go up and down and took that as a 'yes'. Without any preamble, Ventura made for the Swinub, ready to have her first shot at the Blizzard Room.

vs

It looked like it was going to be an easy battle, but the Swinub turned out to know Rock Slide, and didn't hesitate before using it against Ventura. My Venonat was shocked. The Swinub which had been so calm a few seconds earlier, was now attacking furiously! Before Ventura could react, the Swinub used its Rock Slide again. Ventura was smashed against the snow and found it hard to get up, but just before the Swinub could attack again, she managed to use Disable.
The Swinub had already prepared itself for a Rock Slide, so it needed a few seconds to adapt and prepare another attack. Ventura used that time to cling to the Swinub and use her Giga Drain. At that moment, her sculpture started to glow, and we all knew what that meant. Well, all but the Swinub. It didn't realize it was poisoned until it tossed Ventura away with Strength and started feeling the pain. I think it may have felt it just before it hit Ventura, because the blow was incredibly strong. I could say it was a Critical Hit!
Ventura could barely get up after that blow, but she used her Giga Drain again and started feeling better immediately. The Swinub used Strength again, but it didn't get a Critical Hit this time, and Ventura's third Giga Drain finally brought it down.


Ventura grew to level 30! As a TM I decided to teach her Teleport. She'll make good use of it!

That battle had been much harder than I expected. That Swinub had somehow tricked me into judging it by its looks. I thought I knew better. I would have taken the Swinub to the Pokemon Center, but before I could pick it up a Starmie popped out of nowhere. It was obvious that it wanted a battle. I couldn't say know. After all, there were poeple in charge of taking all the wounded pokemon from the rooms to the Pokemon Center, and they'd soon come for the Swinub. Besides, I knew this was the kind of challenge Tsunami had been looking for.
I knew how tricky Starmies are, so this time I could tell it wouldn't be an easy battle. Even so, Tsunami looked prepared. He had beaten some psychic pokemon in the past and he had enough vitality to endure as much as a recovering Starmie. Caledor looked excited. We both knew it would be an interesting battle.

vs

This time I was right about the difficulty of the battle. The Starmie began with a Confuse Ray, and then jumped right behind Tsunami. My Vaporeon tried to bite his opponent, but he bit his own tail! The Starmie then summoned Thunder, but Tsunami was moving fast from one side to another, and the lightning bolt missed him. I think he felt something, though, for as soon as the Thunder hit the ground Tsunami stopped running and lifted his head. When he looked at the Starmie, I could tell he was not confused anymore.
Now it was Tsunami's turn. He bit the Starmie as hard as he could. The Starmie used Thunder again and, this time, it hit Tsunami. My friend was badly hurt, but he kept on fighting. He used Bite again and the Starmie flinched. Then he bit it once more. The Starmie's jewel began to blink, but then it went back to normal as the Starmie used... Recover! I wished Tsunami could do that too. After the Thunder, he didn't have much energy left. Not much for a Vaporeon, I mean; and not enough to resist another Thunder.
Tsunami bit the Starmie once more. Of all his attacks, that was the only one which could have a good effect. And it had it: the Starmie flinched again. Now the Starmie was in a worse condition than Tsunami. I guessed that's why he decided it was a good time to try his new attack. A white ball formed inside Tsunami's mouth, and it started growing fast until it exploded in a beam which was as wide as it was powerful.
As the white light engulfed the Starmie, it looked as if the pokemon were disintegrating. But then when the light faded away I could see the Starmie lying on the snow. Its jewel had turned dark grey, but it was alive and it looked like it would be well soon.


Tsunami grew to level 42 and he learned Take Down and Haze! He now has more moves than Ninetales!

Tsunami was panting, but he looked satisfied. As soon as the battle finished, I saw a man and a woman comming my way. Their clothes were heavier than mine. I guessed they were looking for wounded pokemon. I'd guessed right: without any words, they put the Swinub and the Starmie in a couple of pokeballs (their original pokeballs, I assume). They left as fast as they came. I couldn't blame them: it was really cold in there!
Ventura, Tsunami, Caledor and I left the Blizzard Room too (I was carrying the others' pokeballs, of course). I put the hot clothes back in the Supplies Room, and then went to pick up the rest of my pokemon for lunch. I was planning to take Ventura and Tsunami to the Pokemon Center, but I knew they would appreciate having a good meal first.
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Old Yesterday, 12:25 PM   #19
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We had lunch and then returned to the Training Grounds. I took Tsunami and Ventura to the Pokemon Center, but their stay was short. They had nothing that couldn't be fixed with a few potions. Then we left for the Pond Room.

<Amber's POV>

I'd never suspected that the Pond Room could be such a mess! The platform was soaked and all over the place I could see pokemon jumping and making loud noises (if they were talking, the sound of their combined voices made it impossible to make out their words). I'd never seen that room before, but for what Water Angel had told me I thought it was a quiet and beautiful place. I guess it wasn't always like this. Something must have happened to get all those pokemon so excited.
All of a sudden, a group of Woopers started a water war! I decided to go back to my pokeball before the water reached me.

<Caledor's POV>

I wonder what could have caused the pokemon to act like that. But it looked like they were having fun anyway. Gabi looked astonished and Tsunami... well, he couldn't wait to join the fun. He jumped into the water and joined a group of Vaporeons. Gabi didn't complain, so I followed him.
"An eevee! How cute!," exclaimed a female Vaporeon when she saw me.
"You wouldn't think that if you knew him," Tsunami commented. I asked him if he had any problem with me.
"Oh, no, no problem!," he answered. "It's just that 'cute' wouldn't be the word I'd use to describe you."
"Then how would you describe me?," I asked him.
I felt I had put him in a hard situation, but another Vaporeon interrupted us before he could answer.
"Are you looking for a battle?," the Vaporeon asked.
"No, we were just swimming," I said. "But some of our friends do want to battle. They're at the door with our trainer."
"Oh, yes! I'm sure the lovebirds are dying to show the power of two once more!," Tsunami ironized.
Two of the Vaporeons directed angry looks at Tsunami. It looked like he'd just put his paw in it. Before getting in trouble, he went back to Gabi's side, telling the Vaporeons he'd get challengers for them.
I swam close behind him. My instinct was telling me I wouldn't want to miss what was comming. As soon as Pidgeot and Water Angel saw Tsunami, he greeted them cheerfully:
"Hi, heroes! I've just found a couple of challengers who look made-to-measure for the two of you."
"Is this another joke of yours?," Pidgeot inquired. "Because I'm getting tired, you know."
"A joke? I'm offended!," Tsunami claimed. "I get you the perfect match and you think I'm joking? Believe me, if you really want to prove you're invincible as a team, this is your chance."
"No one's invincible," said Water Angel. "And we have nothing to prove. If you've found challengers for us, then thanks; but I'm getting tired of your sarcasm too. You really should do something about that. Pidgeot and I have done nothing to you; moreover, we consider you our friend. We've been together ever since Caledor was almost a deserted land; in such a long time, I'd think you should have been able to push those harsh feelings away."
"Of course, it's my fault again. It's always my fault," Tsunami complained. "The perfect duo couldn't have done anything wrong, so it must be my fault."
"What are you talking about?!," Pidgeot interrupted him.
"I mean... the two of you have been pushing me aside all the time ever since we first met. And that, as your girl here recalls, was a long time ago. Everyone talks about how great a team you are, how well you complement each other, how you've saved each other's lives more times than anyone can count and have you've stopped Team Rocket another whole lot of times. Me?, I'm just the odd-one-out in Group B."
"I had no idea you felt that way!," Water Angel reacted.
"That's because you've never paid any attention to me," Tsunami replied. "I bet Lagi knew that. And I know for a fact that Ninetales and Caledor knew that. Sylvan, Amber and Ventura knew that too, and I think even Iael must have found out by now. And Gabi knows, of course. You two were the only ones who didn't know how I felt about being stuck in a tag team with two pokemon for whom I'm invisible."
"Oh, well... maybe we did overlook you a little," Water Angel admitted. "But that was because you were always so confident with yourself... you were able to take care of your own long before we could. And I don't think you'd feel comfortable with someone who's always making fun of you either."
"Ninetales is one of my best friends!," Tsunami argued. I wonder if he would have dared to say that if Ninetales hasn't been back at the Eevee House waiting for the race; and I wonder how the big guy would have reacted.
"Well, it may work for you that way," Water Angel responded. "But you and I are different."
"No need to say that!," Tsunami stated. "Does this mean we've sorted things out?"
"Maybe," Pidgeot answered. "I guess time will tell. But I doubt I'll feel the same way about you from now on."
"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?," Tsunami asked.
"Good. It's always better to understand those you're living with. What about the challengers you've found?"
"Oh, err... on second thought, it may not be such a good idea," Tsunami retracted.
"Why not?," Pidgeot inquired. He looked angry; I guess he thought Tsunami had planned to set them up.
"Well... it's because...," Tsunami mumbled.
"Spit it out!," Pidgeot shouted.
"Don't be so rude!," Water Angel told him.
"You're defending me? Is that a change! Ok, I'll say it. It's because they're Vaporeons. And strong ones too."
"Now who thinks he's invincible?," Pidgeot retorted.
"I'm not saying Vaporeons are invincible. But it's true that we're very tough. And those two... they're at a high level and they seem to mesh as much as you do. You two don't stand a chance."
"We'll see that!," Pidgeot exclaimed.
"Want to bet?"
"I want to bet!," Water Angel said.
"You?! Betting is not proper for a lady."
"Who says so? Here's my offer: if we win, you won't tease us ever again."
"That's a long time! What do I get if you lose?"
"Then you'll be able to spread whatever rumor you want about us."
"That's too dangerous!," Pidgeot stopped her.
"Don't worry, he doesn't hate us that much. Only one rumor, though."
"It's a deal," Tsunami said. "And, for the record, I don't hate you. I've wanted to hit you hard sometimes, but I've never hated you."
My instinct had been right. I couldn't wait to see how this would end.

<Water Angel's POV>

I won't lie, I was a bit afraid of the rumors Tsunami might have in mind, but all of a sudden I'd began to feel sympathetic toward him. I felt that, for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, we were starting to understand each other.
I looked at Gabi and made a sign for her to follow us to the platform. I got there swimming while Pidgeot flew right above me. Meanwhile, Tsunami went to fetch the other Vaporeons. I could hear the female one ask him what had taken him so long. Tsunami didn't reply, he just led the couple to us.
"Wow, is THIS unusual!," the male Vaporeon said when he saw us. "A Pidgeot and a Kingdra! Who would have imagined? But then again, if that makes you happy, I guess it's ok."
I was annoyed. It looked like Tsunami had collected his prize even before making the bet. I tried to clear things up.
"I don't know exactly what our friend told you," I said, "but I have quite a good idea. You shouldn't take it seriously. He enjoys making fun of us, but today he'll get rid of that nasty habit once and for all."
"You talk too fast," Tsunami told me.
"So do you," I replied.
"Is the battle between you and your friend, or between you and us?," the female Vaporeon interrupted us.
"Oh, sorry," I apologized. "We're ready when you are."
"We're ready," the male Vaporeon said. "Let's start."

<Gabi's POV>

I was intrigued. There had been quite a long conversation among my pokemon a moment before and, for the way they were all looking at each other and especially at the ones who were about to battle, I could tell I was missing something important. I looked at Lagi to see if she could give me a clue, but she was as concentrated on the battle as the others were.
It was clear that, for some reason, this battle was very important for my team. I wished I knew why. I wanted to share my pokemon's feelings... get to understand them completely.
The Vaporeons looked very strong, and I knew they wouldn't go down easily. I gave Water Angel the Beach Ball, but she rejected it. What was that all about?!

& vs &

The Vaporeons turned out not to be too fast. They didn't get to attack before Pidgeot hit the male one with a Wing Attack and Water Angel used her Hidden Power on the female one. But the Vaporeons turned the scores soon, as one of them used an Aurora Beam on Pidgeot and lowered his attack, while the other one dumped Toxic on Water Angel. My freind then threw Toxic too, not at the Vaporeon who had attacked her, but at the one who had hurt Pidgeot.
Pidgeot soared, preparing for a Fly attack. The poisoned Vaporeon used Haze, saving himself from the poison, and saving Water Angel at the same time. The female Vaporeon decided to bite Water Angel. Pidgeot's Fly attack hit the male Vaporeon. Water Angel created a Smokescreen around the female one, who managed to bite her anyway. The male Vaporeon dumped Toxic on Pidgeot, but then Water Angel used her Toxic on him, forcing him to use Haze again.
Pidgeot created a Whirlwind, which in turn made the water form a whirlpool and take the female Vaporeon to the bottom of the pool. This was before the other Vaporeon finished his Haze, so the poison did hurt him. Water Angel used her Hidden Power on the male Vaporeon. The Haze made Pidgeot regain his lost attacking strength, and he put it to a test in another Wing Attack. Then Water Angel used her Hidden Power again.
The female Vaporeon came out of the water and hit Pidgeot with a Headbutt, while her mate hurled a Shadow Ball at Water Angel. Pidgeot decided it was time to take off. Now each of the Vaporeons had more hp than my two friends put together. Water Angel decided to come for the Beach Ball.
The male Vaporeon chased Water Angel, but before he could attack her she hit him with an incredibly powerful Dragon force. Then he decided to try a new strategy and said something to his partner. They both shot Aurora Beams at the same time, forming a single, more powerful beam which hit Water Angel straight on. Still, that didn't weaken her. She'd been born knowing Aurora Beam; it would be hard to make the most of that attack when using it against her.
At that moment, Pidgeot descended from the sky and hit the unsuspecting male Vaporeon with all his strength, quickly bringing him down. It had been a partial victory, but the female Vaporeon remained almost intact.
Water Angel created another Smokescreen, probably seeing that as the only chance they had. The Vaporeon then shot an Aurora Beam, but didn't hit any of my pokemon. Her reaction had also been slower than before. She probably felt upset because her mate had lost. Pidgeot hit the Vaporeon with his wings and then Water Angel used her Hidden Power. The Vaporeon used Haze to get rid of the Smokescreen, but she got hit by another Wing Attack and, right after that, a Bilzzard!
Everyone knows Ice attacks are not good against Vaporeons, but this particular Vaporeon was not defending herself as well as she used to, and Water Angel had the Beach Ball on her side. She must have more than that on her side, because as soon as the Blizzard stopped I could see the Vaporeon... floating inside an ice cube!
Pidgeot prepared for another Fly attack while Water Angel used her Hidden Power again. The ice started cracking, but did not break completely until Pidgeot hit it. When the ice shattered, the Vaporeon sank into the water.


Both Pidgeot and Water Angel grew to level 42!

<Tsunami's POV>

I couldn't believe it! They'd made it! They were both exhausted and Water Angel had relied on the Beach Ball a lot, but even so I was astonished. I thought they'd never be able to beat those Vaporeons. As soon as the battle finished, Water Angel dove under the water to pick her former opponents up and take them to the platform. They soon woke up and thanked them for the best 2 on 2 battle they'd ever had. I couldn't believe what I'd just heard!
Then Water Angel came to me. I hoped that, in the din of the battle, she'd have forgotten our bet. But she proved to have a good memory.
"So... you'll be kind to us in the future, right?," she asked me.
"But you cheated! You used the Beach Ball!," I complained.
"I didn't cheat. You never said I couldn't use it. The only reason why I didn't accept it at the beginning was because I wanted to test myself and see if I could win without it. It seems I'll need some time before I can do that, though. You were right about one thing: you Vaporeons are tough!"
I smiled.
"Ok, no one will say I'm not up to my word," I told her. "So I won't make fun of you anymore. It will be hard, but I'll hold myself. Besides, you've earned my respect."
"Thanks. It's good to know that," Water Angel said.
Pidgeot landed on the platform and almost threw Gabi away. The platform was not intended for a Pidgeot to stand on it.
"I think we should go now," he said. "Other trainers will want to use this platform."
"Yes, I think Gabi's about to call us back," I said, "but before you get back into your pokeball I'd like to ask you something."
"What is it?"
"Well, you know I am going to treat you better from now on, but... could you two please pay more attention to me? Could we be friends?"
"I thought we were friends," Pidgeot answered. "But yes, we could all try to talk more and sort our problems out before they explode. And now that we know you don't want to be left alone, we'll try to be with you a bit more."
"You don't have to stick to me all the time, I don't want that; just remember I exist."
"That won't be hard," Pidgeot said, laughing.
"Oh, and just one more thing..." I said.
"Yes?," Pidgeot asked.
"Will you two admit you're in love once and for all?! It's so obvious! Why not just make it official?"
"I really expected you'd keep your word for at least 5 minutes!," Pidgeot complain.
"I'm not teasing you. I just want the truth to come out. Are you in love with Water Angel or not?"
"You're asking too much for someone who has just lost a bet," he told me.
"Well, if you don't want to admit it I'll ask Lagi. She has to know what your feelings for each other are."
"Don't get me involved," Lagi stopped me. "This is none of my business, and you shouldn't get in the middle either. If they ever decide to share their feelings with the rest of us, whatever those feelings are, they'll let you know."
As usual, Gabi waited for us to stop talking before calling us back to our pokeballs and taking us out of the room. Ans, also as usual, she told Pidgeot and Water Angel they'd been incredible. I could bet she had no idea of what had just happened among us... but I don't want to risk losing another bet.
Still, after all that had happened, I had an unusual and unexplainable pleasant feeling. Something felt so absolutely right! I couldn't tell exactly what it was, but something I knew was I'd never felt like that in my entire life.
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Old Yesterday, 12:28 PM   #20
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<Ninetales's POV>

It was one of the best moments in my life. Looking back, I could see all the dreams I used to have, and now they were all comming true! Now that I'd won the race at the Eevee House, I was leaving my second minute of glory (the first one being when I won the first Griffon Games). I was probably the most famous Ninetales in Caledor, but it was not fame I cared about. It was the fact that I'd been able to achieve my goals.
We had a big dinner that night, after which I was once more stopped by my trainer before I could teach Tsunami a lesson. (Well, he thought he was going to teach me, and now I guess we'll never know). We went to sleep early; we'd have lots of things to do the following day. Especially Lady Vulpix, since she had to open the Griffon Games. Besides, she hadn't visited the Lava Room yet, and Lagi and I were still waiting for our chance to battle at the Training Grounds. I could forgive LV for all the times she stopped Tsunami and me from testing our skills against each other, but I wouldn't forgive her if she made me miss a battle against a strong fire pokemon.
Luckily, I wasn't put in the awful situation of having to confront my trainer. As soon as the sun came out, we all left for the Training Grounds, ready to challenge my favorite room (and the one Lady Vulpix hates the most). So, we got to the complex, went through the main hall, the corridors and everything (stopping an the Supplies Room to get some nearly frozen water for my trainer), and finally met the 5 doors.
Right when Lady Vulpix was about to open the red door, someone opened it from the inside. It was a Charmeleon. And not an ordinary one: it was the kind of Charmeleon I once used to think could only exist in someone's imagination or in my team. You know, the kind that may loose a battle on purpose in order to help a friend, and who would avoid battling weak pokemon and, if no other choice was left, would use only weak attacks against them. The extremely rare kind of Charmeleons my teammate Amber belongs to. And how did I know that? Simple: I'd seen that Charmeleon twice before. He was Amber's best friend.

As soon as Amber saw her friend, she ran to him and gave him a big hug.
"I was hoping I'd find you here!," she exclaimed. "But... were you leaving?"
"Oh, yes," he replied. "Only level 25 Charmeleons are allowed to challenge trainers here and I've just won a battle and gained 2 levels, so I'm going back to my trainer. I wanted to look for you, but I didn't know where to find you. You didn't enter the Lava Room in all this time and I got to think you weren't going to battle here this time."
"You won a battle?," I interrupted him. "Good for you, but you'll have to do better than that. If you're level 27 now, then Amber is 2 levels stronger than you. That wouldn't have happened if you hadn't..."
"Ninetales, stop it!," Amber shouted. "What does that matter? Well, being strong may be the only thing that matters for you, but not for us."
I didn't know what to answer to that. I realized I had been too rude, and for no reason, but I would have looked stupid if I apologized, so I let my teammate interpret my silence. Amber turned to her friend again.
"You were right. I'm not going to battle here," she told him. "I've battled in the Desert Room this time."
"The Desert Room?! Was it tough?"
"Well... yes, it was. I had to use my Rage and I still don't like that much but... I guess you would have liked that battle if you'd seen it."

Fearing I'd have to put up with hours of pointless sweetness, I decided to enter the room by myself and wait for my trainer. I guess she took the hint, since a minute later she came through the door followed by the rest of the team... except Amber. "Well, I guess it's ok if she wants to have more time with her friend," I thought. "After all, they hardly ever see each other."
Shortly after they entered the room, most of my teammates got into their pokeballs. Only Lagi stayed outside, holding our trainer. Lady Vulpix had already started to look dizzy. She was holding her head with her left hand and taking deep breaths. I wonder why the heat affects her so much. I walked along the path of molten rock, hoping to find an opponent soon. I didn't want anything to happen to my trainer because of me. Of course, it had been her decision to enter the Lava Room, but she knew how badly I'd wanted to battle there.
Soon, I heard steps in the distance. A rather heavy, 4-legged pokemon was comming my way. I looked at my trainer. She was drinking some water. She recapped the bottle and looked at me.
"It was the sudden change of temperature," she said. "I'll be fine. Have your battle and get stronger."
I had a weird feeling; it was as if she had read right through me, as if she was aware of all my thoughts and feelings. It was scary at the beginning, but in the end it was pleasant... peaceful. It meant Gabi knew me well. Probably better than I knew her. I smiled, and she smiled back. Then I looked to the front again, and saw an orange figure. It was an Arcanine!
My future opponent started moving faster as it came closer. Soon, it was standing in front of me. It was big, and looked VERY strong. I was not a fool, and I thought this opponent might be too tough for me to handle it on my own. I turned to Lagi.
"How about doing it together this time?," I asked her.
Lagi accepted; but as soon as her reply was heard, something started comming out of the lava. A Magmar!
The Magmar jumped onto the path and made the molten rock shake.
"Let's make it two on two," it said in a deep voice.
Lagi and I accepted the challenge. I knew this was going to be interesting.
& vs &

The Arcanine hit me with an Extremespeed attack before I could even assume a battling position. I was determined to make him pay. The Magmar used Fire Blast on Lagi. I thought of telling her to use Rain Dance, but then I noticed the Fire Blast hadn't affected her much, so I didn't say anything. I put my hope in the Confuse Ray I threw at the Arcanine, while Lagi paralyzed the Magmar with a Thunder Wave.
The Arcanine started digging a hole in the rock and I followed him. The sound of rain above me let me know Lagi had used Rain Dance after all. I didn't see what happened next, but it didn't matter. I felt the Arcanine come out and I popped out of my hideout hitting him straight on. The impact was incredibly strong, but I doubted I'd get the chance to use Dig again, especially since the Arcanine didn't seem to beconfused anymore. The one who did look confused was Lagi. The Magmar must have used his Confuse Ray on her!
Somehow Lagi manage to hod her feelings and hit the Arcanine with Surf. The air was very humid, due to the evaporated raindrops, so she had plenty of water to form a really powerful wave. The effect was impressive. The Arcanine was pushed to the ground and tumbled once before he could finally get up again. The Magmar was unable to attack due to his paralysis, and I didn't even have to look at Lagi to know she was no longer confused! (Actually, I don't know exactly how I knew that but, well, it's Lagi; those things happen with her).
The Arcanine charged at me with a ferocious Take Down attack. That hurt a lot and left me quite weak, but it left him very weak too. That made me feel it was desperate to win. It looked like a good moment to try my new Hidden Power. I focused and let the energy flow through me. It felt almost like a Confuse Ray, only with direction instead of chaos. Well, in that sense it was quite the opposite, but it was the same kind of energy: ghost energy. Soon, a circle of shady, dark purple spheres formed around me. Their boundaries were unclear. I felt uncomfortable when I look at them, so I decided to toss them at the Arcanine immediately. At my thought, the spheres fired themselves at my opponent.
Lagi used her Surf attack again, but this time she aimed it at the Magmar. The effect was devastating! The Magmar was, once more, unable to attack. That left the Arcanine alone to make his move. He decided to attack Lagi, probably because he considered her a bigger threat than I was. I proved him wrong. I summoned my Hidden Power again and, as soon as the Arcanine's Iron Tail hit my friend, I fired. The Arcanine made a dull sound right before fainting. Lagi used her Surf attack on the Magmar, bringing him down too.


I grew to level 58!
Lagi grew to level 58 and learned Hyper Beam!

The air started getting dry again. Lagi thanked me for stopping the Arcanine. Lady Vulpix congratulated us and asked Lagi to hold her. Before that moment, I hadn't realized the humidity had made her feel even worse. Lagi held our trainer in her arms and took her out of the Lava Room. I followed her.
Amber was waiting for us behind the door. When I asked about her friend, she said he'd just left. She looked at Gabi and asked Lagi what had happened. She looked really worried. Lagi said all she needed was some fresh air. So, instead of being taken to the Pokemon Center to get some medical attention, we took our trainer out of the complex to help her regain her strength.
It was still morning, fortunately, so the sun rays were not too strong. Gabi didn't take too long to regain her colors. Once she seemed to be back to normal, she looked at us.
"Thanks for helping me," she said. "Let's go home now. All of us need a rest before we go to the Griffon Gate. Please remind me not to enter the Lava Room and open a tournament on the same day ever again."
She laughed. I used to think she laughed a bit too often, but this time I was happy to hear the sound of her laughter. We all went home and prepared for the Griffon Games opening ceremony.
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Old Yesterday, 12:29 PM   #21
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Interlude

INTERLUDE
Part 1 of 4: a place to call home

I stood at the Griffon Gate, watching motionless as the events unfolded. Motionless, but not emotionless. Everything had happened too fast, leaving me a strange and most unpleasant feeling. First, it was the place itself; though it did bring me some good memories and had a certain atmosphere of hope, something about it gave me the greeps.. I guess the reason may have been all the suffering people had endured in there. The place was constantly vibrating with echoes of the past. Then there was the return of Team Rocket. Their appearance, however brief, put my whole being under a state of alarm. After all that had happened, I hated the mere thought of them, and I was worried about what their current plans could be. I really wished nobody would get hurt this time. But that was not all. While I was watching one of the battles, shortly after the TR members were arrested, I sensed some sort of dark energy. The most irritating thing about those sensations is that I never get to understand their meaning when I get them. For a moment, everything and everyone around me felt different. Then I got the feeling that something either was or was going to be wrong. I hoped it was only my imagination but, all of a sudden, I was filled with doubt.
"Why am I still here?," I asked myself. "Why am I still doing this? Going back would be easier. I have accomplished enough for everyone to recognize me as a good pokemon trainer." That didn't sound like me at all, but I let myself continue. I needed to know where this thread of thoughts would take me. I expected to find a proof by contradiction or something. I had no way to imagine what I was about to experience.
"After all this time, my parents may have even learned to take care of themselves," I went on. "In any case, I've learned enough not to let them put me in the middle of their crossfire. Yes, returning would definitely be much easier than facing evil again and again only to see it resurface with renewed strength a month later. But what good reason do I have to return? I didn't leave just because I wanted to go on a pokemon jorney and explore unknown regions. I left because I needed a place to call home. I hadn't been at home in my own house ever since my parents started thinking of getting divorced, which was a year before they actually did it. Is Caledor my home? When I listen to Scott, I feel it isn't. I could never share his dreams, no matter how much I care for him. Caledor is something completely different for me. I stay for a purpose, because I have friends and because I'm needed. But is that what I need? Is it home? Do I belong in Ulthuan? I need an answer. I need help. Bou pel l... yim bou..."

The last 2 phrases were in Beilers. It was not a language spoken in Ulthuan or anywhere on the planet. But I wasn't on that planet. I was in Bei... more precisely in Arinim.
My name was Lilirins Blankc. I was a member of a family of renowned clikctims (that's the Beilers word for the craftsmen of magic; I guess the closest English word would be witches, but someone who used that word would probably never understand our essence). I was in my garden, enjoying the magnificence of nature with all my senses. The stars shone bright in the sky and so did Briyi, the Moon, with the light she borrowed from Yir, the Sun. I lay on the grass and took a deep breath. I was at peace, but that state never lasts.


INTERLUDE
Part 2 of 4: questions

I heard the grass shake close to me. Light steps were causing it to move. I sat up abruptly and saw a female figure in front of me. My first thought was that she looked like an angel. My second thought was...
"Oh, it's you, Harims."
The beautiful lady smiled.
"Yes. It's me," she said. "It's not that I'm not pleased to see you, but... what brings you here?"
"I live here!," I answered, confused.
"If you listened to your heart more carefully, you wouldn't get sidetracked,"she told me.
"What do you mean? Oh, wait... I think I was looking for an answer, but I forgot the question. This makes no sense!"
"Then maybe there was something wrong with the question," she said in a calm voice.
"And how can I possibly find out now?!," I complained. "I hate forgetting things!"
"You do. You have been blessed with a good memory, but sometimes the mind cannot retain everything; especially when it's under its own pressure. You should ask your heart. The heart always remembers."
I did my best to relax, dove into my feelings and, after a minute or two, I finally emerged with a question.
"Am I home?"
"Are you?," Harims redirected the question to me.
"This is all so confusing... I can't explain it. I just... I feel like something's missing. Why do I get the feeling that I don't belong anywhere?"
"Because you don't," she replied naturally. "Something as great as a soul can't be enclosed in one place. You belong to yourself alone. And you're home when..."
Harims stopped just when I thought I was going to get my answer.
"When?," I asked. I needed to know.
"You'll have to figure that out by yourself," she told me. "I think that's why you're here right now. You have the answer, and you have time to find it out, so relax. Go to bed and try to get some sleep. Or at least rest. Things will be clearer in the morning and, who knows, maybe the dragon will assist you."
With those words, Harims disappeared in a beam of pink light. I doubted I could get any sleep with all those questions in my mind (added to the unexplainable feeling of comfort I had when Harims mentioned the dragon who, to add to my confusion, I knew nothing about). Even so, I went to bed. If I really wanted it, things would get clearer for me. I might as well find my answers while trying to sleep. It wouldn't be the first time.


INTERLUDE
Part 3 of 4: the faerie and the dragon

Strangely, after an hour or so, I did fall asleep. I even had dreams: about a beautiful forest, and about flying too. A few times in my life I'd had the feeling that there was more to my most recent dream than met the eye, and in those cases I'd tried to analyze my dreams. That was not the case this time, though, so I simply gave in and enjoy what came to me. I did... until I was awakened by an impact next to my bed. I opened my eyes in an instant, as I would whenever a noise broke my concentration. I sat up and looked to my side... and I could hardly believe what I saw.
Next to my bed, sitting on her knees, was a small human-like creature, with purple hair and big, transparent wings. A faerie! I had heard stories about them, imagined my own stories and even had dreams about them. But I'd never actually seen a fareie until then.
The faerie noticed me and looked at me.
"Sorry, I still have to get used to this," she said. "But it's partly your fault. You could have waited until I learned to fly before comming here. I wouldn't have taken too long. Besides, why did you have to come here at all?"
"I don't understand you," I told her, still astonished.
"What else is new?," she commented. Then she giggled. "This is good; it's... liberating. I sould do it more often," she concluded.
"Who are you?," I asked.
"Oh, then you... well... I thought... wait, you are Lilirins, right?"
"Yes, I am."
"Then you must be the one I'm looking for. The dragon can't be wrong; not with you."
"Wait! You know the dragon?!," I interrupted her.
"Almost as much as you do," she replied.
"I know the dragon..." I whispered to myself.
"Of course you do!," the faerie laughed. "This is so funny! I'd never thought I'd leave to see this!"
"Hey! Stop laughing at me!," I shouted.
The faerie became serious immediately.
"Oh, sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to do that. Then it is you after all. I want you to know tI respect you; even if you hate it when I talk to you. You're very important to me."
To say I was puzzled would be an understatement. Whas I supposed to know this creature? If I asked her who she was again, she'd probably dodge my question just like before, so I tried to rephrase it, hoping to find words she'd respond to.
"What's your name?," I asked. The answer was even worse than before:
"Why do you waste words on such pointless details? What does a name mean? Does it define who you are or what you can do? Are you different when you go under another name? Call me whatever you like and go straight to the point, please."
"And what's the point?"
"Exactly."
"Exactly what?"
"What's the point? That's the question."
"Why are you so puzzling?"
"That's the way I am. Plus you know words are not my favorite language."
That sentence struck me. All of a sudden, everything came back to me. I had said that myself about someone I knew. In another place... another life. Was that me? I had another name and another face then, but I was the same. And she was...
"I know who you are!," I exclaimed.
"Congratulations! I knew you'd make it! Oh, sorry, that's your line. It took you a long time."
"Well, you must admit you didn't help much. You weren't acting like yourself. It's nice to actually hear you talk. And let me tell you I've never hated the way you... communicate with me. It's just that you're so puzzling!..."
"Yes. That's me."
"I'm still confused."
"It's logical. But you're beginning to find your answers, and as a reward I'll tell you where the dragon is."
"The dragon! Could that be...?"
I didn't finish my prhase, and she didn't respond.
"Is this a dream?," I asked.
"I guess you can call it a dream. After all, it's the same. Words are just words; use the one that suits your mind better."
"But..."
"Enough. I'll tell you where the dragon is and hopefully we'll all go home afterwards."
"Home? Where...?"
Before I could fiish, my mind was flooded with images and directions. When the storm passed, the faerie talked to me again.
"Remember you said you didn't hate it. And thanks for teaching me this. I love it."
With these words, she disappeared.
"I'll have to talk to her when I see her again," I said to myself.


INTERLUDE
Part 4 of 4: answers

I went to the kitchen and made myself some firus da bail (strawberries with honey) for breakfast. Those pink strawberries were a delicious treat which could only be found in Arinim. Once I finished eating, I used a simple spell to clean the dish and the spoon.
"I'm going to miss this!," I exclaimed.
"So you've made up your mind," Harims's voice came from behind me. "Have you found out where your home is?"
"I think I'm about to get the answer," I told her.
"Don't go too far looking for it," she warned me. "In the best case, the answer will travel with you. In the worst, you'll leave it behind."
"All I want to do now is meet the dragon," I explained.
"I think that's a good idea. No one knows more about you than she does."
"That means I was right about her. Thanks, Harims. Thanks for everything."
"You're welcome, my friend. You know you can always come back if you want. And remember that, whenever you find a question, the answer can't be far away."
"I think my mind will need a vacation after all these puzzles. As if I'd ever take it, even if I could. I guess I'll figure out how to come back if I really need it. But for now what I need is..."
I thought about my friends. I could see their faces in my mind now. I could remember the hug I'd received a few days before (or maybe a millenium later, who knows). And I thought of other friends, who belonged to different species but had much in common with me, each of them in his or her own way. And when my thoughts came to the being whose feelings had reached me countless times, across space, illusions, and even time (at the Dark Cave), I saw myself face to face with the dragon.
She was enormous. She barely fit the cave which surrounded her body. Her skin was covered in silvery scales and her deep blue eyes were gazing into mine. I could feel her emotions, just like before. She was expecting me to speak first, and so I did.
"I missed you so much!," I told her.
"So did I," she said in a sweet, soft voice. "But I knew you'd come."
"Where are the others?," I asked.
"You've already seen our bug friend, but she and I were the only ones who managed to follow you. It was so strange! You suddenly disappeared. Your body was still there, but your soul wasn't. It was hard to find you."
"But you managed to track my essence. Thanks for finding me. I'll never get tired of telling you how great you are. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you worry. Actually, I don't know why all this happened."
"Yes, you do. I'm going to tell you what you already know once more, but I guess it will work, since you always seem to listen to me more than you listen to yourself. No one but you brought you here. I felt what you were feeling right before you vanished. You felt beaten and confused. You were looking for meaning; you were looking for a purpose. And you needed peace to find it."
"I love your gift! But why am I so complex? Did my mind create a whole new world and a whole new life just to let me find a purpose?"
"I don't know if your mind created this or not, but you must admit that sometimes you need your world to be shaken in order to find out what you already know."
"True. I confess. If we return, I'll miss conversing with you."
"I'll always be with you. I will always understand you and I will always let you know what I feel. And one day we may even find a way to breach the language wall."
"I hope so. It's true that you've always managed to make yourself clear one way or another. Then... can we go home now?"
"That is up to you. Where's home?"
"Home is wherever I can be with those I love; those who don't just need me but are necessary for me too. And at this moment my home is Ulthuan, where all my friends are. Where we can make a difference in the bad times and celebrate the calm of the good times. I guess what I needed to learn was that things have the meaning we give to them. Ulthuan may not have the same meaning for me as it has for Scott, but it still does mean a lot to me. It means hope; it means working together and eventually watching the results of our work; it means mountains, and forests, and towns, and valleys, and water, and the sky, and music, and reading, and mazes, and tournaments, and friends: both human and pokemon, and getting in troubles and out of them... It means life. So that's where I want to go now. Back to Ulthuan, and back to my friends."


I felt the dragon's smile inside me. It was not the first time, and I hoped I'd feel it again thousands of times. When I looked around, I was at the Griffon Gate. People were starting to leave the stadium, which meant the battle had just finished. Had no time passed since I left?
"I guess not everything can be understood," I concluded.
All my pokemon were around me, and they looked extremely happy. They must have noticed my short absence.
"I'm sorry," I told them. "I needed some time to think. I won't make you worry like this anymore."
My presentiment at that moment was the opposite of the one I'd had before. I felt everything would be all right. At least, we could make it so.
"Let's go home now," I said to my pokemon. "Everything will be fine. Let's just consider this... an interlude."
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Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 12:30 PM   #22
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Once the first round of the Griffon Games was over, I decided I needed a rest. On the way back to Caledor, I made lots of plans and discarded most of them. It didn't matter. After all, what I wanted to do was spend some time with my friends, both pokemon and human; what we'd do in that time was not important.
I decided to start with my pokemon, so we went to the Eevee House a couple of times and spent some time in the forest too, but I knew there was something I wasn't getting round to. Ventura. I'd said to myself I'd have a word with her, but now that seemed so hard! And I didn't even know why. I thought of many ways of starting the 'conversation', but I wasn't even sure of what I wanted to tell her, or how she would react. Looking back... had I ever been able to predict Ventura's reactions? Probably not. It was easy to say I didn't understand her, but how hard had I tried? I'd never tried to put myself in her place or find out what she was feeling. I had only been wondering what she was capable of. I felt ashamed.
So, I realized it was time I did my part. Ventura had been with me for a long time (even longer than Caledor) and I barely knew her. True, she was hard to reach, and she'd never complained for anything nor asked for anything, but that didn't mean she needed me any less than the others. We hadn't shared much... or had we? I looked back at all my past experiences with her. We'd shared much more than I'd first thought, but I'd never looked at her closely enough, and that was why she was still a puzzle for me. She'd had to get to laughing at me for me to start thinking of her and realize how much about her I'd been missing. I needed to find a way to bring us closer. I happened to be rounding up those thoughts when someone put a flyer in my hand. Once the thread was closed (yes, sometimes I do get to the end of a thread of thoughts), I noticed the flyer and read it. I smiled. That was exactly what I was looking for.

That night, after dinner, I asked Ventura not to leave. I wanted to talk to her. She looked at me, confused. I could understand that: I'd never spoken to her alone before, except to congratulate her after a victory in battle.
"I've been thinking about you..." I told her. "A lot."
My Venonat stared at me.
"You can guide me through a maze and warn me of traps, and you can send images straight into my mind... but it's harder for you to express your feelings, isn't it?"
Ventura made a gesture which I read as a smile.
"I realize I haven't been making it any easier for you. I've always commented on how smart you are, and how mysterious you are, but..."
Words left me. Ventura walked to me and put her hand on my knee. There was a short pause until I found the words to continue.
"I think I haven't tried hard enough to understand you. Let me try now and please don't laugh at me this time."
Ventura smiled again.
"I've looked back and noticed there was some sort of unspoken competition going on. Well, I'm used to having some of my pokemon compete with each other... like Tsunami and Ninetales, Tsunami and Caledor... Tsunami and Water Angel..."
Ventura laughed and so did I. But my laughter didn't hide hers. It was great to hear her laugh.
"But in this case it's different," I went on. "You haven't been competing with any of your teammates. You've been competing with me."
My Venonat became serious in an instant. I thought she looked a bit frightened.
"Well, I know you respect me and I'm as important for you as you are for me. But I've seen what you've been doing: guiding Sylvan in battles, teaching Iael your tactics..."
Ventura look worried. I was amazed at how well I could read her gestures. I hadn't noticed her expression changes before.
"I could say I caught you," I told her. "But I'm not angry. Actually, I'm proud of you. You've been doing a great job and I'd like you to keep it up."
Now I could tell she was puzzled. "See? I can catch you by surprise too," I laughed. "Now, seriously, what kind of trainer would I be if I weren't aware of your needs or didn't let you exploit your full potential?"
Ventura did not respond. Not a sound, not a gesture, not anything else. But, after a few seconds, I saw a smile on her face.
"Good, so we're beginning to understand each other. Look here. I think I've found the best way to let you show your talents. Well, a good way, at least. I think you'll enjoy it."
I showed her the flyer. I didn't know if she could read or not, but something told me she could. Deciphering signs on a piece of paper couldn't be much of a challenge for someone as smart and accomplished as Ventura. But when she looked at me, after staring at the flyer for a while, I still couldn't tell if she had read it or not. I stayed there, not knowing what to say. I didn't want to show Ventura that I didn't know such a simple fact about her. Could she read or not? Fortunately, I got the answer soon, as Ventura's small hand pointed at the word 'Soccer'.
"Veno?," she said. I'd never heard her say that before, but fore her tone it was clearly a question, so I took a guess at its meaning.
"You don't know what Soccer is?," I asked. Ventura shook her head or, rather, her whole body. I did my best to explain the rules to her. I'm sure that almost anyone where I came from would have given a much more detailed and better explanation but, as Ventura nodded when I finished, I knew that I'd been clear enough. I was relieved. Now that she knew the basics, she was ready to start working her magic.
"I don't want you to play this game," I said later.
"Nat?!"
Ventura looked astonished, and maybe even angry. She may have thought I was playing games with her, but she should know I'd never do that. I explained myself.
"I'd like you to be the coach. You'd have to pick 2 pokemon from the same level group, prepare them for the match and guide them during the game. It's not that different from what you've been doing up to now, only that this time you'll be officially in charge. Do you think you can take that responsibility? And, most important, do you want to take it?"
"Nat!," she exclaimed. I was a bit confused for a moment, since 'nat' seemed to mean both 'yes' and 'no' for her, but my confusion only lasted a split-second. Then I could see a big smile on Ventura's face (a slight stretching of her mouth intensified by an expression of bliss in her eyes). Ventura jumped onto me and hugged me. It was amazing: she'd never hugged me before; she'd barely even touched me! I hugged her back. The feeling was wonderful. It didn't last long, though. Ventura soon pushed herself away and jumped to the floor. Ashamed? I don't know.
"Just one thing," I told her. Ventura looked up again. "Please, don't you EVER laugh at me again."
Ironically, Ventura laughed. But I knew she'd got the message. With a fast "Veno-nat", she ran out of the dining room.

<Ventura's POV>

I had to find the right team for the match. I didn't know who we'd be up against, so I'd have to base my choice mainly on who could play soccer well. That left out Water Angel, for obvious reasons. Pidgeot didn't look good for that either; maybe with a lot of hard training, but we didn't have the time. Iael couldn't play because there were no other pokemon in his level group. Ninetales didn't need another trophy, and crossing him out would leave Lagi out too. For the same reason, Tsunami wouldn't be able to play without any of his Group B teammates. That was a pity, since Tsunami was good with the ball (probably the best), but I couldn't risk sending him with Pidgeot. So, that cut the choices down to Amber, Sylvan and Caledor, my Group C teammates. One of them had to stay out, but who?
In the morning, I told my friends about the game. If luck was on my side, only 2 of them would be interested, and I wouldn't have to take a tough decision. But it wasn't: the 3 of them wanted to take part in the game. I told myself I'd have to learn to handle situations like this sooner or later, so instead of fussing, I tried to figure out a solution. Caledor interrupted my thoughts.
"You have to choose me!," he said. "I'm the best with the ball. You should have seen me at the pool; I took the ball away from Tsunami and 2 other Vaporeons!"
"You're the best at flattering yourself," Amber told him.
"Yeah, that too," Caledor laughed. "But I need this practice. This is the oportunity I'd been waiting for to learn to master my powers and improve my teammwork skills."
"Sounds reasonable," I decided. "So, Caledor is in. Who else?"
"I guess it would be Sylvan," Amber said. "She works well with Caledor and she enjoys playing games a lot. Besides, she's more used to responding to your commands than any of us."
"Ok, then," I said, but Sylvan interrupted me.
"Let Amber do it," she told me. "She enjoys games as much as I do, and she hasn't been having much fun lately. And now she needs the levels more than I do: I just don't feel well when my level is higher than hers. And if none of that matters, this will: whenever physical work is involved, she's much better than me. Her response is MUCH faster than mine; well, she is faster than me for everything. And smarter too."
"This I didn't expect," I commented. "But I think I should have. That's the way you two are. Ok, we'll do this: I'll get a ball, we'll go outside and you'll have a 1 on 1 match. Then I'll choose my player. It will be good as practice too."
"I won't use my attacks against Sylvan," Amber told me.
"Oh, no, no attacks," I said. "Just try to score goals."
Both Sylvan and Amber accepted.

<Caledor's POV>

I don't know how Ventura found it, but she brought the same ball Tsunami and I had been using at the Eevee House. She brought Gabi along too. We went to a clearing in the forest and Ventura marked a pairs of trees at each side as the goals. We were all excited. I watched my friends' every move since the start, trying to get ideas I could use during the real match. Sylvan made it hard for Amber to score goals, always catching the ball with her vines; but she never made it to the other side, since Amber easily took the ball off of her time after time. In the end, Amber's speed determined the result, and she was chosen as my partner for the upcomming game.
We had only 1 day before the match, so we spent that day training really hard. I got to think Ventura was too demanding: she wanted everything to be perfect and she gave us hardly any time to rest. I was grateful that Gabi was my trainer, and not her; but the results of our last practice match surprised even me, proving that her method did work after all. We didn't just practise soccer; Ventura emphasized on our coordination and we even did some target shooting, which did me a lot of good. By the time we finished, my aim with the Water Gun, Thundershock, Thunderbolt and Bubble Beam was flawless and, though my Thunder was less than perfect, I could manage not to zap any of my friends. With all that, I was delighted when I heard the practice was over. I was so exhausted that I barely had the strength left to eat. I had a quick dinner and then collapsed on the first pillow I found.

<Sylvan's POV>

With the sunrise, we left for the Griffon Gate again. I was happy for Amber. I would have liked to play, but I knew she deserved it more. Besides, I doubt I would have resisted Ventura's training program. I got to see the stadium once we reached the gate. It was as impressive as ever, though it was currently closed for repairs (everything had to be in its place for the second round of the Griffon Games). Once there, we turned to the East and followed the pathway to the soccer field. Then, I followed Gabi into the old house. There weren't many people inside: there were only 4 on queue when we entered. I guess most of the participants had already registered, but at least we weren't too late. A few more lined up behind Gabi before she reached the desk. I watched her fill in the registration form. As soon as she finished, the man at the desk told her to sit at the stalls next to the field and wait to be called. I could tell he'd said those words millions of times.
We did as the man said. Many people sat close to us, and some pokemon too. I tried to start a conversation with a Squirtle, but he was too concentrated making plans for his match and didn't seem to notice me. The wait was so loong that I thought my leaves would fall before something interesting happened. Fortunately, I was wrong. All of a sudden, Alex popped out of nowhere (well, out of the other corner of the stalls, actually) and greeted my trainer with a sweet "Good day, M'Lady". It was good to see a friendly face.
"Hi, Alex!," Gabi said. "Sorry, I hadn't noticed you were here. I'm glad that you found me."
Alex smiled. "So you're competing too?," he asked.
"Yes," Gabi said. "We seem to be taking part in the same events lately. Though I hope I won't have to face you this time."
"What do you mean, this time?," Alex inquired.
"Oh, nevermind. Do you think the tournament will start soon?"
"It should. Practically all the population of Ulthuan is waiting at the stalls."
Gabi laughed.
"So, which pokemon are you using?," Alex asked.
"Amber and Caledor," she replied.
"Amazing!," Alex exclaimed. "I have almost the same matchup!"
We all laughed as Spike and Volvagia stepped forward.
"I also have a coach this time," Gabi said. "She's been guiding some of her teammates in battles and I thought this would be the best opportunity to let her develop her skills."
"Wait, don't tell me," Alex said, and started taking wild guesses. It was good to know he knew the names of all my teammates. He seemed to have forgotten about Ventura, though. He looked ashamed when Gabi told him.
"Don't worry, it's understandable," Gabi said. "She keeps a low profile."
"She does," Alex agreed.
"So, everything has converged and I thought this was a good moment for her to be in the spotlight."
I had no idea of what had converged for her to think that, but she must have known something I didn't.

<Amber's POV>

Alex and Gabi continued talking until the loudspeaker announce the beginning of the tournament. We got to watch a few matches before we were called, and I used that chance to watch the players and learn from them. I was very excited. I had never done anything like that before.
When Gabi's name finally came out of the loudspeaker, my trainer, my partner, my coach and I walked down to the grass. Another name was also announced: Daniel. I didn't know anyone with that name, at least not personally; this meant our opponent was someone completely new to us. Wen the trainer came down, I thought his appearance was quite unusual: he has spiky dark hair and was wearing something white under his torn jeans, and a sweatshirt under his dark blue T-Shirt. My first thought was that he'd got dressed while sleeping, but I guess he just liked dressing that way. With him came down two pokemon: a Sneasel and a Drowzee. They didn't look very rude, but I knew better than to judge by appearances. I looked at Ventura, and her face told me she was already making plans.
A man dressed in black came in and placed a ball in the center of the field. Gabi asked us if we were ready, and we nodded. I saw Daniel talk to his pokemon too, but I couldn't hear what he said. I stood in my position and soon, at the sound of a whistle, the game started.

%:5:& vs &:96:%

I ran to get the ball, but just when I was about to kick it the ball escaped from me. Well, that was what it looked like anyway. I knew it had to be the Sneasel using its Faint Attack. I looked back and saw the Sneasel appear right behind the ball. Caledor tried to intercept it, but the Sneasel dodged him and scored the first goal. This was incredible. The game had only just begun and the Sneasel had scored a goal all by itself!
"Next time use your fire!," Caledor shouted.
"That wouldn't be fair," I said to him. The Sneasel was at a lower level than I was and, being an ice pokemon, a fire attack would hurt it too much. This was a game, not a battle. I didn't want to get to hurt my opponents unless there was no other choice.
"If you don't do it, we lose!," Caledor complained. "There's no way to stop a Faint Attack!"
"That's not strictly true," Ventura's voice came from the sideline. Caledor looked at her and nodded. I wondered what she'd just told him, but I found out soon enough.
The ball was placed in the center again. This time, it was our turn to kick. As I ran to the center of the field, I saw the Sneasel crouch, but something stopped it from vanishing: 5 circles of golden light surrounded the Sneasel and, all of a sudden, it stopped moving. Caledor had bought me some time, and I used it to kick the ball all the way to the goal. Things were starting to look better for us. We were even now.
As we went back to our initial positions, I saw the Drowzee's eyes were as big as the ball. I guess it was astonished, and I didn't blame it. It had probably never seen an Eevee use Thunder Wave before. We'd had the surprise factor on our side, but from now on they'd be prepared for anything. We'd have to be ready too.
I thought the Drowzee would take the ball this time, but it was the Sneasel again. I began to wonder what the Drowzee was doing, or planning to do. It hadn't moved since the beginning of the game. The Sneasel Faint-Attacked past me, but Caledor took the ball away from it with a Bubble Beam. As the ball came my way, I hit it with my tail (being careful not to burn it). The ball flew past the Drowzee, but it didn't quite make it to the goal. I ran to get it again, but then the Sneasel appeared right in front of me. How was that posible? It couldn't run faster than me! It was paralized! I heard Caledor's steps behind me. I was about to turn around and pass the ball to him, but something stopped me. Something told me to keep on running. Running past the Sneasel? I hesitated, but then I saw the image of the Drowzee and, as if I had eyes on my back, I saw the Sneasel running toward me. All of a sudden, I understood.
The whole scene had lasted less than two seconds, according to Ventura. It had seemed more to me. I took the decision to obey my coach rather than my senses, and ran past the image of the Sneasel. I was planning to run to the white line, but before I reached it I got the message to stop again and kick the ball right where I was. I kicked it to the front, even though the goal seemed to be to the left. I remembered where it was when I started running, and I'd been running on a straight line. My intuition was right. I scored again!
The Drowzee lost its cool. "What are these two made of?!," it shouted, looking at its partner. "First the Eevee uses Thunder Wave and Bubble Beam, and now this! How could that Charmeleon see through all my illusions? This had never happened before!"
"Being a psychic pokemon, you should know," the Sneasel responded. For their voices I found out the Drowzee was male and the Sneasel was female.
"What should I know?," the Drowzee asked. He looked angry.
"They have outside help. I guess you were too busy casting your illusions to notice that, but someone has been sending telepathic messages to the Charmeleon. We'll have to adapt to this. Don't worry. I have a plan."
The Sneasel raised her claw and her trainer asked for a minute off. Daniel's request was granted. Our opponents gathered to deliberate, and so did we. I thanked Ventura for her help.
"You're welcome," she said. "You did well, but your reaction was a bit slow; if you had taken one more second, the Sneasel would have taken the ball from you."
"Well, sorry, but the illusions seemed so real! I'm glad that you saw through them," I told her.
"They weren't aimed at me. I just saw you stop and figured out what was happening. We were lucky we found them out before they found us out, but now they know our secret and I don't know what their plans are. We'll have to think of something fast. Amber, you must be extra careful and trust your instinct more than your senses. Caledor, you'll have to think of a new way to stop them from scoring now that you can't use your Bubble Beam."
"What do you mean I can't use my Bubble Beam?!," Caledor asked, worried.
"Don't tell me you didn't notice when the Drowzee used Disable on you!," Ventura shouted.
"Err... well, I won't tell you," Caledor responded.
"Back to the drawing board with you! You should be able to recognize that move by now!," our coach complained. "How many times have you watched me use it?"
"Don't be so rude!," I told her.
"I don't want to be rude, but he needs to focus on the game. He must be aware of what's going on around him, and especially with him. He can't rely on my guidance all the time."
"I don't," Caledor said. "I can be quite creative on my own. I missed one, sorry. It won't happen again."
"It's ok," Ventura said. "I wonder what they have in mind now."
The bistle blowed, indicating that the minute off was over. We assumed our positions and resumed the game. Our attacking opponent took the ball again. I intercepted her, but she scratched my shoulder and took the ball from me while I was reacting to the pain. I heard Caledor shout from behind me: "Amber, don't be afraid to attack! These two know what they're doing!"
I wondered if I should attack. My long distance moves (Fire Blast and Hidden Power) were both super effective against Sneasels. I didn't want to use those moves against her. There was no reason to do that, since this was just a game. I decided to chase the Sneasel and try to 'steal' the ball from her. I still had time for that. I ran as fast as I could. Luck was on my side, for the Sneasel slowed down when she was halfway to the scoring area. She must have been wearing out from fighting her paralysis. I took the ball from her and passed it to Caledor. My friend started running, rolling the ball with his front legs, but he was intercepted by the Drowzee, who teleported right in front of him.
The Drowzee kicked the ball, sending it back to the Sneasel. His teammate kicked it again, and scored her second goal.
Was that thier new strategy? Marking us so that we couldn't move forward? In any case, we'd have to find a way to break through them fast. We were even again, and the following goal would define the winners.
It was my turn to take the ball and I made good use of it, kicking it to my right and running to the front so that Caledor could roll it back to me. It would have worked, if the Drowzee hadn't teleported between us just before the final pass. To make things worse, the Sneasel used her Faint Attack again, to catch not the ball, but me! She wrapped her arms around my head. When I asked what she was doing, she simply laughed. I couldn't see anything, and I doubted Ventura's messages could reach me with a dark pokemon blocking me. Maybe that was her plan. If it was so, I was going to wreck it. I opened my mouth widely and managed to turn my hear to the right just enough to bite the Sneasel's shoulder. I caught her by surprise, and she released me. I was satisfied. I'd broken free without using my type advantage, and I'd paid back her scratch, all at once.
I looked around to see where the ball was, and was amazed at what I saw: the ball was comming my way, floating on a wave which was also carrying the Drowzee! The wave was absorbed by the ground just before it reached me, leaving the ball in front of my feet.
"I did it!!," Caledor exclaimed joyfully. "What do you say, Amber? Wasn't that the most accurate Surf you've ever seen? Even Tsunami will be jealous!"
"IN YOUR DREAMS, KID!," Tsunami's voice came from the stalls.
I laughed, but I didn't waste the chance Caledor had given me. I took the ball and kicked it to the center. Caledor sent it forward with a Water Gun and I reached it again. The Drowzee appeared in front of me, but I was expecting him. I lifted him up, as I always did before using my Strength attack, but instead of throwing him away I just kicked the ball forward and put him down. Furious, the Drowzee used his Confusion attack on me. It hurt me, but I didn't lose my focus.
"What did you do that for?!," I shouted. The Drowzee simply smiled and teleported away. When I looked to the front, I could see the Sneasel had the ball again!
"You weren't there to get it," Caledor said. "But I'll fix this."
My friend sent the ball away with a Water Gun. Was that his idea of fixing it? The referee declared it an Offside. No one complained, because he'd just stated the obvious. The Drowzee went to the side of the field and passed the ball to the Sneasel. Then he teleported in order to recieve her pass. I ran and caught the ball before the Sneasel could get it back. With a powerful kick, I sent it to the other side of the field, where Caledor was waiting. My partner got the ball and started running forward. I ran faster and caught the ball. I kicked it to the front. The Drowzee teleported and intercepted the ball's path, but a Thunderbolt froze him in his place while I made for the ball again.
"You're welcome," Caledor said. "That's for the Confusion he used before."
I smiled, and kicked the ball again. The Sneasel showed up, but Caledor reached the ball before her and, with a stylish Water Gun, he sent the ball to the goal.


<Gabi's POV>

We'd won! The game had been amazing. I hadn't expected the competition to be so tough. The interaction between Caledor and Amber had surprised me too. They'd somehow managed to take their teamwork close to perfection. Was Ventura responsible for that? Well, I was sure she was partly responsible, but that must have required a lot of dedication and hard work from the players too. I was so proud of them!
Amber came to me and hugged me as soon as our victory was declared. Caledor and Ventura stood close to me. Caledor had a big smile on his face, and a strong red glow around his body.
"I know what this means," I told him. "And I think you couldn't be better prepared to handle it. What you did today proves it."
Caledor nodded. He looked happy with himself.
"The three of you have done an excellent job," I said to my pokemon. "I think we should go out and celebrate. What do you say?"
The response was a cloud of noises, but for their smiles and the tone of their voices I knew they loved the idea. We'd get something to eat and a new TM for Amber, maybe spend some time at the nearest forest and try Caledor's new moves, and then return to watch the last matches. I wasn't planning to play again that day. We'd got what we wanted and we'd have enough excitement already. As for Ventura, she looked proud of herself, and when she looked at me I could tell she was grateful to me for giving her that chance. I was happy that we'd begun to understand each other at last, and I was very proud of her. She was a great Venonat, and I knew she'd become a great Venomoth real soon.

Amber grew to level 31 and learned Flamethrower! As a TM, I decided to teach her Dragonbreath.
Caledor grew to level 31 and learned: Ember, Fire Spin, Flamethrower, Fire Blast and Sunny Day!
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Old Yesterday, 12:33 PM   #23
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<Gabi's POV>

"I knew this would happen," I said as I watched the news report. One of my dearest friends was listening to me, in more than one way. "We'd seen Team Rocket spread and attack different points, increasing their power. They've even managed to break into the Griffon Stadium twice and, for what I've heard, they're doing much more than just steal pokemon these days." My eyes were focused on the TV set, but I could feel my friend getting closer. Now she was right behind me. I felt her warmth. I turned to her.
"Was this what my presentiment was warning me about? Or was it..."
I recalled what I'd felt during the first round of the Griffon Games. For a moment, everything had looked different; even my friends had felt like strangers. Now I thought I could understand it at last; that hadn't been about Team Rocket. It had been about him. "Why don't I ever understand until it's too late?," I said to myself.
Lagi knew what I was going through. She would have known even without her powers: she'd had to help me get up that morning, since I'd felt too weak to get up on my own. Thet would happen either when it was too hot or when I was emotionally tired. And it was cold outside. She knew about my feelings, and she had the right to know the reason I felt that way. I talked to her again.
"I've never told you about my brother, but you must have felt it when I thought about him."
Lagi nodded.
"I think I'll tell you the whole story one of these days. Maybe even later today. But the important thing is... I failed him. I was unable to help him when he was crying for help. And now I've probably failed one of my closest friends. Wait, it's not fair that I'm telling you this. You were also hurt in your own way and you're still trying to help me. I shouldn't be thinking of myself that much. After all, Edie is your daughter."
Lagi embraced me and I wept. I think she wept too, but she had the feeling that everything would end well. She shared that feeling with me, and then I remember I'd had the same feeling upon returning to this reality. My arms released Lagi's body and hers released mine. I fetched some paper napkins and cleaned my face.
"So far he's the only human in Ulthuan who has hugged me and seen me cry," I commented. "I must do something for him. I can't let him end up like my brother. Well, maybe I'm overreacting. When I talked to Diana I felt history was repeating itself, but maybe it was not. Maybe it was just a small crisis and it's already over. I really hope that's the case; he doesn't deserve being lost in an empty and meaningless existence. He deserves the best things life has to offer."
Lagi smiled, on the outside and inside.
"I guess his pokemon will help him too; each of them is great in a different way, not to mention he has probably the only other pokemon who can reach into both feelings and the forces of nature just like you."
I felt Lagi's deep respect for Diana as I pronounced those words.
"So you think they'll be fine?," I asked her. She didn't nod, but she let me know her hope was great.
"I want to see him now. And talk to him," I said. "But right now the people in Selenia need us. We must help them."
I went to the mirror to check if my face was dry and white again, and turned on my gear for a massive transmission. Not for the first time and certainly not for the last time, I summoned all of the trainers who had a connection to the Dragon Tamers.
"I just hope he comes along," were my last words before calling for all my pokemon and heading for Selenia on my Pidgeot's back.

Lots of different thoughts occupied my mind on the journey: hopes of not being spotted by Team Rocket before landing, memories of my past encounters with them, together with a deep compassion towards Pidgeot who had experienced the worst at their hands, hope for the people of Selenia, and for all of us, and some unrelated thoughts too. I thought of the time I'd spent in Bei and how that had brought me closer to Ventura, I thought of her upcomming evolution (if I'd got her right, she really wanted to evolve), and also of the Griffon Games, which I had to keep working on even when I was no longer in them. It had been really hard to face one of my best friends; now I understood what Amber had felt the last time she battled in the Lava Room. I was glad that was over. There would be other tournaments in the future, but I hoped I wouldn't have to go against Alex again. I also tried to picture Scott giving a prize to himself: it would be funny to see that. Of course, I thought of Ryan too.
Pidgeot and I managed to find a clear spot and nothing happened when we landed. I got down from Pidgeot's back and let the rest of my pokemon out of their pokeballs. I looked around.
"Where shall we go now?," I asked, more to myself than to my pokemon. At that moment, an image formed in my mind: a tower, with a very large red and white antenna on its top. I looked at Ventura.
"A Radio Tower?," I asked her.
"Nat!," she said, nodding.
"Why do you want us to go there?"
I expected her to hurl another image at me, but instead she made a screeching sound and pointed to her right. I followed the direction she was pointing at, and saw my Ninetales running.
"Hey, wait!," I shouted. "We're in this together!"

<Ninetales's POV>

I didn't want my trainer to think I didn't respect her, so I stopped. What I wanted was to draw her attention to the Radio Tower and I'd succeeded. And why did I want to go there? Well, I guess the answer would be that I smelt trouble there. I had already seen Rockets try to take over a radio tower and I knew those guys don't learn from their past losses. They'd definitely want to take control of this radio station while strengthening their grasp on the city. I let Gabi follow me to the tower, and I proved I was right: the man guarding the entrance was wearing a black suit with a red R on it. So they'd gone further this time: they were already in control of the radio tower.
Of course, I could have sneaked past the guard and see what was going on inside; but the others wouldn't be able to follow me, and I didn't want to face a building full of Rockets all by myself. I could have also caught the guards attention and driven him away from his post, but that would mean missing all the action. So I stayed with my team and watched my trainer handle the situation.
The guard saw us comming and ordered us to stop. I wonder how he found the guts to shout at someone with 10 pokemon, some of which had impressive looks (while some others were stonger than we looked). I'll grant him that, he had courage; but he didn't seem to have the skills to back it up. Well, we'd see that soon. Maybe he, too, was stronger than he seemed to be. The man picked something from his belt, and then stretched out his arm to reveal a pokeball, out of which came... a Beedrill? How insulting! A simple Roar was enough to make the bug fly away in fear. The Rocket shouted awful things at his pokemon, but the Beedrill didn't return. "It's funny how things work out," I thought. "It seems I've just set a pokemon free from Team Rocket!" All of a sudden I felt happier with myself than I'd ever thought I could be; and the best thing is I hadn't expected that to happen at all.

<Ventura's POV>

The guard got furious! He picked another pokeball and it looked like he was sending his best pokemon out. It turned out to be an Arbok. I hoped Ninetales didn't scare it this time. I wanted to battle a fellow Poison type pokemon. To my luck, Gabi said exactly what I wanted to hear: "Ventura, go!"

vs

The Arbok wrapped itself around me, showing me how strong his grasp was. He made it hard for me to breathe, but I put myself together and used my Giga Drain. I didn't want to use strong attacks until I knew what the Arbok was capable of. The snake pressed tighter and thrust its teeth into me. Then I decided I'd waited long enough and attacked him with Psychic. The effect was good, but not as good as I hoped. The Arbok was much stronger than me. Without releasing me, my opponent bagen to shake and soon the ground started shaking too! I'd had more than enough. I could disable its Earthquake, but even its Wrap would bring me down. If I tried to teleport away, it would reach me (it was much faster than me), and I hadn't developed a good teleporting strategy yet. The only chance I had was to confuse it, so I used Supersonic, hoping that the Arbok would be unable to evade it while holding me. It worked! My ultrasound waves raced through the Arbok's body, getting it confused and forcing it to release me.
The Kobra tried to use Earthquake again, but only shook the ground under himself. I used my chance to blast the Arbok with Psychic again. Then my opponent tried to bite me, but... Sylvan got in his way! I realized I had underestimated my friend. Sylvan cried when the Arbok bit her. I felt sorry for her, but that wasn't the time to worry about her. I had to take advantage of the time she had bought me. I concentrated all my thoughts (and hopes) in a last Psychic attack. It worked: the Arbok fainted immediately.


Both Sylvan and I grew to level 31!

The Rocket guard gave me a terrified look and ran inside the building. I walked to my friend and thanked her for what she'd done.
"You're much braver than I thought," I told her.
"You would have done that too," she said with a smile. I ran out of words.
I sent a psychic signal for Gabi and the others to follow me inside the tower, but they all stood still, staring at me. I wondered what was going on. Then I felt it: the change I'd been longing for. Soon, I was surrounded by white light and...

<Gabi's POV>

I could see Ventura's joy and I was happy for her. She didn't wait to try her new wings on a circular flight around me. But she knew as well as I did that it wasn't time to celebrate yet. We had to enter the radio tower and stop what Team Rocket was doing in there, whatever it was. But before going inside, there was something I wanted to do.
I opened my bag and took a special TM from it. It had been hard for me to get it, and I'd been saving it for the moment Ventura was ready for it. I gave the TM to her.
"It's a special Dragon Tamers TM," I told her. "Ninetales and I got it for you. I mean, he agreed to give the gems he got for winning the race as a part of the payment."
Ventura looked at me and then at Ninetales. The proud warrior looked a bit nervous, but he responded to Ventura's look with a smile. Ventura flew right into my arms and I hugged her. Her body was harder than before, but also smoother. It felt nice to touch her.
Ventura said something to Ninetales and he replied. I don't know what they said, but for the tone of their voices it sounded like they were joking. That didn't surprise me: those two were not the best at showing their emotions. I asked Ventura to use the TM. The small, sphere-shaped machine glowed when it was activated, and then it became completely black.
I looked at my Venomoth and spoke to her.
"You can use your new power to regain some of your health," I said. "It's not noon yet, so it should work quite well. Please stay here for a while and recover your energy. You can join us later."
Ventura shook her head. For what I saw, she was determined to go inside the tower with us.
"I understand you, Ventura, but you're very weak from your last battle!," I argued. "That Arbok hurt you a lot and I don't want anything to happen to you."
Something told me to wait. It was not a voice; it was more like an intention, the certainty of being required not to move yet. It was obviosly Ventura's request; that kind of messages was her trademark. I knew we didn't have much time, but I agreed to wait for a few seconds to see what she had in mind. That's how I saw Ventura absorb the rays of the sun and use them to restore her health. It was a wonderful sight.
"Venomoth!," Ventura exclaimed about 15 seconds later and, without waiting any longer, she flew through the now unguarded door. My other pokemon and I followed her. I knew she couldn't have recovered all of her energy yet, but there was no way to convince her to stay behind and, besides, she seemed to be ready to endure an eventual surprise attack. As long as she didn't battle, she'd be fine.
The entrance hall was empty. The place didn't look very different from the first radio station we'd been to and, if I was right, the control room should be in one of the upper floors. I could see an elevator, but I thought it would be heavily guarded (it could even have cameras and alarms). I thought there should be a safer way to get to the control room.
There had to be stairs somewhere, but they'd be just as unsafe as the lift: they'd grant the Rockets more time to locate us and an easy way to surround us. I could defeat some of them, but then my pokemon would be too tired to confront the final test, and those who controlled this operation would have gained even more power. I had to go straight to the source of the problem. But how?
"I'm hesitating too much," I thought. "The guard must have alerted the others and they'll be here at any moment." Then an idea came to me. I turned to my Venomoth again.
"I think you can still help us after all," I told her. "Can you find the control room?"
Ventura nodded. Her eyes pointed to nowhere for a few seconds and then she looked back at me and nodded again. She transmitted the answer to me. No matter how many times I'd received information from her, it still felt weird. I could feel the control room... right below me! I had been wrong all along. This radio tower had the control room located in the first basement! I called back all my other pokemon, and asked Ventura if she could teleport us there. She nodded and, in a blink, we were inside the control room.
I saw two Rockets arguing. They didn't look like grunts, but they didn't seem to have very high ranks either. They must have been something in between. One of them was saying something like "I can't believe they haven't amplified the signal yet! They should have sent us real technicians, not these useless nerds!" But the argument was interrupted as soon as the two men saw me.
"What are you doing here?!," one of them shouted.
"I should be asking that to you," I responded.
"You won't be so cocky once I've finished with you," the angry man said, reaching for his belt; but his partner stopped him.
"Wait," he said. "I have a better idea. Let's test you know what with the intruder before trying it on the whole city."
"What? Oh! You mean..."
The Rocket didn't finish the sentence. Not even a second passed before his partner shouted out: "Hypno, come here!"
A Hypno of an amazing size appeared right in front of us. It looked as big as the Hypno who had attacked me at the entrance of the Tower of Hoeth. In fact, I couldn't say for sure that it was not the same Hypno, though I thought it was unlikely that I'd encounter it again so soon.
"What do you think of our new toy?," the calmer Rocket asked me. "The boss honored us with this prize pokemon and we'll show her we're worthy of her trust."
He'd said her, so he was not talking about Giovanni. The 'boss' he referred to must have been an executive. It didn't matter. Why was I getting distracted so easily that day? Was it because of Ryan? "Stop it!," I shouted in my mind. I had to focus on the Hypno; find a way to defeat it. I sent out Lagi and Ninetales. They'd beaten a Hypno just as strong as this one (whether it was the same Hypno or not didn't matter), so they'd probably make it this time too.

& vs

I knew I could trust Ninetales's speed, so I told him to use a Confuse Ray. That way, the Hyno's powers could turn against it. Ninetales did so without even waiting for me to finish the phrase. The Confuse Ray hit the Hypno, but that didn't stop it from attacking Ninetales with Psychic. Lagi pounced on the Hypno with a Slam attack. That was quite unusual, but it proved to work better than a special attack. Ninetales didn't waste time and used his Hidden Power, which was even more effective being a Ghost type.
Things were going quite well. Even if this was the same Hypno they'd faced before, Ninetales and Lagi were using different attacks this time, making themselves quite unpredictable. But things changed when the Hypno disabled Ninetales's Hidden Power. I told Lagi to use Outrage. That worked quite well, but it had a drawback too: now the Hypno would know that Lagi would keep trashing for a while, and she'd be confused afterwards.
Even with Lagi being able to get rid of her confusion rather easily (which she had proved herself capable of), she'd have to stop moving for a while in order to regain control, becoming an easy target for the Hypno. On the other hand, that wasn't that bad, since she had more endurance than Ninetales. I told myself to stop speculating and try to take advantage of the present situation. I told Ninetales to use Double Team. That would practically force the Hypno to focus on Lagi and not him.
The Hypno started glowing and trapped Lagi in a Thunder Wave. Lagi's trashing slowed down and that allowed the Hypno to Teleport away from her, but didn't save it from Ninetales's Fire Blast. The Hypno was almost finished, but it didn't stop attacking. In fact, it somehow located the real Ninetales and stared at him, without making a move, until Ninetales fell to the ground. The two Team Rocket members started laughing, but right at that moment Lagi hit the Hypno with Outrage once more, sending it crashing against a wall.


When Lagi stopped spinning I looked at the Hypno and confirmed it was unconscious. I rushed to check on Ninetales and, to my relief, found that he was asleep, but otherwise fine.

Both Lagi and Ninetales grew to level 59!

"You blew it!," the most volatile Rocket shouted to his partner. "You and your stupid idea! Now how are we going to put the whole city to sleep?"
"Reveal all our plans to our enemy, will you?," the other one complained. "Do something useful now or she'll get away!"
The first Rocket reached for his belt again to reveal not a pokeball, but a gun! Fortunately, Ventura reacted quickly and sent me an image of Sylvan. I got the message immediately and sent out my Ivysaur, telling her to use her Sleep Powder on my two attackers. That saved my life. The trainer/trainee relationship between me and Ventura was now more unclear than ever (and it had always been quite unclear), but I didn't care. Two minds think better than one and we had proved that once more.
"We've wrecked their plans for now," I concluded. "Ventura, please, take that Hypno away from here before it wakes up. I'll take the others and get out before more of them come. We'll meet outside."
Ventura perched on the Hypno and teleported away. I didn't know where she was taking it, but I was sure it would need some time to find its masters again. I called back Ninetales, Lagi and Sylvan and ran through the stairs to the ground floor. Strangely, no one tried to stop me. Either they didn't know where I was or they were too busy trying to amplify the signal to worry about an intruder who would have been taken town by then. They had no idea that all their efforts were already being wasted.
I got out of the radio tower and met Ventura on the street. She looked quite tired, and I couldn't blame her. I reckoned we'd done a good job. There were still many TR members all around, but there were also enough trainers to take care of them, or at least to keep them occupied long enough for me to take care of something I just couldn't postpone any longer. So, I sent out Lagi again and asked her for a big favor: I asked her to help me find Ryan.
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Old Yesterday, 12:34 PM   #24
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<Lagi's POV>

Once the crisis in Selenia was over, we all agreed that it was time to take a break; even when we suspected it wouldn't last, we needed all the time we could use to rest and prepare for whatever came next. We still had a few days before the next round of the Griffon Games began, so we went back to Caledor, the place which had become home for all of us.
Many would say things went back to normal during that brief period of calm. Not exactly. Well, we did resume our normal lives (Gabi even bought a Water Shield for Ninetales and Amber and gave Iael the Rare Candy she got from Goldenrod), but too much had happened recently for our feelings to settle again; especially Gabi's. Behind her radiant smile hid a tempest of mixed feelings. I could only guess the reasons for that. This time, she wasn't talking to me. She wanted to face her problems on her own.
She didn't even tell me what had happened to her brother; knowing that might have helped me understand her better, and help her too. But some of the other reasons for her confusion were evident. First there was Team Rocket, who seemed to be growing in power and getting closer to us, and had become completely unpredictable; that got to all of us in different ways. And there were also some different feelings; the most confusing of all, which were shouting out but were so muffled that I could hardly make them out (and I didn't know if I should).
I finally decided to leave Gabi alone for a while. She had the right to sort out her feelings on her own, and I wasn't supposed to get in the middle. If she needed me, I'd know it. The rest of the team didn't require me at that moment either, so I went out to take some fresh air. Only Ninetales caught up with me as I was leaving.
"Does Gabi know you're doing this?," he asked me.
"Of course she does," I answered. "I wouldn't leave without telling her. She'd worry about me and that's the last thing I want."
"It must be hard, isn't it?"
"What do you mean?"
"Knowing what everyone feels. Living with that. It's just... I look at everyone and it feels so strange! They all look worried and confused and some even scared, and you know I'm surprised at this mainly because I've only just started looking at them and didn't know how much they could tell just through their looks. But you... you're dealing with this all the time, and I guess you get much more than what eyes can tell. So, isn't it hard on you?"
Strangely, I didn't realize I was smiling until my friend returned my smile.
"I'm impressed," I told him. "All this time and you're still full of surprises. Yes, it is quite hard on me, but it's rewarding. I get to share a special bond with those close to me that I wouldn't change for anything."
Ninetales smiled again. It was conforting. I wished he'd smile more often.
"Would you like to come with me?," I offered.
"Sure!," he said. "It beats watching Tsunami being silent."
I didn't like Ninetales's sarcasm much, but I let him be. That was the way he was. Gabi usually said no one would ever imagine that such a proud pokemon had ever been shy, but I knew he was still shy in a way; showing his feelings made him uncomfortable, and for that reason the fact that he wanted to spend some time with me surprised me even more. There was something really admirable about Ninetales: in spite of his tough and sometimes cocky exterior, he was a being who was always trying to improve himself.
We started walking slowly, but Ninetales got bored soon. He asked me if I wanted to fly.
"I like flying better than walking," I told him. "But what about you?"
"I prefer running all the way," he answered. "I'll wait until you're up in the air and then I'll start. See if you can keep up."
"Why does everything have to be a competition for you?"
"It doesn't. I'm not competing now. I'll wait for you if you're far behind."
"Don't expect to leave me that far behind," I warned him, deciding that a little competition wouldn't hurt me.
I soared into the air and then started flying forward. Down on the street, Ninetales caught up with me in no time. He hadn't bluffed; it was really hard for me to keep up with him, but I accepted the challenge as it came and did my best to mantain the highest speed I could reach. That took all my concentration, casting all my fears and worries away from my mind; I was not even paying attention to those who were looking. It felt great to leave troubles behind, if only for a few minutes. It was liberating. Even the city below me faded away from my thoughts. There was nothing, and nobody, that could bother me; only the sky and me, just like the old times.
As I flew, memories came to me which I hadn't recalled for a long time. Memories of a life without Gabi and the team, without a clear purpose; when the sky was my home and my best friend, sometimes my only friend. I remembered that, back then, my main quest had been to find a meaning for my life; to find out who I was and why I was so different from everyone else, even other Dratinis; why I had that hunger for the sky, and the posibility to explore it, and to get in touch with its elements and even command them.
And, above all, I'd wanted to know why I was the only one who felt both sides of all my actions... who knew how everything I did affected others. To most of those questions, I'd never found answers. But the last one had ended up answering the first one (the one about finding a meaning for my life). When I realized that being aware of the needs of the others usually led me to a way of helping them, when the pain of other beings taught me to be careful not to hurt them, when I learned that my elemental powers could be destructive but they could also be used for protecting nature and those she nurtures, I realized that my life finally had a meaning and, with that, there was no actual need for finding the answers to my other questions.
Reaching back to the source of who I was now made my heart feel warmer, but it also brought me back to reality. I looked around. Ninetales was way ahead of me, and we were nearing the outskirts of the city. My friend had got as distracted as myself.
"Ninetales, stop!," I shouted. "We've gone too far!"
Ninetales seemingly defied the law of inertia by stopping dead in his track. He looked around and walked back until he was right below me.
"You're right," he said. "We must go back now. Lady Vulpix may need us."
We went back on our tracks until something caught my attention. It was Gabi's presence!
"Gabi's close!," I told Ninetales. "Turn right and we'll meet her."
We found our trainer in no time. She noticed our astonishment, and spoke to us.
"You're not the only ones who need some fresh air," she said. "Besides, I've realized I'm not going to achieve anything by sitting at home. If Team Rocket strikes again we'll be out to confront them. As for the rest... I've found that the mirror is hopeless at giving answers, so I'd better go and see Ryan again. I don't know how he will react after what happened, but nothing good will come out of staying motionless. In the best of cases, I'd end up in Bei again."
Her comment made me laugh. Ninetales felt uncomfortable and asked me what Bei was.
"It's a long story," I explained. "And still, I don't know exactly what it is. Probably a world in another dimension or something. Gabi somehow vanished once and Ventura and I tracked her to Bei."
"And where was I when that happened?"
"You were with us at Griffon Gate, but for some reason you and the others didn't notice what happened. It lasted a whole day for us, but it was only a few seconds for everyone else."
"I see," he responded. "She looked strange for a moment... like absent. But I had no idea." He was hurt, and I could tell why. He was hurt in his pride for not noticing what happened, and for not being able to help us. I felt sorry.
"It was all too strange," I said. "I don't know why it happened nor if it will ever happen again. What I do know is that whenever Gabi or anyone else needs you, you'll be there for them, as you always have."
"That gift of yours does get annoying sometimes, you know," he complained.
"Sorry," was all I could reply.
"Ok, let's go," said Gabi, comming out of her own thoughts. But before we could go anywhere, her gearphone rang. When she picked it up, I recognized Scott's voice. He told Gabi that Team Rocket were attacking again; this time not only Selenia, but also Tor Syle and various spots in Chrace, Cothique, and even Tiranoc. Gabi promised to do everything that was in her hands to help. Scott told her not to go anywhere alone, but she pointed out that she had 10 great friends with her and that we'd all look after each other. I thought that would sound strange to Scott, but I couldn't be sure, since he wasn't close. After a short argument, Gabi said that she would aid those still in Selenia, and turn to him for advice once no one was in danger.
When Gabi hung up, she was angry. Her words let me know her anger was directed to herself rather than Scott. "I knew they attack again, but I didn't expect it to be like this," she said. "We should have never left Selenia."
I tried to calm her down, but I couldn't. The fact that I didn't hold her accountable in the least for what was happenning didn't help. I wished I could talk to her in words. Still, about a minute later her rage ceased burning and she spoke again.
"Standing here and scolding myself won't help, right?," she reflected. "It's time to do something."
With these words, Gabi released Pidgeot from his pokeball and asked him to take us back to Selenia. Ninetales returned to his pokeball, but I decided to fly at Pidgeot's side. I wanted to make sure that he and Gabi were all right; Team Rocket always made their blood boil, and not without a reason.
We were nearing Selenia when the distinctive mark of a Fire Blast passed right between us. We descended immediately, to see what was going on, only to find a Team Rocket member giving orders to a Houndoom. When he saw us, he told us that no civilians were allowed to cross the skies of Selenia, and that he'd have to put us down. The Houndoom prepared to attack again.
"I'll take care of this," said Pidgeot, stepping forward to confront the Dark pokemon.

vs

The Houndoom fired again. This time, the Fire Blast hit Pidgeot. Being in an almost unbearable pain, Pidgeot hit his attacker with a Mud-Slap. Even when it did more damage than usual, the attack was too weak to keep using it; but it was the best chance Pidgeot had to be saved from another Fire Blast. Knowing this, the Houndoom opted for a Faint Attack, which couldn't miss even if he was unable to see his target. The effect was not nearly as strong as that of the Fire Blast; but Pidgeot was already so weak that he had little chances of resisting another attack. Even so, he kept on fighting, using his Swift attack to weaken the Houndoom as much as he could.
At that moment Water Angel came out of her pokeball without being called. She couldn't let the Houndoom deal the final blow to Pidgeot. She prepared a Surf attack as fast as she could and unleashed all the power of the waves at once. The Houndoom couldn't resist it, and he fainted.


Pidgeot grew to level 43!
Water Angel grew to level 43 and learned Hydro Pump!

"Your power is so much greater than mine," Pidgeot said to Water Angel.
"It's not. It's just different," she answered. But Pidgeot didn't hear her. His pain was too great.
"We need to get help!," Water Angel screamed. "He needs medical attention now!"
Gabi put her arms around Pidgeot before returning him and Water Angel to their pokeballs. She was worried too. She gave me Pidgeot's pokeball and told me to take him to the Pokemon Center, but the Rocket stopped me.
"You're not going anywhere," he said as he picked a pokeball from his belt and sent out an Umbreon. Gabi sent out Ninetales.
"Go ahead," she said. "We'll be fine."
Ninetales nodded, showing me that he was prepared to face the Umbreon on his own. I was not so sure about that, but I left, knowing that Pidgeot needed me more at that moment.

<Ninetales's POV>

I watched my partner fly away, realizing I was up for one of the toughest battles of my life. It could have even been exciting if I hadn't been facing one of the purest forms of evil. I'd have to pull out all my tricks if I wanted to win this one. Luckily, for all the power the Umbreon wielded, I was faster than him. I knew I could take advantage of that. Besides, it was about noon, which meant I had the sun on my side. I felt I actually had a chance, and I went for it.

vs

I shot a Confuse Ray at the Umbreon, who responded with another Ghost type attack: Shadow Ball. So, the confusion had not affected the Umbreon too much, but it could still help me. I used Double Team to create 11 images of myself. In its confusion, it would be very hard for the Umbreon to tell which of his 12 attackers was real. To imporve the effect, I made all the holograms start running in different directions and I mixed up with them. That took up a lot of concentration, but it was worth it: the Umbreon's following Shadow Ball missed me by a mile.
I had my images perform my most powerful Fire attack along with me. It hit, but the effect could have been much better: the Umbreon's resistance to attacks was impressive. Then I remembered Umbreons are especially hard to take down, so I focused on enduring long enough to see my opponent fall.
All of a sudden, the Umbreon changed his strategy. He faded away from my sight and hit me straight on with a Faint Attack. Then I decided to try something different too, and hit my opponent with an Iron Tail. I hoped to lower his defenses, but they remained intact. Luckily, though, the Umbreon was still confused and his following Faint Attack backfired. I took my chance to use another Fire Blast and... I got lucky this time! It was a Critical Hit! Now I finally had the upper hand. But then the Umbreon caught me by surprise again... using one of my own attacks against me!
For a moment, everything turned black. I didnt know where I was or what had happened, but then I recognized the power that had engulfed me. It was equal to the power within me. And that meant I could master it. Many of my opponents had overriden a Confuse Ray, and so could I. I just had to do what I used to do with Quick Attack: get understand its nature deeply enough to track the attacker by its power. Of course, that's a hard task when you're confused. But didn't I have a Ghost type power inside me? That had to mean something. Or did my thoughts make no sense at all? I had to give it a try, even if I was not sure of what I was doing. It was my only chance. I had to let the ghostly enegy flow though me... out of me...
Hidden Power came out. My attack barely scratched the Umbreon, but it succeeded at getting me rid of my confusion. I was ready for anything the Umbreon could throw at me. Even so, he surprised me again by not throwing anything at me. I wasn't expecting him to use Moonlight, especially when the sun was shihing bright. But it seemed he had taken the same decision as I had: endure long enough to see his opponent fall. But I was determined to be the one to succeed at that. I hit the Umbreon with a Headbutt. It seemed I'd been the one to catch him by surprise this time: just what I'd wanted.
The Umbreon took some time to react, and I used that time to hit him with a Fire Blast again. My opponent didn't get to perform any attack. The power of my flames took him down immediately.


I grew to level 61!

The Rocket's face was red with anger. He reached for his belt again and revealed a gun. Without a thought, I pounced on the guy and threw him to the floor. The Rocket fired, but I'd thrown him off-balance and he was unable to aim. The bullet didn't kill anyone, but it grazed my right front leg. I couldn't keep myself from screaming, but then I chanelled the pain into a powerful Roar which scared the hell out of the Rocket. While he was screaming in panic, a vine came from behind and grabbed his weapon. It was Sylvan's. The Rocket managed to toss me aside and tried to run away, but was stopped by Lagi, who had just returned from the Pokemon Center. Sylvan used her Sleep Powder on the Rocket, who immediately collapsed on the floor.
"I'll call for Scott," Gabi said. "He'll know what to do. What I do know is that I'm not leaving this time."
Lagi came to me and asked me if I wanted a ride too. She also told me she was impressed at my bravery.
"As if you wouldn't have done the same," I told her. But my wounds hurt too much, so I stopped talking. Lagi understood. She always did.
"Would you please take Ninetales to the Pokemon Center too?," Gabi asked Lagi after ringing Scott up. "I'll reach you after Scott gets here. Oh, and let Ninetales choose a TM from there as soon as he can. We'll need as much power as we can get."
Those were sensible words. I let myself be sent into my pokeball and carried to the Pokemon Center by my partner. Once there, I'd be healed, the pain would cease and my mind would be clear enough to choose the best TM to help me in the upcomming war against Team Rocket.
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Old Yesterday, 12:35 PM   #25
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<Gabi's POV>

I could barely believe what had just happened, but the truth lay around me... around us. It was a day of dreams and nightmares. I think it could have been the happiest day of my life... if we hadn't been in the middle of a war. Against Team Rocket, nonetheless. I embraced Ryan as the music stopped. I didn't notice I was weeping until he looked at me.
"This is not because of the music, right?," Ryan asked. I shook my head as I pressed my eyelids tight for the tears to stop flowing.
"I felt something was troubling you as soon as I saw you," he said. "Will you tell me what it is?"
I nodded. "Let me find the words," I said as I took in some air and tried to clear my thoughts. I looked at Lagi and asked her to come closer, since she, too, wanted and deserved to listen to what I was going to say. Then I started.
"I think that what gets at me the most is what's going on around us," I said. "I'm not ashamed to say I'm scared. By now I guess everyone is."
Ryan held me in his arms. I looked up at his eyes, showing him I hadn't finished.
"There's something else," I told him. "I never got to tell you why I was so scared when you... you know. I don't think either of you wants to look back to that moment, but you deserve to know why I acted the way I did. So I'm going to tell you, both of you, something I haven't told anyone before. This could bring us more problems with Team Rocket if they're listening, but I don't think they can hate us more than they already do, anyway."
For a split second, I giggled. The ability my laughter had to come out at the most unexpected moments still managed to surprise me.
"Sorry about that, I shouldn''t be laughing," I said.
"No, it's ok," Ryan answered.
"Well, here I go at last." Another giggle escaped, but I ignored it and went on. "You may know I haven't always lived in Caledor. What I don't think you know is that my life was a mess before I came here. My parents got divorced and I... well, I was the strong one in my family, so I had to hold each of them up when they broke down, and do as much as I could to protect my brother from getting hurt. Yes, I have a brother; 3 years younger than me. Or had, I don't know."
I closed my eyes. I didn't want to see Ryan's reaction to what I'd just said.
"Guille was more than a brother to me. He was also my best friend. We shared everything. We talked about things we wouldn't mention to anyone else. Eventually we'd spend a whole night talking from bed to bed. Sometimes our conversations became so deep that the rest of the world stopped existing. Just like..."
I looked at Ryan to see if he knew what I meant.
"Just like when we kissed," I finished. "I felt I was no longer in a faraway city taken over by Team Rocket. I was with you and that was all that counted. Well, of course my feelings for Guille were totally different, but the sensation was similar."
I spoke faster. I didn't want to stop there, in case I'd said something wrong. I wanted Ryan and Lagi to hear the end of the story. My story.
"Of course, I couldn't save Guille from falling apart when I was falling apart myself. I knew what was happenning to us had happened to others thoudsands of times, and I knew I'd get over it; but I didn't know how, nor when. So, I couldn't stop him from being hurt, and he reacted to that by spending less time with me. He made new friends, which I'd have been glad about if they'd ever talked to me (the few times they came over, they treated me like a wall); and if Guille hadn't suddenly start spending hours, and even whole nights, outside with them, without telling me or anyone where they were going.
I trusted my brother, but I didn't trust his friends. Julian was the one I trusted the least. For the few things Guille told me about him, and the few times I got to see him, I could see he was a violent person. One day Guille ended up telling me you have to show others you're strong enough to hurt them in order to gain their respect; the fact that he thought that made me feel terrible, and I knew he had learned that from Julian; I knew that was the way things worked with him. I told Guille that most people were not like that, and that I'd never be a friend of someone who doesn't respect me unless I can hurt him, but after a long discussion he only got to the conclusion that things were different for women.
That was the first time I felt I couldn't help my brother. But things hadn't even started. One day I arrived home earlier, and found him taking money from the drawer where he kept his socks. I wondered how long he'd been hiding it there, but what I asked him was what he was going to do with it. He said he was going to give it to Julian, because he needed it urgently. I told him not to do that; I knew Julian would never return it, and he had never done anything good for Guille. I told him so, and we had an argument. He took the money, but a few days later I found out he'd just changed his hideout. Julian never received it."
Ryan looked puzzled. I guess he hadn't expected me to tell him the story of my life all of a sudden, and for no apparent reason.
"I guess you're wondering what this has to do with you," I deduced. "Well, the thing is that, the next time Guille went to visit Julian, he didn't find him at home. This is one of the last things he told me. He went out, wondering why his friend had left before he arrived, when he heard a shot in a nearby alley. He thought of running, but his curiosity was stronger. When he got there, he saw a man dressed in black, carrying a gun, and a body lying on the floor, bleeding. Then he realized it was Julian! He should have run, and he knew it, but his legs would not respond. The man in black saw him. He had a red 'R' on his shirt. He shot Guille too, and ran away before anyone else could see him."
Ryan's face was now white.
"But he lived, right?," he asked. "You said he'd told you..."
"Yes, he lived. The bullet didn't strike any vital organs. A woman saw him a short time later -Guille didn't know how long, but it was soon enough- and called an ambulance. My mom was called from the hospital, and she called my dad too. I went with them. I'd never been so scared before. But the worst came later."
"Later?"
"Yes, after Guille was allowed to leave the Hospital. They gave him some pills for the pain. Lots of them, actually, in case it lasted long."
For the expression of Ryan's face, I could tell he'd figured out what had happened next.
"Exactly," I said. "Guille was never the same, though we attributed that to the shock he'd been through. Even so, I was hurt when he said he'd rather stop conversing with me in the nights, because he didn't care for the things we talked about anymore and he preferred to sleep. The more I tried to talk to him, the more evasive he became. Until one day he finally told me what was going on, and what he said made my heart shatter into small pieces. He'd lost the ability to feel. His whole life had been reduce to boredom and self pity. His only fear was to continue living that way. He said he'd rather die, but he didn't want to kill himself because he believed he had a chance to go back to his old life, a life he could barely even remember.
I didn't know what to do. I don't remember what I said, but what I know is I didn't manage to help him. He was a great part of my life fading away, a dying soul I couldn't save. My own brother. That was the worst thing that ever happened to me. And it reached its worst point a few days later, when I found him lying on the bathroom floor, unconscious. He had a nearly empty jar of pain-killers in his hand. I called both my parents. I also called an ambulance. I was desperate. I was so shocked I couldn't see anything around me. I was sinking inside myself, only to emerge when I heard my dad say the pills he was taking couldn't possibly had caused that. I didn't know how long it had been since I phoned him, nor when we'd got in his car, but I somehow put 2 and 2 together. I realized I had taken the jar of pills from Guille's hand and was still carrying it. It had only 2 pills left. I took one of them out of the container and rubbed the white surface with my fingers."
"It was purple," Ryan concluded.
"Yes, it was. Now you know why I was in panic when that happened to you. I was reliving my past and I was terrified at the thought of losing you the same way I'd lost my brother. My dad sued the doctor who gave Guille those pills, but now I know it was actually Team Rocket's fault. Guille didn't die, but he didn't come out of his comma either. I think I would have received news if anything had changed, and it may sound stupid, but I still hold the hope that he wakes up some day and becomes the same lively person he used to be. Life with my mum became unbearable, and it wasn't any better when I was with my dad. So, when I got a latter signed by Scott Mc Henry of the Dragon's Guild, saying he had read my essays on Pokemon-human interaction and he had a place for me as a researcher in his guild, in a nearly mythical land called Caledor, I took the chance. He'd even offered me a pokemon to help me in my research: one whose life had been shattered by Team Rocket; I wonder if coincidences exist.
I didn't know if I was doing the right thing by leaving, but I knew I would have died if I'd stayed and, this way, I could actually have a life of my own. I'd never forget what had happened, but I'd have the chance to do something good for the world. And time proved me right, though I had to drift into another dimension in order to find that out. Long story. I'll tell you some day. And above all, I see I was right in comming here, because this was the place where I found you."
It was so comforting, so relieving, to finally be able to talk about that. The buried pain of a whole life melted away in a life-giving kiss. Ryan and I, the moment we were sharing... it was a miracle.
"Wow!," was all I could say once our lips stopped touching. Ryan smiled, and that gave me the courage to say one last thing.
"You've just seen the darkest depths of my soul, and filled them with light. Please promise, once this is all over, to be here with me so that the light never fades away."
"I promise," Ryan said.
I stood up. "I need to go to the Pokemon Center and see how Pidgeot and Ninetales are doing. Are you comming with me?"
He came, and I was glad he did, since the news I got there was not as good as I'd expected. Ninetales's leg would take time to heal. The bullet had cut his muscular tissues and some days would pass before he could run again. That was one of the worst things that could happen to a pokemon who loved running so much. But it could have been even worse. He could have lost his life and he knew it; but he'd risked everything to save me. He was far greater than I'd thought, and I couldn't possibly make up for what he'd done.
Pidgeot's situation was better, but he'd also need time to recover from his wounds, and he wouldn't let anyone treat him in the normal pokemon area. I was stunned when I heard that. Why would my Pidgeot have such a whim? That wasn't like him. Then Nurse Joy told me he insisted on going to the pool sector, which held water pokemon in recovery. Then I figured out what was going on.
"Of course!," I exclaimed. "Please don't get him out of there. He's waiting for one of my other pokemon. I'll take her to him."
"Oh, sure," said Nurse Joy with an astonished look on her face. She then guided us to the pool sector.
"What's this all about?," Ryan asked me.
"You'll see," I said. As soon as we reached the pool, Water Angel popped out of her pokeball on her own. She jumped into the water and swam to the border of the pool, where Pidgeot was lying. Both pokemon looked happy to be together.
Ryan looked puzzled. I explained.
"I can only begin to imagine how this whole situation affects Pidgeot, after all he's suffered in the hands of Team Rocket. They've hurt me a lot, but I've never lived with them. In a moment like this, he needs Water Angel close to him. They're as different as 2 pokemon can get, but they share a very special bond since..."
My look turned from my pokemon to Ryan as I gave him a big smile. "Since they saved each other's life, a long time ago," I finished. Ryan smiled too.
"We now know how that feels," he said. We could have enjoyed the moment a bit longer, but both our gearphones rang at the same time. We picked them up and saw the call was from... Scott! Scott was using the phone and making a massive call my style! This had to be important.
And it was. He was calling for all the Dragon Tamers to penetrate the new headquarters of Team Rocket. We'd form 3 groups to execute an organized assault. He gave us the location of the meeting point, where we'd gather that same night. Scott was undoubtedly an excellent strategist and I was glad that he was coordinating this operation. If we had to go to war, it had better be at his side. Ryan and I agreed to join the second wave. Lagi and Pegasus could take us to the hanger. I hated leaving Pidgeot and Ninetales at the Pokemon Center, but I knew the nurses and Water Angel would take care of them. I asked Nurse Joy to let Ninetales choose a TM as soon as he was able to. I went to see Ninetales too, and promised I'd come back for him soon. (That promise implied that I'd live to come back for him). A few minutes later, I was sitting on Lagi's back for the second time and leaving Selenia.

<Lagi's POV>

We left a city in ruins. Pain, sorrow, fear... I could feel it all around me. I wished it would stop, but all I could do was exactly whatI was doing: try to stop Team Rocket, so that this didn't get any worse. Gabi was afraid too, and I couldn't blame her. So where my friends; even if they inside their pokeballs, their fear could be felt. And so was I. Especially now that I knew what Team Rocket had done to Gabi, and I knew they were capable of worse... far worse. There was no way to assure we were going to live through that, but I had to have faith; we all had to, for if we didn't, we were already lost. We needed to trust ourselves, feel that we'd make it. Gabi had hope and she'd somehow managed to share that hope with Ryan. That made me feel better. I needed to hold onto that hope too. We'd all live to see another sunrise; we'd see the world in peace.
I'd be able to embrace my daughters again. Edie... ever since she was born she'd done nothing but make me proud; she'd been through the worst and come out even stronger, always ready to do good no matter the obstacles, always believing in life, always full of love to share. And Mystic... so young and pure, so full of life. She was going through this terrible test too soon. I didn't even know where she was at that moment, but I tried to send her all my love; let her know that I'd always be there for her. My strongest hope was that Mystic could make it through this war in one piece (in body, mind and soul); that she was able to emerge stronger, just like her sister had; that she wouldn't let the ghosts of these days haunt her and steal her love for life.
I also thought of my friends back at the Pokemon Center, and wished them the strength to overcome all their wounds, both physical and emotional. Pidgeot had experience on dealing with dark feelings, and having Water Angel by his side he'd almost certainly ba all right. Water Angel never felt that her actions were good enough... great enough, but the world had much to thank her. I took a mental note to tell her that once we got back. As for Ninetales... everyone knew he was the proudest, strongest and fastest member of the team, and also the most reliable in a battle situation. But he was still a novice at dealing with painful feelings. He'd need help, and I'd do my best to help him.
All those inspiring thoughts took me to the meeting point, where I was forced to face the present, which was made worse by the news that the first wave had failed. Discouragement and panic echoed from virtually every trainer and pokemon present. "No!," I shouted. "If we lose the battle inside us, we'll lose the physical battle too. Don't let them get this victory. Have hope! For the world!" Only pokemon could understand my words, but the atmosphere became a bit lighter and trainers felt it somehow. I don't think their attitude could change by only getting a taste of my feelings, so maybe their hearts were open to the feelings of their pokemon. I hoped that was the case, for no evil force could ever break such a strong bond; it was something Team Rocket couldn't even hope to understand, and that might as well be the key to our success.
We left with the second wave. Some took off on Helicopters, guided by military pilots. Gabi chose to continue riding on my back. Something about those helicopters made her uneasy, but I couldn't figure out what it was, and I didn't feel it really mattered at that moment. Once we reached our destination, we had to spread in order to secure the hanger and let the hacker do his job. Before taking her assigned position, Gabi made for Ryan, and each of them reaffirmed their promise to live. The great test had started.
As soon as we were in position, Gabi called out the rest of the team. She told me to try to avoid battling at this point, since I was her strongest pokemon at that moment and she'd most likely need my power inside the base. She hated to talk about me that way, but she knew I understood her, and we both new, as much as we hated it, that everyone needs to wear a hard shield around their hearts in order to survive a war. Her feelings hadn't changed; she was just being sensible. Tsunami looked at her while she was speaking, and took her words as an implicit command for him to prepare for a fight. As the only Group B member who was still active, he felt responsible for protecting the rest of the team.
"I'll do it right this time," I heard him say.
"What do you mean?," I asked him.
"I messed up at the Tower of Hoeth. This time I'll do things right."
I couldn't believe that what had happened at the tower was still eating at him. I knew he felt horrible, but I'd attributed that to what we were all going through.
"Everyone makes mistakes," I told him. "Especially when we have to act fast. No one can blame you for that. Besides, things ended well back then, and so they will now."
"Once there, I didn't have much of a chance to think of what to do. That's true. But I should have prepared for that. If I had trained with Water Angel instead of making fun of her, I wouldn't have got poisoned. I wouldn't have lost my Mystic Water. I would have understood her signs and..."
"Stop it!," I shouted. "Those thoughts will only hurt you. You're healthy now, you got your Mystic Water back and you'll have the chance to train with Water Angel as much as you want once we get back. The tower is free and nothing was lost, so please quit punishing yourself."
Tsunami looked at me, stunned.
"You'd never shouted at me before..." he said. "I don't recall you shouting at any of us. Well, I guess I deserve it. Or at least I needed it. Well, at least it was you and not Ninetales. Don't tell him, but I wish he was here."
"He has the same wish. And I don't understand why the 3 of you like to hide your feelings."
"Three?"
"You, Ninetales and Caledor. Things would be much easier if you showed how much you care for each other."
"Things would be much easier for us if you weren't sneaking. Understand it, Lagi. We're not like you. Things work in a different way for us. Ninetales and Caledor know all they need to know. I could give my tail for them, but I still want to beat Ninetales in a battle. That's the last thing I'll say about the subject, so please stop getting in the middle."
"OK," was all I could say. I had to accept it. Tsunami had taught me a lesson. Well, at least his self confidence had increased. I looked back to see if Caledor had been listening, but he was having a conversation with Amber. Things seemed to be calm. Scott and his group had done their job well. Maybe the first wave hadn't failed after all. But then again, the calm didn't last.
"Someone's comming," I warned my friends. "Two beings, both filled with evil."
"Human or pokemon?," Tsunami asked.
"I can't tell," I told him.
"Ok, I'll be ready," he said.

<Tsunami's POV>

I tried to be prepared for anything, but what came still caught me by surprise. I couldn't prevent the cold rush I felt as I saw the golden rings glow in the darkness, and the hate-filled red eyes that suddenly stared at me. I skipped a heartbeat before I realized that was a pokemon. An Umbreon. Looking at that gloomy figure, it was hard to think it had been an Eevee once, just like I had. It was even hard to imagine it had a soul. Did it? Maybe it had lost it in its time with Team Rocket.
A human came behind the Umbreon. I couldn't see him well, but for the sound of his steps he seemed to be a rather stocky man. He was obviously a guard, working for Team Rocket. He stopped in front of us and pointed at us with a lantern.
"What are you doing here?!," he shouted.
"What are you doing here?," Gabi responded. I wonder where she got the courage to say that from.
"You think you're funny?," the guard growled. "Umbreon, get her!"
"Tsunami!," Gabi shouted. She didn't have to say anything else. I stood in front of her, ready to defend her, and the world.

vs

I knew the battle would be long, since my opponent had high defense and I had high endurance. I wished I had the Special Ball with me, but we'd left it at the Pokemon Center, so Mystic Water would have to do. I tried an Aurora Beam to start and the Umbreon threw a Shadow Ball at me. We hit each other at the same time. The second Shadow Ball didn't hit me as hard as the first one, so I figured my Aurora Beam had reduced the Umbreon's attack Power. Still, it was quite strong. That ball hit me at the same time my massive wave hit my opponent. That was really an attack worth seeing. One of my best waves. I would have been really proud if we hadn't been in the middle of a war and everything.
The most annoying thing about that Umbreon was that it was exactly as fast as I was. When Ninetales fought an Umbreon, his speed gave him an advantage he made good use of. But I could do nothing to increase my own speed, nor to slow the Umbreon down. My opponent, on the other hand, had a secret weapon, and after my Surf attack it decided it was time to show it. I used Surf again, not knowing that the Umbreon had a way to turn my own attack against me. It waited until the wave was close, and then shot a Zap Cannon directly to the water.
The electricity spread in all directions, and raced through my body. Some of it hurt the Umbreon too but, unlike me, my opponent wasn't weak to electric attacks. To make things worse, I was paralyzed, and even if I did manage to attack, the Umbreon would now hit first. Then I remembered I'd learned a new move after my last battle, but all of a sudden, everything became even darker, and nothing made sense anymore.
I got lost... lost in my own feelings of defeat. I thought maybe I was not up for a war... I wasn't smart enough to protect my friends without screwing things up. I didn't have what it takes to save the world. Pidgeot and Water Angel were the stars of Group B for a Reason, and I shouldn't have been foolish enough to dream of competing with Ninetales. Even Caledor would beat me one day. He had matured, and he already knew more attacks than I did and knew how to use them properly. Of course, he was genetically enhanced and everything, but would I be able to handle his powers if I had them? Probably not. I couldn't even stop my opponent from turning my best attack against me; I'd be a danger for the world if I could wield electricity and fire.
I don't know how long those painful thoughts occupied my mind. It felt like hours, but it must have been one or 2 seconds, because I didn't get attacked while I was sinking. Instead, a strange energy ran through me. It felt warm. It felt like hope... and love, may I say it. It had to come from Lagi, but for a moment I thought it felt like Ninetales. I felt he was putting his hope in me. Well, maybe he was, even if he was far away and didn't know what I was going through at that moment. I remembered what he said to me once when, after a hard battle, I told him I was impressed at the way he'd handled it. "Don't sweat it, kid. You'll do even better when you reach my level." Those had been his words. I hadn't payed much attention to their meaning back then, but now it stroke me. So he did trust me after all. He did think I was up for this challenge. And if he thought that, maybe it was true!
The moment of clarity that followed allowed me to hear my trainer's voice. I recognized the word "Haze" in the middle of the rumble, and I remember that was exactly what I'd been thinking just before the darkness invaded me. I used Haze for the first time in my life, and both my paralysis and my confusion faded away. The Umbreon also recovered its full attack power, but that didn't matter. I'd win the battle anyway. Having regained my speed, I developed a new tactic. Instead of using Surf and risking electrocution, I used Focus Energy. The Umbreon didn't expect that, and was forced to act fast. It hit me with a Faint Attack, which left it close enough for my following Surf to hit before it could charge a Zap Cannon. It was not a Critical Hit, but it didn't matter. It brought the Umbreon down.


I grew to level 44!

<Gabi's POV>

The guard ran away, probably to get some backup. I congratulated Tsunami, and thanked him for all his help. I couldn't see the other trainers in the darkness, but for the sounds I'd been hearing, it seemed all of them had encountered resistance. Still, my PokeGear beeped: a sign that the hacker had succeeded and we had a clear entrance. Once the third wave finished their work, we'd be able to get in the base. I decided to look for other trainers and see if any of them needed help. It turned out that the first trainer I found was Ryan; a good clue to believe that coincidences do not exist. I got close to him and my fingers started playing with his hair before I could think of what was right. Then I remembered that, earlier that day, he'd seemed to want to tell me something. I asked him what it was, and I was shocked at the answer.
He told me a story of abuse, of suffering beyond comprehension, of boundless violence... and it was hard to believe it was his story... his life. I thanked the darkness for not letting him see how pale I was getting. I feared my reaction might scare him, but I just couldn't hold it, as I couldn't hold my tears, and I feard he might think he was hurting me and hold back, just when he was opening himself to me, just when he was offering me the chance to turn a light on in his life, just like he'd done for me. Fortunately, he didn't draw back. He got it all out, and that seemed to be the first step for healing. I'd always known horrible things happened in the world, and they could happen to anyone, but I couldn't have expected someone like Ryan to have such a terrible past. He was the kindest human soul I'd ever met, and now I could see he was also the strongest. Now I admired him even more. He'd managed to put up with all that for eight years and still come out of it as such a great man!
How had he found the strength to keep fighting, to offer help to all those who needed it, human and pokemon alike, to become one of the best trainers in Caledor, and the best friend in the world? Whichever his way was, he'd found it, and all he'd been put through was over now. I needed him to know that. He'd just proved to me what I'd always wanted to believe: no abyss is deep enough that you can't come out of it. That reinforced my hope of seeing the world in peace. I thanked him for that. I thanked him for trusting me. And I promised to always be there for him. We melted in a kiss again; I don't know who started this time, maybe we both did. I stopped trying to hold my tears and he didn't hold his either. I could feel it rush through me... the power that would help us get out of this madness.
We had to wait for the sign to face the final challenge. Final for now, at least. Then the sun would rise again, in more than one way. In the meantime, we had the best we could wish for in a moment like this: we had each other.
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Old Yesterday, 12:36 PM   #26
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<Gabi's POV>

As minutes passed, I grew more and more uncomfortable. Every now and then my thoughts would focus on Tsunami; I'd never felt so close to losing one of my pokemon before, but while Tsunami was under the effect of the Umbreon's Confuse Ray... I could see him sink deep into himself and my voice couldn't reach him... I couldn't help him! I'd burst into tears as I recalled all the great moments I'd spent with him.
The moment I adopted him had been magic; we were both at the beginning of the road and, somehow, we both knew we were meant to be together. I couldn't tell why, but it was so; an unexplainable sensation I hadn't experienced with any of my other pokemon. And then the question came to me: had I ever let him know how happy I was to have him by my side? Did he know what he meant to me? Or had I been too hard on him? Maybe I'd been handling him the wrong way all along; it had always upset me when I saw he didn't want to cooperate with Pidgeot and Water Angel, and when he and Ninetales tried to battle; maybe my reactions at those moments hadn't been the best. But then again, after all, a miracle had occurred that night, and he'd finally managed to stay coherent long enough to listen to me. And that had saved him. Now we'd both have a chance to start things over... If we survived.
That thought was inevitably followed by the worst thought of all: the thought of war. It was the prestent. It was reality. It was all around us. I couldn't help it. I couldn't stop it. I wanted to get out. Out of where? There was no way out and, even if there had been, I had to stay. I was needed there and then. Ryan went to check on Pegasus and Charla, who were being attended by 2 Nurse Joys. I went to see Tsunami and was glad to hear he had no severe injuries and would be fine soon. I decided I'd try to make up for everything he'd been through lately; and I would start in the morning, since all this would hopefully be over by then. I tried to focus on the next morning, on how much I wished for it to come, in order to give myself the courage for what I was about to do. That's when Scott came out.
As Scott addressed the trainers, I felt as if I'd suddenly been taken to another world. Well, not exactly like that, but the sensation was quite similar to what I'd felt before drifting out to Bei: I felt like a stranger, an outsider. At first, everyone looked joyful and I couldn't understand why. Couldn't they tell things were absolutely wrong just by looking around? Was I the only one who felt it?! Then Scott said "BUT" and the world seem to stop. That scared me. Knowing things are bad is not the same as knowing exactly how bad they are, and I reckoned I was about to find out.
Scott then started talking about supplies and fortifications in a cold tone which made me feel more distant from him than ever, and told us we'd have to go in, which I'd assumed would happen. But whet he said next took me completely off guard: he revealed the existence of the Black Batallion, an organization set up specifically to destroy us. They were coming for us. Now. And, worst of all, we had no chance to defeat them. The news exceeded my worst nightmares and my greatest fears. Was this the end? NO, it couldn't be. We'd find a way around this. Scott had probably thought of something already. Maybe we could run that night and make plans to dissolve the Black Batallion in the future. There was no way we could let them win!
I guess Scott felt the same way as I did. For all our differences, our determination to stop evil was something we had in common. He gave a speech which inspired most of the crowd. It meant nothing from me. I could as well be light years away. But then again, I wasn't. I was still there, still with them, and there was a reason: I knew where I had to be; I knew what I was fighting for. I was fighting for life. I was fighting for all my friends, and for all those I'd never seen but who had the right to live their lives without anyone destroying them. I found war terminology disgusting, but the meaning behind Scott's words was what actually mattered. It was the same meaning which I'd found weeks before, and which had brought me back. Well, maybe not exactly: my cause was not just Caledor, or Ulthuan; it was life. And for that, I would fight as long as I had to, and I would stay as long as I could be of help for someone.
All of a sudden, I was hearing battle cries all around me. I paid no attention to them and focused on finding out what to do and where to go. I asked the nurse who was attending Tsunami to take good care of him until I got back. Then I made for Scott, realizing I'd lost track of Ryan.
"This is your territory," I told him. "Tell me when and where, and I'll do it."
Scott smiled. "Follow me," he said.
We went inside the base through the same door he'd come out of minutes before. Many trainers came behind us. He guided me through a corridor and then suggested that we split to look for information and any useful items. I was supposed to guide a small group of younger trainers while he went solo. I decided not to remind him he'd nearly got killed the last time we'd done that for 2 reasons: firstly because he was the one who knew about combat strategies, and secondly because no one would like to be reminded of something like that. I took five trainers with me and, as I was free to choose my path, I chose to walk close behind Scott. Chances were we'd eventually be forced to split, but I wouldn't forgive myself if something happened to him because I took another turn.
I'd called all my pokemon except from Ventura into their pokeballs to keep as low a profile as possible (I was keeping Ventura out to warn me of any possible threats). However, we were spotted soon; probably because Rockets were all over the place. We were attacked by 6 'Guard Dogs' and 3 of the trainers who were with me decided to stay behind and fight them. They wanted me to go forward and reach one of the leaders. I was grateful for their gesture and their confidence, and asked them to be careful. I wanted to find them safe and sound when I got back. The same thing happened when, many corridors and stairs later, a Rocket grunt with a Hitmonlee came to our encounter, and then one of a higher rank with a Misdreavus. I moved forward, not without concern for the trainers I'd left behind. Scott turned back and faced me. I knew he had to have noticed my presence, but he'd been ignoring it until that moment.
"You're the next one," he said. "Or would you rather it were me?"
I sighed.
"I guess it's the same," I answered. "After all, we'll both be alone."
"I thought you'd said you'd never be alone as long as your pokemon were with you," he retorted.
"Well... that's true," I admitted. "It's just..."
"Are you scared?"
"No... well, yes, naturally. But I'm less scared of dying than I am of losing any of my friends. And you're one of them."
Scott seemed shocked at my sincerity. I guess he wasn't used to others being worried about him. His lips sketched a smile.
"Don't worry. No one is going to lose me tonight," he told me.
"Well... I guess you know what you're doing," I concluded.
Scott nodded, almost laughing. I felt I looked stupid, and I hated that. I looked to my right and saw a metallic door. I asked Ventura what was inside, but she found nothing. The room seemed to be shielded against her radar.
"I'll get in," I told Scott. He agreed, and turn around again, heading forward.
Overriding the lock seemed to be between very hard and impossible, but fortunately I had no need for that. I asked Ventura to take me inside. I knew it was dangerous, since she didn't know how thick the door was nor what the layout of the room was like and there was a chance we teleported into a solid object, which would certainly kill us. But it was the only way to get in and we both accepted the risk. After all, what risk weren't we running yet?
Ventura did it well. We appeared right in front of the door, about 20 centimeters away from it. The room turned out to be a huge and finely decorated office, which contrasted with the rest of the building. There were lots of places where I could search for valuable information, but I was unable to do it. An elegantly dressed woman, who had been sitting at a large, wooden desk, stood up and confronted me.
"How did you get in?," she asked. "Well, it doesn't matter. You're not getting out. Wait a minute. I think I've heard of you. Yes... the long hair and the Venomoth... you're the one who ruined the radio operation in Selenia!"
I did not respond. I remembered the Rockets I'd taken down had mentioned a female boss. Was this woman their leader? She had to be.
"Yes, you have to be. So, you're one of the Dragon Tamers! You love getting in our way, don't you! Now I won't just kill you. I'll make you suffer."
She opened a drawer under her desk and took out what turned out to be a pokeball.
"I guess you think you're doing good," she told me, holding the pokeball in her hand. "Acutally, you and your friends are harming others more than you're helping them. We had big plans for Selenia but now, thanks to you, the whole city is destroyed. There's nothing left to take over. You didn't show up in Tor Syle and now the buildings are still standing there and most of the people are still alive. Only Selenia has died. And it's your fault. I want you to die with that thought."
How twisted can a human mind be? It had been them who destroyed Selenia, it was them who lived to kill and hurt innocent people. And now she wanted to blame us for what they had done? Did she mean they'd hit stronger whenever we interfered with their plans? And what if we didn't? They wouldn't leave people alone if we didn't try to stop them. They'd just keep on ruining everyone's lives. They had to be stopped!
"Make sure this pest gets what she deserves," the woman said, and a strong white light came out of her pokeball. All of a sudden, the office looked smaller, as it met the presence of a pokemon I'd only seen a few times before, and never this close: an Aerodactyl.
The prehistoric pokemon was much bigger than the ones we'd had at the Adoption Center; even bigger than the ones who had attacked during the Dragon Games. I reacted instantly, returning Ventura and sending out Lagi. That was what saved me of the Fire Blast which came straight in my way.

vs

Lagi was hit by the Fire Blast, but it looked like she'd seen it coming. She may have felt the threat while she was coming out, or even before. Her response was quick: she trapped the attacker in a Thunder Wave, paralising it. Even so, the Aerodactyl didn't look any less threatening. Lagi acted fast, attacking her opponent with water. A Surf attack was the most effective choice. But the Aerodactyl had its ways to hit Lagi hard too. It shook its wings to generate such a strong wind that it made the walls crack. But the real attack came later, when the material started to come loose and spin at a high speed, hitting everything and everyone in the room.
The Aerodactyl was as mad as its master! It would stop at nothing to kill me and Lagi, even hurting its own trainer in the process! Lagi was the one who suffered the most, being weak to Rock type attacks and being the main target of this one. I could hear the Aerodactyl's sick laughter on top of the noise of the hitting rocks and cracking walls. The whole room would be turned to debris if this went on. A whole had already been open in the furthest wall, and some of the wind wistled through it. In a matter of seconds, the whole was big enough to reveal a piece of the nocturnal sky. So the office we were in was at a side of the building, with just a wall isolating it from the outside! That would mean nothing for most people, but it could be everything Lagi needed to win that battle.
"Lagi, get out through that hole!," I shouted, hoping that she could make it out before the Aerodactyl attacked again.
"Running away won't save your dragon," the woman said. Good thing, she had no idea of what I had in mind. But Lagi knew. If she hadn't thought of that herself, she'd feel my hope and figure out what it was based on. It wasn't that hard; after all, Aerodactyls are weak to water, ice and electricity: 3 of the 4 types involved in Lagi's signature move.
The whole kept on getting bigger, and Lagi made her way through it and up into the sky. The Aerodactyl followed her, but its paralysis made it hard for it to reach her, allowing her the time she needed to summon the forces of nature. The Sandstorm followed the Aerodactyl outside, sparing me and the Rocket executive. I watched out for her, but her attention was focused on the battle, so I watched it too.
The Aerodactyl tried to hit Lagi with Ancientpower, but she was to high for the attack to hit her. When Lagi descended to her opponent's level, it was to put stage 2 into action. The wind that came from her wings did it part, though, against a Rock type pokemon, it was the weakest part of tempest. The effect of the rain was much stronger.
"What's that?!," the woman exclaimed. "The files said nothing about that!"
I didn't speak. I didn't want to draw her attention to me.
"Aerodactyl, slay that dragon now!!," she shouted. I don't know if her pokemon heard her, but it used Ancientpower again, and this time Lagi took the whole blow. Lagi's pain was so intense that she couldn't help but let it out. It reached me, and it made me cry. No attack had hurt her so much before, and another such attack could not only make her faint: it could kill her!
"Lagi, resist!," I shouted. I just couldn't remain silent. A part of me was out there with her, and a part of her was inside me, as it had been for a long time. I had faith in her, and she knew it. She felt it. And she resisted.
Hail came down from the sky. I could hear it crash right into the Aerodactyl's hard skin. The cry of the prehistoric pokemon was almost deafening. The Aerodactyl was in a free fall before the lightning stroke. In the end, the lightning hit a dead tree, but it didn't matter: the Areodactyl was already lying on the ground, unconscious.


Lagi grew to level 62!

Lagi came back to me. Despite all the samage she'd taken, she was still able to fly. The woman turned to me. Her look could burn.
"How could you do that?!," she growled. "No one had beaten Aerodactyl before. I underestimated you. Well, it doesn't matter. You won't live to tell the tale anyway."
I felt Lagi's fear, but I didn't have time to look at her. It all happened in a second. I held my amulet in my hand. I didn't like using it, but I might have no choice. I concentrated on controlling its power, in order to produce a blast that was not lethal but strong enough to leave my enemy unconscious. I expected her to pick up a gun or some other weapon from somewhere, just like the 2 previous Rockets had done. Instead, she just looked past me. Right then I felt something cold on my neck, and I knew what that meant. Another Rocket had come while Lagi was outside, and was now pointing at me with a weapon. I couldn't tell if it was a gun or something else, but it was certainly going to kill me before I could even move. I could say I was terrified, but it would be an understatement.
As the world went in slow motion, I thought of all my friends, pokemon and human; I thought of everything I'd left... my parents, who had hurt me but had always loved me in spite of their flaws... and Guille, who had once been everything for me as I'd been for him; how would he feel if he woke up and found out he'd never see me again? I couldn't bare that thought. And what about Ryan? His life would be torn into pieces again, just when his soul had finally found peace and brought peace to mine! And this time I wouldn't be able to help him. We'd both promised to live past the war! How could I have failed him?! All those thoughts rushed through my mind in a split second. Incredibly, that also lasted long enough for me to remember the glimpse I'd caught of another life; a bright and peaceful life I'd rejected in order to be with those I loved. And then it happened.
The brightest white light I'd ever seen or even imagined shone all over the place, filling every milimeter of the trashed room. It was brighter than the sun, and even so, though my eyes had always been sensitive, I was able to keep them open. Moreover, I found it beautiful. I stopped feeling the weapon on my neck. Instead, I heard two screams: one from a male voice, right behind me, and the other from the female Rocket executive. Then I felt 2 of my pokeballs open, and energy come into one and out of the other. I got scared when I felt something grasp my arm, but I calmed down when I recognized Ventura's insect-like legs. The next moment I was standing in a much darker room, which seemed to be a part of the same building. It took me some time to assimilate what had just happened, and even after my heartbeats went down to their normal rythm I couldn't understand what that light had been, nor where it had come from.
Ventura released my arm and started making strange sounds. Coming from her, that was a most unusual behavior. I guess she thought I was already too shocked to bare one of her telepathic messages. I didn't understand what she was trying to tell me until I looked to the front and saw Scott coming my way.
"Gabbi*, you look pale!," he exclaimed. "What happened?"
"I've just had the most amazing 2 seconds in my life," I said as soon as my voice came out. "And I really hope I get to understand them some day. I'd tell you everything, but... I can't seem to find the words right now."
"It's all right. Did you find anything?"
"Two Team Rocket members. One was an executive. I don't know what happened to them. I found a large office, but everything inside it was destroyed. Oh, and I found out they don't know much about Lagi, or at least they didn't until now. But I don't think that will help us much."
"So you found no useful information."
"No. Sorry."
I couldn't understand why or how Scott sometimes managed to make me feel like a little child when he spoke to me. Thinking logically, it made no sense. He'd brought me to Caledor, given me a job and helped me find a home and I was grateful for that, but that didn't mean I had to respond to him for everything. I was an adult and a founding Dragon Tamer just like he was, and I had responded for myself and even for others in many occasions.
"Have you found anything?," I asked him.
"You'll learn outside."
We left the room and headed for the exit. Once outside, we walked to the clearing where we'd gathered before the assault, met then nurses and the trainers who were already back and waited for the others to arrive. Everything was fine until Ryan came. Well, I was relieved when his presence proved he'd made it in and out in one piece, and seeing him again was the best thing that could happen to me, but the news he had to share with us was far less than conforting: the Black Batallion was on its way to the base!
We got over the shock as fast as we could (which was not so fast in my case, after that night's events) and made a quick plan to get everyone away from the base. Ventura offered herself to cooperate by teleporting in and out with as many trainers as she could. Tsunami was already healed, and quickly got inside his pokeball, ready for a long journey. I sent out Lagi and made sure he had enough strength left for me to ride her. She wasn't ready to carry many trainers, but it was fine, since I had plans to go somewhere else first.
Edie and Indraugnir were sent out too. The sight of the three dragons together was truly impressive. We organized the trainers in order to make our escape, but before leaving I told Ryan and Scott I'd meet them later. I needed to go to Selenia first; the Pokemon Center was still standing and Ninetales, Water Angel and Pidgeot were waiting for me there. I would also get some medical attention for Lagi, and a new TM for her too. My body still hurt from the Sandstorm, but the pain would go as soon as I took some rest, which I needed badly. I was so exhausted that I might even manage to sleep in spite of all the mixed thoughts that occupied my mind. Everything would be clearer in the morning. We'd find a way to move ahead and to stop Team Rocket for good; and maybe I'd find out what, or who, had saved my life.
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Old Yesterday, 12:36 PM   #27
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Interlude 2

<The Faerie's POV>

I felt confused, and I hated that. I was used to having things under control, or at least understanding what was going on around me. This time I wasn't even sure of where I was, nor how I'd got there.
I was in a forest; that part was clear. But everything seemed so strange! Not only the place itself, but also the way I percieved it. It felt as if I was lacking one of my senses... the sense of direction, maybe; that could be why I was lost. No, it was something bigger, something special. It was related to direction, though. I could see light behind the trees in front of me, and I took it there was a clearing nearby, but I couldn't tell what exactly was there, and for some reason that upset me, as if I were supposed to know.
I thought the best thing I could do was try to understand my situation, and the best way to do that was remembering the events that had led to it. My memories were blurry, and that made me furious. But I brought myself to calm down; getting mad would take me nowhere. The first flashback that came to me was my first flight. I'd been in a confused state then too, and I'd bumped into a piece of furniture, all because I wasn't used to moving around with a reduced set of senses, and also because I'd never flown before. Well, I was used to flying now, but I was still lacking a sense. At least now I knew this wasn't the first time. Back then I'd been looking for a friend and now... now I was looking for her too!
That thought was the key and then memories started flowing through my mind. I remembered I'd just had a busy night... the busiest night of my life. But it was not exactly me... I was different. I was someone else, and yet I was the same. It was like a dream. I'd been in many places in a very short time. And all those places were somewhere else... another world, yes! That was it! And I was... I was a pokemon trainer. Yeah, in my dreams. I was... a pokemon! Yes, that's what I was! Remembering that made me feel happy. I finally knew who I was. And what was I doing? Well, I'd had a terribly busy night; I'd been teleporting all over the map taking humans to their homes and when I returned to meet my trainer... she was gone!
Now I knew what had happened. I'd lost my trainer and I'd seeked for a way to find her. She was neither at her place nor at any of the buildings owned by the Dragon Tamers. Being worried about her, I'd tried something completely different, something that only my trainer had done before. I'd decided to go to Bei, and find her there. It had been hard to find the way, and I hadn't known if I'd succeed. But now I was in Bei, and all I had to do was find a witch called Lilirins and then things would be fine.
I made for the clearing and let the sunlight fill my body with strength. It was a good thing that, though I'd lost my radar sense, I still had my powers. Once my energy was fully restored, I looked around and what I saw made me feel as lucky as my floral friend: I'd found Lilirins's house! The place looked exactly like the first time I'd been there. I quickly flew to the house and, got in through an open window.
Once inside, I was surprised to see not Lilirins but a tall blonde woman, whose deep blue eyes stared at me as soon as I came in.
"Who are you?," I asked her.
"I was about to ask you the same question," she said to me.
"But I asked first," I told her.
"My name is Harims," she answered. "I'm a clikctim and I live in this house."
"I thought Lilirins lived in this house," I said, confused.
"Oh, yes, she does. Just not as often as I do," she replied. I asked her what she meant and she told me: "she comes here when she wants to, just like you."
She looked at me in a strange way. It made me feel a bit uneasy, but she looked completely calm.
"Are you a friend of hers?," she asked me.
"Yes, I am," I answered. "Is she here? I'm looking for her."
"She's not here right now. She must be sleeping; she's had a hard night."
"So have I," I told her.
"Really? Were you with her?"
She looked interested.
"I was, until she left without me. I don't understand how a trainer can possibly do something like that!"
"A trainer?"
"Yes. Well... where I come from I'm a Venomoth and she's my trainer."
"A venom moth?"
It was strange. My first impression told me Harims was a wise woman, but she really looked clueless this time.
"A Venomoth. A pokemon," I explained.
"Sorry, I don't know what you're talking about," she said. "Those must be words which don't exist here."
"That's why I don't like words much," I commented. "They never show exactly what you want to say. Let me show yu what a Venomoth is."
I sent some images of myself as a Venomoth to her mind. Unlike others who had received my telepathic messages, Harims didn't look stunned nor even surprised. She merely smiled.
"Thanks for explaining," she said.
"Didn't it even feel strange?," I asked. "Had you been through that before? And how did you know my friend had a hard night? Who are you?"
I didn't want to show weakness, but I couldn't be more puzzled and I needed answers.
"I have experienced telepathy before," she told me. "It's common between clikctims, though not many master it the way you do. As for our friend, I saw her last night. I saw you too, now that I think of it. Sorry, I hadn't recognized you in your current form; I should have been more attentive. I have to thank you: you helped me save our friend's life."
"What do you mean?"
"I felt she was in danger, and I couldn't turn my back on a friend in need. Still, I couldn't make it to your world and save her. It would have taken time to reach her and I couldn't even know for sure if I'd be able to use magic there, let alone do it in time. So I focused all my energy into sending a spell which would keep her enemies at bay long enough for her to escape. But it was you who finally took her away from danger, right?"
"I teleported her away, yes," I said. "So it was you who created that bright light! I guess I owe you my life too. How can I ever thank you?"
"Knowing she's fine is the best reward I could wish for. But if you really want to do something to thank me, take good care of your trainer and let her take care of you."
"So it was you!," a familiar voice came from behind me. "That question wouldn't let me sleep. Not that I've ever been a good sleeper. I guess I'm glad it was you, Harims. Of all the mysterious beings and unknown forces, you're the one I can trust the most. Oh, hi, you too."
"It's great to see you again!," Harims exclaimed. "I must admit I didn't expect you to have that image of me. Wait... what am I for you? A mysterious being or an unknown force?"
"Hmm... maybe a bit of both," Lilirins concluded. "It's good to see you again too, though I wish I knew why I'm here. Actually, I have lots of questions, but I know you're not going to answer them."
"Why do you think that?," Harims asked.
"Well... because..."
"Because only you hold the answer to those questions? That's usually the case with the questions you like to ask me."
"Maybe. I don't know."
"I can tell you why you're here, though. You came on your own free will. Each time you've been here."
"Both times?"
"Every time."
"What do you mean? How many times have I been here? And how do I get here? What is Bei, anyway?"
"You were right. Those are questions only you can answer."
"I feared so."
I decided to interrupt them before they could get any more mystic.
"Will you tell me where on Earth you've been? If you've even been on Earth, that is!"
"What are you talking about?," Lilirins asked me.
"It's not such a hard question. You weren't at the base when I returned. Where did you go?"
"I can't believe you don't know that!," she exclaimed, and it looked like she meant it.
"What am I supposed to know?," I asked.
"I promised to return to Selenia once the mission was over. You were there, you must have heard me!"
"Well, I didn't," I complained.
"I'm sorry then. But even so, what other option was there? The Black Batallion were on their way to the HQ, so I couldn't stay there. Besides, I had to go back. I'd like to know what you would have done in my place."
"Easy. I would have told my pokemon exactly where I was going."
"OK, but where would you have gone? What would you have done if you were a trainer and you'd been forced to leave 2 of your pokemon behind to let them recover from their wounds while you went on a dangerous mission? Where would you have gone once the mission was over?"
"I... I would have gone back to my pokemon," I had to admit. Lilirins smiled. She had the same smile Gabi had when we managed to understand each other. I shouldn't have been surprised at that; after all, she and Gabi were the same person. This was not a conversation between a clikctim and a faerie, but between Gabriela and Ventura.
"I'd never seen a human ask a pokemon what it would do if it were a trainer. I don't think many even imagined the possibility," I commented.
"That must be because they don't have you as their friend," she replied with another smile.
"So it seems everything's fixed between the two of you," Harims opined. "It was a pleasure to see you both again. Take care and always trust each other. And please try not to risk your lives too much."
Lilirins laughed, and I laughed too. I only remembered laughing once before, and I thought it sounded silly, but it felt nice.
"Remember you can come back whenever you want to," Harims advised us. "Or at least when you need to."
I wondered if she was giving us a clue. Anyway, it didn't really matter. I didn't think I'd be going back to Bei any time soon. I felt something warm inside me, as everything around me began to fade away.


<Gabi's POV>

I didn't recognize the bed I woke up in. It was thinner and harder than mine, the pillow was thicker and the sheets smelt like they'd just been washed. It was not until I opened my eyes that I remembered entering the Selenian Pokemon Center, asking for a bed and collapsing into it. I also remembered that, though my body had been exhausted, my mind had been restless. But then I'd fallen asleep. Or had I? Maybe what I remembered as a dream had actually happened. It did feel real, and somehow, in the weirdest logic, it made sense. Still, I didn't feel tired anymore, so maybe it had been a dream after all. I pondered the possibilities until a Venomoth appeared and sat on my legs.
"Ventura..." I whispered. She flipped her wings and moved to my chest, letting me embrace her; something not too common in her.
"It was not a dream, was it?," I asked her. "We were both there. Do you remember it?"
As a response, I received flashes of our meeting at the clikctims' house. So it had been real. Or maybe a shared dream, which was practically the same.
"I think we complement each other," I remarked. "The whole team, actually."
Ventura nodded. Thinking of my other pokemon, I got up. I had to see how Ninetales and Pidgeot were doing. I changed my clothes quickly (I'd been so exhausted the night before that I'd gone to bed with my clothes on!), and went to see Nurse Joy.
"Good morning," she greeted me when she saw me. "Did you sleep well?"
"Yes," I answered. "Thanks for everything. How are my pokemon?"
"Your Pidgeot is in excellent shape," she told me. "He has recovered completely, and so has your Dragonite. Your Vaporeon is fully healed too, and has taken a big meal this morning. Your Ninetales is already up on his legs, but he should not run for a while or else his wound will open again. He has recovered faster than expected. He's a very strong pokemon."
"He's great," I agreed. "But I fear this may hurt him emotionally. I mean, he's always relied on his speed and he'd found no bounds before."
"In that case, this experience may help him," Nurse Joy opined. "Everyone needs to face their own limits at some point. I'm sure your Ninetales will learn something from this."
"It's one more challenge he must face," I concluded. "Yes, it will probably be good for him. He loves challenges. He's gained strength from every obstacle he's found. I'm sure he'll continue doing so."
"You seem to have a deep connection with him," Joy observed.
"Well, I guess that's what happens when you share your life with someone for such a long time. Ninetales was the second pokemon I got, right after Pidgeot. But that's not the reason. All of my pokemon mean a lot to me."
"It's great to meet trainers who feel that way," she commented.
"So, how long will it take until he can run again?," I asked.
"At this rate, he should be as good as new in two weeks. He may even start running in a week, but he musn't push himself too hard. He mustn't put much pressure on that leg nor tense it much until it heals completely."
"Can I see him?"
"Wouldn't you like to have breakfast first?"
"I'd rather have breakfast with him, thanks."
"I see. Follow me, then."
We didn't even have to get to the room. Ninetales was sitting at the corridor, waiting for me. I deduced he'd heard my voice. I hugged him, and saw him smile when I released him. He was not the tender type, but in such a situation he didn't mind if I showed him my affection like that. Well, that was what he showed, at least. Deep inside, I think he enjoyed it. He began to show more reserve, though, once Tsunami came out of the room and joined us.
Tsunami's expression as he looked at me was neutral, but it turned into a smile when I told him how happy I was to have him back. He jumped onto me like a baby Eevee and made me hit the floor. My fall made a sharp noise, but it didn't hurt. I burst into laughter.
"Tsunami, please forgive me," I asked him. My Vaporeon gave me a puzzled look. I explained myself. "It was not until last night that I remembered I owe you a celebration."
His eyes opened as wide as him mouth, and I took it he'd guessed what I was talking about.
"Of course, you've been a Vaporeon for ages now, and it's too late to finish the celebration of your evolution which, by the way, you and Ninetales crashed."
I stood up and took a look at both Tsunami and Ninetales. They both became serious, but it didn't look like they felt guilty in the least. They seemed to be wondering why I was reminding them of that after such a long time.
"It's too late for that, yes," I continued. "But it's the perfect time to celebrate your presence, everything you've achieved and everything you've done for me, for the team and for the world."
Tsunami blushed. I'd never seen a Vaporeon blush before. Ninetales looked indifferent.
"Moreover, I'd like to celebrate each and every one of you: Pidgeot, Ninetales, Water Angel, Tsunami, Sylvan, Lagi, Amber, Ventura, Caledor and Iael. Each of you has added to my life in a very special way, and I'd like to thank you for that, and to celebrate the fact that, after all we've been through, we're still together, and stronger than ever. You may think I've suddenly gone crazy, but what happened last night reminded me of the things that matter the most, and our friendship is one of them."
Tsunami curled his tail around me. He hadn't looked so happy since he fought at the Tower of Hoeth. Seeing him regain his old joy was a blessing. What was happenning was obvious: we were all happy to be alive, and we all wanted a taste of peace once and for all.
I sent out all the pokemon who were still in their pokeballs, so that they could enjoy the free time too. Then I remembered something important and turned to Nurse Joy again.
"Have Ninetales and Lagi taken their TMs?," I asked.
"About that..." she began, looking concerned. "We've been doing our best to keep the Pokemon Center functioning, and we've recieved some supplies from the nearest cities, but they've only sent us the vital: food and medicine. TMs were not on the priority list."
"So you have no TMs left?"
"We have a few ones. Those which not many trainers take and are therefore still in stock. Your Dragonite hasn't chosen a TM yet; I suggested that she waited for you. But your Ninetales was too eager to get one. I warned him we didn't have any Teleport TMs left, but that didn't seem to matter to him. I thought Teleport would be the best choice for him, since it would grant him more mobility. But he wouldn't wait to get one in Caledor and took Mimic instead."
"If he was so determined, he must have had a reason," I pointed out. Ninetales made a sound of approval.
"I guess so," Nurse Joy agreed. "Still, it's strange. Not everyday I get to meet a pokemon with such a strong personality, and the previous one happened to take a Mimic TM from here too."
"Strange indeed," I replied. "But I'm used to strange things. As long as they don't hurt anyone, I like them. So, I still need to get a TM for Lagi. Which ones are available?"
"Follow me. I'll show you."
My pokemon and I followed her to a small room which was full of boxes.
"We used to keep them at the desk, but we had to clear it to make room for papers. Things get really messy during a crisis," she apologized. I told her I understood.
She picked up two metallic boxes and placed them in front of me.
"These are all the remaining TMs," she told me.
I looked at the content carefully. Most of the TMs were defensive; a few ones were weak attacks. I analysed the options for a minute and then made my choice.
"Are you sure?," Nurse Joy asked me when I picked up the machine. "You'll find many other TMs in Caledor. Well, I don't have to tell you that; you work for the Dragon Tamers."
"I'm sure. This will be perfect for Lagi. Or rather, she's the perfect pokemon for this move. She'll know exactly when to use it. Thanks, Nurse Joy."
"You're welcome. I'm glad I could help."
We then went to meet Lagi, Pidgeot and Water Angel who were at the pool section. Water Angel and Lagi loved playing in the water, and Pidgeot loved watching Water Angel swim. They all looked happy to see me. For me, it was great meeting them again. We were all together at last.
Tsunami didn't miss his chance to dive into the water and meet other water pokemon. While I waited for him to come out, I gave Lagi the TM. She was surprised at first but, when I explained my decision, she approved it. She activated the machine, which began to glow and, a few seconds later, went off. Lagi and I smiled, sharing the same feeling. Protect would help her a lot in the future.
Once everyone was ready, we went to the dining room and had breakfast (even Tsunami, who was hungry again after swimming in the pool). Then I said goodbye to Nurse Joy, thanking her again for all her help and promising to send her TMs and anything else the Selenian Pokemon Center needed. Then I returned all my non-flying pokemon and rode on my Pidgeot, who looked happy to carry me again. We were off to Caledor, and to a big celebration.
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Old Yesterday, 12:41 PM   #28
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<Iael's POV>

Funny how things work out. My trainer was planning to make a party for the whole team and she gets invited to a bigger party with all the Dragon Tamers. The one who had the idea was a friend and colleague of hers named Alexandre (Alex, for short). She accepted immediately, and then asked us (her pokemon) if we wanted to go with her. It was either that or stay at home or maybe at the Eevee House. I thought some of my teammates would choose to stay, but they all decided to go to the party. Then the fateful question came: "what about you, Iael?"
What about me? I didn't know. I had nothing against parties, but I couldn't see anything to celebrate at that moment. Team Rocket were still after us, the Black Battalion would surely find us one day or another and peace seemed far from comming.
"What are we celebrating?," I asked, hoping that one of my teammates would help me understand.
"We've dealt a major blow on Team Rocket and lived to tell the tale," Tsunami answered. I hadn't seen him so joyful since he left me at the entrance of the Tower of Hoeth.
"But we're still in danger!," I remarked.
"That's life," Sylvan told me. "You're never completely safe, but that doesn't mean everything's wrong. You should enjoy the good moments when they come. You know, when I was a little Bulbasaur I used to think my life would be all fun and games. Then when I met evil face to face I panicked; I even got to think I'd never get another moment of peace in my life. But do you know what I learned?"
"What?," I asked, intrigued.
"I learned that you can find peace inside you. And once you do no one can take it away from you. Of course, the cruelty in the world will always hurt me, but that won't stop me from noticing the beauty of life and enjoying it to the fullest. It's all there: good and bad things are all around us. You just choose which ones to keep in your mind. And my choice is this: whenever I get the chance to help sort things out, I'll do it. The rest of the time I'll concentrate on the beauty around me and enjoy it. Believe me, it's too good to miss it, and you won't help anyone by missing it anyway."
Sylvan's words made me feel much better. I decided to give it a try.
"Ok, then; it's set. We're all in!," exclaimed Amber, who seemed more excited about having a party than anyone else. And that's how it all began.

The party was held at the Dragon Tamers Central. There was a very large room set for the guests, with colorful decoration (which Gabi and us helped set up before the crowd arrived), lots of tables loaded with all kinds of food and even a pool for water pokemon (smaller than the one at the Eevee House, but still big enough for them to move freely). Oh, and there was a punching bag too! It was the second time I saw one at a party. For some reason they seemed to attract Charmeleons; or at least they attracted Volvagia and Amber, who met there and started talking while excercising.
Soon the guests began to arrive and everybody started talking, eating, drinking, dancing and everything. Gabi even sang a little, but she did it in a low voice and not many heard her. She'd always loved singing, and I liked her voice. Everyone was having fun, or at least trying to do so. I tried to make some new friends, but the other pokemon were busy with their old friends, so I stuck with Sylvan, who was determined to see me have a good time. I think she made it for a moment, but it didn't last long. I guess the music covered the noises from outside. I didn't notice anything strange until the door banged open and a number of Team Rocket members burst in.
They caught us by surprise and scared us, but all trainers and pokemon were willing to defend themselves and their friends. The Rockets sent out their pokemon and commanded them to attack. Barely a minute later, the whole place was a disaster zone. Battling pokemon broke down every piece of furniture, not to mention the dishes, glasses and all the fragile objects. A table came flying out of nowhere and fell right on Gabi, getting her trapped. A female trainer I hadn't seen before protected her while Amber and Lagi helped her get out. Gabi thanked both her pokemon and the trainer who had helped her (whose name, as I learned then, was Natalie), but she'd spoken too soon.
All of a sudden, I heard steps right behind me. I turned around and saw it was a tall Rocket Grunt, ready to attack. I decided it was my turn to help. The grunt called for his pokemon, a Drowzee who was making mischief elsewhere in the room, and told him to use his psychic powers on my trainer. I turned round, looking for approval from Gabi, and she nodded. "You can do it, Iael," she said.

Level 14 vs Level 15

I thought of starting off with an Eartquake, but then I remembered Drowzees know Disable and I knew I'd be in trouble if I let my opponent neutralize my strongest attack. Ventura had advised me never to let that happen. So I started off with Leer. The Drowzee didn't seem to want to play a high card yet either: he hit me with a Pound, which barely even hurt. I went for a Tackle which was twice as effective as his attack. Then the Drwozee decided to stop playing. And so did I.
My opponent started moving his hands in a freaky way and I understood immediately what he was doing. I jumped away from his reach and saved myself from his Hypnosis attack. Once more, I heard steps behind me, but it turned out to be Gabi, who had just escaped the attack too.
"Do it now," Gabi told me. I did as she said, and made the floor shake under the Drowzee's feet. The Drowzee was badly hurt. I could tell that by his face. I could also tell he was furious. He disabled my Earthquake attack right away. Well, at least I'd managed to hurt him. He then tried Hypnosis again. I didn't manage to move fast enough this time. I began to doze off. But then, as everything was getting dark and warm, I heard Gabi's cry: "Iael, please! Resist! Wake up!"
I couldn't fail my trainer. I needed to resist. I shook my head and opened my eyes again. The Drowzee was standing in front of me, ready to attack. I managed to used Disable before he could use a different attack on me, and that way I saved myself from falling under his spell again. That's when the Drowzee decided to use a stronger attack on me: Psychic!
I must admit I wasn't prepared for that. And it hurt. It hurt inside me. But I wouldn't give up because of that. Even if i couldn't use my stronger attack, that didn't mean I couldn't bring him down. It would just take a bit longer. All I had to do was stay up longer than him, and I felt I could do that. I tackled him again. The Drowzee looked really tired after I hit him. He used Psychic again, but I endured it. I had to stay up no matter what. I used another Tackle, telling myself that I was stronger than the Drowzee, and that I would prevail. In the end, that's what happened. The Drowzee fell to the floor after my tackle.


I grew to level 15 and learned... exactly the same attack I'd stopped the Drowzee from using against me: Hypnosis!

I didn't notice how tired I was nor how much pain I felt until I saw my opponent beaten. I sighed loudly and walked to Gabi's side to feel her touch. My battle was over, but a bigger battle was still going on.

<Pidgeot's POV>

When the Rockets arrived I was sitting at the border of the pool. The water looked fine and I'd thought of taking a bath, but I'd rejected the idea since it would have attracted too many curious looks. So, I simply watched Water Angel swim, and the vibrations her body produced in the water as she moved. My mind was at peace. Exactly the opposite of the shock I got just a few minutes later. Extremes were rather common in my life, but this was something really unexpected. Not the fact that Team Rocket found us, since I was already used to clashing with them, but what they brought along with them this time.
It all began when they sent out their pokemon. I had time to take a look before any of them came my way. That's how I got to see a whole lot of Raticates 'spring' into action; they were all big and pumped, but much weaker and slower than the average Raticate. They had "AEP" written all over them: there was no way they could be at level 20. And that was what made my bones chill. "I thought the project was closed," was all I managed to mutter before I sank deep into myself, and into my past.

~^~FLASHBACK ALERT~^~

I thought I was over that, but it was all coming back to me. The weeks (months?,) of endless torment I'd spent at the Accelerated Evolution Program (AEP for short). They never forgot to tell us how lucky we were that they'd chosen us. They'd always compare us to those in the ice box: how they were freezing while we were in a warm place, how they were trapped in small cages while we could move 'freely', how they got 1 meal a day while we got 3, how nobody cared if they died while we were protected... They forgot to mention how they were left alone while we had grunts (and sometimes a fully evolved pokemon or 2) watching us all the time and forcing us to workout 20 hours a day (they'd let us sleep for 4 hours so that we wouldn't die), how their 'protection' lasted only as long as we didn't refuse to eat those nasty pills they gave us (otherwise we'd be beaten to death), and how we'd get a beating each time we didn't follow a command (or each time one of the grunts felt like beating us).
That was basically my life at AEP. After the first week went by, I could barely remember what it felt like to be free. I just knew it was infinitely better than being with TR, and I held on to the hope of regaining my freedom one day. I was already a Pidgeotto by then, though I hadn't gained a single level since my capture. That was what the program was about. The evolution was probably caused by the pills they gave us, or a mixture between that and the workout. Not all the pokemon kept their hope. Looking at their eyes I could tell which ones were still fighting, which ones had completely forgotten about themselves and acted like automatons, and which ones had got to like what they were going through.
Yes, it sounds crazy, hardly possible, but a few ones ended up enjoying what they were doing. They'd believed all the Rockets had said to them and thought only of getting stronger, reaching the next stage and making Team Rocket proud. I felt like throwing up when I thought of them, but I kept myself from doing it or else I would be forced to eat my vomit. It had happened to a poor Oddish. Those pokemon were usually rewarded for their actions with a free hour or some fresh water (the liquid they made us drink was so bitter we'd never had touched it if we hadn't been so thirsty). That encouraged them to keep their line of work.
One of those pokemon who kept AEP going was a Koffing, who had made it a habit of making fun of me. His words didn't affect me, but he usually resorted to physical violence and more often than not I ended up poisoned. I felt a sort of relief when he evolved and was taken to another section to complete the following stage. My relief didn't last, though, since he was brought back the following day to aid the guards, and he was allowed to pick any pokemon of his choice and use all his attacks on it (on me, that is). He could hit me as hard as he wanted too, as long as he didn't kill me or leave me in need of any medical attention which couldn't be provided by a grunt with a first aid kit. A lifetime later (when I already had Gabi and he had a Rocket Grunt as a trainer) I met him again and managed to beat him, but that's another story.
I think it took only a few days since I became a Pidgeotto until I evolved into Pidgeot, but I can't tell for sure since I'd lost track of the passing of time. Then, I was taken to a different building, where stage 2 of AEP was held. That was the longest stage for those who, like me, didn't have the spirit of Team Rocket in us. If stage 1 had been a torment, this one was far worse. The mornings were not that bad; we had all kinds of tests: performance tests, accuracy tests, blood tests... But then, after a tasteless meal, they put us each off with a random grunt and were forced to do everything they said (which were usually such awful things that I'd rather not remember them). When the orders involved hurting others (like the pokemon from stage 1), I always disobeyed them. They made me pay for that with electric shocks and, every now and then, poison. It was the worst time of my life, but I remained firm in one thing: I wouldn't make others suffer like I was suffering. No one deserved that.
When everything else failed, they tried to convince me to cooperate by reminding me of how weak I was (and I was weak and clumsy, with a body too big to handle), and telling me how powerful I could become if I let them 'help' me. They said they'd chosen me for a reason; that hidden inside me were immense dark powers waiting to be revealed. I couldn't believe them; I didn't want to. If I really had any secret powers, all I'd used them for would be to stop TR from making others' lives miserable. At first, they were amazed at my willpower, and that made them more willing to keep trying. But after some time they got tired, considered me a failure and dumped me, assuming that my weak body and wounded soul wouldn't resist life in the wild. They were wrong.
Soon, Scott found me and gave me to Gabi, who promised to take care of me and help me recover. At her side I felt safer than I'd ever felt, and her love gave me strength and made me regain my taste for life. My teammates also helped a lot, especially Water Angel. She made me have faith in myself. Not only was she always there for me, but she also showed me my good points and proved I was useful... even needed! Water Angel gave my life a purpose, and the best thing is I made her life better too. Sometimes I wish I could describe what she means to me but, whenever it comes to that, I'm out of words.


~^~END FLASHBACK~^~

The thing is that, since I hadn't seen any other prematurely evolved pokemon for months and I hadn't heard of AEP for the same period, I thought the project was cancelled. I even git to think they'd come across many pokemon like me and became discouraged. But this time I was wrong. And the Raticates were there to prove it.
"Scared of the lab rats?"
The voice behind me scared me. But that was because it caught me by surprise, and in the worst possible moment. I turned around and saw who had spoken. It was an Alakazam. I'd never seen him before.
"I was hoping to have a good battle, but it seems you're more pathetic than I thought. I'll finish you off quickly," the Alakazam affirmed.
"Leave him alone!," shouted Water Angel. I couldn't believe I'd forgotten she was right behind me. She tried to jump out of the water, but something stopped her. The Alakazam had set a barrier around her.
"Cool off, babe! Your turn will come next," he said.
"Don't you dare speak to her like that!," I shouted.
"Oh!, wadda we have here!," he exclaimed, before singing "is this love that I'm feeling" really out of tune. "Haven't you heard that birds and fish can't breed together?"
"Haven't you heard that those who talk too much live too little?," I retorted. I didn't notice where those words came from until I'd said them. They just came out. Then it was too late.
"Yes, I've heard them!," The Alakazam responded. "And it's good that you remember them! Maybe you still have a chance after all."
"Do you know me?," I asked him.
"I've seen some pictures of you and read your file. When I read about your dark powers and how you refused to master them I thought 'what a waste!,' but now I think you may not be completely lost."
"What dark powers are you talking about?! The only Dark type attack I know is Faint Attack and I don't use it for evil as you and your masters would wish."
"You know Faint Attack, and you never use it to the limit. You refuse to explore the possibilities. You refuse to make it reach perfection. But you've seen what the perfect form of Faint Attack can do and I know that, deep inside, you've wished for its power more than once. And you're lucky: you're one of the few who actually has the potential for mastering that power. All you need to do is stop turning your back on your true nature."
"You know nothing about my true nature," I told him. And I knew I was right. I was only worried at the fact that there were so many things he did know about me, and he seemed to know about Trickster too. I feared they might be planning to lay hands on her. She was strong and she'd defend herself, but the rockets might find the way tap into her dark side and make her do something awful. I had to warn her about that. She was my friend and I couldn't let something like that happen to her. And what about Gabi? Where was she now? Was she safe? I couldn't see her. What pokemon were with her? I was supposed to be helping her!
"What are you thinking now?," the Alakazam asked. "Nevermind. I'll give you something to think about. Look at the power of a well-trained Rocket pokemon!"
"It's you who'll have a lot to think about," I answered. "If you can still think, that is."
Those words did come from my heart. While I pronounced them, I prepared for a battle.

Level 43 vs Level 47

I knew this would be hard, but I had to make it. The Alakazam's first attack (Psychic), practically tore me apart. I knew that the only chance I had was to stay away from his attacks. For this, I used Agility and started circling around my opponent. Then I gave him a Mud-Slap to make things harder for him. I kept on moving and, when the Alakazam attacked again, flew up to the ceiling and evaded the psychic energy. That left me in a perfect position for my next attack. The Alakazam couldn't locate me because his eyes were full of mud and there was too much noise all around (I believe that includes mental noise).
The Alakazam tried something different this time: a Thunderpunch. I was glad I was so far away. Even when I had an Electric Shield (which Gabi had given me back in Selenia) that would have been too much for me. I plunged into my opponent and the impact made him fall to the floor, away from the swimming pool. He got up and used Psychic again, but he missed me by a mile. I used my chance to hit him with a Steel Wing. Now the Alakazam did something completely different: he used Recover!
"See? You'll never win," he told me. "No matter how hard you hit me, I can always heal myself. You can't. As soon as I hit you again, you'll faint and then you'll be ours."
So that was what he wanted! He was trying to take me back to Team Rocket! That would never happen. I had to do something fast. I used Steel Wing again and went back to my circles, this time to the other side. But the Alakazam did not attack me. Instead, he stood still, glowed for a moment and then resumed his defensive position. I had seen a Hypno do that before. It was Future Sight. The blast could come from anywhere, anytime. If I allowed myself any distraction, my seconds would be counted.
After my next Wing Attack, the Alakazam, who seemed to be playing, decided to use Disable. I didn't like what that meant: now the only way I had to hit him really hard was to use Fly again, but now he'd be expecting it and would protect himself against it. I decided to go for my second best choice: Wing Attack.
The result of my attack was better than I expected. The Alakazam started shaking. He didn't show pain (or at least he didn't seem to dislike it) but I could see his body wasn't responding as he expected. At that moment, his eyes opened widely, clearing the mud away, and I instinctively moved to my left soon enough to see a beam of yellow light appear slightly above the place where I'd been a split-second earlier. "He failed at that too," I thought. "He'd figured I was going to move up."
The Alakazam was now rigid like a statue. He managed to mumble a few words before passing out: "You could have... now you'll never..."


I grew to level 44!

I could hardly believe I'd managed to defeat such a tough opponent on my own. Maybe I wasn't that weak after all.
"You did it!," exclaimed Water Angel, jumping out of the water, free from the barrier. "I knew you'd make it. You've always been better than them and will always be."
I looked at her and she smiled.
"You know..." I said, "I liked the way he said 'never'."
"He meant something else, but... I liked it too," She replied. "You'll never be like them. While you could learn to exploit your potential, now you know nothing will ever bring you close to being anything like them."
"What do you mean? Are you suggesting I should try to learn Breaking?"
"I'm not suggesting anything. I'm just saying that you can reach into your power and harness it without fearing it might hurt you or make you hurt others, because that won't happen. It may even help you be at peace with yourself."
"I... I'll think about it," was all I could answer. She smiled again. I loved the way she smiled. I'd seen photos and drawings of other Kingdras and none of them had a smile like hers.
"We'd better look for Gabi," I said once I remembered what was going on around us.
"You're right," she agreed. The Rockets were already leaving. One of them returned the Alakazam I'd just fought. All of them had been beaten as I trusted they would always be.
Water Angel sat on my back and together we looked for Gabi. We found her in the middle of the mess which had one been an elegant room, talking to a trainer I hadn't seen since the Pegasus Games. I also remembered the Vulpix who was at his side. She'd had a great performance at the games, which had won her a loose 5th place, and I'd felt she was very likely to do even better in the future. This time, though, both she and her trainer looked like they'd just come out of hell. When I got closer and heard the end of their story, I understood the reason: Team Rocket had taken their friends!! How could something like that happen?! How could it happen again and again, always to those who deserved quite the opposite?!
I felt like I was about to explode, but there was no one to direct my rage against. Not now, but as soon as I saw whoever had done that I'd make them regret they'd ever thought of joining Team Rocket. And I'd make sure that those pokemon... all the pokemon they'd caught, regained their freedom and were able to resume their lives. I'd help each and every one of them as much as I could.
Once Adrian and Pearl left, and before we started cleaning up the mess, I heard Gabi say something strange to Lagi and Ventura: "you felt it too, right? I hope he knows what he's dealing with. I don't. But I'll help him as much as I can."
In that, we agreed.
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Old Yesterday, 12:43 PM   #29
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<Ninetales's POV>

"What does it feel like?," Iael asked after staring at me for about 3 minutes.
"Sitting idle all day long? It's frustrating," I answered.
"No! I mean... being a hero," he explained. "What does that feel like?"
"I'm pretty sure you'll have a thousand opportunities to answer that yourself."
Iael didn't look satisfied with my reply.
"I don't know if I could..." he said. "I try my best to do things well, but... I'm still so weak! Each time I battle, Gabriela says she's proud of me. And Ventura usually says the same. But I know, what?, 5 moves? And I usually get scared."
"So do they," I told him. "Everyone gets scared sometimes, and that's fine. It helps you react to danger and not do stupid things which would get you killed. As long as you don't let your fears overcome you, which you're not doing, it's ok. As for the 5 moves, you'll learn more. You can't expect to learn everything at once, right? And you are good. The other night you got to help fight Team Rocket when I couldn't. Don't underestimate yourself. That's an important lesson I learned in my early days."
"Does that mean you've been scared too?"
"Are you really asking me that question?"
"Well, I guess you have, but I've never seen you show fear."
"I don't, and I hope I never will. Not to my opponents, at least. But yes, I've been scared. Lots of times. Don't ask when; I'm only telling you this one: when I attacked that Rocket back in Selenia, becoming a hero to your eyes, I did it out of fear."
"How come?"
"I was more afraid of losing my trainer than I was of losing my own life."
"Wow!," was all the Stantler managed to say.
"Of course I didn't consider 2 weeks of inactivity having everyone stare at me in amazement or pity as a possible result; not that I had much time to think at that moment. But even if I had, I would have done it. I just can't afford to lose her."
"You can't? I thought you could do anything... bear anything."
"No one can do that. Don't go idolizing others. Nobody deserves it. I don't want to think of where I'd be if it hadn't been for Gabi. And still I know she has flaws just like everyone else."
"What do you mean? Where would you be?"
"I'll tell you my story if you tell me yours."
Silence filled the room.
"I thought so," I said. "It's ok. We don't have to open up like that if we don't want to. We can still be friends."
"Yes, we're friends," Iael sighed. "I hope your leg gets well soon."
"So do I," I replied. So much idleness was driving me mad. Iael left the room. At first I was glad that he was no longer staring at me, but then I began to think that I might have hurt him. Maybe I had reminded him of something he didn't want to remember. What right did I have to do that? I'd have to talk to him; apologize if necessary, though that wouldbe hard. I hoped it was only my imagination. For a moment, I wished I had Lagi's power to know what the Stantler was feeling. But Iael had a right to privacy, so things were better this way.

Later that day, Gabi came up with a big surprise: the maze was open again, and that meant we'd all get some action at last! I was excited. I hoped she'd let me battle one of the guardians. They wouldn't try to kill me, so I wouldn't have to push myself to the limit and risk losing my leg. And a battle would help me stay fit and be ready to face the next threat, whenever it came. I really wanted a challenge. The bigger, the better.
It seemed the others were excited too. Iael was intrigued. He was the only member of the team who hadn't been at a maze before. Amber and Sylvan told him about their good moments in the previous mazes, and how Ventura and Pidgeot had halped a lot too, and Caledor promised he'd do much better at this one than at the previous one. I didn't understand what he was talking about, until Water Angel's reply ("you'd better do") reminded me of the Thundershock that had accidentally hit her inside the 2nd maze. That had happened when she was still a Horsea. I couldn't believe so much time had passed since then. All of a sudden, I started feeling old.
Gabi spent the rest of the day making phone calls. Most of them were to invite other trainers to the maze. One was to tell Ryan she'd missed him at the party -as long as it was a party, anyway- and ask him if he was fine. They kept on talking, but I didn't stay to hear the conversation. Not even Lagi did. Even she can respect privacy sometimes. That night, I dreamed about the maze, and the guardians I'd find. That's how badly I needed some excitement. In my dream I battled all kinds of pokemon, and used their own moves against them with the last move I'd learned. The last dream I remembered having that night was a battle against Tsunami. That's when I began to feel things were finally going back to normal. By the way, I won the battle in my dream.

The following day we had a quick breakfast and we headed for the maze. This time we were taken there on a jeep, along with other trainers and pokemon. The place looked like a really big box, unlike the previous mazes, but I knew quite well that appearances are usually deceiving. I was sure I'd find many surprises inside.
All the early risers gathered at the entrance. Gabi talked to them while we waited for the doors to open. We stayed there even after they opened, since trainers kept on arriving. In the end, I had no choice but to pull Gabi's T-shirt to let her know we'd waited long enough.
"Ok, we're going!," she shouted. She said goodbye to the trainers who were still at the entrance and we finally entered the maze.
We first entered a room with 9 doors to choose from. I liked that. Many choices from the start. Ventura started analizing the possibilities, and so did I. I used my senses of smell and hearing, while she used her radar. But in the end neither of us saw one of the doors as the best choice, so we let Gabi decide. She went for the one in the middle and we followed her.
We moved along a corridor which got darker on every step. Amber's tail barely even helped. My eyes had already become useless when I got the message to stop. It stunned me. I froze in my place, but not without a complaint.
"Ventura, you could have used words, you know!!," I shouted.
"We've already gone through this," my teammate replied. "It's faster, more effective and humans understand it right away."
"As long as they know you, that is," I told her. "And right now the only human who's with us is Gabi, and she would have stopped if she'd heard your voice. Why did you want us to stop, anyway?"
"Because there's a big hole right in front of you," she told me. I expected her to use her powers again to show me the hole, but it seemed she'd finally learned not to abuse her telepathy. I think she did show Gabi, though, since she asked Pidgeot and Lagi to carry us to the other side. Ventura crossed the hole flying, while the rest of us (except Lagi and Pidgeot) were returned to our pokeballs for a moment. We came ut on the other side, and only then Caledor had the 'bright' idea to lit the place with his golden glow.
"Sorry," he said when he saw my angry face (and Tsunami's too). "I hadn't done this for a long time and I didn't think about it until now. It's still quite dark, anyway."
"Kid, you'll really have to try harder if you want to keep the promise you made yesterday," Tsunami reminded him.
"I will, old guy," Caledor replied. I couldn't held my laughter.
"What are you laughing at?!," Tsunami shouted. "You're older than I am!"
"Yes, it's not that," I answered, still laughing. "It's just that... I'd never noticed... how well... you... imitate me!"
"I don't imitate you!," Tsunami complained.
"Now you'll tell me you don't treat Caledor the same way I treat you."
"No, I don't. He deserves it."
"Yes, he does," Caledor said. "Even more, I think he just calls me 'kid' because you call him that way."
"2 against 1 is unfair play," Tsunami stated. "I never thought you'd both join forces against me."
"As far as I know, it was you who started it against both of us," I remarked. "But it doesn't really matter, does it? This whole argument is pointless and we're staying behind. Let's get moving! I want some action before this day ends."
Both Tsunami and Caledor agreed. We continued walking and, as soon as Ventura found an opening on the left wall, we passed through it and entered a tunnel which, after a turn, led us to a well lit room.
It took my eyes a few seconds to get used to the light. Caledor stopped glowing immediately. The room had white walls, no doors and apparently nothing inside. I say apparently because Gabi did find something. I don't know how she saw it: a very tiny white stone in the center of the room. I remembered her saying she had 140% of normal eyesight, but she hadn't proved it until then. She picked up the stone and put it in her pack. "I'll find out what this is later," she said.
We had to decide what to do next. The easiest option was to go back, but something told me that room was not just a dead end. I looked at Ventura and she just told me she wouldn't spoil the fun. So I started searching for a secret passage. So did my teammates: all except Ventura. After a minute or two, Iael stopped and faced the Venomoth.
"You've found something," he said, "so why won't you tell us?"
"Ok, I'm getting bored too," she answered. "There's something on the other side of the right wall, but I haven't found any openings. This seems to be a real dead end."
"How wide is that wall?," Iael asked.
"It's rather thin. I'll show you."
I guess she used her powers to show him the width of the wall.
"Are we allowed to break things?," the Stantler asked.
"Everyone does that," Ventura responded. I heard a near-laughter tone in her voice.
Iael went to Gabi to get her approval, then faced the right wall and pressed his front hooves against it. He used an Earthquake attack to make the wall shake and soon made a big hole on it.
"Well done, Iael!," Gabi exclaimed.
Amber ran to pick up the debris and clear the way, and soon we all saw two sets of stairs on the other side of the hole. One was leading up, while the other one led down.
"One more decision to make," Gabi stated. And only a second later, she said "ok, let's go up."
We followed our trainer to the first floor. Once there, we found a large room with golden walls and statues of humans and pokemon. There was one of a Ninetales, but I didn't think it looked good.
"What is this place?," Sylvan asked. Amber replied with another question.
"What were all the other places?"
At the end of the room there were 4 doors, each covered with a curtain. We were planning to open all 4 curtains, but as soon as Amber opened the first one she disappeared.
"She was teleported," Gabi said, stating the obvious. "We'd better follow her."
A teleportation device. The maze had definitely got better. I followed my trainer and appeared in the middle of a garden. It was quite similar to the garden the previous maze had, except that the other one was open and this one had a ceiling. Sylvan started to run carelessly all over the place as soon as she smelt the flowers.
"This place is great!," she exclaimed. "See, Iael? This is the beauty I was talking about."
"It's just a garden," I told her. "And a tricky one, if my logic still works. Just wait a second and... oh, yes, there they are!"
Vines, roots and branches started growing all around us and tried to trap us. I knew there had to be something like that; it would have been a pity to throw such a nice trick to the trashcan, and a waste of space to leave such a big garden trap-free. They had to have kept this old trap. And I was glad they had: now I had a good target to use my fire on. I think Caledor felt the same way; he tried all his fire moves on the vines that tried to wrap him up, with excellent results. Amber used her fire too, and so did Lagi: she used Fire Blast for the first time as far as I could remember.
Tsunami and Water Angel fought the plants with ice, while Pidgeot cut them with his beak and Ventura teleported away from them and helped Gabi and Iael get away too. These plants were persistent. No matter how many I burnt, they kept on coming. Finally, I decided to do something different: I dug a big hole in the ground and called out for everyone else to follow me. Once they were all with me, I kept on digging until the ground became harder, and even later, until air started coming up from below my paws. Then I stopped digging to avoid a big fall.
Gabi crouched to my side and looked down.
"It seems we're reshaping the maze," she said. "That must be the first basement. I mean, the garden must have been on the ground floor. Ventura, could you please take us down there?"
Ventura did as she was told, and so I was teleported for the second time that morning. We appeared in a room full of mirrors. A maze within the maze, set up to confuse whoever tried to cross it. Still, Gabi was not discouraged. This time she seemed to be as attracted by the challenge as I was.
"Let's split," she suggested. "We can make 5 groups to explore all the paths. Then Lagi can help us find each other. Ninetales, you go with her. Ventura, go with Iael. I think Tsunami and Caledor can work well together. Pidgeot, take Water Angel on your back. I'll go with Amber and Sylvan. If any of you finds anything, send a signal. And please make sure your signal doesn't hurt anyone."
"I won't let that happen again," Tsunami said. He knew Gabi would most likely not understand him, so I guess he just said it to annoy Caledor.
"Neither will I," the Eevee added. "Don't worry, Tsunami, I'll send a fire signal this time, so you have nothing to fear."
"As if I had anything to fear from you," Tsunami answered. "I think you've grown enough to know how to make a signal right but, just in case, leave the job to me."
"On second thought," Gabi said, "maybe pairing Caledor and Tsunami was not such a good idea. Tsunami, why don't you come with me and Amber? Caledor, you go with Sylvan."
Both Caledor and Tsunami shook their heads.
"She got us wrong again," Tsunami commented. "Doesn't she realize we were just playing? We'll go together, right Caledor?"
Caledor nodded energetically.
"You three are a hard case. I guess I'll never get to understand you," Gabi laughed. I took it the third one she was referring to was me. Well, I didn't really care if she understood the things we did or not; our games and arguments were never meant to be shared by outsiders.
As Caledor and Tsunami walked away, I heard the Vaporeon say he had an idea for the signal; but I didn't get to hear what his idea was. I didn't see those two again for a while. We split in pairs (and 1 group of 3), just like Gabi had said and I took the first path on the right with Lagi. I wondered why my trainer had paired me with her, the only pokemon in the team whose level was, at that moment, higher than mine. As if I were in need of protection... not fit enough to help the younger ones. That thought irritated me. And not only me.
"Ninetales, stop that! Your bad mood is hurting me!"
That was, of course, Lagi. Who else could have said such a thing?
"Is that what you were like in your early days?," she asked me.
"Like what? I didn't ask you to come with me. Gabriela did, and I don't understand why."
"That's simple. She did it because she knows we work well together. We've been doing it a lot lately, and she likes the results. And so do I."
She was being honest. Lagi just couldn't lie. I could expect a white lie from anyone except from her. I guess it comes with her powers, since I don't think anyone can lie to her either.
"What were you thinking?," she asked me.
"I thought you knew what I was thinking."
"I'm clueless. I just know your rage was building every second and, mind if I say it, you were beginning to lose your self confidence. And I don't understand why."
"I hate it when you do that, Lagi. Anyway, I guess you can't help it. I was just being an idiot, that's all. And yes, I guess that's pretty much what I was like when I evolved, if that's what you were asking."
"Hey, don't be so hard on yourself! I was just asking if those were the feelings you used to have back then, I wasn't saying you were an idiot or anything like that. I just think you need to trust your friends a little more. That includes Gabi and me too. Gabi knows know you have nothing to prove, and you know neither of us would ever try to hurt you."
"I know, but you may hurt me without trying."
"In that case, I'd be hurting myself too. Believe me, I'll do my best to avoid that. There's nothing as painful as feeling those you care for suffer and knowing you've caused that suffering."
"I guess your life isn't easy."
"Whose life is?"
"Good point. Don't worry about hurting me, I'm not so soft anyway."
"There's nothing wrong about having feelings. Everyone has them. I bet even Giovanni has them, though I can't be sure about that unless I meet him in person."
"Who knows. If he has any feelings, I'd hate to be the one who gets a taste of them. Now that I think of it, maybe you should stay away from him."
"When the moment comes, I'll do whatever is needed."
"Same here."
After our little conversation we kept on walking. We took so many turns that I began to get dizzy before I realized the mirror maze had a square spiral pattern. Once I noticed that, I knew that we'd have to take the turns which would lead us further from the center if we wanted to find an exit. At one moment we came across the reflection of Gabriela, Sylvan and Amber. Then we were found by Ventura, who had also noticed the pattern and, even better, found an exit.
"I thought I'd better catch you so that I didn't have to signal you," she told me. "Iael's waiting at the exit. I'll send a message to the others."
But before she could do anything, something else came up: steam. A cloud of steam was coming from the center of the mirror maze. I laughed, as I recognized the senders of that unusual signal, and finally understood my old friend's idea.
"They'd better have found something," I said. "I'll bite them if they're doing this just to try their new signalling method."
"Well, it's a nice method anyway," Ventura opined. "Though the steam is fogging the mirrors. I'll go there and check what they've found."
"Could you take us too, please?," Lagi asked, correctly assuming that I'd want to go there too. Ventura teleported us to the source of the steam, where Tsunami and Caledor were mixing a Flamethrower and a Water Gun and directing them to the ceiling. Caledor was now glowing red, as he usually does when he uses fire moves or when he has a naughty idea (like the time he picked the magical Beach Ball to play a ball game with a Flareon named Kiara). I asked them what they had found.
"I've found a key!," Caledor exclaimed, pointing to a golden object on the floor with his tail. "A small, golden key which looks exactly like the one from the previous maze. It could be the same key. Now all we need is to find the door where it fits."
"I've found a door," Ventura told him. "I could take you there, but you're too many for me to teleport you at once, and I'm getting a bit tired of blinking. Would you mind following me?"
We all agreed to follow her and she led us to the door where Iael was waiting. Lagi, who had picked up the key, tried it on the door, but it didn't fit.
"Now what are we going to do?," she thought aloud.
"We could try to break the door," Iael suggested.
"Yeah, or I could dig again, but I get the feeling every time we reshape the maze we get even more lost, so I think we should try to find the real path," I said.
At that moment, the sound of an attack made mereact instinctively. I turned around and crouched, but then I saw it was just an oversized Aurora Beam comming from another end of the mirror maze. For the width of the beam, it had to be Water Angel using the Beach Ball.
"There we go again!," Caledor exclaimed. This time it was Lagi who guided us, following the presence of Water Angel or whatever it is she feels and lets her find her friends. It took us between 2 and 5 minutes to get there, I think. Gabi and her group were already there when we arrived. What the sweethearts had found was a large rock covering the wall. They thought it had to be blocking an exit. When Amber used her Strength to push the rock aside, she proved them right. There was a big hole on the wall, and a set of stairs leading up from it.
"Please, let it not be the same set of stairs we found before!," I shouted. I was fed up with wandering.
"It is," Ventura said. "It leads to the statues room on the 1st floor, passing by broken wall of the strange white room on the Ground Floor. But this time we know which door not to go through."
"Let's go up," Gabi said. We climbed the stairs until we were in the statues room again. I was getting bored. I hoped there was something good behind the following curtain.
"I think there must be a teleporting device behind each curtain," Gabi concluded. "Ventura, could you check the second one and teleport back here to tell us what you've found?"
Without any words, Ventura nodded and flew past the 2nd curtain. Soon, she came back, with a message for all of us. She sent us the image of a large pool, and a closed door on the other side. A hostile environment. I liked the idea. Without a warning, I did on purpose what Amber had done by accident and passed through the second door. I knew the others would follow me, and I was too tired of being idle to risk Gabi making a different choice.
A bright flash surrounded me and the next second I was standing at the border of a really big swimming pool. My friends appeared right behind me. Gabi had an angry look.
"Ninetales, you're not supposed to decide for the rest of the team," she said. "Return to your pokeball. You're still going to battle, but first you must think of a way to control your impulsiveness."
Control my impulsiveness?! What had I been doing all those days, almost 2 weeks, stopping myself from running to prevent my wounds from re-opning? Of course, I'd done that for my own good, but I'd got those wounds from saving her life in the first place! I really wished I could talk to her. Well, at least she'd said I was going to battle, and that was worth all the time she could keep me in my pokeball.
I heard the sound of shaken water around me. That meant Gabi was swimming. Water Angel had to be swimming too, and probably Tsunami and Lagi, and maybe Caledor. There was a lot of water noise. Pidgeot flew over the pool; I could hear his wings flapping, and Ventura's too. I don't know how Amber, Sylvan and Iael got to the other side. Maybe Pidgeot took them on his back, or maybe they were inside their pokeballs too. Iael might have swum too; I didn't know if he could swim or not. Once on the other side, Gabi let me out. So she wasn't that mad after all. She had tried to scare me in order to teach me a lesson; I'd done that to Tsunami a few times, and Tsunami had done it to Caledor, but I didn't think she could do that too.
The door in front of us was locked. Fortunately, Lagi still had the key with her, and this time it fit the lock perfectly! My Dragonite friend turned the key and pushed the door to reveal... yet another pool! I felt disappointes, until I saw and heard bubbles coming out of the water. Two shadows formed at the bottom of the pool, and began to come up. A few seconds later, a Kingdra and a Lapras were floating on the surface, challenging us. The Lapras looked female, but I couldn't tell for sure. As for the Kingdra's gender, I had no idea; I only noticed its face was quite different from Water Angel's, not nearly as sweet... more like the face of a warrior.
"Welcome to the exit," the Lapras said. For her voice, I confirmed she was a female. "Congratulations! You've made it! But you will have to face us before getting out."
"Are you kidding? That's what we came for!," I told her. The Lapras laughed.
"I'll be the first one to challenge you," said the Kingdra, who turned out to be male. "Who will my opponent be?"
"No offense, but your partner looks stronger," I told him. "I'll save myself for her."
"That was rude!," Water Angel told me.
"No, he's right," the Kingdra corrected her. "Morning Mist is older than me and has spent more time training, so she's logically stronger. That doesn't mean I'll not beat her some day, but for now your friend is wise for looking for a better challenge than me. I wouldn't like to battle a pokemon whose level is much lower than mine either."
"But Ninetales does want to battle Tsunami here!," Caledor retorted.
"You shut up!," I and Tsunami shouted in unison.
Gabi interrupted our friendly discussion by asking Water Angel if she would like to take the challenge. She nodded and jumped into the water, intentionally leaving the Beach Ball behind. The other Kingdra looked pleased.
"Not often do I get to battle one of my own species," he said to her. "Actually, it's the first time. You seem to be as strong as I am, so I'm not going to hold back. I suggest you don't either."
"I won't," Water Angel answered. With that, the battle began. I was almost as anxious to see the result as I was to battle Morning Mist.

vs.

The Kingdra used Agility to gain advantage over Water Angel. Smart move, in my opinion. But Water Angel countered it with her own Agility. They both moved faster and faster, spinning around each other, until the guardian formed a Twister which caught Water Angel by surprise. It took her some time to react, and that allowed the guardian to use another Twister. Not bad, I'd say, though the surprise factor was already lost. Seeing that Water Angel was now at a disadvantage, Gabi instructed her to use her combo. The good thing was that the other Kingdra didn't know Water Angel, and was caught completely off-guard by her Smokescreen, still unaware of what would come next.
The guardian used Swift to ensure a hit, to which Water Angel responded with a Toxic attack. The male Kingdra was badly poisoned and seemed to realize that Water Angel, however sweet, was not to be taken lightly. He tried a Headbutt, but he missed, and the effect of the poison began to show. Then Water Angel used her best move against one of her kind: Hidden Power. The fierce dragon force hit the guardian with all its power, making him sink into the water; but he emerged, weakened, but still willing to fight. I felt he and I could become good friends if we ever met again.
The male Kingdra used Headbutt again, and this time he managed to hit Water Angel. I saw her body shake, and she sank into the water too. Had she lost? But then I saw her resurface, and I was glad. All our differences aside, I couldn't expect less from her.
The guardian resisted the poison as much as he could, and used Protect to block Water Angel's next Hidden Power attack. But then the effect of the poison got worse and he stopped fighting it.
"You told me not to hold back," Water Angel said.
"I wouldn't want it any other way," her opponent replied.
My teammate used a Twister to make him faint. Later she explained that she'd done it because it was the only way to neutralize the effect of the poison before it kept on hurting him.


Water Angel grew to level 44!

"Don't worry, he'll be fine," Morning Mist told Water Angel. "You fought well. Now it's your friend's turn to test his skills against me. Ninetales, the water gives me an advantage over you. Would you like me to get out?"
"No, thanks," I told her. "I like being at a disadvantage. It makes success tastier."
"I thought you'd say that."
"You thought so? Why?"
"I was studying you while you watched our friends battle. The way you got excited by every proof of courage and determination, and how you refused to battle Neptune because he was weaker than you."
"So that was his name."
"Yes. Let me tell you I don't like having a big advantage either, but for some reason I feel my advantage against you will not be great. Am I right?"
"Let's try and see," I responded.
"Agreed. Feel free to use all the space around the pool, jump inside or do whatever you want. Give me the best you've got. Here I go!"

vs

I used a Flamethrower before Morning Mist could attack. It worked quite well, but I knew that, against her and at this environment, I was unlikely to get another chance to hit her with fire. Just as I'd expected, the Lapras used Rain Dance. That reminded me of my last battle at the first Griffon Games, the only other time I'd battled a water pokemon; the Poliwhirl I'd faced had been foolish enough to trust it would be an easy win and I'd proved him wrong. But Morning Mist was smarter. I needed to think of something fast or else I'd be history. I wished I could run. But there were other options... there had to be.
I thought of picking a Water Shield, but that would have only reduced the damage I'd take in 10%, which meant I would still take 270% of normal damage from any water attack. Basically, it meant that if I got hit by a Hydro Pump, it would be Game Over for me. I really had no choice. I had only 2 ways to save myself from Morning Mist's attacks, and I'd have to use them both. The choice of which one to use first was also obvious: Confuse Ray.
I concentrated on reaching into the ghost energy inside me, and liberated it in the first way I'd learned. I'd saved the second one (Hidden Power) for later, if I decided to use it at all. Everything went black around the Lapras for a moment. It worked. I was still to miss a Confuse Ray. Morning Mist began to shake her head and tried to attack, but she seemed to hurt herself instead. I couldn't see which attack she was trying to use; it never came out. I decided not to push my luck and used Double Team to stay as safe as I could. But soon all my copies faded away as Morning Mist honored her name by using Mist, getting rid of her confusion at the same time.
"Oh, great!," I grumbled. There was no use for another Confuse Ray. Now I had no chance but to attack and prepare for whatever came next. I concentrated all my power in an Iron Tail attack. I guess she wasn't expecting that, for I hit her stronger than I thought I would. I even managed to lower her defense a little. But she countered that effect with another Mist.
"When are you planning to attack?," I asked her.
"Actually, now!," she answered. I tried to hit her win Iron Tail again, but she dived into the water and evaded my tails. Then she came up and attacked me with a most unexpected move: Thunder!
"You've just made a big mistake," I told her. "I'd tell you which one, but that would be a big mistake too. Why aren't you using any water moves? Are you afraid of hurting me?"
"I just thought it would be a pity not to use Thunder before the rain stopped," she replied. "Of course I wouldn't underestimate you, especially after seeing how good you are with your tails. By the way, can I ask you something?"
"Sure."
"What happened to your tails?"
"Nothing."
"Oh, it's ok if you don't want to tell me. Sorry."
"No, really, nothing happened to my tails. I had 6 when I was a Vulpix and then I got one more when I evolved. End of the story. Sorry if I disappointed you."
"You didn't."
"Ok, so, shall we continue?"
Morning Mist nodded and sank into the water again. She didn't know it, but I'd been using Mimic as we spoke and was now ready to use Thunder. But first I had to think of a way to evade Morning Mist's next attack, which was likely to be water-based. I acted even faster than usual, preparing a Double Team while my opponent was still under the water. I thought it would have been much better if I'd been able to run but, as much as I hated it, I'd have to rely on a tactic Sylvan frequently used: trust my luck.
The Lapras came out of the water on top of a huge wave. Surf was an attack I knew quite well, since it was Tsunami's favorite and I'd been watching him carefully in case I ever got the chance to have a friendly battle with him. I had even thought of a possible way to evade it, but that involved running fast and I couldn't rely on my legs yet. That was driving me mad, but I'd known that would happen. I'd known my injuries would interfere with my battle, but I'd still wanted to do it. I wanted to be there and do that. Overcome all obstacles to become stronger, that had always been my goal. I couldn't forget that. And what better way to overcome an obstacle than using my mind?
I came up with an idea and, as the wave approached, I kept Double Team going on, creating more and more holograms. Most of them started running in different directions while some others stood still. Morning Mist had no way to know I couldn't run, so she'd probably think I just hadn't managed to concentrate enough to keep all the images moving. She wouldn't expect me to stand motionless while the wave was coming my way. If she'd seen only one still image she might have been suspicious, but this way it simply had to work. And it did. The wave blasted on some of the moving holograms. Morning Mist, who had been riding it, landed outside the pool. She sighed as the rain died down.
"I'm impressed," she said.
"Thanks," I answered. "I'd keep talking, but I want to win this battle."
I meant it. If I'd let her attack me again, the battle would be hers. I had no way to pull a stunt like that twice in a row. I imitated the moves Morning Mist had used to summon Thunder, and used it against her. Even I was impressed at the result. Morning Mist's head fell heavily on the floor after the lightning stroke her. I worried for her, thinking I'd hurt her too much. I was beginning to understand what Lagi had told me about causing others pain. But as I got closer to her I heard her breath was normal, and about a minute later she opened her eyes.
"You won," she said. "That was... a great battle... You can walk out now."


I grew to level 62!

I asked Morning Mist if she needed help, and she said her trainer would arrive soon. Then she smiled, told me she hoped we met again, and fell once more.
"She needs to rest," Lagi told me. "Let's leave her alone."
"Ninetales, you did great!," Gabi exclaimed. "I don't know how you do it, but you manage to surprise me every time you battle."
"Does she mean it?," I asked Lagi.
"Yes, she does," she answered. "And I can say the same."
"Well, thanks," I said. I walked to Gabi's arms and let her hug me. I wanted her to share my joy. She congratulated Water Angel too. I must admit the love queen* had done well. Then we walked around the pool and through the door, and got out of the maze.
Once outside, Gabi asked us if we'd like to stop for a big meal before going back home. I couldn't refuse that offer: it was already noon and the battle had made me hungry. So, I got a little reward for that win, not to mention I'd pushed my own limits a little higher. But the best reward was yet to come and I was eagerly waiting for it: only 2 more days and I'd be able to run again!

`,,`,, ` ,,`,,`

That's a nickname Tsunami gave Water Angel. Sometimes Ninetales calls her that way too.
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Old Yesterday, 12:46 PM   #30
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<Gabi's POV>

After Ryan returned, I spent most of my time with him. It hurt me to see him like that, to think of what he'd been through... and it hurt me even more to think that it was far from over... for any of us. I needed to help Ryan heal, both physically and emotionally, but I also needed him... his presence, his touch, the look in his eyes... only his company could cast my fears aside, at least for as long as they didn't come true.
Our pokemon also helped us, and each other, a lot. It was a great thing that Lagi and Edie could be together in a moment like that. I would have liked Mystic to be with them too, but she was better off taking care of Blue Shadow, her little son. The poor Dratini was about to experience the worst the world has to offer at the dawn of his life. I really wished it were all a nightmare. But it was all too real.
Lagi also spent some time with Diana. I had the feeling she'd wanted to have a talk with the mighty Meganium for a long time. At least the calm preceding the storm had brought along something good. And, as strange as it may seem, I felt somehow relieved at the sight of Pegasus. Even when she was probably as disturbed as I was, I could still feel the peace and the magic of the White Mountain emanate from her, just like when we first met.
All of my pokemon were anxious, which was perfectly understandable since the Black Battalion were about to attack us and we knew neither how nor when. I was stuck trying to find a way to confront them. I almost shouted at Caledor when he opened my pack and spread its content on the floor (all except the Sun Stone, which he didn't want to touch yet), but when I saw the way he looked at each item I understood he was trying to help.
"I don't think any of these things will help much," I told him. "The shields will provide hardly any protection. We can't use the dolls, stones and gems. Now that I think of it, why am I even carrying them? I could leave them at home. The Beach Ball could be useful, but I don't think it's enough against..." I closed my eyes tight, trying to shake away the images of Ryan's description, before finishing the phrase. "You know. And... oh, a Rare Candy! We must decide who will get it. In any case, it won't turn the balance. And what's this?... It's the stone we found at the maze! I'd forgotten about it. It's glowing now! I wish I knew what it is. I guess if it were radioactive I would have started feeling the consequences by now. What can it be?! And why was it there?"
I picked up the stone to take a closer look at it and, suddenly, horrible visions filled my mind. The scenes where similar to what Ryan described: the heavy weapons, the evil... it was so strong! But these images took place in a near future. I don't know how I knew it, but I was certain they were going to come real the following day; and I knew the exact place and time. When I came back to reality, to the present reality at least, my face was covered with tears. I couldn't understand what had just happened. I'd had some weird experiences, and even a few premonitions which I'd never recognized as such until they came true, but nothing like this had ever happened to me.
"Gabi, what happened?! Are you all right?"
"I'm not sure," I answered before asking myself where that question had come from. Then I realized I hadn't heard a voice or anything. Just the question. And there was no one but Caledor at my side. If it had been someone else, I would have known it. I had felt presences before, and they were more clear when the beings had strong psychic powers. There was no such a being with us. Nothing made sense.
"What's the problem?"
That question came to me together with a "Vee?" I looked down and saw Caledor looking at me, worried. He touched my knee with his paw.
"Caledor, was that you?," I asked. "But it's impossible! You don't have psychic powers yet!"
"Vee! Eevee!" "Gabi, you're scaring me!"
Caledor did look scared. Was I turning crazy? Or was it...?
I looked at the white stone in my hand. Its glow was stronger than ever. I then became aware of the sphere of energy that sorrounded me. It didn't come from a mysterious being; not even from the stone... it came from me!
"It's... it's this stone! What is it?! And what is it doing to me? Why was it at the maze? Did someone expect me to find it there? If so, who, and why?"
"Can you tell me what happened?"
"I understand your words. Or... your thoughts, maybe. And I had a vision. The vision!! If it's true, the Black Battalion are going to attack us tomorrow! I need to tell Ryan! Warn everyone! We need to get ready."
"Wait! How did you get this vision? And how can you hear my thoughts? All of a sudden you're psychic?"
"I don't know. I really don't know. But I think this warning is to be taken seriously. No matter where it comes from."
"And what if it's a trap?"
I stopped to consider that possibility. I felt it was real, but how could I be sure? I didn't even know where the stone came from. What if it had been planted by Team Rocket? They could have easily entered the maze in civilian clothes and they probably knew many trainers from Dragon Tamers were going in there.
"Can I touch the stone?," Caledor asked.
"It could be dangerous," I warned him.
"I've been exposed to over 100 kinds of radiation already. I don't think this will hurt me."
"You've been what?!"
"At the lab. Didn't you know?"
"No, I didn't. Actually, I guess I didn't want to know. I didn't want to think Scott had done such cruel things to you. Team Rocket, I understand. But Scott! I mean... he's my friend! He gave me everything I have now. He does hide a lot of secrets from me, but he's still a good person... or is he?"
"I never saw Scott at the lab. Actually, I didn't see much at all. But they didn't hurt me. It was boring and I wanted to come out and yes, sometimes I was a bit scared, but they never put me in danger and I never felt any pain."
"That makes me feel better, though I still think they had no right to do those things to you. At least I can still be Scott's friend; but I wish he wouldn't keep so many secrets. And I wish I knew where he is now. We'll have to confront the Black Battalion without him, and that scares me!"
"I promise I'll do everything I can to help. Let me touch the stone, please. I want to know what it does."
"I guess it's ok. After all, I have already touched it."
I opened my palm again and Caledor stretched out his front leg. At the moment he touched the stone, he was surrounded by a light purple glow. But when he lost contact with the mysterious object, the glow faded away.
"What happened?," I asked.
"Nothing. I just felt a tickle, but that was all."
"You glowed purple."
"Really?! Fourth color! Yay!"
"I don't think that's funny. Do you have any new powers?"
"Let me see."
Caledor pressed his eyelids and paws tight for two seconds, but nothing happened.
"I guess I don't. Sorry."
"There's nothing to be sorry about. Listen, let's put everything back in its place and talk to Ryan. He'll know what to do."
"I think you should talk to Ventura too."
"What about?"
"About the stone. Its effects seem to have something to do with ESP and psychic powers. She's the expert in that field."
"In our team, maybe. I think Sandy may know more, being a psychic pokemon."
"I don't know. I haven't talked to Sandy much. I think I should. But Ventura and you complement each other. Whatever you don't think of, she probably will."
"I guess Ventura wins."
"What?"
"Nothing. Just a thing between me and her."
"So competition is not alien to you."
"Of course not! Why would you think that?"
"Well... you know, whenever Tsunami, Ninetales and I..."
"Oh, I see where this is going. We'll discuss that later. And we'll talk to Ventura and Sandy later too. Right now there's an emergency in our hands. And I know it's true. Come with me, I'll talk to Ryan about this."
Caledor helped me put everything back in my pack, including the white stone. When that stone left my hand, I felt the energy around me fade away.
"I guess it only works while you're touching it," I concluded. "Well, maybe it's better this way. Otherwise it would be too dangerous. I still want to know what excactly that stone is. But first things first."
I stood up, called for all my pokemon and went to see Ryan.
It turned out we didn't have to walk much to find him. As I turned, I noticed Ryan was there, a few meters away from me, looking at me. How long had he been watching me? How much had he seen? And why had his presence caught me by surprise? To the last question, I found a plausible answer: during the previous minutes my mind was focused completely on the stone and my vision, making me unlikely to notice someone's presence close to me; maybe even Ryan's. Or maybe he had just arrived. Anyway, that didn't matter. I needed to talk to him and I was going to do it now.
I greeted Ryan casually. I didn't want to scare him from the beginning, and I guess I wanted to see his smile once more. His response hit me like a blast of ice:
"What's with the stone?"
So much for my plans of reaching the topic gradually. He'd seen me talk to Caledor about the stone. Maybe he was already worried about me. He might have even thought I was hiding things from him... and I might have just trespassed the limit of tolerable weirdness. I needed to know what he was thinking of me right now. Luckily, he explained himself before I forced myself to mumble an answer.
"Sandy and I sensed it a minute ago. Where'd you find this?"
I somehow relaxed at that moment. I didn't even know why. Now that I think of it, the word 'sensed' must have been the key. That meant he didn't think I was doing something wrong; and it also made Ryan at least as weird as me, which was always something good. It meant he could understand me. And that... that meant more to me than I could ever explain. I decided not to wait one more second before telling Ryan everything. I told him how I'd found the stone in the maze, and how it had allowed me and Caledor to communicate telepathically. I also told him how it had made Caledor glow when he touched it, and I expressed my concern as to why I'd found it and who had placed it there. And then... then I had to get to the worst part. I didn't want to get there, and I guess I made that too obvious.
I gathered my strength to tell him there was something else he needed to know.
"What?," Ryan asked in a concerned tone. "Tell me, Gabi, please. You're getting me worried about you."
Now I'd really made it. There was no way words could get me out of this, and suspense would probably scare Ryan more than the facts themselves. I opted for cutting things short Ventura's style and asked Ryan to touch the stone.
I took the stone out of my pack again and handed it to Ryan. He and Sandy touched it at the same time. At that moment their faces changed in a way which was as terrifying as the vision I'd had, the vision they were probably having at that moment too. For a moment, I feared they wouldn't come back. But they did. And then, they were as puzzled and astonished as I was.
"What could it all mean?," Ryan asked.
I didn't know what it meant, so I could only let him know how worried I was, and how imperative it was that we did something fast. After all, the future of Caledor, and the whole of Ulthuan, seemed to be up to us.
"As if we didn't have enough on our plates already," Ryan complained. I understood him. We were all emotionally exhausted for all we'd been through during the recent weeks.
"We'd better get some rest," I suggested. "Tomorrow is THE DAY."
We parted; thousands of different thoughts hammering my mind. We had one night before everyone's lives were decided. I could barely conceive that idea. I knew I'd better make good use of that one night. I made my talk with the colonel as brief as I could and then went home. Sleeping was not something I'd ever been good at, especially when I was worried, so I wouldn't probably sleep much, if at all; but at least I could reward my body with some inactivity while my mind tried to figure out the solution to some of the many puzzles life was making me face. Maybe my pokemon could help me. It would be easier now that I had the stone. I didn't know whether it was safe or not to use it, but it was not like I had much to lose at that moment. I decided it was the time to talk to Ventura. Hopefully, she'd see something I couldn't.
I faced Ventura as soon as I entered my house, holding the stone in my hand.
"Ventura, do you know what's happening?," I asked.
"Too many things are happening," she said. "Which of them are you referring to?"
"Well, the stone, to start."
"I know what I've heard, and that's what you told Ryan. But you knew I'd heard you; otherwise you wouldn't be asking me questions, right? You assumed I knew you could understand me."
"I guess I did. I'm just too confused."
"So, what is it you don't know?"
"What's this stone? What does it do? Where did it come from?"
"Your guess is as good as mine, but I have some theories as to what it does. You, Sandy and Ryan had visions, you can hear our thoughts and Caledor glowed purple, right?"
"Yes. Does that make any sense to you?"
"I'd like to make a few experiments, but yes, it does make some sense."
"What do you mean? What experiments? And how does it make sense?"
"Can you move things with your mind?"
"What?!"
"Telekinesis."
"I know what telekinesis is. And no, I can't! I can't believe you're asking me that. You remind me of a classmate I had back in high school."
"I'd love to hear that story, but please try this first. Concentrate on an object and try to move it."
I didn't know what Ventura had in mind, but it was worth trying. Using telekinesis had been one of my craziest dreams since I was a child; one which had never been close to coming true. Was this my chance? I concentrated on a chair and tried to make it float. I focused on it until my head hurt. Then I gave up and tried to at least drag it... make it turn around... make it shake a little...
Nothing happened.
"I guess your theory was wrong," I told Ventura.
"Quite the opposite. It seems I was right."
"What?! If you're making fun of me I'll make you pay! I won't care that you're my pokemon and my friend; this has gone too far."
"What are you talking about? Please, relax! I'd never make fun of you, how could you think such a thing?!"
"Then what was that all about?"
"I knew that telekinesis was not one of your abilities; and yes, you've told me the story of the guy who asked you to levitate a chair when everyone at school were saying you were psychic."
"Telepathy and precognition are not among my abilities either."
"Are you sure? How many times did someone use the exact words you were thinking of, when no one else had even mention that topic? How many times did you find out you'd either dreamed or had an image of something one or 2 days before it actually happened? How many times did your hunches prove to be much more than that? I could go on. Not only you've told me about those experiences, but I've also seen them happen many times. And, by the way, did your classmates suddenly believe you were psychic just because?"
"No, they thought I was psychic because I did a few strange things like predict when a teacher was going to be absent and attract people's looks with my thought."
"Then that's the proof."
"Which proof? That doesn't make me psychic; just a little weird if I'm lucky. And What connection is that supposed to have with the stone?"
"Will you let me try it, please?"
"I'm tired of experiments. Please let me know what your theory is."
"I think it doesn't induce any powers. It just amplifies the psychic abilities you already have. It makes sense, since Ryan has some talents of his own and Sandy is definitely psychic."
"And what about Caledor?"
"I think you know the answer to that question. He can't use any psychic abilities yet, but we all know they're latent in him. He'll develop them sooner or later, and I believe he'll also glow purple just like he glows golden, blue and red now."
"So you don't think the stone will make him evolve?"
"No, I don't think so. But this is just a theory. Let me try the stone, please!"
"Why are you so eager to try it? Your psychic powers are already strong."
"That's why. I'd like to know what the stone does to me. What better way to prove my theory? It would also let us know what we can do with this stone."
"But we don't know where it comes from. What if it's dangerous? And what if you have the same visions we had before?"
"If the stone is dangerous, I accept to share your destiny. I wouldn't honor my name if I turned back from it. As for the vision, I guess I'll see it tomorrow anyway, so I'd better be prepared."
"All right, you win. Try the stone, but... take care."
"I will."
I handed Ventura the stone. As soon as she touched it, everything around me turned into absolute chaos. It was as if we were in many places at the same time, or as if we blinked from one place to another and yet another and hundreds more in less than a second. For a moment I felt I wasn't even on Earth anymore. But I had no way to know.
"Ventura, please, stop that!," I screamed. My Venomoth released the stone and the world fell back on its place.
"What were you doing? Were you teleporting us all across the galaxy?"
"No, unless I'm wrong. I didn't teleport. I was just thinking of many places I've been to."
"So what was that? Telepathy?"
"I think so. Though maybe I did teleport us by accident. I can't really tell."
"I think you shouldn't use the stone. Your powers are already confusing without the boost. With the stone, they may be impossible to control."
"I don't know. I'll think about it. I'd hate to lose control in any way, but we may have some possibilities here. I'll think about this carefully. Thanks for trusting me with this."
"I always trust you. It's the least I can do if I expect you to trust me. Besides, more often than not you do the right thing."
"Yes, you too. And I like the way you treat me. I mean... you care for what I think and everything. I've seen some trainers who don't even let their pokemon have ideas of their own. I'm not good with words... guess you already know that. But I thought I just had to tell you I like having you as my trainer."
"Thanks. I really appreciate it. But why are you telling me this now?"
"Just in case..."
Ventura didn't finish the phrase, but I got the meaning: just in case she didn't get another chance. All the weight of reality fell back on me. For the way Ventura looked at me, I think my face turned white. Whiter than it already was, I mean. I remembered my cheeks used to turn red easily, either from the heat or a blush or a simple smile. I could feel when that happened, since it came with a warm sensation all over my face. How long had it been since I'd last felt that? Maybe a week or more. How long had it been since I last woke up without my back and neck being in pain, or since I'd last looked forward to the following day with nothing but excitement? What was this war doing to me?! What I feared the most was already happening. I couldn't even look at Ryan without seeing my own fears in his eyes. Even Lagi's deep smiled were less frequent and clouded, for she knew what I was feeling and she felt the same way. War was taking a huge toll on us. It was much more than I was willing to pay. This had to end.
"What are we going to do tomorrow?," Ventura asked.
"Meet all the other trainers, confront the Black Battalion... and win. I don't know exactly how we'll do that, but it just has to happen."
"Are you having another premonition?"
"I don't know. I hope so, but even if it's not we need to trust we'll win. That may be the key to make it true. It does work; that's another of the freaky things I did in high school."
I realized I was smiling. My cheeks turned red at last. That was a good sign.
"We're going to win," I told Ventura and the others who, as I'd just noticed, had been watching us since the beginning. "Tomorrow we'll figure out how. The base is set, thanks to that talk I had with Ryan and Alex. I'll try to think of what to do afterwards and if any of you has an idea it will be greatly welcome."
"Count on that," Ventura said.
I put the stone away once more, still wondering if it would be safe to use it. We had a light meal; my stomach was somewhat closed from the tension and I wouldn't have taken anything hadn't my pokemon been with me. Then I went to bed and made an effort to sleep. Repeating to myself "I need to be in a good condition tomorrow" only put more pressure on me. I did some breathing exercises which helped me stay focused for a while, but that was not enough. I remembered some advice I'd received from my mum years ago, which had been useful back then (in a previous life in which exams and school projects were the biggest things that put pressure on me): she'd told me to release my feelings by singing. I realized I wanted to sing badly, but I had to discard that option, since I didn't want to wake my pokemon. I started turning convulsively from one side to the other, as if trying to put out a fire inside me. Then I got tired, stopped and started taking deep breaths again.
At that moment, I heard my door open slowly and a weak light entered my room. I looked at the door and saw Amber holding it. At her side was Sylvan, and I could see Iael's antlers behind them.
"Come in," I said to them. The three pokemon padded into my room and stood next to my bed.
"So, you guys can't sleep either?," I asked. They nodded.
"I guess it will be a long night," I commented. "It will be better if we spend it together."
I took my time to look at each of the three carefully, and in each one I found different reasons so make it through the following day.
Amber: the sweetest Charmeleon I'd ever seen or even imagined. We'd been through a lot together; life had made her confront her fears and even herself. She stood for everything and everyone she cared for with great courage, and not all the evil and cruelty she'd faced had managed to change her kind and noble heart. I couldn't be prouder of her. If we made it, she'd soon become a majestic Charizard. She'd have great power, and she already knew how to use it wisely. As for the ability to fly, I was sure she'd enjoy it more than most pokemon who'd been born with it. And I'd be there to share her joy. But that was not Amber's main reason to live. It wasn't even her main goal. She had to live for her friends, who meant more to her than anything else in life, and she had to live for her love. I'd noticed how Volvagia was much more than a friend to her. And it seemed to be mutual, since his behavior changed drastically in her presence. Not much had happened between them yet, but they deserved to explore the possibilities. They deserved to be together.
Sylvan: I could hardly believe how much she'd grown. When I first met her, she was a little Bulbasaur who was as afraid of battles as she was of being alone. How strong she had finally become! She was one step away from her final evolution, which I knew she'd longed for all her life. She'd had it harder than many, being as sensitive as she was, but her rewards had been great. I could practically see her spirit soar when she sat in the middle of the woods (or any place where she could be in contact with nature). The simple sound of leaves shaken by the wind was heaven to her. And friendship was more valuable to her than all the power in the world. She knew how to make others feel comfortable, and her company was a guaranteed cure for loneliness. Even in battles, she'd recently found out to be much more powerful than she'd thought. That had clearly improved her self confidence and, with that, she became more able to help others. Her bond with Amber was even stronger than it was at the beginning (which I hadn't thought possible). I believed the reason for that was that, at first, they'd stuck together mainly out of need; now they were together because they wanted to, because they cared for each other. A friendship that derives from nothing but the yearning of two souls to be together is probably the strongest form of friendship that exists.
Finally, my thoughts turned to Iael: how well did I know my Stantler? The look in his eyes and his behavior reminded me of Ninetales in his early days. Ninetales's achievements had encouraged me to expect wonders from Iael, but the truth was that things had been much easier when Ninetales and I started training. With all we were going through, I hadn't had the time to give Iael as much attention as he required. He knew I cared for him, but I wanted to do much more for him. I wanted to know what had caused him to be so shy, and what kind of anger he was channeling when he battled. It had been easier to figure out the cause of Ninetales's shyness because it was visible. It would be harder with Iael, but not impossible. He believed in me, and I had great hope for him. He had already made some noticeable improvements, mostly thanks to Ventura. (Sometimes I wondered if my Venomoth could be a more skilled pokemon trainer than I was). If we won the following day... no: when we won, I'd get closer to Iael. I'd show him how much I cared and help him find his inner strength just like his teammates had.
"We'll make it," I whispered. All of a sudden, an answer came to me. I repeated it to myself, to make sure not to forget it. Then I felt Sylvan's vine caress my arm and, just a few moments later I think, I managed to get some sleep.
I woke up when the first rays of sunlight entered my room. All my muscles were tense, but I managed to relax most of them. When Lagi came in, she found out I'd got out of the bed without her help. She smiled, sharing my feelings: the day had come, and we were ready to face it.
Amber woke up as soon as I opened my wardrobe. Sylvan and Iael were still asleep. I opted not to wake them up until breakfast was ready. My stomach had finally decided to work again. I couldn't explain what I was feeling; it was a strange mixture of fear and hope. Maybe Lagi could understand it; she had some great feelings inside her, and I knew the reason: the hopes of all the population of Caledor were flowing in the same direction. That must have felt great. I wished I could feel it the way Lagi did. But, even if I couldn't, I felt comfortable having her by my side. "We'll make it," was the last thing I said before calling everyone for breakfast and leaving my house to face the ultimate test.
I was met by a large group of young trainers just before reaching the meeting point. Alex must have called them. Most of them were anxious; some were almost in panic and a few others didn't seem to realize what was going on. They were all looking for answers. I couldn't give them any I didn't have, and lying to them would be both unfair and dangerous. So I told them to be extremely careful and to watch each other's backs. I told them that, if we made it, the nightmare would be finally over; but we'd have to face the darkest part of it before we could claim victory. "You must believe in yourselves; and in your friends, including your pokemon. That way you'll be making use of the greatest strength our enemies are lacking. Stand for each other and don't let them get to you. This will be hard for all of us; but we'll make it. We have to."
I finished my improvised speech the best way I could, only to look up and find Ryan standing right behind the crowd. I'd seen more people gather around me since I'd started speaking, but I'd been busy trying to find words and I hadn't looked at them. When had Ryan arrived? How much of my speech had he heard? Had I done it right, or had I said something wrong? And why was I getting so nervous over this, when our imminent confrontation with the Black Battalion was all I was supposed to worry about? Strangely, Ryan didn't look at me. I had to come down to reality completely to notice he wasn't just behind the crowd. He was in the middle of another recently assembled group of trainers, who were turning to him just like the first ones had turned to me. I listened to his answer, and it was, in essence, the same response I'd given to my group; just a little more descriptive of the danger we were facing. That was reinforcing. I walked over to Ryan as soon as he finished his speech. He looked restless, and more worried than most.
"Are you alright?," I asked him, caressing his burdened shoulders.
"Better now you're here," He replied. "Of all the people, I'm the one who still wonders whether this crazy plan will work."
"We had to come up with something. And we did," I told him. "All we can do now is hope. We mustn't ever let go of that."
"You're right," he said. "I just hope I didn't kill the hope in those younger trainers with that speech."
"Your speech was inspiring. You had to be serious and blunt with the trainers, or one sight of what's to come would have ruined them for life. Now they're prepared. Your speech and mine really got them revved up. They're ready."
"As ready as they'll ever be. How on Earth are we going to pull this off?"
"I don't know. But we will."
"How do you know?"
That question made me reflect. This feeling I had was more than just hope. For some reason, I was certain we were going to make it. I felt a warm tickle all over my body, just like I used to feel whenever I had encounters with what I could only describe as magic. Many times I had tried to explain it in vain; then I'd given up and decided to simply enjoy it. After all, that feeling was always something good. I smiled, and gave him the only answer I could think of, and which for some unknown reason happened to be my favorite answer:
"I don't know. It's a mystery."
Ryan smiled back. I was happy to see he understood me. A new path had been opened between us. And we'd make sure we had the chance to explore it. We would live to see a new day, and celebrate it. We'd confront the Black Battalion and come out victorious. Don't think about it. Just do it.
All of a sudden, the walls that kept me from looking at the face of reality melted away. I was ready. Most of the trainers were now around us. There were many new faces, but also some well known ones. I could see Nolan, Nala and Meowth_Kitten among them. Alex had already arrived too. And a freaky sensation I'd felt twice before told me that Ade wasn't far away either. The sensation was stronger than before. I was worried about Ade but, whatever he was facing, he'd been dealing with it on his own for as long as I'd known him; I had no way to get to him before the battle and, for the conversation we'd had back at the White Mountain, he didn't seem to want my help for now. I could do something for the others, though. And they seemed like they needed all the help I could give them.
"Are you guys alright?," I asked them.
"Not really. We just don't get this whole saga at all," blared Nolan. "Why the hell are these guys after us?"
"What's the most important thing in the world?," Ryan shot out.
That question stunned me. I had no idea as to where he was going, and I was itching to know what he was about to say.
"What are you talking about?," I inquired. I heard echoes of the same question coming from all around me. Ryan simply repeated the enygma: "what's the most important thing in the world?"
"Love?," a few girls tried to guess.
"A bit Disneyland, isn't it?," a group of boys laughed.
"Respect!," blared Nolan triumphantly.
"Too dependent on other people," I disagreed while looking for an answer myself.
"God's will," I heard someone say.
"A bit screwy, but you're close," Ryan replied.
"Then what?!," we all asked in unison.
"Necessity," Ryan revealed.
I thought about that one, not sure whether I agreed or not. In any case, it was something so important it could put everything else aside when it was threatened. It was what always came first. Before I could reach a conclusion, Ryan explained himself.
"Consider the Black Battalion. They're people that only know how to do one thing. To kill the enemy. And now they're at the point in their lives where they want to set themselves up for life. They want the money. And we're their gold mine. We represent their ultimate dream. The end to their day jobs. They've long lost all their reason, empathy, compassion, and they don't care about anything at all anymore except themselves. Evil is a complete lack of empathy. And when you see these guys, you're going to see hatred like you've never seen it before. We equal their ticket for a way out, and they'll do anything to take it.
Now by necessity, I mean that you do what is most important at any given moment. What is most important for the Black Battalion is to kill us, claim their paycheck and disappear into the sunset. And what is most important for us right now is to defeat these bastards and to liberate Caledor from the plague of Team Rocket."
He had a point there. Everyone seemed to agree. Then Amy stepped forward and asked if we could go over this plan one more time. "I'm still not completely sure about this," She said. "Heck, I don't think any of us are."
"Are you scared?," Ryan asked her.
"A bit," She admitted. "Everyone is. We're trying not to show it, but we all are."
Everyone's nods backed her up.
"Don't feel bad about that," Ryan comforted her. "Even Gabi and I, after all we've been through in our lives, are scared. So I'll tell you a little secret right now about how it works, and you'll remember it for life."
Once more, I was eager to know what Ryan had up his sleeve.
"You do the thing you're scared of, and then you get the courage to do it."
I couldn't believe what I'd just heard. My eyes must have been wide as plates at that moment. Those had been exactly the last words I'd said to myself before falling asleep the night before! I couldn't tell where that answer had come from, except maybe deep inside my heart, where all answers lie ready to be found when I manage to listen. And now, only a few hours later, those words came to me again. That had happened to me before; many times, actually, and I'd always taken it as a good sign. But coming from Ryan, it was even more meaningful.
Most people didn't seem to understand that message, though, and I doubted Ryan knew I did.
"That's it?," gasped Amy. "That's your secret. It doesn't make sense! That's not how it should work."
"It shouldn't but it does," Ryan explained. "It's the way it is. Trust me, guys. You can do it. Just have faith. We stand here today under threat from our greatest enemy. Caledor is depending on us. All your families and friends back home and here today. You wouldn't let them down when they needed you most?"
Once more, everyone nodded in agreement. Ryan's skill with words still amazed me. "Then you'll be fine," he said with a smile.
The crowd slowly began to disperse. I took my chance to congratulate Ryan.
"That was great!," I told him. "How did you do that?"
"I owe it all to George Clooney and Three Kings," He replied. "I just repeated what he said in the movie just before they went for the gold and just before they laid siege to the castle. It's been said before, Gabi. I was lucky enough to have heard it and to remember it."
So, it was from a movie. I'd never seen it, but the fact that someone else had said it before us didn't make it any less wonderful.
"Now they'll remember it," I affirmed, holding Ryan's hand tightly.
"You're right. They're ready," he agreed.
I wished that feeling could last forever, but I knew too well it was just the calm preceding the storm. It was bound to be over in no time. And, in fact, it was. Soldiers suddenly shuffled into position. Officers made their way to checkpoints and chiefs made their way to the commands centers. It had begun.
A private ran to us. "They're here, sir, ma'am. A few miles up the field."
The two of us sighed heavily, then saluted to the private, who returned the salute before he sped back to his platoon.
"Let's do this," I whispered in Ryan's ear.
Ryan nodded. I knew no words would follow. It was time for action.
The moments that followed seemed like an empty eternity. I awaited a signal, while silence was all I could find. The air felt hard and sharp. They would come at any time. Any time... NOW!
Even when I'd been waiting for the signal, it managed to scare me. A voice came from behind, saying that the Black Battalion was at sight and had hoisted a green flag. The colonel came to us, asking Ryan if he knew what that meant.
"It's a request of honour," he answered. "Their ways in being derived from Team Rocket demand it. They challenge us to Pokemon battles as an affront to our honour."
"And I'm guessing you're accepting their challenge?," the colonel deduced. "What's to stop them from double crossing?"
"They may outnumber us Dragon Tamers, but they wouldn't kill their own men. And they don't have THAT much resources. That last battle did cost them. But they will double cross us eventually. You can be sure of that, Colonel."
"And that's where the 'surprise' comes in, hey?"
"That's right. They'll never know what hit them."
"And what are these rockets you're talking about? You reckon they might make a kamikaze strike or something?"
Ryan looked at the colonel straight in the eye. "When you're desperate enough, you'll do anything."
"It would be typical of those heartless bastards. We'll be ready for them. We've got every kind of anti-missile gizmo in existence here and in the main cities. Nothing's getting passed us."
"I hope so."
"Good luck, kid."
He gave Ryan a proud salute.
"Thank you, Colonel. You too." Ryan saluted back before the colonel parted. Sirens and megaphones were already blaring all over the field. The time had come. Ryan reached for my hand and kissed it softly, wishing me good luck. I gave him a short but reassuring kiss before wishing him good luck too.
We signalled the rest of the trainers to follow us and headed forward to confront our enemies. I went cold when I finally saw their faces. Their eyes let out more hate than I'd ever thought a person could hold. I could tell they were expecting to crush us like cockroaches; they would battle just for fun or to show us their power; then they'd kill us mercilessly. "Well, that won't happen," I thought to myself. "We have a lot to show them too. We have more than they've ever dreamed of; more than they'll ever have. We're going to see the last of them today."
After several tense minutes, both sides finally met halfway, about a mile from the base.
A lieutenant of the Black Battalion was first to speak. "Ready to die, scum?"
Ryan's reply came, making the environment a bit smoother: "not today ourselves. How about you?"
"Amusing. You can laugh even at a time like this. How heartwarming."
"It's an even bigger surprise you even have a heart."
"Enough talk, small fry! We've got money and a permanent vacation on our minds, and you're not gonna stop us!"
"We'll see about that!"
Instantly, hundreds of red lights flashed all over the field, and as many furious pokemon appeared in front of us. They looked as evil and twisted as their masters. Battles began all around us in a blink. Two lieutenants made their way to where Ryan and I were standing.
"Okay. You take the girl and I take the twerp!," one of them shouted. His partner nodded.
"See you after you cream this loser, Gabi!," Ryan promised.
"Count on it! Likewise with you!," I replied.
"It's a deal!"
We split up and I faced the scum who had chosen me as his opponent. Unlike the other lieutenant, this one was laconic and went straight to the point. His manners showed he thought I wasn't worth speaking to. But I couldn't count on his underestimation of me. Even if I hadn't been well known, after my confrontation with the Rocket executive at the TRHQ, everyone had to know what my pokemon and I were capable of. In less than a second, two creepy Houndoom came from behind the lieutenant and stood between him and me, showing me his long and sharp tusks. One of them had a scar across its face. I stood still for a moment, trying to decide which pokemon to choose, until Amber stepped forward. She looked at me and I nodded, accepting her decision and understanding her: as dangerous as this was, Amber couldn't stand motionless during the ultimate battle against evil. I had the feeling she'd been preparing herself for this moment since she was born.
Once Amber was in, it was easy to choose her partner: the only other pokemon in her level group who was not weak to fire, and whose interaction with Amber could bring surprising results. They'd both been through the same process while learning to control their power, and they'd been through hard training together, while the Rockets had never seen them act as a team. They'd be unpredictable, and that would work on our side.
"Caledor, go with her," I commanded. My Eevee looked at me and stepped forward too. The lieutenant made a noise which I interpreted as laughter, and then shouted out his command: "Attack!"

Level 31 and vs Level 35 and

While the scarred of the Houndooms hit Caledor with a Flamethrower, the other used Take Down on Amber. They hit them really hard, leaving them no choice but to give all they had from the beginning. They switched opponents and Amber used Dragonbreath on the Houndoom who had attacked Caledor, while the Eevee hit the other demonic hound with a Hydro Pump. Surprisingly, the Houndooms looked barely even scratched by those attacks. The scarred Houndoom shook the water away from his body and plunged into Caledor, piercing his skin with his teeth. I heard Caledor scream and I could almost feel his pain. It was the most terrible scene I'd ever seen. I wanted to call Caledor back, but the lieutenant wouldn't allow me the time to switch pokemon. I feared the attack from the other Houndoom would be fatal, but when I looked at him I saw he wasn't moving. Amber's Dragonbreath had paralyzed him!
I felt we had a chance. I called Ventura and whispered something only she could hear. She telepathically transmitted my commands to her teammates and I watched as events unfolded. Amber cast a Smokescreen around the most dangerous Houndoom, who immediately started caughing and was forced to let go of Caledor. My Eevee used Hydro Pump again and jumped back, panting. The paralyzed Houndoom managed to hit Amber with a Shadow Ball, but Amber didn't respond. Instead, she used Strength on the scarred Houndoom. Caledor prepared himself to attack again, but he suddenly stopped. He looked at Ventura and nodded. Then he began to glow blue and make some moves which didn't look as clumsy as they used to. The sky responded to his call, filling itself with clouds and pouring down some refreshing sprinkle. It wasn't hard to tell whose idea that had been.
"Nice move," I told my Venomoth. "I was afraid to use it with Amber in the field, but I guess she'll understand. It wouldn't have been a good idea for her to use fire moves anyway."
Ventura nodded in agreement. The lieutenant looked at me with rage in his eyes and gave his Houndooms a new order: "kill them!"
Caledor ran as soon as he heard the command. The scarred Houndoom opened his mouth again for an attack which looked much stronger than Bite. Crunch? It couldn't be; Houndooms don't learn Crunch until they're level 51... but with Team Rocket we could never tell. If they had made Pidgeot evolve at level 5, they could probably make a pokemon learn moves prematurely too. Fortunately, Caledor managed to move out of his foe's reach. The other Houndoom tried to attack, but he couldn't. Amber used her chance to get to the scarred Houndoom and use Strength again. She moved away as soon as she heard the sound of the water. That's when Caledor threw himself over the Houndoom on top of a ravaging Wave. The devil dog was already unconscious when the wave receded. Now we had only the Paralyzed Houndoom to worry about.
Just when I thought things were going our way, our luck turned: the remaining Houndoom managed to hit Amber with a Faint Attack. She tried to hit him back, but her strength failed her and she fell on the ground. I ran in her help only to fall under the paws of the evil hound. Fortunately, Caledor managed to push him away with a Hydro Pump. That allowed me the time to call Amber back to her pokeball and turn to Sylvan for help. A month earlier, nothing would have made me ask Sylvan to confront an evil fire pokemon; but she'd grown MUCH stronger and more self confident in the last few weeks. Besides, I knew she wouldn't hesitate to risk her own life for her friends, and Amber had always been her closest friend. As my noble Ivysaur stepped forward to face her greatest fears, I thanked the rain for its presence and hoped that it would be enough to protect her.
With no delay, Sylvan hit the Houndoom with a strong Headbutt. The devil dog decided to make her his primary target, and pierced her neck with Bite. I saw my friend shake, more in fear than in pain. Caledor used another Hydro Pump, which hurt the Houndoom seriously. The evil pokemon didn't respond to the attack. He seemed to enjoy scaring Sylvan. He bit her again, this time on her bud. Sylvan cried.
"Don't let him get to you, Sylvan!," I shouted. "You're strong and you know it! He's not a threat to you anymore!"
Sylvan hesitated. I continued: "you can either let your fears paralyze you or confront them and become stronger. What are you going to do this time?"
She got the message. All of a sudden, her attitude changed. Now she looked braver, stronger and even bigger! She tapped into a power which had been dormant inside her for her whole life, and was able to harness it for the first time: the Hidden Power of Water! Even Sylvan looked astonished when the bubbles formed around her and blasted all over the firey demon. This time it was the Houndoom who was unable to move. His eyes were wide open when the water hit him, and the impact of Sylvan's attack was enough to bring him down.


*******************
Results of the battle:
Caledor grew to level 33! (He defeated both Houndooms).
Amber grew to level 32! (She only defeated the first Houndoom).
Sylvan grew to level 32! (She only defeated the second Houndoom). Sylvan learned Growth!
*******************
__________________
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~
___________________________



Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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