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Old Yesterday, 12:46 PM   #31
Lady Vulpix
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As soon as the battle was over, a strong white light enveloped Sylvan; but soon it faded away or, rather, she confined it within herself. I didn't understand what was happening until my Ivysaur came to me and gave Amber's pokeball a concerned look. Then I realized she was too worried about her friend to think of evolving; that was how much she cared for the Charmeleon. I wanted to tell her Amber would be alright, but the Lieutenant's voice stopped me before I could say anything. When I looked at hi again I saw he had already recalled his pokemon.
"You fought well, though you took a long time to finish my dogs. I'd even think of a return match if you weren't about to die now. Goodbye, Lady Vulpix of Caledor! Hypno!!"
The fact that he knew who I was didn't surprise me: most people in Caledor had seen my face, I knew Giovanni to know me (though exactly how much he knew about me was a mystery) and the executive at TRHQ had let out they even had a file on me. At the lieutenant's command, tall Hypno appeared right behind him. It looked exactly like the Hypno I'd battled at the Radio Tower in Selenia and the one who had tried to block my access to the Tower of Hoeth. I thought it could be the same Hypno, but it was probably just my imagination. What were the chances one single pokemon could find so many allies on the dark side? In any case, it didn't matter at that moment. I prepared for an attack, but it never came: the Hypno grabbed the lieutenant by his shoulders and together they teleported away. For a moment, nothing made sense to me; but then I remembered my vision and the truth dawned on me. The pokemon battles had been just a diversion; they had already set the weapons which would kill us all!
I looked around, trying to locate Ryan. I finally found him standing next to the colonel at the place where the sound of fights had been the loudest. They were looking at a large fissure on the ground. I ran to him, followed by my pokemon, and saw what he was looking at: a huge water tank below ground level where many members of the Black Battalion were swimming for their lives; making their escape, just like my opponent had; trying to go back to wherever they came from, I assumed. I then looked at Ryan's eyes and he looked back at me.
"It isn't over, is it?," I said to him. "What about our vision?"
Ryan remained silent, analyzing my words. He seemed to agree but, before he could give me a response, the radios started emitting a white noise with some traces of a voice. Immediately, Ryan and I tuned them until the sound was clear, and the words we heard were alarming to say the least: "we're arming the sarin rockets now! In five minutes they'll be launched and Caledor will be powerless to resist! We are on the verge of our greatest victory ever, men! Now kill them all!"
Upon hearing that, only Ryan's voice was able to take me out of the shock.
"Gabi, look! The Black Battalion is a couple of miles away! Get down everybody! Activate the psychic shields now! Before we're cut to pieces!"
I turned round and saw how the same grunts who had escaped were now emerging from a gap not far from us. All the trainers called for their pokemon to use defensive moves in order to shield us from the attack, but not all the barriers and protects in the world would save us from the sarin rockets. In a way, Ryan repeated my thoughts: "sarin rockets! In five minutes Caledor could be no more! We have to do something!"
"But what?," I asked. "If we try, they'll cut us to pieces! And the army can't do anything!"
Ryan alerted the colonel of the danger and warned him not to fire anything. The colonel, in turn, instructed his men to hold their fire and then addressed us.
"Kids, if those rockets arm, millions of people are going to die. Sarin kills in seconds. And those rockets could cover so much of the nation like you wouldn't believe. If you can't do anything in the next few minutes, we'll all be gone too."
That couldn't be. This couldn't be happening. I looked at Ryan, instinctively searching for an answer. All I found instead was despair to match my own; maybe even worse than mine. I gripped his hand as we both let our tears flow. This couldn't be the end. Not for us, not for all the beings we cared for and those we'd never got to know. There had to be a way out of this.
"Gabi, we have to try something," Ryan said. Now more than ever I was eager to listen to him. Any idea would be heaven. As he whispered his plan to me, I felt the shadows around me vanish.
"You might have something there!." I exclaimed. "After what happened a minute ago, I'm game!"
As Ryan turned to his pokemon, I turned to mine and revealed the plan to them. I asked Lagi and Ventura to help me, while my Venomoth didn't miss the chance to add and idea of their own. A telepathic pulse instructed me to give the mysterious stone to Caledor.
"What?!," I complained. "That's too dangerous! Caledor is too weak from battling and besides we don't know what the stone can do to him! What if he evolves? He's not ready for that yet! And what if it's a trap set by the Rockets? We'll be falling right into it!"
Ventura shook her head and emitted the pulse again.
"Sometimes you can be more stubborn than myself," I told her. "There's no time for arguing."
Ventura nodded and emitted the pulse for a third time. I didn't know what to do. It was clear we wouldn't come to an agreement. She could have a great plan in mind, but I didn't want to put Caledor at risk. It was my Eevee who put an end to the argument, by walking to me and standing on his back legs, trying to reach my bag.
"Are you sure you want to do this?," I asked him.
"Vee," he replied, nodding. He stood back on his 4 legs while I searched my pack for the stone and gave it to him. Just like before, Caledor began to glow a faint purple, but no evolution followed.
"Everything will be all right," he whispered into my mind. "Count me in for the plan."
"Ok, desperate times claim for desperate measures," I agreed. "As long as all those involved are willing to take the risk, that is. You all know what to do, right?"
Lagi, Ventura and Caledor nodded. It was all set.
"Ready to make history?," Ryan asked, turning to me.
"As always," I answered. "If we have the nerve to pull this off."
"Nothing a little music wouldn't cure," beamed Ryan as he reached for his discman. I couldn't believe my senses.
"At a time like this, you're concerned about music? Are you nuts?"
I knew music was an integral part of Ryan's life and he'd even used it to encourage Edie during her battles, but this time he had gone over the limit if he thought music would help us.
"Oh, I think you'll like this one! It's just the right one!," he whispered into my ear.
"Really?," I asked. That was the weirdest thing I'd heard that day, and that's a lot considering that everything that day had been extremely weird. But I knew I was always in for a surprise with Ryan, so I might as well give his music a chance. Besides, he'd caught my interest. Ryan nodded vibrantly in response to my reaction.
"Then alright!," I smiled. "You're way left of center sometimes, Ryan! But that's what we love about you!"
"Ready, guys?," Ryan asked our pokemon. Diana, Lagi, Edie, Sandy, Caledor and Ventura nodded firmly. "Then let's do this. And never hesitate."
Ryan looked towards Alex, who had recently reached us, and asked him to get everyone to safety while we created a diversion.
"Are you two out of your minds?," blurted Alex, shocked.
"Just do it!," I insisted. I'd already lost too much time arguing with Ventura. Alex immediately complied.
I stared in amazement as Caledor set up a barrier with Reflect: a move he had never learned. Then he joined Sandy and Ventura in their task of maintaining a psichic shield. His control of his newfound powers was as impressive as those powers themselves. Knowing my Eevee's history, I was even more amazed at his achievements. Diana, Lagi and Edie added their Protect to the formula.
Ryan and I ascended onto our dragons and held our other pokemon.
"Make it so," Ryan said.
Lagi and Edie took us soaring into the skies and towards our enemies, while Sandy made sure we all got to hear Ryan's song: "Clint Eastwood", by Gorillaz. I paid attention to the lyrics and found it quite accurate. Still, I wouldn't have chosen to listen to music in a moment like that. But all of a sudden I understood Ryan: listenning to music was for him just like singing was for me; it gave him strength, made him focus, helped him cast his worries aside... Before I knew it, I was singing along with the music; finally singing, for the first time in that crazy week. It was liberating. I didn't know if Ryan could hear me or not, but if he did he was likely to understand me.
As soon as we were seen by the Black Battalion, our enemies aimed all their weapons on us. I could see the lieutenant I'd battled against was among them. They threw us everything they had, but none of their attacks managed to penetrate the barrier our pokemon had built. The bullets bounced against the psychic shield and fell harmlessly on the ground. I can't say the same about the heavy weapons: mini-rockets, missiles and chemicals exploded upon contact with the ground burning their shooters to ashes. I hadn't predicted that. I had expected them to start running when they saw they couldn't hurt us. I closed my eyes at the horrifying sight, reached for Ryan's sight and held it tightly. I couldn't block the sounds of explosions and screams which told me they kept on shooting, bringing death upon themselves in an insane attempt to destroy us. At that moment I thanked Ryan for his song, as I repeated the verses to myself, trying to drive my mind away from that nightmare which was likely to haunt me for years.
Fortunately, it eventually came to an end. When I opened my eyes, only the commander was left standing. He was disarmed and frozen in shock and fear. "It all ends here," I thought to myself.
"He's harmless now," Ryan remarked. "Ready, Gabi?"
I somehow managed to push the images of the recent slaughter aside and focus on what remained of the plan. I was ready.
Everyone let their shields down as Ryan and I landed 2 or 3 meters away from the Black Battalion commander. Mirroring each other's moves, we hit him until he was sent flying in the air and landing with a sickening thud.
"I always wanted to do that!," Ryan commented. "Ever since I saw Noodle do that in the clip. She rules!"
Needless to say, I'd never watched the clip he was talking about. But that didn't matter. We were alive, and with any luck we'd have plenty of time to catch up with each other. Seeing him happy at last comforted me more than anything else could, and I had the feeling I was doing the same for him.
We walked over to the fallen commander who looked defiantly at us. "You won't ever take me," were his last words before he bit down hard on his teeth.
Both Ryan and I launched ourselves back upon recognizing the danger: cyanide! The convulsions the commander went through before death came to him were disgusting, but not nearly as terrible a sight as the explosions which had killed his comrades. I thanked my eyelids for protecting my sanity back then. All of a sudden, I remembered the sarin rockets were still armed and would be launched at any time!
"We'd better disarmed the rockets fast!," I warned Ryan. He used his radio to ask the colonel for instructions.
"On the panel there's a keyboard," the colonel answered. "Type in 'haveaniceday' without any spaces in between, then press disarm."
"Cute bastards. Some password," Ryan commented. "Let's do it, Gabi."
Ryan and I ran as fast as we could in order to disarm each of the rockets. When the last one was neutralized, we both fell on the ground, exhausted. I could hardly believe we'd made it. I had never been happier to be alive.
"It's over, Colonel. The Black Battalion is no more," Ryan choked down the radio.
"Well done, kids," the voice on the radio responded. "I take my hat off to you. You two are going to be remembered forever. Now everyone can go about like normal and have a hell of a story to tell their grandchildren."
We laughed our most intense and relieved laughter as Ryan dropped the radio and gradually nestled in against me.
"It's over. Finally."
"Yeah. So what do we do know?"
He looked at me and smiled.
"Who knows? Who cares?! We're still here, and that's enough for me. I think I'll take a long break. I think I deserve it. And I hope I can spend some time with you."
"I'll see what I can do. I'm really hanging for some R&R myself."
"Mind if I kiss you before everyone along with the media gets here?"
"Sounds good to me," I answered, dreamingly.
My feelings as we kissed were so intense Lagi must have had the time of her life watching us. Those seconds lasted an eternity. Never before had we felt so close, so complete, so alive! It was then that I realized the darkest chapter in our lives was over, and it was time for a great new beginning. We still had work to do, people and pokemon to help, mysteries to solve and problems to confront, but that was life! And I had finally come to love my life as it was. After all, a moment like this was worth everything I'd gone through, and I could tell the future promised great things for us.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 12:47 PM   #32
Lady Vulpix
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<Gabi's POV>

Our contact with the media was standard. I was one step away from reality during the interview, but it didn't show, as I found out later when I saw the broadcast. At that moment, too many things were running in my head: the kiss, the last moments of the battle, our incredible victory, practically all my life up to that point, Ryan, Amber, Alex, all the trainers I'd met, Scott and his unexpected absence... and the horrible scene I had witnessed just a few hours before; I couldn't get rid of that last thought as much as I tried.
After the interview, I went straight to the nearest Pokemon Center. A gentle nurse brought Sylvan to top shape with a potion and promised to take care of Amber and Caledor and heal their wounds. I wanted to stay until they were healed, but the nurse told me that would be impossible: all rooms were full with injured pokemon leaving no room for humans or healthy pokemon and, while Caledor would be ready to go in a few hours, Amber would have to stay for the night. I understood, though I hated the idea of leaving Amber when she needed me the most. The nurse had to promise she wouldn't take her eyes off my friend before I left, assuring I would come back in the morning.
As soon as I got home, the exhaustion I'd been keeping away finally fell on me, throwing me straight on my bed. I don't know how long I stayed there; I was so worn out I didn't even look at the clock. When I got up, the sun was setting. Sylvan was curled up on my bed, next to me. I hadn't even noticed her when she got there. I caressed her head and her bud. I then noticed the petals had begun to open, and a delightful scent was coming out of them, conferring Sylvan and external beauty that nearly matched the beauty of her soul. How amazing she was! How caring, how loyal... how brave! She had conquered her greatest fears, stood up for her best friend and for everyone she cared for, and even missed a chance to evolve. I felt sorry for all she'd had to go through, but she seemed to be at peace now. Especially, she seemed to trust that Amber would be fine. As for her evolution, I was sure it would come soon: she was ready for it.
One of my other pokemon, though, was not at peace, as I found out as soon as I completely came back to my senses. The one who had helped me the most through bad times, who always managed to find a way to sort out my mixed feelings, and whose heavenly smiles always brought joy to everyone around her. This time Lagi needed my help. When it dawned on me, I couldn't believe I'd been so blind: she'd done something unbelievable that day, but at a high cost. By holding up the barrier, she and the others had saved our lives, but they had also caused many painful deaths. Actually, that hadn't been their fault; it had been a sort of suicide, and Lagi knew that as well as I did. But still, that thought was still haunting me, and I couldn't imagine what it was doing to Lagi. I'd been able to close my eyes, but Lagi couldn't have closed her heart. She'd felt everything our enemies went through: their hate, their fear, their pain... and she'd still managed to keep up the barrier! That was the most amazing act I'd ever witnessed.
I could see Lagi was trying to contain her feelings. She was afraid to hurt us by letting them out, and she was fighting them silently, unable to keep all of her emotions encased. I stood closed to her and looked straight at her eyes.
"Let it out," I told her. "Don't be afraid. I can take it. It's the least I can do for you."
Lagi looked at me, hesitating.
"Set yourself free," I advised her.
Lagi reflected for a moment, and then her muscles relaxed, as if she were throwing away a heavy load. Tears started flowing down her eyes, as she released a plentiful stream of pain and sorrow. It was worse than I imagined; it cut through me. But I didn't bleed: it was, in a strange way, liberating. The freedom that came with this may have been one of Lagi's feelings too. At that point I couldn't exactly tell which emotions where Lagi's and which ones were mine. In any case, it helped me as much as it did her. We merged as we embraced each other and let our tears flow. Time stopped passing. When it came back, I felt as if I'd just returned from a long trip, or woken up from a dream that had seemed endless. Lagi felt the same. We were still connected. We released each other, looked into each other's eyes, and laughed. Words were useless.
The day went by. I was left with a strange but pleasant sensation, which was definitely better that the way I'd felt in the morning. The following day we went back to the Pokemon Center to pick up Amber and were glad to see she was back to her radiant self. As normality returned, I went back to my duties: took care of the Adoption Center, made an inventory of the Dragon Tamers' items and got replacements for everything that had run out, sent some TMs to the Selenian Pokemon Center as I'd said I would, tried to solve the mystery of the glowing stone (the Black Battalion didn't seem to know of its existence, so that ruled out the TR theory), continued my reasearch on Laprasses which had been frozen for months, and even made myself some time to take Ventura and Iael to the Battle Tower for some training. They both had an extraordinary performance.
Ninetales and Tsunami wanted to test their skills against each other (what else is new), but we were told that was against the rules, so I ended up with 2 really frustrated pokemon. To make up for that, I decided to take them to the mountains, knowing that was their favorite landscape (yes, they both liked the same place!)
Both Tsunami and Ninetales loved the idea. Now we had to choose a mountain to visit, seeing that we had about a dozen of choices in Caledor and hundreds in the whole of Ulthuan. If it had been up to me, I would have chosen White Mountain, but I was doing this for Tsunami and Ninetales, so I showed them a map and let them decide. While Ninetales didn't seem to care about which mountain we went to, Tsunami's eyes shone with determination as he pointed to Glacier Peak. I remembered going there once; we were on a mission, to stop some pokemon who had gone crazy and try to find the cause. Tsunami had loved that placed but we'd been attacked by 2 Sudowoodos before he got to enjoy the hot springs which made Glacier Peak famous, and after the battle we'd left on a rush because Sylvan had suffered serious damage and needed urgent medical attention. Now that I thought back to that moment, it looked like a lifetime ago. I decided to accept Tsunami's choice. He deserved it. He hadn't had much fun in the last few months.
For a change, nothing went wrong while we were at Glacier Peak. The water was lovely, and Tsunami was as joyful as the day he evolved (as joyful as he'd been before trying to challenge Ninetales, I mean). Water Angel and Lagi enjoyed the water a lot too, and even Pidgeot looked relaxed after bathing in the springs (he also looked quite funny with his feathers all wet and stuck to his skin, but I managed to hold my laughter). Caledor had some wet fun too and soon I found myself in the middle of a splash fight between him and Tsunami. I managed to swim away and then I let them play. It was not like they'd hurt each other or anything. In the meantime, Ninetales, Amber, Sylvan, Ventura and Iael had fun on the mountain, each in their own way. Everything was going well. But then, all of a sudden, I felt something cold and wet fall on my head. I looked around, trying to find out what was going on. Then, when the second one fell, I could see what they were: snowflakes! It was snowing!
I got out of the water, covered myself with a towel and dressed up as fast as I could: my natural resistance to cold wouldn't be enough to handle snow in a swimsuit. Pidgeot rushed to his pokeball, and so I knew it was time to go. We'd had enough fun anyway. I called back most of my pokemon and left Glacier Peak riding on Lagi's back; strangely, the snow didn't seem to bother her: I guess the understanding between her and the sky prevented the icy flakes from hurting her.
With the anxiety of the hurry gone, I was as excited as a child at the sight of the snow. It brought me some sweet memories, dating back to my first encounter with snow. I was 12 then. I was on a vacation with my family, thousands of miles away from home, and we were also on a mountain. I'd been told we were going to see snow and I hadn't been able to sleep the night before due to the excitement (not that I'd ever been very good at sleeping). The snow turned out to be thicker and harder than I'd imagined it, but still it was great to be in contact with it. Guille and I had a lot of fun in the snow. We rented a sledge and slid down a hill more times than we could count, once even falling down to the skiing trail. We also made a snowman, which proved to be much harder to make than it seemed on TV. We gave our creation sunglasses and one of our dad's jackets, and were quite satisfied with the result. It all went well until I stepped on a spot where the snow was deeper and my foot got buried and almost froze. Then we had to return and Guille blamed me for spoiling the fun. Still, his anger didn't last long. Looking back to those times, I really missed them. I missed Guille more than anything else. But I had no way to go back to my old life. Fortunately, I had a new life now. I had friends who really cared for me, and who meant a lot to me. And I also had Ryan, who had already become more than a friend: he'd got further inside me than anyone else had, and I couldn't be more grateful for his presence in my life.
The snow reminded me of the time of the year. I could hardly believe time had happened so fast! I decided to write to my parents, telling them I was fine and wishing them the best for the coming year. I feared they'd respond saying that nothing had changed there and complaining about everything (especially each other), if they responded at all; but I felt they deserved to hear from me. Then, I got down to paperwork once more.
It was a few days later when, buried under a pile of papers, I received a phone call from Alex, inviting me to a party which would take place that same night.
"A party? What for?," I asked, completely disoriented.
"Well, for Christmas Eve, of course!," he replied.
"What?! It's December 24th already?!," I exclaimed, astonished. I realized I'd lost contact with the rest of the world while trying to catch up with all my late work. "Ok, I... I guess I'll go. I don't celebrate Christmas, but having a good time with my friends sounds like a good idea."
"Ok, then. I'll count you in."
That was how I ended up spending most of that night in the middle of the town, watching the unveiling of a huge Christmas ornament and conversing about everything and nothing. Few other people attended the party, since most were at their homes having celebrations of their own, but we had a good time anyway. Amber was probably the one who enjoyed the party the most, not only because she loved parties but also because she got to spend some time with Volvagia.
Then it was time to go home. I helped Alex clean up the place and then said goodbye. I began to walk, eager to reach my house and my bed, but I heard a disturbing noise which made me change my mind. I moved in the direction of the sound and soon found the source. It was worse than anything I could have expected: a Rocket Grunt! I'd thought they'd finally leave us alone after our victory over the Black Battalion. I saw I'd been wrong.
This grunt was attacking a little girl.
"How low can you dirty rats fall?!," I shouted. "You're attacking children now?"
The Rocket grunt turned to me. It was dark, but there was enough light to see he looked like a mad dog.
"We attack whoever we want to," he said in a deep voice which was probably supposed to inspire fear. "But I guess you'll make a better target."
"I think so too," I said. "Why are you out tonight? Haven't you had enough?"
"Yeah, like I would tell you. No, wait... I will! I'm sick of you, guys. I'm sick of everyone in this ******* city. We all are. You've wrecked our plans one too many times and now we're giving you all a night you'll never forget. But enough talk already. Megabyte! Go!"
"Megabyte? What kind of name is that?!"
"It's a name that will haunt you for as short as you live."
The Rocket grunt picked a pokeball from his belt and out of it came... a Porygon! This grunt didn't seem to be the toughest opponent I had confronted, but he did have a few surprises, or so it seemed.
"Ok, Ventura, you can do this," I said to my Venomoth, who immediately flew to the front, ready to battle.

Level 33 Venomoth vs Level 35 Porygon

<Ventura's POV>

As Megabyte, the Porygon, prepared to attack, I used my Psychic attack against it. Megabyte remained still, but I soon realized it was locking on to me. Before it could do anything dangerous, I decided to pour some stun spores on the Porygon. I don't know how, but it managed to resist my attack. Then it shot a Zap Cannon at me. I knew trying to escape would be worthless. The energy ball would follow me even if I teleported. So I focused on preparing my next atack. The Zap Cannon hit me straight on. I managed to block the pain and, while I could hardly even move, I kept my concentration.
The Porygon knew its business. It hit me with a Psybeam while I was still preparing myself to attack. That hurt me so much it managed to throw me off-balance. Luckily, I fell right next to my opponent, and used my chance to release my Stun Spores on it. Now the field had been leveled, and I was planning to turn it to my side.
I stuck to Megabyte and started draining its energy. I had a burst of luck, since I caught it unprepared and managed to suck in twice as much as I expected. Still, I knew I couldn't count on that happening again. Megabyte concentrated for another attack, but it didn't manage to pull it out. It seemed paralysis was affecting it more than it was affecting me. I tried to drain just a little more, but I couldn't. If I had spoken, I would have done it too fast: paralysis was slowing me down too.
The Porygon insisted on its attempts to attack, still in vain. Now that I think of it, we must have looked funny. I finally managed to take in some precious energy; very little, but it was better than nothing. It was then that Megabyte managed to get its Psybeam out, and I felt as if I were being torn apart. I reckoned it would be useless to try to regain my lost energy: Giga Drain was hardly any good and the darkness of the night made Morning Sun a bad idea. I had to be offensive in order to win. And I'd have to do it in a smart way.
I teleported to a darker spot so that the Porygon had trouble locating me. I forced it to use lock on and I used Supersonic. It worked! Now my opponent was what they call "parafused". It tried to attack me, but it couldn't. However, in its attempt to attack me, it managed to get rid of its confusion. I tried to use Supersonic again, but my chords wouldn't respond. Megabyte couldn't attack me either; we were both stuck. I continued pressing my vocal chords until they finally started shaking and emitting the desired sound waves. I succeeded in turning the odds to my side once more.
While Megabyte was still trying to attack me, I went for another Psychic. I hit my opponent, but then something in its attitude changed. I watched carefully as it began to regain its strength. It was using Recover! Not only that, but it showed it was no longer confused. Almost desperate, I put all my concentration in a Disable attack. I did it! At least, I knew my opponent wouldn't heal again any time soon. Megabyte switched to attack mode once more, with the same result as before: none.
I gave up trying to confuse Megabyte and prepared another Psychic attack, but it didn't work. Then I saw a Psybeam heading my way. The Porygon had finally managed to pull it off. I thought that would be the end of this battle but, to my surprise, the Psybeam never reached me. It hit Amber instead. My friend had placed herself between me and my opponent, saving me. I thought that was becoming a habit in my team, but there was nothing like experiencing it personally.
"Sorry if I'm interfering with your battle," Amber apologized. "I just thought you didn't deserve to take so much trouble over a Rocket."
I couldn't speak. I send her a telepathic pulse letting her know I'd rather talk later. Then I realized there was no equivalent for "thanks" in my mind language. For the first time in my life I found a word which couldn't be replaced, and I felt really sorry for being unable to do it. But at that moment, yet another of my friends came to my rescue.
"She wants to thank you," Lagi's voice came from behind my trainer.
"Oh, really?," Amber asked, looking at me as if she'd never seen me before. "Well... you're welcome! I'm glad I could help! Then I guess I can continue, right?"
I sent her my "go ahead" pulse and she picked up from where I'd left. I'd never been so grateful to my teammates before.
Amber used her Strength to lift the Porygon up and send it crashing against the floor. I tried to help her, but I was still unable to move. Megabyte shot a Zap Cannon, but my friend easily evaded it. Then she hit the Porygon with a Fire Blast. At that moment, my body finally began to respond, allowing me to aim correctly. I sent Amber a pulse to move aside and, as soon as she did, emitted a Psychic attack. Megabyte was already too weak to resist it, and he went down at long last!

I grew to level 34 and Amber grew to level 33!

I was exhausted, but for some reason I was happy. I saw Amber smile at me and I smiled back at her. I don't know if she noticed, though. Then I teleported to Gabi's shoulder and rested on it.

<Sylvan's POV>

Appearances had been deceitful after all. I hadn't thought anyone could hurt Ventura that much. But I guess that had been a wrong core belief I'd have to get rid of, just like the one which said Ninetales was untouchable and the one which said I wasn't good at battling. Ninetales had been shot two months earlier and I'd won some of my last battles on my own and even helped my friends in theirs a couple of times. When you label someone, you're bound to be wrong. The same thing happened with this Rocket. It looked like the average grunt who doesn't know what he's getting into, but he had a really powerful pokemon and, worst of all, not only one.
I was shocked when, after recalling Megabyte, the Rocket grunt took another pokeball. This time, a Haunter came out. To add to my shock, Ventura telepathically told me to confront it.
"What?!," I shouted. She made an effort to speak.
"Trust me... You'v... earned... it."
I didn't know what she meant, but it was not the first time she was cryptic, so I decided to trust her and stepped forward. Gabi seemed to understand what was going on, for she gave me these comforting words:
"I trust you, Sylvan. You must believe in yourself and, above all, know you're not alone. You'll never be."
"How touching!," the grunt ironized. "You're making me sick. Spectre, finish that herb off now and then get rid of its trainer too."
Now I was really mad. How dared he make fun of us?! But what could I expect from someone who attacked a little girl in the night? I would teach that bastard and his puppet a lesson!

Level 32 Ivysaur vs Level 30 Haunter

The Haunter was the first to attack. He began to move his hands around and a strange pink light came from his eyes. I looked around to see if anything happened, but everything looked normal. Then Gabi spoke to me.
"He's using Hypnosis," she told me. "It's not affecting you. Move on! Use Growth!"
I finally understood what was going on. My 4-leaf clover was protecting me from falling under the Haunter's spell. I owed one more to my miraculous amulet. I did as Gabi said and soon started to feel stronger, if just a little. Gabi must have had a good reason to ask me for doing that; I trusted her. I hoped either she or Ventura would guide me all along this battle, since I didn't think any of my attacks could do much against a Haunter.
Spectre, my opponent desisted in his attempt to put me to sleep and attacked me with a Nightshade. I didn't expect that; it was the only Ghost-type attack my clover couldn't cushion and it was really painful. I didn't know what to do. I was stuck... again!, just when I'd thought I was over that. Luckily, Ventura's advice came to my rescue. Following her guidance, I released my Sleep Powder. The Haunter was caught off guard and fell asleep right away. I thanked Ventura for her help.
"You're in time to withdraw your pokemon," Gabi advised the Rocket.
"Never! He'll wake up!," he shouted angrily.
"What shall I do now?," I asked Ventura.
"Think," she answered. I found her reply a little rude. I turned to Gabi.
"Come on, Sylvan, you can do this," my trainer said. "You've won harder battles before. Fear is your worst enemy. Defeat it. We both know you can."
I didn't know wether she was referring to herself and Ventura or herself and me when she said "we", but she was right. I couldn't depend on them forever, and it was also true that I'd beaten more dangerous opponents... even a Houndoom! The fact that I couldn't deal much damage at once didn't mean I couldn't defeat Spectre in the end. So, I decided to do my best to bring him down one step at a time.
I tried my Razor Leaf attack and hit the Haunter straight on. That encouraged me to try again: this time I didn't seem to do as much damage as before, since the Haunter barely even shook in his sleep. All of a sudden, something unusually freaky happened: Spectre screamed in his sleep as if he had been seriously hurt, and then I felt as if there was someone or something behind me. I turned around, but didn't see anything. Still, I couldn't shake that scary feeling away. I used Razor Leaf again but, when I did, a shadow descended on me and hurt me twice as much as I'd hurt the Haunter. Now I finally understood what was happening: Spectre had used Curse! I'd heard of that attack, and how dangerous it was when used by a Ghost pokemon, but I'd never thought I'd see the day when I'd experience it first hand.
"Sleep Talk does have some advantages," the Rocket laughed. "And I guess he's just about to use it again! I almost feel sorry for your little sprout but... nah, it's not worth it."
The Rocket's words scared me. Was he bluffing or could his Haunter bring me down even in his sleep? What happened next made me believe the answer was most likely 'yes'. Spectre came over to me and licked me. The attack itself was merely a tickle, but it left me paralyzed! I tried to attack, but I couldn't, and the shadow came down and hurt me again. If it descended once more, I would be history!
"Help!," I screamed.
"Relax. You're far from defeated. Reach for the power within you."
This time the advice came from Amber, my single best friend in the world. The sound of her voice made me feel comfortable.
"He's more beaten up than you are," Amber remarked. I took a look at my opponent and saw she was right! Spectre's shape was barely even coherent. I had hope once more.
Sleep Talk came into action once more. The last thing I could see was a dark shimmer right in front of the Haunter, and his eyes opening. Before the attack struck me, I recognized it as a move Ninetales used quite frequently: Confuse Ray. I wasn't able to move away, but at least I knew what was coming, so I followed Amber's advice as I'd understood it, and made an effort to keep my conscience deep inside myself, in my center. The moment came when I saw and felt nothing but the depths of my soul. I had no connection with the outside, so my only chance to come out had to be somewhere inside. I remembered my recent battle against the Houndoom, and then I knew what my answer was. I searched deeper, and soon I found a blue light. I watched it grow... made it grow! Then I let it out.
The power of water: gentle and life giving, but also capable of leveling a mountain; always persistent, always in motion... a power which, in many aspects, resembled myself. That was the power which surged through me and flowed right into my opponent. I couldn't see clearly, but I somehow felt my Hidden Power hit. Then I heard a loud scream which I couldn't locate in space. I stopped feeling the presence of the shadow over me. It just disappeared. When my senses returned, the Haunter wasn't there anymore.

I grew to level 33!

"You did it!," Amber exclaimed, running toward me and giving me a big bear hug. "I knew you would!"
"Well, actually it was your advice which gave me the idea," I told her. "I'm still surprised that I figured it out."
"You give yourself too little credit. As usual. The merit is all yours. Enjoy your triumphs when they come."
"Well, I guess I could get used to this," I laughed.
Too bad, our cheerful mood was cut by the Rocket, who still had no intention to leave us alone.
"You may have defeated my pokemon, but I still have the upper hand," the fowl grunt assured. "I'll kill this little girl right in front of your eyes."
The poor girl was so scared she couldn't even scream.
"You won't touch her!," Gabi shouted. "Lagi, protect her!"
Even after what had happened a few days before, Lagi didn't hesitate to set up a Protect shield around the girl.
"Now, if you know what's good for you, you'll put down your weapon, go away and never return," Gabi warned the Rocket. I'd never heard such firmness in her voice before. "Same goes for the rest of Team Rocket. We've had more than enough of you here. You must know what happened to the Black Battalion. The same can happen to you."
All of a sudden, the Rocket didn't look that determined. Gabi looked completely alien. I had to look into her eyes carefully to confirm that she was still the sweet and caring human with whom I'd spent the greatest part of my life. Her eyes were shaking slightly. I could tell she was bluffing or at least hoping not to put her words into action. I just hoped the Rocket wouldn't realize that.
"You're bluffing," the evil man said, proving my fears right. "You don't have what it takes to kill a person."
"Does someone like you have the right to call himself a person?," Gabi retorted. "I guess you've never seen this before, but it can kill. And I've used it in the past." Gabi grabbed her necklace and picked up her amulet. "I've used it against the likes of you."
She was not lying. It could kill and she had used it. She hadn't killed anyone with it, but our enemy had no way to know that. The Rocket seemed to flinch, but he didn't put down his weapon. That was when I decided it was my turn to stand for my friend.
I fought the paralysis and took a big step forward. I still felt the energy flowing through me. I stared at the Rocket grunt and I actually think my look scared him. All of a sudden, the energy inside me became stronger; it started growing and making me grow with it. The petals of my bud opened completely. I saw a bright light around me and, when the darkness returned, I felt more powerful than ever. I had evolved! I was finally a Venusaur!
The Rocket grunt was overwhelmed by the events. If Gabi's words had been an act, my evolution hadn't. He threw his gun to the floor and ran away as fast as his legs allowed him. Once he was out of sight, Gabi sighed.
"That was hard," she admitted. "I'm glad it's over. I wish I could say this is the last we'll ever see of Team Rocket. I know they'll eventually come back, but I guess we'll have some time to rest now. And to celebrate too!"
She said that last sentence looking at me.
"Sylvan, you were absolutely great! And look at you now! I'm really happy for you. You deserved this. I guess we'll have a big party tomorrow. Just like most people here, but for a different reason. Would the forest be fine?"
Her words made me blush, and she couldn't have suggested a better place for the celebration. That proved she knew me very well. After speaking to me, she talked to the little girl we'd just helped.
"What's your name?," she asked her.
"Kitty," the girl replied.
"Kitty. That's a nice name!"
Kitty smiled.
"Tell me, why are out so late?," Gabi asked.
"I was staying awake to see Santa. Then I heard a noise and thought it was him, so I came out. But it was not Santa! It was that evil man! He told me to give him all my pokemon, but I said I didn't have any. He said I was lying and pointed at me with a gun. That's when you came in."
She started crying.
"Calm down. It's over now," Gabi comforted her.
My trainer continued talking to Kitty for a few minutes and then convinced her to go back to bed. But before leaving, Kitty gave me, Amber, Ventura and Lagi big kisses. I was very happy for having helped such a sweet being. I felt like melting when Kitty whispered into my ear: "when I grow up I wanna be a pokemon trainer and have a pokemon as good as you are."
I returned home in my pokeball, for I couldn't move easily yet. There, Gabi found some medicine to heal my paralysis and Ventura's. We didn't need further urgent attention, so we slept at home and went to the Pokemon Center in the morning (it's a good thing there's always one open, even during holidays). The nurses healed us quickly and we had plenty of time to party in the forest that day. As for the rest of the year... well, Gabi went back to her work on December 26th, the following day we got to witness the birth of a new Lapras just in time for her to finish her report, the rules at the Battle Tower changed and the terrible two finally got the battle they'd been waiting for since before I joined the team (Ninetales won by a hair and that was yet another victory he owed to his speed), and on the 31st we all had another big party in which we joyfully received the New Year, wishing that it would be merrier, calmer and full of the best things for everyone!
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 12:47 PM   #33
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<Caledor's POV>

It all began at the Battle Tower. Iael went back there and battled like there was no tomorrow, just like he always did (which made me wonder what was into him). He won three more battles for a total of eight victories. Ventura decided not to have more battles until the rest of her group (meaning Amber, Sylvan and me) reached her level. I decided to give it a shot and challenged a Nidoking who was registered as level 32, only to find out too late that his information was outdated and he was now level 40! Needless to say, I got the beating of my life. After the battle, all my friends gather around me to help me and see if I was alright. But what did Ventura say? Well, she said "you need some training badly." I couldn't believe my ears! How could she be telling me that? She more than anyone else knew how hard I trained! I got angry and didn't speak to her for the rest of the day, but then I reflected and thought she might have a point: I wasn't too far from reaching level 40 and gaining the psychic powers I longed for and maybe even needed. But if I didn't train properly years could go by before I reached that goal. It wasn't just about mastering my abilities; I needed to learn to think fast and adapt to any combat situation just like Ventura did. Ventura, Ninetales and even Iael. The 3 of them were very different from each other but they had something in common: a long history of wins and no losses. I thought they might know something I needed after all.
As for Sylvan and Amber... well, Sylvan was trying to get used to her new form; she'd never thought of the inconveniences her big size would bring and she had to find new ways to do the things she used to do easily. But she said she didn't regret evolving, for now she had more power to help those who needed her and the plant on her back was fully grown and incredibly beautiful. And Amber, she couldn't wait for her own evolution. She even said that she would accept a challenge at the Battle Tower if she received one!! That was so unlike her! She had to have a very powerful reason for that. Well, she did have it, as Tsunami told me later: a powerful, big, winged, fiery reason. I wasn't looking when Alex told Gabi about Volvagia's evolution, but Tsunami was and he said that Amber's expression couldn't be described. And then I wondered why she'd spent a whole day sighing!
Well, so far I've explained why the 3 of us had reasons to want to improve our skills. But we hadn't found a good way to do it yet. Gabi was too busy trying to locate all the stolen pokemon and find the origin of the glowing stone and asking herself why Scott hadn't returned yet, and there was no way anyone could talk me into taking another of Ventura's workout sessions. Of course, Gabi's worries were also mine. I was worried about those poor pokemon and about Scott too (even if my opinion on him was unclear), and the stone was a puzzle I was eager to solve (I had used it myself and I couldn't help wondering how something that powerful had come to Gabi's hands, why there was that white room in the maze where there wa nothing but a little white stone which only someone with an enhanced eyesight would notice and why it had allowed me to use Reflect and Gabi to hear my thoughts), but I didn't think those mysteries would be solved any time soon and I wanted to get stronger before the next apocalypse came (call me a pessimist, but periods of peace had never been long in Ulthuan).
I decided to ask Ninetales for advice. He just told me it wasn't the right moment. He said he was trying to remember something.
"What are you trying to remember?," I asked him.
"The stone she's studying. I can't be quite sure, but... I have the feeling that I've seen it before."
"Really?! When?," I asked, intrigued.
"Hey, I told you I wasn't sure!," he answered. "A long time ago, I think, but it may have been something else. I can't exactly remember when or where I saw that."
"Odd, I thought you had a great memory," I commented. "Something like that is not easy to forget."
"So sue me!," he shouted.
"Hey, wait! I'm not attacking you! I'm just saying that I find it strange."
"Well, perhaps you wouldn't if you knew what I was like when I was younger. I don't like to tell this to anyone, and that's why you're going to keep your mouth shut but, as a Vulpix, I was careless and self-centered and my only concern was to get praise from the others."
"Hey, who would have thought that?," I laughed. Ninetales stared at me in a way he made me burn in the inside.
"Heh... sorry. I mean... yes, I'm sure you have changed a lot. You're not self centered, it was just a joke." Ninetales's eyes let go of me and I was able to stop quivering. "Thanks for trusting me with that."
Ninetales smiled.
"You were right about one thing, though," he told me. "Sometimes I still forget to pay attention to my friends. You were telling me... you wanted to train, right?"
"I think I know exactly what you need. Earlier today I went out for a walk... well, to run, actually; and I heard a couple of kids comment about a hockey game for pokemon. I listened to them to decide if I wanted to participate, but then decided that pushing a disc with a stick on the ice is not my idea of fun. But you may like it. I heard attacks can be used and you can gain experience."
"Wow! That's great! We need to get Gabi to register. How do we tell her?"
"Well, I think those kids read about it on the newspaper, so it must be there. You can take it to her and show her the ad or article or whatever it is. I believe you have another method too, for what I've heard. But I think it's better to play it safe now."
"Another method?... Oh, of course! No, I'm not using the stone again until we figure out what it is or at least where it came from. I'll get the paper."
"All right, then."
I went to get the newspaper. It took me some time to find it among the pile (it seemed Gabi had been reading them randomly or not reading them at all), but in the end I found it, and the ad too. I took it to Gabi (who was staring at a map, probably analysing it) and shouted until I got her attention.
"Oh, sorry, Caledor," she said, looking at me. "I was too concentrated on this. What is it?"
I put the paper on the floor and pointed at the ad. She crouched down and read it.
"Oh, I see. You want to participate."
I nodded.
"Well, I... I was trying to think of were the missing pokemon could be. Wherever they are, they've been waiting for too long and who knows what they may have suffered so far. Still, I haven't found any clues yet. I know their trainers are looking for them too."
She looked down with frustration.
"Lucky, Scratchy, Achilles, Vulpix, Freezi... who knows how many more? I'm too worried about them. But I see there's no good in worrying to the point of neglecting my own friends. Let's just hope a sign finally comes."
She sighed. I walked to her and leaned my paw on her arm. She looked at me again and smiled.
"I guess there's no reason not to grant you your wish," Gabi concluded. "So, is anyone else interested or just you?"
"I don't know," I said. I knew she couldn't understand my words without the stone, but she knew me well enough to know what those sounds meant.
"Well, let's ask the others, then."
Gabi gathered the rest of the team and told them everything about the game. For the reasons I explained earlier, Amber and Sylvan volunteered immediately.
"Ok, then it's all set," Gabi said. "According to this, we need to choose a goalkeeper now." She looked at the three of us carefully. "I think Sylvan will be the best for that job. Is it ok with you, Sylvan?"
My friend agreed.
"Amber and Caledor, you two have already played soccer together, so I don't think you'll have any problems to do this. Just one thing... how good are you at ice-skating?"
Amber and I looked at each other and then at Gabi. Our looks made it clear that we had never skated on ice before.
"Well, I've battled in the Blizzard Room once," I told Amber. "I don't know if that helps."
"I can't believe you haven't skated on ice!," Tsunami exclaimed. "From Amber, I understand it. Fire pokemon don't usually frequent cold places. But you! Don't tell me you never came across a frozen lake in your childhood!"
"No, I didn't," I answered in a serious tone, trying to hint Tsunami about the big mistake he had made by saying that. He got the hint.
"Oh, sorry, I'd forgotten," he apologized. "It's just that you're so cheerful most of the time... One would think you had a happy and normal childhood."
"Well, I guess some of us are good for drama and some others for commeny, no matter what life hurls at us," I reflected. "I'd rather cheer up. There's no use for being all dark and miserable. I'm happy now, I have many friends and I've done many good things. Besides, I had it better than others even then. I was never tortured or anything. And even Pidgeot here enjoys the pleasures of life when he can."
"I'm not saying you shouldn't. What I actually meant was that your attitude was admirable," Tsunami explained. I couldn't believe it! I'd recieved a compliment from Tsunami in front of the rest of the team! Even in front of Ninetales! I felt like shouting out loud, but that would have been an unfair retribution to my finned friend. And he would have taken back the compliment too.
That same day we registered for the hockey game and then Gabi took us to an ice rink to practise. She came in with us and showed us how to skate. It was quite funny, now that I think of it. I moved very slowly at the beginning, but then I gained confidence and started sliding faster. At first, Amber wouldn't release the handrail. Sylvan was the first one who decided to take it easy and slide recklessly, and she paid for it: she slipped and fell on her belly. The cold ice made her scream and she couldn't stop sliding! She stretched out her vines to grasp the handrail behind her, but she pulled too strongly and began to slide backwards. She ended up bumping into Amber, who fell on her back. Steam came out of her tail flame as it touched the ice and she jumped up immediately, this time slipping to the front. She managed to grab the handrail again right in time to avoid landing on Sylvan. Once it was over, Amber sighed, cleared her forhead and said: "I'll go to the center of the rink. It seems to be safer."
Sylvan laughed, apparently forgetting the cold and the fright. Gabi reached her and helped her stand up. To encourage her, she told her she wouldn't have to move much during the game: she could use her vines to stop the puck from entering the goal. As for me, I was luckily standing at a safe distance when all that happened.
"We need a lot of practice," Gabi assured. No one dared to disagree.
We trained really hard. Amber and I got used to walking on ice, and after a few hours we could even gain some speed without losing control. Sylvan's training was quite different: it was focused on blocking things Gabi hurled at her, mostly on the ice and some others through the air. She soon got the handle of it and achieved a decent catch rate.
"I'm sure that will be useful in the future too," Ventura commented while watching Sylvan. "You never know what or who you'll need to catch."
Gabi also reminded Sylvan that she would need to keep an eye on the puck (or, rather, both eyes) at all times. She explained it was not an easy task, and admitted that she was herself a hopeless goalkeeper because she had never managed to keep her concentration on the ball (when she played soccer) long enough and she was usually caught by surprise. Sylvan didn't take this advice lightly and, when we began to have practice matches, she focused all her thoughts on the puck. She did it so well that it never got past her. Of course, we were being friendly. We didn't use any of our attacks. (Well, I did use Water Gun once, but only on the puck). Our opponents wouldn't be so considerate. But that was a risk we were willing to take. No one in the world could make me, let alone Amber, attack Sylvan.
After a period of hard training which seemed much longer than it was (even if it was not as exhausting as the workout we'd done with Ventura), the day came. We were all excited, and a bit anxious too. We were taken to the stalls before the games started, with the instruction to wait for Gabi's name to be called out. There we found... who else but Alex! Just like in the soccer game! Gabi made a joke about how they always ended up in the same places and doing the same things, and they both laughed together. Then they asked each other which pokemon they had registered for the game. I wasn't surprised to hear Spike and Volvagia were in. They had been in the soccer game too, just like me and Amber. Speaking of Amber, she went almost pale when she saw Volvagia. Her eyes looked as big as the sun and I think she even stopped breathing for a moment. When she came back to normal, she only smiled and said "you look great". He smiled back and even blushed! I could see that, after all, he was the same old Volvagia. Then they started talking. I decided to leave those two alone until either of us were called.
We watched a few matches before our turn came. One of them was particularly exciting: my friends Kiara, Kovu and Simba defeated a tricky trio with an impressive style! Then our turn came. My anxiety grew stronger. I hoped I could do it as well as my friends had. We went down to the arena and took our positions. Then our opponents were called. One of them, a Haunter, looked quite scary; Sylvan gasped at his sight. The goalie was a Chansey. She didn't look like she could bring us trouble, but I knew better than most how deceitful appearances could be. There was also a Marowak. His calm and silent attitude was intriguing. I knew I'd have to watch out for him, and especially protect Amber from any tricks he could come up with.

The whistle blew and the game started. We tried to reach for the puck, but the Haunter got it first. He advanced fast, not having to worry about slipping. He was about to score! He gave the puck one last hit and... Sylvan managed to block it! She caught the puck with one of her vines and threw it back to the center of the rink. The Haunter went black with anger. Everything around him went black. Then the darkness around him took the shape of a beam and he shot it right at Sylvan! It was a Confuse Ray! I realized our opponents had taken the "everything goes" rule seriously. They wouldn't go soft on us. Poor Sylvan! She'd been working so hard to keep her focus! But... could that training help her now?
As I was asking myself those questions, the puck slid right next to me. The Marowak came out of nowhere and hit it with his bone before I could even react. "Oh, great!," I grumbled. Luckily, Amber had been paying more attention than me, and she managed to take the puck away from the Marowak. But at what price! The Marowak hit her on the flank with his Bone Club, not only hurting her badly but also throwing her off-balance. Amber used her arms to stop her fall, and the puck slid away. I rushed to get it, but a Thunder came from behind and forced me to stop. I wasn't touched, but the Haunter (who was obviously responsible for the Thunder) used the time he'd borrowed to reach the puck.
At that time Amber had already got up and was racing for the puck, just as I was. Amber blocked the Marowak's access to the goal, wher Sylvan was fighting her own ghosts, so to say it. I saw the Marowak heading her way; I couldn't tell if he was waiting for a pass or trying to attack Amber. I could take no risks.
"Amber, watch out!," I shouted. Wisely, Amber moved to the side without stopping to check what danger she was in. The Marowak tried to hit her, but instead of his target he met a blast of water, courtesy of Sylvan's Hidden Power!
"Why didn't it work?!," Sylvan exclaimed. "What does it take to get out of here?!" It was evident that she was still confused. But her attack had saved both Amber and the goal.
I used my chance to skate my way to the puck and push it back to the center. Amber reached me and picked up from there. The Haunter pursued her, but I stopped him with a Thunder Wave. If they could play dirty, so could I. Amber made it to the scoring area and hit the puck to the left side of the goal. The Chansey tried to catch it, but it passed by her. We'd made it! We'd scored the first goal of the game!


The puck was placed back in the center and this time it was the Marowak who hit it. I couldn't paralyze him like I had the Haunter, but even if I could, I felt it wouldn't be fair. Amber reached the Marowak and pushed the puck away from him, but he threatened to hit her again. To stop him, Amber lowered her tail, letting her flame melt the ise under the Marowak's feet. She was taking a big risk by exposing her flame to water, but she proved to know what she was doing. The Marowak slipped and Amber raised her tail again fast and safely.
Amber got the puck again and began to push it towards our opponents' goal when the Haunter reached her and licked her. Why was everyone attacking her?! Well, she was the fastest of us 3, and the fastest on the rink now that the Haunter was paralyzed, but what they were doing was totally unfair! I decided to call their attention, and started by attacking the Haunter with a Thunder. I didn't do much damage, but I managed to drive his attention away from Amber. My friend made her way to the scoring zone again and... goal!


We were doing well. Perhaps too well. The Marowak saw what I had done and decided to make me his primary target. He started chasing me and he looked so mad I could do nothing but run away. He finally stopped my escape with an Earthquake! I fell on the shattered ice and the Marowak raised his bone to hit me. But he was stopped... by Sylvan! She was now standing right behind the Marowak, and had just soaked him with her Hidden Power again! That was the good news. The bad news was that she'd left the goal unprotected! It was easy for the Haunter to score, in spite of his paralysis.


This time it was Amber who hit the puck first. Sylvan was guided back to the goal, where she began to take deep breaths, waiting for her confusion to wear out. The Marowak and the Haunter were unable to intercept Amber. Only the Chansey stood between her and the goal. At that moment, our opponents' goalie did something completely unexpected: she began to sing! Her voice was more powerful than I had imagined. It was hard to resist it. Amber fell asleep before she could reach the goal. So did some of the spectators, and even Sylvan! I made my best effort to remain awake. The Haunter's paralysis prevented him from falling asleep, but it stopped him from moving too. When the melody stopped, only the Chansey, the Marowak and I were standing on the rink.
The Marowak stared at me. "It seems it's up to you and me now," he said. It was the first time I heard him speak.
"It is. For now," I answered.
The Marowak picked the puck from the scoring zone and pushed it forward. I blocked his way, but he tossed me aside with a Headbutt. I got up, furious, determined to teach the bully a lesson. I charged up and released a Hydro Pump! The Marowak collapsed. I thought he had fainted, but he proved me wrong. He got up! Still, he was so weak that he could barely move.
"Water... too?," he mumbled. "What k... kind of... freak... are you?"
"The best kind," I responded. "Unlike you. Which part of the word 'game' don't you understand?"
"The part were... I'm supposed to put... put up a show... instead of being... a warrior! Which is what I am!"
He seemed to be regaining his shape.
"Do you want to talk about this?," I asked him.
"No," he answered. "I want to get this over with once and for all."
The Marowak began to skate so fast that he caught me by surprise. He took the puck and scored a goal in no time!


The puck was placed in the center. I hit it, the Marowak took it away. He made his way forward, only to fall straight into a Smokescreen! I looked around to see the author of the trap.
"Amber!," I exclaimed. "It's great to have you back."
"Missed me?," she asked with a smiled. "It seems you've been doing a great job."
"Not so great," I told her. "He scored."
"Yeah, I saw that. I woke up just before it happened. I'm sorry I couldn't make it to the other side of the rink in time."
"It's ok, the game's still on. You missed the best part, though."
"Really? What was that?"
"The part when he tried to explain he was attacking us because he is a warrior."
"A warrior? A lost soul I'd say. There are times to be a warrior. But this is not one of those times."
"THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO CHAT EITHER!," the Marowak interrupted us. He was standing in front of us, covering the puck with his bone. "This is what happens when you waste your time," he said, hitting the puck forward and sliding after it. He nearly made it to the goal, but Sylvan stopped him. She was awake too!
"Sylvan, welcome back!," I shouted.
"Thanks!," she replied, hurling the puck with her vine with such luck... that it slid across the whole rink and fell straight into the other goal!!


The Chansey was furious! Not only had her song been useless, but her team was losing again! She crossed the rink to slap Sylvan and even used a Psychic attack on her! Sylvan tried to use her Sleep Powder to stop her attacker, but the Chansey dodged two consecutive blasts of powder and Sylvan desisted. Amber and I decided to continue, seeing that the Chansey was not strong enough to hurt Sylvan seriously, and trusting that she'd stop once we scored another goal.
The Marowak and the Haunter tried to stop us, but we dodged them. The goal was free, so we had no problems getting the puck in.


The Chansey reacted to the shouts of the audience (most of whom had already woken up) and returned to her goal ashamed. Her teammates had horrible looks of scorn on their faces. The Marowak took the puck again and began to push it forward. I skated past him and tried to block his way, but this time he hurled his bone at me before we collided. It hit me from the front and would have hit me from behind too if Sylvan hadn't caught it with her vine.
"Ventura was right," the Venusaur commented. "You never know what you'll need to catch."
The Marowak stopped in his track. "Hey, give me my bone back!!," he shouted, furious. "It's against the rules of all Pokemon Leagues to deprive a Marowak from his bone."
"Too bad for you we're not in any league now," I told him. I was really fed up with that guy. And the feeling was mutual.
Without a warning, the Marowak lowered his head and charged towards me, ready for another Headbutt. I think I would have fainted if he had hit me this time, but he didn't. Something stopped him first. Though I hadn't seen the attack that stroke him many times, I recognized it: it was Dragonbreath! The Marowak collapsed on the ice again, this time to stay down.
"Thanks, Amber! You've saved me!," I exclaimed.
"You're welcome," she said. "I guess that makes us even."
"No. I will make us even," a voice said. When I located the voice and the speaker (the Haunter), it was too late. He was already hitting the puck for another goal. Sylvan tried to stop him, but she was late too.


"We mustn't get distracted!," Amber warned us. Once the puck was back on the center of the rink, she pushed it to our opponents' side. The Haunter tried to stop her, but he couldn't reach her. She made it really close to the goal, but all of a sudden the Chansey hit her with a Zap Cannon! Amber stopped in her track. I could see she was not in pain, but she was paralyzed.
"Hwahahahaha! Gotta love that girl!," the Haunter exclaimed. "She's crazy, but she's good."
I didn't waste my time. While the Haunter was laughing, I raced to the spot where Amber was and took the puck from her. I hit it, and I sent it straight into the goal!


A loud cheer came down from the croud. We'd won! Our opponents' trainer came down to pick them up. He looked frustrated. I could tell he had a lot to learn about training pokemon, but I wouldn't be the one to teach him. Gabi came to us too, followed by the rest of the team, and gave each of us a big hard.
"I didn't expect things to get so tough, but you all did great!," she told us.
Sylvan and I were very happy, but it was clear that the happiest of all was Amber.

I grew to level 37!
Amber and Sylvan both grew to level 36!

Amber looked up to the stalls, probably looking for Volvagia. We all looked at her, knowing what was about to happen and eager to watch every second of her evolution. Even while she was surrounded by the light I could see her body grow, her flame become more intense and a couple of beautiful wings come out of her back and expand, tasting the air for the first time.
"You look amazing!," Sylvan exclaimed as soon as Amber finished absorbing the light.
"That must have felt great! I can barely wait to evolve myself," I admitted.
"I'm afraid that's a feeling I'll never know," Iael told us.
"It's no big deal," Ninetales assured. "I didn't really enjoy it. What matters is what you do with whatever power you have, and you've been using yours quite well so far."
"Oh, it's all about power for you, isn't it?," Sylvan complained.
"No. Not all. Just a lot," Ninetales replied.
"Will you try out your wings?," Sylvan asked Amber. "I can't wait for you to tell me what flying feels like!"
"I'm afraid you'll have to wait," Amber told her. "I'm still paralyzed and I doubt I could fly in this state."
"Oh, poor Amber!," Tsunami sympathized. "Let's get moving so that we can get to a pokemon center."
"Later," Amber suggested. "I won't get worse. And there's something that I want to do first."
Amber slowly walked out of the rink and up the stalls. We all followed her, including Gabi. I wondered how much Gabi had understood of all this; probably more than one would think. She knew Amber very well. She may have even known what Amber was up to before the rest of us found out. This is what happened: Amber walked to the place where Alex and his pokemon were sitting and gave Volvagia the biggest hug I've ever seen!
"I hope I have not disturbed you by doing this," she told him once she released him. "I know... I got carried away, but I've been wanted to do this for such a long time!"
Volvagia's face turned red again and so did Amber's.
"Good luck in your match," she said. "I'll be watching you."
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 12:48 PM   #34
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<Gabi's POV>

Fortunately, we had a decent period of peace. Personally, I don't think those can ever be long enough, but at least I got to put most of my things in order and even rest a little. Of course, my mind wouldn't be put to rest that easily. Every now and then I kept on mentally reviewing my gallery of unsolved puzzles, but I couldn't move one step forward. "Maybe it's not the right moment," I told myself.
I wanted to call John and ask him what happened in his absence and how he had managed to survive the showdown with the Dark Gengar, but I didn't know where he lived now and his old phone number didn't work. I waited for the chance to meet him, but he didn't show up at the hockey game and I didn't see him in the following days either. Strangely, the same thing happened with Charlie. I had seen neither of them since the party; it had already been over a month! Charlie had left the party before dinner was even served. Looking back, I thought he looked troubled when he last talked to us, or at least uncomfortable. I was worried about him, especially knowing his past. I might be blowing things up, but I would have felt much better if I'd known for certain that he was alright.
At least there was some good news: Nolan joined the Dragon Tamers crew. That was good for me because I'd have less work to do (it had been hard to keep up with everything since Scott left), but also because I'd get to see him more often. Apart of being responsible and hard working (qualities that granted him the job), Nolan was a good friend. I thought of making a surprise party for him just like Scott and I had done for Alex, but that's when things got wrecked again.
The news was on TV: entire cities were shaking; people and vehicles were sinking into what the media came to call "sinkholes". Some reporters had already descended to investigate, and returned running from a horde of enraged pokemon.
"No, not again!," was the first thing to come out of my mouth. All of a sudden, I felt my bed shake or, rather, jump, as if something had sped under it (my TV set was in my room and I was sitting on my bed). I stood up and then crouched to see what it was. A part of me feared it would be an attack of the crazy pokemon I'd just seen on TV, but another part thought that would have been too much of a coincidence. It was the last part which won this time: the intruder turned out to be Iael. His eyes were full of a fear I'd never seen in him before. I turned off the TV and called him, but he wouldn't come out.
"What is it, Iael?," I asked. "What are you afraid of?"
He was frozen in fear. Iael had always been a puzzle for me, but this time my confusion was greater than ever. It was true he was always shy around strangers, and he had looked scared when I left him at the Tower of Hoeth, but he'd never rejected a battle and, when he was fighting, he always proved to be a daredevil, blurring the limit between admirable bravery and obsessive stubbornness. All that made me think: were all those strange patterns of behavior pieces of the same puzzle? I had always wanted to get to know Iael better, get closer to him... help him. Maybe this was the right time.
"Hold on, please. I'll be right back," I told him. I rushed to my "everything room", which was sort of a local version of my office and a storage room at the same time, and brought the glowing stone. I was still unsure of its innocuousness, but it seemed to have done no harm so far and I saw it as the only chance to ger my Stantler out of his trance. I returned to my room and spoke to Iael.
"You're safe here," I said. "I will always protect you. Please tell me what's troubling you. I will listen."
I opened my hand and show him the stone, to let him know I'd understand whatever he said. Even so, he remained silent for a while, but I had the feeling he was trying to speak. I waited.
"I am supposed to ptotect you," the answer finally came. "Silly me. How could I think it was over?!"
"We'll take care of each other," I responded. "I don't think problems will ever be over, but we can do something to help fix things. We always have."
"No, you don't understand."
"Then help me understand, please."
Another minute of silence came before Iael spoke again.
"Did they show any images of the pokemon before I came?"
"Just a few shots. Why?"
"Did they had marks on them? Like on their foreheads, or on their eyes?"
"They looked normal. Just... enraged."
I began to intuit where his thoughts had led him. I had fought too many mentally controlled pokemon with marks on their eyes and foreheads. That was Mewtwo's trademark.
"Well, it still doesn't mean much," Iael concluded after reflecting for a while.
"Iael, I don't know much about your past and I won't ask you to tell me if you don't want to, but you must know this: Mewtwo is imprisoned, and he won't find the way out any time soon. Not for as long as we live, at least."
"I see I can't fool you. Never meant to, really. It's just... it hurts too much."
"It's ok."
Iael's shout scared me.
"Sorry about that. But it's not ok. It will never be. It doesn't matter who's controlling those pokemon. They're hurting others, and even themselves! And who knows how many lives they will ruin before we stop them? We can't keep talking. We must do something now!"
Iael's vigour had completely returned, and he was once more showing his unstoppable warrior side. I knew I wouldn't be able to go any deeper yet, but things were finally starting to get clearer; I was finally beginning to understand my friend.
"We're going now. Just let me call the others."
Just like in the old times, I took my gear and called every trainer on my phonebook. Then I called for all my pokemon, prepared my bag and took off. For a moment, I hesitated about taking the stone with me, but I decided to keep it in my bag just in case.
According to the TV broadcast, the first attacks had been reported in Celadon and Goldenrod, the biggest cities in Kanto and Johto respectively. I could have asked Pidgeot or Lagi to take me to either of those cities, but my instinct told me to stay in Caledor. If two important cities were already under attack, Caledor couldn't be far behind. So, I asked Ventura to search for anything unusual. I knew I could trust her to locate practically anything in a radio of still unknown limits. Ventura took her time, but then she did find something. She didn't hesitate to send me a psychic message showing me what she'd found. I felt strange vibrations under the ground, not too close, but not too far either.
"Ok, let's go," I said, calling all my non-flying pokemon back to their pokeballs and riding on Pidgeot's back. Lagi, Ventura and, for the first time, Amber, flew by our side. Ventura guided us to the origin of the vibrations. It turned out to be a spot in the middle of the forest.
"Just like before," I thought, but I was careful not to say it, in case Iael was listening. As I stepped on the ground, I felt the vibrations myself. Something was moving towards Caledor city.
"So... We can either look for a sinkhole," I reflected, looking at Ventura, "or dig our way down," I concluded looking at Ninetales.
Knowing those two, I thought they might take the initiative and start doing one thing and the other respectively. But this time they both awaited instructions. They seemed to agree on leaving the decision to me. I decided to dig, thinking it would be easier to stop them if we blocked their way rather than follow them from behind. It would also be more dangerous, but my pokemon and I had already had similar battles before; pokemon who can't think clearly are not as much of a threat as those who are intentionally trying to kill us.
Ventura showed us the exact location of the underground tunnel, and Ninetales dug deep into the ground until he reached it. He then widened the passage so that we could all get in. Inside the wide tunnel, the rumbling was even lowder. We were very close! I was about to start chasing the pokemon who, by the sound, had just passed by, when I heard another noise coming our way. It sounded like a steamroller, flattening the ground as it passed.
"Watch out!," I told my pokemon. "It must be one of those berserk pokemon. Prepare for battle!"
My pokemon formed in a block around me. The noise became louder until not one but two images were revealed! Two Omastars!!
I was astonished. Those pokemon were so rare that, for centuries, they'd been thought to be extinct! I had heard of some sightings and I'd seen a few Omanytes myself, but I'd never seen an Omastar in person. Now there were two in front of me, and by their looks they would run over us rather than stop their crazy race. What could be making them act like that?
Before I could choose the pokemon who would confront them, one of the Omastars stretched its tentacles and caught Amber in them! I knew Amber would be no match for the Omastar on her own, so I had to act fast.
"Water Angel, help Amber!," I shouted out. Water Angel jumped ahead. The other Omastar stretched out its tentacles too, but Sylvan's vines blocked it. So, both Omastars had opponents now. I knew Sylvan had a great type advantage, but the Omastar looked very strong, so I asked Pidgeot for backup. It was risky, since none of the two pairs had battle together ever before, but all four of them were used to teamwork, so I thought they'd handle.

Charizard level 36 and Kingdra level 44 vs. Omastar level 45
Venusaur level 36 and Pidgeot level 44 vs. Omastar level 45

Water Angel covered the first Omastar with smoke before it could hurt Amber, while Pidgeot used his Mud-Slap on his opponent. The Omastar who was attacking Amber managed to hold its grip on her, and brought her closer to itself, but Amber used her chance to Bite her attacker, forcing it to release her. In the meantime, Sylvan hit her opponent with Razor Leaf. The result was impressive! The Omastar screamed and jumped back for a second, but then the look in its eyes changed and, all of a sudden, it released an Ice Beam! Sylvan was badly hurt. Amber turned around to see her friend, and her opponent took the chance to hit her with Surf!
I had to step back for the water not to reach me. The walls of the tunnel turned into mud. Amber managed to save her tail, but she was obviously badly injured. That made Water Angel furious. She rode the Omastar's wave backwards and, before the ground absorbed the water, she was already between her opponent and Amber. She said something to the Omastar which sounded like a threat and then dumped Toxic on it. It has been a while since Water Angel last used her combo, but it worked quite well: the Omastar was poisoned!
Pidgeot hit his Omastar with Steel Wing and Sylvan's Vine Whip finished it off. They both rushed to aid their friends, but the remaining Omastar hit the walls with its back tentacles making the tunnel collapse! Pidgeot opened his wings around Sylvan to protect her, as a huge pile of earth and mud fell on them both. Water Angel screamed at that sight. I could tell she was desperate to help Pidgeot, but she knew she couldn't leave Amber alone with the Omastar. Now we could see the light above us. The raving pokemon took little notice of Amber's Dragonbreath and prepared to attack her again, but Water Angel made its water attack deviate and countered it with a Surf attack of her own.
Amber stayed behind Water Angel and used Dragonbreath again. This time it looked like the Omastar was starting to feel it. It tried to reach Amber and Bite her, but Water Angel got in the middle and was bitten instead. She didn't delay things a second longer. She used Surf again and the Omastar fainted under the power of her wave.

Sylvan and Amber grew to level 37! Amber learned Slash!
Pidgeot and Water Angel grew to level 45!

<Water Angel's POV>

The fact that we'd won the battle meant nothing to me. I was too worried about Pidgeot. I'd seen how all the earth above us had fallen on him. I formed a wave and surfed it to the spot where he was, and then tried to remove the earth with my Water Gun. Soon the mud began to shake and Pidgeot came out, safe and sound. So did Sylvan, sheltered by my companion's wings.
"Are you alright?," I asked, half still in shock and half relieved.
"Yeah," Pidgeot replied. "I won't become the first bird to be brought down by a pile of mud."
Life returned to me.
"You got me so worried, you fool!," I shouted. Pidgeot finished unearthing himself, walked to my side and wrapped me around with his warm wings.
"Mmmh... I think I could get used to this," I whispered.
"Hey, you two, stop it!," Tsunami shouted. "You're making it too hard for me to keep my promise of not laughing at you. Besides, we're not safe yet."
He was right about the last thing. We were still in danger. Worse yet, everyone else was too. At least one pokemon had escaped before we reached the tunnel; surely many others were still advancing too, wreaking havoc on their way. And we had no idea where they were going, nor who or what was driving them there.
Most of the tunnel had been block and we would have taken too long to clear it. Whatever pokemon were ahead of us, we had lost them. We returned to the surface just in time for a running Ninetales to bump into us. She apologized and was about to continue running when something she saw made her stop in her track, allowing her trainer, who was running after her, the necessary time to reach her.
The trainer turned out to be none other but Officer Jenny! It was strange, I'd never heard of her having a Ninetales. Jenny looked agitated. Her voice showed it when she asked Gabi what was going on in that place.
"We found an underground tunnel and were attacked by two Omastars," Gabi explained.
"You should be careful. This place has become very dangerous," Officer Jenny told her.
"You're not from Caledor, right?," Gabi asked. "Officer Jenny from Caledor knows me. When there's danger, I'm always on the front line to protect others."
"Then I hope you know what you're doing, miss. You're right, I'm not officer Jenny from Caledor. I'm her cousin from Goldenrod."
"Goldenrod?!," Gabi explained. We were all as surprised as she was. "Then what are you doing here, so far from Johto?"
"I've been tracking a group of berserk pokemon all the way from Goldenrod. Or, rather, my Ninetales has. I was assigned to find out their destination."
"I've heard about the attack in Goldenrod on the news," Gabi told her. "I'm investigating that too. Maybe we can help each other."
"Well, I must admit I could use some help now, but... who are you?"
"Oh! Sorry, I forgot to introduce myself. I'm known as Lady Vulpix of the Dragon Tamers."
"The Dragon Tamers? My cousin has told me about you guys. She said you were like a group of heroes or something, protecting not only Caledor but other lands too. You're sort of a legend!"
"We do what we can, which I'm afraid is never good enough. Maybe if we work together we can get to the bottom of this."
"Then it's a deal. Tell me what you know about these attacks."
"So far only what I've seen on TV. I'm sure you must have more information than I do."
"Not much, actually. I hadn't heard of them until they attacked Goldenrod. Then my Ninetales tracked them down all the way here. They dug such deep tunnels that they kept moving even under the sea! I had to take a boat to follow them."
"And your Ninetales never lost track of them? That's amazing!"
"I know. She's a miracle. She heard the rumble even on the sea. She can track down anyone or anything, anywhere."
I saw our own Ninetales's head shake fast, as if something had hit her.
"She even found a Fire stone buried in the ground, you know?," Jenny continued. "That's how she evolved. It happened a few months ago. I was here on vacation, visiting my cousin, and she took me to see the Tower of Hoeth, which had recently been rescued from the hands of Mewtwo by... was it by you?"
"Yes, us Dragon Tamers. Especially Scott and his Dragonite Indraugnir."
"Could you please tell me the rest of the story? I'm interested."
"Oh, sure. We were heading to the tower when my Vulpix caught a scent and began to follow it. She ran almost as fast as she did today, then started digging and she found a Fire Stone!"
"Incredible!," Gabi exclaimed. "That must be the stone my Ninetales buried a few hours before we entered the tower!"
Jenny's Ninetales nodded firmly. I didn't need her enhanced senses to notice something was going on.
"Your Ninetales buried a Fire Stone? Why?"
"Well, it's a long story, but I guess I could summarize it by saying a Hypno used it to attack him."
"I see."
"Tell me, how did you get a Vulpix?," Gabi asked Jenny. "I've heard most police officers have Growlithes. I knew some had Spinaraks, but I'd never heard of any having a Vulpix nor a Ninetales."
"Strangely enough, I found her here too, also on a vacation, years ago. I found her on the road. She looked like she had been attacked. She was so hurt she could barely move. I took her to the Pokemon Center and, once she healed, waited for someone to claim her. But no one ever came, so when I returned home I decided to take her with me. And I'll never regret that decision! She's the best partner I could have asked for."
"So she's from Caledor? Score one more for those who say this is a land of wonders."
I looked at Jenny's Ninetales for as long as the conversation lasted. She wouldn't take her eyes off my 7-tailed teammate. Breaking in was not my speciality, but I decided to do it.
"So, where do you two know each other from?," I asked them.
"I - I..."
I'd never seen Ninetales act like that before; not even in the old days when he was still in his shy stage.
"We go way back," the female Ninetales said. "We grew up together. Found a pack on the same week, left it on the same day. The last thing was not a coincidence, though."
"You... you left the pack on the same day as I did?," Ninetales asked, confused.
"You wouldn't think I'd let you go so easily, would you?"
"I don't see why not. It's not like I was a great friend for any of you. By the way, you haven't told me who you are, but it's clear that you're Tracker, right?"
"It's good to know that at least you remember me!," Tracker laughed. "I tried to stop you that day, but you ran too fast for me to reach you. I went back and told the others you had left. Then I left too. I tried to find you but, as you've already heard, I was forced to take a long detour. I thought I almost had you at the Tower of Hoeth, but you had already left when I got there and Jenny wouldn't let me follow your tracks. She didn't even know about you."
"I don't understand. Why get into so much trouble to find me?"
"You don't get it, do you? Nevermind. Some things never change. Let's just say I was worried about you."
"Wow! I didn't think anyone would worry about me."
"I can name a few who did. Me, Solitude, Ruby, Strawberry... and Kid, of course! He was always grateful to you since that day you saved his life. I'm sure he still misses you, wherever he is."
"Oh, I see... I never thought of him. I liked the kid too, but I couldn't tell how much he cared for me. I didn't really know the value of... well, anything! What can I say? I was a jerk."
"It's good to see some things do change," Tracker said with a smile.
"Still, I think even Kid would have freaked out if he'd seen me come back with 7 tails, and I didn't have enough merits to prove I wasn't a lousy freak yet."
"You think you had to prove that? We would never had thought that! Not I, at least. Nor Kid."
"There was a Vulpix called Kid in your pack?," Tsunami interrupted them. "That explains a few things."
"Yes, it seems that name tends to pass along from one pokemon to another," Caledor added.
"Wait a minute!," Tsunami said. "If the lady here is Tracker, and there was a Vulpix called Kid, then you must have had a name too! What was your name?"
"That, my friend, shall forever remain a secret," joked Ninetales. "I never liked my name. The leaders tagged it on me without even asking. It was a stupid name. Suitable, but stupid. I'm glad to be just Ninetales now."
"Come on, tell us!," begged Caledor. "I promise I won't laugh."
"Why do you care what the leaders used to call me? You know who I am and that's enough! I don't want to hear that name ever again."
"Ok, don't bite me!," Caledor joked. "I was just asking."
"You seem to have made a nice group of friends," Tracker commented.
"Yeah, they're... They're special. They're usually one big pain in the ***, but they make life fun."
"I'll take that as a compliment," Tsunami laughed. "Not like we get one from you everyday!"

"Your Ninetales and mine look like they know each other!," Officer Jenny observed.
"I know," Gabi told her. I looked at her and saw that her left fist was closed. That meant she was holding something; most likely the stone. How long had she held it? Had she heard the conversation between the Ninetales? Had she heard whatever I'd said to Pidgeot? I doubted she'd been holding it that long. Anyway, I had nothing to hide to her. Anything Tsunami could hear was certainly good for Gabi's ears too.
"Oh, I almost forgot to tell you!," Tracker reacted. "I saw Solitude a few days ago!"
"Solitude? Wow! Where did you find her? Did she speak to you?," Ninetales asked.
"She spoke a lot, actually. She said she left the pack right after me, so the group went down from 12 to 9 in only one day. She said that I would find you."
"No kidding! How could she possibly know that?"
"She knew much more than we thought. I never told anyone why you'd left, but she knew somehow. She also knew you were meant to do great things."
"What is she, psy...? OMG!"
"What is it?!"
"How could I be so blind?! It was Solitude all along! Someone hit me, please!"
"Say that once more and I'll be pleased to oblige," joked Tsunami.
"I don't understand," complained Tracker.
"Neither do I," Tsunami said.
"I think I do," stated Caledor.
"You do?!," Amber exclaimed.
"Well, I think... I think Ninetales here has just remembered something that has been evading him lately. Tell us, please, Ninetales. I'm intrigued!"
"It was... it was Solitude's trophy! For the seeking game! That one time she won. She changed, became even more silent than before. Her eyes lost in the horizon. I remember now! I was sort of used to being beaten by Tracker because she had an exceptional talent for finding things, but that day was so mad at the fact that Solitude beat me that I didn't pay attention to the trophy itself! I think... she kept it with her ever since, didn't she?"
"What's a seeking contest?," Caledor interrupted.
"I know what it is," Iael affirmed. "It's a game where a group spreads out all over the forest and try to find strange and unique objects. Then when the sun sets everyone shows their trophies and the judges choose the winner."
"Indeed! How did you know that?," asked Ninetales.
"When I was a child I lived in the forest by a lake. A group of Golducks and Psyducks who lived in that lake were very friendly with us Stantlers. It was them who told me about the seeking contest. I thought it would be fun to play it, but I never found the place where the contest was held."
"One revelation after another!," exclaimed Ninetales, astonished. "Is it possible that you and I grew up in the same forest, by the same lake?!"
"Well, there were many pokemon there, I don't find it strange that two of them met later," Iael remarked. "But, in any case, you grew up there MUCH earlier than me."
"Wait till we get home. I'll make you pay for what you've just said," threatened Ninetales.
"Sorry to interrupt you, but you were saying something which sounded important," Tracker pointed out.
"Oh! Yes, I was! Tell me, did Solitude keep her trophy with her?"
"She kept it for as long as I stayed, but the last time I saw her she didn't have it with her. I found that strange and asked her what had happened to it. She was very cryptic about it. She said she had left it where it was supposed to be found or something like that. She said she'd played her part. Why are you asking me? Do you know anything about it?"
"I'm almost sure I do. Do you remember what it looked like?"
"Hey, who are you taking me for? I'd never forget something like that!"
"Well, I did, so please don't be so rude."
"Sorry. It was a small white stone which glowed when she touched it. No wonder such a rarity had to be a winning trophy."
I didn't need Lagi's empathy to know everyone else was as astonished as I was. Ninetales was right; it was, indeed, a day of revelations.
"Was it this stone?," Gabi asked, opening her hand to reveal the mysterious item.
"You can understand them?!," inquired Jenny, confused.
"Thanks to this stone I can," Gabi explained. "It boosts up psychic powers. That's as much as I knew about it up to now. Now our Ninetales are saying an old friend of theirs found it before. Is that right? Was it this stone?"
Tracker examined it carefully and nodded.
"Yes, it's exactly the same stone. It still has slight remains of Solitude's scent."
"But how is this possible?!," Ninetales exclaimed. "How did Solitude find it?"
"Weren't you listening when she brought it? She said it had fallen from the sky."
"No, sorry, I wasn't listening, ok? I never listened. Stop rubbing it on me!"
"Hey, wait, I'm not attacking you! Don't be so hard on yourself."
"You have improved yourself a lot since I first met you," Lagi spoke. "But I'm sure you had some great qualities before too."
"He sure did!," affirmed Tracker. "He had such a noble heart, even if it was unaware of it! Well, you already know he saved Kid's life once. And I'll never remember the day he followed me and beat me to the trophy I was tracking, but then gave it to me because he said it was I who found it. He could have won that day, but he preferred to play fair so I won instead."
"I had forgotten about that," Ninetales laughed. "Now I remember. I was just testing my speed that day. I've never liked cheating. I prefer to win by myself. And I've done it several times, even at the seeking game."
"Yes, you did win some contests by yourself. I remember that well."
Officer Jenny interrupted them again.
"I'm sure our Ninetales are enjoying their reunion, but what about the case we have to solve? As we speak, the mad pokemon are still advancing! Who knows how much damage they have caused by now?"
"You're right!," Gabi agreed. "We must find out where they're going, and why. I have a hunch this is just the tip of the iceberg. And my hunches are usually right, especially when I'm holding this stone."
"So that was it?," Ninetales asked. "Solitude had latent psychic abilities, just like my trainer, and the stone boosted them and let her see the future?"
"I've heard too many strange things today to think that clearly," Tracker admitted, "but it sounds logical."
"Having psychic powers would be so great! But I can't complain. I have ghost powers, you know? They're spooooky!"
Tracker laughed and I couldn't help laughing too. Lagi's laughter was quieter, but I also heard it, while Amber's was clear as the sky. Ventura, with all her practical wisdom, didn't seem to understand why we were laughing.
"I need to take some of my pokemon to the Pokemon Center," Gabi announced. "We can meet at my office tomorrow morning, if that's ok with you. I'd like to talk to my friends first. Then maybe we can all meet and make a plan, or at least share the little information we have so far."
"Sounds like a sensitive plan, but remember time's not on our side."
"I know. That's exactly why I want to gather as many thinking minds as we can get. You can call me if anything happens in the meantime. I'll be there in a second."
Gabi handed Officer Jenny a card with her contact info.
"It seems you so know what you're doing after all," Jenny laughed. "Ok, can we meet tomorrow at 9 AM?"
"I think I can convince my friends to get up early this one time."
"See you there, then."
Gabi and Jenny shook hands and took separate ways. Tracker went with Jenny and Ninetales followed Gabi and the rest of us. His face showed he had a lot of thinking to do. I travelled inside my pokeball again, since, unlike my teammates I could neither walk nor fly. Not that I had anything to complain about. I had everything I'd ever wanted and more... save for peace.
And that's how it all began.
Sometimes being alone helps. You have no choice but to dedicate your time to yourself. (Ventura)
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 12:48 PM   #35
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<Gabi's POV>

The meeting didn't go as I expected. First, when I told Alex about the stone (before the others arrived), he didn't look that surprised. It was more like he finally understood what was going on with me. I felt like a fool. Why did he take naturally something that, for me, had been so hard to assimilate? I was still dealing with the effects of my last vision. I had released the stone, but I couldn't shake the awful feeling that something really terrible was about to happen. I felt cold and hot at the same time. When Jenny and Nolan arrived they thought I was sick, and I probably was. I told them everything, and I think that really scared them. We tried to make some plans, but no good ideas came up. We didn't have any concrete knowledge of the threat we were facing yet. Only that it was coming.. and it was pure evil, maybe the greatest evil we had ever faced.
We agreed to stay alert and prepare for anything. I heard that the elders were on alert too. I missed Ryan more than ever, and I was once more worried about Scott. Had he tried to confront this great evil by himself and failed? It sounded like something he'd do, but I didn't want to think he was dead. All my friends who had been presumed dead had later returned, with or without a good excuse. I could still have hope with Scott, though something told me I wasn't going to see him any time soon. I lost track of the passing of time. Lagi had to help me get up almost every morning, and each day became darker. I had the feeling that the evil presence could be behind all this, but I didn't think there was anything I could do about it.
I trained my pokemon as much as possible. Officer Jenny and Tracker joined us in many training sessions. Tracker proved to be very good at everything she did, though my Ninetales still managed to beat her in all speed competitions. Water Angel and Tsunami had a battle to improve their skills, Iael had another series of victories at the Battle Tower and the others did quite well too. Speaking of Iael, the darker the sky grew, the more troubled and scared he seemed to be, and the fiercer he became in battle. I was finally getting to understand his behavior pattern, which had puzzled me so much in the past. But I didn't like what I'd found; Iael was suffering greatly, and I couldn't find a way to help him.
My thoughts began to wander again. I even thought of evacuating Caledor. "If it's the land they want, why not just let them have it instead of keeping up the fight and going through more pain and losses?," I thought. But then the answer was always the same. No one wanted the land by itself. It was us all evil forces had always wanted. They wanted to take control of the whole world. They would spread from Caledor to the whole of Ulthuan and later seize the whole planet unless they were stopped. I didn't know who or what we were fighting yet, but one thing was cleared. No one wanted an empty peace of land. If we ran, our enemies would come after us. There was no chance but to confront whatever threat came to us.
Finally, the day when my worries were the deepest, our enemies appeared. My watch said it was around noon; according to the sky, it could as well have been midnight. I'd spent many days preparing for that event, but I still felt unprepared as I saw the destruction caused by the advancing army, who looked like nothing I'd ever seen before, except maybe in my recent nightmares.
"I can't afford to be discouraged," I decided.
I stood on the street, and waited, surrounded by my pokemon. There was nothing I wished more than having Ryan by my side, but he wasn't here. Lagi must have felt the cry of my heart, for she walked to me and slid her left arm around me, holding me close to her heart. I was grateful for having her with me.
The streets were filled with spectators when the city walls fell under the weight of the most horrid creature I had ever seen or imagined. It introduced itself as Resomegnis, the end of every single thing. The beast's followers looked almost as horrendous as their master; they were almost human, but bigger and deformed. As they advanced I could see their faces. They looked not just horrible, but also devoid of any feelings or emotions. I think that was what scared me the most.
As his troops moved forward, Resomegnis stood at the entrance of the city. Watching, waiting... waiting for what? The Dark Cloak, as he called his army, destroyed everything in their way. Fire weapons were useless against them. I watched in horror as they killed their first attackers, until I couldn't take more. I gathered the strength to confront the killers. I couldn't ask my pokemon to follow me, but they did. I didn't know if I was going to survive, but at least I wouldn't fall without a fight.
One of the Dark Cloak members intercepted me. He gave me a horrifying stare, took some distance and pointed at me with a hand which held two spherical objects. The spheres opened and let out two black beams which slowly turned into big and ugly versions of Heracross. Only then I understood those objects he was carrying were pokeballs; a very strange variety. He was other challenging me to a battle or ordering his Heracross to dispose of me. I'd have to make sure it turned into just a battle, and one my side could win.
"Amber," I called with a thin thread of voice. My Charizard stood in front of me, and Sylvan followed her. I wouldn't have asked Sylvan to stand against such dangerous creatures, but once more she showed me the incredible strength of her heart.
"I trust you," I told my friends. And I really did. With my life.

<Amber's POV>

I was never able to tolerate evil and cruelty, so I couldn't give in to fear. The Dark Cloak were really intimidating, and their master was much more so, but there had to be something I could do. Sylvan's great act of courage surprised me, even when I knew her more than anyone else. I couldn't do any less. I had to protect my friends here and now. The future would take care of itself.

Charizard & Venusaur level 37 vs. 'Heracross' & 'Heracross' level 45

Both Heracross-like spawns charged into Sylvan with their Horn Attacks. Sylvan's clover protected her, but I couldn't let them keep her as their target. Something told me they were only warming up. I used my Wing Attack for the first time, hitting the nearest Heracross, while Sylvan hit the other with a Body Slam. She was lucky and managed to paralyze her attacker.
The Heracross I had hit turned over to me. I waited for an attack but it didn't come, so I used my Wing Attack again. Strangely, my opponent resisted!
"That's impossible!," I thought, but then I received a psychic pulse telling me to move away. I did so without questioning, as the sender was doubtlessly Ventura. The Heracross charged up for a huge attack, but something came from behind and stopped him. It was a Razor Leaf! Amazingly, the Heracross that had seemed invincible one second before, collapsed on the street immediately.
"What happened?!," I asked, confused.
"He'd used Endure," Sylvan explained. "And he was going to use Reversal, according to her. I didn't think Razor Leaf would work, but I guess it takes a bug to know a bug."
I understood Sylvan's explanation right away. But as she spoke the remaining Heracross hit her with a Megahorn! Not even her 4-leaf clover could protect her this time. My friend fell unconscious. Now I understood what she had felt when I was brought down by a member of Team Rocket. Rage overcame me. I had once feared it, but now I embraced it. I hit the beast with my strongest Wing Attack, and he immediately fell... asleep!
The evil creature had used Rest, getting rid of his paralysis and all the damage Sylvan and I had caused to him. I felt my blood boil. I prepared to attack again, but all of a sudden the Heracross got up and hit me! I didn't need Ventura to tell me what was going on. It was Sleep Talk. The attack wasn't very strong, so it had to be a Tackle. I responded with a Wing Attack. Then the Heracross, still asleep, hit me with a Cross Chop!
The blow was one of the hardest I'd ever received. The pain was to strong to even ask myself how a Heracross could use that move. My wings were barely hurt, maybe even broken. I couldn't use them to attack now. I had to resort to my old techniques and hope they were good enough. I couldn't tell if I was lost or not, since these creatures showed no pain, but I had no chance to withdraw. My fire was my only hope. Luckily for me, it was burning strong and bright.
I gathered all the heat and rage inside me and fired an enormous Flamethrower. I didn't know I had such fury inside me until I let it out. Then my perspective changed. I looked at the Heracross and he didn't seem such a great monstrosity. It looked empty. It fainted before my eyes, allowing me to check on Sylvan. She was still unconscious and severely wounded, but still alive. My condition wasn't much better than hers, but I had hope.

<Gabi's POV>

Sylvan grew to level 38 for defeating the first Heracross.
Amber grew to level 40 for defeating both Heracross. I decided to teach her Earthquake as her free TM.

The demonic soldier approached my fallen pokemon. It look like he meant to kill Sylvan and Amber. I had to stop him, but how? I fired my amulet. It hit and, though it didn't seem to hurt my enemy at all, it succeeded to deviate his attention from my pokemon. Now he was heading towards me... slowly, menacingly. It didn't look like I had any means to stop him. Was this the end? Would this soul-less creature kill me? Then, all of a sudden, I had an idea. Ironically, this idea derived from the same thing that scared me about my adversary.
"Lagi, pick the stone!," I shouted out. My Dragonite had never touched the glowing stone before and I could only imagine what its effect would be on her, but I had the strong feeling, almost the certainty, that this would work.
Lagi complied, trusting me. We had nothing to lose and everything to win. She picked the white stone from my bag and held it tight.
"Give this creature what he's lacking," I told her.
It was like an explosion, only without any physical damage. It was just like that day when Lagi and I released our pain after defeating the Black Battalion, just that this time I was only feeling the side effects. The shockwave was aimed for the Dark Cloak Soldier, and it must have been huge. An impressive discharge of mixed feelings... everything Lagi could pick up; from fear, to fury, to hope, to love...
That was too much for the soldier. He ran away as fast as his legs could take him. I called Sylvan and Amber back to her pokeballs. I'd take them to the Pokemon Center as soon as the path was cleared.
I looked around and saw battles were still going on, but most of the troops were retreating. Few minutes later, they had left Caledor! And I couldn't see Resomegnis anywhere around. I turned back to Lagi and asked her if she was alright. I was afraid of the effect such a discharge could have on her, but her smile showed me she was fine. Moreover, she was happy! Her eyes glowed as she looked up. The sky was getting clearer and a Dragonite was flying on our way. I tried to figure out which Dragonite it was, but it wasn't any I knew. Only when she came down and Lagi hugged her I realized it was her daughter, Mystic! Following her was Nolan, and from the other side came Alex. We all met and congratulated each other, and especially Mystic.
We were about to start making plans to rebuild the part of the city which had been destroyed, when Ventura brought me down to reality. She had taken the stone from Lagi and was now addressing me in her usual self assured tone.
"Let me remind you that we haven't won yet," she spoke into my mind.
I looked at her, intrigued about what she meant.
"We've all seen Resomegnis and the Dark Cloak. They're too powerful to be defeated just like that. If they've retreated, they're other setting us a trap or gathering more forces to attack us."
"Good point," I said.
"What did she say?," asked Nolan.
"She said our enemies are not defeated yet," I explained.
"What shall we do now?," asked Alex.
"I don't know yet," I answered. "But we'll have to think of something and, above all, be prepared for anything."
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 12:49 PM   #36
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<Gabi's POV>

I was thrilled to see Ryan return. The news he brought, however, was shocking, and alarming too. Even though I had seen it as a possibility, the news of Scott's death shook every fiber in me. For a moment I refused to believe it, but then I understood Tecils couldn't be wrong about that. Scott was dead. The person who was directly or indirectly responsible for everything I had; the descendant of princes and kings who loved his homeland above everything else and spent his life fighting for it; the legend who had been face to face with Mewtwo and come victorious; the mystery I never managed to solve; the friend I never really got to know.
I was confused; all my feelings mixed up. I tried to hide that from Ryan, fearing he would feel guilty. That was the last thing I wanted, but I didn't think I could really hide my feelings from him. I tried to focus; tried to think of what to do. The first think I realized was that it was the worst possible moment for the news to go public. Its impact on the population would be devastating, due to the legend that had been built around Scott. They would be discouraged and lose whatever energies they had left, just when we needed them the most. I urged Ryan too keep it among those who knew Scott as a man, not just as a myth (who, considering Scott's preference for isolation and secrecy, were only a few).
Memories raged through my mind; some of them contradictory. The best of them being the day Scott publicly proclaimed "I need a vacation". One of the few moments when I felt I could really relate to him. Those words had touched me much more than his mass-oriented speech at the great Tower of Hoeth. And once more, the thought of the tower brought worries, almost despair. If Scott had been helpless against the menace we were now facing, what hope was left for the rest of us? Many people were already turning to me and I had no answers for them. When we first met, upon my arrival in Caledor, Scott had told me I'd be a valuable advisor in times of peace. That's how he welcomed me to the Dragon's Guild. Only a second later he said I didn't have what it takes to be a leader in war. I didn't understand how he could know either of those things, when we had only exchanged a few letters and were now face to face for the first time. But deep inside I felt he was right.
So eventually Dragon Tamers was founded on those premises. Scott was the field leader in times of war, while I was in charge during the too few and too brief periods of peace. Scott had the soul of a warrior. He actually enjoyed commanding armies and confronting dangerous enemies, while I'd hated war and everything related to it ever since I learned what the word meant. An odd association indeed, but it had worked for a long time in spite of our huge differences and Scott's tendency to keep secrets from me as well as from everyone else. I never managed to understand him, but there were some moments (which I somehow associated with seeing him with a loose shirt and neglecting to comb his hair), when I felt we were close; moments when I felt we were going through pretty much the same things. And we were friends.
Now... What was I supposed to do now? Scott had been killed. And it had been Scott who defeated Mewtwo while I... while I had been watching his back, and I had saved his life only a few minutes before he made it to the top of the tower. All of a sudden, I understood Scott's mistake. He had tried to confront Resomegnis on his own. No one was a match for him or the Dark Cloak alone. I remembered I had feared for Scott in the past. With all his passion for glory and his world of mighty heroes, he had usually failed to see the strength in numbers; more specifically, in teamwork. I had always been the one to call for the trainers, to make sure neither Scott nor anyone else was ever alone against impossible odds. Well, I had failed the last time. I didn't realize what Scott had in mind when he left. He had left me worried and intrigued, but I didn't try to follow him. I thought he was away on a reconnaissance mission, or personal business. I trusted he knew what he was doing. I didn't even think of stopping him.
Yes, I had failed. But then again, I had no way to know. Scott had gone away and returned so many times... Why would this one be any different? I could waste myself thinking of what I could have done, but I couldn't change the past. I would mourn him; I would be sad; I would be scared. But I was still alive. And I was not alone. I would never be alone. Together, we might still have a chance.
I arranged another meeting, to decide what to do. The information Ryan had brought would be helpful, but it was still not enough to make a plan with fairly low risks. The spikiest topic was the decision between chasing the Dark Cloak or waiting for another attack. There were good arguments against both alternatives and no third options came up. If we stayed, our enemies would gather more forces than they already had, and we would be granting them the choice of when and how to deal a fatal blow on us. If we went after them (which was possible since Tracker was certain to be able to track them down), the terms of the confrontation would be ours to choose, but we'd still be at a great disadvantage; we wouldn't be able to build a much stronger front, we'd lose the advantage of knowing the territory and we would also run the risk of falling into their hands just like Scott. From my point of view, it was a lose-lose scenario.
I realized I was beginning to think like a real strategist and I couldn't believe it. That was what life in Caledor had done to me. I had changed so much! But inside I was still the same and I was horrified by this whole situation, even if I didn't show it. Of all the population of Caledor, only the little children remained innocent (I mean, unmarked by the deep wounds war left on everyone it touched). And maybe not even all of them. For them, I decided which vote to cast. Even if the odds were against us, I'd do everything I could to draw the ghost of war away from them. We spent long hours discussing the subject, but in the end we all came to an agreement. We would go after our foes.
<Iael's POV>

The way I saw it, the whole world had gone insane, and a part of me wasn't sure if I still wanted to be on it. I felt so bad that I wouldn't hesitate to follow my trainer to death, which I might already be doing, as far as I knew. But there was still that other part of me which thought there was still a chance and would never give up. That part kept on telling me that, if I had little to lose, I had lots to win; and encouraged me to train harder and harder in order to be ready for anything. I had learned Resomegnis was sort of a fusion of 3 beings. Well, I didn't know much about two of them, but I did know what Mewtwo was capable of, and I wouldn't stop at anything to prevent Resomegnis from doing it. I knew I wasn't very strong; I knew I could die trying, but even if I did, I would die having done all that was in my power. If I helped one creature have a happy life with its friends and family, I would have succeeded.
With that in mind, I went to the battle tower and achieved my 9th, 10th and 11th victories. I felt like nothing could stop me. I usually felt that way when I battled. But I didn't lose contact with reality, so I knew I was far from being invincible. If you don't know your limits, you're lost. I learned that the hard way from my parents. I'd rather not get to that. But, well... I decided I would do my best. I'd heard psychic powers could help us against Resomegnis, so I made sure to learn a psychic attack before heading to the unknown. No one would say I'd given up a chance to help. Not like anyone but me ever said that, but I wouldn't forgive myself if I failed to save someone for doing less than my best.

<Caledor's POV>

As we parted, everyone was so tense that the air between us could have been cut with a knife. I hadn't slept the night before. I'd been not only thinking of the great risk we were taking, but also pondering the important decision I had taken, and the effect it would have in me. I felt a bit selfish for thinking of myself at a time the whole world was in danger, but didn't that world consist of myself and each of its other inhabitants? We were doing this for ourselves; to have lives we could move on with. And I needed to be sure about the life I was choosing for myself. Not a small detail in the least. It was, after all, the first BIG decision I was taking for myself. I was practically a result of big decisions taken by others, especially Scott. I had these great powers because they had been given to me. I wouldn't have children as a result of the same process which gave me my powers. I lived in this house because Scott gave it to Gabi, who was also chosen as my trainer by Scott. The pokemon I lived with were already there when I arrived, all except Iael, who came home on Gabi's choice. I loved Gabi and my teammates, but that's not the point. The point is I had enough reasons to think of myself as I made up my mind about the most important decision in my life.
So, back to the big day. I looked at everyone around me and they seemed anything but convinced of what they were doing. Lagi could barely move, as if she were carrying the weight of everyone else in the large group -which, now that I think of it, she probably was-. I don't know how long we advanced. The dark sky made it impossible to tell the time. For moments I thought I could see our enemies, and believed we were reaching them. But then they disappeared again. Ninetales kept asking Tracker if she could still smell the scent of the Dark Cloak, and she always replied that their stench had left a clear trail. I didn't know what stench she was talking about, until that moment when the surroundings changed and I could smell it all around. The place was a nightmare for all senses, which made me hesitate about wanting to gain a new one. But that was one of the choices that had been taken for me, so I'd have to deal with it when the time came.
When we reached the lifeless valley, Gabi stopped. I looked at her, and saw her lips draw the word "Mordor". I quivered. The rest of the team looked at her too, and she finally looked down and faced us.
"I hoped we'd reach them before getting here," she told us. "From now on, the more we advance, the more dangerous it will be for us. They must have known we were following them. That's why we made it this far so easily. We were driven here like moths to the fire."
Ventura blinked.
"Nothing personal, I assume," she said.
Gabi turned round and looked at her.
"Well, you did beat lots of fire pokemon, so maybe we still have a chance after all."
Gabi giggled as she said this. With all the odds against us, it was relieving to hear a spark of laughter lighten up the mood.
After that, we walk only a little longer, until we made it to a clearing where our worst fears were proven right. We were suddenly surrounded by a whole army of Dark Cloaks!
"We've been set up!," I heard Tracker shout.
"I didn't know you had such a talent for stating the obvious," my teammate Ninetales retorted.
"Oh, if you're so smart then you must have a good idea now, right Spooky?," she said to him. She was clearly hurt, though I hadn't found Ninetales's comment so offensive.
"Who're you calling Spooky?," Ninetales complained.
"Well, you. Didn't you say you were spooky? Besides, you said you didn't like your old name."
"I never said such a thing. I don't like the name Scorch and Flame tagged on me, but Spooky's even worse! I'm not spooky. Where'd you get that from?"
"Back in the sinkhole... you said..."
"Oh, now I remember. I said I my ghost powers were spooky. Not me. I'm only fast, and brave, and powerful, and noble, and..."
"Ok, hero, do you have a plan?," Tracker interrupted him.
"There's a name I do like! Hero... Sounds good!"
Tracker laughed, but soon stopped.
"I don't think you're aware of the seriousness of the situation."
"I am, I am," came the response. "It's just... I don't know what to do."
It was the first time I saw Ninetales look beaten, and I'd spent all of my active life by his side. Seeing him like that scared me more than anything else ever had. But I knew I had to confront my fears, or else they would finish me before the Dark Cloak did.
The silence was unnerving. I didn't understand why they took so long to attack; unless they were waiting for our fear to reach its peak. Oddly, it was one of us who attacked first. A trainer I knew rather well, since Gabi tended to express her concern about him every other day: Ade. He somehow managed to catch the Dark Cloak by surprise, claiming the first strike. But then all the Dark Cloak members launched themselves and their pokemon against us. Before I could plan my next move, a huge Haunter was over me, preparing an attack. Amber came in my aid, only to be attacked by an even uglier Haunter!

Level 39 Eevee & Level 40 Charizard vs. Level 45 Haunter & Level 45 Haunter

The Haunters knew their business. They both sent Confuse Rays against us. So far, that was the only Ghost-type attack that could affect me, and that made me wonder if I was really prepared to feel the effect of the other attacks doubled. But ghosts wouldn't be my biggest problem if I got out of this alive. No, it would be... Dark... pokemon and... trainers. The Dark Cloak. And Resomegnis. And Sauron. God, were we really a match for them? Or were we just foolishly arrogant? And why was everything so dark? I had to do something about it. I had to glow... golden was a good color. Could I do it? Yes, I could, I wasn't weird for nothing. I felt energy surge through me, but before any light could come out the ground below me began to shake. I was dizzy and, yes, I was scared. I heard a Haunter scream, and it was one of the creepiest sounds I could remember. But if it screamed it meant it was hurt, right? And that was good, right? Because they were our enemies.
I wasn't really sure if I agreed with my own thoughts, but one thing I did know: if I didn't pull out something, I'd be smashed... or something like that. I did my best to focus and light finally came out. Golden light... out of my body... out to surround an evil Haunter and wrap it up. I could see it now! The light was penetrating the gaseous mass, taking over each molecule... could I really see the molecules? Nah. Anyway, the light was there, like a beacon, and the Haunter stopped moving. But the other Haunter was still... AAHH!
I didn't know what hit me. I only knew it hurt a lot. It felt like spheres. Not very big, but they hit like trucks. Then I remembered I was not alone, and called Amber's name, crying for help.
Amber wasn't in a much better condition than I was. I thought I saw her face turn to me, but something went wrong, and she made just a soft noise, but I knew she was hurt. Had I hurt her? Because I called for her? Now it was her who called for me. I had to help her. If only I could get a good attack out, but where should I aim it? The world was spinning around me. The Haunters were all around me. The Dark Cloak was gaining ground... and why was I lying on the ground? I'd fallen without even noticing. And the Haunter with the lights was sending funny lights in my direction. Golden too. "Hey, that's not my light!," I told myself in an instant of clarity. "That's a Zap Cannon!"
I rolled on the ground just in time to avoid the attack. The other Haunter sent its spheres again (I heard them strike), but they didn't strike me. Something stopped them. Something big and orange. For a moment, I saw a flame in front of me, but then it moved away. I was beginning to notice my surroundings, but everything was still blurry. I saw the orange bulk speed downward, and then the ground shook again, but not as much as before. Just a little, as if complaining for being hit by something heavy. I tried to change my light to red, but it was useless. My own light hit me from the inside. "Great, I'll beat myself to dust before those Haunters can!," I scolded myself.
I was lying on the ground, and I felt something near me take off. The Haunter with the lights did not attack, and I could finally understand why: it was paralyzed. The other Haunter did attack, though, but not me. I looked up, and saw the orange bulk become black. I only recognized it as my friend Amber when I heard her scream. But then she was orange again, and she moved closer to the Haunter and a sharp noise came down. And then I could only see Amber up there. Was it a new trick of the Haunter, or had Amber won? I wished I could know... I wished I could help. I felt like Sylvan when confusion made her get stuck into a bush.
"Zap out of it!," I heard a voice say. It was, unmistakably, Tsunami's voice. He could be a big pain sometimes but, when I needed him, he was always there for me. And it was mutual. If I couldn't make out anything in my head, listening to my buddy would be the best idea. "Zap out of it," he'd said. "Zap" as in...?
I took the message as a request to use electricity, so I tried to glow golden again. It didn't work. I was hurt once more. But then again, it did work! Now I could see clearly. I could see Tsunami standing in front of me (only then I realized I'd moved away from the battle), and I saw Amber in the sky and the Haunter chasing her. There was only one ghost left. I couldn't see any lights, but now I could think straight enough to know the Haunter was paralyzed. For what I could see, it could barely move, and no attacks were coming out. I had an idea. I shouted for Amber to turn around and push the Haunter to the ground. She did so, and added her touch with an Earthquake attack. "So that was what made the ground shake before! Silly me!," I told myself. But I decided to forgive myself for that. I'd never seen my friend use Earthquake before and I'd been confused, so it was natural that I hadn't understood what was going on back then.
Once the Haunter was down, I told Amber to move away and released a Thunder. The Haunter didn't have time to move away, and was hit by the full force of the lightning. For a moment, I thought it was over. The Haunter looked consumed, and almost completely transparent. But then it got back up. It tried to attack, but Amber bit it hard. The Haunter began to fade again. I wondered if it was coming back, but then I felt something inside me... something strange, yet wonderful, and very powerful! I was glowing light purple, just like I did when I touched Gabi's stone. I knew the Haunter was not coming back. As I saw our enemy fade away, I was more certain than I'd ever been of anything, that my time had come.

<No POV>

Amber grew to level 42!
Caledor grew to level 41! Caledor learned Confusion, Dream Eater, Psybeam, Psychic, Reflect and Rest!

<Tsunami's POV>

The kid and Amber had made it! They'd zapped out of their confusion and beaten the Haunters! I could have told them they were almost as good ghostbusters as I was, but it wasn't time for jokes. We were still in trouble, and the battle was far from over. At thet right moment, a particularly ugly Dark Cloak soldier was attacking Gabi. She was doing what she could to defend herself, but she was not succeeding. She was holding the glowing stone so tight in her hand that no one could have taken it from her, but it seemed to hurt her more than it helped her this time. I had no psychic powers, so I could only begin to imagine what being in that place and situation could feel like for someone who did. But Caledor looked better than I had expected. He was wounded, but he looked more determined than ever. So much that, for a moment, I thought I might stop calling him "kid". But it just wouldn't feel right.
I watched my friend as he jumped on Gabi's back and got inside her pack. I couldn't help it, he always looked funny when he looted in there. But I knew when he was serious as well as he knew when I was, so I decided to help him. I ran over to Gabi, stood on my back legs and pushed the bag up with my head, to give Caledor a firm base to move on. Gabi looked at us and took off her bag, leaving it on the ground. Yes, that was a better idea.
Caledor soon came out, holding Gabi's old Day Stone, which was now glowing as bright as the kid was. The purple light became white and covered my friend entirely, leaving only his contour to be seen. His silhouette changed. His legs took a shape similar to mine, and I recalled my own evolution, back when I was only level 10 and so much younger. How much simpler things had been back then! Once Caledor's new figure became stable, the light faded away, revealing an impressive Espeon.
It was so strange to see him like that! He'd been an Eevee for so long that I could hardly picture him as something else, let alone such a powerful creature as the one who was standing in front of me. He looked much like most Espeons I'd seen, except for the gem on his forehead, which had a goldenrod color, instead of the usual red. Then again, not all Espeons had red gems, and I'd seen their gems change colors before. I tried to recognize my friend behind that Espeon body.
"Hey, are you frozen or what?," he asked me. "You don't have that look in your face even when you see a ghost, and I doubt I can be as creepy as the Haunters we just beat, so please don't scare me!"
His voice sounded a bit different, but that was definitely Caledor's tone, and those words could come from no one else (well, maybe Ninetales too). I smiled. He was still the Caledor I knew.
"Please, don't tell me I look like a freak! I can't turn back, you know."
He sounded really scared. Had he feared his evolution might go wrong? Why? And why hadn't he ever talked to me about that?
"No, you don't!," I hurried to calm him down. "You look great. It's just... you look so big, Kid!"
"Kid?! After all I've gone through you still call me Kid?!"
"Hey, calm down! You won't get rid of that nickname so easily. Not before I do, anyway."
Ninetales heard me, and laughed. I could barely believe it, but he still called me "Kid". And changing that didn't seem to be in his plans.
"Sorry to interrupt you, kids, but Gabi's in trouble!," Ninetales warned us. "We'd better help her out."
"Right," I agreed. The soldier Gabi was fighting had managed to corner her, and was now aiming a sphere of light at her. Ninetales, Caledor and I threw ourselves on the demon at the same time, but he managed to release the sphere before he fell. Caledor was once more surrounded by an intense purple light, and for his gestures I knew he mas putting great effort in a psychic attack. Ninetales helped him out by shooting a Confuse Ray at the Dark Cloak soldier. Their combined attack seemed to work: the soldier stopped fighting back, and collapsed on the ground.
I rushed to Gabi's side and I was terrified by what I found. She was lying on the ground, not moving, barely even breathing. We didn't even know what had hit her. Her left fist was still closed tight, probably holding the stone. I checked her body, and didn't find any major wounds. Then why wasn't she responding? I couldn't imagine a life without my trainer; I didn't even want to think of that possibility. We had to save her, but how?
"I'm going after her," Ventura announced. "I thin I can bring her back."
"I'm going with you," Lagi told her. Knowing her, I wasn't surprised that she knew what Ventura was up to. But I needed to know. I needed to know how to help Gabi.
"Ok, just make sure you land somewhere you can get out of this time," Ventura warned her.
"Where are you going?," I interrupted them. "What happened to her?! What are you going to do? Can we save her?"
"I think I know," Ninetales told me. "They're going to a place where we can't follow them. I wish I could go, but this time it's up to you. I hope you make it."
I was clueless. Ninetales knew and I didn't? What was going on? And why couldn't I help?
"It's a long story," Lagi explained. "I just hope we make it back with her to tell you everything. Please make sure none of our enemies gets here. Protect Gabi... and us. We'll come back as fast as you can."
Saying this, Lagi fell on the ground as large as she was. And so did Ventura.
"Does anyone else have no clue as to what's going on?!," I exclaimed, furious.
Tracker, who had been next to Ninetales since we left home, responded.
"I don't understand it either, but there must be a reason to all of this."
"I'm beginning to understand," Caledor said. "Gabi once told me about that place... Tsunami, please, protect my body. I think I'll be able to help more with Ventura and Lagi that here. I'm too beaten up to battle."
And so, Caledor fell on the ground again. I turned to Ninetales.
"Where are they?," I asked.
"Well, I can't be completely sure," he said, "but if I know Gabi and the girls, and I do, I'd say they're in Bei."
"Bei? What's that?"
"I wish I knew, Kid! I wish I knew."
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

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Old Yesterday, 12:50 PM   #37
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Interlude 3

<Someone's POV>

I didn't know where I was; which didn't matter that much because I didn't know who or what I was either. No, I hadn't lost my memory. I could say I was experiencing a bad case of confusion. I recalled being in a similar state a short time earlier, but for some reason time seemed like a concept really hard to grasp at that moment. It wasn't a normal confusion: I could see my surroundings clearly. I was standing on a vast prairie, with flowers blooming under the sunlight. It was warm, and there was a soft breeze. I could feel it caressing something on my back. I felt a slight tickle there, and instinctively stretched out that part of my body. It was then that I realized I had wings! Big, bird-like wings, as golden as the hair I could see on my 4 paws. What was I?! And why did I have the feeling it wasn't the first time I asked myself that question. I wished I could see my face, and once more that feeling seemed like a repetition, and echo of a near yet amazingly distant past.
Not knowing what to do, I began to walk, hoping to understand everything at any moment. Soon, I saw something shining in the distance. I ran in that direction and soon realized it was a lake! When I reached it, I noticed the lake was frozen, in spite of the warm weather. Words that seemed from another life came to my mind and became present: "Don't tell me you never came across a frozen lake in your childhood!" Those words made me feel a bit uneasy. They didn't mean much by themselves at that moment, but something about them hurt. Or, at least, had hurt. But there was also something nice about them. More precisely, about the voice that had pronounced them. I felt it was the voice of someone I really cared for. A close friend. And, for some reason, I felt that friend was now counting on me.
I walked slowly to the border of the lake and looked down. On the icy surface, I saw a reflection which was clearly not mine. It was blue, while I knew I had golden hair. It had big oval eyes, and a big fin on its head. Its ears looked like fins too, and there was something like a white crown around its neck. It looked at me so intensely I felt it was looking through me. Then I began to remember.
"That's a strange lake, isn't it?"
This time the words came from behind me. It was a female voice. One I'd never heard before. I turned round and saw a winged creature, who looked as strange as I probably was. Her face looked nearly human, as did must of her body, but she looked much smaller than humans (unless I was much bigger than before, which was also possible). Her wings were thin and pink, with fades of light purple and strange patterns on them, and her strong purple hair fell on her shoulders.
"It almost fooled me for a moment," she went on, without even stopping to say 'hello' or ask who I was (which was a good thing since I wouldn't have known what to answer to that question). "Stupid 5 senses! Or 6 or whatever. The one I was looking for was not really there. Whoever you are, don't stare at that lake. It's useless."
"I don't understand," I told her. She came down to the ground and asked me what I saw on the ice.
"I see a friend," I said.
"Really? So do I!," she exclaimed. I didn't understand her surprise more than I understood anything else about her. "What does she look like?"
"It's not a she. It's a he," I corrected her.
"Oh, I see. For a moment I thought we both saw the same person there. But what are the chances?"
Something about this being seemed familiar. There was something in the way she spoke.
"By the way, what are you?," she interrupted my thread of thoughts.
"Wish I knew!," I answered. "Probably just the biggest freak in the universe. What about you."
"Well, I'm a faerie, of course! What? Haven't you ever seen one before?"
"Actually, not," I admitted. "It seems I haven't seen much in my life. But I feel I've seen many thinks, both good and awful."
"You're not from here, are you?"
Her question left me thinking.
"No, I'm not," I answered after a minute or so.
"Neither am I," the faerie told me. "I didn't think there were more of us but, now that I think of it, why not?"
"More of us?"
"Foreigners," she explained. "If that's the right word. I've never been good with words."
"You remind me of someone," I told her.
"Really? Who?"
"An old friend. And... now that I remember, I came here following her! But something went wrong and I got lost. Where are we?"
"We're on a prairie, somewhere in Bei. You know, I came here looking for a friend too and that looks like too much of a coincidence, so who are you? And don't you dare say a name, because that won't mean anything."
"Then what do you want me to say?!," I shouted. "And why are you so bossy? You sound just like my friend does sometimes. From a friend, I can take it; but I don't even know who you are!"
"Sorry, I didn't think I was bossy. Are you...? Hardly possible, but... Ok, let's start from the beginning. I come from something that could be called another dimension, for lack of a better description. A good friend of mine is somewhere on this planet. I came looking for her, but I can't seem to find her! She's neither in her house nor in the Dragon's cave and I don't know where else to look, and to make things worse I've lost my most reliable sense on my way here."
"Really? Sorry to hear that! What sense was that?"
"My radar sense. I know I'll get it back once I'm back home, but it's really annoying to look for someone without it."
"Wait. Radar sense?! You don't just sound like my friend. You are her! You are Ventura!"
"That's my name when I'm on Earth. I suspected you were someone I knew, but how could you get here?"
"I don't know. I just followed my instinct. I'd never done anything like that before, but it had to work or else!"
The faerie laughed. I didn't find that funny, but her laughter didn't bother me. I felt more comfortable now that I knew who she was.
"You haven't seen Lilirins, have you?," she inquired.
"I guess that's a no, but I'll show you what she looks like, in case."
She caught me by surprise, but then again, when didn't she? All of a sudden, I saw an image. It was a human, female, and by her looks a young adult. She had blue eyes and long golden hair (the same color as mine at that moment, fairer than Gabi's and not as wavy as hers). Her smile reminded me of Gabi a lot.
The vision ended.
"What was that?," I asked my friend.
"That's Lilirins Blankc. She's the one we're looking for. I didn't expect you to come here but, since you are, you'd better help."
"You mean she is...?"
"You know what I mean."
"You know... It would be really helpful if you weren't always so bossy."
"Sorry. Not my intention. I've told you I'm not good with words. Words have many ambiguities; and telepathy has its limits, at least for me. I wish there was a perfect form of communication... one that allows you to tell what you want without worrying about how to say it."
I reflected on her words for a few seconds. Those thoughts had never occurred to me. I'd never found problems communicating with others. It felt strange to know Ventura had a problem I'd never had.
"Well, I guess you can't have everything," I concluded.
"Guess so," she said. "But we're not here to converse. We need to find Lilirins! I'm worried about her, and it takes a lot to get me worried."
"I'll help," I offered. "That's why I came too. Any idea of where to start?"
"We have started. I've been to all the places where I've seen her before. I just hope she's on this planet, but... she has to. The Dragon's flying around, trying to pick a sign of her presence. We have arranged to meet here, since it's the place where we... err... 'landed' is not the word, but you get what I mean."
"I do. And I think I know who the Dragon is, but why do you keep avoiding our names?"
"Are they our names? Are we the beings those names designate? If you say our souls are the same I won't discuss that, but those who know Lilirins have never heard of Gabi; well, except maybe Harims, who saved us at the Rocket base, but one is a clikctim while the other's a "Dragon Tamer", words which mean something completely different here, by the way. And I am a faerie, and who knows what you are, while Ventura is a Venomoth..."
"Who used to be a Venonat," I interrupted her. "You didn't change your name when you evolved. Neither did I. Why change them now?"
"There's a difference between evolution, or even metamorphosis, and transmigration or whatever this is."
"Sorry, I didn't get what you've just said, but aren't we wasting our time?"
"I was just saying that whatever we're into is more complex than you perceive it. And no, our timing was perfect," Ventura or whatever she wanted to call herself said, looking up. My eyes followed hers and I saw a huge figure in the sky. It had wide wings and it shone like silver under the sun rays. As it descended, I realized it was a dragon. A real dragon! Just like the ones legends spoke of; the ones I'd secretly wished to see. The Dragon looked at me and smiled. Then she spoke, in a deep yet sweet voice.
"I think I've found her. But I can't make it to where she is. I'd have to go through a tunnel which is too narrow for me. I couldn't see her, but it felt like her."
"Where is she?," I asked.
"She's in a cave, nearly on top of a mountain. The peak is covered with snow and most of the rocks on the mountain are white."
"I didn't know there was a place like that in Bei," Ventura commented.
"That sounds exactly like a place she'd go to in a moment like this!," I added. "Where's that mountain?"
"I'll lead you there. You have wings, so... can I assume you can fly?"
"Huh? Heh... I haven't tried that yet," I laughed, surprised at the thought. "I'll check."
I opened my wings and began to shake them, raising a cloud of dust.
"Heh. Looks like I've just learned Sand-Attack!," I joked.
"This isn't the time for jokes," Ventura complained. "We can't wait until you learn to fly. Dragon, could you carry him? I'd teleport him, but I don't know where that mountain is."
"No problem. You can ride on my back," the Dragon offered to me. I gladly complied. I knew the Dragon was none other than my old friend Lagi, and that I'd flown on her back before; but for some reason, at that moment, it felt like a dream come true.
"I'm glad something good came out of this," Lagi responded to my feelings as she took of. I don't think Ventura understood her, but in any case she made no comments.

<Lilirins's POV>

The place where I was, once I had a look at it, was beautiful. It was a large semi-spherical room with somewhat irregular crystal-like walls, decorated with stones of different shapes and colors hanging from everywhere you could hang something from, and a variety of soft and comfortable pillows. Sunlight came in from a small hole on the top, and was amplified by a set of mirrors. It was neither hot nor cold, and it had such a peaceful atmosphere it felt like it had never been disturbed. It could be as much a shrine as a place to regain energies and be at peace. And, as I thought of that, I didn't find many essential differences between the two concepts. It was almost perfect: I could find only two flaws to it: it was too enclosed and too solitary for anyone to want to stay in there indefinitely. Maybe that was its purpose, after all: a place to be at peace and regain energies, to then get out and confront life again. And I couldn't cheat myself into thinking I wouldn't have to do that in the end. The question was where to get out to.
I was sitting on a red pillow. It felt good to sit up straight, with no pain in my back nor anywhere in my body. But the memory of the pain was still strong, and it brought along other bitter memories I wanted to keep at bay. Unsolved memories had a tendency to get back at me and hurt me, and finding a solution for them was such a hard task that it was easier to ignore them and, when I felt weak, that was exactly what I did. I consciously knew that wasn't the best choice but, at that moment, I wasn't strong enough to confront such painful feelings. I decided to make the best use of the place I was in, and then slowly try to find answers to some of my questions... like why that little glowing stone was lying in the hands of Lilirins Blankc.
It was there. That much was clear. My sight wasn't any worse than that of my terrestrial counterpart, and it told me it was the same stone I'd found in the 3-D maze. But, for all I knew or thought I knew, that was impossible. I was in what could be at least another planet; maybe even another reality. How could the stone be there, unchanged, and still in my hands?
I remembered I had held it tight in a desperate last attempt to save myself; begged it for protection... and then my heart lead my thoughts to two places: first the White Mountain, then Bei. Two places which, for me, were pretty much like the room I was in, in the same they transmitted the same kind of energy. So, had the stone brought me here? Or, more precisely, had the stone enhanced my psychic abilities enough to bring me here when I needed it the most? Looking at it, it made sense. After all, I had been to Bei twice without the stone (maybe even more times according to Harims). But that would mean it was my own power which twisted the fabric of reality to a point even I couldn't comprehend, and I didn't know if I could accept that. Well, maybe the alterations were not as big as they seemed. It could be just a change of perspective, or this whole place could be inside my mind; but having a whole planet, maybe a whole universe, inside my mind sounded big too. Besides, whatever Bei was, if it was my mind-power that took me there, then Harims would be right. And she couldn't be right about absolutely everything, could she? Following that last theory (neither more nor less likely than the others), if this whole place was inside my mind that would mean Harims was a part of me, so she couldn't be always right. Then again, she could be right about everything that had to do with me; she could be the part of me that knew the real extent of my powers, and all the answers that were inside me but still evaded me. It made sense. What didn't make sense was the fact that, if she was a part of me, her powers were mine to wield, and I was definitely unable to do what she'd done at TRHQ, so that was one theory discarded. The whole thing was more complex than I'd thought.
I was entertained in those deep thoughts when I felt something behind me. More precisely, someone. The feeling had an unmistakable mark of concern and love, and the intensity of someone who is as transparent to those who know her as everyone else is for her. But then she left. I didn't even get to see her. I really wanted her company, her warmth... she was the voice of reason I needed, the endless source of caring my heart was longing for. I stood up and stared at the entrance of the room. It lead to a long and rather narrow passage; like a tunnel carved in white stone. And that was probably what it was; which would mean the large room I was in was actually a cave. I meditated on what to do next, and finally decided to leave the shelter and seek for the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. After all, I had received my sign, hadn't I?
The tunnel was long, and dark at some parts, but otherwise monotonous. When I finally reached the light, I paced to the exit, letting the soft sunrays embrace me. Once I took the last step, I found out there was a long way down from where I was. I laughed.
"What's this? A new challenge or a Beilis version of the White Mountain? If it's the second I'd thank someone for the idea, but I'm afraid I'm the only one to blame, right?"
I spoke out loud, though I expected no answer and, of course, none came. I decided to sit down and wait. Knowing my Dragon friend, she just had to come back.

<The Dragon's POV>

When we made it to the mountain, Lilirins was already outside, sitting at the entrance of the tunnel. My friends were as happy to see her as I was, and she was glad to see us too. I landed next to the cave and my human friend slid her arms around my neck, giving me a big and warm hug like not many could. Then my passenger descended. Lilirins looked at him, intrigued.
"He's another friend of ours who has just joined the ranks of the 'hard to get rid of'," I explained.
"Lagi, you're joking! That's a first!," he exclaimed.
"I do have a sense of humour," I told him. "It's just that my other senses tend to cloud it in the situations we usually get into."
He accepted my reply with no audible response, but not unaffected. I felt sorry for disturbing his good mood. But his amazing personality saw to livening him up again. Then he turned to Lilirins.
"I would be Caledor," he explained to her. "3 different forms in one day, is that a record or what? If it is the same day, that is."
Lilirins laughed.
"It's wonderful to see you," she said.
"Great! So you're alive and well and we're all together. Now we can go home," He suggested.
"It's not that easy," Lilirins informed him.
"Why not?"
"I'm not ready to go back."
"What do you mean you're not ready?!," the faerie shouted. "We need you there!"
"I'm sorry. It's just... You, Dragon... Lagi... you must understand me. I feel so weak and powerless and... scared! I've been through bad times before, but never like this. Good people are dying, and watching their friends die, and I can't see a way to stop that. I thought our psychic abilities combined, plus the stone, might be enough, but the Dark Cloak were ready for us. I couldn't stop the last one and I was nearly killed. Who knows if I won't be dead as soon as I try to get back? Who knows if all the others will? All my friends... Ryan... I couldn't take that."
"As far as I know, they're still alive," I told her. "I spoke to Sandy right before I came for you."
"Is Ryan alright?"
"He is. And he'll want the same for you."
"Well, that's a piece of news I really needed. But still... how long will that last? Lagi, I'd never been so scared before."
"Who're you telling that to?," I queried. She understood.
"Oh, sorry. I didn't mean... I guess you've had it worse than me all along," she apologized. "At least I've only had my feelings to deal with."
"It's not easy, right," I agreed. "Watching everyone shatter, and having no proof that things will get any better... I only have one tool which can see me through moments like these. Fortunately, it's a powerful one."
"What is it?," she asked. The others were as intrigued as she was.
"Yes, faith. Faith that things are never as bad as it may seem. Faith that we weren't born to suffer. Faith that things will change; that we have the power to make them change. And you know something? So far my faith has always been right."
"Come on, what can you do here?," the faerie insisted. "This is a boring place! No action and too few sensorial stimuli."
"For you, that is," Lilirins pointed out.
"Yes, for me. You wouldn't be so egoistic to think of yourself alone, would you?"
"You know me better than that."
"Good. Then let's go."
"You know... now I feel we do have better chances there than here," Lilirins reflected. "I can't think of a way to help anyone from here and I'd never forgive myself if something happened to my friends while I was away."
"Not to mention things can happen to you too," Caledor pointed out. "I don't know how we came here, but your body -Gabi's body, I mean-, is still there. Tsunami and Ninetales promised to protect us, but we're making it hard for them. I mean, how long do you think they can protect three motionless bodies from Resomegnis... or from Sauron?!"
"There's no need to argue," she stated. "Not anymore. I'm with you. Now if only I could find the way back... I never know how I do this. It's so annoying!"
"Ok, relax. Calm down," I told her. "Just try to remember how you came and follow the process backwards. Or remember how you went back the last time and repeat it. You have a good memory, so it shouldn't be that hard."
She laughed again. I loved it when she laughed.
"If only I'd got to talk to Harims before leaving..." she commented. "Perhaps I could have asked her for help."
"Perhaps Harims will help us anyway," the Faerie remarked. "Now don't let your thoughts wander. Get a hold on them. And return."
"Just remember why you want to be there. That helped me get here," Caledor assured. "Why do we sing? Remember."
"What?!," our two friends asked in unison.
"Err... I don't know where that phrase came from," he apologized. "Sorry for distracting you, I just felt like I had to say it, but I don't know why."
"That would be your psychic powers kicking in," Lilirins deduced. "That's the name of a song I really love; it was originally a poem by Mario Benedetti. And it couldn't be more accurate for this moment. Thanks, Caledor. I'll remember it. Let's go back to our friends."

<Tsunami's POV>

Battles went on all around us, but things were turning our well. Our side was winning! I stood next to Gabi's body, waiting for her and the others to return. Water Angel stayed by my side; no words were spoken between us, but we knew that, for once, our worries, hopes and wishes were the same. Sylvan was tending to Amber, while Iael had first stood next to us looking around with panicked eyes and finally left to help Pidgeot, Jenny and the Ninetales duo secure the perimeter. Officer Jenny from Goldenrod didn't understand a thing of what was going on, but protecting others was what she did best, and she knew that was what she had to do. At last, the remaining Dark Cloaks left our surroundings and we were allowed to breathe easier. We regrouped and waited. Then it turned out the ones who arrived were not those we expected.
The first one to join us was Sandy, followed by his trainer, Ryan, and the rest of the Happiness Team. They didn't look quite happy at that moment. They actually looked as worried as we were. Ryan kneeled down next to Gabi's body. I'm sure thousands of thoughts ran through his mind; and emotions too, but I'd have to be Lagi to be certain of which those were. Sandy stood at Ryan's side, while at the other side stood... a winged Rapidash! Even though she was quite worn out from battling, Pegasus's new form was impressive. I felt like shouting out my congratulations for her, but I knew it wasn't the right moment. We'd celebrate once Gabi came back. Because she would come back. She had to.
Charla and Diana lined up behind Pegasus and Ryan respectively, while Edie placed her head on her mother's chest.
"Her heart's still beating," was the only phrase that broke the silence momentarily.
Ryan checked Gabi's heart, but said nothing. He just looked up, his eyes meeting something behind me. I turned round and couldn't believe what I saw.
"It's - It's Scott!!," shouted out Iael, who had looked up right at that moment.
"Who's Scott?," asked Tracker.
"Someone we didn't expect to see again," our mutual friend explained.
"He's more than that!," Iael exclaimed. "He's the one who defeated Mewtwo!"
"Yes, he's also the one who brought our trainer to Caledor, offered her a job and a place to live, gave her her first pokemon, namely me, and was one of the co-founders of the Dragon Tamers and their field leader most of the time," added Pidgeot. "And I think I'm still leaving out a few things."
"Yes, but he saved us from Mewtwo!," Iael insisted. "I knew he couldn't be dead. A man like him can't be killed so easily."
"Idolizing others only brings disappointment," I told him. "Scott had his flaws. Well... has. He really messed up with Caledor, he keeps too many secrets to himself and if his tendency to go solo hasn't killed him yet it will some day. He's also bad at dancing and he can't memorize a phone number, but those are just details. Don't get me wrong, I think he's a great man and in many ways admirable, but don't look up on him like he was perfect. No living being is."
"You're speaking of him as if he wasn't here, but he is," Amber warned me.
I didn't know if Scott could understand my words, but I didn't mind either way. I hadn't said anything I didn't mean, nor anything he couldn't go on without hearing. Still, it was better to check. And I was just about to ask the phoenix man if he could understand me, when Sylvan's loud exclamation interrupted me.
I bet the first thing both Gabi and Lagi saw were the faces they wanted to see the most (or, rather, I would bet, but I lost the only bet I've ever made, so I'd better not). I couldn't tell which of the two hugs which came next was more intense. Most of us were excited by both. Caledor seemed to be paying attention mainly to Edie and Lagi, while Tracker's eyes were fixed on Gabi and Ryan, and I overheard her comment: "why are there things trainers can't teach their pokemon?" Many thoughts rushed through my head, but I let them pass.
"Are you alright? What happened?," Ryan asked Gabi once she released her grip on him.
"I'm fine. I just took a short break. I'm sorry I scared you," Gabi responded.
"Are you sure you're alright? You were out for hours and your breath and heartbeat were hardly perceptible. I heard you were gone to an alternate dimension or something!"
"I'm fine, I swear. And you should take that seriously because I never swear in vain and hardly ever do it at all. I was in Bei. I believe I've told you about it before. I don't know if it's another dimension or what, but that saved me from a tremendous psychic blast I was about to take and helped me regain both energy and focus. Then I came back and woke up in your arms so, in a way, things couldn't be better!"
"I believe they could," Scott said, taking a step toward her. Gabi stared at him, speechless.
"I didn't expect such a reaction from you," he told her. "Especially not after your recent resurrection."
"I've never been dead, Scott," she answered. "Can you say the same? Now I don't know what to believe! What happened? Please tell me."
"It's a long story, but I'm alive and I'm back. You'd never told me about your dimensional travels."
"Don't avoid the topic. I need an explanation. Besides, if we're talking about secrets, it would take years for me to catch up with you."
"Is that so?"
"To start, next time you live please tell us where you're going. I can't believe you tried to confront Sauron on your own!"
"I'm sorry about that. I need to get going. Lot's of things to catch up with! It's good to see you're fine. See you at the base!"
Scott, who was already walking away, turned around to hear what Gabi had to say.
"You owe me an explanation, and I will claim it."
"I will explain everything to all of you in time," Scott responded.
"Welcome back."
"Thank you."
With those words, he left.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

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Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 12:51 PM   #38
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<Ninetales's POV>

We made it to the ship just in time before it parted. Gabi was still breathing fast and repeating "I hate to be late" for the thousandth time. It was all because of a letter she received from Scott, inviting her to join him for a mission to Avelorn and Nagarythe (better known to some of us as Mordor). The problem was the letter arrived rather late, more precisely on the same day we were supposed to leave. I was with Gabi when she got the letter. She said nothing, but it looked like steam would come out of her ears anytime soon. She was already quite nervous for having to do so many things in so little time, no time to rest properly after the big battle, and the fact that Scott hadn't told her his story yet didn't help. I couldn't help but marvel at the way he evaded the subject, and think that, if he had the same mastery to dodge attacks, I was in for some serious competition.
For me, it was just things going back to normal. On the Dragon Tamers standards, that is. I didn't really mind a cleanup mission to put an end to all we'd just been through, and especially I didn't mind running: that was what I did best. There was only one thing that made me uncomfortable: I kept on getting the feeling that something was missing; and I couldn't fathom what it was.
Scott wasn't on this ship. Neither was Alex, and no one had dared deny Nolan the right to a vacation, which meant Gabi was the only DT authority on board; the one all the other trainers turned to with their questions, some of which she didn't even have answers for. But she handled them quite well. Moreover, she seemed to enjoy the situation.
"What is it, Ninetales?"
The voice came from behind me, but I didn't have to turn around to know whose it was. Even if I hadn't recognized the tone of her voice, Lagi was the only one who would come out of nowhere and ask me such a question. It was a habit I'd never been able to remove from her. Currently, I just took it as a part of her.
"I'm just wondering why she looks so happy right now," I decided to explain.
"I don't think happiness should be questioned; but the answer's simple. She likes talking to others and being trusted."
"Oh. Thanks for the info."
"No problem. But that's not what's disturbing you, is it?"
"How many times have we gone through this, Lagi?! I don't know what's disturbing me, ok? Maybe one thing, maybe more than one, maybe I'm just restless. Or it maybe the fact that you keep on sticking your nose where you shouldn't."
"I'm sorry," she said. And she let me know she really meant it. "I just thought I might help."
"If I need help, I'll ask," I told her.
She left. I felt a bit sorry for being so rude to her, but she had to learn that some feelings are private. Was that the case with mine at that moment? I wasn't sure, but in any case I wanted to be the first one to find out.

The journey was getting too long for my liking. I didn't enjoy sailing. I couldn't wait to feel firm ground under my toes. I paid a visit to each corner of the ship again and again, wishing it were bigger so that I could at least run a little. It was during one of those rounds that I overheard a crew member tell a passenger that we were trying to avoid a storm front.
"Oh, great!," I grumbled sarcastically. "A storm in the middle of the sea. More time on board of this egg-shell. Could we get any luckier?"
I wished I hadn't let out those thoughts when, not long afterwards, the storm made its way to us. Not that keeping my words to myself would have changed things, but many say that things tend to get worse when you state they can't. As if the One who pulls the strings of fate wanted to prove us He has no limitations. I wonder if it works the other way around too. I'd never been in a storm on the sea before, but I'd heard they were extremely dangerous. I had confronted danger countless times, but when the danger came with tons of water in all directions I had to admit it was a bit too much for me. Amber found shelter inside her pokeball; I was glad I didn't have a tail flame to watch over. Humans were urged to get down to the lower compartments of the ship, and encouraged to call back all their pokemon. Gabi complied only with the first part. Good thing, since the place we were in was already small enough; going from there to a pokeball would have been unbearable.
On my way down I bumped into my dragon friend again. I thought fast and asked her if she could do anything to stop the storm.
"It's dangerous to mess with the forces of nature," she told me. "Especially when they're enraged. I'll go up there and see what's going on, but I can't promise I'll be able to help. There's something... strange about this storm."
"Strange? How?," I asked.
"It doesn't feel natural. I sense confusion and anger in the sky."
"That's one of the weirdest things I've ever heard," I commented.
"I know," she replied. "But weirdness is not new to us, is it?"
I wished I knew if she was talking about the things we usually ran into or about ourselves. If it was the second, she was weird alright, but I wouldn't let anyone get away with using that adjective on me.
"So, what are you waiting for?," I insisted.
"I'm going. Just tell Gabi what I'm doing, please."
"Don't worry. I will."
Lagi stretched out her wings and soared to the sky. I returned to my trainer's side, told her everything -now that Caledor had mastered his psychic abilities we didn't even need the stone to talk to her-, and waited for my teammate to return.

<Pidgeot's POV>

The place was so crammed with people that my body suddenly felt too big and bulky; a feeling I'd had in the past, and hated. I was on the point of getting in my pokeball when Ninetales burst in with unexpected news. After hearing what he had to say, I decided to get out and look for Lagi. I could fly under the worst weather conditions; that test I had passed during the most painful period of my life. I took the skies and looked for my friend. It was really dark up there. I didn't even get to see what bumped into me.
"Lagi, is that you?," I asked.
"I'm over here!," Lagi's voice came from above. "Be careful, this place is filled with pokemon, and they're anything but friendly."
"Really? I can't see them!"
"Neither can I," she responded. "I'm trying to reach for the clouds and disperse them, but they won't let me concentrate. Now that you're here, will you please buy me some time?"
"Sure! As soon as I figure out how to do that," I answered.
"I'm sure you will," she supported me. "You just need to know that darkness is not necessarily bad."
I had the feeling I'd heard those words before, but I wasn't quite sure. I didn't know what she meant either, but I thought I'd figure it out. For now, I had to find out who or what was getting in Lagi's way and keep it away from her. I tried to fly to my friend's side, but something blocked my way.
"Going anywhere?," a voice said. For its sound it was the voice of a Fearow, my species' main rival in the air. Though I didn't really care what species a pokemon belonged to. Their intentions were what mattered to me. Anyway, this Fearow's intentions didn't seem to be good at all.
"Not going to answer?," he continued. "I'll give you a hint. The answer is 'no'."
"Go away," I ordered.
"Oh, so you do have a tongue," he mocked me. "Let's see if you have the power to back it up."
If it was a battle the Fearow wanted, he would get one. Darkness was bound to hinder both of us alike, and I still had other senses to rely on.

Level 48 Pidgeot vs. Level 45 Fearow

Before I could locate my opponent, a really sharp beak hit my chest. I had to move fast in order to get a large scratch instead of a deep hole in my flesh; and even faster, to manage to replicate the attack and use it against the attacker. Mirror Move works great when used against a pokemon of the same type as you. The first set was mine, but the Fearow changed his strategy and flew away. A beam of light filtered through the clouds and let me see its left wing. I flew in that direction... only to get hit from behind! I literally didn't see what hit me, but it moved fast and it felt round and metallic. I imagined that was what getting hit by Amber's Hidden Power felt like. So I was almost certain about what the attack had been. But why had it come from behind? I heard an insane laughter all around me.
"You fell for that! That was pathetic!"
I was ashamed. The Fearow had me right where he wanted me. And I didn't even know where he was. His voice seemed to come from everywhere. Mirror Move was not an option this time. I had to find a way to avoid being hit while finding my target. It was so dark...
Then I got an idea. One which would make the darkness help me achieve both goals. It did have its catch, though. It involved going over some unsolved issues. I realized that the darkness I feared was not the one around me.
"You can do it, Pidgeot!," Lagi's voice came down. "There's nothing to be afraid of. It's just you; the kind and noble Pidgeot we all know and love. Everything else is just a fantasy."
"How long have you known?," I asked her. I knew about Lagi's empathic powers, but that didn't reduce the shock of finding out she knew of my secret fears.
"Since the party after destroying TRHQ was crashed. You were battling an Alakazam. I don't know what he said to you, but he was with Team Rocket and you know how deceitful they are. If he said anything bad about you, it was just a lie."
"Why didn't you talk to me before?," I asked her.
"I didn't think you'd want me to interfere. I felt you wanted to keep this to your- uhh!"
"A little dependant, are you?," the Fearow broke in. "Keep your friends and foes out of this. Don't worry. Whatever fears you have won't survive after I've finished you."
"I'm fine!," Lagi informed me.
"Then don't worry about me. Do your job and I'll do mine," I instructed her.
Now I knew what to do, and for some reason I finally had the confidence to do it. Nothing had changed, but I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted away from me. I felt the darkness around me and welcomed it. It was warm, comfortable... safe! The Fearow tried to plunge into me, but I was nowhere to be found. In turn, I could see him clearly; his shape contrasting with the darkness I was now a part of. Not a bad thing at all. I came out and hit it really hard!
"Merging with the shadows won't save you," the Fearow threatened me. He backed up his words with a Swift attack which hit me even after I disappeared in the darkness. To say the truth, it hit me much harder than I expected. But then I countered with a Swift of my own, and the result was a loud splash in the water below.

I grew to level 49!

The sky became clear just in time to celebrate my victory. And the one I'd achieved against the Fearow too. Lagi came down exhausted.
"It's over now," she said. "Thanks for helping me, and congratulations."
A short chuckle was my reply. We went back to the boat, which was now heading straight to Avelorn. People were already getting out to see the sun which, at least for me, was a wonderful sight. When we made it to Avelorn, we found out the problem had already been taken care of. It turned out there had been more resistance around the shore than in Avelorn itself. The rest of the Dragon Tamers were already heading for Nagarythe. Gabi asked about Scott, but no one had seen him; either that or her description of him (to those who didn't know him) wasn't good enough. She sighed, and announced she'd make a few arrangements and meet everyone in Nagarythe. So there we went again!
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

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Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 12:51 PM   #39
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<Gabi's POV>

I thought I might be overreacting, but I could never know how things would work out with Scott. He was so unpredictable! All of a sudden, he'd ordered an attack to the last place I wanted to return to, when our last attempt to do that had failed awfully. I wasn't questioning that: Scott knew his business, and as far as war is concerned he knew it much better than I did; but that didn't ease my nerves at all. And now I found no signs of him in Avelorn! And to make things worse, his gear-phone was off (if he still had it at all).I was leading the last wave of trainers on the way to Nagarythe, which meant many others were already there. If Scott was missing again, this would be a suicidal mission. I had to think of a backup plan fast. That's why I called the Colonel. He had helped us a lot when we confronted the Black Battalion. I asked him to send reinforcements to the outskirts of Anlec. If we had to return to Mordor, this time we'd be prepared. I also called Alex to arrange a meeting at 5 PM.
During the last part of the journey, I did my best to hide my anxiety. I managed to look quite confident and reassuring to the newer trainers, who needed a guiding hand that wouldn't tremble. It turned out I had overreacted. Scott was waiting for me in Nagarythe after all. And so was Alex. The two of them seemed to be having an argument. There was a fleet of military helicopters around the meeting point, most likely the reinforcements I had asked for. They were making so much noise that I couldn't hear my friends' words, but Scott looked really mad. Fortunately, most of the engines stopped soon. Then Scott and Alex lowered the volume of their conversation and, before I could reach them, walked away to the large tent which had been set up for us. I decided to meet them there. After all, it was nearly 5 PM.
The tent was really crowded and noisy, filled not only with people but also with computers, communication devices and equipment of all kinds. It was far from being the ideal place for such an important meeting, but we didn't have many options to choose from. Scott was the first one to notice me. He still had an angry look on his face. I found out the reason when he addressed to me.
"Gabbi, what did you want to use these helicopters for?"
"I'm not sure Scott..." I responded. "Isn't that your job?"
His answer came like gunfire.
"My job created the plan that had us overwhelm the city at night when the guards slept. I wanted a quick coup d'etat!"
"There is no point of arguing," Alex interrupted us. I decided to temper the atmosphere.
"We aren't arguing, I was just telling Scott that he is better at this stuff than I," I said.
"Ok then. What should we do now Scott?," Alex queried.
After thinking for a few seconds, Scott replied.
"We must reign down like a meteor shower. At dusk, we are to bombard the gun platforms with the helicopters and blow a whole in the walls on four sides. We will only go in through one, but the defenders will be confused and will split their forces."
Then he asked a sentry about the direction of the wind, and decided we would attack windward.
"Once we are in," he continued, "the primary target will be the power plant in the center of the city. We might require an armored convoy to get there."
"Why not parachute onto the roof and then we don't have to worry about that?," Alex suggested.
"Good..." Scott replied with a macabre smile. "Then you and I do it."
"Hell yes," was Alex's response.
"I don't like the direction this conversation is taking," I interrupted.
"Why would that be?," Alex asked.
"We're beginning to resemble our enemies," I pointed out.
"We're not doing anything they wouldn't do to us," Alex explained.
"That's exactly my point," I remarked.
The discussion went on for a while. Alex approved Scott's methods and, while I was sick of them, I saw no other way out. So in the end we came to an arrangement. I just made sure to remind them we had come to liberate and disarm, not destroy. A silent nod from my friends ended the conversation.
When the time came, Alex and Scott got into a helicopter and took off. I remained on land, with Ryan and some others, moving cautiously towards our target location and then waiting for a signal to advance. It seemed like eternity; an eternity waiting for something I knew I would hate, something I needed to get over with immediately or sooner. But then, the signal came, in the form of explosions and alarms which could be seen and heard from where we stood. At that point, our forces had spread all over and around Anlec. Only the group lead by Scott and Alex were in the center, and we had to make sure they encountered as little resistance as possible.
Dozens of pokemon came out and helped us destroy any objects belonging to the Dark Cloak, making a huge light show and quite a lot of noise in the process. Some of us used weapons too. I made some damage with my amulet when no looks were on me, but I had refused to carry any other weapons. My amulet was more than enough: it was small and light, it could stun my opponents as easily as it could break things, and it had the capability of killing too, but I prayed I'd never need to resort to that. I could see signs of other groups in other spots of the city. Some attacks were headed towards the center, but their sources didn't move further away from their positions than 1 or 2 blocks.
Soon, as we expected, the Dark Cloak came to our encounter. Ventura alerted us of their coming before they could be seen. It felt good to have them fall into our trap for a change, but neither that nor the fact their leader was no longer with them made them any less scary. Besides from being as ugly as they could get, they still had that expressionless look on their faces; but this time their steps seemed firmer, their moves more determined, as if they were certain they'd get rid of us tonight. We were surrounded. I heard Ryan's voice instructing everyone to pick a target. All of a sudden, I felt we were in no position to choose. But I stood firm. I wouldn't give our foes the pleasure to see fear in me.
The robed abomination who stood opposite me raised his arm against me. I couldn't see what he was holding clearly, but it was certainly not a pokeball. Suddenly, a powerful force stroke him and made him tumble, making a black sphere fall from his hand and disappear as soon as it touched the ground. What hit him looked like blue fire. I heard other attacks around me, but I couldn't afford looking away from this Dark Cloak. He regained his balance and tried to attack again. Something told me to duck: a psychic pulse of a well known origin. I did so, and a series of turquoise spheres of light passed right over my head, to then gather in front of me, become a blue-coloured mass and shoot itself like a blaze of fire against my attacker. Now I knew exactly what it was.
"Thanks, both of you," I said. "I didn't know you could work so well together."
"We can work well with anyone," Ventura replied. "But you'll thank us later when our lives are not at risk."
That was Ventura for you: her mind was always focused, but her words were hardly ever kind. I was sure she didn't do that on purpose, though, so I didn't get mad at her. Besides, she was right about one thing: it wasn't the time for talking.
My enemy desisted from his attacks and grabbed a Dark Cloak-style pokeball. He threw the ball to the ground and the red beam that came out of it passed by me and practically hit Water Angel. He was going against his attacker. I stepped aside to watch, instinctively holding my amulet in my hand. I'd never tried it against the Dark Cloak and I didn't know if it would have any effect against them, but there was a chance and I'd grasp it if my enemy did anything dirty. For now, I wouldn't be the one to interfere in a pokemon battle. I'll just keep an eye on each of them, the 'man' and his pokemon.
The pokemon turned out to be a Nidoking, or something really close to one. I was puzzled. Why would a Dark Cloak member use a Ground-type pokemon against a Kingdra? He had to be hiding something.
"Water Angel, be careful," I warned my friend.
She nodded firmly and said... well, she said "sí"*.

Level 48 Kingdra vs. Level 45 Nidoking

Water Angel managed to gather enough water for a Surf attack before the Nidoking could do anything, but the effect was not as big as I expected. Not only didn't the Nidoking make a sound, which wasn't strange as he was a Dark Cloak pokemon, but he stood up easily after being hit by the full force of the wave. I searched my pack for the magical Beach Ball, took it out and hurled it to Water Angel, but the Nidoking intercepted it and gave me a malicious smile. Then it disappeared into the darkness. At that point, nothing the Dark Cloak could do was enough to surprise me. But I feared for Water Angel when the Nidoking reappeared and sent her down to the ground with his Faint Attack. She had to gather water again, not to attack the Nidoking, but to lift her up; and that left her exposed to another attack.
Fortunately, the Nidoking was not a Water pokemon, so the ball had no effect on him. But for some reason he didn't seem to be a Ground type either. His Faint Attack (which normal Nidokings didn't know anyway), was too strong.
"Water Angel, try something he's not expecting!," Pidgeot shouted.
"That's your are of expertise, not mine..." Water Angel said, but at the same time she spoke, she was preparing a Twister which came out as soon as the Nidoking got close to her. The evil pokemon tumbled when the dragon force hit his body.
"But I guess I could try," Water Angel continued, the tone of her voice revealing a smile. "How was that?"
"Exquisite," Pidgeot responded. "See? We learn from each other. Now please be careful."
"I will."
The Nidoking was taking too long to attack. Something was wrong, but what?
That interjection came from Ninetales. I asked him what the problem was, but instead of answering he just shouted at Water Angel.
"Use all your power NOW!!," he commanded.
She pulled out a Hydro Pump as fast as she could, but the Nidoking managed to send it back with a Twister! Water Angel took part of the blast of her own attack along with the one type of power which could damage her the most (physically, at least). The reason for the Nidoking's delay had become evident. He had been mimicking my friend's move.
Water Angel looked dizzy, but that didn't stop her following attack from connecting: not even the Nidoking's Twister could stop her furious Blizzard, which froze everything, including the air itself, on its way to the Nidoking. The Dark Cloak pokemon gasped right before falling unconscious.

Water Angel grew to level 49!

She'd done it! She'd thought and acted fast enough to stop one of the trickiest pokemon I'd ever seen. Water Angel looked exhausted, but satisfied and proud of herself. Of course, the real battle was far from over, but my attacker didn't look so confident anymore. I had learned a few things about the Dark Cloak during my encounters with the cult; the main thing was that they could adapt easily and build defenses against attacks used on them in the past (which was most likely why my psychic attacks hadn't worked the second time I tried them, and why normal weapons had proven to be useless against them); but they were quite prone to be affected by anything that was new to them. So, that chance I'd thought I might have now looked really promising.
I noticed I hadn't released my amulet from my hand yet (yes, I'm afraid I tend to forget what's in my hands). All the better. I adjusted it to get the highest non-lethal attack power and shot the monster down before he could do that to me with a far worse result. My reflexes had never been so fast before. And, to make things better, my theory had been right. I had to make sure to inform the others, so that we could find a way to keep the Dark Cloak at bay for as close to forever as possible, or longer if we could. For now, one more of them was down. The rest of my group was still engaged in battles, except from Ryan who had dominated his opponent too. My first impulse was to hold him tight and kiss him, but... well, I'm not that impulsive. It was neither a good place nor a good time for that - nor for anything else. I decided to wait for the others to finish their battles, give a hand to those who needed it, and wait for a signal from Alex and Scott. At that moment there was nothing I wanted more than to hear that our mission had been successfully accomplished.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

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Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 12:52 PM   #40
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<Gabi's POV>

By then I should have known than the end never comes when it's supposed to. But the fact that we didn't catch as many Dark Cloaks as we'd expected still caught me off guard. The last thing I wanted was to confront any more of them or their twisted pokemon, but leaving things as they were was not an option. I didn't know about the others, but in my case it was a part of who I was: I couldn't see innocents suffering or in grave danger and do nothing about it. Pretty much like Lagi... and probably all of my pokemon, each in their own way; it was something we all had in common. Other trainers may have had the same or different reasons, but in the end practically everyone stayed to help in the search of the last remaining Dark Cloaks. We all gathered in Anlec and decided to form groups of 3 to cover the city and its surroundings. I looked around, trying to form a group, but my group ended up finding me.
"Lady Vulpix!," a young male voice shouted from behind me. I still wonder how people manage to recognize me even from behind. I turned around to face a young black-haired boy, probably somewhere between 11 and 13 (unless he was older or younger; I'd always been hopeless at guessing ages). He came running toward me, and a Flareon ran beside him. He had a smile on his face, unlike most people around. I was sure I had seen that boy before, but I couldn't remember exactly when. That was until the normally shy Iael ran to the boy's side.
"It's good to see you two again," the trainer said, patting Iael on his head.
"It's good to see you too," I told him.
"So you remember me! I didn't know if you would. You see so many trainers..."
"True, but not many have taken care of one of my pokemon," I answered. "And you did it very well. Iael will never forget you, and neither will I."
"Woah! I wasn't expecting that! I didn't do that much really. More like he was taking care of me."
"I think you both helped each other," I told him. He smiled.
The boy's name was Sam. We'd met at the entrance of the Tower of Hoeth, when we were trying to liberate it from Mewtwo. Sam's Eevee was wounded and he would have had it as hard walking through the forest to go back as going in, since both the forest and the tower were filled with hostile pokemon. Iael, on the other hand, was fit and healthy, but still too young and inexperienced to confront the high level pokemon that lurked inside, so I'd left Iael with Sam, telling both of them to protect each other until I came back. Iael had hated the idea at first (he practically panicked), but when I returned he looked happier than ever, and seemed to have made friends with Sam.
I looked down at Sam's Flareon.
"Is that...?"
"Yes, it's Toby," he answered. "My first pokemon. I have some more now. He's happy to see you too."
I crouched down to rub Toby's head and tell him he looked great as a Flareon, when something bumped into me and threw me to the ground. When I stood up, I saw Sam hugging a Butterfree.
"Where the heck have you been?!," Sam inquired. "I was worried sick about you!"
A woman came running behind the Butterfree. She was tall, blonde and -according to my unreliable parameters- seemed to be in her early 30s. She was panting. The whole scene was totally weird.
"I take it you're his trainer," the woman asked Sam.
"Yes, he flew away last time we came here to Mordor. A Dark Cloak was chasing him. I looked all over the place but I couldn't find him. I thought he had been caught or something! Where did you find him?"
"In a cave," she replied. "I'm glad he managed to find you."
I'd never seen that woman before, but the more I looked at her, the more I felt there was something familiar about her. She intrigued me. She wasn't carrying any pokeballs and there were no pokemon with her besides that Butterfree. Who was she?
"You're not a trainer, are you?," I asked her.
"Was I that obvious?," she replied.
"Well, I know most trainers from Caledor, at least by their faces. Besides, I don't see any pokeballs or pokemon with you."
"Oh! Well, it's true. I'm not a trainer. I was only trying to help."
"Help my Butterfree find me, or help us catch the Dark Cloaks?," Sam asked.
"Help with everything, I guess."
"You guess?"
"Yes, I... It's strange and confusing."
"Can you try to explain, please?," I asked her.
"I'll try, yes. I like a good challenge. Besides it may help me clear my mind. The thing is that I'm not quite sure of why I'm here. My memories are a bit fuzzy up to the moment where I found him inside that cave. I heard quick steps... someone running away. I think it was a Dark Cloak. Something had just happened, and I think I had something to do with it, but the moment when it happened is more unclear than any other. Then I saw the Butterfree hiding behind a rock, shaking, and I decided to help him."
"That's so weird!," Sam exclaimed. "I'd never heard anything like that! So... what?, you don't remember your name or anything?"
"Oh, no, it's not that. I do remember my name. Sorry I didn't introduce myself. I'm Angel Quinn."
"Angel Queen?," I asked. It sounded too strange for a name.
"No, not Queen, Quinn. 1 I, double N. It's strange, I get the feeling someone had called me Queen before, though people don't usually make that mistake."
"Sorry, English is my second language," I told her.
"Really? You speak it so well!," Sam exclaimed. "I wish I could speak another language like that."
"Well, I've been here for a long time," I explained. "So, Angel..."
I had a special feeling when I said that word and looked at her. Something like a hunch, but even more unclear. Like there was something I was supposed to know, but I couldn't tell what. Sometimes my ESP was that imprecise.
"Yes?," she asked.
"You said your memories were fuzzy until you found Sam's Butterfree. But you do remember your name, and the fact that not many make the mistake I made, so what is it you don't remember?"
"What I don't remember is the sequence of events that led me to that cave, and to that point. All I know is I was trying to help. I remember some emotions I had right before I heard the steps: there was confusion, like everything was upside down and nothing made sense, except one thing; and that thing was my strong desire to help. I feel that was what brought me there. But I got lost."
"Who were you trying to help?," asked Sam.
"I don't know," Angel replied, sadly. "A friend, I think. Or, more likely, everyone."
"I've had those feelings before," Lagi said. She was standing next to me. "Exactly like hers. But... it doesn't make any sense."
It was the first time I'd heard Lagi say something didn't make sense. So now I was more intrigued than ever.
"What doesn't make sense?," I asked her.
"What did it say?," asked Sam.
"She said she'd had those feelings before, but it didn't make sense," I translated.
"Did you?," Angel said, looking at Lagi.
"Hey, you three!," someone shouted from behind me. "Will you stand there all day? We have work to do! Get moving!"
I turned round and saw a young man's face turn red.
"Sorry," he said. "I didn't realize it was you."
That proved not everyone was able to recognize me from behind.
"No, it's ok," I told him. "You're right, we should get going."
We began to walk toward the limits of Anlec, and past them. At one moment, Sam asked Angel how she intended to help without any pokemon.
"I'll follow my heart. That's what I always do," was her reply.
Our search led us to the dry plains that were the landmark of Nagarythe. You couldn't find a similar landscape anywhere else on the globe, fortunately. The place didn't look any less creepy than the first time. And what we were expecting to find made it even worse.
My gloomy thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the image of what seemed to be Crobats and Ivysaurs made up for a horror movie, and a direction where I could find them. Needless to say, it scared me when it came. But I got over it as soon as it passed.
"Ventura...!," I shouted. "How many times do I have to tell you to warn me before doing that?"
"Sorry. That was supposed to be a warning," my Venomoth pathetically apologized.
"We've known each other for a long time," I told her. "You're smart. When I say something, you know what I mean. So next time I want a verbal warning, please."
"Oh, words!," Ventura sighed. "They always make things confusing. Ok, is it fine if I tell you 'message coming' before sending one? Unless it's an emergency and silence is vital."
"Yes, I think that would do."
"You have a strange relationship with your pokemon," Sam commented.
"Strange? How?," I asked.
"Well, you treat them like they were human."
"Each species has different needs, capabilities and limitations," Angel told him. "Those should be taken into account, but other than that I don't see why not treat each other as equals."
"You've read my mind," I told her.
"No, that's not one of my abilities. Actually, my abilities seemed to be quite limited here."
"Here as opposed to...?," I asked.
"You got me," she replied. "I don't know what I was talking about, but thanks to your question I've realized there's somewhere opposed to here."
"Will anyone care to tell me what's going on?," Sam interrupted.
"Angel is still a mystery... and Ventura has found some Dark Cloak pokemon," I explained.
"Then let's go get them!," Sam blurted out.
We moved in the direction where Ventura had 'delicately' pointed. When we were close enough, she informed us the pokemon were inside a cave.
"Another cave," Angel commented.
"I heard there were many caves in Mordor. Not the best place for people, but a good hideout for Dark Cloaks," I informed him.
"Mordor?," he asked.
"The old name for Nagarythe. From a time when it was much worse than it is now."
"I didn't think that was possible," he pointed out.
"I share your feelings, but now at least you can walk around and cities have been built. Who knows? Maybe one day good will finally claim it and turn it into a decent place."
"I can't imagine why anyone would want to live here," Sam commented.
We made it to the cave. The interior was dark and gloomy. Amber and Caledor did their best to provide some light. Ventura was having it easy: she didn't need her sight to guide her. But I think even she was caught off guard by the Crobat that suddenly pounced on her. Another Crobat came right behind the first one, but Sylvan extended one of her vines to stop it. I don't know whether that was her idea or Ventura's; in any case, her reaction was fast. The 2 Ivysaurs Ventura had showed me came up too. All 4 pokemon seemed determined to get us out of their cave, and not necessarily in one piece.
"I'll take care of the Ivysaurs," Sam offered. "Toby! Freedom! Go!"
Sam's Flareon and Butterfree took one step forward (which was only literal in Toby's case), and faced the Ivysaurs. Sylvan and Ventura were already engaged in a battle with the Crobats. The rest of us stood in our places to support them and help them if our aid was needed.

Level 40 Venomoth & Venusaur vs. Level 44 Crobat & Crobat
(and Sam's Flareon and Butterfree vs. Ivysaur & Ivysaur)

While one of the Crobats bit Ventura, the other used a Confuse Ray on Sylvan. Ventura used a Psychic attack on the Crobat, while Sylvan... well, she was a bit more helpless. I couldn't see what she crashed into, but my guess is neither could she. Fortunately, her clover prevented her from suffering serious damage.
At my side, Sam kept shouting out commands. Ember and Confusion where the ones he repeated most of the time. Ventura tried to attack again, but the Crobats switched targets, and the one who had used Confuse Ray on Sylvan did the same on Ventura.
"Now she's really mad," Lagi said.
"Pardon?", I asked.
"Ventura," she explained. "She's boiling inside. Too many things to sort out... too many things to let out. The weird thing is... I didn't expect this. I guess I didn't know her as much as I thought. She always looked so self-assured I never even thought of looking deeper. I didn't know she had all this inside her."
I was puzzled by Lagi's words. I didn't know what she was sensing in Ventura, but the fact that she was surprised by it was intriguing. True, there were many aspects of my Venomoth friend I'd never got to understand, and I'd figured I could live with that. Her tendency to hide her emotions was not new to me either, but how far had it gone? And how good was she at it? Probably one of the best, since she had managed to hide her feelings even from Lagi. But what feelings were those? Should I talk to her about this? I decided that, at least, I had to try.
A loud cry brought my concentration back to the present. One of the Ivysaurs had got confused by Freedom and bumped into the other in a literal Head-butt. A Crobat used a Wing Attack on Sylvan, to which she responded with a Body Slam. Ventura's rage only worked against her. She went berserk and bounced from wall to wall, not noticing the damage she was receiving.
"Too much confusion for one day," Angel opined. "Ventura, hold it! That's not like you!"
If there was already too much confusion, now Angel was causing more. To me, that is.
"How do you know if it's like her or not?," I asked her.
"I... I know her," Angel replied. "And I think... I know you too!"
"I think that explains everything," Lagi said.
"To you, maybe. I understand less with every word you two speak," I told her. "What's going on?"
"It would be a pleasure to give you that one answer, but Ventura needs me more at this moment," Angel said. 'Answer' was the keyword. I began to understand, or at least make a good guess. "Let it out, Ventura!," she shouted. "Let everything out. It won't hurt you. It will only heal you."
Ventura was not responding. Now a Crobat was flying toward her. I tried to warn her, but it bit her before she could make out my words. I needed to find a way to get her out of her trance. I grasped the only idea that came to my mind.
"Caledor, you have psychic powers too. could you please send a telepathic message to her? Tell her to let all her confusion out on the Crobat. She may not be able to transmit emotions, but all the images that are forming in her mind could be combined into a powerful Psychic attack."
"Try to send her the message the way she does it," added Angel. "It would be the anchor to reality she needs right now."
"I'm not sure if I can do anything the way Ventura does it, but I'll do my best," Caledor answered.
The color of Caledor's fur became brighter. The purple light expanded itself and the gem on his forehead changed its goldenrod tone for an orchid color which, for some reason, reminded me of Ventura. I could tell he was concentrating harder than ever. In the meantime, Sylvan managed to get another Body Slam on her current opponent, not before receiving a second Wing Attack. Then she jumped back and stared at the Crobat, showing that she'd managed to get over her confusion.
Ventura, on the other hand, was not so lucky.
"Why isn't she reacting?!," I shouted.
"She's too stubborn," Caledor responded. He had stopped glowing and looked exhausted.
At that moment, Sylvan stretched out one of her vines and caught Ventura with it, saving her from an imminent Wing Attack from the Crobat who had just decided to switch targets again.
"Enough is enough!," Sylvan shouted. "You want us to be as rude as you are, well, we can do it. I can do it. Yes, I can. Believe me, I hate shouting at you, but you need it, don't you? You've helped me a lot; you've helped all of us a lot! Probably none of us would even be here if it wasn't for you. But what do you think? Do you think that, because you help others, you'll never need help? Do you think you're supposed to be invincible? Invulnerable? Do you think we will lose our respect towards you if you're not? Guess again. You're a great friend and nothing can change that. And I admire you, and nothing can change that either. So... you have flaws. What then? Everyone does! You know mine better than anyone else, and you still respect me, don't you? Now let us give you a vine, please! Let someone in that heart of yours! I know you love us as much as we all love you, and that's out of the question. No one will hurt you. I promise. Just let it out!"
Ventura shook her body until it was free from Sylvan's grasp, turn around in an instant and release a tremendous Psychic blast at the Crobat who was descending toward her. The bat plummeted down in a second.
"Now, I'd never thought I'd leave to hear Sylvan lecture me. The world has changed!," she ironized as if nothing had happened.
"Don't you dare make us worry like that again!," Sylvan warned her.
"We'll talk about that later, ok?," she said, turning around again to face the other Crobat. Both Ventura and Sylvan released their Sleep Powder at once. That was definitely my Venomoth in action. The Crobat fell asleep.
"Ok, now we can talk, but let's make it fast so that this one doesn't wake up. Besides, the shorter the conversation is, the lower the chance of me saying something I don't mean."
"Why do you always get so worked up about words?," Sylvan asked her.
"I don't know. I guess it's a part of me. I've never got on well with them. They were never enough to make others understand me. So I guess I just stopped trying."
"That sounds so sad!," Sylvan exclaimed.
"Hey, no! Don't get melodramatic on me. I get by quite well, think ahead, handle myself well on my own, take coordination in teamwork to the limit of perfection and help others as much as I can, as you well said it. So I'm not a loner, and I'm not unhappy. There are just a few things I'm not very good at, can you blame me?"
"Like modesty," Ninetales retorted.
"Look who's talking," Tsunami reminded him.
"Yeah, look who's talking too," Ninetales replied.
"Don't start it, please!," I asked the duo.
"No one's blaming anyone," Sylvan resumed the subject. "Nobody's accusing you of anything, please understand that."
"Then what is this all about?," Ventura asked.
"It's about being friends. And trusting each other."
"Well, I trust you. I really do. I'm not planning to go over the story of my life and search for the causes of why I am who I am now, but I do trust you. Who else could I trust if not my friends? And myself, of course."
"So, will you let us help you once in a while? Will you be less hard on yourself if you receive a Confuse Ray or something again?"
"I think no one can predict how they will react when a Confuse Ray hits them, unless they're very used to them and even in that case they can't be 100% sure. But yes, I'll count on you. I see you've grown up."
"And I see you have a sense of humor. It's good to find out new things about old friends," Sylvan commented.
"Do I? Well, if you say so. Now..."
The sleeping Crobat had just begun to move its wings. Ventura turned around right in time to hit it with a Psychic attack. Sylvan used another Body Slam, which didn't stop the bat from biting her.
"If we weren't in a cave...," Ventura sighed.
"I know," Sylvan told her. "I could use some sunlight too. But the Crobat's faster than us. it would catch us if we tried to go outside."
"Not if..."
Ventura only finished the phrase in actions, by landing on Sylvan's head and teleporting away with her. The Crobat was disoriented at first, but then it used its sonar to locate them. By now Toby and Freedom had already beaten the Ivysaurs, and followed the Crobat along with their trainer, Angel, my pokemon and myself. We met Sylvan and Ventura outside the cave. They looked better now. They had to have used Synthesis and Morning Sun respectively.
Ventura met the Crobat with another Psychic attack which, added to a well-timed Headbutt from Sylvan, brought the evil pokemon down.

Ventura and Sylvan grew to level 41!

"We made it!," Sam exclaimed. "We brought down 4 Dark Cloak pokemon!"
"Yes, let's hope others have stopped their trainers from getting away," I said.
"I think we've done our job," Caledor opined, "and if the others do it too, none of them will get away."
"Maybe you're right," I agreed.
"Yes, I think they'll get everyone," Sam affirmed.
"What? You understand him?"
"I was talking to all of you telepathically," Caledor said. "I figured I could put my powers to good use."
"Isn't that what you always do?," I smiled.
"It's what I always try to do. But there's still something I don't understand."
"What is it?"
"Who is Angel? Where do you know each other from? I think we're all intrigued to know that, except you and Lagi, and maybe Ven... oh! Nevermind I saw the pattern. Harims, right?"
Angel nodded.
"Wow, I was wondering if I'd ever get to know you."
"YOU'RE HARIMS?!!," Ninetales exclaimed. "You're real? Here? On Earth?"
"Who's Harims?," asked Sam.
"I'm an old friend of hers," Angel told him. "Sorry I didn't tell you before. I was quite confused myself. You know, everything I said back in Anlec was true. I'm afraid the trip got the best of me. I guess I'm not of much help here."
"You're wrong, you've helped a lot. You helped Freedom and Sam reunite, and you inspired all of us to help Ventura."
"Well, I'm glad I did something right, then."
"It's so strange to see you here! You look so... normal," I remarked.
"I'm as normal as you are," she responded.
"Who says I'm normal?," I retorted.
"I don't know. I've never said such a thing."
We both laughed together. I felt it was not the first time we did that. I felt we'd laughed together many times in the past.
"I still have a lot of questions," I told her.
"When don't you?," she smiled.
"Does that mean you don't intend to answer them?"
"It depends. Are your questions about me or about you? Because, if they're about you, only you can answer them."
"I don't know. Maybe both. Ok, these two are definitely about you. Why did you come here? And are you staying?"
"I came here to help. I saw you needed help, and I wouldn't turn my back on a friend in need. Things didn't turn out as I expected, though. You guys defeated your greatest foe without me, and I didn't help much on chasing his minions either. So I guess that leads to your second question: no, I'm not staying. I think I can be more helpful there than here. You know you can come to me whenever you need it."
"I'm afraid I'm beginning to believe I can," I answered.
"What's there to be afraid of?," she asked me. I couldn't think of a good reply.
"Hey, I don't know what you're talking about, but I do know we have 4 pokemn to hand in, so why don't we pick them up and take them to Anlec?," Sam suggested.
I agreed. Lagi and Amber picked up the Crobats and Ivysaurs and transported them to our current base in the outskirts of Anlec. Angel said goodbye to us, told Sam she'd been pleased to meet him and disappeared just like that.
"What is she?!," Sam inquired, more puzzled than I'd ever seen him.
"That's a question to which I don't know the answer. But I do know who she is. She's a good friend."
Sam had to contempt himself with that response, since there was nothing else I could tell him that wouldn't increase his confusion (because I knew nothing else). We both followed Amber and Lagi to Anlec, riding on Pidgeot's back (he kindly offered to transport us). The rest of our pokemon traveled inside their pokeballs to put less weight on Pidgeot. There was a feeling of closure to all of this. I knew many things would come in the future, and that we'd have to be prepared for anything, as usual. But this was one problem that was finally over, and it felt like heaven. Suddenly, some of my questions didn't seem to be in need of an immediate answer. It looked like things were finally going my way. We were getting over with this, confirming that we'd defeated the last of the Dark Cloak, and going back to Caledor. And, at that moment, there was no place where I wanted to be more.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 12:52 PM   #41
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<Gabi's POV>

When I got up, it took me a few seconds to realize I was in my own bed. It took me even longer to consider how lucky I was to be alive, and remember there was no fighting to be done that day. It felt strange. I'd normally be relieved and blissful after such a great victory against the forces of evil I'd go back to my normal life and my everyday things with a smile on my face to match the smile of my heart, and I'd find myself singing whenever I was left alone. But this time it was different: this time it seemed hard to go back to my usual activities; this time my lips felt too hard and too heavy to smile effortlessly; it felt as if, after all that time of fighting and suffering, I had somehow forgotten how to live.
"That's an awful thought," I scolded myself, "and I won't allow myself to live up to it. Many had it worse than me and they're moving on; it would be a waste of life if I didn't, and my life is never going to be wasted."
With that decision, I stood up, got dressed and did my best to remember all the things I liked. It wasn't that hard in the end: I had a well built image of myself and what I liked had always been clear. I liked being with those I loved, I liked singing, I liked writing, I liked walking through the forest, I liked helping others and seeing others happy, I liked facing intellectual challenges and succeeding in them, I liked laughing and making others laugh, I liked breathing fresh air, I liked everything that involved creation, I liked being loved... actually, there were lots of things that were worth enjoying. When my pokemon and I had breakfast, I was already wearing my usual smile. It still felt a bit hard, but I knew it would soften up soon. Especially since I had such great friends by my side.
Work was heavy, but I'd take heavy work over war anytime. More pokemon than I would have thought had lost their trainers and were now waiting for new ones at the Adoption Center; it was heartbreaking to see them. On the other and, few trainers came by because they were all busy rebuilding their lives. Caledor was nearly in perfect shape: practically everything had been restored in our absence, which made me marvel at the speed at which they got things done. We received some requests for TMs, both from Caledor and Selenia (the city located in Western Eataine which we had liberated from Team Rocket in spite of the major damage caused), and I heard some were being sent to Nagarythe too; so after fulfilling the requests we had to stock up again. I had barely any time to continue with my research, but at that time I was doing it more for personal fulfilling than for the sake of the Dragon's Guild; I had begun to think that Scott didn't need my reports.
Speaking of Scott, he was working even harder than I was. He was organizing a tournament, and I knew first hand how much time and effort that took. Moreover, he said that this time everything would be different, which I translated to more effort on his account. He wouldn't say much more, so I had to find out at the meeting we had just a few days before the new Training Grounds opened. The purpose of the meeting was more to receive our opinion -and maybe to impress us- than to take decisions: everything was already done and ready to go. Fortunately, no one had any complaints: the new Training Grounds were amazing. Once more, I was impressed at how fast this huge development came true.
After the meeting, Alex and I begun to discuss the possibilities. We were both planning to use the Training Grounds, since it was the best chance to train our pokemon we'd had in months (actually the only chance that didn't involve risking their lives and ours). Our conversation helped us decide how many battles each of our pokemon would have, but the decision of where to go -since there were now 3 Training Grouns complexes- was still left to each of us. I reviewed the summary Scott had given us many times. The first choice was easy: not Caledor, I wanted to try something new. But it was hard to choose between Yvresse and Eataine. I was first tempted to go to Eataine, since everything seemed to be perfectly organized for an optimal training, and the fact that Lothern wasn't far from Selenia would allow me to make a checkup visit; it would be nice to see the nurse Joy who was responsible for Ninetales being able to run after the shot he received. But I'd heard the people of Lothern were anything but friendly, and the city itself was too crowded. My spirit was still a bit weary from my confrontations with the Dark Cloak, and I needed a place where I could relax and feel welcome. That made me choose Yvresse as my destination. It wasn't quite as new to me as Lothern, since I'd already been on the arena where the Training Grounds now stood, but since it had been completely reformed that wouldn't be a problem.
When I got home and informed my pokemon of my decision, Tsunami, Lagi and Water Angel were really happy. They seemed to assume that we wouldn't come back from Yvresse without having spent some time in the sea, and who was I to let them down? Caledor reacted a bit later, but so enthusiastically that no one could doubt he loved the idea.
"What about the rest of you?," I asked the others.
"Well, since you're asking..." Ninetales begun, "I'm not sure if it's such a good idea. Tsunami will become unbearable once he touches the sea."
"Bah, you're just mad because there are no Training Grounds in Goldenrod," Tsunami retorted.
"What do you mean?," Ninetales asked. "Why would I want Training Grounds in Goldenrod?"
"If you don't know, I'm not going to tell you. I'm not going to explain your own feelings to you."
"If you have something to say to me, say it personally," Ninetales complained. "And by the way I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Enough," I stopped them. "Can't we have a single conversation without the two of you getting at each other?"
"He started," Tsunami said.
"And then you want me not to call you Kid," was Ninetales's reply.
"Stop it now!," I shouted. Their silent response was greatly welcome.
"So, those who have not spoken yet, do you like the idea?," I resumed.
"I think it may be nice," Sylvan said. "We could have a good time... and train, of course."
"Why not Eataine?," asked Ventura.
"Do you enjoy contradicting me?," I asked her.
"I have more interesting hobbies," she retorted. "I think Eataine would be more of a challenge to us, since so many trainers go there."
"I've thought about it, but Lothern is not a place where I would feel comfortable right now," I answered. "Besides, all Training Grounds are prepared to offer the trainers the challenge they deserve, and I'm sure we'll find many good trainers in Yvresse. Don't worry, I don't think you'll be missing any action."
"Then I guess it's alright," she replied.
"Actually, I've been wanting to go to a friendlier place myself," Amber commented.
"How can a place be friendly?," Caledor laughed.
"I mean a place where you can feel at ease," she explained. "I'm talking about leaving our worries behind, at least for a while. Don't expect me to get in the sea, but I think I could have a good time in Yvresse."
"You're talking as if we were going on vacation!," blared Iael. "We're going to train, aren't we?"
"You took the words from my mouth," Ventura told him.
"I know, I know," Amber assured. "But we all need to relax a little after all we've been through, don't you think?"
"Are you going to battle?," Iael asked Amber. "I've never seen you battle anyone who wasn't evil."
"Well, actually, I have battled in previous Training Grounds," Amber replied. "But I'd rather not hurt those who don't deserve it. I'd never battle my friends unless I had no choice."
"No one gets seriously hurt in friendly matches," Iael informed her.
"I know, but I'm still uncomfortable with them. If I needed some extra experience, or even a warm up, I'd battle at the Training Grounds. But I've been battling a lot lately, so I think that what I need for now is a rest. I'll be cheering for all of you."
"I need a rest too," Caledor let us know. "I'll swing into action again once the world stops spinning."
"Are you dizzy?," Iael asked, concerned.
"It was a metaphor," Lagi told him. "It's understandable, Caledor; you deserve a rest. And some of us need some training. I haven't trained for ages!"
"What do you think, Pidgeot?," I asked. "You haven't spoken yet."
"Uh? Oh, Yvresse! Yes, sure," he reacted.
"What were you thinking of?," Water Angel inquired.
"Nothing, I was just looking through the window. The sky looks good with all those stars. I hadn't seen it like that for weeks."
"You're right," the Kingdra agreed. "It looks beautiful."

<Ninetales's POV>

The day of the opening came fast, but not as fast as I would have liked. I couldn't wait to see what the new Training Grounds were like, and have a good battle against some well-trained pokemon. A Fire pokemon if possible. I'd always liked testing myself against my own kind. Maybe that would shake that uneasy feeling I was still having. Ever since we left for Avelorn, I couldn't help feeling that something was missing, and I couldn't tell what it was. No, it had started before we went to Avelorn; when we were still in Caledor, after our first trip to Nagarythe... no, it was exactly when I learned that Resomegnis had been defeated. Yes, it had started right then. I couldn't tell why: I knew that Resomegnis was out for good, and I couldn't expect any better, but something was escaping my thoughts. Something was missing. Something had gone missing that day. But what?
My thoughts occupied my mind so much that I barely noticed the time the trip took. I was caught by surprise when Gabi said "here we are". We registered in one of the hotels reserved for the Dragon Tamers, which was actually rather empty. Ventura was convinced that everyone was in Eataine; Gabi said we were just a bit early. Me, I didn't care as long as I could find a good opponent. The hotel was nice: big, warm and with enough open space to stretch my legs. Our room was also comfortable: it was full of pillows which we could either lie on or throw at each other (the idea of a pillow fight with Tsunami and Caledor sounder better the more I thought about it). After checking the room and leaving most of the luggage there, we went down for lunch. I wasn't that hungry, but the others ate like they were starving. I wondered what was up with them... or me, who knew? The food was good, anyway. And the hotel staff treated us like kings. I was beginning to like Yvresse after all.
When we finally reached the Training Grounds, Gabi made some comments about the great work they had done to the aircraft and immediately asked the first staff member she found if any of the rooms was especially hot. Knowing her, she had to be thinking of the Lava Room from the old Training Grounds and trying to plan the best way not to get sick this time. I felt sorry for her: she couldn't feel the potential of a very hot place filled with fire pokemon and enjoy the 'heat' of the battles like I did; instead she was busy trying to stay on her feet. Now that I thought of it, that was pretty much a weak point of hers. I was glad none of our enemies had found out yet. But then again, who doesn't have a weak point or two? Even I had few resources against Water pokemon, and the worst thing was Tsunami knew it. But I had won the only battle I'd had against him anyway, so I guessed it was ok.
Well, the thing is that Gabi was told the Domain of the Sleeping Dragon was rather similar to the old Lava Room, so she took a deep breath and decided to go there first, not before packing two bottles of cold water. "I'll get this over with, so I'll be able to concentrate on the rest of the domains," I heard her say.
"Excuse me, but I think you should tell us who'll be battling where, right?," Tsunami told Gabi while we were heading to the Domain of the Sleeping Dragon. "That way we can get prepared."
"Don't you like surprises?," I asked him.
"Well, yes, I do, but I like doing my best too, and if I know where I'll be battling I can make some plans and then do better in my battles," he responded.
"You'll have a big surprise Later, Tsunami," Gabi said. "So I guess it's only fair that I answer your question. I think everyone should listen."
We all looked at her, ready to hear her announcement.
"First of all, I want you to know that I have arranged some unusual pairs this time. None of you is going to battle with those they're most comfortable with. Before some of you start looking at me like I was crazy, let me tell you there's a reason for this: you're a great team and you all know how to exploit your strengths and make the most of cooperation with your usual partners, but we have all grown too comfortable with that; yes, me too. We should be ready to adapt to changes whenever they come, and what better place and moment to train for that than here and now? Besides, I think this will improve not only the capacity of adaptation of each of you, but also the potential of the whole team, and you may find strengths you didn't know you had when working with someone you weren't used to, so try to make the most of this."
"Nice planning," Ventura said. "Long speech, though. You haven't told us who'll be battling where yet."
"I was getting there, Ventura. Patience is a virtue, as Alex says. You're going to battle with Water Angel at the Domain of Impenetrable Darkness."
"Sounds good," Ventura cheered. "The name sounds intriguing and I'd wanted to try teamwork with Water Angel for a while. Nicely thought!"
I couldn't help but laugh at the way Ventura treated Gabi. I wouldn't have liked to see her in the hands of a more conservative trainer; I bet she wouldn't be able to take it.
"Water Angel will also battle at the Lucid Lake Domain with Tsunami," Gabi went on. "Yes, Tsunami, I think you two really need to learn to work together, and you may soon need the experience you'll gain from that battle."
"Wait a minute," Tsunami interrupted her. "Are you going to put me through a test or something?"
"No, it's not a test," Gabi replied. "It's more like a gift that I owe you."
"Now I'm puzzled," Tsunami admitted.
"You'll learn in time. For now you should prepare for that battle and the other one, which will be at the Domain of the Warrior with Iael. Iael, like Pidgeot, Ninetales and Ventura, has a great ability to adjust to whatever comes to him in a battle. By watching him, you may get some ideas for yourself. At the same time, Iael can learn a lot from you; right now the first thing he needs to learn is to take it easy, and I think you can help him with that."
Both Tsunami and Iael nodded.
"And so will Sylvan, who's going to battle with Iael at the Domain of the Virgin Woods. I think this will be good for both since each of them has what the other needs. Though I've noticed Sylvan has been growing fast, and I'm amazed at the way she has managed to keep balance lately when everyone else was losing their minds. I didn't want to miss telling you that, Sylvan, I'm really proud of you. For what I've heard of the Domain of the Virgin Woods, I think you'll enjoy it. You may consider it a compensation for taking you out of Caledor when it was clear you preferred to stay there. Anyway, when we get back we are going to the forest."
"Am I going to battle?," I asked her. I must admit I was beginning to lose my patience.
"Yes, you're going to battle at the Domain of the Sleeping Dragon. That's what you wanted, right?"
"You know me," I answered. She smiled.
"So is Pidgeot. I think the last time the two of you battled together was against that Stantler at the Dragon's Guild old training fields."
"You've battled a Stantler?!," Iael exclaimed. "When was that?"
"It was ages ago," I told him. "My very first battle at Gabi's side, before she adopted Water Angel. The Stantler was there to help us train, and he was good at that, but he wasn't very similar to you. His fur had a lighter color and he was... well, I never really got to know him, so I don't know what he was like, but he didn't behave much like you. You remind me more of Pidgeot."
Both Iael and Pidgeot stared at me.
"Pidgeot back then," I explained. "Don't ask me why, I have no idea. But sometimes you have a look in your eyes that reminds me of him."
"That's strange," Iael said.
"Indeed," Pidgeot agreed. He stopped staring at me and started looking at Iael. I could have kept my eyes on them, but I was more interested in listening to Gabi's final words.
"As for the Domain of the Whistling Winds," she continued, "that's where Lagi is going to battle, also with Pidgeot. I know the two of you did something like that on our way to Avelorn, but I didn't get to see you. I just saw both of you seemed to feel better after that, so I think this will be good for you."
"I don't think what happened in Avelorn will ever happen again," Lagi said, "but we may still be able to help each other."
"What happened in Avelorn?," Tsunami asked.
"Nothing special," Pidgeot said. "We just had a good talk, that's it. She said some things she had to say and I did some things I had to do. Now that's all said and done."
"So you'd rather not talk about it," Amber reckoned.
"It's nothing bad," Pidgeot told her. "Just a bit personal. Or... on second thought, maybe it's not that personal. You'll all find out sooner or later, so... I'm trying to master Faint Attack."
"That's it?!," I asked. "And THAT was supposed to be personal?!"
"You know where I come from," was his only reply. And it was enough to make me want to dig a deep hole and bury myself in it. Of course it was personal! It had been his Faint Attack that caught the interest of Team Rocket, who had in turned caught him, tortured him, ruined any chance he may have had at a normal life and finally abandoned him. I had really screwed up this time.
"I'm sorry," I said to him. "I'm glad you got past that."
"Are my ears tricking me?," Tsunami joked. "Did Ninetales really apologize?"
I laughed, and so did Pidgeot.
"Let's go and see what that Domain of the Sleeping Dragon is like," Pidgeot suggested. I approved without a second thought.

<Pidgeot's POV>

Water Angel returned to her pokeball until we crossed the door which led to the Domain of the Sleeping Dragon. Once there, we were literally hit by a heat wave. Gabi would have fallen on the floor if Lagi hadn't caught her. We all gathered around her, worried. Amber opened a bottle of water and helped Gabi drink.
"Maybe we should go," I suggested.
"No, I'll be fine," Gabi said. "I need to learn to adapt too. You have your battles."
I could see she was making a big effort to speak. And who could blame here? That place was even hotter than the Lava Room.
"You're not going to faint, are you?," Ventura asked her.
Gabi shook her head, but for the gesture she made we could see that simple move had made her feel dizzy.
"We're getting you out of here," Lagi said. "There's no sense in getting yourself hurt. We need you healthy, and you need yourself more than we do."
Gabi laughed at her comment and allowed Lagi to pull her out of the hellish domain, instructing us to go ahead and have our battles if we could stand the heat. Ninetales was a fire pokemon, so he was almost comfortable. For me, the heat was quite annoying, but nothing I couldn't put up with. Sylvan had to get out right after Gabi, and Amber left to check on her friends. The rest of us stayed.
I stretched my wings a little and began to fly around. Ninetales raced along the walkway and, before I could turn to look at him, he was already on the other side, challenging a Rapidash.
"Go with him," Water Angel's voice told me. "I can't get there, but I'll watch you from here."
I nodded. "Thanks for your support," I said, as I headed to the opposite side of the room. Once I got there, a tall and heavy door opened and an imposing Charizard came in. "Nice," I thought. "We can have an aerial battle."
The Charizard looked at me, and then at Ninetales and the Rapidash.
"Where are your trainers?," he asked in a deep voice.
"Our trainer had technical difficulties," Ninetales replied. "We're on our own this time."
"Great. I haven't had a pure pokemon battle for ages," the Charizard told us. "It feels better when there isn't a trainer shouting commands all the time."
"Our trainer's not like that," I told him. "She does help us sometimes, but we take our own decisions."
"Then I guess you'll be up to this challenge," the Rapidash reflected. It was a female, and one with great determination. "Battling on your own, I mean."
"We're up to the challenge, and itching for it," Ninetales answered. "Are you?"
The Rapidash's neigh sounded like laughter.
"I think I'll like this battle," she said.
"Great, it's been a long time since I last found another pokemon with spirit for sports," Ninetales commented.
"I think you'll find many here," Charizard told him.
"Now I'm really glad we came to Yvresse!," Ninetales exclaimed.
"So, who goes first?," Charizard asked.
"You go first, Pidgeot. I have some research to do," Ninetales told me.
"Research? If I didn't know you, I'd think you're crazy. But since I do, I know you are," I laughed. "Ok, I'll improvise. That's what I do best."
"I'll be your challenger," the Charizard told me. "Not many flying pokemon come here. I've been waiting for someone who can battle in the air. You up for it?"
"Sure," I accepted. "That's my element."
"Then let's go."
"Good luck," the Rapidash said to her friend as he took off.
We both ascended until we had room to move freely in all directions. That's when I realized the Charizard had an advantage over me: up there, the air was even hotter than it was on ground level. But I'd find a way around that; I'd just have to keep my mind clear and an idea would come.

Level 49 Pidgeot vs. Level 52 Charizard

The Charizard didn't give me any time to think. As soon as we reached the height he wanted, the threw a Fire Spin at me. I was trapped in the flames. I tried to get rid of them with my Agility, but they caught up. Still, I managed to get close enough to the Charizard to hit him with a Wing Attack, with such good luck that the speed and the flames added to the strength of the attack and produced what's called a Critical Hit. But then the Charizard slashed me with his claws and I had to pull back. To make things worse, the flames were still burning me, boosted by the terrible heat of the room.
I had no chance but to attack from the distance, so I used a Swift attack. From outside it might look like we were evenly matched. The truth was that I was using all my power while the Charizard seemed to be just measuring me. I'd have to create a whole new strategy fast. The Charizard shook his wings strongly and ascended even more. It was easy to see what he was doing; I'd been doing it for most of my free life. What the Charizard had said about not having battled many Flying pokemon was evident now. That gave me the perfect opportunity. I let him soar and, when he reached peak height and prepared to plunge into me, I took off myself.
I felt some kind of satisfaction when the Charizard had to stop his descent not to hit the rocks or fall into the lava, then looked up to find me already plunging into his body. He didn't manage to move aside in time, so I hit him full force. Still, he adjusted easily to the new situation, once more taking advantage of my being close to him to use his Slash. But I was already in my battling groove and took advantage of his attack too, by mirroring his move. My mind was working at an incredible speed. I already had plans for the rest of the battle: if he used Slash again I'd use another Mirror Move, but he was unlikely to do that, so if he used fire I'd blow it away with a Whirlwind and the Charizard along with his fire, then use my chance to prepare a Fly attack and...
I had no chance to do any of that! The Charizard began to fall right after my Slash hit him. How was that possible? Had I become stronger than I thought? That sure would be Water Angel's explanation. Maybe he was faking it, but no, he was falling on his back and the flames around me where fading away. He was going to fall into the lava! I descended fast and managed to catch him before he touched the melted rocks, and take him to the walkway safely.

I grew to level 50!

I had won, and couldn't believe how fast my victory had come yet. Or maybe it had taken longer than I thought: perhaps I was so used to having seemingly eternal battles against evil pokemon that friendly matches seemed short to me. Because there was no fear; because whoever lost wouldn't lose anything but a pokemon battle. Come to think of it, I felt great! One thing was clear: the Charizard I'd just battled was nothing like Amber, and neither was I. But I could understand my friend: she had gained power so fast she'd hardly had time to get used to it and learn to control it, so it was natural for her to be careful not to hurt others. For me, it was the other way around: all the power I had was the result of years of great effort, and I rejoiced at any chance to become stronger. Not like I'd ever learn Fire Blast or anything like that. Which reminded me... Gabi would now have to teach me a new move. What would it be?

"Well done!," the Rapidash told me. "I can see my friend underestimated you. I'll be sure not to make the same mistake with your friend."
"Please. The battle would be boring otherwise," Ninetales said.
"You don't get overconfident either," she warned him.
"Of course I won't!," he defended himself. "Should we start now?"
"Just a minute. I think he's waking up," Rapidash answered. She was right, the Charizard was opening his eyes.
"Are you alright?," she asked him, walking to his side.
"Yeah. That bird hits hard!," he answered.
"You two seem to be good friends," I commented.
"We go way back," the Rapidash told me.
"Same as the two of us," Ninetales said. "We were the first ones in our team."
"That's nice. You must have been through a lot together," Rapidash deduced.
"We've seen the face of evil more times than we could count or even want to," Ninetales replied.
"Oh, so you must be some kind of heroes," she said.
Ninetales's reaction was completely unexpected, proving I didn't know him as well as I thought. Instead of answering, laughing or even bragging about his victories, he just froze and open his eyes like plates. He stayed like that for a second or two, then he shook his head.
"Did I say anything wrong?," the Rapidash asked.
"No, it's just... I don't know what's going on with me. Let's battle, shall we?"

Ninetales and Rapidash assumed combat positions, while Charizard sat up to watch. I hadn't noticed it before, but Ninetales had been acting a bit strangely for the last few weeks. He'd stopped being the total show-off he used to be and become more silent and introspective. Was anything wrong with him?

Level 63 Ninetales vs. Level 60 Rapidash

Both pokemon started off with a Headbutt, but Ninetales's impacted first. Rapidash seemed to have hit harder, but she was startled when Ninetales head hit her chest right before hers hit his back.
"What?! You're faster than me?!," she exclaimed.
"If that was your top speed, then yes," he answered.
"But I'm a Rapidash!"
"And I'm a Ninetales," he laughed.
"Don't laugh at me or I'll make you pay."
"I'm not laughing at you, you just made a funny comment. Yes, I'm fast, but my kind is fast. I'm not that much above the average."
"You learn something everyday. I'll remember that next time I battle a Ninetales. Or does that only hold for 7-tailed Ninetales?"
"Everyone notices," he sighed. "No, all Ninetales are fast. I'm not a subspecies, the Fire Stone was flawed but, as you can see, I'm not."
"That depends. Does lack of modesty count as a flaw?," Rapidash retorted.
"That was a good one," he admitted.
"Let's go on," she suggested.
"Ok," he agreed.
Ninetales charged for another Headbutt, but the Rapidash blocked him with Protect.
"Hey, I thought you wanted a good battle!," Ninetales complained.
"Yes, but I'd like to see something different. Besides, that was a warning in case you tried to use Dig. Many have used that against me. It's boring and it will be useless, so save it. What else do you have?"
"Well, since you've asked..."
Ninetales took a second to concentrate. Then the whole room went dark as he let out a Confuse Ray. When the lights went on, the Rapidash was running in circles. It looked like a bad case of confusion, but as her speed increased it looked like many Rapidash were running restlessly and so what she was doing became obvious.
Ninetales seemed to decide two could play the same game and soon I could see a lot of Rapidash and Ninetales running all over the place. The fire horses pursued the Ninetales with their horns, but all the Ninetales jumped up at the same time and the real horn got stuck on the ground. The Rapidash hurt herself trying to take it out, but she was finally free from both the rocks and her confusion, as I could see by the look in her eyes.
All the images remained intact, but they were no longer moving. Not until the Ninetales images assumed concentration position and the place went dark again.
"Not another Confuse Ray!," the Rapidash shouted.
"Right, not another Confuse Ray," Ninetales replied. The room became lit again right in time to show Rapidash get hit by eight small spheres of ghostly energy.
"Oh. Hidden Power," Rapidash realized. "I have one of those too..."
Ninetales prepared himself for whatever was coming, but Rapidash hit him with a Headbutt, which seemed to catch him by surprise as much as it did me.
"...But it's Grass-type, so I'm not using it against you," she finished.
"Very funny," Ninetales said in a serious tone. He tried to look as sarcastic as possible, but in the end laughter escaped him, proving he had actually found it funny after all.
The holograms were still there, but their creators were paying no attention to them. The whole thing looked more like a skills contest than a battle.
"Ok, check this," Ninetales said, turning around and hitting 7 different parts of the Rapidash's body with his tails.
"Tail Whip! That was pathetic!," Rapidash complained. "Now you're going to use Headbutt again, right? Let me save you the effort."
Saying this, she looked up and the flames of her mane went higher. The whole room became even hotter than it was.
"Done. Now you can use your Fire moves," she told Ninetales.
"So can you," he replied. "And you'd rather I used Fire moves instead of a Headbutt now that your defense is down."
"Do whatever you like, but do it now! Too much talk makes battles boring."
"I think you have a boredom problem," Ninetales opined.
Ninetales used another Headbutt. Rapidash, instead, opted for a Fire Blast. Then Ninetales... well, he proved he was still the same old Ninetales by finishing the battle with a Quick Attack.

Ninetales grew to level 64!

"It was fun," Ninetales commented. "It was a good battle. But she was too demanding! Did she expect me to use a different move each time or what?"
"You were acting just like her," I informed him.
"Did I? I didn't notice. Maybe I do need to pay more attention after all."
"Who said you needed to pay more attention?," I asked him.
"The same pokemon who called me 'hero'... and who was not Iael... nor Kid... nor this Rapidash... Now that I think of it, many have called me like that! Do you think I should make it my name?"
"I don't know. That's up to you."
"It definitely beats Speedy," he commented.
"Your previous name was Speedy?," I asked.
"Oops! I thought you knew already. Don't tell anyone, please. It sounds silly. Let's go with Hero, ok?"
"Alright!," I laughed.
Ninetales -or Hero- asked the Charizard to tell his friend it had been fun. We went back to the entrance, where Water Angel and the others congratulated us, and then we got out and checked on Gabi. She was fine, but she felt ashamed for having missed our battles. We told her all the details (Ninetales was very careful not to miss any) and she congratulated us too. Then Ninetales commented he hadn't had such a good battle since the last Griffon Games Training Grounds, and Tsunami reacted as if something had hit him.
"What's wrong, kid?," Ninetales asked him.
"Griffon Games Training Grounds...," he whispered. "Of course! Training Grounds mean... Holy Miltank!"
We all laughed at his last phrase.
"Yes, Tsunami?," Gabi asked. The Vaporeon had burst into laughter.
"Now I know..." he said, his laughter higher than ever. "I know what the big surprise is! Thanks, Gabi! It's the best gift I could have asked for!"
"You're welcome, Tsunami. You've earned it," Gabi told him.
"And you..." she said, turning to me. "You have earned THIS."
She handed me an object with a familiar shape: a TM.
"I took the liberty to choose it for you. I new you wanted to find out, and what you said earlier today showed me that this is the right time."
Intrigued, I activated the machine. I hadn't understood a word of what Gabi had just said, but I trusted her. I felt the new power surge through me, but I didn't know what it was, yet.
"Come on, try it," she encouraged me. "There's no one around. I'm intrigued too."
It had been Gabi who had chosen the TM. If she was intrigued, then it had to be... Hidden Power! I decided not to think twice before checking for myself. Otherwise doubts would propably stop me. I had decided to accept whatever came. I was no longer afraid of any part of me. If it was Dark, so be it. I closed my eyes trying to get in touch with the new power I'd felt inside me. When I found it, I let it out. Then I opened my eyes, right in time to see the wall in front of me be struck by lightening. My Hidden Power was... Electric!!
I couldn't believe it. I had thought it would be Dark, or maybe Dragon. Either of the two would explain a few things. I would have never expected electricity.
"That matches the speed of your thoughts," Water Angel commented. How could she always have the best phrase to comfort me?
"Are you happy with this, Pidgeot?," Gabi asked me.
"Yes, I am. Damned happy I am!"
Everybody laughed. So did I. For the first time in my whole life, it felt like absolutely everything was going my way.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 12:53 PM   #42
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<Tsunami's POV>

I could hardly believe it! It was a dream come true! I was going to be in a tournament! I had come to think I wasn't in Gabi's mind as much as the others, but now I could see I'd been wrong. I'd thought she would choose Ventura for the nex tournament, or maybe Iael, since they were both natural fighters. Maybe even Caledor, since he has all those amazing powers. But no, she chose me. ME! And I couldn't be happier about it... nor more grateful. Now I'd have to get ready for the big day. Train hard, fulfill my trainer's expectations, exceed them if possible... what a huge challenge lay in front of me! When Ninetales won the first Griffon Games, there wasn't much competition. But now things were different: there were lots of experienced trainers and tough pokemon around. I would have to work really hard if I wanted to make it to the finals, which of course I wanted.
It was strange: ever since the first Griffon Games I'd wanted to be in a tournament just to prove I was at least as good as Ninetales, but now that I was in and I could look back and see how much the world had changed since then, Ninetales didn't play a big part in my current goals. I was going to do this for myself alone. For the sake and honor of Tsunami, the Vaporeon. Of course, my friends would be cheering for me, and would be happy of any achievements I made, but even if no one cared, or even if I lost in the first round (which I'd do my best not to), I'd still be happy for reaching this point. I was feeling a sweet taste of glory. And I'd be up to it: I'd give my best, and make sure to improve myself in the process. To start, I asked Gabi if I could train next.
"Sure," she said. "There's still time to do one more domain today, and I'm really looking forward to a domain where I can stay. All that heat and smoke... it couldn't have been done on purpose, could it? No, no way."
"On purpose? What do you mean?," I asked her.
"No, it's nothing. I didn't really mean it. It's just I can't understand how they could make a training room like that one. And I'm still mad at the fact I couldn't resist it."
"Well, no one can resist absolutely everything," I told her. "You've shown you can resist physical, mental and emotional stress, and cold hardly affects you at all. And you've even taken a psychic attack from a Dark Cloak and came back intact!"
"I didn't exactly take the attack," she explained. "I dodged it in a way I can't get to understand yet."
"Anyway, you're strong and resistant, so don't get at yourself. I wouldn't have resisted the old Desert Room, and Sylvan had to leave right after you this time. Amber wouldn't last a minute in the water, too much cold would bring Lagi down, and Ninetales... I'm sure he wouldn't endure a nuclear bomb."
Ninetales's laughter was deafening.
"There are many things below that which I couldn't take, Kid! But it's nice to see the image you have of me."
"Can't you recognize a joke when you hear one?," I replied. His loud laughter began to slowly fade away until it was just a soft chuckle. That, however, went on for a long time.
"How about going to the Domain of the Lucid Lake?," Gabi suggested, changing the subject. "I'd like to see how the master of waves handles this challenge."
"It's been long since you last called me that way!," I commented.
"Well, I thought you'd like it more than the name our friend Ninetales calls you," she replied.
"Indeed," I assured. Ninetales was still chuckling lowly.
"Speaking of names..." Pidgeot said, "Ninetales has a new one."
I looked at him with curiosity, wondering what he was going to say. Ninetales couldn't have given himself a name after all this time, could he? It seemed I wasn't the only one who was curious, for it as Gabi who asked what that name was.
"Hero," Pidgeot answered. Now it was I who laughed.
"Let me guess. He chose that name himself, right?," I asked him.
"Well, yes, but he said many had called him like that before," Pidgeot responded.
"Could anyone be more arrogant?," I laughed.
"As if Tsunami wasn't an overstatement," Ninetales retorted.
"So..." Gabi turned to Ninetales, "should we call you Hero from now on?"
She looked serious, so I stopped laughing.
"I don't know," Ninetales answered. "I wasn't that serious when I got the idea. I've got used to being called just Ninetales over the years. But I must admit it feels good when I hear that name, and it sure is more personal."
"Ok, then. You don't need more than that," Gabi told him. "If you want to be called Hero, then that will be your name."
Ninetales smiled. He looked weird. Weirder than normal, I mean. Then Gabi asked Pidgeot if he wanted a name for himself, but the bird rejected the offer. I had a name for him, but I knew I'd better keep my mouth shut*.
We walked along the stairs which led to the Domain of the Lucid Lake, until we found ourselves surrounded by glass walls. The view was impressive! Behind the glass walls, we could see all kinds of fish, corals and algae of more colors than I'd ever imagined. Some of them were even glowing! It was the wildest underwater beauty I'd dreamed about since I was a baby Eevee. The emotion of the Dragon Games may have added to it, but I felt as if I'd been waiting my whole life to see this.
I looked at my teammates. Water Angel, who was now out of her pokeball, seemed to be about as bewildered by the surrounding beauty as I was. Sylvan, and even Amber, looked impressed too. As for Lagi, her smile filled the whole place, but it felt like she was happier for me than for herself. Like she was delighting in my joy. I let her go on: it was great to be able to share this feeling.
We stood watching for a while, and then we moved on. The stairs ended in another glass wall, with a small hole in the center.
"It seems you two will be on your own too," Gabi deduced. Water Angel looked at me.
"I think we can handle," I said. There was another thing that intrigued me, though. "Where's the water?," I asked. "Isn't this supposed to be the water domain?"
"I guess the water will come once you're in," Gabi replied. "The info sheet said this domain was for Water pokemon only, so I think we should prepare ourselves for some surprises."
"Like what?," Water Angel asked.
"I can only speculate," Gabi answered.
"I'm intrigued," Water Angel commented. "But a surprise sounds good to me."
"Yes, I guess intrigued is good," I said. And that's when the conversation took a sudden and unexpected twist.
"Gabi, your face just had the same expression as Ninetales's when the Rapidash he battled called him Hero!," Pidgeot exclaimed. I turned round to look at her, but I guess her face had already changed.
"Really?," she asked. "But I was... Really? That's curious; that's really curious."
"How many times can you say 'really' in one sentence?," Amber laughed.
"Many if I tried," Gabi replied, laughing too. "But this is very curious. Well, it may not mean the same. Ninetales -I mean Hero- and I aren't very much alike, are we? But even he could..."
"Finish a phrase once and for all!," Hero shouted. "If you're making conclusions about me, I want to know what they are."
"It's nothing," Gabi said. "I'm not supposed to be making conclusions at all, so let's just forget it ever happened, ok?"
We accepted to drop the subject, but the whole thing left me really intrigued, and I could tell I was not the only one.¤

"Are you ready to battle?," Gabi asked us.
Both the love queen and I nodded. She called us into our pokeballs and let us out on the other side of the thick glass wall. As soon as she took her arm out, the hole was sealed as if by magic, and water started coming from all directions and no fixed spots. I wondered how they did that. It was soon clear that the whole battle would take place underwater. I felt a bit nervous, since I'd never done that before, but I had been preparing myself for a surprise. I took a deep breath. I remembered I'd spent a long time underwater once at the Eevee House, so I could do it again. As long as I stayed calm and moved smoothly (maybe fast, but still smoothly) I wouldn't miss the air. The question was: "would I be able to stay calm during a battle?" I figured I'd have to wait and see. And do my best, of course. Water Angel seemed relaxed. Why wouldn't she?, she was born underwater!
I realized none of us was carrying the Beach Ball. Score 1 against us, but at least I had my Mystic Water with me; precious item which I had once lost while battling at Water Angel's side back at the Tower of Hoeth, battle in which I'd also made a mistake which had endangered her, myself and in a way the whole world. Why was everything conspiring to make me feel more nervous?
"Calm down, you'll both do well," Lagi's voice came through the glass. And through tons of water. I wondered how I could hear her, until I saw Caledor was glowing purple and put two and two together. I smiled, silently thanking my friends for their support. I looked at Water Angel and she nodded. We had an agreement. We were going to do it right this time.
Once the only remnants of air in the whole chamber were in my lungs, a door opened on the top of the chamber and two heavy Blastoises jumped in, followed by a group of Horseas. Water Angel smiled. I think she was looking at the Horseas rather than the Blastoises. At that moment, I wished I had Ventura's power to send her a pulse reminding her to concentrate on the battle, but I think the look I gave her did the job. Or maybe it was the Blastioses swimming toward us and assuming combat positions. In any case, Water Angel reacted and fixed her eyes on them. And so did I.

Tsunami (level 49 Vaporeon) and Water Angel (level 49 Kingdra) vs. 2 level 52 Blastoises

<Lagi's POV>

My two friends were more than a bit Nervous, especially Tsunami, but I could understand that. The two Blastoises launched themselves at them. Their heads struck my friends' chests. Tsunami came up with an idea, though I couldn't tell what it was until a few seconds later, after Water Angel had poured her Toxic on one of the Blastoises. I was surprised she'd decided not to use her combo; both Water Angel and Tsunami were determined to make things different this time. So, as my eyes followed Water Angel and the Blastiose, they lost track of Tsunami. So did the Blastoises'. When they looked for him, Tsunami was nowhere to be found. Once more, I was surprised. I couldn't see him either, but I could feel his joy and the pride of a job well done. I remembered he had done something like that once at the Eevee House. He felt safe, and so at ease in the water as I felt in the air.
Water Angel took advantage of the distraction Tsunami had caused and tried to poison the second Blastoise, but he moved right in time to avoid her attack and she was punished with two Ice Punches. That's when Tsunami reappeared and bit the arm of the Blastoise who wasn't poisoned. The Blastoise tried to shake him away, but Tsunami held tight to his arm. The other Blastoise helped his partner by picking up Tsunami and hurling him against the glass wall. The wall was thick enough to endure the hit without cracking, and Tsunami didn't receive much damage either. I realized he'd been using his Acid Armor while hidden in the water. My Dragon friend used her Hidden Power on the Blastoise who had just been released from Tsunami's grip. Her energy flowed like a Dragon swimming freely in the sea, and hit the Blastoise with all its power. He hadn't been expecting that; in fact, he was still a bit dazed from Tsunami's attack.
Hidden Power had worked better than Water Angel had anticipated, but still there was discomfort in her. Knowing her, I could tell the reason: Hidden Power was her only good attack against a Water pokemon. The surprise factor, which had helped her and Tsunami so far, was no longer on her side. Tsunami, on the other hand, still had a few more resources, but not many. He used his Shadow Ball against the Blastoise who had attacked him, but his opponent didn't take more damage than he had. Then 3 pokemon attacked at the same time: one of the Blastoises let out a powerful blast of water from his cannons and hit Tsunami straight on. The other punched Water Angel with an icy fist at the same time as he was struck by another Hidden Power attack. The temporal collision of the attacks caused a flash of lights in all shades of blue and turquoise.
The display was spectacular, but the result was alarming. When the lights died out and the water was calm again, Water Angel was floating inside a block of ice, near the top of the chamber. I couldn't get any readings from her through the ice, but Tsunami was shocked. Shocked, worried, furious, and scared too. And, to make things worse, he was beginning to feel the need to breathe. I needed to help him, but it was hard to think of a way. I asked Caledor to help me speak to him, and told him what I new for facts: that Water Angel would be alright, that there was enough security in the aircraft to make sure no one got seriously injured and that, aside form the shock, the Blastoises were more weary than he was and were longing for air too. Tsunami looked at me and nodded in acknowledgement. Then he looked a little to my left and nodded again, right after receiving what felt like a psychic pulse.
"What did you tell him?," I asked Ventura.
"I just sent him a flash of past tournaments," my friend responded. "I thought I should remind him of what this is all about."
I smiled. Ventura was the one member of the team who was always unpredictable, but she did have good ideas. Tsunami was much more focused now, and so were the others, who had also begun to panic when they saw what happened to Water Angel.
My Vaporeon friend hurled a Shadow Ball at the Blastoise who had frozen Water Angel. This time the result was different: the Blastoise, who had been the target of most attacks during the battle, fell back upon contact with the ghostly energy. He withdrew his head and limbs into his shell, which landed on its back and described two circles, to finally stop moving. Now there was one Blastoise left, and he was poisoned.
The Blastoise used another Hydro Pump, which proved quite painful for himself. The poison was taking its toll. Tsunami then did what he knew best, commanding all the water around him to smash the Blastoise with its unchained force. The Horseas, who were now circling around Water Angel, looked down with curiosity and excitement. It had become a water duel. In spite of Tsunami's mastery of Surf and the help of his Mystic Water, the Blastoises attacks were stronger, but Tsunami was relying on his own endurance to win this battle. Finally, the Blastiose made one last, desperate attempt, and released the strongest Hyper Beam he could muster. Tsunami was once more thrown against the wall, and forced to release some of the little air he was still carrying. But he resisted. His Vaporeon endurance saved him once more. The Blastiose gave his opponent one last, defeated look, and gave way, collapsing on the bottom of the flooded chamber and letting the pain slip away.

Tsunami and Water Angel grew to level 50!

Water slowly began to leave the chamber. Tsunami rushed to the top and took in some precious air. The Horseas left through a hole on a wall, leaving in the two defeated Blastoises and the barely victorious pair. The ice around Water Angel begun to crack as it touched the ground, but she was still imprisoned. Gabi was unable to call her back, even when the arm-hole reopened. Panic returned to one of my teammates. I didn't have to turn around to know who it was.
"Everything will be alright," I said, without looking at anyone in particular. "Today is a good day; fears aren't justified this time."
"Can you feel her?," Pidgeot asked me. "Is she alright?"
I wanted to lie, but I couldn't. For some reason I had never been able to tell a single lie. I couldn't feel her, but that didn't have to mean anything. I'd never felt a frozen pokemon before. But how could I tell Pidgeot without increasing his worries? My silence was already boosting his fears. At moments like that I wished I could give back my natural gift.
"Tsunami will help her," I told him.
That, at least, was true. Tsunami was truly concerned for his friend. He'd always known that he cared for her and Pidgeot because they were his teammates, but it seemed that was the first time he actually felt what caring for Water Angel meant. He was worried about her; he couldn't leave her like that. I couldn't tell what his thoughts were, but he was definitely looking for a way to help her without hurting her. The next moment he was shooting his Water Gun against the ice. It didn't seem to work at the beginning, but then the frozen prison started to give in. The Blastoises got up, partially recovered, and used their own Water Guns to help. Soon, Water Angel was free. And, as her chins rose in a smile, everyone could see she was fine. She thanked Tsunami and the Blastoises for helping her.
"Sorry we caused so much trouble," one of the Blastoises said.
"No problem, you did what you were supposed to do, and so did we," Water Angel answered.
Both Blastoises nodded and left by opening a secret door on a side of the chamber.
"This place is full of surprises," commented Ninetales, to whom calm had already returned.
Gabi called back Water Angel and Tsunami, and released them on our side of the glass wall, where everyone congratulated them.
"And this was only training!," exclaimed Water Angel, whose muscles were beginning to re-adapt to motion. "Do you think we're cursed or something?," she asked Tsunami. "Maybe we're not supposed to battle together, though I'd hate to think that."
"No way!," Tsunami replied. "In fact, I think I've learnt a lot this time. And I'm sure that next time we battle side by side things will be much better."
With that, we left the Domain of the Lucid Lake, stopped by the Pokemon Center where we spent about two hours (Hero and Pidgeot didn't need much attention, and Tsunami and Water Angel recovered fast with a couple of special potions). Then we went back to the hotel, where Tsunami and Water Angel got a new TM each. During dinner, Gabi and the ones who were listening made plans for the following day. I saw Hero, Tsunami and Caledor talking in whispers. They were plotting something, but I couldn't make out what it was. I didn't know if I should worry; it was impossible to know what to expect from those three. But I decided to deal with it as it came. For now, it was good to know that Tsunami was having fun again.

* "Lovebird". What were you thinking? :p
¤ Ryan may understand my reaction and Ade may understand Hero's. I'll try to develop this later. Like... when we get back to Caledor.

Tsunami's new TM is Body Slam and Water Angel's is Headbutt.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 12:54 PM   #43
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<Gabi's POV>

After dinner, we went straight to our room. The bigger ones couldn't find a good place to sleep and decided to spend the night in their pokeballs. Ventura sat on the desk, Iael made himself comfortable next to my bed and the terrible trio (Hero, Tsunami and Caledor) decided to make use of the numerous cushions in the sitting room. When I got in my bed, my mind was still jumping back and forth, from the events of the day that was finishing to my plans for the next day. It's a simple equation: thoughts of the previous day + thoughts of the following day = insomnia. It had been that way for me all my life, even when I was little. But this time I forgave myself. So what if I took two hours or more to fall asleep? No one's life was at stake this time. At least that thought was certainly relaxing.
I can't tell when I finally dozed off, but I know it didn't last long. Actually, it felt like I'd just made it, when some noises coming from the sitting room woke me up. I could never understand why my sense of hearing becomes even more acute when I'm sleepy. I opened my eyes and tried to make out what was going on. For a moment, it sounded as if something was burning. Then I heard a blast of water, and loud pokemon talk. First Tsunami, then Hero, and soon both of them and Caledor at the same time. I got up, picked up the glowing stone right after I heard Tsunami shout out some kind of warning which overlapped with another blast of water, and opened the bedroom door, to see the biggest mess I'd ever witnessed inside a hotel room.
My pokemon, unaware of my presence, were throwing cushions at each other. Hero had just thrown one at Caledor, who used his Reflect attack to stop it. Then Caledor noticed me and looked at me sheepishly, as an Aurora Beam pushed another cushion to the back of his head. I looked at Tsunami and then at Hero, and both of them in turn looked at me with the same expression Caledor had shown. I wanted to look serious, menacing. But laughter betrayed me and erupted from my mouth. I tried to think of something to say fast before those 3 took me lightly.
"What am I going to do with you guys?," I asked them.
"Sorry," Caledor said. "It started as an innocent pillow fight, but we got carried away."
"I see," I confirmed, my eyes pointing consecutively to the burnt cushion, the stain of smoke on the wall, the wet floor and a pile of soaked and torn cushions.
"I think I bit some of them a little too hard, sorry," Tsunami apologized.
"Yes, we all messed up," Hero remarked.
"Yes, you did! Will you tell me why you were having a pillow fight to begin with?"
"Err... to have fun?," Tsunami tried.
"It was my idea," Hero told me. "I thought we could relax a little and have fun, and they liked it. I think that it would have been good if we hadn't used our attacks, but we got tired of just tossing them and each of us wanted to innovate, so..."
"We didn't think we'd cause any damage," Caledor assured. "I guess we weren't thinking at all. What happened to this place?! Did we really cause all of this?"
I nodded firmly.
"Maybe it's not as bad as it seems," Tsunami considered. "We can clean the wall, and the water will dry out and my Aurora Beam left no traces. There's only one burnt pillow and 3 torn ones, I don't think we can fix those, but the rest should be fine."
"In that case you can clean up and then I'll only have to pay for 4 pillows," I concluded, still astonished by the whole situation.
"Even heroes have bad moments," my Ninetales said, guessing my thoughts. "We'll never do this again, I promised."
"It's just... we were happy to be alive and everything, you know," Tsunami added.
I laughed.
"Alright, just go for a more mature celebration next time," I told them. "Or at least a harmless one."
"What do you mean when you say mature?," Tsunami asked.
"The opposite of immature, Tsunami. It's not that hard to understand," I told him, only then noticing the double meaning of the word. "It may have sounded funny, but you all know what I mean."
"Yes, Ma'am. We'll do it maturely next time," Hero laughed. At that moment we had all burst into laughter, but I knew they'd taken my point.
I went back to bed and did my best effort to sleep. I eventually made it, though my dreams were anything but interesting: they were about the Training Grounds, me trying to conquer the Domain of the Sleeping Dragon, Tsunami and the Dragon Games, the Domain of the Virgin Woods (which looked amazingly beautiful, and bigger than any training room I'd seen before), some images of Sylvan, and the work I'd have to do once I got back to Caledor. When I say they weren't interesting, I mean it was the same as staying awake. What good is sleeping if you can't at least get a new good experience from your dreams?
The first rays of the sun woke me up, as usual. I always left the curtains wide open for that purpose. Waking up was easy. Sitting up was often another story, especially when my body, mind or spirit were still tired. This time, however, only my body was a bit tired, and only because my sleep had been rather little and interrupted, so I managed to get up quite soon. I didn't need Lagi to come in my aid. My pokemon and I went down for breakfast. Breakfasts were probably the thing I liked the most about hotels. I liked to try a bit of everything (well, almost everything; no matter how long I'd been away from my native land nothing would make me have bacon and eggs or any other salty and fatty food in my breakfast).
I had some fruits, milk, juice, yogurt, cereals, cheese, cheese bread and a French toast with honey. I was going for a pancake when I realized my stomach wouldn't take anything else for now, so I decided to leave the pancakes for the following morning. My pokemon friends didn't eat so avidly, but they all had a plentiful meal. Even Hero, who hadn't eaten much the previous day. Then I went to talk to the man in charge, told him about the cushions and offered to pay for them. The man told me that all costs were on the Dragon Tamers, and I told him, with a smile, "alright; in that case, I'll end up paying for them anyway." The man looked puzzled. Then I told him who I was, and he was a bit embarrassed, but so was I, since co-leaders of the Dragon Tamers were not supposed to have that kind of accidents with their pokemon, though in the end the whole situation was rather funny.
Finally, we headed back to the Training Grounds. This time, we were going to the Domain of the Virgin Woods, where Sylvan and Iael would train and hopefully nothing bad would happen to anyone. The current Training Grounds had proven to be much tougher than the previous ones so far. Once we opened the door to the domain we were looking for, we met a glass tunnel. On the outside we could see a vast and beautiful forest. Once more, the sight was impressive. The forest around us dwarfed the old Jungle Room; the only matching images I found in my memory were those of my dreams the night before, and some real forests and jungles I'd been to in the past. For a moment, I wondered if we had been transported to one of them. I looked at Sylvan, and noticed she was as impressed as I was. The atmosphere was only broken by Iael's voice.
"Are we going to battle here today?," he asked. "Because if we are maybe we should start walking and get in."
"Oh, sorry, Iael, we're getting there now," I apologized, laughing at myself.
"Can't blame them," Tsunami said. "Gabi and Sylvan act as if they were under a spell whenever they see a forest."
"Your sarcasm would annoy me if I didn't know you're right," I replied to his comment. "By the way, I'm beginning to notice you seem to know each of us very well."
"How long have we been together?," he responded. "My mind would have to be on another planet for me not to know you by now, and I can't even go to Bei, you know."
I laughed as I began to walk. Tsunami was quick for connecting thoughts, that much was clear.
"I'm not sure you'd want to go to Bei," Caledor commented. "It's really confusing. We don't even know what that place is, if it's a place at all."
"True, but does what it is really matter?," Lagi wondered. "There are many questions to which we may never find answers, but at least it seems to be clear that we have nothing to fear from Bei."
"It seems so," I agreed with her. "There's no pain or danger in Bei but the ones I bring along. I still have so many questions, but you have many of your own and have learnt to live with them. Maybe my case will be the same."
We kept on walking until we found the end of the tunnel, which had as much light as the rest of it. The scent that filled my lungs was so lovely that I nearly went on another 'trance'. We began to walk through the majestic domain.
"Who's going to battle first?," Iael asked.
"I've read you have to look for your opponent here, so the one who finds it first will be the first one to battle," I told him.
"Works for me," he accepted. "All my senses are tuned. Opponent, here I go!"
Iael started looking around. I could see his ears and nose move from time to time. Sylvan let him be. She wasn't in a rush to battle anyway. Knowing her, I was sure she preferred to enjoy the environment a little longer. I liked the way things were going. Iael was eager to battle, but he was calmer than usual. Rage had not overtaken him this time; moreover, he seemed to be actually enjoying himself! He walked along the road and up to the only large stone in the whole place, right on the limit of the domain. He examined the stone carefully, and then focused on the surrounding bushes. Then he seemed to concentrate more, as if he'd found something interesting. He started smelling fater, until his nose hit something and he jumped back.
"What is it?," Sylvan asked him.
"Either a huge mushroom..." Iael replied, "or, more likely, my opponent. Come out, I've spotted you!"

<Iael's POV>

The bushes started shaking and my opponent came out. It was a Parasect. I'd never battled a Parasect before. Actually, it was the first time I'd seen one in person. I'd heard they were quite shy. Well, we had something in common. But this Parasect and I were going to battle, and there's no room for shyness in a battle. Ventura warned me to watch out for the spores. I nodded in acknowledgement. I quickly reviewed what I knew of Parasects: they were slow, they had several types of powders which they could use in battle and using Ground or Grass moves against them was a bad idea. That ruled out Earthquake, but there were still many attacks I could use. I just had to be prepared, always one step ahead. That was something I had done before. Many times, actually.

Level 33 Stantler vs. Level 28 Parasect

Once we were both ready to start, I charged into the Parasect with a Headbutt. The Parasect screeched when I hit it, leting me know I had hurt it more than I expected, but then something came out from under its fungus and the last thing I heard was "I warned you to watch out!" Then my body began to feel heavy, up to the point my strength was not enough to keep it standing, and I fell on the floor.
I had this dream... should I tell? Well, it was a dream after all, so I guess there's nothing wrong with remembering it. But it hurt. First, there was this group of Stantlers. I was with them, running and playing on the forest. I think I knew some of them, but it may be my mind playing tricks on me. I don't know if my parents were there or the dream only reminded me of them. But I was happy. Everything was fine. The weather suddenly got a little hotter and the sun shone brighter, but things were still fine. Until these pokemon came. They were really huge, and deformed, quite like the Dark Cloak pokemon, but bigger. There were Scythers among them. One of them raised its scythes and caught the sun with them (well, it was a dream). And the shape of the Scyther reminded me of Mewtwo. It hurled the sun to me, and I burnt, and everything and everyone around me burnt.
It was so horrible... I was so scared... more for the other Stantlers than for myself. A part of me seemed to be calm, though; resigned. It told me that at least I was burning with them; I would share their destiny and wouldn't live to miss them and feel I'd failed them. But I knew it was wrong. I knew it was totally wrong. A part of me was conscious and told me to keep fighting. "There's no merit in dying," it said, "and there's nothing wrong with living. Living takes courage, but you have it". I knew that was the voice I should follow, and I gathered my strength to fight, to stand up. I stood back on my legs and walked through the burning sun, then opened my eyes to face my enemy... only to see there was no such enemy. Only a Parasect standing in front of me, in the middle of a forest which was different from the one I'd dreamt about.
It took me a few seconds to adjust, but then things became clear. I was awake, and this was nothing but a training battle. The echoes of the dream were still vibrating inside me, but I couldn't blame the Parasect for that. It had no way to know how my mind would react to its spores. "It was just a dream," I repeated to myself, and I was glad that reality was simpler at that moment. The Parasect looked ready to attack again. I could use my Sand-Attack, but I couldn't tell what would come out of the mixture between spores and sand. Maybe we'd both fall asleep this time, and I didn't want to risk having another nightmare. Though maybe if the Parasect didn't attack me I'd have better dreams.
As tempting as seeing those Stantlers again sounded, I knew that they weren't real, and it was time to finish the battle. Hitting the Parasect with another Headbutt at that moment would be a bad move. I had to make sure the spores didn't come out. The only way to do that I could think of was playing the same game, so I used Hypnosis. I was lucky: the Parasect was not expecting me to do that, and it fell asleep before releasing any spores.
"Nice move!," Ventura commented. I smiled.
Now, if I had been sadistic I would have used my Psychic attack, but I wasn't and I didn't want to mess with the Parasect's dreams. I'd already had it bad enough myself. So I used my Headbutt attack twice. The second tine the Parasect was sent rolling by the impact, and fell under the bush again. I waited to see if it was coming out, but nothing happened. My guess was the battle was over and the Parasect hadn't even noticed.

I grew to level 34!

"It's your turn now," I told Sylvan. I watched her walk around as I tried to shake the last remnants of my dream from my mind. It wasn't working. The more I tried not to think about them, the more fixed the images were in my head, and I couldn't help but wonder why. I was only brought back to reality by the touch of a heavy arm on my back. I looked up and saw that it was Lagi.
"If there's something you'd like to talk about, I'll be there for you," she said to me. "Letting things out always helps."
"Thanks," I said. "I guess I'll talk later. I'd have to do it someday anyway; better do it before it eats me out. We'll talk at the hotel, ok?"
I noticed I wasn't thinking of my dream anymore. I had just taken a huge step. Now I'd have to let out everything, even my most painful feelings and memories. But later. I needed to get used to the idea, and getting distracted wouldn't hurt either.
"Ok," Lagi answered.
I was glad I had friends I could trust. I'd take my chance and tell everyone at the same time, so that I didn't have to go through the same situation twice. "But later," I repeated to myself. "Later."

Sylvan walked around the whole place. Her opponent was nowhere to be found.
"I'm too big and make too much noise," she sighed. "My opponent must be changing their hideout as soon as I get close."
"Then don't get close," Ventura suggested.
"You know, that sounded like the worst advice I've received, but it has given me an idea," Sylvan told her.
"Of course it gave you an idea! My advice is always good!," Ventura claimed. But for the way she looked at Sylvan, it was obvious she was intrigued about what that idea was. I think she was just kidding when she told Sylvan not to get close. Or maybe not. With Ventura, you can never know.
Sylvan stood still and her eyes moved slowly from one side to the other. At one moment, the silence became dense; and right then Sylvan's vines stretched out at an incredible speed and grabbed something that was hiding behind a tree. Sylvan pulled with her vines, and a Granbull came out.
"Like playing hide and Seek?," Sylvan asked the Granbull.
"Can't blame me for having some fun," the pokemon replied. It's voice sounded deep, but female.
"I wasn't blaming you," Sylvan told her. "But I was getting a bit tired. Was that part of the training?"
"If you learned something from it, then it was," the Granbull responded with implacable logic. "But you may like the battle part better."
"I'm not so sure," Sylvan noted. "I'm not one to run away from battles and I can use the training, but there are many things I like better than battling."
"It's good to know that," the Granbull stated. "I'll see what I can do about it."
"Please, don't take me lightly," Sylvan warned her. "I've come here for some real training. My Charizard friend once had a battle in which they seemed to be competing to see which one hurt the other less. That's not what I'm looking for."
The Granbull laughed, and so did Amber and I. I remembered Amber's last battle at the Lava Room very well.
"Don't worry, that won't happen," the Granbull assured. "By the way, you don't see a Venusaur being friends with a Charizard everyday."
"You do if you see us everyday," Amber told her.
"Amber has always been my best friend," Sylvan added, giving the Charizard a smile.
"Ok, then I'll be honored to battle a most uncommon Venusaur," the Granbull remarked. "Shall we start?"
Sylvan nodded and both pokemon prepared to battle.

Level 41 Venusaur vs. Level 38 Granbull

Sylvan started the battle with a Body Slam. The Granbull gave a little jump and started swinging her arms. She looked ridicuolus, but then all of a sudden a large ball of energy appeared and Sylvan was barely able to dodge it.
"Neither of us got to paralyze the other," the Granbull commented.
"I wasn't trying to paralyze you," Sylvan told her.
"Neither was I," the Granbull said.
"It was just a comment. Let's go on."
This time Sylvan used her Razor Leaf attack. The Granbull retaliated with a Headbutt.
"I forgot to tell you...," Sylvan began to say, but her opponent hit her again before she could finish the phrase.
"Sorry," the Granbull said. "I didn't know you were going to talk. What were you trying to tell me?"
"The clover I'm wearing on my necklace protects me from physical attacks. Headbutt won't do much damage to me."
"And you're telling me because..."
"Because I want this battle to be fair."
"Ok. In that case..."
The Granbull didn't finish the sentence. Instead, she charged up a Fire Punch and hit Sylvan with it. I wondered what her idea of 'fair' was. Sylvan was not only hust by the attack: she was burnt! And I knew her well enough to know that, after war, being burnt was the thing she hated the most. Was there a secret behind this Training Grounds? Were they designed to make us experience whatever hurt us the most? No, it couldn't be. It had to be a coincidence. They had no way to know. Besides, they were made by the Dragon Tamers; the good guys. It had to be just bad luck. Strange that Sylvan was having it too, she used to be the lucky one.
Sylvan's reaction seemed to be based purely on instinct: she used her Hidden Power. The water pushed the Granbull away and prevented her from doing more damage for the moment, but it failed to heal Sylvan's burns. It was sad to look at her. You could see the pain in her eyes. At least a lot of time had passed since my battle and the sun wasn't shining so bright; otherwise the Fire Punch would have hurt her even more.
"She's overcoming it," I heard Lagi whisper.
The Granbull stopped and spoke to Sylvan.
"You should have told me you hated fire so much. I wouldn't have guessed, what with your Charizard fiend and all."
"I only hate fire when it's burning me," Sylvan replied with pain in her voice. "Finish this off now, so that I can go to a Pokemon Center, will you?"
The tricky Granbull complied by using her Metronome again. This time I didn't find her funny; just disgusting. It all happened too fast to see it clearly, but it looked like something hit Sylvan strongly, and then the Granbull bounced back.
"You said you were protected from physical attacks!," the Granbull complained. "Why did that hurt me? If it hurt me it must have hurt you even more."
"I said I was protected from physical attacks. I never said I was immune to them," Sylvan answered. "Anyway, sorry to say it straight like this, but I'm fed up with this battle. You may be having fun here, but I'm not, so if you'll excuse me..."
Sylvan ran into the Granbull. I noticed she moved quite fast for her size. The Granbull tried to block her with her arm, but that only gave Sylvan something to clutch with her teeth. Sylvan began to drain the Granbull's energy until the nasty creature fell unconscious.

Sylvan grew to level 42!

Gabi ran to Sylvan's side and asked how she was feeling.
"Slightly better," Sylvan said. "But far from well. Can we go to the Pokemon Center now, please?"
"Of course. I'm sorry you had to go through this," Gabi apologized.
"It was not your fault. That Granbull was crazy. I'll be happy if I never see her again. The domain itself is beautiful, tough. Anyway, I've done what I came to do here, right?"
"Of course you have, Sylvan," Gabi answered, starting to walk towards the exit. "And, I must tell you this, you keep on amazing me: not by how strong you become each time, but by how strong you truly are."
Sylvan smiled.
"You're talking about different types of strength there, are you?," I asked Gabi.
"Yes, I am," she confirmed.
"I'm strong too," I told her. "Only now I've begun to find out."
Gabi looked at me. Her expression was strange; I couldn't tell what it meant. But then she smiled and told me she'd always known I was strong.
"And one day you'll be ready to let us know exactly how strong you are," she added. I knew what she was talking about.
I nodded. There was no need to tell them my plans for the night. That would only get them all intrigued and make it harder for me. Besides, Sylvan needed attention and I had no right to take it away from her.

"I guess we'll go to the beach tomorrow," Sylvan said as we reached the Pokemon Center. "You still have time for another battle. Don't waste it because of me. I'll be fine. I'll wait for you here."
"Are you sure?," Gabi asked.
"Yes, I am."
"I'll stay here too, if you don't mind," I asked Gabi. "I don't have any burns or serious wounds, but I could use some rest."
"Sure. I was going to ask them to check you up anyway," Gabi told me. "It's always good after a battle."
"Ok," I agreed.
We went in and Gabi gave instructions to the local nurse. The check up proved me right; I needed nothing but a good nap (a nightmare-free one if possible), so I was offered a bed while Sylvan was being fed some frozen nuts that were meant to heal her burns and having her wounds disinfected and bandaged. When they were done they brought Sylvan to a bed next to mine. I was still awake, still trying to put my thoughts in order... preparing myself for the night.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

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Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 12:55 PM   #44
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<Lagi's POV>

It didn't feel quite right to leave Iael and Sylvan behind in a moment like this, but that was what they wanted, and they felt they were going to be fine. Maybe it was better this way.
Noon had passed, but none of us was hungry. We'd probably eaten too much during breakfast; we'd never eaten that much at once when we were at home. When we reached the passageway which led to the domains, we stopped to decide where to go next.
"We can't go to the Domain of the Warrior because Iael's not here," Gabi pointed out. "That leaves two domains: Whistling Winds and Impenetrable Darkness. Which translates to either Lagi and Pidgeot or Water Angel and Ventura. Who wants to battle next?"
"Both Pidgeot and I battled yesterday," Water Angel said, "so it's the same. I don't think I'll be frozen again, anyway. What are the chances?"
"10% if a freezing move is used against you," Ventura answered.
"I wasn't calling for a statistic, but thanks anyway," Water Angel responded.
"If we go to the Domain of the Impenetrable Darkness first, then Iael and Sylvan will be able to go to the other domain with us," Tsunami stated. "Only the ones who are going to battle can enter the dark domain anyway, right?"
"That's right. And no matter what happens today, we'll all be fine when we get back here," Water Angel added.
"I guess it's all set, then," Gabi concluded.
"Well..." I began, but as everyone looked at me, unsettled by a possible change of plans, I decided to draw back. "Nevermind, I think I'll get the tension off my system whether I battle or not. It's not mine, anyway."
"What do you mean?," Gabi asked.
"I've been feeling a bit uncomfortable since Iael battled. Iael and Sylvan, I mean. But it's not because of me, it's because of... them, so if they are fine I'll be fine."
"Lagi, don't try to lie," Hero warned me. "You're hopeless at it. Even I can tell when you're hiding something."
"Well, maybe I am hiding something," I admitted. "But that something doesn't belong to me either, so I have no right to tell what I felt. You'll all learn in time anyway."
Wrong move. That left them even more intrigued. But what else could I do?
"Is it about Iael?," Gabi deduced. "If it is, I think I know what it is about. He looked quite disturbed even to someone who doesn't have your powers. I think I have some clues as to what the cause of his problems is too, the months I spent trying to understand him were not fruitless, so you can put your worries to rest."
"Can you read minds now?," I laughed.
"The ugly thing about my latent psychic abilities is that I never know when they're kicking in, so I can't answer your question, sorry," she replied.
She had already accepted the fact that she may never understand how her abilities worked. I could relate. In any case, she was grateful for whatever help they provided. Same went for me, though there were times when my abilities hurt me more than they helped me. I was glad Gabi didn't have to go through that too. Though she had once, after defeating the Dark Cloak; and she'd go through it again if it helped me or anyone else she cared for. I admired her for that.
So, we headed for the Domain of the Impenetrable Darkness. Gabi signed the waiver, which was just a formality for her since all of us were quite independent, and asked Ventura to describe the place and the battles for her once they were done.
"I can show you everything as it happens if you want," Ventura offered.
"Live streaming telepathy?," Gabi laughed. "No, thanks. I'd rather you told me later."
"I'm still going to use my telepathy, you know," Ventura warned her. "It's the only way to describe things properly."
"Yes, I know of the vagueness and ambiguity of words and everything," Gabi answered, partly understanding Ventura and partly mocking her, though she'd never admit the latter. "Thanks for warning me, though. Now I'll be prepared. Just focus on your battle while it lasts."
"When haven't I?," Ventura blared.

<Ventura's POV>

I flew past the mysterious door, while Water Angel materialized into the room. She had obviously got into her pokeball for Gabi to help her in. I reckoned life had to be tough for her, spending most of the time on solid ground with restricted mobility. However, what she complained about was the lack of light. I offered to guide her, since I didn't need my sight to guide myself, and she accepted, but no without making a stupid joke.
"It's curious; I thought trainers where not allowed in this domain," she said.
"What do you mean?," I asked. I understood what she meant, but I wanted her to say it straight.
"Well, you can't deny you behave like a trainer sometimes," she explained. "First it was only with your groupmates and Iael, but last time in Nagarythe you gave me commands too, and you seem to be competing with Gabi all the time."
"I'm a pokemon. Pokemon can't be trainers," I informed her. "But if you want me to stop helping you, just tell me and I won't do it anymore. As for Gabi, I won't keep my mouth shut when I disagree with her just because she's my trainer."
"I never asked you to do that," she told me. "You can argue with Gabi as much as you want, in fact you're often right. And I appreciate your help. I was just pointing out that your behavior resembles that of a trainer."
"You love words, don't you?," I laughed.
"Nevermind. There's nothing wrong with decorating your phrases, and there's nothing wrong with acting like a trainer, right? We can't change what we are, but we can choose what to do with the options we have."
"That was a deep and wonderful thought," Water Angel commented.
"I have deep thoughts all the time, but it's hard to put them in words," I explained.
"Well, I can try to help you with that if you want. They say I'm good with words," she offered.
"Thanks," I said, metaphorically looking at her under a new light (it was actually very dark). "Yes, you are good with words. Your help will be welcome."
"So will yours," she replied.
It felt strange, but strange in a good way. It felt great. It was the first time I could remember when someone had voluntarily offered to help me. Normally when I asked for something the others either refused to do it or did it and then complained about the way I'd asked. But this time I hadn't even had to ask. Water Angel had seen right through me. It definitely felt great!
I examined the room. It was big, but not nearly as big as the Domain of the Virgin Woods. The walls described a circle with no obstacles inside. There were two doors: the one we'd come through and one on the opposite side. There was also a trap door on the ceiling. On one side of the room there was a little pond, with enough water to cover a pokemon (or to make battles more interesting), but not wide enough to swim inside. Those who could swim anyway.
I showed the pond to Water Angel in case she wanted to get in, but she said that being in such a small enclosed space would hinder her rather than benefit her (those were her words). That's when I began to wonder what was taking our opponents so long. And, as if summoned by my thoughts, a Murkrow came through the trap door. I sent Water Angel the mental image.
"This must be your opponent," I told her. "He's to strong to be sent against me."
"Alright, I'm ready," she affirmed. "I reckon Smokescreen won't be of much help here."
I laughed with her and asked her if she needed my guidance. "Murkrows need little light to see well," I reminded her.
"I'll try to take the challenge as it comes for now," Water Angel decided. "It's fairer this way and I can learn something from this. I may not have a radar sense, but I have other senses which I can use. Thanks anyway, it's good to count on you."
"Are you ready to battle?," the Murkrow asked.
"I am," Water Angel replied. And so, the battle began.

Level 50 Kingdra vs. Level 52 Murkrow

The Murkrow hit Water Angel with a Faint Attack, which wasn't so spectacular when everything around was dark. Water Angel retaliated with a perfectly aimed Hidden Power.
"How did you do that?," the Murkrow inquired.
"I can hear the flapping of wings within a mile's range."
"Well, not exactly a mile. Or maybe, I don't know. But it's a sound I easily recognize. Besides, my Hidden Power has a tendency to come out right."
It wasn't just a tendency. I had watched her during her previous battles, and I'd noticed how she concentrated before releasing her Hidden Power. It was as if she felt her target before shooting or something like that. Lagi could do that anytime, but Water Angel did it when she used her Hidden Power. I wondered if it was a secret ability of Dragon type pokemon.
"Well, then..." the Murkrow said. "Let's see what your Hidden Power can do against THIS."
The Murkrow's wings started to flap faster, and the bird began to soar.
"I told you I could hear you," Water Angel said, as she released a Twister which caught the Murkrow off-guard. The bird pokemon fell on the floor, his attack truncated. Water Angel allowed him the time to stand up.
"It seems I'm not in your league," the Murkrow commented. "You have a lot of experience with flying pokemon, don't you?"
"I do," was Water Angel's reply.
"Ok, then. I'll be better prepared if we meet again," the Murkrow concluded, as he disappeared into the darkness...
...Only to hit Water Angel with another Faint Attack. Water Angel reacted to the attack by shooting an Aurora Beam, which lit up the room for a split-second and was the last thing the Murkrow saw for a while.

Water Angel grew to level 51!

I think it all happened too fast for Water Angel to notice, but a Kadabra teleported in and out, taking the Murkrow out of the room as soon as he touched the floor.
"Well..." I began. "I'm impressed, what can I say? That Murkrow was no match for you, but I thought he would at least give you a hard time finding him. You're truly an expert in flying pokemon!"
"I only know one very well," she explained. "He just happens to have some Murkrow heritage. I knew most of the things a Murkrow could do, but I didn't know how he would do them, nor when. If he hadn't underestimated me, things would have been different."
Curiosity itched, I had to scratch it.
"Did Pidgeot talk to you about his family?"
"A little," she answered. "He doesn't remember much. He was very young when he was captured, and while he was with... Team Rocket... it was hard to hold onto his memories and remain sane. But he did remember his father was a Murkrow."
"Oh," was all I could come up with.
Fortunately all the sad and uncomfortable thoughts were interrupted by the coming of my opponent: a Haunter. Unlike my teammate, I didn't start an introductory chat. Battling was one of the few things that could be done could do without words getting in the middle. While ruin a perfect battle, then?

Level 41 Venomoth vs. Level 38 Haunter

I went straight to my Psychic attack. I was looking for a good battle and I wanted to make sure I'd get one. The Haunter was caught completely off-guard, but he made me pay for it: he used his own Psychic attack against me. It was awful. Not quite like being torn apart from inside out, like some pokemon said, but more like having my mind thrown into a blender switched at max speed. Of course, I wouldn't let that stop me. No one would turn Ventura into a milkshake. I countered with yet another Psychic and...
And the Haunter faded away! Just like that! Well, it did let out a scream, but other than that nothing happened. It was almost frustrating. It had been the shortest battle of my life. Quite painful, but hardly challenging.

Oh, and I reached level 42. Well done, yay or whatever.

I teleported myself and Water Angel out of the room.
"A warning would have been nice," she complained.
"So would a better arena," I groaned.
"What's your problem?," she asked me. She didn't sound as angry as someone who said that would normally sound. She was more like... honestly asking. So I decided to answer.
"We came here to get some training. And the first domains were so challenging for everyone that I thought this was all more than we'd expected. And the Domain of the Impenetrable Darkness... with such a sonorous name and all that waiver thing and everything... you'd think it would be even tougher than the others. But no, it was just a bad joke. I learned more from talking to you in there than from the battle I had."
"Well, maybe that was the purpose of the room," Water Angel suggested.
"I don't get you," I told her. "What purpose?"
"Getting to know each other better by being on our own. I don't know, it's just a thought."
"Maybe," I accepted. "That would be the only decent excuse for the opponents they gave us. They seemed to be the ones trying to learn from those battles."
"Who says they weren't?"
Water Angel was so much the opposite of me that each of her phrases caught me by surprise. The time I'd spent with her was the only valuable thing I had found inside the dark room.

<Water Angel's POV>

Gabi and the team ran over to us as soon as they noticed we were back.
"You finished so soon!," Gabi exclaimed.
"Please don't mention that again until Ventura calms down," I advised her. "She's mad because she wanted a longer battle."
"My opponent was a Haunter!," Ventura shouted.
"Yes, you can be mad alright," Tsunami said. "Haunters are bad fighters. Unless there are some good ones and I haven't met them yet."
For some reason I couldn't understand, Tsunami's words seemed to ease Ventura's mood.
"Let's go back to the hotel," Ventura suggested, verbally to my surprise. We followed her suggestion as soon as Sylvan was ready to walk again and we picked her and Iael up.
I entered my pokeball and didn't come out until we were inside the hotel room. I noticed there were some new pillows in there, and sat on one of them. It was pleasantly soft and warm. Then came one of those moments when silence makes its presence noticed and acquires weight for that purpose. Until Iael broke it.
"Before we go down to have dinner, or tea, or anything, there's something I have to say to all of you."
The silence turned into expectation and intrigue. I looked at Lagi. She had her eyes fixed on Iael.
"Well, don't look at me like that!," he defended himself.
"Sorry. None of us is attacking you, nor shall we ever. We're your friends," Lagi apologized.
"Oh, of course. Sorry, it's just... I'm nervous, that's all. I'd never said this to anyone and it has hurt me for so long... I don't know how to start."
"It's ok, we'll do our best to understand you," Gabi said, kneeling down to caress Iael's neck and back.
"It's about my past," he found the courage to inform us. "When I was battling that Parasect I had an awful dream which reminded me of it all, and the thing is I realized I can't go on without letting it out. I can't pretend I'm just a normal Stantler."
"Normality is not a virtue by itself," Gabi stated.
"But you are a normal Stantler," Lagi added. "There's nothing for you to pretend. Just share your feelings with your friends. It will not change what happened, but it will set you free."
"You know what happened?!," Iael inquired, astonished by Lagi's words.
"Not exactly, but I get an idea from what your feelings have told me so far."
"Then maybe you can help me say it. Well... now that I think of it it's not so abnormal, but... ok, I'll be strong. Just like a battle. My parents were killed."
The confession came so abruptly it caught everyone off-guard. Now, rather than heavy, the silence was painful. Sharp like a knife. And the worst thing was Iael noticed our shock. He was no fool. Soon, I came back from my confusion. It was still hard to accept it; even if I'd seen others die before, innocents, even children, it had never been the parents of anyone I knew. I felt ashamed. What would the relatives of all those pokemon and humans think of me if they knew about my thoughts?
"Sorry I put it so bluntly," Iael apologized. "I couldn't think of another way to say it."
"No problem, Iael. I'm sorry we reacted that way," Gabi expressed my feelings and probably everyone else's. "It was Mewtwo, right?"
"His slaves," Iael answered. "How did you know?"
"You sort of let it out when we saw the news about the sinkholes on TV. It was the first moment when I felt I was starting to understand you. I'm glad you finally found the strength to share it with us. And I'm really sorry it happened."
"Me too. The pokemon who did it weren't even aware of what they were doing. They moved like zombies. I didn't see them do it, but I heard noises while I was playing in the forest, so I got closer to see what was going on and was attacked by a Scyther with M2 marks on its eyes. I barely managed to escape. Then when I came back home, I saw... they were already..."
Gabi held Iael tight against her chest and he let his tears fall down.
"I'd never told anyone, you know. At that moment I felt guilty. I thought that, if I'd been with them, maybe I could have helped them. Some time later I realized I could have done nothing to help them because I was too weak. I still felt bad for being alive while they had died for no reason. They had done much more with their lives than I had. They'd taught me everything I knew and given me their love, and I had done nothing. Well, I was like that for months."
"And then what happened?," Tsunami asked, intrigued.
"I guess I just realized that beating myself up would get me nowhere," Iael replied. "I couldn't change what had happen, or even understand it, but I decided I'd never let it happen again. I wouldn't let others lose their parents, or sons or friends to some demented creature if I could do anything to stop it. So I decided to train and become as strong as I could. I heard that getting a trainer was the best way to become strong, so I went to a human city to look for one. To make a long story short, I wandered around for some time until Misty found me and took me to Kanga's, and a few weeks later Gabi picked me up. You already know the rest of the story."
"Yes, and now it finally makes sense," Ventura commented.
"She means the pieces are falling together," I explained, remembering our deal. "She didn't mean your actions didn't make sense or anything like that."
"Ok, ok," Iael said to both of us.
Ventura's nod was a quiet way of saying 'thanks'. But the surprises didn't end there.
"You know...," she continued. "Your story was really sad. One of those totally unfair things that should never happen and sadly happen to too many beings. But, all in all, I wish I'd had parents like yours."
"Really?! Why?," Iael asked. Now we were all really intrigued. Ventura was the last creature from whom I would have expected a confession.
"For the way you describe them, they seem to have loved you a lot," she told Iael.
"Yes, they did," Iael agreed.
"Well, then. That's why. My parents were deeply in love with each other, but they never shared that love with me. They only looked after me until I was able to get my own food. Then they taught me a few lessons about life and left me to explore the world. One of those lessons was the value of relying on oneself, and I learned that the hard way. At first I tried to follow them, but as they were Venomoths and I was just a Venonat they got rid of me easily. They did get their teachings right, though; I soon learned to be independent."
I'd never heard of anything like that. I was horrified. How could parents not care for their children? I began to consider myself very lucky. My childhood in the icy waters of the Northern Sea hadn't been easy, but I'd always received love and attention from my parents, even when I was a Horsea and my dad was a Seel. It felt so strange to suddenly find out such unimaginable things about the friends I'd been living with for what seemed like my whole life! It made me admire them deeply. I looked at Pidgeot, whose story I already knew. He didn't seem so shocked. When he finally spoke, it was to ask if any of us had had a happy childhood.
"It would be comforting to hear something nice after all this," he explained.
"I was happy," Amber told him. "I didn't get to see my parents much, but there were many pokemon around, so I made new friends everyday."
"I wouldn't have doubted it," Sylvan commented. "I was happy too. My home was a little piece of heaven."
"Mine too. It's strange that we never met, then," Amber joked.
"Maybe we met, but we didn't know each other yet and that's why we don't remember," Sylvan followed the joke.
"I was happy," Gabi assured. "There was a moment when everything blew up, but before that I was really happy. And, after all, I think I'm still happy. Or at least I'm happy again."
"I'm happy now," Pidgeot revealed, and it felt as if someone had turned on a light inside my heart.
"So am I," I told him. "And, all things considered, I could say I had a happy childhood."
"Well, if all things are considered, then count me in too," Lagi laughed. "I learned many things a bit too fast, and some of them the hard way too, but all things considered I was happy. And it's true, there's happiness in the air right now."
"I was happy too," Iael admitted. "While I was with my parents, I was really happy. And now that I'm with you guys, I think there's a good chance I'll be happy again."
"It's great to hear that, Iael."
"Oh, spare me!," Hero exclaimed. "Could you guys get any cornier?"
"Hey, hold on, I haven't said a word and I could have spoken," Tsunami defended himself.
"Then it seems the happy ones are the majority," Caledor deduced. "Were you happy?," he asked Hero.
"Honestly, I don't know," Ninetales replied.
In the end the whole thing derived into jokes and laughter, and the subject had completely faded away by the time we reached the restaurant, but I was sure that none of us would forget what had been said that day.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 12:55 PM   #45
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<Caledor's POV>

The following day (I actually woke up and thought "it's the following day"), we didn't go to the Training Grounds. Instead, we headed to the beach after a much lighter breakfast than the one we'd had the day before (and after Gabi put on a few liters of sunscreen). The sun was fine. It sort of tickled when its rays fell straight on me. Gabi liked the temperature too. It wasn't summer yet, so I didn't expect her to complain about the heat. Sylvan said it was a bit cold. Well, I guess everyone can't be pleased, and the temperature range in which Sylvan felt comfortable was quite small.
Tsunami, Water Angel and Lagi went straight to the sea. I followed them after lying on the sand for a few minutes; I liked the touch of the soft sand on my fur. I got really dirty, but that's what the beach is for, isn't it? Gabi did the same. Then I washed myself in the sea, and we played a game of underwater tag (in which Tsunami cheated by blending with the water when he was about to be touched). Then I 'borrowed' the Beach Ball (yes, the magical Beach Ball; Gabi couldn't deny it to me because she had left the normal ball at the Eevee House) and we played with it. But we were careful not to mess up this time. We'd already caused enough trouble with the pillow fight.
Pidgeot joined us while we were playing in the water and proved she could do just as well as the rest of us. Gabi joined us later, and the rest of the team stayed on the shore. Then we decided to open up and play tag out of the water, and this time it was Hero who was untouchable (he was just too fast for the rest of us). For a moment, when I was 'it', I thought of stopping him with a Thunder Wave, but I dismissed that thought immediately: it was just a game, and he'd done nothing to deserve that. In the end we all got tired, but he didn't. He said he could keep playing that game for hours. I think he was bluffing. Then Iael suggested a very different game.
"Why don't we have a seeking contest?," he proposed. "I've wanted to know what they're like since I first heard of them."
Hero stopped moving as if he'd just hit a wall.
"A seek- well, we...," he stammered.
"What's wrong?," Tsunami asked him.
"Nothing's wrong!," he shouted. "He caught me by surprise, that's all. Yeah, I guess we could do that. Though I doubt any of you could beat me. You've never played before and I have years of experience."
"I think Ventura would make a tough opponent," Iael commented. "With her radar sense and all. she'll probably win, but it will be fun to play anyway."
"Sure. Fun. Just don't forget about the dangers of that game. You never know what you'll find. Kid almost drowned once, and you all know what happened to me."
"But we will be sensible," Tsunami retorted.
"What are you trying to say?," Hero dared him.
"I'm just saying that you weren't," Tsunami threw back at him. But when he saw the look in Hero's eyes he had to add "but you are now."
"Besides," Tsunami continued, "What happened to you wasn't that bad after all, was it? Or will you tell me you're not proud of yourself just like you are?"
"All the good and bad things I have were already in me when I was a Vulpix," Hero cryptically replied. "It wasn't bad after all. It just changed my life. And I can't help but wonder how my life would be if I hadn't found that stone."
"Well, I usually wonder what my life would be like if I'd grown up in the wild instead of a lab," I told him. "But those thoughts don't take us anywhere. Things are the way they are. And they're not that bad right now, are they?"
"No. They aren't," Hero replied.
"You've been acting very strange lately," Tsunami pointed out to Hero.
"I have? How?"
"You know. All these strange reactions and deep thoughts which are so rare in you, and your new name... you don't seem to be yourself anymore!"
"One has the right to change," Hero protested. "I've been thinking a lot lately, but I'm still myself and I always will be. I'm still the same being who won the first Griffon Games and the first race at the Eevee House, the same you've been trying to challenge ever since you became a Vaporeon and the same insensible creature who ran away right after going through an imperfect evolution because he was unable to see beyond his own nose. But I've learned a lot since then, so don't blame me for trying to improve myself."
"No one was blaming you," Tsunami hushed him. "Sorry, I didn't mean to upset you. I didn't think..."
Then he moved closer to Hero and whispered something into his ear. I couldn't hear what he said, but I heard Hero's reply.
"Yes, I'm afraid you're right. Tell me, how should I deal with it?"
"I don't know. I don't have more experience than you on that field," Tsunami told him. "You may want to consider asking Pidgeot."
"Never!," Hero laughed. Tsunami laughed with him, and I hated not sharing the moment with them. What were they talking about?!
In the end, the game was called off; or, rather, postponed until "maybe some other day". Instead, we went for a walk along the beach. I only realized I'd been walking faster than the others when I looked back and saw them as small figures in the distance. I guess I was still mad at my friends for keeping me out of their conversation. I'd have to talk to them later. I looked around and saw a bunch of Poliwags playing in the sea. "Maybe I should relax," I said to myself. "I'm making a big fuss over nothing. That's not like me." I stopped walking and waited for my friends to catch up. In the meantime, I kept on looking around. All of a sudden, I saw a familiar figure walking by the sea. It was an Umbreon, but not just any Umbreon. It was Kovu: the only Umbreon I considered a friend.
"Kovu?," I called him, trying to get his attention. He didn't seem to react. He was buried deep in his own thoughts just as I had been a minute earlier.
He came closer. Close enough to let me see a scar cut along the right side of his face. It scared me when I first saw it, but I got over it. For a moment, I thought I might have made a mistake and this was another Umbreon. But no, I knew Kovu too well; it had to be him. I tried again.
"Kovu, is that you?"
The Umbreon looked up. It took some moments before he finally moved. Then, he gave me a smile, walked over to me and spoke.
"Yeah, its me."
"It's good to see you," I told him. "I got to think we were the only ones training in Yvresse." Then I couldn't keep myself from asking: "what happened to your face?"
Kovu shrugged. I felt sorry I'd asked. Then he mentioned a crazy Granbull and a Slash attack.
"A Granbull?!," I made connections fast. "Could it be the same crazy Granbull who caused Sylvan some serious burns at the Domain of the Virgin Woods? I think that pokemon should be put under custody immediately!"
Kovu agreed. Before we could talk anymore, we were reached by our respective teams. Gabi and Amy greeted each other cheerfully. Then they started sharing their views on Yvresse, talking about how things were going at the Dragon Tamers HQ and the Eevee House and about the Training Grounds. They found out they both had the Domain of the Warrior to go, while Nala was also going to go to the Domain of the Impenetrable Darkness, and Gabi to the Domain of the Whistling Winds. I listened for a while while each of them told the other what they knew about the remaining domains, but then, as Kiara and Sweetie walked over to me, I decided it was a good moment to have some fun with them. Nala noticed my intentions, and hurled us the ball Gabi had left at the Eevee House. It was great that she happened to be carrying it!
We lost track of time playing like little puppies. I couldn't help but notice how radiant Kiara looked with the sun shining on her hair. Soon others joined the game. Tsunami was the first one. Then came a moment when practically everyone was playing. Even Hero got in the sea to catch the ball once it was sent flying (I'd heard he'd disliked waves ever since Tsunami first tried to attack him with one). Then we had a picnic on the beach (Gabi rented a sunshade for that purpose), and then kept on talking and playing games and having more fun than I'd had since... I couldn't remember the last time I'd had so much fun. But the day came to and end and, as beautiful as the beach may look at night, a cold breeze reminded us we were not exactly on vacation. The Training Grounds would close soon, and we still had 2 domains to go.
In the end, we all said goodbye to each other, wished each other luck and left for our hotels. I wished Gabi didn't have so many things to do in Caledor; otherwise we could have spent another day at the beach. But well, good things are good things, no matter how long or short they last.

<Tsunami's POV>

The following day we headed to the Training Grounds right after breakfast, having packed some food for lunch. We were planning to go through the last 2 domains that day. I began to mentally prepare myself for battle since the moment I woke up. I was going to battle at the Domain of the Warrior. I didn't know what that domain would be like but, for its name, it sounded like something where Hero would fit quite well, and also Iael and Ventura, but me... I wasn't truly a warrior. I did what I had to, when I had to, but I hated war almost as much as Gabi did and, though I could find pleasure in a friendly match, I didn't go with my fiery friend's lemma, "the tougher the better". I liked it when forces were evenly matched. And there were things I liked much better than battles, like swimming, surfing and playing jokes on Hero and Caledor. (Contrary to popular belief, Pidgeot and Water Angel were not my favorite targets).
But I had to focus. I had a new battle coming, and a whole tournament afterwards! Gabi had trusted me enough to register me for the Dragon Games and the rest of my friends had supported me from the beginning. I couldn't let them down.
It turned out that the Domain of the Warrior was the first one we came across, so Gabi decided to enter. I was going "get ready, get ready get readygetready" in my mind, expecting absolutely anything. I was surprised, though. What I found after walking along a long corridor and through the hardest and heaviest door I'd ever seen, looked like a gym more than a battle arena. It did have a ring, but it also had many other artifacts used for training, some of which I couldn't even recognize, and there was even a Jacuzzi! I must admit that I was much more tempted to jump into the Jacuzzi and let the water work its magic on me than to get on the ring and battle, but I was responsible: I told myself I'd go there after the battle; my own reward for conquering the Domain of the Warrior.
"Who's going first?," Gabi asked. Iael was one step ahead of me.
"I am," he decided.
"Ok, then. Get on the ring. Your opponent should be coming soon."
Iael complied but, instead of his opponent, it was a man who entered the ring. He was dressed in black and white. His shirt combined those two colors in a very weird way in my opinion (the collar and sleeves were white, the back was black and the front had vertical bars).
"Get down," he told Iael. "We're going to call you when your opponent is ready."
It was strange to see a man talk directly to a pokemon that was not his own. Iael got down, and the man followed him and spoke to Gabi.
"You came a bit early," he said to her. "The staff pokemon are stretching up. They should be ready in 5 minutes. Do you know the rules for this domain?"
"I've read something. 3 rounds, right?"
"Right. The battle goes to the pokemon who wins 2 out of 3 rounds. Should there be a knockout, the match is ended and the victor is the one left standing. Should the rounds dictate a two-zero score after the second round, the losing party can decide if he wants to finish out the match or if he wants to call it quits."
It sounded like he'd been pronouncing the same speech for the last 4 days.
"Alright," Gabi acknowledged. "And each trainer gets 2 battles, right?"
"Exactly," the man confirmed.
A loud snort was heard from the other side of the room. A Tauros came in.
"I believe your Stantler's opponent is ready," the man told Gabi. "Your pokemon can enter the ring now. Can I have your name, please?"
"I'm Gabriela, and my Stantler is Iael," Gabi said. "And that Vaporeon over there is Tsunami. He'll be battling right after Iael."
Heh. She was talking about me. I wonder why she didn't give the man her code name. I'm sure he would have recognized her. Unless she didn't want to be recognized. Who knows?
Both Iael and the Tauros got on the ring. So did the man. He announced the start of the battle the same way they did during the first Eagle Games: "let the battle begin!"

Level 34 Stantler vs. Level 28 Tauros

Both pokemon launched themselves at each other at the same time. The Tauros got to strike first, hitting Iael's lower jaw with his horns. Iael jumped back to avoid being hurt further, but then he charged into the Tauros with a powerful Headbutt. The Tauros then used a Headbutt of his own, but was soon met by an unseen attack. Knowing Iael, it had to be Psychic. The Tauros took his time to react and the bell rang. The first victory was conceded to Iael.
The contenders rested at opposite corners of the ring. Iael received words of encouragement and congratulations. I looked forward to receiving them too. Soon, the bell rang again and the 2nd round started.
The Tauros changed his strategy: this time, he released a Zap Cannon. Iael ducked in time to avoid it, but his move left him vulnerable to the Tauros's Iron Tail attack. Those tails looked really hard! Iael got rid of the Tauros by making the ring vibrate under his hooves. The Tauros lost balance and rolled all over the ring and out of it.
"The second round goes to Iael, the Stantler!," the arbiter announced.
We all walked over to the Tauros. He was having trouble getting up.
"The current score is two-zero," the man informed us. "The losing part must decide whether to continue the battle or not."
The Tauros shook his head. He was too beaten to continue. Iael had won.

Iael grew to level 35!

A muscular, dark-skinned man came in from the other side of the ring (the entrance for staff members, as it seemed).
"Sorry I'm late," he apologized to the judge. "I had some technical difficulties. How's Taurus doing?"
"I'm afraid you've missed the whole battle," the judge explained. "Your Tauros lost."
"Oh," the man shortly replied.
"There's still another challenger, though," the arbiter told him. "Same trainer. You still have a chance."
"Good," the man said. Then he looked at Gabi for the first time. "Are you my opponent?," he asked her.
"Yes," Gabi answered. "I'm..."
"Lady Vulpix," he interrupted her. "I know, I've seen you on TV. It's an honor to meet you. I'm Mark."
"Pleased to meet you too," Gabi said, shaking Mark's hands. Her face had that expression of surprise it shows when she gets unexpected praise.
"You're Lady Vulpix?!," the judge exclaimed, embarrassed. "Sorry I didn't recognize you earlier. I don't watch much TV. Actually, I think I haven't watched it for years."
"No problem," Gabi answered. "I don't expect everyone to know me. I'm known over Caledor and the dependencies of the Dragon Tamers like these Training Grounds, but not many know me in other places. And I think I like it better that way."
"Wanna have a normal life?," Mark inquired. Gabi laughed.
"Well, normality has never been one of my goals," she answered, containing her laughter. "But everyone needs some privacy. I like to have control over my life... which I hardly ever have, now that I think of it, but at least I still have some choices. If my public image overtook me, I'd have no freedom at all."
"I think I understand," Mark politely said, though his face showed there was at least one thing he didn't understand. I think it was that he didn't know what Gabi was laughing about. And who could blame him? Not even I knew. Sometimes she had a tendency to laugh for no apparent reason.
At that moment, a Scyther came in.
"Oh, you're here, Katana!," Mark welcomed the pokemon. "How did your training go?"
"Scythe," the Scyther replied, meaning 'well'. I think Mark understood her. Not that 'well' is hard for anyone to understand.
"Good," Mark reply. "Now get on the ring and show them what you have."
"You too, Tsunami," Gabi told me. "Do your best."
From the looks of it, it was easy. Scythers were weak to Ice moves, so my Aurora Beam would give me an advantage. And they were good at physical attacks, but I knew how to defend myself. I had never tried it out of the water, though, but it couldn't be that different. Still, I knew better than to underestimate my opponent. This Katana looked like she had a few tricks up her scythe. Besides, Scythers were capable of doing really nasty things. I was glad this was my opponent and not Iael's. He'd battled at least 3 Scythers as far as I knew, but he would have run the risk of losing control. Poor Stantler. If only...
"Are you ready?," Katana asked, shredding my thread of thoughts.
"Yes, I am," I answered, reminding myself to focus. I was determined to do this well.
"Let the battle begin!," the judge announced once more.

Level 50 Vaporeon vs. Level 52 Scyther

"Katana, you know what to do," Mark instructed his Scyther. Those words let me know I was about to see the first trick. I must admit I was curious. Katana crossed her arms and closed her eyes. Whatever she was doing required concentration. I decided to use my time to pull out a little trick of my own: Acid Armor. It shouldn't be so hard, or at least I thought so, but for some reason it wasn't working. To make things worse, either my eyes were tricking me or Katana was getting bigger. I couldn't afford to lose more time trying to find out why my Acid Armor wasn't working. I had to make it work. So, I did the only thing I could think of, and which I knew I was good at. I gathered the water molecules around me to form a body of water big enough to cover me. Same as a Surf attack (and I guess that's what it looked like), but this time instead of sending a wave against my opponent I made the water surround me until my body was completely hidden.
It did work, at last. I could feel my defense growing under the protection of the water. It didn't make much sense: why would a Poison-type move need water to take effect? But how much sense it made didn't really matter, did it? It worked that way with me, and that was all I needed to know for now. Katana opened her eyes.
"Stage 2!," Mark commanded. All of a sudden, I was surrounded by a green mass of Scyther moving at an incredible speed. Now I understood. I wasn't just battling a tricky Scyther. I was battling a warrior. A pokemon with a lot of experience and knowledge of itself, used to exploiting its own abilities to the fullest. Those were the toughest ones; whether they had 2 scythes or 7 tails, you were in big trouble if you underestimated them, and not even type advantage could grant you a victory over them. I knew that too well. But that knowledge could work in my favor. I hadn't been Hero's teammate and main rival for years in vain.
I summoned a mass of water again, but this time it was what it looked like. My only hope to disrupt a Double Team like that lay in doing what I did best; like Hero's Quick Attack or Water Angel's Hidden Power. In my case it was Surf. It worked, if only by spreading in all directions at once. But Katana didn't stop moving. Moreover, she was now spinning apart from circling around me. I wondered how she'd manage not to get dizzy. I went for another Surf, but right then the circle closed in and, before I could see Katana's scythes, they were already slashing through my side. I immediately released an Aurora Beam, but I missed and was slashed again. I was saved by the bell.
Katana stopped spinning. She breathed deeply, as if not to show how agitated she was. I didn't mind showing. Getting out of that circle was all I needed to regain focus. But the arbiter seemed to judge by appearances, as he conceded the first victory to Katana.
"Don't worry," Gabi comforted me. "You can make it."
"I know," I said. "She's deceptive. I'm not. Maybe she can predict my moves, I don't know. But I'm far from finished. Vaporeon endurance, remember? I have time to turn the tides to my side."
Gabi laughed, the same way she'd laughed earlier. Then she kissed my cheek and said she trusted me. Now that was comforting.
"Maybe it's time for you to get a bit tricky too," she suggested.
"I'll try," I replied. It felt good, after all. A trial before the big day. My first taste of the competition I might find at the Dragon Games.
The bell rang again. Round 2 began. This time, Katana opened the battle with a Wing Attack. I couldn't recall the last time I'd been hit with such strength. It was obviously critical. It hit me so hard that I was sent flying, and I was lucky to balance my body in order to fall on my four legs inside the ring. "Ok, time to get tricky," I said to myself, stopping myself from thinking of what would happen if I received only one more blow. I launched myself at Katana and landed on her with a Body Slam. I succeeded in catching her by surprise. When I backed off, she didn't jump up to attack me as I expected. I decided not to wait to see if she was paralyzed or it was yet another trick. I finished the round right then.
"Hey, that's copyrighted!," Hero shouted when he saw me use my Quick Attack.
"Not that I know of, and not by you anyway," I retorted when my paws touched the ring again. Katana lay there, unconscious.
"Knock out!," the arbiter shouted out. "The battle goes to Tsunami, the Vaporeon!"

I grew to level 51!

I was exhausted. No, I was past exhaustion. But I was satisfied. I'd won. I'd passed the test. I was ready for the Dragon Games.
"Congratulations," Mark said to Gabi, shaking hands with her once more. "That was an excellent match."
"Yes, it was," Gabi replied. "Katana's very well trained."
I got the feeling appearances were also deceitful as far as Mark was concerned. In spite of his big and muscular body, he was a nice guy.
"Well," Gabi started. "Now we can look for a place to have lunch, or we can..."
She had to stop in the middle of the sentence. I'd made the choice for her. I ran to the Jacuzzi and jumped into the hot water with a speed I didn't know I was capable of reaching. No one would take my well-earned prize away from me.
"Or we can stay here and make use of the facilities," Gabi finished, laughing once more.
Some others came into the Jacuzzi: Caledor, Lagi, Pidgeot, Water Angel (who first complained about the water being too hot, but got used to it soon) and even Hero (he didn't like the sea, but hot water he did like). I didn't talk to them, though. I was way too tired. I blended with the water and remained unseen for about 15 minutes, which was as long as I could stay underwater before my lungs started asking for air. Now THAT... was comforting.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

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