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Old Yesterday, 12:56 PM   #46
Lady Vulpix
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<Lagi's POV>

My opponent arrived soon after the Venomoth was taken out. It was a very uncommon pokemon: a Togetic. Actually, I'd only seen a Togetic in person once before, and that was when Bahamut battled one during the second Griffon Games. I flew towards the platform where the Togetic awaited, and looked at him. He was confident; not afraid, I mean, though I couldn't tell if he expected to win the battle or not. In any case, he seemed like someone who liked clean and fair battles, but that was my own interpretation. He felt honest. He also felt a bit uncomfortable from my staring at him.
"I'm sorry," I apologized.
"Sorry about what?," he asked.
"I'm sorry for staring. It's just I'd never been this close to a Togetic," I explained. "I guess I was curious."
"It's ok," he forgave me. "I'd never been this close to a Dragonite either."
We both smiled.
"So... shall we battle?," he suggested, a few seconds later.
"Oh! Sure!," I laughed.
We both stood on opposite platforms and prepared to battle.

Level 63 Dragonite vs. Level 60 Togetic

It had been so long since I'd last had a training battle that it took me some time to figure out how to start. The Togetic was waiting for my move, which made me feel rather uncomfortable. I browsed through the possibilities. I didn't want to use any electric or ice attacks, because he didn't deserve them. Outrage was under all circumstances a last resort, because of its toll; so was Hyper Beam. Surf wouldn't be easy to pull out in the air. Wing Attack was the first thing that sounded reasonable at that moment. So I went for it. The Togetic took the blow and, though it hurt, he didn't lose his confidence. Instead, he used Charm on me. No one had ever used Charm against me or any of my friends, but I recognized it by the way it made the Togetic feel safer and it made me feel weaker. I no longer had the strength to pull out an attack like the one I'd just used. But I could go on. I wasn't hurt and my mind was unaffected. I'd just have to think more carefully.
I tried a Fire Blast. I hadn't trained much in the use of that move, and I wasn't as good with it as Hero, Amber or Caledor, but I saw it as a chance. Though, as it can always happen when chance is involved, it could go wrong. And it did. The Togetic gracefully evaded my flames with little or no effort. He must have been used to battling Charizards. I wrote a mental note to do some training to improve my skills with Fire Blast. But, apparently, the Togetic wanted me to get that training at that precise moment. I mean, he clapped his little hands twice and another Fire Blast came out of me. It was as if the fire were alive, acting on its own free will. Only that it had no life at all, and was guided by no will but the Togetic's. I'd never seen a pokemon battle the way he did. I felt as if he had me at his mercy, and the worst thing was he felt it too. He knew when and where the flames were going to strike, and moved away with ease, remaining intact. To make things worse, he used Double Team.
Or, at least, he thought he'd be making things worse for me. Otherwise he wouldn't have done it. What his Double Team actually did was remind me that I could hit him if I focused. I'd been getting to nervous from the power the Togetic had shown to have on me, and I hadn't been thinking clearly. But now I was. I closed my eyes and concentrated on feeling the Togetic. He was quite excited, and became intrigued when my eyes closed, so it wasn't hard to spot him. Then I let the following Fire Blast come out, but this time it was I who led it. And this time, it did reach its target. The Togetic was stunned.
"How did you do that?!," he shouted. "You couldn't even touch me before, and now that I used Double Team and you closed your eyes you hit me?! It makes no sense!"
"It does," I responded, noticing with relief that I could move freely now. "It took me some time but I figured out what your strategy was, so I did the opposite of what you were trying to make me do. When I realized you were making me lose focus, I... well, I got it back."
"You're smart," he conceded. "But the battle's not over. Why are you telling me this and giving yourself away?"
"Because you asked; because, while we're opponents now, we're not enemies and no matter who wins this battle the experience will help us both in the future; and because you've been doing things so well that you deserve things to be fair."
"And this makes things fair because...?"
I thought for a while, not sure of what to say. Not sure if I should tell him my secret. Lying was out of the question; mastering Fire Blast would have been easier. I couldn't just not answer either. I had to say something.
"Because it's easier for me to figure out your strategy than it is for you to figure out mine. You're very smart, you've proven that. But I..."
"You what? You're smarter?," he queried, somewhat offended.
"No, it's not that. You may be smarter than me, I don't know, maybe you are."
"Then why do you have an advantage?"
I came up with an idea.
"You don't expect me to give away all my secrets when the battle's not over yet, do you? Would you do it?"
The Togetic laughed.
"I said it, you're smart. Ok, let's continue the battle and I'll try to find out what your little secret is. I warn you, I won't make things easy for you."
"I wouldn't have it any other way," I told him with a smile.
We took some more distance from each other. Instead of attacking, I stared at the Togetic, trying to understand what he was planning. He wanted to do something tricky, that was clear. But what? There was no way to know. I couldn't read minds, and wouldn't want to, anyway.
"If you're not going to attack, I will," the Togetic warned me, moving his hand to his lips. He felt even more confident than before. Then it dawned on me. He was using Sweet Kiss! He kissed his hand and then blew on it. I tried to use Safeguard, but it only came into effect after the 'kiss' reached me. So, he hadn't changed his strategy after all. He'd just made sure I couldn't use mine. And he'd succeeded. Now I could no longer distinguish him from the holograms. It seemed like the feelings came from everywhere around me. And they were so mixed up I couldn't make them out.
"DDoo yyoouu ssttiillll hhaavvee aann aaddvvaannttaaggee?"
The voice came from all directions and echoed in my head. No, I didn't. The advantage I had had had* been turned against me. The more senses you have, the worse it gets when they're all mixed up. Well, at least I was still aware of where I was and what I was doing; some pokemon didn't even have that left when they were confused. But the changing wind which blew from each corner of the spinning room wasn't helping me focus. I had to attack, but how would I locate my target? In the end, it was my target who located me, and hit me with a Psychic attack.
There was no use in trying to find where the attack had come from. I had to counter, and do it as accurately as possible. Dragon Rage seemed like a good choice. I directed my sight at a white spot, aimed while concentrating on stopping it from moving, and fired. Turquoise flames seemed to spiral around me until, finally, they became transparent and hit... my back.
"IItt sseemmss yyoouu wweerree bblluuffiinngg aafftteerr aallll," the echoes returned.
"No, I wasn't," I responded. "That's not one of my abilities."
"Wwhhaatt iissnn'tt?"
"Bluffing. I'm as transparent to everyone as everyone else is to me. You just found a way to mess with my perception. Congratulations."
I meant it. If I'd been fighting an enemy, I would have probably been in panic. But the way things were, I was happy for the Togetic, and also grateful to him for showing him a weakness of mine. Now that I knew about it, I could work on fixing it, so that this didn't happen to me in a critical moment. So... how could I fix it? I'd have to rely on something other than my senses and even my empathy. Sylvan relied on luck in moments like this, but that can go either right or wrong. I had to balance the scales somehow.
My thoughts were interrupted by an attack. Something round and hard like stone hit my head and bounced back. It didn't hurt much, so it couldn't be a strong Rock-type attack. Not yet, at least, but if it was what I thought (the only Rock attack a Togetic could learn as far as I knew) it would get stronger. I tried my Dragon Rage again, aiming it at the direction in which the Togetic had bounced, paying no attention to the spiral it seemed to form or any other sensorial input. This time, the spiral stopped. The whole place stopped spinning, and the turquoise flames vanished after describing a straight line and hitting the Togetic. It may sound crazy, but I was really glad to see a straight line again! The Togetic fell upon contact with the Dragon force. I picked him up before it hit the floor.

I grew to level 64!

I held the Togetic in my arms until it woke up. He looked at me, surprised.
"I thought you would have left by now," he told me.
"I didn't want to leave without thanking you. I've learned something important today thanks to you," I explained. "And I also wanted to tell you that you've battled really well. The techniques you used are not something you see everyday."
"Well, when you don't have much raw power you have to either think fast and get tricky or stop battling. And I like battling, so..."
"I understand," I said.
"So, will you tell me what your big secret is now? The battle is over. I can't use it against you anymore."
"You did use it against me even if you didn't know what it was. It's just... well, I have this... quality."
"I can sense what others feel. That's sometimes a good thing and sometimes a bad thing, but it's the way things are. I was born like this."
"Weird! So you knew what I was planning all along?"
"It took me some time to figure it out, as I said. But I knew you had something in mind. You were too confident to be unprepared."
"I see. I wish I had that ability. It would sure be handy."
"Well, I don't know if you would. It's one of those things that shape us. Like you said your lack of raw power made you use your mind a lot, my ability has forced me to become emotionally strong the hard way. And though I appreciate what it has done for me, it has also been too painful many times."
He nodded in understanding.
"What's your name?," he asked me.
"Lagi," I replied.
"It was an honor to battle you, Lagi."
I was delighted by his words.
"What's yours?," I asked him.
"Spiky," he said.
"Spiky," I repeated. "It was an honor to battle you too."
He smiled, and then asked me to release him. He had to go back and get healed before the next opponent came in. I did so, and returned to my friends' side, giving Spiky a smile as he left through the opposite door, and feeling it would be nice to see him again someday.
We left the domain and, after a checkup at the Pokemon Center, we also left the Training Grounds. We had finally finished our training in Yvresse. But we hadn't made the most of our stay there yet. We'd hurried so much to finished training that now we had a whole free day before going back to Caledor! And we were all planning to enjoy it. Especially Tsunami.
My Vaporeon friend was determined to visit the Isles before we left. We'd heard there were big waves all around them, and that was music to Tsunami's ears. So, the following day, we all headed for the Isles. Gabi patiently rejected the offers of all the salesmen and went straight to the beach. Once there, we found out the waves were as fierce as we'd heard, but not quite as big as the excitement of the unstoppable Tsunami that rushed to their encounter. Water Angel and I got in the water too, and we had fon swinging beneath the waves. But not nearly as much fun as the Vaporeon who was conquering the seas above us. I could bet he had never felt better in his whole life!
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 12:58 PM   #47
Lady Vulpix
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<Tsunami's POV>

I slowly opened my eyes to the white light above me. I felt somewhat numb, but there was no pain and I remembered being under a lot of pain earlier. When had it been? An hour earlier? The day before? I tried to focus my vision and soon realized that the white light was artificial; a tube stuck along a perfectly clean white ceiling. I turned my head to the left and found a window. It was night outside.
"He's awake!!"
Any dizziness I had left was shaken off by that sudden shout. I remembered everything: I had finished my 2nd battle for the Dragon Games. I had won! But I had barely made it to the end; I had been badly poisoned and I'd blacked out only a few seconds after dealing the final blow. So now I had to be at a Pokemon Center. And that ear-piercing cry I'd heard had to be referring to me. And its author couldn't be anyone but my cheerful, playful and eventually a bit too hyper Espeon friend. Well, at least that's how everyone sees him; though, being as close to him as I was, I knew there was much more to Caledor than he normally showed. While his joy and excitement were undoubtedly clear to everyone, he could hide his less pleasant feelings and thoughts better than Iael and Ventura put together - even from himself! I would have liked to talk to him about that, but it would have been hard to face the subject, especially if it was uncalled for. Maybe some day, if it was needed. For now I needed someone who shed constant light on us. We all did.
"I'm awake, but another shout like that and I'll faint from a headache," I joked once my vocal chords acceded to resume their job.
Opening my mouth was enough to get both Hero and Caledor by my side in a matter of seconds.
"How's it going, Kid?," Hero asked me.
"Kid?! I thought you'd dropped that. What happened to 'Tsunami'?," I complained.
"Dropping it? Why would I?," he confronted me.
"Well... During my battle you called me by my real name," I reminded him.
"I felt that was the kind of encouragement you needed," he explained. "I was right, wasn't I?"
"You deceptive...!"
I was trying to think of a proper insult, but none came up.
"Hey, easy, Kid! There's no need to get mad; I'm your friend, remember?," he said to me.
"I remember you were the first pokemon who ever managed to drive me mad," I replied. "And you achieved that the first time we met, if I recall it right."
"I have achieved many things that others haven't," he laughed. The conversation was beginning to turn a more friendly-competitive tone. The tone I was used to and most comfortable with.
"You could try to get on someone's good side for a change," I told him. "That would be a real challenge."
"Hey, the masses adore me! And you must admit you were a major annoyance back then. Though I also must admit that you pressed all the wrong buttons when we first met."
"So you have to admit that I did something wrong? I hope you didn't have a hard time admitting that," I retorted.
"No, what I mean is I had issues and you touched open wounds in me. You won't hear me saying that again, and I'd rather you didn't bring this back either. I've already sorted out those issues, but making them known would affect my public image."
"And such a great idol can't afford anything like that!," I joked.
"Welcome back, my friend!," Hero cheered, rubbing my cheek with his muzzle; the biggest sign of affection he had learned to show.
"Ok, if it's going to be like this I don't mind your calling me Kid," I acceded.
"As if I needed your permission for that!," Hero retorted. "Anyway, you can always pay it forward to Caledor."
"Don't put me in the middle," the Espeon complained.
"You've been in the middle ever since you joined this team," I reminded him. "And by your own free will too. You can call Iael 'Kid' if you want, but it wouldn't be the same."
"No, it wouldn't suit him," Caledor agreed. "I'm stuck at the end of the Kid chain. At least I know that I have more powers than any of you."
"That's only because-," Hero began.
"-Don't," I interrupted him. He understood the look on my face and didn't continue. While he was stronger, faster and much better than me in battles, Hero was rather tactless when it came to conversation. If I'd pressed the wrong battles when I didn't know him yet, he was likely to press them with anyone, anytime.
"I know," Caledor responded, obviously taking Hero's point. "But let me have a little fun, will you?"
Few things could break Caledor's joyful attitude, and those changes never lasted long. Optimism and cheer were his natural state, the point of balance in his life. But those few, short moments when his smile was erased from his face could tear me apart. After all, Caledor meant as much to me as Hero did. They were the pillars that held my life on its place. I wondered if they knew it.
"Oh. By the way, when I told you to remember the practice, I was talking about hurling stones," Hero told me.
"Would that be considered legal?," I inquired.
"Yes, pokemon are allowed to use their surroundings to their advantage," he informed me.
"Well, maybe next time, then. If I made it to the next round, that is. Anyway, I won the battle in the end."
"Yes, you did. And you did great. Defeating a Rapidash with only 1 water move is something you don't see everyday. Especially a well-trained Rapidash who knows her business."
"Thanks. I'll take that as a compliment," I told him.
"Ok, I won't mind if you do," he replied. "You do know I respect you, don't you? I mean, I'll still call you Kid, but that doesn't mean I think of you as a kid. It's just... I don't know, leaving that behind would be like losing something. I don't know if I'm clear."
"More clear than ever. You don't have to stop calling me like that, I'm kinda used to it and I'm beginning to like it. Still, I'm shocked. Today you've said things I'd never thought I'd hear you say. What has changed you so much?"
"Good question," he said. "I may know the answer and, if it's what I think it is, I'm not saying it. But you may know it too."
"Oh, no! Not that again!," Caledor complained.
"Not what again?," Hero inquired.
"No more secrets between you guys. I've had enough of that at the beach. I haven't learned to use my psychic powers to read thoughts, and I'm not planning to because I respect privacy; but any more of that and you'll make me consider it."
"As you said, my friend, some things are private," Hero told him. "But if anything happens, you and Tsunami will be the first ones to know."

<Gabi's POV>

I was almost done reviewing my speech when I heard pokemon talk in the direction of Tsunami's room. I put all my stuff back in my bag (process that took me about 5 minutes) and went to check it out. Water Angel, Lagi, Amber, Sylvan and Pidgeot, who were watching my progress and helping me out with a few words, followed me (Water Angel inside her pokeball, of course). Ventura and Iael were outside the complex, having a training session on their own. I got in the room and found the terrible trio engaged in one of their typical conversations (those in which the tone of their voices would go up and down and they'd alternate between laughter and shouts). I had once been worried about their relationship, but I knew better now. They were inseparable. They just had strange ways to express their friendship, and that was how they liked it.
"It's good to know you're feeling better," I told Tsunami as he noticed my presence.
"Better that ever," he said with a smile. "Only a bit hungry. How much longer till dinner?"
"I'll ask Nurse Joy," I replied. "If she says you're ready to go, we can go out and get something to eat right now. Would you rather eat at home or outside?"
"It's the same," Tsunami answered. "I know you prefer eating at home, so let's go home. I've won my 2nd battle at the Dragon Games. Nothing can make my day better... Err... It is still the same day, right?"
"Right," I laughed. "You were out for hours, but not days. The nurses said the poison was eliminated from your system very fast. After the first hour, all you needed was some rest to regain the lost energies."
"That explains why it took so long," Tsunami joked. "I had heaps of energy to regain. If I knew Rest, I would have healed much sooner."
"And some think you are the only boaster in our team," Caledor said to Hero.
"Everyone has the right to brag once in a while," Tsunami told him. "I even saw Water Angel do it once. She won't admit it in public, of course!"
"Me?! When did I do such a thing?," Water Angel complained, flashing out of her pokeball.
"A long time ago, when you were still a Horsea. You were battling a Beedrill and you had an outburst of self confidence and started blustering. Then Gabi lectured you and you never did that again."
"Oh, God! You have a really dangerous memory!," Water Angel exclaimed. "I'll be sure to be careful not to do or say anything wrong in front of you."
"I pay attention to others and have a good memory, that's all," Tsunami assured. "Don't be afraid of what you say in front of me. I won't hold it against you."
"As if you didn't hold practically everything she does and says against her," Pidgeot claimed. "Same goes for me. Even after you promised not to do it anymore. But it seems your memory is rather selective, isn't it?"
"Sorry, Big Bird. Sometimes the things you both do are too funny for me to hold my laughter. And I've grown used to it as I've grown used to having word fights with Hero and Caledor," Tsunami tried to apologize. "It's a part of who I am."
"Well, we can change some parts of us, you know," Pidgeot pointed out. "The parts we don't want, and the parts which are annoying. You're already old enough to learn to hold your tongue."
"Why are you so mad at me?," Tsunami questioned him. "I haven't said anything to you today."
"You were rude to Water Angel. It's the same. I know you don't mean wrong and I know you're a good guy, but you need to control your words or someone will get really mad at you. And I wouldn't discard the possibility of that someone being me."
Pidgeot was being serious. Actually, he was serious 99% of the time. What was going on with my team? Was this period of peace allowing them to say the things they'd never got the chance to say to each other before?

The door of the room opened. I turned around and saw Nurse Joy come through it.
"Oh. You're already here," she noticed. "And your Vaporeon is awake. That means he has already recovered."
"Does that mean he's ready to go home?," I asked her.
"I can almost certify he is. I'll only make one last check-up," she answered, approaching Tsunami. She picked his paw in her hand and checked his pulse, then made him open his mouth to check his throat, and finally took his pressure, and pressed her fingers on several parts of his body.
"Do you feel any pain?," she asked him. Tsunami shook his head. "He's as good as new," she declared.
As soon as he heard those words, Tsunami got up and jumped to the floor instantly.
"Let's go home now!," he suggested. "What's for dinner?"
"Soup, spaghetti, rice or whatever's in the freezer," I answered. "I know, I'll buy something else when I have the time."
"Which will most likely be as soon as NEVER," Hero retorted.
"Well, I think we still have some tamales left from that time we went to Salta," I added.
"When I evolved, you mean?," Tsunami asked. "No, thanks. Are you sure it's safe to eat them? A new life form could have developed inside them by now."
"In the freezer? I don't think so," I told him. "But you're right, we shouldn't let food get that old. I'll have to check the freezer and put things in order. It shouldn't be that hard after doing the inventory at the DT storage room."
"Translation: it will take at least 2 hours," Hero joked.
"Which will be reduced to only 1 if I get help from a certain Ninetales," I retorted.
"You can understand them?," Nurse Joy asked me, changing the subject completely.
"It's a long story," I replied. "The simple part of it is that my Espeon can use his psychic powers to translate what they say."
"I've seen other pokemon do that," Joy informed me. "Many trainers in Caledor have limited psychic abilities, allowing psychic pokemon to communicate with them. It wasn't such a long story after all."
"Oh, well... Right, that wasn't long," I agreed.
I hadn't lied; Caledor could translate and he sometimes did it. I had only omitted the hardest part of the story; a part which I didn't feel quite comfortable with yet. But there was no need for Nurse Joy to know about the stone. The fewer people knew about it, the safer it would be.
"Thanks for taking care of Tsunami," I told her. "We're leaving now. Good night."

Once at home, routine took over. All my pokemon were hungry, so they all helped classify the stuff in the freezer. Then we ate a bit of everything, considerably reducing the volume of the remaining vitals. I reckoned I'd have to go shopping again soon. But I'd only just done that... when, exactly? That day when Kristy came over and Scott rang (2 incredible events which would forever mark that day in history), about a week before the Dragon Games began. Ok, it was time to go again, but it still seemed too soon. Though, to me, it always seemed too soon to go shopping. That reminded me, I was supposed to wear "formal attire" for the banquet which would take place the following night. What would I wear? Buying a new dress was out of the question. Even if I hadn't had better things to spend my money on, I didn't have the time nor the patience to go shopping for clothes (which were the things I hated shopping for the most).
After dinner, I checked my wardrobe. Fortunately, I still had several dresses which I had brought with me when I moved to Caledor, and one I had bought here (though I wasn't going to wear that one, as I'd worn it at the Christmas celebration). Some of them dated from the ancient era (or, rather, when I was 11 or 12) and would look ridiculous on me now. But the ones I'd worn after my 15th birthday would still fit me, and some hadn't been seen in public here yet. I had one which was particularly elegant: a red dress which had been made especially for me when I was 16 years old. I hadn't worn it since then, and looking at it brought plenty of mixed and confusing memories. See, I had worn it for my brother's Bar Mitzva. Back then, I was having a wide cocktail of deep emotions which I couldn't explain at that moment. I knew something strong was about to happen, but I didn't know what, or even why I had that feeling. It was mainly a feeling of closure; and I had an exaggerated need to tell everyone in my family, especially my brother, how much I loved them and how much they meant for me. And I couldn't explain it to myself. Weird, now that I looked back; as in the following months my entire family fell apart, and my brother was cruelly taken away from me - and even from himself - by Team Rocket. Talk about closure; my entire life changed after that. Maybe if I'd had the glowing stone back then I would have been able to foresee the future more precisely and do something about it. Odds were I wouldn't have stopped my parents from breaking up, but I could have at least protected Guille. Still, I didn't have the stone, and I had no way to know. I couldn't change the past; not any of it. But the future was still in my hands. And now, once more, it was time for closure. Time to move on. Yes, that dress would do just fine.

I got up later than I would have liked to the following day. That must have been because I didn't feel quite confident about my speech yet. I had to face a very difficult subject in front of a probably numerous audience, many of whom knew me only as Lady Vulpix of the Dragon Tamers and would judge me by the words I would address to them. But those were not positive thoughts, and I had to push them away from my mind. I'd have to think of this as a regular speech, like others I'd already given. I had given several successful speeches in the past, starting with one for a National celebration in high school. It had been an exciting challenge back then, and the topic had been difficult too. But it had been nothing like talking to the trainers of Caledor before our final confrontation with the Black Battalion. If I had done that, I could certainly do this too. Yes, that was the right way to look at it. I reviewed my speech for the last time (I had nearly memorized it by then), and then headed for my office.
It was a normal day as far as work was concerned. I checked out some pokemon who found new trainers, checked in some new ones, replied to some e-mails with questions and made sure everything was in order. I even had some free time. I wanted to use it to write a story, but writing the speech had worn me out and I was out of ideas, so I used my free time to surf the web and look for information about Charmanders. I was surprised to see some parts of my interview with Angus Fidd published on a site I'd never heard of. I reckoned I'd have to be more careful if I wanted my report to come to a conclusion. Strangely, the site said some things about Amber's genes which no one could possibly know, since she'd never had a DNA test taken. But there didn't seem to be any reasons to be concerned yet. By the looks of it, it was just sensationalism in digital format. Saying that Amber was a sensitive Charizard with a balanced personality and her heart in the right place wouldn't have attracted visitors to a site with such tendencies, and I doubted any sensible person would pay attention to anything that website said. In any case, if things eventually went out of control, I could always warn people against it or, in the worst case scenario, take legal action.
Then the time to go back home came, and my pokemon and I got prepared for the banquet. I finished memorizing my speech, took a shower, fought my hair for half an hour until I got it to stay down, put on my dress with a little help from Sylvan and Amber, and finished the job with a pair of low-heeled shoes and one of clip earrings (I couldn't stand high heels and my ears weren't pierced). I took my amulet with me because I could never be too cautious; I thought of taking the white stone too, but decided to leave it at home, as I couldn't take my bag to a formal banquet and having it in my hand would have been dangerous (I'd have to tie it into a collar some day, just like my amulet and Sylvan's clover, but that would involve letting it touch my skin for long periods of time and I wasn't sure I was prepared for that). I was about to call a car to take me to the banquet, as I couldn't walk on the street dressed as I was; but Ventura offered to teleport all of us there. I accepted her offer and thanked her. Even Ventura could be kind once in a while.

Everything looked great. Scott had done an excellent job once more. He was great for organizing events. All those who were in the Dragon Games, as well as those who had participated in the hotel sweep, had been invited, so the place was soon filled with people: some familiar faces, a few good friends, and some I'd never seen before. I had extended the invitation to Ryan, as he had helped a lot during the Nagarythe crisis and all the previous ones. I would have liked to invite Alex and Nolan too, but they were still away. I was really glad that Ryan was able to make it in spite of his tight schedule. I really wanted to see him. I'd make sure to make him know that once I got to be next to him. But I had to open the banquet officially first. I'd been preparing myself for over 24 hours. I couldn't spoil it now. I stood on the stage especially prepared for this event, had everyone direct their attention to me, and began.
It went quite well, I could say. The people's faces showed emotion; my words had managed to touch them. But, after all the effore I'd put in writing my speech, I never got to say the last words. The lights went out all of a sudden. The climate was broken as everyone stood up and started talking. Some started looking for the source of the problem. I took a few seconds to react. Then I spoke in a loud voice to tell everyone that everything would be alright and that we'd sort out the problem; something I didn't know for sure, but I thought it was true.
Soon, some lights began to pop up. I could distinguish their sources as lighters, tails of Charmanders, Charmeleons, Charizards and Ampharos, the manes of some Ponytas and Rapidash, and a particular Espeon who was surrounded by a golden light. I went after him, hoping that his glow would help me find the source of the problem, or at least the rest of my pokemon. (Only Water Angel was in her pokeball; the others were walking around). However, before I reached him, the lights came back. For a moment, I thought the problem had been fixed. But then I noticed there weren't as many people in the room as before. Particularly, I couldn't find Scott anywhere. "Has he done it again or is he in trouble?," I asked myself. In any case, I couldn't keep denying the fact that something was wrong. I went back to the stage and picked up the microphone again.
"Stay calm," I asked everyone. "We must form groups to search for the rest of the trainers. Don't go far on your own, stay close to your pokemon and don't leave the building until everyone is back."
Then my hunches had been right, as much as I'd wanted to ignore them. There was still the chance that Scott and the others had got out of the room on their own to fix the electrical problem, but that would have been the logical assumption of an average person living on another world, not a Dragon Tamer with my experience. I was trying to follow my own advance and gather my pokemon to begin the search when my instincts were proven unfortunately right once more. The main doors bang-opened and a stampede of pokemon invaded the room. I didn't have to say anything this time. The trainers knew what to do. As did I. The only way to find out what was going on would be to take down the attackers.
It would be impossible to gather my whole team under such circumstances. I'd have to rely on Water Angel. I made my way toward the center of the room and sent her out. She looked around, confused.
"I know as much as you do," I told her. "Just try to take down any hostile pokemon so that we can get to the bottom of this as soon as possible."
She nodded and gave me her "sí" in agreement, just before shooting a warning Aurora Beam at a Magneton who was releasing Thunderbolts all over the place. The Magneton turned around and confronted her.

Level 51 Kingdra vs. Level 57 Magneton

Water Angel quickly created a Smokescreen around the Magneton. I warned her not to use Toxic, since it would be a waste of time. I didn't understand her reply. The Magneton tried to hit her with a Thunderbolt, but it failed. I looked around. Most of the rumble was taking place near the corners.
"I think there's enough space for a wave," I told Water Angel. She graciously complied by soaring on top of a massive wave (well, not as massive as the one I'd seen the day before, but powerful enough).
"Well done, keep it up!," I told her. I knew Water Angel was capable enough to win the battle on her own and her opponent didn't seem very well trained, but I was too shaken by the whole situation to just watch from the sideline.
The Magneton released an attack not commonly seen: 3 beams mixed into one to hit and envelop Water Angel. The impact was stronger than I would have expected. Maybe the Magneton was a better fighter than I was giving it credit for. But Water Angel was ready with another wave even before the light of the beams faded away.
Then the Magneton did something unexpected: it released another Thunderbolt but, apart from hitting Water Angel with it, it used its force to propel itself against a group of trainers. Now Water Angel wouldn't be able to use Surf without damaging others.
"Be careful," I said to her. And she was. She decided to use a Water Gun. She compressed the water into a thin and powerful stream which impacted right into the Magneton's central sphere. I wasn't sure if that would be enough to stop it but, in the end, it was.

Water Angel grew to level 52!

"Ok, that's one less, but there are still a lot around," I pointed out. "Are you alright?"
"Sí," Water Angel responded, though I could easily tell she'd had much better moments. The battle had been quick, but all the blows dealt had been strong and she had taken a big dose of electricity.
"Hold on, I'll try to get the others," I told her, but as soon as I tried to move, a threatening Houndoom came to block my way. Water Angel saw him and shouted out something, letting me know she would handle him. I hoped she had enough strength left. Then I thought: "she's Water Angel. She'll get strength from anywhere and nowhere to help as long as she's needed."

Level 52 Kingdra vs. Level 70 Houndoom

<Water Angel's POV>

I'd lied when I said I was alright. I was quite beaten up, and for the looks of this Houndoom, taking down Hero would probably be easier. But I couldn't give up. Not when Gabi and all of the Dragon Tamers needed as much help as they could get.
I knew that using Smokescreen would be a waste of time. I looked into my opponent's eyes and saw the look of a predator about to devour his prey. But if I'd let that attitude intimidate me, I wouldn't have survived my first encounter with Team Rocket. (I wouldn't even have survived the Gyarados who attacked me shortly after I was adopted, but Pidgeot had a lot to do with my survival in that occasion). Thinking of Pidgeot somehow gave me the courage I was looking for. We always seemed to find strength in each other, and even the thought of all we'd achieved together helped us through hard situations. Such as this one.
I was saying to myself "I'm ready" when the Houndoom released a nasty and poisonous smoke on me. I had to throw myself to the floor in order to evade it. It work, but it left me in a difficult position. I rolled over to get closer to my opponent. The Houndoom was practically laughing on my face. He opened his mouth, showing me his sharp teeth, but before he could sink them into my flesh, I delivered a Hydro Pump right into his mouth. That must have hurt like heaven for a hell hound. His eyes went red with fury, and that was the last thing I saw before his Faint Attack stroke me. And was almost the last thing I saw after that too.
My vision began to get blurred. With my last remaints of strength, I used my only chance to get up and deal a serious blow at the same time: Surf. Once the water molecules parted from each other to resume their usual positions in the air, I managed to stay up long enough to watch my opponent fall. Then I fell back myself. Gabi caught me before I hit the floor.
"I can't go on battling," I told her. Even without the stone and without Caledor, she had to understand that.
"Take a rest. You've earned it," Gabi said, returning me to the safe and comfortable darkness of my pokeball.

I grew to level 54!
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 01:01 PM   #48
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<Tracker's POV>

My trainer and I arrived at the little spot on Earth we like to call home. I curled up on my favorite pillow as I watched her make herself some coffee. Once it was ready, she took in the first dark drops and sighed. Another day of work was over. If they didn't call her in the middle of the night for an emergency, that was. But I doubted she'd get that call: she hadn't even got it the last 2 times a real emergency had risen. Maybe that was why she was sighing. Maybe she was worried about the whole set of things that had been going on lately. I knew I was.
"I don't know you so well," all of a sudden I realized she was talking to me. "But I get the feeling you have a lot of things on your mind too." She paused for a second and then added: "if only you could talk... I'd give anything to understand you."
I fixed my eyes on her. It was the first time I observed her like that. She looked so much like my previous trainer! Even their personalities were quite similar. They were both kind, warm-hearted souls, whose main purpose in life was to help others; fragile in appearance, but strong enough not to be corrupted by the way of life they led, nor discouraged by the things they had to deal with on a regular basis. Neither of them would give it a second thought before risking their lives for me, or any other being with a soul for that matter. And I'd been so unfair to them!
I reviewed my actions during the past few months. No wonder why I'd been labeled the most unpredictable police pokemon in Caledor. I'd always done my job well, but every now and then I'd do things they had no way to understand; starting by the day when I took the firm decision of staying in Caledor instead of going back to Goldenrod with my old trainer. Neither Jenny could understand what had gotten into me. And I couldn't explain myself. I couldn't tell my old trainer how grateful I was to her for helping me when I needed her, taking care of me and teaching me the job. I'd never been able to explain either of them my reasons. I, too, wished I could speak their language.
"If I had psychic abilities everything would be easier," Jenny reflected. "But that's not something you can buy at a store. Then again, some things shouldn't be messed with, and I think minds are one of them. But it would all be much easier, wouldn't it? Maybe I'd even know what's going on."
I knew it. She was as concerned about this whole silent mess as I was. It doesn't take an overly precise Ninetales's nose to smell something rotten. First the riots at the hotels, then the attack at the Dragon Tamers banquet... everything was dismissed and we were told to take no action and to desist from further investigation. But where did that order come from, and why was it issued? Everything was so carefully clouded! I tried not to think of a conspiracy for the moment, but in any case someone was clearly pulling many strings.
Of course, nobody could stop me from taking my own directives. In that, I was a specialist. My mind had been working full time ever since the hotel sweep. Back then I had noticed that several Dragon Tamers were registered in those hotels. I didn't make much of it at that moment, but after the banquet that got me thinking. What if this was a plot aimed at the Dragon Tamers? In that case, reinforcing the security at the games wouldn't help much. Whoever was doing is would only find it easier to attack a weaker spot. As far as I knew, the DTHQ were being left unguarded, as were all the other vital locations. Though I could be wrong, as I didn't know much about it. But at least it was worth a warning. I needed to make sure the Dragon Tamers weren't falling into a trap just like they did in Nagarythe. I needed to contact Hero. Heh. Funny how all my threads of thoughts ended up leading to him.

<Caledor's POV>

I could tell that I had changed. It had taken me long to admit it, because I didn't want to, but in the end it was obvious enough to come to the surface. I had become more silent, more thoughtful... of course, the old Caledor was still there. I'd never say no to a game with friends, I could be the soul of the party, and I could bring a little light to the darkest moments... literally sometimes. And, of course, I'd still engage in comeback fights with Tsunami and hero. But I was now beginning to realize I was full of questions. There was something inside me that was pressing to get out, and became more important the more I tried to ignore it. I tried to track it back, and my thoughts led to the day I evolved, at the outskirts of Nagarythe. Many pokemon change in the inside as well as the outside when they evolve, I'd always known that. But no, that wasn't it. My evolution hadn't changed me. I'd been ready to evolve because I'd changed.
"What will I do with this now?," I asked my image on the mirror. Funny thing about mirrors, they only show you what you already know; so of course I got no answer. Still, I insisted.
"Is this me? The Caledor I know wouldn't spend more than 5 seconds asking questions to himself. Are my psychic powers causing this change in me? Or have I just taken more than my sparkling personality can filter?"
I laughed at my own words, and all of a sudden I felt like myself again. "Guess I was drowning in a glass of water," I laughed. Then I looked straight at the mirror, watched the reflection of my gem turn from goldenrod to red, and the Espeon image in front of me be surrounded by a bright red light. Then I let the light go out and I laughed a little more. "Every day should start and end with a laugh," I thought. Then I headed to the kitchen to have breakfast.

Gabi was already at the kitchen. She had always been an early riser. She was having some tea with Amber. The two of them loved tea to a degree I couldn't understand. I just took it as a part of who they were.
Gabi looked at me as soon as I came in. I'd been feeling something unpleasant, like electricity, whenever she looked at me since the banquet. A bit like a short circuit. I knew she'd been feeling it too, as she would always respond by taking her eyes off me. I didn't understand why this was happening. And I tended to forget it until it happened again.
"It's not fair," Gabi suddenly complained, out of nowhere.
"What isn't fair?," I asked her.
"This whole thing is getting to us. It had never happened before. We'd been through terrible times, and we've stuck to each other. But now that we don't know what's going on, we're trying to dismiss it by not talking, and it's hurting us."
"Oh, so that was it," I concluded.
"That was what?," Gabi inquired.
"That was why our thoughts were crashing like that. I don't have much experience with my psychic powers, so I'm yet to learn how to control them, and how to understand them," I explained.
"Welcome to the club," Gabi told me with a smile, making Amber laugh.
"Well, I don't have any psychic abilities, but I could write a book on powers that need to be controlled," the Charizard pointed out.
"Have you finally conquered them?," I asked her.
"For the most part," she answered. "I still fail to measure my own strength every now and then, but I'm working hard on it."
"It's good to know I'm not alone," I affirmed.
"You'll never be alone, Caledor" Gabi assured.
"Is it just me or were you two going to talk about something you're not talking about?," Amber reminded us.
"Oh, yes!," I exclaimed. "Can you believe how good I am at avoiding serious stuff? I even do it when I don't want to!"
"I can believe it because I know you," Gabi said, "but that's not a good thing. Negative feelings have to be faced. Otherwise they'll eat at you, and you'll never actually get over them."
"Oh, it's not such a negative feeling," I told her. "Or so I think, at least. Well, I don't like not knowing what's going on, sure, but all of you can say the same. But I do have some... questions. Questions I think I've always had; but I've never asked anyone. I guess it was because I thought I wouldn't find the answer even if I asked; or maybe I thought I wouldn't like the answer. I'm not sure."
"In that case, you've just given a huge step," Gabi assured. "And my own experience tells me that the worst truth can't hurt more than the things you can imagine when you don't know. So, will you tell us what those questions are?"
"I don't know where to start. I've never tried to put them in words," I admitted.
"It's ok, we won't rush you," Gabi said. "You can take your time, or you can even say it Ventura's way. I care for you enough not to mind."
"Oh, no!," I dismissed the thought with a laugh. "I haven't learned how to do that, but I wouldn't even if I could. One Ventura in the team is more than enough."
"What would Ventura say if she heard that?," Amber wondered.
"I have no idea. I've long since given up trying to predict Ventura's reactions," Gabi admitted. "So, have you thought of a way to say it yet?"
"It's just..." I began. "Well, some questions are related to Scott, and some have to do with myself."
"As far as Scott is concerned, may have even more questions than you do. He's more unpredictable than Ventura," Gabi told me. Once more, I laughed.
"Ok, let's go to me, then. Though it still has to do with Scott, since I heard he was involved in my... whatever it was. I mean, what was the purpose? Why did they do all those things to me? And who did the order come from? And what am I, exactly? Was I born like other pokemon, or am I a clone, or a lab-made creature? And why me? Those are lots of questions, I know. And they've always been inside me, but... Why didn't they let me know what that was all for? Why didn't they ever told me what I was meant to be? Did they even have such a plan for me, or were they just experimenting for the sake of 'progress' and I just happened to be their subject? And I know I cannot breed as a result of the radiation I've taken, but that was an accident, a side-effect or did they do it on purpose? I agree with you; the truth can't possibly be worse than all the things I've imagined. God, I can't believe I'm saying all this!"
"I'm glad you took it all out," Gabi told me. "I think that by itself will help you. I wish I could do more, but I don't have the answers to any of those questions. Scott might know some of them, but I don't think he'd tell me. There are many things he keeps me out of, and it annoys me as much as it does you. But unless trusting me is the only way to stop the world from falling apart, I don't think he'll do it. And, as a result, I can't trust him wholly either. Only enough to run the Dragon Tamers together, but he doesn't let people in his life. In a way, I'm sorry for him."
"I wish he knew how I feel," I sighed.
"Maybe it's not his fault," Gabi suggested. "He did know about the project, but maybe it wasn't his idea. And anyway, if anyone had any plans for you, it doesn't matter. You don't have to live up to anyone's expectations but your own. You may not know many things about your history, but you know who you are; and you're invaluable, Caledor. Do I have to remind you of all your virtues?, because the list would never end. I know who you are, and I love who you are. So, whatever happens, don't question yourself."
"Amen to that," Amber agreed.
"Thanks a lot, girls," I smiled. "I don't know anything more than I did before, but it's good to have you with me." Then I turned to Amber and ask her: "do you think we could have a training session one of these days? I think it could help us both."
Before Amber could answer, a loud bird's voice broke in.
"I need a training session!"
Pidgeot's shout preceded his entrance to the kitchen. When he came in, he explained that he hadn't trained properly for months, and he was beginning to feel rusty.
"Ok, you don't have to shout," Gabi stopped him. "I was thinking of taking you somewhere to train. The problem is that I was also thinking of way too many other things, so I guess it was never the right time... Sorry, Pidgeot. I didn't mean to put it off for so long."
"That's great," Pidgeot replied. "Not that you forgot, but the fact you've been thinking about it. You know... I don't feel to well about all this mysterious attacks. If the worst comes, I'd better be prepared."
"What do you mean when you say the worst?," I asked him.
"You know. Big trouble. War, fear, horror, destruction... you've seen much of it. I've had it worse. I don't want any of that again, and I'll do everything that's in my power to stop it. Even if there's not that much I can do, I can't stay motionless."
"I know," I agreed. "And I'm sure you can do a lot given the chance, but aren't you jumping to conclusions? I mean, someone's obviously attacking us, but we shouldn't be already assuming the world is coming to an end."
"I don't know, maybe my bad experiences have made me too pessimistic," he reflected, "but I do smell evil around. If it's not that big a threat, all the better for us, but it won't hurt us to be ready for anything."
"Right, but having a more positive view on life won't hurt you either," I replied.
Pidgeot stared at me for a moment and let out a short chuckle.
"I guess you could help me with that," he concluded. "Anyway, Gabi, where can we go to train?"
Gabi thought for a moment, before she started discarding possibilities.
"Well, there are no training events we know of right now," she began, "and I don't think we can easily find that group of trainers who challenged us once. The cycling gang must still be there, but Kanto is far away from here. It would take us a long time to get there."
"Scratch out that option," Pidgeot suggested. "If we see that gang again, there's no stopping Tsunami from trying to show his skills against Shadow's Ghost pokemon and prove he's as good as Hero against them. I know he's in the Dragon Games and can't get too much practice, but I need training right now. I don't ask you for favors often, do I?"
"No. Come to think of it, I don't recall you asking for anything before," Gabi realized. "You should do it more often."
"Really?," Pidgeot questioned, startled.
Gabi nodded.
"In that case, I might ask you to get a swimming pool," he considered. Now it was Gabi who was startled.
"Well... that's a complicated request. It would take a lot of money, probably more than we have now, and a lot of time... and we'd have to make room for it, which would mean saying goodbye to the garden," she explained.
"Then forget I ever said that," Pidgeot retracted himself. "I just thought it would be nice to take a dip at home, and Water Angel would love having some space to swim freely without having to go to the Eevee House or somewhere else. But I understand it can't be done."
"Sorry, Pidgeot," Gabi apologized. "But we can go to the Eevee House more often. And I'll find a way to train you today."
"I'm glad Tsunami wasn't here to hear that request, though," I commented. "We can all imagine what he would have said."
"Well, I like Tsunami as much as the guy next door..." Pidgeot began. "Have we ever talked to the guy next door?"
"I have," Gabi answered. "A few times. And yes, he does like Tsunami. Especially since he saw him at the games."
"Ok, then it applies," Pidgeot confirmed. "I like him as much as the guy next door, but he has such a BIG MOUTH! If he learnt to keep it shout when he should, he'd be practically perfect."
"Talking about my finned friend? Don't give him so much credit!," came an exclamation from the 4th pokemon to enter the kitchen that morning. "It will go to his head. Morning, everyone."
"Good morning, Hero," Gabi greeted him. "We were just talking about finding a place to train."
"Really? Count me in!," the Ninetales anticipated.
"For Pidgeot," Gabi explained.
Hero looked at his oldest teammate. He seemed a bit disappointed, but then a smile formed on his face.
"Yes, I guess the bird needs some exercise to keep in shape," he commented.
"I'll pretend I didn't hear that," Pidgeot replied.
"No, I mean it! I mean... you haven't battled nearly as much as I have, and I don't even see you flying around much. You're usually almost passive unless you have something to fight for, so if now you wanna train, I think it's great! We should give you the chance."
"I'm not passive," Pidgeot defended himself. "I just don't make friends so easily, and I don't like flying around on my own. Plus the pokemon I normally talk to are in the house most of the time; except for Trickster, but she's away on vacation now, so I haven't had any reasons to get out lately."
"You could get more friends if you let others know you," Hero advised him. And then, with a giggle, added: "or if you let Water Angel talk about you."
"You're talking like Tsunami now," Pidgeot complained.
"They're much alike in many ways," I pointed out. "Maybe that's why they get on so well."
"Like fire and water!," Hero laughed. "And look who's talking. It's not like you're out of our little circle, are you?"
"Got me," I laughed back. "Where's Tsunami, by the way? He should be up by now! And where are Lagi, Sylvan and the others?"
"Lagi beat you all here and went out when she finished breakfast," Gabi explained. "She took Water Angel's pokeball with her. They were going to the Eevee House to swim a little."
"Why didn't they tell me?," Pidgeot complained.
"They didn't want to wake you up. They felt you deserved some sleep once you could get it."
Pidgeot made a gesture which showed he was not conformed but he understood their intention.
"What about the others?," I asked again.
"Tsunami was still asleep last time I checked," Hero answered. "Iael too. And Sylvan was awake, but she didn't seem in a hurry to get out of the room. She was staring at the window with that look of hers."
"That comment wasn't polite," Gabi told him.
"I didn't mean any offense. I was just trying to be descriptive. I didn't insult her or anything. I have nothing against her. But you do know what she's like, right? When she looks and you don't know what she's looking at, nor what she's thinking of..."
"Sylvan is very reflective," Gabi reminded him. "I can relate. I'll check her out and see if she's fine; she may be worried about the attacks. Well, who isn't? But I could try to help her relax if that's the problem."
"And who's helping you, then?," Amber retorted.
"Look, Amber...," Gabi started in a loud and serious tone, but couldn't help bursting into laughter a second later. "Anyway, I'll check her out. And I'll try to find out where Ventura is; I haven't seen her today."
"Hey, if you want some training, why don't you go out and get it?," Hero changed the subject. "Things happen when you go out and look for them, not when you sit down and meditate. I bet that's exactly what Ventura's doing."
"Do you think she's out?," Gabi tried to confirm.
"She likes action as much as I do. So she's either sunbathing to charge herself up, or finding a way to discharge herself. Trust me, action is on the streets. Last time I went for a walk, I saw many trainers having battles. I'm sure our bird buddy will find someone to challenge or whatever kind of exercise he prefers."
"Sounds good," Pidgeot accepted. "Let's go out. I'm sure we'll all feel better. Maybe we can even stop worrying about the things we don't know... Or at least try."
"Try to be positive, Pidgeot," Amber recommended him. "If anything happens, we'll be prepared. But while it doesn't... well, I think our minds have earned the right to relax for a while."
"I'm with you," Gabi supported her. "I'm not very good at relaxing, but I'll give it my best effort."
"Try not to put too much effort on that," I laughed. "Or else you won't be able to relax at all. What is it with you? Having fun is the easiest thing in the world!"
"It depends on your personality," Gabi sighed. "But yes, it's time to stop worrying. There will always be things to worry about, but being in a good state is the best way to confront them. So let's get out and find something to do."
With that, she stood up and looked at us. She seemed to be checking how many of us would follow her. And we all did. Just when Gabi was about to open the door, a cry came from behind us.
"Hey! Were are you all going?!"
That was Tsunami, who had obviously just got up.
"We're going to walk around and maybe let Pidgeot have a battle," Hero responded. "Are you coming?"
"Were you leaving without me?," Tsunami questioned us.
"We didn't want to wake you up," Amber explained. "We thought you needed some sleep after all you've done lately."
"Next time, do wake me up," Tsunami ordered. "I don't like missing things like these, and I hate being left out."
"Sorry, Tsunami. It won't happen again," Gabi apologized. "You can come with us now. Do you want to have something to eat? We can wait for you."
"No, thanks. I'm not hungry yet," he answered. "I'll eat when we get back."
"I guess we should ask Sylvan and Iael to come with us too," Gabi reckoned.
"I'll ask them," I offered. "And I can check if Sylvan is fine too. I guess you had forgotten about it, hadn't you."
"This is not my day," Gabi sighed.
"Make it yours, then," Amber replied with a smile.
I ran over to the "big sleeping room" (as opposed to the small sleeping room where Gabi's bed was), which had been redecorated after our visit to Yvresse and was now filled with pillows of different shapes, colors and sizes. There, I found Iael, who was still sleeping, and Sylvan, who was staring at the window. Sylvan turned round when she noticed my presence.
"It's a nice day," she told me. "No one but us could think anything bad would happen on a day like this. Maybe it won't, after all. I know there's no logic in that; but there's no reason to always expect the worse, is there?"
"If you're asking me, you already know the answer you'll get," I laughed.
"I know, but I want to hear it," she asked me. "I want to confirm that I can be optimistic without being naive."
"I am naive," I joked. "Nah; too grown up for that already. Yes, you can hope for the best and enjoy yourself. It's good for health. And for life."
"Thanks, Caledor," Sylvan smiled. "Ok, then. I'll get up and go to the garden before the last flowers fall."
"You've been working on the garden a lot these days, haven't you?," I asked.
"Yes," she confirmed. "I love looking after the plants and watching them grow. It has always been my passion. I could talk about them for hours, but that's not what you came for, is it?"
"No, but the garden looks great," I commended her.
"Thanks," she gave me another big smile.
"I came to tell you that we're going for a walk, and Pidgeot will look for someone to battle. Are you or Iael coming?"
"I don't think Iael will wake up any time soon. As for me, thanks for the offer, but I'd rather stay here and look after both the plants and our teammate. Maybe some other time."
"Sure," I accepted. "See you, then."
"See you. Have a good time."
I ran back to Gabi and the rest of the team, and told them that Sylvan and Iael were fine and that they weren't coming. With that, we finally left.

<Pidgeot's POV>

It was nice to get out and just fly around for a change. It had been long since I'd last done that. Usually there was something urgent and pressing stopping me from relaxing at best, threatening everyone's lives at worst. This time we hadn't even decided where we were going. It was so unusual...! Yet it felt fine! I felt relieved. As if something had been pressing me tightly and had now let go off me. And I was going to get some normal training too! What else could I ask for?
I followed my friends down the streets, soaring every now and then to catch a gust of wind. Amber soon joined me and we both started describing circles and other figures in the air... it sounds silly now that I think of it, but at that moment it was fun; it was just what we needed to get the stress out of our systems. We were playing like that when we saw a man riding a motorbike fast like hell a short distance ahead of us. That called my attention, but I didn't know what to make of it until I saw who was chasing him: yes, good old Officer Jenny and her Ninetales, Tracker.
The graceful pokemon stop in her tracks (no pun intended) when she saw our little group. That caused her trainer to stop too, letting out a sigh of frustration.
"We're on a mission, Tracker," Jenny reminded her pokemon, who was already talking to Hero. "There's no time for socializing!"
Tracker turned to Gabi and asked her a favor.
"Could you please tell her that I'm calling for backup? The criminal we're chasing is too fast for us alone!"
Gabi explained the officer what Tracker had said, and Jenny reacted.
"Civilians are not supposed to get involved in police missions."
"I'm a Dragon Tamer," Gabi pointed out. "My pokemon and I have been up against the likes of Team Rocket, the Dark Cloak and Mewtwo's army. I think we may be qualified enough to help."
"If she thinks so, that must be right," Jenny accepted, her eyes pointing at her Ninetales. "She needs a lesson on following commands, but we don't have time to argue now. Did you see where he went to?"
"He went 2 blocks straight and then took a turn to the left. We can fly on my Pidgeot to go faster, if he can handle the weight. Unfortunately my Charizard hasn't learned to fly with people on her back yet and my Dragonite isn't here right now."
"I can do that," I said, descending to the ground.
"Thanks, but I'll use my bike," Jenny rejected the offer. "Your Pidgeot will fly faster if it's carrying one person instead of two. I'll see you there. I just hope it's not too late to catch him."
"Oh, I'm sure it isn't," Tracker commented with confidence. It was only then that I noticed Hero was no longer by her side. And, for Gabi's reaction, I think she became aware of that at the same moment.
"Oh, no!," she exclaimed. "He's already after him!"
"Who?," Officer Jenny asked.
"Hero, my Ninetales."
"Do all Ninetales's behave like that?!," Jenny complained.
"No, not ALL of them," Gabi replied. "But evidently the ones you and I live with do."
Saying this, Gabi got on my back and called all the non-flying pokemon into their pokeballs. I took her up and flew in the direction the criminal had escaped to, while we both did our best effort to locate him. Suddenly, Gabi shouted out something I wasn't expecting.
"Get out of wherever you are and come here! You got me worried! How long have you been watching us?"
I didn't understand who she was talking to, until the bug pokemon who had been hiding behind me and floating right in the direction of the wind decided to fly forward and make her presence noticed. She didn't talk, however. I think she sent another psychic pulse to Gabi.
"Ok," Gabi answered. "Now we'll talk. Pidgeot, please get ready to support Caledor's weight."
No sooner did she say that than I felt my Espeon friend's paws on my back.
"Now we can talk," Ventura told her. "But we shouldn't; or else that guy will escape. Or do you trust Hero to handle him on his own?"
"I don't know how dangerous he is; we'd better take no risks. We'll catch him first and talk later, but know that you won't get away with this."
"Whatever did I do?!," Ventura complained. "I only went out to fly around. Not like you've never left without telling me where you were going."
"If you're going on about way back at TRHQ again, it was a matter of life or death and I knew you could teleport home anytime."
"Well, you have no way to know this, but teleporting is somewhat straining if you do it many times or if you teleport very far away. I was pushing myself to the limit saving Dragon Tamers that night, and you got me worried too."
Gabi stopped moving for a moment. Then she spoke.
"I really wasn't expecting that. I mean, I didn't know you... Sorry; and thanks for saying it. I'll try to be more careful with your feelings from now on. I hope you can make it easier by telling me what you feel before a year has passed."
"Sometimes I don't even know how I feel," Ventura admitted. "What I do know is that a criminal is getting away. If he gets out of the range of my radar sense, we've lost him."
"Not if Tracker's skills are as good as I've heard," Gabi argued, "but you're right, we're waiting precious time. Can you please tell Pidgeot where this guy is now, so that he can follow him?"
Without as much as a 'yes', the Venomoth proceeded to deliver a full charge of images right into my mind. That's Ventura for you. I knew that complaining would only be a waste of time, so I flew in the direction the images pointed to, using my Agility in hopes to get there before anything bad could happen.
Luckily, it worked. I managed to catch up with the biker and Hero by taking a diagonal shortcut (those are the wonders of flying) and plunged down right in front of him before he could get to the next crossing. He tried to evade my fast but bulky body, but Amber arrived in time to block his way out on the right, while Caledor jumped down and landed on the left. With Hero right behind him and Ventura circling around, there was nowhere he could run.
Gabi got down and let out the rest of the team right when Officer Jenny and Tracker caught up with us, and the blue-haired officer pronounced the famous words "you're under arrest". The whole scene looked a bit like a cartoon, until the criminal got his hand in a bag he was carrying and took out a pokeball!
"Just like the old times with rookie Rockets," Hero commented.
"Your old times," I remarked. "I had older times which were far worse. Let me handle this, Gabi."
"He's all yours," Gabi granted me the battle. All this happened before we could even see which pokemon was inside that pokeball. The one which finally got out was... somewhat unexpected.
A Ditto!
"Now this is like my old times!," Ventura exclaimed.
"This will be interesting," I admitted despite the fact that Hero's mention of Team Rocket was still stinging in my head. "Bring it on."

Level 51 Pidgeot vs. Level 49 Ditto

I decided to use my only chance at a Mud-Slap before the Ditto could take my shape. It wasn't hard to gather mud from the street, since it had rained the night before (it was one of those days when the weather is crazy and changes diametrically from the night to the morning). The Ditto was caught by surprise, and the mud made it harder for it to pick up my form. I was already out of sight when it finished replicating me, and it was unable to predict where my attack would come from.
"This will be easy," I thought as I hit the false Pidgeot with a Faint Attack. But I knew better than to grow overconfident, and kept on the watch in case the Ditto had some surprises up its new feathers.
"Copy that move!," the Ditto's trainer shouted.
My opponent complied. And while I was now prepared for what was coming, I couldn't avoid it. That's when I realized that I'd just given my opponent a clue of how to neutralize the effect of my Mud-Slap. I wrote a mental note not to do that again, and tried to think of a way to get around that. Then I remembered I was still carrying my double shield and, while it's attack part was useless against flying pokemon, it still gave me a good idea.
I flew a bit higher to put some distance between us and charged a Hidden Power attack. My unleashing it gave the Ditto not only a huge shock, but also some information which would work more in my favor than in its own.
"An electric attack!," the thief exclaimed, appalled. "Copy that now!"
The Ditto copied my move and sent it back to me. It hit me hard, but my double shield reduced the damage, which was sent back as a tremor. I aimed the shield at the Ditto's trainer and the tremor caused him to fall off his bike, allowing Jenny to put her handcuffs on him. Now that I think of it, he was quite a lousy criminal.
The Ditto wasn't happy to see what had happened to his trainer, which made me think the guy must have been done something good in his life. It hit me with a Quick Attack which hurt more than its Faint Attack had. It was getting mad. I had to stop it, and the fastest way I could think of was to use my Hidden Power again. I gave the Ditto another shock, which made it fall to the ground right away.

I grew to level 53!

"That wasn't my idea of training," I told Gabriela as Officer Jenny took care of the thief and the purple mass lying on the ground, and used her radio to call for a patrol car to fetch them..
"I know, this just got in the middle, but you did get a battle," she replied. "And you were very good at it."
"This guy is pathetic," Hero commented. "Why was the police after him, anyway? What did he do?"
"He stole a motorbike," Tracker replied. "Its owner forgot the key on, and he took it and rode on."
"As I said, pathetic," Hero concluded.
"Yes, the problem is that the bike was too fast for us. He was already leaving us behind. I'd thought of letting him go and then tracking him down to his hideout, but then I found you and I thought you could help us make things faster."
"If speed is what you need, you can always count on me," my teammate responded with a smile.
"I'm happy to hear that," she said. "So no plans for running away again, right?"
"Nah; what for? I have nothing to run from, and even if I had, I wouldn't run anymore. I've grown past that. Besides, I like my life as it is now."
"Yes, me too," Tracker smiled.
"Besides, turning into a 7-tailed freak is something that happens only once in a lifetime," Hero added.
"I've never thought of you as a freak," Tracker assured.
"You have an interesting way to see the world," Hero told her. "Like you see beyond things... I don't know how to say it. I sometimes wish I had your senses. And not just the five that have names."
"There's so much about you I'd like to have..." Tracker sighed.
"I see. No one can have everything," Hero concluded.
"This guy is blind!!," Tsunami shouted out. Caledor gave the Vaporeon a strange look, which Tsunami returned. They kept their eyes locked on each other for a while. I got the feeling that I was missing an interesting a conversation. Finally, Hero confronted Tsunami.
"Is there anything that I should know, kid?," he inquired, half menacingly and half unsure. Tsunami sighed.
"Caledor is right, I shouldn't talk or else I'll ruin everything. I have a thing for saying the wrong words at the wrong time. But you two definitely need to talk."
"We were talking until you interrupted us," Hero pointed out.
"That reminds me; yes, we do need to talk," Tracker got in. "I suspect that someone is planning something against the Dragon Tamers. They must be waiting for the best moment to strike, but I doubt they'll do it at the Games. Maybe at the same time, but somewhere else... somewhere we're not expecting, and that could hinder you severely. I haven't figured out where that would be, but I will feel better if I know you're alert."
"Thanks. We will be," Hero affirmed.
"Tracker is an excellent police pokemon," Gabi told Jenny as the Patrol car came and left with the lame thief in it. "She already has a theory, or at least part of it, as to what's going on. I think that must explain the bad feelings I've been having lately."
"Bad feelings? Sorry, I don't get it," Jenny said.
Gabi explained everything about her recent hunches and what Tracker had said to Hero; and even commented that she'd had a dream in which the Ninetales's were having that exact conversation in front of her.
"I dismissed it at that moment," Gabi admitted. "I can never recognize a premonition until it comes true. Not without the stone, at least."
"What you're saying is amazing!," Jenny remarked. "Your abilities are awesome. I wish I could at least understand my Ninetales."
"I can't without either the stone or Caledor, and I must admit the stone sort of scares me. It gives me enough power to get hurt, without the skills to control it. Especially the premonitions."
"Well, at least you have the balance to use it wisely," Officer Jenny pointed out. "I think it's in good hands."
"Thanks," Gabi smiled.
"Anyway, since Tracker has already got you into this, are you willing to help if something comes up?," Jenny asked her.
"Of course," Gabi assured. "Anyway, I'm not the one she was trying to get into this. I keep bumping into you for being Hero's trainer."
I laughed. It seemed everybody but Hero knew what was going on. But, having known him longer than anybody else in my team, I couldn't discard the possibility -quite likely, in fact- that he knew more than he seemed to and was only pretending because he had no idea how to give the next step. For the first time, I felt I had some luck with me.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 01:01 PM   #49
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<Tracker's POV>

I could never get tired of the satisfaction of a job well done, even if the job had ended up being much easier than I'd expected. And I always learned something from each of my missions; you can learn from every situation if you watch carefully enough to get the message. For example, the Ditto who had just been defeated was a strong fighter, but it relied too much on its trainer, who was less than reliable. Once the trainer lost control of the situation, the Ditto lost focus, and subsequently lost the battle. Depending on your trainer too much is a bad thing; though I was nearing the other extreme, which was just as bad. My independance was making my current trainer more than a bit nervous, and that was interfering with our teamwork. I could see that, and I wanted to fix that as much as she did, but how? I was already trying to follow most of her commands, but my instincts were stronger and I couldn't turn my back on them.
Jenny was right about something: if we found a good way to communicate, things would be much easier. But so far Lady Vulpix was the only one who had managed to act as a translator between us, and Jenny didn't like it when I got her into our business. Things were complicated. Worst of all, I had said something to Hero which I was already beginning to regret. Was I going to far? Maybe he wasn't returning my feelings, and for that reason he was evading all my attempts to get closer to him, and I was making a fool of myself. And his Vaporeon friend wasn't helping at all. "That's the worst of all things?," I suddenly thought to myself. "Girl, you really need to sort out your priorities!," I scolded me.
I pushed my mind back to reality; back to the present. And I did it just in time to hear Pidgeot comment that he was still wishing to get some proper training. He had shown admirable skills during the battle; I hadn't seen many pokemon with such a good reaction time, and he hadn't seemed to hesitate for a second before taking action. That caught my interest, and I wanted to know what I could learn from him. So I did something not even I had been expecting a minute earlier. I offered myself to battle him.
The surprise on everyone's faces was priceless. I almost laughed when Hero uttered the words "you... want to battle... him?"
"I think it would be an interesting challenge for both of us," I explained. "As a police Ninetales I've confronted many pokemon, but not many of them were in his league. Some were strong, but took too long to come up with good strategies. Your friend is different; he makes it look like thought and motion were only one thing, and I'd like to see how I can handle something like that. Besides, this way he'll get the friendly match he's been looking for."
"And it might help me get the embarrassment out of my system," I added to myself.
"Are you sure you don't have work to do now?," Lady Vulpix asked me.
"We've finished this mission earlier than we expected, thanks to your help," I told her. "We have some spare time now."
"Officer Jenny, Tracker would like to battle my Pidgeot. Is that ok with you?," she asked my trainer.
"Knowing her, I don't think that matters that much. She'll do it with or without my approval," Jenny responded.
Was that the image she had of me? Now I was scared. I had been doing things awfully wrong if she really thought I was like that. I turned to her and looked into her eyes, trying to show that her approval did matter, that I did respect her and want her as my trainer. She smiled, and that smile was the most reassuring thing I'd ever felt.
"I think I've exaggerated," she admitted. "We need to get to know each other better. Ok, you can battle him."
I jumped with joy. Not just for the battle, but because I felt Jenny and I had walked one step forward in our trainer/pokemon relationship. And this would be a test for that relationship too.
"Is that ok with you, Pidgeot?," Lady Vulpix asked.
Pidgeot nodded. He seemed to like this challenge as much as I did.
"Everything's set, then," Jenny confirmed. Her opponent nodded.
"Let's battle!," Pidgeot concluded.

Level 53 Pidgeot vs. Level 52 Ninetales

It could be said that I had an advantage in this battle: I had just seen Pidgeot in action and had an idea of what to expect. However, this Pidgeot had been Hero's friend for a long time and might have heard a lot about me. As bad as Hero was to get others' feelings, he was unmatched at picking up battling techniques. Scorch had beaten him the one time they had battled because of a strength superiority, but Speedy had soon learned to replicate his moves. And he had this thing with Quick Attack... whenever someone used it, he knew exactly where he or she was going to fall after striking, and what part of their body was going to hit the ground first. And why was I thinking of Hero while in the middle of a battle? That caused me to lose the opportunity to deal the first blow. "This isn't like me, I need to regain focus," I thought to myself as Pidgeot dove into me and hit me hard with his wings.
"Tracker, use your fire!," Jenny suggested.
Against this Pidgeot, acting fast was the only way to stand a chance -not to mention how foolish disobeying her would have been at this point-, so I followed her command and hit him with a Flamethrower. Not one second passed until Pidgeot began to circle around me. He started moving faster and faster, as if someone was pulling a string between him and me and making it spin.
"I've seen that before," I heard Hero comment. "It's a variant of the Fly attack."
I didn't know whether he had given me that information on purpose or not, but it helped. I focused on the sound his wings made when they cut the wind, and as soon as that sound changed and Pidgeot tried to plunge into me, I blocked him with Protect. He was forced to stop in midair, and then shook his wings twice to gain some distance before asking Hero whose side he was on.
"Are there sides here? I thought it was just a friendly training match," was all his reply.
"I'll remember that next time you and Tsunami have a brawl," Pidgeot retorted. "By the way, Tracker doesn't need your help. She's handling things quite well on her own."
Now that was interesting. I hadn't thought I'd been handling myself all that well so far. But if Pidgeot said I was, then he was probably having problems trying to find a way to get to me. Maybe he didn't know any strong attacks, and my Flamethrower was giving him trouble. But in that case, why hadn't he resorted to Mud-Slap like most other bird pokemon I'd confronted? I'd seen him use it against the Ditto, so he did know it; and it was very effective against my type... except that the attack itself wasn't very strong and the ones who had used it against me had found the results less than satisfying. Did he know my senses were too acute for a small pile of mud to severely hinder me? How much had Hero told him about me? I had to confirm. After all, as Hero had said, this was just training.
"Why aren't you using Mud-Slap against me?," I queried.
"I had my doubts," he admitted. "I didn't know if it would work, but now that you're asking I know that I was right not to use it."
There was no doubt that this Pidgeot was a fast thinker. More than me, evidently. That could win him the match even if his attacks weren't too strong. I had to do something to change that. This time, I acted faster than he did.
I didn't have the spooky ghost powers Hero said he had, but I did have one ghostly attack of my own, and I saw it as my best chance at that moment. I let a fuzzy black orb for min front of me, carefully avoiding eye contact with its borders, and released it on Pidgeot as a beam of darkness. The bird pokemon sucked in the shadowy energy. It was strange: his eyes turned black as he absorbed the ray. I didn't understand what was going on until I saw another black orb form in front of him. Then it was too late. Before I could move, everything turned black and I was hit by my own attack.
I heard Hero's voice mumble something about Pidgeot being good with Mirror Move, but the sound seemed to come from all directions, with a slight asynchrony which made some words ride on top of the others, jamming the whole phrase. I'd used Confuse Ray before, but I'd never had it used against me, and I didn't like the effects I was feeling. My hearing was all messed up and my other senses weren't faring too well either. Images were spinning around me and multiplying themselves. Smells came all together with the same intensity, blending into a hard to split mixture. Taste wouldn't have won me a battle anyway, but I had a nice wild strawberry taste in my mouth (I hadn't eaten one of those since I'd left the forest). As for touch... luckily that one didn't seem messed up; feeling the ground under my paws was my only relief at that moment.
If I attacked, I felt I had the same chance to hit Pidgeot as to hit myself, any of Pidgeot's friends, my trainer, a building or an innocent bystander. I could dig a hole and hide under the ground after the effect passed, but that would have been too cowardly of me; giving up would have been more honorable. But I didn't want to resign just yet. Pidgeot had to be in a similar predicament at that moment, so I still had a chance. I'd just have to find the way to target him. I thought of walking around until I touched a feather and then attacking, but that sounded too stupid and it could as well lead me away from the battle site. Only then I remembered that I knew one attack which would be able to find its way to its target. "How come I didn't think of this before?," I asked myself. The answer was simple: the sudden sensorial chaos had shocked me out of thinking logically for a few seconds.

<Pidgeot's POV>

I had been having problems trying to hit Tracker. I seemed to have more battle experience than her, but she was physically stronger than me. To make things worse, I now had those voices inside me that I tried hard to block away, and were taking away much of my energy. I knew better than trying to attack them; that would mean attacking myself. I no longer believed a word of what they said; I'd grown past that already. But I had to admit that they still hurt. They were still my worst enemies. Everything the voices brought back was like salt poured on wounds that could never heal completely. I felt sharp stars hit my chest, and I knew I had to snap out of it and strike back. But how? Well... who did I resort to whenever I felt lost? I smiled in my inside at the thought of her.
I knew exactly what Water Angel would have done in this situation. She was always able to get rid of confusion by reaching into the depths of her soul and unleashing her Hidden Power. That trick didn't work that well for Sylvan, though, but it was worth a shot. Even though my Hidden Power wasn't as strong and magnificent as Water Angel's, it was still a part of me I felt comfortable with, and it had shut those voices up when I first used it and confirmed that it wasn't Dark. So I stood still, trying to remain quiet as I focused on the energy vibrating inside me; I took a deep breath and found the spark, fed it with all the power I could gather, and released it. The effect wasn't as good as I expected, but at least I managed to see Tracker and hit her. The voices were still there, but they were now more fuzzy, and their humming was almost ignorable: they weren't making any sense.

<Tracker's POV>

I went for another Swift attack, but this time even that failed: the stars hit the wrong target, namely me. The good thing was that, with their impact, the world stop spinning. It was a bit of a shock at first, but I welcomed my renewed control over my senses. I decided not to use Confuse ray against Pidgeot again. I didn't want to risk getting caught by that attack once more. Instead, I used Reflect to protect myself from his flying attacks, which were apparently the strongest attacks he could use.
Pidgeot's Hidden Power hit me again. Now his eyes turned back to normal, and I knew he was out of his confusion too. I went for another Flamethrower, which seemed to affect Pidgeot seriously. He was now breathing hard, and moving slower. It looked like I was winning.
"We can finish this if you want," I offered. "This is just a training battle, no one needs to get badly hurt."
"No," he answered. "Thanks, but I'd rather take this to the end. I like to do things well."
"As you wish," I accepted, surprised at his response but understanding his point of view.
Pidgeot went back to his circling moves. I found that suspicious: he couldn't have forgotten that I'd seen him try his slightly altered Fly attack before, and that I knew Protect and would be able to block him. Still, I prepared myself to use Protect, thinking that it would save me from any possible surprise attacks. But he didn't attack me: he just summoned a Whirlwind which trapped me in its ascending spiral and blew me away before I could set up my defense. I saw him gain considerable speed by spinning before I could reach him again, and before I was able to attack, he vanished into the shadows and hit me from behind almost at the same moment.
"Is everyone in your team so fast?," I asked him, surprised at the way he had pulled out his maneuver.
"In my case, only when I use Agility," he explained.
This was getting interesting. I wanted to see what other tricks he had up his feathers. Suddenly, the battle turned into a game. I looked for a weak spot on the floor, dug a hole and buried myself inside it, trying to check if he could find a way to hit me down there. I waited in vain for about a minute. He was probably not even trying to get to me. I got out, only to have him plunge into me from the distant heights. The Reflect cushion the impact a little, but it was still rather strong. I was beginning to wear out.
"Now that was the traditional Fly attack," Pidgeot remarked. "But why did you do that? I'm sure you knew you couldn't hit me with a Ground attack."
"I was only trying to see if you could hit me," I explained. Pidgeot laughed.
"I see. Then I guess it's you who doesn't want to keep battling," he deduced.
"I guess so," I admitted. "Yes, I think I'm getting tired. Let's finish this. I grant you the victory, you're very good at this."
"Are you sure?," he tried to confirm.
"I'm sure," I decided.
Pidgeot sighed, letting all his weight rest on the floor at last.
"That's great, because I wouldn't have lasted one more blow," he revealed.
I burst into laughter, and so did Pidgeot and everyone else around us.

Pidgeot grew to level 55!

Hero walked to my side and told me I had done a good work.
"If you battle him again, you'll win. He thinks fast, but you know his tricks. Just trust yourself a little more," he advised me.
"Why are you telling me this?," I inquired.
"Because I think it will help you," he said. "You go on the defensive too much; that's useful when your opponents use very strong attacks, but against someone like Pidgeot, offensive is the key. Make the battle short and you won't give him time to find a way around your techniques."
"Thanks for your advice," I told him. "Though I didn't expect you to reveal the weak point of one of your friends."
"I know you'll never hurt him, and I doubt he'll want to battle you again. What I'm telling you now may be useful against other opponents who rely on their wits rather than the strength of their attacks."
"Well, thanks again," I said with a smile.
"We'll have to work out a way around confusion," my trainer said, coming to my side too. "This was just training, but we can't let you be affected like that in a real-life combat situation."
"I'll take all the help you can offer me," I said rubbing my head against her knees, knowing that she couldn't understand my words but expecting her to get the message. Jenny stroked my neck gently, proving she had faith that things could work between us.
"We should go back to the station now," Jenny said to both me and Lady Vulpix. "Tracker needs to recover from the battle, and we still have work to do."
"I understand," Lady Vulpix said. "We should go back too. It's almost noon and my own pile of work is awaiting me. Besides, I think Pidgeot has already had enough training for today."
The bird pokemon nodded strongly, showing he couldn't agree more.
With that, we said goodbye and parted. Jenny called me back into my pokeball, as she wouldn't ask me to keep up with her motorbike in my current state. I reviewed the recent events on our way back to the station, and concluded it had been a good morning all in all. I had lost a battle, but I had learned a lot, we'd caught a bad guy, the relationship between me and my trainer had improved and I'd got to see Hero again. I'd told him everything I needed to, and in return found that I could count on him anytime. I was still unsure of what his feelings towards me were, but now at least I knew this: he did care about me. And that simple thought filled me with the most wonderful feeling I'd ever felt.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 01:02 PM   #50
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<Gabi's POV>

Where to start? Those were eventful days, to make up for the short rest we had taken. Firstly, Scott was nowhere to be found -yet again- and the Dragon Tamers had suddenly become more active than ever. The Adoption Center was crammed with both pokemon and trainers willing to adopt them. Many new faces came into scene. The Reward Center was selling stuff like it never had, both locally and all over Ulthuan (and yes, the usual letter from Selenian Nurse Joy requesting a shipment of TMs wasn't missing this time either). Restocking and constantly writing inventories wasn't an easy task. I was glad that, at least, we weren't in the middle of a war. That would have made me explode. I still had the feeling that something was going on that we weren't fully aware of, but I didn't have the time to worry about that. In any case, the stronger we became as a group, the better prepared we'd be to deal with anything that came to us.
The Breeding Center was also experiencing its biggest peak of activity ever. Not only Eevees were being bred, but also Horseas, Charmanders and many other pokemon. Water Angel had two daughters (the eldest, Kidda, instantly won my Pidgeot's heart), and even Iael had a kid! I wasn't sure if he was prepared to be a father, but he proved my worries unfounded, and I think bringing Ieal to the world did him a lot of good. Fortunately, I was not alone there, which couldn't be said for the rest of my work. Well, Connor had come back from the void, but he wasn't helping much. I definitely needed someone reliable to count on. If Scott didn't show up, then I would have to take the decision without him. Talking it out with Connor would be enough.
"You need a break," a deep, motherly voice came from nowhere in particular right after I sighed while contemplating the pile of work I had ahead of me. But the physical sound came clearly from behind me, in the unmistakable form of Lagi's voice. I turned around. Caledor, Sylvan and Amber were also there. It was obvious that Caledor had transmitted Lagi's concern to me. I sighed again.
"Hit me if I don't already know that. How many times have I said that to myself?"
"I know. But that's how it works, right? I tell you what you already know so that you finally listen: if not to your own heart, then to me," Lagi retorted with a smile you couldn't but welcome into your heart.
I burst into laughter.
"How many times have we gone through this?," I questioned between chuckles.
"I don't know, I'm not counting," Lagi replied without laughing, but holding her smile.
"Gabi probably is," Caledor commented.
"No, I'm not," I corrected him. "I'm not that obsessive."
"Don't get angry, I didn't mean to say you were obsessive," Caledor apologized.
"It's ok," I told him. "Anyway, as much as I do need a rest, I don't have the time to take it right now. With all this work from the Dragon Tamers I've been putting off studying and doing the necessary shopping, but I will have to do that soon. I want this all to end. I want a break, but..."
"But?," Sylvan inquired, suggestively. And, as she didn't get a quick reply, he continued. "Take a day off. All your stuff will wait for you, and you'll then be renewed and better prepared to face it. you may even get to do things faster after taking a well deserved rest. And we'll do our best to help you enjoy that day to the fullest."
"Yes, take your mind off work for once and relax," Caledor insisted. "We can all use some fun. We can go to the Eevee house, or call other trainers and go out somewhere. The weather's too good to miss it. It will get cold before you realize. We can have fun in the cold too, of course, but you'll be even more tired by then and others won't feel like going out."
"Like me," Sylvan pointed out. "I'd love to enjoy the warm days while they last. Just one day, Gabi. Then we can try to help you out with your stuff. I'm sure there must be something we can do."
I turned to Amber, the only one who had been quiet so far. She understood my look.
"It's unanimous," she told me. "I've helped you before and I can do it again. And I'm sure plenty of people will be more then willing to offer a hand if things get out of control. And I know one or two who are reliable."
"So do I," I agreed, finally letting myself in. "I guess it's time to delegate some responsibilities on someone I trust. I just hope she's not too busy to accept the job."
I already had someone in mind.
"Alright, then. You can offer someone a job after the picnic. Then some of us can help with the shopping and, if everything goes well, you can then focus on your studies," Sylvan suggested.
"And finally publish the Charmander Report," Amber added.
"Hold on," I stopped them, trying to make Sylvan's words land on my head. "What picnic?!"
"Oh," Sylvan giggled. "I was just thinking we could go on a picnic. It would be great, just think about it!"
"I've never gone on a picnic in autumn," I told her.
"Then it's a good chance for a first time," she replied. "Where I grew up, we had picnics often. All the pokemon in the valley. We collected all the food we could gather, and ate it together under the sun, no matter what time of the year it was."
"I once went on a pokemon picnic as a child," Amber remembered. "It was on a valley, near my home; shortly before I was taken to the Adoption Center. I was left alone for a few hours, so I decided to explore the surroundings, and found a group of pokemon of many kinds and types enjoying a meal together on the grass."
"Wait, now this is too much of a coincidence," Sylvan remarked.
"What do you mean?," Amber asked.
"Back in Yvresse, we all talked about the places where we grew up and yours and mine were quite similar. Now this. Is it possible that we were born really close to each other, and actually met in the past?"
"It could be, but there are many mountains and valleys in Ulthuan. There's no way to know," Amber pointed out.
"I remember seeing Charizards fly above us," Sylvan said. "Or it could have been just one Charizard who showed up many times, I don't know. The figure always came from the mountains, and returned to them by sunset. I never saw a Charmander there, but I was taken to the Adoption Center before you were. Maybe I was already gone when you came down."
"Was there a river around?," Amber asked.
"Yes," Sylvan told her. "I think that's why the valley was so full of life. A wide river came down from the mountains and provided water for all of us."
"Were there Gyarados in the river?," Amber inquired, each time more excited.
"Not where I lived, but they said a group of Gyarados lived upstream," Sylvan answered, her eyes wide open coming up with the revelation.
"Now there's no doubt! You and I grew up in practically the same place!!," Amber exclaimed.
"No wonder why you too get on so well," Caledor laughed.
"And to think we had to come all the way here in order to meet," Sylvan laughed too.
"I like the idea of a picnic," Caledor supported Sylvan. "The one we had at the beach with Amy and her team was great. Maybe we can invite her now. Better yet! We can invite all the Dragon Tamers! Make it a big event for everyone to participate and have fun."
"Yes, a big event: Lady Vulpix takes a break. It will hit the tabloids!," I joked.
"So, are you with us?," Caledor tried to confirm.
"Sure! Why not? I'm sure we'll have a great time, and you make it sound like everything will be alright. I'll start making calls. I'm sure the other trainers will appreciate some fresh air after all the tension we've all been through."
"That's the spirit!," Caledor exclaimed.
And so I began to make the arrangements. I managed to contact almost everyone (Ade was out of reach and Ryan was still away, not to mention Scott, Alex and Nolan; but I did get to contact everyone else on my list, and tell them to invite their friends too). Most of them confirmed they were coming. Tara asked me to share my blanket with her, and it was then that I realized that I would need one. I looked all over the place trying to find anything remotely similar to a picnic blanket (no, the blankets I used for my bed wouldn't do, and the tablecloth was not an elegant option; towels would be my last choice if I didn't find anything better), until I realized there was a place which had just about everything for those who wanted to have fun: the Eevee House. A few minutes there allowed me to catch up with Nala, Steve and some newer trainers, and helped me get a proper picnic blanket too. "I'll remember to tell Tara about this place next time," I said to myself.

The next day, everything set, we got out and met the group at the arranged spot. It was the first time in years we had such a big meeting for the sole purpose of having a good time. I loved that feeling. And even more as I strongly felt that something good was going to happen that day. The other feeling (the darker one) was still there, but I now felt like some light was just about to be shed on me. The feeling was so strong that I could almost "touch" it, and it was wonderful. I realized I was slowly beginning to get a handle on my psychic abilities; I was now more aware of them, and able to understand their messages better, even though I couldn't use them at will, at least not yet. "Maybe I should bring the white stone," I thought. But then I responded to myself: "no, not today. I just want to have a good time and leave all problems behind for one day. Some evil is lurking somewhere out there, I'm sure, but I'd rather let it be revealed tomorrow or some other day."
My own thoughts sounded irresponsible to me, but I had been responsible all my life and I really needed that day off. My pokemon were right, the world wouldn't fall apart in just one day, and especially not because of me. I was only one person, after all.

Quite a large group of people was assembled, and everyone was in a cheerful mood. "Great start," I thought. I walked from here to there greeting everyone who arrived and trying to organize the group so that we all got to the lakeside together. I was surprised when I saw Ade arrive, seeing as I had been unable to contact him earlier. I thought he might have found out about the picnic through someone else, but no: as we talked, I learned he'd just happened to be in the right place, at the right time; I shouldn't have been surprised about that. He was in a lighter mood than he'd been most of the times we'd talked, and I was glad about that. He didn't talk to other humans much, but I liked to consider him a friend. He had two new pokemon: an Espeon and a Vaporeon who were introduced as Kirei and Adreena. They had a very sad story behind them (that, unfortunately, they had in common with too many Caledonians) and weren't interested in fighting, according to Ade. I found both of them loveable.
Ade accepted my invitation to join the group almost before it was issued, and with that we were all set and ready to go. We walked into the forest until we found a nice spot close to the nearest lake, and everything was put in motion, dozens of blankets being laid on the ground, people and pokemon sitting under the sun or walking around (flying around in some cases), many groups chatting about everything, and some others starting to cook their meals which consisted mostly on sausages, hamburgers and the likes. Tara and her team left our blanket for one of the cooking spots, which left my pokemon and I alone for a while. Well, not completely alone, as everyone was coming and going from one place to another. And not completely together either, since my pokemon soon spread in all directions to do what each of them enjoyed the most.
Tsunami, Water Angel, Pidgeot and Lagi went straight to the lake. Sylvan and Amber decided to walk around and enjoy the view of the forest (and the sounds, and the smells). Caledor ran off to meet his old friends and make some new ones, dragging Iael with him. Hero decided to check one of the cooking spots by himself, uninterested in the cheese sandwiches I had packed. As for Ventura, who knows where she headed off to? In any case, I knew she'd be fine. And so would I... as soon as someone came by and decided to sit by my side. I really wished Ryan was with me. It wasn't one of those moments when I enjoyed being alone.

<Tsunami's POV>

This was great. I wondered how I'd missed this place before! The lake was wonderful. Much bigger than the Eevee House pool and full of pokemon to boot! I could really forgive Scott for putting off the Dragon Games until further notice, in change for finding this place and having this day. "Too bad Caledor didn't tag along for a swim," I thought. "He doesn't know what he's missing!"
I was enjoying myself so much that didn't even think of spoiling my teammates' fun by making some annoying remarks. That had become boring anyway, and I had realized that it made me look bad. Whatever problems I'd had with Pidgeot and Water Angel in the past, I could put behind. It had taken long to realize things had changed, but they had. And now I wanted them on my side. I was no longer the little creature who had to prove himself and show he could be better than the unbeatable duo. I was by no means a weak pokemon, and with the Dragon Games I'd got more attention than I'd ever dreamed of. So, what stupid childish concepts had I been holding on to all along? It was time to put life under a new perspective. Ah, a good swim in the lake could do wonders!
Right after coming up with the revelation of my life, the world was set back into motion. I turned around to see my friends, looking at them just as my mind slowly said goodbye to the deep thoughts and finished by quietly whispering to me "but I will still compete with Hero and Caledor just for the fun of it". Well, it was my mind, after all. I saw Lagi get out of the water and leave saying that she was going to see Gabi. She looked like she was keeping something to herself, probably the reason, but if she didn't want to talk I wasn't going to ask. If anything was wrong, I'd find out one way or another. But it didn't seem to be the case, so why push the worst liar in the world into trying to make up an excuse?
I came up with an idea. I used my Acid Armor, quietly swam to my other teammates' side and blew some air under Pidgeot's left wing. He began to shake and turn from side to side trying to find the source of the bubbles. I did it again, this time from the other side. Pidgeot turned around. He couldn't find me. He looked down into the water, but I was as good as invisible. I didn't know exactly how my Acid Armor worked, but I'd found it was excellent for pulling some tricks. Unfortunately, Pidgeot knew me too well.
"Tsunami!!," he yelled. He sank his beak under the water and started to search for me. He looked like he was going to eat me, or drink me out. I materialized in front of him, my head as deep into my collar fin as it could get.
"Sorry, don't get mad, I was just playing around!," I apologized. Pidgeot burst into laughter all of a sudden.
"You can't imagine how pathetic you look right now!," he told me. "Don't worry, I won't eat you. You can breathe now."
"You looked like an ogre," I affirmed.
"I've been called everything from bulky to majestic, but an ogre? That's a first!," he replied.
"The water is so nice!," I changed the subject. "I can practically hear it calling me. I feel like... I don't know, I hadn't feel like this since... as far as I can remember. Is it enchanted or something?"
"I don't think so," Water Angel said. "If it was, we'd all be under its spell. I think what you feel is just the effect of relaxing after months of great tension and strain. We all react to that in different ways."
"In any case, I don't want it to end," I claimed.
"I don't think any of us wants it," she admitted. "It will end, though. That's the way of life. All good moments come to an end. So do bad ones. We just have to take them as they come; learn from the bad times and enjoy the good times to the fullest."
"Wise words," Pidgeot praised her. "And this is clearly a good time. Look what it has brought! We're here, the whole group B having fun together without any... tension coming up...," he stopped for a moment, hesitating about whether he should end his phrase or not. And he just had to end it: "and we even got to see Tsunami apologize!"
"You had to spoil it all, didn't you!," I scolded him.
"Sorry, couldn't keep myself from saying it. See? Now I've apologized too," the bird said.
We all laughed, happy that a swim at a beautiful lake hadn't turned into a pointless fight. I was sure none of us wanted to fight anyway, and I wanted to show the two of them that I'd grown past making fun of them, and not because of a stupid bet we'd made one day. What was wrong about a Pidgeot and a Kingdra being so close anyway? One could even say they were admirable. But that one wouldn't be me; I wasn't planning to go that far.
We were still laughing when an Azumarill approached us from another side of the lake.
"Uhm... Hello," she started, shyly.
Water Angel warmly greeted her.
"Are you guys teammates?," the Azumarill asked. "I mean, do you have the same trainer?"
"Yes, we are," I answered.
"And where is he?... Or she?"
"She's at the picnic," Pidgeot told her. "We came here for a swim on our own."
"Oh, and you're so cool being here on your own?," she wondered, surprised. "My trainer's at the picnic too. He left me here to swim and went to get some food, but I got bored of swimming alone and I don't know what to do now."
"You don't have to be alone. You can be with us," Water Angel offered. "And I'm sure many of the pokemon over here would like to be with you too."
The Azumarill smiled, looking more confortable.
"What's your name?," Water Angel asked.
"Oh, I have an ugly name," The Azumarill replied.
"Why? What is it?," I insisted.
"Easter," she confessed. "Long story, please don't make fun of me."
"We won't make fun of you," Pidgeot assured. "We don't hurt those who don't deserve it. And I don't think that's such a bad name. It's a name of a party, isn't it?"
"Well... yes, it is," Easter answered, somewhat confused.
"Then you can put on some party spirit," I followed. "I wish we had parties more often. I think we've had more wars than parties. And half the parties we've had turned into wars in the end."
"Too true," Pidgeot sighed.
"Oh, I've had many parties at home. I like them," Easter told us, already showing a wide smile. "And I've had many battles too. If they're friendly battles I'm ok with them. I actually enjoy them. I mean, I like getting stronger and all."
"Same here," I affirmed.
"And here," Pidgeot agreed.
"Yes, I like friendly matches too," Water Angel said. "Though I haven't been very lucky with the last 2 of them. The problem with battling old friends is that they already know my tactics and I'm not that good at improvising."
"Improvising?," Easter asked. "Isn't that something your trainer is supposed to do?"
"Well, both of us," Water Angel explained. "When I started, I relied on my trainer a lot. But with time I learned to be independant; to take my own decisions and adapt to the situation. Though I still do team-ups better than 1 on 1 battles."
"Oh! Are you one of those pokemon who battle without their trainers?," Easter inquired.
"I was left on my own only once," the Kingdra said, "and my opponent turned out to be of a kind I know a lot about, so it wasn't that hard. But most of the time my trainer watches my battles and helps me if I need it or if she has a good idea. And I also get some help from some of my teammates."
"Your teammates? They tell you what to do? Like trainers?"
Easter was more astonished every second.
"Well, one of them acts like a trainer most of the time," Water Angel laughed. I easily guessed who she was referring to. "The others just help each other out. Especially Pidgeot."
I couldn't see it, but I was sure the bird was blushing under his feathers.
"We like to work together as a team," he explained.
"Oh, I'll try to do that too. It sounds like a great idea!," Easter cheered up. "You must all be so experienced! I thought I had a lot of experience, but now that I talk to you I see that I still have a lot to learn."
I was amused. She had started the conversation in an extremely shy mood and now she was talking out of her elbows.
"We all have a lot to learn," Water Angel assured. "But don't underestimate yourself. You look strong; you must have had good training so far. I think that if you practise battling on your own for a while, you'll have all the areas covered."
"Do you really think so?," Easter asked, faithfully.
"Well, learning never ends," Pidgeot admitted. "But it will do you a lot of good, that's for sure."
"And how can I do that? Will you guys help me?"
"We can try," Water Angel offered.
"Yay, thanks!," the Azumarill exclaimed. "Randy will be so happy when he sees how much I've learned!"
"Randy?," I asked.
"My trainer," she cleared it out. "So, tell me. What do I have to do to be independant?"
"Is that a paradox or what?," I laughed.
"Shoosh!," Pidgeot shooshed me. "Don't be rude. I think that's something you'll have to learn from experience," he said to Easter.
"Oh," Easter sighed, discouraged. "I thought you would help me."
"Well, we can't give you a recipy, since there's none," Water Angel told her. "You have to trust your own instincts, and train them to respond when they're needed. But we can help you with that."
"How?," Easter asked, hope returning to her face.
"By having a battle," she said.
"A battle?! Here?! Now?!"
"I think this is the best time and place," the Kingdra remarked.
"But my trainer isn't here!," Easter complained.
"That's the point," I pointed out. "If you're going to battle on your own, then you'll have to... well, do it."
"Don't worry, none of us would hurt you badly. It will just be a friendly match," Water Angel calmed her down. Then she turned to the rest of us. "I think I should be her opponent, if you guys don't mind. I think I need some training in this area too."
"It's ok with me," I said. "I think I'll be battling again soon anyway. If Scott comes back from wherever he's hiding and decides to open the Dragon Games finals, that is."
"You're getting a little impatient, aren't you?," Pidgeot said to me.
"No, just a bit nervous," I corrected him. "If the last round was to be postponed for 2 months, I'd take it as it comes and train hard for that moment. But things being as they are... I don't know what's going to happen and that's what bothers me. For all we know, the finals could be cancelled just like the second Eagle Games."
"You're in the Dragon Games?!," Easter exclaimed. "Wow, I'm talking to a celebrity and I hadn't even realized! Sorry I didn't recognize you. I haven't been watching the whole battles, just the reports, and I saw only a few images of the competitors."
"It's ok," I told her. "There are many Vaporeons around and I don't have any distinctive features. I don't expect to be easily noticed. Anyway, any pokemon can enter the games, so I shouldn't be called a celebrity because of that."
"No; only because you made it to the finals, right?," Pidgeot tested me.
"I didn't say that," I contradicted him.
"No, but you thought it. Come on, I know you too well."
"Will you guys please stop quarrelling?," Water Angel interrupted us.
"I've been very excited about the games, yes, but I'm no Hero. I can spend a day without being a total show-off," I finished.
"Tsunami, stop it!," the Kingdra shouted at me.
I reckoned it was the moment to shut my mouth; otherwise I'd scare Easter away. I had made my point, anyway.
"So... where were we?," Water Angel started.
"We were going to have a practice battle," Easter reminded her.
"Yes, we were, and I asked my... I asked them if they were ok with my being your opponents. Tsunami said 'yes' in his own unique way. Pidgeot?"
"Sure! Go ahead," the bird accepted. I ignored Water Angel's last comment on me, and wondered why she'd stopped herself in the middle of the sentence when she always seemed to find the right words. I guessed I would never know.
"Ok, then. Are you ready?," Water Angel asked.
"As ready as I'll ever be," the Azumarill answered.
"Relax and focus. This is just training. Trust yourself," Water Angel advised her right before moving to the center of the lake.
Other pokemon in the water noticed the movement and turned to watch.

Level 54 Kingdra vs. Level 47 Azumarill

"Ok, this time I will not start with a Smokecreen," Water Angel declared right before she dashed across the water to plant a Headbutt on Easter's chest.
"Ouch!," Easter cried. "I didn't know we had started."
"Sorry, you said you were ready," Water Angel apologized.
"Yes, but I thought someone would... Nevermind, I'm supposed to attack now, so there I go!"
Easter responded to Water Angel's Headbutt with one of her own. It didn't affect the Kingdra much, though. Water Angel stopped for a moment, as if she was going to say something, but changed her mind and hit Easter with a Headbutt again. So far this wasn't the most exciting battle I'd watched.
"This isn't fair!," Easter complained. "We're using the same attack, but I feel it much more than you do! What am I supposed to do."
"Think," Pidgeot told her from where he was standing. "If an attack doesn't work, try something else."
Water Angel nodded, showing her agreement. Easter stopped to think. The Kingdra waited patiently, unlike most opponents would.
"Hold on, I got it!," Easter suddenly announced. She dove under the surface of the lake and the water around her became blurry when her arms reached the bottom. When she came out, she was carrying a pile of mud which she instantly slapped Water Angel's face with. My friend closed her eyes, suddenly filled with mud.
"Well, that did work," she admitted. She dove underwater and tried to shake the mud away, blurring the liquid even more, but her eyes were too sore to open them just yet. "Ok, I'll take it as it come," she decided, taking a deep breath.
Water Angel tried to use another Headbutt, but Easter managed to move out of her way without her noticing it and hit her with even more mud, this time partially blocking her ears.
"Honey, don't play around," Pidgeot shouted out.
"What did you just say?," I tried to confirm. Pidgeot looked at me and his head feathers rose.
"Nothing, I just said 'don't play around'," he dodged me. I couldn't help laughing.
"Sorry, pal, just a funny thought that crossed my mind," I covered myself before making him angry.
"And I wouldn't want to know it," he played along.
What was it with guys like him and Hero? If I loved someone, I would just say it. Of course, that hadn't happened so far. I'd bred several times, but I'd felt nothing more than physical attraction at those moments, and most of the time I couldn't think of my occasional mates as anything but friends. I'd once had a crush on a Vaporeon named Maria, about a year earlier, but she already had a partner and I surprised myself not missing her much when she left Caledor. I sometimes wondered if my heart was too cold. But no, if it had been, I would have never given love a thought. Maybe the time just hadn't come yet; I had some things to achieve on my own before my life was ready to be shared with someone else. I wondered if Water Angel had heard Pidgeot's words, though.

<Water Angel's POV>

I couldn't see, my hearing was reduced... Easter had finally come up with a good strategy. She had caught me by surprise. Of course, I could still feel the vibrations of the water, so if I concentrated enough I'd be able to locate my target, or at least her attacks if she didn't move much herself. My last Headbutt had been a test, but now I'd have to start taking things seriously or else I'd end up all battered and filled with mud. I heard Pidgeot say something to me, and I got the message beyond his words. He wanted me to use my Hidden Power. We knew each other so well that words weren't needed between us most of the time. However, something about his last message surprised me. I could almost swear I'd heard him call me 'honey'. My hearing had to be worse than I'd thought; he'd never called me that, he couldn't possibly be doing it now in front of Tsunami. But if he really had... what a moment to make my heart melt!
I focused on the force that lay deep within me, a force usually associated with magic and legends. Dragon pokemon weren't quite like the ancient Dragons that made Caledor famous, but we can tap into the same basic forces if we learn how to handle them, and especially if our Hidden Power is made from them. In my case, those forces guide me whenever I feel I'm losing my path, giving me a sense of reality that can only be achieved by reaching high levels of consciousness. Thus, when I use my Hidden Power, external limitations have no meaning. My power guided itself towards the Azumarill and, as I felt it make contact, I fixed all that was left of my senses into her body. From then on, the water would tell me about her every move. Having Lagi's abilities to know the state my opponent was in would have been an excellent bonus, but I couldn't dismiss the information I did have; I had no reason to complain.
Stillness, silence. For a moment, the water calmed down. Then I heard my friends' voices. They seemed to be talking to Easter.
"Don't take the place of her trainer," I warned them. "She needs to come up with ideas of her own, this is the purpose of this battle. And that goes for both of us."
Their silence told me all I needed to hear. Or maybe it was just the mud sinking deeper into my inner ears. In any case, I took care not to lose focus.
The water was suddenly put in motion, waves heading to the sides at a high rate. Something was coming fast, dashing through the surface. When I figured out what it was, it had already hit me like a stone. A big stone, but not very hard. Still, recognizing the attack, I knew it would get harder. Easter had had a good idea. I decided it was time to spice things up a little and finally used my Smokescreen. From past experiences I assumed the water was becoming dark. I also assumed the effect wouldn't last long: smokescreen dissolves after a few minutes causing no harm to the environment, which is the main reason why I never refrained myself from using it either into the water or in the air. Actually, I tended to use it in practically all my battles. I was afraid it would eventually lose its effect (and my last encounter with Sai had seemed to prove me right), but that was not the case this time. Easter came dashing towards me again, but only a wave hit my left flank.
I used my chance to summon my Hidden Power again. The energy impacted right in the center of the sphere which was Easter's body, sending her bouncing out of the water and diving back in with a loud splash. I felt like my eyes were finally ready to be open without hurting, and I slowly tested them. After a few blinks of my eyelids I managed to see just fine. Easter was floating on the surface, motionless. I dove into the water and finished shaking the mud out of my ears, process which took about a whole minute. Then I resurfaced and swam to Easter's side to check on her. Every part of her body showed signs of exhaustion, but other than that she looked fine.

I grew to level 55!

I waited until Easter reacted, and helped her to her feet.
"Wow, you're really tough!," she told me. "That was some battle!"
"Well, I had a level advantage, so it was understandably harder for you," I explained. "But you did quite well. For the way you spoke before the battle, I thought it would be difficult for you to decide what to do without receiving any commands."
"It was hard, at first," Easter admitted. "But then I... I don't know, I think I just got into it and let myself flow. Hey, I feel tougher already!"
Her last comment brought a laugh out of me.
"You're full of energy," I commended her. "Use it right, and you'll make both yourself and your trainer proud."
"I'm sure your trainer is very proud of you," Easter said.
"Yes, I think she is," I agreed, smiling at the memory of all the times Gabi had blessed me with one of her warm hugs after my battles. "She's always had faith in me, even when I didn't. Come to think of it, you're almost like me a year and a half ago, only more extroverted, much stronger and with more comodities to move on land."
Now it was Easter's turn to laugh. Right then, a boy -or rather a young man- came to the shore.
"Randy!!," Easter cheerfully exclaimed.
"I see you've made some new friends," Randy observed. "Sorry for the delay, I was just... err... cornered by some girl who wouldn't stop talking and ended up having a battle with her. Have you been alright?"
Easter nodded firmly.
"That's great," Randy relaxed. "Lunch is ready. Care to get some?"
"Sure!," the Azumarill chirped, instantly jumping out of the water. Then she turned to us and said goodbye: "see you guys. And girl. Have a wonderful day and thanks for everything."
"Same to you," I told her, and I watched her leave, joyfully hopping by her trainer's side.
"I'll have to learn to be so carefree one of these days," I said to myself. Pidgeot moved to my side and whispered into my ear.
"You're perfect just the way you are."
Blushing, I thanked the lake for helping me get all the mud out of my ears to hear this compliment.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 01:02 PM   #51
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<Lagi's POV>

Leaving the lake, I walked over to Gabi. I felt that she needed me; she felt lonely in the middle of the crowd. I sat by her and put my hand on her shoulder. She turned to look at me, and smiled.
"You never turn your back on me, do you?," she said, leaning on me and letting her head rest on my stomach.
Then, as if responding to an unspoken question, she explained herself.
"I just felt a bit lonely, that's all. Everybody's having fun, and I... I just have too many people to miss."
I caressed her arms and embraced her. She had neither Caledor nor the stone with her at that moment, so words would have been useless. Anyway, what would we need words for when feelings spoke for themselves? She began to feel better only by having me by her side. Soon, Amy came over and she and Gabi began to talk as usual. Caledor and Iael came back too, following Nala's team. Everything was fine.

<Ventura's POV>

The place was good. Everybody's cheerful mood was a bit unsettling, but I think that was because I wasn't used to it. I hadn't seen so many beings having fun together since... I couldn't remember ever finding so many enjoying themselves at once! We'd had parties, but not so many had attended most of them, and the biggest ones had been crashed. Was that making me suspicious? Did I think things would go wrong? I wasn't sure; all I knew was that I felt strange. And there I was, flying randomly over the forest, going unnoticed by most, and surprisingly not knowing what to do with the sudden freedom I had found.
I flew around until I sensed a clearing full of flowers. I decided that could be a nice place to rest and maybe get something to eat. I was beginning to feel hungry. I headed there, and landed among a set of colorful flowers which Sylvan would have certainly loved. Most of them were filled of inviting nectar; the last sweets of the fall (that phrase was as close to poetry as anyone will ever get from me). So... well, I accepted the invitation.
I was sucking in some sweet nectar when a Vileplume came from behind. I acknowledged him, but didn't interrupt my meal. Not until he shouted at me.
"Hold it right there!," the Vileplume yelled. "You're not allowed to do that."
"Why not?," I asked, looking at him out of civility.
"Because you're ruining the forest. Strangers can't eat these flowers. They belong to the pokemon of this forest."
Now I was beginning to lose my temper.
"First of all, I wasn't eating the flowers, you moron. I was just sipping the nectar. Second, I don't see any signs saying that this is private property, and it doesn't look like the nectar is running out anytime soon. And if being a stranger is the problem, my name is Ventura. There; I'm not a stranger anymore."
"I don't care what your name is; you're an outsider," he spat out. "And one with awful manners at that."
"Look who's talking!," I retorted. "There's no point in arguing with imbeciles like you."
"How did you call me?!," he shouted, enraged.
"Oh! Are you deaf too?," I continued.
Well, maybe I did go a little over the limit. But I had been nervous to start with, and having a dumb Vileplume ruin my lunch for no reason only helped me blow up.
"I'll show you respect, you little garden fly!," he cried out and before I could point out that I was technically a Venomoth, he was already charging at me full force. And only when I saw how fast he could run, did I realize the proportions of the trouble I was getting myself into.

Level 42 Venomoth vs. Level 55 Vileplume

Yes, things were looking bad for me. If Vileplumes hadn't been naturally slow creatures, I could have said I was as good as lost. Well, almost. In any case, this one could move nearly as fast as I could. I had to make use of that and every other little advantage I had over him. I took off the moment he lifted his arm to do something nasty to me, and placed myself right above his head, pouring down as much Sleep Powder as I managed to release. I let out a long sigh when I checked out the Vileplume and found out it had worked.
"I could finish eating now and then leave," I thought. But that wouldn't work; firstly because the Vileplume could wake up at any moment, and secondly because if I left without attacking he would think he'd made his point, and I couldn't let that happen. So my only chance was to end things as fast as possible, preferably before my attacker could wake up and slice me like he seemed to want to. I used my most powerful attack: Psychic. I did my best to control the attack so that it would take as much energy as possible out of my opponent without waking him up. I did a fine work, honoring my place as the most qualified user of psychic abilities in my team (even above Caledor). I took a deep breath and tried that out again, hoping that I'd be able to finish the battle with a few more pulses.
Unfortunately, the Vileplume wouldn't make things so easy for me. He woke up upon receiving the 2nd pulse of psychic energy. And he rose in a worse mood than he was before, if that was even possible. He launched himself onto me and smashed me against the ground with his massive body (he was slightly shorter than me, but much heavier). I tried to teleport away from that bulky mass, but I found out that I couldn't. My body was not responding; it felt like a dry carcass ready to crack anytime, yet too heavy to move it. The Vileplume had me right where he wanted me. And he knew it. He moved his arms fast and sliced my flanks with something sharp which I didn't get to see, and my nerves sadly proved that, while they weren't responding to my orders, they were responding to pain.
If I couln't even teleport, then flapping my wings to produce more sleep powder was completely out of the question. My mind was the only thing I could rely on. I let out a psychic pulse that was more like a telepathic cry. It worked, but it wasn't strong enough to bring the Vileplume down. And every part of my body kept telling me I wouldn't be able to resist another blow from him. I was lost. I was so lost! The Vileplume took some distance and lifted his arm again, ready to turn my wings into strings... but something stopped him! All of a sudden, he froze in his place, his skin vibrating as if he'd just received an electric shock. But why?... Well, that question answered itself immediately. I only had to use my radar sense to notice the Espeon standing right behind the Vileplume.
I tried to say thanks. Really. But that word couldn't be translated to psychic pulses (at least not the ones I could emit) and my mouth wasn't moving. I was suffering from the worst case of paralysis I had ever heard of.
Caledor came running to my side.
"Are you alright?," he asked me.
By reply, I send him an image of the Vileplume attacking, and a pulse indicating him to jump back. Caledor reacted just in time to avoid a blast of Toxic from the angry Vileplume.
"Mind if I help?," Caledor offered. I wouldn't say no to an extra mind on my side. Still unable to talk, I sent him a pulse instructing him to use Psychic, while preparing another of my own.
Caledor might be far from mastering his psychic abilities, but I had to give him credit: his attacks were incredibly strong! The psychic blast he sent to the Vileplume was literally mindblowing. I could tell the plant pokemon didn't even get to know what was coming until he was out.

Both Caledor and I grew to level 43!

"Now that's something I don't do everyday," Caledor sighed. "What did you do to make this Vileplume so mad?"
I simply showed him the images of how it all started.
"He reacted like that just because you were drinking some nectar? That's ridiculous!," he replied.
"I agree," I told him, satisfied to discover that my mouth had unlocked.
"Oh, you can speak!," Caledor exclaimed sarcastically.
"Now I can," I remarked. "A few seconds ago I couldn't... It's still hard."
"Ok, don't strain yourself. I'll take you back to Gabi and see if she can do something to heal you."
I was already healing myself with Morning Sun, but it was a slow process and I could really use some help. Besides, as good as the rays of the sun were, they wouldn't make my paralysis go away. So I let Caledor carry me on his back without complaining.
On our way back to the picnic site, I asked Caledor how he had found me. He said he had felt a tremendous pulse of psychic energy deep in the forest and he'd gone to investigate. I had been using psychic blasts, but I had the feeling that the word 'tremendous' didn't suit them. I told him something like that, and he said he had actually felt it coming from beyond the clearing where he found me.
"I was a bit confused when I found you, but I thought it was just me not getting a good hold on my ESP," he explained. "That thing I felt didn't seem to be coming from you; it was too strong and untamed to be a psychic attack. I have no idea what it was. Did you feel anything?"
"Yes, a heavy blob right on me," I answered. "And paralysis to make it worse. It hurt so much that I even had to concentrate to use my radar sense; sorry if I'm not helping."
"It's ok; maybe it was just me after all. I promise I will be in full control of all my powers someday."
I surprised both him and myself by telling him not to be so hard on himself.
"Paralysis must have affected you more than I thought," he joked. "That's not the Ventura I know! Where's the bossy figure who nearly killed me with her workout sessions?"
"Don't exaggerate," I warned him. "They did you well, didn't they?"
"Now that's the Ventura we all know and love," he laughed.
I didn't understand how he managed to turn any situation into something to laugh about.

Gabi hadn't brought any healing items with her, but fortunately Sylvan had found some berries which did the trick. I decided to stay close to the others for the rest of the day; I didn't want to run into another crazy pokemon, let alone encounter the source of whatever Caledor had felt. I expected to have a problem-free afternoon, but that was yet another wish that didn't come true (I got to think it might be best for me to just stop wishing). Shortly after the cheese-sandwich-eaters had finished their lunch, a huge burst of fire came out of the forest, burning everything as it passed. A sudden wave of steam showed that the lake hadn't been unaffected.
"What was that?!," Gabi shouted to no one in particular.
I decided to provide an answer. I probed the forest with my radar sense and, as soon as I located the source of the attack, I showed it to her. Well, at least I showed a part of it to her: the outlines of the Charizard that had caused this. Showing her everything just wouldn't have been fair. Lagi seemed to agree with me, as she didn't say a word either.
Gabi stood up, her eyes erupting with fire just like the one we had all seen, and furiously walked into the forest.

<Gabi's POV>

This was my free day. The first one in months. This was the time for everyone to relax and have fun and forget about the strain and pressure we had to undergo the rest of the time. This was the ONE day when I wouldn't tolerate an attack. I wouldn't let anyone ruin what we were having. Not today.
As soon as I got to see the tip of a Charizard tail and what seemed like a human figure sitting behind the trees and bushes, I began to shout out.
"Alright, now who do you think you are?!"
I didn't get any reply; just some mumbling that I couldn't make out, where human and pokemon voices mixed into each other.
"I don’t know who you are, but you and your Charizard happened to break up our peaceful picnic just then!," I continued, closing in. Then I gave a look at the lake, and saw that it was as good as new (if that can be said about a lake). I tried to correct myself without losing my point.
"Now you did fix the situation, but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that you..."
I didn't get to finish my phrase. I felt my heart hitting me twice. First, for no apparent reason but it felt really strong. The next heartbeat, Ryan was standing right in front of me!
I was out of words; my thoughts were stepping on each other, making it impossible for me to follow them. It was just... it was Ryan! Right then, right there! The world had given a sudden twist and I was just getting up from it. And he smiled.
"Gabi, you haven’t changed one bit!," he beamed before planting a quick kiss on my cheek. "Good to see you’re well."
He walked towards the picnic site, denying me the time to gather my thoughts and figure out what was going on and how he had ended up there after such a long leave, after I had already began to fear that I wouldn't see him anymore, that he had taken on a new life in which I didn't have a place. And before I could put in words for my own mind to hear the fact that my unlabeled senses had been shouting about this encounter, and before I could pinpoint the other feelings I had been getting lately, he took a look at the group and spoke as if he had only been gone for a week.
"Well, looks like we’ve got some familiar faces here. Amy, Ade, Dean, Charlie! Good to see you guys!"
Our mutual friends greeted him surprised, but apparently not nearly as shocked as I was. Then he turned towards Tara, saying that he knew her, and socializing with her while I was getting more and more confused. I finally gathered the strength to hold Ryan and talk to him.
"You went away for one year and all you did was give me one lousy phone message?!"
Well, maybe that wasn't the best way to start, but I wasn't getting anything else out of my mind. I just wanted to understand, and I really wanted things to go back to the way they used to be.
"If I’m not mistaken, when you left for White Mountain you went without any warning whatsoever and for many months yourself. That argument isn’t going to work there," he replied.
He actually was mistaken. I had only left for 3 weeks, and he had been the one person I'd told I was leaving. That had happened a long time ago, at a dark time when Charlie had been separated from his last pokemon and commited suicide as far as we knew, when Alex had just been shot and had barely survived, when John was also thought to be dead and we had had no signs of Scott for months... I had retreated to the White Mountain to recover myself and regain the strength to face the challenges life kept throwing at me. I had planned to stay there for a month, but only 3 weeks after I got there a news report about Team Rocket striking again had caused me to return. Still, if it had felt like months for Ryan, then what did the facts matter? The fact that he cared for me so much was the only one that had any meaning at that moment.
I wrapped my arms around him, feeling the warmth of his chest against mine, and kissed his cheek with the same feeling that had flooded me after our final battle against the Black Battalion.
"I’m just glad you’re back! You scared me, Ryan! You’ve got to stop doing this," I told him.
"Hey, I’m fine. I’m ready to be part of the group again," he comforted me.
"Good," I approved. Then what most people know as reality resumed its course, the natural and the impossible sitting back on their respective places, and I came to realize that Ryan had no realistic way to know who Tara was.
"You never met Tara before. She’s not exactly a talking point just yet," I pointed out. "So how do you know her? You weren’t fully truthful with her."
"The Emerald Dream," he answered.
I paused to reflect on his words. The Emerald Dream was one of the many legends that enveloped the White Mountain. It was said that Ysera, a green Dragon with a wisdom and knowledge of unknown limits, would open the doors of the Emerald Dream to those she deemed worthy, and guide them through a path of deep meditation to find either inner peace or the keys to the puzzles of their past and future. A bit like Harims, now that I thought of it.
"Wait, you went into the Emerald Dream?," I tried to confirm.
Up to that moment I hadn't known if the legend was true or not. I knew about the Pegasi, and I wouldn't doubt Ryan's words, so now there were at least two legends proven true, and both by Ryan.
"Indeed I did. That’s where I’ve been for the past year," he explained.
"So you saw Ysera?"
"Quite so," he responded. "She was very helpful indeed in assisting in the healing process."
"But she obviously told you something else. Ysera is able to predict future events. And what does Tara have to do with it?," I inquired.
And that was when my fears from the recent days were confirmed.
"It’s hard to say. Not even Ysera could understand what was going on. All she knows that there is an ancient evil stirring in the depths of the Earth. One that ravaged the populations of Dragonites and other legendary Pokemon from ancient times. It’s lingering, waiting for a chance to be reborn and kill once more."
"But what could Tara possibly have to do with it?," I asked him.
"I somehow feel she will be able to combat this evil," he replied. "I sense something about her. Her image came to me in the Emerald Dream frequently in the later periods. She will be crucial in fighting off the new wave of evil that will come to Caledor one day."
"But when? And how? Is this evil related to Mewtwo or Giovanni? And how can Tara be ready to be the one to change the course of history when she’s only just beginning?"
There were too many questions. I had been trying to avoid them for too long, now I had no choice but to face them.
"No, this evil is much more ancient and powerful than they are," Ryan answered. "As for Tara, she is green in this area. But she will grow stronger with time. And the threat is still a way away yet. We will have plenty of time to prepare for this. It will be best not to mention this to anyone else at all."
I agreed. It would be best not to ruin everyone else's peace until there was at least something we could do about it. As a group, we couldn't afford to be discouraged. And the fact that so many people had instantly jumped at the oportunity to have some fun outside showed that everyone needed a break as much as I did, and certainly Ryan too.
"We will help Tara along the way. That is our goal for now. To make sure she reaches levels befitting that of a Dragon Tamer," Ryan offered.
"I need time to process this," I admitted. "And you’ll have to tell me more. This is heavy, if you get my meaning."
"Sure. And while we’re on it, my Pokemon have new names now. They are now Kasey, Yorke, Beck, Maynard, Reznor and Shirley," Ryan shot out.
Now that was really unexpected. But what right did I have to expect anything after all that had happened?
"I see. What brought that on?," I asked him.
"They wanted a change. I wouldn’t deny them it," he explained.
I accepted the facts. I'd have to get used to calling them by their new names. I'd miss the old ones, but if they felt better this way, then it had to be for the best. I only hoped that we'd get the time for things to settle down; that we'd get the chance to be together and gather enough strength before we had to face this pure and primal evil. Strangely, Ryan seemed calmer and more collected than I would have expected. He looked like someone who could see the truth beyond the chaos, someone who could hold me in his arms and make my fears go away. I could tell his spirit was stronger than the last time we'd been together.
"Did anything else happen in the Emerald Dream?," I asked him.
"No, why?," he said.
"So much has changed. You seem more at peace now, a bit warmer. Yet your Pokemon seem to have hardened a it," I told him.
"You changed form your experience too," he reminded me.
He must have been talking about my unexplainable mind trips to Bei in times of deep crisis. Or maybe even my retreat to the White Mountain. Those experiences had made me stronger too.
"True," I agreed. "We’ll discuss it later. Let’s enjoy the fun for now."
Ryan was with me for that.
We rejoined the group and did our best to end the day in a way as close to normal and uneventful as possible. I think we did a good job, as we were soon having fun and enjoying ourselves as if a weight had been lifted from our hearts.
The day came to an end, like all the others, but going back to work didn't seem so terrible anymore. Especially since I'd finally managed to have a talk with Connor, and we had taken a decision: we were going to include Amy in the Dragon Tamers staff. If she accepted the job, of course. I couldn't think of anyone more responsible and reliable than her, and she loved pokemon as much as I did and also liked to be in direct contact with the trainers. It would be great to have someone with a kindred personality to work with.
I phoned Amy to check if she was willing to take the job, and to have a warm conversation too. I could really use a friendly voice proving that there was much more to life than just obligations and worries. While we were talking, I tried to come up with a good way to make my offer, but I couldn't. Formalism didn't fit in a conversation between the two of us. In the end, I just let it out as it came: "how do you see yourself for another big job?"
Amy held her breath, instantly catching my thoughts, until she told me she'd be willing.
"Then welcome on board," I announced.
No more words were needed. We both knew this would be the beginning of something great for the Dragon Tamers.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 01:03 PM   #52
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<Gabi's POV>

Let's pick up from a morning like any other. I, like all other Dragon Tamers and practically all pokemon trainers in Caledor, had received the invitation from the trainers at Porygon Valley to test our skills against their specially trained Porygons. However, I'd soon realized I wouldn't be able to attend, since I was up to my head with studies and work. Besides, my eyes were very sensitive and the invitation said something about some extremely bright light all trainers would have to look out for. It sounded like something I wouldn't mind missing; at least not too much if it was for a good reason like passing my exams.
So, that morning I was studying hard, and kept at it until not one more typed character could fit into my head (yes, it was one of those awful subjects which were all about memorizing stuff). Then I took a shower to give both my mind and my body some rest. After spending about 5 minutes cleaning my skin and about an hour getting my hair to look decent (job which, this time, also involved cutting a small strand of hair that stood out for being longer than the rest, and which I'd been putting up with for years until the rest of my hair was finally long enough), I put my clothes on and got out. When I reached the computer room, which was also my studying room and a storage for non-literary books and stuff which was needed every now and then, I found out I was not alone. Ventura, my Venomoth, was standing on the wall.
I picked up my glowing stone, which currently qualified as "stuff that was needed every now and then" and was, therefore, in that room.
"It's good to see you're not afraid of it anymore," Ventura commented.
"The stone? I can't say I'm quite comfortable with it, but I've concluded that warnings come for a reason and it's better to confront them before it's too late. If something bad is going to happen, we'll find out sooner or later anyway. It'd better be sooner," I explained. "Besides, it's useful to talk to you when Caledor is not around."
"Smart and brave. No wonder why I'm keeping you as my trainer," Ventura said.
"Are you mocking me?," I asked her.
"No! That was a compliment," she made herself clear.
"Oh, sorry, I never know with you," I tried to apologize.
"It's this word thing. Why didn't anyone invent a language with no ambiguities?," Ventura complained.
"There are some mathematical languages like that," I informed her. "But they're useless for everyday communication. And there's no chance to express feelings with one of those. I think feelings are ambiguous by themselves."
"I see. My telepathic pulses can't express feelings either. It would be better if we were all like Lagi," Ventura suggested.
"I don't know. Lagi's had many bad times because of her abilities. The confrontation with the Black Battalion nearly broke her soul. She's strong, but I don't think the whole world would be prepared for that. Though there would probably be no wars..."
"To achieve that you'd have to wipe all sadists off the face of Earth," Ventura corrected me. "Knowing what others feel doesn't always mean caring about it. Some actually enjoy watching others suffer."
"I guess you're right," I admitted. "It may be better for us all to keep what we have. Though I wonder if that includes this stone."
"Ask the Vulpix who left it there for you," she said. "The stone was supposed to be in your hands."
"Do you believe in destiny?," I asked her.
"Hey, it was you who named me Ventura!," she retorted. "I don't know. I don't think everything is written; that would make life useless. But maybe there's a natural course of events and some things tend to happen, and some things should happen. What do you think?"
"I think this is the most interesting conversation you and I have ever had," I told her. "About destiny, I don't know. I probably agree with you. I have had premonitions, but I do believe in free will, and I think that the future, at least a big part of it, is built on the choices we make. If I thought there was only one possible result, then I wouldn't be fighting at all. But I've witnessed the results of the things I've done too many times to think I had nothing to do with them."
"And what if those things you did were the only things you could have done?," she questioned me.
"If there was only one possible option, then decisions wouldn't be so hard to make," I replied.
"Good point. It's good to have a trainer who can have this kind of conversations. I've seen many trainers who would have made my life a bore."
"Wow, thanks! Two compliments in one morning! Are you feeling alright?," I joked.
"Yes, but if that's the response I get, then I'll never compliment you again," she answered.
"Sorry, I didn't mean that," I apologized. "It's just... It's not usual for the two of us to converse for so long without having an argument."
"I can spend a long time talking when taking action is not urgent," she explained. "Why are you so afraid of arguing, anyway?"
"I don't know. I've been like this since I was a child. For as long as I can remember, actually. I've never liked it when those I loved were angry at each other, or at me. Maybe I'm just too sensitive. But I can put up a good fight when it's necessary. You've seen me do it."
"Just like Amber," Ventura laughed.
"I'm older than Amber, so she must be just like me," I joked. I believed in the symmetry of the likeness relationship, so I didn't mean what I was saying. I was just contradicting Ventura for the many times she'd done the same to me.
"Whatever," she simply responded.
"I was thinking..."
"Good habit," she interrupted. She must have taken that one from me.
"Yes, it is. I was thinking that you and I should do something together. I don't get to spend nearly as much time with you as I do with each of your teammates. Maybe I can make myself a few hours and we can spend some quality time together," I suggested.
"If you want to spend some quality time with me, take me to the Battle Tower. I haven't battled there since it re-opened, and pokemon can't issue a challenge without their trainers," she told me.
"So that's your idea of quality time."
"I'm not afraid of fighting. It's liberating. You get to take out all the stress that's brewing inside you and move some energy; it's a physical and mental challenge at the same time. And you always learn something, and you often get stronger in the end. Besides, in friendly matches there's no real danger. What else can you ask for?"
"I could ask for so many other things!..." I commented. "But it's ok. If that's what you want, I'll take you there."
"Now?," she asked. I looked at my books for a few seconds, and sighed.
"I've already got distracted, so I guess now is a good moment," I concluded. "Besides, I'll go crazy if I don't get out of this room today."

To make a long story short, we went to the Battle Tower followed by the rest of the team who were just as eager to taste some fresh air, and Ventura won a battle against a Clefable named Luna, once more showing what a good fighter she was. Right after the battle she made a comment about it being a pity that no fire pokemon were willing to battle her, to which Hero replied with "don't push your luck unless you want to test your skills against me." I guess she knew as well as I did that she had no chance against Hero's speed and fire; she simply responded that she'd take him up on that offer if she ever reached his level. I tried to imagine what a battle between the two of them would be like, and came to the conclusion that it would probably never end. But soon Tsunami warned the Venomoth that if someone was going to take on Hero, that would be him. And Hero told Tsunami that he'd already lost his chance, and that was the beginning of yet another of their comeback fights.
As for my exam, I failed, even though I'd studied to the point my mind was about to blow up. Actually, I came to the conclusion that it wasn't good to do an exam when my mind felt like blowing up, and decided to make sure I was in a better condition when I took it again the following week. Then, I followed my own advice, got up as late as I could (which took an important effort), I stopped studying an hour before re-taking the exam, and I finally passed.
Of course, I didn't neglect my work at the Dragon Tamers, which was quite heavy those days (as everything is in December). Many trainers were coming for new TMs, so I had to stock up all the time, and also arrange the regular shipments to Selenia. Fortunately, Amy and Connor were helping a lot. Connor even brought some new items for the Reward Center! We hadn't had anything new for sale for a long time.
And so days passed, carrying along weeks with them, and it wasn't long until the winter began, and holidays were on everyone's minds and mouths. That's when I realized everyone would be expecting the Dragon Tamers to have a big celebration like the one we'd had the previous year. Better, if possible. The problem was that Neither Scott nor Alex were here this time, and the thought of me organizing a Christmas party was ironic to say the least. I would attend just to be with my friends (and to see if John would show up again and answer all the questions we'd asked him the year before), but I wouldn't be decorating a tree, nor singing Christmas songs. Well, luckily for me, the problem was resolved before I had to take any decisions. I knew it from none other than Tara, when she asked me if I was going to attend the big Christmas celebration that was going to be held. I was so glad that someone else had already thought of that and set things into motion!
I soon found out it had all been an idea of a group of trainers, and they had started making the arrangements by themselves! Such efforts should be rewarded. I decided to offer my help. Someone suggested it would be cool to have pokemon battles during the party (a sign that a new generation was rising in Caledor), so I help them get some pokemon who were willing to challenge the Dragon Tamers. Then I left them to continue organizing everything, and went back to my pressing December routine... until the night of the party.

The faces I saw when I reached the Recreation Center, where the party was being held, were not the same as the ones that had been there the year before. Only a few were still there, and the rest had been... renewed was the most positive word I could think of. One thing was clear, though; those new trainers around me were Dragon Tamers (most of them, anyway). You could tell that from the way their pokemon roamed all over the place, meeting others and having as much fun as their trainers. That was a usual sight in Caledor, but something like that would have been hard to see in other places. Where I came from, even seeing pokemon walking besides their trainers was uncommon, unless they were being kept as pets in which case they would never battle nor work on improving their abilities.
I remembered my first reports about the search for a balance in pokemon training and the importance of communication between pokemon and their trainers years ago, the ones which had got me my passage to Ulthuan in the first place. This was one of those moments in which I realized how much my life had changed since I had come to Ulthuan.
So, everything was fine. Almost everyone was cheerful, and while there was a bit too much 'Christmas spirit' for my liking, my pokemon seemed to be having a good time and that made me glad. Well, all except Amber. She seemed to be a bit down. Strange, Amber wasn't one to feel sad at parties. Even though Sylvan was already taking care of her when I noticed something was wrong, I walked to her side to see what was going on. I felt grateful that I'd brought the glowing stone with me that night.
"What's wrong?," I asked the Charizard.
"She's worried about Volvagia and Alex," Sylvan explained for her.
"It's just..." Amber began. "By this time last year they were with us. Then they left... and they haven't returned yet. Do you think anything happened to them?"
I reflected for a few seconds.
"If something wrong had happened to them, we'd know by now," I concluded. "Last time I got a letter from Alex, he said that things were going well for him and that he was thinking of taking a new job in Canada. That was months ago and I didn't get any more news from him, but I think he's fine. Maybe war took a greater toll on him than he'd like to admit and now he's trying to start a new life far from Ulthuan and all its problems."
"Problems can never be solved by running from them," Sylvan remarked. "And what about his pokemon? Did he give them a choice? What about those who cared for them, like Amber?!"
"It's ok, Sylvan," Amber stopped her. "We all take our own decisions. I guess Volvagia's happier in Canada with Alex than here with me after all. I want what's best for him."
"This is a horrible situation," I commented.
"It's just a part of life," Amber pointed out. "You've had worst, haven't you? This was just... a case of a spark suddenly burning too bright and going out too fast."
She fought so hard to be strong inside! She reminded me of myself. But she couldn't hide her tears as they rolled down her cheeks. I hugged her. That was the best thing I knew how to do when someone I cared for was down. I knew well about the healing powers of a warm hug. Sylvan did her part by caressing her friend with her vines.
"I'll be fine," she said. "This is a party, so why don't we go and enjoy it?"
"Are you trying no imitate Caledor's unconditional cheerfulness?," Sylvan smiled.
"Caledor and I have a lot in common," Amber admitted. "I guess I could learn a few lessons from him as far as cheering up is concerned."
"As long as you're honest to yourself about your feelings, go ahead," I told her. "Just don't try to mask your sorrow. It will hurt you in the end. Those words must sound hard, but I've seen them come true too many times."
"Don't worry, I know myself," Amber replied. "I won't fall into that trap. Besides, I have you, and the whole team, and I know I can count on all of you for anything. I have a nice home and I know how to defend myself and no one forces me to do anything against my will, and I'm the only Charizard who has helped write a report that has been published. So I have lots of things to be glad about. And I'm still young, so I may fall in love again. Or... who knows... Maybe Volvagia will return some day."
"Maybe," I agreed. I must admit I had never felt so proud of her as I was feeling now.
The scene was interrupted by a group of kids who shouted "Look! She's hugging a Charizard!"
"It's hard to change the world, isn't it?," Amber reacted. I turned to the kids and spoke to them.
"Yes, I'm hugging her. She's my friend and I like hugging my friends. Is anything wrong with that?"
"No, it's just... weird," one of the kids answered. "Why does it let you hug it?"
"Because I'm her friend too," I told them. "Are you pokemon trainers?"
The kids looked at each other looking for a reply.
"Err..." one of them began.
"Not yet, but we want to be," another of them answered. "We can stay here, right? No one asked us for a license when we entered."
"Did you have to say that?!," his friend complained, hitting his side with his elbow.
"Calm down," I stopped them. "Yes, you can stay here. You don't need a license to cerebrate. But do your parents know you're here?"
"Yes, ma'am," the first boy replied. "They said we could come, it's just that we weren't sure. They said that if we talked to pokemon trainers it would be easy for us when we became trainers ourselves."
I had no way to know if he was speaking the truth or just making it up, but they all sounded honest. Well, all except the one with the quick elbow, maybe. I decided to let them stay and just make sure they didn't get in trouble.
"Ok, just let me fetch one of my pokemon," I told them.
I walked to Iael's side and asked him if he could look after the kids.
"Why me?," was his first reaction.
"Because you're the best at taking care of children, and you've already shown that to me. If you don't mind, that is."
"Well, I doubt that I'm the best, but... Ok, I'll do it. Thanks for trusting me."
"I always trust you," I assured.
I led Iael to the boys and introduced him to them. I asked them if they would like Iael to be with them for a while during the party. They were all very excited about having a pokemon to play with.
"Thanks! Now we'll be the best trainers in the world," one of them affirmed.
I laughed, and let them be. But it seemed that night didn't have the intention to let me be. No sooner did I turn away from the children than a slightly older girl grabbed my shoulder and handed me a piece of paper with a list on it. Even though the handwriting was clear, the contents of the list were indecipherable.
"What's this?," I asked her.
"It's the list of bands that are playing tonight. It was really hard, but we managed to get them all."
"Congratulations!," I told her.
"Thanks. Will you please announce them?," she asked me.
Now it was my turn to ask "why me?"
"Because you always make the announcements. They'll listen to you more than any of us," she explained.
"But it's your party, not mine," I argued.
"It's a Dragon Tamers party," she remarked. I sighed.
"I don't even celebrate Christmas. Scott used to make the announcements before I did."
"Who's Scott?," she asked, confused.
"Scott McHenry, founding Dragon Tamer!," I replied.
"Oh, that Scott! Hmm... I haven't seen him around."
"Neither have I. For months," I admitted. "Ok, I'll announce the bands. But first will you please tell me how their names should be pronounced?"
The young trainer giggled, but agreed to help me.

<Amber's POV>

Things were going well. After some time of listening to the bands, picking some food and being with my friends, I was actually beginning to feel better. I still had that bitter feeling inside of me, of course, but I was determined not to crossed to the side of those who spent the holidays whining. Then, before I knew it, the show was over and the other event began. The event most trainers were eagerly waiting for: the battles.
"So many of our parties were crashed, that having battles in them has become a tradition," Sylvan whispered to me. "It seems now they've decided to skip the crashing part and start their own battles."
I laughed.
"I'm sure this will be good news for Ventura and Iael. Or maybe Hero and Tsunami, or maybe even Caledor," I speculated.
"Well... I was thinking of getting some training myself," she said to me. "I don't want to get rusty, and my big and heavy body isn't helping. But I'll stay here with you if you need me."
"Oh, no, Sylvan, please don't!," I requested her.
"Hey, I didn't think I was annoying you so much!," she hollered.
"Oh, no, that's not what I meant," I corrected myself, embarrassed. "I meant that you shouldn't lose your opportunity to get the training you need because of me."
"I can always train later," she stated.
"I'll have more chances to be with you than you'll have to battle. Go ahead."
She didn't seem to be sure about what to do.
"Please," I insisted. "Don't make me feel guilty of making you miss a chance."
"Ok," she accepted.
At that moment, Gabi came to our side.
"This has been really tiring. I was really expecting to sit on the side this time," She commented. "I guess that's not possible."
"It's the price you have to pay for being so active," I replied. "And for doing things so well. On the bright side, the trainers love you."
"I'm not so sure. I don't know half of them," Gabi pointed out.
"Yet," Sylvan corrected.
"Yet," Gabi agreed with a smile. "So, where did the others go?"
"The other trainers?," I asked.
"No, I mean your teammates," Gabi said.
"Oh, Lagi and Pidgeot went outside to take some fresh air," I informed her. "Hero, Tsunami and Caledor went outside for anything but fresh air."
"Too bad. They'll miss the battles," Gabi concluded. "I know where Water Angel and Iael are. What about Ventura?"
"Can anyone really expect to know where she is?," Sylvan chuckled.
"I guess not," Gabi admitted. "So, Sylvan, would you like to have a battle tonight?"
"Did you read my mind?," Sylvan replied, astonished.
"I don't think so, though I can never know. Even less with this stone," she declared, showing the small white stone that was now tied in a collar hanging from her neck next to her amulet.
"You have an arsenal on your neck," I commented. "What made you put all that on?"
"It's just precaution added to a bit of acceptance," Gabi cryptically stated. "I've accepted the fact that the stone is useful and any premonitions it may give me are not to hurt me but to warn me and help me make things better. And I can't afford having it in my hand and losing it. As for the amulet... I'm not planning to use it anytime soon, but it's good to have a defensive weapon just in case. Besides, Ryan gave it to me, so it means a lot to me. And I like the way it looks too."
"Well, enough reasons, I say," I told her. "What's going on between you and Ryan anyway?"
"I wish I knew," Gabi answered. "So, Sylvan, are you coming? Many pokemon are already battling. We don't want to run out of opponents."
"There I go," Sylvan slowly stood up, turned to me one last time to ask me to wish her luck, and headed with Gabi to the center of the hall which had now turned into a battlefield.
"I'll go with you to watch you," I said, following them.

Almost everyone around was already engaged in battles. It was hard to find someone who was willing to battle Sylvan. The newer trainers still had low level pokemon, the older trainers were already battling... only some of the pokemon brought especially for this event were left. It was one of them who finally challenged Sylvan: a Scizor. Sylvan accepted the challenge.
"Are you sure?," I asked her. "He looks too strong."
"It will be just a friendly match," Sylvan told me. "I have nothing to lose. Besides, I have my lucky clover with me."
"I still don't get that whole friendly match concept, but if it's ok with you, then do it," I accepted.
"I will," she said, both to me and to the Scizor.
"Ok, make room for us!," the Scizor shouted. "I'm finally getting some exercise!"
The tone in which he said that gave me a bad feeling, but I thought it was just me. I was a weird pokemon, after all, I couldn't expect to understand those who were so unlike me.

Level 42 Venusaur vs. Level 55 Scizor

The Scizor didn't waste time and slashed Sylvan right away. Caught by surprise, Sylvan used her Hidden Power, but the Scizor didn't seem more than slightly annoyed at the burst of water. He hit her head so hard with his heavy metallic claw that I could almost feel her pain.
"You need to change your tactics," Gabi warned Sylvan. "Remember Ventura!"
"Alright, hold on," Sylvan acknowledged her suggestion.
"I knew you couldn't make it without your trainer's help," the Scizor teased Sylvan. "But speaking in code? that's totally unfair! What does Ventura mean?"
"It means fortune," Sylvan said, suddenly releasing her Sleep Powder. "It also happens to be the name of a good friend of mine."
"You'll have to do better than that," the Scizor told her, using his wings to blow away all the powder. Some of it blew in Sylvan's direction and she barely managed to dodge it. "But I won't give you the chance," he finished.
The Scizor raised his claw again, but this time Sylvan was prepared for it. She grabbed the claw with one of her vines and pulled it to the floor using the force of the Scizor's intended blow. The claw broke 4 tiles of the floor upon hitting them. Then, before the Scizor could react or release himself, she shot more Sleep Powder right at his face. This time, it worked.
"Thanks for your advice, Gabi," Sylvan sighed. She was agitated. "I'm glad I managed to understand it."
"I knew you would," Gabi told her. "You've watched all of Ventura's battles and you were always her favorite trainee. You know her better than anyone."
"I guess I do. Well, this isn't over yet. I'll try to recover before he wakes up."
Saying this, Sylvan began to heal herself with Synthesis. It was late and very little energy was left from the day, but she slowly managed to gather enough to recover completely.
"Should I wait until he wakes up?," Sylvan consulted Gabi.
"Would he?," Gabi wondered.
"Good point," Sylvan said. "For the blows I took I can tell he's not one to be concerned about his opponents. Well... I guess I'd better take my chance while I have it."
Spherical water bombs splashed into the Scizor's body, waking him up.
"How dare you dump water on me?!," he shouted. "Oh, it's you. Yes, you're an annoying little thing... well, big thing. More annoying than I thought. It's time to get rid of you."
If he had given me a bad feeling before, now he was really scary. He seemed to be taking the battle too seriously. He wanted to hurt Sylvan. I wondered if she'd be able to resist.
The Scizor begun to spin around. I'd seen other Scizors do that before. He was performing a Swords Dance.
"Sylvan, be careful," I advised my friend.
She was, indeed, careful. She watch the Scizor's every move, not losing track of his claws. She didn't attack. She seemed to be waiting until he stopped spinning. It was a risky strategy, but trying to attack at that moment could have been worse. Finally, the Scizor stopped, irritated.
"You're not even going to move?!," he yelled. "Ok, I'll finish you faster, then."
But before he could act up to his words, he was stopped by another blast of water.
"I'm beginning to believe that's all you've got, isn't it?," the Scizor inquired. "Ok, let's stop delaying it."
But it was delayed again, this time by the arrival of another Scizor. The new Scizor rested his claw on the first one's shoulder.
"That thing giving you trouble, brother?," he asked. "I've been waiting for you for about 10 minutes, you don't normally take that long to finish a battle."
"Oh, shut up, will you?!," the first Scizor shouted. "She likes going down slowly, that's all."
"She? You mean you're battling a female?!," the other Scizor laughed. "Have mercy on her and knock her out fast! I'll help you, we'll finish her soon and then get something to drink."
"I don't need your help, but if you need a punching bag I'll grant you a blow," the first one accepted.
"Hey, that's totally unfair!!," I interrupted them. "She's giving all she can, but she can't face the two of you. She's not a punching bag, she's a pokemon who's looking for a fair battle. But I guess the word fair doesn't mean anything to you, does it?"
"If we liked playing fair we wouldn't have got this strong," the second Scizor boasted, as if there were any merit in what he was saying.
"You're a shame for all pokemon," I told them.
"When I need some insults, I know who not to ask," the first Scizor teased me.
"Hey, you look familiar!," his brother told me. "What's your name?"
"Amber," I answered.
"Amber... Yes, Amber! Hey, brother, do you know who she is? She's the Charizard who doesn't like battles!"
"There's more than one Charizard who doesn't enjoy battling for the sake of it," I pointed out.
"But you're the one from the report, aren't you? You're a sweetie! And now you are confronting us?"
"Oh, you must understand her," the other Scizor joked. "She's afraid that we might hurt her little friend. That's what weak cuties like her do. They stick to their friends all the time."
I was beginning to get enraged, and I didn't like that. And it was getting worse.
"Do you really think they're just friends?," the second Scizor rode on his brother's story. "I think they're lovers! Oh, yes, look at them! They were made for each other!"
"I will attack you if that's what it takes to teach you some respect," I warned them.
"Oh, isn't he cute?! She says she will attack us now!"
"You and what army, sweetie?"
"Hey, I know! You're not the Venusaur's lover! You're her bit¢h!"
"That's it! You've asked for it."
They had gone way over the limit. I let out all the fire that was burning inside me in a huge Fire Blast that caught the Scizors off-guard. The flames embraced them and made their red color look brighter. I didn't know if they had learned their lesson, but they were clearly suffering. Maybe I had overestimated their strength, or underestimated the damage a fire attack can do to a Scizor. I had gone over the limit too!
"Sylvan, use your Hidden Power, Fast!," I cried out.
Sylvan acted without even turning to look at me. I wished I knew what she was thinking at that moment. If she was concerned about the Scizors, if she was ashamed of me, or maybe sorry. In any case, the water put out the flames. The first Scizor was already down, and the other one didn't look too fit. He had swallowed some water and was now coughing.
"See? That's why I don't like battling!," I cried. What a night I was having!
"It's a pity," the remaining Scizor told me. "If you joined us, we could turn you into a powerhouse."
"That's not what I want to be," I explained, trying hard to swallow the fact that he was still insisting on his point of view. "I guess neither of us will ever change the other."
"I guess so. As I said, it's a pity. Now move, I have a battle to finish for my brother. Once I've brought your friend down we can go our own ways."
Well, at least he was back to calling us friends. I wondered why the guy irritated me so much. She wasn't very different from the average bully. And while I hated bullies, I'd never expected to react that way when facing them. Maybe I didn't know myself as much as I thought. I'd have to find out.
"Now this is something my brother hasn't learned yet," the Scizor announced. He brought his claws together and a small sphere of orange light began to glow inside them. It grew bigger and bigger, and before Gabi and I could shout "Slyvan, watch out!," a tremendously powerful beam had already been released.
Sylvan tried to move aside, but the Hyper Beam was faster than her and hit her on her side. She was sent rolling on the floor, and both Gabi and I had to move aside to avoid being rolled over. But Sylvan managed to stop herself and stand back up.
"Are you alright?," Gabi asked her before I could.
"I'm fine. I have to thank my clover again," Sylvan replied. "I'm fed up with this brag, Amber, will you lend me a hand... or a wing, so that we can get this over with once and for all?"
"Me? But..." I began.
"You don't have to if you don't want to, but I think you'll feel better," Sylvan told me. "Just a little Wing Attack."
"She won't do it, don't you see she's afraid of herself?," the Scizor spat out, showing signs of agitation.
"I do. And I want her to prove to herself that she has nothing to fear," Sylvan said with a smile. Then she turned to me. "You can control your strength. I know you can, so now go and show what you can do."
I wasn't very sure about that, but I decided to trust her. I walked towards the Scizor and slapped his chest with my wings. I knew a Wing Attack couldn't be nearly as destructive as a Fire Blast, so I moved my wings fast, trying to inject exactly the required strength. It turned out to be a weak blow.
"Well, I knew it wouldn't be as strong as a fire attack, but I thought he would at least say 'ouch' or something," Sylvan commented.
"You won't get that sound from me," the Scizor said.
"Ok, then, I'll be content with a 'splash' sound," Sylvan decided.
She looked so confident, so determined... I could hardly believe she was the same Sylvan I'd known years earlier, who needed guidance and protection on her every step. Now she was guiding me. It felt nice. No, it felt great.
Sylvan released her Hidden Power again, making the Scizor fall on his elbows. But he wasn't down, not yet.
"Stay this slow and I will recover and finish you," he ranted.
"What's with you and finishing us? Keep talking like that and you'll never catch your breath," I retorted.
I decided to try again, another Wing Attack, but this time with no restraints. I knew my Wing Attack wouldn't hurt such a strong Scizor badly. With any luck, it would simply shut his unbearable mouth. I raced towards him, hit him with both wings, and... his shoulders gave way. Before passing out, he managed to utter these words.
"Ok... you win... cutie."

Both Sylvan and I grew to level 44. I learned Dragon Rage!

I slapped my head.
"What does it take for them to stop?!," I shouted.
"They have stopped now," Sylvan said, stretching out a vine towards me. "You shouldn't get so mad about them. They're just morons."
"My parents suffered a lot due to morons like them," I told her, finally starting to understand where all my rage had come from. "They'll never leave us alone. I hardly ever got to see my father because of them. Well, them and the fact that he lived under the water. But now that I think of it, I guess I wouldn't even have been born without those stupid fighting machines."
"That sounds like a very interesting story you're going to tell me as soon as we get home," Sylvan said with a smile. "Hey, wait, you're not referring to that group of Gyarados who lived upstream, right?"
"Yes, them and a group of killer Charizards who lived in a distant valley I never got to see and never intend to. It's good to talk to someone who knows about the place where I grew up."
"It was good to grow up there too," Sylvan affirmed. "I just wish we had met while we were there. We could have helped each other a lot."
"Well, we're doing it now," I pointed out. "Thanks a lot for helping me today."
"It was the least I could do for the million times you helped me," she said. "Including today, only a minute earlier. You saved my leaves, do you know that?"
"Knowing how much you care for your leaves, I'm really happy I could help," I smiled.
"You're finally smiling!," Sylvan cheered. "I knew something good would have to come out of this."
I laughed, and so did Gabi, who was evidently overhearing our conversation.
"I'm tired," I told Gabi. "Can we go home now?"
"Yes, I'm tired too," Gabi said. "I guess we should go home before someone else comes here with more announcements for me to make. Let's gather the rest of the team."
"I can do that," Ventura suddenly popped up.
"So you finally decide to show up," Gabi remarked. "What were you up to?"
"I was supervising the light show," she answered.
"What light show?," Gabi inquired.
"The beautiful light show you missed because you were so concentrated in the battle. But don't worry, I'll come up with a better one for New Year. I can't blame you, though. It was an interesting battle. I especially liked the part where you said 'remember Ventura'."
"You were watching us," Gabi affirmed more than she asked.
"Everything up to the part where those Scizors started getting nasty. After that I knew they would be taken care of and went to check on the lights. I used a few powders to change their colors and added some psychic effects too. I think they will remember the show for a long time."
"You didn't give anyone a headache, did you?," Gabi inquired.
"No, just a few flashing lights, and only for those who were interested. i didn't interfere with any battles or anything. Wouldn't do anything to hurt anyone, you should know that."
"I must give it to you. You have more initiative than any other pokemon I know," Gabi commended her.
"I know, sometimes I think I was born the wrong species. But then again, I love my abilities and only by being a Venomoth I can use them all. So I'll stick to being just as I am."
"It's not like you have a choice," Gabi pointed out. "Just don't use your psychic abilities too much. They can be a double-edged sword."
"I know. I have much more experience with them than you do," Ventura replied.
"Don't start it, please," I interrupted them. "There's been enough fighting for one night."
"We were just conversing," Ventura laughed. "You know Gabi enough to know she's far from mad right now. And I'm just being myself."
"There are many ways to be yourself other than showing opposition all the time," Gabi winked. "Now will you please fetch the others as you so kindly offered minutes ago?"
"Yes, my trainer," she said, puffing away.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 01:03 PM   #53
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<Lagi's POV>

The last days of December were hectic for Gabi. So much that she couldn’t be more grateful to have Amy’s valuable help, and even Tara’s (it seemed Ryan was right about her). Gabi had to finish two reports, had an exam, and to make things worse she got a letter of complaint and had to go and sort things out personally. I went with her, to make sure she didn't blow up. So did Tsunami, who was losing hope of being in the Dragon Games finals and was doing his best effort to keep his uneasiness to himself (which didn't work) and not to take it out on his friends (in that, he succeeded for the most part). So we could say I was travelling with two time bombs. I knew a tough job when I saw it.
It all began when the mailman rang the bell of DT central and requested the presence of one of the people in charge. Gabi went down and I went with her in my pokeball (I sometimes get in there when Gabi's working; for me, it's a good way of getting to know those around her without becoming the center of attention). The man told Gabi that he had a certified letter for the Dragon Tamers, and he needed her to sign a receipt. He said the letter came from Eataine.
"Let me guess: Selenia," Gabi shot out, tired.
"No, actually it's from Tor Syle," the mailman said.
Gabi was astonished to hear this. She received letters from Selenia about every week, most of them requesting items for the Pokemon Center and a few with news about the development of the city, and some info sheets had come from Lothern a few times, but no letters from Tor Syle had ever arrived. She felt a bit guilty too, and I thought I knew why, but I wasn't sure until she signed, watched the mailman go and then read the content of the letter I got out of my pokeball to take a look by myself.
The style of the letter was formal, but it had been clearly written by a very angry person. The author had found out about the assistance the Dragon Tamers had been offering Selenia for the past year and demanded a similar - or better - treatment for Tor Syle. It said something about Tor Syle being the most ignored city in Eataine and in the whole of Ulthuan, even when it was the one city that suffered the most from the attacks of Team Rocket, and complained heavily about the Dragon Tamers not offering their help when the city needed it the most. On the same tone was mixed a complaint about Tor Syle not being mentioned in an official brochure about Eataine which had been issued during the training stage of the Dragon Games. The brochure said that Lothern -one of the 3 official training sites- was the only important city in Eataine, reducing other cities like Tor Syle to the rank of fishermen villages.

"I can't believe he's giving the same importance to Team Rocket and a lousy brochure!," Gabi exclaimed after reading the letter. "That brochure came out wrong and it had already been published when I got to see it. Didn't he realize that Selenia was treated as a fishermen village too?"
"I know," I told her. "But it's him who needs an answer. And it's not the brochure you're so mad about, is it?"
"You're right, as usual. You know what's eating at me, don't you?"
"Only because your emotions matched mine when we read this. You feel guilty because we couldn't help Tor Syle when they were in trouble... when the half of our forces were attending a call from Selenia and the other half were defending Caledor from an invasion and you were working with both, and the section of Team Rocket that had settled in Tor Syle was too strong for us to confront it before regrouping."
"You make it sound like we had no choice, but how can you explain that to the people of Tor Syle, who suffered so much because we couldn't help them?"
"Scott got us the permission to operate all over Ulthuan and we've achieved so many things that sometimes we forget we're not Ulthuan's main line of defense. We're only pokemon and young trainers with little or no formation where it comes to war... except for Scott and a few others, that is. We can't do everything and we can't help everyone. It hurts, but it's the truth and we must learn to deal with it. Those who blind themselves to their own limitations are the first ones to fall."
"That's the least comforting piece of advice you've ever given me, Lagi."
"You can get really rude when you're mad, did you know that?," I pointed out. She stopped to reflect on her last words and felt guilty again. "No, I didn't want you to feel like that," I told her. "I just wanted you to understand I'm fallible too."
"We all are," Gabi sighed. "And yes, I know I'm rude when I get mad. I'm working to change that, so any help will be appreciated... Now that I think of it, we did defeat Team Rocket's heavy hitters and made the rest of the organisation spread away, which in the end led to them leaving Tor Syle, so I guess we did help after all."
"You can say that to this person," I suggested. "That will make you both feel better."
"That's right. But a letter won't be enough. I'll go and talk to him personally, and I'll offer them assistance if they need it. Though I'm sure it will be hard to deal with someone who's so furious."
"I'll watch your back," I offered.
And that was how we ended up travelling to Tor Syle.
There was tension. A lot. But not all of the people in Tor Syle were that furious. Some of them were understanding and even supportive; especially those who worked at the Pokemon Center (except the head of it, who turned out to be the 'concerned citizen' who had written the letter). They understood that the Dragon Tamers were mainly pokemon trainers, and no soldiers and recognized all the efforts the whole group had put in the fight against Team Rocket, so in the end things didn't turn out so bad. Gabi arranged the delivery of a set of TMs, shields and juices for the local PokeMart, and reminded everyone that if they ever asked for our help, we'd do everything that was at our reach to help them. Most of the people we found turned out to be friendly in the end, once more contradicting the brochure about Lothern.

Then, before we could think about it, New Year was here. We hadn't had time to make many arrangements, so we settled for a small party at home, crowned by Ventura's wonderful light show. We had some music, and Gabi sang too. And every now and then Water Angel sang along. I didn't sing because I was too busy enjoying the sweet melody of their hearts. Then we all went out and spread all over Sector Alpha visiting our friends and, in some cases, our children. I flew under the moon for a while, delighted at the embrace of the sky, and then went back to Gabi's side, just in time for her to tell me she had a feeling she was about to find Ryan. She was getting so much better with her premonitions since she decided to be at peace with them! We came across Ryan on the street. I let him and Gabi talk while I spent my time with my first daughter and her teammates, great friends I hadn't been able to be with much since they returned from the Emerald Dream.
Being in the company of the Happiness Team was a breath of fresh air. A wonderful start for the newborn year. The rest of the team had a great time too. Most of them ended up in the Eevee House and found many friends who had had the same idea. Hero decided to just walk around and see what he could find, and he ended up being spotted by the ultimate finder. He refused to tell me what happened then, but he was in a really good mood when he returned. Tsunami told me he'd taken a dip at the Eevee House pool, but then left Pidgeot and Water Angel alone and played a little with Caledor and other pokemon. The emotion that underlined the word 'played' let me guess that it would have been interesting to watch that game. Ventura and Iael had a late training session, where she helped him get a grip on his Psychic attack. When morning came, they were still up and Ventura was practically swallowing the sun. Two more friends who had had an exciting night.
After that, Gabi wrote a lot of letters: some to her friends abroad, one to Amy thanking them for all the effort she had been putting on keeping the Dragon Tamers going, and the longest ones directed to her relatives in Argentina.
"I hope they're fine," she sighed as she wrote the addresses on the envelope, while a little piece of her that was usually hidden came to the surface, seeking peace.
"They will heal," I assured, "just like you're healing yourself now by writing to them."
"I'm afraid I may not like the answers to these letters," she confessed.
"Oh, yes, you will," I said. "Because, while they may hold bad news, they will also express how happy they are to hear from you and to know you're fine, and they'll tell you how proud of you they are, just like you tell us every time. And believe me, those expressions of love can bring you back to life."
"Especially for someone who feels it on both your side and the other," she remarked.
"You have a little of that too," I pointed out. "You're not an empath, but you have compassion, and the result is often quite similar."
The hug she then gave me was priceless.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 01:04 PM   #54
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<Gabi's POV>

It was one of those days when I didn't know if I was more tired of the things I had done during the last month or from the things I still had to do. It was one of those days I just didn't have the strength to get out of bed, and I kept turning my body from side to side, bringing back images of the weird dreams I'd had during the night and hoping that Lagi would feel my need for her and help me up. But Lagi was not around this time. Instead, my thoughts were disrupted by the pressure of a digitigrade's paw on my chest, at a moment in which I was lying on my back. I slowly separated my eyelids and saw Tsunami's big eyes staring at me.
"Ouch!," was the first thing I managed to get out of my mouth.
The Vaporeon got his paw off me and jumped down from my bed. I picked up the glowing stone which was on my room's desk, stilled tied to the necklace, and got up in order to put it on.
"Why did you do that?," I asked my Vaporeon friend.
"I figured it would be the best way to get you out of your bed," he replied. "Guess what. It worked!"
I sighed.
"I guess I have to thank you, then. I thought the bed would absorb me and swallow me. But next time, could you think of a way to help me that lets me breathe normally?"
"Would you rather I shot cold water at you?," he asked.
"Hmm... no, that could bring my blood pressure up to normal, but it would mess up my bed. Can't you lift my back somehow? The problem when my pressure is down is that I can't sit up on my own without getting dizzy."
"I thought that happened only in the summer."
"In the summer and when I have too many things to do," I informed him. "Contradictory, isn't it? The more things I'm supposed to do, the less energy I have to do them."
"I wouldn't underestimate your energy," Tsunami told me. "I know you, and I've seen you have a lot. I think you may be wearing yourself out. Working too much and resting too little."
"Maybe," I admitted. "But how can I change that? I have to work on my thesis without neglecting my own work, which never seems to give me a rest. Amy has been more helpful than I could have imagined, but I don't want to put too much pressure on him. And Connor already has his hands full finding out what's going on with the Dragon Games. Alex is gone, so seems to be Nolan, there are no signs of Scott yet, not to mention the others who vanished away over a year ago. And I still have to pick a subject for my next report, and now that Scott is away, I don't even know who I'll be writing it for. It's just too many things at once."
"Isn't it always like that?," Tsunami questioned, looking at me out of the corner of his eye. "It seems to me that you absorb responsibilities like a sponge absorbs water, and then you complain about them. What would you do if you had more free time?"
"Write, read, spend more time with my friends, which of course include you, and maybe see a movie or a play," I answered.
"...And jump on the first opportunity to do something for the firs person who needs it," he finished.
"How do you know everyone so well?," I asked him.
"I have big eyes," he told me. "And believe me, I'm quite nervous too. I'm the one whose battle has been postponed for months, remember? But now that you've told me Connor would sort things out and make sure the games continue, I feel better. I think you should feel better too. Things are beginning to fall back in order, and you've even had some time to write lately. I've seen you. So enjoy what you have."
"Thanks, Tsunami. I'll do my best. Still, I'll jump on the first chance to get out and have some fun."
"Me too," he assured. "Moreover, I think I'll be heading to the Eevee House. See you there when you're done with today's work!"
With that, he left my room.
It had been busy days, which meant they'd been normal days. It was still winter, which was good news for me (I could drink as much tea as I wanted to and didn't have to suffer the intense heat of the summer). I had taken a one week trip to my grandmother's place in January, and I'd gone back to the place where Tsunami had evolved, where my team and I made a symbolic 2-years-late celebration. Now my last issue with Tsunami had been sorted out. I had also rested a lot, and even written some letters and part of a story, so I couldn't complain at all. I had renewed my energies as much as it was possible. But that time had passed and now I was already feeling the need to recharge my batteries again.
My pokemon tried to mantain as much activity as they could. Some frequented the Eevee House regularly, and some went to the Battle Tower to train with their friends from Amy's team. Those training sessions helped Ventura and Lagi gain a level each. But there was still the feeling of being caught in a dull routine. We all wanted to do something different. Something new. I wished the Maze would make a new appearance. That was the kind of fun I needed.

Fortunately, my wishes were heard. No, the Maze didn't come back at that moment, but something did come. And it was none other than Ryan who gave me the news. Someone had organized a winter games competition for pokemon. That sounded great. It was fun, it was new and it was a challenge. I was sure my pokemon would love the idea. Ryan told me where and when the games would be held, and I made sure to inform all the other Dragon Tamers of this event. I managed to lay my hands on a brochure and, when I read the rules, I discussed my ideas with my pokemon.
"There's a hockey competition. I think our old hockey team could come back for some more action," I suggested.
"I'm all in for it!," Caledor cheered. "I liked playing hockey the last time, and the old team was great. Besides, you can count on me for everything that can be classed as a game."
"Watch your words," Ventura warned him. "Some consider the Russian roulette a game."
"Well, almost everything, then," Caledor corrected himself.
"Girls?," I asked.
"No problem with me," Sylvan told me. "I just hope I do better than last time. I'll take my clover to bring me luck."
"I'll do it," Amber decided. "It may bring some old memories I'd rather leave behind, but I can't let that paralyze me. I want to be free, forge a good future. I guess this is the best way."
"Don't push yourself too hard," I advised her. "You may need some time to get over..."
"Volvagia. You can say it," she said. "I won't deny it, he left me and it still hurts. I feel like it will always hurt when I think of him, even if I get over him. But I'm ready for this. I may not be ready to fall in love again yet, but I can definitely play a hockey game. He won't take away my capability to have fun with my friends."
"I'm glad you're taking it so well," I praised her.
"I've been worried sick for months about him," she explained. "Not knowing where nor how he was, not even if he was alive or not, was a torment. Now I know he's alive and well and he left on his own free will. I can't change his will and I wouldn't want to, so the only thing I can do is rebuild my life without him. I don't know why, but I somehow feel calmer than before. Like facing the facts put an end to the uncertainty and put things back in order. The time for tears has already passed."
"Another proof of Amber's steel-like determination," Water Angel commented. "She didn't get her Hidden Power for nothing."
"Can I be in more than one event?," Caledor asked me. "I don't want to sound selfish or anything, but I've been training too little lately and I need some serious workout which doesn't involve Ventura."
"Always so grateful," the Venomoth laughed. "Don't worry, I'll never train you again. Get your own targets and your own way to improve your aim."
"Actually, there's a way here," I remarked. "The course includes target-shooting. The brochure isn't very clear about that event, but I'm sure it will be interesting."
"I'll be ready for anything," the Espeon assured. "So, can I take the course?"
I laughed at the sound of the phrase "take the course", but I accepted.
"Now, there's only the race left," I said. "I was thinking..."
"Then stop thinking," Hero interrupted me.
"That was rude," I told him.
"Didn't mean to, but there's nothing to thin about," he said. "If there's a race, then I'm in. I don't mind who I have to race against, even if there's cold water or anything. I want to run a race. I haven't done that for ages! And you know no one here likes races more than I do."
"Good point," I agreed. "I could give someone else the chance to teach you manners, but I'm not that kind of person. I know how much you enjoy racing and I won't deny you that pleasure."
"That's great!," Hero exclaimed. "Thank you, Pix! You rock! Better now?"
"Pix?," Pidgeot repeated. "I hadn't heard anyone call her that since... the Tower of Hoeth, I think."
"I don't know, it just came out," the Ninetales laughed. "Was my compliment ok, Gabi?"
I shook my head, laughing.
"A compliment is ok as long as you don't explain it's a compliment or say it only to please someone, but without feeling it."
"Oh, gosh, girls are hard to please," Hero commented.
"Just be yourself," Lagi advised him. "That's the best thing you can do."
"But when I'm myself they think I only think about myself," Hero complained.
"Hey, hold on," Tsunami interrupted them. "Are we talking about Gabi now, or about...?"
Hero's burning look made Tsunami shut his mouth.
"...someone else? I was just asking," the Vaporeon smiled sheepishly.
"I was speaking in general," Hero shrugged.
I could tell what he was thinking. Tsunami was his best friend, but sometimes his comments could be really annoying.

So, it was all set. I waited eagerly for the day to come while I continued doing my job. Strangely, it felt lighter now. Things were falling in place.
On the day of the Winter Games, my pokemon and I got out earlier than usual and headed to the lodge where the competition would be held. There weren't many people around, but that was probably because we were early, and some wouldn't get out of their homes until the weather was a bit warmer. The lodge was nice and welcoming. After registering, we went to the dining room to have a cup of tea and biscuits. It didn't take long until more trainers arrived. There weren't many I knew, though, and hardly any I could talk to. It was strange, there were no signs of Ryan. I hoped his occupations didn't cause him to miss the games.
The deadline came and I hadn't seen Ryan yet. He could be somewhere else, there were many people now and not everyone was on the same place. I decided to walk around and look for him, but I couldn't find him. Ventura and Lagi confirmed his absence. Right what I needed... the least. Well, I wouldn't worry about him being swallowed by a black hole yet. We hadn't arranged a meeting point or anything. If he didn't show up during the games, then I would call him. For now, I had to help my pokemon get ready.

<Hero's POV>

Why Gabi was so tense was something that escaped my comprehension. People tended to disappear and then show up, and so far nothing really bad had happened to any of them. Some were even presumed dead, and turned out to be alive and well. I was even more puzzle when, after sharing my thoughts with her, she told me that she didn't believe anything bad had happened to Ryan. Was she hard to understand sometimes! But well, there were many times when she didn't understand me either. Those things usually happened, and they didn't impair our pokemon-trainer relationship, so I decided not to give it another thought and, instead, to focus on the upcoming challenge.
I got to watch a pair of races before my time came, while getting used to having ice-skates on my paws. I didn't have the best viewpoint, but at least I could appreciate some of the moves. The participating pokemon knew a few tricks and were not afraid to show them, so the sight was quite amusing. However, none of them seemed too fast. I hoped I got a good challenger, a pokemon that required some effort to beat. Maybe a Rapidash...
"Lady Vulpix's Hero and Midnight Angel's Seaward, please report on the ice track," the loudspeaker called out.
Seaward, eh? It sounded like the name of a Water pokemon. I couldn't think of any that was fast enough on ground, but I could have some problems if my opponent decided to make up for its lack of speed by using water attacks on me. I'd have to be careful. Just the way I liked it.
I walked to the ice ring, my skates proving to be quite an annoyance. I reckoned I should have trained more on them earlier. If they were uncomfortable for walking, what would running on them be like? Gabi had given me some instructions, but we hadn't had the chance to practise on ice for more than an hour, and even then I had run on the ice on my bare paws, not with these annoying blades. I wasn't quite comfortable with letting myself slide yet. Well, I would make the best of the little experience I had.
My opponent soon came in, sliding on his belly. He wasn't wearing ice-skates. Of course, what kind of skates could fit the shape of a Lapras? If anyone ever thought of any way of fitting metallic blades under a Lapras's body, they would only hinder the aquatic pokemon. Just as they were hindering me. Was it too late to take them off? If Seaward could race without the skates, I should be allowed to do the same.
"Are you nervous?," the male Lapras asked me.
"Nah, not nervous. Just a bit uncomfortable, that's all. But I will fix that."
"I didn't expect to run against a fire pokemon. Doesn't the cold bother you?"
"It's not that cold, I've been in much colder places than this. And I have enough fire inside to keep myself warm."
"So you can stand the heat and the cold. What does bother you?"
I thought for a moment before answering.
"Many things, but I think being unable to run would bother me the most," I finally replied. "It happened once; I got hit by a bullet and I was healed, but I had to refrain from running for three weeks for my leg to heal completely. The worst three weeks of my life."
"Oh, sorry to hear that. I guess I'm up for a challenge, then, since you like running so much. Would it be ok with you if I used an attack or two?"
"Do what you must, just don't let me win. That would be the worst thing you could do. I like a good challenge and I won't go easy on you. I want to win this by my own merit."
"You're quite a character!," Seaward exclaimed. "I guess water pokemon don't intimidate you."
"If they had, I wouldn't have won the first Griffon Games," I said, proudly. "I've also battled a Lapras before. A female named Morning Mist. She was a nice opponent; she knew how to put up a challenge."
"Really? Who won?"
"I did."
"It sounds to me like you love to brag," he commented.
"Well, I can't say I don't," I chuckled. "But I don't lie. What about you, have you ever been up against a Ninetales before?"
"Yes, once. I won too. But it was not a race, just a battle."
"Then this will be interesting," I coucluded.
We could have kept on talking, but the voice on the loudspeaker caught our attention, indicating it was time for the race to start. I turned to the starting line and readied myself to run or slide, whatever came easier.

Level 64 Ninetales vs. Level 50 Lapras

A small explosion marked the beginning of the race. I shot out with the impulse of the sound, gaining the advantage. Seaward needed some time to propel himself and gain speed. I lost him on the first turn. This was too easy. Even with the skates on, I was much faster than the Lapras. The first lap was a piece of cake. I used it to get more comfortable with sliding short distances, being careful to stop on the curves and take them running instead of sliding.
After running about 150 meters, I could already see my opponent taking the next turn. I would pass him and gain a whole lap of advantage over him... or so I thought. With my eyes fixed on the Lapras, I made the big mistake to stop looking at the floor and I slipped on a puddle of water which hadn't been there the first time I'd passed. I landed on my tails, and it took me so long to get out of the puddle and back on all fours that Seaward got the chance to reach me and pass me. Tricky Lapras! Well, I couldn't complain. After all, I'd been looking for a challenge, and having a tricky opponent would give me the chance to display some of my own tactics too.
I got up and did my best to regain the lost distance without falling into another trap. Seaward had spread water on different spots all over the track. The water helped him slide faster, while it slowed me down in the best case and made me fall in the worst case. I was still faster than him, but it was becoming hard to keep up. I passed him by the end of the second lap, but he reached me again in the fifth one. And everything made me believe that things would only get harder if I didn't do something. I decided to play a wild card. It would take time and was bound to cost me a lap, but it might work.
I slowed down and let Seaward pass me, without completely stopping in order to give him the idea that I was still trying to catch up. When he took a curve and disappeared from sight, I turned around and began to summon a Confuse Ray. I stood there, charging up a blast of mixed energies and confusing emotions, and released the ghostly attack as soon as my opponent showed up in front of me, without allowing him the time to question why I was facing the wrong direction.
"I wish Tracker was watching this," I thought to myself as the Lapras absorbed the full charge and his course was altered, making him hit the side wall; but I dismissed the thought quickly and turned around, getting back on the race.
I did my best not to slip again. The track was filled with puddles, but I managed to avoid them. I wish I could do something to freeze them or dry them out, but it was impossible. Fire attacks would have only made things worse, and nothing else I could have done would have changed anything. With some effort, I finished my 6th lap. I was in the middle of the 7th when I saw Seaward again. He had advanced, but was still bumping against the walls. I had an idea that would help me take advantage of his confused state. I stood where I was, and cast a hologram on the other side of the track.
I was getting better at creating fake images of myself. I could now make one appear on any spot and make it move at my will. More were harder to handle; I could hardly make more than two move in different ways or remain coherent beyond a short distance. 6 would have had to remain still, and I'd never been able to cast 7 or more, but one was quite easy to handle. I made this image run on the opposite direction and pass by Seaward's side. The confused Lapras thought I was passing him and turned around, following the hologram. He chased my image past me without noticing my real body against the white snow, giving me the chance to gain a decent advantage.
I moved on, avoiding the water and keeping up the hologram which, I must admit, slowed me down a little, but kept Seaward distracted. When the fake Ninetales and I crossed paths, making sure the Lapras was out of sight, I let the image fade away. I took the first curve of the 8th lap and regained some speed. Less than a fifth or the race was ahead of me, I couldn't mess up. But then, coming from the other side, I saw Seaward charging fast in my direction. The confusion seemed to have worn out from the look in his eyes, or maybe he had used Mist. I didn't have time to summon a new Confuse Ray. Instead, my legs took the full blow of an ice beam. Seaward made sure ice had formed around my skates before turning around and resuming the race.
I was in trouble. I couldn't move as I was, and if I used a fire attack to melt the ice around my legs, I would also melt the ice of the track, creating a pool which would be too hard for me to pass. I had to think of something different, and fast.
I tried to pull up my legs to no avail. Then I tried hitting my back legs with my tails. I reached them, which was good news. I made my tails harder; hard enough to break the ice. It worked. My hind legs were freed by my Iron Tail attacks, and I managed not to hurt myself much in the process. The front ones were another story. There was no way I could reach them with my tails. I tried using my teeth, but I felt like it would take forever. Seaward passed me in the meantime, making me lose the advantage I had achieved. I reckoned I'd have to make a small sacrifice in order to get out of this situation. I used a small Ember, trying to focus it as much as possible around my legs. I did form a new puddle, but at least it was a small one.
I got out carefully and began to run again, trying to make up for the lost time. I reached Seaward and passed him in the middle of the 9th lap. But he was gaining speed, aided by the water on the track. I'd have to do something. There was no time for a new attack on either side. I had to let him gain a little advantage while I occupied my teeth and legs on the task of getting rid of my biggest hindrance on this race: my skates. Once I was free from them, I proceeded to run as fast as I could. I suddenly felt like a gust of wind, moving forward without anything to stop it. It was so much easier to avoid the puddles now! Most of them were small enough to jump over them! And gaining speed was not a problem anymore. I hadn't realized how much trouble the skates were causing. If I had known, I would have got rid of them much earlier! But it had been an interesting challenge, being on them.
The 10th lap had begun. It was the last chance... for both of us. When Seaward saw me coming, he launched a Bubblebeam to stop me. I evaded as many bubbles as I could and, while I couldn't elude all of them, I didn't let them slow me down. The end was coming, and I had to come out first. I used a Quick Attack to launch myself forward, just like I had done back in the first Eevee House race, a long time ago. I passed the Lapras without turning round to look at him. I kept my ears alert in case he tried anything, but my eyes were focused on the finish line... and keeping a look at the floor every now and then to make sure I didn't slip again. When Seaward came closer, I dashed faster. I heard his voice emitting an acute "Laaa..."; it sounded like he was going to release another Ice Beam. I got out of range before he could do anything. One more dash and... I made it! I crossed the finish line!

I grew to level 65!

It only took 2 or 3 seconds for Seaward to reach me after shooting his Ice Beam at the center wall. Attacking me would have been useless once I had already won. He took a deep breath.
"Congratulations!," he said. "This was a great race."
"Indeed," I agreed. "You came up with more tricks than I thought you would; you almost had me there. Had you moved a little faster, the result would have been different."
"I see you've had more training than me," Seaward remarked. "Maybe we can run again some other time; things may be different then."
"It will be a pleasure," I assured.
"Now, can I ask you something?"
"As long as the question doesn't refer to my seven tails, go ahead."
"Oh. Nevermind."
I shrugged.
"Okay, okay!, what's wrong with the world?!," I exclaimed. "Ok, it's not your fault, it's just that pokemon ask that everywhere I go. I got only one extra tail when I evolved, that's all. As you can see, I'm as competitive as any other Ninetales, if not more."
"Calm down, I was just curious, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings or anything! I believe you meant that you were competent, which you are, that's clear. And believe me, no one in the world will ever doubt your competitiveness."
I burst into laughter.
"You're right, I meant competent. I can't get competition off my head, can I?"
"Well, you're really good at it, if that helps," Seaward laughed with me. "Oh! My trainer is coming. Would you like to meet her?"
"Sure, but maybe at the lodge. My trainer's calling for me now, I don't want to miss the hockey game. 3 of my friends are in."
"Oh, I'm in too!," Seaward told me. "I'll be the goalkeeper of my team. You can watch my match."
"Sure. I'll cheer for you as long as you're not up against my friends," I said.
So I went back to fetch my skates in order to return them, and then each of us went to the encounter of his respective trainer and prepared for the next event.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 01:05 PM   #55
Lady Vulpix
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<Tsunami's POV>

Somewhere after lunch, while we were waiting for the race track to be taken away and replaced by the hockey rink, and still hearing our Ninetales friend boast about being the fastest pokemon alive or something like that, Gabi's gear-phone rang. I tried to make out the conversation, and I didn't do so badly. From her "hello? Oh, it's you I was just... Oh, I see. It's ok, I understand. Yes, I know. Well, I... Yes, yes, it's ok. Then I'll see you when your things have calmed down. Good luck with everything! Thanks, on you too. So do I *big smile here*. I hope so too. Take care. I'll be thinking of you. Do your best, things will come out right. Ok, see you. You too. You know, the hockey game is about to start now, so I'd better go now. Yes, it would be great... maybe some other time. Bye, take care," I made out that Ryan was too busy to come. Am I a genius or what?
We got to watch some exciting matches before my friends' turn came. One was particularly vicious, and ended with the whole rink melted down and a member of the winning team being disqualified: an Unown with an extremely hot temper. I'd never witnessed anything like that before. After that, they called for all pokemon who could use freezing moves to help rebuild the rink quickly so that the games could continue. I couldn't help with that, as my only ice move (Aurora Beam) wasn't cold enough to freeze the water (as some pokemon had embarrassingly proved during the last swimming race at the Eevee House), but Lagi and Water Angel were very helpful. Many pokemon cooperated to re-freeze the site; apparently everyone wanted to resume the game as fast as possible.
When the ice was thick enough, the same pokemon who had built the rink tested its resistance. Once they were sure it wouldn't break, they left and we waited for the next teams to be called in. To my surprise, one of them turned out to be ours.
"Alright!," Caledor exclaimed. "Ready or not, here we go! Whoever our opponents are, they'd better be prepared. The Fantasy Team is on the way!"
"Fantasy team?," questioned Amber.
"Err... Dream Team was taken," Caledor grinned.
"I'd never thought of giving us a name before, but I think that's a nice one," Sylvan commented.
"Why not?," Amber smiled, almost letting a giggle come out.
"Thanks for your support, girls," Caledor said. "Then, I repeat, here we go!"
"Will the ice be firm enough to hold my weight?," wondered Sylvan.
"It has just been tested by all those pokemon, even Lagi," Amber reassured. "Everything will be fine."
"As long as no one decides to melt the rink again," I pointed out.
"I don't think anyone would do that," Amber told me. "After what happened, the whole team could be disqualified if anyone tried that again."
"Your opponents are already on the rink, Fantasy Team," Gabi warned my friends. "Get down before you get disqualified for being late."

We all directed a look at the Blastoise, Sneasel and Feraligatr who were standing on the rink.
"They look intimidating," Sylvan admitted, walking the first step.
"So do we," Amber reminded her.
"I don't, but I like it that way," Caledor said. "I like having the surprise element."
"And the confidence to match," Sylvan remarked.
"Hey, if you have no confidence, you've lost the match before it starts!," Caledor pointed out.
The kid was right. Surprisingly, even he could be mature when the situation required it. Maybe I was giving him too little credit. Being cheerful and optimistic 99.9% of the time didn't necessarily make him immature. It was a wrong assumption driven by the unfortunate fact that most creatures lose their ability to laugh and enjoy themselves as they get older. Now that I thought of it, maybe Caledor's attitude was the wisest. Though not taken to the limit, as he usually did; you have to be serious once in a while!

The team went down and met their opponents on the rink. Against our team's tradition, no words were exchanged. Just some looks between both teams. Sylvan took her position at the goal, and so did the Blastoise on the opposite side. The puck was placed in the center of the rink and the remaining players stood on each side of it. Each team was assigned a color: green for my friends and blue for their opponents. Then, a voice on the loudspeaker announced the beginning of the match.

Lv. 43 Espeon & Lv. 44 Charizard & Lv. 44 Venusaur vs. Lv. 50 Feraligatr & Lv.50 Sneasel & Lv.50 Blastoise

The Sneasel was the first one to get the puck, and pushed it so fast that Sylvan barely managed to react in time and stretch out her vines in order to stop it from entering the goal.
"That's cheating!," The Sneasel shouted.
"No, it's not," Amber told him. "There are no rules against that. But I heard there are rules against having 2 pokemon of the same type in a team."
"They had to make an exception with us because all the pokemon in our team were water or ice type," the Sneasel explained, while using the distraction to take control of the puck again. Sylvan was caught off-guard this time, and the Sneasel scored.


"Oh, no, not again!," Sylvan shouted. "You might want to consider getting a different goalkeeper next time."
"We won with you last time," Amber reminded her. "You're good, hold up your head."
"Should I do something about that Sneasel?," Caledor asked Amber.
"Not yet," the Charizard said. "Attacks are allowed, but let's not be the first ones to use them."
"We won't need any attacks to defeat you," the Sneasel assured, having heard Amber's words. "It's your turn, will you hit the puck or what?"
"Patience is a virtue, my friend," Amber said, hitting the puck hard.
The disc went past the Sneasel, but the Feraligatr caught it and gained control. Neither Amber not Caledor could stop him. He evaded them with ease. Sylvan got her vines ready, but the blue reptile hit the puck with an effect, making it take off and fly above the Venusaur's vines. She tried to adjust and managed to touch the disc, but couldn't stop it from entering the goal. The blue team had scored again.


"We need to make some adjustments," Amber reckoned. "We need a better strategy."
"We need Ventura," Sylvan sighed.
"I thought you were already independent," Caledor said.
"No one is ever completely independent," Sylvan replied.
Amber hit the puck again, this time taking care not to send it too far from herself. Caledor ran by her side. The Sneasel tried to intercept them, but they managed to make 2 passes at the right time and avoid him. The Feraligatr waited in the center of the blue field. Seeing the compact barrier Amber and Caledor had built, he decided to break it with a Water Gun. The water didn't hurt my friends, but it succeeded in taking the puck away from them. The Sneasel caught it, but before he could score again he was pushed back by Sylvan's own water attack: Hidden Power.
"Hearts have been broken," Sylvan announced making an analogy of the card game.
"There's no holding back now," Caledor decided. "Aside from the bounds of reason; this is still a game, after all."
The Sneasel disappeared from sight. My friends looked around, searching for any shadows that might be hiding him.
"Watch the puck!!," Pidgeot shouted from the stalls.
Then it all happened at the same time. Caledor turned towards the puck and released a Thunder Wave, right when the Sneasel reappeared and tried to hit it. That gave Amber the chance to take control of the puck once more. I heard the Sneasel mutter something, but I couldn't make it out. I take it that it wasn't nice, since Caledor responded with a "hey, we're playing the same game!"
"How did you do that?!," shouted the Feraligatr.
"I could show you, but you wouldn't like it," Caledor replied, gracefully dodging the subject.
This may sound weird, or at least it looked weird to me, being more than used to the kid's abilities, but Caledor's attack caused a distraction among the other team which allowed Amber to finally score her first goal.


In mere seconds, the situation had turned in favour of the green team (or should I say Fantasy Team?), and now it was their opponents who had to regroup and adjust. Apparently the Sneasel was their main hitter and now that he was paralyzed someone would have to take his place. Most precisely the Feraligatr; not like there were many choices.
Everyone returned to the center of the rink and the Feraligatr hit the puck towards Sylvan's goal with all his strength. But this time the Venusaur was prepared and she sent it bouncing to the other side with her vine. No one could stop it, except for the Blastiose, who sent it off with another Water Gun. This was amazing! The puck crossed the rink from side to side twice in a matter of seconds. Sylvan managed to stop it again, and decided to pause for a moment before launching it to the other side once more.
"What's taking you so long?!," the Feraligatr shouted.
"Be patient," Sylvan replied. "I'm trying to find the best way to..."
Without finishing the phrase, or as a way to finish it, she hit the puck back into the rink.
"Amber!," she called out right before the Feraligatr could get the puck.
The Charizard reacted fast and got her stick between the water pokemon and the disc, and both pokemon struggled for a few seconds, neither gaining control of the puck.
By then the Sneasel was having problems trying to reach his teammate and his fiery opponent. Caledor stood behind Amber in case the Feraligatr managed to take the puck away from her. The goalkeepers observed every move carefully.
The struggle was brought to an end when Amber was sent rolling across the rink by a powerful aquatic blast. A wave, nonetheless! Now I was furious. That had been totally uncalled for. Not only had the Feraligatr brought disgrace to the name of the Surf attack by using it in such a dirty way, but also he'd just hurt a good friend of mine. Even when she did get back up, I could tell she had taken a bad blow by the look on her face and the steam coming from the tip of her tail. I couldn't take it anymore. I ran down the stalls and jumped into the rink.
I don't remember the exact words I shouted at the Feraligatr, but one thing I do remember clearly: they weren't pretty.
"Who are you and what the hell are you doing here?!," the Feraligatr yelled at me. "You're interfering with our game!"
"Oh, you don't watch TV. Ok, I'm not offended by that. Actually, who I am doesn't matter right now, but what you have just done goes against the spirit of healthy competition. She's just playing, she's not your enemy! What were you thinking, attacking her like that? You could have... I don't even want to think of what you could have done!"
"Attacks are allowed."
"Yes, but not such vicious attacks! What's the difference between you and the pokemon who got disqualified for melting the rink?"
"The difference is that the Unown was taken care of by the judges, not some crazy member of the audience!"
"Enough is enough!," someone shouted behind me.
Before I could recognize the voice, I knew who it was by the electric discharge I received. It was aimed to the Feraligatr, but the ice conducted some of it towards me too. I'd lost count of the times my little friend had zapped me. I turned around and scolded him.
"How come I always end up being on the receiving end of your attacks?!"
"Not always, but... I'm sorry. I was just trying to help," he apologized.
Needless to say, the game was interrupted. Two men came in, I was taken out of the rink and the Feraligatr was warned. I just hoped his incident wouldn't affect my opportunities at the Dragon Games, whenever they were finally resumed.
Caledor stared at me with a concerned look as I returned to Gabi's side. Believe me, few things can be scarier than Caledor being concerned. From the stalls, I shouted "I'll be fine, kid!," and then I finally got to see his old smile. I could relax now.

<Caledor's POV>

I'd never expected Tsunami to do something like that. He must have been really mad! I had to make sure no one got hurt again. But how? The blue team regrouped to discuss a new strategy, and so did we.
"We're all fully evolved now, this should be easier than the previous game, not harder," Amber sighed.
"If they touch you again, I'll make them pay," threatened Sylvan.
It was strange, everyone was acting in an unusual way. Tsunami crashing a game, Sylvan making a threat... and me getting worried, that was the scariest thing!
"Can your psychic powers help us?," Amber asked me.
I shrugged.
"I can use them to attack or to defend us, but that's all I can promise. For an Espeon, my ESP leaves a lot to be desired. Sometimes I wonder if I really am an Espeon."
"Well, you certainly look like one, and you evolved from Eevee using a Day Stone," Sylvan pointed out. "I don't know if there are any other requirements to be an Espeon, but what else could you be?"
"I don't know. But hey!, why are we talking about this? We have a game to play. Games are supposed to be fun! So let's find away to enjoy the game or leave it and play something else, because there's no way I'll be letting a game bring me down!"
"Ok, I guess we can still try and have fun if our opponents calm down," Amber said.
"I'll see to it," I assured. "And I have another idea. My psychic powers may not be too useful now, but my experience playing games may come in handy."
"Ok, we trust you," Sylvan told me.
Amber nodded in agreement. I turned around to face the blue team.
"New rule!," I shouted. "From now on offensive attacks can be used only on the puck!"
"Who are you to change the rules?," the Blastoise confronted me.
"I just thought it would make the game less dangerous and more fun. Games are supposed to be fun, aren't they?"
"You were the one who attacked me!," the Sneasel cried.
"And your friend there attacked my friend. We're even now. So why don't we play a clean game now?"
"It doesn't sound so bad," the Blastoise accepted.
"We'll see," the Feraligatr said.
"If you attack anyone again, I will attack you," I warned him. "We'll make it fair. If you play clean, I'll play clean too. You'll see it gets much more interesting that way."
"As I said, we'll see."
Saying this, the Feraligatr hit the puck without a warning. Amber managed to stop it and sent it over to me. I caught it and pushed it in zigzag waiting for Amber to catch up. That almost cost me the puck, as the Feraligatr and the Sneasel surrounded me and closed in on me. I had to use a Water Gun to make the puck slide away from them. Amber took off not to touch the water and hit the puck from the air. It was a dangerous maneuver, but the Blastoise was distracted looking at me glow blue and shoot water from my mouth. And that distraction allowed Amber to score.


"What are you?!," the Blastoise asked. Not that question again!
"I'm Caledor," I told him. "I'm one of a kind."
The Blastoise laughed. I realized I had lost the surprise factor and presented myself as the wild card of my team, but at least that should stop them from getting at Amber. We returned to the center and prepared for another shot, and it came... with an Icy Wind courtesy of the Sneasel. I had to jump to the side to avoid the chilling wind, knowing the effects it could have on anyone it touched, but that meant letting the puck slide by me. Now it was too late to stop it.
Amber tried to fly back and get it, but the Feraligatr used a Water Gun to push it even further away. It was up to Sylvan to stop it. She used her Hidden Power, but the Feraligatr's water current was stronger than hers. There wasn't time to get her vines to the puck, it was going to pass right under her body. I thought there was nothing she could do to stop it, but I was wrong.
"Oww!! It's cold!," was the first thing I heard.
When all of the water had either evaporated or frozen, I saw Sylvan stand up and get the puck from below her with one of her front legs. She was still making gestures of pain.
"What did you do?!," I asked her.
"I stopped the puck..." she said. "With my stomach, but I almost froze in the process! Oww!"
"You have guts!," The Blastoise praised her.
"At least I did have them. They may be frozen now," she cried.
Amber requested a time-out and carefully helped Sylvan warm up.
"This game is taking forever!," complained the Feraligatr. "We need to go home someday, and there's still another event after this one."
"You can go home whenever you want," I told him. "No one's stopping you."
"I'm not quitting the game!"
"Then stay until it ends. It's your decision."
"You're an irritating little brat! You should learn to shut your mouth."
"If you think I talk too much, you definitely don't know my friends!"
"Hey!," two voices shouted in unison from the stalls. They were Hero and Tsunami. I grinned. I knew they'd know I was talking about them.
"Besides," I continued. "I'm much smaller in size than you, but I don't think I could be called little."
Sylvan burst into laughter.
"What's up?," I asked her. "Is Amber tickling you?"
"No, it's just that... you didn't mind being called a brat, you complained about all the rest."
"Bah," I laughed.
"Ok, I'm ready!," Sylvan announced.
We all gathered in the center of the rink to receive the puck, which she hit with her left vine, sending it diagonally to the front and to the right. Amber, who was on that side, caught it, but it didn't take long before the Feraligatr took it away. He skidded to my side and I shot a Water Gun at the disc, but this time he was prepared and blocked the water with his stick. Amber came by and tried to take the puck again and the pair got stuck once more.
"I have to do something to unlock them," I thought. But it was the Sneasel who did something. He released a Blizzard that caused both Amber and the Feraligatr to move away from the puck, and sent the puck sliding to the side of the rink. I moved faster than anyone else and was able to get hold of it. I pushed the puck forward, but the Feraligatr soon came to my encounter. I had to hit the disc strongly and send it to the side to stop him from taking it. Luckily, Amber was ready to pick it. But unluckily, the Sneasel was ready to pick her.
The dark pokemon held Amber's tail tight, keeping his claws at a prudential distance from her flame. He'd ended up to be stronger than he looked. His grip was so firm that Amber couldn't free herself, nor even pull forward. She was forced to hit the puck from where she was, and the Blastoise caught it easily.
"Let go of me!," Amber shouted.
"Years of training have given their fruits," the Sneasel ignored her. "Now we're even."
"I can burn you," Amber warned him. "I could hurt you a lot."
"But you won't. This is just a game and you don't strike me as the kind of Charizard who plays dirty."
"Isn't what you're doing dirty play?," she questioned him.
"I'm not hurting you," he replied. "I'm just holding you in one place."
By then, the Blastoise had already released the puck into the game, and the Feraligatr had caught it. I had to rush in order to stop him from reaching the goal again. I knew that Sylvan wasn't going to let her belly touch the ice once more. The Feraligetr was too far ahead to reach him, so I shot a Thunderbolt at the puck to send it off-course. It worked. Now I only had to get to were it was, but the Feraligatr was closer than me. I'd have to try something new... isn't it great when an idea comes to your mind right when you need it?
I came up with a new use for Reflect. Don't ask how. I formed an invisible barrier around me, making it as wide and as strong as possible; two things that weren't wholly compatible, but I managed to get a decent result. I then ran as fast as I could towards the puck. The Feraligatr must have been wondering what the purple light around me was, but in any case he found out when I came close to him and his movement was suddenly slowed down. I couldn't stop him completely, but at least my Reflect made him slow enough inside its action radius to let me get to the puck before he did.
In the meantime, Amber kept shaking her tail from side to side and finally managed to get rid of the Sneasel's grasp. His paralysis didn't help him get her back, so she was finally free. I passed the puck to her and she pushed it towards the goal. I ran by her side, about 3 meters away from her. The Feraligatr couldn't reach us. The Blastoise prepared himself to make a catch, but I had another idea. I was inspired at that moment!
"Amber, pass it to me!," I told her.
She made a pass and the Blastoise turned, preparing to receive the puck from my side. But before the disc reached me, when it was right in front of the goal, I sent a Water Gun at it, getting it in.


"Yay, we're finally ahead!," I cheered, proud of the results of the trick I was unlikely to be able to repeat.
Amber patted my back and congratulated me. She almost seemed like Gabi!
"Two more goals and we'll get this over with," she said.
"What? Aren't you having fun?," I asked her.
"Hmm... Not too much. But don't worry, I'll keep doing my best."
I felt sorry for Amber. I had only just realized how hard the whole game had been for her so far. This wasn't like the game which had resulted in her final evolution. A half of her wasn't even here now, it was struggling against emotions I'd never known; and the other half had been receiving the attacks of the Feraligatr and the Sneasel.
"Don't worry, I've got you covered," I told her.
I wasn't really sure of what I meant by that, but I hoped it would make her feel more confident.
We went back to the center of the rink. I tried to get by Amber's side and look for ideas with her, but our opponents didn't give us the time. Now it was the Sneasel who hit the puck, not only with his stick, but also with an Icy Wind. Amber and I had to move aside once more, but we wouldn't let him get away with it this time. I sent a Thunderbolt at the puck, pushing it away from the wind. It worked, but not as well as I hoped. The Feraligatr had anticipated my move and was already on the other side of the rink getting the puck. He pushed it towards Sylvan's goal and Amber went right behind him. She intercepted him before he could score, but he just pushed her aside with one of his strong arms. This caused Sylvan to direct her attention at Amber for a moment, and the Feraligatr used that chance to score.


"That wasn't fair!," Sylvan complained, but the Feraligatr ignored her.
"Ok, let's make it even," I decided. "Amber, we must move fast this time. Are you ready?"
Amber nodded. That was my cue to go back to the center and hit the puck with all my strength before the others could react. They tried to get it, of course, but I didn't let them. I sent a Thunderbolt following the course of the puck, about half a meter above the disc. No one could have stood in front of it without getting zapped. As for the sides, Amber was guarding them fiercely. The Feraligatr tried to get the puck from the opposite side to where Amber was, but she gave the puck an extra impulse before he could reach it. I walked slowly behind the puck, keeping the Thunderbolt at full strength above it. When the disc reached the goal, there was nothing the Blastoise could do to send it away without getting shocked, so this time it was easy to pass by him and score.


"That was great!," Sylvan cheered from her goal. "Do you think you can do that again?"
"I don't know, powering up a Thunderbolt for such a long time is tiring, but I can try."
"Don't drain yourself," Amber advised me. "You must save some of your energy for the Course."
I agreed, but I didn't know how to do that and score again at the same time. I thought it would be great to end the game 5-3 just like before. It could be... our lucky score or something. Well, it would be lucky because it would mean that we won.
I didn't get the time to keep thinking of that because the Sneasel sent an Icy Wind again. We had to do something to stop the blue team from reaching our goal for the third time with that strategy! But what?
"Fire!," Amber shouted out, as if replying to my thoughts.
She accompanied her words with a Flamethrower aimed straight at the puck. I didn't know what she was trying to do, but I contributed with a Flamethrower of my own. The Feraligatr added in some water trying to put out the fire and the result was a huge whirlpool of steam that forced everyone to get away from the puck. When the clouds finally cleared out, the puck stood alone, waiting for someone to get it. Of course, then came a race to the puck in which all of us tried to take possession of it first. And the winner was... me!
Seeing that I had the puck, Amber walked a few steps back to receive a pass. I tried to grant it, but both the Seasel and the Feraligatr were blocking me. It wouldn't be easy, especially now that they'd seen all the types of attacks I could use. I finally decided to do the one thing I hadn't tried yet: bluff.
I gave my opponents a serious look and began to glow purple. Then I changed the color to red. Then blue. Then gold. I could tell they were getting confused. Who wouldn't? Anyone who didn't know me could have thought I was going to release some multi-type super attack or something. I made the glow more intense (my golden glow was excellent for that) and when they stepped back and braced themselves for whatever was coming... I made the pass for Amber.
I would have burst into laughter at how well the trick had worked if it hadn't been for the rage on the Feraligatr's face. That guy had no sports spirit at all. I felt a tickle in my forehead as he approached me and a huge Blizzard came my way - or that was what I thought. I blinked and saw there was no Blizzard; only a furious Feraligatr taking a very deep breath. I decided to think about what had happened later and jumped as far to the side as possible before the attack could be released. That way I saved myself from a real Blizzard. I could tell it was authentic by the way the air got colder all around. Now as I ran away from the raging Feraligatr I had the chance to go through the facts and understand what had just happened. My conclusion was that maybe I was an Espeon after all.
Amber was getting to the goal, and the paralyzed Sneasel couldn't stop her. I ran right behind her. It looked like we were about to score, but the Blastoise didn't seem to agree with that. He was getting ready for something. I just wished my psychic powers would help me again, but it wasn't that easy. They weren't the kind of powers that would come whenever I called for them. Anyway, I was grateful for them; they'd just saved me from a very cold experience and from losing my chance at the Course.
"Caledor, watch out!"
Amber's cry brought me back to the present... just in time to avoid a Bubble Beam from the Blastiose!
The bubbles passed right by me. It was strange, you'd think at least one of them would hit me, but they didn't. They just formed a speeding wall of watery film between me and Amber. Then I realized the attack hadn't been aimed at me. It had all been a tactic to neutralize me by keeping me away from the puck. And it had worked. After that, the Blastoise shot another Bubble Beam, this time at the puck. Amber was forced to take off to avoid the bubbles, leaving the puck free to be picked by the Feraligatr, who was just about to catch up with her... about to take away our precious chance to score the last goal. I couldn't let that happen, could I?
I decided to fight fire with fire, or in this case water with water. I aimed my own Bubble Beam between Amber and the Feraligatr to slow the latter down, and in the meantime ran to Amber's side, getting in my opponent's way. The Feraligatr passed through the bubbles, but not fast enough to stop me. Now I was right in the middle of the two Water pokemon. I knew one of them would have to attack to break the barrier my body and Amber's were forming. And while the Feraligatr was the most likely to play dirty, it was the Blastoise who had a clean shot at the puck. An attack by the Feraligatr could have sent the puck straight into the Blastoise's goal and of course he wouldn't want that. (See? I can make deductions. ) So the Blastoise was going to attack. And for once I knew just how to avoid him.
When I began to glow blue, the Blastoise hurried to release a Bubble Beam. He was no fool, so I bet he knew I was going to use a Water attack, but he had no way to know which one. He aimed the shot right at the puck, but by the time it reached the spot where it had been, the disc was already soaring above its beam, resting on my stick held firmly by an Espeon who was floating on top of a beautiful wave - that would be me. The Bubble Beam impacted on the wave, making in break but that only threw me forward into the goal. I fell on the Blastoise's head and the puck fell right behind me. Ok, it wasn't the most elegant goal, but it won us the match!
...And then the boards showed the score I loved so much![/i]


The Green Team won!

I grew to level 44 while Sylvan and Amber reached level 45.

"Go, Fantasy Team!," I cheered, still stuck on the Blastoise's head.
The big turtle helped me down and I helped him with a typical 'heh' smile. He then offered me his hand and I shook it with my paw, for which I had to stand on my hind legs - the Blastoise was much taller than me. Then Amber and Sylvan came by and shook his hand too.
"Good game," the Sneasel said. "Now get me to a Pokemon Center. I could really use the help."
The only one who didn't show any signs of courtesy was the Feraligatr. It figured, he probably hadn't enjoyed the game in the least, being as busy as he had been trying to win at all costs. That served me as a reminder to keep having fun as my main priority whenever I had the chance to play.
"I could use some help too," Amber said. "I've been giving my best, but I really don't feel so well. That Feraligatr hit me hard."
"Please forgive our teammate. He has no manners," the Blastoise tried to excuse him. "He's great at battling, but he sometimes tends to forget that not everything in life is a battle."
The Feraligatr growled, looking at the Blastoise through the corner of his eye. His only spoken reply was "let's go now."
We all left the rink and met the rest of our team. Tsunami congratulated us, but not without making a joke about me being ungrateful and ending the game by copying him after he had risked his reputation by crashing the game for us. I then reminded him that Surf was an official Pokemon League attack, and not the Vaporeon's copyright. And so on, we had another of our friendly comeback fights. Gabi said some words to Amber which I was too busy to listen to, but their conversation ended up with a big hug. We missed the following match, as we headed off to the healing stand (some kind of Pokemon Center built specifically for this event and which would probably be gone the following day) to heal Amber. But we did get to see the last match, and it was quite good.
Finally, after all the hockey games were over, we went back into the lodge to have a snack -though Gabi wouldn't let me take in anything heavy, so I only got some orange juice and a cereal bar while my teammates filled their stomachs-, and then we waited for the final event to start. I was really looking forward to finding out what the Course was all about.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

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Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 01:05 PM   #56
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<Caledor's POV>

The 3rd and final event of the day was coming close and I was really excited about it. I couldn't wait to find out what I'd be doing at the course, and who I'd be competing against. But I had to wait. They took a long time to set up the whole track. I thought of looking for some friends to talk to, but Lagi had other plans. She called me and said she wanted to talk to me. I couldn't imagine what she could possibly want to talk about, but I went with her and asked her what was up.
"I'm worried about you," she said.
Now that was something I didn't expect?
"Worried? About me? But why?, what is there to worry about? I'm perfectly fun, having a great time and looking forward to having even more fun."
"True, but I noticed you had a little mood swing at the hockey game."
"Mood swing? I don't remember, but I guess everyone has them every now and then. And you're the only one who can possibly notice mine, they never last more than 5 seconds."
"That's exactly why I'm worried."
"I don't get it. Oh, wait, are you talking about the moment when the Feraligatr hurt Amber? Of course I was worried at that moment, but then things went well, so everything was fine."
"I'm not talking about that."
"Then what? Please spare me the mystery, you're scaring me."
"The thing is you don't remember being worried about yourself at all, do you? I've noticed you've been reflective many times, like there was something inside you that scared you and you didn't want t reach in and see what it was. Then you dismissed it. You always dismissed it and then forgot it. But it keeps coming back. And denying it will only hurt you. It can even stop you from enjoying life as much as you should. Your joy can never be true and full if you achieve it by blocking away your worries."
"You know, that sounded very deep, but I don't think it applies to me. I admit it, I have lots of questions about myself, and about my past, and yes, sometimes they scare me, but there's no way I'll ever find the answers to those questions, so there's nothing I can do about it. So I do the best thing I can: face front and have fun."
Lagi kneeled down and patted my back.
"I know what it feels like to have unanswered questions," she said.
"You know what everything feels like," I pointed out.
"I mean I have some of my own. You know that. Though it's true that I've never been so much in the dark; I know it was nature that made me different, or at least I'm almost sure that was the case. As for the reasons, looking for them is like looking for the purpose of life. I realized I'd have to find my own purpose, and my own reasons to be myself."
"Ok, that's all great, but..."
"I haven't finished," she said. "In your case, we know your abilities are not a product of nature, but whoever the people who did that to you were and whatever their motives were, you don't need them. You can look for your own path too."
"It's hard when you don't know what you are," I told her.
"I've been there too. But what matters is not what you are. It's who you are. And you know that very well."
"Yes, I know who I am. Though in my scariest nightmares I wonder if even my personality was built to the liking of those scientists."
"No one is capable of doing that."
"We don't know what they're capable of. I've heard of beings with tremendous psychic abilities. They can do just about anything."
"If something like that had been done to you, you wouldn't be questioning them, would you?"
"I guess you're right. Then only my body has been tampered with. Thanks, Lagi, you've taken a huge weight off my chest."
"It was a pleasure. Tell me, is that why you're scared of your psychic abilities?"
"Scared? I'm not scared of my psychic abilities. I wish I could handle them better. I mean, I wouldn't like to mess with the minds of others, or violate their privacy, but it would be great if I could predict attacks, know when someone is close or even move objects with my mind! And using telepathy to communicate would be very nice too. I can do that with you, Gabi and Ventura because your own abilities help me, and I've done it with Tsunami too, but it's easier because we're very close. It would probably work with Hero too, but it doesn't work with the others."
"Well, you've made some good achievements. I'm sure your powers will improve if you keep working on them. But you must be certain that you want them to improve."
"Why wouldn't I?"
"I don't know. You tell me. Ever since the day you evolved I had the feeling you were afraid of your powers, but I had no way to know the reason. Not without asking you, and I didn't think you were ready to talk about that until now."
"Why now?"
"Because you opened yourself to your powers during the game."
"You know, I'm not sure if my powers are scary or not, but yours definitely are."
"I know, Hero keeps telling me that. In my defense I can only say that I don't like invading anyone's privacy either, and that I'll never hurt anyone on purpose. Actually, if I hurt anyone emotionally I get hurt too."
"Ouch; now that I think of it, it mustn't be nice to be like that."
"Sometimes it is, sometimes it is it. but it's the way my life is, so I'd better make the best of it."
"Good. So what were you saying about me being scared of my powers?"
"Oh, yes, the day you evolved, even before evolving, during the battle against the Dark Cloak, you were scared of your own powers."
"I was confused," I told her. "You never know what will happen when you're confused."
"True, but confusion only mixes up what's already inside you. So you did have those worries hidden inside. And even after the battle, when you were no longer confused, I could sense your fear. You reached for the Day Stone and evolved, and then you blocked it."
That wasn't the way I remembered my evolution, but now that I thought of it some of the things she said did ring a bell. I tried to recall what had happened after that battle, and if there had been anything that had scared me at that moment.
"There were many reasons why I wanted to evolve," I finally told her. "But yes, I think one had something to do with needing to be an Espeon in order to control my psychic abilities. After that battle, my mind suddenly opened up to a sense I wasn't used to, and there was a lot of noise inside my head. That must have been what you felt. And the reason why I'd been scared before that happened, now I remember, was because of the vision I had when I touched the glowing stone with Gabi, Sandy and Ryan. It was really horrible. All of us were scared. Gabi didn't want to touch the stone again for months, remember? I guess what happened to her happened to me too. I was afraid having psychic powers might imply having more visions like that one."
"The encounter with the Dark Cloak was a terrible experience for all of us," Lagi said in a reflective tone. "I felt everybody's fear and I was afraid too. Most of their pokemon knew nothing but hate and blood-lust, while the trainers had no feelings whatsoever. It was, indeed, horrible. But that had nothing to do with being able to foresee it or not. You would have seen them sooner or later, and had it been later we wouldn't have been prepared."
"I know. I just hope something like that never, ever happens again. If it happens a thousand years from now it will be too soon."
"I agree. So, do you feel better now?"
"I feel better before we even started to talk, but it was nice to have someone to talk to about deep stuff. We could do this once a year or so."
Lagi chuckled.
"Is that how often you're planning to be serious?"
"Give or take a day," I retorted. "I'm not the serious type."
"Just be careful not to neglect your needs. I'll always be here if you want a talk. It can be lighter too."
"Ok, acknowledged," I smiled. "Now when is the Course going to start? They're sure taking their time!"
"I'm sure we'll be called soon. Let's go back with the others."

Lagi was right. We were called soon after we rejoined the group. I was lucky. This time I was the second on the list. And the first one turned out to be another Espeon! Well, her and a Squirtle - it takes 2 to race and battle. It would be good to watch her. I could get some ideas. We sat at the beginning of the track, so we could only see a small part of the race directly, but there was a pretty TV screen that showed the whole course as the race went on. Thanks to it, I soon realized I'd have to watch out for the cold water. I hoped my opponent was not a water or ice pokemon, although I knew my chances were small: over a half of the pokemon who were around today belonged to those types.
I recognized the Espeon's trainer when the screen showed him picking her up from the finish line. She had won, but she wasn't in a good shape. And he was... Ade. I wanted to slap myself for not recognizing Kirei earlier, but I had only seen her once. I hoped she'd be fine. I was glad she had won, I didn't know her too well, but she was a friend's friend while I'd never seen the Squirtle before. And she was an Espeon; seeing an Espeon win against a Water pokemon in the course was a good precedent. I wished Ade and his team would stay, so that I could see them after the course; it would have been nice to talk to Beckham again. But they left right away. I could understand them, Kirei needed medical attention and a warm bed. I decided I'd have to be very careful in order to end the Course in a better shape and be able to keep having fun afterwards.
With those thoughts, I got on the track when my name was called. I waited for my opponent, but no one came. Now I was getting annoyed. Until I heard the announcement on the loudspeaker. Then I became intrigued.
"As one of the contestants is unable to run on land, the side track has been enabled for her. The side track consists of a stream of water of 1200 meters of length. It was made longer than the original track to compensate for the advantage its users have in the water. Both competitors will meet at the pond after reaching the end of their respective tracks."
So there was a water track. Where was it, and why hadn't I seen it? And did this mean I wasn't going to see my opponent until I'd finished running along the snow path? It would be hard to know who was ahead that way. And, for what they'd said, my opponent would have to be a water pokemon. I'd have to race through the snow as fast as possible if I wanted to stand a chance. Though the battle would probably decide the result. Too many things to think of, maybe improvising would be best. Trying to contemplate all the possibilities would only be a waste of time.

The whistle blew and I dashed forward. The view ahead of me wasn't great, just a lot of snow as far as I could see. The sound of the people cheering was comforting, but it faded away as I raced further away from them. Then came a moment when I felt as if I was alone in the middle of nothing. It was a strange feeling; not bad, just strange. But I couldn't just stand there and contemplate the whiteness and the silence. I had to push forward or else my opponent would take advantage, wherever she was (the voice on the loudspeaker had referred to my opponent as 'her'). I had to admit this was the weirdest competition I'd ever seen. And I'd seen many.
Soon, the water came into sight. There were no signs of my opponent yet. It seemed like I was ahead. Either that or my opponent had already crossed the pond, but that was unlikely. I ran faster, encouraged by the thought that I was gaining ground, and reached the pond in practically no time. I didn't know I could run so fast! Of course, Hero was a lot faster than me, but I wasn't up against him. Now came the hard part. I touched the water with my paw and proved that, yes, it was cold. I was used to swimming -I'd spent a lot of time in the pool at the Eevee House-, but it would be hard to swim in such cold water. I could try to warm it up with a Flamethrower, but that would take too long. Reflect wouldn't protect me from cold water. I reckoned I'd have to get in and just move as fast as possible to get over the cold. So there I went. I took a deep breath to give me courage, kneeled down, got my front paws in, then the rest of my body, and then I screamed.
Well, I knew I'd have to endure the cold water, but I'd never said anything about enduring it in silence. I agitated my legs as fast as possible, trying to get to the other side and at the same time generate some heat. And right at that embarrassing moment, a Kingdra appeared from the side.
"So you're my opponent," the Kingdra said.
"Yes. And you're mine," I said. "Sorry if I don't talk a lot, but I'm trying to get out of here. We can talk later."
"Ok," she said, swimming to the other border as if there was nothing to it. Of course, she had been swimming 1200 meters already. She'd had time to get used to the cold. So would I if I stayed there long enough, but I didn't intend to do that. I wanted to reach the Kingdra, do whatever I had to do next and get to the finish line.
As I swam, I saw some targets appear from under the ice and even in the water. The Kingdra brought them down with perfect accuracy, using water and ice attacks. If things stayed like that, she was going to win. They'd said each of us would have to hit 5 targets, and she'd already hit 3. When the 4th one appeared, I took a long shot and used a Hydro Pump. Too much of a long shot. I didn't hit it. I could picture Ventura scolding me for that. But the Kingdra turned around to look at me, and while she did that I shot a Bubble Beam and this time I did hit straight on.
"Oh, so you're that Espeon," The Kingdra deduced.
I didn't know where she'd heard of me, but it was clear I'd lost any chances at catching her by surprise. And with that, I'd lost the factor I was best at using in my battles. I'd have to come up with something else when the time came. For now, a new target had appeared right behind the Kingdra. I moved a little to the side and shot it down with another Bubble Beam.
"Those two targets were mine," she told me. "You have to cross the pond first before shooting."
"I never heard that," I replied. "Anyway, I'm almost there."
I reached the border and got out of the water, feeling as cold outside as I'd felt when I got in. I shook my body to get the water away from my fur and some of it did leave me. About half of it, I'd say. A new target appeared on the ice, so I decided to cope with the rest of the water until it evaporated and use fire to help that happen and bring down the targets at the same time. Flamethrower worked just fine on that one, and the one that came floating on a fancy flying machine. Now I finally had the advantage again! A new target came out of the snow on the side of the ice field and... a long-range Ice Beam flew straight into it. I jumped back when I saw it, caught by surprise. Of course, iif it had been aimed at me, it would have been to late to dodge it. I realized I'd have to keep an eye on the Kingdra and not just the targets.
"Sorry that cut you so close," the Kingdra said. "But you got two of my targets, so I have to get two of yours."
"I haven't heard anything about having different targets for each of us," I insisted.
But as I said that, another target appeared behind me. I knew that from the Water Gun the Kingdra released. I turned around as fast as I could and shot a Water Gun of my own. As I was closer to the target, both attacks hit at the same time.
"I guess it's a draw," the Kingdra said. "Time to break the tie with a battle."
"Can you tell me something first?," I asked her.
"Where did you hear about me?"
"My teammates saw you at the Hockey game," she said. "I was in my pokeball, but they told me about an Espeon who glowed in different colors and used attacks of many types."
"Oh. Were your teammates the ones who played against my team?"
"No, they were watching. They played right after you did."
"Oh, I missed that match."
"How did you get those powers?"
"I'm a prize pokemon," I told her.
It was incredible how that answer seemed to satisfy almost everyone. It would never be enough for me. Saying that and saying nothing at all was just about the same. But for most, that seemed to be enough of an explanation. They never seemed to wonder where prize pokemon came from. Weird, but for me it was good; it saved me from giving a lot of explanations I didn't want to go through.
"Shall we battle now?," I asked her.
"You read my mind."
"Though there's a chance that I may be able to do that in the future, I didn't."
I faced the Kingdra and got ready to attack.

Level 44 Espeon vs. Level 50 Kingdra

Thanks to the years I'd spent living with Water Angel, I knew the strengths and weaknesses of a Kingdra. Water and Fire attacks were out of the question, which left me with two types of attacks to use: Electric, which I was most used to and comfortable with, and Psychic, which were supposed to be stronger for being of my own type. I'd probably have to use both, while the Kingdra was bound to use Water and Ice attacks just like the ones she'd used to hit the targets. I decided to start off with a Psychic attack. It was safest, since I still had some water on me and I didn't want to risk shocking myself. It was a good start.
"Oh, so you can use the attacks of a normal Espeon too," the Kingdra said.
Actually, I couldn't use all of them, but I had no reason to let her know that.
The Kingdra shot an Ice Beam at me. Now I felt even colder than before. I was glad I wasn't as sensitive to extreme temperatures as Sylvan was. But even Gabi would have shivered if she'd been in my place. I used Psychic again, and this time I was hit with a blast of icy water from the pond. I guessed it was a Surf attack, though it didn't look like others I had seen. And it felt much colder than usual.
I had to do something. If the Kingdra dumped another wave on me like that, I might freeze. I ran away from her reach to gain some time and get dry. She tried to shoot Ice Beams and Bubble Beams at me, but I was too far away. She yelled at me, said that I was cheating, but I wasn't planning to leave the battle unfinished. I only needed to warm up. I shot fire at the sky, hoping that it would help me somehow.
"I've had too much of this!," the Kingdra complained. "If you're not going to battle I'll get to the finish line."
She dived under the water. There had to be an underground tunnel that would send her past the finish line or something like that. I couldn't let her go without finishing the battle. I rushed back to the border of the pond and released a Thunder into the water. Some of it just had to hit her. I felt the electricity surge through me and get out, then flow through the whole pond. Finally, the Kingdra came back to the surface. She looked dizzy.
"Oh, ok," she said. "I like it better this way."
She took a deep breath and I instantly knew that what was coming next would be very cold. I could run, but not to far or else the Kingdra would get down again and this time she would make it into the tunnel and on to the finish line. So I had to run to the side. But which side?


I wouldn't turn back from a hunch when it came. I jumped to the left just in time to avoid the coldest attack of the day: a Blizzard. The strong wind headed slightly to my right and that was what saved me. Now I had to make sure not to mess up. I decided to put my mental abilities to good use while they were cooperating, and released another Psychic attack. That did the trick. The Kingdra fell on her back and floated on the surface of the water. She didn't have any strength left to attack. I turned around and ran to the finish line. When I reached it, I jumped with joy. I had won!

And I grew to level 45! Yay!

Well, I was still cold and rather agitated, but I was filled with excitement and that overly made up for all the annoyances. I looked past the finish line and saw there was a small pond a few meters away, so that proved my theory of the tunnel. Well, it didn't really prove it, but it supported it. I began to walk back to the start, but I was intercepted. I heard a voice shouting at me before I could see its owner.
"Hydro Pump?! On a shooting target? What were you thinking?!"
"Oh, hi, Ventura," I replied. "I knew you'd say that. But I won, didn't I?"
The Venomoth, who was flying behind me, came in front of me and turned to face me.
"You were lucky. If that Blizzard had hit you, you wouldn't be telling the tale."
"Yes, I was lucky, so sue me. Luck often plays an important role in battles. Doesn't Gabi always say that?"
"Well, there are always things you can't predict, but you should do your best to minimize your need for luck. You can't rely on something you can't count on. You could have used a Thunder Wave to start with, and then..."
"Can't you congratulate me for once?," I complained. "You're always so harsh. Relax and enjoy! I came here to have fun, not to take a class on battling."
"Did you have fun?"
"Yes, I did."
Ventura sighed. She had no arguments against that.
"Now that Kingdra made some interesting moves," Ventura commented, changing the subject. "Though she could have used Agility to get to the pond before you and get to hit first. She wasn't that smart at that. But what called my attention was the fact that her strategy was totally different from Water Angel's. No Smokescreen-Toxic combo. Instead she used all-out attacks. A fast finisher. I'm still wondering which of the two strategies works best for a Kingdra."
"I guess this one works best for this Kingdra and the one Water Angel uses works best for her," I opined, resuming my walk.
"It only works until all her opponents have seen her do it and are able to predict her moves. Using the same attacks again and again is not recommendable."
"I never do that."
"Hey, do you want me to teleport you back with the others?"
I paused to think. I liked walking, but it was a bit too cold for my liking, and the sooner we rejoined the team, the sooner I'd get a chance to warm up and watch the rest of the competition.
"Hmm... ok," I accepted.
Ventura took me back with the others, who gave me a warmer welcome than she had, and congratulated me and rubbed my back and put their paws on my face... well, the last part was accidental; Tsunami bumped into Hero causing him to trip and fall on me. Amber, who was fine by now, sat me on her lap and kept me warm as we watched the rest of the races. Everything was fine. Everything was fun! I could really get used to taking part in competitions. We should get out more often.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

Owner of the Necessary Unown Trophy
Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 01:07 PM   #57
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<Gabi's POV>

I was seriously considering the possibility that it was me who caused this, at least unconsciously. How else would it be possible for a person to be buried in work all year long? When it wasn't one thing, they were other 10 or 20. Whenever I tried to make the list of the things I was supposed to do to put them in order, the length of the list scared me. And to make things worse, I'd been wrong when, by the end of the previous year, I'd thought I was finally learning to say 'no' to people who asked me to do things. The proof was that a friend asked me to make a computer program for him and, instead of saying "I can't", I only said "I'm too busy; give me a week" and, worst of all, I ended up making it the following day, at the expense of missing a chance to do my own things. Yes, it had to be my fault.
Well, at least I had done a few things right. It had been relieving to leave the Gastly I had received at the Dragon Games in Ade's hands. There was no way I could take in another pokemon at that moment, and the Gastly had seemed to bond immediately with Ade's team. It had also been a good chance to see a friend, if only for an hour, and to allow my own team some relaxation (some of them couldn't wait to get some fresh air, and it was really hard to convince Caledor to finally follow me out of Ade's house). Plus, it had also happened to be my chance to meet Lagi's new grandson, Marius (he was so cute!), and to somehow come to terms with Ade's silent partner. I had never seen him, but we'd felt each other so many times since the Pegasus Games that I could say that we were now old acquaintances; and while I didn't usually approve his methods, I could sense he had been changing over the time. It had been him who had originally brought Ade to my attention; only that now I was not longer afraid of Ade getting in trouble because of him (I somehow had a feeling their relationship could actually get him out of trouble sometimes), so I guessed I owed him a good friend after all.

"Mind if I scold you?," a deep yet sweet voice hummed right behind me.
"Can you ever?," I laughed without turning around. "You're too sweet to ever make me feel like you're scolding me."
"That's not what Hero thinks," Lagi replied.
Now I did turn around to face her.
"Hero's more sensitive that he cares to admit," I reflected.
"Wouldn't I know," Lagi replied. "I think that's exactly why he never wants me to get too close to him, except when we're battling."
"Yeah... Well, everyone has their own issues to sort out. It's not your fault if he hasn't learned to open up yet. Maybe having Tracker around will do him well in that respect."
Lagi nodded.
"Now why are we talking about him? He's not even here, and this is something he'd consider intrusion."
"Oh, right. Sorry, that was my fault. So... where were we?"
"You said you were going to scold me. Now, I didn't exactly believe you, but still I do get that nasty tingling feeling when someone says that. So, will you please spare me that and tell me what this is all about?"
"It's just that you're pressing yourself too much again. You do things because you want to. It's your own choice, so enjoy what you do!"
"Once more you know exactly what to say. But why do I have trouble accepting my own choices? You're right, I wrote that randomizer because I wanted to help a friend and because it was an interesting challenge, and I must admit I'm pleased with the result. But I can't help thinking of the work which is piling up."
"Oh, there's a solution for that. You tried it last February, remember?"
February... what a month it had been! It had gone by too fast for my liking, with that annoying habit it has of being the shortest month of the year. I'd come back from my 10-days vacation to start working on my thesis and studying for a final, plus resuming everyday work. Still, I'd been unable to contain my eagerness to write, and I'd ended up spending my days writing in the mornings and studying/working in the afternoons. The results had been amazing: I'd got the top mark in my exam, and also managed to start a novel which I was now publishing on the Internet and was bringing me unexpectedly good comments from a wonderful group of readers. And it had also ended up providing a way to keep in touch with Ryan despite the unbelievably tight schedules we both had.
"Oh, strange feelings there! You'll have to explain that some day," Lagi commented.
"As if you didn't know everything about my feelings. One day I'll end up having to ask you about them."
"You already have. More than once, actually."
"True. So, you're suggesting that I write a little before going back to work?," I smiled.
"If you feel like it. Which I know you do. I'll watch the door and make sure you have enough calm and quiet for as long as you need it."
"Thanks, Lagi. What would I do without you?"
"Probably resort to your own conscience. You know that most of the time I only tell you what you already know. But for some reason you seem to listen to me more than you listen to yourself."
"Yes, I should change that. I'll add it to the to-do list."
Lagi sighed, shook her head and turned to watch the door. No words were needed, I'd got her message. The first thing on my to-do list ought to be "stop obsessing over my to-do list". But then again, wouldn't that have been a paradox? I laughed.
"Ok, I'll do my best not to go overboard with the self pressure. Now let's see what I can come up with."
I stretched my fingers, grasped some of the ideas that had been circling in my mind since forever, and began to write.

And I finished chapter 13 of my fic.
And I wrote 3 pages of chapter 14.
And I would have kept on writing, but I saw the time and realized I was REALLY late for work!
"What will I do now?!," I shouted.
"Easy," Lagi said. "It was for a good cause. I haven't read what you've written, but from the feelings I got from you I know it served its purpose wonderfully. So don't worry about the time. I'll take you to the DT central in no time. I can use Agility if it's necessary. Or you could always ask Ventura to teleport you there."
"I think I'm not that desperate yet. I'll accept your offer. Thanks a lot, Lagi. You're great."
That's how another day went by, but at least I had recovered some energies. Few things could do me better than writing, and those things involved meeting a person who was unavailable at the moment, so I couldn't get any better than I just had. Even the heavy work I had to do that day was less tiring than usual. Lagi was right, writing was the thing to do in times like those. Well, if it had been up to me, I would have said it was the thing to do anytime.

The next break I took was the day of the Easter Egg Hunt. I had seriously considered staying at home, but my pokemon coaxed me into attending the event. The fact that all 10 of them agreed was a clear alert sign. I was taking work and studying too seriously, and I needed a day out as much as they did, if not more. And they needed the training too. Especially Pidgeot. He reminded me he hadn't had a proper battle ever since we'd helped Officer Jenny catch that thief, and that had been last year! Of course, he'd helped Tsunami train for the Dragon Games finals, but that was not the same. Caledor, in turn, told me that he didn't mind whether he battled or not, but he had to go out and have some fun or else he would go crazy. And Hero and Tsunami made a strong remark about how scary that would be. Needless to say, staying at home was out of the question.
The only decision left to take was whether to take the ship to Easter Island or catch one of those strange portals the hosts had created. And once more, Caledor had an answer.
"We already have enough weirdness here to add any more. Let's take the ship and make the fun last longer."
"Are you alright?," Lagi asked him. "You've been a bit strange ever since we went to Ade's."
"I am strange, Lagi," Caledor said. "Nothing I can do to help it. But I'm fine. I'm as good as I'll ever be. What are we waiting for? Let's go!"

<Tsunami's POV>

The trip was nice. I was glad we'd taken the traditional transport. It gave me the chance to socialize, and even spend some time in the water; but not as long as Water Angel did. There was a moment, though, when Caledor came to my side and I thought he'd come up with a new idea to end boredom, but he only asked me if Hero had talked to me.
"He talks to me all the time," I told him. "What is it? Why are you asking?"
"No, I just wanted to know if we had any news from Tracker, that's all," he said.
"Since he gets out of the house practically everyday, I'd bet he has seen her, but he hasn't talked to me about it. I guess those two haven't come around to confessing their feelings for each other, even if everyone else knows about them!"
"Hey, don't be so hard on the Is that a word?"
"I don't know. But why the sudden interest anyway? Lagi was right, you are acting strange. And don't try to come up with a lousy excuse because by now you should know that, after Lagi, I'm the hardest to fool around here."
"How can you be so sure? There are lots of strangers on board."
"That's not the point. What happened at Ade's place?"
"Oh. There? We had lots of fun. At least I know I did. Beckham definitely knows how to enjoy the moment. And Marius!, wasn't he the cutest creature in the world?"
"You're changing the subject."
"I'm not!"
We couldn't keep this up. Caledor was a professional when it came to evading heavy subjects, and I knew him well enough to see the signs. There was clearly something he didn't want to talk about, but what was it? I could have let him get away with it but, as a friend, I had to make sure he wouldn't hurt himself by denying something that was causing him harm. So, what was I supposed to do? The way I saw it, the only chance I had left was to try to put two and two together and take a guess. Either that, or lure Caledor into giving me more hints. And since I didn't have much info yet, the latter would be easier.
"It's ok," I told him. "If you say you're not changing the subject, I'll believe you. So, Marius was cute, eh?"
"He was adorable! Don't you think so?"
"Yes, I guess he was," I smiled, still trying to figure out where he was getting to.
"I bet Becks must be really proud."
Bingo! Suddenly, it all became clear. At least until a certain 7-tailed creature came by and dumped mud on the topic. Give the guy a prize for timing.
"I'd say he was more focused on playing and drinking himself silly than tending to his son," Hero said. "As far as I could see, it was Pandora who was looking after him."
"Hero, one of these days I'll blast you hard with my heaviest wave!," I shouted.
"You wouldn't be fast enough, but... Why?! What did I do?"
"I think you two should enjoy your argument on your own," Caledor said. "I'd better go."
"No, you stay here!," I demanded.
"Hey, what's wrong with you?! First you interrogate me, now you give me orders?"
"I guess I came in a bad moment," Hero deduced. "What's going on here?"
"Now we should give you a prize for understatement as well as bad timing," I muttered.
"Hmm... That would be nice," Hero rolled his eyes. "I guess they'd make good additions to my trophy cabinet."
"Leave me alone and I'll forget all of this in a few minutes," Caledor warned us. "Insist on it, and I'll get really mad. And as you've both agreed, you don't want to see that happen."
"Alright, go," I gave up. "It would be hard for anything good to come out of this the way things are now."
"Ok. See you both later!"
With that, he turned around and left.

"Will you please explain what was going on?," Hero asked me.
"I could be wrong, but I think I know him well enough to know the one or 2 things that hurt him. I think seeing one of his best friends have a child has shaken him, though he'll never admit it. It reminded him of what he can't have."
"What would he want a kid for? They cause a whole lot of trouble if they live with you, and if they don't it's as if they didn't exist. Not everyone is Lagi and I'm sure he isn't."
"That's not the point."
"Then what is the point?"
"The point is he'll never know what it feels like. They took that chance away for him and they never asked him. Whether it was by accident or not, we don't know that. I guess that's why he wanted to know if we had any news from tracker."
"Wow, now give me another prize for blindness, will you? I can't imagine how much he must have hurt inside, all these years. It's really hard to tell with his ever-so-cheerful personality, but I guess I would have gone crazy if I'd spent my whole childhood in a lab with people doing weird things to me and changing my body... deciding my future and never letting me have a say... Whoa, that's terrible! It's almost as bad as what Pidgeot went through! I'll urge Tracker to find out more. Who knows how many pokemon have been in the same situation, and not all of them could have Caledor's self-cheering powers."
"I'm beginning to doubt that those 'powers' are really as effective as they seem to be. He's optimistic, and he's happy most of the time. But I think he often masks his true feelings. Not only to others, but to himself too."
"Ok, I'm not the one to turn to for advice on this kind of stuff, but Caledor is Caledor. I'm sure he'll be fine. I'll ask Tracker if she's found anything new as soon as we get back. So far all I know is that Bahamut and Akira have come from the same place as Caledor, or at least that's what the papers say. And she's heard rumors of a girl trying to investigate the Guild before... a singer, I think. But now the girl has left Ulthuan. She said she was going to try to locate the Guild's research facility and... Oh!, and I'm the dumbest being in the world!"
"Ok, now everyone's acting way too strange. I refuse to believe those words just came from your mouth."
"No, I mean... I know where they are! At least a part of them. I've been there! Scott took Gabi and I there right after the first Griffon Games. There was a very complex lock and he made us wait at the entrance, but I guess the police can find a way around it."
"Now you really deserve to be blasted. How could you forget something like that?!"
"It's not that I forgot. I just... didn't make the connection. I guess I was distracted. Something else must have been in my mind while she was talking about finding that place."
"And we can't imagine what that could be, huh?"
"No idea," he lied.
"I guess we can arrange a meeting once we get back home," I suggested. "With all of us present, and maybe Officer Jenny too. She's the one who can talk to the other human police officers after all."
"Will she be willing to cooperate?"
"She owes us that much. I heard her effectiveness has doubled since she got Tracker, and Tracker would have never come to her if it hadn't been for us. I mean, for you."
"I wouldn't say that. I didn't even ask her to stay. It was her decision and it took me by surprise."
"I'll be direct, though she should be the one telling you this, not me. She left the part looking for you. She was taken to Goldenrod and then she came all the way back to Caledor and, as soon as she found out you were here and evolved with a Fire Stone you had buried, she decided to switch trainers -something very few pokemon have ever done- just to be able to stay in Sector Alpha. Now tell me where it is that you don't see your intervention."
"You're missing some parts," he told me. "She went back to Goldenrod after she evolved. She only decided to stay the next time she came back."
"Oh, right. After she'd managed to talk to you and find out where you lived."
"Tracker's too smart to let her life be guided by impulses."
"It's not about intelligence. Nor impulses. It's about love!!"

I realized I'd gone too far. I could feel the eyes of all the passengers pinned on me. And Hero looked shocked.
"Sorry," I tried to apologize. "I didn't mean to be the one who said that first, but I was afraid neither of you would ever make a move. She loves you. And you love her too. You're always thinking of her, and you look different when you come home after seeing her. Gosh, you've even kept the nickname she gave you! So do something about it, please. You're making me nervous. Tell her what you feel for her before you both die of old age."
"I thought you felt that love was ridiculous," he told me. "The way you've teased Pidgeot and Water Angel ever since you joined the team..."
"I have grown, ok? And so have you. I seem to remember that, back then, you had the worst case of freak complex and needed to prove yourself no matter what. We've both changed. For the best, I think and hope."
"True," he admitted. "But you haven't learned to shut your mouth yet."
"You haven't learnt to open your eyes either."
"Am I really that blind?"
"We all have defects. We can try to deal with them in the best way we can," I said. "Well, I'll try to shut my mouth now."
"Good. I'll... try to figure out what the thing to do is for me."

<Amber's POV>

The Easter Island was a wonderful sight. When we got to the port, I flew around to explore the landscape and I liked everything I saw. And the stone monuments were impressive. I could now understand why they were so famous. Plus, the fact that no one knew who had made them added a nice dose of mystery to them. It was a nice, hot day. Well, nice for me, at least. And for Sylvan: the plants on her back were brimming with life! But Gabi wasn't so lucky. Her blood pressure went down again and Lagi had to carry her until she felt better. I felt sorry for her; she really couldn't take high temperatures.
"We're on the South Hemisphere now, it's autumn here! It shouldn't be so hot!," she complained to no one in particular.
"I guess we arrived on a particularly hot day," said Water Angel, who was swimming near the shore. "Are you sure you'll be able to play? We'll understand if you want to go back. We wouldn't like you to push yourself if you're feeling bad."
"We didn't come all this way for nothing," Gabi said. "I owe you this much. I have some medicine in my pack for these cases, so if I take that and a glass of cold water I'll be able to stay on my feet until the game ends. I won't be the one battling, so that should be enough."
"Maybe you should sit down," Pidgeot suggested. "You wait here, I'll get you some water."
"How will you do that?," Gabi asked.
"I don't know. I'll find a way."
I was as curious as Gabi was as to how he would manage to find potable water and bring it to Gabi, but only a minute after he took of, he came back carrying a bottle of mineral water in his claws.
"Where did you get that from?," I asked him.
"There's a hotel not far from here, and it has a kitchen," he said. "After the game, we can go and pay for it."
"Are you saying you stole it?," Ventura asked.
"No, I just haven't paid for it yet, because I had no money. But we'll sort that out later. I'm not a burglar, you know. I only did this because Gabi needed it."
"And exactly how did you get in there without being seen?," Ventura inquired. "I would have teleported, but you can't do that."
"But there are other things I can do," Pidgeot replied. "And that doesn't make me evil, ok? I've had more than enough of those TR scum to have you getting on their side. Gabi needed help, I did what I could to help her. Now get off and leave me be"
"I had never seen Pidgeot so mad!," Iael exclaimed. He was standing next to me.
"You don't know when to stop, do you, Ventura?," I confronted my teammate.
"I'm sure she meant no harm," Water Angel defended her. "She has problems expressing herself with words. You know that, Pidgeot. You shouldn't let that get at you. Everyone here cares about you and no one would like to hurt you or accuse you of anything."
"Hey! Don't treat me as if I were the villain!," Ventura complaied. "I was just curious, that's all! I wasn't accusing anybody of anything. It's not my fault if somebody didn't sort out his issues as he said he had."
"That's enough," Water Angel said.
"It's ok," Pidgeot sighed. "I overreacted. It's true, I know Ventura and she knows me; this was all a midunderstanding. Now, if you all don't mind, I'll help Gabi take the cap off the bottle, because she seems to be having problems with that."
"Oh, thanks, Pidgeot," Gabi said, relieved. "This thing is not made for my hands to open it."
Pidgeot took off the cap with his beak, and then Gabi slowly swallowed the 500 cc. of water contained in the bottle, adding some phenilefrin drops to the last sip.
"Are you feeling better now?," Water Angel asked Gabi.
"I will soon," She said. "Let's start looking for the trainers... Ummmm... Can anyone help me up, please?"
Lagi helped Gabi to get back on her feet, and then we began to walk. I offered her an arm to rest on if she needed it. I would have been worried about her if I hadn't known her as much as I did, but I'd seen her try to endure the heat of the Lava Room, and be taken out of the Domain of the Sleeping Dragon due to her extreme sensitivity to high temperatures, and she'd always come out of it as strong and energetic as ever. Even now, she didn't want to let us miss a chance to have fun and possibly gain experience for anything. She deserved to be commended for that.

<Water Angel's POV>

The group stayed close to the shore so that I could swim freely instead of being cramped in a pokeball. I was grateful for that. I was used to travelling inside my pokemon, but there was nothing like swimming in the sea, and the view this island presented was certainly delightful! I wondered if we'd be able to find any trainers without penetrating deeper into the island, but the answer came to me sooner than I expected, as we found two teenage girls conversing by the sea. One of them had straight, brown hair tied into a ponytail. The other had loose, shoulder-length, curly black hair. When I got close, I realized they were speaking Spanish. It must have been nice for Gabi to hear her mother tongue again; I could speak a little Spanish, but it wasn't natural to me, so it was not the same.
"Oh, hello," said the first one as soon as she saw us. "Are you here for the Easter Egg hunt?"
"Yes," Gabi replied. "My pokemon decided they needed some training, and who am I to contradict them?"
"Shouldn't you be the one who decides when they get to train?," the other girl said in a teasing tone.
"I wouldn't go against their needs," was the best answer Gabi could come up with. It didn't take Lagi's abilities to notice she hadn't liked the question in the least. "Would you?"
"Marce, ¿por qué no buscas a alguien con quien luchar?," the black-haired girl said to her friend. "Yo ya encontré a una." [Translation: "Marce, why don't you look for someone to fight? I've already found one."]
The brown-haired girl nodded, looked at Gabi and greeted her with a "good luck", and then left.
"¿Ustedes son de acá?," Gabi asked her new opponent. ["Are you two from here?"]
"¿Hablas español? ¿De dónde eres? Creí que eran todos de... esa isla, ¿cómo es que se llama?" ["You speak Spanish? Where are you from? I thought you were all from... that island, what's its name?"]
"Ulthuan," Gabi said. "Vivo ahí desde hace unos años, pero nací en Argentina." ["I've been living there for the last few years but I was born in Argentina."]
"Aha...," the girl showed a malicious smile.
"¿Qué pasa?," Gabi asked. ["What's up?"]
"Que ya sé qué puedo esperar de ti," ["Now I know what to expect from you."]
"¿Cómo, si ni siquiera me conocés?" [Typical Gabi remark: "how, if you don't even know me?"]
"Conozco a los argentinos. Son todos orgullosos y arrogantes. Creen que son los mejores del mundo." ["I know Argentineans. They're all proud and arrogant. They think they're the best of the world."]
"¿De dónde sacaste eso?" ["Where did you get that from?"]
"Lo sabe todo el mundo. Y además no nos quieren a los chilenos." ["Everybody knows that. Besides, you don't like us Chileans."]
"No soy tan estúpida para que alguien no me guste sólo por el país donde nació, pero vos no me estás cayendo muy bien. La xenofobia es tan ridícula como el racismo." ["I'm not as stupid as to dislike someone because of the country they were born in, but I'm beginning to have bad feelings about you. Xenophobia is as ridiculous as racism."] Ahh... translating so much is tiresome. I'll report the rest of the conversation in English.
"You're insulting me," the girl said.
"That wasn't my intention, but you insulted me first and for no reason," Gabi replied.
"I didn't insult you. I only said the truth. Unless you think being Argentinean is an insult."
"You know what? I'll go and look for your friend, she looked much nicer than you. I'm tired, it's hot and I don't want to waste my time on someone like you."
"Oh, so you're running away! Realized I'm better than you?"
"Think whatever you want, apparently that's the only thing you can do."
All of a sudden, both humans took their hands to their heads and closed their eyes tightly. I didn't understand what had happened until they returned to their normal state and Gabi turned to stare at Ventura angrily.
"Sorry, but you two would have never stopped if I didn't do something," the Venomoth declared.
"That's not the way, Ventura!," Gabi scolded her.
"What? One of your pokemon did that?," the local trainer queried. "Now I'm really going to cream you. Come on, pick your best pokemon. I'll show you what a real trainer can do."
"What's your problem?," Gabi asked her.
Lagi looked at me, trying to find the right words to stop this fight.
"Don't add dry wood to the fire," I said to my trainer. "We came here for a battle, she wants one, let's have it. Maybe things will cool down afterwards. I'll battle, if that's ok with you."
Gabi nodded. After years of receiving advice from her, I was now on the giving end. It didn't feel bad.
"Please do it," Ventura urged me. "Anything to cool things down. This heat is driving all of us crazy."
"I didn't mean it that way, but... maybe I can do something about the heat too."
"I know what you meant," Ventura told me. "Still, a fresh breeze and a little peace would suit me just fine."
"Go, Lickitung!," the girl shouted, ignoring us completely.
She stretched out her arm holding a pokeball, and soon a red beam came out of it, quickly assuming the shape of the big-tongued pokemon. The Lickitung looked a bit confused, probably because of all the noise he'd been hearing from inside his pokeball. He looked around trying to figure out who his opponent was, until he targetted me and I nodded affirmatively.
"I'm ready to battle," I said.
"You're using your Kingdra?," the Lickitung's trainer asked Gabi.
"I'm not using her, but she's the one who will battle," Gabi replied.
"Gabi, we don't need you to get irritating too," Tsunami told her. "Things are already bad enough without your corrections. Queenie, are you sure you want to battle?"
"You got yet another nickname for me?," I laughed. "Yes, I am."
"Lickitung, make her wish she'd never opened her mouth," the trainer yelled.
It wasn't the best way to start a battle, but I hoped things would eventually calm down. I'd do my best to achieve that.

Level 56 Kingdra vs. Level 60 Lickitung

"Should I usa my combo?," I asked Gabi.
"Go ahead," was her reply.
I blew dark smoke at the Lickitung until he was enveloped by a curtain of darkness. The command his trainer issued was "Ventisca". I couldn't associate that word with any attack I knew, but it sounded wind-related, so I protected myself by going underwater. Bad move. It turned out to be a Blizzard, and it made some of the water freeze and turn into ice shards. When the shards hit me... well, I could say it was a bitter reminder that I wasn't as resistant to cold as I'd been as a child. My days in the North Sea were long gone.
I returned to the surface to finish my combo. The Lickitung was still trying to shake the persistent smoke away; at least at that the Blizzard hadn't succeeded. It wasn't hard to hit him with my Toxic attack.
"Lickitung, Impactrueno!," the girl commanded.
Now that wasn't even a word. Trueno was Thunder, but the 'impact' part didn't sound like anything I knew of. It was strange; battling against someone who received commands with unusual names was harder than battling a pokemon who received no commands at all. Normally, I'd be able to read my opponent's moves with more or less effectiveness, and follow their train of thoughts. Now this was totally different. Lickitung wasn't even thinking of what move he'd use next until his trainer gave him the codeword. The trainer didn't make any moves that I could read, and this made Lickitung's attacks unpredictable. Well, partially. Impactrueno had to be some kind of electric attack, so I knew I wasn't safe in the sea. I took my chance and jumped out of the water. I wouldn't be able to move much on land, but at least there was a chance that the move would miss.
And so it was. I jumped right about the electric bolt, which was aimed at the water, and saved myself from its 'impact'.
"That was a Thunderbolt," Caledor noted. I guess he'd noticed I had problems predicting Lickitung's moves.
"Thanks for the info," I said.
I tried a Hydro Pump to hit the Lickitung and propel me back into the water at the same time. The attack was a complete success. The water pushed Lickitung to the ground and he landed on his... hmm, bottom.
"¡Lickitung, levántate! ¡Otro Impactrueno, ahora!"
This time the order was easy to understand. I tried to jump out again, but this time the electric energy reached me. It was a nasty feeling to say the least. Worse than Caledor's Thunderbolt (which I shouldn't have known first hand in the first place, but I've forgiven him for that). But my opponent didn't come out of it unharmed either. By the way he grabbed his belly and his tongue came out even more than usual, I could tell the poison was already taking its toll.
I used the moment he allowed me to jump out and strike him with a Headbutt. The Lickitung fell on his back, and was unable to move in spite of her trainer's constant yelling. He looked like he was in a lot of pain. I stopped attacking. I didn't want to take advantage of him while he was down, nor to add to his suffering.
"¡Lickitung, Atactrueno!," his trainer shouted. "¡Usa Atactrueno! ¡O Ventisca! ¡O Impactrueno!"
Lickitung didn't respond.
"¡¡Usa lo que sea, pero haz algo!!," She shouted.
Now Lickitung's eyes opened widely. Something seemed to change in him. He suddenly stood up, his pain apparently gone.
"Wow! What was that?!," I exclaimed.
"That was Refresh," Lickitung informed me. "It stopped the poison. Thanks for waiting for me."
"It was the least I could do," I said. "But tell me, if you could do that, why didn't you do it earlier?"
"I had to trust my trainer," he explained. "I didn't want to disobey her. But a moment ago I couldn't use any of the attacks she told me to, so I did the only thing I could."
"Trusting your trainer is good, but I think she needs to learn to understand what you're going through, and trust you more. And not just you, I think she should learn to understand other humans as well."
"Maybe. Well, she's not perfect, but she's my trainer and she's always been good to me. She trains me hard and takes me to every event there is, and she's very proud of me."
"What's her name, anyway?"
"By the way you describe her, it seems that we met her in a totally wrong moment. Just trust yourself and know that, sometimes, your trainer can learn from you too."
"I will. Thanks."
"What are you doing now? Conversing?!," Sandra scolded Lickitung. "You're supposed to be having a battle, not befriending your opponent! Move now and do something useful. Use Atactrueno!"
"Please excuse me, but we have a battle to finish," Lickitung said.
"It's alright," I accepted.
I must admit I was a bit curious about what 'Atactrueno' was, but I realized it would be best for me if I didn't find out. So, as Lickitung began to charge up electricity, I summoned my Hidden Power and stopped him in his tracks.
Lickitung fell on the ground, exhausted.

I grew to level 58!

Sandra kept up her hysterical yelling.
"Lickitung, get up! We can't let her beat us!"
"He can't battle anymore," Gabi told her. "You should take him to a pokemon center, or at least let him rest."
"You cheated!," Sandra accused her.
"What?! How?!"
"I don't know, but you cheated. There's no other way you could have beaten me."
"Calm down, please. I don't know what you're so mad at, but I certainly didn't do anything to offend you, and neither did Water Angel."
"I'm not giving you the token."
"Which token?"
"For the Easter Eggs, stupid. Isn't that why you're here?"
"I didn't know you'd be handing us tokens. Fine, keep it for yourself and enjoy it. Our lives won't change because of a chocolate, we came here to train and have some fun, and so far we've had much of the former, but none of the latter."
"We who?"
"My team and I."
"You keep talking as if your pokemon were people."
"Some of them have more things in common with me than some people I know. One even wants to be a trainer."
"I'm not trying to be a trainer!," Ventura complained.
"How did you know I was referring to you?," Gabi retorted.
"Because I know you," Ventura replied.
"See? You even argue with them!," Sandra remarked. "You're crazy!"
"Arguing is not something I enjoy, but it's better than not listening at all," Gabi said. "You didn't listen to your Lickitung when he was in pain, all you did was push him harder and get mad because he couldn't keep attacking."
"Whenever I need training lessons from an Argentinean, I'll... Forget it, that's never gonna happen."
"Goodbye," Gabi sighed. "Have a nice day. Water Angel, would you mind getting into your pokeball for a while? We'll look for another trainer. You can come out when we've found one."
I nodded and let the beam of light take me in until I was a part of it. From inside my pokeball, I heard Sandra mock Gabi by repeating her last words in an annoying tone and was afraid another fight might be coming, but Gabi ignored her. I felt her turn away and heard her feet stepping on the grass as she left the sandy beach. I wanted to help her calm down. I wanted to tell her she'd fallen on the wrong side of Sandra, and that she did have a good side. I wanted to tell her that Lickitung would be fine. And, especially, that I loved the way she treated us. That her work as a trainer couldn't be any better than it was. But I'd have time to say all of that to her later, once we'd found what we were looking for. I just hoped the next trainer was more open-minded than the last. Either that, or at least that the temperature went down. For Gabi's sake.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

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Keeper of Karin's Zealous Unown Trophy
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Old Yesterday, 01:07 PM   #58
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<Water Angel's POV>

Not much time seemed to happen before I was released again. The strange thing was that nobody talked during that time. I wondered what was going on with everyone; I was usually able to pick up noisy conversations all the time from my pokeball, as my team was composed by a group of chatterboxes, of which I was not an exception. Iael was maybe the only one who didn't follow that 'rule'. He was quiet most of the time. I could understand his silence, and Gabi's since she wasn't feeling quite well at that moment. But the others? What was going on with them? Not even Hero, Tsunami and Caledor were talking!
When I got out, I saw the trainer we had met at the beach; the one who had left to look for an opponent. For some reason, I was glad to see it was her. We were in some sort of a clearing surrounded by trees and filled with flowers. I nearly fell to the ground when I looked around, but Amber stopped my fall and held me up. After the proper "thanks/you're welcome" exchange, I decided to ask her about the silence.
"I don't know about the others," she told me. "But I know Sylvan and I were just enjoying the view. This place is beautiful! Though I must admit I was a bit worried about Gabi."
"Me too," I replied. "She got into a fight and she hardly ever comes out of them in one piece. I wish I could let her know that some things are not worth the emotional draining. I mean... she didn't do anything wrong other than pronounce a few tactless words, and Sandra has an awful way of thinking, but that's her problem, not Gabi's."
"I know. Why don't you just tell her that the way you're telling me?"
"I guess I will. I just don't get how, after facing the likes of Mewtwo, the Dark Battalion and the Dark Cloak and coming out on top, she still gets worked up over things like these."
"Everybody has defects," Amber told me. "And virtues too. You can work hard on stopping either from affecting your life, but a part of them will always remain in you."
"That doesn't sound too comforting," I pointed out.
"I didn't say it to comfort you. It's the way things are. If you know there's something about you that you don't like, you'll have to stay on the watch in order to avoid it. If you're determined, you'll succeed most of the time. But don't be too shocked if it eventually comes out when you're off-guard. And don't blame yourself. Just keep doing your best."
"Are you talking through personal experience?"
"A little, yes. Personal experience and things I've witnessed. Doesn't that happen to everyone?"
"I don't know. I'll have to think about it. I'll tell you if I find a counterexample."

In the meantime, Gabi and the other trainer had already introduced themselves and apparently spoken a little about Sandra. At least that was what my teammates told me, though none of them could understand a word of the conversation other than Sandra's name. How was it possible that I was the only one in the group, aside from Gabi, who could understand a conversation in Spanish? Lagi said she could make out a few phrases, and everyone else was clueless.
"Her name is Marcela," Lagi told me. "And she said something about trainers and opponents and Lickitung."
"Oh, that helps a lot," I said sarcastically.
"Well, she was a bit disappointed, if that helps. Until she found Gabi. Then after Gabi spoke, Marcela felt better. Then they began to talk about Sandra, and Marcela gave her an explanation, and Gabi began to feel a little better."
"Oh. That's good to hear," I smiled. "Your talents certainly make up for your lack of Spanish knowledge. You could understand a conversation in any language, couldn't you?"
"The conversation, I doubt it. But its effects, I'd say I can."
"Just one thing, now. Do you happen to know why everyone was silent while we were coming?"
"Oh, different reasons, I guess. Gabi was trying to make her feelings about the fight go away. Pidgeot was quite reflective. Hero and Tsunami were... would ashamed be the word? In any case they were uneasy; I have no idea what went on with them, though, and I know they'd get mad if I started asking questions. Caledor was trying hard to get distracted, and the fact he had to actually put some effort into it was disturbing. Amber and Sylvan were a little concerned, but they spent most of the time enjoying the landscape. Iael was just observing everything and everyone, as was I, and Ventura had no reason to talk when no one else was talking."
"Wow, you made an emotional map of the whole team!"
"I guess I did," Lagi chuckled.

When Marcela released a new Lickitung, I realized I had been getting too distracted. I'd have to change that if I didn't want to miss the action. And I really didn't want to miss it: Pidgeot was the one to take the challenge this time. It was my turn to gather all my cheering talents and put them to good use. We never knew when he would need a dose of them.
"Do you have any items?," Marcela asked Gabi in Spanish.
"What kind of items?"
"Anything your Pidgeot can use. I just got this collar from abroad and it would be cool if my Lickitung could use it, but it wouldn't be fair unless your Pidgeot was using an item too."
"Oh. Sure! I haven't had many chances to use items lately. Pidgeot, what would you like to use?"
"If this Lickitung knows the same attacks at the previous one, I'll choose the Double Shield," Pidgeot said. "Now that I think of it, I'll choose that in any case. It's the only item I'm comfortable with."
"Alright," Gabi said, reaching for the shield in her backpack. "Take it."
"You can talk to your pokemon?! Wow!," Marcela exclaimed, surprised.
"We've known each other for a long time, and my Espeon's psychic powers help, and I have a few of my own," Gabi explained, unusually comfortable with opening up to a stranger.
"Everybody's acting weird today!," I remarked.
"How good! I can't understand what my pokemon say, but I do understand their body language," Marcela said, placing a collar around her Lickitung's neck. "Are you ready, Rocío?"
Rocío, the female Lickitung, nodded affirmatively.
"Is your Pidgeot ready?"
"As ready as ever," Pidgeot said. Even though Marcela couldn't understand the words, the meaning was clear.
"Ok, let's start!," Marcela decided.

Level 55 Pidgeot vs. Level 60 Lickitung

Pidgeot acted as fast as ever, using the mud on the ground to impair his opponent before she could attack. But the Lickitung's reaction was also quick and accurate: she caught Pidgeot with her arms and with the help of her tongue -he was too big for her arms alone- and hurled him to the ground with Strength. It had been a long time since I'd seen anyone use that attack. Amber knew it, but she hadn't used it for ages. Ever since she'd started having problems controlling her own strength. Maybe that was the personal experience she was referring to when she talked to me.
Pidgeot made a loud noise when he crashed into the ground.
"Are you alright?," I asked him.
"Bruised, but I'll be fine," he replied.
"That was too strong, do something to counter it!"
"I don't have the spare time. Don't worry, I'll think of something. Hey, I just have!"
As soon as those words were spoken, an invisible force lifted Rocío up into the air and flung her down to the ground.
"Nice work!," I cheered.
"Not so nice. She's more resistant than I am. There's a chance in 10 that I can change that, but I'll take it. Now, please, I need to concentrate."
I realized I was doing anything but help him. Talking to me had made him an easy target, and now he was being reached but nothing else than a Thunderbolt! I would have to offer my heartfelt apology and find a way to compensate for this after the battle. Fortunately, the shield absorbed half the damage and sent a shockwave back to the Lickitung through the earth. Rocío lost balance and fell.
"Time to take the chance," Pidgeot decided. I could see his wings shine as he launched himself toward his opponent and cut the skin of her arms with his hardened feathers. Rocío got up and tried to seize him again, but he move away faster and she couldn't get hold of him. Then Pidgeot tried something new: he started spinning around in the air and some of his smallest feathers fell off and began to circle around him. All of a sudden, he stopped and the feathers launched themselves at Rocío like heat-seeking missiles. They didn't seem to cause any damage, but I trusted Pidgeot to know what he was doing. I would make my questions later.
Rocío walked over to Pidgeot and grabbed him with her tongue. She attracted his body to her own, and lifted him up again, once more hurling him to the ground. However, this time the blow wasn't so hard.
"See?," he said, as if he had read my previous thoughts. "Now, if only I could... No, too risky. Let's go standard."
He mirrored Rocío's move, this time having her crash against a nearby tree. Before she could get back at him, he flew away as fast as he could. She did reach for him, though, but this time the target of her attack was not him. It was his shield! The damage Pidgeot took was not significant, but his shield was knocked off.
"Pidgeot, hurry!," Gabi urged him. "She'll use an electric attack! Don't fly too high."
"Rocío, quick! Use Impactrueno!"
What was this? Did everyone on the island use that code? Pidgeot flew up into the air, easily evading the electric bolt. Then he plunged into the Lickitung and hit her with a Fly attack.
"He disobeyed you?!," Marcela said, astonished.
"No, he didn't. He was just smart enough to see through my words. I told him not to fly too high, but a Fly attack would protect him from a Thunderbolt, so that wouldn't be too high for him. It would only be too high if Rocío had used Thunder instead, but that would have been too risky for her with her accuracy lowered, wouldn't it?"
"Oh, so it was a code?"
"Sort of. We never established it, but I knew he'd know what to do. You do seem to have a code, though. What's with 'Impactrueno'?"
"Don't you know? That's the Spanish name for Thunderbolt. I thought you'd know, since you're from Argentina."
"I know the attacks by their English names," Gabi said. "And 'Impactrueno' now. and 'Ventisca'. But as far as I know, 'thunderbolt' is 'rayo' in Spanish."
"The natural one is, but not the attack."
"Oh. Thanks for the info."
"No problem. So... let's see how risky it really is. Rocío, Atactrueno!"
Nasty way to find out the meaning of that word. It was Thunder!
"Don't fly!," Gabi and I shouted out in unison.
Pidgeot landed and pressed his body against the ground, lowering every part of it as much as possible. He managed to dodge Rocío's Thunder attack by ducking, and then got up and hit the Lickitung with a Wing Attack. Worn out, Rocío fell to the ground and didn't get up again.

Pidgeot grew to level 57!

"Rocío, return. You did great," Marcela said, calling her Lickitung back to her pokeball. "That was a great battle," she said to Gabi.
"Yes, it was," Gabi agreed, shaking Marcela's hand.
"Oh, I almost forgot! Here's your token."
Marcela handed Gabi a flat, oval-shaped token. "Go to the central and exchange it for an egg. The content will be a surprise."
"Thanks," Gabi replied. She was clearly feeling better.
"Would you like to take a look at the landscape while we get there?," Amber offered.
"How?," I asked, interested.
"I can lift you up and take you. I'm yet to learn to carry others on my back while flying, but my arms are strong enough to hold you for a while."
"That would be great!," I accepted with gratitude.

"We have to go and pay for the water too," Pidgeot reminded Gabi while we were heading to the central. His voice revealed how tired he was. The battle had been very tough for him.
Gabi nodded.
I was looking around, trying not to miss any detail. I couldn't get enough of that wonderful view. I wouldn't ask Amber to do this often, since I was quite heavy, but I was really glad she had offered to carry me this time.

We soon got there, and Gabi traded her egg-shaped token for a 3-dimensional Easter Egg.
"Eat it fast before it melts," Amber suggested.
"I think we should split it in two and give the pieces to Pidgeot and Water Angel," Gabi proposed. "After all, they were the ones who won it."
"You did your part too," Pidgeot told her. "I hadn't even thought of using Fly until you told me not to fly too high."
"How ironic," Gabi laughed.
"Maybe you two should share it," I offered Pidgeot and Gabi. "I messed up and put Pidgeot in a tough situation. I don't deserve a share."
"It was not your fault I got distracted," Pidgeot told me. "Besides, nothing too bad came out of it, so you have nothing to get worked up about. Now... why are we having this conversation? It's just chocolate with something inside. Anyone can it eat and it will be gone in seconds. It's not as if we were trying to decide who gets a TM or something like that."
"I should get you a TM," Gabi said to Pidgeot. "I will as soon as I can lay my hands on one. Being a DT worker makes it harder, but I'll find a way."
"Thanks," Pidgeot replied. "As for the egg, why don't we crack it into many pieces so that everyone who wants a piece can get one?"
"Sounds good to me," Gabi said.
"What if it's cream?," Iael came out of his silence.
"An Easter Egg filled with cream?," Gabi questioned.
"I heard that some were. If this one is, it will make a mess."
"And if it isn't, I'll put some cream on my part to see how it tastes!," Gabi decided, licking her lips.
"Then we should eat it at home," Pidgeot suggested. "But in that case, we'll have to take a portal. I don't think the egg will endure a long journey under this weather."
"Ok, let's take a portal," Caledor accepted. "Weird can be good."
"That doesn't sound like what you said this morning," Gabi reminded him.
"So I changed my mind. Sue me! We've already tried the long way and it could have been more fun. Maybe the portal will be. At least it will be a new experience. I vote for the portal."
"I second it," Ventura said. "Why take the long way back when there's a shorter one?"
"Maybe because the long way is more comfortable and not as crazy?," Hero suggested.
"What's crazy about a portal?," Ventura shot back at him. "It's like teleporting."
"Oh, sorry. Forgot who I was talking to."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Easy, everyone!," Gabi shouted.
"Starting with you," Caledor laughed.
"Ok, let's take the portal and stop arguing. We'll have tried both things, the egg won't melt and everything should be fine."
No one could argue with that logic.

We went to the hotel when Pidgeot had found the water and Gabi handed a coin to an unbelieving employee, and then we took a dazzling and colorful portal back to Ulthuan. I was a bit dizzy, but I closed my eyes and looked inside myself, and the draconian forces helped me regain stability. Ventura, Gabi, Lagi and Caledor came out just fine, and Pidgeot didn't take a long time to adjust. The others weren't so lucky. They moved as if the world was spinning around them.
"Next time we take a portal, I'll go inside my pokeball," Sylvan decided.
"Same here," Iael seconded her.
"I'll try to get used to it," Amber said.
"What for?!," Hero questioned.
"Umm... to have one less obstacle in life?"
"You'd better set yourself some priorities. Not all obstacles are the same, and some aren't quite worth conquering," Hero responded.
"It wouldn't hurt!," Amber replied.
"I'm getting into my okeball now," I said. "We still have to get home and Amber has already had enough of my weight. But before I go, I'd like to tell Pidgeot that he was great all day long. See you at home!"
I used my nose to press the button of my pokeball on Gabi's belt and quickly got inside. I expected to hear a sarcastic remark from Tsunami, but none came. Yet another proof that everyone was acting weird that day. The only thing I heard was a comment from Gabi thanking the fact that it wasn't so hot where we were now, and the whole group setting themselves in motion. Then I heard some whispers which I couldn't make out, but it was relieving to know that conversation had settled in again.

Final note: when we got home and cracked the egg, it turned out to have a small bouncy ball inside. The vote for Caledor to keep the toy was unanimous. As for Gabi, she did pour cream on her part to check its taste, and she liked the result. But the pieces were so small that we were all hungry after eating them, so we had a big dinner right after the chocolate. It may sound weird, but sweets before dinner had become a tradition at home, and none of us had any intention to break it.
~~ Lady VulpiX ~~

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Yesterday, 09:59 PM   #59
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This stuff is disturbing and could have only ever have been written on one of your drug trips Gabi :|


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Today, 12:38 PM   #60
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Originally Posted by OzAndrew
This stuff is disturbing and could have only ever have been written on one of your drug trips Gabi :|
What part of no-posting don't you get?
Don't reply here, IM me or PM me if you must.
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