When I woke up next, it was still night- but somehow I knew it was a new night, and that I had slept through the day. The rain had stopped, but the puddle was still near me and I was thirsty. I went to drink some of it… then saw my reflection, undistorted by raindrops.
The image that looked back at me scared me. Blood red eyes glared back at me, and a ring glowed a sick yellow on its forehead. The ears and tail that had once been fluffy and rounded were now pointed, wrapped in rings of that same sick yellow color… but the rest of the image was a dark, horrible jet black.
I stepped away from the puddle, startled, then slowly inched back towards it. The reflection remained the same, and I knew I had changed- I wasn’t an Eevee, not anymore; I was something else now. I whined, and heard my voice, but instead of the lighter tones, the sharp “Vee” or “Eees”, I heard only a low pitched “Bree.”
Looking at my reflection, hearing the sound of my voice, I finally understood what had happened last night- why the Honchkrow had turned around and ran after it saw me, why Sara’s dad had attacked me. My reflection scared me, and I knew it was my own; how could somebody else not be scared? I wasn’t an Eevee anymore. I had evolved, like Clara had told me could happen so long ago- but instead of becoming an Espeon like her, the night had turned me into the creature staring back at me- another creature of nightmares, like the Houndoom, or the Honchkrow, or the Murkrows.
I wandered a little after that, not really wanting to stay at the alley with that reflection, but not knowing where else to go. I thought of the gym, and walked to the concrete block that blocked the way to the gym. I stood there for a long time… but a strange sense of alertness and danger stopped me from going any further. Eventually I turned around and walked instead through the rest of the town, slinking from shadow to shadow, until my aimless walking finally brought be to my… to Sara’s house. I didn’t go into the yard, instead stopping and hopping onto the fence posts. The house was familiar and seemed friendly, a soft yellow light coming from Sara’s room, but I felt too scared to go further. I stopped and watched the house for a moment, thinking over everything that had happened and wondering what to do next.
I couldn’t make sense of anything. I had been attacked by somebody I thought was a friend, while trying to protect my trainer. Shells had told me I would never get in trouble for doing that, that nobody would blame me for anything I did to protect Sara... but maybe that didn’t apply to creatures like me? I wanted to ask Clara or Shells about it… but I knew they probably wouldn’t talk to me, if they didn’t flat out attack me on sight- and I already knew the answer. Sara’s father had come at me with a baseball bat because I was like this; to him, I was as much a threat to Sara as the Honchkrow was. If Perry or Flen saw me, they’d probably have their Pokemon force me out of town… if not something worse. I thought back to the fight against the Houndoom. How could I hope to even hold my own against the Steelix, if Flen brought it against me? And… if it was Clara, how could I even think about fighting her?
I shook my head and tried not to think about it anymore. I didn’t want to think about any of those things right now, and I was more worried about Sara anyways. It had only been one night since I had fought the Honchkrow, but I was already missing her, and for all I knew she had just gotten sicker. I wanted more than anything to go in the house and watch over her, to just curl up next to her and keep her warm… but I knew better. I would probably end up making it worse if I was near her, somehow, and that was the last thing I wanted. I looked down again at the grass, once again a little surprised at how clear everything was despite being the middle of the night. The moon was shining, a bright white orb surrounded by glittering stars, and it made the world bright, as if a peaceful spotlight was shining on everything around me. I noticed the grass beneath me was starting to glow a soft yellow, and I was surprised to find the yellow circles in my fur glowing. I wasn’t sure why, but I closed my eyes and started counting to ten, feeling calmer with each number. I reached ten and opened my eyes again, looking back down at the grass. My rings had stopped glowing and the grass had faded to its normal green, and I relaxed a little- now I wasn’t as likely to be spotted in the dark.
I spent the rest of the night on the fence just watching Sara’s window. Eventually the sky brightened- it was just a little bit, but to my eyes it seemed to be becoming almost painfully bright. I yawned, a short “Bre”, before hopping down from the fence. I looked behind me one last time, taking another look at the glow in the window, feeling almost a tug towards it… but I ignored it and walked away, heading back to the cover I had found in the alley. I crawled back under the shade of the discarded tarp, stretching out on the hard ground. I lay there for a bit, head on my paws, and watched the sun rise. Eventually I drifted off to sleep, with my last thoughts strangely being of how much I wished I had the clearing of the Pokeball.
Taran watched from the side of the road, confused. The Umbreon was just standing there, staring at the concrete block, completely unmoving. The spider shifted her gaze, wondering if something had tipped it off- the block hid everything behind it completely, and the Cubone was staying completely silent on the other side. The web, which Taran had spent hours of careful work making, was completely invisible in the dark. Even her sensitive eyes couldn’t make it out, and she knew where to look for it. Taran herself was the most noticeable, but buried unmoving under a mound of dirt and leaves beside the road, she was sure the Umbreon hadn’t noticed her either. Whatever it was though, something had tipped the Umbreon off. Maybe his eyesight was better than hers, maybe he smelled something, maybe he had some odd ability to sense the future like Absol had- but for whatever reason he wasn’t moving.
Time passed in silence, and Taran began wondering if attacking now would be the best move, but she ultimately decided against it. Alleen had been very firm on that point, and it made sense. If she attacked now, Chuck would be unable to help her, trapped outside the web of her own making. Best case, it would just be her against a cornered Umbreon, who might or might not have backup of his own; worst case, she might end up trapped by her own web. Better to wait and hope the Umbreon crossed over the block- then she could seal the exit behind him, and help Chuck from outside the web.
Finally the Umbreon seemed to make up its mind. Taran tensed, every part of her body back on alert as the creature lifted a paw… but she deflated, slinking back to the ground, as the Umbreon turned and walked away without even a sound.
Taran crawled out from under her hiding space, and felt her way to the web- the strands on the ground were the only ones safe to touch. With deft, practiced movements, she manipulated the strands, and the web dome collapsed, falling harmlessly across the empty ground behind her.
Chuck hopped up onto the block, alerted by the noise, and looked down at her through his skull helmet. “What’s wrong?”
“It didn’t work as well as we’d hoped, but it looked like the trap was a good idea. Clara may have chased off the Houndoom, but there was an Umbreon here for about twenty minutes. He just stood there and stared at the block, like somebody had painted a work of art on it, before deciding to turn around and leave. He just walked off and left, probably going back to their hideout.”
The Cubone looked down at the block, and tapped it with his bone cudgel. “We can’t go after him yet, not until Absol is better. There’s no telling what else might be waiting for us- Sara’s father told Seth that a Honchkrow and an Umbreon attacked Sara and Opal at their home last night.”
Taran walked up the side of the concrete block, stopping next to the Cubone. “What happened? Are they okay?”
Chuck just shook his head. “Nobody’s sure yet. Sara’s parents are okay, but Sara herself is really sick. Opal hasn’t been seen since- Seth didn’t tell her parents, but he thinks they may have attacked Sara in order to kidnap him. We’re trying to keep it quiet for now- Flen and Clara don’t know at all, because Todd and Perry were both worried it would really upset them, and Clara has been struggling since the Houndoom hit her; it wouldn’t be good for her right now.”
Taran glared back the way the Umbreon had left, fuming. If she had known that earlier she would have risked triggering the trap, regardless of the odds. That was probably one reason Chuck and Alleen hadn’t told her this before. Then she calmed down, thinking, and looked back at Chuck. “Are Umbreons poisonous? He smelled a little odd, while he was standing there… Do they know why Sara’s sick?”
Chuck blinked, obviously unsure. “You think it poisoned Sara?”
“It’s a possibility. We should let Alleen and Seth know about this, just in case- we might need to set a trap at Sara’s house too.”
I woke just as the sun set and crawled out from underneath the tarp. I stretched, realizing that I had had a dreamless sleep. It seemed a little odd- since my life had been thrown upside down, since I had changed, my sleep had been peaceful and undisturbed. My stomach growled, and my thoughts derailed as I realized I had gone two days without eating. I wanted to go back to Sara’s house- even though I knew she didn’t realize I was out there, it still seemed right to be there- but I knew I had to eat something, and that people would still be up. I counted to ten again and the yellow glow on the surrounding walls faded away completely. I sighed, wishing again for the familiar brown fur and comforting fluffy tail of my Eevee body… but then I shook my head and left the alley, slinking through shadows to stay out of sight as I headed back to the pet store.
I don’t really know why I went there first. Maybe it was because that was the only other place I had found food, maybe I missed it a little, but either way, as I walked up to the building one of the workers was just leaving through the back door. He was holding a bag that smelled like food. The smell seemed bland and even awful compared to the things Sara had given me… but my hungry stomach didn’t really care at the moment. I walked up to the man, coming up behind him as he locked the door to the store, and sat down on the ground. “Umbreee?” My question was soft spoken, just asking for some food, but it really scared the poor man. He jumped, dropping the bag of food before he had landed back on the ground. His reaction surprised me, and I saw my reflection brighten in the store’s window, my rings flashing to a bright yellow glow. The man landed back on the ground and turned around to look at me- which just seemed to scare him even more. I actually felt fear coming from him. He screamed, a high pitched yell, and took off running without even looking back at me or the bag of food. His reaction was a little depressing- I don’t think there are many Pokemon that would be too happy if people ran away screaming when they saw them- but I was hungry, and the food was more important to me than his reaction at the moment. I grabbed the bag with my teeth and headed back to the security of my alley. Once there I tore open the bag and ate slowly, watching the sky as the stars came out. The moon was back out, glowing a soft white from overhead, and after I finished eating, I just sat there and watched it for a while.
Eventually I got up and headed towards Sara’s house. As I neared the house I saw the same yellow glow coming from her window, but I stopped just before jumping up onto the fence. The gate had a sign nailed to it, and I sat down to read it. There was a picture in the center- a black and white photo of Sara holding me, as an Eevee, asleep in her arms- and there was writing beneath the picture. “Lost Eevee, Trainer Sick. Answers to Opal; likely hurt. Reward offered if found.” A series of numbers was written after, but I stopped reading there. I wasn’t sure what to think- Sara’s parents were looking for me still? Hadn’t they seen what had happened; didn’t they know what I was now? Her dad was there that night, he saw what had happened, what I became… did this mean they still wanted me?
I hopped up on the fencepost, and was about to hop down when I saw Feren laying on the porch, his horn and spines gleaming in the moonlight. A bowl of food was set on the porch in front of him, and somehow I knew he had been waiting there all day. I paused, suddenly scared, and remembered back to the fight I had had with him. Thoughts started racing through my brain- the poster had said lost Eevee, not… whatever I was now. As an Eevee I hadn’t been able to see at all in the dark, and maybe Sara’s dad hadn’t been able to see anything either… maybe they still thought I was an Eevee; that the creature he saw was some other Pokemon entirely. I remembered the reaction of the pet store worker- maybe Sara’s dad wasn’t sure I had evolved, and had put the poster up in case I was still an Eevee… and had asked Flen to guard the house in case I really was the nightmare creature. Maybe they were…
Feren rose to his feet, suddenly awake, and he stepped over the food dish, squinting towards me. “Who’s there? Show yourself!”
All my thoughts collided at that moment, and I panicked, fear shooting through me. The ground around me brightened as my rings glowed a brilliant yellow, and I jumped off the fence post, landing on the sidewalk. I ran after that, away from Feren, away from Sara’s house, away from everything. I wasn’t sure how long I ran, but finally I got tired and stopped running, panting from exhaustion. I collapsed on the ground and just lay there for a little to rest… then, saddened and scared, I got up and went back to the alley. When I arrived I saw that the food bag was still lying out in the open, but I noticed that some of the food I had spilled was gone. It wasn’t that much but the pile was definitely smaller. Somebody else had been here eating it, some other Pokemon…
I sniffed the air and perked my ears, listening. My rings darkened, and with a bit of surprise I realized that I hadn’t counted to ten first. I was too busy paying attention to the things around me and ignored that surprise… and then I focused on a scratching noise coming from the back of the alley. There was a soft silvery glow coming from behind a large trash can. I lowered myself towards the ground and slinked forward, trying to stay hidden from the thing that had made the noise. I sneaked around a trash can and saw the intruder- a Ninetales, a soft silvery glow surrounding her. She was stretched out alongside the wall, and her tails twitched back and forth in a convoluted rhythm. Her fur seemed unbelievably soft, and was a silvery color, with the silver changing to blue near the end of her tails. She didn’t seem to have noticed me, and was actually looking instead towards something... what was that?
The bright flicker of motion before the Ninetales derailed my thoughts. I stopped slinking forward and squinted at the glowing ball that darted between the Pokemon’s paws. It was just out of focus, like looking at the television, and I couldn’t quite make out what it was. The air around it seemed to shimmer like the burners on a stove. It made no noise, but it bounced energetically along the ground as it moved between the fox Pokemon’s paws. I didn’t realize I was staring at it until the Ninetales spoke. “It’s pretty, isn’t it?”
The sound startled me and I let out a surprised “On!” as I ducked back behind the trash can. The Ninetales laughed softly, a sound that reminded me a little of Clara’s laughter. “It’s okay, little Umbreon, I’m not going to hurt you. You can come back out, I just want to talk with you.” The Ninetales voice carried a sense of honesty and gentleness, and I found myself believing what she said. I peeked out from around the trash can to look back at the Ninetales. She was just a little taller than me, not counting her tails (which were quite large), and she had moved to sit up and look towards the sky. Her red eyes sparkled and her tails created a pillow effect around her, and the fiery blue wisp was lying on the ground in front of her, with two more of them darting in and out around the voluminous tails. Her silvery fur could only be described as luxurious- it seemed so soft that it would melt if it was touched- and though the alley was muddy and dirty her fur was spotless.
I just stared at her in awe. She literally seemed to sparkle in the night. The alley seemed all the more dingy and run down with the beautiful creature in it, and I felt like another piece of abandoned garbage compared to her- a comparison that seemed to hit a little close too home as I thought about it. I pushed that thought aside for the moment in favor of another. “What’s an Umbreon?”
The Ninetales looked down from the sky and smiled at me. “Silly… it’s what you are, Opal. But why are you here, in a place like this?” The Ninetales looked around, as if just now noticing the surroundings.
“I wasn’t sure where else to go, I guess. Why… how do you know my name?” I sat down, still watching the fiery ball out of the corner of my eye.
The Ninetales looked sad for just an instant before looking away. “Oh… I need to introduce myself to you. My name is Sinori, and... well... Sara told me your name.” The Ninetales’ eyes sparkled, and a hint of a friendly smile appeared on her face.
“Sara did? You talked to her? Did... did she send you to find me? Is she okay?” I rose to my feet, excited, all sorts of questions springing to my mind, followed by the fears that had sent me running from Sara’s house earlier. “Are you one of Flen’s Pokemon? Are... you here to chase me away?”
Sinori shook her head, surprise on her face. “No, silly; why would I want to do that? Sara didn’t really send me, no, but I was worried and came to check on you.” She looked back down at me and stretched out on the ground. “Come here and get comfortable. I have a feeling we might be here for a while.” The fox’s tails curled out to the side, creating a fluffy pillow for me. I was tired of being scared, and the fox seemed so nice, so friendly and trustworthy… so I stretched out next to her.
“So how come you’re out here, and not at home? Don’t you think Sara is worried about you? How many days have you been out here alone, anyways?”
I blinked. Didn’t she know? “Um… a few days, I guess. Maybe three? Sara was sick when I... I don’t think she’s that worried about me right now.” I felt a little guilty as I said that- because I was worried about Sara. The last memory I had of her was of the Honchkrow flying towards her while she was caught in a fit of coughing... I shook my head to try and stop the memory from playing any further.
“Why didn’t you go back to her?” Sinori tilted her head and blinked at me. “I’ve never known an Umbreon to just leave their trainer like that! Are you sick too?” She sniffed at me and poked me with her nose.
“No… I feel okay. But… I’m not an Eevee anymore. I don’t think she would want me around now.”
The Ninetales shook her head. “You don’t really believe that! Sara loves you, and I know you love her; there’s no such thing as an Umbreon that doesn’t adore their trainer, or one that isn’t loved by their trainer. What’s the real reason you’re not by her side right now?”
I looked down at the ground, and the ring on my forehead darkened while the others glowed brighter- my first blush as an Umbreon, I realized. I sighed, staring down at the muddy ground... and finally knew the real reason, buried deep down under all the sudden surprises and scares. “She doesn’t want me there... Her dad chased me away, and there were Pokemon waiting for me there tonight. I think they know... that if I go back I’ll end up hurting her. I’m not an Eevee anymore, I’m an Umbreon, like you said. I’m a creature of darkness, just like the Houndoom, or the Murkrows, or that Honchkrow. All they do is hurt things, and... that’s what I’ve become. I... I’m evil. A monster.”
Sinori blinked, and for the first time seemed surprised. “What?”
“I’m evil. Bad. A dark creature. I scared the poor man at the pet store, just asking him for some food… even the Honchkrow, another dark Pokemon, was terrified and ran away from me. I’m the same as that Houndoom, the one that’s been hurting all those people, I’m… Dark.”
The Ninetales was quiet for a time, and when I looked up at her she was looking away from me, towards the wall. “You… you really believe that, don’t you? That if you go back, you’re going to hurt her? That... that’s all you can be now?” The Ninetales’ voice trembled, like she was about to cry.
“It’s what every dark Pokemon I’ve ever known have done... if I go back to Sara, I’ll just end up hurting her somehow, or one of my friends will have to chase me off. I just came from there, and Feren was guarding it. In case...” I trailed off, unable to finish.
We were quiet for a bit after that, and I realized that the Ninetales had started crying- a tear made a sizzling noise when it fell off her nose and hit the fiery ball beneath her. I wasn’t sure what to say, but she finally spoke again, her voice sad. “Why do you keep going back to her house at night?”
I blinked in surprise at the question. I hadn’t really thought about it. At the time it just seemed like the thing I wanted and was supposed to do. I thought about it more before answering- the more I talked with Sinori, the more I realized her questions weren’t meant for shallow ‘just because’ answers. “I wanted to be near her. Wanted to make sure the Honchkrow didn’t come back. Wanted… wanted to be able to go back.”
“You wanted to protect her, and you missed her?”
I nodded. “Yeah… I want her to be safe.”
There was silence for a while longer, until the Ninetales spoke again. Her voice was calm again, gentle. “Opal, you’re not going to hurt Sara… not even on accident, not ever.”
I looked at Sinori, not wanting to think about it, but finding I desperately wanted it to be true. “How can you be sure?”
The Ninetales actually laughed at that, a happy sound that made me feel better just by hearing it. “Well… there are a few reasons… but mainly it’s because I know better. You’re not evil, not by far. What you are now is confused.” Sinori tilted her head up to the sky again. “You’re right... some. You’re a Dark Pokemon now, you are a creature of the night… but that doesn’t make you evil, nor does it mean that all you can do is cause pain or hurt. You may have some physical things in common with the Honchkrow, or the Houndoom, but you’re nothing like them where it really matters. You’re an Umbreon, Opal! Don’t you know what that means?” Sinori lifted her head towards the sky, but watched me from the corner of her eye.
“I guess I don’t... I’ve never met one before. I didn’t even know there was such a thing until I became one.” I looked up at the sky again, following Sinori’s gaze. Why did she keep looking up at the sky like that?
“You’re a light, Opal. You’re a creature of the night, yes, but not everything in the night is dark, and it certainly doesn’t make it automatically bad or evil. Haven’t you noticed your rings give off light? No other Dark Pokemon in the world does that; only an Umbreon gives off light. And you’d never hurt your trainer; you’d protect her from anything that tried to hurt her. That’s why the Honchkrow was scared of you. To him, you were just like an Espeon. You were going to stop him from hurting Sara, period, no matter what it took, and he knew it.”
I blinked. She thought I was like an Espeon? I was nothing like an Espeon; I was the exact opposite of one. “You’re wrong… I’m not like Cla… I’m nothing like an Espeon now; I’m just the opposite.”
Sinori shook her head. “You are opposites, but you’re not different, not where it matters… you’re just on a different wavelength. I take it you know an Espeon?” Sinori smiled at that, a knowing look in her eye.
I nodded. “Clara, she’s my friend.”
“What makes her happy?”
I answered immediately- that question didn’t need any thought. “Flen, her trainer.”
Sinori nodded. “What else?”
I thought a little bit longer. “Well… she likes me, I guess. Oh, and she likes the sun.”
The Ninetales nodded. “That’s right! Espeons are sunlight Pokemon. They love the sun- they can feel it, like their ears, or their tail, or the jewel on their forehead. It may just be something subconscious at points, that they’re not really aware of, but it’s still always a part of them. When a cloud covers the sun or when it’s night they start to get lethargic and even sad. And Espeons are like the sun, too- they’re a bright spot to their trainers, like the sun in the sky, but they actually shine a little, too. During the day they glow a tiny bit- it’s hard to notice because of the sunlight, but it’s there. To their trainers, they are completely committed- while the sun is shining in the sky there isn’t a thing on this world that will stop them from brightening their trainer’s day, and they will go to the ends of the earth if it means they can bring a smile to a friend’s face.” Sinori smiled, and I looked down at the ground, remembering how Clara had told me some of these things, thinking about how different she seemed the few times I had seen her at night, or how she was always trying to keep me happy and occupied. Sinori looked down at me, her eyes shining. “Opal… where’s the moon at?”
I blinked at the question, answering before I even thought about it. “That’s a silly question; it’s right there.” I looked up, my nose pointing right towards the moon… then I realized what I had just done. Without having to look, without even having to think or try and remember, I had known, had been so sure I couldn’t believe it was even a question. “Oh…”
Sinori smiled again, a gentle smile, and one of the fiery balls danced around her, leaving a faint trail in the night. “And Umbreons… Umbreons are moonlight Pokemon. The moon is a part of each and every one of them. Just as much as their ears, or their tail, or the rings in their fur. They may not even realize the connection, but it’s there- any Umbreon can tell you instantly where the moon is, even if it’s behind a cloud, or it’s a new moon, or even if it’s the middle of the day.”
Something in my head finally clicked. “And at night, Umbreons are a trainers bright spot in the darkness. It’s our job to watch over them and keep them safe, against the things out there that could hurt them.”
Sinori smiled, and the fiery ball glowed brighter. “That’s right! You’re the same as an Espeon; you just live it a few hours later than they do. To a trainer, they’re the sun, but you’re the moon- an Espeon might be a blazing light in the day, but you’re a quiet, cool light where its needed the most. You are your trainer’s light in the darkness, her protection against the really nasty monsters that come when everything else is sleeping. In the darkness you’ll glow- maybe not as bright as an Espeon, but you don’t need to, because in the dark even a tiny light shines bright. You may have just realized it, but you’ll always know where the moon is, even when you can’t see it. Like the sun is part of an Espeon the moon is part of you- you’re the Moonlight Pokemon, the Umbreon. And there isn’t a thing in this world that will stop you from doing what it takes to keep your friends safe.”
“You’re far from evil, Opal, and I think deep down you know it. That’s why you’re here in this dirty alley- you’ve been so worried that you were going to hurt Sara, or that one of your friends would have to fight you off, that you just stayed away from them- protecting them, in the only way you thought that you could.”
I nodded, but then sighed, realizing I had been an idiot these past few days. “I didn’t know... I just… all the dark Pokemon I’ve known have been mean, cruel creatures….”
“Oh, Opal... don’t feel bad; it’s easy to see how you could be confused… a lot of the Dark Pokemon do turn out that way, and end up hurting and attacking people, and that’s probably why the worker you met earlier seemed so scared. You are intimidating at first glance, and you have to keep in mind that you see a lot better at night than humans or most other Pokemon do. You may see just fine and not know they can’t see you, but to them you just show up out of the darkness, and it’s hard not to be scared when that happens. But deep down inside you’re not evil or scary at all, Opal, and I think you’ve always known it. You’re just like the moon, just like your name- a shining jewel in the darkness.”
I was watching the moon the whole time Sinori was speaking, but I really saw it for the first time then. Its image in the Pokeball was a pale shadow of what I saw now- it shimmered, changing subtly between yellows and whites and even the random blues. I don’t know how long I sat there and stared at it, thinking over all the Ninetales had said. Eventually, after what seemed like hours, Sinori broke the silence. “Would you like to know a secret?”
I blinked, and looked away from the moon, feeling a little sad as I did. “A secret?” Sinori had just told me a big one, from my point of view at least. What else could she have to tell me?
The shimmering ball of fire floated off the ground, stopping a bit away from Sinori’s nose. “Uh-huh… a secret. How to do this! Well, sort of, anyways.”
“I can do that? It’s beautiful…”
Sinori nodded, and the ball bobbed up and down with her head. “It’s something fire Pokemon can do, usually instinctively. Normally Umbreon can’t pull this off, but I’ve known one that could do something that looks about the same, even though it never gets nearly as hot. The humans called mine ‘Will-O-Wisp’ and his ‘Flash’, and it took some work for him to get it in a ball like this, but it was always so pretty to watch him do things with it. Here’s what you do…”
I’m not sure how long I spent after that trying to make the light appear. Unlike the other moves I had learned, there wasn’t an image in my head of how to do it; I had to really work to make it happen. Sinori kept giving me different tips- “Think hard about the light; try and envision it in your mind,” or “Keep your eyes closed for now, you’ll be able to do it without concentrating so hard later, but for now you need to focus.” At first my efforts only made my rings glow brighter and brighter, but eventually I managed to do it- a small sparkle appeared a few inches away from my nose, hissing and sparkling in the darkness, casting different colors against Sinori’s fur.
“Very good, you got it!” I smiled- my first one as an Umbreon, the first moment I truly felt happy.
With that the air around us shimmered, like a veil had fallen away. Nothing tangible changed, but everything seemed different. Sinori sat up, looking suddenly very sad and old. “Opal… where’s the moon at?”
I pointed again with my nose. “It’s right the… It hadn’t moved at all. The whole time Sinori was talking to me, the hours that passed while she was teaching me how to make the light… the moon hadn’t moved. How had that happened? “It hasn’t moved at all?”
Sinori nodded. “Only five minutes have actually passed… it’s a trick I learned from… well, that’s not important yet. I can’t stay for much longer… What are you going to do now, Opal?”
That was an easy question. “I’m going to go back to Sara... I’ve been away from her too long, and I was wrong about leaving her.”
“You’re not worried anymore, about what might happen?”
“Not anymore. Even if I have to fight Clara, or Sara’s dad... I should be with Sara again.”
Sinori nodded, and her eyes looked sad again. “Yes… though…” Sinori sighed, and looked down at the ground. “Opal, I…” Sinori stopped, just staring at the ground for a moment, until finally looking back up at me. “I'm glad I met you, Opal.”
I stood up, stretching a little- it may have only been a few minutes, but my body felt like hours had passed. “It was nice to meet you, too. Thank you for everything, Sinori.”
The Ninetales smiled at me, and I ran off, heading back to Clara, to my trainer, to my home. As I was leaving, I swore I heard the Ninetales say something else… but when I turned back around to ask her what she had said, she was gone.
The moon shone down on me, a light spot in the darkness of the alley. The strange Ninetales was gone now, but she had shown me what I needed to see- I wasn’t the darkness, I was the light shining through it… and my friends, my trainer, needed me to shine for them. I turned away again, and left the alley for the last time, heading back to my home.
Flen stood in the place where his desk used to be. All that was left of it now was a few splintered pieces of wood, the furniture sheered through by an ice beam. Or maybe it was a flamethrower. Or maybe it was both. It didn’t matter really- there was nothing left of it now but rubble.
Just like the rest of the gym.
Flen sighed, thinking about everything that was gone, and about what really bugged him. Perry had been the first to say something about it earlier, and all the trainers found themselves agreeing with him. He had said that what really bothered him wasn’t all the damage, or the lost TMs, or the ruined potions- sure, those were bad things, and he was upset about them- but that what really hurt was that he hadn’t seen Shells jog around the gym like he usually did every day. Todd mentioned that he couldn’t pretend to ignore Feren sneaking treats from Tammy; Alleen said she missed watching her Nidorina trying to headbutt the sliding doors before they opened. Flen hadn’t said anything, but he had known immediately what he was missing.
This past week, at the end of each day, he hadn’t been able to sit at his desk and pretend to do paperwork. He hadn’t been able to watch Clara perch on the windowsill, hadn’t been able to watch the sun go down with her. He hadn’t heard her hum to herself, and to him, and then come over and bug him after the sun had set, until he put away the papers to pick her up and pet her to sleep…
Now… Clara was still sleeping nearby, but it wasn’t anywhere close to the same. Flen walked carefully over to where his Espeon was sleeping, on top of the remains of a bleacher, and thought back to how hard she had worked earlier. She had really pushed herself in the afternoon before ending the day completely exhausted. Flen reached down to rub her ear, to wake her up to go home, but stopped as he saw her twitch in her sleep. She rolled over, whining, and kept fidgeting, obviously uncomfortable. Flen was suddenly worried, and his heart sunk when he heard his Espeon start mumbling, actual words instead of her psychic voice. “Where are you?... I can’t hear you…”
It had been a long, long time, but Flen recognized the nightmares his Eevee used to have way back when. His heart sank as Flen became worried that all the recent problems had just been too much for his Espeon. He reached for Clara’s Pokeball, recalling her from the ruins of the gym without disturbing her, and hoping that would help her sleep a little easier.
As Flen walked away from the gym, and back towards his house, he decided to give Clara tomorrow off, and tell her to go look after Opal. The poor Eevee had been through a lot lately, and had been released from the PokeCenter just a few days ago; it was a good idea for that alone, just to make sure he was doing okay. But Flen didn’t try to fool himself- he was worried about his Espeon, and he hoped that tomorrow, when she came back from seeing Opal again, she would be much better…