The pleasant weather epitomizing Unova's tropical summers had finally descended upon the region.
It came as a distinct relief to Unova's citizens not only because of the cozy temperature, but also due to the added assurance that it wasn't going to randomly start pouring on a sunny day during a walk in the park, which had been typical of Spring. Now there was no questioning it.
It was Summer time.
Hilda felt it, especially in the satisfying breeze wafting into Nuvema Town from the sea. No other sensation felt better when she was home. However, the breeze today wasn't as noticeable as it should've been.
Five minutes earlier, she had been approached by her two childhood friends to discuss something important. Originally, it had been an exciting matter, almost unbelievable. Then it turned into an issue that Hilda knew would eventually move them to come to her and try to figure out a way to make things work.
They were here to discuss the nature of an e-mail Hilda had received from Cynthia more than several days ago, inviting her to come to Sinnoh. And they wanted to know why she still hadn't given an answer yet.
"You really should consider the offer, Hilda. This only comes once in a…a generation!" Bianca hopped up and down excitedly in the grass.
"You mean lifetime." Cheren corrected her out of instinct. Then he seemed to remember what they were here for and he coughed to clear his throat. "Yes, I agree. Opportunities like this don't just pop out of the sky." He went so far as to look up, daring the heavens to disagree with his assertion.
Normally, Hilda would've leaned casually against the railing that overlooked the sea in her hometown and laughed at Cheren's antics. However, the circumstances of this particular day made her tense enough to stand upright.
So, instead of laughing, she simply made an amused sound and nudged Cheren in the side for his brusqueness. "We'll see." She said mysteriously to them before turning away from them both to rest her arms on the railing and look out into the ocean before her. Behind her, Bianca said something Hilda didn't hear very clearly and Cheren immediately made a reply. Before long, they had broken out into their own conversation A common occurrence. Gradually, Hilda slipped into the memories of their recent past.
It had been two years since she'd come back home, opting instead for the trees of White Forest, the beaches of Undella Town, or the storehouses of Nacrene City. In that period of time, Cheren and Bianca had fallen into their relationship. Hilda had squealed like the teenage girl she was supposed to be when Bianca had told her the news in a breathless voice after running away from a confounded Cheren. He had had to chase Bianca for about a mile or so before she stopped in her tracks, turned around, and sprinted into his outstretched arms.
Hilda looked back towards her two childhood friends, watching them interact so happily with one another. It was amazing just to think about all they'd been through and all they had been willing to sacrifice in order to achieve their dreams.
Therefore, it hadn't come as a surprise when Cheren, using a number of his resources, acquired a warehouse in Nacrene, about half a year ago, from a family who was moving out. The family had been under the impression that he was a blooming artist, with a young wife, looking for some place to stay. As a result, Bianca became his unofficial spouse, much to the girl's chagrin. But it got them a discount on the house! Or so Cheren argued as he blushed furiously. The two of them had been only sixteen then and Cheren had already begun discreetly setting up the pillars to hold up a possible future with the girl he cared for. Bianca, as expected, did not suspect anything of the sort. To her, the warehouse was a fun getaway for her boyfriend and Hilda.
"I'll think about it, guys." Cheren and Bianca paused in their talk to look at her expectantly. "Anyway, I'm going shopping with my mom later in Castelia City. She already has it in her head that I'll be trekking through the most dangerous places in the world and I'll need all the bug repellants Castelia has to offer."
"So you've decided?" Cheren asked, tilting his glasses so he could look at her over the rims.
Hilda took one last look out towards the horizon. The waters took on a blue-green sheen and she was suddenly reminded of a man with hair nearly down to his waist and green as the grassy floors of the White Forest. She touched her lips then, another memory floating just above them. This was the true reason why she had delayed her answer until now. But, just yesterday, Hilda had realized that if she took up the offer to go to Sinnoh, she really might end up meeting him again. And that was what possibly scared her more than anything else in the idea of leaving for a foreign region. She wanted answers from him, but at the same time she wasn't sure if they were going to be things she wanted to hear. And yet, even though she was so intimidated by it all, she couldn't resist the feeling in gut that told her called her to go.
She could look at it this way. She was the hero of Unova, the only one who could stand a chance against the mysterious green-haired man with the Dragon-type Pokemon who defeated nearly half the gym leaders in Sinnoh since his appearance there two years ago. And the strangest thing was that he hadn't advanced since then, forever keeping his status of four gym badges, almost as if he were waiting for her...
It didn't matter. Even if she was over-thinking all of this, it still wouldn't stop her from taking up Cynthia's offer to go there and she would challenge him for the answers to a question she had desperately wanted to ask him for the last two years.
"Tomorrow, we meet Skyla at Mistralton City." Hilda was happy to hear her voice so resolved for once. The past few days since Cynthia's e-mail had been full of uncertainties. "The only way to get to there is by air and Cynthia will be waiting for us at the Pokemon League. Good luck to all of us because we're going to Sinnoh!" Hilda punched one fist into the air and her friends did likewise.
They were off to a good start.
— The next morning—
"So Sinnoh doesn't have an airport." Cheren stated, finding it incredibly hard to believe even his own words.
"You're not listening!" Huffed Skyla, her arms crossed in frustration. "That's not the main problem! This plane carries vegetables, not people, so you can't bring all that luggage with you."
"Wait, wait!" Bianca cried, refusing to believe her ears. "You mean we have to leave all our stuff behind and there's no airport to land in?" She threw her arms up toward the sky. "This is terrible! What are we going to do, Cheren?"
"Hold on let me think." Cheren placed his fingers under his chin, immediately brainstorming up a solution.
Hilda simply looked between her belongings and the cargo plane and sighed. "I guess we'll just have to go without all this stuff. We have money don't we? All we need to do is buy a few changes of clothing when we get there."
Cheren looked like he was about to disagree when Bianca sighed as well. "You're right, Hilda. And I suppose we still have our Pokemon with us so it's not too bad."
Cheren gave in. "By the way," He inquired. "Do you keep Zekrom in a ball? I've always wanted to ask you about that."
Hilda smiled and shook her head. "I think most legendary Pokemon have something in common. They sure hate their poke balls! He'll be there when I call him. I'm a hundred percent sure of it."
"Maybe you're just rounding up." Cheren teased.
Bianca, however, took Hilda for her word. Her eyes were wide when she asked, "How? Don't tell me you can call him with your mind? That means you're psychic!"
"I wouldn't say that." Hilda shrugged. "I just say his name out loud and picture him in my mind. So far, that method hasn't failed me yet."
"Hurry up, guys!" Skyla tapped her foot impatiently. "I have to make it for a shipment to Driftveil by tomorrow and the trip to Sinnoh takes more than six hours!"
The trio immediately began boarding the large plane. Moments before Hilda could step foot into it, however, she heard her name being called.
Looking back, Hilda ended up staring in disbelief. "Mom!" She called. "Why are you here?"
Her mother, in all her early morning glory, stood at the entrance to the runways, along with Bianca and Cheren's parents. "We just wanted to send you all off properly! I'm not letting my daughter sneak away to some distant land without being there for her!"
Hilda wanted to hide her face because of her mother's bluntness. Cheren looked like he wanted to leap into the plane and yell for Skyla to start driving, while Bianca turned slightly pale. She alone out of the three had a good reason for being so nervous due to her father's initial opposition towards her becoming a Pokemon trainer. Perhaps she was afraid he'd changed his mind at the last minute and was coming to take her back home. The next words out of his mouth, however, set her mind at ease.
"Bianca! I know I've said things before! But this time I…I support your decision!" He had cupped both hands around his mouth and hollered his words so Bianca could hear over the sudden roar of the plane's engine. Skyla had already slipped into the pilot seat and was starting the plane up.
"Cheren, call me on your Xtransceiver when you get there! Mommy loves you!" Cheren's mother had tears coming down her eyes; and, much to the trio's horror, the rest of their parents broke into tears as well. Bianca's father was crying the hardest.
Hilda shared eye contact with her two friends. Then the three of them shouted at the same time to their sobbing parents, "See you later, mom!"
"I love you too, mom!" Cheren's cheeks turned red with embarrassment when he said this, but he had no regrets. Then the trio entered the plane and Hilda closed the hatch behind them. Instantly, the roar of the engines was cut off and they were drowned in silence.
Phase one of their journey had begun.
Inside, Hilda looked around and was impressed. All around her, piles and piles of vegetables surrounded and dwarfed her.
Skyla's voice suddenly came in over the plane's PA system. Her voice was grilled and scratchy. "All passengers please hold on to something."
The plane started moving forward. Then it suddenly began increasing in speed at an alarming rate.
"In three…two…one…and we have liftoff!" Taking off faster than any normal plane should, not that Hilda or any of her friends knew about it, the cargo hold shook crazily and she was forced to latch onto the nearest box of cucumbers. "We're experiencing turbulence! Get ready!" Skyla's voice cut off suddenly from the PA and the plane dropped for a whole millisecond. Hilda was sure everyone saw their lives flash before their eyes.
Five minutes later, she was lying on the ground, her heart still racing. The plane had stabilized by now and was currently flying smoothly over cloud cover. Bianca and Cheren were also lying on the ground nearby. No one could bring themselves to get back up. What if there was another round of turbulence?
"Hey, guys. Watcha doin' on the floor?" At the sound of Skyla's voice, all three sat up in disbelief. Bianca openly gaped, while Cheren coughed nervously.
"Uhhh, Skyla?" Hilda managed to mutter.
"Yes?" Skyla blinked.
"If you're here, then…who's driving the plane!" Hilda shot to her feet, followed by Bianca, who tried in vain to pull Cheren up.
"No, no, don't worry! I recently installed autopilot on this thing and it's set to taking us for a roundtrip to Snowpoint City and back. Cynthia told me that place is probably the safest for parachuting down. The snow softens the fall."
"What?" Bianca screamed before anyone else could express their shock. "We're parachuting down?" Her voice had gone all high pitched.
"Agh! You're not listening to me again." Skyla sighed. "That's not the most important part. It's after you touch the ground. Cynthia gave me these coats for you guys to wear since it's always snowing there."
"Always?" Cheren asked as Skyla passed him a coat. "Is that even possible?"
"Don't ask me?" Skyla shrugged.
Hilda caught the fur coat thrown at her. She gave it a good once over and was surprised to find that the fur, albeit a terrible fashion statement, was practical and comfortable. She tried it on and was happy to see that it was just as nice on the inside. Almost immediately, her body heat collected and she began to feel very warm. She slipped it off. "Thanks." She said.
"Ooh. It feels so soft." Bianca sighed into the coat, snuggling deeper into it.
"These are very well made," observed Cheren. "It must've cost a lot."
"She attached one feather on each of those coats from her Braviary. She told me it'll bring you good luck when you're parachuting." Then Skyla put one finger to her chin. "But I don't know what she's talking about. There are only two parachutes in this plane and she told me not to add a third one. Does she expect one of you to jump?"
Bianca went weak at the knees and Cheren had to catch her. "What do you mean?" he demanded. His eyes were sharp, like when he was about to engage in a challenging Pokemon battle.
"I'm saying it like it is." Skyla put both hands up in a shrug. "I mean, I'd help you out, but there are only two parachutes on this plane. Besides, both of you have flying Pokemon right? I bet Cynthia wanted to see how well one of you can use them. That is, if you have the guts." Skyla's eyes turned mischievous. "If not, then you'll have to take the easy way down."
Her challenge did not go unheeded and Hilda saw the gleam of competition in Cheren's eyes. As for herself, she felt the familiar icy burn of nervousness in the pit of her stomachn. She was just as eager for the challenge as Cheren.
"I'll do it." She and Cheren said at the same time. Irritated at having her challenge interrupted, she glared at Cheren and he glared right back.
"You'll have to step back for this one, hero of Unova. I got it." Cheren asserted.
"Those glasses are going to frost up the minute we open that hatch. At least I'll be able to see when I go down." Hilda argued back.
"Now, now," mediated Skyla. "No need to fight between friends. We all know it's bad practice to work with Pokemon when you're angry."
"Cheren," Bianca said unexpectedly. No one noticed that she'd recovered from her faint. "I don't want you getting hurt just because you want to prove you're a brave person. I already know how much courage you have. Isn't that enough?" She looked at him with those pleading eyes few could bring themselves to say no to.
Cheren sighed and patted her head fondly. "Fine, fine. It's just…you know how I take challenges."
"Oh yeah, Cheren, about the glasses thing. I didn't mean it." Hilda said apologetically. "I just don't like it when people call me hero of Unova. My name is Hilda and I make sure people leave it at that."
"I'll keep that as future reference," Cheren smiled. "Ms. Hero."
Hilda stuck her tongue out at him. Perhaps she was still a kid at heart and not the adult she was gradually coming to be as time went on. She would turn seventeen in just two weeks. Until then, she would enjoy being sixteen.
Skyla clapped her hands together in excitement. "So! Now that we've got that settled, I'll have to instruct you two on how to put on a parachute. It'll be even easier than a piece of cake."
Bianca moaned softly to herself. "Oh boy. And we all know how that's going to go."
—Seven and a Half hours later—
"Okay, for the last time, this strap goes around your waist like this. Then you clip this on here." Skyla fussed over Bianca's work. Cheren had had his parachute up and strapped within the first hour of Skyla's teachings. Bianca, nervous at the very prospect of being in free fall for the first few seconds of jumping or so, had trouble keeping her hands still while working at the straps. In the end, Cheren had to strap Bianca's parachute on for her.
"So, do I just jump?" Hilda asked.
"Aren't you going to take out your bird Pokemon?" Skyla asked incredulously.
"Don't worry, I have a plan. I'll go first." In truth, all her plan consisted of was jumping out of the cargo plane, falling for a few seconds, then calling Zekrom and hoping that he came.
"Okay, we close in on Snowpoint city in about thirty minutes. I'll get you guys to land a little before the city. That way you'll have less chance of landing on top of the Pokemon center." Skyla laughed at the idea, though Hilda didn't think it would be very funny at all if it actually happened.
"Ready, Cheren, Bianca?" Hilda asked her friends. Bianca nodded slowly, while Cheren gave a brief, quick one.
Half an hour passed faster than any of the three could imagine. Before Hilda could even take her bearings through the frosted window of the plane, Skyla had begun unlocking the hatch.
"We're almost here!" She threw the hatch open and bitterly cold air blasted into the hold. "Hilda! Go ahead!"
Hilda walked up to the howling doorway. She looked down and saw the powerful swirling snow beneath her and felt her heart jack up with fear and adrenaline. For a moment, she felt unsure. Then, she shook her head to clear it and reminded herself of why she was even here. If this was what it took to get the answers she wanted, then this was what she would do. She looked back at her friends and shouted at the top of her lungs, "See you in Snowpoint!" Then kicked off from the hatch with all her might.
Immediately, she was swept away by the wind and all around her was wild snow. At first, her mind was blank with the sudden plunge in her stomach from free fall. Then she realized that if she didn't call Zekrom now she really was going to die. "Zekrom! Zekrom!" She screamed. "Come to me!" She imagined the strong limbs of the dragon with its booster-like tail and crimson eyes. "Zekrom!" She called one last time.
A great roar that belonged solely to Zekrom pierced through the howling winds and she felt his presence almost instantly. So he had followed them all the way from Unova. She was glad that he did.
"Zekrom!" A huge, black shape suddenly appeared beneath her and she fell with a thud on to the back of Zekrom, the Deep Black Pokemon. "Thank you." She whispered and directed all her emotions and thoughts toward him. The great dragon growled in answer.
The Pokemon's body was very warm due to the electricity constantly being generated in its tail and Hilda found that she really had no need for a coat when riding on the back of this wonderful being.
They flew aimlessly together for a few moments, allowing Hilda to recover from one of the most daring jumps she'd ever attempted before. When Hilda finally managed to gather enough thoughts together to think coherently again, she began surveying the ground for any sign of Snowpoint city. From her vantage point, she easily spotted the top of an ancient stone building resembling a temple of sorts. Before she could call Zekrom to head in that direction, however, she saw a dark spot in the vast plain of snow beneath her.
"Wait!" She tried her best to yell over the winds, though she knew that they were most likely blowing every one of her words away. "I think there's someone down there in the snow! They aren't moving!" Please take me there, Zekrom. Her last sentence was asked from her mind.
With a deep rumble, the Pokemon obeyed and descended towards the prone figure in the snow. Zekrom landed lightly for a Pokemon of his size and Hilda wasted no time in hopping off his back and running for the person lying so still before her. Her heart was beating oddly faster than she expected and she didn't think it was just because of all the effort she was using to trample through thick snow.
Eventually, she could make out the person a little better and saw that it was a blonde man. Her pulse did nothing to slow when she bent down to inspect him further.
He was wearing extremely little for someone traveling through such cold weather; he had a blue jacket on, barely hiding the plain black shirt underneath, and jeans. His chest rose fractionally with every breath he took. Good, he was still alive and Hilda didn't end up having a frozen dead man on her hands.
Before she did anything else, however, Hilda found herself staring at the man's features. Even with the wild snow flying all around her, and much of it whipping into her eyes, Hilda could see that he was very handsome.
Hilda snapped herself out of it.
He wouldn't look very good for long if she didn't get him out of this weather.
Standing up, she reached for her belt. "Go, Beartic!"
The large polar bear appeared before her and growled.
"Beartic, hey boy. I want you to help me carry him."
Hilda pointed at the man in the snow and Beartic grunted in understanding.
"He looks pretty bad so be careful okay? Good boy."
She watched as he picked the man up and threw him over one shoulder. She winced. Hopefully he wouldn't get any more bruises from that. Then she turned to Zekrom, who had been squatting silently in the snow behind her. He quieter than usual today.
"You can go now. But if you want, you can come with me. I'm going to find the nearest shelter."
Zekrom gazed at her then nodded towards the sky. Hilda understood. He would be watching from above in case she needed his help. Then he crouched and launched himself into the air, causing a slight shockwave that nearly upended her. Beside her, Beartic stood firm. He was already used to the presence and power of Zekrom.
Stabilizing herself and then slipping on the coat she had shoved into her travel pack, Hilda immediately felt the blood rush back to her numb fingers.
She pointed one finger stiffly in the general direction of Snowpoint City.
Wordlessly, both Pokemon and trainer set off into the perpetual snowstorm.