“What do you mean you won’t file a report!?”
“I mean that this is the second time this month that you’ve come in, and we’ve seen you in here way more than we’d like anyway. Lady, just let it go.”
“I will not just let it go! Then I’d be accepting that they’re all gone, and I won’t do that. But at least give me an honest answer on why you won’t look for a bunch of missing kids?”
“You really want an honest answer? Because you won’t like it.”
Upon receiving a nod from the woman, the officer sighed, before typing something into his computer and turning the screen to face her.
“It’s because all of the kids that you’ve been filing missing persons reports for have been pokemon trainers. And what’s more is that before they were trainers almost all of them were recorded staying in homeless shelters or getting booked for petty theft. They were street kids.”
Rather than the calm acceptance the officer was likely hoping for, this information had rather caused the pink-haired woman to go into a rage. “You’re telling me that you refuse to investigate the disappearance of a dozen children because they lived on the street?”
“Look lady, it’s not pretty, but it’s also not my decision. Missing Persons usually just puts these to the side since these kids go missing all the time.”
“But I told you that all of them had been planning to go north to Route 14 before they vanished!”
“Well frankly, that’s just not enough to go on. We can’t use the word of one Joy as our only justification to go out of our jurisdiction as the North Lumiose City Police Department, that would fall under the care of the Rangers, and last I heard they weren’t too interested in those kind of disappearances. It’s probably a coincidence anyway. Most of the time those kids just vanish after getting caught for something and reappear a few weeks or months later in a different part of the city.”
Unfortunately for the officer, none of this seemed to be reassuring the woman, who currently had a calm veneer plastered on her face. “So you won’t do anything?”
The mustachioed officer ran a hand over his face and looked up to the ceiling before responding. “If it was up to me, I’d send some guys up to look for them, but as it is I can’t and won’t do anything. Maybe just go back to your Center and cool off a bit. You work off of Rouge Plaza right? Maybe the kids just dipped off into an alley somewhere. You have to know there are better places to work.”
This seemed to be the final straw for the young woman, who grabbed the blue satchel she had placed to the side of the chair and stood, turning towards the exit. “Thanks for nothing then.” The officer watched her stride out of the room before leaning back in his chair. As he stared up at the ceiling once more, he heard the captain’s voice sound from his office, unfortunately calling out his name.
“Yveltal take me, this day just keeps getting worse.”
The woman walked out of the station, muttering under her breath while violently yanking her hair out of its twin braids. “Useless fucking cops don’t give a shit about the kids. I knew I forgot something after my shift.” As she finished taking her hair out of its braids she grabbed a hair tie off of her wrist and quickly tied it back into a ponytail. “Guess I should go change into something practical if I’m going to go investigate this myself. These nurse uniforms really don’t do any good. And for once I’d like to actually be asked for my goddamn name! It’s not Joy, it’s Alena. How many times am I supposed to tell people that Joy is a title. It’s not like we all look the same or some bullshit, we just dye our hair pink.”
Finishing her rant, Alena began walking south, towards Rouge Plaza and her apartment. However, when she had been walking for a few minutes she suddenly smelled something delectable coming from a tiny little cafe on a side-street.
“Le Café de Poisson-chat, huh. I haven’t eaten yet so might as well.”
She stepped into the cafe and was immediately set upon by an over-enthusiastic waiter wielding a notepad. “Bonjour! Er, wait is that right? Oops! I forgot to speak in Kalosian! Oh gosh, I’m so sorry, I just moved here from Castelia and I’m not too good at Kalosian yet!”
Alena stifled a giggle before replying, “it’s alright. Not many people speak in Kalosian in Lumiose anyway. Can I sit wherever?”
“Oh of course! Thank you so much ma’am. I’ll bring you a menu right away.” With this he stumbled towards the back of the cafe, presumably looking for a menu. Alena took a seat facing the window and gave herself a second to breathe before reaching down towards her pocket. Before she could get there though, the waiter had returned with a menu. “Hi again! Here’s the menu, and we also have a special of fried whiscash right now, all locally sourced of course!”
“I’ll just go with the whiscash actually,” Alena replied. “And do you mind if I let my pokemon out? He’s well-behaved.”
“No problem,” the waiter replied, scooping the menu back up. “Do you want me to bring some pokemon food out with your order as well?”
“Sure, that’d be great.” Smiling, the waiter turned around and headed towards the kitchen, leaving Alena alone in the cafe.
The Nurse Joy reached towards the large pocket on the front of her skirt, and pulled out a worn, scratched up pokeball. Enlarging it, she released her oldest companion, who uncurled and stretched, as he appeared to have been asleep before his release.
“Helio!” her heliolisk cried, puffing up the frill around his neck to announce his presence to the empty cafe.
“Hush Raphy, we’re just grabbing some food. I just got off my night shift so after we eat I’m going to go home so I can change, but then we can go out again. Would you like that?”
The pokemon enthusiastically nodded its head, before stepping closer to Alena and rubbing its long neck against her side and hissing in pleasure as she scratched its back. “Yeah, yeah. I love you too, goofball.”
Alena exited through Lumiose’s north gate, waving to the guard as she passed. She had stopped to chat with him for a minute, and it was good that she had, since he warned her that of the two paths on Route 14, only one was truly safe this time of year. Unfortunately, that path also lead through an old, abandoned playground, which Alena was not thrilled about having to walk through.
“Hey Raphy,” Alena said as she released her pokemon, “do you want to walk out with me? There’s supposed to be some ghosts in the next area and I’d rather not be alone.”
“Lio!” the heliolisk cried, dropping to all fours and hissing at a nearby skorupi.
“Thanks buddy,” Alena chuckled as she watched her lizard do his best impression of a territorial growlithe. Deciding that she would be fine for the moment, the nurse started on her trek through the swamplands, shivering at the chilly air as she pulled her coat tight around her.
The farther she progressed through the route, Alena noticed the air becoming even colder, and fog beginning to seem into the surroundings. As she came to the edge of what looked like the playground she had been warned about, a piercing cry suddenly echoed through the air.
“Raphy,” she started, “did you hear that too?” Looking down at her pokemon, Alena realized that he had expanded his frill, and was sparking with electricity. Noticing him start to hiss, Alena picked up the pace, deciding it would be better to get the encounter over with as fast as possible.
Alena walked faster, Raphy following close behind, as she tried to book it through the playground. However, the fog had become much more intense, and Alena swore that despite the lack of wind, she could see the swing sets creaking back and forth in a steady rhythm. Becoming increasingly frightened, the nurse took off running, intending to not spend any more time here than she had to. But only a few seconds after she began to run, suddenly she was tripped up, and sprawled out face down on the grassy terrain.
Crying out, Alena rolled to the side, trying to get away from whatever had tripped her. Luckily, her pokemon had been quickly alerted to her misfortune, and had leaped towards the cause, shooting out a bolt of electricity as he did so. It was clear that he managed to hit something, as the smell of something rotten suddenly permeated the air, causing Alena to gag and roll onto her stomach. Looking up, she saw her pokemon engaged in a fight with a pokemon; jaws locked on tight to what she presumed was its head, wish shooting off as much electricity as he could while otherwise occupied. The other pokemon, which upon looking closer was either a small gourgeist or an incredibly large pumpkaboo, was in turn swiping at her pokemon with ghostly energy, which wasn’t exactly doing much.
Deciding she should probably help, Alena stumbled to her feet and called, “good job Raphy! Keep it up! Try to toss it to the side and fry it with one big thunderbolt if you can.”
In response to this, her heliolisk lifted the ghost pokemon and shook it repeatedly, before seemingly stunning it by throwing it to his right. Immediately after, he released a massive bolt of electricity, causing the ghost to scream in what was probably pain before half of its husk fell away and sank into the ground.
Letting out a sigh, Alena sunk to the ground in relief, making sure to give her pokemon a scratch on the neck as he came to check on her with a coo. “Good boy. We should be safer now, gourgeist and pumpkaboo don’t tend to come in groups so that was probably the biggest one in the area. We need to get moving though, otherwise it might come back even angrier.” Alena groaned as she got to her feet, committed to at least going a bit farther before returning to Lumiose, since she had no idea when she would have another chance to investigate the disappearances.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Alena finally allowed herself to slow down once she saw a house emerge from the trees. Maybe it wasn’t the best located house in the world, but it seemed to be relatively maintained, so that meant that someone probably lived there, and hopefully would be okay with her resting for a little while. Thinking it was better to not appear threatening when coming out of the middle of nowhere, Alena returned Raphy to his ball with a whispered apology before walking up to the house.
As she approached, she felt a shiver go down her spine, but she figured it was probably just the earlier events at the playground continuing to scare her. Ignoring her instincts, she moved to knock on the door. Before she could alert the resident of the house to her presence however, the door swung upon with a creak, revealing a well-lit, but abandoned house.
“Hello?” Alena called as she stepped across the doorway, more desperate for a chance to sit down than she was worried about the occurrence. “Is anybody home? I was traveling down the route and was wondering if I could rest here for a little. I’m a nurse in Lumiose if that helps.” Hearing no response, Alena shrugged to herself and looked around, seeing a small living room to her right, a kitchen to her left, and a set of stairs leading up to another floor directly in front of her. Deciding that maybe the house was abandoned after all, she walked towards the living room, intent on sitting down for a spell. As soon as she sank down into the incredibly comfortable couch, she heard the front door slam, and the lights suddenly flickered off.
Cursing, Alena quickly leapt to her feet and grabbed Raphy’s pokemon, tossing him out for what she hoped would be much less of an issue that the earlier one. As her pokemon emerged, a long cackle seemed to emanate from the walls around them, and the doors to the living room slammed shut, leaving them trapped inside.
“Be on your guard,” Alena muttered as she tried to open one of the doors, only to find it jammed. Telling Raphy to break down the doors seemed to alert whatever had trapped them in, and it decided to respond in kind.
Alena found herself on her back with an angry looking haunter floating above her. As her pokemon leaped at it, it dissipated into the air, only to reappear above her once again, sticking its tongue out at her pokemon and dragging one ghastly eye socket down much farther than it had any right to move. The fall had knocked the breath out of Alena, and she wheezed for air as she tried to command Raphy to shock it. Before she could get her breath back however, she suddenly heard a thumping coming from upstairs, quickly followed by what sounded like a man’s voice.
“Haunter! What have I told you about harassing travelers!” Surprising Alena, the ghost pokemon suddenly looked sheepish, and stuck its tongue out at her once more before fleeing through the wall. Moments later, an older man burst through the door, with the haunter hiding behind his back. Raphy chose this moment to run in front of Alena and stood there hissing for a moment until she patted him on the side and he moved to help her stand.
“Oh Arceus, I’m sorry about that,” the man said, rubbing a hand through his curly hair. “I swear that I’ve asked him to stop doing that kind of stuff a million times but…well I’m sure you know how ghost-types can be.” Not noticing Alena’s shiver in response to this statement, he continued. “My name is Paul, were you looking for a place to rest from the route? If so feel free to relax here for a while.”
“Yes, that would be great,” Alena managed to reply, still a little shaken up by the encounter.
“Good, no, great! Sorry, haven’t had any visitors in a while and it tends to get a little lonely with just me and Haunter here.” Responding to its name, Haunter stuck one of its hands through what was supposed to be its eye socket and waved at Alena, before vanishing into Paul’s shadow as he moved to swat at it. “Ignore him, he’s more of a prankster than anything. How about you sit down and I can make us some coffee.” With this the man walked out the door he came in, leaving Alena alone with her pokemon, who she let guide her to the couch before she ungracefully flopped down upon it, the heliolisk climbing on top of her without a moment’s hesitation.
“This has been a day, hasn’t it buddy,” she said, scratching him on the nose. “I’m sorry we haven’t gotten out that much before this, I’ve just been so busy at the Center, and looking for these kids was taking up all my spare time…” Here she trailed off, apparently lost in her own thoughts until her pokemon decided that he wasn’t done with those scratches and pushed his face against hers, not unlike a demanding meowth. “Okay you big goof, I’ll keep petting you. Honestly sometimes I think having a furfrou would be less work than you are.”
Just then Paul came back from the kitchen, holding two steaming cups of coffee in his hands. “I had just started a pot not long before you got here so that didn’t take me much time at all! So what brings you up here at this time of year? I overheard you saying you worked at a Center, so with that pink hair I assume you’re a Joy?”
“Yep, you got me. Not too hard to find us, is it? I’m actually up here on a bit of a personal mission. There’s recently been a lot of kids from my neighborhood who have gone missing, and all of them said that they were going north to Laverre City to challenge Valerie, and they were all taking Route 14. The problem is that a lot of them never made it there, and they haven’t shown up again either.”
“Well that sounds nasty, but haven’t you talked to the police about it?” Paul said, taking a sip of his coffee.
“I tried. But these kids were mostly homeless, and the police don’t care about that. I had heard there were ghosts on this route, so I thought that maybe they had been taking the kids. Do you happen to know anything about this?”
“Well,” Paul said, scratching his chin in contemplation. “I can’t say that I’ve heard of the ghosts that we have around here ever taking anyone. All we really have are haunter, pumpkaboo, and the odd litwick. The litwick only tend to come into the house, and Haunter scares them away pretty quick. Most of the haunter that live around here are pretty weak, and might hurt someone but aren’t terribly malicious. The pumpkaboo only really come out at night, and might pick a fight with a traveler if they come too close to their fields, but don’t have any real reason to take a bunch of kids. Sorry,” he shrugged, “I don’t really think that’s much help, but I’ve lived here for over twenty years and the ghosts have been pretty kind to me.”
Alena sighed in disappointment, looking towards down at her pokemon, who was contentedly curled up on top of her, before looking back towards Paul. “No, not really helpful, but thanks anyway. At least I know that it wasn’t the ghosts doing it.”
“I don’t go down to Lumiose much anymore, Laverre is much closer from here and I don’t have any real reason to tread on the south part of the route so I wouldn’t know. I would say to stay out of the marshes though.”
“Stay out of the marshes? You’re the second person to tell me that. Why wouldn’t I go through the marshes?”
“I don’t much know, but I do know that I get a bad feeling from those marshes, and they’re too murky to see what’s inside them. At least ghosts will make some noise before they getcha, but if a sliggoo or something grabs you, well then, you’re gonna be dinner. Speaking of dinner, did you want to stay and eat? I’d love some company, and it’s almost evening so you might not want to walk all the way back home.”
“You know, I would but I have work in the morning,” Alena claimed, looking a little uncomfortable with the conversation. Poking Raphy, who yawned as he climbed off her lap and stood next to her, she stood from the chair and put down her coffee, which had barely finished steaming. “Thanks for letting me stay for a little while, but I should probably be going. Like you said, it’s almost evening and I’ve got quite a walk ahead of me.”
“Well if that’s what you want,” Paul replied, standing up as well and opening the front door. “Remember to stay out of the marshes, and you’re welcome to come back here if you decide you can’t make it back tonight.”
“I will, thank you,” Alena said as she returned Raphy to his ball and quickly headed out the front door.
Closing the door behind her and shaking his head, Paul sighed. “Well, I hope she doesn’t take the marshes back, but she did seem pretty scared of those ghosts. Would have been nice to have some company for once.”
It had been almost three hours since she had left the house, Alena realized, and she was still way too far from the outskirts of Lumiose. She was currently regretting ignoring Paul’s warnings to avoid the marshes, if for no other reason than it was incredibly annoying to make her way through the muck. Taking another step, Alena swore as her foot sunk deep into the swamp, now coming almost up to her knee. Alena reached into her pocket and pulled out Raphy’s ball, releasing him into the muck along with her, even as he hissed as she did so.
“I know you don’t like the mud buddy. If you can help get me out of here than I can return you so-”
Before she could finish reassuring her pokemon, Alena was almost knocked completely into the swamp as what felt like a tremor ran through the area. Barely staying upright, Alena steadied herself as another tremor hit, causing her pokemon to cry out in alarm. Turning her head to the right, Alena looked to the area that look significantly deeper with not a slight amount of dread. Quickly turning towards her pokemon, she nervously asked, “Raphy, how deep do you think that water is?” Not really expecting a response, she immediately turned back towards the water as a third tremor hit, with the ripples appearing to come from an area just a few meters away. As Alena frantically tried to get her leg unstuck from the swamp, something flew out of the water and towards Alena and Raphy.
“Fuck!” Alena screamed as she dropped down completely into the marshes, managing to avoid the attacking pokemon by a hair's breadth. Raphy wasn’t so lucky though, and was completely knocked flying by the massive creature, nearly skidding across the face of the water before hitting a tree and sliding down. Just as he hit the tree, the pokemon landed between Raphy and Alena, heralding a massive explosion of muddy water that proceeded to fly in all directions, further soaking Alena and her beleaguered pokemon.
Attempting to stand, Alena first looked to where she had heard her partner’s cry originate from, seeing that he was moving before looking to what had attacked them. It was a giant of a pokemon; nearly twelve feet in length, and a third of that in height. Its natural coloring seemed to be a deep blue, although much of it was coated in a thick layer of mud. Its face was wide-set, and if not for its size and apparent power, would almost be silly looking, with eyes on either side of its face and large blue lips framed by long, yellow whiskers.
“No, that can’t be a whiscash. They’re not supposed to get bigger than six feet long,” she muttered to herself as she tried to stand. But as she blinked in disbelief, the living proof that in fact, whiscash could grow even larger moved towards her heliolisk. Noticing this, Alena screamed out for him. “Raphy! You have to move now! Use swift and try to get out of there!”
The heliolisk was slow to get up however and had only just managed to stand up and start to charge the attack before he was set upon by the giant catfish. The whiscash seized him in its mouth and shook, obviously alarming the electric type and causing him to frantically release bolts of electricity in response. The whiscash had no response though, and simply spat the lizard out before slamming on top of him. Seeing that the heliolisk was nearing unconsciousness, the swamp-dweller opened its mouth wide and prepared to swallow its newest prey, before groaning in annoyance as a beam of red light swallowed up the pokemon before it could. The whiscash grunting in anger as it turned towards the source of the beam, and its new prey.
Alena gulped in fear as the whiscash turned towards her, hand shaking as she placed Raphy’s ball back in her pocket. Seeing the whiscash try to eat her pokemon made her remember something from years ago, when she was training to be a nurse. Whiscash would eat anything.
“Oh Arceus. It’s been you this whole time hasn’t it. No one would have thought to look for a whiscash this large, and why would anyone even care to look. You’ve just been here for years, growing bigger all the time. That’s where all the kids have been going. The ghosts didn’t get them, you did.” Unfortunately for Alena, all of this seemed to be lost on the whiscash, which showed no signs of comprehension as it slowly used its fins to pull itself through the muck and come ever closer. Alena tried once again to yank her foot out of the mud before realizing that it was completely stuck. Looking up once again, the whiscash was suddenly right in front of her, and was opening its mouth as wide as it could while advancing. It was all Alena could do to scream as the pokemon began to swallow her whole.
Whiscash grunted in satisfaction as it felt its prey stop moving. It wished that it had managed to grab the yellow one too, but at least it still got a meal. Burping in satisfaction, Whiscash watched in fascination as something seemed to come out of its mouth and land in the mud. It looked like some kind of round object. Was it food? Licking the ball, Whiscash determined that no, this was not food. Deciding that it had had its fill, the catfish pokemon turned around and pulled itself back towards the water, intent on a good sleep after all the work necessary to get this prey. It never noticed the pokeball half-floating on the top of the watery muck, and certainly didn’t notice when the pokeball slowly began to sink to the bottom of the swamp, where it pinged as it bounced off another abandoned ball and settled in the sediment below.