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Pokémon Nimbostratus: Sunset

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Hi there, thanks for clicking on my story! My name’s Crow9, and this is my first posted story. Feel free to skip right to Chapter Two if you don’t want to start off by reading this stuff; I just thought I’d preface my work with a little note. I’ve spent about a year and a half of on-and-off writing this story and editing it by myself. I decided to finish it completely instead of posting it in fragments because I’ve always hated reading amazing fan-fictions and comics that aren’t completed because of the sheer size of the project and work load.

I’ve been an avid Pokémon fan since I was only five years old, and have been playing the series ever since. When I one day stumbled onto the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, my life was changed from then on. And since then, I’ve always dreamed of making my own story about an imagining of all the worlds together; this is the result.

Just remember, this is my first posted work, so it may not be as professional as other stories. Feel free to come and go as you please; I appreciate you just for clicking on this story to read it in the first place. As I am new to AO3, I would greatly welcome constructive criticism and questions to help me improve my works further down the line. As of now, I am unsure if I will continue this series, as I am in the midst of studying at college. However, that may change later on. Writing this story has been great fun and I will miss working on it in the future. Thanks so much for reading this small note, and I hope you enjoy the work ahead!

-C9

Chapter Text


 

A loud rumble of what sounded to be thunder, and a bright light jolted me awake in my bed. My heart was pounding from the sudden stimulus. I quickly sat up and looked around, still frightened by the event. The curtains fluttered in the breeze from the box fan in the far right corner of my room, my clothes were still neatly aligned atop my dresser in the back left of my room, and my nightstand stood untouched to my left. I sighed a breath of relief, realizing everything was normal.

Must've been a thunderstorm passing by…

I thought to myself, laying back down. I closed my eyes, rolled onto my side into a comfortable position, and let another sigh. I was just overreacting and needed something else to think about, or my mind wouldn’t ever calm down. I decided it was a good time to think about the week ahead, seeing as I couldn’t think of anything else interesting.

Let’s see…

I began thinking.  Although I just started my junior year of high school, it was already kicking my butt. I had a big math test that week, my least favorite subject. I also needed to do that review sheet, that essay, and there were those other papers that were due…

I opened my eyes and let out a groan. Obviously, I needed to think about something else less depressing to get me to sleep. I rolled over again, now facing my closet. Turning my gaze to my alarm clock, I noticed the dust particles lit up in the red light coming from the alarm clock’s projection. I sighed again, trying to think of a story or something. Making up stories in my head usually helped me get to sleep, especially when I was restless. Eventually, I settled by adding onto a recurring story about me travelling the Alola region. I pictured myself in somewhat tropical outfit, but with my everyday black glasses and brown hair look in a house just outside Hau’oli City. Today, I was rushing to get my first Pokémon.

I came out of my trance when something caught my attention in my room. The sliding closet door was a tad ajar, and the darkness from inside extended out into my room. Usually, my cat would stick her paw in the door to push it open because she enjoyed sleeping on an old blanket inside. I paid no attention to it at first, but something about it felt strange. Usually, whenever I saw the door open, I closed it. I hated it when the cat brushed up against all my clothes in the closet because I despised finding cat hair everywhere. I thought I remembered shutting it before I went to bed, but I guess I hadn’t. I was about to roll back over when I thought I saw something move. Studying the closet more, there appeared to be something glowing red inside. It was a dim glow, and at first, I assumed it was just part of my alarm clock or something. Then, the light went away and came back, like something… blinked at me. Fear suddenly ran through my body and I sat there paralyzed for a second.

It’s gotta be Buffy or something… What else could it be?

I thought to myself. Then it seemed like the red glow was coming closer to me! I panicked and quickly reached over to my lamp. The switch clicked on and light flooded back into the room, temporarily blinding me. When I opened my eyes again, a strange creature stood in front of me. A blue furred creature with black padding all over body stood a little under half my height on its two haunches and stared at me with its big red eyes. It definitely didn’t look like any animal I’d ever seen before. It was holding something red, white, and round in its hands. I rubbed my eyes, and grabbed my glasses to see better. I sat up in my bed and looked down at the creature again, slightly confused, and a bit frightened. Then, as I realized what the creature was, my fear melted away.

“A… Riolu?” I muttered in disbelief.

The sleepiness in my eyes was instantly replaced with wonder and excitement as I stared down at what seemed to be a real life Riolu.

“Rio.” The creature muttered in a somewhat high-pitched voice, looking off to the side. It seemed to be shy. I then recognized what it was holding: a sleek, shiny Poké Ball.

“This must be a dream…” I said to myself, rubbing my eyes again. But, the creature that stood in front of me did not disappear when I stopped rubbing. Still unsure if the Riolu was real or a figment of my active imagination, I suddenly got the urge to reach down and touch the Riolu. But seeing as it was shy, I figured it wouldn’t take kindly to that. Instead, I questioned, “Are… you real?”, suddenly wondering where the little guy had come from.

“Lu.” The Riolu said, holding out the Poké Ball in its paws. I took the hint and carefully took the ball from it. The metal ball was cold, and my warm hand left oily fingerprints on the surface. I turned it around, inspecting its every crevasse. The ball was so perfect and so clean, it was almost unbelievable. Finally, I pressed the middle button and the ball opened, revealing the gray metal work inside. I was awestruck by how advanced the handiwork was. “Rio.” Riolu said again, gaining my attention again. He pointed with his paw at the ball and then back at him. Confused, I looked between the two of them. Riolu was still looking away, trying to not make eye contact.

“Are… are you… my Pokémon?” Riolu gave a single, brief nod, briefly catching my gaze, before looking away again. “Um… okay.” I said, holding out the ball. “In you go?” Riolu touched the Poké Ball with his paw, and almost instantly, materialized into a red light which flew into the ball. I was so surprised by this, I dropped the ball on the ground. The Poké Ball rolled back and forth three times and then stopped. Moments later, the ball dinged and stood idle on the carpeted floor. I picked up the ball and felt a sudden rush of excitement. It was like a dream come true; I’d caught a real Pokémon! Being a fan of the Pokémon series since I was a kid, it was always a dream to have a real life Pokémon. But now that my dream had finally come true after all these years, I was more confused than I was happy. How had this happened? Pokémon suddenly becoming real sounded more like a far-fetched fairy tale than real life.

I held out the Poké Ball and said quietly, “Riolu, come out.” Suddenly, the ball opened and a white light emitted onto the floor. In an instant, Riolu stood in front of me, just like he did before. Riolu continued to look off to the side, and nervously moved its foot to and fro. “Sorry, little guy. I was a little tired when you… came in. I didn’t properly introduce myself. My name is Nic. And you must be… Riolu.” It nodded again, but continued to shyly look away. As we sat in awkward silence, questions began to pop into my head. Why and how had a Riolu suddenly turned real? Where did this little guy come from? And was Riolu the only Pokémon who came to the real world?

Just then, a blood curdling scream came from the wall behind me, in my mom’s room. Both Riolu and I nearly jumped a foot. “Mom!” I yelped. Then, there was a period of silence. I turned to Riolu who was still nervously staring at the wall and said, “Riolu, stay here. I’ve got to check on my mom.” I stood up and ran towards the door, opening it quickly. I turned left and knocked on my mom’s door. “Mom. Mom! Are you okay?” All I could hear inside was a fan running, but there was light streaming into the hallway from under the door.

Screw it, I thought, I’m going in. I turned the door handle and barged into the room. As I entered, my eyes filled with even more wonder. “Woah.” I muttered, completely stunned. Standing in front of me was a real life Blastoise. I hadn’t realized it at first when I looked at Riolu, but I was weirded out by realistic Pokémon. Seeing Blastoise with blue scaly skin and a smooth shell, and Riolu with smooth fur made me slightly uncomfortable since the video games always had a less sophisticated art style. Nonetheless, Blastoise was almost as tall as me, and glared at me with its fierce brown eyes. I looked to the left to see my mom shivering with fear in her bed, her long light brown hair quivering slightly as she shook.

“N-Nicolas…” She said, obviously terrified. “Wh-what is that... that thing!” Quickly realizing the somewhat comical problem at hand, I was suddenly relieved and tried to speak calmly.

“Mom there’s no need to be afraid of that ‘thing’. This guy’s name is Blastoise.” I walked over to Blastoise whose stare pierced through me. Its size and stature was certainly intimidating too, but I figured that since Riolu was nice to me, this Blastoise must be the same way.

“Careful around that Blas… toise... thing! You don’t know what it can do!” My mom shouted. I now was in close proximity of Blastoise. The pressure was getting to me, but I needed to set an example. Swallowing my pride, I slowly reached over and grasped its hand. Surprisingly, the Blastoise let me take it. I shook it loosely, a bit worried that it might punch me in the face. I tried to act as confidently as possible, but it was very probable that I was shaking, possibly sweating, and stammering in fear.

“Nice to meet you Blastoise, my name is Nic. And this is my mom.” I pointed to my mom who recoiled under her sheets. Blastoise looked me in the eyes and smiled. “Blast!” It said, in a deep, content voice. Once my mom saw this, she came out of her sheets a little and stopped shaking. “Look mom, it’s friendly.” I said, letting go of Blastoise’s hand. It was then that I realized that Blastoise was grasping a Poké Ball in its other hand. I pointed to it and said aloud, “Mom, Blastoise just wants to be your Pokémon. It’s alright.”

“Pokémon…? Wait, isn’t that the game that you play...? Honey, what’s going on here?” I looked down, slightly embarrassed.

“Look mom, I don’t know what’s going on. I woke up to the same thing, but instead, I had a Riolu.” I looked over to the door to see Riolu peeking in. Once Riolu noticed I was looking at it, he tried to hide behind the door frame, but I could see its tail protruding out. I chuckled. “Don’t worry,” I coaxed. “You’re not in trouble for coming out of my room, Riolu. Why don’t you come here and meet my mom and Blastoise?” Riolu poked its head out from behind the door and walked in slowly, ready to bolt if anything scared it. My mom’s face relaxed a little when she saw Riolu.

“Aww, he’s kind of cute.” She said, becoming a bit more comfortable. There was a slight awkward pause as she considered her options.

“Mom…” I said, trying to get her over to meet Blastoise. After another quick pause, she let out a sigh and got out of bed. I observed my mom as she walked over slowly to me and Blastoise, her gray nightgown hardly moving at all. Once she got within close proximity of me and Blastoise, she let out a nervous gulp. Pausing again, she took a second to ready herself. She closed her eyes and reached out to touch Blastoise’s hand, immediately pulling it back and cringing when she finally made contact.

“Blast.” Blastoise said aloud to my mother, smiling at her. Blastoise reached out his other hand with the Poké Ball grasped inside. My mom opened her eyes, faced Blastoise again, and let out a nervous smile. She then took the Poké Ball and inspected it like I did. Turning to me, she asked,

“What am I supposed to do with this?”

“That’s Blastoise’s Poké Ball. He goes inside for easy transportation, just like this.” I briskly walked back into my room and picked up Riolu’s Poké Ball, which was still on the floor. I came back to my mom’s room, and held out my arm. “Riolu, return.” I said. Like before, Riolu materialized into a red light and disappeared into the ball. My mom gasped and looked concerned.

“Is he going to be alright?” She asked naively. I let out another small chuckle.

“Don’t worry, mom. Riolu, come on out.” The ball popped open, and Riolu appeared before us, just like he’d done with me before. My mom looked a bit concerned, and swapped glances between her Poké Ball and Blastoise. Then, she asked,

“Are...are you sure about this, Blastoise?” Blastoise nodded yes and touched the Poké Ball with its left hand. It materialized into the ball with a red flash, startling my mom. She dropped her Poké Ball to the ground, where it rocked three times and dinged; a successful capture. She turned to me, still looking a bit worried. “Did I do it correctly?” She asked. I chuckled again.

“Yeah mom, you did great. Why don’t you let Blastoise back out now?” She reached down and grabbed the ball, then held out it out just like I had. Blastoise popped out of the ball with a white light back onto the carpet. My mom gave a sigh of relief, knowing that Blastoise was alright, and then turned back to me.

“Where did these Pokémon come from?”

“I don’t know, mom. There was a flash of light and a rumbling noise… Next thing I knew, Riolu came out of my closet.

“Blastoise did the same. I thought I heard someone in the room, and I was pretty surprised when I turned on the light.” Blastoise looked away in embarrassment as we gazed at him. Just then, I heard a noise from the bathroom. A single, “Mrowr?” came from behind the door.

“Oh, hold on a sec. I’m gonna check in on Buffy. Excuse me Riolu.” Riolu scooched out of the way and I walked over to the bathroom door.

“Don’t let her out, Nic. I don’t know how she will react to Blastoise and Riolu.” My mom called from her room. Heeding her advice, I opened the door quickly and tried to block the opening with my leg, like I usually did to try and get in before she escaped. Unfortunately, I was too slow, and the cat darted out into mom’s room and jumped up onto the bed. I groaned, hoping that she wouldn’t cause too much trouble.

“Sorry, mom. She got out too fast and-” I looked up on the bed as I walked back into the room expecting to see my cat, but instead, I saw a cute little Purrloin rubbing up against my mom.

“I guess this must be another Pokémon, huh Nic?”

“Uhh, yeah, that is… That’s a Purrloin. But is that actually Buffy?” I quickly checked the bathroom, just to see if Buffy was hiding somewhere, but to no success. I walked back into the room to see Purrloin curling up at the foot of my mom’s bed.

“Well, who else would it be? Buffy was the only one in the bathroom at the time. She must have been turned into a Pokémon.” Huh, turning into a Pokémon. That sentence reminded me of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. “How weird…” I added, looking at the friendly Purrloin who’d curled up into a ball at the foot of my mom’s bed. I turned back to Riolu who was staring up at my mom and Purrloin.

“Riolu,” I said, getting its attention. Riolu looked up at me, wondering why I’d called it. “Do you know where you came from?” Riolu nodded yes, pointing at Blastoise and Purrloin. “You all came from the same place? The Pokémon World?” Riolu nodded yes again, followed by Blastoise nodding as well. Purrloin paid no attention and continued to knead her spot on the bed to make it comfortable. “Huh,” I said. “This is really weird… Do you know why you all are here?” Riolu and Blastoise looked at each other with worried looks on their faces, searching for an answer. Finally, they turned to us with no explanation, and continued to look worried. Catching the hint, I asked, “Is it too much to explain?” Riolu and Blastoise nodded yes in unison. I was a little let down, hoping I would find the answer to that question, but I guess I’d have to find out another time. Just then, my mother looked down at her alarm clock.

 “Goodness,” she said, letting out a yawn. “It’s already 3:15.” I yawned too, followed by Riolu, and then Blastoise; Purrloin had already fallen asleep. “Well, I guess it’s not really worth thinking about right now. Let’s touch base in the morning?” I nodded my head in agreement. “Goodnight, my boy. Thanks for being so brave and helping me with Blastoise.” My mother added, sitting down on her bed.

“Good night, mom. See you in the morning. Are you okay with Purrloin in your room?” She nodded yes.

“Purrloin is asleep. She’s not going to bother anyone right now.” I nodded again and turned around, holding Riolu’s Poké Ball in my hand.

“Come on, Riolu.” As I walked out of my mom’s room, I shut the door behind me, seeing my mom converse with Blastoise, presumably about where to sleep. Riolu followed me into my room and I shut the door behind me. “Alright Riolu, do you want to sleep in your ball or somewhere in the room?” Riolu pointed to the Poké Ball and shook his head no. “Ah, okay. Let me find you somewhere to sleep. I looked around and found my dresser with my neatly folded clothes on top. I threw the clothing onto the floor next to my bed. Underneath, was a blanket that I used occasionally for cold nights. I pointed to it. “Up here, Riolu. There’s a nice blanket up here with your name on it.” Riolu nodded, and I pulled some drawers out for him to climb up on. As it reached the top, it let out an exhausted yawn and closed its eyes. I chuckled. “Glad you like it, buddy. Do you need anything before I go back to sleep?” With its eyes still closed, Riolu shook its head no and rolled over onto its side. It looked so peaceful when it slept. “Alright, goodnight.”

“Ri-o.” I stepped over my clothes and climbed back into bed. I placed the Poké Ball and my glasses on the nightstand and turned off the light. I yawned and looked up at the ceiling once again. It was awkward having Riolu sleep in my room, like sleeping for the first time with a roommate. But I kind of liked it; Riolu made me feel safe. As I dozed off, I forgot about my story and, instead, thought about my new partner’s origins. Why did Riolu, Blastoise, and Purrloin come to the human world? What purpose did my mom and I have to them? What would the effect of Pokémon would be on us? Did anyone else receive Pokémon? And how was my cat turned into a Purrloin? All these questions bounced around in my head until I finally passed out again.


 

Chapter Text


A loud electronic beeping shook me awake. Still half asleep, I reached over and hit the snooze button on my alarm clock. I rubbed my eyes and pushed myself out of the covers. I groaned, turning on the lamp on my nightstand, and stood up. From across the room, I heard,

“Riii…” It startled me at first, but then I remembered the events that had unfolded during the night. The questions that I thought up before suddenly came rushing back into my head.

“Mornin’ Riolu.” I muttered, putting my glasses on. Riolu didn’t reply, I guessed he didn’t like to get up early either. “Come on, Riolu. I gotta be out at the bus stop in twenty minutes.” Then, it dawned on me. What if my mom and I were the only ones with Pokémon? Should I take Riolu to school, or leave him here?

I quickly changed into some black cargo shorts, my favorite blue t-shirt, and a plain gray sweatshirt before rushing to brush my teeth and comb my hair. I wanted to ask my mom what she thought about the matter before I headed off to school. At 6:35, I walked into my mom’s room, nearly running into Blastoise. “Oh, good morning.” I said shyly to Blastoise. Blastoise smiled politely. “Where’s mom?”

“Over here, Nic.” Blastoise stepped to the side, revealing my mom in a fancy black work outfit doing her makeup. “What’s up honey?” She asked, putting on some mascara. Her hair was still wet from her shower.

“I need your advice about something.” I questioned.

“Ask away; I’m all ears.”

“Do you think I should take Riolu to school with me?” She paused, and put down her tiny mascara brush.

“I... don’t know. I’m only realizing now that we might be the only people who have Pokémon. It might not be a wise thing, but on the other hand, it wouldn’t be very kind to leave Riolu home all day either.” She thought about it more, muttering a “Hmm…” under her breath occasionally. Finally, she responded, “Take him with you, but don’t take him out of his Poké Ball. Maybe after school, you two can walk home or something on the forest path?”

“Good idea. Thanks, mom.” Just then, Riolu came bounding in. He’d finally gotten himself out of bed, and was ready to start the day. I turned around and bent down to meet him. “Hey, Riolu. Do you want to come to school with me?” Riolu looked confused at first, and then looked around me. I don’t know what Blastoise or my mom were doing, but they must have been nodding their heads or giving a thumbs-up, because Riolu turned back to me and nodded yes. “Cool, but you might have to stay in your Poké Ball for awhile. I don’t know how other people would react if they saw you on school grounds.” Riolu nodded his head yes again in agreement. Smiling, I stood back up and headed for my room, to get his Poké Ball. Once I’d done so, I told him to return; Riolu went into the ball with a red flash. I pressed the middle button, and the ball shrank so I could easily fit it into my pocket.

After that I went back into my room to grab my earbuds and walked back out to the kitchen to grab my phone. It was now 6:38, and I needed to leave soon to catch the bus. As I approached my phone, I noticed something was different. It didn’t look like a phone at all. It was red with white accents and almost looked like a Nintendo GameBoy. Then it came to me: my phone looked like a Pokédex. Confused and intrigued, I picked the device up. Hitting the button on the center console, the device opened and a screen came on. “Welcome to PokéNav v.2.0.1”, the screen read. After a boot sequence, the screen opened up to a lock screen and read 6:40 AM. I wanted to explore more about the strange device, but I didn’t have time. If I didn’t leave now, I’d miss the bus. I closed the device and yelled,

“Bye, mom! Bye Blastoise!” From mom’s room, I heard both Blastoise and mom shout something, but I was already in the hallway, so I couldn’t make out what either of them said (although Blastoise probably just said “Blastoise,”).

I was at the bus stop at 6:43. I know this, because as soon as I got there, I whipped my PokéNav back out to mess with it. I put my thumb on the middle console button and the PokéNav unlocked, just like my smartphone did. Inside were all these different kinds of apps. One read “Pokédex”, and one read “Camera Scanner”. I desperately wanted to try out all these apps, but I heard the bus coming up the hill, so I closed the device and put it back in my pocket, next to Riolu’s Poké Ball.

I found a seat in the back row of the bus. I was always one of the last to get on, so I was always stuck back there. Before I could sit down, the engine roared to a start and we were off to school. Once I was situated, I peeked my head out from my seat, and looked down the aisle. Everything seemed normal. No one had Pokémon out, and no one seemed to be playing on a PokéNav either. It was just a normal, boring, Monday bus ride. I went back into my seat and pulled out my PokéNav, hiding it using my backpack to block the view from the center walkway. I looked through all the apps quickly. The Pokédex app had all 807 Pokémon registered, and I could easily check the stats and moves of any Pokémon, even legendaries. The PokéNav also had most of the apps my previous phone did, including the “Contacts” app and the “Music” app, which surprisingly still had all of my contacts registered and music on it. There was a headphone jack in the back of the device which also surprisingly fit my earbuds. In no time, I looked up and noticed that the bus was just arriving at school. Surprised and a bit sad I couldn’t explore any more, I closed the screen on the PokéNav, and slipped it back into my pocket.

As the bus parked in the front bus loop of the school and came to a halt, I slipped my backpack on and waited in line to get off the bus. Once it was finally my turn, I stepped down the stairs and headed for the school’s main entrance. Then, I suddenly started to feel different. I was suddenly so weighed down with questions, I couldn’t think straight. I longed to be able to do something with my new Pokémon partner and maybe even work on answering some of the many questions that were popping up in my head. I briefly thought about skipping class and making a break up the hill next to the school, but my mother would kill me if she found out. Unhappily, I opened the doors to the school, fiddling with the shrunken Poké Ball in my pocket with my right hand. Fortunately, my prayer was answered as I walked into school.

Seeing the sights around me, my eyes lit up. All around me were Pokémon. A girl and her Drilbur walked in behind me, a teacher came down the hallway with a Miltank, and the principal walked by with a Blissey. I wasn’t the only one who was this way; people began to take out their Pokémon too once they saw others with them. I was dazed and confused, but also happy. I wasn’t the only one who had a Pokémon! This would open many doors of opportunity: Pokémon battles, training, contests, trading. I was so happy, I almost exploded with joy.

My first instinct was to head to the school’s library to check in with my friends. I ran down the hallway to the library, where we hung out before first period. As I barged in through the entrance way, I was even more astonished. The library was filled with all kinds of people and Pokémon. Everyone happily mingled with each other around the room. I walked slowly around the rows of computers and bookshelves, jaw agape looking at all the Pokémon. My mind raced at a mile a minute, all the surroundings becoming somewhat overstimulating. I eventually arrived at the table where my friends and I usually hung out in the middle of the library, but strangely, no one was there yet. I was almost always the last one to arrive. Pulling out one of the chairs and sitting down, I searched through the crowd for my friends.

Just then, there was a ruckus in the crowd. I looked down to witness a Totodile break through the congregation of socializing students and leap up onto the table. “Toto!” it cried, in a raspy, high pitched voice, hopping up and down happily.

“Oh, uh, hello... Totodile.” I muttered shyly. Totodile turned to me and smiled, happy as could be. Before I could say or do anything else, it opened up its mouth and let a Water Gun out on my face. The water caught me off guard, and I recoiled backwards, tumbling down to the ground. “Ugh...” I mumbled, rolling away from the chair. An eruption of laughter came from the crowd, causing me to blush. I stood up slowly, quite unhappy to be wet and to have all of this unwanted attention. I sat the chair back upright and took a seat again, awkwardly awaiting the audience’s attention to be pulled away again. In the meanwhile, Totodile continued to hop up and down on the table, silently mocking me. After a couple seconds of nervous smiles and unpleasant staredowns, the coast was finally clear. I sighed in relief and took off my sweatshirt, setting it on top of my backpack; it was sopping wet. I turned back to come face to face with the culprit, who’d finally stopped jumping, and a sense of anger washed over me. I was about to scold Totodile out loud and let my anger out, when a familiar voice in the crowd called out,

“Totodile! Hey, Totodile! Where did you go?”

I turned to the right see my best friend Nate approaching. He was wearing the same thing he always did, a black and gray hoodie with a bit of his blonde hair protruding out from under the hood and a pair of dark blue jeans. “Nic?” I thought I heard him say as he noticed me covered in water. “How did…?” He questioned, putting two and two together. “Totodile!” Nate yelped, sounding cross. “Did you do this?” Totodile’s happy expression suddenly changed into a sad and let down frown. He lowered his head in shame, knowing what it’d done was wrong. “Say that you’re sorry, right now.” Totodile turned to me and let out a small, “Toto.” I smiled at him and said aloud,

“No worries, Totodile.” Of course, my smile was as fake as possible, but I was only putting on this forgiveful facade because Totodile was my best friend’s Pokémon. But it seemed to work as my terrible apology made Totodile smile back and he began jumping for joy once again. Nate chuckled at this, pulling out a chair from the table and sitting down. Totodile hopped down off the table and stood next to Nate, who turned to me with an apologetic look.

“Hey, umm, sorry about that.” He said, scratching the back of his head.

“Like I said, don’t worry about it.” I replied, still a bit angry that I was soaked. Nate looked down to Totodile, who was watching the people and the Pokémon pass by in the aisles. “Where are Jake and Mason?” I asked him, trying to start a conversation.

“They’re off doing their homework somewhere. You know how they always wait until the last minute.” I scoffed and nodded, thinking about how my friends always did their homework before the first bell sounded. “Soooo… How was your weekend?” Nate asked me.

“Not great. I had to work both days, and the pizza place was crazy busy yesterday. Other than that, I guess it was okay.” I replied out loud with a sigh.

“That sucks. I’m glad I don’t have a job yet.” He added.

“It’s a good way to get cash, but man, my job sure is a pain in the ass sometimes.”

“Yeah, that’s what I don’t like about it. I’d love to get a job, but it’s too big a responsibility. Besides, I enjoy having plenty of time to do what I want. I mean, I did nothing all weekend… And I prefer it that way. That is, until last night. Speaking of last night, isn’t it crazy that everyone got a Pokémon?”

“Of course that’s crazy! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a real life Pokémon standing in front of me. And to think… This happened to everybody. Do you think everyone in the country… No, the world got a Pokémon too?”

“It’s a possibility. Not to mention, my dog was turned into a Lillipup too. Maybe that transformation happened to all pre-existing animals? Also, my phone changed too; into like a Pokédex looking thing. Did that happen to you as well?”

“Yep, all of that happened. My cat turned into a Purrloin and my phone was turned into a PokéNav. Makes you really wonder why all of this happened, huh.”

“Oh yeah, of course. I never believed in anything supernatural, but something as strange as Pokémon coming to our world is really out there.”

We paused, pondering the many questions left unanswered. Just then, a harsh voice protruded from the crowd.

“Hah, you’re nothing but a wimp.”

Nate and I turned our attention to table closest to the wall on our left to see the infamous Eliza tormenting a young, fancy dressed freshman boy. Eliza was the senior bully, who kept to herself and needed to stay back a year due to failing grades. She always wore her hair in a ponytail and had a scar on her cheek that people always made fake stories about its origin. She always wore checkered flannel shirts with skinny jeans and canvas shoes. Rumor was that she had problems at home which ignited her mean girl attitude, but that was just the word on the wind. Eliza bullied me a couple times when I was younger because she lived near me and we took the same bus for a year before she got a car... But really, who hadn’t she been mean to? I bet everyone in the school had at least one story they could tell about Eliza bullying them in one way or another. Currently, she was standing awfully close to the freshman, a Froakie besides her on top of the table, obviously intimidating him. The freshman was pushed back into the chair, sweating nervously with a Poké Ball in hand.

“My Froakie could easily beat your Pokémon anytime. Don’t go advertising that you have ‘the best Pokémon’ if you can’t back it up. Honestly, you freshman are all bark and no bite. And don’t let me catch you bragging again, or else we will have to have another chat. Got it?” As soon as she finished, Eliza’s Froakie got into an arms crossed, tough-guy look to push her point home. The freshman gulped and nodded yes slowly before Eliza bent down and got up in his face.

“Good.” She grumbled, standing up and beckoning her Froakie to follow. The two of them bounded out of sight into the crowd as the freshman relaxed and let out a sigh of relief. Nate and I turned back to each other and he replied,

“That poor guy. Eliza is such a bully… Honestly, if that was me, I would have done something…” Nate paused and looked away. I think we both knew that if we were being bullied, we wouldn’t have the guts to stand up to Eliza. The whole school felt the same way and never fought back; even the teachers sometimes hesitated to stop her, account of her violent behavior in the past. I had daydreams of standing up to her in the past and the chaos that ensued because of it, but I never really wanted to see it become a reality. I always felt bad when I was the bystander to her bullying… Hopefully, someday before I graduated high school, I would stand up to her just to end her mean streak. But it probably wouldn’t happen because I never had enough courage to act on that.

Just then, Nate spoke again. “Yeesh, let’s lighten up the mood a bit. Say, what kind of Pokémon did you get last night, Nic?” Suddenly, Riolu popped back into my head. I guess I was so preoccupied on everything going on around me, I’d completely forgotten about my own Pokémon. 

“Oh, uh, here, I’ll show you.” I brought Riolu’s Poké Ball out of my pocket and pressed the middle button. The ball resized in my hand and I held out my arm with the ball held tight inside. “You can come out now.” I stated. There was a flash of light, and within an instant, Riolu stood in the middle of the table. Nate gasped.

“You got a Riolu? No way!” Totodile hopped up onto Nate’s lap to get a look, and its eyes widened as it saw a new friend. Nate reached out to Riolu, to say hello, but Riolu was instantly frightened, being as shy as he was. It was a combination of a stranger reaching out towards him and all the new sights and loud sounds of the crazy library. He let out a small yelp and hopped off the table to hide under my chair, holding onto a chair leg. He shuddered in fear. Nate and Totodile both looked confused at Riolu’s sudden emotion change.

“Hey, hey. It’s gonna be alright.” I coaxed, leaning over to get face to face with Riolu. “This is Nate and his Pokémon Totodile. They’re my friends. Why don’t you come out here and greet them…?” Riolu clutched onto the chair leg even more as I reached down to console him. I figured he wasn’t going to budge. “Alright, Riolu. Why don’t you return to your Poké Ball and I’ll let you come out later when there aren’t as many people around, alright?” Riolu nodded slowly, still frightened. I returned him to his Poké Ball with a red flash. As I sat back up, Nate and Totodile now both had concerned looks.

“What’s wrong with Riolu?” Nate asked.

“He’s quite shy. Last night, he was very jumpy and cautious. I think I need to spend some more time with him before he opens up.” Nate shrugged, and Totodile hopped back onto the floor.

“Well, why don’t we go for a walk sometime with our Pokémon?” Nate suggested. “We can show Riolu and Totodile around town and get to know them better. I’m sure Riolu would open up that way.” I thought about it for a minute. Nate’s idea sounded pretty good to me. Riolu could get used to people and the area around him at the same time, killing two birds with one stone. “So, what do you say?” Nate asked again. I glanced up at him and added,

“That sounds fun. Why don’t you just stop by sometime? You know I’m at my mom’s house for the next couple days. Just send me a text and drop in. I don’t have to work until Friday either, so I’m up for any time, as long as it’s after school.” Nate smiled.

“Sure, sounds good. Maybe we could even battle…” I smiled back.

“Is that a challenge?”

“You bet it is. I expect good things out of you and your partner.” Just then, the five minute warning bell rang. “Welp, I’ve got to get going. See you around! Hope Riolu gets over his shyness.” Nate said, returning Totodile to his Poké Ball and turning around to head out the entrance.

“See you later!” I called to Nate who was lost in the sea of people. I sighed and looked down at Riolu’s Poké Ball in my hand. I figured it was going to be quite the task getting Riolu over shyness, but I wouldn’t give up. After all, Riolu was my partner. Sure we just met, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to help him. I’m sure he’d do the same if we were in each other’s shoes. I smiled thinking about my new friend and shrunk the Poké Ball while I slipped it back into my pocket. Then, I grabbed my bag and headed for the door to get to class.


 

Global culinary was my first class of the day. We were supposed to be learning about cooking safety, but that never actually happened. Everyone was still sharing their stories about how they got their Pokémon. My culinary teacher seemed tired and out of it, so she didn’t seem to care. Next to her stood a Wigglytuff, who looked quite nervous and awkward. Wigglytuff glanced anxiously around the room, with the same shy looks that Riolu had. I scoffed, knowing the teacher probably didn’t care about Pokémon coming to our world. It got under my skin a little, bit I tried not to dwell on it too much as I conversed with my classmates.

The next couple periods were the same. There was no teaching, only Pokémon. I was okay with this, because it was the first time I could talk about Pokémon and not sound like a complete nerd. I spoke with people in every class, even with people I didn’t know, about Pokémon. No one could get enough of their Pokémon, and I couldn’t blame them. What was there not to love about them?

All morning, the principal made announcements through the PA system trying to coax the students into putting away their Pokémon. Teachers joined in too, rallying for kids to put away their Pokémon and start teaching. However, it was no use. There weren’t any rules about Pokémon in school, so when teachers prompted students with detention for not putting their Pokémon away, they just shrugged it off.

Eventually, I made my way to chemistry. After ten minutes of trying to teach, the teacher gave up and started to talk to students about his Pokémon, Sudowoodo. Two minutes before the bell, I grabbed my bag and stood up. I headed for the door when the familiar static clicking noise came from the PA system.

Oh boy, another public service announcement about putting away your Pokémon. I thought.

“Attention all students and staff. We are investigating the power outage. We are hoping to find out the source soon. Please wait in your current class until I say to leave. That is all.” There was another click and the voice went silent.

Power outage? What power outage? The lights aren’t even off in this room.

I wasn’t the only one who thought this was strange, as people began to pile into the hallway to see if there actually was a power outage. I followed the herd, and pushed my way out into the halls. Turns out that only certain sections of the school were without power, which was really strange. The science hallway was unaffected, hence why the power was still on in the chemistry room. Just then, the principal came back on the announcements to tell us to proceed to the next class, as the bell system was malfunctioning. As I walked down the hallway, the lights flickered and turned off, leaving part of the hallway without windows pitch black. Fortunately, my next class was right down the hallway to the left, so I was able to make it safely to the room before there was any panic or confusion.

As I entered the math classroom, a hot, humid splash of air hit me. Although my school wasn’t air conditioned, something about having no power made the temperature even hotter. It was now early October, and for some reason, the western New York weather stayed hot. It was officially Autumn, but it seemed that mother nature wanted Summer to have one last hurrah before it disappeared for a year. I sat in the back of the classroom in my chair, nearly dripping in sweat. I constantly glanced out the window to my left at the waving grass and steep hill right outside the school, wishing that the immense heat would go away. My algebra teacher was still trying to teach, but no one would listen to her (what a shocker).

Then, the clicking sound to the PA system sounded again, readying for another transmission. Surprisingly, everyone stopped talking and listened. I expected no one to even care, as this was the four millionth time the PA system had been used that day. However, no sound came out, and we were all just staring at the circular speaker in the ceiling. After a short pause, people resumed their conversations, while the teacher continued her rally for everyone to stop talking listen to her lesson.

“-school will be shu-” suddenly came from the PA system. Some people were startled by the sudden announcement, while others looked puzzled as to where the sound came from. Somehow, the power shortage must have messed with the PA system too. “-all teachers dismi...ren to the bu...oop, the pow.. shortage...celled school.” The announcement clicked off, and there was a short pause. It took people a second to understand what the announcement said.

“I think it said something about early dismissal.” One person said.

“Let’s get out of here.” Two girls replied. Others students in other classrooms were beginning to understand the message and started making their way out into the halls. All of my classmates followed suit, walking into the hallways. The teacher once again protested that,

“School isn’t cancelled,” and, “We need to do our classwork.” But everyone, including myself, already left the classroom and were on our way home, happy to be excused from school so suddenly.

I decided to walk home instead of taking the bus. Even though my house wasn’t too close to school, I kept thinking about what Nate said in the library that morning. I figured that the more I had Riolu out in the world, the friendlier he would get towards me. Besides, I knew both of us needed some exercise anyways. Once we were out of school ground, I took him out of his ball, and we walked down the road to the forest-covered gravel path, which led up through town and to my neighborhood. Along the way, Riolu and I didn’t say much, we kind of just admired the scenery; we still didn’t have the best relationship. Although it was abnormally hot for this time of year, the trees and bushes didn’t seem to be phased. The leaves were just starting to turn different colors, and small piles of them were already starting to collect up at the ground. All of the foliage seemed to dance and sway in a slight early Autumn breeze. It was only after I examined more details of the scenery that I noticed some differences.

Instead of squirrels climbing through branches and up trees, I noticed Patrats and the occasional Rattata. The birds that soared through the air were replaced with Pidoves and Pidgeys. As we crossed a bridge, I looked down to the creek below to see Ducklett swimming on top of the clear water. What happened to all the animals? Had they all been changed into Pokémon? If so, what else changed too? And why did all this happen… Just what was the cause?

Just after the journey, Riolu and I stood outside my mom’s condominium apartment. I pulled out my PokéNav to check the time; it was about 1:15 PM. I slipped my PokéNav back into my pocket and beckoned for Riolu to follow me. I was about to unlock the front door that separated the outside from the inside for security, when I noticed that my keys were missing. Upon seeing this, a sense of dread loomed over me and I frantically searched through my backpack.

“They were here this morning…” I mumbled, tossing binders and papers to and fro. Riolu looked worried that I was tearing up my belongings, but did nothing to stop it. After a minute or two, I finally gave up. I must’ve left my keys in the house, and I hadn’t noticed this morning. Guess I was too involved in my PokéNav. I turned to Riolu and began neatly packing my bag back up. “Hey, why don’t we go to Harts Woods, Riolu?” Riolu had a puzzled look on his face, so I figured he’d need an explanation. “Harts Woods is over there,” I pointed Southwest behind some other buildings. “I go there for walks sometimes. We’re going to have to wait until my mom gets home to get in, so we might as well enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. Right?” Riolu reluctantly nodded, obviously a little tired from school and the walk home. I stopped sorting my school stuff and began to stuff all of it into my backpack. Slipping my bag back on, I started walking towards Hart’s Woods and beckoned for Riolu to follow me.


 

Chapter Text


 

The trip to Harts Woods only took a few minutes. My mom’s condo is conjoined to another neighborhood of townhouses via a small road. This other neighborhood leads to a cul-de-sac, which connects to an entrance to the woods trail. The only problem with Harts Woods is that the entrance is behind someone’s house, and I always feel weird trespassing on someone else’s property. Nonetheless, we crossed over the little wooden footbridge into the woods, quickly rushing past the house by the early afternoon.

Harts Woods was definitely a small, generic, New York forest. It was filled with oak, birch, and ash trees, and an old dried up runoff from the Erie Canal ran through the middle. One footpath lead straight through the forest, and another one looped around the outside. Once we stepped inside, the temperature seemed to drop about five degrees, making it cool and comfortable. The sun high above tried to poke through the cracks in the forest canopy, the light appearing and disappearing on the ground as the trees swayed in motion to the wind.

Riolu and I quickly approached a split in the path. I let him choose where to go, as I’d seen both paths many times before. My old middle school backed up to Harts Woods on the other side, so I’d used to walk home through the forest almost everyday. Riolu looked back and forth, trying to make a decision. He eventually settled on the long path, the one that kept to the outskirts of the forest. We started walking, enjoying the cool air. Just like on the way home from school, I saw mostly the same things. Patrat and Rattata on the ground and in the trees, and Pidgey and Pidove darting through the air and across treetops. There were a few Caterpie and Wurmple on the ground wriggling around too.

As we walked in silence, I began to dwell on what Nate and I talked about earlier in the morning. I was concerned that Riolu and I weren’t really talking to each other. I just felt it was awkward not speaking until we needed to. But like Nate said, it would take time for Riolu to adjust and come out of his shell. I desperately hoped that it was sooner than later, but I would just have to wait and see.

Just then, an interesting smell wafted into my nose. The smell was sweet, but had a waft of something… interesting in it. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what the other part of the smell was, so I asked Riolu.

“Can you smell that too, Riolu?” I questioned. He looked up at me and shook his head yes. I suddenly realized how naive I sounded saying that, seeing as the smell was pretty strong. Changing the subject, I suggested,  “Well come on, let’s follow our noses.” I pointed off further down the path. “Who knows where it will lead us?” Riolu nodded, but sported a slightly confused look. I was really trying to find something for us to do, and he knew that.

Riolu and I searched along the path for a while, following the weird smell. We eventually settled upon an old tree stump, covered in small mushrooms and moss.

“The smell is the strongest right here.” I pointed out. “Let’s check it out, yeah?” Riolu bounded off the path to the stump, leaves crunching under his feet. I followed after Riolu, staying close to him. Riolu turned the corner around the stump and his face instantly lit up.

“Ri…” He said, eyes twinkling.

“What did you find?” I asked, turning the corner of the stump too. Once I saw what Riolu was seeing, my eyes also lit up. My mouth started watering too, as inside the stump was a surplus of berries.                      

All kinds of berries lined the inside of the stump; Orans, Pechas, Chestos, Sitruses, Leppas, you name it. I was amazed; it seemed that berries from the Pokémon World suddenly appeared too. Riolu looked up to me, still astonished at what was before him. I smiled back at him and nodded, signaling for him to dig in. Not fully considering the situation, and unsure as where all the berries had come from (especially knowing that none of the trees in Hart’s Woods were fruit bearing), I still figured that it was fine for Riolu and I to indulge in this large pile of berries. I hadn’t ate lunch, and wanted to try these berries for the first time. Riolu grabbed a sweet Pecha berry first, while I went for a Leppa. The berry was small like a crabapple, and was very firm. I bit into the berry cautiously, as to not hurt my teeth. I was presented with a satisfying crunch, as a unique flavor erupted in my mouth. Equal parts sweet and spicy, It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before; I was awestruck with the exceptional taste.

Because the Leppa berry was so small, I finished mine in couple bites. It was so good, I grabbed a couple extras for later, saving them in my backpack. As I did this, Riolu continued to devour berry after berry. I smiled, looking over at how happy he was. Then, my mind began to wander. The smell from before wafted back into my nose, and the gears in my head began to turn. I finally began to question why there was a grove of berries hidden away off the beaten track. And that odor… Just what was it? Could it be a different berry, or maybe a Pokémon? Then it hit me. The smell had a certain sting to it.

“Trub?” A squeaky voice came from a bush a couple feet away. Riolu stopped munching when he heard the noise. Both of us turned to where the sound came from. My suspicions were confirmed as a small Trubbish stepped out from the bush. The Trubbish was small, being only about three-fourths the size of Riolu; it seemed to be young. Once it saw what Riolu and I were doing, the Trubbish grew angry. “Trub! Trubbish!” It cried at us, an obvious threat to get away from its food.

“N-no, wait. It isn’t what it looks like...” I said, backing away from the stump. Riolu and I both walked away backwards from the stump, our backs to the path and our hands up to show we meant no harm. The Trubbish walked towards us looking quite unhappy. Just then, rustling came from all around us. Another Trubbish popped out from some underbrush to my left, and one came from behind a fallen tree on Riolu’s right. There was even a Trubbish behind us, circling in from the path. Riolu and I were back to back, caught in the ambush.

“Trubbish, Trubbish!” The original Trubbish called out, angry that their food was stolen.

“L-let me explain, guys…” I muttered nervously. “W-we didn’t know that these berries were yours. We were hungry, see? We’ll just be on our way, haha…” The Trubbish didn’t take my poor apology very well, and all bared their teeth at us. Just then, they all began to open their mouths and backed up slightly, preparing to let us have it with some kind of attack. My mind raced, trying to find an idea or a scapegoat out of the situation at hand. I thought briefly about telling Riolu to attack, but we were outnumbered and I didn’t know any of his attacks. There was no running now, we were trapped. Suddenly, a spark of genius came to me.

“Riolu!” I cried out.

“Rio!” Riolu called back, letting me know it was listening.

“Jump as soon as they let out their attack! These Trubbish look young and probably don’t know how to aim yet!”

“Rio!”, it responded, and we both focused on their attacks. Taking their sweet little time, the Trubbish’s attack was finally almost ready. In a low hum, the Trubbish synchronized their cries.

“Truuuuub…” They said, a purple goopy orb appearing in each of their mouths.

“Get ready!” I called out to Riolu. I felt my heart racing alongside Riolu’s. The adrenaline felt good, coursing through my body. But I had no time to pay attention to it, as the Trubbish were finally ready to release their combo attack.

“...ishhhhh!!” The Trubbish all cried, letting the purple slime fly out towards us.

“Now!" I leapt into the air as high as I could, successfully clearing all of the purple sludge. I landed on the ground safely, Riolu behind me doing the same. My plan worked, the attacks had missed us and miraculously hit every other Trubbish without colliding mid air. The goop splashed in the Trubbish’s faces, and each toppled over backwards, surprised by the friendly fire.

As Riolu and I stood there, motionless, watching the Trubbish wriggling on the ground covered in purple goo from their failed attacks, I felt weird. Seeing these Trubbish hurt made me feel guilty for their pain. I wanted to help them up and apologize to them for what I’d done. Yet, something deep down inside of me burst out of instead. For the first time in awhile, I felt victory. I exploded with this new feeling, also filled with a new sense of joy and happiness.

“Yeah, we did it!” I yelped out. I turned to Riolu, who was confused at my sudden change in emotion. I grabbed Riolu under his arms and hoisted him into the air. “We did it, Riolu! We actually did it! Whew, that was close!” Riolu looked a bit worried and nervous that I was holding him up, but a smile casted out on his face.

“Riolu!” He said, happy just like me. It was then that I realized that it was the first time I’d touched Riolu. His fur was soft, but very tough. It was clear to me that Riolu could take plenty of hits. I put him back down on the ground, feeling quite pleased that we just shared a wonderful moment, but it was too early to celebrate. The ground began to shake, slowly and periodically. Riolu and I looked around, wondering what was causing the shaking. The Trubbish were still down on the ground, recovering from the attack, and there were no other Pokémon in sight.

What could it be?  I wondered, suddenly catching a whiff of a new, terrible stench. I covered my nose, as my eyes began to water.

“Ew, what is that?” I said aloud to Riolu, who was also covering its nose. The shaking got more violent, which I then realized was footsteps. But what was coming?

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the monster finally exposing itself. An amorphous figure emerged from behind a bush with dark brown and green undertones. It had two antennae, lengthy metallic arms, and smelled absolutely horrific. No doubt, a Garbodor stood before us.

“Garrrbbb…” It called out to us in a deep, intimidating voice. Obviously, it was a warning to both Riolu and I. This certain Garbodor was massive, a foot taller than me. It sported a scar over its left eye and its beady, black pupils bore into our souls, watching our every move. I figured this certain Garbodor must have been one of the parents of the Trubbish. Once the Trubbish noticed their guardian was there to avenge them, they hopped off the ground and bounded over, filled with a new confidence. The lot of them were all barring their teeth at us, showing that they were not pleased. I gave out a nervous smile.

“Would you leave us alone if I gave a better apology?” Garbodor backed up and opened its mouth, preparing an attack. “Run.” I told Riolu, turning around.

Explosions of purple sludge erupted behind us as we darted away. “Stay close to me!” I cried to Riolu, making sure to not lose him. Riolu was faster than me, so he ran in the front, jumping over rocks and dodging roots. I tried to copy Riolu’s actions as much as possible, lowering the chance of a clumsy trip. As far as we knew, the Garbodor and Trubbish were right behind us, so neither of us looked back. We just dashed as fast as we could through the winding Harts Wood path. Suddenly, the opening to the end of the trail came into sight. “Come on Riolu, let’s get out of here!” I yelped. Just then, like a bomb dropping, a purple mass flew over my head with a whistling noise and headed right for Riolu. “Watch out!” I called out to Riolu. Riolu turned his head to see the Sludge Bomb approaching him at high speeds, and I saw fear develop on his face. I had to do something; I couldn’t bear to see my partner get hurt.

I dashed forward with all my might and lunged through the air, grabbing Riolu to get him out of the way of the blast. The purple bomb smashed into the ground just behind me, nearly clipping my feet. It erupted when it hit, the shockwave sending both Riolu and I flying out of the forest. I held on tight to Riolu, making sure not to lose grip. I soared through the air until I hit the ground hard, bouncing once, and then tumbling down a grassy hill. I finally stopped rolling once I reached the bottom, completely dizzy.

“Oof…” I stammered out, releasing my grip on Riolu. Riolu tumbled out of my arms onto the ground. He rubbed his paw against his head, also dizzy from the roll. Once Riolu was okay, he bounded back over to me.

“Rio!” He said, checking to see if I was injured. “I’m alright buddy, just a little dizzy.” I replied, rubbing off my dizziness and standing up. The fall knocked the wind out of me, so it was hard to breathe and the dizziness wouldn’t go away. But I knew if we didn’t move, the Garbodor would catch us.

“Come on, let’s get going before Garbodor and his gang co-” I was cut off by another Sludge Bomb whizzing over our heads, erupting nearby. “They aren’t giving up! We gotta keep running!” I cried, grabbing Riolu by the paw. I stumbled and tried to keep my balance the best I could as we dashed across the plain hilly landscape of the clearing towards the school, continuing to not looking back. As we ran, Riolu and I periodically made sure that the Garbodor and Trubbish were not following us. The Garbodor gang gave up quickly, as they didn’t want to wander too far from home. Once the coast was clear, Riolu and I tuckered out under a shady sycamore tree atop a hill overlooking my old middle school and the sports fields next to it. We both laid down, completely out of breath. Neither of us said anything, just trying to gain our breath back. We stared up at the clouds slowly making their way through the blue sky in a sudden taciturnity.

A minute went by before either of us talked. During this minute of silence, I felt something new. This feeling was a deep, everlasting feeling, to the likes of nothing I’d ever felt before. It wasn’t the grief of hurting the Trubbish, or the serious pains of exhaustion. No, it was the feeling of a budding friendship. Next to me sat one of the best gifts I’d ever been given; a true friend. Although it was just the beginning of our friendship, I knew that Riolu was the one for me, and I’m sure that he knew it too. What adventures lie ahead of us? What hardships would we have to break through, and what bridges would we have to cross? There was only one way to find out, and that was to strike the match that would set the kindling of our friendship ablaze.

I finally broke the silence. I turned to Riolu who was staring out at Harts Woods, looming in the distance.

“Riolu.” I said, gaining his attention back. “Thank you.”

“Rio?” He muttered, wondering why I was thanking him.

“T-thank you for… for sticking with me throughout that entire ordeal. I don’t know what I would’ve done without you... Y-you gave me so much confidence... I-I…” I was blushing the entire time I said this, and was too embarrassed to continue. I didn’t like any of that sappy stuff. Riolu looked me in my eyes, searching into my soul. He then stood up and patted me on my shoulder.

“Rio, Riolu.” It said with a smile. I didn’t know what it said, but seeing him pat me on my shoulder filled me with happiness. It was then that I knew we felt the same; that we were both ready to start our friendship. I stood up, the dizziness faded and having finally caught my breathe.

“Come on, Riolu. Let’s head home. I’m sure by now Mom is home. Why don’t we just relax for the rest of the day, huh? What do you say?” Riolu nodded, and we stretched quickly out after our short break. We then headed home down a path that avoided Harts Woods.

Along the way home, Riolu and I stopped at a creek to wash up a bit and cool down. Riolu was sticky from the berries and covered in a layer of dirt and grime. I wasn’t covered in berry juice, but I was sticky from dirt and sweat. I also had some cuts along my legs where I hit the ground hard after the sludge bomb explosion. There was also a rash on the back on my left leg where a small amount of the purple slime landed without me noticing. As soon as I dipped my legs in the water, I felt an instant relief. I almost never wanted to leave the creek, it felt too good. Riolu and I dried off by soaking in the sunlight. The two of us laid in the comfortable grass, staring up at the wispy clouds. I reached into my bag and pulled out two Leppa Berries for Riolu and I. We both chowed down on our berries, glad to be sharing this moment together. Once we were dry, we got up and headed back to the house.

When Riolu and I got back to the condo, the front door was unlocked. We ran up the stairs and knocked on the door to my mom’s condo. To my surprise, Blastoise opened the door.

“Blast.” It said, greeting both Riolu and I with a smile. “Good to see you, Blastoise.” I said. Blastoise nodded back at Riolu and I as a friendly gesture. “Come on, Riolu. I need to put my feet up.” Riolu nodded up at me and we walked in. We instantly felt the relief from the cool air conditioning in the house.


 

Hours later, I woke up on the couch with a blanket draped over my chest. Riolu lay at my feet, resting on a pillow. I sat up and rubbed my head, wondering how I got to the couch. I must’ve passed out when I got home after the adventure with Riolu. Riolu awoke at the same time I did, stretching out and yawning.

“Hey Riolu. How was your nap, buddy?”

“Rio, lu lu.” He said, smiling at me.

“Good to hear.” I said, assuming that he agreed.

“Hey there, sleepy-heads.” A voice from in the background called. Riolu and I turned around to see my mom and Blastoise standing behind the couch. “You boys were sleeping for quite a while… I can’t wait to hear about your journey today! I’ll get dinner together and we can all talk about it!”

“Sure, mom.” I replied. Mom smiled and headed into the kitchen, beckoning Blastoise to follow her in. Riolu bounded across the couch to sit next to me. “How about some television?” Riolu looked puzzled, probably seeing a TV for the first time. I picked up the remote and turned on the TV. The TV sprung to life, clicking open to the five o’clock news.

“Breaking news!” The news anchor called out, grabbing our attention. “Pokémon invade our world! What it means for you, your community, your state, your country, and even the planet. Newscaster Colin Hay is on this story. Hey Colin, bring us up to date on this breaking news story!” The scene flipped from a cinematic of Pokémon to the reporter at the news studio. “Thanks, Kelly. It’s no surprise that Pokémon invaded our planet last night, they all came in one way or another. But where did these Pokémon come from and why? Scientists from the University of Rochester are elaborating now.”

The report went into detail about how people speculated Pokémon were appearing out of nowhere. Scientists were baffled at the sudden appearance of Pokémon and had no idea as to how it happened. Reports from every country were coming in talking about how Pokémon ‘Appeared in their closet’, or ‘Showed up out of thin air’. The reporter also talked about how many things straight up disappeared or had been changed. For example, the local cell phone dealer confirmed that its supply of new phones had been replaced with completely different devices. They originally thought that someone stole them all and tried to replace them with something else to cover their tracks, but other stores around the world confirmed the same happening. There were also plenty of stories about how a pet changed into a Pokémon, or how a restaurant’s ingredients were changed into berry equivalents. The report ended on a different note; the president of the United States told the press that Pokémon had plenty of military potential, and that he was deciding to make a program to test this theory. This report was interesting to me, as I’d never thought to what scale Pokémon affected the world.

Around dinner that night, I told my mom about school letting out early and our adventures in Hart’s Woods earlier that day. She was very worried at first, constantly asking if I was okay. Once I had said I was alright and not hurt for the thousandth time, she finally calmed down and became interested in my story. She was happy that Riolu and I were out and about enjoying the nice weather.

“I can’t wait to do more of that tomorrow!” I yelped proudly, surprising everyone in the room.

“Don’t go so fast, honey,” My mom coaxed. “Eat your gnocchi and rest. You’ve earned it.” I nodded and got back to enjoying my meal.

That night, Riolu played around with Blastoise and Purrloin while I did some homework and took a shower. I watched some TV with my mother and the Pokémon after that, but it soon came time for bed.

“Goodnight, Riolu.” I said, finally crawling under the covers.

“Riooolu.” He said sleepily, yawning and turning over to face the wall. I closed my eyes up tight and smiled, happy to have such an amazing Pokémon partner. Tomorrow, I figured that Riolu and I would train a little, and maybe go on another adventure after school. Thinking about this filled me with so much excitement, the anxiety almost kept me awake. Yet, I quickly drifted off to sleep, tuckered out by the wonderful adventure Riolu and I experienced earlier.

 

I jolted awake instantly in a cold sweat. I sat up fast, my heart racing. I was in a strange room of some kind with walls of a rainbow hue. Wherever I looked, I could not tell where the room started or ended. It was like I was in some sort of paradox or computer program. The colors of the walls continued to shift, creating a wave like pattern similar to moving water.

“Where… where am I?” I said aloud. I struggled to move, but there seemed to be something shackling me down. “Wh...Why can’t I move?” Just then a figure materialized before me. The figure was small, gray, and looked like some kind of fairy. It was floating a foot away from me with a small set of tails encrusted with red jewels. Its face was partly yellow which led into its rounded yellow head. It had another red jewel set in its forehead. The fairy looked to be staring at me, but its eyes were shut. I felt weird as the creature gazed at me, as if it was inspecting my very being. “W-who are you?” I called out to the creature, still confused as to where I was.

Human… Do not be alarmed… 

A raspy voice called out. The words echoed and reverberated throughout the space, almost like we were in a cave. The creature’s mouth hadn’t moved when the voice came out, so I became confused as to where the noise was coming from.

“Did...Did you say that?”

Nicolas…

The voice cried out again, echoing through the space.

“How do you know my name?” I questioned. The fairy began to fly around me, inspecting me. I stayed still as it looked me over.

I am Uxie, the being of knowledge. 

The voice said finally as the creature stopped once again in front of me. My heartbeat began to fluctuate as I finally recognized who was before me. I couldn’t believe it took me so long to tell the Legendary Pokémon Uxie was just in front of me.

It’s… the real Uxie...! But... how does he know my name? And what does he want with me?

Human... Nicolas… I have a task to ask of you. 

“A… task?” I asked, still anxious from seeing a legendary Pokémon up close.

I need you to lend us your strength… and save the Pokémon World.

“W-wait. What?” My mind went blank and my heart jumped out of my chest. There was no way Uxie just asked me this. I was dumbfounded. It was another dream come true, hearing those words; like something straight out of a Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Game. As much as I was happy and awestruck that Uxie was sharing this with me, I was equally parts confused. Questions were bouncing around in my head and I needed to get them out. “I… I don’t know how to react to your offer, Uxie.” I started, trying to sound as polite as possible when I spoke my mind. “But I need to know something… Why me? I’m just a normal kid. Sure, I’ve been a fan of Pokémon since I was young… But isn’t there someone out there who is more qualified than me?”

No, you are more qualified than you think… You are the winds of change that will save our world. 

I was flattered hearing those words from Uxie; they filled me with a strong sense of determination. Yet still, questions bounced around in my head, and I needed to ask Uxie as many of these questions as possible to find the answers I was looking for. But when I opened my mouth, nothing came out.

Nicolas... Head to Kinzua Valley… Only there you will find the portal to the Pokémon World. You must leave as soon as possible. The Dark One and his Army grow stronger at the minute… Time is running out for the Pokémon World and the Human World as we know it…

As soon as Uxie’s words stopped, it tilted itself in the air as if trying to look around me. I turned around only to see the same rainbow hued surroundings. In a second, it turned back and looked me in the eyes again.

I must go, and so must you. Head to Kinzua Valley as soon as possible. 

Suddenly, he began to fade away in front of me.

“Wait, Uxie! Come back, I have to know more information!” I cried out, but Uxie kept disappearing. He couldn’t just drop this huge burden on me and walk away. But it was no use, Uxie continued to fade into thin air before me. Just before it became fully transparent, Uxie muttered out one last thing to me,

Deep in the woods, surrounded by friends, you will find a key to your success…

 

As soon as Uxie was gone, my vision faded out to black and I woke up on my bed with the covers strewn about. I sat up quickly, heart pounding, wondering what just happened. As I began to recognize the familiar sights and sounds of my room, I calmed down. “It… it was only a dream.” I whispered, trying not to wake Riolu. I turned over and looked at the clock; it was 5:37 AM. I was about forty minutes shy of my alarm going off. I let out a small groan and rolled over onto my back. I would never be able to fall back to sleep after that. I decided to recollect on my crazy dream from moments before to make sure I didn’t forget anything.

I started off by running through some questions. Just how did Uxie known my name? Who’d told a legendary Pokémon like Uxie about me? And just what did Uxie see in me? Like I’d told him, I was a common high school student, there was nothing extraordinary about me. Just what made me special and able enough to save the Pokémon World? And even if I was capable, where would I find the time anyways?

After that, Uxie told me to ‘head to Kinzua Valley’. I had no clue to what or where that place was. I didn’t even know how to spell the word properly, I could only picture his voice saying the word. I couldn’t figure out what this meant to me either, as I’d never heard of the place before. He also told me about a “Dark One” and his growing army. The name sounded cliche, so I pushed it aside for now. And finally, before Uxie left, he told me, ‘Deep in the woods, surrounded by friends, you will find a key to your success,’. I also couldn’t figure out what this meant; what woods and what friends would I need to head to? I then put it aside for now because I figured it would mean something to me soon enough. Just then, Riolu woke up with a start. He sat up fast, looking quite confused, just like I had moments before.

“R-Rio?” It said, looking around. It seemed relieved after glancing around.

“Hey, Riolu.” I said, startling it. I guess it didn’t realize I was awake. Riolu turned around, giving me its attention. “I just had the craziest dream… Did you have a dream too?” I asked. It seemed like a reasonable question, as Riolu jerked awake suddenly just like me. Riolu looked surprised and slowly nodded yes back at me. “Why don’t you hang out with me a little bit before the alarm goes off... Hop on my bed and we can talk about it?” Riolu nodded again and carefully got down from atop the dresser. He bounded over and hopped up onto my bed, sitting next to me. “Alright, here we go.” I said, eager to tell someone about my crazy dream.

Throughout the story, Riolu looked very surprised and sported a worried look at sometimes. Once I was finished, I asked him if he knew Kinzua Valley, how Uxie knew my name, and the quote he’d left me with to see if they meant anything. But, this was to no avail, as Riolu didn’t know the answer to any of the questions. “Hmm…” I muttered, a bit frustrated that I couldn’t figure out the meanings of the dream. Riolu was trying to think about the significance of the dream too, searching through his head for an answer.

“Rio…” Riolu said, turning my attention to him.

“What is it, Riolu? Did you just think of something?” Riolu was about to say something when my alarm clock went off, scaring both of us. I quickly hit the snooze button to turn off the displeasing sound. “I guess it’s time to get ready for school, Riolu. We can talk more about the dream later. Let’s get some breakfast before the bus comes, okay?” Riolu nodded his head yes, looking a bit down that he’d been interrupted. I felt a bit bad that I’d pushed off what Riolu wanted to say and more so Uxie’s cry for help, but I had my own responsibilities to attend to. Riolu would get whatever he wanted to say off his chest later in the day, and I’m sure that the dream I had of Uxie was just my hyperactive brain being weird. It just sounded way too far fetched to me.


 

Chapter Text


 

Around the table at breakfast, my mom got a call from the school. The message was an automatic machine telling her that the school was staying closed due to the power outage not being fixed. Both Riolu and I rejoiced when we heard this message, as we’d have another day for an adventure. Now I finally had the time to myself to hang out with Riolu and possibly look up the meanings to my strange dream. Riolu and I wolfed down the rest of our breakfast and got ready as quickly as possible.

“Slow down…” My mom constantly told us, but neither Riolu nor I listened. We wanted to get outside as fast as possible. When I was finally all ready, I made sure that I had everything; my fully charged PokéNav, Riolu’s Poké Ball, my earbuds for music, and my house keys were all there. Once I was done checking, I turned to Riolu, who was stretching out at the main door before the trip.

“What do you say, buddy? You ready to go?”

“Rio!” It said, looking up at me and cuffing its paw into a fist. I smiled.

“All right, let’s go.” I opened up the door to the hallway as mom and Blastoise gave their goodbyes from across the house. I waved back, closing the door behind me.

The weather outside was the same as the day before. It was a surprisingly hot day, especially early in the morning. The only differences from the previous day were that the wind picked up a little and some clouds rolled in.

After our run in with the Garbodor crew the day before, I didn’t really know where to go with Riolu. My home, the town of Fairport, New York, was quite small and there was hardly anywhere interesting to visit and explore. The best place I could think of was, unfortunately, Harts Woods. Walking on the sidewalk next to the condominium complex, an idea sparked in my head. There was one place I’d forgotten about where I could take Riolu. Behind Harts Woods was an old, mysterious trail that backed up to a nearby neighborhood. This path was very secluded and unkempt, so tall grass surrounded all of it. At the opposite end of the path was a small clearing under the cover of large transmission towers. I figured that Riolu and I could train there, explore the path, and maybe go into town afterwards. We’d have to be careful though, as the clearing ran right by Hart’s Woods, and I didn’t want to pick another fight with the Garbodor crew.

“Don’t worry, Riolu. I know a way around Harts Woods that will take us right to the clearing without any trouble from Garbodor or the Trubbish. Whatcha’ say?” I added at the end, so he would be less nervous. Eventually after a quick couple seconds of thinking, Riolu apprehensively nodded his head yes. “Alright, come on. This way.” We turned around and headed the opposite way down the sidewalk.

Our journey was unbothered. We followed the sidewalk to an adjacent neighborhood that backed up to the large pathway of transmission towers. A road from the neighborhood turned into a small path that led past Hart’s Woods and down to the middle school, but it also had access to a grassy trail which led the clearing. Being careful as we approached the woods, we turned left and dashed through the grass down towards the canal where the clearing was. Our swiftness in taking that trail left us unnoticed and free to pass right by the woods. Once the tall grass shortened, the clearing came into sight. It was left just how it always was. The grass was always mowed here for some reason and a lonely stump stood right in the middle of the field. Large transmission towers stretching many miles through the suburban landscape ran in front of us, over the canal, and behind us through the small foothills, with extensive wires stretching high above. To the left of the clearing was a steep hill that led up to some homes, and to the right was the secluded trail I wanted to explore. There was still dew on the grass, which shook around slightly in the gentle morning breeze.

“Alright, Riolu.” I said, turning to him. He looked up at me, ready to go. “Let’s train! I want to see what you can do, and we need to be prepared for whatever happens. Why don’t you stand out in front of me and practice on that old tree stump there.” I pointed out to the middle of the clearing, where the old stump sat. Riolu acknowledged me and headed out to the stump. I followed after him, close behind. “Rio!” He called out to once he got there, showing he was ready. “Okay, hold on a sec!” I called back, pulling out my PokéNav.

It was finally time to put the gadget to the test. I opened up the “Camera Scanner” application. “If I use this correctly…” I mumbled, toying with the app. I held up the PokéNav to get Riolu in frame. “Stay still, Riolu.” I told him. He nodded yes again and stood still. I pressed the middle white button on the PokéNav, turning the screen black for a second and releasing a camera shutter sound effect. A white Poké Ball decal spun in the bottom right corner of the screen, signifying the app was loading. Then, a picture of Riolu appeared on the screen and gave me his moves and Pokédex entry. I looked at Riolu’s move list. “Looks like you know… Force Palm, Feint, Counter, and Quick Attack... Why don’t we try Quick Attack first?”

“Rio.” Riolu cried back, backing up to try the attack.

“Ready?” I called, taking a few steps back to a safer distance. Riolu nodded yes, putting his dominant foot in front, ready to spring off. “Ready... set... go!” I yelled. Riolu jumped to a start and dashed forward, almost disappearing out of my view. Whipping my head to the right, Riolu struck the stump with a hefty thumping noise. He shot backwards through the air and landed on his feet, kicking up a bit of dew as he landed. Riolu looked at me with proud eyes, clearly doing his best.

“Nice one, Riolu! That was really quick… And the way you bounced back after your attack… I bet we can create some crazy tactics for that in battle.” Riolu let out a large grin, happy to know he was being appreciated. “Why don’t you try Force Palm next?” Riolu nodded yes and approached the stump again.

“Okay, here we go!” I cried. Riolu held both of his palms out in front of him. A teal aura began to form across his paws with a spectacular light. Then, once he’d charged the attack long enough, Riolu let out a huge blast, sending him backwards off his feet. Riolu flew through the air, tumbling across the ground, friction from the grass eventually stopping him. “Riolu!” I yelped, dashing over to him to see if he was okay. “Are you alright?” I asked, nervous he was hurt from the skidding.

“Rio... Riolu.” It said, rubbing its paw against its head. Riolu stood up and shook off the dirt and dew he’d picked up. Finally, he nodded yes to my question.

“Whew, thank goodness.” I said, wiping the nervous sweat off my forehead. There was a pause as I realized he was waiting for my critique.

“Well… It was a good start. I think that for the future of Force Palm, you should try to charge it less, and make sure you’re paws are completely on something first. Then, there will probably be more controllable recoil for you.” Riolu shook his head yes again, slightly blushing after embarrassing himself. “Let’s try it some more, with less power. Then we can go back and work on Quick Attack, Counter, and Feint some more, yeah?”


 

After another thirty minutes of training, Riolu finally had enough. He was too tired to train anymore, and was drenched in sweat. “Alright, take a break, Riolu. You deserve it.” I said, beckoning for him to sit down with me on the stump (or what was left of it; Riolu did a bang-up job of busting and chipping wood off). He slowly walked over and sat down next to me, continuing to pant. I patted him on the head once he was settled in. Riolu did quite a good job with his moves. His Quick Attack only got better, and by the end of training, he seemed quicker and more nimble. Riolu even improved his Force Palm too, being able to control his recoil better by the end of the thirty minutes. We didn’t really touch on Counter or Feint though, as it was hard to test those without another Pokémon. I was really happy with Riolu’s results; it was surprising to me how fast he learned from his mistakes. I let him know how I felt, saying,

“That was nice, Riolu. I’m already seeing an improvement in your Force Palm. Really, I’m impressed!” Riolu smiled through his stagnated breathes, obviously happy that he was improving.

After a small break, Riolu was ready to go again. He stood up and clenched his paw into a fist. I chuckled, pleased that he wanted to train more. “Why don’t we train more later, Riolu? I don’t want you to overwork yourself.” Riolu looked a bit disappointed, but agreed with my state of mind. “Come on,” I said, standing up. “Let’s head down the trail. I show you just how weird it is.” I headed off down the trail, Riolu following behind me.

All strewn across the trail were pieces of old furniture, rusty car parts, weird metal and mesh structures, and some general trash. It was like a small junkyard right in the middle of an old walking trail. Riolu looked confused walking down the trail, but he was also intrigued.

“Wondering how all this stuff got here?” I asked Riolu, turning around to see his reaction. Riolu nodded yes up at me, then redirected his gaze back to the structures around him. “I wish I knew... I’ve been trying to figure that out since I discovered this place…” I said, turning back around and admiring all the trash scattered about. “Who knows how it got here... All I know is that it probably has something to do with that island over there.” I pointed across the alcove to a small island that split the canal into two different waterways. An old, rusty car frame and a shopping cart were barely visible in the water between the path and the island. Riolu looked straight across at the tiny island. “Everytime I come back here, I see different trash and weird structures leading up to that island in the canal. I’ve always wanted to go across the alcove over there, but I don’t want to trespass or wade through the canal. Lately, I’ve seen more and more trash leading to that island though, but I don't know why...”As I finished saying my sentence, I thought about the Garbodor crew. I wondered if they had any involvement in this, but I figured that I should stay uninvolved as to not worsen our relations. Hopefully they weren’t involved, or else I would never figure out why that island and this path were the way they were.

“Why don’t we continue down the trail, Riolu? There’s a fresh creek up here away from the garbage where you can get a drink from. I’m sure you’re thirsty.” Riolu nodded yes, and we headed further down the path.

As we approached the stream, Riolu bounded in front of me to get his drink. He happily sipped up the clear water, using his paws as a cup to pick up as much water as possible. While he did that, I stood idle, looking around the path. For some reason, I felt weird, like someone or something was watching me, but I figured it was my imagination. It was probably just a Pokémon in the trees or in the underbrush looking on, so I went back to focusing on the trail. Time was not very kind to the pathway; wet leaves were matted down on the dirt, hiding most of the trail. Long grass surrounded the sides and rust coated all the garbage in sight. Just in front of us was a small yellow gate with chipping paint that was locked shut. Its purpose was unknown to me, as there was supple space for a person to get around either side.

Just past Riolu and across the creek was a path that led a hill to the middle school’s football field and running track. As I was about to change where I was looking, something blue flew by my eye up on the hill. I instantly looked back to the opening to see nothing. Then, there was a small thud. Riolu’s ears perked up and he gazed up from drinking his water to search for the source of the sound.

“Rio?” It said, then looking up to me.

“I think it came from over here,” I said, pointing up towards the school. “Come on.” I beckoned, hopping over the creek. There was a rock blocking the end of the trail at the top, so Riolu and I crouched behind it to get a better view of the surroundings without being seen.

On the other side of the rock a couple yards away, a battle was raging on the dirt running track around the school’s football field. To my surprise, on my right side stood my friend Nate in his usual outfit, with his Totodile in front of him. Totodile had plenty of bruises and marks, so I figured it was losing the battle. To the left, stood a girl a little older than me. She looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on who she was. She was wearing a red and black flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Her red hair was tied back into a ponytail and she had freckles all over her face. As she moved, her ponytail bobbed back and forth from the momentum. Once I noticed the scar on her cheek, I finally recognized who it was.

“T-that’s Eliza…” I said quietly to myself. In front of her stood Froakie in the same smug stance as the day before, with its mouth open, preparing an attack of some kind. Just then, a stream of bubbles burst from the Froakie’s mouth, floating right toward Nate’s injured Totodile.

“Totodile, dodge it!” Nate called out to his Pokémon. Totodile obeyed Nate, but stumbled and fell due to its injuries. The bubbles directly hit Totodile, knocking it back off its feet and onto its back. Totodile fainted as soon as the attack hit, so it fell limp to the ground on its side. “Totodile!” Nate cried, running out to see if his Pokémon was alright.

“Amateur.” Eliza scoffed, crossing her arms and turning toward the bushes. I ducked down when this happened, just in case she saw me. Once the Froakie realized that it won, it jumped up into the air, dropping the stance and rejoicing. It scrambled back to its trainer, hoping for praise. “That was pathetic, Froakie.” Eliza said aloud, causing the Froakie to back away suddenly. “If you thought you did good, think again. That Totodile wasn’t trained properly and you only won because you had more experience. Try a little harder next time if you want to impress me.” Froakie took another step backwards, confused to why its trainer was so mean-spirited. I was also insulted that the girl basically called my friend’s training style inferior. Riolu looked bothered, obviously wishing he could get out there and teach Eliza a lesson for being so nasty. Nate was also upset by the statement. He replied back,

“That’s no way to treat your Froakie, Eliza. Not to mention, it wasn’t kind of you call our training improper. We’ve all had Pokémon for the same amount of time, you know.”

“Well, obviously, I’ve trained harder than you. Suck it up kid, practice is the only way to get better. And frankly, you’re gonna need a lot of practice to get as good as me.” For some reason, Eliza was really getting under my skin, even though the words she said weren’t directed at me. Usually I would stay away from her, but I guess seeing her up close got to me. I couldn’t imagine someone being so narcissistic and rude. Nate clenched his fist and bared his teeth. “Next time we meet, it’s going to be different, Eliza. I’ll win for sure!” She laughed at this statement.

“In your dreams, kid. I will always be better than you.” At this moment, Riolu finally had enough of her remarks. He hopped over the rock and dashed towards the bully.

“Riolu, wait!” I called out, vaulting over the rock to follow. I was relieved when Riolu stopped in front of Eliza, instead of pounding her into the ground.

“Rio! Rio-lu! Riolu!” It yelled angrily. She looked displeased when she noticed Riolu yelling at her. I dashed over to Riolu, who was still shouting.

“I’m so sorry to bother you… C-come on Riolu.” I replied, grabbing for Riolu’s paw. Although I was mad, I didn’t want to make an appearance in front of Eliza. But as soon as I touched Riolu, he whipped his arm back at me. He turned around to face me, and I noticed the anger that  developed in his eyes.

“Rio!” He growled at me. I cringed at his sudden outburst before he turned around and began yelling at Eliza again.

“Is this little mug yours?” She yelped at me over Riolu’s shouts.

“Y-yes… I’m sorry about all this, Eliza… Please, we’ll just be on our way.” I was in a very confusing and awkward situation.

What should I do?

I thought, reaching for Riolu again. We were causing quite the scene, and I didn’t want to face Eliza’s wrath. Suddenly, her expression changed.

“Wait… Aren’t you that Nic kid I always picked on when I still rode that stupid bus to school?” I hesitated to respond, but I eventually let out a nervous,

“Y-yes.” she scoffed and got up close.

"Huh, how typical of you. Why don’t you get your filthy delinquent Riolu away from me, huh? Next time, don’t be a pussy and confront me up front instead of hiding in the bushes watching from afar. Creep.” Suddenly, something shot through my body, telling me to fight instead of run. I finally knew how Riolu felt.

“W-what did you say to me?” I stammered at first, the anger starting to billow inside of me. What was I doing? I was standing up to Eliza, the school bully! If I did anything else, my head would be on the line. Although almost everything in my body told me to run away and hide, something deep inside of me told me to stay and stand up. Eliza glared at me in the eyes and edged closer.

“You heard me, stalker. Get your Riolu out of my face and stop monitoring our conversations from a distance. What I do is none of your business… Got it?” I gulped nervously as she stared into me with her deep, dark brown eyes. The feeling of flight began to disappear more as a new confidence grew inside of me. I finally had the courage to stand up to Eliza, and I wasn’t going to back down now.

“Battle me. Right now.” I said quietly, getting closer to her face.

“What was that, stalker? I couldn’t hear you, perhaps say it loud-”

“Battle me. NOW.” I cut her off, stopping her train of thought cold. There was a short pause, but then she backed off.

“Alright, stalker. If a battle’s what you want, a battle’s what you’re gonna get. But be warned, you aren’t going to win this. I’m going to wipe the floor with you and your stupid Riolu.”

“No way, Eliza! Riolu and I will win, no matter what! Come on!” Riolu stamped his foot on the ground to show he meant business to Eliza and followed after me, ready to win the battle.

As I approached Nate, who was still tending to his Totodile, he turned to me.

“Nic, her Froakie is crazy strong. It was so nimble and quick...”

“Yeah, we’ll see about that.” I mumbled, seething with anger. Nate saw my rage, and knew that there was no way to stop us from what we were doing. All he could say was,

“Good luck.” Nate picked up his Totodile and took it off to under some trees where he could tend to its wounds and watch the heated battle.

“Go, Froakie!” Eliza demanded, beckoning Froakie to battle again. Froakie was hesitant and tired, so it didn’t obey the orders right away. “What did I say? Get back in there, Froakie!” Froakie cringed and hopped back into the battle area. Although I felt bad for the already injured Froakie, I didn’t think about it too much. Steam was practically coming out of both Riolu and my ears. We were ready to bring the pain to this battle. This was for everything she did at school; for all those people who couldn’t stand up to the bully. There was no turning back, and I was ready to give it my all.

“Ready, Riolu?” I said, awaiting Riolu’s answer. “He turned his head to me and clenched his paw into a fist, like usual. I nodded back, signaling that it was time to battle. Riolu turned his head back, and got into a readied stance. “Let’s go!” I cried to Eliza who had just finished telling Froakie something. Froakie was back in its pose again, ready to battle now.

“Alright, it’s showtime!” Eliza replied. The air was tense, and filled with excitement. I yelled out to Riolu to start off the battle.

 

 

“Riolu, Quick Attack!” Within an instant Riolu dashed over to the unsuspecting Froakie and landed the Quick Attack with ease, proving that the training paid off. Froakie flew off its feet, almost crashing into its trainer, but stopping inches before. Riolu landed safely, ready for the next attack. “Nice job, Riolu!” I cried, ready to give him the next order. Riolu held his fist up, acknowledging what I’d said.

“Why, you...!” Eliza snapped. “Froakie, get back up and use Bubble!” Froakie hopped right back up and spit bubbles out of its mouth at a high velocity. Before I had a chance to tell Riolu to dodge the attack, the bubbles hit him, causing him to stumble backwards and close his eyes. “Quick Attack, Froakie!” Eliza called out. Just like Riolu did to Froakie seconds before, Froakie slammed into Riolu and he was sent backwards through the air. Riolu bounced off the ground two times, until coming to a stop, face down at my feet.

“Are you alright?” I asked Riolu, who pulled himself off the ground, his passion and rage pushing him forward. He nodded yes and turned around, ready to attack again. At this point I noticed Eliza was laughing.

“Hah...You should of seen the look on Riolu’s face when Froakie hit him head on… There’s a lot more where that came from! Froakie, Water Pulse!” Froakie opened its mouth, and then a pulsating circular blast of water came barreling towards Riolu. Again, the attack was so quick, neither Riolu nor I had the chance to react. The water blast hit Riolu straight on, sending him backwards. Riolu caught himself, but stumbled and fell onto the ground.

“No, Riolu!” I cried. Riolu stood up, drenched from head to toe. But now, something was definitely wrong. Instead of getting into his normal battle pose, Riolu began wobbling around, losing his balance and catching it again. Fear ran through me, because I knew the problem; Riolu had been confused by the Water Pulse. Seeing this only made Eliza laugh harder. “Oh, this is gonna be fun! Froakie, finish this one off with Pound!” Froakie nodded and started the run up to Riolu, who was still wallowing around. I froze in place, unsure what to do. I needed to act now, or else the battle was as good as finished.

“Riolu!” I called, hoping he would hear me. Although Riolu didn’t acknowledge my voice like he usually did, I kept talking in case he was. “You need to use Counter! It’s the only way you’re going to win. Please, Riolu, you gotta break through!” I pleaded.

“Hah! Riolu’s confused, there’s no way he’s going to understand you! Get ‘em, Froakie!” Eliza coaxed. Froakie got closer and closer, until he was near feet away. There was no stopping it. I closed my eyes; I couldn’t bear to watch. There was a slam, and then another, right after. I winced when I heard both noises. It was over, just like that. My first battle was a confirmed loss, and there was nothing I could do about it. The tears started to well in my eyes, sadness and dread enveloping me, when I heard Eliza complaining from the other side of the battlefield. “What? That’s unfair! Riolu was confused! There was no way that attack hit! And how has he not fainted yet?!” I opened my eyes to see Riolu standing still and no longer tottering.

“Riolu? Are you...?” I called out to him. He turned his head to me and clenched his paw into a fist, just like before. He was covered in bruises and still soaking wet, but he held on for me, snapped out of confusion, and countered Froakie’s attack to beat the bully once and for all. Joy and determination to win refilled back into my body, and I was rejuvenated. Riolu faced forward, ready for another command. “Yeah, alright!” I rejoiced, ready for victory. “Riolu! Finish up with Force Palm!” Riolu turned back around and looked slightly concerned, as we hadn’t fully practiced the move yet, but I clenched my fist at him to show I trusted him. Riolu let out a smile and dashed off to the Froakie, who was lying on the ground close to fainting, just like Nate’s Totodile. “Hit him hard, Riolu!” I called out, ready to see the conclusion to this exciting battle.

“Froakie! Get up, NOW!” Eliza called, stomping her foot. But it was too late. Riolu began charging his Force Palm as he ran. Froakie tried to get up, but it stumbled and fell back down. Once Riolu was in range of Froakie, it jumped over him and let loose a powerful Force Palm right on its back. The move was so powerful, Froakie bounced off the ground and into the air. The recoil from the move also sent Riolu into the air, but he controlled himself and landed safely on both feet.

Once the dust around Froakie settled, it was clear who the winner was. Riolu stood triumphant, while Froakie sat on the ground fainted and covered in bruises. I’d done it. Eliza was defeated and I finally stood up to her. I wiped away a tear of joy as something welled up in my throat.

“Ri-Riolu!” I called out, overjoyed. “You did it, Riolu! We won!” I bounded over to Riolu who turned to me, happy as he could be. I picked him up and swung him around, just like the day before in Harts Woods.

“Rio!” He called, proud of its work, and pleased with a victory. I set him down, and glanced over at what was happening between Eliza and Froakie. She had her arms crossed, ignoring her Pokémon.

“You’re useless! USELESS!” She called out to Froakie who was still on the ground unable to move. “You embarrassed me… In front of everyone!” She yelled, stomping her foot harder and turning the other way.

Everyone…? But it’s only us here…

I wondered quickly, briefly looking into to Eliza’s wording. I then turned my attention back to Froakie who was still on the ground injured from the battle. At this point, I think both Riolu and I felt bad for the Froakie. I wished there was something I could do for the guy.

“Hey, Nic!” Nate called out to me. I turned to the right to see Nate sitting on the rock nearby where Riolu and I were hiding at first. “Catch!” He called out, tossing something blue and round high into the air. The blue object landed in my hands, I realized it was an Oran Berry. Nate knew how I felt, and tossed me the berry so I could help the Froakie. I nodded back at him as a way of saying thanks and telling him that I’d hand over the berry.

“Riolu, give this to Froakie. He needs it after that battle.” Riolu nodded and smiled at me. I patted him on the back before he bounded over to the Froakie with his gift. Once Froakie sat up, it realized Riolu was coming towards him, and looked worried that he was going to attack again. Froakie winced and backed down once Riolu was within a couple feet. But Riolu meant no harm and began calmly talking to Froakie. He then held out the berry for him to take. Once Froakie noticed Riolu meant no harm, it untensened and took the berry, gleefully wolfing it down. Riolu said something and pointed back at me. Froakie finished eating and poked its head out from behind Riolu to look at me. I smiled and waved back. I swear that Froakie’s eyes glittered for a second, but I couldn’t tell because Eliza returned him to its Poké Ball. She finally noticed Riolu was talking to Froakie up close and said,

“Hey, get away from me and my Froakie, Riolu!” She tried to kick Riolu, but he saw it coming and dodged to the side, causing her to overextend and slip. She fell down onto the ground hard with a disgruntled yelp. Riolu bounded over to me and all I did was laugh. She deserved everything that came to her, and I couldn’t have felt better. She stood up and brushed herself off, her cheeks red hot with embarrassment. “Grrr… You were lucky, stalker! Froakie wasn’t at his full potential after he beat that weakling Totodile. But next time, I’m bringing on the pain! Just you wait!” Eliza yelled before turning the other way fleeing to scene as quickly as possible.

“Yeah, you better run away, Eliza! Don’t let me catch you bullying anyone else at school or else you’ll end up exactly like you are now!” I called as she dashed away. She turned her head and screamed out, “You’re dead stalker, DEAD! I’ll pummel you every second of every day, just you wait!!” Deciding to save my voice and knowing Riolu stood with me, I scoffed and turned away as she darted over the hill with the sycamore tree and out of sight.

Riolu and I stood tall, proud of our victory. Nate and Totodile came over to congratulate us.

“That was an amazing battle, Nic!” Nate hollered. As they arrived, I noticed that Totodile was already starting to look better after its battle.

“Thanks... Hey, I’m glad to see Totodile is alright, Nate.” I told him, pointing down at Totodile.

"These Oran Berries really help…” He then reached into his pocket and grabbed another Oran berry. “Why don’t you give this berry to Riolu, he looks a little banged up.” He dropped the berry in my hands, to which I nodded in thanks and gave to Riolu. Riolu smiled gleefully at Nate and chowed down on the berry before running off to play with Totodile.

“Where are you getting all these berries, Nate?” I asked, watching the Pokémon run around in the field. “A tree around my house suddenly started producing them. Just another one of those weird changes, I guess.”

“Well, thanks again. I appreciate you giving them out to us.”

“Hey, don’t sweat it. And besides, I should be thanking you for defeating Eliza! What got into you?! Now she’s going to go after you everyday she can!”

“I’m not worried about her… I’ve got Riolu to back me up now, right buddy?” I called out, but Riolu wasn’t paying attention and continued to run around. Although he didn’t respond, I knew he had me covered. Then, the questions took over my head again. “Hey, how did you get battling with Eliza anyways?”

“Well,” Nate started, rubbing the back of his neck. “I was actually coming over to your house to try and battle you. You told me yesterday to come over whenever, and I figured that this day off would be the perfect time. I texted you, but you didn’t respond, so I walked over to your house. When I got to your there, your mom answered the door. She told me that you’d run off somewhere, but assumed that you would be close by. I knew you talked about that path behind the middle school before, so I figured you’d be around here somewhere. I made my way down here when I saw Eliza talking to another Pokémon by some bushes.”

“Wait… She had another Pokémon?” I was confused by this statement. I would have surely figured that Eliza would use all of her Pokémon as an unfair advantage against Riolu to win. Was there a reason that she hesitated to use this other Pokémon?

“Well, not exactly,” Nate replied. “As I approached her, the other Pokémon darted into the bushes and out of sight. I couldn’t exactly tell who the Pokémon was, but I think it was purple.... That’s really all I know, sorry.”

“Hmm… Interesting.” I said, beginning to think about Pokémon that matched the profile. Nate then stopped my train of thought.

“So… How much of our battle did you see, Nic?”

“Like you expected, Riolu and I were walking on that strange path behind the school, when I saw something fly by from the fields up here. Next thing we knew, we were spectating your battle from the sidelines.”

“She was really good, that Eliza. I’m still surprised that you won against her. How’d you do it?” I looked down to Riolu who was running around with Nate’s Totodile.

“Riolu and I trained up a little bit this morning. I found out Riolu is really good at battling, and learning from his mistakes. Earlier this morning, Riolu couldn’t even control his Force Palm. You saw how well he did in battle.” Nate looked over to Riolu and Totodile.

“Yeah, you’re right. That final move Riolu did was crazy impressive. Maybe you have quite the little fighter with you.” Nate finished, bending down to pick up Totodile, who’d run back over to greet him. Nate scratched Totodile on the forehead; Totodile closed his eyes and opened his mouth in comfort and bliss. Nate continued, “When Eliza challenged me, there was just something so charismatic about her. Usually, I would have just walked away, but this time I was lured in not only by her remarks, but also by something else. It was weird, I don’t know how to describe it.”

“Tell me about it. I’ve never wanted to win something so much in my life. And I wouldn’t have been able to win without my trusty partner.” Riolu paraded over to me still as happy as ever after the victory.

“Well,” Nate added on, setting his Totodile back down. “At least Riolu is over his shyness now, too. You must be quite the trainer to have your Pokémon get over a bad habit that quickly. We only talked about it yesterday.” I then realized that I had all but forgotten all about Riolu’s shyness from the day before. After the run in with the Garbodor crew, everything changed. “You’ve got to tell me how you did it. And hey, why don’t we celebrate your victory? Let’s head to the village, okay? We can get an early lunch or something.”

Lunch? Wasn’t it just breakfast?

I wondered. Time always flies by when you’re busy. Just then, we heard a noise from the school. Someone was calling out to us.

“Hey. Hey! You two, over there!” We all turned toward the school to see our old gym teacher speaking to us from afar. I was going to say hello when he replied, “Do you think you can take your battling elsewhere? You’re distracting the whole school!” He pointed to the windows to show a plethora of young children looking on from all the classrooms, watching our every move. Guess Nate’s battle and my battle with Eliza had a little more attention than we previously imagined. I guess this was the ‘everyone’ she’d mentioned.

“Right, sorry sir! We’ll be on our way now!” Nate replied back, speaking up for us. “Come on,” Nate said pulling me back towards the path. “Let’s go before we get into any more trouble.” I nodded and chuckled as we beckoned for the Pokémon to follow us.


 

Chapter Text


 

Nate and I arrived in town a couple minutes later. The middle school wasn’t very far from town, a mere quarter mile at best. In my opinion, Fairport is a typical small, Western New York town. The main street is lined with small shops and family owned restaurants, adorned with old brick buildings and a rustic liftbridge in the middle. However, Fairport is certainly a busy one for its small size. Across the lifebridge is a two-track railroad, where multiple trains pass through every hour. The traffic is always heavy during rush hour too, as Fairport’s main street connects two large towns on both ends. Not to mention, there are plenty of suburban neighborhoods and apartment buildings strewn about the town where people of all ages live.

After fighting through the crowds of Main Street, Nate and I had our lunch at a nearby restaurant. I told him the stories about my run in with the Garbodor Crew in Hart’s Woods and the moment under the sycamore tree over lunch. He thoroughly enjoyed my accounts of the events and told me I should start writing account of how creative I was. I was flattered, but I didn’t have the time for that stuff. I then decided I was going to wait until after lunch to tell him about the dream I had, just to not lay everything down all at once.

After we finished eating, it was about 12:30. The sun just dipped below its apex in the sky and was starting its slow descent back to the horizon. Nate and I sat with Riolu and Totodile at a picnic table just off the sidewalk, admiring the passersby and cars on the busy street. A shaded tree allowed us to stay cool in the strange heat wave. As we relaxed in silence, I figured now would be the time to speak up.

“Nate,” I said, breaking the silence between the two of us, “Want to hear about my dream last night?”

“Dream?” Nate said, turning his attention to me. “What dream?” Riolu’s ears perked up and he turned towards me to hear my account of the story again. “Well…” I started.

 

Just like Riolu was this morning, Nate was at the edge of his seat during the entire story.

“Woah… Do you think that dream was real?” I leaned back, trying to think of an answer. The question sat in my head for a while, but I just couldn’t decide what to say back. Was the dream real, or was it not? It could have been a legitimate cry for help, or it could have just been a figment of my imagination. Sure, I wanted to believe that it was true, but the whole, ‘I was the hero,’ thing seemed pretty improbable to me.  I opened my mouth to tell him I didn’t know the answer, but he spoke before I could. “Wait… That place… Kinzua Valley? I think I know where that is!” I turned to him.

“Really? Where is it?” Nate whipped out his PokéNav and started tapping on the screen.

“Kinzua Valley…” He mumbled as he typed. “Here it is! Kinzua State Park Bridge.” He turned his PokéNav to me, showing me a picture of a long bridge extending out into a remote, wooded valley. He pointed to the picture with his index finger. “I was here this summer when I went on a trip with my grandfather. This bridge was a train bridge a long time ago, but it collapsed in 2001 when a tornado blew it down. Then, the remainder of the bridge that stood was preserved as a State Park.” Riolu and Totodile were crammed in behind us, trying to get a glimpse of the screen.

Nate looked very proud that he knew where this location was. But he hadn’t actually told me where it was yet. “Umm… Where’s it located?”

“Pennsylvania.” He replied, smiling.

“Pennsylvania? That’s really far away… It takes like six hours to get there from here.” I sighed.

“Oh, it’s not that far.” Nate gloated, putting his PokéNav back in his pocket. “It only took us five hours to get there on the expressway.” He said with a smirk. I looked at him unhappily.

“How am I going to get to Pennsylvania without a car? I don’t have my license, and my parents are sure not going to take me there.” I shot back.

“Wait, you’re actually are thinking about going? You really think that dream was real, huh?” I hesitated again, the same questions popping back up in my head. I just didn’t know what to say. How could I be a hero? But what if Uxie really needed my help… “I...I-” 

“Look, I don’t need an answer right this moment. If your dream were true, this would be a huge responsibility for you. I don’t think I can understand how you’re feeling, but it's not the end of the world. If Uxie really needs help, he’ll probably call on you again, right? Not to mention, you were to only one that had the dream. I’m sure if Uxie really wanted to get in touch with you, he’d give someone else you knew the same dream, right?” There was a pause, as I took some time to gather my thoughts.

“...You’re right, Nate. There’s no reason to be so flustered over this. I think I’m just overreacting to this whole situation. If I didn’t have such an active imagination, I’d probably have nothing to worry about.” I paused again, looking over to Nate who was watching the pedestrians rush by. “Thank you.” I told him with sincerity. Nate always had a way of making me feel better when I was down. He turned to me and smiled, closing his eyes and rubbing the back of his neck.

“Hey, no problem, buddy. That’s what I’m here for. Now come on, let’s go find something else to do. I don’t need to be home until six o’clock for dinner, and I certainly don’t plan on being there any earlier. Let’s go!”

Nate stood up and started heading down the street, Totodile following close behind. As I stood up to join them, Riolu grabbed my arm. I turned to see Riolu looking at me with that same troubled and nervous look from this morning. Something was obviously bothering him.

“Hey, what’s wrong Riolu?”

“Rio, rio.” He said, pointing to me with its paw. There was a short pause, as neither of us said anything, realizing we couldn’t understand each other. “Rio…” Riolu said, looking down, a bit disappointed. I felt bad that I too couldn’t understand what he was saying, but I figured he’d feel better if we took some more time to explore.

“Hey, cheer up buddy.” I coaxed. “Come on, we’ve got more adventuring to do. I’m sure you’ll feel better after some more time out in the sun. Whatcha’ say?” Riolu picked his head up and nodded, but he still looked a bit worried. Seeing his face only sparked my interest about what he wanted to say, but my train of thought was interrupted as Nate called out from down the sidewalk.

“Come on Nic, Riolu! I know just where to go next!” He was waving to get our attention. I smiled at Riolu and turned around to start walking to Nate. Riolu ran ahead of me through, weaving through people on the crowded sidewalk to catch up quickly. I picked up my pace to make sure nobody needed to wait.

 

Nate took us down the canal path for the second part of our adventure. The canal path stretches from the next town over all the way down the Erie Canal. It was very basic, just some gravel in a straight line, adorned by trees and canal-side homes. There wasn’t much to explore, as I’d walked down it many times before. Riolu and Totodile darted around the path playing with each other while we walked. Nate was a little ahead of me, watching our partners playing. We'd exhausted our conversation choices during lunch, and didn’t have much else to say to each other. So, we walked single file down the canal path in silence, admiring the changing leaves and small ripples on the green canal water. During this period of silence, I couldn’t brush Riolu’s face from my thoughts.

What did Riolu want to say to me back at the picnic table? He looked so worried…

I thought. I began to think about Uxie’s message from the night before, and the information Nate told me after lunch. Different scenarios played out in my head, adding on even more stress and even more questions. I was so occupied in my thoughts that I almost fell off the canal path into a nearby ditch. Luckily no one saw me stumble, so I ran to catch up with Nate and our Pokémon, my face red.

I tried to not think about Riolu or the dream until I got home. I didn’t want to be disrespectful, and I needed to pay attention so I wouldn’t fall off the path and get hurt (or worse, take a putrid canal swim). Nate and I made small talk on the way home, keeping a close eye on our partners to make sure they wouldn’t fall off the path or in the water either. It was really hard to not think about my dream or what Riolu had to say though; every time I tried to think about something else, the thoughts would somehow come rushing back into my head. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.

A couple hours later, after our adventure, Nate and I decided to part ways, as we were both tired and it was getting late. Nate decided to walk home with us, as my house was along the way to his. As soon as the condominium complex came into view, Nate tapped me on the shoulder and said,

“See ya, Nic! Let’s try to do this another time soon.”

“I agree, Nate. I need to pay you back for buying me lunch.”

“Oh, no you don’t. Lunch was my treat, no need to get all worked up.” I chuckled.

“I won’t. See you at school tomorrow, Nate. That is, if we have it tomorrow.” Nate smiled.

“Oh, and see you soon too, Totodile.” I added. Totodile, who was saying its goodbyes to Riolu, turned to me quickly, as if he hadn’t expected me to say goodbye. He nodded and turned back to Riolu. Before he turned around, Nate waved goodbye to Riolu, who waved back. “Catch you later, Nic.” Nate said, heading off down the sidewalk.

“Come on Riolu, let’s get home.”

“Rio!” It said, bounding after me happily.


 

I laid in bed that night, staring at the blank ceiling. My fan whirred in the background, cancelling out all other noises. In the background, I could faintly hear Riolu snoring. I tossed and turned, continuing to think about the dream and what Riolu wanted to say. Anxiety kept me awake, as time rushed by. And before I knew it, the time was 12:38 AM. I sighed, turning over again to try to rest. As soon as I closed my eyes, I felt a small, cold draft of wind. When I opened my eyes again, I was no longer in my room. Wherever I was, it seemed to be in the middle of a dark, flat area, with snow up to my ankles. Snow was pouring down in buckets from above and I couldn’t see a thing. I was frigid cold, shivering in my pajamas and bare feet. Then, I leaned forward and caught myself, realizing I had control of myself in this place. I decided to take a look around and began to slowly head forward, tramping through the deep snow.

“Hello?” I called out, my voice getting lost in the whipping wind. Suddenly, through the blizzard, I thought I could make out something. As I walked closer, a strange figure came into view. It was large and stood out against the snowy background, as it was a deep black. It had no recognizable shape, but its sharp, blunt structure made it seem intimidating. Strangely, it almost looked like an oversized fire poker, with large, sharp claws. As I got closer and closer, a strange feeling came over me. This feeling seemed to pulsate more and more the closer I got. It was something I could not describe, but it felt similar to grief and sadness. A picture of me as a kid shivering in my bed, scared of the dark, flashed in my head.

I came to a stop a couple feet in front of the large figure. There was a period of taciturnity, as neither of us moved. During this time, the wind and snow continued to lash out at my unprotected body, but it didn’t seem to faze me as much, since I was so preoccupied by my surroundings.

“H-hello…?” I called out again, this time directed to the dark figure. The response was the cold wind whispering in my ear. I began to backstep, getting ready to walk away to look for the reason I was in this snowy place, when I heard a voice. The voice was deep and somewhat electronic. It billowed through the air from the dark figure in front of me, silencing the wind.

Pathetic.” I stopped in my tracks, facing front again.

“Wh-what?” I clambered, not sure I’d heard correctly. The figure in front of me began to stir, and slowly stood up. It lifted off the ground and hovered in the air right in front of me. Although I could not see its eyes, I felt its gaze piercing through me. Suddenly, it began to slowly float towards me.

You are the human the Pokémon have chosen to save the world? There is no way a puny, irrelevant water sack like you could save anything. You are far too weak and unskilled to ever challenge me.” I should have been more worried that the figure knew about my dream in the first place, but I was too frightened to care. I began to backpedal faster, trying to get away. But it just kept following after me. “The Pokémon have chosen their candidate poorly. Soon, all the light in the Pokémon World and the human world will be mine for the taking... And no one can stop me!” The figure let out an electronic laugh that seemed to vibrate the air around me. I tried to turn around and dash away, but I fell backwards onto the cold snow blanket. When I brushed the snow away from my eyes, the figure was just in front of me. Before I had a chance to react, it snatched me up with its large hand. As the creature brought me closer to its face, I could finally see its eyes. They were made of different geometrical shapes and colors, that resembled eyes. I gulped as they bored into my soul.

Remember my name as you tremble in fear, human! I am the Dark One, Lord Necrozma!” The voice perforated through me, filling me with a paralyzing fear. The creature’s hand clamped around me, beginning to cover my vision.

“No!” I cried, holding my hands up to stop the claws. It was no use, as the dark claws passed right by my hands. Just as the claws obscured my vision, I was left in complete darkness with another horrifying laugh.

 

“Gah!” I cried out, laying up in my bed. I was hyperventilating, and my heart was racing. My sheets were covered in a layer of cold sweat. I sighed, realizing that I was safe back in my room. I began to calm down, taking deep breaths.

That… That was definitely the ‘Dark One’ Uxie told me about… And, I think I know what Riolu had to say...

“Rio…” A voice came from the side of my bed. At first, hearing Riolu’s cry scared me, as I was still jumpy from the freak nightmare I just had.

“Oh, Riolu… Why don’t you come up here... I… I need to talk to you.” I thought I saw Riolu nod in the darkness, as he hopped up onto my bed next to me. “Riolu…” I said quietly, my voice almost being lost in the sound of the fan. “I’m sorry that I didn’t understand you yesterday. But, after my nightmare, I think I know what you were trying to say to me…”

“Ri...o?” I looked over to see Riolu’s glowing red eyes staring at me. He looked confused, but relieved to hear what I was going to say. After a second of gazing, I asked,

“Did...Did you see the dream too? Did Uxie tell you that you were going to save the Pokémon World?”

“Rio!” It frantically shook its head yes, happy that I finally got the reason why it was down earlier.

“Wow… So if you saw it too… Maybe Uxie really needs my help.” I looked into Riolu’s eyes again. “Our help.”

“Rrrrrrrio…” Riolu looked down, suddenly weighed down with a big task. I guess that he had his doubts too. I paused, thinking about what I needed to do. I couldn’t decide right away, so I decided to tell Riolu about my newest dream.

“Riolu… Did you have my nightmare too?” Riolu looked relieved again,  and nodded yes. We sat in silence for a little longer, as I took the time to gather my thoughts. That confirmed my suspicion, and now set the burden down on my shoulders too. Uxie’s cry for help had to be legitimate; why would Riolu and I see the same dream and nightmare unless Uxie was trying to… “Connect us. That’s what Nate said.” Riolu looked at me, puzzled. “He said... If Uxie wanted the cry for help to be taken seriously, he would send it to multiple people and try to... bring them together.” Riolu looked up to me, finally realizing the truth. Uxie needed us, and we were sitting here wasting our time.

“Riolu… I think we need to… Need to...” I tried to muster enough courage to talk about saving the Pokémon World, but I winced and gulped in fear, thinking about the nightmare and the task at hand again. Riolu scooched over and laid against my side. I could tell he felt the same way I did about the whole situation; overburdened.

By now, the morning sun broke in through the curtains, lighting up the window side of the room with a warm, deep orange glow. I could now see Riolu clearly, who was staring off into the crevices of the room, his mind arace with questions. We stayed silent, letting our minds run wild. I sighed and decided to break the silence, finally having enough courage to speak.

“Riolu… These dreams we’ve both had... Prove to me that Uxie needs our help. I think… I think we need to go to Kinzua Valley... It may be really, really far away… But if we need to save the Pokémon World… We can’t just not help...” Just then, a tear dropped from my eye onto my arm. My courage wore away and now I felt the fear seeping back into my body. I wasn’t ready to face my fate and just leave everything behind. I was just a normal high school student in my eyes, but in the eyes of an entire world, I was a savior; and knowing that paralyzed me with fear. Riolu noticed the tear drop and placed his paw on the back of my palm.

“Riolu… I...” I said, happy he was trying to comfort me. More tears began to fall from my eyes. I couldn’t stop, they just kept coming.

“Rio…” Riolu wrapped his paw in with my hand.

“R-Riolu…” I mumbled, trying not to cry out loud. “T-thank you again for being my partner… I-I’ve got plenty of conflicting thoughts bouncing around in my head, and y-you’re here comforting me. You’re t-the best friend anyone could have.” I blubbered. Riolu closed his eyes and rubbed the back of his neck, showing he was flattered. I then let go of Riolu’s paw to wipe my eyes and then clenched my fist. His kindness pierced through my grief and gave light to a mound of confidence. I pushed the thoughts of leaving home aside and faced my fate with dignity. “Riolu... Let’s do it. It’s up to us to save people and Pokémon alike from Necrozma! You hear that, Uxie? We’re coming to the resc-!”

Just then, knocking on the wall to my mom’s room silenced me.

“Quiet, today’s my day off!” My mom’s muffled voice called from the other room. Embarrassed, I blushed and settled down.

“Rio!” Riolu said a lot more quietly, clenching its paw. He obviously got my point, and was as ready as I was. It filled me with joy knowing my partner was with me, and my embarrassment faded away.

“Alright, but before we get too pumped, we need to set some ground rules.” I started in a hushed voice. “We’ve gotta keep this a secret, alright? I don’t want anyone to know about our trip to Pennsylvania, especially not my parents. They’d freak out if they knew I was planning to run away from home. Also, I really don’t want to see them sad… We’ve got to begin packing supplies and food if we want to stay safe and healthy on our trip down there. I think my dad has some camping supplies we could use. Today’s the switch day, so we can get ready after school and can get my mom to drive us over.” A faint buzzing noise came from my mom’s room again and I heard her let out a loud groan. There was a pause before she said,

“No school again… Guess I’m not getting anymore sleep.” She said loud enough for me to hear, dropping her PokéNav on the floor in annoyance.

“Well, I guess we can head over to my dad’s house after breakfast then, huh?” We both chuckled and hopped out of the bed, ready to claim the day.


 

Chapter Text


 

We both ready as fast as possible, and I packed my bag, checking twice to make sure I had everything for the journey ahead. Riolu helped a bit, grabbing some things I’d forgotten. After that, we rushed into the kitchen to get some breakfast. Right after we were finished, I ran into my mother on the way back to my room to grab my bag. She had an unpleasant look on her face, was still in her pajamas and nightgown, and her hair was filled with cowlicks. Blastoise was behind her, and let out a big yawn. Guess I woke him up too.

“What was all that yelling about?” She questioned angrily.

“Oh, uh, I just had a bad dream and I was… Scared?” Although my response wasn’t entirely a lie, I could tell she wasn’t buying it. Riolu was playing along too, nodding yes to what I’d said. I neglected to tell her we were going to my dad’s house early, so she was obviously suspicious. Maybe I’d spoken too loudly this morning about going to Pennsylvania.

“Something about saving someone… And the names ‘Necrozma’ and ‘Uxie’.” She grumbled, walking past us and into the kitchen, Blastoise following. My heart raced; had she heard too much?

“Uh, just the names of the Pokémon in my dream…”

“A nightmare about Pokémon, huh.” There was a pause as she then asked, “Where are you two going? I saw the bag in your room.”

“We’re going to my dad’s house early today. It is Wednesday after all.” I added, trying to stay as calm as possible.

“Oh, are you? I can drive you later after I wake up some more.” She replied in a strict mom voice, pulling the tea bags out of the cupboard.

“No, no, it’s fine. Riolu and I want to walk. I want to show him… around some more.” She turned around, stared me directly in the eyes and sighed.

“Nicolas, you say you’re going to your dad’s house, but I have a strong feeling you’re doing something else.”

“Y-you do?” My heart dropped and I wished I’d just kept my big mouth shut.

“I’m your mother, sweetie. I can tell the signs. But… It’s just a hunch.” I was suddenly relieved, knowing she hadn’t heard all the details. I tried not to show my emotions though, or else I’d end up making the situation more fishy. “Just… Be careful. I know you have Riolu now, but take care and don’t hesitate to call me if you need something.”

“I-I will mom, thanks. I’ll see you Friday.” I walked over and gave her a hug, her scratchy nightgown rubbing against my arms. I felt a lump form in my throat; lying to her that I’d see her on Friday made me want to cry, but I held it down.

I headed back to my room and let out a big sigh. Looking around for the last time at the familiarities, I picked up my overnight duffle bag in one hand and slid my backpack on. Riolu looked a bit sad too, leaving it behind. And with that final recollection, we headed out the door, waving goodbye to my mom and Blastoise.

Riolu and I were finally on our way to my dad’s house to get supplies and closer than ever to our destiny. As I closed the door behind me, it dawned on me that it would be a long time before I saw my mother again. Although our conversation was awkward, I was glad it went the way it did. I got to say goodbye to my mom one last time, and that’s what made me happy. I tried to suppress the rest of the sad thoughts of leaving home, but that proved hard to do as the tears started coming. Taking deep breaths and wiping my eyes with an old tissue I had in my sweatshirt pocket, I tried to hide my emotions as Riolu and I walked away from the condominium complex, heading towards my father’s house.

The walk to my dad’s house was simple and short. It was a nice early Fall day; the heat wave faded away and it was perfect weather for a sweatshirt and jeans. By now, the sun had risen up into the sky, filling everything with bright, natural light. The clouds from the day before blew away, revealing the immense blue sky. The street perpendicular to Fairport’s Main Street, otherwise known as Church Street for obvious reasons, was the key to getting to my father’s house quickly. Riolu and I cut through the side streets and eventually ended up on Church Street’s busy, shaded sidewalks. From there, we walked across a small bridge crossing the Erie Canal over to the neighborhood where my dad’s house was. All the while, my emotions would flare up and go away at intervals. I hoped nobody would see them as Riolu and I continued our walk.

Instead of going down and crossing through the busy streets, I decided to head back onto the canal path, just like Nate and I had done the day before. The path was bustling with joggers, bikers, and common passerby who all smiled and waved at Riolu and I as we passed by. Riolu stood close to me, finally admiring the scenery of the canal path, as he was too busy before playing with Totodile the day before to notice. It took some time, but I think I was finally over leaving home enough to get a hold of myself and stop the tears as we turned off the gravel path and into my dad’s neighborhood.

The shallow, one car streets of the neighborhood were somewhat quiet and besides a couple cars coming and going. Walking around a couple twists and turns, my dad’s house came into view.

“Hey, Riolu.” He looked up to me. “That’s my dad’s house down there. Come on, I’ll introduce you two once we’re there, okay?” Riolu nodded and we continued to head to my father’s house. We arrived shortly on the front steps to my dad’s small, ranch style house. I opened the storm door and knocked on the hard wooden door underneath. It reacted to my knocking, slowly opening. I gestured for Riolu to follow me in as I pushed the door open with my duffle bag and stepped inside; Riolu shyly hid behind me as I did so.

“Hey, dad!” I called out, hoping for an answer.

“Hey, Nickster! I’ll be up in a sec!” A voice from the basement called out.

“Come on,” I said again, coaxing Riolu to follow me. He looked nervous, but I hoped showing him around would help a little. We visited all the rooms in the right side of the house, including the bathroom, computer room, my dad’s room, and ending with my room.

I set my duffle bag down on the floor to the left of my bed, placing my backpack on top of it. The bedrooms in each of my parent’s houses are very different. Surprisingly enough, my room at my dad’s is somewhat smaller than the one at my mom’s house. This always surprised me, as I’d always figured that rooms in a condo would be smaller than the ones in a ranch house. My bed faced towards us from the back wall, while my nightstand stood nearby. To my right was the old lamp my family had in our old living room at the old house. Next to that was my dresser and to the right was a standing fan. My posters of various video games adorned the walls, untouched, and just where they’d always been.

I sat down on the bed, and moved over, allowing some space for Riolu to hop up and sit near me. Once he jumped up and got comfortable, I scratched him behind his ears, to which he laid back and let me pet him. As I pet him, I turned to stare at myself in the mirror on my dresser.

My black hair and bulky rimmed glasses were the same as they always were. Although I looked unchanged, I knew something inside me had been altered. I stopped petting Riolu, who sat up and noticed I was staring into the mirror. He copied me, looking at his reflection. In this moment, the last of my sadness melted away and I couldn’t help but begin to think about the little things again.

Why did Uxie choose me to save the world? Why did Pokémon come to this world?

More and more thoughts came into my head. Finally, I thought,

Is it really a good decision to head out to Kinzua Valley?

I then pondered how the journey would affect Riolu and I. Just then, my dad walked into the room. He was as pleasant as always, wearing a gray short sleeve shirt with a big green shamrock in the middle. He hadn’t shaved in awhile, and his grisly gray beard matched his gray hair. “Hey, Nic.” I waved to him, as Riolu stood up and hid behind me.

“Don’t worry Riolu, he doesn’t bite.” I told Riolu, pointing to my dad. My father never really had been much of an animal person so he just waved to Riolu and replied with a hasty,

“Hey.” Riolu nervously waved back, continuing to hide behind me. It was a little awkward, as no one said a word for a while. I decided to break the silence with a bit of small talk. We conversed for awhile about what we did over the weekend, or what we’d done since we’d seen each other last. I started, and told him that I’d worked the entire weekend, as well as spending the last couple days with Riolu. Dad then told me that he stayed home all weekend and relaxed, and had been doing nothing since Friday (a typical weekend for him). Once he’d finished talking, I noticed he neglected to mention anything about Sunday, or anything about a Pokémon of his own. There was an awkward pause as we stretching for things to talk about, so I figured now would be a good time to ask.

“That reminds me, dad.”

“Hmmm?”

“What Pokémon did you get? I know that everybody got one… So where’s yours?” A sense of grief and worry spread onto his face after I said this, and he looked away nervously. “Huh? What’s wrong?” I asked him, naively.

“W-well…” He said, scratching his head. “I had a Pokémon…” There was a pause.

“What do you mean, ‘had’?” I asked, confused. Riolu looked just as befuddled. He looked back to me and I saw the grief on his face intensify.

“I guess I’ll start from the beginning…” My dad started with a sigh. “Late Sunday night, I awoke to a flash. I thought I heard something next to me, and when I turned a giant, amorphous creature stood before me at my bedside. Before the creature had a chance to do anything, I was shoving it outside with a broomstick.” He looked ashamed saying this.

“You got rid of your Pokémon? But… why?” I questioned.

“Look, I didn't have any idea what the creature was. I thought it was a dream, and once I knew what it was late Monday night after watching the news, I figured it wasn’t worth my time to go looking for it. I just thought the big guy moved on.”

“What made you think that?”

“Well…” My dad looked down again, letting out a small laugh. “I couldn’t smell him anymore.”

“W-wait. Smell… him?”

“That’s right; although I didn’t get a good look at the creature in my room, all night and day I could smell it. And let me tell you, it was putrid. After work on Monday, I opened my window and there was no more smell coming from anywhere. So that’s what made me think the guy went away.” Riolu and I stared at each other surprised by my dad’s answer. We both knew right away what Pokémon my dad had been entrusted; in fact we’d already met him in Hart’s Woods. “You know, this leads me into something I was going to ask you, Nic.” My dad added on.

“And that is?” I asked, still unsure how to feel about it all.

“I want you to go out and find that Pokémon. I want… to apologize to it. I mean, I was tired, and he smelled awful... But I still want to apologize for being so quick to throw him out of the house. Do you think you can do that for me?” Riolu and I looked at each other. Was it really a smart idea going after Garbodor for my dad? We already had a bad reputation with it… Would he and his crew even listen to us, or would they attack us again?

Well, I’m sure I could at least try to get Garbodor to come back to my dad’s house… Even if he does attack us, Riolu is a lot stronger now, and we already know we can outrun him and Trubbish… It would be nice to patch up our problems before we go to Kinzua Valley.

I thought. I turned to Riolu.

“Riolu?” I asked. He turned to me, and looking up into my eyes. We both looked a bit nervous, but eventually nodded yes at the same time, showing that we had the same idea. “...We’ll do it, why not. We didn’t have any other plans today anyways.” I lied about not having plans, but I was kind of relieved to not immediately get into running away from home. Uxie was going to have to wait a little longer before we got going.

“Sweet, thank you. You have no idea how good it will feel to get this off my chest.” My dad said, smiling.

“Let’s go, Riolu.” I replied, hopping off my bed, with Riolu close behind me. As we headed out the front door, getting ready to head to Harts Woods again, my dad stopped us.

“Hey, wait. The Pokémon dropped this when he left on Sunday. Why don’t you hold onto it in case you need it?” My dad grabbed something from the closet next to the door and quickly handed me a sleek Poké Ball, just like Riolu’s. I took the ball, shrunk it down, and fit it into a different pocket of my pants, so that I wouldn’t get it mixed up with Riolu’s Poké Ball. My dad looked surprised to see the Poké Ball shrink, but said nothing about it.

“Another thing,” my dad added. “I don’t really want to keep that Pokémon… You know how much I hate bad smells and uncleanliness. Why don’t you hold onto him for me? Or... you could release it out into the wild…” These words made me angry. My dad was entrusted a partner, and he wanted to give him up because of the smell. Of course, I’d never really considered a Garbodor to be my partner out of all Pokémon, but that was besides the point. I could tell that Riolu was angry too, as I saw he was clenching his paw out of the corner of my eye. Before I had a chance to say my opinion to my dad, his cell phone started ringing from the other room.

“Shoot!” Dad said, whipping around. “I forgot about work. It’s hard working from home sometimes. My boss is going to be pissed! I gotta go, but make sure you check the woods backing up to the canal path. I just want you guys to make sure he’s not there!“ He shut the door behind us in a hurry, leaving Riolu and I outside in a bad mood with a task to accomplish.

The woods outside the canal path had no specific name, it was just a bunch of trees packed together in a small area. Every once and awhile, I’d take a walk through there as a shortcut to the canal path from my dad’s house. I didn’t think we’d find the missing Garbodor there either, but it didn’t hurt to try.

I decided that Riolu and I should head off in the direction down the canal path first to check and see if Garbodor wandered that way. Riolu agreed with me, and stepped in front of me to lead, in case we ran into trouble. All through the long strip of woods, Riolu and I admired the forest landscape and changing leaves; it was a lot like the scenery in Hart’s Woods, but less tame. While searching the woods, we didn’t find any clues that Garbodor or his Trubbish crew had been in the area, but we found plenty of Deerling dens and some bird Pokémon nests.

Eventually, Riolu and I came to the end of the woods. On the other side was part of the canal path that led up to one of Fairport’s busy roads. We walked under the bridge to the other side to find that the forest was replaced by farmland for a nearby horse ranch. Riolu and I decided to head back and check the other, smaller part of the woods we hadn’t been to yet. By the time we got there though, we both were pretty certain that Garbodor was not there. There were no obvious clues and we were running out of trees fast. In fact, I could see just ahead past a hill where the forest opened back up to the neighborhood. I was about to tell Riolu to turn around and start heading up to Hart’s Woods when I smelled a familiar putrid odor.

“Ew… Smell that, Riolu?” Riolu nodded his head covering his nose with his paw. “I guess my dad was right… Maybe Garbodor is here. Come on, the smell is the strongest down this hill.” Riolu and I peeked over the hill to see Garbodor patrolling around a ragged old tent. Garbodor didn’t notice us and continued to circle around the small, dilapidated tent. “Alright, Riolu. Let’s head down there and see if he’s willing to come with us.” Riolu nodded and took the lead again, slowly treading down the hill. I focused on Garbodor all the way down, being cautious in case it saw us and attacked. But something was different about Garbodor now. It didn’t smell as bad than it did the other day in Hart’s Woods. Maybe it had taken to eating something different? Not to mention, Garbodor seemed slightly smaller and didn’t seem to have a scar on its face anymore either. Also, where was his Trubbish crew?

Could this be a different Garbodor?

I wondered. My thought process was cut when Riolu called out to get Garbodor’s attention. It turned around and stared directly at us with its beady black pupils and an agape mouth. I stepped forward to greet Garbodor.

“Umm… Hey... buddy. Hope you’ve got no hard feelings about Monday still… Ha ha…” Garbodor tilted its head sideways, confused by what I’d said. Maybe this truly was a different Garbodor. “Look,” I added back in, “My dad wants to apologize about what he did on Sunday. He wasn’t feeling right then. Why don’t you come back with us to his house?” I un-shrunk the Poké Ball and held it out to show him proof. Garbodor’s eyes lit up when he saw the Poké Ball.

“Gar?” It asked heading towards us.

“Get going…” I nudged Riolu, so he could start heading off towards my dad’s house. I wanted to get this done as soon as possible, as I was uncomfortable around Garbodor after the run in from Monday.

Everything was going well. Garbodor was following us with no problems, and the road was in sight when a voice suddenly called out,

“Now hold on jus’ a minute!” All three of us stopped in our tracks and turned around to see the door flap of the tent begin to step open. Garbodor began walking back towards the tent once the flap was open. I was going to call out for Garbodor to wait, but right then the figure emerged from inside the tent. Standing in front of Riolu and I was a scraggly old man in tattered clothing. He wore a dirty blue beanie, and had a full gray, scruffy beard that reached down to his neck. The man wore an old ripped white t-shirt surrounded by an old leather jacket and had on some tattered denim jeans. His shoes were brown and falling apart, so part of his toes stuck out. His hands and face were covered in wrinkles and marks, showing he’d been around a while.

“Now don’t ya take my pardner ‘way, ya whippersnapper!” The man called out in a old, slightly high pitched raspy voice. At first, I almost didn’t understand what the man said as he was speaking too quietly. “Stay ‘way from my camp ya troublemaker! All ya kids do is torture me and my pardner here… Get!” The older man looked particularly angry, as if someone tried to take away his Pokémon before. I butted in,

“Wait, sir. You’ve got the wrong idea. We didn’t come here to steal anything, and we’re not here to break your stuff or hurt you either. The reason we came here is because we were looking for a certain Pokémon.” Riolu nodded at the end of my answer. The man didn’t look like he believed me.

“I don’t care what ya young-ins do, jus’ stay ‘way from me and my property, get it? Also, what’s this Poké-mans yer talkin’ ‘bout?” Slightly confused but not surprised, I pointed to Garbodor who was standing right next to him.

“His name’s Garbodor, and he’s a Pokémon,” I then pointed down to Riolu, “And this is Riolu, he’s also a Pokémon, just a different species.” The man paused for a second and looked at Riolu and Garbodor carefully.

“Well, I guess yer right, kiddo. I certin’ly never seen a breed o’ dog like yours, and I ain’t never seen anything like this guy here. I thought he was somethin’ my mind made up… But now I’m confused, cause I know ya can see ‘im too.” The old man patted Garbodor on his shoulder, to which Garbodor wrapped its long metal tendril around him. “Ya know, ya seem different from those damn kids ‘round here. Never had anyone talk ta me before. Name’s Bart, and this here’s Dusty.”

“Garbo.” Dusty said, waving with his other arm. Riolu and I nervously waved back, still apprehensive about the Garbodor.

“Umm… My name’s Nic. Riolu and I are here because we’re running an errand for my dad.”

“Ah, for ya pop? What’s the guy lookin’ for?” Bart asked, walking in closer so we weren’t shouting at each other from across the clearing. Dusty followed close behind him.

“Well… A couple nights ago, when Pokémon came to our world, my dad was entrusted with a Pokémon. This Pokémon happened to be a Garbodor, but out of fear and sleepiness, my dad kicked him out of the house. Now, my dad wants to apologize face to face, but he’s too nervous and busy to go out and look by himself. He’s working from home right now, and he was waiting for us to bring his partner home to apologize. We think that Dusty is the one he was looking for.” Dusty nodded its head.

“Garb, Gar.” It said, affirming what I’d said.

“...Well that sounds all fine and dandy, and I know ya don’t seem like those kids… But how can I trust ya? How’d I know ya aren’t jus’ here to steal away my pardner fer yerself?”

“Uh… Well, I’ve got Dusty’s Poké Ball right here… Watch, if I tell Dusty to return…” Dusty returned into his Poké Ball with a red flash. Bart looked amazed, as if he’d never seen such a marvel before. Then he asked the same question all adults seemed to ask,

“Is Dusty gonna be alright?”

“Yeah, yeah.” I said, holding the Poké Ball out with a grasped hand. Dusty materialized out of the ball and back out in front of me. Bart gasped in response.

“Dusty!” He called running over to the big guy. “Yer okay?” Dusty nodded, happy to see his friend cared if he was healthy. Bart turned to me. “Y’know, this still don’t prove Dusty was originally yers, or yer dad’s. But if ya must take Dusty back to yer dad’s, then hear me out. Kid, I want to borrow Riolu fer a while. When yer done with Dusty, bring ‘im back here. Then I’ll know that ya weren’t fibbin’.” I took a second to decide on the wager. Riolu looked up at me fearfully.

“Look,” I said bending down to meet Riolu face to face. “My dad really needs this. Could you stay with Bart a little longer? I’ll just go to dad’s and come back, alright?” Riolu looked a little unhappy and nervous that I was leaving him with a complete stranger, but he nodded yes. “Good to hear. Now be good for Bart, okay?” Riolu nodded and headed over towards Bart, slowly and cautiously.

“Ya too, Dusty. Be good fer this whippersnapper, y’hear?” Bart replied, pointing to me. Dusty nodded and turned around, then he began to walk over to me. The sight of him heading towards me filled me with some fear, as I was still a bit frightened of the events that had transpired in Hart’s Woods. Yet, I swallowed my pride and stood face to face with Dusty. The smell was atrocious, but I tried to ignore it, as I knew that it would all be over soon.

“We’ll be right back, Bart. Don’t worry.” I turned around towards the road and beckoned for Dusty to follow me.

The walk to my dad’s house seemed like a long one. I didn’t say a thing to Dusty, and he certainly didn’t say anything either. The two of us just kind of walked quietly, side to side all the way to my dad’s. Every once and awhile, I’d look over and catch a glimpse of Dusty, who was quietly observing me from the side. We eventually came upon the front steps of my dad’s house. I knocked on the door which again reacted to my hand and slowly opened.

“Come on, Dusty.” I said, walking into the house. Dusty hesitated to walk in, as he was unsure if it was alright to go back into the house he was thrown out of just nights before. “It’s alright,” I told him, reaching out my hand. Dusty looked uncertain to grab it, but when he looked back up at me, I was sporting a welcoming smile, which made him relax. He wrapped his weird, slimy tendril around my hand and I walked him inside.

My dad walked in from just down the hall where he’d been working.

“Hey, Nic. And…” My dad tried to make eye contact with Dusty, but he quickly averted his gaze elsewhere. Both Dusty and my father were looking away from each other, and it seemed that neither of them were going to say anything. I cleared my throat, bringing attention to me.

“Dad, wasn’t there something that you wanted to say to Garbodor?” I really just wanted to get this over with, so not explaining where Dusty’s nickname had come from would speed things up. My dad quickly cleared his throat too, preparing to make his apology.

“Garbodor,” he began, looking down, “I’m sorry I kicked you out of the house the other day. I was tired and I wasn’t thinking right.” Dusty nodded, accepting his apology.

“Is that all?” I said, raising one eyebrow at my dad and Dusty’s weak apology.

“Right, where are my manners...?” My dad spoke. He then slowly reached his hand out to Dusty. “Shake on it,” Dad said, mentally preparing himself to touch Dusty’s gross tendril. Dusty hesitated too, but let go of my hand and reached out his tendril before wrapping it around my dad’s hand, and opening his mouth to show its appreciation. An even worse stink filled the room making my dad and I cough and gag.

“Alright, Garbodor. Let’s head back, okay?” I said quickly between coughs. My dad nodded, continuing to cough and wheeze. I rushed outside, gasping in the clean, fresh air. Dusty looked a bit worried, but I assured him everything was fine and beckoned for him to follow me again. I looked back to see my dad opening all the windows to the house, letting the odor out.

Dusty and I arrived a little later back at Bart’s campsite. Bart was in the midst of telling Riolu a story when we walked into the woods. He sat in an old lawn chair, while Riolu sat in front of him, legs crossed.

“We’re back.” I called out. Bart and Riolu turned to us, waving to welcome our arrival.

“Hey, ya came back, whippersnapper. I’m glad ya held yer end o’ the wager, kid. Why don’t ya sit down and hear my story from the other day?” I nodded and sat down next to Riolu who smiled at me, knowing I was back next to him. Dusty went and stood to the right of Bart, who began to retell his story.

“On Sunday, I got a Poké-man too. There was a flash o’ light, and a crash. When I opened my tent, a figure was standin’ right in front of me! I turnt on my flashlight to see a mighty beast of trash, standin’ right there! I couldn’t believe my eyes, I didn’t know that litterin’ would come back to haunt me!” I chuckled at this statement, but it was an inappropriate time to laugh, as Bart took offense to it. “Hey, I’m tellin’ my story here! Quiet, will ya?” I nodded and put my head down, to show I was sorry.

Bart continued, “I was scared at first, but the creature held out some kind o’ fancy device and smiled at me. I din’t know what else to do, so I took the ball and made this beast my friend.”

Wait… I thought Dusty was my dad’s Pokémon? What’s this about getting a Garbodor too?

I quickly wondered. I looked down to see Riolu looking confused like I was. Bart paid no attention and continued on.

“The beast and I got along pretty swell the first night. It was nice to have a pardner ta talk to. But then, we ran into some knots. In the mornin’, the beast was hungry, and I told ‘im that I didn’t have any food, and that he’d have to wait ‘till we got some. The beast got all angry and began to trash my campsite, just like those troublemakers… I told it to leave if it din’t like it, and the beast stormed off. After the dust cleared, I was mighty sad. I’d lost a friend, and my stuff was wrecked too.” I looked to Dusty who stared off into the woods.

Did Dusty do all this?

I wondered. He didn’t seem like he’d act this way.

“But then,” Bart said, making me switch my attention back to him. “ I heard some rustlin’. I turned around to see another creature just like the beast standin’ right behind me! A cloud o’ dust was all around the guy cuz he’d been runnin’.” This creature was cryin’, so I walked over to cheer ‘im up. The second beast was happy and began to help me clean up my campsite. I named ‘im Dusty... Ain’t that right?” Bart nudged Dusty who tightened his grasp around Bart. The two of them laughed together. I looked down to Riolu, who was putting the pieces together.

So it’s a complete coincidence that there are two Garbodors. Bart’s Garbodor ran away to Hart’s Woods, presumably to get some berries to eat. That means the Garbodor we ran into… was Bart’s. And Dusty was actually my dad’s Pokémon.

“Say, whippersnapper. Ya did an errand for yer pa… Think ya can do one fer me?” Without hearing Riolu’s response, I nodded yes, just to see what Bart had in mind. “Yer pa must be wantin’ his pardner back. I would love to give ya Dusty, but I’m a lonely old man in the woods without anyone to talk to. I need my pardner back, the one I was given. Could ya go get ‘im fer me? I trust ya now, so I could let ya hold onto Dusty fer a little bit longer, if ya need it.” I turned to Riolu now who looked uneasy about the task. I bent down to meet him face to face.

“Look, Riolu. I think we should do it. Bart’s a nice guy, and plus we’ve got Dusty on our side to help with the task at hand. Not to mention you’ve gotten stronger… I know Uxie needs us, but I’d feel bad if we didn’t patch up everything here before we left. Is that okay?” Riolu shook his head yes after a second of thinking it over. “Great. Let’s head out, guys.” Riolu and Dusty nodded and began to follow after me.

“Thanks much, whippersnapper!” Bart called out, waving. “I owe ya one!” We walked out of the forest and got back onto the canal path to head back to Hart’s Woods.


 

Chapter Text


 

Walking through the town brought us some attention. Passerby stared at Dusty and pointed fingers, gossiping about the weird creature and its smell. However, the odor wasn’t getting to me as much anymore. It was about noon as we made our way back to Hart’s Woods, and the sun once again reached its apex in the sky, providing light everywhere. The clouds came back since this morning, shrouding the sun for a few seconds before floating away. I was a little hot since I was running everyone’s errands, so I unzipped my sweatshirt to cool down a bit.

As we approached the middle school, I noticed a person off in the football field just outside the woods where I’d battled for the first time the day before. I stopped and squinted my eyes at the figure, and to my surprise, it looked to be Eliza. She was dressed in the same things as yesterday and seemed to be talking to someone or something in the brush. Nate’s description popped back into my head about how he‘d seen her talking to a purple floating Pokémon. I wondered if that was who she was conversing with. She then looked around carefully and stepped into the woods and out of sight.

What was she doing?

I wondered. Then, I noticed that Riolu and Dusty were a while ahead of me down the sidewalk. They hadn’t even noticed that I’d stopped to look out at the field. I put the thought about Eliza aside and ran and to catch up with them. We rushed past the middle school so we wouldn’t cause a scene like we did the day before and soon arrived at Hart’s Woods. We were just outside the back entrance, the one in which Riolu and I’d been launched out of two days before. Around the entrance were the craters where the Sludge Bombs landed. Inside these craters there were small traces of goo left, and all plant life inside and around the crater began to shrivel. I stopped in front of the entrance and looked up. Before us, loomed Hart’s Woods; once a safe, calm wooded area, now seemed like a deathtrap. I swallowed my pride and headed in, my Pokémon partners behind me.

The three of us walked slowly, Riolu leading the party. Dusty stayed behind me to watch our back. I watched the sides, while Riolu covered the front to make sure we could see where the Garbodor crew was at all angles. As we approached the small footbridge that extended over a small, dried up creek, we heard a rustling sound from a nearby bush. We stopped and looked at the bush.

“Get ready…” I whispered to Dusty and Riolu, who prepared themselves. The bush shook again, and stopped. Then, a small Trubbish emerged. It didn’t notice us at first, but then caught us out of the corner of its eye.

“Trub, Trub!” It cried out. Suddenly, all around us, bushes began to shake. More and more Trubbish began to pop out, and before we knew it, the three of us were surrounded. We were dumbfounded. On Monday, there were four Trubbish at the most. Now, there had to be nine to ten of them. Where were all the other Trubbish hiding the first time we came?

Just then, the stomping footsteps came back. From the creekbed, the Garbodor crew leader emerged, looking as intimidating as before.

“Gar!” It cried, hopping up from the creekbed onto the footbridge, nearly snapping it in half (I haven’t a clue as to how the bridge didn’t break). The Garbodor Crew readied their attacks, preparing to blow us away for the second time.

“Wait, wait! We’re not here to steal anything! We’re here for you, Garbodor. Your owner wants you back… Can you-”

“Garbo!! Dor!!” The leader yelled out, shaking the trees in the area with its formidable voice. The crew continued the readying of their attacks, not heading what I had to say.

“It’s no use.” I said turning to Riolu and Dusty. “We’re gonna have to fight... I guess there’s no backing down now!” Riolu and Dusty got into battle stances, ready to attack. “Riolu, try using Quick Attack over and over on each Trubbish to get them to stop their attacks! Dusty, use-” Before I had a chance to say anything else, Dusty sprang into action.

“Garrrrrboooo!” It yelled, extending both of its long arms out. I got the idea and yelled to Riolu,

“Jump out of the way!” I took a running start and leapt over the Trubbish, Riolu following suit. The Trubbish were focused on Dusty, so they didn’t attack us as we got out of the way. We landed safely behind some shrubbery as Dusty began to spin in a circle. Dusty’s long arms collided with all the Trubbish, sending them flying backwards out of the way and further into the forest. Riolu and I ducked, being careful not to be hit by a flying Trubbish. Dusty stopped spinning, and I looked up to see it was just us and the Garbodor crew’s leader. The leader looked more mad than ever, and started to prepare an attack.

“Dusty,” I said, running back up to the path to talk to him. “Can you try to talk to him and tell him our motives? Maybe he’ll talk to you instead?” It was a long shot considering we’d just attacked all the Trubbish, but it would make the job a lot easier. Dusty nodded and walked up to the leader, who was just about to unleash a Sludge Bomb.

“Garb… Arbo, dor, bo.” Dusty said. The crew leader stopped his attack and stared Dusty straight in the eyes.

“Garrrrrrr.” It replied, baring its teeth. Dusty hesitated, but began to converse back and forth with the leader. Although I had no idea to what either were saying, Riolu was nodding from time to time, probably agreeing with what Dusty had to say.

After talking for a minute or so, the Garbodor crew’s leader threw its arms into the air; it was fed up with being peaceful.

“Gar! Gar! Gar!” It yelled, Body Slamming Dusty out of the way. Dusty flew back and landed just shy of Riolu and I. Dusty quickly got up and brushed himself off. He turned to me and nodded.

“All right, I guess peace isn’t an option. Let’s go for it, Dusty!” I cried. Dusty got ready to battle, as the Garbodor crew’s leader approached. Riolu hopped in to battle with Dusty, but I tapped him on his shoulder first. “Riolu, I think we should let Dusty battle for now. It would be unfair for it to be a two versus one, plus I think that this should just be between these two. Why don’t you sit out for now, and I’ll throw you in if we need you, okay?” Riolu frowned and crossed his arms, a bit angry at my decision. “Hey, look at it this way, you can learn a thing or two from this battle, okay?” Riolu still wasn’t happy, but turned around and headed for a nearby rock to watch the battle anyways. “Okay, let’s start!”

 

I quickly pulled out my PokéNav and scanned Dusty to check what moves he had.

“Let’s see… Dusty has Sludge Bomb, Body Slam, Acid Spray, and Toxic Spikes.” I mumbled. Just then, I heard a noise. I looked up from my PokéNav to see the Garbodor crew leader charging in. “Dodge it, Dusty!” I quickly yelled, stuffing the PokéNav back into my pocket. Dusty sidestepped suddenly, causing the Garbodor to miss his running Body Slam attack and tumble to the ground. “Now’s our chance! Acid Spray!” I yelled. Dusty pointed its right tendril at the leader and a gross green liquid emerged, splattering all over the opposing Garbodor.

The Garbodor crew leader shook off the weak attack and smiled, figuring we didn’t know what we were doing. He then hopped off the ground and began charging Dusty again. This time, I didn’t have a chance to react before the crew leader began attacking. It used Double Slap, hitting Dusty over and over again with powerful lashes from its tendrils. The onslaught of punches kept coming, but Dusty and I stayed calm. Seeing as Dusty launched all the Trubbish away just using its arms, I figured that he could use them in other ways.

“Dusty, grab its arms!” Dusty heard me, and wrapped its tendrils around the crew leader’s arms, stopping the punches. It struggled to get away, and couldn’t free itself from Dusty’s grasp. “Body Slam!” I yelled. Dusty held the crew leader in place, took a step back, and catapulted itself forward to slam the crew leader right in the face. Dusty let go and the crew leader staggered backwards, surprised by the powerful attack. But the leader still seemed unfazed by the attacks, and had another trick up its sleeves.

By now, the Trubbish returned to watch the battle, and all eyes were focused on the action. I would have been worried in case they tried to attack, but I was too fixated on the battle to care. The crew leader began to sling out Sludge Bombs one after another and hurdled them towards Dusty.

“Watch out! Dodge them the best you can!” Dusty reacted and began to dart around the path, sidestepping and jumping to try and evade the Sludge Bombs. Unfortunately, Dusty stumbled and was hit head on with a Sludge Bomb, exploding and sending gross bits all over the place. Dusty staggered to the ground, and was struggling to get up. The crew leader chortled and began to prepare a finishing Gunk Shot. “Don’t panic! Get ready for the attack! You’re going to dodge it after he throws it!” I thought Dusty nodded, as he positioned himself on the ground towards the crew leader. “On the count of three! One… Two…” The crew leader launched his Gunk Shot, a giant ball of brown and purple almost two times as big as its Sludge Bomb, and it began to hurdle towards Dusty with a whistling sound. “Three! Use your arms to hoist yourself into the air!” Dusty instantly pushed himself off the ground, gaining some height from the jump. Dusty soared over the giant ball of trash, bearing towards the leader. The crew leader’s attack missed, and hurdled off behind Dusty, erupting with a loud bang.

“Body Slam!” I yelled to Dusty, who was beginning to plummet through the air. Before the crew leader had a chance to react, Dusty collapsed on him dealing some massive damage. Then, he bounced off and landed perfectly just in front of the crew leader. “Time to end it! Sludge Bomb!” I yelled, adrenaline pushing me on. A huge ball of sludge formed from Dusty’s mouth and hurdled towards the Garbodor crew’s downed leader. The attack shouldn’t have done much damage, but the other two Body Slams and previous Acid Spray weakened up the crew leader. The Sludge Bomb slammed into the leader and exploded, causing a huge cloud of dust to erupt into the air.

Once it settled, Dusty stood victorious and at the opposite end, the leader lay fainted. Dusty jumped for joy and opened its mouth.

“Garb!” It called, happy that it won.

“Yes, Dusty, you did it!” Then, Dusty turned around and extended its gross tendrils towards me. “W-wait, we can-” The tendrils wrapped around me and hurdled me towards Dusty. I was stopped with a disgusting squish. Dusty was happily hugging me; I tried to push away from its putrid body. “Haha, that’s enough, Dusty... “ I mumbled, struggling in its grasp. Dusty eventually let me go, and continued to jump up and down with joy. I stood still, covered in a gross, trashy liquid. I was absolutely disgusted by the liquid, but what was I to do? I had no change of clothes, and the creek was all dried up. I was going to have to deal with the disgusting smell and feel.

I walked to the side of Dusty, who finally stopped celebrating.

“Y-you did a great job, Dusty… Why don’t we just high five or something else in the future instead of hugs… Alright?” Dusty nodded and turned to face the Garbodor crew’s leader who was regaining his balance. His posse of Trubbish returned to his side to aid him. Riolu bounded over to me from the rock, looking happy that I’d won another battle.

“Garbodor, listen,” I started to get the crew leader’s attention. “Like I said, I wasn’t here to steal from you. I’m here because of your previous owner, Bart.” The Garbodor crew leader was now on his feet, and was finally listening to what I had to say. “Garbodor, he wants you back. He misses you, and he’s sorry about everything that happened. Now, I know we don’t have the best of relationships, but you’ve got to listen! Bart is lonely, and he needs someone like you to be his partner and look after him… So please, come with us and help…”

The crew leader was hesitant and was looking down to his crew of Trubbish who all looked him in the eyes, tears forming. I started to get the picture. The crew leader was probably the only thing the Trubbish had, and without him, they would be lost. “Garbodor… You can bring your Trubbish, too. I bet Bart would enjoy more company. I don’t know how much food there is where Bart lives… But Hart’s Woods isn’t that far away either.” I added on, so that they wouldn’t cry. The Garbodor crew leader looked like he was thinking, and then he smiled for the first time. He shook his head yes, and said something to the Trubbish. All the Trubbish smiled back and began to jump up and down in joy. I smiled too, knowing we’d reached a compromise. “That’s great! Come on, no time to waste. Let’s head back to-”

“Garbo!” The crew leader called out. Surprised, I stopped talking. The crew leader beckoned us to follow with its right tendril and hopped down into the creekbed. The Trubbish circled around him, creating a guarding barrier. Riolu and Dusty looked at me, and I shrugged back to them to show that I was unsure just to what was happening. I began to walk forward towards the creekbed to see where the crew was leading us. Dusty and Riolu followed close behind, standing guard too, in case the Garbodor crew were plotting something else.

We hiked through the muddy creek beds of Harts Woods for a while. The gunk Dusty got on me was now starting to become very troublesome. The smell and feel made me look away and nearly gag every time I thought about it. I sincerely hoped that the creek bed would have something else other than mud, but there was no fresh water in sight. Dusty paid no attention to how I was feeling, and walked on my left still happy from his victory. I looked to the right and noticed Riolu, who looked worried. I figured that he knew the reason that I was so unhappy, so I told him,

“Don’t worry, Riolu. I’m sure there will be some water to wash off in soon. Let’s just focus on where we’re headed, alright?” Riolu looked slightly surprised at first that I’d read his emotions so clearly, but eventually nodded yes. After a minute or two of walking up and down the creek bed, taking turn after turn, we approached a large hill. The creek bed seemed to stop as soon as it hit the large hill, causing me to become suspicious. “Careful,” I whispered to Dusty and Riolu. “They might be trying to corner us.” With our guard up, the Garbodor crew came to a stop in front of the hill. The leader turned around and smiled at us. “Garbo, Garb.” The leader said, beckoning us to continue following them.

Where do they want us to go?

I wondered. The Garbodor crew leader turned around and reached into the grassy hill. To my surprise, some camouflaged vines were hiding a small entrance way inside. The hole was just big enough for Garbodor to fit into, in which he ducked inside. The Trubbish followed suit, and began to pile into the hole one by one. I looked to Dusty and then to Riolu, who looked just as skeptical as I was.

“Should we really head in there?” I asked. Dusty hesitated, and took a second to think, but when I turned to Riolu, he was clutching his fist like always. I smiled at him, letting him know I appreciated his support. I took a deep breath and headed forward, pushing the vines away and stepping inside.

The entrance was surprisingly well lit the entire way through, so I could easily see where I was walking. The dirt walls were crudely made, like something dug through it quickly. The hole twisted and turned until I finally saw a white light erupt from around a corner. I sped up and turned, blinded by the bright light. When my senses came to, I was in awe. We were standing inside the hill, yet it was bright, as if we were outside. Part of the ceiling was caved in, revealing the treeline of Hart’s Woods and some specks of the sky above. The roots from the large trees above dangled down, dripping water onto the floor. Some of these roots connected into the muddy floor, creating a structure for the hole in the hill. A small pool of water was gathered at my feet, and the current was headed out towards the entrance.

“I never knew this was here… How is this even possible?” I asked aloud, still awestruck. Riolu and Dusty were now at my sides, looking just as astonished as I was.

“Garb.” I heard, returning my attention back to Garbodor and his crew. He turned around and headed down another tunnel, his Trubbish following single file close behind. I continued to follow, ignoring my stinky clothing and my wet shoes. I was too focused on the surroundings. The tunnel became dark for a brief period of time, in which I had to feel around. I could feel water around my legs getting higher, but then it receded back down after a while. Riolu hopped up on my shoulder to avoid getting wet. Then, light once again filled the cavern, and I rushed out to see where the crew took us. I was temporarily blinded once again, and then I was confused with my surroundings once I could see again.

We seemed to be in some kind of dump in the clearing of a forest; all around us were old car frames and shopping carts. Other mechanical parts and general trash was strewn about too. Then, an idea popped into my head.

“Hold on, I’ll be right back.” I yelped suddenly, confusing everyone. I ran through the small amount of trees, until I reached the outside. “I knew it!” I cried, my hypothesis correct. A rocky beach led to the canal, and across the way, the strange path outside my old school loomed. The rusty old car frames and shopping carts stood untouched, and just as mysterious as ever. I was finally on the island across the way.

Dusty, Riolu, and the Garbodor crew leader followed me to the edge of the island. Once Riolu had the same breakthrough I had, he froze, realizing that we were on the island.

“Riolu, this is crazy! I didn’t know that there was a passageway from Hart’s Woods to this island! If I’d known that was there, I would have explored this island over and over!” Riolu nodded, as ecstatic as I was to finally be on the strange island. Again, the crew leader brought me back to my senses.

“Gaarrrbb.” It said. I turned around and noticed he’d began to walk into the woods, back the way he came.

“Right,” I pronounced aloud, making sure Dusty and Riolu would hear me. “Let’s follow him back. There’s gotta be a reason they brought us here.” Dusty and Riolu nodded, following after me through the woods.

We arrived back at the trash pile, where the Trubbish were waiting. Another idea popped into my head. “Is this where you guys live, Garbodor?” Garbodor turned his head and nodded yes, then turned back and continued to head inward. I then noticed that he was headed for a large mound of trash, that had a small indent in it. Once the crew leader reached the mound, he reached into the small hole with his right tendril, and searched around inside. Soon after, the leader pulled out a small and old cardboard box. The leader turned around and walked down to meet us.

“Gar.” He said handing the box to me.

“Uh, thanks…?” I replied, inspecting the box. It had water stains on the sides and was falling apart. Opening the lid, I slowly opened the mysterious package, a strange feeling coming upon me. Inside were two black wristbands both encrusted with strange gemstones in the middle. One looked more like a watch, while the other looked like a gauntlet of some kind that would fit Riolu. “These… are for us?” The crew leader nodded happily, a smile on his face.I assumed to smaller one was for me, so I reached in and pulled out the bracer, handing it to Riolu. “This must be yours.” I told him. He took the gauntlet and looked it over with curious eyes.

I grabbed my bracelet and thoroughly inspected it before setting the box back on the ground. The gemstone in the center was a perfectly round stone that shone with a rainbow hue. Seemingly suspended inside was a pattern that looked like a DNA strand. My eyes lit up when I suddenly realized what Garbodor gave us.

“Wait, wait.” I stammered, looking down at Riolu’s wristband. The stone was larger than the one in my bracelet and was a yellow-orange-ish hue. Inside, a blue and red swirl stood. The outside of the stone looked like it was moving, in reaction to being held by Riolu. I turned to Garbodor who smiled at us. “You’re giving us Mega Stones?!” I yelled, surprised. “But, but… Don’t you hate us? We were the ones that entered your territory and knocked out your crew members! But now you’re giving us some of the most powerful items in the Pokémon World!?” Then, the leader of the crew pointed his tendril at my head. “Wha? Something about my head…?” I asked, confused by its reaction. I started thinking about possible answers to the question.

Think, think… There’s gotta be something I can remember as to why Garbodor is giving us these Mega Stones…

I wondered. Then, my dream from a couple days before popped back into my head. It finally all made sense.

Uxie told me before I left, ‘Deep in the woods, surrounded by friends, you will find a key to your success’. Does that mean that the ‘woods’ was Harts Woods… The friends were all the Pokémon... And the treasure was the Mega Stones?!

I looked back up at Garbodor, who was still smiling.

“How… How did you know about this? Did Uxie contact you too?” Garbodor nodded yes. I was shocked. Uxie had set out an entire quest for Riolu and I, almost like a challenge to see how fit we were to save the world. If only I’d known about this sooner… This was more than enough evidence to prove to me Uxie’s dream was real. Suddenly, another thought ran through my head. Turning to Dusty, I asked,

“Dusty… Did you get a dream from Uxie too?” Surprisingly, Dusty nodded no in response, looking a bit disappointed.

Uxie probably wasn’t just trying to get us the Mega Stones… He was also trying to connect Pokémon with me so I’d have some allies on my journey.

I thought quickly. I guess Uxie never got in contact with him, but fate somehow connected us together.

I then slipped the Mega Stone Bracelet on my left wrist, opening the bracelet and clasping it shut, which made a satisfying clicking noise. It fit my wrist perfectly, as if it was tailored just for me. The black metal was cool to the touch. Riolu slipped his bracer to find it was a little loose, but I figured that it was made for a Lucario, and not a Riolu. Riolu flicked his right arm around, inspecting the stone in all places, and watching how the sun bounced off the stone in the middle in certain ways. Dusty looked a little jealous.

“T-thank you.” I said to the Garbodor crew. Riolu turned and let out a,

“Rio.”, seemingly as a thank you too. Garbodor smiled even more and let out a,

“Garbooo.” I then turned to Riolu, who went back to inspecting his bracer.

“Riolu…” I started, getting his attention. “Mega Stones aren’t easy to come by... So I’m sure that Uxie’s riddle had something to do with this place. When we get home, we need to get ready to head out as soon as possible.” Riolu looked up and nodded, rethinking about Uxie’s dream from a couple days before. I turned to Garbodor again. “Are you guys ready to head over to Bart’s place? We should get over there before it gets too late.” Garbodor nodded yes, and turned around to the Trubbish comrades.

“Garbo, Garbo.” It called out.

“Trubbish!” All the Trubbish yelped, continuing to jump for joy.

“Okay, let’s get this party back on the road!”

 

We headed back through the creek bed entrance to Hart’s Woods, and then made our way back towards my dad’s house. Now, we created an even bigger commotion. As we passed by, the middle school stopped for a moment, and all the children came back to the windows to watch us parade on through. It was almost like they were all cheering us on as the teachers became more and more unhappy at the distraction. When we arrived back on Church Street, we amounted even more attention than before. All around us, people covered their noses and looked away in disgust. A couple drivers almost got into an accident, as they were busy staring at the weird sight. I marched forward, with everyone behind me, eager to head back to Bart’s campsite. I headed off Church Street and veered onto the canal path, an easier and faster way to get to our destination without so much attention. A couple minutes passed, and then we approached the area that was just outside of the clearing.

“This way!” I called to the Garbodor crew, who continued to walk single file behind me.

 

“Bart, we’re back!” I called to him as he came into sight. He turned and stood up in shock from his dilapidated plastic chair.

“What in…” Bart stammered, as he noticed everyone’s arrival. “Tickle me pink… Ya actually got my pardner back! Garbodor!” He called out, rushing up to Garbodor. The two of them hugged as they met, friends reunited. “I’m mighty sorry for all the ruckus I caused us, buddy. Can we set our differences aside and jus’ be buds again?” Garbodor nodded yes, and all the Trubbish hopped up and down in happiness and joy. Shortly after their reunion, Bart turned back around to me.

“Nic, I can’t ever thank ya enough. What ya did fer me is beyond what I asked fer. Ya brought me a group o’ friends to spend time with… Gosh, I think I’mma cry…” Tears formed in Bart’s eyes and he began to sob. The crew leader and Dusty ran up to him and wrapped their tendrils around his body to comfort him. I wondered quickly how Bart was able to withstand the onslaught of gross hugs. “Heh, you two lugs are the best to me.” The crew leader and Dusty backed off, happy their comforting helped. Bart then turned back to me. “Nic… You remind me o’ a son I never had… I can't thank you enough fer what ya did. No whippersnapper has ever helped me this much!”

“Really, the pleasure is all mine, Bart. No need to thank me anymore. Besides, it was nice to help you out.”

“Well…” Bart muttered, beginning to think about something. “I’ve got too many friends to count right now, and I’m mighty sure one of these lugs would be proud to head home with you... Why don’t ya pick one to travel with ya? Or if ya don’t want one, why don’t ya take Dusty anyways fer yer pop?” My eyes directed up to Dusty, who directed his gaze to me.

I can’t believe I’m saying this…

I quickly thought.

“Dusty… Will you…?” Dusty’s face lit up when he heard those words. Just then, Riolu’s eyes widened and he tapped me on the leg. He looked as worried as ever. “Don’t worry about Dusty, Riolu. Look, I know we haven’t had good relations with Garbodor, but Dusty is different. I know he’ll be a good friend, just give him some time. Please, for the both of us?” Riolu looked somewhat unhappy with my decision, but he knew he couldn’t say no He nodded yes with a small frown on his face. I gave him a good pat on the head, and stood back up. “Thanks, Riolu.” I whispered before talking to Bart again. “Bart… Is it alright if I take Dusty with me?”

“Sure, kid. No problem, I’m sure Dusty has taken a liking to ya.” Dusty nodded and trotted over to me. Seeing another hug was imminent, I just went along with it.

“Come here, Dusty.” I said, holding my breath. A set of strong, slimy tendrils wrapped me close to the disgusting trashy body of Dusty. “We’ll be good friends, Dusty. Just you wait!”

“Garbo!” Dusty cried, smiling. He stopped hugging me, and I regained my composure one last time to talk to Bart.

“Welp, it's getting late... We should head home before my dad starts to worry. Bart, it was good to meet you.”

“Same, whippersnapper. Ya really brightened up my day. Try to visit from time to time, ya hear?” A pang of grief welled up inside me, knowing that could not happen for a while if I was saving the Pokémon World. But instead of acting on that feeling I just nodded yes, and headed out of the woods towards the road with Dusty and Riolu following suit behind me. Before I was out of sight, Bart called out my name from his tent. “Nic!” He yelled back at me. I turned around to greet him. “Good luck and take care! Keep Dusty safe fer me!” I smiled and waved goodbye to him as Garbodor and his Trubbish waved goodbye too. I turned around and continued to head home, glad I’d helped out Bart and fixed up my relations with the Garbodor crew before leaving town.


 

Chapter Text


 

Later that night, after taking a well deserved shower, and eating a hearty dinner my dad made to thank me for finding Dusty, I finally closed the door to my bedroom behind me. I yawned and stretched out, before hopping into bed. Reaching over to take off my glasses, I looked over at Riolu before I took them off, who was already asleep on a bed of old clothes atop the dresser. Dusty was in his Poké Ball because my father told me to keep him in his Poké Ball in the house, but was presumably sleeping soundly too. I switched on my alarm for early in the morning, and placed Riolu and Dusty’s Poké Balls on top of the clock. I then quickly took off my Mega Stone Bracelet, placed it next to my glasses, and turned off the table light on my nightstand. I pulled the covers over and got comfortable. I was happy to finally be able to relax.

Tomorrow was a big day for my Pokémon and I. Since my father was at his girlfriend’s house staying the night, I wanted to leave as soon as possible for Kinzua State Park. Usually, my father would stay with his girlfriend on days that he didn’t have me, but something came up and they decided to get together this Wednesday. This was fortunate for me, as he wouldn’t see me leaving the house. I said my final goodbye to him after dinner when he left and I suddenly came under another emotion spell, but luckily it was after he’d closed the door. Riolu comforted me with open arms until I calmed down. I was going to have to stay strong and not dwell on leaving home without notice. It probably would have been a good idea to leave just after that, but I was too exhausted from everything that had happened that day. Both Riolu and Dusty needed a break too, I figured.

I’d already gone into the basement and picked out the supplies that we needed for our trip across the Pennsylvania border. Before I went to sleep, I made sure to pack a smaller bag with the clothing I needed; I also packed a small cooler with food and drinks inside. There was also a pair of shoes by my bedroom door for a quick departing. I was going to pack my backpack with all the other odds and ends that I could possibly use on the trip, but I was too tired to do so and figured I could find the time when I woke up the next morning.

I rolled over and stared at the closet door, reminiscing about Bart’s happy face. I quickly ran out of steam and fell asleep, just like Riolu and Dusty did minutes before.

 

“Wake up… Human… You need to wake up…” A soft voice called out, pulling me out from my sleep.

“Ugh…” I whimpered, unhappy to be awakened. I rolled over and pulled the covers up to my neck. I felt like I just had the most sound sleep in my life, but someone woke me up. “Five more minutes, Riolu. Okay?” I replied in my sleepiness, not fully thinking through Riolu talking to me.

“We do not have five minutes, human. And I am not Riolu.” The voice replied. I was confused by this statement, and slowly sat up in my bed to see just who was speaking. To my surprise, a familiar gray and yellow fairy was floating in front of me.

“U-Uxie?” I asked, rubbing my eyes. My room was still dark, but my eyes had adjusted to the darkness so I could make out him clearly.

“Yes, it is I. There is no time to dawdle, human. Your position has been compromised. The Dark One’s Army is coming to take you away.”

The Dark One…? He means Necrozma, right? The one I saw in my nightmare?

“Is… Is this a dream?” I asked naively, glancing over at the clock.

“No, human. Now hurry up and get prepared to go. You must leave here at once.”

I rubbed my eyes again, realizing it couldn’t be a dream since I was in my room. I stood up, turned on the lamp, and slipped on my glasses, letting out a yawn.

“Hurry.” Uxie said staring at the door, sounding surprisingly calm for what he’d just described. As I grabbed Riolu and Dusty’s Poké Balls and slipped on my Key Stone Bracelet, a horrific noise came from outside the house. The noise sounded like a ghostly laugh mixed with a terrible wheeze. I froze when I heard this.

“What was that?”

“It is too late.” Uxie said, looking worried for the first time. “We are out of time, and we need to go, fast.” Now I knew Uxie wasn’t messing around, and I hauled myself around the room to get what I needed. I grabbed what I could: an old pocket knife, my bag of clothing, my PokéNav, a pair of earbuds, my wallet, and put on an old sweatshirt before running over to Riolu.

“Riolu!” I called. “We’re heading out early, come on!” But Riolu did not stir. He continued to sleep soundly, with a smile on his face. He held his arm with the Lucarionite gauntlet over his chest. “Riolu, snap out of it! We gotta go!” I yelped, shaking him gently. But he still didn’t wake up. Something was terribly wrong.

“No use.” Uxie added in, facing me. “He has been Hypnotized. You and your Garbodor were Hypnotized too. Goons from the Dark One’s Army are already here, trying to keep you asleep and easy to be hunted down. I sensed something was wrong and Teleported here to wake you.” I shivered at this thought, knowing that some kind of creepy Ghost or Psychic type Pokémon was keeping us asleep so we could be abducted by the opposing force. It also described why it felt like I’d been brought out of such a deep sleep. I pulled out Riolu’s Poké Ball and returned him so he could rest peacefully. I then slipped Riolu’s Poké Ball into my pocket with Dusty’s Poké Ball and nodded at Uxie.

“Let’s go.” I added. Uxie nodded and opened my door with Telekinesis.

“Follow me.” He said, floating down the main hallway of my dad’s house. I quickly slipped on my shoes and followed. He turned into the living room and headed towards the front door. I wanted to quickly dash into the kitchen and grab the cooler of food, but when Uxie was about to open the door, a strange knocking came from the other side. Then, the same ghastly laugh sounded from the door. We both froze in our tracks, searching for more options. Uxie turned around, flying past me into the kitchen. “We must go another way, human.” He replied, fluttering towards the sliding glass door. Just then, the glass broke and shattered, scaring both of us. The noise caused me to back away and drop my bag of clothing.

When I looked back, a Gengar with a ghostly purple aura around it was standing in the doorway. It had a huge, menacing smile, and its red eyes bore into my soul. It let out the same terrible laugh and started slowly walking towards Uxie and I. Frightened, I began to back up. Suddenly, the front door flew open, and two Haunter levitated in. To the front, two more Haunter emerged from the floor to add insult to injury. All of the ghosts filled me with a fierce sense of terror.

“We’re surrounded!” I yelled, nearly paralyzed by fear. “Uxie?!”

“Grab my hand!” Uxie yelled, still somehow sounding calm. I reached behind and clutched his hand tightly. Gengar and his goons noticed we were preparing to make a quick getaway and charged us, continuing to laugh. “Hold on tight!” Uxie yelled, a bright light enveloping us. Gengar and Haunter reacted to the light, and stopped dead in their tracks. The light was so bright, I even had to cover my eyes. For some reason at that moment, my hair stood up on end, like it was being affected by static electricity. “Here we go!” Uxie yelled. Suddenly, I felt a weird sensation in my body. Everything went numb and unresponsive for a second, as if I ceased to exist. Then, within milliseconds, the feeling and the light disappeared. As I uncovered my eyes, something had definitely changed. Uxie let go of my hand, and I rubbed my eyes. Once my senses came to, I looked around at my unfamiliar surroundings.

“Where… Are we?”

“I… I do not know.” Uxie said, sounding exhausted. We appeared to be in the middle of some kind of forest clearing. Trees surrounded us on all sides, and a starry night sky stood idle high above. A group of confused Deerling and Sawsbuck stood at the clearing’s edge, watching us.

“Did… Did you teleport us somewhere?”

“Yes, I did… It was the only way to escape.” I pulled out my PokéNav and opened up the Maps Application.

“According to my PokéNav… We’re inside the Indian Fort Nature Preserve… About thirty five miles away from Fairport!”

“Let this be a warning to you and your Pokémon, human... Somehow, the Dark One’s Army acquired your position. I assume they had someone spying on you. You must hurry to Kinzua Valley right away, before they catch your trail again.”

Spy…? Wow, this whole situation is more real than I thought before... But why is he still referring to Necrozma as ‘The Dark One’?

I thought quickly. Changing my train of thought back to Uxie, I added,

“B-but Uxie, I’m not prepared enough to go on this journey. We left so fast, I have almost no supplies… I dropped my clothes bag in the living room, forgot to pack my bag, and had no time to grab the cooler of food… All I have is the stuff in my pockets. How am I going to get to the State Park like this?” I said, rummaging through my heavy shorts pockets to find what I did and did not have.

“Human, now is not the time to be worrying about such a thing. The Dark One’s Army will be searching for you, and if you do not move soon, you will be caught. You will have to scavenge for the supplies; your Pokémon can help you in that task.”

I was dumbfounded. I was in the Cub Scouts for a couple years when I was younger, but I had little to no experience with survival skills. I’m sure Riolu and Dusty could help out a little, but probably not enough to supply each of us with a supple amount of food, water, and other necessities. How did Uxie expect us to travel so far with so little supplies?

“I must go now. I cannot risk being caught trying to help you again... If the Dark One’s Army captures me, the Pokémon World will be even more in danger. Please human, make your way to Kinzua Valley at once. There, you will find the portal. Now, I must take my leave.” Uxie began to light up like before, ready to Teleport again.

“Wait!” I called out. Uxie stopped his Teleport and looked at me. Although I could not directly see his eyes, I could tell he was getting annoyed.

“What is it, human?” He asked in a cross voice.

“Thank you for saving me. It was stupid of me to take so long to get ready… Without you, I would have been a goner. Oh, and thank you for this too.” I held up my wrist and presented him with the Mega Stone Bracelet the Garbodor crew leader entrusted me with. The Mega Key Stone gleamed in the pale moonlight. “Without your test, we wouldn’t have these, and I wouldn’t have met so many new friends…” I added quietly. Uxie looked surprised, not expecting that response from me. He paused and looked away.

“I knew you would stay behind for a couple more days after I contacted you for the first time, and it seems that prediction has paid off. With the great power of Mega Evolution and new allies, you and your partners can achieve anything. And remember, you are the only way to save the Pokémon World. Without you, both our worlds would lose their light to the Dark One’s Army… I will stop at nothing to keep both worlds safe; it is my duty as a Legendary Pokémon to do so. Consider it nothing.” There was a short pause before either of us spoke again.

“L-look, Uxie…” I said quietly, looking down. I was a little nervous to ask him some of my questions, knowing he wasn’t in the best of moods. “I know we’ve both got things to do… But could you please stay a little bit longer? I have so many questions to ask that need to be answered. And you must be tired from teleporting both of us so far… I’m sure that the ‘Dark One’s Army’ is far away from here, and we have some time to talk. So... please?” Uxie paused again, and sighed. He turned his gaze upwards towards the stars.

“You humans… Always the same. Demanding answers to all your questions… Surely, you will find all the answers you need along the way. But that is besides the point...” Something about that statement really stuck with me. I found it extremely weird that Uxie stereotyped something about humankind as a whole. But before I could think about it me, he then turned back to me. “I told you already that I do not have time to stay and answer your questions, human. But I will say this: your purpose to us is clear. You must save the Pokémon World at all costs, and we all will try to get you there, no matter the outcome.”

“And I was chosen because…?” I asked, hoping for an answer. Uxie shook his head no and turned back around.

“Now, now, human. I must be going now. Although I do not have time to comment on your questions, there is someone who can.”

“Oh? Who might that be?” I questioned, intrigued.

“Along your journey, you will meet up with a Pokémon by the name of Slowking. Slowking is an old ally of mine, and one of my eldest portal guides.”

“Portal… guides?”

“That is correct. In an effort to help humans reach the portal to our planet, Legendary Pokémon from across the land banded together to create the Coalition of Portal Guidance. Only a group of gifted Pokémon are taught the ways of helping humans in case of a global emergency. Slowking was one of the first chosen, and he knows all the information that you seek. I was going to tell you this information as you got closer to the destination and when it became more so dangerous to travel… But I can tell you want answers now.” I blushed and looked away in embarrassment. “Now please, you must begin to head out to Kinzua Valley. The portal to the Pokémon World awaits.” I turned back to Uxie and nodded yes, to show I understood. Uxie began to light up again, preparing for a Teleport. Just then, something popped into my head. I knew if I didn’t get this thought off my chest, I’d never forgive myself.

“Uxie! Please, one last thing before you go! Could you tell my parents about my journey? I didn’t want to tell them about my trip to save the Pokémon World because I knew they would try to stop me… I know you can give people dreams, so could you do that for me?” As the light got brighter, I thought I saw Uxie turn its head and look at me briefly. As the light became too bright, I covered my eyes and as a quick pulse of electricity ruptured through the air. Then, everything was dark and calm once again. I uncovered my eyes and looked around to find Uxie was gone.

The wind blew and the leaves rustled. Trees creaked and swayed in the breeze. The group of Deerling and Sawsbuck turned around and headed back into the woods, seeing as all the commotion stopped. The forest stood still once again, like nothing had even happened.

I was unsure about what to do. I sincerely hoped that Uxie heard my plea; just thinking about my what my parents would do if I disappeared out of the blue made me sad. I knew I should get going at that moment, but I was still fearful about the journey ahead. The amount of questions that were bouncing around in the walls of my head didn’t help either. I also couldn’t shake the fact I had no supplies or food the help on the trip. For now, I was going to have to bottle my emotions and questions up, until the time came to let them out. I wasn’t ready to do that right then and there, but I knew it would come back to haunt me at the worst time if I didn’t. I took a deep breath and tried to think calmly about the journey ahead.

With my mind somewhat distracted, I decided it was time to let Riolu and Dusty out of their Poké Balls, and let them choose the answer. I brought their Poké Balls out of my pockets and held them out in front of me.

“Come on out, guys.” Two flashes of light emerged from the Balls, and both of my partners appeared before me. They were both still sound asleep, not a care in the world. I scoffed; it was ironic that they slept through the entire ordeal. At that moment, my sleepiness caught back up with me, and I let out a yawn.

Well… It can’t hurt to get a little more sleep… I know Uxie told us to get moving now… But I’m still so tired from yesterday… A couple more hours of rest can’t hurt… Right?

I thought. I pulled up the hood on my hoodie and sat down next to Riolu and Dusty, who continued to rest peacefully. I laid my head on the back of Dusty, and placed my hand next to Riolu. It was kind of hard to get used to, as the ground was hard and the fallen leaves scratched at my legs, but as soon as I got comfortable, the sleepiness finally overcame me and I fell asleep just like my two partners.


 

I felt Dusty move, and jolted awake. For some reason, my heart was pumping hard. My throat was dry and I was a bit hungry too, but I had other things to worry about. By now, early morning sunlight streamed in through the treeline, revealing the true colors of the forest once more. The different colors of leaves blended in with the sunlight, creating a wonderful scene; it was very picturesque. Not to mention, the Pokémon inhabitants were just beginning to stir and start the search for food. Pidgeys and Pidoves darted in between the trees, while Rattata and Patrat scoured the ground for a quick bite, and even the same group of Deerling and Sawsbuck from the night before grazed on the short clearing grass, just a couple yards away. They all paid no attention to us, as if we were a part of their community. In the background, cries from various Pokémon echoed through the trees, signaling that the forest was very much alive.

I stood up and turned around to face Riolu and Dusty, who were beginning to stir. As they awoke and sat up, they realized something was different. Both looked bewildered, unsure where they’d woken up.

“Mornin’, guys.” I said, drawing their attention to me. They stared at me, looking as confused as ever. I chuckled and replied, “Seems like I’ve got an explanation to give, huh? Well, I’ll start from the top…”

 

“And just like that, he vanished… I was too tired to get going last night, so I camped out here.” Riolu had his eyes closed, thinking about what I’d said. Dusty still looked confused, his head tilted and his gaze staring off to the side. Obviously, they had some unanswered questions as well. “Hey, don’t worry guys. We’ll meet up with Slowking eventually and he’ll answer everything we ask him, okay?” I made a quick mental note to think up some questions, especially about the Coalition of Portal Guidance as they both nodded yes, looking a bit out of it. “Alright, then let’s get going… We’ve got quite a ways to the State Park, and I want to get these miles out of the way as soon as possible.” I pulled out my PokéNav and opened the Maps app again. I quickly put in our destination and clicked on the “Walking” tab, so the app would tell us how long it would take to get there by just walking. I read to number aloud, “

"About thirty-two hours… Yikes, that’s a long ways to be walking… It’s about ninety-five miles from here… It says the best route is to head along the highway, and then take the Southern Tier Expressway to the PA border.” Dusty looked a bit skeptical, but Riolu balled his paw into a fist like usual. He was ready to conquer the trip. I smiled, but deep down, I couldn’t decide if I was actually ready to face the road ahead myself. I’m definitely not the athletic type, and walking more than two or three miles at one time really scared me. Nonetheless, I continued on with fake confidence, replying, “That’s the spirit, Riolu. These thirty-two hours will pass quickly… Ready?”

“Rio!” He cried out, a smile running across his face. Once Dusty saw our determination, he perked up. He tried balling his fingers into a fist on his right tendril, but they hardly moved in at all. Riolu and I chuckled a bit at this.

“Glad you’re with us, Dusty. Now come on you two, it’s time to go.” They nodded and took the lead, heading south towards the highway. Out of nowhere, the sun was suddenly hidden behind some clouds. Then, there was a crashing boom, as the sky got darker. We all stopped and jumped a foot at the sudden sound. The sky continued to darken, until it was almost as dark as night time. Then, the sky lit up with a sudden flash of reddish hue. Just then, a look of fear washed over Riolu and Dusty’s faces and they nervously looked at each other. “Are you two alright?” I questioned, curious about their sudden emotion change. Just then, the ground began to shake, almost as if a small earthquake was passing through. I turned my attention back to the forest, seeing all kinds of Pokémon appear from deep within the woods and rushed towards us, kicking up a massive cloud of dust.

Seeing as they were charging right for us and we had nowhere to go, I flinched and ducked down, ready to get crushed.

“Rio, Rio!” I heard Riolu call, and he jumped in front of me. Dusty was reluctant at first, but then stood beside Riolu, protecting me from the onslaught of Pokémon. The stampeding Pokémon diverted their path into a v-shape around Dusty and Riolu’s wall in reaction, rushing past us at breakneck speeds. Once I saw we were safe, I slowly stood up to observe the interesting event unfolding before us. Watching all of these Pokémon rush by was certainly a weird sight and kind of a sensory overload, but I tried not to focus on that. As the last of the Pokémon passed by, the shaking gradually stopped until the forest was calm once again. As we all watched the last Pokémon disappear out of sight in the dense woods, I brushed the dust off and replied,

“Whew… Thank you guys. We would have been crushed if you didn’t step in there.” Before they had time to react to my compliment, Dusty yelled out suddenly.

“G-Gar!” He was pointing up to the sky with his tendril. We all turned around and looked up, shocked by what was before us. Through the gaps in the trees, a huge black and red hole opened in the sky. This hole was immense, stretching over a large part of the sky, and almost looked like a cloud formation mixed with a black hole. As menacing as it was, I was intrigued and wished to get a better view.

“Come on guys, let’s get a better view. There’s a field over there.” I beckoned for Riolu and Dusty to follow, but they did not budge. “Are you two okay? You’re acting quite weird.” I asked. They once again looked at each other, exchanging distraught looks. “Look, we’re only going for a quick look. I’m just curious about this weird weather.” Still, they looked uncertain and concerned. Something was wrong, but I couldn’t tell what. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you two… But I’m going to take a peek. You don’t have to come if-” Suddenly, like a crack of thunder, a deep, horrible voice billowed from the sky.

Humans… Hear my voice and tremble in fear…! Your world’s light belongs to me and my Dark Army now... Surrender to us peacefully, and we will accept your sacrifice without harm… However, if you disobey us and try to hide or fight back... I will make your demise long and painful… The choice, is yours… Ultra Beasts, begin your attack!” The voice stopped, echoing through the air. Riolu and I turned to each other, immediately recognizing who it came from.

“T-that’s the voice we heard in our nightmares, Riolu… Necrozma!” Like I’d said a swear word, the air became silent and awkward. Quickly breaking the silence, I said, “Now I’ve got to see what’s happened. You guys can stay here if you want.” I turned around and headed for the open field.

“Rio, Ri!” I suddenly heard behind me. Riolu and Dusty ran up next to me, still looking as troubled as ever. As we reached the outskirts of the forest, we immediately looked up at the huge crater in the sky. It seemed to pulsate with some kind of red aura. Occasionally, a strip of red lightning would ark across it, briefly lighting everything up with a crimson hue. Turning my head to the left, I could see out far across the Western New York hills. It seemed very far away, but another hole like the one in front of us had formed.

“What are these things? And what’s causing them to form…?” I said aloud. Dusty and Riolu had worried looks as they looked around the area. Just then, the hole in the sky began to pulsate more. Suddenly, something inside burst open, sending a wave of energy and a bright white light through the air. Then, floating specks of all different colors appeared from the hole, spreading all over the sky. “What… Are those?” I questioned. One of the specks got closer and closer, until I could fully recognize what was flying towards us. My eyes widened in fear once I figured out what was happening. “Run! We gotta hide, now! Necrozma isn’t playing around, he sent his army after us!”

Riolu and Dusty immediately dashed back into the forest, with me following close behind. We scampered through the clearing and deep into the woods, not looking back. Scanning the area as we ran, I noticed a ditch nearby with a small alcove inside. Riolu and Dusty ran past it, panicking and not fully understanding what to do.

“In here!” I called ahead, slowing down. Dusty and Riolu skidded to a stop, and turned around to run back to me. We all hopped into the ditch and huddled around the back, trying to not be seen. “Shh!” I spat, holding my index finger to my nose to signal quietness. They got the memo and stayed still, not moving a muscle. I tried to control my breathing and stay quiet, but it was hard since my heart was beating at a mile a minute and Dusty’s stink was making my eyes water. Within an instant, a figure emerged from off to the left of the ditch. The red figure was bug like, with a huge proboscis jutting out. The beast had huge abs and four legs, and it fluttered with its set of wings. No doubt, a Buzzwole stood before us. It looked around, obviously searching for us. It turned its attention to the ditch look directly at us, but the dark cloud cover protected us from Buzzwole’s seemingly bad eyesight. I was also worried Buzzwole who detect Dusty’s awful smell, but it seemed that it didn’t pay attention to that aspect either.

Please don’t see us… Please don’t see us…

I repeated over and over in my mind. Fear and adrenaline pumped through my veins, keeping me on alert. I was ready to fight or run if the beast spotted us. However, it stayed in place, hovering for some time. I think it knew we were close by, and wanted to try and wait us out, in case we made a slip. Yet, all three of us stayed frozen in place like statues. Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, the Buzzwole gave one last look around and fluttered off, continuing to search the perimeter. At that moment, the sky started to become brighter as the dark clouds floated away. I was relieved that it happened right after Buzzwole stopped looking. Riolu stirred a bit, eager to stop standing in one place and being so close to Dusty, but I shushed him again and held him back, in case Buzzwole was still nearby.

More time passed, and I finally felt comfortable enough to emerge from the ditch. I slowly climbed out, and beckoned Riolu and Dusty to stay down, in case the coast wasn’t clear. However, as I came out of the ditch, I noticed the Buzzwole wasn’t anywhere in sight.

“...Alright the coast is clear. Let’s head out ASAP… I don’t want to wait around now…” I whispered. Riolu and Dusty nodded yes and slowly emerged from the hiding spot. I opened the “Maps” app on my PokéNav and headed out south again towards the highway, Riolu and Dusty following. All the way, we stayed cautious, checking our surroundings, in case another goon of the Dark Army was nearby.


 

Chapter Text


 

Soon, the woods thinned out, and we came across another wide open field. The field was filled with tall jagged grass and lined with foothills, surrounded by the forest. The portal in the sky had completely receded, but the weather was now overcast and gray. As we walked out into the field, the highway leading south towards the Southern Tier Expressway came into view.

“...Good, there’s the highway… But...” I whispered to Riolu and Dusty, who stared off into the distance. I would assume I’d be able to hear cars being this close to the highway, but I heard none. No cars passed by the fence either, making it even weirder. This part of the New York highways were always busy with tractor trailers and buses. I wanted to head down to the fence and hastily take a look just to see what was happening, but that was far too risky. I thought about the sudden outbreak of Ultra Beasts, and figured that they would be looking for us that close to the highway. But still, something was urging me to quickly take a look. It was unnatural for it to be this quiet, and it was killing me not knowing why.

“...Dammit, I’ve got to check the highway… Stay behind me and watch my back...” I sighed, finally giving in. Dusty and Riolu both nodded yes knowing that it was inevitable we’d have to check it out. This was an incredibly bad idea, but I couldn’t help but worry after watching the portal open. I think Riolu and Dusty felt the same way since they agreed to go so quickly.

As we rushed towards the road, I noticed just how quiet it was. Just a while earlier, the woods were teeming with life. But now, no Pokémon cried out, and even the wind wasn’t blowing; it was eerily serene and calm, almost as if time itself came to a stop. The only thing that I heard at that moment was the rustling of the tall grass we were romping through.

I ran up to the large fence that guarded the highway and looked in both directions. From what I could see the highway looked empty, but past that my vision was obscured by some vines growing on the side of the fence. The fence itself was just above my height and was all rusty and sharp, so climbing it wouldn’t be an option. Luckily, there was a small hole nearby where it looked like an animal of some kind slipped through. The gap was small, but I figured I could at least try and fit through. I turned to my Pokémon to give them the game plan.

“...You guys stay here and watch our back. I’ll only go out for a quick peek, and then I’ll come right back, okay…?” I whispered. Before they could agree with the plan, I ran over to the hole and flopped on my stomach, getting some dirt and dead grass clippings on my knees. I tried to pull myself through the small gap as fast as possible, but I had to readjust a couple times due to the metal jabbing at my skin. Finally, I pulled my legs through and stood up, walking up a small hill to come to the level of the road. My eyes widened as I saw what was in front of me.

Empty cars lined the highway on both sides for as far as I could see. Some were untouched and seemed to be still running, the engines idling and headlights on. However, some were battered and broken; one car up close had its roof torn straight off. I could faintly hear the Emergency Broadcast Frequency playing on loop from the radios of multiple cars, which sent goosebumps up and down my body.

...Where is everybody? And why are these cars all empty?

I asked myself. I started to worry more and I could feel a nervous sweat begin to develop on my forehead. Just then, I heard Riolu’s voice from the side of the road. I turned to see him beckoning me back from behind the fence, seeing as I’d spent more than enough time looking around. I wanted to look around more and possibly find a reason as to why the drivers and Pokémon disappeared, but I knew if I was putting us all at risk by staying any longer. I nodded, took one last glance around, and dashed towards the hole in the fence, struggling to get through again.

Once I was finally back on the other side of the fence and had brushed myself off, I told them about what I saw. The two of them looked puzzled, and a bit nervous too. Seeing as we were still in close viewing distance of the road, I decided to move back to the woods to not be seen. As we rushed back to the forest's edge romping through the tall grass once again, Necrozma’s nightmare from days before suddenly popped into my head. Since Riolu and I were so preoccupied with the journey ahead, we didn’t really dwell on what Necrozma had told us in the dream. Now recollecting on what he had said, I realized something dire that I hadn’t before. My heart suddenly raced and my hands got clammy when I finally put two and two together.

If all of this was true… No, it couldn’t be. I need to ask Riolu about this.

Quickly, I crafted a plan in my head as to where we were heading next. As soon as we were out of view from the road, I spoke my mind.

“Riolu, remember when I asked you, Blastoise, and Purrloin on Sunday night about where you had come from?” He looked perplexed at the sudden question but nodded yes, thinking back to that moment. “I think I know now what you were all trying to say.” His ears perked up and the confused look disappeared from his face. “In Necrozma’s nightmare, he talked about stealing the light from both the Pokémon World and the human world… Which would mean that Pokémon probably somehow fled from there to here in an attempt to get away from Necrozma... Is that-” Riolu furiously nodded his head yes, relieved I was right again. Dusty looked surprised at my correct answer too. My heart sank at their response. “Well, in that case… I think we need to change our traveling plans a bit.” I paused and sighed, my unfortunate hypothesis actually true.

“I really don’t have a good feeling about this. Seeing as the highway is empty and Pokémon were reacting negatively to the Ultra Beasts... Would probably mean that Necrozma isn’t just after us, but every person and Pokémon too.” Riolu and Dusty looked surprised, but nodded in agreement once they realized how credible that sounded. I continued,

“...Tonight, we’re going to head towards Dansville. We’ll stop there for the night before heading to Hornell, where the Southern Tier Expressway crosses through. Dansville is along the highway, but as we travel, we’ve got to see what’s happened in the towns around here. We...” I hesitated for a second and realized what I was saying. For one of the first times in my life, I desperately hoped I was wrong. But if I wasn’t... What did this mean for my family, friends, and maybe even humankind? What would happen to the Pokémon that fled to this world? And most of all, what would happen to us? I gulped nervously and continued on, trying to give myself a false sense of courage.  “Right. We’ve got to check if there's any… survivors. After we figure that out... we’ll continue to Dansville and eventually to Hornell.” I paused again, thinking about my family once more. “My… my aunt and uncle live in Hornell, and I’m worried about them. I know Uxie told us to be hasty… But if all of this stuff turns out to be true…” I stopped talking and looked away knowing what the answer would be. I felt my emotions coming out and I put all of my might into hiding them back away. I took a couple deep breaths and turned back to see Dusty and Riolu looking worried for me.

“After our short stop in Hornell, we’ll head West following the expressway, and eventually South towards Limestone. After that, the same road leads us through the state and towards Kinzua Bridge State Park… And hopefully along the way, we’ll meet up with Slowking. I know that’s a lot to take in, but do you get the gist of it?” Both of them nodded yes, eager to get started. “Alright, we need to get going right away. It’s approximately…” I pulled out my PokéNav to check how far away the distances were when I noticed there was no service here. Seeing as there was a cell tower visible on top of a nearby hill, I figured the Ultra Beasts had something to do with the lost service. The “Maps” Application had offline maps, but they gave no more information after that, making them somewhat useful only in certain situations.

“Well, I guess we’re going to have to wing it. We’ll just stay in close proximity of the highway to know where we are going, but we can’t get too close, or we might be seen by the Ultra Beasts. Oh, and one last thing.” I paused and sighed. “I shouldn’t have pushed you two so hard on going to see the portal when it formed… I’m only now realizing that this isn’t the first time you’ve experienced all this. The portal, Necrozma’s voice, the abductions… That’s why you were so worried and adamant.” Dusty and Riolu looked down, obviously traumatized by going through it all again. “I-I’m sorry that I pushed you two so hard to follow me out. I should have just read the signs and ran away...” I stopped there, unable to finish my sentence. My apology wasn’t amazing, but Riolu and Dusty looked up and nodded, accepting my apology. “...Come on, let’s head out. Don’t let your guard down this entire way.” I beckoned with my right hand for them to follow.

As we started off, I took a second and looked back on everything that just happened. There was no turning back now... With the invasion of the Ultra Beasts and the mysterious disappearance of people, I was officially committed to the task of reaching the Kinzua Bridge State Park and saving the Pokémon World. A terrible feeling of grief developed inside of me, causing a lump to form in my throat. I was scared of failing, worried about my family and friends, and nervous about the road ahead; questions burst inside my head like a fireworks display. I wanted to cry, to let all my emotions out, but this wasn’t the time. I was going to have to stay strong on the road ahead and stop looking back.


 

We travelled at a brisk pace across the New York landscape, hopping over streams, and dashing across small roads. Riolu and Dusty naturally took the front, leading the way through the forested landscape. We admired the environment as we travelled, watching the changing leaves and staring off into the distance, over long valleys and hills. We were unbothered during this time, and none of us said a word except when we needed to change where we were going. Not one person, Pokémon, or Ultra Beast disturbed us on our walk, and that’s what made it so unsettling. Seeing everything deserted only confirmed my theory more. The hike was somewhat relaxing if I took my mind off of all the craziness, but I was getting fatigued from walking for so long over uneven terrain. Not to mention, my legs were covered in rashes and cuts from rubbing up against plants and grass in just shorts. Occasionally, we stopped by a stream to get a drink and to let me empty the pebbles out of my shoes. Everytime we stopped, I could feel the pangs of hunger setting in, making me ever so slightly more uncomfortable. Hopefully, there was some kind of food, water, and supplies in the next town over.

Along the way, I became a little worried about Dusty and Riolu. Neither of them talked, or even looked at each other along the way. They just walked near each other, doing their own thing. Hopefully, they would make a quick friendship soon.

After some time, we approached a long, pothole covered road. Dusty and Riolu piled around me, and we slowly peeked out from our forest cover. To our left was the intersection back to the highway. Tons of abandoned cars lined the streets, adding to the eeriness. To the right, we could see an old looking town made up of wood and brick structures with chipping paint. On the side of the road, a sign read “Welcome to Scenic Mount Morris”. The town looked to be uninhabited as well, the stop light leading in flickering on and off. Now seemed like a perfect time to run in and check to see if anyone was still there. I turned to my Pokémon and said,

“The coast looks clear, let’s head in there and see if-” Before I could finish, a Buzzwole fluttered in from behind a building just in front of the stop light. I immediately reacted and leapt backwards, obscuring myself in cover. Riolu and Dusty did the same, ducking down to not be seen. From the treeline, I thought I saw Buzzwole turn its attention towards where we’d made all the noise, but it quickly looked away and hovered off out of view deeper into the town. “...Crap, that was close… We need to be more careful… Let’s head to the next town over and try our luck there…” I whispered. They nodded in agreement and we quickly dashed across the road to the other side, trying to stay silent.

It wasn’t long before we arrived at the end of another road; it was narrow, and made of gravel. Staring down this road, it turned and disappeared behind some trees far ahead. Each side of the road was wooded, with huge trees leaning over above, almost creating a tunnel of woods. The sun came back out, and the trees supplied a good amount of shade across the road. There were no road signs, but this path obviously led somewhere. I suggested that we follow it to see if we came upon a town. Dusty and Riolu seemed unsure about the decision, knowing just how close our last two encounters with the Ultra Beasts were.

“Come on guys, please? I’m exhausted, and I’m starving… We really need to stop and check somewhere, or else we’re not going to get far...” Dusty and Riolu looked at each other and exchanged looks. They both shrugged and turned back to me, nodding yes. “Yes, thank you. We’ve got to be careful though, there could be Ultra Beasts nearby.” We nodded to each other and headed out.

The gravel eventually turned to pavement, which was a good sign of civilization. Soon, the forest thinned out and led to a large road. It seemed we were just outside a small town, surrounded by a couple small ranch style houses. After a quick inspection we concluded no Ultra Beasts were nearby and found it was safe to explore, for the time being. “Let’s check the houses along the road, but be discreet about it.” We then dashed back and forth across the road, analyzing the houses closely.

After seeing our third house, we confirmed it was definitely the worst case scenario. All three seemed to be broken into one way or another. One’s front bay window was smashed to bits, another had the front door blown straight off. The last one even had a Buzzwole-shaped hole in the side, showing the Ultra Beasts were definitely behind this. We peered inside briefly and saw things knocked over and strewn about, but we didn't really want to trespass. Before going any further, we conversed quietly behind the last house, out of view from the road. Closing the chintzy wire fence behind me, Riolu and Dusty waited patiently for me to speak. I sighed and replied,

“I think we can all agree that Necrozma and the Ultra Beasts was behind this… Meaning that people, and probably Pokémon as well, are being abducted on a mass scale.” I paused and thought about my family and friends. I desperately hoped they were all okay, but I was a realist. Something to this scale probably meant the Ultra Beasts scooped them up and brought them wherever they were taking victims. I felt tears welling up in my eyes, but something deep down inside of me told me that I needed to forget about family for the time being. I turned around so Riolu and Dusty would see me crying, but they rushed in to console me anyways.

No… No, I can’t get worried about all this right now… I’ve got to be strong… For my family, my Pokémon… And everyone that needs me.

I wiped away my tears and balled my hand into a fist.

“L-let’s head into town and try to get some supplies… It’s a long road ahead and we need everything we can get.” I turned back to see Dusty and Riolu looking apprehensive and a bit nervous, but there was no other choice.

As we walked in the cover of trees and houses along the main road, a giant building came into view, surrounded by tall fences with barbed wire on top. Large guard towers were posted at the edges of the fence barrier with spotlights facing in every direction. When we got closer, another smaller structure appeared on the other side of the road, surrounded by the same fence and the same guard towers.

“Wow, nice… Two lovely prisons right next to each other… That’s a wonderful and not unsettling sight at all.” I whispered to myself. Hopefully, if there were any prisoners left, they were still inside the fence.

After skulking around the outskirts of town and around one of the prisons, we reached the main street of the town. The town was t-shaped, with one large road stretching lengthwise, and one stretching the width of the town. On a corner to my left, an old gas station stood. A tall crude letter sign next to the road read “W lc me t Sonyea”. Underneath that were the gas prices which had some missing letters too. I opened my “Maps” app on my PokéNav and found where Sonyea was, which looked a little far from Dansville.

A couple of old brick buildings lined the strip of road in front of me. Other than a couple of houses sporadically placed around the town, that was it. Although I knew the town would be like this, a terrible feeling of worry and grief set over me. Seeing a town like this completely empty when it should have been busy was unnerving and scary; time had virtually stopped here too. We began walking through town, examining the empty buildings and homes. Broken windows, doors, and assorted debris spotted the structures, showing the unfortunate truth. I was getting even more scared and losing hope. If this truly was a ghost town, were all the towns now like this?

After examining the last building, we huddled under the raised roof of the gas station.

“There’s… nothing. Not a single person or Pokémon in sight… This really isn’t looking good...” I said bleakly, facing Riolu and Dusty. They looked more worried about me, though. We then all paused, unsure what to do. Knowing that there was nothing left was too disencouraging. I finally spoke, pointing at the concession store. “I’m heading inside. We should get the supplies we need and get out of town as fast as possible. I don’t think there will be anyone there, but it’s worth a look.” Dusty and Riolu nodded yes and followed me to the glass entrance door. I leaned on it to peer inside, but I stumbled and nearly fell as the door slowly opened to the pressure I’d put on it. Surprised and slightly embarrassed, I walked inside.

The back of the store was dim, the only light coming from the windows in the front of the building. The store was a normal, mom and pop run place, aisles lined with all kinds of junk food and travelling items.

“Hello?” I cried out. There was no response except for the creaking of the building in the wind. I tried flicking a light switch on and off, but there was no response. I walked up to the front counter and looked for a sign of life, but there was nothing. The store was in the state it was left in the night before; clean and untouched, ready for another day of customers. After checking the rest of the rooms, I met back up with Dusty and Riolu, who were examining the items in the aisles. “No one’s here either.” I affirmed sadly. Suddenly, there was a loud growl from my stomach. I blushed a bit. “Wow, I’m starving… Guess I should do this.” I rummaged through my pockets and pulled out my wallet. I opened it and ran my fingers through the flaps to find as much money as possible. All I had was $7.67 in cash and an old $20 dollar gift card to a movie theatre nearby my house. That was going to have to do. I ran up to the counter and slapped the money and the gift card down. Riolu and Dusty poked their heads out from behind the aisle to see what I was doing. “Look, I’m no thief. I wouldn’t forgive myself if I just stole everything I needed. To make myself feel a bit better, I’m spending all the money I had in my wallet. We’ve got $27.67 to play around with… You guys want anything?”

I grabbed some plastic bags from behind the counter and handed one to Riolu and one to Dusty.

“Go pick some stuff out.” I told them. We then walked around the store choosing what we wanted to eat. We met back up at the front of the store soon after with our goodies. I picked out a couple water bottles, two large containers of trail mix with chocolate candy pieces, and some soda to give me energy. I also grabbed some flashlights for Riolu and Dusty. Riolu filled up a quarter of his bag with sunflower seeds and raisins and also some water bottles. Dusty snuck out back and filled his bag with garbage from the dumpster. His bag was filled to the brim, some garbage jutting out the sides. It was gross, but I knew that was what he liked.

“You guys all set? We’re setting out, and probably won’t stop again until we reach Dansville.” Both of them nodded yes, ready to go again. “Well, I hope that we didn’t spend too much money… But I’m sure the owner doesn’t mind though. W-wherever they are…” We walked out of the gas station and headed down the road out of town.

 

The rest of the day passed by slowly, but we were unbothered yet again. After about an hour, the exhaustion from constantly walking up and down the uneven terrain kicked in. Multiple times, I had to stop because I needed a break from travelling. Not to mention my legs were starting to cramp up and ache. While we took our breaks, we all happily snacked on our food and drinks we’d picked out from the convenience store. Unfortunately, the food went by quickly and we had all but finished the last of the food by the second or third stop. I drank two out of three of my water bottles, and ate about three-fourths of the trail mix. I was still hungry, but continued to fight through it all.

 We passed by a couple more towns along the way, and checked them in case there was any signs of life. Yet, every single town we came to was the same as Sonyea: barren, desolate, and not a soul to be found. As it neared dusk, I gave up completely trying to find other people. Along the way, I also began to develop new questions, like where the Ultra Beasts were taking their captives, and how many people and Pokémon were affected. But nothing was as excruciating as how tired I was. My legs ached and screamed for me to stop, but I pushed through the pain, knowing we had to get as far as possible.

We travelled up and down even more hills, through valleys, and across streams for what seemed to be an eternity. At long last, we arrived at our destination; an exit from the highway that lead down towards Hornell and the Southern Tier Expressway. A sign nearby read, “Exit 5: Dansville, Hornell”. I was overjoyed to finally be closer to our daily goal, but the trip was long from over. By then, it was getting late. Since it was past dusk, light was dimming down fast. I knew I had a flashlight on my PokéNav, and Riolu and Dusty had their flashlights as well, but I needed to rest for the night and it was dangerous to be walking around in the dark. Besides, I couldn’t stand any more walking.

“Wait, guys.” I called out. Riolu and Dusty stopped, and turned around to face me. “It’s getting late… I think we should rest for the night… I’m so tired... Let’s find somewhere to stay around here, okay?” Riolu and Dusty looked at each other with concerned looks on their faces. I guess they wanted to keep going, but they both realized that it would be risky and hard to travel without rest and light. They looked back at me and nodded yes. “Okay, good. There should be some place around here to stay… Keep your eyes peeled okay?”

Within a couple minutes, along the road to Hornell, we spotted an old dilapidated barn in the middle of a field in the distance. The barn was falling apart and sported a red-pink, peeling coat of paint. We rushed towards the barn, and reached it with the last bits of daylight left. The door was pried shut, but Dusty and Riolu quickly got the doors open by combining their strength. The Barn doors swung open and a musty smell erupted. I pulled out my PokéNav and turned on the flashlight. Inside, there were two levels. At the bottom, there was an old tractor and some cabinets around jam packed with old supplies and tools. Up top, there was a storage of hay laying about; an old ladder led up to this level. I walked in and looked around, checking to see if anyone was there. “Anyone there?” I called out. My voice reverberated throughout the barn, and was gone in an instant. Suddenly, there was a squeaking noise to my right. I flicked the flashlight to the noise of the sound to catch a small purple furred Rattata huddled in the corner.

I stepped back a foot, frightened to see a Pokémon. It was the first one we’d seen since this morning. The small Rattata looked young and frail, and was visibly very hungry. It hissed at me and showed its huge fangs as I shone the light on it. The Rattata shied away into the corner, but did not run away. It was probably too frightened to move. Riolu and Dusty then came in to see what the noise was about. The room went silent as everyone stared at the hungry Pokémon. Riolu and Dusty gazed at me with worried looks and I immediately knew what they wanted me to do. I sighed and pulled off my backpack.

“Looks like I’ve got no choice.” Reaching into the bag for the leftover trail mix and water, I pulled them out and began slowly walking towards the Rattata. It had fear in its eyes, watching my every move. I had to be careful, or else it would attack. It continued to hiss and would try to back up further into the corner, but the back wall would stop it. I got within a couple feet and kneeled down to the small Pokémon. “Shh… No need to worry. I’ve got food and water here for you. I mean you no harm… Look.” I coaxed, setting down and opening the container of trail mix. I quickly unscrewed the cap of the water bottle and set it down on the ground next to the trail mix. A small amount of water trickled out onto the floor.

The Rattata stopped hissing and studied me a bit more. It looked at me, then to Riolu and Dusty, and then to the food. The Rattata was considering its possibilities, and stayed still, continuing to watch us. We all stayed perfectly still so we would not spook the creature. Eventually, it began to move away from the back wall and headed towards the food. It’s eyes shifted up and down rapidly, to make sure we weren’t planning anything. As it got within grabbing distance of the bag, the Rattata chomped down into the bag and dashed back towards the wall at mach speed. As it reached the corner, it began to ravage through the bag, scarfing down the trail mix inside. “See? We’re all friendly here… Eat up, this is all yours.” The Rattata was finished with the trail mix in nearly a second, and poked its head out of the bag. Small crumbs lined its mouth, its whiskers twitching. It then dashed towards the water bottle and took it back into the corner. After picking up the water battle and quickly slurping up the last droplets of liquid, the small mouse dropped the bottle and looked at us again. Unlike before, it looked full and happy.

“R-Rat.” It let out, a small smile on its face. Dusty tapped me on the shoulder and I turned to him. Both him and Riolu were smiling back. I turned to Rattata to tell it that it was no problem, but before I had a chance to, it scurried off past us towards the open door. The small creature did not look back, it just kept running off, until it passed out of view behind the barn. There was a short pause, and I smiled too. Doing courteous acts always feels like the right thing.

After checking the rest of the first floor, I decided to test the ladder. It seemed strong enough for me to head up, so I began my climb. I made sure to be cautious, as I didn’t want to fall. Once I got up top, a cool breeze hit me to my left. To my surprise, there was a large hole in the side of the barn that opened out to the winding road and surrounding wooded areas. We were going to have to deal with this place, at least for the night.

Within a couple minutes, all three of us were ready to hit the hay (literally). We’d set out makeshift beds outlooking the hole in the barn. Dusty closed the doors to the barn and placed some barn furniture in front of the door as a sort of barricade. He then tried to get up the ladder, but he was too big to get up. The ladder just simply wouldn’t hold his weight. I decided to return him to his Poké Ball and them let him out on the top floor instead. Soon, we were all lying in our piles of hay, trying to get comfortable. The barn was dark except for the pale moonlight streaming in from the hole in the wall. I shivered in my sweatshirt and shorts. It was chilly, as the Autumn nights were starting to really cool off. Finally, as I got situated on my itchy bed, I sat up and muttered, “Goodnight everybody.”

“Gar.”

“Rio.” I pulled my hood up and laid my head back down on the scratchy mattress of hay. As much as I was uncomfortable, I was exhausted from walking all day. Even though it wasn’t that late, I felt like I could rest forever. But as much as I tossed and turned, I could not sleep. I figured it was a combination of anxiety, stress, and hunger. I tried to keep the questions out of my head, but I couldn’t stop them. I needed a distraction.

I sat up and pulled my PokéNav out of my pocket. I clicked the home button and squinted as the bright light erupted in my face. The clock read, “10:37 PM”. I sighed and stood up from the pile of hay I’d been laying on. I walked over towards the hole in the wall and sat with my legs hanging out. I sighed, shivering again from a sudden cold, early Autumn breeze. The clear sky was filled with bright, twinkling stars. A waning moon gave the landscape a dim glow. I could see plenty of stars, a count of less light pollution. Usually, I could never see the stars that bright in the suburbs. I sighed in relief as I reached into my pocket and pulled out my earbuds, clicking one end into my PokéNav. I was about to put them in my ears, when I was surprised by a sudden,

“Rio.” I turned back to face Riolu, who let out a yawn.

“Oh, hey Riolu… Did I wake you up?” He shook his head no, and came to sit next to me. “Oh… Can’t sleep then?” He nodded yes, staring out at the stars. There was a pause.  “Sorry we couldn’t go any farther tonight, I was just so exhausted… A day of adventure can really do that to you…” Riolu didn’t move, he just kept staring up at the night sky. Then, I heard rustling from behind me. I turned around to face Dusty. “Oh, I see you’re awake too. Why don’t you come sit down with us, Dusty?” Dusty nodded yes, and I scootched aside for him to sit between Riolu and I. All three of us stayed silent, gazing up at the stars.

“They’re pretty, aren’t they? You just can’t see the stars this well back home. It’s really breathtaking tonight.” I told them. Just then, a shooting star crested overhead. It appeared and disappeared within seconds. “Hey, a shooting star. Guys, make a wish.”

“Rio?” Riolu questioned looking up at me. Dusty looked confused too.

“What, have you guys have never seen a shooting star before?” I chuckled. “Well, whenever you see one, you’re supposed to make a wish. They’re supposed to be good luck, so there’s a chance your wish will come true.” Riolu and Dusty hesitated and looked back up at the starry sky. They then closed their eyes and thought of a wish. I closed my eyes too, thinking of something to wish for.

Let’s see…  I wish… I wish that I won’t let everyone down… I’ve got to save the Pokémon World, I just have to.

I opened my eyes and looked out once more at the sky. I suddenly felt reassured, as if someone listened to my wish. The pangs of anxiety and stress receded briefly, leaving me with a feeling of happiness and hope. I then turned to Riolu and Dusty, who looked just as relieved as I was.

“Hey, do you guys want to listen to some music? Listening to music always helps me calm down.” Dusty and Riolu looked at each and both nodded yes. “Great. Let’s see here… Dusty, do you want to pick a song?” I unplugged the headphones and showed him the Music App on my PokéNav. After scrolling through the list, he settled on a calm EDM track. “Ooh, good choice Dusty. This one’s great for de-stressing.” The smooth, electronic beats flew through the air, pumping some electricity into the old, depressing barn. Although the beat was kind of hard, the song was quite relaxing, and I felt at home listening to the familiarity of my music. Dusty and Riolu looked like they were enjoying the music too, bobbing their heads from side to side along with the beat.

Once the song ended, I yawned and stretched out. “You guys want to listen to some more? I‘ve got plenty of music on here. Both of them nodded yes, ready to listen. “Alright, check out this track.” I said.


 

Chapter Text


 

“Rio.” I was awoken by Riolu shaking me.

“Huh? Wha-” I sat up with a start. I instantly winced at the brightening morning light entering through the hole in the barn.

“Rio. Lu.” Riolu said, pointing off towards the barn door. I went to stand up when I realized how much my muscles ached. Today was not going to be a fun travel day. Wincing through the pain, I slowly stood up out of the hay bed and walked over to the ledge leading down to the first floor. The door was slightly open, letting the morning light stream through. It was chilly, even colder than during the night, and I could hear the wind blowing in from outside. A somewhat thick fog had rolled in too, providing poor visibility. Dusty was at the door, looking out into the cloud.

I yawned and pulled out my PokéNav. The time was 7:12 AM. I then noticed that the battery on the device was down to 23%. We must have listened to music all night; I didn’t even recall falling asleep in my bed… Dusty or Riolu must’ve carried me there.

Riolu climbed down the ladder and headed for the door. I quickly checked around upstairs in case we’d forgotten anything. I peeked under the hay piles and poked my head out of the hole in the wall, in case anything had fallen down. Of course, I could hardly see down from the heavy fog, but it was worth a shot anyways. After finding nothing misplaced on my search, I headed down the ladder to the bottom. Once I reached the first floor, Riolu and Dusty were waiting just outside the barn for me.

“Okay, not far too go from here, guys. I’d say… about fifteen or twenty miles to go. Once we get to the next town, we can go look for some food and water too. Let’s get going now, I want to get this over as fast as possible.” Both Riolu and Dusty agreed with getting it done ASAP and nodded yes, before turning around to lead. I headed out right after them, shutting the barn doors behind me as we left. As we walked away, I was thankful for the barn to be there, and wished I could thank someone for allowing us to stay the night.

Unfortunately, we’d saved one of the hardest parts of the trip for today. After a few minutes of walking across twisting, damp side roads, we reached the dreaded Dansville Hill. Dansville Hill was well known by the locals of the town as the steepest incline in the area. It’s so large, that radio and cell service at the bottom is affected when you go to the top. Taking this route is the fastest way to get to Hornell, but when it’s wet or icy, it gets sketchy quick. The worst part about Dansville Hill is that is also winding and lasts almost a half mile, making quite a long upwards drive.

As we arrived, Riolu and Dusty paid no attention to the size and immediately began trekking up the slope. I wished I was as confident as them, but something inside of me yelled to find another way. I knew how long it took to get up by car, and I couldn’t imagine how excruciating it was on foot. Not to mention, I was already tired from the small amount of walking we’d done today, and that was only less than a mile. I was considering my options when I heard,

“Rio!” from up the hill. I looked up to see Dusty and Riolu waiting for me, finally realizing I’d been left behind. I don’t know why, but seeing them standing there filled me with a strange sense of determination I couldn’t describe the source of. I was hungry, anxious, and overly tired… But a smile still washed over my face. I swallowed my pride and took a deep breathe, rushing to catch up with them.

I tried my hardest to plow up the steep precipice, and I think I did a good job at first. I set a steady pace, and got through about half before I started to falter. By three-fourths of the way up, I was ready to pass out from exhaustion. I could’ve stopped for a break… But that strange sense of determination was still pushing me on. Part of me wanted to give up, but I just couldn’t. I had to keep going, against the pain and exhaustion. I was panting and sweating vigorously, but tried to think about other things to keep my mind off of the walk itself. It was hard to stay focused on other thought when I was so close to fainting, but yet, I stayed strong and persisted as much as I could. Once the top was in view, Riolu and Dusty looked back for the first time in awhile and saw me struggling. They rushed in to help, but I pushed them away.

“I’ve… Got this.” I said through breaths. They backed away slowly, somewhat confused by my change of pace. As soon as the ground was completely level, I stumbled towards the side of the road and stopped in my tracks. I couldn’t take it anymore; the determination faded and I felt my pain at full force.

“I need… I need to rest…” I felt my legs give out and I fell towards a shady tree right next to the road. Dusty and Riolu knew I was going to collapse at some point and stayed by my sides, grabbing me right before I nearly smacked my head on a large tree root. As much as my whole body ached, I was so relieved to be at the top of the hill and not walking, the pain didn’t seem to faze me. Looking up at their worried faces once I’d caught enough of my breath, I mumbled, “T-thanks… And don’t w-worry about me… I’ll be fine i-in a couple minutes...” I coaxed, picking my head up, trying to show them I was okay. They set me back on my feet, slowly letting go just in case I fell back again. Taking one step, I smiled proudly knowing I was okay, but suddenly the lightheadedness came back and I stumbled backwards right back into their grasp. They set me carefully against the tree to rest some more.

Some time passed, and I felt like I was ready to start again. Maybe it wasn’t the wisest thing to push myself to exhaustion when we still had more travelling to do, but something about that determination boost I got gave me the momentum to continue on. It was almost like an external energy source, fueling my movements when I had no physical energy to continue. ...Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but all I can say is that I couldn’t stop once I was going.

I was sticky and gross from sweat, but I knew we had to get moving soon. I took a deep breath and sluggishly stood up, the pain shooting through my body once more. When Riolu and Dusty stopped looking out into the fog and noticed I was trying to stand once again, they both ran in the help. I smiled at them and replied,

“Thanks… I really don’t know what got into me, but just know the worst is still ahead. We’ve got a long country road to head down before we get to a connector town, and then another stretch of highway before Hornell.” They looked uneasy knowing that I pushed myself too hard and could hardly walk, but we needed to get moving. As I finally got back on my feet, I brushed myself off and took another breath. “Okay… Let’s do this. You ready, guys?” They both reluctantly nodded yes, and stayed by my side as we headed out towards Hornell.

A very long time seemed to pass before we saw the next town. We were stuck on a prolonged winding road, with the sprawling countryside on our right down a small hill, but that was it; no change of scenery for miles. I quickly grew bored and was exhausted yet again. Not to mention I was starving and parched from all the exercise. By then, it was getting to be early afternoon. The wind was surprisingly high and clouds covered the sun every so often, but the fog receded into the lower valleys for now. I was thankful for the cool breeze, or else I’d be drenched in even more sweat. To keep myself busy, I thought of stories in my head and made small talk with Dusty and Riolu to my sides. They nodded at my responses, but said nothing else. So, for much of the time, I gazed at them through the corners of eyes. Occasionally they would look over to check on me, to which I would look away awkwardly to make it seem I wasn’t watching them.

All the while, Dusty and Riolu said nothing to each other or me, walking single file. I wished that traveling together would help them bond, but it didn’t seem to be working. I tried thinking of ways that I could get them to spend more time together on the journey, but nothing came to mind. I put my trust in fate, hoping it would find a way to bring them closer together soon.

As I got closer and closer to my physical limit, I longed for a change from the miles of immense farmland that stretched out in between the valleys to our right. Luckily soon after my wish, in the distance, the small border town appeared. Immediately, my eyes lit up and I wanted to jump for joy, although I don’t think my body would let me. A sign on the side of the road told us the name of the town was Arkport, an old village with one gas station and a small restaurant. To the right of the town was a dilapidated RV park that was too small for how many people lived in it. Other than some other old brick buildings and a couple small houses, that was it.

I was so overjoyed to finally be out of the countryside, I ignored my exhaustion and picked up my speed, rushing past Riolu and Dusty. They followed suit, quickly catching up with me. As we arrived, to no surprise, the town was empty. I tried to create some false hope that there would be some signs of life, but I knew right away everyone would be gone. The only thing “alive” was the stoplight in the middle of town that flashed on and off every so often.

It didn’t matter though, we could finally take a break and look at something that wasn’t tan grass. As soon as we passed by the stoplight that led into town, I looked for somewhere to rest. A bench by the side of the road looked beat up and old, but nonetheless comfortable, so I headed over and sat down on it immediately. I was instantly filled with relief, finally being off my feet. I couldn’t take it anymore; I wasn’t built to travel by foot all across the state, and I definitely wasn’t the healthiest person either. As I comfortably sat, Dusty and Riolu huddled around me and both looked around, scanning the area for any Ultra Beasts.

“Okay,” I told them. “We’re really close now. We just need to head down this road for another mile or two. We’ll reach the Southern Tier Expressway, and then get to Hornell. This is the last stretch, I promise.” Riolu and Dusty turned around to head out when I spoke my mind. “W-wait. I know we’re really close, but we should at least get some food and water from the concession store before we go. And I also need a little more time to re-” Just then, Dusty and Riolu suddenly froze in place, and fixated on something down the street, almost as if they’d seen a ghost. Noticing their strange stop, I paused and added,

“Wh-What’s wrong, guys?” Riolu slowly turned around and pointed his paw out in front. I stood up as fast as I could and peeked around from Dusty’s shoulder. Down the barren road out of town, a figure stood. The red figure was familiar and has muscles swollen beyond belief. It looked towards us with its compound eyes, showing off its large proboscis. I gulped nervously and felt fear rushing through me. I didn’t know if this was the same Buzzwole that had chased us in the Nature Reserve the day before, but I wasn’t about to let my guard down now. Whatever Buzzwole it was, it looked ready to capture us this time.

 

Buzzwole immediately charged at us, fluttering full speed down the street.

“Dodge it!” I yelled, using all my strength to jump off the road and onto the sidewalk just as Buzzwole flew by. Dusty lunged out further into the street, while Riolu landed about a foot in front of me. As we all got up, Buzzwole stood just feet away behind us, flexing its muscles. “It’s really quick… We’re going to have to fight, you guys ready?” I called out.

“Rio!” Riolu turned and balled his paw into a fist. I turned to Dusty across the street, who let out an affirming nod.

“Okay, here we go! Riolu, Force Palm, and Dusty you use Sludge Bomb!” They hopped out in front of me and I stood behind to stay safe.

Riolu dashed in and hopped above Buzzwole, charging his Force Palm. As he let it out, Buzzwole held its massive arms out in front of itself and blocked the sudden blast. Riolu fell down to the ground, recovering from the blast, making him open for an attack. Buzzwole did just that, striking Riolu hard with a swift backhand, sending him flying. Riolu flew through the air and landed hard on the sidewalk, bouncing once, and kicking up some loose concrete.

“Riolu!” I called, running over to him. In the meantime, Dusty let out his Sludge Bomb. Buzzwole dodged and used Lunge on Dusty, leaping quite a ways towards him. The kick landed, catching Dusty off guard and knocking him backwards off his feet. Dusty landed hard on the ground with a small explosion of debris, stunned for a moment from the attack. Buzzwole landed a couple feet before him, and instantly prepared a glowing red Hammer Arm. Before I had a chance to react, Riolu sprang up out of nowhere and dashed over to Buzzwole with incredible speed.

Riolu used Quick Attack and hit Buzzwole on the side. The attack hardly did anything, but it deflected Buzzwole’s Hammer Arm just enough to where it missed Dusty by a hair. Buzzwole slammed his fist into the pavement, sending a shockwave through the ground and crushing the concrete underneath. Dusty snapped out of it and rolled out of the way, standing up in the middle of the road. As Buzzwole looked up from his failed attack, it turned towards me. Buzzwole’s red compound eyes was intimidating, and it seemed as if it was looking at my soul. I cringed from fear for a moment and went back to Riolu and Dusty.

“You alright Riolu? Dusty?” They both nodded yes and stayed in their battle stances in case Buzzwole tried something. “Right. Riolu, no more attacking head on. He’s got a quick reaction time and will find a way to counterattack. Dusty, same for you, it’s too fast to hit it with your Sludge Bomb. You two are going to have to collaborate to get damage out. I’ll try to think of a plan, but if you think of something first, don’t hesitate to try it out.” I told them, hoping the advice would help. Riolu and Dusty looked at each other and exchanged affirming glances. “For now, let’s stay on the defensive side and wait for him to make a slip. Get ready, I think he’s getting ready to attack!” Buzzwole was rushing in, with his right arm glowing a teal color, preparing to use a Mega Punch. Just then, an idea sparked in my head.

“Riolu, get his attention! Dusty, when Buzzwole is occupied, see if you can catch him with your arms!” I yelled, backpedaling away from the battle. Riolu and Dusty jumped away from the attack last second, getting Buzzwole to slam its fist into the pavement again. Riolu taunted him from the side, trying to get Buzzwole to follow after him. The bait worked and as soon as Buzzwole turned to face Riolu, Dusty extended his tendrils and grabbed Buzzwole by the legs. Buzzwole tripped up and fell to the ground trying to get up. It struggled to move, held in place. “That’s it! Riolu, hit him with another Force Palm!” But as Riolu bounded towards Buzzwole preparing his attack, Buzzwole began to flutter its wings and flew up into the air. Dusty held on tight and tried to pull Buzzwole down, but he was picked up off the ground. Now, Dusty was in the way of Riolu’s attack. Seeing what was about to happen, Riolu tried to stop his Force Palm, but it was too little too late and the teal explosion erupted in Dusty’s face, sending him flying backwards. However, Dusty’s grip was so strong, he pulled Buzzwole back with him. Both Dusty and Buzzwole toppled to the ground hard, laying just feet apart.

Riolu looked guilty hitting his teammate, but now was not the time to sit around and mope.

“Riolu, don’t worry about it now! Use Quick Attack and get in there! Keep attacking and be careful if Buzzwole swings at you!” Riolu nodded and dashed into Buzzwole, hitting him over and over again on the ground. Dusty stood up and backpedaled out of the way. Dusty looked like he was hurt bad, especially after the friendly fire. He was panting hard and covered in scratches.

“Dusty, I know you’re tired, but you gotta get in there and help Riolu! Use Body Slam if you can connect!” Dusty nodded yes and ran towards Buzzwole, who was now up off the ground, swatting at Riolu with his fists and his proboscis.

“Riolu, that’s enough! Move out of the way, so Dusty can get a hit in!” Riolu dashed out of the way, gaining Buzzwole’s attention again. Buzzwole tried to set up another Mega Punch on Riolu, but it was too late before Buzzwole realized that Dusty’s shadow was looming over him. However, being as fast as it was, Buzzwole managed to float up in the air a bit, moving a bit out of the way before being directly hit head on with the attack. Dusty connected, slamming Buzzwole into the ground under him. The pavement cracked and shattered, revealing the dirt underneath. The attack was strong, but since it wasn’t direct, Buzzwole had plenty of space to get away from Dusty. It pushed off of Dusty’s body and floated away, standing back for a few seconds to regain its composure. However, Buzzwole looked weakened from the assault and close to fainting.

“It’s vulnerable! Dusty, Body Slam again! Riolu, Force Palm!” The two of them ran in, ready to finish it off. However, I then looked over at Buzzwole who was already up off the ground, crossing its arms again. As a white light appeared from within them, I froze, realizing what I’d done.

“Wait, stop! Buzzwole is going to Counter your attacks!” But the warning came out too late, as both Riolu and Dusty landed their attacks on Buzzwole at the same time. Within an instant, an eruption of white light and energy whipped through the air just before Riolu and Dusty flew past me. The shockwave was so intense, I almost fell backwards. As the dust cleared, Dusty and Riolu were both lying face down on the ground behind me inside small craters, unresponsive. I turned around and yelled, “Dusty! Riolu! No, you’ve-” A loud grunt from behind me stopped my train of thought cold. Slowly turning around, I came face to face with Buzzwole. Although it was weak from Dusty and Riolu’s onslaught, it wasn’t ready to give up yet. I could feel the heat coming off its body from its building rage. It slowly fluttered towards me, extending its arms out.

I opened my mouth to protest, but nothing came out. I should have just ran away, but I was too scared and too tired to move quickly. It suddenly grabbed me by my torso tightly with its left arm. Its large hard covered the entirety of my chest and I couldn’t breathe. Gasping for air, I pleaded,

“P-please…” Just then, a portal emerged in front of us, just like the one that had appeared in the sky the day before. Of course it was smaller, but the black portal had the signature red lightning arcing from it. Somehow the Ultra Beasts could open these portals at command, but I didn’t think about that at the time.

“N-no… I’ve got… To get… Free…” I mumbled, pushing and prying on Buzzwole’s hand, but it was no use. I simply didn’t have the strength to resist. Buzzwole fluttered forwards, heading towards the portal. I was exhausted, but I continued to struggle. Suddenly, that sense of determination came back again.

I can’t give up yet… Must not lose hope…

I thought to myself. As Buzzwole was about to enter the portal, I tried one last time to get free. Adrenaline pushing me, I pressed with all my might, trying to fight against the beast’s grip. But it was simply too strong; once it noticed I was trying to get free, it tightened its hold on me, cutting off even more of my air supply. He clutched me so tight, I felt like I was going to pop. As Buzzwole continued to head to the portal which was only a couple feet away, I felt my vision blur and my mind empty. The determination burned inside my chest, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I was out of energy and out of time.

Riolu… Dusty...

Was my last thought. Inches before the portal there was a triumphant cry from behind Buzzwole. It stopped in place and looked around, allowing me to catch a glimpse of two figures standing in place just a couple yards away, shrouded in a cloud of dust. In an instant, a set of long tendrils came flying through the smog and directed right at Buzzwole. Before it could react, I felt the force of the sudden attack as Buzzwole tumbled to the ground with me in hand.

His grip loosened as the air rushed back to my lungs. Finally getting my energy back, the determination blazed into an inferno and I sprung away from Buzzwole, dashing away towards safety. I quickly turned to see him recover from Dusty’s sudden attack and begin bounding back towards me. Right as I was in grabbing range, Riolu jumped in from nowhere and pummeled him down with a powerful Force Palm. As Buzzwole was stunned backwards, Dusty hopped into the fray as well, him and Riolu suddenly slinging synchronous combo attacks at the injured Ultra Beast. Staring in awe as they pushed him back towards the portal using all kinds of attacks and grabs, Buzzwole eventually had its back directly to the portal. In one last attempt, it tried to get away by attacking, but messed up its Hammer Arm and slammed it into the pavement just beside Riolu, leaving it open for attack. Both Riolu and Dusty took the opportunity, and jumped in, preparing a finishing move.

The attacks hit dead on and Buzzwole disappeared into the rippling portal with an echo of pain. As it disappeared into the black void, the portal closed with a clap of thunder, and a giant red flash. And then, it was all silent again. As the last of the dust cleared, Riolu and Dusty stood side to side, panting. They suddenly turned around and stared at me. A huge smile erupted on both of their faces before they collapsed to the ground, completely exhausted. As I rushed in to help them, I felt a big smile form on my face too.


 

Chapter Text


 

After the battle, we were all spent. The cloudy sky once again began to darken, as the light receded behind the horizon. I decided for the three of us that we would stay in Arkport for the night to regain our strength for the final push to Hornell. It was too dangerous to travel forward without my Pokémon, and I certainly didn’t want to go anywhere at night. It was probably even more dangerous to stay where we’d just fought an Ultra Beast, but what other choice did we have? Riolu and Dusty were too weak to move, and I was about to collapse from exhaustion; plus, I had no medicine to give them.

I returned Dusty and Riolu to their Poké Balls after celebrating their victory and thanking them profusely for the work they’d done. Riolu clutched his paw into a fist before I put him into his ball and Dusty gave me a very weak and gross hug. Once they were both safely resting, I was left in silence again, just the flashing stop light and I. A breeze of wind whipped down the street and rustled my hair. I sighed and breathed in the calm, fresh air, and tried to calm down. Adrenaline was still coursing through my veins, and the determination still blazed inside of me. I wanted to scream, to let all my emotions out all at once. I wanted the world to know how triumphant we were, how stressed, hungry, and tired I was, as well as how scared I was all at once. But I had to keep my emotions bottled. If they got out, the effects would be brutal on myself and my partners.

I finally felt pangs of calmness, and began to search the town for a place to rest for the night. Even though the RV homes were old looking and seemed a bit redneck, I knew no one was going to judge my decision except myself. They were close by too, so I didn’t have to search for a house in the middle of nowhere.

I knocked on the doors of all the trailers, seeing if anyone was still there. Most of the trailers seemed to be locked and abandoned, but luckily, on my second to last trailer, the door swung ajar as I knocked on it. Inside, the small trailer was practically empty. The front door led into a small kitchen, which incorporated the living room and some bunk beds off by the bathroom in the back. There was a rounded table in the living room with seating all around it. I tried to turn on the lights, but flicking the light switch next to the door gave no response. To my right was a door that led to the master bedroom, which was mostly taken up by just the bed. Whoever was there last had gotten rid of all the furniture and appliances in the house. The only thing that was left in the small trailer was a mattress in the master bedroom. There was no clothing, no appliances, no food, no cleaning supplies, just nothing; not even the couch cushions were there. It was going to have to do for the night, though.

I let Dusty and Riolu out of their Poké Balls and set Riolu on the uncushioned couch around the table, and Dusty on the bench next to the table. Dusty hardly fit in the trailer, being almost seven feet tall. Immediately, I gagged from Dusty’s smell in the small cramped space, so I cracked open all the windows a little bit. Just then, my stomach growled loudly. I was stuck with a decision to make. As much as I wanted to pass out right next to them and sleep off some of my exhaustion, I knew we all needed to eat and drink something soon, especially if we were going to travel again tomorrow.

I unhappily grumbled under my breath, settling on the harder decision. Neither Dusty nor Riolu were awake, so they wouldn’t care if I went out to get some food and supplies. It was close to dark, but I figured I could find at least something for us by the time it was pitch black. I didn’t want to not be there if they woke up, so I looked around for something to write a note on. There were no writing utensils, or even paper for that matter, so I left a note on the “Notes” App of my PokéNav.

To Dusty and Riolu, I had to step away for a bit. I’ve gone to get us some food and supplies. Please stay where you are, you need to rest. Don’t worry about me, I’ve got everything covered. Stay safe, and only come looking for me if you absolutely need to.

I signed off the letter with just “N” as I assumed that they would get who that was. As I walked out I took a deep breath before gently closing the door behind me.

 

I was unsure what to do for food, other than to visit the gas station. I tried to walk as quietly as possible, but remain at a constant speed, just in case more Ultra Beasts were in the area. Scanning the area like Dusty and Riolu, I stopped occasionally behind cover to rest, as my own fatigue was eating away at me.

Finally when I arrived at the convenience store, I hastily headed towards the front door. Glancing around before entering, I pulled hard on the handle, but it didn’t budge; it was obviously locked so no one could get in. As I walked back trying to think of another way in, I noticed that the front window was shattered to pieces. I guess I was in such a daze, I didn’t realize it before. The window looked deliberately broken, obviously by a thief trying to loot whatever they could get their hands on. There was plenty of space for me to enter through, so I carefully brought my exposed legs over the broken glass.

The entire convenience store was looted. Aisles were toppled over and the cash register had been thrown across the room. I stepped around broken glass and other debris to inspect the broken cash register. It was beaten to a pulp, with the money drawer missing. I looked around the rest of the store to see what other crimes had been committed. Almost all food items and supplies were missing, and even the computer in the manager’s office was taken.

Walking back out to the ransacked store, I suddenly felt weighed down with a moral dilemma. I knew that I didn’t have any money to spend, and that I would feel guilty if I stole anything… So what was I to do? Looking for an answer, I wandered back to the entrance, carefully thinking of an answer. As I came near the front door, I stepped on a chip container which made a cracking noise under my foot. Immediately, the smell of potato chips wafted into my nose and my mouth started to water. I normally don’t like junk food, but when you haven’t eaten all day, you take what you can get.

I felt bad for thinking about stealing, but in the end I decided that it would be okay to take the stuff I could find lying around. There wasn’t much left, and I knew that no one was around to yell at me for stealing. Not to mention Riolu and Dusty weren’t here, so they wouldn’t care either. Besides, it wasn’t me who broke into the store in the first place. Finally, after psyching myself up for the thousandth time, I began searching for supplies. To aid me in carrying as much as possible, I took off my sweatshirt and used it as a mach bag of sorts. I was cold and exposed to all the broken glass and debris, but it would be worth it to only take one trip.

After finding only bits and pieces, I made my way to the only aisle still standing in the back of the store, nearest to the back cooler doors. As I was about to open on of these doors, I heard a weird, almost staticky noise from outside. Instinctively crouching down behind the shelves and peering around, I thought I could see a Xurkitree stride into the scene from the left side of the street in the last of the light. Suddenly, it seemed to look directly at me and I whipped my head back behind the aisle, my heart racing at a mile a minute. Staying completely still and unsure what to do, I heard stomping footsteps coming closer and closer. I glanced around, searching for somewhere to hide, but I ultimately couldn’t decide before I heard the footsteps stop just outside the window.

An eerie beam of light lit up the store, a kind of off teal, whitish color that slowly slid across the ceiling, casting shadows on the back wall. Nervous sweat beading on my forehead, the light flicked around the room, the Xurkitree searching for me. I desperately prayed that it wouldn’t find me, closing my eyes and letting fate decide the rest. As time seemed to pass by extremely slowly, the beam of light eventually faded away and I heard the sound of footsteps walking away outside. Once I couldn’t hear anything other than the wind and my heavy breathing, I slowly poked my head back out around the corner once more. Confirming Xurkitree was no longer in sight, I sighed in relief and gathered my small amount of supplies, immediately fleeing through the window.

I didn’t stop until I was back at the RV. I ran the whole way despite my pain, knowing that Xurkitree could still be close by. As soon as the door latch was in my grabbing range, I furiously snagged the handle and slowly pulled back, revealing everything had been untouched. Riolu and Dusty were still resting quietly in their same places, the screen on my PokéNav lighting up the ceiling around the table. Knowing they were alright, I smiled and began to finally calm down.

I stepped in and locked the door behind me, setting my sweatshirt of supplies down beside my PokéNav down on the dining table. Using the dim screen of the device, I looked at what I’d grabbed from the store. There was only a couple bags of trail mix, some containers of potato chips, and two bottles of unopened water. I also snagged a USB charger device with batteries included that looked like it would charge my PokéNav. I quietly sighed under my breath at my meager find.

Right then, my stomach growled again and the pangs of hunger came back; I’d all but forgotten about them during the run in with Xurkitree. I was so hungry and thirsty, I almost took the food for myself. It was really hard to resist these feelings of hunger, but I knew my Pokémon needed the food more than me. Unfortunately, I was going to have to wait until I could find more food for myself.

Heading into the bathroom and closing the door behind me, I proceeded to struggle with getting the plastic packaging off the portable charger so that I wouldn’t make too much noise. Eventually having to use my pocket knife to get it open, I then slipped the batteries into the device and plugged the USB cord into the PokéNav’s bottom slot. There was an electronic noise signalling the phone was charging, and the screen light brightened. As I headed back towards the dining table, I edited the note for Dusty and Riolu when they woke up.

Riolu and Dusty, please eat all the food you see. In the morning, we are setting out for Hornell, but we need to take it slow. Wake me up if you need anything. You guys are the best partners in the world.

I signed the letter off with just “N” again and set the PokéNav down on the table next to the food. As I was about to head into the master bedroom and pass out, when I remembered one more thing I wanted to add to the note. I grabbed the PokéNav and entered one last line.

PS: Dusty and Riolu, feel free to play any music you like. Just head to the Music App and get playing. If you need my help, feel free to wake me.

Smiling one last time, I stumbled into the master bedroom. I thought about going back out and taking some of the food, but before I had a chance, I fell down face first onto the bed out of exhaustion. The mattress was dingy and smelled weird, but I didn’t care. I didn’t even bother to get into a comfortable position and it wasn’t long before I fell into a deep sleep.

 


 

I rolled over and woke up in a weird position. I’d slept on my neck in a bad way, and it was stiff. Sitting up, I rubbed my eyes and yawned. Daylight was just streaming in, so I figured it was early. It was cold in the RV account of all the windows being open, but it was way better than choking on Dusty’s terrible odor. Immediately, I noticed my dry throat and nearly empty stomach. I wanted to stay in bed and rest more, but at the same time I needed to get up and eat. The only way to do that, however, was to head out and get to Hornell as soon as possible.

Sighing, I slipped my legs off the bed. As soon as my feet touched the floor, the aches and cramps came back. To say I’d overdone it the last couple days was an understatement. I counted to three in my head before putting all my strength into standing up. My legs buckled and pain jutted through me, but I was finally up again.

I walked out of the master bedroom and saw that Riolu and Dusty had eaten the food and water, but not all of it. A bottle of water, some of the chips and a bag of trail mix was left. My phone was now next to Dusty on the partition between the table sitting area and couch, playing a soft EDM track through the speakers.

Grabbing for the PokéNav, I turned on the display. It was 5:51 AM, almost time to get going. Since I figured Dusty was sound asleep, I turned off the music. To my surprise, I heard him shuffle on the couch, and I caught him waking up. He blinked the sleepiness off once or twice and then looked to me. He sat up, showing a happy face.

“Good morning Dusty…” I whispered to not wake Riolu, who was still fast asleep.

“Gar…” Dusty replied, whispering too.

“It’s almost time to head out… We’ve got to get to Hornell today if we want to stay the night... I know we’ve wasted too much time already and we need to get to Pennsylvania on time... But I also think we should rest for a day… My aunt always has food in the house, so who knows, we may even get a hot meal…?” I saw Dusty look off to the side, thinking about all the food he could eat. I thought about my aunt’s cooking as well, the hunger really starting to both me. Just then, Dusty’s stomach rumbled. I chuckled and pointed at the food.

“You know, you can still have some, right...? I got that all for you and Riolu…” Dusty shook his head no and grabbed the can of potato chips. He reached over with his tendril and handed them to me. “You’re… Giving this to me?” Dusty nodded yes and gave me a wholesum open mouth grin. I was flattered that he was so nice to me. “T-thank you, Dusty…” I opened the cap to the large tin and a strong barbeque smell erupted into the air. There was also another questionable smell coming from the can, so I turned on the front display of my PokéNav to look inside. Inside, an old, half eaten berry of some kind was at the bottom. I tipped the can over, and the gross, slimy fruit toppled out onto the table with a small thud. I looked at Dusty, who looked back at me, still smiling.

“Well… On second thought, I think I ought to pass on the chips… But thanks for the offer, Dusty…” I patted Dusty on the head, who gave me another open mouth grin.

I slurped up the unopened bottle of water and threw the bottle to Dusty, who happily chomped it up with the potato chip canister. Riolu woke with a start when he heard Dusty crunching on the garbage. Realizing everything was okay, he rolled over and stretched out on the round seating.

“Good morning Riolu.” I told him, no longer whispering as everyone was awake. Riolu sat up and stretched once again, letting out a yawn.

Rio…” It said, a small smile coming across its face.

“We gotta head out soon. Eat the rest of your food and we can head out, okay?” Riolu shook his head no and grabbed for the trail mix. He handed it to me, just like Dusty had with the chips.

“Rio, Ri.” Riolu said, smiling like Dusty.

“Aw, you too? Thanks, Riolu.” I patted him on the head and took the bag, quickly checking to see if there was anything other than trail mix inside.

I scarfed down the mix while Dusty and Riolu woke up a little more. After I’d finished the small amount of food, I felt I had at least enough energy to head forward. I looked up to see that both of my partners on their feet. The light from the window revealed all their cuts and bruises from the run in with Buzzwole the day before, and I suddenly wondered how I looked after it all. But, as much as we all were not ready for the small trip to Hornell, it would be better the sooner we got it over with.

“Okay, we need to head out. Luckily, Hornell is really close, so it should only be an hour or so. Make sure to be on the lookout for Ultra Beasts too, last night I-” I suddenly froze, Riolu and Dusty confused by my sudden pause. Knowing they would worry if I told them about my trip to the convenience store, I decided to quickly make something up. “Uh, last night I thought I heard some Ultra Beasts around. Let’s just be careful… Ready?” Still slightly confused, they reluctantly nodded yes, knowing today’s travel wouldn’t be good. I agreed with them and quietly groaned, unlocking the door and opening it.

Before even stepping outside, I was stopped by the weather. The clouds outside were dark and puffy, signalling that rain was to come. I turned around to Dusty and Riolu who glanced around me, looks of worry spreading across their faces. No one wanted to travel in the rain, but there was nothing we could do about it.

“Well, I guess it’s not the worst thing that could happen to us on our trip. The faster we travel, the less time we will actually be in the rain.” Turning to each other with uncertain looks, they both eventually agreed with that statement, so we left the RV behind and started our journey down the road to Hornell.

Fortunately as we headed out of town, the sky gradually lightened, and the darkest clouds blew away. However, the temperature didn’t warm up at all, and my sweatshirt just wasn’t cutting it. I wished that the Summer weather would come back, but New York climate wasn’t that kind. It was Fall, and that meant Fall weather.

We set our walking pace a little slower than usual, so it took us quite a while to arrive at the Southern Tier Expressway overpass. There was a turnoff from the road that led to the highway above. I let Riolu and Dusty know that the road we were looking at was the one that we would take to the PA border. They nodded, and inspected the bridge as we passed under.

To get in and out of Hornell, there is one set of roads side to side. These two roads are pretty barren around the outside, surrounded by trees. Both roadways are large and have a couple lanes, as the Southern Tier Expressway attracts plenty of car traffic. There are also a couple u-turn spots in the intersections that connect adjacent roads.

After some more boring and tiring walking, a sign that read “Welcome the Hornell” was placed on the side of the road. Pointing it out, I said,

“Look, we’re close guys, really close. We have to be careful, though. Hornell is a bigger town than what we’ve seen on the side of the highway. There could be more Ultra Beasts hiding just around the corner. We’ll take the side streets to my aunt’s house to attract less attention.”

As soon as you get into Hornell, you reach a sort of business area, with some large businesses to the left, and a plaza to the right with assorted shops and stores. Usually, this part of town is busy all day, but the place was dead when we arrived. It was creepy to see it so uninhabited and desolate, but definitely not surprising. Not wanting to stay around, we rushed as fast as could past the plaza area and towards the turnoff onto the side streets.

We passed by the senior living home where my grandparents had stayed before they passed away a couple years before, and weaved through the town’s many small streets. By now, I was getting to be a little anxious and on edge. Seeing all the familiar landmarks made me start to think about my family members and friends. More and more questions popped into my head and I wanted answers quick. I began to walk faster, ignoring my pain, eager to get to my aunt’s house to see if everyone was still okay. I led the pack, Riolu and Dusty at my sides directly behind me, carefully keeping watch.

Every street in Hornell was nearly the same, with houses on the sides of a small street with sidewalks lining the road. Many homes looked to be empty, and many looked broken into by the Ultra Beasts. Rarely, we came across a house with everything boarded up, almost like whoever lived there was preparing for a natural disaster or something. But nonetheless, it was reassuring knowing that we weren’t completely alone. No cars lined the streets, and the sidewalks were lifeless. Again, a creepy sight for a normally busy suburban town.

Eventually, we came to the street where my aunt’s house was. By now, my heart and mind were racing, and I was getting impatient. I had the sudden urge to rush and began running towards the house. Riolu and Dusty ran close behind me, looking surprised by my sudden change of speed. I hopped off the sidewalk and ran up the front walk to the porch.

My aunt’s house was a large victorian era style home with two floors, like many of the other houses in the town. My aunt and uncle got the house cheap many years before, planning to start a family. There were plenty of rooms inside, providing a supple amount of space to create a large household. The outside of the home had chipping blue paint and large windows. At the top of the house was a large steeple, with a panoramic window. I suddenly remembered that I’d always wanted to go into that room when I visited as a kid, but never got the chance.

I ran up the steps to the porch and raced to the front door. There was a large dresser in front of the doors on the inside, making a sort of makeshift barrier. I walked around the porch and noticed that the other windows were boarded up. A shot of relief ran through my body, knowing that someone was here to board up the place. But whether that was my aunt or a stranger who’d taken over the house was still a mystery.

Although no lights were on in the house, and let alone anywhere in the neighborhood I walked over and pressed the doorbell anyways. Obviously, there was no response, but I was so panicked and anxious I put aside all common sense and began to knock on the door. My emotions were starting to take a hold of me, and controlling my actions.

“Hello? Aunt Janice? Uncle Mike?” The loud sound of knocking rapidly reverberating through the area, Riolu and Dusty rushed up to me and signaled for me to be quiet. I ignored them for the time being and since there was still no response, and grabbed the doorknob. As much as I twisted and pulled, the doors didn’t budge, locked and barricaded from the inside. “Come on!” I yelled, barging into the door. This didn’t help at all, except make more noise. By now, Riolu and Dusty had seen enough and grabbed me by my arms, pulling me away from the door.

“There’s got to be another way.” I said, giving up and pushing off from them, heading back down the front steps and towards the rear of the house. I walked along the shared driveway quickly, looking for another way into the house. It seemed that all the windows and doors were boarded or barricaded shut, and there was no way in. Luckily, I remembered about the storm doors to the basement on the other side of the house next to the back porch. As I reached the back of the house I stopped in my tracks. The disconnected garage was completely knocked down, wood and debris strewn all across the driveway and backyard. After a closer look, the cars inside were crushed too. Looking to my left, the storm doors to the basement were wide open, a wood barricade on the outside smashed to pieces. Down below, the dark basement loomed. The light from outside only reached a little past the bottom of the stairs.

Riolu and Dusty finally caught up to me, both slightly out of breath.

“I don’t know what happened here, but I’ve got to check out what’s in here.” I told them, pointing to the cellar. I nervously pulled out my PokéNav and turned on the flashlight. The bright light revealed a little more of the staircase, showing a smooth, hard concrete floor at the bottom. I swallowed my pride and began to slowly walk down the stairs, each wooden step making a boisterous creak as I stepped on them. Riolu and Dusty followed behind me, creating more commotion on the squeaky steps. If there was anyone down in the basement, they definitely knew we were there. “H-hello?” I called out into the abyss in a relatively hushed voice. There was no response, only more creaking of the old stairs.

Eventually we reached the bottom of the staircase and looked around at the drab scenery. We were in a small hallway that led to the actual basement. The stone brick walls looked sharp, with a last bit of light streaming into the nooks and crannies from outside. I continued to slowly walk forward, cautious of my surroundings. The basement then split off in a t-shaped direction, one way to each of my sides. I peeked my head out, shining the flashlight each way. The right went to the other staircase which headed up into the kitchen. But to the left, well, I was unsure what was there. The light hit the back wall, showing the furnace and some more space to the sides, but I wasn’t brave enough to look there.

“Aunt Janice? Uncle Mike?” I called out down the hallway. There was no reply back, so I rapidly turned around and whispered to my partners, “Close those storm doors and come on, we need to head upstairs.”

Promptly shutting the storm doors and barricading the hallway with some pieces of furniture, we began our ascent to the kitchen. The twisting staircase gave way to the closed kitchen door, the natural light streaming in from under the frame. I clutched the doorknob and sighed, slowly turning and opening it.

“Anyone there?” I called out again, a little louder this time as I headed out into the small hallway between the stairs to the upper half of the house and the kitchen. Still nothing. I walked off the stairs, Riolu and Dusty following close behind.

My aunt and uncle did a good job of renovating their old victorian-style house, and the kitchen was the centerpiece. It was very modern, with new stainless steel appliances. There was a small flat-screen TV on the very left edge of the counter, and usually an assortment of food spread across the exterior of the back wall. There were new chairs at the gray topped wooden kitchen table, and the marble floor tiles shined with a gray tint. But the best part was that it was almost always filled with familiar, smiling faces and delicious food. However, I became distraught when I saw how the room was now.

Immediately, I noticed how everything was boarded up. Almost every part of the window was covered in wooden panels and the blinds were drawn. It was messy too, as if someone had gone through and quickly grabbed everything they could. Shattered plates and glasses were scattered all over the floor, gleaming in the meager amount of dreary light. I was shocked, and felt the tears welling in my eyes.

“N-no… This can’t…” I stammered in disbelief.

“Ri…” Riolu muttered off to my side, unsure what to do. Seeing the state of the room was just enough stimulus to get me to turn my back on my emotions. And as soon as I wasn’t paying attention, they took full control of me.

“No, they’ve got to be here!” Suddenly, I began dashing through the house calling out the names of my relatives. “Aunt Janice! Uncle Mike! Mickey? Peter!” I screamed at the top of my lungs as I rushed through the dining room, the living room, and into the front foyer. Still, there was no response. The tears rolled down my cheeks and I could feel my heart racing at a mile a minute. I should have given up and faced the ugly truth, but my emotions were too strong to stop. I flew up the front staircase, the stairs creaking under my weight. Riolu and Dusty hurried after me close behind, still uncertain as to how to approach the situation. I called out my relative’s names again as soon as I got upstairs, my voice beginning to falter and crackle, while a deep sadness crept in. I rushed from room to room only to find all of the same thing: empty rooms boarded up and all the belongings strewn about.

Finally, I was just about to come to the den just above the kitchen. Out of all the rooms in the house, this was the one I had the most connection with, and one of the only rooms my aunt and uncle hadn’t renovated yet. In my head, I could always picture the old blue wallpaper fading to an off color due to light exposure for so long, and the dingy roughness of the hardwood floors. There was the two couches in front, one a beat up dark leather couch, and the other an ugly old white floral couch. And there was that bunch of old magazines sat atop a coffee table between the two sofas and the old TV that we used to play videogames on. Everything in the room was just the way it always was in my head, and it had been ever since I was a child. How I missed this old room when I wasn’t there; it was imbued in the childhood memories I had coming to my aunt’s house during family gatherings at holidays.

But when I rushed out of the conjoined bathroom and finally entered the room to find it completely empty, all of those nostalgic feelings disappeared. Nothing was left, except for the dust that had developed on the walls and floors. Where it all was, I didn’t have a clue. But along with the vanishing of the furniture, my childhood nostalgia disappeared too. I crumbled to the ground, the tears streaming off my face and onto the floor, kicking up dust as they landed. As I sobbed uncontrollably, I felt lonely, scared, and sad above all else. Riolu and Dusty rushed to me, but I couldn’t hear or feel their warm, comforting messages through my wall of emotions. Finally, I’d come to the conclusion I never hoped would happen. It was the worst case scenario.


 

Chapter Text


 

It took me awhile to compose myself. All the emotions I’d bottled up along the journey so far were finally being released, so I just couldn’t stop. I sat on the step down from the conjoined bathroom, letting everything pour out. After some time, Riolu and Dusty gave up trying to comfort me and just let all my feelings come out naturally. They awkwardly stood behind me with their backs turned, occasionally checking to see if I was done. Finally, after some time, I felt the last of the tears drip down my cheeks and took a deep breath. The sobbing was still unstoppable, but I still spoke anyways.

“G-guys… I-I’m sorry for… All this crying.” They turned and looked towards me, still unsure what to do. “L-Look. I’m in no cond-ition to travel… Anymore today. We… Should stay he-here for the night. We all… Need to rest.” Riolu and Dusty knew that I wouldn’t take no for an answer, so they came over and picked me up off the step, Dusty grabbing me by my arms and Riolu hoisting my feet above his head. “W-where are you taking me?” I asked as they took me back through the upstairs hallway and to the master bedroom. They softly placed me atop the bare mattress and stepped away. “Oh… I see. You guys are t-taking care of me now, huh?” The two of them couldn’t help but smile at my response. Seeing their kindness stopped my sobbing and cleared my mind a bit. “Thank you. Both of you. I’m… Going to nap. Feel free to look around the house for supplies and food… But please get some rest soon too. Don’t overdo it.”

They nodded and walked out of the room, closing the door behind them. I listened in as they headed down the stairs, quietly conversing with each other. As soon as they were out of earshot, I rolled over and stared at the ceiling, letting out an annoyed sigh. I was embarrassed that I’d let all of my grief and sadness right in front of my Pokémon, but what was done was done. What I needed to focus on was the road ahead, but it was extremely hard to do so. The thoughts of my missing family and all the what-if questions from before tormented me whenever I let my guard down. I eventually gave up and shut my eyes, letting my mind wander until the exhaustion set in and I passed out.

Hours later, I woke up with an even stiffer neck in the last of the daylight. Outside, I could hear the wind whipping against the house, causing the foundation to creak loudly. Slowly sitting up, I pulled my PokéNav out of my pocket and turned on the display. The blinding light paralyzed me for a second before I came to and saw the clock read “7:24 PM”. As my mind came to, the troubling thoughts reentered and I felt depressed once again. But at the same time, my stomach growled and the bad thoughts were replaced with me realizing how hungry I was.

Struggling to get out of bed, I heard a noise from the back corner of the room and shone my PokéNav display in that direction. I found Dusty lying on the ground facing the wall, sound asleep. On the dresser next to him, Riolu slept upon an old sweater. I smiled knowing they chose to sleep next to me and not in another room. Carefully tiptoeing towards the door, I opened it and stepped out as quietly as possible. I almost tripped up when I saw what was at my feet outside. All kinds of unopened drinks in bottles and cans, as well as miscellaneous foods inside plastic bins lay in a semicircle at my feet, carefully placed. My smile grew bigger and I could feel my cheeks get warm. Guess my aunt had a party recently and didn’t get rid of all the food. Gently closing the door, I scooped up the food and took it down the hall to somewhere away from where Dusty and Riolu were sleeping.

As I ate all the lukewarm leftovers and drinks to my heart’s content on the step down in the den, I looked out at the room I’d once cherished. It probably wasn’t the most ideal place to eat with all the dust, but trying to go down either one of the old staircases would be too noisy. Although everything I remembered was gone, I still felt a heartfelt connection somehow. Sure it was sad someone took away all of the things that gave the room character, but that’s how life works. My mom always told me, ‘nothing good lasts forever’, and that’s how I tried to live my life. “People get older, things change, and nothing is ever the same.” I mumbled, trying to psyche myself up. But as the tears began to return, I realized I might not be ready to face that reality. My family and friends had been taken away from me, as well as everything that made me the way I was. What was the point of fighting if I had nothing to stand for? I took a deep breath to calm down and coughed on the stale, dust filled air. I needed to get away from it all.

A walk would probably help.

Standing up, I knocked an empty soda can off the step and turned around, stepping up into the bathroom. Just past there was my cousin Peter’s old room. Peter and his brother Mickey were my aunt’s children, both at least ten years older than myself. Both moved off to Arizona looking for job opportunities when I was young, so I never really saw them too much. Their rooms never changed, my aunt taking care of it all while they were away. The door was open to Peter’s room, so I peeked my head inside to see how everything was holding up. Surprisingly, everything was left as it was, and nothing seemed out of place. I guess whoever went through the house didn’t bother to look there. Just like the rest of the house, a coating of dust lay on all the surfaces. Like many of the other rooms in the house, it also had weird architecture. There was a sort of greenhouse room in the back of the room with glass doors leading into it. This room was small, had plenty of windows, and was always cold. Unfortunately, all the windows were boarded off and the room lost its interesting nature. My nostalgia was beginning to cloud my mind, so I took a peek in his closet to find a bunch of button down shirts; Peter’s favorites. I revolted when the intense musty smell hit me, almost as if no one opened the closet in years.

Walking out of Peter’s room, I shined my light onto the crawl space door, which was adjacent to the three-step staircase that led down the hall to the master bedroom. My relatives always called it a crawl space, even though the room was actually quite large and had plenty of room to stand. It was more of a storage room than anything, holding most of my relatives’ extra things inside. I hadn’t been in the room since I was a kid, when my aunt took me inside to look at some old family keepsakes. Suddenly, I got a curious feeling and an urge to explore the crawl space.

Why not? I haven’t been inside in years… 

I crept over to the door and twisted the knob, pulling it back. The door opened, filling the room with a not-as-potent musty scent. The crawl space was pitch black, and I could hardly make out the insides with just the light from my phone. I decided to turn on the PokéNav flashlight, revealing the interior. The light revealed a long, narrow room lined with rows of odds and ends, a lot of it piled up on top of itself and some overflowing inside storage containers. Large pieces of old furniture adorned the outsides room as well. I shrugged and stepped inside, not fully shutting the door behind me.

I continued to look around the small room, shining my flashlight all around. The light caused shadows and shapes to cast on the floors and walls from the surrounding objects. As I walked, I glanced around at all the keepsakes, finding a bunch of things I’d never seen before, although much of it was old clothing and furniture. Weaving around all the stuff, I made my way to the back of the attic to find a single wardrobe against the wall. Strangely, it was tilted in one direction and it almost felt like a draft was coming from under it. I scanned the old piece of furniture over and shuffled around it to the side to find the answer. Just behind the wardrobe, a hidden staircase loomed, natural light flowing in from the top. Surprised to find this passageway here, I briefly felt happy at my discovery and was intrigued as to where the stairs led.

Carefully squeezing through the small crack between the wall so I didn’t cause too much noise, I slowly headed up the stairs. Fortunately, the cramped staircase did not creak under my weight, so getting up them quietly wasn’t a problem. As soon as my head crested the top, my eyes filled with wonder.

I was standing inside the steeple at the top of the house. I was suddenly filled with joy, finally standing inside the room I’d always wanted to go into. I walked forward into the steeple, whose walls were painted the same color as the exterior of the house. The panoramic windows extended out from the sides of the room and went up almost all the way to the top. One of the windows was on a metal hinge and was ajar, letting a cool breeze inside. The tops curved into a point a couple feet above me. Cobwebs adorned this top area, blowing in the breeze. Looking outside, I noticed the clouds had melted away and a nearly full moon lit up the skies. Stars twinkled brightly without the normal light pollution. Down below, I could make out a Buzzwole roaming the area a couple streets down. I ducked down at first, but then realized there was no way it would be able to see me from that distance, especially in the dark. It was after I calmed down that I realized I could see the entire neighborhood from up here, but I was still weirded out by not seeing any lights on.

There was a single beat up old leather chair in the middle of the room with a small end table next to it, while the outsides were littered empty beer bottles. The chair I noticed that there was something face down atop the end table, so I walked around to the front of the chair to inspect it. There was hardly any space in the room for me to get around the chair, let alone without knocking a beer bottle over.

I finally reached the front of the chair to find that the object was a toppled over picture frame, surrounded by broken glass. I turned off my flashlight and put my PokéNav into my pocket, carefully picking the frame up. I sat down in the chair and turned it over, the moonlight revealing the picture. Inspecting it, I noticed how old it was, as the paper was yellowing and the background looked out of focus. The picture was in front of a familiar looking house, where two people stood side by side, smiling. To their left was a sign that read “Sold”. One woman and one man. As soon as I realized what the picture was, something shot through me. Standing in the front of the house was none other than my aunt and uncle, on the day they bought the house. The tears began to well in my eyes, but I stopped them this time. I wasn’t going to let my emotions control me anymore. It was sad what had happened, but I needed to let everything go if I wanted to function. Yet, my mind still raced as I told myself this, as the what-if questions bounced around in my head.

What if I don’t save the world? What if Necrozma or the Ultra Beasts find me? What if I end up losing Dusty and Riolu? What if I let everyone down? What if-

As the questions multiplied, I began to feel worse and worse. Suddenly the wind picked up, and pulled the picture from the frame and upwards into the air, causing it to float towards the window. I tried to grab for it, but it was just out of reach. The picture of my aunt and uncle flew out of the window and glided with the breeze. It passed by the moon creating a brief silhouette, and then out of view behind the roof.

I could feel something welling in my throat as the tears began form again when I turned my attention across the street. On top of the roof of another house, a shadowy figure stood. Wiping my eyes and leaning forward, I squinted my eyes to get a better look. The figure was lanky, on all fours, and seemed to have a long, somewhat spiky tail. My heart started to race and I got up from the chair. It didn’t seem to be an Ultra Beast, but was it a friend or a foe? Just then, the figure turned its head towards me and I saw two green eyes glowing in the dark, like when you see a nocturnal animal at night. Surprised, I took a step back. Suddenly, the figure leaped into the air and out of my sight. Rushing back to the window, I swiftly looked around, trying to find where the figure had gone.

To my side, I heard a loud thump. I whipped around and saw the figure up close in the window behind me.

“Woah!” I yelped, taking my flashlight out of my pocket. The light shone on the figure, blinding both of us. When I regained my composure, I recognized the figure standing just outside the window. There was a large cat of some kind, black with yellow spots. The cat had some red around its eyes, and it seemed to have some kind of weird necklace wrapped around its neck. In front of me, a Liepard stood.

The Liepard began to walk around the steeple, heading for the open window. It kept its eyes on me the whole time, the gleaming pupils boring into my soul. Instead of running away to get help or closing the window, I stood frozen. I used up all of my willpower letting my emotions out earlier, and I was still too tired to bolt. Once the Liepard reached the window, its face briefly reminded me of how my cat Buffy turned into a Purrloin back home. There was plenty of space for the Liepard to come in behind the window, so it reached its left paw in first and then its right paw. I backed up until my back was against the opposite window, nearly tripping on the chair and stumbling over the beer bottles. The slender Liepard fit its body through in no time, and was now standing before me.

“Uh…” I said quietly, at a loss for words. The Liepard approached me, still staring at me. My heart raced even faster and I felt a nervous sweat forming on my forehead. Once it was within arms length, I closed my eyes, expecting an attack. Strangely, I felt the Liepards soft paw on my leg and heard it say,

“Lie, Lie.” It’s voice was surprisingly high pitched, but kind of reminded me of a cat’s meow. I opened my eyes to see it laying down at my feet. It was pointing with its paw to its strangely shaped necklace. I shone the flashlight off to the side to supply me with a supple amount of light to see, but not enough to blind the Liepard again. The necklace was crudely made of chain link and in the middle was a Poké Ball.

“Oh... You want me to have this?” I asked. The Liepard nodded yes, still staring at me with a stern expression. I calmed down and untensed my muscles. I reached for the necklace, in which the Liepard lifted its head up so I could easily retrieve it. I pulled it off and held the Poké Ball in my hand, letting the chain dangle. Oddly enough, the Poké Ball felt a little heavier than usual, as if there was something inside. Pressing the middle button of the Ball, the device opened, revealing a folded piece of loose-leaf paper with my name on the outside. “A letter...?”

I pulled out the letter and slipped the necklace back onto Liepard. I walked around the big cat and sat down on the chair, holding the flashlight in my other hand to see the writing. The letter looked hastily done, the handwriting in messy blue ink and all uppercase letters. It was then that I realized there was only one person I knew who wrote this way.

This is from my mother?! What does she have to say?!

I thought. I flipped to the other side, looking for an answer.

 

DEAR NICOLAS,

HOW IS YOUR ADVENTURE GOING? I HEARD FROM A POKÉMON NAMED UXIE THAT YOU WERE CHOSEN TO GO AND SAVE THE POKÉMON WORLD. AS MUCH AS I WAS SAD TO SEE YOU GONE, I KNOW THAT YOU’LL BE IN SAFE HANDS WITH RIOLU. THINGS HAVEN’T BEEN THE BEST SINCE YOU WERE GONE, BUT I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW THAT I’M DOING JUST FINE BACK HOME. A COUPLE OF DAYS AGO, MONSTERS FLEW DOWN FROM THE SKY AND ATTACKED OUR TOWN. MANY PEOPLE WERE TAKEN AWAY BY THEM, BUT I WAS SAFE WITH BLASTOISE AND BUFFY. YOU WERE RIGHT: POKÉMON REALLY ARE SOMETHING ELSE. CURRENTLY, WE ARE HUNKERED DOWN IN THE BASEMENT OF THE TOWN LIBRARY WITH A COUPLE OF OTHER SURVIVORS. WE ARE DOING EVERYTHING WE CAN TO HELP OUT, BLASTOISE AND I. I WROTE THIS LETTER BECAUSE I WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW THAT YOU MAKE YOUR OLD MOMMA PROUD. SAVE THE WORLD FOR ME, CHAMP. WE’RE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU BACK HOME! I LOVE YOU VERY MUCH! I’M SENDING BUFFY TO DELIVER THIS LETTER… SHE HAS ALSO MISSED YOU SINCE YOU LEFT! TAKE CARE OF HER FOR ME!

                                                                                                            XOXO, -MOMMA

 

The letter ended there and I looked up at Buffy who was now looking off in the distance out the window. I was so happy and joyful, I felt like I was going to explode. This was the best news I’d heard in a while! Uxie had heard my request in the forest a couple days ago and relayed my message to my mother. And what a relief, hearing that she was okay. A sudden sense of confidence enveloped me and now I had something to fight for again. I knew I had to save the world, I just had to. There was no other option; I couldn’t let everyone else down. My Pokémon and I were the world’s last hope. So what if I wasn’t the best candidate? We were the only ones who could do something about it, and I had my Pokémon as well as my mother to support me all the way through. I clenched my fist and slipped the letter into my shorts pocket.

I looked down to Buffy who glanced up at me again.

“Buffy… I’m sorry I didn’t know it was you at first… But it is good to see you again. I guess that means you're coming with us to Kinzua Valley now, right?” She nodded yes, and briskly looked off to the side again, staring out the window once more. “Good, you’ll be a great help. But before I introduce you to my partners, I need a little more time up here…”

After a couple more moments of silence and fresh air, I headed back down into the attic; I definitely had enough of the steeple for now. Buffy followed me out, observing the clutter of the storage place. When I emerged from the crawl space, Dusty and Riolu were waiting in the hallway next to the door. They were both preparing attacks, but calmed down once they saw it was just me.

“Oh!” I replied at first, surprised to see them up. “I didn’t mean to wake you guys… Sorry. I needed a walk, so I went upstairs to the steeple room for a while.” They looked relieved that I was unharmed and didn’t have to fight at all. Just then, Buffy emerged from behind me and came out into the hallway. Both Riolu and Dusty jumped a foot when they noticed her. “Oh, yeah. Riolu and Dusty, this is Buffy. You remember her from back at my mom’s house, right Riolu?” They looked as confused as ever. “While I was up there, Buffy came to me with a note from my mother. She sent Buffy here to give me a letter.” Although I’d cleared everything up, Riolu and Dusty wore apprehensive looks as they studied Buffy, who continued to not give them her attention. I guess they were unsure if they could trust this new member.

“Don’t worry you guys. I’m sure Buffy will become a great new member of our team. Now come on, let’s get some more rest before we head out tomorrow.” Riolu and Dusty reluctantly turned and headed back towards the bedroom, quietly conversing with each other again. Buffy followed behind me, her claws scratching on the hardwood floors.

That… Wasn’t the reaction I was hoping for. I hope everyone can get along soon…

As soon as we were all back inside the master bedroom, Dusty and Riolu went back to their sleeping spots, eyeing Buffy as she came out from behind me.

“Goodnight Dusty and Riolu. Oh, and Buffy-” I turned to see Buffy pounce up onto the bed and sprawl out on top of it, taking up almost all the space except for a small spot on the front right corner. She curled into a ball and closed her eyes, letting out a tired yawn. Riolu and Dusty looked visibly taken back, to which I nervously shrugged off. I walked around to the other side of the bed and tapped her on her stomach. “Hey, Buffy. That’s my spot you’re in. Could you move?” Buffy opened one eye and stared at me and then closed it again. It was obvious she wasn’t going to move. I sighed and laid down on the small amount of bed that was left, my legs almost fully off the side.

“Goodnight everybody.” I said quietly, turning off my flashlight and slipping it into my pocket. There was no response back from any of my partners.

Right… I guess I’ll try to get some kind of sleep… It probably won’t work, but I’ll be a mess in the morning if I don’t try…

I rolled over and closed my eyes, trying to think of some kind of story to aid. My mother and her letter suddenly popped into my head again and I turned my attention to the moonlight creeping in from behind the boarded up windows.

Mom… I hope you’re okay...

I thought, thinking about the letter. I felt a fuzzy, warm feeling run through me right then and there, as if she’d assured me that she was doing fine. That was all I needed to feel better, and I rolled over with a smile on my face.

 


 

I woke up the next morning, almost fully pushed off the bed. I don’t know how I ever got to sleep in such an incredibly uncomfortable position. Buffy was still laying next to me, sound asleep. As I contorted my body, still struggling to move with all the cramps and aches, I found that Riolu and Dusty were missing. I pushed away from the bed and walked to the door, which was slightly ajar. In the hallway, the morning light was just starting to come in.

“Riolu? Dusty?” I called out quietly. There was no response, so I headed towards the den. As I reached the conjoined bathroom, I heard shuffling from downstairs in the kitchen. Curiously, I headed down the stairs, making lots of noise as I took each step.

Walking past the coat area, I found Dusty and Riolu packing up some bags with food and supplies. Riolu was in the refrigerator, picking it clean, tossing anything not useful towards Dusty, who happily ate it up. Once they noticed I was watching, they stopped and smiled at me.

“Good morning you two.” I said, a grin forming on my face. “You guys are really ahead of things, huh?” They nodded, and resumed their rummaging through the fridge. “Well thank you, we should probably head out as soon as possible.” As Riolu tossed out the last of the salvageable things inside, he shut the door and began to pack everything into a cooler, Dusty helping him put things inside, crunching loudly.

They’re helping each other! Does this mean they’re finally becoming friends?

I happily told myself. Just then, I could hear Buffy’s claws on the hardwood coming down the back stairs. Riolu and Dusty stopped and turned their attention toward the noise. As Buffy’s lanky character emerged into view, everything went quiet and awkward. Trying to build bridges, I replied, “H-hey Buffy. Good morning. Did you sleep well?” She ignored me and walked past, weaving around Dusty and Riolu. As she passed by, she grabbed a water bottle from the opened cooler in her mouth and headed for the other room.

“Rio!” Riolu called after her, probably in an attempt to get her to put back the water bottle. But Buffy ignored him too and walked out of sight towards the living room. Riolu and Dusty turned to me both with angry looks, telling me they weren’t very happy with my decision to bring Buffy along with us. With the pressure on me I replied,

“S-she’s just used to being pampered. I’m sure in no time at all she’ll learn to act properly just like you two.” Riolu and Dusty looked to each other and exchanged uncertain looks. “Well… I’m going to get ready to go. I need a shower badly, so I’ll go do that. Afterwards, we should look around the house to try to find some new clothing and any other supplies that we can use in the colder weather. I’m sure my aunt and uncle wouldn’t care if we used their stuff.” I left the statement at that and headed back upstairs, leaving them to continue packing.

After my less than enjoyable shower (I forgot no electricity meant no hot water), we quickly reconvened downstairs. Dusty and Riolu were completely packed, meaning we could leave when we were done picking out some extra clothes. Knowing we should leave as soon as possible, I rounded everyone up and we headed straight up to the attic right away. Along the way, it was still as quiet and awkward as before now that Buffy was around, although she didn’t seem to care about it very much. Eventually coming to the attic door, I opened it without hesitation, letting out the musty smell once more. During the day time, lots of natural light lit up the crawl space from grates in the side of the house.

“Alright, let’s look around. I’m sure there’s plenty of stuff for everyone.” I said, stepping up into the room. I turned to Riolu and Dusty who looked around the room curiously from the doorway. Buffy stayed far behind, stopping to groom herself.

As we walked around all the clutter, I found myself some good quality clothing. There was an old pair of gray cargo pants in one of the storage containers, just my size. I also found a seemingly brand new light blue colored t-shirt and a very warm black winter jacket. The shirt and jacket were a size lower than myself, so I was worried they wouldn’t fit at all. But as I tried them on, they fit perfectly. I guess all the walking and not eating trimmed me down a size. Of course, the right jacket sleeve was a little messed up because of the size of my Mega Bracelet, but seeing as the jacket fit well, I wasn’t going to put it back and find something else. There were also a pair of black ankle boots that looked a little beat up sitting near the back wardrobe which didn’t fit me exactly, but I took them anyways.

Just then, there was a crash from across the room, causing me to jump a foot. I pushed through all the furniture in between the rows to reach the end row where an old wardrobe fell to the floor. A couple hats and scarves were scattered all around the piece of furniture. To the right, Riolu looked extremely frightened and seemed to be holding some kind of scarf. Dusty was just behind us and peeked over to see if everything was alright.

“Are you okay, Riolu?” I asked him, bending down to his eye level.

“R-Rio.” He replied, still a bit spooked.

“What’s that you have there?” I asked pointing to the scarf he’d been tightly holding onto. Riolu calmed down and held out the scarf for me to check it out. It looked like it was extremely soft and seemed to be made out of wool. The scarf was a dark blue with occasional light green splotches scattered around it. “Wow, that looks really comfy. Here, let me put it on for you.” Riolu turned around and I slipped the scarf around his neck, tying it in the back. The scarf faced the floor in the front in a folded triangle shape and really looked good on him.

“Rio! Rio!” Riolu cried, smiling at his scarf. I giggled at his joy.

“I’m glad you like it, Riolu.” Just then, I looked up to see Dusty waiting just behind the toppled wardrobe with a large red and white polka dot bow tie on. It seemed chintzy, almost like a gag prop, but yet, it somehow looked good on him. I guess the size of Dusty and the bowtie matched up. He had it positioned a couple inches under his mouth and looked happy too. “Oh, Dusty. I like that bow tie. It looks nice on you.” I said with a smile.

“Gar…?” I guess Dusty wasn’t expecting that answer from me.

“Honestly, it really does. Red really matches with you.” I coaxed again, not being able to contain my giggling this time.

“Garb, Gar!” Dusty said, with a smile, realizing I was sincere. I hopped over the overturn piece of furniture to head over to Buffy who was lurking in the back. It perked its left ear up and turned to me as I approached.

“Are you going to get anything, Buffy?” Buffy rolled its eyes and turned away from me, walking towards another aisle of the huge crawl space. Seeing that response from her told me we were far apart, and I needed to do something quick to get fix our relationship. So, I quickly followed after her. “Buffy, are you sure that you don’t want anything? How about we get you a scarf or something instead of that necklace?” I tried reaching for the necklace on Buffy’s back, but as soon as I made contact with her fur, Buffy whipped around and tried to scratch me with its claws.

“Lie!” It yelped, a warning cry. I stumbled backwards by the sudden movement, just dodging the sharp claws. I landed hard on the floor, knocking the wind out of me.

“Rio!” I heard from around the corner as Riolu dashed to my aid. I sat up, rubbed my head. “Ri Ri?” Riolu asked, looking worried.

“It’s alright, I’m fine.” Riolu helped me up, as Dusty came in from behind him. I stood up and brushed myself off and looked off towards Buffy, who was in the corner, watching me get up.

“Lie, Liepard.” It growled, still sounding cross.

“Okay, okay. Buffy, you can keep the necklace…” I said, blushing with embarrassment. Another awkward silence spread throughout the room. I quickly thought about Buffy’s past. Before she was turned into a Pokémon, Buffy always liked my mother more than me, account of how nice mom always was to her. When I was a kid, I used to chase Buffy around and torment her. I didn’t know any better, and looking back at it, I felt kind of bad. I guess Buffy still had some hidden grudges towards me from that point in time.

“W-well, we should get going.” I said, breaking the silence. Come on guys, Buffy.” I headed towards the door, my Pokémon single file behind me. As Dusty and Riolu passed by Buffy, they exchanged angered looks with her. Buffy cautiously lurked behind them as we headed towards the den to head downstairs.

After a little more packing, we headed towards the front foyer and pushed away the furniture barricade blocking the doors. We quickly checked outside through the windows to see if the coast was clear and then saddled up with our new gear. Dusty got a large, heavy brown duffle bag that he strung over his head and onto his back, as well as the cooler with he carried with his right tendril. He had the heavy things like a tent, some other camping supplies, and first aid. I got a generic black backpack that was a little heavy, and packed to the brim. It was filled with all the non perishable foods and some extra clothes I’d found lying around. Riolu got a small tan handbag that he threw over his shoulder, which was filled mostly with just other useful odds and ends. That was all the supplies we could find, so Buffy got off lucky and didn’t have to carry anything.

As we all stared out the window of the front door at the cloudy weather and empty streets, there was a pause as all of us realized that we would be leaving Hornell and starting our journey again. It felt nice to finally leave all my emotions behind, but at the same time I knew how much more we had to travel. I felt the weight of my task pile up on top of me again and sighed. Reaching for the door handle, I turned to my Pokémon.

“I guess this is it guys. It’s time to head out.” We all paused again, not ready to go yet. “Oh, right. One last thing.” I turned around and yelped up the stairs, “Thank you Aunt Janice and Uncle Mike. For the supplies, the food, the place to stay. I know you’re not here… But wherever you are, thank you.” There was no reply back, but I felt a little better getting that off my chest.

I then opened the door and stepped out onto the porch, not looking behind me. I stayed at the edge of the porch waiting for everyone to step out of the house. Riolu and Dusty, followed shortly after by Buffy, started walking down the stairs and stopped a couple feet in front of me. They looked back to see what the problem was. My emotions were flaring up again and I felt tears once again forming in my eyes. I was torn leaving my aunt’s home, it reminded me too much of my own home.

Remember what you’re fighting for…

I took a deep breath, put my hand over my front coat pocket where I’d placed my mom’s letter, and ran down the stairs and out onto the sidewalk. I looked back at my aunt’s house and saw it disappear behind the trees and other houses as we ran out of sight. Riolu, Dusty, and Buffy all trailed behind me, trying to keep up with my sudden burst of speed. I faced forwards and headed back down the street we had come into town on, brushing away the last of my tears.


 

Chapter Text


 

It had been about a half an hour since we left my aunt’s house and I was finally over leaving. But as we reached the edge of town and I looked over at the retirement home my grandparents stayed in, I felt a little something come back up. I remembered all the times my family and I’d gone to visit my grandparents over the years. I could still see the room my grandparents stayed in and navigate myself around the whole complex. It always had that hospital room feel, with its pale yellow walls and brown felt carpet that didn’t match. The room smelled like old socks and it was always musty. I remember the TV on in the background too, drowning out the background noise.

I tried picturing myself in the room, with all of my family, and the occasional nurse walking in. Everyone was grinning, enjoying the visit. It was a comforting thought, until I starting thinking about how the room looked today. Abandoned and quiet, the room dark with the shades pulled down. The TV turned off, and no sound to drone out the background. Nothing stirred and all was still, just the way it was left. I suddenly felt lonely and tried to think about something else.

We walked out into the deserted main strip of Hornell and took one last look at the familiar scenery before we headed down the roadway towards our destination. I sighed sadly, feeling nostalgic once again. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the memories I had in this town.

Although Buffy was skulking behind me and not in view, Riolu and Dusty were up front happily conversing, enjoying their company for seemingly the first time. They both sported big grins on their faces, causing me to smile. Finally, they were becoming friends. How could I be down when my Pokémon were so happy?

The sides of the road became shrouded with trees the further we traveled from Hornell. Their leaves shook in the meager breeze, some coming loose and tumbling elegantly to the ground. The sun was trying to come out from behind the clouds, and it would be sunny for a brief moment before the clouds took over once again. It was chilly that day, but I was warm in my new jacket I’d gotten from my aunt’s house. Shifting my gaze from my partners, I decided to look down the road. We’d just taken a slight turn and the bridge for the Southern Tier Expressway was in sight. We all stopped and I pointed it out to them once I saw it.

“There’s the bridge, guys. Let’s hurry up and try to get as far as possible before sundown.” Riolu turned his head and nodded and Dusty let out a, “Gar” to let me know he was listening, while Buffy did not acknowledge what I’d said at all. I assumed she heard it, and I definitely didn’t want to bother her by telling her a second time. We started walking again in the same formation, but I stopped when I heard Buffy begin to growl. We all stopped, turned around and stared at her; she was haunched down ready to pounce.

“W-what is it, Buffy?” I asked as she glared off to the left side of the road in the forest.

“Mroww…” It sounded hostile. Confused, I asked,

“Is there something over there?” My question was answered as a round blast of water flew out from inside the tree cover, heading directly towards me. Buffy leapt out of the way quickly before I could react. I was surprised by the sudden attack, and couldn’t move. I closed my eyes and braced for impact, when Dusty’s long tendril wrapped itself around my waist and pulled me out of the way. The Water Pulse flew past and lost its form, splashing onto the road behind us. I got up and thanked Dusty.

“Gar.” It replied, smiling the way it always did. Just then, I heard someone slowly clapping, the noise coming from the forest on the side of the road. I turned my head to see a Frogadier and a familiar trainer step out. My heart began to beat faster and my muscles tensed as I saw who it was.

“Eliza? What are you doing here?!” She stopped clapping and walked over to us. Riolu got into a battle stance, while Dusty stood confused as to who this person was. Strangely, Buffy dropped her frightening facade for a moment and stopped growling. But in a quick second, she shook her head and snapped out of it. I would have paid more attention to her reaction if Eliza wasn’t standing in front of us.

They stopped about ten yards ahead of us. Eliza’s red hair was tied into the usual ponytail and she was still wearing a flannel shirt with black khaki pants. The only difference is that her flannel shirt was white and black this time and she had on a pair of white canvas shoes. Frogadier looked menacing; its new evolved form made it look quite powerful. Although, it looked a bit worried for some reason; I could tell it was trying to keep up a smug facade.

“So,” Eliza started, her voice bringing back memories of my first battle. “We meet again, stalker.”

“What are you doing here, Eliza?” I said again, trying to sound as intimidating as possible.

“I should ask you the same thing, you brat. Listen, I wasn’t finished with you after our first battle. I want a rematch, right here, right now.”

“Forget it, Eliza. I’ve got places to be.” She scoffed and rolled her eyes.

“Saving the world or whatever can wait, stalker.” Something shot through my body and I tensed even more.

“H-how do you know about that?”

“That’s none of your business. Besides, why would I tell you how I know anyways?” My blood was boiling and I could practically feel the steam coming out of my ears. Eliza was the only person who got me this way.

“Rio.” I focused down to Riolu, who was rearing to battle. I could tell he wanted to fight Eliza again. I clenched my fist and closed my eyes, coming to a decision.

“Fine, I’ll do it. I’ll battle you Eliza! But you won’t win!” She giggled in a smug way and said,

“I'm not going to lose this time... So get ready!” Just then, Buffy cried out.

“Liepard!” It yelped loudly, surprised all of us, except for Eliza and Frogadier. I could tell Buffy was mad too, presumably for the same reasons Riolu and I were.

“Lie, Lie.” Buffy said, turning around and looking at me.

“Do… Do you want to battle too, Buffy?” Buffy nodded her head yes and jumped out in front of Riolu. “...I guess Buffy will battle first.” Riolu turned around and looked disappointed, but I let him know how I felt. “Look, buddy. Buffy obviously has some pent up anger. Let her battle for this time and I’ll let you in next time. Cool?” Riolu nodded, looking a little annoyed. He walked over to Dusty and they stood around the outside of the area, both of them ready to watch the battle.

Before battling, I walked over and put my backpack next to Riolu and Dusty, so I didn’t have to deal with the weight of it during the battle; both of them also slipped their bags off into the pile. Heading back over to Buffy, I pulled out my PokéNav and opened up the Pokémon Scanner app so I could check what moves Buffy knew. While I did this, Eliza taunted me in the background.

“So you’re going to battle with this one, huh? For a fully evolved Pokémon, your Liepard looks quite weak. And what kind of name is Buffy?” I was taken back by this remark, but Buffy was even more insulted. She burst out like Riolu did in the football field some days before.

“Lie! Liepard, par, Lie!“ Eliza scoffed at Buffy’s response, like she knew what it said.

“Ever since Frogadier evolved, he’s been waiting for this moment. With all the training we’ve been doing, there’s no way we can lose!”

“We we’ll see about that, Eliza. Get ready, Buffy.”

“Lie.” I quickly memorized Buffy’s moves and put my PokéNav back into my pocket. The air was thick with suspense. My heart was pumping at a thousand miles a minute and I could feel a nervous sweat building up at my forehead. This battle was going to be an interesting one.

 

“Frogadier, start out with a Quick Attack!”

“Froga!” Frogadier jumped off the ground and dashed at lightning fast speeds towards Liepard, but I knew what was coming. Knowing Eliza, I predicted she would come at me with a Quick Attack first.

“Buffy, Fake Out!” Buffy slapped her front paws together just as Frogadier got into range. Although Buffy hardly made contact with Frogadier, it flinched and stumbled. Frogadier hit the ground hard, skidding along the pavement towards me until friction stopped it. “Perfect, Buffy! Now hit him with Fury Swipes!” Buffy turned around and pounced at Frogadier who was still recovering. Before Frogadier had a chance to react, Buffy’s attack landed. She swiped four times with her razor sharp claws, striking with all her might. Buffy hopped back after the attack and Frogadier struggled to stand up, covered in scratches.

“Water Pulse!” I heard Eliza yell. Frogadier let out another quick Water Pulse, making direct contact before Liepard or I could act. The pulse knocked Liepard back towards Eliza and doused her in water. Liepard opened its eyes and realized it was soaked to the bone, which only made it angrier.

“Lie! LIE!” it yelled, letting its anger out.

“Buffy, get in there with Slash!” Buffy dashed at Frogadier, its long legs carrying it at remarkable speeds.

“Frogadier, dodge it!” Frogadier hopped out of the way quickly, just dodging Buffy’s claws.

“Don’t let up! Keep using Slash!” I yelled, determined to land another hit. Buffy turned around almost instantly and pounced again at Frogadier. Frogadier was ready again, but so was Buffy. Frogadier dodged, but Buffy predicted where it would step and attacked there instead. The result was Frogadier being hit right in the chest with a powerful, anger-driven Slash. Frogadier was knocked backwards and knelt on the ground, its injuries getting worse. It gritted its teeth from the pain.

“Don’t you fail me, Frogadier! Move around if you need to!” Eliza yelled. Frogadier tried to get up and run, but its injuries rendered the attempt useless and it fell back to the ground. I saw my chance, so I told Buffy to push in.

“Buffy, get over there and use Pursuit! Don’t let Frogadier get up!” Buffy charged in towards Frogadier again, its claws glowing a black hue. Buffy immediately swiped at the downed Frogadier with all its might. The move struck Frogadier hard, sending him back into the ground. Buffy leapt back after the attack, landing perfectly on the ground. She sassily licked her paws, knowing Frogadier fainted. And she was right too; Frogadier definitely had enough, and lay on the ground fainted, claw marks all over its body.

“Dammit Frogadier!” Eliza yelled, stomping her foot in anger. “You useless…” Eliza stopped talking and turned around, presumably to hide herself from our view.

“See, Eliza? I told you that you wouldn’t win! Why don’t you learn your lesson and stop messing with us?”

“The battle’s not over yet, brat!” She yelled, turning around and returning Frogadier to its Poké Ball with a red flash. “I’ve still got one more Pokémon! You’re not going to last long with this one!” Eliza shrunk Frogadier’s Poké Ball and placed it back into her pocket and pulled out another one. She briefly closed her eyes, and held the ball out. “You know what to do! Go, Gengar!” She threw the ball and it landed just a few feet before Buffy. The ball opened with a flash and a ghastly purple creature materialized on the road. Two red eyes opened and a terrible, wheezy laugh came from the Gengar’s mouth. The noise brought me back to the night I was chased away from home. I remembered back to when I was cornered by the Gengar and its lackeys at my dad’s house days before. I vividly saw the Gengar’s horrifying visage… Its red eyes staring into my soul, the pressure it put upon on me, and the purple aura around it.

I snapped back into reality to hear Eliza laughing.

“Aw, is the stalker scared? Does Gengar want to make you run back to your mommy?” I cringed and didn’t know how to react. I was emotionally scared from the run in with Gengar, but I couldn’t let Eliza win.

“I-I’m not scared Eliza, especially now that I’m with my Pokémon!” I yelled, trying to sound confident. I looked over to the sidelines, to remind me of what I was fighting for. Riolu was giving me a big smile and was waving. Dusty was turned around, staring at some bushes on the other side of the road, not paying attention. I expected him to do such, as he wasn’t around to meet Eliza in the first place, but seeing Riolu’s smiling face was enough for me to feel a little better.

Gengar laughed again, gaining my attention.

“I like the confidence, stalker. Unfortunately, all that is going to end here. This battle is already over! Gengar, get ready to use your combo attack!” Gengar smirked and got into a battle stance. Just then, a group of Haunter emerged from the ground around me, surrounding me in a circle. I felt more fear jolt through my body, realizing what was unfolding in front of me. This was the same Gengar that had attacked me at my dad’s house, and somehow Eliza had him along with his team of Haunter! Riolu and Dusty turned towards me once they saw I was cornered and began preparing attacks in response, except for Buffy, who hesitated again and looked unsure what to do.

“Uh, yeah no, that’s not happening guys. Lay a finger on my Haunter and I’ll blast your puny trainer into next week. Got it?” Eliza sassily yelled out to Riolu and Dusty when she noticed they were trying to fight back.

My Pokémon continued to hold their attacks out, but did not release them, knowing Eliza meant business. Despite wanting them to fight back anyways in an effort to escape, I realized there was too much at stake. I turned to Riolu and Dusty and nodded, showing them she was right. As they dispatched their moves, Eliza laughed again, this time more maniacally than before.

“I can’t believe this actually worked! How did you not see this coming, stalker? The only way I knew you were going to save the Pokémon World was if someone told me... And that person was none other than Necrozma himself!”

“You-” I was at a loss of words, trying to decide what to do. Then I realized what she’d said. “W-wait… Necrozma?” I asked naively.

She scoffed. “Uh, yeah. The Necrozma. Damn, you really are dense.” She giggled and I felt even more anger seep into me. Apparently, Necrozma had more power than I thought, turning Eliza into his ally to stop me. I know Uxie told me he was extremely dangerous, but I didn’t realize he’d be able to pull strings like this.

“Necrozma came to me in a dream the night after we battled and offered me a deal. He told me to capture you alive, and that he’d make me one of his right-hand allies if I succeeded. I couldn’t refuse an offer like that; getting revenge and receiving so much power! Necrozma loaned me some of his minions and we planned to get you before you left for Kinzua. Of course, we didn’t expect Uxie to show up that night and save your sorry ass, but now there’s no escape! Prepare to be sent to Ultra Space!”

Just then, Dusty made a surprised noise and I turned to him and Riolu who were staring horrified at the bushes. A dozen different Ultra Beasts emerged from the trees all around us and we were completely surrounded. My Pokémon all backed up towards me and the group of Haunter, trying to get away from them. The Buzzwole looked ready to beat us up, while the Xurkitree looked ready to shock us silly. There was nowhere to go, and nowhere to hide.

There’s got to be some way out of this…!

I screamed inside my mind. This wasn’t how I wanted to go.

“It was rigged from the start, stalker! Say goodbye to your precious Pokémon! Gengar, start your Hypnosis combo!” The Haunters moved aside and Gengar floated over to me before letting out its terrible laugh. Then, Gengar and his Haunter lined up in front of us and began to channel their energy. Their eyes changed color, as the purple aura began to fluctuate around them, just like at my dad’s house. I closed my eyes and cringed. I felt the fear coursing through me, even though my Pokémon were right beside me. Suddenly, I felt sleepy and fell down to my knees. I tried to resist the feeling, but I wasn’t strong enough.

No… Please…

Just as I was about to pass out, I heard a low rumbling noise. I thought it was just a side effect or something of Hypnosis, but I then realized it had to be real when the sleepy feeling faded away.

Looking up, a giant horde of Raticate and Rattata was storming the scene from farther down the road by the bridge. They were all getting past the wall of Ultra Beasts anyway they could and attacking the Gengar crew. Each of them were using Crunch or Bite, dealing a good amount of damage on the Ghost types.

“What the?” Eliza asked, standing back. The Raticate group was so large, it cut a hole in the defense of Ultra Beasts, leaving a huge gap open. The Ultra Beasts scrambled to patch up the hole, as well as attack the Raticate and Rattata that were fighting with the Gengar crew, but they were outnumbered. I turned to my partners who were all starting to come to.

“Now’s our chance!” I yelled. “We’ve got to go, right now! Forget the bags and head for the bridge!” I stood up and began to bolt, as fast as my tired legs could take me. Immediately, the pain of running flatout hindered my speed, but I knew if I didn’t pick it up, I was as good as gone. I looked back for a moment to see all of my partners chasing after me, bounding through the hole in the garrison.

“Don’t let them get away!” I heard Eliza yell, as we fled the scene.

As we ran, I could hear all sorts of things behind us. I heard the cries of multiple Pokémon and Ultra Beasts, as well as attacks hitting all over the place. I was worried to look back anymore, so I stayed facing forwards and continued to run. Seeing as all my Pokémon could run faster than me and they hadn’t passed me yet, I assumed they were also trying to fight back behind me, covering my tracks. Still, some dark orbs of energy that I assume were Shadow Balls got past them and hit the ground near me. I jumped, ducked, and dodged, my adrenaline fueling me on.

You’ve got to keep going.

I told myself over and over.

For the Pokémon World. For the human world. For my Pokémon and family. For- I kept trying to think of reasons to keep going, as a motivation.

Although it seemed like forever, the on-ramp to the Southern Tier Expressway was finally only a couple yards away. I hopped over one of the separating guardrails and onto the small patch of grass between the roads, then over the other guardrail, and onto the ramp. By then I was nearly out of breath, all my muscles were screaming for me to stop, and the pain was excruciating, but I needed to keep running. Directly connected to the side of the bridge, the inclimb of the ramp was gradual. It slowed me down going uphill, but I continued to push myself. I glanced over to my side briefly to spot the battle raging on behind us. Just as I was about to cross over onto the highway, a white figure gently dropped down in front of me from above. I screeched to a halt, nearly stumbling and falling over.

The beast was a bit taller than me, its white body sparkling slightly. I could see the empty highway through the cloak-like wings on its back and it had two large antennae that stretched out down to the creature’s knees. The beast stood up and struck a sassy pose, holding its hips with its small hands before it opened its eyes and glared at me. This Pheromosa was ready to battle. I started to backpedal, knowing I had nowhere to go. From back on the road, I faintly heard Eliza’s voice screaming ahead.

“Pheromosa, take care of the stalker!” Pheromosa reached its long arm down and grabbed me by my jacket, hoisting me into the air.

“No… Let me go!” I yelped, trying to break free from the Ultra Beast’s grasp. Just then, I felt something wrap around my waist. I was suddenly jerked backwards out of the grip of the Pheromosa and quickly stopped as Dusty caught me. He was running with Riolu and Buffy in front of him. For once, I was happy to be in his disgusting grasp.

I looked back up to see Pheromosa blocking the ramp. It looked mad Dusty nabbed me, and held its arms out to block the rest of the road. We definitely weren’t getting onto the highway any other way, so we needed to get through somehow. I didn’t waste any time making a plan, and yelled out to my partners what we needed to do.

“We’ve got to break through Pheromosa’s roadblock if we want to get away! Riolu and Buffy, get in there with Quick Attack and Fake Out! Dusty, use Sludge Bomb as a final attack!” Riolu and Buffy did not acknowledge what I said, but started to prepare their attacks nonetheless. Riolu sped away at lightning fast speeds, as Buffy jumped in to strike Pheromosa as well.

“Dusty, I’m going to duck down. Don’t worry about me, just worry about hitting Pheromosa. You’ve got this, buddy!”

“Gar!” It said, ready to go. I ducked down as far as I could in his grasp, hoping that the plan would work. Attacks continued land behind us nearby, as the ear-splitting sound of battle raged on behind us. I felt Dusty’s chest contract and expand as he prepared his attack.

“Garrrrr-bo!” I heard, as Dusty’s chest returned to normal, the slime ball flying through the air. I opened my eyes to peek out at what was happening. Riolu’s Quick Attack missed Pheromosa and he skidded to a halt atop the highway. However, Buffy’s Fake Out hit, but it didn’t do much damage. However, Pheromosa flinched from the move and now had her attention on Buffy who was just to the left. It began to prepare an attack of some kind, its leg glowing an off brown color, aimed at Buffy. But before she could let it out, I smiled as I saw the purple Sludge Bomb overhead of Pheromosa about to hit its target. The bomb landed, exploding right in Pheromosa’s face. Purple goo splashed everywhere, knocking Pheromosa up onto the highway.

“Nice shot! Now let’s go!” I yelled, seeing our chance. Dusty sped up and passed by the stunned Pheromosa, who struggled to get the gross purple substance off. Riolu and Buffy hopped up off the ground and began to run with us as we passed.

We dashed as fast as we could, trying to put as much distance between us and the small army that was chasing us, but it was no use for the sheer speed of Pheromosa who once again landed in front of us. It was still covered in the purple goo, and didn’t looked pleased to be dirty. It seemed to be even more mad than before, and its beady eyes looked determined to end us.

All of us came to a screeching halt in front of the Pheromosa, who began to prepare another attack. It jumped into the air and used Lunge aimed directly at Dusty, its right foot aglow with some kind of orangish-tan color.

“Everyone get out of the way!” I yelled. Riolu and Buffy rolled to the sides, but Dusty had nowhere to go. Seeing Pheromosa approaching fast, Dusty leapt forwards onto the pavement. He almost landed directly on me, but he turned to the side at the last moment to not completely crush me. Yet, it still knocked the wind out of me and I was now covered in Dusty’s gross slime, but at least we were safe. There was a huge crashing noise and the sound of something cracking. As Dusty got up, he sported a worried face and helped me stand back up before we all looked away to see what had happened behind us. Pheromosa crashed to the ground on the bridge, dealing plenty of damage to herself and the structure. Her attack was so strong, the bridge began to crumble to the ground. The on-ramps were also hit hard, sending Pokémon and Ultra Beasts alike into the air.

As the bridge fully collapsed to the ground, a huge dust explosion erupted into the air, shrouding the area behind us with a brown fog.

“We have to keep moving everyone, hurry!” I yelled, beginning to run again. Riolu and Buffy met up with Dusty and I, but within moments, there was another cracking sound and a fear-inducing battle cry from behind us. I turned my head to see what was happening, but all I could see was dust. Suddenly, a huge piece of bridge rubble surfaced from the brown cloud and flew towards me. “Watch out!” I yelled, suddenly changing my direction and jumping to the side again to dodge. Luckily, the highway was separated in the middle by grass, so I had a somewhat smooth landing, but all this falling on the ground was really getting to me. Whatever injuries I had before were getting worse and I was still completely out of breath.

The rubble hit the concrete hard and burst into a million pieces, leaving a crater and a mess of tangled steel beams in the middle of the highway. I struggled to pick myself up and began coughing, as the front of the brown cloud rolled in. Then, I looked behind us again to see Pheromosa emerge from the smokescreen, staring directly at me. I didn’t need to think twice to know what it wanted to do. Although it was just us and her now with the bridge collapsed, that didn’t mean we should underestimate her.

Rushing to the middle of the highway where my Pokémon had gathered, I hid behind them, watching Pheromosa carefully in case she did something rash. I felt somewhat confident and strong with my Pokémon guarding me, but Pheromosa’s glare alone mostly negated that feeling.

Suddenly, Pheromosa quickly turned around and began vibrating its wings in a way to let out a terrible Bug Buzz that nearly ruptured my eardrums. The noise was earsplitting and all of my Pokémon were hit by the unexpected powerful move, especially Buffy, since she was a Dark type. Then, once the terrible noise stopped, Pheromosa immediately jumped up and used Lunge while we were still recovering, heading straight for me. I wasn’t ready for attack and stood still, watching the creature headed right for me. Dusty’s long arms suddenly extended and caught Pheromosa midair, stopping her a momentum just a couple feet away from me. Pheromosa struggled to get free, but before she could, Dusty brought his tendrils down and slammed her into the dirt median on the side of the road.

It didn’t do much however, as Pheromosa immediately recovered from the attack and jumped right back in front of us. Then, it leapt into the air and disappeared high above the thick cloud of dust. There was a brief pause as all of us looked up to the sky.

“Keep your eyes up! It’s attacking from above!” As we looked up and got ready, Pheromosa emerged from the dust coming from ground level where the bridge collapsed and used Lunge on Riolu. He didn’t expect the attack from that direction and had no time to react. Pheromosa’s attack pounded Riolu into the ground, sending chunks of asphalt out around the blast. Pheromosa didn’t hesitate, and instantly jumped back into the air, lunging at Dusty. Dusty was still staring at Riolu and wasn’t ready for this either and suffered the same fate as Riolu; he was also thrown into the pavement as well with a hefty eruption of debris.

“No!” Is all I could cry out as both Dusty and Riolu completely fainted from the powerful attacks. But Pheromosa wasn’t done yet. It used Lunge again and jumped directly at Buffy. However, seeing the pattern of its attacks, Buffy knew better, and jumped out of the way towards me. Pheromosa crashed into the ground, and stood there stunned for a moment.

I fumbled through my pockets and brought out Dusty and Riolu’s Poké Balls.

“Return, both of you!” I yelled, returning both of the fainted Pokémon to their balls for a rest. I shook in fear as Pheromosa turned towards us again, still pulling herself out of her crater. Just then, I felt the ground rumbling behind me and turned to see Ultra Beasts appearing from the dust. They’d made it past the destruction of the bridge, and were rearing to aid Pheromosa in capturing me. My heart was pumping even faster now, and I could feel the sweat rolling off of my forehead. Side to side with Buffy, I shouted,

“Buffy, there’s too many of them. We’ve got to run!” Buffy turned to me and confidently nodded, then crouched down and gestured to her back with her head with her tail.

“Y-you want me to get on?” Buffy nodded again and flicked her head forward. I nodded back and carefully straddled onto her back.

“Alright, go! Get us out of here!” I grabbed onto her chain link collar as she bursted forward.

I wanted to give Buffy some kind of advice as to get away faster, but her sheer running speed was enough to keep me quiet and holding on for dear life. Suddenly, I turned my head back to see Pheromosa using a High Jump Kick and heading right for us. I closed my eyes as Buffy rapidly sidestepped out of the way. Pheromosa crashed into the ground again, another eruption of stone and concrete exploding off to our side. Buffy was unfazed by the event and continued running as fast as she could. I opened my eyes again and noticed we were okay, but right then the rest of the Ultra Beasts began to attack. The Buzzwole came at us, fists aglow, and the Xurkitrees launched giant electricity balls at us. Yet, they were no match for Buffy’s raw speed and agility. She dodged and weaved, as I yelled for her to watch out. Finally, after not being able to hit any attack on us, Pheromosa was ready to give it one last try.

Pheromosa broke through all the Ultra Beasts and put her heart into one last full High Jump Kick. Seeing it coming, Buffy leapt forward, right as Pheromosa crashed into the ground. Although it didn’t directly hit us, the shockwave from the attack was too powerful and launched both of us forward off the ground. Buffy and I hit the pavement and skidded to a stop. I groaned in pain as my injuries worsened to an even higher degree. One more hit, and I was done for good. Putting the last of my strength into my legs, I stood up as fast as I could and saw the gang of Ultra Beasts led by Pheromosa, dashing over to me. Buffy was still laying on the ground, too tired and injured to move. Escaping was up to me now, and without any help, I was scared beyond belief. Yet, I knew if I began to panic, I would slip up and hastily fall to the Ultra Beasts.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out Buffy’s Poké Ball, quickly returning her to rest. I then took one last deep breath, trying to stay calm. Suddenly breaking into a sprint away, I dashed across the road, up a small hill, and into the woods by the side of the road as fast as I could, just in time. Attacks landed behind me, showering the area with an explosion of dirt and even more dust.

I didn’t look back, I just kept running. All the while I carefully glanced around, looking for Ultra Beasts and trying to not trip. Throughout the woods, the sounds of the pursuing Ultra Beasts reverberated everywhere. I felt the shockwaves of attacks landing behind me, and saw approaching Ultra Beasts out of the corners of my eyes. Eventually, after aimlessly running for a surprising amount of time, Pheromosa jumped down in front of me to try and make a barrier. I knew I couldn’t stop running, so I charged at it.

There’s gotta be a way around it!

I yelled in my mind. Then, I got a spark of inspiration. I waited to get within arms length of Pheromosa to put my quickly crafted plan into place. As Pheromosa reached out to grab me and I suddenly ducked and slid across the ground. Pheromosa wasn’t expecting my sudden movement and clapped her hands together to try and catch me. She missed and I slipped right past her in the gap in her legs.

It actually worked!

I thought, but I wasn’t in the clear just yet.

Behind Pheromosa was a steep hill that led down into a heavily wooded area. I couldn’t stop the momentum of my sliding, so gravity took me down the hill. I tried to control myself with my hands, but the forest floor was too uneven and bumpy. I hit my right hand on a loose rock and my left one on a root at almost the same time. I lifted my hands up in reaction, which was a poor choice. Just then, my body hit a large root and I went flying. Everything seemed to slow down as I glided through the air. I closed my eyes and cringed as I hit the ground hard and began rolling and tumbling, running over all the rocks and roots I could. At the bottom, my momentum was stopped by a large oak tree that shook as I ran into it. I fell over on my back and stared up at the forest canopy. I was in too much pain to move and felt my conscience fading fast. My vision blurred and darkness enveloped me and I passed out on the forest floor.


 

Chapter Text


 

When I woke up, I was in an unfamiliar place. I was under a high sloped dirt roof littered with protruding roots. Wherever I was, small cracks of natural light filled the area, like something with holes was covering out the light. The ground I was laying on was hard but smooth, and my head was resting comfortably upon a pillow of some kind. I tried to sit up, but my body wouldn’t allow it; I was still too weak to move. Suddenly, I felt the pain and soreness of my body and let out a painful groan. It was then that I noticed that there was something wet and hot on my forehead. I reached up to take it off when I heard a voice call out,

“Oh, you are awake.” I turned my head to the side to see a large and tall pink Pokémon with a pale yellow mouth standing by my feet. I tried to make out more of the creature, but I couldn’t see straight and it wasn’t bright enough. I didn’t have my glasses on either, so everything was all blurry. However, I made out some of its characteristics. Atop its head was some kind of gray crown, and around its neck was a red and white ruff of some kind.

“Who… Who are-?” I muttered. I was too weak to even talk.

“Shh…” The creature hushed me and held one of its hands up to its mouth. Its hand had one singular nail on it. “Hush, human. You must rest.” The creature had a wonderful deep and soothing voice and it talked very calmly. I briefly thought about how the voice sounded like a reporter from the local news channel. I rubbed my eyes again, but I couldn’t put together who was standing in front of me without my glasses.

“B-but… What about Riolu… Dusty… Buffy?” The figure in front of me hesitated for a short moment.

“They are all resting too. You are the first one to wake up, but you must rest more.”

“Are they… okay?”

“I have bandaged their wounds, and there is nothing for you to worry about. But please, you must go back to sleep. You have not fully recovered yet.” It was right; I was too tired to move, let alone talk. I took its advice and quickly closed my eyes once again. Surprisingly, I fell right back asleep. Usually, I would be up for a while, troubling thoughts fueling my thinking, but I was still exhausted from all the running (and falling).

 


 

I woke up again, feeling a bit better, but I was still sore all over and it was still very hard to move. Carefully sitting up and peering around, I realized I was still in the dirt cave, the walls now lit up only by the dancing flames of an open campfire. A couple feet in front of me perched on two sticks, a kettle boiled over the fire pit. I was slightly cold, and the hot and wet object on my head was gone. Rubbing my eyes, I reached around to find my glasses. Feeling them to my left, I grabbed them and slipped them on. The right lens was cracked, presumably from the falling down the hill. I sighed, my right eye now obscured by the crack. Looking at my arms and legs, I noticed some green itchy leaves all over me. They seemed to be covering over my injuries though, so I resisted the urge to peel them off. Suddenly remembering about my Mega Bracelet, I looked off to my other side the find it lying face up. Inspecting my Mega Bracelet, it seemed to be fortunately unharmed. I sighed in relief, wiping some dust off it and slipping it back on.

Looking forward, the creature from before sat next to the fire. It turned its gaze from outside to me and noticed I was sitting up.

“You are the first awake again, human. You look to be feeling better, yes?” It said, standing up and walking over to greet me.

“Uh, yeah, a little bit, thanks. Now let me ask again… Who are you?”

“Ah, I guess I do owe you some answers. Very well. My name is Slowking. I was sent by Uxie to aid you on your journey.” Cogs began to turn inside my head and I began to piece the puzzle together.

“You’re the Slowking Uxie told me to find? Well, you couldn’t have come at a better time. We were-”

I suddenly paused, realizing I wasn’t stuck in an Ultra Space prison all alone. Slowking must’ve somehow saved my Pokémon and I from the army of Ultra Beasts chasing after me, but where did he find the time to do so when they were all so close to catching me?

“I left my residence to come here and support you after Uxie sent me a message through Telepathy. He said that you were in danger, and told me to head here. It was quite reckless of you to head into a town filled with Ultra Beasts, human.” I was surprised by Slowking’s sudden transition, but I continued with his thought.

“Yeah, I know… But I was just so worried about my family, I couldn’t think straight.” Slowking turned around to face the fire and the cave opening, the darkness enveloping the outside. Only a bit of light caught on the leaves and trees outside. I then noticed the pitter-patter of rain. I shivered as a sudden fall breeze ran through the cave.

“Family is not what you should be worrying about right now, human. Your top priority is to get to the Pokémon World. I am here to help you achieve that task.” It seemed that all of the Pokémon helping me only cared about getting me to save the world. No one ever cared about me or how I felt. It was a sensitive topic, but I decided to say something about it.

“H-hold on! I couldn’t just drop everything and come to save the Pokémon World… I’ve got responsibilities and people I care about. Wouldn’t you worry about the people you love when you left home?”

“I never had a family.” Slowking said immediately, turning back around to face me. “I was abandoned as a child and do not dwell on it.” He paused for a second and looked back outside for a moment. I wished I hadn’t opened my mouth. I already felt bad about talking. “Think about your partners. They had to leave their home to come here. They had no time to say goodbye or even to find their family members. In fact, no Pokémon had any time to figure out anything. Necrozma’s blight was too strong and so quick...”

There was a pause as I thought about what to say next. Somewhat inspired by what Slowking said, I began thinking differently. He was right in a weird way; I was only thinking about myself. I could see why he thought it was irresponsible to go to Hornell and risk myself and my Pokémon just to see if my family was okay. Not to mention the fate of an entire world was hanging on me, and taking any more risks than i needed to could mean big trouble. Still, was it bad of me to check on my family? I was worried about them, like any person would be during an apocalyptic event of this size.

Suddenly, a new thought rushed into my head. If I couldn’t make it to the Pokémon World, not only would an entire planet be taken over, but the families and friends of all Pokémon would disappear. No one would be able to see or be with their loved ones ever again if I didn’t act. That thought scared me and suddenly made me think about everyone back home. Finally coming to my senses, I spoke my mind.

“Y-You’re right, Slowking. It was wrong of me to go to Hornell; I put too much at stake... But now, I understand what I must do. I’ve got to save the Pokémon World for all the Pokémon out there... I’ve just got to!” Slowking smiled and paused briefly.

“I did not expect you to realize the consequences of your task yet… Many humans do not recognize the extremity of their task until they see the problem in action.”

“Many... humans? Other people have been given this task before?”

“That is correct. Multiple humans are given the task of saving the Pokémon World. We cannot have just one, or else our plan would surely fail. I have helped a large amount of humans cross over into the Pokémon World before in the past, and because of this, I have become one of Uxie’s eldest allies and the Dean of the Coalition of Portal Guidance.”

So basically, they have more than one person in case some fail… That’s a nice thought, knowing there are other people like me... I wonder how their journeys are going?

As I was going to ask Slowking for more info about the CPG, I heard a groan to off to my right. I looked over to see Riolu sitting up and stretching out. His scratches and bruises were covered in crude bandages that looked to be made out of the same plant fiber material mine were. However, I was overjoyed to see him okay.

“Riolu! You’re okay!” I said, trying to stand up. As soon as I put weight on my right leg, I crumbled back down to the ground.

“Careful, human.” Slowking said, hastily walking over to help me. “You are not fully recovered yet. It is a miracle you did not break anything tumbling down that hill. You must rest more before you can walk again.”

“Right.” I said, as Slowking helped me sit back down.

“Rio?” Riolu asked once he came to, looking around at the unfamiliar sights.

“How are you feeling buddy?” Riolu looked to me and smiled, then giving his classic clenched paw. Knowing he was alright made me smile and filled me with relief.  He walked over to me and I adjusted his crooked scarf and his Mega Gauntlet, then patted him on the headed before clenching my fist back at him. We both smiled even brighter than before. To my left, I heard someone else stirring and waking up. I looked over to see Dusty picking himself up off the ground. He sat up, and looked confused at his surroundings as well, covered in a different material of bandages.

“Dusty! You’re okay too?” Dusty looked at me and gave his signature open mouth grin. Since he was in arms length, I reached over and adjusted his bowtie too, then smiled back. Gaining their attention, I had something I needed to get off my chest. “Look you two. I just wanted to say sorry for not reacting sooner when Pheromosa tricked us. I should’ve seen something like that coming, but instead I did nothing while you two got hurt…”

“Ri.”

“Gar.” They replied at the same time, continuing to smile and nodding.

“They said that they forgive you, human.” Slowking replied from across the room, staring off into the darkness. I blushed briefly and smiled back at them, suddenly realizing Slowking could interpret Pokémon language and English.

After a short reunion, I looked around the small cave and turned back to Slowking.

“Where’s Buffy?”

“Liepard ran off, human. I was the one that brought you here.” I was surprised by this answer and was very curious as to how I was saved.

“Oh? So what happened?”

“I rushed in to protect you from those Ultra Beasts. I was heading towards the battle when I heard a thumping noise nearby and rushed to check it out. Lone and behold, you were lying unconscious underneath a tree. At that moment, those Ultra Beasts crested the hill, and I knew it was time to get serious. I may be old, but these bones hold up well in battle. Nevertheless, I ran back to my base camp with you in hand as soon as I could get away and covered the entrance to hide. That is where you and your Pokémon are now. You have been resting for a while now.” I was at a loss for words. Slowking had single handedly saved us from an onslaught of Ultra Beasts. I would hate to be against him in battle.

“Wow, I guess I have more to thank you for than I thought.”

“Oh, please. The pleasure is all mine, human.”

“But, still that doesn’t answer my question from before. When and where did Buffy run off to?”

“When I brought all of your Pokémon out of their capsules, Liepard ran off into the woods. I did not stop her, but she was definitely in a hurry to get somewhere. I heard her mutter something about meeting with someone.”

“Huh. That’s strange.” I said, continuing the conversation. “Are you sure it’s safe to leave the front door uncovered like that?”

“Oh, of course… It has been nearly a full day since I brought all of you here. The Ultra Beasts are long gone by now… I presume they are searching farther down the expressway.”

“H-hold on, we’ve been asleep for a full day?” It seemed like it had only been a couple of hours.

“Yes, all of you have been sleeping soundly since your arrival. In the meantime, I have cleaned and bandaged your wounds, as well as kept watch. Now that all three of you are awake, I have prepared some food for you. Please, eat as much as you can; it will help you get better. If you are thirsty, I am boiling some water over the fire right now.” Slowking stood up and grabbed a satchel laying against the cave wall and placed in front of us.

“Thank you, Slowking.” I said, overwhelmed by his kindness. My stomach rumbled and then I realized that I was pretty hungry. Not eating for a day can really do that to you. The satchel tumbled over and berries rolled out onto the dirt floor. Dusty and Riolu’s eyes glittered as they rushed over to the bag to get something to eat. They were obviously hungry too. Once they both reached the bag, they stopped before reaching in. Dusty and Riolu stared at each other and nodded, picking up the bag and bringing it to me.

“You’re letting me pick first? You guys…” They smiled at me and handed me the berry bag.

“Well now.” Slowking said, admiring the generosity of Riolu and Dusty. “I can tell you three have a very good relationship. That is very good to see; teamwork is necessary for the road ahead.”

I nodded and grabbed my share from the bag and handed the satchel to Riolu. I was about to bite into the berry when I thought about what Uxie told us before.

“Slowking, Uxie told us that you would answer my questions.”

“Of course, human. I will try to answer any question you give me to the best of my knowledge.”

“I’ve got a lot of questions to ask… Can you hear me out?”

“Yes, ask me anything. You still need time to recover, so this will be a good way to pass our down time.”

“First off, tell me the full story about what happened in the Pokémon World and why it needs my help.”

“Ah, a good question indeed. This story is a long one, so sit back and relax.”

 

“The story starts with a legend passed down from the land where the CPG resides; the Penta Islands. Many, many years ago, when our planet was still being formed by the moving of glaciers and erosion, a volcanic eruption in one of the world’s sprawling seas gave birth to a set of islands near the equator of our world. The four islands in total were made in between the Water Continent and the Grass Continent, respectively. These islands were uninhabited for many years as life began to develop across the new land. In the early life of the islands, the being known as Necrozma travelled through a wormhole from Ultra Space to the Pokémon World and arrived to the islands. Just learning about traveling through dimensions, Necrozma made the islands a home base for him and the Ultra Beasts when they travelled to and from the Pokémon World. His goal at the time was to chart the new land and bring back goods to his home world. However, when they explored the area, they found it had only just formed years before and was surrounded on all sides by water. Necrozma decided to give up his plans for the time being and headed back home. However, before he left, Necrozma realized it would not be long before they would be filled with all kinds of natural supplies. He sent four beings to each of the islands he found to protect the land for when he returned.

Centuries later, after Necrozma and the Ultra Beasts had long left, Pokémon arrived and named the set of islands the Quadra Islands. By then, the islands were lush and teeming with natural fruits and timber. To the surprise of many, they were met by the guardians of the islands as they arrived, or the so called “guardian deities” Necrozma placed there. The deities allowed Pokémon to stay on the islands as long as they promised to give back and not destroy the land. And so, the first Pokémon did just that, creating a thriving civilization, but making sure to give back whenever they could.

It was not long before a gem left behind by Necrozma was found. Deep in the center of the islands shrouded in a dense fog, a new island was discovered. This island was barren except for a large portal that Necrozma used as an easy gateway to and from Ultra Space. The unknowing group of explorer Pokémon approached the portal, unsure what its purpose was. At that exact moment, the portal roared to life and two beasts from inside leaped out; one as bright as the sun, and the other as dark as the moon. The two beasts cried out into the air, summoning the deities for a challenge of strength. The guardians came as fast as they could, and the battle began.

The Pokémon who’d discovered the secret island were scared for their lives, as they were trapped in the middle of the fierce fight. However, the beast of sun and moon had no quarrel with the bystanders and made sure no one was injured. Hours passed before a true victor was crowned, but in the end, the two beasts from Ultra Space defeated the deities. The Pokémon once again feared for their lives, worrisome that the beast of sun and beast of moon would take their home away from them. However, this was not the case.

Both beasts did not travel to the Pokémon World to take it over. Instead, they were simply testing the power of the guardian deities. In the years since Necrozma left the islands, he became a false king in Ultra Space. His tyrannical powers caused a civil war, with the beast of sun and of moon at the forefront of the rebellion. Necrozma was eventually defeated and sent to prison, but the beast of sun and moon feared there would be terrible repercussions if he got loose. If the guardians were on the rebellion’s side, they could protect the islands and the Pokémon World in case Necrozma ever escaped. However, the Guardians needed to be more powerful than ever if they were going to stop him. Forcing the deities to switch sides, each was given a Tapunium-Z, or a type of Z-Crystal. Z-Crystals are mysterious stones, imbuing the raw power of Necrozma.

The Z-Crystals originate from after the civil war in Ultra Space broke out. Necrozma was always an evil being, plundering and manipulating others to get what he wanted. However, because he was so powerful as a king, no one dared to stop him. After committing a multitude of heinous crimes under his crown, the Ultra Space citizens declared they finally had enough and fought back. Outnumbered and eventually caught, Necrozma was sent off to his own top security prison, and his punishment was the shattering of his body to quell his immense power. These millions of shards of Necrozma’s body are the Z-Crystals I mentioned, each with their own unique powers. However, Necrozma could never forgive those who hurt and imprisoned him, and plotted his escape from the moment he was jailed.

Back to the islands, before the beast of sun and moon returned back to the portal, they left a pair of flutes for the bystanding Pokémon. They told them that only a pair of acutely trusted partners could play the “Ballad of Dusklight” to summon them from Ultra Space if ever needed. Quickly teaching the Pokémon who were trapped on the island the song, the beast of sun and moon turned around to re-enter the portal. As the stranded Pokémon gave their thanks to the beast of the sun and the beast of the moon, as well as the guardian deities for looking over them, they gave them names. The beast of sun was named Solgaleo, and the beast of moon was named Lunala, respectively. And so, as the beasts and guardians returned to their homes, the Pokémon decided to create an altar as a place to keep the flutes safe and to worship the beings who were generous enough to protect the Quadra Islands.”

 

Slowking paused and looked outside at the darkness. By now, Dusty and Riolu were finished with their meals and were listening intently, but I was too focused to even begin eating.

“Wow...” I said, the story almost unbelievable.

“I understand you must be a bit uncertain about my story… But there is still plenty more.” He looked back at me and noticed the Oran Berry I hadn’t bitten into yet. “You should eat, human. You need all the strength possible.”

“I’m not hungry yet. Besides, I want to hear the rest of the tale.” My stomach growled again at that moment, to which I blushed. Slowking shot me a worried look and continued.

“Right… Where was I?”

 

“The next part of the story takes place only a couple of weeks ago. As the ancient civilization withered away, the altar island, along with the Pokémon who worshipped the beast of the sun and the moon, were eventually completely forgotten and lost once again to the fog. One day, a single Pokémon got curious after reading the old tale about a fifth island and traveled deep into the middle of the region. When the Pokémon found the island, he became intrigued by an ancient stone altar stretching high into the sky. The Pokémon climbed the stairs to the top and found two pedestals, both carrying a different flute. Footprint text on the ground read,

“To open the portal to Ultra Space, only an acutely trusted group of partners must play the ‘Ballad of Dusklight’ at this location.” The song was written underneath the note to whoever found it. Footprint text on the altar also told the story of the battle between the guardian deities and the beast of the sun and moon.

Unfortunately, the Pokémon who approached the altar had a heart of greed and malice. Having thought he came upon a treasure trove, he stole the flutes for himself. If he could open the portal to the so called Ultra Space, he could become a famous explorer and have all the loot of Ultra Space to himself. However, the Pokémon did not have a chance to use the flutes right away, as the fourth tragedy was upon us.”

 

“The fourth tragedy? What was that?” I asked, interrupting. Slowking paused again, quickly searching through his head for the answer.

“The fourth tragedy was the fourth time the Pokémon World as a whole was threatened. A being known as Dark Matter, who was made completely out of grief and bad feelings supplied by Pokémon, sought to destroy our world. Dark Matter’s ultimate plan was to turn all Pokémon to stone and destroy the planet by sending it into the Sun. Using the power of the Tree of Life, a human and Mew saved the world just in time.”

“So... That means there were three other times the Pokémon World was threatened?”

“That is correct. The first time it was a meteorite, the second time was the stopping of time, and the third time was from a being known as the Bittercold.”

So the events that happened in the Pokémon World actually revolve around the events in the Mystery Dungeon games… I wonder how that plays into all of this.

I thought, saving that question for another time.

 

“Nevertheless, directly after the fourth tragedy, the Pokémon who stole the sacred flutes tried to open the portal with a friend, but it would not open. No matter who he tried it with, the portal would never open. Reinspecting the text, he took the words “acutely trusted” into account once again. He then realized that maybe only a group of Pokémon with incredible friendship could open the portal. When the news spread about the human who saved the world single handedly travelled across the land to find his lost partner Mew, the Pokémon immediately saw his chance, and travelled to meet them. Seeing as the human and Mew had became well-known figures after saving the world, it was hard for him to get in to their group of friends. But, being a sly and cunning Pokémon, he slowly made his way up to being one of their greatest allies.

After travelling with each other and their teams of explorers, the Pokémon who stole the flutes suggested that they all take a trip to the Penta Islands to discover the secrets. Seeing as they’d not explored there before, the human and his partner agreed to go to the new land. When they all arrived on the island where the altar was, they headed up to the apex of the shrine where they were supposed to play. The human and his their partner memorized the song and began to play it aloud. Suddenly, the ground began to shake and a huge portal opened high up in the altar. And as soon as it opened, Solgaleo and Lunala came pouring out of the portal with terrible details.

Hearing the portal opening, the guardian deities rushed in to see what the problem was. Solgaleo and Lunala told the horrible tales of how Necrozma had escaped from his prison in Ultra Space and was on the loose, and was presumably creating another army to steal the light of Ultra Space and the Pokémon World to fix his broken body. However, at that exact moment, Necrozma itself appeared from the portal and took Lunala by surprise.

Necrozma merged with Lunala to create its Dawn Wings forme. Being controlled by Necrozma, Lunala began to attack the deities, as well as Solgaleo. The human, their partner, and the group of exploring Pokémon tried to help, but in the end, they all were no match against the combined power of Lunala and Necrozma. Then, Necrozma walked over to the downed Solgaleo and merged with him as well. At that point, Necrozma regained as much power as his former self before he was shattered. This was his Ultra Forme. However, instead of using his old powers for good, he still longed to bring pain to those who’d hurt him before.

Necrozma and his army took over the Penta over in less than a day. All of the light was stolen away, making Necrozma even more powerful. Necrozma sent his prisoners to Ultra Space to act as slaves. This was the unfortunate fate of the human, his partner, and the greedy Pokémon. But Necrozma was not fully satisfied with just conquering the Penta Islands. He wanted the entire world for himself. And so, Necrozma headed off for the Grass Continent first.

The Pokémon who tried to fight against Necrozma were no match for the power of him and his army. First, he conquered the Grass Continent, and then went on the capture the Air Continent… And in no time, Necrozma captured all the continents and stolen their light except for the Water Continent. Necrozma’s army took almost all of the Pokémon living on the other five continents prisoner, some of those being legendary Pokémon who stepped into help. Uxie, Mesprit, Azelf, along with a small rag-tag group of allies from the CPG, a few other legendary Pokémon, and I, all needed to come up with a plan quickly. We were stuck in the middle of the continent with no ideas. Suddenly, Uxie suggested another genius plan that was built on by the rest of the team. We still had Dialga and Palkia, two Pokémon that could create portals in time and space. So, we decided to get help from as many humans as possible and go back in time to aid Solgaleo and Lunala, along with the guardian deities, in battle. If that failed, we could travel back in time even farther and stop try to the Pokémon from opening the portal for the second time, and therefore stopping the entire problem.”

 

“Wouldn’t you just stop it from ever happening in the first place? Like, stop the greedy Pokémon from stealing? It seems like that would be the easier way…” I asked, interrupting.

“...Yes, that is true. But some argued that helping the deities and Solgaleo battle would draw less attention to the human.”

“Draw… Less attention?”

“Of course. Dialga and Palkia are not the only ones who can make portals through time and space. Necrozma has mastered the ability to travel between dimensions, and with the help from Giratina, Necrozma has full watch over all of time and space. If Necrozma found out that a human who was going to stop him was in the Pokémon World, he would send his army after that human. Necrozma is most likely going to send someone back in time to the moment to guard the Pokémon who stole the flutes because that would be the easiest way to stop him.”

“Oh, okay. I see...” I said, still uncertain about multiple dimensions and all the “time and space” stuff.

“I can see you are a bit confused… It might be hard to grasp, but I must admit that there are an infinite amount of universes, playing at different rates all around us. We Pokémon live in our own world, while you humans also live in your own world. However, many years into the future of our world, Pokémon and humans coincide with each other. This is where we usually go during a global emergency, since the humans are acquainted with Pokémon, and it is easy to find candidates to assist us. Of course, your world has the stories of our world written out into video games, but that story is for another time. This time however, we could not travel into the future for a specific reason, which I will tell you in a moment.” Slowking paused for another second and held its hand up to the pot, which had been cooling for some time. Then, he began talking again.

 

“With Necrozma’s army closing in fast, we could not just sit around while the humans went back in time to try and stop Necrozma; we were vulnerable. We decided that we would open a portal and travel forward in time to the time when Pokémon and humans coincide to escape and give us more time to work on the plan. However, we were too late in executing our portal using Dialga and Palkia; Necrozma found us while taking over the continent. We all barrelled into the portal when Necrozma fired a single attack. The attack hit the portal, and disrupted the path it was going. Now, the portal opened to your world, but Necrozma’s attack also corrupting things inside the two worlds. The outcome is that the human world was completely changed due to the abrupt change of the wormhole. That is why animals turned to Pokémon, fruit turned to berries, technology changed to its Pokémon World opposites in your world, et cetera. And that is the full story; why we are here.”

 

Again, I was at a loss of words. The story of the Pokémon World’s fall was terrible to hear. However, the story only made me want to save the world even more. I wanted to get up and head to Kinzua State Park immediately, but I knew I was in no condition to be travelling.

“Wow, all of that is…”

“I understand this all hard to take in… But believe me, we must not underestimate our enemy. Necrozma has the power to take over as many worlds as he pleases, and will not stop unless we put an end to him.”

“R-right, that... Um, I’ve still got some questions, is okay if I ask you some?”

“Yes, of course. That is why I am here after all.”

“You said that the remaining Pokémon and your group of allies all made it into the portal… How come almost everybody received a Pokémon then?”

“Well, a majority of the animals in your world were turned into Pokémon as well, which counted as some people’s Pokémon. The rest of the Pokémon that survived Necrozma’s take over were given to possible portal-going humans.” I was suddenly reminded of what Uxie told me days before in the nature preserve after we teleported away from my house.

“Speaking of that, why was I specifically chosen to go to the Pokémon World?”

“The CPG has certain criteria that we use to judge all kinds of humans, but the way it is done is kept in secrecy, due to security reasons. However, I can tell you this. There are multiple tests that we put humans through, many of which go unnoticed. Only a certain few gifted humans pass all these tests, until we have a small group of prime candidates. However, since time was not on our side this time around, we did not have time to run all the usual tests. So, we gave Pokémon to people who passed through the second to last test too, just in case." There was a pause as I felt a little weirded out that Slowking admitted someone was spying on me, but I pushed it aside to think about more questions.

“Uh, what else… Oh yeah, do you know anything about how we were saved yesterday? It seemed like quite the fluke an entire group of Raticate and Rattata would suddenly intervene.”

“That was actually Uxie’s idea. You see, he knew you would probably head into Hornell and chances were that you run into some kind of trouble. Uxie also knew that he had some business to attend to and did not have time to watch over you all the time. He let the group of Raticate know that you were in danger, and they headed off to save you.”

“But why a group of Raticate?”

“According to Uxie, you helped a Rattata when you stayed inside a barn outside of Dansville. Uxie let that Rattata know via a dream what was going to happen, and it went around telling its peers about you.”

Wow, that Rattata really saved my hide… I guess I’m going to have to help out more Pokémon more often…

“Do you have anymore questions, human?” Slowking asked. I paused for a second to think of some questions. Even though I was always thinking of questions, I was running out.

“Uh… How about… Oh, why do Pokémon always rely on humans for help when things are looking bad?”

Slowking slightly blushed. “Humans are very different than Pokémon, and can assist in ways that Pokémon cannot. Also, some humans receive a special power as they pass through the portal to the Pokémon World, which aids them on their journey, although it is still unknown as to why this happens.” Expecting more, I awkwardly stared at Slowking until I realized he had nothing more to add.

That’s it? He seriously has nothing more to add? Well, I guess this must be a sensitive topic or something.

“Anything else?” Slowking added, suddenly snapping back into conversation. I opened my mouth to say something, but I closed it immediately after. I was going to ask Slowking if he knew anything about my mother or father, but that would just make me a hypocrite. I was going to have to forget about them for now and worry about saving the Pokémon World. “Go on, human. I am listening.“

“How about what happened to all the people? I haven’t seen a single soul since I started my journey, except for Eliza… Were they all taken?”

“I am afraid so. When Ultra Beasts invaded your world, they took away many humans to Ultra Space as prisoners. It seems that once Ultra Beasts go back through their portals, they cannot return to this world, but because some humans are still in hiding, some Ultra Beasts still remain. Unfortunately, there are not many humans left on this planet… Be grateful Uxie looks out for you.”

“I am grateful, that’s for sure. Uxie has saved me multiple times, and without him and you, I’d probably be stuck somewhere in Ultra Space.” I paused, unable to think of more questions.

Come on, there’s gotta be something else I can ask…

“Is that everything?” Slowking finally asked. I thought for another moment.

“One last thing.” I added, something suddenly popping back into my head. “How did you become the Dean of the CPG, and could you tell me more about the CPG in general?” Slowking hesitated for a moment but then added,

“I would be glad to fill you in with more info on the CPG another time, but I am afraid that it is too long of a story. It is getting rather late, and I believe you must eat something before you rest again.”

“Y-yeah, I guess you’re right. I’ve been so occupied with your stories and answers I haven't eaten anything yet. Thanks again for telling me what I needed to know… It feels nice finally getting everything answered.” I was slightly disappointed, knowing that I had more questions I wanted to ask, but I was pretty hungry.

“The pleasure is mine, human. Now, I insist you eat something. Here, let me grab you some water to drink...” As Slowking stood up, I tore into my pile of berries, which I’d been patiently waiting to eat. Riolu and Dusty quietly convened with each other, presumably talking about the story or Slowking’s questions while I did so. Picking up the kettle, Slowking came over to me and said,

“Hold out your hands.” I did as he told me, and Slowking poured the lukewarm water out. The water splashed onto my hands, some sloshing over the sides of my palms and splashing onto the dusty floor. I nodded as a way of saying thanks and took a sip, slurping all the water down in one gulp. The water may have been warm, but I was extremely thirsty. It felt good going down my parched throat. Slowking then visited Riolu and Dusty, giving them each a little of the water, both thanking him before sipping it up. Slowking made his way back to the center of the room and sat back down, placing the water pot back next to the fire. Seeing him do that suddenly reminded me of all the supplies we’d left back on the highway in our hurry to get away. Noticing Slowking travelled light, I thought about asking him about it, but figured I’d asked him enough already.

“Now, all of you must continue to rest. Nightfall has just come, and daylight will not be here for some time. Please, rest until dawn. Tomorrow, we will decide if we need more time to rest, or if we can head out. I will stay guard for the night.”

“Don’t you need some sleep too, Slowking? I’d be happy to stay watch for the night.”

I winced, realizing I went back on my word almost immediately. However, Slowking didn’t seem to care and continued on with my thought.

“You are still too weak, human. Keeping you in this state would jeopardize our chances to get you to the portal unharmed. You must rest for the time being.” I turned to Riolu and Dusty, who were both nodding in agreement with Slowking. I felt obligated to help out Slowking in some way, but I knew that he was right. I needed more time to recuperate, and I certainly wasn’t going to get it standing watch overnight.

“I guess you’re right… Thank you again for all your help, Slowking.” Slowking nodded, and turned around to face the fire again. “Goodnight everyone.” I mumbled, laying back down on the hard stone floor. I quickly fell back to sleep, thanking Slowking in my head for everything he’d done before I passed out.


 

Chapter Text


 

When I opened my eyes, I was not in the cave. I shivered and looked around at my surroundings. Buckets of heavy snow fluttered down from the black sky, as the wind whipped through the area. The almost whiteout conditions mixed with the darkness made it almost impossible to see. My heart began to race and a terrible sense of fear set over me as I realized where I was. Just then, I heard stomping behind me and a terrible electric laugh.

I tried to run in the opposite direction of the noise, but my body wouldn’t allow it. Even in my dreams, my terrible condition weighed me down. I stumbled and pulled myself up, ignoring the cold snow and freezing wind lashing out at my face and unprotected body. I tried to speed-walk away as fast as I could but suddenly, the noise of footsteps reverberated all around me. I couldn’t tell where the noise was coming from due to the terrible visibility and wind, so I decided to just keep trucking forward, hoping I didn’t run into Necrozma. Suddenly, I pinpointed the stomping from behind me, as it got louder and quicker, like it was running after me. I pushed myself to move even faster now, the terror egging me on. Another terrible electric laugh came from just behind me, piercing my ears.

“Leave me alone!” I cried, scared to death. The noise played with my head and I couldn’t stop hearing the horrific chortle. I closed my eyes and plugged my ears with my fingers hoping the noise would quiet down, but it didn’t. Necrozma was in my head.

Suddenly, I felt something grab around my waist tightly. I opened my eyes and removed my fingers from my ears to see I was clenched tightly inside a black, crystalline fist. I gulped nervously and turned my head to see Necrozma’s eyes boring into me. He let out another electric laugh and stared back at me.

So, we meet again, human. I am quite surprised you lasted this long. It seems my army was not successful in capturing you the first time, but that will change… Very soon, in fact.

I couldn’t look away from Necrozma’s fear-inducing eyes. I felt like I was backed into a corner and suddenly felt my muscles tensen. I closed my eyes and felt the sense of determination flare into a blaze inside my chest. Unable to control the sudden outburst, my determination spoke for me.

“There’s no way you’re going to catch me Necrozma! No Ultra Beast, human, or Pokémon can capture me! I’ve got a mission to fulfill, and nobody can stop me!” Necrozma suddenly gripped his hand tighter, squeezing me hard. It was suddenly difficult to breathe and some jagged points jabbed into my sides.

That was not the answer I desired. I thought I told you the first time to give yourself up, and your demise would be less painful, but I guess you were not listening. Seeing as your ignorance has angered me, I believe my original offer is off the table… Once I capture you and your worthless Pokémon, no one will remember you. I will erase you from existence.

Struggling to say something, the determination opened my mouth once more.

“I… will save… the Pokémon… world! I… don’t care what… you do about… it!” He squeezed even tighter, and I felt like I was about to be crushed. I groaned in pain, my body still not fully recovered. Necrozma pulled me closer to his face and his colorful, hard eyes.

I see that you cannot be easily lead astray once you choose something. But perhaps I could change your mind with this…?” Just then, the snow lightened in front of us and a teal misty picture appeared in the darkness. My eyes widened and my heartbeat fired even faster than before. On the screen, inside a cage made out of black minerals, was my uncle, my aunt, and my father. They all looked grief filled and eager to get out of the cage.

“Y-you!” Is all I could get out. Necrozma laughed again and turned me back to him.

It is you, or them. You would not like to see your family hurt, yes?” I couldn’t think straight. My mind was racing and my breathing was heavy due to Necrozma’s grip. I felt piercing anger and the sense of determination coursing through me, but there was nothing I could do about them. What was I supposed to do in this situation? Give myself up and just forget about saving the Pokémon World? But, this was my family he was talking about. I definitely didn’t want Necrozma to hurt any of them… “So, what is it going to be, human? Time is running out…

There’s gotta be something else I can do…

I searched through my head for answers, but came up short. I opened my mouth, about to plead for mercy, when a voice pierced through the blowing snow.

“Unhand him at once!” The voice was soothing and surprisingly familiar. Necrozma turned towards the sound and yelled out,

What’s this?” A figure emerged from the harsh storm, but I couldn’t make out who it was right away. The figure was tall and had a large crown. It held its arms behind its back as it moved closer towards us. The creature stopped a couple feet in front of us.

“S-Slowking…” I muttered, finally realizing who it was. Was I ever happy to see him.

“I will not tell you again… Release the human.” Slowking threatened. Necrozma began to laugh again at his remark.

Well, well. We meet again, Slowking. Have you come to try and save one of your friends? Or were you just coming to let another ally down?

“Put the human down at once. Do not make me have to use force, Darkrai.”

Darkrai? But, this is Necrozma… Is Slowking really mistaking him for another Pokémon? And how does Slowking even know Darkrai?

I wondered quickly. Necrozma sneered and scoffed. He paused for a moment, and I felt the grip around me loosen.

Very well. It does me no good keeping this facade up anymore, now that the human knows the truth.” Necrozma opened his hand and I tumbled to the ground, falling on a soft, cold blanket of snow. I pushed myself up to see a dark light ball beginning to envelop Necrozma. I tried to hurry and get out of the way, but the dark light ball erupted before I had a chance to fully stand up. Expecting it to be some kind of attack, I opened my eyes to find that I was actually unscathed. Just then, I felt someone lift me up behind me from under my arms and put me on my feet.

“Easy, human. Stay behind me.” Slowking’s soothing voice echoed out. I nodded to Slowking and then turned back to face the source of the dark energy ball. Just before us, a shadowy figure floated above the snow. The figure was ghostly, about a foot smaller than me, and wove in the wind. It had a faint red aura circling it and almost looked like a scarecrow, but all black, except from its white head, and red neck.

“...I am Darkrai, head commander of Necrozma’s Dark Army...” It said. Darkrai had a deep, spectral voice that resounded through the air, as if it were coming from speakers high above.

“But… Why hide?” I asked, suddenly.

“...Lord Necrozma desired for me to stay quiet for as long as I could. He wanted you to remain frightened and paranoid from dream to dream... It would have worked, if Slowking did not intervene...” Then, Slowking abruptly chimed in.

“Quiet, you wretch. Tell Necrozma that the human will go to the Pokémon World.” Darkrai laughed again.

“...I am not in the same dimension as Lord Necrozma. He stayed in the Pokémon World to make sure everyone was accounted for. I have no way to reach him here…”

“Well, no matter. We will be on our way. And do not try to stand in my way again, miscreant.”

“...Have you forgotten, Slowking? This is the human’s dream. I can bend reality at the seams. If you even try to attack me, it will hurt the human. You do not want to hurt him, yes…?”

“Your pitiful dreams will not harm the human, or I. After being held hostage and tormented in your dreams plenty of times, I have hypothesized a way to leave early.”

“...Oh? You think you can escape? You will choke on those words, Slowking…” Suddenly, Darkrai disappeared into thin air and the snow began to intensify. Thunder clapped over us, rumbling through the area.

“How… How do we get out of here?” I yelped as loud as possible through the whipping wind at Slowking.

“Just a moment. We need to wait for just the perfect time.” Slowking cried back. Suddenly, I noticed Darkrai’s figure in the sky in between lightning flashes.

“Up there!” I called. Darkrai began to laugh, louder than before. I covered my ears and scrunched up my face, trying to cancel the sound out.

Only a few seconds more.

Slowking’s voice suddenly called out, clear as day. I was confused as to how I heard him so clearly, but paid more attention to Darkrai high in the sky.

“...You cannot escape…” Darkrai’s voice called out. The clouds erupted and lightning began to hit the ground in a line, striking just yards away. The line of electricity headed towards us, quickly approaching. My hair stood up on end and I felt the heat from the beams.

I am sorry to have to do this to you human… Please do not think of me the wrong way.

Before I could say anything in reaction, I felt something push me to the ground. I quickly turned around to face Slowking. A large, dark amorphous ball formed over its head. He looked away from me as the ball got larger. I yelped in fear, frightened even more. Why was Slowking attacking me? Just then, the sky above me began to light up and I saw the beginning of a lightning bolt begin to come down. I shielded my eyes as everything went dark. Strangely, I felt something hit me that wasn’t electricity. I couldn’t describe the feeling… Like being coated in ink? Despite that, I suddenly felt like I was going to pass out and I let the feeling consume me before drifting off again.

 

I suddenly gasped, sitting up in a flash. My heart was still pumping and I was covered in a disgusting cold sweat. Looking around, I saw the familiarities of the cave and began to calm down, as well as recollect on what just happened in my dream. It all felt so real…

So... Darkrai was behind it all… He was the one giving me nightmares. But then, I was saved by...

Slowking! I frantically looked around the cave for him, but he was nowhere to be found.

“Slowking, where are you?” I cried, waking up Riolu and Dusty with my call. I struggled to stand up and proceeded to make my way out of the mouth of the cave. I was met with a cold Autumn rain that felt good on my red-hot face. I continued to search around the wooded area, but Slowking was still missing. It was now morning, and the overcast skies moved swiftly with the heavy wind high above the woods. It would have been peaceful, but I was in a rush to find Slowking. Suddenly, I heard a rustling from behind me and whipped around to see him emerging from some bushes to my right.

“Slowking! What’s happening?” I asked frantically.

“We must leave this place, immediately.” He said rushing into the cave a bit faster than his normally slow pace. I followed him back in as he began to pick up his supplies and put them in a small, beat-up, straw shoulder bag. Riolu and Dusty were just coming to, and looked confused at Slowking’s hastiness.

“Slowking, what’s the rush all about? And do you know anything about my dream from last night?”

“There is no time for questions human. Darkrai has let the Ultra Beasts know our position.”

“So you do know about my dream! Can you tell me-”

“What did I just say, human? There is no time for this! The Ultra Beasts are coming now!” I opened my mouth to protest, but I didn’t want to see Slowking any angrier than he was currently.

“R-right. Sorry. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“No, not currently. Converse with Riolu and Garbodor and fill them in on what is happening. I will pack up the remainder of my supplies and make it look like no one has stepped foot here.” I nodded and hobbled over to Riolu and Dusty, who were just standing up.

“Okay guys, it’s time to head out. Here’s everything I know so far on what’s going on.”

 

Once I was done with telling them about my dream, we all took a moment to prepare ourselves for the trip ahead. Both Riolu and Dusty looked at least a little revitalized from the resting and ready to travel. However, I wished I was the same. I was still tired, physically strained, and could hardly walk by myself.

Just then, I heard a splash from behind me, and turned to see Slowking dousing the firepit with a Scald. The ash washed away and the rocks and burnt sticks filed out into natural looking positions.

“We are leaving now. Are Riolu and Garbodor ready to travel?”

“Yes, they are fully aware of what’s happening and ready to get going. I am also ready to go.”

“Very well. Stay behind me; we are heading into enemy controlled areas. I will tell you my plan as we go on. For now, just follow me and stay quiet.” I nodded and did just that, heading back into the wet, dreary weather.

We toughed out the rain, being quiet and cautious of our surroundings. Occasionally, Slowking would stop and look around, listening through the pattering drops and searching for any signs of attackers. One time, something flew over our heads and Slowking told us to lay down and find cover. I was petrified, worrying that the enemy was nearby. However, it proved to be a false alarm, as it was just a bird Pokémon flying by.

We climbed over foothills, through small plains and fields, and trekked through miles of forest. We also came across the occasional road or highway, to which we hurried across as fast as possible to not be seen. I didn’t know where we were headed, so I just assumed Slowking knew where he was going. I tried to admire all the nature, but it was hard to do so with my worsening condition and the paranoia of being found. For most of the time, Riolu and Dusty would take turns helping me walk, or when I needed a break, carrying me. I felt bad that I was holding everyone back, but there was really nothing I could do about it but wait for my injuries to heal.

When I wasn’t worrying about it all, I thought more about the dream from the night before. The horrifying scene played over and over in my thoughts like a broken record. I desperately wanted to say something to Slowking about the dream. I kept seeing my family members locked in the cage, and Necrozma’s piercing gaze, as well as hearing Darkrai’s threatening words… But I knew I would put myself and my partners at risk if I even muttered a word.

Hours seemed to pass, and I was extremely tired, despite even being helped by my Pokémon. Our pace slowed to a crawl as every step hurt. And to top it off, the rain did not stop either. All of us were soaked to the bone, and no one seemed happy. I was lucky to have my warm down jacket with a hood to keep me dry, but my pants and boots were sopping wet. And don’t get me started on the boredom. It was excruciating not being able to rest, eat, or even do anything else but walk. I also found out that my PokéNav broke during my tumble down the hill. I was disappointed because I didn’t have any music to listen to, no way to contact other people, and no map to read from.

Could this day get any worse?

I constantly asked myself. Finally, as it began to become darker and darker, Slowking announced quietly that we were looking for a safe place to stay for the night, a dry place to rest for at least a few hours. I was relieved to hear the end was close, but we first needed to find a place to stay. In the final stretch, I couldn’t take the pain anymore and collapsed in Dusty’s arms, causing him to almost drop me. So, for the last thirty minutes or so, Dusty solely carried me at his waist.

It was almost pitch black when we came upon a small cave in the side of a small, rocky valley. The cave only led in a couple yards, and looked like other people or Pokémon had stayed there recently. Our luck was immeasurable though; some straw and leaves had been carefully placed into beds. There was also some extra dry straw and firewood along the back wall, conveniently. The stream of water from the rainstorm was naturally flowing down the forest valley, so the cave was dry and somewhat warm.

Wasting no time, Slowking immediately set up a fire as Riolu and Dusty began to set up our places for the night. They set me down next to the firepit to dry off as soon as Slowking started the fire. Riolu and Dusty made a cot for everyone, placing Slowking’s makeshift bed near the mouth of the cave. In the meantime, Slowking casually started a fire using his Psychic powers. He used his mind to furiously rub two sticks together until a flame started. I could tell he’d done it many times before. As soon as the fire was roaring, Slowking began to boil some rainwater and stream water he’d collected, to filter out the impurities. We all sat around the fire, watching him poke and prod the wood with a poker stick, waiting patiently for the water to boil and then cool. During this time, I couldn’t bear waiting to ask Slowking questions, but I resisted my urge. I didn’t want to make him angry, so I waited for the right time.

Around dinner, Slowking spoke to all of us about his plans.

“Our journey today may have been a long one, but I know it was successful. I am confident those Ultra Beasts and Darkrai are still searching the area behind us. For now, we can rest. Tomorrow we will head out again, bearing toward the Pennsylvania border.”

“How close are we to Kinzua State Park?” I asked.

“Unfortunately, still quite far away. We travelled a large distance today without any stops, but there is plenty of road ahead. I would say we are just past the township of Friendship, and around forty miles from our turn-off to the border. After that, it is still quite a bit away.” I groaned knowing that there how much walking was in front of us. “Keep your head up, human. The roads ahead will not be easy, and I expect us to go at the same pace as we went today.”

“I don’t know how much more I can take of that, Slowking… I’m exhausted right now.”

“You will have to deal, human. I see no other way of making it to the portal without repercussions.” There was a pause as Slowking crunched on an Oran Berry. No one was talking, so now was finally the time to ask.

“Slowking… I’ve been dying all day to ask you this… Can you please tell me about the dream from last night?” Slowking finished chewing and took a sip of water from the pot before setting it back on the dirty ground.

“Very well. You have patiently waited all day, so I expect you deserve some more answers.” Immediately, my questions exploded out of my mouth.

“Is my family in any danger? Will Necrozma do anything to them? Will he-”

Enough, human. There will be no talk about family here. An illusion is what you saw; a simple trick by Darkrai to make you fearful.”

“But… How do you know?”

“I know Darkrai like the back of my hand. He only threatens to hurt people, and never acts on it. If Darkrai is not in the same dimension as Necrozma, how would he even know if your parents were locked up? He said it himself: he has no communication with Necrozma in your world. Darkrai simply read your mind and used it against you in your dream.” I felt somewhat relieved, but I was still a little scared. Deep down, I knew that my family was in danger. And if I didn’t do anything, something bad was going to happen to them.

“You look perplexed, human. Is there anything else you would like to know?” Slowking ended my train of thought and I quickly thought of more questions.

“How do you know Darkrai?”

“Darkrai and I go way back. Too far, even. We met during the third tragedy. I was tasked with retrieving a human from the future. Just like you, I found and led the human to the portal, but Darkrai came in and gave the human nightmares. I used my Psychic powers to enter the dream, and took Darkrai on to save the human.” Slowking hesitated and looked out into the night. “I could not save the human…” He began again. “Darkrai just has a way of messing with your head. And he has so much power in a dream… I lost the battle. He tormented and taunted me after he won… And by the time I awoke, the human was gone.” A gust of wind blew in from outside, blowing the flames in the direction of the wind. “After that day, I made a promise. To never let another human down. I studied Darkrai and his abilities. Many times I travelled to his domain to fight him, only to be defeated over and over. But this time, I was ready.”

“What did you do this time that was different?”

“Simple. Darkrai wanted me to try and attack him, or run away. You see, the weakness of every dream is in the beholder. Darkrai would never hurt the dream inhabitant, or else that would ruin his strength and the integrity of the dream. So, I attacked you.”

“Wait, you did what?” I was shocked Slowking would put so much at risk like that.

“It was a longshot, but that was the common denominator in all of his dreams. He may be almost impossible to hit, but the inhabitant is not.” I paused and looked out into the rainy darkness.

“At one point in the dream, I heard your voice almost as clear as now. How did you do that?”

“I have to ability to use Telepathy. Watch.” Test, Test. Can you hear me?

“I can, Slowking.”

You do not have to talk back to me to respond. I can read your thoughts, so if you think something, I will hear it.

Um… Okay. Test, test?

“I can hear you loud and clear, human.” Slowking responded aloud. That was a good feature to have, just in case. Dusty and Riolu looked confused, not being able to hear all of our conversation. I smiled, thinking about how secretive it was. “Any more questions, human?”

“Yes… Why were you out of the cave when I woke up?”

“Dreams have different timings. Your dream actually ended a couple minutes  before. I left the cave to look around for Darkrai.”

“W-why would you go out and look for Darkrai? Didn’t you say he was powerful?”

“I do not fear Darkrai. He is simply one who abuses his powers and nothing else. Besides, Darkrai cannot affect dreams from afar so I knew he was in close proximity.” I shivered, thinking briefly about the night back home when I first had his nightmare. Knowing that Darkrai was nearby was even more frightening, especially knowing how much power he had.

“Do you have any more questions, human?” I looked back and scratched the back of my head, trying to think of something else.

“Nope, that about covers it for now.”

“Good, happy I could help. Now eat your food and I will change your bandages before you head off to bed. You need all the energy as possible to get through the next stretch.” I nodded, biting into a ripe Sitrus Berry.

 


 

I woke up in the middle of the night with a start. I sat up and looked around. My eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and I could see my surroundings dimly. Riolu and Dusty were sound asleep, their chests moving up and down in unison. The last embers of the fire were dying out, and the cave was cold. The wind had picked up and it was whipping around the cave, making a soft whistling sound as it blew. It was still raining, and I could hear the familiar sound of rain pitter-pattering on the forest floor. Slowking was resting soundly, facing out towards the valley. I was still tired, so I laid back down and closed my eyes once again.

Human… Can you hear me?

It was Slowking, speaking to me through Telepathy. Surprised, I thought back to Slowking.

Yes, I can. Are you awake?

I have been awake for a while. I cannot sleep.

Oh? For what reason?

I am worried about you… Your condition is worse than I first thought. You failed to walk for parts of today… There is no time to rest on the road ahead.

Don’t worry about me, Slowking. I’ve got you, as well as my Pokémon partnersto help. I'm sure we'll get to Kinzua in no time.

...Are you always this way?

What do you mean?

You just always seem so cheery and determined... When I intervened in your dream last night, I overheard what you said to Darkrai. I have never met a single person or Pokémon who has enough guts to stand up to him, other than myself.

Usually, I’m not that confident. Something just shot through me, that’s all… Actually, recently, I’ve noticed that I've been more determined than before, but I don’t know why that is.

Perhaps that is because you understand that you cannot fail… Or, it could also be because you are bonding with your partners and do not want to let them down.

I paused to think about more reasons my new confidence could’ve formed.

...No matter what happened, I believe Uxie was correct in his choice of choosing you as the one to save the Pokémon World.

I was flattered by his words, but suddenly began to think about his brief origin story he’d told me the day before. I wondered if it was wrong to ask him about it.

It seems you are curious about my past. Do not be ashamed, I will tell you everything that happened to me during my childhood.

I was slightly embarrassed, and I felt strange that Slowking could always tell what I was thinking about.

I will start from the beginning… As far back as I can remember.

 

Years and years ago, I hatched from an egg as a normal Slowpoke would. When I opened my eyes, I was alone in a nest next to a pond with a gushing waterfall, which came from high above. When I looked around, nothing stirred, except for the water. I remember… Fog shrouded the entire area, making it almost impossible to see. I was scared and lonely… The only thing that kept me company was the stream of water. I wandered around the area for what seemed to be forever, but no matter where I walked, I would always end up right back at the nest. There was something homely about the waterfall in the pond… I wanted to jump in as if I was jumping into a loved one’s arms. I wanted to feel assured and safe… But it did not seem that was possible.

Taking one last look around, I still could not find a way out. Suddenly coming upon a large statue, I stopped in my tracks. I had been here many times already, but could not take it anymore. I was exhausted, scared, and utmost lonely. I lost all hope and laid down before it. I did not want to move… What point was there? But then… I met him.

From high above, a single Pokémon emerged from the fog with a brilliant glow, and I opened my tear filled eyes to look out at my guardian angel. The Pokémon stopped a few feet before me… I will never forget what they did for me. It reached out and told me to grab its hand. I was unsure at first, but I knew I had nothing to lose. Once I took his hand, we took off into the sky. We glided through the air, passing up through the fog and down onto the shoreline of the lake above. My eyes glittered at the amazing sight that laid just above me all that time… I will always remember that day… The sorrow, the pain, the secret lake… and most of all, my angel.

I was confused by the strange geography he’d described, but pushed it aside for the time being to ask a more relevant question.

Who was the Pokémon that took your hand?

...It was none other than Uxie.

Uxie!? He… saved you?

Yes. If it was not for him, I would not be here now.

Do you know why he rescued you?

...You know, Uxie never told me the answer to that. I always assumed that he did it out of the kindness of his heart, but as I grow older and look back on the moment with a different mindset… There has to be another reason.

Do you think he saw something special in you?

That is very probable. After he learned I had the potential to aid him in assisting humans, he sent me to the newly formed Coalition of Portal Guidance in the Pentas. Something tells me he would not have saved me when I was young, if he had not seen some glimmer of hope. However, I have never really thought about my past with Uxie, so all this is a new topic to me.

There was a pause as both of us thought about why Uxie saved Slowking.

Look, human. The point of all this is that I just want to say… Never give up, no matter what happens. Even when things are looking bleak, do not give in.

Thank you, Slowking. That means a lot. And I won’t.

...Now that I have that off my chest, I think I am ready to go back to sleep. Rest well.

Same. Goodnight.

I rolled over and began thinking about Slowking’s story some more. I could put all the pieces of the tale together, but two things still had me confused. Why did Uxie take Slowking in under his wing? And why did Slowking’s parents abandoned him? Before I drifted off to sleep, I thought one last thing meant for Slowking before I drifted off to sleep with a smile.

Slowking, I don’t know if you can hear me, but I want to say one last thing. What you are doing is not an easy task. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you are doing for your world and I. Never give up either, Slowking.

I smiled and rolled over before quickly falling back to sleep.


 

Chapter Text


 

The next morning, the Pokémon were up very early. Light just began to stream into the cave when I heard them shuffling around, all getting ready to head back out. I sat up and stretched, met with the smiling faces of my partners. Seeing them filled me with enough strength to do anything.

“Good morning, everybody.” I said, smiling back. They all wished me a good morning back before getting back to work. I took a deep breath assuming that getting up would be as much of a struggle as usual, but however, I felt considerably less pain for some reason. As I stood up by myself for the first time in a while, I noticed Slowking smiling in reaction from across the room and couldn’t help but join him.

In less than ten minutes, all of us ate some berries for breakfast, drank some water, and gathered up all the supplies. Before we left, Slowking let us know his plan. He told us that we would continue heading West, following the Southern Tier Expressway until we reached just outside the town of Limestone, where we would then head South into Pennsylvania. As we all affirmed to him we understood his proposal, Slowking headed out and took the lead. As we followed after him, I took a deep breath in preparation for the long hours of walking that were ahead. Although I could stand and walk a little by myself, I was still very weak, and most likely unable to run. Yet, I didn’t sweat it because knew I had my Pokémon to lean on if I fell.

The first hour or so of walking was boring and somewhat hard to adjust to. Slowking intentionally set a slow pace, knowing I wouldn’t be able to keep up if we rushed. However, although for the most part the forests and fields we walked through were flat, I was still very tired and wished I was still sleeping. Spending all my time walking across the state really drained me, and I longed to be back in my comfortable bad back home. Unfortunately, I knew very well that reality was gone. I chuckled thinking about how another reason I was saving the Pokémon World was to be able to sleep in my own bed again.

After walking off the sleepiness, I became sort of content with the constant moving, and around that time Slowking also allowed us to talk with each other quietly. I checked in with Dusty and Riolu, who seemed to be happy and motivated as usual. They both looked a bit hungry, but I could tell they were at ease just being together.

I turned around with a smile on my face and began facing forward again, thinking about my two partners. It was truly a blessing that they both got along so well. In the beginning of the trip, they hardly spoke to each other, let alone even looked at each other. To see them so well acquainted with each other now made me a happy trainer. I paused my thinking for a second about my previous thought. A “happy trainer”, as I’d put it. I smiled, realizing that I was finally able to say that phrase. I clenched my fist and promised myself that after I saved the Pokémon World, I would come back and be the best trainer I could.

The weather was overcast all day. Sometimes we would get a quick drizzle of rain, but it would stop soon after. The clouds above us raced by, continuing to be pushed along by the strong gales miles above us. By noon, it was a comfortable temperature outside, and I almost unzipped my winter jacket to cool down. As I was about to however, it began to rain again, so I kept it on so to not get wet.

Early into the afternoon, we reached a river next to a wooded area and followed it towards our destination. There was a road to our right which turned left ahead and headed off towards the small town of St. Bonaventure. Suddenly, Slowking stopped. We all nearly crashed into each other as he turned around.

“You know, I was thinking… All of you are not very experienced in battling, correct?” Confused by the sudden miscellaneous question, I took a second to respond.

“Uh, I guess so? I mean, we’ve won a couple of battles. Before I met Dusty, Riolu and I had our first battle against Eliza. It was a close one, but Riolu came out the victor. And then a couple days later, Dusty went against another Garbodor and won… Both were very fierce battles.” Riolu and Dusty looked proud by their victories. “Then, on the trip to Hornell, the two of them banded together to help me with Buzzwole… And obviously, Buffy, Riolu, and Dusty all helped me with the battle against Eliza outside of Hornell. Speaking of Buffy, I wonder where she is now…”

“Is that all?” Slowking asked, looking a bit skeptical.

“Yep, that’s it.”

“Hmm. Although your record is only wins so far, it will take more to put up a considerable fight against Darkrai and the Ultra Beasts.”

“I can understand that. But, your point of telling us this is…?”

“I was thinking that we all take a short break from traveling and practice some moves, just in case.”

“You think that’s a good idea? Is it safe?”

“Nonsense. Darkrai and the Ultra Beasts are miles away looking for us. I am fairly sure that we will be unbothered since we have not seen a single enemy in the last day or so. Not to mention, I would like to see first hand how you and your partners can handle themselves in a battle, especially with the power of Mega Evolution.” Slowking pointed down to the wristband on my arm, hidden under my coat sleeve. I pushed my sleeve down and looked at the black wristband with the shiny rainbow stone in the middle. I was still surprised it was still in one piece, after falling down so many times in the past couple days. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Riolu was also observing his oversized gauntlet, while Dusty looked a bit jealous.

We headed over to a plot of flat grassland next to the river. The blades of grass were up to about my knees, and still a bit wet from the intermittent rain. A large oak tree stood behind us, leaves turning colors starting to drift to the ground in the early Autumn wind. Across the way, at least twenty yards out, was a large, formidable sycamore tree, standing tall against the skyline. The sturdy branches and leaves swayed in the breeze as well.

Slowking volunteered to be the test dummy in our training, offering to be hit by the attacks.

“I know a thing or two about battling. Do not worry yourself about me, human.” Slowking remarked, walking parallel with the river and stopping about ten yards out.

“Okay, Riolu. Why don’t you go first?” I said to Riolu, who happily hopped out in front of me. I gave him a thumbs up when he was in position and he clamped his paw into a fist.

“Whenever you are ready, human! Give Riolu a command!” Slowking shouted from down the way.

“Ready, Riolu?”

“Rio!” It called back, turning its head and right eye back to me.

“Alright, start off with a Force Palm!” Riolu turned his head back and sprinted off towards Slowking, who remained still at the other end. I watched carefully as Riolu dashed in with all his speed and lunged at Slowking, preparing his Force Palm. Just as Riolu’s attack was about to hit, I saw Slowking’s eyes flash a purple color and a shield of the same color suddenly surrounded him. Riolu’s Force Palm exploded, making direct contact with the Protect, sending Riolu back through the air. He landed a couple yards back safely, slowly sliding to a halt. The shield was unfazed and faded away as soon as Riolu stopped.

“A good attack, but you must keep them coming!”

“Okay Riolu, Quick Attack!” I yelled, starting to get back into the battling groove. Riolu then dashed towards Slowking at mach speeds. Still, Riolu’s hastiness was no match for the veteran Slowking, who slid out of the way before Riolu’s attack could hit. This time Riolu did not land safely, as he’d put all of his weight into the Quick Attack, hoping it would hit. Riolu hit the ground hard and began to tumble, quickly stopping in the wet grass. When he stood up, he was covered in water and shook it off quickly.

“You must be quicker than that, Riolu. Keep the attacks coming!” Slowking yelled.

“Okay, use Feint!” Riolu jumped towards Slowking again, right as he put up his shield. However, this time Riolu phased through the shield and the little sucker punch hit Slowking in the gut. Slowking was hardly phased from the attack, however, and he used his Psychic powers to pick Riolu up and send him back a couple feet through the air. Riolu landed safely again, focused on Slowking.

“Very nice. I can tell you two know a thing or two about battling. That is enough attacks from Riolu for now… Send Garbodor in.”

“You heard him, Riolu. Come back out here and rest for a while.” Riolu nodded and ran back to the oak tree where Dusty was watching us from. I turned around to see Dusty standing up and heading towards me. He stopped a couple feet in front of me and turned around to give me his familiar open mouth smile.

“You’ve got this, Dusty.” I said, smiling back. Dusty nodded and turned back out again, facing Slowking.

“Give your commands when you are ready, human!” Slowking called.

“Start off with Sludge Bomb, Dusty!” In reaction, Dusty contracted his stomach, preparing to let his attack loose. He opened his mouth soon after and heaved upwards, releasing the purple sludge ball off towards Slowking. Due to the distance, Slowking had plenty of time to stand aside. It hit the ground and erupted, creating a crater and sending purple slime everywhere. However, Slowking was far enough away to where none of the Sludge Bomb splashed on him.

“That was a good attack, but it might not be good for far away targets. Try something up close that is more likely to hit!” Slowking called back.

“Alright Dusty, get in there with Body Slam!”

“Gar!” Dusty took a huff of air and began running off towards Slowking. For being as big as he was, Dusty sure could haul himself around. When he got within close proximity of Slowking, Dusty hopped into the air and sent himself towards Slowking. Still, he was not fast enough, as Slowking sidestepped once more. Dusty landed hard on his stomach and created a Dusty-shaped hole in the ground. Shaking off the pain of missing and some dirt, he picked himself up and trotted back a couple yards from Slowking.

“You have to be quicker with those attacks!” Slowking yelled, trying to be helpful.

“Acid Spray! Don’t stop until it hits!” I yelled back. Dusty held out his long arm as Acid began to spit out from the holes. Slowking stood in position and put up another shield. The Acid Spray hit the psychic shield and splattered off, sending gross green liquid everywhere. Dusty kept letting the disgusting liquid coming out, however, putting the pressure on Slowking. Suddenly, Slowking let down his shield and sidestepped quickly, dodging the attack. Before Dusty had a chance to react, Slowking used his psychic powers on Dusty and lifted him up. Slowking then pushed Dusty back through the air. Dusty skidded to a halt once he hit the ground, but looked a bit out of breath.

“Enough! I have seen plenty. Let us go by the oak tree and converse.” Slowking added as soon as Dusty landed safely. We all began heading for the oak tree, curious to see what Slowking had to say. Dusty ran over to catch up with us and I met with my Pokémon to tell them about what I thought.

“You both did very well. I don’t have any complaints. Let’s see what Slowking says, though.” They nodded and we all turned around to face Slowking as he slowly made his way to us. Slowking stopped a couple feet in front of us and began to talk.

“It seems you and your Pokémon have quite a bit of experience, human. I am utmost surprised how you all work together, considering you have only battled a miniscule amount of times. However, I still have some concerns I would like to go over.” Slowking straightened his stance and held his hands behind his back, ready to critique Riolu and Dusty.

“I will start with Riolu. You are quite fast, and your attacks are remarkably powerful for your size. Yet, you must find the balance between these two. I noticed after your Quick Attack, you hit the ground hard. Try not to put all of your weight into attacks, especially if you are not sure if you will be able to land them. I suggest using Quick Attack up close to make it more of an element of surprise and more likely to strike the opponent. Other than that… Maybe you could try to use your attacks in different and unpredictable ways? Have you ever used Force Palm to jump higher?” Riolu nodded and looked back to me for an explanation.

“I think we’ve experimented with that technique a little, but haven’t put into action yet.”

“Excellent! It is wonderful to see you explore your possibilities. Spontaneous choices in any battle are a good strategy. Hopefully you will find new ways to use your moves in different ways, yes?” Slowking cleared his throat and turned to Dusty who was eagerly awaiting what he had to say. “I will now move onto Garbodor. It seems that you and Riolu are in different places when it comes to battling. Garbodor, you seem to be more of the type who is careful in the approach of their attacks… Is that so?” Dusty thought for a second and nodded yes to the statement.

“That is what I thought. A strategy you could use is also getting up close before you use your attacks. It might be hard for you to hit an attack if you are the center of attention or far away, but keep in mind that if you are careful in your execution of a move, you are more likely to hit the foe with a said move. Watch your opponent’s movements if needed and study them to get a better understanding of what their strategy is. Also, the use of your tendrils may bring the upper hand in a fight, especially if the opponent does not expect it… And now, some ideas for both of you.”

Slowking closed his eyes and held one hand up to show his point. “If you can, try and exploit surroundings or the Pokémon themselves. Using both of those to your advantage can be game-changing. For example, breaking a branch up above could cause a distraction or even some damage. Or, if a Pokémon has a fear or dislike of something, use that on them as an attack… And… That is all I can think of at the time being.” Slowking opened his eyes and returned his hand back behind him. He then turned around and stared up at the passing clouds. “You know…” Slowking mumbled.

“What is it, Slowking?” I asked.

“It it still quite early… I think we can train some more.”

“Oh? In what way?”

“I think Riolu and Garbodor should have a mock battle against each other.”

“Wha…? Y-you’re serious?” I was slightly taken back by that statement. I didn’t think friends should fight, even if it was for fun; especially with Riolu and Dusty. Would a fight possibly put a dent in their budding friendship? I turned around hoping to see Riolu and Dusty in disagreement with Slowking’s idea, but they both were staring at each other in battle stances with grins on their faces.

“You two really want to battle?” I asked, not expecting their response. Both Riolu and Dusty nodded vigorously, and turned back to each other, a rivalry brewing. In some sense, I was kind of jealous of their competition to be. I wished I had someone like that to battle with for fun.

“Then it is decided.” Slowking chimed in. We all turned to him. “Garbodor and Riolu will have a mock battle. The human will not be making calls, so be sure to follow your best judgement. Make sure to not hurt each other, but make it feel like a real battle.” Slowking said.

“Gar!”

“Rio!” They replied in unison and ran out to the field, Dusty heading down to the far end near the sycamore tree. I turned around to face them, Slowking next to me.

“Shall we head out there, human?”

“Uh, yeah, sure.” I said, a bit uneasy about the decision.

“Do not fret, human. Garbodor and Riolu know it is a mock fight and not a real one. They will not hurt each other, I promise.” Hearing that from Slowking made me feel a little better, but something inside of me was still thinking this was all a bad idea. Yet, I nodded in understanding anyways and we headed out to the middle of the field.

“Remember, this is a mock fight!” Slowking yelled as we arrived to watch just outside the middle of the battlefield. “Be competitive, but safe too!” Both Riolu and Dusty stood in their battle stances, ready for the call. I was still nervous and gripped my hand into a fist, hoping no one would be hurt. “On your marks. Ready… Set… Fight!” Slowking called, starting the battle.

 

The two Pokémon began a full on dash at each other, getting in close like Slowking suggested. All the way, I saw their smiling faces as they ran towards each other. Once in range, Riolu made the first attack. He jumped into the air and used Quick Attack on Dusty. Surprised by the sudden attack, Dusty slipped to the ground and slid, as Riolu landed behind him with excellent pose. Dusty quickly reacted and turned on his stomach to face Riolu, who’d just looked around.

Dusty held out his right tendril and let the Acid Spray fly towards Riolu. Riolu’s eyes widened as he saw the onslaught of gross green acid balls flying his way, and got ready to get out of the way. Riolu dipped, ducked, and dodged, weaving around all the acid balls, making his way towards Dusty. Dusty saw what was happening and stopped his Acid Spray attack, getting ready for Riolu to get up close. Riolu probably thought that Dusty was tired, so he dashed in once he was in range to hit another Quick Attack. This was not the case however, as Dusty caught Riolu with his tendrils as he dashed towards him. Riolu, surprised to be caught, was stunned for a moment as he tried to figure out what to do. He writhed and wriggled trying to get out of Dusty’s grasp.

Before Riolu had a chance to escape, Dusty pulled his tendril back and flung it forward, tossing Riolu forwards through the air. It wasn’t as hard as Dusty could throw, but Riolu definitely went flying. Riolu hit the ground and tumbled, eventually coming to a stop. He stood up and shook off the water from the grass. Riolu grinned and began to dash back in to confront Dusty once more. This time Dusty went to attack with his tendrils and shot them out immediately to catch Riolu off guard. However, Riolu was ready, and started dodging Dusty’s tendrils. Riolu ran all around Dusty, and it wasn’t long before Dusty’s arms were tangled in knots. Dusty couldn’t move his arms, leaving him defenseless. Riolu saw his opening went in to capitalize on that. Riolu dashed towards Dusty and jumped in the air, preparing a Force Palm. Dusty cringed and closed his eyes, waiting for the attack to hit. Riolu’s Force Palm burst out in Dusty’s face, sending Dusty one way and Riolu the other.

Dusty’s first reaction to this was to retract his tendrils. As Riolu’s attack hit, Dusty’s tendrils were right behind Riolu. To Riolu’s surprise, Dusty’s tendrils bounced up off the ground from the Force Palm and knocked him high into the air. I gasped in horror as I saw Riolu fly through the air, going almost as high as the top of the sycamore tree.

“Riolu!” I called, dashing into help.

“Wait!” Slowking called, trying to let what was happening play out. I ran with all my speed to the center of the field where Riolu was falling from the sky, ignoring any and all pain. However, I quickly noticed I wasn’t going to be fast enough to catch him in time, as I was too far away and my pace was too slow. In one last ditch effort, I dived forwards towards Riolu’s approximate position. I closed my eyes, hoping for the best.

I felt something land in my arms, and I quickly held them up to make sure Riolu wouldn’t be hurt from the fall. I skidded to a stop, covered in water and a bit of mud from the tall grass. I’d caught Riolu just in time, and was now laying flat on my chest under the sycamore tree. It was a miracle I hadn’t tripped or landed on a tree root. Riolu opened his eyes too and saw he was safe.

“Riolu… You’re okay!” I yelled, my heart still pumping out of my chest. I set Riolu down and stood up. “Thank goodness…” I mumbled, happy my plan worked out the way it did.

“R-Riolu…” Riolu said, a pang of fear in his voice.

“Human!” Slowking cried. I turned around to see Slowking and Dusty running quickly to the scene. “Is everything alright? Are you or Riolu hurt?”

“No, I think we’re both fine. I’m a little sore, but he should be fine since I caught him just before he hit the ground.”

“Indeed… My word, that was some catch.”

“I know, I’m surprised I pulled it off too.” I said, still in disbelief. I turned back to Riolu who was stood up now and shakily brushing himself off. As Dusty bounded over, his arms still tied in knots behind him, we surrounded Riolu, to see if he was actually okay.

“Are you sure you are okay, Riolu?” Slowking asked again.

“Rio...” Riolu said, slowly nodding.

“Gar…” Dusty looked sad and sorry for what he’d done, but Riolu nodded to him and let out a small smile. Although it was unspoken, Garbodor knew what it meant and smiled back at Riolu’s apology. I was happy to see that they made up as well. Seeing as I was the only one who hadn’t said or done anything, I kneeled down to Riolu, who looked at me.

“Riolu… I’m glad you’re okay. I don’t know what I would’ve done if you were hurt.” Riolu looked away, the slight embarrassment showing on his cheeks.

“Well, I think that’s enough training for now. What do you say, Slowking?”

“Absolutely. Let us eat some berries and get back out on the road. Oh, and I will help you untie your tendrils, Garbodor.” Slowking turned around and Dusty followed him eagerly back to the other tree where Slowking set his satchel down. I stood up and turned to head out with them, when I heard a soft,

“Riolu…”

I turned once again to face Riolu. He looked like he was about to cry.

“Woah, woah, what’s the matter, Riolu?” I kneeled back down and got up close with Riolu. “It’s okay. I’m here… Were you scared?” Riolu ran in and hugged me tight. Surprised by the sudden motion, I did what was natural and hugged back.

“R-io...” It said, quietly sobbing.

“It’s okay… It’s over now. You’re safe.” I consoled. He let go of the hug and sat down, still crying a bit. “Riolu, don’t worry about a thing. We all will always have your back, no matter what.” He sniffled and wiped away a tear. Seeing as he was still a little out of it, I decided to do something different. “Riolu, I’m going to do something for you that I don’t do often.” I sighed, ready to get this off my chest.

“Riolu, you are one of my best friends. I promise that I will never, ever leave you. I will always be there, and I’m sure Dusty and Slowking will do the same. You can one-hundred percent count on us.” He stared into my eyes and I smiled back at him.

“Rio…” It said, smiling. It closed its eyes and balled its paw into a fist in front of its heart. Suddenly, a light blue and white colored light wrapped around Riolu.

Surprised by the sudden event, I backpedalled and fell on my butt a couple feet away. The wondrous light was almost blinding and it swirled around until it completely covered Riolu. A strange almost electric noise came from inside the light too. I turned to see Slowking and Dusty enjoying some berries, unknowing of what was unfolding in front of me.

“Uh, Slowking?!” I cried, trying to get their attention. I turned back to see the amorphous light stretch out and lengthen. It started to form into a familiar shape, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The figure was a little over three-fourths of my height and had large, pointy, radar-dish ears. Some spikes grew on the figure’s chest and arms, and the tail increased in size. My eyes widened in awe as I realized what was happening.

“Luuuucar!” I heard, as the light disappeared and left bits of shiny light blue dust floating in the air. Standing where Riolu just stood, a new Pokémon arose.

This Pokémon was blue and black with a tan chest. It had steel spikes on its chest and arms. It stood on the toes of black haunches and its red eyes glowed. The Mega Gauntlet and blue scarf it wore finally fit and looked snug.

“R-Riolu!” I cried, dashing back in to see what happened. “Y-you evolved!” I cried in joy.

Lucario studied its new form and looked at its arms and chest. It seemed to be in disbelief, its mouth agape and eyes wide. Slowking and Dusty came rushing into see what the commotion was all about.

“Goodness.” Slowking said as he arrived, looking just as surprised as the newly evolved Lucario. Dusty looked on in the same manner.

I was absolutely speechless. I was so unsure what to say or do I just stood there watching Lucario getting use to its new form. All I knew was that I was happy and filled with an overwhelming amount of joy. Slowking and Dusty didn’t seem to know what to do either; they did the same thing as I. Finally, after thirty seconds or so, Slowking broke the silence.

“Well, it seems you had a better relationship with the human than I previously imagined, Lucario. Riolu only evolve into Lucario through high friendship…” There was a pause. I suddenly blushed, and I felt like the joy inside me wanted to burst out. I kept that emotion bottled as Slowking continued talking. “I think that is definitely enough training for today. We should all celebrate Lucario’s evolution! Maybe I will pull out some ripe berries I have been hiding…?” Dusty’s eyes widened and he opened his big mouth, drooling.

“I think the same thing! What do you say, Lucario?” I questioned.

“Car.” It said with a new deep and gristly voice, nodding yes.

“Excellent, let us get right to it! Follow me.” Slowking added. He and Dusty once again headed over to the satchel, but I stopped Lucario before he could get walking.

“Can I add one more thing?” Lucario looked a bit confused but nodded yes again. I smiled and put my hand on Lucario’s shoulder. “Lucario… You and Dusty, as well as Slowking, make me the happiest person on this planet. I don’t really know what to say other than… Thank you. Thank you for being a friend. I don’t normally come out with all this sappy stuff… But I just feel… Overwhelmingly happy. But there’s something else there too. I guess parents would get this feeling when they see their children grown up… But I don’t know, I’m just really confused right now. Although I do know one thing: you’re my friend. One of my best friends. Here’s to a lot more time together… Partner.” Lucario looked like he was going to tear up again, but closed his eyes, took a deep breath and opened his eyes. No tears were left, but he looked confident and determined. He grabbed my hand and put his other paw on his heart, then nodded. At that moment, I thought I felt a strange energy connecting us, stemming from the Mega Bracelet and Gauntlet. He noticed it too, and we smiled at each other.

“Let’s go get some food… Oh, and this is the last thing, I promise.” I let go of his paw and stepped a couple steps back. “You’re all grown up now, and I was thinking… I never gave you a nickname. Y’know, Dusty and Buffy always had theirs. How about one for you… Maybe Sycamore?” I pointed up to the tree. Lucario looked up, and just as he did, the cloud cover opened for a brief moment and the sun shone down on the tree, casting a shadow across the river. Lucario looked down and nodded yes, then placed his paw over his chest.

“Great! I’ll call you Sycamore from now on.” I turned around and gestured for him to follow me. “Come on partner, let’s go get some food.” I turned around and Sycamore bounded over to my side to go and get some delicious berries from Slowking (and before Dusty could eat them all).


 

Chapter Text


 

While we ate our berries and Slowking unraveled Dusty’s tied tendrils, I told them about Lucario’s new nickname, Sycamore. They both seemed to take a quick likening to it too. Suddenly, Slowking thought he heard something and told us to be quiet. We were back on the road again in a couple seconds, as Slowking told me that we’d overstayed our welcome and were being followed. We hightailed it out of town and got back on route to Limestone.

As time passed and the coast seemed clear, Slowking let us know that we would have to cross primarily through towns for our next stretch of the journey, due to large rivers and worsening terrain. And so, we crossed over bridges and headed through small towns, being careful in case we ran into any Ultra Beasts. I’d spent most of my energy trying to catch Riolu before, so Dusty and Sycamore took turns carrying me again.

As the sky darkened, we eventually turned South and headed actually towards the PA border. Still on edge since we were chased out of St. Bonaventure, we continued to stay silent, just in case we had to hide. By the time the moon crested the horizon, I spoke up and asked Slowking about where we were staying for the night, but he didn’t answer. I guess he didn’t know yet.

In the last moments of daylight, I read a sign on the side of the road that read, ‘Welcome to Limestone, New York’. Immediately, I pointed it out.

“Finally, we made it. Slowking, do we know where we’re staying?” He ignored me and continued walking forward. Being unlike him, I asked again. “S-Slowking? Is everything alright?”

“I would rather not stay here for the night, human. That is why I have stayed silent on the matter.”

“Why so?”

“When I came to the Pokémon World, this is where I made my home… And the people here were never kind to me. Not to mention, my abode… Was not what I expected.”

“What do you mean?”

“Look, I really do not want to speak about these matters right now. I will say that the folk who lived here were very... Primitive. And they did not take kind to me staying where I was. We will make our way to the next town over before searching for a place to stay. I do not care how long it takes, as long as we do not stay here.”

“R-right.” I replied, unsure it would be long before we needed to stop. I looked up to see Sycamore and Dusty exchange apprehensive looks too, knowing it wouldn’t be far before Slowking gave in. Besides, I think all of us were tired, especially Sycamore and Dusty since they had to carry me. But we continued on nonetheless, heading through the extremely small town of Limestone, which comprised of only a couple small buildings and a gas station.

At the town limits, Slowking chimed in once more.

“We are very close to the Pennsylvania border. If we walk far enough now, we can get to the township of Bradford and to Kinzua by sundown tomorrow. But...” He then looked up at the night sky. The moon was high in the sky, darting in between the clouds and the sparkling stars. He sighed loudly and stopped walking. I guess he was finally realizing we couldn’t travel any further for now. Admitting defeat, Slowking apologized for his rashness, and we turned around. Eventually, we settled down in the upstairs of a convenience shop back in Limestone that was originally made from a two story building. Slowking didn’t say a word about being back, or the choice of buildings, so I left it alone, knowing it was a sensitive subject to him.

The convenience store, like many others, were pillaged as well. Shelves were toppled over and items were strewn all throughout the small building. I briefly thought about scavenging around to find some supplies, but I was too tired to do so. Instead, we all hopped over the back counter and headed up the backstairs, leading to a pretty small and empty upper studio-style room with a heightened ceiling. There was a lamp plugged into the back wall outlet that wouldn’t turn on, and a dingy mattress nearby. That was all that was left in the room; the rest was hardwood floor and old, ratty tan color walls, which smelled musty and a bit like beer. There were big windows on the back wall that looked out into the town, which was quiet and dark.

The Pokémon unanimously decided I could sleep on the mattress, which I greatly thanked them for. Although the mattress was firm and smelled weird, it felt really good to not be sleeping on a cold floor or in a hay pile. I collapsed on the bed and quickly fell asleep almost instantly, happy to finally get some shut-eye.

 

I woke up with a start in some place that wasn’t the open room. Wherever I was, the landscape seemed familiar with its endless rainbow walls. As I struggled to move, I realized I was back in the dreamscape I’d been in the days before when Uxie contacted me for the first time.

“Uxie? Are you there?” I called out.

Shh…

I heard from my right. I turned my head to see Uxie floating nearby. For some reason, I got the feeling that something was wrong. Uxie erratically glanced back and forth, looking for something. For the first time, he seemed to not be calm, but instead panicked.

“Is something wrong, Uxie?” I asked again.

Shh!

He replied again, holding its hand up to its mouth and staring me in the eyes.

Talk to me with your thoughts, not your voice, okay? 

I was taken back by his rudeness, but I knew if he was this paranoid, there had to be a reason.

Okay, sorry. What’s wrong?

Time is running out, human. The portal will be closing very, very soon.

Wait, the portal to the Pokémon World closes? Why didn’t you tell me that before?

No, no. It does not normally close by natural means. The Dark One’s goons have found the portal and are trying to close it by force. I do not know how, but somehow, they have found a way to do so. I can feel it… ceasing to exist at this very moment.

I wanted to know how exactly Uxie could “feel” the portal closing, but I figured now was not the time to ask him that question.

So, you want me to pick up the pace. I can do that. We are almost across the-

Speak no further. I know where you are currently. However, at the rate it is currently closing, I predict the portal will be fully shut some time around nightfall tomorrow.

Tomorrow night?! Woah, I better get going right now! I’ve got to let everyone know…

Not just yet. I need to tell you a couple things before I send you back...

O-okay, I’m listening. But hurry up, we need to get going ASAP.

Uxie paused and looked away again for a moment, searching back and forth. He took a deep breath and looked back at me.

Human… As much as it pains me to say this... Only you can make your way through the portal to the Pokémon World.

I paused for a moment, hearing what Uxie said over and over in my head.

W-what do you mean?

My heartbeat suddenly got faster as I started to put two and two together. Surely, he couldn’t mean…

You were never meant to enter the portal with your Pokémon. They are merely aids to guide you on your journey. Simply put, they cannot return to the Pokémon World with you. Besides, the portal is too small and we risk wasting time getting everyone through… I am sorry, but it is up to you alone to pass through that portal.

I suddenly felt something welling up in my throat and tears began to form in my eyes.

No… No! There’s got to be another way to bring them through, I am NOT leaving my partners behind!

I am afraid there is no other way. Your Pokémon are from the past, and if they go back, they will return to their original mindsets. That means they will not remember you.

That doesn’t matter, I’d take them not remembering me in a heartbeat over leaving them behind! Please Uxie, there has to be some other way to-

That is enough, human. You must be the only one to travel into the portal, is that clear? 

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Would I ever see them again after I left? Would they be okay back here alone? More and more what-if questions popped up in my head.

Human, do I make myself clear?

Y-yes, Uxie.

Good. Now one more thing before I must go. Please deeply consider who you ally with. You never know who or what is working for Necrozma.

I stayed silent. It was hard to pay attention after what he’d told me. Uxie then shifted his gaze to behind where I was, making it look like he was staring through me.

It is time for me to go, human. Farewell; please, keep your guard up and safe travels.

Everything began to fade to white as I began to cry.

 

I woke up in the bed, the area around my head wet from my tears. I sat up and sniffled, completely heartbroken. I was going to have to leave everything behind again to save the Pokémon World. I hopped out of bed and looked around, my nose still running and tears welling in my eyes. Dusty was sleeping against the back wall, with his mouth open. Uxie’s thoughts popped into my head again, and I looked away, sadness encumbering me. Looking around the room, I found that Sycamore and Slowking were nowhere to be found. This was okay because I needed a second to compose myself. Finally getting a hold of myself, I wiped my eyes, and slipped my shoes on. I was going to quickly check for them downstairs and possibly outside.

As I walked down the stairs, there was nothing I could do to stop the troubling thoughts, and they all came rushing back in. I winced and thought about leaving through the portal… Alone. The tears came back and I nearly collapsed in grief. Just then, I thought I heard something from outside. It sounded like Slowking was talking softly, but to who? Using this as a distraction from my thoughts, I hopped over the desk and walked towards the glass front doors, as the talking got louder.

“That is good, Sycamore. Just like that.” Slowking said, quietly. I opened the front door and walked outside. It was pitch dark except for a lantern Slowking had set on the sidewalk next to the shop. It was a quiet night, with no wind blowing. The moon and stars were shrouded by the clouds high above, but I could see it trying to get through. I looked left first, and then right to see Sycamore and Slowking standing across from each other.

Slowking noticed me and before I could say anything, he put his hand up to his mouth like he was telling me to shush. I nodded and walked in closer. Sycamore looked like he was concentrating on something and had his eyes closed. I was confused, but then I heard Slowking’s voice in my head.

You should be resting, human.

I know, I know. I couldn’t sleep… What are you and Sycamore doing out here?

I am training him.

Training? In what way?

I am teaching Lucario how to use his Aura. Currently, we are working on his Telepathy skills.

Wait, Sycamore has Telepathy like you?

All Lucario can use their aura differently. Some excel in different places than others. It seems that your Lucario has quite a firm grasp of his Aura skills, and can use Telepathy. Here, let me see if Lucario is ready to try it out.

Slowking looked back towards Sycamore and presumably started to talk to him via Telepathy. Sycamore’s eyes opened and he glanced over at me. I nodded to show him I was ready. Sycamore once again closed his eyes and put his right paw up to the side of his head. He opened his mouth as if to speak, when I heard a faint noise in the back of my head.

Nic... Slowking showed... Me how to… use Telepathy…

Sycamore’s voice sounded tough and gristly, but stagnated, as I was sure that it was hard to suddenly speak a new language using your mind.

That’s great, Sycamore. Keep practicing and I’m sure you get the hang of it soon.

Thank… you.

Sycamore opened his eyes and smiled at me. I smiled back and suddenly felt the pangs of sadness from before. Looking away to hide my tears, Sycamore noticed something was wrong. He didn’t act on it though, as Slowking began to speak.

“Yes yes, it seems that Lucario has gotten quite used to Telepathy. If he keeps using it, I am sure he will master it in no time. If you are wondering human, Lucario also has other useful abilities with his aura, but he we have not practiced them yet…”

Slowking then paused and turned to me.

“Now, I think I must address the topic at hand. Uxie has contacted me with the news. We must head out at once.” I was surprised that Slowking already received the information from Uxie. I was about to say something, but nothing came out. Nodding in affirment, I was gratefully relieved that I didn’t have to talk about what Uxie had told me in the dream.

“We will leave now. I understand it is risky to be travelling towards enemy territory this late in the night, but there is too little time to waste. Go wake Garbodor, and grab whatever you need to get going… You are free to tell Lucario and Garbodor the news at your own leisure.” Suddenly, there was a noise from down the street. Something metallic sounded like it fell over, presumably a trash can. Slowking and Sycamore immediately reacted, staring off in the direction of the noise.

“It might already be too late. We must leave now. Lucario, take the human inside and grab Garbodor. We have got to depart as soon as possible. I will try to hold off any attackers as long as possible. Go!”

“Car.” Sycamore said, looking back down at me. He still looked a little concerned, but now was not the time to be talking about emotions.

“I’ll follow you, Sycamore. Let’s go.” I was reassured that he was protecting me on our trip to grab Dusty. Sycamore took the front and barged through the front doors, running towards the front desk at about my fastest speed with my injuries. I dashed after him, having trouble seeing in the dark, weaving through all the mess, and hopping over the desk to head up the stairs. When I crested the top of the staircase, Sycamore was waking Dusty. Dusty’s eyes opened slowly and it yawned, confused and a bit angry to be awakened.

“Come on you two, there’s no time to waste. We’ve got to get out of here as soon as-”

I was interrupted by the sound of attacks landing outside. A small explosion ran through the air and shook the building briefly. The windows rattled and showed a pink-purple glare outside which illuminated the room for a moment before disappearing and turning back into black darkness. It was suddenly quiet again.

“Slowking needs help. We need to go, now.” Dusty was immediately on his feet, ready to help. As I turned around to head down the stairs, Sycamore ran in front of me to make sure I’d be safe. We all ran outside quickly to see what happened by once again jumping the desk and traversing the wrecked store. The first thing I noticed when we approached the front door was that Slowking’s lantern was missing. One of the attacks must've knocked it down. I followed Sycamore the best I could in the darkness. He pushed the doors open and slowly peeked outside, checking both left and right. I stopped behind him and waited for him to make a decision. I heard Dusty stop behind me, due to the sounds of cracking and crunching debris on the floor stopping.

Sycamore finally turned to me after looking around for a while and beckoned for me to follow him. As he slowly made his way out of the store, I followed in his footsteps, creeping into the night. Outside, the moon had, for the most part, come out from behind the clouds and tried to light up the surroundings, but it was nevertheless not bright enough. Still struggling to see, Sycamore led us close to the building. There were no sounds at all, except for the tiny footsteps we were taking. My heart was pounding, scared to be ambushed by an unseen enemy.

Stop.

I heard in my head. It had to be Sycamore because of his rough but quiet voice. I did just what he told me and stood still. Where was Slowking? How many enemies were we fighting? Would we all be okay? I was trying to search for an answer with my eyes squinting, when something gleamed in the meager amount of moonlight down the street for a brief moment.

Sycamore, down the street. I think I saw something.

I saw it too Follow me...

Sycamore slowly headed off towards the spot, with Dusty and I following suit. As we got closer and the surroundings came into view, my heart began to pump more. It seemed that whatever we saw came from behind a car, which was left in the middle of the street. I couldn’t make out many features of the sedan because the moon didn’t provide enough light, but all I knew was that Sycamore was nearing the front. Sycamore paused for a moment, and then dashed left, turning to the front of the car, hoping to get a drop on whatever was there.

I ducked down in case of something bad, but nothing happened. I stood back up slowly and popped my head over the front of the car. Sycamore was standing with his back to me, holding something.

What’s that, Sycamore?

I… do not know.

Let me see that.

Sycamore turned and handed me the strange item as I walked around the car. When he dropped it into my palm of my hand, the item felt cool and metallic. Upon closer examination, it realized that in the center of a broken chain link was a Poké Ball held by two nails in the sides of the ball.

Where have I seen this before?

“That is far enough!” Slowking’s voice shouted, startling Sycamore, Dusty, and I. Slowking jumped out in front of us from a building to our left, the purple glow in his eyes.

“Slowking! Are you alright?” I asked frantically. Slowking did not respond, and instead continued talking into the darkness.

“I know you are there! Show yourself, fiend!” He yelled. At first nothing stirred. I thought Slowking was off his rocker when I noticed something move in the darkness a couple yards away from behind another displaced car. The figure was long and slender, and all I could see were its glowing green eyes. Only one Pokémon fit that description.

“Buffy?” I asked suddenly.

“B-Buffy...? How do you...?” Slowking’s eyes turned back to their normal color.

“Don’t you remember, Slowking? You let her out of her Poké Ball back in the cave outside Hornell.” Slowking hesitated, unsure of what to do. I assumed that he’d been battling with the unknown enemy until my arrival on the scene, so he must have been confused and conflicted. I thought I saw Slowking open his mouth for a second to say something, but he then closed it again. Buffy came out of the shadows walking carefully towards us and watching Slowking, in case he attacked again. Just then, Slowking spoke to me through Telepathy. 

Human, I do not trust this Liepard.

There’s nothing to be worried about, Slowking. Buffy helped us when we were being attacked by the Ultra Beasts, and she was my pet before Pokémon came to this world. I’m sure she has good intentions.

No, you do not understand. Liepards are not trustworthy Pokémon. Never once have I seen a truthy Liepard in my existence. They always lie and manipulate others to get what they want. I find it extremely suspicious that she has suddenly come back without notice.

Well, you’ve never met Buffy before. She is completely trustful and has been with me since I was seven. I don’t think that she would betray any of us. And, there’s nothing wrong about her coming back all of a sudden. I know she was just going to check in on my mom.

By now, Buffy was just in front of Sycamore, Dusty, and I. Dusty smiled out of kindness, but Sycamore crossed his arms and turned away. I guess he was still sour from the last time they met. Buffy didn’t seem to care about my Pokémon though, and turned her attention to me.

“Hello, Buffy. Are you back from seeing mom?” As I reluctantly bent down to pet it (I still had bad memories of when she snapped at me at my aunt’s house), I looked up to see Slowking peering over at us, speechless.

“Mrowr.” Buffy said, moving her head up into my hand to be petted like the old days. It seemed that she was less sassy now than she was in Hornell.

“Here, I think this is yours.” I reached out with my other hand and showed her the chain link necklace my mother made for her.

“Lie.” It said, nodding as a sign to give it back. I gently wrapped the chain around her neck and connected the two links at the back to hold the necklace in place. “Mrowr.” Buffy said again, smiling. I stood up and turned to Slowking who looked like he was thinking.

“Slowking, please let Buffy come with us. I promise she won’t be a problem. Just give her a chance?” Slowking looked up and opened his eyes.

“One chance. Only one.” He muttered quietly. “But Liepard’s going to have to stay in my sight from now on. If she even as much as runs off, I will consider her an enemy.” He turned to Liepard. “Hear that? You are on thin ice.” Buffy rolled her eyes and turned back to me. There was a slight pause as all of us did not know what to do next.

“Well…” I finally said. “It looks like all of this was a false alarm… So let’s head out. We’ve got to get going now. Is everyone ready?” I turned to Dusty who nodded yes and then to Buffy who also nodded yes. Sycamore however, looked a bit concerned when I turned to him. “Sycamore, are you ready?” He opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out. He then nodded yes. He still seemed a bit out of it, and glared at Buffy when she wasn’t looking at him.

I turned back to Slowking.

“Ready?”

“Yes.” He grumbled, adjusting his bag on his shoulder.

“Okay, let’s head out. Slowking, can you lead the way?” Slowking nodded and walked past us with his head down. Once he was a couple feet away, he looked back and beckoned with his left hand. We trailed after him in complete silence. As we walked I thought quietly to myself, thinking about the events that had just unfolded and the road ahead.

Having Buffy back was definitely a surprise. I didn’t think that she would come back at all, especially this close to the portal. I also hoped that Slowking and Sycamore would both get along with Buffy more. It would be a long final stretch if they didn’t.

Slowking’s words then once again echoed in my head. How would Buffy be a traitor? There was just no possible reason I could think as to why she would betray us. But why were Slowking and Sycamore so keen on doubting her? Was there something I was missing? And what about what Uxie had said; how was I going to let everyone know, and deal with the pain?


 

Chapter Text


 

We quickly walked out of town and got back onto the highway, heading South towards our destination. The moon was now slowly making its way down into the treeline, signaling dawn was coming soon. For as late as it was, I was surprisingly not tired or overly exhausted. That strange sense of determination filled me once again and I knew I needed to continue on, despite being physically strained.

Looking around at my Pokémon partners, it was clear there was an unknown tension in the air making it hard to speak. Was it the fact we were so close to our destination? Was it the fear of the unknown or what lay ahead? Or was it the suspicions of a fellow teammate? All I knew was that I didn’t want to speak either. I was going to let someone else break the silence.

Just as the moon was completely out of view and the sky was getting brighter, we passed by a blue road sign that said, “Welcome to Pennsylvania, the Keystone State”. We were finally across the border and I sighed a sigh of relief upon seeing it. We’d been walking for about an hour and a half, but I knew we still had about another half day of travel ahead of us. Although my legs ached and I felt the pain of constant walking, I was quite happy to finally be this close to our goal.

As we passed by the sign, I heard Slowking’s voice in my head.

Human, how are you holding up?

I’m okay, Slowking. I need to rest sometime soon, but I can go a little longer. Why are you talking to me with Telepathy?

I am just being cautious around Liepard.

Oh come on. Buffy isn’t going to do anything if you talk aloud.

I am not sharing personal information around “Buffy”.

Ugh, fine. Is there something you wanted to tell me?

I want to tell you some important information before we go on ahead.

Okay, I’m listening.

Noting that we have not run into many Ultra Beasts along the way leads me to believe that they are setting up another ambush. This means we must be on our toes at all times for an attack. Please keep your eyes open for anything questionable and be ready to hide behind us if needed.

Right, can do.

Slowking hesitated and didn’t say anything after that. I chimed back in to see what had happened.

Slowking? Are you still there? Was there something else you wanted to say?

I am just now realizing that I have a lot to cover with you all in such a little time. To be utmost prepared, I wanted to give each of you more info and tips, but we are nearing the portal and running out of time. Do you mind if I run through everything I wanted to say quickly? It will help pass the time.

That’s fine, Slowking.

 

By early morning, Slowking told me many interesting things. He started off by talking about the portal itself and what to expect. He said the portal would probably be small, rainbow hued, and almost look like a “rip in space”. Since I was a little confused about the portal, I first asked about why there was only one portal back to the Pokémon World instead of many; assuming that when Pokémon appeared in our closets, each one had to arrive from a separate portal. Slowking’s answer was very philosophical and sounded like rocket science to me. The most I got out of it is that it is easy to enter the wormhole through the Pokémon World, but not anywhere else, due to the properties of time and space being different in alternate dimensions, and that every Pokémon had to take, “an alternate path into our world”… Or something like that. I then asked him about the portal itself and why the portal was positioned in such a weird place, to which he gave me the entire history of it.

It turns out, during the first disaster in the Pokémon World, the Pokémon did not have the help of Dialga or Palkia to open portals. The Pokémon known as Celebi had to travel through time and space with help from Jirachi, to which they ended up in my world. The portal was placed on top of a high mountain, to where no humans would ever look and accidentally stumble upon it. However, after choosing a human to help the Pokémon World, the portal was closed for good. Eventually during the second disaster, the Pokémon used a human from the future, and for the next two disasters, did the same. This was because it was easier to travel forward and backwards through time instead of through dimensions. As years and years seperated all these events, my world went through many changes. The high mountains the portal was situated on were eroded by the weather and glaciers, until it was opened again recently. Slowking told me that the Pokémon were quite surprised when they found the portal atop a large bridge over a valley.

Slowking also gave me some “tips” to protect myself if I was in any kind of danger. He told me to stay calm, run, and that “fighting a Pokémon or Ultra Beast by myself was incredibly dangerous”. Of course these were not really tips, but more like common sense. Still, I figured that if I ever had to fight an Ultra Beasts or any foe that wasn’t a human by myself, it would have to be in a last ditch effort.

Lastly, he told me more about the CPG. Apparently, Uxie took care of Slowking at the lake he’d previously mentioned (he wouldn’t tell me the name of the lake for some reason) until he was old enough to learn about helping humans. Then, Uxie sent him to the CPG campus in the Penta Islands. Slowking was naturally smart and perceptive, giving him an edge in school. After graduating and becoming a certified member of the CPG, Slowking decided to stay back and teach at the CPG while he wasn’t out in the field assisting humans. As the years went by and Slowking evolved, he climbed the ranks in the school, until only recently becoming the dean. Of course, Necrozma’s invasion disrupted all this and Slowking needed to take matters into his own hands, but his upbringing seemed to be very revered by the community. For some reason, he also wouldn’t tell me about the skills or techniques he’d learned, saying that it was a, ‘Trade Secret’.

As the sun came up, we headed into Bradford, the town Slowking wanted to get to the night before. It was a surprisingly large town, almost big enough to be called a city. It had a big shopping center with corresponding plaza, and many small brick buildings put together in close fashion, but of course, it was abandoned and empty like every other town we passed by. Following the highway, I suggested that we settle down and take a quick break before heading out again. I was getting exceedingly tired and sweaty, and needed a good break to cool off. We took the soonest exit off ramp and ended up settling underneath the cover of a gas station on the side of the road.

As we arrived, Slowking stopped and took his pack off of his shoulder and laid it on the ground. “We must head out soon. It may not be safe here.” He replied, opening the pack and grabbing some berries and an old milk carton with clean water inside. Sycamore and Dusty surrounded Slowking like usual, grabbing a snack and some water before heading off and conversing with each other. Once they were both chowing down on their berries, Slowking slowly walked over to us, keeping his eyes on Buffy the whole time. Buffy stayed by me, still a bit apprehensive of Slowking. Once he was in range, he handed me two plump Oran berries and the milk carton. “I am not giving Liepard anything. Do as you wish with the second berry and the water.” Slowking grumbled, turning around and heading back towards his satchel.

Man, he really doesn’t trust Buffy.

I turned to Buffy and sat down, placing the berry on the ground in front of me.

“Here you go, eat up. Want some water?” Buffy looked up at me and shook her head no, refusing the berry. I was shocked by her statement. “Y-you don’t want the berry? What about water?” She shook her head no again and looked away. “But why?” She glanced over at Slowking, who was still watching her from across the gas station. “You don’t trust him either, do you?” Buffy nodded, looking away again. “Well, I’m sorry to say this, but you two are going to have to get used to each other. We’ve still got about a half a day of walking, and we need to get acquainted as soon as possible. Come on, Slowking isn’t so bad.” I saw her roll her eyes sassily as she walked away.

What if no one accepts Buffy? Will they all fight among each other? ...I’ve got a bad feeling about this…

I thought among worsening tensions. Hopefully, everyone was just on edge being this close to the portal; I knew I was. I quickly ate my berry, drank my share of water, and stuck the other one in my right coat pocket for later, then headed over to convene with the Pokémon.

After packing everything up, Slowking gave us a rough estimate on how long it would take to get to Kinzua. He guessed we could make it there by dusk if we continued walking all day, and definitely would have enough time to stop the Ultra Beasts from closing the portal. With silent nods, we began walking again, getting back on the empty highway and heading south towards our destination. Immediately, Slowking switched to telling Dusty and Sycamore details about the road ahead. With him no longer talking to me I felt kind of lonely, and wished to be talking with someone to get everything off my mind.

Why am I not more scared? Normally, I would be a nervous wreck from all this pressure... Wasn’t I ‘just a normal schoolkid’ a couple days ago?

Looking around, I was once again reminded that I was only where I was today because of my Pokémon. As cliche as it was getting, my Pokémon made me feel safe and comfortable. With them, I felt like I could conquer anything. Even something as large as saving the Pokémon World felt somewhat small to me. But still, why wasn’t I more nervous? I could only feel a bit of the tension. Was I becoming overconfident? Or maybe the whole ordeal just seemed beyond belief? One thing was for sure, I was relieved that I wasn’t a complete emotional wreck. It was one less thing to worry about on our trip forward.

Noon came quickly as we continued to head South towards our destination. The streets of Bradford melted into the small town of Custer City, and then the equally tiny village of Lewis Run. As we reached the outskirts of the last town, the true colors of Pennsylvania began to shine. The road narrowed, and large groves of pine and oak trees adorned the sides, stretching for miles. The jagged landscape ran up and down around the roads, with mountains far off in the distance covered in a blue haze. It was a surprisingly warm and sunny for an east coast fall day. Still, it was not warm enough to fully take off my down jacket. I had it unzipped for a majority of the day, though. The sun’s rays felt nice with no cloud cover.

Sycamore talked to me a bit using his Telepathy during this time. It seemed that Slowking was also helping Sycamore with his skill during the walk. His voice became louder and there weren’t any awkward pauses between words. It seemed Sycamore was really picking up on his Telepathy fast, which was great to see. I was more proud of him than ever. Slowking was also teaching Sycamore how to use his new move during this time; Aura Sphere. I would glance over from time to time and see them practicing forming the ball of energy, before it faded away quickly. Sycamore looked a bit mad at times, so I figured it was a difficult process.

Slowking touched in with Dusty only a little bit. I saw him and Dusty making eye contact every once in a while, but I had no idea what they were talking about. It didn’t seem Dusty was practicing his moves at all, so I assumed the two of them were just conversing with each other about questions or something. Later on in the walk when they were done talking, Dusty came up to me with a big grin on his face and something intertwined in his long tendril. Holding it up to me, I noticed it was a pretty blue and white wildflower with a long and slender green stalk. Or, at least it would have been pretty if Dusty wasn’t holding it. By now, it began to shrivel and turn an off gray color. Buffy eyed the flower curiously, looking away once I glanced at her.

“Is this for me? Aw, thanks Dusty.” I asked, a smile erupting across my face. Although Dusty tried, it was the thought that counted. Grabbing it from him, he smiled even bigger and blushed.

“Gar!” He yelped, giving me another open mouth smile before running forward and convening with Sycamore and Slowking again. Putting the wilted flower in my pocket, I snickered and watched Dusty jump with joy up front. I’ll say it time and time again: Pokémon are a gift and we don’t deserve them.

As we followed Slowking through the twists and turns, I became more and more tired. I needed another break again, but it was getting late. The sun was starting to dip towards the horizon and I knew we didn’t have much time to play with. So I sucked it up the best I could and continued on, holding down the back of the pack. Late in the afternoon, Slowking turned back to talking to me through Telepathy, now giving me somewhat useless information. At one point, he began to talk about his life with Uxie. The stories were interesting, but seemed off topic. One of the best takeaways I got was that Uxie was actually talking to me using his “spirit”, and his real body was somewhere else in hiding, hence the dreams. All in all though, it was a good time killer.

While he talked to me, I observed the differences in geography between Pennsylvania and New York. As I did, a slight breeze came whipping by, blowing the smell of fall through the air. In the distance all around us, the tall peaks of mountains touched high into the sky, as some leaves came loose from their branches and soared out towards them. I took in a deep breath from time to time, just enjoying the cool breeze and the wonderful smells of nature. It really still hadn’t hit me that I would be sent to the Pokémon World that night. It just felt like a normal day on our trip, and I couldn’t shake that feeling.

 

As evening came, the tone became hushed. The usually social Dusty and Sycamore did not talk to each other, and instead gazed out at the Pennsylvania scenery. Slowking did not stop us to talk or give us any information, other than occasionally talking to us with Telepathy. And Buffy constantly watched each of the Pokémon with close eyes, still on edge. I opened my mouth to say something multiple times, but I just couldn’t say anything. Everyone was too anxious to speak and ready for the trials that lay ahead that night.

As the sun dipped down and touched the tops of the mountains, Slowking turned us off the beaten path, and soon we were on an unmarked gravel path heading deep into the woods. A dense thick wood cover surrounded the sides of the path that was hard to see through.

We are close, human. This is the back path to Kinzua State Park Bridge. The Park rangers are the only ones who can use this trail, so I do not think we will be bothered on our trip. Nonetheless, please keep your guard up.

Slowking suddenly said to me via Telepathy.

Right, I will.

There was a pause before Slowking talked again.

Human, I know I have been talking to you all day, but there is one last thing I want to talk to you about.

Uh, okay. Go ahead.

It is about Darkrai. In all my years of living, I have never seen an enemy so fierce and dedicated to their malicious deeds. If you ever feel scared, trapped in a corner, or have your back against the wall, do not lose hope. Someone is rooting for you. You must save the Pokémon World, at all costs. No matter what happens, you must succeed.

I was surprised by Slowking’s sudden emotional message, but I knew he meant well. I saw Slowking turn his head around and I nodded back to him, showing I understood.

I won’t give up Slowking.

I thought back. He smiled and turned his head around as the walk continued. The sun was just about to set behind the treeline by the time we reached a fork in the long winding trail. I was starting to feel more nervous, knowing the portal was so near to closing completely. I tried to stop the what-if questions from flowing into my head, but some made it through. These questions only worried me more. Then, Slowking suddenly stopped and looked around, confused. My train of thought was stopped and I realized something wasn’t right. My heart started beating faster when we came to a complete halt. Fearing trouble was nearby, I muttered quietly,

“W-what’s wrong?” Slowking pointed to the fork in the road.

“We are supposed to go to the right, but the path is blocked.” Surely enough, I pushed through my Pokémon and noticed the path on the right was completely closed off by fallen rocks and trees. The path went through a small valley, and it looked hard to go around without climbing up steep rocks or through dense forest.

“Something’s off about that…” I muttered.

“You are right...” Slowking said aloud. “There have not been any storms or natural disasters recently… Someone blocked the path on purpose.” I turned to Slowking right as a noise from behind us arose; a familiar sound which sent chills up my spine. It didn’t take me long to realize it was the ghostly laugh of Gengar. Slowking did not need anymore evidence to realize what was happening.

“Run! Down the other path, hurry! We will find another way around the blockage!” I suddenly kicked into motion and began sprinting down the path, my partners surrounding me. Although I didn’t hear anything behind me, I did not stop to look back. The travel pains did their best to hinder me, but I continued to run as fast as possible, fully knowing the direness of this situation. My heart fluttered and I could feel the sweat dripping off of my forehead.

We dashed for a seemingly long time going up and down the gravel path, surrounded by the thick tree cover.

“Slowking! Are you sure you know where you’re going?! Is there any other way?!” I yelled in between my heavy breathing. Just then, I heard the same wheezy laugh again, trailing right behind us.

“No! We must push forward! There is no time to turn back!” Slowking yelled back, picking up the pace. I groaned and began to run faster, trying to catch up with Slowking, who was using his psychic powers to levitate faster than he could run.

What was his plan? Did he know something I didn’t? Was there another way out of this? Were we actually going to be caught? Troubling thoughts jumped around in my head. I finally felt the most scared and anxious I’d been all day, and I longed for the ordeal to be over already; but I knew this was just the start.

As we turned sharp left, the end of the trail came into view. Fifty yards ahead of us was a dead end. The path opened to a parking area which looked like it used to be the location of construction supplies. Tire tracks of big trucks lined the dirt and gravel road surface. At the far end was a steep slope that dropped off far into the forest below. Above the treeline, high mountains stood. The setting sun was halfway past the treeline, close to being completely shrouded behind the horizon. As it all came into view, I became more and more nervous.

“Slowking?! What’s your plan?!” Slowking did not respond and continued to head forward towards the end of the line.

It’s going to be okay. He knows what to do. You’ve got your Pokémon to help. You’re going to be okay.

I told myself over and over in my head.

There’s nothing to worry about. You’re okay.

Slowking came to a screeching halt as we were about to run out of trail. The clearing was smaller than I thought, with two large piles of gravel stacked up at the sides and one disgusting looking port-a-potty near the cliff with the door open.

“W-why are we stopping?!” He slowly turned around and looked visibly taken away. I turned around too and saw why he was in shock. Behind us, the Gengar crew and a large group of Ultra Beasts were heading down the trail in large numbers. We were outnumbered about one to five. “We’ve got to head into the forest, now! I’m sure we can find a way through! Come on, before it’s too-” I was cut off by a familiar voice.

“Cut the crap, stalker! You’re not getting away this time!” The Ultra Beasts hastily surrounded us on all sides, except for the back nearest to the cliff. They knew we wouldn’t jump, account of how steep the drop was. All kinds of Ultra Beasts were here to capture us, even more than the last ambush. There was double the amount of Buzzwole and Xurkitree from last time, and there was now an assortment of Kartana too. All of the beasts looked fierce and ready to tear us open. They stood still as the owner of the voice showed themselves. From behind the two gravel piles, Eliza and her newly evolved Greninja emerged, both looking as intimidating as ever. Eliza’s hair was untied and she was back in her original red and black flannel tee. Her red-blond hair waved in the wind.

As Greninja and Eliza met in the front of the pack, I heard something else coming down the path. I looked behind them to see a white blur jump up into the air. The blur’s shadow covered my view high above for a moment before landing right next to Eliza and Greninja, striking a pose. Pheromosa stood, an amorphous purple marking still on her face from Dusty’s attack back in Hornell. I could tell it was mad and looking to get revenge on us.

“This is the end, stalker. You’re outnumbered… Why don’t you just give up and make this easy for us, okay?” Eliza said with a devious smile. Everyone got into a battle pose and tensed their muscles, gritting their teeth and staring at Eliza. They all knew firsthand what Eliza and her group of Ultra Beasts could do. Although he looked ready to battle, Slowking seemed distraught and his eyes nervously darted around.

“No way that’s going to happen, Eliza! We’ve got somewhere to be, and won’t be stopped by you!” I said aloud, trying to be as threatening as possible. Eliza scoffed and crossed her arms.

“Ha! I’d like to see you try. This here’s where I capture you and your group of Pokémon… And send you all to Ultra Space!” My anger piqued and I gripped my hand into a fist. I should’ve known there was no way out of this other than to fight. I quickly turned to my Pokémon and got them into a small huddle formation.

“...We’ve got to fight, it’s the only way out of this… We need to either head back down the trail, or through the woods to the other side of the blockade… Everyone ready…?” I whispered to all my Pokémon. Sycamore, Dusty, and Buffy all nodded. I turned to Slowking who still looked more worried than ever.

Don’t worry, Slowking. We’ll get out of this.

I thought to him. He stared at me in the eyes, took a deep breath, and opened his eyes again, looking a little more calm. It wasn’t like Slowking to lose his cool, so something was obviously really bothering him.

Stay with me for now. I will protect you the best I can.

He added. I nodded and turned back around to Eliza’s taunting voice.

"Having a strategy talk, are we? Well, you’re time’s up, stalker. Get ready because here we come! Ultra Beasts, attack!” I braced for impact as all the Ultra Beasts dashed in towards us.


 

Chapter Text


 

A Protect surrounded me as Ultra Beasts dashed in from all sides. Out of reflex, I flinched and ducked down as multiple Beasts crashed against the shield with excessive force, bouncing off backwards. Their first strategy was obviously to capture me as soon as possible, but luckily Slowking saw through it. Immediately, the shield began to falter and crack due to the magnitude of Ultra Beasts attacking it, and I knew something needed to be down quickly. Dusty, Sycamore, and Buffy suddenly hopped into the fray, combining their attacks to blast away the Beasts trying the break the shield. Slowking was trying his best to keep the shield up and at the same time defend himself with physical attacks. As soon as most of the attackers were fended off, I heard Slowking’s voice in my head.

Get ready to move! I cannot keep the shield up for too much longer!

I stood back up and took a deep breath as the battle raged on around me. The anxiety and stress were killing me, as well as the pain from all the running, but this was the most ready I’d be.

Ready, Slowking!

Run directly left, now! Hide behind the gravel pile!

Dashing forward with all my might, the shield disappeared right as I was about to run into it. I dared not look back, hearing all kinds of moves clashing and other unpleasant sounds from behind me. Suddenly, there was a large explosion that nearly deafened me. I jumped behind the gravel pile and turned around to see Slowking floating in the air, his eyes aglow with pink Psychic powers. All around, some Ultra Beasts began to topple over, hit by a disastrous Psyshock.

Keep moving. Run around as much as you can!

Slowking yelled out to me in my head. As I was about to move, Greninja came out of nowhere from high up and landed right to the left of me.

“Get him, Greninja! Don’t let him get away!” I heard Eliza yell. Knowing Greninja wasn’t going to attack me, I figured the best way to get away from him was to try and be as unpredictable as possible with my movements. I jumped onto the gravel pile right as Greninja tried to lunge and grab me. I tore up the pile and jumped off the top, once again narrowly avoiding its grasp. I looked out at the battle as time seemed to slow in midair.

Slowking was now slinging Shadow Ball after Shadow Ball at the Ultra Beasts, hitting them with almost perfect accuracy. He was trying to keep Pheromosa busy at the same time, just so she wouldn’t go after me. Some Ultra Beasts had fallen, not expecting the sheer power of Slowking alone.

Sycamore was dashing around using Quick Attack and using his Force Palm full blast on some of the beasts. At times, he tried to use Aura Sphere, but he still didn’t have the hang of it, so he prioritized his other moves. I watched as he connected a Force Palm with so much power, a Kartana flew all the way back off the cliff.

Dusty was using a combination of all his moves. Sometimes he would use Acid Spray to weaken an enemy before finishing them off with a Sludge Bomb. Other times he would place down Toxic Spikes in front of rushing enemies, hoping they would connect. As I turned to look at him, he was just about to connect a Body Slam into a Buzzwole.

Buffy was dashing around at high speeds and using Fury Swipes to tire out the enemies and weaken them little by little. I watched as a Xurkitree collapsed to the ground out of exhaustion after she hit it with Fury Swipes over and over.

Time seemed to come back to normal as I reached the ground. Like in an action movie, I suddenly tucked my body in and rolled, nullifying any damage from landing too hard. Instead of getting up and running away, I couldn’t stop my momentum. Clumsily, I tripped over the tire tracks and fell to the ground, right in front of the main battle. Slowly turning to the left, I saw Pheromosa using Lunge on Slowking, but now I was in the way. I covered my eyes, bracing for impact. Suddenly, Slowking shielded me again with another Protect. As Pheromosa bounced off, the barrier shattered into a million pieces. I opened my eyes and heard in my head,

Go! I will keep Pheromosa busy!

Slowking suddenly stiff armed Greninja, holding him back for a second from catching me. Taking a hint, I sprung back up and into action as fast as possible, once again bobbing and weaving through the fight. Although Slowking stopped him briefly, I thought I could hear Greninja right on my tail as I ran, so I tried not to hesitate. I did my best to duck and slide through it all, as well as jump in between raging battles; I’ve never made so many reckless decisions in my life. I slid under Xurkitrees’ arms, dodged around Buzzwoles’ trying to grab me, and jumped over Kartanas’ attacks. Finally, after sliding past one last Xurkitree and once again narrowly avoiding the grasp of Greninja, I felt like I was going to pass out; I was pushing myself too hard.

Slowking! I need help!

I cried out in my head, hoping he’d hear. I felt my legs start to cramp out and my speed was slowing. I feared Greninja was about to grab me, so I jumped behind the other gravel pile. I needed to rest, or else I would pass out. I suddenly remembered the Oran Berry in my pocket and reached for it. That would at least give me a little boost of energy. As I brought it out of my pocket, Greninja jumped over the pile and landed in front of me. There was no way I could get away from it this time. Quickly making a decision, I threw the Oran Berry right at Greninja. It hit Greninja’s head and bounced off, rolling to the ground. Stunned for a moment, Greninja backed up, surprised. I hopped back up on my feet again and ran up the gravel pile as fast as possible, still gasping for air. As I was about to crest the gravel pile, I felt something wet and slimy grab onto my leg and stop my momentum. I crashed onto the pile hard, knocking the wind out of me. I couldn’t move for a moment, stunned from the fall and lack of breath.

Turning around, I caught a glimpse of Greninja pulling me towards him with his long tongue. I tried to grab onto the gravel pieces as something to hold onto, but none of them were attached to anything so I couldn’t hold on at all. Desperately, I opened my mouth to yell for help, but nothing came out. I was gasping for air too hard.

Turning to my right, I saw Slowking in over his head. He was using Protect on himself as a barrage of attacks from Pheromosa and three other Ultra Beasts hammered his shield. Dusty and Buffy were both busy too, backs together, fighting off a group of four Ultra Beasts. There was only one Pokémon left to help me.

Sycamore! I need help! I’m behind the right gravel pile! Quick, Greninja’s got me-

Before I could finish my thought, a figure leaped up into the air over the gravel pile and lunged at Greninja. There was a small explosion as Greninja flew backwards. I felt the grip on my leg loosen as Greninja sped back towards the woods. It bounced off the ground a couple times before stopping inches before hitting a tree. I looked up to see Sycamore land valiantly in front of me.

“S-Syca-more… You actually...came…” I said, still panting.

That is what I am here… for. I will stay with you. Keep behind...me.

The gristly voice said in my head. I smiled and stood up as Greninja stood back up and retracted its tongue back in. There was another similar explosion to my left, and a shockwave of psychic energy ran through the air. A Kartana flew by us, almost clipping Sycamore. It hit the ground hard and bounced once before coming to a complete halt before the woods. The Ultra Beast tried to get back up, but had enough. It laid on the ground, fainted. For some reason, I was happy to see it down and out.

I heard a noise and turned back up front to see Sycamore and Greninja battling it out in front of me. They clashed, dashing around at crazy speeds. Suddenly, a dark ghostly ball flew into my view and collided with Sycamore, knocking him to the ground.

“Sycamore!” I cried out, standing up to help. As soon as I took one step, I was instantly surrounded by Gengar and his lackeys on all sides. They appeared from the ground and created a circle around me.

“Hit him with your Hypnosis attack, Gengar!” I heard Eliza yell. I felt more fear envelop me as the Gengar and Haunters’ eyes began to turn to a ghostly purple glow. But before I could feel the effects of their combo move, Slowking hit Gengar with a sturdy Shadow Ball, sending him back towards Greninja. Greninja dodged Gengar as it bounced off the ground and hit a tree. Gengar slid to the ground, fainted. His lackey group of Haunter gave me up and dashed over to see if their leader was okay.

“Yes!” I yelled, happy to be saved again.

Keep moving! Stay behind Lucario if you need to!

Slowking called out to me, dodging more attacks. I was about to do just that when I turned to see Sycamore hit Greninja with one last Force palm, sending him backwards into the woods. He wasted no time and bounded over to me.

Nic… I believe we should try… using our Mega Evolution.

Sycamore told me. My face immediately turned red, completely forgetting about the power Uxie bestowed us. Slipping my sleeve down to inspect the bracelet, I turned to Sycamore.

“A-are you sure? We don’t know what power it holds!”

Look around… At this rate, we are close to losing… We do not have much of a choice.

He was right, although we powered through in the beginning of the fight, the huge number of Ultra Beasts were starting to overpower us, especially since we all were exhausted. I looked deep into his eyes and nodded in affirment.

“Right, let’s do it! It’s all or nothing!”

Sycamore jumped in front of me and placed his paw over his gauntlet. I could feel the energy flowing in between the stones, as if they were reacting to each other. Just as I was about to put my hand over my own bracelet, a voice screamed out into the air.

“Do not touch that bracelet, human!”

Surprised, I turned my attention back to the middle to see Slowking gazing at me. He sported an angered face and looked like he meant business.

“You and Sycamore cannot handle the power of Mega Evolution yet! You must only use it when there is no other option!”

I was about to protest when I noticed Pheromosa approaching Slowking from behind. She was preparing an attack of some sort, but Slowking wasn’t paying attention to her. I was about to scream out to him to turn around, but I was too late. Pheromosa struck a powerful Lunge into the back of Slowking, toppling him to the ground. I gasped as I saw him crash into the ground with an eruption of dust. In his wake, dirt and rocks exploded into the air around him. While Sycamore watched in horror too, Greninja flew in out of nowhere and pinned him to the ground. Not expecting the attack and still weakened from all the previous fighting, Sycamore could not escape from his grasp. I then turned to see Dusty and Buffy back to back, being overrun from the Ultra Beasts from all sides. It was only a matter of time before they would be overwhelmed. And to make matters worse, Slowking was unresponsive and unable to help. With no one to assist me, I was utterly helpless.

Suddenly, Pheromosa landed in front of me, trying to trap me in. I backed up in an effort to get away from the beast, but slipped and fell on the gravel pile. More and more beasts began to surround me, their battles finished. We’d taken out a large chunk of Ultra Beasts, but the ones remaining around me were covered in bruises and scratches, showing their resilience.

I heard Eliza’s laugh in the background as Pheromosa moved aside to let her in.

“Well, it seems you put up more of a fight then I expected. Too bad it’s the last one you’ll ever fight!” She chortled loudly, as my face turned bright red. “How does it feel to finally lose against me, stalker? Huh?” I cringed, unable to speak. As much as it pained me, there was nothing I could do about her taunting me. I’d lost, and there was no way out of it... And we were so close to the portal too; it was just down the road! I felt like all my emotions were about to burst out, but I was too exhausted to release them.

“Typical stalker; completely speechless. Hopefully Darkrai and Necrozma will give you a little bit of back bone in Ultra Space...” She let out a devious smile akin of Gengar. “Pheromosa, grab him and open the portal. Ultra Beasts, grab his Pokémon too. We’re heading back to Ultra Space!” The Ultra Beasts quickly rejoiced as Pheromosa picked me up off the ground. I didn’t bother to struggle, knowing I was out of energy and it would prove useless.

Slowking… Sycamore… Dusty, and Buffy too… I guess this is it.

I thought, feeling completely defeated. In all my life, I’ve never felt so depressed and distraught. It was almost like some part of me died. Knowing I’d failed not only my partners, but the entirety of the Pokémon World filled me with grief. I looked around one last time to see all my partners fainted on the ground. Buffy and Dusty laid face down, finally being inundated by a group of Ultra Beasts. Slowking was on his side in the crater, not moving. Sycamore continued to struggle, but couldn’t get past Greninja holding him down. As the Ultra Beasts came in to pick them all up, the tears finally began to roll out of my eyes. Stopping a little ahead of the middle of the parking lot, a portal suddenly opened, the signature Ultra Beast black hole with red lightning arcing around it.

“Pheromosa, you go first with the stalker. Once you are successfully through, we’ll bring the other Pokémon in as prisoners.” Pheromosa nodded and headed for the portal. I winced, knowing the end was near. My mind went blank as fear developed into sorrow inside of me.

Here we go…

I thought as Pheromosa was about to step in.

 

"I thought I told you not to give up!"

I suddenly heard in my head. All of a sudden, I felt something push Pheromosa with great force and fling us both forward. She let go of me and I went flying towards the road. I face planted hard, and eventually came to a painful stop. From behind me, there was an electric sound and a distinct “shlorp”. Turning my head, I saw the last of Pheromosa slide into the portal with a red flash and then completely out of sight. Everyone turned to the middle of the parking lot to see Slowking kneeling, up on one leg.

“All of you, go! Go now!” Slowking cried. “Now is your chance to get away! I believe in you!” More and more tears began to flow out of my eyes as I realized what was happening.

“Ultra Beasts! Focus on getting the human to the portal!” Eliza demanded. Just then, I noticed that all of my Pokémon had joined my side.

“Leave me! You can still make it!” Slowking cried, as the remaining Ultra Beasts ran towards us.

“N-no! I’m not leaving you behind! I can’t, Slowking!” I yelled, starting to sob. As the Ultra Beasts were about to converge on us, a huge Psychic shield appeared in front of us covering the whole path. The Ultra Beasts crashed into the shield, surprised it was been put up.

Seeing the chance to get away, Dusty and Sycamore grabbed my arms, while Buffy supported my legs atop her head. They began to pull me back the way we came.

“No, stop! We need to go back!” I yelled at them. They ignored me, dealing with my struggling and taking us farther away from Slowking. “Slowking!!” I cried, still trying to get away. By now, the Ultra Beasts and Greninja were attacking the Protect Slowking put up and also trying to find a way around. The shield began to split and crack from all the attacks combined. Slowking had used up the last of his energy saving me from the Ultra Beasts and couldn’t hold them much longer.

Listen up, all of you. Head down the path, and then make your way into the woods. It will cover your trail for a little bit, hopefully shrouding your position for as long as possible. If you take the back trails, they will lead you to the bridge in no time… It seems this is it for me, but not for you.

Slowking, don’t do this! We can all make it! We can save you, this doesn’t have to be goodbye!

The shield was about to shatter...

Lucario, Garbodor, and… Liepard. Take care of the human. And human… No, Nicolas. It was a pleasure to help you these past couple days. I want to thank you for everything… Remember to never give up. I will be rooting for you...

The shield shattered and the Ultra Beasts began pouring through.

“SLOWKING!!”

I yelled as my Pokémon began to run faster. I began bawling as my Pokémon carried me off down the trail. I looked up one last time as we turned the corner and watched the sun completely set over the mountains behind the parking lot. Below, I saw Slowking being picked up by Greninja as we turned the corner and ran out of sight. The tears kept coming, knowing what they would do next.

 

I continued to try and break free from my Pokémon as we made our way through the dense forest.

“We need to go back! Slowking needs us! Please!” I pleaded. It seemed to be quiet all around us except for my yelling and the cracking of branches under their feet, but Sycamore, Dusty, and Buffy just kept running. Low branches and thick bushes slapped me in the head and whacked against my body. I quickly stopped complaining and struggling, as I was getting too many leaves and pine needles in my mouth. To add to that, I was also exhausted from the ambush. I couldn’t take much more without a rest. And not to mention I was still emotionally torn from Slowking’s extreme actions. I tried to tell myself he was okay, but I knew deep down I had to face the grim reality that he was gone. I couldn’t stop seeing him. Everywhere I looked, I saw his face. I heard his deep, soothing voice telling me that it would be okay... But knowing that he wasn’t there to tell me those words broke my heart.

I was so preoccupied that I didn’t notice what was happening in front of us. Suddenly, I felt weightless, as if I was falling. I snapped out of my grief for a moment to realize that was exactly what was happening. Before I had a chance to even feel scared or yell, I hit a steep incline and began tumbling down it. After bouncing about three times on wet, soggy leaves, I reached flat ground and slid to a stop on my back. Suddenly, a terrible pain in my left leg pierced through my body. Groaning in pain, I pulled back my pant leg and saw a terrible bruise forming just above my boot. I couldn’t tell if it was broken, but it certainly felt like it. I tried to stand up, knowing we still needed to get away, but the injury was just too great, and I collapsed back to the ground. The emotions came back as I gave up hope and laid staring up at the clear, pink and blue sky. Dim stars twinkled in the last of the twilight.

All kinds of thoughts ran through my head at breakneck speeds. I tired to make reason with myself, but the stimulus of everything around me was too great to take my mind off of it.

Think! You need to think!

I screamed out in my mind, but it was lost among the other thoughts. I was seething in pain, tired, scared, grief-filled, hungry, and most of all, saddened. I just couldn’t think straight. The small voice in the back of my head yelled at me to continue on.

Keep going! Find your Pokémon! The portal is closing soon! You need to hurry!

However, it was quickly suppressed by other, more troubling thoughts. Hundreds of what-if questions popped into my head. I was worried about being lost, being caught, and worse yet, failing the Pokémon World. I suddenly felt dizzy and my vision began to fade. What was the point of even continuing on? I was too injured to move and one of my best friends was gone. I’d completely given up.

“Gar?” I suddenly heard beside me. I looked to my right to see a friendly and familiar face. Dusty immediately rushed in, seeing me in this terrible condition.

“D-Dusty…” I mumbled, in between sobs. I put my head in my hands as he picked me up off the ground and held me by his torso. I was embarrassed to be crying in front of a friend and still completely out of hope.

“Gar…” It said again, looking around quickly with a worried look. I felt a rush of air in my hair as Dusty dashed off, presumably to find Sycamore or some help. As he did, I opened my eyes again. It was hard to see through the tears, but somehow I made out Dusty’s determined face. Although he wasn’t looking at me, I could see his conviction and confidence pouring out, putting all his effort into getting me aid. I felt it all pierce through my pain and sadness. The voice in the back of my head cried out,

You can’t give up yet! You’ve got your Pokémon to help! How can you give up when your Pokémon are counting on you?

Finally hearing my own voice again, I gasped and sat up, suddenly filled with a bit of hope.

“Dusty… I…” I mumbled as he continued to run through the forest. Dusty looked down briefly and let out a big open mouth smile that warmed my heart even more. I wanted to thank him, but the sadness and pain immediately washed up in my head again. As the tears came out again, Dusty whispered,

“Bodor, Bodor.” in a soft voice, trying to console me.

As we headed off together, I began to feel a little bit better. I’d finally run out of tears to shed and was calming down a little. The worst of the pain from my left leg injury was gone, but it still hurt something fierce. I clutched my hand into a fist and tried to bear as much of the misery as possible. Finally, some of the troubling thoughts were receding and the voice in the back of my head was beginning to make reason. I began to give myself small pep talks in my head, just to cheer me up and give me a small boost of confidence. It wasn’t the end of the world, I could live with it.

Suddenly, Dusty stopped walking. He set me down on the forest floor against a stump of a tree.

“Gar, Gar.”  Dusty called, a little bit louder than his normal talking voice. There was a pause of silence until I heard something rustle to my right. Quickly turning, I saw Sycamore’s blue radar-like ears pop out from underneath the long branches of a pine tree.

“Sycamore!” I called.

Shh! You will get us caught if you… talk any louder.

He emerged from underneath the tree and walked over to us.

“I-I’m so happy to see both of you are okay... But where’s Buffy?” I asked. Sycamore and Dusty looked at each nervously they turned back to me.

I hoped we would find her on our way to retrieve you… But, she is nowhere to be found… I think, for now... We must continue on without her…

There was a brief pause before one of us talked again. I broke the silence.

“So, what happened? How did you drop me?”

I was not giving enough attention, and tripped on a log… After I dropped you, we all were lost… Luckily, I found Dusty first, and we split up to look for you and Buffy… I am so sorry for what I did… It looks like I hurt you bad...

“O-oh, this? It hurts a little, but I’ll survive. I know you didn’t do it on purpose, Sycamore. We all make mistakes, and you know I forgive you.” I said, flashing a smile. Sycamore blushed before there was another pause. Dusty and Sycamore looked in opposite directions, avoiding eye contact. Nobody wanted to talk about what just happened. I sighed, feeling the same way.

“Guys… I don’t know what to say… What Slowking did… Leaves me speechless and heartbroken…”

I feel the same way… Slowking’s sacrifice could have been avoidable… And yet, he continued on with it, fully knowing the direness of our tasks... He taught me almost all of the words in human tongue… But even I cannot express what I am feeling right now…

“Garb…” I turned to Garbodor who also looked just as sad. There was another pause as I turned around to face Sycamore again. He was staring directly up at the forest canopy.

Slowking was always there for us… The day we met him, after our heated battle, he did not hesitate to take care of our injuries… And almost everyday after that, he continued to support us and made sure we would not fail on the road ahead, all out of the kindness of his heart… Slowking was a true friend to me, and to all of you too… I did not have a chance to say goodbye or even to thank him… So, in his honor, we must prove to him that his decision was not in vain… We must not give up now or ever; to show him we truly care for him and what he stood for!

I thought I saw a tear creep out of his eye before he turned away from me.

“Gar, Gar.” Dusty suddenly added, nodding and wiping away some of his tears.

He said that he agrees too, Nic.

I nodded. Suddenly, I felt a boost of confidence. Hearing all that from my partners really filled me with determination. I don’t know why it made me feel that way; maybe it was just good to know I was understood? Suddenly, I felt the emotions rising to my mouth and couldn’t help but speak.

“...Sycamore’s right. I can’t just give up because we lost Slowking... Although he was a true friend and treated us almost like we were his family... And knowing he’s not here with us tears me apart… That doesn’t mean I should just give up because he’s gone! I need to show him that his decisions truly helped us succeed! He told me to never lose hope, right? And here I am doing just that. From now on, I won’t give up anymore! Hear me, Slowking? I don’t know where you are, but you can count on me never giving up again!!”

I yelled, my voice echoed up into the sky, quickly lost in the wind and serenity of the woods. The determination and confidence melted away as I covered my mouth, realizing what I’d just done. My loud outburst probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do in our current situation. I turned to Sycamore and Dusty who I assumed would be shushing me, but instead, they were both tearing up. Like me, they turned away trying to hide their tears, cheeks red-hot with embarrassment.

“H-hey, don’t worry you guys… We’ve still got each other... We have to keep going for Slowking, and for the Pokémon World… Right?” I cringed a bit after muttering my consolement. I was never very good at making people feel better, and my words just seemed cliche.

Let us continue moving… We will continue to look for Buffy along the way too. But if we do not find her, she must be left behind… We do not have much time to spare.

Sycamore suddenly said, beckoning for us to follow him. He started off, and wiped the tears from his eyes. However, I wasn’t finished yet.

“You guys, wait.” Sycamore stopped and turned around while Dusty picked me up and looked down at me. “Thanks you guys, you always make me feel so much better. I don’t know what I would do without you… Let’s get going.” Both of them smiled and we all began our trek through the forest again. Looking up at the twinkling stars again through the canopy, I saw the last of the pink sky melt away into blue.


 

Chapter Text


 

We kept our guards up, watching all angles in case we were found. I was still uneasy about the whole situation, and my new injury wasn’t helping either. I wished it was just another walk in the woods with my Pokémon, but that reality was far gone. Sycamore and Dusty stayed on edge, checking areas twice just in case. Dusty continued to carry me since I couldn’t walk, while Sycamore took the lead, using his superior sense of smell and hearing to lead the way. As they paved the way, the what-if questions tried to get back in my head, but I then began to rethink about the ambush. I suddenly had one more question I needed to ask that I knew I couldn’t answer myself.

Sycamore…

I said in my mind, hoping he’d hear. There was a brief pause until I heard his gristly voice in my head.

Yes, Nic?

How did the end of the ambush go?

...What do you mean?

Like… How did you set it up? When I stood up, all of you guys were suddenly standing next to me…

Oh, that…

There was a pause.

It… It was Slowking’s plan. At the beginning of the battle, Slowking let us Pokémon know his second plan in case anything bad happened… He told us to act like we were out, fainted… And told me specifically not to use our Mega Evolution…

I suddenly remembered that Slowking stopped us from using our Mega Evolution; it almost single handedly caused his demise. If we’d used it, we could have changed the entire outcome of the battle and maybe even saved him… But there had to be a reason that Slowking didn’t want us to use the Mega Stones. I guess the power of Mega Evolution could be dangerous if we didn’t know how to use it properly. Or maybe he left his guard down on purpose to feign his fainting and get me to the portal quicker.

I did not listen to his orders at first… I wanted to use my Mega Evolution to save him, but after Greninja pinned me down… Slowking personally contacted me and reminded that we could not control its intensity... The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize everything was on the line; I had to back down and listen to Slowking’s wishes… So, I stopped resisting when Pheromosa grabbed you… It was then that Slowking gave us the rest of his plan…

O-oh…

I started to feel bad for Sycamore and Dusty. It must have been extremely tough knowing that Slowking was going to sacrifice himself all along.

Slowking told us to move as soon as you were out of Pheromosa’s grasp… He then said that it was an honor to help… And that was the last thing he told us before he put up the Protect.

I was stunned by the story. Slowking truly saved us from disaster during the fight. It was amazing he’d set out a whole plan for the battle just in case things went wrong. I felt bad for questioning his plan making before, knowing he was trying to save us.

That reminds me… Slowking gave me something before he sacrificed himself… He meant to bestow it to you himself, but there was not enough time.

Something for me?

Dusty and Sycamore stopped as Sycamore turned and untightened his scarf, pulling something out from behind. Walking over, he handed me some kind of amorphous object, that felt like a fruit. I could hardly make out what it looked like since there was not enough light behind the tree cover, so I guessed using my sense of touch. It was somewhat jagged in areas, but I could feel small pores on the surface that reminded me of an orange. As we started walking again, I questioned to Sycamore, wondering what it was.

Slowking told me it is a very rare berry known as the Starf Berry. He told me that even he did not know all the secrets it held… But, he specifically told me to only use it if needed...

Still confused as to what the berry’s purpose was, I suddenly wondered when Slowking had the chance to give it Sycamore, but now was not the time to be recollecting, as we were coming up on an opening in the forest.

Sycamore held his left arm out as he came to a stop, signaling for Dusty to do the same. Dusty paused next to him as Sycamore pawed through a bush quietly. He poked his head out to the other side and looked out, being cautious about his surroundings. I saw him look left and right twice before he quietly brought his head back from inside the bush.

There is a road here. I think it may be one of the roads Slowking spoke about… And it looks like the coast is clear.

Is it smart to actually take the road, though? We’re out in the open…

“Gar?” Dusty said to Sycamore. There was a pause as we looked up to Dusty. “Garbo, Arb. Gar, Gar, Arbo.”

What did he say?

He said we really do not have a choice... The woods are slowing us down too much and we could end up getting lost again.

Dusty was right. We were going to have to get creative and take risks if we were going to get to the portal on time. I sighed, becoming more worried. But I knew Dusty was right, so I swallowed my pride and nodded.

That settles it. Follow me, Garbodor; quietly and slowly…

Sycamore entered the bush again and made his way to the other side with little to no sound. Dusty and I looked at each other with wide eyes, knowing we both had no experience sneaking around. Nodding to each other, I carefully put the Starf berry in a free jacket pocket and Dusty headed through the bush as carefully as possible. As we passed through, Dusty did a good job of only making a little bit more noise than Sycamore did. Once we reached the other side, I looked around at the narrow dirt road. It seemed that we were atop a small hill, as the rest of the road continued further down and around a blind left corner. The path was shrouded by large, formidable trees and thick underbrush, with a thin canopy overlapping the top of the road. Although it was slightly brighter than in the woods, I had my full trust in Dusty to stick with Sycamore as close as possible.

As we followed Sycamore, I observed his stealthy movements. He tiptoed slowly across the pebbly floor, scanning all directions carefully. Somehow, his footsteps were almost completely silent, which made me wonder where he’d learned how to do all this. It seemed Dusty was trying to copy Sycamore’s actions, but being so big and having to carry me really did a number on him. No matter how much how tried, rocks crunched and crackled underneath his round feet. To make matters worse, the tree cover on both sides of the road gave no room for him to walk on a different surface. Hopefully, no one was in hearing distance of the trail.

Suddenly, Sycamore stopped dead in his tracks and held up his paw again.

Do. Not. Move. Not a muscle... There is an enemy straight ahead.

I heard in my head, more quiet than usual. Dusty stopped suddenly and almost ran into Sycamore. My heart raced and a nervous sweat dripped off my forehead as I saw a figure that looked to be a patrolling Buzzwole about fifteen yards ahead of us. It looked around cautiously, but only towards the other end of the trail. As it continued to slowly glance around, nothing stirred. Although the taciturnity was appreciated, I could not stay calm due to the nature of our situation. If even one of the Ultra Beasts spotted us, it could mean big trouble. Luckily, the Buzzwole gave up its position and headed down the trail, quickly going out of sight. We didn’t move for another good minute or so, before Sycamore’s voice spoke out in my head,

Keep moving. We need to pick up the pace, Garbodor.

As we continued walking, we almost ran into two other patrolling Buzzwoles. However, with a little bit of luck and the help of Sycamore’s expertise, we were left unnoticed; both Ultra Beasts wandered off within a minute or so, heading out to patrol elsewhere. The darkness from the large trees really came into our advantage and cloaked our position, but to be perfectly honest, I could hardly see the Ultra Beasts either (yet I wasn’t complaining).

After not seeing any patrolling Ultra Beasts for a while, I decided to ask Sycamore through Telepathy where he learned to be so stealthy. He replied,

It is natural that I am this way. I can see Auras… Every living being has an Aura, and I can see it through obstacles and barricades… So whenever we get too close to an enemy, I slow down.

I was fascinated by Sycamore’s strange power, and wondered what it was like to be able to basically see through walls. I couldn’t imagine what it was like and how many uses it had.

More time passed as we walked down the path. The forest’s canopy above us eventually faded away and the pale moonlight gave way to our surroundings. I shivered inside my coat as we walked. It was pretty cold here in Pennsylvania, albeit there was no wind. By now, the full moon was high in the sky. It wasn’t too near its apex, but I could tell it was getting close. We were running out of time fast, and really needed to pick up the pace if we wanted to get to the bridge on time. Suddenly I heard Sycamore say through Telepathy,

Stop and look up…

I looked over to him pointing towards a gate off the main path about thirty yards ahead. Behind it, there seemed to be an opening of some kind. Unfortunately, in front of the gate, a large and wiggly Xurkitree blocked the path, towering over the area. There was no way we could get past it without being noticed.

That has to be the way to the bridge, why else would they have someone guarding it?

You are more than right. But how to get by that guard is beyond me…

Suddenly, Dusty quietly chimed in.

“G-Gar…”

Sycamore turned his head around and glared at Dusty.

You would do that, Garbodor? Do you think that will…

“Garbo, dor...”

What did he say?

Sycamore fully turned around and stared at both of us.

He wants to distract the guard and let us pass by.

W-wait! That’s far too dangerous! What if he gets caught or hurt, or-

“Gar, Gar.”

He insists, Nic. I think this is our only chance…

Knowing that Sycamore was right hurt me, but I didn’t have a choice. This was Dusty’s job now.

R-right. There’s no other option. But how is he…?

Sycamore held out his arms and Dusty transferred me into them. Immediately, I noticed how it was a little more uncomfortable being held by Sycamore, but a lot warmer (and it smelled better too). Dusty took a deep breath, flashed a quick open mouth grin and found a way into the thick woods, making little to no sound. There was a brief pause before everything returned back to its original quiet state.

Do not fret, Nic. I know Garbodor has this covered. I am going to get ready to run… Sorry if I jostle you or drop you again.

I didn’t respond and instead put all my hope into Dusty’s safety.

A long time went by before any action happened. Sycamore stood ready to bolt at any second, but it seemed Dusty was really taking his time. Starting to lose my focus, I suddenly looked off to the left of the Xurkitree and noticed something thin and slender slowly heading towards its right arm from above. Although I couldn’t exactly make out what the object was, I assumed it was one of Dusty’s tendrils. As it made contact with the Xurkitree’s right shoulder, the Xurkitree immediately pulled its arm back and reacted by jumping a foot. Dusty quickly jerked his tendril away, trying to stay unnoticed.

Unable to comprehend what happened, the Xurkitree nervously looked around, on alert. Suddenly, Dusty’s other tendril approached from the other side. Making contact once again sent the Xurkitree into a worried frenzy and it spun around in a circle, trying to see what was touching it. After finding no source, the Xurkitree took one last look and dashed off down the trail to the left, dragging its long arms and pride behind it. Once the coast was clear, Dusty popped out from the woods with a hearty smile.

“Nice going, Dusty!” I whisper-shouted to him as Sycamore dashed over to meet up with him.

This was not the result I had expected, especially for an Ultra Beast… But nonetheless, it is a fortunate gift. Now, what he was guarding...?

Next to the bridge gate, behind where Xurkitree was standing post, an old, rusty metal sign stood. We walked up to the sign and I read it aloud softly.

“Path to Kinzua State Park Bridge, Ranger’s Entrance Only…! This is where Slowking wanted us to go! We need to hurry!” Suddenly, I felt a bit more hopeful as Sycamore and Dusty carefully vaulted over the gate, and headed out into the opening.

The clearing was surrounded by the forest and was covered in small, bounding foothills, with grass that seemed like it was cut recently. At the top of the hill was a large building that was built to look like an extended log cabin. It had large tinted windows in the back with balconies that stretched around the whole building. In the back, there was a garage and a staircase leading up to the exterior balcony. In the front of the building there looked like there was a parking lot of some kind. Sycamore and Dusty dashed with all their might up the hill, all of us hoping we’d finally arrived at our destination.

We promptly arrived in a freshly-paved parking lot, that looked like it was still closed off to the public. The yellow paint marking parking spots was clear and vivid; in fact, there was still a truck in the parking lot that looked like it was used to carry the paint. A sidewalk around the parking lot lead into the entrance of the log cabin building. A sign on the front of the building lit up by the moonlight read, 'Kinzua State Park Bridge Visitor’s Center”. I then turned my gaze to the left to finally see what I desired to see for a long time.

“Guys… Look over there.”

There it stood, the long train bridge we’d all heard so much about. It stretched out into a deep valley, and was surprisingly long. I gasped as I saw what was happening at the edge. I saw a group of Nihilego gathering around something rainbow hued, emitting a dark red beam from their tentacles. I realized that these were the Ultra Beasts in charge of closing the portal. Which meant…

“The portal is still open! We’ve still got time! Come on, let’s go guys!” I yelled, excited and relieved to see that the portal was still open. We quickly rejoiced and began to dash off down the hill to the walkway. Right as Sycamore and Dusty started to head off again, I heard a voice from behind us, halting us in our tracks.

“Stop! You’re not going anywhere!” I shuddered hearing the familiar, feminine voice behind me. As Sycamore and Dusty turned around slowly, we all feared the worst, but only found Eliza and her Greninja behind us. Both of them looked ready to fight and were in battle positions. “I saw the gate guard rush by and knew you had something to do with it. We won’t let you go any further! You’ll have to get through us if you want to get to that portal, stalker!”

“Gren!” Greninja replied. A sudden wind blew through the air, scattering some leaves over the pavement. I thought in the distance I could hear a clock tower bell chiming, adding to the scene. Like usual, there was no way out except to fight.

“Eliza… We really don’t have time for this.” I said in my most menacing voice. “If there is no other way out of this than to fight, then so be it. Just know we will not hold back… You will feel the full power of both of my Pokémon and I. I’m not going to only use one Pokémon because it’s fair.” She snickered and shook her head.

“Says you, stalker. You’re the injured one, and have to use your Pokémon as a crutch. There’s no way you can reach the portal… Not like that!” Sycamore opened his mouth to say something but I held my hand up to stop him. “Let me go, Sycamore.” I said, my anger building.

What? You cannot stand, your injury is far too great…

Sycamore, please… I will be alright.

There was a brief pause as I cupped my hand into a fist and smiled. Eventually, Sycamore couldn’t resist and did the same. Even Dusty tried to ball his tendril into a ball, too. I nodded at Sycamore to show him I was ready. He closed his eyes and slowly placed me on the ground, giving me support from the back. As soon as I put weight on my injury, immediate pain shot through me. I started to crumble, but caught myself and put a majority of the weight on my other leg. Slowly pushing up, I stood up and regained my balance before crossing my arms and shooting Eliza a triumphant look. She had a surprised look on her face, but quickly wiped it away.

“Well well. It seems you have more kick in you. How typical of you…” She said with an annoyed tone. “But still, you won’t win this. That Gengar may have run away, and all of the Ultra Beasts may not be here… But I still have another trick up my sleeve!” I could see her menacing smile bright as day in the moonlight as she put her index finger and thumb into her mouth and whistled out into the night. There was a pause, and I wondered what was happening. Suddenly, a sound of galloping feet could be heard and a speeding figure soon emerged from the hill behind Eliza, rushing up towards us. It slid to a stop just in front of Eliza with perfect form. I winced as I saw who it was. The green eyes, the yellow spots, and the cat-like figure… There was only one Pokémon that fit that profile.

“B-Buffy… What are you...” I stammered, feeling an emotion I hadn’t felt before emerge inside of me. Eliza laughed again, even more sassily this time.

“You see, stalker, there’s no easy way to put this… Buffy has always been a double agent… For me!” She laughed again as Buffy stood before us, letting out an audible hiss. I felt angry, and the sense of rage erupted from inside my head.

I couldn’t believe Slowking was right about Buffy. It boiled my blood and I felt every hair on my body stand up on end. If only I’d listened… I tried to say something, but nothing came out.

“You look like you’re at a loss for words, stalker… Didn’t I hear your slow pink friend say something about Buffy being a spy before?” She giggled as all of us cringed.

That was a low blow…

“When Ultra Beasts took over our town, they captured everyone. Not a single human was left behind. The Ultra Beasts checked everywhere, finding every human and sending them to a prison in Ultra Space. Seeing as I had a personal connection to you, Darkrai spared me and I became his acolyte. I was with the Ultra Beasts when we stormed into your house… And sent your mother into the portal to Ultra Space!”

“N-no… That can’t be true!” I yelled in disbelief. I unzipped my front pocket and pulled out the letter from my mother. It fluttered in the breeze and her signature on the front gleamed in the moonlight. “My mother is safe inside the town library right now! You’re making this up!” Eliza scoffed again, running her hand through her hair.

“You think I’m lying…? And just who delivered you that letter?” She asked, knowing the answer. I froze, the anger taking over me again. Eliza laughed again, seeing the color and emotion in my face melt away.

“I can tell you that letter is actually from your mother… But do you want to know why she wrote it?” She scoffed before beginning again. “She wrote it so you and her precious Blastoise wouldn’t get hurt! Ha! Once we told her what to write, and she completed the letter, we sent both of them off to Ultra Space… But, Liepard was left behind. Naturally, Liepard fought back, protecting the ideals of its trainer… But it wasn’t long before this one fainted.”

Buffy flinched, rethinking the moment. It must’ve been quite the disturbing ordeal for her. “Seeing Liepard’s power, we gave her the deal: fight for Necrozma’s Army or be sent to Ultra Space with all the others. That’s a deal we didn’t give to many other Pokémon. She eventually agreed, and I knew I had my trump card over you. Her mission was to tell us your position and to deliver the fake letter to let your guard down. Needless to say, it worked!”

I stared down at the letter one last time before forcefully closing my eyes and letting go. I wanted to cry, but all my tears were dried up already. I didn’t see the letter fly off, but I knew by the time I opened my eyes, it would be far away. Keeping my eyes shut and taking a deep breath, I tried to control my rage.

“I can’t forgive you, Eliza. You’ve torn my entire family apart...”

“That’s why I’m here, stalker. To make your life as miserable as possible.” She closed her eyes and let out a single laugh. Opening my eyes, I turned to Buffy who was still in her battle stance. I knew what had to be done. I felt the rage fueling me and I let my feelings burst out of me.

“Buffy, you may have been my pet since I was young… But that doesn’t mean I’m going to go easy on you! Just like Eliza, I can’t forgive you for what you’ve done! You gave up the person you loved most in a heartbeat! Haven’t you ever heard of the saying ‘Don’t bite the hand that feeds you’!?” As I paused to take a breath, I noticed Sycamore and Dusty looking at each other, each with a look of bewilderment on their faces. They were obviously communicating through Telepathy, wondering what was happening with me. Eliza and Greninja on the other hand looked somewhat confused. The rage took a hold of me again and erupted out once more. “If you’re going to get in my way Buffy, so be it! I’m not giving you a freebie just because I know you. I’ll gladly knock you out if I have to! This is for my mother!”

Buffy took a step back and her stance loosened. She looked like she was going to cry. Eliza looked a bit distraught now too.

“I-I don’t understand… Aren’t you the emotional type, stalker? And I thought you and Buffy were close?” Eliza asked, realizing her master plan starting to fail.

“I don’t care if we were close! Buffy should have thought about her relationship with me before going and doing something this heinous! If I were in her shoes, I would’ve given up everything for my mother! But it seems we think differently…”

“W-what’s with the sudden change of heart, stalker?” Eliza yelled, realizing it was now her back against the wall.

“A certain, ‘slow and pink friend’ once told me to never give up. I’ll do just that! If anything gets in my way, I will stop at nothing to get what I want! Come on Eliza, Greninja, and Buffy, let’s go!” Eliza recoiled, looking nervous. Buffy was still looking down, but it was an advantage if she felt guilty.  “Get ready you two.” I told Sycamore and Dusty. Both of them walked out from next to me and stopped in front. Sycamore turned quickly to me.

Nic… Are you sure about this…?

“No, Sycamore, I’m not sure about this… Buffy has always been there for me, and I can’t believe she would just change sides on me like this! But I can’t sit idly if Buffy is going to stop me from saving the Pokémon World... We both have a friend who needs us more than ever, and I will stop at nothing to fulfill the promise we made to him. Just… Get this over with as fast as possible so I don’t have a sudden change of heart… Please?”

Sycamore turned back and stared out front.

As you wish…

Sycamore replied. Eliza still looked astonished, but then snapped out of it.

“Alright, whatever! Liepard and Greninja, get ready! We’re not going to let the stalker get to the portal. Here we come!”


 

Chapter Text


 

“Liepard and Greninja, get in there with Quick Attack!” Eliza called. In a flash, both Pokémon dashed towards Sycamore and Dusty.

“Dodge it!” I yelled in response. Sycamore quickly moved to the side as Greninja flew past him and hit the ground softly. Dusty however, was not as lucky. Buffy jumped in before he had a chance to react and was hit head on with a powerful Quick Attack. Dusty staggered backwards and caught himself as Buffy rebounded and landed on the ground safely. Buffy kept her head down though while doing this, presumably to hide her feelings.

“Focus on Garbodor! Keep using Quick Attack, both of you!” Eliza yelped from across the parking lot. Buffy immediately jumped back in as Greninja dashed over to attack Dusty.

“Oh no you don’t! Sycamore, Force Palm! Keep attacking until they back off! Dusty, try to knock them away with your arms!” Sycamore dashed in, preparing to use a Force Palm on Buffy. Buffy heard my voice and turned around to face Sycamore as he came in. She read the move from a mile away and moved out of the way just as the attack was about to come out. Sycamore’s training proved successful though as he controlled the Force Palm and let it fizzle out before it exploded, causing no harm.

As this was happening, Dusty extended his arms out towards Greninja, who continued dashing in towards them.

“You know what to do Greninja!” I heard Eliza call from across the parking lot. As Dusty was about to grab Greninja, it disappeared into thin air.

“Gar?” Dusty questioned grabbing nothing but air. I reacted quickly, suspecting some kind of trickery.

“Dusty, jump up! Greninja is going to appear from somewhere around you!” Without hesitation, Dusty sprang up using his arms as a propulsion device. Just as he cleared the ground, Greninja appeared behind him with a fast stealth attack. Confused, Greninja stumbled and missed his target, hitting the ground hard. As Dusty came back down to the ground I called out, “Focus on Greninja!”

Both Dusty and Sycamore turned around and rushed in towards the fallen Greninja.

“Liepard, get them away from Greninja!” Buffy turned around and used her sheer speed to get in front of Greninja first. Instead of using a move, she ducked down at the last second, getting under Sycamore and Dusty’s feet. Unable to stop, both of them tripped over her and missed Greninja. However, they both landed carefully and came to a screeching halt, flinching for a moment. Instinctively, all three Pokémon jumped back away from each other, awaiting another call from their trainer. Greninja got himself back up finally and stood up next to Liepard. It seemed both sides were evenly matched.

Just then I looked away from the battle. More Nihilego were arriving at the bridge, each supplying their power to close the portal. Time was not in our favor.

“Dammit, we can’t battle right now! We’ve got to get to that portal!” I yelled, making the realization. Dusty and Sycamore then looked back at the increasing number of enemies at the bridge too.

“Hey! There’s no running away from a trainer battle, stalker! I won’t let you leave until one of us loses!” I was backed into a corner again. If I tried to go to the portal, Eliza would just block me. But if I battled her, the portal could close, and worse, I could lose. What option did I have? Suddenly, something popped up in my brain. I remembered Uxie saying that I was the only one who could save the Pokémon World. Just me... A plan emerged in my head.

“Sycamore and Dusty!” Both put their full attention on me. “Hold Eliza and her Pokémon off! I’m going to make a run for it!”

What?! You cannot! That is far too risky, especially with your injury!

Sycamore responded back quickly. I could see the fire in his eyes.

“There’s no other choice! I’ve got to make it to that portal before it closes!” As I was about to turn around, I saw a figure jump over my head and land behind me. I turned to see Greninja stood in a stance, ready to block me. “Get out of my way! Can’t you see I’m trying to save you and your world?” My anger burst out.

“Don’t let him go, Greninja! Grab him if you need to!” Eliza called out. As Greninja reached forward to grab me, a figure suddenly appeared from the shadows and tackled Greninja out of the way. It hit the ground hard and laid there in shock. I turned my gaze back to the sudden assailant. Buffy stood on all fours, tears streaming down from its eyes. “Liepard, what are you doing?! You’re supposed to be on my side!” Eliza screamed from behind me.

“Mrowr!” Buffy called out to me. “Lie, Lie, Lie! Pard, Lie!” It yelled.

It wants you to go. It understands your fight and is sorry for what it did…

“Buffy…” I said softly, looking into her eyes. I wanted to thank Buffy, but I knew that I couldn’t. She’d done too much wrong against me. But without her help, I wouldn’t have made it to Slowking or been able to head towards the portal in the first place. I suddenly felt like I was about to cry too, but I regained my composure. Breaking my eye contact with her, I beckoned for my Pokémon to follow me. “Let’s go!” I yelled, Dusty picking me up again.

“Lie! Pard!” It called out to all of us as we dashed off.

“Hey! I’m not done with you yet! Get back here!!” I heard Eliza screaming at the top of her lungs as we sped away into the moonlight.

 

Sycamore and Dusty bolted with all their might as we sped down the hill and towards the entrance to the path to the bridge. As the bridge got closer and closer, I could feel my heart beating out of my chest. This was it; there was no turning back.

To get to the bridge, we travelled up a wooden ramp that looked like it was newly made. It made its way to the height of the bridge and then turned right to connect. Surprisingly, the entrance was left unguarded; I assumed there was some kind of trick behind it, but we had no time to stop.

“Get ready to fight you guys! We’re heading straight for that portal!” As we reached the top of the ramp, I finally saw the bridge up close. It was much larger than I’d expected; wide with a set of railroad tracks running down the middle, just big enough for a train to pass by. Each side had high railings to be safe for pedestrians. The bridge stretched almost all the way out to the other side of the valley, but was fenced off a little past the middle of the valley. At the far end, the group of Nihilego gathered in a circle, paying no attention to us as they worked to close the portal.

Past that, was the other part of the bridge that fell in a storm many years before. The mangled frame was still there, rusting deep in the valley, showing off mother nature’s power. I briefly remembered back to the day Nate and I talked about Kinzua Bridge. Something in my head told me to worry about my friends and family, but I suppressed the thoughts. Now was not the time to think about that. As I crossed the metal beam that connected the bridge to the walkway, a ghostly voice echoed through the area stopping us in our tracks.

"...You will go no further, human…"

A figure appeared about ten yards ahead, floating in the air. The ghostly figure stood out against the midnight blue sky and black sky with its red aura. I winced knowing who was in front of me.

“Darkrai…” I mumbled under my breath. It was hard to imagine how powerful a Pokémon Darkrai was in the real world compared to his power in my dreams. I shuddered, fearing the worst.

"...I am greatly surprised you have made it this far… And I will admit that you have greatly surpassed my expectations… But, this truly is the end for you now…"

The words materialized themselves through the air, almost like an apparition was speaking directly into my ear. Suddenly, the ground rumbled and the bridge started shaking. Dusty and Sycamore fell to the ground, trying to get a grip on something stable. Just then, all kinds of Ultra Beasts flew over the sides of the bridge and quickly surrounded us. My eyes widened as the numbers rapidly increased. As the ground stopped shaking, I couldn’t believe my eyes. An entire army of Buzzwole, Xurkitree, and Kartana all guarded the portal and the Nihilego trying to close it.

How is the bridge holding this much weight?

I wondered quickly. I saw Sycamore’s ear twitch and he turned around.

We have more company.

He said with a sense of dread in his voice. I turned around to unfortunately see he was correct. A group of Ultra Beasts surrounded us from our back too, presumably the ones on lookout. We were sandwiched in with nowhere to run.

"...It will be fun… Tormenting you for eternity…"

Darkrai’s menacing voice called out. He finished with a maniacal laugh that sent shivers down my spine.

This looks bad…  

I tried to think of a way to get around to the portal, but there were too many Ultra Beasts in the way.

Nic…

I turned to Sycamore who was glancing at me.

I think it is time to use our power…

He held his paw over his Mega Gauntlet, and I could feel the power emanating from it. He then clamped his paw into a fist like usual.

“Gar!” I heard to my left. Dusty was ready to fight too, a determined look on his face. But their words and actions didn’t get to me; I was too worried to notice. Even with the power of Mega Evolution on our side, I couldn’t shake the feeling of dread. I tried to think about not giving up, and what I had to fight for, but we were outnumbered by too much. Was there a way to get around it all? Would this be the end?

"...On my command, beasts…"

Darkrai called out. I watched as all the Ultra Beasts got into a stance, almost like they were preparing to jump on prey. I felt my heart drop and was too scared to move.

It is now or never, Nic. Using the Mega Evolution now would be the best way to deal with all these foes!

I didn’t respond and nervously gulped. At this point in time, Sycamore noticed my hesitation.

Nic… Do not be afraid, we will protect you, no matter what.

I heard Sycamore say. Dusty let out an affirming “Gar,” from above. My Pokémon were rooting for me. My friends and family were rooting for me. All the Pokémon were rooting for me. Yet I still couldn’t muster enough courage to fight. Was it true it was just luck that got me here? I switched my gaze up to Darkrai who moved his arm out towards us.

"...Attack…!"

I cringed as the Ultra Beasts lunged to a start, heading in to take me down. Dusty set me down carefully before getting into a battle stance, protecting me from the front while Sycamore got the back. They were ready to fight until the end. But why did I not feel the same? Could I really give it my all? Was I ready to take on this final challenge? Would I actually save the world? Suddenly, the ground began shaking again. Everyone stopped moving and tumbled down to the bridge, stopping the charge. It was even more intense than the last quake. Just then I heard a familiar voice call out into the night, followed by an explosion behind me.

“Stop right this instant!” I turned around to see my guardian angel and the flanking Ultra Beasts thrown into the air. Uxie floated in the air at the forefront of an army of approaching Pokémon. He fluttered down and stopped just before us, looking out towards Darkrai.

“Uxie! You came!”

“Do not mention it, human. I am here for you. And this time, I brought some backup.” Suddenly, all kinds of Pokémon streamed onto the bridge, coming to our aid. The Pokémon ranged from Rattata and Patrat, to large formidable Pokémon like Hydreigon and even Snorlax. “You have gone far enough, Darkrai! The human must get to that portal!” Uxie then shouted, as more and more Pokémon showed up to help. As the ground stopped shaking, Darkrai laughed as he did before.

"...Well now. I had not predicted to see you here, being of Knowledge… I expected you to hide away like you usually do…"

“Your taunts have no effect on me, Darkrai. We will fight without mercy until the human is safely in the portal.”

"Oh…? You and what army…? We both know at least half of those Pokémon are illusions…" Uxie cringed for a moment, signalling Darkrai’s guess was correct. Looking back at the huge group of Pokémon, I could not visibly tell that some of them were fakes. It was also news to me that Uxie could create illusions in the first place.

“You may be correct… But do not forget that they can still fight back!”

"You think Necrozma’s army will be defeated that easily without real troops…? You are a complete and utter fool to believe that...! Now quiver in fear as I show you true darkness…! Attack, Ultra Beasts…!"

The Ultra Beasts once again started running towards us at full force as Darkrai disappeared into thin air. I flinched, hoping Uxie had something up his sleeve.

 

“All Psychic types! Shield the human and his partners!” Instantly, a huge purple shield formed around me and my Pokémon. Just in time too, as Ultra Beasts crashed into the portal, surprised by the sudden defense. They began attacking the shield, but with all the Psychic types fortifying the it, there was no chance to get through. Attacks bounced off, sending the users flying backwards. Before I had a chance to say anything, Uxie called out, “All other Pokémon, attack! Defend the human!” The ground shook again as Pokémon of all kinds rushed into battle. Dusty, Sycamore and I all couldn’t believe our eyes as we watched the Pokémon and Ultra Beasts clash beside the shield. Everywhere I looked, I saw complete and utter chaos. Ultra Beasts and Pokémon alike were flung into the air, and even thrown off the bridge. Battles raged in the air around the bridge too as Flying Pokémon duked it out with approaching Ultra Beasts. The sound was deafening and I couldn’t hear. I was now even more terrified than before and completely frozen in place. I had no idea what to do. Never in my life had I seen something so fierce and utterly frightening right before my eyes. And to think, this whole battle was about me.

Make it... stop…

Nic…

I heard Sycamore say my name, but I couldn’t take my attention away from everything that was happening.

This… This is not what I wanted… To see total warfare… But what must be done, must be done. We need to stand strong and ready ourselves for whenever we get a chance. You can count on us, Nic!

Sycamore tried again, but it still wasn’t enough to get me out of my trance. My mind went blank and it was like I almost stopped functioning. I knew that I had my Pokémon and Uxie’s help, but I couldn’t think straight with everything unfolding in front of me. Suddenly, like a cry for help, Sycamore’s voice pierced through my head and I truly heard him.

Nic!! Ever since I first met you, you have always been my inspiration! Never in my life have I met someone so kind and caring as you! I had my doubts when I came to the human world, but you completely changed my mind! We have been through so much together… I want to spend more time with you, and I do not want our adventure to end! But if Slowking taught me anything, it is that good things never last forever... If we ever want to do this again; to see each other and spend more time together… We have to get you to that portal! Do not give up! Just know that everyone is rooting for you, including myself, Garbodor, Slowking, and even Liepard! Everyone is here for you!!

Everything stopped. The ear splitting battle was silenced. Suddenly, I heard Slowking’s voice from a couple hours before.

If you ever feel scared, trapped in a corner, or have your back against the wall, do not lose hope. Someone is rooting for you. You must save the Pokémon World, at all costs. No matter what happens… You must succeed!

The words echoed in my head and suddenly, I was back in my room back home. I saw the moment that I turned on the light and met my Pokémon partner for the first time. The scene switched as I saw Sycamore and I out of breath under the tree outside of school.

More and more memorable scenes popped into my head from across our journey. Sycamore winning his first battle. Meeting Dusty and Bart. Getting the Mega Bracelet. The night I was ambushed. The start of our journey to Pennsylvania. Beating Buzzwole. Realizing it was the worst case scenario. Meeting Buffy and getting the letter from my mom. Setting off from my aunt’s house.

I began to cry, seeing all the memories. Running from Pheromosa. Waking up in the cave. Darkrai’s nightmare. Seeing Sycamore evolve. Arriving in Pennsylvania. Seeing Slowking disappear into the sunset. Sneaking to the bridge. Buffy’s decision. And now…

The tears were streaming now as I sobbed. Suddenly, I saw the whole picture. Even though I couldn’t see everyone who was rooting for me, I knew they were there. They were all wishing for me to succeed.

I-I see now, what I must do… I finally understand what I stand for and what I has to be done! I can’t let everyone down… Slowking, Buffy, everyone in my family, Bart, Nate, the Garbodor crew… And Dusty and Sycamore too! Mark my words, I will succeed! I may not know how it feels to give it my all, but I am about to!

I opened my eyes and ears, and shouted aloud.

“Sycamore! Dusty! I understand now! This is for everything! I can’t give up! we won’t lose! Let’s do this!” I yelled through the tears, my confidence getting boosted tenfold. Dusty looked relieved but Sycamore looked to be crying too. It was strange to see him like this.

Thank you, Nic…

Is all he could get out.

 

“Keep pushing, you must not let up!” Uxie suddenly yelled, bringing us out of the moment. I looked up and saw that the Pokémon claimed over half the bridge. The remaining Ultra Beasts were trying their hardest to stop the Pokémon, but it was no use as Pokémon overwhelmed them. This was surprising, knowing that a majority of the Pokémon were illusions. Nonetheless, I noticed the portal in between the gaps of Pokémon getting smaller and smaller. We were going to have to hurry to get there in time. “Psychic types, keep your guard on the portal; Darkrai could attack at any moment! Human and his partners, stay on your toes! The enemy is extremely unpredictable!” I nodded and struggled to stand up.

Here goes…

I thought, briefly reflecting on what I’d just thought of before and getting ready to dash to the portal if needed. Suddenly, I saw something appear in the sky. Looking up, I saw Darkrai floating high above the bridge, forming an energy ball of some kind. It was a dark energy that pulsed with pitch black streaks.

“Pokémon in the front, keep pushing. Those in the back, eyes up! Darkrai is in sight!” Uxie yelled.

"...You ignorant fools...You will not get the human to that portal… This is the end…!" Suddenly, the ball grew in size, Darkrai putting all his power into the ball.

“Use Hyper Beam on the attack! Before Darkrai releases it!” Uxie cried. I could hear the charging of Hyper Beams as the ball stopped growing. It had to be at least four times the size of Darkrai. My mouth was agape in awe of his attack.

"...Take this…!" Darkrai yelled, pushing the ball forward towards the bridge.

“Now!” The Hyper Beams flew out towards the ball of ghostly energy at mach speeds. When they collided, a huge explosion ruptured, sending a shockwave through the sky. I fell to the ground as the bridge swayed in the might of the moves. I looked up to see the shield around us weakening, due to the Psychic Pokémon losing their focus. Just then, there was a liquidy sound as tons of smaller projectiles flew from behind the smoke cloud and towards the Pokémon. One by one, Pokémon were pelted by the energy orbs and trapped inside a spectral sphere of dark aura before being released and put into a nightmarish sleep. I ducked down as the shield disappeared around us and the battlefield was leveled. Within an instant, everything stopped and I opened my eyes.

Almost every Pokémon was asleep except for some lucky Pokémon in the back and Uxie who was floating above us. I turned to see Sycamore and Dusty both asleep, having terrible dreams.

“No! Sycamore, Dusty!” Crawling over, I shook both of them, trying to wake them up. “Wake up, wake up!” I coaxed, my confidence fleeting. Darkrai once again disappeared midair, leaving no trace behind. The remaining Ultra Beasts stood still at the other side of the bridge, but were more menacing than ever. They could attack at any moment. “Uxie?!” I called out hoping he had some master plan.

“Human, stay behind me!” Uxie called out, fluttering down in front of me. “I should have figured Darkrai was going to do something like this… I would have never assumed he would want us to counterattack him… I will try my best to defend y-”

“Hey, stalker! I see you!” I slowly turned with a bit of embarrassment as Eliza plowed through the small amount of awake Pokémon and jumped over those that were sleeping. She run up next to me with a determined face. Uxie looked back, confused by the intruder. “I finally got Greninja to deal with that Liepard of yours… But hey, I wasn’t done with you yet! What’s your problem, running away from a battle? I didn’t realize you were this much of a pussy!” I had an expression on my face that I can not replicate. It was a mix of anger, annoyance, and disbelief. Seeing my face and the position she’d gotten herself into, Eliza came out of her daze, and looked around her.

“W-wait. What in the world is going on here?” She was obviously confused and I’m sure she was a bit startled. I was going to say something when Darkrai appeared in front of us, preparing another attack.

“Uxie, look out!” I screamed. As Uxie turned, Darkrai let out a viscous Dark Pulse from his hands at full power. Before anyone had a chance to react, Uxie was hit head on with the attack and flung backwards towards the edge of the bridge. There was no way he was going to recover from that quickly. Suddenly, Darkrai turned to me. I felt my heart drop again as he stared into my eyes.

"...You are coming with me…!"

It called, forming another ball of ghostly power that was smaller this time, but obviously still very powerful. Darkrai thrust his arms forward and let the ball rip towards me. With nowhere to go, the ball enveloped me and threw me into the air. The hit knocked the wind out of me and I suddenly couldn’t breathe; it felt like my energy was getting drained from me. My vision went dark and I couldn’t hear anything. I tried to reach out, but my body wouldn’t let it. My eyes closed and my mind went numb as I succumbed to the strange power.


 

Chapter Text


 

As I came to, I felt a terrible soreness, almost like I’d been punched everywhere on my body. I was cold and my head hurt bad. With all the energy I had left, I sat up and opened my eyes. All around was snow, and it seemed I was atop a mountain plateau of some kind. The uneven ground gave away to darkness just a couple yards away from me, signaling a drop. The sky was dark and cloudy, making it somewhat hard to see. Just ahead of me was an inclimb that led farther up, but stopped. I shuddered, knowing I was trapped in Darkrai’s nightmare. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a ghostly laugh echoed out through the air.

"...Welcome back, human…" I saw his figure emerge in front of me, his red aura contrasting from the world behind him. I felt anger course through my veins as he appeared.

“D-Darkrai! Take me back right this instant!” I yelled out.

"...I am afraid I can do no such thing… Do you not remember the fun you had the last two times you were here…?" I cringed, thinking back to the first nightmare which seemed to be a long time ago. That was when Darkrai was still trying to impose as Necrozma. And then there was the second time when I was saved by Slowking… But no one was here to save me now. The fear I felt then seeped back into me. Darkrai laughed once more, knowing it played with my head.

"...This time, you will not leave this place… There is no one who will come to your aid… All of your help is asleep and having terrible nightmares…!" He called out, deafening me. It was hard enough dealing with the pain of my injuries and his loud voice. "...Here, I will torment you forever…!" He cried out, continuing to laugh afterwards. Frozen with fear, I couldn’t think about what to do now that I was alone.

“Ugh…” I jumped a foot at the voice, completely on edge. Darkrai stopped laughing, turning his gaze to the ground. My eyes popped as I saw who was lying next to me.

“E-Eliza? Are you-”

“Huh… Is that you... Stalker?” She said, standing up slowly. She fell back to the ground with the same injuries as me. “Ow…! What the… What happened?”

“Darkrai has us captured, Eliza. He’s-” Before I had a chance to say anything else, Eliza sprung up off the ground, ignoring all her injuries.

“D-Darkrai! We need to talk!” She said in a stern voice.

"...You have no quarrel here, Eliza…" Darkrai said, sounding somewhat annoyed.

“I did everything you said, Darkrai! I followed the stalker and lured him to you! That’s my side of the wager, now where’s my payment?”

Wager? Payment? What’s going on here?

I wondered. Just then, Darkrai scoffed at Eliza’s statement.

"...My my… Another human has surpassed my judgement… But I will not do such a thing…"

“What? Y-you can’t do that! We had a deal, remember? Where’s my sister?!”

"...Your sister is safe in Ultra Space, locked up with the rest of the humans… But you will not see her anymore… You have no more use to me…" She looked taken back by that statement.

“You… No, you can’t take her away from me!” Eliza yelled, seething in anger and presumably exhausted.

“Wha- what’s-” I questioned before Eliza snapped at me.

“My little sister! Darkrai took her away!”

"...Like all the other humans in your measly town…" He teased. I opened my mouth to say something, but Eliza cut me off again.

“I-I’m sorry, stalker! I had to chase you… There was no other choice! W-when Darkrai came to me in a dream one night, he… he threatened to take my little sister away. He said if I didn’t work for him, he would take away the only thing I ever loved… I declined at first… But...”

"...A mistake, that was…" Darkrai added in. Eliza cringed after hearing this.

“But… You’ve always been so confident. How could you be so strong even when your loved one was taken away?” I added quietly.

“Are you kidding me?! I’ve been hiding my true self for years! Do you know how many hardships I have to face?! Both my parents are gone! I have to look after my sister, go to school, and work a job... All to keep my family afloat! Do you know how that feels?!” She began to cry and turned away from me. I felt terrible for Eliza, and wanted to console her, but I was too embarrassed and nervous to react. She pointed at Darkrai. “Give me back my sister!” She screamed in between tears.

"...Such somber sadness… You humans are adorable, sometimes… Too bad it all will go to waste… I will torment you Eliza, just the same as the chosen one… And send you both to Ultra Space...!"

Eliza fell to the ground, defeated, finally coming to her grim realization. Seeing her like this reminded me of myself in Hornell not too long ago. I felt so bad that I almost cried with her.

“E-Eliza…” I said, trying to think of a way to help. During this time, I briefly forgot about everything she’d done.

“Leave me alone!” She cried, hitting the snow with her fist. “You can’t do this, Darkrai! We had a deal!” Just then, the clouds began to part away from the sky. Behind them was the largest full moon I’d ever seen, half of it cut off by the hill. But this wasn’t just any full moon, it had a red menacing glow, almost like a harvest moon.

"...It is time… You both will feel my wrath…!" Red lightning arced down from the high clouds and a rumble of thunder ran through the air. Standing up as hastily as I could with my injury, I reached down and offered her my hand to help in getting up.

“Eliza, get up! We need to move ASAP!” I yelped, hoping she would comply.

“Go away! Are you too dense to realize that I don’t want to be bothered?!” As she said this, my emotions peaked. My anger and sadness tore at my insides and desperately wanted to get out. I tried to suppress them, but it was too late.

“I know how it feels!” I cried out. There was a pause.

“You… You what?” She stopped crying and looked up. My heart was pumping and my cheeks were burning hot as more feelings lashed out.

“I know how it feels to lose someone you love! I may not have experienced it to the degree you have, but I know the pain!” She picked herself up and stared at me, tears still streaming from her eyes.

“When you lose somebody who stuck with you... Somebody who you actually cared for; somebody who was your inspiration! All your hope disappears... It feels like night will never turn to day, but you can’t keep dwelling on it. You must understand what you stand for and what is the best for those who are lost. Try to remember all the good times, and hold them close!”

“S-stalker…” She said after a pause, wiping away the tears. She stared into my eyes and stammered out, “I… I had… no idea. Did… I?” Suddenly, she gasped, making a sudden realization. I looked away, my cheeks hot red and my emotions finally done outbursting. I was pretty embarrassed. Then, she surprised me. “W-what’s your name…?”

“M-my name?”

“Yes. Your name.”

“But… why?”

“I’ve never actually known you by your name. I’ve always called you ‘stalker’ or something else mean-spirited... I want… I want to just call you by your real name.” She was still stern and held her fist in a ball. I turned to see Darkrai still floating in the air, listening in on the conversation. The lightning and thunder seemed to have stopped for the moment. I took a deep breath and sighed, still wondering why I was about to tell her.

“It’s… Nic.” She nodded, closed her eyes and took a brief pause.

“Thank you.” She replied quietly, opening her eyes and facing Darkrai.

“Darkrai! You are right when you say that I have no use to you! But that’s not the case for Nic here!” I was confused. What was she doing? Darkrai still didn’t move, hearing what Eliza had to say. “I’ve seen Nic’s partners… Every single battle I’ve been in with this kid, his Pokémon have given their all! And his friend, Slowking… He was obviously someone that Nic couldn’t live without. To take his loved ones away from him… To take everything away from him…!” She winced and shook her head no. “Why, I’m no better than you! And that’s why I’m putting my foot down! Let’s get you out of here, Nic! You’ve just gotta save the Pokémon World!” My eyes lit up, seeing Eliza’s change of heart. She quickly turned to me.

“Nic… I-I’m sorry. I’ve done nothing but ruin your life… All because I couldn’t escape myself… I…” Tears welled in her eyes, but I put my arm on her shoulder.

“Look Eliza... I don’t know if I can ever forgive you, or if life will ever go back to the way it was… But I’m not going to give up yet! We can still change the fate of the Pokémon World!” She saw my determination and wiped away the last of her tears.

“Right.” She replied nodding. Just then, Darkrai spoke.

"...A bad choice, Eliza… What about your sister…?" Eliza hesitated but burst out,

“I can’t think of her right now! I’ve got more important things to worry about! Nic here has got a world to save!”

"...Why… You think you can defy me…? You will not live to tell the tale…!" Darkrai disappeared once again as more lightning arced and thunder roared.

“Eliza… Are you sure about this?” I asked quickly.

“Yes, and shut up before I change my mind! Now how do we get out of this place?” I cringed, realizing that we didn’t have a plan. Suddenly, the lightning began to strike the ground near us with powerful jolts. Energy ran through the ground and I could feel the pressure at my feet.

“Run!” I yelled, as we took off together towards the top of the hill, heading towards the moon. I pushed myself to the max, using all my strength to get away, but my injury really left me behind.

“How can we get out?!” Eliza yelled from ahead, dashing at almost full speed. I didn’t respond, as my mind was drawing a blank and I was out of breath.

“I need… A second… To think...!” I yelled as loud as I could. It was like we were bearing down a hallway with no end. The moon looked like it was getting closer… But was it actually? Suddenly, the lightning sped up and approached us at even faster speeds.

“It’s coming at us!” Eliza yelled, suddenly looking back. The only way to get away was to… “Jump!” She cried, rushing backwards and giving me a push in the right arm.

“W-wait!” I called, stumbling and losing my balance. My heart pounded out of my chest as I tumbled off the cliff and plunged into darkness. “Elizaaaaaaaaaa!” I yelled out as I fell into the unknown.

 

I closed my eyes and nearly fainted from the stimuli, but before I could, I heard a splash around me. My momentum stopped and I didn’t feel like I was falling anymore. As I opened my eyes, I was stuck in place in complete darkness. All I knew was that I was floating in something and couldn’t breathe. It was strange because I didn’t feel wet at all.

Am I underwater?

I questioned in my head. I performed a simple breaststroke, trying to propel myself. It proved successful as I felt a sensation around my body, as if I was swimming. I continued to push up, heading towards the surface. At least, I thought I was. As I began to run out of air, I realized I wasn’t as close as I thought.

How deep am I?

I wondered, fearing the worst. I began to swim faster, spending all my energy, but I still couldn’t reach the surface. Fear made its way back into my head and I began to panic. As the last of my energy was spent, I was almost completely out of breath. I stopped moving fast, and felt my consciousness fleeting again. I closed my eyes and opened my mouth to try and take a breath before I passed out. As I did, I realized I could breathe and gasped in as hard as I could. Suddenly, I was no longer in a liquid and on the hard ground.

I coughed and hacked, trying to get air back into my system. As my senses came to, I looked up. I was on the bridge again, but something was wrong. Everything around me was barren and nothing stirred. The sky was completely black, but the bridge was lit up with some kind of white hue that made it look bright. I was also extremely dizzy and didn’t feel quite right, presumably from almost passing out due to lack of oxygen. However, something clicked in my mind and I began to slowly limp towards my goal.

As I got closer to the portal, I wanted to turn back, but something kept me walking forward. It was almost like I wasn’t in control of my body. Suddenly, a figure materialized before me a couple yards ahead in the sky. The figure was fuzzy and almost looked like a computer glitch. I rubbed my eyes and squinted as the figure floated down to bridge level. There was something familiar about the shape and color. I felt like I personally knew the way the pink skin formed into the pale yellow, and the way the gray crown with a red gemstone in the middle sat atop the big creature’s head.

“Nic…”

The figure called out to me. The deep voice lulled me into a calm state and it clicked in my head who it was.

“Slowking…” I mumbled, still not one hundred percent there.

“Nic… You are almost there… You… Must get to the portal…” It called out. A portal appeared behind him as he began to beckon me towards my goal. As I walked closer, Slowking began to come into view, and I could make him out with full detail. His eyes were closed and he looked down to not make eyesight with me. I was so happy to see Slowking alright, I followed his orders directly, not expecting anything was wrong.

“Y-yes, Slowking!” I yelled, heading towards the portal. As I got closer and closer I remembered thinking,

I did it… I did it…

Suddenly, as I was a couple feet away from the portal. Slowking blocked the path in front of me. I bumped into him and fell to the ground. His eyes were still closed, but he looked directly at me.

“Why… Why did you leave… Me?” He called. I was confused and I could feel my head spinning. “You… could have... saved me!” He yelled even louder than before. I suddenly felt fearful and began backpedaling on the ground.

“You’re… you’re not…” I stammered.

“WHY DID YOU NOT SAVE ME?!” Slowking screamed, its eyes flinging up to show a black glow radiating from them. I gasped and continued to back up, fear enveloping me again.

It started to prepare an attack of some kind between its hands, almost like the ball of energy Darkrai formed when it was about to capture Eliza and I.

“Save me… Save me…” It repeated as the orb stopped growing.

“You’re not…”

“Why…” It called, releasing the ball out towards me. I closed my eyes and finally said what I meant, preparing for impact.

“You’re… Not real!” Suddenly, sound faded out and I felt nothing.

I opened my eyes and found myself in a dark room with stone walls. My headache disappeared, but I still felt a bit of fear from the previous encounter.

Now where am I?

I thought. I looked around and stood up, searching for a clue. Everything was the same strange hue as the bridge. There seemed to be nothing in the room except for a doorway that led out into the unknown. As I walked to it, I heard a blood-curdling scream from deep inside. I had no doubt that it was Eliza’s.

“Eliza!” I yelled, immediately jumping into action. I rushed as fast as I could through the door and down a long, narrow hallway. Pushing myself forwards, I ran for what seemed to be an eternity, but the hallway didn’t seem to stop. Eliza’s scream suddenly reverberated around me and I no longer knew where it was coming from. I was about to slow down and take a second look when I saw a light from down the hallway. Figuring there was something of interest that way, I picked up my speed again and headed towards it. It got brighter and brighter until I had to close my eyes. I stopped running and came to a standstill, as the glow completely blinded me. I groaned as the light faded and I could see again. Opening my eyes, I found myself in a room like I did before, but this time there was a doorway on each side.

I stood confused in the middle, wondering what was going on. I froze as Eliza’s scream echoed throughout the chamber, but I still couldn’t quite pinpoint what door it was coming from.

What door should I take?

Just then, I heard what sounded to be footsteps. They were coming on fast, and it sounded like they were coming from every doorway. My heart sank again, realizing I was defenseless and injured. The culprits showed themselves as figures appeared in every doorway. I nervously gulped as Pheromosa emerged from one of the doorways, a terribly menacing look on her face behind the purple splodge. I turned to see a Buzzwole and a Xurkitree emerging from my sides and nervously turned around to see a Nihilego at my back. I was trapped with nowhere to go. The Ultra Beasts edged closer, trying to corner me. Pheromosa suddenly put on an excited face, like it was about to trap prey. My heart pounded and I screamed internally, but part of my mind was ready. I wasn’t giving in so easily.

Just before I was in grabbing range, I ducked and slid right under Pheromosa’s grasp, and headed for the closest opening. I had a sudden flashback to the woods when I did the same thing, but the thought disappeared as I quickly found myself in another corridor just like the one I was in. I was stuck in a maze of some kind, without a map. I heard the footsteps quickly approaching from behind again, so I knew I needed to act fast. I started a random path, dashing from corridor to corridor, taking any path that I saw. It wasn’t long before I became tired and started running out of breath, but I knew I had to keep moving.

As I was about to pass out from running and pain, I arrived in a corridor with no doors except for the one I came in from.

No, there’s got to be a secret door or something!

I yelled in my head. I ran to the back wall and thoroughly inspected it, moving my hands all over the surface, hoping for a hidden lever or button. The footsteps got closer and closer and before I knew it, I turned around and saw the Ultra Beasts piling into the room. Now, I was truly cornered. I could try to duck under Pheromosa’s grip again… But would she be ready this time? And would the other Ultra Beasts assist her? Not to mention, I would probably end up lost again anyway if I actually got away. My heart sank to a low and I crouched down against the wall. They got closer and closer… And then I thought back to that night around the fire. Slowking’s words popped back into my head,

‘You see, the weakness of every dream is in the beholder.’ It suddenly hit me; Darkrai never wanted to hurt us. He only wanted to waste time to close the portal; none of this was real. I hatched a quick plan in my head and prayed my calculations were correct.

As the Ultra Beasts got closer, almost within grabbing distance, I thought in my head over and over, psyching myself up.

This isn’t real… This isn’t real…

I took a final deep breath and lunged at Pheromosa. Just as I expected, I faded right through her and fell into the ground.


 

Chapter Text


 

When I opened my eyes, I was in a long room that was shrouded by darkness. Only the most left part of the room was visible, with that same strange hue. This wall stretched down on both sides as far as I could see, like a fence with no end. As I looked back to the wall, it seemed that it was made of glass or a mirror of some kind. I could see my reflection in it, but only the outline because it was dingy and tinted. Below me was a hard floor of the same material, but with no reflection. To my surprise, I thought I noticed something moving on the other side of the wall past my reflection. Puzzled, I walked up to the wall and stared past my face. It was still hard to see, but it looked like someone running in place on the other side. As soon as I heard the muted scream, I knew who it was.

“Eliza, I… I’m coming!” I yelled, backing up. I threw myself at the wall, slamming my shoulder into the glass to try and crack it. But the glass didn’t budge; in fact, it didn’t even react to me at all. Falling to the floor, I winced in pain, and came to the conclusion that I needed to find another way around. I figured there had to be another way to get to the other side. Standing up, I began limping forward down the long hallway, hoping there was a crack or doorway. But as I got farther and farther away from Eliza, I could tell there was no way through, at least in this area; the wall seemed to stretch on forever and was unchanging. The more I thought about it the more I realized I needed to get through fast, and walking down a perpetually infinite hallway wasn’t going to achieve that. I tried thinking of another way as I walked back, but nothing popped out to me. I knew I couldn’t give up, but I just couldn’t think of anything.

I tried thinking harder, searching through my thoughts. I thought back to previous memories. After meandering for a moment, I remembered back to the moment Sycamore told me about auras. I don’t know why it suddenly popped back up in my head, but I thought back to how they fascinated me and how useful a skill it was to have. But then, I began picturing Dusty instead. I remembered his movements and steps, trying to be quiet. I scoffed, thinking back on that moment. It was funny he couldn’t stay quiet, no matter how he tried. I felt a little guilty since he was carrying me too, but the humor beat over the grief in my head. I guess him trying to stay quiet struck me more during that moment instead of Sycamore tell me about auras (as sad as that is). Suddenly, I started to feel different. It felt like my body was… changing somehow. The sensation quickly stopped and now I felt surprisingly… goopy? I opened my eyes and looked down. I audibly gasped as I saw what happened to me.

My arms had changed, the right one turning into a long metallic looking pipe with segmented pieces of green-brown muck and multicolored trash, while the left was completely covered in the same muck and trash, with three metallic prongs at the end. I moved the prongs like fingers, examining them with care. Down from there, my skin was part green material that cut off into strands, and the rest was the disgusting muck and trash. After that was the floor; I couldn’t see my feet. I slowly turned, and head towards the wall.

As I started walking, I stepped in a way that would not hurt my leg anymore, and stumbled, suddenly realizing that my pain was gone. It seemed somehow that all my ailments were cleared. Also, my glasses were missing too, but I could see fine. Finally walking up to the wall and staring into it, this time I focused in on my reflection. It was hard to tell, but I definitely saw the outline of a familiar dirty friend. I took a step back, bewildered; I‘d turned into a Garbodor!

I quickly snapped out of my trance and saw my opportunity. With my new strength, this meant I had a way to get through the barrier! This also showed me that I had leverage in the dream. I could mold and shape it just like Darkrai could; a flaw he probably never expected his foes to see through.

Suddenly, I wondered if I could change the surroundings just like Darkrai could. Closing my eyes, I imagined in my head the wall disappearing and giving me a path to Eliza. As I opened my eyes though, nothing was changed. Maybe I didn’t think about it hard enough? I tried again, being articulate with my thoughts. I thought about the colors, textures and materials of the wall, and everything around it. But when I opened my eyes, it was unaffected. I guess I could only change myself when I thought, but that wasn’t going to stop me.

I backed up from the wall and grinned. Things were about to get fun. I put my best foot forward and dashed towards the wall again with all my might. Inches before the wall, I jumped into the air and focused by body weight on my stomach. I hit the wall hard, sending a shockwave through it. As I recoiled and landed back on the ground safely, I felt stronger than ever before. I had no idea Dusty was built like a truck. However, that thought changed as I saw the wall still didn’t react at all.

I decided to try again, moving farther back this time to get a better running start. I lunged to a start, jumping once more and putting all my weight forward. I slammed into the wall even harder now, and this time, I saw it shake a little. But as I landed on the ground again, I knew it was going to take more than just a couple Body Slams to get through.

What other moves does Dusty have?

Thinking back, the first thing I remembered was his powerful Sludge Bomb attack. I was settled on trying a Sludge Bomb, but then I remembered how Dusty always performed the attack. I felt slightly sickened as I saw his chest contracting and compressing as the purple ball of slime flew out in my head. I sighed, realizing that was not the right mindset to have as a Pokémon. I had to save Eliza, no matter how I did it. I took a deep breath and backed up a bit.

Here goes…

I thought, seeing if there was something I could do to get the Sludge Bomb to form. I found after a couple of seconds experimenting with my new body that when I breathed in, I felt something kind of move in my chest. It was a strange sensation that felt like a pipe opening and closing. The sensation went away as I breathed out. I went with it, taking a deep breath in and not blowing out. Suddenly, I felt something coming up through my throat. It surprised me, and I quickly breathed out. As the thing reached the top of my throat, I opened my mouth, and a tiny ball of purple sludge slid out and fell to the ground. It splattered on the floor, bubbling and oozing. It seems I was going to have to charge it more, but this was definitely the way to make a Sludge Bomb.

I psyched myself up in my head and got ready for another attack. I took a deep breath and held it this time. As the sensation appeared in my throat I closed my eyes and let it spool. It got larger and larger until I couldn’t take the weird sensation anymore. I let go of the breath and opened my mouth as the ball slid up through my throat. Almost instantly, the ball flew out towards the wall at incredible speeds. I closed my eyes and stepped back as the ball splashed all over the wall with an audible sizzle. I looked back over to see the wall still standing, but something was different about the area where the ball hit.

The color of the wall changed to an even paler hue and looked an inch or two less thick where the goo hit. I considered my options; I could charge up another Sludge Bomb, or try and use a Body Slam on the weakened wall. I settled with a Body Slam because I didn’t like how the Sludge Bomb felt and I figured the wall would be more frail now. I nodded to myself and backed up even more. This was going to be my best attempt yet.

With a speedy start, I dashed toward the wall with all my might. When I was within range, I sprung into the air and lunged at the wall. As I collided, a loud crack ripped through the room. Once I safely landed, I noticed the wall was beginning to chip. Little by little, cracks ran through the glass, until the whole wall was covered. Suddenly, the glass began to shatter, from where I’d hit it. To my surprise, the whole wall began to shatter and break too, in a single wave-like motion. I didn’t want the whole wall to go down, but at least it was easy to get to Eliza now. I was proud of my actions, but I celebrated too quickly.

The ground began to shake as a ghostly yell painfully reverberated through the air. I winced with pain too, a terrible headache forming. I immediately fell to the ground account of how intense it was. I opened my eyes to see Eliza struggling too, presumably with the same symptoms. Whatever I’d just done was obviously not meant to happen.

The shaking quickly ended and the pain in my head faded away. As I was about to go to Eliza, I heard a faint and scruffy voice run through my head.

Nic… Nic, can you hear me?

“S-Sycamore? Is that you?” I said, slightly confused. I looked around, hoping to see Sycamore, but he was nowhere to be found in the room.

Yes, finally! I got into contact with you! Are you okay? Are you in trouble?

He sounded like he was panicking, another strange thing for Sycamore. But I guess he was worried about me.

“Yes, yes I’m fine. And no, I’m not in any trouble currently. But where…?”

Thank goodness… You are still in Darkrai’s dream. I can see you, Eliza, and Darkrai from here in that giant energy ball. For some reason, all the Pokémon just started waking up. I do not know what happened, but we are back now.

For whatever reason, breaking the wall must have lifted the nightmares on the Pokémon. It probably had something to do with Darkrai, but I didn’t dwell on it at that moment. I was going to tell Sycamore about the room and how I broke down the wall, but I really didn’t want to describe to him how I did it.

“Is everything alright there? How’s the portal?

Not so good… The last of the Ultra Beasts have been guarding and aiding the closing of the portal while the Pokémon were asleep. Uxie and the Pokémon that did not get hit by Darkrai’s attack have been trying to stop the Ultra Beasts from closing the portal, but they have failed in their attempts, as they are outnumbered. Just before I tried communicating with you, I was about to help get the Ultra Beasts away from the portal. But now that I can talk to you… Have you found a way out? Is there anything I can do?

“I’m working on that now, and I may have just found the solution. If you can try to find a way to get me out from outside the dream, that would certainly help… Keep in touch with me and I’ll give you updates. Keep everyone out there safe, buddy.”

I shall, Nic. Oh, and one last thing. I notice your aura seems… Different. Almost like a mix between Garbodor and you.

“Oh, that… It’s… It’s nothing. I’m sure you’re just woozy from Darkrai’s attack, that’s all. Make sure to not overdo it, Sycamore.” I figured it would be easier to beat around the bush than to just tell him. There was an awkward pause before I heard Sycamore speak again.

R-Right. Garbodor and I will try our best to get you free. Be safe.

It went quiet as Sycamore stopped communicating with me and went back to the battle on the bridge. I felt alone again and wished he could stay with me in my head, but then I remembered I had more pressing matters to attend to.

I jumped up and darted towards Eliza, using my new speed to get to her in breakneck speeds. Eliza was on the ground unresponsive, presumably from the pain. As I was about to try and wake her up a familiar voice pierced through the air.

"...You… What have you… Done…?" Off to my right, Darkrai appeared, holding one of his hands to his head. He looked like he was in pain. I ignored him for the time being as I attended to Eliza.

“Eliza, are you okay? Eliza!” I shouted into her face. To my surprise, she began to stir. I backed up as she sat up and began coughing.

“Ew, what is that smell?” She yelled. I frowned and backed up, realizing that being the “Trash Heap Pokémon” had its repercussions. Before Eliza was done with her coughing fit, Darkrai stammered out,

"...How did you figure out how to…? And now, the Pokémon..." He was obviously taken back how I was able to get this far and mess up his plans this much. Just then, Eliza opened her eyes and let out a terrified scream.

“D-Dusty! Stay away from me, yuck!” She stood up and began backstepping away from me. Obviously, she wasn’t much of a fan.

“Wait, wait! Eliza, it’s not who you think.” I tried coaxing, wondering how all the insults people threw at Dusty didn’t get under his skin. She froze in place, confused.

“Y-you can talk? What is happening? Just a second ago, I was running from Gengar in the forest… And now I’m here?” She was as befuddled as I was when I turned into a Garbodor.

“No, no, I’m not Dusty. It’s me, Nic. You don’t have to be scared or alarmed or anything.” She stood quiet for a second, taking a look around at her new surroundings.

“W-what? H-How did you…?”

“This is a dream, Eliza. Darkrai is only here to waste time until the portal closes. But it seems that in actuality, since this is our dream, we have a lot more strength here than we think. Once I figured that out, I turned myself into a Pokémon to help us get out of here.” She took a quick look at me, observing all my new gross features.

“But why did you pick Garbodor out of all your Pokémon?” She asked. I frowned again and looked away, embarrassed.

“Don’t ask… It’s a long story.” Darkrai had listened in on our conversation and added in,

"...You… Both of you are not like normal humans I have observed… You are unlike any others I have seen… But why is that…? What is pushing you on…?" I didn’t really want to talk to Darkrai about my reasons, but I knew I needed to say something. Eliza’s unintentional insults definitely got my blood boiling, the way she always made me feel. I felt my emotions coming out again and yelled,

“You know why, Darkrai! You’ve taken everything away from me! My family, my friends, my home… I can’t and will not forgive you for it! I’ve got a world to save and a bunch of people who are rooting for me! If I let them down…” I shuddered, thinking about Necrozma taking over the world. Nothing would be safe from his grasp.

"...I see… But you are a fool to believe you will ever get out of this place… With the strength of Pokémon or not, you cannot escape…!"

“That’s what you think, Darkrai! We’re getting out of here and I’m getting to that portal! You can count on that!” I quickly turned to Eliza and let her know the plan. “Listen Eliza. I’m going to need your help getting out of here. Can you turn into a Pokémon too?”

“Well I would if I knew how.” She sassily snapped back. Ignoring her tone, I added,

“You just have to really think about the Pokémon you want to be. It was actually a complete accident that I turned into a Garbodor, but I did it when I thought about a funny memory of Dusty.”

“So you think just think about the Pokémon you want to be?” She said, still sounding a bit skeptical.

“Yes, I think that’s how it works. Imagine a memory of Greninja, for example. Think about how that memory made you feel, and really think about the minor details. Don’t forget to think about character traits too, yours and Greninja’s.”

“...Alright, I’ll try.” She said, standing up. She closed her eyes and scrunched her face. Darkrai looked on in awe, observing. She took a deep breath and I saw the emotion melt away from her face. Suddenly, a weird clear aura enveloped Eliza as well as a bright light. Although I could not see it, I knew she was changing shape inside. Within a couple of seconds, a Greninja now stood where Eliza once was. As she opened her eyes, she looked down at her new hands and body.

“It… it worked! I’m actually a Pokémon!” She said in a muffled voice, sounding surprised. I smiled at her, happy it actually worked too. “I feel...weird… But also, very powerful.” She added, messing with her tongue scarf. Darkrai stood motionless, watching his plan failing right in front of him. Seeing my opportunity to taunt him, I turned to him and said aloud,

“I heard from Slowking that no human has ever escaped from your nightmares, except for me. I can’t wait to do it again.” Eliza got up right next to me and did the same thing.

“I’m going to enjoy getting revenge on you for betraying me!” She yelled. We looked at each other and nodded, getting in battle-ready poses. Darkrai was still confused and distraught, but I knew he wasn’t going to give up.

"...Very well… If it is a fight you humans want, it is a fight you will get… I am a being of unfathomable power, and I will NOT let two measly humans get past me…! This will be your doom…!" Suddenly, the ground began shaking again, as the wall and floor disappeared around us. It was completely black and empty, but we weren’t falling. Suddenly, new scene emerged around us. We were standing in a low field covered in an inch of fresh snow, heavily surrounded by trees on each side. The area was shrouded in a crimson hue from the giant full moon, which was directly above us, high in a completely black sky. As the ground stopped shaking, Eliza and I turned to Darkrai who floated down from above with a red aura around him. He observed us with his visible cyan eye, waiting for an attack. Just then, I heard Sycamore’s voice in my head a little bit louder than before.

Nic… Nic, is everything okay? We tried attacking the aura ball… But nothing was working… And now it is flashing red occasionally…

Everything’s fine, Sycamore. Look, promise me you won’t worry… Because I’m about to do something stupid. But... It’s the only way I can see Eliza and I getting out of this nightmare. Stay strong and I’ll try to get out as fast as possible.

Sycamore hesitated, but in due time he responded,

Right, I will not. Be careful and remember we are all rooting for you.

As his voice faded away, I turned back to Eliza and asked,

“Are you ready?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be.” She replied, nodding. Seeing her confidence boosted mine and I took a deep breathe. It was time to be strong and end Darkrai’s reign of terror once and for all.

Here we come Darkrai! I’m not holding back!

I yelled in my head, as Eliza and I dashed off towards him.

 

As we charged in towards Darkrai, he stood still, plotting his next move. Eliza jumped into the air once she was in range and used a Quick Attack to lunge at Darkrai. As she was about to make contact, she phased through him, forgetting about his typing. Expecting to hit, Eliza yelped in terror, and closed her eyes as she plummeted back to the ground. She was quite a far ways ahead, but I wasn’t going to let her down.

“I’ve got you!” I yelled, dashing towards her and shoving my arms out. As I did so, they began extending, like Dusty’s usually did. Just before she hit the ground, I caught her in my grasp. As I set my extended arms down softly on the snow, she opened her eyes and sat up. I sighed in relief as she slid out of my hands safely.

“T-thanks.” She called, not expecting to be saved. I felt flattered, and began retracting my arms, but before I could think about Darkrai again, Eliza called out, “Nic! Behind you!”

I turned to see Darkrai letting go of a charged Dark Pulse, aimed directly at me. The attack slammed into my chest, knocking the wind out of me and throwing me through the air. The dark energy stung where it made contact and to make matters worse, I hit the ground hard, the snow not helping at all. I tumbled to a stop, almost making it to the treeline. I pushed myself up and shook off the snow, but my back really ached. I knew for a fact that I couldn’t take many more of those. Just then, Darkrai appeared in front of me again, charging a Shadow Ball. I rushed to get up, but he slung the ball at me before I could regain my footing. However, a large shuriken of water flew in from the side and slammed into the Shadow Ball, erupting it early. I turned to see Eliza waving from where I saved her.

“Get up! We need to work together to defeat Darkrai!” I nodded and hopped up to see Darkrai was gone again.

I ran over to Eliza and we went back to back, waiting for Darkrai’s next move.

"...Give up… My power is too great…" Darkrai’s voice bellowed from the sky.

“Never, Darkrai! I’m not going to give up until I’m out of this nightmare!” I shouted back. The air went silent as the battle raged on. Just then, Darkrai appeared in front of Eliza.

“There you are!” She yelled, slinging a quick Water Shuriken and sending it out at him. As it hit, Darkrai disappeared into smoke and in its wake, copies of Darkrai flew out towards in a circle, surrounding us. All the copies began to charge a Shadow Ball.

“He’s using Double Team! I’ve got this, duck down!” I commanded. Without hesitation, Eliza fell to the floor and I began to extend out my arms. I began spinning, using my force to whip my retractable tendrils around like weapons. As they made contact, the Darkrai clones disappeared once again into smoke, leaving nothing behind. Once the last clone disappeared, I knew something wasn’t right. One of those clones was supposed to be the real one. As I brought my arms back in, Eliza yelled,

“Move, he’s-” She cut herself off as she sprung into the air and catapulted off my back, the force sending me forward. I was confused at first, until I heard the crash of the Dark Pulse behind us. I rolled when I hit the ground and stood back up, turning back to see where Darkrai went off to. Suddenly, he appeared behind Eliza. Before I could say anything, he quickly charged and shot a Shadow Ball at the unsuspecting victim. I tried to say something, but I just wasn’t fast enough as the ball slammed into Eliza and exploded, sending her flying towards me. She smacked into my torso, sending both of us back, and into the ground. We both struggled to get up as Darkrai’s laugh echoed through the air. I angrily groaned. Darkrai was too fast and cunning to hit with regular attacks. We were going to have to catch him off guard. But how could we attack him when he kept disappearing?

Just then, Sycamore’s voice came back in my head, a little louder now.

Nic, what is happening in there? The ball is shaking and energy is pulsing from the outside! The whole battlefield has stopped to see what is happening!

Then, it hit me. Sycamore could detect auras, so maybe…

Sycamore, focus your aura on us! What do you see?

There was a pause as he hesitated from my response.

I have not tried that yet… Let me see.

Suddenly, red Thunderbolts began arcing down from the sky in a line towards Eliza and I.

“Hey, Nic! Eyes, up! We’ve got to move, stay close to me!” Eliza yelled, taking my focus away from Sycamore. I was going to have to talk to Sycamore and battle at the same time. I started running just in time as the Thunderbolts crashed to the ground right behind me.

I can see… I can see a snowy field, and two Pokémon… And… Darkrai! Is… Is this…?

I smiled as I ran near Eliza, dodging Thunderbolts, hoping my new plan would work.

Where’s Darkrai? Where do you see his aura?

He is… In the middle of the field… At the zenith, high in the sky… Why?

“Eliza!” I yelled. She turned to me. “Aim a Water Shuriken at the middle of the moon! Don’t ask, just do it!” We slid to a stop as Eliza prepared a Water Shuriken.

Here we go again...

I thought, holding my breath. As she let her Water Shuriken go, I forced my Sludge Bomb out, sending it with force towards the moon. Sure enough, once the attacks had flown high enough, Eliza’s Water Shuriken hit an object hard, and shattered into water droplets. Briefly, I saw the outline of Darkrai appear after the attack had unexpectedly hit him. Immediately after, the Sludge Bomb collided, sending a shower of purple slime everywhere. As Darkrai appeared in the sky, the Thunderbolts stopped just before hitting Eliza and I. The ground began to shake again and I felt another sharp pain in my head. Darkrai yelled in agony again, falling through the air towards the ground. Eliza and I both fell to the ground too, clutching our heads and wincing. Attacking Darkrai obviously affected the dream somehow. However, we were going to have to deal through the pain if we wanted to get out.

As Darkrai slammed into the terrain with an explosion of snow, the pain spiked.

“Gah…! E-Eliza!” I yelled as loud as I could.

“W-what?!” She yelled back.

“C-can you deal with the-the pain? We need to… to defeat Darkrai to e-escape!”

She hesitated but I heard her say,

“I… I can try!”

Just then, the ground stopped shaking as Darkrai slowly floated up from his crater in the ground.

"...You… You fools… Can you not see…? You cannot escape... Because if the integrity of the dream fails… We will… All perish…"

I gritted my teeth and winced even more from the news. No, this couldn’t be the end. Darkrai must’ve been lying, to cover his tracks. There had to be another way out, without him pulling us down.

Nic! What is happening? The ball is fluctuating and energy is being spit out everywhere! Are you sure you are okay?

I heard Sycamore say in my head. I couldn’t talk to him right now because there were more important issues to deal with.

“Eliza!” I called out. “Keep attacking Darkrai!”

“I… I don’t know if I can right now!”

“Just do as I say! The only way out is… Is to keep breaking Darkrai!”

"...You... Are only making your death faster…" Darkrai exclaimed, stunned in place and critically injured from the sneak attacks. I held my breath and forced another Sludge Bomb out with all my strength, aiming at the downed Darkrai. Eliza did not attack, the pain probably being too great. My attack hit once again, this time directly. The bomb exploded, dealing plenty of damage to Darkrai. I heard his scream again as the pain transfixed to a new high. Immediately, I collapsed to the ground, unable to take the sheer suffering. But then, a glimmer of hope.

The ground began to shake more as the scene around us began to falter and fade. Suddenly, a hole appeared about thirty feet away from me, a little behind Darkrai. This hole almost looked like the portal to the Pokémon World, but without the rainbow hue. My eyes popped as I saw what was on the other side. I could see the bridge and everyone who was looking up at the orb. This was our ticket out!

“E-Eliza! Go! Towards the portal!” I didn’t look towards her as I crawled through the snowy field, the pain excruciating. I almost fainted twice as I slowly pulled myself towards the opening. I constantly told myself to keep going, to be strong, like Sycamore said. I pushed myself farther than ever before, barely making it past Darkrai, who was unmoving in his crater in the ground. As I got within ten feet of the portal, the ground stopped shaking as bad and the hole began to close.

No! I’ve… I’ve got to hurry! He’s waking up!

I sped up, pushing beyond my limits. I put my weight on my legs and slowly stood up, walking as soon as I could. I got closer and closer as the way out got smaller and smaller. I was mere inches away and I could tell I had enough time to make it through. But where was Eliza? Suddenly, a shadow appeared from under me and popped up in front of me. I fell to the ground as Darkrai materialized, blocking my path.

"...End… of the line…" He muttered as the portal became too small to fit through.

“No!” I yelled aloud as the portal was about to close. My hopes were extinguished, but I’d given up too soon. Without warning, Eliza crashed into Darkrai, knocking him out of the way. They both fell to the ground, completely out of energy. The pain intensified, but the portal opened again, giving me just enough space to go through.

“Get going, Nic; get out of here! Save the Pokémon World!” My heart dropped.

“Eliza, what are you-”

“Didn’t you hear me?! Get out of here! There’s no hope for me, but there’s still so much for you! So go, and let me handle Darkrai!” My emotions flared up, but there was nothing left. Eliza was right, and there was no time to grieve or mourn for her sacrifice. It was now or never.

Thank you, Eliza…

I thought quickly, nodding once in compliance.

"...No, stop…!" Darkrai called. As he was about to disappear into a shadow and head back to grab me, I crawled forward into the portal. I felt a weird sensation almost like the reverse of what I felt when Darkrai captured me. My went blank as I passed through the hole and out of the nightmare.


 

Chapter Text


 

Nic… Nic!

“Wha...what?” I opened my eyes slowly as the surroundings came into view. My head ached and I felt weak. I rubbed my eyes and stared around me. I was finally back on the bridge. Looking down, I saw I was back to being a human. My original body was back, and I couldn’t have been happier. Unfortunately, the pain from my leg injury returned, and the cracked lens in front of my left eye depressed me again. I turned to see Sycamore and Uxie, both looking extremely relieved. Behind them was the wall of Ultra Beasts still protecting the portal. Someone was holding me, and I looked up to see a happy, smiling Dusty. Behind him were all the Pokémon that came to help.

“Am… Am I...” I stammered, still weak. I was still in disbelief I made it out.

You did it, Nic! You got out of Darkrai’s nightmare!

Sycamore said, a smile running across his face.

“Quite a feat, indeed. In all my years of facing Darkrai, no human has done what you have.” Uxie added. The group of Pokémon rejoiced, making all kinds of clapping noises and excited yelps.

“Y-you guys…” I muttered, flattered by their words of kindness.

What happened in there? I saw two Pokémon battling with Darkrai… But their auras were mixed with human auras… Were you…?

Sycamore sounded interested in the event. I was finally going to tell him, but Uxie pushed away his offer.

“That is enough, Lucario. Let the human rest; he is tired and injured.”

Y-yes, sir.

I was going to protest, telling Sycamore about what happened really wouldn’t take away much of my energy.

“We must get you to that portal quickly, it is on its last legs. We have to get past Dark-” Uxie was silenced by a pulse of energy from above. The celebrating stopped as we all looked up to see the giant ghostly ball Darkrai trapped Eliza and I in. It was shrinking in size rapidly, and I could see the outline of Eliza about to slip out of the sphere. My brain switched to panic mode and I yelled,

“D-Dusty, put me down! Catch Eliza!” He looked down to me, confused before he looked back up and saw Eliza slip out of the ghostly orb. Instantly, Dusty dropped me to the ground right on top of the train tracks, to which I smacked my head on a metal rail. I heard the sound of something being caught in Dusty’s arms as I looked up and rubbed the back of my head. Eliza was unconscious, but safe in Dusty’s grasp. It was slight, yet I could see her chest rising and lowering, showing she was still breathing. Dusty looked back to me and smiled.

“T-thanks, Dusty.” I added, a lump on the back of my head growing. Just then, the ball completely disappeared, leaving only Darkrai floating in the air. His eyes were still closed, but he continued to hover in place. Silence ran through the air as everyone observed him closely.

"...Beaten… By humans..." Darkrai’s voice ran through the air with a tone of defeat in it. Everyone continued to stay silent, making it slightly awkward. "...Send out... Plan B…" With his last words said, Darkrai suddenly began to plummet through the air. We all watched as he soared over us and out of sight behind the garrison of Ultra Beasts. Uxie floated up to see what happened and looked visibly happy for a moment.

“He disappeared! Now is our chance to get the human to-”

Suddenly, a roar echoed through the air. Everyone froze in place, looking around for the culprit. I tired to look through the crowd to see what was happening, but I couldn’t from where I was sitting. All of a sudden, a red and black portal appeared above the bridge just before us, swirling with red lightning. The portal had to be the one the Ultra Beasts took to come to the human world. It grew in size, lengthening to almost the width of the bridge. Another roar sounded through the air, this time even louder and closer. My heart began to beat faster as the source of the voice showed itself.

A set of long stubby legs appeared from the portal, with black with yellow markings. Then, something toothy appeared, revealing the mouth of a giant beast. As more and more of the monster emerged from the portal, I could feel myself becoming even more unnerved. Whatever this thing was, its job was to stop us. Finally as the giant monster reached the floor, it let out another grizzly cry, shaking the bridge with its mighty voice. It had two giant black arms coming from its mouth with pincers on the ends, and a light blue opening in the back of its mouth that opened and closed at random like a machine. Above the mouth was two sets of light blue eyes and another pair of stubby hands. Whatever it was, it was creeping me out and I felt like I could feel it breathing from across the way. It brought its attention to us, seemingly staring me right in the eyes. I gulped nervously, extremely intimidated.

“Guzzlord.” Uxie said, sounding stern. He turned closed his eyes and turned around, yelling out his next command. “All Pokémon, charge at Guzzlord! Do not let his size scare you! Psychic types, bring the shield back up! Remember what we are fighting for! Flying types, try to stop the portal closers! Guzzlord is only here to buy them time! Go, now!”

A shield materialized around my Pokémon and I, as the Pokémon fearlessly dashed towards the opponent. In the meanwhile, Uxie floated down to us from outside the barrier.

“There is absolutely no way you can make it to the portal in this state, human. I would try and help, but I do not have any medical training and all our medics are busy… I will try to craft a plan to get you into the portal safely with your injuries, however it may take a while. If you or your partners have any ideas, do not hesitate to speak up.” Sycamore and Dusty stayed silent, unsure what to say. I was the same way and stammered out,

“Uhh…” Suddenly, I remembered what was in my front jacket pocket. “Oh, wait! What about this?” Unzipping the pocket and reaching in, I sighed in relief as I pulled the unharmed Starf Berry out. Uxie audibly gasped when he saw the berry and moved in closer to inspect it.

“That… That is a Starf Berry! Where did you get that, human?”

“Slowking handed it to Sycamore right before he was captured, and then Sycamore gave it to me after all the battling was done… Slowking told us not to use it until the time was right, but to be honest, none of us know what it does.” There was a brief pause as we all thought about Slowking.

“That Starf Berry was what Slowking found on his first journey into the future to save a human. There is quite the story behind it, but that is for another time. What you must know is that the Starf Berry holds a great power! Although it is very hard to find, It can heal even the worst of wounds in humans.”

“So that’s why Slowking wanted me to wait to use it… In case I got hurt again before I needed it. But… If it’s that rare to find, and it was Slowking’s...”

 “Those are the exact reasons why you must have it. You are also an one-of-a-kind; without you, there would be no way to save our world. And not to mention, I understand how close you and Slowking were. If he were here now, I wager he would not take no for an answer.” I was still worried about it, imagining a scenario in my head where I accidentally dropped the berry in the middle of a heated battle. Nonetheless, I looked up at Uxie and nodded in affirmation. Suddenly, at that moment, there was an explosion from down the bridge as we came back to the battle at hand.

The Pokémon finally made their attacks on Guzzlord. The initial attacks caught Guzzlord off guard and made him stumble backwards, but a being that powerful had many tricks up its sleeves. With another roar, Guzzlord began using Thrash, flailing its arms around in all directions. Incoming Pokémon were pummeled and sent flying back through the air. Some flew into the shield with a mighty crash, then sliding to the ground completely fainted. Ranged attackers tried their best, yet Guzzlord was too strong to even be bothered by them. Using Dark Pulse, Guzzlord swatted down anyone who tried to even fly near him. Those that tried to get around from the other side were no match for the remaining Ultra Beasts, who combined their power to knock out the assailants. Seeing the complete chaos and the number of Pokémon rapidly depleting, Uxie called out,

“All remaining Pokémon, stop! Clear and retreat to the back of the bridge! Take those who are fainted with you and help mend their wounds! We are going to have to find another way to deal with this foe! Psychic types, keep the shield up for now!” All the Pokémon stopped attacking and began running back to the edge of the bridge, taking the wounded with them. Within no time at all, the bridge emptied out, leaving only my Pokémon and I with Uxie and Eliza. Surprisingly, after the cease fire, Guzzlord stopped attacking too. What was it planning? It continued to stare at us, its glare piercing through me. No one moved or said anything. I think Uxie was at a loss too, considering all the Pokémon that were just defeated. Ignoring my pain, I knew what needed to be done in this situation. I swallowed the last of my pride, and tried to stand up again. I stumbled and Sycamore caught me, but I immediately rebounded and was quickly back on my feet. Brushing myself off, Uxie announced,

“Guzzlord seems to be waiting for us to make a move… Yet I am unsure on how to get past him.” I felt the confidence and determination burning in my chest once more, so I looked down at my wrist and announced,

“Uxie, tell the Psychic types to drop the shield. There’s only one way to stop Guzzlord now.” He looked down and saw me pull down my sleeve, revealing the Mega Stone Bracelet. His eyes widened as he said,

“What? That is far too dangerous! Mega Evolution is a power beyond the beliefs of their users. It can cause extreme damage if not used correctly! Not to mention, you have not used the Starf Berry yet! In your current state, it will do nothing but hurt you!” Remembering that was why Slowking didn’t want us to use Mega Evolution too, a couple thoughts of concern popped into my head. Sycamore and Dusty both looked anxious too, yet there was no other option I could see.

“Look, Uxie… We’ve made it across two states, survived ambushes, won many battles, and a lot more, all without the power of Mega Evolution. If you think this brute is going to stop us, you’re wrong. I’ve got a world to save and I’m ready to take on any challenge, despite the odds of actually winning. And I know we can both handle the power of Mega Evolution, even without the berry…” I looked to Sycamore and we nodded in unison. Uxie looked taken back by my statement but quickly gave in.

“As you wish… Normally, I would testify against this, however… We do not have time to dawdle. If you think you can deal with the power from Mega Evolution without the berry, just be careful. Do what you must and I will help out the best I can. Give me the signal to drop the shield when you are ready. Please, stay safe... All of you.” As he fluttered away, I turned to Sycamore and Dusty who were staring at me.

“Sycamore… Are you ready for this? I don’t want to set up a plan without your approval…”

Of course… I am ready for any challenge. I will not let you down, no matter what.

I put my arm on his shoulder and smiled.

“Thank you.” I said, a smile forming on his face too. What I wasn’t ready for was what I was going to do next. I took a deep breath and turned to face Dusty.

“Dusty… I want you to take care of Eliza for me. She really needs help right now, and we don’t have the time...” He looked confused at first, but then I saw the emotion slowly creep onto his face. “You’ve been a very good friend on this journey… But I’m afraid this is where we part ways. I wish we could explore more together, and spend more time together… Yet we both know all good things must come to an end eventually. Please, take Eliza some place safe and make sure she gets the help she needs.” Dusty looked down at Eliza and back up again. I could tell he was confused, but now I could see tears starting to form in his eyes.

“I know, I know… Eliza was our enemy this whole journey… What she did wasn’t her, though. Darkrai corrupted her, and she was only doing what she had to do to survive. Just… Make sure she gets what she needs, okay?” I looked away, slightly blushing. There was a pause as the air went silent again. I wanted to cry, yet I was all out of tears to shed. Sycamore looked shocked by my sudden request, and also a little sad too. He looked away, hiding his emotions. I felt guilty for doing this, but I knew both Pokémon understood why this had to happen. I slowly walked over and put my hand on Dusty’s left tendril. I looked him right in the eyes and said,

“Goodbye, Dusty. You’ll always be with me.” Before I walked away, there was one last thing I needed to do. Taking a deep breath, I wrapped my arms around the side of Dusty’s torso and gave him a great big hug. I blushed even more, trying to ignore the terrible smell and feeling. As I let go, I closed my eyes and looked away. Before I closed them though, I thought I saw Dusty smile through his tears.

“G-Gar. Garb...” He said quietly. I felt terrible, almost as bad as when Slowking was taken away from us. And I definitely didn’t want to do this for Sycamore either, but I would wait to do that until the time was right. Suddenly, I heard Sycamore in my head.

Garbodor feels the same way, Nic.

I was surprised to hear Sycamore and didn’t respond. He continued talking,

He told me to say that he will look after Eliza until you come back…

Those last four words echoed in my head, welling up the pain.

He also says that you and I were his best friends and he will not ever forget the adventures we had.

Hearing Sycamore’s translation filled me with sadness, but also with hope. Suddenly, I needed to say one last thing to Dusty, despite me saying it so many times before.

“Thank you, Dusty… For everything.” That’s all I could muster out before I couldn’t take it anymore and turned around to face Guzzlord. Sycamore patted me on my shoulder and finally said his goodbyes to Dusty before walking out front. I listened closely as I heard Dusty’s loud footsteps stomp away, until they were no longer in earshot. Although Dusty was still on the bridge, it felt like he was a thousand miles away.

 

I paused before giving Uxie the signal.

...I’m ready, Uxie. Drop the shield...

“Psychic types, get ready to drop the shield!” Uxie cried out after a small amount of pause. I took a deep breath and gritted my teeth through the pain of it all. I may have had to just say goodbye to one of my best friends, but I was determined to win this final battle. I took a deep breath and opened my eyes again. I saw Sycamore turn back and nod at me, so I did the same. He turned and faced Guzzlord as the nerves set in.

“Sycamore... Are you sure you’re ready?”

More than ever, Nic. We may have never used Mega Evolution before… Nevertheless, I know we will succeed in taming it. Whatever comes in our way, we will prevail and get you to that portal… This is for everything we stand for, and everyone who is cheering us on! We cannot fail!

I closed my eyes and held my hand to my heart, feeling my heart racing. This was it; the final battle. Nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide. The only way to win was to fight, and not back down. I was nervous and all my thoughts were telling me to hide... But I knew I needed to stay strong for everyone.

“Let down the shield!”

Guzzlord eyed us intently as I held my left arm out straight and put my right hand over the black Mega Stone bracelet. The stone felt warm and suddenly an energy pulsated through it. It felt like the energy was flowing through my body and into Sycamore’s. The stone got warm to the touch and almost felt like it was attracted to Sycamore’s stone. Suddenly, a bright pink light began to emanate from the stone. The energy surged and I felt even more pumping through my veins. Suddenly, I thought I heard Sycamore’s breathing along with mine. They were going at the same pace, racing along with our heartbeats. I looked up to see the pink light envelop Sycamore, until a bright round sphere encircled him. The energy began to spill out onto the ground, shaking the bridge around us and blowing up leaves. I could hear the energy building up, about to burst. Suddenly, I briefly felt like my injuries were gone and I smiled as the pink orb around Sycamore faded to a pure white orb, and began to break. As it shattered and dissipated into thin air, a bursting sound ruptured along with it. The flowing energy stopped as Sycamore roared out into the night,

“LUCAR!”

Sycamore’s form stayed mostly the same, yet there was a couple differences. His black “face mask” around his eyes extended out and his black aura lobes behind his ears flowed in the wind and were crimson red at the tips. His cream fur extended downwards past his waving scarf and gave way to a strong pair of long, red tipped arms. The new black markings continued on his arms and legs, before ending at his red tipped feet. I could feel the energy pulsing off of him. Suddenly, Sycamore spoke; not with his mind, but with his actual voice. He turned and said aloud in his normal scruffy and deep voice,

Nic, this is it! I can feel a new power flowing through me… Your aura is strong and in match with mine! I am ready to fight! Give me a command!” I nodded as he turned back around, holding his fist in a ball like usual. I smiled and did the same, knowing that he knew I was doing it too.

 

“Alright Sycamore! Use Force Palm to start!” I yelled. Sycamore dashed in at incredibly fast speeds, catching Guzzlord off guard. Sycamore’s charge up on the attack was so quick, I didn’t even see the aura form around his palm. It exploded in Guzzlord’s face even faster, dealing considerable damage and sending him back a couple steps. The entire bridge shook as the mighty beast stumbled, showing just how much he weighed. Guzzlord shook off the attack and let out a formidable roar as Sycamore landed safely on the bridge again. Guzzlord took a step forward and began to start a Thrash attack, pummeling every inch of space it could. It stepped closer and closer to Sycamore who was waiting for my next command.

“Sycamore, I don’t think you can dodge here! Try to Counter it!” Looking back forward, Sycamore closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He then lunged towards Guzzlord, pulling both of his arms back. Once Sycamore was in range, he waited for Guzzlord to fall into his trap. As soon as the first tendril hit Sycamore, he struck back after he’d recovered. Suddenly, he began ripping punches at mach speeds at each of Guzzlord tendrils, blocking the Thrash with his own onslaught of attacks. Guzzlord was taken back again and staggered backwards once more as Sycamore’s Counter continued to take its toll. With one final punch, Sycamore put all his power in and smashed Guzzlord right in its tiny head, picking it up off the ground for a moment. It crashed back into the bridge, sending an even larger shockwave through the mass of metal and wood. I fell to the ground as the remaining Ultra Beasts trying to close the portal fell over too, breaking their progress on the closure. From what I saw when Guzzlord was in the air, not much of the portal was left. I might even have had trouble trying to get in as it was about half my size. Nonetheless, if it was still open, everything was fine. It was just a matter of time before we broke through Guzzlord and reached the goal.

Sycamore landed in front of me with a determined look on his face.

“Nice going, Sycamore! That was a very powerful Counter!”

Thank you, but…

“What’s wrong?”

I went all out with that Counter. I feel as if my energy is drained…” It was then that I noticed him panting. I guess blocking all of Guzzlord’s movements took more of a toll on Sycamore than I’d previously thought. If Sycamore was really out of energy and if Guzzlord was to capitalize now…

“Now is not the time, Sycamore! We’ve got to keep pushing! Just try to be careful and conserve some of your energy if needed!”

Right, tell me my next command!” Just then, Guzzlord got up and began preparing a Dark Pulse. The dark energy poured into a small ball around its mouth and was pointed directly at Sycamore. I reacted, telling Sycamore what to do.

“Get ready Sycamore! Wait until the attack comes at you!” He nodded as Guzzlord continued to spool his attack. Something seemed off to me though. I would have figured Guzzlord would release his attacks quickly to counter Sycamore’s speed, but it obviously wasn’t attempting that. Did it have a trick hidden away? Finally, Guzzlord let the Dark Pulse go, directed at Sycamore. I was ready and called,

“Dodge up and use Force Palm!” Sycamore jumped into the air, barely eluding the attack and leaping over towards Guzzlord, readying his attack. However, Guzzlord wasn’t going to just let this happen. Although Sycamore was fast, Guzzlord predicted where he was going to go and grabbed him with one of his small hands right as Sycamore was about to let the Force Palm loose, stopping him dead in his tracks. Guzzlord held Sycamore in a way that made it so that the Force Palm couldn’t come in contact with him. And because of this, Sycamore was caught off guard and had no target to let the Force Palm onto. Not to mention, he could not control all of the power from Mega Evolution. Guzzlord let go of Sycamore right as it exploded, and watched him fly backwards from the recoil. The power was immense and sent Sycamore high into the air.

“Sycamore!” I called as he soared up above. But Guzzlord wasn’t done yet. It slung out a quick Dark Pulse at Sycamore, hitting dead on. Normally not being very effective, the attack still hit hard and sent Sycamore barrelling into the floorboards, skidding off of the hard wood and metal tracks. Sycamore stopped just before me, and I could tell right away he was seriously injured. Even though he was Mega Evolved, that attack from Guzzlord was extremely powerful. I bent down and tried to help him up.

“Are you alright? Can you still battle?”

I-I am fine. I must continue. I cannot give up!” Sycamore cried, pushing away from me and standing up on his own. I smiled and hoped he wasn’t pushing it too hard. But Guzzlord knew that he couldn’t let up now. It began charging in preparing a new attack. Its right tendril was glowing a red-brown aura and once it got within range, Guzzlord sent his arm up and immediately back down towards Sycamore. I was ready however and replied,

“Dodge the Hammer Arm and get on its body!” Sycamore sidestepped out of the way as the powerful attack punctured a hole in the bridge. The entire structure shook again, not being able to take much more damage. Guzzlord suddenly realized his tendril was stuck in the structure and began to try and pull it out. Sycamore used this time to hop up onto his arm and dashed up towards its head. Guzzlord panicked and swung its other tendril at Sycamore, to which Sycamore hopped up in the air, dodged, and got ready to attack again.

“Full power Force Palm! He can’t get away!” As Sycamore began to store all the energy he could into another powerful force palm, Guzzlord continued to panic, waving all over the place. Sycamore continued to dodge the swings, jumping on and off of Guzzlord’s body until his Force Palm was completely charged. Then, he thrusted himself at Guzzlord’s head, and in the matter of a second, the attack exploded, sending both Pokémon backwards. As Guzzlord fell backwards, it tore some of the bridge up, sending debris through the air, and shaking the bridge yet again. It creaked and rumbled, signaling it could only take a little more. The Ultra Beasts who were trying to close the portal just recovered from the first time when Guzzlord fell down, and now their progress was ruined again; they flew off the bridge from the shockwave.

The portal was getting visibly smaller, but we still had time to stop it. Although Sycamore had done considerable damage to Guzzlord, he’d also sustained a lot of damage as well. As Sycamore landed in front of me, I noticed he was covered in scars and bruises and was panting harder. This battle needed to end quick or else he was going to run out of steam.

“Sycamore, are you ready to finish this?” I asked him. Out of breath, he replied,

...As ready as I will… Always be…

I smiled and pointed at the downed Guzzlord, who was still trying to get its footing after the powerful Force Palm attack.

“I think it’s time to try out your Aura Sphere. It may be risky, but if we don’t end this quickly, the portal will close! What do you say?”

I do not think… We have a choice…

“Right! Now get in there and use all the power you can!” I yelled and pointed at Guzzlord. Sycamore ran as fast as it could towards Guzzlord, ignoring its injuries. It began to charge the aura Sphere, and I could see the teal orb growing in size in his palms. As Sycamore jumped into the air, I smiled knowing the attack was going to hit. Suddenly, I noticed something about Guzzlord. It seemed to still be downed from the last Force Palm, yet the way it was positioned… Before either of us could react, Guzzlord whipped around and slung another Dark Pulse right at Sycamore’s Aura Sphere.

Sycamore tried to let the Aura Sphere go, but his inexperience with the move held him back. The Dark Pulse connected with the Sphere, adding onto its power, and the recoil sent Sycamore to the ground. He landed safely on his feet, but the sphere grew in size and turned into a completely black hue. I could feel the energy from the attack where I was standing. Unable to control its power, Sycamore stood still, unsure what to do. Suddenly, a bright light burst from the orb and a huge explosion ruptured from inside.

“Sycamore, no!” Is all I could say as the full power of the attack sent Sycamore through the air. I tried to look up to see where he would land, but the energy released from the attack was too intense, and shook the surroundings. I collapsed to the ground and held onto the tracks for dear life, the force pulling me backwards like a tornado. The attack also sent the last of the Ultra Beasts behind Guzzlord flying far off into the valley, leaving the portal completely unguarded. As the force stopped, Guzzlord stood back up and let out a battle cry. Struggling to get up too, there was only one thing I had on my mind.

“W-where’s…?” I asked as Sycamore crashed into the bridge behind me, stopping him dead in his tracks, and sending another small tremor through the bridge. It was a miracle the wood underneath didn’t completely break under him. A bright light surrounded Sycamore as he transformed back into his normal form. The light faded as the power surging through my Key Stone stopped. I was about to rush over to Sycamore when I felt the bridge beginning to falter. It finally had enough of the weight and battles going on atop it.

I was nearly deafened as a large section of bridge below Sycamore slowly began to crumble as the wood split at the seams and began to fall down to the Earth with the tangled mess of steel beams. The original part of the bridge that connected to land was fine, but the gap between the hole and the other side of the bridge was massive, being at least ten yards away. The small amount of Pokémon left on the other side of the bridge backed away, watching in horror as the bridge began to collapse. I stood back at first from the collapsing part of the bridge, yet as I saw Sycamore slowly falling on top, I knew I had to help. Immediately, I rushed to the edge of the cracks, fell to my knees, and reached down in one last ditch effort to grab him before the bridge took him down with the rubble. My leg screamed in pain, but I neglected it as I stretched out as far as I could and called out to him,

“Sycamore! Grab my hand!” Sycamore had long since fainted and was unresponsive. I tried to grab him with my extended hand, hoping for the best, but he was just out of reach. “Sycamore!!” I cried as he descended lower and lower. Suddenly, a yellow and gray character zipped in front of me and scooped up Sycamore before the section of bridge fully collapsed to the ground. I watched as Uxie struggled to bring Sycamore’s limp, fainted body down next to me. Uxie came to the rescue just in time, right as a huge dust cloud erupted from below with a terrible metal screech, completely shrouding the mainland.

“Uxie! Thank you so much… I thought Sycamore was a goner after I couldn’t reach him. I think… I think I’m going to give him the Starf Berry.”

“You may do whatever you so please with the berry, but might I add that I agree with you. Without Sycamore, there is no one to fight Guzzlord. Although as soon as possible would be the time to use it, I believe we should not let our guard down. Guzzlord will surely attack us; like he is doing now!” We turned to see Guzzlord preparing a Dark Pulse, aiming it right at Uxie. He let it out an instant after I looked over.

“Uxie! Look out!” Instead of trying to dodge or use a counterattack, Uxie hopped in front of Sycamore, holding him in his grasp and shielding him from the worst of the blast. The Dark Pulse hit Uxie dead on and almost instantaneously, sent both him and Sycamore backwards over the gap and into the dust. However, Guzzlord wasn’t just aiming for Uxie and Sycamore. He shot the Dark Pulse down more so it would hit the bridge underneath as well. And as it did so, the bridge groaned from down below and shook, as the wood boards below snapped and the metal below crunched under the pressure. I reacted fast, and leapt for the part of the bridge that was still stable, but ended up accidentally putting too much weight on my left leg. Immediately, the pain shot through me and I cut my jump short in reaction, not getting enough height. I yelped in panic and reached out as far as I could, latching onto another part of the metal rails, dangling over the abyss below.

“H-Help! Uxie, somebody!” I called out. But my voice was lost in the sound of the collapsing bridge. With no one to assist me, I felt the loneliness set in and my fear amplified. I tried to pull myself up, yet it was no use: I simply did not have enough strength to make it up after the fight with Darkrai. I stopped struggling and went limp to try and rest for a moment. Suddenly, the bridge started shaking in unison, almost like something was stepping towards me. Quickly noticing the vibrations weren’t changing, I inferred Guzzlord was stepping in place, trying to pry me off. And it was working too; my grip was faltering and I couldn’t hold on for much longer. My heart was pumping at a mile a minute, and thoughts raced through my mind since I was in a near life and death situation. I needed to make a decision quickly.

As my left hand slipped from the rung, I plunged it into my right pocket and pulled out the Starf Berry. Somehow, I was still uncertain if this was the time to use it, especially if Sycamore couldn’t get the aid I needed. But as the rail rung I was on nearly broke off under my weight and shifted down, causing me to lose my grip even more, I knew that I needed it more than ever. I didn’t hesitate to bite down hard into the weird fruit and my teeth nearly shattered, it was so hard. But I didn’t give up; I crunched down even harder and twisted, neglecting the terrible pain. Suddenly, a strange juice that seemed tasteless, but was filled with all flavor burst into my mouth. Every part of my tastebuds were stimulated: it was like I was tasting everything at a full course meal all at once, yet not actually eating any of the food. I wolfed down the rest of the berry, trying to gulp down the large pieces of hard rind. As soon as the last of the berry was gone and all that was left was a sticky juice on my fingers, I felt a change.

It was a weird sensation; almost weirder than tasting all the flavors at once. Every part of my body where there was an injury suddenly get red hot, and it almost felt like they were moving. In an instant, the last of my pain went away and a smile ran across my face. I felt stronger than I had ever before, as a rush of adrenaline jolted through me. Whatever that berry was made of, it certainly did the trick. Thanking Slowking in my head, I swung my sticky hand back onto the rail rung and re-tightened my grip in between Guzzlord’s footsteps.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, then tucked in my legs and swung my lower body under the bridge, right in between the small window of time between the footsteps. Then, using that momentum, I sprung backwards and used that little bit of height to reach for a new rung in the rails. I stretched forward as much as I could and used the last of my grip to grab on. I felt a new rung in my grip and I opened my eyes to see I was successful. I couldn’t believe what I’d just pulled off, but I knew I couldn’t sit and marvel at my accomplishment. I shimmied my way onto the bridge, pulled my legs over the sides, and slowly stood up once I was on stable ground, the adrenaline still pumping through my body.

After finally getting out of that predicament, I snapped back into reality and realized what was happening. For the first time in a while, I was alone and vulnerable; no one was here to save me now. I slowly looked up to see Guzzlord eyeing me again. He’d stopped stepping in place, probably respecting my ability to make it back alive. I gulped nervously as it let out a vicious roar, deafening me. My hands were clammy, sweat dripped down my head, and my body was telling me to run away. Yet, I couldn’t just flee. Although I was beyond scared and seemingly alone, I was far from giving up. Just because there was no one here to fight for me didn’t mean I wasn’t going to fight. Slowking’s words echoed in my head telling me to stay away from fighting Pokémon and Ultra Beasts myself, but there was too much at stake now. Since the portal was unguarded, now was the time to strike.

Sycamore, Dusty, Uxie, and Slowking too… This is it. I’m facing my fears and heading towards the portal by myself. I know it’s a big risk, but I know I’ll be alright. Thanks for everything… If we never see each other again… Keep the good memories close, okay? You all were my best friends, and nothing will ever change that.

I quickly thought before looking up at Guzzlord. Taking a deep breath, I clutched my hand into a fist. “Guzzlord! I’m going to give it my all! I will get to that portal, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me! Here I come!” Before sprinting off towards Guzzlord at full speed, a single tear falling out of my eye. I let out a battle cry of my own as I dashed towards the giant beast.

 

Although it was extremely injured, I knew Guzzlord was still going to put up some kind of fight. I figured it was going to try and grab me, so I was ready to duck and dodge if I needed to. There had to be some way to get around Guzzlord or get him to falter one way or another. And sure enough, just as one of his tendrils reached down towards me, I ducked and slid out of the way towards the right side of the bridge. I thought I was in the clear and finally around the giant beast, but Guzzlord began to turn and his spiky tail was headed right for my face. I reacted quickly, but could not stop, and instead leapt into the air and grabbed onto its tail. The force of him turning was too much for me however, and I was sent flying backwards towards the hole in the bridge.

Unable to move myself in the air, I bounced off the wood floor hard on my back and was shot back up. Knowing I was running out of bridge fast, I reached over mid air towards the rails in the middle, stretching as far as possible. I grabbed on just in time, right as my legs fell over the hole once more. I should’ve been very injured from the hard stop, but the Starf Berry was doing its best to protect me. I felt no pain as I quickly pulled myself back up and stood triumphantly in front of Guzzlord once more.

“You're going to have to do more than that!” I called out to him. Guzzlord looked a bit surprised, and let another roar that echoed through the area. Taking his battle cry as a challenge, I dashed back in, this time heading to the left. My plan was to hope he would slip up if I changed the way I faced him. Once again, I dodged under his grasp and hastily made my way to the left side, but he began to sweep again with his tail. I was hoping he would do that and got ready to jump again. I leapt up and grabbed on tight to its tail, yet this time I was prepared for the force of him swinging. Noticing I hadn’t gone flying, Guzzlord tried to shake me off by spinning in place, but I’d figured he would do something like that and clung on. The constant stepping of Guzzlord shook the already unstable bridge more, pushing it beyond its maximum capabilities.

As it continued to spin, I noticed I wasn’t getting dizzy, and assumed it was more magic of the berry. Smiling, I slowly edged towards its head using its large scales to climb. Once I neared its head, it began to reach for me with its smaller claw-like hands. I didn’t have much space to play with, so my first strategy was to jump up through its grip. As it reached for me with its first hand, I pulled off its body and jumped up, narrowly avoiding its grasp. However, I hadn’t put into account its spinning, and began to plummet back down towards the ground. Being around 14 feet in the air, a fall from this height would surely hurt, even with the Starf Berry. Knowing this, I tried to stay calm and adjusted my weight mid air, trying to aim myself towards its tail again, which was just coming around. Right before I was about to hit the ground, I safely latched onto the tail again, nearly missing.

Guzzlord stopped spinning, unsure where I’d gone. His tail was now facing the portal, and I knew I could easily slip away. I dropped off the tail and made a break for it, putting all my might into my speed. I sprinted as fast as I could towards the small portal. I didn’t dare look back as the portal got closer and closer.

I’m going to make it… I’m going to make it!

I called in my head as I got mere feet away. I lunged towards the portal to make sure I got there in time, but Guzzlord recovered and saw through my plan. The bridge creaked as the giant monster turned around and caught me in the air with its long claw tendril and brought me back towards it.

“No!” I yelped, trying to break free from its grip. Guzzlord brought me up to its face and roared again, showing its dominance. Yet I wasn’t worried, my master plan worked just the way I planned it. A splitting crack ruptured through the air as the bridge under Guzzlord gave its last breath. It began to crumble underneath the giant beast and fall into the valley below. Although it received plenty of damage, the part of the bridge with the portal on it stood strong. Guzzlord panicked, and tried to grab onto the sides of the bridge as support with his other free limbs, but there was nothing left. As his grip on me loosened, I timed my jump just right and leapt back towards where the portal was. I landed safely as Guzzlord went down with the collapsing bridge. It yelled out one last roar before it tumbled towards the ground. I covered my ears as the ear splitting sound of metal beams crashed into the valley below. An even bigger dust cloud emerged after the crash and covered the surroundings behind me even more.

 

I...I did it… But, Sycamore and Uxie...

I thought, panting from my daring escape. I took a quick second to catch my breath and calm down my racing heartbeat. The portal was right in front of me, unharmed and still open. I smiled knowing that Guzzlord was finally gone and I could make it to the Pokémon World, yet I couldn’t help but think about Sycamore. Part of me hesitated and wanted to find a way to go back and see if he was okay, yet the other part screamed for me to get into the portal. It was right there, and I could easily dart in. Still, I stood motionless, pondering my options.

N-No! I’ve got to keep going! I’ve got to get to the Pokémon World, no matter what!

I thought, pushing away the thoughts of Sycamore. I slowly walked forward, tears finally forming in my eyes. I was a fool however to think this battle was over. A Dark Pulse appeared from the dust cloud and smacked the beams at the edge of the bridge under the portal and the island began to give away. I fell to the ground, holding on for dear life as the last of the bridge collapsed beneath me. I reached towards the portal, but the ground underneath it cracked and chipped away, causing it to fall down into the valley below.

“No!” I called, as the bridge underneath me began to crack too. As it dropped I screamed, falling down into the mess. Suddenly, I felt something grasp around my arm and catch me before I fell into the valley. I looked up to see Sycamore grasping me, standing on the last bit of bridge that was still standing. “S-Sycamore!! What... What are you…?” I cried in disbelief and joy.

I got you, Nic!

He replied through telepathy. However, he still looked extremely injured and was covered from head to toe in bruises and cuts.

“How did you…”

Uxie healed with a spare Reviver Seed from one of the medics. Once he brought up to speed on what was happening, we heard the bridge give away, as well as Guzzlord’s final cry. Figuring Guzzlord had fallen, I rushed in despite my injures to see if you were okay.

“T-thank you. I would’ve fallen if you weren’t here.”

Any time, partner. And to think, you took Guzzlord down all by yourself! That is quite an accomplishment.

“Come on, I can’t take all the credit!” We both laughed for a second before realizing what was unfolding in front of us.

“But… The portal. It’s gone… Guzzlord sabotaged the island of bridge it was on.”

Not entirely. Look down.

Looking down, I saw that the portal was falling at a slower rate for some reason, almost like a feather. It must’ve been the material it was made out of that had this weird property. The portal was only down about twenty or thirty feet directly below me. I let out a relieved sigh once I saw the portal was okay, yet there was no way to get to it. There was no way to get down, and we were land locked on this small piece of bridge. Then, a troubling thought came into my head. My heart raced at the thought, but it was the only way I could see me getting to the portal in time.

“Sycamore… Did Uxie tell you about what happens next?”

...I have known since that night in Limestone… Slowking told you that he did not tell me… But that was not the truth. In reality, both Garbodor and I knew, yet we kept it locked away. I am dearly sorry for lying to you…

“It’s okay, Sycamore. I know you were just trying to help me out…” There was a pause as no one knew what to say next.

 “Sycamore… I don’t know how to say this… I think… I think it’s time. You need to drop me.”

Wh-what? You want me to what?

“Drop me down; I need to get to that portal! If we don’t do something soon, Guzzlord could wake up, or the Ultra Beasts could come back, or the bridge could even collapse more! We can’t wait any longer!”

N-No, I cannot! That is far too dangerous! You have risked your life too many times, and I cannot bear to see you lose it now!

Suddenly, I felt my emotions bursting out.

“Sycamore, you’ve got to let me go now! Don’t you see that the entire world is at stake?” Sycamore froze and stared at me, surprised by my outburst. “Now is not the time to think about my wellbeing! I know I’m risking my life for this, but if I don’t get to the Pokémon World now, there may not be another chance! Think about everyone who needs us more than ever! If I don’t make it to that portal, we will let everyone down! I can’t let that happen now, the end is right there!” I covered my mouth with my free hand and blushed, realizing what I’d just done. I yelled at my partner for the first time out blind anger. “W-wait, Sycamore… I didn’t-”

You are right. We must get you to that portal immediately.

“S-Sycamore…” He took a deep breath and looked directly into my eyes.

Nic… I do not want to say goodbye… After everything we have been through… I want to continue on being partners and travel together… Yet, a certain Pokémon told me that cannot be… By my best judgement… I will let you go.

Tears began to stream from his eyes and down into the valley below. I was crying too, but my tears were not of sadness. Instead they were tears of joy.

“Sycamore… I’m never going to forget you, no matter what. We will always be partners until the end of time. I swear that after I save the Pokémon World, I’ll come back and we can travel again. You, Dusty and I can all go together… But… That’s the future. You’ve got to drop me now.” Sycamore paused as the crying became more intense. He began sobbing and collapsed the the ground. “Goodbye, Sycamore. I’ll miss you.” A big smile ran across my face.

Nic… Good… Bye.

The grip around my hand loosened as I began my free fall. I didn’t bother screaming or even looking away. I stared up exclusively at Sycamore, the tears pouring from my eyes.

“LUCAR!” Sycamore howled out as we got farther and farther away from each other. A distinct shlorp sound surrounded me as the scene of the bridge faded away into a rainbow hued place, just like in Uxie’s dreams. I began to sob too now, my sad tears returning, falling through space. I finally made it. After everything I’d done on my journey, I finally reached my goal. I was one step closer to saving the Pokémon World. But… At what cost?


 

Chapter Text


 

As I fell down further and further away from the human world, I could not stop crying. All the memories of my adventures with Sycamore, Dusty, Slowking, and everyone else flashed in my head. I longed to be back on the first day that Pokémon arrived in the human world, but that day was history. In between my sobbing, a familiar voice called out to me.

Human… You made it…

I looked up to see Uxie floating with me in space. He fell at exactly my speed, making direct contact eye with me.

“U-Uxie! You’re… okay?” I muttered.

I told you not to worry about me, human. I received the help I needed after the attack, and recovered just fine… That Lucario of yours… He ran off right as he was revived.

“Sycamore… Saved me. He came to me one last time and took my hand before I fell.

I see… I assume you two said your goodbyes?

I was too distraught to say anything. All I could think about at that moment in time was everyone I left behind to make it to where I was now. I thought about Sycamore and Dusty all alone, without me. And that thought made me even sadder.

I can see you are grieving… However, we cannot sit idly by any longer. You will be sent to the Pokémon World now. You will arrive in the Penta Islands approximately one month ago, before The Dark One’s Blight was spread by the opening of the portal. It is your job by any means necessary to stop the opening of the portal to Ultra Space.

As the pain of the sadness enveloped me, I couldn’t take it anymore. Another outburst of emotion was imminent and I blurted out to Uxie.

“U-Uxie! I… I need you to do one thing for me before I go…”

Oh? And what might that be?

“I… I want you to erase my memory."

You… What?

“I can’t deal with the pain of leaving! Every second is agonizing knowing my partners are alone back home without me…! And I have a world to save, right? How can I do it when all I can think about is them? I can’t stop these feelings… But you may be able to…” Uxie paused for a moment staring directly into my eyes.

Human… I will let you know that all humans who pass over to the Pokémon World have their memories about their partners removed-

“No, no just them; everything! I want to forget about everything that happened since the day all Pokémon arrived in the human world! And no, I’m not certain about this! I… I want to keep thinking about all the good memories of my friends… But if I do… How will I be able to complete my task? I’ll be so stuck in the past, I won’t be able to fix the future… So please, before I change my mind…!”

...V-very well… Yet you are the first human to ask me to do this much. However, if this is what you desire, I will go through with it.

“W-wait! Can you let me think about them one last time before you let me go?”

Yes, of course. By the time you reach the Pokémon World, your memories of the past will be gone. You will know the basics, but your memory will be clear of anything that happened here.

“T-thank you Uxie. You’ve been too kind. Even though I won’t remember, please know how grateful I am for everything you’ve done for me. Without you, I would’ve never met my partners or gone on this whole adventure in the first place.”

Consider it nothing, human… And Nicolas, please understand that it wasn’t just me that got you where you are right now. You alone took on Guzzlord and won… By far, you are one of the most strongest-willed humans I have ever met.

I nodded as I was overrun with tears.

I will now open the portal to the Pokémon World. It may take a while for you to get there, but it will give you plenty of time to think about your journey. Please keep in mind that I will not be able to keep in contact with you in the new world. Fret not, as I have prepared guides for you to meet up with. And, I am fairly sure you can handle yourself; I just know you can. Farewell, Nicolas. It has been a pleasure working with you over these past couple weeks. Good luck!

As Uxie faded away into thin air, I felt as if I was dropping through the air at a higher speed. As I did so, I thought of my journey for the last time. All the memories of my partners and the friends I met along the way flooded back into my head, from the moment I met Sycamore, to the moment I fell into the portal. I said my goodbyes once more in my head and recollected on the good and bad times. My tears never stopped coming, but it was good to finally let my emotions loose. Suddenly, below me, a big blue hole opened and I thought I could see a new world emerge. As I slipped through into the Pokémon World, my sadness faded away, and so did the last of my regrets.

 

THE END

(To be continued?)