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Chapter 1: Escape

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon

5529B6C0-111A-4785-B838-1111148F591C.jpg

Summary:


Desperate to escape the lawless region of Orre, an ex-criminal named Wes attempts to leave both the desert and his past behind for good. Not all goes to plan, however, and soon he is caught in the middle of a dark and sinister plan that stirs quietly from the shadows.

Whispers of savage Pokemon, ruthless warlords, and a terrifying organization known as Cipher are rising from the sands, and Wes soon finds himself fighting to save the very region he was trying to forsake.


But demons from the past are cruel, and fighting corruption comes at a heavy price that not all are willing to pay.


Hey, hi, hello! Thanks for swinging by, and welcome to my first fanfic!

I decided to write about one of my favorite Pokémon games of all time, Pokemon Colosseum. I hope you'll enjoy taking this ride with me as I retell this fantastic story. As this is my first attempt at any kind of novelization, helpful feedback and critiques are more than welcome!

Please be advised that this story will have minor swearing, scenes of violence and death, and depictions of both Pokemon and child abuse. If any of these are sensitive topics for you, please use your discretion.

Last but not least, obvious disclaimer is obvious: I do not own Pokémon, but I do own my OCs.


  • Added extra details to the opening scene​
  • Added in the Skarmory chase​
  • Extra details in the cellar scene: Novo’s scar​




Chapter 1: Escape

Some would say that "barren" and "Orre" were the same thing.

It would only take a brief view of the landscape to see why. The desert region sprawled for miles, seemingly without end, with little to no life in sight. The sun blazed down mercilessly on the copper sands as the winds whistled aimlessly across them. The only sign of life was the occasional tumbleweed that rolled lazily on by.

One thing disrupted the flat expanse: a series of cliffs, tucked away from the sands, which formed a narrow canyon. At this canyon's mouth sat a large building—or, at least, something that barely qualified as one. The structure, though massive, almost looked more like a pile of poorly assembled pipes and scrap metal than an actual building. Like its surroundings, this, too, was a quiet and still place, with only the howling canyon winds to break the silence.

It wouldn't be quiet for long.

BOOOOM!

An earth-rending explosion shattered the stillness. Flames burst from a section of the dilapidated building, followed shortly by screams. People in dark uniforms emerged from the blazing building, their faces masks of panic and confusion. Among the chaos, no one seemed to notice one person in particular dashing away from the scene, with two Pokémon sprinting at his side.

"Go, go, GO!" the young man shouted at his companions as he raced for a beat-up motorcycle parked on the desert sand. He sprang nimbly onto the seat, revved the engine, and glanced quickly into the sidecar, where his two partners should have been safely seated—only to find his Umbreon watching him tersely.

He glanced over his shoulder and found his Espeon a few yards away, yipping loudly at the people fleeing the burning building, tail waving triumphantly in the air. He didn't speak Pokémon, but the runaway figured if he did, he would be hearing a choice selection of colorful insults.

"Neo, you idiot-"

"Espi-esp, esp, esp! Es-SPI!?" The Espeon's barks cut short in a yap of surprise as his trainer hauled him off his feet and shoved him under one arm. He sprinted back to the motorcycle and dumped the creature rather unceremoniously into the sidecar next to his brother, ignoring the Pokémon's cries of indignation.

"LEO! I'LL KILL YOU, BOY!"

A terrifying roar of rage sounded from behind the trio, and the trainer turned his head to see his least favorite person in the world: a massive, hulking man with no hair (though he made up for that with an impressive beard and eyebrows), charging straight toward them, his face red and contorted with unfathomable fury. Several others, clad in dark clothing like the rest, flanked him on either side.

Anger and bitter satisfaction alike swelled inside the trainer's chest. He faced his now-former boss with a growl.

"If you're going to threaten me," he said, "call me by my real name." He sneered. "It's Wes, by the way. In case you forgot."

The man roared again, this time too incensed to form any words. He barreled toward the trainer and his Pokémon with a murderous expression, but this wasn't Wes' main cause of concern: a flash of light emerged from a Pokéball at the man's belt and took the shape of a metallic bird. The Pokémon spread its wings, emitted a blood-curdling screech, and took to the sky.

It was time to go.

The motorcycle engine started with a roar, and in one smooth motion, Wes swept astride the motorcycle. He raised his left arm high above his head, sunlight glinting off a strange metal contraption that encased it. Holding a small remote in his hand, he looked his boss dead in the eye, smirked, and pressed the button.

KA-BOOOM!

The second explosion was, if possible, even more impressive than the first, and nearly knocked every bystander off their feet. The giant man's bellows of rage were drowned out by a monstrous roar as the motorcycle kicked into gear. Its rider slammed on the gas and he launched the bike forward, narrowly missing a dive-bomb from the enraged Skarmory, and soon the crowd of people were left in the dust.

Skarmory flew overhead, shrieking horribly as it gave chase. Wes shouted a command to his Pokémon, but he needn't have bothered—his Espeon had already charged up a Psybeam and fired it at his foe.

A metallic clang followed by another agonized screech told Wes that the Psybeam hit its mark. He glanced over his shoulder to see the bird tumbling out of the sky and down to the sands below.

He laughed and let out a whoop of celebration, his companions joining in with triumphant cries, and the trio plowed through the desert until the base and its inhabitants were long out of sight.

——————————————————————————————————

The sun was sinking below the horizon and the temperatures had started to drop by the time their destination came into view: an old, rusty, seemingly abandoned train car. Near the door, a wooden sign swung lazily in the desert breeze. On its face, it read: OUTSKIRT STAND. The crusty thing had been converted into a diner, and though it wasn't much to look at, it was a place Wes was familiar with. Most importantly, it was a place where they would be safe for the night.

He hoped.

The motorcycle puttered to a halt as Wes pulled up to the establishment. Dim lights shone through the train car windows as old Western music hummed from an outdoor speaker. Wes stood and stretched his limbs—speeding through the desert for hours did his joints no favors—as his Pokémon followed suit, leaping nimbly from the vehicle and stretching their lithe bodies.

"All right, who's hungry?" He pushed his mirrored goggles off his face and into his sandy hair, revealing a pair of golden-colored eyes, and grinned at the two Eeveelutions. His Umbreon gave a yip of hearty affirmation. His Espeon, on the other hand, squinted at him, then sniffed airily and turned his head away from his trainer.

"Spi."

Wes heaved a weary sigh. He crouched down in front of his Espeon to be eye level with him despite the fact that the Pokémon was pointedly avoiding his gaze. "Neo. Is this about me manhandling you back there?"

The Pokémon, Neo, irritably flicked his tail in response.

Another sigh. "Look, I'm sorry. But there's a time and a place for gloating over a victory, and doing so while escaping from an exploding building is not it."

Neo flicked his ears back and looked at the ground, looking slightly abashed. "Esp." He then looked back up at his trainer with a small glare. "Espi-esp!"

"I know, I shouldn't have been so rough. I'm sorry, bud, really. How can I make it up to you?" Wes glanced at the Outskirt Stand, then back at his Pokémon with a sly grin. "How about I get you a whole plate of bacon and we call it even. Truce?"

Neo's eyes grew wide and he leaped to his feet. "Es-PI!" He waved his tail excitedly in the air, all injuries to his pride forgotten.

"Bri!" There was a reproachful bark from the Umbreon.

Wes rolled his eyes, but was still grinning despite himself. "Fine, fine, bacon for everybody. Don't get used to it though, you hear? This is a one-time deal."

He wasn't sure if they heard the last line, as they were already bounding excitedly to the entrance of the train car. Wes snorted in exasperated amusement, then followed his companions into the warmth of the diner.

—————————————————————-————————————-

Muffled cries, the screams of Pokémon, a child sobbing quietly in a corner - images and sounds flickered and blurred together, one coming right after the other as if in a disorganized photo reel.

A flicker, and there was a dark room, in which a child was sobbing over the limp form of a Pokémon's body. He looked up, tear-stained face twisted with anger. "This is YOUR FAULT!" he screamed.

The scene dissolved into darkness, and a man's husky, menacing voice spoke in a snarl. "It's time you learned this lesson, boy."

Another shift, another dark room littered with Pokémon lying ominously still, limbs splayed out in awkward angles—and there was another voice, a kinder voice, accompanied by a sad, tired smile.

"Do good, kid."


He sat bolt upright with a gasp, drenched in sweat and shivering. Breathing heavily, he glanced around the room. It took a moment to remember where he was: Outskirt Stand. The diner cellar. A night's stay in the musty place, where he and his Pokémon would be hidden from prying eyes.

Safe.

"Dammit—" He buried his face in his trembling hands. Again, he thought shakily. Again. When in Arceus' name will they stop?

He felt a gentle nudge at his arm, and raised his head to see his Umbreon looking up at him with wide, concerned eyes. "Umbri?" The markings on his coat glowed softly, gently illuminating the dark, dusty cellar.

Wes forced a feeble smile and placed a hand on the sleek black head. "I'm okay, Novo. Just some more bad dreams, is all." Beside him, Neo stirred and stretched out his legs before relaxing back into sleep with a gentle purr.

Novo, unconvinced, bunted into his arm again with his head. He placed a paw on his trainer's lap, giving him a stern stare.

"I know it'll help, bud, but I've got to be able to sleep on my own sometime." Wes closed his eyes briefly. He was exhausted, and yet returning to sleep would undoubtedly mean more nightmares, more voices, more things he'd rather forget...he opened his eyes again and looked at his Umbreon. "All right...just one more night," he said wearily.

Novo purred in response and brushed his face against Wes' shoulder. The two sat in silence for a moment, Novo leaning into him as Wes stroked the Umbreon's sleek black fur. He paused at Novo's left side, fingers brushing at old scars that he knew were still there, despite the fact that they were nearly invisible under the dark coat.

More memories flashed through Wes' mind, and he couldn't suppress the shiver that followed. Novo, sensing his trainer's distress, chirped and brushed against him again. Wes sighed and finally laid back down in his sleeping bag, closing his eyes. His Umbreon touched his nose to his forehead and purred gently, using Hypnosis.

Just before drifting off to a dreamless sleep, Wes had one last coherent thought.

The sooner we leave this region, the better.
 
Last edited:

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
Orre fic!! So hard to come by; always a treat.

I always forget that Colo begins with buildings exploding and a trenchcoat guy literally yeeting off into the sunset. It's certainly a catchy opening and it lets you introduce a lot of compelling questions: who is Wes? What does he want? Where is he going? Did our protagonist really open with blowing up a building, and if so, why? It's a great way to draw readers into the action right away, but I also think closing on the quieter note with Novo helping him fall to sleep is an important one: stories are ultimately about characters, after all.

I really like how you give the pokemon a bit more agency and personality here! Game novelizations are always tricky to pull off, and I'd say Colosseum in particular would be a pain since a lot of the middle plot is just going to various buildings and battling--it's not even a question of making things surprising for readers, and it's more a question of just how to make this sprawling plot kind of interesting from a non-playable perspective. You have a few major plot beats to go off of at the beginning and the end, and the character designs are certainly spectacular, but the middle is just so big and empty--a nice blank slate that I think has to be carried by the weight of Wes + friends' characters here. I really like that you give Neo and Novo their own little moments here, and how Neo even acts in a way that freaks Wes out! Wes spends so much time without other human companions that I think it'd be hard to build a compelling story without giving him someone to bounce off of, so I'm glad that you're setting up his pokemon to fill that role.

Looking forward to seeing how you flesh this story out!

some line-by-line thoughts below:
The desert Region sprawled for miles, seemingly without end, with little to no life in sight.
I like the characterization of the region here + in this chapter in general--it's easy to write Orre off as a non-descript desert, but desert biomes are really interesting! Taking the time to outline the rocky canyon where the Snagem base is really helps set up the immersion a little bit.

Among the chaos, no one seemed to notice one person in particular sprinting from the building, with two Pokémon sprinting at his side.
The double "sprinting" here was a bit weird to me. Perhaps replace one of them with a different verb, or just change to "Among the chaos, no one seemed to notice one person and two Pokemon in particular sprinting from the building".

“Go, go, GO!” The young man shouted at his companions as he ran straight for a massive hunk of metal that vaguely resembled a motorcycle. He sprang nimbly onto the seat and glanced into the sidecar to where his two partners should have closely followed.
Likewise there was a lot of "sprung/sprang between this sentence and the one before it. I also thought that "vaguely resembled a motorcycle" is kind of a tricky description--Wes surely knows what the real name is, his bike doesn't really look like a motorcycle, and the narration later refers to this as a motorcycle anyway, so the uncertainty here didn't feel necessary.

The second explosion was, if possible, even more impressive than the first, and nearly knocked every bystander off their feet.
I wish we had a little more scene-setting here! This was the first time I realized there were bystanders beyond Gonzap.

The Pokémon, Neo, irritably flicked his tail in response.

Another sigh. “Look, I’m sorry. But there’s a time and a place for gloating over a victory, and doing so while escaping from an exploding building is not it.”
I really really loved these bits of characterization here--as mentioned before, I think the meat of novelizations are ironically when people stray from the script. What personalities will these guys have? I love that Neo's got a little sass, and Novo's doing his best to support Wes through all of this.

Neo’s eyes grew wide and he leaped to his feet. “Es-PI!” He waved his tail excitedly in the air, all injuries to his pride forgotten.
Bri!” There was a reproachful bark from the Umbreon.
accidentally dropped a paragraph break here I think

He forced a feeble smile and placed a hand on the sleek black head. “I’m okay, Novo. Just some more bad dreams, is all.” Beside him, Neo stirred and stretched out his legs before relaxing back into sleep with a gentle purr.


Novo, unconvinced, bunted into his arm again with his head. He placed a paw on his Trainer’s lap, giving him a stern stare.
and I think the extra one landed here!
 

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
Oh my goodness THANK YOU for this review!! I have lots of exciting plans for this story so I’m so happy to have even one reader :) your constructive feedback is much appreciated! Lots of things that I didn’t pick up on and will pay attention to in later chapters. I may edit a few of the wording choices in this one thanks to your advice!
And yes, for some reason when pasting the story into the text box, the paragraph breaks kept jumping all over the place as I edited! It was very strange. Hopefully I’ll get used to it.
And as for the middle of the story...don’t worry, I have an entire outline and I’m very happy with the way I plan to have things unfold! Every character from the game is going to get some extra development and screen time - and honestly, I’ve been having a BLAST developing them all and getting to know them as I write. (I am several chapters in already, and will be posting one chapter a day here until I’ve caught up to where I am on other sites.)
Your review means SO much to me! Orre is not a region that gets much attention, and therefore my fic hasn’t garnered much traffic (yet, hopefully!). Any time a reader takes a moment to post a review, I am over the moon! Thank you, and I hope you enjoy what’s to come! (Chapter 2 is coming tomorrow 😉)
 
Chapter 2: Interference

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
C88CBBCF-CE0C-403D-B8E7-D71901321E07.jpeg

  • Extra detail: Wes’ knife​
  • Edited Willie’s intro scene and removed the battle​
  • Mentioned Rui’s height​
  • Rui mentions Celebi​
  • Small details added about Phenac City​





Chapter 2: Interference

Wes was awakened the following morning by the sound of footsteps and chatter from the diner overhead. He sat up, stretched, and was slowly gathering his bearings when a familiar smell wafted to his nose...

Bacon.

He groaned. "Aw, hell—"

"ESPI!"


He was pushed flat on his back as his Espeon leaped at him, eyes wide, tail wagging in excitement. "Espi! Epsi, espi, espi, espi, espi!"

"No
, Neo." Wes shoved the Pokémon off of him with a grumble. "I gave you and Novo plenty of bacon last night. One-time deal, remember?"

At the sound of his name and "bacon" being used in the same sentence, the Umbreon lifted his head and yawned. "Umbri?" He pricked his ears forward and gave his trainer a hopeful look.

"I said no, guys." He donned a teal trench coat that fell past his knees and began to pack up his belongings, pausing only to give them a stern look. "Last night was a special treat, but today we have to get on the road as quickly as possible, which means nothing fancy for breakfast. And that's final."

Naturally, not ten minutes later, he found himself sitting across from his Pokémon in the diner, watching them each chow down a fresh plate of bacon.

Despite all his griping, he did relish the opportunity to spoil his partners. Bacon—or any decent food, for that matter—was hard to come by, and therefore was practically a delicacy. Under normal circumstances, he would have had to resort to swiping table scraps for all three of them, but thanks to the cash he'd snatched from the hideout, he could afford to dote on his Pokémon just a little. After yesterday, he figured they deserved it anyway.

The diner was just as shabby on the inside as it was outside. Still, there was a homey feel about the place, peeling wallpaper and rusty metal windows notwithstanding. The smells of various breakfast foods drifted through the air while the signature Western music played quietly in the background. On the wall across from where they sat was a flatscreen TV, arguably the most modern thing about the place. It was showing some old, obscure cartoon that nobody seemed to be watching.

Through the grimy window next to their booth, Wes could see two men laughing and talking amongst themselves, seemingly rejuvenated after a hearty meal. They continued laughing as they entered their vehicle—an old hover truck of some sort. Neo paused from his feast to watch them intently, his ears pricked forward, eyes trained on a large burlap sack that rested in the truck bed. His gaze remained steadfastly fixed on them, and he only returned his attention to his plate after they drove away and out of sight.

Wes, meanwhile, had turned his attention elsewhere. He ate his breakfast quietly while discreetly scanning the occupants of the place. It was relatively empty, with only a middle-aged woman seated up front, dozing quietly in her booth, and a gruff-looking man stretched out at his own booth in the back, face obscured by his cowboy hat. The diner owner could be heard whistling from the kitchen behind the counter at the very front of the train car. No signs of immediate danger, it seemed. Still, he was anxious for them to be on their way.

"Here's the plan," he muttered quietly to his Pokémon. They both looked up at him from empty plates, licking the last remnants of bacon grease from their muzzles. "We'll head to Phenac to stock up on supplies, and head straight to Gateon from there. It'll take us a handful of days, but if we only stop for occasional breaks, we should make it in good time. And then, if all goes well, I can get a passport there and we'll be out of Orre. For good."

Those last two words felt like a breath of fresh air to him. They were so close now, he could almost taste it. Soon, very soon, they would be rid of this disease-ridden, Arceus-forsaken desert, and they would be free.

Neo chirped softly in agreement while his brother nodded, looking resolute. Wes couldn't help but smile softly and give them each a rub behind the ear. He'd never been much for people, but his partners more than made up for that. As far as he was concerned, there was no need for human company when his Pokémon were far and away better than any humans he'd bothered with.

"We bring this breaking news to you live from Eclo Canyon—"

A female reporter's voice blared suddenly from the TV and interrupted his thoughts. He turned his head and felt his chest freeze: raw footage was being displayed on the screen, footage of a familiar metal building, now reduced to shambles and a pile of smoking debris. The diner owner poked his head from the kitchen and, upon seeing the report, grabbed a remote from the counter and cranked up the volume. The woman up front snorted awake at the noise, and soon everyone present was watching intently.

"Reports of an explosion yesterday have led investigators and authorities to this building, which has now officially been confirmed as the home base for Team Snagem. The scene was already abandoned by the time authorities arrived, and no casualties have been confirmed. The cause of the explosion remains unknown.

"Team Snagem is infamous for its involvement in theft, property destruction, and Pokémon trafficking. Authorities have been unsuccessful in shutting down the organization..."


"Hah!"

Wes gave a start as the gruff man from the back barked out a laugh. "Serves 'em right, the rotten thieves! Shoulda blown the whole lot of 'em away!" He rose to his feet and stretched.

"Aye, I'll level with ya there." The owner nodded approvingly as he spoke, and the woman up front gave a disdainful sniff.

"I don't understand how authorities haven't at least made some progress," she said. "Whoever bombed that shack has done more than they have in thirty years!"

Wes turned back to his plate and inhaled deeply, willing his heart to stop racing so fast. He glanced uneasily at the metal sleeve that covered his left arm from his shoulder to his wrist. The existence of Snag Machines—particularly this Snag Machine—was not public knowledge, and his identity was safe for now.

At least, it should be...the bartender knew Wes as a regular, but not well enough to be suspicious. And, worst case scenario...Wes reached under his coat and brushed his fingers against the hilt of the knife he kept strapped to his belt. Well, "knife" was bit of a generous term for the thing—it was an old Skarmory feather that he'd strapped to a makeshift hilt. Not exactly the most conventional blade, but it had served its purpose on more than one occasion just fine.

The feather itself had come from none other than Gonzap's own Skarmory, and as much as Wes hated that bloodthirsty bird, he felt a strange sense of satisfaction at being able to weaponize part of something that had once terrorized him.

Yes...he, Neo and Novo had fought their way out of hell once, and they could fight their way out of this place if they needed to. Although, there was no need to resort to violence if it could be avoided. All he needed to do was get moving as quickly as possible—

"Howdy, stranger!" A hand clapped on his shoulder, and he found himself jumping again. Inwardly cursing, he turned his head to see the man from the back now standing beside him, grinning down at him. "Those are some mighty fine Pokémon ya got there!"

Wes shrugged off the man's hand and eyed him darkly. "Can I help you?" He growled.

The man chuckled and removed his hat, revealing a surprisingly young-looking face and a head of pink hair—pink hair? He offered a hand to the younger trainer. "Name's Willie. Yours?"

He did not shake his hand. "Wes," he answered curtly.

Willie withdrew his hand, though he didn't seem to take any offense from Wes' rudeness. "Mighty fine name. You come to these parts often?"

What did this man want from him? "On occasion," Wes said curtly.

His terse responses must have given Willie a clue, as he stepped back and tipped his hat to him. "Well, pardon me for interruptin' your meal. Was a pleasure meetin' you." He then walked up to the front counter to pay for his meal, then exited the diner.

Wes let out a breath and slowly eased his hold on the knife. He hadn't even realized he'd been gripping it so tightly.

He finished his meal quickly, his senses now on high alert after the newscast. It wouldn't do for them to stay here any longer.

He stepped into the bright sunlight after paying for his meal, then made straight for his motorcycle with Neo and Novo trotting happily on either side. He was halfway there when a shout stopped him in his tracks.

"Hey, stranger! Care for a battle before you go?"

Wes turned his head to see Willie leaning up against the diner, a cigarette in his hand and two Zigzagoon at his feet. The sunlight made his bright pink hair even more shocking to look at, and Wes quietly snorted to himself in disbelief. Pink hair. Unbelievable. Not that he had much of a right to mock strange hair color—his own was such a light, platinum blonde, it was often mistaken for silvery white. Still, at least he could blame genetics instead of poor decisions.

Willie eyed the metal contraption on his arm, but if the stranger thought anything of it, he said nothing. After all, eccentric fashion choices weren't unusual in Orre. The man did, however, squint his eyes a little as he observed the tattoo on Wes' face; a thin white line that went across the bridge of his nose from one cheekbone to the other. Wes was not unused to strange looks at his face, and while stares in general made him uneasy, he'd learned to shrug it off. Still, he sighed a little at the man's scrutinizing look. Speaking of bad decisions...but no, it was better this way. Tattoo or no, he would have been stared at anyway; his choices had been either a nasty scar or this tattoo to cover it up, and he'd chosen the latter.

Wes looked back at the man and shook his head. "No. We have somewhere to be—"

"Aw, don't be like that! We can make it quick." Willie gestured to his Pokémon. "They could really use the training, see."

Novo perked up his ears, and Neo flicked his tail, eyes gleaming with excitement. Wes supposed it had been a while since they'd had a chance to battle—properly, anyway. He figured battling while on the job for Snagem hadn't really counted, considering the main goal had been thievery and not victory.

But—no. He couldn't afford to waste time, not with Snagem at his heels, and especially not after that broadcast. The clock was ticking.

"I said no," Wes said a little more forcefully. "We don't have time for a battle. Sorry."

Willie looked disappointed, but he merely shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well, can't be helped, I s'pose. You in a hurry, then?"

"Yes." Wes hopped on his vehicle and turned to face the man as his Pokémon followed behind. He noticed Neo glancing back at the Zigzagoon over his shoulder and walking with a particular swagger, as if attempting to flaunt his superiority to his would-be foes.

Show-off.

Novo remained calm and stoic as ever, faithfully watching his trainer for any commands as he settled next to his brother with a dignified air.

"Do you know the fastest route to Phenac from here?" Wes asked Willie.

"Phenac, eh? You gonna take on the Pre-Gym there? You certainly look tough enough." When Wes didn't reply, he shrugged and pointed the way. "Head that direction and you'll be there by early afternoon. It's mostly a straight shot."

Wes nodded his thanks. He was about to start his motorcycle when a thought occurred to him, and he turned back to the other trainer. "Hey."

"Yeah?" Willie grinned at him again. Such open friendliness from a total stranger. He was far too naive for this place.

"You should be more careful about who you challenge to battle. Your Pokémon are easy targets, and there are still plenty of Snaggers out there." He pulled his goggles over his eyes and gripped the handlebars tightly with gloved hands. "Don't pick fights you have no chance of winning." With that, the motorcycle roared to life and he drove off, leaving a bemused trainer in his wake.

—————————————————————————————————————

Phenac City was often referred to as "the jewel of the desert", and it was easy to see why. Laid out in a circular pattern, with the tallest buildings at the northernmost top of the circle, the city gleamed with white stone and crystalline waterfalls flowing along the streets. The desert sun reflected off the sparkling water and white structures, making it blindingly bright to look at.

To Wes, it was a literal eyesore.

Perhaps he simply wasn't used to such pristine buildings and clean streets. His life had consisted of dirt, sweat, and rust, and none of those things seemed to belong in such a perfect place as Phenac. Plus, there was an air of false grandeur about the place that repulsed him, particularly in the way its citizens liked to flaunt Pokémon as symbols of status. Snagem may have shipped stolen Pokémon around like merchandise, but in Wes' opinion, Phenac was hardly any better. He'd preferred to avoid it on his previous missions if he could help it, but today's errands made it a necessary destination.

We won't be here for long, Wes told himself as he and his partners walked to the city gate. Just head to the market, grab supplies, and get back on the road. In and out. Simple.

The desert winds billowed the tails of his blue trench coat behind him as he, Neo, and Novo approached the city gate. Neo swatted playfully at the swaying fabric before bounding ahead to be at the front of the group, where he usually preferred to be.

They had just stepped through the entrance and started their way to the center of town when Wes saw the Espeon stop dead in his tracks. He didn't think much of it and continued walking; random things caught Neo's attention all the time. He did stop, however, when he heard a soft, alarmed chirp behind him. "Spi!"

Wes glanced over his shoulder to see his Espeon standing stiffly, fur on end. He was facing away from his trainer, ears forward, eyes focused on two men in the shadows near the city wall. They were hefting a large burlap sack between them, and were muttering under their breath, glancing about warily.

"Neo?" Wes asked quietly. He approached his Pokémon and knelt beside him, Novo close behind. "What's wrong?"

"Espi." Neo looked at Wes with wide eyes, then back at the men in the shadows. "Esp!"

Wes observed the pair with narrowed eyes. He vaguely recognized the truck parked against the wall and remembered seeing it briefly at the Outskirt Stand. He gave Neo a questioning look. The Espeon continued to stare forward, body rigid, and growled softly.

Perhaps it was obvious, or maybe Wes' personal history had taught him the signs; either way, it was clear to him that these men were not up to anything wholesome, and everything about their demeanor screamed, "shady business."

He got to his feet with a sigh and turned away. "Not our business, bud. We're here to get away from those kinds of people, remember?"

"Es-piiii!" He felt teeth tugging at the hem of his pants and saw Neo gripping the black fabric in his mouth, looking up at him with a pleading expression.

"What's the matter with you?" Wes asked irritably. Since when had his Espeon developed such a strong moral compass? "We can't stop every shady person in town. Leave that to authorities or something. Let's go."

"Bri, umbri." This time Novo chimed in, looking up at his trainer with urgency.

"Both of you, now?" Exasperated, Wes turned one last look at the suspicious men. They had set down the sack and now appeared to be quietly arguing with one another—but they weren't the ones who held his attention this time.

The burlap sack was moving.

"Oh, for Arceus' sake." He ran a hand through his sandy hair and looked down at Neo and Novo. "What, they have a Pokémon or something?" Neo's tail lashed, and Novo flattened his ears against his head. He frowned at them. "Not a Pokémon? Then what...?"

Oh.

He looked at the sack again. Whatever—no, whoever—was in the sack was struggling fiercely, which prompted a bark and a kick from one of the men.

Merciful Arceus, he thought. Kidnappers? In broad daylight? In Phenac City, no less? Even for Orre's standards, it was rather bold. He glanced back at his distressed Pokémon and sighed. They had come here for a pit stop, nothing more. They had a long road ahead, a city to get to, an unforgiving region to leave behind forever. He had absolutely no obligation to interfere in what was clearly a messy situation, especially considering they were in enough hot water as it was.

Let someone else handle it, he thought. Preferably someone who didn't have an entire gang of thugs out for their blood.

"Not our business," Wes said again, and turned away. "Let's go."

He only made it two steps before Neo sprang in front of him, fur bristling, giving his trainer a hard, burning stare. Novo stood cautiously at Wes' side; Wes knew the Umbreon would go along with whatever plan his trainer thought best, especially if it was the safer route. Neo, however, seemed to have his own agenda at the moment.

"Move."

"Esp."

The two glared each other down for a moment, Novo glancing between them. Wes had all but made up his mind to return Neo to his Pokéball when his brother stepped forward, cautiously moving between them, and looked intently into Wes' eyes.

"Oh, for the love of—" Wes turned on his heel and made his way towards the old hover truck, swearing under his breath. "Fine." His every instinct screamed at him to walk away and to never think about those men again, and as much as he wanted to listen, he couldn't bring himself to say no to the pleading stares of his Pokémon. "This is the only time, got it? Don't make me pretend to be some hero."

Neo and Novo chirped and strode eagerly at his heels.

Wes could hear their conversation as he approached. "Wha' do you mean, take a rest? We're almost there!"

"I'm tired, man. An' shouldn't we bunker down till nightfall anyhow? This lil scrap ain't making it easy for us, and I don't want to cause no scene." The second man glared down at the wriggling sack.

"I'll cause a scene!" The first man snarled. His eyes were shielded by his own pair of sunglasses, and some blonde hair could be seen poking out from under his dark beanie. "We're gonna cash in on this haul today, an' I don't care how tired you are! I ain't keeping this extra baggage longer than I have to!"

"Pipe down, Trudly!" his partner hissed. "We can't go around shoutin' our business, someone might hear us—"

"Someone like me, for instance?"

The pair whipped around to find Wes standing a few yards away, arms folded, his companions at his side. The first man, Trudly, addressed him in a low growl.

"Listen, kid, I dunno what you heard, but you best keep to your own business if you know what's good for you."

Wes raised an eyebrow. "Very scary. Consider me intimidated."

Trudly snarled and took a step forward, but his partner reached out an arm and stopped him. "Ain't nothin to see here, stranger. We're just delivery men doin' our route. Now get gone." He glared at Wes through a pair of orange goggles that matched the absurd color of his hair.

"Funny, I don't recall people being a common delivery item," Wes remarked. Both of the men paled. "Would your 'route' happen to include some sort of human trafficking ring?"

The sack wriggled again, and this time muffled shouts could be heard coming from inside. The second man swore vehemently and gave the bag another kick, producing a yelp from their captive. "Damn it all," he spat at Wes, "You just had to stick your nose where it don't belong! We'll make you sorry, boy!"

He stepped forward and summoned his Pokémon in a flash of white light. Two Whismur hopped forward, tensed for battle. Despite their readiness to fight, it was hard to find the pink, rotund things menacing. Wes snorted. "Is that all you got?"

"You cocky little—" The trainer's lip curled, and he bellowed at his Whismur. "UPROAR!"

"Neo, Novo, charge up!" Wes barely had time to give the command before the opposing Pokémon launched their assault. The brothers responded immediately to the veiled phrase, having executed it hundreds of times before.

Neo's forehead jewel gleamed, and a silvery Protect shield formed around him, blocking the Whismurs' attacks completely. Novo, however, braced himself and took the hit - he tumbled backwards, then scrambled back to his feet and howled. Neo's fur bristled and his eyes gleamed as he gained strength from his brother's Helping Hand.

"Neo, Confusion! Novo, Bite!"

They lunged forward. The opposing trainer bellowed commands, and both Whismur hurled themselves at the empowered Espeon. Novo intercepted a Headbutt from one, staggered briefly, then returned a fierce Bite, fangs tearing into the pink Pokémon. The Whismur's battle cries turned to shrieks as the Umbreon flung his opponent and sent it rolling through the dirt. The second Whismur failed to reach Neo before it, too, was sent flying from his Confusion attack.

"Switch!" Wes' voice sounded from behind.

In a synchronized motion, Neo and Novo gracefully moved across the white stones, each one targeting the others' former opponents. The Whismur struggled to their feet as their trainer called for another Uproar. The resulting attack screamed through the air, piercing their foes' ears, but it hardly mattered - the Espeon and Umbreon were already upon them. With a final Bite and Confusion, the Eeveelutions sent their foes tumbling backwards. The Whismur rolled to a stop at their trainer's feet, and this time they didn't get back up.

"HAH?!" Trudly roared in fury at his partner, who stood frozen in shock. "Was that the best you could do against some scrap off the street? You're an embarrassment!"

"You're no better," replied Wes dryly. Neo and Novo trotted triumphantly back to him, and he crouched down to rub their ears. Trudly spat a colorful insult at him in response.

"What do we do, Trudly?" The orange-haired man's eyes were wide with fear as he returned his Pokémon and addressed his partner. "M-maybe we should run—"

"Shut your trap, Folly! Don't throw around my name here! We can't have everybody knowin' who we are!"

"...but you just said my name!"

Trudly blanched. "Aw, hell—"

"What in Arceus' name is going on here?" A female voice drew everyone's attention. A middle-aged woman stood a cautious distance away, watching the scene with frightened eyes. A young man in jogging gear walked up beside her, frowning.

"I'd like to know that myself!" he said.

Wes stood, staring Trudly and Folly in the eyes as he responded to the people behind him. "These guys are kidnappers," he said simply. "And thought they could get away with it."

"What?" The woman cried. "Do you mean—are you sure—oh!" She gasped in horror at the sight of the still wriggling sack.

Folly swore loudly and grabbed Trudly by the arm, hauling him towards the hover truck. "Time to bail, man!" He glowered at Wes, who returned his gaze nonchalantly. "I'll remember you, kid!"

Wes smirked. "Aw, how cute."

The men broke into a sprint and hopped into their truck. The young athlete yelled and started forward, but he only made it a few steps before the truck roared alive and hauled away, plowing recklessly to the city entrance. He turned to Wes in frustration. "We—we have to stop them!"

Wes shook his head. "They'll be long gone by the time we can give chase. No point in that."

"Can you boys help me with this knot?" The woman had rushed to the sack and was frantically pulling at the rope tied around its mouth. The young man sprinted over to help, but Wes hesitated. He had half a mind to walk away right then and there—he'd done his duty, after all—but then decided, more out of curiosity than anything else, that he might as well stay to make sure the victim was all right.

The knot was, in fact, relentlessly tight. Even with two people working at it, it refused to give way. Wes brushed them aside and called for Novo, who stepped forward and gnawed at the rope. Within seconds, the rope was severed, and the woman swooped in to open the sack.

A girl burst out of the sack, gasping great gulps of air. Most of her red hair was pulled up into two pigtails, and the rest of it was drenched in sweat and plastered to her face. In fact, she was almost entirely drenched in sweat—not surprising, as Wes couldn't imagine how hot it must have been inside the stifling burlap.

"Oh, you poor dear!" The woman reached out and pulled the girl's blue and pink jacket from her shoulders in an attempt to cool her off. "Those monsters, how could they do this to you?"

The girl looked around, taking in her surroundings. She seemed incredibly disoriented. "Wh-where—?" She broke off in a coughing fit. The Phenac woman placed an arm around her shoulders and tutted with concern.

"You poor, poor thing—do either of you have water?" She asked Wes and the boy beside him.

Wes shook his head, but the athlete promptly answered, "I do!" He procured a water bottle from his pack, crouched beside them, and handed it over. The girl, still gasping for air, gave him a weak smile and took it from him. She opened it with shaky hands and raised it to her lips.

"You need to take small sips." Wes surprised himself by speaking. What did he care? Why had he bothered to stick around this long? Why hadn't he left already? "You're probably really dehydrated, so don't drink it all at once or you'll make yourself sick."

The girl gave him a shaky nod and did as he advised, sipping carefully from the bottle. Her hands were trembling so badly that the woman beside her reached out and helped keep them steady. "To answer your question, you're in Phenac City, dear," she said kindly. "Would you mind telling us who you are? Perhaps there's someone we can call for you?"

The girl lowered the water bottle and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "My name is Rui," she said, her voice now steadying. "Rui Everlin." She looked between the woman and the boy beside her and smiled at them—a surprisingly genuine one, Wes thought, considering what she had just been through and how badly shaken she was. "Thank Celebi you were here to help me...I don't know how to repay you!"

Celebi? Wes frowned a little. He'd scarcely ever heard people swear by that name. He noticed the woman and the boy beside him exchange surprised looks, and wondered if they were thinking the same thing as him: She's not one of those crazy believers, is she?

The athlete simply shrugged. "Well, we didn't do much," he admitted as he turned back to the girl. He gestured to Wes. "He's the one who did all the work and chased those thugs off. It was real impressive, too, you should have seen it!" He gave Wes a look of shining admiration, which made him feel rather uncomfortable.

The girl named Rui looked up at him with shockingly bright blue eyes. She beamed at him with radiant gratitude. "Thank you—thank you so much! And you are?"

Wes paused. Giving out his name to perfect strangers was not on his list of things he wanted to do today—but then again, rescuing a kidnapping victim hadn't made it on that list, either. "Wes," he said shortly. He didn't offer his full name and was grateful when she didn't ask for one.

"I'm Dash," said the young man. He and the woman helped the girl to her feet, and Wes couldn't help but note how short she was—her head barely reached his shoulders, if that. No wonder she got kidnapped. Easy target, I suppose.

"And you can call me Marla, dear," said the lady kindly. "But enough about that—we need to get you taken care of. Who can we call for you? Perhaps we can help you get back to wherever you're from? Oh, we ought to get you to a hospital!"

"No, no, I don't need a hospital, really!" Rui said. "If—if I can get to a Pokémon Center, I can—wait!" She stopped abruptly and her eyes widened as if she'd just remembered something. She turned to Wes with an urgent expression on her face. "Those men you battled—did they have an unusual Pokémon?"

Wes eyed her warily. Unusual Pokémon? Perhaps the heat had disoriented her? "No." He shook his head.

Dash frowned and nodded. "They looked like ordinary Whismur to me..."

"You didn't see a Makuhita?" She looked between the three of them. Wes shook his head again. "Oh..." the girl's face fell and she looked deeply troubled.

"Oh, you don't have to worry about those—those—thugs any longer, dear," Marla fussed. "Let's get you taken to a Pokémon Center and—"

"No, wait!" The girl's face was urgent. "I need...I need to speak with the mayor!"

"The mayor?" asked Dash. He gave her a baffled look. "Why the mayor?"

"Those men grabbed me because I saw something," said Rui. "They had a Makuhita and there was something really...really wrong with it. I need to report this to the mayor so somebody knows about it!"

Marla frowned at her. "I'm not sure what the mayor can do if those people have left town already..."

"They were heading here for something!" Rui said emphatically. Her eyes were wide and pleading. "I think they might come back, and I'm really worried about what they plan to do with that Pokémon!"

Mew above, she's sure passionate, thought Wes. She was awfully fired up and upset, all for a Pokémon she didn't even know. What is wrong with this girl?

"The Center is close to the mayor's house," offered Dash. "We can take you there after we take you to the mayor, I guess...?"

"Oh, would you? I don't know this city well, so that would be really helpful!" Rui beamed at the athlete.

"But you ought to take this young man with you!" Marla gestured to Wes. "If those criminals are coming back, you ought to have someone with strong Pokémon."

"No," Wes said shortly. "I have places to be." He'd taken far too many detours today already.

Marla gave him a pleading look. "Oh, but if those men come back for her...I don't have my own Pokémon, you see, or I would take her..."

Dash rubbed the back of his head. "W-well, I do have my Castform," he said. "He's not a battler, exactly, but...maybe..."

They all looked at him hopefully. Even Neo was looking up at his trainer with pleading eyes. Traitor, thought Wes sourly. Do you want to get to Gateon or not?

A low, harsh, eerily familiar voice rang inside Wes' head. Sticking your neck out for people is what gets you killed, it snarled. Don't be a fool, boy.

Right. He didn't have time for this.

But then he noticed Novo, practical though he was, shift uncomfortably and look up at him. Never once had his Pokémon led him astray. For all the survival instincts Wes' upbringing had drilled into him, he would always trust his Pokémon, his family, more than anything else.

Wes was done in. He pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a long-suffering sigh. "Fine."

Neo chirrupped happily and Marla beamed at him approvingly. "You're such a kind gentleman!"

I'm definitely not.

"Oh, thank you, thank you so much!" Rui bounded up to him, and for one terrifying second he thought she might hug him. Don't touch me. He was immensely relieved that she didn't.

"That's really generous of you, man," said Dash. He looked relieved. "Maybe we can all go together—"

"No." Arceus forbid Wes get saddled with more unnecessary distractions today. He quickly thought of an excuse. "You two should go to the Town Hall and report this incident. Make sure authorities know about what happened." Not that it will do much, he thought to himself. The only "authorities" in Phenac City were the staff at the Town Hall, and they could do little more than raise awareness and alert the citizens.

Dash nodded. "Alright, good plan."

He and Marla said their goodbyes. Dash left his water bottle with Rui, claiming she needed it more than he did and that he had plenty more where it came from. Rui thanked him and Marla generously for their help, and the two set off in the direction of Town Hall.

Rui turned to Wes with a bright smile. "I'll let you lead the way, then!"

Her bubbly demeanor absolutely baffled him. What kind of person could smile so easily after being kidnapped, for crying out loud? Wes shook his head slightly and sighed again—he'd been doing that an awful lot today, it seemed. "It's this way. Let's go." He didn't even wait for her to respond before setting off in the direction of the mayor's house, Neo and Novo trotting faithfully in tow.

It was already looking to be a long day.
 
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Chapter 3: Change of Plans

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
  • More mentions of Rui’s height (she smol)​
  • Tweaked conversation about Rui’s Pokeball errand​
  • Extra details about Phenac and the Pokémon in it​
  • Tweaked dinner conversation​

Chapter 3: Change of Plans

Sunlight streamed down on the whitewashed streets and sparkling fountains, and there was no respite from the blinding brightness and burning heat as Wes and his Pokémon walked with Rui to the mayor's home. The girl certainly noticed this, as she commented for what must have been the fourth time on how beautiful the city was.

"I haven't been to Phenac in a long time, but it's even more beautiful than I remember!" she said in awe. "It's so lovely!"

Wes shot her a look—or tried to, but ended up looking over her head. He had to drop his gaze significantly to actually make eye contact. Arceus, this girl was small. Just how old was she, anyway?

"Not for years," she said. She still wore a small smile on her face as she talked. "I was just a kid the last time I was here." Her attention shifted to the Eeveelutions striding at Wes' side. "What are their names?" she asked lightly.

"The Espeon is Neo, and the Umbreon is Novo," he said. She already knew his name, so he figured the names of his Pokémon were inconsequential information to give out at this point.

"They're beautiful Pokémon!" Rui exclaimed, admiring Novo's sleek black coat. Neo looked over his shoulder and chirped happily at the compliment. He was always pleased to be acknowledged.

Wes felt a prickle of unease at her comment. He was painfully aware of Neo and Novo's rare species being capable of drawing attention. Fortunately, in a place like Phenac, rare Pokémon weren't an unusual sight; Wes had seen plenty of Pokémon in his days at Snagem, but even he couldn't identify half the Pokémon trotting at their trainers' heels in this city.

Not that showing off had ever been Wes' motivator for keeping his Pokémon out. Neo and Novo were security, an extra set of eyes, and even though Wes hated the awed looks they received from passersby, it was a necessary precaution with Snagem on his tail.

Neo strayed to a nearby waterfall and swiped a paw through the water before bounding playfully back to Novo, who greeted him with an affectionate headbutt. Rui giggled and looked back up at Wes. "So...Wes, was it? Where are you from?

"Nowhere, really."

"Oh? Did you move around a lot?"

"...yeah."

"That's so fascinating! I've only ever lived in the same town my whole life, so I haven't been to many places."

Obviously, Wes thought dryly.

"So was there a reason for you moving so much? Was it for your parents' work?" Those blue eyes sparkled excitedly as she talked to him.

Too many questions. Nervousness flitted about in his chest. She was entirely too curious, and every question was making him feel more and more threatened.

The familiar, growly voice rang in his head again. The best lies are half-truths, boy.

"I sort of...grew up on the streets, actually," he answered hesitantly.

Rui's eyes widened and the brightness vanished from her eyes. "Oh." She dropped her gaze to the ground. "Oh. I'm...I'm so sorry. I had no idea."

An awkward pause. Taking advantage of the silence to divert the attention away from himself, Wes curtly asked, "And you?"

"Oh, I'm from Agate Village!" She looked up at him again, appearing relieved to be talking about something else. "It's absolutely beautiful there—have you ever been?"

"No."

"Well, you should definitely visit sometime. It's completely different from anywhere else in Orre!"

How would you know?

He was momentarily saved from the agonizing small talk as they rounded a corner and the marketplace came into view. The place was crowded with people and Pokémon alike, dotted with vibrant colors of foreign Pokémon and their trainers. Open-air shops under white canopies lined both sides of the street and offered a wide variety of products that could be found nowhere else in Orre: fresh fruit, imported goods, and a wide variety of fabrics, amongst other things. Vendors, citizens and tourists alike bustled from one booth to the next, and the air was buzzing with snippets of conversation here and there.

"Aguav berries! Hondew berries! Come and get your exotic berries here!"

"How much for this bag?"

"Forty Poké? That's entirely too much, I won't go above thirty!"

"...Wow," Rui breathed in amazement. She quietly soaked in the scene for a moment as they walked, and Wes huffed a sigh of gratitude for the reprieve. It didn't last long, however, because soon she was tugging on Wes' sleeve. "Hey, do you think they'll have Pokéballs here?"

Wes frowned at her. Pokéballs? This girl was just getting weirder and weirder by the minute. "Phenac doesn't sell Pokéballs anywhere."

Rui sighed in disappointment. "They didn't have them in Pyrite, either...oh!" She gasped and was momentarily distracted by a woman who swept past with a sleek, purple-coated feline at her heels. "I've never seen that Pokémon before!"

Wes, however, was still fixated on the first half of her statement. "Pyrite?" he asked in disbelief. He glanced at her outfit: she wore a frilly pink and blue jacket over a dark purple tank top, a white pencil skirt, and pink rubber boots. He had a hard time picturing this girl, neatly dressed and put together as she was, wandering the ragged streets of Pyrite. Not to mention that her bubbly disposition would have stuck out like a sore thumb.

"Yeah." Rui clasped her hands behind her back and kicked idly at a pebble as they walked. "That's where I was when those two thugs..." She trailed off, a troubled expression overtaking her face.

"That's where you got kidnapped," finished Wes bluntly. That didn't surprise him in the least. Pyrite was not known for its upstanding citizens, after all.

Rui nodded, her gaze still fixed on the sidewalk.

"So, let me get this straight. You're not a trainer. Yet you left your hometown and wandered to Pyrite Town, of all places, to look for Pokéballs...in a region that doesn't have wild Pokémon."

Rui gave a weak laugh and looked at Wes with a wan smile. "Well, when you put it like that, it sounds pretty dumb. But that's the truth, I promise."

"Well, what in Mew's name do you need Pokéballs for?"

"It's for my grandpa," she said. "He's a former Ace trainer, and he's been teaching some of the kids in our village about becoming trainers."

"Pokéballs are useless if there aren't Pokémon to catch them with," said Wes dryly.

"Well, you see, Papi—my grandpa—he's hopeful!" Some of the brightness had returned to Rui's eyes. "There have been rumors of wild Pokémon sightings around the area up north, so he thinks they might be migrating back into the region!"

"First of all, those are just rumors. Second, are you telling me he sent you to get Pokéballs instead of going himself?"

Rui pursed her lips. "W-well. Not exactly."

"'Not exactly?' The hell does that mean?"

She averted his gaze. "I did volunteer to go, but...Papi wouldn't have it. He said it was too dangerous. But he's not exactly young and spry, no matter how much he might think he is, and it had me worried...besides, I'd been wanting an excuse to see the world outside Agate anyway, but no matter what I said, he wouldn't listen, and—" She stopped short, as if to catch herself from rambling, then scowled. "So I just went anyway," she said flatly.

Wes had no idea how to respond to that. Sure, she'd been stupid and reckless to take off like that, but a small part of him respected her resolve, nonetheless.

"Well," he said after an awkward pause, "how do you like the rest of Orre, then?"

Almost immediately a voice screamed at him inside his head. She just got kidnapped, idiot! What kind of a question is that?

But Rui didn't seem to take offense. She shot him an incredulous look, then burst out laughing.

Dumbfounded, Wes could only keep walking as she followed, her laughter continuing for a few minutes until, at last, she was forced to catch her breath between giggles.

"Oh, dear Mew," she gasped, "thank you for that. I really needed the laugh."

Well. He hadn't been trying to be funny, but rather than tell her that, he rolled with it. "...Yeah. No problem."

Rui wiped tears from her eyes and smiled up at him. "I know I'm an idiot for doing what I did, but thanks for not making me feel like one."

He bit back a snort. Well, at least she was aware that she had been stupid...

He was saved from having to come up with a reply as the mayor's home finally came into view. He nudged Rui with his elbow and nodded, and they made their way up the wide stone steps.

True to the atmosphere of Phenac City, the mayor's house held nothing back in terms of extravagance. While not incredibly large in terms of height, it made up for that by sprawling impressively in either direction, showcasing large, gleaming windows and ornate carvings all over the exterior. The front steps led to a wide porch lined with bright white pillars, and the blue double-doors were a sight to behold. Even if Wes hadn't known this to be the mayor's home, it would have been easy to guess.

Of course, the bright banner that stretched across the pillars and read "MAYOR ES-CADE WELCOMES YOU!" was also a slight giveaway.

Rui looked the building up and down with awe. "Are you sure we can just...knock?" she asked in almost a whisper. Wes merely shrugged. He'd never bothered to visit this place himself.

Rui seemed to take this as a yes, as she stepped forward and knocked boldly on the metal doors. Apparently, her recent ordeal hadn't done much to diminish her enthusiasm.

After a brief pause, the doors creaked open and a tall, crisply dressed man with fiery red hair stood before them. He looked down at them with a penetrating gaze. "What is your business?"

"We wish to speak to the mayor, please," said Rui. She met his eyes evenly despite the man's intimidating presence. "It's urgent."

Wes half expected them to be turned away, but the man simply nodded. He eyed the Umbreon and Espeon at Wes' feet. "No Pokémon indoors here. Security policy." Wes begrudgingly returned his companions to their Pokéballs, and they were escorted through the doors.

The cool air inside was a welcome relief from the relentless desert heat. A sparkling crystal chandelier greeted them from overhead, sending multicolored glints of light off the pristine marble walls. A massive flatscreen TV was mounted above a fireplace to their left, and to their right was a handful of plush couches. Straight ahead was a sleek wooden desk, at which sat the mayor of Phenac.

Wes had never seen the mayor personally before, and quickly surmised that he hadn't missed out on much. The man was short—very short—and, like his house, made up for it in terms of width. He was as round as a Jigglypuff, with a puffy mustache and bushy eyebrows to match. His head, though mostly bald, sported two large tufts of gray hair on each side.

"Welcome, welcome!" boomed the mayor. He beamed at them through beady eyes that seemed as though they were stuck in a perpetual squint.

Rui stepped forward and gave a small, polite bow. "It's an honor to meet you, Mr. Mayor."

"Oh, please, call me Es-Cade, my dear!" The man chortled. He rose from his seat and walked around to the front of his desk, gesturing them to the couches. "Please, sit! I insist."

Rui did as requested and took a seat. Wes would have much preferred to stand, but upon seeing the mayor's inquisitive look, he sat with a quiet sigh.

"Eldes, would you please fetch our guests some tea?" Es-Cade pleasantly addressed the red-haired man that stood stoically by the front doors. The man gave a curt nod and strode through an exit at the back of the room.

"Now, what do they call you, my dear?" The portly man turned back to Rui.

"I'm Rui, sir. Rui Everlin."

"I see!" Es-Cade said. He looked at Wes. "And you, my good man?"

"Wes." The mayor continued to look at him, as if expecting more, so he sighed. "Wesley Lycas."

"Excellent!" He beamed again. "And to what do I owe the pleasure of meeting you both?"

Rui hesitated. Wes gave her a pointed look. This was your idea, not mine. She cleared her throat. "Well, you see, Mr...Es-Cade, it's not exactly good news."

Es-Cade's smile faded to a concerned frown. His bushy eyebrows knotted together. "Oh?"

Rui shifted nervously before continuing. "You see, sir, I'm here to report an incident. I was brought to this city because...because I was kidnapped."

"Good heavens!" The mayor's eyes widened as far as his beady face would allow. "Are you quite alright?"

"Yes, I am, thanks to Wes," Rui gave the rogue trainer a grateful smile before turning back to Es-Cade. "But...that's not the whole reason I'm here."

She paused and looked at the floor, as if trying to find the words to continue. "You see, sir, I know this will sound strange and you might not believe me, but...I was born with a gift. That gift allows me to see the auras of people and Pokémon."

Es-Cade's eyebrows shot up an inch or two, and Wes didn't even bother to mask his disbelief as he stared at her. Auras? That did it. Not only had he happened to rescue the most clueless girl in all of Orre, she was also certifiably insane.

"Well, I won't pretend that this isn't...very hard to believe, my dear," said the mayor after a pregnant pause. "Are you certain about this...this gift of yours?"

Rui nodded, her face resolute. "I've had this gift for as long as I can remember, sir. I've always been able to see aura."

"Very well," he mused. He raised a meaty hand and rubbed his chin. "Go on."

"Well, I was traveling through Pyrite when I saw these two men. One of them had a Makuhita and was battling another trainer. I don't know how to explain it, but...there was something wrong with that Pokémon. Its aura was...dark. I'd even say it was evil." She shivered. Her face was solemn and fearful as she recalled the memory.

"And you've never seen this, erm, aura before?" Es-Cade asked.

Rui shook her head. "No, sir, never. I've seen auras of many different kinds, but not like that."

"Could it be, perhaps, that you've never encountered an aggressive Pokémon?"

"With all due respect, Mr. Mayor, I've seen aggressive Pokémon before." Rui's voice took on a stern tone as she raised her head and looked Es-Cade in the eyes. "This Makuhita was something completely different. And the way it battled was...horrible. It really looked like it wanted to kill the other Pokémon."

Wes sat back in his seat, absorbing all this new information. This girl was clearly sheltered—that had been obvious from the beginning. He, unfortunately, had seen Pokémon kill on command more than once. While not every Pokémon was willing to kill, there were plenty more that were either eager enough or desperate enough to do so. It was certainly not unheard of, and something that was all too common in Orre's crime rings.

He wondered if the mayor was thinking the same thing, as the man had a skeptical expression on his face as he listened to Rui's story. "You do know that Pokémon can and do sometimes kill other Pokémon, my dear?" he asked gently.

"I know that!" Rui said in frustration. "I do! But they only do so if commanded, right? Well, this Makuhita was on a rampage and was acting of its own accord—its trainer couldn't even stop it!"

"I see, I see," Es-Cade backed down slightly upon seeing her frustration. "That is very concerning, Miss Everlin. I can assure you that I will assign some of my staff to look into the matter—although, if this Pokémon is in Pyrite, there's only so much I can do."

"I...I understand," Rui sighed. She relaxed a little and slumped back in her seat.

Es-Cade seemed to notice her disappointment. "Do you perhaps have a description of the criminals?" he asked kindly. "I can also try to put out a search for them, and see what we can come up with—ah!" His eyes brightened as the doorman reentered the room with a tray of tea. "Perfect timing, my good man! Thank you kindly!"

The man said nothing, only depositing the tray on the coffee table in front of them before resuming his post by the doors.

Wes didn't trust drinks from strangers, so he quietly declined his tea. Rui and Es-Cade sipped theirs as she gave him a description of the two men. Wes only spoke up to give their names and a description of their other Pokémon he'd seen. He noticed the mayor raise his eyebrows as he spoke of the two Whismur; the odd fact that Wes hadn't seen a Makuhita was not lost on him, apparently, and it likely contributed to his doubt. The man said nothing of it, however.

Once Rui had given all the information they knew, the mayor kindly thanked them for their visit and personally showed them out the door with a smile, promising her that he would look into the case at once.

As the doors shut behind them, Wes couldn't help but feel that they had just wasted a massive amount of time. Rui must have sensed this, too, because he noticed she was staring at the ground with slumped shoulders as they walked to the Pokémon Center.

He released Neo and Novo from their Pokéballs. They both stretched and gleefully bounced around Wes' feet, happy to be outside again.

Rui brightened a little at the sight of the Pokémon. She giggled as Neo brushed playfully up against her legs, then looked up at Wes with a sheepish expression. "You probably think I'm crazy, huh?"

Wes shrugged. "Maybe a little." No point in sugar-coating things.

"Well, you don't have to believe me, but I promise I'm telling the truth." Rui glanced at the Eons walking ahead of them. "For example, I can tell by your Pokémons' auras that they are happy and well cared for. They really love and trust you...and it's part of the reason I knew I'd be safe walking with you." She grinned at him.

Wes decided it wasn't worth pointing out that she could have deduced this from Neo and Novo's evolutions—Espeon and Umbreon only got their evolutions from bonding with their trainer, after all. Instead, he shrugged again and said, "It makes no difference to me. You saw something and reported it, and now you can move on."

Rui bit her lip, but said nothing. Whatever she'd seen in Pyrite—or whatever she thought she'd seen—was obviously weighing heavily on her, and their fruitless meeting with the mayor had done little to help with that.

Not my problem, Wes told himself. He'd done more than enough for this random girl today, and wasn't about to take it upon himself to cheer her up. He wouldn't even know where to start, anyway.

Wes was about to head in the direction of the Center when he noticed Rui stop short. What now? He followed her alarmed gaze to what she was staring at and suddenly he, too, stopped walking.

Someone was heading their way. Whoever this person was, they were massively tall, dwarfing every other passerby on the street. Wes saw the long, flowing silver hair and initially thought it was a woman, but as the stranger came closer it was apparent by the square jaw and bulging, muscular figure that it was a man. But the hair was not what kept his attention; there was something visibly wrong with him.

He exuded an air of cold, crisp, precise cruelty as he walked. Wes had seen his share of men drunk with power who thought they had it all—but this man knew he was in charge, and was keenly aware of his own authority. The stranger passed them on the sidewalk, but not before turning his head to glance at them. Wes met the man's eyes for just a second, and felt a chill trickle down his spine; his eyes were red as blood.

A cruel smirk played across the stranger's lips before he turned away and breezed past them in the direction they came from, head held high, eyes straight ahead.

Wes felt Rui step close to him. He noticed she was shivering. "He was...scary," she whispered.

Wes couldn't help but nod in agreement. He was immensely grateful that such a person was only a stranger and nothing more. He had a feeling he would never want to tangle with that man.

He shook his head and rolled the uneasiness from his shoulders. "Center's just up ahead," he said to Rui. "Let's get inside." She nodded nervously, and the two set off for the wide white steps leading to their destination.

The Phenac Pokémon Center was an impressive sight, even to Wes. He had only been here a handful of times, and he was always just as amazed each time as he was upon his first visit. His negative impression of Phenac and its population aside, he had to admit: they knew how to treat their Pokémon.

The building was a large dome with white gleaming walls and a sparkling glass ceiling. At the back of the room, straight ahead from the entrance, was a marble counter in front of a healing machine and a crisply dressed nurse who chimed a cheerful greeting as they walked through the doors.

To the right, a luxurious lounge for trainers held a TV, plush couches, a small snack bar, and ornate bookshelves adorned with all kinds of literature. A row of video-call booths lined the wall near the shelves.

To the left was an enclosed, glass-walled play area for Pokémon. Wes knew from previous visits that the play area extended through a door in the wall to a larger, fenced-in outdoor area. He'd never used it himself, though—the thought of leaving his Pokémon in someone else's hands was mortifying to him.

"Welcome!" The nurse smiled at them from her place behind the counter. "How may I help you today?"

Rui stepped forward, hands clasped behind her back as she addressed the nurse. "Y-yes, um, could I use your video phones?"

"Absolutely! Right this way, I'll get you started..."

The nurse escorted Rui to the phones and Wes wandered over to the couches to sit and wait. Novo followed, looking around with great interest; he, too, always appeared to be impressed with the place whenever they visited.

"Espi!" Neo pawed at Wes' knee and pointed his snout over to the play area, where an Aipom had its face pressed against the glass, wiggling its tail playfully at the Espeon.

Wes shook his head. "Sorry, bud," he said quietly. "We don't have time today."

Neo sat on the tiled floor with a sigh.

"Tell you what," Wes lowered his voice even further as he reached down to rub Neo's ears. "When we get to Johto, you can play with tons of wild Pokémon every day. How does that sound?"

Neo pricked up his ears and kneaded the floor in excitement. "Spi!"

Johto. Wes had only heard stories of it, but it sounded like a beautiful place, so entirely different from the sandy Orre Region. He'd heard about green forests that stretched as far as the eye could see, of giant shining lakes, of mountains that stretched so high you couldn't see their peaks. He'd dreamed of seeing it from the moment he first learned of its existence.

He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Soon. Very soon. Just be patient.

Novo hopped into his lap and he idly stroked the Umbreon's head, lost in thought, until Rui returned and sank onto the couch a short distance away from him with a sigh. Novo growled softly at her abrupt appearance, a quiet rumble that only Wes could hear.

"Well, my grandparents are happy to know I'm safe, but that didn't save me a tongue lashing from Nan." She turned to him. "They're so grateful to you, by the way. I'm sure they'd love to meet you if you'd like to visit!"

"Sorry, I have other places to be," Wes muttered. There would be absolutely no more detours until they reached Gateon.

"Oh, I...I figured as much," replied Rui. There was a note of disappointment in her voice. "Well, you're always welcome if you—"

She broke off suddenly, her eyes fixed on something over Wes' shoulder. He turned his head to see what had grabbed her attention, and saw footage of a burning building on the TV. The words MYSTERIOUS EXPLOSION REVEALS SNAGEM HIDEOUT flashed across the screen.

"What—when did this happen?" She breathed in disbelief.

"You're just now finding this out?" Wes blurted. Surely, sheltered though this girl was, she'd have heard something about it already. He was certain that news of the incident had traveled across every corner of the region by now. Uncovering Snagem's hideout would be earth-shattering news.

Rui surprised him by throwing him a withering look. "Yes, I'm hearing about it just now," she said scathingly. "It's not like I've spent the last twenty-four hours in a sack or anything!"

"...Oh." Wes suddenly felt incredibly stupid. "Right...sorry."

Rui returned her gaze to the TV. "I can't believe..." She trailed off and didn't bother to finish her sentence. Wes left her to her thoughts and continued stroking Novo's fur, watching his yellow rings pulse with light.

"They deserve it."

He looked up in surprise at those words. Rui was still watching the screen, but a dark expression had taken over her features. It was a jarring change from her usually smiling face.

"You think so?" Wes asked.

She turned her eyes to his, and he was shocked at the amount of pure hatred he saw there. "Yes," she said quietly. "I hate Pokémon thieves. Snagem had this coming, and they deserve a whole lot worse."

Wes looked at her for a moment before answering. "I agree," he said quietly.

"Umbriiiiii." Novo's whine broke the tense moment. Wes heard the Umbreon's stomach growl, and suddenly realized how hungry he was, too. He rubbed Novo's ear. "I guess it's time we go, then."

Novo leapt off Wes' lap as he stood. He turned to Rui. "The nurses can help you arrange a ride with someone from here. You should be able to make it back to Agate that way."

Rui stood, too, and bowed her head to him gratefully, hands clasped behind her back once again. "Thank you for everything you've done for me, Wes. Really. I don't have any way to repay you for it, but...I really am gratef—"

Her stomach suddenly rumbled loudly, and she flushed a little in embarrassment. "Sorry!"

Wes narrowed his eyes at her. "Did you say you were in that sack for a whole day?"

She shifted a little. "Well, I don't know exactly how long it was, but it was a long time..."

Wes took a closer look at her. For all her smiles and cheerfulness, he noticed for the first time that she was still a little pale, and her fingers were shaky as she fidgeted with her necklace. "You haven't eaten."

Rui gave him another smile, but this time he was paying enough attention to see how forced it was. "It's fine! You've done more than enough for me today, I can...figure something out..." She trailed off, not looking very convinced at her own words.

She could figure it out, Wes mused to himself. And yet...he had gone long stretches without food before. He knew firsthand how unpleasant it was, and he was certain that this girl had no means of getting food for herself. There was no way she still had any money on her after being kidnapped.

The low voice came into his head again. Remember this, boy. Don't stick your neck out for nobody.

Anger burned in his chest at the intrusive voice. You don't get to tell me what to do. Not anymore.

"Alright," he sighed, turning to leave. "Come on." He gestured for her to follow him.

"What? Where—?"

"We were going to find a place to eat anyway. You might as well come with us." He looked at her over his shoulder. "But after this, you'll really be on your own. Got it?"

"I—what do you—I don't—are you sure?" Rui spluttered.

"If you don't hurry up, I'll change my mind."

Rui blinked at him, and for a moment Wes thought he saw tears in her eyes. He turned his head away and hoped to Arceus he was mistaken. He had no idea what to do with people when they cried...

Rui bounced up to his side. "Where to, then?" she asked brightly. Any indication that she'd been teary had quickly vanished.

"I've got a place in mind," he said. And with that, they strode through the Center doors back into the sunlight.

———————————————————————————————————-

Wes couldn't help but feel mildly impressed at the speed with which Rui was devouring her burger. It made him wonder just how hungry she must have been this whole time.

His restaurant of choice was closer to the edge of town: a small, dingy, hole-in-the-wall kind of place that he'd always preferred thanks to their low prices and low profile. By Phenac standards, it was "seedy," but compared to the Outskirt Stand, it may as well have been fine dining. The blue painted walls and tiled floor, though scuffed in many places, certainly made it feel a lot cleaner than the dusty old train car.

His Pokémon were happily eating their kibble from bowls on the floor. It was no plate of bacon, but it was better than nothing, and far better than what they had been accustomed to at Snagem.

A waiter stopped by to offer drinks, which Wes declined. He'd need to be fully alert for their journey ahead—though after the long events of the day, alcohol was tempting.

The waiter turned to Rui, but she also shook her head. "Not today, thank you."

The waiter left, and Wes narrowed his eyes at her. "Are you even old enough to drink?"

Rui nearly choked on her fries. "Wha—excuse me?" she asked indignantly as soon as she could speak, "I'll have you know, I'm well over eighteen!"

He raised an eyebrow. "By what, a few months?"

Rui huffed at him. "I'm twenty-one, Wes."

Oh. He was genuinely surprised at that. She was much closer to his age than he'd originally thought, only a year younger than himself. "Sorry. You just look younger."

"I get that a lot, actually," she said dejectedly. She picked at what remained of her food.

"It's because you're short," he said bluntly. He immediately recognized his mistake when Rui raised her eyebrows at him.

"Wow, really? I'm short? Thanks for pointing that out to me, Wes, I never noticed," she said with a dry smirk.

Moron. "I—that's—yeah. Sorry."

Rui snorted and waved her hand. "Don't worry about it, I get it all the time. And even if I were taller, I'd still probably look younger."

"Well, the pigtails don't help," Wes blurted. Rui's eyebrows rose even higher, and he mentally kicked himself. Gods. Was it always this hard to have a normal conversation? He grabbed his water and spent a deliberately long time sipping at it, wishing more now than ever that he'd ordered a beer instead.

Rather than take offense, Rui simply gave him a sly grin. "Well what about you, Mr. Tough Guy? You don't look much older than seventeen."

Wes choked and spluttered on his drink. "I—what—seven—?" He stopped short when he saw that Rui had erupted into a fit of laughter.

He scowled at her. "That's not funny."

For some reason, this only made her laugh even harder and she was forced to grip the table for support. Neo and Novo looked up at her from their meal in alarm and Wes began to feel uncomfortable as heads turned in their direction. Why was this girl so loud?

"S-sorry," she gasped as her laughter subsided. "I honestly didn't think I'd get a reaction out of you, with you being so stoic and all, but that was funny."

Wes grumbled darkly under his breath. Rui snorted and bit her lip in an effort to keep herself from laughing further. Her face held a lot more color now that she'd eaten, and she was, if possible, even more lively than before.

Having finished their meal, Wes stood. "Let's go." Rui and his Pokémon followed him as he paid for the meal at the counter up front and stepped outside.

The sun was horrifyingly low in the sky, and Wes inwardly groaned at the sight. They were behind schedule, but no matter—they'd be on the road soon enough, and all their troubles with Phenac (girl included) would be left behind.

"Briiiii!" Novo yawned and stretched happily in the sunlight, his yellow markings glowing contentedly. Neo padded up between Wes and Rui and let out a soft burp. He blinked sleepily up at his trainer with a lazy purr.

The corners of Wes' mouth twitched into a smile upon seeing them so content and peaceful. For the first time since escaping the Hideout, he allowed himself to relax a little. All that was left to do was stock up on some supplies and hit the road now. It should be smooth sailing from here, he thought.

And then he heard a voice that turned his blood to ice.

"Keep your wits about you, ya hear? He's in this blasted city somewhere."

Wes swore under his breath and grabbed Rui by the arm, pulling her around the building into a side alley. She squawked in protest. "Wes, what're you—hey!"

He ignored her and listened closely. He heard the rough cadence of three all too familiar voices across the street, causing his heart to race.

How could he get out of this without raising suspicion? He looked at the redhead. If she found out who she was… He remembered her face in the Center as she spoke about Snagem. The anger in her eyes, the righteous fury. There was no way she would let him off if she knew. Not a chance.

"Are we sure he's still here?" another voice drawled from where the first one had come from, just across the street. Wes turned his head to listen.

"Shut your trap and quit whining!" the first voice barked. "The faster we get moving, the sooner we'll find the damned rat."

There was no mistaking that gravelly voice. Wes had heard it all too many times before, usually before facing an unpleasant punishment. Wakin, Gonzap's second-in-command, had always loved to dole out the punishments himself whenever he could. Wes glanced nervously at the metal sleeve on his arm.

If Wakin found Wes now, he was a dead man.

Wes' mind raced. He scrambled to think of a way to get out of this city without setting off Rui's suspicions. He certainly couldn't tell her what was going on, nor could he merely bolt away—what if she started calling after him? Caused a scene? Drew attention from those menacing voices across the street…?

A crazy, half-baked idea occurred to him, and he tightened his grip on Rui's arm as he looked back at her again. She was apparently oblivious to the conversation taking place across the street. She seemed much more concerned with Wes' odd behavior and his grip on her arm. He decided to take a chance on her naivety.

"Hey. You said you needed Pokéballs, right?"

"Y-yeah?" Rui attempted to tug her arm out of his grip. She looked frightened. "Wes, can you let go of me?"

"Sorry," he said quickly. He released her and took a step back. Breathe. You need to stay calm. He met her blue gaze evenly. "I know a place where we can get you some. I just thought of it."

Rui frowned at him. "You do?"

"Yeah, but it's...not here. It's a bit of a drive. But I can take you there." The words tumbled out of his mouth before he even had time to think them through.

"That...that would be really helpful! But I don't have any money—"

"Don't worry about it." Damn, he was panicking. Stay calm. Don't show fear. "I'll cover for you. But we need to get going now if we want to make it there at a decent hour."

"Are—are you sure? You've done so much for me today already—"

"I'm sure, let's go." He almost grabbed her by the arm again to drag her with him, but remembered the fearful look she'd given him and decided against it. "Come on, I'll show you to my bike."

He stepped cautiously out of the alleyway, looking around for any sign of Wakin and his grunts. Rui stood a few paces behind him, mumbling in confusion. "Bike...?"

"Neo. Novo." Wes kept his voice to barely more than a whisper. They pricked their ears and stood at attention. "Keep a lookout."

He motioned for Rui to follow him, and they stepped out into the open.

Wes was sure that Rui would hear his heart trying to escape from his chest. He hated having to walk in the open, hated that he couldn't move any faster than a brisk walk, but he knew that darting through the shadows would only raise her suspicions. He could not afford to be caught. Not now. Not like this.

He was grateful that they had at least made it to the edge of the city already for their lunch. They were able to reach the city entrance relatively quickly, and made it to his bike shortly after that.

Rui looked at his monstrosity of a vehicle with wide eyes. "Okay, when you said 'bike', I had a very different image in my head," she said as she took in the massive engine and rusty exterior.

Wes didn't bother to reply to this remark. He'd crouched down to his Pokémon and was muttering a hurried apology. "Sorry guys, but there isn't room for all of you in the sidecar. You're gonna have to go in your balls for now."

Neither Neo nor Novo were very pleased with this arrangement, but he didn't have time to reason with them before returning them to their Pokéballs. They would get over it. What mattered now was getting as far away from this city as possible.

Wes gestured for Rui to get in the sidecar as he slid into the driver's seat. She climbed in awkwardly and nearly fell over in the process.

The engine bellowed as he brought it to life. He thought he heard Rui trying to say something, but couldn't be sure. Rather than wait to find out, he slammed on the gas and the motorbike lurched forward, kicking up a cloud of dust as they flew out of sight and left the blinding white city behind.
 
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Negrek

Triple Cross
Staff
Well, I've always got to show up for Orre fic! Happy to see this here, and happy to check out your take on Colosseum! You added the third chapter while I was writing this, so I'll have to come back for it later. For now, the first two!

The biggest highlight for me has definitely been the pokémon! I love how they're basically acting as Wes' conscience here, and how much he listens to and trusts them. While at the same time being a leader for them, too! Since Neo apparently can't be trusted to go off on people when they all ought to be escaping. :P The balance between trainer and pokémon here is great, and I think it's going to be fun seeing how things change over time as Wes starts snagging pokémon... who I imagine will be quite a bit different than his pals! Neo and Novo themselves are nice and lively, and I like how they feel particularly cattish in terms of their body language and mannerisms. There's a nice sense of them as living, breathing creatures rather than cartoon characters. One particular moment that stood out to me was when Neo was suspicious of Trudly/Folly but ended up being distracted by bacon, heh. "Hmm, I wonder if those ruffians might be kidnapping someone... Oh well, back to breakfast!"

I also like the hints that we're getting about Wes' past. The games really leave him as a blank slate, so it'll be fun to see where you decide to go with his backstory. Definitely not anywhere happy, it's looking like! :P I'm very curious how he ended up getting mixed up with Snagem in the first place, as well as what ultimately made him decide to make a break for it. (And also what he was planning to do with that snag machine, since it's Rui who brings up the whole "rescuing shadow pokémon" thing...) And how he ended up with Neo and Novo! There's a lot to explore there, and I'm glad that you're already making gestures at answering those questions, if only obliquely.

Rui as such an upbeat, bubbly character is kind of a surprise to me... I guess I'm accustomed to her Colosseum model, which had kind of a lot of :| face going on. Curious to see whether she'll be able to keep that attitude up in the face of everything the plot has in store. Orre seems like a pretty disillusioning place. At least for now, though, she should be fun to bounce off Wes' more cynical loner attitude.

It was a little odd to me that you spent a while kind of holding Wes' name back, referring to him just as a trainer or whatever. I don't think you have to be coy about it; it's not like it's a huge reveal when we do learn what he's called. (As far as I can tell you were just waiting for him to introduce himself to another character?) When you hold back a character's name it makes it feel significant in some way, so it's odd when it turns out not to be, and it can make sentences read a bit clunky when you're trying to find something to call him other than "Wes."

The encounter/battle with Willy (such as it was!) seemed a little strange to me, too--like you were including it simply because it happened in the game and not because it has any particular relevance to the story you're telling here. For me, what's interesting about a game adaptation is where the author makes things their own, whether by expanding on elements not present in the game, trying to make sense of the weird game mechanics, going a bit deeper with the worldbuilding, whatever. Absolute fidelity to the story on the actual game disc is less important. So for me it would have been better to simply cut the encounter with Willy here entirely, rather spending time on what ultimately didn't even amount to a batte worth putting on the page.

It looks like you've got extra spaces between your paragraphs in the second chapter. Unfortunately this can happen when copying and pasting from some editors into the forums. You should be able to put [noparse][/noparse] around the text to get rid of the extra spaces. I'm still testing that one, though, so let me know if it causes problems!

Your prose is pretty solid overall. I added some more specific comments on style and mechanics under the spoiler below.

All in all, this is a promising start, and it's great that you're already a few chapters in--hope you can keep that momentum up! Welcome to the forums, and thanks for sharing your writing with us! There are a couple other Orre fics around here, too, if you're interested in reading others. Chibi Pika's "Damaged Goods" is a one-shot about Wes trying to purify a shadow quilava, and kintsugi's handfuls of dust is a dark Orre AU with OC's... unfortunately I don't know if it's still being updated, but it's worth checking out all the same!

One thing to look out for is dialogue punctuation... You do it right sometimes, but one thing to remember is that when you have a dialogue tag, like "he said" or "she shouted," that describes how the dialogue is being said, its first letter shouldn't be capitalized. So here:

“Go, go, GO!” The young man shouted at his companions as he ran straight for a massive hunk of metal that vaguely resembled a motorcycle.
It should be "the young man shouted."

“This is YOUR FAULT!” He screamed.
Should be "he screamed."

“I’ll cause a scene!” The first man snarled.
Should be "the first man snarled." And so on.

On the other hand, when the text after the dialogue stands on its own and doesn't relate to how the words are being said, the dialogue should end in a period and the sentence that comes after should be capitalized. So here:

“Espi,” Neo looked at Wes with wide eyes, then back at the men in the shadows.
It should be, "'Espi.' Neo looked at Wes..."

“Bri, umbri,” this time Novo chimed in, looking up at his Trainer with urgency.
This shoud be, "'Bri, umbri.' This time Novo chimed in..."

And finall, here it just looks like a typo where the comma ended up outside the quotation marks:

“Wes”, he said shortly.

Other than that...

An earth-rendering explosion shattered the stillness as flames burst from a section of the dilapidated building.
Should be rending, not rendering.

The scene suddenly sprung to life with shouts and screams as people in dark uniforms emerged from the destruction, sprinting back and forth in panic and confusion.

Among the chaos, no one seemed to notice one person in particular sprinting from the building, with two Pokémon sprinting at his side.
There's quite a lot of sprinting going on here! Once in the first sentence and twice in the next, and you use it elsewhere in the chapter, too. Good verb, but yeah, you probably don't want to repeat it as much as you do here. Also, in the second sentence, it should be "sprang" rather than sprung.

The second explosion was, if possible, even more impressive than the first, and nearly knocked every bystander off their feet.
This sentence just reads a little strange to me. Are you saying most of the bystanders got knocked down, or no one got knocked down and they all managed to stay upright? If the latter, I think it would be less confusing if you described how people were affected, like how they staggered or yelled in surprise or whatever.

Another shift, another dark room littered with Pokemon laying ominously still, and there was another voice, a kinder voice, accompanied with a sad, tired smile.
You want "lying" here, not "laying." You only use laying when there's something being laid down, e.g. "She laid out the nice tablecloth." If there's just something lying there, well. It's lying.

Novo, unconvinced, bunted into his arm again with his head.
Here you want "butted" rather than "bunted," I think.

The traveler laid back down in his sleeping bag and closed his eyes as his Umbreon touched his nose to his forehead and purred gently, using Hypnosis.
Here it's "lay back down" instead of "laid back down."

“Umbri?” He pricked his ears forward gave his Trainer a hopeful look.
I think you're missing an "and" here.

Reports of an explosion yesterday have lead investigators and authorities to this building, which has now officially been confirmed as the home base for Team Snagem.
Should be "led" rather than "lead."

“Aye, I’ll level with ya there.” The owner nodded approvingly as he he spoke, and the woman up front gave a disdainful sniff.
Hmm, I'm familiar with "I'll level with you" meaning "okay, I'll actually tell you the truth now."

“Howdy, stranger!” A hand clapped on his shoulder, and he found himself jumping again.
I think this is better as "clapped," rather than "clapped on."

His life had consisted of dirt, sweat, and rust, and none of those things seemed to belong in such a seemingly perfect place as Phenac. Plus, there seemed to be an air of false grandeur about the place that repulsed him.
Lots of seeming going on here--even twice in one sentence! I think it'd be easy enough to cut one in the first sentence, and in the second... Wes believes there's a false grandeur about the place, right? In which case it doesn't "seem," anyway, but simply is.
 

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
Well, I've always got to show up for Orre fic! Happy to see this here, and happy to check out your take on Colosseum! You added the third chapter while I was writing this, so I'll have to come back for it later. For now, the first two!

The biggest highlight for me has definitely been the pokémon! I love how they're basically acting as Wes' conscience here, and how much he listens to and trusts them. While at the same time being a leader for them, too! Since Neo apparently can't be trusted to go off on people when they all ought to be escaping. :P The balance between trainer and pokémon here is great, and I think it's going to be fun seeing how things change over time as Wes starts snagging pokémon... who I imagine will be quite a bit different than his pals! Neo and Novo themselves are nice and lively, and I like how they feel particularly cattish in terms of their body language and mannerisms. There's a nice sense of them as living, breathing creatures rather than cartoon characters. One particular moment that stood out to me was when Neo was suspicious of Trudly/Folly but ended up being distracted by bacon, heh. "Hmm, I wonder if those ruffians might be kidnapping someone... Oh well, back to breakfast!"

I also like the hints that we're getting about Wes' past. The games really leave him as a blank slate, so it'll be fun to see where you decide to go with his backstory. Definitely not anywhere happy, it's looking like! :P I'm very curious how he ended up getting mixed up with Snagem in the first place, as well as what ultimately made him decide to make a break for it. (And also what he was planning to do with that snag machine, since it's Rui who brings up the whole "rescuing shadow pokémon" thing...) And how he ended up with Neo and Novo! There's a lot to explore there, and I'm glad that you're already making gestures at answering those questions, if only obliquely.

Rui as such an upbeat, bubbly character is kind of a surprise to me... I guess I'm accustomed to her Colosseum model, which had kind of a lot of :| face going on. Curious to see whether she'll be able to keep that attitude up in the face of everything the plot has in store. Orre seems like a pretty disillusioning place. At least for now, though, she should be fun to bounce off Wes' more cynical loner attitude.

It was a little odd to me that you spent a while kind of holding Wes' name back, referring to him just as a trainer or whatever. I don't think you have to be coy about it; it's not like it's a huge reveal when we do learn what he's called. (As far as I can tell you were just waiting for him to introduce himself to another character?) When you hold back a character's name it makes it feel significant in some way, so it's odd when it turns out not to be, and it can make sentences read a bit clunky when you're trying to find something to call him other than "Wes."

The encounter/battle with Willy (such as it was!) seemed a little strange to me, too--like you were including it simply because it happened in the game and not because it has any particular relevance to the story you're telling here. For me, what's interesting about a game adaptation is where the author makes things their own, whether by expanding on elements not present in the game, trying to make sense of the weird game mechanics, going a bit deeper with the worldbuilding, whatever. Absolute fidelity to the story on the actual game disc is less important. So for me it would have been better to simply cut the encounter with Willy here entirely, rather spending time on what ultimately didn't even amount to a batte worth putting on the page.

It looks like you've got extra spaces between your paragraphs in the second chapter. Unfortunately this can happen when copying and pasting from some editors into the forums. You should be able to put [noparse][/noparse] around the text to get rid of the extra spaces. I'm still testing that one, though, so let me know if it causes problems!

Your prose is pretty solid overall. I added some more specific comments on style and mechanics under the spoiler below.

All in all, this is a promising start, and it's great that you're already a few chapters in--hope you can keep that momentum up! Welcome to the forums, and thanks for sharing your writing with us! There are a couple other Orre fics around here, too, if you're interested in reading others. Chibi Pika's "Damaged Goods" is a one-shot about Wes trying to purify a shadow quilava, and kintsugi's handfuls of dust is a dark Orre AU with OC's... unfortunately I don't know if it's still being updated, but it's worth checking out all the same!

One thing to look out for is dialogue punctuation... You do it right sometimes, but one thing to remember is that when you have a dialogue tag, like "he said" or "she shouted," that describes how the dialogue is being said, its first letter shouldn't be capitalized. So here:


It should be "the young man shouted."


Should be "he screamed."


Should be "the first man snarled." And so on.

On the other hand, when the text after the dialogue stands on its own and doesn't relate to how the words are being said, the dialogue should end in a period and the sentence that comes after should be capitalized. So here:


It should be, "'Espi.' Neo looked at Wes..."


This shoud be, "'Bri, umbri.' This time Novo chimed in..."

And finall, here it just looks like a typo where the comma ended up outside the quotation marks:



Other than that...


Should be rending, not rendering.


There's quite a lot of sprinting going on here! Once in the first sentence and twice in the next, and you use it elsewhere in the chapter, too. Good verb, but yeah, you probably don't want to repeat it as much as you do here. Also, in the second sentence, it should be "sprang" rather than sprung.


This sentence just reads a little strange to me. Are you saying most of the bystanders got knocked down, or no one got knocked down and they all managed to stay upright? If the latter, I think it would be less confusing if you described how people were affected, like how they staggered or yelled in surprise or whatever.


You want "lying" here, not "laying." You only use laying when there's something being laid down, e.g. "She laid out the nice tablecloth." If there's just something lying there, well. It's lying.


Here you want "butted" rather than "bunted," I think.


Here it's "lay back down" instead of "laid back down."


I think you're missing an "and" here.


Should be "led" rather than "lead."


Hmm, I'm familiar with "I'll level with you" meaning "okay, I'll actually tell you the truth now."


I think this is better as "clapped," rather than "clapped on."


Lots of seeming going on here--even twice in one sentence! I think it'd be easy enough to cut one in the first sentence, and in the second... Wes believes there's a false grandeur about the place, right? In which case it doesn't "seem," anyway, but simply is.

Please pardon me while I’m doing a happy dance over here at your review! Seriously - thank you!! I love in depth reviews SO much!
Your advice is super helpful, too, and I’ll need to make some edits to the chapter! I do have a tendency to repeat words without realizing it, so thanks for bringing that to my attention 😅 and darn, I’m aware of the dialogue tag rules but it seems I’ve still missed quite a few periods!
I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it so far! I’m also hoping I can keep up the momentum. I’m currently updating weekly on other sites, but I’m behind on this one, so I was going to upload until I was at the same place all across the board.
I am SO excited for the plans I have for this story, and I hope you’ll enjoy them too!
 
Chapter 4: Questions

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
  • Extra additions to Rui’s POV: More backstory details, extra details of her seeing aura​

Chapter 4: Questions

Rui wasn't entirely sure this wasn't all just some sort of fever dream.

In the span of just over a day, she'd seen a crazed Pokémon, been kidnapped, had nearly suffocated in a sack, was rescued by someone who acted for all the world as though he'd rather have left her there, and was now flying across the desert in a crazy death trap of metal with said stranger.

It had been a weird day, to say the least.

Wes didn't speak at all as they sailed across the sands. Rui was actually quite all right with this, as most of her concentration was spent shielding her face from the sandy winds and trying not to panic at the absolutely terrifying speed at which Wes was driving.

Rui peeked at the driver underneath her hands covering her face. Despite his gruff demeanor and the begrudging manner in which he'd helped her, Rui did sense that Wes was a kind person under all the rough edges. His aura, a pleasant blue color, seemed to indicate so, at least. And he didn't have to escort her all over Phenac and treat her to a meal, least of all take her somewhere to find Pokéballs. His actions seemed very contradictory to his attitude, and she had to admit she found it a little amusing.

She pulled her gaze away from Wes to glance at her surroundings; at one point, she thought she saw some town ruins in the distance, and despite the desert heat, she shivered. Wes would probably scoff at her for it, but she hated even thinking of Noctis ruins. They were a bad omen.

The hours ticked by in silence as the sun slinked lower and lower in the sky. Rui's ears gradually adjusted to the dull roar of the engine, and she found that if she ducked her head at just the right angle, she could keep most of the sand from her face. She still found herself wishing for some goggles like the ones Wes had, though.

After what felt like ages, the bike started to slow. She looked up, hopeful to see their destination—and saw nothing but more desert and an old abandoned train car. What?

Wes rolled the bike to a stop. Bewildered, Rui glanced around again, thinking that maybe she missed something, but the scenery remained desolate and unchanged. She started to feel a little uneasy. Surely Wes hadn't dragged her out here with ill intentions...?

"Are you coming?" His voice made her jump. He'd already started for the old, worn down building and was impatiently looking at her over his shoulder. His Umbreon and Espeon had been released from their Pokéballs and were already waiting outside the car's entrance.

"Um...where are we, exactly?" Rui asked nervously.

Wes didn't answer, but jerked his head to the train car. It was only then that she noticed there were lights on inside the thing, and the dim strains of Western music reached her ears. So it wasn't entirely abandoned, after all.

Rui clambered awkwardly out of the sidecar, once again nearly face-planting into the sand as she did so, and followed Wes as they headed into the...whatever this place was.

It was a diner, apparently.

Rui blinked in the dim lighting as she surveyed the dusty interior. This place was very different from home, but it was also very different from Phenac. Most of the places she'd seen had tried to flourish despite the lifeless desert, as if trying to fight against their surroundings and prove to be something more. This place embraced the empty sands, the lawlessness of the desert, and made it a home—a creaky, grimy, dilapidated one, but a home, nonetheless.

Wes approached the sleepy-eyed man behind the counter, who could only be the owner of the place. He rubbed the back of his head as he addressed him. "Hey, Grogan. Got any Pokéballs in stock?"

The man, Grogan, gave Wes a bleary-eyed stare. "Pokéballs?" he grunted. "The hell do you need those for?"

"They're not for me, they're for her." Wes nodded at Rui.

Grogan looked her up and down. He raised an eyebrow at Wes. "Who's this, your mail-order girlfriend?"

Rui felt a wave of indignation at the snide remark. She was about to offer a stinging reply when Wes answered. "She's just a lost traveler. I'm doing her a favor."

"Awful long way to come for a favor."

"We're looking for Pokéballs, do you have them or not?" An edge crept into Wes' voice.

Grogan waved a dismissive hand. "Sure, sure, I got the old things somewhere." He turned and headed into the kitchen. Rui noticed a somewhat startled expression on Wes' face.

"You look pretty surprised he has Pokéballs," Rui observed. "I thought you knew he had them?"

Wes turned to look at her, his surprised expression melting into a smooth, unfazed one. "Well, yeah. This is the only place I've known in Orre to ever sell them, so he doesn't always have them in stock."

That makes sense, Rui thought. She began to feel slightly ashamed of herself for doubting the trainer. So what if he was a little guarded? He'd saved her life in more than one way today, and she ought to be grateful.

Grogan returned to the counter with a bag in hand. "Got 'em here," he grunted, and then unceremoniously dumped out the bag's contents onto the countertop.

Rui blinked at the little balls rolling across the dingy surface. There was a much greater variety than she'd expected; red, blue, yellow. She stared at them all and realized she didn't have the slightest clue what the difference was between them. "Uh."

Wes heaved a weary sigh beside her. "Just all of the regular ones," he said. "And maybe a few Great Balls."

Grogan obliged and packed about half a dozen red Pokéballs and about four blue ones. "Will that be enough?" Wes asked Rui.

"Yeah, those should be fine," Rui mumbled. She dropped her gaze to the floor and shuffled awkwardly, feeling acutely embarrassed at her complete lack of knowledge. She'd expected this to be a relatively simple errand, but clearly she had been utterly unprepared for it. No wonder Papi was hesitant to let me go. I have no idea what I'm doing...

To make matters worse, Rui quickly realized that neither she nor Wes had a bag to carry the Pokéballs. Grogan merely waved a hand and let her keep the old canvas tote he'd brought the balls out in. "I've got plenty of space for the rest of these old things, and that bag was just collectin' dust anyway."

Rui thanked him profusely and stuffed the balls into her new bag, feeling even more abashed than before. She heard Wes saying something more to the diner owner, but she wasn't paying much attention anymore. She leaned against a wall with a sigh, and felt something brush her hand.

She jumped, and then looked down to see Neo nosing at her fingers. He blinked up at her with dark, inquisitive eyes. Rui couldn't help but smile at the innocence reflected in his silvery aura. He'd done this same thing just hours before, when they were at the restaurant, and he was just so darned cute she couldn't possibly resist showering him with affection.

Rui crouched down to his level and the Espeon allowed her to stroke his fur with a purr. "You're a glutton for attention, aren't you?"

Neo shamelessly purred louder in response.

She noticed Novo watching from a safer distance. He sat primly at Wes' feet, crimson eyes narrowed distrustfully as he observed her. She'd attempted to pet him, too, at the restaurant, and his only response had been to snarl at her. Unlike his brother, Novo's aura was a lovely shade of lavender—and it spiked every time she addressed him.

"Novo, was it?" Rui asked softly.

The Umbreon answered with a growl.

This caught Wes' attention. He looked over his shoulder and glanced between Rui and Novo. "What are you doing?"

Rui smiled up at him sheepishly. "Just trying to make friends."

He gave her an odd look, but said nothing. Rui was sure he thought she was crazy—although, given the day's events, she couldn't entirely blame him. She sighed and stood, despite Neo's soft protest for more attention. "I guess your Umbreon doesn't like strangers...sorry about that."

Wes merely shrugged. He nodded to Grogan and made for the door. "Let's go," he said.

Rui blinked. "Go...where?"

"It's too late to go anywhere else, so I booked us a place for the night." He didn't wait for her reply before pushing his way out the door, so Rui quickly followed him before giving a hurried thanks to the diner owner. She stepped out into the desert air and was surprised by how cool it already was - the temperatures were rapidly dropping now that the sun was almost below the horizon.

"S-sorry, but I'm just confused," she said as she tried to match Wes' brisk pace. "Where exactly are we staying? This place doesn't look like it has any rooms..."

Once again, instead of answering, Wes simply kept walking until they reached the back end of the train car. He kicked away a layer of sand to reveal what looked like some kind of cellar door, then wrenched it open and, to Rui's disbelief, gestured for her to step inside.

This is exactly how you die in horror movies, Rui.

Still, Wes hadn't given any indication that he planned to hurt her in any way, and she felt a little better upon seeing his Pokémon dart down the creaky steps as if they'd been here before. She took a deep breath before glancing briefly at Wes.

She couldn't help but notice that the golden rays of the setting sun matched his eyes. Rui balked at this sudden thought. What is wrong with you? she asked herself sternly. She shook her head slightly and then ducked into the cellar.

It was pleasantly cool in the place, if a little dank and musty. The only source of light was a tiny window right near the ceiling and an old, dim lightbulb that hung so low she nearly hit her head on it. The walls were covered with shelves of stored food, and the only thing on the floor was a small mattress and quilt.

The cellar door slammed shut and Wes stepped into the room behind her. "It's really not much," he said, "but it's the best option available out here." He must have noticed her eyeing the tiny mattress, because he then added, "You can take that. I'll sleep on the floor."

"Are—are you sure?" Rui turned to him uncertainly. She felt as though she'd been asking that question a lot today.

"I prefer the floor anyway."

The weirdest thing about that statement was, he seemed to mean it. This baffled her a little. What kind of person liked to sleep on the floor?

She sighed and flopped onto the mattress, only to cough and gag as a cloud of dust puffed up into her face.

Wes grimaced a little. "Sorry. Should have warned you about that."

Rui, still coughing, just shook her head and indicated it was fine with a wave of her hand.

The trainer gestured to some water bottles sitting near the steps on a crate. "Some water, if you need any," he mumbled, then he went about setting up his space.

Wes removed his blue coat, revealing a black tank top underneath. Rui couldn't help but notice a variety of faint scars across his arms and shoulders. Overwhelming curiosity made her want to ask about them, but she'd gotten the distinct impression that the man hated questions, so instead she held them back.

But then she saw Wes push a large crate up against the wall under the small window, and she couldn't help herself. "What's that for?"

"It's for Novo," he answered simply. "He likes to watch at night."

As if on cue, the Umbreon hopped up onto the crate and peeked at the steadily darkening world through the grimy window. He turned to his trainer and bunted him happily with his head. A tiny smile tugged at the corners of Wes' mouth as he rubbed Novo's chin.

Rui couldn't help but smile a little herself. Gruff though he may be, this odd stranger was certainly soft on his Pokémon.

Wes waited for Rui to get settled on her mattress before turning out the light. The dim lights from the train car overhead filtered through the tiny window, but they were left in almost complete darkness save for Novo's gently pulsing rings.

"Um, goodnight, I guess," Rui said awkwardly. What did one say in a situation like this?

There was a pause, and for a moment she thought he wouldn't answer her. Then he heard his mumble from his place across the small cellar. "Night."

Rui settled down onto the mattress. She'd never stayed in a place like this, and wondered if she would ever be able to fall asleep. But then the events of the day caught up to her, and her exhaustion pulled her under.


She couldn't be sure what time it was when she woke.

It was still dark outside as Rui sat up. She promptly stifled another cough as more dust swirled up from the mattress at her movements. So much dust everywhere...the first thing she was going to do when she got home was shower.

Still, though...Rui glanced around the dark cellar and shook her head to herself in disbelief. It was wasn't an ideal situation, but it was far better than wherever she might have ended up if she'd never been rescued from that sack…

A shiver rippled down her spine at the memory: the suffocating heat. The mens' voices and rough hands as they tossed her around like merchandise. The paralyzing terror as she had started to wonder that maybe it didn't matter where they were taking her because she was going to die of heat stroke before she got there…

Rui's hand flew to her necklace. She grasped it tightly, forcing herself to take deep breaths and keep her hands steady. She could feel the edges of the black crescent moon pendant digging into her palm, and the sensation grounded her a little.

You're fine. You're fine. Everything is fine. She closed her eyes. You're safe. You'll be home soon.

Her panic gradually eased and she relaxed her grip on the pendant. Yes, everything would be alright. Soon she would be back home, and everything would be back to normal…

And yet...did she want things to go back to normal? She certainly had no desire to repeat the experience of the last couple days, but Rui's yearning to see more of the word outside of Agate was still as fervent as ever. She opened her eyes and looked down at her palm, where a crescent moon-shaped indentation had formed from her tight hold. She'd always wanted to travel the region—and maybe even the world someday—ever since Rui's mother had told her stories of her home region of Hoenn...Rui sat quietly for a few moments, lost in a swirl of thoughts and memories.

A soft glow caught her attention. She spotted Novo sitting on his crate by the window, ears pricked, eyes alert as he watched the world outside. Rui couldn't help but wonder if there even was anything to see out there.

All the same, the Dark-type Pokémon brought a small smile to her face. Rui raised a hand to her necklace once more as fond childhood memories of her mother's Pokémon, another Dark-type, rose to the surface. She watched Novo for a moment, running her thumb over the smooth pendant.

Her mouth felt dry and sticky, and she remembered what it was that caused her to wake. Breaking from her stupor, she slowly rose from her mattress to grab one of the water bottles that Wes mentioned earlier.

The trainer in question was, indeed, on the floor. He'd apparently rolled up his coat to serve as a pillow, and Neo was curled up against his trainer's chest. One arm was loosely draped over the Espeon, and the two were fast asleep. Rui smiled a little at the sight. There had been a time when she thought she would be traveling around, with a Pokémon to sleep beside at night...

She shook these thoughts from her mind and was making her way past the sleeping pair to the crate near the door when a low growl met her ears.

Rui glanced over her shoulder to see Novo watching her every move with narrowed crimson eyes. His body was stiff, hairs on the back of his neck raised. She noticed him glance between her and his trainer.

"It's...it's okay, Novo," she whispered slowly. "I'm just getting some water. I won't hurt your trainer, I promise."

Novo continued to stare, but his growls subsided at her words.

Rui moved cautiously to the crate, grabbed a water bottle, and tiptoed past Wes and Neo back to her mattress. Novo again growled softly as she stepped past his trainer a second time, but remained where he was.

She settled back on her mattress with a quiet sigh. She gave the Umbreon a tired smile. "See? I'm harmless, I promise."

Novo gave her a hard look that plainly said I doubt that very much before returning to gaze out his window.

Rui downed the water greedily and was just about to get back to sleep when she heard another sound.

She lifted her head off the pillow. Through the dim light of Novo's glow, she could see Wes twitching in his sleep. His breathing became labored, and he started to mumble something in distress.

"No...please...no—"

Rui paused. Should I wake him? she wondered anxiously. She was pondering what to do when Novo, without a sound, slipped from his perch atop his crate down to the floor below, and stepped up to his trainer.

The room brightened a little as his rings filled with light. He bowed his head, touching his muzzle to Wes' forehead, and a soft hum filled the room. After a brief moment, the sound faded, the lights dimmed, and Wes fell back into peaceful slumber with a quiet sigh.

Novo silently stalked back to his crate without sparing Rui so much as a passing glance. She could only stare at him in wonder. What was that? Was this a common occurrence? She'd never seen a Pokémon use Hypnosis on their trainer before...

Rui rested her head back on her pillow. It seemed the more time she spent with this unusual trio, the more questions she had. She was pondering these many questions when she finally drifted back to sleep.


Wes could not believe that, a full day later, he was right back where he had started.

Not only that, but instead of his Pokémon sitting across from him in their usual diner booth, it was this girl.

He'd figured they could all do with some breakfast before returning to Phenac, so here they were, morning sunlight filtering through the dirty windows, waiting for their food to be ready as Neo and Novo downed their kibble at Wes' feet.

He put his head into his gloved hands and sighed. It's like Arceus himself doesn't want me to leave this place.

"Es-piiiii?"
Neo peeked at him from under the table with wide, sparkling eyes.

"Neo, you're getting regular Pokémon food today, and I swear to Arceus if you whine to me about it, I'll put you in your ball for the rest of the day," Wes growled.

Neo looked thoroughly mortified at this answer, but he knew defeat when he saw it. He slunk back to his place under the table with a pout.

Rui giggled at the sight. "He must love human food, huh?"

"Mostly just bacon," Wes muttered. A small part of him regretted the day he'd let the two brothers try some. What a pair of monsters he'd created.

Rui placed her elbows on the table and leaned in a little. "So we're going back to Phenac today, yeah?"

"That's the plan."

"Do you have a P*DA or something? I'd really like to find a way to contact you and pay you back when I can..."

"I don't give out my number to people I don't know. Sorry."

"Oh?" She cocked her head at him, a smile dancing across her face. "You don't give out your number to strangers, but you'll rescue them from kidnappers, escort them around the city, and give them food and a place to stay for the night?"

Wes felt a small tinge of warmth in his face. "That's...different."

"It's very different from just giving out your number, I agree." She smirked.

"Look, I didn't—I don't—"

Rui laughed, and the sound filled the small diner. Wes was grateful that there weren't any other customers to give them weird looks this time. "I'm teasing, Wes. You don't have to give me your number if you aren't comfortable. I just want to pay you back, that's all."

"Well...don't worry about it," Wes mumbled in response. He'd much rather send this girl on her way and never have to contact her again. It was simpler that way.

The call for their order came, and he was grateful for the chance to end the conversation, if only briefly. He knew she would likely pepper him with more questions once he returned with their food—and, lo and behold, he was right.

"So, where are you heading?" Rui asked him around a mouthful of omelette.

"Pyrite, actually." Wes had pondered a few false answers to give her, so as to prepare for the onslaught of questions.

Rui's eyes widened in shock. She hastily swallowed her bite of food. "Pyrite? But...why?"

Wes shrugged. "Thought I might take on the Colosseum challenge there."

"Ohhhh!" Rui suddenly leaned forward in excitement, putting her face far too close to Wes' for his comfort. "That's so cool! Agate doesn't have a Colosseum, so I've never seen any Colosseum matches before!"

"Um, yeah." Wes leaned away from her to regain some breathing room. Not for the first time, he wondered what in Mew's name was wrong with this girl. Had she never heard of personal space?

Thankfully, Rui sat back in her seat with a resigned sigh. "If this trip has taught me anything, it's that I really haven't seen enough of Orre. So much of it is so different from what I'm used to."

It's about time you realized.

"You could always change that, you know," said Wes as he picked at his plate. "You shouldn't wait too long to leave a place." Like me, he thought ruefully.

"I would, but...I probably shouldn't go alone." Rui gave a slightly bitter laugh. "I mean, we both know how that went when I tried it."

"Then go with someone."

"I don't really have anyone to go with."

"What, you don't have trainer friends?"

She dropped her gaze to the table. "No, actually," she said hesitantly. "I mean, Agate is mostly full of old, retired Ace trainers and maybe a few young families that are related to them. There wasn't anybody my age growing up, so...I didn't really have any friends." She grinned at him sheepishly. "Sounds kind of pathetic, huh?"

No, Wes thought, It sounds...lonely. For once, he thought he could relate to her, if only just a little. "Well, get yourself some Pokémon, then. Be a trainer. You're probably safest that way, anyway."

Rui laughed again. "Come on. You and I both know Pokémon aren't easy to come by. They haven't been since the Johtohan War." The smile faded from her face a little. "I...I don't do Pokémon, anyway."

Wes frowned at her. "Why not?" She certainly seemed to like them enough.

"I just...don't."

It was the first vague answer she'd given. Wes took the hint and didn't press the issue further. They finished their meal soon after and headed out to Wes' motorbike.

Neo had warmed up to Rui quite a bit over the last twenty-four hours. Wes had a suspicion that it had to do with the fact that she was always showering him with attention and praise whenever the Espeon so much as looked at her. He narrowed his eyes as he watched Neo rub up against her legs with a hopeful mewl.

"Oh my gosh, you're so adorable!" Rui giggled as Neo brushed against her. He answered with a happy chirp. She grinned over her shoulder at Wes. "I think he really likes me!"

"He likes everybody," Wes replied dryly, although he knew that wasn't exactly true.

Rui didn't seem to hear his remark and walked ahead to the motorcycle with a spring in her step. Wes glared down at his Espeon. "Stop sucking up to her. She's not staying."

Neo's only response was to blink smugly at his trainer before sauntering ahead, tail held high.

Brat.

He once again had to return Neo and Novo to their Pokéballs to make room for Rui in the sidecar. Neo was more willing to go along with it this time, but Novo seemed more sour about it than ever. Wes sighed quietly to himself and wondered how long his Umbreon would hold this against him.

Once they were both seated, he heard Rui speak up from beside him. "To Phenac, then?"

Wes nodded and gripped the handlebars. "To Phenac." And then, finally, to Gateon. And beyond.

He roared up the engine, and they were off into the desert once more.


Neo liked the new girl.

He had decided so almost immediately upon seeing her emerge from that stuffy brown sack. Even though he'd sensed anxiety and fear rolling off her in waves, he also sensed something else: kindness. Gentleness. Sincerity.

He liked that. It reminded him of his trainer.

Her vivaciousness made itself known as they walked around town, and he liked her even more. Her bright spirit added a new dynamic to the trio that Neo had not seen before, and it was fun. Novo was always serious and alert, and Wes always made an effort to remain composed and impassive. Neo loved them, but Mew above, being the only energetic one of the group sometimes got downright boring.

Her energetic enthusiasm, while thrilling to him, only seemed to agitate his trainer. She peppered him with questions, laughed a lot, and walked with a bounce in her step all while irritation quietly emanated from Wes in spades. Neo found this highly entertaining to watch.

But aside from her odd red hair, her loud laughter, and her bubbly personality, there was one reason above all others why he liked the girl so much.

She was a total pushover.

He'd discovered this as they sat at their booth in the Phenac restaurant. While his trainer spoke with the girl, Neo had cautiously leaned forward to sniff her hands from his place at Wes' feet. Her scent was pleasant yet unfamiliar, and it stoked his curiosity. She must have felt his whiskers, because suddenly her attention was on him and she was stroking his head and cooing at him all the while, telling him how handsome and beautiful he was.

Well, she clearly had good taste.

He tested this a few more times, and sure enough, each time he brushed against her, he was showered with her affection. She seemed absolutely thrilled every time he paid attention to her, and she was more than willing to return the favor.

They were at the Outskirt Stand when Neo decided to test this even further. He was pouting under the table after he'd given Wes the Begging Eyes and was told a hard no. The smell of bacon wafted tantalizingly in the air, and Neo chuffed and gloomily laid his head on his paws. He couldn't believe his trainer sometimes. Who could possibly deny him, Neo the Great (and Handsome, according to the redhead) Espeon, when he put on the charm? Apparently his stone-cold trainer could. Hmphf.

His eyes rested on the pink pair of boots across from him, and he had an idea.

He waited until near the end of their meal when Wes briefly left the table to pay for their food, then slunk over to the girl and rested his head in her lap. He let his ears and tail droop, then looked her straight in the eyes and blasted her with Irresistible Cuteness, utilizing his Begging Eyes to the max.

It was a sight to behold. Her face crumbled, her resolve wilted, and she glanced quickly about before discreetly slipping him a piece of bacon under the table.

"Don't tell Wes," she whispered.

Neo devoured the meat with gusto. He could feel his brother's stare of disbelief on the back of his head and could practically hear him asking where his dignity went. Neo chose to ignore this, and instead licked the last remnants of bacon from his muzzle and settled down smugly at Wes' feet when he returned. Score one for the Espeon.

Yes. Neo liked the new girl very much.


Novo was very unsure about current events.

True, he did help his brother pressure Wes into stepping in to rescue the girl, but he hadn't expected her to stay. The longer she stayed with them, the greater the anxiety was that he could sense from his trainer. And Novo disliked anyone who set his trainer on edge.

Which was basically everyone that wasn't him and Neo, but that was beside the point.

This girl. She was naive. And boisterous. And loud. Her laugh grated on Novo's ears, and he thought her voice was loud enough to draw attention from two streets over. Hadn't the plan been to blend in and go as unnoticed as possible? In fact, wasn't the plan to be well on their way to Gateon by now?

Novo sensed from Wes' quiet tension and frustration that he was having the same thoughts as the Umbreon. The mounting anxiety to be on the road almost made him regret begging his trainer to save the girl. Almost. Much as he disliked her, he was sure that sack had not been a comfortable place to be, and kicking those men and their Whismur to the curb had been fun. Still, her bubbly demeanor rubbed his fur the wrong way.

His opinion of the girl lessened even further when, at the restaurant, she'd tried to pet him. She'd stretched out a cautious hand, as if to touch his head, and he snarled at her. Sure, she didn't seem like a threat—far from it—but if Wes didn't want her to get close, then Novo wouldn't let her get close to himself, either. It was that simple.

Nonetheless, he suffered through their annoyingly long stay at Phenac City. Once the girl was set, she would be on her way, and they would be on theirs. No more invasive questions or weirdly bright smiles.

But for some reason, she followed them as they finally made their way back to the motorbike. Wes had picked up the pace considerably, and Novo felt joyous at the prospect of moving ahead as planned. Yet...the girl was still here. Did she not understand? Was she that naive? Surely—surely—Wes wasn't planning on bringing her along?

Novo's shock was immeasurable when Wes crouched down to level with him and told him he would have to go in his Pokéball.

What?

His trainer seemed displeased at the idea, too, as he mumbled an apology to him, but Novo's shock only deepened further when he saw the redhead make for the sidecar.

What?

Not only was he being forced back into his Pokeball for the second time today, he was being booted out of the sidecar? His spot? The spot where he loved to watch the scenery fly by and feel the wind in his fur? All for this—this girl? This girl, of all people?

The feeling of betrayal was palpable. He made certain Wes knew this by cramming every fiber of his wounded pride into a piercing glare before he was sucked into his Pokéball.

This girl.

Novo did not like this girl.


Chapter 4, in which we get some new POV!

Here's some trivia for you all that has absolutely no bearing on the plot whatsoever but I'm going to share it nonetheless:

The "mail order girlfriend" comment was inspired by chuggaconroy's LP of Colosseum on YouTube.

In the main anime, it is canon that "Pika-pi" is Ash's name in Pikachu's language, so I decided to do something similar in this story. Neo's "Espi" and Novo's "Umbri" are them saying Wes' name. Again, not relevant to know, just a fun little detail :)

Stay tuned for next chapter, where things get...interesting! ;)
 
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Chapter 5

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon

4FF81472-F6CA-4AEA-8406-7F993D866B1B.jpeg

Chapter 5: Stirring Shadows

Wes couldn’t help but grumble a little once Phenac City came into view.

Yesterday he had hoped to never have to lay eyes on this city again, and yet here he was, shielding his eyes from its brightness even with his shaded goggles on.

He parked in his usual place outside the city wall, released Neo and Novo immediately, and stalked back through the city entrance with Rui close behind. He’d alerted the two Eons to keep close and stay watchful; he didn’t think Wakin’s impatience would have kept him in the city for very long, but he couldn’t afford to be careless. Especially not since he still had the Snag Machine...he spared a glance at the metal sleeve.

“Wes! Rui!”

Someone was shouting their names. Wes cursed quietly under his breath; having someone shouting his name in a busy city was not an idea he was fond of. He looked for the source, but Rui spotted them first - Dash and Marla, running towards them from across the street.

“Oh my goodness!” Marla panted once they’d reached them. She was looking at Rui with dismay. “You...I can’t believe you’re still here! You should have left by now, dear!”

“W-well, we technically did leave, but-” Rui began.

“That’s not important now!” said Dash. He looked panicked. “Rui, those men that took you - they’re back! They’re here, and they were headed to the Mayor’s house!”

Rui’s face drained of color. “Are...are you sure it was them?”

Dash nodded solemnly. “I’m sure. Positive. It was definitely them.” He looked between her and Wes with worry. “I-I’m really worried for the Mayor! You told him about them yesterday, right? What if they found out and...and...” he trailed off and gave Wes a pleading look.

Wes was rubbing his temples in frustration. Another distraction. Another. Damned. Thing. He sighed yet again. Rather than fight it this time, he figured if they could power through the issue quickly, then he could still be heading to Gateon by the end of the day.

He raised his head and fixed Dash and Marla with narrowed eyes. “All right, here’s the deal. We’ll go check on the Mayor and make sure everything is fine. Maybe we can even report that you two saw those men back in the city. And then we’ll get going, because we really need to be on our way.”

He could have sworn Marla had watery eyes as she thanked them. “Such incredible young people you are!” she sniffed. She and Dash said they would continue to look for the suspects before they parted ways.

“Do-do you think the Mayor’s okay?” Rui’s face was taut with worry as they made for his home. “What if they did find out and they’re here to do something to him?”

“He’ll be fine,” said Wes shortly. “First of all, those two thugs had less than one brain cell to share between them, and second of all, we’re talking about the Mayor. He’ll have security with him. Remember that doorman?”

“Yeah...yeah, you’re right,” Rui said. She relaxed a little. “He should be fine - but I am glad you offered to check on him. I’ll be glad to know for sure.” She smiled at him. “You’re a really good person, Wes.”

No, I’m not, Wes thought with annoyance. He felt ready to sock the next person who needed a favor in the jaw. He wanted to get. Out. Of. Here.

They made it to the Mayor’s house in good time, largely due to Wes walking so fast and Rui almost needing to jog to keep up. The massive estate looked very much unchanged from the day before. Wes snorted and shook his head. Such a waste of time.

Still, they marched up the steps. Rui bounded forward to knock on the door with her usual enthusiasm -

And the door creaked open.

She let out a gasp, and even Wes felt an unpleasant sinking feeling in his stomach. Certainly there was an explanation. The doorman had just forgotten to shut the door tight and lock it...right?

Rui hesitated, then pushed her way inside.

“What - Rui!”

But the girl had already stepped through the doorway. Wes could see that the lights were out inside, and he uttered a few more curses under his breath. Did this girl have a death wish?

He hastily followed her inside with Neo and Novo at his heels. She had only ventured in a few steps and was now looking about the room. Wes grabbed her by the arm with a growl.

“Are you stupid?” He hissed. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Rui turned to look at him with horror in her eyes. “Wes...” she whispered. He could feel her trembling in his grip.

Wes then noticed their surroundings, and he immediately understood her fear.

The office was unrecognizable from the day before. Not only were the lights out, but the room was destroyed; papers were scattered all over the floor, the fireplace was shattered, furniture was upended everywhere. Wes noticed the tea set that had been used to serve them yesterday was smashed into pieces on the floor.

“Rui,” he said slowly, “we need to get out of here. Now.”

He was just about to drag her back outside when the door at the other end of the room burst open.

At first, he wasn’t sure what he was looking at. For half a crazed second, as he saw massive ball of red and white, he thought he might be looking at a bizarre Pokemon. And then he realized it wasn’t what he was looking at, but whom.

The man that stood before them was tall, lanky, and dressed in some kind of ridiculous bright yellow track suit. His face was covered with gaudy shades, and he was adorned with flashy jewelry. But most noticeable of all was his hair; a massive afro that, for all intents and purposes, looked as though it defied the laws of physics just by how big it was. But the absurdity didn’t stop there - the hair was dyed two colors and split evenly down the middle, one side white, the other a fiery red.

Wes briefly wondered if this wasn’t just a hallucination. What did he have for breakfast, again...?

Afro Hair was apparently talking to someone else as he entered. His high, nasally voice carried a lilting accent that was almost as obnoxious as the fluff on his head.

“Now, now, darling, ain’t no need to get your hair worked up in a frizz. Why, that lil’ gal can’t have gone far, can - oh!” He squawked in surprise upon noticing Wes and Rui in the room. “Boys, I think we have company!”

Two more men stepped into the room from behind him, and Rui gasped in terror. She grabbed Wes by the arm and stood close to him. “Those - they - they’re-”

“I know,” Wes replied. He looked Folly and Trudly up and down with disgust. So these men had the nerve to come back to this place?

Neo and Novo stepped forward and faced the three men with bristling fur and low growls.

“Gah!” Trudly barked in alarm and pointed an accusing finger at Wes. “That’s - that’s him, boss! He’s the one who ran us out of town yesterday! An’ that’s the girl, there!”

The “boss” placed a hand on his hip and cocked his head to the side as he surveyed the newcomers. He scoffed and turned his head back to Trudly. “Are you boys tellin’ me you lost to this lil’ scrap?”

Trudly shuffled awkwardly. “Uh, Folly battled him, sir,” he said quickly.

“What’re you throwin’ me under the bus for?” Folly snapped. “You’da lost, too!”

Wes had started to inch toward the door, pulling Rui along with him. If they could just make a break for it while they were arguing amongst themselves -

The strange man’s gaze suddenly snapped back to Wes in his escape attempt. “Oh, I don’t think so, sonny boy!” he sneered. “Trudly, care to prove to me you’re not a pathetic lil’ sap like our dear Folly over here?” Folly made a noise of indignation, looking highly affronted.

“Sure thing, Boss!” Trudly barked. He whipped two Pokeballs from his belt and hurled them onto the floor.

Two beams of light faded to reveal a Duskull and a Spinarak. Wes almost shook his head at the pitiful Pokemon. Did these thugs really think they stood a chance against Neo and Novo?

But still, getting into another messy situation was not on today’s agenda. He took another step closer to the door -

A web shot from the Spinarak’s mouth and stuck to the door over Wes’ shoulder. With a fierce tug, it was slammed shut.

“Oh-ho!” the odd man cackled. “Tryin’ to run away, now? And here I thought you was some gentleman lookin’ out for this girl!” His eyes rested on the redhead as he mentioned her. Rui shivered and took another step closer to Wes.

“Here’s the deal, sonny! You hand that girl back over to us, nice an’ easy, and we let you go free! How do that sound?”

“What do you want with me?” Rui snapped. She was quivering, but her eyes were fierce.

“Well, lil’ gal, we was hopin’ you could tell us.” A sneer slid its way across the man’s face. “What are you doin, goin’ around and seein’ things you’re not supposed to see?”

Rui’s eyes widened in horror. “You did do something to that Makuhita!”

A sudden ringing interrupted the exchange. The man gave a start and giggled. “Whoops-a-daisy! Pardon me, boys and girls!” He pulled his P*DA out of his pocket and answered. “Hellooooo?”

There was an incredibly awkward silence as he listened to the other side of the phone call. Nobody else in the room dared to speak. Folly was seething with anger near the opposite doorway, and Trudly was growling at Wes, clearly itching for a battle. Neo and Novo stood planted firm, growling at the men and now Trudly’s Pokémon. The Spinarak and Duskull were shifting in front of them, eyeing their opponents warily.

“W-Wes...” Rui’s frightened whisper reached his ears. “I’m so sorry - we shouldn’t have come here - I shouldn’t have barged in-”

“You think?” he growled at her. Rui ducked her head. Wes could still feel her trembling. Despite his annoyance, he felt a small tug of sympathy for her.

“I won’t turn you over, if that’s what you’re worried about,” he mumbled back to her. Rui kept her gaze on the floor, but she tightened her grip and nodded.

“You...think we can get out of here?” she whispered.

Wes snorted. “Please. Neo and Novo will take care of this.”

But even if we escape, what happens to the Mayor? he wondered. There was no indication of where the Mayor might be. Maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t actually home and they hadn’t come for him after all, but something else...?

It was a small thing to hope for, but he did anyway.

“Ah, just lovely! Goodbye, darling!” The man with the afro ended his phone call with a flourish of his hand before returning the P*DA to his pocket. He turned to the grunts behind him. “Well, boys, I’m off to Pyrite now! Ta-ta!”

“Wh-what?” Trudly spluttered. “You’re just gonna leave us to deal with this alone?”

“Yes indeed, darling,” his boss drawled with a wink. “I have frightfully important business to attend to, so I’ll be on my way. But I do trust you’ll have the girl with you the next time we meet.” His last sentence, though still drawled in his light, lilting voice, suddenly contained a cold and dangerous edge to it.

Trudly paled in fear and nodded. “I-I‘ll do it, boss!” he stammered.

“See that you do.” The man glanced back over his shoulder at Wes and Rui and winked. “Was lovely meeting you, darlings!” He sauntered off through the back door and was gone.

“Was he for real?” Wes mumbled dazedly. Rui gave a nervous laugh.

“All right, boy,” Trudly snarled. His face was twisted with fierce hostility, but there was something akin to desperation in his eyes. “You heard the boss! He needs the girl back. Pronto. Hand her over and nobody gets hurt.”

“No, thanks,” Wes said cooly.

Folly glanced between the two of them nervously. He sidled towards the door.

“You wanna do this the hard way, then?” Trudly roared. “FINE! Hard way it is!” He addressed his Pokemon. “String Shot and Shadow Ball!”

“Neo, Confusion on that Spinarak!” Wes barked. “Novo, keep that Duskull away from him and Bite whenever possible!”

The Eeveelutions acknowledged their orders with a bark. Novo was immediately tied up in a String Shot, but he gnawed his way through the sticky webs with Bite; Neo dodged the Shadow Ball and plowed into the Spinarak with Confusion. The spider screeched as it was thrown into the opposite wall and fell motionless to the floor in one hit.

The Duskull fired another Shadow Ball, and this time it struck Neo’s shoulder with enough force to send him tumbling. The Espeon yowled in pain, but before the Duskull could launch another attack, he was yanked out of the air by Novo’s jaws. The Umbreon had leaped onto the desk to reach his foe, and now hurled him down to the ground with a fierce tug. The Duskull wailed and shot another Shadow Ball at the Pokemon; the attack rolled off Novo’s shoulders with almost no effect whatsoever. He lunged and ended the scuffle with a swift Bite.

Trudly roared and raged. “You - you PATHETIC LITTLE-” he swore vehemently and returned his fallen Pokemon to their balls before turning on Wes. “I’M NOT FINISHED YET!”

Rui’s eyes widened. “Wes-”

“Not now, Rui.” Wes focused intently on his opponent.

“But - Wes -”

She didn’t get to finish her thought. Another beam of light filled the room as Trudly unleashed his third and final Pokemon.

A Makuhita.

Rui choked a cry from behind Wes. “That’s the one, Wes!” she cried. “There’s something wrong with that Pokémon!”

Wes looked the Makuhita up and down; it didn’t seem like there was anything wrong with it. Sure, its tense posture and fierce growls were aggressive, but he didn’t see how -

Without a command, the Makuhita hurled itself at Novo with terrifying speed. Novo scrambled to get out of the way, but he’d been caught off guard. The Makuhita slammed a fist into the Umbreon’s side and sent him flying into the lounge area, crashing into a knocked over couch.

Wes hissed through clenched teeth. This Makuhita was fast. No matter; it was still outnumbered, with a type disadvantage to boot. “Neo! Confusion!”

The Espeon was back on his feet and ready to rumble. He blasted a wave of Psychic energy at the Makuhita. Wes could hear Rui shouting in alarm, but he didn’t listen. What was she so worried about? This battle would end quickly soon enough, they were fine -

The Makuhita barreled straight through Neo’s Confusion. Wes blinked. That was new.

Neo let out another howl as his foe tossed him effortlessly to the side and kept gunning forward - straight at Wes.

Oh.

He barely had time to react. He ducked and dove to the side, but he wasn’t quite fast enough to dodge the entire blow. The Makuhita’s fist glanced off his right shoulder, and Wes felt something pop, followed by a thrill of pain shooting down his arm as he crashed to the floor.

Rui’s screams filled his ears. The Makuhita lunged for her next, but Novo rammed it out of the way with a Return. The Pokémon tumbled across the floor, then scrabbled to its feet with another snarl, and Wes got a good look at its eyes.

He felt a shiver go down his spine; he’d never seen such empty, such soulless eyes in a Pokemon before. He’d seen more than his fair share of abused and neglected Pokémon during his time in Snagem, but none of them had been quite like this. This Makuhita was filled with nothing, nothing at all, except pure, unfiltered hatred.

“Rui - Rui!” Wes shouted, sitting up and trying to put some distance between him and the Makuhita. “The bag! Give me the bag!”



“Wh-what?”

“Just give it to me!”

She did as told, and the canvas bag was tossed into his lap.

The crazed Pokemon lunged at Wes again; Neo blocked it this time with a Protect, then another Confusion. Though the Espeon’s Psychic-type attacks should have greatly weakened the Fighting-type, it seemed hardly fazed at all. If anything, it was even angrier than before. Both Neo and Novo lunged at their foe, only to be thrown aside yet again.

The Makuhita locked eyes with Wes, and launched at him a third time.

Wes’ instincts kicked into overdrive.

He was hardly aware that he had dug into the bag and was now holding a Pokeball in his hand. The machine on his arm came to life, soft orange lines glowing as they ran all the way down to his fingertips. The Pokeball in his hand glowed and hummed as the machine did its work.

The Makuhita bore down on him, and Wes threw the ball.

The Pokemon vanished in a beam of light. The ball fell to the floor with a light thunk, then shook once...twice...three times.

And then clicked.

A stunned silence filled the room, only to be broken by Trudly’s scream.

“WHAT?!”

The ball flew from its place on the floor to Wes’ open hand - the one with the machine. He stared at it numbly, unsure of what to think or feel.

“WHAT DID - HOW DID YOU - THAT’S MY POKEMON!”

Trudly was practically foaming at the mouth. Wes looked up into the man’s eyes.

“Not anymore,” he said bluntly.

Trudly took a step forward, looking about ready for murder, when Neo and Novo limped out from under the wreckage of the battle. Neo’s forehead jewel gleamed menacingly, and Novo’s rings pulsed with anger.

“Doesn’t look like your friend is here to back you up, either,” Wes added.

Folly was indeed nowhere to be seen. Trudly balked, glancing at the advancing Pokemon and where his friend should have been. He snarled a volley of insults at Wes before retreating hastily through the door.

Wes’ shoulders slumped in relief, and he stared at the Pokeball in his hand. Never, not once, had he seen a Pokemon behave in such a way before...

A shuffle from near the door caught his attention. He turned his head to see Rui backing away from him, her face white with shock. “You...how...how did-”

Wes staggered to his feet and sucked in a sharp breath at the pain that laced through his shoulder. Something was definitely wrong with it. He grimaced at Rui. “I’ll explain later, okay?”

Rui continued to stare at him. “You...you just...you just stole-”

Wes didn’t have time for this. He grabbed Rui by the arm and made for the door. “I’ll explain later. But for now we need to get out of-”

“I’m not going ANYWHERE with you!” Rui’s voice was shrill as she wrenched her arm away from him. “Not until you explain to me what just happened! Right now!”

Wes clenched his jaw and took a long look at the girl. If he told her the truth, would she understand? Would she allow him to continue on his way without turning him in? Or would she give him away to the authorities in a fit of rage?

He thought of her face in the Pokémon Center when she spoke of Team Snagem, and he knew the answer.

He heaved a long, weary sigh. “Okay. Okay. I’ll explain. But can we please go somewhere else? I don’t want to be here when authorities get here. It won’t look good for either of us.”

Rui seemed to accept this answer, as she tersely nodded her head after a moment’s pause. “Fine.”

They took the back exit to avoid being seen, and Neo and Novo were returned to their Pokeballs until they could be taken to the Center for their injuries. Wes made an effort not to let his own injury show, partly out of attempts to avoid suspicion from curious onlookers, but mostly out of habit. He led Rui to a bench that was tucked away next to a few artificial waterfalls; their conversation would be safe here, with the rushing water to discourage potential eavesdroppers.

Rui sat far away from him, on the opposite side of the bench. Though she’d been clinging to his arm just moments earlier, now she wanted nothing to do with him, and was putting as much space between them as possible. She fixed him with a burning glare. “Well?”

Wes took a deep breath. He would have to be careful, very careful, on how he approached this. The low voice spoke in his mind once again, repeating words from yesterday: The best lies are half-truths, boy.

And as much as Wes hated that voice, he listened to it.

“I...I told you I grew up on the streets, right?” He started slowly. Rui narrowed her eyes at him and nodded. “Well...I associated with all kinds of people. Living that life, you have to make connections to survive. I had...had some close friends who got caught up with Team Snagem.”

Rui’s hands curled into fists as they rested atop her knees. She said nothing, so Wes continued.

“I didn’t like what Team Snagem did. I never liked it. But these friends of mine...they did what they thought they had to do to survive. So they stayed with Snagem for a long time, until something happened.” He paused and stared hard at the ground. “They...killed one of my good friends and his team.”

Rui’s expression remained unchanged, but she pursed her lips at this revelation. “Why?” she asked.

“Because he broke one of their rules...I don’t know all the details.” Wes ran a hand through his hair. “I just know that they killed his team and made him watch before they killed him.” Anger started to rise in his chest. Horrifying images, ones that plagued his nightmares, began to flicker across his mind. He shook his head and pushed them back as he took another deep breath.

Not now. Keep it together.

“So,” he pressed on, “I got together with a couple of friends and we decided to do something about it. We rigged up some explosives and infiltrated the base. That explosion that happened a few days ago? That was me.”

Rui’s reaction was clearer this time. Her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open. “That...was you?”

“Yeah.” Wes gave her a bitter smile. “Best damn thing I ever did.”

She stared at him in shock for a moment, then her eyes went to the machine still on Wes’ arm. “That doesn’t explain that, though.”

“I stole it before I - we - blew up the base. Snagem had a whole bunch of machines made to convert Pokeballs for stealing, so we set the bombs off in all the rooms that held them. We destroyed them all...except this one.” He looked down at the metal contraption. Sunlight glinted off its many curved surfaces. “This was the only portable one they had. I stole it because...well, I’m actually not sure. Part of me wanted to use it against them, I guess. Somehow.”

“Then how did you automatically know how to use it?” Rui’s voice hardened a little with suspicion.

“I had a general idea of how they worked from what my friends told me. Plus, it’s pretty straightforward. You just throw a Pokeball with that arm.” He raised head back up to meet Rui’s eyes. “That’s the story.”

Rui scanned his face as if looking for any traces of falsehood. “So...you were never part of Team Snagem yourself?”

“No,” Wes said firmly. “Never.”

“You’ve never stolen a Pokemon?”

“Today was the first.”

She sat still for a long time, staring hard at him, fists still clenched. Wes tried to calm the pounding in his chest as he met her gaze evenly. Please let her believe me. Please.

“Okay.” Her voice was quiet. “I believe you.”

Wes allowed himself to breathe a tiny sigh of relief. Thank. Arceus.

“But...what does this all mean?” Rui leaned back with a sigh. “That Makuhita...I don’t know what they did to it, but it’s badly scarred, and dangerous. You saw for yourself.”

Wes nodded.

“And I’m apparently the only person who can see them...that I know of, at least.” She tipped her head back to look at the sky. “I’ve never met anyone else who can see aura...but then I just happened to meet you, and you just happen to have a machine that lets you steal Pokemon...” she trailed off and gave him a pointed look.

Wes stared blankly at her. “What are you getting at?”

“Well, isn’t it all so...convenient?” Rui sat up on the bench, angling to face him. “It’s all so circumstantial. Doesn’t it seem like we were meant to meet and maybe...I dunno, join forces?”

“Join forces for what?”

“To save those Pokemon!” Rui waved a hand exasperatedly, as though she couldn’t believe Wes wasn’t getting it. “Whoever those people in the Mayor’s house were, they’re part of something. A gang, maybe, or an organization. And I know there are more corrupted Pokemon out there from what I overheard while I was in that sack. Whatever they’re doing to those Pokemon, it’s wrong, and it’s horrible, and - “ she broke off, her voice quivering with emotion. “I want to save them, Wes,” she finished. Her eyes were pleading as she looked at him.

Wes sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. Of course. Of course this girl, with no knowledge of how the world worked, would want to go charging in to challenge some underground crime ring without evidence, on the off chance they might save some random Pokemon she didn’t even know. Really, why did he expect anything different?

His arm twinged painfully, and he held back a wince.

“Look.” He raised his head again. “That’s a nice idea and all, but you have no actual evidence. You don’t have any leads. And you’re not even slightly qualified to lead any sort of investigation. It’s best to tell authorities everything you know, and let them take it from there.”

“But what can they do?” Rui huffed. “They haven’t accomplished anything in years when it comes to Orre’s crime rings! I mean, you did more to expose Snagem than they have ever done, and you’re just one person!”

Wes had to admit she had a point there. Orre’s pitiful excuse for a police force was precisely why crime was so high. Few criminals were successfully caught, and even fewer were ever punished.

He shook his head. “I’ve done my part, all right? I did what I could to destroy and expose Snagem, I hit them where it hurt the most, and now I’m a dead man walking if any of them catch me. I’m also pretty sure that blowing up buildings is still a crime, whether it belongs to a gang or not. So there’s that. I’m not in any position to...to play hero, or whatever. And I don’t think I want to. I just want to lay low and live the rest of my life in peace.”

That’s your answer?” Rui asked in disbelief. “You saw that Pokémon! You saw what those men did - and are doing! And you’re just going to ignore it?”

“I never said I was going to ignore it, I’m just going to leave it to the police.”

Rui scoffed. “Which is basically the same thing.”

“Well, we cant all be a hero, all right?” Wes snapped. Another pang shuddered through his shoulder and down his arm, and he hissed in frustration. Why, why, why couldn’t he have just ignored his Pokemon yesterday and let someone else rescue this crazy redhead? He rose to his feet. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to heal my Pokemon and get my shoulder looked at, and then I’m leaving this place. You should find yourself some transportation to Agate, and then I think it’s for the best if we never see each other again.”

Rui had also risen to her feet and was frowning at him. For a moment Wes wondered if she’d even heard what he said. “You...hurt your shoulder?” She looked concerned.

“A crazy Pokemon tried to kill me, in case you didn’t notice.”

“I-I didn’t realize you were hit! I’m sorry-”

“Doesn’t matter.” Wes turned away on one heel. “I’m going now.” He marched off in the direction of the hospital.

“Wait!” Rui rushed up beside him. “At least let me go with you to the hospital!”

“What the hell for?” he spat. “I don’t need you. Go away.”

“No! You got into this mess because of me, and the least I can do is make sure you’re okay!”

“I’m fine, and I’d be even better if you’d leave me alone.”

“At least let me go with you. Okay? Then I’ll leave and I’ll be out of your hair, I promise.”

Her face was so sincere as she looked at him. Wes found it so damned infuriating. How in Mew’s name could this girl possibly have the energy to care so much about absolutely everything? Didn’t she ever get tired? Like a normal person?

Wes grumbled in defeat. “Fine.” And with that, he made for the hospital with Rui in tow.
 
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Chapter 6: Lockdown

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
Chapter 6: Lockdown

This is definitely not how I thought today would go.

Rui said these words to herself as she sat beside a grumbling Wes in the Phenac clinic. Their visit had taken roughly two hours from start to finish, much to the Trainer’s chagrin.

He was in quite a sour mood, although Rui couldn’t exactly blame him, given the day’s events. She glanced at the sling on his right arm; she couldn’t believe he’d had a dislocated shoulder ever since leaving the Mayor’s house. He’d hardly shown any pain at all, and even after the nurse set it back in place, he was prepared to leave and skip receiving pain medication altogether.

Rui had, with some considerable effort, convinced him to stay for just a little longer. Good as he was at masking it, there was no way he wasn’t in pain. She shook her head to herself. What kind of person brushed off a dislocated shoulder like it was nothing?

As a peace offering and in an effort to temper his mood, she’d taken his Pokemon to the Center, healed them, and brought them back while he waited. This seemed to ease his stress a little.

Rui looked around the room. She couldn’t help but notice there was a tense atmosphere in the clinic. Nurses and doctors were muttering to each other in worried, hushed tones, and clients were whispering to one another. News about the break in at the Mayor’s estate must have been reported and was spreading around the city. Rui just hoped the Mayor would be found safe and sound...she sighed and slumped in her seat. She found herself wishing she could do more, so much more.

At long last, the nurse emerged with the medication and they were able to get on their way. Rui bit her lip hesitantly as they walked out the door. She knew she’d told Wes that she would go her own way after this, but she couldn’t help but wonder if those men, Trudly and Folly, were still in the city. They were still after her, and the thought of being left alone was terrifying...but she couldn’t possibly ask more of him. He’d made it clear that he had his own plans, and he’d sacrificed so much for her already...

She blinked in the sunlight as they stepped outside. The hospital was near the upper elevations of the city, so they had a clear view over the sloping buildings and cascading waterfalls. The sun was getting low in the sky, tinging the light blue with gold and glowing off the city below. Rui basked in the breathtaking sight; bad memories of Phenac aside, it still managed impress her.

She shot Wes a sideways look. “I...guess this is it, huh?”

“Yeah.” He wasn’t looking at her. Rui wondered if he was having the same thoughts as her about Trudly and Folly, but if he was, he said nothing. Instead, he sent Neo and Novo out of their Pokeballs. “All right, guys. Time to say goodbye.”

Novo cast her a sideways glance, chuffed, then turned his head away to look out over the city. Rui smiled wryly; she’d been expecting as much from him.

Neo’s eyes widened in dismay as he looked from his Trainer to Rui. “Esp? Spiiiii?”

“It’s time for us to go, bud, and she needs to get home. Say goodbye, okay?”

Neo’s ears drooped in disappointment. Rui crouched down, and he wandered over to place his head on her knee with a loud sigh.

Wes rolled his eyes. “Such a drama queen.”

Rui giggled at the Espeon. “I’ll miss you too, Neo,” she said as she stroked his head. “It was fun to get to know each other, wasn’t it?”

Neo rubbed his chin against her knee. “Spi.”

She got back to her feet. “So, um...thanks.” She looked down at her feet and clasped her hands behind her back.

“...yeah.” Wes mumbled and shifted awkwardly. “Well, uh, see you, I guess-”

“Umbri!” A bark from Novo made them both jump. The Umbreon was on his feet, looking at something in the distance. He turned to his Trainer with an anxious growl. “Bri!”

Wes raised a hand to his face and let out a growl. He looked as though he might throw something. “For Arceus’ sake,” he said weakly, “What now?”

As if in answer to his question, a loud, booming voice echoed through the streets, making them both jump. Rui glanced around for the source of the sound and found it was coming from speakers all throughout the city.

This is a public announcement to all citizens of Phenac!” Rui perked up - that was the Mayor’s voice!

All citizens are to return to their homes immediately. All visitors are to take shelter in the Pokemon Center. We ask that every individual remain indoors until further notice. There will be no exiting or entering the city at this time. We thank you for your cooperation.”

She heard Wes groan beside her. “Well. Fantastic. We chose a great day to come back here.” His voice was dripping with annoyance.

“What do you think is happening?” She turned to face him, fear creeping into her chest.

“Probably trying to chase down whoever broke into the Mayor’s house...which doesn’t put us in the best position,” Wes replied grimly.

“Why not?”

“Because we were there. If anybody saw us going in or out and reported it, we could be suspects.”

“We can just tell them the truth, right? And I bet if we could find Dash or Marla, they would vouch for us!”

“You’re forgetting that I stole a Pokémon while we were there. If that gets found out...”

“...oh. Right...” Rui bit her lip. “Then...what do we do?”

Wes didn’t answer immediately; he seemed to be wondering this himself. Then he turned and looked at her. “We’re getting out of here.”

Rui blinked. “‘We’?”

“You’re welcome to stay here for hours and possibly get arrested, but personally, I have other things I’d rather be doing.”

“O-okay, but how are we getting out? The Mayor just said-”

“Forget what the Mayor said. We can at least check out the entrance and see if we can sneak out somehow. It’s not like they have a police force to guard the exits.”

Rui frowned at him. “All right...but if we can’t find a reasonable way to get out, I think we should go to the Center and wait things out.”

Wes scowled. He clearly didn’t like her counteroffer, but rather than argue, he simply sighed. “Fine. Deal.”

They headed towards the southern entrance. Rui had to admit that, her rising anxiety and pounding heart aside, she was grateful they hadn’t parted ways just yet. It was nice not to be alone, and, gruff though he was, she was starting to enjoy Wes’ company. She watched Neo and Novo weave around their Trainer as they walked, and she felt a little more at peace in their presence.

They eventually rounded a corner and the south gate came into view. Four men stood in front of it, forming a human blockade of sorts. One man in a white and gold uniform stood in front of the other three and was repeating directions into a microphone.

“All citizens please return to your homes! There will be no leaving or entering this city until further notice! I repeat, all citizens return to your homes immediately...”

There weren’t many people in the small square, but those who remained were quickly hurrying about in varying directions to their homes. Rui caught a glimpse of a few faces as they bustled by; each one looked tense, worried, and fearful.

She then got a closer look at the men standing in front of the entrance. They each wore distinctly colored uniforms and carried an air of authority in their posture.

“Are those...officers?” Rui asked uncertainly.

“The guy in front is some kind of Town Hall member,” Wes answered as he surveyed the scene, “but I don’t recognize the ones behind him...they can’t be officers, I know Phenac doesn’t have...” he trailed off with a frown.

Rui then made a prompt decision and approached the man with the megaphone. She heard Wes hiss her name behind her, but she ignored him. She hadn’t been with the Trainer that long, but knew him well enough that he would probably come up with something brash and reckless to get them out of here. Rui, however, had a little faith in the power of negotiation.

“Excuse me!” Rui raised her voice in an attempt to be heard over the megaphone. “Can you tell us what’s going on?”

The man lowered the megaphone and threw her a thoroughly disgruntled look. “Look, lady, I can only repeat myself through this damn cone and be ignored so many times. Now get gone. Go home.”

“Please, sir...” Rui put on her best pleading face. “I’m just a tourist, you see, and I don’t live here-”

“Bah!” He waved a hand in frustration. “Then go to the Center or something!”

“Care to tell us why we can’t leave the city?” Wes surprised Rui by stepping up beside her and addressing the man sharply. She held back a sigh; she’d been going for the sweet and innocent angle, but Wes’ glare would quickly ruin that.

Out of the corner of her eye, Rui saw one of the three men nudge his neighbor and whisper in his ear.

The Town Hall member turned to scowl at him, but then quailed slightly under Wes’ fierce gaze. He huffed and shook his head. “Look, I’m not at liberty to share details, but I have it on good authority that there’s an armed and dangerous criminal in this city, and nobody’s going anywhere until we find the culprit.” His face darkened. “You’ve heard the orders from the Mayor and myself, so stop wasting my time and get inside somewhere!”

“Excuse me.” One of the uniformed men stepped up. His face was obscured under a helmet with a dark visor. He wore a scarf around his neck, a crisply fitted button-up uniform, and thick gloves. Every piece of clothing, from his visor to his boots, was a solid oceanic blue. His two companions behind him wore identical uniforms, except that one was in all red, the other all green.

He seemed to be glancing between Wes and Rui - she couldn’t see his eyes, so it was hard to tell for certain. He then clapped a hand on the Town Hall member’s shoulder. “You can go on home now, sir. We’ll take it from here.”

The man balked. “But-as a Town Hall official-”

“No need to worry, this area’s been cleared of civilians save these two. You’ve done your duty.”

The staff member sighed in relief. He pushed past Wes and Rui further into the city, and she thought she heard him grumble as he passed, “Don’t get paid enough for this.”

The man in blue turned his head to Wes. “You, sir. I’m going to need to see your Trainer I.D.”

Wes narrowed his eyes. “What?”

“No worry, it’s only a precaution. We’ve got a Pokémon thief running somewhere through this city, so we need to be sure no Trainers are carrying unregistered Pokémon.”

Rui’s heart raced in her chest. Wes had tucked the Makuhita’s Pokeball onto his belt, next to the other two...

“My Pokémon are right here,” Wes said cooly, and gestured to the Umbreon and Espeon that stood loyally his feet.

“I’m sorry, but I still need to see your I.D.”

Wes raised an eyebrow at him. “And who are you, exactly? I don’t remember Phenac having officers.”

“We are volunteer transfers from Pyrite who have offered their services to keep Phenac safe.” An edge crept into the man’s tone. “Now, for the last time, show me your I.D., or things will get difficult.”

Rui glanced nervously at Wes. What do we do? What do we do? But the Trainer merely sighed and shrugged his shoulders. His face was perfectly calm as he reached into his coat and handed his Trainer card to the...officer? Supposedly?Rui still wasn’t exactly sure what to call these men. She’d never heard of authorities transferring from Pyrite before - but then again, she supposed she didn’t know much about a lot of things.

The man in blue pulled out his P*DA and scanned the card. After a moment’s pause, he read aloud, “Wesley Lycas, twenty-two, native Orre citizen, three registered Pokemon. An Espeon, an Umbreon, and a Makuhita.” He pocketed his device and handed the card back to Wes. “Looks like everything is in order. You’re all clear, but we still can’t allow anyone in or out of this city until we do a thorough search.”

Wes heaved another sigh of exasperation. Rui could tell from his clenched jaw that he was trying very hard to maintain his patience. “Look, we really need to be on our way. Can you just let us go?”

“Sorry, sir. No exiting or entering until the lockdown is lifted.”

Wes looked ready to argue, so Rui quickly stepped in. “Thank you,” she said, “we’ll be on our way now!” She grabbed her companion by the arm and pulled him away.

“I can’t believe this-“ he mumbled under his breath as they turned to go. “We are never getting out of here...”

But we aren’t arrested, either, she thought. She looked up at him and was about to ask what sort of stunt he’d pulled when she heard a series of distinct sounds from behind them:

Several Pokémon being unleashed at once.

Wes stiffened. “Oh, hell-”

Rui was suddenly wrenched to the side as he dove, pulling her down with him. She didn’t even have time to shout before she heard Wes call to his Pokémon. “PROTECT!”

And everything around them exploded.

A maelstrom of Pokémon attacks engulfed them. Rui heard herself scream as she saw flames, leaves, water, psychic energy - but none of them reached her or Wes.

Neo and Novo flanked the two of them on either side. Novo’s rings flared as Neo’s jewel gleamed, a white silvery shield forming around them. The attacks subsided, and the shield evaporated like mist.

The dust settled. The three uniformed men stood with empty Pokeballs in their hands. Five growling, rumbling and snarling Pokemon loomed right in front of them -

Rui choked out a cry.

Dark. Angry. Black.

It was Pyrite all over again - but worse. Much worse. Rui trembled as she took in the sickly sight of purple-black flames engulfing the aura of - not one, not two, but three of the five Pokemon before them.

A Quilava twitched and clawed at the ground erratically as though trying to get at an itch it could not scratch; a Bayleef breathed heavily with raging hatred in its eyes; a Croconaw snapped its jaws and looked horrifyingly eager to tear something in two. A Spoink and a Grimer flanked the three creatures on either side, and although their auras were clean, they were tense and ready to fight.

These men were certainly no officers.

There’s more of them, she realized as she took in the corrupted Pokemon with growing horror. Lots more. Then she realized something else.

We are so, so dead.

“So this is how you want to play?!” Wes was back on his feet and roaring at his opponents. “Just who the hell do you think you are!”

The man in blue smirked at him. “Play dangerous games, win dangerous prizes, my friend.” Wes snarled a curse at him.

Rui rose shakily to her feet. “W-Wes-”

“What!” He snapped his gaze to hers, and Rui flinched a little; he looked thoroughly pissed.

“Those - those - those Pokemon are like that Makuhita!”

He stared at her in disbelief. “You’re joking.”

The - the-” Fear made her words were jumble together. “Quilava-Croconaw-Bayleef!” She hoped to Arceus she made some sort of sense in her panic.

“Briii!” Novo stalked forward with a growl, utterly undaunted by the number of foes. One of the Pokemon, a Spoink, squealed a challenge back at him.

A volley of cries reached Rui’s ears as each of the men hollered commands at their Pokemon. Rui ducked, Wes shouted for another Protect, and this time the shield barely held against the vicious barrage.

She was not convinced it would hold a third time.

“Novo, Dark Pulse on that Spoink! Neo - Confusion on the Grimer!” The Eons lunged into the fray at the command, and chaos ensued. Wes ripped the third Pokeball from his belt and unleashed the Makuhita.

The Pokémon’s aura was no different from before. The darkness shifted around it eerily, unnaturally, like a sickly specter. The Makuhita blinked as he took in his surroundings. The dark flames of aura burned higher as he noticed the fighting.

“Makuhita, Vital Throw!” Wes called from behind. The Makuhita turned to give him a blank stare.

“Does...does he know you’re his Trainer now?” Rui asked nervously. The sounds of the battle raged in front of them, and she heard Neo shriek in pain.

Wes must have heard this, too, because his jaw clenched. “Dammit, we don’t have time for this -“ he stepped up to the Makuhita. “Look, I’m your Trainer now. Long story. I need you to fight for me now or we are all dead.”

The Makuhita seemed to understand this. He blinked and nodded his head slowly.

“Right, then - Vital throw!”

The Makuhita continued to stare.

Wes growled in frustration. “For the love of - you know what, I don’t care what you do, just get in there and throw down, and don’t hit the Espeon or Umbreon. Go!”

The Pokémon didn’t need to be told twice. As if a switch had been flipped, the Makuhita went from a blank, lifeless slate to a raging machine. His head snapped to the battle and he lunged into the chaos with a terrifying bellow. “Ma-KU!”

Things were not going well for Neo and Novo. The Espeon was panting heavily as he clashed with the Bayleef, Quilava and Grimer all at once. He finally landed a solid Confusion on the Grimer, launching it several feet and taking it out of commission, only to be buried beneath the attacks of his other two foes. He wailed as the Bayleef battered at him with its vines - and then said Bayleef was blasted off its feet as Makuhita slammed into his side with terrifying force.

Novo was snapping his jaws at the Spoink with the Croconaw hot on his heels. He finally landed a Bite on its tail, and while the Pokémon shrieked, he knocked it out with a Dark Pulse before flinging it away from the battle. The Croconaw was upon him immediately, and the two engaged in a whirlwind of fangs and claws.

Shouts rang across the battlefield as one command after another was called. Rui heard one of the men, the one in green, laugh smugly. They knew who would win this fight; they had made sure of that before the battle had even begun.

The playing field was even now, but Wes’ starters had taken a beating. Neo’s fur was charred from the Quilava’s flames, Novo was limping badly, and both of their attacks were rapidly weakening. They would not last much longer.

The Makuhita, on the other hand, was thriving.

He slammed the Bayleef off its feet once more. The grass Pokémon let out a cry that was cut short by another brutal blow - then another, and another. The Bayleef’s cries transitioned from ones of frustration to screams of pain.

Rui noticed this with horror. “Wes, stop him!” She shrieked.

Wes had left Makuhita to his devices as he called commands to the struggling Eons. At Rui’s cry, he followed her gaze and swore at the sight.

He had a Pokeball in his hand with lighting speed; Rui caught a gleam of light as the machine on his arm lit up and emitted an orange glow along its seams and edges. With a fluid motion, the Trainer lunged forward and hurled the ball at the Bayleef, and the Pokémon vanished in a beam of light.

She heard one of the men scream in fury.

The Makuhita barely seemed to notice that his foe had vanished. He immediately hurled himself at the Croconaw with a roar, and Rui saw his aura bursting with aggression.

Rui didn’t hear the ball click in all the chaos, but she saw it fly back to Wes’ hand. No sooner did he tuck it away than he hurled another one, this time at the Quilava. The fire Pokémon had barely disappeared into the ball before he chucked another at the Croconaw.

The Trainer in red roared; his companions balked in fear and confusion at the sudden turn of the tides. He lunged forward - and the Makuhita, fresh out of opponents, charged at him.

“Holy-” Wes choked as he fumbled for his Pokeball, but he wasn’t quick enough. There was a loud thud and a scream as the fighting Pokémon landed his blow and threw the man back ten feet. He landed hard on the white stones and moaned in pain as his companions backed away with shouts of terror.

He’s out of control, Rui thought as she watched in horror. And Wes just caught another one like him! Merciful Arceus -

The Makuhita bore down on him again, black aura billowing about him, but Wes managed to return him just before he could slam his mighty fists down on the man’s chest.

“That Pokémon,” he said shakily to a pale Rui as he tucked away the ball, “is insane.”

“You know,” she replied weakly, “you’re not wrong.”

Crack!

The ominous sound rang out like a gunshot. The Quilava reappeared in a burst of white light, snarling with dark fury. The flames roaring from its neck and tail contrasted starkly with the black cloud of aura around it.

It fastened its eyes on Rui and lunged.

She stumbled backward with a yelp. A black and yellow blur shot from the side and rammed the fire Pokémon, sending it rolling across the stones. The Quilava staggered to its feet and faced Novo with a bellow of rage.

Rui felt a hand on her arm tug her back and away from the fight. She heard Wes’ voice beside her. “Dark Pulse!”

A wall of dark energy flowed from Novo’s pelt as he charged at his foe. The Quilava belched flames at him; Novo darted under them, and his Dark Pulse knocked the Quilava onto its side.

Another crack; the Croconaw burst from its Pokeball and immediately lunged at a weakened, barely standing Neo.

“Novo, Bite! Neo, Return!”

Es-PIIII!” Neo yowled as he launched his assault on the rapidly approaching Croconaw. His pelt gleamed with white energy, then blasted from his forehead jewel into the other Pokémon’s chest. The Croconaw bellowed as it was sent sprawling across the white stones.

The trainer in blue screamed at the Croconaw as it struggled to rise to its feet. “You pathetic little - SHADOW RUSH!”

“Shadow Rush?” Wes scoffed. “The hell kind of move is-”

Rui wasn’t listening. The moment its Trainer gave the command, she watched in horror as the Croconaw rose unsteadily to its feet. It’s aura pulsed brighter, stronger, bigger...

And then consumed the Pokémon.

For a moment, it felt as though time had slowed. Rui saw the sickly flames flickering around the Croconaw as it rushed at its opponent. Dark, black tendrils snaked about its body, as though binding it, suffocating it. Her chest ached.

Wrong. Wrong. Whatever had been done to this poor creature, it was wrong.

The Croconaw slammed into Neo. Rui heard him screech in pain as he was sent flying through the air, then landed with a gut-wrenching thud.

Wes moved past her in a blue blur as he launched another ball at the Croconaw. It disappeared once again into the ball, and this time, after several shakes, it did not reappear.

The ball had barely flown back to Wes’ hand before he launched another at the Quilava. Novo staggered away as his foe was sucked into the Pokeball, his fur singed.

Click.

The third and final ball landed in Wes’ hand. He shoved them both into the bag with a furious mutter.

A roar rang out. “YOU!” The Trainer in blue screamed at Wes. “HOW DARE YOU!”

Wes gazed back at him in cold fury. “Play dangerous games, win dangerous prizes, I suppose,” he spat.

The blue Trainer looked ready to lunge at Wes when a moan came from his companion lying on the ground. He spat at him before turning away to help his fallen comrade.

“Es...pi...” A weak mew reached Rui’s ears. She and Wes turned to see Neo limping to his Trainer. He looked up at him with dull eyes before collapsing to the ground.

A quiet, frightening rage appeared in Wes’ eyes. “Alright,” he hissed as he returned his Espeon and Umbreon, “That. Is. It.”

The tails of his coat streamed behind him as he turned and, without a word, stalked for the front gate.

“W-Wes?” Rui followed him cautiously. His anger scared her a little.

“Come on,” he said crisply. “We’re leaving this damned city.”

They strode past their attackers; the two men were busy helping their wounded colleague to his feet. Rui turned her head away from them and continued after Wes.

He didn’t say anything as they walked to where his bike was parked. Rui hesitated as they approached it. What was the plan now? Where would they go?

“Let’s go.” Wes’ voice made her jump. He was already on the bike, pulling his mirrored visors over his eyes. She noticed he’d already ditched his sling, and she vaguely wondered when that had happened.

Rui took a shaky breath. “Where are we going?”

“Anywhere that isn’t here.”

It was a good enough answer, for now. Rui climbed into the sidecar once again, still only just managing not to trip, and once she was settled in, they were off across the sands once more.
 
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HaruMiju

Hero in their dreams
Location
London
Pronouns
They/them, She/her,
Here were go again, CATNIP REVIEW! And it's kinda my thing to do a general review of things rather than an in-depth critique paragraph by paragraph. I hope my wordy rambles can make sense! Here goes nothing...


...


Retellings and rewrites are a bit of a curse for me. On one hand, they do a job that doesn’t really need doing – retelling the story of a game that I’ve already played. On the other hand, they serve as a headcanon to do all sorts of exciting things with the lore and the concept of the thing they’re retelling, and whenever I set out to read one, it’s the latter which I’m looking for.

I’ll start out personally and say that ‘Of Sand and Shadows’ doesn’t quite drive it home for me. I’ve read the first three chapters so far, but it doesn’t have enough oomph on its deviations to have kept me fully invested. But that’s the point of it, and where my personal preferences get in the way. It’s a faithful and fun retelling of Pokémon Colosseum. People who haven’t played in a while or haven’t played at all will definitely get a jolly kick out of this one, because it does its job well.

For what it is, all the right boxes are ticked and then some nifty details are added here and there which I appreciated. Descriptions are informative, characters are varied in their portrayal, and the source material is respected without any out-of-place feeling liberties like empty swearing or a forced teen romance. Colosseum in particular has a bit of an action-packed opening, and this here’s a strong capture of the whole thing.

With that in mind, I did really enjoy the little deviations and liberties the story does take. Things like Wes and Rui having a surname, or just more expressive and thoughtful characters in general. Everything they said and did makes sense within the confines of Colosseum’s plot and setting, believable enough for me to smile at the nods and quirks. I especially liked Wes’ backstory and the way he unwillingly dreads up past thoughts whenever he is debating a decision.

There are some hiccups here and there, nothing too jarring. But I realise that those crop up because I feel a slight unwillingness to be too daring. There aren’t many of these, but some descriptions have a word repeated. Or descriptions in general, basically all of these are very visual and don’t go too much further out. By that I mean, for example the description of Phenac City in chapter two.

The description mentions how the city is pristine, blindingly bright to look at, very refined compared to most of Orre, which is all accurate and puts a neat image of the area in mind. But this can be pushed further by elaborating on the other human senses. Is the area loud with all the waterfalls, fountains, and people activity? Does the market area smell like barbecue or rotten fish? Does the sunlight leave the surfaces hot to the touch?

It’s a descriptive skill that is rather tough to learn and master, but I feel you’ve got the fundamentals to start implementing the other senses and really spruce up your descriptions. There’s little wrong with them as they are now, it’s just a step forward I feel could improve things greatly and really pull readers into the world.

But back on the point of repetition, Phenac being blinding is mentioned both at the start of chapter two and three, along with the points about the white theme and fountains. At the point of chapter three, the reader is already aware of the setting, so unless things look a little different due to the time of day or something going on that makes the area appear different, the extra description feels like extra wording that can be trimmed. Starting that part with Rui’s remark is good enough, in my eyes!

I haven’t read further so I can’t comment on whether things improve. But the other part that can definitely be trimmed is the battle at the Outskirt Stand. This is a major problem I have with most fan fiction retellings. They stick a bit too faithfully to the source material and lose sight of the idea that they are telling a story. That battle exists in the game as a tutorial for the player – but this is a story, a piece of writing. So unless you were going to add something important to that battle or the characters in it, it can safely be skipped. The same goes for any other ‘game’ scenes, like battles or ‘side quests’ and the like. They have zero significance to the story whatsoever.

All of this gets alleviated when Neo and Novo are in play, though. Their behaviour and actions are portrayed wonderfully and add a much needed coat of colour to an otherwise gritty story. This is the sort of thing that I adore to see in retellings, at this quality and variety. It took a little bit to learn their nicknames, and I do have questions about their love of bacon of all things (meat in the Pokémon world is always an iffy subject, haha) but they were a driving force that had me smiling in every scene where they did something.

All in all, this is a great retelling from what I’ve read so far, and that’s coming from someone who struggles to get into the whole retelling side of fan fiction. There aren’t any blatant problems and most of my issues were personal. I still feel it can be driven further by really going out there with the descriptions, as well as trimming the fat of a few scenes, though. As it is now, it is perfectly readable, enjoyable, and is only going to get better.
 

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
Here were go again, CATNIP REVIEW! And it's kinda my thing to do a general review of things rather than an in-depth critique paragraph by paragraph. I hope my wordy rambles can make sense! Here goes nothing...


...


Retellings and rewrites are a bit of a curse for me. On one hand, they do a job that doesn’t really need doing – retelling the story of a game that I’ve already played. On the other hand, they serve as a headcanon to do all sorts of exciting things with the lore and the concept of the thing they’re retelling, and whenever I set out to read one, it’s the latter which I’m looking for.

I’ll start out personally and say that ‘Of Sand and Shadows’ doesn’t quite drive it home for me. I’ve read the first three chapters so far, but it doesn’t have enough oomph on its deviations to have kept me fully invested. But that’s the point of it, and where my personal preferences get in the way. It’s a faithful and fun retelling of Pokémon Colosseum. People who haven’t played in a while or haven’t played at all will definitely get a jolly kick out of this one, because it does its job well.

For what it is, all the right boxes are ticked and then some nifty details are added here and there which I appreciated. Descriptions are informative, characters are varied in their portrayal, and the source material is respected without any out-of-place feeling liberties like empty swearing or a forced teen romance. Colosseum in particular has a bit of an action-packed opening, and this here’s a strong capture of the whole thing.

With that in mind, I did really enjoy the little deviations and liberties the story does take. Things like Wes and Rui having a surname, or just more expressive and thoughtful characters in general. Everything they said and did makes sense within the confines of Colosseum’s plot and setting, believable enough for me to smile at the nods and quirks. I especially liked Wes’ backstory and the way he unwillingly dreads up past thoughts whenever he is debating a decision.

There are some hiccups here and there, nothing too jarring. But I realise that those crop up because I feel a slight unwillingness to be too daring. There aren’t many of these, but some descriptions have a word repeated. Or descriptions in general, basically all of these are very visual and don’t go too much further out. By that I mean, for example the description of Phenac City in chapter two.

The description mentions how the city is pristine, blindingly bright to look at, very refined compared to most of Orre, which is all accurate and puts a neat image of the area in mind. But this can be pushed further by elaborating on the other human senses. Is the area loud with all the waterfalls, fountains, and people activity? Does the market area smell like barbecue or rotten fish? Does the sunlight leave the surfaces hot to the touch?

It’s a descriptive skill that is rather tough to learn and master, but I feel you’ve got the fundamentals to start implementing the other senses and really spruce up your descriptions. There’s little wrong with them as they are now, it’s just a step forward I feel could improve things greatly and really pull readers into the world.

But back on the point of repetition, Phenac being blinding is mentioned both at the start of chapter two and three, along with the points about the white theme and fountains. At the point of chapter three, the reader is already aware of the setting, so unless things look a little different due to the time of day or something going on that makes the area appear different, the extra description feels like extra wording that can be trimmed. Starting that part with Rui’s remark is good enough, in my eyes!

I haven’t read further so I can’t comment on whether things improve. But the other part that can definitely be trimmed is the battle at the Outskirt Stand. This is a major problem I have with most fan fiction retellings. They stick a bit too faithfully to the source material and lose sight of the idea that they are telling a story. That battle exists in the game as a tutorial for the player – but this is a story, a piece of writing. So unless you were going to add something important to that battle or the characters in it, it can safely be skipped. The same goes for any other ‘game’ scenes, like battles or ‘side quests’ and the like. They have zero significance to the story whatsoever.

All of this gets alleviated when Neo and Novo are in play, though. Their behaviour and actions are portrayed wonderfully and add a much needed coat of colour to an otherwise gritty story. This is the sort of thing that I adore to see in retellings, at this quality and variety. It took a little bit to learn their nicknames, and I do have questions about their love of bacon of all things (meat in the Pokémon world is always an iffy subject, haha) but they were a driving force that had me smiling in every scene where they did something.

All in all, this is a great retelling from what I’ve read so far, and that’s coming from someone who struggles to get into the whole retelling side of fan fiction. There aren’t any blatant problems and most of my issues were personal. I still feel it can be driven further by really going out there with the descriptions, as well as trimming the fat of a few scenes, though. As it is now, it is perfectly readable, enjoyable, and is only going to get better.

Thank you so much for your review!!

I absolutely understand not enjoying retellings - for the most part, they don’t actually do it for me either! While the early chapters of this story are very faithful to the game, things diverge quite a bit from the source material starting in the next chapter, and it becomes largely a different story from that point on :)

I’m discovering that scene settings/descriptions are a bit of a weak spot of mine! The feedback is much appreciated and I’ll definitely keep it in mind when setting future scenes.

Thanks again for your review, it was super helpful! If you don’t choose to continue reading, that’s fine, but I you do, I hope you’ll enjoy what I have in store!
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
Wooh okay! Here to play some catchup!!

Ch2

I like the character motivations that start getting introduced in this chapter--Wes just wanting to get out is really interesting, since I assume that's not going to work out really well for him. I wanted a bit of a better sense of what exactly he wanted to run from (there are definitely many options): is he done with Snagem? Orre in general? I loved the details about Johto that come up in a later chapter, and how he's wistfully thinking about green trees and oceans, but I wanted a sense of urgency for what he's trying to either run to or from (even though we know that this isn't going to work out).

I don't know if we needed the Zigzagoon battle in this chapter. In the games it makes sense as a combat tutorial before the more serious fights, but from a narrative standpoint it starts really abruptly and then ends quickly. I thought the moment at the end was really nice, where Wes grudgingly decides to offer some nice advice despite his better instincts, but I don't think the extra fight before it added much to the chapter (which already had quite a bit going on outside of this). I think if you wanted to give a primer on combat, the battle would function better if it were longer, and we could see strategy/teamwork from Wes and his team; as it is, it's pretty short here and it feels unnecessary since the second fight in this chapter is more important both from a plot and character perspective.

“I said no, guys.” The traveler donned a teal trench coat that fell past his knees and began to pack up his belongings, pausing only to give them a stern look. “Last night was a special treat, but today we have to get on the road as quick as possible, which means nothing fancy for breakfast. And that’s final.”



Naturally, not ten minutes later, he found himself sitting sitting across from his Pokémon in the diner, watching them each chow down a fresh plate of bacon.
!! A really lovely detail haha. I love how this looks in light of later chapters, where Neo thinks that Rui's the pushover--but clearly Wes isn't that much more stern himself.

“I don’t understand how authorities haven’t at least made some progress,” she said. “Whoever bombed that shack has done more than they have in thirty years!”
ooof, this is a really interesting issue that's kind of relevant today--how do people react when seeing their political enemies suffer? The vicious glee here is kind of horrifying to see, even when it's directed at people we feel might deserve it. I kind of wanted a better idea of what Snagem is doing to other people and its general impact on Orre, to merit this kind of reaction.

Willie was standing leisurely in the desert sun, hands in his pockets. The sunlight made his bright pink hair even more shocking to look at, and Wes quietly snorted to himself in disbelief. Pink hair. Unbelievable. Not that he had much of a right to mock strange hair color - his own was such a light, sandy blonde, it was often mistaken for silvery white. Still, at least he could blame genetics instead of poor decisions.
I thought this bit was interesting too! Is there a difference between genetics and hair dye in this one? Orre has some very batshit character designs that wouldn't pass for regular humans, but also Espeon wouldn't pass for a regular cat so I can see some suspension of disbelief being an option there. Or are they all purposefully playing to some sort of part and purposefully going for outlandish (ala Miror B)?

“What’s the matter with you?” Wes asked irritably. Since when had his Espeon developed such a strong moral compass? “We can’t stop every shady person in town. Leave that to authorities or something. Let’s go.”
I like how his pokemon are the ones that spur him into action here! They've got hearts of gold even if Wes is still struggling with his haha.

“You need to take small sips.” Wes surprised himself by speaking. What did he care? Why had he bothered to stick around this long? Why hadn’t he left already? “You’re probably really dehydrated, so don’t drink it all at once or you’ll make yourself sick.”
I kind of wanted a bit more answers to these questions actually--why does Wes care and why is he sticking around? I think the answers are almost there; he's really in denial when he says he doesn't care about helping people, but I wanted more of him actually confronting these questions.

Ch3

Haha I forgot that they warn the Mayor who is super a good guy and not a bad guy. I'm sure nothing will go wrong here!

Most of my thoughts kind of got fragmented across this chapter, so skipping straight to line edits for this one:
“Not for years,” she said. She still wore a small smile on her face as she talked. “I was just a kid the last time I was here.” Her attention shifted to the Eons striding at Wes’ side. “What are their names?” she asked lightly.



“The Espeon is Neo, and the Umbreon is Novo,” he said. She already knew his own name, so the names of his Pokemon were inconsequential information to give out at this point.
I wasn't quite sure what his thought process was here--is it that Wes thinks he's the only person whose name matters here? Why does he answer her then?

“Pyrite?” Wes asked in disbelief. He glanced at her outfit; she wore a frilly pink and blue jacket over a dark purple tank top, a white pencil skirt, and pink rubber boots. He had a hard time picturing this girl, neatly dressed and put together as she was, wandering the ragged streets of Pyrite. Not to mention that her bubbly disposition would have stuck out like a sore thumb.

Wes had never seen the mayor personally before, and quickly surmised that he hadn’t missed out on much. The man was short - very short - and, like his house, made up for it in terms of width. He was as round as a Jigglypuff, with a puffy mustache and bushy eyebrows to match. His head, though mostly bald, sported two large tufts of gray hair on each side.
In general I really like your scene-setting but this one was particularly effective. Clever way of describing the building and the character at the same time!

“Wes.” The Mayor continued to look at him, as if expecting more, so he sighed. “Wesley Lycas.”
Butterfly last names? Does I smell themes of transformation and redemptive change?

He wondered if the Mayor was thinking the same thing, as the man had a skeptical expression on his face as he listened to Rui’s story. “You do know that Pokemon can and do sometimes kill other Pokemon, my dear?” he asked gently.



“I know that!” Rui said in frustration. “I do! But they only do so if commanded, right? Well, this Makuhita was on a rampage and was acting of its own accord - its Trainer couldn’t even stop it!”
Orre has always fascinated me as far as pokemon ethics, since it's the first game that implies that pokemon sort of have souls, you know? And to me it shows this dark mirror into pokemon battling as a player really is experiencing it--commanding a soulless entity around that only wants to inflict harm on others for meaningless victories. It always made me ask a lot of weird questions about what we really seek to gain out of simulated violence.

But I sort of struggle to see the evilness here as pitched by Wes and the Mayor. It sort of looks like the dichotomy is "regular pokemon will kill when humans tell them to" (fine) vs "shadow pokemon will kill even if humans don't tell them to" (bad/must stop)--which pitches that the main difference between the fine/bad-ness is that in the second case, pokemon are making the choice to kill/that humans aren't the one choosing which pokemon live and die. Which doesn't really feel like the main problem here, or at least the one that I'd think would be the biggest focus morally.

And I think that leads into some really interesting questions--for instance, if we replace "pokemon" with "gun" here it would make sense that "guns will kill when humans shoot them at things" vs "shadow guns will kill even if humans don't shoot them at things" then, yes, it makes sense that the shadow guns are bad, because guns are objects that we expect to respond purely to our commands and it's bad if they don't. So if pokemon are viewed purely as objects, then the dichotomy between regular pokemon good/shadow pokemon bad becomes logical, but that sets up a lot of different questions for Neo and Novo, and how Wes sees them in general--he certainly treats them as friends/companions rather than objects or tools ("I'd better open the window before bed because my gun likes looking out the window" isn't really a common thought), and they seem genuinely attached to him.

She turned her eyes to his, and he was shocked at the amount of pure hatred he saw there. “Yes,” she said quietly. “I hate Pokemon thieves. Snagem had this coming, and they deserve a whole lot worse.”
I think this adds into a really interesting question springing from the last one re: pokemon being seen as objects or people. Rui's reaction seems to treat them as people, since (to borrow the example from before) I don't think anyone is like, "I specifically really really hate gun thieves, they are the worst and deserve to be blown up". And I think there's a really interesting case to be made that Rui is way more morally-driven than Wes (which this chapter does make), but it's pretty fascinating to see how it permeates beyond just "we need to help people" and really digs into who each protagonist defines as a person.

Wes couldn’t help but nod in agreement. He was immensely grateful that such a person was only a stranger and nothing more. He had a feeling he would never want to tangle with that man.
Evice is very spooky here. I think the paragraphs around this could've been a little condensed, since we get so many details about what's wrong with him--he's got this menacing aura, he's super tall, his hair is weird, his eyes are bloodred--it's kind of like in a horror movie where a lot of the horror revolves around not showing the monster, and letting the tension speak for itself rather than showing all of these details at once.

How to get out of this without raising suspicion? He looked at the redhead. If she found out who she was...he remembered her face in the Center as she spoke about Snagem. The anger in her eyes, the righteous fury. There was no way she would let him off if she knew. Not a chance.
Oooh, really fun plot drama here. I love how you have Wes's past playing against him as he trying to make a new start, and how Rui's good heart, which so far seems like what's going to redeem him in the end, is totally playing agsint him here. Really good use of character dynamics.

“I’m sure, let’s go.” He almost grabbed her by the arm again to drag her with him, but remembered the fearful look she’d given him and decided against it. “Come on, I’ll show you to my bike.”
(thought this was a cute moment where he remembers to be considerate for her)

ch4

I really liked this chapter since we got to see into all the non-Wes heads! It goes a long way in letting us see how they think and recognizing them as characters in their own rights. Neo and Novo are really cute POV's here and I'm glad that we get to hear from them--hopefully they'll continue to speak up!

Rui wasn’t entirely sure this wasn’t all just some sort of fever dream.
Oooh! POV switch. This is fun.

She began to feel slightly ashamed of herself for doubting the Rogue Trainer. So what if he was a little guarded? He’d saved her life in more than one way today, and she ought to be grateful.
I think it's kind of weird to capitalize "Rogue Trainer" here? Not sure. Most normal professions or titles that we give people aren't really capitalized either (doctor, gangster, runner).

“Yeah, those should be fine,” Rui mumbled. She dropped her gaze to the floor and shuffled awkwardly, feeling acutely embarrassed at her complete lack of knowledge. She’d expected her entire trip to be a relatively simple errand, but clearly she had been utterly unprepared for it. No wonder Papi was hesitant to let me go. I have no idea what I’m doing...
Haha yikes! I wonder if Papi knows what he's doing either, since "get some of the red ones and some of the blue ones" seems like the first thing you'd tell someone when you're asking them to run errands. Also interesting that Rui has parents in this one (is that new? I haven't played the games in a while)--I wonder what he'll think about all of this.

She noticed Novo watching from a safer distance. He sat primly at Wes’ feet, crimson eyes narrowed distrustfully as he observed her. She’d attempted to pet him, too, at the restaurant, and his only response had been to snarl at her. “Novo, was it?” Rui asked softly.
The Umbreon answered with a growl.
Dropped a paragraph break here.

And oh! Novo has Thoughts on this. I liked that he and Neo take different approaches.

As if on cue, the Umbreon hopped up onto the crate and peeked at the steadily darkening world through the grimy window. He turned to his Trainer and bunted him happily with his head. A tiny smile tugged at the corners of Wes’ mouth as he rubbed Novo’s chin.

Rui couldn’t help but smile a little herself. Gruff though he may be, this odd stranger was certainly soft on his Pokemon.
And this is a really sweet detail as well! It's good that Wes cares about someone and I'm glad that you're taking the time in these early chapters to establish how he cares about Novo/Neo--boy's gotta have something he loves! Pokemon as mirrors for their trainer's inner thoughts is always really fascinating to me and I think this is a great use of it here.

All the same, the Dark-type Pokemon brought back pleasant memories of her childhood. Her mother’s starter had been a Dark-type, and Rui had always had a soft spot for them.
More parents! I kind of wanted more detail here--maybe the species of the pokemon is being concealed for ~~reasons~~, but I wanted to know what about Novo reminds her of her mom's old pokemon?

Neo liked the new girl.
Neo POV too!

Well, she clearly had good taste.
Hahaha I really love him. It's fun to read this in light of the previous chapters, where he's shittalking the Snagem hideout and prancing around--he's got a really well-defined character here and it's a lot of fun.

Who could possibly deny him, Neo the Great (and Handsome, according to the redhead) Espeon, when he put on the charm? Apparently his stone-cold Trainer could. Hmphf.
but will anyone tell him who is a good boy???

then looked her straight in the eyes and blastedher with Irresistible Cuteness
dropped a space here

His Trainer seemed displeased at the idea, too, as he mumbled an apology to him, but Novo’s shock only deepened further when he saw the redhead make for the sidecar.

What?

Not only was he being forced back into his Pokeball for the second time today, he was being booted out of the sidecar? His spot? The spot where he loved to watch the scenery fly by and feel the wind in his fur? All for this -this girl? This girl, of all people?
And I love that Novo takes the opposite approach! It's fun that they have different personalities and opinions on what's going on around them--they definitely feel like people over objects in these chapters. I wonder what they think about Wes's time in Snagem and his plans to move out of Orre? Will they start to feel jealous as Wes gets more pokemon??

But for some reason, she followed them as they finally made their way back to the motorbike. Wes had picked up the pace considerably, and Novo felt joyous at the prospect of moving ahead as planned. Yet...the girl was still here. Did she not understand? Was she that naive? Surely - surely - Wes wasn’t planning on bringing her along?

Imagine Novo’s shock when Wes crouched down to level with him and told him he would have to go in his Pokeball.
I think "Imagine Novo's shock" doesn't quite work in a POV chapter that's so closely focused on Novo--it would make more sense to describe Novo's shock, since he's the narrator here.

Ch5

Miror B in this chapter! And also the first real foray into seeing shadow pokemon. I'm curious to see how this will work; right now it's really exciting that Wes has this murder juggernaut in his back pocket that he doesn't really trust, but I imagine at some point he'll start trying to reason with the Makuhita, and I'm curious to see where that ends up going. Objects vs people again.

And the cleanup scene at the end is really cathartic too. The buildup to Wes and Rui having this fallout has been a great trainwreck to watch, so this argument was really fun to me. I also like how this doesn't really get resolved perfectly in one argument (since nothing ever really does), and Wes really isn't doing his cause any favors with his decisions this chapter. But they do make perfect sense and it's great to watch him keep making bad decisions one after another.

The man that stood before them was tall, lanky, and dressed in some kind of ridiculous bright yellow track suit. His face was covered with gaudy shades, and he was adorned with flashy jewelry. But most noticeable of all was his hair; a massive afro that, for all intents and purposes, looked as though it defied the laws of physics just by how big it was. But the absurdity didn’t stop there - the hair was dyed two colors and split evenly down the middle, one side white, the other a fiery red.
Ah yes, here to answer my questions about why people are dressing up in absurd ways! Orre is this delightful mix of grim and horrible settings paired with vibrant, larger-than-life characters--really excited to see this played straight here.

“Yes indeed, darling,” his boss drawled with a wink. “I have frightfully important business to attend to, so I’ll be on my way. But I do trust you’ll have the girl with you the next time we meet.” His last sentence, though still drawled in his light, lilting voice, suddenly contained a cold and dangerous edge to it.
I didn't quite buy why he left here, since the guys seem super incapable, and if it's so easy that these guys could do it, then he could do it really quickly instead? Rui seems to be the crux of Cipher's plans here and they're determined to recover her at all costs, so I'm not sure what's so much more important that they couldn't just wait the extra few minutes now that she's right in front of them?

“Rui - Rui!” Wes shouted, sitting up and trying to put some distance between him and the Makuhita. “The bag! Give me the bag!”



“Wh-what?”
The battle is delightfully chaotic, but I think you did a great job of making sure that what Wes is trying to do is clearly explained--the bag! He's got a plan.

She did as told, and the canvas bag was tossed into his lap.
lil' phrasing nitpick; I think active voice would suit you better here--"she did as told, and the canvas bag landed in his lap" or "she did as told, and tossed the canvas bag into his lap"

Wes took a deep breath. He would have to be careful, very careful, on how he approached this. The low voice spoke in his mind once again, repeating words from yesterday: The best lies are half-truths, boy.

And as much as Wes hated that voice, he listened to it.
</3
But I really love the choice not to have him tell the truth here. He's digging the hole deeper and pushing the problem later down the line, and that makes sense for someone who just wants to yeet out of Orre and run away from the rest of his problems in general. And it really feels like this mechanism has been drilled (unhealthily) into him by Gonzap/someone from his past, so it's clear that he's not really able to free himself mentally from his bad decisions even if he's trying to do so physically.

Which makes Rui's decision to forgive and welcome him even! more painful hahaha. It's really rough, seeing everyone act in the ways they think are best for each other, but we know that these are horrible decisions. Great setup here.

“I didn’t like what Team Snagem did. I never liked it. But these friends of mine...they did what they thought they had to do to survive. So they stayed with Snagem for a long time, until something happened.” He paused and stared hard at the ground. “They...killed one of my good friends and his team.”
lmao "asking for a friend"

Something tells me that this is just Wes with extra steps lol.

“Well, we cant all be a hero, all right?”
I think "Well, we can't all be heroes, all right?" would fit better. Dropped apostrophe in "can't" either way.

Ch6

A lot of fun action in this one! I thought the free-for-all sequence at the end of this was really, really slick. Lots of things flying around, attacks everywhere--I got the feeling of chaos but I was able to understand what was supposed to be happening. The progression as Wes keeps snagging their pokemon, the desperation as the attacks get worst, Makuhita just whaling on everyone and the horror that Wes and Rui feel witnessing that--all really good stuff.

(Do people just not hear or see this? It feels like someone would notice)

All citizens are to return to their homes immediately. All visitors are to take shelter in the Pokemon Center. We ask that every individual remain indoors until further notice. There will be no exiting or entering the city at this time. We thank you for your cooperation.”

She heard Wes groan beside her. “Well. Fantastic. We chose a great day to come back here.” His voice was dripping with annoyance.
This has some fascinating implications about the city actually! If his reaction is just like, "oh, great, another curfew" instead of "I can't believe we're being commanded to go indoors; how can the Mayor declare that being outside is illegal" that really says a lot about the level of authoritarianism going on behind the scenes, haha. I thought this was interesting.

“The guy in front is some kind of Town Hall member,” Wes answered as he surveyed the scene, “but I don’t recognize the ones behind him...they can’t be officers, I know Phenac doesn’t have...” he trailed off with a frown.
I wasn't sure what a Town Hall member is? I'm used to Town Hall just being like, a place where any citizen can go to see issues of the town, so I'm not sure what membership would entail.

Supposedly?Rui still wasn’t exactly sure what to call these men.
dropped a space after the question mark

And everything around them exploded.



A maelstrom of Pokémon attacks engulfed them. Rui heard herself scream as she saw flames, leaves, water, psychic energy - but none of them reached her or Wes.
I liked the chaoticness of this scene and the battle that follows--things going wrong, Wes shouting a command, boom!, bad things--really feels like things are happening all at once, but in really vivid detail. I think it might've helped to better understand the malestrom of attacks though--how does it feel? Look? Smell? How do they feel in response to this explosion, and what do they notice about it?

---

Overall, wooh, things are certainly picking up! As always I like in particular the additions that you made to the Colo plot--I think it's genuinely hard to build suspense when retelling an existing game, but the new moments like Wes/Rui's dialogues really help make this feel like a new (or more fleshed-out) version of the story that I already know. Looking forward to seeing where angry Wes storms off to next!
 

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
Aaaaah another amazing review!! I’ve read this like 5 times, it makes me so happy lol

I don't know if we needed the Zigzagoon battle in this chapter. In the games it makes sense as a combat tutorial before the more serious fights, but from a narrative standpoint it starts really abruptly and then ends quickly. I thought the moment at the end was really nice, where Wes grudgingly decides to offer some nice advice despite his better instincts, but I don't think the extra fight before it added much to the chapter (which already had quite a bit going on outside of this). I think if you wanted to give a primer on combat, the battle would function better if it were longer, and we could see strategy/teamwork from Wes and his team; as it is, it's pretty short here and it feels unnecessary since the second fight in this chapter is more important both from a plot and character perspective.

I originally included this scene to introduce Willie’s character, as this is not the last we will be seeing of him - but I realize now that I definitely could have trimmed down the few paragraphs about the battle, and I think I’ll do just that. I can introduce his character without including said battle.



In general I really like your scene-setting but this one was particularly effective. Clever way of describing the building and the character at the same time!

I’m so glad you appreciated this, as I was very proud of the descriptions in this scene! Scene setting/character descriptions are something I’ve been working on, and I really enjoyed this one.


I sort of struggle to see the evilness here as pitched by Wes and the Mayor. It sort of looks like the dichotomy is "regular pokemon will kill when humans tell them to" (fine) vs "shadow pokemon will kill even if humans don't tell them to" (bad/must stop)--which pitches that the main difference between the fine/bad-ness is that in the second case, pokemon are making the choice to kill/that humans aren't the one choosing which pokemon live and die. Which doesn't really feel like the main problem here, or at least the one that I'd think would be the biggest focus morally.

And I think that leads into some really interesting questions--for instance, if we replace "pokemon" with "gun" here it would make sense that "guns will kill when humans shoot them at things" vs "shadow guns will kill even if humans don't shoot them at things" then, yes, it makes sense that the shadow guns are bad, because guns are objects that we expect to respond purely to our commands and it's bad if they don't. So if pokemon are viewed purely as objects, then the dichotomy between regular pokemon good/shadow pokemon bad becomes logical, but that sets up a lot of different questions for Neo and Novo, and how Wes sees them in general--he certainly treats them as friends/companions rather than objects or tools ("I'd better open the window before bed because my gun likes looking out the window" isn't really a common thought), and they seem genuinely attached to him.

You bring up a very interesting point here that makes me realize I should flesh this out a little more clearly. My main reason for including that statement was to illustrate the brutal nature of Orre; crime is rampant, and many criminals (Snagem most of all) are not afraid to use their Pokémon to kill to achieve what they want. Wes knows this firsthand, and most citizens are aware of this to some extent or another. But I should probably rephrase this to make that point clearer. And yes, the question of “objects vs living beings” will definitely be brought up a lot in this story!


Haha yikes! I wonder if Papi knows what he's doing either, since "get some of the red ones and some of the blue ones" seems like the first thing you'd tell someone when you're asking them to run errands. Also interesting that Rui has parents in this one (is that new? I haven't played the games in a while)--I wonder what he'll think about all of this.

a little clarification here: “Papi” is Rui’s nickname for her grandfather. She mentioned it briefly in Chapter 3 to Wes, but maybe I need to make that clearer!

but will anyone tell him who is a good boy???

Neo is THE best boi. Confirmed.

And the cleanup scene at the end is really cathartic too. The buildup to Wes and Rui having this fallout has been a great trainwreck to watch, so this argument was really fun to me. I also like how this doesn't really get resolved perfectly in one argument (since nothing ever really does), and Wes really isn't doing his cause any favors with his decisions this chapter. But they do make perfect sense and it's great to watch him keep making bad decisions one after another.
But I really love the choice not to have him tell the truth here. He's digging the hole deeper and pushing the problem later down the line, and that makes sense for someone who just wants to yeet out of Orre and run away from the rest of his problems in general. And it really feels like this mechanism has been drilled (unhealthily) into him by Gonzap/someone from his past, so it's clear that he's not really able to free himself mentally from his bad decisions even if he's trying to do so physically.

Which makes Rui's decision to forgive and welcome him even! more painful hahaha. It's really rough, seeing everyone act in the ways they think are best for each other, but we know that these are horrible decisions. Great setup here.

You have no idea how happy I am that you’ve picked up on these things! They will continue to play a big role in the story and development between characters. Also, “one bad decision after another” is practically Wes’ motto at this point lol

I wasn't sure what a Town Hall member is? I'm used to Town Hall just being like, a place where any citizen can go to see issues of the town, so I'm not sure what membership would entail.


In this story’s version of Phenac, there is a Town Hall connected to the Colosseum. The Mayor is in charge of this, and the Town Hall is made up of city council members that assist in the direction of the city. It’s nothing too fancy, and they’re mostly just the mayor’s little helpers. More info on that will be provided much later in the story.

Thanks so much for your review!! I’m so excited for you to see what the next few chapters have in store - starting with Chapter 7, things start to diverge quite a bit from the original story! Now that I’ve caught up with where I am on other sites, chapters will be posted once a week on Saturdays. :) Stay tuned!!
 
Chapter 7

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
Chapter 7: Noctis Mortem

The crumbling old house left much to be desired in terms of comfort, but Wes supposed it was better than nothing.

They'd made it to the ruins of a tiny old town about two hours northwest of Phenac. Night had officially settled over the desert, and the winds brought a sharp chill in the cooler temperatures.

Rui had major hesitations at first, when she saw where they were headed. Wes didn't entirely blame her; staying in an abandoned town at night, with its decaying buildings and creaking houses, would make any regular person nervous.

But for Orre natives, it was even more ominous, as they all knew what had reduced so many towns like this one to ruins; as a result, most citizens avoided these places out of fear and superstition.

Wes was not "most citizens", however.

"It's perfectly safe, trust me," he'd said to her as she planted her boots firmly in the sand and refused to move closer.

"How do you know that?" Rui looked at him with fearful eyes, the dying light of the sunset fading behind her. "How do we know there aren't still traces of - of the-"

"I know because I've stayed here before. Several times. Do I look dead or sick to you?" he asked curtly.

Rui pursed her lips. "O-Okay..." she said nervously.

Now they sat in what appeared to be an old inn of sorts; they'd settled in a room with two small beds for the night. The desert breeze rattled a rickety window across the room, and the house groaned quietly. It was one of the few buildings left that had a more or less intact roof overhead, and it was the only one Wes trusted not to cave in on them in the night.

He patted as much dust out of his mattress as he could as he set up his space, then noticed Rui glancing at her own with a wary eye.

He sighed. "Look, you're not going to get sick by staying here. Noctis never worked that way."

"I-I know." She slowly sat on her mattress. "It's just...this place is so creepy. To think it used to be a place full of people and families not that long ago, and now it's...like a graveyard."

"They're just empty buildings now. Don't get too worked up over it."

She didn't answer, and instead curled up into the mattress as if trying to retreat into herself. Wes held back another sigh. He supposed he ought not to be too judgmental; places like this had been routine for him as he traveled for his Snagem missions, but he was well aware he was an exception. It was part of why he'd resorted to staying in these towns in the first place - they kept unwanted visitors away, and guaranteed he would have privacy.

He sat on his mattress and pulled out the canvas tote, ignoring the painful throbbing in his shoulder. That battle had not done his injury any favors, and he would look at it later, but his Pokémon were his first priority.

Wes was grateful that he'd kept a small store of healing items tucked away in his bike, as he'd never had the chance to get supplies in Phenac.

And that was the only reason I went there in the first place, he thought sourly.

Neo was first. Placing a flashlight on the floor for light, Wes revived and healed up the Espeon and was relieved that, while he'd been thrown around quite a bit, none of his injuries were serious. Neo curled up beside his Trainer with a tired sigh and promptly fell asleep as Wes rubbed his ears. "You did great today, bud," he said quietly.

Next was Novo. Wes hadn't got a good look at the Umbreon before returning him, so he wasn't sure what to expect - and he certainly wasn't prepared to see blood dribbling down his foreleg. Novo looked up into Wes' eyes with a weak mew. "Bri."

"Oh, Arceus - " Wes fumbled through his bag until he found a roll of bandages, another thing he made sure to always have on hand. He sprayed Novo down with more Potions, then pulled him into his lap as he gingerly bandaged the Umbreon's leg.

"I'm so sorry, Nov," he said with a grimace. He clenched his teeth. Damn those guys, attacking them with five Pokémon at once...

Novo blinked up at him and rubbed his chin against Wes' shoulder (thankfully, his uninjured one). "Umb." He gave a tired, throaty purr.

Wes finished bandaging Novo's leg and let him curl up next to his brother. He wouldn't be watching out of any windows tonight; he was far too exhausted from their earlier battle. It was more like an ambush than a real battle,Wes growled to himself.

"You take really good care of them." Rui's voice jolted him out of his thoughts; she'd been so quiet, for once, he'd almost forgotten she was still there. She was curled up on the mattress with her back against the wall, watching him tend to his Pokémon with a small smile.

Wes shrugged - and immediately regretted the action when his shoulder gave another painful throb. "Of course I do. They're my..."

He paused. He glanced back at his sleeping Pokémon and finished, a little more quietly, "They're my family."

"Family, huh?" The smile faded from her face a little. "Do...do you have other family, or parents...?"

"No."

"...oh." Sadness flickered in her eyes. "I'm...really sorry."

Wes almost shrugged again, but he knew better this time. "It's fine. I don't really remember them."

Truth be told, at times he wished he could remember more - and other times he was glad he didn't. He thought he might have vague memories of his father's face or his mother's laugh. A part of him thought he could remember that she liked to sing...but he couldn't be sure about any of it. Perhaps he'd only dreamed such things.

"Were you really young?" Rui was looking at him intently.

"I was five."

"Oh, Arceus - " her eyes widened, her face appalled. "That - that's so young - and you've been on your own ever since?"

"...more or less."

There was a brief silence. Rui shivered a little and pulled her jacket more tightly around her.

"Noctis?" she asked quietly.

Wes gave a bitter snort. "What else?"

She dropped her gaze to her boots and fell silent.

Noctis. He'd been so young when the mysterious illness swept through Orre and devastated its population, but he'd heard the stories plenty of times from older adults at Snagem. They spoke of its effects, how it turned one's skin as white as a sheet and blackened their eyes and veins until they looked like a corpse, how the seizures and screams of agony would last for hours, sometimes days, before death took them.

He'd heard other stories, too - about families, neighborhoods, and entire towns like this one that went from active, healthy and thriving communities to desolate, corpse-ridden ghost towns in a matter of days.

Noctis Mortem. Night Death. It was appropriately named.

Even before the illness, Orre was a rather hopeless excuse for a Region. The nuclear war with Johto seventy years earlier had already ensured that the area wouldn't be suitable for wild Pokémon for many years - if ever again - and many people speculated that the nuclear after effects on the population were a big factor in the massive Noctis death toll.

Wes didn't care to know all the facts and details. They didn't matter to him anyway, not now when everything was said and done. Nothing would change the fact that his parents were dead, or that he lived on the streets for a year after that, or that he was picked up by Snagem and subjected to daily horrors for the rest of his life after that.

All of that was supposed to change, he thought bitterly. He was supposed to be on his way out of Orre for good, heading to a better, brighter place with his Pokémon beside him, catching his first opportunity for real happiness...

As if to spite him in his thoughts, his shoulder throbbed again. He clenched his teeth. Of course that had all been too good to be true. It seemed he'd been doomed to perpetual misfortune from an early age.

"How's your shoulder?" Rui spooked him out of his wallowing thoughts. She was looking at him with concern.

"It's fine," Wes lied.

She raised an eyebrow at him, then dug into her jacket pocket and pulled out the meds he'd been given at the hospital. She tossed them to him, the bottle rattling as it flew. "Here. You should take some."

"I don't need-"

"I don't care who you are, Wesley Lycas, nobody dislocates their shoulder and then walks it off." Rui huffed and folded her arms. "So take the stupid pills already."

Wes stared at her. "Did you just...scold me with my full name like a parent?"

"Yes, and if you keep acting like a child, I'll keep parenting you!" she snapped.

Wes shook his head and popped the bottle open with a grumble. "You're unbelievable."

"Thank you."

"That wasn't a compliment."

"I'm aware."

He swallowed the pills with a shudder; he'd always hated taking the things. Medicine wasn't too common a commodity at Snagem, and to be caught taking it was to be made a target. Any sign of weakness or injury made one easy prey for the other kids who were desperate to prove themselves.

You're not at Snagem anymore, he told himself. You don't need to hide. She's not a threat. Not a threat.

Still, he didn't look at her as he shoved the meds back into the canvas tote. There was a moment of silence.

"I lost my father to it, too."

Her voice was so quiet he almost didn't hear her. Wes glanced at her and saw that she'd pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs, staring blankly as though lost in memory.

"Noctis?" he asked. She nodded.

"He was a scientist, actually. When the Noctis hit, he was working in the labs for days on end trying to find a cure. He eventually caught it from one of the patients. I was almost two."

Wes wondered why she was sharing this. "I'm sorry," he said quietly.

She gave him a wan smile. "It's all right...I don't remember anything about him, I was so young." She brightened just a little. "But even so, I'm proud to be his daughter. He was fighting to save lives, and that makes him a hero in my book."

Wes didn't know what to say to that, so he remained silent for a moment. He vaguely wondered about her mother, but he thought he could see a faintly haunted look in her eyes as she returned to her thoughts. He decided not to ask.

After a moment, she seemed to come back to the present. She blinked and looked up at him, then gave a nervous laugh and sheepishly fiddled with her hair. "Sorry, I don't know why I got into that. You're probably tired of hearing me talk all the time..."

Wes shook his head and waved a dismissive hand. "I don't mind."

He was surprised to learn he actually meant it - well, sort of. Mostly. He still wasn't used to so much conversation with another person, but he supposed it wasn't all bad.

Rui gave him a more genuine smile this time, and somewhere in the back of his mind he realized that, for all her obnoxious optimism, smiles quite suited her.

He cleared his throat. "We should probably get some sleep. We have a long ways to go tomorrow."

She cocked her head to the side. "Where are we going?"

"Pyrite. It's the closest town, and I know a few people there that can get you to Agate."

"I see." Rui relaxed her shoulders with a sigh. Her eyes rested on the canvas tote beside Wes. "What are you going to do with...them?"

Wes followed her gaze to the bag, inside of which the four Pokeballs rested. "No idea."

He wouldn't ever admit it to her, but the thought of those Pokeballs made him extremely uncomfortable. He'd gone out of his way to leave Snagem and all its ways forever, and yet, just two days later, he'd Snagged not one, but four Pokémon.

Granted, he supposed he could justify it as self defense, but the way he so naturally and quickly reverted to his Snagger instincts was not lost on him, and it disturbed him greatly.

And...why had he bothered to take the Snag Machine? Why hadn't he destroyed it with all the others? On the surface, Wes had told himself it was a backup plan, a last resort; if he couldn't scrape up the funds for a passport in Gateon, then he could have sold the thing in the right part of town for a solid price.

But a tiny part of him whispered that maybe, just maybe, he'd been afraid to leave behind something that had been so integral to his identity for so many years.

He hated that thought almost as much as he hated Snagem itself.

Rui spoke again, and her interruption was so sudden he nearly jumped. Arceus. How many more times was she going to do that?

"We really should see if there's a way to help them," she said. "Those poor Pokémon are really suffering, Wes. I could see it."

Her use of "we" grated on Wes' ears, as though she thought of them as a team or something.

"Those 'poor Pokémon' would have killed me or you in a heartbeat," he answered dryly.

"Yes, but I don't think they want to." She raised her eyes to his again with an urgent expression. "They weren't born like this, it's too...unnatural. Someone made them this way. Which means there's got to be a way to fix them."

Ever the optimist.

Wes shook his head and sighed, moving the bag from his mattress to the floor and gathering up the flashlight. "We can talk about it later," he said, although he wasn't sure he had any intention of doing so. He didn't like to think about it. "For now, let's get some sleep."

He fully expected her to argue, but instead she just nodded her head wearily and laid back on her mattress. "Yeah...okay." Her voice finally betrayed her tiredness. "Goodnight, Wes."

"...yeah. Night." He found he was very unused to having someone - a human someone - say goodnight to him. Was it always this weird to be around people all the time?

Wes was about to lay back on his mattress when he caught sight of Novo curled up beside his brother, rings pulsing gently in the dark. He hesitated, wondering if he needed Novo's Hypnosis again...but no. It had been a far too long and eventful day, he was worn out, and the pain in his shoulder was subsiding now, thanks to the meds. He would be fine.

Probably.

He settled down, and he didn't even have time to reconsider before sleep overtook him.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

He was crouched behind a cluster of sagebrush, scoping out the targets ahead as the sun beat down mercilessly on his dark clothing.

Two young teens, a boy and girl, strode hand in hand to their parked hover car outside the walls of Phenac. A Poochyena and a Shroomish darted happily about their feet, squealing and yapping, utterly oblivious to the predatory eyes upon them.

He swallowed past the panic rising in his throat and tried not to show his reservations.

"Your move." A voice growled over his shoulder and he could practically feel Wakin's cold eyes boring into the back of his head. "You got about twenty seconds before they reach the vehicle."

He nodded, took a deep breath, but his feet refused to move.

"The hell are you waiting for?" Wakin snapped. The boy turned his head to look at him.
I can't do this, he thought. I'm not cut out for this.

Then a cruel sneer curled across the man's face. "You scared, Leo?" he taunted.

And the boy knew what that meant. He had hesitated, had made a costly mistake. Hesitation meant fear. Fear meant weakness.

And weakness meant death.

Without a word, he darted forward. He might die someday in this Arceus-forsaken desert in this Arceus-forsaken region, but it wouldn't be today. Not today.

He barely made it in time; the young couple noticed him just as they were almost to their vehicle. The girl saw him first and pointed with a gasp of surprise as he came closer.

The male teen eyed him warily, but not without a hint of concern. "You, uh...you lost, kid? You need some help?"

"Y-yeah, I'm lost," he replied. He tried to put on his most innocent face - not that he really needed to. The torn clothing, the dirty smudges all over his face and arms told his false story well enough. "Could you...help me into the city?"

They exchanged a nervous glance. "Well...yeah, sure," the older boy replied after a pause. "But where are your parents? Do you need us to call them for you? And you're probably dehydrated, we should take you to a hospital, yeah?"

He tried and failed to quash the guilt screaming at him from inside. These people were too innocent, too kind, too trusting...why hadn't they learned by now? Didn't they know better?

"Don't move."

The harsh growl sounded from behind them. Over their shoulder, he caught a glimpse of Wakin's snarling face, the viciously triumphant eyes, the gun in his hand.

The girl let out a shriek and the boy moved protectively in front of her with a cry as their two Pokémon sprang in front, growling. But no amount of screaming would save them here; they were too far from the city wall, and Wakin always made sure never to pull a heist like this where strangers could intervene.

"Give me your Pokémon and I'll let you go free."

"P-please, we're just travelers!" the girl cried. "We've never done anything wrong, just let us go! Please!"

Wakin growled. "I don't give a damn who you are. Now return them and hand them over, or I shoot the girl first."

There was a pause, and then they shakily returned their Pokémon. The girl broke down into sobs as they tossed the Pokeballs at Wakin's feet. The boy held her close.


"There, you got what you wanted! Happy?" The boy seemed like he was trying to look brave and defiant, but the tremor in his voice gave him away.

Wakin sneered. "Almost." His eyes shot to the young boy behind them. "Leo!"

He was already one step ahead of his boss. The boy raised a hand with three more minimized Pokeballs inside it. Pickpocketing was easy when the targets were more concerned about the gun pointed at their heads.

The girl's wails and the boy's cries pierced him like a dagger. He ignored them.

The rest was a blur; Wakin said something to them before letting them go. They sped off through the desert, and he thought he might have heard some words thrown over the boy's shoulder, but he didn't catch them.

He did, however, catch the gleam of hatred in his eyes.

Wakin stepped up beside him. It was a job well done, he thought. He started to feel hopeful about a reward; maybe he'd get to have a decent meal, for once -


Wham.

He was not prepared for the unexpected blow. He staggered as blinding pain shot through his head. He raised a hand to the wound, and when he pulled it back, found it covered in red.

"Your little dramatic pause nearly cost us the whole mission, you brat!" Wakin roared at him, but he refused to cower under the man's terrifying fury. No fear. No weakness.

"I'm willing to let it slide this time, only because Gonzap seems to have a special interest in you," the man snarled, "but I'm warning you, boy. You pull another stunt like that, and I won't hesitate to pull this trigger. Got it?" He articulated this threat by spitting into the sand at the boy's feet.

He nodded, which made his head hurt more, but he refused to let it show. He hastily blinked the tears away; pain was weakness. Weakness was death. "Yes, sir."

"Good." Wakin turned on one heel and marched in the direction of their hidden motorcycle. He didn't wait for the boy to follow him.

But he followed, nonetheless.

The scene changed. Desert shrubs and sands blurred together and were replaced with a dark, blood spattered room. The lifeless bodies of several Pokémon were strewn across the room, and one man was slumped on the floor against the wall, his breaths rattling painfully in his chest.


"No!" The scream tore from his own lips as he struggled to reach the dying man, but his captor held him fast. "No - please - NO!"

"It's time you learn this lesson, boy." A low, gravelly voice rumbled from the shadows across the room. A hand raised, and a large, steel-feathered bird stepped out from beside him, wings spread from its side like swords.

The injured man coughed, resulting in blood cascading from his mouth and down his front. He looked at the boy with a weak smile. Those eyes, though dull and fading, still held fondness.

The only pair of eyes that had ever regarded him with kindness.

"Do good, kid."

The command was given, the bird lunged with wings spread, and the sickening sound of impact was masked by the boy's screams -


"Wes - hey - Wes! Wake up!"

Someone was shaking him. He shot upward with a strangled gasp, nearly slamming his head into Rui's as he did so. He coughed and gagged, trying to rid the smell and taste of blood from his senses -

Then something soft and warm leaned against him, and Novo's worried trill met his ears.

Dust. Moonlight. An old inn. He remembered where he was.

He buried his face in his shaking hands, breathing heavily. Neo came up on his other side with a concerned, "Espi?" His Eons leaned against him, comforting him with their warmth, their presence.

A timid hand brushed his shoulder. He flinched at her touch and shoved her away with a snarl. "Go. Away."

The mattress across from him creaked as she sat back down on it. "Do...do you want to talk about it?" she asked quietly.

He didn't answer her and instead swore shakily under his breath. Like hell he wanted to talk about it...

Rui seemed to take this as an answer, as she said nothing more.

He laid back down, his Pokémon curling tightly around him. Novo was nosing his arm urgently. "Bri, briii, umbri..."

Wes pulled the Umbreon close to him and closed his eyes. He didn't know if Novo would take that as permission to use Hypnosis or not, and he didn't care. He just needed to feel his Pokémon close to him, and maybe his heart would stop pounding so hard...

A lump formed in his throat and he immediately swallowed it. He crushed the broken feeling rising in his chest. He would not cry, dammit, he would not. Not now, not ever, and especially not in front of this girl, this stranger.

To cry was to be vulnerable, and to be vulnerable was to be weak, and weakness was -

A familiar humming met his ears. He felt Novo touch his muzzle to his forehead. He thought he heard Rui murmur something, but before he could catch the words, he was plunged into darkness once more.
 
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HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
Well, I've always got to show up for Orre fic! Happy to see this here, and happy to check out your take on Colosseum! You added the third chapter while I was writing this, so I'll have to come back for it later. For now, the first two!

The biggest highlight for me has definitely been the pokémon! I love how they're basically acting as Wes' conscience here, and how much he listens to and trusts them. While at the same time being a leader for them, too! Since Neo apparently can't be trusted to go off on people when they all ought to be escaping. :P The balance between trainer and pokémon here is great, and I think it's going to be fun seeing how things change over time as Wes starts snagging pokémon... who I imagine will be quite a bit different than his pals! Neo and Novo themselves are nice and lively, and I like how they feel particularly cattish in terms of their body language and mannerisms. There's a nice sense of them as living, breathing creatures rather than cartoon characters. One particular moment that stood out to me was when Neo was suspicious of Trudly/Folly but ended up being distracted by bacon, heh. "Hmm, I wonder if those ruffians might be kidnapping someone... Oh well, back to breakfast!"

I also like the hints that we're getting about Wes' past. The games really leave him as a blank slate, so it'll be fun to see where you decide to go with his backstory. Definitely not anywhere happy, it's looking like! :P I'm very curious how he ended up getting mixed up with Snagem in the first place, as well as what ultimately made him decide to make a break for it. (And also what he was planning to do with that snag machine, since it's Rui who brings up the whole "rescuing shadow pokémon" thing...) And how he ended up with Neo and Novo! There's a lot to explore there, and I'm glad that you're already making gestures at answering those questions, if only obliquely.

Rui as such an upbeat, bubbly character is kind of a surprise to me... I guess I'm accustomed to her Colosseum model, which had kind of a lot of :| face going on. Curious to see whether she'll be able to keep that attitude up in the face of everything the plot has in store. Orre seems like a pretty disillusioning place. At least for now, though, she should be fun to bounce off Wes' more cynical loner attitude.

It was a little odd to me that you spent a while kind of holding Wes' name back, referring to him just as a trainer or whatever. I don't think you have to be coy about it; it's not like it's a huge reveal when we do learn what he's called. (As far as I can tell you were just waiting for him to introduce himself to another character?) When you hold back a character's name it makes it feel significant in some way, so it's odd when it turns out not to be, and it can make sentences read a bit clunky when you're trying to find something to call him other than "Wes."

The encounter/battle with Willy (such as it was!) seemed a little strange to me, too--like you were including it simply because it happened in the game and not because it has any particular relevance to the story you're telling here. For me, what's interesting about a game adaptation is where the author makes things their own, whether by expanding on elements not present in the game, trying to make sense of the weird game mechanics, going a bit deeper with the worldbuilding, whatever. Absolute fidelity to the story on the actual game disc is less important. So for me it would have been better to simply cut the encounter with Willy here entirely, rather spending time on what ultimately didn't even amount to a batte worth putting on the page.

It looks like you've got extra spaces between your paragraphs in the second chapter. Unfortunately this can happen when copying and pasting from some editors into the forums. You should be able to put [noparse][/noparse] around the text to get rid of the extra spaces. I'm still testing that one, though, so let me know if it causes problems!

Your prose is pretty solid overall. I added some more specific comments on style and mechanics under the spoiler below.

All in all, this is a promising start, and it's great that you're already a few chapters in--hope you can keep that momentum up! Welcome to the forums, and thanks for sharing your writing with us! There are a couple other Orre fics around here, too, if you're interested in reading others. Chibi Pika's "Damaged Goods" is a one-shot about Wes trying to purify a shadow quilava, and kintsugi's handfuls of dust is a dark Orre AU with OC's... unfortunately I don't know if it's still being updated, but it's worth checking out all the same!

One thing to look out for is dialogue punctuation... You do it right sometimes, but one thing to remember is that when you have a dialogue tag, like "he said" or "she shouted," that describes how the dialogue is being said, its first letter shouldn't be capitalized. So here:


It should be "the young man shouted."


Should be "he screamed."


Should be "the first man snarled." And so on.

On the other hand, when the text after the dialogue stands on its own and doesn't relate to how the words are being said, the dialogue should end in a period and the sentence that comes after should be capitalized. So here:


It should be, "'Espi.' Neo looked at Wes..."


This shoud be, "'Bri, umbri.' This time Novo chimed in..."

And finall, here it just looks like a typo where the comma ended up outside the quotation marks:



Other than that...


Should be rending, not rendering.


There's quite a lot of sprinting going on here! Once in the first sentence and twice in the next, and you use it elsewhere in the chapter, too. Good verb, but yeah, you probably don't want to repeat it as much as you do here. Also, in the second sentence, it should be "sprang" rather than sprung.


This sentence just reads a little strange to me. Are you saying most of the bystanders got knocked down, or no one got knocked down and they all managed to stay upright? If the latter, I think it would be less confusing if you described how people were affected, like how they staggered or yelled in surprise or whatever.


You want "lying" here, not "laying." You only use laying when there's something being laid down, e.g. "She laid out the nice tablecloth." If there's just something lying there, well. It's lying.


Here you want "butted" rather than "bunted," I think.


Here it's "lay back down" instead of "laid back down."


I think you're missing an "and" here.


Should be "led" rather than "lead."


Hmm, I'm familiar with "I'll level with you" meaning "okay, I'll actually tell you the truth now."


I think this is better as "clapped," rather than "clapped on."


Lots of seeming going on here--even twice in one sentence! I think it'd be easy enough to cut one in the first sentence, and in the second... Wes believes there's a false grandeur about the place, right? In which case it doesn't "seem," anyway, but simply is.

Hello! Sorry it’s been a minute since getting back to your review! I just wanted to let you know that I took your advice and edited the first couple chapters. You had a good point on not withholding Wes’ name for so long - to be honest, I wasn’t even sure of it when I was writing it, lol. So I tweaked a few things to reveal his name earlier.
I also tried the “no parse” tags like you suggested, and they didn’t seem to work! I did copy and paste from a different place when editing the first two chapters, and that fixed the extra spaces. So maybe I’ll just do it that way from now on.
Anyways - thanks again for your review! Always a pleasure to get feedback on what I can do better. :)
 

Negrek

Triple Cross
Staff
Back for Chapters 3 + 4! Unfortunately there won't be any quotes to go with this one, as they got eaten in a computer crash, but I have plenty to say nonetheless. :) Also, thanks for trying the nospace tags for me... Glad you ended up finding a solution for the spacing; it looks much nicer now!

I was super surprised when we ended up in Rui's POV for Chapter 4! I guess I'm pretty easy to lull into a false sense of security--three chapters in a character's head and I'll assume we're going to stay there forever! It's great that you're giving Rui some POV time, though. She get so shafted by the Colosseum storyline, and this is a great way to give her some more depth and time in the spotlight. And give us some more info on the land of Orre, too--my ears definitely pricked up at the mention of "Noctis ruins," heh--she's certainly seen a different side of it than Wes has. And we even get a little bit from the pokémon, too... I'm definitely interested in seeing how much pokémon POVs play into the story. Novo and Neo continue to be adorable, and I enjoyed their little interludes, but it's not clear to me whether the pokéPOV is going to be very important to the larger narrative. All in all, excited to see this shift and what it means going forward.

You do a nice job of your quiet scenes, I think. Wes and Rui's dynamic remains a fun one, and like I said, the pokémon are always a delight. On the one hand, the opening bit of Colosseum is already a bit slow, so I don't know that it's a good idea to include too many additional scenes on top of what's already there, but you make them a treat to read nonetheless, and I'm willing to linger a little while at least. The one that stood out to me the most was actually the one where they finally get the pokéballs at the Outskirt Stand, simply because you had such nice, concrete details going on... the fact that the owner had these pokéballs just stuck in a dusty old tote somewhere because nobody wanted them, the random assortment of different kinds of balls and Rui's reaction on seeing them, the way they end up getting the bag thrown in for free because Rui never considered how she was going to actually carry these things... these little details are where you can really make the story feel more real and your own, regardless of whether the plot came from a game, and you've been doing a really good job of it so far.

How you handle the bizarre character designs Orre has continues to be interesting. Earlier on Wes was weirded out by Willie's pink hair, and now he's run up against a butler with a crazy intimidating aura and literal red eyes--how on earth is he going to handle Miror B? I kind of wonder how the common people of Orre react to these extravagant character in their midst; kind of reminds me of the "spot the main character of the anime" memes. Thus far I don't think it's gotten too out of hand, but it does seem like taking these characters too literally has the potential to mess with your tone a bit--some of those admins and so on just look so goofy. I'd almost have liked to see a little more "wow, that guy was WEIRD" talk after the meeting with the governor, to be honest, heh. I wonder if there's a reason why you see such fashion extremes in Orre.

One thing I was wondering about near the end of Chapter 3 was why Wes decides to take Rui with him when escaping Phenac. Obviously she needs to come along because that's the story, but I didn't really feel like I understood, from Wes' POV, why he chose to do that when he was still in full-on "hoping to get out of here and out of Orre ASAP" mode. Always a tough thing in game novelizations, trying to make some of the stranger mechanics or plot elements work as a non-interactive story, and generally I think you do a good job smoothing those imperfections over and getting the character motivations to make sense, but this was one place where it didn't quite work for me.

Similarly, it felt a little odd to me that Rui's POV didn't give any insight into what she actually wanted pokéballs for. I legit don't remember how this plot thread resolves in the game, so I'm a little confounded by it myself. It struck me as odd that Rui never had any thoughts referencing what exactly she was going to *do* with these pokéballs the whole time we're in her head, given that they're a priority for her right now. It felt like something that was being deliberately hidden from the reader. If you did want to keep it a secret, why? If not then my feedback is just that it did feel as though you were deliberately leaving something out there.

All in all, it's fun watching you flesh this story out a bit, and I'm really intrigued by some of the hints you laid out in these chapters that we're going to be going more into what happened in Orre, and presumably how it ended up... Like That. I'm also very excited to see some snagging going on: how the new pokémon are going to change the dynamics of the cast, how snagging actually works now that the snagees aren't NPCs who are just going to stand there and talk about the weather after their pokémon gets stolen, all of that. It feels like we're on the cusp of the fic really starting to pick up, and I'm very much here for it!
 
Chapter 8

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
Chapter 8: City of Rust


"D-do you always drive that fast?"

It was the first thing she'd said to him all morning - well, afternoon, by this point. They were several hours into their trek to Pyrite, and they still had a ways to go; Wes had only stopped for a brief moment to allow them to stretch their legs and to let Neo and Novo out of their Pokeballs.

He quirked an eyebrow at her. "Yeah. Why?"

Rui spluttered a little in disbelief. Her hair was a mess from their high-speed drive, with wispy strands sticking out at all angles. "'Why?' Do you realize how fast that is?"

For all her obnoxious nagging, Wes had to admit he was grateful she'd finally decided to start speaking again. The tension from last night's...episode had carried over into the morning, and for perhaps the first time in his life, he'd found the silence downright uncomfortable. Her inane chatter was at least better than the gaping awkwardness.

Barely, anyway.

He leaned back against the motorbike and watched Neo and Novo chase one another around a nearby cactus. He noticed that Novo, though still limping slightly, was back to his usual self and his wound was already well on its way to being fully mended. Pokémon never ceased to impress him with their insanely fast ability to heal, and the still-present ache in his shoulder made him a little envious of that fact.

He turned his attention back to Rui with a deadpan tone. "So?"

"So," Rui pressed, "don't you think it's a bit reckless?"

"Considering you practically waltzed into a broken-in home yesterday, I don't think you get to lecture me on recklessness."

She didn't seem to have a comeback to that, so she dropped her gaze to the ground and rubbed her boot into the sand with a small scowl. Wes couldn't help but feel a little satisfied at that, considering she was usually the one leaving him without a response.

Still, the silence threatened to return, so he made a little effort to keep the conversation running. "We should make it to Pyrite in a few hours. We're fairly close now."

Rui looked back up at him with a tiny grin. "I guess making good time is one perk of your crazy driving."

"See, you're already seeing the light," Wes replied nonchalantly. He turned back to the bike. "Anyway, let's get going."

Rui sauntered around the bike to slide (well, fall, really) into the sidecar. "Don't get in your head that I like it. I still think it's dangerous," she sniffed stubbornly.

It was hard to take her seriously most of the time, but especially now when she was so unceremoniously wriggling into her seat. Wes snorted and called his Eons back to him before returning them.

And then, partially out of habit, but largely out of smug pettiness, he hit the gas and launched the bike out into the sands. Wes thought he heard Rui yelp over the bellow of the engine, and he couldn't help but smirk just a little.

Of course driving like this was dangerous. That was what made it fun. It wasn't his fault the bossy redhead was too uptight to see that.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Unlike Phenac, Pyrite was actually easy to miss if you weren't paying careful attention. While Phenac was a shining beacon of white stone and reflected sunlight, Pyrite almost exclusively consisted of rust, dust, and old scrap metal buildings, and if it weren't for the rocky red plateaus encircling it, the town would have blended into the desert altogether.

As they approached the city entrance (or what could loosely be considered as such, as it was little more than an old, creaky boardwalk), the dull strains of music could be heard carrying through the air. It was some variation of bluesy jazz, though Wes couldn't be entirely sure. It was a unique style of music that he'd only ever heard in Pyrite.

He felt Rui step close to him as they entered the city. At least this time, she had the good sense to be cautious and on her guard - not that she was likely to be kidnapped again, not with Wes and his Pokémon around.

Rusted buildings and loosely hanging storefront signs creaked and groaned in the desert breeze. Wes made the very conscious decision to stick to the main roads so as to avoid predatory eyes; all the same, he still caught the occasional passerby leering at the redhead beside him. Pyrite natives knew easy prey when they saw them, and no doubt Rui would have been targeted already had she been alone.

"So, where are we going?" Rui asked apprehensively as she glanced around the place.

"Town square," Wes answered. He kept his eyes forward and walked with a purposeful stride; hesitation and nervousness only attracted unwanted attention in a place such as Pyrite. "I know a few people who hang around there that might be willing to give you a lift home."

Rui looked up at him. "Are they your friends who helped you against Team Snagem?"

"Wh-?" Wes nearly asked her what in Mew's name she was talking about when he remembered what he'd told her in Phenac. "...oh. Uh, no. They're not here."

Rui didn't question this answer, for which he was grateful. He hadn't given much thought into explaining about his non-existent "friends".

He almost snorted at the thought. Friends. Right. As if he would ever care to be friends with other human beings. His experience over the years very convincingly solidified his belief that they were all either rotten to their core - or incredibly stupid. Neo and Novo had proven to be the only source of friendship worth investing in.

"Is that the Colosseum?" Rui raised her eyes to a massive wooden dome in the distance that peeked over the red plateaus.

"Yeah, it is. We aren't going there today, though," he added in case Rui decided she wanted to see it. "You're going home."

Surprisingly, she didn't protest this, and merely nodded. Wes figured she was probably quite ready to be home after the insanity of the last few days.

"Well, well, well, look what the Meowth dragged in!"

An all too familiar voice called out and made them stop. Wes clenched his teeth and suppressed a groan.

A young man slouched from the shadows of a nearby building with a greasy smirk slathered across his face. His torn, baggy, dust-coated clothing perfectly matched the rugged buildings around him, and he would have blended in almost flawlessly were it not for his obnoxiously green, shaggy hair.

He stopped a few paces in front of Wes and tipped his head back, hands tucked in his pockets. "Been a while since I've seen you around here, Lycas."

Wes knew exactly what the rogue Trainer wanted. "Not now, Cail," he grumbled. He moved to sweep past him.

Cail stepped in front of him, blocking his path with another grin. "Why not? You in a hurry?" Wes caught a whiff of the alcohol on his breath.

"Yes," Wes snapped. "Now let us-"

"Oooh!" Cail's eyes lit up as he finally noticed Rui, who had stepped cautiously behind Wes as soon as he'd appeared. Cail's grin widened as he looked back at Wes. "Who's this?"

Rui pressed a little closer to Wes and fixed the green-haired Trainer with narrowed eyes.

"Nobody," Wes said flatly. "Just finding her a ride home. Don't suppose you know anybody off the top of your head that would be willing?"

"Hmmm," the Trainer cocked his head to the side. "I really can't think of anyone...but a battle might jog my memory."

Wes rolled his eyes. Cail prided himself on being something of a gatekeeper of Pyrite, always challenging every visitor to a battle before letting them get too far into the city. He'd never been any trouble for Wes in a battle, but that didn't stop the rogue from challenging him every time he visited.

"We'll battle later. Now if you're not going to be helpful, get out of my way."

Cail raised his hands in submission. "Fine, fine." He smirked at Rui. "I gotta ask though, what's a cute thing like you doing here? You don't look much like his type."

Before Wes could respond, Rui spoke up sharply. "That's none of your business," she said.

Cail raised an eyebrow, then leered at Wes. "Feisty one, isn't she? Is that why you're giving her a shot?"

"We are not a couple!" Rui snapped.

"Oh-ho." Cail leaned into her face with a gleam in his eyes, his smirk spreading wider across his face. "If that's the case...how about a drink with me, then?"

"Back off!" she spat.

The Trainer withdrew with a laugh. "Easy there, Carrot Top. I was only joking."

"What did you just call me?"

Wes sighed and pulled Rui along as they marched past Cail. The Trainer's laughs followed them down the street. "Let me know if you change your mind, sweetheart!"

Rui snarled over her shoulder. "That greasy, slimy little-"

"Look." Wes pulled her around to face him. "You already look like you don't belong here, so people are going to target you and try to get under your skin. Don't fight back or you'll just escalate things."

"He started it by getting in my face!"

Sweet baby Arceus. No wonder she'd gotten herself kidnapped the first time she was here. She was far too spicy for her own good.

Wes sighed again. "Just lay low, alright? We won't be here for much longer."

Rui scowled down at the ground with a grumble. Wes took this as a good enough answer and continued leading her down the street until, finally, the town square came into view.

In all honesty, it wasn't much to look at; in fact, it wasn't even a square. There were no benches or fountains like there were in Phenac. The area was completely open, ringed with a yellow circle painted roughly over the dirty, scuffed pavement. In the center, two Trainers were sparring against one another with their teams; more Trainers lounged around the edges, some sitting with their Pokémon, others lazily observing the battle in the yellow circle.

It was much less a town square, and more of a makeshift battle arena.

Rui's eyes lit up. "This is where I saw Trudly and Folly!"

That wasn't surprising. Battles spontaneously erupted all around town, but if one wanted to show off a powerful Pokémon, this was the place to be.

Wes scanned the area for any familiar faces. Plenty of missions in Pyrite allowed him to get familiar with most of the local Trainers, though they were little more than acquaintances to him. Yet, he'd won enough battles in the area to earn their respect, and he figured he could find someone to take Rui home if he offered enough money.

He inwardly grumbled at that thought. The money he'd snatched from Snagem had been meant for supplies and travel, and yet he'd already forked out much more of it than he would have liked. Still, it was worth it to get this girl home and off of his tail.

Rui suddenly seized his arm in a painfully tight grip. She was staring at the battle square in horror. "Wes..."

Wes looked from her to the battle square, completely bewildered. "What?"

She looked up at him in fear. "There's more of them, Wes!"

He immediately knew what she meant, and he wished he didn't.

Wes glanced back at the battle; one Trainer was commanding a Flaaffy and a Shroomish, the other a Noctowl and Ledyba. At first glance, it seemed like a normal battle - until the Noctowl Trainer shouted out a specific command.

"Shadow Rush!" he bellowed.

The Noctowl dove at the Flaaffy with far more ferocity than was warranted for a mere battle. It tore into the Pokémon with flashing talons and a blood-curdling screech, and the Flaaffy screamed as red spattered the ground.

"HEY!" shrieked the Flaaffy's Trainer. She was spitting with rage. "Control your Pokémon!"

The other Trainer smirked at her. "What, scared you'll lose?"

"You think you're so special with that fancy move?!" She shouted at her Flaaffy. "Thundershock that Noctowl!"

Flaaffy was trembling from head to foot, whimpering in pain, as it tried to get back on its feet. It let out a piercing cry as it launched a small shower of bolts at its foe. The Noctowl let out another screech, tried and failed to dodge the bolts - then, in a rage of feathers and flurry of talons, lunged at the Flaaffy again without a command.

"OY!" The Trainer roared at his Noctowl, but the bird blatantly ignored him and continued to rip at the Flaaffy. The Electric Pokémon, in turn, changed its cries from bleats of pain to snarls of anger, and launched one bolt of electricity after another in retaliation.

Several Trainers around the battle yelled and dove for cover as lightning bolts and psychic blasts shot from the ring and into surrounding buildings. Fluff and feathers flew; the two Trainers shouted helplessly at their raging Pokémon, but both of them were now beyond reason. The Ledyba and Shroomish, temporarily forgotten, exchanged a glance and cautiously edged away from the scuffle.

The girl finally returned her Flaaffy and whirled on her opponent. "What is WRONG with you?" she yelled. "Forfeit this match right now!"

"What?" he shouted back. "Your Pokémon was even worse!"

"YOU started it!"

Wes grabbed Rui by the arm. "Let's get out of here." He made to pull her away before things came to blows - or worse, the police showed up.

She hesitated. "Wait, but those Pokémon-"

"What do you want me to do, Snag them in front of everyone?" he growled.

Rui bit her lip, but resignedly followed him as he led them into a side alley. Wes walked briskly, making sure Rui was close behind, until they reached another secluded alleyway that was a safe distance from the ruckus. He sagged against a dusty wall with a sigh.

"What do we do?" Rui looked at him with wide eyes.

"I...don't know," Wes said. Truth be told, he'd much rather stay out of the whole mess, but he knew Rui wouldn't take that for an answer. He ran a hand through his hair. "We could...report those Pokémon to the police. Yeah. Let's do that."

He knew from the look on Rui's face that she disliked the plan, but she didn't say anything to protest it. She leaned against the opposite wall and faced him. "What about the ones you already have?"

"I can turn them in to the police, too." Wes hadn't thought of this before, but now that he was saying it, it seemed like the most viable option. He couldn't take them with him, and he couldn't in good conscience leave them in the hands of an unsuspecting Trainer, either. "I'm sure that they're more qualified to deal with this stuff than we are."

Maybe. Probably not.

Rui folded her arms and looked down at the ground. "You're right," she grumbled after a moment. "I don't like the idea, but...I can't think of what else we can do..."

It was perhaps the most practical thing Wes had ever heard her say. He shot her a look. "What do you have against the police, anyway? I know they're next to useless, but it's like you've got a personal issue with them or something."

"That's because I do have a personal issue with them." Rui raised her eyes to meet his, and there was a cold anger in both her face and her tone. "They didn't lift a finger when my starter got stolen from me."

Wes stared in shock, utterly speechless for a moment.

"You...had a Pokémon?" He finally asked. He'd never in a million years have pegged Rui as a Trainer.

"A long time ago," Rui said. "But that doesn't matter...she's gone now." She glared back down at her boots.

Suddenly Rui's intense hatred for Pokémon thieves, her disdain for the police, and her obnoxious sense of justice made much more sense to him. "I'm sorry," he said quietly.

Rui shrugged, but didn't say anything. Wes began to wonder if she wasn't entirely the blissfully naive girl he'd assumed she was.

He cleared his throat. "Well...come on. Let's go to the station. Maybe we'll have a better shot at finding you a ride there, anyway."

She nodded, then looked back up at him with a small, if somewhat forced, smile. "Yeah. Let's go."

Wes decided now was as good a time as any to let Neo and Novo out of their Pokeballs. Normally, he didn't like to walk around Pyrite with them out in the open; Snagem may have been the most notorious gang for Pokémon trafficking, but they were not the only ones, and Pyrite was a trafficking hotspot. However, after seeing the mess in the square, he decided some cover would be a good idea.

Once Neo and Novo had a brief moment to stretch, they all set off for the station.

He only knew where the police station was due to years of carefully avoiding it. Even though his Trainer name and record were clean, he had no intention of letting them catch on to his Snagger identity. Every instinct of his shrieked protests at him as he led Rui deeper into town towards the station; he should be staying away from such a place, not waltzing right up to it, for Arceus' sake.

Do you never learn? That familiar snarl was in his ear again. You're a damned fool, boy.

Wes clenched his teeth. I know. He would never be rid of that voice at this rate...

The Pyrite police station came into view all too soon. Like the rest of the town, it wasn't much to look at; other than the large front door and the symbol of the Pyrite police above it, it was barely distinguishable from any other building in the area.

Rui, true to her usual fashion, was the one to step forward through the door first. Wes was more than happy to let her; the closer he could be to the exit, the better.

The inside of the station was just as unremarkable as the outside. There was a reception desk straight ahead with a very bored looking officer slouched behind it, and to the right was a metal door that was shut and locked securely; Wes knew from conversations with other Pyrite citizens and Snagem associates that it led to a hallway of prison cells.

Wes glanced warily about the place, scanning for any other potential exits - just in case. The only option he saw was another door behind the reception counter and a window on the wall to their left. He decided to only take a few steps in and stay as close to the front door as possible. Neo and Novo, faithful as always, remained close to him on either side.

The officer behind the desk was staring out the window, balancing a pencil on his puckered lips and apparently completely oblivious to their presence. After a pause, Rui cleared her throat and he jumped, sending the pencil flying with a clatter. He blinked sheepishly at his visitors and sat up a little straighter in his seat with a cough. "Erm, hello, what can I do ya for?"

Rui gave him her usual polite smile. "Hello! We need to speak with...uh, whoever's in charge."

He quirked an eyebrow. "On what business?"

Rui glanced at Wes, who merely shrugged. She turned back to the officer. "We wanted to report some dangerous Pokémon."

The officer snorted. "No need for that, miss. We've been getting reports and calls about dangerous Pokémon several times a day."

Rui's eyes widened in surprise. "You - you have?"

"Yes'm. I assure you our force is already working on the case."

"...oh." Rui clearly hadn't been expecting that answer. "Well, we also have some Pokémon that we would, uh...like to turn in."

The officer frowned. "Turn in?"

"Yes, sir. We believe them to be dangerous."

"And where did you get these Pokémon?"

Rui paused, and Wes braced himself. He could always try to step in with a lie and hope it would be convincing...

"They were actually given to us, sir." Wes blinked in surprise as Rui plowed forward without so much as a stutter. "We won a couple of them in a contest, and the other two were given to us by some concerned citizens in Phenac. They didn't know what to do with their Pokémon, so we offered to bring them here."

It was a stretch, but her face was shockingly earnest for such a bald-faced lie.

"Phenac, you say?" The officer leaned back in his chair and folded his arms with a furrowed brow. "That's news to us...how many Pokémon did you say you had?"

"Four, sir."

He nodded, still frowning. "Right. Will you just wait here a moment?" Rui nodded, and he rose and exited through the door behind him.

Wes shot Rui a sideways glance. She threw him a mischievous grin. He would have to ask her later where she'd learned to lie like that.

The officer returned through the door, and this time he had someone with him: an older gentleman with gray hair and a mustache to match. Wes felt an uncomfortable lurch in his stomach; he'd never personally interacted with this man, but he knew exactly who he was.

The Pyrite Chief of Police walked with a serious and dignified air. The lines on his face and bags under his eyes were a testament to his many years on the force. His crisp navy uniform highlighted his sharp eyes, which immediately rested on Wes.

Wes met his gaze evenly and forced himself to remain calm and collected. This man knew nothing, had nothing on him. He would be fine as long as he was careful.

Still, he couldn't help but notice the Chief's eyes briefly flicker to the Snag Machine on his arm.

"Chief, these two have some things to share that I think you might be interested to hear," said the officer.

The Chief nodded to him. "Thank you, Lenin." He gave Wes and Rui a small, polite smile. "And to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking with?"

"Rui Everlin, sir," Rui said with a small bow.

Wes gave the Chief a nod. "Wesley Lycas."

"A pleasure to meet you both. I am Timothy Sherles, Chief of Pyrite Police. My officer here tells me you have some unusual Pokémon you would like to turn in?"

"Yes, sir," said Rui.

Sherles glanced at the Eons gathered at Wes' feet. "I take it you're the Trainer, son?"

Wes gave another curt nod.

"Very well. If you please, I'd like to speak with you in my office about this matter."

He hesitated. You've got to be kidding me. Stepping into the Pyrite Chief's office was the last thing Wes wanted to do, but he couldn't very well refuse without raising suspicion...

To make matters worse, as he and Rui both stepped forward to follow him, Sherles glanced at the redhead and said kindly, "No need, my dear. I only need to speak with Mr. Lycas. You may wait out here."

Rui blinked. "I...oh. Okay, then." She gave Wes a small smile as she sat in a chair near the door, but he noticed a tiny glint of confusion in her eyes.

Wes followed Sherles into his office with his Eons beside him. Everything is fine, he told himself firmly. Just tell him Rui's story, hand over the Pokeballs, and be done with it. He knows nothing about me.

Sherles' office was a rather small and humble one, quite different from the mayor's in Phenac. There were no windows, making the room feel cramped, and the desk was a beat up old thing, its top covered in a variety of papers.

Rather than take a seat behind his desk, however, Sherles stood in front of it and looked Wes up and down with an unreadable expression. He glanced at Wes' companions again. "Those are some fine Pokémon you've got there, son."

"Thank you."

"Now, then. Tell me how you came across these dangerous Pokémon."

Wes chose his words carefully while making sure to maintain eye contact. "As Rui said, I won two of them in a contest at the...Pre Gym in Phenac. And the other two we offered to take from a pair of Trainers that didn't know what to do with them. We all figured out pretty quickly that they're dangerous."

Sherles nodded, keeping his sharp gaze steady. "And how would you describe their behavior?"

"Unpredictable." Wes reflected on the Makuhita's blank stare, on the hatred in its eyes when battling. "They don't seem to know some commands, and they don't always listen. They lose control easily and fight too harshly...and they attack people." The dull ache in his shoulder, though significantly better than the day before, was still a solid reminder of that last part.

Sherles nodded again. "Well. That sounds about right with the reports we've been receiving here in Pyrite. However..." he leaned forward slightly, fixing Wes with that impenetrable stare of his. "I'd like you to tell me how you got those Pokémon."

Wes blinked. "I...already did."

"Oh, yes, you did," replied the Chief cooly. "Now this time, I'd like you to tell me the truth."

Wes narrowed his eyes. The Chief was toying with him, that was all. This man had no real information on him; his intimidation was merely a bluff. "That's the truth. Sir."

"Is it, Mr. Lycas?"

Sherles straightened and leaned against his desk, then tipped his head back and regarded Wes with a critical eye. When he spoke again, his calm voice contained a threatening edge, and Wes felt the blood in his veins freeze over.

"Or should I call you Snagger Leo?"
 
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HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
I’m so happy you came back for another review!

Novo and Neo continue to be adorable, and I enjoyed their little interludes, but it's not clear to me whether the pokéPOV is going to be very important to the larger narrative.

I don’t plan on doing a ton of Pokémon POV, but it will pop up occasionally throughout the story, mostly to provide more characterization for the Pokémon, especially the shadows.


these little details are where you can really make the story feel more real and your own, regardless of whether the plot came from a game, and you've been doing a really good job of it so far.

Ah! This made me so happy, lol. I’m so glad you’re liking the small details, I really enjoy writing them and I love the flavor they add to each scene! (As long as I can keep myself from going overboard, that is!)

I'd almost have liked to see a little more "wow, that guy was WEIRD" talk after the meeting with the governor, to be honest, heh.

We’ll get a little bit of that in the next chapter, if that helps ;) There’s actually a specific reason for Nascour’s appearance, though it won’t be revealed until much, much later in the story. ;)


One thing I was wondering about near the end of Chapter 3 was why Wes decides to take Rui with him when escaping Phenac. Obviously she needs to come along because that's the story, but I didn't really feel like I understood, from Wes' POV, why he chose to do that when he was still in full-on "hoping to get out of here and out of Orre ASAP" mode.

Ah man, this was exactly what I was worried about when writing this scene. I tried to sell the idea that he had to bring Rui along or else she would cause a scene and draw attention to himself, and that Wes was in such a panic that he just kind of rolled with the first idea he had, but I wasn’t sure if I made it convincing enough for the reader to believe. If you have any suggestions on how I can do that, or even a different angle I can take altogether, I would love to hear them!

Similarly, it felt a little odd to me that Rui's POV didn't give any insight into what she actually wanted pokéballs for.

Hmm, I should probably insert a little paragraph or something to reiterate what she tells Wes in chapter 3. These Pokeballs really are just a simple errand that she volunteered to run for her grandfather, who is teaching some of the local children about catching Pokémon. Nothing mysterious there, so I definitely didn’t intend to appear like I was withholding information.

It means so much to me that you’re taking time to review this simple story by little me. This is my first time attempting to write an actual story of any kind, so the feedback is so encouraging! :)
 
Chapter 9: The Deal

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
Chapter 9: The Deal

Wes froze.

Panic flared inside his chest at the mention of his Snagger name. No one, no one outside of Snagem knew him as Leo. So how...?

He willed himself to stay calm, to not let his shock show, but his mind was racing.

How did this man know? How did he know?

"Surprised?" Sherles asked breezily.

There was a light touch of smugness in his voice, and it was enough to pull Wes back to his senses. He folded his arms and regarded the Chief with a cool gaze. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Don't get cute with me, son. I know exactly who you are - and I know what that is, too." He jerked his head at the metal sleeve on Wes' arm.

How? How? How did he know?

"I'm sorry, but you must be mistaken. I have no idea what you're getting at." Wes maintained his icy stare.

Sherles sighed. "Very well, then." He pushed himself off the wall and pulled an envelope from a stack of papers on his cluttered desk. He pulled a single photograph from it and handed it to Wes. "Perhaps this will convince you."

Wes stared at the picture. The metal building in the background was unmistakable; it was team Snagem's hideout, as it used to be before Wes destroyed it. And, walking in the foreground with Neo and Novo at his side, was Wes himself.

Questions, so many questions, were bursting through his mind. How did he get this picture? And who took it? And how did he know where to find the hideout in the first place? How?

Wes slowly looked back up at Sherles. "How did you-"

"I have my resources, Snagger," said Sherles smoothly as he retrieved the photo from Wes' hand and slid it back into its envelope.

Damn. Damn. Damn.

He was trapped. Utterly trapped. The only way out of this building was back through the door behind him, past the officer, past Rui. But maybe, just maybe...he had Neo and Novo...

As if they'd read his mind, his Pokémon tensed at his feet. A low growl rumbled from Novo's throat, and Neo's forehead jewel gleamed.

"I wouldn't think about running, if I were you." Sherles eyed the two Eons. "That photo is one thing, but trust me when I say I have more than enough evidence to incriminate you here and now. You walk out that door, and I'll have that rather recognizable face of yours posted everywhere from here to Gateon."

The jig was up. Wes dropped the act with a snarl. "And who's to say you'll catch me?"

"Oh, I may or may not be able to hunt you down, but if my information is correct - and I believe it is - I won't be the only organization looking for you, now, would I?"

Wes didn't answer.

Sherles smirked a little. "I thought so." He tipped his head back again. "Now, if you don't mind, I have a few questions for you. Care to tell me why you blew up the Snagem hideout?"

"That's none of your business."

"Considering you're a prime suspect in my office, I'd say it is my business, Lycas."

"Well if you're going to arrest me anyway, what's the point in telling you anything?" Wes snapped.

Sherles raised an eyebrow. "Arrest you? Who said I was going to arrest you, son?"

"That's why you have me here, isn't it?"

"No, as a matter of fact, it isn't."

Wes stared at him. "What?"

"I'm not here to arrest you," Sherles repeated. He rested back against his desk once more. "I'm here to cut you a deal."

There was a brief pause. Wes narrowed his eyes at the Chief. What was he playing at?

"For the last eighteen months, savage Pokémon attacks and sightings have been increasing around the city. I have reason to believe someone - or a gang, more likely - is responsible for this, though we have little evidence to test that theory or make any headway. That's where you come in, son."

Wes leaned against the wall behind him and glared at the man as he folded his arms. "I don't follow."

"My sources indicate that you spent quite a lot of time here in town on your Snagging missions, and are quite familiar with the locals - particularly the Trainers," Sherles said. "You're likely more integrated into that crowd than any of my officers...which is why I'd like you to go undercover for me."

Another pause.

At length, Wes said slowly, "Are you joking?"

"Do I look like I'm joking, son?"

He most certainly did not. That icy stare of his was as serious as ever. Wes snorted in disbelief. "And why would I help you?"

"Well, for starters, there's the fact that I have everything I need to arrest you where you stand, if I need to," said Sherles idly. "For another, if you lend us your cooperation...I'll make it worth your while."

"Prove it."

"I'll reduce your sentence - and, depending on how helpful you are, I might even be willing to waive all charges. I will see to it that you have a place to stay and operate from while you are here, and I'll make sure your Pokémon are taken care of."

Wes mulled this over in his mind. He hated being backed into a corner like this, and yet it didn't actually sound...all that terrible. "What would I do?"

"Mostly gather information. Tell us everything you know about Snagem - and that lovely little accessory of yours -" Sherles nodded again at the Snag Machine, "and report any sightings of savage Pokémon to us. Try to find out where they are coming from, and why. That sort of thing."

Well. That didn't sound too difficult at all. Wes leveled a wary gaze at Sherles. "How do I know this isn't a trap of some sort?"

"You mean, more than it already is?" Sherles asked wryly. "What more do I have to gain from you? I already have you where I want you."

He was absolutely right, and Wes hated him for it.

He continued to fix the Chief with a hard stare. "How did you know I'd be here?"

"As a matter of fact, I didn't. My informant has been tracking you for some time, but lost your trail at Phenac." He actually chuckled a little. "Having you resurface on my very doorstep was the last thing I expected - although, I didn't expect you to blow up that hideout, either. You're full of surprises, son."

Wes had latched onto the first part of Sherles' statement. "Who's your informant?"

"That's classified information."

Well, he didn't expect he'd get an answer, but it had been worth a shot. He went for his next question. "Why me?"

"Now that's a good question." Sherles straightened a little, regarding the Snagger with critical eyes. "Why would I want you, of all people? I certainly didn't intend to involve you originally - but then you went and pulled that stunt in Eclo Canyon, and it had me wondering what you knew. And where your loyalties lie. If I'm not mistaken, you were no ordinary Snagem grunt. You were the best they had, a top-tier worker, were you not?"

Wes steadily looked at him and refused to answer.

That gaze was so persistent. Unflinching. Sherles continued. "Not only are you a valuable source of information for me, you're also an important link, as I believe Snagem is behind these incidents with savage Pokémon."

"They're not," Wes said curtly.

"Oh? You know this for certain?"

Well...no, he didn't know for certain. But he did know one thing with absolute surety. "Snagem doesn't redistribute Pokémon. They only take and sell for a profit."

"And do you know where all the Pokémon go?"

"...No. I don't."

"Hm." Sherles grunted. "Then I'm maintaining my theory for now. But in the meantime, you still haven't given me your answer."

Wes paused. He glanced down at his Pokémon; they were both still on high alert, but had backed down and were crouched warily at their Trainer's feet, keeping Sherles under a watchful eye.

If he got arrested, Neo and Novo would be taken away...

He had no choice. They were the entire reason he'd left Snagem in the first place, and he was not about to lose his family. Not after everything they'd gone through.

He looked back up at the Chief. "I'll do it."

Sherles smiled and gave an approving nod. "A wise decision, I think."

"But," Wes said harshly, "I have my conditions."

Sherles' eyebrows shot up an inch or two. "Do you, now?"

"Yes." Wes knew he was in no position whatsoever to bargain, but he was going for it anyway. "One: I do this job for you, and not only do you waive my charges, you provide me with a passport."

"So it seems I was correct in assuming you would make for Gateon," Sherles grunted. "You dislike Orre that much, hm?"

"This region hasn't done me any favors."

"Interesting. I'm sure it could say the exact same thing about you."

Wes ignored this comment; he was well aware of what he'd "contributed" to the world so far. He wasn't proud of it, yet he couldn't help but venomously wonder: where was the rest of Orre, when he was just a child on the streets? Where were the police and the authorities then?

Nowhere. The one time - the one time - the police were actually competent at their job, it worked against him and not for him.

Of course.

"I have another condition," he said. "Nobody gets to know who I am. That information stays between you and me. I don't need to make it any easier for Snagem to find me."

The Chief narrowed his eyes. "And what about that rather innocent-looking girl you have with you? What's her role in all of this?"

"Nothing. We just happened to meet. I'm helping her find her way back home."

"You? Escorting a stranger? Forgive me if I find that very hard to believe, son."

"It's the truth," Wes said testily. "You can ask her yourself."

"Does she know who you are?"

"She knows about the Snag Machine but...no. Not me. And I intend to keep it that way." The less people knew who he was, the better...for multiple reasons. "In fact, she needs to get back to Agate, and you can help with that, right?"

Sherles nodded. "I don't see why not." He scrutinized him for a moment longer, as if digesting Wes' proposed conditions. "Is that all?"

"Yes."

He paused. "Very well, then," he said at length. "I agree to your demands, Lycas."

Wes was genuinely surprised to hear this. For what it was worth, the Chief really did seem to want his full cooperation.

"However," Sherles continued, "I will need to disclose your identity to one other person who is working closely with me on this case." At these words, he pulled a P*DA from the front pocket on his uniform and began typing a message.

Wes eyed him warily. "And who might that be?"

"Oh, I'm sure you know of him," Sherles said lightly. He slipped his device back in his pocket. "In fact, why don't we meet with him now?"

Perfectly on cue, the door beside Wes creaked open. He nearly jumped at the sudden entrance, but managed to just barely hide his surprise. Novo tensed and growled as the newcomer stepped into the room, and Neo leaned against his Trainer with a soft, concerned chirp.

If the office felt small before, it was certainly crowded now. The man that slipped inside and shut the door behind him was much, much larger than the average human; he was almost big enough to make Wes wonder if he was human - but then again, he'd lived most of his life under the figurative and literal shadow of his massively oversized boss, so the man's size wasn't entirely new to him.

The visitor folded his giant, muscular arms and stepped back against the right-hand wall so as to get a good view of both Wes and Sherles. Wes didn't recognize this man immediately; he thought the auburn hair and mustache somewhat rang a bell, but his face was not overly familiar to him.

"Duking," Sherles greeted the impressively sized man with a nod. "I'd like to introduce you to our new recruit." He gestured to Wes.

The man called Duking shot a sideways glance at the Chief. "Is this him? The Snagger?" His voice was deep and impressive, like rumbling thunder.

"Yes."

Duking narrowed his eyes as he scanned Wes from head to foot. His eyes rested for a moment on the machine on Wes' arm. He then met Wes' gaze with an unimpressed expression.

"So," he said curtly, "you're a Pokémon thief."

"Former Pokémon thief," Wes growled. He matched Duking's glare with his.

"Ah, yes. Very reassuring." The reply was dripping with sarcasm. Duking turned to the Chief. "Sherles, just what are you tryin' to pull?"

"Nothing," said Sherles evenly. "He's agreed to work with us, and he's our best shot at making any progress on this case."

Duking grunted. "I know we said we'd have to get outside our comfort zones to get to the bottom of this..." He fixed his gaze back onto Wes. "...but I'm still not sure about throwing in with his lot."

Those last two words grated in Wes' ears. Anger bubbled in his chest. "Don't lump me in with the rest of them," he said quietly.

"Oh, so you're above them, are you?" Duking scoffed. "Think you're better than the rest of your peers because you were the best at the dirty work?"

Wes was about to offer a scathing retort when Sherles stepped in. "What matters, Duking, is that he's giving us his cooperation, and we need it," he said sternly. "Additionally, he needs a place to stay while here in Pyrite, and your place is a good as any."

"If you think I'm housing a criminal under the same roof as my kids, Sherles, you've got another think coming." Duking's voice was little more than a low growl.

Wes scoffed at this. "What would I have to gain by harming your family? You think I actually want to be here?"

"Listen, kid, I don't need another reason to have a target on my back. I've got enough on my plate tryin' to run this city and get to the bottom of these Pokémon attacks, and I don't need to be sheltering the likes of you."

A realization dawned on Wes at that last statement. "You're the mayor." He snorted and tipped his head back, folding his arms again. "I should have known."

The Pyrite man snarled at him. "And what's that supposed to mean?"

"I mean it's obvious. Hiring other people to do all the dirty work for you while treating them as less-than? Sounds like every other authority figure to me."

"Don't get snarky with me, kid. I've been serving Pyrite since before you were born, and I don't need my name associated with criminals."

"Spoken like a true politician."

Duking's eyes flashed; he stepped forward menacingly, his massive form filling the room as he did so. Neo and Novo sprang in front of their Trainer, their snarls filling the small space -

"Enough!" Sherles barked. He stepped in between Wes and Duking, warding the mayor off with one arm and glaring at them in turn. "Both of you - sit back and shut the hell up. None of us are getting anywhere until you can figure out how to be civil and work on this case together. Duking, you will house this young man and I will personally see to it that he behaves while he is here. And you -" he shot daggers at Wes - "watch that smart mouth of yours. This man has done more for this town than you've done for anything in your entire life, and he deserves your respect."

Respect. Wes hated that word. It was the word of authoritarians and tyrants and men drunk with power. It was the word that was shoved down his throat daily in Snagem, one that forced him to keep his head down and eyes low if he didn't want an unprovoked beating. It was one that nearly took his Pokémon, his family, his everything, away from him.

Respect. It was a dirty word , one that left a bitter taste in his mouth whenever he heard it.

Still, he said nothing and only gave a curt nod to the Chief in response, though he kept his eyes focused on Duking. The large man glared back at him for a minute longer, then backed down, grumbling under his breath. Sherles narrowed his eyes at Wes' growling Pokémon. "And while we're at it, return them both. We don't need things getting ugly in here."

Wes clenched his teeth in frustration, but he did as told. Neo and Novo vanished into their Pokeballs.

Sherles relaxed a little and adjusted his uniform with a small cough. "Right then," he said. "Before we continue, Mr. Lycas has a few conditions upon agreeing to work with us." He listed off Wes' demands to Duking, who listened with an increasingly sour expression.

You mean work for you. As if he'd ever willingly volunteer for such a ridiculous project himself.

Still, if this deal really was as good as Sherles made it out to be - though he didn't give much weight to the man's word just yet - then it would mean a much easier time of getting out of Orre. A slower method, but a cleaner one...a safer one.

"Very well," Duking's rumbling voice pulled Wes from his thoughts. "I don't like this setup, Chief...but I'll put my faith in you."

"Thank you, Duking," said Sherles. "I do think we can count on him." He nodded towards Wes as he spoke.

Duking turned his attention back to the Snagger. "I'm warning you now, kid," he said darkly, "you make even one indication that you plan to harm my family, and I will personally see to it that you are locked away for the rest of your life."

Wes glowered up at him. He disliked this man more and more with every word that came out of his mouth.

"Don't call me 'kid'," he said softly.

"I'll call you whatever the hell I want."

A snarl rose in Wes' throat, but before he could say anything more, Sherles interrupted once again. "Let's get to business, shall we?" he said briskly. "Lycas, I believe you said you had some dangerous Pokémon to turn in. We'll take a look at these Pokémon tomorrow, but first, let's get your...ah, friend on her way home."

She's not my friend, Wes said silently. He decided not to bother with semantics, however.

"Hold on, are you talking about that girl out there?" Duking asked Sherles with a frown. "She's with him?"

"Yes," Wes spoke up sharply before Sherles could say anything, "I'm just helping her get home. Nothing more."

The Pyrite mayor's gaze burned into him. "How do we know you're not taking advantage of her somehow?"

Fury seethed inside him. Sure, men like Gonzap and Wakin were not above taking advantage of women at any given opportunity, but Wes was not Gonzap, he was not Wakin, and how dare this man accuse him of such a thing, how dare he -

"I'm confident he's telling the truth," said Sherles. "But we can always confirm with the young lady herself and make sure the stories line up." He nodded to Wes. "I believe we're done here, for now. Let's get things situated."

He crossed the room and opened the door, gesturing Wes to leave first. Wes exchanged one more scathing look with Duking before stepping back out into the lobby.

The officer outside, he noted, was no longer trying to balance a pencil on his lip; seeing the mayor step in likely had a hand in that. Sherles did, however, quickly dismiss him from the lobby as he emerged.

Rui, still seated in her chair near the front door, perked up at the sight of Wes emerging from the office. "Wes! That...um, took a while..." her smile faltered at the sight of Duking and Sherles behind him, her face a mask of confusion. She shot him a sideways glance. "I, uh, saw the mayor step in...what's going on?"

Before Wes could answer, Sherles clapped a hand on his shoulder, and the sudden touch nearly made him jump out of his skin. Arceus. Why were people so touchy all the time? Between all the contact with strangers, and Rui clinging to him over the last few days, he'd had more than enough of it and was at his limit.

"Miss Everlin." Sherles beamed at her kindly. "Your friend is a volunteer helping us with our investigation here in Pyrite, so he'll be in town for a while. But don't you worry, we'll arrange transportation for you to get back home."

A whirlwind of expressions flickered across Rui's face all at once like a photo reel: joy, shock, confusion, and then...doubt. Her eyes flicked between Wes and the Chief. "...Really?"

Sherles didn't answer this immediately, so Wes assumed that was his cue to speak up. "Um. Yes. We talked about the case, and the Pokémon we...we got..." Damn. He was usually better prepared for these things, but at the moment he felt so put on the spot. He consciously resisted the urge to rub the back of his head in a nervous fidget.

"No need to be modest, son," Sherles said cheerfully. "Why, this case is why you're here in the first place! I respect your desire to keep things confidential, but I'm sure this young lady is trustworthy with some of the details."

Rui looked more confused than ever. "What?"

Wes was even more bewildered than she was, though he made sure not to show it. What was Sherles getting at?

The Chief threw Wes an incredulous look. "Does she not know why you have the Snag Machine?"

Wes met his expression. Just play along. "Well...not the whole reason, no."

Sherles barked out a laugh. "Look at you, being so modest!" He turned to Rui with a grin. "This young man has been with us for some time, Miss Everlin - not too long, mind you, but he's worked with us to expose the Snagem hideout and steal the Snag Machine to help us in our investigation. Truly, we'd be at quite a loss without him."

Rui's eyes widened in shock. She stared at Wes, utterly dumbfounded. "Is...is this true?"

He merely gave a curt nod.

She jumped to her feet and grabbed him by the shoulders, her face far too close to his. Mew have mercy, his bubble was being violated so many times today. "Wes! That's amazing! I didn't - I had no idea - I understand now! Why you have that machine, why you caught those Pokémon...this all makes sense!"

It does? he thought numbly. His mind was still spinning with the turn of events. What was happening? How did he end up here - in Pyrite, in the middle of a police investigation, when all he'd meant to do was flee to Gateon?

Rui paused for a moment. "Hold on, is that even your real name? Should I call you Wes?"

He gingerly pried her off of him and pushed her back until she was at an acceptable distance. "Yes, that's my name. You can keep calling me that."

She grinned at him; she was taking this all remarkably well, he thought. "I can't believe - I was spouting off to you about helping those Pokémon, but you've been on top of it all along! You're incredible!"

Oh, no. No.

Wes was fine with lying; he'd done it often enough, had developed the skill for it, but this was a whole new level. He was not comfortable with pretending to be some...undercover hero. He was the furthest thing from that.

Still, he had to roll with it, at least for now. He didn't have much of a choice.

"Well, we should get you home," he said. "I'm sure your family is worried about you-"

"Wait!" Rui's face lit up. "I - I want to join the investigation!"

Oh, for the love of Arceus -

Sherles looked taken aback. Duking spoke up from behind Wes. "I'm sorry, I don't believe I got your name, Miss...?"

"Rui Everlin, sir," she said with her usual slight bow. Her eyes were vibrant with excitement. "And I think - no, I know I'd be a really valuable addition to the case, and I'd really like to volunteer if you'll have me!"

"And...what makes you say that, Miss Everlin?" Duking asked politely.

Rui shot Wes a look. "You didn't tell them?"

"...No."

She frowned at him before turning to Sherles. "You see, Chief, I can see the auras of Pokémon...and I can detect which ones are dangerous by their aura."

Sherles cocked an eyebrow and threw Wes a sideways glance.

"It's true," he muttered. "That's how we got the Pokémon in Phenac."

"Well..." Sherles trailed off with a contemplative expression. "That does sound useful, Miss Everlin. But...are you certain about this? This is a dangerous mission, and you must be eager to get home, not to mention your family-"

"That's alright!" Wes had never seen Rui so excited - which was saying something, he noted. "I can explain everything to them, they'll understand - if you'll have me, that is..."

"Hm. What do you think, Lycas?" Sherles looked at him; neither of them had been prepared for Rui's enthusiastic offer. Wes could say no...but the blazing passion in Rui's eyes would not be easily dissuaded, and he was sure she would fight fiercely for her cause.

"That's...fine, I suppose," he said tersely.

Rui beamed, and before Wes could react, she threw herself at him in a tight embrace. "Thank you, Wes! Thank you!"

Sweet merciful Arceus above
get off me.

"It's - it's fine, really," he said stiffly. He moved to pry her off of him a second time, but to his immense relief, she pulled away of her own accord.

He was so glad to be free of her grip he almost didn't notice the frown on her face. "Why didn't you tell them I can see aura?"

"I...didn't want you to get involved." It was technically the truth, but in the current context, it sounded...so much nobler than it actually was.

He hated it.

Rui's face softened and her smile returned. "You worry too much."

Apparently not enough, if he'd gotten himself into this mess.

Sherles turned to Duking. "Well, this is a bit of a last minute adjustment...Duking, I don't suppose you'd have room for her as well...?"

Wes saw him wave his hand nonchalantly in his peripheral vision. "Not to worry. We have plenty of space."

"Oh-" Rui looked at him with concern. "I didn't think about - I'm sorry - I won't be a bother, will I?"

Duking chuckled - a warm and genuine one, from what Wes could tell. "No need to fret, miss. We'll be happy to have you. In fact, my daughter will be thrilled to have another lady in the house. I think she feels a bit outnumbered these days."

Rui grinned at him. "Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor."

"Please. Call me Duking."

Wes resisted the urge to give a derisive snort. Such a different response from what he'd been given...although, Rui had no criminal activity to her name, and her very existence screamed "wholesome and trustworthy" so loudly she might as well have plastered it on her forehead.

He supposed he didn't have any of that going for him.

"Well, then, that settles it," Sherles said brightly. "I have more work to attend to in my office, but Duking will help you get settled in and we can get started in the morning." His eyes rested briefly on Wes as he spoke, and though his face was cheerful, there was a warning glint in his gaze: don't you dare try anything.

Wes briefly glanced at Duking; he wouldn't be able to try anything no matter how much he wanted to. He knew that much.

Duking ushered them out the door and led the way to his home as Rui struck up a conversation with him. Wes could only follow in a daze as the early evening sun warmed them from behind with golden light, with one thought running through his mind in a constant loop:

How, how, how did his simple plan to get to Gateon go so absurdly wrong?
 
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