The beached route was quite small, nestled between two cliff-shaped rocks on either side of him that forced on to go either north or south. The way south however was nothing but sea as far as the eye could see. Apparently it was a water route where swimmers and seafaring pokemon could travel through towards the Seafoam Islands, and further on to Cinnabar Island. The sunset was coming in quite swiftly as the raptor enjoyed the quiet late evening.
"Huh...looks like everyone's already gone home."
Indeed...we have the whole beach to ourselves.
"...well yanno what? I think it's time we all had a nice break after fighting down that route and getting into trouble at the park. Hey everyone, we're going to the beach!"
With that he released his pokemon from their balls to let them enjoy the sandy shore, all of them running or flying out with excitement at such a cute little place all for themselves. Laying back on the sands, he watched his pokemon amble about freely to enjoy the small beach area. Sarah of course kept herself out to sea, enjoying the warm seawater as she slowly swam in a circle. Isaac and Red happily ran together across the sands, racing each other as if they were brothers, laughing at each other and daring the other to keep up.
The cubone ran all the way to the water, which Red refrained from going anywhere near despite Isaac's teasing splashes at him until Red told him to stop. They then continued racing back and forth across the shore, before getting into playfights with each other in small wrestling matches, tussling across the sands with squeaks and growls playfully.
Spike and Kirie chased each other in the salty sea air, the haunter tricking him with little illusions left and right as the beedrill dodged to and fro. Despite his rather erratic movements in trying to evade her trickery, he was actually enjoying the chance to show off his flighty wings, spinning through the air and buzzing eagerly at the bracing sunset wind.
Kirie eventually floated back down to James once she had enough fun teasing, simpering up towards the raptor.
Mmmmm...not often you get a nice break on a beach is it?
"Mmmmhmm...more than most actually, I remember quite a few beaches I been to."
"Yeah...this is fun though...not as fun as Yoshi Island buuuut...having friends here helps a lot."
"Hmmmmm...look at those two. It's like they been with each other since they were born, they're so good together."
Indeed. It is good that Red keeps his childish heart, despite his shaky start in life.
"That professor must have looked after him good for him to end up like that. I'm really glad we took Isaac away from Lavender Town, he looks like a real kid now. Playing, laughing, smiling away I think, can't really tell with that skull on him. This is how kids should be."
He laid back fully and sighed with hands behind his head.
"No worries, no griefs, no bad thoughts about what's coming tomorrow. They just live for today, seize the moment, run and play and be friends with each other. They got years to grow up, but they only get one childhood. And that's like, the basis of who you are, everything you become starts out here for them. A day at the beach might just make a kid turn out alright in the end."
Mmmmm...I agree. You're quite the caring soul around children, James Campbell.
The haunter soon came into view, leering over him with a smirk from ear to ear.
You have a very fascinating face.
I have always wondered what it feels like...is it warm, or perhaps cold to the touch?
"Iiiiis this a dinosaur question? 'Cause, we went to a museum and all, I thought you knew that already."
Oh...I didn't mean that way James.
She teasingly floated down towards him with a sudden swift smooch to the lips, making him stand up fast and spit hard.
Kirie laughed at his reaction, chortling along with Isaac and Red who laughed at him in turn whilst babbling in their own language.
"S-shut up guys, what are they saying now?!"
They're saying "ewwww ghost cooties" and saying that you should get yourself treated before it's too late...oh dear, I forgot to tell you I haven't had my shots, ho ho ho!
"G-GOD dammit guys! ...yanno what, if I got ghost cooties, then you guys better not let me touch youuuu."
He turned with a predatory grin at both cubone and charmeleon, who eeped and ran away jovially from him as the raptor gave chase. Squealing laughter from Isaac, combined with Red's pretend-panicky sounds, made James laugh all the more as he ran at a moderate pace, letting them stay ahead of him as they chased around and around. Sand kicked up from their little clawed feet, the sunset greeting their laughter openly across the sea route as Isaac hastily scrabbled towards the water, climbing up on Sarah and pleading her to keep him away.
The lapras chuckled and swam away teasingly from Red and James, the charmeleon crying out "no fair!" to his own intolerance to water. Trapped at the shoreline, he was easy prey for James to tackle him, pinning the little lizard down with a devious grin.
"Awwwww you gonna get it now boyo."
With fake cries of fear, Red closed his eyes hard at his trainer kissing him briefly on the lips, the charmeleon spitting the same way James had done with Kirie. Isaac cackled uproariously from the sea, squealing shrieks of laughter at the two reptiles before Red shoved James hard off of him. In return, James shoved him back, the two getting into a play-wrestling match with each other, neither of them using their full strength as a bit of fun.
Tumbling across the sandy shore, the raptor rolled away from the sea and cried out from Red tickling under his armpits, making him giggle and lose his focus before being pushed back hard by the fire lizard. The two laid on the beach next to each other, surrounded by friends smiling down on them. Isaac sat beside him on one side, while Red sat on the other. Kirie floated above while Sarah peered from the very edge of the shallow waters. Spike kept himself aflutter calmly, slowing down his wings as he gazed fully towards the sunset.
"Yanno...I only met you guys for a week or two...but you're real fun to travel with."
"Yeah...I mean, we don't understand each other much but, I trust you guys...and you trust me. And sometimes, that's all you really need from others."
"Youuu said it Red...whatever you said anyway."
Sarah asks if you have any plans after we are done with we have to do.
"Honestly...no. Not right now. Let's just...live for today. We don't have to care about what tomorrow brings, for now."
The six of them agreed as they calmly relaxed with the setting sun, taking in the soft sea breeze and the warm sandy shore. Eventually, night soon rolled in, and James collected his pokemon to pack back in their balls before heading off. The only other visitor to the beach that night was a voice behind him.
"Hoy there sonny!"
He turned fearfully towards an old man in black clothes, who at first made James freak out until Kirie noted something odd about his face. She smiled at him with a nod, closing her eyes with hands waving in front of her to indicate he was blind, making James feel relieved.
"Uhh hey there sir."
"Enjoyin' the night air are ya?"
"Yeaaaaah was just uh, chillin' with my pokemon here, no biggie."
"Ahhh...thas good, good to have yer pokemon relax once a while...you live roun' here?"
"No actually I come from far away, just passing through."
"Ohhh? Ah been livin' near this sea plenny while now, know the whole place from top to bottom, grain by grain. Heard all kinds o' strange stuff happen near shores too. Cinnabar Island used to be all fulla that until that volcano wrecked it all up."
"Wow really? Damn that sucks."
"Heh, ah well...whut's yer name sonny?"
"...hmmm...one three seven."
"OH uh nuthin', just gotta remember those numbers now. Don' wanna pick the wrong 'un next week now, hoho no!"
"Ahhhh right, lottery is it?"
"Mmhmm, fast one aintcha?!"
"I try to be. Well uh...you take care sir."
"You too sonny James."
Leaving the blind man to his nightly routine, the raptor smiled at him and feeling rather glad he could speak to at least one human person without a disguise. He headed up to a hostel nearby in the city, whilst Kirie kept guard as a night light in his room to enjoy the night outside, as she went into her own deep sleep. Spirits had their own way of resting, still attuned to the world but also still asleep.
A sense of half-awakening that allowed them to feel every twitch of every grass stem in the cold night wind. As well as every flicker of every eyelid of those asleep near them. Dreams became flickers of thoughts, as she sensed James' mind reshuffle itself in the night, shifting memories and ideas throughout his strange experiences.
Morning soon came, as Kirie awoke with him fully before they headed out. Fuchsia City shined pleasantly from outside, warming the raptor's heart as they prepared to head out with Isaac as their guide. Had he remembered his dream fully, he would be more worried about his subconscious fears, but the morning sun was taking it all away from him.
Isaac however wanted to go to the Pal Park once more, fascinated with the place and wanting to explore the place even further than before. James had no reason not to, and headed back inside once more. Looking around for a guide to take him in, he found the familiar slightly-burnt face of the junior ranger from yesterday, heading over to where he sat holding a small handheld device, with earphones included.
"Hmm-OH hey there!"
Middleton quickly pulled out his earphones and paused his device, which James glanced briefly at to see some sort of block-puzzle game before he asked:
"How ya doing man?"
"Not bad...thanks for uh, covering for me yesterday."
"Hey don't worry, wasn't your fault. You working again today?"
"Yeaaaah just waiting for someone to come get me or ask me to do something. I got a little refresher course on smokeballs so no worries."
"Hah, good. Anything new in the park today?"
"Not really, same old as yesterday. Lotta people came by in the morning though, more than usual which was great, a whole family even."
"Aw that's cool...uhhh if you're not doing anything, I'd appreciate a guide again to take me round the park."
"Uhhhh...I dunno. See, my boss wasn't sure about me taking anyone out again, kinda lost a bit of confidence in me after uh...yesterday and, well...basically, she's not sure if I can handle pokemon as good as my boss in Johto said I could."
"Why's that? Come on, you know all about these pokemon."
"Yeah but HANDLING them? I just need a chance you know, show off my team at least but I barely ever get a chance nowadays."
"Show off your team?" asked James. "...like, a pokemon battle?"
"You up for a li'l morning battle?"
"Wait what?!" asked Middleton.
"Yeah!" said FG. "Why don't you have a battle with me? That way your boss can see how you handle your pokemon and get some confidence in ya."
"Mmmmmm...I dunno...I'm not THAT good, I-"
"Hey, I haven't even seen your pokemon team, come on, let me see them at least. What level are they?"
"Uhhh....about twenty-six to thirty maybe?"
"Great, so are mine! Come on, let's have a battle, see how good you really are."
"Um...o-okay! Sure! Lemme tell my boss."
Middleton jumped off and went to tell his superior about what he had been offered. After explaining his reasons in wanting to prove he was able to lead a good team and understand pokemon, she agreed and allowed him use of a side-area to use for pokemon fights. The side room, known as the Acorn Room, looked like a small gym except for having lots of flowers and smooth grassy areas that littered every corner. A window also showed the pleasant field area outside, where pokemon could be watched harmlessly through solid one-way plexiglass.
"Nice place," said FG.
"Yeah," said Middleton, "it's kind of a safe area for kids and such, get them close to pokemon and bring the smaller ones in so they can get together and have fun learning about each other."
"Sooooo like some kind of nursery room?"
"Well, kinda, more like an introductory room for really little ones."
"And this is ALSO a pokemon battle area?"
"It's a good strong room, nothing can get damaged here and that glass is solid. SO uh, you ready to fight?!"
"Sure am, let's do this! Isaac, GO!"
In his haste to pull out a pokeball, the junior ranger dropped his unceremoniously onto the battlefield, as it clonked open to reveal a rather strange-looking spider, an Ariados. Red-bodied with black stripes, clear blue eyes and tiny white pincers on its mouth to accompany a single sharp needle on its forehead. It skittered forwards on four purple and yellow legs, with two limbs on its back oddly. The spider looked up at its trainer with a condescending look, wearing a claw pendant around its neck.
"D-don't look at me like that, come on we got a battle to do! Poison Sting!"
"Isaac, squash that bug with your Bone Club!"
The cubone, already out of his pokeball, rushed straight towards the spider and tried to whack it hard across the face, before receiving a nasty little sting from the needle to his leg. Squeaking in pain, he reacted with a hefty second strike across the insect's face, knocking it to one side before checking himself. Thankfully he wasn't poisoned, giving a thumbs up to James before Arachne came scuttling forth with a spurt of String Shot, slowing the cubone's legs down as it cried out with disgust.
"AWWW NOT THE BUG JIZZ AGAIN!" cried out James.
For the last time it is NOT-
"Use your Leer Isaac! MENACINGLY!"
Isaac was especially proud of this talent of his, staring hard at the spider with a threatening glare. At first it just looked like a very angry kid trying to telekinetically make someone's head explode, until his eyes started to glow a fierce yellow sheen. The sudden light freaked out the ariados, shaking slightly from such a look before Middleton said:
"Don't worry about him, use your Night Shade!"
The spider skittered excitably with this command, rushing forwards before James decided to switch out, fearing for his lowest-levelled pokemon.
"Isaac, return! Spike, GO!"
Switching out his cubone for a beedrill, he watched Spike readily take the hit for Arachne's oncoming attack, the spider's eyes darkening into a vile black before a horrendous beam shot out. Spike took it full on, a buzzing anger welling up within him as the black beam surged through his very being. But he was still flying, ready to attack as James commanded:
"Show that thing who's the better bug, TWINEEDLE!"
Charging forwards with wings surging, the beedrill stabbed out with a vicious one-two punch of its spear-tipped limbs. Striking Arachne twice, it was an unexpectedly brutal attack for the spider to suffer, falling back not only from being critically-beaten, but also from a sudden onset of poison afflicting it. It was soon struggling to stand up, the junior ranger saying:
"D-dammit! Arachne return! Now it's time for The Bronz!"
Bringing back his weakened Ariados, he released in exchange a large boulder-shaped beast. Its spherical body was well-formed with shapely tectonic plates, with burly short arms and legs poking out as well as a reptilian head. It immediately began to flex with confidence, chuckling deeply while wearing a small bag full of soft sand around its neck, hanging from a thread.
"Awww yeah," said Middleton, "show that wasp who's boss and ROLLOUT!"
"Aw god," said FG, "not a rock monster. Fine, Spike, Twineedle!"
The beedrill was cocky and ready to go, remembering his bare victory against a geodude in the past with pride as he stabbed hungrily out at the boulder-shaped beast. Due to the fact Twineedle was a bug-type move, the rocky pokemon did not resist it well, the sharp precision of an insect's anatomy easily stabbing between the plates for the best damage. The Golem roared as it rolled itself up, charging towards the wasp and slamming hard into Spike's body. It wasn't particularly damaging, but it did throw him off slightly.
Both trainers commanded the same attacks to be repeated, and Spike did so with gusto in piercing with his somewhat-effective Twineedle. The golem however continued to roll around its target, screeching its hard body against the floor like a braking tire as it turned and slammed hard into the beedrill, even more strongly than before. Spike and FG were both thrown off by this, but Kirie knew precisely how it worked.
"Woah woah woah it's gathering SPEED?!"
Rollout is known for doing that yes. But good work on picking the bug-type since rocks don't resist them.
"F-fine, Spike! Keep stabbing him, Twineedle!"
The wasp flew haphazardly as he charged violently towards the boulder pokemon, ready to meet it head on during one of its turns in slowing down, stabbing once again with Twineedle. Two deepening stabs rewarded him with a gurgling groan from the golem, who soon became poisoned, but not out. In retaliation, it had gathered enough speed to hit the wasp with the force of an 18-wheeler, crushing Spike underneath with a vicious roll. The beedrill simply laid within the ground buzzing weakly, clearly hurt too much to keep going.
"Dammit, return! Sarah, come on out!"
In the time it took for FG to take out the beedrill and tag in his lapras, the junior ranger's golem returned with a vicious rolling assault, slamming hard into the water beast. Sarah roared pitifully from the blow, knocking her back in surprise but nowhere near out for the count. In revenge, FG commanded her to summon her Ice Beam, and stop her new foe at last. She obeyed gratefully, sucking in a deep breath of air from the cooling mist around her lips before shooting forth a violently cold stream.
The water that short forth immediately turned into ice upon contact with the air, shafting straight through the stone exterior of the golem and piercing hard a few inches into the rocky flesh. It was perfectly powerful enough to stop the beast in its tracks, the golem rolling hard into a faltering stumble, groaning as it literally rolled out flat onto the ground. Struggling to get up, it tried to give a weak thumbs up to its trainer before conking out.
"Sheesh! Bronz, come back! Deckard, let's do this!"
The next opponent was one that James struggled not to underestimate. An adorable bipedal sheep known as Flaaffy, with curled fluffy white wool on its head and neck, its body pink and soft with a black-banded tail ending in a blue orb. It even baa'd sweetly up at Middleton, the raptor in disguise chuckling with:
"What you gonna do, choke me with cotton candy?"
"Hah, you don't know what you're messing with! Deckard, Thunder Shock!"
"WH-WHAT?! SARAH, BODY SLAM!"
The lapras charged with a sudden thrust of her entire body, desperately slamming into the electric sheep who countered back with a powerful electric shock. One of its little arms had a magnet attached to its wrist, which only further powered up the power of its thunder shock straight into Sarah. The lapras shrieked from the blast, surging through her conductive body and receiving a rather steamy air around her. James was now suddenly intimidated by the little sheep, the Flaaffy bleating with a smug little dance.
"Sarah, come back! ISAAC, GO!"
The cubone returned to the battlefield fighting fit, looking curiously at his new opponent until he saw the static electricity surge around the sheep's body. He readily wielded his weapon, waiting for orders.
"Isaac, Bone Club!"
"Deckard, Thunder Shock!"
Isaac charged with club swung low, roaring cutely with all the fury it could pose towards the sheep. The flaaffy in turn cried out as electricity burst forth from its woolly hide, rubbing together to create a powerful static shock that came surging out onto the battlefield. At first it almost looked as if it was going to hit James, until Isaac raised his club high. The lightning sparked towards it instantly, surging hard through his body as he turned into a conductor. The lightning did little to harm his ground-based body, as Isaac winked at James.
"H-holy...what was that?!"
Lightning Rod. Some cubones possess the ability to draw electrical attacks towards them, and resist them with a conductive body.
"HAH, nice one Isaac! Now beat that sheep up!"
Without even hesitating, he striked his club hard across Deckard's face, making her cry out and tumble across the floor. The ground-type strength of the bone club penetrated its electrically-charged hide straight to the skin, bruising it more than a normal attack would as the sheep surged with a furious grin. It was enjoying this fight now.
"Deckard, Thunder Wave! Let's see if you can get an advantage!"
"Isaac, Bone Club again!"
As the cubone readied himself for another charge, he was struck once again by the lightning strike, which was a lot different this time. Rather than being a piercing shock, it was a strange numbing wave over his entire body, a weak electrical charge that suddenly paralysed his muscles. He was stopped in his tracks, wincing hard as his eyes roved in panic.
"WH-what the hell?!" cried FG.
Ohhhh dear, he's paralysed. Electrical attacks tend to do that, messes with the muscular spasms a little. He's not hurt, just...not able to move for a bit.
"God dammit! Isaac, whenever you can move, Bone Club alright?!"
"HAH," said Middleton with confidence, "now yer gonna get it! Deckard, tackle him!"
Despite such an adorable cry, the hard slam of the sheep-pokemon was enough to knock down Isaac into a still-rigid state, his grunts of pain loud enough to be heard as he tried to move. Occasionally a leg or arm would twitch, his eyes still moving all over as he was tackled yet again by the sheep relentlessly. It was a disturbing sight to see such a woolly creature punching the shit out of its foe, before it readied to kick Isaac like a football. Then came the club to its knee.
Deckard squealed in pain from the strike across its leg, temporarily delayed when Isaac was able to force his arm hard enough for a brutal swing across the face. A deep stinging bruise hurt straight into the Flaaffy's skull, swelling its face up enough before it was passed out on the floor looking rather woozy. James was surprised, as was his opponent in turn who said:
"AW I thought I had you there! Deckard, come back, that was some bad luck."
James did the same with Isaac, taking his still-paralysed form out of battle to heal before readying their next pokemon. The raptor in disguise decided to bring his strongest boy into action.
"RED, LET'S DO THIS!"
The charmeleon popped out with fighting claws, ready to deal with his opponent. Middleton decided to take a risk, and hurl out his second-last pokemon with:
"MUSCLE, LET'S GO!"
Out of the pokeball came a somewhat-familiar sight. James thought he was seeing a younger version of a Machoke, only lighter-coloured with less muscles and no belt around its waist. At a head shorter than Red, this pokemon had its own restraint in the form of a large brace, clasped at both neck and waist like a back-brace would.
"W-wow," said FG, "what's wrong with your machoke?"
"She's a machop actually, and there's nothing wrong with her! She wears a Macho Brace to make herself grow stronger, and she's doing her best everyday."
The machop stared back at Middleton with a patronising glare, before turning back towards its opponent with a serious battle stance.
"Wow okay," said FG, "good to know, I didn' wanna beat up someone with scoliosis or some shit. Alright Red, Ember!"
Instead of even trying to attack, the Machop simply stood there, waiting for the first attack. James thought it rather odd, but that did not stop Red from roaring forwards with a violent slam of his tail, leaping forwards before striking his burning tail across the machop's face. The smaller fighter took the hit hard, grunting stubbornly before it grew a vicious snarl. Red simply smirked at seeing such a slow-looking opponent with the strange brace, but then the machop made its move.
Suddenly, it charged forwards with an absurd rush, slamming its fist violently into the charmeleon's chest and making Red lurch forwards with a choking roar. Then came the brutal uppercut, cracking Red's jaw and sending him straight up into the air before he fell down hard onto his back. Red coughed and shook with bruised surprise, stumbling back onto his feet with a snarl of shock.
"WH-JESUS CHRIST!" roared James. "What the hell was that?!"
"REVENGE!" said Middleton. "If your pokemon hits mine before she gets a chance, then she gets reaaaally angry. And you wouldn't like her when she's angry."
"Holy shit...hahahaha, woooow that is niiiice. Red, let's not fuck around, Steel Claw!"
Now he didn't want to leave his opponent standing, as he charged towards Muscle with sharpened claws flying. In return, the machop tried to strike him in the neck with a classic Karate Chop, its sinewy lean arm like a whip as it striked hard, but not hard enough. Red returned the favour by slicing across the face and chest, hard enough to make the machop shriek and fall back with a slight stumble. Not even fighting muscle could stand up against steel-hard claws, as Middleton cried out:
"MUSCLE, SEISMIC TOSS!"
"RED, STEEL CLAW AGAIN!"
The charmeleon nodded and rushed forwards once more with claws out and ready. The machop simply waited once again, arms spread wide like a wrestler before suddenly grabbing at Red's upper chest. Muscle braced its legs, before roaring with furious eyes as it lifted the charmeleon straight up into the air above its head. In a brief instant, the wiry pokemon slammed Red down hard with a vertical suplex, leaping off the ground as both machop and charmeleon fell together, the latter taking most of the gravitational force.
Red roared with pained fury as his back slammed down hard, but he braced himself through the pain to readily slash hard at Muscle's back, scraping on both sides of its brace to wound further. The machop lurched forwards with a hardened roar, before stumbling onto its knees and finding itself unable to get up, looking up towards the junior ranger with frustration. Middleton tried to placate the shamed pokemon.
"Hey-hey Muscle, no biggie, you weakened him good, Claude'll whup him next. Return!"
The machop was quickly sent back to its ball before the junior ranger hurled out his final pokemon.
"Hope you got a real bruiser in there," taunted FG.
"Oh you know I do! This is it, GO CLAUDE!"
The last pokemon he had was indeed a scrapper, known as a Croconaw. A blue-and-cream bipedal crocodile with red spiky frills on its head, back and tail while also wearing a pendant of perfectly frozen ice, never dripping, never melting. It was even the same height as Red, its large lantern-jaw creased up into a confident smile as it made a thumbs up towards Middleton. James however was not so confident.
"Awwww no, not a water pokemon. Red, I got a plan!"
Red was very weak from his previous wounds, bruised all over with aching muscles as FG quickly healed him up with a potion to brace for the inevitable. He wasn't going to have the charmeleon fight this strange crocodile, but he needed a little extra help to set up a real plan that he whispered discreetly. Red nodded in agreement as his wounds healed up somewhat, readily taking a vicious Bite in the face from the Croconaw.
The huge jaws crunched, but not hard enough to crush as Red groaned at taking the hit, panting at the new bitemarks now upon him. Middleton was feeling confident now, smiling with excitement as he said:
"What now pal?! Any tricks your charmeleon's got that can handle my buddy Claude here?!"
"Ohhh I got one trick for ya," murmured FG. "Red, Smokescreen!"
With a sudden deep breath, Red spewed a thick powerful ash cloud across the battlefield, blasting towards the crocodile who croaked and coughed with surprise. Despite the obscuring smoke however, he was still able to guess where his opponent was, as Red suddenly found himself hit by a Water Gun from afar, squirting cold water across his body. Red suddenly shivered hard, his tailflame flickering desperately as he collapsed from the cold shock.
"DAMMIT, RED GET BACK GET BACK!"
Quickly initiating phase 2 of his master plan, James brought back Red into his pokeball while on his last legs. The smoke was thicker than cold soup, the croconaw confused and trying to tell where its opponent would be. Kirie however was uncertain.
Are you sure this will work?
"You said you were strong, let's see you show it for once. KIRIE, GO!"
Obeying dutifully, the haunter floated through the smog whilst James hid cautiously behind the smoke, his human disguise fading away as Kirie confronted her foe. In return however, Claude readily brought out its huge jaw open wide for a vile Bite attack. Even as a spirit, Kirie was chomped hard between its jaws by such a dark-type move, its malicious intent affecting her deeply to the core. But she knew she was levels above any of the pokemon that fought here today, and simply waited for James to say:
Kirie grinned wide enough to split her own head, giggling sweetly as her smile twisted out into several smaller tendrils at the edge of her cheeks. The tendrils soon became dark stained ropes, snaking into darker folds and splitting into more before they suddenly went straight for Claude. The crocodile shrieked a bass cry of fright as the ropes grabbed at the arms and legs, turning into a black essence that went deep into its scales, stabbing like dagger-tipped worms. The ghostly power sent rivets of fear and pain through it, the crocodile cowering.
"DON'T BE AFRAID CLAUDE," cried out Middleton, "YOU CAN DO IT, JUST BITE IT AGAIN!"
Despite the croconaw's willingness to fight, the haunter was far faster and far more powerful than Claude, as she demonstrated with a Shadow Punch. Out of the darkness of the smokescreen that continued to blind Claude, a vicious punch from the spiritual plane slammed straight into the pokemon's gut, or perhaps even deeper. It was practically a sucker punch, knocking down the gator enough to bring it to its knees. Seeing the fearful shiver of shock and awe come from the beast, Kirie chuckled and floated back to James' side.
By the time the smokescreen had dissipated, no one was the wiser as James reassumed his human disguise, whilst Middleton dumbly rubbed at the back of his head at seeing his best fighter get taken down so easily.
"...w-woah. What WAS that?"
"That...was skill," said FG. "My haunter's pretty tough, so I didn't expect you to beat her."
"Y-y-yeah...wow...you okay there Claude?"
"Damn, alright return, we lost guys."
Taking his loss rather humbly, he brought back Claude back into his pokeball before kicking the ground in a feeble attempt to get angry.
"Dammit...I thought I had a good team."
"What come on," said FG, "that was the toughest team I faced so far."
"Heh, yeah, I mean you actually kept me on my toes, I never had to switch anyone out before. Everyone else has like all rock-types or all water-types, but you? You actually got a good mixed team there."
"Heh...thanks. I uh...guess I better give you half my money then."
"...ehhhhh...I'll take a quarter of it."
"Hey, I had a pretty powerful haunter here, come on."
"You...um...o-okay! Thanks for the fight uh, James."
"No prob. Sooooo watcha wanna do now?"
"Well," said Middleton, "I actually have to feed my pokemon soon and heal them up before anything else so...you wanna come along and...heal yours up too with mine?"
"Sure! Make them feel not so bad about the whole fight with each other."
"Hehe, yeah! Alright follow me."
The junior ranger took FG out towards a separate housing lodge within the Pal Park itself, off towards the side where the resident pokemon didn't usually roam near to. It was a pleasant house of two stories tall, where some of the rangers from far away would actually live and sleep in as a place of residence. Middleton's own room was rather modest, having a bedroom, a desk and a simple PC while still big enough for all his pokemon to roam around in.
James and Middleton both brought out their teams, after healing them in the Fuchsia City Pokemon Center outside before coming here. The junior ranger brought out several bowls of food catering to each individual pokemon, ranging from meat to fish to insects to vegetables. The two watched as their teams ate together, trying to build some sort of respectful friendship towards each other as good winners and losers, while Kirie always stayed close.
Red ate with Claude, the two getting into a playful shoving match into each other over the food but never going too far. Isaac the cubone was friendly with everyone, eating only some food whilst trying to make a friend with someone. Lapras peered in from the window to eat her food from outside, offering Isaac to eat with her when nobody wanted to play with him particularly.
"Awww," said Middleton, "nobody wants to play with your cubone."
"Yeaaaaah...huh, Red seems to be getting on well with your crocodude."
"Hah, yeah, Claude's a cool guy, he's always willing to make friends. They're practically the same age and height even."
"They fit together like brothers. Normally he hangs with Isaac over there but yanno, boys'll be boys. He's always got Sarah though."
"Yeah? She's kinda like a mom to him the way she talks to him."
"Really?" asked James.
"Oh yeah, she's pretty old right? She must have grown attached to that cubone, the way she looks at him, all cooing at him and making sure he's not hurt or sick."
"Heh yeah I guess...uh oh, trouble."
He pointed over towards the Flaaffy known as Deckard, who sidled up towards Claude and bleated rather tenderly towards him. The croconaw blushed and stammered trying to put on a brave front, before she kissed him on the cheek sending a jolt up his back. Literally. She winked before sauntering off, making Red laugh and tease slightly as James said:
"Hahahaha ohhhh wow."
"Yeaaaaah uh...Deckard really likes Claude."
"Really? They have a thing?"
"Kind of, he's not so sure, all modest like that. Oh look over there, I think a love triangle's going."
Middleton pointed over at the beedrill Spike, who'd taken a rather unusual liking towards the machop Muscle. She tightened her brace slightly and simply turned away, aloof towards the beedrill who tried to communicate with her, or at least try to impress her. This caused a rather small confrontation from Middleton's Golem, who buffed up at Spike defensively.
"Woah woah woah," said FG, "what's with your rock-dude?!"
"Oh, the Bronz has a thing for Muscle and he's trying to date her, so he thinks your beedrill is moving in on his girl."
"Hhhhhahahaha...damn, they really are like us."
"Hah, totally. This is why I love pokemon, when they're on their own, they're just the same as people sometimes. They fall in love, they get all shy, they get angry, they fight, they care for each other, they try to push themselves better...seeing this kinda stuff between such intelligent animals is why I took this job."
"You really do love pokemon huh?"
"Oh yeah...what about you? Why did you become a trainer?"
"...because...I promised someone."
"I have a promise to keep. And I intend to honour that promise no matter what. For me, it's not being about the best, or catching them all. It's about making friends and helping those in need. ...for once."
The two sat silently in respect, watching the small melodrama that occurred between Spike and the Bronz, arguing at each other whilst fronting and daring each other aggressively over the machop. Said machop had already left their company halfway through the argument, sick of their testosterone-fuelled fervour and eating all by herself. Kirie did not particularly talk to anyone other than Middleton's Ariados, the spider skittering beside her with fiendish curiosity for a little chat.
After a while of food and camaraderie between both teams, James walked around the park with Isaac, Kirie and Middleton to enjoy the sights. All the little cubone wanted was to just explore and experience so many wonders of the place. Eventually, the night rolled in, and they decided to head back to the hostel to sleep, having actually enjoyed a rather exciting day. But things would turn even more exciting in the dead of night, when Isaac's little bell started to tinkle-
-across the dark plateau beneath a clouded sky. He had been here many times before, a simple dream carried by a simple emotion with a complex reasoning. The skies were not weathered with storm this time, but rather more clear with the illusion of sunshine from above the raptor. At first nothing seemed to happen, until a shadow sweeped over him. The shadows of wings, blackening out the sky above as they poured forth from a blackening smog before him. Yet these ones were different from the ones he feared.
The ones he feared were larger, stretching out with bony claws and thin membranous layers. These ones were of more grace, sweeping upwards like a cloak with smooth outer edges. The wings flapped above him, sweeping the clouds away for the sun to shine down upon him. Yet the shadows of the wings continued to keep him in darkness. A sword sparked from the sunlight, falling down to impale itself in the rocky ground beside him. Solid gold with red-pommeled hilt, little branching tips all along the blade itself.
He knew what this blade was, one he had not seen in a long time. At the slightest touch upon the golden hilt, his soul shivered with weakness. A voice came from above him, deep and resonant with a neutral tone.
"Your arrogance is your greatest mistake, as well as your inexperience."
He had heard those words before, several times throughout his dreams. He could say nothing in defence for himself, but instead chose to wield the sword towards the darkened wings. He steeled his resolve and pointed the blade towards the black fog, a light shining out from the tip that pierced through. The wings fell back humbly, shrinking down to a smaller size as the fog swirled around the small plateau, feeling across the ground with dark wispy tendrils. James was not afraid, but he felt the urge to become humble.
He bowed down with blade before him, point-first towards the ground like a knight receiving oath, as the darkness sweeped softly towards him. A mask of silver faded into view, blemished only by a black visor. The dark knight he had known before, while small in stature, was one whose mark remained upon him forever.
A tendril formed into a glove, pointing thickly towards the direction of the cleared smog. Beyond there lied another darker realm, as James walked forwards without hesitation. But then someone else came. A small reptile, brown with skull-shaped head. It ran into the darkness, the raptor chasing after him with fear. The little creature's giggles echoed from beyond the void, and just when he had reached the impenetrable beyond, he felt everything close down upon him. Trapped within the jaws of the nether, as the sound of a bell rang clear throughout his mind.
James, wake up!
The raptor blearily opened his eyes, seeing the time was around midnight as Kirie stared at him.
I just saw Isaac.
He headed towards the park, on his own somehow. I tried to call out but he disappeared before I had a chance to.
"But...how did he...did you let him out?!"
No! I don't know how but somehow he managed to-
"Whatever, come on! We have to find him before something happens to him!"
He hurriedly got dressed and climbed out of the hostel room window, as Kirie disguised him with stealth to sneak through the city towards the Pal Park. Questions could come later, for the only thing that occupied James' mind right now, was fear for his little friend's safety.