"Is it over?" asked FG.
Yes. It is finally over.
"We were so close to the end."
James sat upon the western side of Vermillion City, staring beyond the horizon whilst in the shadow of the Pokemon Center. The place where he had freed the Lapras family from several weeks ago, a place that had a strange serenity to him that he tried to enjoy. But his mind was still sinking with despair, his head bowing down solemnly.
"Isaac should have been here Kirie. He should have been with us to take down that bastard."
I know. I regret that we ever went to that island.
"Really? You seemed eager to let us go there."
Did you know what would happen? Did Isaac?! No, of course not, you both followed that cursed bell and its wretched siren song these past few days so why would it ever stop you now?
"...he didn't have to die. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is worth killing a kid over."
I know...I'm sorry James.
"Don't apologise. I'm not the one you should be sorry for. You should go find his spirit and apologise to him, you can do that, can't you?"
That thing...it was not of this world...not of the spirit world either. It had a strange dark energy, as if it came from beyond the veil...beyond the far reaches of our own imagination where even spirits fear to tread.
James could only put his head in his hands, sighing heavily as he took out Isaac's bell from his satchel. A part of him wanted to just hurl it into the sea and be done with it. But he knew not to let go of it, asking:
"What do I do with this?"
At least for now. I need to make sure if the Mother has truly passed on or not, so at the very least we may return it to her.
"Alright. So now what?"
"I'm done here, my mission is over, I can't stay here anymore."
No...I...suppose you can't...but...what about us?
What about your team? Where will we go now? That is, unless you plan to take us with you-
James turned towards the spirit with grave eyes.
"None of you are coming with me."
"...there's a lot of things out there, things that I struggle to handle every time I enter a new world. I don't know what's gonna happen next, and if I end up with another one of my friends dead because I took them along with me...I couldn't. I couldn't do that to any of you. ...heh...it's funny. I lost more people alongside me back in the last world, back when I was helping a bunch of creatures get out of a damn prison...but one kid. One...little kid and I just...I can't stop thinking that this is all my fault."
You both wanted to go the same path. You gave Isaac a greater life and journey than he may have had at home with Mr. Fuji.
"How do you know that? How do you know that he couldn't have been something better, something great, have his own family or be a real hero fighting out there saving pokemon weaker than him, how do YOU know that?"
"Exactly. So don't fucking lecture me about my being here doing any better for him."
You have brought peace to his mother.
"Who he didn't even know was dead."
You have disabled an entire operation of smugglers and brought her killer to justice! I believe that your sin is far outweighed by your good deeds in this case.
"That's not the point!"
He stood up fast and burned his eyes into hers.
"Just because I've done a good deed does not erase the fact I did something bad. It doesn't reverse things, it just fixes them, people still remember, people still have the scars on their hearts and faces, of all the shit you've done to them...what's gonna happen to Mr. Swift?"
He will be imprisoned for life. His crimes are grievous and his sentencing will be no contest for any jury in this land. He will serve a sentence rotting forever in the most detestable prison until his body rots away.
He turned away to face the horizon once again, somehow not satisfied even after everything that had happened.
"I was just curious that's all."
So again I ask, what will happen to us? Since you do not plan on taking us with you.
"...guess I better find you guys a place to live, somewhere you can relax, retire to."
Hmmm...do you know anyone who could be willing? What about Professor Oak?
"Huh...oh yeah, I forgot about him. Dammit I didn't even call him while I was out here, he must be worried as hell about Red. ...god I'm an asshole."
Ha ha ha, so he finally admits it!
"Shut up...anyways, he's a scientist, he's probably too busy to look after you all, plus what are you guys gonna do in a lab?"
He DOES have a field for pokemon to roam in.
"Yeah? ...mmmm...Red knows him but not the others...I need someone who knows them all and can look after them...and I think I just remembered who. Come on, let's go. We don't have much time before I really have to leave. We can stop by Lavender Town and pay our last respects, if you want."
I would like that, thank you James.
Heading off towards the east, the raptor blended into his disguise once more, walking fast in order to cover as much ground as possible for the last three days before the month itself would end. His steps had turned heavier, and with it his heart as the flecks of darkness dug deeper into him. His breath had become more laboured, and Kirie noted the growing aura around him. Thankfully, she had a solution for his troubles, once they had wrapped up some loose ends.
Lavender Town seemed somewhat more pleasant than before, at least from James' perspective despite the news of Swift's arrest not being made public just yet. Kirie asked him to hide and wait before she headed down into the catacombs to pay her respects to Mother Marowak, the raptor sitting within the shadow of the sombre purple town whilst gazing over towards Mr. Fuji's home. Shame burned deeply within his soul, as Kirie soon returned with a smile of reluctance.
She is gone. Her spirit is no longer tied to this world. I told her about Isaac. She forgives you.
She does not blame you for what happened to her son, she-
He stood up fast as Kirie quickly put his illusion on.
"I'm not taking that, why the hell does she forgive me, I killed her damn son!"
Isaac's death was not your fault James!
"No, I don't care, maybe she's able to have this amazing forgiveness for me after all the pain she's been through and she's just glad it's over, but I can't! ...I'm not doing this again. I can't go through this guilt again."
James, w-wait, James!
He headed off towards Mr. Fuji's house, stomping at first before calming his step by the time he arrived at the front door. Kirie kept by him, his illusion still up as she asked:
What do you mean you're not doing this again?! I thought you would be pleased!
"I'm responsible, I don't like getting off without some kind of punishment, I don't WANT to be forgiven."
What?! But...I don't understand, I-
"I need someone, anyone, to tell me that I failed, that I was responsible for a little kid, and I couldn't save him. Even if I couldn't have done anything, I NEED to know."
...that does not sound like you.
"The fuck do you know about me? You've only known me for a damn month Kirie, you know nothing about my life."
...I know more about you than you can ever imagine.
The door opened to interrupt her as James stood up before the old light-clothed man at his home, his smile beneath two creased eyes.
"Ahhh hello there. Been quite a while since we last met Mr. Campbell...how are you?"
"I'm good sir...but...I need to tell you something."
The wind whistled through the town as Fuji bowed his head with regret, allowing James to speak.
"We were heading out to this island, we got lead there by this bell, the one from his mum but...something happened while we were there. I...I can't explain it, we both wanted to go, I should have known it was dangerous but something was calling to us...something I...I'm sorry. I failed you. I failed Isaac and I failed his mother."
"Isaac was on his own path the moment he joined you. That I know now. I have lived in this town for a long time, and I have felt the passing of many a spirit through here. Until you came to us, Isaac was but a blank slate, a small orphaned cubone with no past, no memory, and no understanding of the world. But you...you gave him everything. You allowed him to hunt down the remnants of his memory, you showed him a wider world beyond this small town, you gave him in the short time he had been with you a greater life than I ever could."
"But...he would have still been alive here, safe with you."
"Is that truly a life worth living, my boy?"
"...I...I don't know...I don't-"
"I have felt his mother's spirit pass on at last on this day. You must have done something right by him, for she trusted you enough in her son that she left this world in peace. You did not fail us James."
The elder man's charity and kind smile was like a scar in James' heart, feeling he did not deserve it and unable to even look at him. He turned away with bitter tears, murmuring:
Before leaving he handed him the Soothe Bell. Yet Fuji did not take it, letting it hang from James' hand.
"What? I don't need it now, you can put it back in her grave."
"No...you keep it."
"I would like you to keep it. It is of no use to her anymore, and surely Isaac must have left it for you as a last gift. I am sorry to hear of what happened to him, truly I am...but I believe in the Marowak, and if she is happy, then I am happy."
"...fine. Fine I...I'm sorry. I have to go, take care sir."
"You too my boy."
With a bow of respect, the two left as James sneered to himself while heading south, clutching the bell hard in his hand which refused to ring no matter how hard he shook it. He almost felt like it was mocking him, the urge to throw it away turning more and more great by the time he reached the Silence Bridge to the south. Memories of Isaac mocked him further upon this route.
"Why is everyone forgiving me?"
"The one fucking time I WANT someone to punish me and nobody will! I do one bad thing, I get a whole town fucking me over until I beg for forgiveness! I fail to do one thing in this world, nobody says a word about it or even TRIES to point fingers at me!"
What do you want then?! You want to be in jail, you want to suffer again?!
"I want someone to tell me that what I did was wrong after four fucking years of people telling me the same damn thing, because it's the only fucking thing I know!"
Kirie's shriek made him flinch, twitching his eye hard before she sternly replied:
Isaac had a purpose, ever since he has been on this journey, he has had one purpose. He has achieved that purpose, if it was not for him, we would not have known about Swift or have the means to reach his base and bring justice to his family. He knew before the end of his life what he had to do, and through the madness and shrieking of that infernal night I knew. I knew what he had to do, despite so desperately wanting it to not end like this.
You did not put your own hands on his neck and strangle the life out of him, you did not push him off a cliff to his death, you joined him on a journey that neither of you knew the outcome of, and you remained powerless to stop a horrifying abomination that he willingly went to! He clearly understood something, beyond our comprehension, enough that he could walk right up to that THING and not be affected, and it was NEVER your fault, THIS death was not your fault! Now stop being such a masochistic little bastard and keep walking, or I will punch you right into your stupid fickle little heart!
"...okay. Alright I...fine."
James did just that, heading down south as he always planned, letting their heads cool in silence as he tried to accept her words. Soon Kirie asked:
Where are we going exactly?
"Finding a good place for all of you...somewhere where you can rest easy after I go. Better tell the rest of the team too before we head off."
"You want me to look after your team?!"
James stood but a few feet away from Middleton at the Pal Park gate interior, the office-style walls offering some small relief from the darkening sunset outside. The park was nearing closing time but he had just got in in the half hour before doing so as Middleton asked:
"Because where I'm going next, I can't take my pokemon with me. I can't say where or what it is, but I don't want to bring them with me...for their sakes."
"Is it...dangerous? I mean, pokemon are pretty strong, they might-"
"Just, trust me on this okay man?
"A-alright...but...why me then? Why come to me and not Professor Oak or someone more experienced?"
"Because you know my friends already," said FG. "You battled them, you fed them, you lead them around the place, they know you just as well as they know me, or at least more than any other human around here. I'd ask Professor Oak but he's a scientist, he's got a lab, he must be super-busy. But you're doing exactly what I want you to do. Looking after pokemon, making sure they're alright...and I trust you."
"...trust me? ...oh man...that's...that's pretty big. ...but I can't. I can't look after your team."
"What? But dude, I-"
"I can't look after your team...until I've seen how strong they are."
Middleton flashed a devilish grin from beneath his glasses, making FG feel rather odd as he explained:
"I've gotten a lot stronger since last we faced off. And I wanna prove to myself, and you...that I am able to look after your pokemon. And the only way to do that, is to see who has the stronger team."
"...are you serious?"
"You can't just let me GIVE them to you, something nice and easy? Come on man."
"Nope. Besides, that's the rules. You always have to accept a challenge from a fellow trainer...don't you?"
The ranger's smile was beamingly childish, making James shake his head with a frustrated sigh. He really did not have time for this, conferring privately with Kirie with a sideways glance. She said to FG's mind:
He IS right about those rules...you are not a hypocrite now, are you? And it would be a good show of merit if he proves his new strength in battle against us. Pokemon can always respect a stronger opponent.
"...alright. Fine. I will battle you...one last battle before I go."
"YES!" squawked Middleton. "Awesome, I been waiting to do this, let's do it now!"
"Yeah sure, the sooner this is done with the better. But uh...let's make this interesting."
"...all of our pokemon, out of their balls. One-on-one battles but everyone gets to watch. I wanna get them used to who I hope will be their new pal, and see how good he really is."
"S-sure, that'd be cool! Come on I know a good place we can do this!"
Taking special permission from his superiors in explaining the situation of obtaining new pokemon, Middleton was allowed to escort FG out towards a wooded glade at the far corner of Pal Park. It was usually uninhabited by most pokemon who preferred the much more thick and lush shrubbery of the inner forest area. But it was in perfect view of the calming sunset, with just enough light for a battle.
As both of them brought out their pokemon, all lined up on either side of the clear path between two rows of trees, James turned to his group and explained:
"So I told you guys before that I'll be leaving soon, right?"
They all nodded, Red showing the most regret with a deep whimper.
"Heeeey now cheer up big guy, you're all big and badass now, not crying about bugs."
"H-hey-ey, no offence Spike, come on. But listen...you all like this kid behind me right? And his team as well?"
Again they all nodded.
"Well...I want you guys to be safe, and I know that the only other guy I can trust with my friends here, is Middleton back there. But he wants to see us fight, he wants to see how strong you all are and he wants to impress you by showing how strong he is as well. So what do you say? One last battle for the road before I go?"
Red and Sarah say the same.
"Heh, I know. Alright, we're ready!"
James turned round with his group towards Middleton, his own team lined up behind him ready for battle. Red was already making friendly taunts towards Claude, marking each other out as rivals whilst Middleton asked:
"Uh...where's the li'l guy?"
"You know, your cubone! Where'd he go?!"
"...he...he's found somewhere nice to settle down."
"...oh. That's good...I'm gonna miss him though."
"Me too. But...hhhhh whatever, we fighting or not?"
"OH yeah yeah, well, it gets better! Cuz guess what."
Middleton flashed a grin of confidence before putting away his glasses as dramatically as he possibly could, pointing towards FG with a confident battle pose.
"I'm not a junior ranger anymore. Now, I'm a fully certified ranger."
"Wait, what? Hah, seriously?!"
"After we took down those Pearl guys a few days ago, they gave me a promotion for how well I handled my pokemon and looked after them! Apparently the only reason I was sent here was because they wanted to test me, see how well I did with pokemon in another land, be a true ranger! They didn't tell me until now so I could be honest, not worry about doing anything to look good."
"Hah, well, awesome to hear then. Alright, we ready?"
"Oh yeah, I'm ready, five on five, let's see who lasts!"
"Let's go gang! SPIKE, YER UP!"
Hopping forwards came Middleton's Ariados, the multi-coloured spider glistening her eyes towards her aerial opposite as her Quick Claw necklace hung from her thorax. Spike readily buzzed his wings above her, catching a rather fetching wink from her as he braced himself eagerly for his first command from FG.
"Spike, let's give her some trouble, Agility!"
"Arachne, Sucker Punch him!"
The spider skittered gleefully forwards and swiftly watched the beedrill charge up his wings, flittering them to the speed of a hummingbird as they molded into a grey blur. Despite being well-prepared for speed, he did not expect a sudden forwards leap from such a slow-moving spider, who headbutted Spike straight in the thorax. The beedrill buzzed harshly, readily bringing forth his stinger to ready his Pin Missile attack.
Plunging downwards with his aerial advantage, he tried to stab at the ariados repeatedly, sinking his tailtip into the ground over and over again as the spider tried desperately to dodge. But Spike got a few hits in, scraping her body or pushing down on a good pressure point for a critical hit. The shrieking chitter from Arachne only further made her eager to win as Middleton cried out:
James' squawk of surprise preceded the spider's eyes starting to blink a shining blue, as bright as the moon which captivated the wasp. Spike was helpless within her gaze as he saw a flicker of a moonlit night, before a wave of violence surged into his soul and tore him into imaginary waves. To everyone else, he was flitting around shaking with a sudden deep existential fear, that weakened his spirit considerably so, which James tried to break him free of.
"SPIKE, DON'T LET IT GET TO YA, TAKE HER DOWN WITH TWINEEDLE!"
The beedrill shook himself free of the illusions before slamming down hard with both spear-tipped limbs, stabbing at the ariados twice in succession and even managing to poison her. Arachne started to falter and shake, a sickened cough coming from the spider as Middleton hastily rushed in to inject her with an antidote. She was perked up once more and ready to fight, but her moment of weakness had cost her dearly when Spike came in once again with a vicious Pin Missile attack, stabbing four times straight into her back.
Despite the spider's strength, she was getting too weak from the repeated assault, and began to stumble slightly before Middleton quickly pulled her back, crying out:
"YOU'RE OUT ARACHNE, YOU DID GOOD! DECKARD, TAKE 'IM DOWN!"
From the group behind him came the Ampharos, lean, yellow and charged up to the max with a fistful of lightning, sparking from the magnet upon the end of her arm. James wasn't too worried, Spike had already won one round, he had his victory to keep as he had his furious wasp come down hard with Twineedle once more. His well-honed Agility was serving him well, as he struck her left and right with his pointed limbs of fury, scraping across her cheeks and shoulders.
But the female ampharos simply grinned with a whimsical battle thrall as she struck a pose with legs akimbo before thrusting one arm out. A weakening shock zapped through the air and shot straight into Spike's muscles. Paralysis quickly began to sap his speed, his wings seizing up as his buzzing intensified with outrage before he slowly floated down to the ground below. Deckard simply giggled wickedly as she charged up a furious fist, a glow pulsating across her scarred cheek as her trainer cried:
She ran forwards with pounding feet, roaring a high-pitched cry as she slammed her fist straight into the weakened beedrill. He was already well-bruised from the previous fight, and as a result the punch did him in. He was sent flying towards James' feet, a shrieking buzz resonating through the air as the lightning-charged fist exploded into his face, tumbling back with a sizzling scorch. James pulled him back safely before commanding:
"You did good Spike, you took one of 'em down! Red, diversion time!"
The charizard strided forth with burning teeth, grinning eagerly at the feisty Deckard and her wily nature who simply did a little dance from side to side to keep her feet fast and fancy free. Middleton however was rather confused, murmuring to himself:
"What's he planning, that's a flying type...well, Deckard, Thunder Punch!"
As Deckard readily charged forwards with a fistful of lightning, Red heaved forth a powerful fog of pure smoke, blackening the landscape between both raptor and ranger. Deckard coughed in confusion, her fist still pulsating hungrily with sparks and waiting to strike at her foe. A blast of fire scorched at her from behind, making her shriek and swing hard at one smoggy cloud. But she could only hit air, her frustration clear upon her face as another burning Flamethrower struck her hard from the side.
"DECKARD," cried out Middleton, "USE DISCHARGE!"
An imaginary light-bulb went off in the ampharos' head, giggling to herself as she pressed her magnet-charged fist into her other naked arm. Focusing a strong static energy within her body, she magnetised herself to the area, her body sparking alight like a tesla coil before a shriek of pure blue uttered forth from her very being. One surprised roar of agony from her left was her reward, as the area-wide effect of lightning Discharge had managed to seek out the winged charizard and strike him down, weakening him with a sickeningly strong electrical charge.
What was also interesting was a stuttering human scream from ahead of her, the static charge getting close enough to FG to make him seize up and fall to his knees. To say nanos were immensely unsettled by the shock would be an understatement, judging from his twitching arms and flickering eyes.
"YOU OKAY OVER THERE?!" cried out Middleton.
"Y-Y-YEAH!" said FG. "JUST...SURPRISED YOU FOUND HIM! RED, SMOKESCREEN AGAIN THEN RETURN!"
"DECKARD, YOU KNOW WHERE HE IS, THUNDER PUNCH!"
Deckard grinned and seeked out her foe, swinging with a balled-up lightning fist ready to strike the dragon down. But Red had swiftly made his escape, dodging her swinging fists as she tore out an uppercut, two hammerfists and a roundhouse that just managed to hook at the charizard's neck. It did enough damage to weaken him further, as he sputtered out a violent smog of ashen smoke, swiftly backing away towards FG who cried out:
"KIRIE, TAKE HER DOWN!"
The haunter whisked herself into battle, transcending through the fog like the nightmare of a child as she taunted the ampharos slightly, floating right in front of her.
You seem like quite the boxer...are you good at shadowboxing then?
Kirie rushed forwards with a balled-up fist of spectral darkness, slamming into Deckard's face with a Shadow Punch that made her stumble back hard. The punch was far more than just hitting flesh, it went straight to her skull and spirit, making the ampharos wince and rub her cheek with some disdain before readily hurling back with her own Thunder Punch. The two sidestepped around each other, trying to hit the other without getting hit back, female versus female, light versus darkness.
Deckard swung forwards with a shocking roundhouse, striking Kirie hard but not hard enough across her body and face. In return Kirie shifted out of existence briefly before coming round just to Deckard's right and slamming her phantom fist straight into the yellow creature's snout. She was dazed but not out, trying to strike back once more before Kirie decided enough was enough. Ducking beneath one roundhouse before an uppercut struck her back, she slammed her fists left and right across Deckard's face once, twice, thrice, four times before the end.
All Middleton could see amidst shadows and nightmares, was a yellow silhouette suddenly flying out of the smoke. With one horrendous Shadow Punch, slamming straight into Deckard's face, the ampharos was knocked out cold, with Kirie simply brushing her palms off of each other as she floated back to James' side. By the time the smoke had cleared, the raptor's illusion had reformed, and Middleton was starting to panic as Claude the Feraligatr pulled back the ampharos from battle.
"...BRONZ! COME ON OUT!"
Rolling onto the battlefield was the Golem next, his rock-studded spherical body marked only by strong stubby arms and legs as well as his reptilian head. With thumbs down and a cool sneer while wearing a small bag of soft sand around his neck, he waited for his next opponent which surprised even James' own team.
"Kirie, you're still out, show 'em what you got!"
Wh-what?! But your illusion, I-
"Relax, let's do something I shoulda planned long ago, I'll let you deal with this your own way. Sarah, mind if I hide out behind ya?"
The Lapras looked at James curiously before he sat down behind her, completely obscured from view by her body as Kirie dropped his disguise, and floated back onto the battlefield. The ranger on the other side asked:
"Why you hiding back there?! You afraid to see what happens?!"
"Exactly. Kirie, do your thing!"
"BRONZ, ROCK BLAST!"
Kirie simply chuckled and blasted the golem with a mind-shuddering vision of a most terrible fear. A world-ending premonition, wrapped in black and purple as faraway screams resonated across an ancient kingdom that, while false, struck deep into the primal memory of the rock pokemon somehow. But despite the wilting deep power striking into his heart, he began to focus a strange energy within him.
Three rings of light began to spin around Bronz's body, like a molecule with him as the nucleus. The light began to solidify into shining white rocks, levitating around him before he fired them straight at Kirie with one, two, three furious punches. It was an unmitigated attack that even the spirit was surprised at, the strength of the mysterious earthen strength of the golem pummelling into her very form as she was pounded back by fist-sized rocks at the speed of a rockslide. It was as if an even greater beast had punched her into the ground.
But Kirie was not outdone, knowing she was far above all of the teams' members in both strength and intelligence, shimmering with an idea that came alight in her dark mind. She grinned wickedly down unto the Bronz as she suddenly charged forwards, flying in circles around the Golem's head. Her body began to glow green like a summer forest, weaving behind her a turquoise trail of light to form a ring around her foe. Soon, her eyes glowed red, and the Bronz was now helpless by his slower wit as green static began to strike at his body.
Now your soul is MINE, HA-HAHAHAHAAAAAA!
Cackling through the golem's mind, the Bronz soon found his energy being sapped from his very being, the verdant static draining him powerfully so as he roared with panic and confusion. His muscles turned weak, his fears soon realised as he struggled to swing up and throw a rock at Kirie. But even that was becoming more difficult as the ring of energy started to suck his strength away, before transferring it to Kirie's own body who began to look much more healthy for it. Middleton was agasp with both horror and awe, as was FG from behind Sarah.
"WHA-wha-GIGA DRAIN!?!? OH DAMMIT!"
"WHA?! ...wait, Giga Drain-ahahahahah HA HA HA HA HA, KIRIE YOU MAGNIFICENT BITCH!"
Upon hearing that order of surrender, Kirie dissipated the Giga Drain effect from her foe before allowing him to weakly roll back to his trainer's side. Kirie in turn swiftly flew back to hers, the raptor now cloaked back into his human illusion as he stood up from behind Sarah, his ranger opponent saying:
"N-not bad! That's one heck of a wild card ya got there!"
"What can I say?" said FG. "Even I don't know what she'll do."
I may have busied myself at some point with a little...personal training, hmhmhmhm!
"Alright," said the ranger, "now it's time to get serious! MUSCLE, SHOW 'EM WHAT YOU GOT!"
Out from the ranks came the fully-grown Machoke, cricking her neck slightly with her Macho Brace still intact. James in turn ordered:
"Shin, let's see you take down a real warrior huh?"
The scyther flitted out before her, sharpening his blades with a lust for battle as Middleton said:
"Muscle...take off the brace."
"It's time. Let's see everything you got!"
Muscle was almost uncertain until she saw the look in her trainer's eyes, and simply looked back towards the scyther. With a precise flexing of her musculature, she unclicked the orthopaedic brace from her body and allowed it to clang back against the ground before adopting a fighting pose, one foot behind the other just like her fists. Shin nodded with approval, and readied himself with James' first command.
"Sword Dance, sharpen up!"
"Muscle, Seismic Toss!"
As the scyther began to spin in one place, using the wind itself to sharpen his bladed arms, the machoke came pounding forth with huge human-like feet, stomping the earth underneath before grabbing Shin. Wrapping her muscular arms around the scyther before he had a chance to come out of his spin, she leaped off from the ground a few feet high, and slammed her opponent down into the ground with a tombstone piledriver-style move. James was cringingly reminded of the Island Tsunami, the memory of which made his heart sting bitterly in a fit of fury.
"F-FUCKIT, SHIN, RIP THAT BITCH OPEN WITH WING ATTACK!"
His sudden anger was noted by Kirie, but she said nothing as Shin snarled from his throbbing head as he suddenly backed off from his opponent to gain enough ground before charging. Flying forwards from the air, he swiftly struck down the machoke from slightly above, slicing in a spinning dive with his viciously sharp wings. Despite cutting through Muscle furiously, she was strong enough to resist the devastating blow that tore across her body with many scars at once, and grabbed Shin with one arm.
"MUSCLE, VITAL THROW!"
With a sneer upon her face, she roared as she swung the scyther in a circle, punching him in the abdomen to knock the wind out of him briefly before throwing him upwards. As he started to fall, she leapt up before slamming both fists down hard onto Shin's back, crushing him into the ground with enough force that a small shockwave of dirt could be seen. James was nervous, but he kept up with Wing Attack as much as Shin could possibly can, the old scyther snarling at his foe before readying the next assault. She had a good idea for what to do next.
As the scyther did his devious diving Wing Attack once more, spinning forth like a drill through the air and tearing through the machoke's muscles, she roared with a blinding aura suddenly awakening. Shin was curious as to what it was, before Muscle suddenly had her fist straight into his face to crack it beautifully so, her speed unlike anything he had ever seen as if she had just teleported across the battlefield. James was also quite shocked at such a move that knocked down the weak but still fighting scyther.
"JESUS CHRIST, what the hell was that?!"
"REVENGE!" cried Middleton. "You hurt my girl and she hurts you BACK! You ready to give in now!?"
"Not until Shin does, you were scared of him before werentcha?!"
"Well now it's time to show him how strong I am! And THIS time I don't need any smokeball! MUSCLE, CROSS CHOP!"
"SHIN, WING ATTACK HER!"
Both scyther and machoke went charging towards each other, screaming with piercing eyes as they readied their arms for their furious moves. Muscle had her arms out and ready like a charging wrestler, while Shin came shrieking through like a jet fighter with wings outstretched. Both of them slashed through each other, razor-sharp wing versus crushing knife-hand strikes. For a short time, both of them stood back to back, like samurai in a duel.
Eventually, a groan of defeat came from one. Muscle winced and stumbled onto her knees. Shin looked behind him with concern, calling out to her. The machoke simply snarled with disdain, refusing to speak.
"HAH!" said FG cockily. "One last pokemon you got Middleton! What now?!"
"...you...y-you...no. My team will win, my team give me their best every day and I expect nothing less! Muscle, return, you did your best and that's all I ever need!"
"Well well, someone is working up for a good loser speech."
"Oh...I'm not gonna lose. CLAUDE!"
As the machoke stumbled her way back towards the ranger's side, sitting beside the weakened Bronz who smiled softly at her, the Feraligatr came stomping onto the battlefield. A towering 8-foot-tall crocodile, his growl deep enough to tremble through the heart of anyone near him. His pendant of never melting ice hung loosely from around his neck, so small compared to his gargantuan form as Shin stepped boldly up towards him. The ranger simply said:
"Claude has been with me since the very beginning. I don't care how much you throw at him, you are NOT taking him down today. Right buddy?!"
Claude growled eagerly with a huge thumbs up towards Middleton, as FG simply chuckled and said:
"Well let's see how much Shin can take off of ya before anything else. SHIN, WING ATTACK!"
"CLAUDE! SLASH HIM!"
The scyther, while weak, was still eager to take down the feraligatr by a notch or two as his wings fluttered furiously beneath the setting sun, striking a light into the sky with each flap they made. As he was just about to rend the gator's scales asunder, a viciously huge set of claws came flying out of nowhere towards his face. Claude had slightly dodged out of the way, before spinning out with one arm swinging low, striking Shin hard across his chin as he slamming straight into it from his own charge.
The scyther went rolling backwards in a crumpling skid across the grass, crying out from the clear heavy blows upon him as the force of the attack had clearly winded him. James beckoned him to come back, rather expecting this before saying:
"Sarah, come on up girl!"
The Lapras smiled and pushed herself forwards along the cool forest ground, bracing herself for a battle as FG commanded:
Claude waited for the lapras to come pushing forwards with her brute strength, slamming her powerful flippers into the earth before swinging her body sideways to bump straight into the feraligatr. In return the beast heaved in a cold cold breath, his ice pendant reacting suddenly as if feeding him an icy wind into his throat. His fangs glistened sharply like crystal before he chomped down hard on Sarah's side, the shrieking sea creature panicking from a sudden onset of an ice-cold agony running through her veins.
Sarah shoved herself off of Claude before body-slamming him once more, but Claude simply waited for another chance to bite her, this time deciding to go even fiercer with a full-on Crunch just beneath her shell. The force was powerful enough to even start cracking the shell slightly, biting down with crushing jaws as he took the blow of her Body Slam readily so, and Sarah was not holding up as well as the younger feistier crocodile beast. Soon the raptor had enough, as did the ranger before he said:
"Let's see who's the better swimmer huh!? CLAUDE, SURF!"
Middleton knew what was coming and backed away with his team before allowing his gator friend the chance to show his power. James, following suit, simply commanded the move without even knowing how it would work on land. Much to his shock he would soon find out, as both lapras and feraligatr began to emanate a thickening moisture from their very bodies. Slowly, but surely, they began to perspire with cool dripping water, controlling their own aquatic nature to a level that not even FG could imagine. It almost resembled the way he summoned his nanos.
Claude and Sarah shuddered as they summoned water deep from inside of them, soon pouring out of their very pores as a grand wave began to rise beneath them. Even from within the moisture of the grass and earth beneath them it came, rising high as both pokemon seemed to stand firmly upon their own high-rising waves like king and queen of the sea. The waves were rushing fast, yet somehow remained still beneath their summoners before a vicious cry from both came, commanding a piece of the ocean itself to charge against itself.
Sarah screamed her battle cry as her body skipped upon the waves with the grace of a pebble, white rushing plumes surging beneath her body as Claude stood upon his own two feet, truly surfing like a master. Both of them snarled, waiting for the clash as the entire forest was so very briefly flooded by the very force of nature itself. The moment they clashed however, Claude simply grinned and leapt off of his own wave, kicking the lapras hard across the face with a gigantic clawed foot before crashing down hard with both feet onto her back.
Stomping her into the waters that both had summoned, she was brutally assailed by both her own wave and her opponent's, buffeted left and right like a ship in the perfect storm. The waves buckled and tore through each other in a crescendo of white and blue, the scene appearing to James like it were two armies of a thousand-strong from afar clashing in the heat of battle. Soon the waves subsided, the trees buffeted and the plants washed through and through, with various creatures all around them briefly fleeing from the sudden disappearing flood.
Both James and Middleton did not notice the flock of birds that streaked with dew-dropped wings across the setting sun above them, as Claude simply stood atop of the weakened Sarah. Her body had been bruised all over, her moans weak with exhaustion and amazement at what had just transpired. Even Kirie was stunned by such a display as James could only say:
"So," said Middleton confidently, "who's next?"
The charizard immediately turned with a look that said "you are shitting me".
"You gotta man, I got no one else left! Besides, you been wanting to brawl with this guy for ages right?!"
And I must keep his illusion up, you know that.
"Don't worry," said the new ranger, "I'll make it fair, no water moves I promise! Let's see who's starter is the REAL deal!"
"You heard him," said FG, "show him what you got, he's making it fair! Red, GO!"
With that promise set, Red was much more eager to take on his new rival, the charizard stomping forwards as Sarah dragged herself back with panting breaths and dripping wet body. To the raptor, this was the true final battle. Kirie knew this too, as the feraligatr stood three feet taller than his fiery red opponent. Both dragon and gator nodded at each other, mutually respecting the other's strength through an exchange of growls, and a fistbump of respect before starting their battle and awaiting command.
"RED, WING ATTACK!"
Red had learnt from Shin's mistake on what not to do, sweeping up high above the gator who waited with a vicious set of claws ready to strike him down. Both were at a similar level of endurance, as the charizard stretched out his wings before he would come charging down upon him. He planned to make Claude swing too early by faking him out and slowing his descent to come tearing across the grass. But the feraligatr had noted the flexing of wings to pull back, allowing his foe to be fooled by spinning on the spot with one half-serious slash.
But both reptiles had underestimated each other, as Red came shrieking from across the ground like an eagle upon his prey, while Claude readied in his half-spin for his brutal Slash. Claude had not anticipated such momentum from Red to roar through his scales, and neither did Red expect such a clever use of swinging balance from Claude to strike hard across his skull. Both beasts cried out from their new wounds, as they turned towards each other and went ripping into each other with claws and fangs.
Red had his Metal Claw out and ready, but the natural water-lined body of the feraligatr made the steel-sharp claws less able to grab purchase upon his flesh to slice less harmfully across him. In return, the feraligatr tore down on the charizard with a vicious Ice Fang attack, which while did not do nearly as much damage to Red as expected, still hurt him plenty enough. The two grappled at each other's arms, roars exchanged along with blows as meaty haymakers met biting fury.
A Metal Claw strike was met by a fierce Crunch upon Red's arm, a vicious Slash was returned by a spinning Wing Attack on the spot to slash across Claude's chest. The light was starting to die out from the sun beyond the horizon, as both large reptilian beasts met their final strike upon each other. With one last Crunch, the feraligatr received a fistful of wind-slicing Wing Attack all over his snout, scarring him tremendously in their spinning strike as he crushed his jaws upon Red's shoulder to pull him down.
The final move to determine the winner came in the form of a duel of claws. Both backed away, both came charging down, both had claws out and ready. The Metal Claw versus the brutal Slash. The scrape of flesh upon claw came ringing out across the sunset glade. The wind seemed to stop. Even the animals in the forest did not dare utter to speak. Both beasts in fighting soon began to buckle, but Claude managed to catch himself on one knee and still remain standing. Red was not so lucky, his legs unable to gain enough strength to stand any longer.
Claude however did not stop there. With what little stamina he had, he hobbled over towards his scarred and battered rival, and shakily offered him a large blue hand, breathing heavily. Red stared up at him, snarling tensely but not in anger. He weakly offered his own smaller hand, and allowed his opponent to lift him back up, with Claude offering a firm pat on the back with commiserations, for the charizard who smiled in return. James smiled in turn, and knew that he had lost.
"Alright. You win, I surrender."
"H-huh?!" said Middleton. "But...you got one left!"
"Don't care, I give. Can't top that kinda battle, not with that big-ass gator you got out there. I give. You are a better pokemon trainer than I am. And that is why I know you will look after my team."
"...w-wow...hohhh man I...th-thanks. It was...a good battle."
With the winner decided both raptor and human shook hands upon walking to each other, the raptor being thankful that Kirie's illusion was good enough to even fool those who would touch him.
"It was a pleasure to battle you James."
"Heh, same to you Middleton...here."
James reached into his satchel and brought out a small bag full of coins, every single Pokedollar he had to his name before giving it to Middleton.
"Um...is this like ALL of your money?!"
"Naaaah it's half dude, come on, rules are rules."
"Right just...surprised it's all in one bag."
"I always got two bags, just in case this happens."
"Right, right...let's uh, heal up our Pokemon before anything else huh?"
The raptor walked off with his group who were soon healed up properly, wanting them to be in top shape by the time he left truly. In truth, he had given every last Pokedollar he had to the ranger, knowing that he had no more use for this world's money for wherever he would go next. Once their friends had all been healed up proper, they all stood together as one, both James and Middleton's teams starting to familiarise themselves with each other.
Red and Claude jostled each other's shoulders, Spike and Arachne chittered and buzzed curiously to each other, Sarah conversed with Muscle while Shin and the Bronz exchanged tales of personal training. Only Kirie stood apart from them fully, with Deckard keeping by Claude's side with little chirrups and words of amorous intentions. Soon James was ready to leave, and with a farewell to the young ranger, he beckoned his team to come with him into the forest area, hiding out of Middleton's view as Kirie lifted the illusion from him.
"Well guys, this is it. I know you're all kinda sad to see me go, least I hope you are."
All of them uttered their own sounds of mournful encouragement, which Kirie translated one by one.
You know that we are James. All of us appreciate being on this journey with you. Red is thankful for you to have given him the strength and training to become such a powerful beast. Sarah is thankful for you saving her life and giving her a new reason to live. Spike is, surprisingly, thankful that you showed him a whole new world to explore. And Shin is forever grateful for assisting him in fulfilling his promise to the kangaskhan.
"Right...and I'm thankful to all of you guys too. You helped me get through this crazy world with all its weird-ass monsters and battle-ready people. Seriously even I'm kinda weirded out by how many people wanted to fight us, it's insane! ...but, as much as I appreciate all of you being here and now...we should never forget our friend who is not here today with us. Isaac. None of us know what happened back on Cinnabar...possibly."
He turned an eye towards Kirie as he said this, which only she could ever see.
"But I know that he was proud to call us friends. And I'm honoured that such a brave little kid like him came along with us for the ride. I know you all liked him, or at least respected him for never backing down, for always standing by our side no matter what, and for never turning away from the truth no matter what sort of fears he had. Brave. Loyal. Kind. Sad thing is, he was a better kid than I ever was. I'm not any of those things, nowhere near as much as he was. And for whatever reason that he was taken from us, whether it was by his choice or something beyond us...he'll always be a part of our team."
James lowered his head as they all bowed in turn, a moment of silence between themselves as they remembered their lost friend. Red and Sarah were especially deep in thought, their eyes tightened to resist any tears that may come. James soon spoke a phrase he had not heard in a long time, in a language not of his own. One that brought a deep shiver to his very soul at even daring to remember again, which in turn brought out a deeper urge of darkness to come softly.
"Espiritus...puede llevar a este nino a sus brazos. Que liberarlos de su sufrimiento, por lo que finalmente puede correr libremente. Amen."
Hearing such strange words, all five of them looked up at James once the moment had passed. Kirie turned towards him with astonished curiosity to ask:
What was that you just said? ...was that a prayer?
"...in my old life, someone I knew had a prayer for...lost children and their spirits. She taught me it especially, forced me to remember it exactly the way she said it herself. She wasn't religious but...when kids are involved you don't take any chances and-"
I understand. We all wish dearly that wherever Isaac's spirit may be, he is at least now closer towards his mother than he ever was in this life. But his memory will live on in our hearts.
The team all agreed with a nodding consent, and soon James had no more business left but to say his farewells one by one. Shin he simply bowed to in respect, Spike he patted the head of, Sarah he hugged firmly around her neck whilst Red hugged his whole body. A small whimper came from the charizard before the four of them left back towards their new trainer. Kirie however stayed behind to make her own farewell towards James.
Thank you...for everything.
"I was brought here for a reason. I know my mission is done and everything...but-"
I know. I'm sorry. If I could change anything, I would dearly want Isaac to come back.
"But he won't. He won't and he's gone...I just have to accept that...that I couldn't do anything."
Be wary of repressing your true feelings James. It is not healthy to do so.
"I know, I'm the last person to forget that. Nnnngh...f-fuck."
He started to hunch over with a growing pain in the pit of his stomach, or perhaps something deeper thereof. A dark pulsating need not unlike that of hunger, which he had felt many times before in the past year.
Is something wrong?
"F-fucking...bastard inside me's getting restless for some killing."
Of course...Him. Perhaps I can offer you one last gift, in order to soothe the demon's heart.
Have you ever heard of a place called Raccoon City?
"...that's a stupid name for a city, no...but...w-wait."
Another new feeling came to him now, the strange telltale sound of another world opening beyond his vision, his mind flickering with a small ray of a darkened light. Kirie knew that he had his attention as she explained.
It is a place that I once saw during my travels of worlds beyond, quite shortly before coming back here to meet you again. It is a city of death, doomed to a fate engineered by man's greed and power over an unnatural force. As a spirit, I know that there are many, thousands even who will suffer a most terrible fate in the end. And there is unfortunately nothing that can save them from such.
"Wow, did you once work for a suicide helpline or something? 'cause this is really fucking cheerful right now."
Ha ha ha...no. But think about this...what difference does one's death make, when one is about to die soon anyway? Whether it be by a monster or by man himself, it all ends the same way for a soul. A soul...that can be claimed to keep one alive.
"...are you seriously suggesting...after all the shit I just had on keeping everyone here alive and avenging the dead, you want me to go out and fucking kill just to keep this demon inside me happy?!"
It may sound hypocritical, but believe me. These people WILL die, within an apocalypse caused by their own hand. Whether they meet their end by you or by their fellow man, it matters not to them. And it is not like you will not have a choice to pick who shall be your...unfortunate victims, hmhmhmhm. I am sure you can find some disreputable thugs who could do with a little punishment.
"...I don't fucking believe you. How the hell can you be so casual about suggesting murder when YOU are the one telling me to respect the dead?!"
The same way you can be so casual about torturing another for information, or even for your own satisfaction. Now who is the hypocrite?
James simply crossed his arms, feeling unnerved incredibly so by Kirie's words as he shuddered hard. The spirit however tried to offer another option.
Consider this. These souls will never find peace, nor will they ever find respite or be avenged for what will happen. They will drift endlessly in an afterlife forever filled with rage and sorrow. Would it not be more merciful to allow these poor souls peace, within the afterdeath of your beastly hunger?
"No...but neither of them sound better."
If you will not do it yourself, then I am sure the demon will. And you can trust my advice as a spirit that it would be much more preferable to go to such a doomed place to become a harvester, rather than to take the lives of those who have every opportunity to live happy peaceful lives. Would you rather end up in a world that was not doomed, only to destroy another world of peace and happiness? Now that...would be far worse a fate to choose.
"...I guess so...I know what you're trying to do but it's not...it's not right. I don't like this Kirie. ...I'm scared."
I know. But you are the FinalGamer.
She softly floated down towards his face to close in for a kiss, touching upon his lips slowly before he could react. It was a strange ethereal warmth that she gave within that kiss, one that was nonexistent like the memories of spring whilst freezing upon a winter's night. But it mystified him all the same as his eyes softly blinked up at her.
You will always be my hero. Always. I believe in you James. And I believe that whatever things may come, I know that you will do the right thing wherever it may count. I believe in you. And I want you to live. Whether it be for me, or for your dear Koopin...you must live.
The raptor sighed and relented, too tired to argue, too pained to keep resisting as Kirie smiled.
Good. Now...go to Raccoon City...whatever happens there, is entirely up to you. All I ask, is that you live.
"Alright...goodbye Kirie. I hope we meet again someday."
We will. I promise.
James Campbell stepped further into the forest, feeling the fragments of Kirie's words flicker in his mind as he felt that familiar cold darkness of the void once more. The path between worlds opened up once more, and the spirit could only watch as her friend faded away from the world of Pokemon. As soon as his presence disappeared from her senses, a voice came to her from afar. Much farther away than even she had travelled, yet close enough to resonate through her mind.
Is it done?
Yes...the mother has now passed on from this world, and her only child has followed with her...hopefully.
Good. And his next destination?
He has now gone to the city of the damned...hopefully he shall be able to sate the demon inside him for a little while longer, until you have need of him again.
Very good. You have done well Kirie, you have redeemed yourself of your past sins.
She turned towards the darkening sky as if pleading towards a deity.
Why did Isaac have to suffer such a fate?
It is a tragic affair, and I will not claim that it will not haunt me forever...but the needs of the many outweigh the few. If all goes according to plan, we will have saved far more than you can possibly imagine from ruination. Were there any other way at this point, I would have gladly taken it.
All he wanted was to live in peace. You had no right to-
You know very well that his heart was hanging by a thread, above a pit of despair that he was not yet aware of. In the deepest parts of Isaac's memory, the tears of his past had come through the day before you went to that island. You know that, Kirie.
...do you have any other use for me?
No. Rest now with your friends. Your part in this is over.
No. It's not. May I ask you one thing in return, Watcher?
...please tell me, how James is doing, wherever he may go.
If that is your wish, then so be it. It is the least I can do for all of your work...do you feel indebted to him?
No...I feel...as if I am responsible for him. I worry about him so, even more now that I am not there, now that he is so very far from the only light that could hold back the darkness within him. And that darkness I know will consume him once again so very soon. My only regret is that I am not the one who can hold sway over his heart. And if I cannot be the one that holds his heart...then at the very least I want him to be safe.
Is that truly all you think?
...no. I...I share the burden of his guilt, not his own guilt, but the very same sentiment, as you must surely know well.
Indeed. But I would not worry about his darkness.
So long as the FinalGamer walks true with a heavy heart, his mind tempered by sorrow and compassion born anew...you have nothing to fear. One day...he shall break free from the ties that bind him to his darkness.
I hope you are right...but he cannot do it alone. For if he ever has need of me in future, wherever he may roam...I will gladly give my life for him.