My first story.Please Review and comment on my mistakes so I can fix 'em!It starts out a bit short and bad on the earlier chapters, but rewrites for them are being done as I write this. So, if you don't get too hooked by them, please read on, and give this a chance.Reviews are very much welcome. But, if It's gonna be a bad one, please explain what went off so I can work on it. If It's just like 'Hey your bad I dun liek you 111eleven', then please refrain from reviewing.Anyways, enjoy.Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.Comments, questions, or anything like that? I can be reached by pressing that 'contact' next to my penname and sending me an email.
=== YOU OWE ME A NIGHT
"You are nothing!" a raspy, blunt voice laughed.
"Look at him! So pathetic!" the laughter continued. "The 'purest' member of our family...the weakest of the pack!"
"No!" another little voice answered, and there he was: a small Shinx, sitting in the darkness, listening to them with desperate, humiliated tears. "I'm not! Please! Just...give me another chance!" His voice was trembling, supplicating. If only they would let him prove himself again; if only he were able to show them what he was capable of doing...
"THIS is our future leader?! The one who will finally lead us to victory?!"
"An embarrassment to the clan," another one of the voices that laughed at him added. "That is all he is."
"Leave him alone!" another Shinx stepped out from the darkness, roaring (or at least trying to roar) at the other voices, but wasn't aware that she was making the other cub feel worse by doing so. "Richard's fine! He just let his guard down, right, Richard?" She looked at the Shinx, who was sobbing, emotionally battered. Didn't she understand how she was making him feel? Did she fail to grasp the humiliation she was only worsening?
"So much for what we expected from your son, Grey!" the abuse and laughter continued as the first Shinx looked down, tears rippling down the light blue fur of his cheek and into the darkness below. "Look at him! So weak Lucia has to defend him! Oh, our little Prince-ess Richard... I'm sorry if it's hurting you, chief, but this cub is worthless!"
"Please... Just another chance," the little Shinx whimpered, looking up at the large, muscular, grey-colored Luxray that was standing in front of him, looking down on him with shame and disappointment in those red, unforgiving eyes. He knew that, if there was anyone who still believed in him, it had to be his father, yet the Luxray's expression left it clear that that was not the case. "Please... Father..." Richard abandoned that thought when he saw his father's face change into an enraged snarl. The Luxray slowly opened his mouth, and they came: the words that had haunted Richard the most through the whole of his life:
"You are an embarrassment to the clan, to my bloodline, and to our entire way of life, and if I had known this is what you would turn out to be, I never would have mated your mother to begin with." The Luxray growled quietly, yet managing to show how furious and humiliated he was by his son's failure. "You're no son of mine."
That was it, the sensation he would never forget. His father, the only one he had always tried to make proud, the one all he asked from was a simple nod of approval, had not only expressed his disappointment, but had denied him as a son. Richard felt his heart skip a beat at the same time his breath left him. The world slowed to a crawl. This couldn't be real. It had to be a nightmare; it just had to! That hollow, desperate feeling...he wanted to scream, to run, to disappear. He wanted to do so many things. His temperature was rising, tears now flowing down his cheeks like a river. He just stared vacantly at his father; no longer paying heed to the laughter of the others around him or all the jokes and mocking that were sent his way. "But Father, I just-"
"Get out of my sight," the Luxray snarled, looking away. "I am not your father."
Something snapped in the Shinx upon hearing those words. His sadness, his anger, his frustration, the solitude he was now feeling; all these emotions crashed together. He turned around and ran away, crying. That morning, he woke up the proud son of an even prouder warrior. But that night, he would go to sleep a rejected child, with no more pride or privileges than the other inhabitants of the badlands he and his tribe reigned over. That was all he was now:
An embarrassment to the clan.
Richard woke up, jumping forward with a scared grunt. He had been getting what little sleep he was able to when he had that nightmare again: the nightmare that had been his life. That was the reason for which he tended to avoid sleep in the first place. It didn't matter how strong-willed he was, he was unable to withstand the pain that his own memories brought upon him. Still panting heavily, he looked around the worn-down sitting room, which was still very dark, to see if he had woken anyone up. Leon and Tiffany were still asleep, hugging each other, leaning against the wall. Phoebe was curled up in a corner of the room, breathing calmly. Definitely asleep. Estelle was lying on her back (which came as a surprise to Richard, as she usually slept close, if not hugging him), kicking a little at the air from time to time and mumbling something. His Sableye victim was still as tied up and knocked out as Sasha had left him earlier, placed on the old armchair. And Sasha...where was she? He scanned the room with his eyes, but failed to find her anywhere. Just then, he heard a pained and angered grunt below him.
"Okay, once you get bored of cracking my ribs and almost killing me, could you take your paw off me?!"
He looked down to see that, when he jumped at waking up, he had landed on her. And she did not look too happy about it. She was staring at him, his paw pressed firmly against her body. No wonder she said he was cracking her ribs.
"Sorry." Richard quickly lifted his paw from her and allowed her to breathe. "I didn't see you there."
"Yeah thanks, the pain's gone now!" she replied, taking in the air she had been unable to breathe when the Luxray's paw was on her. "Damn, your paws are heavy!" She looked at Richard, half-smiling, half-angered. "What was that about, anyways?"
"Nothing," Richard said. "Just having a bad dream. The kind of thing I see when I close my eyes."
"What was it?"
'My tribe, my family, and everyone I called my friend laughed at me before kicking me out,' Richard thought. "You know? I don't remember."
"Well, it wasn't so bad, then, I guess," Sasha answered, taking a closer look at Richard, noticing that small, shiny bead on the corner of his eye, reflecting the moonlight that filtered through the window. "Wait...were you crying?"
"Then what's this?" she said, running her paw along his face, the feeling of her soft, cold pads against his hard, dirty fur making him shiver. She touched the corner of his eye, then showed Richard her paw, wet with that one tear.
"I just got something in my eye." Richard quickly turned away, burning in shame. He WAS crying...not that he'd ever admit it, of course. Crying was for the weak. It was for those so incompetent they did no good in a fight. It was for the small, helpless cubs off their mother's teat. And he was none of the above.
"With your eyes closed?" She stared sternly at him, her tail swaying slowly. "I wasn't born yesterday."
"I sleep with my eyes open," Richard quickly answered, still looking away.
"Then why did you say you see things with your eyes closed?"
"It's a manne- never mind." Richard looked out the house's window at the lake outside. Maybe all he needed was some fresh air. "I'll be back." He walked out the door with Sasha following behind him. "Don't follow me," he stopped to tell her without looking back before stepping out from the ruined porch into the dark, green grass.
"Okay," Sasha answered, walking even closer to him.
"I told you not to follow me." He stopped by the lake's shore, turning to look at her. His eyes were glowing a bright red, standing out from the rest of his body in the darkness with their yellow, feline pupils taking an even brighter glow.
"I chose not to listen to that," the Glaceon replied with the exact same devilish smile Richard had seen in both her and her brother many times before. Her tone was a defiant one, but the way in which she was smiling at him made him understand she was only teasing him. "You owe me a night."
"I what?" Richard asked, confused by her words. "What do you mean I 'owe you a night'?"
"Well, let me see..." She looked upwards sarcastically at the bright, round moon above them. "You woke me up with a scare, and then you crushed me - I think you did crack one of my ribs, by the way." She looked back at her body, trying to see herself. "Anyways, I can't go back to sleep once I wake up, so the way I see it, you owe me this night. You gotta keep me entertained until I feel sleepy again."
"Oh-ho, I'm not your jester!" Richard stepped back with an awkward expression. Was she being serious? No, she was just teasing him again.
"Oh-ho," she answered with the same sound before pushing the Luxray with all her strength. "I think you are!" Richard, who was not expecting the sudden move, was thrown off balance, falling into the lake and taking a laughing Sasha with him with a huge splash.
After a while, Richard surfaced, gasping for air with his mane drooping all over his face. He pulled in air, trying to find the Glaceon in case she was planning to do anything else. He couldn't deny he was amused by what had just happened. He was about to move back to the shore when Sasha jumped out laughing, making more water splash as she jumped over the Luxray and pushed his head back into the shallow water they were in.
"It's time you took a bath!" she laughed, watching Richard emerge a second time, and laughing even more when she saw the way in which his mane had drooped. That was one of the advantages of her fur being short and frozen: she knew it would never fall over her like that. "Now you'll smell nicer when you come out!"
"You sho- HEY!" Richard was not able to finish what he was about to say as Sasha splashed some water at his face. "Don't do that."
"Oh, come on!" She splashed some more water at him. "You can do the same to me if you want!"
"No thanks, I'm a grown-up," the Luxray answered, heading for the shore again.
"What's the matter?" Sasha asked in a seductive way with a naughty smile in the pure intent of teasing him. "Afraid I might get a little too wet if you play with me?"
"No," Richard replied with an awkward chuckle. "I'm afraid I... I..." `Think up an answer, stupid brain! And it'd better be clever!' "I'm afraid I might...I don't know, catch a cold!" he said, lunging at her before she could react and pinning her to the soft sand on the lake's shore.
"Nice comeback there, droopy!" Sasha kept laughing at the shape his mane took with the water, raising her paw from under the Luxray's grasp and touching it. It was oily and greasy, but there was a strange feeling to it that she couldn't quite lay her paw on. But, what if that wasn't it? What if it was just the fact she was so close to him, practically touching his face? Come to think of it, he wasn't bad-looking, and there was an odd, tough charm about him she had found simply irresistible since she was little. Maybe...if she could just move her face a little bit closer to his...
"Hey...Sasha?" Richard asked, discomfited at the dreamy way in which she was looking at him. She had gone from just feeling his drooped, wet mane to stroking the side of his head, and he was not comfortable with that at all. "Alexandra!" he shouted, snapping her to her senses.
"Y-Yeah?!" she answered, shaking herself aware and looking at him. "W-What's up? I was just...don't call me Alexandra!" she yelled at him.
"What just happened? You were laughing and all of a sudden you just...froze."
"Really?" the Glaceon nervously replied. "I guess I just sort of...I guess I fell asleep."
"With your eyes open?" Richard gave the exact same answer she had given him earlier that night. "I wasn't born yesterday."
"Two comebacks in a row!" Sasha laughed. "You're on fire tonight!" Richard simply smiled, stepping off her and letting her get up, then shook his entire body in a quick motion getting the water off himself. Unfortunately for him, and much to her amusement, his fur - especially his mane - was left very fuzzy, giving him less of a feline mane and more of a 'fro' of sorts. Sasha couldn't stop laughing at the sight.
"Yeah, yeah, so I have unfortunate hair!" Richard growled. "Big deal!"
"No!" Sasha managed to say in the midst of her laughter. "Your...your face!"
"Well I know it ain't pretty, but to laugh at it?!" Richard let out a low laugh himself.
"No!" the vixen fell on her back against the sand, kicking at the air, unable to control her laugh. "Look," she raised her paw and pointed at the lake, "your reflection!"
"What?" The large feline walked over to the water's edge and looked down at his own reflection, realizing what Sasha meant: at some point during their time in the shallow water, he caught some of the weed that was growing near the shore on his face, making the impression that he had a moustache. "Oh, okay," he chuckled, "I see what you meant." He turned back and walked over to her, sitting in the sand in front of her and speaking with an accent. "I do say, young lass: I, too, find my gentlemanly moustache ever so comical!"
"Oh, stop it, you're killing me!" The Glaceon kept kicking at the air, wiggling in the sand.
Richard couldn't explain it himself, but there was something about the Glaceon that made him feel different. Around her, he felt like he could be more open, laugh and joke around, a trait she and her brother seemed to have in common more than he had noticed. And there was something about her laugh...that soft and musical (yet so loud!) laugh. And that odd radiance she had to herself...he felt strange around her. He felt as if suddenly he was becoming lighter than air and about to float up into the skies whenever she was close. There was only one other girl that had made him feel like that in his whole life, but she...well, she was gone now.
"Here, let me get that off," Sasha said after several minutes of catching her breath. She moved closer to him and brushed the dark green plants off his face. His fur was no longer wet, but was still quite moist. Suddenly, she became aware of how close she was to him again, and regardless of how cold her Ice-type body was, she was feeling incredibly warm on the inside right now for some reason. And again, if she could just move that little bit closer...just a few inches...
Hell, she would.
'Alright...' she thought as she began moving her face closer to his. She had always had her way, and with males far less confident and difficult to get than he was; she had learned to pursue feelings like this, and this was someone she actually used to fantasize about before. The way she saw it, there was no reason for which she shouldn't try. 'Here we go...I wonder if it feels like I used to dream it would.' That was it: she was less than an inch from his mouth...
"Hey, look at that," Richard turned away, looking up to see the dark sky above the lake burst ablaze with several lights of many colors, dissipating the darkness of the night with a lively, festive explosion that was reflected on the crystal-clear surface of the lake below like in a mirror.
'NO!' Sasha cried to herself in disappointment. Less than an inch to go...she only needed less than a second to feel him. 'Stupid-' Come to think of it, she didn't know what the things she wanted to blame for getting in her way were. "Hey, what are those?" She asked, looking at the lights that were dancing in the sky.
"That's the pyrotechnics guys practicing for the festival tomorrow," Richard explained, staring into the shadow of the town in the distance. "They've got to make sure the fireworks show goes okay. After all, the opening and closure are the most important parts."
'Right. Okay, now that I know: Stupid fireworks! Though they're actually kind of pretty...' she thought, looking at the light show that was taking place before their eyes. Maybe this called for a different approach. "Say, Richard..." she asked in a curious, casual tone, leaning against the larger Luxray.
"Yeah?" Richard replied, not failing to notice the position she had taken.
"When I was little...did you think I was cute?"
"'Cute'?" Richard was thrown-off by her question . "I'm sorry, but being who I am I can't define 'cute'."
"Oh come on,"
"I don't know," Richard kept looking at the lights that jumped into the sky. Now that he stopped to think about it, he had never thought of her like that. "I guess you were."
"And what about now?" Sasha continued. "Do you think I'm cute now? Beautiful? Attractive?"
"You're one of the best-looking girls I've met in my whole life," Richard answered. That was all Sasha needed to hear. "I mean, I had never-"
"Yeah?" Richard turned to look at her and was greeted with what was probably the biggest surprise he had had in a long time: Sasha pushed her mouth against him, trapping the Luxray in a kiss. For a moment, he failed to understand what was happening. His entire body felt numb and his tail straightened and stiffened before he felt as if he was floating. Now that was one feeling he thought he had forgotten. Though he was thrown aback by her sudden move, he didn't take long to react and kiss her back closing his eyes. And there they sat in the sand under the moon and the light of the fireworks with their lips locked together in the grand, blissful feeling that always seemed to come with that first kiss.
'Oh my!' Sasha thought, feeling herself warming up. This was just one of the things she had wanted to do to him since the day she saw him when she was younger, and now that she was doing it, it was like a dream come true. 'I'm...I'm kissing Richard!' She pushed her tongue into his muzzle, trying to feel his. Richard answered with a similar move, making their tongues wrestle and taste each other.
Richard hadn't enjoyed something like this for so long that he couldn't help but feel awkward about it. Still, she didn't seem willing to stop, and so neither would he. Her taste was odd yet enjoyable and familiar. It was...peppermint?
It looked as if that moment would never stop, and she would have loved it if it hadn't, but, like everything, it came to an end.
Slowly, they pulled away from each other, still bound together by a thin tendril of saliva that reflected the light above. And when Richard opened his eyes, he saw someone far different from the one that was sitting with him, watching the fireworks; she was staring dreamily at him with her light blue fur glowing gracefully with the moon's light, bringing out her delicate, elegant appearance. She was no longer his friend, or his best friend's sister. He didn't have a word for it, but it simply felt right to be with her.
"Richard..." she whispered as they watched the fireworks burst and dance high above them. It was a beautiful thing, really. In a way, it was like a private show. She leaned against him again, purring softly. "You're so cool..." she let the Eevee in her talk before realizing how silly her words sounded. "I mean...you're awesome. But a terrible kisser!"
"But you're great. If I had another brother, I would have loved him to be like you." She told him. And then, she said the three words she hadn't actually meant to say sincerely in her whole life. "I love you."
Richard purred back (if it could be called purring, as it was more of a grunting rumble from his chest) before the question popped on his mind. "Since when?" he asked her.
"Since I met you," she replied. "I remember you walked through our door; my brother had told me so much about you and I was dying to meet you when he said you were coming. And there you were, like something out of my dreams. And you being so serious and cool only got me even more smitten with you. And, maybe it's because I've been spending so much time with you recently, but that crush I had is coming back..." She brushed her cheek on his body. "Didn't you ever notice?"
"Not really...I mean, it did weird me out that you never stopped staring at me."
"But the good thing about now," Sasha continued purring as she moved closer to the Luxray again, nuzzling his neck, "is that I'm old enough to actually try."
They sat together, looking up at the show the fireworks experts on the town close by were unknowingly putting up for them. Every now and then, one of the fireworks would fly backwards or in a wrong angle, whizzing inches past them and vanishing in the distance. For some reason, Sasha felt different about him than she did about anyone else. Unlike with any other male, this wasn't simple lust or a desire to be taken by him. She actually felt incredibly good with just sitting there with him.
They stayed there with each other until the morning came. The start of a new day, and a whole new adventure...
===ONWARDS TO NERI
"Hey, Leon!" Tiffany nudged the sleeping 'chu, trying to get him to wake up. "Leon? Leon! Ah, screw it..." She raised her paw and slapped Leon so hard he would have passed out right after waking up.
"I'm up, I'm up!" Leon answered, hastily springing to his feet and looking in every direction, startled. "W-what was that?" He looked at Tiffany. "Did you hit me?"
"No, I didn't!" she lied, giggling. "You must have been having a nightmare or something!"
"Uh-huh." Leon took a while to wake up before kissing Tiffany and then asking. "So, ready for Neri?"
"Okay, then, let's go!"
"Leon," Phoebe said from the other end of the room. Leon had almost forgotten there was anyone else there. "We can't go yet."
"Huh?" Leon turned around to ask the Espeon. "Why not?"
"Lexy and Kitty are gone!" Estelle answered in a worried tone. "I woke up this morning and they weren't here anymore!"
"Hmmm..." Leon looked around the room, then headed for the stairs leading to the house's second floor. "Alright, I'll look for them."
"I'll go with you!" Tiffany rushed up the stairs with him.
"Be careful!" Estelle told them. "There's gotta be something evil up there if Kitty didn't come back..."
The two ran up the steps and arrived to the small, worn-out corridor, walking through it while looking into the doors on both sides. The house was far gloomier up here than on the sitting room below, probably due to the lack of windows. The beaten-down, dusty old furniture failed to match the faded color of the walls, adorned with a painting of a Persian lying on a Gardevoir's lap with a cunning, guileful smile.
"Say, Leon..." Tiffany began as they opened one of the doors and took a quick look at the room on the other side, empty save for some jewels in a corner. "Who are Freya and Elys?"
"Huh?" Leon reacted in surprise, looking at Tiffany with his eyes wide open. "How do you know Elys? Where'd you hear those names?"
"You were mumbling them in your sleep," the Buneary answered, picking up some of the jewels and hiding them on the fluff around her waist since she had left her bag down on the sitting room. "So? Who are they?"
"I honestly don't know," Leon answered, sitting down and patting the floor next to him, telling Tiffany to sit with him. She took it quite well when he explained who he really was back in Ilsia. So, he believed, he could probably explain about all those dreams he had been having, and hopefully she'd understand. Come to think of it , he had never talked to anyone about it (though Miaram seemed to know). "You see, I've been having these dreams, ever since I quit the Voices..."
Leon took his time explaining matters to her, about the dreams he had been having, about the voice that talked to him in them, and how he sometimes seemed to watch things that were happening to someone else. He talked to her about everything: how the strange voice advised him on what he could sometimes do, about that dream with the Lopunny named Anna, and the sudden visions like that he seemed to get in his sleep. Of course Phoebe and Estelle were waiting for them downstairs, but that was just the ideal moment to talk to her, and that was an opportunity he had every intention of seizing.
"...So, basically, I'm so crazy I even hear stuff in my sleep," Leon finished, waiting for Tiffany's reaction. The Buneary sat there silently, just staring at him, half-convinced, half-doubtful.
"So, in other words," Tiffany said. "This voice talks to you and even shows you stuff from the past?"
"Please don't judge me..." Leon replied, looking down. "I'm not insane...I'm just like this..."
"I'm not gonna judge you," Tiffany answered, smiling. "When I was little, the same things happened to me! Of course they don't anymore, but I still remember!"
"Well, that's a relief."
"And this Anna..."
"What about her?"
"You're saying that medallion she had was the same one I found? The same one that I was being attacked for before you saved me?"
"Well, I'm petty sure it is..." Leon hadn't thought about it that way, but it was true in a sense. The reason they met each other, the reason he had saved her from the Machoke, the reason she was with him in this difficult endeavor; it had all been because of that simple artifact, the same one he had seen in his dreams. Well, here was something he had to ask that voice later.
"Leon?!" the call came from downstairs. "Tiffy?!"
"I think that's Estelle looking for us," Tiffany looked back at the room's door. "Whew! We've been talking for, like, half an hour!"
"No wonder she's worried," Leon replied.
"Shouldn't we go back down?"
"Yeah, but first," Leon got up and hugged her, feeling a little uncomfortable at the jewels she had hidden poking at him. "Thanks for not thinking I'm crazy."
"Oh, I think you are," she answered, hugging him back. "You're just a nice kind of crazy."
"Leon?!" A loud thud was heard as the room's door came crashing down revealing an Absol at the other side. "Okay," Estelle sighed, relieved. "If you're okay and someone's calling you, you answer!"
"So, they're not here?" Estelle walked up the corridor with a worried look that made the cheerful glow in her bright, yellow eyes fade. She went through each door, knocking them down with a strong tackle before looking inside and finding nothing. Once she checked all the rooms, she returned to the one Leon and Tiffany were in with a look in her face that said she was about to cry. "Oh, no..." She headed back to the sitting room, leaving Leon and Tiffany alone again. "Kitty?! Lexy?! Where are you?!"
"Wow," Leon commented, hearing Estelle's cries. "This is really getting to her, huh?"
"It must be," Tiffany answered, perking her ears. "But, back to you: don't worry. I'm sure the dreams have got to go away sometime!"
"Yeah..." Leon headed back out to the corridor, followed by the Buneary. "Yeah, they will..." At least she wasn't too freaked out by that. That was something he loved about her: he could find all kinds of freaky stuff about himself to tell her and she really wouldn't give it too much importance. They walked down the stairs and back to the sitting room to find the Absol whimpering in a corner with Phoebe sitting next to her.
"Stop crying," Phoebe told her as gently as she could, trying to comfort her. "They're fine; they'll be walking back in any second now."
"Y-You think?" Estelle asked, sobbing.
"I-I hope you're right! I-I just can't live without my Kitty..."
"It's okay," Phoebe continued. "Don't cry,"
"They're alright, Estelle!" Leon said. "You know they're both pretty strong!"
"Hey, everyone!" Sasha walked into the sitting room with a broad smile, then saw the Absol crying. "Hey, what's going on?"
Estelle raised her head the moment she heard the Glaceon's words. "Lexy!" She ran at Sasha, unable to stop and knocked her down. "Oh, it's so good to see you're okay! Is Kitty with you? Where were you?"
"He's fine," Sasha answered, getting up. "I was at the lake." She walked towards Phoebe. "And I just had the best kiss of my life."
"With who?" Estelle asked curiously.
"Ah, just some guy who was there," Sasha replied. "No one important."
"Morning," Richard walked into the room as well with a faint smile, yet there was something about his expression that hinted towards regret.
"Kitty!" Estelle yelled in excitement, leaping towards the Luxray and knocking him into the floor as well, brushing her cheek on his face. "I was so worried about you. Where were you?"
"At the lake," Richard answered as he got Estelle off himself and got up. "Been there all this time, just...got caught up with a girl."
"A girl? You mea- oh..." Estelle huffed a little in surprise, realizing who it was he was talking about. "Oh, okay..." she said, sadly. "I get it..."
"Well, we can keep moving now," Leon said, picking his bag up. "Let's go."
"Nice you're hasty and all," Richard answered, walking towards Jack and looking down disgustedly at him. "The sooner I get this scumbag to a jail, the better." He slammed his paw on the Sableye's back, making him wake up. "Hey, jewel-head!" He slammed his paw again. "I'm talking to you! Wake up!"
"I'm up, I'm up!" the Sableye grunted in pain as Richard slammed his paw on him again. "I said I'm up, you son of a bitch!"
"I know," Richard chuckled. "I just did that last one for the heck of it." He placed the Sableye on his back again, then walked to the house's door. "Anytime you're ready, Pikachu."
"You can just call me Leon," Leon answered, walking to the door followed by Tiffany. "Being called 'Pikachu' is just too weird."
"I'll keep that in mind, Pikachu."
They walked out of the house towards the woods outside. The sun was shining high above them, bringing out the white of the snow on some of the mountains in the distance and darkening some others. Overall, it was a quiet morning, except from the murmur of all the bustle coming from the town across the lake. That town was their destination: Neri, the town of wishes. The lake on the side of their path was reflecting the sunlight and carrying some of the town's noise on its surface. Flying-types fluttered by above and the Kakuna on some of the trees were still asleep. Some flowers were growing on the side of the path, swaying gently with the light, cool breeze that was blowing.
"So, Phoebe," Sasha told the Espeon as everyone kept walking down the path. "Guess what happened last night?"
"You left," Phoebe answered quietly.
"And I don't know," Phoebe replied, raising her head and sniffing at the morning breeze that carried the scent of flowers. "What happened?"
"I followed Richard to the lake," Sasha answered with a broad smile. "We got to talking, and..."
"And?" Phoebe asked, somewhat alarmed. "What did you do?"
"And we made out!" Sasha laughed excitedly. "Just like that! This is so awesome, and I'm so, so excited about it!"
"Oh, no..." Phoebe looked down and slowly shook her head. 'That can't be good,' she thought.
"'Oh, no', what?" Sasha asked. "What's wrong with that?"
"No, nothing," Phoebe lied, trying to end the conversation. "I'm happy for you, I guess; I know how much you liked him. Just one thing, though: you should talk to Estelle about it; she really likes him too."
"Talk?! Why?! She was too slow to make a move so it's my turn!"
"Alright..." Sasha huffed, annoyed. "I'll talk to her about it. I guess it's the most mature thing to do, or...you know, whatever."
"Feeling excited?" Leon asked Tiffany. "We're getting there today!"
"I really am," Tiffany replied. "You know, I think I remember my mom saying I had some family over at Neri."
"Really? Well, we'll have a place to stay for free!"
"You're not serious, are you?" Tiffany asked in disbelief, looking at Leon. "I don't even know them, let alone where in Neri they live!"
"I was just kidding!" Leon answered, holding his hands up in an 'I'm sorry' fashion. "We're just staying to get supplies, then maybe the festival, and then we're off to Selenia!"
"Yeah," Tiffany looked up absentmindedly at the sky. "It's all great, you know? Traveling with you. To think, less than a month ago I was just living a dull life in the forest..." She walked closer to him. "I'm so glad I met you, Leon."
"Same here," Leon leaned closer to her until they were walking close together with no space between them. "You've been a light to all the shadows in my life."
"Hey, guys!" Estelle wedged between the two, separating them. "Excited about the festival? It's today, you know?"
"Well," Tiffany answered, looking sadly at Leon as their moment was interrupted by the Absol. "I knew it was soon, but I didn't know when."
"How do you even know that?" Leon asked Estelle, returning the stare Tiffany gave him. "I thought you never left your home at the forest?"
"Kitty took me last year," Estelle answered sadly, thinking of Richard and how he seemed to slip farther from her reach more and more. "It was so beautiful, with the fireworks, and the shows and all..."
"Can't wait to get there," Leon sighed. He couldn't explain it and he didn't want to tell anyone, but he was getting an ominous feeling at the festival for some reason. Maybe he was just imagining it.
"Phoebe..." Richard moved closer to the Espeon once Sasha had distanced herself to pick some berries. "I think I did something bad."
"Well, yes, Richard," Phoebe answered. "But you chose to be an outlaw."
"What do you know, lady?!" Jack spoke from the Luxray's back. "That was one hell of a life!"
"Shut up," Richard called back at the Sableye, then looked at Phoebe. "Last night, Sasha and I-"
"I know," Phoebe interrupted. "She's really excited about it, you know?"
"Yeah, that's the problem..."
"Ugh, I knew it," Phoebe said, annoyed.
"I knew you would get all weird about it."
"After you and Comet stopped talking to each other Misha and I kind of classified you," Phoebe answered. "First, you're 'In-the-moment Richard'. You don't think it's a good idea to like a girl but you get caught up in the moment and you do it anyways. Then you become 'Regretful Richard'. You think what you did was wrong and you find a thousand reasons to try and break up. Come on; let's hear what your excuse is for leaving Sasha."
"Heh, sounds like this cat knows you good and proper!" Jack laughed.
"What part of 'Shut up' didn't you understand?" Richard snarled at the Sableye.
"And it's not an excuse!" Richard then looked at Phoebe. "It's a very good reason. She's Misha's sister! You don't do things like that with your best friend's sister! Misha would be pissed!"
"Richard, I'm gonna try to make this sound as nice as possible, and please don't get me wrong, but don't be an asshole," Phoebe hissed. "You think Misha would be pissed because you tasted his sister's tongue? For your information, he'd be twice as pissed if you got her hopes up and then broke her heart!"
"I know, jus-"
"Listen," Phoebe hissed deeply in a way that would have scared most. "You are going to give this a try, and then, when the right time comes, and if you still want to end it, you'll do so, but in the meantime, you will keep on with this and make her happy! Understood?"
"Is that clear, Lieutenant?"
"Er...yes, ma'am," Richard replied awkwardly. It had been years since he had last been addressed by his rank.
"Okay, glad we understand each other."
**She's right, you know?**
'Oh, not you too...'
All six (seven, counting the tied Sableye and eight counting the egg) kept walking down the path by the side of the lake with the trees growing to their left and some more flowers to their right until they were greeted by a strange sight. An Ambipom with a red cape and a Smeargle were sitting on a log by the side of the road, talking. The moment he noticed them approaching, the Ambipom stood and waved at them with one of his tails.
"Ah, fellow travelers!" the Ambipom greeted. "Hello, hello! It is great to see someone else traveling this road! My friend and I," he pointed with one of his tail hands at the Smeargle, "were starting to think we would never see anyone pass by!" He patted another log next to the one they were sitting on. "Why don't you stop and rest with us? You must be tired!"
"We just got up from resting," Leon answered, feeling puzzled at the monkey's kindness towards a group of total strangers. "But thanks anyways."
"Not a problem!" the Ambipom got up and pushed the Smeargle, forcing him up. "We'll just walk with you! But first, I believe introductions are in order! My name is William," he pointed at himself with one of his tail hands, "and this," he pointed at the Smeargle, "is my friend Vince. We travel the world, trying to record all kinds of interesting events for everyone to hear!" He said excitedly as he and Vince followed Leon and the others.
"Sure," Leon answered awkwardly. "Come along, I guess..." William was strange, sure, but there was something else. 'Have I seen this guy somewhere?'
'I'm sure I've seen him somewhere else...' Sasha thought, taking a good look at William.
'Isn't he the one...?' Phoebe wondered.
"Hey, Tiffany," Leon whispered at the Buneary. "Haven't we seen this guy somewhere?"
"Now that you mention it..."
"YOU!" Sasha suddenly leapt at the Ambipom, missing him by a few inches. "You're the lying bunko that sold me that unevolving stone!"
"And you sold me that miracle tonic that would turn me into an Umbreon!" Phoebe hissed, quite upset.
"And you were doing things with that Pachirisu on the train!" Tiffany added.
"Oh, my, it seems we have bumped into two old customers, Vince!" William answered, getting up without paying much heed to Tiffany's words.
"Same plan?" the Smeargle asked quietly.
"But of course. RUN!" The Ambipom jumped up into the trees while the Smeargle ran into the woods, both of them quickly vanishing from sight.
"Yeah, you'd better run!" Sasha barked. "If I catch either of you you're dead!" They kept walking towards Neri once they saw the two vanish. "Stupid scammer..."
"Hey!" Leon said, suddenly stopping. "The egg's moving!" He reached into his bag and pulled the egg out. "It really is moving!"
"Really?" Tiffany placed her paw on the egg, feeling it move. "Hey, you're right!"
"Wanna hold it?"
"Of course!" The Buneary took the egg and hugged it, rocking it from side to side with care. "You know? This makes me feel all warm and well on the inside." She looked at the others and held it out to them. "Anyone else wanna hold it?"
"After what happened last time, I'm a little scared," Estelle answered.
"No thanks," Richard replied. "Personal experience has taught me that any child left in my care, born or unborn, will die."
"HA! I know!" Jack laughed.
"One more word and you're dead meat, fucker."
"Let me hold it for a bit," Phoebe said, lying on the side of the road and receiving the egg from Tiffany. "Well, what do you know?" she commented, brushing her cheek on the egg with a soft purr. "It actually feels good for some reason." She showed some more affection before holding it out so Sasha could take it. "Wanna try?"
"No thanks!" Sasha immediately answered. "The farther I am from one of these, the better!"
"It's a HUGE responsibility! I don't want that!"
"What are you gonna do the day you have one?" Phoebe asked.
"I'll never have one," Sasha carelessly answered. "I have a lot of stuff I want to do before my life ends life that."
"Just hold it," Phoebe said. "Put the ovaphobia aside for a sec and hold it!"
"Alright," Sasha lied on her side and took the egg. "But I'm not gonna like it!" She held the egg in her paws a little before continuing. "Well, maybe I like it a little. It feels kind of good...like... Get this thing away from me before I change my mind!" she finished, handing the egg back to Phoebe.
"You've got issues, Sasha."
===THE TRANQUIL MAELSTROM SHOWS HIS POWER!
"Well, ladies, guy, and...you," Sasha said, referring to the girls, Leon and Richard respectively as they arrived at their destination. "Welcome to Neri!"
The town of Neri was a soothing, yet exciting sight to behold. The streets were paved with grayish-white stones matching the color of the houses that covered both sides and took a blinding white with the sunlight. Apart from that, the town was split in half by a crystal-clear river that flowed from the lake nearby to a small beach at the other end. Several bridges connected both sides, making the river more of an aesthetic delight and less of a hindrance. To the right, several Machoke were working, setting up a fighting ring of sorts while other groups of Pokémon were taking care of different tasks, probably in the last preparations for the festival.
"And about time, too," Richard commented, taking off on his own before stopping and calling Leon. "Pikachu, come on. We've got a bounty to deliver over here."
"Yeah, gotcha!" Leon answered, taking off after him, looking back at Tiffany. "Stay with the girls and enjoy yourself, okay?"
"Yeah, I'll find a way!" Tiffany replied. "Just go!"
"Let's go, then," Richard said as he and Leon made their way to the place Leon assumed was a jail or something of the sort. Truth be told, he had no idea where they were going, so he was just following Richard around. After a while of walking through the streets and crossing the river, the two arrived at a somewhat large building that was being guarded by a Growlithe and a Scyther.
"Hey, what do you want here?!" the Scyther, raising one of his scythes in a threatening manner, asked when he noticed Leon approach along with Richard who was carrying Jack on his back.
"I'm Lieutenant Raymonds," Richard answered. "I'm here to bring this piece of crap outlaw in."
"Okay," the Scyther answered, grabbing Leon. "C'mere, you!"
"Wha-HEY!" Leon wiggled in the Bug-type's grasp.
"I meant the Sableye," Richard answered. "The one you're holding is actually the bounty hunter who brought him to me."
"Ah, okay," the Scyther let go of Leon, then took Jack of the Luxray's back and carried him inside. "I'll be back with the bounty in a bit."
"You'll pay for this, Richard!" Jack roared at the Luxray. "Morris will get you! You'll see!"
"Try and say that when you're head's gone from your body, you bastard!" Richard roared back in a disturbingly gleeful way. He was enjoying the Sableye's misery, which had apparently been well-earned.
"Why'd you say I helped you catch him?" Leon whispered at Richard.
"If I said I caught him they wouldn't pay me a bit, since it's my duty and all that."
"Here ya go." A heavy nag, probably full of money came flying out of the building and landed in front of Leon shortly before the Scyther came out as well. "Eight thousand Poké. Good bounty in my opinion."
"Great," Richard answered, then looked at Leon. "Now, come on. We've gotta go find the others."
The Luxray and Pikachu walked around the huge, bustling crowd in the streets, trying to find the girls. On their way, they bumped against more than one, but none of them were the ones they came with. The place was certainly lively, but the odd thing, Leon noticed, was that, in spite of the loud noises caused by the huge amount of Pokémon on the streets, it was still possible to hear the river flow. Preparations were certainly under way all over the town for the event that would take place that night. The crowd was very hard to move around; in fact, it only took a few steps for Leon and Richard to be separated. Not that either one would go looking for the other, anyway. The Pikachu stopped, however, when Leon noticed two Pokémon among the crowd who weren't a very common sight.
"...And how about that one?" the Houndoom asked, gesturing towards a Delcatty to the left.
"Very nice!" the Vaporeon replied, looking in the same direction. "Out of our league, though."
"And the one over by that window?"
"Oh, that's just great!"
"So, which one do you like the most so far?"
"Do we have to talk about this?" XIX answered sadly.
"The Espeon XV's going around with," the Vaporeon said.
"Nice looking," XIV nodded, "but a little too well-educated!" he added with a satisfied grin. "Me, I prefer thorny roses, like the Glaceon!"
"Yeah, she's good," XIX nodded. "But I have a policy: don't like a girl who can kick your ass!"
"Well, then you're never getting anyone."
Leon chuckled, a little amused at the conversation his colleagues (and pursuers) were having, and at the fact they hadn't even noticed him. He was cut short, however, as he was obscured by a shadow that approached him from behind. Someone much, much taller than he was standing right behind him.
"What a pair of idiots, huh?" the question came from behind Leon, who turned around to see the large Flygon standing behind him. "Going around, talking about stuff like that, keeping themselves so merrily entertained they don't even notice you coming."
"XVII!" Leon leapt back, sparking a little.
"Save it, junior!" XVII answered, smiling confidently as he stepped forward, leaving Leon behind him. "You wouldn't stand a chance if you tried. Besides," he turned around to look at the Pikachu, "I don't do things like that now that I'm the boss!"
"You're the boss?" Leon replied, confused. "What do you mean?"
"Yeah, 'cause everyone's gone to that place in the wasteland so-" he stopped with an idle expression, realizing what he was saying. "Shoot, I wasn't supposed to tell you that!"
"So, everyone's at the wasteland now?"
"You know?" the Dragon-type answered. "I'm done talking to you. Which does remind me:" he walked a little forward before calling at XIV and XIX, "hey, daydreamers!" The Houndoom and Vaporeon turned around, a little disappointed when they noticed him standing there with the Pikachu behind him. "Isn't that the guy we're looking for?" He pointed at Leon. "Go get him!" Then he stepped back into the crowd, joining the Blaziken that was watching the scene.
"I've got a thousand Poké saying XV owns them in seconds flat," the Blaziken said.
"I'm not gonna bet when I know I'll lose," XVII answered.
"Hey, XV!" the Vaporeon walked forward.
"Oh, what do you want, XIX?" Leon replied, sounding annoyed.
"We're here to get you!" XIV barked.
"You know, XIV? I'd love to see you try," the Pikachu answered, not taking a step back while making some sparks come out of his cheeks.
"Whoa!" XIX jumped back, startled.
"Don't tell me he scared you!" The Houndoom looked at his partner.
"Of course not! I just-"
"I'm waiting!" Leon taunted. "Come on, XIX! One-on-one! Or are you scared?"
"Come here!" XIV bit the Vaporeon's neck and dragged him away. "He's messing with you! What's your answer to that?"
"I don't know..."
"Acting tough! You haven't learned crap!"
"But I just-"
"You have to-"
"Wouldn't that be-"
"Just do it!" the Dark canine grunted as he dragged XIX and left him close to Leon. "Come on!"
"Gathered the guts, did you?" Leon smiled, faking overconfidence. He didn't think XIX would ever try to fight him, given the Water-type's type disadvantage and his, well, cowardice.
"Well, I..." XIX brushed his paw on the floor a little before looking back at XIV, who grinned, nodding. "I'm here to deal with you, you two-timing rat," he said, trying to deepen his voice like he had done with Sasha. "They know you're a real pain, so they sent the best to put a leash on you and bring you back."
"And where is he?" Leon teased the Vaporeon again. "All I see is this wimpy, whiny loser!"
"I'll prove to you who the loser is!"
"Wow, on second thought," Leon walked closer to XIX, "you might be tougher than I thought. I can't let my guard down, because otherwise I might-BOO!" He jumped when he was right in front of XIX, making large, violent sparks come out of his body while at the same time throwing two fireballs at the sky.
"HEY!" the Vaporeon jumped back startled and fell in the river nearby. Leon's sudden outburst also caused the nearby crowd to clear off. That was a problem; the last thing any of them wanted was to create a commotion.
"A lot of good your tough talk did you!" Leon laughed.
"Why, you..." XIX emerged; floating on the river, then became very aware of where he was. This was a definite advantage for him. He looked at XIV and nodded. "Now, man!"
"Gotcha!" The Houndoom tackled Leon and caught him off-guard, knocking him into the river where XIX was.
"Alright, you smug jackass!" XIX said, submerging himself into the river. "Let's see how you like a fight when you're not in the advantage!"
Before Leon could react, he felt something grip his foot and sink him into the river. He couldn't see too well when he was underwater, and then, of course, he had the problem that he wasn't able to breathe...wait, he could! That was an advantage to his ability: all he had to do was imitate XIX on that! He really didn't know how to do that, though. The river wasn't running with enough strength to drag him, so he was able to more or less stay in place. He didn't have much time to think about it as he suddenly grunted in pain at the feeling of something crashing against his side with huge strength.
'What the?' Leon thought as he brought a hand to his side in pain. 'Where did that come from?... AH!' Another blow struck his other side.
"Can't see me?" he heard XIX's voice.
Leon looked everywhere for his attacker, but the Vaporeon was nowhere to be found. He thought maybe XIX was just moving too fast, but that thought was gone, much to his surprise, when he felt another hit right on his chest.
"Yeah, you like that, don't you?!"
Leon tried to swim back to the surface, but whenever he tried, he would be pulled back down. The Pikachu flailed about, trying to land hit on his invisible opponent, but it wasn't working. And worst of all, he was running out of air. The world began to get dark around him, until he, in his desperation, finally thought up a solution. Using that last bit of his strength, he unleashed a violent discharge, which quickly spread, electrifying the water.
"Yeah, you-YAGH!" the pained howl echoed on the water before XIX surfaced, fried from the electricity. Shortly after, Leon surfaced as well, gasping, trying desperately to pull air in. He grabbed hold of the shore and tried to pull himself up when he was once again, to his surprise, pulled back into the river. "Oh, you ain't going nowhere!" he heard XIX say. The Vaporeon, thanks to his Water Absorb ability, pretty much recovered from the shock and was ready to fight again, while Leon, who was heavily tired and suffering from fatigue, could no longer fight. He wanted to fight back, but he no longer had the strength to. He was ready to give in when he felt himself being suddenly snatched from XIX's grasp and carried to the surface. The last thing he saw before passing out was a brown Floatzel with a purple barrette laying him on the floor while saying "Stay alive, kid!"
"Sorry," the Floatzel called at the river. "But this guy's not dying 'till I get to meet my sister's grandkids!"
"Hey," XI asked as he, XIV and XVII watched. "Isn't that-"
"The Fatal Lily," XVII answered. "You know, the sister of the one you killed?"
"Yeah, she's not as tough, though."
"She can still beat you,"
"Nah, she couldn't!"
"Oh, another brave one!" XIX said as he surfaced again. "Try this!" Saying this, he dove into the water before emerging in a huge wave. "Feel it, baby!" The Floatzel was getting ready for the attack when XIX suddenly stopped, surrounded by a blue light.
"Wha- I can't move!" XIX said, surprised at the psychic holds he was now locked in. Before he could do anything, his wave was hit by a stream of blue light, causing it to freeze. "Hey!" He looked back to see Sasha and Phoebe standing on the other side. "Oh, not you two..."
"Hello again, wimp," Sasha said.
"What an unpleasant surprise," Phoebe added.
"Paws off my man!" Tiffany called as she ran up the frozen wave and hit the Vaporeon so hard he was ripped from the ice and sent flying.
"Yay, it's like a game!" Estelle jumped and tackled XIX, sending him back to Tiffany, who struck him with a Sky Uppercut. The Water Eeveelution was sent rocketing upwards before crashing, unconscious, next to Leon. In that swift, cooperative move, the girls had just won the fight.
"Good one, Tiffany," the Floatzel said, looking proudly at the Buneary. "Better than your mom when she was your age."
"Is he gonna be okay, Aunt Zoey?" Tiffany asked, looking worriedly at the unconscious Pikachu.
"He'll be fine," the Floatzel answered. "He almost drowned, but he's okay."
"Okay," XVII said, stepping forward. "We've got two unconscious lugs and I can only carry one, so..." he took a small coin from the floor and looked at it. "Heads, XV, tails, XIX." He flipped the coin and caught it, then looked. "Oh, crap..." He shook his head a little before looking back at XI and XIV. "We're bringing XIX back."
"Oh, come on!"
"Are you kidding?!"
"Hey," XVII said, sounding very serious. "Don't ever," he held the coin so they would look at it, "question the power of fate."
"Fate's not real!" XI yelled.
"Yeah, take XV!" XIV added.
"Try to," Sasha growled, walking closer to Leon. "And I'll make a popsicle out of you."
"Hey, pretty," XIV winked at the Glaceon.
"Ugh," Sasha looked away.
"Yeah, ice sounds dangerous," XVII answered, picking the Vaporeon up. "Let's go." Saying this, he took off into the sky with a loud whistling sound, leaving the Blaziken and Houndoom running after him in vain hopes of keeping up.
"Let's get this one back to my place," Zoey said, picking Leon up. "Your grandma will know what to do with him." Tiffany, Sasha and Estelle followed after her.
"I'll go get Richard," Phoebe said calmly, walking away. "Gotta tell him where we're at."
"Okay!" Tiffany called at the Espeon before tending to the Pikachu in her aunt's arms. "Hang in there, Leon...we already got out of a tighter spot than this one, remember?"
"I don't think he can hear you, Tiffany," Sasha told her. "He's out."
"I think he can!" Estelle said. "I think he can actually hear us right now!"
"Well, you could be right, or not" the Glaceon answered. "But I'd rather think you're not."
"By the way, I have to talk to you about something..." Sasha said, trying her best to casually slip her message.
"Come on, Leon," Tiffany kept telling him. "You're gonna be okay..."