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.
=== A DARK FOREST MORNING
"Alright..." the Flygon muttered as the two walked through the lab. A malfunction in the lights had left them to wander around in the darkness of the already unnerving place, and all the machine arms above only helped frighten them more. At least the presence of the Beldum hovering above let them know they weren't all alone in there, though they wouldn't be any help should trouble arise.
"Damn, this place gives me the creeps!" the Blaziken spoke, following close behind his partner, almost jumping when the dragon's tail made a small metallic rack to their right fall. All he wanted was for them to reach that valve and do what they had to do with it. He didn't understand how X could spend so much time in that place.
Finally, they reached the large valve they were supposed to turn, the red, rust-free metal almost glowing in the darkness right next to a large, armored tank. Eager to finish the job so they could get out of there, the Flygon grabbed the valve and turned it twice. Immediately, steam began to shoot out of the tank and the metal plating lowered, revealing a small, copper Pokémon, curled up and floating in a clear orange fluid. It seemed to move every few seconds and had a single odd, white extension to itself, relatively long considering the small size if the object.
"Now what is that thing?" XI asked, walking closer to the tank to have a look at it. He stared at the figure inside, clearly puzzled.
"Eh...judging from what I'm seeing," XVII replied, "I'm guessing that's our new kid bro or sis right there." He walked closer as well and had a look through the tinted red that covered his eyes, "That's weird...I don't remember hearing anyone mention anything about it."
"It's so small!" the Blaziken commented in an unusually endeared tone. The two had become so focused on this soon-to-be new member they had forgotten about the fear they felt of the place, the thought being quickly replaced by questions about it.
"Hm...I wonder if it's...you know, awake?" XVII raised his arm and gave the crystal one quick tap with one of his claws.
Both leapt back, practically hugging each other with frightened expressions as the small Pokémon inside opened her eyes, staring right in their direction. Immediately the readings on several small monitors on the side began to increase, noticeable by the rhythm of the beeping they made becoming faster and faster.
"W-What now?!" XI asked, afraid the two had made a mistake they'd have to pay for in the future. Not so much by the small Pokémon, as he was sure they could deal with her just fine, but for the trouble it would earn them if their superiors came back.
"XVII! WHAT NOW?!"
"Run like hell!" the Flygon yelled, and the two let go of each other and ran out of the lab, practically flying up the spiral stairs and rocketing past a confused XII, not stopping until they got to the resting area. No matter how dim the lights were, the change in illumination to something brighter was greatly appreciated by the two as they stopped running, panting exhaustedly and trying to gain breath enough to speak to one another.
"Let's...just..." XVII panted, "hope nothing bad happened there..."
"And if it doesn't, the Beldum can take care of it. I mean, the damn things can't even talk, how much will they tell anyone?"
"Hey, hey!" Leon heard in the vast black of his mind. It was a voice that was already familiar to him. Not the one he usually heard, but the more feminine one the name of which he couldn't remember. "How are you?"
"Uh-huh. Yeah, you seem fine. Figured out my name yet?"
"Your name is..."
"See? I knew it. Not a clue!"
"Don't say that, Freya!" Leon answered all of a sudden with a tone of sadness. "I wouldn't forget you in a million years! You were my friend from the start!" He stopped right then, realizing what he had just said. He had remembered her name, but how?
"Well, that's cute! Thanks!" the voice replied. "Hey, I just came to tell you've got to be really careful where we are right now: there's a bunch of bad stuff around. I can't believe the mess this forest is. I mean, back when we first came through it was so beautiful and vivid! It sucks how things change..."
"Aaaanyways; take care. Okay, handsome? I'll see you soon. And don't worry, I'll be close!"
Leon opened his eyes, perhaps expecting a ray of light to shine on him for a moment before remembering the fact that was impossible considering where they were. He let go of Tiffany and yawned slowly, rubbing his eyes and placing his hand on his love's side, brushing her body and ear softly.
"Hey..." the Buneary whispered back, wiggling a little as she opened her eyes and looked at him, "Hello!"
"Hey," Leon answered, kissing her softly before the two sat up and stretched, looking around to see the others. They must have gotten up earlier, as everyone else was still asleep.
"Well, everyone's enjoying their dreams," Leon said as he sat on the stump that they had been leaning on, Tiffany sitting next to him and looking around. Midori was lying with her arms and legs spread , the grass around the space where she had been sleeping suddenly green and alive, opposed to the dead yellow it has everywhere else, with Phoebe curled almost next to her. Both were close to the place where the fire had been, probably from trying to keep warm the night before. Nocturne was still standing on another stump with Minuet tucked under his wing. Richard was lying on his side, still holding Sasha close to him, the Glaceon smiling in her sleep, enjoying the feel of being close to him even in her dreams with Estelle cuddling against the Luxray's back with a near identical expression.
"Do you think we should wake them up?" Tiffany asked him, still looking at the sleeping Pokémon.
"Nah, let's let 'em rest," Leon answered, leaning softly against her before continuing. "Let's just go for a walk. They'll probably be up by the time we come back." He jumped of the stump and held his hand out, which the Buneary took, and the two ventured into the darkness of the woods, trying to stay close to each other.
The two walked together through the fog, which actually seemed to have cleared off a little. Perhaps the coming of day had actually had a positive effect on the sinister woodlands they had stepped into. The scenery didn't really seem to change while the two kept on, the same dark, dead trees appearing over and over.
"I can't wait to get some sun," Leon started, sighing. "This place bums me out. So...devoid."
"Yeah. It's sad."
"It wasn't always like this, you know?" the Pikachu idly commented, perhaps not even noticing what he was saying as he continued to look up to the trees in hopes of having some light shine on him.
"Leon, how would you know it wasn't always like this?" Tiffany asked with curiosity.
"Uh," Leon suddenly became aware of what he had just said, feeling confused himself as to how he could even tell, then remembering hearing it from Freya in his dreams. But perhaps that was something he was better off keeping to himself for the moment. "Well, I mean...it couldn't always have been such a creepy place! They wouldn't call it Fallen Forest if it hadn't been...well, un-fallen at some point!"
"I hadn't thought of that!"
"Yeah..." Leon answered, thinking what it was Freya meant telling him to be careful and that there were bad things around. He knew there was a "monster" of some kind following them, but the way she said it seemed to be meant at something else. Especially when she said the forest used to be so beautiful. His thoughts were interrupted when he felt a sharp pain in his head. He grasped his forehead and clenched his eyes shut, gritting in pain as he fell to one knee, hearing a loud, high-pitched buzz in his head. The pain was so sharp he lost track of anything and everything. For a moment it was just him, alone in a seemingly eternal space full of many images that passed at far too high a speed for him to make anything out of them.
"Leon?!" Tiffany cried, worried as she took the unconscious Pikachu by the shoulders and tried to shake him awake. "Leon?! Hey!"
"It's okay," Leon answered as the pain left. Slowly, he got back up and rubbed his forehead for a moment. Whatever he had just felt was gone, but it managed to gnaw at him. What had just happened?
"What?" Leon noticed Tiffany pointing at his arm. He looked to see that a large claw, like the ones he used when using XVI's attacks, had emerged in place of his hand. He stared at it for a moment, a little shocked before quickly changing it back, now having something else to think about added to his concerns. That was the first time he had ever changed like that without intending to ever since he was little and had no control of it. Maybe he had done so accidentally while feeling that pain earlier. He hoped that was it.
"Leon, what was that thing just now?" The Buneary showed true concern for him as she took his arm in her paws and looked at his hand.
"It's-" Leon was about to answer when he remembered: She had never seen him do that! Perhaps that's what had scared her the most? Though by now, she'd probably expect him to do something like that if he could use ANY attack. Still, it wouldn't hurt to show her later. "When I told you I can do ANY attack, I was being serious. Those claws? I use them for the stronger slashing moves. It's a little weird to see them pop out just like that, but I guess I lost control back there. Come on, let's go back. Everyone's probably up by now."
"Yeah, I don't want you fainting around here. Carrying you won't be so easy now!" Tiffany smiled, patting him on the shoulder in hopes of helping both of them forget whatever happened.
"Hmph," Leon grumped and looked at her, knowing what she meant. "If I evolve again, I'll be carrying you around, smarty!"
The bunny giggled softly as the two made their way back to the others. Hopefully they would get moving soon and leave the forest.
Sasha slowly woke up to find herself next to the Luxray she had gone to sleep with, feeling his arms around her. It came as something good for her; last time she woke up and he wasn't there anymore. She slowly turned, still in his grasp, so that she was facing him.
"Hey, big guy~" she hummed, looking at him in the eye with a dreamy stare. "When you met me, did you honestly ever think we'd be waking up together?"
"Well," Richard whispered back, noticing Estelle was still asleep and hoping not to wake her up, "if I had I would have become charcoal. But I did think you were pretty back then."
Sasha blushed lightly before replying, "Well, not the most romantic thing to answer but it feels good." She stopped, feeling her left cheek burn along with the rest of her body being sore and remembering XIV's attack on her. She fell quiet for a moment before looking back at the feline, "Sorry, I just...well, it hurts."
"It must," Richard seriously answered. "Let's just put that behind. I know it'll be rude but, please move away a little."
"No offense, but I can't feel any of my limbs."
"Right!" Sasha slowly backed away and got up as Richard let go of her, sighing in relief. "Sorry. Forgot about the cold and all!"
"It's okay. It's not like you can control it."
"Oh, I can," she answered with a clever smile, "it's just not that comfortable. Come to think of it I can't remember the last time I felt any warmth."
"Uh-huh," Richard said right before a brief yawn from behind him let him know Estelle was awake as well.
"Hello!" the Absol greeted as she got on her feet as well and shook herself a little to finish waking up, then looked up at the darkness above. "Wow, it's hard to smile in here..."
"Not like that'll be a challenge for you, huh?" Sasha greeted the Absol back with a brief smile.
"Well," Richard said as he got up as well and stretched, letting sparks fly out of his limbs from the tension, "let's wait for everyone else before we get moving."
The Espeon slowly opened her eyes, a very brief gleam of sadness and disappointment visible in them, if only for a moment, before she got up and let out a short sigh. She raised her right paw, giving the back of it a very soft lick before using it to clean off some dirt that she had on her cheek. Once she was done, she slowly poked the Leafeon near her, causing her to wake up as well.
"Owww... " Midori softly pouted, wiggling a little before opening her eyes and looking at Phoebe. "Hi, Phoebe..." She sat and rubbed her eyes with one paw in an almost cute way, blinking for a moment and finally continuing. "Good to see you," she yawned. "I almost didn't sleep last night..."
"Well, I think that's the same for all of us," Phoebe answered. "Now come on, let's go see how the others are."
The two had just gone to talk to Richard, Sasha and Estelle when Nocturne fluttered at them as well, little Swablu hopping close behind him.
"Oh, hey!" Estelle greeted cutely, seeing the chick hop towards her. "How did you two sleep?"
"Quite well," Nocturne answered with a nod, "So... Have you seen Leon? I want to leave this wretched place once and for all. This is not a good place for the little one to be."
"Hey!" Tiffany arrived back at the clearing, followed by a not-so-cheerful Leon. The Pikachu was rubbing his right arm, almost as if trying to see if he felt anything different on it, focused someplace else entirely. "We just went for a walk!"
"So, we're all set, then?" Nocturne asked, seeing the two arrive. "I'm sorry to be rushing you, but this place makes my feathers ruffle. And I'm a dark-type."
"Yeah," Leon idly responded, staring at his arm, "let's just go."
=== TORMENT OF THE MIND
The group moved in a tight cluster through the narrow, dark paths. The overgrown roots and the trees closing on each other had greatly reduced their mobility and were forcing them to stay together so tightly they could barely even move without bumping into one another. The bluish fog was back, and this time it was so thick they were truly blind, Richard being the only one able to see even a few feet forward, and even then that wasn't saying too much as the constantly appearing trees stopped him from seeing much without feeling confused himself.
"Ow!" Estelle's voice was heard in the darkness. "Hey! Who stepped on me?"
"I think it was me..."
"Well, who's 'me'?" Estelle replied.
"What?!" the Espeon's voice was heard as well. "Hey, I didn't do anything!"
"Sure you did! It was you! You, not me!"
All kept going, not aware that they were being followed. The black blur moved from tree to tree while keeping its distance; stalking them, waiting and watching. Scanning the group and seeing: Which ones could he take first?
Yes...the Luxray and Pikachu have anger in their hearts. The Glaceon and Espeon have doubts. The Buneary is insecure, and the Absol is jealous, if only in a very slight way. The Murkrow has nothing but darkness, but a noble one at that, and the Leafeon...she fears, too. One by one, until the Absol remains, just like the master told me. Then we shall let her know. I believe she knows already, though she chooses to be silent. I will have to see...
"Do you even know where we're headed?"
"Of course I do! We're going east to reach the mountains. THEN, I'll be able to tell where we have to go!"
"But...how do we know we're going east?"
"See?! We're going nowhere!"
"You'll only get us lost more!"
"And that monster's on the prowl!"
"I wanna go home..."
"It's too late for that!"
"I hope we get out of here oka-"
"-Nobody asked you what your thoughts were!"
"Alright, everyone quiet down!" Leon's voice was heard, lost in the foggy shadows. "The last thing we need is a fight, so please, let's all get along before one of us gets hu-whoooooaaaah!" was all he could finish saying before feeling something suddenly get in his leg's way, causing him to fall and roll down a slope, hitting the ground with a thump. Shortly after, he heard several other thumps, letting him know the others had met the same impediment. Fortunately for them, their vision was improved, as several clear wisps hovering in a near-mesmerizing way illuminated the area.
"Ow..." Tiffany got up, rubbing her head with her paw and feeling to see if her barrette was still in place. "What happened?"
"I think we fell," Midori replied, shaking some of the dirt off herself.
"Oh, you don't say?" Sasha huffed, brushing more of the grayish dirt from her paw before continuing. "You're so smart. Have you considered becoming a private eye?"
"Sasha, please," Phoebe told the Glaceon, "leave her alone. Tiffany asked, and Midori answered."
"Well I'm just saying..."
"But we DID fall, right?" Estelle asked, peeking behind her as she sensed something dash between two trees.
"No," Richard replied, "someone - well, something - tripped us."
"Yeah," Leon looked at the Luxray, then at the trees. He could feel whatever it was he had on his mind had intensified, and was now even accompanied by the faintest buzz. "Let's just keep on. Everyone okay?"
"I know I am," Nocturne said as he fluttered down, Minuet following behind him as he took the very first lesson in flying with relative ease.
"I think I'm bruised," Midori said, looking back, trying to see her left hind leg. "It hurts..."
"Well, there's sadder stuff in life," Sasha cuttingly answered before looking at Leon. "Come on! Why's everyone so down?! Move!"
"Um..." the Leafeon looked at Phoebe with a slightly sad expression, "why is she so mean to me?"
"I don't know," the princess answered, looking back at her friend, "she's probably still upset about everything that happened last night, Mido. Besides, she's special about some things. Kind of like...well, kind of like a kit, really. Just give her time."
"I hope you're right," Midori looked down, saddened. "I really want us to be friends; I like her."
"Okay." Leon stretched a little before looking down a path illuminated by more wisps than the others. The trees themselves seemed to open around it, as if indicating that the path was meant to be traveled. "Let's keep moving. I bet there's something interesting down that road."
The more open path allowed the group to move with far more freedom than before, though that wasn't much of an improvement. Every now and then one of them would turn around and look behind them as some of the trees rustled. Yet they were not aware: They might have gotten to a better-looking part of the woods, but they had also dropped into his territory...
Prey draws near...
"Okay, that's just plain unsettling," Sasha commented, looking around. "Did you guys hear that?"
"It's the monster," Midori answered. "He came for us..."
"Now, let's not be scared," Phoebe added. "Let's stick together and we'll be just fine, right?"
"Yeah," Leon and Richard answered at the same time, the Pikachu sticking closer to Tiffany while the Luxray made sure to keep the same distance from Sasha and Estelle.
"Can't be far now," Nocturne simply commented.
I think I'll have the two of you first...
The blur dashed so fast between Leon and Richard the two could barely react to it in time to see it fly back into the trees.
"Hmm..." The Pikachu looked, scratching the ruff on his head for a moment. "Wonder what he'll do..."
"Ignore it and walk," the Luxray replied.
"Please don't stray too far from me, Leon..." Tiffany shivered slightly, hugging the Pikachu's arm.
Leon just kept walking forward, feeling a slight chill in his spine as he sensed his stalker approach him and follow him from behind.
Such guilt, such anger...I can't blame you for it. After all the things that have happened to you...how do you know the world wouldn't have been better if you had just stayed where you were meant to be? Leon wouldn't have died; Tiffany would be safe in her home. So much of what has happened has because of you. Your self-righteous vengeance masked by heroism will accomplish nothing.
Leon held his head down, trying to ignore him, but he couldn't. Part of what he was told still managed to get into his mind and gnaw at him, and the buzzing...the horrible buzzing! For the first time ever, and with no real reason he could tell, he felt like his sanity, no, his very being was being pulled out of him. He tried to focus; at least everyone was silent, just following along the path. But it was pointless. He was listening to those words, and taking every bit of them in.
Next came the Luxray's turn. He simply ignored the voice as much as he could.
Such remorse. You cannot escape what you have done and what has been done because of you. All those lives...bury those memories deep inside if you want, but they'll come back. Everything comes back to haunt you sooner or later...
"I don't really give a damn," Richard grunted. "What's done is done. Life goes on."
You say that, yet you know it to be a lie. You can feel my words. Such a pathetic husk of a creature you are...and to make matters worse, to have two females and not really lover either back.
"I love them both," Richard muttered back, "you don't understand it. When I have a chance I'll talk to them about it, but I have to wait." When he got no answer, he quietly sighed in relief, but he, too, felt the words hit him. More than anything because he knew what the voices meant. Hopefully that memory could stay hidden.
**Don't listen to him! Come on, you're over that!**
'Don't start. Just...please, keep quiet.'
You are a real mystery...so many memories and deeds haunt you, but which are really yours? I feel perplexed to stare into your mind, Leon. Or, should I call you...Elys? That's who you are! I knew I had the disgrace of meeting you before. But how...what happened to you? It matters not. My master has spoken, and I will obey...
Leon perked his ears at those words. Had that monster just called him "Elys," the name he sometimes dreamt of? What did he mean? He was just being toyed with, he thought. But a part of him got a spike in his curiosity. He needed to know more.
Ah, but you are not aware. So intriguing...perhaps I should introduce you to HIM. HE is sure to make you remember a thing or two. That 'Hero'...
Dead leaves cracked under the group's steps as they kept advancing, at least giving evidence that the trees in that part of the forest had more life in them than the rest, though they were still far from being what anyone would expect to see in a healthy forest. The air got even colder than before, almost as if night had already fallen on them again; an unsettling thing, seeing how they had just gotten up from sleep about an hour ago. Leon thought a fairly good amount of that cold was to blame on their stalker, and he'd be surprised if he were wrong. Next, the soft velvet-like fur on Phoebe's back stood on end as her turn came to listen to what the monster had to say.
Oh, but...perhaps, if I were prettier...perhaps mother would hold me, if only once. But she is always mad at me! I...I just...what did I do wrong?!
The Espeon's expression saddened a little as she heard this. Mostly because she knew those words: the same words she had once told herself long ago, back when she was still little. She felt a single tear forming in the corner of her right eye, but she held it in. Time had passed, after all, and she couldn't say she hadn't enjoyed most of it.
Nothing makes her happy. Nothing! Sometimes I wonder if I even should have been born. Maybe if I tried to be more like her...
Such pain in your heart, your highness, and with a good cause. How can a regent be so unloved by her land as you are? You are not welcome in either of the lands of which you are a noble, yet you believe what your father tells you when he says you will always have a home with him...silly child. You have no home and no future ahead. Mark my words, you will meet your end as you lived: Cold, alone, and with no one by your side. What is it like? No friends, no love, no shoulder to cry upon and no one to cling to just to know you are still alive except for that one wish that a long-gone lover will return?
"I know..." Phoebe murmured as she let that tear go. Her feeling didn't go unnoticed by Midori, who walked a little closer, trying to comfort her.
"Don't listen to it, Phoebe, no matter what it says. It just wants to make you feel bad, but you mustn't let it do it!"
"Yeah, I know," Phoebe answered lowly, keeping her head down, "but I can't just ignore it, either. I can't make myself deaf."
And what about you, strong and fearless adventurer?
Sasha looked behind her just as it passed, managing to get a glimpse of nothing but black.
"Yeah? What about me, smartass?"
How did you sleep last night? Did you enjoy it, feeling the disgrace of what happened settle in your womb? You silently wept for yourself, did you not? To have that wound open again...to feel the same disgust you did when that traitorous charmer made you what you are. Heartbroken maiden, shattering the hearts of others because one did not care...
"Listen to yourself, thinking you know me," the Glaceon growled. "Go away before you regret it."
And what will you do? Cry for your hero to come help you? Or perhaps cry for your brother, like you used to do at night when your nightmares came? But he will not come, will he? He can't come to your aid anymore. He is gone, his last thoughts being how he wasted his life taking care of his burden of a sister when he could have seen more of the world instead.
"Well, you hit your mark," Sasha sighed, looking down as well, almost like everyone else was doing at that moment. The monster was making everyone lose their will to move forward in one way or the other, only truly poking at the two he wanted to drag away. "That's a sad thing...but you're not getting me on that last bit. My brother and I meant everything to each other, and I know he would have always chosen to take care of me rather than going out in an adventure."
Perhaps feeling a slight disappointment at being unable to get Sasha on such a bad mood as the others, this time, the stalker went for Tiffany.
But you, child...you are an odd one to see travelling through these parts. So few and small scars on you...but there are ways. You know what I tell you is true. Of course he does not love you! The moment he grows tired of taking you with him, he'll leave you alone and lost somewhere.
"No way!" The bunny shook her head, holding the Pikachu closer. "Leon would never! He's the only one I know would never leave me alone!"
Of course he would. No one loves you, accident child. Not even your own mother did. Or do you really think she left for the greater good? She just wanted any excuse to have a moment away from you. And who wouldn't?!
"Please stop..." Tiffany closed her eyes, sobbing as she heard those last words. Perhaps because she herself had already thought that once, shortly after her mother left. Having that pain return was terrible.
"Don't be scared," Leon told her, holding her as close to her as he could in a protective way, "I'm here..."
Satisfied with this outcome, the creature went back to the one he knew would respond the most to what he was about to say. He slowly fluttered back to the Luxray and murmured at him again.
Such a terrible pain she felt. The terror, the sight of all that violence...she was frozen in fear. She called for you, begging you could come! She begged for her father to come protect her...but where was he? For her, life would not go on...that's right, life does not go on. In fact, your sweet, young daughter can bear witness to tha-
"SHUT UP!" the feline roared, turning around at a huge speed and launching perhaps the strongest Thunderbolt anyone had seen straight at the bushes in which their enemy hid. Everything seemed to have happened so fast as the attack struck the tree, followed by a very brief silence before a pained hiss was heard and something fell off the tree into the dead bushes below. "I've had it listening to your bull! Go the hell away, and leave us alone!" he finished, panting, eyes glowing in anger at what he had been told.
Now, the dark one had to admit he was not expecting that reaction so soon. In his still-dazed condition, he deemed it wiser to stay away for the time being, until his prey felt safe enough that they would not expect him. He quickly got up straight and scrambled away before the Luxray or any others had a chance to see if he was still there.
Immediately after he chose to go away, he made sure to convey news of his retreat to them. The chill in the air began to disappear, and what little fog there was began to clear away. The tension the place itself had began to disappear as even some light made its way through the trees and into the ground.
"Well, look at that," Leon commented, seeing the light hit the road right in front of him, then back at Richard, "I think you did it!"
**Don't get confident, now. The only way to defeat that adversary is to admit that what he tells you, no matter how painful, is usually true.**
"But we shouldn't feel too safe," Leon finished still looking thoughtful. He wanted to believe that was the end of it, but after what he had just heard in his mind, he knew fate wouldn't be so kind.
"Not safe?!" Sasha replied. "Richard did it! That thing's zapped dead and you know it!"
"No..." Phoebe interrupted with an unnerved tone, looking around in hopes of sensing something. "He vanished way too quickly. That's not normal."
"I agree," Nocturne added, raising his dark wing to point at the rays of light, "That's not normal. Darkness like this does not just disappear."
"So...should we go on?" Midori asked, sighing in relief at the thought the monster wouldn't haunt her anymore.
"No, let's not!" Sasha replied, annoyed. "Let's all sit here and relax! Let's have a picnic if you want! Get a move on, already, Miss Obvious Questions!"
"Come on, don't be like that," Richard told her in an almost scolding way. "Makes you look bad."
"Fine...but we're not done!" She looked at the Leafeon one last time before continuing her walk forward, the others following so she would not stray apart and get in trouble again.
We are not done, indeed...
Estelle heard the whisper behind her and walked as close to the Luxray as she could, hoping to gain shelter from whatever it was he could tell her.
Time went by faster now that the forest had lost some of its dreaded darkness and fog as the group made its way through an ever-widening path. Every step they took moved them closer to what they hoped was the end of the forest and, because of that, it brought them new hopes to continue forward. Eventually, they came to a stop, just for a moment, in a surprisingly wide area to the right of the road. Places like that were usually a relief for travelers, but in this case it fell far too low for what their expectations would be, considering the place they were. Quickly agreeing, they sat to rest in a circle, just for a few minutes so they could catch their breath.
"Well-earned rest!" Nocturne sighed as he slumped down next to a tree, almost sitting, the Swablu chick mimicking his actions.
"Couldn't have walked one more minute!" Leon said, sitting down next to Tiffany with a tired expression, showing more fatigue than anyone else. He couldn't explain why, but that forest seemed to have the strangest effect on him. The headaches, the voices, the thoughts and even tiring out much faster than he should. He was convinced no one would feel gladder than he would the moment they got out.
"What a place..." Richard grunted, slowly lying down opposite to the Pikachu, closing his eyes for a moment. "I've seen and done a lot, but I've never hated any place more than this one."
**You have to brace yourselves,** Leon heard, **talk about things. The secrets he exposes to destroy your spirit mean nothing when you know others understand how you feel...**
"So, I've been thinking, " Leon started, opting to listen to the voice's advice, "That monster kept telling us stuff we didn't like. Maybe it wouldn't bother us so much if we talked about them."
His words were met by a deadly silence. No one really wanted to talk about painful things, let alone have someone else know them. Perhaps if he started?
"Okay...I, for one," the Pikachu continued, "felt compelled to leave the Midnight Voices. At first my thoughts were to join the Lizean resistance, but things went another way and I arrived at Ruby Plains. There I met a Pikachu named Leon. He became the best friend I ever had, and because of me...just because of being who I am..." he seemed to have a hard time getting those words out, "he died a painful death at the hands of an oversized idiot. All I wanted was to get back at him, and destroy the Voices for good. It weighed upon me that he died. I took the name Leon myself, but for a while, I thought, 'Maybe if I hadn't left, none of this would have happened.' But I know I'm doing the right thing. I'm not leaving what I want to do, no matter what I'm told. Leon's death was my fault, but that's why living his dream of becoming a hero is my responsibility, and I won't quit." He waited for a moment, hoping someone else would talk. Fortunately, Phoebe chose to follow.
"Okay," the Espeon started, "when I was little...well, I guess you could say I was never really loved by my mother. She always pointed out anything I did wrong, and always scolded me for the smallest reasons while she celebrated everything my sister did. It was like," she sobbed, "like, I only came to the world for her to have someone to yell at! I just wanted to die...I had my father all along, though. Anytime I felt bad, he'd be there to talk to me and tell me my mother was like that at me because she knew I was destined to do great things, and she wanted me to be strong. Now I know he only wanted to cheer me up. Then the war came. I couldn't find a better way to say, 'You want me gone? I'm gone' than to join in. As time passed she became less severe at me, but she still seeks out little details to scold me for. And, what that monster that's been following us helped me remember..." she sobbed again, on the verge of tears. Sasha leant closer to her to cheer her up if anything got too emotional. "A day before the Blood Valley incident..." she couldn't hold it in anymore as she broke into tears, leaning on Sasha, "Misha proposed to me! The only one I ever knew would love me! He wanted us to run away together when we came back...and...and..."
"Come on, calm down," Sasha leant on her friend as well. "I know it hurts, but quiet down..."
"And Misha disappeared!" Phoebe finished crying, the crystal-clear tears sliding from her purple eyes down her cheeks.
"Cheer up, Sunny, he's okay!" Estelle moved closer as well. "I know he is!" Tiffany and Midori got up and walked towards the Espeon as well, leaving Leon, Nocturne and Richard together.
"Nice job, making her cry," Richard looked at Leon. "There's a reason why thoughts and feelings are sometimes kept quiet."
"And what about you?" Leon looked back at the Luxray, hoping that perhaps his story would make him feel less sad after making Phoebe cry. He knew the feline's tale would make the princess' look like a happy-ending to a kid's bedtime story.
"None of your business," Richard grunted.
"I'm sorry, but it was a terrible idea," Nocturne told the Pikachu. "You shouldn't bring out painful memories. It only makes everyone lose focus and feel sad."
"I guess it was a little stupid of me..."
=== THE FOREST MONSTER
The group's resting time in that dead clearing had been greatly extended, mainly because of the time spent trying to comfort Phoebe and staring resentfully at Leon for making her remember that. The Pikachu thought it would have been a good idea; after all, that voice he heard had never lied to him before, nor said anything that would bring him any harm. But he had screwed up on that one, and he'd probably have to apologize to the Espeon later, once everyone was done looking at him like an outcast. It took some more time of him saying he was sorry before the anger cooled off a little. Now prepared to leave, they got back on track, heading deeper down the path into the forest.
They hadn't kept walking for five minutes when the light disappeared again, being replaced by the gloomy darkness from earlier. The air began to chill again as the blue fog made its return and the wisps disappeared. Leon instantly took this as a sign. The dreadful aspect of the forest had returned, and their stalker had returned with it.
Did you think me dead?
Leon looked up, hearing the source of the voice above them. Richard followed soon after along with Sasha and the rest. Everyone had heard him this time...and more than one seemed surprised to realize their enemy was back.
I cannot depart so easily, I'm afraid. My task must be fulfilled first...
"Just what do you want with us?!" Sasha barked up angrily at the dark treetops, looking for any hint of where exactly he was so she could hit him.
"Yeah, leave us alone!" Tiffany added, raising her right paw at him as well. "We just want to get out of here, and we're not even bothering you!"
Your vile steps pollute this beautiful forest. You have so much light in you, it disturbs the spirits in here. I was ordered by my master to bring an end to you, before you can spread that light to the rest of the world. That is my most-honorable task.
"But, who is your master?!" Leon asked as well, getting ready to jump in case a fight ensued.
He is one who wants only what is best for the world...
"He mustn't want such good things if he hates light..." Midori muttered. "Please, jus-" She couldn't finish as she was tripped and thrown upwards by a vine that suddenly emerged from one of the trees. Shrieking in fear with her delicate voice, she was suddenly wrapped by another vine, with several others following and holding her in place.
"That's it," Leon said as he jumped towards the vines, sprouting the claws from his hands again and slashing the plants off. The Leafeon fell on her rump with a low thud, slowly getting up and shaking herself aware while the vines retracted with a hiss. Leon quickly tried to hide the claws, remembering that, again, no one besides Tiffany had seen them. Much to his surprise, however, he seemed to have a harder time doing it than usual.
"Thanks..." the grass-type sighed shyly, blushing lightly. "For a moment, I was really scared..."
"Don't worry about it!" Leon nodded, looking back up and gesturing at the spot where he believed the monster was. "Got anything else?! Come on!"
"Leon!" Tiffany swatted the Pikachu on the shoulder. "Don't taunt him!"
However, no answer came. Leon didn't know exactly when it happened, but the forest monster had already retreated. Either that, or he wanted them to believe that, but he wasn't so sure.
Just then, a strong wind blew, so powerful it seemed to drag the trees apart, turning the path into an enormous clearing. It blew so strongly Nocturne was blown away, grabbing Minuet in his talons and almost miraculously being caught by Estelle before being overpowered by the wind.
In that moment, no light shone in them, even when the trees were no longer around to cover them. Leon then realized a giant dark cloud was set ominously above the woods, effectively stopping any sunlight from reaching them. A softer, cold breeze was felt before the shadow appeared amidst a sudden cloud of blue fog.
Leon immediately recognized what their pursuer was: the cloak-like body, ragged and slashed, greyed out by the passing of time; the long wizard's hat, suffering from the same conditions and casting a shadow over his face, leaving only his grizzly, emotionless eyes to shine malevolently in the shadows; and a red gem necklace made of dull jewels that looked like they would have been exceptionally bright at some point in time. It was a Mismagius, and an extremely old one at that. However, he was different in another aspect. His cloak was black as the night, and the spots that would normally be a clear shade of pink were a dark, crimson red. He stared at everyone, focusing his attention on Estelle.
"Hi..." Estelle took a few steps back, unnerved. Why was that thing talking to her?
I came here for you. Let us depart back to your home. My master does not like to be kept waiting...
"N-no! My home is here, with my Kitty!"
The ghost hovered slowly towards Estelle, only to be interrupted by Richard, who stopped in a fighting stance right in front of him, baring his fangs and letting sparks come from his body.
Of course, you can bring your..."pet" as well. Haven't you ever noticed being different? Being special, even for your species? Like the times in which you can tell what will happen before it does? Come with me. We can let you know everything. Your dreams, your gifts...everything...
"Stay away," Richard grunted, looking at the spectre. "If you come even a bit closer, I will tear at you till there's nothing left."
"But...but what I see...those are bad things!" Estelle answered, moving closer to Richard as if seeking the Luxray's protection as everyone else watched, not wanting to step in to avoid any problems with either the Mismagius or Richard himself. "I don't want to know why I see them!"
Very well...I suppose your sister and her son might be more willing...
"Wait!" Estelle said immediately upon hearing those words. "Please don't hurt them! I'll do what you want!"
"Don't listen to him, Estelle!" Leon walked and stopped in front of the Mismagius. "If you want any troubles with her, you'll have to get through us!"
"Yeah, we won't let you hurt her!" Tiffany did the same, joining Leon and Richard.
"After all the stuff you've been telling us, I've been itching to kick your ass!" Sasha barked, joining the others. "Come on!"
"You made me suffer like I hadn't in a long time," Phoebe grimly commented, "and now it's our turn."
"I can peck at you all day, you excuse for a scarecrow!" Nocturne ruffled his feathers, placing Minuet to the side and stopping next to Phoebe.
"I...I'm not...I'm not afraid!" Midori joined them as well.
Well, this might not go in my favor...
The Mismagius stared at the crew of angry Pokémon that had gathered in front of him, ready to defend his mark.
It is time to call HIM...HE can deal with you. Come forth, Oliver! These fools wish to defile our forest!
A violent rustle was heard among the trees in the distance before a clear blur bolted out of them, landing in front of the group, ready to fight as the Mismagius disappeared. His body was covered in fine, creamy fur, slightly greyed out by the years, much like the Mismagius' cloak. His fur got darker the closer it got to his paws, ending in a dark brown with orange leaves sprouting from them, the very same that formed his ears and tail. The Leafeon seemed to be extremely old, and had his eyes covered by a black blindfold.
This is the hero of the woodlands! If you are, as you say, a hero, you will have no problems defeating him!
"And I'm about to prove it," Leon murmured as he walked forward, looking back at the others. "This guy's mine..." He looked the Leafeon up and down before saying, "So, your name's Oliver, huh? I think I knew a guy who had that name...I don't remember. Come on, then. It's cool to meet a real hero. I just didn't think I'd have to fight him."
"Silence, vile rat," the Leafeon, who had been quiet until then, answered, "I won't allow anyone to defile my home. For years, I have kept it beautiful and pure, safe from outsiders like you. And I do not intend to stop! Have at you!" Not giving Leon a chance to react, Oliver lunged at him, slamming his side into the Pikachu and sending him back, following with a slam from his tail that hurt more than he would have guessed.
Leon got up, shaking himself aware and looking at Oliver. It was impossible to tell what he was really thinking because of the blindfold, but he had to beat him. He knew that much. "Time to hit back!" Leon put his hands together and the small flame formed in them, which he threw at Oliver. It hit the Leafeon full on, causing him to snarl in pain, getting ready to pounce at Leon.
**Don't do that! Oliver's not himself! Don't hurt him!**
'And why should I trust you now?!' Leon thought as he was knocked down by the Leafeon and began struggling with him on the ground.
**I'm sorry I made your pretty little friend cry, but trust me, that's necessary! Now, listen! It's not about strength; it's about wits! Take off the blindfold! Let him see what his forest has become!**
'And you're not lying?!' Leon got the upper hand, throwing Oliver off him against the trees.
**No, I want you dead as you can be. Of course I'm not lying!**
'Okay.' Leon got ready for Oliver to dash at him again, and the moment they made contact, he dodged him and jumped on the Leafeon's back, beginning to undo the blindfold, or at least trying to, as it seemed to be glued in place.
"Get off my back at once! Fight me with courage, you coward!"
"Oh, shut up!" Leon swatted the grass-type on the side of the head as he continued to tug and pull at the cloth.
"Let go at once!"
The Leafeon shook and pranced around trying to knock Leon off his back, growling angrily before Leon finally managed to succeed.
"Gotcha!" Leon pulled the blindfold off in victory, jumping off Oliver's back and holding it up.
"What..." The Leafeon opened his eyes, the hazel in them receiving sight of the world for the very first time in hundreds of years. He gasped in terror as he saw the forest, tears forming in his eyes. "But how...my...my forest! How..." he sobbed in anger before turning and looking furiously at Leon. "You did this! Prepare to meet your end, you bastard!"
"Wait, what?!" Leon jumped back as the anger-fueled Oliver leapt at him, the leaves in his paws glowing and growing, getting ready to slash at him. He was inches away from the mouse when chunks of ice crashed against the side of his face. He stopped and turned around to see Sasha and immediately switched targets, lunging at her instead to be stopped midair by Richard, who began fighting with him on the grassy ground.
Nocturne, Phoebe, Tiffany and Estelle had pulled back to guard the chick in case of trouble and just watched as the four-Pokémon fight developed before them, with a frightened Midori standing in the midst of the battlefield, looking in anguish at the fight.
"Please..." she cried, "stop!"
"What?!" Oliver stopped in his tracks upon hearing her, turning to look at his kindred with a different emotion forming in his eyes. "You...but..." He walked serenely towards her. Leon thought of stopping him but Oliver seemed caught in a different feeling than the one before.
"Please...we didn't do anything wrong! This forest was already like this when we entered! It was the monster, not us!"
"You are her living image," Oliver spoke. "I...I believe you...but then..." He looked back at Leon. "You are...but how?" He walked up to Leon before looking at Sasha and Richard as well. "I'm sorry. It's hard to believe I could have been so blind with my eyes open. Now...come out, you cur! You will pay for making my home die!"
You are of no further use to me...
The Mismagius appeared behind Oliver to strike him, but before Leon even had a chance to warn him, the Leafeon quickly turned around, and, with one swift slash, made the Mismagius disappear with a hollow roar.
"That will be the last of him," Oliver looked back at Leon. "I was a fool...I apologize. My home is dead, and, as I failed to keep it safe, I know it is only fair that I leave with it." He looked at Midori in an almost endeared way, as if the female was a girl he hadn't seen in years. "I know you are not her, but I want you to know this: I'm sorry for everything, and I want you to know I will always love you." He turned and began to walk away before telling them, "The exit is that way." He looked east. "Go...I will bring life back to this place."
"Goodbye..." Midori whispered, watching him leave. She couldn't explain why, but his words really reached her. She felt a strange sadness in her heart to watch him disappear, but would have to ponder on it later as Leon looked east to see light actually entering the forest. The air had become clean again and the fog had cleared. The forest was just a regular place now, free of the curse it once held.
"Thanks, Oliver!" Leon called at the Leafeon. "There goes a hero...now, come on!" He began running toward the light, with everyone else following. "We're out! We're out!"
He felt the sun hit him fully as he left the shade of the last tree and stepped out into the vivid green grass, lying down on it and looking at the clear blue sky.
"Oh, man..." he sighed in relief, the others arriving soon. "We did it! We did it!" He jumped to hug Richard, who was the closest.
"Y-Yeah," the Luxray snapped awkwardly, "we did..."
"Now, on to the mountains!" Sasha cheered, dashing forwards to the rocky formations in the distance.
"Hey..." Leon told Phoebe, walking at a calmer pace next to her once they caught up to the Glaceon, "I want to tell you I'm sorry about earlier. I-"
"It's okay," Phoebe nodded, "Everyone has to vent emotions every now and then. And I know Misha is alive. My heart tells me he is."
"Misha?" Midori suddenly asked, noticing the name. "Misha Frost?"
"Wait, you know him?!" Sasha and Phoebe asked at the same time, Richard listening up as well.
"Of course I do! He's the sweetest guy ever! He's the one that showed me to the ruins! Said 'his employer' wanted me to have a look!"
"What...?" Sasha began to pant with excitement, shivering a little. "When was that?! When?!" She walked so close to the Leafeon she made her a little too nervous.
"Like a week ago or so!" Midori replied in panic. "Why?!"
Sasha looked at Richard and then at Phoebe before yelling, "Off to Isa Yuka!" in excitement and dashing off again.
"Sasha, wait! Come back!"