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The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

Chapter 31: Spirit

Mark blinked, not sure where he was. He stared into the white ceiling for a few seconds while hearing the thunderstorm roar outside, and slowly remembered the events of the previous day.

Chaletwo broke into my dream, he then realized. I have… I have three more Pokémon to catch…

He stroked over his face with his right hand, finding out that he was a bit sweaty. He sleepily reached for his digital watch on the bedside table and looked at it; it was ten AM on the ninth of June.

Ninth of June.

He had turned twelve a few hours ago.

He blinked again. Twelve. He had looked forward to turning twelve. It was a much nicer number than eleven, somehow. Now he’d have to remember to answer twelve when asked about his age.

Of course, the nice, pleasant birthday thoughts didn’t take long to turn into “Perhaps I’ll never live to be thirteen…” He shook it off, quietly sat up and got dressed before waking his Pokémon up.

There was a knock on his door. “Mark? We should train for the Gym a bit, shouldn’t we? I’m going, at least, and Alan is tagging along – if you want to come, then come now.”

“Yeah, I’m coming,” Mark called back and recalled his Pokémon. He took out his Pokédex and switched Scyther to the computer; the mantis was still slightly ahead of his other Pokémon in level, and it might be good to let him rest after yesterday, anyway.

He walked up to the door and opened it to find both May and Alan outside.

“Slow,” May muttered as they walked along the corridor and down the stairs to the entrance.

Outside, the weather had gotten somewhat better since yesterday – it was not raining as much, although the clouds still loomed in the sky and released occasional bolts of lightning. Perhaps Thunderyu is sleeping more soundly now, he figured, soon afterwards realizing that May and Alan didn’t know about his dream.

“Um… Chaletwo sorta… broke into my dream tonight,” he muttered as they were coming close to Ruxido. A small stream flowed in soft bends out of the forest close by.

May turned around and raised an eyebrow. “He ‘sorta’ broke into your dream? Did he or didn’t he?”

Mark gritted his teeth. “Either that or he woke me up and teleported me up on that mountain over there in my pajamas in the middle of the night.” To emphasize his point, he pointed frustratedly to the mountain, which he was quick to recognize as definitely the same mountain as the one in the dream. He could almost feel Thunderyu nearly conscious in some hidden chamber deep inside the rock. He shivered.

May shrugged. “Well, if all you wanted to tell us was that Chaletwo took you on an imaginary mountain hike…”

“It’s not all I wanted to tell you!” Mark shouted. “Will you just listen to me?”

“Then what…” May couldn’t finish the sentence; Alan elbowed her very hard with a just-shut-up sideways glance before she could finish it. She trod down on his foot without looking at him.

“So, er… what did Chaletwo say?” Alan asked in a pained voice, making no attempts to get her off his feet.

Mark stared at them. “Um, he just told me there are three crazy dragons added to all those insanely many legendaries I have to try to catch somehow.”

They blinked.

“More?” May asked. “What the heck? Weren’t you already supposed to catch all the legendaries?”

Mark wasn’t sure whether to tell them the whole story of the creation of the dragons; something told him not to, and he had a distinct suspicion that this something was Chaletwo’s doing. Going around the truth, he said, “Well, basically, he thought those were already taken care of, but they weren’t.”

May’s left eyebrow ascended on her forehead. “Umm… so… where are those new legendaries of yours? Does Chaletwo even know?”

“One is inside that mountain over there,” Mark said and pointed. “Supposedly it’s what’s causing the thunderstorms here…”

“In Thunderclap Cave?” Alan asked curiously. “My dad went there with some scientists to research the cause of the storm, but their sensors didn’t find any signs of an Electric Pokémon.”

“Thunderyu is closed away sleeping in a chamber that only my eyes can see,” Chaletwo’s telepathic voice said before Mark could reply. “To any other sensors, he is invisible. Thunderyu will most likely break from his chamber into Thunderclap Cave once he is fully conscious, and then crawl out of it and find the other dragons… We will have to be ready to meet him when he comes.”

Alan blinked. “When should this happen?”

“Soon,” Chaletwo sighed. “Very soon…”

“Why don’t we just break in and take Thunderyu while it’s still half-conscious?” May suggested.

“The chambers are made so that only the dragons themselves can break out of them…” In a spiteful tone, Chaletwo added privately to Mark, “I was too ingenious when I was young.”

Wait… Mark suddenly thought, you’re keeping them asleep, right? Can’t you lift it off for example Thunderyu, and then you’ll have more energy to keep the others sleeping?

“Mark just had a good idea,” Chaletwo said quickly to all of them. “I can wake them up one at a time, you can fight them, and then the others will sleep longer.”

May looked skeptically at Mark and frowned. “That doesn’t make sense,” she said. “Why would the others sleep longer if one is awake?”

Chaletwo sighed. “Don’t you think I know it better than you?” he said grumpily.

May raised an eyebrow and glanced suspiciously at Mark, but didn’t ask. He was very relieved.

“Still,” Chaletwo added, “it’s not a good idea to fight Thunderyu immediately. He is too powerful. You should have time to train your Pokémon some.”

“You know, Chaletwo,” May said slowly, “why don’t you just Death Stare them? That way we’re rid of them for good in just a few seconds, without having to put ourselves or our Pokémon in danger. Sounds like a much better idea if you ask me. I understand you wouldn’t want to kill the other legendaries in cold blood, I mean, you’ve probably known them for a while, but hasn’t this Thunderyu guy just been stuck inside a mountain sleeping for a thousand years? Nobody can be very personally attached to him.”

There was a very long silence. May folded her arms; Alan looked a bit doubtful.

“I… they… I couldn’t…” Chaletwo said shakily after a long while. “I mean… I’ve gotten weaker…” Then his voice died down.

Mark got another very skeptical look from May, but she still did not say anything.

“Chaletwo?” Mark asked carefully, but got no answer.

May shrugged. “Well, if we have to do things the hard way, he told us to train, didn’t he? Sounds like a good idea to me.”

Still a bit worried, Mark nodded and looked anxiously at his Pokéballs as if worried that one of them had disappeared. He shook his head at himself.

“Um… is there anything I can help you with?” asked a hesitant voice. Mark jerked his head upwards and saw a young man of maybe nineteen or twenty approaching them along with two bipedal Pokémon that resembled strange hybrids of rodents and reptiles. One of them was a purple, masculine Nidoking with a long, pointed horn; the other was a more feminine-looking blue Nidoqueen.

“What? Help? No. Why?” May asked.

The man shrugged. “Well, my Pokémon noticed something although they aren’t sure what exactly it was, and when I went to check on it, you looked a bit upset for a second.”

Mark looked at him. “We’re fine, but are you a Pokémon trainer? We were about to train for the Gym. A battle would be nice, if you have the time.”

“Sure,” the man said, digging into his pocket and taking out a few Pokéballs.

“Wait a minute,” May interrupted, “either you’re seriously overgrown or you’re several years older than him. How strong are your Pokémon?”

Mark felt stupid not to have considered that, but the man shook his head. “I’m studying to be a breeder. I don’t really battle a lot, so they’re just level forty-ish. Four on four?”

Mark nodded and walked a few steps away to leave room for the Pokémon to act. “Go, Sandslash!” he shouted and threw forward a Pokéball which burst open and sent out his pangolin Pokémon.

“Oh, yeah, and my name is Dan,” the man added with a slight smile, looking at the Pokéballs in his palm and picking one. “Go, Lanturn!”

He threw the ball and it popped open just above the surface of the stream, sending out a blue anglerfish Pokémon with a yellow mask around its eyes. The natural fishing rod extending from its head had a yellow bulb at the end of it.

Mark looked at it and narrowed his eyes. This would be rather difficult for Sandslash if he was not going to get wet; Earthquake’s ripples would not affect it through the water and aside from that, Sandslash only really knew Slash and maybe Poison Sting. Defense Curl. Something like that. None of it would be of much help without taking risks.

Oh well. He was feeling brave on his birthday.

“Sandslash, I know it sounds crazy, but jump into the water and try to get a Poison Sting in.”

“Lanturn, don’t let him get you!” Dan quickly countered as Sandslash rushed towards the stream and dived in without question. He gasped for air and it suddenly dawned on to Mark how loyal Sandslash always was. He couldn’t ever recall him disobeying a command, no matter how hurt it would result in him getting. He felt a little bit guilty; did Sandslash really have a reason to trust him so much? He watched as Sandslash attempted to swim, but Lanturn was much faster and avoided him fairly easily while he tried to attack.

“Spark,” Dan said simply, and in an instant the stream was filled with showers of electric sparks. Sandslash screamed somewhere in the middle of it all; he may have been a Ground type, but in the water he was still vulnerable to electricity…

“Get out of there!” Mark shouted in panic, but then he heard the Lanturn screech and saw that somehow, Sandslash had managed to stab a claw into the fish’s body. A few drops of purple fluid were dissolving into the water while Sandslash desperately climbed back onto the bank, cold and shivering.

“Water Gun!” Dan ordered, and the Lanturn, after shutting its eyes briefly in pain as the poison hurt it, raised its head above the surface of the water and squirted a stream of water from its mouth at the weak pangolin Pokémon. Sandslash shut his eyes and allowed his consciousness to drift away. There was nothing Mark could do.

He paused. “Err, go, Jolteon.”

Mark’s own Electric Pokémon let out a battle cry as he materialized from his Pokéball on the ground. He crouched down and watched the fish Pokémon carefully, charging up electricity in his fur and then, without an order, released a bolt of lightning at Lanturn.

Mark didn’t have anything against this turn of events; he had been planning to do that anyway. However, the fact that the fish did not seem hurt at all by the jolt of electricity – if anything, it looked healthier than before – was very puzzling.

Jolteon looked with annoyance at the Lanturn and did the same again, equally unsuccessful at hurting it.

Dan smirked. “Water Pulse.”

The fish jumped up and spat out waves of water that hit Jolteon powerfully. He moaned and squeezed his eyes shut; then he shook his spiky fur and retaliated with a flurry of needles. The Lanturn responded by diving down deeper, but the stream was not deep enough for it to avoid being hit at all and it came up with some minor cuts.

“Thunder Wave,” Mark said quickly, and Jolteon sent another wave of electricity towards Lanturn. This time it did seem to have an effect; the anglerfish slowed down, moving more stiffly, which gave Jolteon the opportunity to fire a second Pin Missile.

“Another Water Pulse,” Dan said sharply, and Lanturn sent another wave of water at Jolteon. This time he had a harder time standing up again; he looked a little dizzy.

“Bite,” Mark ordered worriedly. Jolteon shook his head to focus and leapt into the water at Lanturn. Succeeding to sink his fangs into the fish’s tail thanks to Lanturn’s paralysis, Jolteon clawed a bit at the anglerfish, but then Lanturn shook him off and he climbed back up to the bank.

“Water Gun!” Dan shouted, but Lanturn flinched for a second, which gave Mark another opportunity to act.

“Quick, Pin Missile!”

Jolteon started raising his fur, but then the confusion got the better of him. For a few moments he just stood there like he was trying to remember what he was going to do next; then he dropped to the ground, unconscious.

Mark bit his lip. Two of his Pokémon were already down. He desperately hoped Dan was not capable of anything more than this, but hesitantly picked Dragonair’s Pokéball.

“Do it, Dragonair!” he shouted and threw the ball.

The slender dragon ascended into the air as soon as he gained material form and watched his opponent.

“Ice Beam!” Dan called, and Lanturn fired a beam of ice crystals towards Dragonair. He cried out in pain as he was hit, struggling to maintain his altitude while he shivered. He was clearly having trouble with it and Dan was about to open his mouth again…

“Wait, Dragonair, lie down flat, quick!” Mark blurted out. The dragon heard him and immediately practically dropped to the ground right at the bank of the stream. Despite taking a hit when he landed, he was still conscious, and could flatten himself against the grass.

Dan frowned. “Lanturn, jump out of the water and Ice Beam from there.”

The fish made a respectable attempt to jump, but the paralysis made it unable to get to any height where it could fire another Ice Beam. Mark looked hopefully at Dragonair.

“Now, uh… What moves do you know again?” Mark asked hesitantly. He heard May snort behind him. Dan just raised an eyebrow and smiled slightly.

“Twister,” Dragonair muttered, still lying where he was. “Dragon Rage… Slam…”

“Dragon Rage, then,” Mark ordered, figuring that both Slam and Twister would require Dragonair to move out of his safe position.

“Dive deep into the water,” Dan countered. Mark immediately realized that this would not work; Dragonair breathed dark flames but they barely licked the surface of the stream while Lanturn was safe below it.

“Okay, then…” Again, Mark was feeling braver than usual. “Slam.”

Dragonair suddenly sprang up with a loud, frightening hiss that seemed to oppose the serene air of his usual appearance, and dove into the water headfirst. Lanturn jumped, obviously having not known what the dragon was doing up on the bank, and started charging up electricity to counter him, but Dragonair quickly whipped his tail at the fish and smashed the two shiny blue pearls on the tip into its head.

Lanturn was instantly knocked unconscious by the heavy blow, turned upside-down in the water and floated lazily to the surface. Dan recalled it without words and pulled out a second Pokéball. It occurred to Mark that by now, the notion of actually managing to win was downright ridiculous; one of Dan’s Pokémon had taken out two of his and worn a third one out quite a bit.

But he wouldn’t go down without a fight. Not on his birthday. Besides, it was just for training.

“Go, Clare!”

The ball sent out a large, graceful, brown bird with a golden and red crest of long feathers on her head. She let out a cry as she flew high up and looked down at her opponent. Dragonair flew into the air and faced her.

Dan looked proudly at his Pidgeot before issuing an order: “Featherdance!”

Clare flapped her wings in Dragonair’s direction, and thousands of small, soft feathers of down flurried out from underneath her coat of feathers towards the dragon, limiting both his vision and his ability to move. Dragonair said something, but his voice was so muffled by the down that Mark didn’t hear it.

“Twister to get them away!”

Mark could see Dragonair start to spin in mid-air and attempt to reach the speed required to create a whirlwind, but he was unsuccessful; the down limited his movements too much, and Dan’s Pidgeot was making sure there was always more and more of it.

Most ordinary trainers with Mark’s level of battling experience would at this point have issued a Dragon Rage to burn the feathers, after being so conveniently reminded of its existence just moments before, but he was no ordinary trainer. He had an obsession with legends, and it just so happened that the Dragon type, with its mythical qualities, fell somewhat within his range of interest. And therefore he knew that while dragon flames had none of the disadvantages of regular fire, they had none of the advantages either.

Additionally, he happened to have some very creative Pokémon.

“Dragonair, remember that fire attack of yours from the Attack Approval? Use it!” he said quickly. Somewhere within the cloud of down, Dragonair appeared to have gotten the same idea: just as Mark made his order, the innermost feathers burst into flames and for a split second, the dragon was surrounded by a ring of floating flames. Then the fire dissolved, the charred remains of the Featherdance drifting lazily to the ground.

“Clare, use an Aerial Ace!”

When Dragonair managed to comprehend his surroundings again, the Pidgeot had folded her wings nearer to her body and was already swooping down at him at such a speed that he hardly saw her coming.

“Look out!” Mark shouted, but only a fraction of a second later, Clare made a razor-sharp, accurate cut across Dragonair’s body with her talons. The dragon screamed in pain as silvery dragon blood lined the area of his skin around the cut; somehow, however, he was able to breathe a plume of fire at the Pidgeot before she assumed he would be able to counterattack, taking her by surprise. She cried out as she rapidly flapped her scorched wings to put out the last flames; she did not appear particularly hurt, though.

“Okay, Fly!” Dan ordered, and Clare shot upwards in the air. Mark had one of those rare sparks of old Battling lessons that had sunk in:

“Twister!”

Just as the Pidgeot was diving back down, Dragonair managed to produce a tornado that could strike her even as high in the air as she was. Granted, it did not hurt her that much, but at least Dragonair went out with a bang; a second after the Twister died, Clare tackled him harshly in mid-air and knocked him unconscious.

“You did a good job,” Mark said as he recalled his Pokémon. It was true. Dragonair had been of far more use than both Sandslash and Jolteon, as much as he hated to differentiate between his Pokémon.

“Now…” Mark paused. He probably would have sent out Charizard, but then he realized that it was not like he was about to win this anytime soon. This was meant as training, and he hadn’t even sent out the Pokémon that was in the most need of some.

“Go, Leta.”

The little white Pokémon came out of the Pokéball in a sitting position and looked around. She saw the huge bird, but for some bizarre reason, she didn’t seem the least bit afraid. Mark thought to himself that if he were her size, he definitely would be.

Dan looked at her with the sort of expression people tend to have when looking at cute things.

“Fly… just try to finish her off quickly.”

Clare nodded and ascended quickly into the air.

“Umm, Leta, try to dodge it, like by hiding under a tree or…”

Mark shut up when he realized that Leta showed no signs of noticing that he was talking at all, let alone doing what he said. She sat there on the ground in plain view where she would be extremely easy to hit, and looked innocently upwards at the Pidgeot while swishing her tail back and forth.

Mark glanced upwards; Clare seemed to be preparing to dive up among the clouds. “Leta, get out of the way!” he hissed.

But his Pokémon blissfully ignored him, staring up at the bird that was about to most likely knock her out in one hit with those large red eyes that never blinked…

Seconds before Clare would have hit her, Leta stepped to the side a little bit. Ordinarily, the Pidgeot would simply have changed her direction slightly, but surprisingly enough, the bird crashed headfirst into the ground, actually a meter away from where Leta had originally been. At first Mark was puzzled, but then he saw the bird’s peacefully closed eyes and realized that Leta had hypnotized her while she was focusing on her target in the dive. The tip of Clare’s outstretched right wing was just an inch away from the spot where Leta was now sitting; either she was extremely lucky or a great deal more clever than Mark had ever thought she was.

“Clare, are you all right?” Dan asked worriedly, pulling out a Pokéball. When there was definitely no response at all, he let the red beam of the ball recall her.

Dan frowned and it was clear he hadn’t expected the small, innocent-looking Pokémon to pull something like this either. He fiddled with his Pokéballs, but meanwhile Leta closed her eyes and lowered her head, slowly being wrapped in a white glow.

“You’re evolving!” Mark realized in delight as the small Pokémon started to grow. Her proportions became more adult-like, her body, legs and neck lengthening while her head stayed more or less the same size. A pointy mask grew on her face, similar to that of the Letaligon Mark had met in the forest, although the blade on the top of her head was much shorter while there were no blades at the side of her head at all, just metal below the cheekbone that pointed upwards behind her eyes.

“Leee!” she cried in a deeper voice than before, examining the new coat of metallic armor on her back and her rather stiffer tail. Mark pointed his Pokédex at her.

“Letal, armored Pokémon,” it announced. “These Pokémon love to…”

Mark closed the Pokédex before it could finish; he was in the middle of a battle after all.

“Hmm,” Dan said, looking at the newly-evolved Letal.

“Should I take care of her?” asked his Nidoking, looking up at him.

“Yeah, you can,” Dan replied. “Go, Elvis!”

The reptilian rodent stepped forward and faced Letal with his horn pointed forward. Letal growled at him.

“Earthquake!” Dan ordered. Elvis leapt into the air and slammed himself down into the ground again, producing a series of ripples in the ground as if it had turned liquid. Letal, having most likely never experienced an Earthquake attack before, was confused and didn’t figure to jump before the waves reached her; she stiffened as the ripples hit her paws and started to shiver uncontrollably while the Earthquake faded away. Her metallic armor would most likely continue to echo the waves like a chiming bell for several seconds afterwards.

“Now, Megahorn,” Dan said. “Try to hit it where it’s vulnerable.”

While Letal was still confused and scared, the Nidoking ran towards her with his long, sharp horn glowing with a lime green tint. Letal realized this and attempted to leap out of the way, but the horn stabbed into her side just below the armor and she collapsed when she landed with a weak moan. Mark recalled her with a truthful “Great job”.

“Good battle,” Dan said, but immediately had his mind on his Pidgeot. He sent her out into the grass and pulled out two spray bottles, one of them labelled as an Awakening but the other as a Super Potion. As he sprayed Clare with both of them, the bird Pokémon opened her eyes and managed to stand up and fly in a couple of circles without much difficulty.

“All right,” he said, “I guess I’ll be going, then.”

Dan shook Mark’s hand, as well as May’s and Alan’s, and then walked off towards Stormy Town with his Nidoking and Nidoqueen.

“Um,” Mark said after a moment's pause, “shouldn’t we get a bit further into the forest and see if we can find a good place to send for example Gyarados out at?”

They decided it would be a good idea to walk up the stream and see if there was a lake there somewhere. What they found was not much of a lake – more like a slightly wider and deeper part of the river – but they figured it would do.

Mark threw out Gyarados’s Pokéball, and the sea monster emerged in the water.

“What now?” he asked dully.

“Training,” Mark said and shrugged. He realized suddenly that he was highly unlikely to use Gyarados for either this Gym or for fighting Thunderyu, since he would be fried within one or two Electric attacks, but he figured he might as well prepare himself for later battles as well. Nonetheless, he decided it would not be a good idea to focus on a Pokémon he would not be using for what he was actually training for, and therefore sent out his other Pokémon too. Letal’s wound got sprayed with a Potion from his bag and more or less healed within a few seconds.

“What’s that?” May asked suddenly, jerking her head towards the right.

“What?” Alan asked, looking where she was looking in confusion.

For a few seconds nothing happened, but then all of a sudden, right from where May was looking, a great white beast emerged, leaping straight at her with gleaming ruby red eyes.

“What the…”

The Pokémon landed right in front of May, and Mark realized it was a medium-sized fox-like Pokémon with nine long tails and a long, graceful mane. It was the evolution of his favourite non-legendary Pokémon: a Ninetales.

…Spirit?” May asked in a tone of disbelief.

“You know this Ninetales?” Mark asked, puzzled.

“Of course I do, she’s my pet Vulpix!” May replied in a voice that sounded quite as weirded out as Mark was. “Or well, she was a Vulpix. Where the hell did you get a Fire Stone? And that necklace?”

Mark now noticed that the Ninetales was much lighter than all other Ninetales he had seen – a regular Ninetales was a sort of light brownish-yellow, but this one was creamy white. She also had a black chain around her neck holding a symbol: an upside-down semi-triangle, maybe two inches tall and one wide, made of two small rubies and one larger.

“One question at a time,” the Ninetales said – in plain English. Mark was immediately reminded of Gyarados and glanced at him; he looked just as confused as everybody else.

“I expect you want to know what has happened since I saw you last,” Spirit said. “Well, some time after you left, I was paid a visit by the legendary Entei.”

Mark’s attention was instantly caught by the mention of Entei, especially now that knowing anything of Entei’s location would be of great help.

“Entei told me that I was chosen, that all my previous troubles were a test of my strength, and that I was to find you and aid you. He said that the reason would be revealed soon enough, but would not tell anything more.”

Everybody stared at her; she smiled slightly at the attention.

“I did not evolve from a Fire Stone, but from Entei’s magical touch, and when I had evolved I found that Entei had vanished and I was carrying this necklace. When I examined myself, I also realized that instead of being darker than normal as I used to as a Vulpix, I was lighter.

“Now, I set out to find you. My special Ghost abilities which you will remember have proven to be exceedingly useful in this search, as they helped me sneak on a ferry to Ouen and also provided me with the ability to feel when you were close. I caught up with you in Black Desert, and there my special skills proved useful for you as well, when I interrupted your dreams and woke both of you in time to escape the Scorplack. I myself was in spirit form at the time and was therefore in no danger. From there on I followed you.”

“Why didn’t you come out of hiding earlier?” May asked.

“You know what we decided on when you left,” the Pokémon replied. “It was not safe to emerge until you were alone where no one could find us. Additionally, I did not know if Entei had really wished for me to reveal myself at all. However, I had to step into the light now that I felt his presence.”

And the Ninetales turned her head towards Gyarados and bowed deeply.

“What is this all about?” the sea monster asked in a shaking voice, staring at Spirit. “What do I have to do with it?”

“You are the other,” Spirit said softly. “You were chosen by Suicune and have only yet to receive his final blessing and become marked with light instead of dark…”

“Suicune tried to starve me,” Gyarados spat angrily. “Suicune made my life hell. I hate Suicune.”

“It was your test,” Spirit went calmly on. Gyarados looked a mix between angry and scared.

“To hell with tests,” he said, his voice trembling even more than before. “I don’t want to be chosen. Nobody could have chosen me for anything.”

But it was clear that he was not so sure about that last part – his ability to speak human, his dark color, his abnormal powers and his Dragon Beam all hinted that there was something very unusual about him – and from what they could make out of Spirit’s story, the two were completely parallel. Starting out dark-colored, having unusual powers of a type not usually fully attributed to their species, being able to speak English – it all fitted perfectly.

“No,” he finally said. “I don’t want it. I hate Suicune.”

“Very well,” Spirit said, with the air of a parent giving in to a child’s continuous claims of having an imaginary friend. “Perhaps Suicune has decided to give the final blessing to another Pokémon. After all, you are evolved and yet still dark.”

Gyarados did not answer.

“Umm,” Alan said, poking May in the shoulder, “you might want to explain her story a little bit better. I don’t get it.”

May sighed. “I found her starving on the street as a Vulpix when I was seven and thought she was cute, so I got my parents to let me keep her as a pet. It turned out she had all sorts of weird abilities like turning herself invisible and insubstantial, which we called her spirit form, and stuff like that which seemed like Ghost moves. I always planned to start my journey with her and like took her around town and showed off what she could do… Once when I was nine we met this rich kid from a very well-respected family in town and he was bragging about how he was going to start with a much better Pokémon and blah blah blah. A couple of days later he crawled in through the window and stole her with his father. I woke up and saw them, but I didn’t do anything because I didn’t find out she was gone until the next morning. I got my parents to call the police, but when the police came, they just said that most likely Spirit had run away. I tried to tell them what I had seen, but they didn’t believe me because the guy was rich and I was nine, and just said that even if she had been stolen, there was no chance the thief would be found. I took matters into my own hands, did a bit of spying, found out where she was held in a Pokéball in the rich guy’s house, and stole her back and let her destroy the ball.

“Well, unfortunately they suspected me, and turned out to have gotten me on some stupid security cameras or something. I got to keep Spirit only because she herself insisted that she was mine, not theirs. She couldn’t convince them she had been stolen, though, because she remembered nothing after falling asleep and the rich guy said she had crawled in through their window and looked like she had amnesia. After that happened, I realized that it wasn’t a good idea to carry a unique and valuable Pokémon like her on a Pokémon journey where she could get stolen and asked her to stay at home when I left on my journey. I think she said everything else that matters.”

Alan stared at her. “You broke into a house?”

“Oh, stop taking the details out of context,” May said in an annoyed voice. “That’s what the police did, and that’s why I don’t like them.”

Alan still looked slightly unnerved by the thought. Mark, of course, had heard the vague version of this story before at the police station in Scorpio City. The most important new detail was what exactly it was that May had retrieved from a supposed thief in such a controversial way, and he had to admit he was more comfortable with knowing (at least if May was telling the truth) that Spirit had been more decidedly stolen than her Quilava. Of course, she had left out a couple of details in this version of the story (namely her supposed attack on a police officer), but perhaps Alan was better off not knowing.

“May,” Spirit said, looking at Mark with her red eyes, “if this Gyarados has been travelling with him for all this time, perhaps I can try coming with you. Entei told me to help you, and I will no doubt be of more help on your team than I have been so far.”

“I… guess…” May said, looking doubtfully at her Pokéballs.

“Come on, May,” Alan said. “No need to be paranoid. Pokémon thefts are ridiculously rare, and if you carry your Pokéballs around your neck and we are always walking beside you anyway, there is no hope for a thief to steal her. Besides, as she said, Gyarados has been with Mark for a while and nobody has tried to steal him, right?”

Mark thought of the Mew Hunter and smiled. “Well, not specifically to steal him, anyway.”

May hesitated. “She doesn’t want to be in a Pokéball, though.”

“Well, even better,” Alan countered. “If somebody tried to steal her now, she could just turn herself to the spirit form thingymabob. And just ‘catching’ her now and letting her go again would prevent anybody from catching her in another Pokéball, right?”

“Right,” May replied. “Okay, then.”

She reached for her pocket, took out a normal Pokéball and held it forward in her hand. Spirit touched the sphere gently with her muzzle, and it popped open, transforming her into a shape of red light and sucking her inside. The ball fell to the ground and pinged.

As May reached for the ball again to let Spirit out, Gyarados closed his eyes painfully and turned away.

His hate was stronger than ever.


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