Regret

Death. War. Destruction. The world of the future lies in ruins. I got the chance to go back and stop it from ever happening, only to discover that I was the cause. This is how I destroyed the world.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/5808527/1/Regret

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25. Hidden Truths

A little learning is a dangerous thing ~ Alexander Pope.

-O-O-O-

"Somewhere along the line, everything we've ever said is called into question. Simple things we might have said without realising can change people's opinions of us in ways we could never imagine. The only problem is that humans can't help but lie – some more than others. Whether it's to protect someone, to cover something up, or even to make your own life more interesting, everyone will lie at one point in their life.

There's two real problems with this: keeping track of those lies, and having to deal with the shitstorm when they're revealed."

- Edgar Verite, Mayor of Lavaridge, 2999-3003, 3007-3011. (May 4th, 3007)

-O-O-O-

I think I lost a lot of man-points when Adryan showed up with the demon.

They appeared outside the pokémon centre in a flash of blue light, instantly drawing a crowd of people's attention. After the initial shock wore off, people didn't seem to mind it all that much, and they treated it almost as if it were an everyday occurrence for people to warp into town with a pokémon.

I however, reacted completely differently. I leapt backwards a good few feet, alarmed and ready to hit something. Lacey's attention was rapt on the source of my shock immediately, and Erra flitted around us both, buzzing maniacally.

Though when I saw Ayd's demon, I couldn't help but want to run away screaming in the other direction. Instead I only managed to scream, leap backwards and trip over Lacey, knocking us both to the floor. She hissed and punched me in the gut reflexively, knocking the wind out of me completely. Erra thought it was all a big game, and decided to buzz around us both, happily discharging random shocks into the air.

I managed to squint past Lacey's head to see Adryan cackling at us all. He looked a lot more tired than he did when I saw him last, and a little bit thinner. His hair was just a little longer, and there were various rips and dirt marks over his clothes.

He was meant to be going into the harshest place in the entire country, yet I was fairly certain I was the one who looked like I had been to hell and back, not him.

"Dude!" he yelled between laughs and waved at me. He stepped up to me with a big grin and held a hand out to help me up. "How goes it?" he asked with a grin and a wink.

I went to answer him, only to scream once more as his demon floated along beside him. I rolled backwards in a flurry of arms and legs, still tangled up with Lacey, and barely managed to get out a strangled, "Get... it away!"

"Huh?" Adryan grunted with a raised eyebrow, snatching his hand back as if I'd offended him.

"Demon," I breathed, panicking and still trying to escape. Ayd looked extremely confused for a moment, though seemed to pick up what I meant when Lacey understood my strangled gasps. She leapt to her feet and leapt at Ayd's demon, hissing wildly and going straight for the horn on the demon's chest.

It was only the demon's trained reflexes that allowed it to warp away from her in time. I heard Adryan scream at me to get my pokémon under control, but I couldn't bear to face it. Instead I curled up into a foetal position, hugging myself and continually whispering, "Get it away."

He grunted something and looked to his pokémon, then to mine, and again to me. Finally he seemed to twig and recalled his demon in a flash of light, and I heard Lacey calm down.

Erra was still buzzing around us both, chasing after Lacey as if it were all a big game. I was still shaking and rocking myself back and forth, and it was Lacey that decided to check if I was alright.

She hissed once more as Adryan tried to move towards me, and I barely managed to stop her from attacking him. She backed off disdainfully, obviously not fully convinced he was safe, given the way I reacted to the demon in his possession. Erra settled down in Lacey's hair, and it seemed as if the dark pokémon was used to her presence and didn't seem to mind her nestled in there.

"Well I hope that I don't look bad enough to warrant that reaction," Adryan quipped as once again he held a hand out for me. "I mean, I know I haven't been able to wash in a few days, but that's a bit overboard."

A managed to give him a small smile as I glanced around, checking for any signs of his demon. When I was sure it wasn't there anymore, I took his hand and let him pull me to my feet, praying in vain that my reaction would be ignored.

He gave me a moment, his hand against my shoulder to steady me as I continued to wobble on my feet. "You alright?" he asked, concerned, and waited for me to nod. "What was that about?" he asked carefully.

I took a deep breath and attempted to steady myself. Lacey grunted and stepped to my side, glaring daggers at Ayd. I placed my own hand on her shoulder and gave her a small smile, letting her know it was okay.

"I'm not alright," I admitted, and felt a lump build in my throat. "But can we not talk about it?"

He looked at me, pulled a face and then nodded reluctantly. "Alright," he agreed, and swipe his glasses from his face. As he cleaned them, he squinted at me. "So you mind coming with to the pokémon centre? I've gotta get my guys healed, and then I'm going to swap them round once more."

I nodded and managed a weak grin. "Like I said when I texted you; I wanted to meet up again. I don't mind hanging out with you whilst you're going through mundane tasks."

Because after all, if nothing else, it managed to distract me from my situation. I didn't understand why, but Adryan always managed to bring a smile onto my face with his constant upbeat attitude, and somehow, it made me forget the monumental nature of my task.

"Awesome," he said with a grin. "Come on, let's get some food afterwards too. I don't know about you, but I'm starved."

I grinned as his stomach seemed to grumble in agreement. "Sure," I agreed. "Just... do me a favour," I said, my voice dropping to no more than a whisper. "Can you... can you make sure... can you not have Willow out around me for a while?"

He pulled a face instantly at my question. After considering it a moment, he eventually nodded, slowly, before placing his glasses back in his face. "Fine. But you've got to tell me exactly why you're so freaked about them. I'm not going to keep her under lock and key if I have no idea what's going on."

I looked up at him and gave him a silent, reluctant nod. It was a fair trade, but I didn't want to have to relive the event again.

Though I knew that was going to be unlikely.

 

It was about an hour later when we decided to go out and get something to eat. Since I'd decided I wasn't going to leave Mauville for another day after my gym battle, if only so I could stay around town and get some extra training.

 

Seeing as I still had the room, I told Adryan to go up into it and have a shower. He seemed to love the idea, and dropped off his pokémon on the way. A little while later he came back down, made a few phone calls with the centre's vid-phones and then decided he was good to go.

"C'mon," he said as he began to walk ahead of me. "I know Mauville pretty well – there's a few great places around here." He patted his stomach and grinned. "I want pizza."

I snorted. "Clearly your time in the Cluster hasn't made you any less weird."

My comment made him laugh and nudge me in the side. "There's never a chance of that happening. I like being weird. I'm more fun this way."

I laughed and rolled my eyes at once. "Keep telling yourself that. So how was the Cluster?"

"Scary, weird, and just downright creepy. Just like my ex." He laughed once more and nodded for us to take a right turn down the road. "We got out in one piece, and that's more than I first thought would happen. There was a time where Hale froze a swarm of golbat solid, and another when Ward got stuck in a pothole none of us had seen." He sighed and placed his hands behind his head. "To tell the truth, there's been no amazing stories or incidents whilst I've been in there. It hasn't been boring, but it hasn't been something to write home about either. I've just been surviving." He shrugged and glanced down to me. "So how've you been?"

I came across a murderous Elite, captured a serial killer of a pokémon, nearly got raped and murdered by two demons, and I've got a dead makuhita stalking me.

"Pretty boring really," I said with a shrug. I tapped the poké balls on my bandolier as I said, "I caught a nuzleaf and a magnemite – the ones you saw earlier. Aside from that, nothing's happened."

He snorted and rolled his eyes. "If you say so," he said, and turned to look away from me. "Though it's obviously a bit more than nothing if you freaked out by seeing Willow."

I short him a dark look and glanced to the floor. "I just don't like gardevoir," I whispered darkly. I sighed when Ayd shrugged and carried on walking in silence and ignored my pleas to talk about something else. "Some things happened, but I don't wanna talk about them."

"Then let's talk about something else," he decided, full of life again. "So what would you do if there was a zombie apocalypse?"

I snorted at how ridiculously random it was. I didn't want to tell him my world was something like a horror film – where people and pokémon would kill you and eat you without a care in the world.

"Go crazy or just have fun murdering zombies," I said, playing along with his game. "How about you?"

He shrugged, grinned, and then shrugged again. "I dunno. I'd probably hide out in a big castle, make sure I had a massive catapult, and then entertain myself by tying up zombies, placing them on the catapult and then shooting them off into the distance."

I burst out laughing at the mental image it provided. "You're insane," I told him.

"Don't you know it," he said with a grin, placing his hands behind his head. "I've been relying on my madcap imagination a lot while I've been in the cluster – when your whole team passes out through over-exertion and you're left in such a place on your own, if you don't keep your mind occupied, you'll end up going insane. Or moreso in my case."

It was pretty true, I realised as I thought about it. Though the weight of his words suddenly had impact and I stared at him as I asked, "Your whole team was knocked out?"

"Yup," he grunted. "It would be more amazing if I managed to get through the Cluster without any of them succumbing to their injuries and passing out at the very least. It's not like a videogame, where if all your team passes out you magically warp back to a pokémon centre, you know?" He laughed at his own words and dropped his arms, stuffing his hands into his pockets. "If they all pass out, you're left having to carry on until one of them has rested enough to come back out again. Usually it can be anything from a few hours to a few days."

He spoke the truth, but, "You're you though," I pointed out with a hint of incredulity. "It's amazing you manage to tie your shoelaces sometimes, let alone live a few hours on your own in the Cluster."

"Hey!" he protested and nudged me in the side. "I can survive on my own, thank you very much. You might think I'm a complete goon, but I've managed to travel and live for ten years. Did you honestly think I'd be that clueless that I'd end up poking a feral salamence or something with a stick?"

I grinned. "No, but I think you might just do it for the hell of it."

He laughed. "Never say never. Though maybe not a wild one. I might just train one and then continually poke it with a stick at random times." He laughed once more and finally showed me the restaurant he decided to lead me to. It was a little place that served pizzas, and I was truly amazed that we had enough money to pay for all the food that us and our pokémon ate. Since Ayd had placed all his pokémon in the centre but Irenui, the dragoness joined us for our meal. It meant that we had to sit outside, and that she had to keep her wings incredibly still after she'd managed to spread sand over other people's food and they'd kicked up a fuss about it.

In return, I got Loki to sneak the spiciest sauces possible onto their food. It went without notice until they started to eat it, and then all hell broke loose as they complained to the managers, refusing to pay because they'd made it wrong.

While they were arguing, we also made off with their pizza. Despite the sheer spice, it was still amazingly nice.

Better still, it was free.

More than that, an hour later, Ayd was still fanning his tongue in some desperate attempt to cool it down.

"I did warn you," I told him.

"Bu' i' tathted nithe," he protested, pulling his tongue our further and still fanning it. "Worth i'," he eventually decided as he folded his arms, trying his best to ignore the tears springing from the corners of his eyes.

Loki cackled at him as he crawled up my arm, resting happily on my shoulder. I grinned at him and reached over to scratch his head. "Next time, don't eat anything that Loki's been near."

At the mention of his name, Loki hissed something and shifted about, digging his claws further into my back and neck, finally settling with his claws dug in the straps and material of my backpack. He looked at me and then at Ayd before he grunted something in response. Regardless I nodded at him and gave him a smile. "The only thing you could do that would be worse would be to let Lacey prepare your food."

Ayd blinked at me, not understanding the reference. "What do you mean?"

Loki hissed at me as he pulled on my ear, chastising me instantly. I winced and nodded, hushing him as quickly as I could. "Urm, nothing really," I lied quickly, hoping I wouldn't give the game away. "She just seems to like spicing up people's food and drink, if not lacing it with something worse."

Adryan chuckled at the thought of it. "So I take it you found this out the hard way?"

I thought back to the way I met her, and then again to when I tried to bond with her on the boat to Dewford. "You could say that," I told him. "Though I got her back by spiking her food with laxatives."

He burst out laughing again and went to wipe a tear from his eye. "Jeez, remind me never to get on your bad side. I really don't want to be dealing with anything like the runs in the places I train in." He shook his head and pulled a fact at the thought. "Anyway, on the topic of training, we should head east of Mauville. You remember me telling you about Chris?"

I stared at him a moment, mind blank before it finally clicked. "The girl you travelled with before?"

"That's her," he confirmed. "She lives nearby here, and she's also the pokémon breeder I mentioned to you a while ago. She knows a few things about training pokémon, and I reckon the pokémon she's been holding for me should be old enough for me to collect now."

"'Old enough'?" I reiterated, confused. "I thought pokémon could battle no matter their age."

He snorted at me, one eyebrow raised higher than the other. "Do you ever really think before you ask these questions? Most pokémon are blind or the like when they first hatch from eggs – it takes about nine weeks for them to be able to see and live without being dependent on their mothers or the breeder that's raising them." He grunted with a shrug and shook his head. "I don't understand it well enough to tell you, to be honest. Ask Chris about it; she'll be able to tell you. All I know is that most are like that, though some can be independent a lot sooner."

I nodded and folded my arms. "I guess pokémon training's even more complicated than I first thought," I groaned. In my ear, Loki chattered as if agreeing and flashed me a grin lined with razor-sharp teeth.

"You complicate things more than normal anyway," I told him, and watched as his ears drooped a little. The action made me laugh, and he seemed content with entertaining himself by attempting to slyly rummage through my pack and find more evolutionary stones he seemed to think were his treats. As long as he didn't start throwing things here, there and everywhere, I decided to leave him be to have some fun.

"I see he's still insane," Ayd observed as he glanced at the trickster on my shoulder. "Though good to see you've got him under control." He reached forwards to prod the creature on the skull, though instantly Loki's ears peeled back and his fangs bared as a deep hiss leapt from his throat. Ayd immediately recoiled, holding his hand close to his chest. "And I see that he's still as fond of me as ever."

I grinned and petted Loki on the head. "He's just protective. He likes to be the one that invades someone else's personal space, not the other way round." I turned away and glanced out towards the landscape, past the continual stretches of open grass and dirt roads. I could see a good distance across the vast clearing, and all around us there were a number of pokémon making their way through the grass, as well as a seldom trainer with their pokémon.

"So where are we going?" I asked, straining myself to see some sort of building anywhere nearby.

"About another hour that way," Ayd said as he pointed towards two o'clock. "Chris always wanted to live in the middle of nowhere," he reflected with a snort. "She sure as hell got what she wanted. Cost her a pretty penny to secure all the land too."

I stared at him, considering it. I'd never once before pictured people paying money for large quantities of land, I'd always naively assumed that as long as they had the resources to remove and keep their location safe from pokémon, they were entitled to it. After living so long in a ruined, dilapidated world, and then near-enough always camping out in the wilds, I had admittedly, developed an idealistic view of the world. I realised then how stupid that was, and that humans and pokémon both always sought to claim territory of their own. The only difference was that humans fought over territory through bureaucracy, rather than inherent abilities.

"How much did it cost her?" I asked.

Ayd's response was a low whistle. "A lot. A hell of a lot. She's gonna be paying off her mortgage 'til she's at least sixty, regardless of how much money she's made or will make."

I nodded, though couldn't push my brain past one stumbling block. "What's a mortgage?"

He looked at me, blinked, and then just stared, wide-eyed. "You're kidding, right?"

I felt my cheeks heat up in indignation. I'd never had to worry about owning my own house or land before, why the hell would I know anything about it?

"No," I said, somewhat sheepishly. Loki cackled in my ear, and I wondered just how much he understood of our conversation. "Have you not realised the holes in my world-knowledge."

"I didn't think it was that bad," he muttered, and I felt myself sag at his words. Instantly he caught himself and offered as many apologies as he could, swearing he didn't mean it the way I took it. "I meant I thought that you were just oblivious towards anything pokémon related... and I think I'll stop talking about now," he drawled, catching sight of me undoubtedly looking rather annoyed. "A mortgage is just basically a big loan the banks give you so you can afford to build or buy a house. It's usually based on how much income you get each year, and you pay it off little-by-little.

"They screw you over though," he added with a frown. "Small print is that even if you get enough money to pay it off in full, you still have to carry on paying it little by little. I mean, you get fined if you pay it off early."

I scrunched my face in confusion. "That's just stupid."

Ayd shrugged. "It's what governments are like: they're all just out to get as much money out of you as possible. Just you wait, when you stop travelling, you've got it all to look forward to."

I snorted. "I doubt that. If I want my own house, I'll just somehow get Loki to sneak into the government offices and hurry up everything I need. That or I'll just build one with pokémon-power and have a massive houndoom standing guard and stopping people from coming too near or complaining about it."

"You'll end up living in a cave," Adryan promised me. "A dark, smelly, damp cave, and you'll be sharing it with a few angry ursaring. And if you're really lucky, you'll have an insane cave-hobo to keep you company."

"I never said I wanted to live with you," I told him, folding my arms and keeping a straight face.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he said, grinning at my comment. "If anything, I'm going to be the one with the nice house, living in luxury, and you're going to be on a leash, tied to a post at the bottom of my garden.

I rolled my eyes. "I'd kill you off and assume your identity."

He laughed. "With that demonic creature sitting on your shoulder, I don't doubt you would." He turned away and smiled, just as Loki growled at him once more. "See, he proves my point. You mention it in jest, and already he's planning to carry out these ideas. Be careful with any sort of ghost or psychic. Your smallest thought or idea can be carried out by them as some strange act of wanting to please you."

I balked and glanced backwards towards Loki. He flashed me a razor-lined smile before digging into my backpack again, successfully managing to shake both my back and everything I was holding in the pack.

"You're joking, aren't you?" I asked Ayd, genuinely worried his words could be truthful. "They wouldn't really do that."

He just looked at me and smiled. "Pokémon are like people. Some will do anything to impress someone they care about."

 

When we finally reached Chris' house, I realised it was almost exactly the picture of a farm that I'd build up in my head. It was a small bungalow nearby a set of stables, and a large, old-brown, barnhouse was nearby. The entire area stretched out a good few miles, all sealed off with some sort of wire-mesh fences. A good number of pokémon were out in the grounds, and not one of them seemed all that bothered about our presence on what was undoubtedly their territory.

 

"All of those are Chris'," Ayd told me, gesturing out towards the ponyta, tauros, stantler and others that I couldn't identify grazing out in the landscape. "She trains each and every one of them well enough to be placid enough around people normally, though strong enough to attack if anyone threatens any of them."

I stared. "How good a trainer does someone have to be to become a breeder?"

"Pretty damn good," he said as we walked towards the door. "You've got to be able to look after and manage far more pokémon than the normal six a trainer carries on them. Most breeders usually have about fifty pokémon on their lands, and they look after each and every one of them. It helps that most breeders usually employ a few people to help them – Chris has got about three people on her payroll helping her day-to-day."

I sighed. "One more occupation that's ruled out for me. I don't think I have the patience or the trust in other people to have them working for me."

He rolled his eyes at me. "Says the guy with a team of four pokémon, carrying out his whims on command. It's just a good thing you've recalled your demonic urchin. I don't doubt he'd have fun scampering round the house, interfering with everything and anything."

"Surely your friend's got a few pokémon out and about, causing all sorts of mayhem anyway, right?" I asked, not sure why Loki himself would be a problem.

"Yeah, but their pokémon that happen to live here. It'd be no different to you or him going into a wild pokémon's nest," he told me, and rang the doorbell before I had a chance to answer him.

As soon as the bell chimed, there were a chorus of barks, growls and yells from within the house. I heard two sets of claws race towards the door, and the telltale crackling of static behind the large oaken door. The creature behind it was yipping wildly at the door, and I could hear it scratch at the blockade between us and it.

A woman's voice told the creature to sit down calmly, and amazingly, the yips and static died immediately. The door opened and greeted us to the sight of a light brown-skinned woman with deep hazel eyes and a green bandana covering black hair that was sticking out in wild directions, with small pieces of hay here and there. She wore a short sleeved brown polo shirt and dark blue denim capris underneath a white apron smeared with mud, food and a few blobs of what might have been blood.

Though most notably was the fact that her left arm gleamed with a silver metallic light. It was completely artificial from above where her sleeve covered.

It took all of a second for recognition to flare in her eyes. "Ayd!" she exclaimed, and without warning wrapped herself around him. "How've you been? How was the Cluster?"

I blinked, surprised she knew that. For a moment I forgot that she had known him longer than me, and wondered why someone else knew of what he'd been up to lately. At my feet the yipping started up again, and I found an electrike puppy bouncing at my heels.

"Good, and shit-scary," Ayd said as I bent down and played with the puppy. It barked happily at me, bouncing around me and shooting small bolts of static around itself. "It went a lot better than Cerulean though, to be honest," he told her, and I saw the way that her face twisted at mention of the place. If I'd ever doubted Ayd's story of what happened before, her reaction proved it all to be true.

"At least I was prepared this time. Willow could sense most of the pokémon coming most of the time, and when she wasn't around, either Hale was noticing changes in the air, or Ward or Irenui could read the vibrations in the ground." He laughed and pulled himself away from her, rubbing at his right shoulder. "Of course, even the ones that did get the drop on us didn't hurt me as much as that damned arm of yours does."

She laughed and slapped his shoulder with her real arm. "Imagine how the ponyta or miltank feel when I've got to stick it in them to help them with their eggs. I can only imagine it's incredibly uncomfortable. And cold." As Ayd burst out laughing at her joke, she chuckled and turned to face me, sniggering to myself as I played with the electrike pup. "Ayd's friend I take it?" she asked, and waited until I nodded before she stuck her real hand towards me. "I'm Chris, nice to meet you."

I stood up and introduced myself back to her, and in my inattention towards it, the electrike decided to piss over my shoes before scampering off elsewhere.

I stared down at my shoes, and then glared after the creature. "I was just beginning to like it too."

Chris could only laugh. "Amanda owes me a drink then. She thought it wasn't possible to train a pup so early on to use the toilet outside."

Adryan laughed as I tried to shake small droplets of urine off my boots. "Does it pissing on shoes actually count as you winning?"

She smiled. "Well, since technically he was outside, I happen to win."

"Just remind me not to leave anything of mine on the floor," I grumbled. "With my luck I'll find that it's left a little present behind."

"My pokémon are house-trained; they know to go on the paper before they're taught to go outside." Chris told me, placing her hands on her hips. Her frown rapidly turned to a smile, and then a look of shock as her metallic arm shot to the side and punched the doorframe. "God damn it!" she cursed, glaring at the offending arm and flailing it madly. "It's still defective! At this rate I'm going to end up punching someone in the face. Maybe even by accident. Anyway-" she looked at us both and stepped backwards. "Come in, make yourselves at home. I'll get the others to cover me for the rest of the day and we can catch up."

"Awesome," Ayd said as he stepped in the house with her.

I walked in after them, taking note of the amount of pictures lining the walls of her hallways. She was in almost each and every one of them, and they ranged from her and what were obviously her and her family and friends, to her and her pokémon, to even just friends, family or pokémon on their own.

I turned back around in time to see Chris give Adryan a look I couldn't quite understand. He seemed at a loss for a moment before suddenly he started shaking his head wildly, and I heard him laughing at something I'd obviously missed.

"Coming?" Ayd asked me as Chris wandered off to tell her employees to cover her. "I know she told us to make ourselves at home, but seriously, if you consider yourself comfortable in a hallway staring at picture's of a woman's life, that's just slightly creepy."

I pulled a face at him, and then glanced back to the wall. "It's almost in order," I said. I pointed towards the right, and then slowly moved my arm towards the left, and towards the main part of the house itself. "It's like she's built them in reflection of her age, so you walk into the house, and the further in you get, the older she is in the pictures." I turned away and thought about it. "It's kinda neat, in a way. Like you're walking into a living timeline."

Ayd looked at me a moment and then laughed to himself. "Not two hours ago, you didn't know what a mortgage was. And now suddenly you seem to be evaluating interior design. And I thought I was weird."

"I have thought about how I'd like to have a house of my own, you do realise?" I informed him. "I can do that and not know the intricases of how much is needed. Like all the kids that dream of being pokémon trainers, then find out how much is actually involved."

Ayd grunted. "Poor excuse. I think you're just trying to disguise a hidden love for interior design." He laughed to himself and waved for me to follow him. "Now come on, I want to find Ripper."

Before he'd even finished his sentence, or I had taken a step forwards, the shadows themselves seemed to close around us both. They stretched from the walls, encompassing us both, and my relative calm only stayed intact until a single red eye loomed from the darkness. It flickered between us both and caused me to fall over screaming once again.

Adryan however, reacted completely differently. As I lay on the floor, hyperventilating and worrying that the cursed makuhita ghost was stalking me, Ayd smiled and bounced towards it.

"Ripper!" he exclaimed, and almost immediately, the shadows took shape. It was like a large, grey fog suddenly seeped into the hallway, and it took a strange shape between us both. It was like a head around the one, looming red eye, and a large swirling mass seemed to make up its main body. There were faint yellow markings across its body that seemed almost like a face painted in the fog. I could almost see the hallway behind it. It was corporeal enough, however, for it to hug Adryan and let out a horrible wailing sound that I would never have thought would be a happy sound.

"How've you been?" he asked the pokémon, and got another garbled, haunting scream as a response. "So I take it you've been learning well? I've never heard you speaking so well!"

I stared, wondering just what on earth he was on about. He was talking to the pokémon as if he could understand it, and yet, all I could hear was nothing more than some horrible screaming that I was sure should have only existed in nightmares.

It was a little bit more than slightly insane, and I made my way past them both whilst trying to intrude as little as humanly possible. I managed to squeeze past them both without intruding, and found myself stood in a small living room, once again with the small electrike playing nearby me.

"You're an evil little creature, you know that?" I told it. It looked up at me, barked happily and then scampered off elsewhere, most likely to ruin someone else's shoes.

I watched it leave the room, and moments later found myself awkwardly trying not to stare at Chris' fake arm as she came back into the room.

"Heya," she greeted me warmly. "You can sit down if you like – I'm not going to bite." She smiled and glanced towards the hallway. "Where'd Ayd disappear to?"

I pointed behind me. "He's still in there. His dusknoir showed up again, so they're catching up." I snorted to myself and sat down as neatly as I could on one of the couches. "He seems to think it can talk – all I can hear is some strange, horrible noise."

Chris clicked her tongue as she walked into the joining room, returning moments later with a tray holding a teapot and a few cups. "Shows how much you know," she said with a smile on her face. "Ghosts are some of the smartest creatures there are out there. You in think living for a few centuries they don't pick up a few tricks? Ghosts that are old or smart enough can learn to speak human speech."

I stared, open-mouthed and dumbfounded. "No way," I finally managed to grunt. "Why couldn't I understand it then?"

She smiled at me. "Another one of their tricks. They have some sort of targeted speech – just like how psychics can make sure they only share telepathic messages with certain individuals, ghosts can talk to certain people comprehensively, whilst others hear only noise."

I groaned and fell back into the chair. "Everything I learn about pokémon seems to make them all the more complicated."

"We're always learning about them," Chris told me. "Even the pokédex doesn't have fully up to date information on every small detail, and every few years, we learn something new about pokémon that we'd never known before. The more years you spend being a trainer, the more you'll learn about pokémon, if not only your own."

I chuckled. "I'm a long way off that. I've only been a trainer for just over three months. I've still got ages until I learn even the basics." I shrugged. "It's how I know Ayd really. He found me within the first fortnight of me setting out, and he's been helping me along. Otherwise I'd probably still be staring at a lake wondering just how to get across on a lotad, or stuck suffering from whatever illnesses have been plaguing Oldale and Petalburg as of late."

"So that's how you know him," she said whilst pouring tea into the cups. "I thought..." she glanced up at me, and then back down to the tray beneath her. "Actually, never mind."

I leant forwards, confused and intrigued. "You thought what?"

She shrugged. "I dunno. My first guess was that you were using him to somehow get a discount for a baby pokémon... but given how little you actually know of them, I'd guess not."

"Uh, thanks. I think?" I mumbled, scratching my cheek, completely lost. All I'd managed to gather about her was that she had a sense of humour and an upbeat look on life, despite her obvious injury, and she seemed to be immensely protective of her friends. It was a pretty accurate evaluation, though I think she was always a little paranoid of people and preferred pokémon to them. After all, if a pokémon didn't like you, it was instantly obvious. People were always cocooning themselves in layers of fakery and self-interest, after all.

Awkward silence set in, and I found myself asking the first question that came to mind to alleviate it. "So what's it like being a breeder then? Is it hard?"

She shot me a coy grin as she handed me a mug of tea. "I'll ignore the obvious innuendo in that. It's hard," she related as she leant back into her chair, and to my amazement, began to undo the straps holding her artificial arm in place. "But it's worth it at the end of the day. In a perverse way, selectively breeding some pokémon for specific traits is actually quite fun – or at least, the planning is. You sit there and theorise that if you breed pokémon X with pokémon Y, you'll get pokémon Z with certain qualities." She snorted. "In reality, you almost always end up with a surprise."

"Yup: being a pokémon breeder is definitely not for me," I muttered, stirring sugar into my tea. I caught sight of Chris looking up at me from her arm and tried to keep my face from twisting into a horrible grimace. "Every surprise I've gotten so far from pokémon tends to be something that didn't go down very well."

Her arm fell into her waiting hand, and with a relieved sigh she placed it down on the couch next to her and rubbed the stump it left. "That's a relief," she whispered, scratching at what was left of her arm. "It helps so much on a daily basis, but damn does it make my stump sweaty and itchy." Thankfully she ignored, or didn't ask anything more about my loathing for pokémon-based surprises, and instead looked towards the door to the room, where Ayd's voice could be heard coming towards us.

Then there was a loud crunching sound, followed by Ayd yelping and something smashing on the floor. Almost instantly we heard him curse, and I saw Chris's cheeks darken in barely suppressed anger.

"Sorry!" he yelled into the room, and his dusknoir floated through the wall, circling ominously around Chris. I stared at it, distrusting the giant ghost, and felt my spine shiver when it's single red eye fixed on me. My breath caught, and I felt something so very wrong going on under its stare. Everything went cold and seemed to stop around me, and I felt the pokémon analysing me, scrutinising everything about me. Then suddenly warmth returned to the room around me and it looked away, floating out towards what I assumed would have been the stables.

Then sound seemed to explode back into the room, and I caught myself in time to see Ayd walk into the room, and Chris throw something at him.

"God damn it Adryan!" she yelled, fuming and managing to look immensely scary, despite the fact she was missing an arm. I stared at it a moment, and then caught the artificial limb on the ground, not a foot away from Ayd. It took me no time to figure out what she'd thrown at him in her anger: her arm.

She'd thrown her freaking fake arm at him in her rage! Immediately I decided that she was a woman I didn't want to anger.

Ayd, at least, seemed to share some of my reaction to it. "Your arm?" he exclaimed, flailing his own arms madly. "You threw your arm at me? Do you have any idea that would hurt if it had hit me? Are you trying to kill me woman? I broke a picture frame, and you try and break my damn face!"

To my surprise, she simply smiled victoriously. "It'll teach you not to touch things in my house. At least this time you didn't break a toilet."

I burst out laughing as Ayd floundered for a comeback. "A toilet?" I breathed, holding my gut. "How did you manage that?"

He flushed bright crimson and folded his arms. "I couldn't get signal on my phone. I stood on it, trying to get some."

I wasn't alone in not believing his excuse. "Whatever you say," Chris said, unable to keep a straight face. "I think it was a case of explosive diarrhoea. That or you're just a fat bastard, and have a magical trench coat that hides it all."

He rolled his eyes. "I was looking for signal," he repeated indignantly. "Anyway-" he bent down and picked her artificial arm back up, and handed it back to her. "Where'd you learn to throw like that? Last time I saw, you threw like a girl."

She laughed and placed the arm beside her as she sat back down. "throw like a girl?" She looked at me and pointed her thumb to her right as Ayd sat down next to her. "Have you seen the way this guy throws anything? I've seen five year old girls that look manlier that he does."

Ayd folded his arms and leant back into the couch. "Whatever. I blame it all on your Hulk-arm."

She spun around and smacked him on his shoulder. "I have one arm, remember? I can't help it if doing everything with one arm makes it bigger. What's your reason for having one arm bigger than the other then, hm?"

The look on his face was priceless, and I burst out laughing once more. Chris smirked to herself and reached across the table for her own drink, claiming that he could never beat her. Given the fact it was the first time I'd actually seen him speechless, I didn't doubt it.

I decided to leave the remains of his dignity alone and instead changed the subject. "So how's Ripper?" I asked. "He floated through here just after you smashed whatever you did and made a beeline for the outside."

Ayd smiled and moved so that he was sitting on one leg. "He's good. He's still the same as ever; like an old man in pokémon form. He always has loads of stories from 'his day', and if you don't shut him up, he'd quite happily talk you into your grave."

"Sounds like someone else we know," Chris mumbled into her cup. At Ayd's sharp look she pulled an innocent facade and looked away, pretending she'd never said anything.

He sighed and shrugged dramatically. "Times like these, I wonder why on earth I'm actually friends with you."

She laughed and nudged him in the side. "You know you love me really. Otherwise you wouldn't keep coming back for more abuse."

"I don't love you," he deadpanned. "I've got much better taste then that."

Watching them both, I realised how close they were as friends. Their chitchat made me feel somewhat left out, and I couldn't help but think that maybe there was something hidden behind it, as it seemed to me so much like lovers banter.

"So is there anywhere I can train my pokémon for a bit without disturbing yours?" I asked Chris as I stepped up. "You two obviously have a lot to catch up on, and it's about time for my pokémon to run a few drills anyway."

Chris looked at me and laughed. "'Drills'?" she parroted, and laughed again as she turned to Ayd. "Where'd you find this one? Boot camp? I didn't think you'd start prowling through armies, searching for potential victims." As he blushed once more she grinned and turned back to me. "There's a large clearing about five minutes away, if you just head out those doors and carry on walking straight. There might be a few miltank or arcanine lazing around out there, but as long as you don't attack them, they won't attack you."

I glanced out the window and imaged having to fend off an angry arcanine with my team. "Urm, I've got your word on that, right?"

She shook her head in amusement. "I can't make that promise. As much as I've taught and trained them, they're still pokémon. As long as they don't think you're a threat, they shouldn't go for you. But stay a nice distance away regardless, just in case." She got up, stood next to me and pointed at a few places outside of the window. "Stay away from that direction; that's where mother manetric lives. She's a nice girl, but since you've got her pup's scent on your boots, she may very well react negatively. Don't worry if any of the pokémon come up to you though, they'll just be curious. Oh, and you might want to watch out for Ursula. She's a garchomp, and she's just had a batch of eggs, so anyone that gets too close to her territory runs the risk of losing their head. Or having their intestines pulled out through their ears, if they're lucky."

I looked at her, mouth agape. "Garchomp don't carry out that sort of punishment, do they?"

Chris just smiled at me. "Who said it would be the garchomp harming anyone?"

It pretty much cemented any idea I had of not crossing Chris. While Mia may have always joked around about causing people harm, something told me that Chris' threats were more like promises.

I'm pretty sure every woman I've known in my life could very well be a psychopath.

 

I decided to give Chris and Ayd enough time to catch up, and ended up training my pokémon for a good few hours. Loki seemed more than happy to be out around other pokémon, and I ended up having to convince Lacey to keep an eye on him. In the end, she said something to him which most likely put the fear of God into the creature. I wondered what on earth could scare a pokémon that couldn't actually die, but decided my sanity probably depended on me not knowing.

 

I also had the problem of trying to detach myself from Erra. I could get her to go and train, but every five or so minutes she would fly back to me, as if to reassure herself that we hadn't run off without her, and then attached herself to my arm or my head again. Xander was the only member of my team that seemed to be in anyway sane, though I knew soon enough he would become a lombre, and then develop a habit for playing pranks on people.

It made me truly confused as to how much evolution could change a pokémon. I knew that it contained the obvious physical changes, though I didn't know much else about it. All the information in books and in my pokédex made me think that it would end up changing their personalities, which on a level, made sense to me. I doubted that Lacey was ever a sinister seedot, plotting doom for everyone she encountered.

I could only attempt to relate it back to humans, and the changes we went through in puberty. Since people did change somewhat, and over time, people could change their opinions on the world and come into themselves more, I assumed pokémon's evolution would be somewhat similar to that.

The only person I could really ask, I realised, was Chris. She was a pokémon breeder – surely she'd raised multiple pokémon from infancy to adulthood.

With that in mind I ventured back to her house, and called my pokémon back into their poké balls before I went back in. Chris was a pleasant woman, but I didn't want to piss her off and end up with something being thrown at me – much less her arm. The thought of seeing a flying fake arm as the last thing before you died made me grin to myself even as I tried to pry my feet out of my urine-covered boots.

"Back at last then," Chris said, successfully making me leap out of my skin and dive straight down for the knife in my boot. The whole time I'd been at hers, I'd hidden my gun and larger blade in my backpack, and couldn't help but feel slightly on edge without them. Though given what I'd been through on my journey, I couldn't be blamed.

"We were just wondering whether we should send out a search party for you," she said as she walked towards me, stopping at my side. She smiled at me then leant against the doorframe, staring out across her land. "Personally, I wasn't too worried."

I grinned. "Were you that confident in me?"

She laughed. "No." My confidence suddenly plummeted at that. "It was just that none of my pokémon had come back with the scraps of what was left of you. I can't tell you the amount of times I've had something bring back the remains of what was once a pokémon. Or a mailman. There's never really enough to identify them."

I stared up at her. "Your pokémon attack the postman?"

She shrugged. "Sometimes. Depends on what pokémon's on guard, or whether the postman's stupid enough to try and snoop around the place. Though it's always quite funny to see one being chased down the garden path by an angry dodrio."

I laughed at the mental image that popped up in my head. "So where's Ayd got to?" I asked.

Chris looked down at me, then nodded towards ten o'clock. "He's out catching up with a few of his pokémon. Aside from Ripper, he's got three others that he keeps here."

I jumped to my feet and craned my head in the direction she'd indicated. "And you don't mind having to look after his pokémon?"

"I benefit too," she told me. "As insane as he is sometimes, he's a damn good trainer. I could sell some of their offspring for a small fortune, given they bred with the right partner."

"What's stopping them?" I asked.

She sighed and shook her head. "For one thing; some pokémon are life-mate breeders. As in, they choose one mate, and stick with them for life, similar to humans and marriage. Except without the white, fluffy dresses. Then of course, you've got the government controlled pokémon – some pokémon can't be bred without a special license, just in case they're too dangerous, too whatever excuse they want to make, or just that their population needs to stay low. Having an influx of gyarados in Hoenn wouldn't exactly be a good thing, you know?"

I nodded. It made sense, though admittedly, beforehand I'd thought that breeders could produce whatever pokémon they liked, all in order to make as much money as possible. I realised in that just how naive my views of the world could be sometimes.

"I was actually hoping to chat to you on your own anyway," she confided in me, keeping her gaze fixed outside of the windows.

"Really?" I asked, curious. And a little bit flattered and foolishly hopeful. "What about?"

She seemed to read my mind. "Nothing like that. You're a little bit too young for me." Catching the way my grin dropped, she allowed me a little slither of hope, "Maybe if you were about five years older."

Knowing where I stood, I opted for a serious approach. "So what did you want to talk to me about then?"

She spared me a glance. "Adryan." She said it without any sort of humour, and I wondered just what she wanted to talk to me about. Instantly my mind was boggled with various different thoughts. Maybe he'd badly injured himself in the Cluster, and he needed surgery or something? Maybe something had gone horribly wrong, and he had some sort of ghost or psychic inhabiting his body? Maybe he'd abused a psychic's power to get out of there alive, and he wanted Chris to tell me he was dying?

She pulled a face, sighed and then chewed her lip. Obviously it was a difficult topic for her. "You're close to him, aren't you? I just want to know... how much do you trust him?"

Her question caught me completely off guard, and for a moment I floundered, searching for a response. "He's pretty much my only true friend in the whole of Hoenn," I told her, honestly enough to surprise myself. "He's helped me get through a lot on my journey, and pointed me in almost every direction I need to take. So I'd say I trust him as much as humanly possible."

"Right," she whispered, and leant her head against the doorframe.

"Why?" I asked her. "Don't you?"

She shook her head instantly. "No, don't get me wrong; he's one of my best friends. I've known him for years now, and I love him to bits. But... you should know that he has a habit of telling stories so that he always seems as good as he possibly can.

I shrugged. "Everyone lies. Nothing wrong with that."

"Maybe," she agreed. "But it's the problem with lies; they escalate until they're running away from you, and you can't keep track of what really happened in the first place. Sometimes I wonder if he ever remembers..." she caught herself and glanced at me. "Tell me, has he ever told you about Cerulean?"

"That you, him and Owen went in there, Owen died and you lost your arm to a parasect?" I nodded. "Yeah, why?"

She wrapped her hand around an imaginary arm. "Did he ever tell you how Owen died?"

I nodded. "He said he got caught by a few ditto, and they ate him. What about it?"

She took a deep breath and blew it through her teeth. "It's true, but only to an extent."

My patience was pretty thin. She kept skirting around a subject she seemed to think I had to know, making me worry more and more what she was trying to say. "So what exactly are you trying to tell me?"

She took another deep breath. "I'm trying to tell you, that's not completely how Owen died. It wasn't an accident at all.

"Adryan killed him."

 
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