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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34. In Plain Sight

People believe I am what they see Me as, rather than what they do not see. But I am the Great Unseen, not what I cause Myself to be in any particular moment. In a sense, I am what I am not. It is from the Am-notness that I come, and to it I always return ~ Neale Donald Walsch

-O-O-O-

"Perception is simply seeing one thing whilst being blind to another. No one will ever be able to see everything at once because our imaginations – the very things we use to define us as human – will always blind us from something."

- Professor Isabella Ivy, Pokémon Physiology PHD, Pokémon Biology MSc. (June 22nd, 3001)

-O-O-O-

I knew a good deal of things in my life.

It may have sounded arrogant, but I knew it was true. There were a number of ways I knew how to kill a pokémon, to survive on my own and even to use and maintain a number of weapons.

Yet none of that helped me deal with the situation I found myself in.

Lacey had killed one of Adryan's pokémon. At any other time that would have been cause for me to deal with her myself and make sure she couldn't hurt anyone anymore. But I knew that I had become attached to her on some way; she was my pokémon, one of my best friends and despite everything, I trusted her.

But on the other hand, Adryan was one of my best friends too. I trusted him as well... yet everything I'd seen him do to the person he thought had killed Lucy showed me that I never really thought he was.

Honestly though, nothing about the way he killed the man really bothered me too much. I'd killed Aaron with about as much sadistic glee and Adryan hadn't batted an eyelid at that. Maybe I should have realised how twisted he could be back then.

But the only reason I found a problem with it was that somehow, I always knew Lacey had managed to kill Lucy. I had no idea how she had managed it – I was pretty damn sure the rapidash was far stronger than her – but she'd done the deed. Her actions meant that I had to lie to my best friend – who had two psychics capable of reading my thoughts.

I tried catching up with Lacey that night, just after she'd left me. I ran in the distance she left for a good five minutes until I gave up. If she didn't want to be found, she wouldn't be. I knew that she would eventually come back to me, sooner or later and I could question her then.

I wanted answers. I wanted a reason for why she'd done such a heinous thing. I wanted... I wanted to know if I had done something that made her want to kill his pokémon. I wanted to know if she was going to do it again. I wanted to know if she would have killed him if she had the chance.

But mostly I wanted to never have to be in such a horrible position again. I knew that one of my choices was to hand her over to Adryan; to let him realise that he'd been wrong in killing that man. But the other, devious and darker part of me told me to let her be; Adryan had killed who he thought had murdered his pokémon – ignorance was bliss after all.

Unable to make up my mind, I trekked back to the camp instead, only to find Xander sat up on his own, sat loyally on guard with Loki curled around the campfire. I smiled and petted the lombre on the head before I sat down next to him and revealed just exactly what had happened. It went without saying that he wasn't too pleased.

"I can't turn Lacey in," I told Xander as I hugged my knees, my head stuck between them and my voice a tiny whisper. "Despite what she's done... I still trust her. She might not be above killing my friend's pokémon, but she won't kill any of us. I just want to know how and why she did that. And how I'm going to manage to keep this away from Adryan; I can't keep a secret about one of his pokémon with two psychics floating about – one of whom has already threatened to kill me."

I heard him croak and felt him nudge my legs, threatening to tip me over. I laughed and drew my head from my knees, instead aimlessly gazing into the pokémon's slimy green face. "What do I do Xand? Pretend it never happened? Hope Lacey's had her fill?"

He shook his whole body, shaking the leaf that ran down his back and scattering water droplets all around us before he grunted and pressed a paw down on some of the droplets. He dug a small hole, turned over the wet soil and buried it before he poked the side of my head with his tongue. It took me a moment to gather what he meant and when I did, I was surprised to hear it coming from him.

"You want me to bury it?" I asked, confused. "I tried that before with the gardevoir – look how that turned out. Would that really work?"

He croaked again and moved his shoulders in a tiny attempt of a shrug. I sighed and fell back on the slightly damp ground as I stared up at the night sky. "I could bury it," I theorised, a frown covering my face. "It might be able to hide it from his psychics."

Xander croaked again and I rolled over, staring at the pokémon with a raised eyebrow. "You think I could get away with that?" I asked him, amazed that was his plan in the first place. I shook my head and blew hair from my face as I rolled onto my back again. "It wouldn't work. My luck's just not that good. My best bet is to just leave Adryan for a while – let him grieve and take the time to figure out why Lacey did it. If she's decided to start killing his pokémon for kicks... well I don't know whether I should just never talk to Adryan again or just keep Lacey under lock and key."

My lombre gurgled a small sound as he waddled over and sat on my backpack. I stared at him for a moment, perplexed until I finally understood what he was doing. "You don't want me to leave Adryan yet?" I guessed, still confused. "But it's probably the only way I'll figure out what caused this and why she did it."

The pokémon nodded towards the forest and uttered a few syllables. Yet again I was left playing catch up to my pokémon's train of thought.

"He's grieving over Lucy," I said, finally gathering the gist of Xander's gestures. "I'm not sure what he's doing with the body... but I guess you're right. We can't very well leave him while he's like that. I don't want to stick around, just in case he figures out the truth... but I can't leave him alone in a time like this." I blew out a breath and punched the ground with both fists. "Why does my life have so many screwed up choices like this?" I wondered, my brain alive and refusing sleep. "I guess I can give it a day or two. I'll tell Adryan that I need some time alone to think about this saving the world gig – he'll buy that." I shook my head and sat up, rapping my knuckles against the floor as I bit my lip. Finally I managed to ask, "What do you think we should do about that? I don't want a part of it if I'm going to up and vanish... but I brought you along with the plan of saving the world in mind."

Xander croaked and moved his plaster-bound foreleg awkwardly. He made a few more gestures until finally I sighed and shook my head. "I have no clue what you're trying to say," I lamented as I stared at the floor. "I've changed too much now anyway. Before; when I thought about everything as only a soldier, I could have done this without a problem. But I've experienced too much... I don't want to be that person anymore. I want to be able to go out, enjoy my life and not do everything with such a pensive, hating and uncaring attitude to the world. You guys are all my friends and I don't want to just up and vanish one day. What if you all forget me and find yourselves just wherever I disappear with no knowledge of each other? You'd have blanked out about a year of your life and end up with a murderous charmeleon and nuzleaf surrounding you."

He grunted something and I watched with a small amount of humour as his throat swelled up like a balloon before deflating again. It got a small laugh out of me before I turned my mind back to my main issue. "I can't do it Xand," I told him. "I know I might be acting selfish... but surely there's got to be a way to do something without throwing my life away, right? At the end of the day, I just don't care about the rest of the world enough. I only care about myself and you guys. It'd take a lot of guilt or money or anything for me to start trying to sacrifice myself to save the world."

I jerked up as a low, threatening growl erupted from Xander's throat. I followed his gaze to find Lacey stood in front of us both, cleaned of blood yet still looking smug. Vines wrapped around both her arms and her legs were beginning to look like twisted, gnarled roots of a tree. White fur covered almost every part of her body and I realised at once how much she'd changed.

"You're evolving," I whispered, forgetting my anger towards her. I realised quickly that it was a redundant statement – she'd been evolving the whole time I'd owned her. But it struck me then how close she was to completing the process.

She growled something and I snapped her ball off my bandolier and recalled her in a flash of light, refusing to even look at her. I didn't even want her poké ball near me at the time, hating her for causing me to be so paranoid and to cause my friend such grief. I tossed the ball at my backpack and watched as Xander batted it inside as if he understood my train of thought.

I moved myself closer to the fire and listened to Loki mumble in his sleep for a little while, letting the sound of that and the crackling fire distract me from my situation. Once the sableye stretched and rolled over in his sleep I looked back at Xander. I knew I wouldn't be sleeping again that night and was about to recall him before I remembered how nocturnal he was becoming. Instead I just looked across at him, still sat on my backpack and smiled.

"You know," I said conversationally, my smile dropping off my face. "Adryan's psychics might be able to find this out from me. Or you. Or even Lacey herself. There's no way to avoid it, unless maybe if he does find out through them, I could smack Lacey in the head with a leaf stone and force her to evolve?" A small, devious grin appeared on my face at the thought. "That way I can say she was locked in her ball evolving and when she comes out as a shiftry; that's my evidence!"

Xander croaked once, slow and flatly. I understood instantly what he meant and became deadly serious after a small sigh. "Yeah, I know," I told him. "Pokémon tend to screw up when they're exposed to those stones that speed up their evolution. But it's not like I'd ever do it to you!" I pointed out.

He grumbled again and knocked that idea completely onto its backside. There would be no forcing evolution with him around, it seemed.

"I just..." I started to say, though it finished in a long, drawn out sigh as I pulled a hand over my face. "I just hate the fact that this has happened. More than that... I get the feeling like I should feel bad that I've pretty much instantly decided to back Lacey in this. Adryan's my best friend, right? Shouldn't I be trying to help him?"

Yet again my pokémon was playing psychiatrist for me. He answered all my problems with one simple explanation; my pokémon were the ones that were always with me, not anyone else. It was why I knew that I had to lie to Adryan about Lacey, why I planned on leaving as quickly and as quietly as I could and really; why I trusted them all so much more than anyone I knew.

I went to tell Xander to move from my pack so we could leave when a twig snapped behind us. Xander growled, I spun around and leapt backwards, grabbing for a weapon even as Loki woke up and was on his feet instantly, ears pressed against his skull as he hissed.

Adryan himself gave a small wave at the greeting we gave him. Loki changed quickly when Scar walked over to us, smelling of blood and burnt flesh – the sableye went from being territorial to sniffing the lizard, curious about the smell. I caught Scar's eyes and gave him a slow nod – he seemed confused at first though repeated the gesture uncertainly before he spat a small fireball at Loki.

I recalled both the lizard and the ghost before I calmed Xander and told him to carry on keeping watch. In that time Adryan had managed to sit down, light a fire and find a stick to stab at the ground with.

"I didn't wake up," he stated, toneless and dead. "My pokémon screamed as she died and I wasn't even the one who heard it and woke up." He looked up at me from the fire, tear stains still running down his face and cheeks. "What sort of trainer does that make me?"

"A heavy sleeping kind?" I said before could even think about it. Once I heard the words myself I winced and squatted opposite him. "It's not your fault; what would you having woken up two minutes beforehand have done? Lucy had been dead almost double the time it took for us to find her."

Not really, I couldn't help but think. It was her scream I'd heard... she'd died probably just after I'd woken up. Maybe she'd been dead five minutes before we got there, but certainly not the amount of time I said.

His face became full of scorn as he shook his head. "How would you know that?"

I don't. I'm lying to make you feel better.

I bit the inside of my cheek as I thought for an excuse. "Because I didn't get up instantly when I heard the scream; I thought I was hearing things. I only got up because I couldn't shake the feeling like it wasn't just part of the nightmare I'd had."

His face clouded in darkness instantly. "So we could have got there earlier?" he hissed.

I managed to stop myself from sighing as I thought of a reply. "Look," I said, perhaps with more force than I had intended. "She's dead. I don't like it and it goes without saying that you're heartbroken over it. But you can't sit there forever wondering what could have been. It happened. Deal with it."

His glare was only rendered useless by the snot dripping unchecked from his nose. "What would you know about any of this? It's not like you've ever dealt with death compassionately before. We're not all mindless soldier drones who can keep going without pause when someone or something we care for dies."

I winced at his words and hit back without thinking about it. "Well forgive me for adjusting to a life that wasn't exactly sunshine and rainbows. At least I can openly accept who I am and face people knowing that. You just hide behind so many layers in the vain hope that people will like you! You killed that guy a little too easily which makes me think you're not someone to take the moral high ground here about dealing with deaths. At least I feel some sort of remorse when I kill someone."

"I didn't kill him," Adryan growled at me. "He killed himself."

"Bullshit," I spat. "We all know you killed him; you handed him the knife yourself. Point a gun at someone's head and shoot them or force them to pull the trigger themselves: either way, it's you that's murdered them." I stood up and paced back and forth between two small steps. "You think you can hide behind all this bravado and try to tell me that you weren't responsible? I know what it's like to kill someone. I know what happens to you afterwards. I might not say this to anyone but I still go to bed on a night and see the faces of everyone I've killed. That's one of the main reasons I have trouble sleeping on a night; not because of what that stupid time-pixie wants me to do!"

It was true. I never liked admitting it to anyone – not even myself. I'd force myself not to think about it because it was the only way I could carry on functioning daily. It was my defence when they first started – when I was about twelve. After a year, I became so good at distracting myself that it was an almost instinctive morning action. It was only when I sat down and thought about it did I remember how much sleep I'd miss through such thoughts.

Adryan wiped his nose with a sleeve and gave me a dark smile. "I say I didn't kill him. If there was a body all people would have been able to guess was that he'd killed himself. But your charmeleon was the one that destroyed the body. So don't try and call me out on anything when you're the one that's gone to such lengths to hide the body."

Both my hands clenched into fists as I stared at him, nearly shaking with rage. The way he gloated about it made me almost happy that Lacey had killed his pokémon. The moment I realised how sick the thought was I felt disgusted with myself and spun away from him.

"You're a bastard," I hissed, unable to let myself see him. "I was worried for you because at the time, I wasn't thinking clearly and thought you wouldn't be able to cope with what you'd done afterwards. I got rid of the body because I thought that someone might have found out and you'd have confessed everything. I did it because I'm the sort of friend that would help you dispose of a body – no matter how twisted that might make me." I felt a small smirk crawl onto my face despite the situation and fought to keep it away. "But you know what? I got back here and realised that no one who had never killed before could have done that so maliciously. Sure, I might kill in cold blood but the first time I did so, I was throwing up all night because of it."

I turned around and glared at him. I wanted answers out of him. But at the same time, I knew that if I was in his situation, I wouldn't have revealed anything. I blew out a long sigh as I pulled a hand over my face and pinched my chin."Let's just... forget about all that." The less time we spent arguing about everything, the less likely I was to spit out the truth in a fit of anger.

I stared up at the sky and thought about everything. I couldn't run away on Adryan without him starting to suspect something – and I knew I couldn't do it without finding out answers first. I had to hang around with him more to find that out – though that meant being around his psychics and running the risk of him finding out what had really happened. He'd notice if I was acting any differently with my pokémon, which was just adding to the stress of it all.

"Two days," I said before I realised it. Once the words were out in the air though, my thoughts quickly followed it. "In two days time I'm going to go my own way for a little while. You need time to grieve without me being around. I think and act better when I've not got anyone else around. Maybe apart we can get new leads into whatever's going to happen."

I was expecting an argument. I was waiting for him to start complaining about how I was ditching him just after his pokémon had died. Instead he muttered a small, "Fine."

"It's fine?" I asked as I spun round, an eyebrow raised. "I thought you'd have more to say than that?"

He hissed a sharp sound. "My life doesn't revolve around you, believe it or not. I've just cremated my pokémon; I'm going to scatter her ashes in a few places that mean something to us. What you've suggested works out perfectly."

"Oh," I whispered and said nothing more on that. I shook my head as the conversation died completely and decided that since we both weren't going to be getting any sleep, we should carry on moving. Adryan agreed in nothing more than a grunt; he was silent in almost everything he did for a while.

The two days that we spent travelling actually went quite slowly. Adryan didn't talk much – not that I could blame him – and when he did, it was only in short, snappish sentences. I refused to let myself start another argument with him and instead tried to focus on training my pokémon. I didn't let Lacey out unless we were far away from Adryan and made her run drills by herself – I knew my other pokémon (or at least Xander) were likely to attack her for what she'd done.

I dimly realised one day that Adryan had left his blade in the small clearing where we'd found Lucy. I spent almost an hour fretting about it before I mentioned it to Adryan, who dismissed it with a small growl. Apparently Scar had diced up the man's corpse and then burnt it until it was nothing but unidentifiable ash. Adryan said he'd cremated Lucy too which meant there probably weren't going to be many traces of our presence there. The last thing I needed was to be implicated in another murder – I still hadn't heard whether or not they'd tied me to Aaron or the Dewford Champion.

All in all those two das weren't something that I wanted to repeat.

When it reached about twelve hundred hours on the day I was going to separate from him for a while, I'd finally had enough of the constant silence and occasional jabs. I was starting to get the feeling like Adryan blamed me for Lucy's death. I hadn't seen Willow, Myos or Ripper in those days so knew he couldn't have found out anything from them, yet the way he treated me made me think he had.

We stopped to have some food and a break from walking when I felt his glare on the back of my head. I tried as much as I could to ignore it, as I had before, until it became too much and I snapped, "What?"

"You." His voice was ice-cold and like a punch to the gut, all at once. "You've done nothing but tread on eggshells around me for the last two days and it's getting annoying. You think I don't notice those little looks you give me when you think I'm not looking? I'm not going to break down over the slightest little thing!"

That was a lie and we both knew it. The day after Lucy had been killed I had battled a trainer who sent out a ponyta. After the battle I found Ayd leaning against a tree, crying silently about his fallen pokémon and pretending like nothing was wrong, even as tears continued to run down his face.

"I'm not saying much because I don't know what to say," I said slowly, controlling every word. "There's only so much I can say 'I'm sorry for your loss' and ask you how you are before you start getting annoyed."

Aside from that, my head was a clusterfuck of different thoughts, all vying for attention. There was everything about Lacey, the way I had to actively try to make myself act normally, parts of me that were screaming that I should tell Adryan the truth and others that wanted to commit bloody murder on those thoughts. Then there was also everything that Adryan had said to be after he'd met Mia; the way he assumed I had to have feelings for her confused me. I mean sure, I had thought about sleeping with her – but that was something I did with almost every woman I met.

I pulled a face as I picked up a small pebble, turned it in my hand and then threw it back down on the floor with some force. "Mostly, I'm just getting pissed with the way you're turning everything into my fault. You're denying you killed that man; you're saying that it's my fault because I didn't leap out of bed and fly along to Lucy; you're saying that because Scar got rid of the evidence, it's obviously my fault and you're refusing to acknowledge anything I say about how easily you managed to do that!"

I faced him with anger burning through me. His glare was betrayed by the way his lips were set into a small confused grimace. Finally he straightened his face into one large ball of hate and growled, "I don't have to share anything with you."

That pretty much threw me over the edge. I didn't care that he was grieving for his dead pokémon. I needed to know then and there who he'd killed before and whether or not he was capable of killing me too. All the time, at the back of my mind, I couldn't help but remember what I'd heard of Owen's supposedly ambiguous death. The cause of it was starting to look clearer and clearer in my eyes.

My hands clenched into fists and shook by my sides. I managed to stop myself from punching him in anger as I jabbed a finger in his face. "You know all my secrets Adryan; it's time you stop hiding yours from me and putting me and my team in danger," I told him, my tone deadly serious. "I'm fed up of this stupid shit – I don't care if you don't like sharing information with anyone, if you don't tell me everything right now I'm going to wash my hands of you and leave you to sort out that stupid celebi's problems. You're the one that's so convinced it can be done and I don't want any part of that – and I'm starting to not want to be in any way related to you."

His glare disappeared with a wince at my words. Finally he threw his hands up into the air, sighed and then drew his lips into a very thin line. "Fine," he hissed. "You remember what I said about having a noctowl, flaafy and a toxicroak that all died?" I nodded and he let out a small, scornful laugh. "Well they were all murdered. A poacher got my noctowl, some jackass trainer used his golem to beat my flaafy to death when she lost the battle and then some little piss-stain of a man thought it would be funny to get his hypno to pop my toxicroak's head like a zit." His lips twisted into a dark smile again. "They all got exactly what was coming to them. No one hurts my friends, family or pokémon. Why else do you think Willow was able to so easily kill all those poachers in Sinnoh that tried to shoot her? She'd done it before three times to stupid little people who thought they were better than someone else. I don't feel guilty for getting them killed because the world's better off without them."

I blinked, scarcely believing it for a moment – naively hoping that he was just being his usual self and making this all into one big joke. When the punch line didn't come I realised how serious he was and blew out a long, slow breath; that being the only thing that kept me from staggering back in alarm and horror.

He'd used Willow to kill four people and had never felt any amount of guilt for it. Even I had felt some guilt for killing that Champion in Dewford who'd laughed when his demons had tried to rape me.

It was starting to look increasingly like I'd befriended a homicidal maniac.

"So how do I know that they're the only cases?" I asked carefully, slightly afraid of the answer. "How do I know that you're not going to go crazy with power and just murder everyone that's got pokémon, just because they might end up killing someone you care about?"

My question was deadly serious, yet it made him laugh. An actual laugh, though it was tinged with sadness and tears in his eyes from sorrow, not laughter.

"Do I look like a crazy Sinnoan to you?" He sniffed and shook his head. "Why would I start declaring war on trainers because of that? I'd end up having to kill myself too because obviously if I was killing other people, I'd be one of the very same trainers I was claiming were so wrong and needed to be killed." He folded his arms and a humourless, flat grin appeared on his face. "See the logic in that?"

I was taken aback by the clarity of his thoughts and could only manage to nod in answer. Now I wasn't scared that he might be able to go crazy and kill me; I was scared that he could go axe-crazy and murder everyone whilst still being capable of logical thought.

He ran a hand through his hair and twirled a lock in front of his eyes before he sighed and folded his arms once more. "I've only ever gotten Willow to kill people that deserved it," he told me, voice still thick with grief. "There's no chance of me suddenly deciding that I want to rule the world or anything like that." He managed to add a smile onto that, though his face still conveyed sadness.

At least it sounded like he wouldn't end up randomly deciding to kill me. If he ever found out Lacey was behind it though, I told myself it would be another story. I shook my head as I repeated his words over in my head and noticed that there was one key thing he was still refusing to tell me; the fate of Owen. Granted I hadn't outright asked, but I would have thought that in a conversation about murdering people the death of one of his best friends that another though was Adryan committing murder would be brought up, if only to clarify.

I folded my arms and stared at him. My anger had gone – it was replaced by some sort of big blank space that made me feel exhausted of everything. "So there's nothing else you want to tell me?" I asked, not wanting to really know the answer.

He frowned at me. "Look, I know that I'm not being far by not sharing my whole history with you, but that's just who I am. I can understand the whole killing thing because it seems like that freaked you out but in case you haven't noticed; I've got more important things on my mind that what I have and haven't told you."

"Look," I sighed and pulled at my hair. "I wouldn't press this otherwise, but it's starting to piss me off that you're near enough stood there lying to my face and have been for who knows how long!" I rubbed my eyelids and held out a hand to silence him as he tried to speak. "I know you've been avoiding telling me something Adryan. I know because Chris told me."

For the first time his anger and grief broke into genuine shock. "She... she told you?" he whispered, his mouth nearly hung wide open.

I shook my head. "Not exactly. She just let me know the basics and I've pretty much pieced together everything from there. I'd just rather hear it from you to let me know what I think is true and so that it doesn't feel like you're lying to me anymore." At least he was finally willing to acknowledge that he was hiding important information from me. Granted the topic of Owen's death wouldn't be an easy thing to ever be able to bring up, but surely it was the decent thing to share when you knew everything about someone else.

He continued to stare at me, open mouthed. Finally he gulped and rubbed the back of his head with a nervous sound. "So... you know?"

I nodded, silently. He cleared his throat and dropped his hands into his lap. "So... it doesn't bother you then?"

I bit the inside of my cheek, slightly annoyed that he was continuing to avoid telling me what happened to Owen. But I figured that it had to be hard for him to admit to – I had trouble telling him what had happened between me and Dewford's demons, after all.

"It did a little at first," I told him as honestly as possible. After all, I had thought for a little while that he might try to kill me too. Even during that conversation I still had my doubts. But I didn't want to reveal that to him, so I shrugged and dropped my arms to my sides. "But then I realised that it's not that big a deal – no offence – and well, if I was in your position, I probably wouldn't be shouting it from the rooftops either."

He blinked and a little smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. "So you're not bothered by it at all then? You're not worried that I might fancy you or something?"

...

My brain pretty much hit a brick wall when he said that.

I blinked, stunned and fell back a step. I managed to work my brain around his words and slowly asked, "Why... why would I be worried about that?"

The smile dropped from his face and a look of dread took its place. "Please tell me that's what you're talking about."

I was still as confused as ever. "What are you talking about?"

He looked completely horrified. "That's... that's not what Chris told you, is it?" he asked and buried his head in his hands before I could even answer. "Ooh shit," he groaned and pulled his head back up, face bright red. "I knew I'd slip up eventually."

It was amazing just how confused I was. I looked at him, raised an eyebrow and folded my arms once more. "Adryan... what are you talking about?" I asked him, genuinely lost. I thought we were meant to be talking about Owen, but then he came out with that and made me forget all about the murder claims. "Why would you fancy me anyway?"

He grunted a small laugh. "You're not seriously that dense, are you?" He looked at me and managed to smile a fraction at my unchanging expression of bewilderment. "Evidentially you are. You have no idea what we're talking about?" he asked me, one brow raised above the other.

I shook my head. "I have no idea what you're talking about," I clarified. This was a question about whether or not he was a murderer. My brain hit continual mental blocks whenever I tried to address his question, continually rerouting me to the huge forest of confusion.

He slid his thumb and forefinger underneath his glasses and pressed them on his eyelids. "You're kidding," he chuckled in a sigh. "Guess it's time for the big reveal then," he said as he dropped his hand back down to his side. "I'm gay."

I stared at him a moment, speechless. His face was completely straight and not once did his mouth twitch in humour. The absurdity of it all caught up with me and I did the only thing that made sense; I laughed.

"Th-that's a good one," I wheezed as I sat down, not trusting my balance enough to stay stood up. "You're getting better at doing straight-faced jokes – I almost fell for that one."

He laughed once, nervously and awkwardly. "Yeah... great joke, huh?" His face was bright red as he sat down, attempting to bury himself within his scarf and collar.

"Wait!" I stopped laughing instantly and felt my mouth drop open. It was like someone had just blindsided me with a truck. "You're not kidding? You're actually-?"

"Yup." He nodded.

"So you-" I made a series of gestures and he turned even redder.

"Yes," he sighed and nodded again.

"With men?"

He chuckled and managed to meet my gaze. "Unless 'gay' holds a different meaning in your time, that's pretty much what I meant."

I frowned and pointed at him. "But you're not... I mean... you don't-"

He shook his head at me, genuine amusement managing to break onto his face. "Believe it or not; we don't all float around, call everyone darling and wear fluorescent spandex."

I laughed and turned red at my own inability to comprehend it all. "But, you don't... I mean you've talked about shagging girls with me before!"

"You've talked about shagging women," he corrected me. "I've never once said that I've slept with a woman." He folded his arms and grinned at me, waiting for all the pieces to connect.

I had to sit in silence and think about it for a good while. It was true, I realised – in fact it was almost blindingly obvious in hindsight. The fact that he always talked about anyone from a sexual encounter in gender-neutral terms, he never answered me when I asked about a woman I thought he'd slept with and always steered the conversation elsewhere and perhaps most obviously: the way Chris had acted and spoke around me.

Remembering Chris' actions and attitude made me groan in horrified realisation. "Gods. Chris thought we were together, didn't she?" I could remember the conversations I had with her so clearly then; the strange things she said to me that I didn't understand making perfect sense with what I'd discovered. All those sly looks and gestures she'd made to Adryan, all the barely-hidden comments about me befriending people for who they are, the way she even acted like it was a case of meeting the family. "That's why she was so nice with me and so sort of slyly dropping in all those hints. She thought me and you were together!" I burst into laughter at the absurdity of it all and fell backwards, all my anger gone and replaced by a large sense of idiocy and laughter.

"What Mia said; about it being a shame with you!" I declared as I sat back up, pointing wildly. "That makes sense now! She realised it after only meeting you for a few hours!" His face burned bright red as I buried my own in my hands and laughed. "Man, how stupid am I? I've known you for months now; shared a room with you, slept next to you and everything and I still didn't realise it!"

Hindsight made me realise how clueless I'd been. If I'd managed to pay a little bit more attention at the time; actually listen to what he said and paid attention to how he'd reacted, I probably would have known when I first met him.

I laughed to myself until my sides hurt and even then more laughs escaped. "How did you manage to hide that from me?" I asked once I was able to breathe again.

He shrugged and pulled at his scarf sheepishly. "I guess I've just got so good at lying to people about it. I've never been a really feminine guy anyway; I mean the way I see it is that I was born a guy, thus I act like one. If I was acting all girly all the time, I'd have been born a girl, right?" He grinned again and played with the dirt underneath his legs. "Just because I happen to like guys doesn't mean I should act any different to who I am. I'm me, regardless of what I happen to lust after – man, woman or even sentient plants."

I was laughing again, though I nodded in acknowledgement of his words. "Well you fooled me! Why'd you keep it hidden though?"

He shrugged again and poked at the ground with a finger. "It's not exactly something I'm going to announce to people when I meet them, is it?" He looked up, cleared his throat and plastered a scarily large, toothy smile on his face. "'Hi there, I'm Adryan! My gardevoir's killed five people and I happen to like willies.'" He snorted and dropped his gaze again. "Not exactly something people are going to hear and want to befriend me after, huh?"

"True," I conceded as I tilted my head sideways. "But couldn't you have told me afterwards?"

He made a strangled sound. "When could I really say that? There's not exactly a good time to say something like that, is there?"

I gave him the point yet again. I chewed my lip as I thought about it all until something clicked in my mind. "Wait!" I exclaimed as I nearly bounced around whilst still sat down. "Is that why you and your mum had that falling out? You said you 'told her a few home truths', right?"

He blinked, stunned into silence with his mouth agape before finally he managed to smile and grunt an amused sound. "I'm amazed you remember that. But yeah, that's pretty much the real reason why it all happened."

I blew out a breath and raked a hand threw my hair until my fingers got snagged on a few knots. "Wait..." I said uncertainly as I slowly looked back up at him. My face must have betrayed my worry as Adryan gave me a slightly fearful look. "You don't fancy me, do you?"

He turned scarlet as he shook his hands in front of his face. "No, no!" he yelped. He managed to laugh to himself as his cheeks turned back to normal colour and he rubbed the back of his head awkwardly. "I mean, don't get me wrong, it's not like it would be a bad thing to fancy you, but you're not exactly the best looking guy there is and you're straight anyway, so it would be a waste of time."

I stared at him, keeping my face straight as I felt a grin threatening to build. "So why am I not attractive then?" I asked, acting offended.

He yelped and hastily backtracked over himself. "Well, you're not not attractive, but you're not amazingly attractive either and well-" he looked up as I burst out laughing and he managed to glare at me, despite his obvious embarrassment. "I hate you," he growled finally and resumed poking the ground.

I smiled and revelled in getting payback. "So wait; does this mean that my best friend, who happens to be gay, thinks about me naked at night?" I pulled a face and scratched at my cheek as he vehemently denied it all. "That's cause to be worried, right?" I asked, a grin on my face all the while.

He floundered like a fish out of water for a good minute before he finally groaned and buried his face in his hands. "I hate you," he finally growled. "Truth is, I did think about it originally, but when I figured out that you weren't interested in men at all, I quickly got over it."

I stared at him, shocked. "You fancied me?"

"Only at first!" he pointed out quickly. "And not really fancied per se. Just, slightly interested..." he trailed off uncertainly and poked the ground again. "Surely you're sort of the same? Entertaining thoughts about the women you meet?"

I grinned and rubbed at my shoulder. "Well, I suppose you could say that." He had to know that anyway. He had access to all my memories, which I was realising day by day probably wasn't the best course of action I could have gone with at the time. Yet again I'd acted rash in my anger. I blew my hair out of my face as I picked up a stick and began to carve drawings in the dirt. "Hey, Ayd? I need to ask you something."

He raised an eyebrow. "I'm not explaining anything sexual."

I managed to laugh at the memory of his prudish nature towards it all before. "Not that," I clarified as I shook my head. "You kept telling me before that I fancy Mia. But... I don't understand what you mean by that."

It was his turn to look completely perplexed. "What's not to understand?"

I shrugged. "Everything about it. I don't know what you mean by fancying someone. I mean, I've heard it used in speech and know what context to say it in, but I don't actually know what it means."

He pinched a bit of skin on his chin and pulled it, completely uncomfortable and embarrassed by the topic of conversation. "Then why are you asking me this?"

"You're the one that kept telling me I fancied her," I pointed out as I met his eyes. "And you're also the one that told me you used to fancy me. So obviously you know what it means."

He made another strangled sound and pulled at his scarf as he refused to look at me. "Well... uh... it's hard to describe. But... a lot of it is... well its wanting to do... stuff to the person."

I snorted and gave him a flat look. "Adryan, I'm seventeen. I know perfectly well what sex is. And I imagine having sex with nearly every woman I meet – does that mean I fancy them all?"

He blew out a breath and shook his head, continually refusing to look up. "I'm not treating you like you don't know about sex... it's just awkward because well... most of what I'm having to do is explain how I felt about you... and it's weird and embarrassing."

I grinned. "It's not my fault you're a prude. Is this why you wouldn't go into details about all the prison-things? Because you'd thought about doing them to me before?"

I cackled at the horrifically embarrassed look he gave me. "No well... right, for me it's more that you don't just lust after them... you want to be with them whenever you can be. There's a little bit of you that's always planning what your future might be like, but mostly even if they don't return your feelings, you're always happy around them."

On some level I couldn't help but feel flattered by his words. It managed to build my self-confidence back up after he'd dashed it by pointing out how unattractive I supposedly was.

"I'm not sure I feel that way about her," I told him. "I mean, you pretty much took all my denials as proof of my feelings. Sure I'm always happy and laughing when I'm with her... but I'm never really thinking about anyone when I'm not with them. Most of the time it's just to do with what that stupid celebi's making me do, or something to do with my pokémon or general shit like that."

He rolled his shoulders and folded his hands in his lap. "Well it's not exactly something you know for sure. It's impossible describe your feelings to someone else; it's like trying to explain colour to the blind. Just give it time. If nothing seems to develop there, then don't worry about it." He looked up and grinned impishly. "Of course, if you happen to get feelings for me instead..."

I recoiled and nearly fell over myself. "Ew! No! Ew!" I shook my head and refused to even entertain the thought. "No offence, but ew!"

He laughed to himself and leant back on his elbows. "It's your own fault. You found out about me. It's not like you never flirt with the girls you know, I'm just doing the same thing back." He winked. "You wanted to distract me from everything and find out what I haven't told you."

"Yeah, but..." I gargled as I inched backwards a little. "Ignoring the fact that you're a guy; you're like my brother! You feel like family and even if you were female I'd still feel grossed out because of that!"

It was his turn to start laughing at me. "You're like my little brother anyway, so don't worry about anything," he said as he waved a hand before his face. "Believe it or not, I'm not entertaining thoughts about us suddenly falling in love or anything like that. It isn't going to happen; I know that, so I'd rather chase after someone that I know is going to return my affections."

I nodded and then grimaced as my brain managed to process his words. "Wait, so you think of me as your brother and you still flirt with me?" I snorted and shook my head. "That's just plain wrong!"

His face was blank until it twisted into a smile and he barked out a laugh. "I'd never thought of it like that. No wonder why I'm so sick and twisted then." He grinned at his own words and pushed himself into a sitting position. "But you wanted me to stop lying as much, so you'll have to deal with who I really am then, which means me flirting with you and everyone else whenever I feel like it!"

I groaned and shook my head. "I liked you better when I thought you were straight."

He laughed again at my words. The sad thing is... it took a few months for me to realise I was the only one laughing that day.

The world should fear me, the Master of Perception.

 

It was only when I left Adryan the next day that I realised I hadn't found out anything about Owen from him. I'd been that dumbfounded by his reveal that I managed to forget everything I wanted to talk about. It had managed to distract me from everything to do with Lacey and I even managed to torment him a bit more.

 

It was actually something that managed to bring a smile to his face at least. He seemed to be a lot freer about himself and also a lot happier – though it did mean that he started flirting with me. That was weird to adjust to, no matter how often he tried it – though most of the weirdness stemmed from the fact he was so shameless when he was flirting, yet such a prude otherwise.

I amazed myself in that I'd ever managed to miss it in the first place.

I was about three days from Fallarbor when I realised I'd done nothing to try and find out what had caused Lacey to kill Lucy.

I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to do such a thing though. It meant having something capable of translating her words for me, which really only left we with trying to find a psychic to do so. My luck with those creatures was less than appalling – every wild one I'd encountered had tried to kill me. I didn't want to try and get a wild one to translate for me – with my luck it would blend my brains within my skull or something.

That meant I had only one real option left; I had to go with a trainer's pokémon. I mulled over the decision for a short while and knew exactly what I had to do; find out what I needed to know, and then dispose of the trainer and the pokémon.

I couldn't ask Lacey to do it, not when I was chastising her for killing. Xander would refuse, Erra would be too afraid to do so and Loki would probably see it all as a big game.

That left me with a single choice. I let Scar out of his ball and let him embrace the sparse showers of ash that came down from the sky before I explained everything to him. He seemed more than happy to do so.

In fact, he was a bit too enthusiastic.

The moment he saw another human, he hissed and leapt at the poor man, scaring him senseless.

"Scar!" I yelped as I chased after the creature and only just managed to grab hold of him. However, I only managed to grab his tail, which made him more angry at me than the other person.

"Don't. Go. Attacking. People!" I commanded him even as I tried to pull him away from the trainer. I signalled for him to run along – which he did without wasting a moment – as I tried to wrestle with my charmeleon.

"Scar!" I hissed and slapped him in the back. His head snapped round as he tried to bite me, growling viciously as I continued to try and stop him chasing the random trainer. "Stop!" I shouted at him and slapped him again. "You attack when I say so, not otherwise!"

He hissed at me, mouth spewing flames before I recalled him and fell on the ground, exhausted and unwilling to go through such a thing again.

I pushed myself off the floor and continued on towards Fallarbor, playing out possible scenarios in my mind. I knew that if I was to find out what I needed, I would have to trap a trainer somewhere that people wouldn't intrude. I'd have to make sure they had a psychic on them capable of telepathy, somehow threaten them into translating everything for me, then be able to dispose of them quite easily.

It meant I would have to rely on Scar, without a doubt. I gave it half an hour before I let him out of his poké ball again and let him loose on the wild pokémon to calm him down.

There was one he caught with an errant blast of fire that seemed more curious than annoyed though. Every so often I would catch a flash of light as sunlight bounced off it; always from roughly ten paces behind us. The first two times I dismissed it as random occurrences, though come the third and fourth, I knew we were being followed.

I told Scar to stop moving and moved myself behind him as we turned to face the approaching stalker. My hand slid down, ready over my gun as I saw it approach, moving up and down almost as if it were bouncing.

Sunlight bounced off it, illuminating a great plumage of feathers that shone with silver light. A large spiked crest framed its head and its amber vulture's eyes. It had a long neck covered in feathers, two long legs that ended in three-clawed talons and a tail made of longer, almost grey in colour feathers.

It looked at us, twitched its neck to the side and spread its wings out to the sides with a screech, displaying the blood-red feathers beneath.

I knew instantly it was a skarmory; a pokémon whose feathers could grow as tough as steel. Like most birds, their feathers were built from keratin, though like most metallic pokémon, their bodies fused additional minerals into keratin, making their bodies hard as steel, yet pokémon like skarmory could still fly without hindrance.

Its bottom jaw displayed a row of teeth as it screeched at us, tucked its wings in, bounced forwards a few steps and then spread its wings with another battle cry. I didn't know whether it was trying to warn us away from its territory or just challenging us, but I wasn't going to pass the opportunity up.

I nodded and Scar leapt at it, claws out and teeth ablaze with flames. The metallic bird was blindsided as he leapt upon it, burying his teeth in its neck and his clawed feet in its torso, slashing through steel-hard feathers and beating the bird with his fiery tail.

The skarmory shrieked and spread its wings in a deadly dance, slashing left and right across Scar and knocking him to the floor. He hissed and spat a ball of fire which the bird ducked under, making it all the angrier. It kicked Scar in the shin as he stood up, swiped him in the gut with one of its wings and pecked his head, tearing scales free from flesh and splashing blood everywhere.

Scar hissed again and breathed flames in the bird's face, making it dance backwards in pain. He snatched one of its wings in his claws and spun the bird into the floor, bathing the appendage in bright orange flames. I told him to go for the stomach instead, knowing that the pokémon could be of some use to me.

Scar kicked the bird and raked his claws across its back, making it shriek again. The bird fluffed its wings out and pecked at his feet, even as it sliced his front, spilling yet more blood. The charmeleon snarled and tried to stomp on the bird as he breathed flames over it, roasting the bird alive.

I saw my chance and chucked a poké ball at the bird, surprising Scar as the skarmory burst into iridescent red light. The ball didn't even rock once before it shattered into a thousand pieces, revealing the skarmory in all its injured glory, looking somehow angrier than before.

Scar snarled at the bird and blew yet more flames into its face, making the creature shriek again. He reared back and punched the bird on the beak before he kicked it in the stomach once, twice and then a third time before it fell onto the ground, winded and still trying to beat him off.

It didn't resist the second time I threw a poké ball at it and stayed inside until the ball stopped rocking. Scar and I both watched it for a minute more before he collapsed to the floor, exhausted, and I approached the ball cautiously, expecting it to burst open at any moment.

When it didn't I felt a smile bloom across my face at my success. Scar growled and tried to snatch the newly-occupied ball from my hands before I slapped his claws away and told him off. He snarled at me until I thanked him for his help in capturing the pokémon. It seemed to throw the lizard for six before he peeled his lips back in a frightful smile. I chuckled nervously at him before I recalled him, giving him a rest and escaping that horrifying grin.

Only afterwards did I realise I'd have to let him rest before I could find a psychic. Even my successes managed to throw a spanner in the works.

 

I waited a day before I dared to let the skarmory out of its poké ball. Scar seemed to need some time to heal and I would need all my pokémon available to try and contain the pokémon if it decided to attack.

 

I flipped open my pokédex to scan the skarmory's ball and discovered that it was three years old and female. I shut the machine with a small scowl. That meant she was likely to be stronger than everyone on my team – save Lacey. It meant that to calm the bird, I'd have to have her out just in case.

I blew out a breath and let Xander out of his own poké ball. He found a small cluster of slightly-damp grass before he sat down and stared up at me, his eyes blinking independently of each other.

"I've caught a skarmory," I told him, cutting right to the chase. He made an impressed sound at that and seemed to frown instantly afterwards. I had no doubt he knew what was coming next. Regardless, I still had to tell him, just in case. "She's strong and I'm going to need you all here. That means I'm going to have to get Lacey out for help – so I'll need you to keep calm and keep the peace."

He made an unimpressed sound at that though still let me know he'd be able to keep his cool. I thanked him and released Lacey from her ball first. When she appeared Xander growled threateningly at her, though she just crossed her arms and sneered at the toad. He croaked once, sharp and aggressively. The nuzleaf scoffed once more, grunted something and then turned her gaze away from him.

I blew out a breath and thanked my lucky stars they didn't start fighting. I explained everything to Lacey before I released my other three pokémon and explained everything to them all.

Scar seemed fine enough with the idea, while Loki threw back his head and cackled as he flexed his claws. Meanwhile Erra just buzzed and scuttled across the floor in an attempt to hide behind anyone. I stepped in front of her and told her to get into a circle with everyone else, regardless of how afraid she may have been.

When she finally did and all my pokémon were in position, I released the skarmory. Bright white light poured out like steam between them all, forming the shape of the metallic bird. She twitched her head at everyone before she spread her wings again and screeched at them all. Once she tucked them back at her sides, Loki fell on the floor cackling at her, Erra hid behind Scar who stood impassively in front of the bird, Xander looked at me as if to question my sanity and Lacey just waved a hand and started to walk away.

"Hey!" I snapped after her. "Where do you think you're going?"

She stopped and snapped her neck round to glare at me. Finally she rolled her eyes, pointed at the skarmory – who was still spreading her wings and cawing every so often – then punched her fists together and shook her head.

Apparantly the bird wasn't going to attack us. I nodded and took the nuzleaf's word for it before I recalled her, Loki and Erra all to their poké balls. Scar looked unimpressed by the turn of events and roared as he chased after a small sandshrew that had come too close. Xander meanwhile just watched the skarmory impassively, unmoving even as she continued to display her wings and screech.

I sighed and shook my head, not understanding anything. Instead I stepped towards the metallic bird and found that she was just a bit taller than me.

"So... I'm your trainer now," I told her uncertainly.

Her head twitched again before she shrieked and nipped my shoulder. I flinched and backed away, though she hopped after me with her eyes sparking with curiosity. Once more she tried to nip me and I managed to slap her beak away, only to cut my hand open on her teeth. Her head twitched once more as she watched blood trickle down my hand before she spread her wings again and screeched.

I groaned and recalled her into her poké ball. I couldn't figure out what was the creature's deal – she seemed curious, yet didn't seem to want to attack randomly, like so many of her species would. I decided that I would have to deal with it once I reached the next town and possibly ring Chris if I was still stuck for options.

I placed the skarmory's poké ball on my bandolier and looked around for Scar. The lizard managed to blindside me completely, nearly knocking face-first into the ground. I heard Xander croak something like a laugh as Scar began tugging on my jacket and hissing as he tried to pull me along with him.

I snatched my jacket back off him and stared at him, perplexed. He snarled once more and turned around, stalking a few steps away before he stopped and turned his head towards me. Once more he growled and took a few steps before he stopped and watched me.

I pointed stupidly at myself. "You want me... to follow you?" I guessed, surprising myself when he growled and continued to walk away. I shrugged and figured I had nothing to lose by following him – he didn't seem the type to try and trap me to kill me, after all. That was more Lacey's department. If Scar were to try and attack me, I knew he wouldn't hesitate in doing so. I recalled Xander and chased after the fiery lizard, running more than jogging in an attempt to keep up with him.

"What have you found?" I asked between pants as I tried keeping up with him.

He hissed something unintelligible as he bounded along the fields, his body pressed low and reminding me of a predator chasing prey. I began entertaining thoughts about how he'd found a dead pokémon or human – maybe even something or someone he'd killed. After all, I'd had him dismember the man Adryan had killed and congratulated him afterwards – the chances were that he thought he was doing a good thing by killing.

Alarm bells rang in my skull as he lead me to somewhere that seemed a lot more secluded than before. My brain began connecting dots I'd not seen before – Scar hung out with Lacey a lot when they were out and it wasn't like she never killed anyone. I'd even told him that I'd need him to dispose of someone once I was through with them – maybe he'd killed someone in a misguided attempt to help me.

I felt an indescribable amount of relief when I heard shouting from somewhere in front of us. Scar came to an abrupt stop just behind a cluster of trees and nodded forwards. I leant against the tree, panting as I followed his gaze. Far across us in the ashy plains was a trainer with brown hair, a dark blue body warmer over a white shirt and brown combat trousers. Though with him was a pokémon that made my heart stop.

It had a slender body, sleek with muscle. Its long arms ended with short clawed hands, though a long length of green bone stretched over its arm, almost like a natural guard. It covered most of the pokémon's hands and stretched back to its elbows, where it ended in a sharp point, almost like a blade. A deep, blood-red spike protruded from its chest and its legs were a pale white, muscular and ended in two-clawed feet.

Its head was an indentical shade of white, framed by a covering of dark green fur that matched the colour of the bone crest sticking out from the top of its skull. Its eyes were a piercing red and spikes framed its cheeks.

"Gallade," I whispered and fell back against the tree trunk, heart pounding. On the one hand I was so ecstatic that Scar had led me to a trainer with a psychic... yet on the other, I wanted to run away screaming in fear from the pokémon. Cousins of the demons that I so hated and feared, I saw that this one had become accustomed to killing, like its brethren. A long cape of stolen skin floated down from around its shoulders; the inspiration for attire of so many comic book heroes.

I thanked Scar and patted him on the head as I thought about it all. On the one hand I was incredibly lucky; gallade were known to be psychic, but their expertise lay in physical attacks. It meant that I could probably get it to tell me what I wanted to know without it being able to burst my brain like a zit. Yet on the other hand, I knew that they all abided by some sort of code of honour, which meant if it disagreed with what I wanted to do – which it no doubt would – it wouldn't wait long to cut me down.

I blew out a breath and decided I would listen in to the shouting to see what was happening. I'd heard it all the while, yet I hadn't bothered to listen once.

"... as I say!" the man was screaming at his pokémon. I felt a small smile come onto my face at that – he was having trouble commanding his pokémon; it meant I wasn't the only one that suffered with that. Though on the other hand it meant that if he didn't have it under control, it wasn't likely to be able to help me.

"I don't care if it isn't honourable!" he yelled at it. My smile bloomed at the knowledge that it could at least communicate telepathically. I placed a hand on Scar's shoulder and told him to wait a moment more.

"You'll do as I say because I'm your trainer!" the man screamed at the pokémon. I watched as he reached up and slapped the gallade across the face. My mouth dropped open as the pokémon stumbled back and placed a hand across its cheek, yet it didn't move to attack him back. I knew instantly that the guy had to be either confident in his abilities as a trainer or just royally stupid to attack a psychic like that. It was one thing that I always knew not to do as a trainer – in my camp back in my own time, I'd seen someone try to discipline his kadabra like that. The pokémon let the first hit go unpunished, yet when he hit the pokémon a second time the kadabra reached out and placed its hand over the man's face. We all heard his screams and he spent the next five minutes wailing that he was tasting with his eyes, seeing with his nose and hearing with his tongue.

Oddly he managed to speak as normal, regardless.

He was in such a state that Commander Flite had to put him out of his misery. The kadabra escaped quickly afterwards and we never did try to find it again – we were all too afraid to cross the creature.

I blew an uncertain breath as I tapped Scar on the shoulder. I told him to follow my lead as I pulled out my gun and placed it in the back my pants. Once I was sure it wasn't going to fall out or accidentally discharge I took a step towards the trainer and his gallade, confident my plan would go off without a hitch.

The trainer seemed to sense us approach as he turned around and gave a small nod. I repeated the gesture and tapped Scar on the side, keeping him in line and stopping him from running off and eviscerating the man.

When we were within a few paces of the man he lifted up an arm and waved. "Hey, fancy a battle?" he asked conversationally, pretending like he hadn't done anything wrong.

I smiled and snatched his arm from the air. He gasped as I twisted it round behind his back, drew my gun and placed it to the back of his skull.

"Don't move," I growled as I flicked the safety off the weapon. "Your gallade makes one move on me or my pokémon and I blow your brains out." I twisted his arm further up his back and shoved the gun into his head once more. "Understand?"

He nodded quickly and fearfully. I smiled and nodded at Scar as he approached the man, teeth ablaze and claws catching all the sunlight.

"Good," I said and pushed the man's head with the weapon again, tuning out his protests and pleas. "Now you," I hissed as I turned around to his pokémon. "Gallade. Do as I say and I won't paint the ground with your trainer's brains."

The pokémon watched me a moment, seemingly in curiosity. Its mouth dropped open in a yawn and I felt my heart stop beating at the sight of all the tiny sharp teeth. I pushed the fear aside and glared at the pokémon as I twisted its trainer's arm again. "Are you listening to me?"

Pain blossomed in the back of my head. [I am good sir. But you seem to think that I care what happens to this man you hold hostage.]

I blinked, dumbfounded. That certainly wasn't expected. I felt my grip on the man loosen as I stared quizzically at the pokémon. "He's your trainer," I pointed out. "Shouldn't you care what happens to him?"

The pokémon moved as if it were shrugging. [I cannot bring myself to care for those who disregard the lives and wellbeing of others.] It folded its blade-covered arms and nodded at me. [Even you sir, who carries the stench of death and the blood of my kin, is able to act with some degree of honour towards others. I have suffered under the control of this man since my days as an infant. He thought he could beat me into obedience like he has all his others. It was only my own code of honour that forbid from killing him.] The pokémon pointed towards the man with a large degree of disdain. [I may fight those weaker than myself, but I will not cut them down.]

I frowned and chewed up my lip with the sudden development of it all. Obviously I was weaker than the pokémon – that gave me some leverage against it. It wouldn't kill me, but that didn't say it wouldn't be able to leave me for dead either. I growled for the trainer to stand up, ignoring his cries and protests as I hauled him to his feet and looked back at the gallade.

"Well, that leaves us with a chance for a compromise," I told the creature as I watched Scar from the corner of my eye. "I need you to help me with a translating something from my pokémon – in return I can do away with your trainer like he deserves."

The gallade hummed and pressed a hand to its chin. [Merely killing the man is not a noble death, however. To be cut down without a chance to fight for one's life is unjust.]

I thought about it before I took my gun away from the man's head, flicked the safety back on and holstered it. "I'm giving you a ten-second head start," I growled venomously into his ear. "Then I'm going to set my charmeleon on you. If you can escape him, you'll be allowed to live." I tore my face away from his and focused again on the pokémon. "Sound fair?"

The pokémon managed a nod. [It is not a duel to the death, but it is the best your species can manage. He has the opportunity to keep living; it is in the God's hands if he lives now or not.]

I nodded once at the pokémon at threw its trainer away from me. "Start running," I growled at him. He stared at me, disbelieving and rubbing his injured arm until I gave him a dark smirk. "Ten."

He turned and bolted instantly. Scar hissed and went to chase him until I barked his name. He twisted his head and looked at me quizzically.

"If you do kill him, make sure no one sees it," I commanded him. He growled an affirmative and I furthered, "Do what you will with the body afterwards too. As long as you can't be traced back to it."

He hissed happily as I nodded for him to chase after the man. I plucked Lacey's ball and released her before the charmeleon had disappeared from sight completely, not trusting the gallade. Once Lacey was out of her ball I turned back towards the psychic pokémon.

"I don't want people finding out Scar killed him and then leading an angry mob towards him," I explained to the pokémon. "They'd cut him down without mercy. I'm being as fair and just as I can be."

The gallade nodded once. [It is a varied code of honour to my own, yet I can appreciate that you live by your own code. I shall not argue with your decision.] There was a scream in the near-distance, followed by a roar that made Lacey jump and hiss towards the distance. The gallade stared into the direction of the noise before it shrugged and turned back to me. [The Gods have made their decision.] It held out a hand towards Lacey. [I take it I am to assist in translating the dark woodlander's speech?]

I shot a glance at Lacey, unable to help myself from smirking at the gallade's analogy of her. "She's the one," I confirmed for the pokémon. "I need to ask her a few questions and I need to know definite answers, rather than my own guesses at what she says."

[And what is to happen to me afterwards, good sir?] the gallade asked. [Are you going to kill me as you originally planned?]

I gulped nervously and alarm flooded through me completely. It knew all along and hadn't once attempted to attack me. I didn't know what that meant, nor could I fathom any sort of explanation for it. I shook my head and said, "Well it's obvious I don't want you repeating what you hear. So if you give me your word you won't discuss this with anyone else, I give ou mine that I'll let you go free."

The gallade looked at me for a long moment then at Lacey, who glared up at the pokémon, her eyes narrowed in distaste. Finally the gallade nodded and folded its arms once more. [I accept those terms. Now, ask your questions, sir and I shall translate for you.]

I thanked it and turned to Lacey with a frown on my face. She looked up at me with a smirk and I felt my own temper rise, though I forced it down and crossed my arms at her. "I want to know about Lucy," I said slowly, afraid my emotions on the matter would betray me. I didn't know how long the gallade would entertain playing translator for us so I needed to make every question count.

I needed to know everything about it, though strangely the one thing I wanted to know most wasn't why she'd done it, but how.

"How'd you manage to take Lucy down?" I asked her. "She's – she was – stronger than you. How did you manage to take her down?"

Lacey smirked and glanced at a finger before she started to pick her teeth. She opened her mouth to speak and I would hear the start of her grunts and growls before the gallade's translation overtook every other sound.

The words that burned into my brain were harsh and cold. [I would have thought it obvious. Though apparently I overestimated the capabilities of your species. It's simple when you think about it... I apologise good sir.] The gallade's tone suddenly changed; turning back to its usual chivalrous tune. [Much of the dark woodlander's words hold no meaning or translation within the human language. It is rather difficult to provide an exact translation.]

I sighed and lifted up a hand to rub my eyes. "Then just give me a summary of what she says."

I saw the pokémon nod from the corner of my eyes. Once more pain spiked before words managed to accompany it. [She states that it should be obvious how she achieved such a result. She points out that it was you, after all that managed to teach her a number of techniques for such a deed.]

My head switched between both pokémon in quick succession. My brain couldn't work fast enough to keep up with everything and eventually it all hit a brick wall. "What... I taught you?" I said slowly as I pointed at myself. I stood there and thought for a good while on just what I'd managed to teach her. Sure there was making her faster and have more stamina, we'd just started getting her to learn how to use leech seeds, then there was the poisonous techniques she'd been working on for some time...

It was like a light flashed on in my brain.

"You poisoned her?" I asked, amazed. "But that alone shouldn't have been able to take her down!"

The nuzleaf grinned at me and gave me her reply. This time though I had to wait until it was finished before the gallade translated.

[She says that it was not just the poison, sir. She says that rapidash are instinctively ones to run when they are frightened. The fear made the creature's heart pump faster, and thus the poison circulated faster. She says while the pokémon was afraid, it was easy for her to hide within the forests and attack her – even to set small traps for her to run into. Apparently the rapidash stumbled over a number of branches the dark woodlander had left out. Supposedly the rapidash fell over and couldn't manage to regain her feet in her fear. The woodlander says she managed to slice the pokémon's neck on the first blow, yet she realised afterwards that one slice may be capable of killing, yet would lead to an obvious trail.]

It took no time at all for those pieces to fall together in my mind. "So you attacked her twice more to make it look like it had been a three-clawed pokémon that attacked her."

Lacey gave a small nod and I sighed as I pushed a hand threw my hair. Adryan was so convinced that the man had tried to cover up his murder of Lucy – he was only wrong about the culprit. I was ashamed that in some way, I felt impressed by her abilities to cover it all up.

I shook my head and asked only one word, "Why?"

Yet again the gallade waited for her to speak first. [She says that she has her reasons; that this was the only way to make a change. She says that while you may not understand now, she hopes you never come to fully understand, as that will mean it was all for nothing.]

It was gibberish. My brain couldn't make sense of it and instead I grabbed her by her shoulders and shook her. "Tell me what's really going on here!" I demanded of her.

She snarled and pushed me off her before she knocked me well and truly to the floor. She moved so she was stood above me, her lips pulled back in a sneer as she gave an answer.

[I do not understand most of what she says, sir,] the gallade informed me. [Although, I must ask you; how much does she actually know?]

I looked away from my pokémon and to the gallade, a confused frown across my face. "What do you mean 'how much does she actually know'? What are we talking about here?"

The gallade shrugged. [I do not know, sir. She says that you revealed something to her, yet you never truly seem able to see anything outside of your person.]

I lay there on the floor for a moment, stunned at the gallade's words. Sure I'd managed to find out how little I perceived towards my friends, seeing as Adryan managed to stun me with his revelation, but I never thought there was so much else I was missing too. Apparently I had told Lacey something that I'd never really seen her reactions too.

I sat down and thought about it all. The only thing I'd ever really told her was that I was from the future. When I'd told her that... I remembered that it looked like she pitied me. I remembered that after I'd told her everything, she seemed to fall under my command instantly and even started to look out for me, like she was trying to protect me. I'd seen her looking at me when she thought I wasn't looking so many times and always thought it was resentment for capturing her.

Yet I looked up at her and saw her giving me the same look again. It was pity; it couldn't be seen any other way. But underneath that there was something else... sadness? She looked sad... but not for herself. For me. She looked lost and distantly hopeful, yet only when I met her eyes did the hopefulness shatter into hopelessness.

I managed to push myself up and looked at her in a new light. "Lace... just how much do you know?"

She smiled and turned away from me. I heard her grunt only two syllables, which the gallade managed to translate perfectly for me;

[Pray you never know.]

I stared at her for a while, unable to think, yet alone able to say anything. Finally I swallowed and nodded reluctantly, swearing to myself that I would get all the details at a later date. From what I'd managed to put together, Lacey had killed Adryan's pokémon because of something I didn't know... something that she didn't want me to ever know. The way she looked at me with pity and sadness made me realise it was probably – in some twisted sort of way – an attempt to help me.

I blew out a long breath and swept my hair from my face. "Thanks," I said as I turned to the gallade. "You can go on your way now. There's nothing else I really want to know."

The psychic hummed and stepped towards me, meeting my eyes with its own. It held my gaze for a long moment before it touched its chin with a hand.

[There is something about you... that I cannot establish,] it told me, filling me with some sort of panic towards an unknown reason. [Perhaps I would understand if I were more proficient at psychic arts, but I was forced into my current form far too soon to develop such abilities.] There was a sound like it clicking its tongue before it folded its arms again. [I wish to make a proposal, sir. I do not know what this feeling is, yet I feel I will understand it further if I am to be around you longer.]

My stomach pretty much froze over at the thought. Having a demon follow me around on my journey? Having one of those things there when I tried to sleep... when I travelled or even when I had to answer nature's call? It went without saying that it was a giant, massive, lit-up-in-neon 'NO!'

The gallade reached out towards me. [I know you loathe my kind, sir. Yet I propose this to help you.]

My stomach flipped in horror at the implications of it all. Yet a part of my brain told me I couldn't pass up such an opportunity; no matter what way I looked at it, I would have a psychic on my hands! My party may have been legally full, yet I knew that I could always pawn him off on someone else and just use him whenever I needed a psychic – granted I knew it would have to be an extremely desperate case for me to require a demon's help again.

I figured that if nothing else, I could leave him with Chris to look after for a while. I remembered her saying that she didn't have many psychics – I doubted she would pass up the opportunity to get a fully-grown and able gallade to care for.

My face fell into an uneasy scowl. "Fine, I'll accept your help. But my team's kind of full right now, so I'll have to leave you under the care of a friend for a while. She's a breeder – she knows about caring for pokémon and you'll be able to fight as often as you like, even be able to pick a mate. The long story short is that at the moment, I can't really look after you to the best of my abilities. But I know that she'll be able to and as an added bonus, if you need me, or vice versa, it'll only take a quick message to bring one of us to the other."

The pokémon glared at me. [I do not appreciate attempts of bribery, regardless of what I am being offered. However, I cannot impose on you and make anyone else suffer. Is this female you mention shall be able to accommodate me whilst you care for the others, I shall accept such an offer.]

I let out a breath I didn't even realise I was holding. At least it meant I could still technically own a psychic, even if I never really had to do much to look after it. I grinned up at the pokémon and fished a poké ball out of my bag. "Scar's probably destroyed your old one now, so you'll need a new one of these." I threw it up in the air before I caught it again. "So have you got a name?"

The pokémon tucked an arm underneath its chest and bowed. [I am known to my brethren as Alistair. You may also address me as such.]

I nodded and introduced myself to the pokémon before I tossed a ball at it and captured it within. Once the pokémon was safely secured inside the ball, I tossed it in my bag and threw an uneasy smile at Lacey. She didn't seem much pleased by the idea either.

"He won't be our problem when we reach Fallarbor," I promised her and glanced around the area, trying to discern where Scar had ran off too. "At best he's just going to become a man-whore on Chris' ranch. Now come on," I said with a quick nod. "We better find Scar before someone finds him with that dead trainer."

She had the gall to shoot me a look of jealousy when she heard that. It wasn't like she'd never killed before.

Hopefully Lucy would just be the first and last of my friends' pokémon that she killed.

 
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