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.


40. Recovery

If you only do what you know you can do- you never do very much ~ Tom Krause


"The first step is always the hardest. Thing is, all the steps after it are equally as hard. It's only when we're given the answers we need does it seem like we've suddenly hitched a ride to success on the back of a truck."

- Scott Ridley, Owner of Hoenn Battle Frontier. (June 1st, 3008)


"I'm leaving."

Mia looked up at me, tearing her gaze away from her cacnea long enough to focus on me hovering on the edges of the room.

"I've got a friend I'm gonna stay with for a little while. She lives near Mauville and well… she's slightly psychotically violent enough to stop me from doing anything to hurt myself," I explained with the ghost of a laugh. "I just… my pokémon made it pretty clear to me that they weren't happy with what I was getting up to. I'm not strong enough to help myself… but I'm hoping that with their influence, I might be able to start getting myself sorted out."

Mia managed to give me a small smile. "So what happened to make you change your mind?"

I gave her a sheepish look before I showed her my hastily-bandaged arm. "Scar made it clear he wasn't happy with my habit. Xander turned his back on me, Erra's too out of it to form an opinion and Loki just seems too immature or just doesn't care either way. If my pokémon are willing to cut me out or even attack me over this, it's pretty obvious I should try and get myself over it."

She arched an eyebrow at me. "So my subtle approach and nagging didn't work; instead it took physically assaulting you to make you see sense?" She rolled her eyes and patted her unconscious cacnea's arm. "Men. Never listen to a word women say." She sighed, shook her head before she stood up and gave me an awkward hug. "Stay safe, you hear?" she said, withdrawing quickly as I moved to hug her back. "Let me know how it goes. And good luck."

I nodded stupidly to her back. "Uh, yeah. Count on it. I'll see you soon."

I hadn't even made it out of the doorway before she whispered my name. I stopped and turned my head, only to see the back of hers.

"Killing… does it really become easier?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

I tugged at the side of my mouth before answering her as honestly as I could. "The act itself? Yeah. Dealing with it afterwards? Not ever."

She sighed and nodded, still refusing to face me. "Thanks. See you soon, huh?"

"Yeah…" I said awkwardly to the back of her head. There was nothing more I could have said there, I figured.

Maybe I should have asked her why those questions were so important.

At least maybe I would have figured out who she was planning on killing before it was too late.

It took the train just under three hours to get to Mauville. It took me another hour to finally find my way and arrive at Chris' house.

Then I spent another few minutes wrestling the nervous butterflies that were attacking my stomach and stopping me from knocking on the door.

When I'd finally mustered up the courage to knock on the door, instead of hitting wood, my knuckles hit open air as the door opened up, revealing Chris stood on the opposite side. Her face was tense; she looked like she was torn between anger and concern, each fighting for dominance and neither winning the first word.

I gave her a tiny, sheepish grin before I stared at my feet. "Urm… hi."

Somehow, my feeble greeting managed to tip the odds in favour of concern. Chris gave an exasperated sigh before she finally hugged me and told me to come inside. I nodded mutely, still unable to look at her in the face, even as I sat down in her living room and accepted her hospitality.

It was only when she came back in, carrying a tray of drinks in her artificial arm that my resolve finally broke. "I'm sorry," I mumbled to the floor. "I shouldn't have… I mean, I should have…"

"What's done is done," Chris told me. "As much as I'd like to, I can't get on your case for things that have already happened. Just do me a favour would you? Tell me why you never bothered letting me know anything. I wouldn't have minded looking after your gallade for a little while longer, if you'd had the courtesy to tell me what was going on. You've been off the radar for three weeks now. Not even newbie ten year old trainers get lost in Meteor Caves for that long… unless something bad happens to them, anyway."

I couldn't face lying to her anymore. I hadn't expected Chris to be so nice about it all and it was making me feel increasingly guilty about going into Meteor Falls for a week in the first place, all to be rid of Alistair for a little while.

I told her about everything that had happened in Fallarbor. But once I started talking, I just couldn't stop. I ended up telling her everything, from me getting into the world up to my addiction and my pokémons' – predominantly Scar's – reaction to it. The only thing I managed to leave out was the fact that Lacey killed Adryan's rapidash, as well as Adryan killing the man he thought responsible for his pokémon's death.

When I finally finished speaking, Chris was silent for a good few minutes. It was horrible and incredibly awkward, with only the electrical hum of the nearby fridge and freezer proving any noise.

It took her two tries before she managed to speak.

"You're… from the future?" she asked, slowly and uncertainly. "You realise how ludicrous your entire story sounds, you know? Psychotic gardevoir, clandestine gym operations and psychopathic Elites? Are you sure you're not devising the plot for some strange sort of movie?"

I managed to snort sad laugh at that. "I'm certain. I've got the scars to prove it all. I can't expect you to believe it all. It took getting Ayd's claydol to show him what I'd seen before he believed me. If it hadn't happened to me, I think I wouldn't believe me either."

Finally Chris sighed and hugged herself with her real arm. "You're asking me to take a lot on faith. If this is true, you're asking me to keep a lot under wraps. That Elite you killed? The Sinnoans are convinced he was murdered by the Hoenn government. It's driving up a lot of racial issues people thought were long buried by now and it's not going to end well."

My stomach dropped into raging fires of guilt. "I-I… I didn't think anything like that would happen. He was killing people. I didn't know why. I thought stopping him from killing people would be the best course of action."

Chris stood up and paced around the room restlessly. "Maybe it was. There's been a lot on the news lately about him. The police in Rustboro have found a few things that have been leaked to the media. Apparently Aaron was performing some sort of espionage mission here in Hoenn. The problem with Elites is that they're the most advanced in their… element, for lack of a better word. Ones like Aaron, attuned perfectly to insects can understand and influence anything slightly insectish."

It didn't take long for me to figure out what was happening there. "He was making bonds with all the bug pokémon, wasn't he? What better way to try and invade a country than by using the pokémon that breed the fastest? Millions of them, hidden in the trees or wherever, able to suffocate people in silk pods, inject them with poisons, paralyze their lungs with spores or anything. Sinnoh's trying to go to war with Hoenn, aren't they?"

Chris shrugged. "Maybe. The governments are always competing against each other. A thousand years ago, before we really knew about pokémon, governments would build bigger and bigger weapons, if only for the threat that they could take out another country, all at the push of the button. Maybe this is something like that? Sneak in and have the threat that you control a certain population of a country's pokémon?"

She scoffed and leant on the top of the sofa I was sat on. "Publically, Sinnoh and Hoenn are at a truce. We have an ice-attuned Elite in Glacia, they have a firey one in Flint. Sinnoh's one of the coldest inhabited countries, Hoenn one of the hottest. Sinnoh has the largest number of icy pokémon, Hoenn the largest fiery. When you think about it, each country has the perfect means to attack others through their Elites, bar Johto and Kanto, who share the same four."

"Unless they've got some that the others don't know about," I offered. "It's the basic thing I've learnt through pokémon battles, as well as everything in my life before that; never let your opponent know everything you've got. Johto and Kanto are going to go to war, I know that much. That's my history. If the celebi really did send me here to stop things… there's no chance I can stop war from happening."

"But what did it send you back here for then?" She poked me in the shoulder and then rubbed her knuckles against the side of my head. "Think about it. There must be something you need to do."

I frowned and thought, yet came up with nothing. "I don't know. I've tried thinking about this ever since I got here really. I was told by someone else, someone that the celebi supposedly talked to that I had to save the world. More than that, I don't know."

Chris groaned and pushed herself off the sofa. "This is… this is too much. I mean, this can't be real! There's going to be hidden cameras, aren't there? You and Ayd have set this up somehow, convincing gullible old Chris that something so impossible has actually happened!"

I shrugged and stared at my shoes. "I'm not making it up. I wouldn't have been able to come up with such a long story. I don't have the imagination for that."

"But this-" she tried to say, but cut herself off with a shake of her head. "This is like something from one of those cartoon movies. You're going to go on a journey, get awesomely powerful and make friends with every rare and legendary creature there ever was, then defeat the big bad through the power of friendship."

I couldn't help but laugh. "If it were that easy, I'd have done it already. I don't know what to do; I only know from Ayd that the last person who tried anything like this just… disappeared."

"The kid with the girafarig, right?" Chris asked me, a look of concentration plastering her face. "I don't really know any details," she said quickly as I brightened, "but I do remember little things about him. There's websites all over the internet dedicated to trying to remember who he was; they've found video footage with him in it, but the videos are always distorted and cut out randomly all the time. It's creepy."

Even if she didn't know much, there was still a little bit of hope that bloomed inside me. "What about him do they know though? I would try and use the internet, but the last time I tried that involved a public computer and some weird sort of porn explosion."

She grimaced instantly. "I really, really hope you mean that loads of pictures flooded the screen and nothing else." At my blank look she just smirked and pinched a bit of skin above her artificial arm. "Never mind. Anyway, from what I've seen about it, there were little things about him appearing on the television and telling us that we needed to do… something. I don't know. His voice is all weird and hidden behind electrical screams on the footage, then every time it seems like he's about to reveal something important, the videos freeze or just stop completely." She stopped fidgeting and gave me a sharp look. "But that doesn't mean he's from the future! There's a few pokémon; porygon and the like, maybe even rotom or something that are able to screw around with technology!"

I pulled at the hem of my shirt childishly. "But Adryan seemed pretty sure that the kid was from the future."

"Adryan lives in fantasy, outside of reality," Chris snarled. Instantly she recoiled at her own words and pinched the bridge of her nose. "I don't mean that. I mean I do, if only because he seems to dream so much and hardly ever see that everything around him is still moving. But he's stopped that a lot lately. It's like he's suddenly realised that reality is still here. Took me getting my arm cleaved off to realise that. Guess I'm just jealous," she muttered to herself. "I'm actually more surprised that he managed to meet my boyfriend and have a serious conversation with him."

I quirked an eyebrow. "You have a boyfriend?" I pried.

"Yes, but not the issue now," she said with a wave of her hand. "Been going out for two months, he's nice; I'll explain more at another time. Right now we're sorting out how I'm actually managing to have a serious conversation about you being from the future and slowly believing it."

I nearly leapt off the sofa in sudden joy. "You believe me then?"

"I… don't know," she admitted as she sat down heavily. "I mean, it's impossible, it's got to be! Sure, the Celebi exist and can do so… but no one's ever proven that humans can travel through time. But what you're saying makes sense and… I just don't know what to think anymore. I mean-" she gestured around her living room, "-for what feels like forever, I've been working myself as hard as I can so this place is mine. If you're from such a war-torn future, you're pretty much saying all I'm working for now is useless."

I felt guilty instantly. Her words made me realise how much people really did have to lose. I'd acknowledged it before, but I'd never really understood it until I was there, seeing everything that Chris had and knowing that maybe in a few decades, there wouldn't be anything left of it.

"But, I got sent here to change the future," I protested, slightly hoping to cheer her up. "That means everything can be stopped and stay the same; your place will still be here."

She snorted and rolled her eyes at me. "Because you're so intent on completing the task you got sent here for, aren't you? You said it yourself; you've given up what you've been tasked to do, because you don't want to fade away."

I flinched and stared at the floor again. "Well, yeah, but… I mean."

She just sighed and rubbed her eyelids. "Look, I'm sorry. It's just… this is a lot to take in. Everything you've told me you've done… everything you've got to do. There's a reason humans weren't ever given the power to predict the future; we think too much, but we're not smart enough to understand it."

I rubbed my arm and thought about it all. Talking to her made me realise the problems in the way I'd been thinking for so long; almost all boiling down to my own selfishness. These were actual people living here. Not distant memories and names on graves, like I'd known all my life, but living, breathing, talking and dreaming people. The weight of the thought made me collapse, missing the sofa completely and instead hitting the floor.

I'd told myself the whole time that it didn't matter if I didn't help, because undoubtedly everyone that lived in the current time would have been dead by my own. But obviously some must have survived, if only because people were still around in my time. It was like a big explosion from a tiny spark; my selfishness wouldn't help those people live, who wouldn't be able to create life and so on.

I realised then that I needed to help people, in any way I could.

But there was also the biggest problem of all; I didn't want to die doing it.

"I don't know what to do," I mumbled, cupping my chin in my palms. "I got brought here for a reason, right? That stupid pokémon chose me over everyone else; because it thought I could help save this world and all the people living in here. But I don't want to just up and vanish doing so! I mean, that girafarig kid did what he needed to and he vanished!"

Chris blinked and leant forwards, creases slowly coming across her forehead. "How do you know that?"

I glared at her. "So you do know something about him!"

She flinched backwards, composing herself quickly and fixing me with a lethal glare. "No. I don't know anything about it. Nor does anyone else. Not for sure. Which makes me wonder; how do you know that he disappeared because he completed what he needed to do?"

I felt the argument and my breath fly straight out of me. "Well… I mean, he's got to have done, right? Ayd said that-"

"'Ayd said that'," Chris parroted me, scornfully. "Since when did Adryan claim to know the truth either? He doesn't know anything about it; he was only speculating, wasn't he?"

I sat there on the floor, shocked into silence, remembering the conversation. It was true. He'd never said a definite answer. It was all 'maybe's.

Chris smiled at the realisation that jumped across my face. "See? Maybe he didn't really vanish because he did right; maybe he vanished because he did wrong. There's any number of explanations for it, no one knows for certain, so no one can tell you how he did manage to vanish off the planet."

I nodded along, hope already surging through me. Though despite that, one tangled string of doubt pulled everything else down. "But what if he did disappear because he succeeded?"

She shrugged. "I can't say. Maybe that's a good thing. I mean, the Celebi brought you here for a reason, right? A task, a job for you to complete. If I was that pokémon and you failed such an important task, I'd be pissed. Either he disappeared because he failed… or he vanished because he completed the task and that was better than suffering whatever it would do to him if he failed."

It certainly made things a lot clearer. But it brought in the main problem; the potential of a die-die situation. Worst case scenario; I fail the celebi and get brutally punished as a result, or I succeed and vanish without a trace.

I didn't honestly know what one of those would have been worse.

"I can't stop a war though," I muttered. "I mean, Kanto and Johto went at it. Looks like Sinnoh and Hoenn will too. I'm just one kid. I can't stand up against all of that."

"Maybe you're not meant to stop the big picture, just help in the little?" Chris suggested after a moment's thought. "You're not powerful enough to stop countries going to war, you're right. But little changes often cause the biggest impact later on. I mean, when you're breeding pokémon, one can develop a little genetic mutation you might not notice. A few generations down the line and that could result in who knows what happening to the pokémon – two heads, three tails, anything. Things like that are how pokémon like doduo came into being.

"Besides," Chris said with a smirk. "I thought you said you'd decided to give up on saving the world."

It was true. But at the same time, it was starting to become a lie. I'd tried not to help the world and instead only ended up getting my friend hurt and myself addicted to drugs. I didn't want to save the world, not really, if it meant I was going to vanish at the end of it. But if I incurred the celebi's wrath by failing… it wasn't something I wanted to think about. I started to believe that maybe even everything that had happened in Fallarbor was a hint from whatever forces that I had to keep on my task.

I figured there had to be a way to stop it without me disappearing. I told myself it wasn't like the celebi was going to show up and randomly poof me out of existence, nor was it likely that I could change anything major.

But what Chris said made sense to me. If I could change little things – maybe build safe places for people to live in. If I was going to change myself by getting over my addictions, surely that meant I could change other things too. I didn't want to disappear, yet I didn't want any more of my friends to get hurt because of me.

I remembered how worried I was for each of my pokémon when I was in the Fallarbor gym – how relieved I was when I found them all. I wanted to protect them all and keep them safe.

The scariest thing was realising I would have given my own life to keep them alive.

It was like a light had suddenly clicked on above my head. I knew I was selfish, yet my pokémon were like my family; I would do anything to keep them safe. Even if I couldn't change the future, I at least wanted to make sure they'd be safe for it. As long as I could stop them and my friends from getting hurt anymore, I knew I could apply myself to change little things to help them out.

Guilt and hope were like a divine mixture for willpower.

"Epiphany?" Chris asked with a grin. I stared at her, mouth open and made a little grunting sound as she laughed. "You've got that look everyone gets when they've finally figured out what they want to do with their lives. I know people say you can never decide in an instant what you want to do, but it always seems like we do. It takes loads and loads of subtle hints and nudges in the right direction, yet we only ever realise it in one, big, clarifying train of thought. Pretty much how I decided I wanted to become a breeder. You finally realised what you're going to do?"

"I'm gonna try," I told her. "I can't let any more of my pokémon die because of me. The wurmple was an accident, only because I hadn't trained Loki enough. The makuhita was a result of my own actions. Sophie the same. Mia got hurt so much all because of me – they wanted to know about me, whether or not I was from the future and hurt her because of it. I don't want to fade away… but what I don't more than that is for my friends or my pokémon to get hurt. I can make little changes and make sure they're safe – I hope. Just listening to everything that's happened so far to me… it's a wonder I haven't died yet. Either I'm one lucky fucker, or something's making sure I'm protected.

"I used to be a soldier. I used to protect people on a daily basis. But since I got here… I've kinda thrown all of that out of the window. I've completely forgotten who I am, all for a chance to escape." I shook my head to myself and looked up at Chris, questions in my face. "But that's who I am, isn't it? You don't ever change overnight. I'm selfish and want to survive more than anything else. But I've protected people since I was thirteen. I chose to do that… it's what I was made to do. I can't let the world fall apart because of my mistakes. Maybe I've already caused Sinnoh and Hoenn to go to war… but maybe I can protect people from the worst things that are to come."

Chris managed a grin. "Is there going to be a montage now? You studying and planning until you've finally figured out what to do?"

I snorted and fell back into the sofa. "I wish. Everything that happened in that poison gym… it's horrible but… if they were so interested in me being from the future, it makes me think that they mustn't want me to succeed. They might have been torturing people who slipped through the law's cracks… they might even be the good guys in that respect. But what if they got too power hungry? There's a load of 'what's, 'if's and 'maybe's here… but I'm fed up of everything bad happening to me, if only because I'm so busy running from something that might happen. I mean… worst case scenario is that I die either way. With that outlook, I'd rather take the nice, least likely to be painless path."

"You know," Chris said, "that's probably the most I've ever really heard you speak about anything. In fact, even though you've just told me your life story, that's probably the most I've ever heard you talk about your life. Usually it's me talking to you about things. What's brought all this on?"

I shrugged. "Probably a moment of clarity between cravings for a fix. I've been so down lately, but on the train, I had time to think. Three hours nearly, most of which I spent wanting to stick a needle in myself and then arguing with myself about it. I realised I had to turn my life around… but nothing really clicked into place until you said about little things. Everything I've done so far has been massive leaps; I started off with less than a year to change things, now I've got about four months, maybe? I'd been so convinced I needed to stop everything with large gestures, I never really considered that maybe little things were what I had to do." I sighed and slid further into the sofa cushions. "It would have been so much easier if that damned celebi had left me an instruction booklet or something. It threw me in at the deep end; how could it not have expected me to do badly?"

Chris shrugged, suddenly solemn. "Sometimes you need to do things badly to understand how to do them well. For all the books I read and exams I had to take on pokémon breeding, they never really covered how to really look after pokémon. I ended up doing so many things wrong; feeding pokémon the wrong things, making them live in the wrong habitat that a lot of them ended up sick early on. You can be told the right way to do something, but you'll never learn to do it right unless you do it wrong first."

"You've done more than that wrong, haven't you?" I asked before I could stop myself. Chris looked at me sharply before finally her face fell and she hugged herself again.

"Everyone's done a lot of things wrong in their lives. Everyone has the things they'd wish they could do differently. Have you ever heard of the saying 'you can only regret what you never did'?" she asked me. When I nodded she sighed to herself. "I think that's a load of bullshit, personally. Sure, you can regret not doing a lot of things… but sometimes doing something is possibly something that can haunt you for the rest of your life."

I scratched my chin and gave her a confused look. "What exactly do you mean by that?"

She sighed again and looked at the clock. "It's nearly two o'clock. You'll understand what I mean in a minute."

I had no clue as to what she meant, yet trusted her regardless. There was no indication of what I was waiting for, yet as the minute ticked by, Chris looked more and more nervous, yet guilty at the same time. It was almost like she was dreading what would happen next, yet staying hopeful all the same.

My questions were all answered when, at exactly fourteen hundred hours, the patio doors opened and a golden-furred wolf walked through them.

It stood tall on all fours, with thin, fine golden fur covering all its body, bar its chest, back and knees, where it became a dark, sandy brown-like colour. Its ears were curiously large and the fur above its mouth split almost like a moustache. Behind its two front paws were little pouches of brown-furred skin, within each was a single spoon-like object that seemed to be carved from bone. The pokémon grunted and stood on its hind legs, bone-spoons sliding out of their pouches and into the pokémon's waiting hands.

I stared at the pokémon and then snapped my head back to Chris. "You never mentioned that you had an alakazam," I accused. "Actually…" I said, thinking hard. "You've never really told me about any of your pokémon."

She winced and offered me a small smile. "Later," she told me before approaching the alakazam. The pokémon turned and growled as Chris approached, avoiding her completely as it made its way past her, towards a specific cupboard in the living room.

"Hey Mattie," Chris said to the pokémon, but was treated to nothing but a cold shoulder as the pokémon brushed by her, as if she wasn't even there. Chris looked as if her heart had broken in two as the pokémon ignored her, opened the cupboard and pulled out a small pot of pills. It opened the pot with psychic power, took out two pills, swallowed them and then replaced the pot, all with practiced ease. Then it dropped back to all fours, brushed silently past Chris again and left the house, shutting the door behind it.

The room felt cold behind it.

In the silence that followed, Chris looked like she was about to cry. She took a deep breath and sat down in the chair opposite me, digging her nails deeply into the chair's arms. "That was Matilda. She's own of my oldest pokémon."

I glanced back towards the door. "She doesn't seem to like you much."

Again I could see Chris' heart break. "What I did to her… I understand now I should never have done it. She got cancer a few years ago… while it was treatable; they told me that the only way to make sure she would never get it again was to remove the offending organ. She had ovarian cancer, so they performed a hysterectomy. I thought at the time it was the best solution; remove her womb so she wouldn't wither away and die.

"She's hated me for that decision ever since."

I couldn't understand why. Chris had saved her pokémon's life, yet earned its hatred in return? "But… why?" I asked.

Chris started mournfully after her alakazam. "While pokémon lay eggs, they still have wombs… sort of a genetic leftover from when they used to give live-births. They incubate the eggs there until the shells are hard enough to survive the world, then they lay them. Matilda never got the chance to have any cubs. It was only after I had her womb removed that I realised that's the one thing all alakazam long for; to be able to have a child that they can pass down all their knowledge to. She hates me because now I've forced her to live a life without meaning. Alakazam can live to over a hundred; she's only around twenty. She's reckless in battles now, because she's got nothing left to live for. And because I can't bear to let herself get killed in battle, she hates me all the more for it."

I frowned and tried to work my head around it. "So… she hates you because you want her to live? Can't she just like, adopt another pokémon?"

"It's not the same for psychics," Chris said with a shake of her head. "All psychics are mentally linked to their children from birth. It's like a maternal bond, but on another level. Even if she raised another pokémon and treated it like her child, it would never feel like hers to her, because she would never have the exact psychic bond with it. It would have been kinder to just let her die. Sometimes the best thing for the pokémon is the worst thing for us."

She took a sad breath and pulled herself back to reality. "Now, talking of worst things, I'm going to need whatever it is you've been taking since Fallarbor. You need to get yourself over it and I can't trust you with it. So hand it over," she said, pressing her hand out for emphasis.

I looked at her hand and felt my ears burn red as I tipped my bag upside down and watched the many vials slide out onto the table. Chris' eyes widened at the small pile before she leant forwards and picked one up. Almost immediately her eyes nearly fell out before she leapt at me, pulling me up by my collar.

"Tell me you haven't been injecting yourself with this," she hissed, more fear in her voice than anger. I managed to squeak a small answer, making her only throw me back into the chair in disgust.

"You have got to being kidding me," she hissed as she began pacing the room. "Do you have no brains at all? Are they even wired up in there? You know what this is? This is a painkiller for poisonous pokémon! Do you what goes into these things? Poisonous pokémon have loads of toxins naturally in their bodies; this has almost all of them mixed in, if only to make sure their bodies don't reject the drugs!"

"B-but," I stuttered. "Injecting that stopped my hand from becoming really infected!"

"Only because it was probably killing everything in your body, your own body cells included!" she shrieked. "I… just… I mean… seriously? Fucking hell, did you even think about what you were injecting yourself with? Sure, it's slightly medicinal like morphine, so you'll be sedated, but it's got so much else in it, I wouldn't be surprised if your liver's falling apart right now!"

I winced and subconsciously pressed a hand to my stomach, trying fruitlessly to feel my liver through my skin.

"Fuck…" she whispered in horrified awe. "Just promise me, no matter what, even if you fall off the wagon; never inject yourself with anything like this again. You'd be in less danger if you went outside and licked a grimer for heaven's sake!"

I winced at her tone and then retched at the mental imagery she provided. "I promise," I told her. "And there's something else," I said as I reached for my bag. "I want you to take this. I don't trust myself with any of it; I could use it to get more. Plus, it should more than cover everything you spent to look after Alistair," I said as I opened my bag again, this time unloading all the money I stole from the Fallarbor gym.

Chris looked at it, her mouth open ever-so-slightly before she stared at me. "Where did you-no. I don't want to know where you got this from. I can't take this. It's over ten times what looking after Alistair cost me, plus you need money to buy clothes and potions and everything like that."

I shook my head. "I know what that usually costs. I've made by all this time with rarely more than about a few hundred poké to my name. Having all that… there's just too much temptation. I'd rather it go to you… you can do some good with it." I smiled and stood up, heading for the patio doors. "I'm going to go find Alistair; take the money, leave it, hide it or whatever. I'm not fussed."

I felt my smile curl into a tiny laugh at Chris' amazed stutter as I left her room. While there may have been some guilt that lead me to give her all the money, the majority of it did come from the fact that I didn't trust myself around it. It was the best way to deal with the entire situation.

Though leaving Chris to her own devices also brought up one problem for me; how was I to find Alistair?

[I am to assume you are looking for me, sir?]

I yelped and jumped out of my skin, clutching my rapidly-beating heart and glancing around my entire surroundings. There was no sight of Alistair anywhere nearby, at least, until I glanced up towards the roof and found him sat atop the building, cross legged and leaning on his knees.

[I have known you have been back for some time, yet I assumed it best for you to converse with Ms. Taylor.]

"Ms. Taylor?" I echoed, confused for a brief moment. "Oh, so you mean Chris? Yeah… I kinda did need to talk to her for a bit. Thanks, I guess."

He smiled and pressed a hand to his head, almost as if he were tipping his hat. [It was no trouble to me. I could sense that you had many problems plaguing your mind, sir. It seemed as if you needed someone to converse with; someone whose opinion you would listen to. I would have tried myself, yet I understand you do not wish to listen to what I have to say.]

I frowned and felt a little pang of guilt stab through my chest. "That's not true… exactly."

I felt a laugh bounce around inside my mind. [Good sir, I may not be proficient in telepathy, nor most psychic abilities, yet I do know when I am being lied to. Your hatred of my kind clouds your judgement of me.] I squinted past sunlight to watch him fold his arms and lean back smugly. [Yet I know that you are slowly working past such bigotry, sir. Your actions prior to sending me here, even afterwards, make it clear that you are afraid of yourself; you rid yourself of me, because you do not like the fact you may be bonding with me.]

I snorted and crossed my own arms, despite the fact my ears began to burn. "I don't like you psychics, you know? Getting into my brain and putting thoughts there, it's not exactly polite."

The laugh was there again. [Good sir, accuse all you like, but I do not lie. You hold concern for my wellbeing, otherwise you would not have been thinking so loudly about finding me.] He stood suddenly and leapt off the roof with a spin, before landing nimbly in a crouch at my feet. As he stood back up, a smirk crawled across his face. [You are, in many ways, a paradox, sir. You do not care about any but yourself, yet I see how much you worry for your pokémon. You bare no concern towards the fate of many, yet still wish to be able to help them. I do not know why this is… but I suspect it is due to how strange you feel.]

I rolled my eyes. "This again, huh? Something about me that you can't establish, but if you were a better psychic, you could? Is it going to be something like I'm real, but not? I'm alive, but I'm dead? Maybe I'm a man, but really a woman?"

[That last one seems the most plausible, sir,] he said with a smirk.

"You're funny," I deadpanned. "Only I could be lucky enough to come across a sarcastic butler-like gallade."

[I may treat all with respect, but that does not mean I do not have wit, sir.] He folded his arms again, expression becoming solemn. [For what it is worth; I am sorry for what happened with the metallic avian. I knew we were to meet again, though I do wish it were under better circumstances.]

I felt hollowed out in an instant. "Yeah… so do I," I whispered as I scratched at my elbow. "But there's nothing we can do now."

Alistair bowed his head. [Perhaps not for her. But I think that, if done properly, it can be prevented from happening to anyone else.]

I cursed as boiling-hot kettle water spilt all over the kitchen counter and dripped little splashes onto my feet.

My hands shook violently, twitching erratically and making my whole arms move with unconscious effort. I cursed again and tried to find something to clean it all up.

Only to have a heart attack when I found a pissed-looking black man behind me.

"What'chu think you doin' here boy?" he screamed in my face with a thick foreign accent. I yelped and jumped away from him, splashing water wildly from the kitchen counter.

Finally my heart stopped racing and a little bit of clarity jumped into me. "What… what're you doing here? Chris' place isn't open at the moment. And I don't remember hearing the doorbell go."

He frowned at me, thick grey eyebrows glaring viciously at me. "You think I'm stealin'?"

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and took as deep a shallow breath as I could. "I can't say for sure, but you're wandering around here pretty early in the morning. Though you're also talking to me… which probably means that you're quite the stupid burglar."

He glared at me again, though quickly backed away when Chris walked into the room, face crossed between anger and embarrassment.

"Da-ad!" she wailed in horror and shoved him away from me. "Why do you always have to do this? Seriously? I know you have fun with the whole angry black man routine, but why do you always do it to my friends?"

He grinned suddenly, a few wrinkles framing his aged face. "Ah, come on! Can't an old man have a little bit of fun now and again?" he asked, accent becoming normal Hoennese.

I blinked and realised just how similar to Chris he looked. Granted he had close-cut, grey curly hair and even a black moustache stained grey, but otherwise, they seemed to have the same nose, eyes and ears. I slowly realised it was all some sort of perverse joke; Chris' dad playing on social stereotypes to freak people out.

I glared at Chris, almost as if I could scold her for not warning me about her dad any sooner.

She sighed and buried her face in a hand. "Dad, seriously. I'm twenty-three; you're supposed to actually have stopped trying to embarrass me like I'm still a teenager!"

Her dad smirked. "And why not? You try to embarrass me around my friends; I actually can embarrass you in front of your friends."

She growled and shoved him again. "One day. You come to visit for just one day and manage to mortify me beyond all belief within the first ten minutes."

I felt incredibly awkward and tried to make my way subtly out the room. As soon as I managed to take a step, however, there was suddenly a large shattering sound from the living room. Chris growled again and cursed as a woman shouted an apology.

"Ten more hours…" Chris muttered to herself. "I swear I should have become a pathologist. Dealing with dead things. At least you two wouldn't be able to embarrass me in front of them."

A small, brown skinned woman appeared in the kitchen doorway, her long black hair tied into a bun atop her head. I gathered instantly she was Chris' mother, just from the fact that Chris somehow looked exactly like her too. Seeing them all together, it was like Chris was the perfect split image of them both.

Her mother smile sheepishly and held up two large fragments of a broken plate. "I do hope this wasn't expensive…"

Chris growled to herself. "No Mother, I knew you were coming so I hid everything that was slightly expensive. How you ever managed to be a pokémon trainer is beyond me."

Her mother rolled her eyes. "Very funny Carishna. Do not forget who looked after all your pokémon when you were little. I'm the one who rescued your pidgey when you accidentally sucked him into the hoover!"

I choked on my laugh at that mental image.

"I hate my parents…" Chris moaned. "Please, someone tell me I'm actually talking to some sort of psychic hallucination."

I smiled sheepishly and tried to push past everyone as quickly and gently as I could. "I'll… uh, leave you guys to it then. Go train my pokémon."

"Are you sure I can't bribe you to spend the day with my parents?" Chris begged me. "Really? They're not so bad. Not as long as you're related to them."

"Besides," her dad said, "if we were only hallucinations, only you would be able to hear the many stories we had to tell about you when-"

"No more talking!" Chris yelped and shoved him again. "We're leaving, now! If you want a tour, fine. But no more talking to my friends!"

I laughed at their antics, feeling a little pang of sadness that I never got to know my own family in such a way.

I made my way outside and released my pokémon, bar Erra. I'd tried letting her out the first day I'd spend at Chris' – the magnemite had tried to attack every pokémon that Chris owned and was looking after. I still hadn't fully figured out what was wrong with her, though I'd managed to book an appointment in Mauville's pokémon centre to get Erra fully checked out.

Loki scampered across the grass happily, plucking random blades and collecting a small pile before throwing them at Xander. The lombre retorted by soaking Loki with little blasts of water, splashing the ground around them and covering the sableye in mud. Scar growled at them both as they approached, watching them warily as the two pokémon crept around him, balls of mud in hand, ready to strike.

I felt Alistair laughing behind me and turned around in curiosity. I raised an eyebrow at him, wondering just what was so funny.

[This reminds him of another time,] the gallade informed me. [It is rather amusing to see a creature full of such rage suddenly full of joy.]

I nodded and looked back to my other pokémon. Scar was under attack on both sides from Xander and Loki. Finally the charmeleon snorted black smoke at them both, covering them in obscurity before he snarled and kicked wet mud at them both. The smaller pokémon yelped and retreated, grumbling and mumbling with each other whilst they gave Scar looks born of conspiracy.

"How does this remind him of another time?" I wondered.

Alistair hummed as he stepped beside me. [You do not know the history of the flamed lizard, do you?]

I shook my head. "I don't know the history for any of you guys. I know a lot about Lacey's, but that's only because she knows a lot about charades. All the others… there's no real way I can talk to them. I've never really been able to find out much."

[It is a shame that we cannot all converse so well,] Alistair said, his voice low and barely above a whisper. [Every creature has a story; each deserves to be heard, no matter how dull. The fiery lizard's is not dull, however. He was a second to a clan-]

"What's a second?" I interrupted, earning a scowl from my gallade.

[The longest thought you have ever had, sir,] Alistair replied, a smirk stretching across his face. [In the fire lizard's clan, a second is the… deputy, in human terms. They have a leader, then a second, who looks after the clan in the leader's absence. While the leader controls and organises the entire clan, the second maintains the clan's general behaviour, in addition to caring for the infants.]

I felt a smirk come across my own face. "So Scar was like a nanny for all of them?"

Alistair shrugged. [If you wish to use such an analogy, medieval as it is, sir. He was his clan's second. Human poachers raided their clan. They stole the infants and killed those who fought back; the leader included. Although you do not see it often, the fiery lizard is a protector. He wishes to protect you and your comrades now, because he failed in protecting his clan.]

I saw Scar in a new light as he chased after Loki and Xander, snapping and hissing at them both. "That's why he hates humans, isn't it?" I guessed. "They destroyed his clan and left him alive, even though they injured him."

[That is correct, sir,] Alistair said with a nod. [You cared for him when he was injured and managed to have the bullet removed from his hip. You earned his trust and respect by showing that you could care for him, even when he wished you dead. Now you trouble all of your pokémon by seeking to destroy yourself, rather than aide and protect them. I know what the fiery lizard did, sir. Your mind is very hard to send messages to, harder still to read. The fiery lizard's however, is as easy as most pokémon's. His actions were rash, but he did them with good intentions.]

"I know that," I said as I scratched at the bandage covering the wound. "I just never would have figured Scar to be the big brother sort."

The gallade looked at me and offered another shrug, his skin-cloak floating in the slight breeze. [People and pokémon both can have hidden depths. Sir, please understand; I do not tell you this because I wish you to pity the fire lizard. I tell you this so you can better understand him; know what he has lost and what he stands to lose still. You may not care about the fate of many, but you have shown to him that you can care for the few. You often think that you are a soldier, as humans call it. Tell me, what happens when you try to save everyone?]

"You end up killing them all," I answered without a moment's pause. I stared at my three pokémon for a second before glancing back at Alistair. "Is this some sort of hint you're trying to give me here? Chris has already said I should do little things. You're saying I should expect people to die?"

[I know only what I overhead,] he told me as he folded his arms. [I am unable to see the future, but that does not mean I am a fool. You were chosen by Celebi for a reason, whether or not you were its first choice. That would mean you already possess the knowledge you need to complete your task. You have thought this already, have you not, sir?]

I grimaced and scratched the back of my neck. "Well, yeah, but then I kinda dismissed it afterwards. I mean, it never really seemed like I'd be able to do much. I mean, as far as I know, I'm meant to save the world. That means big, global sort of scale, doesn't it?"

The gallade snorted. [Hardly. Sometimes, the smallest actions have the largest consequences. One man discovered the technology to create poké balls, now they are mass-produced and are an everyday item. Well over a thousand years ago, one man discovered penicillin by complete accident. Now it is one of the most important things in the world. The smallest actions by one man can have the most drastic of consequences.]

I rolled my eyes, hugged myself and turned away from him. "True, but… why me? I mean, by the sounds of it, I've already managed to start the beginnings of war between Sinnoh and Hoenn, all because I killed someone, thinking it would be for the greater good. What if I keep trying to help and making things worse?"

[Doing harm whilst attempting to do good is bad. But doing nothing when given the chance to help is so much worse.] Alistair hummed to himself as he sat in a lotus position, crimson eyes scanning the world around us. [You think you have caused war, but have you really? Can you see the future? You humans, along with so many other short-lived species are never able to see larger pictures. You always see the small; the immediate. It is your greatest strength, in addition to being your worst weakness.]

"So what am I supposed to do then?" I asked him. "Don't do anything unless I've planned out every possible way that something can happen? Think only about what could happen eighty years from now, rather than in the direct future?"

[No,] he informed me calmly. [You must think on the consequences of your actions, but you must never become blinded by them. You must act for the good of the future, but never fail to see the struggles of the present. You should… be who you are, for you were chosen for a reason, sir.]

I screamed and squeezed my head with my fists. "What you're saying makes no sense! Think about something, but don't think about it? Do what's best for the future, as well as what's best for now? What if they conflict?" I growled and dropped my arms. "And now you're going to tell me to stop overthinking things, aren't you?"

There was a laugh that bounced around in my brain. [And you did not believe me when I said you were bonding with me, sir. For twenty minutes we have conversed, in which time you have paid nearly no attention to your other pokémon.]

I glared at the pokémon. "I really don't like you. You're aware of that, right?"

He smiled once more. [I am aware that you believe so.]

I gave him another sharp look. "I really don't like you."

It was evening by the time I made my way back into Chris' house. The entire house was eerily quiet, lacking any of the normal sounds that it possessed. Even the growlithe puppy, who was so often running around happily and causing so much noise seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth.

"Chris?" I asked the empty hallways. There was no answer, only making me think I was completely alone.

I glanced around and found the cupboard that Chris had hidden my drugs in. My mouth dried and salivated instantly afterwards, my arms and hands beginning to shake as I thought of the possibilities. I could shoot up and get away with it. What they didn't know, right?

I growled at myself and snatched my hand away, refusing to look at the cupboard. I'd managed three days trying to beat withdrawal symptoms; I didn't want to suddenly throw it all away.

[Troubles, sir?] Alistair asked me. I jumped around and found the gallade leaning against the doorframe, arms folded and a curious glance across his face.

"No!" I yelped, snatching my arms back and trying to look as innocent as possible. I gave my pokémon a sheepish glance, hoping he could somehow be fooled.

Alistair just shook his head at me. [Do not fall, sir. There is no progress if you only move backwards.]

I glared at the pokémon and pinched the skin of my elbow. He bowed his head once before withdrawing silently out of the doors, leaving me to my thoughts.

I blew my hair from my face and wondered just how much Alistair seemed to know. It was nice to finally have a pokémon of mine I could actually have a conversation with, rather than my usual guessing games.

I jumped as the wooden boards behind me creaked. My hands jumped for my weapons, only for me to remember I'd hidden them whilst I was staying with Chris. Instead I turned around and found myself alone in the room with Chris' dad.

"That's an interesting pokémon you've got there," he said as he stared after Alistair. "Is he the father to the ralts Chris is looking after?"

I couldn't help but laugh at that. "No, they're all Chris'. I think Alistair's far too respectful to ever go near another pokémon in that sort of way."

"Pokémon are just confusing," Chris' dad said. "It just makes me happy I only ever deal with humans. Sick humans, granted, but I can understand them so much more than pokémon."

I put two and two together quite quickly. "So you're a doctor then?" Subconsciously I tried to hide my shaking hands behind my back, hoping he wouldn't be able to figure out my little drug withdrawal. I had the feeling he wouldn't be too impressed by it; though I really didn't want to get Chris into any trouble with her parents for looking after me.

"Have been for some time," he said with a nod. "I think it's probably what made Chris want to become a breeder; she grew up with me being able to help people and wanted to do it herself. But when she discovered pokémon instead, she seemed to want to look after them all instead."

"I never thought she would have always wanted to become a breeder," I admitted. "I always thought she turned to it as a backup career… you know after the whole..." I motioned towards my arm, gesturing cutting it off below the shoulder.

"That certainly pressed her into chasing her goals a lot sooner, but it wasn't a decision she made because of it." He rubbed a hand across his face and glanced into the hallway behind him. "Is Chris… does she seem happy here? I don't see her all the time and because I'm her dad, she doesn't want me to worry. The problem is; I always did worry, even before she lost her arm. I'm proud of her and how much she's managed to achieve… but she'll never let me know if she's not happy."

I considered what he said before I finally shrugged. "From what I've seen, she enjoys what she does. Sure, she's got all the stresses that no doubt come with her job, but from the way she talks about her job, as well as what she's learnt… you can tell she enjoys it."

A smile bloomed across his face. "Thanks. It's good to hear that. And sorry for before. Chris didn't inherit all of my humour and she seems to forget just how mad her old man is.

"By the way," he asked before he left, "how long have you been using?"

I managed to choke on my own saliva before I floundered uselessly for a convincing lie. Finally I just gave up and opted for the truth. "I don't know. A few weeks, I think. I didn't exactly make the choice; I did quite literally get bound up and injected with the stuff." I scratched at my elbow subconsciously, feeling my cheeks burn a little in joint humiliation and embarrassment. "Chris is… somehow managing to help me. Probably because she scares me," I admitted with a laugh. "I got here about three days ago. Things have been bad, but she's helped me through it all."

"That's my girl," he said with a wistful smile. "She's always helping her friends. There is just one thing though-"

Suddenly he managed to grab me by the collar and hoisted me up a good few inches off the ground, his face awash with a serious calm. "Hurt her and I will bury you."

I nodded quickly and offered as much of a reassuring smile as I could. "I promise you, I'm not going to hurt her," I swore as I managed to hold my palms up. "If anything, she's more likely to rip my arms off if anything goes bad."

He gave a stiff nod. "Good. She might be able to look out for herself now, but I'll still protect Chris anyway I can. Remember that."

I gulped and managed a small, quick nod to his back. My thoughts began to wander as he went to speak with Chris again. He wasn't above killing to protect the ones he loved. In a way, I could relate to him.

"You look deep in thought," Chris said as she walked back into the room, drying her real hand on her top.

"Yeah," I grunted. I crossed my legs on the sofa and leant on my knees. "Just… trying to figure out what I need to do. I've got no clue. Small things, little actions. Knowing I need to do that is all well and good… but I don't know what I need to actually stop or start."

"I'm sure you'll be able to figure it out," Chris said reassuringly. "If not, maybe head towards Mossdeep? There's the psychic gym there; surely they'll be able to help you somehow?"

I frowned and thought about it. Really, how much use were the gyms to me? They hadn't really opened any new avenues for me, apart from letting me try and blend in with other trainers.

"I don't think I want to bother with gyms anymore," I told her. "I've got no chance of getting the full set of twenty badges in time and convincing people things need to be done. And really; why would they believe me? People are too selfish – if I told them what the world was going to end up like, how many of them would try and help stop it? Most would just try and save themselves."

"Which is exactly what you've been trying to do," Chris pointed out, a smirk on her face.

I felt heat rise in my face. "Yeah… well… that's not my point!" I floundered. "I want to save myself… but I don't want anything like Fallarbor happening again. I just need to figure out what I need to do first."

Chris shrugged and began unhooking her artificial arm. "Go to Fortree. They have houses built into the trees and mountains that overlook the entirety of Hoenn. Nothing seems to set your mind into action better than being able to stare at the entire world from above. I did that after I lost my arm and finally got out of hospital; Owen was dead, my parents were beside themselves with worry and Ayd was pretty much a wreck too. I needed to figure out what was happening with my life. So I found the highest point in Kanto and just sat there for a day, staring out at the world and thinking things over."

"Just because it worked for you doesn't mean it will work for me," I pointed out.

"Maybe not," she conceded. "But you can't expect to get all the answers from random pieces of common sense that your friends tell you. Likewise, your gallade isn't going to be able to tell you everything you need to do. Sometimes, you need to figure things out on your own."

I smirked and laughed to myself. "Where do you get all of these deep bits of advice from? Usually you seem to busy cursing at paperwork or being buried alive by pokémon food to sit around and think up intelligent things to say."

She snorted and threw a cushion at me. "You've gotta remember; I'm a lot older than you. I was travelling from the age of ten; I know a fair bit about the world, if I do say so myself. You might have had a harsher life, but I've got more experience of life under my belt." She smiled and colour rose in her cheeks. "Plus it helps that I happen to have a boyfriend who comes out with random bits of useless insight into things."

"So is this the time that you finally start talking about him?" I probed, grinning all the while. Though just as quickly as my grin appeared, it vanished. "I'm getting in the way by staying here, aren't I? You should be with him, not putting up with me."

Chris just rolled her eyes and laughed. "Hardly. I'm self-employed, he works full time. This week's bad for us, because I'm working all day every day, whereas he's working all night, every night this week. By the time one of us had driven to see the other, they'd already be at least an hour into work. I knew doctors worked heavy weeks, but I never figured nurses did too."

I snorted into my hand. "Your boyfriend… is a nurse?" I cackled, unable to stop myself laughing.

"Yes, he's a male nurse," Chris said with palpable boredom towards the topic. "Laugh it up all you like, but I like him. Adryan and his boyfriend like him too."

"Ayd has a boyfriend too?" I queried, momentarily stunned. Then the laughter returned. "Please don't tell me he's a nurse too! That would be… well, kinda clichéd and make Ayd hate me for all the jokes I'd like to make. By the way, your mum called you something else, didn't she? Your parents call you different names?"

Chris laughed and picked underneath her thumb. "Yeah. Long story there. Short version; my parents come from different cultural backgrounds. Mum wanted a meaningful, culture-representing name, Dad wanted to name me Christina. They reached a compromise; Mum gave me the first name Carishna, Dad calls me Chris, but made sure my middle name's Tina, so in a way, they both got what they wanted."

I raised an eyebrow and chuckled a little. "So most people have two surnames. You're just weird enough to get two first names instead."

Another cushion nearly took my head off. "You're quick to change your tune. Not so long ago you were moping around because you didn't know what to do. Now you're able to sit there and make jokes at the expense of mine and Adryan's personal lives."

I just shrugged. "I guess… I guess I'm just getting fed up of being gloomy all the time. I mean; I've realised that I've become something I'm not. I just threw away everything I knew about being a soldier. I know that if I want to get anywhere, I'm going to have to start acting like that again. But… it's not like my future. I don't need to be on red-alert all the time. I can lighten up when I'm with my friends."

Just like that, Chris burst out laughing. "Oh gods. Sorry, but, I think you're broken! I mean what happened to the emo child? Now you're all smiles and jokes? You're broken!"

I scowled at her. "You're a great friend, you know that?"

"Insulting people is always fun; it's one of the things I picked up when travelling with Ayd." She laughed and winked as she stood up. "Though, as long as it's done in a friendly way, of course." She glanced towards the clock and growled about never having enough time before starting to clean up after herself. "I need to feed the nocturnals. Feed the dark pokémon, will you? They seem to like you?"

"Manual labour?" I whined and made an attempt towards an innocent face. "Really?"

She rolled her eyes and pretended to throw a cup at me. "I told you the first day you got here and I'm telling you again; you're not staying here for free. I don't care if you did give me the massive pile of money, you're still not getting away with a free run here."

"Fine," I grunted with acted annoyance. "Slavedriver."

I think she liked being in charge. She always claimed it was because she wanted to help people, but maybe that was the real reason she surprised me by doing what she did.

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