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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47. The Drawing Board

Men are at war with each other because each man is at war with himself ~ Francis Meehan

-O-O-O-

"We're obsessed with the history of pokémon. Where they came from, how they came to be, what caused such a phenomenon. But we always fail to use the resources at hand; the pokémon that live for a millennia whom we never ask a single question of."

- Professor Aurea Juniper, 13th Unova League Champion, Origin of Pokémon PHD, Pokémon History MA. (November 19th, 3012)

-O-O-O-

Being back in Fallarbor was weird. Eerie even.

It had taken a week to get back into Hoenn and arrive in Fallarbor town. The summer heat of Hoenn nearly wiped me out after Sinnoh – it was literally going from one extreme to the other.

In more ways than one. It was weird to see the different spins each set country's media was putting on things. In the three weeks I spent in Sinnoh, I saw their news reports and how sure they seemed to be about Hoenn assassins being behind Aaron's death. Each minor detail that could have hurt their country was covered up or just not reported.

Hoenn was the same, yet the other way round. They played down Aaron's death, yet played up the explosion at the Pathornogix lab. They claimed it was Sinnoh extremists retaliating for Aaron's death.

I decided that I probably should confess all. At least that way they'd have the right person to blame for everything. But what Fake-Candice had said about the different governments and the way they played things made me think twice about it. Who was to say they wouldn't just get rid of me, or just hang me out to dry? I had to make sure I knew what the reaction would be before I did anything hasty.

Fallarbor felt like it was dead and dreary. Without the gym open and operating, most of their trainer tourists didn't visit anymore. They were losing money on rebuilding the gym and losing money through a lack of visitors. The little niggle at the back of my mind delighted in reminding me that it was all my fault. Just walking down the street brought back painful memories, old wounds and forgotten habits.

I put everything else out of my mind and lead Gemini to the hall where there had been that strange time traveller's meeting. The place was shut, boarded up and it seemed to have been hastily abandoned.

I wondered why. Then I saw the massive tree that had fallen on and squashed most of the building.

I resisted the urge to poke it, just in case it came alive. "Celebi can control nature, can't they?"

[To an extent,] Gemini replied flatly. [Not as well as The Shaymin, but well enough regardless.]

The entire tree had been uprooted. It would take even a few machamp to rip it out of the ground and use it as a weapon, yet somehow one little imp could have been the cause of it all.

"There's a guy I spoke to," I said to my pokémon accomplice. "He was a little – a lot – insane. He knew things about what would happen once everything was done. He told me a lot of things. Mostly gibberish."

Gemini just snorted at me. [And what makes you think he'll be able to help you?]

I pointed at the fallen tree. "That's the damn tree he ran away screaming from. It was swaying like it was caught in a breeze, except it was a perfectly still day."

She gave me a strange look but said nothing about it anyway. She was silent for a little while as I poked around the building, wondering just whether or not I could find anything. Finally Gemini gave a little sigh and said, [I can't do it.]

"I thought you could track people?"

She gave a tiny nod. [When I know their psychic imprint, yes. I could track you easily. Someone I've never met? Perhaps. But to find their imprint in the middle of a town? There are only a few psychics that are strong enough to do that.]

I shrugged. "So we'll find one of those then."

[Perfect, you grab a few capture orbs and we'll go hunting for The Azelf and the like.]

I faltered and glanced back at the building. "Okay. So we won't do that then. Is there no explosion of psychic energy you can grab onto?" I pointed at the tree and glanced at the girafarig. "What about that? You're telling me you can't trace the energy something used to do that?"

She sighed. [Give me a moment.]

I rolled my eyes and glanced back at the building. Honestly, I was a little upset that I hadn't found anyone there. If not the crazy man, then maybe the girl in the trilby hat. I knew that my initial meeting with them was all some sort of a set-up, but they were they only lead I had. I sincerely doubted my luck would let me find someone like me – if such a person did exist.

[West.]

I spun around and found Gemini right behind me. Her eyes were narrowed and her tail was hissing at its three o'clock.

"What about it?" I asked her.

[There is a large amount of energy around here,] she said as she cantered around the fallen tree. [But, it seems like this is the only instance of it. I cannot sense where it went, nor where it came from.]

I threw a glare at the useless building. "So how do you know we head west then?"

[Instinct,] she said. [West of here are a number of forests. South is a mountain. North is more mountainside, with one town and then the sea – the way we came. East is a desert.]

"So more logic than instinct," I clarified.

[Instinct,] she repeated. [I knew to head west before knowing what else lay in the other directions.]

"Whatever," I grumbled. "Let's go then. There's going to be more mountains. It'd be easier for me to just put you in a poké ball."

[I wouldn't advise it.]

Forbidire City.

It was similar to the descriptions of Black City that I'd heard of. The entire city was rather modern, with black, reflective glass built into every building. There was still a little drift of ash that fluttered down over the city, giving it a little colour – grey. The buildings all rose far above each other, competing for space in the sky.

There was little light. It all seemed to be absorbed by the buildings. Shadows plagued every corner, cooling the city and giving it an eerie feel.

And yet, it felt welcoming.

Little pokémon scurried through the alleyways. They all had one thing in common – they were all creatures of darkness. Poocheyna and a few purrloin darted through the shadows as a murder of murkrow flew around above.

"I like this place," I said, mostly to myself.

[How can you?] said Gemini with an audible shudder. [It feels… like nothing. Even though I can see and hear it, I cannot feel it with my abilities. It registers to them like a fog.]

"He'd have come here then," I said. "I remember; he said something about hiding within darkness. This whole place is dark. Not just the town, but the pokémon too."

[It's unnatural.]

"It's welcoming."

Gemini just snorted at me. [I will not be able to track The Celebi in such a place.]

"It doesn't matter," I said with a shrug. "It wouldn't have been able to be here. Lacey said something about them – they don't realise when dark pokémon read their minds. It means that they're not that strong in psychic abilities. Stronger than you, but not strong enough to sense past the darkness in pokémon."

[So it would not have come here.]

I scratched the back of my head. "It could have done. But it wouldn't have stayed long. Why would you, if you feel terrified with every step?"

It was strange to think that anyone would feel terrified in such a place. To me, it just felt so welcoming. Like nothing could ever go wrong there.

Then a woman fell from the sky.

I reacted before I thought about it. I threw Lacey's poké ball between us and drew a knife. Gemini barely managed a yelp and somehow the woman managed to land on her feet.

I glanced up and saw a mass of black feathers circling above. It seemed to be rising, like it was coming up from a substantially lower altitude. It had to have been, given that the woman seemed to have fallen from it.

I started towards her. "Are you okay?" I asked, Lacey stood protectively between us.

The woman stood up fully and shook her head. Her blonde hair fell back behind her head and she offered me the tiniest of smiles. Dressed in dark greys, she would have blended in well with the shadows around us all. I probably wouldn't have noticed her, had she not literally fallen from the sky.

"Fine," she said with a shrug. "Such things, they tend to happen often."

"Ri-ight," I said. With a quick flick of my wrist I recalled Lacey and turned away from the strange woman. "Gemini, let's go."

"Hold on," the woman said quickly. She moved around me with the grace of a ballet dancer and stood in way away from her. "You… seem accustomed to this area. Yet I have never seen you before."

"I don't live here," I said as I tried to move around her. "And I don't have time for twenty questions."

The woman continued to stand in my way. She leant her chin on her hand and stared at me with narrowed eyes. "You're dark."

I raised an eyebrow at her. "No, I'm white."

She looked confused for a moment. "I don't mean like that. You – your heart, is dark."

"You're just full of compliments, aren't you?"

She sighed and placed her hands on her hips. "Tell me. What do you feel now?"

"Annoyed."

She stared at me for a long moment before she waved her hand a little. Everything around me turned cold and instinctively I leapt to the side. Her honchkrow appeared where I had just been standing, swiping its feathery wing through empty air.

"Interesting," the woman said even as I cursed and threatened her. "Tell me, have you ever trained yourself in such a way before?"

I resisted the urge to put my knife in her face. Mainly because her honchkrow could probably easily do away with Gemini in the meantime. It would damage my chances of being able to find the celebi pretty badly.

"No," I said tersely. "And who the hell are you to ask me all this shit?"

"Jessica Malnoir," she said. "I'm the gym leader here. I'm a dark specialist. If it weren't for your girafarig, I would have said you are too."

"I'm no specialist," I muttered. "And people can train pokémon that aren't the same as their adaptions. How else do you become stronger?" I sheathed my knife and made to move past her once more. "I don't have time for this anyway. I've got something to find."

"Very well," she said and stepped aside. "Though, let me ask you something; have you never felt something others can't? Do your psychics have trouble perceiving your thoughts? Have you ever felt like you were being followed, though there was no justifiable reasoning for such a cause?"

The last point made me shiver. I remembered the shedinja in Dewford. I remembered being able to feel that something was off, almost like something was stalking me, before I should have been able to. I stopped without realising it and it seemed to give the woman all the answers she needed.

"We're able to resist psychic telepathy and probing. We can also feel when a ghost has locked onto us and follows us."

I remembered the haunter after Fallabor. It and the shedinja both. But there was an exception.

"A frosslass in Sinnoh," I said without thinking. "It was focusing on me, forming a destiny bond. I didn't notice it."

Jessica seemed like she didn't have to think about it. "Was it particularly snowy at the time?"

"It was near Snowpoint," I answered, deadpan. "I'm pretty sure that's the norm for there."

"That'd be why," she said. "Frosslass have the ability to hide from detection when in snowstorms. Whether it's by other pokémon, machines or even human instincts, it remains hidden. Rather like sandshrew and the like within sandstorms."

She seemed like she knew her stuff. I knew I'd learnt a lot from the not-Candice, which meant I would be able to learn a lot from her too. But I had other things to do. A crazy man to track and a celebi to kill. I doubted they could wait for me to waste any more time around gyms.

But the fact I could somehow find out about myself and learn more of my advantages and disadvantages. I could use that in order to better defend myself. It was something I couldn't pass up, yet at the same time, a part of me told me I'd have to.

The little stab of pain in my kidney seemed to throw me in one direction for a decision.

"You ever get really weird dreams?" I asked her. "Like ones that seem to blur everything and leave you with phantom pain a little later on?"

"Can't say I have," she said. "Though the first part sounds pretty normal. The second… well, it sounds like something I'd write in one of my stories. A hint towards the character slowly losing grasp on their mental situation. Or pain within a dream that hints that something might be happening outside – a dream within a dream."

"That's nice." I rolled my eyes at her and waved for Gemini to follow me. "Anyway, we're done here. Like I said – I'm searching for something." I made it only a step away before a light went on in the back of my head. "About two months ago, maybe more. Did a really crazy man come by here? Twitched a lot, black hair, about-" I put my hand a little above my head, "-so high?"

She gave me a weird look before recognition dawned in her eyes. "Yes, I remember him. He didn't make much sense, though I think he was trying to hide from a psychic. He asked continually about hiding within darkness – 'away from its gaze'." She frowned and pointed off to a vague direction. "He left that way. We tried to follow him, but he just randomly disappeared."

I followed her finger and tried to see what was in the distance. "Is there a forest that way?"

"Possibly about twenty miles from the city." She shook her head and looked back at me. "You're trying to follow him, aren't you?" She sighed and didn't even wait for me to reply. "Very well. I cannot stop you from doing so, though I would ask of you one thing: come back here after you do or do not find him. People with adaptations need training. They usually receive such from their parents.

"Darkness requires the most," she told me. "Emotions are a powerful trigger for the trifecta of ghost, psychic and dark. One little thing can make a large difference."

I shrugged. "I'll keep that in mind." I turned and left her quickly that time, eager to not be stopped anymore. "Do you think she was on the level?" I asked Gemini once we were out of the leader's earshot.

[I don't know,] the pokémon said. [I couldn't read her mind, or even her emotions. It was like a fog was shrouding her mind. You have a similar situation, though yours is weak enough to be pierced with enough concentration.]

Her words made me think about it all. If I already had a slight haze from psychics, it explained a lot of things that had happened. It also made me realise that I'd probably need it as an advantage over the celebi. But it meant going back to a city when I had other, more important things to think about.

My decision rested on whether or not I found the crazy man, I told myself. If I found him, I hoped that it would lead me towards my goal. If not, then perhaps training would help me in the long run.

Idly, I wondered whether or not I had to worry about being alive to see the end of the long run.

/Everything is fucked, I decide.

I remember my camp being torn apart. I don't know how it happened, but I remember hearing the shots before sunrise. I claimed my gun and shot anyone that I didn't recognise.

I know now it wasn't enough. A little bit of me wants to go back and check the camp, just to see if there are any survivors.

I can see the scavengers approaching though. A few fearow, some mightyena and maybe even a group of people are beginning to drift towards what's left of the camp.

I sling my backpack over my shoulders and run for the nearest safe haven. I don't know who escaped alive. I don't know if anyone's wounded.

I do know it's not my concern. They can fend for themselves.

I race away and feel something small and metallic smack my leg with every step. The metal feels hard, foreign.

Two years and it still doesn't feel right.

I remember being handed it near my eighteenth birthday. One of the guard-trainers had died. There was no one else to take his place. They said that since I knew the fatal points so well, I'd be able to train one with ease.

I'm still shocked as to how true their words are.

The world passes me by in a haze as I keep running. I keep my eyes focused, rely only on my instincts to help me survive.

One poké ball in my pocket. Another two in my bag. I know what they are, but something stops me from recalling exactly what they are. It's hard to explain.

I can name the species. A vespiquen and a koffing-nearly-weezing in my bag. A zangoose in my pocket. Something stops me from knowing their names though.

I stop running and look back at the remains of my life. I can see fires spreading. I can hear the tell-tale roars of pokémon. A bright orange dragon soars above the remains of the camp, spitting fire down on everything below.

It amazes me that we managed to keep them all away for so long.

I sigh a little to myself and release the zangoose. It appears on all fours, long claws digging into the ground and fur bristling under the slow fall of ash.

It snarls at me. I ignore it. I point it forwards and march on behind it. It snarls at me once more and darts forwards, tearing a rattata to pieces. I ignore it as it trots along happily, dead rat hanging from its mouth.

There's movement in the bushes.

I spin round, gun drawn and ready. The zangoose – what is its name? – drops the rattata and hisses at the sound.

I see a face.

I don't recognise it.

I shoot.

The person hisses as they go down. There's a snarl and another gunshot.

Pain sears my arm.

I hiss and grip the wound, tracing the small line that grazes it. I hold my gun in one hand, trusting the zangoose as I step towards the person to finish them off.

I find her sprawled out amongst the plants, hair covered in soil and leaves. She holds her wounded shoulder and glares up at me, even as I kick her gun away and point mine in her face.

"Not much of a sharpshooter," she says with a grim laugh. "I'm on the floor and have a bullet in my shoulder. What's your excuse?"

I can't place her accent. But what she says catches me off guard. I stare at my gun, at her and struggle against my mind to make a decision.

"What are you doing here?" I ask her.

"Currently? Bleeding." I roll my eyes as she smirks through a grunt of pain. "I heard gunfire, screams, pokémon. I came to investigate. Then I find you running away from it all. Figured you were behind it all."

"I used to live there," I tell her. My mind catches up and I'm confused as to why I'm telling her such a thing. "Everyone's dead, or as good as. This is just survival."

"Right." She sighs and grips a bit harder on her shoulder. "So can you hurry up and decide what you're going to do then? I'm bleeding a lot here, you're bleeding a bit too. I can treat them, but it's hard in this position."

"You're a medic?" My voice holds all of the doubt I feel. The zangoose has grown bored and has found its rattata snack again. "Why the hell would you even think about treating me after I've shot you?"

She shrugs then winces in pain. "Can't help it – I know how to heal people, might as well make use of it. Besides, you can't be that bad, otherwise you'd have shot me by now. Well, fatally at least. Which by the way, why haven't you?"

I'm at a loss for words. I holster my gun soundlessly and shake my head to myself. "I don't know."

She smiles to herself. "Well, I'll take that as a good thing. Now do me a favour will ya? Reach into my pack and get the gauze and bandages. I would, but I'm busy trying to stop myself from bleeding out here."

I nod and find myself doing exactly as she asks. Her pack is a few paces away from her. It looks like it's been placed there, rather than having been dropped. I figure that she probably placed it there before I shot her.

I sigh to myself as I open the pack. My heart stops as I see what's inside.

There's no medical equipment. Just an oddish. It shrieks at me and scatters a find blue powder everywhere.

I feel consciousness slipping from me instantly. I can only think of what a moron I am before it claims me/

I wake up and feel my ribs shriek agony. I'd ended up sleeping on them at some time during the night. I ignore Gemini's comment about something being imaginative as I pack up our little camp and start moving again. The lack of progress was getting to me. My kidney danced a painful tune – still in the place where I'd been stabbed in a dream. I considered it a good thing that one only had me being sprayed by an oddish.

Gemini ignored my musings and quickly pointed me back on our trail. I was amazed we even had one anymore.

It was like we were effectively lost. Gemini was still tracing the faint echoes of psychic power, but we'd yet to have seen any sign of life. Each of my other pokémon seemed to identify nothing before I recalled them back to their balls again.

"This is too large a space," I groaned. "We need a bird's eye view."

[Give me a moment whilst I just grow wings.]

"Not funny." I glanced at her then back to the worn dirt path in front of me. "Are we any closer to this big psychic feeling? Because the lack of life out here is slightly disturbing."

[We're nearly there. In fact-]

I tuned out the rest of her words.

It was kind of hard to pay attention to any words when I was presented with what I saw.

We'd found the crazy man.

But the celebi had found him first.

It looked like a tree had wrapped around him. The branches had all become warped. They were twisted and turned, almost like they were hugging their victim. He looked like he'd been suffocated. Somehow he'd been suffocated by a tree.

I couldn't stop myself from shuddering. A nasty little thought told me that was what could happen to me.

[I think we found your lunatic.]

I glared at her and took a step closer to his corpse. "We can't use this for anything, can we?

[No.]

"Great." I fought the urge to throw something at his corpse and instead just turned back to Gemini. "What do we do now? This was the only idea I had to this. Can you track the celebi still?"

She gave a little whine. [Not really. I can feel the psychic pulse of energy it left behind… but I can't tell where it went. It's almost like it stopped existing.]

"Which, given that our enemy can travel through time, is quite likely." I kicked a rock on the ground and looked around. "Okay, so what the hell do we do now? There's no way we can follow it through time, so we're going to have to think of something. Where could it have-"

A cold shudder raced down my spine.

I had Loki and Lacey out of their balls within a moment's notice. They seemed confused for the slightest moment until they noticed something. It let me know I wasn't imagining things.

There was a little chill that ran through the air.

Loki hissed at something. His fists caught fire as he leapt forwards. There was a high-pitched scream as suddenly as frosslass appeared underneath him, its face meeting fist and fire both.

Lacey shrieked as ice formed around her. It built around her feet and trapped her in place before something big and white charged into her. It bounced off a bright blue barrier Gemini brought into existence and glared at us all.

It was a giant snowflake that hovered unnaturally in the air.

More than that, I recognised it.

"I wasn't expecting you to notice us."

A massive white yeti knocked over one of the trees around us as it strolled forwards. Loki was still hissing as he continued to beat the frosslass into submission. We all seemed to ignore its shrieks as Gemini shattered the ice trapping Lacey and the snowflake floated in circles around us.

I saw a woman sat on the yeti's shoulder. She looked familiar, but something was off. Her hair was black but cropped short, while her eyes were bright blue.

It took me a moment to realise just who it was. "You? What the hell are you doing here? This doesn't look like Sinnoh to me."

She ignored me and recalled her frosslass and the snowflake. She waited for me to do the same with Loki and Lacey before she hopped from her pokémon's shoulder. "New job," she said as she found a pack of cigarettes in her pocket. She lit one quickly and stuffed the pack back where it came from. "Apparently something bigger has been happening in Hoenn here. My bosses wanted me to figure out what it was. They reckon a lot of things that have been happening here are linked."

"Right. And they chose you for this? The woman that's been working undercover as a gym leader for over a year?"

She shrugged. "I got all the information I could from that job. I had to pull out when Lucian dropped by for a visit. Didn't have my weavile around and he seemed to be asking a few too many questions. So I got pulled out."

I folded my arms. "And the real Candice?"

She smiled to herself. "They'll be finding her charred body in a few days. Apparently some Hoennese terrorists will have killed her for something or another. I didn't really pay much attention to that part, I was busy making sure I wasn't followed."

I felt like I'd been punched in the gut. "Her death's being blamed on Hoenn? How? Why?"

"Unova's new plan of action." She took a step closer to me but remained near her giant pokémon. Little bits of ice seemed to form on the winds around it, even as it stood there, still as a statue. "They've seen that Sinnoh and Hoenn are going to fall into war sometime soon. Apparently it's not profitable to try and stop it. So instead they're encouraging it. Because after all, Sinnoh and Hoenn both buy their weapons from one main exporter."

I didn't have to think about that one. "Unova, right?"

"Right." She nodded and took a drag of her cigarette. "Two countries go to war, they'll need weapons that aren't pokémon. Easier to explode a whole town with a bomb, rather than use a pokémon to do so. So Unova charges higher prices for weaponry. They get more money from the countries, then they invade and take over when both Sinnoh and Hoenn are weak."

"They won't get the chance." I knew the results – what would happen before anything could get to that stage. "Everything's going to fall apart before then."

"If you say so." She shrugged and glanced at the tree which held the crazy man's corpse. "So what are you doing around here? Don't tell me you happened to come across him by chance."

"I was tracking him." Whoever she was, she'd been kind enough to let me escape when we were in Sinnoh. She seemed to trust me, even when she knew nothing about me. I found myself doing the same. "He had answers I needed. But, well, as you can see I was a little late."

"No kidding." She rolled her eyes and stamped on the remains of her cigarette. "So who are you, really? Considering you managed to infiltrate my gym with nothing more than lies and luck, then I find you with the corpse of someone my bosses were intent on questioning."

I shrugged. "Just someone with a lucky streak. I'm not sure if it's good or bad yet though."

"That's hard to believe." She shook her head and walked towards the man's body. She stopped a few paces away and went to touch it, but drew her hand back at the last minute. "I'm more concerned about what could cause this, to be honest. There's not really many pokémon that could have a tree kill someone."

"Celebi, The Shaymin." I found I couldn't think of any others. "That's two there, right?"

"The Virizion makes three," she said, mostly to herself. "It's a pokémon legend from Unova," she told me. "It's meant to be the guardian of all the pokémon that live in forests and the like. I can't see it doing something like this though. Unless people have been randomly killed by rockslides, impaled by metals or drowned while they're nowhere near water."

"It was a celebi," I told her without thinking. I gulped as she glanced round at me and raised an eyebrow. "I mean, there's the gym leader in the town a number of miles from here. She said he'd been in looking for a way to hide from psychics. Celebi's the only one that can do this and be a psychic, right?"

"I hope so," she muttered. "Otherwise, we've got one hell of a problem on our hands." She sighed and rubbed her eyelids. "I don't have the clearance for anything near this big. Celebi hunting down humans… I've heard reports before, but I've never seen-"

"You've heard reports?"

"Yeah." She turned back to me and gave Gemini a weary look, almost like she didn't trust the girafarig. Gemini, for her part was just remaining silent, albeit staring intently at not-Candice whilst she was doing so. "Here and there. There's been one known of every so often, about eight years, or something like that. But there's people that investigate into all of this that think it happens all the time. They reckon The Celebi have soldiers or just disposable investments they're using to alter the future as they please.

"Problem is, there used to be a set of pokémon that were meant to stop such a thing. Well, until most of them were destroyed by The Celebi."

I blinked, taken aback. "Okay, firstly, how do you know this? Secondly, what the hell was it and can we find one to take on celebi?"

She sighed and gestured for me to sit down. It felt considerably weird to do so near the crazy man's corpse, but I find myself obliging anyway.

"In Unova, there's a large desert that hides the remains of an ancient civilisation. There's a number of pokémon there – yamask and confagrigus – that are ghosts who supposedly used to be humans. They're old and remember a lot about their past – even their past lives. Then there's sigilyph – they're pokémon that were tasked with defending that city. They're psychics and well, the oldest one that's been found was nearly a thousand years old. We don't know how old they can live to, but a lot know tonnes about our past.

"Anyway, two of our Elites are specialists with psychics and ghosts, respectively. They found out that they could talk to these pokémon and find out things that we never knew about our past – things we never knew about pokémon we thought existed or didn't."

She shrugged to herself and sat down opposite me. "You probably won't have heard of them, but there was a race of pokémon called victini. We know of them in legends in Unova – they're meant to bring victory to whoever knows one. Turns out in the past, it was a little different. The 'victory' we associate with them bringing was actually them stopping The Celebi from changing the future too much. Originally The Celebi were meant to balance the world, or something. So they'd travel to the future, and if one species was far too powerful, they'd travel back and bring them back down."

"This has happened a lot?" I asked.

She made a gesture I couldn't understand. "Probably. What we know for definite is that they changed psychics. They used to be unstoppable; weak only to insects, but there weren't many of them left. So The Celebi went back and made a few alterations. Now there's insects everywhere and psychics are weak to darkness and ghostly energies. That's apparently what they were first tasked with. Victini were guardians, so to speak. They were to make sure The Celebi didn't go out of control with their powers."

"So something happened and all these victini got killed?" I guessed.

"Pretty much." She nodded. "I'm guessing something in the future went bad, or maybe one of The Celebi developed a fondness for power. Point is, war apparently started between the two groups. Victini were meant to have the advantage; both of them are psychics, but victini were able to control fire. Cut a long story short; almost all of them were killed. There's always a few rumours floating round about them – the latest was that a victini was living in a lighthouse basement – but not one's ever been found."

"Wow," I said when she was finished. My brain couldn't fathom another response. "So is that why you're after celebi?"

She shook her head. "Not really. Honestly, I don't really know. I just got told to investigate this and report it back to my superiors. Maybe they're trying to confirm everything sigilyph and the ghosts have said, maybe they're after a time-travelling ally. I only know what I'm told, which thankfully, for this case was quite a lot. Though this does all bring me back to wondering just what the hell you're doing here, tracking after the same thing I am. Who do you work for?"

I shrugged and spun my finger in a little circle. "I'm… independent. This is just something that… holds close to me, is all."

"Right." She sighed and glanced back at the warped tree. "Well, now I've got a problem that my only lead happens to have been strangled by a tree. This was the last lead we had in this country too." She shook her head and looked to me. "So you've obviously got an idea of what you're doing. What do you say we team up?"

I choked on my laugh. "I'm supposed to trust that your bosses won't just kill me afterwards?"

"Well… yeah." She smiled to herself and finally recalled her massive yeti. "If they see you've helped me out, you might even get hired by them. Of course, you could be working with Hoenn and secretly trying to get employed by Unova…"

I managed to laugh that time. "If I was, I wouldn't need to. I could just hang round you and get you to tell me everything I need to know."

Her face was a picture. "Yeah, I do that a lot. Problem with this job; you never have anyone to talk to about anything. And if you do, you usually end up having to kill them afterwards. But you seem to know a lot. Plus, you can keep a secret. And let's face it, you're rather stupid too."

"Hey!"

She laughed. "Come on. You impersonated a dead person you looked nothing like. You didn't even make sure that the family didn't ask questions. I've told you a lot, but the only thing I have to worry about is you forgetting to breathe or something."

My face fell. "You're too kind."

She smiled. "I know. You can call me Marsha, by the way."

"That's not your real name, I take it?"

"Nope. Would you tell me yours?"

I grinned back at her. "Probably not." I glanced at Gemini and gave her a little nod. "Gemini's my… partner on this venture. She's invested in this, for reasons of her own. The only ideas we've got is trying to track the celebi's psychic signature, but well…" I trailed off.

"Hard to track something that can disappear through time, right?" Marsha finished for me.

"Got it in one." I rubbed my temples and pushed myself to my feet. "So any ideas?"

"Dusknoir," she said quickly. "They're meant to be able to see spirits, guide them onto the afterlife, or something like that. Not sure if that's true, but what I do know is that they can possess corpses. They can find out their last moments and let us know exactly what's going on."

"Great," I said enthusiastically. Then reality hit. "So what good would that do us? Confirm a celebi did this, but it wouldn't let us know where it went afterwards. Unless they can magically track a murderer."

She smiled. "That's pretty much it. Ever hear that something can 'stain your soul'? It was pretty much coined for dusknoir. If someone was murdered, they can see something that attaches itself to the murderer. They can use that to track the person or thing to wherever it is – as long as it's in this current time. I don't really understand it myself, but I remember someone telling me it was like the principals of energy – when we eat something, we get energy from it, whether it was a plant or meat."

"Well, we've got a plan then," I said. "Let's get about to finding a dusknoir we can use."

 
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