Jess shrank back as the man strode out of the door, giving off a sick feeling of satisfaction that made her shudder. Roxy followed, storming back into the garage with a look on her face that could turn milk sour. As if nothing had happened, the anchor mentioned lunch, although her words came out in a growl.
"I, uh... I'm ok with whatever you want," Jess replied as she hurriedly gathered up the scattered papers. Roxy's presence muted the stray emotions that had been creeping in, but her seething anger replaced them.
For a moment, the empath was silent, her question catching in her throat. Roxy was less than likely to want to talk about this, and even if she did, Jess knew she'd probably have no idea what to say or do... but it might be best for both of their sakes if she at least hinted what was going on.
"If you don't mind saying," she finally said in a near-whisper, "who was that?"
"But..." Florence started, still clutching the Pokeball. "What if...?"
As if backing up Leisy, Chay gave a loud buzz. "Cuuue!" he squealed, darting over to the other Cutiefly and giving Florence a stubborn look. "Cue-cutie-cue!"
With a sigh, the medic put away the capsule. Leisy was right. This was their best chance of finding the poachers... but what would happen to the Pokemon who helped them do so? "Oh, Chay... You're really set on this, aren't you?" Florence reached for another Pokeball, letting out her Cacnea. "Tiergan, please protect these two Cutieflies."
"Nea!" The hardy cactus Pokemon stood by the side of Bidein and Cura, ready to help them keep guard.
"Ok, let's..." Before Florence could say anything else, her Pokedex beeped. After a read through of the message, she stared up at the other two trainers. "It's a mission... A mission from Aether," she explained, gripping the device. "About the kidnappings."
With none of her usual hesitation, she sent a message back, signing right up. Despite the risks, she had to do this. Uphold Aether Foundation's values. Confront the thieves. Return the stolen Pokemon to their trainers. And get Vernie back.
"Let them know Leisy and I are already right on it!" Ella piped up. This was what had brought them to Zephyr in the first place, so they might as well reassure Aether Foundation the matter was being taken care of... hopefully.
"I can't exactly guarantee the quietness of Brighteye or Lucy either, so..." Turning to Leisy, she let out two of her Pokemon. In a flash, Treasure and Jumbles appeared beside Leisy's team. "Ok, you two, keep an eye on the Cutieflies here. And Jumbles, you'll be able to help them track down missing Pokemon."
The squid-like Pokemon floated over to Chay and Levi. "In-kay!" he greeted them. Despite his usual, well-justified wariness around bugs, he seemed to have no problem trusting Leisy's and Florence's Pokemon, regardless of type.
Ella smiled over at Florence. "You see? We'll make sure they're well-protected. And they're likely both pretty strong by now anyway."
Even as she did her best to reassure her friend, the memories of what had happened the first time she'd tried - and failed - to help her out on a mission kept surfacing.
A loud roar, along with a metallic clanging sound, made Sophia jump. "What...?" The next thing she knew, Oscar had rushed off to investigate. Alone. Sophia stared in the direction he'd run. His tendency to play the hero was already gratingly obvious, but this was a whole new level of reckless bravery.
"Dammit, Oscar, what do you think you're doing?!" There was only one thing to do. Pushing through the exhaustion, she ran after him, Arcturus and Grimalkin at her side. "You'd better not get yourself hurt!"
The pain in her head flared up at another clanging noise. As she cried out and grasped the tunnel wall for support, several Zubats fluttered past, fleeing whatever had made the sound. Steeling herself for what she'd find, Sophia ran onwards, until she reached a cavern. She gasped at the sight before her.
The cave was alive with bats. Zubats, Golbats, even a few Crobats, attacking a Kommo-o's nest in a flurry of wings and fangs. The dragon stumbled, her strength rapidly running out.
"Lacey!" Sophia reacted instantly, sending out her Gothita. "Use Reflect and Confusion!" Lacey headed over to the nest, standing beside Skoll and Nomia as she put up a wall of light in front of the injured dragons. A flock of Zubats went spiralling through the air from the Gothita's Psychic type attack.
Looking up to see some of the bats swooping at her, Sophia used her own psychic power to throw them back - only to end up on her knees, her surroundings spinning.
This cave really was a terrible place to be exhausted in.
"G-Grimalkin... Hit them with Fury Swipes!" she panted. "Arcturus, use Water Gun!" As she staggered to her feet, another Pokemon joined the fray.
"Bron! Bron-zor!" Placing itself in front of the two trainers, the Bronzor blasted one of the bats with Confusion. Despite the type disadvantage, though, it was clear which side was stronger. Three huge Golbats, fangs bared, sped at the defending Pokemon.
Ghosts had been far from the only thing to be wary of here.
As the two beginner trainers ran towards what could only be some kind of powerful Pokemon, Vivianne sighed. Besides Rachel, she was likely the highest-level trainer in the group, and had a responsibility to intervene.
"Pixel, Shortout, come along," she called as she hurried after Oscar and Sophia. It turned out her suspicions had been right. She shuddered. As a researcher, she was no stranger to witnessing unpleasant things. This horde of bats, though, attacked the weakening dragon with such ferocity that, if it hadn't been for the lower-level ones fleeing at the cymbal-like crashes, she'd have suspected the battle-rage. And there, right in the middle, stood the two fledgeling trainers, putting up a fight against the onslaught.
"Shortout, use Thunderbolt," Vivianne commanded. A beam of electricity from the Rotom lit up the cave and struck one of the Golbats, which fainted instantly. "Pixel, Psyshock." A purple ball of energy formed in front of the Porygon Z and flew at another of the gluttonous bats.
Some of the wild Pokemon turned and flitted away, but others remained, undeterred.
Amber knew she shouldn't follow, but these were her friends, and by the sound of it, some kind of hurt Pokemon. "Oscar! Sophia!" she called, sprinting down the tunnel. "Vivie!"
She ducked as a dark shape swooped at her. Then another. By her side, Kyra sprang up, jaws clamping down on a wild Zubat. As others descended, Chalcedony, Larimar and Almandine lashed with their claws.
"Whew... Good work," Amber said, heading further into the cave alongside her Pokemon, her pace picking up even though more flutters and screeches made it clear what they'd find. She highly doubted it was just Zubats. "Now let's check on the others!"
"Ehh, don't worry... thanks to Rachel and her Tyranitar here, we're all ok," Amber replied. "As for what we found, this cavern filled with odd purple flames. And several Pokemon set on guarding it." She glanced over her shoulder to make sure nothing was following, before allowing herself to relax a little at Oscar's question.
"Well..." She gave Vivianne a slight, sad smile. "I'm guessing you're quite a way ahead." As she spoke, she cupped the green capsule at her belt. "Technically, I only just got my sixth, but this one's going to need a fair amount of discipline..."
Proving her point, the Sableye burst out in a flash of light. "Sable! Sableye!" the imp cried, grinning up at her new trainer.
"Uh, hello again," Amber said, tensing as she let out Kyra, Chalcedony and Larimar to keep an eye on the little ghost. At least the Sableye wasn't mad that she'd been captured... and at least she hadn't popped out of the Pokeball further down in the cave. "I know this wasn't quite what either of us intended, but do you want to come along?"
The Sableye's grin widened as she nodded, crystalline eyes gleaming. A trainer who could help her grow stronger, while collecting gemstones in the meantime? This was an opportunity she couldn't pass up.
Amber smiled back, despite the earlier chaos the ghost had caused. "Then welcome to the team... Almandine. How's that? Like the garnet. You can be Alma for short." The gem-encrusted Pokemon gave a happy cry, glancing at the surrounding Pokemon, who still glared.
"So..." Amber turned back to the woman she hadn't seen in almost two years. "Looks like that's two of us with Ghost types." She paused, eyes flicking from Vivianne, to the Rotom, to the ground. Making conversation used to be so much easier.
Watching the Sableye's antics reminded Vivianne that things didn't always go as expected - sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.
"Indeed... They're certainly an interesting type." It sounded even to her as if she were chatting with a work colleague. No, not even that. A stranger. "You could say they share characteristics with fossil Pokemon."
They did. Both were proof of how remnants of the past could come back.
"Anyway..." She faced Amber's friends. "I'm Vivianne. Researcher in training. And you are?"
Sophia rolled her eyes as Oscar mentioned Pokemon count. Great. As if she hadn't just been humiliated enough, that jerk had to go and rub it in.
"Oh, and that means you can act like you're all that, does it? I'll have you remember I'm not far behind!" she commented. If the Bronzor wanted to go with her, that would put her at the same level, and then surely it wouldn't be difficult to get a sixth...
As she listened to Amber's story of the haunted chamber, something else the other trainer said made Sophia's mouth drop open. Six Pokemon. Six Pokemon already... and by the sound of it, the researcher hadn't even been trying. "W-WHAT?!? How in the name of the Tao trio...?!"
A sudden feeling of calm settled over her, and her scowl disappeared. "Congratulations," she said before she could stop herself. The moment it slipped out, she gaped in shock, that resentment flooding back. A rather satisfied-looking Shuppet reappeared, chuckling.
"Hmph! Not everyone finds that quite so funny as you do!" Sophia glowered at the little scrap of cloth - which, now she thought about it, was actually oddly cute. Like a plush toy. Her glare softened... and then, knowing all too well what it was doing, she took a step back as it giggled again. "And don't think you'll get away with it by pulling that on me!"
She glanced at the Rotom, which hovered behind Vivianne, generating static to frizz up its trainer's neatly tied-back hair instead of keeping watch. What with Amber and Vivianne having some sort of catch-up, how much longer would the group be stuck here?
Striding over to Rachel, she made one more attempt to redeem the situation. If that unnatural strength and sturdiness was some kind of psychic thing, and if her brother was who Sophia thought he was... well, this woman could do with a reminder that there were others like it around. "Heh, I guess that's not a bad trick there," she said, before doing her usual thing of making her Pokeballs spin around her. "But as you can see, I've got a few of my own... Ugh..."
The Pokeballs wobbled as she returned them to her belt. Sophia couldn't help but lean against a wall, surroundings lurching. She'd gone and done this yet again. By remaining on such high alert, she'd exhausted herself - and a haunted cavern wasn't exactly the best place to be exhausted.
While Grimalkin and Arcturus rushed over to her, followed by the Bronzor, the Shuppet stayed behind, talking to Amber's Sableye instead. Right now, Sophia didn't know if that was a good or bad thing. All this bitterness was something she could do without. She dug her fingernails into her palms, shoulders drooping. Why was everyone here doing so, so much better than her?
Still sensing for wild Pokemon against her better judgement, she looked up at an approaching chill. She yelped, stepping to the side as a blur of black cloth slipped through the shadows towards her. The next thing she knew, it had vanished into an empty Pokeball at her belt. The cackling of Amber's Sableye echoed through the cave.
Sophia stared down at the newly-occupied Pokeball. Could she really complain? She'd wanted another Pokemon, hadn't she?
Dang, this Shuppet was doing its utmost to get on her last nerve.
Breathe. Stay calm, Jess demanded of herself, inhaling and exhaling deeply, trying to stave off pins and needles of tension that pierced the weakened barrier from all around. She'd almost forgotten just how much stress many people tended to hide. It felt as if a ball of ice were plummeting through her, growing heavier with each stretched-out second, but she had to do this, if not for herself then for Roxy. The anchor was the one in trouble.
She could hear the other woman growling something from upstairs, even if she couldn't hear the exact words. Jess' fingernails dug into her palms as she remained by the staircase, that sense of dread creeping over her - mixed with something else. Defiance. Whatever was going on, Roxy was doing her best to resist.
Basically the Gen 7 games, especially Ultra Sun and Moon, reveal it's... not such a great thing. At all. Now, it's not necessarily harmful for all of them, but there are a few messed up entries, including Mega Tyranitar. And there are at least two of those in this.
So much for Mega Evolution being caused by the bond between trainer and Pokemon... Any possible way to use this aspect to reconstruct it?
(Wow Nintendo, don't go and undo everything you fixed with Black and White...)
Edit: This might be something to look at for a reconstruction.