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Discussion in 'Literature Library' started by MoonFoxJ, May 29, 2015.

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  1. MoonFoxJ

    MoonFoxJ Swimmer

    Apr 8, 2015
    ***Reminder: this is taken from my FanFiction website, so it'll be lacking stuff like Italics for character thought***
    Hey everyone, sorry it took so long (finals week, what're you gonna do, right?), but say hell to the long-awaited sequel of Homeward, Astray. For you new readers, I recommend reading my first story, Homeward, first before this one, but I tried to summarize a lot of Homeward in this first chapter of Astray, which may be good (brief summarization) or bad (mild spoilers). Anyway, despite its short length, I really hope you all like this first chapter that I've worked so hard on, especially since I took the time to work on it today, added with the fact that I'm graduating high school today (yeah, I went out of my way to do that). Anyway, I gotta go soon for my morning graduation practice ceremony before the real deal happens at night, so wish me luck you guys. And thanks to all my old readers who stuck with Homeward for all this time. And new readers, welcome to the show.
    Disclaimer: I do not own Pokémon, but I do own Astray and its characters.
    Ch. 1
    April 3
    The Umbreon ran with all his might, huffing and puffing all the way, half from exhaustion, half from terror. He saw his so-called friend speed for the tree line for cover, abandoning the plains, and abandoning him. The Umbreon couldn't blame him, although he did get pissed at him.
    "C'mon man, wait up!" the Umbreon cried.
    "Are you kidding?" Monferno the yelled back. "She's your girlfriend, deal with her!"
    "I told you, I don't know her! I swear I've never even met her before!"
    "Stop tailing me, damn it! I don't want to get killed with you!"
    The Umbreon ignored him and continued to run. He didn't want to be alone. He didn't want to die. It only took three to bust into their secret base, destroy everyone, and now those same three were chasing him and the Monferno, the only two left. The most ridiculous thing was that the Espeon had targeted him specifically. What was with that? Why him? Why couldn't she just go after the other guys, like the other two b****es did? Why did she chase after him?
    A branch to the face brought him back to the present.
    He spat out leaves and cursed himself. Focus on getting away first, dumbass!
    Suddenly, they were at large cliff face. As an Umbreon, the huge wall of rock was impossible to climb, but as for the Monferno, that was a different story.
    The Umbreon leapt at the Monferno, but he jumped out of his reach just in time
    "For the love of Arceus," the Umbreon begged "take me with you!"
    "Get away from me!" the Monferno shouted desperately as he speedily climbed the rock wall.
    The Umbreon looked back and forth. There wasn't much, the trees thinned out in any direction. He heard the sound of bushes rustling behind him, dangerously close. He searched for a bigger tree, a boulder, a cave, anything! There was nowhere to hide.
    "Leave me alone!" he shouted into the foliage, firing an aimless Shadow Ball.
    The bushes burst open, but he couldn't track the monsters. They were just too fast. He heard the crackle of ice forming behind him from above, and then the crumple of a body on the ground; apparently, the Monferno hadn't gotten far. A light lilac laser slammed into his chest, knocking the air out of him and taking him to the ground. He saw stars for a second, recovered, and looked up into the purple eyes of the Espeon. Her weight and her vorpal stare pressed down on him, making escape a hopeless fantasy. She didn't do, or say, anything, besides looking fixedly at him. His tongue caught in his throat, and he could barely breathe. What did this crazy chick want with him?
    One of the other monsters called out. "You got him?"
    The Espeon didn't look up. "No," she blandly said.
    That was the last thing he heard, before she shot him in the head.
    Hours later, that same Espeon dropped her stomach on her bed of hay, sunlight bathing her back through her window. It was funny, but she was tired from a long day of doing nothing. Well, not exactly nothing, but the whole day was a waste of time. And that waste of time meant that she made no progress today, which depressed her yet again. Maybe that's why she was tired. You'd think she'd have gotten used to it by now, but no, each worthless day that passed by still woke her with nightmares in the middle of the night.
    "Another failure," the Espeon mumbled to no one.
    She ignored the Jolteon at her door. He'd knock. She'd refuse. He'd end up coming in anyway. It was always like that, but today, she decided not to play along anymore. She just wanted to be left-
    "Alone again?" the Jolteon asked as he barged into her Team Base. "And this time, you didn't even answer me at the door. Why so cold today, Aurora? Do you not like me anymore?" he teased her.
    Aurora kept staring at the wall.
    The Jolteon continued his light flirt. "Aww, don't be like that. Come on, just a quick talk. Hey, where are the other girls at? Are they at the Pyroar Guild, turning in yet another successful mission?" he asked with a hint of charm, while leaning against the edge of her bed.
    Aurora said something.
    "What was that?" Flash asked.
    "...We failed," she repeated in a voice that barely registered.
    The Jolteon's face twisted in confusion. "Really, again? I mean, not another failure, but you're telling me that you "failed", again? Why do you always give everyone the same crap, when we all know that your team completes every one of your missions in record time? And they're all missions from the Outlaw Notice Board, no less!"
    Aurora tired of this game. "Flash, just leave me alone," she told him.
    Flash shook his head and chuckled. "You need to get out more, girl. Meet some Pokémon. Socialize! You can't stay cooped up in this shack forever, you know?" he suggested.
    Aurora kept staring at the wall.
    Flash thought for a moment. "Crimson Base is having that party tonight for all the Exploration Teams," he said excitedly. "You should really come. It'll be good for you, and you deserve to have some fun after all the work you've done." After a long silence, he added. "At least think about it, okay?"
    The sudden sincerity in his voice caught her off guard, so Aurora did a quick scan of the Jolteon's mind. This was a rare skill that only Psychic-type Pokémon were capable of, and still only a few of them were able to do it. Having double the luck, Aurora had not only evolved into an Espeon at birth, but she was also born with said skill, which she probably had her hard-working mother to thank for. For Aurora, it was easy to distinguish certain emotions, and it only took her a split second too see Flash's...'white' mind.
    "...Fine," Aurora eventually said.
    If Flash was about to shout something great for this surprising and long-fought victory, he would have to wait, because at that moment, two Pokémon stood at the door.
    "Flash, what're you doing in here again?" the Glaceon barked at him, making him jump.
    While Flash stuttered for an excuse, the Umbreon spoke sarcastically. "What do you think he was doing?"
    "Ah-ah-F-Frost! Luna!" Flash recognized respectively. "What're you two doing back so soon?"
    Having been a Raider for a large portion of her life, which was a sort of Pokémon bounty hunter, Frost wouldn't be distracted by Flash's elementary tactic. "Do you want to get shot again?" the 19-year old Glaceon threatened with a glare, cutting right to the chase.
    Flash gulped. "Hah-n-no," he replied. Frost was always a scary girl with the power to back up her words, so this wasn't a favorable situation for...well anyone really.
    "*sigh* The door's open," Luna suggested in a tired voice while holding open the wooden frame. It was a bit of a drag for the 17-year old Umbreon to care about others, especially when she was discouraged from doing so with the long, sinful past that she held. But neither Frost nor Aurora ever exposed this about her, so was grateful. After some time passed, she had even begun to trust her two teammates, and felt a bit, if not happier, relaxed.
    Flash fearfully crept to the door, keeping his eyes trained on the deadly Glaceon at all times. When he safely stepped out into the sunlight, he called back. "See you at the party, Aurora, and don't worry, just have fun!"
    Aurora kept staring at the wall.
    Before Frost or Luna could question him, Flash gave them a quick bow with a nervous smile. "Ladies," the Jolteon said before bolting. He couldn't fight them, but thank Arceus he could outrun them.
    Luna let the door close, and exchanged incredulous looks with Frost. Recovering first, Luna just shrugged. "Hey, look at the good news; she's taking a step forward."
    "Yeah, but a big step!" Frost said.
    "At least she's getting out of the house. Well, she has been getting out, but you know what I mean."
    "Those were missions, and she already knew how to fight. I wasn't worried about her then. But this is a party, and she's pretty much been a social recluse for three months now. I'm worried about how she's going to handle herself!"
    "I'm right here..." Aurora murmured weakly.
    Frost walked up to the prone girl on the bed. "Aurora," Frost said "are you sure you want to do this? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that you're going out to do something different for a change, but I just want you to know that you don't have to force yourself tonight. If you start to feel uncomfortable at any point, don't do anything drastic, and just come talk to me, alright?"
    Aurora kept staring at the wall. "I'll go," she said.
    Frost and Luna exchanged looks again.
    "Okay, if that's what you want," Frost said with a mix of happiness and anxiety. Then she added, "I might as well go too. Who knows? It might actually be fun."
    Luna spoke up, "If you're only going for her sake, then just be honest about it. I might as well be the one to look after her, because I'm going too."
    "You are?"
    Luna shrugged. "I've been trying to be friendlier and more outgoing, if you know what I mean," she explained.
    Frost let out an exasperated breath. "Fine, just make sure that nobody tries anything unhealthy with her, and that she doesn't do anything rash," she pleaded.
    "Relax. I'll keep an eye on her," Luna replied.
    "I'm right here..." Aurora murmured again.
    Frost rubbed her best friend's back comfortingly. "I'm sorry, Aurora. I'm just worried for you is all. Just try to have fun, okay?"
    Aurora nodded. An uncomfortable silence followed after that. It seemed like there was nothing else to talk about. Or maybe they were too nervous to say anything more to her? The Espeon sighed and, with effort, sat up on her bed.
    She met their eyes and asked, "How much did we make on today's mission?"
    Her teammates' eyes rose up. "Really, you're asking that now of all times?" Luna asked. "Why the sudden interest in Team Pluto's currency?" After a while, Luna said, "We made 10000P on today's Outlaw Mission, before that ridiculous 90% tax...That brings us up to a total of thirteen successful missions, over 9700P, and our team's rank just got promoted to Platinum from today's mission."
    Aurora just nodded. "I'm going to go wash up," she said before sliding off the bed.
    Aurora stood in the shallow pool underneath a small waterfall, losing herself by staring down at nothing. The cold water should've shaken her doubt, but her mind kept coming back to what Frost had said before she left Team Pluto's Base. She had just reached the door when Frost grabbed her shoulder.
    "I know you miss him, Aurora," Frost started to say, "but you have to understand that that Umbreon is gone. I get that you've only been interested in Outlaw Missions so far, ever since you started to get your memory back. But don't keep chasing the dream that we may actually run into him. After all, if we do happen to meet him during a mission, we may have no choice but to...you know."
    Frost and Luna had been telling her stuff like that for...How long did Frost say it was now, three months? During that time, her teammates tried convincing her to "move on", but she couldn't. No, that was wrong. It was because she wouldn't. Even if they said that "they understand", they didn't understand. Nobody really understood. They just wanted her to stop moping. She knew how everyone viewed her too. The frail, soft-spoken flower that had to be handled gently, else she would break. The sad, quiet Espeon with the mysterious past that they 'had to' find out about. Or the easy girl with bets placed on whoever could do her first. Yes, her body looked like it had aged a great deal from the stressful three months she had lived day-by-day on, but having literally been pampered as a princess for her 17 years of life made it difficult to lose her physical charm. Arceus, how she grew tired of that life pretty quick...And although she was still disgusted whenever members of other Exploration Teams gave her 'that look', she was also scared.
    The guys here wanted her, she knew that, and despite the tough exterior she put up, it just made her feel more fearful and alone, like she wanted to hide in a shell and never come out. That might have been an overestimation, but at least she put all her feelings away during missions. But that impressive mission record just made her all the more attractive too. She hated that, and she hated the guys too. Well, not all guys. There was the one whom she had been searching for, for the past three months. Trouble was, if she found him during these "Outlaw Missions" (which seemed like the most probable circumstance at this point), what did that say about him?
    I don't care, Aurora thought bitterly, answering her question herself. I just want to see Kyuso again. And no matter what it takes, or how long, I will find him.
    Aurora S.C.A.R.: 0.00%
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
    eclipse35 likes this.
  2. MoonFoxJ

    MoonFoxJ Swimmer

    Apr 8, 2015
    Ch. 2
    April 3
    A heavy voice drawled over Aurora's shoulder, "Hey boys, check it out. She is here."
    Aurora instantly dropped in the water to her nose. She glanced back to identify who dared approach her, especially now of all times. She counted three at the edge of the pool; a Diggersby, a Simisear, and a Salamence up front, whose voice was probably the one she just heard. They weren't coming any closer for now, but she knew that could soon change. She didn't have to read their minds to know what their intentions were, just their faces. She also couldn't sense the presence of anyone else nearby, and guessed that the three males knew it too.
    Shit, Aurora mentally cursed. In the middle of my f***ing shower, seriously?
    The Salamence looked at her for a second, trying to catch a glimpse through the foam of the waterfall. He spoke to her good-naturedly, "Hey, Aurora, how's it going? Better I'm guessing, since word's spreading that you're coming to the party. We just wanted to know if that's true or not."
    Aurora just stared back.
    The three shared joking smiles and whispers. The Salamence focused on her again. "C'mon, Aurora, tell us. Are you coming to the party or not? We just wanna hear it from you."
    "Yeah c'mon, you can tell us. We won't laugh, promise" the Simisear added.
    Aurora just stared back. This time with venom.
    The Diggersby snickered. "Dude," he half-whispered, half-laughed. "I told you she was gonna get pissed."
    Of course I'd get pissed, you sick shits! Aurora screamed in her head.
    The Simisear and Salamence playfully punched the Diggersby's shoulder, and the three went back to targeting Aurora. "We're only asking because we heard it from Flash, and you how stupid that guy can be, right?" the Salamence asked again.
    "All we're asking for is a yes or no. That's all," the Diggersby said nonchalantly.
    Aurora just stared back. She couldn't believe these bastards were on an Exploration Team.
    After a while, the Diggersby said quietly, "C'mon guys, let's just go. She ain't gonna budge anytime soon."
    The Simisear chuckled at that, and the Salamence responded, "Huh, a shame. You'd think she'd give us something after we made the effort to come all the way out here." The three laughed loudly, and unashamedly, at that.
    Aurora's guts boiled.
    The Diggersby, Simisear, and Salamence all started on their way back through some trees, all the while yelling back "See you at the party, Aurora" and "Enjoy yourself, Aurora". Their goofy grins pissed her off to no end, and she felt that she was at her limit. She wanted to destroy them, but she also knew that she had to hold it in, or else they'd blab, and then Frost and Luna would find out and watch her 24/7 all over again. She couldn't deal with that, not again. It was already bad enough in the beginning when the two thought she was crazy for, as they said, "hearing things". That thing she did back then freaked them out, and she had to learn quick how to lie to her own teammates about how she wasn't doing that anymore. She was barely holding herself back now, but it was okay, they were almost gone, so pretty soon, she wouldn't have to deal with them anymo-
    "And Aurora, if you want a date to the party, don't be shy to ask. I'm good to go whenever you are, cool?" the Salamence said at the last second with a wink, a freaking wink. She heard them starting to laugh again.
    That did it.
    What happened next ended so quickly that the three males didn't fully realize what happened until they had put a safe distance between them and Aurora. But it went like this...
    Aurora's moveset had changed dramatically over the span of three months, and during that time, she had learned to utilize it rather skillfully. She combined two of her new moves in this particular situation, Reflect and Light Screen. Normally, these two would be used defensively, but Aurora had taken a more 'aggressive' route. Even from the long distance between her and them, her concentration was sharp enough to create a sphere of blue light around the Diggersby and Simisear. Then, she simply minimized her trap, effectively squeezing them until they screamed in agony. She then took a second to channel her fury into her attack, Dazzling Gleam. She did this to pull off that trick that she had developed after half a month of rigorous training. Pouring energy into Dazzling Gleam like this took a lot out of her, but it allowed her to release several Dazzling Gleam attacks altogether in the form of a concentrated beam. Her Dazzling Gleam had grown much more deadly, as proven by how she took down all her targets with a single shot on today's mission (of whom were all spending their time behind bars, deep in Crimson Base's dungeon).
    Because she worked quickly, the Salamence had just started to turn around when she released the charged Dazzling Gleam. Flash, as the enthusiastic Jolteon that he is, had insisted nicknaming this as her "Dazzling Cannon", which, in his words, "brings the boom". But Aurora didn't care what this was called; the attack wouldn't hurt any less from giving it a nickname, its only purpose was to obliterate.
    And obliterate it did.
    Aurora only kept up the beam for two seconds, so she wasn't too tired when she stopped. Afterwards, she stepped out from the pool, shook herself dry, and stepped up to the crater she had just created. It was about a meter in circumference, about five meters deep, and there was dirt, grass, and root, strewn everywhere. And at the bottom...
    Aurora lifted the Salamence from the hole with a sphere made of Reflect and Light Screen, much like how she trapped the Diggersby and Simisear, of who were now whimpering in pain, as well as fear. She dropped the Salamence on his back, stomped on his stomach, and gripped his head fiercely.
    "You tell anyone what happened, and I'll personally make sure you never speak again, got it?" she asked, glaring into his dazed eyes.
    The Salamence nodded, as best as he could that is.
    Aurora turned to the Diggersby and Simisear, still being crushed to death. "The exact same goes for you two. Understand?" she asked just as cruelly.
    They also nodded as best as they could.
    She released all three Pokémon at once, and growled, "Get the hell out of my sight."
    The Diggersby and Simisear each had to support one side of the Salamence, but they did exactly what she said, limping all the way.
    The first thing Aurora saw when she arrived back at Crimson Base, were the lanterns. She wanted to check out the party before she came back to her Team Base, so she came directly from the pool to the sandy beaches of Crimson Base. The lanterns (unlit) hung everywhere throughout Crimson Base, along with seashells, a pearls, and other ocean-themed decorations. The sun was still high in the sky, but at an angle, which probably explained why everyone was busy frantically carrying party items every which way. The scent of food hung heavily in the air. All sorts of assorted berries were displayed on several tables, introducing her nose to a fruity and rainbow-like smell. There was also a table of freshly caught Magikarp, where a Scyther and Scizor were cleaning their bodies of the sea salt. Aurora guessed that they were to be cooked later, when everyone had arrived.
    "Hiya Aurora," a familiar cute voice squeaked from the side.
    Aurora turned to face the eager Sylveon. "Hello Claire," Aurora greeted politely. After noticing the lantern at the Sylveon's feet, she asked, "Are you helping out with the party preparations?"
    "Mhm," Claire answered. "Anyone who wants to attend the party has to help out with the preparations, unless if their team is at least Master Rank. Although at that point, I think the whole idea of helping others has already gotten to them, so what's the point of that rule, right?" Claire asked with a healthy laugh.
    At one time, Aurora may have been the type to laugh as well, but now, the most Claire could manage out of her was a light smile.
    "Oh yeah, Flash told...well, he told everyone that you were coming to the party. Is that true?" Claire asked without fear.
    Aurora liked Claire for that reason. Out of all the Pokémon here at Crimson Base, Claire was one of the few who wasn't afraid of talking to her, without sounding disgusting that is. She spoke to Aurora the same way she did to everyone, and that made Aurora feel happy. Like she hadn't gone off the edge yet. Like she was still in one piece. Aurora was grateful for knowing and getting to talk to someone like her, she just didn't have the strength to say thank you.
    Aurora nodded.
    "Oh good," Claire said. "We have so much food here. Too much I think! In my opinion, any extra mouths to feed will be a big help. And I think you'll need it more than anyone. I mean heck, look at you! You're even thinner than you already were when you arrived here!"
    Aurora looked down, embarrassed. Her face didn't know whether to frown or smile.
    "...Let me look at you for a sec," Claire said.
    Aurora had to bite her tongue from yelling out in surprise. She froze in place as Claire got behind her and felt her waist. Aurora tried to move away, but Claire held her still.
    "I'm just-I'm just-hey! Calm down, okay? I'm juuust going to seeee how your booody's doooing, okay?" Claire soothed her.
    Liar, Aurora thought fearfully. She detected a hint of pleasure from the deepest reaches of Claire's mind.
    After a few seconds of feeling and squeezing her waist, Aurora felt Claire moving farther back.
    "Shhhhshshshshshshhhh, relax, I'm just checking how your hind leg muscles are doing, that's all," Claire murmured while trying to still Aurora's struggling once more. The satisfaction was starting to leak from her voice.
    Damn it, Claire, Aurora thought desperately. She was trembling now, and trying to steady her breathing. Are you even qualified? Do even know what you're doing?
    "Hmm, you seem like you're lacking muscle density in some parts. You need to make sure you're getting enough nutrition after hard missions so that your body doesn't deteriorate," Aurora distantly heard Claire say. It sounded like Claire was speaking intelligently for once, so Aurora relaxed slightly. Maybe Claire was actually serious about checking her body's physique. "Hmm, I wonder how healthy you really are. Well, there's one way to check for that..."
    What the f***!!!
    "Whoa, calm down girl," Claire said while failing to keep a straight face. "I was just-"
    Aurora kept her butt as far away from Claire as she could. Her face refused to stop glowing red, and sweat trickled down her neck. "I'm going to go and help out with the preparations now," she quickly said in a shaky voice. Then she walked in the other direction (backwards) as fast as she could.
    "Glad I could help, girl!" was the last thing Claire happily called back to her. Despite this, Aurora asked herself why she couldn't stay mad at the Sylveon.
    Aurora filled the rest of her afternoon with berry foraging and decorating. She had come upon Oran berries after half an hour of searching, and picked a couple of bushes for the party. However, even though Oran berries were still her favorite, she found it was hard nowadays to get excited over anything.
    For now, she busied herself with hanging pearls on string for the party. She sat on the beach, while facing the ocean. The sound of the waves washing back and forth on the sand zoned everything out, and left her with a sense of isolation. The sun was over the water at one end of the beach, but not by much. She could already see a tint of orange in the sky. She had already set aside five finished strings; her work was good, but, her mind was somewhere far away, focused on a certain Umbreon...
    "Hello? Earth to Aurora, are you there?" a loud voice spoke, snapping her thoughts away from a pleasant memory that involved a train and cupcakes.
    Aurora blinked, her head shot up, and she found herself face to face with the silhouette of a Leafeon.
    The Leafeon spoke once more, "Finally, I was starting to wonder if I was talking to myself here. I was asking you if you saw Claire recently. I can't find her anywhere..."
    Aurora shook her head.
    The Leafeon sighed. "Man, where'd she go? This place is so big that I can't find her anywhere. It's been a while since I checked the food tables, maybe she's there. Thanks anyway, Aur-"
    "BOO!" a cute voice yelled from behind them both.
    Lance gurgled as he was tackled down to the sand by his neck. Though as soon as they hit the ground, he expertly curled up and rolled so that he was on top of Claire, instead of the other way around. When he gave her his smug grin, she whined for the failure of her surprise attack.
    "No fair, Lance! Stop bringing your battle reflexes into these kinds of things!" Claire complained as the Leafeon easily helped her up.
    "Then stop glomping me all the time," Lance replied coolly while dusting sand off Claire's shoulder. His face suggested that he didn't mind her sudden glomp in the slightest.
    The two shared a spontaneous staring contest, and when Lance won that as well, Claire whined again. Lance found it impossible to ignore an invitation (at least he saw it as an invitation) like that, and he proceeded to sweep her off her feet.
    "Waaah! What're you doing?" Claire demanded, half-scared, half-amused.
    Lance had slid under her, and stood up, so that Claire was slung over his back. He carried her to their Team Base. "I just wanted to ask if you wanted me as a date to the party, but it looks like you already beat me to the punch with that glomp of yours. Now you have to take responsibility for your actions." Lance answered back, acting innocent. His grin said otherwise.
    "Help! Stranger danger! Underage kidnapping! Police brutality! I'm being repressed!" Claire shouted out to everyone within earshot. She continued to call out random sayings like this all the way back to their Team Base. In the middle of Crimson Base, Flash, along with everyone else, guffawed at the scene. He wondered if this was really happening: one of his teammates carrying another against her will. Or was it completely to her will? Later, Lance and Claire wouldn't be seen for the rest of the day, until they arrived at the party about half an hour late.
    But...back on the beach...a certain Espeon could only look at the sight in envy.
    Aurora S.C.A.R.: 0.00%
    eclipse35 likes this.
  3. MoonFoxJ

    MoonFoxJ Swimmer

    Apr 8, 2015
    First off, I'd like to say that, no, I'm not stuck in writer's block or some kind of crap like that. It's just that this summer looks really busy for me, so please bear with my slow updates for now. I don't want to waste any more of your time, so for now I'll just say thanks to Rayrudan, ReeceTheFeminineEevee, and Djsoresupon3 for their OCs. Your OCs sound interesting, but a little over-involved, so I'll try my best to make them fit, guys. Also, sorry for forgetting the disclaimer in the last chapter.
    Disclaimer: I do not own Pokémon, but I do own Astray and its characters.
    Ch. 3
    April 3
    "What is it?"
    "I bit my tongue."
    "You idiot," April laughed. "Chew slower or you're going to eat yourself."
    Drake grumbled something unintelligent to the Lucario before biting into his Magikarp again. The Fraxure was tired of training all the time, and guessed that his team was too. He wanted to do something fun for once, and this party seemed like a pretty good way of relieving some stress. Besides, they'd been training hard for the past few weeks, so as the leader, he had decided it was a good time for them to have a bit of fun. The invitation of food lured him in too.
    "Thish ish a huu spwead," Drake said, earning a slap to the shoulder from April for talking with his mouth full. He promptly swallowed before adding, "I can't believe they managed to pull off a party this huge."
    "Well we did help," April answered. "So with everyone working, of course this would be possible, right Arcanine?"
    The Arcanine sitting a ways away from them barely nodded, and continued eating his Chesto Berry. April didn't mind this though; Arcanine was never one known for his words so she avoided scolding him or anything. Drake, on the other hand, should've acted in a more modest manner as Team Liberator's leader, in her opinion. But then again, Drake was never one known for his restraint.
    "Arcanine, dig in man. Aren't you hungry?" Drake asked while biting into a Pinap Berry.
    Arcanine shrugged his shoulders in response, and spun the Chesto Berry in his paw.
    Drake said, "Well you should get some more food before we start the g-"
    "Look, she did come!" someone loudly interrupted.
    The three members of Team Liberator turned their heads in the same direction as everyone else, and they all witnessed the arrival of the rumored guest. Loud whispers and quiet murmurs arose from the crowd, and the object of everyone's interest visibly stepped back until her Umbreon friend stopped her retreat.
    "Hmph, I don't get why everyone likes her so damn much," Drake said in a low volume.
    April frowned. "I've seen their Aura and trust me, not everyone "likes her"," she said, putting air quotes around "likes her". "Some hate her guts, some lust after her, some pity her, but what they all share is their fascination with her. And she hates it, hates it down to her core."
    "And you know this, how? By reading her "Aura"?" Drake asked, mimicking her air quotes. Then he rubbed his shoulder from her second slap.
    "No," April answered. "Actually, I tried to read her Aura a while back, but as soon as I tried, something powerful kicked me out, hard, like literally kicked me out. It was so freaky that I couldn't believe it happened till the next day. That was the only time, so I still have trouble believing it happened sometimes."
    Arcanine walked up to them. "Then how?" he asked in a barely audible, barely familiar voice.
    Drake and April blinked from Arcanine's rarely-heard words. April recovered and said, "She told me."
    Aurora pulled back against Luna's paw on her foreleg. "Luna..." Aurora muttered.
    "You're here, so don't back out now," Luna said back with an amused grin. She edged Aurora onward. "Come on."
    The terrified Espeon yanked her foreleg away, huffed, and faced the crowd again, it was such a big crowd. And they had stopped whispering.
    Their stares bore into her like nails, making her shoulder rise up in unease. Her eyes darted back and forth, never staying in one place for long so that it looked like she was meeting each of their stares head on, when in fact she was looking at their necks and shoulders. Her face and body couldn't face straight-forward either; she had to stare back at an angle with her head down. Her face grew hot, and a trickle of sweat itched down her back, which she desperately wanted to wipe away. Now, that all-too-familiar fear, which she experienced from the hungry stares of three or four, came at her in waves because of this huge group, utterly drowning her.
    Aurora had despairingly begun to notice that her eyes were gradually dropping to the ground, until someone called her name.
    "Aurora, hey, you came!" Claire cried happily, breaking the heavy silence. Aurora saw Claire running up to her, and let her hug her. She was never happier to see the Sylveon before than she was right now, but she held back the urge to hug her back. If she showed anything more to this crowd than she already did, that would be the end of her.
    Claire jumped off her and shouted to the crowd, "If you're waiting for lesbianism, then you're going to have to pay first before you watch."
    Aurora choked, and the crowd immediately dispersed. Some rolled their eyes, others shouted colorful language, (to which Claire repeated back with a "you too buddy!"), and a few hidden throughout the crowd wolf-whistled. Pretty soon everyone was back in their previous, festive mood, and Aurora was amazed.
    "Thank you," Aurora murmured.
    "For what?" Claire said sweetly with a smile. "Anyway, why'd you get here so late? Did something happen?"
    "...I was...talking to someone," Aurora said.
    Claire shrugged. "You're here now, so just relax. There's some food left over by the tables, and we're going to start the games pretty soon. Why don't you grab something to eat and you can join in whenever you're ready?" she suggested.
    Aurora nodded and headed over to where Claire pointed for food.
    There weren't too many in line since she and Luna had arrived so late. Luna had already grabbed a bowl of Cheri Berries and was talking with Pokémon of other Exploration Teams. Aurora browsed the tables of food, starting from the very left side, but no matter what she saw, nothing appealed to her. There were berries, freshly cooked Magikarp, various greens and herbs, but nothing appealed to her. She was starting on the idea of going to bed without dinner again, until a lone item caught her eye at the very end of the tables. She didn't know why it interested her, but after staring at it for a few seconds, she eventually decided to take it. She reached out to grab it, until a Vine Whip shot out and stole the item right before her eyes.
    "Oh goody, I the last one," a girl teased behind her.
    Aurora lazily turned around and saw a Servine mockingly toss the Leppa Berry up with her Vine Whip; the Leppa Berry that should've been hers. For a fleeting moment, Aurora had the urge to snatch it, as if the Leppa Berry didn't belong to her, but the Staravia, Espurr, and Persian beside her made Aurora hold back.
    The Servine kept tossing the Leppa Berry up. "Hey, Aurora," the Servine greeted with a smile. "You having fun yet?"
    Aurora just stared back with tired eyes. She already read that the Servine wanted trouble.
    The Servine tilted her head. "Hey, I'm asking you a question here. I asked if you're having fun yet. What're you, deaf or something? Or maybe you're a mute." the Servine asked rudely. Then her friends laughed as if she just told a joke.
    Aurora stayed silent. They'd leave her alone if she didn't react.
    "Hellooo, earth to Aurora. Answer me already, airhead," the Servine said, still tossing up the last Leppa Berry.
    Still Aurora refused to say a word. Just go away, she thought.
    The two girls stared each other down for a few more seconds. Aurora knew the Servine was growing impatient with her for being such boring prey. At last, the Servine scoffed and jerked her head, which signaled the Staravia, Espurr, and Persian to move. Aurora just looked down sadly when the three other girls surrounded her from the left, back, and right.
    Finally, the Servine's Vine Whip retracted, and she caught the Leppa Berry in her hand. She took a bite of the Leppa Berry, and then threw it aside. Aurora watched the unfinished fruit land on the ground, sand caking the exposed fruit inside.
    The Servine swallowed then said with a sneer, "You better start saying something quick before I get mad, got it?"
    Aurora barely heard the Servine, her attention was focused on the wasted Leppa Berry. The more she looked at it, the sadder she became. It was strange how some could do that; eat something and then throw it away, unfinished. What intriguing behavior that was. She wondered just how privileged they had to have been raised to have the ability to do that. Then again, with such a privileged background like hers, she didn't have the right to think like that, even if she had never done that sort of stuff. What a waste of food. For some strange reason, she felt pity for the Leppa Berry, and wanted to at least do it the honor of disposing of it properly. Aurora blinked twice, why was she thinking so weird?
    Suddenly, someone roughly grabbed her shoulders.
    "Hey! I told you to say som-"
    Aurora's paw stung from her slap, but she felt a twinge of satisfaction from seeing the pained look on the Servine's face. She had no idea where that spark of anger came from.
    "Argh! Arceus damn it!" the Servine cursed as she clutched her arm.
    The Staravia, Espurr, and Persian, surrounding Aurora, broke away instantly to tend to the Servine.
    "I'm fine," the Servine hissed as she shrugged off the three girls. She glared daggers furiously at Aurora now, as if she wanted to carve up her pretty face. Still, Aurora held that same bored look.
    "...Let's go," the Servine lowly said.
    At her words, the three girls followed her back into the thick of the party. On their way, the Servine stepped on the Leppa Berry. Aurora watched as more sand caked onto the insides of the fruit. Did the Servine do that on purpose? Whether she did it on purpose or not, Aurora just sighed and left the tables. She wasn't hungry anymore.
    "Alright everyone, gather round for the games we've planned for you tonight," Claire cheerfully shouted out.
    To nobody's surprise, the eager little Sylveon had taken it upon herself to become the unofficial party manager earlier this afternoon. So now, no one complained at her announcement, and came together as she asked. There had to have been at least sixty Pokémon who attended the party, so it took a while for everyone to settle down.
    "Alright, tonight, we're going to be playing a lot of games, which will reward a certain amount of points to the winners; three points to first place, two points to second place, and one point to third place. The team with the most points in the end will earn a prize, and the team, or teams, with the lowest points will have to help finish cleaning up Crimson Base."
    After Lance managed to settle down the chorus of groans, Claire continued, "We'll be playing in teams of two, so choose a partner, and get ready to have some fun!" Claire explained.
    All the Pokémon around Aurora began to shuffle around, probably trying to pair up with their preferred partner as soon as possible. Aurora wandered around to find Luna in all the madness, but her stomach tightened when she saw that a Treecko from another Exploration Team had already had already paired up with her.
    "Just find someone else," Luna told her.
    "Who?" Aurora asked.
    A tap on the shoulder ended her quest early, and she turned around to see a familiar Jolteon.
    "Yo," Flash greeted her with a goofy grin.
    Aurora looked at him doubtfully. "...Fine."
    After everyone found a partner, Claire took the pairs through a gauntlet of games that made them wonder how such seemingly sweet little Sylveon could think up such devious activities. At the end of two hours, they had just finished a game that had something to do with whips and spikes, and were now about to start on the final game. By now, the scores were pretty scattered, but out of the many teams, Aurora and Flash were in second place with fifteen points, chasing the team that consisted of the Servine and Persian from earlier. They had sixteen points.
    "*Pant Pant Pant* Good try, Aurora. *Pant Pant Pant* We'll get them on the next one," Flash breathed out. He sounded like he was really enjoying himself.
    Aurora sat on the sand to regain her breath, and nodded back to him. They had just earned their two points for coming in second place from the previous game. The Servine and Persian had earned first place; effectively taking three points, along with the lead. Aurora had just started to notice how her behavior was. She was really giving it her all to win these games. Surprisingly, this competition had taken her mind off her depression. She really did want to win.
    "Alright, it's time for the final game! You still have a chance to win, or avoid coming in last place for some of you, so give it your all this time!" Claire enthusiastically announced, firing up everyone a little bit. She began to describe the final game, "Alright, so the last game is a duel between teams out on the cold sea. As you can see over on your left, three tall tree trunks have been posted in the water near the beach. Two team members, from opposing teams, will stand on two posts to defend, while the others will remain on the beach to attack. The team member on the beach will use these coconuts on your right to knock the opposing team off the posts. The game will be played in three branches; you'll move up the branch with each win, so the final game will be played as a three-way. Oh, and I should mention that it's really late into the night, so if you fall...Oh jeez, I'm getting shivers just thinking about it!"
    "No moves are allowed for any Pokémon. Your opponents will be randomly selected through a ticket drawing," Lance said while pulling out a box with a hole on top. He reached his paw through the hole, pulled out two slips of paper, and announced, "First match in branch A: Flash & Aurora versus Drake & April. Step up guys."
    Aurora walked up to the beach edge with Flash, and saw a Fraxure and a Lucario. She knew the Lucario girl, April, but not the Fraxure. She knew of him, he was the leader of April's team if she remembered correctly, but she never talked to the guy. So why was she already sensing spite from this so-called "Drake"?
    Oh well, it's not like he's the only one who hates me, Aurora thought.
    "Decide who'll attack and who'll defend," Lance told them.
    Aurora turned to Flash. "I think I should go on the post, while you stay on the beach, sound like a plan?" Flash suggested.
    If he wants to get pelted by a coconut, that's his fault, Aurora thought, but she nodded, letting him play 'the gentleman'.
    A Fearow picked up Flash and dropped him on his post. Aurora started to dread her decision to go along with Flash's plan when she saw him almost lose his balance, but he quickly recovered and gave a thumbs-up. She also saw April up on a post, and a pang of guilt hit her; she didn't want to hit April, even if this was just a game. April was one of those few who she had gotten along with, but she also wanted to win. So she shoved her doubt aside.
    "Ready," Claire shouted, snapping Aurora back into focus. "Set. Throw!"
    Aurora saw the Fraxure next to her, Drake, pick up a coconut, and throw it at Flash. Flash ducked under it. Drake picked up another two coconuts, chucked the left one, and then the right. Flash ducked again in alarm, and then jumped over the second one. He looked at Aurora with wide eyes.
    "Aurora, come on!" he called to her.
    "...Right," she said while shaking her head.
    Aurora grabbed a coconut with her forked tail, tossed it up to test its momentum, and took aim at April.
    Her tail lowered. She found that it was harder to actually throw the coconut than she previously thought. But apparently, it looked like April didn't want Aurora to go easy on her, because she got into her fighting stance and flexed her fingers, taunting Aurora to attack. She was trying to tell Aurora that it was okay. Well, if that's how it was, then Aurora wouldn't hold back. She sucked in a breath, took aim again, and threw the coconut at April...who shattered it to hundreds of pieces with one thrust of her palm! Everyone gaped at the Lucario standing confidently on her post, as did Aurora. In fact, the only two who were still in motion were Flash and Drake.
    "Hey, that's cheating. You can't use any attacks to block the coconuts," Flash cried while dodging another coconut from the smirking Drake.
    April never took her eyes off from Aurora. "Aura is the life energy found naturally in all things," April said. "As a Lucario, I am simply more in tune with, and am able to manipulate, Aura. Therefore, I never used a move, so I never cheated."
    Crap, Aurora thought anxiously. In that case, I can't hold back.
    Aurora picked up another coconut with her tail, this time with purpose, at the same time Drake picked up two. This time, there was no hesitation in her throw and Aurora's coconut whistled loudly through the air, straight for April. Once again, April struck the coconut dead-center, channeled Aura through the point of contact, and blew up the second missile Aurora threw at her. The Lucario stood straight, breathed in, and released the air in her lungs as she stomped back into her fighting stance. Her eyes challenged Aurora for more.
    "Disciplined," Aurora muttered. "I'll have to throw multiple shots then."
    A whoop of joy came from Flash's direction. "Woohoo! Missed! Yeah! Haha, I can go all night!" Flash taunted Drake, frustrating the Fraxure just a bit.
    He sounded confident enough, but Aurora read a little doubt starting to form in his mind.
    Deciding that she needed to finish things quickly, Aurora balanced two coconuts on her tail, drew her tail back, and threw them hard enough at April for her body to do a spin. Going with the motion, she instantly picked up another, and threw it at April. As according to her plan, she saw April use both palms to block the first two coconuts, which left her open for attack from the third. But Aurora didn't trust that the third one would do the trick, which was why she immediately spun a second time, throwing a fourth coconut, but this one flew for Flash's post. As expected, April kicked the third coconut, which left her with no limbs left to defend. The fourth coconut ricocheted off Flash's post, and hit the side of April's head with an audible "thud", which earned a wave of "ooh" from the audience. April fell back with dazed eyes, earning another, louder wave of "ooh" as she smacked into the black, icy sea.
    "Hey, watch it Aurora. You almost knocked me off with that last throw!" Flash shouted.
    "April is down, Flash and Aurora win!" Claire announced.
    The applause that followed shocked Aurora. She didn't expect any clapping from this group of Pokémon, but accepted it nonetheless. She guessed that the fun everyone was having from playing the games had something to do with it.
    After Lance quieted everyone down, he drew two more tickets from the box. "Okay, next match..."
    Aurora was genuinely surprised that they'd made it to the finals. Her partner, the showboat of a Jolteon, once tried to do a back flip on his post to dodge, which had almost cost them the game. Now, they were in the final match of the night, and it was clear that no ticket drawing was required to determine who was up next.
    "Aurora, let's own these losers!" Flash shouted to her from the post, of which there were now three.
    Aurora shrunk a little from his statement. Embarrassment flooded into her cheeks as a blush, and she gave an apologetic look to their opponents; an Aipom and Wartortle, and (of course) the Servine and her Persian friend. The Wartortle and Persian stood on the posts beside Flash's, while the Aipom and Servine waited on the beach with Aurora. They were just waiting for Claire's signal now.
    "This is the last round," Claire told them. "All three teams here have enough points to win it all if they take first place, so good luck and may the best Pokémon win! Ready. Set. Throw!"
    Aurora immediately grabbed a coconut with a specific target in mind: the Persian. She was disappointed that the Servine wasn't up on the post instead, but her friend would have to do. She let the coconut fly. Impressively, the Persian managed to slip under her shot with her flexible body. Excluding April, Aurora had managed to win every match with a single shot up until now. So now, she'd have to really bring her A-game, especially since...
    "Whoa! Wah! What the heck? Why are you both throwing at me?!" Flash yelled at the Aipom and Servine.
    Everyone just laughed it off, but Aurora knew why they were targeting him. Because she was his partner. And if they couldn't hit her, they'd hit him.
    Alright then, bring it on, she thought with a growl.
    Aurora tossed up one, two, three coconuts into the air. As they fell, she spun and kicked back with her hind legs, while also using her tail to also throw a coconut with each spin. As a result, she launched a total of six, successive shots at the Persian. The Persian's eyes grew as big as saucers as she barely saw the speedy projectiles in time. She ducked under the first, leaned past the second, jumped over the third, winced as the fourth smashed into her left shoulder, wobbled as the fifth cracked into her head, and did a flip off the post as the sixth hit her head once more. A loud splash was heard from the Persian's fall, and a "damn it" was heard from the Servine as she hissed in her frustration.
    Now she just had to take care of the Wartortle.
    At Flash's gasp of pain, Aurora turned to see the Jolteon curling up on the post as he clutched his crotch in agony. The poor guy couldn't move, much less even look up, which meant that...
    "Victory is ours!" the Aipom cried as she took aim at Flash.
    No! Aurora screamed in her head.
    Before she even knew what was happening, Aurora saw something intercept the Aipom's coconut. It was another coconut, which came from her direction.
    The Aipom made a choking sound, "What the heck?!"
    "I'm not going to lose that easily," Aurora growled.
    "Pfft, lucky shot. You won't get so lucky again!"
    The Aipom threw a power shot at Flash, causing the coconut to make a whistling sound. But Aurora saw it; in fact, she had watched the Aipom's body motion and predicted the flight path of her shot. Aurora instincts saved her yet again as her coconut blocked the Aipom's. The Aipom threw another, and another, and another, and several more after those, but Aurora blocked them too. A curse could be heard from the Aipom, but since Aurora was "in the zone", she barely registered it.
    "This girl is obviously cheating, damn it! What kind of judges are you two?" the Aipom demanded.
    Lance shrugged and said, "Or maybe she's just that good."
    The girl in question panted for breath, sweat fell down her face, and she found it impossible to relax her tensed shoulders. Although she made it look like it was easy, defending her partner against this barrage had taken up a lot of her concentration and energy. Fortunately for her, her partner had recovered thanks to her excellent defensive play. Managing to find his balance on the post, Flash staggered to his feet and gave Aurora a grateful smile with a thumbs-up.
    At last, she could finish this.
    Trusting that Flash would be able to hold his own for a few more seconds; Aurora pushed through her exhaustion and picked up a coconut on her sore tail. It felt heavy. She saw the Wartortle give her a scared look, and quickly withdraw into his shell. That wasn't good. Direct attacks wouldn't have much effect on him now. She'd have to find a different approach to take him down.
    Aurora analyzed the situation quickly. If I can't move him, maybe I can move his foundation.
    She aimed for just under the Wartortle and threw, hard. The coconut smashed against the top of the Wartortle's post, causing it to shake, and him as well. She grabbed another and threw it at the same spot, making the Wartortle's post shake again. He shook a little bit more, and started to shift closer to the edge of the post.
    I've got you now, she thought with her last throw.
    Sure enough, the shake from her third throw made the Wartortle tip over the post. But the stubborn guy was able to grab the edge of the post before he fell.
    "Oh my Arceus, just fall off already," Aurora muttered. Even she was starting to get annoyed now.
    She couldn't find any way to get a clean shot on him, and seeing that the Wartortle made no attempt to climb up, it seemed like he knew it too. He couldn't hold on forever, but she suspected that he could hold on long enough for the Aipom to knock Flash off. She had to do something, and she had to do it now. Then, she remembered something.
    "Hey, watch it Aurora. You almost knocked me off with that last throw!"
    "That's it,"Aurora said before aiming for Flash.
    "Whoa, what the heck are you doing?!" Flash exclaimed as he saw Aurora.
    "Flash, when I say so, jump."
    Aurora waited until the Aipom brought her tail back, copied her motion, and the yelled "now". In effect, Flash simultaneously dodging the Aipom's throw, and the vibration that Aurora's throw would've delivered. Aurora's coconut managed to hit just the right angle, and ricocheted off towards the Wartortle's grip. He yelped as the coconut smacked his claw, and dropped into the dark waters below.
    "All opponents out, Flash and Aurora are the winners," Lance shouted as soon as he heard the Wartortle smack into the sea.
    Aurora felt victory flood her chest. "Yes," she accidently let slip. Maybe she was just really excited.
    But all was quiet after that.
    No applause or cheering arose from the audience, as Aurora had expected. Which was weird, because why would they cheer for her before, but not .this time? Also, she saw that Flash wasn't exactly wearing his cocky smile like he usually did. Also, she saw that the Aipom didn't look too pleased either. Confusion made her turn around to face the crowd, and she soon wished that she hadn't.
    "What the hell?!"
    "No way could she have blocked all those shots like that on her own!"
    "That shouldn't even have been possible!"
    "She's a freaking cheat!"
    Aurora felt her stomach drop. Surprisingly, the first emotion she felt wasn't sadness, or despair. Instead, regret stabbed at her. She immediately wished that she never came to this stupid party. The insults didn't hurt before, but these pointless games had lowered her walls, letting their words hurt her. She felt betrayed too. It was Flash's dumb suggestion that led her into coming here, but she was dumber for agreeing to him. Her eyes grew wet. How did she let him get to her like that?
    Before she could start to hate him, Flash shouted, "Hey, shut up!" before jumping into the water.
    After swimming out, he shook himself dry, and stepped in front of Aurora. "Shut up you sore losers. Just because she beat you all, you're trying to drop all your crap on her? What kind of sportsmanship is that? Do you know how hard it was for her to come out tonight? Just shut up!"
    Everyone was silent again after that. The silence stretched on for quite a while, but was broken at Aurora's sniffle as she wiped her eyes with the back of her paw. Some of the gutsier Pokémon still gave Aurora accusatory looks, but now with guilt mixed in as well.
    "Oookay then," Claire said. "The winners are Aurora and Flash, so-wait, Aurora!"
    Aurora didn't listen. She just walked away as fast as she could, and didn't look back.
    Aurora S.C.A.R.: 0.00%
  4. MoonFoxJ

    MoonFoxJ Swimmer

    Apr 8, 2015
    ***lakevalor.net: So apparently a new "feature" has been added where you can only post a new chapter once per day, which in my mind is a load of crap. But, what can I do? So I'm sorry for the delay but I'll post everyday until I catch up with the missing chapters***
    Ch. 4
    Nonexistent Time; Nonexistent Space
    Where...Where am I?
    Dazed and foggy, the boy awoke in the darkness, alone. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and lifted his heavy head. He had no idea where he was, what day it was, or what he was doing here. How did he even get here? Taking a look at his surroundings, his eyes widened at the sight of frosted mountains that hung upside-down, twisted trees, and a lake that looped. And the fact that they were all floating in mid-air. He looked up to see a black sun casting darkness throughout the land, land that floated in a bottomless, endless void. As for what he was, he had no idea either. Upon inspection, he learned that he had four legs, long ears and tail, and solid black fur. Pushing himself up, he walked to the lake and saw his reflection; he wore gold rings on his legs and forehead, and gold bands on his ears and tail. Also, his eyes were as red as rubies. Just what-
    "The heck am I?" he asked himself.
    "An Umbreon."
    The boy whirled around to see whoever answered him, but there was nobody there. He scanned the trees but eventually concluded that no one was hiding behind them, or if there were, he couldn't see them. He looked up but saw nothing but the black sun and the void.
    "Who's there?" he called out with his eyes darting everywhere.
    Then, in the blink of an eye, a monstrous figure materialized out of thin air, right in front of him. The humongous being had a serpentine body the color of ash encircled in multiple bands of red and black, protruded six, red-tipped, black tentacles from its back, was lined with six gold spikes along its body with four on the tip of its tail, and wielded six gold claws at its sides. At its head, a gold crown was adorned along with a gold mask where its mouth should have been, leaving only a pair of eyes to be revealed upon its face. Eyes that were red, just like his.
    The boy choked before saying, "Wh-Who are you?"
    "I?" the draconic figure spoke in an alluring voice that contrasted its menacing appearance. For the strangest reason, the voice seemed to put the boy at ease. "I am Giratina, lord of this realm, and I've been waiting a very long time to finally meet you, face to face."
    "Meet me?" the boy repeated. "Giratina, I think you've got the wrong guy. I don't even know who I am!"
    Giratina seemed to smile. "You're name is Kyuso, young Umbreon. And I assure you that you are indeed the one that I've wanted to meet."
    "An...Umbreon? What is that?"
    "That is what you are, Kyuso, an Umbreon. Umbreon are a type of Pokémon that inhabit the earth."
    "Pokémon are creatures that live alongside humans on earth. As you can see, we are not on earth. Rather, we are in my domain; a dimension that mirrors the earth. It is called the Reverse World."
    The Umbreon, whose name was apparently "Kyuso", grew nervous upon learning that he wasn't in his home world. "Are...Are there...others, besides me, here? In the Reverse World?"
    "No. Currently, you and I are the only ones who occupy the Reverse World, which is why I need your help, Kyuso." Giratina flew closer to Kyuso, intimidating the Umbreon and making him take a step back. Giratina resumed speaking, "And you will help me, Kyuso, because you made a deal with me to become my servant, and I intend to collect, whether you remember or not."
    Kyuso had to crane his neck up to meet the eyes of the towering dragon before him. "Wh-What deal are you talking about? I don't remember anything."
    Giratina let out a slight chuckle. "Our deal was this: I release all of the Pokémon I captured, who would eventually be forced to fight to the death, and you give yourself up to my rule. In the end, you submitted to me and saved all the Pokémon who were still left alive. So I think you should honor our agreement, despite your memory loss, don't you think so?
    Kyuso hesitated and took a moment to think. I'm not sure of who I am, or how I even got here in the first place. For one thing, this "Giratina" could be trying to take advantage of me while I'm in this state. In that case, I can't trust anyone. On the other hand, if what Giratina is saying is true, then I may have no choice but to-
    "I've spoken no lie to you, Kyuso," Giratina said, interrupting Kyuso's thoughts.
    Kyuso blinked and looked back up. "What the-How did you-"
    "I've spoken no lie to you, Kyuso, and I never will," Giratina repeated. "So I expect you to do the same for me."
    "Then explain to me how I lost my memory!" Kyuso demanded.
    Giratina brought its head down to Kyuso's level, and softly told him "As you wish," but Kyuso was fearfully reminded who was in charge here, and his sudden spark of courage was extinguished instantly. "It took a great deal of my power to make one, but I was able to create a gate called the Dimensional Portal. Upon accepting our deal, you stepped into the Dimensional Portal, where it seems like you suffered memory loss from travelling into this world. Much of my former strength had diminished from creating the portal, but you will help me reclaim it, Kyuso, as you are my servant."
    Giratina terrified to him to his bones, there was no denying that. Still, after processing all this new information, Kyuso somehow managed to say, "...What if I refuse?"
    A glint of rage passed so quickly in Giratina's eyes that Kyuso almost missed it, but Giratina continued speaking to him in that alluring voice, "I think you should be asking, "What if I could refuse?"."
    Kyuso fell to the ground as fatigue washed over his body. His breath completely stopped, his legs crumpled, and he started losing feeling in his muscles, fast. Too soon, he felt a stabbing pain deepen in his brain as oxygen left his body. Or was it something else other than oxygen, something more important? He began to feel detached from own his body. His vision swirled, installing a dreadful fear into him. Naturally, he was aware that he was about to die.
    And then he was back.
    Kyuso gasped and coughed as he felt life flowing back throughout his chest, legs, feet, tail, and ears. His head felt woozy and thumped painfully and loudly, but it gradually cooled down. He coughed for a bit longer but once he could think straight, Kyuso looked up to see Giratina still floating there, calmly, as if nothing ever happened.
    Already suspecting who was responsible for that experience, Kyuso asked Giratina, "What did you do?"
    As if his suffering meant nothing to him, Giratina answered Kyuso in a bored tone, "Since your S.C.A.R. is maxed out, I just removed the Corruption from your soul."
    "Scar?" Kyuso repeated. He looked over his body for any blemishes while asking, "What scar? And Corruption? Soul? What're you talking about?"
    "I don't mean a physical scar, I mean "Soul Corruption Acceleration Rate". The name sums up the effect rather well, but it's a bit long, so I like to call it S.CA.R. Gives it a bit of flair to it too, doesn't it?" Giratina said. "It's simply a measure of how much Corruption your soul has taken into itself."
    "What the hell is Corruption?" Kyuso asked. Whatever is was, he didn't like the sound of it.
    "In a way, it's me," Giratina replied. "Corruption is what I call my power, and I've been imprisoned here for so long that during my time here, I've given off much of it. Corruption is in the water, in the air, and every little corner of this dark world. I call it "Corruption" because all the ones who have ever wielded it had been destroyed by it, except you of course. Corruption seems to be too strong for anyone to handle, and it always ends up destroying them from the inside, out. But somehow, not only have you survived it, you've honed it, although you may not remember doing so. By now, your body has taken so much Corruption into itself that it has grown completely dependent on its power."
    After hearing this, Kyuso held his breath.
    "That's pointless, Kyuso. Your soul is already, and absolutely, Corrupted. Corruption isn't something you breathe. It enters through your body, and seeps into the very core of your soul. And it is nigh incurable."
    Kyuso stiffened. "Nigh? Then does that mean-"
    "Regardless, I need you in your current state, so give up any fantasies for a cure. Doing so would only violate our contract, and you wouldn't want to do that to me while I practically own your soul, would you?"
    Kyuso felt that familiar feeling he felt a few minutes ago, creeping back into his body. A lump caught in his throat. "Ah...no," he said.
    "Good, then I'll show mercy for now."
    The feeling left him, and Kyuso breathed easy again. But confusion still held his mind, so he asked Giratina tentatively, "My soul...What is a soul exactly?
    Giratina raised an eye and answered, "What is a soul, you ask? A soul is insignificantly simple, and infinitely complex. It is always within you, and separate from you. Your soul is you, and you are your soul. I can't really give you more than that without your brain exploding."
    Kyuso gulped. "Okay..."
    Kyuso and Giratina looked back at each other.
    Giratina waited a moment before saying, "Is that all, boy?"
    Kyuso nodded hesitantly and asked, "What now?"
    "As I told you before, you belong to me now. So the first thing I want you to do is walk six feet to your right."
    Kyuso gulped and nodded again. He didn't get why he had to do such a thing, but he wasn't in a position to complain, nor was he in the mood to, so he did what Giratina ordered, and marched to his right. One, two, three, four, five, and-
    "What the-What...is...this?" Kyuso struggled to say as his whole body was crushed to the ground, except there was nothing there. He couldn't get up; his head, his legs, and even his tail were pinned flat on the ground.
    "Your body might not be used to the extra gravity that you're dealing with right now, Kyuso," Giratina explained. "This dimension's space is not constant, but since it is my domain, I may move freely wherever and however I wish, but trust me, after you spend a little time training in here, you'll become stronger and faster than anyone could possibly imagine."
    "How...much...time?" Kyuso groaned out, still pinned flat from the gravity.
    Giratina smiled slyly. "Oh, that's another thing; time is also not a constant in here, so don't you worry about that," Giratina told him. "Now get up."
    Kyuso tried to get his legs under him, but it was hard work because they were stretched all the way out. The gravity was just too strong. He couldn't do anything other than twitch and fidget. He couldn't get a good grip on the ground either, because the gravity pinned his claws down as well. He took a moment to breathe and think, and finally came up with an idea. He flexed his claws to create the smallest of gaps between the heels of his forepaws and the ground, and then he quickly pushed off the ground with his claws, moving his forelegs back the tiniest bit. As he repeated the process, he gradually tucked his forelegs next to his chest. After he finished doing that, he drew back his toes and pushed off, until he finally got his hind legs tucked close as well. With his legs now cocked, his muscles were like a loaded spring, and he was able to push off the ground with more energy. But just because it was easier now, didn't mean it was easy. He pushed and fell, and pushed and fell, but just couldn't get himself more than two inches off the ground. He was just too damn tired.
    He looked up to meet Giratina's cold eyes. "Rise or die," Giratina offered him.
    That set Kyuso back into action. He took ten seconds to inhale, exhale, inhale, and exhale. His legs shook and burned from the stress, so he tried to get as much oxygen back into his blood as he could (he assumed there was oxygen in this world since he was still alive). He set his teeth, sucked in a big breath, and pushed, pushed, pushed off the damn ground, until...
    He was up.
    Kyuso stood on shaky legs and he panted for air, but he had done it. He was up. But his confidence wavered when Giratina told him...
    "Good, now jump."
    Kyuso looked to see where Giratina mentioned. It was an island of rock with a three-foot gap, which led straight down into the void.
    Kyuso S.C.A.R.: 100.00%
  5. MoonFoxJ

    MoonFoxJ Swimmer

    Apr 8, 2015
    Ch. 5
    April 3; Crimson Base
    "What happened?" Frost cried when she saw Aurora march into their Team Base. Even though Aurora hid her face from view, Frost saw the tears silently falling from her friend's face. "Aurora, tell me what happened," Frost said while grabbing her shoulder.
    Aurora shrugged her off, walked briskly to her bed, and dived into the hay. Choking sounds soon followed, and Aurora's shoulders could be seen shaking.
    Frost shook her head. "Damn it, I knew it was too early for you," she whispered to herself.
    April 4; Crimson Base
    The sun wasn't even up yet, but since she was an Espeon, Aurora awoke in the morning, earlier than most; that and the fact that she couldn't get a wink of sleep last night. The sky was a dark blue, but Aurora could see well enough for a walk on the beach. She closed the door to Team Pluto's base gently so as to avoid waking up Frost or Luna. Frost really chewed Luna up after Luna came back from the party, but stopped when Aurora asked her to. After that, it was an uncomfortably silent night for the three girls until Frost and Luna fell asleep.
    Aurora wobbled a little as she walked alongside the beach. Just because she was an Espeon and it was morning, didn't mean her lack of sleep had no affect on her. Her eyes felt dry and heavy for obvious reasons, tear streaks were leftover on her face, and she felt cold.
    Get it together, Aurora told herself, it's not like it's any different than how you pretty much wake up every night.
    She shook her head. It was becoming more painful to think about him these days.
    Aurora nudged a seashell into the waves, which got carried into the sea. She walked on a little bit more, thinking about nothing, and just listened to the rhythmic swooshhhaaa of the waves as they washed back and forth. The sky had changed to a shade of blue barely lighter than before, but the water was still a dark gray. She kept looking out at the sea as she walked. In a way, they were alike; both were cold from missing the warmth of their other half. The sea, the sun. And she, her Umbreon. The bond of loss she shared with the sea drew her, and she couldn't help but dip a toe in the water as a wave washed close. It was cold, just like her. Then, the early rays of the sun began to peak over the horizon, and Aurora withdrew from the sea with jealous eyes.
    "Huh, aren't you a little early today?"
    Aurora turned to face the speaker behind her.
    Aurora greeted the Sandslash before her, "Morning, Ace."
    The Team Liberator member nodded to her, and she nodded back to him. They both looked back to the sea.
    "So was last night's tear-fest the usual or something different this time?" Ace asked her.
    In a way, it was his version of a mean joke, but Aurora made a special exception for Ace because...well, he didn't talk to others much. In fact, he never spoke to anyone besides her. So if that was the case, what was the harm, right?
    Refusing to let the Sandslash into her personal life, Aurora quietly replied with, "So I guess you saw that, huh?"
    Ace said, "How could I resist? Everyone was partying so damn loud last night, I couldn't ignore it."
    "That makes two of us...By the way, how have you been getting by?"
    "It's been alright. The nightmares are almost completely gone, so I think I'm almost over all the crap that I've been through."
    "That's healthy."
    "It's all thanks to you, Aurora. I can't even begin to thank you for all you did for me."
    Aurora winced. "All we've done is talk."
    Ace laughed, "You've done a lot more than that. You may not understand, but you've saved me in more ways than one. I can't even begin to thank you for all you've done for me."
    Aurora grew uncomfortable for a second before saying, "...They miss you, you know? I've seen them. It would mean so much to them if you would just talk to them."
    Now, Ace was the one who grew silent. "...You know I can't do that," he finally said.
    "I could help you," Aurora proposed, "I could be right there next to you when you talk to them, and if you don't know what to say, I can help with that too."
    To Aurora's relief, Ace laughed again, "What? Feed me lines? April and Arcanine, maybe they'll hear what you have to say, but Drake, for sure, would only get pissed at you. He acts like I'm not in the same room with him sometimes, but I can still see him. I hear what he says. I know how he feels. Trust me, helping me talk to them would only get you into trouble, and I don't ever want to cause trouble for you. You've helped me so much already."
    Aurora looked back at Ace, but he still looked over the sea towards the rising sun. The sky was beginning to tint a warm orange, but she saw no warmth in his gaze. Rather, she saw a candle, whose flame had long since been extinguished. Even his smile was a sad one.
    Then, Aurora suddenly understood. "You're leaving, aren't you?" she asked him.
    Ace continued to smile fondly at the sea.
    "When?" Aurora asked.
    "Soon," Ace answered.
    "Where will you go?"
    Ace shrugged coolly. "Dunno."
    "Well...you'll tell them goodbye before you go, won't you?" Aurora asked. When he didn't answer again, she continued, "You can't just leave them without saying anything. At least talk to them once. You owe them that much at least."
    "Ahaha, getting a little interpersonal now, aren't we?" Ace joked.
    Aurora's eyes widened fearfully and she immediately looked to the ground. "S-Sorry..." she said quietly.
    Ace shook his head. "You gotta learn to let things go, Aurora," he said humorously.
    Aurora saddened at his words, but she held herself back from holding any bad thoughts towards the Sandslash. If it was anyone but him who had told her those words, she probably wouldn't have been able to stop herself, but with his condition, she found that she was at a loss for words. How could she "learn to let things go" if that included letting go of her Umbreon?
    Ace saw her. "Ah-never mind," he said hurriedly. "Anyway, how have you been?"
    Aurora's ears perked up. "Hm? What do you mean?"
    "I mean your nightmares," Ace said. "Have they been getting any better or...?"
    Aurora hesitated, but before she finally decided to say something, somebody interrupted her.
    "Aurora, is that you?" Frost called to her.
    Aurora turned around. "Umm...yeah."
    Frost looked at her strangely. "What're you doing out here so early?" she asked Aurora.
    "It's morning, and I'm an Espeon," Aurora simply said.
    "Right," Frost said suspiciously, "but what I meant was, who were you talking to?"
    "N-No one. I-I was talking to no one," Aurora tried to hide.
    Frost sighed. Apparently, she wasn't buying it. "Aurora," Frost said tiredly, "we discussed this, you-"
    "Can't talk to dead Pokémon because that would be crazy and impossible, and I'm not crazy because I can't do it, I'm just hearing things. Yeah, I know Frost," Aurora finished for her. "And I told you that I'm not talking to anyone. I'm just...organizing my thoughts."
    Frost observed her over for a few more seconds before finally giving in. "Okay. If that's how it is then okay," she said with a nod.
    Aurora nodded back. "I'll see you at breakfast. We'll talk then, alright?"
    "Deal, see you," Frost said back to her as she headed back in the direction of their Team Base.
    When Frost had walked far enough away, Aurora visibly relaxed.
    Holy shit that was too close Aurora mentally scolded herself. I'll have to be more careful, or they're going to start watching me again.
    She didn't know why or even how she was able to do this, but Aurora soon learned after waking up three months ago that she had developed, to put it safely, an "ability". In the beginning, she didn't know much, but after a few days of recovery, she eventually remembered everything; Giratina's deal with Kyuso, the Life Link, the Pokémon she murdered, and even her insane behavior. But the memory she recovered last, but also most vividly, was her own death. Like a curse, it plagued her dreams every night she closed her eyes to sleep, and it didn't get better, at all. How could she, how could anyone, ever get used to that? The answer was easy. And to increase her burden, against not only countless odds but the boundaries of possibility as well, this "ability" came to her, turning her into an even bigger freak. Hell, she was even forced to lie to her friends about it. They didn't know how to help her, so they couldn't wrap their heads around the idea either.
    After relaxing for a few seconds, Aurora suddenly remembered someone. "I'm sorry, Ace," she said. "What were you saying-?"
    But Ace had already disappeared.
    Back at her Team Base, Aurora found Luna and Frost sharing a bowl of berries, as well as light talk. The sun had just fully risen over the horizon, turning the sky into a lighter blue against one side, while the other was still a darker shade. There was enough light for everyone to see though, and on her way back, Aurora saw a few Exploration Team members out and about, greeting each other in the morning.
    "Morning," Aurora casually greeted her teammates.
    "Hey," Luna merely said back.
    "Good morning, Aurora," Frost said.
    "So," Frost began, "are we going to talk about what happened last night, or-"
    "Like I told you last night, it wasn't serious, I just overreacted. That's it," Aurora said.
    Luna just shrugged, bit into another Pinap Berry, and chewed. "Okay...so, what are we doing today?" she asked after swallowing.
    "I read the Outlaw Board today before I came here," Aurora spoke as she picked an Oran Berry. "I've already got a mission in mind and we can get started on that after we finish eating."
    Aurora had discussed the details of the mission with Frost and Luna during breakfast. The Outlaw in question was an Umbreon, which explained why she chose this particular request, but besides that, no other description on his physical appearance was listed. There was plenty of information on why he was wanted though. False identifications. Disrupting social networks. Hacking into bank accounts. Whatever was manageable through a computer, he had gotten his paws on it at one time or another, which led to a few questions. How did a Pokémon operate a human tool? Why was this suddenly a problem for Pokémon, instead of humans? And how did a problem like this reach the deeps of the forests, when it appeared to originate from within a city? After breakfast, they immediately accepted the request, which was posted by a Delcatty who wanted to meet at the human city, Highlight City, and offered a reward of 300000P. Then, they proceeded to gear up.
    At the Plusle and Minum Shop, where they sold a wide variety of items, Frost filled her bag with the essentials that they would need for the journey to Highlight City. Basically, just food. Luna bought maybe three Reviver Seeds in case they got hurt, but they rarely ever did. Aurora went without any gear. She always went without gear. Other Exploration Teams sometimes made fun of her for that, mostly light jokes. The others who were jealous of her called her stuff like "showboat" or "wannabe". She never meant to show off, she just never needed anything while on a request. The names continued, even now as they exited Crimson Base, but they stopped hurting a long time ago, so she didn't even look back.
    The mission had now begun.
    "Assholes," Frost cursed as they climbed the hill surrounding Crimson Base. "And don't you dare tell me to let it go, Aurora. I'm sick of them treating you like crap. I ought to-"
    "They're not even worth the time," Luna interrupted. "Besides, it's not like they're physically hurting her, so relax. If she wanted our help, she would've asked for it a long time ago, right Aurora?"
    Aurora nodded. "I'm fine," she agreed quietly.
    Frost huffed, "Fine, but next time, I'm not holding back. I won't stand by and do nothing if they give you this crap again."
    Aurora repeated, "I'm fine."
    The three focused on their journey to Highlight City after that. Frost and Luna spent the rest of their morning just walking and talking. Aurora just walked. A flock of Pidoves chirped happily as they flew past overhead. The forest whispered sleepily as wind breezed through its leaves. The warmth of the sun soaked into Aurora's skin. It was a nice day, one that most would find impossible to ignore. However, Aurora didn't notice. The whole time, all she did was look forward, and walk forward. For her, each day seemed no different than the next, and time no longer dictated when she was allowed to sleep. She slept when she couldn't keep her eyes open any longer, and she was nowhere near ready to sleep now.
    "Halt, dare not step a foot further, young ones," a voice boomed before her.
    She stopped while Frost and Luna bumped into her from behind.
    Aurora looked up, but saw no one. Looking around for the source of the voice, she grew confused when all she could see were the trees, the sky, and a river. The river...she could sense a presence in the river. Guessing that the speaker waited for her in the water, Aurora called out for whoever it was to show themself, and was answered a second later. What she emerge from the river...were a total of five Magikarp.
    Aurora stared at the Magikarp.
    The Magikarp stared back.
    A snicker came from Luna's direction, and she asked her teammates, "Can we go now?"
    The Magikarp in the middle shouted at Luna, "Halt I say! I gave no permission to allow thou to pass."
    Luna rolled her eyes. "Whatever. Come on guys, we're burning daylight."
    Luna barely took a step forward before the five Magikarp grouped together, forming a wall. There was no way to pass now.
    "What the hell? Let us pass," Luna told at the Magikarp.
    "Nay, we will not allow such action," the Magikarp on the far left replied. "Thou lady Umbreon, and lady Glaceon, may pass," the next Magikarp said. "But the Espeon must remain," the middle Magikarp added. "A vile energy shrouds her, one not of this earth," the fourth Magikarp continued. "And we will not allow her to taint these precious waters," the Magikarp on the far right finished.
    Frost looked at them with cold eyes and said, "Stop wasting our time, and get out of our way."
    "Nay!" all five Magikarp replied in unison.
    "And quit talking like that," Frost said fiercely.
    Still, the Magikarp stood resolute.
    "...Wait," Aurora suddenly spoke up. She looked at the Magikarp with a dreamy look as something pulled at her mind. "Haven't we met before?" she asked them.
    "We never forget the face of any evil," the Magikarp on the far right answered her.
    "So nay, our paths have never crossed before," the Magikarp on the far left finished.
    Aurora blinked as images flooded past her eyes. Although, the images were so vivid, so personal, it felt like they were something more. Memories, maybe? "Didn't you try to...drown me, at one time?" Aurora asked while scrunching her eyes against the images.
    "They what?" Frost and Luna asked at the same time.
    "As we have said before, no confrontation has passed between we and thee, as of yet," the middle Magikarp said.
    Aurora saw...no, she was underwater, drinking in cool, refreshing water, until two of these same Magikarp pulled her down, while the other three knocked the air out of her with their Tackle attacks. She shook her head against the memories that she never remembered having, and said, "Never mind, but one way or another, we are getting past."
    "Try us, trollop," the five Magikarp said, showing hard faces.
    Frost marched up. "Okay, that's it. I'm sick of all you bastards saying whatever the heck you want to-"
    Aurora pulled her back. "Frost, it's alright. This is my problem, so let me show you that I can handle myself, okay?" she told her friend.
    Frost looked at her once, then nodded and backed off.
    "Thou dare to challenge our strength?" the Magikarp on the middle-left said.
    "'Tis a grave mistake," the Magikarp on the middle-right said.
    Luna scoffed, "Challenge? If you say so."
    The middle Magikarp's face changed to a distasteful look. "Yet another who doubts our strength. Men, assume cannon formation!"
    Aurora, Frost, and Luna watched on as three Magikarp stuck themselves together, as the two on the far ends went underwater. Then, the three Magikarp shot out of the water as the two launched them up from below. At the peak of their incline, two of the airborne Magikarp spun, firing the middle Magikarp at Luna. And with his velocity, he might as well have been a live cannonball. The Magikarp crossed the distance between him and Luna in a time that was faster than her eyes were able to register his movement, and send the electrical signals to her brain, which told her legs to move. He flew at her so fast that a whistling sound was heard. Not only was she unable to dodge, she didn't even have time to blink.
    But she blinked after Aurora tackled her out of the way.
    The Magikarp smashed into the dirt, where Luna stood not a second ago, hard enough to leave a crater. The bits of dirt that once rested on the ground fell from the sky like rain, and he immediately jumped back into the water. There were surprised looks on both parties' faces, but the same Magikarp was the first to find his voice.
    "H-How has thou avoided mine attack?" he asked Aurora.
    Luna asked, "How the hell did you do that?"
    Aurora stared back at them, wearing the same shocked expression they wore, and said, "I-I don't-I don't know how. I just...knew."
    The Magikarp muttered amongst themselves for a second before the middle one spoke again, "Argh, enough of this foolishness! Men, assume cannon formation, triple-fire! Focus your attacks on the Espeon!"
    Aurora tensed, and used all of her Reflect move around Frost and Luna, just in case. Four Magikarp lined up, while the one at the far right moved back. In the line, the first Magikarp tucked himself in, while the second Magikarp threw him up into the air. The Magikarp at the back couldn't jump very high, but he did jump just as the airborne Magikarp came down, and he spun with his tail, smacking his fellow Magikarp straight for Aurora.
    Knowing she no longer had the element of surprise; Aurora stepped to her right, then dived to her left. Her feint worked, and she landed safely on the ground as the first Magikarp smashed harmlessly into the dirt beside her. She refocused herself; there was no time to relax. The process repeated for the next two Magikarp in line. Aurora couldn't rise to her feet in time (the third Magikarp had already tossed the second one into the air), so she rolled as fast as she could. When the second Magikarp smashed into the ground right where her head had been a second ago, Aurora spat out the dirt from her mouth as she rubbed some out of her eyes.
    She was still blind when she heard a familiar whistle sound.
    Aurora finished wiping the dirt out of her eyes, and released the breath she had been holding from seeing that the third Magikarp had smashed into her Protect. She didn't have enough time to create a Protect wide enough to cover her whole body, so she had reflexively protected her face. Luckily for her, her square of Protect, which was only two inches by two inches, materialized right at the tip of the Magikarp's attack, which was just enough to stop him entirely.
    The three Magikarp jumped back into the water.
    "My turn," Aurora said.
    Just like last time, Aurora focused channeling energy into her attack, Dazzling Gleam. Her body began to shine, then became pure, blinding white as her charge completed to its fullness. All at once, she released that stored power inside her, concentrating everything into a beam of scorching light. Since it wasn't as expansive as a regular Dazzling Gleam, she swept her beam from left to right along the river, taking out each of the Magikarp in a row.
    She cut off energy to her attack as soon she had hit the last one, so as to avoid tiring herself out needlessly. The beam of light shrunk down from the edge to the center, until only a line of light remained, but Aurora was denied rest until all of it was gone. When Dazzling Gleam completely disappeared, Aurora was finally freed and she staggered out of her firing stance, panting for air. Her body flushed and sweated profusely, desperately trying to cool down the heat she had forced upon it. She must have used at least six or seven Dazzling Gleam attacks.
    "Now that's a cannon," Luna remarked as she watched the river sizzle.
    Hazily remembering her teammates, Aurora removed the Reflect that she had forgotten about since the start of her battle before allowing herself to drop. Frost walked over to Aurora and placed her paw to Aurora's forehead. Aurora sighed; the cold touch felt like heaven.
    "Help me get her to the water," Frost told Luna.
    Frost and Luna went to either side of Aurora, and draped a foreleg over their necks. The Magikarp were nowhere to be seen. Maybe they ran away, maybe they were fried, but that didn't matter. They set Aurora down in the water, resting on her back up to her neck. The river wasn't too deep, but they still held her by her shoulders until she recovered.
    A minute later, Frost sighed, "You kept up that ridiculous "Dazzling Cannon" crap for almost four whole seconds. Why'd you overdo it, Aurora?"
    "I'm sorry," Aurora quietly apologized, before sliding herself below the water.
    Aurora S.C.A.R.: 0.00%
  6. MoonFoxJ

    MoonFoxJ Swimmer

    Apr 8, 2015
    Ch. 6
    April 4
    The rest of the day was uneventful and passed by quietly. After Aurora had recovered, Team Pluto continued their journey to Highlight City. In the afternoon, they had a light lunch under the shade of some trees, and continued for several more hours. When the sky began to turn dark, they made camp in a clearing, had dinner, and went to sleep (or at least Aurora tried to). They awoke early the next morning, and had to walk for an hour and a half more until they finally reached the outskirts of the city.
    "Finally," Luna breathed out.
    Frost gave her an annoyed look. "Told you it was just one more hour. Next time, I'll leave you behind if complain so much."
    "Hey, come on, you didn't tell us anything. For all we knew, we never would've made it here at all!"
    "Whatever. Now that Delcatty said that she'd meet us under the tallest building in the city in the afternoon, so let's get a move on otherwise we'll miss her for today. We didn't bring any money for an overnight stay in this city, so we better meet her by today."
    With that, Frost, Luna, and Aurora entered the city. They walked through streets and streets of human and Pokémon, but never once asked for directions because they were "going the right way", according to Frost. When it was nearly 11:45 pm, Luna complained that they had already passed the same flower shop three times, so Frost finally gave in and asked the nearest Manectric officer on patrol for directions. After learning that a whole block had undergone construction since she was last here, Frost apologized to Luna and Aurora and the group just barely made it in time under the tallest building in the city.
    Luna gazed at the sheer height of the building. "Wow," she muttered. "The whole thing looks like it's made of fragile glass. Look at how the sunlight shines off the walls. And it's so high!"
    "Focus," Frost said. "We're here on a mission, not to see the sights. Once we finish our work here, we're gone, understood?"
    Luna bowed ad said, "As you wish, my queen. Would you like to use me as a chair while you wait? Or maybe I can shine your nails?"
    "Shut up," Frost replied, remembering the five Magikarp from before. "I swear to Arceus, one of these days I'm gonna-"
    "She's here," Aurora interrupted.
    Frost and Luna looked to where Aurora was looking, but they couldn't spot the Delcatty. All they could see were a mass of legs as humans passed them by. When Frost began to question her, Aurora told them to wait and keep looking. Even if they couldn't see her, Aurora could sense her; she knew the Decatty was nearby. Sure enough, after a group passed, they saw a Delcatty crossing the street and walking towards the entrance of the building, trying to find them. Wanting to get the mission started as soon as possible, Aurora waved her paw at the Delcatty, who walked over to them when she spotted Aurora.
    "Good afternoon. If it's alright with you three, I'd like to keep my name silent from this meeting if at all possible," the Delcatty began rather rushed. Her voice sounded rich and she carried herself as someone who was high in society.
    "That's fine," Frost dismissed. "We'll just keep our names out of it too."
    The Delcattty nodded, satisfied. "So, I take it that you three girls are the ones who accepted my request?" she asked.
    Frost answered, "Yeah, and about that, we have a few questions of our own."
    "Okay, then let's start with this: how does a city issue like this spread all the way into the wild; particularly, a guild base?"
    "I wasn't born in this city. Actually, I wasn't born in any human city. I was born out in the wild. When I was a young Skitty, an earthquake destroyed my family's den and buried us alive. Luckily, we were neighbors to a family of Starly and Staraptor, and when we yelled out for help, they managed to hear us, but weren't strong enough to lift the rubble," the Decatty explained. Then, her face fell. "They flew to a guild base to hopefully find any team that could help us immediately, but by the time a team was available, the whole day had passed. It was cold and night-time by the time they arrived, and by then, my mother had already passed. She'd thrown herself over me to protect me when it happened, and gave her all to keep the rocks from crushing me before she died. Father died before her after holding up the rocks off both of us. In the last ten minutes or so, I had to hold up my own share, and suffered a few scars because of it. Would you like to see?"
    Before anyone could refuse, The Delcatty held up her right forepaw. There were multiple, small jagged scars along the inside. The Delcatty dropped her forepaw, and then showed her left. There were scars on the inside too. She turned around, and showed her right hind paw, then her left. They saw scars on the bottoms of both.
    "I'd lain on my back to hold up the rubble," the Delcatty continued. "When the Exploration Team freed me, I came out as the Delcatty you see now. I couldn't live in that forest any longer, so I decided for a fresh start, and moved to this human city. In the beginning, life in the city wasn't as great as I thought it would be, as I was a wild Pokémon back then. But after I was found on the streets by a rich-looking woman, who I doubted would even look twice my way, I learned of her gratuitous and kind character when she took me in."
    "So let me guess. Now that you have a problem, you've decided to rely on Exploration Teams for help again, because we did such a great job the last time?" Luna asked before earning a nudge and a stern look from Frost.
    "Yes, if it weren't for Exploration Teams, I wouldn't even be here today," the Delcatty replied with a more positive tone.
    Frost said, "Okay then, next question: why don't the city officials just take care of this instead of us? Why did you have to request this from us at all?"
    The Delcatty raised her head before answering, "Look up."
    The three did as she asked, but saw nothing more than the sky, some clouds, and the name on the building they stood under.
    "Red Tech," the Delcatty said proudly as she read the name for them. "It's the name of my owner's company, which is quickly growing to become one of the most popular developers of modern day devices such as televisions, laptops, phones, and the like."
    Frost shrugged. "So?"
    "The Umbreon-" the Delcatty began, until Aurora drew a sharp breath. "-in question," the Delcatty continued after looking at Aurora for a second. "Hacked into our secure databases and stolen classified information for a new project of ours; an upgrade on an existing phone. We fear that he'll release said information to the public or competition. Our own security staff isn't capable enough on their own in tracing the hack back to him, but we can't ask anyone outside of our own company for assistance because we can't risk this knowledge leaking out to the public, or they don't believe that we were hacked by a Pokémon."
    "How do you even know a real-life Umbreon is responsible?" Aurora asked.
    "He left a note right on our front doorstep after he was done," the Delcatty said. "It read "your security needs work, with love, AnUmbreonInRealLifeNoJoke" Then to mock us, he purposely got himself caught on our cameras."
    "Do you have the footage?"
    "Here, this is my owner's phone."
    Aurora saw the Delcatty pull out a white, touch screen phone that she initially had trouble trying to open. Once she succeeded in unlocking the device, she was met with more difficulty in navigating through the phone's downloaded videos, since she was trying to avoid scratching the screen with her claws. Finally, when she had scrolled all the way down, she touched the selection at the very bottom, and the video began to load.
    "This is footage from five days ago at 3:00 am," the Delcatty said as the video played.
    The screen showed nothing more than the lobby of the building that the four stood right outside of, from the viewpoint of ceiling corner. The lobby looked pretty typical, but "MAR 30 [02:59:35]" was displayed at the bottom right corner of the screen, obviously representing the date and time the video was taken. Beyond that, there wasn't much else shown, except that a little bit of the street outside was captured as well.
    A minute passed.
    Aurora grew impatient from looking at the unchanging screen. "What're we waiting for?" she asked.
    "Right here," the Delcatty said a moment later.
    Then, at [03:00:47], something new walked onto the screen. At once, Aurora could see that it was an Umbreon from the way his rings glowed in the darkness. He stood right outside the building's entrance, much like where they stood right now. Maybe he could have just been a random Umbreon, just enjoying a night-time stroll, but that logic went out the window when she saw what he wore.
    "Really? A black ski mask?" Frost noted doubtfully.
    The Delcatty nodded. "We think he is trying to make fools out of us, based on what he wore, and on what he does next."
    Luna asked, "What does he-"
    "Shh," Aurora hushed.
    As the Delcatty explained, the Umbreon pulled out a note, and stuck it in the front doors of the building. Aurora watched as the Umbreon nodded in appreciation of his work, and then turned to leave. But the Umbreon suddenly stopped in his tracks, and looked back; more specifically, he looked directly back. He turned back around and stared straight at the camera, which made it seem as if he was looking at them through the video, like out of some kind of horror movie. By now, it was clear to each of the girls that he had spotted this camera. For a while, he did nothing but just stare at them, while they stared back. Then, he...
    "He flipped you off?" Luna remarked.
    The Delcatty nodded and said, "I know, it's embarrassing. That's another reason why we can't release this problem to just anyone. The media would utterly destroy our reputation for having been hacked by a Pokémon. That's why we're... no, that's why I'm asking you for your help."
    Frost asked, "How did he even do it?"
    "That's what we'd like to know as well," the Delcatty answered. "I know you Exploration Teams have your own way of dealing with Outlaws, but if you can, we'd like for you to bring him to us before you take him in. Also, this way, I'll be able to reward you before you go."
    "S-So that reward," Luna mentioned. "Is it really 300000P?"
    "Yes, it's already ready for you upon completion of the mission," the Delcatty said. "I have it back at home."
    Luna inhaled then let out a sigh. "Damn government, taxing the crap out of us," she muttered under her breath, remembering the 90% tax that Exploration Teams paid to the Guild Committee upon obtaining a reward. "What're we in, inflation?"
    Frost patted Luna's back in comfort. "Where do we start?" Frost asked.
    "I don't know, that's something you'll have to figure out for yourself," the Delcatty said.
    "You mean you don't even have a single lead for us to follow, and you expect us to find this guy in this huge-ass city?"
    "I'm sorry, but this is all I know," the Delcatty replied. "I'll come by here every day at the same time, like how I did today. So when you've found him, please bring him here at the scheduled time," she said as she began to walk away.
    "Wait!" Frost called to the retreating Delcatty.
    "I'm sorry, but my owner is expecting me to be home all day, and her work here is almost done. Technically, I'm not even here right now, so I must return home quickly and put her phone back the way it was before she notices that either it or I am missing. I wish you luck!"
    And with that, the Delcatty crossed the street before she was hidden by the mass of human legs.
    Luna scoffed, "She just left!"
    Frost shook her head and muttered, "I'm not sure how to go about this now."
    "You told me that you were a Raider before, so can't you track our guy down using your insane detective skills or something?" Luna asked.
    Frost gave a tired look. "Look, even then, the missions I accepted at that time gave me at least a crumb of intel, or even the tiniest lead to follow. I'm not a wizard, okay? It's like she's expecting us to find a ghost at this point."
    "So then what do we do? This place is huge, we'll never find him if we start with nothing."
    "I don't know. Maybe we can start with asking the local peop-... Wait," Frost said. "We're in Highlight City, right?"
    "Yeah, why?"
    "I think I know someone who'll be able to help us..."
    "So, this is really..." Luna trailed off.
    "The Highlight City Raiders Office," Frost finished.
    The three stood outside a curved, three-story building at the corner of a street. The structure looked old, with its fading yellow paint chipped in several places, and it even had graffiti spray painted on it. Some of the graffiti was pretty common: an F-bomb here, a certain male body part there. But a few carried a more serious tone. For example, one message read "get out of town freaks", and another read "we don't need you fake cops". There were even a few potted flowers hanging on one of the second-floor's windowsills, but they were covered in egg yolk and toilet paper.
    Frost didn't even give a second look as she walked to the front entrance. The bell above the door chimed as she pushed it open, and Luna and Aurora followed her inside. Inside, there wasn't much to look at besides a ripped carpet under a small table, a stack of sheets on the table, two small couches, a tiny, old TV, one vending machine for drinks and another for snacks, and a cramped desk stacked high with papers.
    Behind the desk, an elderly Mienshao didn't even look up, but she spoke automatically, "Pick up a request form at the table, fill it out, place it in this basket when you're done, and our next Raider will be right with you."
    "Actually," Frost said. "I am the Raider."
    The Mienshao finally raised her head. "Oh, of course," she said to Frost. "I can already tell from the way you carry yourself that you've had your fair share of battles. But that doesn't mean what you say is true. If you truly are a Raider, then what's your district?"
    "Amberock City."
    Slow typing sounds came from the computer from where the Mienshao huffed in frustration at the human tool. Apparently, it was a bit tricky for a Pokémon to use a keyboard. "Identification Number?" the Mienshao asked next.
    More tapping sounds. "Password?"
    "CZ3HJ24," Frost answered as she walked behind the Mienshao.
    After the Mienshao finished typing in the information, she waited for the screen to load. "Hmm, alright, it seems like you're in the Raider database," the Mienshao said. Then, she looked weirdly at the screen. "Hang on a minute. This says that you're Raider Zero. But that can't be right. Darn computer must be-"
    Something sharp and pointy pricked the back of the Mienshao's neck, causing her to fall silent.
    "If this ever gets out, you'll wish it hadn't," Frost whispered in the Mienshao ear.
    The Mienshao snorted, "Really, you think you're the only one who's threatened me before? Honey, if that's all you got then I'm not impressed, so stop wasting my time and leave while I fill out the blanks of your profile, Ms. Legendary Zero. Hehe, wait till I tell everyone that Zero's a girl."
    "I wasn't talking about you, I was talking about him. Maybe the children too if I feel up for it," Frost said.
    "You know who."
    Frost and the Mienshao traded stares for a moment. The Mienshao lost. A heavy silence fell for a few seconds. Luna and Aurora looked at them while waiting in quiet confusion.
    "...What do you want?" the Mienshao eventually said in a shaky voice.
    "Where's the Locater?"
    "...Top floor, last door on the left."
    "That's a good girl," Frost mocked one last time. She withdrew the 'ice nail' she had formed on her claw with Icy Wind, and motioned with her head for her teammates to follow.
    "That was pretty cold," Luna teased. "Who were you talking about?"
    Frost smirked. "Her husband, obviously," she answered as she led the way up the stairs.
    "What do you mean obviously? How could you even know that?"
    "You didn't see the picture on her desk?"
    "Are you kidding me? There was crap all over that desk!"
    "Hmph, it was easy enough to spot."
    Luna scoffed. "Look at you; little "Ms. Legendary Zero", acting all chill after just threatening someone's family. Still, you really think it worked? You think your secret's safe?"
    Frost shook her head. "No, not really; I wasn't even threatening her for real. But, at the very least, it should buy me some time before other Raiders start hunting for me."
    "Why would they do that?"
    "I'm not exactly someone who plays nice with others, if you haven't noticed by now."
    The girls climbed the stairs to the third floor where the Mienshao mentioned Frost's "Locater" would be. They walked all the way down and approached the last door on the left, and Frost knocked on the door.
    There was no response.
    Still no response.
    "Maybe they're not in right now?" Luna suggested.
    "Oh, he's in," Frost said. She knocked once more and shouted, "Locater, get your ass out of bed. It's already afternoon."
    "...Wait, Locater's a guy?" Luna said. A crashing noise came from the other side of the door.
    "Of course he's a guy."
    "What kind of name is "Locater"?! And stop acting so cool just because you're back in home territory!"
    "What kind of name is "Zero"?" Frost shot back. "You do know that Raiders don't just get to pick and choose their names, right? The district they apply for does that after evaluating their performance."
    "How do you even know this guy?"
    Luna managed to say "I read his file a while back" before the door finally swung open.
    In the doorway, a Mightyena greeted them with sleepy eyes. Besides being naturally shaggy for a Mightyena, his fur stood up on the right side of his head and body. They saw that he had a bit of a snaggle tooth when he smacked his dry lips, and that his tail was frosted white at the tip.
    Gross, the three girls thought.
    After a yawn, the Mightyena opened his eyes and spoke, "Who the hell are you and what... do... you... want..."
    The door slammed shut in the girls' faces. They heard more crashing noises. A squeak followed by running water. A thud followed by swearing. The sound of cloth rustling. Less than ten seconds later, the door reopened to reveal a new Mightyena.
    "Hello ladies, how can I help you?" the Mightyena greeted them again. This time, he wore a white Translator collar, and a charming smile.
    Frost looked at him, unimpressed. "Cut the shit, Locater. We're here on business," she said.
    Locater looked her over (twice). "And who might you be?" he asked with soft eyes.
    "Another Raider," Frost replied, keeping her bored tone.
    Locater's eyes went wide in surprise. "Ooh, a coworker, no thanks," he dismissed as if she was a food that he was allergic to.
    He shifted his gaze over to Aurora, and looked her over (twice). He kindly spoke, "Hello. And your name is...?"
    "Taken," Aurora simply answered, speaking for the first time since their talk with the Delcatty. Apparently, she chose to remain faithful to her possibly-dead Kyuso.
    "Ouch," the Mightyena said, keeping up his charming smile. Then, he looked over at Luna (you guessed it; twice). "Hello gorgeous, and how are you doing this fine-Hey, wait a second!" he shouted as his voice changed from charming to shocked.
    Luna blinked rapidly and took a step back. "What?" she said, clearly as shocked as he was.
    "You're the girl who was my assignment a year ago!" Locater barked. "I got my one and only Mission Failure marked on my profile because of you, you know that?"
    "Umm, I don't think we've met before. Sorry," Luna said, still confused.
    "No, you're definitely her!" Locater shouted. "A Torterra came to me a year ago, asking me to track you down for taking her Grotle son away from her. She showed me a picture of you, and reported that she saw you stealing away her son with a human man, a Kadabra, and a Vulpix!"
    Luna's face changed to one fill with recognition and pain. "Ooooh shit," she swore under her breath.
    "Oh shit? Oh shit?!" Locater yelled. "When I couldn't find her son, do you know how much pain she felt?! She still stays at home, barely eating, while her husband struggles to support them, having no time to grieve for his missing son, and all you can say is "oh shit"?! Who... no, what are you?!"
    Luna looked down, and spoke weakly "I... left all that behind me."
    "Yeah? Well those Torterra sure don't feel the same!" Locater yelled at her. "You're coming with me, right now, to take responsibility of what you did," he said as he reached for her.
    Frost slapped away Locater's paw and said, "This isn't the time, Locater."
    "No, this isn't the time," he said, seeming to agree. "The time was a year ago!"
    "She's changed, I myself can guarantee that."
    "Oh? And who're you to defend her? You say you're a Raider, so as the Locater, I'll have definitely heard of you if you're Rank C or higher! So what's your codename, huh?"
    Frost remained silent.
    Luna placed a paw on Frost's shoulder. "Hey, it's okay. I'll atone for what I did and go with him, so don't worry about me," Luna said. "But..."
    Locater's eyebrow arched.
    "What my friend said is true; I have changed," Luna told him. "I'm not the evil person I used to be, anymore. I help people now. And these two have forgiven me, despite what I've done to them. So before I go, you have to promise that you'll help us finish our mission, before you can complete yours, is that a deal?"
    Locater stared Luna down, and she met his eyes. Her devotion carried her steadily for a few seconds, but then her eyes began to waver. No matter how much of an idiot he seemed at first, this stare that she faced was one of a seasoned Raider. For a moment, she felt a heavy power behind those eyes, and felt like a weight was pressing down on her. But she wouldn't back down now, not after that speech she just gave. For the longest time, she had felt guilty for having been shown mercy without punishment. Well, this was going to be her way of finally facing what she owed, and she had no intention of backing down now. So she continued to meet his stare.
    Finally, Locater decided to stop his harsh stare. "Fine," he said. "But right after this, you're coming with me, got that?"
    Luna sighed and nodded in agreement.
    "So why are you guys here?" Locater asked Frost, dropping his earlier demeanor for one that was more relaxed. "Did you need my help with something or what?"
    "Yeah," Frost said. "We need you to help us find someone. An-"
    "An Umbreon," Aurora finished for her.
    Aurora S.C.A.R.: 0.00%
  7. MoonFoxJ

    MoonFoxJ Swimmer

    Apr 8, 2015
    ***lakevalor.net exclusive: Sorry people, I know I said that I'd post everyday to catch up with fanfiction.net, and I didn't. But I learned that there's like a 24-hour feature where I can only post 1 chapter per day, or else they'll just turn into an [edit] instead of a [reply]. I even had to ask Gengar's Grin for help (as you can tell from above), and everything got more complicated than it had to. Anyway, again, thanks Gengar's Grin, and now let's start.***
    Hey guys, I'm really sorry if you've suffered for my absence. Recently, college started for me, and I have work as well so I have less time these days. I regretted everyday I was unable to work on this chapter (sometimes I even only had time for a paragraph), so this comes to me as a bit of a relief that I was finally able to post this. To any of you wondering the question "will this guy ever screw us over and leave the story unfinished?", the answer is no, I'll never do that. It is my belief that I should finish what I started, so don't worry, no matter how long it seems, the story will be updated till we get to the finish, I just hope you all will stick through it with me. Oh yeah, I'll also put a separate disclaimer at the bottom of this because I think if I did it too soon, it would be a spoiler, but it's nothing really, just something stupid ;).
    Disclaimer: I do not own Pokémon but I do own Astray and its characters.
    Ch. 7
    April 4; Raiders Office - Highlight City District
    Locater looked at the three girls expectantly. "... Well?" he finally asked after a while.
    "Well what?" Frost asked back.
    "What else?" he asked further. "Come on, spare no detail. Give me everything I can work with."
    "That's all we got."
    "What?" he laughed. "That can't be it, quit joking and spit it out already. Otherwise we're never going to find him."
    "Do I look like I'm joking?"
    Locater looked back at her with a blank face. Then, he suddenly shouted, "What is this?! You want me to find your guy, and all you can give me is that he's an Umbreon? Are you asking me to find all the Umbreon in the world until I find the right one? That's flipping impossible! Screw that!"
    "Well no one really knows how he looks like, and the video we saw didn't even show his face," Frost explained. "The picture wasn't even all that great either."
    "Video?" Locater questioned, now calming down. "What video?"
    "Our client's camera picked up the Umbreon as he was slipping a note on her front doorstep," Frost admitted. "But I don't know how that contributes to anything."
    Locater flashed his charming smile again. "Ahh, that's where you're wrong, my young padawan. Everything is data, everything! Come, come, and let me enlighten you in the art of tracking."
    Frost rolled her eyes. She couldn't believe she was being talked down to by this punk. Last time she checked, which was about half a year ago, his profile read that he had completed 53 missions. Taking that number, the date of when he started his career as a Raider, and his general behavior detailed in his profile's summary, she calculated that he should've finished 6 missions at most while Raider Zero was absent for the past three months. Put that together, and he shouldn't have had more than 59 missions completed by now, which was still less than half of her own total Missions Completed score of 127. He was also a year younger than her. Still, since she was the one who came to him for help, she allowed herself to be led into his humble abode. That, and he was also a Rank A, so he'd proven that he had 'some' skill at least.
    "Oh wait, I'm sorry, what do I call you ladies again?" Locater asked innocently.
    Frost didn't fall for that. "Yeah, nice try, but you're not getting my codename that easy."
    He shrugged and smiled. "Can you blame a guy for trying? Still, what do I call you then?"
    Frost raised an eye. "... Crystal," she eventually said.
    Aurora looked at Frost. The name Frost used was Aurora's sister's name. Specifically, it was the name of Aurora's younger, fraternal, twin sister, who was coincidentally also a Glaceon. Maybe that's why Frost chose to borrow Crystal's name.
    Luna answered truthfully, "Luna."
    Aurora also gave her real name.
    Satisfied, Locater nodded. "Make yourselves comfortable, Crystal, Luna, and Aurora," he announced, taking his own spot at the head of his bed.
    The girls tried, but it wasn't easy. Aurora eventually settled on the cleaner looking side of a couch. Luna took a chair that wobbled a little. Frost found a spot on the floor that wasn't littered with clothes, which mostly consisted of scarves, sunglasses, and other stuff that the Mightyena must've bought to make himself look cooler.
    "So," Locater said, rubbing his paws together in anticipation. "Let's get to debriefing."
    Ten minutes later, the girls had finished explaining the situation to Locater. Since they didn't have much, there wasn't much to tell, so the talk went by quickly enough. Surprisingly, Locater hadn't said a word during the entire time. He just stared into a corner of his room, with a serious look on his face. In this way, he seemed very mysterious to the three members of Team Pluto. They wondered about what he thought, getting drawn into his mask of seriousness. Each of the girls added in parts of the story when one would miss something. It was a little hard to focus on talking while at the same time, trying to read his face for any signs of conclusion or understanding. Yet, the whole time, he never revealed a hint about what was going on in that head of his. When Frost finished explaining the last bit of their predicament, Locater's hard eyes shifted to hers in expectation, the first movement he had made in the past ten minutes.
    "Is that all?" he asked Frost in a grave tone.
    Frost nodded.
    Locater lied back in his bed and crossed his forelegs, staring hard at the ceiling. A whole minute passed like this without anyone making a sound.
    Finally, Aurora couldn't take it anymore. "Well?" she half asked, half pleaded. This "Locater" had to help them find the Umbreon. What if the Umbreon was... ?
    Out of nowhere, Locater shot up and hopped out of bed. "I have to grab something important. Stay here, I'll be right back," he ordered them gravely as he walked out of his room.
    Then the door slammed shut, and the three girls were alone.
    Aurora was the first to break the silence. "Can we really trust him to find Kyu-I mean, the Umbreon?" she anxiously asked, more so to Frost than Luna.
    Frost said, "His profile shows that his tracking skills are exceptional, excellent even. In this field, he's one of the best, so I wouldn't be too worried if I were you. At the very least, he should be able to help us get started on where to look."
    Aurora nodded, though with a hint of doubt.
    Luna caught it. It wasn't too common, but she decided to share one of her rare "Luna's moments" to try and uplift Aurora. She walked up to Aurora, and sat next to her on the couch.
    "There, there, Aurora," she half-assed, while rubbing Aurora's back comfortingly. She knew it was a lame start, but she kept going, "Everything's going to turn out alright, alright? Just wait, you'll see Kyuso soon. Just keep looking a little longer, okay?"
    "... Okay," Aurora murmured. "What about you though? You'll probably have to leave with that Mightyena after we complete this mission. This may actually be our last mission together as a team of three."
    Luna smiled reassuringly. "Oh I'll be fine," she said, waving her paw for effect. "Besides, I think this will be good for me. I know it won't fix everything I've done, nor will it ever make up for it, but I feel that I have to go and do it, I really do. Honestly..." she hesitated, about to reveal the truth. "That's how I've felt for a long time now, and I'm not just talking about the past three months. I mean since several years ago, when I met... you know."
    Aurora nodded in understanding. "How was he back then?" she asked Luna.
    Luna let out a sigh, "He was loud, he got into trouble, and he had a ton of attitude. At first, I hated him, probably because he reminded me of myself at his age. I was kind of a tomboy back then and liked to battle the neighborhood kids often. And sure enough, Kyuso took up battling as a hobby, even though he was told not to even get involved in a fight. We even had the same tastes in food, books, TV, and a bunch of other stuff too. Like I remember when I used to stay up late to watch scary movies. Almost every night, hours after everyone had gone to sleep, he'd come down from bed and watch with me, and he wasn't even an Umbreon like me at that time. I hated him even more for that. It was like no matter what I did, I couldn't get away from him; he and I were so alike in so many ways, except he was innocent then, while I had sinned again and again." Luna took a break to breathe, and continued, "I always thought that he was this curse sent down upon me by Arceus as divine punishment or something, like a mirror that showed the monster I'd become over the years... I guess that's why I loved his little brother so much. In comparison, Jun was nothing like Kyuso, so he was nothing like me either. The little guy had spirit. He told jokes that didn't make sense and weren't funny unless he told you them himself, and when he did, I almost died from trying to keep a straight face. He did stupid things without even understanding what he did, which made staying mad at him impossible. He liked to get in other people's business too, and even then you couldn't stay mad at him... But now that he's gone, my life seems really... quiet."
    "... I'm sorry," Aurora said quietly. It was as lame as Luna's previous "there, there, Aurora" comment.
    Luna shook her head. "Don't be, it was my own damn fault," she said. "But that's not important right now. What's important is how we're going to find that Umbreon, bring him in, and complete this mission. Let's finish it together, okay?"
    Aurora nodded. "Deal."
    The door exploded open, jerking the girls back into the present. The grim eyes on Locater's face instantly set the previous mood again, silencing the chatter immediately. The air in the room suddenly felt heavier. He carried a yellow bag in his jaws, but they couldn't see exactly what it was as he climbed onto his bed.
    "... What is that?" Aurora anxiously asked.
    Locater didn't respond. Instead, he leaned back against the wall, and squeezed the bag. It popped, and Locater pulled out a crisp, golden potato chip.
    Frost and Luna fell off their seats and onto the floor. Aurora face palmed.
    Locater munched loudly as he pulled out one chip after the other, downing them ravenously as a Sharpedo. The whole time, his face was locked in its seriousness. Lines formed on his face as he was clearly thinking hard about something, but when the girls picked themselves up from the floor and recovered from their shock, they found it hard to regard him with anything except annoyance.
    "Locater, what the hell?" Frost yelled, wanting to strangle the Mightyena.
    The Mightyena shook his head and looked at her innocently. "Hm?"
    "Freaking potato chips? Are you for real?" Luna asked in disbelief.
    He gave them a shy smile. "They help me focus," he simply said.
    Aurora groaned. "We're never going to find him," she muttered, still holding her face in her palm.
    "Hey, hey, cool your jets," Locater told them lazily. "Everything's fine. Besides, I think I already have an idea of where to start looking for your boy."
    Aurora's ears and tail shot up. "You do?"
    Locater put on a pondering face. "Welllll... sorta. I mean, there's not much I can work with here, but I suspect that the guy should be around anywhere around Smith's Street to 7th Street. Also, assuming that-"
    "Take us there," Aurora demanded.
    Surprised, Locater put up his paws appealingly. "Whoa! Okay, alright, I'll take you there, just... let go of me first," he laughed nervously.
    Aurora regained herself, and looked down. Somehow, she'd moved from her spot on the couch to the bed. Her claws gripped Locater's shoulders, close to his neck.
    Shocked at herself, Aurora released him and apologized excessively.
    "Sheesh, buy me a drink first," Locater replied slyly. He looked over himself and saw prints in his fur where she'd roughly grabbed him. "Whatever. Just give me a few minutes and we can go. Is that cool?" he said dismissively.
    Frost nodded. "See you downstairs," she said while dragging Aurora out of the room, following Luna.
    When they shut the door, Frost helped the trembling Aurora walk down the hall. Reaching the middle of the stairs, Aurora stopped and rested on a step, focusing on calming her breathing.
    "Are you okay," Frost asked her.
    After a while, Aurora answered, "I need him."
    "What?!" Frost said, looking back at Locater's door. "Aurora, did you hit your head or something on the way out? Because-"
    "Not him," Aurrora said, frustrated.
    "... Oh."
    Aurora hugged her head low. "It's like a craving I can't satisfy, no matter what I do. And I can't stop feeling this way, because it won't let me. That's how I've been feeling for so long now," she muttered miserably. "I'm going to go crazy."
    Frost wasn't sure on how to approach such a delicate issue, but she started by sitting next to her friend. "I know it's been long and that we've been through a lot, but... we'll find him," she said.
    Aurora's trembling slowed. It helped, but not by much.
    After the group met downstairs, Frost, Luna, Aurora, and Locater, all left the Raiders Office while Locater led them through the streets. The Mightyena wore a gray scarf around his neck, which he explained he was using to hide his Translator. He also wore a gray fanny pack, which didn't carry much at the moment as he didn't expect to do much besides tracking down the girls' target. Other than that, he didn't carry anything else, as he said that he'll only be finding the Umbreon for them, nothing else. Frost replied by saying that was just fine. While they walked, Locater asked if they wanted to know how he deduced where to start looking. Luna boredly said "not really," but somehow, Locater took that as an unconfident answer, so he went on to make a great big speech about how he figured out the Umbreon's character through his actions, and pieced together this and that. With all the activity that passed by them, Frost and Luna didn't find it too difficult to ignore him, but Aurora had zoned out so completely that she almost walked into a green light. It was only because of Frost pulling her back that she wasn't hit by a honking car. Aurora apologized, but Frost was at a loss for words.
    Locater took a keen look at Aurora. "She is eating and sleeping, right? 'Cause she looks really out of it," he asked no one in particular.
    "I'm fine," Aurora said back, determination blazing in her eyes.
    Locater shrugged.
    Twenty minutes later, Locater brought them to a block that held an enormous building. The structure looked abandoned, paint chipped in places, and there was no glass sealing the windows for the first few floors. A chain-link fence closed off the building, but before them was a bush which Locater moved aside to reveal a hole in the fence big enough for them to just barely squeeze through.
    "Our guy lives here? In this dump?" Luna asked doubtfully.
    "It makes sense," Locater told her. "He needs somewhere isolated, unnoticed, and quiet where he can work. Especially if what you said is true; that this Pokémon can operate a human tool that skillfully." Then, he chuckled. "If there's one thing I know, it's that no matter who or what you are, if you don't depend on Apple Technical Support to help you turn on your computer, you're probably an otaku."
    "O-ta-... What?"
    "It means "shut-in computer geek"," Frost told her.
    Luna said, "Oh. Then from what I know about Kyuso, and what I know about this guy, it doesn't sound like it might be him this time."
    Frost choked, "What the- Are you crazy?! Don't say that in front of her!"
    But when Frost looked around, Aurora was gone.
    Frost cried, "Where'd she go?"
    Luna answered easily, "She went in."
    "And you didn't say anything?"
    "Well, she was working on the mission while we were just talking, so I thought-"
    "Argh, forget it. Let's just go!"
    Frost and Luna scrambled through the hole and climbed through one of the buildings windows. Locater watched all this unravel with amusement, and decided to wait outside for the girls to finish. "What a hot-headed Glaceon..." he half laughed to himself. Then, his eyes turned sharp, and he got serious for a second. "... Hmm, curious. I wonder which Raider she really is... Eh, whatever, I can find out later. Right now, it's time for lunch!"
    And with that, he walked casually down the street, on the hunt for some tacos.
    "Are you sure you saw her climb through this window?" Frost asked Luna as she landed on the floor.
    "Yeah," Luna answered. "... But I don't know which way she went next," she said as they exited the small room, entering a hallway.
    There were multiple rooms besides the one they just exited. The two looked left, then right. Then at each other. There was only one clear option.
    "Split up," they said in unison.
    While Frost went down the left side of the hall, Luna checked right. Both looked for either their teammate or the Umbreon. To avoid alerting the Umbreon that they were in the building, they refrained from calling out for Aurora. Also, since Aurora was looking for the Umbreon anyway, they figured that if they found him, they'd find her as well.
    Unfortunately for them, Aurora had already sensed a single presence on the top floor.
    It was dark.
    That was the first thing Aurora noticed when she'd entered the stairwell. Obviously, none of the lights worked, so when the door closed, she was shrouded in near absolute darkness. The only light came from underneath the door just behind her. It teased her, taunting her to come back into the sunlight, to a place where she belonged. She scoffed at the comforting thought, and wandered deeper into the darkness. Since she already couldn't see anything, she felt around with her paws until she touched the stairs. Then, she began her ascent. One by one, Aurora fumbled in the darkness, climbing the stairs at an unbearably slow pace. Alone, with nothing but the tap of her feet on the cold, steel steps, she reached out blindly, rising one step at a time. After a long time had passed, too long, she finally reached the second floor. Given no other option, Aurora took another step, and began the climb to the next floor. Nothing changed. All she did was crawl up endless stairs, which she could only hope there was an end to. In the never-ending blackness, with no hint of whether the journey was nearing its completion, madness could've overtaken any sane person. But sane was something she'd left behind, an eternity ago.
    I'm an Espeon who killed and was killed, day and night I'm trapped in my nightmares, and my own friends think I'm crazy for talking to the dead. If this darkness is what it takes for even the slightest chance, then I won't be stopped. I will find him.
    And with that determination alone, Aurora ascended the endless black spiral until she ran out of stairs.
    At the top, she let out a breath of relief. "This is it," she whispered to herself.
    Reaching up, Aurora gently grasped the door knob with both paws, twisted as slowly as she dared, and opened the door.
    It was lighter here, but not much. There were only two windows here at each ends of the hall, and heavy drapes hung above them both, so sunlight barely pierced into the room. It was enough for her to go back into the landing in the stairwell, and read the sign next to the door she just opened. It told her that she was on the twentieth floor. Reentering hallway, Aurora closed the door as slowly and silently possible, and scanned the floor. There was literally nothing here except and doors along both sides of the hall. She rescanned the floor, this time with her mind. Then, two doors down to her right, she sensed the presence from before.
    As if she could see through walls, she looked straight at it. There, she thought.
    The floor was carpeted, but she crept carefully, not wanting to give anything away. She read that the mind of whoever was in that room was bored, which meant they were blissfully unaware of her being here. That worked for her advantage. And hopefully, it would be him this time. Now, she stood right outside the door, psyching herself up for the possibility of finally finding him after three long months.
    Here I go!
    She was met with a red laser dot, which immediately sunk into her chest.
    She was only tazed for several seconds, but the shock (no pun intended) of the attack made the experience seem longer than the time she spent climbing the twenty floors. At last, the probes of the stun gun fell off her chest, dropping Aurora down with them. Paralyzed, Aurora lay helplessly on the floor as she spasmed uncontrollably from the electricity coursing through her body.
    "Ah- Ah- Ah- Ah-" she sputtered out in rhythm with her convulsions, unable to make out a complete sentence, much less a word.
    "Agggh," she heard someone sigh, a male. From the floor, she could only see his legs. Those legs... had gold rings that glowed in the dark. "You really are a lot of trouble, you know that?"
    That voice...
    She resisted, she fought, she mentally screamed at her muscles to obey, to work through the paralysis. And amazingly enough, after a long struggle, Aurora finally managed to gurgle out, "K- K- K- Ky- Kyu-"
    Aurora S.C.A.R.: 0.00%
    Disclaimer: I do not own Apple (see, what'd I tell ya?").
    A.N. As always, please forgive me for my lateness and I hope you enjoyed the chapter.
    Djsoresupon3: I watched the MV of that song right after you suggested it. It was... interesting. *shivers*
    blaster824: Hmm, trying to link things together now, I see? I guess you're starting to question if anything in this story is a coincidence at all. *chuckles evilly* Good Anakin good. Kill him. Kill him now. Mwahahaha.
    Whitewolf03: Ooh, looks like Aurora is down for the count. You called it man! *taps floor with each count* One, two, three, K.O.!
  8. MoonFoxJ

    MoonFoxJ Swimmer

    Apr 8, 2015
    Holy crap, it's been 46 days since my last update, but I have something (actually two things) besides this chapter, to offer, which I hope will be enough, as I have worked all this time on them. But before I get to that, let me clear up just one thing:

    "To any of you wondering the question "will this guy ever screw us over and leave the story unfinished?", the answer is no, I'll never do that. It is my belief that I should finish what I started, so don't worry, no matter how long it seems, the story will be updated till we get to the finish, I just hope you all will stick through it with me."

    -MoonFoxJ [Astray, Ch. 7]

    Okay, now while the will to finish is there, one of the replies I got for this chapter made me realize something. I can't finish this story if I don't have the ability to do it. That being said, please do not hate me for not finishing the story if I get hit by an ice-cream truck, shanked, blown away, etc., because really that's the only way I'll be unable to finish the story. Anyway, dark humor aside, those "two things" I was talking about? Those two are my new one-shots, Backtrack-Claire and Backtrack-Lance. As with Backtrack-Aurora and Backtrack-Kyuso, these two new one-shots will reveal some of Claire's and Lance's past, and hopefully help readers feel some sympathy, as well as a sense of badass-ery, towards the first, official, Eeveelution couple of the main story. Now, while I really want to make a joke about how the word count of both Backtrack-Claire and Backtrack-Lance are over 9 you-know-what, I've recently learned that I lost the ability to feel any joy in life from typing nonstop for 46 days, so excuse me as I pass out on my sofa.

    Disclaimer: I do not own Pokémon, but I do own Astray and its characters.


    Ch. 8

    Nonexistent Time; Nonexistent Space

    Kyuso lost track of how long it was since he awoke in this dark world. Three days maybe? At least, that's what his aching body told him. Then again, in a world where time had no meaning, did it really matter how long ago it was? If time didn't really exist in this so-called "Reverse World", then maybe only an hour had passed. Although, that didn't mean his grumbling stomach got the message.

    The Umbreon heavily breathed in the world's Corruption-filled air, of which he was somehow immune to. He didn't know if that fact made him grateful or fearful. One thing he was sure about was his splitting headache.

    "Lord Giratina," he panted. He learned quickly that Giratina liked the title. "Please... I need... food... and rest," he pleaded, pausing at times to breathe.

    His time here was spent jumping from rock to rock over the bottomless abyss, climbing endless stories of stairs and back, swimming in pools, and much more, while the whole time under the intense gravity. He wasn't allowed any breaks either. The thought of failure and an unpleasant end kept him going this whole time, but now even that fear was beginning to be overridden by the primal urge to eat and sleep.

    Giratina observed him with an unreadable expression. "Granted," Giratina stated after a few seconds. Kyuso was surprised at this, but of course there was a catch. "Two kilometers down this path, there's going to be a resting point, a special tree, which you may use from now on. There will be a lake on the way there, and a final test at the end before you reach it. If you can reach that tree, it will be yours. Is that a deal?" Giratina offered him.

    Kyuso dipped his head in response, too tired to nod, but even that caused his head to throb with pain.

    "In that case, I'll meet you there," Giratina said while floating upward. "Don't make me wait."

    And with that, Giratina flew off into the distance. As this world's ruler, the dark master's flight went unhindered, despite the fluctuating gravity.

    On the other hand, Kyuso steeled himself for the hard road ahead. If he learned anything by now, it was that Lord Giratina wasn't familiar with the word mercy. But that didn't mean Giratina wasn't fair or truthful. While partaking in his herculean tasks, Kyuso couldn't help but ask questions about the holes in his past, and Giratina answered them honestly (at least that's what Giratina assured him). He asked about stuff like his family, if he had any friends, and what kind of Pokémon he was before. It felt so alien to hear things about him that he never could've imagined were true. And when he requested something to drink, Giratina permitted that as well. Although, he still had to work for it. Giratina puzzled him. How could someone who seemed so merciless and monstrous, carry traits of honest and fairness?

    He shook his head. He'd wasted enough time, or whatever time meant in this place. Lord Giratina would be waiting, and the last thing Kyuso wanted was to aggravate his master. Taking a moment to breathe, he prepped himself ready, and began his race. His jog eventually quickened into a stride, which in turn quickened into a full on sprint. It's not like he wanted to run like this, but from what he heard, he had two kilometers ahead of him and would need to swim at some point. At the very least, he wanted to finish the swim as fast as possible. The first time he tried to swim in this world, the extra gravity almost drowned him. It had felt like he was swimming while carrying a clone of himself. His efforts just seemed to be in vain, and he struggled at first just to stay afloat.

    Thinking about things made his head hurt, he desperately needed to sleep, so he focused on the path ahead. Right now, he was in an area where the gravity was at a level that his body seemed used to. He was grateful for that. But further down the path, tree branches formed a web, blocking his path. He stopped and looked around. The web seemed to stretch for miles on either side, and he didn't have time to go around. But the branches were so entwined; he wasn't sure on how to get past them. They also looked sharp.

    Maybe I can...

    Kyuso opened his maw, aimed for the branches, and fired Confuse Ray at the branches. The attack splashed harmlessly against the dark wood and dissipated. The only thing that seemed to accomplish was making his fever even worse.

    He squeezed his head, trying to alleviate the stabbing pain in his skull. Damn, looks like it only works against a live enemy.

    Deciding to just grit his teeth and bear it, Kyuso used Assurance to claw his way through the branches. He was right; the branches were sharp. Despite the added protection from Assurance, his paws kept getting scratched up the more he hacked away at the branches.

    What the?!

    As he slashed away the branches, Kyuso saw them regrow at an impossible speed. Whenever he'd clear a path, the branches would reform, ensnaring him within their web of black wood. He felt their sharpness stabbing into his sides as they grew around his body, trapping him further by the second. He guessed that he must've entered an area where time was faster-significantly faster for wood to grow at this rate. Kyuso got angry and resumed hacking away with more vigor. His adrenaline rush dulled the throbbing heat in his head for the moment, and soon enough he broke his way through the blackness. But when he looked down to inspect his forepaws he saw that they were bleeding. It stung every time he took a step, and his headache was beginning to come back now. Kyuso shook his head. He couldn't focus on that now. He had make up for lost time, so he ran faster than he did before.

    During his run, Kyuso couldn't help but wonder about what Giratina told him. That his mom and dad left him and his brother, because Arceus commanded them to?! Even though he didn't know much, he found that story hard to swallow. It sounded way too surreal to be true. As for these so-called friends of his, they sounded made-up as well. He couldn't imagine ever getting to know Pokémon like them.

    When he reached the lake, he stopped. The other side looked to be around 300 meters away. Normally, that wouldn't have been a terribly difficult swim, but there were a few factors. One, he might encounter an area where the gravity was stronger, and if that happened, it would be a battle just to stay afloat. Two, the gravity could suddenly drop. The first time Kyuso ran into that problem, the gravity level was zero, so he floated out of the water and didn't stop rising until he was nearly two hundred feet above the water. That's when gravity suddenly returned all at once and he was dropped in free-fall; luckily, he survived by stretching his body so that he hit the water as "needle-like" as possible. Three, he was dead tired, and barely had the strength to stay awake.

    Kyuso tried blinking his sleepiness away. Oh well, maybe the swim will wake me up.

    Taking a couple of ragged breaths, he jumped into the water and began to swim. It was okay. There were no fluctuations in gravity, so although his progress was exhaustingly slow, he was safe.

    So far so good...

    Then, at one hundred meters, he was pulled down.

    "Oh cr-!" Kyuso cried until the water swallowed him. Then the entire lake fell as silent as a grave.

    He dropped four feet before he managed to stop his descent into a watery death. The water was cold and murky, and he could barely hear his own grunts as he struggled to rise for air. Kyuso hadn't been able to suck in a full breath before gravity pulled him under, and he already felt his chest constricting, screaming for air. He paddled as fast and as hard as he could and was rewarded by breaking the surface ten seconds later.

    "Paaah!" he gasped, sucking in as much air as he could.

    This happened quite a lot to him in this world, so he learned quickly how to swim in such an environment. Now that he was above water, he could dial down the speed to conserve energy, but had to keep up the power if he wanted to stay afloat. It really did feel like he was carrying a second Kyuso while he swam.

    "Almost there," he panted. "Keep going."

    Kyuso's legs and lungs burned, his throat felt like acid, and he tasted iron. His neck ached from fighting the heavy gravity from pushing his head underwater. It felt like the whole lake was against him. At around two hundred fifty meters, the gravity level suddenly dropped to normal (or what felt like normal to him). Exhausted, he flipped over on his back, and used the air in his lungs to stay afloat.

    Kyuso choked out water and panted, "I... I... too... much... just... someone... please..."

    Looking up at the sky, he noticed that the sun looked like a black hole instead of a star. And the sky itself, it matched the bottomless abyss that waited below. No matter where he looked, everywhere, in any direction, showed the void. This world was complete chaos. With that fact, it was hard not to think about falling, or maybe flying, into the abyss.

    For the remainder of the swim, he decided to just paddle with his hind legs, since he was too tired to do any more. When he felt his head bump into something solid, he flipped over, crawled out of the water and, laid on the dark, cold grass.

    My head, it feels like it's about to explode, he thought, too tired to move. I'm going to die.

    Kyuso wished he could just lay here for the remainder of his life-however long that was-but knowing that Giratina would deliver him a fate worse than death that could continue even when he was gone, he decided to take the lesser of two evils, and climbed to his feet.

    Finding a path parallel to the one he came from, Kyuso jogged and tried to empty his mind to lessen his headache. He failed. He couldn't help but spite against his luck, this "corrupted" world, and Giratina. What exactly did he do before, when he still had his memories, to land himself in this hellhole with the only other inhabitant being a tyrannical monster? At that moment, he started to hate himself. Not Kyuso, the innocent Umbreon who was born at age 17, but Kyuso, the bastard who lived from age 0 to 17. That Kyuso sounded like an entirely different person, a rebel, a jerk, a hotheaded battle junkie, and most of all, a stranger. Kyuso didn't know him, and that made it really easy to blame him for thrusting him into this world that held nothing but pain and suffering.

    His path took him through a cluster of black trees and finished at an open prairie. The tree line encircled a wide expanse of grass-roughly four hundred meters in diameter-so he instantly spotted the tree Giratina spoke of, as well as Giratina, in the middle of the dark green field. He ran fast to appease Giratina, and halted ten meters before his master, who floated just in front of the tree. It was a really big tree. The base was enormous, and the truck was as wide as a Jacuzzi and tall enough to shade Giratina. The branches spread so far they drooped from the weight, and their leaves bore countless Leppa Berries.

    Kyuso bowed. "I apologize for my lateness, lord Giratina. The journey was... eventful."

    Giratina eyed him for a moment. "You are excused."

    Kyuso raised his eyes to meet Giratina's, despite the growing headache. "Is this the tree you spoke of?"

    "Yes," GIratina said, still staying in front of the tree.

    "... What do I do now? What's the final test?" Kyuso asked, anxious for rest.

    "All you have to do is touch the tree and it will be yours."

    "That's it?"

    "That's it. But..." Giratina announced while flourishing his six dark tendrils. "You will have to get past me."

    Kyuso's eyes widened and his fur rose. "But, I can't fight you, lord Giratina."

    "And why not?"

    "Because," Kyuso trailed off, trying to find a suitable excuse. "You have an unfair advantage. You can remove the Corruption from my soul at will and kill me!"

    "I will do no such thing during this test. This is meant to measure the strength of your will, how far you would go to survive."

    "And if it's not enough?"

    Giratina looked at him skeptically. "I've already told you once before, boy. Rise or die."

    Kyuso gulped. "Understood."

    Giratina made no move, so it seemed as if Kyuso had to advance. To his surprise, Kyuso found that his legs and body moved on their own into some sort of stance; his left foreleg was stretched forward, his right foreleg bent to the side, and his hind legs had spread apart and cocked, ready to spring. Standing like this felt so natural, he wondered how much fighting the last guy did with this body.

    "All I have to do is touch the tree?" Kyuso asked.

    Giratina simply said, "If you let your guard down, even for a moment, my attacks will kill you."

    "And I'm allowed to hit you too?"

    "If you value your life, you better not hold anything back."

    Kyuso nodded. With his adrenaline rising, his headache seemed to dull a little bit. He counted to one, two, three, and charged at Giratina. When he got close, he jumped, flipped, and swung down with Feint Attack on his tail, straight for Giratina's head.

    "Gaaagh!" Kyuso cried as he was blasted back.

    He landed a good ways away from the tree, his body feeling extremely bruised. Giratina was so fast; Kyuso barely glimpsed the Aura Sphere before it shot him. Thank goodness most of the attack was absorbed by his Feint Attack, he wasn't sure if he'd still be alive without it. For some reason, this pain felt different than the slow, torturous kind he'd endured up to recently. It was hard to describe, but since he was injured by an attack, within a battle, where he had the opportunity to fight back, the pain seemed to surge him onward, and he rose back to his feet. He barely even felt his headache anymore.

    But he was still exhausted.

    Gritting his teeth, Kyuso ran for the tree again while firing Confuse Ray attacks. Dozens of purplish fireballs appeared out of thin air, revolving around Giratina. Then the Will-O-Wisp fireballs all flew at Kyuso's Confuse Ray attacks, not only destroying them, but also having enough left to shoot at him directly.

    The sheer number of Will-O-Wisp fireballs that flew at him intimidated Kyuso, but he continued to run for the tree. When they were about to hit him, he ducked, leapt, dashed to the side, rolled, and did whatever it took to get closer to the tree. All this time, Giratina still hadn't moved from his spot.

    Kyuso crossed the distance left between him and Giratina in a flash. "Rrraaaa!"

    He jumped...


    ... And just barely avoided getting blasted as he successfully pulled off his feint, having rolled instead of jumped. This time, he truly jumped at Giratina, aiming to slash across his opponent's face with Feint Attack.

    He almost missed it.

    Kyuso felt the air suddenly rush at him and instinctively swiped to the side. Luckily, he managed to block one of the tendrils Giratina had used to attack him with Dragon Claw, which could've decapitated him. But now, the five other tendrils pointed their spikes straight at him, glowing with their black aura.


    Kyuso pushed off the Dragon Claw he already blocked, throwing himself into the air and dodging two of the Dragon Claw attacks in the process. The remaining three Dragon Claw rushed up to meet him, and he reacted quickly to defend himself. He charged Assurance on his tail and flipped once, twice, successfully slapping aside two Dragon Claw attacks that surely would've impaled him. The last Dragon Claw snaked past him, and wrapped around his waist. Kyuso felt the air rush past him as he sped downward.


    A loud boom echoed throughout the prairie as Giratina slammed Kyuso into the ground. Kyuso choked as something thick, salty, and red, jumped up his throat. Then, he was raised up... and slammed down a second time. A third. A fourth. Fifth. Sixth.

    Finally, he was tossed down on the seventh, and rolled several feet away.

    "Fool!" Giratina said. "You charge into a battle you are well equipped for, yet you don't use the power that's been given to you."

    "Kagh. Ahak," Kyuso coughed, spitting out blood. "What're you talking about? What power?"

    "My power, Kyuso. My Corruption, you're filled to the brim with it, but you don't use it. It's amazing that you even lasted this long, but I guess that's because Umbreon are tough nuts to crack."

    Kyuso spat out the rest of the blood and wiped his mouth. "I don't even completely get what Corruption is, and you're telling me to use it, a power that's killed anyone who's ever wielded it before me. So how exactly am I supposed to use it, when I don't feel any different even though you tell me I'm brimming with it?"

    "Corruption," Giratina said. "Contains the very essence of who I am. Grief, turmoil, suffering, all of that and more, are part of me. And now, it's also a part of you. But! There is a reason for it. There's always a reason! And as I have my own reasons, you have to find yours before you are capable of controlling its destructive power. Without a reason, it's merely chaos, and you'll only end up tearing yourself apart if you try to tap into it."

    "... A reason?"

    "Focus, Kyuso! The stronger your emotions are-the more Corruption will give back to you! Even if it's something small, like reaching this tree, call upon the hatred, the spite, and the pain that you feel from your task, and just let it all flow through you."

    That wasn't a difficult request. If there was one thing Kyuso felt right now, it would've been pain. He wanted to touch that tree, he wanted to be given a chance to rest, but nothing he did worked against the dark master of the Reverse World. It was annoying... no, more than annoying, it was downright humiliating. Giratina tossed him aside as if it was as easy as blinking, and Kyuso felt so small and weak because of it. That's because he was weak. He was small, he was weak, he needed power, and he would take it, even if it came from his enemy, because what his enemy gave him, he would give back, tenfold!

    Kyuso hit his limit, and he felt a tremendous surge of darkness flow into him. Not a cold darkness, but one of heat, of raging malevolence, just waiting to burst out of the shadows.

    He didn't hold it back any longer, and allowed the Corruption to go to work.

    Kyuso dashed so fast, he disappeared and reappeared several feet to his right. He zigzagged like this, getting closer to Giratina with every dash, but Giratina's eyes tracked him wherever he went.

    Not enough, he thought. Faster! Give me faster!

    With one final, explosive dash, Kyuso lunged at Giratina. Giratina was quick to counterattack, but when the Aura Sphere came at Kyuso, the attack seemed to phase right through him; when in actuality, he dodged so fast that it looked like he hadn't moved at all. He shoulder rammed Giratina with Feint Attack, but Giratina's tendrils blocked and shoved him back. Kyuso back flipped to lessen the knockback, and landed easily on the grass.

    "I'm going to pass you and reach that tree!" Kyuso roared.

    He dashed at Giratina again, and this time, he saw the Dragon Claw attacks as they flew at him. He jumped over three Dragon Claw attacks as the tendrils pierced nothing but dirt. With Feint Attack on his claws, deadly purple clashed with venomous black as Kyuso deflected the fourth Dragon Claw with a diagonal slash, used the momentum to spin in midair, and deflected the fifth with a downward hammer swipe.

    Parrying the two attacks launched Kyuso higher airborne, to the point where he flew over Giratina. Suddenly, the sixth Dragon Claw came from behind, and shot straight at his back, aiming to skewer him. It did skewer him, but only because he phased through it. The only thing the Dragon Claw stabbed was the tree, which Kyuso managed to touch as well.

    "Done," Kyuso panted, looking back for any more attacks, just in case.

    Giratina's tendril retracted from the tree, and the dark lord turned around slowly to stare down at Kyuso, who still had his paw on the tree as if it was already his. Well, it was his, wasn't it? As the deal said, he touched the tree fair and square, so now it was his, right?

    "Yes, it is now yours, Kyuso," Giratina said, answering the question in his mind. "Use it however you'd like."

    Kyuso sighed in relief and slumped against the tree. He felt his power, his Corruption, beginning to ebb out of his body.

    Giratina looked him over with observing eyes. "At this point, your body cannot be more broken than it already is. Your muscles are severely ripped, your bones are strained, and your organs are in desperate need of nourishment. That's good. It's the only way to build you from the ground up, but for now, I'll create a moat around this tree, so that water will be within easy reach for you."

    Kyuso was dead tired, and soon, he would actually die. One thing he wasn't up in the mood for was to talk, but he forced himself to say, "Thank you, lord Giratina."

    "Eat, drink, and sleep, Kyuso," Giratina told him. "You will no longer train for a while, and when you resume, it will not be as intensely as it was before. Rest well, and Corruption will rebuild inside you what you've destroyed. When you finish your recovery, you'll be able to make this world work for you, as I have."

    And without another word, Giratina left, leaving Kyuso alone with his new home.

    Kyuso S.C.A.R.: 100.01%

    A.N.: Don't forget to check out Backtrack-Claire and Backtrack-Lance. As always, I hope you enjoyed the chapter and thanks for reading.

    Djsoresupon3: Thanks for your support man. One time, your words kept me going during this month and a half when I just wanted to give up (by that I mean like "give up for the day", not permanently ^w^). Hope this chapter's good enough for you even though it's kinda short.

    blaster824: Well, a good reader keeps their readers guessing, that's what mom told me, and that's just what I'm trying to be. Thanks for the compliment on Locator, but be sure to thank Djsoresupon3 for him, as he is his OC. And as for my lateness, it should dial down a bit since I won't be doing another story for a while. Argh, although they were fun to write, my head hurts just thinking about them.

    Anergon: No, no, no, Anergon-san. You must open your mind to the possibilities, young grasshopper. LOL

    The Jagdpanther: Thanks, for both comments. I wish you luck in updating your own stories.

    Whitewolf03: I've done the research before I even began to include the stun gun, and I've seen the Youtube videos as well. Oh yeah, you bet it hurts.

    Grammer has no E: Thank you for reading my stories with such enthusiasm, but let me just say that you are the one who made me realize about the difference between "the will to finish" and "the ability to finish". Not blaming you or anything, but just please don't flame me for not completing the story, it does no good when I'm dead. And the "1st-person POV thing"? Yeah, I don't think I've noticed it as much as you, but yeah, I've noticed it too. Thanks for your support, as I (painfully) make sure to do all of my own editing and proofreading, and with your support for Kyuso and Aurora as well. Even I don't know (exactly) how the story will end, whether good or bad, so really I feel like a reader-crossed-writer of my own story. As for the story's popularity, at least it grows with every chapter, right? And as for your body, hmm... I'd go see your physician about that, ahahaha. XD
  9. MoonFoxJ

    MoonFoxJ Swimmer

    Apr 8, 2015
    Disclaimer: I do not own Pokémon but I do own Astray and its characters.


    Ch. 9

    April 4

    Downtown Highlight City - Abandoned Building

    Kyuso wore a questionable look. "Q? Q what?" Are to you trying to spell something?"

    Aurora couldn't believe it. Despite the situation she was in, she was genuinely happy. Happy that after months of searching everywhere she could, she finally her dearest friend.

    Still paralyzed, she forced herself to say his name in full. "K- K- Ky- us- o- Kyu- so-"

    Kyuso had to lean down to understand her. Aurora grew excited at how he came so close to her. He looked the same as the last time they were together.

    "Kyuso?" he repeated. "Sorry lady, but I'm no "Kyuso". Don't even know the guy."

    As Kyuso walked out of her field of view, confusion washed over Aurora. This Umbreon was Kyuso, she was sure of it. He looked just like him and he had the same voice, so why was he denying it? Suspicion began to poke at her, but she refused to allow it go any further.

    "Now I'd like to apologize in advance for how much this'll hurt," Kyuso said while Aurora heard a humming sound rise in pitch. It sounded like something was charging up. "Nothing personal, but no matter how pretty you or your little girlfriends are, I'd really like to avoid being caught. You understand, right?"

    Aurora did not want to be tazed again. "W- W- Wait- K- Kyu- I- It's- me- Au- ro- ra-" she managed to stutter out. The paralysis was beginning to wear off.

    Kyuso said, "Aurora? Sorry to disappoint you Aurora, but I've never seen you before in all my life. Well, technically I saw you, like, five minutes ago from Camera A. Speaking of which, let's see now..."

    Aurora heard the swiveling of a chair, followed by... the clicking of a mouse? Gradually, she felt better. Still a bit tingly, but she found that she was able to move her head at least. In the dark room she was in, the only light was a dim glow that came from behind a chair that had its back to her.

    "Ahh, there you are..." Aurora heard Kyuso mutter from the chair. Then the chair swiveled back around and he stared down at her. "Okay, the good news is that your Umbreon and Glaceon friends are on the third floor, and rising. How great for you! Bad news is..." he trailed off while pointing his right foreleg at her. Tied around his wrist was some sort of plastic bracelet armed with a cartridge and red laser sight that pointed straight at her chest. She had no idea how she missed that before. "That because of that, I'm gonna need some time to get away, so again... sorry."

    "Wait!" Aurora yelled again with her paws up in a desperate "time-out" sign. Since the paralysis was almost completely gone, she rose to her feet cautiously slow, so as to not provoke him.

    Fortunately, the Umbreon held his fire, so Aurora took a closer look at him now that she could stand. It was clear at this point that they had the same voice. He also had roughly the same build as Kyuso, maybe scrawnier. The same face. The same ears and tail. Even his fur was a bit unkempt, just like Kyuso's. But his eyes were the things that gave him away. This Umbreon's eyes were hazy and strained, as if he was a guy who got even less sleep than her, and they carried that cool, sharp, rebellious sense of intimidation that all Umbreon naturally had (and in this darkness, his eyes were even more intimidating). Therefore, it was hard to think how such a vibrant color like red could be called anything less than fierce; however, Aurora still remembered how Kyuso's eyes had lost their luster–their unsullied determination for victory–since the last time she saw them. It was as if the youth, the strength, and all things good, had been stripped from his eyes, until all that had remained were sad, rusty-red pools, void of hope. And they looked tired. So very, very tired.

    Aurora must've looked sad, because the Umbreon-with his taser bracelet still pointed at her-asked puzzlingly, "Why the long face?"

    Aurora hadn't even noticed that her shoulders had dropped. "I... I don't know... I just... I really, really thought you were... And I tried so hard..." She couldn't say the rest-she was too busy wiping her tears away. Eventually, she cried.

    The Umbreon's aim began to drop until he dropped his foreleg altogether. He still kept a wary eye on the Espeon, who was obviously here because of that prank he pulled over at Red Tech, but when a girl was crying on the ground right in front of you, one of the things that you weren't supposed to do was point a live weapon at her.

    The Umbreon winced when Aurora began to hiccup alongside her sobs. No, no, no, he thought in distress. Don't do that. Ten seconds passed before he said, "Uhh..."

    Aurora continued to cry.

    The Umbreon tried, "Umm..."

    That didn't work either.


    More crying.

    Finally, the Umbreon abandoned his caution and approached her. "Hey," he said again, kneeling down and touching her shoulder.

    Aurora looked up at him through her angry, sad, and pitiful eyes. "What?" she retorted, her voice cracking.

    "You okay?" He instantly knew that was the wrong thing to say.

    For a moment, Aurora looked as if she was going to yell at him, and the Umbreon cringed anxiously. But the more she looked at him, the more her expression softened, and her head eventually dropped back down on the floor.

    "... Hey!" the Umbreon said again, this time with a hint of worry.

    "Just shoot me and go away already," Aurora said quietly.

    "... Fine. I don't need this anyway," the Umbreon said, scowling. He aimed his taser bracelet at her again.

    The red dot rested on her back. All he had to do was flex his claws and he wouldn't have to deal with her anymore, he could escape. She really did look pitiful.

    Letting out an over-exaggerated sigh, the Umbreon lowered his foreleg a second time, and sat down next to Aurora. His time was burning away, his window was shrinking, he really didn't want to get caught...

    "What's wrong?" he asked the prone Espeon.

    Aurora's ear twitched. She turned around to glare at him. "Why do you care?"

    Ouch, the Umbreon thought. "Believe it or not, I have a heart. So what's up? What's hurting you?"

    Aurora scoffed. She didn't feel like sharing with this Kyuso-look-alike, this fake. "... My friends are coming up. They're going to catch you."

    The Umbreon shrugged boredly. "I got a couple of minutes to kill."

    Aurora stared hard at him, trying to read his thoughts. In his mind, she saw a faint tinge of yellow; the Umbreon was anxious. The little liar probably wanted to get out of here as soon as possible, so why wasn't he leaving?

    In the end, Aurora relented. "I thought that you were someone else, someone that I've been trying to find for a long time, but you... you weren't him."

    "... This guy, Kyuso," the Umbreon said. "He's an Umbreon?"


    "And the way you kept calling me by his name. I'm guessing we look the same, sound the same?"

    "You two look so similar, I really thought you were him."

    "Huh, that so?"

    The Umbreon went back to his chair and spun around, his back to Aurora. Confused, and little curious, Aurora got up and walked next to the Umbreon, whose paws blazed across something that looked like the result of a typewriter and a keyboard giving birth. In front of him, countless windows were opened across a small computer screen.

    "What are you doing?" Aurora asked. She also wanted to ask how he was doing it.

    The Umbreon's eyes stayed glued to the screen. The rapid tapping of keys never slowed. "Working."

    Aurora tried not to scoff. That doesn't tell me much.

    She looked at what the Umbreon was working on. The device, if anything, was unique. It looked like a keyboard, but at the same time not a keyboard. It looked like a miniature set of stairs, with the buttons in the shape of half-pipes. And his mouse didn't look like an egg as all the others did; instead, it was in the shape of a circle, with an impression of an Umbreon's paw print in the middle. Aurora saw the Umbreon move his right paw from the keyboard to fit snugly on the mouse, make a series of clicks while his left paw still typed away furiously, and then return his double paw assault on the keyboard.

    Oddly enough, Aurora began to feel left out. "Umm... So, uhh... Cool equipment. Did you buy all of it or-"

    "I made it." Lights flashed across the Umbreon's unchanging face.

    Aurora blinked. "Really? How-"

    "DON'T touch my stuff!" the Umbreon growled with wild eyes. It was the first time she saw him distressed.

    Aurora jumped back. "Jeez! Sorry..."

    For a while, Aurora wandered around the Umbreon's cramped room, just taking a look at the guy's dark and lonely living space. Extension cables, extra large battery packs, wireless routers, empty chip bags, and a bunch of other stuff were strewn across the floor. In a corner, there were also half a dozen plastic water bottles filled with (apparently) lemonade.

    Aurora steered clear of that area of the room, just in case. Does this guy seriously stay cooped up in this room with his computer, 24/7?

    The Umbreon yawned. His words came in a slur, "Hey, make yourself useful and hand me one of those cans on the floor?"

    Deciding against slapping the rude, obnoxious Umbreon upside the head and telling him, I'm here to capture you, you idiot! Don't push your luck!, Aurora simply huffed and looked towards where the Umbreon had pointed. On the ground lay a six pack of black cans with green slash marks as their design. She pried one free and was about to hand it to the Umbreon, until the dim glow of the computer screen gave her just enough light to read the label.

    "How old are you?" she asked, still holding onto the can.

    The Umbreon's claws never stopped clacking across the keyboard. "Seventeen," he replied monotonously.

    Aurora's head swam. It was hard to believe that Kyuso and this Umbreon were even the same age. Nevertheless, she spoke strongly, "There's no way you're having this."

    "I've had it before."

    "This is Monster Energy! You shouldn't be having this at your age."

    The Umbreon's eyes were like slits, but his keyboard still sounded like an assault rifle firing at full-auto. "Caffeine. Now," he said, his eyes still glued to the screen.

    Aurora raised an eye. On one hand, those words could've been interpreted into a threat. On the other, they carried such little strength that they almost sounded like a plea. Deciding not to get involved in the poor guy's life, Aurora handed over the beverage and watched in amazement as he downed the whole can in one go.

    The Umbreon's eyes opened a bit more and he let out a sigh of relief.

    "Those are for humans."

    The Umbreon shrugged.

    The next few minutes passed by uneventfully. The same, never-ending clicking and tacking sounds. Aurora tried to pass time by going on an adventure into the bathroom. A few seconds later, she walked back out on wobbly legs. Her life was never the same after that. Just when she couldn't take the waiting any longer, the tackity tack of claws on the keyboard suddenly died away.

    "Hm... freaky."

    Aurora turned to the Umbreon. "What?"

    The Umbreon turned the chair sideways from the computer screen, motioning for Aurora to come. "This," the Umbreon said, poking at his screen, "isn't me."

    Curious, Aurora walked up to the desk and stood up on her hind legs to see higher. It was a small desk, but she just barely managed to rest her paws and neck at the top. On the screen, there were dozens of windows open in the background, but the one in front was expanded and held a video–it was paused.

    Aurora choked.

    The Umbreon saw her eyes spread wide in amazement. "By the way, I've never seen the other guy in all my life. That goes the same for these guys too." He grabbed his mouse and dragged the top window aside to fit two more videos–also paused–on the screen. "Care to watch?"

    Aurora nodded.

    The Umbreon pulled the first video back to the beginning "This first video was posted, and soon taken down, exactly one month, one week , and four days ago, just before midnight" he said, and pressed Play.

    On the screen, Aurora saw nothing but black, but heard the sound of bushes rustling. Some chatter arose in the darkness, telling someone named "Mark" to turn the night-vision on. A second later, the screen changed from pitch black to show a group of humans in a forest. In the video, everything and everyone had a green highlight to it.

    "We're live," spoke the wielder of the camera.

    The camera centered on the face of one of the teens. "Alright guys, so here we are in the middle of the woods for our Challenge of the Week, The Slender Challenge, submitted to us by gamerguy218! We have no idea where the hell we are, and it is 11:57 p.m.! Earlier today, Brian dressed up as the Slender Man and went around hanging up pages."

    "Twelve pages!"

    "Yeah, since there's me, Mark, and Anthony, we decided to add four more pages as a handicap. Basically, we have to take pictures of the pages and send them out to each other and the Slender Man to let them know when a page has been found. Also, Brian's Slender Man outfit has some sick camouflage where if he turns his back on us, we can barely even see him!"

    "Plus he has freaking night-vision goggles!"

    "Yeah, that too! All we're armed with are our crappy flashlights, and if he tags us, we have to text each other that we're out! It is... 11:59 p.m. right now, the Challenge starts at midnight, and I starting to regret drinking all that water before we came out here!"

    "Alright, enough talk, let's get this show on the road!"

    "Let's do it!"

    Aurora didn't understand why the rowdy teenagers were so ecstatic about a game based off another game. The Umbreon dragged the video forward near the end.

    "Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap, holy crap!" the camera wielder, Mark, hissed in a tone mixed with fear and excitement. His frantic breathing made it hard to hear what he said next. "Evan just texted me "im out good luk"! I'm the last one left! Slender Man is probably out hunting for my ass right now, and we've only gotten nine pages! Wait... what's that? Is that another page?"

    The video showed the camera shakily approaching a clearing, and hiding behind a tree. On the screen, two black figures grappled for dominance. Even through the night-vision camera, their dark colors made it difficult to make out what they were. The larger one threw the smaller off itself and the two faced off. For a few seconds, the picture grew brighter as a column of fire blew from the larger one's mouth, a Houndoom. And standing opposite of him was...

    Aurora's grip on the desk tightened. "Kyuso?"

    On the screen, Kyuso dashed at an incredible speed to avoid the Flamethrower. He advanced while dashing past another Flamethrower, leapt over a third, and landed behind the Houndoom. The Umbreon sitting next to her paused the screen right as an intense burst of light erupted from Kyuso's mouth.

    It took Aurora a second to recognize what she was seeing. "Is that...?"

    "Aura Sphere," the Umbreon finished for her. "And to answer your second question; no, Umbreon aren't capable of learning it. So you tell me," the Umbreon pointed at Kyuso, "what exactly am I looking at?"

    Aurora just stared at the screen. She had no answer.

    The Umbreon played the next video.

    This video had low resolution, no sound, and as she watched, Aurora observed that it was from the viewpoint of a traffic camera, overlooking an empty street at night; specifically, an intersection. Centered at the bottom of the video, Aurora read the date and time as 3:13 a.m., three days after the last video took place. Unlike the first video, nothing happened onscreen.

    "What is this?" Aurora finally said.

    "Wait for it."

    No sooner after the Umbreon said that, a Sneasel appeared on the screen. Judging from the way she flew into the street and tumbled into the intersection, a powerful opposing force had been the source of her entrance. In a flash she was back on her feet, her claws at the ready, but a shadow, even darker than she, dashed from the way she came and pounced, silently pinning her to the ground. With the night as dark as it was, It was too dark to make out exactly who or what her opponent was until a halo of purple flames erupted out of thin air around him.

    "Kyuso?!" Aurora cried.

    All at once, Kyuso's Will-O-Wisp fireballs descended upon the dazed Sneasel, but the Umbreon clicked [Pause] before the onslaught went any further.

    The Umbreon let out a low whistle. "Whoa, talk about a beat down."

    Aurora gulped. "The last one, play it."

    "Last one," the Umbreon said as he played the third and final video.

    This time, Aurora saw the picture as clear as day, because it was. It looked like this video was taken in park, but there were roads as well as hills in the background so it was probably a park at the edge of a city, close to the wilderness. With no time stamp displayed in this video, she judged that the video must've been taken sometime around late morning to early afternoon, but the date...

    "This one was taken four days after the second video took place," the Umbreon said, as if he could read her thoughts.

    Aurora heard the excited chatter of humans. They sounded young.

    A chubby boy appeared on-screen. He looked to be about eight or nine. "Whoa, cool! You really do have one!"

    A little girl's voice asked, "What is that?"

    The camera turned to her and another young boy spoke eagerly from behind the camera, "It's the newest, coolest, most bestest phone they have! My dad makes them so he got one for me! It's got a camera and games and everything!"

    "Wow, awesome! I wanna try!" the first boy said. The video swirled dizzyingly as he stole the phone from its owner.

    "Wow! This is so coooool!" the thief exclaimed.

    "Hey, give me that! It's mine!" the owner wailed.

    The video rose to the sky. Obviously, the thief was playing keep-away. "Hey, stop it! It's still my turn!"

    "I didn't say you can have it!"

    "But I want it so it's my phone now!"

    The video then dropped at a weird angle, as if the thief had tucked in his hands. Suddenly, the video rushed to the owner's chest, and a crack was heard, followed by a black screen. A second later, a thud was heard, and the video cleared up to show the owner on the ground, as well a nasty crack on the screen. Apparently, the thief had pushed the owner and cracked the camera lens on a button. The boy on the ground began to cry.

    "Hey, stop being a meany!" the little girl yelled. "Give him his phone back!"

    The thief ignored them both. "Aww man, he broke my phone!"

    "It's not your phone, it's his phone! Give it back or I'm telling!"

    "Telling who? My mom? My dad? I almost never see them so LMM," he said back while sticking his tongue back at her. He began to sing, "You can't tell on me! You can't tell on me! Nya, nya, nya-nya, nyaaa!"

    The boy on the ground kept crying.

    The thief–as well as his new phone–turned his back on them. "Hmm, how do I play the games on this thing?"


    Instantly, the phone dropped, leaving the still-recording video on its side. On the screen, the sky occupied the left half, while the ground took the right. Then, three screams–rising in pitch from lowest to highest–arose from the children; first was the boy's who owned the phone, then the girl's, and lastly the thief's.

    At another time, Aurora would've liked to get lost in the drama and laugh at the irony of it all, if only it wasn't for what she saw next.

    Four legs–the front two black and the back two blue–staggered into view as if being pressured back by something, they were the legs of a Luxray. The Luxray roared in defiance and Aurora saw his legs burst with electricity, and most likely the rest of his body, as he charged up a Wild Charge. But before he could release the attack, pitch black legs popped into view and spun. A smack (like that of a tail) was heard, and the Luxray stumbled back, his Wild Charge canceled.

    Then, Aurora heard it...

    "You're a stubborn one, aren't you?"

    The Luxray let out a beastly yell as he attempted to charge up Wild Charge again. Obviously, it wasn't the smartest of moves, but he must've been desperate.

    Aurora turned to the Umbreon. "Wait, go back. Rewind it!"

    The Umbreon glanced, nodded, and dragged the video back.

    They heard the black figure repeat, "You're a stubborn one, aren't you?"

    "Dang, that's freaky," the Umbreon said with the same voice as the black figure. "It's weird seeing you but at the same time not you, doing something you never did. It feels like a dream, you know?"

    Aurora couldn't answer. She just continued to watch as the Luxray once again released his beastly yell and charged up Wild Charge. In the blink of an eye, he was blasted out of the video as Kyuso slashed him with a huge rake of shadows.

    The video ended there.

    Too tired to stand any longer, Aurora slumped to the floor and stared at nothing. The Umbreon let out a low whistle. He grabbed his mouse and watched the videos again, this time on mute. He paused each video whenever Kyuso would attack, and couldn't help but wonder...

    "Aura Sphere. Will-O-Wisp. And Dragon Claw. Impossible, so what the heck am I watching here?" The Umbreon's eyes carefully studied the screen.

    Aurora stayed silent, also trying to make sense of what she just saw. It was hard to digest; while she had been searching for Kyuso, this is what he had been doing. I don't understand. Why was Kyuso fighting those Pokémon? It just looked like random violence, it makes no sense. Was it self-defense, or... Her thoughts trailed off as she took a moment to consider the more-likely alternative. She had to remember that Kyuso gave himself up to Giratina, and judging by the unforgivable, sinful actions that Giratina took, she couldn't ignore the possibility that Kyuso had actively gone out of his way to attack those Pokémon. At least now she had a few clues, however miniscule. Even though they didn't make much sense, at least she no longer worked with nothing. She knew that Kyuso was alive, so now, she wouldn't stop hunting until she found him, and saved him.

    Aurora turned to the Umbreon. "You, what's your name?"

    The Umbreon hesitated. "... Kuroi," he eventually said shyly.

    "Kuroi." Aurora put her paw on his shoulder. She felt him flinch at her touch. "I know how hard it must've been for you to trust me, so I want to say thank you. Thank you so much for helping me. It meant the world to me."

    Kuroi scratched the back of his head. He blushed and nervously said, "Well, really, it was nothing, you know? The firewalls were child's play. All I did was dig around a little bi-"

    "Found you!" shouted a voice from the door.

    Kuroi and Aurora turned to see Frost and Luna standing in the doorway. Frost shouted again, "Aurora, get away from him!"

    Instead, Aurora stepped in front of Kuroi. "No wait, don't hurt him! He helped with finding-"

    Aurora stopped talking as she felt a downdraft behind her. She saw Frost's and Luna's jaws drop. Aurora turned and saw that Kuroi (as well as his chair and equipment) had disappeared. In his place, a square hatch had opened up on the ground, leading to the lower floors below. The hatch quickly closed, leaving the three girls alone in their shock.

    Frost recovered first. "He's going down. After him!"

    Aurora S.C.A.R.: 0.00%

    A.N.: The Umbreon introduced here known as Kuroi isn't mine. He was an OC submitted to me by ShadeTheGhostVee. Please be sure to thank him and give him all the credit for his OC, and thanks for reading!

    Djsoresupon3: Sorry man. Was that because of the update or because you were surprised that I was still alive after going so long without a new chapter? lol. Anyway, hope you liked the chapter.

    Whitewolf03: Yes, his power grows, doesn't it? And does that moveset look familiar? ;)

    blaster824: Thanks for reading everything, blaster! I hope you enjoyed the Backtrack stories as I won't be doing any more for a while, ehehe.

    Grammer has no E: I put up a fun new system on my profile so that anyone can check if I'm still writing or if I'm dead, so you should be able to tell with that. Thanks for your support!
  10. MoonFoxJ

    MoonFoxJ Swimmer

    Apr 8, 2015
    Yes, yes, yes, we're all very pissed at MoonFoxJ for having not updated in such a long time. To put it simply, it was Finals Week for me. So to any of you who were "dying for the next chapter" or something like that, thanks for holding out as long as you did. And to those who had more patience than the rest, thanks for understanding (at least, hopefully you did). By the way, Brightmind told me that I missed saying just exactly when the first video was posted, in chapter 9. I went back and fixed it, as well as edited the part when Aurora compares Kuroi's eyes to Kyuso's, since I felt that I could've wrote that better. Last note: I finally figured out how I want the whole story to play out, so it looks like from now on, I can't use the excuse "even I don't know how the story will end", anymore. Hopefully, I'll be able to make you all cry like little babies at least once by the end of it, so for now, let's take it one chapter at a time.

    Disclaimer: I do not own Pokémon but I do own Astray and it's characters.


    Ch. 10

    April 4–Mid Afternoon

    Downtown Highlight City–Abandoned Building

    Being an Espeon, speed was natural, so it should've been no contest for Aurora to catch up to Frost and Luna, a Glaceon and Umbreon. However, during the past three months, Aurora had gradually neglected taking care of her health and diet, so her stamina had greatly diminished since then. Now, she struggled just to keep up.

    "Frost. Luna. Wait a sec," Aurora panted as she climbed down the stairs after her two teammates. "You don't understand."

    The two girls stopped to look back at her. Frost's eyes carried the focus that came only from the experience of many hunts. "What is it?"

    Aurora tried to get air back in her lungs. "That Umbreon–isn't Kyuso," she said in-between breaths.

    Luna sounded bored at the news. "Uh, yeah, we pretty much guessed that part already, Aurora."

    They started to descend the stairs again.

    Aurora called out, "Wait!" Her teammates turned back, and she continued. "His name is Kuroi. He showed me videos where Kyuso was spotted in them. He helped me. We have to tell Sage Slowking about this," she said, as if that solved everything.

    Luna gave her a look. "That's great and all, but you do realize that we're still on a mission, right? He's still our target."

    Aurora faltered. "But, this is why we began an Exploration Team in the first place. To find..."

    Frost began taking steps downward. "Aurora, I understand how you feel, but we accepted the job of catching this "Kuroi", and we can't turn it down, especially not right now when we're in the middle finishing it. Besides, you were there when the Delcatty briefed us. He could've faked those videos for all we know."

    Aurora felt a pang of anger in her gut. "They weren't faked."

    Frost just shook her head. "I'm sorry, Aurora, but it's been three months. The possibility of Kyuso still being alive after all this time is just... it's almost impossible. I'm sorry." Then she sped down the stairs.

    Pain stabbed at Aurora's heart. Never before. Never before in her life had Frost gone against her. Between them, the two girls had shared something close to sisterhood, and always had each other's backs. But now...

    What... did she just say? Aurora thought, still in disbelief.

    Aurora looked to Luna for support. The three girls had grown so much closer since three months ago. Aurora and Frost had forgiven her, accepted her despite her faults. If anyone believed in second chances, it was Luna. Surely she would understand.

    Luna wore an apologetic look. "This mission, if anything, it's definite. If we do this, we're guaranteed to be helping someone in need. Kyuso on the other hand... At this point, he's a possibility, and a slim one at that." Luna stopped just before she completely disappeared from view. Then she added, "We can't keep chasing ghosts forever, Aurora," and resumed climbing down into the darkness.

    Aurora knees wobbled as she watched her friends go on without her. She didn't try to stop them.

    They both think that I'm just a delusional girl who's hopelessly head-over-heels in love, with a ghost. After all this time, that's what Kyuso's become, what he's been reduced to, a f***ing ghost.

    The pain worsened in Aurora's chest, and she clutched at her heart. Her eyes stung, she wanted to cry, but no matter how hard she tried, she just couldn't do it. She'd shed too many tears in the past few months, spent too many sleepless nights. Now, no tears fell from Aurora's eyes.

    I'm in love with a ghost...

    For a moment, she laughed bitterly at her own stupidity; how she had wasted so much time and energy. And for what? She only accomplished in pushing her friends away from her. Then, Aurora's strength abandoned her. With a choked sob, she crumpled to the ground, pressed her paws shut over her face, and with more intensity and despair than she'd ever felt before, she shrieked, KYUSO!


    The tune of For He's a Jolly Good Fellow echoed throughout the building as Kuroi whistled in his free-fall. Whenever it looked like he was about to hit the ground, another hatch opened up exactly on time to the floor below. Kuroi had installed this emergency escape system in the building a while back, taking care to regularly update the programming to accommodate for changes in his body mass, climate, wind resistance, and other minor factors that could (and would) mean the difference between a successful getaway, and an sickening splat.

    Thank you, Physics, Kuroi thought. It was just one of the other skills he had picked up while living amongst humans. As planned, he kept his body in a spread-eagle position, making sure to keep his customized computer resting firmly on his back.

    His computer. Sure there were other people who had made their own custom computers; Kuroi wasn't the first. But this one was his.

    The computer itself was made small for transport in case of situations like this, and had heavy-duty straps–like that of a backpack's–drilled in on one side so that he could carry it easily on his back. On the other side, his (very flat) screen was attached snugly (glass-side down) with built in clips, and the keyboard could be conveniently pressed flat from its blocky, staircase shape, to be attached on the backside of the screen, where another set of clips would hold it down. As for his already-small mouse, it could also be placed on the backside of the screen, where a slide could be moved into a slot in the mouse, locking it in place.

    He had grown so accustomed to his equipment–constantly using it, fixing it, improving it–that it felt like it had become a part of him. It was his trademark, his pride and joy, his most precious creation, and it would be a cold day in hell before he would ever give it up. As for the all the other stuff he left behind, he could always rebuy them. He was good at what he did, so money wasn't a problem. Sure it was illegal, and sure he would hate it if someone stole something of his, but he was a growing boy in need of food, shelter, and caffeine, sooo... too bad.

    The hatch to the ground floor opened up and led him into the basement where a wide bungee net gently caught, and bounced him to a rest. He finished whistling the song just as he landed belly first, so as to avoid damaging his gear. Securing the straps on his computer, Kuroi crawled out of the net and dropped to the cold stone floor below.

    He looked up one last time before the basement hatch sealed, thrusting him into darkness. He groaned, "Agghh, and I was just getting comfortable too." He sighed, "I guess it's time to go house-hunting again."

    Being an Umbreon, Kuroi's eyes dilated to adjust for the natural night-vision sight they were gifted with, and he walked confidently in the dark. He saw everything in clear detail, he turned at corners, he avoided tripping over random tools that the humans had left behind, and he ducked under overhead pipes. The only thing that fazed him was the cold, but his fur kept him warm somewhat and he would be in the sun again shortly. Ah, yes. He remembered now. The air vent that lead to the outside was on his first right, twelve feet down.


    Kuroi whirled around, immediately scanning the basement for the source of the sound. For a while, he just stood there, listening for anything that was out of the ordinary in this old, forgotten building. There was still a few pieces of old machinery abandoned down here (some he could make out, were boiler tanks), so he couldn't see everything. Then, he thought he heard the distant thud of footsteps from upstairs–those girls would probably be down here soon. Deciding that he had wasted enough time, Kuroi turned back to open the air vent hatch.


    Kuroi spun. "Who's there?"

    Like a phantom, or a ninja, or a phantom-ninja, the noise once again died away eerily, like the whispering of trees in an autumn breeze. Kuroi searched out the darkness once more. There was nothing.


    Finally, Kuroi recognized exactly what that sound was. He knew it, because he made the same sound every time he went out and bought that item. It was the sound of...

    "Tacos," Kuroi breathed.


    Kuroi backed up to the air vent. And an empty juice box too.

    All was silent as he walked step by ever-so-slowly step, back to the hatch that would lead him to freedom. He tried to listen for any other sounds, but it was no use. He would hear the intruder's taco-munching every now and then, but it seemed as if the sounds were coming from everywhere at once. No matter how hard he tried, Kuroi couldn't pinpoint the sound.

    Then, he heard it.


    Kuroi turned to the location of the sound–38° to his left, at about ground level–and fired a Shadow Ball. The shadowy ball splashed on-target, except that it wasn't an intruder. Instead, scraps of a Grepa Berry juice box puffed out like confetti after his Shadow Ball blew up the empty beverage container. There! Kuroi heard it! It was faint, but he just barely heard the light tip-tap of feet as they flew across the ground. Kuroi turned to his right, to face this unknown foe.

    "Enough with this crap," Kuroi spoke to the darkness. "Whoever you are, come out. I don't have all day."

    For a few seconds, Kuroi remained unanswered. Then he saw a Mightyena stroll out from behind a wall (holding half a taco). That surprised Kuroi; he could've sworn the guy was hiding behind the boiler two yards to the right of the wall. However slight, the Mightyena managed to elude him. That didn't happen to Kuroi. He eyed the Mightyena carefully as he circled him. The Mightyena let him.

    "Hey," the Mightyena greeted merrily.

    Kuroi didn't return the enthusiasm, although he did raise an eye. "Hello."

    "How're ya doing today?"

    "I'm kind of in a rush, if you know what I mean."

    The Mightyena didn't turn as Kuroi went behind him. "You seem tense. Is something the matter?"

    "Well considering you managed to avoid my detection until you gave yourself away, yeah, I'm on edge."

    "Huh." The Mightyena took another bite of his taco, chewing as he said, "Sho what? Can't a guy enjoy hish lunch in a cold, creepy bashement if he wantsh to?"

    Kuroi raised his eye again. "... You're a weird one, aren't you?"

    The Mightyena swallowed. "Call me Locater," he introduced with an annoying smile before taking another bite.

    Kuroi halted to the right of Locater and the fur rose on his neck. "A Raider," he said, recognizing the name from the Raider Profile Database (of which even he admitted was a bit of a challenge to hack into).

    "Ahh yesh!" Locater cried, clenching his paw in excitement. "Finally, my name ish spreading itsh fame throughout the landsh!"

    A lump grow in Kuroi's throat. He remembered from a quick read that this "Locater" was only a Rank A Raider. Even so, since he didn't get out much, Kuroi wasn't sure he could handle a Raider anywhere above Rank B.

    On the official Raider website, general information of Raiders was laid out for the public, and Kuroi remembered reading that the ranking system for Raiders went as followed: Rank F had completed zero to nine missions, Rank C had completed ten to twenty-four missions, Rank B had completed at least twenty-five, and (in Locater's case) Rank A had completed at least fifty. After that, there weren't many Pokémon who survived their dangerous solo careers to advance any higher. Only a modest few reached Rank S with one-hundred missions under their belt, fewer achieved Rank SS at two-hundred, and fewer still survived to Rank SSS at three-hundred completed missions. The handful of gifted (not to mention lucky) Pokémon on this planet who managed to successfully complete their five-hundredth mission were both respected and feared by even those within the Raider community itself. Those few carried the title of Rank X.

    Kuroi refocused himself on the threat in front of him before he let his mind wander any farther. It was easy enough to guess that Locater was here for him. The only question was, would he succeed, or could Kuroi somehow miraculously manage to escape? Kuroi began to think for ideas and decided to go with the first one that came to mind: talk.

    "If I remember correctly, you're a Rank A Raider, right?" Kuroi asked, keeping his tone calm.

    Locater smiled proudly. "Yep, I've already completed a total of sixty-four successful missions."

    Kuroi allowed a mocking smile. "So... what? I'm number sixty-five?"

    "Nope, 'm not here fo' you," Locater said behind his last bite of taco.

    "Really?" The news should've relieved Kuroi, but it only made him more on edge. "So then what're you here for?"

    "Inshurance," Locater said before swallowing.

    "Insurance? For what?" Kuroi asked.

    But before Located could answer, a shout arose from up above, shouting, "Locater, is that you down there?!"

    Kuroi instinctively froze in fear. That sounded like that Glaceon from before! She sounded like she was on the seventh floor already. When Locater happily announced that he was indeed down here, blood rushed through Kuroi's body, driving him to take action. He felt like a rat in a trap. He had to get out of here! Kuroi turned and started banging on the metal grate of the ventilation shaft.

    "Is that Umbreon down there with you too?" Frost shouted.

    "Yeah, so?" Locater said back.

    "Hold him there! Don't let him get away!"

    "Why should I? He ain't my assignment!" Locater sounded amused.

    A second passed before Kuroi heard the Glaceon say, "Twenty-five! We'll give you twenty-five percent!"

    "Fifty!" Locater said back. "I practically did everything so far!"

    Kuroi lost in when he heard the Glaceon answer. "Deal!"

    Desperation seized Kuroi, and he fired a Shadow Ball at the vent, which punched straight through the grill, leaving a rather crude but large-enough hole for him to jump through. He was about to jump through when he felt the air behind him grow hot, and his instincts forced him to jump to the side instead (which he barely managed to achieve in time while carrying all his gear). He turned and saw Locater stood where he stood just a second ago, whose teeth were clenched with a Fire Fang. The Mightyena still gave him that annoying smile.

    "Sorry guy, but now that I'm getting paid to do this, you're pretty much screwed," Locater said, spewing embers as he talked.

    "Damn it," Kuroi muttered under his breath. He had to get pass this Raider, before those other three got here as well.

    Locater doused the flames in his maw. "Now, how 'bout we do this the easy way, and you just give up now?" he offered.

    "How about you do me a favor, and go to hell?" Kuroi retorted.

    Locater laughed, "Geez, touchy. What's the matter? You're not a sore loser, are you?"

    Kuroi mentally cursed. He knew exactly what Locater was doing; talking, insulting, baiting him to get angry to stay longer and waste more time. Already, Kuroi approximated that he'd spent about thirty seconds in this useless conversation, enough for the average Glaceon to descend a minimum of four floors of stairs, but he guessed that that Glaceon was probably a Raider too, and probably dropped more than that.

    Kuroi huffed. "Sorry about this, you look like a nice guy, but I need to get away. So..."

    Locater grinned. "Bring it."

    Kuroi observed the Mightyena as he fired a Dark Pulse. Locater weaved under the attack, but Kuroi watched how the Mightyena moved, saw how much the muscles in his legs flexed, and how his body hunched and bended as he passed below the shadowy beam above him.

    Kuroi focused so intensely that he almost missed Locater's second Fire Fang, which came at him from the side. The Raider was fast, Kuroi gave him that. With no time to dodge, Kuroi brought up Protect, which perfectly blocked Locater's Fire Fang, sending him back from the recoil. Kuroi took the opportunity to fire a Shadow Ball at Locater, but Locater swiftly spun in midair, dodging the attack.

    Locater landed a few feet away from Kuroi. "You're gonna have to do better than that," he said, still smiling.

    Kuroi didn't reply. He showed no emotion as his thoughts processed all the new information in exactly one-point-five seconds. Data retrieved. Findings show that target is an extremely experienced fighter in the speed-type category, albeit with favoritism to move towards his right side in combat. As no retaliation was given in the form of a ranged-attack, the target's moveset may be limited to close-quarters combat. However, caution is advised as the target is aware of this system's Shadow Ball, Dark Pulse, and Protect, while the target himself has only revealed his Fire Fang. Threat level: Moderate-Difficult. Time limit approximated from rising volume of reinforcements: thirty seconds.

    Kuroi stretched out his neck, releasing small popping sounds as he did so, set his equipment aside on the ground, and gave Locater one last, deadly stare. "Let's do this."

    Locater raised an eye before he began approaching again, this time in a zigzag fashion. Kuroi's eyes hurried to lock onto him. When they were close enough, Locater feinted a lunge from the left, then leapt aside to come with a Fire Fang from his right.

    Kuroi knew that it was coming, and time seemed to slow as his brain sped one step ahead to of the situation. Incoming Fire Fang at ten o'clock, from an upward angle of about thirty degrees. Execute backwards reversal.

    Locater's eyes widened as he saw the Umbreon drop even lower than he did. His Fire Fang bit nothing but air as the Umbreon ducked, rolled onto his back, and pushed Locater over him, letting the momentum carry Locater through the air. Out of reflex, Locater dug his claws into the Umbreon, and went with the momemtun, sending both of them into a roll. When Locater rolled on top, he used the energy from their combined rolling, and brought his paw crashing down in a Foul Play. As usual, the deadly purplish glow of a dark-type move covered Locater's paw, but as his opponent had no threatening strength, the glow was dim.

    Kuroi took note of the impending attack, as well as his surrounding, at a speed that rivaled a computer's. Incoming Foul Play at twelve o'clock, from a downward angle of about forty degrees. Deploy elbow glance. Proceed with another one-half revolution.

    Kuroi tucked in his left foreleg over his face, which allowed Locater's Foul Play to glance off his elbow, dealing much less damage than it originally would've dealt. Since Locater missed, Kuroi decided to take advantage of his opponent's motion, and went with the momentum of Locater's attack to roll them one more time. And now, Kuroi was on top. Lower defenses: install body shots. Follow with headshot.

    The Umbreon moved so fast and so fluidly, it left Locater in shock, and he instinctively raised his forelegs in defense. When he felt the little guy start raining down rapid-fire punches at his gut, Locater tried swiping down to deflect some of the blows, but as soon as his arms dropped, his cheeks burned as a sucker punch slugged him right across the face, which felt more painful than the regular punches the Umbreon gave before.

    Feint Attack! Aww crap, I hate that move! Locater thought.

    Kuroi estimated that he had about fourteen seconds left before the Glaceon managed to get down to the basement. Plenty of time, but he had to take care of this Mightyena first. Feint Attack, successful. Resume combo.

    I'm losing ground here! Locater thought in a panic.

    He went right back to protecting his face, but found it hard to draw air into his lungs as the Umbreon continued to punch his gut, as well as his sides occasionally. Every time Locater adjusted his forelegs to protect another area of his body, the Umbreon would land a hit in the spot he had just abandoned. The Umbreon moved so fast it was crazy; it was like the Umbreon knew what he would do even before he did himself! In desperation, Locater kept up his left foreleg as a spare defense, while he drew back his right in a...

    Kuroi's eyes widened as he quickly scanned Locater's right paw. Giga Impact. Defeat is imminent. Relocate to a safer distance.

    Kuroi tried to jump off Locater and bring up his paws in time, but no matter how well and how far he could read the Mightyena's next moves, the Raider was still faster than Kuroi was. As the devastating attack drew closer, Kuroi only felt a pinch of fear, but unfortunately that was enough to bring his whole system crashing down. Crap!

    Locater felt a rush of satisfaction when he managed to nail the Umbreon with his Giga Impact, even if the Umbreon managed to block it. Still, the sound of the Umbreon crashing into a wall, hard enough to crack it, was music to his ears. Suddenly, Locater's right paw dropped dead in exhaustion.

    "Wow," Locater said while propping himself up from the ground with only his left paw. He was still surprised at how badly he almost had his ass handed to him. "That was new."

    Kuroi found it difficult to stand but knew that he had to get up, and fast. The Glaceon, Umbreon, and Espeon; he could hear their footsteps, they sounded so close. He guessed that he had maybe five seconds before they busted through the basement door.

    He pounded his paw into the grounded in determination, and used that to push himself up. Kuroi saw the exit hatch, which still had that crude hole blasted through it from his earlier Shadow Ball, and started to limp towards it with all due haste. He just had to climb through it, exit the building, and get onto the street. From there, he could blend into the crowd, and increase his odds at getting away.


    Kuroi looked down to see Locater holding his left hind leg, holding him in place.

    "Let go," Kuroi growled.

    Locater said weakly, "No."

    The three girls sounded close, they would be here any second now.

    "Let go!" Kuroi almost shouted.

    "No," Locater said, this time with more strength.

    Kuroi heard the basement door burst open. He heard the girls calling out for the Mightyena below him.

    Kuroi tried one last effort to throw off Locater by kicking him. "What's up with you?!" he growled in frustration.

    Then, Locater looked straight at Kuroi with fire in his eyes, and declared, "I want my MONEEEY!"

    Dumbfounded, Kuroi could do nothing but blink. "Just... let go of me you creep!" he said, feeling a little weirded out.

    Then, it was all over. Kuroi heard the Glaceon growl behind him, and her voice alone was enough to make him feel like a prey that was caught in the sights of a deadly huntress. "Found you."

    Aurora S.C.A.R.: 0.00%

    A.N.: Major thanks in this chapter to both Djsoresupon3 for his OC Locater, and ShadeTheGhostVee for his OC Kuroi. I was reading over my OC submissions a (loooong) while back, and I knew right then with an evil grin: "I am definitely going to make these two duel it out later." Thanks you guys, I think actually had a little too much fun writing this chapter. ^_^U

    Djsoresupon3: Thanks, your praise is always appreciated here, and hopefully this chapter didn't make you fall out of bed again.

    ShadeTheGhostVee: Before? Maybe. Now? Definitely. ;)

    blaster824: Yeah, I actually did the research and the answer is yes, Umbreon can not learn those moves. As for the question "why Giratina, why?", the answer is as always: read to find out (frustrating, I know, but fun too I hope). And don't worry about the no reviews; I'm just glad if people enjoy them. I'll just have to earn the reviews myself by getting better and better. :)

    The Jagdpanther: Thanks, I think a lot of people are happy about that too.

    Whitewolf03: You got it. And by the way, it's Giratina's moveset from the original Pokémon: Giratina and the Sky Warrior movie. Yes, I even do my research for this sort of stuff too.

    BrightMind: High quality? You make it sound like this story is a dish from a five-star restaurant or something. Ahaha, thanks for the praise, I'll definitely try my best to become deserving of it. And yeah, I can't believe you actually did that. When I started getting notices in my Gmail that there were new reviews on Homeward, I was like "Wow, people still review that?", and then I learn that it's all one person and I was like, "Holy crap!" I'm so glad you enjoyed it, but sorry, I don't handle compliments well, ehehe. o~O For Kuroi, he is ShadeTheGhostVee's OC, but we did work on Kuroi together. As to why he's so similar to Kyuso, ShadeTheGhostVee has his reasons, and I have mine (that's all I'm going to say). Main character or one-shot? Kuroi isn't the main-main character of this story obviously, but for now, he'll definitely be taking the spotlight for a while. As for just how far he'll keep it, here's an answer all the readers love (and I'm saying this sarcastically): read to find out. Thank you for pointing that out by the way! I went back and fixed it ASAP.

    Grammer has no E: That's funny, you're not the only one who thinks and said that! Yeah, Kuroi will definitely be staying in the story for a while longer, so for now, just enjoy his awesomeness. As for my profile information, the [Chapter] references to which chapter I'm currently working on. Since I'll be working on chapter 11 after this, the [Chapter] will read as 11 as well.
  11. MoonFoxJ

    MoonFoxJ Swimmer

    Apr 8, 2015
    Okay, I know I did wrong by you guys for not updating in a long time... alright fine, a really long time. But I have good reason for why I was so late with the next chapter. You all deserve an explanation, but I can't tell you guys all the details, since the second party hasn't authorized me to release said information. What I will say is that after careful consideration, I have rationally concluded that during the past month, I have been emotionally compromised, which has led to the absolute best and absolute worst times of my life. As I said before in my profile, I was "quiet literally in the hardest fight of my life". So thank you all for being so patient, and I hope you enjoy Chapter 11 of Astray.


    Ch. 11

    April 4–Mid Afternoon

    Downtown Highlight City

    "Hey, hands off! That's mine!" the Umbreon shouted.

    Luna had to admit, the little guy's feistiness reminded her so much of Kyuso, it was nostalgic. At first, she couldn't believe how similar the two looked the same and sounded the same. Their likeness reminded her of that one myth about how there's one person in the world who looks exactly like you. Back when everything went to hell, she didn't know why her life alone was spared when so many, just as guilty as she, were killed. As the days went by, the guilt of avoiding her punishment, the consequence of her sins, weighed heavily upon her shoulders, making it impossible to even look up to see where she was walking. The days grew grimmer for her as time went on, but when Aurora finally remembered everything and told her and Frost about her time meeting Giratina (who, Luna was terrified to learn, was actually real), Luna guessed for herself who was responsible for sparing her from death row. Now the only question that bugged her was... why?

    That was pretty much her biggest reason why she made an Exploration Team with Aurora. She wanted to find Kyuso and ask him herself why he chose to save her, a monster that didn't deserve to be saved...

    Kuroi yelped again, "Hey, hey, hey! Don't hold it like that! You're going to break it!"

    "Shut up," Luna replied, trying to fit her forelegs through the straps of his computer. "I know how to put on a damn... backpack... computer... whatever the hell this thing is."

    Luna huffed. This is Kuroi, not Kyuso, she reminded herself.

    "Hold still or I'll freeze you till you go sub-zero," Frost hissed with deadly eyes.

    Kuro's eyed her warily. "You can do that?"

    "Want to find out?"

    Kuroi calmed immediately.

    Luna had to admit that even she felt a shiver of fear whenever she heard Frost speak like that. She knelt down to inspect Locater's wounds. He looked like he took quite a beating.

    "Are you alright?" Luna asked.

    The Mightyena raised an eye at her. "Why do you wanna know?"

    Luna blinked. "I–I just thought that–"

    "Yeah, well, I'm fine, so lay off, alright?" Locater grunted as he stood up on his own.

    A bit saddened, Luna only nodded.

    "Where's Aurora?" Frost suddenly voiced.

    Luna looked around, only to find that the four of them were the only ones down here. "She must've stayed back," she said. "I'll go get her. Can you two handle him?"

    Frost scoffed. "Oh, don't worry. I don't think our little friend here..." she said as she stepped aside to reveal her handiwork "is going anywhere, anytime soon."

    Luna looked down to see that that Kuroi's legs were imprisoned. Manacles made of pure ice, lined with spikes to prevent tampering, encircled each of Kuroi's ankles. The two on his left side were connected by a chain (also made of ice) while the two on his right side were connected similarly. This way, it seemed as if Kuroi couldn't spread his legs any more than a foot and a half, making it impossible to for him to run. Or more specifically, run away. And while ice normally wasn't very dense, Luna doubted Frost's craftsmanship would break unless she wanted them to.

    "Nice," Luna commented. "I'll go get Aurora now so that we can go."

    Kuroi started to freak when he saw the Umbreon girl run off with his equipment. "If there's so much as a scratch on my stuff when you get back, I swear to Arceus you'll regret it!"



    Being an Umbreon, Luna easily saw Aurora sitting alone in the dark stairwell while leaning her head limply against a wall. But in this case, Luna wished for once that she was as blind as a Zubat.

    "... Luna," Aurora breathed. There were no tear streaks on Aurora's face, and Luna didn't hear any crying before when she and Frost descended the stairwell, but Luna could barely catch the shakiness in Aurora's voice.

    "We got him," Luna told her. She sat by her friend to provide comfort, but Aurora just shied away from her as if she were an enemy, and pressed herself deeper into the wall. Luna didn't know how to respond to that. "A-Aurora?"

    Aurora stayed quiet for a second, and then asked meekly, "... Luna... When do things die?"

    Luna didn't know how to respond to that either.

    "Do they die when they are no longer alive, or do they die when people stop believing in them?" Aurora continued.

    Deciding that staying silent wouldn't help fix anything, Luna braved to speak, "I think... I think it's both. You're not dead if you're alive, but you can be regarded as dead if people cease to think that. It can also go the other way too; even if you're really dead, if people think you're alive, then the idea of you will still live on, even when you're gone. So really, it all depends."

    When Aurora didn't answer for a while, Luna was about to suggest for them to leave, but Aurora finally said, "I think Kyuso might be dead."

    Luna was stunned into silence. She started, "What do you m–"

    Aurora's body as well as her gaze seemed to melt even deeper into the dark wall. "The last time I saw him was when he surrendered to the Lord of the Distortion World himself. And maybe Frost was right. Maybe Kuroi did fake those videos, I wouldn't know. Also, nobody believes in him except me, and even I'm beginning to my doubts, so really it's pointless for me to keep looking any further." Just when Luna thought it couldn't get any worse, Aurora proved her wrong with one word, "Right?"

    What Aurora said made both complete sense and no sense at all. The logic was there, but it was so cold, so devoid of hope, that Luna wanted to reject it with all her heart. If what Aurora said was true, which it most likely was, then what had they been doing for the past three months? Had they just wasted their time and energy for nothing? A rumor? A–

    Ghost... Luna remembered.

    "We can't keep chasing ghosts forever, Aurora."

    Luna gritted her teeth in anger. Sure it was said in the heat of the moment, but that didn't stop her from hating herself for having said something so stupid to the one girl who looked to her for so much friendship and trust and support. Aurora forgave Luna and trusted her, despite everything she'd done. And how had Luna treated her back? By crushing her hopes in the boy she loved.

    "I'm sorry," Luna said. "I shouldn't have said that. I had no right to say it, especially after everything we went through together."

    Aurora remained silent.

    "... I'm so sorry, Aurora."

    "... We should start heading down," Aurora said quietly. "Frost must be wondering by now what's taking so long for you to bring me back, right?"

    As Aurora rose to step past her, Luna stayed rooted to the spot. And just like before, her guilt refused her the right to raise her eyes.

    When Luna and Aurora exited the building, they faced a heated questioning from Frost on why they had taken so long to come down. To preserve Aurora's privacy, Luna gave a short explanation how Aurora had trouble "seeing and walking in the dark". With their Umbreon target in tow, Team Pluto's next objective was to search for a suitable place to sleep for the night, but Locater (quickly) offered them to use his room in the Raiders Office for free.

    "No," Frost rejected.

    "Aww come on, Crystal" Locater whined with a grin. "It'll save you the trouble of paying for a room in a dusty motel, and besides..." he said while sliding over to Aurora, "we can also get to know each other better."

    Aurora's kept staring at nothing.

    Annoyed, Frost said, "We said–"

    "Yes," Luna answered, ignoring Frost's glare. "Thank you, Locater."

    Frost was about to object, but Locater cut her off as well. "Alright gang, let's move out!"

    "Gang?" Kuroi commented.

    "Shut up," Locater said, still wearing his grin.

    Beaten, Frost followed the rest of the group as they began their walk back to Highlight City's Raiders Office. As their scheduled meeting time with the Delcatty was in the afternoon, Team Pluto couldn't do anything for the rest of the day, so they'd decided that they'd rest for now, and meet the Delcatty tomorrow.

    As the group made their way back to the Raiders Office, they had to pass the slums of Highlight City. On their way, they saw dirty streets, littered sidewalks, peeling buildings, and barred windows. The people and Pokémon didn't look too much better off, either. Out of nowhere, a small human boy ran up to the group, and stared strangely at...

    "Kuroi?" the boy said. He looked to be about eight.

    Kuroi looked up to see who it was. Aurora, Frost, Luna, and Locater looked to Kuroi. Then, as if he knew the small human, Kuroi tried to wave his paw, but failed because of his restraints. So instead, he gave the human a smile. Not anything too exciting, just a nice smile, as if there was nothing wrong.

    "What's going on?" the boy asked curiously.

    Seemingly embarrassed, Kuroi smiled. "Ehehehe, sorry Ethan, but it looks like..." he looked at Aurora and Locater to his left, and then Frost and Luna to his right. "... It looks like I'll be gone for little a while," he told the boy with a shake of his head.

    Ethan looked confused. "Are you leaving us, Kuroi?"

    At the boy's words, the young Pokémon and other nearby children on the street, who he had been playing with just a moment ago, turned their heads. Then, as one, they gathered around the group, making progress impossible for the present moment. The crowd of little girls, boys, and Pokémon, began to cry out.

    "Why are you going away, Kuroi?"

    "What are these thingies on your legs, Kuroi?"

    "Are these Pokémon taking you away, Kuroi?"

    "Don't leave us, Kuroi!"

    Surprisingly, what happened next was that Kuuroi grew flustered. He tried to settle down all the children and Pokémon who kept clinging to him like glue., but there were just so many young hands and paws grabbing him, that he had trouble pushing away so many. Kuroi sounded annoyed, "Alright, alright, that's enough. Come on guys. I can't even breathe here..."

    Frost, Aurora, and Luna didn't know how to react. On the other hand, Locater couldn't stop grinning, even when a couple of the children pulled on his ears, or poked at his belly.

    "Are you leaving us, Kuroi?" one of the young ones asked, repeating the question from before.

    While the other four couldn't tell who asked the question, Kuroi seemed to know exactly who it arose from, and he stepped further into the mass to comfortingly nudge a little girl. She was dressed in a faded green sweater.

    Kuroi nodded. "Yeah, sorry Amy."

    A chorus of "Don't go" and "Don't take him away" rose all around Kuroi. Frost didn't know why they had stopped here. Sure they were cute, but they were children. Why was she letting herself, and her team, be hindered by mere children? Locater chuckled and told the young humans and Pokémon that Kuroi wouldn't be gone for too long. Children as they were, they didn't seem to believe his lies.

    Finally, Kuroi shouted in frustration. "Guys!"

    Everyone fell silent.

    "Now listen up everyone. I'm sorry for going away and I don't know if I'll be coming back, so I you're you're going to have to take care of each other while I'm gone," Kuroi said. Then he looked to a young boy, looked at some dumpsters, and then back to boy while shaking his head. "Andy, no more sleeping in the dumpsters, it's not safe. You can get trapped in there."

    The boy sadly nodded.

    Kuroi turned to a Teddiursa girl next, and raised an eye. "Rain, play nice."

    The Teddiursa crossed her arms defiantly, but looked away to hide her tears.

    "Choco," Kuroi mentioned to a Lillipup boy before looking to a human girl, "watch out for Ashe. You know how clumsy she can be."

    The Lillipup sniffed, and the girl wiped her face dry.

    Kuroi sighed and turned back to his captives. "Let's go."

    Locater and Team Pluto followed Kuroi as he walked through the crowd of younglings. They barely walked twenty feet before they were stopped again, this time by a human man coming out of a convenience store. He wore a blue vest, looked to be about in his mid-forties, and his hair showed the slightest hint of graying.

    "Kuroi, what's this?" the man asked.

    Kuroi huffed. "What does it look like, huh?"

    The man crossed his arms and shook his head. "I knew it. I knew you'd get caught one day, you little trouble maker. I told you that y–"

    Frost pushed Kuroi. "We don't have time for this. Keep moving."

    Kuroi gave her a look. "Yeah, yeah, I know, one sec..." He gave a bored glance towards the man. "Well, you were right. I got caught. You win. Ya happy now?" Kuroi resumed walking. "See you never, Manny. Stay ugly."

    "Don't take that attitude with me, you little brat! And don't you come back, not until you've been properly punished and learned your lesson. You hear me?" the man called back to them. They barely caught his voice crack at the last second.

    This time, they hadn't gone more ten feet before someone called down to them from a second-story window. "Kuroi? What's going on, dear? You're not in trouble again, are you?" an elderly Mandibuzz asked.

    The group didn't stop walking. "No Mrs. Ackerman, I'm just playing Cops and Robbers with my new friends. Go back to your nap." Kuroi nonchalantly yelled back.

    "Will you be joining us for dinner again?" the Mandibuzz asked as well.

    "Yes Mrs. Ackerman, I'll be there in time for dinner again, same time."

    "Keep your nose clean, dear."

    "I will, Mrs. Ackerman."

    When they walked a few more meters, Locater chuckled, "You have dinner with an old lady?"

    "No, but it makes her happy to hear that. She forgets anything she said or anything someone tells her, whenever she takes a nap anyway," Kuroi said with a shrug.

    By the end of the day, it took the group two hours to reach the Raiders Office. Even with Kuroi's restraints, it should've taken them only a little over an hour, but besides the obvious, they were also confronted by the police, of whom Locater explained the situation to with his Translator and Raider ID card. Also, traffic was hell.

    "What the hell?" Locater said as he read the "Closed" sign on the door. Then, he stepped inside and said to no one in particular, "Hey, where's Mary?"

    "Who?" Luna asked.

    "Mary, the old Mienshao who works at that desk right there," Locater said while pointing to a familiar paper-filled desk. "It's not closing time yet, and she couldn't be on her lunch break right now."

    Frost spoke up, "Oh, I think she must've closed up early after I threatened her."

    Locater wheeled around. "What? Are you serious?!"

    Frost stared. "What? She threatened me first."

    Locater laughed, "Ahahaha, no, it's just, Mary doesn't get scared. Like, at all. I heard one time, she faced a Rhyhorn's Horn Drill without even blinking, and she still made his owner take a Raider request form, fill it out, and put it at the bottom of the stack." Locater laughed again before walking up the stairs, "Oh man, whoever you are, you are something else."

    Just like before, they climbed to the last door and walked down to the last door on the left, except this time, they had their Outlaw with them. Locater opened the door and welcomed them inside, telling them to make themselves comfortable as he began shoving miscellaneous items under his bed. While Locater went for his first aid box to clean his wounds, Luna set Kuroi's equipment down in a corner of the room, and Frost tried to think where everyone would sleep in such small quarters. Eventually, they decided that Kuroi would take the rug in the center of the room (where they could best keep eyes on him), Aurora would take one side of the couch, Luna would take the other, and Frost would take a spot by the door with a pillow.

    "... So," Luna said, breaking the silence. "What was that back there?"

    Frost and Aurora glanced. When no one else answered, Kuroi raised his head. "Are you talking to me?"

    "Yeah, you talked to those humans and Pokémon as if you knew them. In a neighborhood like that, what're they to you?"

    "Why do you want to know?"

    Luna shrugged. "Just curious."

    "... The people who live there, I help them out occasionally," Kuroi answered.

    Frost asked, "You? Them? How? I doubt much of them are in need of your "technical expertise"."

    Kuroi said, "No, but some of them don't have money, some are unable to get it, and some are unlucky enough to both not have money and unable to get any."

    Luna's ear twitched. "The children on the street."

    Kuroi nodded.

    Frost said, "Basically, you steal money, only to give it to other people. So I guess that makes identity theft legal nowadays, huh? Does crime make you feel good when you use it as an excuse to play hero?"

    Kuroi retorted, "When kids are starving on the street and nobody cares enough to even spare a loaf of bread, I don't see what the big deal is if I take a hundred or two from a rich guy to feed them."

    "It's still a crime."

    "You're right; I should just let Mr. Fat-and-Rich spend it on a spoon of caviar, instead of taking it to buy enough food to feed twenty kids for a whole day. Because that makes sense, right?"

    "What about the others?" Luna hurriedly interrupted.

    Kuroi met Frost's stare for a second longer before looking to Luna. "I helped out a few others too," Kuroi said, dropping his shoulders.

    "How?" Frost asked, dropping hers as well.

    "Not many of them have computers, but as long as the internal schematics are similar enough, I can kind of fix their TVs, radios, stuff like that, at least a little bit." Kuroi shrugged. "Growing up alone, you either learn fast, or you don't learn at all."

    Frost scoffed. "That's one thing I agree on."

    "Why do you even help them?" Luna asked. "You don't seem like the type who enjoys company, so why?"

    Several seconds passed. "... I don't know," Kuroi said.

    "It's because you're a real boy!" Locater joked from the bathroom, struggling to open a packet of antiseptic wipes.

    Everyone except Aurora turned to him with expressions.

    "... Get it?" Locater said. "... What?... You don't get it?... Real boy?... Pinocchio?"

    "Who's Pinocchio?" Kuroi, Frost, and Luna asked simultaneously.

    The unopened packet in Locater's paws ripped in half. "... Seriously?!" he cried. "You guys don't know?"


    "Peter Pan?"

    "What?" Luna said.


    "Who?" Frost said.

    "One Hundred and One Growlithe?"

    "Is that the one where all the Pokémon escape and kill the humans?" Kuroi asked.

    "That's White Arceus!"

    Locater pinched the bridge of his nose, and huffed in frustration. He couldn't believe he was housing a bunch of strangers whose childhoods hadn't even experienced the simple pleasures of fairy tale movies. What rocks had they grown up under?

    "So none of you have ever heard the movies I've been talking about, before?" Locater asked incredulously.

    Luna, Frost, and Kuroi, answered respectively.

    "Maybe the younger Pokémon that I became families with watched them. But I never joined them because I didn't want to pretend to be nice to them; especially since I was supposed to betray all of them in the end..."

    "Before I became a Raider, I think I caught a glimpse of a movie where a prince fought to save a princess. It was a long time ago though, so I'm not even sure I remember it correctly."

    "I think I found a DVD on the street a long time ago, about one of the movies you're talking about. But I sold it."

    Locater scoffed in disbelief.

    After a moment of silence, Aurora softly murmured, "I've seen them."

    Locater's head shot up. "YES! Finally! Someone who understa–"

    "But I don't care..." she said, just as quietly.

    Locater's mouth was frozen in a smile, but no sound came out. It was then decided by the Mightyena alone that they'd watch at least one of the movies before going to bed. Since they had nothing else to do, and it wasn't too late, everyone else eventually agreed. There wasn't any popcorn, but Locater put some leftover pasta in the microwave for dinner (while cursing on how hard it was to press buttons made for humans). Frost and Luna had some of the rations they'd packed; Aurora skipped dinner as she usually did nowadays, and so Aurora's portion went to Kuroi. Less than two hours later, Locater was found passed out on his bed, so Frost turned off the TV.

    "So..." Luna began, "I thought it was okay."

    Frost took a moment to think before criticizing, "... How does one Seaking and Lumineon cross an entire ocean while surviving a bloodthirsty Sharpedo, an insane Lantern, a forest of Tentacool, being swallowed alive by a Wailord, an army of Wingull, and still rescue the Seaking's Goldeen son? That's already like a retrieval-type mission for a Rank SS Raider!"

    "Don't forget the crazy niece," Kuroi chuckled. "AHH! Fishy in my hair! AHHHH!" he shrieked with the voice of a young, shrilly girl.

    Against her will, a small smile took shape on Frost's face (which she quickly hid). "Alright, that's enough for tonight. You two should get some sleep, I'll take first watch," Frost offered.

    Luna nodded. "Wake me up after midnight when it's my turn."

    "And I'll take over last when it's nearing dawn," Aurora murmured.

    Kuroi asked while waving the chains on his legs, "Heheh, what? You think I'm going anywhere with these on?"

    "Failure's not in our department, so we'd rather not take any chances," Frost said.

    Kuroi shrugged and made himself comfortable on the carpet. Team Pluto shared one last questioning look before Aurora and Luna fell asleep on the couch.

    Aurora S.C.A.R.: 0.00%

    A.N.: Wow. The reviews really piled up while I was MIA. Maybe I should disappear more often, hahah. Anyway, jokes aside, thank you all for your support to the story while I was occupied. It's good to be back.

    blaster824: Thank you. You nailed it by the way. But I didn't. Oh well, nothing to do but give it more effort the next time. I hope you had a good winter. I know I did.

    BrightMind: Well remember, this is the first time they told her straightly to give up on him. Considering they're her own team, that's gotta hurt. Oh, nice timing on the "Giratina" question, haha. You just had your question answered, right? :) As for the "deity Pokémon" question, it should be clear in the story (or at least I try to make it clear) that like in real life, everyone's got their own beliefs or lack thereof about the existence of such Pokémon... Ahaha, yeah, everyone seems to love Kuroi for some reason. He and Locater will definitely be sticking around for a while longer in the story... Oh boy, more expectations, yippee. *eye roll* But seriously, thanks. It means a lot how you expect more from me. I still can't believe you willingly "marathon read" everything in a week. I'll try my best so that everyone enjoys the story till the end. :)

    Djsoresupon3: Yeah, he's sort of a "weird but randomly capable" kind of guy, huh? Good to see that I'm keeping you at the edge of your seat, my friend. I hope you enjoyed this chapter.

    Whitewolf03: Yep. Nobody messes with Frost.

    The Jagdpanther: Thanks, I'll try to make chapter 12 longer. Be sure to thank the original owners for the OCs (or at least mentally thank them if you're too lazy to message them ;) ).

    The Protoss Disco-Ball: I'm not familiar with that story, but hopefully it's popular; it just means that my story has grown that much more better, haha. I hope you enjoyed this chapter... You and I have already had our PM chat beforehand, didn't we? Well, I'll say it again: thanks for all the love and support, my friend. It means a lot to me for you to like my story this much.

    The Moonlesz Night: Huh, I guess I'm doing something right then, heheh. Thanks for waiting, but you're going to have to wait longer to find out how this all ends, and I gotta say, it's gonna be a thrilling ride until then. Until then, enjoy the story. :)

    Grammer Has No E: Really? Well at least I still censor the extreme stuff, right? I mean how else is little bro and other younger audience gonna read this without them? :)... Ugggh, I swear, I really thought I had the story all figured out when I wrote Homeward. Then when all my plans for the story went out the window and I started fresh, I was just so lost. -_-U Oh, no pun intended regarding this story's title, ahaha... And yeah, they are, but they kind of balance each other out, huh? *nudge nudge wink wink*... Thanks man, I hope you had a good holiday while I was gone.

    NotAGoodBloodbornePlayer: Umm, you don't still do that, do you? I mean, I appreciate the enthusiasm, but have you seriously been doing that this whole winter? Ahaha, well in any case, thanks for the love and the support and the obsessive stalking. ^_^U

    samathekittycat: o.O Whoa! Ahah, I appreciate your enthusiasm for the story, but I've close the OC submissions for this story a while back. Rest assured though, I will reopen the submission period for OCs again, later. So if you'd still like to send in your OC when that time comes, just send her (or him) in. Until then, I hope you enjoy the story, and thanks for your love and support to the series.
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