Insyte: A Shadowed Path

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March 5, 2017 9:30pm
No, I don't have a new chapter tonight or anything. I'm just migrating this story back to the Forums because, just like with aRiE, I don't want it cluttering up my gallery. (Besides, it's exactly halfway done. Four chapters done and four chapters to go.)

This is Insyte's backstory. Not counting Rush's bonus story, it's chronologically the first story in the Exile Series in which Slick appears. If you dig deep enough into the forums, you'll find the original version from 2010. Anyway, this version started in 2013, when someone on FF.net provided a brutally honest review of the original. Since I'd already revamped the series continuity starting with aRiE, I decided to rewrite Shadowed Path, as the original had a rather underwhelming climax. Of course, I didn't know how long this rewrite would take...


Chapter 1: Fire is Light
----------

An Espeon and an Umbreon padded through the empty streets of Celadon, their paws weary and exhausted. They looked at each other sorrowfully, and then glanced towards the base of the pedastal in the sleeping city's plaza.

There, they had laid a young infant Eevee, its eyes still closed, the ears still curled down over its face. The Umbreon trembled with hesitation as he looked down at the quivering bundle of fur that was his son, his rose-red eyes clouded in grief. "Are you sure this is the right thing to do, Solus?" whispered the Umbreon. "Is it right to fight destiny?"

Solus closed her eyes as she secured the makeshift collar on the Eevee's neck. "It's the only thing that we can do, Lunus," said the Espeon wearily, her head low. "The Vulcanites... they will tear him apart if they find him. And we must not forget the warnings from the sky... When he becomes fire, he will turn upon us. He must never go through such things..."

"I... I don't know if this is the right choice anymore," said Lunus, his golden rings flickering. "We can't hide from destiny forever. Sooner or later, the two of us will will have to answer for what we've done tonight..."

----------

"Kip kip, mud-mud kip," said the Mudkip, shaking his head with mock disappointment as he followed his trainer out of the diner and onto the cobblestone street, glancing back inside to a girl with a yellow skirt and a white blouse. "Mud mud. Kip kip kip, mud mud, kip kip mud, mud kip!"

Shrugging, fourteen-year-old Slick zipped up his jacket and scanned the darkened street for the oncoming headlights of approaching cars. "I don't think exchanging numbers would've been a good idea, Rush," said the trainer, glancing down to his Pokemon with a small smile. "I mean, her dad was standing right there, watching us."

Though he'd only been a trainer for a year, Slick felt he was getting the hang of talking to his Mudkip. In eight years of school, no one had ever bothered to mention that Pokemon had just as much complexity in language as humans, if not more.

The Mudkip grinned as they crossed the street, trotting down the sidewalk towards the hotel where Slick was staying. "Kipkip kipmud kip kip, mud mud kip!" said Rush brightly, opening his mouth wide as if to spit a stream of water. "Mud mud kip! Kip mud, kip mud ki-i-ip." The Mudkip tugged at his cheeks, giving his best 'love-face' imitation.

The evening breeze was cool on Slick's face, a refreshing change from summer, but not quite winter. "Seriously, though, her dad might've been with one of the gangs around here," said the trainer as they reached a street corner, crouching down so that Rush could hop up into his arms. "Besides, it's getting late, and I doubt we'd run into each other again."

From the corner of Slick's elbow, the Mudkip stared at the city's casino standing on the far corner of the intersection, neon lights flashing in the dark like a swarm of Volbeats. "Mud mud kip?" asked Rush, his voice growing quiet, glancing up at his trainer as they passed black graffiti on the wall. "Kip kip, kip mud mud, mud kip kip."

Slick glanced down at the ground. "I'm sure my dad'll pay off the gambling debts before anyone comes for him," said the boy softly, hugging the Mudkip close as they crossed the street and continued past the Game Corner. "Well, I guess the gangs did back off a lot..."

Up ahead in the city plaza, surrounded by park benches and wandering citizens with cigarettes, stood the bronze statues of a Trainer and his Pokemon, gazing down over the people of Celadon City. "Kip kip!" exclaimed Rush, perking up, tugging at Slick's sleeve insistently. "Kip kip, mud mud kip?"

Colored with muted metal dyes, the human statue had a red vest over a white T-shirt and standard-issue blue jeans. A baseball cap was pulled low over the trainer's eyes, a secretive smile on his face. Behind the trainer stood a Venusaur, a Blastoise, and a Charizard, all immortalized in bronze, and in the trainer's arms sat a Pikachu with proud, gleaming eyes.

"Yeah, it's him, all right," said Slick softly as he approched the statue. Squatting down, he examined the pedastal's inscription. "'In commemoration of Kanto's youngest Champion, Red Backfield and his Pokemon, who disbanded the crime syndicate Team Rocket and saved our streets from decay...'"

Slick smiled weakly. "He really is the youngest Champion, isn't he," said the trainer, glancing down at the ground. "Wasn't he... eleven when he entered the Hall of Fame? I guess he didn't need to finish school before getting his Pokemon..."

There was an awkward silence; then, Slick forced a chuckle. "Skills are skills, I guess," said the trainer, rising to his feet. "Maybe, some day, they'll make a statue of us!" The Mudkip grinned and closed his eyes as Slick's hand patted him, scratching him gently just behind the fin.

"Eee... Eeee..."

Rush and Slick exchanged glances as a pitiful whimper came from the other side of the statue, a soft, quivering whimper. At the base of the pedastal lay a miserable Eevee pup, rocking back and forth from side to side, eyes glistening with tears that soaked into its torn fur. There was a crude cardboard strip around his neck, like a handmade collar.

"I wonder what happened to him," whispered Slick. He took a Poke Ball from his belt, a finger resting on the silver button at the line where the two halves of the capsule met, then held back. "Rush, come here... Can you figure out what's going on, what he's doing here?"

The Mudkip nodded and began to examine the Eevee, but every time he touched his fur, the little Pokemon trembled and sobbed harder. Each time he tried to ask the Eevee a question, it turned its little head away. "Kip, kip-kip," said Rush, looking back up at Slick helplessly. "Kip mud. Mud-mud kip, kip kip?"

Nodding, Slick removed the cardboard collar, exposing a raw patch of skin at the back of the Eevee's neck, red and missing bits of fur. "Well crap," muttered Slick, glancing around the plaza. Whose Eevee was this? He looked at the cardboard strip to check for a makeshift tag, but found nothing. "Right... what asshole did this? I swear, if I find him, I'm gonna"

At once, Rush reached up and slapped Slick with a paw. "Kip kip!" said the Mudkip indignantly, pointing at the Eevee again, then making a slicing motion across his throat. "Kip kip mud, mud KIP kip!"

Slick sighed again and rubbed his temples. "This is getting strange," said the Trainer, shaking his head. "Still...he looks... sad and lonely... and like... I just..." He bent down and scooped the Eevee cub up into his arms. "Okay, you're right. We'll get him to a Pokemon Center." Rush smiled weakly, and the three left the plaza, hurrying towards the familiar red-and-white building at the far end of the street.

The two passed through the Pokemon Center's automatic glass doors and approached the sattendant at the counter with the infant Eevee. "Um, excuse me," said Slick nervously, setting the Eevee down on the counter. "I've got an Eevee here, and he looks bad. I don't know whose it is."

The attendant blinked. "Another one?" said the attendant, standing up and taking the Eevee from the counter. she took the Eevee over to the large healing machine against the wall, setting the infant down on one of the six glass tiles of the machine. "That's the seventeenth stray we've had all week. I'll get him some milk and tend to his wounds. Hold tight."

Nodding, Slick settled down in a chair at a glass table with Rush, staring down at his own reflection. "I'm starting to think that Celadon City's gotten overcrowded," said the attendent as she started up the healing machine. "You have to admit... there's cities in almost every corner of the earth these days..."

After some time had passed, there was a series of chimes emanating from the healing machine, a fanfare of flashing lights, and the Eevee's body glowed a brillaint white. As the healing light engulfed the Eevee's body, the attendant examined the computer connected to the healing machine. "It appears that this is a wild Eevee," said the nurse, studying the screen. "By Indigo League standards, he's level 5."

Blinking, Slick glanced up as the attendant took the Eevee from the healing machine and placed it on the counter. Eevees were almost impossible to find in the wild. "Since they're an endangered species, I'm afraid I'll have to register you with the Kanto Board of Wildlife Conservation if you want to keep him," said the attendant. "Otherwise, he'll be tagged and released into the wild, away from the city."

Slick hesitated as Rush hopped up onto the counter to look at the Eevee. "I can... take him with me?" said the boy, incredulous, staring at the peacefully sleeping infant Pokemon. There was something about this Eevee which endeared itself to Slick, almost begging to follow him on his journey. Its fur rippled with the pulsating lifeblood coursing deep within its body, the ears flicking in desperation even as its nose twitched with eagerness. Mystic voices echoed in Slick's ears, their words jumbled together and incomprehensible.

Slick blinked and stepped back, his senses overwhelmed. He took a slow, deep breath to clear his head, then grinned at the attendant. "I'll... I"ll take him with me," said Slick, taking his Trainer ID card from his wallet and handing it to the attendent. "Here you go."

The attendent nodded and took the ID card from Slick, handing him a form to fill out. Glancing to the cardboard collar sticking out from Rush's mouth, Slick studied the inscription for a moment, then grinned and jotted down a name for the Eevee.

The attendant turned to the terminal and swiped the card through a slot on the side of the computer, Slick's profile slowly loading on her screen. "Aurton 'Slick' Silversky, ID #39613, age 14, graduated from Viridian Union School," said the attendant, glancing at Slick. "Is that all correct?"

"Last name used to be Sierpinski, actually," said the Trainer as he finished signing the paper. "Great-grandparents came from another country, name spellings accidentally got tweaked in immigration stations. Customs tried to correct the spelling, and 'Silversky' stuck."

She smirked slightly as she looked over the Eevee's name. "But you grew up from around here, I take it," said the nurse. Hitting the enter key, she whisked the contract over to the file cabinets, then returned to shake the Trainer's hand. "And that's it! You're all set. Take good care of the Eevee, okay?"

Slick nodded and picked up the Eevee from the counter. "Thanks," said Slick, smiling as he gazed down upon the young cub in his arms, who began to sob harder at the human's touch. "There, there," mumured the Trainer as he carried the Eevee away and out into the evening air. "It's all right... you're safe now..."

From his master's shoulder, Rush watched Slick comfort the Eevee as they made their way down the street towards the motel. Looking pleased, he let go of the cardboard strip that had been on the Eevee's neck, letting it fall to the asphalt, the Unown glyphs just barely visible in the glow of traffic lights: "Twithraewen fyrleoht insyte faldem."
You do seem to know what is needed. Yes, what a Trainer needs is a virtuous heart. Pokémon touch the good hearts of Trainers and learn good from wrong. They touch the good hearts of Trainers and grow strong... Go onwards! The Champion is waiting!
- Drake of the Hoenn Elite Four

CaRSP aRiEWoVLotE
March 5, 2017 9:31pm
Also from 2013. The original was way too dramatic, so I tried for a more humorous tone.

Chapter 2: Trial Run
----------

With his Pokemon trotting at his heels, Slick wandered into the dry yellow grasses, leaving the dirt-paved Kanto road behind. A strange feeling bubbled from the young nervous Eevee's stomach as he followed the human and the two Pokemon, mixed with excitement and fear.

The tips of foxtails and grass-blades just barely touched Slick's belt as the trainer moved into the field. But to the Pokemon by his heels, the wilderness was a dense forest of rippling green stalks.

"It's a two-way road of communication," explained Rush, his head fin bobbing back and forth as Insyte padded along. "As our master, he feeds us and keeps an eye on us. And in the mean time, we do our silly tricks and follow him like on a leash."

Insyte's cream-tipped tail flicked from side to side as he kept stride with Slick and the others, his eyes darting to the Charmander on his left, whose tail-tip burned like a fiery torch. "You kidding me? He doesn't think crap about building a team," said Firaga, pausing to stretch his neck and shoulders. "Otherwise, he'd have taken Insyte to the obelisk in Viridian Forest already."

"Slick gets his advice from this one book about raising Pokemon," said the Mudkip brightly, ignoring the Charmander. "This one wasn't so battle-intensive, though; it was more of a guide for Pokemon breeders than competitive battlers. But it had a lot of good ideas, like what to feed us and such. It was written by this one guy from Hoenn, Brendan Kor-- ouch!"

Rush cringed as Firaga slapped his head fin. As the Mudkip rubbed the back of his head fin with a paw, Insyte looked back at the grass that they had just passed through, swaying back into place behind him, while Slick parted the grasses ahead. "So if I do really good, then he helps me be stronger?"

In his mind's eye, he was a Flareon on an adventure, out on a mission to hunt for dangerous criminals, and Slick was his captain. He could see his enemies cowering before his mighty strength as he busted into their hideout with all his strength.

As he followed after his comrades, wearing a coat of imaginary armor, Insyte shook his fluffy collar viciously at the bad guys, and opened his mouth to let out an mighty roar--

"Stop squealing, you're scaring off all the wild Pokemon," hissed Firaga, glaring back over his shoulder at the Eevee. In an instant, Insyte's fantasy vanished, quickly replaced by the tall grasses of Route 11 and an angry Charmeleon.

"S-sorry," gulped Insyte, shrinking fearfully away from the fiery lizard. "I was just... daydreaming..."

"Well, daydream more quietly, then," said Firaga irritably, turning on his heel and continuing on after Slick. Rush grinned weakly at Insyte, and then hurried after the Charmeleon and the Trainer, beckoning the Eevee to follow.

----------

The wind rippled Insyte's fur as Rush stood in the thinning grass before the wild Pokemon, who gave off a few faint squeaks and snorts through its long snout. Off to one side stood Firaga, his arms crossed, his eyes stern. Squatting down, Slick watched as Rush and the humanoid creature circled each other, locked in a staring contest.

Resembling a pot-bellied dwarf of a human, the Pokemon's torso was wrinkled and yellow, its lower body and legs splotched with dark brown, as if coated in mud. Rush bared his teeth at the Drowzee and growled aggressively, causing his opponent to step back.

A sphere of dark-pink light formed between the Pokemon's palms as it pushed forward with both hands, sending the sphere of energy at Rush and knocking the Mudkip back a foot. "Hang in there, Rush," said Slick, watching the Mudkip hop back to his place. "Give him a good mud-slap!"

"Kip!" yelled Rush as he dashed a paw against a patch of mud nearby and launched himself at the Drowzee, striking the Pokemon across the face with the muddy paw. The Drowzee stumbled back, its eyes bulging for the slightest moment as Rush struck him.

It glared at Rush and Slick and gave a deep phlegmish cough. Insyte shuddered in disgust as a thick green-and-purple haze billowed out from the Drowzee's snout and began to fill the air. Coughing and sputtering, Rush's face took on a sickly green tint, his large mouth bobbing toward the ground as if to vomit.

Eyes watering, one hand waving Insyte and Firaga away from the fumes, Slick tugged his shirt up to cover his mouth, breathing through the red fabric. "Rush- ack-- enough! Return..."

With his free hand, Slick grabbed Rush's Poke Ball from his belt and clicked its silver metal button, causing the capsule to pop open and release a red flare of light that engulfed Rush and drew him into his Poke Ball. The Drowzee gave a throaty, hoarse laugh as the trainer glanced towards Insyte and Firaga on the sidelines.

At once, a sudden impulsive excitement filled Insyte's heart, and he ran forward to take Rush's place before Slick could utter a single word.

"Eee vee vee!" cried Insyte excitedly as he glanced up at his speechless trainer and then at the confused Drowzee a few feet off, taking no notice of Firaga's thunderstruck expression of annoyance.

"I meant to send out Firaga," muttered Slick, his green eyes flicking down towards his feet. "Yeah... oh well..." Raising his voice again for Insyte to hear, Slick pointed at the Drowzee. "Insyte! Use Tackle!" he ordered. At once, Insyte ran at the Drowzee, his fluffy white fur collar ruffling in the air as he lunged at his foe and slammed into the Pokemon with all his might.

As Insyte landed on the ground, however, he was dismayed to see that the Drowzee was only startled by his attack, at worst. The Drowzee rolled its eyes and fired a second confusion attack at Insyte, who yelped as the telekinetic attack bowled him over onto his back, sending him skidding across the ground.

"Don't give in, Insyte," encouraged Slick. "You can do it! Finish it off with another Tackle!" Insyte got to his feet at the sound of his trainer's voice and padded back towards the Drowzee, staring into its amused eyes, his body aching all over from his tumble. Other Pokemon were just so powerful and strong compared to Insyte, stronger than he might ever be. The Eevee let out a groan and prepared to run at the Drowzee again...

Suddenly, a stream of burning flames shot out from the side and engulfed the Drowzee in a blazing fire spin attack from the maw of a very unamused Firaga, his paws clenched tightly into fists as the burning Drowzee flailed its arms wildly, screaming and yelping its head off. Finally, it tripped over its own feet and hit the ground hard.

Slick stared in silence at the unconscious Pokemon, then slowly got to his feet, patting Insyte on the head. Confused, not sure what was going on, Insyte looked up to Firaga. The Charmeleon gave him a stern look as he approached the Drowzee's motionless form. "Um, Firaga?" said Insyte, smiling at Firaga tenatively while Slick ten. "Thank you! You sav-"

"Shut it, Insyte," said the Charmleon, rounding upon him again. "You shouldn't have been the one fighting the Drowzee in the first place. Slick was going to send me out, and you jumped the gun." He pointed at Insyte, then himself. "He wanted me to go out there, not you, but you had to run out there like an idiot, and you nearly screwed everything up. If you ever do that again, I'm going to claw your ears off!"
You do seem to know what is needed. Yes, what a Trainer needs is a virtuous heart. Pokémon touch the good hearts of Trainers and learn good from wrong. They touch the good hearts of Trainers and grow strong... Go onwards! The Champion is waiting!
- Drake of the Hoenn Elite Four

CaRSP aRiEWoVLotE
March 5, 2017 9:34pm
I wrote this one in 2015. I probably didn't do a chapter in 2014 because I was finishing up LotE at the time. I wonder why I didn't call it Fox on the Run, since I had a bad habit of using songs as chapter titles at the time.

Chapter 3: Breaking the Ice
----------

The screeching Vulpix scampered through the forest, with Insyte in eager but steady pursuit. "Don't let it get away!" called Slick as he hurried after his Eevee and the wild Vulpix, Firaga and Rush at their trainer's heels.

Thin branches crunched under the Eevee's paws, leaves swishing past his fur. Over boulders, through bushes, he kept after his prey, following the Vulpix through the tangled wilderness. And all the while, her acrid vulpine scent wafted faintly from her fur, prickled with fear and desperation.

Through the undergrowth, he caught a glimpse of red, a flash of swishing tails, her body always just out of sight. Pawing out from tangled bushes, Insyte's ears perked up as he picked up the sounds of running water ahead, both to the left and to the right. A bend in the river, perhaps?

Scrambling through a cluster of thin, young trees, the Eevee ducked low as a cluster of Parases scuttled away from him. The Vulpix's scent was growing stronger, the glimpses of red fur growing more frequent; she must be growing tired. And soon, she would have nowhere to run.

The trees gave way to thick, bushy growth as he chased her into the riverbend, unseen roots reaching into the riverbank and holding the soil firm underpaw. Through the clicks of Weedles and the trills of passing Pidgeys, Insyte could faintly distinguish the wild Vulpix's panting breaths, her pawsteps slowing to a halt.

There! Up ahead, just at the river's edge! Would she really risk the swallowing waves, to escape her pursuer? Withohut waiting to find out, Insyte sprang out from a cluster of lilies and tackled the Vulpix to the ground. She hissed and screeched, tried to scramble away; but he held her down as best as he could...

It was one thing to smell the Vulpix's fear. It was another to see it in her eyes, in her fur, in her tails.

Behind him, he heard the grass parting as Slick and Rush approached them. Both Insyte and the Vulpix slowly looked up at the trainer. "Look, Slick! Insyte's got her," said Rush happily. Grinning, the Mudkip began to dance around Insyte and the Vulpix. "What will you name her?"

Rush was the only Pokemon that Insyte knew of who could truly speak the humans' language. The rest of them managed to get by on a handful of key phrases... names, tactical codewords, that sort of thing.

Squatting down, Slick studied the Vulpix for a moment, then smiled. "I'll call her Shanala," he said, grinning, picking one of the lilies on the riverbank. "Because... Shana means 'lily'!"

The Vulpix opened her mouth to screech again; but Slick and Insyte were too quick. Right as Insyte took his paws off the fox, light flashed from the Poke Ball in Slick's hand and engulfed the Vulpix, sweeping her up into the capsule. No need to throw the ball and potentially lose it, after all.

Insyte and Rush held their breaths as the Poke Ball vibrated and shook in Slick's hand with the Vulpix's struggles; then, finally, the capsule flashed with a white light, confirming capture.

At once, the Mudkip hugged Insyte happily. "Good job, boy," said Slick, gently scratching the Eevee behind the ears. "Now, let's get going."

----------

"But that's not my name!" protested Shanala, waving her paws. "My name is-"

"Your name's Shanala now," said Rush sternly. "Now hush."

Smiling, Insyte listened to the rustling wind as Slick inspected his claws. Using a ruler, the trainer measured Insyte's leg and tail, comparing the lengths against a chart.

With his Pokemon lined up on the side of the road, the trainer held a clipboard and pencil, jacket tied around his waist. A few feet away, Slick's Nidorino was curled up under the trainer's cot.

"By Kanto 2004 standards, your physical attack rating is sixteen," muttered Slick, jotting down numbers on his clipboard. Twitching his ears, Insyte looked up at him eagerly. Sixteen? Was sixteen good? "Yeah, that sounds about right..."

Dust swirled around Insyte's paws as Slick moved onto Firaga, wrapping a measuring tape around the Charmeleon's torso. "You're lucky, you know," said Rush brightly.

Insyte blinked as the Mudkip patted him on the head. "Lucky? Why's that?"

"As an Eevee, you have tremendous potential," said the Mudkip, his eyes glittering. "You could be a Vaporeon, calm and cool-headed. Or a Jolteon, swift and energetic. Or a Flareon, passionate and brave..."

Flareon! Insyte's eyes lit up, and he listened to Rush attenatively. "Espeon of the morning sun, or Umbreon of pitch-black night," continued the Mudkip. "Leafeon of summer's warmth, Glaceon of fresh-fallen snow... Sylveon of love's allure--"

"I hope he makes me a Flareon," piped up Insyte. "Tell me more about that path!"

The Mudkip blinked, then grinned. "Okay! Flareons are big and strong," said Rush as Slick moved onto an Oddish. "They can survive the heat of throbbing magma, but their true power is in their sheer physique."

He studied Insyte for a moment, then grinned. "If we can make you bulky enough, then I'm sure Slick will just have to make you a Flareon!"

"Yeah, about that? Don't get your hopes up, kid," muttered Firaga. Insyte blinked. "Look at Slick's team. He's already got two fire-types, Shan' and me. No need to put in another one, right?"

The Eevee's ears drooped; Firaga had a point. "I'm sorry."

He turned to pad away, but Rush moved forward, swiftly pinning down the Eevee's tail with his paw. "No need to apologize to him!" exclaimed the Mudkip, looking up at Firaga confidently. "Now listen, Firaga, I think Insyte's got a decent chance at being whwtever he wants. What say you?"

Firaga crossed his arms and looked away disdainfully. "At his age, a physical attack rating of sixteen isn't nearly enough to merit Flareon status," said the Charmeleon, snorting. "You think he'd make you something as useless as a Flareon? He might as well throw you away!"

"Oh, yeah?" shot back Rush, his head-fin swishing energetically. "I bet that within two months, Insyte here will be strong enough to throw you on your fiery butt!"

The Eevee's jaw dropped. Did Rush really believe in him that much? Slowly, a nasty grin spread on Firaga's face. "Deal," said the Charmeleon, smirking at the fierce look in Rush's eyes. "If you win, I'll never tease Insyte here again."

Excited, Rush looked back to Insyte as Firaga started to walk off into the trees. "Oh, one thing!" called the Charmeleon over his shoulder. "If you lose-- then I get to replace you as team leader!"

----------

That night, squirming out from under his sleeping trainer's arms, Insyte hopped down from Slick's cot and padded out into the moonlit grass to join Rush.

The Eevee stopped and stared as he saw Rush, hefting a heavy black book on his back. Well, okay, the book probably wasn't that big to a human, but it was about the same size of Rush! Not counting the fin, of course.

Grunting, the Mudkip plopped down the book on the grass. "You ready?" asked Rush, opening the book and smiling at the Eevee. "Okay, Insyte! Your education on humans starts now."

The page showed a chart of human characters--not the Unown script, introduced by a civilization in the west--but the traditional script of islanders who had lived in Akimadora for centuries.

The Eevee glanced back to Slick and the others, laying peacefully beneath gently arching branches. Slick's Oddish was nestled between Shanala and Firaga, its leaves swaying gently. All were fast asleep. "Yeah. I'm ready!"

And so, Insyte began his education on the human language. Rush was a careful teacher: the languages of Kanto and neighboring regions were difficult to learn, even for other humans.

"Aa, ii, uu, ee, oo," recited the Eevee wearily. "Ka, ki, ku, ke, ko. Ga, gi, gu, ge, go. Ta, chi, tsu, te, to. Sa, shi, su, se, so..." Yawning, he curled up in the grass, looking very sleepy.

"You're learning quickly! We might be able to get through katakana in a week," said the Mudkip happily, closing the reader. "Humans can take weeks to learn a new language. It took me almost a full year before I could read well."

"But you can speak human very well," pointed out Insyte.

Rush chuckled. "It might seem like that, but it's more a blend of human and Mudkip sounds," he explained. "Slick understands what I say and I understand what he says. That's what happens when two friends spend enough time together... it's almost as if we have our own language!"

----------

"H-hey! Stop!" protested Shanala, tearing up as Firaga tugged at her tails. "Please stop... Hey..."

"Hey, leave her alone!" piped up Insyte, padding up to them. Blinking, both Shanala and Firaga stared at the little Eevee, who faltered. "W-well... she said stop--"

Letting go of Shanala, the Charmeleon bared his teeth, and Insyte recoiled. "I'm gonna enjoy tearing you apart, pup," he growled, his eyes searing into Insyte's head. "Rush thinks he can tell me what to do? Just you wait..."

Shaking, Insyte watched as the Charmeleon stalked away. "Umm.... Insyte? Thanks," mumbled the Vulpix, looking at the Eevee. She started to form a small smile; then she shook her head and it was gone. "You didn't have to do that, you know."

He shook his head. "Firaga's a bully. If you let him walk all over you, he'll just stomp even harder."

----------

By the end of the week, Insyte had mastered katakana. And by the end of the second week, he had managed to cover hiragana as well... well, he had mastered reading, at any rate. Writing it, now that was another issue entirely.

"They say it's easier to learn this sort of thing when you're younger," said Rush as Insyte dipped his tail into an inkwell and attempted to write his name on a sheet of paper, smudging the ink in the process. "You're certainly young, and that's good!"

At the end of the third week, Insyte managed to write "a" name, even if it wasn't his. The owner's name was on the textbook's inside cover: シルバスカイア・ルトン. Aurton Silversky. "Well, you got Slick's name, anyway," said the Mudkip, patting Insyte on the head. "Good job, kid."

"Yeah!" cheered the Eevee. Then, he frowned. "But.. how is any of this going to help me beat up Firaga?"

Rush plopped down a second book in front of Insyte, opening it to a chapter titled 'Eevee and its Evolutions. "That's why I asked for two months," said the Mudkip, winking. "Here's where your real training begins. Time to figure out what you want to be!"

"Vaporeon. An exceptional swimmer with a sleek body. It has the power to melt into the water."

The Eevee grimaced. "Melting? That sounds scary."

The Mudkip laughed. "I'm sure you're fine! Anyway, next one is Flareon. It has a special pouch in its body that can produce flames up to 900 degrees Celsius! Though their flame output is mediocre in battle, they can deliver smashing blows to their enemies"

The Eevee's eyes widened. "Ooh..."

"A lot of trainers find Flareons hard to train, though," pointed out Rush. Insyte looked disappointed, but the Mudkip went on. "Anyway... Jolteon. One of the fastest Pokemon in existence. Said to be capable of outrunning cheetahs!" His jaw dropped. "But that's the fastest of all animals not classified as Pokemon! Would you be interested?"

He looked up at Insyte, but the Eevee's eyes were still on the previous entry. "To be strong like that," he murmured, tracing the taut back calves. "Ah.."

"I'll take that as a no," sighed Rush. "Okay, next."

Snapping to attention, Insyte looked at the entry after Jolteon's. "Espeon," he read aloud. "Capable of generating energy fields with its mind. It makes up for its physical fraility with energy blasts which distort mind and matter." He frowned. "Waaait... physical fraility? I dunno if I like the sound of that..."

"Umbreon," read Rush. "A Pokemon that stalks its prey in the night. Under the moon's light, the rings on its body glow, striking fear into the hearts of anyone nearby."

Staring at the picture, the Eevee shivered. "I... I don't like that. Next?"

"Leafeon. A Pokemon that thrives on photosynthesis. It does not fight--" Stopping, Rush frowned. "Okay, that's definitely not true. They're brutal, all grass types are! Anyway... basking in the sun, it is always enveloped in a patch of clean air."

Well, it looked nice, but... "Nah, pass."

"But they're as strong as tree trunks--" Rolling his eyes, Rush flipped to the next page. "Oh, fine; whatever."

"Glaceon. A Pokemon with complete control of its body temperature. Despite its silky appearance, its fur is actually made of crystallized needles that it can fire from its body. It can freeze the surrounding air to make a diamond-dust flurry."

Insyte shook his head. "It... doesn't sound very strong."

"Well, here's the final one. Sylveon, the ultimate form of Eevee! A Pokemon that has maximized its potential, displaying the power of the stars. Transformed by a trainer's love, its ribbons are filled with a light that can even slay dragons."

Insyte covered his mouth. "I--I--why must this be so... so flamboyant--"

Sighing again, the Mudkip closed the book. "You really want to be a Flareon that badly, huh?" he said, looking at the Eevee with a sad smile. "I don't know if Slick will go for that. He already has two fire-types, you know."

Not answering, Insyte looked up at Rush pleadingly. "Well... I'll talk to him," said the Mudkip finally. "It'll be tough, but... let's see what I can do."

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A/N: For the sake of everyone's sanity, including my own, all Japanese other than Slick's name (which is katakana anyway) shall be in English. I was going to come up with kanji for Slick's name, but then I would have to change all uses of "Silversky" to "Ginkuu Aruton." Too much work
You do seem to know what is needed. Yes, what a Trainer needs is a virtuous heart. Pokémon touch the good hearts of Trainers and learn good from wrong. They touch the good hearts of Trainers and grow strong... Go onwards! The Champion is waiting!
- Drake of the Hoenn Elite Four

CaRSP aRiEWoVLotE
March 5, 2017 9:35pm
This one was in 2016. Hopefully, I finish more than just one chapter this year.

Chapter 4: Love at First Sight
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Each day, Insyte studied from Pokemon: Animals Around You. Each day, he grew stronger, closer to the ideal image. His bones strengthened, his fur thickening.

Still, the two-month deadline was approaching. Rush, too, was growing, his skin becoming saturated, his head fin and tail darkening. The more he grew, the harder he pushed Insyte, urging him to strive higher, higher.

On those starry nights when Rush dragged him aside for extra training, Insyte sometimes caught Shanala staring after him. Sometimes with concern, sometimes with discontentment. But she never tried to pry into what he was doing.

At some point, they crossed into Johto, deciduous trees yielding to upright firs. Insyte didn't know when it happened; the scenery changed too seamlessly. There was no place he could point to and say, this is the edge of Kanto.

Even so, the air was different. The forests of Kanto felt cold, unpredictable, ever-changing. Johto's forests, too, were mysterious; yet they seemed well-worn and ancient, brimming with secrets...

He and Rush burst from their Poke Balls in a flash of light. In the clearing ahead, Insyte picked up the scents of a Pikachu. "All right, you two, get him," ordered Slick, pointing at the clearing.

Looking eagerly at the Mudkip, Insyte raced to the clearing. The Pikachu was just standing there, staring blankly into the trees. Is he stupid? wondered Insyte.

"Vee vee!" cried Insyte as he and Rush sprang out from the shrubbery. Whirling around, the Pikachu began to run, but too late--Rush sprang forward, tackling him to the ground. Moving in, Insyte circled the Pikachu, giving his fiercest growl.

Rummaging though his pack, Slick hurried into the clearing. "Good job, guys," he cheered, pulling out a Poke Ball as the Pikachu struggled to break free. "Looks like this is my last one. Let's make it count!"

The capsule flew at the Pikachu, swallowing him in a flash of light, Rush dropping onto the ground. Insyte held their breath as the Poke Ball landed on the ground, rocking once... twice... thrice...

"Yes!" cried Slick, pumping his arm as the latch clicked into place. Picking up the Pikachu's Poke Ball, he attached it to his belt, then hugged both Insyte and Rush. "So proud of you both..."

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Across the battle ring from Slick stood a blackbelt. From his Poke Ball, Insyte watched as Rush and the Machop circled each other Though the Machop was considerably taller, Rush held eye contact with his foe.

The black belt gazed at Slick, his shoulders sturdy with tempered strength. "Who is great and who is strong? For this answer, I have searched the world."

Roaring, the Machop charged at Rush, who quickly sidestepped a vertical chop, dashing a paw against the ground and splattering mud into his foe's eyes.

As the Machop blindly flailed around, Rush jettisoned forward with a pressurized burst of water, crashing into the Machop.

A burly fist struck Rush squarely in the head, sending him flying back. Hissing, the Mudkip rolled onto his paws and bombarded the Machop with a condensed stream of bubbles.

Groaning, the Machop toppled onto his back, defeated. Insyte stared as kight surged through Rush's body, a pair of fins emerging.

Getting up onto his hind legs, Rush looked up at his trainer proudly. His skin had darkened, his dorsal fin becoming navy blue, his face broadening. "Maaaaarsh!"

Recalling his Machop, the blackbelt bowed. "I have seen greatness in your strength," said the martial artist, handing Slick his winnings. "He who is strong, can become great! But he who is great, ought to be strong!"

Bewildered, Slick stared as the blackbelt set off down the road. Then, grinning, he spread his arms and scooped up Rush in a tight hug. "Heck yeah! We did it, Slick!" whooped the newly evolved Marshtomp, pumping a fist into the air. "Nothing can stop us now! Hahaha!"

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Glancing up at the deep blue expanse of starry evening skies far above him, Insyte paused to flex his gradually toughening muscles, feeling warm pride in his heart. Thanks to Rush, he was one step closer to become the Flareon he hoped to become. Insyte was sure Slick would be impressed by how well his training was coming.

After a few minutes of walking, Insyte pushed his way through a patch of cattails to find himself on the bank of a running stream. He stared at the turbulent gush of water, flowing into view and back out of sight in the blink of an eye, sweeping down the riverbed towards the ocean, far beyond the horizon.

Insyte tenatively stepped towards the edge of the river, his attention captured by the power of the flowing current, strong and powerful. Tenatively, he dipped a paw into the river, chilling water streaming through his paw fur and toes. He had never imagined water could feel so refreshing.

Suddenly, a swell came down the river, causing his paws to slip. Losing balance, the Eevee was swept into the current with a cry.

Heavy thrashing, swollen with melting winter. Goldeens flew past him, scurrying upstream. Flailing wildly, Insyte's mouth emerged from the river, but quickly sank under the surface again.

A pair of paws seized him by the back of his neck fur, lifting him out of the water, dragging his soaked body onto the grass. Shivering, he lay on his side, coughing and gasping as water slowly drained out from his mouth, nose, and ears.

He felt his rescuer's warm paw on his calf, an ear to his chest. "Ah, good," she breathed. "You're alive." Her warm touch was comforting to his cold, wet fur, sending a thrill through his fur.

Sneezing, the Eevee sat up, still breathing heavily. Blinking cold droplets from his eyes, he stared at his rescuer. Tan fur with a dark blue pelt, extending over her head and down her long snout. "You all right?" asked the Cyndaquil. "I saw you in the river, and was just barely able to pull you out!"

Insyte felt hot embarassment fill his face. A Cyndaquil, a fire-type, had to save him from the river? How pathetic. He'd never hear the end of this if Firaga ever found out. "Yeah, I think I'm okay," said the Eevee, trying to sound brave. "I... I'm Insyte." He frowned. "And you're a girl!"

Realizing what he'd just said, he cringed, expecting a slap to the face. But instead, the Cyndaquil burst into laughter. "And you're a boy," she replied. "It's nice to meet you, Insyte. My name's Embyr."

Insyte relaxed at her sweet, innocent voice, unconsciously smiling. "It's nice to meet you too, Embyr," said the Eevee happily. Embyr. What a pretty name...

The Cyndaquil's back lit up with tiny, cheerful flames. "Anyway, Insyte, you should be more careful by the water," said Embyr, pointing down at the river. "Last year, an entire den of Vulpixes drowned when the river flooded!"

Insyte's eyes widened, horrified. "An entire den?" he echoed.

"Yep, an entire den," she said sadly, her snout drooping slightly. "The river swelled with a big rainstorm and flooded the den while they were sleeping. It was terrible...."

Heart pounding, he breathed in her thick scent, repulsed at first, but found it more pleasing after a while. No trainer's Pokemon had such a strong scent.

Her nose twitched, as if inhaling his scent in turn. "You don't smell like you're from this area," she said. "Where do you come from?"

He blinked. "Me? I'm not sure. My Trainer's just passing through on his way to Ecruteak, that's all."

"Wait! You're a captive Pokemon?" gasped the Cyndaquil. "That's terrible! I'm sorry to hear that. Way up north, my cousin's family gets harrassed by humans a lot." Her eyes lit up. "I know! I'll help you hide, and then you can be free--"

He shook his head. "No, no! My trainer's a very kind human," the Eevee explained. "I don't mind being at his side, really--"

Frowning, he looked back at the Cyndaquil. He should start heading back to Slick's camp, but... for some reason, he felt at peace here. No Firaga to bully him. No Rush to push him. No Shanala to disturb him.

What if he really did run away? Could he live a life without Slick, if it meant he could feel like this whenever he wanted? He would love to have Firaga out of his life permanently.

But no. He could never abandond Slick like that. Firaga might have no love for him, but Slick.... Slick was a friend he didn't want to lose. Really, if Slick were to suddenly disappear one day, just what would Insyte do with himself...?

From the shrubbery near Slick's camp, the Vulpix watched the Eevee and the Cyndaquil strolling in the moonlight. Shaking her head, she padded back over to her trainer, curled up in the grass, and pretended to be asleep.
You do seem to know what is needed. Yes, what a Trainer needs is a virtuous heart. Pokémon touch the good hearts of Trainers and learn good from wrong. They touch the good hearts of Trainers and grow strong... Go onwards! The Champion is waiting!
- Drake of the Hoenn Elite Four

CaRSP aRiEWoVLotE
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