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 fountain 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 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."
Through the corner of Slick's elbow, the Mudkip stared at the Game Corner on the far corner, neon lights flashing in the dark like a swarm of Volbeats. "Mud mud kip?" asked Rush, growing quiet, glancing up at his trainer . "Kip kip, kip mud mud, mud kip kip."
There was a small group of protesters outside the casino. "Must have something to do with the radio hijack incident last year," said Slick softly as they passed black graffiti on the wall. Hugging the Mudkip close, he hurriedly crossed the street without looking back.
Up ahead was a city plaza, surrounded by park benches and wandering citizens with cigarettes. 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.
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 fu—"
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 frowned at the name. "That's not how you spell... ah, never mind. I suppose schools are slacking off on English lessons these days."
She turned to the terminal and swiped the card, Slick's profile loading on her screen. "Aurton Silversky, registered name Slick. ID #39613, age 14, graduated from Viridian Union School. Is that all correct?"
"Close enough," said the trainer as he finished signing the form. "I know, weird name. Grandparents came from another country, names got tweaked in immigration stations. Customs tried to correct the spelling, and 'Silversky' stuck."
She smirked slightly at the Eevee's name. "Well, overcoming the language barrier is always a challenge," 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 'Insyte,' 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.
----------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!"
-----------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."
----------Chapter 4: Love at First Sight
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..."
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!"
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.
----------Chapter 5: Honor of Flame
"One more hit, Insyte," ordered Slick, pointing at his opponent's Raticate. Flicking his ears forward, the Eevee ran forward, crashing head-first into the great rodent. Groaning, the Raticate collapsed to the ground, slumping over onto his side.
"Ugh! Return, Facebiter," said the other trainer disgustedly. Stamping his foot, he pointed at Slick. "You just got lucky, scrub! So HA!" Tossing Slick's winnings at him, the boy turned and fled the road.
Scooping up his winnings, Slick knelt by Insyte, his amber eyes filled with approval. Purring, the Eevee closed his eyes, a friendly hand scratching him behind the ears. Warm pride filled Insyte from the tips of his ears to his fluffy tail. This was Slick's victory, but also Insyte's. Not Firaga's, not Rush's. Insyte's victory.
"You deserve a reward," murmured Slick. "I... I should evolve you soon. But into what?"Evolve?
A single word made it through the language barrier, sending a thrill through Insyte. And there was only one answer. Billowing fur of sunlit red and fluffy tan; eyes like coral and obsidian, a blazing wind at his back, thawing the chills of winter. The image was burned into the Eevee's mind...
If only he understood more than just that one word. If only he understood the rest of what Slick said. "Yes, that's it," said the trainer to himself as Insyte wagged his tail in blissful ignorance. "Perhaps you'd make a good Espeon..."
"Hey. Hey, you." Annoyed, Firaga prodded Lightning's belly. The Pikachu was staring at the ground, speechless. "Hey, I'm talking to you."
Rush glanced up. "Hey bud, leave the new guy alone," he called.
"Yeah!" chimed in Insyte.
Firaga groaned. "Oh my god, shut up, Insyte. You're about as useful as a brick, you know that?"
As the Charmeleon stormed off, Rush winked at Insyte, but the Eevee didn't return the wink. Frowning, he looked down at his paws.
"Well anyway," said the Marshtomp. "Welcome to the team, Lightning." He heartily slapped the Pikachu on the back.
Startled, the Pikachu stared at Rush and Insyte, eyes widening. "Wait! Ialready have a team," he protested, beginning to back away. "Please, find someone else to recruit!"
Insyte and Rush exchanged glances. "Well, it's true Pikachus don't show up in this area too often," admitted Rush. "Maybe he has a trainer out there looking for him?"
The Eevee shook his head. "Nah... he smells pretty wild to me. Definitely not well-groomed at all."
"I smell like what...?" Shaking his head, Lightning glanced around the woods frantically. "I-- I'm sorry, I've got to get back to Sharpedo Bluff... I don't even know how far it is from here. They'll be worried sick--"
Rush managed to catch the Pikachu's wrist before he could run off. "Listen up, kid," he said firmly. "I'm guessing your trainer abandoned you? Don't feel ashamed. Happens to plenty of Pokemon. But you've got to face the facts--"
"No, it wasn't like that! It's-- it was just an accident... How do I even explain--" Frustrated, the Pikachu tried to pull free, his words starting to tumble into each other. "I mean-- haven't you heard about... the thing is-- listen, I can't just--"
"Hey, isn't Sharpedo Bluff from that one folktale?" cut in Insyte suddenly, recalling/ a story from Slick's book. "From three thousand years ago."
Slowly, Rush grinned. "Oh! So that's what you're up to," chuckled the Marshtomp, giving the Pikachu a noogie. "All right, give it up, Lightning. Slick caught you fair and square! No sense in being a sore loser!"
It rained that night. Overnight, dirt became mud, sticking to Insyte's paws. Embyr was waiting under a rock overhang, sheltering the flames on her back from the wind and the rain, waiting for Insyte to come to her.
"Hey, Embyr," said Insyte one cool mornng. "Tell me about the Vulcanites."
Embyr blinked. "The Vulcanites?" she repeated. "Well, each spring, fire-type Pokemon from all parts of Japan go to Cinnabar Island to fight in a festival tournament."
"Wha kind of festival?" asked Insyte.
"It's a festival to honor the ancient king, Ho-Oh," saif Embyr. "Long ago, when the sky was crumbling, there was a Pokemon so strong he couldn't be defeated by the chaos. Wings of holy flame grew from his back, and he destroyed the chaos!"
The Cyndaquil smiled faintly. "At least, that's the story my parents tell. Anyway, lots of fire Pokemon come to the volcano and fight in a big competition. They say my aunt was one of the strongest fighters."
Insyte's eyes grew round. "The strongest..."
"Hey, you can't stop now," said Rush as Insyte sank to the ground, exhausted. "C'mon, dude! You can do it. One more tackle--"
"I can't keep going," groaned the Eevee. "It hurts all over..."
Rush got down and looked Insyte in the eye. "Look. You want to be a Flareon, right? And Flareons are the toughest of the tough."
"Y-yeah..." Slowly, Insyte got to his paws. He'd gone to see Embyr last night. Just like the night before yesterday, and the night before that. And it was taking its toll on him.
"Flareon?" repeated Firaga as he passed by. "That's a joke, right? You're trying to be a Flareon? As if! We've already got two fire-types as it is. And I don't think Slick understands how to train Fire-types anyway."
Cringing, Insyte looked down at the ground as Firaga walked off, while Rush's fists curled in rage. "He's right," said the Eevee glumly. "There's no way I'll be a Flareon."
"Don't listen to that idiot!" said Rush angrily. He patted Insyte's head, forcing a smile. "You just gotta push yourself harder. Make it so Slick can't imagine making you anything but a Flareon. You're so, so close..."
Night had fallen, and Slick was fast asleep. Insyte curled up with Embyr. "You've been coming by less and less," murmured the Cyndaquil.
"I'm sorry," mumbled the Eevee. "I've just been so busy lately. Rush's been pushing me really hard lately..."
The Cyndaquil's eyes went round. "Ah... look at all these bruises you have! This is terrible." She stared at him yearningly. "Are you really all right? That Rush is such a jerk..."
Insyte shook his head vigorously. "No! Firaga's the jerk. Rush's helping me to reach my dream."
"But you're getting hurt like this...! Being a trainer's Pokemon must be really terrible." Fury simmered in Embyr's eyes. "Ah... they should all die, for hurting my sweet Insyte..."
Insyte shushed her with a paw. "Please don't," said the Eevee. Was that really what Embyr thought of Rush and Slick. "I know it doesn't look like it. But they're my friends. They just want to help me be strong."
He desperately wanted to make Slick proud. And he would get there, he was sure of it.
Dawn was blooming on the horizon, the stars slowly fading into the sky. "You know, Insyte," said Embyr, prodding the Eevee in the side. "If you want to stick with your trainer, you should probably go back to him. You don't want to make him worry."
"Yeah" The Eevee gave a small smile. "I'll see you tomorrow night, then?"
"Of course," replied Embyr, waving as the Eevee padded off into the grass. Her eyes glowed, her voice dropping to a whisper. "I'll walk a thousand miles for you."
Happy and content, Insyte silently padded back into camp... and found himself face-to-face with Shanala. The Eevee froze.
"So, you were sneaking off again," said the Vulpix quietly. "You like her, don't you? Enough that you won't even rest properly for training."
Insyte stared down at his paws. "Please don't tell anyone," he said desperately. "I... I can't help it."
"All right." The Vulpix simply nodded. "Say, Insyte. Firaga says you want to be a Flareon, right?"
Insyte cringed. What sort of things was Firaga saying behind his back? "Of course," said the Eevee. "I've wanted to be a Flareon for as long as I can remember." He wanted to ignite and burn. He wanted to rise up and smash through anything. He wanted to guide his friends and destroy his enemies--
"I see." Shanala looked sadly at him. "That means we'll be competing for a Fire Stone, right?"
He blinked. "Eh?"
"As an Eevee, you can become anything you want," said the Vulpix quietly. "But for me, the Fire Stone is my only choice."
Stunned, Insyte stared as Shanala walked off. "I think I'll go for a stroll. Have a good day, Insyte."
----------Chapter 6: Evolution
"It's the witching hour," said Lunus softly. "Do you still think of him, my lady? Our only child?"
Solus closed her eyes. "No child of a Mt. Silver priestess can ever live an ordinary life. That is why the Vulcanites would take him away. That is why he must grow up without us."
Lunus bowed his head. "And yet, and yet," murmured the Umbreon. "Can a child grow without his parents?"
On the outskirts of Ilex Forest, Insyte sat close to the campfire. The screech of stirring predators echoed through the woods, followed by leathery wings.
Overhead, the sun was setting. The smell of ashes tickled Insyte's nostrils and coated his fur. Get used to this smell, he told himself. It was a nice, manly smell. The smell of a Flareon.
He'd never felt so tense before. They all knew Slick had gone out to the Goldenrod department store that morning; they'd all seen him return with a package from the jeweler. But what did their trainer buy? And for whom?
On the other side of the fire, Shanala was chewing on Cheri berries. Swallowing the last one, her eyes hardened, and she turned her head away from Insyte. The Eevee flinched.
Shanala had a dream, too. An Eevee had many paths to choose from, but a Vulpix had just one. If Slick really got his hands on a Fire Stone, was it really okay for Insyte to take Shanala's dream away?
Slick's tent opened, and Rush poked his head out. Both Insyte and Shanala looked up expectantly. "Hold up," laughed the Marshtomp. "You don't even know what I'm about to say! For all you know, Slick could've bought a thunder stone for lil' Lightning."
They all stared at the Pikachu (sitting off to the side) until they got his attention. "Huh?" said Lightning blankly, looking up.
"Just go back to staring at the ground," said Firaga. He gestured at Rush. "Just shut it. The brat hasn't even been in a fight yet."
"I know, I know," chuckled Rush, stepping out of the tent. He waved to Insyte. "Come over here! Slick wants to see you."
Shanala's eyes filled with shock and disappointment. "Now? Alright, I'm coming," groaned Insyte, pretending to look annoyed, though he felt anything but. With light, eager footsteps, Insyte trotted over to Slick's tent, grinning to himself. So, whatever Slick bought at Celadon that morning... was it something for him?
Slick climbed outside with a wrapped package. Zipping the tent behind him, he gently scratched Insyte behind the ears, eliciting a happy yip. "Let's go somewhere quieter," said Slick, pointing toward a nearby clearing.
Slick rubbed his eyes as he led Rush and Insyte through the trees. For a moment, he'd thought Shanala was glaring at him. Maybe he ought to give her more attention?
Well, it wasn't as if Slick couldn't tell there was some tension between his Pokemon. He felt bad about focusing on Insyte so much lately. Granted, Rush didn't seem to mind, but even so...
"Sorry I took all day," said Slick, chuckling weakly. "Another protest outside the municipal building. Streets were clogged. Anyway..."
Evolutionary stones were a messy topic, what with the questionable ethics of using radiation to change a Pokemon's form. Never mind that Pokemon had been using evolutionary stones on their own for thousands of years. Either way, Slick wanted to take care of things properly.
In the middle of the clearing was a tree stump. Putting down the package down, Slick picked up Insyte and gently set him on the stump.
"You've been looking forward to this day too, haven't you?" said Slick, smiling. "It's been a few weeks, but it's finally your chance to evolve, just like I promised."
"Vee vee!" Insyte could barely contain his excitement. His tail wagged as Rush gave him a thumbs-up.
"You'll be very strong," said Slick. He unwrapped the package with trembling hands. "You'll be able to take down even the strongest of beasts. I wouldn't be surprised if we could even defeat a gym leader a week from now!"
In that moment, Insyte finally saw what was in his trainer's hands. He saw a glimmering white crystal, glowing radiantly even as dusk settled. A sun shard.
Insyte stared in disbelief. Not a fire stone, but a sun shard. Something had gone terribly, horribly wrong.
Slick held out the shard to Insyte with a smile. Rush frowned. "Slick..."
The Eevee's disappointment was immeasurable. An Espeon? Such a soft, ridiculous body. Such an effetimate body. A Pokemon that could only win by tricking its way to victory.
"Hm? What's the hesitation?" said Slick, lightly tapping the back of Insyte's head to nudge him forward. "No need to hold back. It's all yours."
Resentment began to seethe in Insyte's veins. All his strength, all his growth all his progress. What had he been training for? "You gotta be kidding me!" said the Eevee. Turning, he hopped down from the stump and fled.
"Eh? Insyte, wait!" exclaimed Slick as Insyte ran off into the trees. "What the heck-"
Rush grabbed Slick's pant leg, his head fin swaying.."Slick, you fool. He wanted to be a Flareon!"
"A Flareon?" echoed Slick, incredulous. "But--" He looked down at the sun shard, dismayed. "That would't be fair to Shanala..."
Gettining anxious, Slick looked back up, staring into the trees. "Damnit... Insyte! Come back!"
He ran. He ran through the undergrowth, far from Slick, into the darknes. The flapping wings of Golbats and other predators filled the night air. His eyes were tearing up. He didn't understand...
How could Slick possibly think he wanted to be an Espeon? Didn't he understand how important this was to Insyte?
He had forgotten he and Slick did not speak the same language. He thought Slick knew what he wanted, what he desired. Had they ever seen eye-to-eye? Had his master even cared?
Gradually, his pace slowed to whimpering, mincing footsteps. "An Eevee... has many paths... but a Vulpix has just one," choked out Insyte. Shanala's word burned in his ears.
Yes, Slick was a Pokemon trainer. No matter how much love a trainer might show their Pokemon... at the end of the day, a trainer wanted to win.
Bitterly, Insyte continued deeper into the woods. He had to find Embyr, had to tell her that she was right, that humans were ,ignorant and blind. Tonight, he would run away with her, just as she always begged him to.
How could he have thought Slick understood him? Understood his dream? A bond between Pokemon and humans... how laughable. Perhaps Slick was no different from the nameless strangers of Celadon--
The Eevee froze as a shrill scream split the air. "Embyr! Where are you?" he shouted, dashing ahead.
The trees parted to reveal an old wooden shrine, iluminated in the pale moonlight. Pressed against the shrine's wall was Embyr, staring up in terror as an Aerodactyl swooped down on her.
Insyte's eyes bulged in fear. Even so, he leapt in front of the Cyndaquil, the Aerodactyl's claws tearing into his fur. Embyr screamed again as blood trickled down Insyte's shoulder.
Circling back around, the Aerodactyl roosted atop the shrine, smirking. "You're a long way from your trainer, little Eevee," said the Aerodactyl with a fanged grin, sending chills down the Eevee's spine. "So tender and juicy. So... weak."
His blood boiled with barely-contained outrage. "I'm not weak!" screamed Insyte. Kicking hard against the ground, the Eevee lunged up toward the roof.
The Aerodactyl moved faster than Insyte could see. A sharp, arrowhead-shaped tail lashed across his face, cutting his cheek. Ancient talons snatched the Eevee off his paws and tossed him against a tree.
Insyte groaned in pain as he got up, battered and aching. Moonlight glinted off the Aerodactyl's fangs. The Eevee shudered. Those jaws could rip him apart in an instant.
Furious, he prepared to lunge again, but the Aerodactyl seized him out of midair. Bony wings clapped the sides of his head, dazing him. Cackling, the Aerodactyl slammed his bony head into Insyte's skull, and the Eevee crumpled to the ground like a sack of bricks.
Embyr ran to the Eevee's side, horrified. "Insyte! Insyte!" The Cyndaquil covered her face. "Ah... were you really the one they sought...?"
Insyte's gaze slowly drifted up to Embyr, his bloodied fur rippling In the pale moonlight. "Slick..."
----------Chapter 7: Walpurgis Night
"Insyte! Insyte! Insyte! Insyte! Insyte... Insyte, Insyte! Insyte..."
"Insyte, Insyte, come back... please... I'm sorry... come back..."
"Where are you, Insyte? Stop... Please... don't go! Please... please..."
He could barely feel his body. Could barely make out the shrine, or Embyr, or the Aerodactyl. Distant voices echoed in his head, as if carrying from the farthest corners of the earth. "Fire is folly.Your dreams are hollow. Darkness is power, for true power is borne of night.
After all his effort, after all his training, he was still defeated like this. Bravery? Honor? Heroism? In the end, his dreams amounted to nothing.
Fire burns hot. Fire burns bright. But no matter how hot and bright fire burns, no fire burns forever. Slowly, the flames shrinks and fades, until only ashes remain. So let fire be extinguished, and embrace the night.
Slick failed to recognize his dignity, failed to grant him the power he wanted. So, he would seek out power for himself. All that mattered was that he won.
Come to think of it, wasn't that what Slick wanted, too? If Slick desperately wanted to win, then Insyte would give that fool the power to win, more power than Slick could imagine.
Insyte's eyes opened. Moonlight played across his body, sealing his wounds.Moonlight flowed into his body, filled his eyes, penetrating the black night and bleaching the woods in clear silver.
Getting up, he lifted his eyes to the night sky, toward the gleaming moon. The moon was like an silver eye peering down from the heavens, holding him spellbound.
Insyte's fur began to blacken, absorbing the night. A hero's modesty was worthless. He would seize joy, seize comfort, seize satisfaction. He would do as he pleased.
Everyone wanted something from him, didn't they? No matter what Firaga said, no matter what anyone said, he wouldn't care anymore. He looked at Embyr, licking his lips. Her, too. But he wouldn't care anymore.
Embyr gasped as the creamy fur around Insyte's neck fell away, leaving an Umbreon. "Insyte?"
The Aerodactyl was circling back around. Cruel joy surged within Insyte's veins. As the Aerodactyl swooped low, the Umbreon bared his fangs and sprang up at the Aerodactyl's head, tackling it to the ground.
The Aerodactyl's eyes bulged with fury as Insyte's teeth sank into its wing, . "So, the prey thinks itself the hunter?" screeched the Aerodactyl, knocking the Umbreon aside. With rock-hard fangs, it ripped a small boulder from the ground and flung it at the Umbreon, its sharp tail lashing.
Insyte deftly darted aside as the boulder hit the ground, a cloud of dust filling the air. With small yet fluid movements, he moved between the Aerodactyl's swiping claws. "Should've finished me off when you had the chance!"
Enraged, the Aerodactyl swung its good wing wide, releasing a gust of wind and tossinf the Umbreon into the air. As the Aerodactyl sprang at Insyte, the Umbreon's rings flashed, and a dark pulse blasted the Aerodactyl.
Landing neatly on his paws, Insyte ran at the Aerodactyl again as sharpened stones flew at him. Neck twisting, the Aerodactyl spread its jaws wide to seize the charging Umbreon.
Changing direction in mid-step, Insyte somersaulted onto the Aerodactyl's back. Kicking the Aerodactyl in the head, he brought his head down for a killing bite.
Merciless fangs sank into a shrieking throat, meeting in a torrent of gushing blood. Shuddering, the Aerodactyl went still.
Embyr stared blankly as Insyte.slowly got up, his mouth stained red. "Hey, Embyr," said the Umbreon, giving a bloody smile. "Look, I won."
The Cyndaquil shut her eyes. Insyte's touch was warm, so warm. A slice of night air blanketing her. "How did it come to this?" she whispered. "Mom... dad... this isn't what I wanted..."
The first cracks of dawn were forming in the sky. Yawning, Shanala climbed out of the tent. "Good morning."
"Morning," said Lightning listlessly. Shanala stared at the others blankly. Rush was pacing around the remnants of last night's campfire. Firaga and Lightning were sitting off to the side. There was no sign of Slick.
Frowning, the Vulpix glanced back into the tent. Slick's sleeping bag was empty. On further inspection, the sleeping bag was cold, and Slick's scent was faint. "Say... where's Slick?" asked Shanal.
No one replied. Cold dread filled Shanala. It was as if the morning air penetrated her fur, though the fire in her blood should repel its chill.
Three set of footprints led off into the trees, when Slick and Rush had taken Insyte aside yesterday, but only one set of footprints led back. Rush's, specifically. . "Hey, don't tell me... Insyte never came back last night?"
At that moment, Lightning's ears perked up as footsteps approached. Shana turned to see Slick trudging back into camp alone bags under his eyes. "I'm sorry," said Slick quietly, his head hung.
Passing Shanala, he crawled into his tent and flopped down on his sleeping bag.Clenching his teeth, Rush slammed a fist into the fire ring, scattering gray ashes. "
The Umbreon made his way through the trees. Slowly, confidently, he drew near the campsite. He could hear his teammates' voices.
"Lightning, shut up," said Firaga, smacking the Pikachu over the head.
"I seriously heard something," protested the Pikachu. "Look, he's right there-- Ow!"
Smirking, the Umbreon stepped forward as his teammates turned to face him. He reveled in how they looked at him: Lightning with terror, Rush with shock, Firaga with revulsion. "I'm back, everyone," said the Umbreon, grinning to reveal his stained teeth. "Hm? Don't recognize me? It's me, Insyte."
Then, he noticed Shana's eyes, filled not with fear or disgust, but pity. The candor dropped from his voice. "What's with that? Don't look at me like that!" spat the Umbreon. "This is what you all want, isn't it? I won't stand in the way of your dreams anymore. Don't you see?"
A low chuckle from Firaga. "Oh, we see you, all right," said the Charmeleon, turning to the others "Now we can all see Insyte for the freak he always was!"
Hot fury lapped at his vision like steaming black tar, his veins throbbed with his newfound power. The aftertaste of the Aerodactyl's blood lingered in his mouth. Dark energy gathered at his paws. "Firaga!" screamed Insyte, dashing forward. "Say that again, you son of a bitch!"
The Charmeleon's eyes widened. Shana shrieked as Insyte crashed into Firaga, tackling him to the ground. "Geh!" Arms raised to protect his head, Firaga scrambled aay, staring at Insyte. "The hell... you were always a brat--
The Umbreon laughed. "What's the matter? Still think I'm too weak?" With a wild look in his eyes, he rammed his head into the underside of Firaga's chin, hard. "Come on. Get up and fight me!"
Clutching his jaw, Firaga dropped to all fours, whimpering. "What... are you?" He spat blood as Insyte's claws raked across the side of his head, teeth sinking into his shoulder. "Ah... I'm sorry, I'm sorry...!"
"I should've done this ages ago," said Insyte viciously, shoving Firaga onto his side. He kicked Firaga in the ribs. "Everything you've said, everything you've put me through. You've had this coming for a long time, you shithead!"
"Stop! You'll kill him!" yelled Rush, grabbing Insyte, wrenching him off Firaga. Gasping for breath, the Charmeleon crawled away from the Umbreon. Rush nodded to Lightning. "Hey, rookie, go get thecfirst aid kit!"
Still sqquirming against Rush's hold, the Umbreon stared as the Pikachu hurried over to Slick's tent. Slowly, his fury began to ebb. "Hey, it's all right, buddy." said Rush, still shaken. "It's just me. Your friend, Rush.I..." The Marshtomp's face contorted. "I'm sorry, Insyte. I didn't mean for any of this to happen..."
The Umbreon snorted. "Sorry? Sorry for what?" laughed Insyte. "Sorry that I stood up to him for once? Sorry l that I had the power to do it?" He smiled dangerously. "You saw that just now, didn't you? I threw him on his ass, just like you said I would. I've never been happier!"
Going pale, Rush let go of Insyte. "Really? Are you really happy like this?" said a low voice. 8Startled, Insyte spun around to find Shanala looking at him coolly. "Didn't you dream of being a hero? How can you delight in this... this thing you've become? And here, I even thought... maybe it wouldn't be so bad to let you win." Her bangs slipped down, covering her eyes. "I thought you were better than this." Speechless, Insyte stared as the Vulpix walked away.
Slick's eyes cracked open. An Umbreon was standing in the opening of his tent.
He immediately sat up, staring in disbelief."Insyte... Is that you?"
"Bree bree." The Umbreon gave a soft, deep cry and entered the tent. His shape might have changed, but he was unmistakably Insyte.
Slick reached out to touch the Umbreon's head. Relief washed over him. "Thank goodness... you're safe! I was so worried... I thought you wouldn't come back..."
Stepping up to Slick, Insyte lifted his head and looked his trainer in the eyes. "Uuumbra. Bree, um-bree?"
This was what Insyte said:
"I'm sorry for running away. Will you forgive me?"
And this is what Slick heard:
"Why didn't you love me?"
Slick froze. He felt a chill in his heart. Hot tears splashed down his cheeks. His arms wrapped around Insyte, hugging him tight.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry... I'll do better, much better from now on..."
Insyte sat in Slick's embrace, confused. Why was Slick hugging him so tightly, after he ran away? He was so sure Slick would still be upset at him for running away.
They didn't understand each other's words. Even so, Insyte wanted to win. And Slick wanted to win, too. So, he would trust Slick to do what was necessary to win. And he would do his best to help Slick win.
----------Chapter 8: Where No One Knows Us
Slick leaned on the guard rails overlooking the sea. He could hear Wingulls and Spearows chirping overhead as ships moved in and out of Olivine's wharf. His hands were cold from the breeze rolling off the sea, penetrating his sweater.
A Wingull landed on Slick's shoulder, chirping. "Welcome back," said Slick, feeding her a green Pokeblock. He watched as the sun dipped below the horizon, the sky swathed in golds and blues.
"Lovely, isn't it?" said a voice. "It's said all life, both Pokemon and humans, came from the sea."
Slick turned to see an young man with long, green hair, perhaps eighteen years old. At his side was a Slowking. "Oh, I was looking at the sky, not the sea," said Slick. He frowned. "Sorry, who are you?"
"My name is—well, I'm from Unova," said the young man, adjusting his cap. "I wanted to see the world before I join my father's work. The truth of this world... and the ideals that shape it..."
"I see," said Slick awkwardly. "Nice to meet you. I'm Slick, from Viridian." He looked at the letter in his hand, muttering, "I hope my brother gets here soon..."
The young man chuckled. "I imagine it's wonderful to have a sibling. Do you get along with your brother?"
"I..." Slick looked down at his feet. "I think so. We haven't talked in ages." Just why did Chris call him out here?
Just then, the Poke Balls on Slick's belt began rocking back and forth, and the Wingull started cawing at the young man. "Whoa, calm down, Bailey!" said Slick, patting the Wingull. "Don't worry, don't worry. Easy there."
Yawning, the Slowking looked up at Slick, staring at him impassively. The young man's eyes narrowed, and he squatted down. "Is that so?"
Slick glanced up back up. "Huh?" The young man's attention was on his belt, almost as if his words were directed... at his Pokemon.
The young man didn't answer Slick. "Don't worry." he murmured. "You're not the only one like this. I'll see what I can do. Not just for you, but for everyone."
He stood up straight. "Come on, my friend," said the young man calmly, gesturing to the Slowking. "Let's teach him a lesson, shall we?"
He looked at Slick, his eyes hardening. "Now... I'd like a battle, if you please."
In his Poke Ball, Rush stared at the young man. For some reason, the young man's presence deeply unnerved him. Squinting, Rush could faintly make out a thin scar around the Slowking's tail.
He didn't like the way the young man looked at Slick. As if Slick was dangerous. Turning, Rush looked at the Poke Ball next to his. "Insyte... just what did you say to that man?"
The Umbreon yawned. "Me? I just told him to go easy on Slick. The poor boy still doesn't know how to win, after all. Ha ha!"
The battle was over in a flash. With a single psychic blast, the Slowking sent Rush flying into the dust.
"Rush!" yelled Slick, running to the Marshtomp's side. Out cold. Picking up Rush in his arms, he hung his head. "You win. That was... that was something. You're one heck of a trainer—"
The young man looked at him coldly. "A trainer?" said N quietly, dangerously. "Is that what you think I am? A trainer
of Pokemon, like you?
Slick was taken aback. "W-what do you mean?"
There was a fierce gleam in the young man's eye. "I'm talking about him," said N, pointing at Slick's belt. "About him... and all he's given up for you."
Slick's eyes followed N's finger. The young man was pointing straight at Insyte's Poke Ball. A chill ran down Slick's spine.
Tbe young man patted the Slowking. "Good work, my friend," murmured N. "Now, return to the wild, where you belong." Nodding, the Slowking padded off.
With growing dread, Slick looked at the young man. He was releasing his Slowking just like that? Just who was he? "I... I don't understand," said Slick. His entire body was shaking.
"Of course you don't," said N scathingly. "People like you, you'll never understand. Not when you've been ordering your Pokemon around like tools since you were a child. You wouldn't even hear their cries for help."
"Wha--" Stung, Slick stared as the young man walked off. A strange thought suddenly crossed his mind. "Wait!" he shouted, running after N. "Are... are you saying that you can speak to Pokemon?"
"Doesn't make a difference," said N without looking back. "Too late to leave behind the doctrine that's permeated your society, isn't it? Too late to really understand your Pokemon. To let their voices in."
"No!" protested Slick. "At least... Rush and I understand each other..."
"Your Marshtomp? That's one out of five, I suppose," said N, crossing his arms. "Even then... do you ever try to speak his language? Or do you make him speak yours?"
Slick's mouth fell open. "That's right," said N, shaking his head. "They open themselves up to you, but you don't open yourself to them. Even though they love you as their trainer. And you know what?" He pointed at Slick. "You don't deserve that love. Not... one... bit."
Aghast, Slick backed away from N. "How can you possibly say that?" he whispered. "They're my friends—"
"They're servants to you. Your pets.
" N pointed at him accusingly. "You probably don't think twice about what you put them through! It's sad to know there isn't a single happy Pokemon in the world."
Pained, Slick stared after N. His eyes were watering. He never cried, but damn it, he couldn't help it; he just felt so angry.
"Looks like my ship's here," said N as he set off down the pier, hands in his pockets. "Farewell, Slick. I hope you'll figure out where you're going wrong, before it's too late. In a few weeks, it won't matter anymore. Soon, very soon, I will set this world right."
As N boarded the ship, Slick sank to the sat down at the pier's edge, breathing hard. He fished out a few spray-bottle potions to heal Rush's injuries.
Slowly, the Marshtomp stirred. "Ah... we lost?" said Rush, laughing nervously. He frowned as Slick gave him a tight hug. "Hey, Slick, don't worry about that guy. I mean... we're not... we shouldn't—"
Slick clutched his head. Through his anger, images slipped into his head. Insyte fleeing him, returning twisted and transformed. Firaga beaten to a pulp, no longer responding to Slick's words, a dull look in his eyes as he was placed in storage. Rush shaken to his core, his lips sealed on that day.
All of Slick's secrets laid bare, all of them his fault. Was his dark shame really so obvious? Perhaps everyone could see it from a single glance. Perhaps, only this foreigner had the gall to tell him.
"Hey, Rush," said Slick finally. "I... I can't face Chris like this."
The Marshtomp looked at Slick worriedly. "You're not thinking of running out on him, are you?" said Rush. "Hey, Slick. Maybe you should go home, visit your parents."
"I'm not going home." Home was the very last place he wanted to see. Not Viridian, where smiling, eager trainers would pass through on their way to Indigo Plateau. That would be more than he could stand to see.
He ran to the ticket booth. The attendant glanced up, startled. "I'd like the ferry to Slateport, please," said Slick. He sounded raw and heavy; he could barely recognize his own voice.
"Slick?" protested Rush. "Where are we going?"
Slick gave Rush a hollow smile. "Somewhere where nobody knows us."
Slick's journey continues in A Retriever in Exile.