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MATURE: The Story of Fritz Westmyn: The Turning World (old, crusty, abandoned)

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NOTE: This is an old fic of mine. It's abandoned now, for various reasons, most of which related to overwhelming myself with too broad scope that had too much filler I didn't know what to do with. Maybe for the better at this point, because it doesn't really hold up by my standards anymore. Still, here it remains in all its past glory. Definitely wouldn't recommend a read at this point though, unless you want to take a trip to the past. Where edginess and epicness was enough writing back then.

Beware language, sexual content, slurs (including ones that were fine back then and aren't now), and so on if you dare read this.


---

Welcome to a fanfic that has been in the planning phases since late 2009 or so. And there was a lot of planning, let me tell you. Only recently have I decided to get off my ass and try to get it started. Three months later (about half of which was actually spent writing), I have enough written to comfortably begin.

This is a multigenre fic. This is a grand story spanning several parts about and told by the titular character in a semi-present tense. It's set in its own canon with its own rules, although it has a blend of others sprinkled about. But take nothing for granted, as there's many aspects of this fanfic that make it make it unique.

One of these is that you can start reading from various points rather than the beginning with minimal fuss. The Part Summaries will help with this, and the way it's constructed will allow for this too. Specifically, Part 3 is where you can (and probably should with the length) begin reading from if you're new here and don't want to read everything up to that point right away.

Since I'm basically jumping into this biz for the first time, I'd appreciate any comments you have on the story. Suggestions, thoughts, constructive criticism, misunderstandings, insults, and so on. It'll help me find out what works and what doesn't, and improve my writing overall.

There WAS an Atlas to check out, which contained character profiles and details you may not have noticed in each (by which I mean the first four) chapter. Then it got removed and the forum blocked from viewing too. Thanks Obama. In lieu of this, you will simply have to settle for the following which I have put up...nowhere for now, because the blogsexploded. But they'll be back eventually.
Forthcoming...

I'll update this post- with more information as it becomes applicable. Quick tip: keep an eye open for detail. With that being said, enjoy the ride.

==========

Table of Contents:
Part 1: Welcome to Rukh's University!
Chapter 1-1: Opening Move
Chapter 1-2: Pokémon of the Lake
Chapter 1-3: Fame and Infamy
Chapter 1-4: The Challenge of Cronus Aporon
Chapter 1-5: The Big Picture
Chapter 1-6: Latent Reservation
Chapter 1-7: The Beast Attacks
Chapter 1-8: Learning Process
Chapter 1-9: Respite and Spite
Chapter 1-10: Burning Ambitions

Part 2: Omnipresent Secrecy
Chapter 2-1: A Bigger Picture
Chapter 2-2: Enemies
Chapter 2-3: In Seek of Sanctum
Chapter 2-4: Chaos Theorem
Chapter 2-5: Showoff Showdown
Chapter 2-6: Heart of Nature
Chapter 2-7: Pest Control
Chapter 2-8: Dissident Perception of the Absolute
Chapter 2-9: All in the Name of Love
Chapter 2-10: The Ends and Means
Chapter 2-11: Those Who Pursue Glory
Chapter 2-12: Cold Hard Clash
Chapter 2-13: In the Mind of a Monster
Chapter 2-14: Fight or Flight?
Chapter 2-15: All For Nothing

Part 3: The Aimless Path
Chapter 3-1: Cast Outs
Chapter 3-2: Finding What You're Looking For
Chapter 3-3: Contested Fate
Chapter 3-4: To be a Contender
Chapter 3-5: Pacts
Chapter 3-6: A Shining Beacon of Hope Lies Topside
Chapter 3-7: The Price of Justice
Chapter 3-8: Reasons for Being
 
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Part 1: Welcome to Rukh's University!


Chapter 1-1: Opening Move


All I could see in the faint light of the auditorium was a sea of heads and seats.

The finer features of the oak wallboards of this fundamentally single-roomed building were indistinguishable from the chestnut-colored velvet curtain shrouding the stage. I couldn't see the ceiling at all. The only source of illumination - aside from the occasional glow of mobile devices - came from near and behind said veil, and it did very little to aid the sluggish in finding a seat.

When I got here, there were only about 10-20 people already present. Now, as I sit roughly in the middle of it all, I can't tell. Maybe like 500-600 or something? The borderline-taciturn banter of those around me filled the stale air. For how long we've been waiting, it was a shock that things hadn't gotten uncivil. But on the other hand, many of the people here come from society's upper class. So it's not that much of a shock.

I stood up slightly, the seat part folding back inwards a bit as I did so. At least it was comfortable to sit in it, it being akin to something one would see in a movie theater, except they don't have cup holders. I could easily fall asleep in one of these, and if it wasn't for the fact that I was well rested the night before, I probably would have as well. Still, boredom is an exhausting detriment.

Thankfully, it wouldn't be bearing down on me for much longer. Without so much as a warning, the lights above the stage turned on full blast. I could see the silhouettes of the people in the first few rows shielding their eyes from the intense glare. Finally.

Out stepped a rather lanky man, in a beige monkey suit too big for him. From his body language, one could safely assume that sleep evaded him the previous night. A tougher one to gauge would be whether he's having a bad hair day, or if his gray hair's short, wirey look is natural.

"Hello there, and we welcome you to Rukh's University. My name is Mr. Wippleman!" he spoke, making no mention of the delay, but his tone gave suggestion as to the true proceedings behind-the-scenes. "This initiation assembly will be dedicated to telling all of you - our latest batch of students who have enrolled - a little information about our faculty." He had no microphone, his baritone voice filling the room on its own power.

He delved into unembellished promotion, "As most of you are aware, Rukh's University is one of the more recently created facilities for the education of ones such as yourselves. Established around 21 years ago here in Moldeau Town, Sinnoh, it is only two years younger than the town itself, but has already garnered a reputation as being one of the most well-respected Pokémon education centers garnered towards young adults. Over the many years of its existence, Rukh's has produced countless students who went on to national fame, such as Octavious LaMonte, Flora Merrick, and of course, we cannot by any means forget the man called Bansi - who is now a Gym Leader in the Kanto region."

Well, I only recognize the first of those. He reached to his left hip, retrieving a bottle of water and taking a swig from it before he continued his speech.

"For the past three years, Rukh's has been undergoing massive expansion in both student volume and offered courses. Of course, this is all because of the efforts of the new administration."

He paused, this time not for a drink, but as though he had forgotten what was next. He pulled a stack of cards out (confirming my theory), shuffled through them for a moment, and put them away as he continued.

"All of your classes this year will be held within the main building," he eventually stated. "Sciences and Socials are both on the second floor. Art class is on the third. And Battling is on the base floor. Today, you will be headed to all those particular classes. Each day thereafter, you will have two classes each weekday, according to the block you are in. For this week only, I will inform you that there will be classes on Saturday."

This feels a bit rushed? Are they that short on time?

"For us all to commemorate this occasion, each one of you has been complemented with an Eevee. How you choose to raise this Pokémon is up to you, but it will serve to help reveal to us your personality, training style, and what you hope to expect from your companions. If you have not already done so, you may collect your new partner at one of the tables on your way out of the building." Well, I'm one of the ones who hasn't done so yet. On account of getting here way too early, clearly. I guess it's there to help those without Pokemon - I not being one of them - although it's not the most original choice. "You will also be provided with a copy of your schedule at that time. We ask that those of you who have already done so on your way into the building exit through the door to my right." He gestured to the doorway in question.

Another pause, and another shuffling through his cards. "I believe that's about all that's needed to be said?" Just then, a woman came through the curtain. About half a foot shorter than her presumed coworker and also dressed more casually - wearing a plain white, yet tight t-shirt, and blue jeans. She whispered something into Mr. Wippleman's ear, causing his eyes to go wide. She simply smirked, turned, and left afterwards, while rustling her flowing raven hair.

"I must apologize, but I-I really have to go now," Mr. Wippleman stammered. His eyes darted towards the cloth behind him. "See you. And, uh, once again, we welcome you to Rukh's University." Then he hastily stumbled back through the curtain.

That was...abrupt. And what was that all about? Well, the assembly is over now...I guess. The other students around began to get out of their seats and disperse. I waited a bit longer, to avoid the rush. Being honest? I still don't know why I decided to come here. I guess my mind was in a bit of a haze at the time of the decision. But I'm here now...that's a fact I can be sure of. And maybe I'm not the only one who made such a rash decision.


I waited about ten to fifteen minutes for things to clear up before standing to my feet. I stood on my toes and stretched out - a certain necessity after sitting down in a chair, however comfortable, for a couple hours.

As I was on the approach to the exit, I heard what sounded like an argument. As I rounded the corner into the hallway, I had to suddenly had to halt in my tracks, as a girl came crashing down in front of my feet.

"Hey, watch it," I said to a group. Two girls - a tomboyish looking blackhaired one in jeans and a shirt, and a trampish looking one in a skimpy tank top and skirt with her blonde hair cut short, and one guy - a goofy redhead in a white shirt and matching pants.

"Hey," the male began to fire back, only to falter in surprise. "Er, um?"

The girl blinked and looked at up me, amber eyes narrowed. "Hey, mind your own business..." she grumbled.

My response was firm, "If you almost push somebody into me, you've made it my business." She let out a snort of frustration, but nodded. I glared more harshly at her harassers. The ginger boy shuddered and bowed frantically.

"Uh, s-sorry. We didn't mean to. We'll be going now." He hustled himself and his friends off, as they whispered amongst themselves.

"...whatever." The girl shook her head and let out an exasperated sigh. She's kind of a pudgy one, though I wouldn't call her fat or curvy. I'd say she's about 5'4'', maybe like 180lbs? She has on a light half-camp shirt that's primarily orange save for the front which is white, and dark blue nylon shorts with a white stripe down the sides. Actually fair-skinned, and her shoulder-length reddish auburn hair is wrapped a ponytail. She raised an eyebrow. "What was that about?"

"I guess they didn't want a fight?" I said this and shrugged in reply. "But what was that all about?" I am wondering...how do you piss off someone so soon after arrival at school? I offered my hand to help her back to her feet, but she refused it in favor of picking herself back up.

"Ugh. Stupid retards were just freaking out," she grumbled.

"About?"

She turned and gave me a funny look. It was like she was annoyed, yet at the same time, surprised. That is, surprised in a good way. For a moment, she was lost in thought, but eventually gave me my answer, "Okay. We were talking while the assembly was going on. We were wondering why it was taking so long." She started down the hall, so I followed alongside. "When the speaker came out, we were making fun of him."

"Wasn't it supposed to start at 8 on the dot?" I replied. And I guess I was wrong. Things were getting uncivil.

"I think that's right," she said, twirling her ponytail slightly. "But when that woman came out, I made fun of her too. I said she looked like a skank." She paused briefly. "That blonde girl turned out to be her daughter. She didn't like that too much."

"Ouch."

"But I stood by it. And that's why they were mad at me." With the brazen way she was speaking, their animosity was no surprise to me. Though, who am I to judge?


Our conversation had taken us to the hall leading out, where many desks are situated. By this time, only two of them remain manned. The ones in charge of the distribution of the supplementary Pokemon are headed by a tall man in a thin, dark gray overcoat. Beneath his ducktail-styled black hair lay weary eyes and triangular nose. The ears of this olive, blotchy-skinned fellow are tilted back at roughly a 20 degree angle. If his expression wasn't stony, he would be pretty intimidating.

He stared up at the two of us, taking in the sight. He eventually turned to the person beside me, and plainly stated, "Name please."

"Reika Easton."

What the- "Easton?!"

"Um, uh...what do you mean?"

"Oh...never mind," I quickly brushed off. "Thought I recognized you from somewhere, but I guess not." Ugh. Wow. I never thought...I mean, it's possible there's no relation, but...well, she was startled at my initial reaction, but breathed a sigh of relief when I responded back.

"Here you are, ma'am," said the man as he was being passed a small, round orb colored red and white by one of his assistants. It was just larger than a ping-pong ball. Another was replacing a sack with the letter E on it. "A female Eevee."

Reika examined her gift, and again showed a bit of surprise. "Wait. We each get our own Eevee? Hand-picked for us?"

The old man nodded, and went into an explanation, "That is correct. We began to do this six years back when one of our...less desirable students...raised a stink over random selection. Therefore, we decided from then on to predetermine who gets what, so that said incident could no longer be repeated."

"Sounds like he was a spoiled brat," I commented.

"She. And quite." He scribbled notes onto a clipboard before addressing me. "What is your name, sir?"

"Fritz. Fritz Westmyn."

"I see," said the man, retrieving my gift at a much faster rate than Reika's. "Here is your Eevee, Mister Westmyn. A male. We hope you can enjoy your time here at Rukh's University." He smiled as he firmly placed the Poke Ball into my hand.

"...okay?" He was really unnerving...all right, moreso than would be typical. Maybe it's just me. I looked and saw Reika attaching her capsule to a holster of some kind. Once it was in place along the three others, she placed it back on her hip. I simply slipped mine into my pocket. I really don't get those things.

"What's with the fancy strap?"

"It's useful," she plainly told me. "Keeps my Pokēmon in order."

I nodded. "Come on, let's go." With this, we walked outside the building.

----------

The morning sun was only just rising over the apex of the nearby hills, but stepping out into it after being in that darkened auditorium for a couple of hours made it all the more brilliant for a few moments. The sky had only a few cumulus clouds adorning it.

"Hmm. A nice day," Reika quipped.

"Yeah." Truth be told, I wasn't really expecting to make a friend so soon after arrival. It's a pleasant surprise. "Well, I think we got about half an hour before class starts. Want to go check out the grounds before then?"

"I have to go do something!" she snapped with an unseemly haste. Her next words were apologetic. "So...sorry." She then hurried off with purpose before I could say anything in response.

Oh well, maybe I'll see her later. As I took in the scenery of the diverse grounds, I involuntarily shuddered at sight of the massive surrounding walls. They may have been built with the intent to keep out people...but from within, it almost felt as though they were constructed to keep them in. The auditorium I just exited is situated at one of the corners, and a stylistic tower in shape of the roost of a bird certainly didn't help to drive off that image I was getting.

I set out towards the spacious field straight ahead of me, rather than up the winding path to the school's main area like Reika did. A wide-open knoll with a few trees sporadically planted. A few people are hanging around, chatting, lounging, and even allowing their Pokemon to frolic about.

I took a moment to examine my schedule as I pressed on. It looks like I'm in Block B. In order, I'm going to Science, Socials, Art, and Battling today, starting from 10AM. Then from there, it goes Battling/Socials, Art/Science, then they flip and repeat.

A few minutes of walking later, and I came to a sight to behold. Right there on the school grounds lied a clear, sparkling lake. A respectable sized body of water, the tall walls tapered off before its shores; a plain chainlink fence served as a supplementary barricade. A small walkway was constructed around it and allowed for students to stand near, a necessity given how dirt and rocks (mainly the latter) comprised its natural shoreline. Larger rocks were stationed in the water amongst the lilypads and water reeds. The source of the lake seemed to be in the forest beyond, The finer details were really hard to get a good look at, as the sun was hovering in just the right spot. Even covering sight of it did no good - the bedazzling reflection in the water also blinded me. Still, it's a pretty sight. With a nod and smile to myself, I turned to leave, heading towards the buildings...

...and just then, a torrent of water hit me in the back.

The subsequent fall wasn't too rough, as I was falling onto grass, and got my hands out. I scrambled to my feet as quickly as I left them and glanced at the direction it came from. The identity of my assailant is...hard to discern, as most of its body is beneath the surface. The reflection of the sun didn't help matters either. Well, with this having happened, may as well give my new acquisition an early workout.

Out from the ball emerged a small brown fox with covered in fine beige fur - the cream-colored mane around its neck appearing particularly elegant. Sharp yet languid ears and a big fluffy tail stand among two of its more distinguishing features. Its eyes gleamed with a lovely, charming innocence. This was all topped with the most adorable little smile, momentarily beaming brighter than the sun.

You might be wondering about the temporary nature of that last part. That's because a second after catching sight of his adversary, he let out a whine, immediately clinging behind my leg, as a child hiding behind an older sibling. This Eevee is a cute one...but battles don't appear to be his strong point. With a sigh, I recalled the tiny critter into his sanctuary. The lake Pokemon seemed amused by this and broke into a fit of laughter. All I can see is its toothy mouth...

I reached into my pocket to retrieve another capsule, one of the Pokemon I caught before coming here. I don't know how to describe the contents of it. It's kind of like a cross between a horned lizard, a rhino, a warthog, and a hare. It has coarse, scaly, spiny skin tinted an off-cyan that reminds of the first of those, but the shape of the body and in particular its large ears bear a resemblance to the last of them. As for where the rhino and warthog come in, it has a single, dull horn on its forehead similar to the former. Finally, its face and snout, although as jagged as the rest of its figure, is quite near to the latter. I do have to wonder who the hell decided to call this mess of DNA a Nidorina.

My Pokemon took one look and turned to me with a flabbergasted look on her rugged face. It might be a bit much to ask...but it may be the most reasonable choice I have. But since her performance in the water would be subpar...I am guessing we will have to attack from afar?

So, "Nidorina, Poison Sting?"

Hearing my command, Nidorina began to tremble, loosing a number of the spikes from her body. She then strained herself, tensing up in order to make the needles launch out like the head of a popped pimple towards their target: the lake Pokemon...

...who promptly evaded with a gallant leap that exposed its long, slender form - although the details of it were still obscured by the glare. When it splashed down, it immediately raised its face and returned fire with a Water Gun. I don't know if Nidorina saw it coming, but her ears twitched, so she must have heard it. The amalgamation hopped to the right to escape the attack. It then launched a few more needles, which were again evaded, though this time without a fancy leap and only by swimming to a different spot. And again, its spray also met the same fate of a simple dodge. This is going nowhere fast...

A quick review of my location, and my attention was drawn to the trail of large stones lining the surface of the water. They look flat enough at the top...flat enough to stand on. Maybe those can be used to approach? Only one way to find out! "Nidorina, see those rocks?" I asked, my Pokemon examining them as confirmation. "I want you to try jumping across them to get in closer."

Again, I got a stunned look, the 'what the hell are you thinking' glare, but she went to obey all the same. Nidorina began by carefully climbing on top of the first slab, as the lake Pokemon simply floated there watching. With caution, Nidorina carefully lined herself up with the second of these before leaping off onto it. She landed clean on her feet. It took a little longer for my Pokemon to make her way to the third of the stones, but she did so with the same success.

She was looking to line up the next leap, when a sick grin spread across the face of our adversary. I saw it, but before I could warn Nidorina, the blast was already headed its way. The good news was, she again heard it. No time to think, Nidorina only acted, making a third jump, then a fourth, then a fifth, with no pause until the last, where she slipped! The lake Pokemon saw this and swam in for the kill.

Its eyes are much faster than its body.

Nidorina dug her claws into the rock as she was sliding off, giving her the leverage needed to climb back up. With this development, the snake-like creature decided to take a different approach - almost egging us on by moving near the end of the trail of platforms. Two more jumps...Nidorina looked ready to make the next set, when something occurred to me.

"Nidorina, Poison Sting!"

Halting with a nod to execute my command. This volley made its mark before it could get out of the way, buying us the moment we needed. Nidorina jumped to the next rock, then to the last one, mouth open and ready to strike. But just as she got there, the lake Pokemon's eyes went wide, and it dove below the surface.

For a few moments, all was silent. Nidorina held her ears high for the sound of our foe's reemergence...and when nothing happened for half a minute, stamped the platform. Looks like it's gone...ugh. I thought I was going to get my first victory here, too. Reluctantly, I retrieved Nidorina's ball, aimed the center towards the creature, and pressed the button to fire out the red beam that recalled her - saving her a trip back.

I heard a beeping tone a moment after. I looked around in initial confusion, before coming to the conclusion that that was supposed to be a bell. "Is it time for class already?" I actually said aloud. I didn't spend that long out here, so they must have been REALLY late with the assembly. No time to look around at all. Disappointing.

I examined the main building - an impressive, four-story sight to behold, even from the side. With little time to take in the sight of it, I made my way around and to the front doors...the first class of the year is about to begin!

##########

Sciences class...a slightly deceptive course, as the main focus was at the onset stated to be the Biology of Pokemon. Several rows of single desks line the middle of the ample-sized second-floor classroom, numbering 209 in total, although not all of these were taken. There's also quite a bit of empty space at the back of the class. Cabinets and sinks are situated on the sides, with various charts and tables standing over them.

An hour passed quickly, and before I knew it, I had only 10 minutes to get to the next class. As with the assembly earlier in the day, I was in no rush, allowing others to leave before me to avoid the crowding.

As I did get up to leave, I spotted a familiar face in the far side of the room. Pushing my seat back beneath the desk, I crossed through the small maze created by strewn chairs to get near before calling out.

"Hey, Reika!"

She turned to me with utter revulsion and began to snap, "What the f-", until a look of recognition washed over her face. "Oh, it's you."

"Glad I found someone I know in this class," I said with a smile as I walked over to her. "I didn't think it was possible for science to be that boring."

She scoffed at my statement. "I always hated it. I can't believe they're making us take it the first year."

"It's not that bad," I shrugged, disregarding the dirty look I got as a result. After a moment of thought, I remembered something. "Hey, if you don't mind me asking, what did you run off for earlier?"

She wordlessly stepped back to present a short, bespectacled boy with finely combed black hair. He's dressed...creatively, to put it one way. The jacket he wore has a black backside, but the primary color is teal. The zipper isn't done up, revealing his white undershirt which sports a stylized cicada design on the front. His pants are really something, featuring caterpillars. Stubby red and white larvae with eerie yellow retinas are intertwining with lumpy worms tinted green and yellow with a soft black gaze, as if they were dueling serpents.

"Um, Reika? Who's this?" he timidly asked, his emaciated arms trembling a little as he stared at me.

"Well..." she began, going into an explanation of how the two of us came to meet. The boy nodded periodically, gradually becoming more composed.

"Okay. So you're Fritz," he said with somewhat higher security. "My name's Thatcher. I'm friends with Reika."

"Nice to meet you." I offered a handshake to him. He stared at it for a moment, before meekly accepting with a loose grip.

"Lucky we're all in the same block." Reika and I nodded in agreement; a really fortunate coincidence indeed. Thatcher pore over the two of us. "So, uh, Fritz," he queried, his nerves again returning in full. "Um, is your shirt wet?"

"Oh, that." I hadn't noticed the aftereffects of being hit with a Water Gun that much, really. Now that I check, my green and white T-shirt is still a little damp. "After Reika left, I went into the fields for a while, just to like, check the place out, you know? I eventually got to the lake. That's where this Pokemon shot a Water Gun at me, and it was laughing over it." I paused for a moment, before being struck with an idea. "I'm not sure what it was, though. It was long and blue, and I think it had fins on its head. It eventually went away, then the bell rang, so I came here."

Both of my friends went into thought. Reika looked over her left shoulder and into the air, while Thatcher lowered his head. He was the first to speak up. "Hmm...could it, maybe...it could have been a Dratini?"

A Dratini is indeed a long and blue (and white) Pokemon, and is quite snake-like. From a glance, one would believe its body to be hard and scaly, but it is in actuality soft and slimy. While it doesn't have fins, I could've easily been confusing its pale odd-shaped ears for the same. There's just one flaw in his theory, which I casually went into. "Could be. But it also had a big jaw. What kind of Pokemon just sprays water at people for no reason, anyways?"

"I have no idea," Reika grumbled. "Maybe the teacher would know?"

Well, he's a professor of Biology. But I'd imagine that Pokemon behavioral patterns is part of the study of Biology. "That could work, let's go."

The three of us approached the iron desk at the front of the class. It has that look that says it's been through a lot, having nicks, rust, and signs of weather damage. Perhaps the reason why the man hunkered there kept it is the numerous compartments offered. "Um, Mr. Staminung..." Thatcher began, only to be cut off.

"Zat is Doctor Stammain-Lebenung!" he said in a thick accent. His strange and difficult to pronounce name notwithstanding, remember how I said the class was boring? With a look like his, it was all the more deceptive. He looks just like one of those crazy dudes who could make anything fun. That or a mad scientist. Vibrant, cloudy eyes, a huge grin, and puffy white hair decorating the back of his skull are just three of the features of his eggplant-shaped mug. Over his body, he has a lab coat that seems like it was once a yellow, but dirt and fading had taken their toll over time, making its current hue closer to a brown.

"Right, so Doctor. There's this Pokēmon, see..." Reika said, not even bothering with attempting to pronounce his name. She gave an explanation of what had happened to me.

"So you zay your friend zaw a long blue Pokémon with big teeth and fins? Zat sounds like you zaw ein Gyarados." The teacher placed some papers into a drawer, which he closed and locked. He arose from his chair and moved towards the door. "Now, if you drei will excuse me, I mus' be getting going. Zis is the period where I get mien break."

As soon as he had left, Reika gasped, "A Gyarados?! In the lake?!"

"If you really did see a Gyarados, Fritz..." Thatcher is also surprised.

As they were talking, someone passing by stopped in the doorway. Older than us. Not a strand of the short brown hair on his head seems out of place. Even his sideburns and small beard are kempt. He has on a red and silver jacket marked by the school's insignia (a stylized bird of some sort), plain blue jeans held up by a brass belt lined with five Poké Balls, and black and white shoes. He's around 5'7''.

"You guys say you saw a Gyarados in the lake?" He cocked his head, speaking like an older brother would to his younger siblings.

Thatcher stammered as he tried to explain, "U-um, we're not sure...it's just that our friend here got attacked by a Pokémon who sprayed water at him, s-see. It was long, and blue, and it had big fangs...the teacher thinks it might've been a Gyarados."

'"Hm. A Gyarados." He stroked his tiny goatee with thumb and index finger. "It's a pretty strong species, you know...you sure you guys would be able to handle it?"

"Oh. I'm sorry. Have we met?" I sarcastically replied. My insolence made him go from collected to enraged in half a second.

"Watch your mouth, kid! Do you know who I am?" he said, standing taller, prouder, and pointing to himself.

I shook my head. "We're new students. So no, I have no idea who you are."

"Ah, that's right. Sorry," he relented, shifting back to his initial demeanor. "But we're talking about a powerful dragon-like Pokémon here. You guys wouldn't be able to handle something like that."

Not laying off with my tantalizing demeanor, I fired back, "What makes you think that? And what makes you think you'd be able to?"

"I thought I told you to watch your mouth, kid." This time, he seemed more annoyed with me than wrathful.

"Answer the question," I persisted.

More annoyance, as he pointed a finger right at me. "All right, listen, freshman."

"Westmyn."

"I don't care who you are! If there's a Gyarados in the lake, I'm going to catch it." He thought about this for a second, before revising, "Actually, I think I'm going to catch whatever it is you saw, even if it isn't a Gyarados." The guy's parting words were each delivered with more emphasis than the last, "So stay. Out. Of. My. Way."

He never took his scowl off me, with me returning the stare in kind, until he took his leave. Instantly after he was gone, someone grabbed my shoulders and whirled me around. "Fritz!" Reika yelled, "What the HELL were you thinking?"

"He was being an asshole!" I defended. "What was I supposed to do?!"

"I know, but you can't talk that way to him!" she firmly scolded me. "Are you TRYING to become an outcast?!"

I gave her a confounded look. "What are you talking about?"

Thatcher was more collected about this incident, and clarified it for me, "Fritz, that was Cronus Aporon. He's a fourth-year student here." I can't tell if his quiet voice trembling is natural, from fear of association with me, or rooted in awe. "Cronus is on his last year, and is one of the best battlers that the school has. The crown jewel of the University - um...their words, not mine. He's one of the most popular students at Rukh's."

"But he's an asshole."

"That doesn't matter!" Reika shouted at my deadpan snark.

I sighed in exasperation. There's no pleasing her, I guess, but on the other hand, I don't know what came over me there. "Let's just get to our next class. It's Socials, isn't it?" Thatcher nodded. "That's just down the hall on the left here."

As the three of us made the right turn out of the classroom and began walking down to our destination, I lowered my head in thought. So this is my new life. A student of a university in Sinnoh. It's not as exciting as I would have liked...but at least it's something, right? Things could be worse. I've made two friends already - Reika and Thatcher. That was a nice surprise, and they seem all right. And I've an enemy in one Cronus Aporon. Also a surprise, but not too pleasant of one. I have a new Pokemon with me...a cute, if unconfident Eevee. A Pokemon with many ways to raise it, but I don't know what I'll do with mine.

One thing's for sure. From the moment I arrived here, I had this feeling. I don't know how to describe what it is or why it's there, but it was a feeling that this is the prelude to something huge for me.

After all, it's a big world out there.

Whatever the future holds, I'm ready for it!

__________

BONUS SCENE:
Bonus 1-1: Reunion

The first day of school is often the one where new friendships are forged. A day where new beginnings happen. In the case of two individuals attending, however, it was not about getting to know unfamiliar people, but rather, catching up with some old ones.

Such was the case for Reika Easton. She and an old friend were both attending Rukh's University. In case they were unable to find each other beforehand, they arranged a meeting beneath an ornamental clock tower on the school grounds. She was making her way there as fast as she could, eager to not keep this person waiting.

And there he was. Standing beneath the ten-foot tall ornament, eyes darting with uncertainty..

"Thatcher?" she called out, uncertain it was him. "Is that you?"

"Reika...!" This cemented it. He ran over to her in a state of shock. "You...you made it."

"Well, duh!" she replied with a sardonic cheer. Thatcher smiled a bit, having missed it. "I said I was coming here, right? And I knew you were too. That's why I told you to meet me here."

He chuckled. "I guess."

"It's been so long, hasn't it? You've gotten taller."

"You have too." The two went silent after this, neither sure what to say to each other after many years apart. They had minimal contact ever since Reika moved away when her mother got a job transferal. A realization soon came to Thatcher, and trembling, he asked, "So uh...wh-what block are you in?"

Reika snorted. "What block?"

"Yeah. He said...er, the speaker at the assembly, that is," Thatcher explained, clutching onto his jacket as he feared the worst, "He said that we would all be in different blocks...um. It's on the schedules we got when we got our new Pokémon. Mine said Block B." This was something they were not told of. And if they weren't in the same class...he wasn't sure what he would do.

Reika had haphazardly stuffed the schedule into her bag. She took it off and starting sorting through it in attempt to retrieve the paper. On those Eevees, though. "I already have three of them, I didn't really need a fourth Pokēmon so soon..."

"Uh, Reika..." Thatcher awkwardly brought up. "Um, you do know it's pronounced Pokémon...right?"

"Whatever," the redheaded girl grunted, not even looking up. "To-may-toe to-mah-toe." Or in her case, with a long E.

"Yeah, I know!" he pleaded. She's always pronounced it that way, but he wasn't sure this time. "It's just that...they um, I'm not sure if they'll get mad at you here if you pronounce it wrong."

That was a fact. Especially people in official positions have been sticklers on the formal pronunciation of the term that is short for Pocket Monsters. Reika looked up, unconcerned. "Trust me, Thatcher. If they do that, they'll have their hands full." So many people say it so many different ways. Like that guy she met earlier, he said it with a kah sound. "They can't make everyone say it the 'right' way." Thatcher sluggishly agreed with this. Returning to her bag, it took only a short while more of searching to locate it. "Okay, here we go. Oh, hey! I'm in Block B, too!"

"Really?" Thatcher's eyes went wide.

"Take a look," Reika said with a grin, turning the paper towards him.

"Wow...we're so lucky."

"Yeah, tell me about it. So um, Thatcher..."

Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of the school's 'bell' humming out.

"What!?" Reika stamped her foot. "Already?!"

Thatcher's head hung low, as if he were expecting this. "They...were running a bit late..."

Reika shook her head, unaccepting of this. "This is stupid and coloring WAY outside the lines!" Her hands bunched into fists as she grumbled. "Damn it. I hope this isn't a bad omen about this place. Let's see..." She checked the schedule for the first class, and nearly tore it up in rage. "...goddammit!"

"What?"

"We have to go to Science first! What does that even have to do with anything!?"

Thatcher adjusted his glasses. "I think it's for...you know, aspiring researchers?"

"What about us who don't care about that crap?" Reika crumpled the scrap and threw it back into her bag, which she put back on. "Ugh, may as well get this over with."

And so the first day of the school year, the first day at Rukh's University, the first day of their new lives, began for Reika and Thatcher.
 
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I liked it! I like the characters and the complex dynamics that they have. I can't wait to see how some of them play out and to see the backgrounds of other characters! I especially can't wait to see how some other characters come into play. ;) I remember catching some errors but nothing major.
 
Chapter 1-2: Pokemon of the Lake


Sitting here in Socials with Reika and Thatcher...I find all I can do is stare out the window and sigh. I can just barely make out the edge of the lake outside. It never occurred to me to actually try and catch that Pokemon there. But seeing that 'Cronus Aporon' want to do so...it sort of lit a fire inside me. Now I feel I have to get it. I'm sure I can do it. But the problem, of course, is that class is currently in-session, and come lunchtime, if he's anyone meaningful at all, he'll be right on it. I don't know if I'll be able to do anything then...

On the subject of the classroom itself, I'm surprised it's able to fit 200 or so people in it without feeling cramped at all. It's not nearly as spacious as the setting for the class prior. Large black desks are lined orderly in the room, seating around 5-6 students apiece. The chairs outnumber the students in any case. It just so happens that the three of us were among the ones who got stuck by ourselves, but then again, it makes it kind of cozy. By contrast, I spotted a few desks that were willfully overstuffed by large groups of chattering friends. At the very front of the room is an elevated section, where the teacher sits from behind his polished wooden desk. The fanciest fixture in the room, I might add - the walls are a plain white and the floors a patchy beige. There's a blank whiteboard, and hardly any decor on the walls aside from maps of the country. It is as the very definition of bland.

"Hey," Thatcher said, poking me with a pen, snapping me back to reality. "What's the matter?"

I sighed while continuing to stare outside the window. He silently nodded, I guess to show that he understood the message.

Reika, on the other hand, took a far different stance on the matter. She continued to write on the small assignment we'd been handed, not looking up at me as she advised, "Fritz...look. Just don't bother, okay? You're only going to make things worse for yourself. Trying to talk him down was bad enough."

"Coming from the great Reika Easton, that means something," Thatcher snickered.

"Thatcher!" she giggled, not bothered by his wisecrack in the slightest.

"But..." I crossed my legs as I mumbled this...wait! Just got an idea! I stood to my feet and made my way to the front of the class. I stepped up and spoke to the one in charge.

"Mr. Yamaguchi, may I be excused to go to the bathroom?"

The teacher of this class...at the beginning of Socials Class he announced himself as 66, but from his face you'd think he was at least 40 years older. Dressed in a formal double-breasted red and white waistcoat with matching dress pants, he has horribly wrinkled tan skin spotted with dimples and bushy gray eyebrows that dwarf his crescent eyes. I'm unsure if he's just skinny, or if the ridges on his skin are simply giving his arms a boney semblance. The only hint of youth on this man was that he still had hair on his head, albeit only a tiny amount at the very back.

"Yes," he said in a calm, scratchy voice. "But do not take too long. There is much to learn in my class." His mouth curled as if he'd been ingesting nothing but lemons, a revolting sight that aided in the next phase of my act.

"No promises..." I groaned as I dashed off holding my stomach. I almost actually needed to go there...

I hurriedly left, made a right through the hallway, passing by a set of washrooms and a class marked as History, and turned left down the nearby flight of stairs to the main floor. From here, I left the building via the backside exit.

I wasted no time in taking in the sight of the outdoor battling grounds as I made the counterclockwise jog round the school. It wasn't too long before I made it over to the lake. I don't know if it's hanging around, but I think I can draw it out. I went to the shoreline and reached into the water, retrieving one of the numerous rocks. I then hurled it as far as I could throw it...


...and nothing.


I repeated this process. Again. And again. And again. I tried a few different things. Skipping the rock across many, many times, trying to throw it just over the surface, throwing it about where I initially saw the creature, and so on.

It was more or less fruitless...and I'm not even sure what I was trying to accomplish with this approach. Luring it out with them somehow? Maybe I should've brought a Water-type of my own, ugh. Is this even worth it? Maybe it is better to try to go for it when I'm better prepared...I mean, who's to say it'll show itself for Aporon too? May as well turn around and go back. I've spent enough time out here, anyway...

*WOOSH*

Half expecting that to happen and half not, I managed to jump out of the way just in time. I nearly lost my balance as I tried to whirl around straight after to stare down my foe, ending up in a full squat. All right, let's get this bad boy. I retrieved the Pokemon I had in mind from my pocket, standing to my feet as I released it next to me.

The face and legs of this one are a grayish cyan, the latter adorned with tiny bright hooves. They aren't the only part of its body to match though, as its long, rounded ears and tail are also the same color - both alternating twice between a dusty teal and golden brown. Again, the latter of these has decor; in this instance, a translucent garnet that sparkled on both the inside and the outside. Its most distinguishing feature by far, however, is the fluffy, bulging mass of cotton enveloping its entire body. I can count at least three tones to it: plain white, a corn-colored yellow, and last and least, a dark goldenrod. The Pokemon stood ready, the bumpy gem on its tail raised high as he stared down its foe.

The reason why I hadn't used him to begin with was for practicality purposes. But with nothing to lose and everything to gain now, I gave the word, "All right Mareep, let's see what you can do! Thundershock!"

From within the packets of its fleece burst a jolt of electricity, arcing out to hit...the shoreline opposite us.

Okay, wow. That went pretty far. But um...not really where I wanted. After an awkward pause, I was more specific, "Thundershock on that Pokemon. Not on the other side of the lake." I know it's not his fault, but still.

"Gkh!" His second attempt hit my leg instead. Not enough to hurt, but enough to make me cringe in discomfort. The blue thing broke out into uncontrollable laughter. Geez, now I feel even more discomfort. Was it just patiently watching this entire time? No wait, it actually moved in closer. Is it taunting us?

A volcano erupted in Mareep's beady black eyes. He made a shrill bleat. His entire form momentarily burst into a golden light as a massive Thunderbolt surged out of his body and in the direction of an oblivious Pokemon of the lake.

This...didn't find its mark either. But it was only about a foot away, and water conducts electricity. So close enough? What matters is that it's now floating silently, jaw agape on the surface of the lake like a reed hanging from a lilypad. Mareep was left panting after that move, but seems to be pleased with his efforts.

I retrieved an empty ball from my pocket - a green one with red patches - and much like the stones prior, gave it a good toss. Upon contact with the Pokemon, it burst open, sucking in the form of the snake-like creature, and falling with a light splash to float on the surface of the water. It shuddered silently, the only indication that it was doing so being the ripples generated from the motion. It halted eight seconds after and remained still. Got'em! And conveniently, its mocking of Mareep by moving forward to make aiming easier allowed for an easy and mostly-dry retrieval.

I gave the downy sheep a quick pat on the head before recalling him, slipping both capsules back to their designated locations. Having accomplished what I set out to do, I retraced my steps and hustled back to the school.

As I went into the building, a quick glance at a display situated on the wall on my left revealed that I was out there for only eight minutes. Didn't feel that long, but all for the better. I went up to the second floor and back into Socials class.

"I'm back," I whispered to my friends as I sat down.

"What took you so long?" Thatcher queried.

I grinned. "Let's just say that thanks to my Mareep, Aporon won't be getting a hold of that Pokemon."

"You lied to go capture a Pokēmon?" Reika's shocked at this. Not in her usual way either, this was her reacting like I had just done something really, really wrong.

"No, I did have to go to the bathroom. I just figured there were more important things to do," I slyly presented a variant of the cover story I planned to use, in case I was questioned about it.

It was honest, but didn't placate her. "I don't like liars, Fritz..." Better not respond to that, to avoid aggravating her further. But it's not like I did something inexcusable...right? At least from the expression Thatcher had, I could tell at least one of my friends supported me.

##########

The rest of Socials Class passed without incident or note. The subject of my sneaky preemption was dropped in favor of the assignment. We had to make a map of the country, and I probably did horribly, but that's okay.

When the class ended, it officially marked the start of lunch hour. The three of us left the impressive and massive main building of Rukh's University. Despite this facility being a reasonably modern one, its exterior was granted a turn-of-last-century design. Only the windows looked anything close to recent on this structure.

On either side are two smaller, similar-looking buildings. More contemporary, they're a ruddy brown color with whitish tiled roofs. The left of these from this point of view are the dorms for first year students. Straight ahead, one could make out the front gates of the University, where two further buildings stood. The right acts as the cafeteria, whereas the left was once a school shop, but apparently closed down this year. Presently, the building is in continued disuse. But the most notable part is situated in the middle of all of this.

The Student Square (actually more of a rectangle) is between the main buildings of the campus, marked by the many steps leading down around the perimeter. It's very well maintained - not a single weed is growing between the cobblestone. Various places to sit are strewn about, both formal and makeshift. Decor, including a few sculptures of Pokemon, a working fountain, and rows of planted trees added to the Square's atmosphere. The framework for a new building on the right side was the only eyesore on an otherwise friendly and inviting place, yet may have been reason enough as to why not a lot of our peers were hanging out here.

Reika spoke up. "I need to eat. Let's go to the cafeteria." She marched off in its direction, neither Thatcher nor I following her lead.

"I don't think that's...if that's something we can...do," said Thatcher as he adjusted his glasses.

She halted in place and turned to face him. "Why not?" she curiously asked.

"I overheard some girls talking in class...they said...the food in the lunchroom...it was bad." That must have been when I was out at the lake.

Reika snorted. "That's probably just THEIR opinion," and with this assertion again started towards the cafeteria.

I stepped in to clear the air. "He meant that it was spoiled, Reika. As in, the food isn't safe to eat."

She spun around with a "What?!" and stamped her foot in frustration. "But I'm hungry!" Her reaction didn't surprise me, given that we hardly were given time for breakfast. What I'm wondering though is how it even happened.

"It's all right. I got it covered!" A joyous Thatcher took off and reached into his black backpack, unzipping one of the larger compartments. He put both arms inside, feeling and reaching around for the contents within. When he found what he was searching for, he came up with three sub sandwiches in his hands. "Ta-da! Right from my father!"

"Wow!" Reika beamed.

"A salami, ham, and cheese sandwich for you, Reika!" he said, proudly presenting her with the meal stated. "Fritz, are you okay with a BLT?"

I shrugged. "Sure."

"And I'll take this tuna sandwich."

After a short period of searching, we sat down close to an ornamental clock tower. Only around eight feet high, but with a working timepiece and speaker (for the school's 'bell'?) in it. A plate on the side noted it's a scale model of one that actually used to be here. Reika joined Thatcher on a bench, while I chose to sit on a curb across from them. "My father makes the best sandwiches, Fritz! You'll love it!"

"Well, let's see." My eyes widened as I took the first bite. The tomatoes had been dried, yet somehow retained all of their natural flavoring. Though it had been stored in a temperature-controlled bag, the lettuce was as fresh as the day it was plucked from the Earth. The bacon was tender and crispy, with just the right amount of spice mixed in. The tangy mayonnaise, sweet butter, and semi-sour mustard blended perfectly, yet left just enough slack so that each condiment could be sensed individually. Most of all was the bread. It was tough and hard to get into on the outside, giving the sandwich a solid sturdy feel, making each piece feel like it meant something, yet soft and fluffy on the inside, with a rich texture that just didn't befit whole wheat bread. He really wasn't kidding! I just couldn't help myself, and began digging in as fast as I could, being careful not to miss a bit of the flavoring, drop too many crumbs, or choke.

I guess I went a little too far, because Reika gave me a disgusted look. "Fritz, I know it's good. But you're eating like a pig who hasn't had food in a week."

I got down the sizable bite I had taken, wiped my mouth, and humorously replied, "I haven't."

My response garnered a laugh out of my friends. Thatcher stopped his chuckle partway to inquire, "Wait, um, seriously?"

I looked at him with a slight smile. "If you want to call what I had food." Which got them to laugh again.


We continued to eat. I was too absorbed in the filling meal to talk further, and though I can't speak for my friends, their not talking may have indicated a similar view. It was only as Thatcher finished that he began to speak.

"I can't wait for the next class!" he said with ripe anticipation as he put the wrapper in his bag.

"Why, what's so special about the next class?" I'd been done with mine for a few minutes, but Reika is still working on hers.

Thatcher closed his eyes and smiled. "It's Art class. That's where I'll be able to do it..." he began in a mumble, before breaking into a determined proclamation: "That's where I'll be able to start on the road to accomplishing my dream!"

"You want to be an artist?" I have to wonder. How is art relevant at a Pokemon themed school? Do you like, use your Pokemon to make art? How can you even make art with a Pokemon?

"Oh, no. That's not it," he quickly responded. "I mean, real art is part of it, but, that's not it. What I really want is to be a Pokémon Coordinator! Just like Maribel Capdevila!"

"Okay," I slowly said. Truth be told, I had no idea what or who that is. But it sounds quite normal, and so like I'm about to admit that much. "I've heard of them before, but don't actually know what they do. Like, what are their goals, and stuff?"

"The goals of a Pokémon Coordinator..." he confided, "Is to make their Pokémon look beautiful. They get dressed up all cutely, then go up in front of crowds of people, trying to look cooler than anyone else! They have all sorts of fancy competitions in Contests. But they have to be tough, too! Since in most contests, you have to have special battles. Magnificent duels...showing off smart and elegant combinations of moves..." He was entirely bedazzled as he gave me the lowdown.

That might explain his choice of wardrobe. I am wondering though: did he make it himself, have someone else do it for him, or is he just good at mixing and matching clothing?

"I hope one day, I can be as good as Maribel..." He sighed happily as Reika shook her head, albeit positively. "Say, Fritz," Thatcher asked, "I was wondering something. How did you come to be here? And what's your dream?"

"Huh? I'm...not quite sure what you mean?"

"What do you mean you're not-"

"HEY!" Reika's words were interrupted by the shouts of a frantic young man. "YOU GOTTA COME SEE THIS!"

He ran off after saying this, his loose red shirt erratically wafting through his haste alone. The three of us looked to each other. I shrugged, stood up, and moved to follow. I glanced back at my friends after a few steps, who had decided to do the same. He led us around the construction site, between the main building and that smaller one, and then straight forward from there. It was around that time that it hit me where he was taking us.

"Where...are...we...going?" gasped Thatcher.

"I...don't...know..." Reika heaved. Even though a jog didn't drain her stamina earlier, a full-on sprint seemed to be wearing her down.

"There's only one place we could be going," I said. It wasn't long before my suspicions were confirmed, but the reason as to why we were headed there was nothing like I had expected.


In the middle of the lake swims a massive serpent. Its body is armored by coarse, thick scales that appear as though they might only yield to hard bludgeoning. The length of it is comprised of countless segments - tinted a desolate beige on its front, and a cold, dark blue on its back, lined with off-gray fins so sharp and rigid they might shred through metal. But what stands out most of all was the head of the matter. Though a creature of the deep, a fire resonates in its already-scarlet eyes. Its jaw - from which two white whiskers dangle - is wide enough to devour a man in one bite, and though only a few fangs sprout from its gums, they alone seem capable of tearing food to pieces. And if their pointed form is not enough to placate the masochistic, several spines on the side of its face and a pointed dragon's crest above its eyes serve as decor to the furious guise of the destroyer.

"That-" Reika stuttered as she took a preliminary step back, "THAT'S A GYARADOS!!"

An equally intimidated Thatcher recoiled into his jacket. "There really is a Gyarados in the lake!"

"But it's huge!" I turned back and said, more composed than my friends. "Something like that wouldn't be able to survive in there!" It's here though, so there has to be an explanation.

Thatcher gave his take on that matter. "He...he must have really made a Magikarp mad, then!"

Makes sense. Despite facing such a demon of nature, Aporon seems unconcerned. In fact, his cool appeared to be rubbing off on the rest of the student body, as they're watching his Pokemon battle the behemoth in awe. Its mug is no less ugly than its foe's, but not for being a hideous terror. Almost shell-shaped, 7-8 pink tentacles flail about behind its rugged emerald form like poisonous snakes. Two odd eyes - both merely a ring within a ring - are unblinking to any verbal or physical threat its opponent presented. From within its jaw shines an ethereal golden light. Besides all that, this oddball seems very serpentine as well.

"A Cradily?" Thatcher asked plainly. "How did Cronus get a Cradily?"

"His family's friends with scientists from Cinnabar Island, remember?" Reika said. "He probably bought the fossil from someone and had them restore it!"

Aporon's Cradily is swimming in a circular pattern around its target. Many torrents of water are being loosed from the lips of the massive dragon, but all of them are missing. Cradily is periodically responding with some blasts of its own - well, explosive blasts. Initially glowing orbs or chestnuts that it spat from its jaw, but burst upon contact. A classic Seed Bomb. Slowly but surely, the Cradily is nearing its foe. Aporon's gaze lowered, and he grinned craftily. Anticipating the moment they reach close-range?

Maybe. But then the Gyarados swung its entire body at his Pokemon, sending it clear across the water and to the shoreline near its trainer. Before Aporon could even get a word out, and before it could even get to its...foot? Feet? A blue flame had escaped the mouth of the dragon and enveloped the...umm...

"What's Cradily supposed to be, anyway?"

"I...think it's a barnacle?" Thatcher replied. "B-but what was THAT?" he yelped, referring to the move the Gyarados just used.

"Dragon Rage. An attack that pierces the target's defenses."

The inferno had kicked up a generous amount of dirt and smoke, making it impossible to see what had happened. The spectators are leaning forward tensely, expecting the worst...

...but when the dust settled, there was not an unconscious Pokemon lying there, but one who'd hobbled back upright and was...is it laughing!? The Gyarados let out a gasp, then a roar of frustration as many students cheered their hero on.

"So that's how it is," Aporon dryly said to the dragon. "Cradily, Ancientpower!"

The green sea creature glowed with a mysterious white light. A number of rocks quietly materialized from nowhere, illuminated much the same way. Then, upon their wielder lashing forth like a general commanding his troops, the rocks shot out. The shattering impact of each caused its target to wince in pain.

Not liking this one bit, the very agitated serpent opened its maw. A golden orb quickly formed within, and a giant laser shot out moments later. Yet shock would come to it for the second time in a minute as Cradily fell flat onto the ground, the beam missing cleanly and singing the earth around twenty feet away from its intended target. And right after that, another Ancientpower was quickly readied and unleashed upon it as it recovered. More cheers. But this Gyarados isn't done just yet. Likely realizing fighting from fifty or sixty feet away isn't doing it much good, it's racing to shore to face its foe head-on...!

"Watch out, Cronus!" shouted a male student. "It's coming right for Cradily!"

Aporon just chuckled, a confident glint in his eye the only recognition of the statement. "Cradily, stand strong!"

That got a reaction out of everyone. To say it was wholly positive isn't exactly true. Despite the shock, they seemed to trust and believe in this guy's strategy - whatever it was. I'm not so sure, though.

"Bad move..." I whispered. I just have this feeling.

"Huh? Why do you th-" Thatcher started to say, but before he could finish, it happened.

When Gyarados reached the place where Cradily stood, it again swung its body across. But this time, the barnacle was ready for it, and stood firmly in place as contact was made with its upper half, whipping it into the ground. Cradily was immediately up despite impact and moved to launch a counterattack...at least, that's what I think what his plan was? What instead happened was Gyarados, upon realizing it didn't send its foe flying, had stopped, twisted around, and looked it dead in the eyes. Though gaze as still as ever, the body language of the Cradily showed terror. From this distance, the Gyarados' Hyper Beam simply couldn't miss its mark. The barnacle was consumed and slumped over unconscious within a small crater, multiple burns covering its body.

Aporon was unfazed at this, fluidly recalling his Pokemon. The crown jewel addressed the heaving dragon, "You're stronger and smarter than I thought. Good! Good." He retrieved another Poke Ball from his belt. "Now, prepare to face a Pokémon that is a true master of the water!"

The Gyarados hatefully slammed its head down in reply before he could send it out. Aporon saw it coming and ran to the right to evade it, but the monster jerked to the left, knocking him away, along the ground, and into a tree. He didn't get up...

The student body flew into spontaneous trepidation.

"Cronus was beatened?!"

"No! No! Nooo!"

"What are we gonna do?!"

"Ahhhhh!!!"

"We have it to I mean we gotta get out of here!"

While some are rushing to the aid of the fallen trainer, a majority agreed with that last one. People are scampering away in all directions - a few even summoning bird Pokemon and escaping into the skies. A fleeting glance to Reika, and we both knew we're on the same page - we shouldn't stick around, either. We took off...stopping on the spot when we turned and noticed what was missing.

"Thatcher! You have to run!" Reika wailed.

He stands paralyzed in fear of the horror before him. The Gyarados let out a primal roar, spewing its blazing breath into the air triumphantly. He didn't hear her.

"Thatcher, please!" she begged.

Again, no response. I know what has to be done...even given the dangers involved. I searched my pocket for a particular Pokemon. When I located it, I nodded to myself. Its container in hand, I turned around and stepped towards the lake.

"Fritz!" screamed a hysterical Reika. "Are you retarded?! That's a GYARADOS!!! You just saw what it did to-"

I ignored her words. This isn't a time to run away. This is a time for action! If I don't do something, Thatcher might get killed by that thing! I cast down the capsule before me, and from it materialized a walking mass of blue spaghetti. No, seriously. Its round 'body' consists of nothing more than vines of varying thickness. Two beady retinas peer out from within a dark hole in the middle. It has no legs - only two feet on which it wears red and white sneakers.

"A Tangela?" Reika berated. "WHY WOULD YOU USE A TANGELA? Why not Mareep?!"

...

It's not something I wanted to spring forward so soon...I was hoping I wouldn't have to at all...but right now, it looks like I have no other choice. It's what I brought it for, after all...just in case. Tangela turned to me expectantly. I shook my head and told it, "Get its attention first!"

Tangela shook exuberantly. Per its demand, a vicious hurricane of leaves and twigs surrounded itself. Tangela squealed as it sent the contents of the vortex flying towards the serpent. Though they merely glanced off its hide, it served its purpose. The Gyarados turned its attention away from its celebration and towards that which dare attack it. It swam near and snapped forward, attempting to devour Tangela. But my Pokemon was much faster, and dodged on the left side effortlessly, and back when it swung towards it. I took a deep breath before I yelled my next word, right into my friend's ear.

"THATCHER!!"

He finally snapped out of his stupor, and backing away slowly at first. Then he broke out into a full out sprint. I acknowledged him, and took another step forward, staring at the challenge in front of me. Reika let out a gargle of disbelief.

"Wait, what the HELL?" She had a slight hint of thanks in her voice, but it played second fiddle to her confoundedness. "You're still going to-"

"Reika!" I snapped, with more anger than I meant to, startling her slightly. Thatcher slowed to a stop and peered back, shaking. I got some control back before I explained part of my reasoning to her, "Think about it. We can't just leave this thing alone. What could happen if nobody does anything here?"

Her face showed realization for a moment, but quickly returned to its chastising nature. "Y-you SERIOUSLY aren't actually to try to-"

"No," I interrupted. Try? There is no try. "I'm going to!"

I tuned everything out as Tangela again looked back to me, still in a game of cat and mouse. This time, I gave the confirmation it sought. With this, two particularly thick vines untwisted from its body to wrap themselves around the Gyarados! With a short run leading up, Tangela proceeded to reel itself in at an incredible speed, colliding feet first with the Gyarados, and actually sending it staggering back several meters. Those who remained gasped around me. A second bout rang out when the Gyarados flailed a little in attempt throw Tangela off, only to get crashed into again when it whipped Tangela out sufficiently far enough for it to gain the needed momentum. The impact was top-first that time, but sent it reeling even further towards the center.

The Gyarados went into a panic, gaining me some cheers of my own! Nice! It's thrashing wildly about and spitting water and flame into the air at random. This tactic almost worked - one of Tangela's vines broke off in the struggle. That didn't seem to slow it down though, as it quickly brought out another, and when unable to wrap it around, used Power Whip instead. With each crack across its scaly spine, the Gyarados let out an anguished growl. And uh-?

Oh.

It just dove underwater. Tangela was pulled down with it.

And then it was quiet. A little disturbing. When all you've heard for 4-5 minutes has been the cries and sounds of vicious battle, it's kind of odd when it's just like, gone.

Breaking the silence, Thatcher stammered, "Is...is it..."

He didn't get to finish his question, as the serpent - I guess when it saw how shallow the water was in comparison with its new size if Thatcher's theory is correct - soared high out of the lake. It landed on the asphalt with a thunderous crash that kicked up dust and rocks, and sent many remaining onlookers fleeing.

Ugh. And looks like it's figured a way to get Tangela off - slamming its entire body downwards, sandwiching Tangela between itself and pavement. Tangela kept its hold, but was stunned. Gyarados pulled itself upright, and once again flung itself down. My Pokemon wasn't crushed a second time, but was whipped into the ground particularly hard. Its grip is beginning to weaken...I need to get it out of there! Ideally, in an advantageous manner.

And I know just how to do that! I timely ordered, "Tangela, let go!"

Hearing the command, Tangela dropped its vines as the Gyarados was winding up for a third slam. The momentum of the upswing sent it airborne. Perfect! The dragon crashed down without Tangela. It let out a roar of frustration as it attempted to figure out where it went, failing to notice its aloft foe shadowed against the sunlight. This is it!

"Tangela, SOLARBEAM!"

Tiny particles of light flowed into my Pokemon's body, gradually tinting it a golden hue. Initially it was merely a translucent radiance, but it exponentially hastened to become more and more opaque. The Gyarados twisted around at the moment the charge reached its apex, just in time to see its fate. A column of energy, the size of Tangela itself, tore out of the mass of vines with such force that it bolstered itself a little further into the air. The sea serpent had no warning and no chance to respond. An ear-piercing howl of pain cut through the grounds as the beam enveloped its midsection. It defiantly tried to remain upright, despite its twitching body and scrunched eyes.

Then it was enveloped in a red light? Cronus Aporon is back up, head and body held high. He's slightly bruised, but by no means beaten down mentally. He stared intently at the Poke Ball, letting out a silent cheer when it clicked shut. "All right!" he declared, as people cheered. "Thanks for the help!"

As he was approaching to retrieve his new Pokemon, I interposed myself between them. I'm completely bewildered at what just happened. I threw up my arms. "What was that all about?"

The crowd hushed over this confrontation. Reika came to my support as well, giving him a similar look. "You just let Fritz defeat it, then caught it yourself?"

"What was that for?" I demanded. Aporon was entirely unmoved by my tone.

"Well, I did come here meaning to catch it, after all," he clarified, without so much as a self-superior laugh. He smoothly continued, "And I did, thanks to you. Things worked out for the both of us, wouldn't you say?" It's like he truly believes what he's spouting. "It's for the better, anyway."

"For the better?" I raised an eyebrow as I recalled my Tangela. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, sure. You're a good trainer and all, you proved that when you beat that Pokémon. But when it comes to controlling it, I don't think you'd be able to manage it." That again? He had a friendly expression on his face, which was further articulated by his helpful tone. But as he passed me by to collect his catch, he looked me dead in the eye and mumbled, "And I thought told you to stay out of my way."

Aproron went to picked up the red and white sphere where the Gyarados once was. With relaxed mannerisms, he strapped it to his belt, which with that had reached its maximum capacity of six. Just seeing this guy pisses me off. As he was about to walk away, I decided to address him further.

"Okay, okay," I flippantly began, "So if I see you being threatened by a giant water dragon again, I should just sit there and see how things play out?"

"HA!" Aporon scoffed. "Don't be so bitter. Besides, everyone here knows you only fought it to save your friend. Maybe impress the girl." He looked to Thatcher and Reika respectively.

"Hey, now wait just a-"

I shrugged. "Yeah, you're right. If my friend wasn't in trouble, I probably would've let you become fish food."

"Mr. Westmyn!" I nearly jumped out of my skin upon seeing a very serious, very angry looking man who came storming out of nowhere. Upon further examination, it's the guy from the assembly earlier. Mr. Wippedman, I think his name was?

"What?"

"Go over to the principal's office!"

"What for?"

"IMMEDIATELY."

I looked to my friends, who are equally as confused as I am at this moment. Aporon is smirking complacently, and the remaining stragglers are whispering amongst themselves. My eyes pleaded with Reika and Thatcher, hoping that one of them would say something in my defense. Neither spoke up. Guess all I can do is obey as ordered, albeit with great reluctance.

Not the way I wanted things to play out after making that impression...
 
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Oooooh. I would have slapped that boy. And you know she would have had the kahones to do it too. And wtf is going on here now? This teacher would have gotten smacked too. Can't wait to read the next chapter :D
 
Nice story, really great description, which is excellent for setting the scene, but things got even more interesting when you get into the action.

You do a good job of creating an atmosphere and a world, it's obvious you've put a lot of thought into the subtleties of this story.


One problem that you persistently have though, throughout both chapters (or is it all three chapters?) is that you switch tenses a lot. I think you're mainly trying to tell the story in the past tense but now and again you switch to "is" instead of "was" and things like "need" instead of "needed". That's something that's easily fixable though.

Also:

I heard a beeping tone a moment after. I looked around in initial confusion, before coming to the conclusion that that was supposed to be a bell. "Is it time for class already?" I said to myself. I didn't spend that long out here, so they must have been REALLY late with the assembly. No time to look around at all, which disappointed me.

At the beginning of this section he knew exactly how long it was until class began. A little inconsistency.

So Aporon seems like a bit of a jerk, and is shaping up to be the rival character. I was at first a little intimidated by him on Fritz's behalf as he seems like quite an experienced battler, but Fritz seems reasonably experienced himself... Well, he at least knows how to handle himself in a battle and is quite good at battling even if his Pokemon aren't that up to scratch. Speaking of Fritz's Pokemon, I'm wondering what the pseudo-Gyarados that he caught at the end of the first Chapter as it seems to have not been a Gyarados after all?

In fact, I'm not sure Aporon is really that much more of a jerk than Fritz himself. His description of the boy and girl who push Reika over as well as his attitude when he first meets Aporon make him seem like a bit of a mean guy. Still, he's an interesting character, and I'm looking forward to hearing more from him.


Great job, keep up the good work, I look forward to reading more! If there's a tag list for this, could you add me to it please?
 
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You do a good job of creating an atmosphere and a world, it's obvious you've put a lot of thought into the subtleties of this story.

Yeah. I try to put in a lot of neat intricacies, details, and little things you can infer. For example, Fritz had the same impression about the girl in the tank top as Reika did about the girl's mom. And when describing the Gyarados, he notes that it might "only yield to hard bludgeoning," Which is pretty much what he has Tangela do when they battle it. I plan to hopefully make a list of all those little things readers might not notice at some point in the future.

One problem that you persistently have though, throughout both chapters (or is it all three chapters?) is that you switch tenses a lot. I think you're mainly trying to tell the story in the past tense but now and again you switch to "is" instead of "was" and things like "need" instead of "needed". That's something that's easily fixable though.

Two chapters. Although FUN FACT: those were originally one whole before I split it.

And yeah, the semi-present comes out as awkward, sadly. There IS a payoff/reasoning to it all, but we'll get into that later. ;) I do try to keep a consistency, though - generally speaking, the faster the action or greater Fritz is in-thought, the more of that tense-switching.

At the beginning of this section he knew exactly how long it was until class began. A little inconsistency.

Ack, that's what happens when you write in a weird order. >_< Now that I think about it, though...it might not be necessarily be an inconsistency. After all, the assembly started late. Fritz could've be under the initial pretense that it ended on time, rather than ending later than expected as well.

In fact, I'm not sure Aporon is really that much more of a jerk than Fritz himself. His description of the boy and girl who push Reika over as well as his attitude when he first meets Aporon make him seem like a bit of a mean guy. Still, he's an interesting character, and I'm looking forward to hearing more from him.

Fritz is indeed a jerk, to an extent. He did have a bad impression/opinion of both parties, after all. So it makes sense that he'd use less than pleasant terms to describe them. More on his personality will be revealed as time goes on, naturally.

Tag list

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BONUS SCENE
Bonus 1-3: Uniform Distribution

Rukh's University, the offices of the principal, Howard Finkerton. The school's owner and self-styled Dean sat quietly in his office chair. He sipped his coffee. An imported Peruvian blend, very bitter. Just the way he likes it. As he waited for his guest to arrive, he was looking over a binder. Within it, sheets full of numbers.

He was accosted by a knock at the door. The person who entered was not who he was expecting. It was not the student he summoned, but one of his employees.

"Ah, well if it isn't Tory Miedere!" he welcomed as he closed the book, leaning back on his chair. "What can I do you for, today? If it's a raise though, you can forget about it."

"Hello, Howard. Mr. Finkerton, sir," Tory greeted with a bow, walking up to stand before his superior. He and the Dean were on good enough terms so that use of his first name was not impolite, yet he stated the latter for formality purposes. He had come here on business, after all. And being a businessman, he was certain the Dean would understand. "If I could have a moment, I've come here to talk about some of the changes you've been making on-campus."

Finkerton let out a heavy sigh, raising his hands. "Look here," he started, already suspecting what it was about due to having gotten two inquiries about this already. "The school store was a waste of funding. The main attraction of it were items that were sold in town anyway. By having students go there instead, we also stimulate the town's economy. It's a situation that benefits all parties." Except those who worked there. But omelettes and eggs.

"No, not that." Finkerton raised an eyebrow. His employee beseeched him, "This is about school uniforms! I looked through the records, and it seems that Rukh's University hasn't had them for twelve years."

"Correct." This was fact. Tory wanted to say more, but he raised a finger. "And are you familiar with why the University has not had them for twelve years?" he asked. "It is because even the previous administration was aware of the fact that they were a detriment to the budget. The costs from washing, creation, replacement, shaping..." He stood to his feet, picking up the binder and placing it on a nearby shelf. He flashed his CEO's smile as he sat back down. "Not knowing this is why you're a History teacher, and I'm the owner and operator of Rukh's University."

At that moment, the door creaked open. His guest had arrived, but he would have to wait a moment...

__________

Chapter 1-3: Fame and Infamy


As I made my way to the principal's office, I felt as though every pair of eyes were on me - despite that not being the case and in some instances there being no eyes around at all. To be honest, the situation is a little perturbing. Having no idea what exactly I'm in trouble for. Compounding the problem is the location of the office itself. Instead of being near the front entrance of the main building, the principal had chosen to tuck them away in a building in one of the corners of the school. Made the walk there that much longer.

Part of the trip there entailed crossing by the outdoor battlegrounds again. I slowed my pace to examine them better. They're actually fairly intuitively designed. While large enough to host a singular large battlefield and lines even suggesting doing so is a possibility, the sheared grass is divided into six partitions - each blocked from its neighbors by mobile chain-link fences. They don't seem to be in-use at the moment, no doubt due to the spotlight being on the incident that just occurred. Or no one else making an enemy at the school on day one. Not to say they're completely abandoned; a few students here and there have taken up the bleachers on either of the long sides.

The place I need to go to looks nothing like anything else on-campus. Only about a third as wide as the main one, it's easier to up and call it a three-story plain grey building than try to screw around with any elegance, because it isn't elegant at all. Even the windowed double doors were entirely ordinary. The wooden shack next to them looks significantly prettier than this, which is as plainly ordinary as possible.

As I stepped inside, I immediately located the offices straight ahead. I walked up, and before I could even open my mouth, the dowdy woman at the counter said, "Two doors down on your right," and opened the passage for me. The sense of dread continued to increase as I stepped into the carpeted halls. I found the place as directed. The gold plaque on the brown door - aptly labeled Dean H. Finkerton's Office - felt like it would be staring back at me regardless of my reflection in it.

Gathering my bearings. May as well go in and get this over with. Taking a deep breath, I turned the handle and opened the door...

Upon hearing voices from within, I very discreetly shuffled inside. The room is very well furnished, with a luxurious blue carpet, dignified looking walls, shiny wooden bookshelves, and so on. Two men are standing near the executive desk at the back of the room. One, a narrow-eyed man, a rather husky and hairy one dressed in clothes too small for him. In spite of, that's understandable given his height and weight. The other, and apparent Dean, the school's master, is a stalwart-looking man in business casual. On his box-shaped head are coarse blue retinas, a chunky nose, bushy mustache, and a full head of short, gray hair.

"Howard, the University had no choice back then," said the first man. "Those were difficult times. But now, we're in a much better state. All the other academies of the region require students to wear uniforms. I don't see why we should be any different. Why don't you reintroduce the program?"

While his subordinate's eyes are sharp, the gaze of the Dean became like daggers thrusting into the soul. "Because, it's a waste of money. Don't make me repeat myself a third time." He spoke loudly, emphatically, firmly. It's intimidating, and I'm not even the guy being yelled at. Yet...

"Sir, what about the Annual National Converge of Education Centers?" The first man maintained his civility. "ANCEC won't be happy at our continued non-conformance."

"Frankly, Miedere, I don't give a damn. They are completely unnecessary."

"So you would throw away values just to save a few bucks?" Mr. Miedere said, with a little more frustration. His arms twitched. He probably wants to cross them, but is resisting making the gesture.

"Money talks. It's profit, and usable on other more important ventures." Unflinching. "And all right. You want a good reason?" The Dean got out of his chair, and stared outside the window that gave a view of the main building. He turned around, and I didn't think his stare able to get any more intense, but it just did. "Contest class. Without freedom to express themselves, how will the coordinators of tomorrow effectively develop their craft?" They were quiet after this, the reasoning sinking in until the Dean proclaimed, "There you go."

"But sir-" protested the burly man, but his boss cut him off.

"Now get the hell out of my office."

Mr. Miedere just stood there, flabbergasted at what happened. He's physically larger than the principal, yet he'd just been taken down to size. He appeared as though he was going to raise his thick arms in further protest for a moment, but settled for a shake of the head. As he turned and left, he fired me a harsh look as he passed by. That's about when the Dean sighted me.

"Ahh! And who do we have here? If it isn't the great Fritz Westmyn! Come in, come in!" His attitude has changed, he's now wholly inviting? I don't like this. I cautiously advanced towards the desk, just in case. It was unfounded, as the principal kept a hearty demeanor. "Have a seat. Sit down!"

Feeling compelled to obey without question, I sat in the large chair before me. It was nearly as comfortable as his huge black office chair looks, but it's doing little to ease my tension. I know I have to think fast to get out of this one. So I just started talking, "Look, about what I did. See, the bathrooms were full, because-"

"Oh, be quiet about whatever that is. I had you called in here for a reason. Something you might not want to hear." He's now talking seriously again. I figure his wrath can't be far behind, and mentally prepared for the worst. "Let's just get right to the point. You see, there is growing concern within the staff about your being here. A fair number of them don't like you. They would rather you not be at this school."

"Wait! You don't actually mean that, do you?! I mean-"

"But you are not getting kicked out."

"How could you people-wait, what?"

"I am not going to kick you out, Mr. Westmyn," said the Dean. I think he's smiling...slightly. It's hard to tell given my mental state. He could very well be expressionless. "I figured it's best that you know."

I blinked. I took this in. When proceeding here, I swore I was headed to the gallows. I didn't expect this at all. Part of me just wants to take the knowledge I'd been given and run, not push my luck at all. But curiosity is getting the better of me, and so I asked, "Why?"

I was startled a little as he forcefully slammed a palm down on his desk. "Because. It is MY University. And what I say, goes."

Again, I blinked and took in what was dictated. The Dean stood to his feet and went over to one of the small bookshelves on the left side of the room to retrieve a green binder. He started checking over its contents casually, paying me no further heed. "Okay." Again, a thirst for information is overriding my common sense. "You're going to have to explain this one to me. Why won't you kick me out?"

Not looking up from the binder, he plainly stated, "To put it bluntly, it is because you're paying me."

"Um, well...you do know how it actually technically is with me, right?" I said, rubbing my scalp and tucking my long curly hair behind my ears.

The Dean nodded and serenely sat back down, placing the binder on the desk. "Of course. But any student is a source of income to me, no matter the means. You have your ways, but others, heh, well." He smirked. "Do you know how much money the wealthy are willing to pay to send their spoiled little brats to school? Quite a lot, let me tell you." He was gradually speaking with greater unscrupulous contempt. "Academies such as this one? They're breeding grounds for the pretentious. The entitled. The vain. The wasteful. Those with gauche and inadequacy. Those who were too good to go on a journey like much of the youth of the country. And they're all loaded. Are you getting this?"

"...yeah?" I'm not quite sure what to make of this all.

"Good. This place used to be one of the most expensive Universities to get into. And do you know what I did?"

"You...made it the most expensive?" An unconfident guess.

He laughed. Genuine laughter. "No. I lowered the tuition fees." From his subsequent expression, I'd say I involuntarily gave him a confused look. But can you really blame me? The Dean continued, "Think about it. Hundreds upon hundreds of new students, tripping over themselves to get into that which was once beyond their reach. All paying to join the elite. The cash of the upper middle class, flowing into my pocket. All so they can stand with the richest. Bringing in more money than a system of high fees and lower volume could ever hope to provide. And do you want to know the funny part?" He was grinning from ear to ear with smug, shameless, self-superior immorality. "The funny part is, despite the exorbitant prices, they were no better than other places. It was genius in theory. Crafting an image to rip off the fools who think high cost means superior product." Any respect he might have been granting waned with his next statement. "But then there was their budget, or lack thereof. Do you know how much revenue they wasted?"

Put on the spot again. This time, I felt more intrepid with my reply. "I'd say around ten million a year?"

"A good guess. Ten million each year was being spent frivolously." He opened the binder to reveal a spreadsheet of fiscal numbers. He started to go over them, counting each which was listed on his stubby fingers. "Inessentials. Superfluous features. Inefficiency. Repairwork. Cleaning. Improper distribution of dividend. Improper use of space. The list goes on and on. By taking care of all of that, I was able to use the extra revenue to expand the school. Furthermore, I brought in some associates as well as out of work instructors. I could get away with paying them a lower salary. Of course, I slashed salaries of existing employees anyway." He smirked pridelessly at his accomplishments.

"So you're spending money to make money?" I'm beginning to get it, and it makes sense. I suppose.

He showed delight. "Ah, I see you know what it means to be an entrepreneur. Very good. You should enroll in the new Economics class on your second year. You're correct. This University is an investment to me. I could care less about their wanton luxuries and proper principles. Of course, I intend to do good by my position, to get the most out of it."

Now I don't know what to think. Here is an intelligent businessman whose practices are reprehensible. Yet I feel like I can trust him more than anyone else on campus. That is a fact. But what to make of it is what confounds me. "So...we're good?"

"Better than good, Mr. Westmyn. It pleases me that you understand the way things are. Just watch what you do out there, you hear? Now get the hell out of my office."

Despite being granted my pass, I still don't feel an urge to hang around here longer than I have to. Not because of his last statement either - he said it in a jovial manner. So I shook his hand, stood up, and practically bolted out the door. I similarly wasted no time in leaving the building, lest any staff attempt to heckle me. I can say with confidence though that he is right about at least one thing: I need to be more careful from now on.

----------

While I was in there, it seems student activity around campus had spread out from the incident at the lake. There is a peculiar consistency about it that I noticed. First, everyone seemed a little more tense than should be ordinary for the first day of school. And second, many of my peers are whispering amongst themselves. Once more, I felt as though eyes were upon me. Only difference now was, there actually were people around to be doing so.

So many of the staff of this school dislike me. It's not that I didn't expect it...it's just that I was hoping it wouldn't be the case. And I have no clue as to the stance of my fellow students, other than how I had garnered their interest. Precisely what type of interest was the question. Will it be positive? Will it be negative? Or a mixture of both? And what will my friends have to say? I guess I should find them and ask them about it.

I passed by the battlegrounds again, which had a few students sparring amongst themselves. Although, it occurs to me that have no idea where to find my friends. An examination of the bleachers at least narrowed the possibilities down...but like that's any help.

Thankfully, there is one easy way. The 'bell' began to hum. I'll certainly be able to catch up with them in class. Since it was just on my left, I entered the door nearby and made my way to my next class.

----------

The Art Class is located on the third floor of the school. It is a much more open floor than the ones below it, home to only three proper classes. I thought the Sciences classroom to be large, but Art is nearly double the area! Large glass windows on one side of the room give a fantastic view of the grounds. It has a wide open mini-stage up front, next to the teacher's desk. Coming off the Dean's, this one, although fanciful, looked akin to resale. Supply cabinets are labeled and lined up in an orderly fashion, in contrast to the floor which is slightly chaotic. The messy wooden tables - scattered about - are even larger than those in Socials, able to give each student all the workspace they could ever need. Naturally, there are still the buffoons who choose to crowd together.

I spotted my friends quickly enough. Again sitting alone, and somewhat annoyingly, despite how they'd gotten here early and could've procured a table by a window, they're as far from them as possible. They were sitting across from one another and talking. When they saw me, they stopped and looked. It was a slightly awkward moment, but I took a seat on Thatcher's right regardless.

"Fritz," Reika said disappointedly, before I could even fully sit down. "What did you do?"

"Apparently nothing." A technical truth. I tried to be casual about it, but wasn't doing a very good job.

"Then why were you called to the principal's office?" she pressed, leaning in further and narrowing her eyes.

"I don't know. It was for something administrative, I guess." I'm trying to play it off as best as I can. "Mr. Finkerton talked to me for a bit about a few things, said some stuff about the school, and then he let me go. That's it."

"That's it?" She fell back against her chair, but isn't accepting my answer. As if she expects there was something else.

"Why would I lie to you?" I said, firmer. "You already know I went out to capture that Pokemon. If I was in trouble for that, what would be the point of saying it wasn't to someone who already knows?"

"Because, you-" she paused, unable to think of anything in response. After six seconds, she just grumbled and turned away.

I felt a prodding at my shoulders, the source being Thatcher, who leaned over and began speaking to me in a hushed voice, so that our friend could not hear. "Is that really what happened?" he asked, in a kinder tone that convinced me to explain in greater detail.

"Yeah. He did say to watch what I do out there, too. I guess Aporon or one of his friends must've gone crying or something," I whispered back. That last part is only speculation, but it's all that came to mind at this point in time. "About the school, he talked about how he expanded it, and stuff like that."

"Oh, okay."

We were quiet for a few moments as our peers continued to pile in. Bothering me further was how by the time most were present, there was still window seats and tables remaining. The teacher has yet to arrive, and it's slightly beyond the time that he was slated to do so. I thought to bring the window thing up to them, but Thatcher spoke up about the latter issue.

"So, I wonder what kind of teacher we're going to have here," he pondered.

"Yeah." That's an interesting question. "Biology had a crazy German scientist, Socials had that, well, really disgusting old man to put it one way...wonder what kind of guy we'll get here?"

"Hi, class!" It's a woman. A really ditzy-sounding woman. "I'm Ms. Odell, and I'll be your art teacher!"

She...what? What the hell? "Wow. And you thought that woman at the assembly was a skank, Reika."

"I know, but I..." She's been struck speechless by the sight of this person. "I can't believe this! What the f...why? What kind of teacher wears a snug, bright pink tank top and jean shorts that barely cover her ass?!" She's grasping her hair in deranged shock.

Thatcher cut in. "Maybe...she's hot?"

Reika and I gave him similar glares, maybe for different reasons. "You don't know what hot is, Thatcher," I deadpanned.

"This is kind of embarrassing, I don't know who any of you are!" Ms. Odell giggled. "And I had to teach the same stuff twice already today, I'm exhausted. So, why don't we instead go around the class and introduce ourselves? How about we start with you three in the back there?!" She's pointing to our table, and skipped over to the left of it to confirm it was us she was referring to, "Come on! Up to the front!"

"A-are you sure that's all right?" Thatcher queried.

"Of course it is!" the teacher said with a bounce that made Reika and I turn to each other, unnerved at the motion. "The first day is all about introductions, anyway! Now come on! Don't be shy, now!"

She is right, but I think few teachers choose to take the introductions this literally. Regardless, I stood up and stretched my arms and back out in preparation. My friends showed some reluctance, but eventually stood up as well. The three of us made our way onto the stage at the front of the class. It's a neat sensation to stand here, though explaining it is difficult. This platform is elevated only half a foot over the rest of the room, but what a difference that half a foot makes.

Our female friend decided to take the initiative and approached the cedar podium at front and center. The silence was deafening as she took up her position. A staredown between a wordless girl and a mute audience.

"I'm Reika," she said, miserable to be put on the spot like this. It appeared she was about to say more, her mouth opening halfway. Instead, she sighed exasperatedly and stood on the opposite side.

"You can go next," I offered, gazing over my right shoulder as I leaned against the whiteboard with my left arm and back. My friend nodded.

Set to a few polite claps, Thatcher stepped into the middle without incident, but as soon as he turned to face the class, he froze in place. Like, at that moment, all visible motion ceased. "Um...uhh...I'm...uh...hahahaha...err..." he stammered. Oh dear. "My name...is...umm...Scratcher Pee. AHHHH!!! I-I-I mean, it's Th-Thatcher Li!" Even from ten feet away, I can see the beads of sweat drizzling down his forehead. He's clutching both sides of his jacket, the tempo of his jittering rising steadily for each second that passes. "I um, I want to...I...I want...want to..." Spontaneously, he yelped out and buried his arms into his face, running back to the desk as quickly as possible in tears. Reika called his name and ran to console him, leaving me on my own.

"Um, well..." Ms. Odell said, rubbing her forehead, "...let's hear from this lovely young man next."

Before I even moved, the class began clapping and cheering. It started slow, but by the time I reached center stage, a quarter of the class was doing the former, a quarter the latter, and another quarter was doing both. There was even liveliness among the remainder of my peers. It's almost surreal.

I really couldn't do anything but take it all in with a smile. When it died down after 15-20 seconds, I began to weigh in on the situation. "Well, I'm guessing many of you saw or heard about what happened at the lake," I briskly said, to which I received more cheers. I held out my palms. "All right, all right, quiet down so I can speak. My name is Fritz Westmyn. So you probably guessed it from how I battled over there, but I already had some experience with Pokemon before I came here. I've been practicing with them on and off since I was like...five?" I shrugged, "It's nothing really, just been a little bit at a time, you know? Here and there. Nothing too big."

I held the entire crowd captive as I paused. "I never got a chance to travel a lot. I was around the same group of people for like, the longest time. So it's nice to finally get out and meet new faces." Ah, wow. What am I doing? I should wrap this up quick. "But look at me here, making a big-ass speech out of all this. Sooo, thanks for the welcome, and, I look forward to four years of classes with you guys."

With a shining look of contentedness on my face and another ovation to send me off, I went back to the desk and sat down. It was only then that I noticed my friends' awestruck faces. Thatcher is displaying a mixture of shock and amazement. Reika is just dumbfounded.

"Fritz...how did you..." Thatcher tried to say, but couldn't find the words to finish. I get what he was trying to ask me, but I'm not quite sure what I could say that could help him. If there is anything at all.

My other friend remained wordless on the issue. Even in the few hours I've known her so far, this change in demeanor is baffling. Even concerning.

"Reika, what's the matter?" I inquired, placing my worry out in the open.

"Nothing," she said plainly, poorly attempting to conceal a peculiar concern. I decided not to press the issue further, uncertain of what could be hanging over her head.

##########

Table by table, each student in the class went up to the front. One by one, they introduced themselves. The responses and reactions given varied between each individual. A few nearly went into a speech as I did. A few kept it short and simple, like Reika. No one reacted the same was Thatcher did though, a fact I could tell bothered him from his frustrated look and reddened cheeks.

By the way, I guess mathematics isn't Ms. Odell's strong suit. With around 50 minutes to work with, 200+ students, and a mode time taken of half a minute, there was not enough time to get through everyone. She said that we'd finish up the rest and begin class proper in two days.

Compared to the rush that was the first few hours of the day, the remainder simply rushed by.

The Battling class I was expecting to be most exciting of all, but...it wasn't. There weren't even chairs, a fact that really annoyed Thatcher. This was the only class we had on the first floor. If one was to go in from the back entrance near the outdoor battlegrounds, it'd be on your left as you enter. Area efficiency seemed to be the idea they had here. It would explain the lack of chairs, since they had to squeeze in a battlefield, a manual scoreboard, a few negligible workstations, a projector and screen for it, and more into this space about half the length of the Art room. Come to think of it, the rooms are polar opposites of one another in that sense.

Wisely, I sat with Reika and Thatcher on either side of me. It was also a good thing that the teacher, Mr. Wu, was good at taking control and regaining attention. There just wasn't much to the class besides which. It was just a basic intro to the course.

I didn't have to put up with too many enthusiasts after class. Which was pleasant. My friends and I just relaxed afterwards for the most part. The worst that happened was showing off Tangela and Mareep a bit to a group of 4-5 people. As for right now...I forget how it came to this, but we all have out our Eevees, and are letting them get some fresh air and interaction.

Reika's Eevee has an expression of confusion as my own is playfully running circles around her. It's cool to contrast our three Pokemon with one another. Her Eevee has a shorter, more slender tail and pinned-back ears around half the size of my Eevee's. Her coat isn't as vibrant a brown, but is a little shinier. Thatcher's is standing on the side watching the other two with silent bemusement. Despite a smaller frame, raggedy fur, and bunchy/segmented mane, this fox is closer in appearance to my own that Reika's is. Its ears and tail matched, and it has a similar innocence in its eyes.

Reika's Eevee eventually got tired of the game, and lashed her tail. This startled my Eevee so much, he ran back towards me with an incredible speed, positioning himself as far away from Reika and her Eevee as he could get.

"Quick Attack," I noted. "Nice."

"Wow," Reika snorted in laughter. "That Eevee has issues."

"I'd say it's okay," Thatcher said soothingly. He was thinking. "I think it could be great in a Contest."

"He is pretty cute, isn't he?" I received confirmation from the future coordinator. It's too bad about his timid personality, because if it weren't for the battles, that might be something to consider for him. I picked up the fox, and he nuzzled up against my face. "This Eevee is a really nice Pokemon, at least. I just can't not like him."

"Um, Fri-Fritz?" Thatcher awkwardly addressed me, as I placed the fox on my shoulder.

"Yes?"

"You um...know it's technically pronounced Pokémon, right?"

Pft. I waved that off. "To-may-toe to-mah-toe, Po-kay-mon Po-kah-mon." I moved my hand after each word.

Reika clapped, looking up with a grin and thumbs up. "Agree!"

Thatcher huffed, lowering his head. There's several different ways of pronouncing it. I've heard at least five. None are wrong. "Um. Oh...Fritz," Thatcher called out again, his voice trembling this time, "C-can you...can I ask you something? I mean, something else, that is."

"Sure," I said with a nod of my head and cheerful tone. "Is there something on your mind?"

"No, um...remember what they said...that how we raise Eevee. Did they..." His voice trailed off, but I still know what he was trying to convey.

"Doesn't Eevee have like nine or ten different ways to evolve?" I asked. Something close to that. If I remember it correctly, Eevees are renowned as alternative starter Pokemon - particularly among non-League sanctioned organizations - due to their unstable genetic makeup granting them the capacity for varied evolution. This allows their owners to pick and choose what type of Pokemon they want it to become. "If I had to guess, I'd say it has to do with that. When, and where, and how, and why someone chooses to evolve it. Something like that."

He nodded periodically, eyes glowing in extreme interest as I put my two cents in. With satisfaction and curiosity, he then asked, "So what are you planning to do? W-with your Eevee, I mean."

Um. I looked at him. He jumped off my shoulder and started grooming himself. "I don't know yet. Maybe I'll just let the cards fall where they will." I adjusted my bangs as I talked. I'm certain there's something I can do, but I just don't know what it is yet.

My answer disappointed him. "I don't know either. What could be good for a contest?" The second sentence was a muse, spoken more quietly than the first.

"Reika?" I fished for her own decision. She had walked over to her Eevee, and seemed to be trying to figure out its moves. From her expression, I don't think it's going well. "What about you, what about your Eevee?"

"Not Vaporeon or Leafeon," she replied. "I already have a Water type and Grass type. That's it. That's all I can say." I don't know if that should be a deterrent, but to each their own, I suppose.

But anyway, I'm getting a little restless. I recalled my Eevee. "Sitting around here is kind getting dull. Wanna go do something?"

"No."

"N-not really..."

Well. I guess Reika and Thatcher are just mentally drained to suggest anything else. Oh well.

##########

That was about all that stood out from our free time. Before I knew it, we were saying our good nights and had departed for our rooms.

The first year dormitory of the school is a structure with as many stories as the school's main building, but only about 3/5ths of the height. With the smaller ceiling, I'd imagine it's a tight fit for very, very tall people, but not so much for most, myself included.

It surprises me, though. Well, two things, actually. First of all, despite the disposition my peers have towards me, they weren't falling over each other in attempt to be my roommate. It may be in part to the second. The uppermost floor actually has the least number of students residing on it. Maybe people don't want to walk too much to get to their room? At any rate, I have a single room all to myself, and would've gone with that regardless of others. Three attributes of such a secluded spot make it worth living in, too. One, this room was well-looked after by previous owners. Second, it's nice and quiet. Third would be the view.

I'd have thought more people would flock here for that last aspect. Being situated on a corner room, I have the luxury of windows on each outer wall. One of these overlooks the building housing the offices, and the vast forests beyond. A bluff within is silhouetted against the starry skies. Which, I might add, are pretty beautiful too. Where I used to live, you were lucky to see a hundred twinkling stars. Yet this near-pristine state of the land exposed thousands, and even a few faint nebulae. By peering out and to the left, I can get a good look of the entire rest of the grounds. Rukh's University feels like a whole different place at night, the dim illumination of the few lamps presenting a quaint atmosphere. From the other window is more forest, but the remainder of the grounds within and some city beyond differentiated it from the former. Speaking of Moldeau Town, you can get a good look at it by looking out and to the right.

It's a very energy efficient township. The reason why the night sky is so visible can certainly be tied to this municipality's planning department. Actually, most of the country has adapted these standards in one way or another, though these folks must have been especially dedicated. The rest of the credit could be given to the moon, which is only a sliver at present. As a result of these two factors, the town isn't that radiant a sight at this hour. But unlike the rocky hillsides opposite, the finer details are still surveyable. I can make out a park, a Pokemon Center, a bowl-shaped stadium, and what I think is the mayor's office.

It's soothing to have some time to myself. After all that happened today, it's just nice to be able to bask in the cool nocturnal air, lie on my bed, and think.

Cronus Aporon...dubbed the crown jewel of Rukh's University. I wasn't expecting him to have quite the level of talent he demonstrated. And the last thing I expected was for a school-raised battler to have access to a rare, fossilized Pokemon. Being honest with myself, I was a little concerned with what I was warned of by Reika. That is becoming an outcast should I make an enemy of him. It was pleasant to be greeted with applause by my classmates after I did just that. But was that a universal stance, or just the opinions of one group?

The staff of the school, and their apparent disdain towards me. You know, at times...the world we live in is a very bad place. They aren't helping with that, and I'm glad none of my teachers seem to have that view. I do want to be here at Rukh's. The principal's warnings have at least given me advance notice, in case I encounter any of them.

Speaking of whom. Howard Finkerton, Dean of the University. There's no denying that the man is driven by money. But at the same time, he seems like a nice guy. Funny how there's only one thing he judges a person by, and given that, he's strangely trustworthy. The teachers don't seem to like him too much, but I think he knows what he's doing with the place.

Thatcher. His goal is to be a Pokemon Coordinator...someone who shows off their Pokemon in elegant fashion. But I'm a little worried for him. That may be his goal and his dream, but can he adapt to the pressure? When he went up in front of the Art class today, he had a total meltdown. I have to wonder what he thought of me, when I went up there as if it were nothing. He's a good person, and I think he has a strong resolve, so I'm not too concerned. Just a little concerned, and a little curious. And on that note, there's Reika. What's the history between Thatcher and Reika? They've clearly known each other a while. I guess I could just ask them. When and where, though?

I sat up. I don't have a clock in the room, but it has to be after midnight. And yet I'm not tired yet. The only problem is, there was little to do at this hour. Not even any assignments. The fact that there's a greater risk of collapsing from boredom than from sleepiness is an irritating one.

...I knew about this for a while, and going into this, but still. I am away from everyone out here. Away from those I know, away from my acquaintances, away from my friends...from my family. I won't get to see my cousins for a while, I won't get to see my sister Annika, or anyone else. I'm sure it'll be very different for them with me not being around, either...especially her, I'm just really thankful I met some people, some new friends, the first day here. It simplifies things. I can handle being on my own, I don't find it too boring...but it's certainly much more enjoyable that I'm here with friends.

And just to say it again, though I do want to be here, I still don't know why I decided to come to Rukh's University. It just sort of came to me. I mean, I'm certain a trainer with some experience in Pokemon attending a school geared towards newcomers is not unprecedented. There's probably a couple others like me here. And there's always more to learn, after all. Still, it bugs me a little to be here. Only a little.

Well...there's nothing more to think about or do. Except lie back down, close my eyes, and wonder what tomorrow will bring me.
 
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As usual, awesome. I'm really curious as to Reika's background. She seems so... odd. And I'm ever more curious as to how this story will proceed. At the moment, its more of a journey fic that doesn't really have a driving force (evil character, etc). Also, put me on that tag list!
 
Chapter 1-4: The Challenge of Cronus Aporon


The first full day of school is upon Reika, Thatcher, and myself.

I found my friends in conversation right outside the dorms. Thatcher has on another stylish getup. Besides his light jacket, he had on a sky blue t-shirt with a design to match. It's very hard to notice the Swablu in it - its bright aquamarine body and the puffy mists surrounding it camouflage it against the sky and clouds. He's also wearing hastily thrown-on blue jeans. Reika has on a camp shirt and shorts like yesterday, but the former was a plain off-gray, instead of having orange partitions.

We held light conversation as we made our way into the main building, and straight ahead after entry. "Our first real day here. Battling in the morning, and Sciences in the afternoon," noted Thatcher as we stepped into the former classroom. Already, students had sat down on the asphalt floor and were prattling away excitedly. Thatcher stared up at the ceiling, maybe beyond it. He chuckled, "You nervous too?" He's forcing a bright face, his body language giving the facade away.

"A little..." Reika admitted, shuffling her feet slightly.

"It's not that daunting to me," I said, crossing my arms with a grin. It really doesn't bother me too much. "Been anticipating it all night, in fact. Not nervous at all!" When there's nothing but the next day to think about in the middle of the night, that's kind of what happens.

"I'm glad at least one of us isn't." Thatcher became visibly more confident at this. The bright face is still a little forced, but it looks more natural. He nodded. "Come on, let's sit over there."

Thatcher was leading us to the far left corner of the 'battlefield' on the floor. Yet before we got halfway, we found three faculty standing before the three of us. One of them is the teacher, Mr. Wu. He's clad in what I think is a brown ceremonial robe from centuries past (but I'm not sure what century it was from). I don't recognize the other two, but both look to be in their 30s or 40s. One is of tall stature, is dressed in casual, and has already begun to feel the effects of aging. His hairline is receding, but what he has is so tightly wrapped into a ponytail, it hangs slightly over the nape of his neck like a noodle. Eyes are blue, with round-framed spectacles in front.

The other wears a semi-formal striped red and silver polo shirt bearing the University's insignia and coloration, with matching jodhpurs. His face borders on caricature, with narrow cheeks and chin shaping it very roughly like an inverted pyramid. Its features aren't much better: crescent-shaped deep brown eyes (nearly a black), a curved nose, and almost-absent lips. The ironic thing about it is he might be considered an adonis otherwise, given his sinewy frame and Caesar cut.

That man was the one who began talking to me. "Mr. Westmyn, come with us. You're not in this class anymore." He had a minor case of laryngitis, which made his baritone yet flamboyant voice truly distinctive. Wait...

"What." I'm not in this class anymore? "Why?"

With a sigh, a solemn Mr. Wu put it to me straight: "You already demonstrated a high level of prowess in battling. Therefore, you have been transferred to the Tactics class by Mr. Kripps."

Okay. Now I'm nervous. Reika and Thatcher were both stunned, but not as much as me. I don't know what to say or do. I was hoping to have all my classes this year with them...and now, that's not going to happen. I want to protest, do something that might allow me to remain there, but I can't think of anything to say that would help. All I can do was follow instructions.

Out of the Battling room and into the hallway we stepped. Natural light from the nearby door filtered in. Into the first floor of the school. The most open of them all, particularly on the left wing. A lounge for guests and teachers is the main feature of the right wing, along with the Battling and Medical classes. Whereas the left is consumed by an interior Student Square featuring a stage, a trophy case, and a HUGE classroom for something.

Up the nearby stairs we went to the second floor. The one with the most classrooms on it. The blandest looking floor of the bunch, with plain white walls without decoration, and patchy brown flooring. The florescent lighting occasionally flickered, the only special part of this floor of halls and rooms - the purpose of over half of them escaped me. Besides Socials and Sciences, all I know is there's also a History class and a library.

Up and up I was led. The Arts floor. I've never really been into it, but the bright pieces of work displayed around this floor seem highly appealing right now. I can barely make out the door to my Art class on one end of the hall, and the display case on the opposite end showcasing some of the finest pieces of work students had produced, alongside district awards for crafting, entertainment, and Pokemon Coordination. While many of the former are on display in the right wing of the first floor and the latter among the first floor's trophy case, this floor dedicated to it feels as its own entity. It actually has the same style of tile and wall as the second, but what a difference the paint(ings) made.

I made one last, desperate attempt to get out of this. "But I don't want to transfer to Tactics. I won't get to be with my friends."

The well-dressed one spoke uncaringly, not even attempting to make eye contact. "You'll have plenty of time to spend together AFTER class."

The stairs wound on, wholly merciless to the weak or physically disabled. Despite being neither, they still felt grueling to me. It's all in my mind. The anticipation...or dread...of what lie ahead.

The final climb into the darkness above.


This is...different, to say the least. These corridors are far more narrow than anything on the lower levels. The walls are sort of a beige, and the floor a dark, textured brown. It's not wood, but it looks like it. By contrast, the mood set here feels serious and formal. But once we rounded the halls and stepped out into the room itself, everything changed. Well, except the serious and formal part.

Emerging into the class proper revealed a far keener setup than Battling Class. There's actually chairs here! The whole place is like a gymnasium overall, complete with similar flooring, walling, and bleachers.

What a time to show up, too. Two students are right in the middle of a battle! Everyone else is watching from the sidelines as their classmates squared off. On my left is a tall girl dressed as something between a punk and a goth. Among her apparel includes tanker boots, leather jacket, and jeans (all black), the latter held up by a shiny metal belt. Her left hand is on her hip whilst her right lay slack, the brass bracelet on it tight enough so it won't fall to her wrist. With a cold verdant sneer she stands motionless, the white streaks of her ebon-hued bobcut inanimate.

The other trainer stands with agitation, almost desperation. His slate blue eyes are stretched wide, and short, bristled blonde hair stand rigidly on end. The guy is only around 5'5'', but either works out a lot or has been abusing steroids - a tanned figure the guy must enjoy showing off given his skin-tight crimson shirt and short jean shorts. The palpable terror in his face is also being exhibited by his Pokemon. And considering it's this huge brown bear with needle-like claws, that's saying something.

It isn't so much physical appearance of its foe. In fact, it's a flabby yellowish piece of work with a unibrow that wraps the length of its head and merges into the black hair on its back. It has on a segmented green skirt and what look like dark indigo parachute pants. With each minute twitch, a part of its body shook. Hell, it could shake the floor. But considering the deathgrip it has on the ursid with hands big enough to pitch a volleyball, you wouldn't dare make fun of it to its face.

I took an empty seat a little to my left to watch the fight unfold.

"Give up," ordered the female. Well, it's slightly inaccurate to call it an order. It was more of a stern, ominous warning.

"No way!" fired back her opponent. His words were defiant, but his voice was cracking. "Ursaring, use Thrash to escape!"

Hearing the command, the massive bear Pokemon wildly jerked from side to side to gain freedom from the grasp of its foe. Or tried to, anyway. The hold on its torso was locked in way too tight. The female moved her eyes to her Pokemon and mumbled something. With this, it spun around the Ursaring, and ironically pulled it into a savage bearhug. Again, the Ursaring tried to use Thrash to wriggle free. This was even more futile. Its trainer's body language became further neurotic, as did his voice. "Ursaring, dig your claws into that Hariyama!" Its arms were pinned, and it's naturally difficult to see between their two massive bodies. But by how the Hariyama cringed - if only slightly - I assume it managed to do something.

"Toss it. You know what to do after," was all that the woman said in response. Her Hariyama somersaulted backwards and released its grip, sending the bear into a roll that ended with it ten feet away on its gut. The sumo wrestler Pokemon was in no rush for its follow-up, strolling up to its downed adversary at a brisk pace. Ursaring was straining to push itself up and get back its feet. Hariyama loomed over this sight for a few moments, before forcefully bringing a foot down. The bear let out a roar of intense pain as its foe, after five seconds of pressing down hard, casually used it as a stepping stone.

"Okay, okay! I give!" the guy frantically relented when his Pokemon's arms were grabbed from behind, not wanting to find out what would happen next. He buried his face into his arms in shame, dropping to his knees. He kept one wrapped over his head, even as he used the other to recall his gasping Pokemon.

His opponent mouthed "good call," gave her Pokemon an acknowledgement, retrieved its Poke Ball from her pocket, and brought it back inside. She wordlessly returned to her seat; her opponent remained where he fell.

"That spoke for itself. Another submission victory by our most callous student," plainly said the teacher, adjusting his rounded rectangular glasses while rubbing his whitish-blonde combover. He 's dressed in a formal black suit with white undershirt and black tie. As the Ursaring trainer shamefully shuffled back, he inquired, "Now which one of you wants to go next?"

##########

That's...really all that happened in class. Watching other people battle. Each time, it was a different set of two who stepped up. As I learned from talking with the people next to me - not nearly as receptive as those in the Battling class, although that's not necessarily entirely negative - those on their third year of the course were exemplifying their skills today. The reason for this was to show the teacher, Mr. Baiaz, how they've improved since last year, as well as give the most recent entrants a taste of what was to come.

"That's the end of the class for today," said the teacher as the clock struck noon on the dot. "I hope our new students were able to learn a little from those battles. We'll begin lessons proper next time, which will be on Saturday afternoon. I'll also have an important announcement to make then, so don't miss class."

That was it. That was how he sent us off. I involuntarily breathed a sigh of relief at this. I sat patiently, waiting for the crowd to funnel through the bottleneck that was the halls of this floor. I did it yesterday because I was just in a calmed state of mind. Today, I authentically didn't want to get caught up in the mix, let alone in that cramped space. On the subject of the class, I guess I was worried about nothing. It was different...but not as destitute as I thought it could be.

A few others had continued to lounge around as well, which made me not stand out as much when I finally stood to leave. After a quick roll of my shoulders, I trekked back to the hallway. Something occurred to me just now, too. If this is the advanced class and I'm way overqualified to be in Battling as the implication given was, then maybe this isn't going to be so bad.

"Hey, shithead!"

I whirled around and was shocked - though I shouldn't have been shocked - to see Cronus Aporon. Dammit. In my stupefaction, I forgot that he would certainly be in this class. But even granted that, what I would not have expected are the three other young men standing before him.

The first of these is dressed as if he were headed to prom, in a spring green monkey suit with matching black tie. His fair hair, dark blue eyes, and blemish protection are a stark contrast to the guy on the right. The shortest of the bunch, he really could use some of his friend's makeup, as his face is more acne than skin. His frosted retinas are nearly obscured by thick glasses, and his hair is black, stylized into curly spikes by way of hair gel abuse. Finally, at the front of the pack, and tallest by far of the bunch at 6'0''. In jeans and a white muscle shirt (showing off his fat and pecs), he has a buzz cut and intense sapphire glare that told me right away he was the one who had called me out.

Come to think of it, it's kind of like a start of a joke! A nerd, a preppy kid, a fratboy, and a jock all walk into a bar...

"Hey! I'm talkin' you to!"

"Talking me to what?" I sarcastically pattered. This got the nerd and prep to chuckle.

"Shut up!" he seethed, silencing them with a shaking fist. "And you! You little RUNT!"

"Little runt?" I asked, with mock bewilderment. "But I have more muscle than you, with 80% less fat!" I flexed to accentuate this second cheap shot. And it's true! I may be much shorter, and although I was stretching the truth with the muscles part, I'm certainly in better shape than him for lack of fat alone. My comments again got the other two to laugh, and even Aporon seemed to crack a slight smile.

"I told you two to shut up!" he screamed, practically boring a hole through them with a glare alone for several seconds, before turning his wrath back to me. "Look here, shithead. We heard what happened between Cronus and you."

"We heard you insulted his person." The prep sounded overtly dignified with this matter-of-fact statement, but at least he's being polite to me. Sort of.

"Yeah, and then you heh, tried to start something with him at the lake!" The nerd was the opposite. Lecherous in tone and posture, mere sight of this sleazy geek perturbed me.

Three very angry young men. And yet I just blankly stared back at them. "So?"

The fratboy lowered his voice. "So now, we're gonna all have a talk about it."

I took a look at each of them. Trying to figure out how to best handle this situation. So far, I've been running on impulse. Pushing back against those who would push me. The words that ultimately came out of my mouth were an apathetic, "Right, right." I turned to the only of the four men before me who seems civil. "Aporon, are these your pawns? Who are they, and why are you hiding behind them?"

He immediately raised his palms in defense, over the astonished response of his goons to my slight toward them. "Friends. And hey. This was his idea, not mine," he said, pointing to the fratboy.

"His idea," scoffed the prep, making a similar gesture.

"Yeah, heh heh. It was him."

"All right," I accepted, crossing my arms and turning to face the fratboy. Doesn't answer my question as to why he's hiding behind them, but that's okay. "So what's your problem?"

"I ain't got a problem, you got a problem!" he retorted, nearly bursting a vein on his forehead trying to stare me down. "You don't mess with Cronus Aporon. Understand? There's comsequences for nessing with him. You. SHITHEAD."

With those mangled words, he moved towards me threateningly, but was nearly taken off his feet in surprise when I shoved him preemptively. He went stumbling towards Aporon, who calmly caught his shoulders before he was bowled over. "You're right, maybe I am being a bit a shithead right now," I admitted while rubbing my head. Ironically summoning the smugest grin I could muster, and with a flip of my hair's streaks, I said with snark, "But least I'm not full of shit."

The prep let out a self-superior snort. "Hmph! Cronus Aporon is-"

Really starting to get tired of this conversation. "Yeah, yeah. Crown jewel of the university, four oh grade point average, one of the best battlers here, yadda yadda yadda. What's your point?"

Ignoring my interruption, he continued, "As his friends, he has personally tutored each one of us. We are all highly talented."

"Ah." Finally. Some sense. "So you're looking for a battle?"

The fratboy took a step forward, fist ready to pump - or lash out. "That's right. I want to battle you! You're going down!"

Without even waiting for a response, he pulled out a red, white, and blue ball and hurled it across his chest. Out came something that looks like it escaped from an insane asylum. Shaggy hair covers most of its body, save for a pig's snout and sneering eyes. Shackles are attached to each of its limbs, the right ankle and left wrist not quite being torn off cleanly as apparent by a couple chain-links remaining on each. Its hands also seem to have been shielded, though short nails tearing out from the inside suggested that effort totally ended well.

Since he insists. I reached in and retrieved Mareep's Poke Ball. I figure I need to give him some battle experience sometime, and what better time than the present? The accuracy's an issue, sure, but from closer range, I might be able to get away with it.

"Look at that weak little sheep!" taunted the fratboy as I unveiled my choice. "It ain't stands a chance of beating my Primeape!"

"Moronsayswhat?"

"What?" The nerd was the only to laugh at this impulsive shot of mine, and quickly regretted it. The fratboy grabbed him by the shirt. "Lawrence Southall, for the last time, SHUT THE FUCK UP." Saliva droplets flew as he screamed. After a few seconds of holding, he released the nerd (who wiped spit from his face), and turned his attention back on me. "Now you! Show me what you got!"

"All right." Let's go! I snapped my fingers and pointed. "Thundershock!"

"Uh-uh! Karate Chop, now!"

A burst of lightning arced out from Mareep's fleece towards...the opposite wall. The three goons saw this and laughed. Maybe this choice wasn't the right one after all. Primeape bound forth, one of its arms raised high. Mareep fired another jolt of electricity as it was about two feet away. This made contact, yet the monkey wasn't even slowed. It still reached and smacked Mareep halfway across the room, inciting more laughter.

"Edgar, focus," advised a calm Aporon. "I may be overestimating him here, but a Mareep, with the Static ability, against a physical attacker?"

The fratboy, whose name is apparently Edgar, let out a grumble of acknowledgement. Well, so much for that pitfall trap. "Fine. Primeape, Secret Power! Now!" Four boulders about the size of their caller materialized and one by one shot out towards Mareep.

"Run back!"

The sheep didn't even give this a second thought, and barely managed to avoid getting impacted by the first blast. The second was in motion by that time, crashing into the other and both shattering into several fragments, big and small. This is a problem. The third continued unabated into Mareep. We caught a slight break with the fourth, as this one overshot it and landed so it halted his tumble.

"Rock Tomb's your next move! Now!"

Primeape scooped up a number of the pieces of the first and second rocks, before unleashing them with a masterful precision upon a hobbling Mareep.

"Mareep, come on!" I pleaded. "Get up and use Thunderbolt!"

He jumped in a panic as the stones crashed down around. Every time the woolly sheep attempted to get out, he found himself cut off. And then, there was no escape. I'm completely stuck on what to do. Muscle out? Wiggle out? Use the cover?

Edgar is getting really worked up. "Time's to end this! Primeape, grab a piece of rock, and use Fling! Now!"

There was no need to hurry, considering their opponent was stuck with no means of escape. Yet the four-and-a-half-foot freak still wasted no time. It psychotically ran over to one of the rocky fragments and snatched it from the floor. It simultaneously sprang backwards and hurled the stone between one of the openings in the prison, smacking Mareep right upside the head. My Pokemon let out a frustrated wail before he slumped over.

I can't believe it. Did that just happen? I kicked myself, only realizing that Discharge might have worked to get it out of there...but it's a little late for that. With a sigh, and set to laughter from all four men, I went over to the unconscious sheep, moving aside some of the rocks to get to him.

"That was fucking pathetic." Edgar has a wicked, self-satisfied grin on his face

"Well, I did just get my Mareep," I explained, but they weren't taking it.

"I said it was fucking pathetic!" he snapped. He turned to the other two underlings. "What do you two think?"

"Hmph. Akin to the efforts of a lowly peasant," declared the prep.

"Heh heh! That was so humiliating! You should be so humiliated!" Lawrence, the nerd, was cackling and acting even loonier than his cohort's Pokemon. "Humilation!"

I cringed a little. That was a little humiliating, ugh. Talked back so much, then that happened. What to do...well, there really is only one thing I can say and do. "Sorry, I guess underestimated you." I recalled the unconscious Mareep, and returned him to my pocket. That wasn't how I was hoping that would go. It really killed the buzz I was on from that initial exchange. Not at all ready to throw in the towel though; after feeling around for it, I retrieved a second Poke Ball. I turned back with a more focused air. "But now it's your turn for humiliation," I said, showing off the sphere. "See if you can beat this Pokemon!"

"Ha!" Edgar scoffed. "If it's as good as that last one, I'd say it's a waste of time."

"Bitch, you're too scared." I mocked.

"Fine, I'll do it! And you're the bitch! You're going down! Again! Shithead bitch!"

Simpler than I thought it would be. Let's save some face! I'd thought about using Tangela for this matchup. It'd be all too easy to wrap it up with that. However, knowing that they'd more than likely be expecting it after its performance at the lake, I've decided to go with Nidorina here. When she emerged, she took one look at the fat ape before her and growled. Heh. She can hardly wait for my command, restlessly scraping her front right paw against the floor, and returning her foe's enraged glare with one of her own.

"You got the first move this time," I offered.

"It doesn't matter! Primeape, Fling!" Upon its trainer's boisterous command, Primeape picked up another fragment of rock. Spinning its arm around to make this one count, it vigorously drove it right down the middle towards Nidorina.

But my Pokemon isn't having any of that. Nidorina could've easily avoided the stone by hopping to the side, but she instead opted to turn around and kick it to pieces. Before they could even finish reacting to my Pokemon's aggressive counter to the move, I gave a command of my own.

"Poison Sting!" With more gusto than the day before, my Pokemon began to shake its entire body. Before I knew it, the barbs were off and headed straight for Primeape.

Edgar yelled almost impulsively, "Thrash, right now!"

I've seen Thrash a few times before including this morning - the Pokemon flails and lashes about recklessly in order to do heavy damage to its foe, at the price of being dazed afterwards. But this is different: his Pokemon's just spinning around like a top. Nidorina and I cringed when her attack was simply deflected off their target, which is now headed right for her! Edgar saw my body language and gave the word.

"Primeape, move in for the kill! Now!"

It's clear to all that the ape is erratically closing the distance. What they didn't see was me making a subtle waving motion with my fingers. Nidorina picked up on the cue, and stood valiantly in place. As her foe drew nearer, so did the threat of taking heavy damage. She snorted and crouched, ready to make her move.

Right before Primeape reached her, Nidorina leaped clean over the twirling Pokemon. The action seemed to slow down for a moment as the airborne creature looked over her shoulder, pulled her hind legs back, and Double Kicked our adversary straight down. Primeape was knocked out of its spin and face-first onto the hard floor. The goons and even Aporon just flipped at this development, so much so that they failed to notice that immediately after landing, Nidorina had continued attacking their representative. It's like she's walking backwards, except she's kicking with each step of the back leg. Her downed foe is crawling and stumbling, desperately trying to get away. Nothing it's trying is helping. It just kept eating kick after kick.

"Primeape, get up goddamn it!" Edgar screamed in total frustration. "Use Fury Swipes! NOW!!" His face went beat-red with that command. Though his Pokemon was able to carry it out, all it could do was go in reverse as it desperately tried to fend off Nidorina's feet of fury. It's not getting totally pummeled anymore, but Nidorina is still hitting its fists with her feet more than Primeape is hitting her feet with its fists. More inauspiciously, it is slowly being backed into a corner. Before long, it'll literally have its back to the wall. And once that happens...

"SEISMIC TOSS!! RIGHT NOW!!" Wait, what?! Primeape caught Nidorina's leg in its arms. The creature attempted to kick back with its other leg, only for that one to be blocked and held in our foe's other hand. Effortlessly, the furious Pokemon span and tossed Nidorina across the room nearly into the opposite wall. Edgar's self-superior demeanor returned with a chuckle. "Consider that one a freebie, kid."

"Come on, Nidorina!" I encouraged. She's trying to get up, and definitely isn't going down to that. But she's in a daze after that throw. She's open to a follow-up.

"All right, time to put you out on your misery! Primeape, end it with Close Combat! NOW!"

Perfect timing, Nidorina stood up just as our opponent broke into a deranged charge. In the ape's eyes, I can see more fury than before. Its movements are so spastic, the chains on its shackles are whipping wildly about. The opening is right here in front of us!

"Nidorina, POISON JAB!"

With those words, my Pokemon broke into a charge of her own. Nidorina lowered her head. The tiny horn on her forehead obtained a faint purple glow. She is running straight for her prey, and her prey is running straight for her. A collision between the two is imminent.

As the two combatants reached one another, Primeape threw a vicious right hook. It missed, and would've missed wildly had Nidorina not sprang off the ground and rammed into it. The pig monkey was taken right off its feet. Nidorina was screaming, Primeape was screaming, and Edgar was screaming too. With one last shove, his Pokemon was sent rolling backwards towards the wall. The blue creature slowed to a stop and snorted in derision, simply watching as her opponent crashed face-first and comically flopped down unconscious.

"Gotcha!" And that's how it's done! Redemption, woo!

"Edgar, you moron!" quickly scolded Aporon. "I told you before! Don't take such stupid risks when finishing an opponent off!"

"Sorry, Cronus..." was all he could say, as he called back his Pokemon. Under the pretense that he did enough damage to Nidorina to take her out with that move, anyway.

Aporon turned to me and applauded, "Not bad, Westmyn. Not bad. Quite a wild beast you got on your hands. Maybe you could handle a Gyarados after all." His tone was a genuine one, even accompanied by a smile. That faded. "But you still have a LONG way to go if you even think you're as good as me." He spared me no harshness in his tone. He turned and started to exit, his friends only thinking to follow when he said, "Come on, you guys."

The prep left without further action. The geek gave me a dirty look before leaving himself. Edgar was last to go, staring at his Pokemon's ball until his friends had left the room, before threatening, "This ain't over, shithead," and taking his leave.

I let out a deep sigh and shook my head after they were gone. Nidorina seems disappointed about this, fretfully sitting in front of me. I checked around. Only at this point did I notice a few people had been watching with intrigue. I smiled and shrugged to acknowledge their presence, but didn't do anything besides before I left myself.

----------

I found my friends waiting for me just outside near the Student Square. Reika was already contently eating another one of Thatcher's dad's sandwiches. He, on the other hand, was sitting restlessly, staring at the front doors. He stood up and greeted me as soon as I was within earshot.

"Fritz, what took you?" he asked in a worried tone, rapidly approaching with a sandwich in hand.

"Sorry guys, Aporon and his cronies held me up," I replied, accepting the gift, but not unwrapping it just yet. "One of them wanted to challenge me to a battle. It was tough...tougher than I was expecting, to be honest. But Nidorina took'em on and beat his Primeape."

"Wow..." Thatcher said in awe. "She beat a Primeape? Your Nidorina sounds like a tough Pokemon!"

I hadn't recalled her after the battle, and sort of had her follow me out as a way of letting her walk off her remaining agitation. She posed tall and proud upon hearing the compliment. She always enjoys acknowledgements of her power. That placated her enough, I think, so I returned her at that point.

"So what's it like up on the fourth floor? I-I mean, up in, you know, Tactics class and stuff?" Thatcher had a faint admiration in his voice. Come to think of it...it's the same tone he took on when speaking with Aporon yesterday. Well, maybe not quite as nervous.

"The whole floor is dedicated to the class," I happily explained, speaking about what I had seen, and was told from chatting with the people beside me. "It has a bunch of battlefields, and a big classroom, and stands, and these funny hallways, and this cool break room." Of course, any and all of it could've been made up. I hope it's not though. Because whatever that cool break room is like, I really want to see it.

"Cool!" he gushed. "You're lucky to be in that class, Fritz!"

My smile faded and I sighed. "Still, it was a bit of a pain. Having to deal with those guys, I mean."

"Yeah," Reika spoke up, just having finished off her meal. "Well, you kind of deserved it, you know. You brought it on yourself when you made Cronus Aporon mad."

On the inside, I disagree. But what am I supposed to say to her? That I think I could take him? That I just had to defend myself verbally? Or physically? That I didn't ask to be moved up a class? Most of all reminding her that if I didn't take action back at the lake, Thatcher could've been hurt or killed?

The only word that was able to escape my mouth was, "Maybe..."
 
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Yay! Update!

I like the chapter (if it was a bit shorter than I'm used to). Just spotted a few things that we talked about on Skype, and I have to say that Reika is certainly interesting. She's faintly pissing me off, but at the same time, I think that she's going to end up coming from some tragic backstory and I'm going to be all "WHY DID I FEEL THAT WAY?!! ; - ;" But yeah, for now I just want to slap her.

Random comment that only you will understand: I dislike M.P. so incredibly much. My comments on the battling style still hold true after seeing it in action, I think.

Also, eagerly awaiting the new chapter :D

PS: TABLE OF CONTENTS YAY!
 
Replies/Notes:
I like the chapter (if it was a bit shorter than I'm used to). Just spotted a few things that we talked about on Skype, and I have to say that Reika is certainly interesting...for now I just want to slap her.

Pretty much the direction I'm going for with her for the time being. Also speaking your first point, this chapter here is the shortest/smallest yet (about 5KB smaller than the next smallest, the first chapter). And a little unusual for what it is, although a necessary evil in the grand scheme of things.

Tag list

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Chapter 1-5: The Big Picture


Despite far more having happened in the days before, yesterday had really exhausted me. It wasn't a product of gradual build-up, nor did it have anything to do with mental fatigue. It's just that one part of the day just came out of nowhere and hit me hard. So much so, that I could hardly remember what happened after it. None of it stood out enough. I mean, how could it? I got into an argument and Pokémon battle with one of the cohorts of my...I suppose you'd call him my rival, and one of the school's most popular and well-respected battlers.

I was worried that he would have the rest of the class under his thumb. That I'd get nothing but scorn from them, as Reika had warned me. And although it wasn't to that level, there was atypical disregard for me. A foil to my other classes, where I border on luminary. I'd like to believe it would carry over into more than just my own peer group. Could Aporon have had something to do with that? Anything's possible. All I know is that yesterday's events had tired me out.

What about today? Today, I found myself marching for locations unknown, along with seemingly everyone else in the school. After going to Art class, we were informed that it was cancelled in favor of...something else. Thatcher was disheartened by that announcement. The only senior to his slumped posture was my own drooping stance.

"So," I wearily asked my friends. I hadn't slept well last night and was still a little groggy. Not to make light of all that was on my mind. "Where are we going again?"

"There's a school-wide assembly." Reika explained. We, and everyone else, were walking somewhere. I think towards the woods beyond the lake. "We have to go to the Rangerism and Breeding stables."

"Wha-? Rangerism? Breeding?" I yawned. They'd completely lost me.

"Oh, they have those classes in their own building." Thatcher elaborated. He adjusted his glasses slightly. "They built it in the forest." Explaining where we were headed, but not my question.

"No. I mean, what's with all these different classes? There's the four we have...well, I guess three that we have. Tactics and Battling class too." I hoped my words were coming off as coherent enough. I could barely think straight. "But...these ones now? I don't...get it. Like, how do classes here work? How many are there?"

"A-all right." He didn't expect for me to put him on the spot, but started explaining it as best as he could. "See, students at Rukh's University go through four years of schooling. Their first year, they have the basic classes: Socials. Biology. Battling. And Art. But they have several different classes to choose from for the three years beyond. There's Research, Gardening, History, Medical, Tactics, Contests...and others. In total, I...think there's around fifteen?"

"That's it?" Upon saying that, I wasn't sure if I was checking for further details or...what else.

"Sorry," he apologized, "I'm not too sure how things work around here."

I had no reason to hold it against him. "You don't need to apologize. I was just wondering." I gave him a thumbs up to show my appreciation. I guess his not knowing can be attributed to Dean Howard and his expansion of the school. He implied he was changing it up the other day...so maybe what was applicable back then isn't applicable anymore.

As we trudged forth into the woods, something suddenly occurred to me. The realization was enough to make me halt on the spot and snap upwards. Momentarily, I was defying my exhaustion. "Wait." My friends stopped and turned to me, confused. "We're going to be having an assembly in a zoo? Isn't that like, a bad idea?"

"It's okay." an unconcerned Thatcher clarified. He affirmed it matter-of-factly, "They keep the Pokémon in titanium cages when they're not having class. The only reason we have to go there is because it's the only one big enough for all the students to be in."

That I guess would be another consequence of Dean Howard's expansion. I suppose constructing a larger auditorium wasn't a priority given the available substitute. After expressions of confirmation between him and myself, the rest of the trip passed without further incident or discussion.

~~~~~~~~~~

It only took about three minutes of walking through the beaten path in the woods to reach our destination. Aside from what was necessary to carve for it to fit, the surrounding trees had been left in an untouched state. Surreal how they managed to do it. The building itself was comprised almost wholly of lumber. I wouldn't call it a log cabin since it had the second-largest area on-campus (being two stories tall, I'm unsure about volume), but the materials used were identical. If I were any less alert, I may have mistaken it for part of the forest.

Stepping inside, the interior of the stables felt no different from the exterior. At once, we had entered into a very spacious room. It was much larger than the proper auditorium and had just as much height, but unlike its counterpart, it was only a portion of the building it was in. The same kind of chairs as we saw before had been set up here. There was around...hell, I don't know. Enough for everyone, for sure, laid out in a half-hexagon shape. In other words, there was like, lots of rows of seats pointed directly at the makeshift stage, and on either side were more rows, tilted at an angle. Every four rows or so were higher elevated than the rest.

"Not bad, huh?" A young man with a slight rural accent had noticed us examining the arrangement and was chatting us up; presumably he's one of the students who attends one of the two classes held here. "Can't even tell what was here before." Tall and fit, he had on the closest thing to a uniform I had seen in this school devoid of them. The upper half of his t-shirt was a light blue, and the lower half was white. Over it, he had a red vest, with three compartments. That was a lot, but it was dwarfed by the pockets on his functional knee-length black shorts. On the end of each leg was an orange lining, matching the pattern on his hiking boots and fingerless gloves. His hair was black, but the style wasn't clear due to the derby he wore over it.

"I...I guess." Thatcher said, grasping his jacket slightly. It doesn't surprise me too much. Random people talking to him out of the blue was probably a foreign concept to him.

"You only guess?" The guy spoke as if he was expecting just a little more.

"W-well," Thatcher nervously started, a little frightened even by a mere expectant tone, "We don't actually know what was here before, so..." He quickly turned away, flustered by the experience. "But, it is nice."

"I guess you got a point." The young man casually shrugged, then turned to me with a look of recognition. "Hey. You're that Fritz fellow, right?"

"Yeah, that's me." His words were hardly registering with me. I didn't show it in how I replied, part of my attempt to rouse myself to alertness.

"Best place to sit's right there, in the back right." he said, pointing to the specified area as he did so. It wasn't clear why that would be the case, aside from how few people had occupied it yet.

"Cool. Thanks."

Deciding to listen to him, I led my friends to the proper spot. We elected for two rows from the back. I sat down on the chair at the end, with Reika on my left and a wall on my right. The latter was quite nice to lean on, or at least attempt to.

The three of us sat in silence for a while. Around 10 minutes or so. Students and teachers continued to enter and pile into the seats. Preference was being granted to the middle partition (followed by the left, and the right), and most groups chose to sit as close as they could. Come to think of it...that's how it worked with the new student assembly, too. Also similar was how all that was audible were occasional low murmurs. It was quieter than the initiation assembly, even with over triple the number of people present. Reika may have thought of something else this may have had in common, as she turned to me and whispered, "Wonder how long this one's going to take."

"As long as it doesn't take as long as the last one." I replied, and as soon as I finished my sentence, it began. The lights went out. The advice of the helpful student became apparent: we were situated in the darkest section. Light applause broke out as Dean Howard power-strutted onto the scene, grinning like he didn't have a care in the world.

"Thank you, thank you." he acknowledged. "Three days ago, I was approached by someone offering to do a presentation at my school. Ordinarily, I would've refused, citing it as a frivolous expenditure better spent on development. Development that would benefit you. Yet as they explained to me, this is a free arrangement, being granted to all education faculties in the country. Ergo, we were able to come to an understanding." Knowing the kind of person he is, odds are he isn't one to pass up a handout. No matter what exactly it may be. The principal stated with all the formality of a businessman, "I decided that it would be in our best interests to book this seminar for the beginning of the year."

Two days earlier, Mr. Finkerton had made his exploitative contempt for 95% of the people here clear to me. The way he was playing his cards right now though, you never would've guessed that might be the case. The audience paid him full respect, exemplified when he sneezed before finishing the introduction. "Excuse me. With that being said, give your rapport to Mr. Theodore William Rogers-Louis."

The audience clapped as a dapper old man in a green cardigan stepped onto the stage while waving. The wheel of time had treated him well, his pure white hair having signs that it hadn't receded even a centimeter. Beneath his extravagant sweater was a white undershirt and striped red tie. Despite this semi-formal upper body wear, he had on simple black cargo pants and ordinary white sneakers.

"Hello there! Sorry to keep you waiting. Welcome to the world of harmony." he enlivened with another wave. "My name is Theo. People call me the Pokémon Shepherd."

He retrieved a green and white ball from his vest, and threw a familiar-looking creature inside onto the floor. Much like my Nidorina, this male counterpart has spiny skin and a single horn on the forehead. However, this one's scales are an off-lavender or even a shade of amethyst, and its horn is - like the needles on its back - far sharper. This Nidorino's ears are also longer. The tradeoff it took was a set of front legs not suited for clawing or lateral movement, and a set of teeth not nearly as sharp. From its stature, I'd wager it's quite young or perhaps vain, yet still a tough one.

The DNA mishmash posed valiantly as its owner continued his speech. "This world we share with creatures known as Pokémon. We live together with these strange creatures by supporting one another. For some people, Pokémon are pets. Others use them for fights. Myself," he said as he brought back the Nidorino, "I am the spokesperson of the Heritage Delegates."

"One of my responsibilities is to oversee the younger generation. To guide them through this world of dreams and adventures. To help them achieve their goals in life."

His voice was oddly hypnotic. It was loud and brazen...yet soothing. My eyelids felt to grow in mass as he droned on and on. Every second that ticked by, it was harder to keep them open. I attempted to stretch my forehead to subjugate this...yet my eyes remained shut. The comfort of the chair wasn't helping me any. My body had given the command. It wanted to rest...just for a minute...

~~~~~~~~~~

"Fritz?" The next thing I knew, I was been shaken by Reika. I lolled my head to the left shoulder and unfurled my eyelids. She was looking down at me, but I couldn't tell if she was upset or not. The tone she used wasn't clear, either. "Fritz? Were you asleep just now?"

"Yeah." I rubbed my eyes. "Sorry, it was so boring, and I was so tired..."

"I know." she agreed, putting that thought at ease. "Who wants to hear some old veteran ramble on about something everyone knows? Or about the journey he had when our grandparents hadn't even gotten out of diapers? Or a summary of his entire god damn life?" By the sound of things, he was still going on about that, too. By the look of things, it seemed people were actually interested. Reika let out a snort directed at them, then turned to ask me, "What's the date today?"

"Friday." Even in my exhaustion, I was still coherent enough to answer that question. At least she woke me up for something other than spite. Which has happened to me before.

"No. I mean the day."

"April 27th?" I was able to answer that one, too.

"Okay." She turned back to Thatcher and began to whisper to him. I couldn't hear what they were saying over the old timer's voice. Unsure of how long I was asleep, but I didn't feel tired anymore, so I assume it was long enough. With a mighty stretch and yawn, I was able to sit up and open my eyes and ears.

"The point I am trying to make here is that Pokémon are our friends and partners. They have been since the beginning. That's something I never forgot." From what he was saying now, I gather that I missed the whole thing. Not that there was much to miss, given what Reika told me. "Whether I was traveling cross-country, or fighting for freedom in another...whether it was my own partners, or someone else's, or those who roam freely across the lands, I treated Pokémon with love and respect. When they were ill, I nursed them to health. When I was ill, they would return the favor. If I saw a Pokémon or trainer in need, I would do whatever I could to assist them. I never forgot that philosophy through the ninety plus years I have been alive, and I hope none of you forget that."

His voice turned grim, even sorrowful with his next statement. "However, there are many people in this world who would do the opposite. Dark souls who view Pokémon as only existing for our benefit. Ones who would use them solely for profit. Even those who aim for conquest. Among them, the Team Rockets, the Team Spitzers, and the Mahou Gangs of the country. You may have even witnessed your peers treat Pokémon in similar ways. I urge any of you who knows someone who has an unhealthy relationship with Pokémon. Please. Help them see the error of their ways."

"But, let it be known that there is far worse in the world." Now it was with repugnance that he was talking. His hands were pinching the podium, and he was leaning forward, head tilted down. "The worst of the impure and misguided in our nation are but pests. The truly reprehensible monsters make their den across the vast ocean." Everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE perked up at this. From where I sat I had a perfect view of everyone halting their tired slumps, use of electronics, and idle conversations - Reika and Thatcher included - snapping up, and looking straight at the man. Everyone knew what he was talking about...

"The United States." were the venomous words he expelled next. "That wretched nation and their affiliates are the most morally corrupt in the world. All North America. Most of Europe. The Middle East. Egypt. Western Russia. You can add all of those - and more - to the blacklist!"

He was akin to a preacher as he spoke on, "Those countries do not live in the harmony with Pokémon that we choose to live in. They do not view Pokémon as friends, only as servants. The US most of all views them as nothing more than common animals, yet the true animals are they! Nonstop battling, exhibition of outer beauty, destruction of habitat, ignorance to troubling issues, no respect for other peoples' or countries' views. The list of their sins goes on forever."

Was not expecting this to turn political. Like I implied before, history and social sciences never were my favorite subjects.

"They think they are the rightful owners of this planet. That their ways and their rules should be what all adhere to. Their violent, ignorant, materialistic mannerisms. They may deny it, they may not say it outright, but their actions speak for themselves! And we must-"

There was an abrupt pause. He put a hand over his ear. "Oh, but would you look at the time? I've gone on about those ogres for so long, you almost missed lunch!" Had it really been that long? He was back to his chipper attitude, and this shift got much of the crowd to laugh. "Thank you for your time, ladies and gentlemen. To wrap up, I'll leave you with this."

"It is important that humanity treat Pokémon and the environment with love and respect. I have seen it all throughout my long life. And the people who do that, no matter if they are fighting in wars, fighting in arenas, or fighting in the wild. It doesn't matter if they are trainers, travelers, coordinators, breeders, rangers, scientists, chefs, researchers, or entertainers. Whether they surround themselves with many or few Pokémon. Whether they prefer solitude or companionship, whether they're obscure or famous. If their dreams are fame, fortune, challenge, pride, power, or simply to be the best. None of that matters in the end."

"Because in the end, those who love and respect nature are the ones who go on to live the most fulfilling lives. And if your generation can do something, anything to achieve what those before you could not, perhaps the future that awaits us - all of us on this planet - will be a truly peaceful one, free of all strife."

"If you have any questions for me about anything, I'll be in town for the next few days. Thank you again, and enjoy the rest of your school year."

~~~~~~~~~~

The silence was deafening as the student body made the trek out of the woods. The three of us were no exception. It was a lot to take in towards the end. Thatcher was the first of us to speak, and when he did so, it was awkward. He stepped off to the side, paused in his tracks and lowered his head. Reika and I followed his lead. "That was," his eyes and voice were downcast, but it was unlike his earlier depressed demeanor. "Different."

"In a way." said a frustrated-sounding Reika.

My friends noticed my abnormal silence after a few seconds. At least Thatcher did, because he asked me with concern, "Fritz, what's wrong?"

"Oh. I'm...just mad, that's all." I wearily sighed, still a little tired. "Mad that there are people in the world that treat Pokémon that way. Especially those Americans." There's a lot of bad people in the world. I guess.

"I know." agreed Reika. "What is wrong with them? I can't believe those ASSHOLES!"

"Reika, I thought you said the assembly was stupid." I said, almost teasingly. Maybe in attempt to brighten the mood a bit. "His influence didn't rub off on you, did it?" I'd never really paid much thought to those kinds of political issues, and wasn't ready to take a side on this matter. It's just hard to judge. I mean, they wouldn't be saying that if there wasn't SOME element of truth to it. The question is, what parts are true, what parts are exaggerated, and what's made up? Besides, for all we know, they could view us as uptight, unforgiving bigots or something. And given the teachers' views on me...

"No. I've always known about them. And I've always felt that way. He just made me more sure of myself." She shook her head, and her fist trembled. With a frustrated grumble, she clamored, "I can't believe them! They make their poor Pokémon battle all the time, then just soullessly heal their wounds like it's no big deal over and over again. It's disgusting!"

She's referring to the healing machine, if I'm not mistaken. They instantly revitalize a Pokémon and heal most ordinary injuries. But they'll still be hungry. Furthermore, more serious wounds can't be fixed by the machine. They're outlawed in Japan except in certain circumstances, for some reason. I don't know the specifics. Again, I've never really paid much thought to political issues.

Reika continued on her rant, "How are they even still around? Wherever they insert themselves into the world, people and Pokémon become miserable! No exceptions! If that place was more like The Pressing Isshu, everyone would be happier for it! But they're just too damn selfish! Everyone from it, everyone in it! Why can't anyone there see things the way we do?"

Thatcher was a little put off by our friend suddenly becoming fired up. He trembled a little as he stammered, "But...but what can we do about it? I mean, there's enough bad groups and bad people here."

"I know, Thatcher." Reika relented. She sighed depressively. "There's a lot of bad people in the world. But there's justice here for the few who treat Pokémon wrong. No one even cares over there. It's ridiculous! They're as bad as Pokémon Hunters!" Her voice was becoming wrathful again, and she practically screamed her next words to the heavens. "Why is there no justice for them? I don't know why any sane person would want to live the way they do! They are cruel, lying, cheating, selfish, ruthless, honorless, self-superior, unapologetic BASTARDS. And they have the nerve to act like they're so great! If I ever met someone like that, I'd give them a piece of my mind!"

Again, an awkward silence. This bout lasted for nearly twice as long as the previous one. I took the initiative, pressing onward once more. I was also the next to speak. "What kind of name is the Heritage Delegates anyway? It sounds weird."

"Fritz," Thatcher said, "The Heritage Delegates is a legitimate organization. It was founded over half a century ago. Mr. Louis was one of the founding members. They are a little weird...about it, I know. But they mean well. They educate people about the country and it's history, so that future generations can...uh...don't have the same problems."

"Isn't that our teachers' job, though?" I recalled the Dean talking about how it was offered to every school in the district, or something to that effect. Why do that when we're learning about it anyway?

"A little. The Heritage Delegates has...you know...it's about the people...and our Socials class and History here are..." He clearly didn't know how to explain it. Or didn't know how to explain it clearly.

I finished his sentence with a guess. One that came off a little more refined that I was intending, "The Delegates enlighten people about the finer parts of our culture?"

"Yeah," he confirmed. "Th-that's...right. And they help make sure...you know, that people stay on the right path."

I thought about this for a few moments. They wouldn't just spread the word to schools, would they? After all, for every person who goes to one, there's like ten who choose to travel. Though to be honest, I just pulled that ratio out of nowhere. "That clears a few things up." I said. Only a few things.

Turning to look at Reika, she still seemed a little upset. Her hands were still clenched, her joints were rigid, and though her head was lowered, her expression still exuded rage.

"So what now?" I pondered, hoping to drive us away from this vexatious conversation. My rumbling stomach helped to answer that question. "The cafeteria's gotten the spoilage worked out, but it's probably going to have a really long line today."

"I still have a bunch of my dad's sandwiches." Thatcher responded. "We can go to my dorm and eat those before Sciences starts."

I just had to give him a confused stare. "Thatcher, how many of those do you have?"

"Twenty, I think?" he replied, rustling his hair slightly. "He gave me them before I came here, and said they would help tide me over. I keep most of them in a fridge in my room so they don't get moldy." An explanation good enough for me, and a prospect that seemed to brighten Reika's mood a bit.

"Sounds like a plan, then." I responded with a nod. "Let's go do that."

==========

As with yesterday, the class that followed and latter half paled in contrast to the first part. My friends and I split off rather early in the evening, so I went ahead and familiarized myself with part of the grounds in the meantime. I considered checking out the Heritage Delegates in town, but decided against it once I realized I had little knowledge of the municipality, let alone where they would be situated. So the rest of the day was fairly uneventful.

Until that night, when I was awoken by a hard knocking and muffled voice at my door.

I ignored it. Yet whoever was there persisted, knocking even harder. When I still failed to respond, they...opened the door? I guess I'd forgotten to lock it.

I heard two sets of feet approaching my bed. My vision was barely adequate between the darkness and tiredness...yet I could distinguish the pudgy contour of one and gaunt shape of the other as my friends. But why were they here? One of them opened their mouth and addressed me.

"Fritz, wake up. We're heading out."

__________

BONUS SCENE:
Bonus 1-5: Antecedents - Conclusion and Incertitude


Three close friends walked down a dirt path in hushed quiet. Like many of the students of Rukh's University, the speech they had heard provided by the head of the Heritage Delegates, one Theodore Louis, was a lot to take in. Much of what he spoke of not uncommon knowledge, but to hear it in such detail from one who had been there to witness much of it gave a new, enlightening perspective of things.

Two of them were clasping hands as they walked out of the forest and back towards the school. The male of the pair, a young redheaded man, sported a pair of white shorts and a semi-formal white tank top. He had chosen the latter in anticipation of the stables being stuffy. His blue eyes briefly darted to the one whose hand he held from their downcast state. Walking beside him, she had on a simple set of jeans and deep blue shirt. Unlike the other female of the group, her raven hair was shorter than a girl would typically go. Said other female was dressed as scant as could be considered socially acceptable, teetering on the edge of a line in a way that only one fully aware of it could. It did a lot to show off her vibrant skin tone, supremely such compared to her companions. Her pure, light-blonde hair flowed in the gentle breeze.

The tomboy of the group unexpectedly spoke up. "Hey, Andrew? Irene?" she said, a peculiar certainty in her voice. She motioned for Irene to follow to the side of the path, guiding Andrew there herself. The three stopped between a pair of trees. The girl closed her eyes, going deep into thought before continuing. "I've decided. I know what I want to be."

She felt the grip tighten. "Really?"

Irene leaned forward in interest. "Huh. You are? So what's it gonna be?"

"I..." She paused momentarily, "Want to be a member of the police force."

The handholding would cease as the redheaded boy took a step back in shock. "Wh-what!?" he gasped in shock, spliced with a bit of horror. He reached out, placing his hands on his ambitious girlfriend's shoulders. "Carlie, are you sure about this?"

A large nod of confirmation. "I am."

"But...but why?!" He shook her, desperately trying to pry an answer out of her.

Irene chuckled, catching on. "Inspired by the big speech, I'm guessing?"

"Yes, that was part of it." Carlie paused for a moment, thinking back to an earlier time. Consideration of what she was about to speak of. A difficult subject, but a necessary one for context. "Do you remember when all those Pokemon on the island were stolen?"

Irene shook her head, leaning back against one of the trees with a sigh. "How could I forget?" Her left hand reached out, tenderly stroking a steel sphere fastened to the holster on her hip.

"All of us do..." Andrew spoke with a frown. "But what does that have to do with you wanting to become a Policewoman?"

Carlie elaborated without much of a thought, "Hearing all those stories from The Shepherd now made me realize, things like that aren't uncommon. It seems every few years, there's another new big gang popping up. Having been through it myself, not being sure what I could do..." She shook her head in disgust. "I've made up my mind. I want to help fight these people!"

While her friend gave her a smirk of approval, the revelation of her plans for the future did not sit well with her boyfriend. He took her hand again, this time with two of his own.

"Carlie, you know what you're getting into, right?" Andrew lowered his posture a bit so that he may look up at her while pleading. "You know how bad those groups can get, how..." He paused. The white-clad young man shuddered while speaking his next words. "What can happen if you try to deal with them." He shut his eyes tight. "Gangs are made up of dangerous people, and you'll be dealing with them regularly if you become a policewoman."

"Ugh, here we go..."

"Andrew..."

Now forcing himself to fight back tears, Andrew clung onto her. "Please Carlie...please reconsider this. I don't want to lose you..."

The girls exchanged glances. That incident a year prior change the lives of almost everyone on the west coast of Mandarin Island, but especially those from Satsuma City. The three friends and especially Andrew were no exception. Carlie's eyes pleaded for Irene to assist, but a shake of the head and condescending peer told Carlie that she was on her own, for Irene had nothing good to say in this situation.

Andrew stepped away. "Please...I love you and I don't want to lose you..."

"I love you too, Andrew. And I know," Carlie began, uncertain of where exactly she wanted to go with this immediately. She took a deep breath prior to explaining her logic. "But think about it. Somebody has to be a hero. Somebody has to step up to stop them. If it weren't for Artiss...and if your theory is correct, him...those people would've gotten away with stealing the Pokemon and all those horrible things they were doing to them in that Research Facility." The tomboy turned and took a few steps away. Her head was cast down, but she held a fist clenched in determination. "I don't want to sit by and watch as those 'dangerous people' make others' lives miserable. I want to stop them, in any way I can help. I want to be a hero!"

She would miss both of her friends' gestures, Irene nodding and smiling in approval, and Andrew burying his face in his hands. A sigh of defeat emerged from the latter's lips. "You're set on this, aren't you?"

His girlfriend faced him. "I'm sorry. But my mind is made up."

"I was afraid you'd say that..."

"Andrew..." Carlie stepped towards him and took him into her arms. "It's okay," she reassured, a fiery confidence in her eyes and voice. "I don't plan on getting killed out there. I promise, when we get married, I'm coming home alive every day."

He returned the hug, turning his head to kiss her cheek. "I guess that's all I can ask for right now. Thanks."

Irene flashed the couple a thumbs-up as their embrace ended. "Well, good to see you two got that sorted out. But you sure you're up for it, Carlie?" She ceased leaning against the tree. "Being a cop takes a lot of work. You'll need to toughen up physically and mentally. You'll also need to have reliable Pokemon. Logic skills, deduction skills, all that crap."

Carlie hesitated. She hadn't really considered all that, but replied from the heart, "I'll do whatever it takes."

"Good, good. That's all it takes sometimes. I'm rooting for you."

The three friends, with renewed resolve, set about their course once more. Carlie couldn't help but make casual conversation. "So while we're talking about dreams, what about you, Irene?"

"Same as before. To be the best trainer I can, make money doing it, and marry a strong, sexy man someday." Carlie giggled at the latter of those."What about you, Andy?" Irene inquired, with a touch of distaste. "Figured out what you want to do now?"

"I don't know. Maybe gardening, or something simple like that."

"Andrew, seriously. You are-"

"He'll figure it out," Carlie interposed, mediating with a smile. "That's what we're here for, right?"

Irene snorted. "Right..."

"Right," agreed Andrew.

"I understand," she comforted. "You don't need to decide right away. You have four years here to do that." This statement caused them to all halt and smile.

"Four years to decide what I want to do with my life..."

"Four years to become a guardian of the masses."

"Four years to find strength and power!"

The three friends intuitively placed their hands over top another. "Four years for our dreams!" they rallied together. With vigor and more enthusiasm than anyone else on grounds to attend class if only for that brief moment, they rushed out of the woods.
 
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Well. we conversed about most of this chapter already. xP Even so... Like I said, the whole spiel was a bit random and seemed vaguely out of place and filler-y. Other than that, I can't really comment. Also, I wonder what those three are going to get up to now. :3
 
Chapter 1-6: Latent Reservation


I tiredly looked up at my two friends, their words not quite having registered just yet. I think they said to get up? Thatcher was wearing...an outfit like...an explorer's outfit. Like...something a mountain climber would wear...or an archaeologist. I'm not sure. But he definitely was dressed to go places. Reika had on...her clothes from earlier. They were wide awake.

"Fritz, come on." said one of them. "Get dressed, get your Pokémon, and let's go." Upon that, and a few whispers shared between each other, they stepped outside. Not bothering to explain the purpose. I guess I was too tired to argue, however.

Crawling out of the bed, I decided to take a cue from my female friend. I slipped on my shirt from earlier today - sort of a black vest or jacket, with gray smoke billowing.up from the orange and red blaze at the bottom. I wasn't going to button it up at first out of unwillingness to fight my fatigue, but after thinking it might be a little frigid and the possibility of mosquitoes, I thought better of it. In a similar vein, I opted for my pants from two days ago.

Reika and Thatcher were waiting for me at the top of the stairs in the darkened hallways. All that illuminated the whitewall, blue and brown carpeting, and wooden doors were the suppressed emergency lights. They were dim enough that if you were there, you might hardly have noticed my holding the handrail as we made the descent down each flight, as though my life depended on it. Falling down a flight of steps isn't enjoyable, particularly when half-asleep. I only let go after taking the very last step down. Hallway, stairwell, hallway, stairwell, hallway, stairwell. That zigzag took us to the base floor, where the door out awaited.

"Reika? Thatcher? Where are we going?" My response wasn't as groggy as this morning, and I was able to keep my head raised, but not to belittle the exhausted state I was in. "And...why now?"

"Fritz, come on." Reika urged, not answering my question in favor of telling me to keep up. I was lagging a bit behind...the product of using a little more caution in my step than typical.

For the second time, my exhausted self was being led from the paved path and towards the woods. We passed by the offices on the way. A few lights were on within. Reika and Thatcher mumbled about how to approach this. It took them longer than someone who was half-asleep to notice the windows/drapes were closed, so the risk of being seen was minimal and we could just walk by and into the forest. It didn't feel too different at night than they did during the day. The main and most expected difference was that the sounds of nocturnal creatures filled the thick air. The cawing of Murkrows, the hooting of Noctowls, and...whatever you want to qualify the sounds that Kricketunes make as. It was a little more peaceful, I didn't feel like there was a risk of being mauled, but something important was on my mind. I tried to get a sentence out, "Why are we..." but trailed off before I could.

"Fritz, uh, you did um," Thatcher nervously began, not sure on how to put things. "You know about the big cliff in the forest. Er, right?"

"I've seen it...but why are we going now?"

"Sorry. It was Reika's idea." He rubbed the nape of his neck. "I thought you might want to come along too." That's quite different from how they put it at first, but it was a little late to argue semantics.

The walk to the cliff was just a little longer than it took to go to the stables, but the higher density of trees made navigation more treacherous. Good news came in how there were no overgrown roots or tussled branches lying about. Not once did any of us - even myself - trip or almost fall. Eventually, the sight of a large bluff presented itself to us. The composition appears primarily a pale brown. So...I have no idea. Not a geologist. Initially, I thought we were going to scale this thing...and when checking around for the path up, I found what my friends were staring at. The entrance to a cave. I also saw a couple more higher up the mountain.

"Well, here it is." said Reika, staring up with eager anticipation. "This is gonna be so exciting!"

"Let's hope so!" agreed Thatcher.

I mumbled, "I hate you guys so much right now," but they didn't hear me. They walked inside without waiting for me. Sighing, I followed their irreverent lead.

----------

We stepped into...tunnels of rocks and dirt. That's it. There's not much else to say. Presumably. There's some small stalactites and stuff, but that's about it. It's just rocks and dirt. Mostly rocks.

"It's dark." Thatcher whispered.

"Well, of course. We're in a cave, silly." Reika's excitement hadn't worn off, and our friend's rhetorical question didn't bother her at all. "Did you bring the light?"

"Sure did." Thatcher set down his backpack and sifted through it to retrieve a battery-powered brass lantern. With a flick of the switch, the area around us lit up brilliantly. With only smiles, they set off once more. Not even warning me.

"Where...are we going?"

"To the top." Reika plainly replied.

"Why? And...you know...where to get there?" Since they had hauled me out of bed for whatever it is they wanted, it seemed nothing could delay them from achieving...whatever it is they wanted. That is, until I said what I just did. They stopped dead. Mid-step, as if time had been frozen. They nervously faced each other. Ugh. "That's...that's just great, guys. Really great."

"We're going to try, at least." said Thatcher. I'd clearly dampened their spirits, as they were a little more uncertain in their pathfinding from then on. Which helped me keep up with them.

~~~~~~~~~~

I don't know how we did it. As far as I was could tell, we were in a maze of twisty tunnels, all alike. But somehow, we made it up to a level above without getting lost, confused, or taking a long time. The trip was strangely serene...not a wild Pokémon in sight. This threw me off. I thought for sure we would bump into a Geodude or something, but nothing showed up. Why that could be...I don't know. Just too tired to think straight.


We wandered the second floor for a while, and eventually found another slope up. Maybe it wasn't a true maze...I think. Like, maybe there's just one more way to go up...maybe that's how we found our way? I don't know. But we did. In the end...isn't that what counts?

"Fritz, are your shoes squeaking?" Thatcher randomly asked, as we stepped into a grotto on this third level. It was oval-shaped; a little taller and much wider than the rest of the tunnels.

Synchronized, Reika and I ground to a halt. "That's not me." I pointlessly whispered, seeing as the high-pitched noise continued on after I stopped moving.

In flew the source. Two long, skinny leggings dangled from their lower bodies. The face of each was just a mouth with four fangs - two on top and bottom - also with gargoyle-like ears. Then there was their flapping wings; the front exposed the indigo, nearly violet skin beneath the very fine layer of dark blue fur that otherwise covered the rest of their body.

"Zubats." Reika gasped, hushed.

"Around a dozen of them." I instinctively crouched down, an action that she conformed with. A run-in with the country's most widespread species. This is one way to wake up. At least they didn't notice us...

...okay, yet. Thatcher was just staring at them. I had my fingers crossed that he wouldn't do anything dumb. But he screamed. Quiet and trembling at first, but then loud enough to wake the dead. All at once, the Zubats turned our way. They barred their fangs, clearly NOT pleased. My geeky friend instantly scuttled behind us.

"I think we invaded their nest," Reika shuddered, ignoring or ignorant to the fact that these are pests who don't present other species the same courtesy. "We should get out of here!"

Thatcher rightfully disagreed. "I-I don't think that's on the t-table right now!" He was right. The bats were poised to swarm us, as if they weren't about to let us go. For a moment, Reika wanted to protest this, but quickly relented.

"You're right. I guess we have no choice." she reluctantly said, retrieving a ball from her holster and dropping it to the ground. A fluffy pink and white Pokémon appeared before her. Its body was blob-shape, with two pointy ears and a cowlick over its bright blue eyes. It struck a cute pose, standing on one foot, raising its arms, and shaking its booty. Wait, WHAT?

"Wow!" said Thatcher. "You evolved her?!"

"Yup!" Reika beamed. "She's a Wigglytuff, now!"

A grinning Thatcher sent out his Pokémon next: a brown, rodent-looking little guy with beady black eyes. Except for its belly, its entire body (including its tail) was covered in a hide akin to bricks. Two stubby nails lined its hands and feet. It struck a battle pose, stamping down its left foot and leading with its right claws.

"Thatcher," Reika asked inquisitively, "Is that the same Sandshrew your family had at home?"

"Y-yeah. It's him all right!" He was attempting to force out pride, but it was not emerging very easily.

"Cool!"

My friends were laughing, happy to be catching up with one another. It took my focused words to snap them back to reality. "Don't forget, we have more important things to be worrying about now."

Now let's think about this. Tangela's a talented and experienced Pokémon, there's no denying that. But in a setting like this against all these opponents, it might not be that great an idea. Against a swarm of bats, Nidorina probably wouldn't perform too well. Neither would blasting water at them do too much, unless it was hot water. And I don't know if my new acquisition knows Scald. Mareep I would use, but its...condition...would make using its moves a bad idea. So that just leaves my pleasant little fox, Eevee.

It struck no pose, because as soon as it came out of the ball, it ran behind me and started cowering. Reika saw this and voiced her displeasure. "Why would you even send that out? Why not Mareep?!" It's not a decision I like either, but I have to give it a shot.

I opened my mouth to explain my train of thought, but thought better of the attempt. "Just shut up." I said. "Here they come."

Immediately, four of the bats descended upon Sandshrew. With a panicked impulse, its trainer yelled, "Sandshrew, look out! Defend yourself!" Given an ambiguous command, the rodent reacted well enough - tightly tucking in its head and limbs to contort into a ball-shape, a quintessential Defense Curl. The Zubats moved in to strike regardless, only succeeding in rolling it about. This must have set off an idea in its brain, as it continued to revolve of its own accord. As its foes were near the ground, it was able to run over a couple of them, Thatcher was surprised at his Pokémon's initiative, as he said, "Sandshrew...good job! I think, get one of them with Fury Swipes!" Uncurling, Sandshrew pounced on one of the victims of Rollout. Brandishing its sharp claws, it went to work on the Zubat. The others' response was too little too late. Sandshrew retracted into a defensive position as soon as they got near. By that time, their comrade was out cold. He was actually doing pretty well.

Reika was having some trouble. Her Wigglytuff - the largest target - just couldn't keep up with the 6-7 Zubats that were swarming around it. It was managing to keep them away, and that's about it. Reika was shouting orders at seemingly random. "Pound!" she would say, and Wigglytuff would only manage to clip one or two with its stubby fist. "Body Slam!" she would yell, and Wigglytuff would leap up and attempt to smother one beneath its plushy form, usually only doing a faceplant.

At least she was doing better than Eevee. Three Zubats came swooping in, and the first thing that came to its frantic mind was to kick up dust. Having no eyes to get dirt in, they were completely unimpeded. An attempt to shout a word of warning came too late. A smaller Zubat got there first and bit down on Eevee's tail. It cried out, which seemed to startle the Zubats slightly. "Fight back, Eevee!" I urged. "Quick Attack!" The fox was terrified, every muscle in its legs vibrating. It heard the order at least...it dashed forth towards the Zubat that bit it, which was still near ground level, and made a leaping tackle at it. This sent it towards Wigglytuff, who picked up on the opportunity her trainer was slow to, and finished it off with Body Slam just as the order was being given. At least we were managing something.

It was around that time that Thatcher turned to me. He had placed the lantern safely down about a meter and a half away. "Fritz, why aren't you using Mareep?" he asked, much more politely.

I put it simply to him: "Mareep's having trouble aiming its attacks. Sandshrew would be fine if it misfired, but it could hit Wigglytuff. Or even one of us." He understood immediately.

"Oh. That makes sense." He turned back to Sandshrew, who had just finished off another Zubat in the same manner as prior. It went into a Defense Curl again, but its targets had wised up. A few broke away from Wigglytuff to join in the assault. In unison, six Zubats dove at it. As the rodent contracted tighter in apprehension, his frightful trainer yelped, "Sandshrew...Rapid Spin?!!" Now this was cool, and perfectly timed too. An airborne and revolving Sandshrew repelled its adversaries. Thatcher couldn't believe it worked. I couldn't believe it worked. "G-good. Now Fury Swipes again!"

A bit of pressure was alleviated from Wigglytuff when a few chose to go after Sandshrew, but it was still having trouble. Reika yelled, "Damn it. You try Defense Curl too!" Her Pokémon tried, at least. It wasn't the right shape to do so effectively, so it was more squatting into the fetal position. The damage being done was starting to take its toll...but at least when it came out of its curl, it surprised one of them long enough to flatten it with Body Slam.

Eevee was continuing to use Quick Attack, although now as a retreat tactic to distance itself from the two Zubats in pursuit. It grinded to a halt without warning, lying down and shielding its cranium with its front paws. The Zubats flew right over. Eevee noticed their error, and for a moment, seemed as if it were about to take advantage. But once its foes became aware of what happened, they made a u-turn and came back. The chase was back on, except in the opposite direction.

"This is going nowhere." I lamented as I recalled Eevee.

"I told you," Reika reiterated, "Use your Mareep! God."

I ignored her and decided to watch. The numbers were thinning, anyway. Just over half of them remain. The two after my Pokémon split off between Wigglytuff and Sandshrew. The latter is continuing to bring it. The former is improving a little, but it could be attributed to the higher density of targets. The battle's slowly, but surely proceeding in our favor.

Um?! That is, until 20-30 more Zubats flew into the room, accompanied by three larger specimens. Nearly three times the size (when fully stretched), three-quarters of their front side was a mouth. Their wings were about the same shape, although either side of them advertised the hide beneath the pelt. They had as many fangs as that which they evolved from, but they had a distinctive curvature to accommodate their diet. And also unlike the Zubats, these Golbats had stubby T-shaped legs, slit-like eyes, and a fleshy tongue - albeit one they hesitate to show.

In unison, the bat Pokémon opened their jaws. Without a hint to what was happening, Sandshrew clutched its ears in pain. The mouse could hardly stand up as what to some was an invisible force reverberated through its head. It was better off than Wigglytuff at least, whose stubby arms couldn't reach far enough to give it protection. It hit the ground as soon as the assault began. It'd be comical if the situation weren't so dire.

"What's happening?" demanded an annoyed Reika. "Wigglytuff, Body Slam!" However, her convulsing Pokémon didn't hear her through its pained reaction. Trainer's anger dissolved to frantic confusion. "What the HELL is going on?!"

"They're using Supersonic." I explained. "It's a high-pitched noise-based attack that's extremely irritating to many Pokémon."

"Noise, huh?" She was irate and sly at the same time. "I'll show them some noise! Wigglytuff, Sing!"

"Reika, wait!!" I protested, but it was too late. Wigglytuff had taken in a deep breath. All I could do was cover my ears and try to drown out its voice. I squatted down into a defensive position and squinted uncomfortably, just in case.


When I opened my eyes, the damage was apparent. Reika and Thatcher had fallen victim to the hypnotic song, and had collapsed onto the ground. Sandshrew and Wigglytuff were still up, but so were two of the Golbats and a few of the Zubats. This was a problem. I saw only one solution to it, and so I threw it out there without hesitation.

Mareep eagerly came leaping out of its home. Needless to say, it was singing a tune of confusion when it saw the mess Wigglytuff had left behind with its singing. Sandshrew and Wigglytuff were desperately trying to fend off the bats without trainer assistance. Neither party had spotted the new arrival yet.

I grabbed the lamp and ran out of the grotto, as so not to accidentally victimize myself like Reika did. Thankfully, none of the bats gave chase. Once I had rounded the corner, I shouted, "Mareep, DISCHARGE!"

I didn't keep my head out to see it, but I could still see and hear the results. The screams of bats and my friends echoed through the tunnels as the entire room was illuminated by the expelled electricity. Mareep was able to hold the attack for four seconds before having to cease. I heard a number of thuds under the sound of 20-30 sets of wings all flapping at the same time. All the bats not fried by the move came hastily retreating out, not noticing me crouched there.


I waited a moment before stepping back into the room to survey the damage. Sandshrew had covered Wigglytuff as best it could. Both Pokémon being up was a good sign. Just like when I had left, a number of bats, as well as Reika and Thatcher, were down on the ground.

"You guys all right?" I asked, approaching them. Electric attacks are rarely life-threatening, but they can still hurt. I extended a hand to Thatcher to help him to his feet. He was still shaking a little. When I tried to do the same for Reika, she swatted my arm away.

"FRITZ!!" Reika was absolutely livid with me. "WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO?!!" she screamed.

"I got rid of all the bats." I replied calmly. As calmly as possible, anyway. She was starting to try my patience, but I was using restraint. "It was your idea to use Mareep. I was just doing what you suggested, and it worked."

She vigorously got to her feet. "I didn't say to zap me too, you RETARD. You should've thought about what was going to happen!"

"Sorry," I sincerely apologized, "I wanted to get you guys out of the way, but there wasn't enough time."

"You should be sorry!"

"Don't you think you're being a little irrational? I mean, Thatcher seems okay." This was fact, although he looked at me with eyes that stated he was staying out of this one.

She wasn't paying attention, or didn't seem to care. "You DON'T attack other people with your Pokémon! I don't care what the reason is! It's not fair to the Pokémon, and it's not fair to us, either!"

"I couldn't just leave you there!" I made one last effort to get through to her. And it's strange she should say that. Mareep didn't hesitate, and it's a virtuous Pokémon. It doesn't place us on the level of miscreants. I continued my explanation, "Nidorina and Tangela wouldn't have be able to hit them all, so it was the only choice. It wasn't som-"

"It wasn't a smart plan at all!" she interrupted. "You shouldn't have done it, Fritz!"

"Okay, what the hell is your problem?" I wasn't holding back my distaste any longer. "And if you want to talk smart plans and thinking about what was going to happen, why didn't you think about using Sing en masse would do?"

"That's different. You should know better." Her fists were clenched and her eyes were closed. She was barely keeping herself under control. But not for long.

"Oh hi, I'm Reika Easton." I mocked. I nailed her voice, too. "If I mess something up, it's okay because I'm soooo dumb. But if my friends do something wrong, god forbid! They better listen to me because I know best!"

That set her off. She griped, "You're acting immature! Stop it, Fritz!"

"Me, immature? Who was the one who dragged someone out of bed without thinking to tell them why? Who was the one who got frustrated and used Sing without thinking about what it would do? Who's the one acting like I can do no right?! You're the immature one! In fact," I narrowed my eyes. "Exactly how old are you, Reika Easton?"

She smugly chuckled before boasting, "I turned eighteen three days ago."

"So your birthday was a day before school started? You poor, poor girl." She didn't like my saying this too much. For a second, she appeared sad, but it quickly reverted to her furiousness. I took a few steps away and crossed my arms. With a smile, I uncrossed them, span around and said, "I turned nineteen three months ago."

"Age has nothing to do with maturity!" she instantly snapped.

"Says the girl who seemed proud of her age a second ago!" I fired back.

"This was about ethics a minute ago, but you had to go and make it personal!"

"Maybe if you weren't so provoking!"

"Says the boy who pissed off the most popular student in school!"

"I told you, I had no choice there!"

"Is THAT what you think?"

"No, I think you're out of your mind!"

"What do you know?!"

"More than you! You don't know anything!"

"Stop it, you two!" Thatcher FINALLY chimed in. He stood between us and spoke with urgency. "This isn't helping us! Come on, we have to keep moving!"

I crossed my arms tighter than before. "I'm not moving another inch until I know what the hell we're doing here."

Thatcher frowned. "A-all right. Sorry, this was my fault. I really...really should've told you." he stammered, taking responsibility for the incident. "This is Abet's Bluff. It's kind of famous at Rukh's University. There's a story I've heard...that Reika heard...about a powerful beast living on the mountain. A creature with powers so terrible, that to protect those around it, it only awakens on nights when the moon is not in the sky. No one knows what it is or what it does, but they call it the Beast of Abet." As he told me about this Beast, his voice broke a little.

"That is a horrible media tag, and why did you not tell me that to begin with?" I said, almost satisfied. And I wasn't sure about this...it didn't feel like a lie, but something still felt off about it.

"Sorry..." was all he could say. Only a single word, but a word more than good enough for me. You could've cut the tension with a butter knife for the briefest of moments, until I gave my placated acknowledgement. Thatcher garnered his composure. "It shouldn't be far now. Let's go."

As he intrepidly left the grotto, I started to feel a bit of regret for my actions. Particularly after his apology for something he wasn't responsible for. I remained in place as I thought about this. "Reika," I started. She was around halfway out, but stopped and whirled around when I called her name, still a little antsy. Abashed, I told her, "About what just happened...well, I guess I was being a little cruel. Sorry."

"Apology accepted. Now let's get going." she steadfastly said, leaving immediately after. Not even apologizing herself. I lowered my head a little. From day one, I had no idea what to make of this girl. She's had little besides insults for me, and it was beginning to bother me. But we're friends...right?

Shoulders slumped, I laggingly followed behind.

~~~~~~~~~~

We continued our traverse to the top of the mountain without incident or further discussion. A few times, I opened my mouth to speak to Reika or Thatcher. Each time, I either couldn't think of anything to say, or my vocal chords defied my will. For six minutes, the only sound we made was that of our footsteps. For six minutes, all we saw were each other and the bland anatomy of a cavern. Only after we traveled up a winding tunnel and emerged into a straight corridor did either of those change.

Remember when I was too tired to give a good description and described the entrance as just rocks and dirt? Well, that wasn't inaccurate. It is just a cave, after all. This uppermost level, however, something much different. There was an odd symmetry to this place. Besides the one wide passage that we currently stood in and the tunnel we had emerged from, there was a rupture opposing the latter. If it led somewhere in the past, it didn't now. Either end led to a massive dome hollow, each with its own deep chasm in the middle. The starry night sky filtered light in through narrow clefts at the the tops of these cupolas. There was still the basic composition of course, but these tunnels had dirt walls sparsely dotted with shiny stones mixed in with the granite. By comparison only making them only marginally less dull.

"This is amazing," uttered Thatcher, eyes filled with marvel. "I've never seen anything like it!"

"I have."

"Me too." I added. Actually, I've seen even cooler. "But it doesn't make it any less spectacular."

"Mmm-hmm."

Like pilgrims in a foreign land, we wandered about with borderline naive curiosity. Thatcher aimlessly paced in the tunnels, caught by the indecisiveness that plagued Reika and myself for only a moment. I settled on examining the collapsed tunnel further, whereas she made a left, heading for the dome there.

The way the ceiling led into the cave confirmed my theory about a possible collapse. The inconsistent ratio of material also gave it away. I'm not a speleologist as much as I'm not a geologist so I can't say for certain, but from the concave shape of the rupture and the way the dirt and rocks were resting, I'm guessing it collapsed at an angle rather than straight down. Interesting.

"Wow..." Reika said as she stepped inside. She was fixated on something high above. "Do you see that?" I can't see it from where I am.

"See what?" Thatcher asked, similarly mispositioned. Reika didn't hear him, and continued walking forward in fascination. We turned to each other, shrugged, and calmly followed to get a better look. As we got close to the mouth, sight of the upper part of the dome came into view. In addition to said clefts which the sky could be seen through, several sizable stalactites hung from their curvature.

"It's beautiful. The way it sparkles." our friend whispered, getting as close as she could. It was a unique sight to be sure.

"The stars?" Thatcher pondered as he gazed up at the fissure in the ceiling from a few meters away.

"No, that thing." she mumbled, gesturing to it by reaching out in its direction. I saw where she was pointing, but couldn't see what she was pointing to. Was it something hard to see? Thatcher's silence told me he couldn't spot it either.

Suddenly, Reika lost her balance. Arms flailing and on one foot, she twirled around right before she went over, allowing her to dart out her arms and barely grab a sturdy stone.

"THATCHER!!! HELP!!!!" she screamed as she dangled? What...?

Thatcher hustled forward and grabbed her hands, demonstrating unusual might under duress. He was straining a bit, but with each passing second, he was lifting his portly friend up inch by inch. I just stood there in a sort of unknown stupor, half-heartedly trudging after a few seconds. Reika seemed in good hands, but still...what?

From the corner of my eye, I just caught Thatcher's head puzzlingly darting up. And then they both began to tumble over the side?!

"Guys!" I simultaneously broke into a dash and attempt to retrieve Tangela. Before I could reach the clearing, I got knocked to the ground by something. I barely managed to get my arms out to break my fall, but the impact still stung.

I looked up.

A stalwart quadrupedal monster was crouched and snarling before me.
 
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Chapter 1-7: The Beast Attacks


Shock.


That's all I felt for what felt like a full minute.


The reality of what just happened to my friends was only being repressed by the reality of what was before me. I had my doubts that this thing even existed...but here it was. The Beast of Abet. Despite partial visibility, this thing is still for the most part shadowed. What could be told was it stood tall on its four legs, peering down at me with beady red eyes.

I clumsily rolled aside as the Beast lunged at me, baring its thick fangs. I tossed a Poké Ball at random, hoping for luck. It was Nidorina. Good.

The Beast landed and stared back at me, attempting to pounce once again. Nidorina didn't like being ignored very much, intercepting it with a Tackle. The Beast's eyes burst into flames as it found its new target. It let out an ear-piercing shriek. Nidorina cringed at this, but stood up straighter than before when the cacophonous attack was finished.

I began to give a hand signal, before remembering that Nidorina couldn't see my hands in this cave. Not to mention, there'd be little point against a wild. With a sigh over my impulses, I gave the command verbally, "Use Cut! And try to keep it busy!"

A ripple of energy had begun to form between the frothing monster's horns. It unleashed the attack as a sparkling Signal Beam right where Nidorina used to be, she already having took off to slash it in the chest with her razor sharp claws. A good start, but I need more information! I need to know what this thing is capable of! I can do that. No one is here...no one will know...

I pulled out a special device. It's...something like the more well-known Pokédexes, but it's not. It's about half the size of your average paperback book, and unfolds like one too. It's not something I use that often. It's not something I want too many people to know that I have. But no one is here anymore...it's just me, my Pokémon, and this monster. I pointed it at my target and pressed a button.

A bright light flashed, the internal camera photographing its target. It took a few moments, around ten seconds to load. In those moments, I saw Nidorina and the Beast charging for one another simultaneously, but quickly turned my attention to the information when it appeared.

The screen was projecting the image of an antelope. Fine-furred, it has horns like a rounded wishbone with a navy orb between them. Its ass-end was covered by a ball-shaped tail. It's colored an average shade of brown, with a number of creamy patches. And here's what it said.

Stantler
Normal Type

Native to Johto, Northern Japan and the western seaboard of the mainland. It is a mammalian Pokémon who resembles a deer. In the climate of the Sinnoh region, thick fur protects them from cold winters. Because they do not shed, they tend to live in mountainous areas, taking shelter in caverns during heatwaves. By contrast, herds who roam regions such as Johto adapted thicker hides, due to increased presence of predators. Their hooves have a hardness closest to processed iron. Adults have a mass of 65-80kg in does, and upwards of 90kg in stags. Their neck muscles are very strong, but their only use is to support their thick cranium and heavy horns.

This is a dangerous and unpredictable Pokémon whose behavioral patterns have yet to be adequately studied. Because of their powers and impulsive hostility, observing this Pokémon in its natural environment is a difficult task. One of the few consistencies established is their reaction to an invasion of their nest. The stags often attempt to ambush and gore the intruder on their horns. Due to their blunt shape, this is typically fruitless, but their goal is to protect the nest, even at the cost of their life or freedom.

A Stantler is capable of using psychic, psionic, and other mental abilities due to its developed brain and the special composition of its horns. They've been known to use psychokinesis to allow themselves to levitate or fly in extreme instances. The most distinguishing power of these antelopes is the ability to create three-dimensional optical illusions. It is an ability often lost with captured Stantler unless it is specially trained. The nature of these illusions appears to depend on the individual Stantler.

Well, that's just fucking lovely. Psychic powers. Shit! It's bad enough that Nidorina is a Poison type and vulnerable to certain types of Psychic attack, but I'm terrible at fighting the things, too. Perfect, just perfect. This would be a very good time to have my Houndour, but I only brought so many Pokemon with me when I came to Rukh's. I think I see an opening there, though...this one should have a thin hide. Which means...

"Nidorina, Poison Fang!"

The rampaging Stantler was standing over my Pokémon, bucked back and ready to Stomp down on her. But hearing my word, Nidorina somersaulted beneath, grabbed onto its right hind leg, and bit down with all her might. The Beast bellowed demonically as the toxins were injected into its system, before swinging its leg back to throw Nidorina off. She landed on her feet and immediately charged back in. Again, the Stantler rose to use Stomp, aiming to flatten my Pokémon as she got near. Nidorina again dodged, but was unable to grab the other leg.

"Double Kick, quick!"

My fast reaction when the two Pokémon were left back to back paid off. Looking behind herself, Nidorina pushed up with her hind legs and snapped them back, quite literally kicking the Stantler's ass and sending it reeling. She pivoted with her front legs to face it. I figured out what she wanted to do pretty quickly when she lowered her head.

"Let's do this! Nidorina, SKULL BASH!"

Suddenly, the Beast shrieked with an otherworldly reverb. The world began to melt around us. No longer were we in the dimly lit upper level of a mountain cavern. Instead, we were in a burning fucking building. And the Beast was there for all the world to see. A stark contrast to what was shown to me, this Stantler's murky brown hair was standing on end like it was about to launch out a giant spiritual blast. Its ears were angled like knives, and horns seemed to have seen their share of damage over the years. Adding to the mythos, one of them appeared like an omega symbol. And of course, there's the red eyes. Those are still staring back, right about its dripping nose and frothing mouth. Whether this was part of the illusion or its true form was up in the air.

Nidorina began to look around in a frenzy, not realizing what just happened. I began to open my mouth to warn her, but it was too late. Stantler's horns were glowing. Blue energy waves appeared from nowhere around Nidorina and collapsed in. That was painful, but not as painful as Stantler charging headfirst into it and catapulting it into the air. And just to add insult to injury, a swirling mass of dark matter appeared between its horns. The Beast screeched - worse than that Gyarados ever did - as it propelled the ball towards the falling Nidorina. An explosion rocked the area as it made contact. Nidorina is out like a light, and I'm screwed.

The Beast let out a victory cry, and ominously turned back to me. It snickered, and began to approach menacingly - still limping a bit from the poison in its leg.

"I'm not going to die here." I firmly told it. It responded to this stern proclamation with scorn. I sent out my next Pokémon and brought back Nidorina at the same time. Tangela appeared with a squeal, which degenerated into higher pitched whines when it saw where it seemingly was. To it, after all, I'd just sent out a grass type in a fiery blaze to battle against hellspawn.

"Focus! The fire's not real!" I reassured, settling it down a bit. "Power Whip, let's go!"

Out protruded a long thick vine, which Tangela swung for the fences with. It smacked the Beast once, twice, and a third time - right on the horns. Instantly, the illusion disappeared, bringing us back to reality. Right! Still, not in a good spot. Tangela's best move - Solarbeam - is out of the picture due to the energy source not being present. I'll have to get creative if I want to take this thing down.

So we'll go with Tangela's other strong point. I gave the deterministic command, "Stun Spore!"

Tangela shuddered, eyes closed and focusing to build up the necessary strength. It quickly achieved this, spewing out a plume of orange spores. The Beast deftly dodged the dust cloud and returned fire with a Signal Beam. Tangela was blasted off its feet, but made a quick recovery by grappling onto a stalactite with its vines and pulling itself right back. The Beast was only barely able to get out of the way of the ensuing Slam downwards. But that gave us an opening...

"All right, Tangela! Sleep Powder!"

The Beast turned around just in time for Tangela to give it a faceful of green dust. The results were instantaneous - it began hacking, struggling to remain upright. And then, it shook it off and resumed its threatening stance?

...

You have GOT to be fucking kidding me.

Tangela was just as surprised as I was. It was scarecly able to avoid the Beast as it summarily swung its horns repeatedly. It stumbled to its rear, and just before it was Stomped on, it managed to get a vine out and shove back its foe. Actually, you know what? Time to get the hell out.

"We're getting out of here." I said to Tangela. It agreed with my assertation, bowing its form as if it were nodding. It's one thing to say we're going to. But how to escape? Let's see. There's a pissed-off Stantler blocking the path ahead. I want to go the other way...but I'm afraid of what I might find at the bottom of that ravine. So, opposite direction it is, angry antelope or no. But do I run down through the cave? Or rappel down at the opposite end?

...

Well, if I run down the proper way, I could get pursued, or run into those bats again. Good lord, I can't believe I'm even considering this. I explained the plan to Tangela. I'd trained it to be able to do these kinds of stunts. I'd used it for vertical transport before. But never was the situation this dire or the stunts this extreme. No doubt, if it wasn't a bold and confident Pokémon, I could be in serious trouble.

Tangela jumped backward to evade a Shadow Ball, fearlessly wrapped two vines around the twisted horns of the Stantler, and wrangled to dissipate a second shot. I picked up the mass of noodles, and held on tight.

It's hard to describe what happened next. It happened so fast.

First, we slingshotted over the Beast. Tangela's reel wasn't fast enough to pull me up all the way, so the psychotic creature ended up getting a face full of my shoes. The impact flipped it onto its back, and as soon as I was on my feet, I started moving them. If it wasn't mad before, that had to have set it off. I paused at the edge of the cliff, allowing Tangela to grapple a large stalactite lining the roof. As it was starting to pull us, I checked over my shoulder and saw the Beast firing yet another Shadow Ball our way. Shouting a word of warning caused Tangela to take a different trajectory, pivoting us around the spike. The dark mass of energy missed, detonating against the far cliff.

CRACK!

That was the sound of the stalactite breaking off under the mass and force being exerted upon it. This aided in evading yet another volley by the Beast, but now we were hurling out of control towards the unforgiving stone. I saw an out - a tiny entrance and ledge just to the left. I didn't know where this dark passage led, but anything seemed like a better option than straight forward or straight down. "Tangela!" I yelled, pointing to our salvation. Between the two vines already out and a third, it was able to shove off the wall before we crashed into it. A fourth it wrapped around my torso so I wouldn't lose my grip, as it forced us in the direction of the hole. It was just enough. The steep incline downward dementedly awaited.

I landed on my feet, and my initial reaction was to lean back and try to slow my movement. I nearly fell over for trying. Managing to recover, I instead went with the flow. I ran. As fast as my legs would allow. Pure adrenaline was surging through every vein, every artery, and every capillary in my body. Tangela is around 9kg (or 20lbs), but it felt like nothing. This dimly lit passage twisted erratically, and several times I had to use my arms to aid in steering. I didn't want to try stopping. I didn't dare look back...and not just because what was in front of me was more important.

After ten painstaking seconds that felt like an hour, I burst out of the tunnel...and nearly went over the side of a cliff!! I instinctively stood on my toes to halt my motion, but retaining my balance was another problem...! Two vines came flying out of Tangela and onto the ground. This added support was just enough to stop us from a fall into the forest below.


Still, it didn't stop a fall outright. After all the walking and running, my legs finally gave up on me. They dropped out, and although my tailbone was right there, I couldn't even notice the physical pain over my mental distress. My legs dangled lifelessly over the edge as I leaned back. I was resting on solid rock, but given how badly I wanted to lie down, it was an air mattress with a fluffy pillow.


But I remained alert. My head shot upwards when I noticed movement. I sat up and looked behind me. There was nothing back there...but I swore I saw something! And when I checked the opposite direction, there it was. A shadowed figure was lurking through the woods. I was only able to see the person because he...or she was clad in white. It paused for a second, then pressed on deeper into the bush. What was that person doing there...?

After what just happened, I really wasn't in the state of mind to try to find out. I mean, it could very well just be another student who's roaming around in the dead of night, right? It's no big deal.

With that in mind, and not wanting to hang around here any longer than I had to, I got Tangela to transport us down to ground level. It was more than happy to go back into its Poké Ball. With my Pokémon back home safe and sound, I hurriedly made my way back. The night was already a quiet one, but it was like it had gotten quieter after those events. As I walked through the forest, all those nocturnal Pokémon I heard had been hushed. The lights in the offices were no longer on. Even when I reached the dorms, the heightened silence was just eerie.

And yet...all I could do was pray that Reika and Thatcher got out all right.

##########

It was difficult to get out of bed the next morning.

How do you even approach a day like this? You can hope for the best and prepare for the worst, sure. But saying that is one thing. Actually doing it is another.

It wasn't that I was tired. It was just the weight of what happened was holding me down. The past two days, my schedule had been the same. Get up, get dressed, maybe have a snack, brush my teeth, comb my hair, go down three flights of stairs, and meet up with my friends outside the dorms. Today, they weren't waiting for me there.

I really started to worry when I saw neither of them in Socials class. Nobody seemed to notice the two missing students, even when I chose to sit at a different table. I didn't want to bring it up to anyone, either. I just wasn't sure if it was a good idea or not. I didn't outwardly show my disdain, and maybe that could have made a difference. I just couldn't stop thinking about what had happened.

With nothing else to do, I tried to take my mind off the events of the night before by getting a bit of training in during lunch. After getting some food from the cafeteria, I went to the field and practiced accuracy with Mareep for a while. It was something that it had been having a problem with, even before I got it. And it can't just wide-area Discharge all the time. I had it Thundershock a stone from various angles and distances. It worked...worked to help me take my mind off things, that is. The electric sheep made subtle progress with its targeting, too. The difference is, it was a temporary distraction for me, and permanent improvement for it.

"Hey, you." came a serious voice from behind us around 10-15 minutes before the end of lunch. I span around instinctively to lock eyes with...two girls? Both around 5'5'', both blonde, and both with blue eyes. However, the one on my left had a sapphire-tinted iris and shoulder-length hair which, although there wasn't a strand out of place, one could count three to four different tones to it. The one on the right had aqua blue eyes, and her light, pure-colored hair was cut short. Her choice of dress was a bright orange tube-top and - judging by the fraying fabric - what were once jeans, but got cut into shorts that reached just above her knee-caps. And while I don't keep up with the latest Sinnoh fashion trends, I strongly suspect that her friend is making sure to follow them.

"Um, can I help you ladies?" I responded. I was prepared for the likes of this ever since my popularity boom amongst my fellow first years. I hadn't heard definitive word of what years above think, so I stood ready for anything. They could've picked a better time for this, too.

The two stared me over for a few moments. Both seemed a little hesitant, as if they didn't know how to respond to that. They nearly jumped out of their skin when Mareep finally took notice and took up a readied position by my side. I had to put my hand in front of it to calm it (and them) down. It was only then that the girl on the left asked me, "Hey, have you seen Reika around? You're always hanging around her, right?"

Great, just what I needed. "No," I couldn't help exhibiting my emotions, my voice trailing off as I said my next two words, "I haven't."

"Hold it there a minute!" It was my turn to almost jump out of my skin, when the second girl spoke up in a galvanized voice. She was leaning forward ponderously. "You two didn't have a fight, did you?"

"What? No." I impulsively said in return. I explained the situation to them in a little more detail, or at least as far as I wanted to reveal, "Reika and I in the same class block, and she didn't come to Socials. I haven't seen her at all today."

"Damn."

"Well, thanks anyway."

As the two girls were walking away, I realized something. Realized it way later than I should have, actually. Just before they went out of earshot, I spoke up. "Wait a sec." The two turned around inquisitively. "Why do you need to see her?"

"Oh," said the girl on the left, as if she was cursing herself for that having slipped her mind, "I'm her roommate, Liane. Reika wasn't in the room when I woke up, and we haven't seen her all day." She slumped and sighed. "I'm just worried, that's all."

That makes sense. I attempted to stay positive, and gave her some reassurance, "Well, I'm sure she'll turn up eventually." Even if it was just false hope. For both of us.

"You're right." Liane sighed. Both girls seemed to realize that something may have been up, despite the innocuous tone of voice I took on, particularly the other girl. Her skimpy attire and blonde hair cut short practically...wait wait wait.

"Wait, aren't you-"

"Irene Faris, cousin of Celeste Faris? Yeah, that's me." That's not what I meant. And I have no idea who that is?

"Well," mumbled a hasty Liane, "We'll go ask our friends, Carlie and Andrew. We'll tell you if we find anything."

"See you around, Fritz Westmyn."

And with that, the two left before I had a chance to say anything further to them. And a short time after that, the bell rang, signalling ten minutes before the afternoon class. No more time to practice, so I recalled Mareep and made my way there.

~~~~~~~~~~

Tactics class didn't go much better. I couldn't tell you what the lesson was about. I was making a conscious effort to pay attention, but all of it went in one ear and out the other. That is, until the end, when it was time for the teacher to make his promised 'important announcement'.

"I'm pleased to announce the 11th annual Tactics Mentorship Tournament." said Mr. Baiaz, although he didn't sound very pleased.

"Here's how this would ordinarily work. Everyone who is on their third year of this course would choose a student on their first year. They would have a month's time to give tutelage, after which a knockout-style tournament.would be held." he explained. His tone turned unpolished once he continued, "However, due to the temporary imbalance brought on by our new principal, it'll be a little different. Instead, each tutor will have not one, but two students under their wing. And the tournament will be held in a Multi Battle format."

A Multi Battle. That means two trainers battling two other trainers, each using one a Pokémon at a time. Fundamentally, they're a little different from a standard Double Battle for various different reasons. Mr. Baiaz didn't mention how big the battles would be. A trainer using two apiece is most common.

"Mentors will be expected to train their choices to the best of their abilities. They must do whatever they can to prepare them for the tournament. And likewise, those who are being mentored will be expected to listen to their tutors, and do whatever they are asked. Each party is going to be graded based on their individual performances. So be sure you try your best, no matter what. That's all for today."

Shortly after that proclamation of end of class, before I had gotten the chance to gather my thoughts, before half the class had even left the room, I was greeted by a familiar insult: "Hey! Shithead!"

I briefly raised my head to acknowledge Edgar, Aporon, and the other two, but lowered it again.

"HEY!!"

"Piss off."

"So, Westmyn." said Aporon, ignoring my request. "We heard from Lawrence here that he saw you going off to the mountain cavern last night. You're not allowed to go up there, you know."

I thought fast. "What's it to you?"

Edgar looked back at them. "He's got a point." he casually quipped.

Realization of what was explained to me only set in after they said that. I snapped upright. "Wait, why is not allowed? Is it because of that Beast I ran into?"

They collectively gasped. Aporon included. So my instincts were right. I thought something was way off, which is why I didn't bring it up to anyone. This confirms it.

"You? You saw the Beast?" asked the prep.

"Yeah. I went there," I started, before thinking better of my next words, "To check out the place. I found my way to the upper level, where it suddenly attacked me. I battled it with my Nidorina for a bit, but it used an illusion to startle and defeat it." I sighed, still not liking how that matchup had concluded. "Then I used Tangela, and when it resisted Sleep Powder, I figured it was too dangerous. So I decided to run for it. I barely made it out alive."

The four were quiet for a moment. It wasn't clear if they weren't sure how to respond to it, if they thought I was lying, or if they were impressed in some way. To my total surprise, it was the last of those. Aporon grinned approvingly. "Heh. I knew you were something special when I saw you. I knew you had something in you to make you a cut above the rest." Only the prep seemed to pick up on his passing jab towards them. He didn't seem offended, but opened his mouth to speak. Aporon continued before he could get a word out, "Now personally, I think you could've be a little less rash. I wouldn't take that sort of chance. But I like it!"

The well-dressed prep asked him when he paused, "Cronus. Are you thinking of doing what I think you are doing?"

"I am." he confirmed with a grin. "This settles it. Fritz Westmyn, I choose you. As one of my two representatives in the tournament!"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. No. NO!" I made no attempt to hide my contempt. "I am not going to battle for you, Aporon."

"Why not?" he asked, feigning mental injury. "I'm a former winner, you know. You could learn a lot from me, like about the four Ps."

I had no idea what he was yapping on about, but I didn't care. I enunciated, "First of all, I don't like you. Second, I don't want to. I don't care if you're the crown jewel of the University. I am not going to be mentored by you."

"Good thing you got no choice, then!" he boasted. "Being the crown jewel of the University has benefits!" He laughed, and so did his friends.

"Fffffffffff...fine." I grumbled. "What do I have to do?" I instantly regretted asking that question when the same wicked grin synchronizingly spread across all of their faces. Aporon stroked his goatee in deep thought. He cunningly nodded. The message was clear. Whatever he was planning, it can't be good news.

~~~~~~~~~~

"You can't be serious." We had gone outside, and I found myself in front of the school in the middle of the Square. I could barely see Edgar and Lawrence stationed in the distance on the left and right side respectively. Aporon and the other guy were standing with me, but paid my distaste little heed.

"Make no mistake, Fritz," said the prep, as he stood with his hands on his hips, "When it comes to training, Cronus is always serious."

"Can you explain again what you want me to do?" I rhetorically asked, as I heavily rubbed my forehead. My real point in doing so was to see if they could say it to me twice in a row with a straight face.

Aporon repeated what he told me, right down to the way he said each word, "You're going to send out your Nidorina. And then you're going to run laps around the main building with it. We'll be watching you to make sure you actually do it, too." Not even a humorless smile. Either Aporon really was serious about this, or he was really good at controlling his laughter. Probably a mixture of both.

"I get how running laps around the school could like, make Nidorina faster or increase its sufferance." I argued as I brought her out. She sniffed in the direction of the two men, and growled. "But why are you making me run too?"

"It'll strengthen the bond between you two." Those were his exact words, but the way he said it, it felt more like flimsy justification that legitimate belief. Again, not even a humorless smile.

"And this is how you train your Pokémon?" I sternly pressed.

"Of course it is." he bragged without a shred of irony. "Now get to it. And remember, 'you will be expected to listen to your tutor.' So don't try to get out of it."

I groaned. This so-called 'training' was just barely constitutional. It was just enough to be rationalized, while remaining highly unsensible. That was a fact not lost on Nidorina either, as when she heard the plan, she straight-up hissed at Aporon and the prep. This is the run. I stretched a little to warm myself up. Mostly because I knew a guy who usually did that. I was at least wearing shorts, although I could've used a better shirt than my green and white one. Without any time to mull that over (and not that they would've let me change, anyway), I was sent off.

Edgar's choice of dress was identical to two days ago, as was his attitude. "I fucking told you there'd be consequences, shithead." he menacingly growled as Nidorina and I drew near. He made a throat slitting motion with his right thumb as we passed him by. As I rounded the corner to the bleachers/battlefields, a few students stopped what they were doing (even those in-battle!) to gawk. There was a range of emotions being expressed in their faces, but all seemed to have a peculiar solace within their visage.

"Hee hee. Aporon's making you run." giggled Lawrence when I rounded the next corner. He was on the paved path leading to the offices, trying to bask in the shade created by the little trees. His position was suboptimal; the reflection of the sun (hovering just over the school) coming off his glasses made me shield my eyes. He stood ignorant to this, not at all bothered by it. Lawrence was bending over uncontrollably as he chortled, "Run, rabbit, run! Hee hee hee!"

By the time we had made one lap, only the prep was standing back at the starting point. I pondered how he wasn't hot in that suit of his. Returning my look, he haughtily exhaled. I barely heard his words, "There is nothing further to discuss," when I ran by him. Not a marathon sprinter, but so far, so good.

"Faster!" Edgar screamed when I made my second pass, apparently unfamiliar with the concept of pacing yourself. "You're gonna pay out the ass for what you did." In response to this threat, Nidorina shot him a deathglare as I shot him a middle finger. He cursed at me and shook his fist, but failed to follow through on his words.

As I figured, Aporon had taken up a position near the outdoor battlegrounds. He just watched patiently as I went by, his expression remaining calm and stoic even when I glared at him. There was less interest in me, but outliers stationed as far as the group on the bleachers and even a guy in a white shirt and pants watching from the forest kept interest.

Um, hold on, what?

I slowed my pace. It didn't look like the snoop was looking at me specifically, but shortly after, the figure dove back behind the trees.

"Why'd you stop?" Aporon had hustled up beside me. He was more inquisitive than he was bothered by my action. Not my intents, but I welcomed this opportunity for a break.

"I thought I saw someone sneaking around the forest." I plainly stated, continuing to look where the figure once stood. I saw no further sight of him, and neither did Aporon.

"It's probably just some idiot." he scoffed after a few seconds. "Keep going."

I sighed and started my run up once more. It was the explanation that makes the most sense. I'd seen a guy who was clad in white the first day here. He could be a creep who likes to skulk around in the woods, sure. But still.
 
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Okay, so I've got to reply to two chapters since I neglected to last time. Chapter 6... Let's see. Smacking Reika silly has been moved up on my list of life goals. Thatcher is shaping up to be a wonderful character. He just needs a confidence boost and then I think he'd be really good. The battle scene made me want to physically hurt something so I didn't try to kill the computer/Reika. And God knows, I would have done lost it on this little girl. Nobody gonna talk to me like that. Mmmhm. *Z formation finger snap* I wonder what the creature is...

Chapter 7... And that was a surprise. A Stantler. I'm... wow. And small graces. Reika wasn't present so, she remains at a 7 on my annoyance scale. I'm impressed with Tangela. Of course, when we spoke about Grass types, its kinda hard not to be. /mysterious allusion. Mmm, at the moment I want to hurt the three stooges more than Reika, but that'll probably change whenever she comes back in. Also, I'm liking the two new character chicks. And mysterious figure in white. I wonder...

Finally... I can't wait to see the next chapter especially with the debut of... You-Know-Who.
 
Let me say, your description overall is pretty great. You really do a good job of painting a picture in the reader's mind of what's going on and overall that shows your ability and writing capabilities. Next, I'm gonna talk about the characters. Reika, Fritz, Thorton, and Cronus. Fritz doesn't seem to have anything that makes him stand-out by a high amount, but regardless that doesn't matter because I can sympathize with his personality and his meek Eevee. Him getting attacked by what seems to be a Gyarados out of the blue and his Nidorina somehow battling it on even ground seemed weird. Gyarados, from what I remember, can't even use Water Gun so I doubt it's a Gyarados. Reika seems like a snarky-acting type character, I actually like those characters often in many forms of writing so I'm sure I'll enjoy her.

Cronus seems like the typical asshole villain/rival of the story. Thorton seems like a supporting character with nothing too special about him. I wonder if the teacher as well as the trio at the beginning will play a role later on in the story. You really hit the ground running and built up a cast of characters. We already have some potential mystery set-up with this creature and we already have Fritz with a new problem Pokemon with his not-so-confident Eevee. You seems like you have a grand scope set-up with this story and I like it. Fritz has a Nidorina and Eevee so far. Nice job setting the mood for the story, you really can get a sense of coming-of-age with the story. A excellent beginning.

Wish I could have wrote more, but it's Chapter 1. :p
 
Responses:
Cronus seems like the typical asshole villain/rival of the story. Thorton seems like a supporting character with nothing too special about him. I wonder if the teacher as well as the trio at the beginning will play a role later on in the story. You really hit the ground running and built up a cast of characters. We already have some potential mystery set-up with this creature and we already have Fritz with a new problem Pokemon with his not-so-confident Eevee. You seems like you have a grand scope set-up with this story and I like it. Fritz has a Nidorina and Eevee so far. Nice job setting the mood for the story, you really can get a sense of coming-of-age with the story. A excellent beginning.

Thanks for the reply. And yes...it will be a grand scope. As for coming-of-age...hehe, read Chapter 2 and maybe 3, and watch how fast that initial impression changes. >:D

Tag list:

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Chapter 1-8: Learning Process


"There." I declared, walking up to the window and resting my arms on it. It'd been two and a half hours, and these guys still hadn't given me a break. They made me and my Pokémon run around the main building until we were exhausted. Nidorina got tired after two further laps, but that didn't deter them. They simply made me use Mareep (lasted half) and after that, Eevee (one). By that point, I was really starting to get worn down myself, in desperate need of hydration. So we went to the lake. Where they made me drink right from it...but at that point, I felt like I could drink the whole thing regardless of water quality. I questioned it anyway, and they again played the "you have to obey" card. After that, there was a bunch more stuff, cumulating with Edgar's Primeape "getting some effin' payback" on my exhausted Nidorina.

Then we went to Lawrence's dorm room. Near the wooded area outside, the prep had his Poliwrath spray the dirt, and they had me sit down in it to mend her wounds. Without any Potions. It took a little over 45 minutes, but I managed to get the job done as best I could, using my very basic knowledge of first aid. Granted, I'm really only qualified for human treatment, but I tried anyway. Luckily, it was only some minor scrapes and bruises.

"I sat in the mud for half an hour and fixed up Nidorina's injuries with my bare hands as best I could." I droned, partially repeating the wording they used. She wasn't her usual self, but could stand on her own power. It was just enough for her to be practically frothing at the mouth in rage, but not quite enough for her to actually take action.

"What?" exclaimed a bewildered prep, marching over to the window. "Let me see." I was expecting him to check over Nidorina, but he instead grabbed my wrist. My palms were a little chaffed from working over her coarse skin, yet it was nothing serious. "That is impossible. I don't believe you did what you were told for a second."

I knew exactly what he was attempting to have occur with asking this for me from the start, the keyword being attempting. "Excepting you're a retard and don't know that Nidorina can decide when it does and when it doesn't expel poison from its body." From his subsequent cursed reaction, I'd say I hit the nail on the head. I'm supposing that he didn't do too well in his Biology class the first year.

Which reminds me. "Hey, why isn't this creep training?" I argued, pointing to the owner of this dorm. "He's second year! Shouldn't he be part of the tournament?"

"Heh heh, I'm like you." Lawrence laughed. "I got into Tactics my first year."

I grumbled at this. So much for that train of thought.

Edgar, as if he were in complete control every step of the way, was leaning against a wall while sipping a fizzy drink. He belched, lips quivering as the gas rose out of his throat, and looked to the others. "What should we have the shithead do next?" he said, making sure not to skimp the venom on the derogatory term he had dubbed me.

Aporon didn't hesitate a bit with his response. "I'm hungry, and it's around time for dinner. Go get us some food, Westmyn."

"What kind of food?" I thought to be specific after Edgar made me go get him the drink he currently held, not specifying what he wanted and freaking out when I gave him a lemonade. Actually, I thought of something better. "Wait, hold on. Lemme see if I can do this." I cleared my throat before pulling off the best British accent I could muster. It was crap, but it got the point across. "May I take your order, gentlemen?"

"Now that's more like it!" grinned Edgar, oblivious to sarcasm. "I'll have a platter of fries with extra gravy. Two sloppy joes, and one burger with the sloppy joe sauce. Nine or ten rice balls. Another Rootbrew. You know what? Make it two, shithead. And-"

"Okay, okay." I interrupted hopping in the window and dropping the facade. I walked over to Lawrence's odd-looking roommate - who was only casually paying this incident heed as he was working at his desk, and ripped a scrap of paper from his notebook. Ignoring his protests, I also took a pen from the table and handed both to Edgar. "If you're going to put in a long-ass order, you'd better write it down."

He stared at me for a bit, but eventually smiled and nodded. "Sure." The large individual turned and placed the scrap against the wall, writing with - I'll admit - an impressive level of penmanship given the circumstances. By contrast, when the scrap was passed to the dignified prep (who had changed into more fashionable clothing, on a random note), even though he was writing on a table, I could barely make sense of his printed words. The same could be said about Lawrence, although since he wrote with the paper on his knee, it's understandable. His roommate was also given the chance to put something in, with Aporon being the last to do so.

When they handed the paper back to me, I looked it over briefly. Edgar and the prep were opposites in more ways than one: whereas the former had chosen a selection of fattening fast foods, the prep had opted for high-end stuff. Yet...well, I don't know much about roe, but I'm guessing it's about as healthy as the stuff the fratboy had asked for. Lawrence had decided to go more traditional, his roommate had something more balanced, Aporon slightly less balanced, and I...

...

...am apparently going to be eating dehydrated Pokémon food. Yeah. No. That's it. Not going to even bother hearing their excuse this time.

"Okay. I'll be right back." I grumbled. I left through the window and started out towards the cafeteria. But once I was out of sight, I turned and went into the school instead. I'd had enough of them. Going to a teacher wasn't enough at this point. I wanted to go the highest level of power that I could. I made a right after exiting the opposite door, and intently homed in on my destination.

----------

I stormed into the office building, yanking apart the double doors. With gusto I marched right up to the secretary, all-business, and demanded, "Is Finkerton in? I need to talk to him as soon as possible."

"Mr. Finkerton is not in right now." she said matter-of-factly, not even gazing up from the documents she was scribing over. Taking the wind right out of my sails.

I let out an exasperated sigh as I shook my head. I threw up my arms and opened my mouth, but couldn't think of words to say. I have this feeling that I'm one of the few students aware of Dean Howard's personality as a true businessman. I'm certain I could get him to do me a favor. But it would entail the man being present. There's not much I can do about that. Well, anything that's worth the trouble, anyway. I sighed again. The only option would be to wait for Mr. Finkerton to return. With a shrug and nod of acceptance, I moved towards the doors.

No sooner had I stepped outside did a call rang out. "Westmyn!" I turned to see a young woman running up towards the office, her cheeks tinted rouge from exertion. "Hey, I'm Elyna. I'm a friend of Aporon, and he asked me to pass along a message to you. Do you have a minute?" She finished with a hard puff, still out of breath. I cringed involuntarily when she said the words 'friend of Aporon', but tried not to show it. "Sorry, I had to run from the opposite side of campus." I didn't doubt this, given her laborious breathing. Possible evidence against was how not a single bead of sweat lingered on her person - her white clothing was completely spotless. Her hair was in a single braid, which had been pulled over her shoulder to rest at the front.

Her purple-tinted eyes twinkled. But again, this is a friend of Aporon we're talking about here. Given her exhaustion and posthaste response to the request, whatever she has to tell me has to be important. Well, that or it isn't important, and she's just compelled to pass the information along anyway. But hey, not that I have anything better to be doing. Right? May as well hear her out.

"Sure, I'm in not in a hurry." I replied, adjusting my long, dark hair. "What is it?" I was friendly, but introvertingly cautious.

"Mmm, Cronus dearest has asked me to tell you about this whole mentoring nonsense and your fellow mentee..." As she talked, she had taken a step back, as if she were appraising me. She slowly looked me up, all the way down, and back up again. When her eyes were level with mine once more, no longer were they twinkling. Instead, their violet depths held a frigid cruelty. My alertness was dead on, and I sighed over it. Two days ago, it was a hothead. And now, it's a cold bitch. Wonderful. "Anyway, your fellow mentee is..." and at this, she leaned in, as if to whisper.

"Is it you?" I blurted out sharply. Loud enough to be startling, but almost mocking at the same time. I falsified a disinterested stare with my brown eyes. I was sure she wasn't the one, but I just wanted to see how she'd respond to that. Get a good gauge on her. But I'd been wondering who his second choice was going to be. I wasn't expecting to learn about it like this, though.

She pulled back for a moment, shock written across her face. And then...she laughed long and hard? An odd laugh, like the sound of glass singing and breaking harmonizing together. I instinctively stood up a little straighter. People nearby were staring in surprise at the scene she was making, but I tried not to pay them too much heed. "No. I'm a third year, and one of the best battlers around here," she said haughtily.

My initial response to her credentials was simply a blink of my eyes. There was another thing that was troubling me, though. "Third year?" I queried. So that would make her a second-year entrant into the Tactics class, assuming she took the class and wasn't promoted ahead like Lawrence or myself. Third-years entrants (fourth-year students) are the mentors, first-years (second-year students) are the mentored, "So what's your stake in this year's tournament, if you're not mentoring or being mentored?"

She noticed my slight confusion and cracked a cross between a pseudo-grin and a smirk. "Yes, I'm a third year, but I competed in this tournament in my first year back when I was still at my old school. Technically, this is my third year in the tournament. Buuuuut for some reason, they're not allowing me to mentor anyone." At this she seemed to pout slightly. I'm guessing her old school had something like this, although it didn't count in regards to our own's tournament.

"You're going to be partnered up with Phoebe Palmoni, our darling Muriel's sister," she smiled, and not without a bit of venom at mentioning this Muriel. It was the type of smile one gives when enjoying an inside joke. "You know Muriel, right?"

"I've only been here four days, Elyna." I reminded her. "I have no idea who this 'Muriel Palmoni' is. You're gonna have to explain that one to me." I made reference to the disgusted tone she took on when she said her name. From that, I had a good idea of their relationship, but I just wanted to be sure.

"Muriel...let me explain some things to you about this place. There are three battlers at this school you really have to watch out for. Myself, but I don't really battle anyone too much. Well, at least most of the time." She full-on smirked at me this time. "Then we have Muriel dearest, who is one of two people that I've never been able to beat. She is also the only person at this school that has ever come remotely close to beating our darling Cronus. I'd watch out for her, if I were you. Of course, personally I think she can't battle very good. She uses her Hariyama as a tank and mows everything down." At this, she seemed to genuinely smile to herself. "And finally, Cronus Aporon, the king of our school! But you seem to already know him, so I'll just say that he battles purely for the thrill and glory. Oh, and he's the other person I've never managed to beat, but...I actually like him. He knows what he's doing and doesn't rely solely on the power of his Pokémon, he uses his heart and mind."

I nodded appreciatively at the information he was given. Cronus Aporon, Muriel Palmoni, and this girl, Elyna. The big three of the school. I'd seen Aporon in action before. I didn't get the impression that he battled purely for the thrill and glory, but maybe it's just my personal bias talking on that one. As for this girl, they say the most dangerous adversary is often one that you know little about. The good news was, at least I wouldn't have to worry about her in the tournament. And I held a similar X-factor...should it ever come to that.

But this Muriel. I wonder...could that be the same person I saw when I first came to Tactics class? She had a Hariyama, and it basically threw its weight around until that guy gave up. If that's true, I should take her warning seriously. I disagree with Elyna's assessment of skill, though. If her battling style got her to that level, who am I to judge? And on another note, this was confirming my theory, too. Confidently, I asked, "And, I'm guessing as a way to slight Muriel, he used his pull as 'king of our school' to make sure she wouldn't get to mentor her sister?"

She laughed again at this. Passerbys were now slackjawed. I couldn't help but stare back at them now. "Oh, I like you. If Cronus hadn't already used his status to chose you, I might have...perhaps I won't make you wish that you never came here after all!" I so wanted to go into counterattack mode over that last bit, mused like a thought spoken aloud. But I restrained myself. To be frank, I sort liked her a little as well. Well, I like her better than Aporon's goons, at least. They're just obnoxious. At least I can reason with her.

"No, honey. He used his pull, as you say, to pick you." I'm guessing she hadn't heard about the specifics of the acquisition ceremony. It was only a few hours old, sure, but I'd imagine that sort of news would have spread quickly, especially given the witnesses. Or maybe they just mangled it. "As for Phoebe...Muriel can't pick her own family. So Cronus used his pull to pick her, and it has the added benefit of pissing off Muriel. Which both Cronus and I would have more than willingly traded every bit of our influence at this school to do." She laughed a bit more, and people were twitching a little. The twinkle from the start of our encounter returned to her eyes.

I acknowledged the information. "I figured as much." My physical tension was easing, although I kept on my guard mentally by habit. After all, even if she's saying one thing today, she could very well say something else tomorrow. "So is there anything else?" I inquired, still not in any hurry.

"Mmmm, I do believe that is everything Cronus asked me to pass along," she said. It looked like she was contemplating something. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure that was it. Anyway, it was nice to meet you," and with this she turned and walked off, meandering towards the other side of campus.

As the girl took her leave, I failed to address some of the people's whisperings in favor of thinking of something that occurred to me. Why would Aporon send someone not in his core group? Why wouldn't he have sent Lawrence or something? No, wait...let's actually think about this. Aporon must have somehow known I'd go off here if she knew where to find me. Yet since he wasn't calling me out, he probably doesn't care too much.

Muriel Palmoni and Phoebe Palmoni. If they really are enemies of Cronus Aporon, then maybe they could be friends of mine?

But anyway. Just because Aporon doesn't care doesn't mean his cohorts won't. The hell if I'm going back to those jackasses today. I don't want to go back to my dorm though, as that's where they'll more than likely check first. And while taking advantage of being on an open campus is tempting, I really don't feel like doing so at the moment. So let's look at my situation. I'm dealing with a jock and popular student who likes battling. A self-superior prep who likes battling. An angry fratboy...who likes battling. And a lecherous technogeek. Who likes battling. Where would they be least likely to set foot into? Where would they be least likely to look for me...?

~~~~~~~~~~

The patchwork green and red carpeting of the room I stepped into brought an air of peace to a place plundered of natural light. Students sat about the various large tables, all silently engrossed, oblivious to the outside world. Multi-tiered brackets orderly lined the room. And absurdly obsolete as they might be, the computers on the sides of the room were the first such pieces of equipment I'd seen officially implemented into the school.

I couldn't check the place over for long, because a tall woman with a red hair-bun marched up to me. The Dean's warnings echoed in my ears at that moment. That how much of the staff at the school would rather I not be here. Maybe this wasn't a smart idea after all.

"Stop." the woman sternly ordered. She was wearing a simple blue frock and was in heels that were more than low enough to classify as business-friendly. Her posture, on the other hand was simply all-business. Not at all friendly. "Do you have a library card? Yes or no?"

I did not. But I really wanted to stay here. So I unnervingly replied, "No, that's what I came here for." All things considered, this place may be my best bet at escaping those four. Particularly factoring in rules against noise.

The reply came without missing a beat. It was short and to the point. "Name."

The question I really didn't want to be asked. "Fritz Westmyn." I could only say that, shut my eyes, and cross my fingers.

"This way."

Not waiting, she moved over to her personal workstation at the far side of the room. In my stupor, it took me nearly three times as long to get there. The nameplate on this sizable desk - behind which was a room full of old books and file cabinets - gave me the identity of the librarian. With a speedy grace, Mrs. Shugiri was scribbling on a slab of plastic roughly the size of a business card. The final touch made before handing it to me was puncturing a hole into the card. "The limit is two books borrowed at a time. Return them within two weeks."

My sigh melded into my reply of, "Thank you." I was silent after this. The librarian was oblivious to the fact that I was still standing there, typing away at something. I wasn't sure of her, and again decided to take a chance on an explanation. "So just to be clear, you don't care about...well, me?"

"Any violations of school code?"

"No?"

"Then there's nothing to talk about. I've worked here since day one. Vice Principal Kripps disagrees, but there's been far worse than you." Kripps? Where have I heard that name before? Mrs. Shugiri had been keeping the same stern tone since the start of our conversation, so it did little to hint her opinion on him. Though she affirmed her assessment on me, "I do my homework, Fritz Westmyn. And I hope you do yours."

Oh, right. I'd almost forgotten. "That's...also what I came here for." Upon these unconfident words, I gazed out the only window that hadn't been shielded by light-consuming drapes and/or shutters. Maybe it was my imagination, but I swear I saw one of those jackasses scouring the battlegrounds. Work's gotta be done anyway, and it'd give me something to do while I wait them out.

Mrs. Shugiri's response was as plain as usual, "Students may use the library - subject to its rules - as a reading and writing area after school or during any free block."

"Okay. Thank you." I nodded, before taking up a seat at an empty desk. I placed my bag at my side and pulled my binders from it. I had a couple of basic pieces of work from Sciences and Socials. They were nothing major, and simple to the point of where I could do them without any thought given. Allowing me to place my mind elsewhere.

This librarian seems to come from the opposite end of the moral spectrum as the principal, yet they're similar in how neither judges me. Strange how that works.

~~~~~~~~~~

I was able to finish up my assignments fairly quickly. The boredom that followed was brutal. I didn't want to go out for not wanting to risk dealing with those jackasses. I passed the time by looking at a few books, including the yearbook from the year before. I was able to learn a couple things.

First and most important, Aiden Kripps is the vice principal of the school, and he was one of the two men who escorted me to Tactics class the other day. I couldn't find the other one. Second and less important, although I found Mr. Wu, Mr. Baiaz, Mr. Yamaguchi, and the good doctor, Ms. Odell was not in that yearbook. Meaning she was as new to the school as we were. I briefly thought to look up Cronus and Muriel there as well, possibly go back further, but failed to find justification for either action. And after that, nothing else came to mind. I was doing nothing.

Still, I remained in the library until around 9:00PM.

That was as long as I could stay there. That's when the main building closed up for the night. I stepped outside into the cool, fresh night air and sighed. This had been a long day. After all the exercise and being cooped up in that stuffy library, I was dead tired. I sulked the perimeter of the school in my exhausted state.

And as I passed the corner, I ran smack into someone. The person stumbled awkwardly and crashed to the hard pavement right upon impact with a yelp. Ordinarily, I might've been able to keep my balance, but I was just too fatigued to do anything except fall backward.

"Watch where you're going, you retard!" a feminine voice grieved as the speaker struggled to get up. Really struggled, given the person's form.

"You watch where you're..." I fired back on impulse as I sat up, before I recognized who it was. "Reika! You're okay!"

Her expression was one of sheer frustration. "What the fu-no, I'm not okay!" she snapped. "My leg is broken!" Sure enough, her leg had been wrapped in a beige cast - a makeshift one from the looks of it. And a wooden crutch had clattered at my feet when we fell.

"Harsh, Reika." I said as she fruitlessly reached for it, half-teasing and half-hurt. "Not even a hello?" I passed her the crutch, and with great difficulty, she managed to get back to her feet.

"So what happened to you guys? Is Thatcher all right?" My inquiry held unveiled concern. I forgot how far that drop would've been in my case...and didn't want to try and remember. It was nothing short of a miracle that she'd survived, but as to whether both did was another question...

"He's fine, just freaked out." Reika agitatedly stated. Seeing the relief that washed over me, she gazed away as she said her next words, which were more calmed. "I don't remember anything after we fell. A teacher must have found us, because when I woke up, we were in the hospital here." I'm not sure if this place has an actual hospital. It does have a Medical class though, so I can theorize that its classroom doubles as the school infirmary. Reika sighed. "Thatcher's still there. I didn't want to spend a night in that place, though."

Understandable. I was never a fan of those places myself, because they smell funny. We shared an awkward silence, neither of us sure of what to say to the other. I really can't express the ease that sight of her being alive gave to me. I'm sure she and Thatcher underwent a similar distress, with them having no idea what became of me after our encounter.

Reika was the first to find words, giving me a bitter accusation. "Why didn't you do anything to help us?"

"I tried!" I hecticly explained. After all I'd been through today, my fuse was critically short. It was my way of trying to control myself - I didn't want to blow up on a friend. "I tried, but the Beast attacked me!"

That gave her pause. It visibly hit her by surprise. She nearly fell over through my efforts again, this time by my words, but managed to catch herself. "What?"

"I was going to get Tangela to try to grab you guys, but it jumped out at me and attacked." I explained in a frantic haste. "I battled it with Nidorina and Tangela, but it was too strong. So I just ran for it. Sorry I couldn't do more for you."

Reika didn't say anything for a few seconds. In that duration, her face contorted from ponderous to doubtful to furious. She shook her head belligerently, and gave me similar words. "I don't believe that for a minute. If the Beast was there, why didn't I see it?!" She unexpectedly lost her balance once more after saying that, crutch falling against the wall.

I might've caught her. But I couldn't believe what she just said. Was she actually serious? There's just...so many things wrong with that...and even though she just fell...she's glaring up at me as if I was somehow responsible. Even goddamn Aporon and his friends believed I saw that monster. They hate me, and they believed that I had a run-in with it and lived to tell the tale. And here's someone who's supposed to be my friend saying I didn't because she didn't?

I just wanted to leave her sitting there in response.


Ultimately, my conscious got the better of me. Maybe not because I wanted to; I was still pretty steamed. A sigh the only thing to escape my lips, I simultaneously pulled Reika to her feet and retrieved her crutch. Ignoring her startled gasp, I wedged the latter into my bag, while draping my friend's arm over my shoulder.

In silence, I helped her across the schoolgrounds and back to the dorms. It was a gradual process, but a quicker alternative for her. With my free arm, I took out my still-present frustrations by whipping the door open. It slammed against the wall with such force, it wouldn't surprise me if I dented it. I held it with my foot until we could get inside. I guided her all the way back to her room on the ground floor.

Reika nearly fell again as I returned her crutch and released her, but this time, I made sure to halt her tumble. She remained in place for three seconds. Hanging her head low, she opened the door and limped inside at half-speed. Her roommate was sound asleep. Just when I thought she was going to close it without a further word, she paused and lowered her head further. She turned and looked at me sorrowfully before making a sincere - if cryptic - statement.

"Thanks for putting up with me..."

With those words, the door closed. The lock clicked shut a moment later. I continued to stare at it as a thought swirled in my mind.

What was that supposed to mean?
 
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Chapter 1-9: Respite and Spite


The first night I came to the school, I had trouble getting to sleep. I was lost in thought. On the second night, there was the stress of being transferred to another class and receiving a less than friendly welcome. Same predicament, different cause. While slumber wasn't difficult on the third, I'd thought my friends had died. To discover the latter was not the case yesterday was such a relief, I was FINALLY able to get a good night's sleep.

I could feel the effects directly after awakening: I was fully refreshed. The skies were overcast, the atmosphere on the grounds was just as dreary, there was little to do, and I was in a place where the most popular students and at least half the staff hated me. And yet, I still couldn't help my chipper attitude. I received a few strange looks from students as I trotted down to the base floor, but I didn't let it bother me.

My plan was to go visit Thatcher in the ward. As I left the dorm, I discovered that to be impossible. Why? Because he was talking with Reika in the place in front of them! The partition between the first-year, second-year - and if I've read the Dean well, eventually to be third-year dorms - that is. It was no Student Square, but it was the next best thing! Thatcher was clothed modestly, for once. Aside from his jacket, he had on a plain blue ringer (with white lining) and jeans. Reika was dressed warmer. She wore fern green zip-offs that were noticeably twisted, and a grayish-brown shirt with sleeves reaching just past her elbows. Her hair wasn't up in her ponytail.

"I want to go see a Pokémon Contest!" Thatcher was energized. Reika mentioned how that the incident in the mountain cavern scarred him mentally. If she hadn't told me last night or delayed delivering that information, I wouldn't think it true. His current state of mind exhibited not the faintest hint of it. "They're having a bunch of them in town over the next two weeks!" He twisted towards the surrounding barriers and gestured with his hand, probably in the direction of wherever they're holding the contests. Dramatically he wound back, clenched his hand into a fist, and crossed the arm over his chest. "We HAVE to go to one!"

Reika shook her head sorrowfully. Her habitually taut spirit was gloomy at present. "No. I think we should just relax today. After what happened." Only one of her legs was broken, but judging by her leaning on her crutch, I'm guessing her good one felt just as weak.

My friends were in a stalemate. I was hoping I'd get to see them interact together a little longer, but Reika gazed up and caught sight of me. She closed her eyes and frowned a little. On seeing this, my bespectacled friend span about. He grinned and turned back.

"Hey, let's ask Fritz." he proposed. Great.

Reika simply sighed. "Fine."

On those words, we approached one another. Thatcher could barely contain his excitement. He started to talk before Reika could hobble up. Or for that matter, before he had finished jogging up. "Fritz, what do you want to do today?" he quickly said. "Sit around doing nothing? Or go see an awesome Pokémon Contest?!"

"Don't mislead him!" Reika cried.

He simply tilted his head back at her. "It's true, you know."

Reika's expression was one of disappointment, but she appealed to me in a similar manner. "Hey. Should we just relax today?" She was suppressing her attitude towards her friend's idea. She was doing a good job, until her next sentence. "Or watch loud, obnoxious Coordinators be loud and obnoxious?"

I let out a "hmm" and loosely placed my right hand near my mouth (just on my lower lip). So Reika wants to unwind from the incident two nights ago by calmly relaxing. Thatcher wants to forget about it by invigorating his brain and seeing something he likes. What would be a compromise that lets us do both?

Something came to me, and I put forth my suggestion in a halcyonic tone. "Why don't we just go for a walk? You know, in the city."

"That...sounds okay, I guess." Thatcher was a little bummed, but nevertheless showed he was open to the idea. Reika just groaned.

"What's wrong?" I inquired. Before she could reply to my concern, we were accosted by an all-too-familiar by this point insult.

"HEEEY! SHITHEAD!"

It was Edgar. Still in his usual clothes. And by the repulsing scent of sweat that summarily invaded our nostrils, a washing machine is a foreign concept to him.

"Oh, it's you. What the hell do you want?" I flippantly said, not even pretending to care.

"It's time for training." he growled. "Cronus told me to come get you."

I crossed my arms and glared at him. "Did he really?" I doubtfully pressed. Aporon may have been the kind of guy to allow his goons to run roughshod, and he may have been a self-superior jackass. But for the latter reason, I can't see him not saying that to me directly. Least of all sending this guy to do it.

My instinct was dead-on. Edgar hesitated, then angrily snapped, "...well, he's going to! Now get your ass over to the ginmasium."

"Gin?" I was ruthless in mocking his dyslexia. "Are you drunk, Edgar? At ten in the morning?" He took a preliminary step forward, as if he wanted to strangle me for my snark, but seemed to think better of it. I shook my head. "Anyway, go to hell. It's the weekend. Free time. And you have no power over me."

He was this close to exploding. He screamed, "This isn't over, shithead!" and stormed off.

My friends' eyes were wide at what just happened. I just modestly smiled, turning back to them as if nothing had happened. "Screwing with that guy almost makes it worth it." Almost.

Thatcher let go of his jacket. I hadn't been paying attention to them, and he appeared that he was going to have a panic attack. He nervously asked, "What was...that...about?"

"I'll explain later." I said, not really wanting to bother going into that at the moment. I walked in the direction of the gates to the outside. "Come on, let's go."

"Fritz, hold it. You're forgetting something." Reika's words and tone of a harsh realist gave me pause. I went back before her to see what was on her mind. "I have a broken leg!" she yelled, nearly flinging the hairtie she was holding away. "Why the hell can't we just sit back and relax today!?"

I serenely closed my eyes and weighed in on this. This injury was not only crippling to her physically, but socially as well. With hopes that I could possibly stave off the latter for her, I provided encouraging advice, "Reika, your broken leg's not going to go away overnight. It's going to be like that for a few weeks, maybe a month." She frowned at my words, as if to recognize it as a truth, albeit one that she didn't want to think about. "You have to get used to it. Besides, it'll be good practice." I flashed a thumbs up and a smile. "Trust me."

She protested as she fumbled with her hair, "But what if-"

"Thatcher and I will help you if you get tired." I looked to him. "Right?"

"Y...yes?"

She was still trying to get her ponytail up with her one free hand. Noticing this, I approached and took the band from her. "And we can still take a break if we need to, maybe in a park or something." I talked and tied her hair at the same time, ignoring the raised eyebrow Thatcher gave me. "I just don't want to be here right now."

She expressed silent understanding. It made sense, didn't it? Thatcher gets to be out and about, she gets to unwind after the last two days, and I get away from Aporon and those jackasses. She essentially sighed, "Ugh, okay."

With us all in agreement over the plan for the day, we made our way to the imposing gate. Despite being wide open, it still really didn't help avert the impression I got from the walls on day one. Keeping that little quip to myself, my friends and I stepped off the grounds of Rukh's University.

~~~~~~~~~~

"So this is the city the school's in." I commented as I scoured over the street we were on. I pretty much was dropped off right at the gates of the school, so I hadn't gotten a chance to really take the place in. Hard to believe it isn't too large a community, considering the presence of the University. It's different from what I'm used to, but I'm liking it so far. None of the bustling rush of the big city, yet none of the deficient provisions of a smaller town.

"Well," I asked my friends, "Which way?"

"Left. Left and around." Reika said without any hesitation, before setting off in that direction. She probably doesn't want to deal too much with traffic, and I don't blame her for that. I'm assuming she wants to just keep on going along without having to cross the road until we find something. Thatcher and I moved to follow.


We didn't talk much as we walked. Reika kept her eyes to the road ahead, while Thatcher kept his lowered in thought or disappointment. I took note of a few of the places we passed by, but most of it was on the other side of the road, and none of it caught my immediate interest. It was only about three blocks in one direction and three in another that we thought to do something. We had we reached a small park - to be more verbose, an open field with trees dotting in with a path around and benches for relaxation.

"God damn it," cursed Reika, "My arm is tired." True to her complaint, she was having difficulty manipulating her crutch. I noticed she was using it awkwardly even before, but it was far more apparent now. Her tiring probably happened over time. I was keeping an eye on her, and thus may not have noticed her gradual exhaustion. She was leaning on the crutch for support, massaging her joints with her left hand, when the park caught her eye. She looked back at us and said, "Let's take a break."

"Yeah," agreed Thatcher, whose fatigue came off more in his voice than his movements. "I'm...a little...tired too."

Still in a good mood, I ran a circle around them, jumped and span, and grinned. I tried to be understanding in my tone, however. "If you guys want to, we will."

Reika plopped herself down on the right side of the nearest bench as so to give her aching arm some support. Thatcher elected to sit down on the grass in front, arms and legs outstretched. I wanted to lean against a tree, just because, but as the nearest one was too far away, I stood restlessly instead.

"Hard to believe this place is only a few years older than us." Thatcher noted.

Reika went on to ponder, "How the hell did they even build all this? This, Moldeau Town?" I have no idea as to its history, but I didn't think the feat was too improbable. Again, it isn't that big a municipality.

"Here's...what I heard." Thatcher started. "There was a rich young man who inherited his family's old mansion. He fixed up the place and began living in it, but he got tired of going half an hour to the next town every time he wanted to buy something. So he had a town built around it, and it became pretty big before long."

That would explain a lot of things, particularly the town's intricate planning, high-class image, and how, despite being comparatively small, it still has a lot going for it. Now that I think about it, I wouldn't be surprised if Howard Finkerton is working with that guy to help stimulate the town's economy. I mean, this is where the third and fourth years live while they're not at Rukh's. And though it came way before the Dean's tenure, a school like this in a town makes sense to help with said image.

Reika sighed without elaboration. Thatcher ruffled his hair awkwardly.

"It's still a nice place, no matter who built it or why." I said, to which both agreed with me.


We hung out in the park for about a hour, give or take ten minutes. Since our friend was just resting/relaxing on the bench peacefully, Thatcher and I were able to do a few things. He actually brought up the subject of The Beast to me. I was a little surprised that he wanted to talk about it, but explained precisely what had happened to me in great detail.

He was very surprised when, in response to saying my Pokémon were incredible, I told him his Sandshrew's not too bad itself - give its performance despite that it had little experience beforehand. At his request, I helped him train a little. I had Mareep train at the same time. The two Pokémon got along and made some decent progress together - particularly as it allowed Mareep to practice aim on a moving target, with very little threat to Sandshrew. But before long, we decided to head back.

~~~~~~~~~~

The atmosphere at the school when we arrived back was the same as it was when we had left it. From the looks of things, we weren't the only ones uncertain of what to do. Our peers and their Pokémon were scattered erratically about, although few were doing anything in particular.

"Well, what now?" I asked.

Reika sighed and seemed to want to fuse into her crutch, to avoid having to hold on. After about ten seconds, she said, "I don't know." Despite exhaustion, it was clear she was more than restless.

Thatcher seemed to be carefully thinking of something as we walked a seemingly aimless course around the grounds. He nervously began to put something forth as we started to approach the dorms, "Well, if you two want, we could-"

"There she is." His thought was interrupted by a girl's voice. The speaker, who was standing near them, marched up with more gusto than those who followed.

It was Reika's roommate Liane, accompanied by Irene, three others around their age, and a teacher. By the latter's receding hairline wrapped into a ponytail and round-framed glasses, I was able to recognize him as the first of the two people who had transfered me to Tactics class. He wore a simple white shirt and black jeans.

I blinked at the sight of the only male of the students. With scarlet hair and azure eyes, his white shirt had slightly more style to it than the teacher's, and his white sweatpants were dotted with a black design. All-white, hm. He was holding hands with the boyish girl beside him. Both were around 5'2'', and both had pale skin, yet their complexions differed. The male had a complexion not nearly at the level of that creep Lawrence, but still had more than enough room for improvement. I'm not sure how to judge the female's, who lacked blackheads. Maybe she just doesn't get out in the sun enough? I'm guessing these two are Carlie and Andrew.

Then there was the fifth of the group, by far tallest of the lot. If Liane was trendy and knew what went with what, this girl was the opposite, with very little fashion sense. Aside from her long lightish-brown hair, nothing seemed to be in order on her person. Even her eyes followed that trend. It was hard to decide whether they were more blue or more green.

"Oh, hey Liane." I casually greeted. "What's up? Glad to see Reika's back?"

As with yesterday, my remark caused her to hesitate slightly. She shook it off and told me, "Save it. As they say, I have a bone to pick with her."

Thatcher was looking over the six people in complete confusion. "What are you-"

"Hush it." interrupted the tall girl.

"What's your deal?" Reika defended. She furiously pivoted to Irene, Carlie, and Andrew and took up a fighting stance. "And what the HELL are you three doing here?!"

"Well, we are friends with Liane." explained Andrew matter-of-factly.

Irene flung her head arrogantly. She added, "That's right, you fat broad."

Reika growled at the insult, delivering a glare the likes of which I've never seen out of her before. It was fortunate for Irene that she wasn't in arm's reach, because Reika appeared ready to knock her on her ass. Before she could take action, Liane turned to the teacher.

"This is her. My roommate, Reika Easton." she said, almost without a care in the world. Liane turned to my friend and addressed her directly. "Thought you could get away with it, didn't you? Least of all with such an obvious a trail? She is the one responsible for the heinous-"

"Get to the point!" Reika snapped as she took a step forward. "Why are you here?"

"If you say so." nodded a solemn Liane. She walked a little off to the side, so that she could address everyone, including a few of the onlookers. Quite a crowd had gathered, watching from a few feet away to the woods beyond the dorms. "I had a collector's bust on the shelf in our dorm. It was there this morning, and now it's gone!"

To my complete surprise, it was Thatcher who spoke first, and spoke immediately after. He asked, "Did you lose it?"

"She didn't." replied Andrew, clasping his presumed girlfriend's hand a little tighter.

"We helped Liane look. But we couldn't find the thing nowhere!" The tall girl was opposite to Liane in not only trends, but also tone. Her rural accent was grating, so much so that by contrast, Irene's words were melodious and refined.

"She tore apart the whole room and everything!"

Liane nodded to confirm her friends' statements. She went on, "Given that the bust was not in my room, that leaves but one place it could've gone."

"What the HELL are you saying?"

"I'm saying the logical conclusion." Irene shook her head and turned away, only to dramatically turn and point at Reika accusingly. "That you stole it from me!"

"What?!"

"Wait." I quickly said. "How are you sure it was her?"

Liane's response came instantly, as if she was expecting this to be brought up. "We both make sure to lock the door whenever we leave the room. Neither of us forgets. Isn't that right, Reika?" When she only grumbled in reply, the trendy girl said, "That can be taken as confirmation."

She returned to her initial position as she summarized the incident. "So there you have it. The statuette is there when I leave Reika alone in the dorm. Reika later leaves our dorm and locks the door. I return to the dorm, and the statuette is gone. There's only one suspect." She again turned to the teacher, this time with expectancy. "So what's the school going to do about this, Mr. Squibb?"

A silence drew over all as they awaited the response of the faculty member. It came with a sigh after five seconds, "Liane, I'm in charge of Course Management." This would explain why he was present to transfer me to Tactics, but not why Liane thought he would be able to assist her. Maybe he was the only one available. "But I'll see what I can do."

Reika had been keeping herself under control for far longer than I figured she would. She finally exploded in rage. "I didn't take your stupid statue, Liane!"

Her roommate wasn't moved even an inch. Her reply was mild, "Denying it isn't going to help your case."

"Yeah! Think of something better, you fat broad!" Irene added.

"I was out all day!" Reika fired back. That makes sense. Thatcher and I could attest to that. Since Reika wasn't at the school for a few hours, how could she take something that was there?

The tall, country girl disagreed. "You coulda taken it earlier, ya know."

"That's right!" Irene agreed.

"And why would I take it?" Reika demanded. "What would I do with the thing?!"

"You could-" started Andrew, only to lock eyes with me and stop. I must have been glaring unwittingly. Irene too, was at a loss of words, only able to murmur her confoundedness. In fact, neither could Liane or the hick think of anything. All at once, they turned to the one in their group who had been curiously silent throughout all this.

There was a brief moment of silence as the tomboyish female had a terrified expression on her face. "Well," she began, focused and polite but unsure of herself, "From what I've been told, you don't exactly like Liane, don't you? So you can understand why you would be the first person she would accuse of this." None of the five lit up brighter than she did at this. She was smiling brightly to herself about something.

There was another silence, this one broken by a gratified Liane. "That's right." Everyone else seemed to show agreement in various emotions.

"I did NOT! It wasn't me!" Reika was still incensed, but there was a faint undertone present now. She was almost pleading with them. "You...you..."

Mr. Squibb shook his head. "I'm sorry Reika. But if you can't come up with something better in your defense, we'll be forced to hold you accountable for this theft."

What the hell is this garbage? Guilty until proven innocent? There's something wrong here. I don't know what it is, but I know there's something wrong here. I know it, Reika certainly knows it, and I'm sure Thatcher knows it as well. It was he that Reika turned to.

"Thatcher, help." she appealed. The timid boy's only acknowledgement of this request was to glance at her briefly, then to the crowd. The only sound he made in his terror was that of his vibrating muscles.

"Liane," I jumped in. I wasn't about to let my friend be hung out to dry here. She peered at me curiously, unsure of what I could be up to. "Could you tell me a little more about that statuette?"

"Well, it's made of solid titanium. It's a bust of the famous Coordinator, Wallace. From his younger years, of course. It's around a foot tall. And it's really invaluable." She was actually polite with me. Her voice had a certain marvel to it as she described her stolen possession to me. Of course, it dissipated in her next two statements. "Reika stole it. And if doesn't pay me back, I'm getting her kicked out of the school!"

The last part got the attention of Mr. Squibb. "Her punishment will be for Mrs. Shugiri to decide." What, so she's the librarian and the disciplinarian?

"But. But no!" Reika desperately maintained. Her forearms were glued to her side. Every muscle in her arm and hand was clenched so tight, she was shaking. "I didn't take it!"

"Yeah." I nodded in sly agreement. "I really find that hard to believe."

Liane was confused. She rubbed her forehead unsuspectingly. "What do you mean?"

"Hey now, what are ya talking about now?" I couldn't tell if her tall friend was naive or ignorant.

I simply closed my eyes and smiled. "Reika has a broken leg. She has to use a crutch to get around." As I opened my eyes, I crossed my arms and went into a full-on grin. "How do you expect her to carry a heavy statue with just one free hand?"

Liane most of all was awestruck by this revelation. At the same time, she was the first to regain her composure, accompanied by insistence. "Give me a break! Reika's the only one who could've done it! I just told you why!"

"It was impossible for her do it!"

"Oh yeah?" she belligerently taunted. "Prove it!"

I thought about this. I know she couldn't have done it. How can I prove that Reika would be unable to hold onto the statue? "Hang on."

Reika turned to me. She asked in hushed chagrin, "Fritz, what the hell are you-"

"I said, hang on." I whispered back.

Titanium is a light metal, but that's not saying much. Particularly if it's solid as she described. Upon harkening over a few things, I retrieved a Poké Ball from my pocket and tossed it on the ground. I picked up my Pokémon after it materialized. Guessing it's about the right mass. "Reika, could you try holding onto Tangela?" I requested.

"What? Why?" I had completely lost her.

"Just do it, okay?" I insisted, forcing Tangela into her arms.

As soon as Reika was holding the mass of blue vines on her own power, she started to wobble. Her crutch pivoted erratically as she tried to find a way to hold onto it and Tangela at the same time. When she could barely hold her balance, she tried to pin Tangela against her body with one arm, leaving the other one free. All of it was no use, and she knew it. Reika flailed to try and avoid falling onto her face, and ended up falling onto her back instead.

"Fritz, what the FUCK did you do that for?" she screamed through her pain, agitatedly placing a very rattled Tangela off to her left.

I'll admit it was unorthodox. But it perfectly proved my point. I elaborated much like Liane had done, standing before everyone present. "Tangela's around 9kg, which I'm guessing is about how much that statue weighs." A really rough estimate that might not even be close, but one that no one contested. "If she can't hold onto my Tangela, how do you expect her to hold onto that thing? Let alone haul it off without anyone noticing!"

You may not think words alone capable of suffocating a person. But Liane's precise response was a chortling, choking-like sound. Irene and the hick were just stunned. Carlie...I think rolled her eyes? She whispered something to Andrew, who expressed agreement. The rest of the crowd, including the staff member, were on our side now.

"I suppose you have a point. Sorry for the intrusion, Reika." Mr. Squibb apologized. He walked over to Reika's stunned roommate and leveled with her. "Don't worry Liane. If the statue was stolen by somebody on this campus, we'll find it."

"It's fine." Liane's demeanor had done a 180. Her bitter rage had given way to soured depression. She let out a quiet sigh. I suddenly felt a little sorry for her, even after the accusation she made. She peered up at the tall girl and lamented, "Come on, Cinque. Let's go."

Irene, Carlie, and Andrew had already slinked away, leaving the duo to head off towards the dorms. Mr. Squibb went off in the direction of the main building. As the crowd broke apart, I recalled Tangela and offered to help Reika up.

She swatted my hand away again, though with less vigor than two days ago. So I suppose it was less a swat and more a shove. As Reika picked herself up, she mumbled, "Ugh. Thanks. Thanks a lot, Fritz." It was irritated yet sincere, said in a way like she didn't enjoy showing this appreciation.

"I...I thought something wasn't right." Thatcher breathed, still a little strung-out from what just happened. His voice trailed off, unsure of what to make of this.

Reika sadly sighed. "It's just part of the garbage I put up with every day."

This was news to me. I had no idea she had it this rough. "What do they have against you, anyway? What do you have to do to make so many people so mad?"

"I don't know!" she unexpectedly snapped, startling me a little. "They just do, okay?!"

"Okay," I said, "So next question. If you don't mind, that is." She glared at me impatiently, but didn't speak out against the idea. "If she hates you, then why did you become roommates?"

"I was there first!" Reika yelled. "I set everything up before the assembly, and I come back. Next thing I know, she walks in and tells me she wants the dorm! I told her I was there first, but she says," and taking on Liane's tone as best she could, "168 is my lucky number." She sighed and regained her composure before continuing on. "But I pointed out to her the room was a double, so we were able to come to an agreement there. Still, she quickly grew on my nerves. She asked to help me with fashion, and was always in the bathroom."

Reika groaned before she continued, "We're in different class blocks, and that may be where she met those three. So we really only see each other in the morning and at night. But every waking second of those mornings and nights is absolute hell. She even-"

"AUUUUUUGH!!"

Her thought was interrupted by a frustrated wail from a re-emerging Liane. She was in a state of hysteria, eyes nearly bulging from their sockets and hands crookedly gripping her hair. Tears were streaming down her cheeks, taking mascara with them.

"What now?!" demanded Reika, with her hands on her hips. Her roommate was not moved, and proceeded to fly into the most refined rant I have ever heard. As in, a blind person might be shocked to believe she looked rabid.

"You!" she snorted while pointing at Reika. "I feel only repugnance towards you. You grody, churlish, slovenly-"

"What the HELL is your GOD DAMN problem?" Reika was not in the mood.

"Its gone! My prized possession is gone, and it is upon you!"

Reika was equally as confused as I was, but far more angered. "Fritz just showed you why I didn't!" After thinking for a second, she turned and quietly addressed me about that, "Warn me next time, okay?"

It was a point Liane was not willing, or not able to hear. "It is gone" she maintained, "It is not where I left it! It is upon you that this happened! You languid, lethargic, vitiated, indignant, amastiac-AUGGGHHHH!" And with that, she ran off screaming back towards the dorms.

The three of us were silent. That was so out-of-nowhere, that none of us even bothered to rhetorically ask what in the hell just happened.

"So wait." Reika said, the first to break the silence with realization. "Liane hid that stupid thing, pretended that she lost it, but someone found it really did take it?" She was grinning from ear to ear with glee. I still felt sorry for Liane, but I couldn't help but smile myself. Even laugh.

"I guess 168 wasn't her lucky number after all!" I joked.

"Guess not!" It's strange seeing Reika happy like this, but I mean that in a good way.

Thatcher ponderously stammered, "I wonder where it went, then. Th-the statue, I mean."

"Who cares?" Reika laughed, "I think losing it serves her right!"

"Well, you should still try to be careful," I thought to remind her, not as caught up in the moment, "Just because this didn't end well for them doesn't mean they may try and pull it again."

"Look who's talking," was her response, no doubt in reference to Aporon. "I'll be careful if you be more careful."

I nodded. "It's a deal."
 
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Chapter 1-10: Burning Ambitions


That night, I found myself sitting on the mattress in my dorm, unable to even lie down. It wasn't just my hunched posture that was paining me at the moment. The cool night air blowing a breeze through the open window did little to ease my tension. I had made the attempt numerous times, but on each try, it felt as a bed of spikes. Something had been bothering me for a short while...and already eating away at me.

Today, I caught sight of a man in white clothing snooping around the grounds, watching from the forest. No one else seemed to notice him, or if they did, they didn't pay him much heed. I hardly paid him much heed, as it was during that confrontation. The day before, I saw a man in white clothing hiding amongst the trees. And two nights ago on the ill-fated expedition, I saw a man in white clothing, looking around the woods for something. Who is he? Or they? Is he or they still around? Could it just be some weirdo? Or could it be something more?

It might be risky to try and figure this out. There's a lot of risks. But I can't sleep. It's not going to be easy to find this guy. Let alone at night. But it's bothering me too much. I really don't want to do this. But I do want to do this. I should do this. Shouldn't I?

With a defeated sigh, I got up and changed back into the clothes I wore earlier in the day. After obtaining what I needed, I left the room, locked the door behind me, and made my way down the stairs. As I came down to the base floor, light noises reverberated through the walls. I don't know if there's an outdoor curfew on the grounds or not. Reika and Thatcher didn't want to be spotted a couple days ago, but could that have been for where we were headed. There's numerous questions involved with this, with answers that threaten to raise even further questions. There's one thing of which I can be certain of. It would pay to have help here.

I raised my hand and knocked softly on the door before me. What was I doing there...it's the middle of the night. I'd have to knock louder, wouldn't I?

This was an unfounded concern, as the lock clicked and the frame opened. An equally sleepless Reika was standing there, leaning heavily on her crutch. Her expression was initially angered, but it faded to weary calm when she saw who it was.

"Hey." I said to her. "Can we talk?"

She heavily blinked her eyes to provide acknowledgement. "Fine. Come in."

Liane wasn't in the room. Which was a mess, owing to her tear apart the room act. The walling and carpet was a little torn apart as well, but that one can't be credited to her. Hopefully. Despite the presence of two contrasting beds - one lumpily folded and one haphazardly strewn, maybe a meter and a half apart - this was closer to my room than those of the second-years. Here, there's only a single desk, a set of dressers, and the closet slides open. In the other dorms, there's one apiece, two barely-passable storage containers apiece, and a walk-in closet.

It also has its own bathroom. Compact would be the word to describe these. If it's anything like my own, the toilet and sink are directly across from one another, with leg room comparable to a car. Right beside them is a shower stall, just big enough for one person. The rest of the space is dedicated to allow the door to open.

Reika plunked down on the neater bed. I'm guessing it's hers. When I sat opposite her, the springs within the cot gave me mild discomfort. Just enough to make me get up and throw the sheets over it. It wasn't much more cushion, but it was better than nothing.

"So," Reika asked, hands clasped and resting to her left. Her shoulders were slumped, but she leaned neither forward nor back. "What do you want?"

"I just wanted to talk about something that's been bothering me around here, that's all." I said with an unwitting lament. With a cringe to myself over my tone, I paused to allow Reika to respond. When she remained silent, I took it as a cue to continue on.

"Do you remember when we went to the mountains?" Before she could look up and glare at me for reminding her, I corrected myself, "Oh sorry, dumb question. Remember how I said that I escaped from the Beast? When I did that, I ended up on a cliff overlooking the forest. And when I was there, I saw someone sneaking around."

"It could've been another student." Reika immediately spoke up. The same thing as Aporon did. It's the logical answer. I even have a couple people I could tie it to. But still, something about that didn't fit. It doesn't feel right. If it was that simple, it wouldn't be bugging me.

"I thought that might've been it. At least, that's what I wanted to believe." I involuntarily turned my head away, but forced my eyes to remain locked. "But I saw him again the day after. And yesterday, too."

Reika leaned back on the bed, hardly caring about what I had to say. "I think you're being paranoid."

"I don't know...you may be right. But I have this gut feeling. I just can't shake it." I closed my eyes and held my breath before I said my next words. My instincts have sometimes been all I've had to turn to. They're occasionally out there, but they occasionally help. And besides...if I'm wrong, it's no big deal. If I'm right, then there could a big problem. "I have this feeling that something's going to happen. I want to check it out, but I don't want to do it alone."

"Fritz." said my very irate friend, snapping up. "You seriously haven't forgotten, have you? Honestly? Let me spell it out for you. I. Have. A. Broken. Leg!" I frowned at her harsh comment and nigh-tantrum. I should've remembered that. Day-to-day life is hard enough with a broken leg, but something like this is simply asking too much. Reika noticed my sorrowful expression, and sighed exasperatedly. "It's not that I don't want to help you. I just can't." She paused momentarily to think, head lowered and a finger on her chin. Her next word was almost comforting and apologetic. "Okay?"

"Okay..." I don't have a problem with this, but it's still disappointing. To say the least.

I was slow to get up and exit, and when I did, I had to be careful not to trip on anything. But before I opened the door, Reika said one more thing to me.

"Ask Thatcher."

----------

A quick trip down the hall was all it took to get me to Thatcher's room. I was sure to knock louder, uncertain of whether he would be awake. Which he was, barely. After tiredly greeting me, he dragged himself back to his bed and collapsed, legs strewn over the covers. His dorm was a single like mine, and was far better taken after by past occupants than Reika's. Being an inner room it had no natural source of lighting. Thus, simulants were stationed on the ceiling. Turned off at the moment, of course.

Thatcher didn't skirt the fashion even as he slept, exemplified by his deep purple pyjamas. The shirt featured murky skulls and sheets with colorful eyes, and the legs had thin horizontal stripes. A nightcap with two opals and jagged ear-like protrusions covered most of his hair.

Upon my explaining the situation, he turned away in shame. "S-sorry." was all he was able to say to me. He was deceptively alert despite being roused from a slumber. "I...I think I've...I don't want to go out...sneak out at night...again."

I understood. My mood was far more composed when I told him, "Thanks anyway."

----------

I let myself out and closed the door behind me. My eyes were downcast. Both my friends aren't in the shape or state of mind to join me. This isn't good. Thinking about this. Is there anything else I can do?

Hm.

Maybe that creep Lawrence will help me. It's a stretch, I'll have to word it right, but it just might work.

Just maybe.

The door to the partition between the buildings wasn't far from Thatcher's room. It was a mild night, cool enough to notice upon going from inside to out, but warm enough not to dwell on it for any longer than a minute. Clouds and stars shared the sky above as a gentle breeze wafted below. An air of peace, or the calm before the storm?

They may have been constructed a couple decades apart, but stylistically, the differences between the first-year dorm (once known as just 'the dorms') and second-year dorm were minimal. To reiterate, they sport a contemporary design, are colored a ruddy brown, and have tiled roofs painted white. What made them stand apart was the lining - the former had green, the latter had blue. For that matter, the interiors were laid out in much the same way. Their differences lay in the materials used, which ultimately gave them a different feel. Whether that was intentional or not is hard to say.

There was no need to head inside, since Lawrence's room had a window and was on the first floor on the far side. With that in mind, I made a beeline for the bend. I rounded it and walked down the narrow asphalt that surrounded the dorm's perimeter. Seven windows down the row took me to where I needed to be. I looked inside and-

Oh.

Okay.

I um. Wow. Was not expecting him to see him crashed out like a light in a compromising position. That was one thing I did not need to see. I think even trying at this point would just be a bad idea...on numerous levels. I mean, in any case. Not just...these kinds of circumstances. But especially these kinds of circumstances. Ugh. I didn't need this.

I turned away from the window and sighed. Maybe Reika's right about this. Maybe I am getting a little paranoid. I have had to be a little on-guard lately. Between Aporon, his associates, and the teachers who dislike me, I pretty much had little choice. But maybe I'm taking it a little too far. Things are what they are sometimes.

With a deep sigh, I began methodically walking back to the first-year dorms. It was one thing to peer down at the grounds from night. It was something else to be out there at the time. Okay. Out there and awake enough to appreciate the scenery. For instance, a cluster of trees was the barricade between the dorm area and the walkway to the offices. I made note of them a couple days ago, but that was in the afternoon. At night, these stood as nothing more than tall, dark, imposing shadows leering over the grounds. Through the spaces between, I could just see the corner of the main building. I also noticed a side-door, where the paved path made a ninety degree bend, and a brightly-clad thing prowling the circumference of the school.

Wait a minute, what was that last one?

A gasp involuntarily escaped my mouth. The figure froze in place. He glanced over his shoulder carefully. I couldn't believe my luck. Okay. So I've found what I was looking for. Now what do I do?

"It's you." I whispered after what felt like an eternity. The first action that came to mind. To call out to him. I wasn't sure, but I think the figure smiled at me. Right before he took off.

I knew it was a bad idea, but I set off in pursuit mindless of the potential consequences. I was able to at least match his speed as he led me on a twisted route around the grounds. First, he darted between a few trees. I thought he was going to head off in the direction of the offices, but he did an abrupt 180 and started heading towards the battlegrounds. He dashed into one of the partitions, and in one fluid motion, he leaped over the barricade to the one beside it. By the time I was able to pull myself over, he'd already jumped the one on my left, making his way out of it and along the school again. Deciding to move smartly rather than swiftly, I went out the open side on my right, ran along the other side, and turned to meet up with him.

Then it was my turn for a U-turn. Instead of continuing to comb the school's perimeter as I thought he would, the stranger hung a right. Suddenly, we were running in opposite directions, a fact that didn't hit me until he dashed by my side. I ran in a wide circle, just in time to see him distinctly peering at his destination: the forest.

I slowed to a jog momentarily as I again thought of what I was about to do. I'm seriously considering to pursue an unknown into there, disregarding any danger. The forest has an inky blackness cast over it at night. Not enough to reduce visibility to nil, but more than is needed to make any haste a bad idea. And let's not say nothing to the threat of any wild Pokémon, or this individual could pose. Having come this far was all that spurred me to follow him in.

The thicket was nearly impassable, a trait that affected me more than it did the figure I was trailing. He must have known precisely how to navigate. To my eye, his visibility qualified as minimal, and before long even his audibility became faint. The only thing I could do was trust my instincts, keep moving, and pray I wasn't heading in a circle or straight for nothing.

~~~~~~~~~~

When a trace of light seeping through the brush caught my eye, I flocked to it as a moth to a flame. The stoic wooden structure that was the Rangerism and Breeding stables greeted me as I entered its clearing, and it looks like I'd arrived just in time.

The shady individual was here, standing in the faint glow of the stables' lamp, next to a small quadrupedal creature. It had a long neck, round body, short stubby legs, and I think it was a sandy yellow. It sneezed out a burst of flame onto an object, igniting it, at the same moment that the figure turned and spotted me. Unlike last time, he was almost taken aback at sight of me. He instantly released another Pokémon at his feet. This one was also a yellow color, though it was bipedal in nature. Its arms and legs looked bony and demonic, whereas its large tail was plush and natural. It held a fulcrum-shaped object in one of its crooks. With a low mumble, the three faded into nothingness. Did it just use Teleport...?

Damn it! I chased him off, but there's still that fire to put out. How am I going to...wait, that's right! I have something that can use water! I retrieved the green-toned Poké Ball that I used to capture the Pokémon at the lake. Without hesitation, I cast the orb onto the ground.

The lake Pokémon burst forth from the ball. It let out a delighted screech as it emerged, head whipping around in sheer excitement. In the darkness where we stood, its finer features were just as difficult to see as the day I caught it. With it now being out of its native environment however, I verified what I had already figured. That is, it has a serpentine body and a few fins on its large head. I could've used my scanning device to discover its identity, but there's no time for that.

"All right, first time using you." I said with an attempted casual calm. Given the circumstances, it came out as energized as my subsequent command, "Hit that burning thing with Water Gun!"

My Pokémon reared back its head and let loose. The blast made its mark, completely dousing the object and causing the flames to shine fiercely? Son of a bitch! I quickly recalled my Pokémon before the sparks could catch on anything.

The only way that could've happened is if this is a Class D fire. So whatever that thing is, it's made of a combustible metal. I don't have anything that could put one of those out. Mareep would make things worse. Tangela as well. Nidorina doesn't have anything to smother it, and Eevee's Sand Attack would be far from what would be needed. Throwing dirt on it myself would be only marginally more productive.

Damn it! I should've known he was headed here when he went into the forest. This is the only thing that's out here! Okay, okay. I just need to calm down. Relax. That burning thing isn't near the trees or the building. So if I hurry back, I might be able to get help before this gets out of hand.

I resolved to waste as little time as possible, making the most of the fastest reasonable pace I could muster on the dirt path back to the grounds. Taking one last look over my shoulder, I saw the still-burning object sneering at me, and a second blaze beginning to lick its way out of the walls.

Before I could even wonder what the hell was happening, an explosion pierced the air. The blast was solely confined to the inside of the building, but the deafening resonance given off had no difficulty in taking me off my feet. The pounding drum in my chest almost burst out in its deranged romp. Forcibly, I rolled myself over with my right hand to check what had happened. No signs of major structural damage were apparent from where I had been cast, the only good news. With very little time to dwell on the cause or effect, I scrambled up and went into a full-blown wild sprint. A speed faster than was prudent, but ignored it in my adrenalization.

~~~~~~~~~~

A worried crowd comprising mainly of first-years and second-years had already gathered as a result of the explosion. The rest were various faculty. Nobody was daring to tread further than about halfway up the outdoor battlegrounds.

Few initially noticed the person come barreling out of the woods, and many were still sluggish to become aware when he came into full view. I was hyperventilating as I clung to a lamppost casting a white shine beneath. My words came out as gasps. I was uttering broken sentences. I got across "fire" and "it's bad" and "stables." The crowd was watching with concern. Whether it was solely for the fire or also for myself, I was too out of it to try and discern.

"You." quivered a wrathful voice. Aiden Kripps approached me before I could pull it together. The vice principal of the school. Still dressed sharply even at this late hour, his gaze no less pointed. His distinct tone still managed through, even in his contempt. "You did this, didn't you?!"

"No! It was somebody else!" I panted in desperation, failing to change his expression. I took a deep breath to compose myself. To get my mind in order before I explained the situation. "I was seeing a person sneaking around the school the past few days, so I decided to check it out. I found him, I chased him down, he went into the woods, and then he set the stables on fire and teleported away!" My declaration sent the crowd into abject horror. I couldn't discern a single individual statement amongst their delirious panic. It was that chaotic. There was screaming, crying, and a bit of outrage. Those who were not riled were in shocked silence. The jaws of more than one were as slack as they could be.

The vice principal was the only one unmoved by this. He was not impressed, crossing his arms and glaring down at me. "If that were true, then why didn't you put the fire out?"

"Because-" I began, before thinking about what I was going to say. "Because I don't have any Pokémon that could." This was a half-truth that I covered well by taking on a slightly ashamed tone. I thought it a better excuse than trying to explain about the metallic fire and how water only served to excite it. And besides. "I don't even have any matches or a lighter or Fire Pokémon! How could I start a fire?!"

"You must have found a way. It'll be for the authorities to figure out how, but it's the only possibility." He shook his head and paced in front of me. The crowd was still in a panic, but Kripps' act was managing to steal the spotlight away from the matter at hand. He was eerily relaxed as he elaborated. "The way I see it is clear. A fire starts on the campus. A student out late at night runs out from where it is, claiming to have seen a man no one else has." With this, he turned with gusto and pointed to me with a single finger. His fired up attitude returned as he accused, "That student is obviously lying, and he is obviously the one who started the fire!"

I took a step back out of shock. I didn't know how to respond to this accusation, again finding myself only able to squeak out gibberish. It looks like I've found the person leading the crusade against me. Aiden Kripps is undoubtedly the one who above all the rest, wants me out of Rukh's University. But...this? Trying to blame me for something like this? With no grounds?

My fists clenched up. I could feel a tiny trickle of blood ooze down my palms as my nails dug into them, yet paid it no heed. "I want a second opinion!" I tumultuously retorted, loud enough to cause him to step back.

"What?" He stared at me as if I'd spoken Greek.

I shut my eyes. It wasn't the wisest of requests, but it was the only one in sight. I wasn't about to let this happen to myself. More firmly and focused, I repeated, "I said, I want a second opinion."

I received a twelve second scowl for that one. He mouth came into view, his cheeks puffed out a bit, and I think he compressed his nose. He held this contortion of his facial features perfectly still, and undid it with a single chortle. With a nod, he slyly stated, "Fine. I'll play your game, Fritz Westmyn. But don't expect anything to change." With intent, he strutted off around the perimeter of the school, towards the offices.

I was able to breathe a temporary sigh of relief at that. I wasn't concerned about no one else knowing about the intruder. I told my friends and even brought up seeing the guy to Aporon. The latter I would imagine would want to protect his investment, so he'd back me up. That is, if I even get that far. I'm not overly concerned about being blamed for it by authorities...at least, I hope they'd be smart enough to tell otherwise. The only thing I have that could start a fire would be Mareep, only with Thunder which it hasn't learned, and only from the sky - not from the side or least of all from within. I'm concerned not about the inferno in the forest, not the stables, not about the smoke billowing up, not even the embers dancing around me. What I am concerned about is that man, Aiden Kripps, and whatever he might have in store for me. Not just in the immediate future, but in the days after. And again...that is, if I'm still at the school.

That explosive argument was enough to divert the crowd away from the literal detonation and unto myself. Students were confusedly whispering, staff were remaining silent. On more than one occasion, a person from either party appeared as if they wanted to step forth to talk to me. Only one actually went through with it - an older boy who looked in his very early 20s. When my reply to the murmur was a tired "huh?", he stepped back without a further word.


Mr. Kripps returned after around four minutes with a young woman in tow. Judging by the robe she had on, she was ready to go to sleep, if not hauled out of it. Still, she had a calm demeanor about her. What's surprising is, this person my detractor had turned to couldn't have been much older than me.

"All right, we're here." Mr. Kripps approached whilst pointing. He stood next to me, as if to present me as evidence. "I told you the story. Now tell them how it is."

She stared at me for a while. I don't know why or how I came to this conclusion, but it almost felt for a moment as though she were looking not at me, but beyond me. I'm not sure how to describe it. It was a little creepy, really, but what she subsequently said in a soft, yet confident voice relieved my tension.

"It was not him."

"What?!" Mr. Kripps was stunned. His step lost some of its purpose as he went over to her and rasped, "You can't be serious."

"I am certain that he tells us the truth."

Mr. Kripps remained in a state of shock, this time expressing it by throwing up his arms and hanging his jaw agape. He shuffled in closer. The conversation between the two became inaudible, until the robed one took a step back and spoke clear enough to address all present.

"Please. I gave my opinion as requested. That is all I can do." She worriedly spoke, looking over the scene before holding her gaze on the forest. "I believe the one responsible will eventually be found, but for now, we must focus on what is before us." With that, she took one final look in my direction before silently returning from whence she came.

Whoever that girl was, all present trusted in her take on the matter. Well, almost all. Every inch of the vice principal's body leaked of utter vehemence. He seethed with an intensity that threatened to ignite a second fire. He marched right up to me, got up in my face, and spoke. He spoke to me, and he spoke in a low, threatening tone so that only we could hear.

"You look here, Fritz Westmyn. You may have had your skin saved this time. I don't know who was responsible for this yet, but you won't be his patsy. Consider yourself lucky." He backed away a step, but continued to speak in the same manner. "Mark my words, though. The moment I find even the slightest justification to expel you from MY school, your ass is out the door. I'll go over Finkerton if I have to."

He added one last thing. With a hiss.

"You North American scum."
 
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I figured it would be better and fairer that I review two chapters since I've read quite a few already, plus the information is still fresh in my mind.

Chapter 2

His mouth curled as if he'd been ingesting nothing but lemons, a revolting sight that aided in the next phase of my act.
Nice description, that.

I know it's not its fault, but still.
I suggest referring to the Pokemon as "his" or "her," makes them feel more like characters and "it" is mostly a Japanese exclusive thing I see in the Anime due to the Japanese language not having gender-specific pronouns.

Anyway this was an okay chapter, it wasn't particularly super interesting to be completely honest. It centered mostly around Fritz's encounter with that Gyarados. I feel as though it's perfectly okay to tell in a lot of scenes, like drab or uninteresting moments that aren't relevant to the story at hand as a whole, but showing in scenes like that would be much better and make the battle more engrossing for the readers imo, the Gyarados scene is just a perfect example of that. Also remember there is such a thing as being overly descriptive, which I felt you were at the point where you were talking about the classroom. Specifically because as a whole the room didn't have a direct bearing on the plot of the chapter at hand. Just remember not to overdue it on the description, your grammar for the most part was flawless. Also, while this wasn't a problem in the chapter.(I've managed to read about seven of your chapters during my free time in class, so I see this in advance.) Remember that you don't have to speech tag every line of dialogue, sometimes just forget the tags if we know which characters are conversing and just let the dialogue flow naturally.

I enjoyed the discussion between the Trio of Reika, Thatcher, and Fritz during the lunch scene, we got some nice insight on the character. Interesting that Thatcher holds Pokemon Contests and being a Coordinator in high prestige and refers to it as art.

"The goals of a Pokémon Coordinator..." he confided, "is to make their Pokémon look beautiful. They get dressed up all cutely, then go up in front of crowds of people, trying to look cooler than anyone else! They have all sorts of fancy competitions in Contests. But they have to be tough, too! Since in most contests, you have to have special battles. Magnificient duels...showing off smart and elegant combinations of moves..." He was entirely bedazzled as he gave me the lowdown.
Thorton's fawning over Pokemon Contest is pretty enticing, "magnificent duels." XD That's exactly what they are.


The student body flew into spontaneous trepidation.

"Cronus was beatened?!"

"No! No! Nooo!"

"What are we gonna do?!"

"Ahhhhh!!!"

"We have it to I mean we gotta get out of here!"

The crowd agreed with the last of those, a supermajority scampering away in all directions - a few even summoning bird Pokémon and escaping into the skies. A few chose to rush to the aid of the fallen trainer. Reika and I took one look and commenced to run away ourselves. We stopped on the spot when we looked back and noticed what was missing.
It's simply amazing, yet vomit-inducing how the student body seems to fall apart at Cronus' defeat. I guess they have a huge reliance and respect for him.

So, Fritz uses his Tangela and takes care of things, guess that shows he has skills that can take care of problems by his own merits. Eevee, Mareep, Nidorina, and Tangela, eh? Shame that his hardwork went unappreciated since he got opposite results instead.

Chapter 3

The dean certainly was cryptic and had a very antagonistic and somewhat borderline supervillainy personality and demeanor. Pretty fun to see Fritz is somewhat public enemy number one now amongst the staff, I hope this actually effects him at some points in the story however. Thorton's intro and us learning about his shyness is just another example of how I feel character personality building is important and you did just that with that scene and used the moment to let us now about him. I wonder if this will conflict with his goal of wanting to be a Pokemon Coordinator, given the battles and appeals in those Contest are very much like actual performances.

I enjoyed the group interactions between them and their Eevee, differentiating their personalities helps identify with the Eevee as different characters and we see them less as the same Pokemon.
If I remember it correctly, Eevees are renowned as alternative starter Pokémon - particularly among non-League sanctioned organizations - due to their unstable genetic makeup granting them the capacity for varied evolution
Nice explanation and somewhat expansion on canon.

Um. "I don't know yet. Maybe I'll just let the cards fall where they will." I adjusted my bangs as I talked. I was certain there was something I could do, but I didn't know what it was just yet.
For some reason I think "letting the cards fall where they will." means Umbreon or Espeon, since all the other evolutions of the Eevee species have to be induced by some method of location or evolutionary stone to actually obtain.
"Not Vaporeon or Leafeon." she replied. "That's it. That's all I can say."
Leafeon, not good for Contest from Reika's POV? XD Interesting, I always thought of those two as being more of the two elegant Eevees. Maybe I'm just reading too much into Zoey's Leafeon from the anime which was very stunning and beautiful for its Contest. I never have thought of any Eeveelutions as being specifically bad for Contest, then again I'm curious why she thinks that.

Fritz gets a top-notch room, that's good, I prefer being isolated myself so that was relatable and I liked how he talked about the laziness of people with simple idle task like walking. Fritz summing up his actions of the day and the cast of characters he's interacted with seems like more set-up, it's going to be interesting to see what you do with these characters and portray the story of Fritz Westmyn from this point on.
 
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