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Redemption's Fall

Cypher DS
Conqueror of the Violet Gym
Conqueror of the Violet Gym
Joined: September 4th, 2010, 3:01 am

November 30th, 2011, 2:31 am #1

Redemption's Fall
an Emerald Storylocke

Hush little baby, don't you cry.
Mama's gonna sing while you slowly die.

And if your body fades away,
your soul will carry on for another day.

But if your spirit's black with sin,
Heaven's barred off and you won't get in.

Hell's too steep, you'll just fade away,
in purgatory's snare all your endless days.

You'll never make it out, though you give your all.
This is the story of redemption's fall.
Virgil's Rules
[+] Spoiler
  • 1. Catch only the first non-ghost Pokemon encountered on each route, town or cave.
    • a. Excluding ghosts, you may own only one (1) Pokemon of each type.
    • b. Nrm/Fly = Flying Type. Otherwise, Pokemon are categorized by their Type 1.
    • c. The "first non-ghost Pokemon" encountered on a route is defined as "first of a type you do not yet own". If a pokemon whose type you already own appears, you must ignore it and catch the next permitted pokemon.
  • 2. Nickname all Pokemon.
  • 3. Create four storage boxes titled as follows: Earth, Purgatory, The Inferno and Paradise.
  • 4. If a Pokemon faints then its mortal life has ended and its soul must await judgement. Perma-box it in "Purgatory".
  • 5. For each soul in Purgatory you may catch one (1) ghost Pokemon. The gender and nickname of this ghost must correspond to one of the souls lost in limbo.
  • 6. Ghost Pokemon are creatures from beyond this world. Consequently, they are unaffected by Earthly tokens. Ghosts may be healed at Pokemon centers but they cannot hold, use or benefit from any items in or out of battle.
  • 7. If a Ghost Pokemon faints then its connection to this mortal world is severed. Perma-box it - along with its mortal equivalent - in "The Inferno", where it will live out an eternity of torment.
  • 8. It is said that the energies of a Legendary Pokemon are capable of cleansing the sins of any lost soul. In exchange for condemning a Regi, Kyogre, Groudon, Rayquaza or Lati_s to the Inferno (i.e. catch it and box it in Hell), you may transfer one lost Pokemon from "Purgatory" to "Earth".
    • a. If the rescued Pokemon had a Ghost equivalent then release that ghost, as its body and soul have been reconnected.
    • b. Mark all resurrected Pokemon. If it faints a second time, Perma-box it in "The Inferno".
Prologue - Virgil's Dream
[+] Spoiler
The world has gone black.

When you think about it, there is no true "black": shut off your house lights and you can still see the city glow (or maybe the star-shine if you're a country boy). Shut your eyes and you can still see the after-image of light tingling through your nerves.

But all I can see is black - bottom of the ocean black; heart of the devil black; shut in a funeral casket black. Not a god-damn pinprick of light.

Now, I'm not the type that scares easily, but do you know what really scares me?

I can feel my eyelids blinking. Twitch all they want, all I can see is black.

Yeah, I'll let that sink in for a minute.

I can feel, but not well. It's like I've been bundled in a puffy snowsuit, dulling my touch. I think I'm lying on my back; my face is hot and itchy all over.

I can hear, but everything is muffled like I'm holding my breath underwater - the vibrations sluggish and echoing. Are those the rumbling wheels of a truck or a gurney across linoleum floor? Footsteps crash into my water-logged head like cannonball divers. It's a chore just to make out the voices:

The first speaker is a mixture of revolt and pity. "Is that a boy or a girl?"

The second manages a quick smirk. "Hard to say, huh?"

Hard to say? Are they talking about me? It's not like I have huge muscles or facial stubble, but I like to think that I'm obviously masculine! I try to turn my neck and look around but my head is in some sort of clamp, and just that little twist sends a spike of pain through my nerves. I almost faint.

The voices carry on. "Poor thing have a name?"

"Virgil, I think."

Now I know they're talking about me, but "poor thing"? What's going on? I can't see, I can't move and all this talk is driving me insane! I can feel my panicky breath, hot and humid, forced back against my skin. Is there something over my mouth? And what is that beeping noise?

The voices also notice the pulse. "Rate's going up. Going into shock."

Shock? Shocked? That's putting it mildly - I'm shifting into all-out "fight or flight" mode, you've got me so panicked! I have to see, I have to claw at this itch creeping over my face; I have to get up and rip this, this mask they've clamped over my mouth! I'm suffocating! I struggle but even the tiniest effort makes the pain spike.

"He's waking. Give him another dose."

What are you people doing to me? Let me go! I fight again, and this time an arm presses down on my chest. I think the voice is trying to comfort me, but the reassuring "ssh" is amplified through the water into an Arbok's hiss.

"Relax, kid," it says, just before a sharp point jabs my arm. "There's a whole world of adventure waiting for you. All you gotta do is sleep."

And then I'm shrinking - falling away from the voices, from the pain, from everything. And the world goes black.
Table of Contents Jan 12 - NEW!
[+] Spoiler
I. Ten Things I Hate About Littleroot
II. A New Hope
III. The Ranger of Petalburg
IV. Through Forest and Water
V. The Oracle of Rustburo
VI. Shadows in the Granite Cave
VII. Dude, Where's My Capitalism?
VIII. The Pirates of Slateport City
IX. The Lost Leader, Part A, Part B
X. The Dragon Master of Mount Chimney
XI. Crossing the Rubicon

Side Chapters - The Leaders' Stories
[+] Spoiler
I. Roxanne - The Foundations of Sin
II. Brawly - Wrath of the Waves
III. Wattson - A Spark of Sloth
IV. Flannery - Flames of Envy
Artwork
[+] Spoiler
Hellfire, by Wasserbienchen
Virgil and Robin, by Spiritoom
Virgil, by WhiteLilySong
The Nosepass Creature, by Andrew Martin D
Robin and Michael by Leptocyon
Megumi and Beatrice by Kuro the Kitten (chap 8 spoilers!)
Robin - Victorian Gijinka by CritexMind
Trisha - Victorian Gijinka by CritexMind
Trisha, ghost form by EeveeLolipop


My Art
Grab My Wingull (chapter 5 spoilers!)
Not Sure If ...
Nyoro~n, Bwaly-san!

1/12 - NEW! - Crossing the Rubicon
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Quint
Conqueror of the Mahogany Gym
Conqueror of the Mahogany Gym
Joined: July 14th, 2011, 10:06 pm

November 30th, 2011, 2:40 am #2

This is relevant to my interests, watching like a Braviary
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Pokemon_As_Leaders
Conqueror of the Olivine Gym
Conqueror of the Olivine Gym
Joined: November 21st, 2011, 6:10 am

November 30th, 2011, 2:43 am #3

Love the writing style; it's got a sort of mystique to it... I'm just afraid to find a time when it'll be too much...

Looking forward to more updates!
[+] Spoiler

Banner by Baka!
[+] Spoiler
I'm not going to spoil this one for you
IN-BOX: ALRAUNE (Cottonee), SPORE (Foongus), DR. COG (Klink), BULB (Litwick), WHISPER (Mienfoo), ZANE (Scraggy), APOLLO (Lopunny), KEZIA (Deino)
Badge Count: 8
Body Count: 7
[+] Spoiler
]
--A Platinum Run about the end of the world--Chapter Fourteen up 08/10--Banner drawn by the awesome WinstonIII!
[+] Spoiler
Click here for PaL's Miscellaneous Composition thread!
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Cypher DS
Conqueror of the Violet Gym
Conqueror of the Violet Gym
Joined: September 4th, 2010, 3:01 am

February 15th, 2012, 10:43 pm #4

Chapter 1 - Ten Things I Hate About Littleroot
[+] Spoiler
The nightmares are getting worse. This time, the sun has barely dawned when I bolt upright in my bed. I'm surrounded by an unfamiliar room - wooden panels and a pile of discarded clothes; the Spartan accommodations of a tiny cottage - and I slump back onto my pillow with a long exhale.

I'm still in Littleroot. I'm still lost and living on the kindness of strangers, and I still can't remember who I am. One nightmare is over but I've woken from "darkness to Darkrai", as Norman would say. Sure, you're no longer being devoured alive in your sleep but, shucks man, now there's a shadowy monster looming over your bed and it's going to rip you apart for interrupting the meal!

My name is Virgil. I'm still fuzzy about my last name, so it's "just Virgil".

I know that I'm sixteen years old and from Goldenrod City. I think I lived in an apartment because I remember looking down on the never-ending city from an impossibly high balcony. I know I'm a student because I remember nodding off at school one morning and immediately waking up because I dropped my head on the desk. I remember the juice of a fresh Tauros burger running down my lips while someone (a girl?) giggled behind me, and I remember the excitement of visiting the Pokeathlon dome to cheer my favourite team - the Electabuzzers.

Oh, I'm sorry - you want to skip the trivial junk and get on with the story? Well screw you! When a meal or a Monday morning is all you can remember about yourself maybe you'll understand why I'm hoarding these memories like pearls! I have to remember everything I can. Everything.

Even the nightmare. It came infrequently during the first two weeks - that dream of being tied down in the darkness, drugged and loaded into the back of a truck - but now I've been reliving it nightly, like a subconscious playlist looping over a single track. I'm frightened to think that it's less of a nightmare and more of a memory. Which raises a lot of disturbing questions, namely, who tied me up? Why did they drive me out to the middle of nowhere, and why can't I remember anything?

Just listing my troubles gives me a headache. The sun is raising itself over the village and that's excuse enough to get up. I stumble to the bathroom, then downstairs. Linda is already awake and fully dressed, of course; wrapping fresh bandages around her left arm before she goes out for her morning chores.

"Good morning, Virgil," she smiles. "You're up early. Can I fix you anything? Coffee?"

I grumble out a 'negative' and drop myself into the remaining kitchen chair. When the villagers first found me there was some debate as to where I would stay. Linda volunteered immediately. She's nice enough, I guess - in her forties but with a bit of gray creeping into her brown hair. Her eyes have this weathered look, like she's constantly sick or tired, but she's helpful, pleasant and with energy to spare. Some of the neighbours have even taken to referring to her as my "mother".

She's certainly fits the role - giving me her bed to sleep in, sewing me new clothes and enduring all of my panic attacks - but I'm not sure I like what that relationship implies. Being part of the family suggests you're staying permanently.

"Couldn't sleep?" I waggle my head 'no'. "That's a shame," she sighs. "Are you hungry? A full stomach might perk you up."

Another grunt. She tries again. "I could use a hand outside. You could run the wheelbarrow for me, and maybe the work will clear your mind." She's at her motherly best, trying everything to cheer me up. Even Megumi, her zigzagoon, is working on me - standing on her hind legs and pawing at my knee for a response. I push the raccoon away.

"Look," I tell them, "I appreciate everything you've done - letting me stay with you and all - but I'm just not in the mood. I need to take a walk."

Linda's eyes betray a hint of shock. "It's terribly early, Virgil. If you're going beyond the village gates, I'd feel safer if you took Beatrice with you." The little wurmple nesting atop the kitchen cupboards gave a frightened squeak at the suggestion.

"Thanks, but I won't go far," I lie. At the door, I add, "and I will come back." My last attempt at escape taught me just how futile it was to leave the safety of Littleroot. Beatrice would serve as a fine diversion from the outside horrors, but only once. After you've been eaten it's hard to stay helpful.

Outside, I scan for the glow of lights and find only the lanterns of the night watchmen. Littleroot village is asleep and at peace. Must be nice. If you looked up "small, backwater farming collective" on the Internet, I'm sure you'd find Littleroot as your first hit. If I had Internet out here maybe I could pinpoint this place on a map and find my way back to Goldenrod.

Patch is manning the village gate this morning. (It's a nickname he's earned thanks to the black covering over his right eye.) Patch has gotten better, but he still flinches a bit whenever he sees me. "Mornin', Virgil," he smiles - a forced smile. "You headin' out for a walk too?"

I force myself to grin back. "You betcha!" I've seen Patch without his eye covering and it infuriates me that someone as ugly as he has the nerve to startle at my face. A little sympathy among freaks, maybe? "Think you can open 'er up?"

"Sure! Ain't no problem, Virgil." I'm in the mood for as little human contact as possible, but a tinge of scientific curiosity prompts me to chat up the guard.

"Hey, Patch," I ask, "how long have you been in Littleroot?"

"Me? Three years, give or take."

"And before that?"

Patch stops. His eyes squint and his brow knits in a deep thought. "Well, shucks, Virgil, I can't really remember." Just as expected. Patch laughs it off, though. "Who knows - maybe I came from that fancy Golden city of yours, too."

Not likely, Hillbilly. "Don't matter much to me, though," Patch continues. "Littleroot is my home now, and I'm grateful to be here with Norman and the Leader watchin' out for me."

I nod my thanks and exit the village gates, adding to my mental tally of amnesia victims. There is something seriously disturbing about Littleroot.

When Linda first took me around the village I pegged it as one of these religious farming communities that shun modern technology and the outside world. Candles and outdoor pumps assume the roles of lightbulbs and indoor plumbing, while telephones, TVs and even pokeballs are foreign concepts. The villagers are simple people - they grow vegetables in their gardens, visit their neighbours during the evening and preserve food for the winter months.

The "lost world" story seemed to explain why no one recognized Goldenrod or the cities of Johto: everyone simply grew up and died within the village walls, and after generations they had lost all recollection of civilization. To the villagers, the outside world is Hoenn - an ancient term for Nothing.

Then I started talking to people like Patch and discovered just how thinly the roots of this little town run. No one has lived in Littleroot longer than five years, and while groups will introduce each other as "brothers", "sisters" or "parents and children", just looking at the spectrum of flesh tones informed me that the happy families of Littleroot were all informal adoptions.

As to how they arrived in Littleroot, the phrasing differed but everyone had the same story: "I just sort of woke up in the grass outside of town." The residents greeted them, got them a hot meal and a change of clothes and welcomed them unconditionally into the community.

I'd ask, "Didn't you panic? Weren't you worried about contacting your family and friends?" And the person will just shrug, avert his eyes and pick at his bandage wrappings, muttering something about being "happy with things as they are."

No one can remember who they were or where they came from. It's like there's some poison in the air here that fogs up memory! Maybe I have some slight immunity - that would explain my ragged bits of memory - but my knowledge has only made me the village oddity (well, that and my face); restless and panicky where everyone else embraces the bliss of ignorance. I describe Johto or Goldenrod to these people, trying to spark a recollection, but they just smile, tell me I've got an amazing imagination and that I should become a writer.

I really wish that Norman would make another visit to the village; I'd gladly endure another wild animal attack if it would bring him to our rescue. I really need to talk to someone who understands...

A solid 'clunk' against my foot wakes me from my pondering. I've traveled a surprising distance from the village, somewhere among the grassy meadows separating Littleroot and neighbouring Oldale. My ruminating has caused me to wander off the main road but has lead me to a nice discovery: an over-the shoulder satchel clinking with goodies. I try it on (finders keepers, duh!), proclaim it a good fit and proceed to rifle through my new treasures when a man's scream cuts through the air.

It's coming from the trees bordering the meadow, and now I see that this satchel is the first in a breadcrumb trail of discarded items: a chewed-up sandal, and then a shredded strip of white cloth direct me into the forest. The ongoing screams urge me through the trees.

You might be wondering why I ran so quickly towards such obvious danger. Well I'd like to know too! Linda had cautioned me about leaving the village beyond the safety of daylight, and I'd seen first-hand what sort of nasty creatures lived outside the walls of Littleroot. I dunno - maybe it was some primal instinct to protect a member of the herd; maybe it was morbid curiosity and the hope to see something exciting after weeks of repetitive chores. Maybe I just took my stupid pills that morning. Arceus knows I would have spared myself a whole mess of trouble if I had just walked away.

Instead, I trampled through the trees towards the snarls of a wild animal and the screams of human misery, pushing into a clearing where I found a fat, bearded man in a lab coat, ("oh," I thought at the moment, "it's that ... Guy. That guy who checks up on everyone's pokemon and smells really bad. That ... Pokemon Professor Guy,") writhing around on his back, begging Arceus to, "GET IT OFF! OH PLEASE, GOD, GET IT OFF!!", and a bloody zigzagoon working its fangs through his left kneecap.

Now, I refer to the animal as a zigzagoon out of pragmatism: I have to give you a working reference, and a zig is the closest living thing it resembles. But please bear in mind that this was not the sort of urban zigzagoon that sleeps under your porch and pries through your refuse bins on garbage day. It wasn't even the sort of wild zigzagoon that nests in tree hollows and competes with taillows for berries.

Because zigzagoons are - on the whole - cuddly, furry and good-natured creatures. They are certainly not black shadows branded with lightning bolt streaks and glowing hellfire eyes. Zigs are also solid matter. This thing moved fluidly like a storm cloud. On my approach it didn't so much as turn to face me as it rotated: head and tail sliding across the body to exchange spots, and legs twisting one hundred and eighty degrees in their sockets. It roared, spraying spittle and human blood over the field.

Fantastic! Never come between a wild animal and its meal; you might just become dessert. I started back-pedaling but the zig matched my every step. It was a homing missile, target-locked and ready to launch at the moment I moved faster than a jog. What was the proper behaviour for this situation? Play dead? Yeah, right. ... Wave my arms and make loud noises? I think the Prof had been plenty loud already. Blast, why hadn't I taken Beatrice? Better that slimy bug sausage than me!

Then I remembered - the satchel! I rifled through it, tossing whatever I could grab at the black monster: a journal, a sandwich, some old binoculars. The Zig didn't care; in fact, whenever my projectiles connected they phased through its vaporous body, ruffling its fur without causing so much as a flinch!

My hand seized a solid sphere - the item that would mark the beginning of my adventure and my misery. Back at that moment it was just another object to toss, but I remember thinking to myself - praying, really - please let this thing hit. Please let it work! Please, just put something between me and that monster!

And then I threw it.

And then I thought, "grenade!", because the sphere burst open in mid-flight and a fiery ball of energy launched out at the black 'goon, hammering the monster off its feet and face-first into a tree. A wet smack would have been satisfying, but the impact only made the zig burst into black smoke.

The sphere flew back into my hand - it ... it was a pokeball! - and the fire missile fluttered to the ground, shaking off its protective flames and raising its curious, coal-black eyes my way. "Tor," it chirped.

A torchic.

A growl. The black cloud had reassembled itself into zigzagoon form and was snarling with freshly stoked rage. The torchic spread her wings and clawed at the ground, daring the zig to "come at me, bro!"

It charged, and the torchic held her ground, storing up energy. The grass under her talons singed and smoked, and I swore I saw flames flicker along her scaly legs. The zig lunged, jaws wide, and at the last moment the torchic sprang into the sky so, while the astonished zig flew through empty air, the fire chick dove downward, raking her super-heated claws through the raccoon's back. The zig shrieked and crash-landed into the dirt. Knock-out!

The torchic was bracing herself for round two but the zig had taken enough punishment, limbs and head scrambled out of their proper sockets like a poorly-assembled Mr. Potato Head doll. It lay moaning in the dirt and then went limp - dissolving into formless smoke that slithered into the earth.

That was when I remembered to start breathing. Crisis resolved, the torchic looked me over, offering another inquisitive "tor?" I zapped her back into the pokeball before she could realize I wasn't her trainer.

"Is it gone?" That was the Pokemon Prof, still on his back and wheezing for air. Too freaked to form proper words, I responded with a vigorous shake of my head. My hands were shaking too. "Good boy. Good work," he panted. "Now lend me a hand, would you, and pass me my leg."

Ah yes, his left leg. Currently it was a bloody stump terminating at the knee cap, little jets of blood squirting out wherever the Prof was unable to clamp down on the wound. Everything from the tibia downward had been tossed into the bushes after the zig had turned its attention to me. "Hurry up, boy, before more of them come!"

That set me racing to the amputated limb - covered in blood and old man hair and still warm to touch. I stripped off my shirt, wrapped it around my hand as a makeshift glove, and even then I only dared grab it with a thumb and forefinger, holding it at arm's length while I ran back, muttering, "ew, ew, ew, oh god," with every step. I tossed it at the Prof, and it fell short. I could tell he was thoroughly impressed by my little girl antics.

"Wow, real brave, kid. Real brave." I tossed it far enough, I suppose, because the magic of Littleroot kicked in at that point and the leg dragged itself through the grass towards the Professor like iron filings towards a magneton. The bone fragments clicked into place (the Prof hissed and flinched), and muscle fibres grew towards each other at super-speed, followed swiftly by a weave of skin. It sounded and looked like the crawling of a thousand slimy maggots but when the ordeal was finished the prof's leg looked fresh and undamaged.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention this last little factoid about Littleroot. You see, whenever anyone gets hurt, be it a paper cut or a scraped knee or - as I've just shown - an amputated leg, the injury heals itself. It hurts like a hot poker, but your injuries always heal.

No one gets hurt in Littleroot. No one grows old, and nobody dies. Happy and ignorant, you have to stay here in Hoenn.

Forever.
Summary - Virgil's Team
[+] Spoiler

1/12 - NEW! - Crossing the Rubicon
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Slothtastic
Conqueror of the Mahogany Gym
Conqueror of the Mahogany Gym
Joined: August 28th, 2011, 4:18 am

February 16th, 2012, 2:02 am #5

...holy shit.

Allegorical shit all up in here. This is pretty cool. And I like your ghost rules. :3:
[+] Spoiler
(thanks to Xatu/Flash Gordon)
[+] Spoiler

(Thanks, Loli!)
[+] Spoiler
Aspects - a Sacred Gold and Storm Silver duallocke - A twisted fantasy world, through a faceless wraith's eyes. Complete!
Tsunami - an Emerald story - you can't change the past. Complete!
The Three Journeys of Pearl Kurotsugu - because it's fashionable to do a shitton of regions at once. Currently on Sinnoh.
[+] Spoiler
Hearts Wrapped in Red Tape - it's a Valentines Day double-trouble run, with the ineffable Quintesson as my partner :3: It's pretty adorable, not gonna lie.
Also I may or may not have started a sort of self-insert...
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Cypher DS
Conqueror of the Violet Gym
Conqueror of the Violet Gym
Joined: September 4th, 2010, 3:01 am

February 16th, 2012, 2:40 am #6

There's more where that came from :)

Chapter 2 - A New Hope
[+] Spoiler
"Get a move on, boy! It's the Quick and the Eaten out here and I for one am not contributing any more flesh to the local carnivores!"

Not that you couldn't stand to lose a few pounds, Prof. Believe me, I wanted nothing more than to tear my way back into Littleroot as fast as possible, but circumstances required that I run at a measured pace: at my rear, a forest ready to spring out hundreds of horrid little pokemon like a murderous jack-in-the-box; leading my way, the Professor's rear, emitting body odour on par with the deadliest poisonous pokemon. Seriously, the man reeked so fiercely he must have rubbed a koffing under his armpits every morning. I sure as hell didn't want to be eaten alive, but I was not going to park myself at ground zero when Birch's butt reached critical mass!

I was doing my best to be subtle, of course, but Birch (that was the Professor's name, by the way; thank you, selective memory,) must have caught me pinching my nose and gagging. "Mothballs," he panted over his shoulder, scooping a fistful of the white pellets from his pocket and waving them for me to see. "I always keep them on me. Perfect for warding off wild pokemon; most species can't stand the smell!"

Emphasis on 'most'. "What about the onions? What're those for?"

"That," the professor declared, waggling one of the red veggies in his other pocket, "is to keep humans from coming up to me and trapping me in some long-winded conversation about their boring and tedious lives."

"Ah." Misanthrope much?

Our jog back to Littleroot was spared further attack and conversation; I had that much to be grateful for. Patch pried open the gate at Birch's hammering and I was about to escape to Linda's house, throw myself in bed and write off this morning as a 'false start', but professor Stinks-a-lot had other plans.

"Hold on, there," he said, clamping a hairy palm over my shoulder and inspecting at my wrecked face. "Aha. Just as I thought - you're Linda's boy. So you're the fantastic newcomer that everyone insists on gossiping about - the boy who 'remembers things'. Things from beyond Hoenn."

"I guess. And you're Birch, the village veterinarian?"

"Professor Birch," he hissed, "resident expert of all matters pertaining to botany, zoology, and physiology. So don't you stick your nose up at me because I work with pokemon, kid. 'People' is just a fancy word for 'animal', and I'd be suturing and medicating the whole lot of you if humans actually needed doctors here." He paused to take a very aggressive bite of his onion. "Pwoffesoh!" he spat.

Yeah, I was more than skeptical about those credentials. On close inspection, his lab coat was just a white bathrobe - the kind you could skim off even two-star hotels - and between the sweat stains on his clothes, the wailmer-sized beer belly playing peak-a-boo from underneath his shirt, and the hippie-dippie sandals-'n-shorts on his hairy legs, he looked more like a geek on shore leave from his mother's basement than a 'master of the whatever-ologies'.

"Okay there," I said, shrugging off his sweaty palm. "So whatcha been you studying today, Prof? Local zigzagoon diets?"

Birch snorted, shooting a piece of onion at my nose. "Boy, your sun-crisped little noggin could scarcely fathom what I've been trying to accomplish outside the village. But if I had to phrase it in terms you'd understand, I was looking for pokemon to tame and capture."

"Well that turned out well."

"Exceedingly: first I'm robbed of a leg; next, I'm saved by the boy who's trying to rob my goods. Now give me that satchel!"

Truth be told, I'd forgotten all about the bag, still looped around my shoulder. Birch yanked over his property, muttering something about "kids these days" while he rifled through the contents. He didn't seem to mind the missing items, only showing a small tic when he noted an absence; it was his torchic's pokeball that he was after: cradling the sphere as though it were a fragile egg, cooing and whispering reassurances to the youngling inside while he inspected its capsule for damage.

"Boy, are you a Wurmple or Zigzagoon?"

"Me? Both, I guess, but technically they're Linda's pokemon."

"You've no pokemon?" The way Birch recoiled you'd think I had confessed myself a virgin. He hemmed, returning his gaze to the pokeball while his mind digested this information. "I want you to come with me to my laboratory. Please," he added, and with some effort. "I want to hear about this 'home' you remember."

Birch's "laboratory" was a retrofitted cattle bar on the far end of the village. The main floor was still lined with old, wooden animal stalls and metal cages for more unruly guests. "Cozy place," I lied. I guess this barn doubled as his home and veterinary ward. We climbed a ladder into the hay loft, now a personal office littered with books, stray paper and vials of unnaturally-coloured liquids. "Sit here," Birch ordered, flipping over a bucket and setting it underneath the only window.

"Now," he sighed, "I suppose human etiquette requires me to provide you, a houseguest, with some small confectioneries as a display of greeting and goodwill. Tea and cookies, is it?"

"I'll eat the cookies. I don't know about the tea."

Birch scowled; probably irritated about having to share his big belly's junk food with a fellow animal. "Well you're getting tea anyhow. I'll be back. Don't touch anything."

Of course, as soon as he waddled down the ladder to his pantry, I was up and about - flipping through his books and examining the posters on his wall, particularly the map with a bizarre continent and an accompanying chain of islands.

A yawn from the far corner.

Tucked behind piles of books and boxes, I could just make out a glass aquarium. Following the same stupid, nosey instinct that had lead me to Birch this morning, I inched my way through the protective clutter and knelt down for a look.

The habitat wasn't very big - just a mossy bed of rocks around a tub of water - but the occupant wasn't the type of pokemon to fuss over space: a wrinkled and withered slowpoke, its tail submerged in the empty pool, fishing for non-existent shellders; its body shuddering with every inhale and exhale it forced itself to complete. Had it the strength to lift its eyelids, I doubted the old thing had enough vision or brain-power left to recognize its cramped accommodations.

Still, I gave an appreciative whistle. First a torchic, and now a slowpoke! Okay, neither species was anything impressive, but Birch's pet collection left me in awe - a breath of fresh air in Littleroot's stale animal population. The village was nothing but zigzagoons and wurmples! Each household kept either a little racoon to help with weeding or an overgrown worm for spinning silk and mending clothes. Linda had the good fortune to own one of each critter, (Megumi and Beatrice, in case you weren't paying attention,) and in Littleroot that qualified her as living in opulence. It was weird, though: despite her extra helpers, Linda seemed to work herself twice as hard as the other villagers - she was always up with the sun, starting her chores extra early and then helping her neighbours when she was finished - like some bizarre, self-imposed penance for her house of plenty.

But back to my main point - Birch's exotic animals! This derpy slowpoke was calling out to be, well, poked! I was reaching a hand into the aquarium to tease the water-sloth's tail, but Birch chose that moment to return and loom over me.

The man whipped out a stick and split open my knuckles. Then he yanked me up by the collar. "If you so much as breathe on Chance, I swear to Arceus that the next blow comes with an axe. Got it?"

I barely heard the psycho over the pain in my hands. "I'm bleeding!" My fingers! I couldn't feel my fingers! That crazy man had broken my fingers!

"Oh grow up. Your hands will reset in a moment. See?"

I didn't want to look, so Birch forced my hands up to my face. Sure enough, the torn skin puckered together and my wounds zipped themselves shut at super-speed. My pores even slurped the spilt blood back into my system. Not a drop wasted.

"Better?" Birch asked with a sardonic smile.

Physically, yes, but my mood had yet to improve. "It still stings," I pouted. "Thanks, Doc. I'd love to see how you heal your patients."

Birch snorted at my ignorance. "You don't heal in Littleroot, Virgil. If you've hurt yourself, your body doesn't get better after an accident. You reset. Return to default." Birch handed me my tea and dropped his generous backside on the box nearest his slowpoke's aquarium. As he sat, his shirt rode up over his beer belly and I could just make out the three parallel scars raked across his gut.

I quivered. Reset? Back to default? What was I, a character in a video game ready to spring back, good as new, after a 'game over'? Contemplating the idea brought that nightmarish itch to my face again - so I shifted gears and started explaining to the Prof everything I could remember about Goldenrod and Johto. Birch wasn't like my ordinary audience, though. His eyes didn't go wide with amazement, and he didn't laugh or "ooh" over the details. He just sat there, hands at his chin, leaning forward and drinking in the details.

"Hoenn," he hemmed once my stories were spent. "That's what people come to this land with - Nothing. Oh, we retain our skills and talents: a carpenter grasps a hammer and understands how to wield it; a baker innately realizes how to prepare seeds and berries for her recipes. And our personalities seem intact as well. We know what we love, what we enjoy, who we hate.

"But our histories - the memories that shape ourselves; I've never met anyone able to retain that crucial information. Except for you." Birch hemmed, scanning me as though I were a puzzle to be unlocked. "Why is that, I wonder?"

I was spared my non-existent answer; saved by the bell, or rather, the bugle. A loud and regal trumpeting rang through the village and a loud voice boomed, "make way for the Imperial legions!"

Birch grimaced, and the disgust on his face told me this was an unpleasant nuisance, but a tolerated one. I turned to the window. Littleroot's gates were flung open wide; thrown back to admit a double column of soldiers in gold armor.

The procession was another blast from the past - plate armor, feathered helmets, and a herald lifting a banner emblazoned with a triangle of blue raindrops. Each soldier carried a long pike as a sidearm but those pointed sticks seemed mostly for show. Their true weapons were their pokemon.

The monsters brought up the rear: snarling, hulking beasts made of spikes, horns and armored muscle. Some I recognized - a nidoking, a rhydon - but the rest were just claws, jaws and feral animal paws, roaring and straining at the ends of their chain leashes.

I'd seen outsiders before, but never a show of force like this! Littleroot was in a panic - doors flinging open and villagers rushing out with baskets of bread and vegetables; bowing and groveling before the armored guards and depositing food in a ponyta-drawn wagon. "What's going on?"

"It happens every season," Birch grumbled. "The Emperor sends his troops to collect tribute from each village and city; a generosity tax for the privilege of living under his grace and protection."

I had to shake my head to make sure I'd heard him right. "An Emperor? You people have an Emperor out here?" I knew Littleroot was old fashioned, but Emperor? At least have the dignity to call your dictator 'President' or 'Prime Minister' or 'Pokemon League Champion'! "You're talking about the Leader, right?"

"No," Birch corrected, "Leader White is the Emperor's crony, charged with administering the Petalburg region. The Emperor, meanwhile, holds supreme authority over the entire continent and the surrounding archipelago."

This was too much - I was just barely wrapping my head around the idea of shadowy racoons or self-repairing limbs, but now these people lived in an Empire? An Empire that spanned an entire continent? "I'm not in Johto anymore, am I?"

"Johto?" The professor wrinkled his nose. "Oh right, that's what you call your homeland. Well I'd say you're a long ways off and then some."

It was hard to imagine a bleaker moment in my life, and not just because of the memory business. A Lost Village in the woods, I could deal with; just a hop, skip and a jump to the nearest highway and I could hitch-hike back to civilization. But an entire landmass? I looked back to Birch's wall map and the continent so foreign. Had my kidnappers gone so far as to ship me across the sea?

"This is crazy!"

"It's not that bad, all things considered," Birch sighed. "In the other regions, tribute doesn't stop at food - they take workers, too. Here, Norman keeps the pillaging in line."

True enough, I could spy my hero by the town gates, monitoring the forced harvest with fists clenched and mouth scowling. I could see how badly he wanted to sic his vigoroths on the soldiers and cease the extortion of goods, but these thugs of the raindrop banner were beyond his authority. Still, his presence ensured the robbery was civil - if the soldiers ever raised their voices at the peasants, or drew a pike to beat a slower harvester, Norman had only to glare and the assault was cut short. Even the feral pokemon shrunk from the ranger's cold stare.

The harvest continued for some half an hour until the soldiers' cart sunk heavy with food and the villagers' baskets came back empty. Another trumpet blast and the procession marched away, a furious Norman as their escort. I could almost hear the collective gurgle of bellies when that cart passed through the gates. Could you die of hunger, I wondered? Run out of fuel for that wonderful healing process and collapse in the blood from your half-healed wounds?

I was suddenly very eager to see Linda and scarf down every breadcrumb she had left. "How did you guys end up like this?"

"The Emperor rose to power some five years ago. He gathered an army of men and pokemon and marched westward across the continent, crushing all resistance. He parceled the land into regions and left his thugs to administer the law. He takes our food to keep us weak, and he takes the elderly so we'll forget a life before his reign. Five years, and it's off to the mines on Mossdeep."

Ouch, how did you follow up a grim statement like that? "So, uh ... when are you due?"

Birch laughed. "Me? Like I said, Norman keeps the pillaging in line. He has no love for the Emperor, and Leader White prefers to keep his peasants close. I've been around twelve years; how do you think I know all this?"

"Okay, so you remember the good ol' days?"

"And what good ol' days they were!" Birch clapped me on the back and laughed. Great - now I'd done it: I'd set the old geezer into 'rambling' mode!

"You know," Birch began (that's how all adults start their "back in my day" speeches), "people didn't always stay in Littleroot. Nowadays you have to - the patrols pick up any strays they find - but anyhow, people used to go on journeys. Spiritual quests, you might say; wandering the land until you found a place that felt right.

"Me, I had that wanderlust; that 'what's my purpose' sickness. I travelled all over the continent just to figure it out. I sailed out to Dewford, I hiked through the tall grass to Fortree; why, I even dragged my way up Mount Chimney just to get a look at that bubbling lava. I needed to know what this place was and why I was here."

I was awed by the change overtaking the Professor. Recounting his days of travel and adventure lent him a profound appearance, like a wise old sage. So of course he spoiled the mood by leaning back and scratching the brown fuzz on his belly. "But you know," he concluded, "the one who really sorted me out was Steven."

"Steven? Who's that?"

Birch only smirked. "Steven would say he's 'whoever you need him to be'. He's a wanderer; travels all over the land looking for people who happen to be stuck. Then he gives them a push forward. A shoulder to cry on, a set of hands to help with a project; Steven makes it his mission to help others."

Birch rambled on, describing all the times he'd encountered Steven - the jokes they had shared, the adventures they had blazed. This Steven guy sounded like a double plus-good version of Norman: the ultimate do-gooder and according to Birch, Steven travelled with the most exotic and incredible pokemon known to man. A Metagross? Heck, I'd get myself stuck in a mountain of despair if it meant I could meet this guy and his ginormous spider-tank companion! "Wish I could meet him," I confessed.

"Wouldn't we all," Birch snorted, back to his cankerous norm. "This whole island could use one good push out of its Empire-sized rut." He didn't dismiss my comment though; because he folded his hands to his chin, 'hmm-ed', and put his PhD-powered brain to some mighty internal processing.

"If anyone knew how to find Steven, I suppose it'd be the Oracle."

"The Oracle?" I was only just allowing myself to swallow the existence of an Emperor; now these people worshiped some all-knowing gypsy fortune teller? Give me a break!

"The Oracle," he nodded. "She's a wise woman who (if she's still around) lived in Rustboro. It's a sort of sacred city, out to the west. Beyond the Emperor's control. People say she knew everything there is to know about this land."

"Everything?" I murmured, the gears of my own brain churning. "So she would know how to get me home to Johto?"

Birch made an uncomfortable grunt. "Theoretically ..."

I was up on my feet and pacing with excitement. "Why didn't anyone tell me about this Oracle lady sooner? How do I get to that city? Rustboro, right? Is it -"and then it clicked. Birch, of course, felt obliged to spell out all the obstacles in my path:

"Rabid, monstrous pokemon; soldiers recruiting for the labour camps in Mossdeep, and, for the especially unlucky, roaming crazies from Cult of Aqua, hunting for new converts. My wistful Virgil, you wouldn't survive half a day out there -" and then he gave a little pause. Oh please say it. Please, please, please say it. "Unless ..." YES!

"Unless you happened to have a companion who could keep you safe."

"Tor!" We both turned to the fiery chick, perched on Birch's work desk and flapping its wings as if to agree with the professor. Wait, how had she exited her pokeball?

Birch seemed similarly perturbed by the pokemon's appearance. He rose slowly from his seat and offered his forearm to the torchic as a perch. She accepted unquestioningly, hopping onto his sleeve with a trusting, "pic, pic!" The professor gave his bird a final, fond scratch under the chin and then turned to me.

"I believe this little lady belongs to you."

"Seriously?" But the little hen had already sprung to the air; I just barely cupped my hands in time to offer her a landing pad. My own personal attack animal! I'm king of the world! Still, I suppose protocol required me to offer a token resistance. "No, really," I hemmed, "I couldn't!"

Birch snorted. "Of course you could! You were going to steal my bag, after all. Take the bloody bird before I have to chase you out with that axe! And take these too."

A wooden box was dumped onto my lap. The torchic repositioned to my shoulder so I could unclip the lid and open the chest of red and white orbs.

"Pokeballs?"

"More or less," the professor shrugged, and on closer inspection I noticed that the spheres were actually the hard, lumpy shells of local fruit - hollowed out, fitted with a reflective, metal interior and painted the traditional capture ball colours. "Steven helped me with the design, ages ago, but now they're just taking up space."

Could my luck get any better? A daughter! I'll bet he's got a hot, blind daughter who's yearning to experience life beyond Littleroot!

"Are you waiting for a goodbye hug, kid? Scram already!"

"Oh ..." Well, two for three wasn't bad. "Um, this torchic - does she have a name?"

"Up to you," Birch shrugged. No name? What, did he wait until his pokemon were old and decrepit before bestowing personal titles?

"All right, return to your ball for now, Robin."

"Robin? Wow, real inventive, kid. Not Jay or Pidgey?"

"Better than Chance. Or Birch," I added, bee-lining for the ladder.

He shouted after me. "Follow the roads to Petalburg and head west through the old forest! Find the Oracle! Find Steven!"

Ten-four to all but that last bit, old man. The only thing I was going to find was my ticket back to Johto.

-----------------------------------------------------

"You're leaving?"

My plan had been to sneak into the house, grab my spare clothes and a bit of food and vamoose, but my absence during the 'harvest' had put Linda on high alert. The minute I crept through the front door, Megumi started barking and I was caught in a flurry of hugs and "I was so worried" speeches.

Linda took the news better than expected. I figured she'd break down, cry and beg me not to go, but she just seemed stunned. She sat me down, of course; made me tell her the whole story about Birch, the shadow pokemon, and my plan to consult the Oracle two times so she could wrap her head around the crazy scheme.

"-and it's not like I'll be alone. Birch gave me one of his pokemon! Robin can take down anything that gets in our way!"

Linda regarded the little torchic, engaged in a mutual sniff-and-greet with Megumi, while Beatrice quivered at a distance. "It's going to be dangerous, Virgil."

"If there's a chance I can get home, I've got to take it. And it's not like I need your permission."

She finally nodded. "You're right. You have to live your own life." Finally! Open road, here I come! "BUT," she interjected, "I am not letting you or your pokemon out of this house until you've had a proper lunch."

There wasn't much left in the kitchen, but Linda put together sandwich for me and some vegetable scraps for Robin. And while we ate, she paced through the house like a mad-woman, packaging food and folding clothes. It wasn't until she reappeared with a giant knapsack that I clued in. "Whoa, whoa! I can't take all this stuff!"

"It's a long road to Rustburo, never mind Petalburg town," Linda smiled. "You'll need more than the clothes on your back for this journey."

Candles, blankets, a length of rope - everything she had went into the bag. As soon as we were finished eating she whipped off the tablecloth and folded that up too! Linda's house had been modest to begin with, but now it had been picked to the bones. I didn't want her charity, but the knapsack was forced over my shoulders anyhow. "Not too heavy?"

"No," I mumbled. It wasn't my back, but my stomach that felt heavy.

Finally, Linda handed me a strange sort of animal pelt. "Something I've been working on. For your head," she explained.

It was a wig. Soft to touch and made from white slakoth hair, it fit my blistered scalp perfectly. Linda steered me to a mirror and I had to fight to keep my eyes dry. I had hair again. I looked well, not normal - not with a face like mine - but normal-er.

"Not bad," I shrugged. "And it fits. What did you do, measure my head while I was asleep?"

Linda just winked at me. "Mother's intuition."

That soured the moment. "You're not my mom," I growled. "I mean, we're not related or anything. You don't have to do all of this."

She only smiled. "You are welcome here anytime, Virgil." Then Linda did something absolutely unexpected. She called for her pokemon, scooped up her zigzagoon and wurmple for one final embrace and transferred them to my arms.

"Keep him safe," she whispered to her companions. Megumi barked affirmative, and Beatrice - quivering, cowardly Beatrice - looked to her owner, gave her best insect approximation of a nervous gulp and nodded.

I couldn't speak. I was just grateful that Linda had left the bangs of my wig long, so if I tilted my head I could avoid her eye. "When this is done I'll ... I'll bring them back for you."

I whistled for Robin and ran out the door, grateful that red was the normal hue of my face. What is wrong with her? I wondered. Why would you give so much of yourself to a stranger?

"Argh, this will take twice as long carrying this dead weight on my back! And now I've got to look after you two useless lumps, don't I?"

Megumi and Beatrice had time to register a puzzled look apiece before I conked them with capture balls and stuffed them in my pocket. "Thanks a lot, Linda."

Never mind her. It was time to get out of this worthless, backwards Littleroot Village; time to track down this crazy Oracle lady and get me some answers. It was time to go home!
Virgil's Current Team
[+] Spoiler

1/12 - NEW! - Crossing the Rubicon
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Pokemon_As_Leaders
Conqueror of the Olivine Gym
Conqueror of the Olivine Gym
Joined: November 21st, 2011, 6:10 am

February 16th, 2012, 3:42 am #7

I remember way back when you put up the prologue and I say how much I was looking forward to this... I'm so glad that you finally put up new chapters (although I could've sworn that I read Chapter One before today...) and I'm really loving the style you've got going on here!

NEVER STOP THIS AGAIN!!! It deserves to continue, damn it! :v:
[+] Spoiler

Banner by Baka!
[+] Spoiler
I'm not going to spoil this one for you
IN-BOX: ALRAUNE (Cottonee), SPORE (Foongus), DR. COG (Klink), BULB (Litwick), WHISPER (Mienfoo), ZANE (Scraggy), APOLLO (Lopunny), KEZIA (Deino)
Badge Count: 8
Body Count: 7
[+] Spoiler
]
--A Platinum Run about the end of the world--Chapter Fourteen up 08/10--Banner drawn by the awesome WinstonIII!
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Click here for PaL's Miscellaneous Composition thread!
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generic4
Conqueror of the Olivine Gym
Conqueror of the Olivine Gym
Joined: December 26th, 2011, 8:06 pm

February 16th, 2012, 3:47 am #8

Well, this is absolutely brilliant. Here's hoping at least Megumi makes it through. Beatrice too, but they're a little more fragile.
Current run:The Simple Life (last chapter up 12/12/14)
[+] Spoiler
Ceres WraithMistCharon Scythe Vibia
Completed runs:
Locke's story:Broken Memories, a Sea Green storylocke and Reckoning, a Sapphire storylocke
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Hawkfire
Conqueror of the Rustboro Gym
Conqueror of the Rustboro Gym
Joined: February 23rd, 2011, 8:06 am

February 16th, 2012, 7:05 am #9

Interesting! I'll keep an eye out on this one.
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FreeInProgress
Conqueror of the Celadon Gym
Conqueror of the Celadon Gym
Joined: July 23rd, 2011, 8:00 pm

February 22nd, 2012, 8:01 pm #10

An interesting take! I'll be keeping a close eye on this run. It's vivid and unique, and that's all you need for success. >8D
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Sperance
Conqueror of the Saffron Gym
Conqueror of the Saffron Gym
Joined: February 25th, 2012, 11:24 pm

March 18th, 2012, 10:46 pm #11

This is most interesting. Stalking now
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Cypher DS
Conqueror of the Violet Gym
Conqueror of the Violet Gym
Joined: September 4th, 2010, 3:01 am

March 23rd, 2012, 2:14 am #12

Wow, never thought I'd be glad to collect a stalker.

So, I've been a wee bit distracted with preparing for the 2012 Wi-Fi International Tournament. I was curious to see just how well my team from my Platinum nuzlocke could stand up in competitive play. Well, let's just say I've developed a new appreciation for Smogon's tier system, and why my teammates are all UU.

I've got a few finishing touches to make, but Chapter 3 should be released by Sunday, March 24th.

1/12 - NEW! - Crossing the Rubicon
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Siffleuse
Conqueror of the Cerulean Gym
Conqueror of the Cerulean Gym
Joined: March 17th, 2012, 11:41 pm

March 25th, 2012, 10:34 pm #13

So... This is just great. The way you interpret the Pokemon world is refreshing, and your writing style *.*
I am very happy I started reading this, and am definitely looking forward for more.
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Cypher DS
Conqueror of the Violet Gym
Conqueror of the Violet Gym
Joined: September 4th, 2010, 3:01 am

March 26th, 2012, 3:33 am #14

You won't have to wait any longer, Siffleuse - Chapter Three is ready to view.

I've decided to try something new, adding a recap to help bring older readers up to speed on events. Let me know if it's of any help or not.

Recap
[+] Spoiler
Hoenn. It is all that remains of Virgil's past - Nothing. Spirited away to an unknown continent, Virgil finds himself in a blighted utopia - a paradise where strange magic protects the inhabitants from injury and death while robbing all humans of their memories. A world ruled by a despotic Emperor and ravaged by otherworldly beasts.

After saving the misantropic Professor Birch from a wild pokemon attack, Virgil learns of a new hope: in the sacred city of Rustburo - a place beyond the Emperor's control - there dwells an all-knowing Oracle who could return him to his proper home. Armed with a torchic from the professor, and a wurmple and zigzagoon from his adoptive 'mother', Linda, Virgil embarks on a journey to regain his lost memories and return to his lost home.
Chapter 3 - The Ranger of Petalburg
[+] Spoiler
It took an entire freakin' day to reach Oldale, and when I finally dragged myself through the fortified gates I had gleaned one more clue about my past: I was not the outdoors type.

"Mental note," I panted to my pokeballs, "force you to guys to evolve and make you carry my stuff."

I'd been bracing for a continual onslaught of black zigzagoons - relishing it, really; I had a fire-spewing hell-bird under my command and it was my turn to be the big bad bully - but my deadliest opponent that day was the hot sun beaming down on my head. Linda's hairpiece didn't have much ventilation and I stowed it pretty quickly, preferring to douse my scalp with water from a leather skin. My back was aching, my muscles were burning, and when my wurmple-silk shirt got wet with perspiration, it got itchy!

But I soldiered on. All these little irritations spurred me forward, invigorated my march. "Air conditioning. Showers. Refrigerated water. Gotta get this over with and get back home..."

Oldale wasn't much different from Littleroot: another pious little farming community hiding behind massive walls and watchtowers. The guards let me in unquestioningly - they wouldn't condemn a stranger to the zigzagoon-infested wilderness at night - and I used a letter of introduction written by my "mother" to earn a bed from one of her trading partners. The old woman was puzzled by my journey to Rustburo, but the late hour kept her from pestering me with many questions. I crashed the minute she showed me to my cot, barely remembering to release my encapsulated trio and order them to wake me at sunrise. I wanted to leave before my host could bother me with more talk.

Interesting enough, I was barely sore the next morning. I guess my weary muscles had 'reset', to use Birch's words.

Day two turned out to be another draining and uneventful trek through the Petalburg grasslands. I was starting to wonder if Robin had previously beaten up the alpha zigzagoon, and whether that black puff of smog had warned its pack to avoid the ugly kid with the tiny phoenix. I didn't see a single pokemon all day.

Walking all alone through the middle of nowhere got boring as hell, so I released my team for the company. Beatrice was a killjoy - she and I shared a mutual dislike of the sun, and she wormed her way into the crevices of my backpack to keep cool. Whatever. Her stubby legs couldn't match pace with a human anyway. Now, Megumi could keep up, but she insisted on zigzagging through the grass and darting after whatever sparkly stone or smelly mushroom caught her attention. It was cute the first couple of time she brought me a rock, but as the game climbed into the double and triple digits I had to knock her back into her pokeball or risk losing my sanity.

As for Robin, well, at least she kept quiet. I let her perch on top of my humongous backpack - a crow's nest lookout on the S.S. Virgil. The chick was oddly calm considering her circumstances. "You know," I said to her, "if you're holding down a panic attack and need to freak out, now's a good time to get it over with."

"Pic?"

"Nothing to be ashamed of. Abandoned by your owner, kicked out of your safe and comfy home; trapped on a vagabond journey in some bizarro world with a total stranger. Perfectly natural to go nuts and panic." I glanced over my shoulder. Robin stared back, so I took that as a sign to continue.

"You know, I had it pretty bad when I first got here. Thought the villagers had kidnapped me and done something to my face. I went nuts - like, "shut me in a closet and call me 'claustrophobic' nuts". First chance I got, I bolted into the forest.

"Of course, that was when I still thought this was the back woods of Johto. I figured I'd find a highway on the other side of the trees and a truck driver who could take me back to civilization, television and tauros-burgers."

All I found was more forest. The brush grew thick, dark and repetitive until I felt like a cartoon character looping over recycled background frames. I was lost, dehydrated and - lucky me - a wild zigzagoon appeared! One of those black, crazy suckers with a taste for human flesh. It chased me, nipping and clawing at my legs until I toppled into the mud. I thought I was going to die; in fact, the zig was gearing up for the final blow when a new shadow stepped onto the scene.

"End of the line my fine, furry friend."

Norman. Planted between me and my doom: broad chest, square jaw, fists on his hips like a hero out of a Supermon comic. You know that story? The baby Cleffa, only survivor rocketed off a dying planet, adopted by Earth folk and gains superpowers? Fights for truth, justice and the Unovan way?

Bah, Google it, you Philistine!

Well the zig must have been feeling lucky because it pounced. Norman didn't even flinch; he just threw up an elbow and let the beast clamp down on his forearm. Supermon. He even had a cheesy one-liner prepared - "Sorry, stripy, but my friend is not on the menu tonight!" - before he grabbed the 'goon's tail, spun around like a shot-put thrower and launched the black cloud over the tree line.

Norman dusted off his hands - just another day on the job. "You must be Virgil," he said, flashing that honest, farm-boy smile Cleff Kent used in the comics. "Ready to go home, son?"

"When we got back to Littleroot, there was a whole search party looking for me. Linda'd panicked and gotten Norman and the Petalburg Rangers involved. After that, things got bearable. Kinda resigned myself to being stuck in Littleroot, but meeting Norman helped a lot too. When his patrols took him near the village he'd stop by and we'd talk. He's not stuck like the rest of these farm hicks - Norman sees something he doesn't like, he does something about it!

"Anyhow, the point is, if you're scared, well, it gets better." I looked back for a reaction and got a face-full of Robin's tail feathers. Her mind was absorbed by the horizon.

"Fine, then," I growled. But don't think that makes you better than me.

My wurmple was wimpy, my zigzagoon was zippy but my torchic - she had the most unfathomable penchant for trust and curiosity. All day long she kept swiveling her head like a security camera, squinting her black button eyes to get a good look at her new world. If I pulled out a package from my knapsack, Robin insisted on inspecting it first, trotting up to the fascinating trinket and poking her beak into the contents. She was determined to see everything up close.

And she had to stay close. If I let her walk on her own or if I stepped into the bushes for a pee break, Robin would flap her wings and break into little cheeps of distress. "I'm over here, stupid. Relax!" But she would continue to shriek and flail as though the sky were falling until I strode over and knelt before her, offering my palm to nuzzle her head against.

"So that's your weak spot - terrified of being alone?"

I thought I'd get a moment more to gloat, but Robin had already fallen asleep in my palm.

As the capital of the Leader's kingdom, Petalburg town was a proper metropolis. It was no Goldenrod - not by a long shot - but its tightly-packed houses and market roads bustling with foot traffic felt as comforting as a hot slice of home-made pie. Okay, the streets were cobblestone and the vehicles were just carts and rickshaws, but my city-slicker heart went gooey as a grimer now that I could disappear among the great crowds of civilization. Just a little further. Just a little further and I will be home.

Oldale, I had cleared as quickly as possible, but here I lingered. The streets were lined with colourful banners and I could hear music originating from the center of town. A party? What perfect timing! Linda had given me enough dried fruits to last a week, but here I could smell fresh bread and pastries! I recalled my team, adjusted my wig and let my nose guide the way to the celebratory freebies.

Petalburg's central plaza had been converted into a colourful mess hall, with long tables piled high with fruits, dainties and beer kegs. The party, however, was exclusive - reserved for the Emperor's gold-plated soldiers, laughing and joking as they ate and drank everything in sight.

"Disgusting, isn't it?" That came from the fellow on my right. I was one of a large gathering of hungry onlookers, spying on the feasting soldiers and their pokemon from the alleyways. "Those savages march through to our lands, rob us blind, and our Leader makes them his guests of honour. Animals!"

"Save your breath for the local animal," another growled. "The one inside our walls. There's a great, gluttonous ape ruining everything in this town. Just look at what he's done to poor Wally."

"Who's Wally?" I asked. An angry man with a scar through his forehead glared at my ignorance. "Wally White? The Leader's son? The boy caught himself a pokemon and now his father's forcing him to become a ranger!"

"Poor thing," a woman to my left chimed in. "That boy can barely run, let alone fend off an attack from those black devils. I heard Norman tried to talk the Leader out of it and got a hundred lashes for disobedience."

"I heard it was the 'Twenty Breaks'," said another. "Didn't you see how he was limping last week? Whatever he got, it wasn't something to shrug off easily."

Now that got my attention. "Norman? Is he here?"

"Stuck on guard duty at the stables, I think." The crowd gave me directions and I was off and running. I had zero interest in the politics of this backwards island, but if this Oracle really could send me home then this would be my last chance to see Norman, and I owed him above all people the courtesy of a proper goodbye.

"Norman!" I found my Supermon at the town stables, looking tired and frustrated as he hauled pails of water for the thirsty ponytas. The drudgery was probably a punishment handed down by this almighty Leader. As captain of the local law enforcement, Norman had higher callings than watering work horses, and it shocked me to see the anger crackling through the ranger's kind eyes. How long has Norman lived here? I wondered. How long has he put up with this garbage?

I hesitated, but then called again. "Norman!" This time he turned, and it made me proud that I could replace his grimness with an excited smile. "Well I'll be a mankey's uncle! Look who's come on up to the big city, Ling-Ling, it's Virgil!"

"Really?!" gasped a child's voice, then, "Hurray, it really is Virgil!" and a fuzzy cannonball tackled me to the ground for a round of bear hugs. Ling-Ling, Norman's spinda, was anything but restrained. "I missed you super-super much, Virgil! Didja come ta see Wally's celery moaning?"

"You mean 'Ceremony'," Norman corrected.

"Yeah, yeah - that thing! Wally found a super-special pokemon, so Papa's makin' him a pokemon ranger! Isn't that awesome?"

"That sure is something, Ling-Ling." I had to wheeze out that line, what with the little teddy bear bouncing on my rib cage. I'd forgotten how affectionate the little kid was.

"Didja bring me any presents, Virgil? Didja, didja??"

"I did bring a little something. Or better yet, 'someone'." There must have been one goofy grin all over my face as I retrieved my capsules. I'd been wondering how best to show off my pokemon to Norman, and this seemed the perfect introduction. Ling-Ling's jaw dropped as Megumi, Beatrice and then Robin materialized from beams of red light

"Wow, Papa, didja see that? It's magic! And Virgil made some new friends too! Papa, can we go play? Can we, pretty-please?"

Norman glanced my way, and I deferred to him with a shrug - didn't matter to me. "I think that's a great idea, Ling-Ling. Say, why don't you show Virgil's friends the south well? I bet Wally would enjoy the company." The dizzy little spinda wasted no time dragging off my pokemon in a 'follow-the-leader' race, while I stayed to help Norman carry his pails. I didn't ask, but I noticed an obvious limp in his walk.

"A torchic," he exclaimed. "I gotta say, Virgil, you're full of more surprises than a Clefairy's finger. Where'd you find that little lady? And what're those coloured shells you've got?"

"Pokeballs," I explained, letting him examine one of my stock. "Or, at least pretty close to the concept. Where I'm from, we use them to transport pokemon. Professor Birch from Littleroot gave these ones to me. The torchic too."

The capture ball left Norman completely baffled. As he peered and tapped at the storage device I couldn't help but think of primitive Man's first cautious interaction with fire. He handed it back carefully, a little wary of the device, I think. "Birch, huh? You must have tickled that man's funny bone just right. He's patched up my boys a few times, but he's a right prickly pear about lending anyone a hand. Ain't that right, Brutus? Victor?"

Norman's vigoroths grunted in agreement from the back of the stable. (Seemed the brothers needed another round of evolution for the brains to master human language.) Now, I assumed that Norman had brought them along to guard the soldiers' cart, but why did guard duty require the twin apes to haul huge wheelbarrows full of rocks? "Hey, what're you guys doing here?"

Norman flashed an honest grin. "Us? Oh, just a little landscaping project. See, there were all these boulders on the far side of town - taking up some mighty prime farmland, and I figured the Emperor's finest might lend a hand haulin' em away for us."

The vigoroths shared a cheeky laugh, and motioned for me to come close while they opened the soldier's canvassed cart and began swapping loaves of bread for lumps of rock. "You're taking the food back!"

"Well, everything but the top layer," Norman shrugged. "Gotta make it convincing in case one of 'em looks back or takes a snack."

Relief, sweet relief! I'd thought Norman's do-gooder spirit had finally been crushed, but all that anger and exhaustion I'd seen outside were merely the tricks of a clever actor, a mask of humility hiding a hero's drive for justice. "But won't you get in trouble if you're caught?"

"Trouble? Bah, I've sat through this sad spectacle enough times to know how it'll work - the platoon's gonna leave town tonight, every one of them drunk as skuntank in a batch of bad sitrus. They'll head east, over the river, and by the time any of 'em bothers to check under the tarp they'll be too far gone to do anything about it. If they're smart, they'll blame it on a raid by the Cult of Aqua and they'll stay out of trouble for drinking on duty.


"Besides," Norman continued, "taxes aughta be collected for the people's sake, not for some con-man on a far-off island who calls himself the messenger of God."

Clearly this Emperor guy was anything but respected. "But you still follow Leader White?"

Norman exhaled. "Virgil, when you're between a sawk and a hard place, you've got to pick your battles wisely. Don't get me wrong - Walter White is as kindly as a cacturne, and I'd like nothing better than to knock that puppet off his perch, but if we got rid of him the Emperor would only send someone worse. I tolerate him, Virgil. We all have to."

His voice lowered to a whisper. "White's sent me travelling on all sorts of diplomatic missions. I've met the people in charge of the other territories and let me tell you, the way they rule their lands, they make liepards look civilized. These leaders, they look human, but they ain't natural."

The itch creeping into my face told me it was time to change subjects. "So, I heard you've got a new recruit?"

Norman sighed. "Something like that. Wally - that's the Leader's kid - snuck out of the palace about a week back and came home with a pokemon. Well, you should've seen White, the man was happier than a chansey in a cubone's nest. Started ranting about his boy 'finally becoming a man', dragged me off duty and told me I was gonna train his Wally into a great warrior."

"I hear this Wally's a pretty lame ducklett. That it'll take a miracle to make him a ranger."

A laugh. "Well then, they'll just have to call me Norman the Miracle-Maker. Hey, why don't I introduce you him. C'mon!"

We walked over to the south courtyard, where Ling-Ling had appropriated the central fountain into a water park for my pokemon. The spinda's energy was infectious - he'd even convinced Beatrice to join in the splashing and swimming. A human boy was also dancing around in his bare feet, and one look told me that he must have been Wally. Put simply, the boy was a total loser. Twiggy limbs, a pale mop of green hair; heck, his white shirt had more colour than his skin! Not to mention the complete lack of stamina - he put in a good effort splashing around with the pokemon, but he constantly paused to catch his breath, and even the simple act of laughing aloud would be cut short and converted into a hacking cough. I know that taming anything stronger than a zig or wurmple qualified you for the rangers, but I couldn't see any future defender of Petalburg in this genetic reject.

Naturally, I had zero interest in mincing niceness with the kid, but Norman had already called him over. "Wally, I'd like you to meet a friend of mine. This is Virgil from Littleroot."

Wally flinched when we shook hands. I didn't grab hard or anything, but when he withdrew his fingers they were black with bruises. "Hullo," he croaked. Literally. The kid looked ten but spoke like a lifelong chain-smoker.

"Um, hi." And then we just stared at each other.

"What happened to your face?"

If I'd been faster, things could have gotten ugly, but Norman put his hand on my shoulder before I could make a move. "Wally," he coughed, "I was just telling Virgil about your new pokemon. Do you think we could meet him?" The boy nodded and toddled off to find his monster, while Norman kept my temper cool.

"He's just a boy, Virgil. He didn't mean anything by it."

I nodded, but didn't reply.

"We're all the same," he continued. "We all have our marks." But why was mine so obvious? A scar, a missing limb, an ugly wound on your chest - all of those were so easy to conceal, and here in Petalburg, as in Littleroot, fashion dictated long, draping sleeves, scarves and cloaks in which to wrap your body. I ran a hand across my face, feeling the rough, blistered remains of flesh. It never hurt outright, just a phantom pain whenever I thought about it too much, and I could see perfectly fine despite the milky film covering my right orb. No, I think what really pissed me off was the obviousness of my deformity. Linda's wig helped conceal my scalp, bald and lumpy with burnt flesh, but short of donning a full-head veil and sweating through the heat, I had to bare my shame to the world. "Look kids, it's Virgil the human marshmallow - somebody stuck him in the fire a bit too long, though. Whoo-wee, look at that sucker burn!"

"Where's your mark?" I asked. Norman deflected my question, though. "Look, here comes Wally. Be cool."

The kid had returned carrying his identical baby brother. Same green hair, same white skin, same uselessly frail body. "This is Delphi," he explained proudly, lifting his trophy to my face. "He's my partner. We're gonna be the best rangers ever! If anyone messes with my dad, Delphi and me are gonna make 'em pay!"

A Ralts. Son of a Steelix, some people got all the luck! I had no illusions about Wally - he was doomed to a lifetime as a pathetic worm, but if he and Norman trained Delphi hard enough, that little nerd would have unlimited psychic potential at his command!

Norman nudged me, so I did my best to smile. "Well gee golly, aren't you lucky, Wally. Finding such a -" fantastic, unstoppable, omnipotent "... neat pokemon."

"It's more like Delphi found Wally," Norman explained. "Ralts are highly empathetic - they can sense strong emotions in other creatures. Grief and rage, they stay clear from that stuff, but gentleness and kindness draw them in like combees towards wild flowers. You can tell a lot about a person by how a Ralts reacts to him."

I was going to interject and clarify how that story was just an old wives tale when Delphi, whose quiet cooing had aggravated into rabid snarling, jumped from Wally's arms and sank his teeth into my hand.

Now, the next part I don't remember quite so well - everything happened all so suddenly and I may have gotten a little carried away in the heat of the moment. Having a wild animal clamp its jaws over your fingers would exasperate the best of us. So I may have reacted a little poorly - screaming and flailing around like a gyrados washed up on the seashore - and I may have acted with a less than healthy concern for Delphi's well-being, swinging my arm wildly and looking for some solid object against which to bash the little beastie's brain. And maybe - emphasis on maybe - while I was blinded to all but my desire to quell the pain, someone with green hair happened to step into the path of my out-of-control Ralts-hand.

So, when you ask me, "Virgil, how did Wally end up flying across the courtyard and hitting his head on the cobblestones?" I can say with absolute honesty that I truly have no idea.

But all of that was inconsequential. What really mattered is that for no good reason I was suddenly dog-piled by a secret service unit of Wigglytuffs and Loudreds, backpack confiscated, hands bound and then dragged across town like I was public enemy number one.

Overreact much?

My captors yanked me through the gates of Petalburg's tallest building and tossed me onto the cold marble of a fancy throne room. That was my introduction to Walter White, the much-reviled Leader of Petalburg province.

Everyone had said the man was an animal, but I hadn't realized they'd been speaking literally. The Leader looked like an ape-pokemon, a proto-human with an upturned snout, bald head and all-too beady eyes tucked under a heavy brow. He was fat too, and proud of it, keeping his gold-embroidered robe open to show off his lazy paunch and huge man-boobs.

Seemed I had interrupted during meal time, judging by the trays of food surrounding his throne. White was gorging himself on whole melons, crushing the tough rinds with his bare hands and stuffing the wet flesh into his mouth. Anything too tough to swallow he spat into a golden spittoon strapped to the head of a rather unhappy-looking whismur. Let's just say White wasn't the most accurate shot.

The rangers guarding me didn't like it when I tried to look away - disrespectful, I guess - so I had to lie there on the ground, watching the spectacle until White had eaten his fill. When he spoke, it was in simple grunts. "You making trouble for my boy?"

"He started it." Okay, in retrospect, that did sound pretty lame, but in the heat of the moment it was the best I had.

White flared his nostrils. "Littleroot," he snarled. "I can smell the country stink all over you. There's two rules for your kind. One, keep the food coming." He paused to smash open another melon. "And two, keep the peace. Trouble enough here with wild animals. I don't need trouble from wild men."

White grabbed a golden goblet and drained the wine in one gulp. "My Petalburg town is a civilized place," he warned, while red liquid dribbled down his chin.

"Look, I didn't do anything - it was that stupid Wally and his stupid ralts! Go tie him up, why don't you!?"

That was a mistake. Lesson of the day, kids - you can be an ugly, stupid brute but that does not mean you don't love your children with every fibre of your being. The gloves were off. "We keep no prisons in Petalburg," White warned me. "No need. When men break my law, I make them wear the chain." His little whismur attendant was pulling at some metal links behind the throne. White picked up the little guy, tossing it and its payload at me.

A monstrous iron ball smashed into the floor tiles, followed by a set of heavy chains ending in four spiked manacles. The spikes, fyi, were on the interior of each cuff.

"The chain," White reiterated. "And my rangers toss you into the woods to cool your head. To respect the law, you have to live in a world without it. Nothing builds respect more than a night outdoors."

This was insane; I hadn't meant to hit Wally, even if I did think he was a sniveling waste of flesh! I tried explaining, as calmly and reasonably as I could, what a great misunderstanding this all was, and maybe the threat of torture made my words come out a little panicky.

"Look at you," White snorted, "On your knees and begging for mercy! An animal - biting at the weak, whimpering when you find a foe too strong! Guards, ready the chain!"

"No!"

White only smiled as his rangers seized me. "To tame the animal within, it has to be taken out. The zigzagoons will take your animal - take it piece by piece!"

"NO!"

I wasn't the one to scream this time. It was Norman. Supermon had come to my rescue again! I didn't expect this new brand of rescuing, though.

Norman threw himself to the floor, a penitent man. "Mercy, my Leader! I beg of you! This is all my fault. In a moment of weakness I grew angry, and Delphi tried to attack me! I'm to blame for what happened to your son! Please, dear Leader, this boy was just a bystander. Wally's pain was my fault!"

"Your fault?" White bellowed. "And just what had you to be angry about, my Captain Norman? Do you find my kingdom unpleasant?

Norman averted his eyes.

White put his monkey brain to hard work, snorting and snuffing over this new testimony. He wanted someone tortured; it was clear as daylight that this monster was starving for screams of misery, but who to choose - a helpless boy framed for an act of violence, or a seditious captain of his troops? The leader chewed his lips and ground his teeth and finally gestured that I be released to the floor.

"We will talk later, Captain Norman. You and I, we will talk of many things."

Norman had been faking his emotions before, but there was no lie in his trembling body or his wide eyes. "Yes, my leader."

"You'll return to the stables immediately," White continued. "But first, you will take this ugly child and remove him from my Petalburg."

"Yes, my leader."

"Boy," White called to me, "Never let me see your face again. The chain is but my first tool of law. Am I right, Captain Norman?"

A spasm wracked my hero's body, and he had to force out his words. "Y-yes, my leader."

Norman escorted me back to the stables, where Ling-Ling and the vigoroths had been left to guard my backpack and my pokemon. I capsuled my team and we left without a word. Even Ling-Ling knew this was no time for banter.

Despite its size, Petalburg could still spread gossip as quickly as a small town. By the time we left the palace, everyone knew what had happened to Wally, and the price Norman would pay for my acquittal. A thousand hateful eyes burned into the back of my neck as Norman lead me through the streets. He wasn't just my hero, I realized. All of Petalburg loved the ranger captain, admired his dedication in raising a team of defenders and respected the pain he endured to keep the citizens safe. Even if the Leader hadn't threatened my exile I knew I'd never be permitted to show my face in the capital again. Not after what I had done to Norman. Wally and his Ralts were among the onlookers shaming me, and the hate twisting through their faces told what would happen if we ever met again.

The town outskirts approached. This was not at all how I had envisioned our goodbye. I couldn't leave with such a silence hanging between us. "So, um, the cart - are you still -"

"Virgil, it's time for you to go home."

I'd been bitten by animals, bullied around and beaten with a stick, but those words cut me with a new and deeper pain. "I'm sorry," I whispered. "I made a real mess of things." Norman just kept walking. "The Leader, he was bluffing, right? I mean, it's not like he really chains people up and throws them into the woods at night, right?"

"Virgil, as a pokemon ranger it is my duty to keep the peace in Petalburg province. So if my Leader ordered it, yes, I would prepare the chain and leave you to the wilds."

We resumed our walk in silence.

"It's strange, though," he continued. "On nights when the Leader orders a chaining, my vigoroths and I get this funny itch to go outdoor camping. We stay up all night and boy howdy, if any wilds come near our camp you can bet we give 'em hell."

Norman looked back at me, flashing that care-free farm boy smile. I didn't know if my tear ducts still worked, or if they were clogged behind charred skin, but I sure felt ready to give them a try. "How can you say that?" I blurted. "How can you be so good all the time? I screwed up - I wanted to hit that little brat - and now you're letting yourself be tortured so I can walk free? How can you act like everything is okay?"

"Everything is okay," Norman smiled. "Because I know you'll be safe."

Wet. They worked. They really did work. "Thank you, Norman."

"A 'thank you' from grumpy ol' Virgil? I guess Wally's training will have to settle for miracle number two."

I managed a laugh. "You're impossible, you know that?"

"And you're a good kid, Virgil. Don't get so hung up on letting your outside define your inside. There's more to you than that."

"I guess."

"And I know. Now come on, it's past noon but if we hurry we can make it to Oldale before nightfall."

"Actually, can we leave by the west gate? I'm not going back to Littleroot."

"Well you sure can't stay here. You heard the Leader."

"I know, it's cool. I'm going to Rustburo."

Well that stopped everything. "Rustburo?" Norman looked at me as though I had just declared myself a member of Team Rocket. "Virgil, you didn't just stop by to show off that torchic, did you?"

I sighed. "This is going to be a long story."

And it was. And when I was finished, Norman wasn't excited for me in the least bit. "Virgil, you've been lucky to make it this far with two house-pets and an untrained torchic, but it's dangerous going any further. As bad as things get here with White, I guarantee you the world past our borders is one hell of a mess worse."

"I know, I know - I've seen the zigzagoons."

Norman snorted. "Zigzagoons! You think zigzagoons are the worst you've got to deal with? I'm talking about people. The folk beyond Petalburg are nastier than a newborn deino. Virgil, why don't you stay here? You're a tough kid, and that bird of yours sounds like she can pack a wallop. The rangers need all the help we can get."

"Are you saying -?"

"Virgil, I can't change anything about the Empire, and we're stuck here with White selling us out to the big boss. It's a messed-up world, but this is my home and I want to do everything in my power to keep the people here safe. What d'ya say? Will you help me, Virgil?"

Virgil. Not "Just Virgil" anymore but Virgil the Pokemon Ranger; Virgil, Defender of Petalburg. Virgil, Norman's Friend. It was such an effort to speak, but in the end, I had to be Virgil of Johto. "Thanks, Norman, but I've got to see this oracle and find my way home."

Norman chuckled. "Home isn't a place, Virgil; it's the people you share your life with." He managed a smile, and I think that however much my refusal disappointed him, my conviction pleased him even more. I wasn't stuck anymore - I was taking action to change my world.

"Now, I'm not gonna say anymore," he continued. "You've gotta leave town and you gotta choose your own path, but I do want you to take something. Think of it as a bit of 'home away from home'." From his red ranger jacket, Norman produced a yellow, handheld communicator. "We call these Pokenavs. Standard issue for all rangers. This one is loaded with my personal frequency. Go to Rustburo, Virgil, but keep in touch. It doesn't even have to be if you're in trouble - just keep me updated. I'll even pass on your news to Linda whenever I'm in Littleroot."

Now it was my turn to look like a dumbfounded caveman. A walkie-talkie. An honest-to-god real piece of electronics! "You're kidding me! How does this work?"

"White orders them from some mechanic out in Mauville. As for the 'how', these things leave me as stumped as a snover in a scyther's den. I'm just grateful that they do work."

I brought the pokenav to my lips. "Thanks Norman," my voice echoed from a receiving unit in his jacket. "I'll call every day."

Norman tussled my hair and gave a final smile for good-luck. "Get going, Johto boy. You've got to clear the Petalburg Woods before sundown."

I nodded and started running. I wasn't sure whether I'd ever get my memories back, but I would fight tooth and nail if anyone tried to take my memories of Norman.

I ran west and left civilization behind me. Petalburg's buildings shrunk beneath the horizon, the cobblestone road decayed into dirt, and an angry ocean of trees rose up like an approaching storm. The road suddenly ended - fully consumed by weeds and claimed once more by the wilderness. All that stood between me and the dark forest was an endless field of wild grass and a wind-weathered signpost that read "Caution! Petalburg Woods ahead!"

The last obstacle between me and the Oracle's sacred city. Moment of truth. I shook out my nerves, sucked in a last breath of air, and stepped into the tall grass.

A black snout popped out of the thicket, snarling. "Well, well," I grinned. "Look who finally decided to show up."

Maybe the zig understood human speech, because its jaws curled a little wider, as though to smirk, and it gave a single bark - the deployment command. Suddenly I wasn't up against just one measly puff of smoke, but a whole thundercloud of black, lightning-branded zigzagoons.

Piece of cake. I tossed out all three of my pokemon even though I knew I would only make use of one. Beatrice took one look at the horde, shrieked and crawled up my leg and underneath my shirt. Megumi made a good effort of growling at her vaporous compatriots, but I could tell she wanted to flee just as badly. Only Robin maintained her cool, tilting her head and squinting as though she couldn't tell what all the fuss was about.

She was about to find out. "Robin, burn 'em up!"

A quick nod, then she was in attack-mode, flapping above the tall grass and firing a hot ember at the lead zig.

A clear miss. The tiny meteorite skipped through the grass.

"What was that? Robin - again!"

She gave me an odd blink but then fired off round two. This volley flew wide and to the right. "Robin, what the hell?"

She turned to my voice, clearly as confused as I. Only she didn't look directly at me, more like off to the side. "Pic?" she called to the empty air. Beatrice started screaming, and Robin repositioned to stare at the new sound. Then the lead zig gave a nasty bark and Robin swiveled again, allowing a second racoon to headbutt her blindside.

Tumbling through the grass left Robin completely disoriented - she resorted to her distress shrieks, flapping and cheeping for her trainer's help, and I could have been a million miles away for all she knew, because although she stared directly at me she was completely alone in her world of sound.

Birch, you two-faced son of a mawile! You didn't give me Robin for help; you gave her away because she's blind!

All this while, the zigs were scampering forward, black lightning crackling through the grass until we were surrounded by an electric fence. Not like this, I thought. I am not letting myself be dragged into the woods to become the self-refilling meat locker for a bunch of mutated raccoons!

"Back off!" I yelled. "I'm the alpha dog, got that? Rawr! Rawr!!" Yes, I actually snarled at them, don't judge me!

"I said, 'Back off'!!" Louder! I've got to be bigger than them! I threw my arms back, sucked in enough oxygen to fill a hot-air balloon, and prepared to scream out my lungs!

The cold, chilling howl of a wolf washed over the field.

Which was odd, seeing as I had yet to exhale.

The zigs found it odd as well. They froze, snouts darting about, trying to pinpoint the hunter's cry. The howls were growing louder. Whatever it was, it was coming closer.

These black zigzagoons did not seem to like surprises. One by one they vanished - literally vanished - bursting into little puffs of smoke that sunk into the ground like a toxic mist. Just what the hell were those things? And just what the hell was this new creature rustling through the bushes? Beatrice squealed, Megumi clung to my leg (I scooped her up and clung back), and Robin -

Robin squinted and stepped towards the sound. She tripped on a rock and fell flat on her face. A shadow stretched out of the bushes.

And then a little black puppy trotted onto the field. No, not a dog - that implied tameness. This was a wolf cub with angry yellow eyes and fangs too long to fit in its jaw. It didn't spare a glance at Linda's pokemon or me, quivering in our little puddles of urine. It smelled chicken. Dumb, easy poultry wriggling helplessly in the grass - Robin may as well have jumped into a greasy bucket with a side order of fries; she was that easy to catch!

The wolf trotted over to Robin, clamped its jaws over the scruff of her neck and pulled the little hen onto her feet.

I blinked. That was a funny way to eat your dinner.

Robin, ever-trusting Robin, could hear the newcomer breathing and hopped over to the wolf cub to chirp a sort of greeting. The pup only snorted in her face and turned away, snout held high and aloof. His body language seemed to be a warning: Don't mess up again, rookie. You might not be so lucky next time.

Then the pup - the poochyena - glared my way, barking once and tossing his snout in the direction of the far-off woods. Well, his posture growled, we going or what?

"Uh ... sure. I guess ... Amon?"

The name had popped into my head. I think I had read it in a history textbook or something. An ancient protector of the poor, or whatever. The name seemed to fit, or at least Amon gave no objection to his new namesake. He took the lead, trotting far enough ahead to avoid socializing, but close enough to cast angry glares back at Robin, checking to see if she was keeping up.

It looked like someone had just found herself a watchdog.
Virgil's Current Team
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1/12 - NEW! - Crossing the Rubicon
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Pokemon_As_Leaders
Conqueror of the Olivine Gym
Conqueror of the Olivine Gym
Joined: November 21st, 2011, 6:10 am

March 26th, 2012, 4:56 am #15

SO WORTH THE WAIT, LET ME TELL YOU THAT RIGHT NAOUGHW :v:

At first, though, I have to say that I was a bit put-off by the Supermon references (however clever they actually were), but as I continued reading, I guess it sort of clicked that Virgil's just trying to remember the good things back from home that he's missing out on by being sucked into Hoenn (Look at Captain Obvious pointing out the... well, the obvious!). I was kind of waiting for a little quirk with Petalburg, in all honesty--I mean, you've got the whole "perfect idyllic village set-up complete with self-healing wounds and memory loss" from Littleroot, and I was hoping to see something else sort of unique on that sort of level... but that's just me having wishful thinking (personally, I'll read it and fall in love with it regardless :v: I'm smitten--and that's not a word I use to describe anything EVER).

As for the end of your chapter, d'awwwwww with Robin and Amon! Something tells me that the Poochyena's gonna be more than just a protector in the long run...

Like I've said before (or maybe I haven't, I don't remember at this point...), this run is fan-fucking-tastic! I haven't read something this vivid and detailed in quite a while! Keep up the good work, and I'm looking forward to the next update!
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IN-BOX: ALRAUNE (Cottonee), SPORE (Foongus), DR. COG (Klink), BULB (Litwick), WHISPER (Mienfoo), ZANE (Scraggy), APOLLO (Lopunny), KEZIA (Deino)
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Sperance
Conqueror of the Saffron Gym
Conqueror of the Saffron Gym
Joined: February 25th, 2012, 11:24 pm

March 26th, 2012, 8:52 am #16

Oh, God. You didn't. You didn't make the fire-breathing mon blind. That's just asking for trouble. As with the other chapters, I loved this. And I'll admit, the part about "truth, justice and the Unovan way" just cracked me up. Keep up the good work!
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Day Maker
Conqueror of the Fortree Gym
Conqueror of the Fortree Gym
Joined: July 17th, 2010, 12:32 am

March 26th, 2012, 5:25 pm #17

Completely threw me off with Robin. Birch is a grade A prick now. Though I'm trying to figure out how Virgil didn't notice until now.

Apart from that, I have to give you credit for what you did to Wally (i.e. whacked by a flailing madman because he'd been bitten.), Though Mr. White might be forced into an unfortunate fate eventually. And I wonder what the woods will have.
That guy who'd not shut up about being optimistic about others and abused :P

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All the old run stuff moved to the blog.
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generic4
Conqueror of the Olivine Gym
Conqueror of the Olivine Gym
Joined: December 26th, 2011, 8:06 pm

March 26th, 2012, 6:07 pm #18

Huh. A blind fire-spewing and hard-kicking bird? Interesting. This run just keeps getting better.
Current run:The Simple Life (last chapter up 12/12/14)
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Ceres WraithMistCharon Scythe Vibia
Completed runs:
Locke's story:Broken Memories, a Sea Green storylocke and Reckoning, a Sapphire storylocke
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Siffleuse
Conqueror of the Cerulean Gym
Conqueror of the Cerulean Gym
Joined: March 17th, 2012, 11:41 pm

March 27th, 2012, 1:15 am #19

Ohlala so much interesting action!
You have a way of making secondary, mildly-annoying characters interesting. Norman is my new hero, and I also enjoy Wally's character. Mostly, I appreciated your starting to give moral flaws to Virgil. I enjoy reading things where the protagonist is not beyond all reproach, but it is often hard to do (because well, writers usually love their protagonists or... get enough of them too soon and give up). This is very well done however. I also have a soft spot for physically damaged characters, so Virgil and Robin are about perfect here.
The way you develop the lore is also fascinating. I really enjoy the pseudo-medieval (and truly feudal) setting, and the political aspect of it all is getting to me. Very, very original ideas for a Pokemon run.
Thank you for your update and I have to say that awwww the end was so cute!
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Cypher DS
Conqueror of the Violet Gym
Conqueror of the Violet Gym
Joined: September 4th, 2010, 3:01 am

March 28th, 2012, 4:04 am #20

Siffleuse wrote:Ohlala so much interesting action!
You have a way of making secondary, mildly-annoying characters interesting. Norman is my new hero, and I also enjoy Wally's character. Mostly, I appreciated your starting to give moral flaws to Virgil. I enjoy reading things where the protagonist is not beyond all reproach, but it is often hard to do (because well, writers usually love their protagonists or... get enough of them too soon and give up). This is very well done however. I also have a soft spot for physically damaged characters, so Virgil and Robin are about perfect here.
The way you develop the lore is also fascinating. I really enjoy the pseudo-medieval (and truly feudal) setting, and the political aspect of it all is getting to me. Very, very original ideas for a Pokemon run.
Thank you for your update and I have to say that awwww the end was so cute!
Glad to hear that you're enjoying Virgil! Writing that boy is something of a tightrope act - I want him to come off as flawed and with unlikeable points, but I don't want his bad attitude to turn off readers at this early stage.
I must say I'm surprised at how many people enjoyed Robin's introduction to Amon. Is there some 'puppy love' there? We'll have to see!

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Pokemon_As_Leaders wrote:I was kind of waiting for a little quirk with Petalburg, in all honesty--I mean, you've got the whole "perfect idyllic village set-up complete with self-healing wounds and memory loss" from Littleroot, and I was hoping to see something else sort of unique on that sort of level... but that's just me having wishful thinking (personally, I'll read it and fall in love with it regardless :v: I'm smitten--and that's not a word I use to describe anything EVER).
I guess I did fly through Petalburg a little quickly, but future towns should have a little more local character.
Sperance wrote:Oh, God. You didn't. You didn't make the fire-breathing mon blind. That's just asking for trouble. As with the other chapters, I loved this. And I'll admit, the part about "truth, justice and the Unovan way" just cracked me up. Keep up the good work!
Thanks, Sperance. I originally had a line where Virgil compares himself to the damsel in distress, Lopunny Lane, but that ended up on the cutting floor.
Day Maker wrote:Completely threw me off with Robin. Birch is a grade A prick now. Though I'm trying to figure out how Virgil didn't notice until now.

Apart from that, I have to give you credit for what you did to Wally (i.e. whacked by a flailing madman because he'd been bitten.), Though Mr. White might be forced into an unfortunate fate eventually. And I wonder what the woods will have.
If you care to make any predictions on Leader White's fate, I'd love to hear them. :biggrin:
As for the woods, it is a new area, so expect a new pokemon (or two). Then of course there's our first encounter with the mysterious Cult of Aqua.
generic4 wrote:Huh. A blind fire-spewing and hard-kicking bird? Interesting. This run just keeps getting better.
Just wait until she becomes a Combusken. Then I can really start the Zatoichi references! (If Robin survives that far ...)
Thanks to everyone who's replied so far! First, I need to make a quick announcement for those who read the chapter in the first 24 hours - I've re-read chapter three and made a few cosmetic updates (Norman explains his bread-swapping plan in more detail, I've re-written Virgil's description of Petalburg Woods) and corrected one cosmic blunder because I did not do the research. The name of Wally's ralts was supposed to be Delphi, in reference to the location of the Temple of Apollo and one of the great Greek prophets. The pokemon names in this run are all specifically chosen, either for the literal definition of the name, or in reference to other fictional characters (well, except for Ling-Ling. I just named him after my favourite brand of panda bear pot-stickers.)

I'm off to work on chapter four! Hopefully I can improve my time between deliveries.

1/12 - NEW! - Crossing the Rubicon
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