So you know how on my profile it said "I'm sure there will never be any ridiculous waits like the two-year gap again"?
Chapter 41 released: 20 June 2009
Chapter 42 released: 19 June 2011
And here you thought I wouldn't keep my word!
. . . But in all seriousness, I really do need to apologise for the lack of updates of this fanfic. I won't bore you with excuses, but I do want to say that I appreciate everyone who's read this story in the past, those who are eagerly awaiting new chapters in the present, and those who are yet to read the story in the future. Every time I get a new review or am added to someone's favourites/alerts, I really do feel grateful - but also really guilty about the lack of updates. I noticed that many of the more recent reviews went into a lot more detail about what the reviewer liked and didn't like about the story, and I must say I really appreciate those who took time out of their lives to give me that feedback. It really has given me encouragement, as well as some points to keep in mind when writing more of this story in the future.
Phew, it's hard to believe this fanfic was first released more than 8 years ago. At the time, I never would have imagined I'd only be up to chapter 42 in 2011 - but then again, I'm not sure if I really imagined it would be finished by this point, either. Even now, I can't really say when I expect it to be finished - it might take another 8 years for all I know! - but I can say that I do intend to have it completed someday. Not just because of the guilt I feel in leaving you all hanging for so long, but also because I feel that this is a story I need to tell. It's hard for me to explain exactly why I feel that way, but hopefully it will become clear eventually.
Well, I'd better stop rambling and just let you go ahead and read this. I hope you don't find this chapter too disappointing after such a long wait. It might be a good idea to go back and read some of the previous chapters so that you know what's going on - heck, I got a bit confused trying to get back into it myself!
Chapter Forty-Two – Truce
'Wh–what!' Taylor stammered.
'You heard me,' I said. 'We can all get out of here if you change into a pokémon, let one of these guys catch you, have them release you outside the bars, you change back into a human, open the door, and let Cam sneak out and find something to pick the lock!'
'As much as I don't wanna agree with you, that plan could actually work,' said Adrian.
'Of course it'll work!' I said. 'It's the only way!'
'Well if you're so confident, why don't you let them catch you?' Taylor demanded.
''Cause their pokéballs won't work on me,' I said. 'It's just like how Rose was able to recall Cam so easily: once a pokémon's caught, it's linked to that pokéball. And I hate to break it to you, but that means the only pokéball that's gonna work on me is Katashi's.'
Taylor clenched his teeth. He didn't have a comeback to that.
'Well?' Adrian said, getting to his feet and unclipping a pokéball from his belt. 'You up to it?'
'Don't you think this is a bit extreme?' Taylor asked, his voice jittery.
'Extreme!' I exclaimed. 'I'll tell you what's extreme: the sun has half vanished, and there's a madman and a crazy bird out there each with it in for Ho-Oh!'
Taylor took a deep breath, and turned to Adrian.
'Half an hour ago you were our enemies,' said Taylor. 'What's to say I should trust you now?'
'I was trying to capture you to follow Marlowe's orders,' said Adrian. 'There are two reasons you haven't gotta worry about that anymore. A: I'm not working for him anymore, and B: he's already captured you. I'm the one who should be worrying about trusting you. What's to stop you running out that door and leaving us here?'
Taylor looked at Adrian, his eyes narrow.
'So it's a truce, then?' the younger boy asked.
'If that's what you wanna call it,' said Adrian. 'If you promise you'll help us out of this cage, I promise I'll let you out of the pokéball.' He held his right hand out. 'Deal?'
Taylor was silent for a moment, then he slowly raised his own hand and took Adrian's.
'Deal,' he said.
The two shook hands. I gulped, my heart racing with nerves and unease. Taylor was really willing to trust Adrian. I knew that if it had been me who had to be captured, I wouldn't have agreed to it so easily. I knew in principle that it was what had to be done for ourselves, for Moltres, and for Ho-Oh. But when it came to actually doing it, to submitting yourself to the very people who'd caused most of the problems . . . that was something I wasn't sure I'd be able to handle. I didn't want to admit it, but Taylor really could be brave. As much as we argued on superficial levels, I knew he had a good heart. Perhaps . . . a better heart than my own.
'Let's do this,' said Adrian. He raised the pokéball in his hand and enlarged it to its full size. Taylor nodded, and took a step back. His body shrunk and he got down on all fours as he changed into his ninetales form.
'Do it,' he said.
Adrian threw the small red and white ball at Taylor. When it hit, I saw the pokémon's claws and teeth tense up. Then he relaxed, and let the glowing energy take him. He dematerialised into red light and was sucked inside the ball. The sphere dropped to the ground, went still, and the light went out.
Adrian stepped forward and picked up the ball.
'If only it had been this easy to catch you kids from the start, we probably wouldn't be in this mess,' he said, then sighed. 'But a deal's a deal.'
I swallowed. So, he was really going to do this. Adrian was really working together with us to get us out of here. The whole concept conflicted so much with my image of him that I wasn't sure how to feel anymore. Was this plan of mine really the right thing to do? Would working with Adrian only end up making things worse for us in the long run? I was so confused about who I could trust, so confused about what was right.
I watched as the man who had been my enemy for so long pushed his hand through the bars and opened the pokéball. In a flash of light, Taylor took shape outside the cage. When the light faded, he was standing firm, his paws tense, his eyes wide, and his mouth slightly open, breathing steadily. He stood like that for several seconds. Had he been thrown into shock by experiencing the numb transcendence of being inside a pokéball for the first time? Or was there a bit more to it than that? I remembered my own experience of being captured by Katashi. When I'd been released from his pokéball, I'd been confused about who I was. I had forgotten my life as a human, and had instead been invaded by memories of life as a pokémon.
I'd never understood what could have brought on those memories. What if it had been the mere fact that I'd been inside a pokéball? A pokéball was such a specific piece of technology, designed to synchronise directly with pokémon DNA. Pokéballs didn't work on humans, so maybe that was why I'd had to shut out my human self and let my pokémon self take over.
And if that was the case, then was the same thing happening to Taylor?
The ninetales took a deep breath, then looked around the room. When he spotted me, his eyes stayed fixed on me for a moment, then he lowered his head. He was silent for a few seconds, then he sighed, closed his eyes, and morphed into his human form.
Without a word, Taylor walked towards the heavy metal door, took the handle in his human hand, and pushed down hard. There was a small click, and then he pulled the door open.
'All right,' said Cam. He took a deep breath, and turned his scales invisible again. 'Here I go. Thanks Taylor.'
'Hold on, Cam,' said Taylor. 'I'm coming with you.'
'What!' I exclaimed. 'You wouldn't dare!'
'We had a deal, kid!' said Adrian.
'The deal was that I help you escape, and that's what I'm gonna do,' said Taylor. 'I may not be invisible, but what if there are other doors Cam needs me to open?'
'You'll get yourself caught and ruin everything!' I said.
'No I won't. I know how to stay hidden. I used to sneak around my grandma's work all the time as a kid.'
'You don't know how to stay hidden at all! What about that time you were following me in the bushes and–'
'If anything's gonna give us away, it's you shouting,' said Taylor. 'Come on Cam, let's go.'
'Well . . . it's true that I might need you to open doors . . .' came a voice from what appeared to be nothing more than a red zig-zag.
'Then let's go.' Taylor opened the door wider and stepped out.
'No you don't!' said Adrian. He held out his pokéball. 'Return!'
Nothing happened. Adrian shook the ball and tried again.
Still nothing. But it was too late anyway. Taylor and Cam had already left, the human shutting the door behind him.
'That stupid jerk!' I cried.
'What's wrong with this thing?' Adrian asked, shaking his pokéball. 'Why wouldn't it work?'
'Do you have any idea how stupid you sound?' Rose asked. 'Since when do pokéballs work on humans?'
'But he's not just a human, he's a pokémon!' said Adrian. 'Why shouldn't it work? Pokéballs still work on dittoes when they're transformed!'
He had a point. If we really were both human and pokémon, wouldn't it make sense that pokémon technology worked on us, no matter what form we were in? Yet we'd just discovered that pokéballs didn't work on us as humans. I was beginning to see more and more flaws in the logic of Taylor's little philosophy about being both a human and a ninetales at the same time.
Adrian ground his teeth and put the empty pokéball back on his belt. He then unclipped the other, full pokéball, eyed it for a moment, then looked back at the metal door, glaring.
'If only that brat hadn't shut the door I could've let Poochyena out and she could've found the keys to this cage,' he muttered. 'She actually knows her way around this place.'
'Then why didn't you do that in the first place!' I exclaimed.
'Because I made the stupid mistake of trusting your friend!'
'More like you were too much of a wuss to let Poochyena out there on her own,' said Rose.
'Shut up, you don't know what you're talking about,' said Adrian.
'Poochyena would have been perfect to send out there,' I said, annoyed at myself for not realising this sooner. 'She's a dark-type, so Gallade and Gardevoir's psychic attacks won't work on her.'
'It's not as simple as that,' said Adrian. 'Gallade is part fighting. But either way, she would've been better off than your stupid friend who just wants to be a hero.'
'If you'd let her evolve she'd probably even be able to handle Gallade,' said Rose. 'She probably will in a few more battles if you take that everstone off.'
'What, you want her to turn into something like that?' Adrian scoffed, gesturing at where Camerupt was taking another run-up to charge at the bars. As the pokémon slammed his head into the metal, Adrian shook his head. 'Evolution. Who needs it?'
'You just don't know how to handle evolved pokémon,' said Rose. 'We wouldn't even be in this mess if you'd kept your charmeleon under control. The thing's not even a charizard and you can't stand up to him.'
'Wait a sec,' I cut in, 'your charmeleon? I thought Leon was wild.'
'He is,' said Adrian.
'He shouldn't be,' said Rose.
'It was my choice to release him,' said Adrian. 'I did what I thought was right. I didn't even know you then, so it's none of your business.'
'You mean . . . Leon . . .?' I breathed. I found myself staring at Adrian. So, after all Leon's talk about hating humans, he'd really once been . . .
'What, you think I really went and got a fake ID made just so I could enter that tournament?' Adrian asked. He took his wallet out of his pocket and showed me his trainer card once more. 'It's genuine, kid. Professor Oak really did certify me to become a trainer in Kanto. And the starter pokémon he gave me was a charmander.'
'Y–you're Leon's trainer!' I exclaimed.
'Ex-trainer,' said Adrian. 'After he evolved, he became so vicious. Then he learned to talk, and . . . he told me it was unfair for me to keep him in a pokéball, so I destroyed it.'
'You . . . did that just 'cause he told you to?' I asked slowly. I couldn't believe that someone as villainous as Adrian could have such respect for his pokémon's wishes.
'It made sense at the time, but I think giving him his freedom might've just made him worse,' said Adrian. 'He was so timid as a charmander.'
'Why are you still working together if you released him?' I asked. 'He kept talking about how he hates humans yet he's still working with his old trainer?'
'Since when is he still working with us?' Rose asked. 'He was probably planning to betray us all along.'
'It's not about us, it's about Moltres,' said Adrian. He eyed Rose for a moment, then he sighed. 'OK, fine. You were right. I did join Team Magma because of Leon. It was because he wanted to find Moltres.'
'But why?' I asked. 'What was he after?'
'I dunno, he wouldn't tell me.'
'You joined a criminal organisation 'cause your charmeleon wanted to find a legendary pokémon and you didn't even think to ask why!'
'I thought that if I helped him find Moltres he might forgive me for being a bad trainer, all right!'
Rose and I were both silent at Adrian's outburst. He paused, as if just realising what he'd said, then he sighed and lowered his head.
As frustrating as it was to deal with the physical restrictions of being locked in this cage, I was beginning to wonder if the mental confrontations were just as profound. In all the time I'd known him, I'd seen Adrian as nothing but a villain, an enemy. But now I was noticing something that should have been obvious all along: he was still human. Under the hood, behind the visor, he was a living creature with reasons, emotions, and a past. It didn't mean that what he'd done to me or Cam or Moltres was right. But it did mean that nothing in this whole conflict was as simple as "good" or "bad".
Adrian sighed. 'All I know is that he was looking for Moltres before Professor Oak's assistant captured him to give him to me. That's why he hates humans, 'cause they stopped him from doing that.'
'And I've told you that's a lie,' said Rose. 'The official League-endorsed professors don't catch their starter pokémon, they get them from breeders. That's why they obey new trainers so easily: 'cause they're not wild.'
'I only know what Leon told me.'
'And I'm telling you, he made it up. You even said yourself he was timid as a charmander. If he'd been wild all along, he would've rebelled right from the start.'
'I don't know. He was weak as a charmander. I don't think he had the strength to rebel. It took him so long to evolve. I was already on my sixth badge by the time it happened.'
'You need eight badges to get into the Pokémon League, right?' I asked.
'Yeah,' said Adrian. 'Most trainers' starter pokémon are already on their final evolution by the time they reach six badges.'
'Did you ever get all eight?' I couldn't help asking. It was so weird hearing him talk about being a genuine pokémon trainer, and I felt a strange urge to know just how far he'd made it.
Adrian eyed me for a moment. 'No.'
Rose shook her head. ''Cause you couldn't handle Leon once he evolved so you gave up, right?'
'Shut up!' Adrian snapped. 'It wasn't like that. It was just . . . my priorities changed.'
'You decided to join a criminal gang instead?' I said, folding my arms.
'Both of you can stop trying to act like you understand, 'cause you don't,' said Adrian, shaking his head. 'And I don't hear either of you sharing your life stories, so stop acting like you're so much better than me.'
Rose scoffed and turned her head. I glanced at Adrian for a long moment before looking down at the ground.
Some part of me wished that I could share my life story. Not because I wanted to get any closer to these two criminals who'd caused me so much trouble over the last few months. Just because I wished that I understood my own life enough to be able to explain it to someone. As it was, I felt like my life was somehow a mixture of two stories rather than one, yet neither of them was complete. My life as a human and my life as a vulpix . . . they felt so separate, so incompatible, yet they were both my own life . . . weren't they?
Before I could get too deeply immersed in my thoughts, I became aware of a hushed voice whispering my name. When I looked outside the bars to see where it had come from, I saw a small white pokémon.
'Rashmi!' I exclaimed. 'What are you . . .' I narrowed my eyes. 'Let me guess, your precious Master Marlowe ordered you to come here.'
Rashmi lowered her head. 'Actually I . . . I came here to . . .' She pulled her hand out from behind her back. She was holding a small silver key.
'They key!' Adrian exclaimed. He held his hand out. 'Here, Ralts. Come on, be a good pokémon . . .'
'Will you shut up?' I said. 'I'll handle this. Rashmi, are you really . . . gonna let us out?'
Rashmi bit her lip, and nodded her big head.
'I . . . I know it's wrong to disobey Master Marlowe, and I'll be punished, but . . . but you were the first people besides Master Marlowe and my brothers who were nice to me . . . so . . . so I don't want you and Tay . . .' Rashmi suddenly narrowed her eyes. 'Where's Taylor?'
I felt my enlightened spirit drop straight back down. What was I supposed to say to that? Rashmi had gathered all her courage to go against the one she obviously respected and admired so much . . . and now I had to tell her that we'd already developed a plan to break free of him?
That idiot Taylor! This was all his fault! If he'd only let Cam go out on his own like I'd told him to . . .
'Kit!' said Rashmi. 'Where's Taylor? I know he can't use Teleport!'
'I . . . he . . . he's in Adrian's pokéball!' I blurted out.
'What?' Adrian asked. I shot him a glare, hoping that he'd get the idea and play along.
'Yeah, I know it sounds weird,' I said, turning back to Rashmi, 'but when I first got caught in a pokéball, I started remembering some things about being a vulpix. So we thought if we caught him, he'd start remembering stuff too, and–'
'You're lying,' said Rashmi.
'It's true!' I said. 'Tell her, Adrian! Didn't you catch Taylor in your pokéball?'
'Um, yeah, but . . .'
'I can tell you're lying, Kit!' said Rashmi. 'My psychic powers might not be strong enough to read minds, but I can tell from your voice and your eyes that you're lying!'
'What's going on in here?' another voice boomed. The large door was thrown open, and Gallade stepped into the room.
Rashmi gulped. She quickly turned to the key she was holding. Her eyes glowed for a second under her green cap, then the key disappeared.
'Rashmi!' said Gallade. 'What are you doing in the prisoners' room?'
'I . . . I . . . they . . . one of them has escaped!' Rashmi gasped.
'Rashmi!' I cried. 'How could you . . .'
'Where is the other boy?' Gallade asked, narrowing his eyes as he scanned them around the cage.
'What's happening?' Adrian asked. 'What are they yelling about?'
I ground my teeth. 'They wanna know where that self-centred idiot is.'
'WHERE IS HE?' Gallade shouted, grabbing the bars of the cage so hard that they rattled.
I gulped and took a step back. Now I could see just what Adrian had been referring to when he'd said that Gallade was part fighting-type. I knew that psychic pokémon were powerful, but their skills were much more subtle; sometimes you couldn't even tell a psychic-type was using a move unless you were on the receiving end. Fighting-types, though . . . they were much more overt, more brutal about their strength. I didn't know what Gardevoir could do to my mind, but it was plainly clear that Gallade could break my body in two. And that type of more immediate threat was something that wasn't easy to stand up to.
Gallade growled, kicked at the bars with one of his slender yet muscular legs, then turned his back on us.
'Rashmi!' he said. 'You guard them and make sure no more of them escape! I'll find that boy and teach him a lesson!'
He stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him with a boom so loud I thought the building might collapse. Biting my lip, I took a look down at where the pokémon had kicked the cage. The metal bar his foot had connected with was now twisted out of shape, bearing a clear imprint of Gallade's round foot.
Taylor had it in for him when I got to give him a piece of my mind, but that was the least of his troubles. Once Gallade got to him, he'd show Taylor even less mercy than I would.