Yes, I am updating again and plan to continue to update, although you guys who only review if I'm slow are really not good encouragement to be timely. If you like the story, review the story! Don't wait to say something until you want to add that I'm not updating fast enough.


"Are they not fresh and beautiful?" I cried with all the enthusiasm of a man fresh from the fogs of Baker Street.

But Holmes shook his head gravely.

"Do you know, Watson," said he, "that it is one of the curses of a mind with a turn like mine that I must look at everything with reference to my own special subject. You look at these scattered houses, and you are impressed by their beauty. I look at them, and the only thought which comes to me is a feeling of their isolation and of the impunity with which crime may be committed there."

- The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

Chapter Eighteen: Pure

(x)

Elliot was moving along, watching the stream by the side of the path as it bubbled past. It was shallow, only a few inches above the rounded stones of its bed, far too shallow for any pokemon to live in. It was pure and clean, without any intruding greenery to mar the picture.

He was walking upstream, although at the moment the path wasn't perceptibly sloped up. The stream widened and narrowed as he moved on.

After several hours, the path did begin to slope, and it grew colder. By the time he reached the next town he had begun to shiver and was wishing he had a heavier jacket.

He stopped off at the Center, intending to heal his pokemon and eat a slightly late lunch, then continue on. The Nurse Joy quickly dissuaded him.

"The path gets very steep past this point, and it's icy. What looks like a short trip on the map will take several times that long, and you don't want to spend the night outside." She directed him firmly to a store to buy appropriate equipment.

None of it was too expensive, probably lucky since Nurse Joy had been adamant he couldn't continue without it.

All of it was heavy – the boots, pants, undervest, jacket. Elliot had been expecting things made of fur and leather, like in movies about explorers, but all of it was synthetic. "Waterproof," explained the clerk. "You'd need two sets of clothing otherwise, one for the lower areas where it's above freezing, and one for the higher. If you get wet, you'd freeze when it got higher."

Elliot didn't really understand, but he didn't ask for a more detailed explanation, and the clerk didn't volunteer one. He bought everything he was told and trekked back to the Pokecenter, acutely aware of how much heavier it all was.

It was late afternoon, almost time for supper. Elliot called his mother and said hi to Merci, who'd gotten home from school an hour or two back. He told them he'd gotten another badge and that he was up in the mountains now, where it was cold and there was always snow at the top.

Merci was delighted, saying she wanted to see.

"You're too young," Elliot's mother said immediately, voice final. A bit more softly, she added, "And Elliot, you be careful too."

(x)

Beyond the town it was even colder. Elliot had felt excited talking to Merci, but in practice, it wasn't so fun. He'd put on all the stuff he'd been told to buy, feeling faintly ridiculous in the bulky outfit, and tramped out. After an hour or so of walking, he'd gotten used to the bulk, but it had gotten cold enough that his face was numb. There was snow on the ground. At first he walked over it, but it grew deeper and before long he was slogging through it.

He wasn't sure if it was the drag of the snow or the heavy boots, but it wasn't long before his feet felt like they were made of lead, although admittedly warm lead. His clothing was working better than he'd expected, completely blocking the wind. He wouldn't even have been aware of it if it wasn't for his exposed face, which was alternating stinging when the wind hit and an overall numb ache when it didn't. He pulled his mittened hands out of his pockets and made another attempt at pulling the hood further around his head.

He didn't know how far he walked. The grade of the path was steep, and his walk was slower, each step shorter than normal. He kept his eyes down, both to see the path and try to block some of the wind, so he couldn't gauge his travel speed by watching how fast he approached distant landmarks. On the map, it hadn't been far at all.

The sun climbed in the sky along with him, then began to sink. It was around three when Elliot had a moment of panic. He had no idea where he was or how much farther it was to the town, and he had a sinking feeling that the Nurse Joy's warning had sounded a lot like the times he'd been told firmly not to do something by someone trying hard not to say what would happen if he ignored them.

He pushed the feeling away, thinking that it hadn't been that far on the map, that he was surely most of the way.

He kept going, growing more and more unsettled, until finally, he saw buildings in the distance.

In another situation, he might have sped up, wanting to reach them faster after how nervous he'd been. This time, his relief more exhausted than excited, he slowed his pace to something easier.

(x)

The town was tiny, so tiny it didn't have a Pokecenter. Not that it mattered much. There didn't seem to be many trainers around, and Elliot hadn't seen any wild pokemon.

Elliot was sitting quietly and eating a heavy breakfast at the one inn. The tables were spaced well apart so that visiting trainers could keep their pokemon out without crowding each other. Elliot's typical junk food of cheeseburgers and pizza was absent from the menu, but the stew he was eating was filling and tasted interesting, with an odd mixture of spices but mild enough that it wasn't too different from food in Kanto. Most importantly, it was hot. His pokemon were also eating, Prowler and Din included for once. Elliot's insistence that the food was good was probably far less to blame than the cold outside, but that didn't stop him from feeling happy the two had listened to him for once. Prowler was dispatching a large hunk of cooked meat, as was Din. They seemed somewhat unused to the texture, pulling fiercely for mouthfuls that came apart easily. Howler had been given the same and was having his own problems, seeming confused as to how he was supposed to deal with a chunk of food larger than he could fit in his mouth. He seemed to be enjoying himself, though, mock-growling and gnawing clumsily on it. Caw and Sono were eating a mixture of food that had been cut up into chunks of various colors. Most looked similar in color and texture to Discord's own meal of unfamiliar but intact fruits or vegetables – Elliot wasn't sure which, although he thought he recognized some of the same in his soup.

Another boy was sitting less quietly. "Do you know anything?" he was asking. He was apparently a trainer, although his pokemon were presumably inside the five pokeballs around his waist rather than out like Elliot's.

The man he had accosted was less than forthcoming. "No," he said, not bothering to look up at the teen. They were both sitting by the counter.

"Don't think I'm going to give up just because you won't say anything."

"There's nothing to say."

"I hear three trainers have disappeared this year."

Another man spoke up in a long-suffering voice. "The mountains are dangerous, that's why we tell people not to go trying to find a myth and why people who don't listen sometimes don't come back. If you're so insistent we must know, then listen: there is no secret pokemon. It's too dangerous to travel, nothing more."

"If no one can get up there to explore, there might be something no one's seen before."

"Look, kid," said the first one tiredly. "If there was, don't you think we'd be the first to rush out? And don't you think we'd know more about this 'indisputable' evidence than a kid who heard a couple of fourth-hand stories over in Kanto?"

"I will find it," the boy snapped. He walked out, an icy gust blowing it as he yanked the door open, then a bang as it slammed closed.

The men exchanged glances. "Your son?" one said in an undertone.

"I'll tell him."