Disclaimer:

Hey guys! Well, what do you know?! Looks like JD isn't actually dead yet and is back with another update!

And guess what? I've decided to do a massive update. Of course, I couldn't update all of my stories at the same time, but the other stories will be updated very soon.

Check out my Author Notes for some stuff and news if you're interested.

Thanks SinCityAssassin42 for betaing this chapter.

Enjoy!

Chapter 74:

"Come on my pupil, wake up!" Crasher Wake barged into the room, unannounced. It was the morning after the incident at the restaurant. Since then they group had decided to spend the night at the hotel before continuing on their journey; this was, of course, after they ate through five entrees, ten different desserts, and accumulating a bill that could give a normal person a heart attack. Dawn was the only one of the group who learned that it was possible to feel like throwing up just by watching someone or some people eat.

Dawn and Lucas grunted as they slowly rose from their separate beds, wincing at the sudden burst of sunlight in the room. Damion was already up and moving in front of his new instructor. Always an early riser, he had more energy than ever.

"Good Morning, Master!" Damion exclaimed, bowing low. "I hope you slept well."

Master? Dawn looked surprise. Since when has Damion show respect to anyone?

"HA! Early to rise now, aren't ya? I like it!" Damion happily beamed at the approval.

"What time is it?" Dawn groaned as she searched the bedside table for the clock. Lucas had already flopped back onto the bed and continued snoring. Right next to Dawn was her baby Togepi, snoring away as well. Finally.

On and off during the night, Togepi had continued to cry, waking Dawn up multiple times to care for it. Lucas and Damion slept through the ordeal and were clearly in no shape to help at all. So much yelling… Dawn was too tired to holler and be cranky anyhow. She was going to keep Togepi in the Pokeball for most of the journey instead of carrying it around like she had planned earlier. "And why are there so many people in here?"

"Wake," Volknor came in as well, yawning. His usual messed up spiky hair was even messier than usual though at least he was dressed. "Why are we up so early?"

"I have to get back to my gym. I have quite a bit of stuff to take care of, not to mention I have to get my new student to work."

"Fine, I'm heading back to Sunyshore anyways," Volknor said with another yawn.

"You're going back?" Crasher Wake looked suspicious.

"Of course I am," Volknor said. "Even if I did blackout my city, doesn't mean I'm not going to take responsibility for it in the end. I'll need to talk with the mayor and the chairman about the situation. Gym leader's duty, after all." He said nonchalantly, leaning against the way.

Crasher Wake grinned back at him. Finally, Volknor was starting to act more responsible, even with the disproportionate amount of effort to steer him in the right direction.

"Well, I'll definitely see you again," Damion exclaimed, pointing at the sleepy gym leader.

"Huh?" Volknor quipped, looking over at Damion as if he only just noticed him. "Why's that, kid?"

"Once I get seven badges, I have the right to beat you in a gym challenge!" A long silence filled in the room as the gym leader processed the implication; he chuckled at Damion.

"HEY! What's so funny?!"

"Like you can even get seven badges where you are now. You couldn't even beat me in a doubles battle."

"What was that?!" Damion exclaimed, furious at Volknor's mocking. "Just watch me! With this training, I'll defeat you in no time!"

"Sure kid," Volknor said, still chortling. "Anyways," he turned away, "I'll see you later, Crasher Wake. Good luck babysitting." He left silently without another word.

"What's his problem?" Dawn yawned. "He really doesn't seem like an approachable gym leader." She went over to Lucas' bed and tried to shake the sleepy trainer awake.

"Jerk." Damion stuck his tongue out at the door.

"He's a good man, I assure you," Crasher Wake said to the two doubtful trainers. "Now get ready in twenty minutes, kids. We have some traveling to do!"

….

Hearthrome City…

It was morning in this nice city. People were going about their usual daily business. Fantina was going through incredible amounts of paperwork, just like every other gym leader had to go through right now. Of course, Fantina was one of those gym leaders who'd prefer to put it off as long as possible, with poor results. Along with her report to the chairman of the situation with that young lady and her kidnapped blond hair friend, she had to finish up with the work involving Pokémon Contest incident.

"Fantina," Johanna knocked on the door before coming in. "How's it going?"

"I've never had suffered zrough so much paperwork." Fantina's thick accent laced through her complaints. "Zis chairman is so cruel to moi! I could only imagine what Maylene is going zrough!"

"That's because you never do paperwork until the last minute," Fantina's blue hair friend sighed. "If you had done this stuff before the contest, you would only need to be concern about writing that report."

Fantina pouted but then noticed Johanna was carrying her suitcase and bags. "What's with the bags?"

"I'm leaving today, remember?" Johann said looking at Fantina with a critical eye. "I told you a couple of hours ago."

"What? But we 'ave never properly retrouve! I made plans with you and Keira. Zere is shopping and eating at zat new ice cream shop…" Johanna sighed sadly and shook her head.

"Keira has to leave to get ready for another Pokémon Contest and I have to go now. My husband and Professor Rowan are at a science convention in Canaclave. I need to meet up with him by tomorrow."

"Tu? In a science convention?" Although Fantina had seen Johanna in the spotlight of glamorous parties and such when she was a famous coordinator, the gym leader couldn't see her friend in something as boring with… science nerds…

"Yes, it's a big deal this year, and there's also going to be a very important formal party. I promised my husband I would meet up with him after the contest."

"What about Dawn? I thought you were going to go Veilstone to see her?"

"Actually, I got a message from her this morning. She left Veilstone already and wasn't near the site of the fire incident when it started." Johanna was hesitant though. Although her daughter didn't sound like she was lying, Dawn didn't sound like she was telling the entire truth either

Fantina sighed dejectedly as she turned to look back at the nasty pile of paperwork. She stuck out her tongue in disgust. "I 'ate this job."

"Speaking of your job, what are you planning to do with Miss Ashe?"

"Ashe?"

"That young girl whose friend was kidnapped? I think his name was Ven."

"Oh yes, zose two. I 'ave to write a report to ze chairman, but she is under my protection until I 'ave a response."

"She's been here for more than two days; what about the kidnapped boy?"

"En fait…" Fantina suddenly fall silent and motioned Johanna to come closer, " I 'ave received a call from chairman, le petit Ven iz okay. But I am not to do anything at ze moment."

"What?" Johanna gave a gasp but Fantina immediately made shushing noise. Luckily, no one else was around. Johanna immediately lowered her voice back into a whisper. "Wait, why?"

"Don't know," Fantina shrugged, "But it seems zat chairman is merely relaying the message from someone else. I zink this person shall come to meet Ashe later."

"Do you know who this person is?"

"Non," Fantina shook her head, "But ze chairman said that when I see him, I would know."

Pastoria City…

"Welcome to Pastoria City! My little hometown!"

It certainly wasn't anything Dawn expected. Despite the sunny weather, the ground was soft as if the area had gone through a week's worth of rain instead of a day's. The houses seemed thick, small, and sturdy – very practical for the environment. Overgrown grass was everywhere and the area seemed eerily empty.

"That's strange… where is everybody?" Dawn asked out loud. The way that Crasher Wake talked about the people from his town, Dawn expected some sort of huge parade in his honor every time he came home. The gym leader looked confused as well.

"Maybe we can ask those people over there if they know where everybody went," Lucas said, pointing over to a huge crowd in front of a government building waving signs. They were all wearing beige color t-shirts, stamped with pictures of tall grass and brown mud. In the front was some weird looking dark violet colored frog. None of them looked happy and were screaming out their words to some annoyed woman on the platform with a large banner that read – The Beginning of New Homes. Behind the platform was a bright yellow bulldozer and several uneasy construction workers.

"Stop the pollution!"

"Give us back our marshes!"

The chanting continued on and on in a same repeated pattern.

"What are they yelling about?" Dawn asked.

"I think it's something about marshmallows or mash potatoes?"

"Only you can assume this is all about food, Lucas." Damion sighed at Lucas's obliviousness to the situation. He wanted to hit Lucas for the comment, but didn't want to risk a bad impression in front of his hero. Wake, however, focused on the situation and frowned at the sight.

"Ah, those darn blasted fools! Excuse me kids. Gotta take care of something." With that, Crasher Wake left the three standing there.

"People of Pastoria City!" a lady in front of the microphone stated. Judging from the official looking pin on her suit, Dawn assumed she was the mayor. "The marshes aren't being destroyed by the construction work. We are simply removing small parts of it in order to-!"

"Oh sure, when Grumpigs can fly! If we give up one part of the marsh, you guys will end up taking away all of it!" Everybody roared in agreement. The situation looked bad, the crowd seemed completely mutinous.

"Marshes? They're arguing about marshes?" Damion looked incredulous. "Are the marshes here that important?"

"Actually, the marshes here are revered as a regional landmark," Dawn explained, not looking away from the scene, "not only because the ecosystem of Pokemon that live within it is entirely unique, but also because they're one of the oldest natural wetlands left in Sinnoh."

"Wow Dawn," Lucas said amazed. "You sure know a lot. I mean, you even know a lot about that hotel we stayed at."

"T-thanks…" Dawn stuttered slightly at Lucas' compliment.

"Ahem. So," Damion coughed, trying to remind the two that he was still there, "define unique."

A bit too red to talk, Dawn took out her pink Pokedex and started to fiddle around with it. After the recent battle at Veilstone, Dawn had decided to try and use her Pokedex more often, despite the fact that she was a coordinator and not a trainer. So far, she's been learning more about Pokémon attack strategy than before when she only studied historical and demographic facts on the Sinnoh region along with contest appeals.

"Here." Dawn showed a purple-blue bipedal frog with shifty eyes and orange pouch-like cheeks, the sort of face only a mother could love from a few feet away. "This is a Croagunk, found only here in the Marsh."

"That's the Pokémon on their shirts… Doesn't look all that special if you ask me," Damion said, eyeing the frog with suspicion.

"If you say so," Dawn shrugged her shoulders, though personally she had to agree with Damion, Croagunk weren't very cute in her opinion and didn't seem to be contest material. Still, she didn't really know much about this Pokémon from early research. "But the Pokedex does say that it has certain abilities that make it special."

"Like what?"

"Erm, it doesn't specify," Dawn said, reading the data. "I would actually need to see or catch the Pokémon to record more data."

At that precise moment, loud whooping and hollering erupted from the crowd. Lucas, Damion, and Dawn turned to spot to their shock and horror that Crasher Wake had snatched the megaphone from the mayor and was screaming into the device.

"I swear that as gym leader of this town, I will find a way to preserve our marshes! I will never let my people doooooown!" Wake extended his hand into the air and the crowd seemed to go berserk with excitement as they carried off their 'hero' from the platform.

"Crasher Wake! Crasher Wake!" The crowd slowly moved paraded towards the town, clearly celebrating for the return of their missing hero. They stopped at the only bar in town and all crowded in. The area was suddenly deserted again, leaving only the disheveled woman and construction staff.

"Seriously, why does everybody listen to that man and not me? I'm elected for a reason…" the mayor muttered, slightly frustrated by how things turned out. She then motioned the workers to follow her. "Come on, we need to work out some of the details on the construction." With that, she was gone as well.

"So, he forgot about us," Dawn groaned in frustration. "Why am I not surprised?"

"Don't make fun of Master!" Damion retorted. Dawn merely rolled her eyes.

"I think I should go take a nap. All that time taking care of Togepi last night really drained me."

"You can't fall asleep now!" Damion exploded. "We should wait for Crasher Wake!"

"Why can't I sleep then if all we're doing is waiting?"

"Is there anything we can do? Something fun? Guys?" Lucas interrupted. He clearly didn't want to have to go through another set of bickering and fights.

"You know," Dawn took out a small guidebook from her white bag now. "I got this from the hotel," Dawn explained as she flipped to the page with the picture of the marshes. "There is a Safari Zone here where you can catch some of the unique marsh Pokémon. The money is used to help preserve the environment."

"Catch Pokémon? In a protected place?"

"Doesn't make sense," Dawn shrugged her shoulders, "But it's a tourist attraction, so we can check out. We might even see one of those rare and unique Pokémon."

"Well, in that case," Lucas grinned. "Let's go over there."

"Wait," Damion protested and whined, "what about Crasher Wake?"

"Well, he is busy at the moment," Dawn said, pointing to the direction of the bar where it seemed to be really lively. There were sounds of glass breaking and jolly singing of Crasher Wake's theme song that Crasher Wake had even taught them yesterday. "I'm sure he won't miss us for a couple of hours."

Safari Zone…

"The place is gross," Dawn sighed; she trudged through the mud that went up to her knees, clearly regretting her suggestion to come here. The Safari Zone did not allow trainers to carry their Pokémon with them in the marshes, so they had to leave them at the front desk. It was a good decision though, considering Togepi probably couldn't to handle such terrain. So instead, Dawn had only a bag of "bait" and 20 Safari Balls that could be used to catch Pokémon. Damion had already run off, clearly not interested in sticking together. He actually seemed more hyped about this compared to Dawn and Lucas. Surprisingly, Lucas decided to go off on his own as well. He seemed to want to try and become more independent like Damion. This disappointed Dawn slightly, but boys will be boys.

"Good thing I listened to those ladies and got into another change of clothes at least," Dawn sighed again but this time in relief. She had on a giant pair of blue overalls and rubber boots. On her head was a pair of goggle to help protect her eyes from flying mud and bugs. Damion and Lucas were also wearing outfits similar to hers so hopefully, they wouldn't get messy. So far, she didn't find any Pokémon that piqued her interest. Then again, she was more exploring than searching to begin with. She struggled to get out of the mud and reach solid ground and it took quite a while.

"OH!" Dawn noticed a small green bud Pokémon popped out of the tall grass. The little Pokémon gave a cute yawn as it allowed the sunlight to shine on its body. "Aren't you a darling?!" She took out her Pokedex to obtain data about this Pokémon. "A Budew… hmm, sensitive to cold temperature and its bud will bloom in sunlight." She took out the army green colored Safari ball. "Okay, I can do this…" Throwing it as far as she could, Dawn tried to aim at the Budew but she missed the mark and the ball instead landed in a lake of mud.

"Budew!" the little Pokémon freaked out and quickly escaped into tall grass before Dawn could attempt again.

"Darn!" Dawn sighed disappointedly at her failure. She needed to improve her throwing arm if she wanted to go and catch a Pokémon here. She noticed that her Safari ball was only slightly submerged in the mud. Walking over and leaving muddy boot prints behind her, she reached down to pick up a Safari Poke ball just when… PSHHHH! Mud flew vertically upward like some sort of geyser.

"EEKKK!" Dawn fell backward and landed on her behind. When she saw what caused the sudden explosion, Dawn screamed again. "AHHH! Monster!"

"Who are you calling a monster?" the mud man said, sounding angry. Dawn blinked and realized that it was actually a boy, looked about her age too, in a similar attire Dawn was wearing. He was completely covered in so much sludge from the mud he was wading in that he ended up looking like a creature straight out of a horror film. Dawn couldn't even tell what color the guy's hair was.

"Oh. Hi, I didn't know there were other people here." The boy removed the goggles from his face to reveal dark brown eyes that blinked with slight apprehension.

"Well, umm, I dropped that," Dawn pointed to the Safari ball that was still in the mud.

"Oh my bad." The guy scooped up the item and held it out for Dawn. "Here you go. My name is Will," the guy introduced himself. "What's yours?"

"My name is Dawn. Nice to meet you." Dawn didn't hold out her hand though, and eyed William's mud-covered hand with an equal amount of apprehension.

"Ah," Will noticed Dawn's look and quickly tried to find something in his pocket to clean himself up. He failed. "Sorry, I was running away from this crazy Pokémon and tripped into this deep mud pile. Good place to hide though and held my breath as long as I could."

"Crazy Pokémon?"

"Yeah, I would've battled it to save myself from taking another bath, but you know the rules. Only wild Pokémon allowed in this area." Will climbed out of the swamp pit and tried to wipe the mud off his arm and face. "I guess it's still rampaging out here."

"Rampaging?... Oh no!" Dawn's eyes widened as she realized the implications of this.

"Don't worry," Will continued calmly despite the ordeal he had went through, "I don't think it's in this area anymore. We might need to go back and notify the—"

"No, it's not that. My friends are also in this park! We need to-!"

Dawn was interrupted by a horrified scream in the far away distance.

"AHHHHHHH!"

By all accounts, Damion was very frustrated. After a good ten minutes, he still hadn't come across any good Pokémon. He was hoping for some strong Pokemon to appear in front of him, but he couldn't find anything. In fact, he didn't see much of any kind of Pokémon the entire time.

Where are all these Pokémon that the Safari lady promised? Unlike Dawn, he didn't mind the mud too much; in fact, mud-related bets were probably the only ones he could win against Dawn back when they were younger.

Speaking of Dawn, what was up with her and Lucas? Although he was hyped up with his new training with the legendary Crasher Wake, Damion couldn't help but noticed throughout their travel to Pastoria City that Dawn and Lucas kept close together. Dawn and Lucas, being obsessed with cooking, were discussing about Poffin making since it played a large part in the Contest. They were discussing things like berries, types of flavors that would be effective, and other things.

Not only that, but because Dawn's Buneary knew Ice Beam, Dawn suggested that Muchlax could learn from the little bunny Pokémon on how to utilize ice attacks released orally. They even started to make some sort of schedule of how much practice they could do every day.

Damion suspected that there was something else going on between the two than just talking about Pokémon Contest and cooking though. He noticed how Lucas looked kind of… well, happy. Not the one that Lucas has when he was eating or sleeping. It was something else that Damion couldn't put his finger on.

Damion was the best out of the two when it came to battling, and he would obviously be perfect to teach Dawn about Pokémon battles and such, but after everything that had been happening and now that he was going to be busy training with Crasher Wake, it was up to Lucas now to hold that responsibility. Although he didn't want to admit it, Damion felt like he was now the loner of the group. And it felt terrible…

Out of frustration, Damion kicked some of the marsh's mud though the tall grass, which it didn't do much to relieve his annoyance.

"Croagggunkkkk."

Huh?

Damion peered over the grass he kicked at, wondering what that low croaking sound was and looked down; a purple frog squatting down and staring back at him with its beady eyes. Damion recognized it from Dawn's Pokedex.

"Oh… you're a Croagunk," Damion said finally at the motionless frog. The Pokémon responded by expanding and then deflating its orange cheeks. It stood completely still, with the exception of its breathing. The continued staring started to creep Damion out a little. "Okay… well, see you later," Damion turned quickly to leave, not taking any more of his time with the Pokemon.

After taking a couple of steps, Damion paused for a moment after hearing another airy croak and took a look back. The Croagunk remained squatting, but the distance between them didn't change; the thing was following him.

"Is there something you want?"

"Croagggunkkkk."

And that was all it said, just staring and breathing.

Yeah, this conversation was getting nowhere.

"AHHHHHHH!"

"What the-?" Damion jerked up by the sound. Somebody screamed and it sounded a lot like…

"LUCAS!"

Author's Notes

Hmm, did not see that coming huh? So, meet Will – Dreadly Rise's OC. He'll be an interesting sort of character to write about.

All right, big news! I noticed this just recently, but I see that stories can now have a 'picture' that can go along with it. If anybody is interested and love drawing, I would like to have some 'fan art' (I really don't know what to call it) that could be good for the cover picture, let me know! :D

So, for those who are curious why it has taken me so long to update, what happened was that I had this massive planning of updates for the holidays and planned this out for two months. Then about a month ago, I lost the data for all of the chapters I had worked on. Frustrated, I went through an extreme writer's block and just couldn't bring myself to write (that and school).

It was a dark, dark time. Lol. But during winter break, I buckled down hard and found my passion to write again. Thank you all for still sticking by my readers.

On other news, who is looking forward to the 'first' 3D Pokémon game (I say 'first' loosely for a reason) – X and Y? Out of all the three starter Pokémon designs, I like the grass one the most. Opinions? I am surprise that they're now making the games more 3D. I mean the BW2 games still mostly resembled the older generations.

Anyways, moving on. School is starting back for me so updates are still sporadic.

Happy belated holidays to all and I will see you in the next chapter.

-JapanDreamer