"Char, are you going to come out?"
"You're making us worry! You've been in there all evening!"
"Char, the food's here! Aren't you hungry at all?"
"We haven't picked a job for tomorrow yet..."
"We're going to have to sleep soon!"
He heard their voices from outside his bedroom door. He heard them knocking all night, several times every hour.
But he ignored them. He couldn't stop thinking about what he had done, and what he now had the power to do. He sat on the floor behind the bed, as if hiding from someone's sight, and stared into the fire.
I should tell them, Char thought. I really should. They care about me. They could help me work this out. Just like they have always helped me with everything.
But what if this is different?
It was like Marrow said. I'm having fun with the simple missions we're doing every day. I want to keep doing this! I don't want to get on the front lines of the war and be the deciding factor…
Our everyday missions were starting to get challenging. I was starting to learn how to be a leader. We're winning! We're growing in rank! I…
But that's not anything special. We're not strong. We're still just a weak team doing weak pointless missions. But that's the reality I wanted to believe. That it was all just a silly game and we were starting to come out on top.
I guess I took comfort in the fact that I was weak. I like being weak! Not too weak, just weak enough to not have huge responsibilities. I understand that now. I have always liked leaving the difficulty to Scythe's team and High Intelligence, and just being the novice who doesn't do anything risky on his own. I don't want to become their weapon again, and have them order me around all over the place because I'm the only true hope of winning the war.
But I'm not weak anymore, it seems. Oh, no. Now I can mind-control other Pokémon. And they'll even make up memories to cover up the fact that I mind-controlled them.
I can do anything now. Absolutely anything.
And if I don't feel comfortable with this power, Saura and Ray definitely won't either. They won't be able to handle the news. It'll ruin my team. They might even start to distrust me. They might start to accuse me of changing their minds with the Call when we have disagreements.
And even I can't promise myself I won't actually do that. Maybe sometime I will give into the temptation and change them… change my best friends to make them agree with me…
What if I do that? What if I lose control and I do something terrible?
I can't do this alone. I can't handle this alone. I need someone to talk to about it.
Staring blankly at the air in front of him, Char crawled around the fireplaces beside his bed. Even with such small movements, he felt sick and dizzy, as though he was moving someone else's body.
He crawled to the door separating him from his concerned friends. He sighed and knocked.
"Hey, is that you, Char?" Saura said. "You're scaring us. Are you okay in there? What's going on?"
"Char, I'm really sorry about the apple!" Ray said. "Maybe I misheard you! I thought for sure that's what I heard you say. Don't worry about it, okay? Just say you're okay."
Char leaned against the door. "I'm alright, I think," he said, tasting his lie. "I was wondering… is Otto there?"
"Otto? Yeah, he's here," Ray said. "Otto? Char wants to see you."
"Otto, can you come in?" Char said meekly, hoping his other friends wouldn't take offense. "I'd like to have a talk with you. In private."
When Char unlocked the door and cracked it open for the Pidgey to enter, he saw his friends peering inside trying to get a good glimpse of him. He averted his gaze, not wanting to look them in the eye.
Once Otto hopped inside, Char locked the door again and directed his friend to the opposite end of the fire-torches, where their conversation would be masked by the roaring flames.
"Why do you need me?" Otto asked, looking a little worried and distrusting of his leader.
"Otto, I need that mind of yours. That wonderful analytical mind," Char said. "But first I need you to promise that you can keep a secret. Even from Saura and Ray."
"I will keep a secret," Otto replied. "But I will admit that it seems unusual that you would ask me to keep a secret from Team Ember. I was beginning to understand the way you treated your partners. You do not keep secrets."
"Yes, I… well… this is really the first time I'm keeping a secret from them," Char confessed, feeling resent. "But maybe I don't need to. That's why you're here. I need to talk to you about this and I need you to be my tactical advisor and tell me what I need to do about it."
"Fine, I will," Otto said, ruffling his feathers. "But I cannot promise to keep it from the Espeon. She might read my mind at close proximity, although I will try to keep it below the surface of my mind to make it more difficult for her."
Char sighed, anticipating the relief he would soon feel of carrying the burden with a friend. He closed his eyes and leaned against the wall, trying to think of a good way to explain the matter.
"First, I will tell you something about what we learned on the trip to the Emerald Division," Char stated. "This is something we were told to keep a secret. Only High Intelligence and Scythe and Prince know this, none of the rest of the Gold Division does."
"Are you invoking rule six clause twenty-two of the Gold Division code?" Otto asked.
"Oh… … no, I'm not disobeying anyone," Char said after thinking about it for a moment. "Alakazam told me that I could tell my team members. So this is a secret only to us…"
"On the trip, we learned about a power called heart-speak. It's something that every Pokémon has, and I think every human has it too, but Celebi wasn't too clear when she was explaining that. It's telepathy that's always coming from you very quietly and you can't ever turn it off. And it speaks thoughts and feelings and sometimes words. So other Pokémon who spend lots of time around you will grow closer to you over time and start understanding the way you think."
"Arceus made heart-speak because Pokémon and humans were having trouble understanding one another at the beginning. It wasn't easy for them to communicate, so Arceus just gave them this telepathy to help them. Nobody's noticed it before because it's so quiet and weak and… it's too easy to explain that other things did it, like how friends normally just grow closer. But there is a way to make it stronger: if a Pokémon spends time with humans, that Pokémon's heart-speak will get louder."
"That is an impressive discovery," Otto commented. "Does it perhaps have practical applications? Can it be used to turn foes into allies?"
"Yeah, I'm getting to that," Char said, feeling the fire in his stomach roiling again. "On the trip, we also learned what the Call is. The Call happens when Temporal Tower sends a message to someone with strong heart-speak, like Saura or me. And somehow, we catch that message and blast it out all around us, and it affects all the Pokémon that are around. So what happens is that for just a moment, we send a heart-speak message that's much louder than heart-speak was ever meant to be. And… it makes it so that changes that are supposed to happen over a lifetime, like friends bonding with one another or whatever, it happens immediately. And that's what the Call is."
"So the Call cannot be controlled at will?" Otto wondered. "If it depends on a message from Temporal Tower, which is unexpected, it cannot be used except by random chance?"
"That's the thing," Char said quietly. "And here's the secret I want you to keep. I… for me… it's not so random anymore. I've learned how to use the Call. Once a day. And I can use it to send any message I want. And it mind-controls other Pokémon and they do what I ask without even realizing anything's wrong. You know how I said that heart-speak is too easy to mistake for other things? I think that's just something heart-speak does to keep its existence a secret. Ray's mind even made up a memory that never happened when I tried it on him."
"You used the Call on Ray?" Otto chirped in surprise. "Is this why he gave you the apple? Is this what you are ashamed of?"
"Yes," Char admitted, looking into the bird's eyes.
"And you are afraid of telling him," Otto said. "You do not believe he will forgive you?"
"Not just that, I… kinda don't trust myself with this power," Char said weakly. "I'm afraid I'm going to use it somehow and do something wrong. And I don't want High Intelligence to find out about this at all. Then I'll probably be taken away from Team Ember and I'll have to appoint someone else as leader because they'll be too busy using me to destroy the Master."
"But isn't the purpose of Team Ember to destroy the Master?" Otto said oddly. "If you used the power to destroy the Master, it is possible that it would no longer be necessary for Team Ember to exist, or the Resistance."
"Yeah, yeah, you're right," Char sighed bitterly, clawing at his head. "But that's kinda what I'm afraid of. I'm supposed to be looking for Giratina. I can't do that if they start taking me away and forcing me to brainwash enemy Pokémon all the time. But I don't know what to do. You're pretty smart, can you help me figure out what to do with this power?"
Otto tilted his head and paused to think for a moment.
"Why do you fear the superiors forcing you to use the Call, when you could instead use the Call against them?" Otto asked plainly. "They would obey you. They would perhaps even obey you if you explained the nature of your power and threatened to use it against them. The mere threat of controlling their minds might be just as powerful as controlling their minds. It seems to me that you will never need to use the Call for any reasons except for those you determine on your own."
"I didn't think of it like that," Char admitted, blinking. "You're right. No one can make me use it if I don't want to. But… I still don't know what I should do with the power. I need help determining the reasons on my own, you know? Otherwise I might just use it for whatever I feel like at the moment, and… well… I don't make a lot of good decisions in the heat of the moment. I don't trust the fire-type in me when it's angry. Right now I feel like I'm sitting on the Master's throne but I don't know what to tell all of the Pokémon in Ambera to do!"
"You use the power to further your goals," Otto said. "I do not understand the difficulty of the question."
"Well, uh… What should my goals be?" Char tried to ask him. "Can you help me figure out what my goals should be?"
Otto looked at him oddly. "You do not know what your goals are? Why are you the leader of Team Ember if you do not understand your goals? Perhaps I have no further purpose on Team Ember and I must leave."
Ouch, Char thought, grimacing at the statement. That's harsh, but it could be true.
"I have goals," Char reassured him firmly. "My goals are: find Giratina and get my memories back. Help Team Ember become stronger and try to get good at one-star missions like Alakazam told me. And keep my teammates alive."
"The Call can help you with all of those goals," the Pidgey told him. "For instance, you can use the Call to accomplish missions by disabling the enemy. You might also use the Call to express thoughts and opinions to others when words might fail, if you can harness it in this manner without damaging the mind."
"True," Char said, mulling about the idea.
"Saura has informed me about your memory loss," Otto said. "There are still many things you have not told me about yourself, but I understand that you are looking for the underworld god Giratina to grant your memories back to you. If it is your priority to find Giratina, but not to defeat the Master, that is acceptable. It would make sense, then, to keep your power from Team Remorse or High Intelligence until the situation calls for it."
"Yeah, that's a problem, I guess," Char considered. "I don't know whether or not I'm here to defeat the Master. If that's my purpose here, I guess I need to do it in some specific way. I don't know what I'm doing until Giratina tells me. So… yeah, I guess that's right. I guess I have to try to stay out of the war as much as possible. The real war, that is. All that stuff that Team Remorse is dealing with right now with Cepheus… I'll just hide here and keep completing missions until news pops up about how to get to Giratina."
"It seems to be the best course of action for your goals," Otto said. "However, I have one question."
"Do you understand how this power works?" Otto inquired with keen interest. "I have no memory of you asking Ray for an apple when he claims you spoke to him. When Ray claimed you asked him for an apple, I assumed I was not paying attention and did not hear your words, but I understand now that you asked him with your mind. But Ray's alibi will be destroyed if others like Saura and I can analyze what we witnessed at the time. If you wish to use this power effectively, you will need to carefully consider which thoughts you communicate to those you influence, so that others cannot easily find the contradictions in the flawed memories you planted. Or, you might learn how to influence many Pokémon at once with the same thoughts, as the Call is already known to do."
Char thought for a moment before sighing in relief. "So wait, you didn't hear me ask for an apple?" he said.
"I did not," the little bird replied. "In my perspective, you were silent after opening your eyes."
That almost makes me feel better, Char thought inwardly. I thought I might have mind-controlled everyone in the room. Maybe the Call only touched Ray. Maybe I directed the Call to him and nobody else. If that's true, then Otto's right: if I ever want to use this power to re-write memories, I've got to make sure the memories are believable to the witnesses. Or maybe make sure there are no witnesses.
Or maybe… learn to blast it to everyone like the Call usually does.
Char shivered in fright again, imagining himself as the focal point of such a terrible power.
"Do you have any more questions?" Otto asked. "We are losing time to choose a job for tomorrow. I have selected some choices and I am waiting for you to review them."
"There was one more question," Char admitted, quickly feeling discomfort in his stomach again. "In your opinion… should I tell Saura and Ray about all this?"
Otto thought for a moment. "It depends on whether you plan on using the power on them in the future. Telling them about your power will cause them to fear you and perhaps distrust you. If they fear the effects of your power, they would conspire and tell the secret to the authorities in an attempt to protect themselves from you. If you intend to use it against them, it will be advantageous to keep the secret from them. Of course, I assume you cannot simply use the power to make them trust you unconditionally. But if you do not plan on using the power against them, I see no reason why you should keep the secret. The emotional burden it places on you will help to keep their trust and refrain from using the power."
Ah, so it is just as I feared, Char realized. If they fear getting hit with the Call, they will tell Scythe and Alakazam about it… and I don't think I would blame them. Even I couldn't trust someone who could change my mind at will. Trust that unconditional just doesn't exist…
"I am mostly speculating, but this is how I believe they would act, if you told them," Otto said, glancing at the closed door. "I believe they would continue trusting you for a time, but if you lose your temper, their trust may fail, and they would begin to be dishonest with you. However, I am not very knowledgeable about emotions, as I choose to keep my own emotions from affecting my actions."
"…Why?" Char said suddenly, taken off-guard by the statement. "Why do you do that? If I might ask."
"When I was a wild, I knew nothing except for emotion," Otto explained. "Instinctual emotion controlled every aspect of my life and I could not defy it. Emotion told me what to eat and where to fly. It told me which creatures to fear and how to react to the fear, whether by attacking or flying away. Sometimes I questioned the instincts and wondered if they made me strong or weak, but I was powerless to disobey them. I followed you and began to eat the gummy candy, I found that the candy gave me the power to disobey my emotions, and instead act upon knowledge and rationality. In ignoring emotion, I became more powerful than I expected. I choose not to factor emotion into my actions and judgment, except in anticipating the reactions of others, because I do not intend to return to the weakness I knew as a wild. In doing so, I have forgotten about emotion's nature, but it is a drawback I accept for the power I now have to act with reason instead of impulse."
Char contemplated the Pidgey's words, wondering whether to simply accept them or to argue against them. Char knew what it was like to be free from the pull of strong emotions, if only for the duration of time he had spent smoldering, and he knew there were certain advantages to it. But he found that he had no more words to argue with, and couldn't think of a way to make a point.
In the end, he decided not to stall his team any longer. They had jobs to do, after all. He was the leader, and he had goals he needed to accomplish with his team.
"Thank you," he told the Pidgey. "I think I know what to do now."
Char opened his door to find Ray, Saura, and Eva sitting awkwardly at attention. They had been mumbling to themselves, but fell into expectant silence the moment the door had cracked open.
Once Otto had left the room, Char stood in the doorway and stared blankly at them, searching for words with which to address them. He saw how they had no smiles on their faces and were plainly tense and worried; it was now his turn to say something that would reaffirm their trust in him, to convince them he had not gone crazy and was not trapped in the realm of insanity.
"Look," he said. "I…"
But he paused. There was something holding him back, some mental block that made him question the act of spilling his secret.
Tell them! His heart cried. Tell them everything! Let them carry this burden with you! They'll trust you! They won't let you down!
Look at Saura! He'd be you friend even if you said you were joining the Master. He'd follow you anywhere! If you told him you wanted to be a bad guy, he'd say "let's be the best bad guys we can be!" That's just his nature.
Look at Ray! Do you know how happy it would make him to know you have this power? He would be amazed! He loves it when legendary things happen. Nothing would make him happier than to know he's witnessing history being changed.
Tell them! They'll help you! You have nothing to lose!
Why is this even a question? You know what to do! Tell them!
But he couldn't shake the feeling that he was lying to himself. Every word he told himself seemed wrong somehow, like he was searching for excuses to pretend things were not the way they truly were.
The Call was not just another thing to gossip about. The Call was a terrible burden.
He knew what the Resistance went through to utilize the Call. He knew what Lily had gone through, how her mere existence had indirectly caused the deaths of hundreds of Emerald Division warriors. He saw how desperate the Resistance was to use her for their own means even until the end.
And he saw the same in Scythe. He remembered how fervidly Scythe had placed his hope in the Temporal Tower mission, forcing Char through its terrors and challenges until they had reached the top, even at the risk of letting Adiel gain an advantage over him.
Char knew that wasn't the role he wanted to play in the Pokémon world.
"Eva," Char said sternly, regaining control of his tongue. "I have a secret I want to keep for the time being. I know I can't stop you from reading my mind and finding out what it is. But I warn you: if you do that, you might make your own life a lot more complicated. You shouldn't bother."
"Understood," Eva replied, perhaps a bit bitterly. "As I have told you many times before, I do not intrude upon your mind without your express consent, a courtesy I extend to no one else in the Division but the Pokémon standing here in this room. But it perhaps hurts me to know I have not earned enough of your trust that it goes without saying."
"Then extend me another courtesy, and leave the room while I tell the secret to my team," Char told her flatly, staring her in the eye.
With an offended huff, Eva turned tail and left through the front door, shutting the door rather forcefully with her telekinesis.
And Char was faced only with his team, again finding it difficult to just blurt the truth to them.
Why is this so hard?! Char yelled at himself inside of his own mind. TELL THEM. OPEN YOUR MOUTH AND TELL THEM.
Say, "Ray, I used the Call on you." That's all you need to do. That's all you need to say. They'll take the rest from there. They'll ask questions and you'll answer them. And they won't think any less of you for it. You're their friend. You're also their human.
Char felt his flame rising and listened to the quiet sound of his flame searing through the air somewhere close behind his head. His claws dug into the doorframe.
And for just a moment, he thought he had the strength to say what he wanted. He seized the strength and gave into the moment, closing his eyes and preparing himself to reveal the truth: that he was now the most powerful Pokémon in all of Ambera.
But he saw something terrible on the back of his eyelids.
There were bright, twisting colors. Sickening swirls of rainbow light faded out of the darkness and fell upon him.
No, that can't be, Char said, tensing in panic. No, that's not possible…
The colors intensified, and soon became accompanied by a hypnotic humming sound, one which Char knew was only occurring within his own mind.
Celebi… why? Char lamented, wanting to cry. Why now…?
Char succeeded in staying on his feet as the colors burst, opening the channel of communication from Temporal Tower a second time in the same day. Char thought the pulse felt somehow gentler than last time.
Hey, Char! It's me again. I think I'm hitting a little early here, but oh well! I can't back out now. Get ready!
Here's the Call!
And the brunt of the pulse came, filling Char's head with the breath of an unspoken voice.
Char opened his eyes again. His friends were still there, watching him with growing confusion, but he viewed them as though the room was filled with water, with reality shifting back and forth by some unseen tide. He also felt that time might have been moving more slowly, as the odd lethargy he felt was very similar to the sensation of wearing a speed brace.
He took a moment to marvel at Celebi's handiwork in fine-tuning the signal to become easier to digest. The dizzying sensation easily reminded him of the times when he would be hit by the full brunt of Celebi's desperate calling for her lord, but this pulse wasn't fully debilitating as it had been in the past. Though the Call flowed through him, he could still stand on his feet and process thoughts to a degree.
All while having full control of the minds of the Pokémon around him. So efficient, yet so disgusting…
Yet Char, his concentration and mental strength shattered to pieces by the force of Celebi's pulse, felt the sensation of having his mind reduced to the awareness of an infant, yearning and pleading only for those few things he truly wanted.
These were the simple and pure emotions he conveyed telepathically to his friends.
Trust me, he pleaded to them, looking Saura right in the eye. Please don't stop trusting me.
It was not meant to be an order, only a childlike plea in a desperate moment.
The Call then ended, making Char feel like his head had surfaced from submersion in a warm bath, and only then did it strike him that he might have sent another unspoken message. He held his breath and felt his blood run cold, gripping the doorframe with all the strength in his claw as he waited to see what would happen.
He thought that Saura and Ray didn't appear so worried anymore.
"Feel any better?" Saura asked cheerfully. "You missed dinner. Want me to get something out of the closet? How's your back?"
"My… back?" Char repeated flatly, feeling his stomach drop. "What… about my back?"
"You said you sprained it on your mission with Team X, right?" Ray said. "That's why you took a nap, right?"
"Yeah, you've been in there for hours!" Saura added. "You missed all the food and everything. We were even starting to look at jobs for tomorrow without you."
It… affected both of them this time, Char realized. I sent it to both of them…?
Char felt the panic mounting fast. He struggled to stay standing and took controlled breaths.
"You don't look very good," Ray said, drawing closer. "You sure you don't want an oran? We can spare some if it'll make you feel better."
"O-Otto," Char suddenly said, taking a step back from Ray and nearly falling over. "This… is what it does. It happened again. See?"
"What do you mean?" Otto replied.
"What we were just talking about!" Char nearly shouted to him, indicating his plainly baffled Raichu friend. "This is the effect it has!"
"You were in the bedroom all evening," Otto said blankly. "You have not spoken in hours. Perhaps you experienced a vivid dream?"
Char tried to say something in response, but words wouldn't come out of his mouth.
He staggered backward again, gaping at the Pidgey.
"You—you didn't enter my room? At all?" Char tried desperately.
"I was sent to check on you," Otto said. "But only once, and you were sleeping."
"No," Char breathed, backing away further. "No, no, no. I, uh… I… my back. Sorry, my back still hurts a bit."
Ray became concerned again. In his face, Char saw the same look he'd had just a few minutes before while he waited for an explanation of why he hid himself in his room all night. It was the very look of worry Char had apparently erased from the Raichu through a telepathic spell – it had come back just as quickly. Saura stood behind, looking similarly baffled.
"Char… are you alright?" Ray said, growing serious. "Is it really that bad? Should we take you to the doctor?"
"No… No, I'll be fine, I think, I'm sure," Char stammered, backing into his room and toward his bed. "Tell you what, guys. You pick the job for tomorrow, and you can run it with Marrow. I'll take the day off."
"Really?" Saura croaked. "I guess that's okay, since we stayed behind today anyway. But are you sure?"
"Yeah, I… I just need some rest, is all," Char gasped. "Sorry, I…"
And Char dropped and sprinted into his bed-nest, where he curled his tail around his body, pointing his wide-opened eyes away from his unknowing friends. He knew he wouldn't be sleeping that night, not as long as the gravity of the situation kept looping through his mind.
It erased an entire conversation from Otto's memory, Char realized, clutching his tail and shuddering. It might have erased the whole apple incident from all of them, too.
I have to stop doing this. I can't do this to them. Maybe to other Pokémon, but not to them. Not to my partners.
I'll figure this out. I'll learn how to work with this power. Just… as long as they're as far as possible away from me the next time it happens again…
When Char finally got to sleep that night, his mind greeted him with unsettling fever-dreams. One involved Ray forgetting his own name, another had Saura thinking he was a Charmander and lighting himself on fire.
The next afternoon, he was rescued from the morbid hallucinations by Eva, who perched at the front of his bed and used telekinesis to lift his body a few hairs upward before letting him drop. Char woke with a start and scowled at the Espeon, demanding an explanation.
"Someone is at the door," she reported. "I do not know how deeply you were sleeping to have not noticed the knocking, but I'm sure they would appreciate not having to walk up all those stairs to return later."
Grumbling and shaking off the bad memories of the dreams, he stretched and sprinted out to answer the door. When he opened it, he found a Pidgeotto and a Medicham waiting for him. The Medicham held a torn scrap of parchment.
"Char?" the large bird said, indicating a large, flat slab of wood covered in splinters which leaned against a wall. "We are here because your team yesterday requested a bulletin board be installed on the wall outside your living quarters. The approval has been granted and the board is ready to be installed. Should we begin?"
"Yeah, that's fine," Char said groggily.
"The last thing we need is the signature of the team leader," the Medicham said, handing him the oddly-shaped document.
Taking the paper, Char squinted at the indecipherable footprints which covered it and searched for the space to sign. After finding the most likely place, he realized he had no pen or ink with which to write his name, and awkwardly glanced around himself as though searching for one laying on the floor. Finally, he had the brilliant idea of just setting the paper on the floor and stamping it with his paw, leaving his own footprint among the rest.
After stretching and yawning, he stood in the hall and watched the installation of the board. It was impressively large, about twice his body height and over three times his arm span. He saw how the Medicham lifted the board with its telekinesis and leveled it against the wall, where an unusual Pokémon with sharp metallic claws bolted the plank straight to the stone wall.
Seeing there was no threat, Eva came to join Char in watching the board go up. "Very… ambitious of you to request a board," Eva said, almost as a complement. "Are you certain you are up to the task?"
"Task?" Char repeated, looking at her warily. "What task? I didn't have anything to do with requesting the board… Ray and Saura must have done it yesterday while I was away."
"Teams with bulletin boards outside their halls take jobs from other teams," Eva explained. "Now, any team in the entire Division can bypass the job listings and come nail their job onto your board. With the expectation that you will complete their request in a timely manner, of course."
"…Oh," Char said, gulping. "I had no idea. But… what if we get too many jobs to complete?"
"You might turn the extras in to the registry to be placed on the official list," Eva said, shrugging. "But it should be something to avoid. It does not reflect well upon your team. It gravely hurts your reputation to let your clients down, especially after they went through the trouble of requesting your help specifically."
Char watched the squadron of workers as they sank the last nail into the board. He knew it was too late to withdraw his request, and besides, he knew Alakazam would be pleased to see one of his three objectives having been met.
"We'll make it," Char said, reassuring himself mostly. "I don't know how, but we'll just see what happens. We've got enough equipment and experience to tackle S-rank jobs, at the least."
"Speaking of which, if you don't mind me asking, why didn't you go with your team?" Eva inquired, her tail twitching with curiosity. "They could have used you. I heard they were venturing into a dark-typed habitat."
"Well, um, my back," Char tried to say, grimacing at the sudden question. "Yesterday, I sprained my back. Fell out of a tree."
"Yes, that is what Saura told me as well," Eva said pointedly, tilting her head. "You are not a skilled liar, Char. Besides, even you should have spent enough time in the Pokémon world to know that a sprained back can be healed in minutes with the proper medicine. What is the real reason you stayed behind? If, of course, you do not mind me inquiring."
Char clenched his fists, angry at himself for thinking he could outwit a professional liar so easily.
He smiled. "Well, you're right. That wasn't all of it," he said to her cleverly. "There are some Pokémon I really need to have a word with. And just me, not the others. I've been putting it off for too long, and today I decided I needed to just face them and get it done."
"I see," Eva said, clearly unsatisfied. "And I suppose bringing a hidden assistant to reveal their unspoken thoughts to you will be of no help?"
"Not… this time. Sorry," Char said awkwardly, itching to get away from the psychic. "I've got to go, actually. I hope I didn't miss them. They should still be downstairs by now, hopefully. Uh, see you later! Hold down the base!"
And Char scrammed with no shame or tact, leaving the displeased and lonely Espeon standing in the hall. He hoped to Arceus that she abided by her agreement not to peer into his mind. He did, however, think of some Pokémon he truly needed to speak with, especially with the growing worry that Eva would somehow catch a stray memory and learn his secret.
Char always enjoyed paying a visit to Domo and watching all the magnificent and unexpected forms the Ditto could become. But in recent times, it seemed that the combat-trainer was enjoying their encounters less and less. Each time he saw the Ditto, even in his favorite Mew form, it was clear that he was growing more exhausted with each passing day.
Entering the dojo room, Char saw the poor false Mew worse than he had ever seen before. The little psychic kitten was slumped facedown at the side of the battle platform, his eyes opened wide and bloodshot. Char almost thought to turn around and leave Domo to his rest, but wondered if he could use some company.
"Ahh, Char…" Domo sighed, righting himself and sitting on the floor. "It is good to see you, but… I'm not certain we can battle today. At least not unless you can run down to Kecleon's and buy me about seven bottles of elixir."
"Domo… what's wrong?" Char cried, sitting down next to him. "You look awful!"
"It's… ahh… this whole business of chasing legendary Pokémon," Domo explained, rubbing his head. "Didn't want to say anything when your Otto was here, but that's why I wasn't really giving it my all in that battle. As thankful as I am that Mew left me with this blessing, sometimes I feel like it's more of a curse than anything. Yeah, yesterday I caught a report of Suicune galloping across the top of the Plateau. Of course, no word of which direction it was going, so I spent a whole day searching the entire top of the Plateau—which isn't small, at that—and I've come back empty-handed… Ahh, I knew I'd have no chance. Suicune's running speed is marvelous, and I hear they can jump entire mountains in a bound."
"Don't worry about it. I bet being a Suicune is still not as fun as being a Mew," Char said to him. "You don't really need a Suicune transformation! Don't you have any legendary transformations already?"
"…Some," Domo said, crawling to a nearby shelf, making the strange display of a Mew walking on hands and feet rather than floating. "I know Shaymin, if that counts. Then there's Virizion and Cobalion… although, those aren't so rare, and some of them are even civil. Ah, and Articuno. Met one up north some eighty years ago… Hate transforming into it, though. It always feels too warm around here."
"I don't know what most of those are, but that sounds great!" Char said encouragingly. "You have five legendary transformations. No other Pokémon can say that! Why do you need more?"
"That's my goal in life. It's to acquire all of the Pokémon in the world as transformations," Domo said, sagging in the air as he drifted upward to take a berry from the shelf. "But so far, all of my legendary forms are from civil Pokémon I've met in my travels. I've had conversations with them! It's the wild ones I can never seem to find. I always have to go on these trips and I always hope maybe once, just once, I'll find one. But I never do. Honestly, I don't know how long Ditto live. Maybe I'm immortal. Maybe I'll still be alive long after this hole in the ground caves in. I need a goal to keep me sane. And sometimes I suppose I get down on myself, and I think, 'if you can't find the legendaries, then what's the point?'"
"Well, I'm sorry about that," Char said meekly, regretting not taking the Ditto on his quest to Dialga after all. "But still, you can turn into a Mew! I don't think you know how awesome this is. If you joined the war, I'm sure you could do some serious damage."
Landing back on the ground, the weary Mew cast Char a deathly glare.
"I suppose I can battle you in a moment," Domo said, preparing to devour the chesto berry he held. "Just let me wait for this berry to take effect."
"W-wait, I'm not here to battle you, actually," Char said quickly. "Actually, I just needed to ask your advice about something."
"Oh. Well, that's much less of a strain," Domo said, breathing a sigh of relief and tossing the berry over his shoulder. "What's on your mind?"
"I have a pretty big secret," Char explained. "But one of my friends is an Espeon, and I'm not so sure I trust her just yet. I'm worried she'll see the secret in my mind. So, since you're a Mew all the time and you know what psychics are like, do you have any advice about keeping my secrets safe from her?"
Domo shrugged, suddenly looking much more lively than before. He drifted through the air and sat on the end of the battle platform. "Oh. A good question! There are really only two things you can do. First thing is to keep your distance as much as possible. Psychic powers get weaker the farther from the target they are. Just like how it gets harder to hear someone talking at a distance. Same principle. Second thing is to be forgetful! And by that, I mean just try not to think about your secret when the psychics are around. Get a song stuck in your head or something! Or recite a poem over and over. Anything to take your mind off of it. Hey, this just what I've been planning to teach your Otto once he has the chance to come see me again, since he asked to learn how to battle Mew. In battle, you can confuse psychics by being indecisive! When you go in for the attack, just start thinking to yourself, 'left! No, right! No, left! No right!' and that'll get the psychic so frustrated that they'll stop trying to read your mind at all."
Char smiled. "So, as long as you know your mind is being read, and you keep your distance, you can defend yourself?"
"That's the gist," Domo said, crossing his arms and swiveling his long tail above his head. "Some Pokémon train themselves to constantly ramble with their thoughts whenever they're out in the field so as to foil psychics they might not even know are watching! And the Resistance Creed you recite to get into the base? That's to confuse psychics, too! Since you can't keep the whole thing at the top of your memories at once. Is this helping you at all?"
"Yeah… I think it is," Char said with a confident grin. "I'll just learn another poem or something and recite that whenever I'm around the Espeon. Thanks!"
"Glad I could help you in some way," Domo sighed, collapsing onto the platform. "Honestly, I'm too exhausted for any battle training nowadays… and worst part, I don't know when some exploration team is going to report another legendary sighting. They've been ambitious lately. Any day now, it's going to be, 'Domo! Regirock down south! Domo! Heatran is in Red Haven! Domo! Jirachi found at the bottom of Basin Canyon!' Ahh, I don't know how much longer I can keep this up…"
"Well," Char started to say, wondering whether or not to speak, "Scythe said I shouldn't tell you this, but… if you really want a legendary Pokémon, we met a Regirock on our travels up north."
The Mew lifted itself back up, eyes widened. He blinked.
"…Really?" Domo said in fascination. "You're not just making this up?"
"No! You can ask Scythe, he saw it, too. Actually, on second thought, don't ask Scythe, he'll get mad at me for telling you. Ask Prince. We met it in the Scarred Crags, really far northwest of Fort Emerald. It didn't really look like it was moving anywhere, so if you can go to Prince and get the path we took through Zerferia, I'm sure you can–"
"The Scarred Crags! I know of that place! I was there once!" Domo squealed, spinning around in the air. "That's where I earned my Articuno form! Ah! Yes, sounds like I may be finally finding a use for that cumbersome bird after all! This is wonderful news! Thank you for this news, Char! Ahh!"
"Um… You're welcome, I think," Char groaned, not having expected such an enthused response.
Char left the dojo, happy that he had at least made someone's day. He knew that the next Pokémon he needed to speak to probably wouldn't react as favorably.
Team Flamewheel had taken residence one floor below Char's lair, and at the opposite end of the large, curving hallway which characterized the upper floors of the base. It was the very place Eva had locked herself while she hid among the Division. Upon learning as much, Char understood now why she was so eager to find a new home. It didn't make him very comfortable knowing that she hadn't merely moved into his hall out of kindness, and even though he saw her every day now, he still wasn't sure how much of his trust she truly deserved.
But Eva was the least of his problem at this point.
When Char knocked on the team's door, he was greeted by Flamewheel's Weavile, a Pokémon he didn't remember the name of, but had met on the worst night of his life when the Watchers attacked Fort Emerald.
"Ahy, it's you," the Weavile said amusedly. "Come on in."
Warily, Char did so. He tiptoed into the hall of Team Flamewheel, finding it to be surprisingly deserted. In the proper light, he saw that the rooms were decent for a team of Prince's size, and had only two less bedrooms than Char did. It did not, however, have all of the furnishings and decorations which adorned Char's walls, decorations he knew rightfully belonged to Prince's team. Instead, Team Flameweel seemed to accept the décor of bare gray walls and floor, with not even a mirror, carpet, or shelf to be seen anywhere. The only furnishing was a medium-sized item chest blocking the doorway of the supply closet, the place where all the items were normally stashed in his own base.
A Shuckle dug into the chest, placing various pieces of equipment on the floor with its strange long tentacles.
"I can't find it," the Shuckle whined. "It's not here."
"Look. HARDER," the Weavile growled in reply. "We have a slammer brace. If you can't find it then it's your fault for losing it. Anyway, what brings you here, Char?"
"Uh… where is everyone?" Char wondered, disturbed by the eerie silence of the halls.
"Everyone's heading to Basin Canyon," the Weavile said dismissively. "Getting a real jump-start on things."
"…Basin Canyon? Isn't that where Scythe's working?" Char said.
"Oooh, you must not have heard," said the Weavile. "Alright, get this. Prince goes through all the trouble of moving us here, and we get all settled in, and what's our first job? Turns out Scythe made some kind of a huge mistake at Basin Canyon with underestimating the enemy or something, and it's taking like four teams to help fix it, and we're one of these teams. He came in yesterday asking Prince personally for help. So… there you have it, we're risking our lives again, right off the blow, just like old times. Figures I'm the only one here who actually enjoyed it back up in the cold. Here I'm plain out of my element."
"Heh, wow," Char said, genuinely shocked. "What about Lily? Did she go to Basin Canyon too?"
"Aheh, nah! Prince says Lily won't have anything to do with Basin Canyon. Forbids her from going. Guess she's just going to collab with other teams while we do our work. And not get killed. Though today, I think she's still sleeping."
The Weavile pointed at the master bedroom door, the one which mirrored Char's room in his base. Char peered at it with newfound dread, feeling things fluttering in his stomach.
No reason to be afraid anymore, Char figured, taking slow steps toward the door. She can't do anything to me. Really, she can't. And I have bigger things to feel worried about. So alright. Let's get this over with.
Char just wanted to do one thing: apologize to Lily for burning her halfway to death. It was the very least he could do for making such an awful call at the top of Temporal Tower and burning the wrong Pokémon. Though he knew an apology in hindsight wouldn't impress her so much, he still needed to say it, at the very least to maintain his honor and deal with the fear he had of talking to her, a fear which had become genuinely distracting.
He pushed open the door to the master bedroom and peered inside. There were no giant torches, and no furnishings whatsoever, save for the standard ghost-torches upon the walls and three of the Division's standard bedding nests. One was obviously for Prince, the leader of the team. Another was for his closest partner, Kabir the one-armed Smeargle. Char remembered the night he had lost his arm, and found he didn't like dwelling on the memory.
The final bed held a very peaceful, sleeping Bayleef.
Ah, she's not supposed to be sleeping this late! Char sighed. Now if I wake her up, she's going to get all annoyed that I barged in. Maybe it's best if I didn't wake her. Maybe I should come back—
A terrible yet familiar pulse washed over Char's body, causing him to stagger.
It was a feeling he was beginning to know so well, yet it brought such strange sensations that it could have been different each time.
And then there came the rainbow colors before his eyes, removing all doubt as to what was happening.
No, no! Char realized, gritting his teeth and tensing in place. No, this was supposed to have already happened! Celebi, I thought you made this one too early! Ugh, you tried again, didn't you?
As the Call's volume increased and the humming filled his heart, Char suddenly had a devilish idea.
What if… what if it's actually useful this time? Char considered, hating himself for even thinking such a thought. I could use the Call on her. I could…
I could make her forgive me. I could make her my friend again. That might actually be a good idea!
No, no, no. Wait. No, that's a terrible idea. I respect her more than that.
But I've got to test this power somehow, right? I've got to learn how it works so I can use it when it counts.
Yeah, but not on Lily! Go use it on Team X or something. Not on Lily! She doesn't deserve that!
Except… I'm now the most powerful Pokémon in the world. I can do whatever I want to everyone's minds, and there are no consequences. Why shouldn't I just change her mind a little? Just… remove some friction between us?
It would be so easy! Yeah, I'll do it. It's… like a shortcut. Yeah, a shortcut to what we'd already be doing.
Alright… Celebi, give me the Call.
Char stood in the doorway, waiting for Celebi's mark and watching the Bayleef sleep so soundly. He wondered if he was about to defile her dreams, plant some deceptive imagery within her mind that would cause her to wake up with a new view… and a new opinion of him.
Celebi's voice burst into his head. There! I got it right this time! I'm going to do this every day for you, now, right at about this time! Ready? Here it goes!
And when Char felt the Call become active, the pulses of heart-speak radiating from himself, he glared at Lily and gave her a solemn command.
I want you to…
Ignore this! Don't listen to this message!
Panicking, Char let his conscience get the better of him, ordering Lily to ignore his Call.
It had been a stroke of genius for Char's mind to stumble upon such wording. For the first time, he realized he could control the Call by sending no command at all, in effect, cancelling the effect when it would be badly timed. He knew that the signals would be received by his targets, whose minds and memories would react the same way they normally would to the Call, and invent reasons why the stray telepathic radiation entering their consciousness is inconsequential and should be disregarded.
Char figured Lily was probably now having a strange dream, one where she visualized the humming and colors characteristic of the Call, yet she would wake up with no memories of them, because she was instructed to ignore them.
And when the pulse faded, Char watched her sleep for a minute more, deciding that it would indeed be best not to wake her. He would attempt to apologize another day.
Char returned to the base with a lightened spirit, glad to have found a way to cancel the Call's power. It was an enormous burden taken off of him, and he would feel much more comfortable in the company of his friends in the afternoon when the Call was scheduled to be sent. Of course, there still was the issue of telling them about it, and of using it on unknowing targets to test its effects further, but he didn't have to worry about that for the rest of the day. After having unwittingly revised their memories of the apple incident, none of them had any reason to worry or distrust him for the time being. He could take as long as he wanted to decide what to say.
After wandering out into the hall, Char felt his stomach protesting that he had skipped both dinner and breakfast, and decided his next top priority would be to find food. But on the way downstairs, he ran into a Pokémon he really wasn't expecting to see.
A Scyther, one he knew well, marched up the stairs with a bag strapped to his back between his wings. He wore a beaming smile and had a spring in his step that lightened Char's mood just to see. Char couldn't remember how long it had been since Scythe appeared this happy; he wondered some new breakthrough had been made about his enemies.
"Good afternoon, Char!" he called, pausing for a moment. "Are your missions going well? Learning anything from Marrow?"
"Um… Yeah! The rest of the team is out today, I stayed back to run base errands," Char said quickly. "How about you? You look really happy! Did you figure out what Cepheus is doing yet?"
"Oh, no! Not at all," he laughed. "But! I did get some help. Team Flamewheel's on board with us now, and I'm quite happy about that! In fact, I'm going to go have a little talk with Prince now!"
"Prince? I don't think he's here," Char told him. "I was just at their base. I think Prince went to Basin Canyon!"
"Oh, he did?" Scythe said, looking suddenly disappointed. "Hmm, I will just see him later this week, then! Well, I've got to get going now. Keep doing well on your missions! I'm sure you'll be at our league in no time!"
Scythe gave him another huge grin and continued on his way.
Well, he looks happy enough, Char jokingly said to himself. Guess there's no reason to tell him I'm secretly the answer to all of his problems now. Then again… if it really comes to that, I wonder if I should help him out…
Char found it hard to keep himself busy for the remainder of the day. After having a light lunch in the deserted cafeteria, he considered beginning his quest to learn footprint runes. Going upstairs to the Cliffside Academy building, he found the Division's research library and asked the bookkeeper about tutorials for learning the written language. The librarian, a butterfly-like creature with vivid wings, showed him some materials, but they were all written in footprint runes already. Baffled, Char asked what the point was of a textbook that was already written in the language it intended to teach. The butterfly replied, "It has instructions for teaching the language to hatchlings and impressed ferals. I thought that's what you wanted! We don't have much else."
Frustrated that the library had no textbooks written in Unown, or at the very least with pictures, he went back downstairs to the base and once more found himself bored.
Char spent the rest of the afternoon in his planning room staring at the Map of Jirachi. He scanned the map for known locations and tried to see if he could decipher the footprints based on the names he knew, like "Iron Town" and "Great Plateau," but he could not find any noticeable patterns in the texts which corresponded to the way the words sounded. Even the few words he already knew in the language, like his own name, didn't make any discernable sense to him. They were all just vague representations of Pokémon footprints, some of which he could have sworn were not real, turned in random orientations.
"This'll take a miracle to learn," Char grumbled, squinting at the tiny words upon the map. "Alakazam, I hope you realize how hard this is. Hardest of the three tasks, easily."
Finally, after a few hours, there was a tapping at his door. He recognized Marrow's style of knocking, and quickly rolled up the map to welcome his friends back from the mission.
"Hi, guys," Char said, sliding open the door. "I was just—"
As soon as he opened the door, Char was clubbed in the face with Marrow's bone, hard enough that he flew a bit across the room before landing on his stomach. He yelped in pain, knowing without having to ask that it had been Marrow's favorite bone. The pain had just been too perfect.
"Well, now!" a very angry Marowak called from the front door. "Had me under the impression you're runnin' a functioning team. Had me fooled, Char!"
Feeling a bump already forming on his head, Char rolled over and saw Marrow, his scowl so powerful that it was almost visible straight through his mask. Behind him stood two very dismayed teammates who had cringed at the sight of the blow to the head Char took.
They walked past him and into the room, saying nothing. Ray cast him an ashamed glance, Saura averted his gaze and walked to the bedroom.
"What… what happened?" Char said.
"Couldn't finish the mission," Marrow said. "We had a chance, but then your friend over there had one of his 'nightmare episodes' or whatever you're callin' it. We had to escape orb outta there."
"It was really bad," Ray said sadly, helping Char up. "Even after we got out of the dungeon, he wasn't waking up. It took ten minutes before he opened his eyes again… It was awful…"
Char glanced back in time to see the Bulbasaur vanish into the master bedroom.
"Yeah, well, sorry doesn't cut it," Marrow growled. "Now you're down on cash and your good bird's got his first failure on his record with you. Blasted shame, he's the only one who carried his weight today. Hope you're happy. Very good call, stayin' behind at the base today, Char. Very good call."
Before Char could retort, he turned to leave. "Be back tomorrow," he grunted. "Next time, you'd better be ready to lead your team, Char. I won't have any more of this, being treated like I'm a babysitter. I'm supposed to be teaching you."
The Marowak cast a resentful glare at Char, then walked out of the room and slammed the door shut with his bone club.
Char sat in dumbfounded silence with Ray for a minute. Otto joined them, tilting his head in wait for Char to respond. But Char wasn't going to reprimand them; the mission's failure was the least of their worries, really.
"I guess it's time," Char sighed, his gaze falling to the floor. "We can't let this keep happening to Saura. If this is just going to keep getting worse… We have to heal him."
"Yeah," Ray said, nodding sadly. "I'll go tell Eva…"
They waited until late that night, when the torches turned blue. They waited until the rest of the day's chores had been done. It had been a somber evening, with the team barely sharing a word with one another to break the grim silence. But when it was over, and Team Ember had retired to their rooms for the night, Saura's teammates gathered at his bedside. Eva joined them, entering the room in silence and approaching Saura slowly. Char thought her demeanor was different this night; she seemed calm and respectful, and even perhaps motherly, as she gazed down at the cowering Bulbasaur and anticipated what was about to happen.
Saura shared a defeated, tearful gaze with his best friend. Nothing needed to be said; he knew what needed to be done.
"Okay," Saura whispered, staring Char in the eye. "Okay… I'll do it."
And he extended his vines to Char and Ray, who took them and gasped them close, letting Saura know he would not be alone.
"Are you ready?" Eva spoke, lowering her forehead close to his.
"Okay, alright," Saura sighed, nodding and closing his eyes. "Alright… Will they be able to see, too?"
"Yes, I will let them see what you see," Eva said gently. "They will be with you through everything. Now, whenever you're ready, show me the memory once more…"
Char saw, for the first time, Saura's family within his memory.
There was a gentle Ivysaur meandering down a beautiful country path, and a little Bulbasaur leaping circles around it. The sun shined so brightly upon the path. The cool autumn winds had made the trees turn pretty colors. The tiny little Bulbasaur seemed so full of energy and glee.
At first, it seemed like such a happy memory. But Char could feel something else, something darker, beneath the surface of this vision.
"Didn't you have fun?" the Ivysaur asked of his sister. "Nincadia was amazing, wasn't it? Didn't you like the hot springs?
"They were alright," the little Bulbasaur replied, coming to walk beside her brother. "But what I really want to do is go back home."
"Why go home when we have so much more of the world to see?" the Ivysaur laughed. "I'm thinking we could go to Great Crystal City! It'll take us half a month, but it'll be worth it! I hear there's a huge crystal in the center of the city that's so big, it's bigger than any building made by humans!"
"Wow," the little Bulbasaur said. "That does sounds amazing."
"Or maybe, we could even try crossing the ocean…" the Ivysaur considered. "We could go meet the humans! I'm sure they'd be our friends! Wouldn't you want to do that?"
"I know we're having fun walking around the world! But can't we go home one last time? Can't we see Saura again?"
Ugh… Saurlee… Saurlee, no…
The pain has begun. Hold the course, Saura. You only need to watch this once.
I don't want to see it happen… I don't…
Saura, nothing you see here is real. Nothing actually happened.
But what if it did…?
That is something you must come to terms with. Do not fear, Saura. Your friends are right here with you. Can't you still feel them holding onto you?
"Well, I don't think we should," Saurvor said, glancing to the horizon. "Wherever Saura is right now, I think he's happy. We shouldn't worry about him."
The little Bulbasaur sighed again, coming to rest at the side of the road.
"But what about mommy?" she whined. "I want to see mommy again, too!"
"Hey, we're grownup Pokémon now!" Saurvor said gently. "Pokémon don't spend all their lives with their parents, you know? Eventually there comes a day when they need to go and live life on their own!"
"But… brother, I didn't even get to say goodbye," the little Bulbasaur cried. "Why didn't I get to say goodbye?"
Because of me, Saurlee. It's because of me. Augghh… It hurts…
Because I did this to you…
"And hey, Saurlee… whatever happens… you've still got me. I'm not going to go anywhere."
"I love you, Saurvor."
"I love you too, Saurlee."
Eva… no, I don't want to watch this. I can't.
The only reason you're resisting is because the Watcher's curse is making you. You need to overcome it.
I don't care. I don't want to watch this! Let me go, Eva. Please, let me go!
I will not. I need to force you to watch. For your own health.
NO! LET ME GO!
And there it was, peering out from behind the trees. The Pokémon which had tracked the two travelers for weeks.
The Flareon. It was there, watching them, waiting to pounce.
And this time, nothing would stop it.
NO! NO! SAURLEE! RUN! PLEASE RUN! SAURVOR, NO!
NO! I CAN'T WATCH!
Flareon was so close. There was very little chance of escape.
Then… the Flareon lifted its head… and his eyes locked with Saurvor's…
NO! STOP SHOWING ME THIS! STOP!
To Char's surprise, and perhaps also to his relief, Saura's player was answered and the vision was cut short. Char blinked and remembered he was standing in his own bedroom with his closest friends gathered around, the blue light from the fire casting a ghastly tint upon everyone.
Saura's eyes blinked open, still streaming with tears. Eva twitched.
"Uh… what happened?" Ray wondered, still clutching tightly to Saura's vine. "Was that the end?"
"No, I was distracted," Eva answered. "Someone is knocking at the door."
"What?! At this hour?!" Char cried, letting go of Saura and dashing out of the bedroom. "Why now of all times?! Ugh!"
He heard it again as he ran to answer: it was a peculiar kind of knocking, one he thought he recognized from earlier that day.
"That almost sounds like Marrow," Char muttered to Ray, who had dashed alongside him. "But no, can't be…"
Char slid the door open, and sure enough, the Marowak stood at their front door, the blue light from the torches glinting spectacularly from his skull helmet.
"Hey, uh, sorry to bother you, but I was on my way upstairs for the night, and I passed by your room, and I noticed you had a message on your bulletin board already," he said, holding up the parchment with the nail still sticking out of it. "And uh… well, just read."
Char took the paper and glanced at it for a few moments, flabbergasted at the footprint symbols which covered it.
"Oh, right, you still can't read," Marrow grumbled, taking it back and handing it to the Raichu. "There. Read it."
Ray squinted to read the paper in the blue light. "It's a mission request," he said. "'My friend Venusaur is very hungry and wants an apple. Please bring one to him tomorrow. Location: Purevine Village, East of Tiny Plains… Restrictions: bring Bulbasaur. Client…'"
Ray stopped for a moment, tripping over his tongue.
"Client is… Scizor."
"Yeah, weird, huh?" Marrow said, yanking the paper back. "I'm pretty certain this was written by Adiel."
"Adiel?!" Char gasped, the truth dawning on him. "How did Adiel post on our job board…? Wait… Adiel is still after Saura! He's trying to lure him home to see his family…! This is a trap!"
"Yep, clearly," Marrow said. "And you know about Remorse's policy in dealin' with traps: we walk right into 'em. Char, looks like your Bulbasaur friend is about to be headed for a trip back home."