Capture the Heart
Author's note: This story is a continuation based on the Pokemon: Diamond & Pearl anime, starting from after the episode "The Battle Finale of Legend!".
Disclaimer: Pokemon is not my idea and I don't own it or any of the characters, obviously.
Dawn staggered backward, her head shaking from side to side in disbelief. All of the excitement she'd been feeling over today's Grand Festival battle with Zoey, all of the anticipation of performing on the biggest stage of them all in front of her friends, her mother, and J as well...it had all been mercilessly crushed upon hearing the news report of what had taken place at J's base of operations. All that remained now was a bitter, heart-wrenching sorrow.
"...no..." the young girl whimpered, cupping her hands over her mouth as the tears continued to spill down her face.
Brock felt terrible for his friend. He could only imagine how much pain she was in right now. He reached a hand out toward her, wanting to help in some way, but he didn't know what he could do. He didn't know what he could say. "Dawn..."
"NO!" Dawn cried out.
Overcome with grief, Dawn ran back to the hotel's elevator and frantically pressed the "Up" button over and over again. The elevator, however, was already in use by someone else. Dawn couldn't wait for it to come back down. She couldn't sit still for that long. Instead, she ran to the building's stairwell and began scaling the steps at a frenzied pace to get back to her room.
Back in the lobby, Ash looked completely clueless after witnessing the peculiar behavior of his female traveling companion. "Brock?" he turned to the former gym leader. "What's wrong with Dawn?"
Brock knew he had to follow Dawn. He still didn't know what could be done for her, but he didn't want her to be alone right now. "Ash, you stay here!" he instructed his friend. "I'm going after her!"
"Huh?" Ash blinked. That definitely wasn't the answer he was looking for. "But, what's-"
"Just trust me on this!" Brock cut him off. He quickly ran to the stairs, and just like that he was gone as well.
Ash stared over at the stairwell's entrance, confused. "What's up with those two?" he wondered out loud. Pikachu, who was perched atop his shoulder, was equally at a loss.
Piplup, who had been left behind, knew exactly what was going on. It may not have shared its trainer's adoration for J, but seeing the sadness on Dawn's face was enough to break its heart as well. "Pipluuup..."
Within the stairwell, Dawn was already up to the 5th floor. Her room was on the 8th floor. The muscles in her legs were starting to burn after the arduous run up the flights of stairs, but she wasn't going to let herself stop until she made it up three floors further.
It wasn't easy, nor was it pleasant, but Dawn made it. Ignoring the exhaustion in her body, she threw open the door that led into the floor's hallway and continued running until she reached her room. Panting heavily, she burst inside—leaving the door wide open—and rushed over to her backpack. Dropping to her knees, she practically ripped open the compartment containing the item she'd come for: the headset that J had given her.
"J? J!" Dawn shouted into the device as she hurried to put it on. "J? Can you hear me? Talk to me! J!"
There was no reply.
Having no idea how to get the device to communicate with others of its kind, she began pressing buttons at random in hopes that one of them would do the trick. "J! Are you there?" she persisted. "Darn it! This piece of junk! WORK! J-!"
Catching up to his friend at last, Brock now appeared in the doorway. The headset of J's that Dawn wore was something he hadn't known about. After what had transpired last night, it was hardly surprising that she had it, though. There were more important things to worry about right now, anyway.
"J? Come on! Say something..." Dawn desperately cried into the device.
Brock shut the door behind him. He didn't want anyone else to see his friend like this. "Dawn..." he uttered her name, looking upon her with pity in his eyes.
The up-and-coming coordinator didn't so much as acknowledge his presence. "Please, J! Tell me you're okay!" she sobbed into the headset. "Tell me they're wrong!"
Approaching the distraught girl, Brock knelt down next to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Dawn, stop..."
"NO!" Dawn emotionally snapped at him, her tears dripping down onto the floor. "She said she'd come watch me today! She can't be dead! She can't be! J! J-!"
"Dawn, that's enough," Brock said to her.
With those empathic words, Dawn finally broke down. She planted her face against Brock's shirt and she wailed. She wailed uncontrollably. Brock leaned back against the bed and loosely wrapped his arms around the girl. He would stay like this and comfort her until she let it all out. That was all he could do for her right now.
Dawn's seemingly endless tears dripped onto the transparent part of J's headset and then down onto Brock's right pant leg, leaving a wet spot where they fell. Brock considered removing the headset for her, thinking it must have been uncomfortable, but decided against it. The item obviously meant a lot to Dawn knowing where she'd gotten it from. Taking it off might have upset her more, and that was the last thing Brock wanted to do.
The two of them stayed that way for close to ten minutes. It was only after crying for that long that Dawn attempted to choke some words out from her mouth.
"Why..." the young girl said, her voice muffled by her friend's clothing, "...why did this...have to happen, Brock?"
Brock would be honest in replying to her. "She did a lot of bad things, Dawn," he answered. "The police were always after her. Something like this was bound to happen at some point."
"But she was a good person deep down!" Dawn defended the woman she admired, weakly pounding her fist against Brock's arm. "It wasn't her fault she got into that! It wasn't her fault..."
After listening in on J's story of her past last night, Brock didn't necessarily disagree with that sentiment. He didn't know how much it would help, but there was something he'd picked up from the earlier news report that he felt Dawn should hear. "Listen, I know it doesn't look good, but the news never said for sure that J had died, right? Only that they think she did."
Thinking back on the exact words she'd heard from the television, Dawn sniffled. "Yeah..."
"So maybe it's too early to give up hope, right?" Brock suggested with a slight smile. "Besides, you've still got your big contest battle today against Zoey. Wouldn't J want you to go out there and do your best?"
The question reminded Dawn of something J had said to her during their visit to Balladia Garden. "She told me once..." the coordinator began to tear up again, "...that when you put that much hard work into something, it should be your top priority."
Brock nodded his head in agreement.
Her face red from her lengthy bout of sobbing, Dawn backed away from her friend and rubbed the wetness away from her eyes and cheeks. "Brock...I'd like some time alone. Is that okay?"
"Sure," the aspiring Pokemon breeder replied. "Ash is probably getting hungry. I think we'll go grab breakfast and bring some back for you to eat when you're feeling up to it. Sound good?"
Dawn had no problems with the plan. Once Brock had left, she slid off J's headset and held it out with the transparent part facing her. She then gently pressed her forehead up against it. She didn't want to keep crying, but it was hard not to as the tears forced their way out from behind her eyelids. Her face had become wet again as she pulled away from the device.
Pushing herself back to her feet, Dawn slowly walked over to the desk in the room and placed the headset next to the mirror that sat on the piece of furniture. Still teary-eyed, she reached into her pocket and pulled something out. It was the silver earring that J had given her. Wordlessly, she sat down in front of the mirror and fastened the earring onto her left ear lobe.
Seeing the image of herself wearing J's earring had Dawn starting to cry all over again. "It's to remind me that you believe in me, right?" she wept, her lips quivering. "No...no need to worry, J. I'll give it everything I've got today. For you."
Though still grieving for the one she loved, Dawn willed herself to compete in the finale of the Sinnoh Grand Festival later that day. Before the competitors made their way out onto the stage, she looked through the curtain and scoured the crowd, hoping against hope that she would see J in attendance. There was no sign of her. Dawn and Zoey would put on a show worthy of the Grand Festival's final round. In the end, however, Dawn and her Pokemon duo of Piplup and Togekiss would lose by the thinnest of margins.
Far from Lake Valor, the site of J's destroyed base was bustling with activity by the early hours of the afternoon. Medical personnel had arrived with mobile treatment centers and were tending to the wounded. Some heavy machinery had also shown up and was now digging through the rubble of the underground facility. The blaze had long since been extinguished, yet the smell of smoke still filled the air.
Those who had participated in the raid on the base the previous night were tired and in need of some rest once things had calmed down. Most of them had already left the area in search of an inn. There were a few, however, that had volunteered to stay and assist in any way that was needed.
One of those who remained was Solana. The Pokemon Ranger was leaning up against the side of one of the medical trucks, watching with her arms folded as an excavator lifted a pile of charred material from the wreckage. Solana had largely stayed out of the way and kept to herself once the fire was under control. It was uncharacteristic for the girl who was known for being energetic and upbeat, but understandable given her lack of sleep and the tension of the situation that had played out the previous night. Those factors weren't the only reasons for her seclusion, though.
Solana had been so deep in thought that she almost didn't notice the feeling of something crawling up her body. "H-huh?" she blinked, her trance broken. Once she felt a familiar warmth against her cheek, an ecstatic smile appeared on the Ranger's face. "Plusle!"
The small, fuzzy Pokemon with long, red ears nuzzled itself against its trainer. Before beginning her undercover mission, Solana had opted to leave Plusle at a safe place. She didn't want her beloved Pokemon anywhere near J if anything were to go awry.
"I had a feeling you two would want to see each other," a male voice said.
"Kellyn! Hey!" Solana greeted the approaching brown-haired boy.
Kellyn, the Top Rank Ranger who had spoiled some of J's plans in the past, leaned back against the truck next to his colleague. "Sorry, I couldn't get away from my last mission quick enough to make it here on time," he apologized. "Looks like I wasn't needed, though. Congratulations."
The joyful expression of Solana after being reunited with her Plusle didn't last for long. Seemingly displeased with Kellyn's praise, her smile disappeared. She turned away from her fellow Ranger and looked out toward the base's ruins again.
"Hmm? What's wrong?" Kellyn asked, noticing the girl's demeanor.
"We couldn't apprehend J," Solana replied. There was a heavy tone of disappointment in her voice.
After all the good that had come out of this mission, Kellyn was surprised to see Solana dwelling on the one negative detail like this. "You put her entire crew behind bars, rescued all of the Pokemon inside the base and put an end to J's operation for good. That was the goal, wasn't it? You should be proud!" he tried to cheer her up. "J may not be in handcuffs right now, but she is gone. Thanks to you and the others, she won't be a threat to Pokemon anymore."
Solana bit down on her bottom lip uncomfortably. "Maybe," she muttered.
"Maybe?" Kellyn arched an eyebrow at her.
Unable to keep her troubled thoughts to herself, Solana narrowed her eyes at the wreckage of the base and spoke. "There's something that's been bothering me, Kellyn."
The boy gave his colleague a curious look. "What is it?"
"Before J returned last night, I had some time to look through her database," Solana explained. "I couldn't find any information about her clients like I wanted. I thought that was a little strange, but that wasn't all. What really bothered me was the information she had on the Pokemon Rangers."
"On us? What sort of information?" Kellyn asked.
"Pictures, names, ranks. It's basic info, but that was all they would have needed to identify us," Solana told him. "And they had all of that for every Ranger, even trainees currently assigned to different regions like Hoenn and Johto."
The Top Rank Ranger brought his hand up to his face and began rubbing his chin. "I see," he said, not sounding too concerned. "Well, J probably did have some extensive information networks. It's not that surprising when you think about it."
Solana turned to face him again, her expression deadly serious. "Then why, when she knew about every Ranger down to the lowest rank, was there nothing about me in that database?"
Kellyn looked back at the blue-haired girl. "There was nothing about her?" he thought to himself. It was puzzling to him as well. "But, that..."
"It doesn't make any sense," Solana insisted. "I had to have been in there at some point, Kellyn. There's no way she didn't know who I was."
"You're right, it does seem odd that she would have nothing about you in there," the brown-haired Ranger had to admit. "But...she allowed you to join her crew. If she really did know who you were, then...wait, are you saying J let you in on purpose? That she knew something like this would happen?"
Solana didn't respond. Her silence was enough of an answer, though. It led Kellyn to what may have been the main point Solana was getting at.
"You don't think she's dead. Do you?" the boy asked.
There was some hesitation to reply on Solana's part as she shook her head. "I'm not sure what I think," she finally said. "I'll tell you this, though...if that was what I thought, I wouldn't be the only one."
Outstretching her right index finger, Solana pointed to a certain spot up ahead and to her right. Kellyn followed the path with his eyes and soon came upon the figure of a female officer. It was Officer Jenny.
Jenny sat cross-legged at the very edge of what used to be J's base. Arcanine lay next to her with its head resting in her lap. The wounded woman had her left arm in a real sling now, replacing the makeshift one that had been fashioned using her subordinate's belt. Her uniform hat was gone, likely buried beneath the rubble, but that was of no consequence to her. It was meaningless compared to what else may lay at the bottom of that mess.
"She hasn't moved from that spot for hours," Solana said of the mission's commander. "She won't say it, but I know what she's thinking. Until they find J's body down there, Jenny won't ever believe she's gone."
The female Ranger's speculation now had Kellyn seriously pondering what had really gone on here. "That's a wild theory you've got there, that J would knowingly give up everything like this," he said to her. "Let's assume for a second that you're right. Why would she sacrifice her entire operation? What would she gain from that?"
Again, Solana could only shake her head. "I don't know, Kellyn. I really don't know."
Next to the remains of the base, Arcanine growled lightly in approval as Jenny began to scratch behind its ear. The officer's eyes never left the sight of the machinery digging through the charred mess. No matter if it took hours, days or even weeks, she wouldn't stop watching. Not until she knew for sure what had become of the silver-haired hunter.
Three weeks later...
Well east of Veilstone City, in the forested area north of Route 222, a lone bicycle fought its way through the thick grass and navigated around the countless trees that stood in its way. A Piplup rode inside the basket between the bike's handlebars, and it wasn't the only thing occupying that space. Next to the Pokemon sat a bouquet of flowers, light blue in color, that were neatly wrapped in a white tissue paper.
The bicycle's rider, still trying to adjust to truly being on her own for the first time, was Dawn.
Three weeks had passed since that fateful day when the news of Pokemon Hunter J's apparent demise had been broadcast on television networks around the Sinnoh region. They had been three long weeks of agonizing quiet. Dawn hadn't seen nor heard from J even once in that time. No official news confirming the woman's death had come out, either. So many questions, and yet no answers.
Though her heart ached over the situation with J, Dawn put on a smile and followed Ash and Brock throughout the remainder of their journey. Being around them, she would find, was a comforting distraction. On most nights, she would go off by herself and spend some time alone with J's headset. Sometimes she would speak into it. Other times she would just sit quietly with it in her lap. All she wanted was to hear something, anything from the device. Just some little morsel of sound that might give her hope that J was alright. But there was only silence. Painful, grating silence.
Dawn had gotten to witness Ash's final gym battle against Volkner, and then his run through the Sinnoh League that included a hard fought victory over Paul. From there, the group would return to Dawn's home in Twinleaf Town, which would mark the beginning of new and separate journeys for all of them. Brock would begin studying to become a Pokemon doctor. Ash would briefly return to Kanto before setting off for the Unova region.
As for Dawn, there would be some thinking to do about what her next venture would be. Right now, she was on her way to Hearthome City after being notified that Hermione, the Pokemon stylist, wanted Buneary to model for some pictures. Dawn had to make one stop before heading there, though. There was a certain place she had gone out of her way to learn the location of; a certain place she felt compelled to visit. What would happen there and what she would see there, she didn't know. She just knew that she needed to go there and see it for herself.
After an hour plus of biking away from civilization and through terrain that wasn't meant for bicycle riding, Dawn passed between one last set of trees and came upon a large clearing that was almost entirely surrounded by forest. Her mouth felt dry as she took it all in. This was it...this had to be it. It was the only spot she'd seen today without any sign of grass, trees or bushes. Yes, this was where it had all happened.
She was at the very spot where J's base once resided.
Piplup climbed out of the basket and surveyed the area for itself. No longer was it anything like the fiery picture shown on television weeks before. The pit that had been created when the base collapsed in on itself was gone. It had been completely filled in with dirt thanks to the Pokemon Rangers, who were concerned that Pokemon native to the area may accidentally fall in and injure themselves. How much material from the ruins of the base had been removed and how much was simply buried, only the police and Rangers knew.
Other than the signs of freshly laid dirt and the lack of greenery over where the complex once sat, there was no visual hint at all that anything had happened here. Something had happened, though. Something had happened that brought one girl's whole world crashing down around her.
Taking the flowers into her arms, Dawn dismounted her bicycle and let it drop to the ground. For a moment she just stood there, staring. It was eerily quiet, the only sound that of a light wind blowing through the leaves of nearby trees. The gentle breeze brushed through the coordinator's hair and up against the flowers she held. Though it was a disconcerting thought, she felt as if she were visiting a grave.
Dawn brushed back her hair, briefly touching the earring that J had given her on the night before her contest battle with Zoey. She'd rarely taken it off over the past few weeks. When she felt ready, she started to walk deeper into the clearing. Piplup followed close behind. The further she went, the tougher it became for Dawn to breathe. Thinking of what took place here created a feeling about this area that was suffocating.
Once she reached the spot that at one time marked the center of the base, Dawn stopped. Slowly, she lowered herself down onto her knees. She reached down, then hesitated, but managed to touch the ground with her hand. She dragged it over the newly laid dirt, watching as the material moved around her palm and fingers.
"Are you down there, J? Underneath all this?" she said softly, able to speak at last.
Bringing her hand back to the item she was carrying, Dawn placed the bouquet of flowers down in front of her, then straightened back up. "It's me, J," she uttered shakily. She was already starting to become choked up. "I guess I don't even know if you're here or not, but I came to see you...just in case you were."
Dawn squeezed her hands together in her lap, trying her best to keep her emotions in check. "I-...I brought some flowers for you. I didn't know what kind you like, so I got these because they were pretty," she said of the floral bouquet. "They're called forget-me-nots. I thought that name made them the perfect choice, you know? I mean...I don't think I could ever...forget you..."
The young girl just couldn't hold it in anymore. Her sniffles turned into weeping and the tears she'd been fighting back this whole time began to roll down her cheeks. "I'm sorry. Every time I think about you, I start to cry like this," she sobbed. She didn't bother to dry her face. "I wish...I wish I'd have known what was going on that night, J. I wish I could have done something about it."
Feeling for its trainer, a saddened Piplup walked up to her and placed its flipper against her back to console her.
"It's too late, though, isn't it?" Dawn's voice shook. "I-...I just wanted you to know that I miss you. And I wish I could see you again so much...because I never got the chance to tell you..."
Dawn leaned forward and planted her hands against the ground. Her tears, now streaming from her eyes, fell and were absorbed by the dirt below. She opened her mouth. There was only one last thing to say.
"...I love you, J."
A sudden gust of wind blew through the area, swaying trees and displacing bits of the loose dirt that covered the ground.
Then, something unexpected. A shadow. It passed over so quickly that one might think they were just seeing things if they happened to catch a glimpse of it. Dawn did notice it, but was too distraught to care what it might be. Her Pokemon, however, was not.
Piplup looked up to the sky in the direction the shadow had traveled. And it saw something. It saw something that made it turn to its trainer and try desperately to get her attention.
"Piplup! Piplup! Pii piplup!" the small, water-type Pokemon relentlessly tugged at Dawn's skirt.
The young coordinator didn't budge, keeping her head facing downward.
Not wanting to let such an important matter go unnoticed, Piplup moved around to where Dawn could see it and began waving its flippers like crazy. "Pii piplup pipluuuup!"
Sniffling, Dawn used her forearm to wipe the tears away from her eyes. She could hear Piplup making a ruckus. Whatever it was getting excited about, she hoped it was important, because this was one time where she really would have liked a few more minutes to herself.
Ready to see what her Pokemon needed, Dawn raised her head...just in time to see a single sunflower—a yellow ribbon tied around its stem—fall from the sky. It passed right in front of her face and made a soft landing at Piplup's feet.
"Huh? A...sunflower?" Dawn blinked as she picked it up, her eyes having turned slightly red from crying. This was strange. She hadn't seen many flowers on the way here, and she definitely hadn't seen even one sunflower. And the ribbon on this flower...it looked like it had been prepared by someone.
Then it hit her. Sunflowers; the same kind of flower that she'd been given after her opening round performance at the Grand Festival. The same kind of flower sent to her by...
Dawn quickly looked up at her Pokemon. Piplup was putting all of its energy into jumping up and down, pointing off to the western horizon all the while. "Piiiplup! Piiiplup! Piiipluuup!"
Could it be? Dawn whisked her head up to look to the sky. "J...?" she mouthed the name of the one she hoped to see.
There was nothing to see but clouds.
Dawn shot to her feet for a better view. "J-!" she yelled the name this time. She looked in every direction, just hoping she could catch even a glimpse of the woman. The numerous trees blocked much of the sky from view, though. If anything were flying around, it wouldn't be long before they disappeared behind them. Either that was the case or there was nothing there to begin with, because the skies, from what Dawn could see, were empty.
Her heart still racing, the girl looked down at her Piplup again. It nodded its head emphatically in response to the question its trainer's eyes silently asked.
Dawn glanced at the sunflower in her hand again, and then back to the sky. Gradually, a smile spread across her face. The tears returned to her eyes, but this time she gladly let them flow. They weren't tears of sadness like before. This time they were tears of joy.
Feeling like an enormous weight had been lifted from her, Dawn clutched the flower to her heart. "I understand, J. You can't see me yet, can you?" she wept happily. "That's fine. It's enough just knowing you're okay."
Dawn wanted to do more. If J was out there, she wanted to tell her something important. Taking a deep breath, she bellowed out into the sky. "J! I'LL WAIT FOR YOU!" she shouted at the top of her lungs. "I PROMISE!"
There was no answer, of course, but Dawn didn't need one. She was satisfied. Wiping her face dry one last time, she turned and faced Piplup with an expression of eagerness and excitement—a look her Pokemon hadn't seen in what felt like forever. "Piplup, come on!" she said with enthusiasm. "We've got lots of stuff to do!"
Piplup didn't quite understand what was going on, but it was definitely glad to see its trainer in high spirits again. "Pii piplup!" it gave her a salute.
Dawn led the way back to their bike, not taking her eyes off of the yellow flower. "I'm going to follow my dreams, J, wherever they might take me," the young coordinator thought.
"And I will wait for you...no matter how long it takes."
End of Chapter 12