Capture the Heart
by rkOujirou

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.

Chapter 3

On a pleasant, sunny day in the eastern part of the Sinnoh region, Dawn sat at the edge of a cool stream with her legs resting in the water. She and her two traveling buddies were in the midst of a short break before gaining a little more ground en route to Sunyshore City. Ash had gone with Brock to collect some berries that might be useful for their journey, and while the boys were off doing that, Dawn decided to take the opportunity to let Piplup get some swimming in.

"Piplup~ pii piplup~" the small, water-type Pokemon sang, looking very content as it waded through the current.

"You're sure easy to please," Dawn giggled as she watched her Pokemon enjoy itself.

Three days had passed since the nefarious Pokemon Hunter J surprised Dawn and the others by showing up out of nowhere and demanding to talk to the young coordinator. It was an unusual encounter, to say the least, that ended with Dawn refusing to speak with J and calling her a horrible person, after which J promptly left in an uncharacteristically quiet manner. Dawn refused to believe it at first when Brock suggested that she may have hurt J's feelings by calling her horrible. Truthfully, she still didn't believe it. Even if that were the case, though, hurting the feelings of someone as ruthless and harmful to Pokemon as J wouldn't cause most people to lose any sleep at night. Yet, somehow, the whole experience left a bad taste in Dawn's mouth.

As Piplup popped up from the water next to Dawn's leg, it felt a sudden urge to engage in some mischief and gave her a little splash.

"Hey, cut that out!" the blue-haired girl laughed. "Say, Piplup, do you think it was wrong of me to call J horrible?"

Having no idea why its trainer would even consider such a thing being wrong, Piplup vehemently shook its head in response. "Pii piplup pip piplup!"

"Yeah, I guess not," Dawn sighed. She spent a moment quietly staring down at the water flowing around her legs before she spoke again. "I know she really is horrible and all for what she does, but I guess I feel kind of bad about saying that to her. I'm not a mean person, you know? I don't ever say things like that to people."

Piplup looked at her like she was crazy for feeling even an ounce of guilt. "Piplup pip!"

"Well I can see how you feel," Dawn smiled down at her Pokemon. "I guess I should just try to forget about it. If I really did hurt J's feelings, she'll probably stay away from us from now on anyway, right? And that's definitely a good thing."

"Pip piplup!" Piplup nodded its head in agreement. And, just for good measure, it gave its trainer another splash.

Dawn threw her arms up to block the water from getting onto her face, then shot Piplup a playful grin. "Ooh, you're so going to pay for that!"

Meanwhile, a little ways east of Pastoria City, Pokemon Hunter J and three of her crew members were in the process of handing over a special Mightyena to one of their clients. The Mightyena, which had an unusual color to it, took little time to capture after being cornered by the crew's armored vehicle and facing the immobilizing ray gun on J's arm. Luckily for J, the capture required very little physical work on her part. She was able to move around better now after having had a few extra days to rest, but she was still far from fully healed.

As ordered by his commander, one of J's subordinates carried the encased Mightyena over to their client, who had brought a handful of his own henchmen along, as well.

"Wonderful! Truly splendid work," said the client, a portly, wealthy-looking man wearing a dark, pinstripe suit and tie. "I trust it wasn't too much trouble?"

"Not at all," J told him.

"Good, good," he smirked as he marveled over his newly-acquired Pokemon. "You have your requested payment. I hope we'll be able to do business again sometime."

With their deal concluded, the man and his entourage hopped back into their luxury car with the Mightyena and departed.

"Now that's just how I like a job! Quick and painless!" one of J's men celebrated.

"I hear ya!" another of the crewmen bumped fists with him. "Time to head back and relax!"

"QUIET!" J's voice suddenly blared out, commanding the attention of all three members of her crew. "You were all sloppy today! There wasn't a single thing you did right!"

While there was some disagreement with their boss's opinion, only one of the men dared to open his mouth about it. "B-but, sir-" he tried to argue.

The crewman wouldn't get any further, though, as J reared back and delivered a stinging slap to his face. "Don't you ever question me!" J snarled at him. "Understand?"

"Yes, sir!" the crewman with the reddened cheek quickly responded.

"Good!" J shouted at the man. She then stepped away from her nervous crew and walked over to her Salamence. "We're heading back to base! Get moving!"

The crew scurried into the armored vehicle, and not one of them wasn't thankful that their commander was riding Salamence instead of joining them.

"Man, that hurt!" the crewman who'd been slapped rubbed his cheek. "She's had a really short fuse these past few days. What gives?"

"She's been like that ever since she left the base on her own the other day," one of the others replied. "Something must have happened."

"Yeah. Whatever it is, we just need to lay low, do what she says, and try not to make her mad until she's over it," the third crewman chimed in.

While the crew's vehicle sped off along the ground, J took to the air. Even though she ran more of a risk of being spotted this way, the vehicle her crew used was too cramped for her tastes. J remained cautious, however, having Salamence fly at a low altitude so she wouldn't be spotted from afar.

As her crew had found out the hard way, the renowned Pokemon hunter had been in a volatile mood ever since her most recent encounter with Dawn. J's crew had actually performed well today, but she was still so angry from the other day that she took her frustrations out on them anyway.

"Why?" J thought to herself, the wind whipping through her hair. "I've been called far worse and never batted an eye, so why is it that some brat calling me horrible is sticking with me for this long?"

J's present frame of mind was something that made no sense to her. Certainly, losing her ship and most of her crew not even a week ago was good reason for her to be in a foul mood. But her health had since improved, she and her crew were back to fulfilling client requests, and she had a new and improved ship already in the process of being built. All things considered, the current state of her operation wasn't bad at all.

The silver-haired hunter just couldn't bring herself to be pleased about the way things were, though. Those four words, "you're a horrible person," were constantly replaying in her head like a broken record. It wasn't even the words so much that ate away at her; anyone else could have said them and she wouldn't have cared. Rather, what was getting to her was most likely the person who had uttered those words.

"That girl," J's face contorted with irritation as Dawn entered her mind, "...I don't know why she bothers me so much, but if she's going to be a distraction to my work...then maybe I should do something about her."

"Heeeeeelp!" a voice suddenly cried out.

J had to brace herself as Salamence abruptly slowed its forward motion. "Salamence! What are you doing?" she questioned her Pokemon.

Without being told to do so, the winged Pokemon gradually came to a halt and began to descend below the line of treetops. Its master was about to inquire about its activity again when Salamence stopped its descent so that it was hovering near a particular tree.

In that tree, on one of the branches high off the ground, was a tearful, brown-haired little girl with pigtails who immediately locked eyes with J. "Ah!" the little girl's face lit up with hope. "Please help me, lady! Please!"

J, however, had no interest in the girl's plight. Instead of answering the plea, J completely ignored her as she looked down at Salamence. "This has nothing to do with us," she said. "Let's go."

"Wa-wait!" the girl cried, stretching her hand out toward the callous woman. "Please don't leave me here! I'll fall! Please!"

"And whose fault is that?" J admonished her. "You got yourself up there, you can find a way down."

"No, I'm too scared! I'll fall!" the little girl wept, inching closer to J. "Please help me!"

Then, the girl heard a cracking sound coming from the branch she was on. Moving further out along the branch had put increased pressure on the wood, and it simply couldn't hold her weight any longer.

The branch broke off from the tree completely, sending it and the terrified girl plummeting downward. The girl screamed and closed her eyes, hoping she was just about to wake up from some horrible nightmare, and for a moment she believed that was exactly what had happened. While she heard the sound of the tree branch crashing against the earth, she herself somehow remained fine. She didn't even feel like she was falling anymore.

The girl slowly opened her eyes, and was a bit startled to find that she was still hanging far off the ground. Sensing now that something had a hold of her, she looked up and to her left. Then, triggered by what she saw, tears of gratitude began rolling down the little girl's cheeks. As it turned out, it was J who had grabbed the back of her pink dress and kept her from falling.

"Thank you so much!" the girl whimpered, wiping the tears away from her face.

"Tch, what a pest," J snorted. She had no idea why she had even bothered saving the runt. "Salamence, head down to the ground."

J couldn't get rid of the girl fast enough once Salamence had landed, as she let go of her dress and dropped her immediately. "If you don't want to fall, then don't climb trees in the first place!" she chided the girl one last time. "Now go home!"

Despite J's harsh tone, the girl wore a big smile on her face, happily nodding her head as she continued to dry her tear-soaked eyes. "I will," she laughed, just thankful that someone had come to her rescue. "You look really cool, lady. I hope I can be like you one day. Bye-bye!"

With a quick wave, the little girl took off running back to where she lived.

Salamence had been expecting its master to give the order to head back to base now that the little girl was out of her hair. J, however, remained quiet, prompting Salamence to glance back at her. The Pokemon hunter's facial expression wasn't any different from usual, but she was staring ahead blankly as though she were lost in thought about something.

Finally, J noticed her Pokemon's curious stare and snapped back to reality. "Let's go," she commanded.

Without a Pokemon Center nearby to stay at, Ash, Dawn and Brock set up camp for the night in the early evening. It was later, after Ash, Brock and all of the Pokemon had fallen asleep, that a pajama-clad Dawn remained awake inside her tent with Piplup slumbering next to her.

Dawn's quest for her fifth contest ribbon had hit a snag in the Lilypad Town contest when Mamoswine lost its temper in an eventual defeat to Jessilina. That was something Dawn had come to consider a valuable learning experience, though. Now, with the aid of a notebook and a flashlight, the second-generation coordinator was playing with ideas to use in her next attempt for a fifth ribbon in Daybreak Town.

"Hmm...maybe something like this would work," she spoke quietly as she scribbled something down on the notebook paper. "Wait, but wouldn't, it might still work."

Dawn peeked over at Piplup as the small Pokemon flipped onto its side next to her, continuing to peacefully sleep the night away. "Maybe I should call it a night, too," she told herself, letting out a big yawn. After turning off the flashlight and putting away her notebook, there was just one last thing she had to do before she could turn in for the night. "Mmm...I think I need a bathroom break first."

Careful not to awaken Piplup or her friends in the other tent, Dawn slowly unzipped her tent's entrance and poked the upper half of her body outside. As she would soon find out, however, she wasn't alone. Out of nowhere, a gloved hand wrapped around her mouth from behind, prompting Dawn to let out a muffled scream.

"Shhh!" the unknown individual shushed her, trying to make sure she stayed quiet.

Horribly startled, Dawn quickly looked back over her shoulder to see whether it was a friend or a foe that had a hold of her. Upon first sight of a pair of cold eyes peering at her through the mystery person's headset, the answer appeared to be overwhelmingly foe. Though it was dark, there was no mistaking the person's silver hair and unique outfit. It was the one and only Pokemon Hunter J.

"Oh no, it's J again! I've got to warn Ash and Brock!" Dawn frantically thought to herself.

The young coordinator was about to try breaking free to call out to her friends, but J put a finger to her own lips to warn her not to try it. "Make one sound and I'll have Salamence blast your friends' tent," J whispered threateningly to the girl. "If you don't want them harmed, then follow me. Quietly."

Dawn clenched her teeth as J let go of her. Unfortunately, her friends were vulnerable right now. For the sake of their safety, she had no choice but to do as J said. Thus, being as quiet as could be, she exited her tent and followed the woman away from the campsite. J's Salamence trailed closely behind.

"How does she keep finding us?" Dawn silently wondered. J's visits were becoming far too regular an occurrence for comfort. "This is really bad. She was already mad about that one night after her ship crashed, and now she's probably even more mad after I called her horrible. What should I do?"

Once they were out of sight and out of hearing range from the tents, J came to a stop, prompting the nervous girl in pajamas to do the same.

"What are you going to do with me?" Dawn asked, sounding anxious but also upset after the threat made to her friends.

Strangely, J didn't appear to be exhibiting any anger at the moment. She didn't say a word as she silently faced away from Dawn, perfectly still.

"Well?" Dawn pressed her again. "If you're just going to stand there, then-"

"I helped a little girl out of a tree today," J cut her off.

"You...what?" Dawn blinked.

Finally, J spun around to look into the eyes of the confused girl. "She said I looked cool," she added.

Dawn was at a loss for words. Was she really hearing these things coming from Pokemon Hunter J? No, it didn't matter. This was J she was talking to. Even if what the woman said was true, it was just one positive deed in a sea of negative ones.

"And?" Dawn folded her arms as she glared over at J. "Is that supposed to make up for all of the awful things you've done?"

"It wasn't to make up for anything," J was quick to point out. "You say the things I do are awful, and you call me a horrible person, but you and I see things differently."

"How is capturing a Pokemon against its will and selling it anything but awful?" Dawn defended her stance.

"You don't understand anything!" J snapped back at the younger girl with enough ferocity to make her jump. "You've lived so warm and comfortably up until now that you don't even comprehend the meaning of struggle! You would never understand what it means to have to scrape and claw for what you get in life!"

Dawn stayed quiet, appearing shocked by the strength behind the woman's words.

"Those things that you call awful? I do them for my very survival. The characteristics that you say make me a horrible person? They were born from my will to stay alive and provide for myself," the Pokemon hunter went on. "Maybe one day when you're older you'll understand, but right now your opinions are nothing more than naive and childish."

Dawn hung her head, clearly affected by what J had just said to her. While she didn't agree with everything the woman was saying, part of her recognized some of what was said to be true. She was young, yes, and she hadn't gone through any great struggle in her life. Had things been different, maybe she would have been of the same opinion as J. But, still...

"No," Dawn looked up at J again. "Maybe some of what you said is true, but I would never see treating Pokemon like you do as anything but bad, J."

The Pokemon hunter stood there for a moment, just staring into Dawn's unwavering eyes. Then, with a deep exhale, she turned around and slowly began walking toward Salamence. "That's fine. I didn't expect you to understand completely," she spoke. "Maybe I just thought you would understand a little."

Just like the last time J had shown herself before Dawn, she appeared to be leaving without doing any harm to anyone. That was a good result, of course, but it still didn't sit well with Dawn. There was something the girl wanted to know first.

"Wait a minute!" Dawn called out to J. "Why do you keep coming to find us? Why do you care so much about what I think?"

"That's what I'd like to know," J muttered to herself, gingerly climbing onto Salamence's back. "Don't worry, you can relax from now on. You're a distraction to my work and I can't afford that, so this is the last you'll be seeing of me."

Before Dawn could say anything more, Salamence began its ascent into the night sky. J was raised high up into the air, all the while keeping her gaze focused on the girl below. Then, for the last time, she looked away. "Let's go. We're heading back to base," she instructed her Pokemon.

Soon enough, J and Salamence were gone again, leaving Dawn there to wonder what on earth had just happened. "She left," Dawn said softly, still watching in the direction where J had disappeared to. "Well...good! I don't ever want to see her again! She's still a horrible person!"

Dawn began her trek back to the campsite to get some sleep, already having forgotten about her prior plan to go to the bathroom first. However, she couldn't help looking back at the sky just once more. "J...I don't get you. Not one bit."

End of Chapter 3