(A sequel to Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness,
and to my own stories: Variations and Trials of a Pokemon Trainer.)
This story is copyrighted by the author. No duplication or reposting is permitted without express consent from the author. Pokémon and Pokémon characters are a trademark of Nintendo. All other characters, characterizations and the story plot are entirely of the author's creation, and any resemblance to any people living or dead is entirely coincidental.
This story is the continuation of my two earlier works, Variations and Trials of a Pokémon Trainer. Although reading them isn't absolutely necessary before reading this one, I do make a ton of references to events that happened in those two stories, especially Variations, and you'll get maximum enjoyment if you've already read them, especially recently.
Really quickly, Variations was my sequel to the Pokémon: Explorers of Time/Darkness storyline, and Trials of a Pokémon Trainer was a short story that filled in part of the gap between the last chapter and the Epilog of Variations.
At this time, I'm finishing up the 1st draft, whereas what I'm posting is the second draft. I may do a third draft yet, so the posted chapters may be revised depending a bit on what kind of reviews they get. Heck, I may even change the title!
This story is one of experiments, none of which I'm entirely sure will work or that I can pull off successfully. I've had a number of riskier and more difficult ideas I've been toying with ever since I finished Variations, and just finally decided to try them out and see what happens. Although this probably won't matter much to most of you, I do feel obliged to say that I'll be exploring slightly more mature themes in this story as compared to my last two. Not seriously so, as this is still a PG-rated Pokémon story, but just so nobody is caught surprised after reading my other work! I wanted to do as many original things as I could think of, and this is the result.
I sincerely hope you find this at least as enjoyable to read as my other stories and as always, I look forward to reading your feedback!
Chapter I: Visitors
Leo couldn't put his large blue finger on it except to say he was feeling uneasy, and nearly jumped when Blaze stopped unexpectedly in front of him and Grovyle, almost giving him a mouthful of his partner's red and yellow mane hair.
"Sure we're going in the right direction?" the infernape asked pointedly, standing up straight in the tall grass that was the path (such as it was) to apparently get a better look ahead.
Grovyle sighed in uncoiling the crude map in his claws. After studying it a few seconds, "According to the landmarks, we're going in the right direction; this is the path," rather unemotionally.
Frowning while taking an obviously cursory glance at the trees around them, Blaze spread his arms, palms up. "We're in the middle of Mystifying Forest, Grovyle. There are no landmarks!"
If Grovyle felt any unease, he sure wasn't showing it, Leo noted in agreeing with his infernape partner. The terrain was basically flat, with really nothing to keep track of one's location by. Except by the number of turns in the path and such. Rubbing one of his head fins: "What was the last landmark?"
The gecko-like Pokémon stared back with his light green eyes, an almost bored look about them. "The last trail junction."
Although he already guessed that, having read the map and its scant instructions himself before they left Treasure Town, he just wanted to make sure. Then again, he probably needn't worry. Grovyle had proven himself expert with maps on several missions over the last six months since they returned from the human world, a fact reiterated by his human self on more than one occasion.
It wasn't the only thing to be thankful for though; just the mere fact Grovyle was here with them seemed like a miracle all of itself. Although the Grovyle both he and Blaze had worked with to save the Poké world (and more) from the Future-That-No-Longer-Exists in turn no longer existed, this pre-changed-timeline version of him still did. And being basically the same individual, he had all the same mannerisms and personality as the other. The last six months had, in most respects, been like he never left…only he didn't have the same memories or experiences of the last three and a half years that the 'original' Grovyle did.
However…they'd been with this version of Grovyle for so long now, he was starting to forget what the other one was like, he realized with some sadness.
Grovyle continued, "We follow this trail until the first one that goes to the left. We take that to near the end and that's the area we should look for the ring."
Which seemed to satisfy Blaze enough for him to start leading again. But after knocking a small sapling out of the way: "I really don't like these overgrown paths. There's usually a reason why they've been abandoned."
"Well, we took the job, so we need to put the effort into it," Grovyle returned.
On that there could be no argument. Eventually, the promised path to the left revealed itself as a barely discernable break in the trees, one even more overgrown and dark, despite the high overhead sun. Although his swampert skin wasn't going to mind the cool moisture-laden air in the least!
Yet as they continued, he felt his unease worsen. Just a quick shadow caught by the corner of his eye, an unnatural rustling over there… Were they being watched? As Blaze let out a soft growl, he thought about asking if they felt what he did, but decided not to for fear of tipping off whoever it might be…assuming there was anyone there. Doing so could make things worse. Best just to silently prepare.
There was something else, as the trees seemed to close in. Another feeling of something…barely familiar…of something he felt only a couple times before…something dark…
Alright, so it was probably just his imagination. Mystifying Forest tended to give that feeling to many a traveler and explorer, which was why not many who were familiar with the place visited if they could help it.
Including him and Blaze, and since their return from Earth, Grovyle too.
Not that he wasn't happy to have the job however, which was the first in a couple weeks. Especially since it was one that promised to pay quite a bit. Even more amazingly, it appeared on the Guild's job board just as he and Blaze were standing in front of it. Surely such a job would've been grabbed in an instant; lucky them!
Yet…there was one strange thing about it, that being the name of the client…or more specifically, the lack of one. "Anonymous." He'd never seen a job offered before by someone who didn't put their name on it. It made him slightly suspicious that whoever it was, was planning on either stiffing them, or had some nefarious reason for staying unknown. There were several hypothetical reasons he, Blaze and Grovyle had thought up before they left Treasure Town. But again, they had yet to encounter any such instances.
Always a first time, thinking as Grovyle finally stopped them after some time of pushing their way through the increasingly dense undergrowth along the almost vanished path.
"Ha ha, so we're supposed to find a small gold ring in this that was lost a long time ago?" Blaze exclaimed, gesturing to the patches of undergrowth around them.
From his grimace, Leo knew his friend was barely fighting the urge to release some flames to clear the area. Indeed it would make their task easier, but the inhabitants probably wouldn't appreciate it if the flames got out of control!
"We'll have to search carefully, I guess," Leo replied.
So started their long, pain-staking search for a small ring along an heavy-overgrown trail in the middle of the forest, during which he simply couldn't shake his uneasiness. More than once, he swore he saw shadows moving among the trees, only to see nothing when he looked right at it. None too soon, he suggested finally giving up and getting back to the main trail with the sun starting to set. One thing they simply didn't want was to be caught where they were for the night!
"That was frustrating," Blaze lamented with a scowl across his red muzzle as they headed back. "Half a day searching and we didn't find anything."
Grovyle nodded agreement. "Is this the first time you failed on a job?"
That brought a moment of silence.
It was almost true, and Leo wasn't even sure if that one time counted, considering. "Well, there was that time Blaze and I failed to bring back some perfect apples for Wigglytuff…"
"No, don't mention that!" Blaze cried, white pointed teeth showing between his red lips. "I'm still angry over what that team did to us!"
Grovyle's expression turned curious, looking between them several times. "What's this?"
He swore he saw the slightest hint of a grin from the green Pokémon. Well, since the skitty was already out of the bag… Ignoring Blaze's growl, "Basically, when we were still apprentices at the Guild, there was this team whose sole purpose in life was seemingly to give us grief. We were given a job to get some perfect apples for Wigglytuff, but they decided to get to the perfect apple trees ahead of us and steal all the apples before we could get any. As a result, we couldn't complete the job. Then, they presented some of the apples to Wigglytuff just to make themselves look good at our expense."
"Jerks," Grovyle hissed.
"If I see them again, I think we're more than tough enough now to wipe the ground with them," Blaze added.
"It was also over three years ago," Leo pointed out. "And they did help us in the end, so let's just forget about it and make camp."
'Making camp' really consisted little more than gathering some leaves and grass for beds, starting a small camp fire, and passing out some of the fruit and berries from their satchel. After two days, the bag was getting rather light with only enough food for a couple meals left, since by this time tomorrow they should be laying on their beds in Sharpedo Bluff.
Not that they couldn't have brought more…or a lot more items. On Earth, they had lost the items and money they brought with them when Fore-Nine island had exploded in Kol's last-ditch attempt to link Earth and his own planet. Even so, most of their belongings had still been in storage in Treasure Town, and given the plethora of things they were given before they left for Earth, but couldn't bring due to space and weight constraints, they still had more things than they could keep track of.
As a result, ever since they got back to the Poké world, he and Blaze decided to start traveling 'light'. It was a habit they got into on Earth, and they saw no reason to break with that. After all, most items they usually brought with them on jobs they never used anymore; they were strong enough that they could get out of practically any jam on their own without needing strength-boosting berries and such. Just a few pecha berries to counteract poison was about all they needed these days.
And just regular food, of course.
"I wonder how the first harvest is going," Blaze asked idly, revealing his own thoughts might have been wandering the same path while staring onto the flames.
"I think those tomatoes are going to be popular," Grovyle added. "You sure there's nothing like them on this world?"
"Not that I've ever seen," Leo answered. Given the difference in plant types on each world, his human self and Sally brought a bunch of different vegetable seeds with them. Now six months later, the first harvest for a lot of them was at hand. And it wasn't just the humans who were looking forward to it, but many of the town's Pokémon as well. "Can't wait myself, actually." Already he was salivating for the taste of something besides the berries and assorted fruit that was the mainstay of food among the Pokémon of the world. Certainly being on Earth for a year and enjoying its huge variety of foods spoiled him!
The crunch of a twig somewhere close brought him out of that thought as he went instantly on guard with Blaze and Grovyle. They waited on their feet, backs to the fire, only a few seconds before the first bodies emerged from the trees on both sides of the path.
A machoke, turtwig, a pair of nidoran, houndoom, several sableye, cherrim, squirtle, torkoal…all inhabitants of the forest or of areas nearby.
"What is this?" Grovyle asked harshly.
A staraptor flew down to join the growing crowd along with many crobats, just before a golduck rustled through some bushes to emerge onto the path, a quagsire following .
Blaze flinched, and Leo felt him back up into his side. "Arg… Ah Leo, what's going on, ha ha?"
Besides the fact there were so many Pokémon all of the sudden, seemingly coming right at them (with more still emerging!), they all seemed…not right. As in, they weren't responding to Grovyle's continuing shouts. They were just walking straight at them, not deviating, eyes fixed solidly on the three of them. "What do you want?"
"You…die," a large venusaur said, just crashing a small tree out of the way as it joined everyone else.
"Die," others said sporadically. "Human as Pokémon can't continue," another said. "Friends are traitors."
"We're must execute you!"
Grovyle's eyes widened as Blaze screeched. "What? Leo, do something!"
He swung around to his partner, his own voice high-pitched in nervous reply. "Like what?"
"This was all a trap!" Grovyle likewise screeched.
The closest Pokémon were within a bound…
…which is what he considered they do to escape, except for the sheer numbers of Pokémon surrounding them; there was no way they could break through!
Like a tide reaching its limit on the beach, all the Pokémon slowed, then stopped...only to start raising their arms, hands, mouths, beaks or wings…all aiming. The trees around started glowing in the light of the massive buildup of energy from over a hundred Pokémon…
He tried ducking as the energy attacks shot forth, but it was no use; he felt on fire as all the attacks struck at once, searing his skin just before he blacked out.
He felt his heart pounding and skin dripping with released water as his eyes shot open. Whipping his head around in alarm, he felt momentarily confused in finding the path was deserted in the soft glow of the dying fire. Blaze and Grovyle were sleeping…
Both were twitching.
His large hands were on their white haired and green skinned backs in an instant. "Blaze, Grovyle! Wake up!" After many seconds of shaking they finally came to, both breathing hard and themselves wet with sweat.
Blaze was slightly faster, jumping to his feet while peering all around them. "Huh! Where'd he go?"
Grovyle was more quiet in merely sitting upright, looking like he'd seen a ghost.
Leo Hanson quickly finished setting the freshly picked vegetables in the large (and heavy) wicker basket before heading out the door with it, only briefly pausing at the shoe mat before deciding to go without them with a shrug. It was mid-morning with the sun rising overhead, a light breeze stirring to just keep the edge off the growing warmth, and the sound of the ocean not far away. Best to save them, and going barefoot like all the Pokémon on the grass-covered ground just felt right anyway. Even the more beaten-earth path into town running not that far from the front door was already warm from the sun. In short, it was another beautiful morning in the Treasure Town area.
But unlike other mornings, this morning was special. It would be the first deliveries of vegetables from his and Sally's large backyard garden, and was something they'd been looking forward to for a long time. While preparing for their move to the Poké world, they knew about the type of foods available here, or rather not available. It quickly became plain they needed to bring vegetable seeds with them and start growing them soon, else they'd be subsisting on basically fruits and berries for some time. Although it was what the indigenous Pokémon mostly ate (save for some rare and hard-to-get breads and meats), the human diet required just a little more variety.
Hence, even before their new house had been constructed, they were already clearing the 'backyard' and planting seeds.
As anyone would expect, clearing land and building a (small) house from part lumber / part tent-cloth and some stone was hard and time consuming work, especially only with the hand tools they were able to bring with them from Earth. Fortunately there had been plenty of help. And not just his swampert counterpart, Blaze and Grovyle, but many of the Pokémon from Treasure Town proved just as eager to help the only humans on the planet. As a result, giving them the product of the first harvest seemed an appropriate way to partly repay them.
It was a limited selection though, with the other vegetables not being ready for another week or two. Still, he could already feel the smile spreading on his face in anticipating their reactions when they tasted tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and various herbs for the first time, and quickened his pace on the short walk into town.
Especially Kangaskhan. Of all the town's Pokémon, she and her son helped the most from donated supplies, to just plain old manual labor. Her son, which he nicknamed Kangason, still enthusiastically showed up twice a week to help with watering and weeding, something that his claws seemed well suited for, being nearly as good as a hoe. Speaking of which…
Stopping on the path, he double-checked he had the special treat. With relief, he found it under the cucumbers, and quickly continued past Duskull's bank with a sidelong glance. No matter how friendly that Pokémon was, he always got a slight chill every time he went past that building that was reminiscent of the shape of its owner. Fortunately, said Pokémon wasn't out so he didn't have to worry about insulting him/it by hurrying past.
Several other Pokémon were out though and each of the familiar faces started greeting him with not just smiles and waves, but verbally.
"Hi Sunflora. Hi Ursaring One, Ursaring Two," he returned with a smile and a wave, earning him a grin from the first and nods from the ursaring pair.
Despite his Pokémon counterpart trying his level best to teach him, he still could not really understand anything the other Pokémon said, with the exception of a couple words or three. Even then, he wasn't always sure, lending support to why, after living with Pokémon for hundreds of millennia, humans still couldn't figure out their language. But in the present case, he was fairly sure of what they were saying. And even when Sunflora hopped and came close to his large basket to peer in with her large sunflower-like head, he could guess what her "Sun sun flowera er?" was asking.
"Yep, first harvested vegetables this morning. On my way to Kangaskhan's."
"Sun!" she exclaimed as she started following.
"Don't worry, the Guild will definitely be getting some soon."
"Flora hersonny." With an almost graceful step, she moved quickly back the other way, presumably to spread the news about the harvest, only to be replaced by other Pokémon who had taken notice.
So it continued all the way to Kangaskhan's warehouse…
…the proprietor of which didn't seem to be at the front desk. Leaving the other Pokémon there, he hoped she was around the back of the smallish warehouse building, as the basket was getting a little heavy! Fortunately she was near the rear entrance, just throwing some berries into a small pot of steaming water that was suspended over a low fire.
Dropping the basket, "Hello Kangaskhan!" he greeted, causing her to swing around.
Pleasant joined surprise on her somewhat kangaroo-like green face. "Kanga!"
Which again, he could be sure was a greeting.
As if to leave no doubt, she hopped over to wrap her large, thick arms around him in a giant bear-hug. "Na khan stan kan!"
Although for that, he hadn't a clue, except perhaps that she was glad to see him. Well, it had been over a week since he'd been over… "Nice to see you too," speaking as she released him from her somewhat crushing grip of a hug. Gesturing to the basket, "We had our first harvest this morning. These are for you, in thanks for everything you and your son have done."
"Kang kanga!" Promptly, the Pokémon lowered her head to the brim of the basket, quickly pulling out a couple tomatoes…and popping one into her mouth as she straightened back up.
"Kangaskhan! Bite down gent…" Too late. The female kangaskhan bit down hard, causing the skin to rupture and red watery tomato juice to squirted everywhere…including his beige tee shirt.
She froze in mid-bite. Through the half-squashed tomato in her mouth: "Kan koo an?" And she started laughing, as only a kangaskhan could.
He had to smile. It was, after all, her first experience with tomatoes and he was glad it was a humorous one.
Fishing out the white-cloth wrapped item as she pointed to it, he was about to ask where the intended recipient was when Kangason came bounding around the building. "There you are!"
"Kanga!" the little kangaskhan greeted, coming to a rest beside his mother, who quickly pointed to the basket of veggies. A short conversation ensued between them as son started smiling almost bashfully.
"You did a really good job in weeding and helping us keep all the plants watered, Kangason," Leo said, "so here's a special treat that Sally made just for you last night."
Kangason took the round, (human) hand-size item and quickly peeled the cloth off, revealing a golden-brown angel-food cake ball. A look of recognition came over him as he yipped excitedly.
Even with the fragrances of everything around him, from two kangaskhans nearby, a couple bowls of berries and one cooking, to the smells of other Pokémon more distant, he couldn't stop his mouth from watering at the aroma of the cherry-filled bread ball. "We know you liked those, we saved the last can of cherries and flour we brought from Earth to give you something special for all your help." He watched bemusedly as Kangaskhan tried to restrain her son to no avail. He leapt higher than her head, nearly matching his hopping after a large post fell on his foot during construction of his and Sally's house.
"Kang kang kang!" and as quick as he fell back to the grassy earth, half the ball was consumed, the thick cherry-filled center dripping down his chin.
Just as expected, it was a hit. As it had been when Sally made the only other batch of them many months ago. Just about every Pokémon who tried them loved them, none of them ever having cherries before since they weren't found on the Poké world. And although there was bread, angel-food cake was likewise unheard of.
But they were the last of the cherries until the cherry trees they planted as seeds started producing in some five years…
Unless their colleagues on Earth decided to use the dimensional gate again. Six months…he really had expected them to contact them long before now. If he had to guess, after he and Sally "escaped" to this world in a little bit of slightly unauthorized use, the authorities likely put the kibosh on any further use of the gate. The possibility of never being able to return to Earth was something he and Sally both considered before they left. Seemed that scenario was becoming more and more the reality.
Some knocking from the other side of the building drew all of their attention.
"A clefable?" Leo mumbled to himself, coming around the building at the same time as Kangaskhan reached the front desk.
The roughly four-foot high pinkish Pokémon stared back at him for a long moment, cocking her head and mumbling something in a manner of surprise before her breath seemed to catch. She took a step toward him before Kangaskhan got her attention back and after another curious stare in his direction, started their conversation.
Since he needed to change shirts and get the one on him into some water before the stain set, he returned back to his house with Kangason following, wondering about the clefable. It was the first one he'd ever seen on Earth or the Poké world; his counterpart also never mentioned one as among those as visiting town before either. Sure, unfamiliar Pokémon showed up in town from time to time to gather info about unexplored regions or to meet Wigglytuff (or so his counterpart told him before they returned from Earth; lately, it was more to have a look at the two humans that rumors had been spreading wildly about). But clefables were the only Pokémon species said to have and use technology, and further rumored to have actual space-flight ability (again, as he was told, though it matched speculations he'd read on Earth too). They were also rarely seen, with sightings on Earth being more of the UFO/rumored government cover-up type.
Well OK, there were clefables around on Earth that obviously were nothing more than Pokémon on trainer's teams, but they were still very rare and the unconfirmed reports of them associated with UFOs continued nonetheless.
After a shirt change it was getting close to noon, so he hurriedly told Kangason what few things needed to be done in the garden that day before packing a light lunch and heading to the beach. This was also a somewhat special day in another regard, and Sally was going to meet him there, right after she got done sewing and hanging some curtains Wigglytuff asked her to make for the guild. Few Pokémon had the dexterity and sheer utility that human hands provided, and as such there was a never-ending string of requests for either he or Sally. Mostly they were just simple tasks like sewing, carving, tying, making rope, or even chipping out a pestle from a small slab of stone for grinding seeds (as the resident electivire wanted for concocting some kind of medicine). Actually, that last one took him a while to do, as he'd never tried making anything from stone before, but to his surprise, it hadn't turned out too bad.
Definitely a different set of skills he was acquiring from computer programming and theoretical physics since he left Earth!
Giving the small ground cloth a shake, he spread it out and set the lunch basket on top before sitting down himself on the soft, warm, bright sand of the beach. Sunglasses of course, were a necessity. After a moment, he lay back with a contented sigh, allowing the gentle sea breezes to blow over him while watching a stray wingull circle overhead as it apparently was enjoying the same.
The sun was hot, but as he and Sally discovered after they arrived, they really didn't need sunscreen on this world. Although the sun looked as bright as the Earth's sun, they figured it gave off less UV, since even after a full day in bright sun they only got slightly burned rather then horrendously burned. A few hours wasn't a problem. In fact, as much as they'd been out in the sun over the last six months, both of them were sporting only moderate tans.
Which didn't mean the sun's brightness couldn't hurt the eyes, however.
Even with sunglasses and closed eyelids, he eventually had to sit up again from the heat of the sun-warmed sand. Then just looking idly out to sea, his eyes caught an object moving from behind the cliff-edge. The shape seemed to have a head and neck…
Whatever it was, it was under its own power as it stopped for several moments despite the current he knew was out there. Then apparently turning, it grew larger in approaching. It wasn't long before he had a better look at the Pokémon, finding it was mostly light blue with a cream-colored neck and underside, and with what seemed a large shell on its back.
"Oh…that must be a lapras…" mumbling to himself. Recognition not just from his counterpart's description, but he'd also seen them in photo books as well as seen one in a zoo. Just that he'd never met one in the wild before, or in the company of a trainer for that matter.
More surprising than seeing one though, this one was heading for him and in only a few moments, stopped gently in the shallow water several feet from the beach. Floating, it simply stared back at him for some time, to the point where he felt unnerved enough to stand up.
"Come to stare at the human?" he finally asked, putting a friendly tone to it and expecting another one-sided conversation.
"The rumors I heard where true, then," spoke a soft, feminine-like voice from seemingly all around him, and yet nowhere.
Good thing there was soft sand under him, for he tripped on backing up! "You talk!" was the only thing he could get out. Not that a talking Pokémon was a surprise to him, obviously, just that his own swampert counterpart was the only one he knew who could speak human.
Even as he screeched to the unfamiliar Pokémon, he realized there was one thing wrong with his statement: that being its mouth hadn't moved. Oh, this one is telepathic…remembering that subtle fact about the species that a few individuals were said to have.
"Yes I am, but if you like…" And its mouth started moving, though in a manner completely disconnected with the human speech he 'heard' in his head: "…I can make it seem as if I'm vocalizing." It cocked its head, gaze curious. "But from your thoughts, you cannot understand the language of Pokémon?"
He shook his head. "No. Wait…you can read my thoughts too?"
"Just the stronger ones," it replied.
The very next thought that occurred to him was to be careful in what he thought before wondering if he could base its gender on the tone of voice he 'heard'.
The lapras instantly started 'speaking' again: "Yes, be careful with your thoughts…" and now smiling slightly, "…and yes, I'm female."
It was suddenly feeling a lot warmer as he grimaced. After sighing in an effort to clear his thoughts, literally, "Would you be the lapras that Leo spoke of, the one who took him to the Hidden Land?"
This time, she actually nodded in addition to replying in the affirmative. "That was some time ago, now."
While fighting to focus on what to ask next while not thinking anything else, only the sound of the surf, wind and the flying wingull could be heard. Since she was so close, he could see various minor scars over her hide and wondered if she was old or been in any fights, but quickly squashed the thoughts in fear she would read them. "Do you have a name, or would you like me to call you Lapras?"
"Other laprases call me Waverider."
He smiled. "Well, nice to meet you, Waverider."
"Likewise," bowing her head slightly.
Once again, an uneasy silence ensued and although he got the impression she wanted something, he was almost afraid to ask. He started moving back toward where he had the basket, intending to instead offer her some berries.
"There is something I want to find out," she began, proving that without speaking, he had indeed asked anyway.
Swinging back around with another grimace, he found her gaze fixed steady on him… "What?"
"There was another rumor I heard. Are you also named Leo?"
"Are you…the swampert's human counterpart? An alternate version of him, from a different timeline? I've known since I met him he used to be human…"
"Is there any place on this planet where that news hasn't spread?"
"I don't know," the light-blue water-type Pokémon answered. "I assume then you are?"
"Yes I am, I'm what he would be in this timeline…the one where Temporal Tower never collapsed."
She nodded understanding, though in a manner that suggested there was something else.
"Does that bother you?"
Waverider seemed to regard him with an unblinking stare. "No. It's not that. I was only curious. But…" Again, she cocked her head slightly before looking away. "Humans used to be on this world…a very long time ago. Some of my ancestors knew some, but that was many, many generations before me. Laprases since have handed down tales of them."
It was either by the tone of her 'voice' or her body posture he got the impression they weren't totally happy tales. "What happened?" asking tentatively.
"There weren't a great number of humans, but there was some fighting and some other bad things, but also much good. It was mostly a time of peace. Dialga is said to have himself ruled them in that old time. Or at least some of them."
"They mostly occupied what is now the Hidden Land, but did travel around. I believe your other…the other Leo and Blaze have seen their works a few times in the Hidden Land, though they haven't been there recently."
The questions exploded in his mind, and he couldn't immediately decide on which one.
Waverider continued: "From the old tales, they helped Dialga on a number of different projects, and it was known as the time of Great Works. And then they left."
"Left? Where?" If a lapras was ever capable of a shrug, he was certain she gave one.
"Don't know; the tales don't say. Only Dialga can answer that as far as I know… Is it true…that he is now gone…forever?"
Leo sank at the sad, concerned express on her face. "I honestly don't know what happened to him; only that he was made to disappear along with Palkia. I don't know if that means nonexistence or just transported somewhere. I just don't know." Ending with his hands apart in a helpless gesture, he wished he had more, but he could only offer hope in the form of not knowing. The question was one he and the others asked themselves many times over the last year and a half, but there simply was no answer to be had. He feared the only one who knew was Kol, and it was anyone's guess if the human-Pokémon hybrid was dead or alive.
The wingull above screeched once before she answered. "I see; you answer truthfully," sadness in her tone and physical expression. Then: "But all of you saved not just this world, but the human world as well?"
"That's what we're told," replying modestly. And definitely not without cost, remembering the Professor. "I guess Kol had plans for this world as well as Earth, or so he claimed."
Lapras again nodded understanding, before fixing her gaze on a point beyond him, almost as soon as he heard someone approaching.
Sally was already smiling as she came beside him. "A lapras?"
"Hello," Waverider greeted, causing Sally to look all around.
"Telepathy," Leo said, getting an immediate "Oh" from his mate. "She heard rumors about humans here, and wanted to see for herself."
"You are…a female human?" Waverider asked.
Sally started smirking, brushing her long red hair aside against the light breeze. "Last I checked."
Was it his imagination, or was there a slight blush about Waverider's face?
Between the two of them, he and Waverider repeated what they had already talked about as far as the tales of humans from prior times, with a few additional trivial things added by the lapras.
"What exactly was constructed by Dialga and the humans?" Sally asked after.
"Temporal Tower obviously," Waverider said within their minds, "The bridge to it and the temple around it. Beyond that, I don't know, though the tales suggest there is more outside of the Hidden Land."
"The Hidden Land," Sally said thoughtfully. "Leo's counterpart spoke a lot about it. Do you think…we could go there and have a look sometime?" hope clearly on her face.
Indeed, he would like to see it as well, Leo knew as his heart started to quicken at the thought. A whole large island out of sync with time, held 'in between seconds', or so it was described. Yes, definitely worth seeing!
But Waverider's expression held consternation for a good many moments before 'speaking' into their heads. "I…don't know. Only the chosen can go. You are Leo, yet you aren't. It's…puzzling. Maybe if you go with the other Leo and Blaze, it might be alright."
"Oh, we can't forget about Grovyle," Sally added.
At once, the lapras's head snapped up. "Grovyle? I thought he…"
Honestly, at times he did completely forget about the other Grovyle's fate, and was sometimes reminded, awkwardly, that like himself there were two versions of his green friend. Only in Grovyle's case, the other wasn't brought back from non-existence. "Um, this Grovyle is the one from before the timeline split, just like me. He came with us from Earth."
Before any of them could say anything more, footsteps over the sand rapidly approached, caused by one quickly hopping Kangason. Even before stopping, he started speaking excitedly in Poké speech, jumping up and down, pointing back toward the cliff.
Leo spread his hands, gesturing incomprehension.
"I don't understand you," Sally said as Kangason didn't slow down any.
"He says the small black box in your house is talking, asking for someone to answer," Waverider interpreted.
And his heart nearly stopped, staring at Sally.
"My God, they're finally contacting us!" she said, eyes wide.
After a quick goodbye to Waverider, they started rushing back to the house.
For some reason, the return trip on missions always seemed longer than the one going out. This time, and Leo figured it was mostly due to the lack of sleep and the nightmares they all had when they did, it was far worse. Grovyle looked more than a little peeked around his green eyes and Blaze was letting his red haired tail drag now and then. For himself…he just couldn't stop yawning.
Of course it was odd they all had nightmares. And of course there was one…being both he and Blaze knew could cause such. He really had to wonder if he actually hadn't been imagining those shadows he thought he saw lurking around in the forest. The thing was though, Palkia said Darkrai had lost his memories. That and no one really knew where he had ended up.
Or was there a different darkrai around? Or something else entirely?
The sun was going below the horizon when they approached Treasure Town, and they all decided to stop at his counterpart's house before they retired to their own home in the side of Sharpedo Bluff. But as soon as they reached the front door, it was apparent something was different. There was a new voice…
"Someone else is here," Grovyle remarked to Blaze as Leo knocked.
The wood-plank door shortly opened, Sally letting them in to the fire-lit interior. "Oh, glad you guys are back finally. How was the mission?" asking before leaning to give him a hug…and a kiss.
"We failed to find the ring," Leo answered.
"Hey, where's mine?" Blaze asked, looking at Sally.
Apparently, Sally didn't need any translation as she gave both the infernape and Grovyle quick peeks on their cheeks.
But his attention quickly turned inside, where his human counterpart was busy talking with a now familiar-sounding voice behind the wall that was blocking some of the interior view.
"Hey, we were finally contacted from Earth," Sally said quickly as she lead them into the living room.
Sitting in front of the fireplace facing his human self, was another very familiar human, one with dark-rimmed glasses, black hair, and an oriental face.
"Ticonamo!" he exclaimed, rushing forward to give the DG project member and friend a hug.
"Good to see you again too, Leo" the man returned. "By the way, this little world of yours is amazing, from what I've seen already. Pokémon everywhere, no humans in sight, save for us, and you weren't kidding when you said they built a town. Incredible!"
"I was beginning to think we would never see any of them again," Blaze remarked behind them, soon getting his turn at a hug as did Grovyle.
It wasn't long before the six of them were sitting in a half circle on the area rug in front of the fireplace, several bowls of berries and fresh vegetables in the middle...along with one plate of delicious-looking desserts of donuts, fudge, brownies and chocolate.
Which Blaze and Grovyle were already sampling.
"Treats from Earth," Ticonamo proclaimed, indicating the plate. "Don't worry, I brought lots more. Oh, and there's chocolate cake too."
"That's right!" Sally exclaimed, as if remembering something important before jumping up to bring over a large covered plate, which when the cover was removed proved to contain the said dessert.
"Uh huh, you know that today is a special occasion, and I don't just mean me arriving here," Ticonamo said while picking up a knife to start slicing the cake.
"Special occasion?" Blaze asked, Leo repeating it in human tongue.
"Well yes," the Asian researcher replied. "Today is Leo's thirty-fifth birthday! And yours too, of course. So, Happy Birthday, the two of you!"
"Yes, Happy Birthday, husband," Sally added before leaning to him to give him a kiss, and then facing Leo: "And to you, my little swampert," giving him another quick kiss on his forehead.
She just had to say 'little', he thought in forming a wide a smile anyway as Blaze and Grovyle added their congrats also.
"Wow, and thirty-five years old," Blaze continued. "But you don't look a day over five."
It was a rather odd feeling. Physically he felt and looked around five, but was mentally seven times that…not that he remembered all that much about his human past…still.
After accepting a slice of the cake and debating a few seconds on how best to eat it before deciding on just using his large fingers, mess be damned, "So, not that I'm happy to see you, but what took so long before opening the dimensional portal?" Then asking before shoveling in most of the slice into his large mouth, "It's been six months."
His human self grimaced a little while consuming part of his own slice. "That's actually what we were just talking about."
"Well, as I think you all guessed, the Oversight Committee wasn't very happy about you using the gate to come here without permission," Ticonamo said, taking a slice for himself after making sure everyone else had one. "The result was they shut us down for a while. It took a lot of arguing that coming here presented a research opportunity. Since you guys were already here, why not make use of the gate and follow…you know, for research purposes, of course. A planet full of Pokémon with their own civilization, I mean, come on! Eventually, we got them to see the light, and I was able to come here."
Leo noticed his human self wave his hand in a circle toward Ticonamo while downing another bite.
"Oh, right," he continued, now facing Leo. "My purpose here was to make sure the gate was still working, to deliver supplies, and talk to you guys partly to make sure the area was safe for future missions. In fact, tomorrow the next three visitors are coming, though I have to take them back after thirty-six hours. Boy, I tell you it was really hard getting approval for them too, but you've never seen an angry female insist before…two of them, actually. That meeting with the Oversight Committee was quite something…"
Leo had a single question, doubly curious since Ticonamo was directing all this at him. "Who?"
"Christina and Lonny."
He coughed. Lonny?
"Wow," Blaze said beside him, his expression between surprise and grinning.
"Who's the third?" Grovyle asked.
Leo repeated the question, realizing the man had only said two names. If Lonny was coming, could it…!
Ticonamo appeared to smile in the firelight for a moment. "Well, shortly after you guys left, Lonny produced an egg, according to Christina. In fact, the woman claims that you, Leo, had something to do with it."
All eyes went to him, although Leo was sure he had already told everyone present (save for Ticonamo). No…wait. Only he and Blaze knew! Sheepishly, he smiled.
"So, Lonny's bringing her mudkip son, Chip, to see his dad."
Such was the flood of emotions he felt, that he hardly noticed his human self's uncomfortable expression. "Uh…congratulations."
On the other side of the other Leo, Sally nudged him while wearing a smile that almost shone. "Congratulations, Leo!"
"And you used to not like her…" Grovyle said.
Leo shrugged. "She grew on me…a little," answering in Poké speech.
The gecko Pokémon raised one eye ridge slightly.
"Somehow, I just knew when I saw the two of you together, you'll eventually end up together," Sally continued. "Even though she did beat you up pretty good when you first met."
"I have to admit, you two did spent a lot of time together after a while," Blaze furthered.
"She finally won you over," his human self said. "Christina told me more than once how much she thought Lonny was attracted to you. You know, speaking purely as a human, she did look kinda of cute…in a swampertish way."
Ticonamo laughed. "Yeah, I'm surprised it took them as long as it did."
"You know, we should think about having one soon," Sally said while draping herself over the human Leo. "You know, being your birthday and all."
His human self cleared his throat, smirking while Leo grabbed another slice of cake, hoping to hide his discomfort. At least his blue skin didn't show blushing. Among Pokémon, sex was a rather delicate and uncomfortable subject…with a few exceptions, and it really boiled down to very little discussion before caving into instinct and doing 'it' (or so he gathered from others). For humans, that didn't seem to be quite the case.
After a bit more of good-natured ribbing, the subject finally changed, much to his relief. In talking about the times they had together, he had to ask if there was any sign of Dialga or Palkia.
Ticonamo shook his head. "Not that I or anyone has seen. Oh, that reminds me. I heard in passing from one of the members of the committee that the government had located Kol."
Sally sat up abruptly while the rest of them tensed. "Kol?"
Nodding, "Yes. A few months ago already, I guess, according to rumor."
"Damn, he did survive," Leo's human self said almost in a mumble. "What the hell is he up to? He is trying to build another gate?"
"No. Apparently he hasn't been doing anything, at least as far as the committee said. In fact, they said they think he's practically destitute. Been doing a little small time theft of like food and stuff, but otherwise hasn't been doing anything at all."
"When are they going to throw him in prison?" Blaze asked.
Leo translated, hoping for the same thing.
"All I heard was they were just keeping him under close surveillance. Really, how would you keep a being with that much power locked up anyway?"
"Kill him instead?" Grovyle suggested with a hard swallow, obviously not liking the suggestion.
Leo still almost shot his friend a hard look, but he was right. Letting a being with that much power and the desire to do harm to simply roam free was not a good thing. And since it was probably impossible to keep him locked up, then what other option was there?
"As best as I can gather, as long as Kol isn't doing anything, the authorities seem content to just let him be."
Although that may be working for the time being, he had a hard time imagining that being a good idea over the long term.
Can Pokémon get sugar highs? The answer was definitely an unqualified yes, Leo thought. After numerous slices of chocolate cake, many donuts, untold pieces of fudge and countless brownies, he had been about to go all the way to one of the mountains, climb it and get back…that night yet.
That was an hour ago. Now, it was all he could do to drag his feet through town on the way to their cliff-side dwelling. Considering how tired he was before all the sugar, well, he was doubly exhausted now. Assuming of course he didn't throw up along the way.
Obviously he knew better. But it had been six months without those kinds of treats and really, he did lose track of how many he ate considering what they had been talking about. Besides, it was his birthday after all. If one couldn't eat themselves sick on that day, then when?
"Better see Celebi tomorrow…" Grovyle mumbled. "After everyone arrives from Earth."
Grovyle usually didn't mention his relationship with Celebi much. Normally he just went off for a day now and then to go see her. That fact he was saying such only meant that not having seen her for a while due to the mission was getting to him…that and his fatigue.
At least Celebi was around for him to visit pretty much whenever he wanted (not that Celebi didn't come around for a visit herself occasionally).
He, on the other hand, hadn't seen Lonny for six months. And had a son during that time.
It wasn't long ago when that would have been laughable; considering the way they had met, that end result was highly unlikely. Sally wasn't kidding in that Lonny had beat him pretty good in their first meeting, a fact which still embarrassed him. Well alright, his left arm was broken and still in a cast at the time and she was bigger and stronger than him, so he deserved some slack.
Yet it was evident right after the battle she was interested in him, though the opposite certainly hadn't been true. She scared him, from her strength to her bold, dominating manner. He was quite sure at the time if Blaze and Grovyle hadn't been with him in the same room during their night in the boat house, she would have made a much stronger attempt to 'have some fun' with him, likely dragging him down on the beach for it.
Since then for some weird reason, she had never been very far from his thoughts, though he remained convinced any relationship with her would have been impossible. At first. Then…she suddenly showed up for a visit along with Christina at Chris's apartment door. How she had made Christina to understand what she wanted, he didn't know, but after that first visit they showed up regularly, all the way up to the tournaments. (Chris and Christina had something going too, though he made it a point to not take much notice of their personal affairs.)
With him and Lonny sharing the living room (along with Blaze) during those times, it made for some really uncomfortable nights. Even worse was Christina wanting a rematch between him and Lonny. He had nightmares of being in the hospital for weeks if that ever came to pass! At least he had been able to get out of that situation by insisting he had since become a trainer, and proving it thanks to having Rosy.
Which oddly, only seemed to increase her attraction to him! But during that time she really did grow on him and he couldn't forget the way she smiled when visiting him at the park's practice field, especially when he won as a trainer in front of her. (Her ability to help keep humans away from him came in handy too…)
It wasn't without a good deal of kicking and screaming, however. He fought the feelings as best he could, simply because he couldn't believe that he could ever become attracted to her. Then one night several days before the start of the Tournaments, she tilted her head a little, her eyes full of desire and…
…that was it.
He needed her and she him, so they satisfied each other. For that moment, anyway. Something cemented inside him and he finally accepted he did love her. He'd been sorely missing her (as well as more of those 'heated' moments) ever since.
And now also the son that apparently was still an egg inside her when he left.
Why hadn't she told him before he left, instead of telling Blaze and instructing him not to divulge it until after they departed?
That one thing had been eating him since.
One particularly strong gust of wind blew through the town as they crossed the bridge into the other half, causing Blaze's long red and yellow mane to wrap completely around his face. Grovyle's head leaf did something similar.
"Strong wind tonight," Leo commented while considering going to all fours from sheer exhaustion. He really didn't want to get his hands dirty from the town's dirt paths, but...
"Leo, Blaze, Grovyle!"
He heard the shout as they passed Kangaskhan's warehouse, turning around with his partners to see the kangaroo-like Pokémon, who often acted as an big aunt to all of them, walk toward them from the side of the building.
"Kangaskhan," Blaze greeted her tiredly. "You're still awake at this time?"
"I was waiting for you three honeys," she replied, but quite not in her usual jolly manner.
"What's going on?" Grovyle asked. "This sounds serious."
At once, Kangaskhan's expression brightened a little. "Oh, sorry, it probably isn't, just tired!"
Leo felt a little relief.
"There was a clefable here earlier," the medium green Pokémon continued before leaning a little closer to all of them. In a half-whisper: "She said she was looking for you three."
"Really?" Leo asked with the yawn he'd been unsuccessfully fighting off. It wasn't (too) unusual; they occasionally got requests to do a mission every now and then. But a rarely-seen clefable, though…
"For a mission, I assume," Blaze said, mirroring the thought as Grovyle's eyes opened a little wider.
"So she said. But, she also said it was one that she believed only you could do. And that wasn't all. She was also asking about the humans. I think she was implying they were involved in it."
"Really?" OK, his interest was certainly piqued now as he stood up straighter. "Did she say why?"
Kangaskhan raised one of her claws to her chin and gave it a scratch before replying, "No, but it was puzzling. When I told her about your human self and Sally being here, she asked if there was a third one."
"Ticonamo?" Blaze asked.
"Oh, that black-haired one that arrived this afternoon?" She started shaking her head, "No honey, the clefable said this human was supposed to be blue."
Leo exchanged glances with both Blaze and Grovyle in confusion.
"Humans don't come blue," Grovyle stated with a raised brow over one eye.
"Uh, they don't?" Kangaskhan asked.
"Most definitely not," Leo confirmed. "White, black and slightly yellow or red, but not blue." Not unless there had been some rather significant changes since he left Earth that Ticonamo hadn't told them about!
"Well, that's what she said." Folding her arms, she did look quite sure of the fact. "Of course, I told the dear no such human was around here…"
"Very odd," Blaze commented after they came down the stairs and into their cliff-side dwelling.
Leo dunked his head in the water basin, letting his gills do the breathing while thinking of what the information could mean. Could the clefable have been confused? Lonny was arriving tomorrow morning and she was blue, but definitely not human, and it would be hard to believe even a blind slakoth could confuse a swampert with a human. But that raised a far more disturbing question: if that was the case, then how would an unfamiliar clefable know about their arrival in the future?
Raising his face from the basin, he turned to see both Blaze and Grovyle wearing questioning expressions. "I think we need to talk to this clefable," he said, getting instant agreement.