Two Garnets and some Cherries with Cream
Chapter 2 of ?
By Kayi S. Rowling
"Oh, really?" The younger woman's Pokéball was already on her hand, ready to be thrown.
"Yes, really!" the older woman roared gleefully, taking out one of her own Pokéballs. "Let us play then, little Skitty. My name is Sird," she presented herself as an afterthought.
"Well, Sird, let me return the favor: I'm Ariana, and I hail from Sinnoh, and I am going to defeat you—!"
—Silver remained tired.
However, now that Giovanni had started narrating his engrossing story and that he had paused after such a critical moment, Silver couldn't think of sleeping anymore. He was even sitting down on his bed. "Sird was there?" was the first thing out of his mouth after a full minute of silence. "What was she doing at your gym? And wait… She was your so-called trusted partner?" The woman who had turned him and his friends into stone? And had dressed him like the clown of a bad circus act? He couldn't believe it! "I can't believe it!" See?
"Yes, Sird was there," Giovanni replied, frowning. "And yes, I trusted her; perhaps too much," he admitted, apparently thinking back to those times. "She was the first to join the gym and begin training with me. By the time I met your mother, I had known Sird for more than half of my lifetime. She practically raised me through puberty, too!" he chuckled, failing to notice how Silver's expression soured.
That bit about Sird raising him was creepy, Silver decided; far creepier than all the things he knew she had done in the past, even. He regretted having asked about her… "Can you continue now?" he asked, masking his eagerness to change the topic—and to hear more about his mother—rather well.
"What about a little break?" his father suggested, but only out of courtesy: he was having a break, whether Silver wanted it or not.
"I'll go fetch a bottle of water. Do you want anything?"
Silver forced his mind to remember what he had put in the cooler the last time he was in the hideout. "A beer would be nice," he replied after a while.
But Giovanni obviously disapproved, if one went by the look he was throwing his son. "I'll get you some milk."
"Huh? Milk? I'm not a baby! I'm nearly twen—!"
"I'll get you some milk," his father repeated calmly, rising to his feet, leaving the "room" and his sulking son behind. He was back not a minute later, a bottle of water on one hand and a small carton of milk—white and brown in color, with a straw glued to the side—on the other. "Here you go," he offered, nearly smirking as a pair of silvery eyes glared at him and then at the offending drink that would ideally be a beer.
Regardless, Silver took it; he didn't fail to notice it was also chocolate-flavored, adding insult to injury at the same time it made a warm feeling grow within his chest. He had stopped buying those after he took his father in, preferring to avoid the embarrassing situation of being babied just because he liked them. And now, here there was one, somehow on his hand… "Thanks," he muttered. "Don't go out just to get these for me. It's dangerous," he added, reprimanding Giovanni in an odd case of role reversal as he practically stabbed the little box with the plastic straw.
The older man nodded, removing the cap of his bottle. "I know," he said before his smirk made itself more evident, "I actually sent your so-called secretary for them."
Silver frowned. "Don't contact Team Rocket just because you can't go out. It's dangerous," he corrected his warning. He also made a mental note to talk to the former executive Ariana later about who was actually her boss now; he wouldn't be tolerating her rebellious attitude anymore.
The water bottle got to a half-empty state before Giovanni added in his defense: "It's not my fault that they are all so willing to do my bidding, even nowadays… And, Silver?"
His father seemed to struggle for words to voice his request, but in the end he just shook his head and sighed. "Nothing, forget it; you must learn on your own how to deal with that bunch of misfits," he whispered. Then he cleared his throat. "Anyways, let's continue. Where was I…? Sird battling your mother, perhaps—?"
—Giovanni had decided to stay in his office to watch the match from his screen a minute ago, thinking it was the best idea in order not to miss a single bit of the battle. Right now, however, he was beginning to regret not running for the emergency stairs earlier, as, at the moment, the gym below him was filled to the brim with the guys that had been training in the back, so that there was literally no space left at the sidelines. The reason for such a crowd forming was simple: there had an odd kind of aura forming between the two women after they had exchanged their first words that could be felt even through the walls, and that tension promised an interesting encounter was about to happen. Again, all of that happened in just a minute, such a short span of time that had, regardless, sent his good mood spiraling to the ground and below.
Anyway, the ever-efficient Archer practically ran to the two women before they threw their Pokéballs without formalizing the challenge; he even held back Sird's arm, risking a black eye. "Hold it, ladies!" he ordered, earning himself some booing from the audience.
The redhead lowered her own arm, clutching her Pokéball with both hands and proceeding to stand there idly, looking awkward, while Sird herself wrestled her limb out of Archer's grasp rudely before hissing at him: "I'm busy here, four-eyes!" As always, whenever she got interrupted doing something she actually wanted to do, Sird couldn't control her temper. However, Giovanni would have to congratulate her later, as she usually exploded all over them, not hissed and scowled…
One of Archer's eyebrows went up over the rim of his ridiculously big glasses in amusement. "So am I," he replied simply, before turning to address the gym challenger. He cleared his throat. "Girl, our leader is currently out and can't battle you—"
"I already know that!" interrupted Ariana—Giovanni couldn't help the little ecstatic feeling that knowing her name gave him—, beginning to look as pissed off as Sird.
"—but Sird here is the best among us," Archer continued pointedly, also picking up the general bad mood that prevailed in the gym by now. "The only one who can defeat her up to this day is our leader, Giovanni. We consider that she's a worthy substitute, so we'll award you with the Earth Badge if you win against her." He made a pause, a time he used to take out said badge from his pocket and wave it in front of Ariana's face, taunting her along with a little smirk on his lips. "Three on three is fine with you?"
"I guess…" the redheaded girl replied, hesitating a little. Both Sird and Archer chuckled at that.
"Well, then; you can start now!" Cheers exploded at long last among the observers.
Sird didn't need to be told twice, releasing her Starmie not a second later… right in front of Archer. "Off the field with you!" Her Pokémon then proceeded to blast the young man away, knocking several others off their feet at the sidelines.
Ariana took several steps back in precaution, taking out her own Pokéball. She whispered something to it, her expression soft and kind, a sharp contrast to her glare just a moment ago. Giovanni had a very bad feeling about this change; he had seen that face before… "Go, Oddish!" she called, her Pokémon appearing a few feet away from Sird's own—
"—she called her Oddish out?" Silver asked in disbelief, his eyes wide open in shock.
His father shrugged; having seen it with his own eyes over twenty years ago really did wonders about that pesky belief thingy. "Yes, she did," he sighed. "It was almost faint-worthy, according to other witnesses, but, you know? Your mother wasn't that dumb, as we would all find out minutes later—"
—Sird's eye twitched so visibly that even the security cameras got it.
And Giovanni could only wish he felt the same as she did—offended beyond repair—, yet he only felt what he guessed was nausea over the spectacular failure of good judgment, common sense and survival instinct. He wouldn't be surprised now to find out that Ariana had actually got herself lost in Viridian Forest for a week, and that the old man who had brought her to the gym had found her wandering around aimlessly—
"—Silver, I want you to know that your mother was indeed training in Viridian Forest; she wasn't lost."
The redhead frowned. "Why did you interrupt yourself to tell me that?"
"Because your eyes were practically begging that what I thought back then wasn't true. You're also rather pale right now."
"I'm fine…" Silver mumbled, turning away and sipping the very last drop of his chocolate-flavored milk.
Giovanni sighed. "If you say so—"
"—what is this?" Sird growled at Ariana, unable to stop glaring at the innocent Oddish nearby. The waves of heated fury that radiated from her would turn their late autumn into midsummer if the younger trainer failed to make something to amend her serious mistake.
Ariana looked at the older woman in mild confusion. "It's an Oddish."
Sird chuckled in that sinister way she only used when she was ready to massacre someone's whole team. "Yeah, I know… Starmie, Psychic, now!" Giovanni couldn't help but nod in approval—even if nobody got to see it, even when he was actually siding with Ariana—; Sird still had her mind clear enough to recognize that their current Pokémon held a type disadvantage to each other simultaneously…
Ariana jumped at that, startled. "Oddish…! Eh…" Too slow; she was rewarded by the sight of her Pokémon barely managing to throw itself to the side, Sird's Starmie still scoring quite a hit. "Synthesis!" Her Oddish was more than happy to comply.
"That won't do you any good," the older woman purred, enjoying the opportunity to torture her opponent in revenge for the shame of having to defeat such Pokémon in front of everyone else. She was fine with being a bully toward people, not Pokémon. "We're in an enclosed space; there's a limited amount of sunlight, you know?"
Finally, the redhead perked up. "I can fix that," she replied, reaching to take something out of her bag. "Oddish! Sunny Day!"
And then Giovanni was thankful for having stayed in the office, as Ariana's Oddish seemed to be rather good with that particular non-damaging move; the way the guys at the sidelines shrieked like a colony of Zubat as the sunlight filtering through the windows increased—to the point that they were convinced that the sun was just outside, watching the battle as well—, while Sird herself threw her arm over her eyes and had her Starmie shrinking back even when lacking eyes itself, convinced him of it. Ariana had simply put on her sunglasses, apparently already knowing really well how awful it could get, and obviously having planned to use the move sooner or later. Also, the gym leader began doubting his initial judgment on the challenger right then: the Oddish family didn't learn Sunny Day or Synthesis naturally, after all…
"Well?" Ariana called at Sird, hands on her hips.
The other woman growled, letting her arm drop to her side and forcing her eyes to open. "It still won't do you any good, honey. But in acknowledgement of your rather ridiculous attempt at actually doing something useful, I'll also try to do only minor damage to your little leafed friend…"
Then she hurried to her Starmie's side, taking good care to pat it comfortingly to let it know that everything was fine, strong sunlight or not; it stood back up and stretched in response to her encouragements. This was something she had learned she had to do with this particular Pokémon from Giovanni, who had told her that her Starmie could be intimidated easily thanks to the careless way she had captured and trained it in the past, when it was a young Staryu, probably just hatched when she found it in the wild. She never failed to show it some affection and such since then, and Giovanni held her in even higher esteem for having those considerations for her Pokémon.
…but she also took her chance to give her order from up close: "BubbleBeam!"
Type advantage or not, Ariana's Oddish took another good beating. "Synthesis again, Oddish! Otherwise…" she bit her lip in worry.
"You can't keep using Synthesis forever!" Sird barked at her, her anger growing again.
"Oddish, Tackle her Starmie!" Her Pokémon looked up at her as if she had just grown another head. Giovanni understood why quite clearly. "It doesn't matter if that woman is hiding behind it; it's her problem!" And that wasn't the reason. However, the gym leader began wondering whether that phrase had been uttered out of actual ignorance or…
Either way, the tuft of leaves rushed forward and did a really mediocre Tackle attempt at Sird's Starmie, which didn't even waver. "Was that for real?" the older woman asked, looking plainly confused. That same expression was on all the onlookers' faces, too.
Ariana blushed to the roots of her hair. "Yes?" she squeaked.
Sird began snickering manically in disbelief, falling to the side of her beloved Pokémon. "Well… Let's get this over with, Starmie; Psychic, again," she said after a while, probably already tired of the rollercoaster of conflicting emotions she had been subject to since Ariana had put her foot in the gym.
Ariana then did something nobody was expecting her to do: she removed her sunglasses, and she clapped once.
Her Oddish made a leap back onto her outstretched arms, avoiding the attack entirely, leaving everyone to wonder why it hadn't done that before when attacked. "Are you recalling it?" Sird inquired.
"You won't be able to bring it out again if you do," Archer called from the crowd.
Ariana chuckled. "No, I'm not going to do that," she replied. "Leg," she commanded her Pokémon, which held out its tiny leg to her, where a bracelet-like thing had been made to fit. Giovanni nearly cursed aloud from his office, realizing that the girl actually had a plan: the cluelessness, her Oddish knowing Sunny Day and Synthesis, it doing a Tackle—a move no member of its family could learn at all, no matter what was done—that was an utter failure, and now this bracelet—
"—and what was that bracelet?" Silver asked.
Giovanni turned his now empty water bottle on his hands. "It was the way your mother carried a particular little stone," he paused solely for dramatic effect, "an Everstone."
The pause had its intended effect of heightening the shock of the reveal, as Silver's eyebrows shooting up clearly indicated. "You don't say…" he muttered absentmindedly. "Isn't that against the rules or something?"
"Given the way we loved to stomp over our challengers, the gym had a very peculiar rule written down in the books back then: the challengers were allowed to do anything in their first attempt at winning the badge," Giovanni told him. "It was technically illegal, but most trainers that came didn't know about it either, so we never got into trouble for it; several novices invoked it on accident, too, but it wasn't our problem if they got called out on it later. However, as I said before, your mother wasn't dumb, and she had done a thorough investigation of my gym—I still don't know how, but I have my suspicions—, and she purposefully invoked the rule in her favor to get away with her unorthodox strategy." Silver blushed all of a sudden, and he let his hair fall forward to hide his face. "What's wrong?" his father asked, concerned.
"I can't believe that both my parents aren't people I can assure my friends are law-abiding citizens, at all," he whispered, feeling his eyes sting as shame piled up. In an even lower tone, he added: "Gold can do it, as can Crystal… and those two lovebirds in Hoenn… and Blue, too! What will she think when she finds out?" He already knew for a fact that Gold would bother him for the rest of his life, and the others didn't matter because he didn't get along with them that much, but Blue…
Giovanni coughed uncomfortably at the bits he could hear. Regardless, he decided to play another card for increased amusement: "Your mother joined Team Rocket too."
"Eh?" The redhead's face was priceless.
"On with the story—!"
"—no!" Silver protested loudly. "Wait just a minute there! You can't continue until you tell me more about that! How is it that she joined Team Rocket?"
"I can't tell you unless you let me continue with the story," Giovanni countered, making his son growl in frustration. "You sound like your mother," he commented, unable to hold back the smirk. "Either way, I'll tell you something to ease your mind: your mother was never a criminal."
"I don't believe you…" Silver sighed sadly. It made no sense if she wasn't. "Just leave it like that. Go on, continue narrating; I'm listening."
"As you wish—"
"—this thing right here… I did it myself," Ariana confessed to the curious onlookers. "I set an Everstone onto this old bracelet to stop my Oddish from evolving… Poor thing, I know it should have long ago." She slowly pulled and turned it until she got it off her Pokémon's leg. "There, Oddish; ready when you are," she told it sweetly, letting it hop back onto the ground. It immediately began shining, changing…
Sird scoffed. "Well, now it will evolve into a Gloom; so what? It's still a part-poison type and vulnerable to my Starmie from that angle, even more so now that it will be bigger and easier to aim at."
"Well, you have a type advantage from that angle; so what?" Ariana mimicked, smirking. "SolarBeam, Gloom!"
"What?" Sird hissed.
And Giovanni laughed. He couldn't help it; he just did, and he didn't bother keeping it down, since he knew nobody could hear him. He was pleased that Ariana was proving to be quite an entertainment not only visually, but also in the way she pulled off surprise after surprise time and again. After all, her strategy had pieced together quite nicely: by making Sird underestimate her, she'd called upon the necessary sunlight with the Synthesis excuse, with the intention to beam her Starmie off the battlefield.
…a fate that Sird's Pokémon was barely spared of. It was severely weakened, however, and some of its tips had folded in exhaustion. "Starmie!" the older woman gasped. "You…! Starmie, hold on, just one more time—!"
"Gloom, another SolarBeam!"
Someone in the crowd cursed loudly, while another called the whole deal "madness." Then the first round of the battle was over.
Ariana's cry was muffled by both her hands, but since the whole gym had fallen silent, it was heard as clearly as they could see her tears running down her cheeks. She ran to her fainted Gloom's side, she called its name…
"Gloom can't continue fighting," Archer announced the obvious to the audience while he approached the redhead. He whispered something into her ear, laying a comforting hand on her trembling shoulder—Giovanni knew it meant nothing, but he still saw red—, before she shook her head and took out Gloom's Pokéball. "Are you sure?" Archer asked for confirmation, adjusting his glasses with his free hand.
"I can handle it. I just hadn't expected this turn of events," she whispered back. She turned to recall her Pokémon, planting a kiss on the Pokéball once Gloom was safely stored inside. "Good job. You were wonderful out there." She stood up abruptly, making Archer stumble backwards. The glare was back on her garnet red eyes, and it was focused solely on Sird. "Well, that was a rather nasty move."
Sird chuckled, not minding Ariana's rising anger that much. "You started it, little Skitty. Battling against me is serious business, for your information; you strike hard, and I strike back harder."
"Yeah, I know. I just saw it," Ariana admitted, taking out a tissue to dry her tears up. "Now I fear this will become an escalating battle, though, as I'm not particularly fond of not repaying others in kind."
Giovanni watched in amusement as Archer dragged himself hastily over to the sidelines as Ariana retrieved her next Pokéball from the very bottom of her bag. He was truly sorry she hadn't won against Sird's Starmie; it had been a matter of fast reflexes, in order to catch those last rays of sunlight before Sunny Day no longer had an effect. Gloom hadn't managed to do it in time, and, in the end, it hadn't shot a thing at Starmie. It could have ended in a draw otherwise. Such a pity…
"Off with that Starmie, now!" the redhead ordered in a vicious growl, throwing the Pokéball forward. In less than a blink, her wish was granted, even when nobody had seen a thing.
But Sird's Pokémon fell to the ground just the same, and it wouldn't even twitch at hearing its mistress's calls. She bit her lip, holding back all her begging for Starmie to rise, and, acknowledging defeat this one time, she recalled it. However, she waited until she had a good look at Ariana's next Pokémon before she selected her own; whatever it was, it jumped swiftly all over the room, startling the onlookers for the pleasure of it…
It lastly came to rest by Ariana's legs, and the only thing the redhead had to say to it was a mildly bothered: "That was slow, Weavile—"
"—I guess that explains how my very first Pokémon was a Sneasel," Silver spoke at long last, a little fond smile playing on his lips.
Giovanni sighed. "Indeed, that was no accident: your mother specifically bred her Weavile to give its child to you for your first birthday. Sird was also involved on that, as she owned a rather… flirty Ditto back then, which she let your mother borrow," he explained, rubbing his own arm awkwardly as Silver scowled in distaste. It wasn't serious enough so that he'd start disliking his own Weavile, but knowing Sird helped was bad enough to leave a mark in his memory forever. "Sorry; that was too much information, wasn't it?"
His son nodded. He changed the topic next: "My mother didn't lie to you back there in the train, did she?" he chuckled in amusement. "She did have quite an advantage against the Pokémon in your gym, after all; grass and ice… Did she ever battle against you?"
"Yes. Yes, she did," Giovanni replied, chuckling as well. "But she never had the pleasure of defeating me, not even six on one, which is why we both began preferring to tag battle when training together." He seemed to remember those moments rather fondly, if one went by the expression on his face alone.
"I guess it's a shame that you can't fight anymore… We could have arranged a meeting between you two," Silver muttered, crossing his arms, clenching and tugging lightly at his clothes with his hands.
Giovanni patted his shoulder. "Don't worry about that. She's happy enough to talk with me through the phone every now and then."
The redhead sighed in exasperation. "Stop contacting Team Rocket members behind my back! Even if it's about my mom, it could encourage the others to oppose me even more than they do already!" Giovanni smirked at him, causing him to blush lightly. "What?" he nearly spat.
"You just called her mom. She's going to be ecstatic when I tell her about it."
Silver's blush deepened in color and rose to his hairline. "You aren't telling her that!" he hissed. After all, for him, words such as "mom" and "dad" were only used by babies, girls and spoilt kids. He had just let it slip past his usually high defenses, though… And his father's comment made him wonder whether or not he had ever used those words before Mask of Ice kidnapped him.
He regretted his reaction right away, and, lowering his gaze, he told his father he took back his request for him to keep silent about his little slip of the tongue. "Thanks for allowing me to tell her. I can record her squeals for you, if you want, as a little compensation for your sacrifice."
He was being mocked. He didn't care. "Whatever. Just keep telling me about the battle with Sird; you're going far too slowly."
Giovanni shrugged. "Fine with me, though talking to you amuses me more than reminiscing—"
—Giovanni couldn't help but notice the difference in the attitudes Ariana showed to each of her two Pokémon: her Oddish, now a Gloom, was treated with the utmost kindness, while she growled at and bossed around her Weavile. "If Sird had chosen a Slowpoke just now, you'd be left biting its dust!" She also insulted it in creatively abusive ways. And he was surprised when her Weavile actually snickered. They had one of those rough friendship deals going on, apparently, in comparison to Gloom, who was babied by its mistress.
"I don't own a Slowpoke," Sird admitted aloud, drawing Ariana's attention back to herself. "Nor would I want to now, considering the type and speed of your Pokémon would leave me in a serious disadvantage." One Pokéball was dropped to her feet; a Meowth was released, which proceeded to rub its face against her leather boots. "This little guy was a gift by a good friend of mine, to whom I lent a Ditto a while back. He just hatched last week, too. Please, be kind to him, little Skitty; you kittens should stick together, after all."
Ariana was taken aback by that revelation, and her Weavile visibly hesitated to start attacking thanks to its owner's doubts. And the worst thing was that Sird wasn't lying; her Meowth had indeed just hatched last week, to her great joy and everyone else's great amusement. Nobody could see Sird liking or doing cute things, so she had been on the receiving end of a lot of jokes… until she gave all her money to the noble cause of getting him a Quick Claw and four Technical Machines, and then proceeded to win her first battle with him and him alone. Giovanni really hoped Ariana, who had already used a strategy involving being underestimated, wouldn't fall for the same trick when thrown back at her face.
And she didn't. "Weavile, if you don't finish that Meowth off in the following five minutes, you are out of my chosen party." The swift ice type tensed at that, and, swallowing up its regret at having to attack a Pokémon that young, it threw itself forward, claws and fangs at the ready.
Sird smirked. "Meowth, Iron Tail."
The Quick Claw tied around the kitten's neck got him out of the way of Weavile's rather free-styled onslaught—it wasn't the same as Gloom's failed tackle, Giovanni realized; it was just that Ariana wasn't commanding it to do anything specific—, and he managed to strike the ice type down quite hard. The poor Pokémon even bleed afterward from a gash on its back. The redhead winced at that, her hands hurrying to her bag's pockets as she tried to find what the gym leader guessed was a Potion or a similar medicine; her Weavile just rose again and dove for the Meowth in front of it, clearly angered.
"I won't allow you to be hit, Meowth," Sird assured her Pokémon. "U-turn!"
"What is that…?" Ariana wondered aloud, still searching for that Potion. "I don't even…!"
…and then her Weavile was struck and it fell to the ground unceremoniously, not having scored a single hit against Sird's Meowth, who switched out for a Ditto. Giovanni could only face palm as he clearly saw Sird's Ditto wriggling its "eyebrows" suggestively at the fainting Weavile, who just glared back.
"Next!" the older woman called aloud, as the crowd exploded in laughter at how easily her baby Meowth had won.
Ariana fell to her knees for the second time that day, and she crawled over to her fallen Pokémon. "Oh, dear…" she whispered in distress, a hand held to her lips. The other held on to an unused Hyper Potion.
Archer was on her shoulder again. "Weavile can't continue fighting," he announced, as was his duty. "Are you alright?" he asked the redhead. "You're looking rather pale." She whispered something unintelligible back at him. "What, again?"
"I said: I don't have any other Pokémon! I… I lost already."
Author's notes: Good Lord, it took me forever to update! (but, at least, I did) Anyways, I don't know how she manages to do it, but Ariana has gotten the last word on both published chapters so far by the time I run into the informal "word limit" I imposed on myself. She's good!
Story comments: This chapter is less upbeat than the previous, I know. But, then again, I wanted to do the battle between Sird and Ariana in great detail. In painfully great detail. You have to admit that that has no way to turn out happy in the end; we're lucky Ariana wasn't transformed into a rock for all her trouble! I also hope you liked my lame attempt at a bit of action in this chapter, as well as the many reveals all over the place (I lost count of them halfway through)
Reader requests: As always, if you want the story to continue, put it in your Alerts. However, if you have anything to say about how my action scenes sucked so hard I should be forbidden to do them anymore, or if you actually liked them, don't forget to leave your review. I'd like to know which reveals and twists you won't be forgetting anytime soon, too…And you might want to know this: I have ideas for a side-story on the relationship between Sird and Giovanni before this fic, as well as a short omake of sorts about Giovanni calling Ariana to send her out to buy that precious chocolate-flavored milk. It depends on your response whether I actually go ahead with those or not.