As far as Lyra could wander stood glowing-green forest, its whispered wind lulling her and diffusing soft light from its swaying shadows.
Long ago, she thought, this forest was my hope.
"You still remember it," a child-like voice said. "A wish that went too far, even when time and space is the limit. In any case, here we are again. Do you want to start over? What's saved will be erased."
"Can you really do that? Take me back to that time?" Lyra thought aloud, rolling slowly on the soft forest floor.
"I can. But only if you can find me."
"As far as the place where you can make new memories..." The voice faded, dragging the light and forest with it.
Grass and moss dropped beneath Lyra's hands, nearly taking her with it, until she jumped up and ran after the voice. "Don't," she yelled, panting as she escaped the spreading abyss. "I'll go. How far is it?"
"Far–far!" a raspy voice answered.
Lyra gulped and clenched her teeth. "Uweeh?" she bleated in confusion.
"Far-FAR-FAR!" The voice grew louder and blared like a boat horn, until the obnoxious sound was tingling in Lyra's ears: "FAR-FAR-FAR!"
"Sweet disco beats," Lyra emitted, falling out of bed and dragging her pillow with her. Landing directly on her back—with both legs splayed in the air—her eyes spun in their sockets before spying the noisy leak-spinning Farfetch'd alarm clock atop her nightstand. "So realistic," she commented, watching as it swished its plastic, injection-molded leek while continually screaming at her. "Such spirit." This was partly why she bought it.
Noticing the time, Lyra snapped from her sleepiness. "Well kick my grass! Nine 'o clock?" she belted out. Jumping up, she slammed the pokeball button on the alarm base. "How did I manage to OVER-SLEEP?" Pulling off her faded, baggy pajamas, she ran and yanked clothing from a wall hanger: a pair of trusty denim rompers and a red, long sleeve shirt. She then proceeded to pour into them.
Scooping her crazy brown hair into messy pigtails, Lyra pulled on her white, oversized cabbie cap and checked her reflection in her outdated computer monitor's glass screen. "Hm! The unruly hair of a mighty warrior," she said egotistically, holding her chin. She tugged at flyaway strands. And then she darted around her room—grabbing her bag, socks, and shoes—all before barreling downstairs, huffing like a flutist high on volcanic ash. Stopping in the dining room below, she paused when she saw her mother at the table. Her mother, a woman of youthful appearance, was the sort who always wore patch aprons and bright colorblock mini dresses. And who never seemed to sleep.
"Finally awake now are we?" the woman taunted, calmly sipping hot tea.
"What is this?" Lyra demanded angrily. "Why didn't you wake me up?!"
"I can't coddle you forever." The woman sighed and leaned into a delicate hand, her pinky edging the beauty mark beside her left eye. "Life's tough, honey." She took another sip of tea. Despite this pretense, she was a mother who simply thought her daughter needed the extra sleep, since the girl had worked very hard yesterday fixing the kitchen sink and all.
A Grimer had found its way up through the sink drainpipe and sure as well exploded the whole dang thing. Lyra eventually refitted the pipe and cleaned it up. But first, she spent prodigious energy chasing the dumbfounded pokemon around the yard, screaming, with a bottle of hair bleach and a barbecue lighter in her hands. Because, corrosive substances and fire were present in all of Lyra's misadventures.
"You... you're so hard on me!" Lyra wailed with heartfelt injustice, all while hurriedly tugging on her thigh-high socks and hopping about.
"Oh, come here," the woman said. "Look, I got your pokegear fixed. See? Mom's not so bad. Just never run it through the washer and dryer again."
"Uah? You did," Lyra muttered, taking it in hand and becoming thoroughly moved by the sentiment. "Thanks mom."
"Yeah, honey. Your shoes are by the door, get going to Elm's lab." Mom handed her a tiny cupful of coffee.
Lyra swigged and inhaled. "No breakfast?"
"I said get going!" Mom huffed, stuffing toast in Lyra's mouth and playfully shoving her out the door.
Basking in the sparkling afternoon sunlight, the professor's two-story lab commanded Lyra's total attention and wide-eyed admiration. Though it was an unmissable landmark in her microscopic, bumpkin squat-hole of a town (and she passed by it every day when on call for fishing hair from a senior citizen's tub) the lab now irradiated a strange, mesmerizing new energy which made her shiver in anticipation.
Unfathomable technology and squeaky clean floors await inside! Lyra thought and imagined it all excitedly, her fascination clouding her sense of time. In truth, she had never been invited inside by the professor, not even once, so the prospect of fully-viewing it made her all the more anxious.
But Elm... why invite me over now? Lyra wondered, knowing quite well that she was the sort of riffraff that distinguished people such as himself never wanted around. EXCEPT when they needed a cheap repair-person. You've never trusted me before, not even when you needed your toilet re-set! Lyra thought.
Despite her stupidity, Lyra's plumbing skills were un-matched.
So. What's this all about?
Only two other kids lived in town: a mild-mannered boy named Ethan, and an elite, genius girl named Crystal (at least, she used to live in the area)... and THOSE two were the ones who were on speaking terms with the great professor.
Lyra held her chin in contemplation: Everyone's been saying that Crystal helped Elm with his field research. And also, Ethan does Elm's cleaning and kid-sitting. So... why was I called over?
Lyra pondered even further: What does Elm possibly need of me? He called me here, but... the last time we even spoke was three years ago at dad's funeral.
Glancing at the clock on her pokegear, Lyra gathered her resolve, tucked away her doubts, and pushed open the lab's front door. Marching down its immaculate floor, she spotted the strange and unfamiliar Professor Elm. Clenching her jaw and stiffening her arms, she inhaled deeply, held her breath tight, and strode over to him.
Elm rose from his desk chair in greeting. "Lyral, you're here," he said, innocently butchering her name. "I've been expecting you."
"Hello. Good morning! I mean, day," she responded awkwardly, bowing her head. "Very sorry I'm late. Ah... And it's Lyra."
"Lyra? Oh yes! Lyra. My apologies. Your name is somewhat similar to Crystal's, so I slipped up," he admitted.
"I... erg. Of course! Our names share the same vowels," Lyra stammered, second-guessing herself. "I think?"
"Never mind that!" Elm led her over to his work table. "I would like you to pick a pokemon from the two here. Go on, you can keep it."
Lyra uncomfortably gawked at the two pokeballs on the table. I heard that he gave Crystal a rare, regional starter pokemon, but... me? Lyra thought, I'm not assistant material!
Lyra stared down the professor in disturbed silence. I'm not a genius like Crystal—nor a nurturer like Ethan—he barely knows my name, and this setup is suspicious! Distrust swirled in Lyra's mind but, swallowing her hesitation (and deciding to be honest), she forced her feelings into words. She outright asked Elm: "Pick one? What is this! Is this a bribe?"
Elm laughed nervously and scratched the back of his head. "I guess you caught onto my ulterior motive. You see," he said. "About a month ago, I sent Crystal on a small errand to bring back an egg from an old colleague of mine. Incidentally, once there, she also met Professor Oak! When he saw—"
"—She met Professor OAK?" Lyra rudely interrupted. Thee Professor Oak? Lyra mentally added in wonder: The greatest pokemon researcher of all time? Wait! Could this be related to her disappearance...?
"Yes, Professor Oak was visiting with my colleague at the time as well." Elm cleared his throat. "But as I was saying, when Professor Oak saw Crystal's inherent talent at raising pokemon, he was so impressed that he gave her a pokedex and bid her well on her journey!"
"Cheered on by Professor Oak? Crystal is super lucky," Lyra said, feeling oddly unimportant as she stared over at the two leftover pokeballs. Crystal is definitely the golden child of prophecy...!
"But that girl... She really has a mind of her own." Elm exhaled deeply. "As soon as she came back, I asked her to raise this egg, as it needs the warmth of another pokemon to hatch... but she refused! Then she dumped both it and Professor Oak's pokedex on me and ran away! Apparently, she packed all her possessions and left her parents right after doing so... Anyhow, I can't tell you how disappointed I was!" Scooting his chair out and reaching under his desk, Elm brought forth a bucket which held both the egg and the pokedex.
"Crystal?" Lyra choked in disbelief, her face turning blue. She REFUSED such a super awesome destiny? WHY?
Slowly dying inside, Lyra's pigtails withered like wintering branches and her soul spewed from her mouth. "But," she emitted, "the PROPHECY!" She hovered over Elm, her very soul gobbing-out all over him. It was quite gross.
W-what prophecy?! Elm thought in panic, trying to escape her freaky soul-goop. "Ch...cheer up Lyral, I mean Lyra," Elm said and fanned a hand at her. "If you promise to raise this egg for me, you'll not only receive a rare starter pokemon, but also this pokedex! I'll even let you fill it up in Crystal's place!" He held it before her and shook it. He got no response, so he threw it at her head. Much like bait!
Smacked in the forehead, Lyra fell to the ground. Springing back up, she gripped the pokedex to her face with unrestrained glee. "I get to keep it AND fill it up?" she asked at once, her eyes shining. "Really?"
Elm clasped his hands together. "Really!"
"All I have to do is raise the egg? Really? Alright! I'll definitely do it!" Lyra swore, brandishing her arm.
"Excellent. That's great!" Elm laughed with insincere force. Finally! he thought. I was really worried that Oak would laugh at my failure!
Seriously taking to her task, Lyra gleamed over the pokeballs on the table. "A Totodile? And a Cyndaquil," she said lowly. "So Chikorita's already been taken." Lyra's face squished up in disappointment. Well of course Chikorita is gone... That's the cutest one, she thought, the pokemon galloping forward through her mind with a glazed and creepily-smiling face. It's definitely suitable for an elite diva like Crystal!
"Like boxed dinners," Lyra murmured, carefully glancing over the remaining starters.
"Huh?" Elm let out and squinted his eyes at the logic disconnect. Boxed dinners? he thought. ...Doesn't she mean boxed lunches?
Lyra picked up a ball and decided. This pokemon. It's fire! And it's sort of hunched looking and spiky haired. Kind of like me when I first wake up in the morning! she thought. Like this, we'd probably understand each other the best, so...
Unlatching the pokeball, Lyra called out its resident. Materializing on the floor, Cyndaquil shrilled and pointed his nose at the air, sniffing curiously.
"Whoa," Lyra breathed and stepped back. She was left thoroughly speechless by the creature's radical appearance. It's definitely cuter and awesomer than I had initially thought!
"An excellent choice! Here you go," Elm said with a smile, eagerly shoving the bucket of goods at Lyra.
With uncertain, shaking hands, Lyra bravely took the bucket handle—and consequently felt the pressure of Elm's wafting desperation. Man, she thought to herself, grasping the bucket and realizing it came with a complimentary sand-castle mold. Elm must REALLY not want to raise that egg himself. I mean. He asked ME of all people, someone he never counts on at all... I wonder if Ethan rejected him, too. Was I a last resort?
Lyra dwelt on this and knelt beside Cyndaquil to get closer. Or was Ethan too invaluable as a housekeeper to send off on a journey?
Nestling the bucket on her side, Lyra reached out to pet Cyndaquil's head. She was smitten by his stubby little legs and rotund body. "Dawwww, little babby-toes puchi-belly poofa-puu," Lyra cooed at him, "you so sweet..." Her expression hardened. "I just want to take a blood brother oath with you."
Cyndaquil tensed, and curiously enough, every hair on his back bristled with sparks. Not so curiously, he set Lyra alight in an arch of flames. He torched her for two whole seconds before dropping her off to the side like a forgotten piece of griddle meat.
"My... Seems you haven't gained his trust yet," Elm said with a nervous laugh. "But don't you feel bad, fire pokemon are a little bit difficult to raise."
"Cyndaquil, you've DONE it," Lyra cried out, tears of fury running down her soot-covered face as the pokemon stepped away and cowered. "You've got some real golden nuggets, now I can't back down!" She shifted one leg forward and swung a fist to her chest. "Come on, where were you a moment ago?" She glared down at him. "Show me again! That incredible BURNINGuuu SPIRIT!"
Brimming with disbelief, or just outright terror, Cyndaquil sweated and rolled into a ball. He had done it. He had caused this girl irreparable brain damage.
"Ha ha!" Elm laughed forcefully. "I'm sure you'll gain your pokemon's trust in no time, and once you do, you should try taking the gym challenge!"
"Ooh? But," Lyra said and then paused, shaking off her soot and staring down at Cyndaquil, "I can't leave my mom alone." Her income alone won't sustain both her and the house! Lyra thought. I guess I should've thought this over before accepting the pokedex...
"Hmm, yes." Elm adjusted his glasses by the rim, absorbed in earnest thought. "Things must've been difficult for you and her ever since your father—well... Never mind that. Here. Consider it a trade bonus! This may help you reconsider things," Elm said, taking a necklace out of his desk drawer, which is where he kept duplicates of every item in existence.
The necklace had a strange pendant, much like an old coin or a lucky medallion. "This is an amulet coin," Elm said. "They're extremely rare and rumored to sporadically fall off of a Meowth's forehead upon evolution. If your pokemon wears this... the money you earn from battle is doubled." He handed the pendant to Lyra. "Please don't ask how!"
"Huh... battle money?" Lyra asked. "I can get money from battling? Cash?" She held it up in interest.
"Yes, of course. You've got a trainer's card already set up, right? It's actually a very lucrative job. The average trainer earns up to ten-million pokedollars a year."
Lyra's eyes glazed over and euphoria enveloped her heart. Am I seeing pokedollars now? Yes! All our debts will be cleared in only years, she thought glowingly. Mom can finally buy quality cooking ingredients... Volcano Bakemeat! I'll never have to do low-paying, menial labor ever again!
Though Lyra decided she'd keep on plumbing, as a hobby and source of retirement income!
"I'll tell my mom that I'm leaving, thank you!" Lyra said, attentively bagging her gifts and the egg. As she clipped-up her bag, Elm's lab assistant neared and presented her with an armload of pokeballs.
"Here, take these," the young nerdy scientist-y man said. "We were going to give these to Crystal, but. Well. You know how that turned out! But I'm sure they'll serve you well on your quest to complete the pokedex."
"Complete the pokedex?" Lyra repeated, taking the armload; "I can understand filling it up a lot, but... completing it?" Not even Champion Red truly completed such a task, she then thought.
"Ye-yes! That's what I REALLY need your help with," Elm explained anxiously. "Professor Oak and I go WAY back, and I'd hate for him to think badly of Crystal... So I need another youngster to use this pokedex in her place. A ghostcatcher, if you will... Please?"
"Oh. Yeah... Consider it done," Lyra answered strangely, slinging her bag over her shoulder. Holding the pokedex in hand, Lyra peered down at it. A ghostcatcher? Is that like a ghostwriter? she thought. Surely he doesn't mean catching only ghost types... he means catching pokemon under Crystal's name.
Somewhere in the pit of Lyra's stomach, an uncertain feeling churned; something too depressing to be outright jealousy, but still tainted with that vile passion nevertheless. Feeling that it would be too presumptuous to admit such an emotion, Lyra quickly brushed it off.
If I do this for Crystal, Lyra thought, a dark expression settling on her face; maybe she won't hate my guts anymore... Maybe, one day, we can go back to the way things once were.
"Though, does honorable penance work that way?" Lyra asked aloud, looking to the heavens.
"Ffffggg?" Elm answered, his mouth clogged with a food wrapper.
Rousing from her thoughts, Lyra sensed something burning into the side of her skull. And it wasn't Cyndaquil's awesome flames, no, it was a sudden energy-wave which shook her with the unwholesome feeling of being watched.
Huh? Lyra thought. She paused and breathed shortly. There's just Elm and his assistant here now, but... Her battle-ready gaze trailed up to the nearby window above—
—where a fierce pair of eyes were glowering down at her.
"MYNGHAAA," Lyra yelled out, dropping her pokedex.
It landed to the floor with a loud, "CLANK!"
~To be continued...~
Story cover art done by EarlGengar at deviantart. There's a link on my profile page. RATE FIVE STARS AND SUBSCRIBE!