Happy New Year! Sorry for the long wait guys! I'm terrible about updating, as you've noticed by now, and I honestly can't say that I'll get better. I have more than half the story outline as of this chapter, and ohhhhh boyyyyyyy my story is a lot longer than I thought it would have been. I'm trying my hardest to finish though! I mean, I know exactly how it's going to end, so I just have to fill in all the bits in between. Granted, I've been changing little bits of the ending, but the general gist hasn't changed. I'm just blabbering now, so I'll start the story.

In case you guys don't remember, last chapter was the Gym Leader battle against Burgh of Castelia. Without further ado, onwards to this chapter!

Chapter 16: Love's a Little Funny Sometimes

October 20, 2010

"You know, I'm almost glad to leave Castelia today."

Touko nodded in agreement with Belle and chuckled uneasily. Belle dangled her wallet from her fingers, frowning at how considerably lighter it was compared to when they entered the city a week prior. Touko patted her own deflated wallet in her pocket and sighed.

Cheren cleared his throat, "I tried to stop you, but guys just seemed so excited when you knocked me over to get into that one shop."

"Cheren, we did not knock you over. You're exaggerating." Touko turned around to face him and walked backwards as the group continued on to the pier. In response, he shot her an exasperated glare.

"Careful," Touya warned just as Touko tripped over a bolt on the ground. Both boys lunged for her at the same time and she grabbed frantically for them. Her momentum took the trio off balance and they crashed to the ground simultaneously. Touko landed on her bottom with small squeak as both boys sprawled onto their knees beside her.

Grinning sheepishly, Touko picked herself up and offered a hand to Cheren. "Sorry…"

"I say nothing," Cheren growled under his breath as he stood up. He brushed himself off as Touko pulled her twin to his feet.

Everyone seemed to be a little tense since the Gym Battle. Touko was more disgruntled around Cheren which made him more irritable with her. Touya still seemed annoyed with Cheren, which left Belle at a loss as to what to do to get her friends to get along. She had suggested going to the pier for lunch before they left the city. Burgh had happily prattled on about all of Castelia's best places (especially shopping) and she remembered a name of a popular café located near the beach. She got some funny looks from her friends, who questioned why she would want to go near a body of water willingly. Belle waved it off, trying to convince her friends that she was fine so long as they were behind a fence or something of the sort.

And maybe a few good feet behind that fence as well.

Belle dragged her friends along and tried to distract them with her good cheer. But the closer they got to the pier, the less bubbly she became. Even her friends noticed that she fell behind in step when they reached the street running parallel to the ocean. Touko hugged her friend's arm tightly, chirping, "Don't worry Belle! Look, there's the café Burgh told us about. It's not remotely near the water!" She pointed at the place and sure enough the sign hanging above the door displayed the café's name proudly for all to see.

Belle visibly relaxed as Touko dragged her over. The inside was busy and it took a short wait for the teens to get seated at a table. While they waited, they glanced around the shop. Many of the customers looked like office workers going out for lunch. Seems the group had caught themselves in the middle of the lunch rush. Three sides of the café was mostly window, giving the visitors a beautiful view of the beach. Still, the teens got lucky and were seated at a table near one of the windows, so they got an extra clear view of the Castelian Bay.

"The water's all sparkly in the daylight. I wonder what Pokemon live in the bay." Touko stared out of the window as she voiced her thoughts.

Pushing his glasses up, Cheren answered, "Schools of Alomomola tend to reside in the shallower areas, but they're all over. Further out you'll find Basculins too. They usually advise people not to venture too far out since they're known to be pretty dangerous to humans."

The teens nodded. They had seen enough documentaries about water Pokemon to know about Basculin and the damage they can cause to the victims of their attacks. Cheren continued, "They usually don't come near shore though. The Alomomola will actually gang up on Basculin if they start being hostile against their school."

"There are also swarms of Frillish and Jellicent that are seen sunbathing a little ways from shore. Sometimes the young Frillish come closer to shore, but it's hard to see them when it's really bright outside. They're rather difficult see since their bodies are made of translucent jelly. People tend to avoid them, however, given that they're half Ghost type. People who aren't seeking to capture Ghost Pokemon tend to avoid them since it's very easy to be haunted by one. And they're persistent and get annoying really fast. Jellicent are really protective of their young, so you don't want to mess with the wrong Frillish."

Touko perked up. She remembered what she had promised Professor Juniper. "Wait, the little candle-shaped Pokemon I was supposed to find…Lit…wick?" She stumbled over the name. "That's part Ghost type, right? Does that mean it'll be hard to handle?"

Cheren adjusted his glasses again. "Depends. Some are more docile than others. Although most Ghosts have a mischievous streak. They're not known to be particularly dangerous to their own trainers, but raising a Ghost is no easy feat."

Crossing her arms, Touko sat back with a resolute huff. She was definitely going to find that Litwick and raise it well. She cooked up a vision of herself with the most perfect Litwick that anyone has ever seen and saw all her friends clapping and cheering for her beside her. Her musings escalated to ridiculous levels before she was interrupted by the waitress who arrived with their orders.

"Here you are! Enjoy your meal and take you time!" She left and the teens began to eat, discussing their plans for the rest of the trip. Burgh had advised them to take a train from Castelia to Nimbasa since only dry desert stretched out between the two cities. While it was traversable, most trainers did not enjoy the sandy terrain that usually took about three weeks to get through. In contrast, the train only took three days. It was not terribly expensive either, so the teens decided to just go for the easy ride.

Once they paid, the teens left the café with full bellies and a considerably cheerier disposition. They allowed themselves a last look at the bay before they departed Castelia. It was then Touya noticed something.

"Look at the water near Dock 2," he said quietly, pointing in the direction of the dock. His friends followed his finger and Belle gasped.

"Frillish! Ohhhh they're cute, look at them!" She cooed, subconsciously drawing closer towards the dock. She seemed to forget about her fear of water and continued going towards the bobbing pink and blue jellies.

Touko chased after her, both out of curiosity and out of worry. "Don't get too close Belle! Remember what Cheren said!"

Her loud voice seemed to draw the attention of the Frillish and knocked Belle out of her excitement. The blonde noticed that she was halfway down the dock and squeaked slightly. She trembled a little before Touko got to her. She clung to the brunette's arm like a lifeline and allowed her best friend to drag her back to solid ground.

Cheren sighed and slipped his hands into his pockets. "Maybe we should get going. It will take a while to get to the north end of the city. We still have to walk all the way to the outskirts to get to the train station."

"Woo! More adventure! Let's go!" Touko cheered, twirling with Belle. The blonde laughed, feeling the fear sink away and turned her back to the bay.

A curious pair of red eyes watched the quartet walk away.

The outside of Castelia was filled with the hammering of machinery and sandstorms of sawdust. Many Drilburs, Timburrs and Watchogs were busy working on the construction projects to expand Castelia into the desert. The teens watched in interest for a bit before continuing on. The noise got too loud for their ears to handle. Unfortunately, the construction seemed to stretch on for quite a bit.

"How far away is the station?" Touko yelled over the noise.

"30 minutes by feet," Cheren replied just as loudly.

They managed to get past most of the construction before pausing to drink some water. The sawdust dried them out really quickly. Belle uncovered her ears and pouted when she still felt them ringing. "I'm glad we got past that!" she said loudly, still trying to adjust back to normal sound levels.

Touya nodded in agreement, sighing quietly and just letting the ringing die down. Cheren was studying the working Pokemon again with a small frown. Now that he got a better look, the Pokemon seemed quite exhausted.

"Those Pokemon don't look very happy." Touko voiced his thoughts. Her thoughts briefly flashed to a certain green-haired man, but she shoved them away with a grimace.

Belle blinked, taking notice of the workers too. "Oh, those poor babies. They must be tired! I wonder when they get a break?" she fretted.

Cheren shrugged, turning back around to face the road again. "I don't know. I'm sure Castelia has regulations to ensure they're not mistreated though. Construction Pokemon are usually captured from the wild by construction agencies, but they receive food and water in return for their serves. It's like Pokemon training, but they do construction instead." He started walking forward. "We should get going. We should be a little less than halfway there."

Touko thought it sounded pretty sad. Thoughts of N crowded her mind again and she sniffed in distain. She did not want to have to think about that man. Suddenly, Belle cried, "That Timburr!"

Said Pokemon was slumped under a tree, panting slightly. Touko commented, "It's pretty far from the construction. Is it on break?" After taking a generous swig of water from the canteen hanging from its neck, the Timburr held its stomach and licked its parched lips.

"Looks like it's hungry," Touya commented. This prompted Belle to start digging through her bag. She unearthed a pastry she had bought from the café for the road. She started to go towards the Pokemon to offer it the treat when she tripped and sprawled out on the dirt road.

Her friends crowded around her, various degrees of concern and exasperation on their faces. Touko laughed, "Here, I'll give it the food."

"Yeah, before Belle end up feeding him nothing more than a bag of dirt," Cheren joked.

The brunette smacked him lightly on the arm for the quip before picking up the fallen bag and walking quietly over to the Timburr. The Pokemon looked up with inquiring and tired eyes. He hastily got to his feet, puffing his chest out. He seemed like he had set his guard up, so Touko approached cautiously.

"Heeeyy buddy. Are you hungry?" The Timburr's eyes lit up and Touko took that as a yes. "Want this pastry? We got it from the best café in Castelia. No use working on an empty stomach, right? I know I can't think of anything but food when I'm hungry!" She laughed, offering the bag out to the Pokemon.

The Timburr blinked, eyes furrowing in suspicion. It slowly took the bag. Touko laughed again at his expression once he saw the pastry and continued to laugh as he gobbled it down in a few moments. She straightened back up and waved. "Well then. Enjoy!" She ran back to her friends and the quartet started heading towards their destination again.

With a satisfied huff, the Timburr polished off the last morsels and glanced up to thank his benefactor. However, she was gone, so he glanced down the road and saw her bobbing away with her friends. He looked around quickly before dashing towards a small patch of little wild daisies growing in the grass outside the construction area. He plucked one and dashed after the teens.

He outran their leisurely walk and stopped short in front of Touko. Surprised, she bent down a little to address the Timburr. "Hi again?" she said.

The Timburr grunted and handed her the little daisy with a toothy smile. Touko gasped and started to laugh. "Aw! Thanks!" She took the daisy with a grin. "That's sweet of you. I take it you liked the pastry?"

He nodded, still grinning. Touko stood back up, tucking the daisy behind her ear. "Well, I'll take good care of it. Thanks! Good luck with your work!" She grinned and started to walk away.

The Timburr watched her leave and drooped slightly. He grunted to himself before turning back towards the construction area. He looked back at the retreating backs of the teens and grunted again, watching the stem of the daisy bounce with each step Touko took.

"Whhhhhhhaaaa? We just missed the train?" Touko cried in disbelief.

Cheren exhaled in irritation. "Yes. We did. Maybe if you didn't play around with that Timburr, then we w-"

"Yes, blame it on the sweetie. Don't get jealous that that Timburr knew how to impress a girl better than you do." Touko rolled her eyes.

Jamming his hands into his pocket, Cheren grinded his teeth. "Well, we have to wait an hour now. Happy?" He stormed over to a bench furthest from the group and plopped down.

Belle frowned at her sulking friend and turned to Touko with pleading eyes. "Come on, I'm sure Cheren didn't mean anything bad by that."

Touko just huffed and sat down on the closest bench. "I don't care."

She knew Cheren still had the Scolipede. The Scolipede that had nearly killed her. The Scolipede that he might not be able to control. He was hiding it from her. Maybe he assumed she knew about it, but he did not bring it out even once in their company since the incident. She thought he should have at least told her that he had decided to keep the beast.

With a sigh of resignation, Belle turned to Touya instead. She knew there was still something going on between the boys, but she could maybe at least keep one person in a good mood. "Why don't we let our Pokemon out to rest? I'm sure they don't like being kept inside their Poke balls for so long." She smiled, hoping that Touya would at least return the gesture. She let out her Pokemon, chirping a happy greeting when Porky ran up to hug her. He had gotten much bigger since he evolved into a Pignite and seemed more attached to Belle than before. Lia bounded up and licked Belle's outstretched hand. Helen hummed and bobbed around in the air contentedly.

She was not disappointed when Touya cracked a small smile. "Sure," he replied, pulling out four Poke balls. He released all his Pokemon. Zula looked around to see if there were enemies before setting down to polish her scalchops. Oz whinnied and trotted around to stretch his legs. Riley was running around everyone in circles, as usual, and ended up starting a game of tag with Lia. Musharna started to nuzzle against Touya again, crooning happily. That made him smile a little, even if the Psychic Pokemon still had a huge warning sign on her.

Touya's mind filled with the images of a lot of Munna floating around before it disappeared a few seconds later. He blinked in surprise and looked at Musharna, who was still crooning. A stuffy feeling ached at the back of his head and he reached for it tentatively. The uncomfortable ache came back a moment later when he saw another flash of Munnas. This time, he could tell they were inside a lab, judging by all the computers, flasks, and other glass containers in the background.

"I think Musharna is sending me images through telepathy," Touya said, a tinge of surprise in his voice. This got Cheren interested, especially when Touya started to rub at the back of his head again.

"What's she showing you?" Touko asked, interest in her voice.

"I think they're memories of her time in the lab. There's a lot of Munna together inside a lab."

Cheren eyed Touya's hand that was massaging his head. "Does it hurt? The back of your head?"

Blinking in surprise, Touya turned to acknowledge the other boy. "It feels stuffy here." He rubbed the spot again.

With a nod, Cheren explained, "Non-psychics aren't meant to receive telepathic thoughts. As such, the brain responds in discomfort. You're feeling the effects of that, which makes it more likely that you did indeed share Musharna's thoughts."

Musharna crooned, eyes opening. She nodded slowly to show her understanding and nuzzled against Touya again, sending images of the Munna again. Touya was slowly getting used to the stuffiness and allowed his Pokemon to keep her telepathic communications going.

Cheren furrowed his eyebrows. "It's a little strange that Musharna hasn't tried speaking to you. All Pokemon that possess the Psychic typing can be trained to communicate telepathically in speech. As a lab Pokemon, I'm sure she must have learned human speech at some point. She seems like a really old Pokemon too, so she should definitely be able to speak just fine."

Touya shrugged, gently pushing away the Musharna. The Pokemon chirped, floating around to look at everyone. She came to a stop in front of Touko, staring at the girl in confusion. Touko returned her stare, aquamarine eyes locked on the Pokemon's ruby ones, not quite sure what to do. Slowly, she reached up and petted Musharna's nose. The Pokemon crooned and nuzzled up against Touko's hand. A jab of stuffiness hit the back of her head as she saw the Munnas. Touko retracted her hand suddenly in surprise, feeling the back of her head.

"Woah. That was kinda weird," she commented, standing up and walking over to Touya.

He nodded to his twin and Musharna floating over to the siblings, making happy noises. Without warning, her eyes glowed and both twins gasped. The image of their father, in a lab coat, came into their minds. He was smiling, reading glasses atop his nose, as he scribbled something down onto sheets of paper on a clipboard. He reached forward and his arm moved side to side, hand out of view. The twins realized that he was petting the Musharna and that they were watching her memories from her point of view.

The image transformed into another memory. A young boy who looked similar to Touya stood next to an older man they had never seen before. The man, however, resembled an older version of Touya. The boy was laughing, reaching forward. His mouth opened and it seemed like he was talking, but no sounds came out of it. The man smiled and said something to the boy, but like before, no sound could be heard. The boy nodded and ran off. Musharna's line of vision followed after him and the twins saw the name printed onto the back of his sports jersey. "Clearwater."

Again, the memory shifted, this time to a scene outdoors. The older man was standing next to a green-haired youth. The twins gasped simultaneously when they came to the realization that the youth was Ghetsis Harmonia. He was definitely much younger, but he was undoubtedly Ghetsis. The older man and Ghetsis were speaking, both clearly interested in their conversation.

The vision ended abruptly and was replaced with another. The older man was in a frenzy, feeding a pink mist forward. He was bloodied, bruised, and shaking. They could feel Musharna's distress and heard her high pitch squealing, the first sounds they heard from the memories. A sharp pain erupted in the back of their heads, pulling the twin partially back into reality. They realized that Musharna's screams did not come from the memory, but from the actual Pokemon in real life. The pain escalated as the vision of the man continued.

Suddenly, everything went black. The twins could not feel their bodies as their minds wandered through the remnants of the fading visions. Musharna's screams ceased a while before Touko felt someone shaking her. Feeling returned to her limbs and she felt the sensation of gravel pressing against the bare skin of her legs. Her eyes opened slowly as she looked up into Cheren's frantic face. He breathed a sigh of relief and said something, although Touko was not able to process his words, which put a concerned expression back onto his face. The back of her head was absolutely stinging and she winced at the realization.

"My head…" she moaned weakly, closing her eyes again and curling into Cheren.

Next to her, Touya had just been shaken awake by Belle, and was fairing no better. He could not get the image of the men resembling him out of his head. He was almost certain that the little boy was their father in his youth. But who was the older man? He knew for a fact that their father had no photos from before his marriage, so he could not confirm his suspicions.

However, all the thinking only made his head hurt more. He tried to pry open his eyes after realizing they had closed shut again. Belle looked ready to cry and Touya tried to mumble something reassuring to her.

He blinked, eyes adjusting to a pink blob behind her. He looked past Belle to see the crumpled form of his Musharna. Anger flared as Touya forced himself to sit up.

"What happened?" he demanded, grimacing at the stab of pain. Musharna's head was swollen and bleeding on one side and Cheren's Purrloin was licking her bloody claws gleefully.

"I knocked Musharna out. She went berserk, so I put her down," Cheren said coldly, crossing his arms. "She's too dangerous, Touya. You know what she did." He was still holding tightly onto a dazed Touko.

"You're one to talk," Touya spat back, fury in his voice. He barely stopped himself from mentioning the Scolipede, but it was clear that Cheren got the idea.

The female twin gripped at Cheren's arm. "M-Musharna was having a bad vision. There was a man, and he was bleeding and really scared. Musharna was scared too."

Touya rubbed his head. "I don't know who the older man is, but I think the younger boy was Dad. The boy looked just like Dad. The older man was probably related to him too since they looked so much alike."

"Ghetsis was in there too…who was that other man? He knew Ghetsis and Daddy when they were younger. You look just like the two of them." Touko mumbled in confusion.

The twin's confusion was nothing compared to that of their friends. Belle held her hands up, exclaiming, "Wait, wait. Hold up. W-what did you see?"

Touko winced, leaning forward against her knees. "Shit, that seriously hurt." After a moment, she began to recount the memories: their father petting Musharna, their father when he was a teen with the older man, Ghetsis speaking with that man, and finally the terrifying last memory of the older man, beaten and bruised. Cheren and Belle sat in silence after Touko stopped talking.

Touya was slowly regaining his mask, but could not help the irritation that still boiled inside of him. He got up unsteadily and marched over to Musharna. He dropped to one knee beside his Pokemon and took out a potion before setting to work tending her wounds, fighting off the last of his headache. The group fell into heavy silence once again.

The silence was interrupted by the crunching of gravel behind them. The teens turned to see a Timburr standing a few feet away from them, unsure about whether to approach the group or not. It decided on the former and made a beeline for Touko, grunting to her.

"You're the same Timburr from earlier," Touko realized. The Pokemon nodded and patted his head with another grunt.

Touko was not quite sure what he was trying to say and did not really care to figure it out at the moment. She whined softly when her head spiked in pain again. The Timburr grunted in concern and Touko smiled, understanding at last. "I'm ok. Just gimme a moment."

The Pokemon seemed unconvinced and opened a pouch on his toolbelt and pulled out a small roll of bandages. He handed it to Touko and grunted again. The girl smiled in response and shook her head. That proved to be a bad idea when her head throbbed in protest. She grimaced, waving her head to decline the offer of bandages. "It's fine. Bandages won't help. Thank you though. You're really sweet." She offered him a pained smile and he grunted again.

Belle whispered under her breath, "Wow, that Timburr has really taken to Touko. But is it ok for him to be away from the construction area like this? Wouldn't he get in trouble?"

Touko's eyes lit up in concern, "Yeah, wouldn't you get in trouble? What are you doing way out here? This is really far from the construction site!"

In response, the Timburr snorted and looked away, crossing his arms.

Cheren rolled his eyes. "Figures he's a rebel." The Timburr shot him a glare, one Cheren readily returned. Their stare-down would have continued if the Pokemon had not suddenly snapped his head back, eyes narrowing in suspicion. He shivered and grunted, moving to stand in front of Touko protectively.

An eerie giggle came out of nowhere and Porky yelped. A blur of pink flashed around him before it slowed down with a graceful twirl. The blur stabilized and took on the form of a female Frillish. She giggled again before floating over to the Timburr, who stood his ground defiantly. A small, innocent smile pulled at the corners of her mouth before the Frillish flew off again.

"W-Why is there a Frillish here?" Belle asked nervously, watching as Oz whinnied uncomfortably by their sudden guest, who had decided to appraise him next.

Cheren sighed in irritation. "It might have been lured here by us when we saw that school of them earlier. I most certainly hope there isn't a Jellicent here as well."

He watched the Frillish float around the Pokemon. She kept giggling and playing with them, sending unwelcome shivers down their backs. With a happy squeal, the Frillish stopped short in front of Belle, hovering eye to eye with the girl. Belle shivered involuntarily and a flash of the pier crossed her mind. At that moment, the Frillish squealed joyfully again and circled gleefully around Belle. Slowly, Belle smiled. "She's really cute, actually."

Cheren, who had been warily glancing around for any sign of a parent Jellicent, sighed, "She must have been attracted to something in one of us. Ghost types love feasting on fear and anger. Frillish aren't known to leave their school so willingly."

The Frillish continued to bob around Belle for a little longer before flying back over to Porky. He seemed uneasy with her prescence, grunting out hesitant responses to the Frillish's constant peal of squeals. She stuck to him, not paying attention to the other Pokemon anymore.

"Awww it looks like she likes him!" Belle chirped, clasping her hands together. "That's so cute!"

Touya had already recalled his Musharna and set about recalling his other Pokemon since the Frillish had spooked them. Riley was still running around, proving to be difficult to recall. Even on the road when Touya tried to train the Roggenrola, the little guy rarely listened to his commands and seemed to never run out of energy. He was definitely difficult to handle.

Well, it seemed like Riley was not terribly bothered by the Frillish, so Touya let his Pokemon run free longer. He turned to watch the Frillish circling Porky. The Pignite seemed immensely tense around the Frillish, ears lying flat against his head. The Frillish released a peal of giggles and suddenly gave him a kiss on his cheek.

"Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, did you guys see that?" Belle squealed excitedly. "That was way too cute!"

Her excitement was short-lived as the Frillish suddenly ascended higher up into the air and flew away from the station and towards some of the nearby sand dunes. Porky was tittering on his feet after the kiss, but broke off into a sudden run after her. It took the teens a few seconds to register what was happening.

Belle called out, "Wait, Porky, where are you going?" When Porky ignored her, she cried out, "Wait up! Porky! Wait!" She started off in a dash after them, almost falling when she tripped over a rock in the road. "Wait!"

"Belle! Just recall him!" Cheren shouted. Belle immediately dug through her bag for Porky's Poke ball. By the time she had unearthed it though, he was already out of sight.

"Oh no…" she whined, shoulders slumping. "Where were they going?" Lia and Helen had come up beside their trainer by this point, both glancing worriedly in the direction that Porky had disappeared off to.

Touko had recovered enough to get back onto her feet and she ran up next to her friend. "The same place we're going. Come on, let's go after them!" Belle nodded and the two girls dashed forward, Belle's two Pokemon right at their heels.

Touya followed right after them, finally managing to recall Riley. Cheren adjusted his glasses and ran after his three friends, mumbling angrily under his breath. Even the Timburr had elected to follow them and he ran after the humans.

The ground became more unstable as they ran. The sand became thicker and it was difficult to walk, let alone run, through parts of it.

"Porky!" Belle cupped her hands along the sides of her mouth and yelled. Touko mirrored her actions. No response came, so the two girls continued on. Lia barked out for her friend while Helen flew through the surrounding area to see if she could catch a glimpse of the Pignite. The Timburr had caught up with Touko, although he was also having difficulty walking through the desert sand.

Knowing this was getting nowhere, Cheren released Henry. "Belle's Pignite ran off somewhere with a Frillish. Search from the skies and report back if you find him." The Tranquill cried out in acknowledge and soared off.

Belle and Touko's cries caught the boy's attention and they trudged across the sand towards where they heard their voices. The girls were nowhere in sight. The small sandstorm that had whipped up did not help matters at all.

"Touko! Belle! Are you alright?" Cheren called. Suddenly, the sand under him gave way and he yelped in surprise as he tumbled down a dune. Touya saw his friend disappear down the slope and stopped before it claimed him too. He started to move forward carefully again and got to a safe enough spot to peer over the edge. He saw the other three and their Pokemon crumbled in a heap at the bottom of a pit, moaning as they picked themselves up.

"Perfect," Cheren growled, struggling to right himself in the sand that seemed intent on swallowing him.

"How the hell are we supposed to get out of here?" Touko moaned, peering up to where Touya was. "Touya! Can you do something from up there?"

Touya pondered the situation for a while. They might be able to climb their way out if they got lucky and the sands did not slip out from under them again. That seemed unlikely, so they had to get creative. The only person with a flying Pokemon was Cheren, and Henry was a mere two feet in height. He probably would not be able to lift any of them and fly them out of the dune. Everyone else only had small Pokemon. Musharna might be able to lift them up using Psychic, but after today's episode, he did not trust her to be stable long enough to get everyone to safety.

He was still thinking of ideas when the sand beneath him began to rumble. Touya took a few rapid steps back from the edge to avoid getting caught by the trap.

"What are those?" Belle's voice rose up from the pit. Touya ran back over and saw his friends surrounded by many round, red Pokemon.

"It seems we have wandered into the nest of a tribe of Darumaka," Cheren said quietly, swallowing thickly. "Don't make sudden movements. Don't talk loudly. Darumaka's are blazing hot and unable to fully control their fire power." His warnings were curt and sharp, conveying just how potentially dangerous things would get.

One of the Darumaka stepped forward, chittering words the teens did not understand. Helen hovered behind Belle, mewing in uncertainty. Timburr had his jaw set in a tight line and said nothing. It was Lia who stepped forward and began to bark. At first Belle was going to ask her to stop, but when the Darumaka replied, she realized the two were conversing.

However, the Darumaka was incensed by whatever reply Lia gave and he replied in a biting tone. Lia seemed to be pleading this time and even the Timburr seemed to perk up. He grunted something that made the Darumaka pause for a moment. The conversation resumed for a moment, but the Darumaka was getting increasingly louder. Lia barked something that made him pause again. But whatever the Darumaka said next made Lia, Helen, and the Timburr all tense up.

One of the Darumaka shot forward and nearly hit Cheren. He hissed and dodged another that went his way. Touko was barely dodging her own attackers and hit the ground to avoid one aimed straight at her head. The Timburr grunted and punched one out of the way when it got too close.

Belle screamed when a Darumaka brushed her arm. She fell into the sand and started to hiss in pain. "Ow, ow, ow…" she whined clutching the burn on her arm. Lia and Helen crowded around her, trying to fend off the Darumaka.

Touya's stomach leapt to his mouth and he immediately pulled out a Poke ball in his haste. He tossed it, expecting his Dewott to emerge. Instead of Zula, however, Riley appeared in a shower of light. He seemed alarmed by the chaos and started to run around as usual. Touya was about to recall him when Riley suddenly tackled a Darumaka who was in his way. In his panic, the little guy was just attacking whatever got in his way.

And it just so happened that Fire types were weak against Rock types.

Remembering the moves he saw from his Pokedex, Touya called out, "Riley, use Rock Blast!"

By some miracle, the little Roggenrola heeded his command. The sand around his body lit up and floated in the air, condensing into round rocks. The light dissipated around the rocks and they were sent hurling at a Darumaka. The Darumaka yelped in pain from the onslaught. Riley did another round of Rock Blast, catching a lucky shot at the Darumaka's temple. It fainted onto the ground.

"Keep at it!" Touya encouraged. He considered throwing out Zula as well, but wondered if that would add to the chaos. He had to think of a way to get his friends out before they got hit.

Cheren had been too busy dodging to even think about calling out one of his Pokemon. Touko had her hands full as well and was unable to reach Sir Wotterlot's Poke ball. The Timburr was helping tremendously with his strength, punching and kicking Darumaka into submission. But four Pokemon were simply no match for all of the Darumaka and the exhaustion was showing. Eventually, though, the Darumaka focused all of their attention on the Pokemon instead of their trainers.

With a roar, the Timburr rushed forward and tried to punch one of the Darumaka. Unfortunately, he completely missed and continued barreling towards the side of the pit. Suddenly, his fists glowed just as it slammed into the wall of sand. A white ripple shot outwards from the point of impact. The sand along that wall hardened and burst outward in large chunks of rock, raining down upon the unlucky Darumaka nearby. They screeched, trying to get out of the way. Shocked, the Timburr glanced at the wall in confusion before trying to will the power forth again.

"Rock Slide!" Cheren called out, recognizing the technique immediately. "Move as far away from that wall as possible." His warning came just in time, for the Timburr decided to unleash another Rock Slide on the Darumaka. This time, the attack did the trick and the head Darumaka shrieked loudly. The rest of the tribe suddenly burrowed back into the sand from where they came out of, disappearing from sight completely. The teens warily stood their ground, listening carefully past their heavy breathing. When a minute passed and it seemed like the tribe was not going to return, the teens breathed out a collective sigh of relief and gathered their bearings.

"That is why w-we are taking the train," Touko tried to joke, catching her breath. She got shakily to her feet, dusting herself off before helping Belle up. The blonde had released her hold on her burn, which was not as bad as they originally thought. It had seared white, but was not bleeding.

Belle waved off her concerned friend and shook out her arm gently. "That was too close for comfort." Suddenly remembering her starter, Belle whined, "Oh no, we definitely lost track of Porky now!"

"But I think I found our way out," Cheren said, pointing at the rocks scattered all over the pit. "Let's stack these up and climb our way out. Maybe Timburr can just do another Rock Slide for us."

It took a while longer, but the plan to stack all the rocks worked out and the teens climbed their way out of the pit. As soon as they escaped, Henry arrived back to the group. Cheren held his arm out as a perch for his Tranquill. The bird jerked his head in a direction and cooed, ruffling his feathers.

"Looks like Henry found them. Good job." Henry nodded and took back to the skies, leading the teens onwards. They traipsed through the sandy desert for a while longer before sounds of the Frillish floated through the air.

The two Pokemon finally came into view. The Frillish was holding Porky's hands in her tentacles, dancing around with him. When the teens got closer, she snapped her attention away from Porky and towards them instead. She frowned and released Porky, flying towards Belle. The girl started and stepped back away from the Frillish. Belle peered around her and shouted, "Porky! Come back over here!"

Porky just stood dazed on the spot, swaying slightly from side to side. He was gazing longingly at the Frillish with a lazy smile.

Cheren coughed. "Belle, you should return Porky. He's under the effects of Attract. Returning him should cancel it."

The Frillish was not happy about the sudden decision and hissed. Shocked, Belle took another step back. Lia barked and leapt at the Frillish but phased right through the ghost. She tumbled through the sand with a disgruntled yip.

Not taking kindly to the attack, the Frillish bristled and fired off a black wave. It did little more than send violent shivers through everyone there. Belle cried out, "Wait, stop!" Of course, the Frillish showed no intention of doing so. She readied herself to fire off another wave.

Helen crooned unhappily, a little hurt by the attack. She floating up to Belle and mewed resolutely. Her trainer blinked before nodding. "H-Helen, use Psybeam!"

The Munna obliged, shooting a blast of psychic energy right at the Frillish. The ghost shrieked, fluttered helplessly to the ground. She whimpered as she landed, trying to get back up.

Cheren closed his eyes and adjusted his glasses. "Looks like she's a lot weaker than she appeared. No doubt that Frillish is still a baby."

Belle knelt down next to the Frillish, who hissed and released another wave of black energy. Belle winced as the shiver shot through her whole body, but she addressed the fallen Pokemon with kindness. "Do you want to join me? It'll be lots of fun and you can hang out with Porky more too! I can tell you really like him. You're really far from your parents, aren't you?"

The Frillish's bravado deflated and she whimpered again. Belle took out an empty ball and held it up. "Would you like to come with me?" She watched the Frillish's reaction and finally got a trill of approval. With a bright grin, Belle chirped, "Welcome to the family!" She tapped the Poke ball gently against the Frillish and watched her get zapped in. A few small shakes later, the ball pinged to announce a successful capture.

She stood up triumphantly and cradled the Poke ball in her arms. "Yay! She came with me! Oh my goodness, now she and Porky can be together forever and maybe even make cute little Pokemon babies!"

Cheren sighed. "Hate to break it to you, but Frillish and Pignites are probably not in the same egg group. They wouldn't be able to reproduce. And Porky was just under the influence of Attract. He might not actually like the Frillish."

"Waahhh?" Belle cried in disbelief. "But they were so cute!"

"Belle, it's ok!" Touko reassured. "Who knows? Maybe they will end up together, babies or not!" She rolled her eyes at Cheren and patted her friend's shoulder. "Why don't you name her now?"

"Ummmm…" Belle tapped her chin, scrunching her eyes in hard thought. "I like…Selena! Selena and Porky! Oh, that sounds perfect."

Cheren rolled his eyes. Such a refined name with such a childish one. Belle certainly had interesting ideas of what perfect naming conventions were.

Touko checked her Xtransceiver and groaned. "Ah! We just missed the train again!"

"That's ok! It just means we can take our time walking back!" Belle chirped. "The important part is that we and our Pokemon are safe now!"

Touko nodded enthusiastically, remembering a new friend that she had to thank. Bending down, she smiled at the exhausted Timburr. "Thank you so much for saving all of us! You were a great helped. We'd be barbecue by now if it weren't for you!"

The Timburr flashed a grin at Touko and bowed his head slightly. Touko thought he seemed a little like a prince when he did that. The thought made her smile more.

In half an hour, the group finally made it back to the train station. They all sat down to take a much needed break. The Timburr had followed them all back and stayed with them the entire time. When the train finally showed up, Touko was pretty sad to say goodbye to him. She even gave him a hug before boarding.

The Timburr had a very disappointed expression on his face as he watched the teens disappear on the train. The doors closed and the whistle blew. The train slowly pulled away from the station and the Timburr turned towards the direction of Castelia again. Each car was passing him faster and faster now and smoke was pouring from the smokestack. He made a very impromptu decision and grabbed the railing on the caboose and jumped onto the train. He sat down and leaned against the wall of the car, watching as Castelia became a speck in the distance.

Well then, he was going to need to get a new wooden beam.

So sometimes you'll see that Cheren gives a Pokemon a gender, and then I'll switch from using "it" to "him" or "her." This is because Cheren is good at telling Pokemon's genders apart, so I stop using the gender-neutral pronoun once I have him introduce the gender.

I don't really have much else to say. I'm excited since in about 5-7 chapters time, the story is going to take a huge turn from the original plotline of the games. So I'm looking forward to that. But first I gotta actually write more…hrngh…I'm very bad at this keeping up with my writing thing.

Thank you to all my reviewers and readers! I'll get around to replying to all of your reviews soon! I really appreciate you all taking time to write out a few comments about the story. Any reviews, positive or negative, are welcome. Love you all! Happy New Year!