This is the final instalment to this fanfic! I hope it doesn't disappoint. It is a lot longer than I ever intended it to be, and I am very grateful to all the people who have followed this story this far. Please read on and let me know what you think!
Kero's heart felt like it had shattered into a million pieces and been scattered across the vast world. He wiped his eyes with the back of his paw and slumped back to the den. The world around him was alien now. He longed for his cosy den back at the meadow. If he hadn't had met Cassie, his life wouldn't have changed. It would be the same repetitive dull day every day until the day he left it. Just the way he'd accepted it.
She'd gone now. And he knew he'd never see her again. He took a deep calming breath and approached his new friends. Friends he would never have met if it weren't for her...
Flutterwick looked at him. "Didn't you leave with my mum?"
He met the Mothim's red eyes. The look on the young Pokemon's face was one of worry and distress. He opened his mouth to speak but words didn't come out. He snapped his attention away and made for his new den.
Sunnybear stopped him, sucking on her paw noisilly. She removed her paw and fixed him with an angry stare.
"I saw her leave, Kero."
"Mum left?" Flutterwick's voice was laced with sadness. "Where did she go? Why did she just leave me?"
Kero bristled and closed his eyes. "Shut up."
"No, we won't shut up," Sunnybear growled. "Why did she leave? Tell us."
Kero shook his head.
"She looked rather upset," Nyatar's voice was soft. "Blight went after her. What happened?"
"She's a lie," Kero growled. "Humans. They're all the same." He made to push past Sunnybear but she pushed him back.
"So she told you." Her eyes were fierce and Kero felt rather afraid as he met those eyes.
He pushed his fear aside to confront her. "She told you?"
The Teddiursa nodded. "She told me first because she was terrified of telling you. And I told her that you would be able to accept it." She prodded him in the chest. "And instead you chased her away."
"Of course I wasn't going to accept it!" Kero barked. "I spent seasons looking for my best friend only to discover the wicked trainer that took her was Cassie all along and she cost my friend her life!"
"And her own!" Sunnybear roared.
"What's going on?" Flutterwick sobbed.
"It was an accident, Kero," Sunnybear told him. "Accidents happen. She never meant for Berry to get killed."
"What does it matter?" Kero said. He was staring at the ground suppressing the tears that threatened to show. "She still took her. And I can't forgive that."
"Humans take Pokemon every day!"
"She was my best friend!"
"What do you know? None of you have ever lost anyone important to you!" Kero's eyes blazed and he met the dumfound expression of Sunnybear. His anger subsided as he thought over his words. He looked away from Sunnybear to Nyatar who was shaking his head sadly, then over to Flutterwick who's eyes were flooding over with tears.
"I lost my parents, you know," He sobbed. "And now I've lost my new mum because of you!" He spread his wings and took off over the trees.
"Flutterwick!" Sunnybear shouted, reaching out her paw. She ran after him and stopped as he vanished out of sight.
"I'll look for him." Nyatar gave Kero a dissapointed glance as he chased after the fleeing Mothim.
Kero gave himself a mental kick and slumped to the floor, tears running from his eyes. He heard Sunnybear approach him and she stood beside him. He could feel her eyes burning into his skull.
"You really are an idiot, do you know that?" She said firmly. "I have lost someone I cared deeply about. She abandoned me. And Nyatar was alone until I came along because his brother was taken by a human. I know not all humans are wicked, but some Pokemon certainly are." She turned away from him and made to walk away. She looked back at him. "Do you think it was easy for me to listen to Cassie tell me how she used to abandon Pokemon when they'd outlived their use? I still want to be around her after that. It shocked me, but she's changed. She's not a human anymore. She's a Pokemon with very strong past life memories." She stomped away from him, leaving him sat there in the grass. He put his head in his paws. What had he done?
Cassie ran blindly through the trees trying to put the hillside as far behind her as possible. She had no idea where she was going. It was vaguely back in the direction of the snowy mountains, but she didn't care. Tears stung her eyes and she could barely see. She couldn't even smell anything. But she didn't care. Whatever happened to her now didn't matter. She had lost Kero, a Pokemon she had cared deeply about, and in the process she had lost Flutterwick and her friends. They were safe in the hills. So long as they were safe, she could go.
She'd heard Blight calling after her as she left, but the Absol's voice had faded. She guessed she'd lost her. She didn't want to see her anyway. She would have only talked her into going back, and she couldn't face Kero now. Not if he was going to hate her.
Fresh tears ran down her face. She had known he couldn't accept what she'd done. Who could?
Her legs gave way beneath her and she fell to the floor, sobs wreaking her body. She'd left them all behind. The friends who'd helped her and supported her...
And Flutterwick... he'd never understand why she left... and he'd been left once before...
She stood up. She had to go back. She had to get Flutterwick. She looked over her shoulder. Where was she? Nothing was familiar at all. It was all rocks and mountains with large rocky outcrops. She'd not managed to retrace her steps at all. She spun around on the spot, trying to sniff the air for any familiar signs.
Paraffin and burning coals...
Her heart leapt into her throat leaving an awful metallic taste. Those two fire Pokemon were nearby... Vulcan and Hogroast.
"Well well well."
She looked up. Vulcan was stood on a rocky outcrop above her head.
"What do we have here? One little Skitty away from it's nest."
"Got no bodyguard this time."
She spun around. Hogroast was standing a little away from her, leaning on a large rock. Her tail swished from side to side as she tried to retreat away from the two fire Pokemon.
"Oh yer not escapin' this time," Vulcan growled.
A large rock landed infront of her, just missing her paws. She yelped and jumped backwards from it. The distraction cost her dearly. Hogroast's massive fist collided with her ribs.
Vulcan's laughter peeled through the air. "Oh, we are so gonna win this time!"
Cassie dodged rock after rock as Vulcan threw them at her, but she found it impossible to dodge both the rocks and Hogroast. She took all the physical blows the Emboar launched, each one knocking the wind out of her body. She collapsed to the floor as a large rock just missed her head. She was done for...
Blight had lost Cassie. She sighed and turned back to the hillside. She stepped through the trees, a feeling of forboding building up inside her. A natural disaster was on the way. She looked back over her shoulder at the trees. It was faint at the moment, but it would cost lives. She shook her head and looked over at the sobbing Riolu. With a sigh she went over to him.
Kero didn't look up. He stared at his paws, ignoring her.
"You learned something about her, didn't you?" She asked him.
He appeared to ignore her for a moment, then nodded.
"She was linked to Berry in some way."
Blight looked away from him at the trees, the feeling of forboding growing stronger. Something was very wrong. A small shape moved in the sky, growing bigger and bigger. It was flapping its wings awkwardly as though it was struggling to stay in the sky.
The voice was coming from the flying Pokemon. Blight watched it curiously. It was impossible.
Its wings failed to hold it up any longer and it plummeted to the ground. It landed just in front of her with a thud, its legs giving way beneath it.
Blight stared at the Taillow, not quite believing what she was seeing.
The Taillow looked up at her, his eyes frantic. "I've been lookin' for ya all morning!" He gasped.
Blight was still staring at him, not quite able to comprehend how he was still talking to her. "Fidget... I saw you get killed."
The Taillow struggled to his feet. "No... No... I wasn't killed." He looked quickly behind him and back again. "Played dead. Had to. They stomped on me some, toasted me some."
Blight shook her head. "You look terrible."
Fidget was a mess. His feathers were singed and burned off on his body and wings. She had no idea how he had managed to fly in that condition. That was perseverance.
"You've got some nerve, coming here," Kero growled. "You followed us the whole way and got us into some real mess."
Fidget glanced at Kero and stepped away from him, his wings spread slightly. The motion seemed to cause him a great deal of pain.
"Fidget, you've caused a lot of problems," Blight told him. "Your presence here signals to me that this might be a trap. A ruse. To give their position away to Vulcan and Hogroast."
The Taillow shook his head. "My spyin' days are over now, Blight. I can tell ya that." He glanced from left to right, then behind him. "After those two figured I was workin' for you, they said I was against 'em. They was so angry they stomped me into the dust, they did." He sighed. "I'm so sore. But I had to find ya, I really did."
Blight stared at him. "What is it, Fidget. You are clearly distressed."
The Taillow spread his wings and leapt from foot to foot. "Blight... somethin' terrible... it's that Skitty, see. I saw her. She was runnin' an' she ran right into Vulcan's trap. She's gonna be killed. We have ta do somethin'!"
Kero stood up and marched over to the Taillow. "Cassie?"
"If that's her name then yeh, Cassie." Fidget looked over his shoulder and back to Blight then Kero and back again.
Kero growled. "How do we know you haven't led her into that trap and are now luring us there!"
Fidget cowered away from him. "Argh! Blight, it's a mess. A real mess. I know I've caused a lot of trouble, I'm sorry. I really am. Give me another chance an' I'll make things right."
Blight and Kero stared at the cowering Taillow.
"I swears I'm not leadin' non o' yas into a trap, I swears."
Blight sighed. That feeling of forboding was growing ever stronger, and it had nothing to do with this Taillow. She knew him too well. He wouldn't have flown all this way in his condition for a mere job. She looked at Kero.
"We can trust him. I sense something horrible is about to happen, and I think it might be linked to Cassie."
Kero's heart was racing. If Fidget was right, they had wasted too much time as it was. He ran to the new den Nyatar had made. Sunnybear was sitting inside it gazing outside anxiously. When she saw him, her expression became fierce. Kero didn't even give her a chance to speak.
"It's Cassie!" He barked. "She's in trouble. Come on!"
Sunnybear's expression changed to worry and she raced from the den. They joined Blight and Kero's heart soared when he saw Nyatar and Flutterwick returning through the trees. Flutterwick looked terrified, his little face streaked with tears.
"I think my mum's in danger..." He whimpered.
"I know," Kero told him. "We're going to save her."
"I showed up at the right time then," Nyatar said.
Fidget spread his wings painfully. "Come on, hurry hurry! I knows where she is!"
"Can you fly in your condition?" Blight asked him.
"Found you, dint I?" He took off over the trees, keeping in sight.
As they followed after him at a trot, Sunnybear shot Kero an angry glance.
"You know this is your fault."
Cassie looked up at Vulcan in horror. The Infernape was laughing maniacally. His paws were pressed up against a massive rock.
"I won't miss this time!" He roared. "I've had enough of the humilation you cause me!"
"Push it, Vulcan!" Hogroast shouted up at him. "Push it! She can't move anymore. I seen t'that!"
Pain radiated through her body. Her back legs throbbed and the fact she couldn't move them sent fear pulsing through her body. She really was done for. She sobbed. She'd lost everything anyway... She closed her eyes and waited for the inevitable impact.
"I can't!" Vulcan wailed. "It's too 'eavy! Get up 'ere an' help me t'move it."
Hogroast grunted and moved away from her. She opened her eyes. He'd gone. She tried to move, but her front lets protested. They were too tender from shielding herself from the massive Emboar's powerful strikes. She whimpered as she heard the massive rock shift above her. The ground rumbled...
"Argh! Stop! Stop!" Vulcan cried. "Look! Th'whole mountain's comin' down!"
Cassie's eyes snapped open and she strained to see the two Pokemon above her.
"We gotta move!" Vulcan snapped. "Move it!"
"It's you!" Hogroast barked. "You moved too many rocks!"
The ground shook again and the two fire Pokemon cried frantically as they scurried back down the mountain side. Cassie could hear the clatter and roar of tumbling rocks. They struck the ground around her and collided with the massive rock above her head. She watched it teeter on the spot before it came roaring to the ground. It bounced off another rock before her and rolled over her. She was sheilded by the other rocks around her, but she felt the pressure of it as it made its way across her body. She felt her ribs scream and crack in her chest then the cool air as the rock continued rolling away down the hill. Pain screamed in her body. The screams of the fire Pokemon echoed in her ears. Blackness claimed her.
"Cassie!" Kero raced up the hill towards the rubble from the mountain slide. He'd hated having to watch it happen, knowing Cassie was amongst it all. Nyatar had stopped him, holding him back. He'd told him he'd get himself killed if he raced into the thick of it. Now his heart was pumping frantically in his chest as he desperately tried to find Cassie. This was all his fault. If he'd never shouted at her... if he'd never pushed her away...
His eyes fell on the motionless pink form amongst the fallen rocks. His broken heart sank. He fell down beside her, resting his paw on her body. Tears welled in his eyes as he felt the splintered bones.
Sunnybear and Flutterwick appeared beside him.
"Mum?" The Mothim sobbed.
Kero couldn't contain himself. He sobbed loudly and lay down next to his fallen friend, letting his despair out in wails.
"This is all my fault," He said as he pulled her body towards him. "I'm so sorry... please don't leave me... I love you..."
The small pink Skitty appeared before her, and she opened her eyes to look at it. At least, she thought she'd opened her eyes. She was in Kero's arms but she could feel nothing. The pain had completely gone, and she couldn't even feel his warmth. The small Skitty was staring at her in the same way it had been when it watched her drowing in her nightmares.
"You're Berry, aren't you?"
The Skitty nodded once.
"What do you want with me?"
"I needed you," The Skitty replied.
"You needed me?"
"Yes. I needed you." She held her paw out to Cassie. "Come."
Cassie took her paw. "Where are we going?" Cassie felt herself rise into the air. She looked down at Kero and her friends gathered around her body.
"I'm taking you to Paradise," Berry told her. "You've finished here now."
Cassie looked at the small Skitty. "But I don't want to leave yet!"
"It's too late," Berry told her. "You've passed away now. But you did well. I wanted Kero to know the truth and to move on. You helped me with that, and I thank you."
"But... he hated me..."
"He never hated you," Berry told her. "He was upset."
"But why use me?" Cassie asked. "Why put me through all of this just to pass him a message?"
"That wasn't my only reason. You needed to learn a lesson."
"A lesson in friendship," Berry explained. "To know that Pokemon are creatures with feelings, and that you can't just use them. It was no coincidence that you met Flutterwick, Sunnybear and Nyatar. Those three needed to move on themselves and to find friends that care about them. None of them are lonely now, and you are to thank for that."
Cassie looked down at her friends. They were becoming smaller and smaller, and she hated that she was going to lose them. Lose them physically, and also never see them again. She would be looking down on them as a star.
She blinked back tears and looked up at Berry.
"Please let me go back. I'm not ready to go..."
"But you are!" Berry told her. "You are ready. You're body is broken. You won't recover from that."
"I will... I need to. I need to experience more. I have so much more to learn... and Flutterwick..." She looked back down at the Mothim. He was distraught, huddled up in Sunnybear's arms. "I can't leave him... I promised him I'd look after him as his mother..."
Nyatar picked up her body, ignoring Kero's protests. He said something to the Riolu and he backed down as Blight put a reassuring paw on his shoulder.
"Please let me go back," Cassie said, her voice desperate. "It's not too late... please let me have another chance..."
Berry sighed. "If you insist."
The small Skitty released Cassie and she flew back to her body as if drawn by a piece of elastic. Pain exploded through her body and she opened her eyes, gasping for air.
"She's alive!" Nyatar shouted. "She's alive!"
Gasps and shouts filled her ears and she closed her eyes as the pain in her chest labored her breathing and sheer agony caused her to drift in and out of conciousness. She remembered frantic voices, a Taillow promising he wouldn't be long, human faces peering down on her with concern, loud beeps and white walls, bipedal shapes racing around her.
A bright light brought her back into conciousness and she looked up into the face of a human with bright pink hair. As pink as a Skitty's fur.
"Berry?" She asked.
The human said something, but she couldn't understand it. It smiled at her and moved away. It shouted something and another human replied. The room was filled with faces, some she recognized, some she didn't. The first one she saw was Nyatar towering over her.
"You made it then?" He grinned.
"Mum!" Flutterwick landed on her bed in a flurry of wings. His antennae tickled her as he nuzzled into her fur.
"Ow! Flutterwick be careful!" She giggled, pushing him away.
His eyes were filled with joy and moist with tears.
"I thought I'd lost you," He said. "I'm so happy you came back."
She smiled at him. "So am I." She looked around at her surroundings. White walls, beds on either side of her lining the length of the room, and strange human machines next to her that beeped rhythmically. "Where am I?" She was pleasantly surprised she could move her legs and body, and she rolled over to have a look at the other faces, her body protesting with pain. But it wasn't too intense and she managed to shut it out.
"This is a place where humans treat sick and injured Pokemon," Nyatar explained. "My brother Katar's human brought you here." He indicated to a smiling male human.
Her eyes fell from the dark haired human to a Pupitar at the human's side. It was looking at her with friendly eyes. Was this Nyatar's little brother? Her eyes scanned the rest of the room's occupants. Blight was sat at the doorway watching her, Sunnybear at her side. She tried to sit up, desperate to spot the one Pokemon that really mattered to her.
Blight looked to her right and Kero stepped forward, approaching Cassie's bed. He looked up at her with his golden eyes. They were moist with tears, his blue fur streaked with tear lines. He reached up and climbed onto her bed, settling down next to Flutterwick.
"Cassie, I was so worried... I thought that you... I thought..." He sobbed and wiped his face with his paws.
Blight ushered the others out of the room. When Flutterwick didn't follow she called for him and the Mothim went after her reluctantly. Kero was the only one left, sat on her bed unable to look at her. They sat in silence for a moment, unable to meet each other's eyes.
"I'm sorry," Kero said, breaking the silence.
Cassie looked at him. He was looking at the wall to his left, tears trickling from his eyes.
"I thought you were dead."
"So did I," Cassie told him. She thought back at her experience. The image of floating into the sky with Berry felt like a dream.
Kero looked at her. "I'm so glad you're okay... but it's my fault you got into this mess."
Cassie shook her head. "It's not. I can understand why you'd hate me."
"I don't hate you," He told her, meeting her eyes. "Not at all. I love you."
Cassie's eyes widened. She stared at the Riolu and he looked away from her again.
"That's why it hurt so much... I couldn't believe that..." He faltered, closing his eyes as he searched for the right words. "I couldn't believe that the wicked human who took Berry could be you... you're too nice. You're different from her..."
"That's because I'm not her anymore," She told him. "She's in the past."
Kero nodded. "But where did these memories come from? How come you don't remember anything from your Pokemon past?"
Cassie sighed. She'd never thought to ask Berry anything about who she was before she was washed up on that beach. "I don't know... but to be honest... I'm kind of happy I don't know. Dealing with my human memories was enough of an ordeal."
Kero smiled. "It's who you are now that counts, right?"
Cassie smiled back at him and nodded. "Yeh. If I knew where I'd come from, I might have tried to get back. I wouldn't have got to know you or meet any of the others."
"In that case, things worked out for the better." Kero moved closer to her and nuzzled her face. "I really thought I'd lost you. I'm sorry I reacted so badly..."
"You didn't lose me. I promised that would never happen." Cassie nuzzled him back. "It's you that brought me back. I didn't want to go. I love you too much to leave you like that."
Kero sighed and ran a paw over her ears. "I'm so glad you're alive. Please never frighten me like that ever again."
It took a few days until Cassie was able to leave her bed. When she followed Katar's trainer out of the room, her friends were sat waiting for her. Blight with a Taillow sitting on her shoulder was sat in a corner with Kero and Flutterwick, away from the humans. Nyatar was talking to Katar and Sunnybear was sat on a little human girl's lap being cuddled. When she saw Cassie she waved and jumped from the girl's lap to greet her.
"Well look who's up and about!" She said as she threw her arms around her friend.
Cassie laughed. "Did I just see you with a human?"
Sunnybear nodded. "It was great! I haven't been cuddled by a human in so long. If it weren't for you, I would never have overcome my fear to be near one again." She grinned.
"So does that mean you might find another human trainer?" Cassie asked. Her heart sank at the thought. She might never see Sunnybear again...
The Teddiursa shook her head. "No. I enjoy my life in the wild too much. Plus, it would mean leaving you guys and Nyatar. I couldn't do that."
Nyatar approached them with the other Pokemon following behind him.
"Great to see you, Cassie," The Tyranitar grinned. "We're masquerading as this human's Pokemon." He nodded to Katar's trainer. "So we've been waiting here for you. Are you ready to head back to your den in the hills?"
Cassie beamed. She could finally start her new life with her new friends. But something was greatly bothering her. She looked at Blight.
"What about Vulcan and Hogroast?"
The Absol's expression was serious. She fixed Cassie with her red eyes. "You don't need to worry about them any more. The mountain slide made sure of that."
Cassie was at a loss for words. She hadn't wanted the to fire Pokemon to die. She looked at her friends. All of them seemed to look a little distressed. None of them had wished this on them. She looked back at Blight and the little Taillow on her shoulder. The Absol turned and led the way out of the building. They made their way back to the hills, Katar's trainer at their side.
Cassie woke up with a yawn. Sunlight streamed into the den, warming her and Kero with its rays. She looked down at Kero. He was sound asleep, the sun shining off his blue fur. He looked so peaceful and beautiful. She leant forward and licked his cheek. His mouth formed a smile but he didn't wake. She looked over at Flutterwick. As ever, he was still sleeping soundly in his little corner, oblivious to the bright summer day. She sighed. He'd sleep all day if he could. She stood up and left the den. Sunnybear greeted her, holding a huge fish in her paws.
"You beat me every morning!" She said with false exasperation.
"Well, it's an excuse to come visit you," The Teddiursa said, handing Cassie the fish.
"You know you don't need a reason." Cassie grinned and accepted the fish gratefully.
They sat outside the den, talking cheerfully about nonsense. Kero eventually joined them, settling down behind a pile of berries that Sunnybear had dropped on the floor.
"Good morning, stranger," Sunnybear beamed.
Kero smiled at her. "Good morning."
Cassie sighed as she listened to her two friends talking. They had been living here for a couple of seasons now and each day had been bliss. Blight occasionally visited as did Katar and his trainer. Cassie was always happy to see him. He'd saved her life. Blight had told her about how Fidget, despite his condition, had flown all the way to the human village to alert Katar's trainer to her condition. Katar could understand his trainer and was able to communicate with him. They had followed the injured Taillow to her and taken her to his village's Pokemon Center.
As the sun rose higher in the sky, Flutterwick woke up and joined Kero with the berries. They were later joined by Nyatar and they sat together, soaking in the sun's rays.
Fidget landed in front of them gracefully and fixed them with his beady eyes. His posture was much more relaxed than Cassie had remembered him. He'd always seemed anxious and awkward, but now he fixed her with one eye and looked her up and down.
"I've got the mornin' report," He said. "All's well 'cross the hills. Nothin' eventful. Zigzagoon fell in the brook, but a Buizel got 'im out." He hopped over to the berries and Flutterwick handed him one.
Cassie smiled at Fidget. Blight had left him living in the hills as part of his fresh start and he'd settled in fine. His spying days were behind him and he let himself be the personal guardian over the hills, keeping an eye out for trouble. Should any erupt, he'd report to her and Nyatar.
"So what shall we do today?" Kero asked Cassie. "Fancy a battle?"
Cassie smiled and shook her head. "Not today."
"You've not wanted a fight in ages," He said, propping himself up on one arm. "You'll fall out of practice."
Cassie shrugged. "I've not felt the need."
Sunnybear beamed at her. Her carefree nature had been rubbing off on her. Cassie seemed to have adopted the Teddiursa's 'only fight when I need to' policy.
Kero smiled at her. "Things have been pretty uneventful. Just how I like it really."
Cassie lay back against Kero and he put his arm around her. She looked up at the sky as the clouds moved gently along. As she watched them she thought that maybe... just maybe... she could see a long green dragon pushing them along.
That's the end of it! =D Please let me know what you think. I'm going to miss these characters, they've been fun to write about. I have no sequels planned however. This entire story has been epic in comparison to how I wanted it to be. I wanted it to be long, but sheesh 21 chapters =/ it's almost as long as my NaNo! Thank you again to everyone who got this far. It really means a lot to me =) I'm going to start planning my Sonic fanfic now. Keep an eye on my profile if you're interested in it! xx