Hello! Welcome to my newest story! It will be sunshine and rainbows and Butterfree!
...Actually, this is probably the evilest thing I have ever written. People that know some of my other stuff will know this is no light threat. You have been warned. It's not too bad this chapter though...
Anyway, I already know where this story is going because the whole thing has already been written out. It will be 3 chapters. So, no waiting for months on end for updates XD. In fact I plan to have everything up by the end of July.
Thank you to all my betas for making this chapter even more awesome! Their names are listed on my profile.
Disclaimer: I don't own Pokemon. If I did, I'd have the Striaton Triplets fixing me gourmet meals all the time XP.
"Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat. We must find each other." -Mother Teresa
Chapter 1: A Taste of Darkness
"Welcome to the Striaton City Pokémon Gym! I'm Chili!" proclaimed the triplet with red hair and red eyes to yet another challenging Trainer. "I light things up with Fire-type Pokémon! Ta-da! The Fire-type scorcher Chili - that's me - will be your opponent!" He grinned broadly, pumping his fist into the air. "Yeeeeeooow! Time to play with fire! I'm the strongest of us brothers!"
Actually, Chili wasn't much of a Fire-type person. Sure, he liked them alright, but he was only a Fire-type Trainer for the sake of the Grass-Fire-Water dynamic of their Gym. Same with Water-type Trainer Cress, who would have preferred to use Psychic-type Pokémon instead. Really, only Grass-type Trainer Cilan chose his specialty based on a type he favored…But Chili did have the most temper and energy of the three, so Fire-type he was. And he made sure to say plenty of fiery things, because then no one could doubt his allegiance to fire, right?
And it wasn't fair to say he was the strongest of the brothers either, even if he was often the one who dealt with bullies and other threats when they were little. All of them were equally matched as Pokémon Trainers, and they knew it. The whole reason they went with this whole Grass-Fire-Water gimmick was so they could all be Gym Leaders together. It was the same motive for why they all dyed their hair to match their chosen types, and wore colored contacts to match said dyed hair (they were all light brunettes naturally, with brown-colored eyes). They were all they had, ever since they were kids, so it would treachery to leave a brother out in the cold.
But it was okay. It was all for show, for the entertainment of their challengers. The Striaton Triplets (though they weren't even from Striaton City), knew that appearances made all the difference when performing an act. Even the other Gym Leaders, who snubbed them because they were the newest Gym, had to admit they were enjoyable.
But no one else's opinion mattered. Others couldn't be trusted. The other Gym Leaders were just aiming for higher Gym ranks, or trying to ascend into the Pokémon League. Just a couple of months ago Team Plasma had preached for Pokémon rights, yet had stolen and enslaved many to serve their own nefarious purposes. Even that nice lady in Lostlorn Forest-who gave Cilan herbs-turned out to be a Zoroark, the dark Pokémon of illusions (though that did explain how they always managed to get lost in there…).
In the end, all they needed were each other.
"Chili! Have you seen my hairbrush?" shouted Cress, the blue-haired waiter looking under one of the dining room tables. Their Gym didn't just look like a restaurant - it was a restaurant, and their home. During the day it served as a Pokémon Gym, and in the evenings the tables were brought out so the brothers could attend hungrier patrons instead.
"Oh wheeeeeeere is my hairbrush?" Chili sang with a smile, as he continued to scrub the windows. Everything was now closed, and it was cleaning time. It seemed like it was always cleaning time. "Oh wheeeeeeeere is my hairbrush? Oh where oh where oh where oh where oh where oh wheeee-"
"Shut up Larry," Cress growled, throwing his notepad and whacking the back of Chili's head. "I'm being earnest. Have you seen it? I couldn't find it anywhere in premise of my room…"
Chili sighed as he bent down to pick up Cress's notebook. "Why would I know where your damn hairbrush is? I don't groom myself twenty times a day like you do." It felt so nice to use some profanity, after a long day of having to censor himself around Trainers and customers. He tossed the notepad back.
"Ah, that's right, you prefer to leave in your hair gel for a week," Cress retorted coolly, catching it. "I'm a fool for asking you, for I highly doubt you even know where your hairbrush is, much less mine."
Chili rolled his eyes as he turned back to cleaning the windows. "It's a lot less hassle that way."
Cress sighed dramatically. "You have no class, my brother."
"And neither do you, 'cause we're all triplets, remember?" Chili replied with a snarky grin.
Cress let out a dignified huff, before leaving the room in his ongoing quest for his hairbrush.
Chili went to get a fresh towel from a nearby table. Cress always had to be such a self-absorbed diva about everything. Chili had one of his headaches again, and wasn't really in the mood for his blue-haired brother's drama.
Still, that was nothing new, nor was their banter. Like everything else, their arguments were mostly performances for others, or just good-hearted teasing. The girls seemed to like watching disagreements between them for some reason. Absently Chili wondered if Cress was actually practicing a planned skit with him, and forgot to tell him about it earlier. It was hard to tell sometimes.
As Chili worked on cleaning the windows, his milder brother Cilan came in with a broom. "Well, uh, pretty good day, wasn't it?"
"Yeah." They had gotten a good number of challengers today, and they had beaten them all and collected the prize money. Afterward, the restaurant had gotten a surprising amount of business for a Thursday evening. Today had been a very profitable day for both of their enterprises. "If this keeps up, we'll be rich in no time!"
"That…would be nice," said Cilan, as the green-haired brother began to sweep. "So…I'm hungry. What should we have for dinner?"
"Oh right," said Chili, as he finished up the windows and carelessly dumped the now-dirty towel into the pile of cleaning rags. "I'm not sure, but I fancy…well, something fancy, since we had such a good day and all. Crawdaunt tail, maybe?"
"Ah, with, uh, maybe some Finneon on the side?" Cilan suggested, already getting excited. "With, um, some butter and Bayleef seasoning?"
"Yeah! And we could have some roasted Pidgeot with that too!" Chili went on, already vividly imagining their upcoming meal. "Of course that will take a while to cook-"
Just then Cress walked, or rather stomped, back in, looking cross.
Cilan frowned. "Something wrong?"
"You ever find that hairbrush?" asked Chili.
"As a matter of fact, I did," Cress replied, holding up the silver-and-blue hairbrush in question. "In your room, Chili."
"Huh?" replied Chili, staring at the hairbrush in question. "But I never touched it!"
"Then what was it doing in your room?" asked Cress.
"I don't know!" protested Chili. "What would I want with some girly brush like that, anyway? My comb does just fine."
Cress let out an aggravated groan. "Look, Chili, I just want you to be truthful about this. If you indeed desired for your hair to look as wonderful as mine-"
"I didn't take it!" Chili retorted. "I'm not trying to look like a damn princess like you!"
"Enough," said Cilan, stepping between them. "You're just irritated because you're both hungry. The hairbrush…probably just got put into the wrong room by one of the staff, or, um, maybe one of our Pokémon dragged it in there. It's…uh, not that big of a deal."
"No one besides us should be going into our rooms," Cress mumbled, but both he and Chili visibly relaxed. Cilan was always the calmest and most logical of the three, and so he was best at settling little disputes like this.
More importantly, all three of them were famished, and soon continued discussing dinner plans instead. Most people dreaded getting fat, but Chili actually looked forward to being the iconic plump cook. Who would trust a skinny cook, anyway? He suspected Cilan felt the same way, as he shook his head at all the latest diet fads. And Cress…well, Cress probably wanted to stay skinny, but they were triplets and he ate just as much as he and Cilan did, so…
At least they all agreed that it was way better than Lentimas Town, with all its red desert dust and volcano soot making everything taste like grime. That is, when they had anything to eat at all. But nobody needed to know about that.
But perhaps Cress's grudge didn't end there, as Chili had hoped. For the next day Chili couldn't find either his comb or his hair gel. His room wasn't that messy, though it was due for a cleaning. Working on a hunch, Chili went to Cress's room, which was as immaculate as ever. Sure enough, there was his comb, right next to Cress's hairbrush. It was Cilan, however, who finally located the hair gel with the cleaning supplies.
Chili confronted Cress on this. He denied everything, of course, but Cress always denied such things, so Chili knew better. So while Cress was out on errands, Chili took his cufflinks and hid them behind the restaurant TV. Cress spent a good hour looking for them before Chili eventually pointed out their location. Cress skulked away, fuming. Then the next day Chili's bowtie was gone…and so were all his shirts ("Chili, are you chilly?" Cress taunted, as Chili proceeded to stomp around bare-chested in search of his tops. This time it was Cress's turn to get hit with a thrown notepad.)
This went on for about a week. The locations kept getting stranger: Chili found his notepad in the freezer, while Cress found a pair of his dress pants in a sack of flour. Cress must have been hiding some of it himself, because there were still some disappearances Chili wasn't responsible for. He doubted Cilan was in on it either. One time Cilan found Chili's shoes hanging from meat hooks, and he demanded the nonsense to stop. Or to at least be more sanitary.
But maybe Chili was wrong again - For one day both he and Cress were trying to find their bottles of hair dye, and found them alongside Cilan's own bath supplies. So, while Cilan was in the shower, they took all his clothes and hid them under their beds. Then they interrogated their green-haired brother, who was clad only in a towel and supremely embarrassed about it. He denied any involvement, until Cress's handheld mirror was found on the top of his shelf. Then he confessed that, yes, he had a hand in the prank war.
"Didn't want to miss out on the fun," he said with a Mareepish smile.
They forgave him, but they didn't mention how they had mixed some of their own hair dye in his hair dye bottle. Cilan's hair was muddy brown for a month.
That should have ended things, but the triplets would still find their possessions in odd places. And now they were waking up to rearranged rooms too. It wouldn't be anything big - a poster moved somewhere else, books ordered from Z to A instead of A to Z, that kind of thing. But it annoyed them, and they would try to stay up to catch their siblings doing it.
This wasn't always so hard for Chili to do, for he was a bit of an insomniac lately. He would either have trouble going to sleep, or he would suddenly wake up in the middle of the night, for seemingly no reason. He had strange dreams he could never quite remember, something about a woods, fire, and some monster coming to get him. Sometimes his headaches kept him up too, if they were bad enough. They came suddenly and sharply, and regular painkillers didn't seem to help. He did his best to hide them though, since he didn't want to worry his brothers.
Chili was just beginning to get one of those headaches again as he worked on cleaning the kitchen. It had been another busy night, and there were a lot of dishes to do. Chili was debating whether or not to wait and finish everything tomorrow when Cress walked in, carrying even more tableware.
"Still not done?" asked Cress, smiling.
"Of course not. You left halfway through," Chili growled. Cress had complained of feeling tired and had asked if he could rest for a few minutes. He never came back from his break, and suddenly the restaurant was slammed. "Feeling better now that all the hard work's done?"
"Yes, but I feel horrendous about leaving the two of you out there by yourselves," Cress replied, walking over to Chili. "For that I apologize."
At this Chili raised an eyebrow. Since when did Cress apologize for anything?
Cress set down the dishes he was carrying with a clack, then continued to gaze at them. "Which is your favorite silverware, brother?"
Chili frowned. "Favorite silverware? I dunno, never really thought about it."
"Pick one," said Cress.
"Uh…The spoon, I guess. 'Cause you can't eat ice cream with a fork or a knife," Chili replied, picking one up before tossing it into the sinkwater. "But really there's no best one. Just depends on what you're eating."
"I…suppose that's true," Cress replied, still not looking at Chili. "But…"
Deftly Cress snatched something off one of the plates, and thrust it forward in one smooth motion. Chili froze as he gaped at the knife barely two inches from his head, its silver blade embedded into the wall. He stiffly turned to look at his brother, who was still holding the base of the knife. The cold grin on his face shook him more than the knife next to his head.
"I prefer this one myself," said Cress, yanking out the knife and casually dropping it into the sink.
"…W-What the hell, Cress?" Chili snapped, partly in anger, partly to cover up his fear. That look on Cress's face right after he had stabbed the wall…He had never seen that kind of look before. "What was that about?"
"Oh, it was about nothing," Cress replied, seeming almost bored. "Just wanted…to see you react, that is all."
"That's all?" Chili exclaimed. "You could've killed me! And now we have a new hole in the wall! And you just did that because you were, what, bored?"
Cress smiled again. "Exactly."
Chili felt chills crawl down his back. "…Seriously, what's with you?"
"As I said, it is nothing," Cress replied, starting to leave. He paused, turning back to Chili. "Nothing…that you will not realize yourself, sooner or later."
His blue-haired brother was gone before Chili could ask him anything more, leaving the red-haired triplet to puzzle over the disturbing encounter while cleaning dishes.
Chili reported the knife incident to Cilan the next morning, and they both confronted Cress on the matter. Cress renounced all involvement, of course. Cilan gave him reasonable doubt despite Chili's protests. Chili knew his brother when he saw him! But Cilan quietly swept the matter under the rug, and soon they were too swamped with Trainers to argue about it further.
Life went on. Business for their restaurant went up and down. Gym business always remained almost overwhelmingly high. They could have made more money if they only worked as Gym Leaders, but the restaurant was their passion. In fact, they were only Gym Leaders to support the restaurant.
Possessions still got lost and then found in the oddest of places, like buried in the Gym Badge box, or hanging off of chandeliers. Their rooms got mysteriously arranged almost daily. But aside from the unusually long prank war, all was normal.
Except for one thing. Chili was busy cleaning the Pokémon battle stadium (Pokémon battles, even low-level ones, left scuffs and scratches everywhere) when he heard a terrified yelp from Cilan. Dropping his broom, Chili rushed to the scene. He found Cilan, shaken, near Cress's room.
"T-There was an in-intruder!" Cilan sputtered, holding his notepad close to his chest. "I-I was going to C-Cress's room to drop something off when I found h-him in there…"
Chili whirled his head to look into Cress's room, but he saw no one there. He did, however, see an open window, its curtains billowing in the wind.
"H-He's gone now…" Cilan confirmed. "I-I hope he didn't take anything…"
"Probably did," growled Chili with a grimace. "What'd the guy look like?"
"Ah! Um…Black outfit…" Cilan began. "Uh, pale skin…white hair…black eyes…"
"Did you get a good look at his face?" asked Chili.
"No…" replied Cilan. "It was partly covered by…uh, one of those fabric mask things that cover your nose and mouth…"
"You mean a balaclava?" Chili asked.
"Yes! One of those!"
So we just got robbed by a ninja? thought Chili incredulously. That's what it sounded like to him. "We'd better report this to the cops. Where's Cress?"
"H-He went out to get groceries earlier," said Cilan. "But, ah, right! Cops…I'll call the cops, you call Cress." He fumbled with the Xtransceiver on his wrist.
It didn't take long for the cops to arrive - perhaps they were spurred by Cilan's nervously-scrambled speech during the call. It did take Chili awhile to get in touch with Cress: first he wouldn't answer his calls, and then Chili couldn't find him at the grocery store. Chili was starting to get anxious when he finally found Cress strolling along the street, groceries in hand. He claimed that he had been at the grocery store the whole time, and that Chili's people-finding skills were horrible. He hadn't answered the calls because he had his Xtransceiver off to avoid some persistent fangirls of his.
Cress was alarmed when he heard about the bizarre intruder, and then became irate when he learned the stranger had the nerve to raid his room. As soon as the police were done collecting evidence and investigating, Cress barged in to personally inspect all his possessions. Surprisingly, nothing was missing, besides a book they later found in one of the ovens. Chili and Cilan also checked their rooms, and got the same results. All their Pokémon were still there too.
"Guess I must have…startled him, before he could, um, take anything," Cilan concluded, as the three of them had their dinner together. Tonight it was Sawsbuck steak with fried Unfezant and Oddish salad, a relatively simple dinner for them. Cilan was working on peeling apart a wing.
"Or he's the guy who keeps messing with our stuff," Chili joked, as he gobbled down the venison. He wasn't too concerned about manners when it was a private dinner with his brothers. No need for appearances here.
Cress was more serious as he munched on his salad. "The thief's description…I seem to recall it from somewhere…Hmm…"
"You've heard of a robber ninja guy?" asked Chili.
"Ninja…" Cress mumbled, before he snapped his fingers. "Oh! Could it have been…a member of the Shadow Triad?"
Both Chili and Cilan froze. The Shadow Triad were among the most notorious of the now-defunct Team Plasma. People claimed they had almost supernatural power and speed, and dressed much like ninjas. They were suspects in many crimes, such as unsolved thefts, sabotages, even murders of both Pokémon and people. But there was no proof, and no one knew who they really were anyway. All the Gym Leaders except the Striaton Trio had encountered them at least once before, at N's Castle…the battle they failed to reach in time, which caused the other Gym Leaders to look down on them even more…
"…You serious?" asked Chili in half-disbelief. Why would the Shadow Triad be troubling them? He had heard rumors of attacks on the other Gym Leaders and their Pokémon, but the three of them hadn't been involved in any of the Team Plasma incidents like the others had been. They mostly kept to themselves, something else that seemed to irritate the other close-tied Gym Leaders.
"I am absolutely serious," said Cress, putting down his silverware. "I may have been very fortunate today, if one of the Shadows was after me…But if that was the case, why simply flee when Cilan appeared? No offense brother, but I'm sure he easily could have…overcome you if he wanted to."
Cilan stiffened, as he seemed to fully grasp what Cress meant. "Y-Yes, it is…quite lucky, but strange…"
"C'mon, we don't even know for sure that it was the Shadow Triad," countered Chili. Cilan had finally been relaxing, and he didn't want his other brother scaring him with a wild hypothesis.
"We can't say that it wasn't one of them," pointed out Cress. "Regardless, we need to heighten security. We don't need our unwanted guest coming back, or bringing equally unwanted friends with him."
Both Chili and Cilan nodded in agreement. A breach like this was inexcusable. If there was one place they should be safe, it was their home. And this would look very bad to both Trainers and restaurant customers alike.
Of course, they couldn't let his distasteful subject ruin their appetite either. They postponed further discussions of intruders and security until they had finished their dinner.
The Striaton Trio upped their safety measures, but in an elegant manner. The chain-link fence around the back was mostly hidden by newly-planted shrubbery. The bars on the windows were painted and decorated to look like blooming vines. The cameras (which were still being shipped) would be hidden in the lights and in the walls. They didn't want their customers to feel like they were going into a prison.
They didn't hire security guards, partially for money reasons, and partially because more people only caused more possible security issues. They only hired people they really needed. Right now they had an extra waiter and waitress that doubled as Gym Trainers, and even they were used sparingly.
Don't depend on other people, their mother always said. In the end, you have to rely on yourselves, and each other.
But mostly, things stayed the same. The prank war raged on. One day, Chili found his red-colored eye contacts inside a sandwich Cilan made for him. He only figured that out when he felt one of the soft plastic gels on his tongue. Chili still had his migraines too, but since he and his brothers were busier than ever it didn't surprise him.
What did surprise Chili was when Cilan went to bed early one evening, not even finishing his dinner- a sure sign something was up. The triplets never wasted anything, especially food. That night was no exception, as the remaining two brothers split the remains of Cilan's food between them.
Chili was usually the first one to get up in the morning. That morning, however, he found his green-haired brother up before him, already cheerfully setting the silverware at the tables. Cress was still getting his beauty sleep, which was not unusual: the blue-haired brother often got up last.
"Ah, hello brother!" Cilan said with a big smile. "Today is a good day, isn't it?"
Chili glanced out the window. It was a nice sunny day, at least. "Yep. Looks like somebody's feeling better, too."
"Yes," Cilan chirped back. "I feel much better now."
Chili was about to ask why Cilan was in such a good mood, when he heard something whimpering nearby. He looked around, but he couldn't find the source of the noise.
Cilan noticed the sound too, and looked under the table he was standing by. A moment later he stood back up, a small fluffy dog Pokémon in his arms. "Oh, everything's fine, little one."
The tiny Lillipup, quivering in Cilan's arms, seemed to disagree. It continued to whine.
"Hey, I don't recognize that one. Is he new?" asked Chili, leaning closer to get a better look at the Lillipup. They kept a lot of Pokémon around for their Gym battles, since it didn't take long for a continuously trained Pokémon to get too strong for Gym use.
This Lillipup, which had a dark splotch on its muzzle, only whined louder.
"He is a new one," Cilan answered, beaming. "I got him from another Trainer."
"So you traded for him," said Chili. Their extra Pokémon who had grown too strong were often traded or sold to other Trainers. They could get all the new Pokémon they wanted from the nearby Pokémon Daycare.
Cilan shook his head. "I took it."
"Took it?" Chili asked. "From where?"
"I lured the Lillipup away with some food while the Trainer wasn't looking, and then I took it," explained Cilan, still smiling.
Chili gaped at his green-haired brother, barely able to believe what he had just heard. He glanced around in search of potential eavesdroppers before leaning close to his sibling. "Cilan! What'd you steal a Lillipup for? You can't be that hungry."
Cilan pouted and held the Lillipup closer. "I saw its Trainer kick it. The Trainer doesn't deserve it."
The Lillipup yipped unhappily.
Chili groaned. "That doesn't mean you can just take it! You want us to lose all of our jobs?"
Cilan glowered at Chili, an expression so alien on his green-haired sibling's face that it unnerved Chili a little. Cilan sighed with open irritation. "Here. Do what you want with it." He carelessly tossed the frightened Lillipup to Chili.
Chili hastily caught the Lillipup. "Hey! Don't just throw it around like that! What's wrong with you, Cilan?"
Cilan was already walking out. "I will get everything else ready."
"Hey! Don't ignore me!" Chili shouted. His yelling further scared the Lillipup, who hid its fluffy face in Chili's chest and began whimpering loudly. Looking down at the trembling little creature, Chili decided it was more important to find this Lillipup's Trainer first, and left the Gym. He would deal with Cilan later.
It took a little while, but he eventually found the crying little girl looking for her lost Lillipup. The little girl and the little puppy had a joyously tearful reunion. Chili smiled and went on his way. Though he couldn't help but wonder…Did Cilan lie about his motive, on top of everything else? It didn't seem like a sweet girl like that would ever kick her Pokémon…
Since he was out, Chili decided to pick up some more Badges. The ones they had ordered a few days ago should have been in by now. By the time he had done that and picked up some groceries, it was well into the afternoon.
Cilan seemed like his usual self when Chili got back, politely but shyly greeting the challengers. Cress, on the other hand, was in a foul mood, snapping at the challengers, his losing Pokémon, and even Cilan. Mostly Cilan, actually. It was a long day at the Striaton Gym, and later at the restaurant as well. It was a relief when their work hours were finally over.
"We've got a reputation to keep, you know," Chili reminded Cress later, during a practice match they were having. Cress's Panpour was winning - which wasn't too surprising considering the water monkey's type advantage - but Chili thought his Pansear was doing pretty well too. Still, he hated practice matches - they were so tedious. But training was an essential part to strengthening your Pokémon…
"I'm going to go feed the Pokémon!" Cilan called from somewhere in the kitchen.
"Okay!" Chili called back. No doubt he was preparing the leftovers from the restaurant meals to feed them with. It saddened Chili, when people left excessive amounts of their meals behind. It made him kind of angry too - he and his brothers worked hard to make all that! Obviously these people took their food for granted, and had never known true hunger…But at least the triplets could give it to their Pokémon.
"Water Gun," said Cress.
Panpour squirted a jet of water from its tail, soaking Pansear. The little fire monkey cried out before fainting.
"Hey! I wasn't ready!" protested Chili, as he retrieved his fainted Pokémon.
"A true Trainer is prepared at all times," Cress replied smugly, as he too recalled his Pokémon. He glanced at Cilan as he hurried out with his dishes of home-cooked Pokémon food. He continued gazing at the door even after Cilan was gone, his expression unreadable.
Chili frowned. "Man, what's with you guys today? Both of you have been so nasty."
Cress looked back at Chili, his countenance still carefully controlled. "…Did he rake you with a fork too?"
"No, he-" Chili began, before the redhead stopped himself. "…Wait, what?"
"…It was in the morning, a little while after you left," Cress began. "I had my sleeves rolled up because I was doing dishes. Cilan came in, and he seemed contented enough, humming some tune to himself and smiling. Then he walked over to where I was and silently observed me for the longest time. I was about to ask him if he needed anything when he just seized a fork and did this." He pushed up his sleeve to show his forearm was lightly bandaged. There were four long red marks of dried blood that could be seen through the dressing.
Chili stared at the wound in shock. Stealing, or even throwing, a Pokémon was one thing (there was a time when they caught cute little fluffy Pokémon like Lillipup for eating…) But to just wound Cress like that… "Why'd he do it? Did he say?"
"Said I missed a spot," Cress muttered, pulling his sleeve back down as if afraid of being caught. "Then he just left without saying anything else. He was smiling the whole damn time…" Beneath the obvious anger he was clearly disconcerted by the incident.
"…We need to talk to Cilan," said Chili.
As if summoned, Cilan soon came back with empty Pokémon bowls. "Oh, are you…done with your battle?"
Chili and Cress silently glared at their green-haired brother.
Cilan seemed to grow more nervous as the quietness crept on. "Um…So…What are we having for dinner?"
Chili and Cress glanced at each other, before turning to Cilan and folding their arms.
"Well, we will be having Tauros steak with grilled Bellossom and chocolate cheesecake," Cress began. "You, on the other hand, will get nothing because you've been a bratty little bastard all day."
The threat of no dinner might have seemed childish and trivial, but when life revolved around food -especially dinner- like the Striaton Triplets' did, it was a very serious punishment. Aside from breakfast and maybe a quick snack after the lunch rush, it was their main source of nourishment.
The threat had its intended effect, for Cilan was suddenly panicky. "W-What for? What did I do?"
Chili let out a growl of frustration. Was Cilan really going to play this innocence game? "Because you stole a Pokémon!"
"And because you did this earlier as well!" Cress added, rolling up his sleeve to show the bandages on his arm..
Cilan look horrified. "W-W-What? I-I didn't do any of that! I-I-I was asleep until noon! I-I still don't feel that well, actually…"
So he was going to play the whole I-couldn't-possibly-have-done-it-because-I'm-too-c ute-and-pure act. Chili had seen plenty of it when they were kids, whenever Cilan was trying to get out of trouble, or wanted an extra scrap of food. "Save it. We both saw you up early this morning. We've got a lot of Trainers that can say hi too."
"B-But I'm not lying…"
"We're not Mom. Those Lillipup eyes will get you nowhere," Cress said with a stern look. "Cilan, you will be going hungry tonight."
"No buts about it," said Chili. "No food for you."
Cilan opened his mouth to further protest, but then he closed it and looked to the floor. Without a word he sadly walked off to his room.
Chili and Cress had to work extra hard on dinner since Cilan wasn't there. Despite the added effort, the dinner didn't taste as good as it usually did.
Chili had an exceptionally bad headache a month later. His head was throbbing as soon as he woke up (after another restless night's sleep) and it took unusual willpower just to pull himself out of bed and get dressed. He nearly tripped over a pair of boots in his pained haze…boots? Since when did he own big black boots? Oh yeah, there was that pirate costume he had last year for the restaurant's pirate-themed Halloween party…that must be it. But what were they doing out here? Groggily he tossed them back into the closet and went on his way.
He drifted through his day, battling challenger after challenger on autopilot. The headache slowly escalated into a migraine. Everything was too loud and too bright. By the time it was restaurant hours it felt like a Drilbur was trapped in his head and trying to drill its way out of his skull. He had trouble remembering orders, or which meal went to what table, greatly irritating both his customers and his brothers.
Chili's migraine got so bad that he became nauseous and threw up in the bathroom. His brothers' annoyance shifted to concern, and they told him to go rest. Chili gladly complied. He headed for his room, turned off his lights, and collapsed into bed. Even then it took the redhead a while to go to sleep.
But Chili must have gone to sleep eventually, for he started having a strange dream. Or was it a hallucination from his migraine? Perhaps it was both.
He was still in his room, but there was a shadowy figure a few feet away. It was like darkness in a loosely humanoid form, its shape morphing slightly every other moment. For the longest time it just stood there, as if fascinated by him, or perhaps just bored.
Chili should have been alarmed, but he was too tired and dazed…or asleep, probably. He was vaguely aware of the impossibility of it all. "…Who are you?"
"Who are you?" the shadowy figure echoed, its voice mostly human, yet warped in some way Chili couldn't place.
"I'm Chili," Chili said.
"I'm Chili," parroted the shadowy figure.
"…Are you gonna just repeat everything I say?" asked Chili.
"Are you gonna just repeat everything I say?"
Chili smirked a little. "I'm a big blue Bidoof who's dumber than a Rhyhorn."
"I'm a big blue Bidoof who's dumber than a Rhyhorn."
Chili chuckled a little. This was…kinda fun. "Chili is the most awesome person in the whole wide world."
"Chili is the most awesome person in the whole wide world," said the shadowy figure right next to his bed…Wait, when did it come that close?
Suddenly it pounced upon the bed, crouched on all fours over Chili like a beast. Its red eyes shone like ruby moons, and its wide mouth glittered with sharp white teeth. Darkness wafted off it like vaporous serpents. Chili couldn't move, even though the dark creature wasn't touching him.
"And I will devour, devour, devour," said the shadow, as its darkness spread further and further and engulfed everything. Chili couldn't even cry out as he saw the blackness curl and bind around his body.
"Devour devour devouuuuuur-"
Chili jerked upright. It was daytime outside, judging by the light seeping through his blinds. He glanced at the digital clock beside his bed - it was just past twelve. He needed to hurry up and get ready. He was surprised that neither Cilan or Cress had gotten him up yet. His head still hurt, but it wasn't nearly as bad as before. More importantly, he was hungry. He never did have dinner last night.
As it turned out, it was probably a good thing. The ingredients must have been bad, for both Cilan and Cress were sick as Houndour and constantly rushing to the bathroom. Neither the Gym or the restaurant was going to be open today for obvious reasons, which was why Chili had been allowed to sleep in. Though Chili felt sorry for his miserable siblings, part of him was amused too - this is what they got for hassling him while he was sick yesterday.
But Chili wasn't the type to hold a grudge, especially against his brothers, so he went to the kitchen to fix something simple for them. He was just opening the fridge when Cress came in and slammed the door shut, nearly catching Chili's hand.
"Hey! What're you doing?" Chili snapped.
Cress glared at him. "Why didn't you eat the soup last night?"
"Huh?" Chili asked, confused. He didn't even know they had soup last night.
Rage flashed in Cress's eyes. "Was it because this was in it?" he snarled, throwing something hard onto the floor.
Chili looked down at the flung object. It was a little black bottle. A silhouetted rodent Pokémon, crossed out with a red X, was on the label. Rattata poison.
"We found this in the cabinet with the Ducklett soup ingredients this morning," said his other brother Cilan, now emerging from around the corner. His face was grim. "The Ducklett soup that you made last night."
Chili stood there frozen. "…What…What are you saying? I'd never do something like that! I wasn't even up last night!"
"Yes you were!" shouted Cress, pointing at Chili. "We both saw you! We were both with you and talking to you the whole time!"
"Yeah," added Cilan. "You were going on about…how potent spoons could be, or something like that. You…were acting very strange last night…"
Chili tried to think about it. Did he get up again later? Now that he thought of it, he could hardly remember anything about yesterday…or even of the day before…
There was an uneasy quiet among the Striaton Trio, as they each seemed to be lost in their own musings.
"Why don't we…check the cameras?" suggested Cilan.
"They're finally up?" asked Chili. He knew Cress had been trying to get them to work properly for a while now. They were primarily concentrated on the Gym floor and dining room area, but others were in the hallways and even on the outside of the building. In fact the only places without cameras were the bathrooms and their bedrooms.
"Yes. They have been functioning for a couple of weeks now," Cress replied, obviously proud of himself for finally accomplishing the installation. "But yes, that is a good idea. Cameras don't lie. Let's watch the footage."
The triplets watched the latest tape. Everything seemed normal at first. Then, to Chili's shock, there he was, greeting his brothers at eight pm, two hours after he went to bed. There he was, cleaning the tables. There he was, cooking soup and talking about spoons. There he was, purposefully taking out a little black bottle and putting a few drops into the soup. Then everyone went to bed, as they always did after dinner.
"Well?" asked Cress, expression cold, as the tape continued to run in the background.
"…Why, Chili?" asked Cilan, seeming more hurt than angry.
"I…" Chili croaked, his mouth dry and his head starting to pound again. "I don't know…I don't understand…I don't remember any of this…"
"Are you still making excuses?" Cress snapped.
"I'm not! I really don't remember!" Chili shouted back. "I know that's no excuse! Punish me if you want! I know I deserve it! But I'm not lying!"
"Isn't that terribly convenient?" Cress growled, before he noticed something on the TV. "Oh, you got back up, Cilan?"
"Huh? No I…" Cilan began, before he noticed himself walking back into the kitchen. "Um, that's…odd…I don't remember getting up later…"
TV-Cilan didn't seem to be doing anything in particular, just aimlessly wandering around the room. He occasionally moved something, or just stared at an object for a while. Chili thought he looked a bit dazed. Was his brother sleepwalking or something?
"What were you doing?" asked Cress, just as perplexed as Chili.
"Ah…I don't know…" admitted Cilan, apparently just as baffled.
After some more of this mindless shuffling, Cilan took out a Pokeball and sent out a Lillipup. Chili recognized as one of Cilan's favorites, because it had a large white splotch in the middle of its forehead. It turned to Cilan with a confused, drowsy yip.
Cilan kicked it. With a surprised yelp it skittered back, whining. Cilan bent down to retrieve it back into its Pokeball, and then left the kitchen.
"Cilan!" Cress hissed, now openly gaping at his green-haired brother.
"Seriously, what's with the Lillipup hate?" asked Chili. First that incident a few weeks back, and now this…But wait…
"I-I-I don't understand!" Cilan sputtered, staring at the screen in shock. "I-I-I didn't do that!…I mean…I don't remember doing that…" He grew quiet. "Cress, that day…with the knife in the wall…What do you remember?"
"Well, it was a normal day…" Cress began, before he paused and folded his arms. "But I did have a terrible migraine that day…and then…"
"Wait, you've been having bad headaches too?" asked Chili.
"You've been having them as well?" asked Cress.
"Yeah!" Chili replied.
"Me too!" piped up Cilan. "I…had a particularly bad one last night, right before I went to bed…"
There was silence.
"Remember anything about the other day yet, Cress?" asked Chili.
A long pause. "…No, I do not. Most of that is quite fuzzy, actually…"
"We…should look at the rest of the tapes," said Cilan.
They watched tapes for the rest of the day. For the most part everything seemed normal, though they did catch one employee stealing tips, which just proved that others couldn't be trusted. But then, whenever the triplets thought nothing was going to happen, something did. Cress flinging Badges against the wall like they were darts (So that's why some of the Badges looked so banged up…). Cilan throwing some dishes onto the floor and then cleaning up the fragments (So that's why they were short on cups and plates…). Chili burning a pile of receipts in a pan on the stove (So that's why Chili couldn't find the damn things later…)
And none of the triplets remembered any of it. They couldn't remember a lot in general, actually. But the worst days were when they had the worst headaches. So they narrowed their search to the days when they had the most powerful migraines. And, sure enough, there was Cress rearranging recipes into nonsensical order, there was Cilan hanging shoes from the chandelier, there was Chili tearing up some menus…
"There's…something wrong with us," Cilan whispered, as if afraid of being overheard.
The other two brothers could only nod in agreement, speechless. It gave them all headaches just watching the bizarre footage.
Then, there was that tape, the one from last Friday.
It was the only tape where nothing happened during either Gym or restaurant hours. Clean-up was normal, dinner was normal (Mareep mutton with Lilligant salad), and everyone went to bed. The triplets were about to turn off the TV, tired and overwhelmed by all this disturbing strangeness. Then, the bedroom doors all opened one by one.
And out came three black-clad, white-haired people, each coming from a different room. Chili almost automatically reached out and turned the volume up as the trinity gathered in the middle of the hallway.
"You took too long," spoke one with Cress's voice, though the clipped tone was much different from Cress's usual elegant airs.
"And you need to put on your wig better," said the second one with Chili's voice, pointing to the side of his head. "You've got a strand loose."
"Ah." said the first one, tucking some blue hair back under his white wig. "Can't have that. We must look impeccable to Miss Skyla later this evening, after all."
"We don't need you blowing our cover either," said the one with Chili's voice.
"If you two are done preening and pecking each other like male Unfezant, we need to get going," said the third, this one with Cilan's voice, as he pulled up his balaclava. "Lord Ghetsis is waiting."
The other to nodded, also pulling up their masks. "Of course."
The three of them left the hallway with surprising speed, and were soon off-camera.
The Striaton brothers continued to stare numbly at the TV, even though there was nothing else to see.
"That…was us?" croaked Cilan, eyes still stuck to the screen. "That…couldn't be us…We can't be…"
They each rushed to their rooms, and proceeded to tear them apart as if seeking treasure, even though the truth was the exact opposite. Unfortunately, they found it, tucked away in places they normally wouldn't have bothered looking in.
Black outfits, black balaclavas, white wigs. Black headbands, black contacts, black boots (those damn black boots Chili had tripped over the day before). Kunai, shuriken, knives. Poisons, blow darts, needles. Smoke bombs, actual bombs, piano wire. Pokeballs containing Bisharp and other Pokémon that they would never use.
The triplets showed each other their dark finds. Little was spoken, because the looks in their eyes said it all.
No… thought Chili. It can't…
Yet something seemed to hiss in his ear, or perhaps his mind, Yes. Yes, they were the feared ones. They were the Shadow Triad.
So, what do you think so far? Everything make sense? Everyone in character (except for obviously odd spots)? Did you see the end part coming? It's only going to get more chaotic and mindscrewy from here...By the way, a cookie to those who know where Chili's hairbrush song came from XP.
On Striaton Trio/Shadow Triad theory - well, it can't really be called a theory anymore b/c it's technically disproven. However, this story uses an alternate theory that works around that. And I find the whole Striaton Trio/Shadow Triad theory far too fun not to use despite the outdatedness - because let's face it, Ash will never kiss Misty, or any other girl, either. Or grow older than ten. Yet there are lots of fanfics of both, because that's what people want to write about...Part of the fun of fanfics in general is writing stuff you know will never happen, yet making it seem like they could...