The night had fallen on Petalburg. Alexis thanked the Slaking morph again and again for letting them stay for the night.
They created a small fire pit with rocks, and Victor was now rubbing a stick on another in an attempt to make a spark.
"You haven't talked to me all night, Victor. What's wrong now?"
He sighed, and didn't reply, although he managed to get a small flame on the stick. He gripped one of its ends and tossed it into the pit. He then huddled up against Alexis' side.
The fire quickly spread, engulfing all the dry branches.
"I'm just scared, Alexis."
"Because of what Norman said, right? About you not making it this far?"
Victor's bit his lip and looked down, whimpering. Alexis seized his chin and forced him to look at her.
"Vick, don't you dare believe a word that man says. You and me, we're gonna make it all the way back here, we're gonna rip him an new one, and we're gonna go beat the rest of the league. Don't doubt yourself for a second. If you wanna get there, you gotta believe we're gonna get there first," Alexis reassured him.
"I ain't convinced yet," Victor replied bluntly.
Alexis smiled as she let go of him, "Yeah, I get why you wouldn't be,"She brought her knees up to her chin, and began to play with her hair, "I-I believe we'll be safe."
"You're not sure either?!"
She groaned, "Victor, we're just starting. But we're off to a great start. I mean, come on! We caught a giant butterfly!" She was lying through her teeth, "Listen, man, just believe we can do this. We might lose, that's an option. But we aren't gonna die. I promise."
She stretched her legs out again, and put her bag on her lap. She opened it up and pulled out a graham cookie and an energy bar, "Here, have something to eat. I put this stuff in my bag before we left."
"Well, jeez, Alexis, when did you want to leave in the first place?" Victor said, taking the cookie from her and biting into it.
"I've been wanting to leave since... Since I knew there was a world beyond Littleroot. So let's say eight," she said.
"Littleroot is safe, Victor. It's safe, but that's all it is. It's not the place to get an education, it's not a place to make some cash, and, no matter what my dad implies, it's not the best place in all of Hoenn."
"So, ya left to get a job an' an education?"
Alexis laughed, "Two of many, many reasons. But I didn't bring the cash to go enrol in one of Rustboro's schools. But I could get and education. You learn a lot by meeting different people. I don't think I'll ever have enough money to get to Rustboro, like my dad did."
"So, why did you leave?" He insisted.
"Well, for one thing, good's are real expensive in Littleroot. There's no ports, and the only place we can get food is Oldale. And it's lonely in Littleroot. There's not many people to help in Littleroot. Seriously, my dad has so few patients," She cocked her head to one side, "And there's nothing to learn in Littleroot."
Victor looked up from her, wiping some crumbs off his mouth. This reminded Alexis that she should probably eat the energy bar.
"I didn't leave Littleroot because I hate it. Or because it's boring. Or because it's tiny. I left it because I need to learn. Not a formal education, you can't do much with that today. But I want to learn about the world around me. Like, learn a foolproof way to get away from Morphs, and then we could spread the knowledge around. Or if I can act as an inspiration for someone else, for them to leave their home in hopes of greener pastures. Or if I can just help the people around me. That's why I left home. So we can contribute something useful to the world. I know I said I really wanted to leave so I could get to Celestite, but that's more selfish and not as noble as travelling around to help everyone. Lord knows the people of Hoenn need some help."
"Big dreams for a person born an' raised in Littleroot," Victor said.
Alexis laughed, "Yeah, that's another thing I should talk about. Raised? Sure. Born? Maybe not," she neared the fire pit, and warmed her hands, which had become cold from lying in the dirt.
Victor cocked a brow at her, "Y'all never told me this!"
"Y'see, my dad was born, raised, graduated and married in Rustboro. He went to the college over there, the big one. Devon University, I think that was it."
Victor looked into her eyes. She had piqued his curiosity, "Yer dad was married?"
"Married? Hell yeah. Daddy was married, and he was a doctor too. He decided to move to Littleroot because he had the money to buy whatever they needed and," she made sure the Makuhita was paying attention, "Littleroot would be a safe place to raise his kid."
"He traveled to Littleroot with a pregnant lady?" Victor yelped.
"Yup. She went into labour a couple months after they settled down. Dad said it was late at night. There weren't any hospitals, she had to rely on dad. The baby was a stillborn. And his wife died during childbirth. Dad blames himself for it whenever he brings it up."
"Oh... Uh, my condolences," Victor said briskly.
The duo stayed in silence. Alexis' mind went blank. She had never met her father's wife, but this story always earned a moment of quiet. She nibbled on her energy bar.
"Well, where'd you come from, Alexis?" Victor asked, "You haven't answered that yet."
"We don't know. Dad said he found me one day on his doorstep and took me in. He said he didn't want to live alone for the rest of his life, and thought that taking care of a baby would make up for his... 'incompetence' while his wife gave birth. But for all I know, he lied. I never met his wife. Maybe he was just a sad old man in need of company. He probably banged a chick in town and she didn't want to take care of me," She grinned, "It doesn't matter where we come from, it's what we do in life that matters, right?"
"That's... real strange," Victor murmured.
"It is. But it doesn't really bother me. I got a loving father, a home, and food we could afford. Well, I guess I used to have all that. I'll call him one day when I'm too far away for him to bring me back."
Alexis finished up her makeshift supper and took her bag off her shoulder. She placed it on the ground and lay her head down on it. Victor curled up next to her, and she held him close, as if he was a teddy bear, the duo enjoying the warmth of the fire.
"Psssst! Vick! It's sunrise! Wake up!"
The Makuhita rubbed his eyes and sat upright. His trainer was crouching next to him. With something new on her shoulder.
It was a little black bird, white bellied, with red accents. It didn't make a sound, and merely stared at Victor.
"What's that thing on your shoulder?" Victor asked, stretching out.
"I have no idea, but I saw it pecking at the fire's ashes. I chucked a ball at it and caught it. Isn't it adorable?" she said, looking at the bird, who looked back at her.
"Uh... I dunno," Victor replied.
"Well, I'm gonna call her Melissa. And I've taken the pleasure of naming our little demon butterfly. Her name's gonna be Sweet Jill," Alexis grinned.
"If y'all start namin' it, yer gonna get attached to it," Victor stood upright and went to his trainer's side, "An' no one wants you to be attached to that thing."
"Well, I'm pretty sure Melissa could take Jill on, now couldn't she?" Alexis cooed, puckering her lips at the bird. Melissa said nothing.
"Well, ain't she a quiet one?" she said, petting the bird's head, "Can you talk to her, Victor?"
"Huh? Sure, I can, but I don't think she talks back," Victor answered. He glared at the swallow-looking bird.
The woman slung her bag's strap back over her shoulder and looked down at Victor, "Our rations are pretty good, and I'd woken up a bit earlier than you, so I boiled some water. We're still doin' pretty good! Now let's go see that little girl thing over there," Alexis marched over towards the west wall.
The Pokémon, or so she assumed, in the white dress appeared to be sleeping.
"Yo! Hey, we need a lift over the wall!" Alexis shouted. The Pokémon shot upright and glared down at her. Its face relaxed quickly when it laid eyes on her. The woman picked her Makuhita up in her arms, and Victor wrapped his own around her neck.
Like the last time, Alexis' body froze and became surrounded with a pink aura. She was pulled up with much more strength than before. She was raised over the wall at a breakneck speed. The Pokémon with the green hair and the white dress then gently let her down on the soft, marshy terrain on the other side, on her two feet.
She could hear it whisper a quiet, "Sorry..."
"Thank you," she yelled back, but not as loudly. She let Victor back onto the ground.
"Well, now that yer done wakin' the dead-" Victor growled. His trainer wasn't even looking at him.
"Wow, Vick, get a load of this place..." she said in awe, looking around.
They were on a small cliff, overlooking the beautiful, blue ocean. They were able to watch the sun rise into the sky on the horizon. A small wooden house floated not too far from shore, with a boat attached to it. A wooden pier led to the floating home. Behind them, however, was a massive forest, mangroves and various other wetland trees grew from the dirt. Fresh Oran berries and various others weighed down the branches. It was incredibly humid, forcing Alexis to take off her hoodie and stuff it in her bag.
"I've... I've been living a walk away from here and I've never realized... I was right near an entire ocean!" Alexis laughed, "This place is so gorgeous!"
Victor looked at her, "Maybe we trailblazers oughta stick to the path. I'd hate fer us ta get lost in this mess."
"Right-o, Victor. Now... The path..." Alexis said, with a determined grin o her face. She scanned the area for signs of a clear dirt road.
"Well, there's a passage through the trees, that counts for something, no?"
The trio walked along the trail. It was silent. Not a tree rustled, and every footstep in the mud corresponded with their own. The only sound was the soft splashing of waves on the cliff.
Alexis gave a small grin. She didn't expect it to be so peaceful here.
"Is there anything around here?" Alexis wondered. Melissa flitted off her shoulder for an instant and before she knew it, was back on with a juicy red insect in its mouth.
"The early bird catches the worm, huh?" Alexis remarked as the bird gulped the worm down whole, "Sounds like a good idea, Mel."
Alexis grabbed a trees branch, and bent it downwards. She picked several Oran berries off the tree and tossed half the bunch to Victor, keeping it the other to herself.
She began biting into the delicious fruit. She looked down at the Makuhita, "You like it?"
Victor nodded, enjoying the Oran fruit, "Yeah, I was just thinkin'... there ain't anythin' here... that's real odd."
Melissa focused her dark eyes on something in the trees, and let out a shrill chirp. She spread her wings and flapped.
"What's up, Melissa?" Alexis asked, following the bird's line of sight. In the trees, she could spot several caterpillars and cocoons, though not nearly as large as the one that had held Sweet Jill. There were several unmoving sloths hanging from the branches, their algae completely camouflaging them in the green of the forest.
"So that's where they all are..." Alexis said, feeling the hairs on the nape of her neck stand up. The bird however, settled down and tweeted calmly.
"Melissa says that they ain't aggressive," Victor informed his trainer.
"Is she sure?" Alexis asked, turning her head to look at the bird. Melissa nodded.
"Let's just be on our guard anyhow. Remember what I said about punching, Vick."
"You didn't say anythin' about punchin'."
"If you ever feel threatened by something, go ahead and punch it. And punch it hard. Punch it so bad that it wouldn't be able to walk anymore. Understand?" Alexis hissed. Her body tensed up and she brought her fists close to her.
Victor tried to pull the same stance she did, and walked alongside her in complete silence.
They did so for hours, on their guard, only stopping to drink and eat some of the low-hanging fruit. It took long for Alexis' patience to wear out. She scanned the forest meticulously.
She suddenly flinched, stopping dead in her tracks.
"I've had enough of your shit! Give me your briefcase now!" A man's snarl echoed through the woods.
"I have nothing of use for you! Get away from me!" another screeched.
"Give me your briefcase or I'll fucking kill you!"
Victor looked up at his trainer, "I know what you're thinking but-"
Alexis' pace instantly picked up, running towards the source of the struggle. She heard a grunt and a scream and went even faster.
"Alexis, you're gonna get yourself killed!" Victor yelled.
She went deeper into the more heavily wooded part of the forest, sneaking through the trees, trying to find the source. Victor, despite his fear, waddled behind.
She heard punches land, and a loud snarling, something not human.
"It's not too late to give me everything in that case! You might still leave this alive!"
The woman finally found the source. It was a tall, muscular man, wearing a blue kerchief around his head and a black and white striped shirt. He held another man, this one in a suit, by the throat, against a tree.
Next to him was a gigantic, black, hairy dog, which snarled and foamed at the mouth.
"N-no!" The man in the suit grunted, "I have nothing for... you." His face quickly paled as he gasped for air.
The dog whirled around and walked towards Alexis' hiding spot, growling and sniffing. It looked at her legs and scanned her body. It let out a loud bark.
Alexis felt her hand descend to her pocket, revealing Sweet Jill's ball. She threw it with all her might and it hit the attacker's back, before falling to the ground.
The red ray quickly formed an enraged butterfly, beating its wings and twitching its antennae angrily.
"What the fuck?" the attacker dropped his victim to look at Sweet Jill.
Jill launched herself at the man, butting him into the tree with surprising force. The dog turned on a dime and sprang onto Jill, biting her wings and bringing her to the ground.
Melissa flew off Alexis' shoulder and began helping the Beautifly in her fight, causing a distraction towards the dog while Jill attacked.
As soon as the attacker started to get up, Alexis burst into attack mode. Her bag was on the ground in a second. She smashed the man into a tree and grabbed his collar.
She raised her hand to punch him, but he caught her fist. For a moment, he got a good look at her face. His jaw dropped in surprise.
She shook her hand out of his grip and swung her knuckles into his face. He let out a cry of pain. He threw a punch at her. Alexis pushed her fist into the crook of his elbow, completely blocking him, and got her other arm under his. She squeezed as hard as she could, and moved her leg between his. She locked hands behind him and was able to flip him straight over her.
Her foe landed to the ground with a thump, and Alexis securely held one of his arms with both of hers.
"If you move, I'll make sure that arm never fucking works again."
The man's face held a look of fear and surprise. He tried to land another punch on her. He landed it on Alexis' torso, but not before the woman pushed down with all her might and heard a satisfying snap.
The man's cries echoed through the forest. She swung one of her legs onto his other side, and pinned his good arm down with her knee.
She unleashed a barrage of punches on him, socking him in every direction. He wasn't capable of any movement, so she glanced over at how her team was doing.
The dog was repeatedly being pecked at, prodded and tackled into submission. Victor had joined the fray, and let loose an onslaught of hits on the canine. When the canine looked as if it was about to recover, Victor let out a cry, and pushed into the dog with as much force as he could muster. He brought the Pokémon to the ground. He pounded the dog with his powerful black fists and kept at it until the dog rolled over.
The wolf lay on its side, in a puddle of its own blood, choking and coughing, until it ceased to move.
In her moment of vulnerability, her attacker picked himself up off the ground, making Alexis fall onto her backside. He gripped her collar with his good hand and banged her into a tree.
Alexis felt her head spin as she hit it against the trunk. The man kneed her in the stomach, and kicked at her legs. With his one good arm, he threw her to the ground, and then pinned her with his legs.
With his one good arm, the attacker wrapped his hand around her throat. He put his full body weight on that arm.
Alexis brought her hands to her neck and pushed with all her might, trying to lighten his grip. The man was heavier than she expected.
She felt her face and lungs sear as the oxygen in her was being used up. All the blood drained from her face and she squeezed her eyes shut.
She began to feel lightheaded, grinding her teeth. She dug her nails into his arms, but did nothing.
"You're supposed to be dead!" he snarled. He looked away from her for a moment, "Oh my god!"
No! I'm not dying yet! I didn't get thrown off a cliff to get strangled by a random thug! she thought, swinging her body from side to side in a last-ditch effort to get him off her.
Sweet Jill launched herself into the man's ribs. He loosened his grip, and the butterfly knocked him over. The assailant rolled over on his side, damaging his already broken arm even further.
Alexis gasped for air as she heard the man scream in pain. She pushed herself off the ground. Panting, she rushed over to the man's side.
She gripped his good forearm, twisted it all the way around and pulled. The man was bent in such a position that it would have been easy to dislocate his other shoulder.
"Yeah? That didn't work out, did it?! Are you gonna fuck off or do you want another broken arm?!" she yelled back.
The assailant's face was sufficiently bloody and filled with tears, "Alright, I won't touch you! Just let me go!" He cried, "I don't want his goods, you crazy bitch, leave me alone!"
He shook Alexis off him with the last of his strength, got up and sprinted off, holding his broken shoulder.
Alexis ran a short while after him, "That's right, run away, ya fuckin' coward!" she yelled as she skidded to a stop.
She pressed a hand to her chest, trying to stop her panting. Massaging her neck, she walked back to the scene of the attack, picking up her bag and stepping over the dog's corpse on the way.
Victor, with Melissa on his shoulder, had approached the business man that was curled up in the dirt. Sweet Jill had made herself comfortable on the man's back. She looked at Alexis and twitched her antennae. Jill then let out a soft purring noise.
"Hey, uh... there's a murderous butterfly on your back, man. Want me to put her away?" Alexis didn't feel that Sweet Jill meant any harm, considering how calm she looked.
"Is he gone?" the businessman asked, unfazed by Sweet Jill.
"You bet your ass he is. Chased him off and broke his arm. And probably crushed his face. You alright, man?" she asked, still trying to catch her breath. The man stood up, forcing Jill to situate herself on Alexis' head.
The business man was covered with mud, but his bruises could still be seen, "I-I think I'm fine. You may very well have saved my life, young lady. Are you alright?"
"Me? I'm great. Almost got strangled to death, but I'm okay. And...um... you're welcome. I wasn't just gonna watch some guy get killed, right? I said I left home to help people, and I guess this was act one. Wish it would have been a little less dangerous."
"Any other person would have just moved on... I need to repay you somehow!" he said. He looked around and found his briefcase. He opened it, and revealed several important-looking documents and Poké Balls.
He handed her a Great Ball and a pile of gold nuggets, "I wish I could pay you more..."
"Hey, this is enough cash to feed my dad and I for a month. This is amazing. I mean... wow. Thank you, I think," She shook her head as she dumped the nuggets and Ball into her bag, " What are you even doing in the forest anyhow?"
"The forest is a relatively safe place. I had to go deliver some goods to the man on the floating house near Petalburg," the man replied, "He'll occasionally do trade in Dewford for us."
"And what'd this guy want?" Alexis said, frankly not caring about the trade.
"I have no idea. I think he wanted something from the briefcase, but I can't imagine what. He seemed to have a bone to pick with you, though."
Alexis heart suddenly skipped a beat.
"Are you alright, Miss?" the man said as he approached her. Victor moved towards her legs and Melissa perched on her shoulder.
"This was the second time someone tried to kill me. The second time," her voice shook. She swallowed
The man looked as petrified as Alexis, "Well..." he hesitated, "We're both alive and safe, aren't we?"
"For the most part..." Alexis said, "Hey, would you be willing to do me a favour?"
"For you? I'd do anything."
"Can you help me get to Rustboro? Are you absolutely sure it's safe in the woods?"
"Not a single Morph between here and Petalburg," the businessman reassured, "And it'll be... perhaps a day's walk to Rustboro. I would be more than willing to escort you there. It would be nice to have a travelling companion."
Alexis nodded, "And you're not gonna try to kill me?"
"If I tried, you could overpower me for a second. Especially with that butterfly. The only Pokémon I have is a Shroomish."
Alexis ignored the last part, not knowing what a Shroomish was. Instead, she looked at her Makuhita.
"You did so great, Victor. I'm so proud of you. All of you. You... you all came through for me. Especially you, Jill," she patted the butterfly's head, "You saved my life."
Victor remained expressionless, "Well, I guess both you and I can throw a punch, hm?"
"What was wrong with the Beautifly?" the man asked.
"Beautifly? You mean Jill? She killed a Morph when she burst out of her cocoon near Oldale."
"Ah. I see. They tend to be very territorial when coming out of their cocoon. I used to own a Wurmple. Although since yours is wild, I could see how she would be even more vicious."
Alexis felt the Beautifly's wings. "Why are we still standing here? Let's get walking and talking. I don't want to spend the night here..."
"Oh, I understand! Come on, let's go, follow me!" the man yelped.
They made small talk for hours and hours, although she felt bad because after she beat the Rustboro gym, she would never meet this man again. However, she appreciated his company.
To Alexis' dismay, they had to spend the night in the forest, with Victor and Alexis taking turns staying up, making sure their travel partner didn't try anything suspicious.
It was dawn the day after when they arrived to the great stone walls of Rustboro.