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“Just like we practiced, Master.”
Nicholas awkwardly wrapped his arms around Victoria’s stomach. “You’re sure this is the best hold?”
“Unless you want to lay on my stomach, Master.” Victoria’s eyes narrowed and her head whipped around. “Wait. Don’t answer that, I know you would.”
Nicholas gave her a cheeky grin. “The front side is the fun side.”
“No.” Victoria laughed. “Just hold on, Master. It’s good that it’s late summer, the water is nice and warm.”
Kary was standing nearby and she gave Nicholas a thumbs up. “If there’s trouble just let go of Victoria, Master. She’ll be able to protect you better if you’re not hanging off of her.”
“I know.” Nicholas took a deep breath and let it out. “Alright. Let’s go.”
Victoria slid into the surf, shoving out into the water a few feet before slowing to make sure Nicholas was hanging on. When he squeezed his arms she ducked below the waves, her tail and legs working in turn to power her and Nicholas over the surface.
Nicholas spluttered a bit when some water got in his nose and Victoria raised herself slightly to keep him fully out of the water. He jumped when Kary crested next to them. “Better, Master?”
“Holy shit, you scared me!”
Kary giggled and dove back underwater, surfacing on Victoria’s other side and smiling. “Victoria can’t talk with her head underwater, and she can’t swim as well if she’s keeping her head up. I’ll translate.”
“Oh. Then, yea, this is better.”
“Good.” Kary vanished back under the surface before appearing a dozen yards away. Nicholas felt Victoria laugh and she sped up, chasing the frolicking Dragonair through the sea.
Nicholas stared up at the stars. They had made camp on a sandbar, with Kary using her flamethrower to light a small campfire. The two were currently relaxing together while Victoria went for a relaxing swim without his deadweight.
“I’ll carry you tomorrow, Master.” Kary said. “How far is this island?”
“Unfortunately, probably a few days at least.” Nicholas replied. “The map made it look like it’s as far west as Pallet Town.”
Kary nodded to herself. “All the way across the bay?”
“Should we have started from there instead?”
Nicholas blinked. “Oh. Well, we might have been able to, but I don’t remember Pallet Town being on the ocean. Maybe there was a small inlet I missed.”
“I’m okay with this.” Kary snuggled against him and ran her hands across his chest. “It means more time with my Master.”
Kary sat up when Victoria burst from the waves, jogging a few feet before she slowed back to a walk. “I got dinner!”
Nicholas laughed when he saw the fish hanging from her hands. “Nice, Victoria! Now we won’t have to eat rations.”
“I got this one for you, Master.” Victoria handed him a still twitching sea bass impaled on a shank of driftwood.
Nicholas took it and started to turn to the fire when he saw Victoria holding another fish out to Kary.
The Dragonair ran her eyes over the grouper. “That’s mine?”
“I hunted the largest one I could find for you.”
Kary grinned and took the fish. “I accept.”
Nicholas watched curiously when Kary tore into the raw fish. “Not going to cook it?”
Kary glanced at him and swallowed. “Fish is fine raw.”
“Well sure, but…” He shrugged and turned to the fire.
Victoria sat down next to Kary and watched her eat, stealing glances at Nicholas every few seconds. When she was satisfied that he wasn’t paying them any attention she leaned over to kiss the Dragonair’s cheek. Kary purred, pressing up against her as both watched their Master cook his dinner.
They had been traveling through the ocean for nearly four days, and in that time they had run into a surprising amount of tamers. It seemed like there was at least a dozen swimmers out here, each with their own harem of pokegirls protecting them. Some had even wanted to battle, but Kary and Victoria had easily handled that. It had been a calm, enjoyable swim through the summer ocean.
Except today the water felt colder. Until now it had been nice and warm, heated by the sun. He could still feel the sun on his back, but the waves that washed over Kary’s serpentine body brought a slight chill with them.
The Gyarados popped her head up nearby. “Master?”
“Is the water colder?”
Victoria blinked, ducking her head back down and surfacing a moment later. “Yea, I think it is. Kary says she’s felt a bit of a chill today as well.”
“I wonder why.” Nicholas mused.
They swam without incident for another hour before Nicholas saw a large rocky island chain come into view. As they began to swim past Kary slowed and Victoria surfaced again.
“Kary wants to take a break, Master. The cold water is slowing her down.”
“Let’s head for those islands.”
Nicholas slipped off Kary’s back, pushing the final few feet and clambering onto the rocky beach. Kary slid out beside him with a shiver.
“It’s such a beautiful day.” Kary said as she rubbed her body to warm it up. “Why’s it so cold?”
“The air is pretty warm.” Nicholas replied, looking around them. “Is it just the water?”
Kary was still warming up when she looked back at the ocean. “Wait. Where’s Victoria?”
Nicholas looked around. “Um-“
Both yelled when the ocean erupted with activity. Victoria’s roars could be heard as she broke the surface, grappling with a large mermaid before crashing back underwater. Nicholas ran to the water’s edge as more pokegirls could be seen following the fighting pair.
The Dragonair was already diving into the waves. Nicholas watched the water swirl behind her tail as she disappeared into the dark waters.
He released Cassidy. “Kary and Victoria are fighting underwater.”
Deep below the surface Victoria could feel the pokegirl trying to pull her even further down. But it seemed like she hadn’t expected to snag someone who could fight back.
The girl screamed when Victoria sank her teeth into her neck, tearing a large wound that began pumping the feral’s blood into the water. Victoria felt the girl’s grip loosen and shoved away, turning her attention up to the girl’s pack.
Kary shot through the water, bearing down on the rear pokegirl. As she watched Victoria gore her opponent she savagely grinned. She’d expected nothing less.
The pokegirl she slammed into squealed, drawing attention from a few of the others. Panic set in among the wild pokegirls when they realized that they had become the prey and some scattered, abandoning the few that chose to fight.
Two of the remaining pokegirls were taken out instantly as Victoria and Kary pincered the panicking group. One managed to latch onto Kary’s back, the girl radiating an intense cold that caused Kary to scream in pain, but just as quickly as she had attacked she was gone. Victoria grabbed Kary’s arm, pulling her out of the way of another girl. “Are you okay?”
Kary caught her breath and grinned at Victoria. “Never better.”
Above them, Cassidy gazed into the water. “They’re coming back up.”
Nicholas sighed in relief when the two broke the surface and quickly got on shore. “Are you okay? Victoria, what happened?”
“There’s hundreds of wild pokegirls, Master.” Victoria reported. “One of the packs went after you when you approached the island.”
Nicholas blinked. “Hundreds?”
“Hundreds. Some sort of mermaid pokegirl.” Victoria replied. “They came from some underwater caves. That’s where the cold water is coming from as well.”
“Here on these islands?”
“Cool. Time to get out of here, then.”
“We can’t go through the water.” Kary was wringing her hair out as she spoke. “If it was just us pokegirls, Master, we might make it. But with you weighing us down it’s impossible.”
Nicholas ignored the brief flash of anger from her dismissive words. “Ashley can fly me over until we clear the islands.”
“Won’t work.” Kary replied. “They’re freezing cold. Ice-types. Ashley would be a slow moving target for an ice beam or something similar.” She grimaced. “And then you’re in the water, Master.”
“What do you suggest?”
“Cassidy could teleport you back to Fuchsia.”
“No.” Nicholas replied immediately. “That is our last resort. We’ve traveled this far, I’m not turning back just because it gets a little tough.”
Kary grinned. “The other option is we travel through the caves. On land, we’ll avoid most of the water-type pokegirls, and whatever else is hiding around here shouldn’t be too tough.”
“Let’s try it.”
Cassidy was smiling and she bowed slightly to the Dragonair. “As Dahlia’s Beta, I agree. Good idea.”
Kary looked uncertain for a moment but relaxed when Nicholas clapped her shoulder. “That’s what I want to see. All of you girls thinking and forming strategies on your own.”
“Oh, I was worried I’d overstepped myself for a moment.” Kary said nervously.
“Not at all.” Cassidy giggled.
“Alright. Caves it is.” Nicholas turned to where he had seen an opening in the rocks. “Hopefully there’s a path all the way through.”
Deep in the depths of the Seafoam Islands, a figure stirred. Something new had entered its sanctuary. Was it another of the wild ones, stumbling where it didn’t belong? Or had it lost track of one of the ones it allowed to live under its protection?
No. There was another explanation. An intruder. The figure rose, stretching glistening blue wings to the sky. When it flapped slightly to keep its balance biting cold winds gusted through the caves, bringing flurries of snowflakes in their wake.
Nichols shivered when another gust of wind blew through the caverns. It was the only indicator they had of a way through so they had been walking into the chilling air for hours.
“I still don’t get why it’s so cold in here.” Nicholas said. “I mean, I know the deeper you go the less sun you’d have, but there’s still quite a bit of light reflecting from all the ice.”
Cassidy was leading the way, her body glowing from the Flash technique they’d picked up all the way back in the caves north of Lavender Town. The soft light helped to illuminate where the low natural light didn’t. “Well we’re in the middle of summer, Master.” She explained. “The sun and air temperature above us are warm, but that means nothing for a deep cave like this. It would be the same temperature if we came here in the winter.”
“Got it.” Nicholas looked around again. “I’m still worried that there are barely any wild pokegirls. Not even all those ice-types Kary and Victoria fought.”
“Maybe they’re out hunting.” Cassidy supposed. “It is the middle of the day.”
“Or maybe they avoid the caves.”
The pokegirls looked around uneasily at Nicholas’ words.
“Why would they do that?” Victoria whispered.
“It doesn’t matter.” Kary replied confidently. “We just need to get through, and get out.”
Cassidy came to a halt. “Yea. About that.”
The cave ahead was choked with boulders. Nicholas gazed up near the ceiling where a small opening continued to blow air over them. “Shit.”
“Was there another way through?” Kary asked.
“We passed a bit of a downslope earlier.” Nicholas replied. “Might be able to find a way around.”
“I don’t want to go any deeper.”
Heads turned to look at Victoria. She glanced around before shuddering. “Master has me thinking about some sort of big scary monster that the wild pokegirls know to avoid.”
“There’s no such thing as monsters.” Kary replied soothingly. “The worst we might find is some strong ferals. But we can handle that. Right?” She turned to glare at Nicholas. “Right?”
Nicholas grinned nervously. “Sorry.”
“What if we pushed through?” Cassidy looked around. “Victoria. Do you think you might be strong enough to break this wall?”
“What if the roof comes down?”
“It won’t. I think.” Cassidy looked up at the small opening again. “Look, the rocks aren’t up against the roof. Just piled up below it.”
“M-Maybe.” Victoria stammered. “Uh, I’ve never tried to move something so big before...”
“Elizabeth!” Nicholas released the Nidoqueen. “Give Victoria a hand and try to move these boulders.”
Elizabeth nodded and stepped forwards next to Victoria. “Ready? Damn, this is cold. One. Two. Three!”
There was a deafening sound of rock scraping rock before the two pokegirls jerked forwards with a shout. Nicholas could see the boulder they had pushed rolling away down the hallway and grinned. “Nice!”
“Not nice!” Elizabeth yelped, grabbing Victoria and shoving the Gyarados away. “GO!”
Nicholas gasped when the boulder bounced off a wall and disappeared. “Wait where’d it-“
“The floor’s collapsing!” Elizabeth jerked down a foot and desperately grabbed onto the ground in front of her. “I can feel it!”
“Master, get back!” Kary shoved him backwards and grabbed Victoria, pulling the Gyarados away from the sinking ground. “Elizabeth!”
“Master, her pokeball!” Cassidy yelled. “Save her!”
Nicholas grabbed at his belt and cursed when Elizabeth’s ball slipped away from him. “SHIT!”
There was a roar of grinding stone as the floor vanished, taking the Nidoqueen with it.
Kary tried to grab him and swore when Nicholas slipped through her fingers. “Master, NO!”
As Nicholas ran towards the still widening hole Cassidy threw her hand out. Nicholas felt a tug and turned, shouting at the Alakazam. “Let me go! LET ME GO!”
“Too close. I can’t pull him in time.” Cassidy muttered as the ground shifted in front of him. Her eyes flashed and a pokeball popped open on Nicholas’ belt. “ASHLEY, GRAB THE MASTER!”
Nicholas felt the invisible hold on him vanish and he turned back to where Elizabeth had disappeared. As his conscious brain finally realized what he’d done the floor beneath him dropped.
The light was all but gone as he fell down, down deeper and deeper into the caves. He felt seconds tick by and closed his eyes. He hadn’t hit the ground yet. Once he did, it was over.
Suddenly there was a sharp pain in his shoulder and he screamed, grabbing at whatever had hit him before feeling his fall abruptly cut short.
“I’ve got you, Master!” Ashley’s talons dug into his shoulder but Nicholas couldn’t care less about the blood soaking his shirt. “Hold on!”
Nicholas covered his face as the two tumbled down, Ashley grimly using her wings to slow them until she saw a snowbank looming below. With a shout she twisted, throwing Nicholas to safety before crashing to the ground herself.
Nichols went headfirst into the soft snow, sputtering and pushing free after a minute. “Ashley!” He gasped when he saw her lying unconscious on the ground. “ASHLEY!”
Somehow his belt was still intact and Nicholas grabbed for her pokeball, only breathing out when the recall beam successfully saved the Pidgeot. She’d saved his life.
He jerked up with a gasp. Elizabeth!
But the Nidoqueen was nowhere to be seen. Nicholas grimaced and kept searching. If she was still alive... she had to be still alive!
“There’s water!” Nicholas screamed when a form sliced past him and plunged into a pool he hadn’t noticed. A second later what could only be Kary landed next to him, looking around before following Victoria into the silent depths.
“How did you-“ he looked up and breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh.”
Cassidy levitated down the last dozen yards. “Victoria is incredible.” She said. “She dove from halfway down.”
“Ashley is fine. She’s in her pokeball.” Nichols peered into the water. “Elizabeth-“
Nicholas nearly choked on his tears. “Where!”
“Below us.” Cassidy grabbed him and pulled him away as the water erupted, Victoria and Kary both helping to nearly throw the unmoving Nidoqueen onto solid ground.
“She must have hit the water. At that height it’s almost as bad as hitting ground.” Victoria was babbling. “Master is she-“
Nicholas reached for his belt and felt his heart sink. “I dropped her pokeball.”
“I have it.” Nicholas grabbed the orb from Cassidy’s hand and triggered the recall, praying that it would take. When the Nidoqueen was successfully returned he sobbed.
“She’s okay.” He hiccuped. “She’s alive.”
“She’s alive.” Cassidy repeated. “Thank the creator.”
“I’m so sorry.” Nicholas sobbed. “I didn’t think, I-“
“Master.” Cassidy embraced him. “It’s okay. You’re safe. We’re all safe.”
Nicholas was hugging her back when a flurry of snow blasted through the group. Nicholas felt his blood run cold as a piercing scream echoed through the cave.
He covered his eyes when another blast of snow hit them and when he lowered his arm again there was a massive form hovering in front of them. It was as if the ice itself had come alive in the shape of a large bird. Nicholas’ eyes were drawn to its feathers and wings, watching them move and flex just as Ashley’s did.
“Intruders.” A voice hissed. Nicholas swallowed when he saw the baleful eyes staring at him from inside the ice.
“Master, RUN!” Kary screamed, shoving him away as she readied an attack. Nicholas stumbled away, turning and screaming when he saw the monster raise its beak to form a glowing ball of energy.
The Ice Beam played over Kary’s body and she screamed in pain before just as quickly going deathly silent. Nicholas cried out when he saw her, still poised to attack, now frozen within a solid block of ice. “Oh my god, no!”
Victoria roared, drawing the monstrous bird’s attention and giving Nicholas time to search for Kary’s pokeball. “I’LL KILL YOU!” She screamed, sprinting towards the edge of the water. “I’LL DESTROY YOU!”
“Victoria, no, not you too!” Nicholas cried, but the Gyarados was already mid attack. The bird flinched back when she slammed into it before flapping its wings, sending a gale of wind to blow Victoria back and tumbling over the ground.
“Victoria!” Nicholas gazed at the monster fearfully. “Cassidy, once I recall them, we have to teleport!” When the Alakazam didn’t respond he whirled to her. “CASSIDY!”
“It’s so cold.” Cassidy murmured, her eyes staring at the ice bird. “No thoughts. Only cold.”
“Snap out of it!” Nicholas cried, grabbing her shoulders and shaking her. “Cassidy! CASSIDY!”
“WAKE UP!” Nicholas screamed, drawing his hand back and slapping her across the cheek.
Cassidy jerked, one hand flying up to where he had struck her. “Master-!”
Nicholas grabbed her by the shoulders and stared into her eyes. “You need to teleport us out of here.” He hissed. “As soon as I recall them.”
Cassidy raised a trembling hand to point over his shoulder. “Too late.”
The blast of air tore them apart, sending Nicholas spinning in one direction and Cassidy tumbling in the other. Nicholas pushed himself up, watching in dread as the monster readied another attack for the feebly moving Alakazam. “NO!”
“Be quiet, human.” The voice hissed again. “I have no patience for your kind. Intruding on my sanctum, enslaving pokegirls for your own ends.” Cassidy’s screams were silenced when she was swallowed by the spreading ice. “Death is too kind for you.”
“Then kill me, but let them go!”
The bird turned its head to him. “You’re in luck.” Nicholas gagged when it slammed a taloned foot into his chest, driving the breath from his lungs. “I intend to do exactly that.”
“You’re… hurting… them.”
The bird cocked its head. “They are simply frozen. They will thaw, and they will live.”
“You were hurting them.” Nicholas snarled, fruitlessly beating at the icy foot. “They were screaming. They were in PAIN!”
“Their pain is temporary. The poison you feed them would have been forever.” The voice snarled and Nicholas screamed when the bird pressed down harder. “All humans, even those who are weak or dying, care for nothing but the enslavement of pokegirls.”
“I just- want- them- to live.” Nicholas managed to gasp out. “That’s all I care about.”
“A ploy. A trick to save your own life.” Nicholas felt something in his chest snap under the increasing pressure and he fought the darkness at the edges of his vision. “I am not fooled.”
“Get… off of him.”
Nicholas felt the pressure let up slightly and he gasped, regretting it immediately when his broken ribs made themselves known. Victoria was forcing herself to her feet. “I said… GET OFF!”
“Sleep, sister.” The voice said as the bird fired another Ice Beam at Victoria.
Victoria took the beam head-on, her growls slowly growing in volume until she was screaming at the bird. “I SAID TO GET OFF!”
The bird reeled back when Victoria smashed into it, sheets of ice shattering across the ground. Nicholas caught his breath, tears beading in his eyes when the pain washed over him. “Victoria…”
“You know nothing of my Master.” Victoria snarled, stepping past him and glaring at the slowly flapping monster. “You want to kill him? Then kill me. KILL ME!”
“He does not care about you, sister.” The voice said. “They care only about themselves!”
“No.” Victoria hissed. “Master Nicholas took me in and raised me to be strong. He cares for me. For US! I WON’T LET YOU KILL HIM!”
Doubt had crept into the voice when it spoke again. “You are a fierce thing.”
“Because of him.” Victoria snarled.
In her ice prison, Kary’s hand moved ever so slightly.
“Then die with him.” The bird was charging up another attack when Nicholas heard the snapping of breaking ice. “Wha-?”
A Flamethrower surged past Victoria and licked up the hovering bird. Nicholas heard the voice squawk and the bird flapped back, a huge chunk of ice missing from its body. Nicholas could see the water dripping from the edges and… He blinked. Was that an arm?
“I can’t let my girlfriend show me up like this.” Kary rasped, pulling herself next to Victoria and readying another Flamethrower. “Come on, bird. I’ve got the flames rolling now.”
The bird flapped backwards, ice from across its body flowing to fill the hole Kary had caused. “Why do you fight for this human?” The voice hissed. “How have you not seen the truth?”
“He is my truth.” Victoria replied clearly, allowing Kary to lean on her for support. “That is why I fight for him.”
“Centuries I helped humans. Centuries I saved those lost in the frigid lands.” The bird flapped closer. “My payment? Betrayal. It would be yours as well.”
“Then I accept it gladly.” Kary coughed and raised her hands to display the crackling flames in her palms. “Now that’s settled, you ready for some more?”
Victoria whirled and gasped when she saw Nicholas pushing himself to his feet. “Master, no!”
“Victoria, it’s okay.” Nicholas stared at the massive bird. “This… this pokegirl… You are a pokegirl, right?” He continued without waiting for a response. “This pokegirl has her reasons to hate humans. Because of that, she hates me.” He coughed and pulled himself forwards. “But she doesn’t hate you. You don’t have to die.”
“It’s fine.” Nicholas stared at the water. “Make sure Cassidy is alright. Get back to Oak’s lab. Galina, and Sasha… and Abigail, make sure they all know what happened.” He felt a great feeling of calm wash over him as he released his belt to clatter against the ice. “We made a mistake. But you don’t have to die for it.” His eyes slowly closed as his strength gave out and he slumped forwards. “I…”
“MASTER!” Victoria jumped forwards but recoiled when the bird drew a line of cracking ice between her and the falling man. “NO!”
Nicholas felt himself crash into the water. It was cold, just like everything else here. Numb. He didn’t feel any pain. The cold was numbing his body.
Nicholas felt his consciousness fading. As he relaxed his mouth popped open, cold water rushing inside after a moment. This was it. He’d had an adventure. He’d nearly made it, too. Oh well.
He was so cold…
His eyes snapped open and he gagged, clutching at the dripping body on top of him. Victoria didn’t let go, forcing air into his lungs as he jerked. “I can’t.” She said desperately and raised her head. “There’s too much water.”
“Remind me to teach you this secret later.” Kary replied, shoving her aside and wrapping her mouth around his. Nicholas wheezed when she transferred her entire lung capacity into his mouth, forcing the water that had filled his lungs to come shooting back out. He prepared for the water to choke him again but when Kary released him and turned her head to vomit liquid he realized his breathing was clear.
“One more.” Kary groaned, leaning down and blowing into his mouth. Nicholas finally felt his body move and he grabbed her, turning the desperate CPR into a desperate kiss. Kary’s body melted against his and she kissed him back, breaking free after a moment and running her hands down his body. “Master, can you breathe? Can you hear me?”
“He’s alright.” Kary sobbed, tears dripping from her exhausted eyes. “Oh gods, Master, why did you have to do that? Why?”
“Rest.” Kary cried. “Just rest.”
“Rest.” Kary repeated and Nicholas could feel warmth spreading through his body, chasing out the brutal chill of the water. As his eyes drifted shut she caressed his cheek. “Live.”
The great bird was watching Nicholas when he woke up and he resisted the urge to scream. When Kary felt him move she lifted her head. “Master?”
“I’m… alright, Kary.” Nicholas tried to sit up but found he had been wrapped tightly in her coils. “What happened?”
“You sacrificed yourself for their lives.” The voice said quietly.
Nicholas blinked at the staring bird. “But… I’m not dead.”
“Neither is the last human who did such a thing for her pokegirls.”
Nicholas nodded slightly. “Thank you for sparing them.”
The bird settled and Nicholas watched it begin to melt away to reveal a watching pokegirl. “You were supposed to thank me for sparing you.” The girl stepped forwards but stopped when both Kary and Victoria turned on her. “Calm yourselves, sisters. I mean your human no more harm.”
“Why would I do that?” Nicholas laid his head back. “That’s not why I did what I did.”
“And it is also the reason you still live.”
“She let me dive in after you.” Victoria murmured. “Master, I thought…”
“…is Cassidy alright?”
“I thawed her and she returned to the device you humans use to contain us.”
“Then she’s safe.”
The pokegirl stared at him with unblinking eyes. “You are the first human to describe it as such.”
“I think we’ve already established that I’m not exactly like all the rest.”
Nicholas coughed when the air temperature dropped. “Do not pretend to be my friend, human.”
“Not… pretending.” Nicholas managed. “If that’s okay.”
“I tried to kill you.”
“You had your reasons.”
The girl stared at him for a while longer before turning away. “Leave.”
“But he-“ Kary started.
“Leave.” The girl stared at the far wall for a bit before turning back. “I understand if you never return, but I will not attack if you do.”
“Can I at least ask your name?” Nicholas asked as Kary began unwinding herself from around his body.
“I have none.” The girl replied and as Nicholas got up he was surprised to see she was almost a foot shorter than he was. “I am sure humans have created one for me, but I am simply ice. Nothing more.”
“Can I check?” He looked over the watching girl. Brilliant blue-white hair, a set of massive blue wings on her back, and her oppressive power. He’d already guessed what pokegirl was in front of him, but getting the chance to confirm it…
The girl frowned. “Check what?”
“You’re unique, aren’t you?” Nicholas asked. “Alone.”
The girl caught her breath. “What do you know about me, human?”
“Me? Not much.” Nicholas slowly opened his pokedex and began scrolling the additional entries Oak had given him. “But…” he stopped when he found what he was looking for, “humanity knows you. They call you Articuno.” He chuckled. “The freeze pokegirl.”
The girl nodded slightly. “Freeze. That is truth, even if nothing else humanity offers is.” She spread her icy wings but paused. “Does humanity know… of my sisters?”
Nicholas nodded. “One embodying electricity, and one flame?”
“They know of you, and refer to you in our myths and legends.” Nicholas replied. “Zapdos, the electric pokegirl, and Moltres, the flame pokegirl. Together they speak of you as three sisters, whose powers created and sustained the oceans and rivers of their world.”
Articuno sighed. “Then at least we are respected in their stories, if not in their actions.” She waited a moment before looking back at him. “Thank you, human. For reminding me why I once loved humanity.”
“Thank you for not killing me.”
Articuno’s brown eyes twinkled and she turned away. “Ah, finally your human selfishness can be seen.” Nicholas could hear her laughter as she took off, a blizzard of snow and icy wind hiding her from sight until the legendary pokegirl was long gone.
Victoria was staring over the water. “Master…”
“Let’s get out of here.” Nicholas said, propping himself up using Kary as a crutch. “Please.”
Pewter City – Boulder Badge
Cerulean City – Cascade Badge
Vermilion City – Thunder Badge
Celadon City – Rainbow Badge
Saffron City – Marsh Badge
Fuchsia City – Soul badge
Dahlia, Venusaur – Level 41 (Alpha)
Ashley, Pidgeot – Level 40
Elizabeth, Nidoqueen – Level 40
Victoria, Gyarados – Level 41
Cassidy, Alakazam – Level 41
Kary, Dragonair – Level 43
Galina, Marowak – Level 32
Sasha, Ditto – Level 28
Abigail, Snorlax – Level 30
Kary stared down at the ocean. “Are you sure we’re far enough from the islands?”
Victoria dove in, searching about before surfacing and nodding. “It’s clear.”
“Hold on, Master.” Kary whispered, hefting the barely conscious man on her back and pushing into the waves. “We’re almost there.”
“…and that’s what happened.”
Professor Oak leaned back with a sigh. “You’re a lucky man.”
“I’m lucky to be alive.”
“That’s what I meant.” Oak replied. “If Michael was here, what would he say? ‘You were unlucky enough to run into her’?”
“Sounds about right.”
“But you lived.” Oak continued. “And for that I’m very thankful.” He waited a moment before his eyes lit up. “So did you talk about anything? Get any measurements, maybe-“
“Professor.” Oak stopped when Dahlia raised her head to look over Nicholas’ body. “Please leave my Master alone.”
Oak chuckled softly. “Sorry, Dahlia.”
“You’ll be excited to know that I got a chance to scan her, yes.” Nicholas replied. “It might have taken a picture when it did, I don’t know. The pokedex is your invention - not mine.”
“You- you actually had a chance to run a scan?” Oak gasped. “And you’re sure you ran into Articuno?”
“Know of any other bird pokegirls that cause snow flurries with every flap of their wings?” Nicholas asked drily.
“No, I don’t.” Oak whispered. “Nicholas, that’s… you’ve just done more for the field of legendary research than many do in their entire lives.”
“Great. Means I can retire and never do it again.”
Oak let out some nervous laughter. “Well, you’re young.”
“Never again is too soon to run into another pokegirl like that.” Nicholas replied. “Is that all?”
“Well, the scan…”
“My pokedex is in my bag. Have fun.”
Oak quickly grabbed the device and scampered from the hospital room.
“…At least we made it to Cinnabar, Master.”
“Yea.” Nicholas shifted slightly and listened to the unhappy noises his harem made. “All thanks to Kary and Victoria.”
“In many ways, Master.” Dahlia whispered. The two in question held the positions of honor, lying on his chest while the rest made do around him. “Do you think you’ll be able to get out of bed soon?”
“My ribs are fixed, and the NurseJoy said that the tissue damage is healed. At this point, I’m just avoiding getting up.”
“We don’t mind.” Cassidy murmured. “Haven’t we all dreamed of this, Master?”
“I guess so.”
“He’s in here?” Nicholas heard a familiar voice and turned to see Gary stepping into the room. “Nicholas!”
“Oh. Hey, Gary, what are you doing here?” Nicholas watched the other tamer take a seat. “Don’t you have Champion stuff to do? And where’s your pokegirl, the one who-?”
“Nightingale?” Gary asked. “My harem is outside fending off the crowds that I inevitably draw. Even here on Cinnabar.”
“And she was just who brought me to Lavender Town. She’s not my Alpha.”
Nicholas sighed. “Sorry.”
“No reason to apologize. You haven’t met them all yet.” Gary gazed at him. “Pretty soon you might.”
“You really think I’ll get there?”
“The door locks, right?” Gary turned and tested the handle. “Good. Nicholas, I heard you faced down a man that some people have been trying to take down for years.”
“I barely escaped from him, you mean.”
“You won.” Gary replied. “I don’t care what kind of circumstances led to that victory, because you won. And because of you, Saffron City is finally free.”
Nicholas’ eyes widened. “You knew?”
“That it was Team Rocket’s base? Yes, I knew. I’ve been fighting those criminals since I became Champion.” He shook his head. “You’ve shifted the balance of power, Nicholas. We’ve been in a deadlock for years, but now Sabrina has begun vocally speaking out against the apathetic policies she once defended. We might finally have a majority.”
“What about your project?”
“Ah, yes. The president said he’d told you.” Gary reached into his pocket and withdrew a purple pokeball. “This is it. The Master Ball.”
Nicholas stared at the orb until Gary put it away. “Just one?”
“It’s all we need. And this kind of tool is dangerous. I might ask for the research to be destroyed once we’ve successfully contained Mewtwo.”
“Mewtwo.” Nicholas repeated. “That’s the threat? The thing Giovanni created?”
“How’d that go?” Nicholas asked. “Destroying the pokegirl creation research, or whatever it was. How’d that work out for you?”
Gary gazed at him for a few moments before smiling. “A valid point. Still, I don’t think we’ll just start handing out Master Balls to any tamer with a pokedex.”
“Great responsibility.” Gary finished. “I’ll try to make sure no more are created, but in an emergency… Yea, we’ll keep the research safe.”
“I have a friend who’ll appreciate that.”
Gary nodded and looked away. “Yea, I heard about your… ‘friend’. You gave gramps her scan?”
“He’d have found it at some point anyways. I don’t know enough about pokedexes to delete the scan.”
“Fair enough.” Gary said. “Well, to be honest, Nicholas, I came to take a good look at what’s coming my way.” He gazed around at the watching pokegirls. “I know you said a few months ago that you didn’t like your odds, but I’m starting to not like mine.”
“You’ve been training for years.” Nicholas said in confusion, watching the other man get to his feet. “We’ve been going for less than one. How can we be anywhere near what you can do?”
“Pokegirls learn fast, Nicholas.” Gary replied. “And the more they learn, the stronger they become. A good tamer can jumpstart his pokegirls’ growth to extreme levels in no time at all.” He took one last look at the room. “Plus, we’ve been stalled with bullshit ever since I became Champion. We keep our skills sharp, but a harem that’s actively working to become better?” He chuckled. “We’ve slowed down. You’re speeding up.”
Nicholas watched him leave and glanced at his pokegirls. “Um…”
“Oh, and Nicholas?” Gary poked his head back into the room. “Don’t you have someone you need to call?”
Nicholas gave him a blank look as Gary grinned and vanished back around the corner. “Huh?”
“If the Champion says we shouldn’t slow down, we’re not going to.” Dahlia grinned and wrapped her arms around him. “Get some rest, Master, because we’re getting back up tomorrow. And we’re not stopping until we finish what you’ve started.”
“Right. That’s the gym.” Nicholas turned from the large building. “That’s the pokecenter.” He continued looking around the small island town. “Shop, a few houses…” His eyes wandered to the burned out husk that sat at the edge of town. “…research lab that apparently was used by Team Rocket…”
“And the research lab that’s still in use.” Cassidy finished. “I kind of want to take a look.”
“We’ll check it out after taking the badge.” Nicholas replied. “Ready?”
“Only if you are, Master.” Cassidy glanced at him and smiled when he gave her a mental smile. “And I can tell that you are.”
“By the way, I didn’t ask back in Fuchsia.” Nicholas said as they walked towards the gym. “Now that you can’t wear my shirts, what are you going to wear?”
“Well…” Cassidy glanced down at her nude body. “I hadn’t really thought about it. I didn’t really care about having no pants before, so…”
“Whatever you’d like. I doubt they have much of a selection out here, but when we get back to the mainland I’ll buy you something.”
Cassidy beamed at him. “Thank you, Master, but maybe I’ll just go nude.”
“No problem.” Nicholas chuckled. When they got closer he reached for the door handle.
Cassidy watched him pull. “Is it closed?”
Nicholas pulled again before giving the doors a quick push and sighing. “Locked.”
“Well.” Cassidy looked stumped for a moment before giggling. “Can we visit the laboratory first, then?”
Nicholas gave her a defeated smile. “I guess so.”
He laughed when she cheered and began skipping towards the other end of town.
“Hello! My Master is-“ Nicholas heard as the doors closed between them. He opened them a few seconds later to see Cassidy still excitedly talking at the woman behind a front desk. “-you have anything we can look at? Maybe that he can contribute to?”
The woman looked over her shoulder. “Sir, is this your pokegirl?”
“Yea. Cassidy, what were you rambling about before I walked in?” Nicholas asked.
“We unfortunately have a dress code in the building, miss.” The woman said. “You’ll need to cover at least your nipples and groin or stay in your pokeball.”
Cassidy’s excited demeanor swiftly turned to horror. “But I-“
“I’m sorry, but it’s the rule.”
Nicholas burst into laughter when Cassidy rounded on him. “Clothes. Now.”
“You can see just fine out of your pokeball, can’t you?” He whispered. “You’ll be fine.”
“Master-“ Cassidy started before the recall beam sucked her up. Nicholas was still chuckling as he looked back at the receptionist. “Yea, so, the gym’s locked up; I was wondering if there were any projects an outsider could look at?”
The woman laughed. “Your girl said you were an evolutionary researcher.”
“Yea, I am.” Nicholas replied.
“Go down the front hallway, there, and try lab three.” The woman said. “Meanwhile, I’ll page Dr. Blaine.”
Nicholas frowned. “Who?”
“Oh, you’ll see.” The receptionist replied. “Remember, lab three!”
Nicholas walked in the indicated direction and knocked on the door for lab three. When he heard a muffled response he pushed it open.
“Oh, hello!” One of the scientists inside got up from his work and moved forwards to greet Nicholas. “Welcome, are you here for a tour? Or did you have something for us to clone?”
Nicholas opened his mouth to question the scientist but closed it just as quickly and rethought his words. “Cloning… I was under the impression that wasn’t done anymore.”
The scientist slowly nodded. “Ah. You’re neither.”
“What do you mean?”
“We get travelers through here every few weeks. None of them know enough to question me like that.” The scientist returned to his work and nodded around at the others. “I’ll leave you alone.”
“No, hold on.” Nicholas stepped further into the room and let the door shut behind him. “I’m an evolutionary researcher, but the whole… cloning thing, making new pokegirl breeds…”
“You’re right. We don’t do that anymore.” The scientist replied. “What we do do is take viable DNA, usually from extinct or threatened pokegirl species, and grow viable pokegirls from it. We work closely with the Safari Zone and other conservation groups and are proud to report that many endangered pokegirls are making comebacks thanks to our work.”
“Oh.” Nicholas looked around and settled on a tank of liquid in the corner of the room. “Why did you think I might have something for you to use?”
“That’s usually why we get people in here.” The scientist looked back at his work and gestured at another man sitting nearby. “Talk to him.”
“So? Do you?” The man asked when Nicholas approached.
“I don’t think so?” Nicholas said. “I mean, what would you even be looking for?”
“Fossils, mostly.” The man replied. “We try not to randomly clone pokegirls, especially if the only viable DNA you have is from one of your harem.”
“Fossils.” Nicholas mused.
“Have you visited the Pewter Museum of Science?” The man asked. “Sometimes you can find fossils in their interactive archaeology exhibit.”
“Oh. No, I haven’t.” Nicholas replied. “Sorry.”
“Any caves, then? Find a rock that looked strange?”
Nicholas was shaking his head when he remembered the claw Elizabeth had pulled from her leg all the way back in Mt. Moon. “No- wait. Maybe.”
The scientist waited for him to rummage through his bag and brightened when Nicholas pulled out the claw. “Yes! That’s a fossil all right. Where did you find it?”
“Uh, Mt. Moon.” Nicholas replied. “But it’s pretty small, are you sure you can use it?”
“Mate, I can grow an entire pokegirl from a single eyelash.” The scientist laughed. “Give me… oh, at least a day or two.”
“You’ll have it.” Nicholas turned to see an older man in a lab coat enter the room. “I hear you’re looking for me, tamer.”
“Dr. Blaine!” The scientists all offered their own greetings as Blaine stopped in front of Nicholas.
“You’re the young man who was in the hospital.” Blaine said. “Right?”
“Yea, that’s me.”
“I’m happy to see that you’ve made a full recovery.” Blaine said. “One might even say you’ve had a fire lit under you, what with your immediate challenge of the gym.”
The scientist Nicholas had been talking to groaned. “Dr. Blaine.”
“Ah, please. I’m not even warmed up.” Blaine grinned when the room groaned. “Walk with me, tamer.”
Nicholas followed him out the door. “Who are you?”
“Dr. Blaine. Head researcher here at the laboratory, and the Cinnabar gym leader.”
Nicholas gasped. “Wait, you’re the leader?”
“Haha, yes!” Blaine grinned at him. “Are you ready? Ready for an explosive battle?”
“I am if you are.”
“EXCELLENT!” Blaine led him out the laboratory and to the gym. “One second…” He fiddled with the doors for a moment before throwing them wide open. “THEN ENTER!”
Nicholas walked in and stared at the massive arena that dominated the building. “Whoah.”
“It appears we have a new challenger today!” Nicholas turned to the middle of the room when most of the lights dimmed, illuminating where a man in a flamboyant outfit held a microphone. “Welcome, tamer… To the blazing heart of Cinnabar, the burning domain of the fire-type, and home of the hotheaded quiz master… THE CINNABAR GYM!”
Nicholas felt someone shove him towards one side of the arena and he stumbled into place as the announcer continued talking. “Five questions, five answers. Get them right, and face Blaine! Get them wrong, and face a tamer. Will your fiery spirit prevail? Or will you burn out? Let us BEGIN!”
Nicholas shielded his eyes when there was a flash and the announcer vanished from the arena. “FIRST QUESTION!” Nicholas looked around. “Does CATERPIE, evolve into BUTTERFREE?”
“Wha- what kind of question is that?” Nicholas yelled. “That’s easy!”
“YES OR NO!”
“I mean, eventually!” Nicholas yelled. “First it evolves into Metapod though.”
The voice was silent for a few seconds. “Shit. I need to change that. Oh is this- YES! CONGRATULATIONS!” Nicholas started laughing when he recognized the booming voice as Blaine’s. “UM. NEXT QUESTION! Does POLIWAG evolve THREE TIMES?”
“Come on, give me something harder!” Nicholas yelled. “I’m an evolution researcher, I know half of them by heart! Poliwag evolves twice!”
“HMPH! Very well. Are ELECTRIC-TYPE attacks SUPER EFFECTIVE or NOT VERY EFFECTIVE against the GROUND-TYPE?”
“NEITHER!” Nicholas yelled. “Trick question! They don’t work at all.”
“That is absolutely CORRECT!” Blaine cried back. “FOURTH question! Going by the Siph Co. catalogue, which number TM is TOMBSTONER?”
Nicholas swore his brain flatlined. “T-Tombstoner?” He hesitated. “Um… Tombstoner. That’s…” His brow furled. “Is that even a real move?” He shook his head. “Yea. I don’t think that’s even a real move, so ANOTHER trick question!”
Blaine’s laughter echoed from the speakers around the gym. “CORRECT AGAIN, tamer. ONE MORE.” The lights began to dim again until only the arena was illuminated. “Challenger Nicholas, tell me… who are you about to battle?!”
Nicholas grinned when he saw Blaine step into the arena. “Oh, just a mustached old man.”
Blaine laughed and held up a pokeball. “TECHNICALLY CORRECT! You’ve passed your quiz.” The gym leader adjusted his dark sunglasses. “But will you pass your test?”
Nicholas picked out a pokeball. “You better believe it.”
“ASHLEY, GET IN THERE!”
Pewter City – Boulder Badge
Cerulean City – Cascade Badge
Vermilion City – Thunder Badge
Celadon City – Rainbow Badge
Saffron City – Marsh Badge
Fuchsia City – Soul badge
Dahlia, Venusaur – Level 41 (Alpha)
Ashley, Pidgeot – Level 40
Elizabeth, Nidoqueen – Level 40
Victoria, Gyarados – Level 44
Cassidy, Alakazam – Level 41
Kary, Dragonair – Level 45
Galina, Marowak – Level 33
Sasha, Ditto – Level 30
Abigail, Snorlax – Level 31
Pewter City – Boulder Badge
Cerulean City – Cascade Badge
Vermilion City – Thunder Badge
Celadon City – Rainbow Badge
Fuchsia City – Soul Badge
Cinnabar Island – Volcano Badge
Saffron City – Marsh Badge
Vanessa, Blastoise – Level 49
Tamama, Exeggutor – Level 46
Hannah, Primeape – Level 47
Riana, Sandslash – Level 48
Madeline, Fearow – Level 48
Kura, Ninetales – Level 46