I had hung back, uncertain of what to do now. I was debating about just sneaking off, and leaving these two to help this kidnapped girl. I couldn’t leave now, however. Those two had no idea what to do with the struggling sack. Blowing the hair out my face, I walked over to his side.
“Let me help,” said I, and the athlete immediately backed off as I looked over the sack. Well, he was right about one thing,
I noted. The mouth of the bag was sealed with a tightly knotted rope that stubbornly wouldn’t budge. Still, maybe I figured that I could loosen it with a few tugs. Grabbing one end of the rope, I yanked back as hard as I could. Nothing. The knot didn’t slacken any at all, but I could be just as stubborn. I repeated the motion again and again, until I finally made some progress. Gradually, the knot loosened until I could finally undo it. The sack suddenly fell away, and I found myself staring into the biggest blue eyes I had ever seen.
“Hallelujah!” cheered the young girl in triumph as she stood up and stretched. She looked like she was around my age, with pale skin, red hair pulled up into pig-tails, and a nearly bleached Levi jacket on. “I thought that I’d never see the light of day again! Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!”
I stumbled back, surprised by her abrupt but animated outburst, but she just looked around her surroundings.
“Where on earth did I end up?”
“Er, you’re in Phenac City?” the woman, wearing bright pink dress, answered in confusion.
“Phenac? Where is that?” the young girl turned to her with a confused frown on her face.
“It’s in eastern Orre?” Again, the woman seemed uncertain about her answers, her voice rising up in a question. What, did she find it so hard to believe that this young lady had no idea what happened to her? From the looks of it, she wasn’t from around here. I couldn’t help but wonder what she’d be doing here, myself.
“Are you okay, then?” the athlete interrupted, scratching the back of his head tentatively. “Those thugs didn’t hurt you, did they?”
“I think I’m okay,” she looked over herself, as if to make sure. Finding everything in one piece, she breathed out a sigh of relief. “Man, that was sure a heck of a day. Thanks for saving me!” Her face lifted up in an all-consuming beam.
“Actually, this guy here did all the work,” he laughed weakly, his hand still behind his head.
“He did?” her face turned back to mine. “Well, thank you so much . . . Um . . . What did you say your name was?”
I blinked, and then finally understood, “I’m, er, Wes.”
“Wes, huh? Nice to meet you,” she giggled like a little child. “If it wasn’t for you, who knows where I’d be now? My name’s Rui, by the way.”
“Well, Wes,” the athlete cleared his throat, and shifted the weight on his feet. He looked as if he wanted to race off again, and probably hated staying still for too long. “I saw that battle of yours, and you are one heck of a trainer.”
“Battle?” Rui tasted the word thoughtfully, as if she had never heard of it before. Then suddenly, her eyes lit up. “You battled those kidnappers? Did they use a weird Pokémon?”
“Well, Whismur are kinda weird,” the man answered with a stronger laugh this time.
“No, that’s not what I mean,” she rapidly shook her head. “Did they have a Pokémon that looked different than others?”
“They looked pretty normal to me. Right, Wes?”
I nodded, but I was just as puzzled as he was. “Why do you ask?”
Casting her eyes down to the ground, she grew subdued and almost cryptic. In a voice that wasn’t as vibrant as before, she explained, “It just that . . . When I was in this other town, I saw these two people battling. And then . . . Well, never mind.”
The athlete and the woman exchanged glances, and I frowned.
“Something just isn’t right here,” Rui sighed, and shuffled her feet.
“I’d say,” the woman quickly agreed, puffing up as she grew angry. “This is just unacceptable! Kidnappers running around loose, stealing innocent people and stuffing them in bags! If I were you, I’d get over to the Mayor and tell him what happened to you! If there‘s anyone who could help you, it be him.”
“Mayor?” there it was again, the innocence in her tone as she repeated the word. “You mean the Mayor of this city? Do you really think he can help me?”
“Of course! He’s one of the kindest gentlemen in office I know. And there‘s not many of those around, today.”
“Okay!” her downcast spell suddenly seemed to lift, and she was back to her buoyant self. “Where can I find him?”
“He lives up the hill,” interrupted the athlete, jogging backwards as he pointed. “His house is close to the Stadium. Just follow the road running straight north after Victory Square, you know, where that big fountain is. You’ll see a two-story building off to the left up there, past the Pre Gym. And that will be it.”
“Awesome! Thanks!” she turned towards the city, but then paused in her steps. She spun on her heels to once again meet my gaze.
“Hey, Wes?” Rui sounded suddenly shy. “I might be pushy here, but I was just wondering: Can you come with me? It just that, well, I don’t have anyone else to turn to, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to wander off by myself again. What if those guys come back? Please, it will only be for a little while.”
“I, uh, had plans of my own,” I replied uncertainly, taking a step back.
“Oh,” she looked disappointed, but didn’t give up. With her eyes cast down to her bright-pink sneakers, she pressed, “But . . . I promise I won’t take up too much of your time. I’m worried . . .”
I stood there for a second, unsure of how to respond. She was so . . . well, intense. I had never really known anyone with such energy and sudden mood swings. A part of me did not want to leave her helpless, though. It wouldn’t be right just to walk off on her like this. I doubted that any trouble would befall her here, but she wouldn’t think that way. This whole thing had probably been so traumatizing to her. There was more pressure, though, coming from the other two people who were staring at us. Okay, I told myself. Only for this. Then I’ll go my own way.
“All right,” I quietly agreed, but immediately regretted it. Rui suddenly lit up with a smile and clapped her hands together excitedly.
“Oh, thank you! Thank you, thank you, thanks! Now I don‘t have to worry about a thing! Shall we?” The girl suddenly grabbed my wrist and pulled me on, much to the amusement of the athlete and the woman. Even Yin had to make sure his laughter was heard, though his brother looked put off. The Umbreon couldn’t understand the way this girl acted. Yet he tolerated her enough to walk beside us as we made our way into the city.
“Wow! This place is so pretty!” Rui slowed her pace as she stared in amazement at her surroundings. The road they were taking was leading to Victory Square, but it was framed by the white rectangular buildings and palm trees. At each one of those homes, the doors were painted a solid blue to match the flowing water about. The stones that made up the road were sand-colored, but smooth and cool to walk on. A few people were out walking, each enjoying the cooler environment they lived in. Occasionally they would give us curious, but sometimes suspicious, glances. Rui would then smile at them, casting away any doubts they had. The citizens here were naturally cautious against travelers, especially those from the more rugged and run-down towns. When they got closer to the fountain, more water was flowing down the side of the streets. Rui leaned over to watch the water flow by, then remarked as if I had no idea, “Look at all the water!”
I just nodded, still hesitant on how to respond to this girl. Her energy was still overwhelming.
“Where does it all come from? I thought this was a desert?” She looked me questioningly.
“Phenac is built around a natural oasis,” I shrugged.
“Cool,” she smiled brightly again, then seemed full of thought. “Have you been here before?”
“Once or twice.”
“So you know exactly where the Mayor is, right? Have you seen him?”
“Not really. But we’ll find his house.”
“Oh.” She seemed to squirm a bit as she searched for something else to say. I could tell that she was a little put off by how reserved I was. There was a type of irony I found humorous in that: she being just as uncertain around me as I was to her. Still, she wasn’t going to let that bother her too much. Glancing over her shoulder, she looked back at my Pokémon, who obediently followed from behind.
“So, do they have names? Your Pokémon?”
“Yes,” I paused a moment to introduce them. “Yin and Yang.”
“Like that Chinese thing? Neat,” she stopped in her tracks to lean over and stroke Yin’s fur. The Espeon was surprised and uncomfortable at first. But then I saw him relax and enjoy her touch. His brother stiffened beside him, his ears flattening in annoyance. If he could speak, I imagine he would grumble something about the odd human who had no common sense at all. When Rui finally reached out to pet him, Yang just moved away to retreat to my side. Rui frowned in disappointment, and I suddenly felt a need to explain.
“He’s a little less friendly,” but as soon as they were out of my mouth, I wondered why I bothered to tell her that.
“That’s okay,” she smiled and returned her attention to Yin, who had his eyes closed in contentment. All of his emotions were flooding into me, and the force of it was tremendous. If she didn’t stop that soon, I felt like I would burst.
Clearing my throat, I interrupted them. “Can we move on?”
“Oh, right!” Rui jumped up to her feet, not even noticing anything wrong. “To the Mayor’s house!”
Yin sat there for a moment, flicking his tail back and forth. I sensed from him a type of acceptance. Rui had completely won him over easily in a matter of seconds. When the girl marched on ahead, I turned and sent him a head-shake. She’s not staying with us
, I directed my thoughts to him.
Disappointment flowed from him.
, I urged.
I turned my back on him, ignoring his last sentiment, and followed the irksome child forward.