“Hey! H-hey you! You’re that one girl.”
Geez, how many people was I going to run into today? Turning around, I saw yet another familiar face, but a good one. A woman in a pink dress jogged up to me in her high heels, and I recognized her as that chick that was with Wes and the athlete when they rescued me from the gunnysack.
“It was Rui, right?” she stopped, slightly panting.
“Yeah, what’s up?” I looked at her, genuinely concerned.
“Did you see those men go by earlier? Weren’t they the ones who kidnapped you.”
I glanced uncertainly down the street in the direction that odd group had been heading. “Yeah, those were them…”
“Oh no,” the woman suddenly frowned, following my gaze.
“That’s where the mayor lives! What if they try to do something horrible to him?” She looked back at me, as if I had all the answers. I blinked in surprise. The mayor’s house was that way? Where the heck was I?
“Where’s that one boy?” the woman suddenly lit up as an idea struck her.
“Oh, Wes? He’s, uh… He’s at the Pokémon Center, I think.”
“He’s really strong, right? Maybe he can stop those creepy guys?”
Wow, and I thought I was naive. Yet if the mayor really was in trouble, maybe Wes would be his best shot, if he was willing. “Right, let’s go find him. You know where the Center is, right?”
The purse lady paused, glancing around her surroundings as if seeing them for the first time. Uncertainly, she replied, “I think I do…”
What a team we would make, I laughed quietly inside. With as confident as she sounded, we’d probably both end up getting lost in this crazy city. And she was a native! Still, I nodded for her to lead the way.
“Sir? Um, sir?”
I jolted out of my thoughts, realizing that I was the one being addressed. I turned to see a raven-haired young woman in the red nurse’s uniform standing shyly by, uncertain how to approach me. Her face looked drawn, apparently exhausted from constantly running back and forth on this crazy job. From the way Centers were run in Orre, I could understand that. None of the many Joy cousins worked out in this forsaken land, so the Centers entirely depended on volunteers and interns. Phenac’s Center was one of the more efficient, being easily funded by the community, but elsewhere in Orre, they were difficult to find.
The nurse seemed to gain more confidence when I looked at her, and she moved forward with a silver tray in her hands.
“Your Pokémon have been fully healed,” she indicated the two Poké Balls on the tray with a quick nod of her head.
Glancing between her and the tray, I unfolded my arms and took my Pokémon back. “Thank you,” I quietly told her, respecting the silence in the Center’s lobby. “My Espeon wasn’t poisoned?”
She shook her head. “No, sir. We managed to remove the sludge from his eyes, and luckily none of it actually entered his system.”
I only nodded, not physically showing the great relief I felt. Taking that as a pardon, the nurse bowed and retreated to her station at the front desk. Sighing, I tapped on the Poké Ball’s locks, allowing them to expand in my hands. Within moments, Yin and Yang materialized in the Center’s whitewashed lobby, looking entirely refreshed. Yang the Umbreon yawned and stretched, glancing around with little interest. His brother, Yin, flicked his tail contently as he looked up at me brightly. Nothing remained of the goop that had blinded his eyes. They shone clear and bright with their mysterious purple sheen. Smiling I took his head in my hands, rubbing under his chin and between his ears just the way he liked it, but after a while he looked back up at me in concern. Well, I couldn’t hide anything. He knew I wasn’t quite myself right then.
The Espeon suddenly glanced around as if looking for something… or someone.
“Rui’s not here, Yin,” I broke the news to him.
He locked his eyes back into mine, a feeling of sadness and confusion flowing from him. Quickly, I averted my gaze. I didn’t want to talk about it right then. I was rather frustrated with myself. What had I been thinking, anyway? That Rui wouldn’t care who I was? That she would immediately accept me for what I was? Why did I even go with her in the first place? I should have left her as soon as I rescued her. I should have just said no, but I didn’t. What an idiot I was! If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be in this mess. Yin wouldn’t have nearly been blinded, and I could have been halfway out of the region by now. This only proved that I needed to leave Orre as soon as possible if I was ever going to abandon my past. However, I knew what it was: I thought that she would be different. Well, maybe I had been wrong all along.
Yin was startled at how dark I suddenly became. He quietly lifted a paw and placed it comfortingly on my knee. Yang likewise drew closer and sat by my side. Looking between them, I understood their message. They were reaffirming that they were going to be here for me, no matter what happened now, whatever I choose.
Standing up, I pocketed their balls and declared, “Let’s go, boys.”
They both inclined their heads and diligently followed me as we crossed the Center’s tiny lobby, past the cushioned chairs where various Trainers waited for their Pokémon, past the holographic map of the city set up in the middle of the room. Just as I reached the glass sliding doors, they opened on their own accord. I suddenly found myself face to face with an anxious redhead.
I blinked in surprise, completely dumbfounded. “Rui? What are you doing here?”
She took a deep breath, looking largely relieved. “Finally, I found you. I’ve been looking for you all over! Didn’t help that I don’t know where the heck I’m going.” Her face grew serious as she went on, “Wes, something’s going on at the mayor’s house. A group of creepy guys just headed up there, and it doesn’t look good. Two of them were those two goons that tried to kidnap me. Please, we got to do something.”
None of those words really sunk in. I only continued to stare at her until I said, “You came back…”
“Of course I came back,” she smiled brightly. “I believe you, I really do. And hey, everyone deserves a second chance, right? Now come on, we’d better hurry.”
“Uh, right,” I followed her, stepping out into the desert sun. I couldn’t believe it. She… she really trusted me. How could she, so soon and so fast? Was she really that naïve? Or something else? Unbelievable, that’s what she was. Unbelievable.
“Rui?” I suddenly spoke up, skidding to a halt.
“What?” She turned around impatiently.
“The mayor’s house is that way,” I pointed in the other direction.
“Oh,” her face grew red in embarrassment, and she quickly fixed her path. “Uh, I knew that.”
, I thought as I chuckled to myself, shaking my head.
We arrived at the mayor’s two-story house as fast as our legs could carry us on a hot desert afternoon. The four of us paused before the door, trying to anticipate what was transpiring behind it.
“I hope the mayor’s okay,” Rui fidgeted in place.
“How many where there?” I asked, trying not to sound disconcerting.
“Uh, five, I think. Three wore these strange space-suite looking outfits, one red, one blue, and the last green. My kidnappers were the other two, but the last guy was… Well, let’s just say he’s rather unique.”
None of them sounded like Snaggers. Maybe it was a stray gang, settling a score with the law. Whatever they were, I needed to stay sharp. Facing five men alone was dangerous, and they might not consent to play the rules right. The woman who had found Rui went to get some backup, but so far, none had shone up. Every second counted in a matter like this, and we couldn’t afford to wait much longer.
“Ready, boys?” I turned to my Pokémon expectantly.
I thought, taking a deep breath. Here goes nothing.
I grabbed the door handle and flung it open, charging inside with Rui, Yin, and Yang close behind. The cozy room inside looked just as it had before, minus a friendly old geezer and added a handle full of shady characters. Trudly and Folly were with them, and as soon as the latter locked eyes with me, he seemed to jump in his skin.
“Hey, that’s him! Boss, that’s the guy!” he pointed accusingly at me, addressing the man standing in front of him who had his back turned to us. However, as soon as Folly spoke up, he whirled about in exaggerated extravagance.
Well, Rui wasn’t wrong about him. He was definitely… unique. As tall and skinny as a beanpole, their boss was dressed in a flamboyant golden sequin leisure suite. Large, star-shaped glasses shielded most of his facial features, topped by an explosion of an afro that was colored like a Poké Ball. From his high perch above his platform shoes, he peered down at Rui and me with little interest.
“Oh, please,” he spoke rather loudly in a high-pitched, lilting voice as he slipped a hand to his hip. “You don’t mean to tell me that this was the little toddler who outshone you both, do you? Seriously, boys, you’re embarrassing me.”
“But Boss! He’s really strong! Really!” Folly continued to defend himself.
“Now that will be enough, now, hear? I won’t take any more excuses, wining, and whatnot. Excuse me, but what did you say your name was, lil’ boy? I wanna say something along the lines of Seth, or Leo, or…” he waved his hand, as if trying to pluck a name out of the air.
“I didn’t say,” I answered stiffly, not liking this guy at all. Did he really call me a toddler?
“Hmm, yes,” the boss lifted his hand to his hand to his chin. “So I see. Oh, well, I think I have it all backwards… I think it was more along the lines of a ‘W’ name, wasn’t it? Short and simple, no? Ah, I got it!” the disco throwback snapped his fingers. “It’s Wes, am I right?”
My eyes widened in surprise. “How--?”
“Ah, I knew it! Miror B is nevah wrong, no? Well, darling, I best explain something to you. Don’t want things getting all mixed up, no? Oh, no, no, no! You don’t want a mess, and I don’t want a mess. There’s a win-win here for everyone.”
I crossed my arms impatiently, waiting for this man to get to his point. Up until now, I thought that Rui was obnoxious, but this guy… He gave the word a completely new meaning. Loud, annoying, and utterly smitten with himself.
“You see, there was a reason why we need to apprehend this charming young lady,” Folly and Trudly’s boss dragged on. “It’s a terrible thing, I agree, but there’s just no other way, dears. She has this special ability that no one should have, don’t you missy? Yeah, she sees things she’s not suppose to, feels things she’s not suppose to. The people like her, they’re not like us at all, and unfortunately, they end up getting in the way. I have very exciting news for you: things are going to start changing around here. But if they’re ever going to go through, if you ever want a better life, then we can’t let people like her walking around at large. Trust me, it’s as much for her safety as for everyone else’s, dear.”
“Rui,” I turned to her in confusion. “What’s he talking about?”
I understood that she had apparently seen a strange shadow around a Pokémon before, but could that be what he was talking about?
Rui glanced over at me through the corner of her eyes and only shook her head, keeping her mouth sealed shut.
“So, Wes dear,” the boss continued. “You have two choices before you: one, you can hand her over to us for safe-keeping; two, you don’t and end up in a world of trouble. And really, who wants trouble? It’s nothing but pain, agony, misery, yadda yadda,” he waved his hand nonchalantly. “Any who, I’ll allow my two assistances here deal with the negotiations, as it appears that I’m needed elsewhere. I’m terribly sorry for my early departure, but time is pressing, as you can guess. I must be off, but please do consider what I’ve said, darling. Oh boys!” he called in a singsong voice, though his lackeys were right behind him.
Trudly and Folly straightened up, quickly bringing up their arms in a salute. “Yes, sir!”
“Please don’t disappoint me again, boys.”
“Of course not, boss!” they answered together once more, never moving from their stance.
“Mmm hmm, indeed. Well, I’ll be off to Pyrite now, and I’ll be anxiously awaiting for your success, yes?” the group’s leader suddenly twirled about, stopping to display a disco stance, his right arm lifting to the air while the other rested at his hip. “Let the music spin! Let’s get it on!”
The disco man strutted past Rui and me, leaving through the door we left open. The three men in cyber uniforms followed him, each glaring at me before exiting. Their faces were well masked by their helmets, and all I could see was their chins and mouths. The last one, dressed in red, scowled as he went by, that much I could tell. I didn’t bother to follow; it was clear that the mayor wasn’t with them, but what had they been doing here then? Something didn’t add up. Still, Trudly and Folly were left alone with us, and as long as they were here, they could still threaten the old man.