It is only until now that she gets a good look at him. The biggest draw of attention is his attempted beard that looks like he hasn’t shaved for weeks. Uncut and unkept. Probably unclean by the rest of his looks. His thick dark brown hair nearly covers his eyes and covers most of the back of his neck. He has a thin body of medium height, probably closer to six foot. His eyes hide behind a pair of black sunglasses. He wears a dark green coat with pockets on both sides and hood in the back. His jeans are dirty and covered in holes and what look like burn marks, either received from all the hiking or he bought them that way. His shoes are a peculiar brown-patch color and small looking, not like a pair of hiking boots. He has no gloves or hat like she does, at least not at this time. In addition to the pack on Stantler, it looks like he has a gold and brown bag on his back.
“That was some slide back there.” His voice is soft, calm and suspiciously friendly.
“Thanks for helping, I guess.”
“What happened? I don’t understand why they attacked me.”
“When you enter a Pokemon’s territory, they tend to fight back. The Pineco got defensive about you bothering the Kakuna and you were almost blown to bits. This guy here,” he points to his back, “used Protect around you to block the explosion.” The head on his ‘backpack’ twitches briefly.
“That’s a Pokemon?!” It hadn’t even moved the whole time they were standing there. Its arms and legs were clasped around his sides just like the straps of a backpack.
“Yep. He’s my Abra. And this is Stantler. Gotta be more careful up here. You should always have a Pokemon by your side.”
A blank expression crosses her face, letting his words sink in. She had completely forgot about Dunsparce. Searching through her bag, she finds his Pokeball and brings it out.
The hiker disappointedly shakes his head “If danger were to happen, you’d have no time to send it out. Is it just the one?” She nods. “I would make it more accessible if I were you.” He unzips his coat to show six Pokeballs lined inside, three on each side.
She recalls Trainers have belts to hold Pokeballs on. She thought it wasn’t necessary given that she only has one with no plans of needing more. Well, except for her own Bellossom. After a moment to think where to put it, she drops it in her jacket pocket. “I’m April, by the way.”
The hiker begins to walk away. “Nice to meet you. It’s good that you’re alright but I must be off. You best be more careful.”
“Wait.” She rushes to his side while unfolding her map. “Can you show me the way to Ice Path?”
He looks at her, shocked, trying to hold in a chuckle. He says in a serious tone, “Wow! You are WAY off.” He points on the map. “The cave is here and we are about... right... here.” He drops his finger well north of the cave. “It’s just outside Blackthorn, impossible to miss. I don’t know how you got all the way up here. I mean, how could you miss it... it’s right there after you exit the city.”
She can hear the audience laughing at her again. “Just, show me the way. I’m a little lost. Please?” She plays into her cute strength, although it’s not as effective while wearing a jacket.
The hiker ponders the situation, looking at her pretty face. “Not gonna happen.”
“Not my problem. Besides, if I take you there, by the time I get back here it’ll be dark and I prefer not to stay out that late. Especially tonight.”
“Do- do you live up here?”
He sighs. “You must not be much of a Trainer if you haven’t heard of Michelle’s Lodge yet.” He examines her up and down. “What’s the red scooter for?”
The hiker is beginning to get on her nerves. “Riding, duh!”
“A lot of good that does up here.” He kicks a boulder down a smaller dirt hill. “Compass? Pokedex?” She shakes her head, feeling stupid about not having a compass. “I’m surprised that you made it this far even for being lost. At least you’re wearing warm clothes. Way too much perfume, though. You think Pokemon care that you smell like?”
His unpleasant sarcasm and unwillingness to help is dreadful, but he’s the only person that can help her in this situation. The two hike together for a few minutes. April quietly stays behind him, keeping some distance.
He stops. “Why are you still following me?”
He sighs heavily, “I’m headed to the lodge. If you want to follow me there, fine. I can’t stop you. Well, I could but, uh, you know, never mind. Once we’re there, you’re on your own. No offense, but I don’t have time to babysit rookies.”
It’s not like she has a choice. It’s either follow him or attempt to find her own way only to become more lost. He doesn’t even try to help her hike with him, maintaining a few good paces ahead. At one point they climb up a rock and he just stands at the top, waiting and watching her struggle on her own. He was just like all the others back home. When she needed help the most, no one would reach out to grab her. Really, is it so hard to show a little compassion to a complete stranger in desperate need?
A cool air breeze blew by as they continue to hike. Stantler halts, sensing a voice to their right. She nudges the hiker, pointing with her head. He listens, shushing April to remain quiet. It’s faint but audible enough to determine the sound. “Crying? Could it be....”
He leads them over to a speckled grey and black boulder twice their size. The insufferable sobbing grew louder as they circle around to the other side. There, on the floor, sat a brown Pokemon with a white skull on its head. A small chiseled bone lay by its side. Its crying is loud enough that it doesn’t even notice the two humans standing in front.
“I thought so.” The hiker sighs, stepping back and turning around. “Come on, let’s go.”
All the while, the Pokemon continues to shed tears. Her mind flashes memories of her childhood. ‘It’s best if we leave her alone.’ ‘I’m concerned for you, April. This... solidarity has gone on long enough.’ She tugs the hiker’s coat, raising her voice. “Wait, we have to help it.”
“You don’t understand. I’ve seen this Cubone numerous times since I’ve been up here and all it does is cry. It’s a waste of time. Not really worth catching either.”
“Maybe cause you can’t,” she snaps at him.
Feeling challenged, he snaps back, “Believe me, I can. Besides, why would I want to listen to this all day. No thanks. If you want to wake up at midnight to feed this baby, then catch it yourself. Then you can have someone else cry with you when you get lost.”
April is not a Trainer. End of story. In her plan to trail Jack, she has never once thought about obtaining more Pokemon. There’s no reason to. She is a detective, not a Trainer. But perhaps Dunsparce isn’t enough. She looks at the little Pokemon, unaware of the situation. A little girl version of herself flashes in its spot as she once again recalls her past. All those months in a room, all alone and left to cry. She empathizes with the Pokemon, but at the same time she tries to not think about what happened.
“Get a hold of yourself, April.” She takes a breath and looks at the hiker. He stands impatiently with his arms crossed. She isn’t a Trainer but she has to make everyone else believe she is. That’s the secret to becoming a great detective. She convinces herself that this must be a test of her undercover abilities. Maybe if she has more than one Pokemon, she won’t be confused as a new Trainer. Her major problem with having a battle is her lack of experience. She’s spent zero time watching battles, learning techniques or even reading the basics. She’s never much payed attention to the Pokemon around her. Well, except for Bellossom. She recalls her earlier conversation with Commander Nickels saying she would ‘wing it’ if she had to prove her ability. Just send a Pokemon and it fights. How hard is that?
She grabs her Pokeball and points it forward. “Come out Dunsparce.” A red light beams on the dirt, forming the little yellow snake into shape. “See that Pokemon, go attack it.” Dunsparce only looks up at her as if she lost her mind.
The hiker collapses comically. “This is a joke, isn’t it? You have to call attacks.”
“Attacks, right. I know that. Uhm.... Do you happen to know what are they?”
Facepalm. “This is going to be harder to watch than an all Wynaut battle,” he says to himself. “Try a simple Tackle attack.” He opens his bag on Stantler’s back.
“Kay, I can do this. Go tackle it.”
All this time Cubone remained in front of the boulder, drowning its eyes in sorrow, fully unaware that Dunsparce was leaping forward. He slams head first into the dino’s stomach, bulging its eyes out of the skull, tears twinkling in the air. Dunsparce leaps back, ready to go again. Cubone ceases crying, grabs its bone and stares back, quivering its lips in fear.
“Now I catch it?”
The hiker steps by her side once more, showing her his Pokedex, one of the original models. “No, you keep going. Here’s a list of attacks that Dunsparce knows. You can also dodge, block and counter attacks.”
April holds the red device, glad to have the hiker helping her for once. “Ook... Which one do I use?”
“You chose this battle, not me. I’d suggest paying attention to the field first.”
While she wasn’t looking, Cubone began waddling away in a whimper. Like most of its species, Cubone just want to be left to themselves. The Pokedex calls them the Lonely Pokemon. She watches the Pokemon run away and quickly glances at the Pokedex. The words and numbers make no sense to her. Her mind races full of unprepared thoughts. Will this attack work? Is it strong enough? Is she supposed to use it now? Today hasn’t gone right once and here she is, failing to even manage a simple battle. Doubt crosses her thoughts, kicking her to her knees and laughing at her pathetic attempt, much like the audience still watching from above. At least the ones that haven’t changed channels yet.
“I’m sorry Dunsparce. This was a mistake. As long as I have you, we should be fine. I thought I could do this, but, I dunno.” She collapses to her knees; distraught, discouraged. Defeated.
Dunsparce rolls his eyes. Not sure how that works with slanted eyes, but it just does, k. He jumps into the air, vibrating his tail and burrows into the ground. A few moments later, the ground shakes around Cubone, rising the earth up. Dunsparce lands a hit to its legs.
“Dunnssss...” he hisses.
“Dunsparce, wha-what are you doing?”
“Looks like your Pokemon is more ready to battle than you are, ” the hiker continues to joke.
Cubone stares back but whimpers away again. Just as before, Dunsparce erupts from the dirt, knocking Cubone off its feet. April and the hiker watch in peace, unsure as to what they are watching.
This time, Cubone knows it can’t run. If it tries, Dunsparce will dig under again. Unless... Cubone smirks, sticking its bone under its arm and then jumps at a tree, clawing its way up. It was a fast climber and was well out of harms way. Dunsparce doesn’t have any claws to climb with. But even this wouldn’t be enough to escape. The snake coils his tail into the ground and springs upward, poised to strike. Unable to dodge with its back turned, Cubone takes a hit in the shoulders, forcing it to lose grip and fall the half dozen feet back to the ground. It easily stands back up, resetting its skull helmet and searching for its... bone! It was gone. Where did it... there! Dunsparce has it.
Cubone’s eyes lit up furiously. A burst of blue energy flares around it, as if going Super Saiyan only without the ridiculous spiky yellow hair. In the blink of an eye it swipes at Dunsparce and retrieves its bone. Without a moments hesitation, it charges like a baseball batter and knocks Dunsparce out of the park. He crashes near the boulder, a bit dazed and disoriented. Cubone continues its rush with another swing, this time missing the dodging snake. The bone connects with a loud crack against the large boulder, snapping it into three pie shaped pieces. Cubone’s speed and determination seem to increase with each swing.
The hiker nudges April’s shoulder and points to an attack on the Pokedex. “Defense, uh, Defense Curl,” she chimes in, trying to be a part of the battle.
A quick shimmer surrounds Dunsparce just as the bone hits his side. He slides only slightly, rebounding the attack back. Having lost momentum, Cubone is vulnerable to attack and takes a second slam to the gut. Dunsparce slides himself back, quickly leaping forward while curling into a ball. He rolls straight into Cubone again, knocking it near a tree. The rolling attack makes a loop around for a second time, this time slamming it into the trunk. Dunsparce bounces back and circles around a third time. The lonely Pokemon, trying to catch its breath, carefully thrusts its bone in the ground in front at just the right angle. Unable to see accurately while spinning, Dunsparce falls for the trap, hitting the bone and flies into the air. Cubone grabs its bone, quickly chucking it upward like a boomerang. It hits hard, propelling the snake further upward. Upon retrieval, Cubone prepares a swing for the falling Pokemon. Ballsparce connects with a crack and is sent fumbling across the ground and finally flopping to the floor. Dunsparce is beaten and bruised; his tail limp and tired.
“Oh, Dunsparce. I’m sorry. You don’t have to do this.”
“He’s badly hurt. All those Rage-induced attacks are taking their toll. You need to recall your Pokemon. Take the loss and fight another day.”
He’s right, she thinks. She runs over to where he last fell only to see he isn’t there anymore. Cubone already realized this and had been watching the ground below him. But that isn’t where the attack will come from. Dunsparce pops out of a hole behind him only to realize Cubone was ready. His face crashes into the bone being used as a shield. Dunsparce props his tail to the ground and bounces back, pushing Cubone away.
April runs to her Pokemon, bending down in front of him. “No, stop. Dunsparce! I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Abra!” the hiker calls.
Abra’s eyes glow as he points his arm at April, psychically pushing her out of the way. A moment later, Cubone slams its club directly on Dunsparce’s skull. He takes the hit in order to flip around, using his tail to smack the bone out of its hand.
No joking, the hiker takes a moment to be serious. “Are you some kind of idiot? This is why we have Pokeballs.”
Both Pokemon are tired and exhausted, but still determined to win the fight. Cubone shakes his little hands, cracking his knuckles preparing for a bare fist fight. On the opposite side, Dunsparce’s eyes change color. Wait, what color are their eyes originally? The picture shows they have a black line for pupils. Slanted eyes are so weird. -.- Anyway, his eyes glow and stare deeply at Cubone, trying to force it to freeze. Cubone struggles its arms up and manages to press its skull down to block the stare. While it isn’t looking, Dunsparce is allowed a final jab at its stomach. Cubone, gasping after that hit, looks back through its skull to block the next attack only to find it is still being stared at. Cubone locks up, frozen in place.
Dunsparce’s body glows a light hue and opens his mouth, creating a ball of energy with the last of his strength. The swirling white light grows as big as his own body. He blasts the ball at Cubone, unable to dodge or swing back. The power rips into its body, slashing and draining all the energy out of it. A final *BLAST* after contact blows a hole into the ground, not as large as the previous explosion, but still large enough to cause some damage. A gust of wind blows in all directions, causing dust and dirt everywhere.
April covers her face only to realize she and the hiker were being protected again. He simply stood there, unafraid and head high, with the confidence of a master Trainer. The dirt settles. Cubone struck out. The crying has ceased.
Cept one. April runs to Dunsparce and gives him a big hug. He was panting and felt tense. She almost falls to tears seeing how hurt his body became. In a half sniffled voice, “Don’t overdo yourself like that again, k? I need you.” She rubs her eyes, trying not think about her flashbacks.
The hiker gives a round of applause. “For a Trainer that knows nothing about Pokemon, you sure have a strong Dunsparce. That Cubone put up a nice fight too. Congrats.”
That’s right, she has to catch it. Only one problem.... She looks at the hiker, slightly embarrassed, “You, uh, wouldn’t happen to have an extra ball, would ya?”
He falls comically, “Really? This has to be some kind of cruel practical joke. Where are the cameras? No Trainer can be this reckless.” He tosses her a Pokeball. “You owe me when we get to the lodge.”
She thanks him, kneeling over Cubone. She begins to tear just thinking what to say. “I know what it’s like to cry all the time. To be ignored. *Sniff* I’ve been living it for the past ten years. I still... think about it...” She takes a deep, relaxing breath. “Dunsparce here has helped me. My eyes.... they’re not as cloudy any more. And maybe... maybe all you need is someone to be with you too... sniff... some company, you know? One person to care about you...” She says this to Cubone but also how she felt of herself.
“Quuu...” it squeaks.
“What are you doing, telling it a bed time story?”
“Shut up!” she yells at him. She wipes the Pokemon’s face clean and puts on a sincere smile. “I’ll be here for you.” She looks at the Pokeball, then back to the hiker. “So, how do I make this work?”
“That’s it, I’m outta here.”
Originally Posted: January 2012 at PE2k vBulletin