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Old 09-06-2012, 07:25 AM
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Default [Short] Grace (Drop a Comment or Rate! :D)

Grace’s backpack fell with a muffled clank as she heaved it off her shoulders. Taking a seat on a nearby rock, the redhead finally allowed herself a moment of rest. Hiking Twist Mountain was never easy, but Grace had spent years on these slopes. She felt confident that she knew every nook and cranny of the old mine—inside and outside. The young woman had taken it upon herself to be a guide or rescuer of sorts to lost Trainers making their way north to Iccirus—and though some were less than appreciative, she had earned great satisfaction in helping the wayward stranger. She was proud of the reputation she had built as the “mountain tamer”.

Yet, recently, she had been making trips into the mountain for more selfish reasons. Twist Mountain was becoming her escape.

The redhead wiped the sweat from her brow as she overlooked the crater below. The old mining equipment that had been present all summer had been relocated in preparation for the coming winter. As far as she could tell, the place was abandoned—no workers or Trainers in her line of vision. She wondered ruefully if it was getting too cold for adventures on the mountain now. In the past, winter hadn’t dissuaded the staunchest of travelers—yet Grace had noticed a rather bitter turn in the weather for the last few years. It was getting colder and colder, and the mountain was growing meaner and meaner.

Something sighed by her side. Grace glanced downed to see her sole companion sit beside her rock. The groundhog-like creature was likewise staring down at the valley with red and yellow eyes, though more bored than reflective. Grace cocked a half-smile, wishing she could have left the Watchog behind. Ricky was a nice enough Pokémon and all… but he wasn’t her own. Her mother had insisted that Grace to take him with her. For whatever reason, the idea of her daughter wandering the woods alone didn’t settle well with her.

But she used to not be alone.

“Hungry, Ricky?” she quickly changed the direction of her thoughts.

The Watchog wagged his tail, showing enthusiasm for the first time that day. Chuckling softly, Grace twisted around to reach into her bag. She was just about to pull out a bag of trail mix when the ground suddenly trembled beneath her. The redhead froze midair while Ricky spat, hair standing on edge. The quake only lasted a brief moment, but it was long enough to set the two on edge.

Frowning, Grace dropped the bag and straightened, turning her attention to the valley below. A plume of dust was rising from the entrance of one of Twist Mountain’s many caves. She considered it for a moment, listening long and hard for sound—any kind of sound.

After a long moment of silence, she dismissed to Ricky, “Must have been a Boldore… maybe some Drilbur.”

From the way he stared intently at the cave entrance, Ricky didn’t seem satisfied with that answer. His ears twitched edgily, and his tense body seemed ready to bolt towards the tunnel at any moment.

“Hey,” Grace tried to get his attention, even going as far to wave a hand in front of his face, but the Watchog ignored her. With an exasperated sigh, she submitted, “Fine. We’ll go check it out.”

Leaping off her perch, Grace swept her backpack up and scanned the area for the best route downwards. The slope was pretty steep from her rock down to the cave’s entrance. Just below yawned a chasm that could possibly pose a danger, if she lost her footing. She wasn’t too worried, however. Her steps were confident as she angled her way down, testing the ground with every step she took. Ricky grunted and followed her, placing his body purposely between her and the fissure.

By the time they reached the opening, the dust had cleared from the air. The eager morning sun couldn’t send its light far into the tunnel, but they had Ricky’s luminescent fur to depend on if they were prompted to go farther in. Grace paused at the edge of the sunlight, straining her ears once again for sound. She would have given a shout, but she didn’t want to startle any potential Pokémon within. No doubt they would be alarmed by the stir.

Maybe the tunnel just collapsed, she pondered as she contemplated the darkness. If so… it would be unsafe to continue further. The hiker turned around to leave, but nearly ran into Ricky. The mongoose chattered and pointed a stubborn paw towards the tunnel.

“What?” she hissed at him, growing exasperated.

Snorting, the Watchog continued pointing.

She sighed, knowing what he was getting at. A creature might be trapped inside… and who better to rescue them but a seasoned rescuer?

“Fine,” she gave in, turning back around. “We’ll go take a look, but I doubt we’ll find anything.”

Or, rather, she hoped she wouldn’t find anything. Maybe it was selfish of her, but she really didn’t want to deal with trouble right now. She wanted to be alone.

The yellow stripes on Ricky’s fur brightened as they immersed themselves in the earth, illuminating their path. Grace glanced around, trying to recall this tunnel from her memory. She thought that she had been through it before—but maybe the tremor had skewed the tunnel some.

Ricky abruptly stopped, perking his ears forward. Before Grace could ask him what was wrong, she heard a furious tapping approaching. Footsteps? She watched the darkness ahead warily, though she was startled when a sudden figure burst into Ricky’s light.

All Grace caught was a faintly familiar male face wide with surprise before he shouted, “Run!”, and barreled past them. It wasn’t long before they saw what he had been running from—something bulky crashed through the tunnel, skidding to a halt right before them. The creature’s craggy form recoiled from the light, as if startled by its sudden appearance. Grace gasped and backpedaled, recognizing the red crystals sprouting from its blue-gray body.

“Blind it, Ricky!” Grace shouted an order. “Quick!”

The groundhog Pokémon squeaked in alarm, but quickly obeyed her command. Grace shielded her eyes as the light from the Watchog’s fur intensified. The Rock-type monstrosity reeled in pain, stomping its massive feet in alarm.

“Run!” Grace took advantage of its blindness and raced in the opposite direction, following the stranger. They didn’t get much headway before the creature started barreling after them, sight or no sight. Grace could feel the ground quake beneath her as it pursued, but kept her eyes forward as she aimed for the daylight ahead. The tunnel was too narrow to avoid the creature any other way, and she had no choice but to run for her life.

As the exit drew near, Grace glanced over her shoulder to gauge the creature’s approach. Thus distracted, she hadn’t realized that the strange boy had skidded to a halt—not until she collided with him. Her world started spinning as they both tumbled head over heels, rolling out of control down the mountainside.

The chasm! Grace panicked, shoving the stranger away while she stretched out her limbs in an attempt to slow her fall. Coarse shrubs and loose gravel tore at her skin. Everything was noise and chaos, and her vision still raced in furious circuits. She managed to flip onto her stomach, and after spreading out her limbs, her mad descent slowed to a stop.

Heart racing, she stared at the dirt in a mixture of disbelief and relief. If she had fallen any further—

A hand suddenly caught her ankle. She only had time to gasp before she started falling once again. Her stomach lurched as the ground suddenly slipped out from beneath her, and she was free-falling through the air. Time seemed to slow as the cliffs slipped away from her. Memories and thoughts drifted through her mind at a rapid glance—to quickly to linger over or register what they meant. Was this what people meant when they say, “I saw my life flash before my eyes?”

Inevitably, the crash came. Grace had expected to be ripped apart by the sharp rocks at the bottom of the gorge—or perhaps she would just be splattered against the ground like a bug on a windshield. Luckily, neither happened. Instead, she landed on something much softer than rock.

Something that shouted in pain at the contact.

It took her a little time to recover from the jarring landing, and even longer to sort through her rattled thoughts. Cradling her head with a hand, Grace rolled onto her stomach with a moan. Her vision spun as she glanced around in confusion. The bottom of the gorge was a little dark, but light enough to see that she had barely managed to miss the rows of sharp rock below. Somehow, she had ended up on a smoother slate of rock just above their peaks.

Nearby, a miserable form was curled up into a ball, groaning in pain. Grace eyed him warily, recognizing the blonde hair from the boy at the cave. At one time, she would have been quick to leap to his side and help, but now she felt reservations. Who was he? And what was he doing out here? More importantly, could he be trusted?

Before she could ask anything, the mountain rang with a pain-filled roar. Grace glanced up fearfully in time to see the rock Pokémon they had been running from, leaning over the ledge with baleful eyes. Grace held her breath, praying that the Gigalith wouldn’t try to leap in after them. The hulking beast, however, seemed satisfied with where they were. Snorting, it turned its shoulder and disappeared from sight.

“Is… it gone?”

Grace glanced over her shoulder, and saw the stranger staring at her worriedly. Her lips thinned into a tight line as her eyes fell to the arm he was cradling carefully. Old habits died hard, and though she still felt apprehensive, she couldn’t fight her instinct to help. Sighing in defeat, she approached the stranger.

“Where does it hurt?” she touched his arm tenderly.

He grimaced, but ignored her question. “S-sorry I… I didn’t mean for you to—”

The blonde-haired youth gasped as she purposely twisted his arm, cutting off his weak apologies. Though it was his fault she was stuck down here, she didn’t want to hear it right now. There were more important things to worry about—like getting out of this pit hole, for one.

“Where?” she asked again, her voice stern.

“It’s… all along my arm… But it hurts around the wrist the most.”

Grace frowned, noticing the swelling taking place around the wrist. She guessed that he had sprained it—and possibly fractured a bone in his forearm. If so, then he wouldn’t be able to climb his way out of here. He would need a lift out.

“I need to make an arm sling…” Grace mumbled to herself, shrugging her bag off her shoulders. Her back was a little sore from where the backpack had been crushed against her in the fall, but she ignored her own pain as she looked for something she could use. She regretted having not packed her usual first-aid gear; but in her defense, she hadn’t expected to do any rescues today. While she busied herself with the search, the blonde-haired boy watched warily.

“Do you have an extra shirt?” the hiker gave up her search, turning to the stranger hopefully.

The boy lifted his head in a nod—but abruptly stopped himself. “Um… I… guess. But—!”

Grace ignored his pause as she reached for the bag on his back.

“No! Wait!” he twisted away from her. The stranger grunted as the motion jarred his injured arm.

“What is the matter with you?” the female hiker demanded, irritated. “I’m just trying to help!”

“I know, but you can’t—!”

“Stop squirming,” she grabbed his shoulder and forced him to stay still as she grabbed the zipper to his bag. His final attempts at resisting her were futile; whether he wanted it or not, the bag was opened and its contents revealed.

Grace wasn’t sure what she was seeing at first, thanks to the weakened light. It looked like a messy wad of clothing that had been hastily stuffed inside for some unknown reason. Curiosity piqued, the hiker pulled out one of the wrinkled articles. Almost immediately, a lone insignia was revealed.

The world seemed to freeze at that point. Time slowed, space disappeared. Grace was only aware of the logo before her, and the pain that it had once wrought. Her hand tightened its grip on the white shirt as if trying to strangle the life out of the memory that now returned to haunt her. Leading a trio of “lost” trainers through the mountain. Never suspecting anything was wrong. Getting turned on at the end. The cries of her Pokémon as they were being taken from her. Sneering, greedy faces staring down at her in conceit. Their faces…

His face.

“Please,” the blonde-haired boy begged, his expression desperate—so unlike the twisted, arrogant face she had seen those years ago. “Let me explain.”

“You,” Grace growled, her voice low and dangerous. She shoved him to the ground, disregarding his injury. Though it must have pained him, the boy kept silent, silently wincing as he took the abuse.

“What are you doing here?” the hiker demanded, shouting hoarsely as she vented her rage. She wanted to kick him, hurt him, strangle him—anything to make him suffer for what he had done to her. Yet she remained rooted in place, not caring for any kind of reply; she only glared loathingly, wishing he would be swallowed up by the earth and disappear from her sight forever.

“I came to…” he trailed off, as if he couldn’t find the right words.

“Came back to tear apart more families, huh? Ruin more lives!” she finished for him. “One just wasn’t enough for you, was it?”

The stranger braved an upward glance, his eyes both baffled and fearful.

Grace was quivering with the furious riot of emotions within her. Outrage, incredulousness, hatred… each vied for voice. However, she tried to rein them in; she had to keep some control over herself. Gritting her teeth, she lowered her voice and asked, “What did you do with them?”

That dumb expression remained rooted on his face. Was he really that clueless? Could he really not remember the girl he had helped mug just two years ago?

“Where are they?” she repeated, her voice returning to a yell.

“I…” he started, but soon trailed off as his eyes finally lit up in recognition. Despair instantly crossed his face like a shadow. “No… You’re… you’re that girl…”

“Yes,” she raised her chin defiantly. “I’m that girl. I’m that girl who led you through the mountain, who thought she was doing a good deed. I’m the girl who you lied to, tricked. I’m the girl you left for dead, after you stole her Pokémon and—”

She couldn’t continue. The tears had come, brought on by the war of fury and sorrow waging within her. A pitiful sob wracked her body, further frustrating her. What was wrong with her? Why was she doing this? The vision of strength and defiance she had hoped to build up had been shattered as soon as her emotions had caught up with her. Grace wiped at eyes in annoyance, trying to regain her composure. She was not going to fall apart now—not in front of this Team Plasma grunt.

Forcing as much loathing into her gaze as possible, she returned a fierce glare back to the blonde. However, she was disarmed as she saw his expression. It was… pained. Regretful, even. Those sapphire eyes seemed as close to tears as she was.

“…and ruined her life,” he quietly finished, gaze dropping in shame.

Grace clenched her jaw, choosing to stay silent for the moment. She studied the boy for a moment, wondering what he was getting at. Two years of growth was evident on him—he seemed taller and leaner than when she met him. His blonde hair was longer, though not indecently so. The most striking difference, however, was the solemn look in his eye. He looked like he had been brought low, having the pride beaten out of him like metal at a forge.

Of course, nothing that he didn’t deserve.

The young woman narrowed her eyes. For all she knew, this could just be a front—a way of regaining her trust so that he could stab her in the back once again. She wasn’t going to fall for his tricks, not again.

The grunt sat up, being extra careful with his injured arm. His motions were slow and cautious, with those sapphire orbs of his never leaving Grace. She stared back with her arms folded across her chest in a tight, defensive posture. After finally falling into a comfortable position, the boy let out a weary sigh.

“Look,” he finally spoke after a brief, but tense, silence. “I know… I know that there’s nothing I can say to change what I’ve done…”

“No,” Grace coldly replied. “There isn’t.”

He paused in his broken speech, staring despondently at the ground. “No… You’re right. I did something horrible… I don’t blame you if you can never forgive me for what I’ve done. But please—I just need to… I need to say it, or I’ll never forgive myself.”

Grace stiffened, knowing what his next words were going to be. Still, she hardly believed her ears as he finished:

“I’m sorry.”

Those two simple words hung in the air between them, weighed down by a grief that Grace almost found believable. She was silent as the words seemed to physically hit her, soak into her being and bleed their way into her heart. Even while her mind doubted their truthfulness, her heart was beginning to feel their conviction. A new war began, waging between the cold logic of the new Grace, and the sympathy of the old Grace. With the wounds inflicted years ago, however, the battle was already one-sided. New Grace was lashing back, refusing to yield.

¬ “You’re sorry?” she seethed. “Really? That’s it? That’s all you have to say for yourself?”

The stranger winced, refusing to meet her livid glare. His sapphire eyes remained downcast as he mumbled hopelessly, “Yes.”

Grace abruptly turned away, tongue in cheek. This was all wrong. What was going on with this kid? She had spent the last two years loathing everything he stood for. He was one of the ruthless monsters that haunted her dreams. Now suddenly, he showed up out of nowhere, apologetic and… and… so human. She almost felt sorry for him.

No! She couldn’t think that way! What he did was evil. He was evil. For that, she could never forgive him.

She had to get out of there.

Casting the boy from her thoughts, Grace faced the walls. Her sharp eyes scanned the rock for footholds—anything she could use to climb. Unfortunately, the walls were basalt, resembling natural, vertical columns. Climbing them without proper gear would prove disastrous. If she fell again, she might not be as lucky as last time. Those pointed rocks still taunted her below… Grace sighed, not believing how unprepared she had been for this hike.


Grace jumped, startled by the sudden outcry. When she looked up, she held back a sigh of relief. A familiar face had appeared over the lip of the gorge: those fat cheeks could belong to no one else but Ricky.

“Ricky!” Grace hollered up at the Watchog. “Ricky, I’m right here! I’m all right!”

The creature chattered, sounding reassured. He paced up and down the side of the cliff, twitching his ears nervously.

Grace frowned at him before shouting back, “No, no! Stay up there! Listen closely! You need to go back and find help! Have them bring rope!”

Ricky’s yellow eyes blinked several times before he nodded in grim understanding. With a flash of his white-tipped tail, the Watchog disappeared from her sight. Grace’s mouth lifted in a smirk of satisfaction—only to fall seconds later as she realized her mistake. Now, she was obligated to stay put. That meant staying here. With him.

Last edited by Charmander009; 09-07-2012 at 07:59 AM.
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Old 09-06-2012, 07:27 AM
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Default Re: [Short] Grace

She sharply turned around, catching the boy staring at her seconds before he averted his gaze to his shoes. This was all his fault, as far as she was concerned. Then again, if she had never gone to the tunnel, she wouldn’t be here right now. Distancing herself as far from the boy as she could, Grace plopped down on the rock and started the waiting game. What was going to last longer? Her patience? Or her intolerance?

The grunt shifted uncomfortably under her steely gaze. After an awkward moment of silence, he decided to find some way to preoccupy himself. Grace watched as he removed his backpack—wincing as it came over his injured arm—and pulled out the shirt that had repulsed Grace so strongly. With halting, uncertain maneuvering, he tried to fashion his own sling. Clearly, he had no idea what he was doing, and it didn’t help that he only had one useful hand. Grace had to laugh at his pathetic attempts—a harsh, scornful laugh that lacked any kind of warmth.

He flinched at the tart sound. Staring at his crumbled clothing, he gave a hollow sigh. Giving up on the sling, he balled it up and placed it behind his neck, using it as a pillow.

Grace shook her head disapprovingly. She could see now that the boy was utterly unequipped to deal with the wilderness. The uncertain way he moved, the scarcity of his supplies… Why did he think he could take on Twist Mountain so unprepared? Even though she loathed this man, she couldn’t fight back her curiosity. After a long moment of studying him, the young woman asked, “What are you doing here?”

His eyes opened and stared at her in blank surprise—like he couldn’t believe she was speaking to him.

Scowling, Grace reminded him, “I asked you a question.”

“I know…” he glanced away again. Grace saw the way he seemed to turn into himself— folding his knees closer to his body, lowering his chin. It was like he was growing defensive, but not out of anger or indignation. It was out of fear. He was afraid of her. That revelation granted Grace some pleasure, at least.

“I…” the grunt spoke again. “I’m not really sure what I’m doing here.”

“Let me guess,” the young woman folded her arms. “Team Plasma sent you out here on a reckless mission to—”

“No! I have nothing to do with them anymore!”

Grace was taken aback by his sudden outburst. He had seemed so timid, up until now. At the mere mention of Plasma, something seemed to spark within him: a slow-dying ember left from an all-consuming fire. It wasn’t a shadow of the old grunt she had met before—but rather, a subtle hint to a bitter burning. She stayed silent as she studied him with renewed caution.

After a tense moment passed, the grunt let his shoulders droop. With a sigh, he quickly apologized, “I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have raised my voice.”

She still kept her mouth shut, though she crossed her arms while an unimpressed expression remained on her face. How many times was he going to apologize? Regardless the number, she still wasn’t willing to grant forgiveness for anything.

He hesitated as her silence continued, but didn’t seem dissuaded from explaining himself. Haltingly, he continued with a surprisingly bitter tone, “It’s just—I should have realized a long time ago. Team Plasma was a lie. We thought that we were doing something good, but… We were being used. Our lord N was being used.” The ex-grunt laughed bitterly. “Our King was nothing but a pawn. I guess that makes us grunts lower than dirt.”

“And you’re just realizing all this now?” Grace responded with sarcasm, lifting an eyebrow.

The boy closed his eyes and shook his head. “Unfortunately… I really have been an idiot.”

“Wow, that’s the understatement of the century,” her words were acidic.

He ducked his head and took the verbal abuse like he knew he deserved it. Grace was both surprised and annoyed that he made no effort to defend himself. Again, she was suspicious—Team Plasma was known for their silver tongues. They could turn the most illogical idea into a blossoming dream. She wasn’t about to let her guard down, not for an instant. Instead, she continued mocking him:

“Why would anybody in their right mind even want to join those creeps? Then again, I supposed you fit right in with them. All the filth in the world tends to collect together, doesn’t it?”

The ex-grunt nodded his head as if he agreed—which only further frustrated Grace. Was he really going to submit to everything she threw his way? She would feel better if he at least tried to fight back, or do something that showed he was faking. Why was it getting harder and harder to hate this guy?

“I wasn’t in the right mind,” he replied. Hesitation, again. “It was all about rebellion, really. I… I was just so angry at the world.” His eyes grew distant as if recalling a painful memory. “I felt like everyone I knew was just holding me back—my peers, my friends, my parents. My parents…”

The blonde hung his head in grief. “I treated them so horribly, never realizing that they were just trying to take care of me. Keep me safe. But I didn’t want their help. I wanted to get back at the world. So when Team Plasma showed up, wanting to change things… I joined them whole-heartedly.”

Now that sounded like the jerk she encountered two years ago. Thing was, that jerk just wasn’t here anymore. Grace watched the grunt as he shared his story, finding the regret a little too believable. If he was acting… she had to hand it to him: he was a good at it. Still, she didn’t interrupt his story. Grace waited for him to continue, oblivious to her own desire to hear more. She wanted this explanation—she wanted to understand why he had done the things he had done. More importantly, she wanted to know what was with his apparent transformation—or illusion.

“I really thought that they were doing the right thing, at first,” the story went on. “There was this spokesperson that came to our town who explained their cause—long before I ever met any grunts. His words were so convincing; he really knew how to twist the truth. There were people who saw through his lies, of course, but I wasn’t one of them. I remember friends and family trying to convince me otherwise. I wouldn’t listen to them. I ran away from home to become a Team Plasma grunt.”

“I should have known that first week that something was wrong. Here I had this perfect, painted picture in my head about what Team Plasma was about, and then I find out that the grunts are nothing like the peaceful protestors at the park. I was surprised by how they acted towards other people—but I was even more shocked with how they treated Pokémon. They talked about liberating them, but what that really meant was stealing them from their Trainers then exploit them to steal some more. Sometimes they were just downright abusive to those creatures, like they were just tools.

“I remember one grunt explaining it like this: that liberation came in two acts. The first half was about convincing humans to separate. The second part would be convincing the Pokémon to stay separated. She said that it might be tough, but if we didn’t treat them bad enough they would come right back to humans. Like a regular idiot, I bought into that. Then I got more and more involved in their politics, their crimes. I became one of them…

His next words came out haltingly, “I… I kept excusing my behavior, thinking that it was for the greater good. I started placing myself above those who weren’t part of the team, thinking that I was better than them. They were the fools who couldn’t see the past the lies the world had built. They were the criminals, enslaving Pokémon and forcing them to follow their will. I never even realized what a hypocrite I’d become. It’s… almost like there was this haze that clouded my judgment. Everything I did was because all the other grunts were doing it. It was… a fad, a craze—”

“A cult,” added Grace softly.

The ex-grunt blinked, as if suddenly remembering that she was there. He nodded, repeating, “A cult…”

Both were silent once more—though this silence was more contemplative then tense. The grunt seemed to reminisce in his memories, while Grace pondered his story. It… made sense, she guessed, but she wasn’t sure how to take it. She never heard—much less considered—what it felt like to be a grunt, and here was an inside story. It wasn’t pretty, of course, and it still left her with one unanswered question. How did he break through this “haze”?

This time, she was the one to hesitate when she asked, “So… what happened?”

Last edited by Charmander009; 09-06-2012 at 07:30 AM.
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Old 09-06-2012, 07:27 AM
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Default Re: [Short] Grace

The corner of his mouth lifted, but there was no joy in his expression. “King N fell. He was defeated at the League. Then the truth was revealed. In one night, the empire that had once been Team Plasma was decimated. It was like the floor had been swept out beneath us. We lost everything we had, and became wanted criminals. Lost and confused, some of the grunts tried to stick with some of Team Plasma’s old leadership—the Seven Sages—but that got them nowhere. Others went off on their own, trying to disappear from society. I… I felt like I had been slapped awake. Everything I had worked for, everything I believed… It had all been a lie.

“All the people who I thought were my friends abandoned me. I was left alone to face the consequences of my choices.”

His next words came out choked: “The shock finally allowed me to see how much people hated me. They really, truly hated me—not just for what I had done, but for what I had stood for. The things they said pierced me through and through, and even after I ran from them, thier words stuck with me, torturing me in nightmares and daydreams. I had no way to defend myself, because I wasn’t sure what I believe in anymore.

“To be stripped of your pride like that… It really makes you aware of yourself, though you never find anything pretty. Still, I finally came to realize the monster I had become. I kept running and hiding, both from people and my own mistakes. But… no matter how hard I try… there always there… The memories… Nothing will change what I’ve done.”

The ex-grunt shuddered, closing his eyes as if to shut out said memories. “So now, all I do is wander. I feel too ashamed to go back home. I feel certain that my parents probably hate me, too. They had been right all the long, but… It’s just so hard to admit that you’re wrong, you know? Besides… they’re good people. And… they deserve a better son.”

The grunt opened his eyes and looked back to Grace, whose guarded posture had relaxed somewhat. “You asked me earlier why I came here. Well… I’m not sure myself, but I guess it’s because… I want to lose myself.”

Lose himself… Wasn’t that the self-same reason Grace had come here? She had been running too, trying to escape the losses she had. The young woman wasn’t sure how to take all this in. She stared at the ground, staying silent long after the grunt stopped speaking. How was it that the resentment she had been building up for years had been weakened after a few minutes of story-telling? The suspicion was still there, of course, but now she was beginning to doubt. What if he was telling the truth?

She lifted her gaze upward, where, beyond the lip of the gorge, cottony clouds were sailing through the sapphire sky. Grace wished that Ricky would appear with the help they needed so she wouldn’t have to deal with this anymore. Couldn’t she go on hating the world like she had been doing?

Then again… Where would that get her? A great heaviness suddenly weighed down on Grace, and it took her a while to figure out why she had grown so weary. The revelation struck her as she glanced back down at the boy: she was tired of being angry. All that pent up fire, the rage built against her enemies… it had only burned within her. No one else had been touched by the flames—especially not the ones the anger was directed to. This ex-grunt had gone through his own misery, of course, but none of it had to do with her. In fact, he hadn’t remembered her up until falling in this pit.

Minutes passed without any kind of exchange. The boy was resting against the gorge’s wall with his eyes closed, trying to shut out the pain that must surely be afflicting him. His arm was still cradled against his stomach, untreated and unprotected. Even from a distance, Grace could see the swelling. She felt a pang of guilt, knowing she could do something to ease the pain. Yet, she was prepared to extend a hand to him. Her help was just as conditional as her forgiveness—and she wasn’t yet willing to grant the latter. Not yet.

First, he needed to understand what she had been through. He needed to know the full consequence of what he had done to her. Perhaps the boy had been through enough grief, but if Grace was going to get through this as well, she needed to tell her story.

“My dad used to take me out to Twist Mountain all the time,” she broke the silence with her quiet voice. The grunt’s eyes opened, both startled and curious. Ignoring his look, she continued, “He showed me every inch of it, down to the last moss-covered rock. He taught me how to work with the mountain, rather than against it. Everything I know about the wilderness, I owe to him.”

Grace folded her knees against her chest as she continued, “When I was twelve, he was killed in a rock slide. It was just me and my mom, for a while. But after some time, I started finding friends in Pokémon. Some of them had been my dad’s, while others I had met on my own. Those Pokémon filled in the hole that was left by my father’s death. We formed a team that quickly grew into a family. A close-knit family, as real as any.”

Grace smiled fondly at the memory, even as a single tear crossed her cheek. “We went out on the mountain with every chance we had, but not just to explore. We came here to help people and Pokémon who were lost or hurt. I guess the reason why I did that was because I wanted to make sure that what happened to my father would never happen again. I would use my knowledge to save others. I think… that’s what he would have wanted.”

Tears were falling in earnest now, and the young hiker sobbed miserably, “Wh-when you took them from me… It was like I was losing him all over again. But this t-time, t-the hole’s deeper… A-and I can’t… there’s not enough to fill it back in…” She forced herself to look him in the eye, even if hers were veiled with water. “I-I don’t even feel like myself anymore. I can’t trust anyone I meet. I’m always s-sad o-o-or angry, and I… I just can’t…”

She couldn’t finish. The sorrow finally overwhelmed her, plunging her into an earnest cry. The young woman buried her face in her knees, letting the tears fall as they never had since she first lost her Pokémon. The strong, cold visage that she had tried to build up shattered like broken glass. New Grace would have been horrified at how she had broken down in front of the young man, but she didn’t care at the moment. She had finally put words to the pain she had been enduring these past few years, and though it brought back awful memories it also gave her a strange sense of release.

“Why?” she breathed between sobs, her voice barely a whisper. “Why did you do it? Why did you take them from me?”

“Please, don’t,” she heard the stranger return. His voice was soft but hoarse, as if also straining against emotion. Was he crying, too? “Don’t cry…”

Grace felt a sudden pressure on her arm, but it took her a moment to realize that it was him.

“I’m so sorry,” he kept whispering over and over, voice tight with emotion. “I’m so sorry…”

She wanted to recoil. Part of her screamed with repulsion, wanting to get as far away from him as possible. Yet most of her had given up. She didn’t want the anger anymore. She didn’t want this gaping hole where her heart should be. She wanted to be Grace, again. More than anything, she wanted things to return to how they had been before she met Team Plasma.

Yet the words that would grant her that release still eluded her. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t say what needed to be said. Instead, she continued to cry, unable to tell whether or not the tears that fell on her arm belonged to her or not.

After some time, the tears ceased. Grace’s breathing returned to normal—save for the occasional sniffling—and the ex-grunt’s hand retreated. The hiker wiped the water from her cheeks before braving a glance in his direction. She was shocked to see that his face was wet as well.

He cleared his throat, though his reddened eyes remained downcast. In a soft, broken voice, he uttered, “Grace is your name… I remember now…”

“You forgot it?” her tone was meant to sound bitter, but it came out sounding weary instead.

“There’s… too many names, too many faces,” he shook his head, looking haunted. He let out a sigh, though his breath caught half-way through. “I… I understand if you can’t forgive me. I wouldn’t, if I was you; but… Grace…”

His voice quavered, but he was determined to go on. “Grace, I want to do everything in my power to make it up to you. I swear to you, I will search every last inch of Unova for them. If not in Unova, I go to the ends of the world. I will not rest until I find them.”

Grace stared at him searchingly. The battle between the cynical New Grace and the hopeful Old Grace was reaching its climax. She wanted to believe him, but it sounded too good to be true. Was it even possible?

“How can I trust you?” she asked, sensing that the battle would soon be decided.

The boy’s expression fell, becoming pained once more. “I guess there’s no reason for you to. But, Grace... I will never do anything to hurt you again. I couldn’t…”

Why was he offering her this? Didn’t he realize how fragile hope was? Like a butterfly, it had beauty and grace—but like a butterfly, it was fleeting and short-lived. If he gave her this hope, then crushed it in the end, he would hurt her more deeply than ever before. Surely, his cruelty knew no bounds. This couldn’t be real. This had to be fake.

But it was real, a voice seemed to tell her. She recalled how he had cried with her as she told her story. He had actually cried! No actor could have called forth such tears—especially not that grunt she had met on the mountain years ago. She actually felt those tears; she had felt his grief, and it had been real. Grace could still see it lingering in those blue eyes of his, yet there was something else in his gaze as well.

It was hope—fragile as a butterfly, but longing for the freedom of flight.

Grace’s eyes slowly fell to his hands, one of which was still swelling. Unfolding her legs, she moved closer to him and gently took his broken arm. Without a word, she inspected it, then retrieved the discarded white shirt. Calling upon her knowledge of first aide, she prepared both a splint and a sling. She did not withdraw until she was satisfied with her work, giving orders which were silently but obediently followed.

“Thank you,” the young man said softly when she finally finished.

Grace only gave a nod as she sat back. She regretted that she could not do more, thanks to the lack of proper supplies. Hopefully, when they got out of the gorge, he could get some ice to help bring the swelling down. Exhaling slowly, she closed her eyes.

“What’s your name?” she asked after a brief silence.

“My name,” he glanced up to the sky thoughtfully. “It’s been so long… My real name is Logan.”

Help didn’t arrive until fifteen minutes later. Ricky didn’t just return with Grace’s mother—he showed up with a team of at least a dozen people. It might have been overkill, but Grace was glad that they understood Ricky’s urgency. They were able to pull both her and the injured young man from the gorge without a problem. As Grace explained what happened that afternoon, she purposely left out the fact that Logan was once a Team Plasma Grunt. No one seemed to recognize him from two years ago, and luckily no one saw his spare clothes (the white shirt had been discarded when he received proper medical attention, and Grace had cleverly hid the insignia so that it wouldn’t show).

Grace didn’t see Logan after they were rescued. Her mother practically incarcerated her at home for a few weeks, and though she was allowed to go to the hospital to visit Logan, she never went. He seemed to take the hint; after he was released, he left Driftveil without saying goodbye. After his departure, life seemed to pick up for Grace. The anger and loneliness that had once haunted her seemed to slip away from her, and bit by bit she was beginning to feel like her old self. She went back to the mountain after that, and once or twice she actually helped some passing travelers.

The first package came two months after he left. Grace was surprised to find it one morning resting on the kitchen cupboard, right before she was about to set out for Twist Mountain. She hardly ever received mail, so she wasn’t sure whether to be excited or suspicious. Still, she set aside her backpack and scooped it up.

The box wasn’t large; it was just the right size to easily slide into a mailbox. The cardboard seemed to be a little roughed up, and Grace could detect the faint scent of the ocean emanating from it. While it had her name and address on it, she couldn’t locate a return address anywhere. Frowning, the hiker finally tore at the tape and opened it up.

Her hands froze the instant she saw what was inside. Nestled in a bed of packaging Styrofoam was an unmistakable blue and red orb—a Great Ball. Behind it, wedge beside the box wall, was a hand-written note.

…Could it be?

Hands now shaking, Grace plucked the note from the box. She read it over and over, her brain hardly registering what it said until the fifth run-through.


I know you probably haven’t forgiven me, but I want you to know that I stand by my promise. More are on the way.


Grace set the note aside and stared at the Great Ball as if she feared it could disappear at any moment. Only after she wrapped her fingers around it did she realize it was real. Her breath caught excitedly as she tapped on the lock, allowing it to expand in her hand. Casting aside all fear and doubt, Grace tossed the capsule in the air, triggering the release. White light illuminated the room, and even before the ball’s occupant materialized grateful tears were falling.

I did forgive you, Logan…


Last edited by Charmander009; 09-06-2012 at 07:32 AM.
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