The day was humid, the sky gray. Jarica walked along the route that would take them into Petalburg Woods. Eevee strode alongside her, sniffing at fresh spring grass and enjoying the cool breeze. Jarica inhaled deeply and closed her eyes for a brief moment. It might not have been a bright, warm day, but she loved the wild smell of the forest and the possibility of rain.
"Feels good out here, doesn't it?" She asked quietly. She exhaled, feeling more refreshed. "What shall we do today?"
Eevee looked up to watch a group of tailows flying away from the trees ahead.
"Eeee..." It squealed curiously. Jarica watched the birds fly away, silently wishing she had the badge that would give her the right to Fly too.
Jarica and Eevee had left the bustling city of North Petalburg early, so that they could pass through the Petalburg Woods without having to stop there for the night. They had been trekking through the forest for about a couple hours since their departure, and were alert for small rustlings in the undergrowth. Most of them seemed to come from behind them, Jarica noticed, but didn't take any heed until the sounds became louder. They rounded a bend in the road and continued on, Jarica setting the pace a bit faster.
They were nearing the middle of the woods. A snap of a twig make Jarica's heart skip a beat, and she stopped. Were they being followed? Eevee turned around and pricked his ears in the direction they had come. A moment later Jarica heard it; rapid footfalls, coming up the road. Whoever it is, they mean business. We'd better not get in the way. Frightened, Jarica swept Eevee of the ground and into her arms, and leapt off the road and behind a tree.
It was darker and cooler here, and Jarica pressed her back against a large tree, hiding them from whatever may be coming. Quietly she feared it might be one of the big gangs that existed in Hoenn...The last thing Jarica wanted was for her pokemon to be taken away from her to be used in deeds she didn't even agree with.
She knew whoever was making the footsteps couldn't have been what had made the twig snap, and her eyes darted around in sudden panic that there could be some shady criminal anywhere. What if it had been a trap? Like an ambush? Hadn't the news the night before said something about a thief on the loose? The woods off the road were so dark they blocked what little light there was, and Jarica couldn't see into the gloom. It was the perfect setting to jump a passing trainer. Jarica shut her eyes, and forced herself to take a breath, assuring herself that everything was fine, and that it was probably just another trainer impatient to reach the next town. She smiled in an effort to calm herself. You're just being a scardy cat.
But Jarica's heart suddenly started beating faster as the footfalls grew louder. Jarica clutched the tense Eevee closer, waiting for them to pass so they could continue on.
But the footfalls slowed and stopped on the route just behind them. Jarica could hear heavy breathing from behind the tree where they hid with her back to it. Her heart beat faster, and beads of sweat formed on her forehead. Why had they stopped on the route? Why there? Why now? Then Jarica heard a voice.
"I know you're there," Spoke a feminine voice. It spoke evenly, despite having just run all that way. Jarica didn't move, but darted her eyes around. What should she do? Eevee let out a low growl. "Come out." Ordered the voice. Then added more softly, "I need your help," Jarica couldn't ignore someone who needed help. After all, wasn't that part of her duty as a trainer? To help those in rightful need, despite your own personal fears? She took a breath, smelling the damp, musty scent of the forest, and stepped out from behind the tree. Eevee struggled out of her grasp and took an aggressive stance toward the newcomer, growling suspiciously. Jarica looked at the stranger in confusion.
There was no one around but a pokemon, standing alone on the path. Jarica looked at it in awe. It was a rare pokemon that Jarica had never seen before with her own eyes. An absol, once said to be the bringers of chaos. She called out unsurely to it.
"Where is your trainer?" The absol made no move but stared deeply into Jarica's eyes, as if trying to see something familiar there. Jarica took a step closer. It took a ridged step back, as if it wanted to keep distance between itself and the trainer.
It must be wild...
"I need your help." The voice came again. Jarica looked around in confusion. She stared into the trees on either side of the road, searching out any face or source of the voice.
"Who are you? Where are you? Come out! I can't help you if I don't know where you are!" She cried. Eevee looked back at his trainer with concern.
"But you can. I am here." The voice insisted. Jarica again rested her gaze on the white feline-like dog before them. The scythe on its head was long and sharp, and its red eyes burned into Jarica's. The trainer's eyes widened.
"Are you...?" She trailed off, mouth gaping in amazement.
"Yes." Came the voice again, stronger this time. Although the absol's mouth hadn't moved, Jarica could now hear that the sound of the voice was coming from its direction, and yet no direction at all; It was in her mind. "You understand." The absol confirmed. "We must hurry."
I've heard of a talking meowth before, and certain species of pokemon that could speak through telepathy... Jarica shook off her confusion and mounting questions.
"How can I help you?" She asked.
"My friend is in danger. Follow me." In a dash the absol had taken off into Petalburg Woods. Jarica gasped and tore off after it. Eevee squeaked in surprise and followed closely behind.
"Where are we going?" Jarica cried.
"You will know." The voice said simply. Jarica pushed herself to keep up with the white dog, and hoped Eevee was keeping up too. No one said anything else until the absol slowed down as they neared the edge of the forest.
Jarica collapsed in exhaustion on the grass by absol, taking in deep breaths of air. Along with the smell of spring, she smelled dirt and the scent of rain. I wanted to get to the next town before the rain started... She thought to herself wistfully. It wasn't looking like they would make it in time. Eevee caught up a moment later, and crouched beside them. Absol waited until Jarica's breathing evened out. "Look." It spoke in her mind and rose its face to look at the clearing beyond the trees. Jarica followed its gaze.
A single house stood in the growing drizzle. Lit windows and smoke rising from the chimney told her it was occupied. It looked messy, with piles of dirt and materials in one area of the clearing, and other junk clustered around a large open garage behind the house. A truck sat on the pavement by the door, the driveway leading off into the forest on the other side of the clearing. It was completely surrounded by trees, and Jarica had no idea it had been here. She glanced at Absol.
"This is someone's private home," She urged. "We shouldn't be here."
"You must help. You are our only hope." Absol insisted. Jarica became confused again.
"I don't see anything wrong here. And if there is, why not get someone else to help you? Why am I your only hope?"
"Because I see in you what I need to help us." Jarica eyed the pokemon suspiciously. Although it looked at her with an expressionless face, she had the feeling it wasn't telling her something. It sighed as if having read her mind.
"I had a brother," It started, sitting down. "He found that it was his destiny to go with a young trainer to help him on his way. My brother ended up losing his life trying to defend that trainer."
"I'm so sorry..." Jarica started. "But what does that have to do with me?"
Absol locked eyes with Jarica. "That trainer was your cousin." Jarica's heart skipped a beat.
"What? How do you know?" Jarica herself hadn't even met her cousin. How could this pokemon possibly know?
"I know. I can sense it. And I can sense that it is part of your destiny to help me here."
"But what's going on here?!" Jarica exclaimed loudly. Absol glanced anxiously at the house. Jarica repeated more quietly. "What needs helping?" Absol was silent a moment as it gazed at the house in despair.
"I was alone after my brother left. I had to fend for myself, and I wound up in a trap. A manectric found me and helped me. He had a different owner at that time, and took me to his home. He and his owner helped heal me. When I was strong enough, I went back into the wild, and Manectric often came to visit me. Since that day that Manectric has been my friend. He's taken the place of my brother." Absol paused. "But that owner sold him to the man who lives here."
"And the problem is...?"
"This owner is cruel. This owner makes him work. Yells at him. Hurts him. He can't be himself when he's trapped in that house. His owner rarely lets him go into the woods anymore. Lately it's gotten worse. His owner is an alcoholic. Today he hurt my friend badly, and he won't stop. Manectric needs to escape." Absol turned her eyes to Jarica. "You must help him."
"Me?!" Jarica exclaimed. "What can I possibly do? I can't just intrude on someone's property and tell them that the way they live is wrong! How they raise and use their pokemon is their choice, is it not? People use pokemon for work all the time! And even if the owner is as mean as you say, isn't this a case for the authorities?"
"You ARE the authority here." The absol concluded firmly, then went on with a hint of hopelessness. "There is nothing I can do. I am free, and if I go into that house again, I will be trapped too."
"So you'd rather have ME go in the house?" Jarica asked bleakly. At that moment a shadow fell across a window of the house. They all ducked behind some bushes, the pitter-patter of rain on the leaves splashing in her ears, and peered out. There was a large bearded man in the window, looking out into the forest. Tattoos crossed his arms, and a permanent scowl twisted his face. Looking at him, Jarica could imagine he was someone who hated the world.
"I agree he looks mean," Jarica whispered. "But without proof for myself, I can't act..."
Absol looked annoyed. "The man does not like me. He thinks it is bad for Manectric to have a friend who is free. If proof is what you need, I can show you proof."
Absol got up and pushed its way out of the bushes. Jarica gasped as she watched it enter the clearing. The man in the window spotted her at once and moved quickly out of view. He came back holding what looked like a stick. He opened the window and Jarica gasped in horror when she realized it was a rifle, aiming right for Absol- and Jarica and Eevee, who were right behind, in the bushes. The absol dashed another way so that the man had to change his angle away from Jarica and Eevee. If a stray bullet came their way, at least they wouldn't be hurt. He fumbled with the rifle a moment before realizing it was empty, and threw it down angrily.
The man called inside "Intruder!" and hastily left the window. The front door opened and a small manectric leaped out, growling savagely. A gash on his back bled, and it appeared that no attempt had been made to fix it. The man stood barefoot in the doorway.
"This damn absol has gotten on my nerves! If it won't keep away, then it's time for it to die!" The man declared. "Kill!" Jarica covered her mouth to stop herself from gasping in fear. The manectic slid in the mud and stopped, growling at his enemy a moment before realizing it was his friend. Absol looked uneasy, but held her ground. Had she seen this coming like the way she knew Jarica was coming up the road?
"Kill!" The owner ordered again. "Now!" The manectric growled lowly and took an unsure step forward. Absol stepped back. The two had locked eyes, and Jarica wondered if they too communicated telepathically. The rain washed blood down the manectric's side and dropped from his fur, mixing the scarlet drops with oily brown water.
What can I do? Jarica thought desperately. Absol was right! That pokemon won't last in this home for much longer!
The man took a step out of the door way towards the manectric, nearly slipping in a puddle. He recovered, and rage twisted his face to something more sinister. "DO IT!!!" The man roared. "THUNDER!!!"
The manectric took a fast breath; absol leaped into the air. With a fierce snarl the blue and yellow dog unleashed a powerful thunderbolt, striking the puddle absol had stood in. the raindrops lit up as an electric current jumped through them, and pulsed through the puddles by the water that lie heavily on the wet ground. Absol had landed on a tire that lay on its side not far from the house, and Jarica watched in horror as the current swarmed towards the man and seized him. He shook violently, sparks swarming around him as he made a horrible sound of pain. The manectric stopped the thunder attack and the man collapsed, splashing into the puddle where he had stood. The manectric dashed to his owner's side. He looked down at the fried body and whimpered. Absol leapt from the tire and dashed to the manectric's side, pulling his tail with her teeth.
Jarica stood, feeling her legs wobble after having sat crunched up so long, and splashed across the clearing to the man. Eevee was right behind, for once not minding the rain. The manectric looked up and growled, but Absol looked at him and must have said something, for the manectric quieted. Jarica leaned over the unconscious man and placed her hand on his throat to feel for a pulse. It was there. She heaved a sigh of relief.
"We have to get him inside." Jarica concluded, knowing that they couldn't leave him in the rain- no matter how bad of a person he was. "Help me," She grabbed his arms and absol and the manectric grabbed his clothes in their teeth. Eevee was huddled under the man's truck for shelter and watched. There wouldn't be much the small pokemon could do in lifting the heavy man anyway. Slowly they heaved and drug the limp body into the shelter of the house.
The inside of the house smelled like dog, smoke, and alcohol. Jarica coughed and tried in vain to cover her nose. She noticed there were fresh drops of blood on the carpet, and knew it was from manectric. There were old bloodstains too, and Jarica wondered just how much abuse the dog had been forced to suffer. Absol suddenly grew restless and dropped the man and dashed back outside. Jarica thought of how brave the pokemon must be to go into the house where it was afraid it would become a prisoner.
They got to the living room, and Jarica motioned towards the fireplace. They may as well leave him in front of it where he could dry off. Jarica noticed the sharp end of one of the fireplace pokers was wet with blood. Was that what had given Manectric his wound?
Suddenly the man's eyes began to move. He let out a pained groan and the surprised Jarica dropped him beside the lit fireplace. The jerk woke him and he looked around deliriously. He spied his dog and his face again twisted in fury. Fear entered manectric's eyes and he dashed away, towards the front door, with his tail between his legs. As Jarica leaped over the man to follow, the man suddenly grabbed a broken bottle from the fireplace and swung it at Jarica. The hot glass caught her leg, and she cried out in pain and fell to the ground with a thud. The trainer was stunned a moment but forced herself to crawl towards the door. What would he do if he caught her? Hearing her cry, the manectric slid to a stop on a carpet and turned around, barking. He hurled himself back across the living room and leapt on his owner as he was getting up, knocking him to the ground again. What did Absol say to him to suddenly make him so brave? Jarica thought briefly as she scrambled away from where the small Manectric kept his owner busy.
Absol peered in the living room, and at the sight of Jarica, loped to her side. Grateful and relieved of the help, Jarica laid an arm around the absol and got to her feet. Laying a hand carefully on its scythe, Jarica let it lead her outside. Jarica stepped out into the rain, trying not to slip in the mud, and started as fast as she could across the clearing towards the forest where they had come. Eevee came running through the rain when he saw the wound, and walked alongside Jarica and Absol, who kept looking back at the house. Jarica's heart pounded loudly in her chest, and her body trembled with fear.
"Come on!" Jarica called desperately to the manectric in the house. It ran out of the door a moment later at full speed, and she prayed silent thanks that the man hadn't caught him. It passed her up quickly and pelted into the undergrowth and out of sight. Jarica could feel her cut bleeding, her own blood mixing with the rain and the manectric's blood that had already fallen. Jarica was half way across the clearing with absol and Eevee by her side when she heard the man coming to the door behind them. She heard the 'click-click' of gun being cocked and limped faster, a choked gasp escaping her. Adrenalin coursed through her, making the pain from the cut on her leg nothing more than a numb scratch. The two pokemon by her side broke away from her and took a place between the escaping trainer and the man. They began hurling lite attacks and defensive moves to keep the man at bay, following Jarica backwards until they were in the safety of the trees. Then they all turned and ran. Even Jarica was able to run; the thick canopy of leaves overhead had blocked most of the rain so the ground was solid and dry. Soon they were out of sight of the house. Then they heard a single shot, then silence.
They kept running until they had put a considerable distance between themselves and the house of horrors. Jarica was gasping for breath, the pokemon loping beside her panting from the run. Suddenly, Jarica's leg gave out, and she crashed to the mossy ground.
"Oof!" She huffed as the breath was knocked out of her. Eevee nuzzled her. Jarica looked up. Absol was standing just ahead of her, waiting for Jarica to get up.
"Go...find your friend." She said between breaths, and clenched her eyes shut with the effort of pushing herself up. When she opened her eyes again, Absol was already gone, the branches of a fern swaying where she had quickly vanished. Jarica rolled over to a sitting position, leaning her back against a nearby tree. I hope they'll be alright, She fretted as she caught her breath. She closed her eyes to let herself breathe before moving again. Jarica felt a warmth beside her, and opened her eyes to see Eevee leaning into her, licking the area around Jarica's wound.
"No, Eevee..." Jarica shunned the little fox away. Everything in the house had looked dirty, and who knows what filth the bottle that cut her could have been contaminated with? Eevee looked up stared into his trainer's eyes with concern. "Don't worry about it..." Jarica wiped away the blood with her hand, and tried to pick out any bits of dirt from the cut. There weren't any pieces of glass, to her relief. She took her backpack off, and opened one compartment. She searched through it until she found the right bottle, and took it out. "Since I didn't think to bring any first aid for myself, this'll have to do for now..." Jarica murmured as she took the cap off of the heal potion and sprayed it on her leg. She winced at the sharp sting and felt it flow into the gash and begin repairing the damage, sewing the skin back together and calming the nerves that caused pain. Jarica sighed in relief and laid her head back on the tree trunk, closing her eyes to relax.
"Can you help him, too?" Asked a familiar voice. Jarica opened her eyes with surprise. The absol stood before her, eyes glinting with worry in the gloomy forest. Manecric was crouched behind her, trembling and bloody. The smell of so much blood nearly overwhelmed Jarica, but she nodded numbly and motioned for the manectric to come closer. He creeped forward a few small pawsteps, and Jarica had to crawl the rest of the way over to him to look at his wound. Absol stood back to give her room, and Eevee leaned into the wild pokemon. Eevee's tired too. Jarica noticed. We've got to find a Pokemon Center tonight.
The manectric's wound was deep, and ran along both his shoulders. How it had come to be there was a mystery to her, but she had a nagging suspicion it was from the fireplace tool. There were also tiny shards of glass, and Jarica gently picked them out. She guessed he'd been hit by the same bottle that had cut her leg. The blue and yellow manectric flinched every time Jarica touched the gash, and she murmured soothing words to him. She had to clean the wound before sealing it; if she didn't get all the glass out first, then they'd be stuck in there after the healing, and would continue to hurt him from the inside. After she was positive that she had gotten all the bits of glass out, and had used a light from her poketech to check for any more, she picked up the potion bottle and sprayed it on one side of the pokemon. He snarled at the pain, and Jarica flinched away. Absol stretched out a paw to touch the manectric comfortingly. Jarica continued to spray the medicine, ignoring the manectric's growls. When she finished she took the bottle away and watched the medicine finish its job. The bleeding had stopped, but the skin pulled itself together only half way. If he moved it, it would probably reopen easily. Jarica sighed.
"There's only so much that medicine can do..." She murmured. "You need to see a nurse for this. We need to go to a Pokemon Center."
The manectric glanced up at her with hope in his eyes, as if the idea appealed to him. Absol seemed quite the opposite, and Jarica knew she was too fond of her freedom to go into a town full of humans.
"Can you walk?" Jarica asked the manectric, standing to give him room to move. The dog tested his legs before standing up fully, but was still crouched somewhat. He took a tentative step forward, his toes spread for balance. Jarica looked at them in surprise. For the first time, she noticed that the manectric only had two toes on each foot. Absol must have noticed her staring, for she spoke to her.
"He was born that way. His owner bought him at a cheap price because he was deformed, and forced him to work. But manectric couldn't do everything like others of his kind could, so the man began treating manectric badly. He thinks Manectric is worthless, and started blaming manectric for everything bad that happened."
"How horrible..." Jarica murmured softly. She could see that underneath the guarded and frightened exterior that there was a great pokemon underneath. One with a great personality and spirit. She shook the thoughts of the manectric's troubled past away.
"Let's get you to a center and get that wound properly tended to." Jarica said, looking at the weak manectric. He looked up at Jarica, and she could clearly see the pain in his eyes. She sighed. He wasn't going to make it far in his condition. ,i>There's only one way...</i> She knelt beside him, resting a gentle hand on an uninjured part of his back. She felt no electricity jumping through his fur, which would have been normal for an electric type.
"Manectric, will you go inside a pokeball so I can get you to a healing center? We could be there in minutes if you did."
Manectric looked unsure about the idea, and tried to force himself to his feet. He flinched and crouched again, growling with pain. He looked at Absol. Her eyes looked worried, and she nodded slightly. Manectric looked back up to Jarica, and with a soft whimper, laid his head on his paws. Jarica smiled sympathetically and reached into her pokeball pocket to pull out a ball. It was a premiere ball, the only one Jarica had. This is no time to be picky... She thought to herself.
Jarica touched the ball to Manectric, and the dog was instantly seized by a white light. A moment later he became nothing more than energy and was absorbed by the pokeball. The ball didn't shake in Jarica's hand as it normally did when wild pokemon struggled to escape. Instead, Manectric settled at once, and the pokeball's button flashed red, showing it was a successful capture. Jarica let Absol sniff it curiously before standing, and called out NightMare. The fiery horse appeared and shook its mane out, looking around curiously. Looking down, the horse stared at absol with interest. Jarica jumped up onto the pony, gripping its sides tightly with her legs and taking hold of the horse's bridle. Eevee hopped up with her.
"Absol, I hope you can keep up. We have to get to the Pokemon Center right away." Absol nodded as Jarica kicked NightMare's sides lightly and they started off into the forest. Absol kept up steadily behind them. As the trees thinned out, they picked up their pace until they were racing along the route Jarica had been on, on the way to the next city or town.
They arrived about five minutes later, and slowed to a trot as they reached the town entrance. Absol barked. Jarica and NightMare halted and turned around.
"I...I cannot venture into a city..." The absol stammered, taking steps back. "Take care of Manny."
Without another word, the absol turned and within a couple bounds had vanished into the forest. Jarica looked after her sadly. It must be hard for her to see her best friend being taken away, but Jarica supposed Absol knew it was in the manectric's best interest. With a sigh, Jarica turned NightMare away and the ponyta trotted quickly into the town. The sky was getting darker, and Jarica supposed a storm was rolling in. She was thankful that for now the rain had stopped, and the air was still. The calm before the storm... She thought, suddenly worrying for the wild absol. It was used to having someone with her, and now she had no one. She pushed the thought of it away, however. It was wild, so it must have survived many bad storms.
Jarica spotted a pokemon center, and NightMare instinctively swerved towards it, picking up her pace to a canter. They reached the doors and Jarica swung her legs off the fire horse, and then recalled it to its ball. "Thank you for your assistance, NightMare." Jarica whispered as she put the ball away and rushed into the center with Eevee running beside her. There were a couple trainers waiting at the front desk for their turn to have their pokemon refreshed, but Jarica didn't care. She ran past them to the front. Some of them yelled in protest, but Jarica ignored it and called urgently to Nurse Joy. The nurse turned to Jarica with surprise and concern.
"What could be so urgent that you can't wait in line?"
"This!" Jarica said, handing manectric's pokeball to her quickly. "Please, you have to help him. He's very hurt!" Worry flared in Joy's eyes, and she hastily took the ball from Jarica, and turned briefly towards the waiting line of annoyed trainers.
"I'll just use this machine to check how badly hurt the pokemon is," She assured them. "It will only take a second to diagnose." She turned away again quickly and put the ball on a metal pedestal by a computer. She lowered a glass over the ball and pushed some buttons. There was a series of flashes from the glass and information started appearing on the monitor, although Jarica couldn't see what it was. Nurse Joy gasped and turned to Jarica.
"This pokemon is in horrible condition!" She exclaimed. The waiting trainers looked at each other and began to murmur, casting judgmental glares towards Jarica. Jarica suddenly realized how she must look, bringing a half dead pokemon to the center. Before anyone could accuse her of neglecting her pokemon, she spoke.
"I found him in the forest! His owner was going to kill him!" She defended herself. The other trainers looked away as if they didn't believe her or didn't care. Instead they distracted themselves from meeting her eyes with other things, like observing the dirt under their nails and flipping through a League Handbook. Irritated, Jarica turned back to Nurse Joy, but she too had turned away, to look back at the computer. She was typing things in. a moment later she opened the glass and took the ball. Turning back to Jarica she informed.
"This pokemon needs attention immediately; its wounds are too deep to be repaired with a machine. Although I see you've made an effort to heal the wound with a potion, which has helped." She paused to turn back to the other trainers. "My Chansy will help whoever was next." Without wasting another moment she hurried into a back room with the pokeball. A pink pokemon Jarica knew was a chansy popped up a moment later and began servicing the waiting trainers. A few of them stole a grim glare towards Jarica. She didn't know why the group was being so rude and snobby, but ignored it and followed Nurse Joy into the back rooms. They didn't matter.
What mattered was making sure Manectric would live.