Chapter One - The Bug Catcher
Milky morning light illuminated the murky bog, softening its normally sinister atmosphere. The air was smolderingly humid, and the repulsive odor of steaming swamp gas and rotting vegetation emanated from the green, stagnant water. Cattails and tall blades of grass poked out of mounds of mud. Twisted vines constricted gnarled mangrove trees, giving them the appearance of emerald serpents.
Dion bobbed his head approvingly, his face twisted in its usual ecstatic grin. No one would ever think of searching this place! Slinging his bag over his shoulder, he glided toward the dungeon's entrance. As Dion was a Carnivine, he felt right at home in this habitat most Pokémon would consider inhospitable. I bet no one's been here in centuries. This place is probably laden with treasure! Everyone at the academy will think twice before calling me useless when I return with a swollen bag of loot!
Dion was a fairly new student at the renowned Arcanine's Academy, a haven for those looking to become skilled treasure hunters. Due to a sudden slump in recruits, the Carnivine hadn't yet been sorted into a hunting team. As Arcanine insisted it wasn't safe for students to explore dungeons alone, Dion had been restricted to performing simple tasks and chores for the school. Dion, who was naturally clumsy and somewhat dimwitted, habitually slipped up and made mistakes. The rest of the academy considered him to be a source of entertainment, and some students went as far as saying he'd never get anywhere as a hunter.
Initially, Dion tried to ignore any negative comments his fellow students threw at him. As time rolled on, the Carnivine found it harder and harder to remain passive. Though he wouldn't admit it, his classmates' remarks were starting to get to his head. He frequently found himself questioning whether or not he'd make it as a treasure hunter. Even though Arcanine advised against going hunting alone, Dion couldn't stand waiting any longer. He felt he was ready to test his skills and mettle now.
The Carnivine quickly scanned a small plaque attached to a post. This place is called the Foreboding Bog, eh? That's funny. It doesn't look scary or anything. Dion caught sight of a rickety wooden walkway a yard away from the post, and hovered over to investigate it. He cautiously pressed his palm against it, and was met with a sharp stinging sensation. Wincing, he drew his arm back. Splinters! Dion inspected his leafy fingers, which had several tiny shards of wood embedded in them. He fretfully tried to brush the splinters away with his other hand. Geez, this thing looks pretty unsafe. Good thing I don't have to walk on it.
Whistling cheerily, Dion floated above the walkway. He looked from side to side, keeping his eyes peeled for any signs of treasure. As he obviously lacked any experience as a hunter, his expectations didn't quite meet the realities most students discovered. The Carnivine seemed to carry a strong conviction that he'd just happen to find some sort of precious artifact sticking out like a sore thumb.
Dion wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead. The temperature had spiked since he entered the Foreboding Bog. While Carnivine often made their homes in climates like this, Dion had become accustomed to cooler temperatures. He pressed forward, not letting the heat tamper with his nerve.
The Carnivine soon came across what appeared to be the end of the walkway. The last few boards had broken off and were now resting in the motionless water. Dion frowned. This isn't the end of the dungeon, is it? A mischievous smile spread across his face. I bet someone was just trying to deter hunters from the treasure. It's gotta be somewhere out there in the depths of the swamp… somewhere unapproachable to most Pokémon. A clever trick, but it won't work on me! My Levitate ability seriously comes in handy sometimes.
Dion leisurely drifted over the stretch of bog, merrily swinging his bag around. He flew past a forest of dark ferns and came to an abrupt stop when he caught a glimpse of bright green out of the corner of his eye. Oh? What could this be? He approached it slowly, savoring the moment. Maybe it's a giant Peridot! I'll be rich! The Carnivine swept aside a wall of leafy branches, only for him to reel back in horror at what he found.
The still body of a Scyther was lying belly-down in a small pool of muck, its midsection hidden beneath the filthy water. Its head was resting on a pile of damp stones, and its face was stuck in an uncomfortable grimace. One of its scimitar-shaped arms was placed over the rocks, and the other one had disappeared under the water. Its legs were sprawled out strangely. The Scyther had a large abdomen, denoting that it was a female.
Dion shielded his eyes out of fear, but his curiosity compelled him to peek out from between his fingers. I didn't expect to find anyone out here, especially not in a position like this. She's not dead, is she? Oh, Arceus, what do I do? Panicking, the Carnivine slithered up a nearby tree and anchored himself onto one of its branches. He unsteadily extended his arm and prodded at the Scyther's face. "Please wake up," he prayed quietly.
The Scyther raised her head wearily, a heavy yawn slipping from her jaws. She opened her eyes delicately, as if she were waking up from a pleasant dream.
Dion beamed gleefully. "Oh, good, you're alive!"
The Scyther knit her brows. "What?" She uneasily examined her surroundings, her eyes widening with a combination of fear and surprise. "What in the world is going on here? Who said that?" She spoke in a soft, relatively low-pitched voice—the opposite of Dion's usual tone.
"Look up!" the Carnivine exclaimed, waving his arms.
Not bothering to second guess Dion's order, the Scyther compliantly lifted her gaze and was instantly met with the sight of his gaping mouth. "Good lord!" she gasped, startled. "Wait a second. You're a Carnivine, aren't you?"
Dion shrugged. "Yeah, last time I checked." The Scyther's words confused him slightly. Why was she acting like she had never seen anything like him before?"Ha, that's pretty cool." She smiled contentedly.
The Carnivine frowned sheepishly. "You, uh, need some help getting up? Here, grab on." He reached for her, realizing a second too late that he was dealing with a Pokémon that lacked proper hands.
"I'd appreciate it," the Scyther purred, raising an arm. She froze, gawking at the sight of the blade that took the place of her hand. "Oh my gosh," she breathed, her face lighting up, "this is amazing!"
"Huh?" Dion pulled his arm back apprehensively. "Are you okay?"
"I'm more than okay," she laughed, "I'm a Scyther!" She hooked her scythes into the mud and pulled herself to her feet. The Scyther then twisted her head around as she thoroughly studied herself.
"Yes. Yes, you are." Dion shook his head in disbelief. What's her problem? I guess she must've hit her heads on those rocks. I should go get her some help. "You want to come with me to Origin Plaza?"
"Sure, whatever that is." The Scyther, who had begun to vigorously slash at the nearby ferns, didn't appear to be paying attention to him.
"You've never heard of Origin Plaza?" the Carnivine sputtered. Origin Plaza was a bustling town not far from Arcanine's Academy, and its economy thrived on meeting the wants and needs of the local treasure hunters. Its cheery slogan, "Where all adventures begin!" was well known throughout the land. Considering that she couldn't remember what Pokémon she was, I shouldn't be surprised.
The Scyther sank her blades into the tree Dion was hanging to. "Well, obviously. You know, this is sort of weird. I've never been able to hold awareness for this long. My control usually slips away seconds after I realize that I'm dreaming. I guess I've finally mastered the art of lucid dreaming!"
"Wait… what?" Dion's jaw dropped in bafflement.
The Scyther gave a hasty shrug, unhooking her claws from the bark. "Eh, I shouldn't even bother explaining. That would just be a waste of time. I'd like to get the best out of this dream before it's over… which should be soon."
Dion scratched the back of his neck. "I really don't think you're dreaming."
"Oh, don't be silly," the Scyther giggled. "There's no way this could be real. It's impossible."
The Carnivine stared at the ground. "I don't get it. What are you talking about?"
"Forget it. Let's just go to Origin Plaza or whatever you were talking about." She took an awkward step forward, nearly tripping and landing face-first in the mud. The way she moved, taking lumbering gaits as she forcefully swung her hips, made it appear as if she had forgotten how to walk.
Clamping his jaws shut, Dion swiftly detached himself from the tree and assumed his stationary floating position about half a foot above the earth. "Can you at least tell me your name? I'm Dion."
The Scyther froze in her tracks, digging her forearms into the dirt for support. "My name?" She narrowed her eyes as she desperately wracked her brain for an answer. "What in the world? I can't remember!" she yelled, incredulity trickling from her voice.
The Carnivine nodded in silent understanding. She's definitely an amnesiac. "Is there anything you remember about yourself?"
The Scyther thoughtfully pressed a blade against her chin. She stood still for what felt like an eternity, lost in her broken thoughts. The Mantis Pokémon finally said, "Now that I think of it, there's a lot I can't remember. It mostly involves my personal life: my name, my family, my friends, certain details about who I am… all gone. It must be part of this crazy dream. That makes no sense, though. I'm in control, so surely I should be able to recall those basic things? Ah well, I suppose I'm an amateur when it comes to lucid dreaming. I don't know what I should've expected."
"I still say this isn't a dream." Dion gazed into his empty bag forlornly. "If all your memories about yourself are gone, isn't it possible that you've simply forgotten that you're a Scyther? I dunno, but I'm pretty sure I'm not a figment of your imagination." He doubtfully ran his fingers across his face, checking if he was a real Pokémon.
The Scyther shook her head. "I'd normally be open to ideas like that, but that's just not possible. If that were true, why do I still have some memories about who I was before? You can't tell me I just pulled them out of nowhere."
The Carnivine couldn't think of any reasonable explanations, so he decided to ask, "If you're not a Scyther, what are you supposed to be?"
"A human," she stated nonchalantly.
"A human?" Dion echoed in astonishment. "But humans aren't real, are they? I thought they were make-believe." The young Carnivine had heard plenty of stories about humans—strange, bipedal creatures that supposedly trapped Pokémon in spherical objects and forced them to battle.
"Touché." The Scyther heaved a sigh. "None of this makes any sense." She glanced at her scythes in what appeared to be disappointment. "Well, I guess this is it. I'm beginning to doubt I'll ever wake up from this dream."
Dion twiddled his thumbs wordlessly, unsure of how to respond to the Scyther's predicament. He was positive she had merely gotten her memories mixed up, but he didn't want to argue with her. The Carnivine noticed that her manner of speaking had changed drastically—her voice originally had a carefree, almost ditzy ring to it, and now it had become much darker and less playful. Now that she was sure she wasn't dreaming, she had hardened into a grim, serious individual. "What are you going to do now?" he questioned.
"I don't know." The Scyther turned her back to him.
"All right, then." Dion was upset with her unexpected drop in talkativeness; she seemed like a clever Pokémon, and he thought she'd at least have an idea of what she wanted to do next. She's being stubborn, that's all. He tried coming up with a suggestion of his own. "Maybe Headmaster Arcanine will know what to do. Want me to show you the way to the academy?"
"I guess," she muttered sullenly.
"Well, let's go." Dion flew forward and turned his head to make sure the other Pokémon was following him. The Carnivine slowed his pace when he realized she was having trouble keeping up. It's weird. I thought Scyther were supposed to be blazingly fast… so fast that they're barely visible. I guess she's not used to being a Scyther, regardless of whether or not what she says is true. She's also not using her wings to propel herself forward. I wonder if she even knows she can do that. He didn't bother reminding her; despite the circumstances, he couldn't help but feel accomplished about being faster than a Scyther.
Dion faced her. "Since you don't know your name, is there anything in particular you'd like to be called?"
The Scyther didn't reply for a moment. "I don't know why, but the first thing that comes to mind is Eileen. I feel like it's had some kind of significance in my life, but I'm positive it's not my name. Or, well, maybe it is. It might also be a friend's name or something, or perhaps I just made it up." She wrinkled her nose. "It's a weird name. My heart wants to cling to it, though, since it might be one of the last fragments of my past life I have left."
Dion thought the way she relayed her words was especially pathetic. "All righty, Eileen it is." He wondered what he'd name himself if he had the choice, and was promptly interrupted by a short yowl. He whipped around fearfully, only to find that Eileen had fallen into a deep patch of swampy water. Submerged up to her neck, the Scyther flailed wildly as she coughed up a mouthful of water she had inhaled. The Carnivine remembered that he had only managed to get this far due to his Levitate ability—these parts of the Foreboding Bog were inaccessible to Pokémon without means of flight. Of course, Eileen boasted a pair of functioning wings, but she was still oblivious to their presence.
"Gah," he spat unthinkingly. Unsure of how to help, he asked, "How deep is it? Can you swim?"
Eileen was fiercely struggling to stay afloat. "Not like this!" she snarled as her head went under. Seconds later, her muzzle briefly emerged and she spewed out another jet of green water. Dion watched helplessly, chewing on his fingertips. She may be a crazy amnesiac, but I can't just let her drown… The Carnivine waited impatiently for Eileen to resurface. To his despair, the Scyther's leaf-green snout didn't bob up from the water—the only thing that signified how she had disappeared into the pool was a steady stream of tiny bubbles.
What do I do? Dion hovered above the chasm recklessly, panic pulsing through his heart. He halted when a smidge of an idea popped into his skull. Maybe I could try using Vine Whip. I really hope this works! Trying to calm down, the Carnivine let a pair of vine-like tendrils slide out from the base of his neck. Sweating with anxiety, he shakily guided them into the murky water and frantically searched for something to grasp onto. Dion let out a sigh of relief when one of his vines wrapped around something slender—he assumed it was one of Eileen's arms, but it felt surprisingly light. He yanked it out of the water, only to find that it was actually a waterlogged branch.
Tossing the stick aside in dismay, the Carnivine dipped his vines into the water again. How did I mess that up? He fished around hurriedly, finally finding what couldn't have been anything but the drowning Pokémon. Binding his vines around her upper arms, he tugged with all his might. Dion managed to pull her to the surface, but he knew he wouldn't be able to raise her into the air; the Scyther was probably at least twice his weight.
Eileen gasped and sputtered as her head burst out of the water. She panted violently, wheezing and choking. "Ugh," she uttered between coughs.
"Are you all right?" the Carnivine inquired worriedly.
"No, not really," Eileen growled sourly, her face masked with nausea and fatigue. "I nearly died. And even though I'm alive now, I bet this will kill me later. That water tasted like rotten meat, and I swallowed a lot of it. I don't even want to know what kinds of parasites are swimming around inside of me." She stuck out her tongue, trying to expel the foul taste from her mouth.
"You'll be fine," Dion assured, even though he didn't really know what she was talking about. The Scyther's lack of gratitude frustrated him—he had just saved her life, and she couldn't deliver a simple "thank you". Your messed up memory doesn't excuse you from being rude.
Eileen treaded water agitatedly as Dion held her up. Since he couldn't lift her, he figured his only option was to drag her onto land. I've gotta find that boardwalk, he decided. The wooden walkway trailed straight out of the dungeon, so if he brought her there she wouldn't have to worry about running into anymore aquatic pitfalls. The Carnivine pulled her along behind him as he tried to remember which direction it was in.
"That was ridiculous," Eileen murmured. "When I was a human, I could swim perfectly fine. I guess this happened because of how my arms are now; they're flimsy and they slice through the water. If I turned them so the blunt edges were upward, maybe I'd be able to use them like paddles. I hadn't thought of that when I was drowning, but I guess I'll be prepared if that ever happens again… maybe."
I can't imagine what it'd be like to be a Scyther, Dion thought. Although its forearms made impressive weapons, they were of little practical use—the Mantis Pokémon completely lacked the ability to grasp or hold onto things, and its blades were a constant safety hazard to those around it. They should at least be able to use Vine Whip or something.
Eileen didn't appear to be concerned about how Dion was uncertainly lugging her through the bog. Her slanted eyes were glazed with weariness—the product of her frenzied fight to keep herself from drowning.
When Dion spotted the walkway at last, he rushed to guide the Scyther over to it. Eileen was startled by his sudden change of pace. "What's going on?" she questioned in a small voice.
"I found a place where you'll be safe," the Bug Catcher Pokémon explained. He brought her a step too close to the boardwalk, causing her to collide with the wood. The Scyther shot Dion a dirty look. "Oops," he apologized nervously. There was something awfully intimidating about Eileen's appearance—her pointed fangs and venomous glare, the way her wicked sickles could slice him up in a moment's notice. It didn't help that she was of both the Bug and Flying types: two of the Carnivine's weaknesses. Even though he knew the Scyther had no reason to hurt him (and even if she did, she probably wouldn't know how), he felt slightly uncomfortable around her. "Will you be able to get yourself out of the water?"
Eileen meekly gazed at the walkway in front of her. "I'll try," she replied. She dug her forearms into the edge of the boardwalk, leaving deep incisions in the wood. Shifting her weight onto her upper body, she kicked as she struggled to push herself onto the platform. Noticing that she was having trouble, Dion exerted himself as he attempted to pull her up. As both of the Pokémon had little physical strength, the Scyther remained in the water.
"Why don't you try using your wings?" the Carnivine suggested in annoyance.
"My wings?" Eileen repeated, glancing over her shoulder in cluelessness. "Oh, wow. I forgot that Scyther could fly." Dion detected a hint of joy in her voice. While Scyther boasted two sets of wings, they were incapable of flying at high elevations or for long distances. He assumed they would be enough to give her a boost, though.
Dion drew his vines back as Eileen hesitantly gave her wings a test. Droplets of water that had collected on them were sent flying as her wings vibrated rapidly and a loud droning noise filled the air. Seemingly spooked by the whole thing, the Scyther quickly made her wings become still. "Ugh, that's so weird!" she exclaimed. "That wasn't what I was expecting at all."
The Carnivine tried to imagine what it would be like to have wings. While Levitate granted him the ability to hover a few inches above the ground, it was completely different from being able to fly. Dion had never thought about why members of his species were able to do this—he guessed it made up for how they didn't have legs or any other suitable means of locomotion.
Baring her teeth, Eileen started up her wings again. She tore her scythes out of the wood as her body slowly gained height. She angled herself so that she flew forward, and she dropped onto the walkway with a thud once she began to drift over it. "Ow," she hissed, shakily rising to her feet. "God, I'm so heavy."Dion glided up to her. "Well, at least you're out of harm's way."
"You think so?" Eileen mumbled grouchily, biting her lip. Balancing on one leg, she picked up one of her feet and scanned the bottom of it. A large chip of wood was wedged in her sole. Scowling, she reached for it with one of her blades as if she planned on removing it, only to realize that she no longer had hands. The Scyther then lost her balance and nearly toppled onto her side.
Dion chuckled to himself. I never thought I'd find anyone as clumsy as me, he thought. But she has a reason to be clumsy… I think. I still find her story really hard to believe. I can't wait to see what Arcanine has to think about her. A frown formed on his face. Until now, it hadn't occurred to him that Arcanine would be upset with him for venturing into a dungeon alone. Ol' Arcanine is nice; he probably won't mind. Besides, I'm not by myself. I know Eileen isn't a student, but… I wonder if I could get her to become a hunter. He looked over at the Scyther, who was unsuccessfully attempting to use her forearms as tweezers. Nah, there's no way she'd do that. I'd ask her, but I already know she'll say no. She has bigger things to worry about than joining a hunting team. She wouldn't be a good partner, anyway; she barely knows anything about being a Pokémon. I'm pretty inexperienced myself, though. It would be nice to learn together… to not have someone laugh and mock me whenever I mess up. She's sort of quiet and impolite, but at least she isn't mean. He sighed, trying to change the subject. It's a bummer that I didn't end up finding any treasure. But I did certainly find something… something much more interesting than a gem or jewel, to say the least.