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  1. #31
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    Default Re: Freedom Price

    Chapter 31

    Alleviated Fears

    The festival had ended and I made my way to the house that Tai had led the rather inebriated Shoko to sober up. I was walking slowly; I wanted to take in the beautiful sunset the clean country sky was giving me. It soothed me; I suppose it reminded me of the sunsets back home. I paused at the thought of my family's hovel hidden away in the underbrush. I hadn't thought about them for so long… Were they even okay after the Anubo incedent? Guilt racked my mind as I thought of all of the things that could have happened to them in my absence. They could have been captured or killed and I hadn't thought of them in weeks…

    "You don't get to see scenery like this out in the city," I heard Kaiyou's voice say from behind me. "A pity; maybe humans would be better off with a nice view to take their minds off of their menial lives and duties." I turned to look at him with a quirked brow. He smiled back at me and casually walked to my side. "Something troubling you?"

    I looked back down to the lush grass beneath me. "My family… I don't know if they're okay…" He cocked his head and I continued. "I mean, they could have been killed by Anubo and I haven't even thought about them since before Saji died!" I looked up to him for some kind of support, but he just had a half-frown on his face.

    "You shouldn't worry about them," he began nonchalantly, "they're all right." I blinked at the sheer bluntness of his answer. "They were competent enough to stay away from Anubo's path. After all, he didn't destroy EVERYTHING; he mostly stayed near the cities to inflict the most damage upon the humans. But the paths and routes that are out of the way of human civilization should still be intact." At my suspicious stare, he added, "I can tell from the Pattern -their lines are still there, as strong as yours."

    My face copied his half-frown. "Why didn't you tell me?"

    He shrugged. "You never asked."

    I sighed and he bent down to pet my white coat. "Now, I came over here to ask you something." I cocked my head and he continued. "I saw you and Tai up on the hill together." At this I blushed. "Is there something I need to know?" he asked with a smirk starting to spread across his face.

    I glared. "No. At least, not what you're thinking." The smirk faded and I continued. "I met Kazu and Tai's mom, and as we were telling her about all the stuff that's been going on, Tai mentioned you and she, to put it bluntly, got scared." His eyes grew a little concerned and I looked back at the house. "She heard what happened to Kazu when you first awoke -how your aura nearly killed him."

    He erected from the bow he had been in and ran a hand through his hair. "Oh yeah… I remember that."

    I nodded. "Right… so when she went back to the house, Kazu followed her and then Tai…" I paused as I struggled for the right words to use to describe his behavior, "…went nuts."

    "He's already nuts," Kaiyou said as he turned away from me to overlook our surroundings again.

    "I know," I replied wearily, "but this was more nuts than usual. He started making this speech on how I should be more mad at pokemon who don't respect you or something and something else about how he couldn't stand it when other pokemon did that and…" I shook my head. "It was insane. I've never seen him talk so passionately before."

    Kaiyou sighed. "Well, it seems to me he has a soft spot for you, and even something like his mom being scared of me would make him angry because I am linked to you." At my confused expression, he continued. "He doesn't want anyone -even his own mother- to look down on me, because to him, that means that they would look down upon you."

    "But why now, all of a sudden?" I asked. He shrugged again.

    "I don't know… Maybe he's had enough of it or something." I looked back down to the grass, wondering. Could that be it? Tai wants his mom to respect Kaiyou so she'd respect me? I frowned. By the way she greeted me, it seemed to me that she already liked me. I growled to vent my frustration. Leave it to Tai to be stupid like that.

    "Brother!" Yasille called from a good thirty feet behind us. She was struggling to run in her obi and kimono, but she was pulling it off nonetheless. In her arms, she held a large, turquoise phanpy doll that she won during the festival. "Brother, over here!"

    Kaiyou waved at his sister and turned back to me. "Well, whatever the case is, I'm sure he'll get over it. He isn't one to let his mind roam over something for a long time unless it deals with something edible." As Yasille caught up with us, he and I began to walk slowly up to the house. "In the meantime, I would like to settle the fears of this vaporeon; I've kind of wanted to meet her for a little while now."

    As we approached the house, I heard both human and pokemon laughter. We came past the lone oak tree to see Shoko in a small kiddie pool that was much too small for his hulking bulk with the Eevee brothers' mother and whom I presumed to be Shayla's mother spraying him with water. Shoko, in all his drunken fury, cried out at them to stop, but they wouldn't relent. Yasille's face brightened and put her phanpy doll into her brother's arms as she almost skipped to the mothers.

    "May I help?" she asked excitedly. "It looks like fun!"

    The human woman smiled and said with a chuckle in her voice, "Sure, Missy. Go ahead." She handed Yasille the water hose she was using and the Light Wolf began to spray the poor charizard. She pushed her thumb against the flow of water, making the stream almost burst out of the hose in a high-pressured spray. I chuckled; Yasille sure was easy to entertain.

    As the Eevee brothers' mother laughed at Yasille's antics, she looked over in our direction, giving me a warm smile when she locked eyes with me, and then pausing as her eyes went to Kaiyou. It seemed to me that she didn't know who he was at first, since she gave him a smile as well. Kaiyou sighed and put Yasille's prize down beside me and calmly walked over to the elderly vaporeon. As I suspected, her smile faded as he drew closer and she realized who he was.

    Before she could turn and bolt back into the house, he put a hand on her fringe. "I want to talk to you, if you will allow me, Miss. I feel like we have a few things to discuss."

    The vaporeon lashed out instinctively, her maw latching onto Kaiyou's right forearm. He and I flinched, but he kept his hand where it was. Her sky blue fur was bristled and her tail was up, but despite all of the signs to my Lord to back away from her, he didn't. He merely stayed right where he was, keeping his hand on her frilled head. After a few tense moments of the two standing perfectly still, the vaporeon's grip on his arm relented slowly. He smiled, patted her marred head gently and led her to the small garden on the west side of the house. I sighed, somewhat relieved. Now that Kaiyou could talk to her, maybe he could alleviate her fears.

    After Yasille's enthusiastic spraying had sobered Shoko, Shayla's parents invited us to dinner, which we happily accepted. Shayla's mother reminded me of the Eevee brothers' mother: elderly, weary and missing her young. Though Shayla's mother didn't really show it, I knew she missed her daughter. Shayla's father looked a lot like her uncle -jovial, light-hearted, a nice fellow and a good father. The atmosphere of their home was so comfortable I almost forgot that we were due for the semi-finals in the morning.

    When I had finished my dinner, I meandered around the house, spying hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles featuring Shayla and her pokemon. Most of them had Shoko and Tai happily sitting beside her. I almost giggled at one of the earliest articles -something about Shayla stopping Team Rocket's plan at Mount Moon- and how Tai looked so young. Shoko was still just a newly evolved charmeleon. I also spied a sandshrew, a spearow, a mankey and a nidorino standing by their trainer. So that was Shayla's team back in Kanto?

    I moved on to another article; this one only featured Tai with his face covered in white stuff. Curious, I read the headline: "Local Trainer's Pokemon Wins Pie-Eating Contest." I snickered and read on:

    "At this year's recent Pie-Eating Contest held in Vermillion City, the thirty-three contestants all lined up for the starting gun to begin their frantic gestation of pies when Shayla Kyreson, a trainer from a small hamlet called Pallet Town, and her jolteon named 'Tai' stepped forward. At first, the judges began to take the trainer and the jolteon away, but as soon as the pies were uncovered, the jolteon sprang forth and ate every single pie for the competition. Since no human contestant had the chance to eat a pie, the jolteon was declared the winner by default for eating all 347 pies."

    I cracked up laughing, unable to control myself. I knew Tai was a glutton, but 347 pies? It was ridiculous! It seemed that Tai really did have a swirling abyss for a stomach. As I was trying to tone down my laughter, Kazu made his way to my side.

    "I remember that," he commented nostalgically, "He was on the news, too. Mom almost passed out from laughing too much. It was the first time I had seen her like that since Dad died…" He turned to me, a small smile on his face. "During the interview the press had with Shayla about half an hour after Tai won, he asked her if Tai was going to throw up or something. She just pointed over to Tai and he was licking the pie plates. It was redonkulous."

    I glanced at him with my brow quirked. " 'Redonkulous'?" I repeated. Kazu blushed a little and nodded.

    "Yeah… It's an inside joke between Tai and me. He once mispronounced 'ridiculous' and that's what came out. Redonkulous."

    Shaking my head, I replied, "That word is redonkulous."

    He laughed and agreed. "Yeah, it is…" For a moment, we sat there looking at the old articles with Shayla's young smiling face highlighting the page. Then, Kazu turned to me, a small amount of discomfort etched onto his purple face.

    "…Ayako," he began softly, "I'm sorry about our mom. I hope she didn't offend you."

    I shrugged; he had nothing to worry about. Maybe he wouldn't freak out like Tai did. "There's nothing to apologize about. I wasn't offended at all. She has good reason to be scared of him; she almost lost you because of his aura. Besides, Kaiyou's talking to her right now. I'm sure he'll clear everything up."

    His shoulders sagged as he replied, "Yeah, I suppose you're right… But I still can't help but feel a little guilty." He looked back up at me, his lavender eyes sparkling in the dim light. "But I'll get over it, I guess."

    I sighed in relief. "Well, at least you're taking this a lot better than Tai."

    "What?" he asked, a bit of concern on his face.

    Sighing yet again, I continued. "Well, when you left to follow your mom, Tai blew up into this huge monologue of pokemon not respecting me or Kaiyou and that pissed him off somehow, and…" I shook my head in exasperation. "And I don't know why he did it, but I think he's still angry…" I looked up at the espeon, whose composure had deteriorated a bit. At this, I cocked my head suspiciously as I proceeded. "Which reminds me, Tai said that you had suggested something that might be the cause of all the problems he's having, but he didn't get a chance to tell me. What did you say?"

    Kazu's eyes darted around frantically as if an answer would pop up from the ground. "Um, uh… Well, Ayako, I really don't think I should be the one to tell you…"

    I frowned. "Why not? You're the one that suggested it, right? Why can't you tell me?"

    "Well, uh…" the espeon stammered as he tried to think of something, "It's just… Well, once Tai tells you, you'll understand. You really shouldn't hear this from me." As I was about to make him tell me, he stood and turned to leave. "But I really should be going. I need to talk with Amburna about… something." Before I could stop him, he trotted off, apparently happy to be ending our conversation.

    Sighing, I made my way back outside. Maybe Kaiyou was done talking with Kazu and Tai's mom. I spotted them soon enough; they were on the west side of the house. Kaiyou was standing with his left hand in his pocket and his right on the vaporeon, and said vaporeon was sitting on a tree stump, her scarred tail wagging slowly. I smiled. It seemed that Kaiyou really did alleviate her fears of him. As I approached, my Lord turned to me. "Ah, Ayako. I thought you were there. Come here."

    I trotted happily to his free side, purring pleasantly when he patted my scythe. "Auriella," Kaiyou began, turning to the Eevee brothers' mother, "I suppose you've met this absol, Ayako?" Auriella looked up to my Lord and smiled.

    "Yes, we met on the hilltop. My sons introduced her to me." She turned her calm, motherly gaze to me and her smile grew. "I think she'll do nicely, don't you?"

    Confused, I looked back up to Kaiyou, who had his trademark smirk on full. What the hell was she talking about? "Yes," he replied softly, "she will."

    Frustrated with the rather enigmatic conversation that focused on me, I nipped lightly at my Lord's hand. "What are you talking about? What will I do nicely for? Tell me!"

    Kaiyou simply chuckled and began to transform into his true form. (You'll find out in time, girl. But for now, I think it best that you stay in the dark.) He took a lingering glance at us and began to trot out to the sparkling sea below us. (As for me, I think a little swim is in order. Goodnight.) As his colossal black and gold form became a mere dot to my eyes, I turned to Auriella.

    "So?" I began carefully, "Are you still scared of him?"

    She chuckled and shook her head. "Who could be?" She hopped off of her stump and stretched. "He apologized for what happened to my boy, and then explained everything that has happened so far." She carefully lay down on the soft grass and licked her paws. "I never knew he would be so nice."

    Now content with the world, I lay down beside her. "Auriella…" I said slowly, "…That's a very pretty name. Tai and Kazu never told me what your name was."

    Her head went up to the clouds as the smile she had grew. "Well, I suppose they never saw any reason to. But thank you for the compliment. Emily -that's Shayla's mother- gave it to me when George -her mate- got me for their fifth wedding anniversary. I was just an eevee then, but it didn't take long for Emily to buy the three different evolution jewels in case I did want to evolve. My choice is obvious…" she looked back to me, "…but since they had a thunder jewel and flame jewel left, they went ahead and got a companion for me."

    "Your mate," I interjected, to which she nodded.

    A shadow entered her eyes. "Yes… Devan and I… He chose the flame jewel and when Tai was born, Shayla took it, just in case. After… the umbreon…" she had a little trouble saying it, "…Shayla turned ten and got her pokemon license and Shoko. She left with Tai as well, since he wanted to, and I quote, 'kick some schmucky butt'. She would have taken Kazu as well, but he was too young and frail for a life on the road then." The shadow lightened a bit. "It was lonely with only Kazu by my side, but then Emily and George wanted to give him to Shayla when she first arrived in Jhoto. He evolved into an espeon soon after."

    "…You've been alone all this time?" I asked uncertainly. She turned away from me and back to the glistening sea.

    "Not really," she replied. "Emily and George are fine company, and of course, there are all of Shayla's pokemon over at the Oak man's laboratory. The houndoom, Lahami, usually makes time for me a few times a week. And without the boys, I can have a bit of peace and quiet. It's not so bad… though I could use a nice visit from my boys more often."

    "Be careful what you wish for," I warned cheerfully as the sun dipped below the trees. I sat back onto my haunches and stretched; this really was a sleepy town. It was barely dusk and I was already tired. I glanced back at the crimson and orange ocean to see a small black dot splashing around on the beach. Trying to convince myself that the little black dot that bore a striking resemblance to a dog wasn't my Lord, I stood and stretched again. "Speaking of which, where IS Tai? I haven't seen him since he escorted Shoko to get sober."

    Auriella "hmm"ed and sat up as well. "I'm not sure. But you might want to check his little 'secret base' he used to hide in when he was younger." At my suspicious stare, she snickered and added, "He might be upset over something to be in there, though. The 'base' is on the other side of the house, at the bottom of the foundation. There's a small hole leading to a pocket of space -that's the 'base'."

    I thanked her and trotted off to the other side of the house to find the jolteon. Why would he be upset? Was it still because of his mother's reaction? Well if it was, then I would be able to set him straight. His mother no longer feared Kaiyou; that should put everything back to normal. He would be his stupid old self again and we could focus on the remaining two battles for the Hoenn Championship.

    It took me a few turns of the house to finally find the hole; it was tucked away behind a brush of some kind, and was hidden even more by the house's shadow. The hole itself wasn't that big and it looked as if Tai had a little problem getting into it. After all, a jolteon is a bit bigger than a little eevee pup. However laughable Tai's struggle might have been to fit into the pocket, I probably couldn't fit at all. I was a foot taller and weighed almost twice as much as him. Frowning at my predicament, I clawed at the entrance a little to see if I could possibly widen the hole. Unfortunately, the dirt was only about a centimeter thick and under it was solid bedrock. I couldn't dig.

    Finally, I lowered my head to the hole and tried to see inside. Though my eyes couldn't pierce the thick dark, I could smell the jolteon well. He was in there, all right. "Tai," I began softly, "you need to come out."

    There was a slight pause, and then his voice replied, "Why? I'm fine right here."

    I scoffed. "Tai, don't make me come in there. I want to talk to you."

    "We're talking right now, aren't we?" he responded sarcastically. My scowl deepened; he sounded like a human teenager in a temper tantrum.

    "Tai, stop the crap and come up," I demanded harshly. "I'm not in the mood for this right now. You've been weird around me for a while now, and I want to know why. Now, you're going to tell me and you're going to tell me soon and when you're not in this stupid hole."

    I heard the pitter patter of his paws and soon, I saw his shadowed face through the hole. "Make me."

    I snarled and then jumped into the Void and came out right behind him, scaring him out of his fur. As I sat down, he muttered, "I really hate it when you do that…" I took a glance at my surroundings; the hole was surprisingly large for being under a foundation of a house. It was a good fifteen or so feet across and three feet high, so I had to duck my head a little in order not to scrape my head along the ceiling. As I took a closer glance at the ceiling, I saw a crude arch formed by the dirt and rock. So that was how this didn't collapse?

    Pushing the natural architecture of the pocket that we were both in out of my head, I turned my attention to Tai. "Now that we're face-to-face," I began sternly, "I can tell you that your mom isn't scared of Kaiyou anymore. Kaiyou talked to her for a while and now they're all right." Tai seemed to be relieved at my news, but he stiffened back up when I added, "So why do you insist on staying inside this hole?"

    Tai shrugged and began to pace. "I like it here." He paused as he saw my brow quirk. He sighed and added softly, "…I got stuck."

    I burst out laughing as a mental image of Tai trying to get out and getting stuck played over and over again in my mind. How ludicrous! "You got stuck?" I asked, still laughing. The jolteon growled and sat down in front of the entry way.

    "I'm bigger than I remember," Tai answered, trying to defend his humiliating failed effort at trying to escape. "I thought I could get back out."

    As I wiped the tears from my eyes with my clawed paws, I tried to be serious. "Tai," I began slowly, "You were about to tell me something on the hilltop." At this, Tai's fur stiffened into spikes. "What was it?"

    For a while, Tai didn't say anything, so I continued. "I talked to Kazu about it, but he said that he shouldn't be the one to tell me, whatever the hell that means. What could be so important that YOU'RE the only that can tell me?"

    Tai's eyes fell to the ground and he began to paw at the dirt absent-mindedly. "Well, Ayako…" he started, his voice so soft I could barely hear it, "…about what I told you… Why I'm so pissed off… Kazu… and I think that…" He stomped on the ground he had been pawing at. "No, I know." He looked up at me, a strange mix of fear and courage in his chocolate brown eyes. "I know that… I… that I'm in…" His eyes darted away from me to the side as he sucked up a huge gulp of air. I cocked my head. What could he possibly say to me that would take so much courage?

    "Tai," I consoled as I began to walk towards him, "if you don't want to say it right now, you don't have to. I can see that you're not very comfortable with it."

    He shook his head. "No, it's not that. I know it's true, and I have to get it out. It's just that… I've never said this to anyone before…" He slowly peeped back up at me as his ears drooped a little. "Ayako… I'm… I'm in l-"

    -THERE YOU ARE!- a soaking wet Yasille cried happily. I looked up to see her wolfish black and cream colored head -mostly just her snout- poking through the small hole. -My brother and I are swimming in the sea and we found an entire school of dratini! They're so cute! Do you two want to come and play with them?-

    "Sure!" I replied happily; a little school of dratini sounded so cute and fun. I turned back to Tai, who seemed really irritated, and asked, "You coming?"

    He debated over my proposal for a moment, then, his face resolved into an out-of-character, genuine smile. "Sure," he replied soothingly, and stood from his crouch. "Lead the way, Xena."

    I nodded uncertainly; what had gotten into him? Shrugging it off, I opened up the Void and joined Yasille in the yard. She galloped off happily, rambling on about the cute little dratini. Of course, she was much faster than we were, so we merely trotted at a comfortable pace as she raced ahead to the shore, where the dratini were jumping out of the water and playing with my Lord, his sister and, surprisingly enough, Amburna.

    Giggling happily, I raced into the water, colliding into Kaiyou's side and making him lose his balance and fall into the water. Tai jumped in after me, his goofy grin on full. I smiled. Maybe he didn't get to tell me what the thing he wanted to tell me was, but I was happy to see that grin.

    For some reason, that goofy-looking grin made me happier than I ever felt.

  2. #32
    Game Completionist LightArrows.exe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Freedom Price

    Chapter 32

    A Little Bit of Training

    I awoke in Shayla's room to the hazy morning. Lifting my head, I soon realized that I was the first one up. Shayla was sound asleep on her bed with some kind of quilt strewn about her torso and legs, Amburna was coiled up like a sapphire snake in the corner, Shoko was curled up beside her by the door. The Eevee brothers were gone, but I assumed them to be playing somewhere outside. Kaiyou had spent the night outside with his sister and Kuvai. Illauna… had disappeared. Ever since the last match, I hadn't seen her. I, on the other hand, was lying on the rug beside Shayla's bed. I stood and stretched, not really feeling like going back to sleep. Today, after all was the day of semi-finals.

    I made my way out of Shayla's room to the outside, where a soft, cool breeze greeted me. Taking in a deep breath of the fresh, sea water air, my body suddenly felt rejuvenated and refreshed. Yes, today was going to be a good day!

    A scent caught my nose: Auriella. I made my way to the lone hilltop where, sure enough, she was sitting, overlooking the small hamlet. She turned her head as I approached her and smiled. "Already awake?" she asked as I came to her side. "The others won't be awake for another two or three hours."

    I shrugged. "I didn't feel like going back to sleep; I'm too excited."

    " 'Excited?'" she repeated with a confused look. The look remained until realization washed it away. "Oh, that's right. Semi-finals are today." She chuckled and shifted her weight onto one hip. "Are you nervous?"

    "Not really," I replied confidently. "We've breezed through the other matches, why should this one be any different? Besides, if we do get into trouble, Kaiyou's on our team. No trainer's pokemon there could beat him." Auriella chuckled.

    "If you say so, hon," she answered as she shook her head slowly. "Regardless of your Lord, I'm sure you'll do great. You're an excellent fighter yourself."

    As I sat down, I gave her a confused look. "How do you know?"

    She rolled her eyes and returned her cerulean gaze to the small town below. "We DO have a television, dear. And the Hoenn Championships are no trifle. They telecast the competition, every battle." She gave me a glance as I lowered my head in embarrassment -she had mentioned watching our battles on the TV before. "We've watched all of Shayla's championships on the TV."

    I rolled my shoulders to release the leftover tension from sleep. I felt rather stupid, since Shayla's parents had already said that. "Oh yeah, that's right," I replied sheepishly.

    Auriella chuckled under her breath. "Still, I wouldn't let my guard down if I were you. Your opponent didn't get all the way to the Semi-Finals for nothing. They're going to be as determined as you are."

    I smirked down at the hamlet below. "Maybe, but they aren't as strong, and that's what counts in the end."

    Auriella did nothing the reply, simply chuckled again at my proud boast. "Whatever you say, dear."

    Suddenly, a loud explosion erupted from the direction of the beach. Startled, I turned to see a black, canine shape -which could only be Kaiyou- and something else fighting on the sand. Worried that Team Magma may have found him, I raced to the shore, leaving Auriella in a shocked stupor.

    However, when I got closer to the scuffle, I saw that he was battling two pokemon, not just one. I growled as I raced toward my Lord, what cowards! Pitting two pokemon against one! Not that it really mattered; Kaiyou would still be able to wipe the floor with them. For a moment, I vaguely wondered that if Kaiyou were in trouble, why didn't he call for help? I shook the thought out of my head as the beach came into better view. I could ask questions later AFTER the retarded Team Magma peons were finished.

    When the two enemies were in the firing range of one of my elemental attacks, I fired a flamethrower from the grassy sand dunes. Kaiyou apparently saw it coming and darted out of the way, leaving an enemy open to the flame. It landed just in front of one of the enemies, spraying hot, smoldering sand all over him. He jumped into the air and yelped.

    "HOLY SHIT, THAT BURNS!" a very familiar voice howled. The ball of still flaming sand darted into the sea water frantically. Upon colliding with the low tide, a loud hiss sounded from the ball of sand. Thinking that the cowardly bastard got what he deserved, I trotted casually toward my Lord, who had completely collapsed on the sand. Worried, I loped a bit faster, but then I heard that he wasn't in pain, he was laughing. I stopped and noticed another telekinetic laugh; Kazu lay on a rock a few yards away from me. Confused, I turned my attention back to the pokemon I had flamed.

    Tai emerged from the water singed and irritated, with a tiny string of kelp caught across his drooping ear. He glared at my Lord, then at Kazu. "Okay," he began as he shook himself, which still didn't dislodge the strand of kelp, "who was the bastard with the flamethrower, hmm?" He snorted and finally saw me, standing by the still laughing Kaiyou. He glared. "Can you not tell a training session if you see one?"

    I laughed nervously and pawed at the very interesting sand. "I, uh… I thought that Kaiyou was fighting for real… Sorry…"

    My apology didn't seem to soothe the singed, sopping wet jolteon. " 'Sorry' won't get my fur to stop smelling like burnt Barbecue. Nor will it get all of the sand out of my ears." He scowled for a few moments, and then sighed. "Oh well… Come on, I want to keep going."

    Kaiyou's ears perked and he stopped snickering. (All right.) He picked himself up and shook off some of the sand that had collected in his ebony coat. He turned his grand head down to me with a strange, wolfish grin. (You can go watch with Kazu. I don't think Tai would appreciate any more "help" from you.)

    (Ass,) I snarled back at him as I made my way toward Kazu. He was sitting on a very comfortable-looking rock that made a great vantage point for watching the mock battle. As Kazu shifted to make room for me, he smirked and said, "I have to say, I've never seen Tai run that fast for anything other than a buffet."

    "Be quiet," I snapped sulkily. I watched as Kaiyou gave some instructions on how to counter a long-range attack, which made Tai glare over his shoulder at me, and moved back a couple of steps to give the jolteon a bit of maneuvering space. Sighing, I lay down on the cool rock and followed Tai's movements as Kaiyou threw thunderbolts at him. "So… why are you three out here in the first place? I mean, whose idea was this?"

    Kazu shrugged. "Tai's, really. Late last night, he talked to me about it, said that we needed to be prepared for really large, agile pokemon. Something like one of the royal Nidos, or Steelix, or large dragon pokemon, like flygon, salamence and dragonite. We talked to Kaiyou early this morning, who was more than happy to help." He paused as Tai deflected one of Kaiyou's thunderbolts with one of his own, which caused an explosion. After the sand settled, Kaiyou was no where to be seen. Confused, the damp jolteon trotted nervously around the beach, looking for the Dark Legendary. Kazu seemed confused as well, but I wasn't. I could see the very faint glow of Kaiyou's stripes in Tai's shadow.

    "He's under you!" I called out nonchalantly. Tai turned to me, and cocked his head.

    "What?" he called, just before Kaiyou's head sprang out of the Void, knocking the jolteon into the air. After Tai landed on his back, he growled. "No fair!"

    Kaiyou, whose head was only poking out of the Void like some kind of gopher, scoffed. (You have to be ready for anything. Especially since, with training, any Dark can use this technique. The pokemon in the next battle may be able to, so you need to know how to counter it.) With that, he plunged back into the Void, leaving Tai angry and confused.

    "Well, how the HELL do I counter you popping out of nowhere?" he shouted into the air. I heard Kaiyou heave a telepathic sigh -so Tai could hear- and he poked his head out of a rock face not too far from us.

    (You are completely useless,) he frowned. (Though, I thought you already knew about the Void, what with TWO able Darks being on your team and everything…)

    Tai growled. "Nose down, please."

    Kaiyou chuckled. (Sorry. The main principle of the Void is that you can only go in and out through shadow. Any lighted areas are out of the question. Get it?)

    "Yeah, I guess so…" was Tai's unsure reply. Kaiyou grinned, a strange thing on a canine face.

    (Good!) my Lord chirped happily, and disappeared back into the Void. Tai took a few steps back, nervous.

    "Okay, I get that you can't come out of light, but what about MY shadow? What am I supposed to do, levitate?" He looked over to us for some kind of help, but Kazu and I only shrugged.

    (Figure it out,) was Kaiyou's ever-helpful advice. (I'm sure that head of yours holds more than cobwebs.)

    Tai sent a bolt down at the ground in frustration. "Shut up!"

    Kazu sat up, his face lit with an idea. "Tai, jump! If you jump, your shadow will weaken, and he won't be able to get through!"

    Tai nodded and began jumping continuously. I started snickering; he looked absolutely ridiculous. Kaiyou began to laugh, too. (Good shot, but that's not the answer I was looking for.)

    The jolteon performed another jump as he perked his ears on confusion. "Huh?"

    Just as the jolteon's back feet hit the ground, Kaiyou erupted out of the sand, the jolteon caught in his jaws. While in midair, he flung Tai back into the water, and disappeared back into the Void using his own shadow. "Tai!" Kazu shouted as he scrambled off the rock and into the water. Tai managed to get out of the ocean on his own, however, and shook himself. He coughed for a little bit and glared at Kaiyou, who had emerged out of the shadow of a bush a few feet away from my spot.

    "There was no need to fling me into the water!" he growled as his fur bristled into needles. "Asshole!"

    (No need for cursing, either,) Kaiyou chastised, (Though that was a valiant effort on your part, that's not the way to counter a Dark using the Void. You're still vulnerable to when you come back down, as I just demonstrated.)

    While Tai glowered at Kaiyou's half-emerged head, Kazu asked, "Then how does he avoid it? Is there even a way?"

    (Oh, there's a way, don't you worry. But I'm not about to spoon-feed it to you. I'd rather have some thought go into this. So, let's try again. And this time, if I get you, I'll send you further out into the tide.)

    Tai gaped at my Lord. "WHY!"

    Kaiyou moved his head as if he shrugged -you couldn't really tell with only his head out in the open- and smirked. (To give you some incentive. Here I come!) With that, he pulled his head back into the Void, and the game was on again.

    Tai danced anxiously on the sand like they were hot coals. "What the hell do I do? WHAT THE HELL DO I DO?"

    "Calm down!" Kazu shouted from the sidelines. "Freaking out will only cause you to freeze up. Now, How can you get rid of shadow in general?"

    "Uh… Put light on it….?" he answered tentatively. He glanced fearfully at the sand when Kaiyou began to happily hum the "Jaws" theme. "But he'll get me if I jump!"

    It was then that I finally understood what Kaiyou wanted Tai to do. I stood and shouted, "Tai! Use Charge! Make yourself a ball of light!"

    He looked at me, question and hesitation in his brown eyes. He then took in a deep breath and used the biggest Charge that I had ever seen him accomplish. Sure enough, the shadow beneath him disappeared, and Kaiyou laughed underneath us in the Void.

    (Good, good! That's what I wanted!) Kaiyou praised as he emerged out of a shaded oak tree. (Now that you've eliminated the shadow beneath you, the Dark pokemon can only come out of the remaining shadows, which, in a lighted coliseum, will be few and far between. Just keep your eye on the remaining ones and you should be able to attack when he comes out.)

    Tai cut the Charge attack off and sat down on the grass, panting. "Th… Thanks… I guess…"

    Kaiyou chuckled as he nudged the tired jolteon with a friendly paw. (You did well, even though most of your ideas were thrown in by outside parties…) He sent a smirk at Kazu and I, who couldn't help but redden at his comment. Kaiyou stretched his back legs as he made his way off the beach and headed toward the house on the hill. He paused to look over his shoulder at us. (Now come on, I bet everyone else is up and ready to go. We should be getting back to Ever Grand here pretty soon.)

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