So I finally posted a story. I tried for a shorter, more basic idea this time so I didn't get another 200k mammoth. It's a part of my world thing sort of, so the characters may appear in other stories later if I ever get around to finishing them. Maybe not the best one to post first, but the idea stands by itself, so I figured no harm.
I edited a bit, but there's probably things I still missed. Info at the bottom. Thank you in advance to whoever reads/grades this.
Cotton Colored Clouds
Graceful lead arcs swept across the page like the soft blowing grass around her. The blades covered the hillside in a living blanket threaded with green. She studied the gentle current of the river at the bottom of the slope, watching how the water bent and twisted around the rocks, copying the trails as it rolled along the surface. Her pencil made the same motions across the grainy page of her sketchbook, flowing like the lines themselves were alive.
A breeze kicked up, and Olivia had to brush back her shoulder-length blonde hair in order to see the rest of the page. She moved her head back as high as it would go in her prone position, gazing out at the river and back down at the page several times before smiling and putting her utensil back to work, adding in shades and smoothing out rough edges with a dark-stained digit. She hummed a peaceful tune as she worked, doing it subconsciously.
Today was a perfect day to work on shadows, since the sun made the water sparkle with diamonds and cloaked one side of the rocks and trees in a dark coat. Watercolor was her favorite medium, as one could probably tell from the paint splashes along the bottom of her red tank top, but she liked sketching too. She had tried pastels and charcoal once, but all that had accomplished was getting rainbow-colored marks all over her face like she had a strange case of chicken pox. She liked to stick with pencil instead, and since it was summer, she had a variety of scenes to observe and recreate.
Her walls at home were filled with pages and pages of art, ranging from water-blended skies to scratchy forests. They always had been, ever since she received a box of crayons at three. The pictures got steadily better since then, but there was hardly an inch of wall not littered in expression. One day she hoped to expand beyond her own home, but sometimes she thought that chance too slim. Her parents reminded her of that often.
They were like her sleepy town, shaded in monotone grays and browns. The streets there were bare. There were no frightening wanted posters, scribbled roughly to make people shiver in fear as they passed. There were no informative sheets depicting horrors in other parts of the world. There weren't even pictures of town events and celebrations. If one didn't know better, they would think that nothing happened in the world at all. That was how it had always been though, so she was used to it by now.
That's why she liked to come out here. She didn't have to worry about boring people that turned their noses at anything not relating to them. She didn't have to look at blank walls and empty streets. Here she could enjoy the gentle breeze weaving through her hair and the sun on her face. It was the only place she really felt relaxed, like nothing could ever be wrong.
This was how she spent her summer days. Her flip-book was filled with dozens of pictures of things she saw, from the mountains sitting just on the horizon to the hill under her and the river that ran toward the forest. Some were just single moments: a purple-shaded Purrloin touching water for the first time, a Butterfree floating gently in the wind. Others were complete scenes, a page full of tree tops with shady buildings in the distance. Anything she saw she tried to mimic. Her favorite ones were of undisturbed nature, but sometimes she studied the Pokédex she had got for a birthday when she wanted a different subject and couldn't find one.
Some said that a picture was worth a thousand words, and though it was pretty cliché, she wanted to have many stories to tell one day. She tried to capture essence. When she looked back on her memories, she wanted to remember exactly how it felt.
Her hand followed the motion of her eye as she brushed the line of the river across the page, following it to the left as it met the trees. She scratched them in daintily, with quick, sharp flicks of her wrist, looking down for only a second before bringing her eye back to the patch of woods. Then, she stopped, tilting her head a little and focusing her eyes on a very small white pile of fluff resting at the base of a trunk.
The only reason she could even see it was because the gray-white stuck out vividly against the mahogany bark. She couldn't tell exactly what it was, the puff being too small from this distance. She thought it couldn't be much bigger than one of her parents' coffee cups, though she'd have to get closer to be sure.
Her nose picked up a familiar smell just as the hill she was laying on darked its shade and the river stopped sparkling. She took in a lungful and moved to get up. There was water on the air. It was going to rain.
Even as she looked, the sky was clouding over. A marshmallow coat rolled in, with patches of dark spotting it. The problem with so many nice days in a row was that it tended to bring in rain and storms right after. While she'd like to capture the effect of rain pouring down, doing it out here in the open wasn't a good idea. She'd ruin her pages.
She'd have to hurry if she wanted to make it home before the rain. The temperature was already dropping a little, and the breeze had picked up. She had to go beyond the woods to make it back to town.
She flipped the cover shut on her book, admiring the painted canvas cover for a second. She had oiled daisies on the front, littering the page in random patterns of yellow circles and white feathers. She reached for her shoulder bag on the ground next to her as she pulled her knees under her. Stuffing her book inside and putting her pencil behind her hear, she slung the bag over the opposite shoulder so it wouldn't slide off. Getting up, she dusted off her tan capris from the pieces of dirt and grass that clung to her. The knees were stained with a titch of green, but it didn't bother her too much. All of her clothes were decorated in one way or another, splattered with the proof of her work.
Then, she started to trek down the hill toward the foots, watching where she put her feet so she didn't fall on her face. It wasn't too steep of a slope, but rolling into the trees didn't sound very fun.
As she neared the tree line, the ball of fuzz got easier to see. She almost forgot about it as she was rushing a little to get home, but a gust of wind blew another one into her sight. She almost stepped on it, and she stumbled when she jerked her foot back to avoid it. She caught herself on a tree trunk, throwing a hand out to keep from falling.
Up closer, she got a better look at the cotton-like object. The two fluff balls were about the same size. She reached down to pick it up, carefully touching with her fingers. It easily fit in the palm of her hand, though it stuck out on the edges. It wasn't like the cotton balls her mother used to remove nail polish, but instead a courser, more durable material. She was reminded a little of a Pokémon's fur, though it wasn't quite as soft as some she had seen, like from an Eevee.
“That's strange,” she said, inspecting the ball from every angle. She had no idea what it was and no idea what it was doing here. “Where did you come from?”
She was going to drop the puff back onto the ground when she looked up and saw more of them. Her eyes widened as they followed a trail of small cotton swabs through the forest, losing sight of them in some of the thicker underbrush. It was like the story of Handel and Gretchen, the two Buneary that used bits of Chople Berry to mark their way before getting captured by the wicked Honchkrow. The problem was that it looked like fur to her, and she had drawn her fair share of it to know. The pieces of cotton weren't all the same shape. Some were deformed, others even smaller bits than the one she was holding. It almost looked like some of it was torn roughly from whatever it came from. If something was hurt, she didn't know if she could leave it.
A distant rumbling in the clouds reminded Olivia of why she needed to hurry, but she couldn't just go back home. It didn't feel right. She worried her lip with her top row of teeth and shuffled her feet side to side for a couple seconds before making up her mind.
She took one longing glance down the path home before she nodded to herself and jogged after the abandoned cotton clumps.
Her breathing had picked up a little, though she didn't know how far into the forest she went. She could feel the distance in her soles though, as her pulse beat against them. There was a lot of cotton. She had lost count of the little orbs after thirty.
They seemed to shrivel as she went on, and a lot of them were now grimy with dirt and moisture. More and more had jagged edges or looked torn and ripped. Once in a while there would be a larger chunk, but then they would progressively shrink down to marble size again. A light sprinkle had started too, a misty coat that soaking her clothes and causing shivers to race up and down her bare shoulders and arms. What water made it through the canopy was starting to dampen the ground. Her tennis shoes were sinking into the soil a little, and the dirt was clinging to them.
The cotton trail had died off now though, the last lonely piece resting at her feet. She looked around, but she couldn't see any more. They had just disappeared. She hadn't really been paying attention when she was following after them, and now that she did, she couldn't tell where she was. She felt that first spark of panic flutter in her stomach like moths.
The trees had mostly the same, medium sized trunks, ones that she could almost wrap her arms around. They were about five feet apart from average, and a lot of them didn't have foliage at her level. Most of it was high up, with leaves stretching to make a thick web above. Instead there were bushes and debris littering the floor, ranging from jagged sticks and fallen leaves to ferns and berry patches. Occasionally a stringy, short tree would come up to her knees, and sometimes the underbrush was so thick that it was hard to walk through.
As she turned her head back and forth, each direction looked the same. There wasn't a soul in sight.
For once, she had no idea where she was. A twig snapped behind her and she jumped, jolting her heart and sending it into rapid pounding against her ribcage. She whirled around, but there was nothing but a few bushes and the trees that hardly even moved. She forced her breathing to slow, but the feeling was still there lingering in the back of her mind and crawling on her skin.
There was a gust of wind through the woods that kicked up leaves and sent them whipping past her. The sky cried harder, and the water dropped like stones through the canopy, bleeding from the mist into a steady thudding. There was an ominous rumble in the distance, but it was steadily hovering closer.
She didn't even bother trying to cover herself. She didn't carry a jacket in the summer usually, and nothing in her bag was going to help her. Olivia just sat there in the rain, wondering what she had gotten herself into. “Now what,” she said, for once being uncomfortable in her solitude. She sighed, unconsciously kneading that first piece of fluff in her hands. She kept looking around, but she didn't know what to do.
Then, a patch of white caught her eye again, the last piece at the end of the trail. She got closer, brushing her now-wet hair behind her ear as she tried to look. It was tinged an odd color, something that wasn't rain or mud. She crouched down and was about to pick it up when she realized what it was. With a gasp, she shot back up, almost falling backwards in her haste. She backpedaled into a trunk behind her with an 'oomph' of air, but she couldn't stop looking. Her eyes were wide as they stuck like magnets onto the frayed piece.
The crime shows her father hated were wrong. Blood wasn't a bright ruby red like they showed on film. It was a deeper brown red. This wasn't like the paper cuts she got when she accidentally brushed her hand on her sketchbook the wrong way or when she caught a hangnail on something. She hadn't seen it like this before, but there was no mistaking that the deep red-brown coating one edge of the fuzz was blood.
Her first reaction was shock, and she stayed frozen like that for a while, just staring. The only violence she had ever seen had been solely from the TV. Her town was pretty quiet, and the only trouble they seemed to have was someone occasionally getting caught taking something from the general store. Since her parents weren't fond of this kind of stuff, she didn't encounter it often. Fiction and real life were a lot different. Seeing it here before her send her mind into a whirlwind, and it was taking longer than she thought to rein it in and tie it down.
Eventually the jumping in her chest stopped trying to race the rain, slowing down so she could breathe properly. She tangled her fingers into the hem of her shirt when she noticed they were shaking. She didn't really know why she was freaking out so bad. A little bit of blood wasn't anything to spaz at.
She figured it was just surprised and waited for it to pass. After another couple of moments, she was able to unclench her fingers and think a little better. She bit her lip again. If something was bleeding, that meant it was probably hurt. Did it need help?
If it did, she didn't want to leave it, so she stepped away from the tree she was pressing herself against and began to scan the ground, looking for anything that the cotton could belong to. She knew how hopeless this could be, since the thing could be anywhere by now. There was a lot of underbrush, and if it was small and didn't want to be found, she was probably going to go in circles and never find it. What if it wasn't even friendly?
Still, something inside of her wouldn't let her just walk away. She was shivering and soaking wet already, so she might as well stick it out for a little while longer. Even as she thought it, the rain pelted harder and the whole area darkened a bit more. Then lightning flashed above her, streaking across the sky in a jagged arc. She jumped as thunder rang out, the loud boom echoing through the trees and shaking the earth.
A surprised cry rang out, but it wasn't hers.
She whirled around and honed her eyes in on something sitting in front of a patch of bushes next to the tree had backed into. Wide orange eyes stared back at her, with quivering leaves sticking out of a white, rounded body. It had cotton tuffs on both top and bottom, but Olivia could see they were frayed and torn, and on the bottom right side there was a red-brown stain. It looked like something had taken a bite out of it.
The girl recognized it from her Pokédex as a Cottonee, a peaceful forest Pokémon. It tended to use cotton from its body to avoid and guard against attacks. She wasn't sure how well it worked. The Pokémon looked like it was in pretty rough shape with dirt and scratch marks covering it. The ripped cotton was moving though, like it was regrowing, though it wasn't recovering very fast. Who would want to harm a harmless thing like this?
“Nee...” it cried weakly, shaking a little as it sagged on the ground. It looked so tired. It couldn't be much taller than her forearm.
She sighed in relief that it was still alright though. “I'm so glad,” she said, stepping toward it.
Immediately, the thing squealed, trying to shuffle backward into the bushes as fast as it could. She could see it flinching at the harsh movements. Mud kicked up onto its face as it tried to move.
“Easy, easy,” she called soothingly, trying to calm it down. She stopped moving forward and held her hands out in front of her in an easing motion, showing she meant it no harm. She didn't want it to be any more scared than it already was. “It's alri-”
She was cut off as a piercing howl echoed through the trees, right out of some horror movie. The girl spun and backed up, stepping a little in front of the small Grass-type as she scanned the trees and underbrush. It was eerily quiet, but she knew she heard whatever it was. From the increased shaking on the Cottonee's part, she knew her mind hadn't been playing tricks on her.
Then, the shadows moved, and she froze. They snaked through the trees and disappeared into the brush. She waited as her heart pounded, but there was nothing but silence. Thunder and lightning crashed overhead, and then the shadows jumped out at them suddenly with a growl that sent chills down her spine and sent her heart into overdrive. The darkness had turned into a canine-like creature, straight out of some nightmare.
It snarled at them, teeth snapped from a burnt-orange muzzle. It was cloaked in black, with bone ringlets on its limbs and back, gleaming as the lighting flashed above. It had a devil's tail that flicked lazily as it started at them with glowing red eyes, as if waiting to pounce on them as it crouched. Two curved horns on top of its head were dangerously sharp, and its claws sunk into the soil for it to get a grip.
“H-houndoom,” she stuttered, not being able to take her eyes off the creature. She could hear the Pokémon behind her whimpering, and then she understood why better.
The dog shook its head, and a single puff of cotton fell from its mouth onto the dirty ground. It stepped on it carelessly and blew out smoke rings, showing off more teeth. Even in the rain, the fire dog's effect wasn't lessened.
“Great work, Houndoom,” someone called above the rain and wind.
A figure came out of the shadows next, traipsing through the bushes and brushing off leaves and sticks that clung to his brown hair while he scowled. He looked like a normal Trainer in jeans and a black jacket over a red-colored T-shirt. The only thing off was the long gold sash threaded through his belt loops like some sort of fashion statement.
He stepped up behind the dog, and patted it on the head, grinning as he looked at the Cottonee behind her. “Think you could get away, did you? You're more trouble than you're worth you useless piece of fluff,” he said, sneering at the other Pokémon. “What what are you,” he said next, “some sort of Trainer?”
She didn't respond. She couldn't even move. Somehow she thought it wouldn't have made a difference anyway.
“Eh, doesn't matter. Get lost or get beat, kid.” He didn't even flinch as he said it, like he messed people up every day. Beside him, the dog gave a barking laugh that taunted her further.
In that moment, she knew fear.
It wasn't like how she and her friends used to hide and jump out at each other. She couldn't comfort herself knowing that it was just a movie and that it wasn't real. This terror locked itself in her throat and choked her breathing. It wasn't just a bad dream. She could really get hurt.
The guy stood there a moment, seeing if she would move. When she didn't he shook his head and rolled his eyes like he thought she was an idiot. Maybe she was. He made some motion to the dog, and it stepped forward with a threatening growl. It took the Cottonee making a scared noise behind her to snap her out of whatever daze she was in.
She was the only thing between the injured Grass-type and its assailants. It didn't matter if they were capable of hurting her too. The Cottonee was in trouble, and she had come out here to help it.
Without thinking, she reached up to her ear and pulled down her pencil. She held it in front of her with wobbling hands, the pointed directed at the devil dog, who had stopped at her movement. “S-stay back,” she warned, planting her feet and trying not to shake so much. She was cold and scared, but she couldn't let them just take the poor creature.
The man just laughed, and the dog seemed to chortle along with him. “Real cute, kid. Now get out of the way.”
She gathered whatever will she had left and shook her head no.
“Pathetic.” He looked around for a second, scowling up at the sky as another bolt of lightning streaked above. “Where are those other guys anyway? I don't get paid to deal with punk kids,” he murmured more to himself than any of them. Then he shrugged. “Alright, kid, it's your funeral. Houndoom, blast 'em.”
The dog howled a battle challenge as its mouth glowed red with fire, readying an attack. Olivia shivered. She couldn't move, no matter how much she wanted to.
The beast opened its mouth wide to fire with smoke billowing out the sides. The girl was about to close her eyes when the dog growled and turned its head to the girl's right. She felt a pulling motion in the air, and then a blocky beam full of blues and purples and pinks blasted the dog clean off its feet and into a tree.
It cried out as it hit about three feet off the ground, and then it crumpled to the floor, unmoving for a second. It slowly got up and snarled, shaking itself off and bracing its feet on the ground as it looked for its attacker. Olivia looked too, and she stood in awe at what she saw.
A bipedal, fox-like Pokémon stood with an arm stretched out, pointing a silver spoon in the dog's direction. It was yellowish in color, with brown padding on its arms, legs, and chest. Two long whiskers of its pointed nose gave it a wise-looking mustache. Another spoon was held in its other hand, used to sometimes amplify its already amazing Psychic powers. She never thought she'd ever get to see an Alakazam.
“You!” the man called, pointing at a figure standing behind the Psychic-type. “You're supposed to be dead!”
Lightning flashed, illuminating the area, and the woman just smiled. “Maybe I'm a ghost,” she said. She took a glance around, only flicking her eyes. After a pause, she looked back at the man, and her Alakazam got a bit closer and crossed his arms in front of him with the two spoons pointing to the sky. The woman's smile melted off her face into something cooler. “Leave them. Battle me.” She made it seem more like an order than a request.
The man didn't seem to be keeping his cool very well. He was grinding his teeth, and he barked out an order to his dog like he couldn't wait to get rid of them. “Turn up the heat, Houndoom!” he shouted, pointing at the newcomers.
Fire charged in the dog's mouth again, a red glow showing between his teeth as he got in range. With a low grumble, he shot off the blast in his mouth. The fire flared and formed into a five-pointed string star, hurtling toward the Psychic.
It waited until the heat was inches in front of its nose, and then it simply disappeared. The fire shot off to the side in a flash of light, illuminating the woman for a second. The rain wore down the blast until it vanished harmlessly against a tree. She was too busy watching the fire, so she only caught a second of movement out of the corner of her eye as the Alakazam reappeared slightly to her left.
Yellow energy gathered in front of it, and then it fired the shining beam at the dog. It nailed the demon Pokémon from behind, and the dog was knocked forward a bit as it stumbled. Lightning flashed in the sky again, brightening the whole area and causing her to close her eyes for a second against the blinding light. When she opened them again, the Alakazam was glowing slightly. The air prickled around it, and the Pokémon looked charged, like it had absorbed energy from something.
Olivia was amazed. She hadn't heard one command being spoken.
She did realize that since this was a Psychic Pokémon, its Trainer could probably communicate with it telepathically instead of out loud. Like the way they teleported in, they could be silent. She looked at the woman and saw no fear or worry etched onto her face. It was smooth and serious, much like her Pokémon's. The girl figured she must be a fierce fighter to be so calm.
The woman was over half a foot taller than Alakazam, putting her right above average. She was lean and pale, at least from what tiny bits of skin she could see on her face. She was covered head to toe in black, from the leather gloves on her hands to the long boots on her feet. Her hair was even that dark shade, and when it didn't get tossed around by the wind, she could see it trailed far down her back like a shadowed river.
Olivia belatedly realized that this woman was probably dangerous too, but at that moment she was nothing but help when the girl needed it. She had some sort of strange skirt on, but it looked like two simple dark sheets on the front back that left her leggings visible from the sides. There was a piece of leather shaped like a tube top that ran all the way to her skirt too. It fitted over a turtleneck that showed absolutely no skin. The girl wondered if she was some type of warrior. She seemed outfitted for it.
The Houndoom growled as it got up, and sinister shadows came to it when it called. They gathered into an orb that started out like a marble but grew to a basketball, and the dark energy swirled and spun in purples and blacks. Alakazam made one too, working its own shadows before disappearing again. It reappeared in front of the dog as they both let off attacks at the same time, and there was a mini-blast as the two energies hit.
Smoke flared up, and when it died, she saw the Alakazam holding its arms in front of its face. The Houndoom was panting, and his mouth sparked as it filled with electricity. They both looked mostly unhurt.
Then, the woman seemed to notice her again, peeling her eyes away from the battle as the dog lunched for her Pokémon. Alakazam disappeared again.
“You're still here?” she asked, keeping half of her attention on the field. Her voice was even and neutral, nothing like the chilling command she gave to the man. “If you're going to run, now is the time to do it.”
A call from the Cottonee reminded her it was still there, and when she turned to look, it was already hopping off through the brush. Olivia gave one more look at the woman in black that had saved them, and then she turned to run.
She didn't need telling twice.
For being injured, the Cottonee was moving pretty fast. It did get a head start, but even then, it took Olivia a few minutes to catch up to it. That was probably because it chose to stop too, huddling under one of the short, wimpy trees, trying to block out some of the water with the sparse leaves.
The girl finally stopped and let out a gasping breath, doubling over with her hands on her knees as she tried to get enough air. Her heart was pounding again like a fast-paced base drum, and she could taste that metal-like flavor in her mouth that she got when she used to run timed miles in school.
She looked up at the small Grass-type as she tried to breathe, inspecting it for further injuries. It didn't look any worse than it had been, and some of the cotton spots that had been missing had grown back. Now the patches were mostly whole again, though they were still frayed on the edges.
“Are you okay?” she gasped, crouching down to sit on her feet as she hugged her knees. Absently, she realized she was still holding her pencil in a fist.
“Neeee,” it whined, sighing deeply and panting like she was.
They stayed like that for a few minutes as the sky continued to soak them, but the girl was beyond caring about that at this point. They had stopped in a sort of clearing, at least a space wider than some of the paths she followed. It looked like a nesting ground for something, possibly a group of Sawsbuck. The leaves and grass below was squashed like something had been laying in it. There was nobody else here though, so she took a few grateful moments to close her eyes and rest a bit.
Then, there was a thrashing that just made it over the wind, a snapping of twigs and shaking of brush. She immediately opened her eyes and stood up, recognizing the sound as someone moving through the woods. They were being a little clumsy too.
The rain and smoky clouds made it a little hard to see, but the moving got louder as the source neared. The Cottonee perked up a little at the noise but backed up into the bushes a bit, getting tense. Olivia's heart began to dance a little livelier again, but there was nothing she could do to stop it.
A figure came out of the woods, stumbling into the clearing like he had lost his footing. The boy was only slightly older than her, she thought, and he too looked like a normal Trainer in T-shirt and jeans with a baseball cap. The gold sash at his belt gave him away though, so she wasn't going to be fooled by the sort of company he kept.
She moved so she was between the Grass-type and the person and braced her feet in the dirt, a sinking feeling developing in her stomach. They had gotten lucky the first time in getting rescued, but she couldn't bank on the same thing happening again. She steeled herself, locking away that part of her that wanted to run away scared with a solid metal cage. She was going to need it.
When the boy brushed off his knees and looked up, he seemed startled there was someone else standing there. He jumped slightly, and the debris under his feet responded with a crunch and a slide from the rain. She watched the stunned look appear on his face and then fade away. Compared to his comrade, this kid looked like he should be back in camp yet.
He looked around for a second and then spotted Cottonee. A pleased look came to him. “Oh, cool. I've been looking for you all day,” he said in a much nicer tone than the other guy. He even sounded young.
Olivia slid into the path of his eyes, shaking her head. “No,” she declared, pointing her pencil at him. “If you want it, you have to go through me first.” She was fairly sure it wasn't that threatening, no matter how much she wanted it to be.
The kid looked confused. His brow furrowed and he frowned at her, like he didn't understand why she was bothering. He also didn't move, so maybe he was confused at what he should do. Maybe he wasn't used to people getting in his way. A lot of the newbie thugs were like that, she heard. If you showed them a little defiance, they were more hesitant.
Then he sighed, reaching for his belt. He pulled off a red and white Pokéball and showed it to her. “I don't want to hurt you, but they told me to bring that Cottonee back.” He accented his words by pointing behind her. “If you won't move, I'll have to go through you.”
He really did sound apologetic, but that didn't change her decision. She had followed the cotton trail in the woods because she thought something was hurt and she wanted to help. Now that she had found Cottonee, she wasn't just going to leave it. It didn't matter if she had no Pokémon or that it was cold and rainy. She still had to fight.
She shook her head stubbornly. “I'm not moving.”
He sighed again, and she wondered what type of group forced their people to do things they didn't want to. The boy dropped the ball to the ground, and it made a squishing noise as it hit the mud. It bounced back, and she got a little satisfaction seeing him make a face and wipe the mud off his hand onto his pants.
A form came out of the Pokéball in a flash of light. When it faded, she could barely see what it was, but then it moved. It was a crocodile-like Pokémon with black stripes over a deep brown body. No wonder she had trouble seeing it. The debris-covered ground, coupled with the rain, made good camouflage. The creature was around two feet long, and its head sat maybe half as high. Large, black-rimmed eyes sat on top of a long jaw.
She didn't know if she had just run out of energy to be scared or if this one just wasn't as bad as the Houndoom. Then again, the pair wasn't that intimidating, especially with the way the crocodile had turned around to go rub against its Trainer's legs in greeting.
“Ack, not now, Sandile! We have a job to do.” The boy tried to avoid his Pokémon, but seeing its sad expression, he reached down to pat it on the head. The Sandile responded with a happy growling noise, and then it turned back to them, ready to do what its Trainer wanted.
Even if they didn't look very capable, she still had a problem, she realized. He had a Pokémon and she didn't. If they were just half as serious as they looked, she was still in trouble.
“Alright,” he said. “I'm going to give you one more chance to move and let us take the Cottonee back with us. Otherwise we'll have to get rough.”
Olivia gave him the flattest look she could manage and tried to be heard through the rain as she spoke. “I'm not letting you hurt Cottonee anymore. I don't care why you want it. Do your worst,” she said, putting her arms up in a guarded position like she had seen the Alakazam do.
He tried to reason with her. “But you don't even have-”
He couldn't finish, being cut off by a shrill, “Neee!”
Before she could say anything, the Cottonee passed her, stopping in front of her much like she was doing. It hopped heavily, sloshing every time it hit the ground because its cotton was so weighed down by the water. It turned back to her and chirped happily, waving its arm-leaves a little, like telling her not to worry.
Cottonee wanted to fight with her, despite how tired it was. That action sent a happy feeling right down to her toes, and despite the bad circumstances, she smiled.
The Grass-type turned back toward their opponents and declared, “Neenee, nee!” Then it shook itself roughly, maybe shaking bits of rain off, for as much good that would do. It waved its arms rapidly, and Olivia's eyebrows rose as she saw the plant rise into the air a little. It hovered an inch or two off the ground, bobbing with the blowing wind. It still came down to hit the soil and spring back up again, but it amazed her how it was able to summon that much strength.
“I guess that settles it then,” the boy said, nodding to his Pokémon but not looking to happy about it. “Okay, Sandile, we're not gonna go easy on them. Start off with a Crunch!”
With a battle cry, the crocodile wobbled off after Cottonee, snapping its mouth in preparation to sink its teeth in to the already weakened Grass-type. The girl's brain went into overdrive, trying to remember things Cottonee could learn. Since she wasn't a Trainer, she only looked at Pokédex entries for fun instead of battle knowledge. A little more of the latter would've came in handy right then.
“Quick, Cottonee,” she called, “guard yourself with your cotton! Try to avoid that attack!”
She was lucky that Cottonee had been recovering the stuff. With a nod, the grass type shook, and small poofy balls popped off of it, littering the ground in a sea of fluffy white. They scattered all around the plant, adding protection from the oncoming attack. She didn't think that much cotton could come out of one small Pokémon, but it seemed to stretch and grow back really fast. Unfortunately, Olivia thought it probably would've worked better when it wasn't raining. The water went to work right away, making them more like soppy socks instead of stuffy cotton.
The Sandile charged into the blobs, snapping at the obstacles to clear them. The plant was in the middle somewhere, so it'd be working at the cotton for a while. The good thing was that they were still slowing it down a little, and that gave them time to act.
“Nice work!” she yelled over the wind. What they really needed to do was cripple it somehow. Then she remembered that Grass-types could learn a lot of status moves. “Now try to hit with a Stun Spore!”
The Cottonee followed her instruction, springing up from its safe cover in its cotton field. It bounced on one blob and then another, and it got enough height to be roughly above where the crocodile was working. With a small cry it shook again, and the girl saw the tiny yellow spores form from its bottom shelf of cotton. They showered down like their own rain shower, and she clenched her hands in excitement.
In a blur, the crocodile sprang upward, snapping its jaws as the spores were coming down. It clamped down hard on its left arm-leaf, and Cottonee cried out as the gator shook its head back and forth. It finally released the plant, and it went flying away from the safe cotton cover. The crocodile waddled after it like it wasn't bothered.
Then she saw how the rain hit it and flowed across its body, dripping to the ground. She caught sight of a couple of spores that had managed to hit, but in the next second, the rain washed them away. She frowned. That was a bad play on her part.
Cottonee got up from where it had fallen in the mud. She could smell it from here. Everything was wet by now. The plant was splattered with brown, looking like it had spots on its white coat. It looked to her for instruction as the Sandile scrambled toward it, ready to attack again.
Olivia took in the surroundings, not knowing what to do. This was a battle, something meant for Trainers, not artists. If she was painting, she'd know what to do. She would start with the darkened ground, even though they said you should put lighter colors down first. Then she'd form the leaves and mix in the greens and slight yellows she could see... And then she knew her next move.
“Cottonee, use your surroundings and use Razor Leaf!”
With ammunition already there, the plant wouldn't have to spend more energy creation projectiles. It seemed to like this plan, and with a second of concentration, the leaves at its feet started to swirl around like a protective whirlwind. They followed the already-present wind slightly, but they mostly coiled around Cottonee, waiting to be shot off toward the crocodile. The plant was probably waiting for it to get closer.
The boy saw this and got a worried look. “Under the ground, Sandile! Don't let those leaves hit you!”
Almost immediately, the creature buried itself into the ground, disappearing in flying clumps of dirt. Its flicking tail was the last thing she saw. Cottonee let its leaves fly, but they didn't connect. They whipped across the field and were lost in the trees surrounding them.
They both scanned the field frantically, watching for where the crocodile would pop out. The boy was wringing his hat in his hands, his eyes glued to the field. It took her a second, but she eventually put two and two together and figured that Sandile must be a Ground-type Pokémon. That would explain how it was so good at digging and why the boy seemed worried about Grass-type attacks.
That didn't help them right now though. The crocodile was pretty fast. She could see Cottonee breathing deeply from here, already starting to get weary. She didn't blame it. It was exhausted before it volunteered to fight. What they needed was some way to get its energy back.
Then she snapped her fingers, though the sound was lost in the rain. “Cottonee, litter the ground with Leech Seed! Then it won't matter where Sandile pops out at!”
The plant nodded, and with another wave of its arms, it let itself be caught in the blowing wind. It lifted the creature up and over the field, and as Olivia watched, she saw small oval-shaped seeds falling from the bottom cotton patch. They fell all around as the wind blew the Pokémon back and forth, and then it landed somewhere in front of her. They both waited silently.
Cottonee concentrated a second, and then Sandile broke free of the ground right under the plant. The force caused Cottonee to fly up with the debris. It flinched a little at the contact, but then the seeds activated. With a tiny glow, vines sprouted from the seeds and wrapped around the crocodile, twisting around its legs and twirling and threading through each other to create a plant net.
With a thump, the Sandile fell back to the ground, wrapped up. It struggled and tried to break free at its Trainer's call, but it couldn't. Olivia smiled as she realized they might actually win this. Grass was a big type advantage over Ground.
“Time for a Mega Drain! Get some of your energy back. You're doing great!” she called, and the Cottonee seemed to preen.
With the aid of the Leech Seed, the plant focused, and then the girl watched as orbs of energy seemed to peel off of the crocodile as it cried out. They floated back toward the plant and absorbed into its skin. Cottonee cried out happily as it looked healthier, ready to attack again.
“Wait!” the boy called, fumbling for the Pokéball on his belt. Cottonee moved to the side as he yelled, “Sandile, return!”
It was clear from the worried look on his face that he didn't want to see his Pokémon hurt anymore. The crocodile was zapped in a beam of red light, and then it disappeared into the device. The boy held it to his chest for a moment before putting it back on his belt. Then, he stood there looking a little awkward, not knowing what to do next until a muffled clapping was heard.
All of them turned around at the same time. Her eyes locked onto the lady in black. She was sitting on a fallen tree trunk a few feet away with her knees up. She had been watching them, but who knew for how long. Her Alakazam stood silently behind her.
She slowly got up and made her way toward them, and not one of them moved. Belatedly, Olivia realized the rain had stopped and everything was starting to brighten up.
The lady stood between them for a minute, taking in both people and the better-looking Pokémon. Then she focused on the boy, and nodded her head in the other direction. “Get outta here.”
The boy stared at her wide-eyed, nodding rapidly at her command. “Y-yes, m-ma'am,” he stuttered, wasting no time turning and running.
“You're just going to let him go?” Olivia blurted, not being able to help herself. She immediately bit her tongue and shrunk back, not wanting to upset the lady that had saved them.
The woman in black just nodded once and looked at the Alakazam. Without a word, it went over to the Cottonee who had retreated a little ways into the brush. It sagged down wearily, but it looked content enough. It let the Alakazam approach, so the girl figured it was okay.
Then she took another look at the woman now that she was closer. She looked a bit older than herself, maybe in her early twenties or very late teens. She caught sight of deep blue eyes from this range, looking like they were tinged purple. The lady just watched her calmly without saying anything.
Finally, Olivia couldn't take it anymore and broke the silence. “Are you supposed to be some sort of hero or something?”
The lady cracked a smile and shook her head. “Sometimes the world needs heroes, though they're not always the ones on the front lines.” She was looking off into the woods, seeing something that the younger girl couldn't. The girl chose to stay quiet in the hopes that she'd continue talking.
The lady gestured to the somewhat-torn up battlefield with a gloved hand, moving her long hair in the process. “You did well.”
It took the girl a second to realize she was talking about the battle. “How long were you watching? Why didn't you help?”
The lady shrugged. “You had it under control. You never learn some things unless you do them yourself.”
She nodded. Though it was hard, fighting with a Pokémon at her side had been really fun. She never really considered being a Trainer before, being too absorbed in her goal of creating more artwork.
“Who were they?” she asked. “And who are you?” It was kind of strange how she just appeared out of nowhere just as that guy had ambushed them. The way that the boy had looked so shaken was suspicious too.
“That was the Gold League.” At her blank look, the lady continued. “That's what I thought. Nobody in this area knows. I was approached by someone who had stayed in the nearby village a few nights ago.” While she spoke, she pulled out a normal Pokéball from a small black case hooked up to her belt. “He had his Pokémon stolen from him by the League, and when he asked for help, nobody would. He traveled three towns over before someone knew who he was talking about. Cases like this have been springing up for almost a year.”
With a sigh, the lady returned the ball to her case. Olivia almost wouldn't have believed what she was hearing if she hadn't seen it with her own eyes. There was no word in the village about any of this, and it had been happening a long time. While Pokémon weren't super common where she was from, they still lived among them, and they should be protecting each other if they could.
“What do they want?”
“Does it matter? What do any of them want?” The lady sighed again, watching her Alakazam talk to the Cottonee in words neither of them could understand. “Lately it's been theft and abduction. There's a sister group too, called the Silver League. They're in some sort of competition with each other, so it's double the trouble.”
Olivia nodded, taking in as much information as she could. People should know about this. She guessed the world wasn't as nice of a place as she thought. “At least it's over though. You got his Pokémon back.” She gestured to where the pack was sitting.
“It's never over. There will be more. It doesn't matter how many you stop and arrest. There will always be others that rise up from the ashes. It doesn't stop.” The lady looked back to her with a smile. “But sometimes we must fight anyway. The good thing is...” She tailed off and approached the girl, ducking into her pack again and pulling out another Pokéball. This one was green with small red notches in a ring around the center piece. The lady set it in her open hand, the one not holding the pencil. “The choice is always yours.”
The lady in black nodded toward the Cottonee as her Alakazam returned to her. “It's hesitant still, but its reluctant to leave. I think it likes you, Miss...”
“Olivia,” the girl supplied. She must have been talking to it through a mind link.
“Olivia.” Then, the woman smiled and turned to leave in a swirl of black.
“Wait!” the girl called, and the woman stopped. “You never said who you were.”
The older lady just smiled. “A hero?” she asked with a gesture of her hand. Then, the Alakazam touched a palm to her shoulder and they were gone in a flash, warping out as quickly as they came.
Today had been strange, but as Cottonee called out to her from the bushes, Olivia smiled.
Later, when the summer returned to its warm days with sparkling water and gentle breezes, a large poster could be seen from the center of the village. It showed menacing figures with gold and silver sashes opposing a figure in black surrounded by a bright aura. Trees were in the backdrop, painting a gentle forest scene behind the dangerous foreground.
Olivia's name was signed in the bottom corner in a patch of white, glistening Chrysanthemums.